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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2006 - Part 1
November 2006 - part 2 <--- December 2006 - part 1 ---> December 2006 - part 2

December 18, 2006



Yamazaki 25 yo (43%, OB, Japan, 75cl, Bottled +/- 2006) Colour: my God this one is dark! Nose: whiffs of varnish at first nosing, soon to disappear. Starts then on heavy notes of plum sauce and high-end balsamic vinegar, wine sauce, prunes and armagnac. Just superb. We have also lots of salty liquorice, game and coffee. Really concentrated, to say the least. Mouth: here's a very heavy sherry, with lots of bitter chocolate, coffee, very ripe kiwis and cinnamon. Gets just a little drying (flour). Goes on with orange liqueur, hawthorn tea… As concentrated as on the nose – I can’t imagine what it would be at cask strength (but we'll have an idea - see below)! Very long finish, with a great kind of sourness. Brilliant whisky at just 43%, for 'concentrated' people ;-). 90 points.
Yamazaki 1984/2005 (56%, OB, Japan, 70cl) This ‘Vintage Malt’ won the non-plus-ultra award at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006 and it was about time I published my tasting notes. Colour: almost ebony. Okay, not quite… Nose: hugely concentrated again but with even more oomph. The sherry is omnipresent but it’s a truly beautiful one, with a fabulous blend of smoke, bitter chocolate, Corinth raisins and game. Notes of old armagnac again, candle wax, orange marmalade, Christmas pudding, blackcurrant and blackberry jam… extremely demonstrative and not cloying at all despite the high concentration. Mouth: thick and fruitier now, with a little icing sugar right at the start, that will prevent the whole from being too ‘fatty’ all along. Lots of orange marmalade and spices (tons of nutmeg and cloves), huge chocolaty notes, blackberry jam again, prunes, small bitter oranges… Amazingly concentrated again. The finish is extremely long, peppery, with lots of cocoa and tea, propolis… Genuine showcase whisky and a true sherry monster (with big teeth). Totally extravagant, too bad it’s so hard to find. 91 points.
Yamazaki 1991/2005 (56%, OB, Japan, 70cl) Another bottling from Suntory’s famous ‘Vintage Malt’ series. Too bad it’s only available in Japan. Colour: gold. Nose: much peatier, let’s say halfway between an Ardbeg and a Highland Park. Lots of vanilla and a little varnish, markedly oaky like many Japanese malts. Hints of soft curry, apples, gentian spirit, fresh walnuts… Quite earthy I’d say, well crafted. Mouth: it’s even peatier now, bold, powerful and oaky. Peppered vanilla crème? Hints of Turkish delights and strawberry sweets, quince, apple skin… Rather hot. Gets sweeter with time, almost sugary (nougat). The pepper seems to be the main ingredient, though. A Talisker from the east? Finish: long, peaty, peppery, vanilled and sweet at the same time, with also quite some tannins. Not extremely complex I’d say, but nevertheless very good. 87 points.
And also Yamazaki 12 yo (43%, OB, Japan, 75cl, Bottled +/- 2006) Nose: apple skin, walnuts and incense. Hints of vase water (not bad). Smooth and rounded. Mouth: rather perfumy, rose jelly, apple compote, white pepper, pear spirit. Slightly ‘flabby’, maybe too fruitish but still above the line. 79 points (up 1 point from earlier batches).
1963: ‘Beautiful, isn’t it?’ Four Roses is hitting hard with this new and very Napoleonic decanter.
1963: Schenley’s Halmark Decanter with their weird mascot Sunny the rooster telling ‘Give Schenley in the exquisite Hallmark decanter… the beautiful way to say Happy Holiday – tastefully.’ Indeed.
1963: Beam’s Choice Bourbon in Delft Blue – The choice gift of bourbon at no extra cost (beautifully gift wrapped)’. Is there genever in the bottle? Another ueber-kitsch bottle…
1964: another Beam’s Choice decanter, the even crazier ‘I dream of Jeannie’. ‘The Dec. 25th bottle of Beam’s Choice’. Amazing.


(or It's all in the woodworks...)

by Peter Krause (Germany)

Drinking whisky – may it be for leisure or even semi-professional – is one of the greatest hobbies of all time, no doubt about it. However, some clouds, e.g. in the form of unreal price-policy, decreasing quality and ‘ppm-uniformism’, recently spoil the blue sky for conoisseurs in whisky heaven. Where will the road lead in the industry? There are lots of reasons to be quite concerned:

At the moment, aficionados have already discovered the drop in quality in recent years as a result from the long-lasting whisky boom and its ramifications. Hence many of them are buying older bottlings - and not only from blockbuster distilleries – to receive high quality malts. Of course, it would be unfair and exaggerated to state that there are no good whiskys out there these days, but their number has dropped and their price has risen. Positive examples like Benriach have just become too few.
But is this development a problem for newbies? They haven’t encountered the ‘old stuff’ yet (most of them never will) and, therefore, don’t miss it. They have been well-educated by the marketers: gratefully they consume younger and younger malts masked by massive peat or wood finishes, an old wish from the industry that has come true. It’s about power, not subtle complexity nowadays it seems. Why stack up whiskies in warehouses for decades if they can be sold after five years already and customers are happy. Why select only excellent casks if consumers and independent bottlers buy anyway. The few ‘picky’ connoisseurs do not really make a difference in the balance sheets of multinational conglomerates. That’s why the malts going into blends exceed the quality of some bottled single casks more often nowadays because the blend masters – who remain selective - know their business well.
On the other hand, quality bottlings are slowly being turned into luxury goods with expensive presentations and their own advertising campaign, as the Laddie 40, the Ardbeg 1965 and some old Bowmores and Macallans have shown. They are made to fit the life-styles of the rich and the famous (‘The Envy of Islay’ says it all): I can already picture Diddy on his yacht popping open an Ardbeg 1965 for his entourage. So be it, but it is quite sad that the undoubted quality of these whiskies might not even be recognized by its consumers - which cannot be average malt enthusiasts due to the price. Moreover, such bottlings function as clever marketing tools with tremendous advertising effects. By being flagships for their brands they broaden recognition and help raising prices for the whole product range. Other great aged whiskies below the top range – or not even from the same distilleries – profit from such marketing as well and increase in price. Gladly, this trick doesn’t always work with the aficionados as recent price reductions for bottles like Tobermory 1972 have shown. Now this nice whisky has become attractive again to the normal buyer of fine malts.
Aside from monetary issues, there are more bad news looming. It is quite sure to suspect, that Single Malt Whisky quality will decrease further: the Bourbon distillers have more and more problems in meeting the worldwide demand for their products. Maturing time of around four years has already been shortened quite a bit and experiments with small casks and woodchips are conducted to produce more Bourbon/Tennessee Whisky in shorter time. Rumour has it that a law is being discussed which would allow Bourbon makers to sell one-year old whiskies in the future – an undertaking which can only work by using small casks. The oak trees used for Bourbon casks used to be around 250 years old in the past, but due to the boom, hundred years of age seem to do nowadays, resulting in drastically higher angel’s share and less character. Bourbon drinkers notice the change already.
Now go figure! The Scottish whisky industry heavily relies on casks from overseas that helped making such beautiful whiskies full of American oak character in the past – and holding the spirit for up to 60 years. Those changes would make the cask management even harder for Scottish distilleries after good Sherry casks have become rare and expensive. Consequently, the distilleries are forced to use more wine casks, and Bruichladdich/Murray McDavid, Edradour/Signatory and Arran pave the way. Only time will show if such wine casks can stand the the test of time and the palates.
For the distillers, the wine casks bear more chances. Not only are these barrels cheap and available in abundance. They can even help in gaining new customers among the wine drinkers (and vice versa) who may recognize a GAJA- or Yquem-finished whisky by the brand name and become curious. Maltmaniac Olivier should be able to get rid of some barriques and make a buck or two. I can imagine a Gewürztraminer-Finish in a Zind-Humbrecht cask quite easily if the malt is not too rigid. But to be honest, I’d rather have the excellent wine… .
How to react to such news as a sucker for great whiskies? The answer to this question is easy and can be found in the development of prices in the rarities’ segment. These prices however – in opposition to some recent releases - make sense to me! So is it worth seeking old 75cl-whiskies on shelves in small bars in foreign countries or in cellars of relatives and friends? Is it essential to remain critical towards a young 50 ppm-Speysider finished in a Chateau Migraine cask. Hell, yeah! - Peter
MUSIC – Strongly recommended ecommended listening: the great, great Abbey Lincoln sings a marvellously moving Bird alone.mp3 (from her 1991 album 'You gotta pay the band'). Stan Getz is in, Hank Jones at the piano... And Abbey is probably the vocalist who's closest to Billie (no, no, it's not Madeleine Peyroux ;-)) Please buy Abbey Lincoln's music!

December 17, 2006


Inchgower 25 yo 1980/2006 (53,2%, Dewar Rattray, sherry cask #14161, 486 bottles) There are several casks of 1980 Inchgower on the market these days, most being very good I think. Nose: lots of sherry, roasted nuts, caramel and cooked fruits (blackcurrants, strawberries). A little sulphur and a little smoke, milk chocolate, coffee beans, brownies… Classical.

Mouth: very sweet, very thick, you almost need a spoon. Gets a bit sourish and rubbery. Chinese plum sauce, strawberry jam. Gets even sourer after a while, a little cloying. Lacks a little balance I think, although it does improve a bit after a while. The whole is maybe a little ‘too much’, almost like whisky-finished sherry ;-). But the nose was really nice. 79 points
Inchgower 19 yo 1985/2005 (55.5%, Adelphi, cask #5677, 257 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: lots of presence, starting on a beautiful oakiness and with great elegance. Lots of apple skin, cider apple and, above all, loads of salted butter caramel and hints of acacia honey. Quite some soft liquorice as well and a little lemon balm, getting then rather smoky as often with Inchgower. A great nose. Mouth: very coherent (lots of high-end caramel) but getting then very spicy and peppery, with also notes of cloves, curry, toffee… Really bold. It gets then more tannic, with quite some over-infused tea but the balance is still quite perfect. The finish is very long, at that, with a pinch of salt. Very, very good – Inchgower can be great, even when virtually unsherried. 87 points.



by MM correspondent Larry Aronson
(South Africa)

It was with some surprise that I received an email from Johannes asking me to report on the state of whisky in South Africa , in light of the up and coming Whisky live festival. Before I start perhaps some history is in order:

South Africa has traditionally been a beer and wine consuming society, with our wine making dating back to the 18th century when French Huguenots settled in the Cape of Good Hope bringing French vines with them. Consequently South Africa has been producing wine and consequently brandy for over two centuries. Understandably, brandy has up until recently been the spirit of choice.
In the last twenty or so years there has been a big move toward whisky (mostly blended stuff) due in part to massive marketing campaigns from the major distributors (Brandhouse , Pernod Ricard and company). This has fortunately changed as a number of niche importers (The really Great Brand Company, De Toren, and Forbes Distributors amongst others) have started to import brands that have really only been available at duty free or certain specialist liquor outlets. Of course one other main player William Grant, with Glenfiddich and its marketing muscle has really pushed the malt experience. So now we find with regularity everything from Ardberg to Talisker. We are also able to get some Rare Malt and Old Malt Cask bottling as well. All of which are available at most outlets. So things are starting to look up. For the sake of this report I have focussed more on the festival and what was available rather than on the tasting itself. Perhaps in future I could contribute on recent tastings but for now here’s the feedback on the festival:
Whisky Live 2006
The Whisky Live festival 2006 was held for three days in both Cape Town (the most beautiful city in the world) and Johannesburg (my home town) during November. Judging by the attendance this year, the future for single malts in South Africa is looking extremely bright , close to 15 000 people attended the festival. This is a significant increase over last year which saw about 10000 visitors, I am told.
In addition to all the distributors showing their wares, a number of sessions were held on whisky appreciation, whisky trends etc. These were given by some of the industries most respected and knowledgeable people.
Amongst the session leaders were; Dave Broom, Tom Morton and Jimmy Bedford (Jack Daniels). All of which were completely sold out , indicating that South African have not only a thirst for good malt whisky but also a thirst for gaining knowledge on the subject – a good sign indeed. In addition to them there were also a number of brand ambassadors from several distilleries. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Steven Sturgeon – global marketing director from William Grant, who indicated that the growth of single malts in South Africa is very encouraging and the sub continent is an important part of their market.
So who was there? Well the festival could be split into 3 categories: single malts, blends and American whiskies
For the sake of this report I will forego reporting on the latter two.
As indicated above, we were fortunate enough to see a number of smaller brands being shown in South Africa for a first time through the “independent “distributors. Of particular note was Compass Box (distributed by De Toren) which attracted a large number of visitors to their stand. Their Oak Cross, Peat Monster and now discontinued Spice Tree (which I really enjoyed) was available for tasting. It was a great pleasure to see Glenfarclas was on show from Forbes distributors and I was fortunate enough to taste their 25 yo (which is definitely on the must have list). Forbes is also the distributor of Arran, Achentoshan, Bowmore, Connemara, Glen Garioch, Old Malt Cask range and Yamazaki. Naturally I, and a multitude of others spent quite a bit of time on their stand sampling their wares.
The other major independent distributor, The Really Great Brand Company, had several stands, each showcasing their particular ranges, which include some of the world’s greats; Ardberg, Glenmorangie, Highland Park (disappointing though, no 18 yo available to taste), Macallan and their number one product, Famous Grouse. The Famous Grouse Malt range has done a tremendous amount to highlight malt whisky of late.
Moving on to the bigger players – Brandhouse, who also distribute Bell’s, J&B as well as Johnnie Walker , were showing their extended range of single malts that they represent in South Africa. These included Caol Ila, Clynelish, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glen Elgin, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker. Being the size they are, they pretty much dominated the floor space with all their brands, and yes they did have their entire blended portfolio on show as well.
Other notables were Pernod Ricard, with Aberlour, Benriach, Glen Keith, the Glenlivet, Longmorn and Strathisla were present albeit in a more subdued fashion.
Of course one cannot forget about William Grant & Son who have been the longest and most active company in promoting single malts in South Africa through their Glenfiddich brand. They had a great stand with an abundant number of knowledgeable representatives on hand (including Steven Sturgeon). Understandably Glenfiddich is the No.1 selling single malt brand in the country.
I should also mention that Balvenie and Laphroig had a presence through the local wine producer Douglas Green, in fact, De Toren (mentioned earlier) is also an excellent wine producer. A number of small importers were on hand, some with obscure offerings, some with well known product , like Bruichladdich, and others with some rare offerings (managed to try some St. Magdalene, a 21 yo I think – delicious!) , but with the exception of Bruichladdich they are inconsistent with supply and generally tend to be quite expensive .
To sum it up then, there is quite a wide offering in South Africa (including Dalmore, Springbank, Jura – who I did not see at the festival) , and growing all the time. It has taken the S.African market some time to acquire a taste for single malts, but the bug has hit ,and this can only mean good things for Malt lovers south of the Limpopo river. If there is anything that we are missing its perhaps the independent bottlings (Gordon and McPhails, James MacArthur etc) that are available in Europe and else where, but I believe some enterprising individual will recognise this and start to import these as well.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge certain people who gave me insight and provided me with information which helped in compiling this report:
Jason Duganzich - Brand Ambassador - William Grant & Sons
Shane Cogill – Forbes Distributors
Emil den Dulk jr. – De Toren wine and spirit
Neil Hendriksz - Brand Ambassador – The Really Great Brand Company
Until next time
Slainte Mhor


MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical with Japan's famous Mitsuko Uchida 'simply' playing The Piano Sonata, K. 282, Mov't. 2, Minuets I-II.mp3. Please buy Miss Uchida's music and go to her concerts.

1962: Beam (‘Gleaming Holiday Gift Originals from Beam’) try to kill five birds with one stone and presents its complete Xmas range, including the amazing ‘Beam’s Cleopatra’ (at the right) and the famous pin bottle they have been using for a few years.
1963: Old Taylor 86 issues a strange beehive decanter. ‘For That Holiday Spirit… give the best America has to offer.’ All brands were still using almost exactly the same headlines (we’re the best, punto basta). .
1963: I.W. Harper launches a ‘Jean Patou’ inspired decanter ‘What a handsome way to give pleasure! In this brilliant Holiday Decanter and elegant gift wrap… the Prized Kentucky Bourbon!’
1963: Old Grand-Dad goes wild again with a fairly modern design and Latin lessons. ‘Dono… I give – Donas… you give – Donat… (s)he gives – Donamus… we give – Donatis… you give – Donant… they give. Everybody gives Old Grand-Dad.’ Now, the bust is still Grand-Dad’s, not Julius Caesar’s…

December 16, 2006

Imperial 11 yo 1994/2005 (53%, Exclusive Malts, sherry cask)
Colour: straw. Nose: a very sharp start, mineral and grassy, with no roundness whatsoever. Un-sugared lemon juice, wet chalk, metal… Incredibly austere. Rather spirity, at that… Resembles some of the sharpest sauvignons. Juts hints of fresh pineapples. It's far from being unpleasant, in fact, provided you like what we could call 'super-austerity'. I'm curious about the palate…
Mouth: very sweet, almost sugary now, developing on green salad, concentrated lemon juice, gin fizz… Gets more and more bitter, vegetal, slightly acrid. Now, again, all that is not unpleasant if you like extreme malts. What's more, it does improve with time, getting slightly mellower after fifteen minutes, with quite some pineapple after that, bubblegum, strawberry sweets… An interesting development. Finish: rather long, lemony, gingery… Jansenist. 78 points.
Imperial 1990/2006 (60.4%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #11968) Colour: straw. Nose: rather similar for a while (austere, spirity, grassy) but it does get a little more expressive - alas, not exactly in the right direction I'd say. Wet cardboard, new plastic (brand new car - not an Aston, that is), hints of Cologne… Hard, very hard this Imperial. Rubbed lemon skin… Bitter almonds… Newly cut grass… Not exactly sexy to say the least. Mouth: plain weird at the attack, with tons of plastic now, cheap tequila, Cologne again (yeah, I know, I'm talking about the palate). Extremely hard, let's give this one some time… It tastes more an more like 'burnt' spirit… Ouch! Let's stop the pain immediately - especially because water doesn't work and will not improve it. Strange that Mr. Mackillop selected this one, he usually bottles great whiskies. 35 points. (Although, I mean, if you're really masochistic ;-) …)


MUSIC – Recommended listening: Today we have Frenchman Stéphane Sanseverino singing Il suffirait de Presque rien.mp3. He knows his Django by heart and is very successful these days… So, please buy Sanseverino’s music.


December 15, 2006

Glencadam 20 yo 1985/2005 (54,2%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 306 bottles) Why should a 20 yo Glencadam go into the Platinum range? Should be quite special… Nose: starts on quite some marzipan, varnish and wood polish as well as not too ripe bananas. Lots of oak, it seems. Develops on nice gingery notes, soft spices, vanilla crème. Very compact, very nice. Mouth: very sweet, peppery and gingery at first sip, getting woodier and woodier. Rather green tannins, grape and apple skin, marzipan again, liquorice stick… Also hints of green curry. Resembles these new oakbombs (Glenmorangie). Good finish, sweet, vanilled and oaky. 83 points.
Glencadam 30 yo 1975/2006 (54,4%, Dewar Rattray, Bourbon C#7588, 216 bottles) Nose: more complex than the 20 yo but not that different. Less of a woodbomb, more on caramel, praline, crystallized fruits, figs… Goes on with bananas flambéed, roasted nuts, getting then a little more herbal (hints of Provence herbs, thyme…) Whiffs of smoke (barbecue, wood). A very, very nice nose. Mouth: quite punchy and very fruity. Lots of bananas and pink grapefruits, tangerines, papayas, getting also rather spicy (lots of nutmeg, oak) and even slightly salty. A little green tea (tannins). Long finish, balanced but assertive, on green bananas and tea, plum jam and growing notes of crystallised oranges. A very good old one although maybe it hasn’t got too much distillery character. 87 points.
Glencadam 28 yo 1978/2006 (56.2%, Jack Wieber’s Old Train Line, cask #2311, 402 bottles) Colour: dark amber. Nose: very expressive at first nosing, mixing coffee, roasted nuts and bitter chocolate. Hugely coffeeish in fact, smelling almost like ‘café-schnapps’ (a sadly lost custom that consisted in pouring a few drops (or glasses) of eau-de-vie into a cup of coffee). This Glencadam gets then more herbal, with lots of dried parsley and lovage and then classically meaty (the usual ham), all that with quite some wood smoke in the background. Very typical oloroso but very excellent. Mouth: much more vinous and fruity now, very sweet. Lots of fruit eau-de-vie (cherry plum, kirsch but also strawberry and orange liqueur) and lots of ‘arranged’ rum (with ripe banana and/or pineapple). Slight sourness but nothing excessive. Something like crystallised angelica… Very expressive, maybe a little too expressive for my tastes, as I like a little more dryness in sherried malts. Finish: not excessively long but still very fruity and ‘eau-de-vie-ish’. Interesting contrast between a beautifully dry nose and a very sweet palate. 87 points.
And also Glencadam 15 yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006) Nose: expressive. Dried oranges, roasted nuts, mocha. Malty and farmy (farmyard, clean stable). Hints of pear juice. Mouth: very malty, nutty and caramelly. Hints of strawberries, marshmallows. Flawless but maybe a little MOTR. 81 points (unchanged from earlier batches).
1961: Lord Calvert launches ‘nationalistic’ decanters (progress indeed). ‘Created from the Lord Calvert collection of early Americana, commemorating the watchwords that made America great: Courage, Friendship, Liberty, Plenty – Gifts of distinction from Lord Calvert – The American whiskey of distinction’.
1962: Old Taylor 86 ‘It’s a Jewel!’ Aimed at women?
1962: Old Grand-Dad ‘The Most Perfect Gift in Glass’. Unlikely composition with the snow globe.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: the very excellent Mos Def does Umy says.mp3 with that nostalgic sound of the early 60's (Rhodes, Hammond and all that 'jazz'). Please buy Mos Def's music, there will be a new album shortly.


December 14, 2006

Port Ellen 23 yo 1983/2006 (55.2%, Monnier Trading, Switzerland, cask #2110, 300 bottles) They already had a 39 yo Pulteney in this series, with a nice label showing an old motorbike. This one's more 'classic'. Colour: straw. Nose: extremely young yet relatively mellow, starting on apple juice mixed with lemon and a rather huge 'coastality' (oysters, seashells, seaweed and all that jazz). Nice minerality as well, the peat being maybe a little more discreet than what we're used to but that gives the whole more elegance. Very nice notes of almond milk, grapefruit, apples, hints of green bananas… Unusually tamed, with no tarry / rubbery notes whatsoever. Crystal-clean. Mouth: superb attack, creamy, oily, much bolder than expected. Almonds, lemon, peat and oysters… And beautifully compact, at that. Superb palate. Gets then sweeter (possibly one of the sweetest unsherried Port Ellens I ever had), sort of candied, with a little vanilla fudge… It's not exactly complex but the global feel is rather exceptional. Finish, medium long, peaty, smoky and jammy as well as spicy and peppery… Pure pleasure, an anti-hard Port Ellen. 93 points.
Port Ellen 1981/2005 (57.7%, Scott's Selection) Colour: straw. Nose: another bourbon cask it seems, probably refill. Even more discreet than the one for Monnier, as well as more almondy, maybe even a tad papery. Very close in fact, with maybe a little more vanilla / oakiness. Other than that it's all seaweed, lemon and oysters again. And no tar, no new tyres, no rubber. But will the palate match the Monnier's? Mouth: hey hey, yes, we're not too far. It's a little more brutal and more 'direct', with also more vanilla again and hints of caramel making the whole slightly sweeter (hence a little less perfectly balanced) but other than that it's another excellent, clean and hugely satisfying Port Ellen. Finish: a little longer than the Monnier's, saltier but also a little simpler. Excellent again, just a tad simpler - but also a little peatier - than its sibling. 91 points.
Port Ellen 23 yo 1983/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 716 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: as clean, pure and elegant as the Scott, with super notes of fresh almonds mingling with the ‘Atlantic freshness’ (wait…) Great hints of high-end Chinese green tea (second or third water). Mouth: a little sharper as well as sweeter in style, with lots of white peaches. Very elegant, close to the OB’s in style although smoother. Nice pepper at the finish. Classic Port Ellen. 91 points.
Port Ellen 26 yo 1979/2005 (56,9%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry cask#2015, 497 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: more tar in this one, with hints of high-end soap as well as notes of apple skin. Interesting ‘greenness’, also notes of lamp petrol. Less classical. Mouth: powerful but also fruitier (apples, Turkish delights, apple juice, bubblegum). More pepper as well and a longer, grassier finish. Peppered bubblegum?. Unusual! Certainly different, one to try – the sherry is very discreet. 90 points.
1960: Old Charter ‘Time bestows such noble gifts – The bourbon that didn’t watch the clock for Seven Long Years’. Almost already the end of the ‘modern’ era, we’re definitely back to classicism and kitsch with Old Charter’s new decanter. Regression? Not the ugliest, that is, the worst is yet to come… Aaargh!
1960: Four Roses ‘The Olympian decanter by Four Roses – America’s most respected whiskey and most welcome gift. A full quart decanter gift packaged at regular quart price.’ Or the Return of Ancient Greece…
1961: Seagram’s 7 Crown ‘A brilliant gift. In every way: The nation’s most respected whiskey. A classic diamond cut decanter. Encased in glittering foil. This is 7 Crown. It speaks for itself… and you… so brilliantly. Give Seagram’s and be Sure.’ A decanter that looks a ittle like a cheap Italian liquor bottle.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: They are quite new and they sound - and look -like America's early punks (from Richard Hell to Cherry Vanilla - nothing to do with whisky) but I quite like their freshness: it's Holy Hail and they are playing County Fair Part II.mp3. Ah yes, something of Talking Heads as well. So, please buy their music...

December 13, 2006

Bowmore 30 yo (43%, OB, 1,800 bottles, 2006) A brand new version of the ‘Seadragon’, now in glass and called ‘'Kranna Dubh'’, who used to be a dragon who once inhabited the depths of Loch Indaal (another legend). Colour: gold – amber. Nose: starts very smoky and with quite some sherry (dry like a fino) and something rather vegetal (smoked tea, moss, fern.) Hints of tropical fruits after that (more oranges studded with cloves than passion fruits or mangos). Gets smokier with time, with notes of coal oven… And then lots of kumquats together with something clearly farmy (wet hay, ‘clean’ manure). Also dried kelp. Rather beautiful I must say.
Mouth: a bit dry at the attack, tannic, but not overly so, quite bold considering it’s only at 43% ABV. Quite citrusy again, ‘candied’, with a little peat and an enjoyable smokiness. Goes on with bitter chocolate, toffee, hints of rosehip tea, crystallised orange zests… The finish is rather long but alas, quite tannic, drying, almost like over-infused tea. But that’s no big flaw, the whole is great whisky, with rather more body than the older Seadragon (the ceramic version). 90 points.
Bowmore 35 yo 1970/2006 (52.1%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See Hotel, Switzerland, cask #4691, 304 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: even more expressive and bolder than the new 30 yo , and it’s not only the alcohol. Lots of dried oranges, tangerine liqueur and acacia honey, with a balanced and rather subtle sherry in the background. Less smoky than the OB, more jammy, with also notes of strawberry cordial, and then the same kind of farminess, with the peat coming through after a moment (hints of diesel oil, shoe polish). Lots of old pu-erh tea as well, cigar box, incense… Truly magnificent, getting more and more complex with time. Also hints of limoncello liqueur that give the whole more zing. Wow.
Mouth: oh yes, this one’s rather symphonic, with a bigger sherry but also more peaty-phenolic flavours than on the nose. Lots of dried oranges, earl grey tea, bitter oranges, getting then very spicy (cloves and black pepper). Just like the Seadragon, it does get a little woody and tannic after a while, though but again, no big deal. Beautiful notes of citrons, lemon juice… More and more peppery, with almost notes of green curry and peppercorns. Rather huge I must say. Finish: very long, rather ‘green’, vegetal, with quite some green tea, tannins and a faint ‘cardboardiness’. Okay, the nose was maybe better balanced but the whole is great old Bowmore, with probably more oomph (and subsequently less subtlety) than most of its siblings from the same era. A wild oldie: 91 points.


SHOPPING - Fellow Maniac Michel points us towards a special page by Suntory, where they might explain how to build (or buy?) furniture out of old barrels. I wrote ‘might’ because it’s all in Japanese - but it looks very interesting indeed.

1958: doesn’t modern design sell? Old Fitzgerald is back with a much more classic line ‘For hospitality’s finest hours.’ First attempts to sell decanters outside the pre-Xmas times, but still in winter and still for men (notice the pipe).
1959: more kitsch with Four Roses. ‘Four Roses proudly presents The Diamond of Decanters’.
1959: ‘Sign your name to a holiday masterpiece’. Modern design strikes back with this Calvert decanter – but what’s that golden inkstand behind the bottle?
1959: Seagram’s 7 Crown ‘Give America’s great whiskey and give it in beautiful style – For Christmas… a classic decanter of Seagram’s 7 Crown in its joyous jewel-like holiday dress: What a beautiful way to take the guesswork out of giving! The regular bottle too is available in the same glorious package! Give Seagram and be sure.’ Yes, classic.
MUSIC – Highly recommended listening: There are bunches of Zappa fans who play his works, deconstruct them, reconstruct them, and often come up with stupendous pieces, such as this beautiful rendition of Black napkins.mp3 by Alexei Aigui and Dietmar Bonnen, violin and piano. (via the totally excellent website zappafan).

December 12, 2006

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, November 19th 2006
Be honest, we all get conceited, a little bit self-satisfied, just slightly “how bloody clever am I” from time to time. I mean, take tonight for example. Who, apart from Whiskyfun’s pair of irony-laden rock-reviewers would be so crazy as to spend Saturday night at the Brixton Academy with Motorhead, and Sunday at the Bush with seventies poster-boy David Essex? Are we cool or what? Well as it turned out the very nice lady sitting along from the photographer had done just that, without a trace of our super-smug irony. Frankly she put us to shame. “Where was you? No I never stand there – Brian May’s hair always gets in the way – he’s always there to see Lemmy, a big fan, I was at the front with my pals, we never miss ’em”.
We fall into an astonishingly well-informed discussion on the merits of various venues in the Metropolis, and I start to get the uncomfortable feeling that this girl goes to more gigs than we do – is that possible? Having trashed Wembley Arena we move on to Earl’s Court – which we have studiously avoided in the past – “No you should go – it’s great – not a bad seat in the house. What – you didn’t get tickets for Iron Maiden?” – her eyes are almost on fire and her voice high with excitement “I mean Lemmy’s good, but that’s really what I call rock and roll”. Sometimes, as Vivian Stanshall once said, you just can’t win.
David Essex
David Essex at the Bush
November 19th 2006
Mention David Essex to most people and they start singing the chorus to his 1975 number one hit ‘Hold me close’, usually in an exaggerated mockney. Of course his career was, and is, much bigger than that. His is the classic story of the East London boy (where did you think that surname came from) with smouldering good looks made good. From his Romany roots (until his recent move to the United States he was Patron of the National Gypsy Council) Essex came to fame through his lead role (as Jesus that is) in the musical Godspell, a sort of Jesus Christ Superstar me-too. Parallel acting and musical careers developed, with film roles in the (still very watchable) rite-of-passage movie, That’ll be the Day (with a surprisingly accomplished Ringo Starr), Stardust (also worth a watch on a wet Sunday afternoon) and Silver Stream Racer (forget it).
There were musicals such as Evita (his recording of ‘Oh what a circus’ is still one of the best) and in 1985 the self-penned West End hit Mutiny, when he cast himself as Fletcher Christian. He had singing and speaking parts in Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds (you may remember he was cursed with these optimistic lines on the reconstruction of earth’s civilisation: “We'll build villages and towns and... and...we'll play each other at cricket!” – to which the Martians replied “Ulla ulla”), and of course a succession of chart hits starting with his own composition, ‘Rock on’. He was on every teenage girl’s wall and in many of their hearts (and in many of their pants if his candid and bestselling autobiography A Charmed Life is anything to go by). And tonight many of them (the girls, not the pants) are here to pay homage. You can count the blokes in the audience on your fingers and toes. I’m surrounded.
David Essex
In Mr Essex’s defence let me make it very clear that this was no botched together greatest hits show for fawning admirers. From what I can gather he’s never stopped writing, recording and performing – he’s just done a spell in the West End musical Footloose, he’s writing a new musical which he hopes to stage next year, and he’s got a new album out, Beautiful Day. And it was much to his credit that about half of the evening’s songs came from this, 2004’s It’s Going to be All Right, and 2001’s Wonderful. Time may have caught up with Essex – he’s lost the gorgeous flowing locks – but he’s retained his cheeky boyish grin, the eyes can still smoulder, and his voice is effortlessly effective. To be honest although it’s nice enough, much of the new material seems to be over theatrical, but I guess that’s only to be expected. As for the old stuff, well generally it’s aged pretty well (except the stupid one about the motorbike, of which Serge, Mr Essex is, or was, an avid collector). The audience love every minute of it, and despite our seats (a rare privilege in the stalls at the Bush) everyone’s up dancing from the start, the ladies crowding round the edge of the stage. Essex’s band is excellent and naturally enough the place explodes into uproar with final number – ‘Hold me close’ – even the Photographer was singing.
So not quite the Lemster, and certainly not, we agreed with our new friend, Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden, but nonetheless a very satisfactory Sunday night out, and a huge vote of respect for Mr Essex’s perseverance with the new, rather than a cynical reliance on the past. Rock on David! - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank you, Nick. Well, I'm not a girl so I don't know much about David Essex (except that we used to blush and/or laugh up our sleeves very stupidly whenever our gorgeous English teacher was mentionning any word containing 'sex' at school, like 'Sussex' - which sounds, well, pretty horrible in French or, for that matter, 'Essex'.) But of course, Rock on.mp3 did cross the Channel.

Springbank 1996 ‘Spiritus Sulphuris Volatilis’ (57.5%, OB, private bottling, cask #118, 306 bottles) Funny name… Felix qui potuit Rerum cognoscere causas! Colour: gold. Nose: powerful, obviously quite young but already quite balanced despite the rough edges. Starts on whiffs of wood smoke and lots of caramel, together with some elegant sherry and lots of liqueur-filled chocolate. Then we have hints of peat, wet hay, wood oven, something like wet limestone… Quite playful.
Mouth: hugely powerful but not violent, with a rather extreme fruitiness like in most recent Springbanks (bold notes of very, very ripe oranges). Rather wild, kind of enjoyably dirty, with hints of pear spirit and a little cardboard (okay, and a little soap). Quite some salt as well. Goes on with cooked fruits, various other fruit eaux-de-vie, bubblegum, a little rubber… Gets almost sugary. Finish: quite long, extremely fruity (now on ripe bananas) and a little spirity. Well, lots happening in there… A wild Springbank, very entertaining even if not perfectly balanced on the palate. Probably one of the best recent young Springers I had. 86 points.
Springbank 9 yo 1996/2006 'Marsala Wood' (58%, OB, 7740 bottles) Matured for 7 years in refill bourbon, then 2 years in fresh marsala. Colour: bronze. Nose: immediately more interesting than most other finishings done at Springbank I think. We have a huge farminess, with whiffs of wet dog (pick your 'brand') and lots of smoked tea. Sort of peaty, with also lots of manure. Once those wild aromas vanish a little we get strawberries and apricots and much more refinement, with also hints of old walnuts and leather. Sort of heady, nicely. Mouth: sweeter and, alas, weirder, with smells of rotting oranges, scented soap, pineapple sweets and all kinds of Turkish delights. Very strange, closer to most other finishings done 'on' Springbank or Longrow recently. A bit hard I must say, or maybe I'm not perverse enough. The nose was quite beautiful but the palate is, let's say wacky. And I didn't mention the rubber and the sulphur. Now, I really enjoyed the nose, hence my 80 points.
1957: right, this is no whiskey but I love this hugely kitschy one by Smirnoff vodka, called the ‘Pinnacle Decanter’!
1958: Old Grand-Dad ‘The Head of the Bourbon Family… at the head of your gift-list’ Interesting contrast between the modern-shaped decanter and the… er, bust.
1958: Schenley strikes back with their Heirloom Decanter. Ueber-kistch composition with the biscuit singers etc…
1958: In the meantime, Old Forster keeps issuing very modern shapes. ‘The same fine Old Forester… packaged in the holiday spirit.’

December 11, 2006

Highland Park 13 yo 1992/2006 'Jungfrau' (58.7%, Angel's Share, Switzerland, cask #20369, 288 bottles) A crazy experiment by Swiss retailer Angel's Share. In 2005 they bought a cask of 1992 first fill oloroso Highland Park and stored it for one year at the Jungfraujoch (3454 m) where the temperature is very cold and the air very dry. The whole story is there. I've been told the whisky lost around 5% alcohol in the process. Colour: gold (must have been a very pale oloroso). Nose: very fresh (of course) and rather phenolic, with whiffs of peat, smoke and then huge notes of kiwis. Rather fabulous notes of Riesling wine, freshly cut apples, lemon, flints, matchsticks box, cider… Extraordinary freshness (of course), really. It's hard to say what the experiment brought to the whisky but it is brilliant on the nose.
Mouth: oh yes, it's very good, zesty, citrusy, sort of nervous. Not unlike a good cask strength Rosebank in style. Lots of crystallised lemon, tangerines, kiwis again, small green apples… Lots of vivacity and, I must say, not too much sherry character. It's also nicely spicy (pepper but also notes of Chinese anise) and there's quite some salt after that (that simply could not come from the glaciers, could it?) Finish: that's maybe the best part, for it's so compact, rich, nervous, continuing to play with your tongue for ages. Well, again, I don't know what comes from Kirkwall and what comes from the Jungfrau but I think the end result is worth no less than 90 points. Btw, I've heard our friends at Angel's Share's are planning an even crazier experiment in the near future… But shhh!…
Highland Park 14 yo 1991/2006 (46%, Coopers Choice) Matured in Scotland (pffff…) Colour: straw. Nose: much rounder and softer but not less expressive. Starts on lots of fresh almonds, marzipan, walnuts… Gets also a little waxy, with notes of 'natural' turpentine, linseed oil… Rather beautiful in its own style. Gets a little more 'classical' after a moment, more on honey, nectar, cake, apricot pie, quinces… But it's another excellent cask of Highland Park, I like its almonds. Mouth: soft but again, hugely almondy. Lots of marzipan, macaroons, mastic, cough syrup, eucalyptus sweets… It's almost like if the cask was made out of fir. Other than that the whisky's extremely good, with also notes of honey, chestnut crème, praline, milk chocolate… Long finish, perfectly balanced and compact again, on cough syrup and caramel crème. Another wonderful surprise: 90 points.
Highland Park 14 yo 1991/2006 (56.7%, Jack Wieber's Scottish Castles, cask #8085) Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more austere, grassy and grainy, although there is something almondy in the background. Whiffs of peat smoke, lemon juice, ham but also a little cardboard and sort of chalkiness… Gets then frankly citrusy, on more lemon, grapefruits, with also a slight farminess (wet dog - small dogs). Nice profile in fact, with also notes of salted butter and maybe violets. Less directly enjoyable than its siblings, though. Mouth: powerful, big at the start, fruity and quite spirity. We'll try to add a little water now… (while the nose got even farmier, which happens often when you add water). So, the palate gets a little more caramelly and vanilled, with quite some tannins now and notes of quince paste as well as apple pie. Not much added complexity but the whole is quite enjoyable, although the finish is maybe a little too tannic and peppery. In short, a fairly good 'natural' Highland Park. 82 points.
Highland Park 1985/2006 (43%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #376) Colour: pale gold. Nose: interestingly, this one seems to be a crossbreed of the Cooper's Choice and the Scottish Castle, starting with quite some almonds and marzipan but also that faint chalkiness. It's also rather grassy, vegetal, getting then quite mashy (porridge, beer). Faint hints of lavender. Not a winner but there's no flaws either. Mouth: the attack is quite interesting, on oranges, apples and bergamot but the middle is curiously 'absent'. Strange shortness… But funnily, it takes off again once you swallowed it, with a salty and waxy aftertaste as well as quite some pepper. Was that Morse? 79 points.
Highland Park 1992/2006 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Refill sherry) Colour: gold. Nose: very fruity – fruitier than most HP’s I know. Starts on lots of red currants, oranges, pineapples, strawberries… Gets then quite farmy (farmyard, rotting plants) which is very nice here. Other than that we have the usual honey and pollen, cider apples, chamomile tea… Really nice, this one. Mouth: playful, sweet and fruity again, with a nice pepperiness from the wood. It’s really bold, quite invading. Classy Highland Park, between the wood-influenced OB’s and most raw IB’s. Develops on caramel and nougat, roasted nuts, chestnut honey… Gets closer to the OB’s after a moment. Long, soothing finish, rounder and even more honeyed. Really classy, excellent distillation and very good cask I think. 88 points.
Highland Park 28 yo 1978/2006 (54,8%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry cask #4212, 328 bottles) This old one starts unusually farmy, with quite some peat, soaked grains and both smoked and green tea. Develops on quite some fruits (bananas, apples) as well as a little honey. A true Highland Park but wilder than most OB’s. Very interesting. Mouth: sweet, fruity and spicy, with also lots of spearmint, lemon balm, cough syrup… I really like it. Quite resinous (fir honey), getting spicier with time (nutmeg, cloves, huge cardamom, Havana cigar), and a very long, peppery and ‘tropical’ finish (rum-soaked bananas, mojito), just a little drying. Very, very good and rather unusual. Anything but boring, 89 points.
1956: we’re really in the ‘skyline’ era now that will last until roughly 1960. Schenley introduces his ‘Skyline Decanter’ (but doesn’t it look like a glass of beer?) ‘For The Height of Elegance in holiday gifts… give Schenley’.
1957: Melrose Rare has this ‘Magnificent new “Gourmet” Decanter – Here is whiskey of Rare Quality indeed… in the “Gourmet” Decanter of distinguished beauty… that makes Melrose Rare a most treasured Holiday gift – and the very best you can serve at any time! NO EXTRA CHARGE FOR DECANTER’
1957: Calvert Reserve ‘Give the Jewel Decanter by Calvert – Nothing finer in American Taste – The Jewel Decanter by Calvert sparkles with a look of unmistakable luxury – as rich and flawless as the whiskey itself. This year, you’ll be prouder than ever to give Calvert – a gift worthy of the most particular men on your list.’ Ah, not women…
1957: THE Decanter! Leader of the pack Old Forester launches a stunning bottle designed by France’s Raymond Loewy, father of industrial design. ‘design for giving – you give so much more when you give the year’s most advanced decanter and famous bonded Old Forester.’


MUSIC – Recommended listening (maybe): my God, Slade is back!!! Joking, it's Robbers on High Street doing The fatalist.mp3. Please buy their music.


December 10, 2006

Craigellachie 1983/2006 ‘Aristocracy’ (45%, Samaroli, cask #2577) Colour: pale gold. Nose: immensely flowery, almost soapy at first nosing. Cologne? Chanel? (hence the name ‘aristocracy’ I guess… Bizarre… Goes on with notes of over-overripe oranges, ginger ale, gin, with a rather heavy oak taking control after a while (newly sawn wood, cardboard). Hints of lemon liqueur (limoncello). Strange…
Mouth: quite better now, but it’s the lemon that takes the lead (lemon drops, limoncello again) with something perfumy again, Fanta… Lacks also a better backbone, gets papery… The finish is relatively short, at that, with just the oak adding its tannic notes. Not my idea of aristocracy, I’d say… I’m sorry, but I doubt it’s Mr. Samaroli himself who selected this cask. 68 points.
Craigellachie 16 yo 1989/2006 (54,7%, Dewar Rattray, bourbon cask #3881, 320 bottles) There was already a 1989 bottled in 2005 at 54.2% that I quite liked (86). Nose: starts very meaty and animal (horse, dog), with also notes of soy sauce, gravy, maybe vase water. Unusually wild. Hints of lamp petrol, wet hay, hutch… Back to more ‘normality’ after that, on roasted nuts and caramel, cake… A little peat as well? Mouth: assertive but round and fruity, much less wild than on the nose. Gets rather vegetal (mustard), slightly rubbery and finally a little meaty again (sausages). Long, quite rubbery and salty finish. Unusual to say the least, not to be poured to newbies I’d say but very interesting. 84 points.
1956: Old Fitzgerald is back with a major improvement since 1955: the new Candlelight Decanter now bears two candles instead of just one!
1956: Kentucky Tavern comes up with an amazing new decanter for their 7 yo . Although they don’t tell you, I’m sure the empty bottle will make for another great candlestick.
1956: Old Taylor gives up with all things Greek and introduces a pin-shaped decanter. ‘The gift of perfect taste’. We won’t argue…
1956: Pin-shape is the very latest thing it seams, as Beam has a ‘Pin-bottle’ decanter as well. ‘No Other Bourbon Is Quite Like It!. No kidding?


MUSIC – It's Sunday, we go classical with Bertold Hummel's Melismen.mp3 (from his Trio opus 95c for flute, oboe and piano, composed in 1992 in memoriam Olivier Messiaen), here played by Trio Papillon. Alas, Bertold Hummel passed away in 2002.


December 9, 2006

Glen Elgin 1976/2006 (45.1%, Jack Wieber's Cross Hill, 224 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: an expressive start, caramelly and floral with hints of sherry. Very classical, with a faint smokiness and quite some vanilla, roasted nuts, cake, a little oak, nectar, honey… Nothing too special in fact but the balance is flawless. Simple pleasures… Another one that I'd locate in Balvenie's cluster. Oh, also fruit syrups and liqueurs. The oak grows bolder with time.
Mouth: very coherent. Very sweet and fruity, with notes of butter pears and ripe apples. Powerful. Lots of vanilla as well, oak, white pepper, tea… Gets rather drying and sugary at the same time after that but that's okay. Finish: medium long, not too complicated, fruity and oaky with also a little salt… A good one but there's little distillery character that I can get. 81 points.
Glen Elgin 1985/2004 (45%, Samaroli, cask #1534) Again this interesting comment on the label: 'Bottled in Scotland, using traditional methods, May 2004. Refined inside the bottle since the same date.' Colour: pale straw. Nose: more powerful at first nosing, starting on lots of tobacco. Quite unusual! It then develops in another unusual direction, sangria and overripe citrus fruits (no need to list them all) and then a rather huge meatiness (ham, even sausages) with also quite some smoke. Finally smoked tea, raw turnips, celeriac, cider apples… As unusual as the Cross Hill' was 'MOTR'. Lots of fun with this Samaroli. Mouth: a little closer to the Cross Hill now, before a true salty blast invades your mouth. Amazing… and strange! Lots of liquorice and tea… But the saltiness is that huge that it almost overwhelms the rest. Salted butter caramel? Salted liquorice? Rather incredible, especially the bold finish on kippers and, again salted liquorice like they have in Holland. A true curiosity and again, lots of fun. 88 points.
And also Glen Elgin 12 yo (43%, OB, Carpano, late 1970’s) A rather smoky nose, very malty, with lots of raisins, smoked tea and caramel and hints of resin. Great profile. The palate starts bold and compact, malty again, with notes of cake crust. Lots of body, lots of classicism with an rich finish. Not too complex but superbly pleasant. 89 points.
1955: Beam Kentucky Bourbons ‘Too good to wrap.’ Nice bicolour ad and an interesting idea.
1955: Kentucky Tavern ‘For People of Inherent Good Taste’. A half-gallon decanter that really looks like a wine decanter. Lots of shelf room needed, I guess…
1955: Schenley is back with its old decanter. ‘It wouldn’t be the same without Schenley… the best-tasting whiskey in ages!’ Weird mix of the ‘worked’ decanter with gouda cheese, cigarettes, potato chips and sausages.
1955: Old Fitzgerald comes up with a soberer design with this interesting Candlelight Decanter. The cap makes for a glass and the bottle for a candlestick. Clever ;-).
MUSIC – Recommended listening: she's from Norway, she's an excellent young jazz sax player and her name is Froy Aagre (please imagine a slash on th 'o'). Let's listen to her with her band 'Offbeat' - they aren't at all - playing Afternoon tea.mp3... Very good indeed, so please buy her music!

December 8, 2006

Longmorn-Glenlivet 1983/2003 (54.5%, Scott’s Selection) Colour: deep gold. Nose: typically Longmorn, with these usual notes of honey, nectar and quince jelly. Quite punchy, getting then very gingery (with even hints of ginger tonic) and rather nicely winey (sweet white wine, traminer). Goes on with quite some apricot pie, very ripe peaches and melons, whiffs of coal smoke… Smooth but playful, with these bold gingery notes. Mouth: very sweet, very creamy, starting on a very present oakiness and notes of ripe apricots. Lots of pepper as well, maybe even hints of chilli. Kind of a sourness from the cask but it’s ok. Goes on with roasted fruits (mostly raisins) and a little resin or chlorophyll chewing gum, un-sugared tea. Faint bitterness. Probably less fruity than the nose. Finish: rather long, with that ‘nice’ bitterness and quite some fir honey as well as a little burnt cake. Not one of the most stunning Longmorns I think but still an excellent malt. The nose was much nicer than the palate. 86 points.
Longmorn 1972 (58.3%, Jack Wieber’s Prenzlow Collection, 120 bottles) Colour: full gold. Amazingly bold notes of ripe mirabelle plums (make that any kind of yellow plums if you don’t know mirabelles) at first nosing with also lots of nutmeg and cinnamon. Goes on with loads of ripe fruits (overripe apples, dates, melons, figs, quetsche (kind of dark-red plum)… Gets also beautifully oaky like a young high-end white Burgundy. Lots of vigour at such old age… Oh, and also traces of peat smoke in the background. Superb! Mouth: a velvety, soft and fruity attack but it’s quick to get almost violently spicy and pleasantly dry. Lots of white pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg… And then maybe a little varnish and then come the fruits, in a beautiful manner: apricots, bananas, pineapples, guavas, coconuts… Highly spiced fruits, I’d say, plus quite a few waxy and resinous notes like in many old whiskies. A very long finish, very bitter but nicely so, not unlike these incredible German liqueurs (Underberg, Jägermeister…). A great, somewhat violent and restless old Longmorn, just a tad too drying. 92 points.
Longmorn-Glenlivet 1971/1999 (58.6%, Scott’s Selection) Colour: deep amber. Nose: we’re more on the sherried side now but there’s still this trademark fruitiness and quite some honey. Quite some toffee, coffee and caramel, again whiffs of coal smoke like in the other Scott, then kind of a meaty passage (lightly hung game), then hints of black truffles (hurray!) and then a whole procession of various herbs and plants (eucalyptus, chives, parsley)… And then it gets very meaty again. Beautiful balance and lots of complexity, a perfect sherry I think. But let’s check the palate… Mouth: oh-oh, it’s beautiful indeed. Hugely complex right at the attack, with lots of Smyrna raisins, old rancio, chocolate cake, all kinds of jams (blackcurrant, strawberry, blackberry), sherry brandy or marc, apricot pie… Also a little icing sugar to keep it playful and lively… Gets nutty (walnuts, roasted chestnuts), bitter oranges, pastries (butter croissants)… Amazingly rich but very elegant. The finish is very long, developing on the same kinds of flavours plus a little liquorice and a wee pinch of salt. Big and irresistible, 93 points.
Longmorn 1969 (62%, Gordon & MacPhail – Jas. Gordon ‘Cask’ for Japan, old label, 1980’s) Colour: gold. Nose: quite closed at first nosing, like often with these very high strength whiskies. Let’s try to nose it ‘neat’… Caramel, vanilla, something flowery but also cardboardy… That’s all. Water needed indeed: indeed, it gets much more flowery – superbly, at that -, honeyed and fruity (melons and plums) with a slight meatiness and a little mint. Amazingly nice, I must say. Mouth (neat): very oily and very drinkable just like that, starting beautifully on all kinds of ‘wood extracts’: vanilla, resins, fir honey, varnish (not that I’m used to drink varnish but…), nutmeg… Then some playful fruity notes (always these yellow fruits and ripe plums)… Very open despite the 62% ABV, I’m wondering what will happen with water: well, it already told us a lot so there isn’t much more happening actually, except more coconut and more bananas. Now, the finish is really long, on vanilla ice cream and bananas plus a little cloves… banana split? Another brilliant Longmorn, that’s for sure. What a grand distillery! 93 points.
1953: Old Taylor ‘A gift of rare beauty – Whiskey of rare quality – Old Taylor in the Grecian decanter’. Bit unlikely...
1954: Old Crow ‘Celebrated Old Crow now in the handsomest of gift decanters – Giving Old Crow is Traditional at Holiday Time.’
1954: MacNaughton’s Canadian (Schenley) ‘Precious to give Precious to Receive – This Superb Canadian Whisky is available in the Beautiful Decanter at No Extra Cost’ Note the maple leaf.
1954: Old Forester ‘Famous Old Forrester presents a new concept, decanter beauty’ Compare this one with the one from 1952; lots of progress indeed. We’re entering the new design era (much more to come!)
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Well, with such names they'll probably never be the Beatles or the Rolling Stones but their music is quite good: it's Australia's Machine gun fellatio (but you can say MGF) and their singer Bryan Ferrysexual and they're doing Unsent letter.mp3. Please buy their music...

November 2006 - part 2 <--- December 2006 - part 1 ---> December 2006 - part 2

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Bowmore 30 yo (43%, OB, 1,800 bottles, 2006)

Bowmore 35 yo 1970/2006 (52.1%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See Hotel, Switzerland, cask #4691, 304 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 1992/2006 'Jungfrau' (58.7%, Angel's Share, Switzerland, cask #20369, 288 bottles)

Highland Park 14 yo 1991/2006 (46%, Coopers Choice)

Longmorn 1969 (62%, Gordon & MacPhail – Jas. Gordon ‘Cask’ for Japan, old label, 1980’s)

Longmorn-Glenlivet 1971/1999 (58.6%, Scott’s Selection)

Longmorn 1972 (58.3%, Jack Wieber’s Prenzlow Collection, 120 bottles)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1983/2006 (55.2%, Monnier Trading, Switzerland, cask #2110, 300 bottles)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1983/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 716 bottles)

Port Ellen 1981/2005 (57.7%, Scott's Selection)

Port Ellen 26 yo 1979/2005 (56,9%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry cask#2015, 497 bottles)