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Whisky Tasting


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Petits billets d'humeur
(in French)



Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2008 - Part 1

November 2008 - part 2 <--- December 2008 - part 1 ---> December 2008 - part 2


December 12, 2008



Carsebridge 42yo 1960/2002 (41.6%, Chieftain's Choice, Grain, Oloroso cask #15010, 135 bottles) Carsebridge distillery was closed in 1983 and demolished in 1992. This oldie did very impressively at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2008, fetching no less than Gold, which is ultra hard. Sure it’s an old version and sure all bottles are long gone, but would you refuse a Mercedes 300SL gull-wing because it’s long gone? (will you stop your insane gibberish, Serge?) Colour: chestnut. Nose: the sherry is so big (yet subtle) that it’s completely impossible to detect an old grain. It may as well be an old Glen Grant or Sthathisla. Indeed, no coconut/vanilla, rather sumptuous notes of old precious wood, high-end chocolate, various kinds of raisins, hints of chestnut purée, wax polish, plum and cinnamon pie, sandalwood and, ‘of course’, plain oloroso. Gets then more leathery/gamy, as often with these very old sherried whiskies. Mouth: very concentrated old sherry and almost no ‘whisky’ notes here. Highly fortified old dry oloroso. Cocoa, Ethiopian coffee (mocha), Spanish ham (no, not kidding), then strawberry jam, blackberry jam and pine resin (cough drops), very old walnuts or the liqueur made thereof… Actually, it’s rather a fruity kind of old sherry on the palate. Little beefy/meaty notes after ham. Finish: medium long, a little more on chestnut purée or hazelnut liqueur like the Italians make. Comments: antique but lively and almost fresh. Grain whisky only by name, that is, but very excellent. Plus, it’s ‘our’ vintage! SGP:551 – 90 points (scored blind while thinking it was an old Speysider!).
Carsebridge 29 yo 1979/2008 (54.9%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, Grain, cask #33033) A brand new bottling by the masters of old grains (not only old grains, of course) – and master of Carsebridge as they already issued quite a few great bottlings. Sister cask #33032 was issued in 2008 and was pretty impressive (89). Colour: gold. Nose: vanilla galore this time! Pods, custard, crème, powdered, whatever. Evolves on straighter oaky notes after that, getting almost plankish but rather pleasantly so (warm sawdust), the whole being complemented with notes of dried ginger, soft curry and grated coconut. Genuine ‘carpenter’s workshop’ as we call this kind of nose. Mouth: creamy, compact, sweet, round and as vanilled as, well, vanilla crème. A lot of coconut as well but a little less than in other casks, even if it’s still very enjoyably ‘Malibu-esque’. Develops classically, on more ginger and soft spices from the wood, with just a slightly dry chalkiness (white pepper, flour). Finish: medium long, still very sweet and vanilled… Wait, was it a liqueur? Comments: as easy to quaff as the best fruit liqueurs. Easy whisky for tough times? SGP:540 – 87 points.
Bue Label

Christmas ideas for those who already have everything!

If you live in certain countries, and certainly in the US, you may let a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label (the blend that contains so many great old casks of single malt whisky - hopefully not Old Clynelish!) being engraved with a personal message. Many season's greetings are to be expected but may we suggest a few variations?
'If you touch this, I'll kill you.'
'Honey, this is Johnnie Walker Red.'
'Bud, this is not Johnnie Walker Red.'
'Bought before the credit crunch started.'
'Don't be square this year!'
More on us.johnniewalker.com
By the way, here's a quote from the excellent slashfood.com: "By the time you get up into the blends that don't taste like paint thinner, you're probably paying more than you would for a decent single malt."


MUSIC – Recommended listening: I just felt that we should have a little Poison.mp3 by Bert Jansch today (recorded in 1969). Good idea, don't you think? Please buy Bert Jansch's music! You may also (re)read Nick's excellent review of a recent gig in London.

Bert Jansch

December 11, 2008


The 100 Club, London, November 19th 2008
Charlie Musselwhite
We shouldn’t be here. No disrespect to Charlie Musselwhite (“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be anywhere”), but we shouldn’t be here. Let me read you the letter those nice people at the South Bank sent me. “It is with great regret that Grammy and Academy Award-winner Randy Newman has had to postpone his forthcoming European tour, on doctor’s orders, because of physical limitations and severe pain caused by stenosis in the lower back and neck. Randy Newman says, ‘I deeply regret not being able to come. I like it so much in Europe as I’ve always been treated so well’”. Well it’s a sad thing, as Mr Newman’s stock has been rising of late – unlike most others - not just as a result of his numerous witty film scores, but also as a result of a growing appreciation of his broad canon of work, possibly sparked in part by ‘Louisiana 1927’, a song about the great flood of that year that was written in the early 1970s, but resurrected as the anthem of those campaigning on behalf of the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. On top of which he released a highly-rated album (co-produced by wonder-producer Mitchell Froom), Harps and Angels, earlier this year, only his fourth in two decades. But that’s enough of Mr Newman for now. Let’s wish him a speedy recovery and rejoice at the fact that at such short notice, even in a London where the pessimistic murmurs of approaching doom in the music business get louder by the day, one still finds as high a quality a gig as this.
Regular readers may recall from a previous review that Mr Musselwhite is a survivor: “Whiskey and wine, that’s what did me in,” he said in a recent interview, “It got to where I couldn’t function properly.” Well, without a drink for twenty years, he’s perfectly charming and functioning pretty well, turning in a stellar performance to an enthusiastic audience.
And he’s sans band – so the first half of the show is Mr Musselwhite solo on guitar and harmonica. He has an easy Delta blues style (actually I should say annoyingly easy), as relaxed as the man himself. His songs are mostly self-composed, and in between the music we get some pleasing anecdotes and some first-rate harmonica tuition. And if you want to get a feel for the material he played then listen to his 2004 solo album Darkest Hour. British folk-blues veteran Dave Peabody (“Blimey”, said Jozzer, “the last time I saw him was in the upstairs room at the New College Arms in Eton back in the early seventies. Isn’t he dead?”) joined Musselwhite on guitar for the second half which kicked off with ‘The blues overtook me’, and featured Musselwhite’s more familiar urban harp sound – the style that led to him play with musicians such as Muddy Waters at the start of his career. Charlie Musselwhite
What we hear is nothing short of a mini-master class. And if Musselwhite’s demeanour is happy then it’s contradicted somewhat by his songs, which throughout the evening are at their best when focussed on the meaner side of life, traditionally celebrated by the blues.
Want to try yourself? Short of a few self-gifting ideas for the festive season ahead? Then why not buy Charlie Musselwhite’s guide to harmonica playing, and amaze your friends at Christmas parties for years to come! - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Charlie Musselwhite's MySpace page (check the hit 'Church is out!')
Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs
Strathisla 1960


