(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries

Petits billets d'humeur
(in French)



Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2008 - Part 2

December 2008 - part 1 <--- December 2008 - part 2 ---> December 2008 - part 3


December 13, 2008

(some for discount drinkers only, some not!)

We’ve accumulated a huge load of whiskies and samples that don’t quite fit our slightly tedious Whiskyfun tasting format (always whiskies from the same distilleries) and now it’s time to try a few of them. Blends, vatted malts, oddities, obscure bottlings… Not too sure this is going to be useful but at least, it should be entertaining (to us, that is) and maybe we’ll find some true gems. What's more, as many are quite cheap, some may be some perfect anti-crisis drams. Let’s see…
(We had originally intended to post this in chunks, but...)
Glen Finloch ‘Peaty Reserve’ (40%, Jean Boyer, France, +/-2008) Colour: straw. Nose: fresh, delicately peaty, pleasantly buttery (not butyric!), the peat growing bigger after a moment. Quite some ash and wet stones as well. Also notes of white wine (Riesling) but it isn’t winey. Mouth: sweet, young and peaty, rather simple but very enjoyable. Quite some iodine and medicinal notes that may hint at ‘that’ distillery on the South coast. Finish: medium long, clean, peaty, with quite some salt as well. Comments: this should be excellent with smoked salmon or other smoked fish. SGP:337 – 80 points.
Pride of Islay 12 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, mid-80s) Colour: amber. Nose: obvious notes of sherry, old walnuts, meat bouillon and only then the peat shines through. Exactly the opposite of the Glen Finloch. Big notes of gunpowder as well, leather, old liqueur... Mouth: round and creamy attack, with a flinty peat underneath. Drops a bit after that, getting maybe a tad indefinite, on a strange kind of mix involving walnuts again, cardboard, porridge, bitter oranges and mint drops. Tastes old and young at the same time. Finish: a little short and rather bitterish. Peaty cardboard or something like that. Comments: I liked the nose waaaaay better. SGP:256 – 75 points.
Islay Selection 18 yo (40%, Loch Lomond Distillery, 35cl, +/-1995) A vatting of very old underproof malt from the 60s and younger ones (overproof, obviously). Strange bottling done at Loch Lomond. Colour: straw. Nose: milky, porridgy and a tad yeasty at first nosing but gets cleaner and straighter after a while. Hints of mint, then fresh walnuts, marzipan and smoked ham. Rather unusual but ‘old Ardbeg’ is not really noticeable. Big notes of overripe apples do come through, that is, as well as whiffs of Barbour grease (more exactly ‘Barbour Thornproof Wax Dressing’ - sorry if you never smelled that, it’s very peculiar.) Mouth: even more unusual! Smooth and zesty at the same time at the attack (lemonade, coriander, cornflakes… strange combo), with medium peatiness but growing bigger after a few seconds on your palate. Smoked tea, quite some black pepper, mint drops, yoghurt sauce, something metallic… Bizarre indeed. Finish: medium long but much more ‘coastal’, with quite some salt, lemon, oysters, bread… Not kidding. Comments: one of the strangest vattings I could try, but Ardbeg does shine through (the old 10yo at 40%). SGP:347 – 84 points.
The Six Isles ‘Claret Finish’ 2000/2008 (46%, William Maxwell, casks #904501-904515) ‘A true reflection of the isles’ states the label. Well, not too sure Claret (Bordeaux in English) is such true reflection but let’s see… Colour: apricot. Nose: do smoked mashed potatoes exist? The good news is that the claret influence is rather discrete, the whole smelling very ‘islands’ indeed, with a blend of smoked fish, used matches, orangeade, boiled cereals, strawberry-flavoured yoghurt and light liquorice. Very far from being unpleasant I must say. Mouth: well, it is a bit too sweet and fruity for my taste now, starting on strawberry jam and even blackcurrant Jell-O. The peatiness does manage to come through after that but we’re still on something like cold mulled wine – or sangria. It’s probably not bad but it just doesn’t match my taste. Finish: quite long, still very fruity. Comments: strawberry jam with pepper and a good measure of strong alcohol. Let’s say this is ‘different’ – and I like the nose. SGP:725 – 75 points.
The Peat Monster Reserve Edition (48.9%, Compass Box, 1.5l, 2008) A magnum, hurray! Colour: white wine. Nose: WOW! This is extremely unusual and I like it. Starts on very huge notes of smoked fish and smoked ham as well and goes on with even bigger notes of ham, and then even bigger notes of smoked salmon. It’s only after a few minutes that more ‘mundane’ notes of plain smoke, apple peels and fresh mint manage to come through. Extremely demonstrative whisky. Mouth: right, it does not taste like smoked salmon ;-), rather like a very good ‘average’ Islayer. Peat, pepper, liquorice, a little vanilla fudge, grapefruits and hints of cloves. Very classic on the palate. Finish: long, peaty, peppery, very clean and very straight. Comments: two whiskies in one here (which should make 3 litres!) What a spectacular nose! SGP:357 – 85 points.
Cadenhead’s Islay Malt 9 yo (51.5%, Canongate Reserve, +/-2002) Said to be a vatting of old Ardbeg (how old?) and young Caol Ila. Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re really all on fresh walnuts and apple peeling here, with a rather delicate peat. Extremely vegetal but in a very nice way. Just like the Peat Monster, it gets then more classically smoky/peaty with, indeed, something of some older Ardbegs (camphor, shoe polish, tar, linseed oil). Very nice nose. Mouth: sweet, round yet nervous, with Ardbeg really shining through now. A lot of salt, lemon marmalade, big smoke, pine resin (sweets), dried ginger, even some mustard… Excellent! Finish: long, punchy, peaty. Comments: extremely good Islay vatting made in Campbeltown. SGP:358 – 88 points. Cadenhead
Black Bottle (40%, OB, blend, +/-2005) Colour: pale gold. Nose: light smoke and linseed oil, then porridge, soft part of the bread, metal and hints of diesel oil. I didn’t remember this was that dry and austere. Mouth: much peatier and smokier, almost big. A lot of salt, lemon… Alas, it gets then much weaker and lacks body but remember, it’s no malt. Finish: medium long but nicely peaty, with quite some iodine. Comments: the influence of Islay’s peat monsters is very obvious here, especially on the palate. SGP:236 – 78 points.
Black Bottle 10 yo (40%, OB, Matthew Gloag & Son, blend, +/-2003?) Bizarrely, the Black Bottle NAS is green whilst the 10yo is well black. Colour: gold. Nose: very close to the NAS version, maybe a tad softer and rounder, with also more meaty notes. Mouth: richer than the NAS, with more oak influence but also a similar Islayness. Doesn’t drop like the NAS did. Finish: Comments: a big blend, unmistakably Islay. SGP:336 - 80 points.
Isle of Skye 8 yo (40%, Ian McLeod, blend, 1990s) Contains quite some Islanders but not only malt from the Isle of Skye. Colour: gold. Nose: just as peaty as the Black Bottles. A tad more on the cardboardy side after that. Something organic. Mouth: very big, almost explosive and just as peaty as the Black Bottles, maybe even more! Lemon juice. Big rooty/earthy notes. Finish: long, peppery and salty, as if there was some Talisker in there indeed. Comments: surprisingly assertive at 40% vol. Isn’t this almost pure malt whisky? Too bad the nose was a bit so-so. SGP:336 – 78 points.
Royal Island 17 yo (40%, Arran Distillery, Blend, late 1990s) This was bottled by Arran but of course not distilled there. Colour: full gold. Nose: dry, almost silent, papery. Stones, paint, aspirin. A serious lack of aromas but maybe the palate will be better. Mouth: weak attack but some rather nice notes of resin, almonds and soft peat seem to be there in the background. A little watery, that is. Finish: short, with just a little peat. Comments: harmless – and that may be the problem. SGP:124 – 59 points.
Royal Island 21 yo (40%, Arran Distillery, Blend, late 1990s) Another version of Royal Island, there was also a 30yo. Colour: full gold. Nose: cardboard and wet papers galore at first nosing, then pleasant citrusy notes (tangerines). Medium peatiness and a general profile that has its eyes on Bowmore. Hugely superior to the 17yo as far as the nose is concerned. Mouth: once again, bigger than the 17yo even if the difference isn’t as striking as on the nose. Peat, marzipan, salt and bitter oranges. Finish: short but coastal (low tide, eh) and quite salty. Bigger at the retro-olfaction. Comments: these 17 and 21yos are strange old whiskies, oddly selected and blended in my opinion. SGP:235 - 70 points.


Bulloch & Lade's Gold Label (40%, Bulloch Lade, mid 1980s, 75cl) Bulloch & Lade holds – or held - the license for Caol Ila distillery so there should be quite some CI in this one. Colour: gold. Nose: quite light but peaty indeed, a tad beefy, malty (stock), with also notes of warm butter and pastries. Slight smokiness, ashes and metal polish. OBE starting to appear (metallic notes). Not really great, that is. Mouth: better and more nervous than on the nose, with an obvious peatiness now. Something that reminds me of old versions of Johnnie Walker Black. Good maltiness but also quite some caramel. Grows bigger, with even more caramel. Good presence but gets a tad too cloying/caramelly. Finish: long, smoky and caramelly (yes); with a little salt. Comments: a good blend with ‘an Islay heart’ (S, cut the crap if you please) but also a little too much, guess what? Caramel! SGP:334 - 78 points.
Campbeltown Loch 21 yo (40%, OB, Springbank, +/-2005) A famous blend from Campbeltown but nobody’s sure about the proportion of Springbank in this one. Some say there’s none, others say there’s as much as 60%. Colour: pale gold. Nose: unexpectedly dry and waxy at first nosing, and very grassy. Graphite, linseed oil, new newspaper, shoe polish, ink bottle… It’s austere whisky and it may well be beautiful altogether but let’s check the palate first… Mouth: extremely unusual. Nervous, smoky, ‘hammy’ (I mean, that tastes like ham), and extremely metallic. Almond liqueur. Quite some peat as well, as well as hints of coriander and maybe also dill (not aniseed as such but close). Is it good? Hard to say, it’s so unusual… Finish: long, salty, meaty. Comments: a big personality, extremely different from most blends as far as we can say. Maybe a blend made for malt drinkers? SGP:244 – 80 points.
Poit Dhubh 12 yo (46%, Praban Na Linne, blend, +/-2005) I believe the 12yo green label has been issued at 40 and 43% before. Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is richer and less austere then the Campbeltown Loch, more orangey as well, but it’s still dry whisky. Notes of wet chalk, very faint smoke, paper, lager beer and lemon-sprinkled porridge, then sea air. More smoke but also more notes of old wood (barrel) after a moment. Mouth: more body and more peat than in both the B&L and the C.L. 21yo. I don’t know if it’s my mind playing tricks to me but it does taste like Talisker (Praban Na Linne are on Skye.) ‘Smoked oranges’, pepper, salt, lime and kippers. Finish: rather long, more on lemon. Comments: I think it’s the best Poit Dhubh I ever had, but I think I only had three or four before. Good stuff but at the same price, why not buy the genuine single malt from that island? SGP:346 - 81 points.


Bennachie 10 yo (40%, OB, Speyside pure malt, +/-2005) Colour: gold. Nose: dry, mashy, porridgy and kind of metallic. Seems to lack roundness but hints of citrus fruits are nice. Improves over time, with added notes of shoe polish and soot. Not too typical of Speyside, though. Mouth: rather strange, a tad weak but certainly not uninteresting. Quite some wax, almonds, apple peeling, oranges… Alas, it really loses steam after that and gets drying and cardboardy. Finish: almost none I’m afraid. Comments: this one has its moments for sure. SGP:242 – 72 points.
Bennachie 17 yo (40%, OB, Speyside pure malt, +/-2005) Colour: deep gold. Nose: rounder and thicker than the 10yo and much more expressive as well. More ‘Speyside’ too, with quite some cooked fruits and a rather big maltiness. Also farmy notes, a little smoke, hay, grass… I like this nose, there are some good malts in there. Mouth: once again, this is a little too weak but the composition has been nicely done. Oranges, wax and almonds, close to the 10 here. Finish: very short but with nice spicy afterglows (white pepper). Comments: ah, if only the palate had matched the nose! SGP:332 – 75 points.
Bennachie 21 yo (40%, OB, Speyside pure malt, +/-2005) ‘Created unashamedly for connoisseurs with some of the rarest malt whiskies found on Speyside.’ LOL! Colour: gold (lighter than the 17). Nose: maybe there’s less sherry here. The citrusy notes are still there (tangerines), as well as various tropical fruits (passion, mangos) and notes of leather. Good quality and a selection of malts that seems to have avoided mainstreet. Whiffs of mint and soot just like in the 10yo. Mouth: ah yes, this one has much more power than the shy 10 and 17. Smokiness, peat (Ardmore?), oranges, cough medicine and the same kinds of tropical fruits as on the nose. Very good vatted malt! Finish: much longer than the younsters’, delicately peaty and spicy. Tangerines. Comments: an excellent tipple if you’re no label drinker. SGP:433 – 82 points.
Crazy Glen 5 yo 1976 (40%, Crazy Scotch Whisky International Company, vatted Highland malt, early 1980s) Crazy name for this Glaswegian company! Colour: gold. Nose: hey hey, this starts well! Clearly Highlands, old style, with quite some wax, metal polish, shoe polish and various citrus fruits. Beautiful nose, very expressive and amazingly complex at only 5 years, even if it does fade away a bit after a moment. Mouth: oh, no, it’s big indeed, smoky, citrusy (orange and lemon zests), maybe a tad buttery, very peppery, getting just a tad too cardbaordy after a while, which is quite normal. Imagine, 5 years in wood and almost 30 years in glass! Finish: rather short but more peppery and maybe just a little too bitter and green. Comments: a ‘crazy’ surprise. SGP:443 – 84 points.
Old Elgin 8 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, vatted malt, 1980s) Colour: gold/orangey. Nose: rather simple, malty, a tad cardboardy. Not very expressive but not ‘repulsive’ either. Only rather average… Gets a tad more orangey after a moment, also more on cereals, cornflakes, milk chocolate. Still not big, that is. Mouth: better now, quite nervous, orangey (squash) and malty, with also quite some white chocolate. Apple juice. So much nicer than on the nose! Finish: unexpectedly long, citrusy. Comments: eminently quaffable – and no need to nose it! SGP:431 – 80 points.
Old Elgin 8 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, vatted malt, early 2000s) Colour: gold (lighter than the older version). Nose: very different from its older bro. Less malty/cereally and grassier, with also more fruity notes (banana skin, orange zests.) Nice. Mouth: this is strange, now it’s the more recent version that’s weaker. Same notes of orange squash but also much more cardboard and even something dusty. But it’s still pretty drinkable. Finish: not its best part. Shortish and cardbaordish. Comments: well, the older version was globally better. SGP:330 – 74 points.
Strathconon 12 yo (40%, James Buchanan & Co, vatted malt, 1970s) ‘A Blend of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies’, how confusing – and funny – is that? Colour: pale gold. Nose: very old style, starting on a winning citrus-metal combo. A lot of lemon but also mangos (that do smell kind of metallic, don’t they?) and then soot, shoe polish, coal, pencil lead and beef stock… A blast from the past as far as the profile’s concerned. This kind of whisky doesn’t exist anymore. Mouth: very antique indeed. Not really bold but there are the same resinous and sooty/waxy notes as on the nose, and the citrusy notes are here as well. Too bad the lack of body makes it a tad ‘unsatisfying’. Finish: short, as expected, but clean and citrusy. Diluted lemon juice. Comments: well, these old ‘mundane’ bottlings are often a tad ‘wobbly’ and this one is no exception, but what a great nose! SGP:433 - 79 points.
Alexander Dunn 12 yo Pure Highland Malt Whisky (43%, Alexander Dunn, vatted malt, 1980s) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very malty, cereally, spirity and porridgy, without anything else at first nosing. Beer. Not much development I’m afraid… Lettuce? Mouth: not exactly flat, quite the contrary in fact, but once again, the profile is too simple and kind of dull. Malt, cereals, beer and sugar. Finish: medium long, still quite indefinite. Tea-ish. Comments: no need to chase this one down I’d say... SGP:241 – 64 points.
Spey Cast 15 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail for Giaccone, 1970s) This one was a vatted malt, not a blend like the more recent versions of Spey Cast. Superb label by the way, only matched by G&M’s Monster’s Choice ;-)… Colour: amber. Nose: it’s no secret that Mr Giaccone knew how to select a whisky and this is just another proof. Big dram, rich and nervous, candied, superbly orangey (crystallized), phenolic and resinous, with hints of camphor, eucalyptus and mint and a rather beautiful sherry (smoky sherry, barbecue, raisins). Does it smell like some older Macallans? Absolutely! Mouth: superb, creamy and rich but firm, smoky, nutty (marron glace) and a little resinous again. Good maltiness, hints of popcorn, rosehip tea, tobacco… Gets just a tad drying after a moment but that may come from old bottle effect. Finish: long, more on bitter chocolate, coffee and black Corinth raisins now. Comments: pretty fantastic – let’s go fishing! SGP:553 - 89 points.
No Age ‘1992 First Edition’ (46%, Samaroli, vatted malt, 4,200 bottles, 1992) No Age is a concept where Mr Samaroli tried to replicate the style of older single malts that where made more traditionally than today’s production. The whiskies that have been vatted range from 12 to 45 years of age. Colour: pale gold. Nose: indeed, this smells like an old-style malt, with these phenolic notes that many old Highlanders or even Speysiders used to display. There’s some peat, some coastal notes (wet seaweed), ashes and soot, and then quite some green tea, apple peelings and paraffin. Certainly not ‘contemporary’ (you know, big vanilla and/or big winey/fruity notes). Mouth: think vatting of old Clynelish, Pulteney, