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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2007 - Part 2
December 2007 - part 1 <--- December 2007 - part 2 ---> January 2008 - part 1

December 28, 2007 - January 5, 2008

ON HOLIDAYS - We’re off to a country where the sun shines but where wired Internet access is uncertain and 3G or Edge horribly expensive, so we decided that Whiskyfun would be on holidays until January 5. By way of compensation, we prepared a big, fat entry for today. Happy new year, see you soon! – S.
Richard Hawley
Fookin’ Non-plus Ultra Award 2007
It’s gratifying to see that, as the world spirals into a credit-fuelled recession, and the conscientious carefully calculate the size of their carbon footprint, at least some have still got time to swamp our mailbox with nominations... (read more)
TASTING – 30yo HIGHLAND PARKS and bonuses
Highland Park 30
Highland Park 30 yo (43%, G&M, MacPhail's Collection, circa 2004) Colour: full gold. Nose: rather expressive at first sniffs, starting on the trademark honeyed and floral notes but also quite some oak (carpenter’s workshop, vanilla, cinnamon). Notes of apple juice, malt, ale... A little subdued and not excessively complex I’d say, but balanced and pleasant. No signs of overaging. Mouth: a little tannic and drying at the attack (quite some oak), good body, getting then even spicier. Cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper... Also vanilla, a little honey, hints of old Madeira... Not a luxurious old Highland Park, rather dry instead. Finish: long but mainly on tannins and cinnamon. Not bad at all – and the price is fair – but maybe a bit too austere for Highland Park in my opinion. SGP:252 (wazzat?) - 82 points.
Highland Park 30 yo (48.1%, OB, 2006) Still in the round bottle and coming in a red box. Colour: full gold. Nose: munch punchier (no Mike Tyson though), much more floral, honeyed and fruity than the G&M. Loads of figs, prunes and dates, oriental pastries, heather honey, whiffs of warm apricot pie, buttered caramel toffee, pollen, beeswax... Well, I’m sure you see what I mean. Hints of sherry. Compact and maybe a bit monodimensional but it’s a great dimension so why complain? Mouth: excellent attack, punchy, creamy and peppery, very vigorous. Loads of dried fruits, sherry (of the refill kind), various honeys, dried fruits (same as on the nose, figs, prunes and so on), praline, milk chocolate, with a growing spiciness (nutmeg, white pepper and cinnamon as often). Hints of dry liquorice (Scandinavian). Excellent whisky! Finish: very long, with more dryness and lingering spices. Yes, excellent whisky! SGP:553 - 91 points.
Highland Park 30 yo (48.1%, OB, 2007) Now in its new flat livery and coming in a wooden box – we hope that like at Ikea’s, it does not come from intact natural forests ;-). Colour: full gold. Nose: almost exactly the same whisky as the ‘2006’, with maybe just a little more sherry but that may well be only an impression. Great nose. Mouth: exactly the same whisky as the 2006 version. No need for further comments... SGP:553 - 91 points.
Highland Park 30 yo 1970/2000 (52.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 4.73, 'As good as it gets') Colour: amber with reddish hues. Nose: starts punchier than the OB’s but also much more sherried, even if what’s ‘behind’ it is very similar it seems. Coffee fudge, hot praline, sultanas, prunes, hints of wine brandy (more armagnac in this case) plus something coastal, kelp, seashells... A little peat smoke as well. But again, other than that, we’re globally close to the OB’s. Mouth: same differences as on the nose, except that the ‘sherryness’ is even bigger. Good vinosity – even if maybe a bit extreme here – to the point where one could well think that this is truly armagnac when tasting blind. Loads of prunes and good pepper. Finish: very long, with this big dry sherry overwhelming the rest. Excellent but maybe just a tad ‘too much’. SGP:443 – 89 points.
Bonus: two official old HP’s for Binny’s
Highland Park Binny's Highland Park 34 yo 1971 (53%, OB, Binny's, USA, cask #8363) Colour: dark amber. Nose: exceptional right at first nosing, with a bold smokiness and superb coffee notes upfront. Not unlike a high-end ristretto in which you would have poured one cl of the best rum ever. Goes on with notes of Corinth raisins, Havana smoke, warm high-end sake, dried mushrooms and furniture polish and comes back more into line after that, with an endless cortege of dried fruits and chocolate. A fantabulous old Highland Park on the nose, where the big sherry does not overwhelm the spirit at all. Exceptional – lucky Americans!
Mouth: Christ, this is truly exceptional! Big, starting on all kinds of raisins, switching to fresh mint, then lemon balm, then cough syrup (lots of camphor), then oak and its cortege of spices (cloves and pepper first), then old rum, then crystallised oranges, then other dried fruits (bananas, papayas), then bitter chocolate, cocoa, genuine coconut liqueur (NOT Malibu)... Then something superbly resinous... then... then... Phew, this whisky has no limits! Finish: very long, like a raspberry liqueur-filled chocolate bonbon. Great (even if the nose was a notch greater – and certainly drier - than the palate). SGP:545 – 94 points.
Highland Park 33 yo 1973 (54.5%, OB, Binny's, USA, cask #13308, 2nd fill butt) Colour: dark amber. Nose: this one is much fruitier and much less on coffee and smoke. Hyper-big notes of dried figs and sultanas, dried longans and lychees, nougat, hot apricot pie, rosewater... Rather exuberant I’d say, and extremely raisiny. Maybe less elegant than the 1971 on the nose but it’s still great, great whisky, no doubt, the smoke making a late arrival. Mouth: thick, creamy and syrupy at the attack, heavily concentrated and extremely liquoricy this time. Even with a tiny sip it’s an invasion, such is this one’s concentration. Same dried fruits as on the nose (lychees first this time, then figs and dates), caramel fudge, Alexandra cocktail (some may say Bailey’s Irish Cream), coffee liqueur (oh well, let’s quote brand names while we’re at it: Kahlua or Tia Maria), something tarry, excellent rubber (believe me)... And plenty of other aromas. Finish: even longer than the 1971’s and more on fig liqueur this time. Well, I liked the 1971’s nose a little better but I prefer this palate. Both are stupendous whiskies anyway, worth the very same rating in my books. SGP:634 – 94 points (and thank you Olivier for these two wonders).
But also Highland Park 13 yo 1992/2006 (46%, Aberdeen Distillers, cask #2072, 180 bottles) Very simple, sugary and with a slight taste of burnt oak. Quite drinkable but not very interesting I think. I’m sorry (no, I did not try this one after the glorious oldies). SGP:441 - 72 points.
Imperial 17 yo 1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, old brown label) Colour: gold. Nose: not very expressive at first nosing. Very grainy, malty and slightly yeasty, with hints of metal polish and old cardboard. Not much else I’m afraid, except for a few orangey notes. Mouth: narrow, sharp yet weakish, very dry and drying, peppery... Not much pleasure here. The whole is very fragile at that, with just salty touches at the rather short finish. Well, this is a shy oldie, as fragile as an iPhone but not certainly not as bad and uncaring as Orange’s and Apple’s shitty after-sales services in France (sorry, I had to get this off my chest). SGP:161 (wazzat?) – 65 points.
Imperial 1990/2001 Sherry Finish (40%, G&M Private Collection, C#97/33112, 1000 Bts.) Colour: full gold. Nose: much richer, quite ‘thick’ on the nose (apricot syrup), with loads of dried fruits, fruitcake, big sultanas (I mean, big notes of sultanas) and wine (muscat de Rivesaltes – seriously)... Much more PX than any other kind of sherry. Mouth: all on sultanas again, Corinth raisins, hyper-big coffee notes and a lot of cocoa. Goes on with hints of burnt cake, bread crust and bitter caramel and finishes with some added spiciness (cloves). A rather extreme tweaking of Imperial’s style but I wouldn’t say this doesn’t work. SGP:661 – 78 points.
Imperial 8yo (43%, Duncan Taylor, Battlehill, circa 2006) Colour: pale straw. Nose: this is much grassier, oilier, ashier and more mineral, and more freshly fruity as well. Notes of green apple liqueur, coconut milk and waxed paper. Very interesting style, and nice at that. Oh, and artichokes, very vivid. Unlike any other malt. Mouth: excellent attack, on... artichoke liqueur (do you know Cynar?) and oak. Develops on coconuts and nutmeg, with the oak growing bigger over time. Gets peppery. Finish: rather long and even more peppery. Very good young malt, maybe not sexy-sexy but very serious. SGP:361 – 83 points.
Imperial 27 yo 1976/2004 (57.2%, James MacArthur, normal bottle, cask #10171) Colour: straw. Nose: oh yes, this is very interesting because this one smells almost exactly like the Battlehill, with the same kind of typical grassiness mixed with fresh green fruits and these hints of old papers and cardboard. Also notes of butter, cider, ginger beer... And coconuts. Mouth: good attack. Nutshell: spices, coconut and green apples plus hints of salt, wax and resin plus something earthy ad rooty. Gets really powerful and warming after a moment, whereas the attack wasn’t so punchy. Finish: long, even rootier, liquoricy and gingery. The same kind of slight austerity as in the Battlehill. SGP:462 – 82 points.
Imperial 27 yo 1976/2004 (56.8%, James MacArthur, decanter, cask #10171) Strangely, cask #10171 came also in a decanter but at a different ABV. Let’s see if it’s the same whisky or just another typo (not that only James MacArthur make typos, all indies do). Colour: straw (same). Nose: same, maybe just a tad more buttery and fruity. Mouth: same. Finish: same. Maybe the cask was emptied in two steps, the remnants loosing 0.4% while it was waiting for the empty decanters to be delivered ;-). Good Imperial anyway. SGP:462 – 82 points.
Imperial 8 yo 1998/2007 (55.1%, Whisky-Doris, cask #106041) A young one again. Colour: white wine. Nose: all on coffee and roasted nuts, with also notes of apple peelings and walnut skin as well as hints of fresh almonds and coconuts again (from the wood I guess).
The same kind of austerity as in all the ones we just had, but balance is perfect here. With water: fully on fresh almonds now, walnut skins... And the tannins that are getting more obvious. Was that plain oak? (just kidding). Mouth (neat): much fruitier (apples, kiwis), with notes of beer and baker’s yeast (or bread crumb). The oak is unexpectedly present for a 8yo malt. Pears. With water: more on marzipan, pepper and, again, tannins. Finish: long, with added notes of pears. Well, this isn’t complicated but it perfectly shows that Imperial was a good distillery. I hope someone will reopen it one day – it’s still closed, isn’t it? SGP:263 – 84 points.
Imperial 25 yo 1976/2001 (59.2%, Signatory, Silent Stills, cask #7576, 488 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: closed, except for some disturbing chemical notes. Ginger tonic, aspirin and newly cut grass. Well, it’s probably because of the very high strength, I’m sure water will unleash the aromas... With water: plastics, ink, grass. Hard. Mouth (neat): ultra-grassy, ultra-almondy but also quite ‘chemical’ again. Supermarket concentrated lemon juice. With water: better now, but still not quite straight. Very gingery. Finish: long, woodier, grassier, kind of prickly. A strange, ultra-austere whisky, not exactly flawed that is, just a different style. SGP:170 – 70 points.
Imperial 18 yo 1962/1980 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label, 75cl) Colour: amber. Nose: ah, now we’re talking! Starts on superb notes of metal polish, old leather and tobacco pouch, pumpkin soup and yoghurt. Sounds weird but it isn’t, honest. More and more metal polish (I don’t know if you know this thing called Glanzol, any motorcycle rider should own a tube!), used coins, bitter oranges... It’s hard to make a difference between what comes from bottle ageing and what comes from the original spirit here but what’s sure is that it’s great whisky! Mouth: oh yes, this is great. Bizarrely, it’s a style of whisky that one can find in many of these great old dumpy Cadenheads. Fantastic herbs (chives, sage), something metallic again, liquorice, crystallised oranges and lemons, marzipan, our beloved argan oil... Okay, the whole is maybe not in its prime, and maybe slightly tired (gets a bit drying) but it’s still a very palatable drink – not only for whisky archaeologists like we are. Finish: not too long and probably a bit too drying at this point but who cares? SGP:254 – 88 points.
Linkwood 43 yo 1939 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) A pre-war Linkwood from the Lindores vaults in Oostende, bottled in, wait... (1939-43)/(40%+3.14) =1997. Right. Colour: pure gold. Nose: first of all, this is not tired and not oaky at all at more than forty years of age, which is quite incredible. On the contrary, it’s all subtly fragrant like an old white wine of great origin, with superb notes of ripe apricot, cooked grapes, hints of bacon and pineapples, white chocolate, vanilla fudge and nougat. Goes on with whiffs of ancient roses, wood smoke, incense, sandalwood and unlit cigars, with also a pleasant faint sourness in the background (probably from the wood). A travel through time in an old Delage (whatever). Mouth: much more oak at the attack but nothing excessive, the whole not being very powerful but not weakish either. Tea, apricots, quinces, cinnamon and coffee fudge. Chlorophyll chewing gum. Gets fruitier after a moment, with notes of yellow plums. Finish: medium long, balanced, on a perfect oakiness and a cortege of spices (thyme, then white pepper and nutmeg again). Another excellent old whisky from the G&M stable! SGP:462 (wazzat?) – 90 points (and thank you Jan)
Linkwood 1954/2000 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) Nose: a much huger fruitiness in this one, and a very elegant woodiness, probably a little bigger than in the 1939 – but this is older. Goes on with notes of ripe bananas, pollen, nutmeg and all sorts of flowers, mainly yellow ones (dandelions and such). More exuberant but less subtle. Mouth: quite tannic just like the 1939 but below the limits and globally different, more on candy sugar, black tea and hints of peat, especially at the rather long finish. Again, excellent, not tired at all, fruitier but maybe just a tad less subtle than the 1939. SGP:750 - 88 points.
Linkwood 24 yo 1973/1998 (46%, Kingsbury, sherry butt, cask #14037) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very different from both the 1939 and the 1954! More marked by the wine – that is to say a bit vinous, with big notes of blackcurrant leaves and cooked strawberries. Also a little rubber and marzipan, whiffs of fresh putty, kirsch, red currant jam and finally bitter oranges and pepper. Very nice but slightly rougher than the old G&M’s. Mouth: dry and maybe a bit stale at the attack, which is a little bizarre... Now, it does get significantly better after a short while, less vinous than on the nose but more resinous (pine resin) and more marked by the wood itself, and less by the wine. Nice hints of mint and eucalyptus sweets. Finish: maybe a little shortish but really on menthol and chlorophyll. A very good Linkwood again, albeit a rather unusual one. SGP:462 – 88 points.
Linkwood 21 yo 1969/1991 (55.8%, Cadenhead for Dival di Gabbri, Italy) Colour: mahogany. Nose: big sherry and a very dry one. Bitter chocolate and cinnamon, blackcurrants, notes of Port, typical roses, Turkish delights... Gets very perfumy after a moment, with even more roses, cherries and lilac. And huge notes of ginger tonic and then old wine barrel. Quite unusual... Mouth: ah, yes, this is excellent now. Hyper-big sherry, with loads of chocolate and loads of mint (mint enrobed in dark chocolate, really), excellent oak, big notes of cloves and Chinese anise, cinnamon, getting maybe just a tad too extreme and drying after a while. Finish: extremely long, hugely chocolaty and peppery, not unlike, eh, peppered chocolate like they make in Spain and perhaps in other place on this small planet. Rather monstrous in its own genre. SGP:673 – 90 points.
Linkwood And also Linkwood 16 yo 1990/2007 (56.2%, Signatory, recharred hogshead, cask #9721, 161 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts on obvious but pleasant notes of new oak (nutmeg) and develops more towards fruit pies (apricots, pears), white chocolate and ginger/pepper. Also whiffs of Havana tobacco (cigar box actually) and patchouli. Very nice! Mouth: excellent attack, bold, punchy and smooth at the same time, with again very typical notes of new oak maturing (pepper, ginger, nutmeg and soft curry plus vanilla). Actually, this may dominate the spirit itself but no big deal, it’s all very pleasant. Good pepper (white), crystallised apricots, hints of soft chilli and marzipan and liquorice. Also hints of bergamots. Finish: long, spicy (same spices as before), getting maybe just a tad too oaky now but as always, it’s a matter of taste. SGP:461 – 87 points.
Glenesk Glenesk 26 yo 1981/2007 (54.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #932, 668 bottles) Probably a butt with such a high outturn. Colour: deep amber. Nose: powerful and immensely chocolaty at first nosing, like when you open a box of Xmas chocolates for the first time (yes, getting into the season). Then it’s all of a sherried cavalry, with some cappuccino, raisins, rum, brandy and crystallised oranges. And maraschino and cherry liqueur. Maybe a bit sharp underneath, though... Let’s see what happens with water: oh, it’s much more sulphury and phosphory now (cooked eggs, matchsticks box), even if we also have some nice notes of gunflints. Better not add water to this one, I’d say...
Mouth (neat): rich and hugely expressive, a tad chocolaty again at the very beginning but then it gets much, much meatier, beefier and more muhsroomy. Good balance between the sherry’s dryness and the notes of liqueur-filled chocolate. It does not really need water at this stage but let’s see... Right, again, it got sulphury and bizarrely bitter. Over-infused black tea and rubber bands. Finish: long, ashy and dry. This heavily sherried Glenesk is very good actually, but no water please! SGP:554 (wazzat?) - 85 points.
Glenesk 20 yo 1983/2006 (58.4%, Duncan Taylor, cask #4928, 616 bottles) From another butt I guess. Colour: pale straw. Nose: just as powerful – maybe even more in fact – but much more porridgy and mashy. It’s muesli all around, malt, wet oatcakes, light honey... And then vanilla and hints of oak sawdust, roots, a little salpetre and hints of rubber (new tyres) and sulphur. With water now: no changes I’m afraid, except for more sulphur. Mouth (neat): very punchy and very unusual. Very resinous and varnishy, with a lot of wax, almonds, walnuts and notes of Italian bitter (okay, Campari). Pleasant I must say but a bit harsh – water is needed. So, with water: it got sweeter and fruitier, with more marzipan but also even more oak (tannins, green tea). Not an easy whisky. Finish: long but sort of indefinite now. Oak, raw malt and porridge. Now, it’s not that often that we can try Glenesk so let’s not turn our nose up. SGP:262 - 80 points.
Macallan 18
Macallan 18 yo 1979/1997 'Gran Reserva' (40%, OB) The old hyper-sherried version of the popular 18yo. I didn’t like the 1980 too much but I’ve heard this 1979 is much superior. Colour: dark mahogany. Nose: yes, this is extremely different from any other Macallan. Starts on heady notes of mulled wine, cloves, big juniper berries, spearmint and coffee toffee and gets then more classically sherried, with the dark chocolate upfront and then notes of soy sauce, balsamico and barbecued beef. Also cigar box, thuja wood and very ripe blackberries. What’s quite incredible is that the whole is still quite fresh and lively, and certainly not sluggish. I like it. Mouth: thick, oily, rich, not weak at all despite the 40%, and more of a classic now. Heavy notes of rum-soaked raisins, figs, old rancio (huge!) and orange and herbs liqueur (like that famous Dantziger Goldwasser). Gets then spicier, mainly on cloves and pepper, with very funny hints of mescal as well. Excellent, really. Finish: long, coating, rich but clean and pure, with a faint saltiness as the signature and an aftertaste on blackberry jelly. Excellent sherried Macallan, certainly not on the same planet as its bros from 1980 and later. SGP:742 (wazzat?) - 91 points.
Macallan 1970/1988 (46%, Moon 'The sea', butt #11306, 780 bottles) Colour: pure gold. Nose: more discreet but not too far from some old official 18yo’s. Starts on hints of perfumed talc, old roses and ham (a funny mixture isn’t it), cherry liqueur and apricot pie, all that being rather elegant and subtle, certainly not wham-bam. Hints of wet stones and metal (aluminium pan, coins), fresh herbs (chives) and dead leaves, with the sherry making a very late arrival (hints of sultanas and meat bouillon and then bigger notes of dill, wild carrots and fennel). Macallan is unrecognizable here, by me at least, but the whole is very elegant whisky. Mouth: smooth and spicy at the same time, just as rich as the OB but much more on ripe apricots, yellow plums and all sorts of spices (nutmeg, hints of coriander, Chinese anise), getting then excellently herbal (mint, parsley, sage), with an oak that gets maybe just a tad too big after a moment. Slight old bottle effect (faint mouldiness in fact). Finish: rather long, on apricots and tannins, very slightly drying cinnamon). Another excellent one, certainly better than other bottlings in the ‘Sea’ series. SGP:541 – 89 points.
Macallan 18 yo 1989/2007 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, finished in rum cask, 306 bottles, ref #3635) A whole flight of rum finishings by Douglas Laing in their latest series – what should that mean? Colour: pale straw. Nose: much, much simpler than its siblings it seems, with a sugary attack on the nose on cane sugar, molasses, a little cardboard and newly cut grass. Rather spirity at that, with little development except that it gets even grassier and quite mashy/feinty. Not much pleasure I’m afraid even if we do get pleasant phenolic notes after a long time. Mouth: very sweet, almost sugary again, rawish in the background, showing signs of immaturity (fruit spirit). A few spices after that, the whole gaining body... Finish: medium long, on similar flavours, with a bitterish aftertaste. Better than it may sound actually but I think there are better Macallans, both by the distillery and by Douglas Laing. SGP:341 – 74 points.
Macallan 18 yo 1989/2007 (50.6%, Exclusive Malts, finished in Madiera hogshead, cask #17889, 474 bottles) I guess it’s rather Madeira (not the first, and probably not the last typo about wine we’ll see on a Scottish label) Colour: straw. Nose: rather similar to the ‘rum’ at the very beginning but develops quite differently, with something of the Moon (these whiffs of perfumed talc). Juniper berries again, like in the OB, and then other groovy spices that may well come from the Madeira (cloves and cardamom) plus cooked blackcurrants. Considerably more interesting than the rum finish, even if we still like a good old ‘regular’ Macallan better. Mouth: we’re much, much closer to the rum version now but it seems that Madeira brought a better balance through its dryness. Gets a bit winey, though (peppered strawberries). Finish: long, creamy, on cherry stems and nutmeg. Not grand but certainly good in my opinion. SGP:441 – 80 points.
Macallan 1972 And also Macallan 1972/2007 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt) Nose: this is truly uber-fruity! Very heavy notes of bananas and tangerines, reminding me of some Lochsides. Very unusual for a Macallan. Also quite some apricot jam. Mouth: very fruity again, with a lot of strawberries and nutmeg. Passion fruit ice cream. Again, certainly not a classic Macallan, whether sherried or not. SGP:821 - 87 points.

December 27, 2007



Inverleven 21yo 1966/1988 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label, 750ml, US Bottling) Inverleven distillery consisted in two pot stills within the huge Dumbarton grain complex and was closed in 1991.

Colour: straw. Nose: ouch, this isn’t too nice at first nosing... Plain porridge sprinkled with lemon juice plus whiffs of wet cardboard... Yet, it gets much, much nicer after these first ‘simple’ moments, with beautiful notes of fresh almonds and walnuts arising and then splendid floral notes (lime blossom, orange water, roses) as well as notes of freshly cut cider apples. Fantastic sharpness and elegance. The whole starts to resemble an old riesling after a while, which is, of course, great news. And it keeps improving for a long time... Amazing development from worst to best, another proof of the fact that one should never rush old whiskies.Mouth: excellent! Starts typically ‘Lowlandish’, on lemon drops and tinned pineapples but gets then much spicier (cloves, pepper, cardamom). Also crystallised tangerines and hints of olive oil. Not extremely complex in fact but balance is perfect. Finish: long, all on candied citrus fruits and dried ginger. A very good Inverleven, fresh but full bodied – too bad there won’t be more of these, except if Bruichladdich, which bought the stills, try to revive its style which we doubt as their plans are rather to make the New Port Charlotte with them I think. SGP:750 (wazzat?) – 88 points (and thanks Konstantin)
Inverleven 29 yo 1977/2006 (54.8%, Part des Anges, Closed Distilleries, cask #PDA363, 304 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: ho-ho, this is completely different. Starts on several kinds of herbs (parsley upfront), lemon juice and old walnuts, getting then a little fruitier (peaches) and meatier – the kind of meatiness that only wood can bring to whisky I think (spicy sausages). Then sour apples, paraffin, tofu and spearmint. Unusual, to say the least... Mouth: very powerful but rounded, getting much mellower after a few seconds, oily, thick, almost as citrusy as the Cadenhead that is. Crystallised citrons, nougat, lemon ice cream, Turkish delights and pineapple Jell-O. Very good, youthful fruitiness at almost 30 years of age, but it’s also true that they were probably used to pour Inverleven into refill casks as it was only meant to be fodder for Ballantine’s blends. Long, fresh and hyper-citrusy finish. SGP:731 – 86 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: the crazy guys of Dionysos doing their Longboard blues.mp3 . 'Tasting the mint and tasting the whisky'... Well, that could well become WF's anthem. Anyway, please buy Dyonisos' music

December 26, 2007







Glenlivet 39 yo 1968/2007 (45.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #2830, 135 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: all on apple compote, wood smoke, wet wood and orange zests at first nosing, developing on Guinness (I know I shouldn’t quote brands but at least everybody knows Guinness), sour apples (cider), marzipan and old walnuts. A rather dry version of Glenlivet, drier than all the other five or six 1968 Glenlivets by Duncan Taylor I could try so far. Mouth: very oaky attack, quickly getting bitter and drying (grape pips, orange zests, apple peelings, over-infused green tea). It’s getting a little better once you got used to the oak (cooked apples, mint) but it’s still a little too much. Finish: medium long, tannic and minty. Well this one may well be past its prime, and in no way as good as the excellent other Glenlivets by DT I could try before. The black sheep? SGP:261 – 77 points.
Glenlivet 1968/1993 (49%, Duthie for Samaroli, 25th Anniversary, 996 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: oh, this is much more phenolic than the usual old Glenlivet and reminds us of the old 21yo. Big notes of walnut skin and linseed oil, waxed paper, warm butter and cornflakes, as well as wood smoke exactly like in the Duncan Taylor. Now there are also hints of camphor and eucalyptus... Mouth: big, starting unusually resinous and salty, in a style that’s close to the 39yo’s except that the wood does not dominate the whole here. Apple peelings, liquorice, chlorophyll chewing-gum, strong tea, pepper and cloves. Long finish, on good oak, pepper and liquorice. Not a gentle Glenlivet ‘de salon’ at all! SGP:362 – 86 points (and thank you, Alex)
Glenlivet 20 yo 1965/1985 (56.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s amazing how close to the two 1968’s this one is in style. We have the very same big notes of waxed paper, walnuts, beer, apple peelings and linseed oil, but with an even bigger smoke here. Garden bonfire, burning oak, vanilla and brown coal, with maybe just hints of dry sherry in the background. With water: becomes a little meatier, with also more mint but these notes of beer got bigger as well. Mouth (neat): wham-bam pepper, oak and salty liquorice, with metallic notes that may come from bottle ageing. Also pine resin and cough sweets. It’s very powerful, let’s add water again: well, that made the oak really stand out, with also more mint again, olive oil, marzipan, liquorice and mint sweets and nutmeg. Finish: long, punchy, dry, peppery and minty. Again, not a sexy Glenlivet but if you’re looking for an unusually raw Speysider and plan a trip to Italy, you may put this one on your list. SGP:363 – 86 points.
  When was the usual strength of Scotch reduced by law from 75 to 70° UK proof and why?  
Answer here
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Simply Barbara singing her Ma plus belle histoire d'amour.mp3 (my prettiest love story). How great she was, please buy everything by the lady in black.

December 25, 2007

Toynbee Studios, Whitechapel, London, December 15th, 2007
Bollywood Santa I know it’s Christmas. In the corner of the proudly world famous Lahore Kebab House there’s a token Christmas tree, decorated as an after thought, incongruous among the brightly lit shiny table tops and Bollywood soundtracks blasting from the huge flat screens on the walls.
It turns out the Photographer was last here in 1985 – the Cool Dudes who are with us for the evening haven’t been for about five years. And my how it’s changed – “We’ve got three floors innit” says our waiter. But the very high quality canteen Pakistani food (the lamb chops are legendary) lives up to its very high reputation. We’re just off the Commercial Road in the East End – this is real Jack the Ripper and Oswald Mosley territory. Five minutes away in Commercial Street is Toynbee Hall, a surprising muddle of neo-Gothic Victorian buildings with later additions. It was built in 1884 as the first ‘settlement’, those houses where brave middle-class social explorers (like Arnold Toynbee, after whom it was named) lived in the midst of urban industrial poverty (where we are was an impoverished Jewish and Irish ghetto in the nineteenth century, where famously even Thomas Cook could not organise a tour) in order to do ‘good works’ in the community. And we’re heading for the small theatre in the newly-named Toynbee Studios, which was built in 1938 and designed by Alistair MacDonald (son of first Labour Prime Minister, the biscuit loving Ramsay MacDonald) who made a living from designing cinemas, and it shows. But it’s a lovely little space, which thanks to us is aromatically reminiscent of Lahore.
Ukulele Orchestra
It’s the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain’s Christmas show, and a suitably eclectic audience, of very at-home old fashioned Labour P, corduroy jackets with elbow patches and all that, Boden families (impeccably-behaved children, Woodcraft folk I’ve no doubt), a few stray arty types, a National Childbirth Trust reunion night out, and behind us an irritatingly loud party from Kent, who quite clearly don’t get out much. On stage are the seven piece UOoGB – led by George Hinchcliffe and Kitty Lux. You possibly recall we saw them at the Cropredy Festival a few years ago – and what good fun they were. But in an intimate space such as this the first thing that strikes you (after the boorish braying of the men of Kent to our rear) is not the wittiness of the jokes and musical references, but rather the complexity of the arrangements and the outstanding playing of the entire group. I’m particularly struck by the whistling Jonty Bankes, who is playing the bass ukulele (it looks suspiciously like an acoustic bass guitar but best not to mention that) with great aplomb and subtlety. As it should be it’s at the heart of everything – and sometimes very much at the front, as with the inspired rendition of ‘Psycho Killer’, sung with hysterical enthusiasm by Will Grove-White.
Baccara There is a festive touch – the first tune is ‘Sleigh Ride’, followed by – in homage to Peter Brooke-Turner’s shiny dobro- style ukulele – Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’. Brooke-Turner, who, by the way, has an interesting alter-ego Tony Penultimate, adds vocals on songs such as ‘Yes Sir, I can boogie’ and ‘Shaft’. Yes – if you haven’t got it by now that’s the joke – ukuleles play rock classics, ranging from a Simon and Garfunkel style ‘Anarchy in the UK’, Splodgenessabounds’ brilliant situationalist punk classic ‘Two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please’, Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite’ and even Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s ‘Je t'aime... moi non plus’.
They finish the first half of the evening with a very clever version of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ which ends up with each member of the Orchestra playing and singing at least one different song, including ‘If I was a Carpenter’, ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Save the last dance for me’, ‘You sexy thing’, ‘I’m waiting for my man’ and David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’. But this was as nothing to the tour de force with which they ended the show, that “folk-song” from “The People’s Republic of South Yorkshire”, Kate Bush’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ sung wonderfully by Hinchcliffe in a jazz style. As I observed previously, it’s just what the sometimes achingly pretentious Ms Bush deserves. And just to remind us that it was Christmas they rounded things off with more meticulously arranged Christmas tunes. So with not a snow-ball throwing urchin in sight, we walked back through the frosty streets of East London to the car which was glowing in the warmth of a packed Kebab House. We nearly went in for seconds.- Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Shepherds Bush Empire, London, December 7th 2007
Sinead Posts: 80. Re:Shepherds Bush Empire 07/12/07 - 2007/12/11 17:15 I think the Docs were awesome on Friday, really good. But I agree I don’t think the crowd were quite as up for it as thgey were last year. Just wasn't as wild! Although we tried to make up for that in my little area by going completely mad! I had a brilliant night! Shame about I useta lover being missing, but apart from that it was proper Ghostcastle!!
It’s nearly Christmas isn’t it? I can tell because what passes for seasonal goodwill is going into overdrive inside a packed, noisy, excited, boisterous, happy and thoroughly saw doctored Shepherds Bush Empire. Actually I think it’s what the Daily Mail would call binge drinking. There’s a big crowd all around us who all seem to know each other, or be related in some way, and the majority are from the L'Île Emerald. While I’m fighting jungle-warfare style to the bar the Photographer is bonding with the matriarch of the party, exchanging Oirish family stories, life-histories and the like – you know, the usual stuff that happens at these dos. So what with her pedigree and my Gaelic thatch we’re family. And we’re neatly tucked into a corner by the sound desk from where the boozing and the behavioural changes it brings on as the night progresses is as much a spectator sport as the Saw Doctors. While we nurse a glass of the dark stuff it seems the majority are on lager and cider, pints and pints of the stuff, occasionally accompanied by something spirituous with coke. The girls are delicately sipping on their half pints, and throwing back shorts as if they’re going out of fashion. One of the girls, wearing only a large T-shirt (which some of her ‘friends’ seem to be trying to take off her) is hoisted precariously on the shoulders of a boy, looking not forward to the stage, but back to us and the folks above at the bar. Her shirt is advertising the venue of an after show party in south London – free bus, bar ‘till four, and “free buffet”, the thought of which is making the Photographer wretch. The way these guys are going they’re not going to make it.
Saw Doctors
Saw Doctors Oh, and on the stage it’s the Saw Doctors. How do they manage it? For a long time they’ve been the ultimate good time show band – you wonder how they can work through the same songs (some of which, we should be reminded, are very, very good) night after night after night with such apparent enthusiasm. But they do. It’s a shame that subtlety is thrown away in favour of the party atmosphere, but you can still appreciate the quality of some of the writing – and the playing is surprisingly good – ex Waterboy Anthony Thistlethwaite is quite outstanding on bass. While years of touring seem to be etched hard into Davy Carton’s face his vice is as strong as ever. And front man Leo Moran works the audience to perfection – he’s all Buddy Holly glasses, squinting glances into the audience and comic raised eyebrows – but he drives and drives the band on, and – as if they need it – whips the willing crowd into even more of a largely alcohol-fuelled frenzy.
And it’s sadly noticeable that as they do so the universal good humour just begins to get a hard edge as dancers crash into drinkers and jealous boyfriends try to repossess their girls. But we stay to the end (although it’s totally thrown away I have to hear ‘Hay Wrap’ which traditionally comes as the final encore) and manage to exit intact, promising that we’ll meet up next year, same gig, same place.
It’s cold outside – smokers are huddled outside the pubs, early seasonal revellers are stumbling along the pavements, Santa Claus hats at jaunty angles. Behind us the rest of the crowd are pouring from the theatre. We’ve been down to the doctor’s – it is nearly Christmas isn’t it Serge? - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thank you Nick and Kate, and Merry Christmas! Let's have some nice music by the Ukulele Orchestra... - S.







Ledaig 20 yo (40%, Douglas Murdoch, early 1990's) Douglas Murdoch, I believe, is/was a firm related to Speyside Distillers but I’m not quite sure. Colour: gold/amber. Nose: ohhh yesss! This is probably a 1972 or 1973, for it’s an absolutely stunning Ledaig that starts with big notes of gunpowder and oyster shells, high-end orange liqueur, old leather and Virginia tobacco (say, newly opened pack of Camels). Gets then superbly animal (wet dog, game) and ends with smelling like a fisherman’s old boat (mix of diesel oil, fish, seawater and wet wood). And walnut liqueur. A stunning profile, like no other malt whisky known to man! Mouth: 40%, really? Big, rich, punchy, tarry and spicy... Walnut liqueur, salt, heavy liquorice, peanut butter, game, balsamico, black truffle, Christmas pudding, smoked meat, ham, dried bananas, chewed cigar (or chewing tobacco)... and just ‘peat’ of course... burnt caramel, herbs liqueur... Wow, how complex is that? Finish: endless, thick, invading, just as tarry and full of ‘tertiary’ flavours as before. Well, most 1972 Ledaigs were exceptional and so is this one. SGP:467 (wazzat?) – 93 points.

Ledaig 1974/1992 (56%, OB) Colour: gold. Nose: this is much, much fruitier and more floral, even if there is quite some peat in the background. Starts on cherry liqueur (what we call guignolet over here) and honeyed orange juice, olive oil, these faint whiffs of drenched dogs (sorry dogs), soaked peated malt... Alas, all that dwindles a bit after a moment and leaves room for feintier and mashier notes (porridge and such, bread crumb, baker’s yeast...) Also hints of nougat and light honey as well as a little mint. Still quite great globally. Mouth: exactly the same differences as on the nose! Much fruitier and sort of straighter than the 1972, with notes of lemon drops, icing sugar, tinned pineapples, crystallised oranges and then a simpler peatiness. Hints of pu-erh tea and quite some liquorice. Very bold whisky in fact. Finish: long and candied, mainly on peat, pepper and bitter oranges, not unlike a simpler version of some old sherried Ardbegs. Very excellent again, just a bit simple. SGP:656 – 89 points.
Ledaig 1972 (51.9%, La Maison du Whisky, circa 1995) Nice label, how minimalist is that? Colour: mahogany with brownish hues. Nose: but what is this? Smoked gravy with mint? Redistilled 19th century Bourgogne? Egyptian walnut liqueur? Seriously, I think I never nosed such a thing: imagine a random mixture of English brown sauce, oxtail, old leather, coal and coal smoke, soot, smoked bacon, gunpowder, saltpetre, dried kelp, prawns (any kind of seafood actually), liquorice, coffee, oyster sauce, cloves, rancio, flor... The list would be endless, so let’s stop it, but no need to say this is magnificent. Let’s only hope that Tobermory started to make some similar Ledaigs again (not the ersatzes they made in the 1980’s and 1990’s). Mouth: amazing power and huge spiciness! What a beast! The Mike Tyson of whisky (come on, Serge), with peat and phenols instead of jabs, meat instead of hooks and spices instead of uppercuts. I’m sorry but the rest will be censored by the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: yup – KO. Amazing whisky, in the vein of other fabulous 1972 Ledaigs such as some oldies like the ones by James MacArthur. SGP:488 – 94 points. (and thank you mucho, Emmanuel)

December 24, 2007







Clynelish 23 yo 1965/1989 (51.7%, Cadenhead's for Nibada) This one from the old distillery ‘of course’ – you know, the one that was to be renamed ‘Brora’ in the late 1960’s while... etc... Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh yes, this is to our likings. Starts on immense whiffs of lignite and the smoke thereof, clay, soot and walnut skin, then metal polish, car engine and matchbox, then green tea, oil, black tobacco and seashells. As wild and phenolic as it gets, and certainly drier than most OB’s or IB’s I could try until now. Absolutely splendid and totally different from any other single malt currently known to man. Like entering an old garage or an old foundry... Mouth: amazing! We get exactly the same kinds of flavours, only with more spices at the attack (pepper and ginger). We’re a bit closer to the official 100°proof versions of the 12, actually. Indeed, it develops on a lot of bitter oranges, cinchona (make that Campari), wax, cough sweets, peat (a lot)... Ah well, let’s drop this painful tasting notes. Get this: this is whisky as all whiskies should be, that is to say uncompromising. And no we won’t tell you about the finish (said the anti-maltoporn brigade). SGP:377 (wazzat?) – 96 points.
Clynelish 35 yo 1971/2006 (46.5%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 246 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: the relationship between this one and the old one is very obvious, except that the very oily notes have been toned down while some fruitier tones were introduced. Please take the 1965, apply a .5 factor to it, add notes of bananas, papayas and orange and lemon marmalades and you’re done. Very superb again. Mouth: exactly the same comments. Together with the first Prestonfield 1973, this is an example of a ‘new’ Clynelish that’s very close to an ‘old’ Clynelish, even more so on the palate than on the nose. Maybe just a little more ‘citrusness’ and a little more oak and certainly less extravagant fruitiness than in other versions, like most 1972’s. Also, it’s not that far from a Brora. Finish: long, maybe a tad simpler now, with the oak coming to the front. Anyway, again, this is an exceptionally big old whisky, totally ‘Highlands style’ and absolutely unspittable (which is a problem for the enthusiastic taster who’s poured himself a very large dram of this one ;-). SGP:555 – 92 points. (thank you Fred, Govert and Kontantin)
Clynelish 17 yo (61.8%, OB, Manager's Dram, Sherry cask, 1998) Why I never wrote notes about this one is a total mystery, let’s fix that immediately. Colour: gold. Nose: this is different this time. When unreduced, it’s mainly milk chocolate and coffee that you get but that happens very often with very high-strength whiskies I think. Also notes of plum spirit and kirsch, beeswax, ginger, old wood and liquorice. This should be superb but the alcohol probably masks many other aromas, let’s add water immediately. With water: ah yes, this works beautifully (around 45%). The typical notes of wax and fruits woke up, as well as notes of old chenin blanc (in case you don’t know, it’s a grape variety from the Loire valley that gives excellent sweet whites that really stand the test of time), nougat, hawthorn tea, wood smoke, honey... Fantastico, really. Mouth (neat): holy featherless crow, this is almost as hot as the legendary Mannochmore from the same series. Now, it’s not impossible to get the waxy fruitiness (or fruity waxiness) that lies therein but let’s not tempt fate and add water right away. With water: again, that worked exceptionally well. Caramel toffee, smoked salmon, dried ginger, nougat, allspices, apricots... This is insanely good. Finish: you bet! Now, this is a case where water is needed almost as much as after a one-week walk in the Sahara. SGP:654 – 92 points.
Nick Cave
MUSIC – Recommended listening: we just needed a little Nick Cave today and Abattoir blues.mp3 came handy. Please buy Nick-Cave-the-great's music.
<-- Wartime Dewar's ad,
Christmas 1941. 'Ah, wives and whisky... Or is it the other way 'round?

December 23, 2007









North British 33 yo 1974/2007 (47.4%, Murray McDavid Celtic Heartlands) Part of a new series of old single grains selected by Jim McEwan. Nose: very excellent! I’m not too much into grain usually (I usually feel that youngsters are too simple and that oldsters are too marked by their casks) but this is different. Very fresh, all on banana liqueur and eucalyptus. Mouth: quite powerful but prettily balanced. Ultra assertive, displaying loads of raspberries I’d say. If you like raspberries (and beautiful decanters), this is for you. SGP:720 – 88 points.
North of Scotland 33 yo 1972/2006 (56.7%, Dewar Rattray, cask #25772, 172 bottles) It’s not that often that we can taste a North of Scotland, as the distillery was active only between 1958 and 1980. Colour: gold. Nose: this is simply pure rum. Vanilla, candy sugar, something grassy in the background, plain oak... This should have been called North of the Caribbean. Now, it doesn’t seem to be whisky but it’s perfect spirit, even if not very complex. With water: it got a bit more bourbonny and less rummy but otherwise it didn’t change much. Mouth (neat): yes, like punchy old rum. Candy sugar, crystallised oranges, vanilla cake, cane sugar syrup and oak. Extremely creamy mouth feel, thick like a liqueur. With water: ah, it’s still like pure rum and even creamier now. This should be perfect on top of vanilla ice cream! Excellent finish. SGP:740 – 87 points.
Strathclyde 33 yo 1973/2007 (55.5%, Duncan Taylor, cask #74063, 165 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: a bit shy after the very demonstrative North of the Car... I mean, of Scotland. Rather discreet oak, vanilla and coconut with hints of tequila (no kidding). With water: the oak comes out more but balance is achieved. There’s more coconut, that is. Mouth (neat): ultra-sweet, powerful, very vanilled and fruity. Apple compote with vanilla ice cream. Whisky for desert? With water: extremely bourbonny now, with quite some liquorice as well. Liquorice filled with vanilla paste. Finish: not excessively long, maybe a little sugary now. A good old grain whisky anyway, for people who like sweetness in their whiskies. SGP:720 - 83 points.
And also Invergordon 41 yo 1965/2007 (50.2%, Duncan Taylor, cask #15517) Colour: gold. Nose: starts very similar to the Strathclyde, only with a little more of everything. Probably a bourbon cask. Growing ‘coconutty’ notes and big notes of vanilla crème. With water: perfect, smooth, rounded, vanilled and a little more resinous now. Hints of freshly ground nutmeg. Mouth (neat): a thick and syrupy attack on pineapple liqueur, coconut liqueur (yes, that brand that we like so much – not!) and vanilla pods, with quite some soft spices in the background. Cinnamon, ginger, soft curry, cardamom... The wood plays the first part here but it’s good. With water: even more oak but it’s perfect oak – and perfect coconut. Good finish as well, a little spicier than the previous grains we just had. Very nice resinous notes. A super old grain with a little more oomph and body than others, and an astonishing freshness at 41 years of age. SGP:632 – 87 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: we're in the sixties and Jacques Dutronc sings Les playboys.mp3.They may well be back, sipping wood-and-brass-packaged single malt whisky and driving SUV's. Arrrgh! (but please buy Dutronc's music)
<-- Black & White ad,
Christmas 1938. 'The world over they will be toasting Christmas with Black & White because it's the Scotch!'

December 22, 2007

TASTING – TWO 18yo KNOCKANDOS and a few youngsters
Knockando Knockando 18 yo 1980/1998 (43%, OB, Slow Matured) It’s an euphemism to say that Knockando never really impressed me but maybe these two ‘prestige’ bottlings will manage to awake my interest. Colour: gold. Nose: quite sherried but also a little vegetal and buttery. Ale, porridge, whiffs of oak, nuts, wood smoke. Not bad but not really inspiring I’d say. Mouth: more sherry, oranges, orange liqueur. Also very, very malty and a little caramelly. Cereals, liquorice. Good body I must say. Finish: medium long, toasty. Burnt cake. For blend drinkers who’ve got a little more dough? SGP:342 (wazzat?) - 78 points.
Knockando 18 yo 1989/2007 (43%, OB, Slow Matured) Colour: gold. Nose: a little less sherry than in the 1980 and maybe a little more smoke. Less herbal as well but maybe a little more buttery. Pretty close anyway. Mouth: definitely less sherried, oilier and bitterer than the 1980. Liquorice sticks and burnt caramel. Finish: medium long, on bitter oranges and oak. The 1980 was a little rounder. SGP:251 - 76 points. I like the regular vintage versions better, they are fresher and cleaner I think.
And also Knockando 1985/1999 (43%, OB) Nose: grainy, with whiffs of smoke, walnut skin and olive oil. Elegant. Mouth: very nutty, cereally and liquoricy. Good body. Finish: rather long, funnily fat and dry at the same time. SGP:233 – 82 points.
Knockando 1978/1992 (43%, OB) Nose: more beer and hints of sherry. More expressive than the 1985 but less elegant. Slightly sourish. Mouth: a little indefinite. Tastes like a blend I’d say. Strawberry jam, malt, grains, caramel, nuts. Finish: quite short but round. SGP:331 – 78 points. Now, I HATE this one. Imagine, I had just bought a brand new iPhone (great machine) the week before and while I was handling the sample bottle, the phone rang and I inadvertently let the bottle fall on it (just a 10cm fall) and its glass broke! As they say, sh*t happens, but beware, the thing appears to be very fragile. Nah, it’s whisky’s fault again...
Knockando 1975/1987 (86° Proof, OB, USA) Nose: more assertive again, like the 1985 but with more power. Linseed oil, wood smoke, sap, ham. As if there was a little peat. Mouth: rather powerful, nutty, herbal, liquoricy. Very good body. Finish: long, liquoricy. Good oakiness. SGP:352 – 81 points.
Knockando 1974/1986 (43%, OB) Nose: between the 1985 and the 1975. Smoky, waxy, vegetal, banana skin, Guinness. Some presence. Mouth: close to the 1975 but with an extra-dimension: oranges. Finish: long, even kind of sharp. Oranges and cereals. For breakfast (I’m kidding). SGP: 352 – 82 points.
Knockando 12 yo 1964/1977 (70°proof, OB, pure malt) Nose: completely different. Much more mineral, ashy. Shoe polish, metal, walnut skin, lemon skin, soot, leather, grass. Very complex. Mouth: oily, quite peaty, resinous and almondy. Big waxiness. Orange and lemon marmalade. Very, very elegant. Finish: medium long, on bergamots and marzipan. Pretty excellent old version – I’m sure bottle ageing gives it extra-point. SGP:363 – 85 points. Knockando 12
MC Sollar
MUSIC – Recommended listening: a tribute to all these new ultra-hyper-megapremium whiskies (well, could be) by France's MC Solaar . It's called Bling-bling.mp3 and it's fun. Please buy MC Solaar's music.
<-- Johnnie Walker ad,
Christmas 1935. 'This old whisky with a century of Tradition behind it has again been packed in specially decorated cases for Christmas containing 2, 3, 6 and 12 bottles.' Selling whisky by the case!

December 21, 2007








Glenugie 29 yo 1977/2007 (45.6%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #5505, 253 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: starts in an unusual way, mainly on spearmint, dill and fresh almonds, before it becomes a little more ‘middle of the road’ with quite some porridge, muesli and breadcrumb. Funnily, it takes off again after a few minutes, exhaling rather big camphory notes together with notes of Williams pears and a fine oakiness. Rather superb and breathtaking if you don’t rush it. Mouth: this is a little simpler at the attack, with a bigger oakiness and quite some vanilla but the mint is well here in the background as well as notes of liquorice allsorts, marzipan, orange cake and dried bananas. And hints of ripe kiwis that keep it very ‘alive’. Very good in any case. Finish: rather long, maybe a bit too oaky (and peppery) for my taste but the rest is great. Classy whisky! SGP:462 - 88 points.
Glenugie 29 yo 1977/2006 (49.6%, Part des Anges, Closed Distilleries, cask #PDA360, 244 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is more powerful but also much more austere, quite ashy, mineral and waxy at the same time. Almond skin, apple peelings and linseed oil. Gets then meatier (smoked ham, dried Grisons meat – yes, I know, it’s thin-sliced dried beef, very good) and quite earthy and rooty. Wet clay, chives and good cider. Again, it’s rather subtle malt, you have to give it time if you want to get all its dimensions. Mouth: very, very close to the ‘Waldhaus’ but this time it’s the mint and camphor that are in front, not the oak. A very pleasant fruitiness comes through after that, mainly dried pears and bananas. That’s it, ripe bananas infused in cough syrup with a little nutmeg and cinnamon. Finish: long, balanced, with again the oak getting a little more ‘intrusive’ at this point but the whole is a wonderful whisky I think. We have Glenugie among our ‘Grands Crus’ and it’s not this one that’ll change that. SGP:553 – 89 points.
Glenugie 20 yo 1984 (1983)/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Cask #1320, 201 bottles) The year of distilling is a misprint here, as Glenugie having been closed in 1983 it can’t be 1984. Colour: straw. Nose: I’m sorry but ‘wow!’ This is a perfect summary of both 1977’s, but with something more ‘direct’ than both at first sniffs. Superb whiffs of menthol, fresh almonds and linseed oil, camphor, butter pears, smoked tea, bergamot (earl grey tea), liquorice, caramelized apples... And then even more menthol. Even nicer than Vicks! Superb whisky so far... Mouth: oh yes! Close to the ‘Part des Anges’ but again, without the slightly excessive oakiness. Mint, liquorice, dried fruits (all sorts, really) and marzipan, plus myriads of ‘smaller’ flavours. No need to make you drool any further I guess, do let’s go straight to the conclusion: this is truly fantastic whisky (wasn’t that short and sweet?) SGP:653 – 92 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Another great guy from Belgium: Arno. Let’s listen to his Les yeux de ma mère.mp3 (my mother’s eyes) and then buy his music...
<-- Chivas Regal ad,
Christmas 1964.

December 20, 2007


Hammersmith Apollo, London
December 4th 2007

Given the degree of antipathy that has existed between them in the past it seems remarkable that Glen Tilbrook and Chris Difford ever managed to write any songs together, let alone produce so many fantastic and enduring pop hits. As they powered Squeeze through twenty-one years (with a three-year break in 1985) of eighteen UK Top Fifty hit singles, twelve studio albums and numerous tours around the world their relationship was frequently on the rocks: “We spent at least twenty years not communicating about anything” said the wordsmith of the pair Difford, in a recent interview. “We fell out somewhere between the first and second album” confirmed guitarist, singer, composer and sometime studio Stalinist Tilbrook – “I was” he added, “an arsey git”.

Well arsey or not, Tilbrook and Gifford have returned to the stage with almost-original bassist John Bentley, drummer Simon Hanson and keyboard player Stephen Large (both from Tilbrook’s band the Fluffers) for a US tour, a few festivals, and a string of gigs across the UK. And of course there’s a new album – well, a new ‘best of’ album, The Essential Squeeze, and a live album, Five Live, recorded in the United States earlier in the year.
Ted Baker Oh yes, and for a mere ten quids there’s a tour programme, which almost everyone seems to have a copy of in this very full Hammersmith Apollo. And such has been the demand for seats that this is now the first of two nights in the capital. And the Squeeze fans are out in full – moving backwards and forwards to and from the bar like shifty market traders passing in the night. As the police cars speed past outside round the Broadway on their way to Heathrow (I’m sure they’re doing ninety), gangs of geezers and likely lads, swearing like how’s your father, Ted Baker shirts and pints of lager, pose at the bar – and it is funny, isn’t it Serge, how their missus always looks the bleeding same?
Actually this turns out to be less of a concert and more of an assault course as the band take the stage and launch a barrage of hits at a mostly supplicant audience. Most might choose to leave gold-standard songs like ‘Take me I’m yours’ and the wonderful ‘Up the junction’ to the end of the set – but here they start the evening off and introduce an almost relentless set of hit after hit. Did they really play so many? Support act, a rather disappointing King Creosote had been loud and poorly mixed; now the mix is better but the volume is still high. Tilbrook works like a Trojan – he has the voice of an angel and the energy of a red setter – he can also play the lead guitar with greater accomplishment than I might have imagined. Co-conspirator Difford, with a hopelessly low-key and slightly flat voice shimmies across the stage in the background, only occasionally moving to the front. Tilbrook is of course the voice of Squeeze – but when it’s combined with Difford (‘Cool for cats’) the effect is totally , well…Squeeze. And hit after hit like wave after wave they come – the lager-fuelled audience in ever greater stages of out-of-body excess (and believe me that’s a lot of body to be out of); revelling in South London tributes such as ‘In Quintessence’ (can they really all have come from Deptford?).
And I should add there are so many songs, I ran out of pages in my little black book, but as for the set list, well if you think they might have played it, then they probably did. I do seem to recall, as the bodies were being carried out on stretchers suffering from a surfeit of hits (better than lampreys I suppose), that they finished with ‘Goodbye girl’, ‘Hourglass’, ‘Pulling Mussels (from a shell)’ and ‘Cool for cats’. Blimey. And as if we hadn’t had enough, they strode back on the stage, thanked us ‘for coming out’ (did we?) and finished for the second time with ‘Tempted’ and ‘Black coffee in bed’ which had everyone singing along like a right old London knees-up. Great songs played with surprising verve, energy and enthusiasm. And each one as fresh and exciting as a Christmas gift plucked from a fireside stocking – hang on – is it really that time of year again …? - Nick Morgan (concert photograph by Kate)
Thank you Nick. Yes, it’s that time of the year again, when we’re thinking very hard about our world famous Whiskyfun Music Awards! Watch this space dear reader, there should be surprises... In the meantime, let’s listen to Squeeze’s Goodbye Girl.mp3. Wasn't the beatbox a bit, err, scary?







Springbank 13 yo 1993/2006 (46%, Duncan Taylor NC2) Colour: pale straw. Nose: clean, pure, fresh and certainly smokier than usual. Gets then grassier, waxier, sort of mineral, very flinty. Then a little yoghurt, yeast, breadcrumb and smoked tea. I like this sharpness. Mouth: sweet, a little pearish, with these slightly ‘funny’ notes we find in many Springbanks distilled in this period. Lemonade, ginger tonic, bitter oranges, smoked ham and paper. Finish: rather long, orangey and gingery, with also something like well-hung poultry. Very close to some officials (but the recent official 1997 is quite different, i.e. much better in my books). SGP:353 (wazzat?) – 77 points.Note (Dec 24): Before you start to chuckle, the expression 'well-hung poultry' refers to poultry that's been kept for a few days before consumption, so that the meat gets more flavourful, and certainly not to anything, well, ‘genital’. Thank you, Glenn!
Springbank 11yo 1995/2006 (57.3%, High Spirits, cask #433) Colour: amber. Nose: just as smoky as the 1993 but with quite some added sherry notes. Dried herbs, kirsch, maraschino, toffee, strawberry jam and burnt cake. A little violent, let’s add a little water: it got extremely farmy, cheesy (parmesan) and meaty (ham). Not the same whisky, at all! Mouth (neat): hot, very punchy, very cherry-ish and sherried. Cherry liqueurs, orange liqueurs, sultanas and pepper. With water: still very nervous but with a wider fruitiness. Added orangey notes, liquorice, kumquats and Corinth raisins. Finish: long, fruity, raisiny, gingery and candied (brwon sugar, speculoos). Good stuff. SGP:524 - 84 points.
Springbank 12 yo 1995/2007 (55.7%, Blackadder Raw Cask, sherry hogshead, 280 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: oh, what a big sulphur! Like a big box of burnt matchsticks (no H2S!) that you just opened combined with diesel oil and soot. Tons of gunpowder as well, then parsley and dried mintleaves and finally hints of asparagus cooking water. Extremely, err, extreme. Some guys will love this, some others will hate it. In other words, the good old ‘is sulphur good in whisky’ debate... With water: more of the same, on the verge of getting ‘eggy’. And this gunpowder... We’re at a gunsmith’s. Mouth (neat): ouch! The same hyper-big sulphury (and phosphorous) notes are here again. Bitter, rubbery and liquoricy. Again, the love-it-or-hate-it jazz should apply here... With water: more drinkable but again, even more sulphurous and tarry. And so is the long finish! If you’re wondering what sulphur in whisky tastes like, try to put your hands on this bottle, it’s really spectacular. SGP:355 – 70 points (but sulphur aficionados might claim that I’m a fool and that it’s worth 90+!)

December 19, 2007

Bordeaux Glen Garioch 16 yo 1990 (53.8%, OB, Bordeaux Wine finish, Taiwan, 1800 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: powerful, biscuity but also quite sulphury and flinty. Gets then very beefy and meaty, probably not in a nice way. Game, civet, smoked ham. Smokier than expected. Hints of rancid butter coming through after a while. Well... With water: it got rather cleaner, which is unusual. Almond milk and hay, clean dogs, old papers. Rather okayish. Mouth (neat): powerful, almost hot and very winey. Blackcurrant sweets and cranberry juice. Wine in whisky, err... Wit water: a little nicer, more candied and caramelly. Toasted brioche. Not that bad after all... (but the odd winey notes are still there). Finish: long, slightly smoky and dirty (old wood), getting seriously dry. Not bad but no doubt our very good Taiwanese friends deserve better Glen Gariochs; there are many. SGP:253 (wazzat?) - 77 points.
Glen Garioch 17 yo 1990/2007 (55,8%, Adelphi, cask #2689, 285 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts farmy and minty, rather sharp. Chives, wool, coal smoke. Ultra-big grassiness and even more chives after a while. Truly wild I’d say. With water: gets much grassier and flintier. Linseed oil and fresh butter, warm candle wax, burnt matchsticks. No big sulphur, though. Il like this style, which should be the one of the Northeastern Highlands – should regional classifications make any sense. Mouth (neat): punchy, very lemony and very peppery, with a good dose of grass and even chilli. Almost aggressive. Lively notes of Juicyfruity gum and peardrops. Vanilla fudge. With water: more of the same, the whole being simply gentler and softer. Excellent body despite heavy cutting with water, this one is an excellent swimmer. Another Mark Spitz. Finish: long, getting just a little too bitter for my taste (very grassy bitterness). Anyway, it’s a very good Glen Garioch by Adelphi, maybe just a tad too grassy. SGP:382 – 85 points.
Glen Garioch
Glen Garioch Glen Garioch 1988/2006 (56,1%, Celtic Whisky Co, Spirit Safe & Cask, Hogshead #1538, 234 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: quite beautiful at first nosing, starting all on lemon balm, spearmint and vanilla crème. Lightly peaty. Goes on on fresh butter and butterscotch. Extremely clean and very, very elegant. With water: superb development on dried mushrooms, dry liquorice and Parma ham, with a good dose of almond milk again. Very beautiful nose with water. Mouth (neat): big and sweet, starting on oranges and bananas topped with vanilla crème. Fresh butter (but it isn’t buttery). Gets peppery and rather hot – again, water is needed. With water: now it got frankly waxy, resinous and almondy. All that is just fine. Finish: rather long, lemony, getting a little bitter again but less so than the 1990. Quite some ginger tonic at the aftertaste. Another very good recent Glen Garioch, maybe not as splendid as many peatier versions that were distilled in the 1960’s or 1970’s but better than most current ones in my opinion. SGP:373 – 87 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Lebanon's great great Fairouz sings a splendid Akoulou li tiflati.mp3 (I tell my child. Let's buy her music!
<-- Black & White ad,
Christmas 1974.

December 18, 2007


Ronnie Scott’s, London, December 3rd 2007
I can’t really understand what’s going on. I’ve spent the past three days eating nothing but foie gras (or so it feels) and drinking the most astonishing wines (thanks Serge) but now I’m back in London eating pizza. And I have to say that even by pizza standards it isn’t very good. It’s not even my idea.
The Cool Dudes have insisted we accompany them, blue suede shoes and all, to Ronnie Scott’s for some Jazz (and as you know Serge, Jazz isn’t one of my strongest points) and first to Spiga (owned, it turns out, by ex-Mean Fiddler Vince Power’s ubiquitous VPMG) for dinner. And given that this is big business best that I say no more about the pizza, or the service, or the décor, or the wine, or the bill. ‘Nuff not said.
It’s a special night at Ronnie’s – a launch event for Guy Barker’s new CD The Amadeus Project.
Guy Barker
Barker is one of Britain’s leading trumpeters, who for the past few years, partly as a result of an invitation to play at San Diego’s Mainly Mozart Festival, partly due to the prompting of a friend, and thanks to a commission from the BBC, has been experimenting with all things Wolfgang. So the collection comprises on one disc the Amadeus Suite – a series of tunes inspired by characters from Mozart – such as ‘How sweet the breeze’ based on Rosina, the betrayed wife of Count Almaviva in the Marriage of Figaro, and ‘Weeping and wailing’, the manipulative philosopher Don Alfonso from Cosi Fan Tutte.
However the main focus of the CD, and of this evening, is dZf, the story of the Magic Flute retold in a narrative written by crime novelist (and long time friend of Barker) Robert Ryan. It’s Mozart meets Mickey Spillane, a Damon Runyon pastiche of hardboiled Harlem hokey, which is narrated on the disc and tonight, by Brooklyn-born actor Michael Brandon, whom you may remember from his lead role in the 1980s British TV series Dempsey and Makepeace, or perhaps for North Americans that he is the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine. And the story is told against the background of Barker’s score – itself a pastiche of US film and TV crime-noir thrillers. Think the original 1950s and 1960s TV themes of Dragnet combined with the Untouchables and you won’t be too far away from the genre – although you may just want to add a touch of the Bonzos’ ‘I am the big shot’ for good measure. And did I mention that it’s being played for us by the wonderful fifteen-piece Guy Barker Jazz Orchestra who are somehow squeezed onto the tiny stage of Ronnie Scott’s?
I’m a tad too adjacent to Rotherham-born Mark Frost’s (very loud) bass trombone for comfort – this is a man in whose hands a bottle of lager looks like a mere child’s plaything and I note he’s also, when not doing anything better, a member of the world-famous Grimethorpe Colliery Band.
In a row in front of Frosty and the other trombonists – including Burnley-boy Barnaby Dickinson who plays a blistering solo later in the evening, are the saxophonists, with featured soloist Rosario Giuliani (perhaps he should stand for the Presidency of the United States?), Per ‘Texas’ Johansson (whose contra bass clarinet solo on ‘Queen Righteous’ was outstanding), Graeme Blevins on tenor and clarinet, and with his head uncomfortably close to the bumper of Frost’s slide is Phil Todd, who on flute and piccolo provides the Papageno theme for the piece, which (and I’ve said this before, Serge) sounds uncannily like ‘Love be my lady tonight’, but who also plays baritone, and an astonishing tubax. Cool! Amadeus Project
And in addition to Barker’s carefully chosen, beautifully played and mostly (unless I’m mistaken) minor key solos there’s also a three-man horn section including Nathan Bray and Byron Wallen. And just to make up the numbers there’s Jim Watson on keyboards, Phil Donkin on bass, and on drums Ralph Salmins.
It’s a prodigious group of musicians, and the sheer skill, vibrancy and delight of their playing, aided by Barker’s fantastically witty and complex arrangements, is thoroughly engrossing. It’s enough to make me forget that Runyon pastiches are really a bit passé – and that tough guy voice-overs are, or were, left behind with ‘The big shot’. But to be in a tiny space with this group of musicians is just so exhilarating that it almost makes the pizza seem worthwhile. Thanks, Cool Dudes.
- Nick Morgan
Thank you, Nick. I don't really know Guy Barker but the fact that he played with Mike Westbrook (tells us amazon) says a lot. And there's plenty of good music on the players' websites, please just click their names in the review. - S.
Glen Grant






Glen Grant-Glenlivet 30 yo 1972/2002 (55%, Krügers Schloß Whisky, 37.5cl, 1008 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: this is quite fresh, not overly sherried and totally full of dried figs and dates. It really smells like oriental pastries, minus the orange blossom water. Notes of very ripe apples, caramel toffee, vanilla crème... Faint sulphury notes (burnt matchsticks) but nothing unbearable. Also hints of rosewater and incense. Quite superb but you have to like dried figs. I do! Mouth: very punchy, very ‘figgy’ (arrak), hot and, alas, maybe a little bitterer now. Other than that it’s all on chocolate, marzipan-filled dates (yum), very strong liquorice, getting even quite tarry. Heavily concentrated caramel. Quite a beast, thicker and more concentrated than on the nose. Dutch liquorice, really. Finish: very long, rich, thick, tarry, salty and caramelly. I insist, this is liquid liquorice on the palate. Now, I love good liquorice... SGP:752 (wazzat?) – 89 points.
Glen Grant 35 yo 1972/2007 (56.3%, Duncan Taylor, Germany, sherry cask #3887, 163 bottles) Colour: dark gold. Nose: oh, this is exactly in the same vein on the nose (what?), except that it’s got a little more of everything. Amazingly demonstrative, almost restless I’d say. Truckloads of figs, dates, prunes, liquorice allsorts... and litres of orange liqueur, banana liqueur and acacia honey. Absolutely spectacular and another proof that many old Glen Grants are bang for your bucks malts, especially these days. Aromatic fireworks. Oh, and did I mention old Sauternes? Ripe apricots? Mouth: punchy but much fruitier on the palate than the Krüger’s, although it’s just as concentrated globally. Big spiciness (cloves, cloves and cloves), a lot of liquorice again, herbs sweets (do you get Ricola where you live? It’s Swiss and it’s good), chewed cigar (preferably Havana), cough syrup, eucalyptus... And something like kiwi sweets. Star Wars. Finish: very long, just prolonging the middle for a good five minutes. How concentrated again! SGP:852 – 92 points (and thank you, Herbert).
Glen Grant 1972/1993 (57.1%, Scotch Single Malt Circle) Colour: amber. Nose: this is much sharper and more austere version of Glen Grant, probably thanks to a much drier sherry, although it does develop toward a bigger fruitiness. Less ‘sexy’ than its brothers but maybe more elegant. Smoke, roasted nuts, toasted brioche, toffee, prunes and espresso coffee. Also blackcurrants and ripe gooseberries. With a little water: oh, water almost killed it. It got suddenly very silent... Hello? Faint hints of lovage but that’s all. Mouth (neat): now it starts even punchier than the 35yo, maybe thanks to its youth (not much more than 20 years old, pfff...) and again, more on classic sherry tones. Big prunes and sultanas plus chocolate, toffee and coffee. There’s nothing too original about that but what this one does, it does it well. With water: a little more mint and notes of cooked strawberries but other than that, not much changes. No big deal, it was excellent upfront. Finish: long, classic liquoricy sherry. In short, another excellent one – even if it’s quite strange that a few drops of water made it almost silent on the nose. Funny. SGP:664 – 90 points. Just between us, I wouldn’t like to insist too much but most of these old Glen Grants (and Strathislas, while we’re at it) that one can easily find for quite cheap these days are real bargains (and even at 40% vol., many are fab). Maybe not collectors items but once again, true truth is always in your glass, not on your (or the merchants’) shelves.

December 17, 2007

Glenlossie 10 yo (43%, Flora and Fauna, circa 2004) Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather grainy, mashy and spirity attack on the nose, with a development on candy sugar and stout. Hints of cardboard, brand new book and newly cut grass. Mouth: sweeter and fruitier, quite playful in fact but lacking complexity. Cereals and candy sugar. Finish: rather long but not very precise, still very cereally. Well, this one is natural for sure. Maybe also a bit neutral in fact ;-) SGP:331 (wazzat?) – 74 points.
Glenlossie 17 yo 1973/1990 (40%, Antica Casa Marchesi Spinola) Colour: dark amber. Nose: quite expressive at such low strength, starting rather elegantly, with a little nutmeg and cinnamon but also a lot of sherry. Big chocolaty notes and lots of raisins (Corinth, Smyrna). Notes of old fortified grenache and then pemmican, heavy wet pipe tobacco and armagnac-soaked prunes. Goody-good I must say. Mouth: I had feared this would be weakish but it isn’t at all. Good, very chocolaty attack, with the sherry upfront and notes of coffee-schnapps. Right, schnapps-coffee. And the same raisins and prunes. Gets just a bit drying and tannic, especially at the finish which is rather long but a little bitter and too dry. Not sure there’s much distillery character here but the sherry is very nice. SGP:433 – 86 points. (and thanks, Konstantin and Johan)
Glenlossie 1989/2007 (46%, Jean Boyer 'Best Casks', Re-coopered Hogs, Single cask) Colour: white wine. Nose: more in the style of the Flora and Fauna at very first nosing but it gets then much less cardboardy and much fruitier (big plum spirit, raspberries). Very clean spirit, very precise. Gets more complex over time, with big notes of lager beer, yeast, porridge and wet wood smoke (garden bonfire under the rain). Wet paper and almond milk. Surprisingly young at 18 years of age. Mouth: all in the same vein but with added bubblegummy notes and also quite some ham and stone fruits spirit (with this peculiar almondiness). Big malty notes as well. Muesli. Finish: long, leaving some nice notes of fresh oranges and plum spirit on your palate. Not overly mature but very entertaining. SGP:542 – 84 points.
Glenlossie 13 yo 1993/2006 (46%, Duncan Taylor NC2, sherry casks) Colour: straw. Nose: this one seems to be all on fresh barley, malt, white fruits (ripe apples) and green vegetables. Mashed potatoes, faint hints of white truffles, vanilla-flavoured yoghurt, bread crumb... Also quite some ginger tonic. Playful and lively, with a pretty oakiness starting to shine through after a while. Very different from the 1989 in style but of the same very good quality it seems. Mouth: now it’s more or less the same whisky as the 1989. Really! Just the tannins are a little bigger, as well as the spices (white pepper). SGP:552 – 84 points.
Ann Hampton Callaway
MUSIC – Recommended listening: the magnificent Ann Hampton Callaway sings the standard of standards Stomry weather.mp3 (mixed with When The Sun Comes Out and in duo with Liz Callaway): Please buy this lady's music!
<-- Johnnie Walker ad,
Christmas 1988.

December 16, 2007

Ronnie Scott’s, London, November 27th 2007
Jeff Beck
For those as ignorant and ill-informed as I, Jeff Beck no doubt resides in the history book of time, nestled away on a page somewhere between the cancellation of TSR 2 in April 1965 and the discovery of Donald Crowhurst's abandoned catamaran in the mid-Atlantic in July 1969. During this time he had shone as lead guitarist of the Yardbirds, established his lifelong reputation for being ‘difficult’ and scored an enduring pop hit with ‘Hi ho silver lining’ (mention of which in his presence, or so I’m told, being likely to lead to ‘difficulties’). Interestingly Beck seems to have excised it from his past. The B side of the single that can’t be named was ‘Beck’s Bolero’, played by a prototype of Led Zeppelin, featuring Beck, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Keith Moon – a song widely regarded as opening the door for both ‘progressive’ rock, and ‘heavy metal’. Beck had also formed and disbanded his first Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Nicky Hopkins and drummer Micky Waller, and was on the verge of creating Beck, Bogert & Appice, which to be honest is where I, and I suspect many others left him.
Despite having twenty or so albums to his name, commercial success has never beckoned for Beck (oops), although his standing as a guitarist (and his ‘difficult’ reputation) has steadily increased. I recently read some interesting observations about him in a little book by John Perry on the recording of Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland.
Beck Yardbirds
The Yardbirds with Jeff Beck (second from the right)
Whilst British guitarists such as Eric Clapton were running scared of Hendrix and desperately trying to copy some of his ‘moves’, Beck was actually a source of inspiration for the American newcomer, who studied Beck’s Yardbird recordings closely in order to understand his unorthodox techniques. Beck, says Perry, “was always the quirkiest and least predictable of players. Still is.” Something which is reflected in the variability of his more recent albums, and his flirtations (not always successful) with various musical styles. Consistent however has been the quality of his guitar work – he’s picked up four Grammy awards for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, the last two in 2001 and 2003. And it’s probably true to say that he is a performer worthy of the description, ‘legendary’.
Ronnie Scott So despite my lack of familiarity with his recent work the chance to see him play in the intimate surroundings of London’s famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club was too much to resist, even if we broke the Whiskyfun budget to get tickets for the first of a five night residency. Some actually questioned Beck’s jazz credentials – should he be playing on such hallowed ground? And surprisingly not a few quite spiteful reviews followed from dyed-in-the-wool hard-core jazzers.
Well from where I was sitting I would say his set was no more than jazz-tinged – he is at heart a blues player – but that didn’t stop it from being one of the most engrossing sets I’ve seen for a long time, particularly with such a close-up view of a master guitar technician at work. I was even prepared to forgive Mr Beck for his Ronnie Wood hairdo (or does Ronnie have a Jeff Beck thatch?) and ill-chosen waistcoat (skinny arms – ugh!). With him were on drums the rhythmically complex Vinnie Colaiuta (whose recording credits range from Joni Mitchell to Megadeth, with a lot of Frank Zappa in between) keyboardist Jason Rebello (perhaps a tad intrusive I thought), and bassist Tal Wilkenfeld. Wilkenfield is really the surprise package of the night.
I’m sure she must be fed up with people commenting on her youthful appearance, but the fact of the matter is that she looks about fifteen and plays the bass as though she had fifty years’ experience (and she’s obviously a distinguished graduate of the Bass Players Facial Grimaces Academy). Just out-of-this-world playing – and the way that she and Beck are wired together is remarkable to observe.
Jeff Beck
Jeff Beck and Tal Wilkenfield
For all the guitar technician brooded over a rack of axes at the side of the stage Beck played a single Stratocaster all night which he barely had to retune, despite the work he put it though.
He got sounds from every part of his instrument – it was almost as if he was part of it, or it was part of him. He began the set with ‘Beck’s Bolero’ – frankly almost the only tune I recognised all night (I did pick up ‘A day in the life’ at the end), and continued playing a lot of the songs that can be found on his Official Bootleg album, recorded last year with almost the same line-up (well, Pino Palladino was on bass, but beggars can’t be choosers). Buy it now – there’s still time to get it for Christmas. And he spoke only twice: first to introduce vocalist Imogen Heap to the stage for one song then later for encore ‘Rollin’ and tumblin’. That was probably enough, because on this occasion he simply let his guitar do all the talking – and what a conversation it was. And thank heavens no one shouted for him to play you-know-what.
- Nick Morgan.
Thank you, Nick. Ah yes, Jeff Beck. I quickly lost contact with his music at the beginning of his ‘Ian Hammer’ days (the dreadful late 1970’s – early 1980’s if my memory serves me well.) Quite bizarrely, we hear about Jeff Beck again on French radio and television these days thanks to... Led Zeppelin’s heavily advertised reunion, as there’s no single rock penpusher who’s not telling us that story about the Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Clapton and so on (what was the order again?). Anyway, the guitar heroes are back it seems and I say this is good news. Let’s celebrate with one of Jeff Beck’s most stereophonic recordings, I ain’t superstitious.mp3 (but who was the sound engineer?) - S.
Glenburgie Glenburgie 1966/1993 (57.6%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Cask’, casks #3410-11690) Colour: dark amber. Nose: powerful! A superb start on caramel, toffee, hot roasted nuts, hot praline, mocha… And a development alike. Quite heady actually, entrancing. Water brings out some fine notes of menthol. Mouth: how drinkable when neat! Lots of sultanas, Corinth raisins and chicory, liqueur filled chocolate… Gets quite peppery after a while. With water: oh, there’s a subtle smokiness now. It got also more lively and fruity (tangerines). Excellent. Finish: long, rich, ‘wide’, with a lot of candy sugar and orange. Top notch old Glenburgie by G&M. SGP:722 (wazzat?) - 91 points.
Glenburgie 22yo 1966/1988 (58%, Sestante) Obviously another bottle from G&M’s. Colour: full amber. Nose: very close but maybe a tad more winey and sort of rougher than the previous ‘cask’. Let’s try it with a little water. Nice OBE coming through now, with something pleasantly metallic. Also more oranges, herbal teas, fresh walnuts and much more honey and pollen. What’s funny is that the winey notes completely vanished with water. Mouth (neat): powerful but drinkable, starting all on coffee and chocolate and going on with raisins, prunes and lots of pepper and cloves. Notes of armagnac. With water: now we’re talking! Baskets of fruits (grapes, greengages and other plums, butter pears, papayas) and nice mint and eucalyptus (cough sweets). Maybe too many tannins starting to dry your tongue out, that is. Glenburgie
Finish: long, candied, tannic but less than feared, with an oaky signature. Very good Glenburgie, probably from the same batches as the one which had just before. Just a bit too tannic. SGP:643 - 88 points.
Soap Glenburgie 1966/1990 (61.2%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Cask’, casks #3405/6) Another one by G&M, much paler this time (gold). Nose: less expressive, little sherry if any, everything is sort of masked by the high alcohol. Soap (that may be the alcohol as well). Quick, water… Well, it didn’t got much more expressive I must say. A little maltier instead, also fruitier (cut apples) and very faintly minty. And the soap remains, even after a lot of waiting. Mouth (neat): heavy, very heavy but much more expressive than on the nose. Loads of crystallised oranges. Rather heavy tannins from the wood it seems but the whole is still quite rounded (if I may say so at 60+% - mum, you don’t read WF, do you?)
With water: it got more almondy and a little resinous, well balanced but maybe not as complex as expected. Cereals and dried fruits (pears). Crystallised ginger coated in sugar. Finish: rather long, with the oakiness taking the leading role now (even more ginger, white pepper). Quinces. And quite some salt after that… Very good again but maybe Glenburgie needs sherry to get stellar, and the soap on the nose was a bit disturbing. SGP:743 - 81 points.

December 15, 2007

Dallas Dhu


Dallas Dhu 20 yo 1978/1998 (43%, Dun Eideann, cask #1341) There’s been some great whiskies in this series – I believe this is/was the label for Italy. Colour: gold. Nose: very, very bizarre... It’s okayish for a few seconds but then it’s a maelstrom of new plastic bag, aspirin, rotting oranges and tonic water. Add to that whiffs of wet rusty iron and you may get the picture. Oh, and decaying carcasses plus cabbage cooking water for good measure.

Mouth: right, it’s not that bad on the palate. Malty and very grassy, a tad too cardboardy though, orangey... But then it gets weird again, with something like... wait, ham cooked in lemon juice? Finish: medium long, getting rather chemical now (cheap artificial lemon juice). One to forget I’d say... SGP:080 (wazzat?) - 49 points.
Dallas Dhu 31 yo 1975/2006 (50%, Part des Anges, Closed Distilleries, cask #PDA361) A French bottler who obviously likes the now defunct Rare Malts series. Colour: pale gold. Nose: phew, this is better it seems. Austere, stony, flinty, very grassy and pretty waxy, with quite some butter and a few of these ‘whacky’ aromas (see above) again but quite curiously, they’re rather an asset at lower doses. More complexity. Goes on with lemon juice, wet newspaper, bread crumb and ham. Well, what’s sure is that Dallas Dhu used to be a rather singular single malt! Mouth: starts on big lemony notes again. Orange juice, vitamin C tablets, porridge, nutmeg, salt and grass juice like our friendly neighbours the Germans sometimes drink (I’ve heard it’s meant to be very good for your health). Finish: long, salty and lemony... In short, a big Dallas Dhu, probably not for everyone’s taste. I think it’s very interesting for its, err, ‘extremism’. SGP:371 - 81 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: a beautiful little song by Thomas Fersen about a murderer called Monsieur.mp3. Please buy Thomas Fersen's music... Thomas Fersen

December 2007 - part 1 <--- December 2007 - part 2 ---> January 2008 - part 1

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



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

Clynelish 17 yo (61.8%, OB, Manager's Dram, Sherry cask, 1998)

Clynelish 23 yo 1965/1989 (51.7%, Cadenhead's for Nibada)

Clynelish 35 yo 1971/2006 (46.5%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 246 bottles)

Glenburgie 1966/1993 (57.6%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Cask’, casks #3410-11690)

Glen Grant 35 yo 1972/2007 (56.3%, Duncan Taylor, Germany, sherry cask #3887, 163 bottles)

Glen Grant 1972/1993 (57.1%, Scotch Single Malt Circle)

Glenugie 20 yo 1984 (1983)/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Cask #1320, 201 bottles)

Highland Park 30 yo (48.1%, OB, 2006)

Highland Park 30 yo (48.1%, OB, 2007)

Highland Park 33 yo 1973 (54.5%, OB, Binny's, USA, cask #13308, 2nd fill butt)

Highland Park 34 yo 1971 (53%, OB, Binny's, USA, cask #8363)

Ledaig 20 yo (40%, Douglas Murdoch, early 1990's)

Ledaig 1972 (51.9%, La Maison du Whisky, circa 1995)

Linkwood 21 yo 1969/1991 (55.8%, Cadenhead for Dival di Gabbri, Italy)

Linkwood 43 yo 1939 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)

Macallan 18 yo 1979/1997 'Gran Reserva' (40%, OB)