Strathisla 1960/2008 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, France, First Fill Sherry Hogs, cask # 2544, 60 bottles) Colour: coffee. Nose: extremely classic, so this will be very quick. Coffee, chocolate, raisins, parsley, beef bouillon, beef jerky, prunes, figs, dates, orange marmalade and Havana tobacco. Need I say more? Mouth: very rich and very concentrated, starting half-oaky, half-jammy. The oakiness is a little drying right from the attack (big tannins, a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg) but the rest is big enough to make the whole stand that heavy wood. We have various jams (all berries), peppered strawberries, hints of mulled wine (liquorice, star anise, cloves), notes of toast, roasted almonds… Now, it does get at tad bitterish after a while (over-infused tea). Finish: very long, very oaky and frankly tannic. Comments: Is this too much? Well, enough for us not to score this oldie 90 or more, but I know that many whisky lovers are not against very oaky whiskies, provided balance is kept, and it’s the case here. I think it’s very clever not to have bottled this at a lower strength, the oak would have really taken over in my opinion. But it IS great old whisky! And nosing the empty glass is a marvellous experience. SGP:471 - 89 points.
Strathisla 1960/2007 (58.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for Kensington Wine Market, Canada, 179 bottles) Colour: coffee – a tad paler than the 60/08. Nose: much, much less talkative than its bro but that’s probably the higher strength. Also more gingery and cardboardy notes. With water: it’s the leathery and meaty notes that got bigger, as well as the minty notes. Very old wine from Banyuls and Maury, old sherry, Parma ham, strong liquorice, oyster sauce… Gets very ‘tertiary’. Mouth (neat): strikingly expressive, a tad less tannic and fruitier than its sibling. A lot of coffee and bitter chocolate it seems. Now, it’s also very powerful – 58% vol. at 47 years of age, imagine! Was this a Gore-tex cask? With water: this time it’s the fruitiness that strikes even harder. Kirsch-soaked cherries, orange liqueur, maple syrup… It’s really thick and heavy, even when at roughly 40%. Maybe it lacks a little more ‘clarity’. Finish: very long and even more on fruit liqueurs. Comments: this one is rather less oaky than the one for France, but also rather less complex ‘beyond wood’. More than 45 years of age is really an ultra-tricky zone for whisky… SGP:551 – 88 points.
And also Strathisla 30 yo 1954/1984 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade) Nose: a maelstrom of beeswax, paraffin, flower nectar, beef bouillon, bone marrow and old books. Plain superb. Mouth: all kinds of herbs and all kinds of honeys. And all kinds of waxes as well (bees’, candles, polish and so on). Hints of tar, maybe just a tad bitterish. A blast from the past, really. Another proof that these old Strathislas are at their prime when around 30. SGP:443 – 91 points. Strahisla
Christmas ideas for those who already have everything!

A Fred peepshow. Amazon blurb: 'This is a Set of 4 R-rated images embedded in each high quality heavy shot glass. The catch is, the pictures are invisible until you pour a shot. So remember to keep your glass full! Collectible and delightful!'
Price: $20.00.
WF tip: use with sherry monsters if you prefer black chicks (Serge, oh no!)
Shot glasses

December 10, 2008



Dailuaine 11 yo 1995/2006 (43%, Chieftain's Choice, Tokay finish, c#91001/91003, 1062 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: the wine’s rather discreet in this one, which is pretty good news when considering the rather ‘strange’ Tokaji finishes that were bottled in recent years by various makers. There’s rather a lot of honey, roasted nuts and quite some straight malty notes, with an added spiciness (soft Indian sauce, korma, cashews) and maybe just a faint dustiness. Mouth: the ‘vinosity’ (you may make that wininess) is much more to the front here (sour apples, straight wine) but the body’s good. Also rather caramelly, honeyed, malty and roasted. Maybe a tad thickish. Finish: medium long, more on orange liqueur, with a little salt. Comments: a rather solid wine finished dram, with good balance. SGP:541 - 80 points. Scored blind.
Dailuaine 1998/2008 (43%, Jean Boyer Best Casks of Scotland, sherry casks, 700 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: this is much fresher than the 1995, with a much subtler wood and a profile that’s more complex despite its younger age. Heather honey, cut grass, rubbed orange skin, fresh mint, liquorice root, lemon balm and fresh almonds. Very elegant ‘sherriness’. Mouth: excellent body, with first a few spices from the wood and then a rather complex range of fruity and lightly chocolaty flavours. Butter pears topped with liquid milk chocolate and honey! Finish: maybe not excessively long but clean and fruity. Comments: we could try this at cask strength and it was really fab whisky. The ‘reduced’ version lasts the course as well. This one won the Best Sherry Cask Award (Daily Drams category) at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2008. SGP:530 - 84 points.
Dailuaine 11 yo 1997/2008 (46%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection) Colour: straw. Nose: this is very different, as it must have come from a refill cask. Much more on porridge, grass, green apples, baker’s yeast and mashed potatoes, wityh faint whiffs of fresh mint. It smells very young but it’s flawless young Speysider. Just maybe not too much character. Mouth: round, sweet and fruity, totally typical young Speysider matured in ‘slow’ casks. Sweetened apple juice and ginger tonic. Finish: long and spicier (more ginger, a little pepper). Comments: ultra-natural young fruity malt. SGP:531 - 79 points.
As nobody should stay out of fashion for too long, we shall add to the volume and post our own list of ‘anti-crisis whiskies for discount drinkers’ in the coming days – expect a full list of 65 blends and vatted posted on Saturday morning.
All with due tasting notes of course (already written!) and even fitting old adverts! In the meantime, why not have a look at the very excellent ‘Asylum for all mankind’ website? These crazy Americans are wondering about ‘how long can a nation of unemployed derelicts afford to keep drinking top-shelf booze?’ and are posting a list of ‘10 cheap whiskeys to get you through the recession’, with fun comments such as ‘No better whiskey in the world. At least that's what it says on the label’, ‘Comes in a glass bottle, and that's worth 5-10 cents in some states’ or ‘Strong flavors, goes down smooth, catchy name.’ Check them all over at Asylum.com.
By the way, isn't this crazy ad brilliant but a bit strange in the current global context?...
 Jim Beam
Oh, and if you're not completely satisfied with your Brora, better send it to us rather than back to Diageo!


MUSIC – Recommended listening: wow, Gin Wigmore (aka Gin), what a voice! She’s Australian and you should buy her music, after having had a go at her song These roses.mp3… I think she should also try to record a few Billie Holiday songs.


December 9, 2008


Cooley 16 yo 1991/2008 (46%, Milroy's of Soho, first fill Bourbon c#12441, 264 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: these unpeated Cooleys (aka Tyrconnel I guess) are getting rather peculiar with age, with an obvious ‘Irishness’ (very specific fruitiness) but also something rather ‘Scottish Highlands’, that is to say a special grassiness and notes of wax, linseed oil, stones and even ink. This one is very typical, even if it gets very dry after a moment, on rather big notes of newspaper of the day (fresh ink, paper and bad news – nah, forget about the bad news!) and olive oil. Mouth: we’re clearly Irish now, and this is looking towards Bushmills in a certain way. Much fruitier than on the nose (bananas) at the attack, getting then grassy again, with surprising notes of pencil lead (or silver spoon). Finish: long but kind of ‘peripheral’. We’re closer to rum here. Comments: very good whisky, maybe just a tad disconcerting but it must be me. SGP:451 - 79 points.
Jones Road

Jones Road Distillery in Alfred Barnard's famous book, circa 1885


BONUS: Dublin Jones Road Distillery 48 yo 1942/1991 (66.5%, Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection) From a miniature - not sure this was ever bottled in 'big' bottles. The Jones Road Distillery used to belong to the Dublin Whisky Distillery Co (DWD). No typo, it was whisky without an ‘e’ indeed. According to various sources on the Web it never worked too well and was almost closed in 1926, only to distil pure pot still very intermittently until 1942, its very last year of production. The ABV is astoundingly high, it’s to be wondered if this hasn’t been casked at 85% ABV – and/ or matured in a very hot and dry warehouse. Colour: deep amber. Nose: waaah! It rather smells like very old bourbon at first sniffs, with loads of chocolate, mocha, wax polish and roasted nuts (especially chestnut), but also a lot of varnish and burning pinewood. Also quite some mint, and hints of very, very old balsamic vinegar. I must say this is rather noseable at such high strength, provided you’re not put off by the notes of menthol and coffee that are getting heavier and heavier. With water: still very mentholaded and resinous, smelling more and more like a mix of varnish and Fernet-Branca (thx Michel). Mouth: very unique. Cask strength cough syrup? Heavily concentrated. Cheap brandy, bitter almonds, turpentine (not that we drank that too often), retsina… Unbelievably resinous and, I must say, quite painful. With water: even worse, for the tannins are starting to ‘shine’ through more and more. Genever? Finish: extremely long, on something like re-cooked over-infused mint flavoured tea. Comments: ‘unforgettable’, proof that History can be very bitter. SGP:190 – 35 points (but much higher on an emotional scale, of course). Heartfelt thanks, Patrick from Geneva!
Christmas ideas for those who already have everything!

This Hospital Booze Personalized Dispenser will sure be a hit at home! It's available on amazon (you don't need a link, do you?)
The copy is quite amusing I must say: 'Just For Laughs! Everyone will know laughter is the best medicine when you they see this Hospital Booze tabletop dispenser! Enjoy it in your home bar, kitchen, or at your parties! It's sure to dispense laughs anywhere! Features: Glass I.V. Bottle With Dispenser Tube. Custom Display Stand. 10 Personalized Drink Stickers: Moonshine, Vodka, Scotch, Whiskey, Tequila, Gin, Rum, Bourbon, Brandy and Schnapps. Recommended For: Mother-In-Law Visits, Stock Market Crashes, Monday Night Football and Tuesday Morning Hangovers. Directions For Use: Serve For Breakfast, Lunch Or Dinner As Needed. May Cause Uncontrolable Laughter, Vomiting, or Both. If Condition Persists, Call Your Bartender.'
Price: $20.95 instead of $29.99 (you know, the credit crunch and so on...)


MUSIC – Recommended listening: her name is Charlene Kaye and she's crafted some very nice songs with 'an atmosphere'. Listen to her Magnolia wine.mp3 and then please buy her excellent CD 'Things I will need in the past'. Thanks. (photo Caroline Poage)

Charlene Kaye

December 8, 2008

Old Clynelish


As you know, the 'Old' Clynelish distillery and the Brora Distillery are just the same distilleries, as Clynelish was rechristened 'Brora' at the very end of the 1960s.

Clynelish 12 yo (86 Proof US, OB for Clark's Inc., Washington DC, USA, 4/5 quart, 1960s)
To tell you the truth, I almost killed a friend because of this one. Imagine that the otherwise very excellent Marc Segers, of whiskycorner fame, had simply cracked this ultra-rare bottle open without further ado, whilst I had never seen it before, and shall probably never see it again! Now, you’re right, that unspeakable act is also why I’m now able to try it quietly, so maybe Marc’s sacrifice was worth it ;-). Clynelish 12
Anorak stuff: Left, detail of front label - right, back label
Colour: pale gold. Nose: ooooh yes, everything is there but don’t worry, it won’t be too long. Wax, linseed oil, fresh walnuts, shoe polish, apple peelings, new leather, brown coal, sea-battered rocks, metal polish, grapefruits, ‘Riesling’, smoked salmon, old tin box… Really superb! Granted, maybe it hasn’t got the ‘majesty’ of the full proof versions for Giaccone but still, what a glorious dram! Mouth: incredibly big and powerful after all these years, and superbly compact at the attack. How is that possible? There’s more peat now, more spices as well (it’s a rather unusual spiciness, saffron?), quite some salt, and the rest is quite similar to what we got in the nose. ‘Of course’, you have to like this very peculiar waxiness that one can still find in many modern Clynelishes, sometimes to a lesser extent. We do! The whole drops just a bit after a few seconds, which is rather normal. Slight cardboardiness at this stage but the rest was so brilliant that we won’t care too much. Finish: not very long but extremely subtle, more resinous now (mastic gums), with many many spices of different origins. No, we won’t list them all. Comments: Marc was right when he opened this, but we’d still looove to find such a bottle. Maybe we should ask Barack Obama, he’s got a long arm in BC now… SGP:345 - 92 points.
Brora 27 yo 1981/2008 (53.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask 1427) This one was just bottled in November. It’s good to see that there are some casks left! Colour: straw. Nose: guess what, the profile is very close to the Old Clynelish’s, only a little peatier and more herbal while being also less oily. Now, it develops more on lemonade and even vitamin C effervescent tablets as well as hints of strawberry drops. Quite fruity for a Brora! It gets also a little medicinal, with hints of antiseptic and even nail polish remover (not too big, that is). Really diverges from the Old Clynelish after a few minutes, with more notes of lemon-flavoured yoghurt. Wood smoke (fireplace). Unmistakably Brora but less superbly austere as the oldie. Mouth: a rare kind of Brora for sure, one that I never tried before in any case (and I’ve tried a few). First, it tastes much younger than it actually is, and second, it’s almost as lemony and virtually unpeated as, say some Rosebanks or Bladnochs (whilst we had quite some peat in the nose). No, wait, that was just the attack, because the peat does get bolder then, along a very ‘assertive’ pepperiness. There’s also a little mustard and horseradish, apples, pine resin (sweets)… It all comes in no particular order but the whole gets very coherent after a few minutes: wax, pepper, peat and both lemon and orange drops. Finish: long, clean and fruitier again. Comments: it seems that this one is fruitier than most of its sister casks, and very good. Speaking of sister casks, there were:
- cask #1423, bottled 2007 (87)
- cask #1424, bottled 2007 (85)
- cask #1425, bottled 2005 (90)
- cask #1426, bottled 2004 (89)
- and now cask #1427, bottled 2008 (SGP:554 – 88 points). Let’s hope that Duncan Taylor has still got casks #1422 and 1428… And others! But these whiskies will stand many more years of wood ageing, no doubt. Dec 16 update: actually, as a distinguished reader poitnted out, casks 1420, 1421 and 1422 have already been bottled by Signatory Vintage. Silly me, I already tasted them!

Christmas malt cocktails

Cocktail #2:
"Drunken Squirrel"

Pour into an old-fashioned glass, with ice:
- 6 cl Auchentoshan Triple wood
- 2 cl hazelnut liqueur
- 1,5 cl Maraschino
- 2 cl lemon juice
Stir and finish (moderately) with ginger ale.
Deco: a little wine grape and one cooked chestnut on the edge of the glass. And two hazelnuts if you have some.
Variants: Maraschino may be substituted with any red/black berry liqueur (strawberry, blackberry...) and the Auchentoshan with a young, round and fruity/sherried type of malt.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: France, 1971, #1 French rocks band (at the time) Martin Circus record their very psychedelic hit Je m'éclate au Sénégal.mp3 (I'm having a blast in Senegal). If you understand French, you may have a little laugh... Please buy Martin Circus' music!
The amazing videoclip is there.

Martin Circus

December 5, 2008

TASTING – FOUR 17yo ARDBEGS (how weird is that?)

Ardbeg 17
Ardbeg 17yo (40%, OB, +/-2002) We only tried earlier batches (downed, actually) of the 17, so this is a first. I believe this one was the last batch ever produced but I may well be wrong. The batches from the late 1990s scored 86 in our book. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very soft, almost whispering, starting more on fresh almond milk and green tea than on straight peat smoke. I’m wondering if this isn’t less peaty than the recent Blasda. Goes on with a little fresh butter, more tea, leaves (cherry tree), seashells, waxed paper and finally graphite oil. Very, very soft-spoken. Mouth: much more oomph but it’s still no big whisky. More medicinal than on the nose, more buttery as well, with also hints of cigarette tobacco, overripe apples and marsh mallow. Stale lemon juice? A little pine resin as well (sweet cough drops) and notes of cardboard. Finish: medium long, mildly peaty and a little salty. Comments: shy and not really delivering. It’s still very good whisky of course but the lack of power does not quite fit Ardbeg’s positioning, does it? SGP:345 – 82 points.
Ardbeg 17yo 1991/2008 (46%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection) Colour: pale straw. Nose: not yet a straight peat monster but this has more peat than the OB for sure. Plain seawater, wet wool, smoke (garden bonfire), a little lemon juice, flints, whiffs of wet chalk, oysters, hints of iodine (tincture), muesli… It noses a tad younger than 17 but I really like its ‘naturalness’. Mouth: classic highly peaty, ultra-clean, lemony, zingy, ‘gentianny’, grassy, coastal, salty Ardbeg. Enough said. Finish: long, pure Ardbeg. Many oysters in the aftertaste ;-). Comments: maybe not totally stellar but still very, very excellent. Great selection by Hart Bros and solid Silver Medal at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2008. I liked it even better than my compadres did. SGP:447 – 89 points.
Ardbeg 1990/2007 (52.8%, OB, for Fortnum & Mason, UK, sherry butt, cask #86, 300 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s definitely got something of the older 17 OB (fresh almonds) but otherwise it’s a rather meatier version, probably thanks to the sherry cask. Notes of old leather, whiffs of cow stable and farmyard, seawater again, iodine, seaweed… Then milk chocolate. All that isn’t too big, that is. Another strangely whispering Ardbeg? With water: an extreme farminess now, all on fermenting hay. Mouth: it’s big and it’s ultra-lemony, to the point where the peat hasn’t even its say. Well, quite. Fructose, limejuice (litres!), cactus juice, lemon drops, grass… Very ‘green’, very unusual! Let’s see what happens with water: ah, that worked, it’s classic Ardbeg now. Big peat, big lemon, big saltiness, big notes of green apples. Finish: long, clean, zesty and lemony. Comments: one may be tempted not to add water to this one but it does benefit from a few drops. Good stuff, but the sherry does walk-on parts here. SGP:357 - 87 points.
Ardbeg 17 yo 1979/1996 (64.3%, Adelphi for USA, cask #11928, 258 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: a hospital and that’s it. Litres of antiseptic. Extremely aggressive (but one can ‘feel’ this is great), let’s try to tame it using water. With water: woooh! One of the most extreme Ardbegs I could ever try – and I tried a few. The heavy notes of antiseptic are still there, mingling with fabulous notes of old pu-erh tea, tar, benzine, tasty oysters (I mean, not overly refined ones) and gunflints. Also whiffs of old copper coins. A version that’s true to Ardbeg as it should be. Mouth (neat): wow, it’s almost drinkable! Almost as lemony as the 1990, but there are many other flavours it seems and, above all, a lot of salt. Amazing! With water: wait, let’s add more water. This is so big! Good, you really have to bring this one down to roughly 45% vol. or it’ll just burn your throat. But then it gets truly magnificent, certainly as good as the most legendary Ardbegs. Fantastic saltiness, exceptional resinous notes, beautiful ‘coastalness’ (wot?), fabulous fruits (lemon and green apples first as usual)… Finish: as long as G.W. Bush’s late apologies. This Arbdeg’s balance is more than perfect. Comments: absolute top notch, ‘takes no prisonners’. Why can’t all whiskies be like this? (go to bed, Serge). SGP:568 - 93 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: remember the Talking Heads and their hit Psycho Killer? The whole album was a hit at home at the time and I must say this unexpectedly 'combat' version of Psycho Killer.mp3 by Argentina's Argies reminds me of very good times. Please buy Argies' music!


December 4, 2008

proposes his Christmas malt cocktails

Cocktail #1:
"Speyside's New Fashion"

Pour into an old-fashioned glass:
- 6 cl Glen Deveron 15 y.o. OB
- 4 cl sweet vermouth
- a few drops Pernod
- 1 cl lemon juice
- 1 cl orange juice


Stir well, finish (moderately) with cold Perrier. Add 2 big ice cubes, then a few drops of Angostura bitter on top of them. Deco: one lemon slice and one tangerine slice.
For maximum effect, you may take off the central part of the tangerine slice so that you can slide a straw into it and put the whole on top of the ice cubes..
This recipe is a tribute to two famous classic cocktails i enjoy a lot: The Manhattan and The Old-Fashioned. You may try different variations, depending on your own ideas/preferences. You may substitute the Glen Deveron with any other light and rounded speyside malts.


(gaze at the wonders of globalisation)

Mackmyra 'Batch 2008-02' (46.1%, OB, Sweden, bottled 2008) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts very expressive, with whiffs of wood smoke and a wide range of ‘young fruity flavours’ such as straight apples, grapefruits, pineapples and crushed gooseberries (very obvious here). There’s even rather big notes of ripe kiwis. Develops more on herbs (mint-flavoured tea) and liquorice, ending up with straight fresh spicy notes that only young or new oak can impart. Ginger first, then a little cardamom and a little cinnamon. Some porridgy and yeasty notes prove that this is still fairly young whisky, that is. Mouth: good attack, creamy, fruity and spicy, very assertive. It’s there! It does taste ‘unusual’ but certainly not lame. Orange liqueur with ginger and white pepper, then a little mint, then bourbonny notes from the oak that must have been rather fresh (very sweet vanilla) and finally quite some spices (cloves first). Finish: long and sweet/spicy. Comments: this is very good and this bottling is much more ‘drinkable’ than earlier batches (for which we published very few notes). It seems that Mackmyra is not only for hardcore Swedish malt freaks anymore (don’t shoot, don’t shoot!) SGP:631 - 83 points.
Lark Distillery 'Distiller's Selection' (46%, OB, Tasmania, cask #LD105, 172 bottles, Bottled June 2008, Tasmania) Colour: gold. Nose: bizarre, bizarre… Starts on unusual notes of hot roasted chestnuts and dried bananas, burning fabric, then a lot of fern and other wild herbs (agaves? Tequila?) and finally some rather big bubblegummy notes. Certainly not unpleasant but very ‘different’. Mouth: extremely unusual and very thick and oily. Huge resinous notes that remind me of ‘liquid’ propolis. In case you don’t know, propolis is kind of a resin that the honeybees harvest from some trees and that they use as cement and/or preservative (for instance on dead rodents in the hive). This one goes on with even heavier notes of mead, prunes and even plum spirit (slivovitz). Amazing how resinous this is, to the point where I’m wondering whether they did not use eucalyptus casks or something like that. Finish: long, maybe just a tad more classic now. Prune and wine liqueur. Comments: very unusual and unlike any other whisky. But it’s good! SGP:730 - 73 points (please don’t take this rating too seriously).
Lark Distillery 'Single Malt Whisky' (58%, OB, Tasmania, cask #LD31, Bottled 2008, Tasmania) Colour: red amber. Nose: great smoke. This is much more classic than the version at 46%, and maybe more complex as well even if it’s a bit hard to nose at 58%. Right, let’s quickly add water… With water: great! There’s some smoke, various herbs, great spices, various resins just like in the version at 46%, notes of Armagnac-soaked prunes, dried mushrooms, horse saddle, old Burgundy wine, old Sauternes as well… An immense surprise so far (but it would be criminal not to add water to this one). Mouth (neat): excellent! Big, punchy, wonderfully full, chocolaty and spicy, with very special earthy notes. Now, it does need water again. With water: we’re much, much closer to the version at 46% as far as the general profile is concerned (resin and prunes). A little more ginger as well, cinnamon, dried bananas, raisins, crystallised pineapples, coconut milk… Also a very pleasant earthiness. Finish: long, very compact and coherent, more on fruits and easier on resin. Comments: great stuff, just great stuff. I scored this 84 when I tried it blind and shall stick with that but it may deserve even more. It seems that there are great distillers downunda. SGP:641 - 84 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: I'm having huge troubles getting Nneka's Heartbeat.mp3 out of my head. Agreed, it's not very clever to post about the wonderful Nigerian singer on WF then... Anyway, please buy Nneka's music!


December 3, 2008

by Nick Morgan
Cadogan Hall, Sloane Square, London, November 18th 2008

If you’re a frequent visitor to Sloane Square then you’ll no doubt be familiar with the Cadogan Hall which lies just to the north on Sloane Terrace. If like me, you’d rather not go to Chelsea, then the building would no doubt surprise you as much as it did me. Designed in the early twentieth century by Robert Fellowes Chisholm, who spent much of his career working in India where he pioneered a style of architecture known as Indo-Saracenic (it would be easy, though incorrect, to describe it as ‘Moorish’), which sits uneasily with the grand residential terraces of South West London.

Cadogan Hall
It was built for Mary Baker Eddy’s Church of Christ, Scientist. According to the Photographer she was Duane Eddy’s mother. The church originally housed large congregations before falling into disuse and disrepair in the 1990s, when it was rescued by the Cadogan Estates, becoming the home of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Inside, the huge arched space is somewhat reminiscent of the Royal Horticultural Hall, though it doesn’t share the latter’s brutish concrete modernism. Instead the Indian influences evident in the exterior are still present – the décor is a stark white, and on both floors the seating is church style, highly polished, wooden benches. And the acoustics are simply fantastic. “How’s the sound out there?”, asks Roddy Frame half way through his performance, “It’s just brilliant up here”. He looks as though he could stay up there listening to his guitar all night.
Last time I reviewed Roddy Frame my editor chastised me for exceeding my strictly-monitored superlative allowance, and so for a detailed account of this show I will refer you to that review. Not that the set list was the same; this was more of an extensive trawl through Frame’s substantial back catalogue (I’m going to play you some songs I don’t normally get to sing”), with far less emphasis on his more recent albums, Surf, and particularly the brilliant Western Skies. I’m not sure that Frame was better here – although the sound of his booming guitar was quite remarkable and certainly far superior to anything the old Bush could hope to produce, even at its very best. And I should add that his voice was not too far behind. Frame was relaxed and chatty – one could almost have been in his living room (though the scale of the venue did detract from the sense of intimacy) – and was particularly happy to see his chum Edwyn Collins, who was sitting with his son a couple of rows from us. I’ll leave it at that. Needless to say, you’re commended to buy his more recent albums, and if you have a hole in your collection you should stock up with the best of Aztec Camera, Frame’s band of the 80s and 90s. And as for your Christmas shopping, well if any you have got any spare cash – unlikely I know in these challenged times – but if you have, you could always buy me this wonderful Freshman twelve-string guitar. I’m sure Mr Frame played one during this gig, and let me tell you the sound was, as befits the setting, without imperfection. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate) Roddy Frame
Listen: Roddy Frame's MySpace page
Bowmore finished  
Bowmore 13 yo 1995/2008 (46%, Jack Wieber, Castle Collection, cask #2617) You got it, this one is the ‘natural’ version. Colour: straw. Nose: as straight and clean and almost sharp as Bowmore can get. Loads of iodine, flints and apple peelings, then notes of grapefruits that tend to become tangerines (no genetics involved), and finally straight peat smoke. Nothing more, nothing less. Classic. Mouth: same, a classic, clean, pure and compact Bowmore. Peat, smoked fish, salt and lime juice. Very little oak. Finish: long and in keeping with the palate. Maybe just a little more salt. Comments: as I said, classic. SGP:347 – 86 points (yes, I know, classic).
Bowmore 6 yo 2002/2008 (46%, Murray McDavid for Ermuri Berlin, cask ref 02226, Chateau Margaux Ace’d) I believe they smoke much more cigars in German-speaking countries than in other parts of the world (right, not Cuba) so maybe that’s why they called this one an ‘opulent cigar malt’ on the label. Maybe there will be a ‘mind-blowing marijuana malt’ for Jamaica one day! Colour: apricot/salmon. Nose: the young whisky is big and the wine is big too, which makes for a very big dram albeit an extremely unusual one. Both talk one after the other, but after a few minutes it’s rather Bowmore’s peat that wins the fight against the strawberry and cassis jams. As often with this series, this nose is very entertaining. Mouth: the same sort of thing happens at the attack, with a very obvious vinosity but that’s not unpleasant. Fresh strawberries, peat, a certain earthiness, quite some liquorice… Finish: long, even more on liquorice. Or rather a kind of liquoricy flavour. Allsorts. Comments: it’s no secret that this category of whiskies is not to our liking generally speaking, but I’m sure this performs quite well within the category. SGP:456 – 77 points.
Bowmore 12 yo 1995/2008 (46%, Murray McDavid, bourbon/viognier, 995 bottles) The viognier casks had contained some of Guigal’s Condrieu, a very spicy and rather exuberant white wine from the north of the Rhone valley. Colour: apricot. Nose: this is absolutely incredible! It really smells like a fortified Doriane (Guigal’s most famous Condrieu) and certainly not like whisky. Huge spiciness and quite some muscatty notes. The problem is that there’s also a huge lot of sulphur and even notes of ‘English’ vinegar (the one they serve with fish and chips). A very, very strange winesky. The good news is that these heavy sulphury notes do vanish a bit after a few minutes but their halo effect is so big that it’s still, say ‘unusual’. Bowmore is unrecognisable here. Mouth: once again, the wine is easily detectable in itself (it’s also got something of an Alsatian pinot gris, or even malvasia), and brings some funny notes of game and roasted spices to the whole. Very ripe pineapples. Peat and pepper strike second and third, and the whole starts to work pretty well after a moment, despite some added notes of Comté cheese (or Gouda if you prefer). Finish: long. Comments: one of the strangest whiskies I could try this year. We’re extremely far from a classic Bowmore, but what’s sure is that it’s ‘fun’, and fun is priceless these days, isn’t it! SGP:436 – 72 points (someone should start wineskyfun.com one day, to do these kinds of whiskies ‘better’ justice).
Bowmore 16 yo 1992/2008 (53.5%, OB, wine cask matured) As ‘usual’, they used casks from Château Lagrange, a rather good St. Julien that’s owned by Suntory (that owns Bowmore). What's a bit tricky is that whilst this is only a double-matured malt (bourbon, then wine) they call it 'wine cask matured' on the label, which implies that it's been fully matured in those wine casks. A tad misleading... Colour: red amber. Nose: we aren’t too far from the 2002, and St. Julien isn’t far from Margaux after all (don’t be silly!) but this is more polished and much less exuberant, with less obvious winey notes (blackcurrants, blackcurrant buds, strawberries, grenadine and so on). Well, that’s true for a while but the wine never quite loses control and gets then bigger actually, even if balance is maintained. Pleasant farminess, soft peat, herbal tea (rosehip, hawthorn, cherry stems) and strawberry jam. Mouth: it’s here that things get worse. Once again, the wine’s too big for our taste, and gives the whole these sweet and sour notes that we like mucho in Chinese cooking, but not in whisky. Finish: yes. Comments: it’s not that this isn’t drinkable of course, but frankly, they make utterly brilliant whiskies at Bowmore since quite a few years now, why spoil them with such a heavy treatment? Does ‘the market’ really ask for this kind of ‘variation’? Oh, and another silly question: why doesn’t Suntory treat some of their Yamazakis or Hakushus the same way? (I told you, I'm prejudiced!) SGP:446 - 73 points.
And also Bowmore 17 yo 1990/2007 (54.1%, Dewar Rattray, cask #261, 202 bottles) A clean, punchy, mid-complex, very briny Bowmore. Big peat and a lot of grapefruits. Excellent balance. SGP:446 – 89 points. Ahhhhhhhh!

December 2, 2008



Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, 2008) The new style labelling conquered the 10yo too. Previous batches of the 10yo scored 83-84 points in my book. Colour: straw. Nose: beautifully clean yet complex at first nosing, extremely pure, with notes of fresh butter, flowers from the fields (our beloved dandelions), beeswax and other waxes (no paraffin that is) and then straighter fruity notes (strawberries and quite some tangerines), with also a little peat smoke. It’s very natural and maybe a tad old-style (make that traditional), which is an asset in our opinion. Absolutely no obvious wood treatment. Mouth: very good ‘nervousness’, sweet, fruity (the notes of coconuts are back!), getting even fruitier over time (strawberry syrup, marshmallows). Also these very peculiar notes of overripe oranges and leather that are only to be found in Springbank or Longrow, rather discrete here. Good whisky. Finish: medium long, with a little salt and hints of olive oil that add to its complexity. Oak, Turkish delights and oranges. Comments: once more, this is proof that Springbank really improved the quality of its whiskies in recent years. SGP:542 – 86 points.
Springbank 1997 'batch #2' (54.9%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008) We loved the first batch of this 1997 (89), it was so much cleaner and purer than earlier bottlings that were treated with heavy wood. Colour: gold. Nose: quite close to the regular 10, only with more oomph. A lot of oranges, beeswax, fresh butter and ‘yellow’ flowers but also a little white chocolate and then mint, apple peeling, moss, mushrooms and wet earth. A little less shoe polish and ginger than in the first batch, which I liked maybe just a tad better. More porridge. Mouth: big-big, smoky, wonderfully nutty and roasted and very gingery as well. Quite some lemon as well and then a lot of pepper. Grows a tad too powerful after a few seconds so let’s add water now (while the nose got more mineral and smoky): excellent development, it got creamier, oily, rich, wonderfully spicy (cloves) and orangey. Same ‘orangey/leathery’ notes as in the 10. Finish: long, very ‘full’, more on lemon, vanilla, chocolate, ginger and salt. Comments: I can’t wait to try these batches when they will be 20 years old! The first time I tried this one it was blind and I scored it 87. This second go (disclosed) makes me go up to 88. SGP:453 - 88 points.
Springbank 17 yo 1990/2008 (51.5%, OB for Springbank Society members, refill Port hogshead, 570 bottles) Colour: apricot/salmony. Nose: this is completely different and, to tell you the truth, rather less to my liking. There’s a rather extreme farmy/winey combo that does not quite work in my opinion but once again, it’s just my opinion and this isn’t, of course, technically flawed. Mixture of blackcurrants and wet hay. Smells like a finishing and not like full-maturing that is, even if the label does not mention a finishing. Mouth: extremely sweet, thick, jammy, bubblegummy and spicy. Very, very extreme. A mixture of Malibu, Limoncello, lychee juice and strawberry jam with a fistful of spices thrown in. Finish: yes, in the same vein. Comments: one of these UFMs (unidentified flying malts), more or less in the same league as, for instance, most Tokaji finishes by various distilleries. Now, we perfectly understand that the very honourable Springbank Society would like this, of course! Once again, it’s not flawed as such and all this is only a matter of taste anyway, isn’t it? SGP:831 - 77 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: Abbey Lincoln's very peculiar voice singing Street of Dream.mp3. Please buy Abbey Lincoln's music...

Abbey Lincoln

December 1, 2008


The Amrut Distillery, is located in Bangalore. To our friends who know Islay better than India, Bangalore is located right in the middle of the southern Indian ‘horn’. Amrut did extremely well at the MM Awards 2008!

Amrut ‘Single Malt’ (40%, OB, +/-2006) This should be four or five years of age. We already liked the first batches when they were 3 years old in 2005 (75 points) Colour: gold. Nose: well, it’s always very hard to prevent one’s mind from wandering off when trying a drink that’s very ‘evocative’ (by its name, label, origins, whatever) and guess what, we do get cardamom at first sniffing. Also various other spices, quite some vanilla, ‘clean’ dust, apple juice, compote, porridge (typical from young whiskies), a little sandalwood and incense (our mind at work again?) Anyway, this is pleasant. Bring poppadoms instead of oatcakes! Mouth: sweet, clean and fruity (oranges), with a good attack but a middle that’s a tad weakish for my taste. Wood and spirit aren't quite ‘interwoven’ enough but otherwise it’s perfectly drinkable and better than many Scottish blends. Finish: medium long, maybe a tad too caramelly now. Comments: very pleasant nose, quite unusual (hence entertaining) but the palate is more mundane. I think this version has been discontinued, that is. SGP:221 - 76 points, still.
Amrut 'Indian Single Malt Whisky' (46%, OB, bottled 4/2008) Colour: full gold. Nose: this is much less exotic on the nose, much, much closer to Scottish malt whisky. Actually, to Japanese malt whisky. Unusual notes of ham and geranium, grenadine, Turkish delights, bubblegum and then much more oak and vanilla, Japanese-style. Something ‘modern’. Mouth: very powerful at 46%, a good step above the older version at 40% but it’s also very, very bubblegummy (Haribos galore). Good oakiness. Turkish delights again, strawberry drops, white pepper from the wood and orange cake. Finish: long and unexpectedly salty, but there’s too much oak, which is a little bizarre in such a young whisky. I’m 100% sure they did not use oak chips/extracts, that is! Must be the climate… Comments: good malt whisky, displaying something ‘different’. It’ll keep improving with age. SGP:440 - 77 points (rated blind).
Amrut 'Indian Single Malt Whisky' (61.9%, OB, Cask Strength, bottled 9/2007) Colour: full gold. Nose: very powerful and extremely oaky, almost like a carpenter’s workshop, with whiffs of warm oak (hot sawdust) and wood smoke. Rather spectacular, and it’s no ‘drying’ oak. With water: hey hey, this is quite superb! Beautiful notes of moss and leaves, leather, then candied oranges and Demerara sugar, meat and smoke (smoked ham, right)… super. Mouth (neat): big, big whisky, way better than the ‘46’ version, even when undiluted. Less bubblegummy notes (but there are some left), more grassy and leathery notes, and a big ‘satisfaction’ on the palate. And not burning! With water: ditto. Very rich, creamy, with a lot of orange marmalade. This is impressive. Finish: long, rich, orangey and peppery. Perfect balance. Comments: I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that this was an Amrut, and had to try it thrice, only to get always the same impressions and ratings. SGP:550 - 85 points (rated blind).
Amrut (62.7%, Blackadder, c#BA 1/2008, 277 bottles, 2008) Colour: full gold. Nose: very, very expressive. A tad less oaky than the OB when neat, and fruitier too. Very big notes of freshly cut oranges and ginger roots, a little nutmeg, white pepper… That from the wood, probably. With water: wonderfully grassy/leathery. Fresh almonds and walnuts. Top class, fab balance and already very complex. Mouth (neat): just excellent! There’s what may now be defined as ‘the Amrut profile’ (bubblegum, oranges and spices) and also a lot of vanilla and various other spices. But the alcohol is so high, let’s not take any further chances and check whether it’s a good swimmer or not. With water: even more complex than the OB we just had (although we wouldn’t say this is complex whisky as such). Even more spices and more herbs. A little more oak as well. Finish: long, very pleasantly bitter (tannins, tea). Lots of soft spices. Comments: this one isn’t ‘a peated whisky’ as such but it’s more phenolic than the OB. A huge surprise in any case. SGP:462 - 87 points (rated blind).
Amrut 'Peated Indian Single Malt Whisky' (62.78%, OB, bottled 4/2008) Isn’t it funny that an Indian distillery would use peat? Colour: gold. Nose: starts mainly on peat, with a lot of alcohol of course but it’s not spirity as such. Notes of kiwi, fruit eau-de-vie, something youngish ‘of course’. With water: unusual notes of whitecurrants, redcurrant jelly, even Jell-O. The peat is still here, bringing funny notes of wood smoke (‘a roaring fireplace after a good day of skiing in the Alps – err, excuse me.) Mouth (neat): round and peaty, pretty much on salted liquorice, with quite some salt and a lot of spices from the wood. And god it’s hot! With water: it got very good for a while but fell into kind of a ‘flavour warp’ involving white chocolate, green pepper, chlorophyll and lemon squash. Indeed, ‘unusual’. Reminds me of the dark side of Longrow (that does not appear very often these days, by the way!) Finish: long and big, sweetly peppery. Comments: I wrote ‘twisted but pleasant’ when I tried this blind and shall stick with that. SGP:365 - 79 points (rated blind).


MUSIC – Recommended listening: I believe it was Gong's first lineup and they were doing an interstellar Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen's Heads.mp3. Much, much better than Pink Floyd... Please buy Gong's music!


November 2008 - part 2 <--- December 2008 - part 1 ---> December 2008 - part 2

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



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

Ardbeg 17 yo 1979/1996 (64.3%, Adelphi for USA, cask #11928, 258 bottles)

Carsebridge 42yo 1960/2002 (41.6%, Chieftain's Choice, Grain, Oloroso cask #15010, 135 bottles)

Clynelish 12 yo (86 Proof US, OB for Clark's Inc., Washington DC, USA, 4/5 quart, 1960s)

Strathisla 30 yo 1954/1984 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade)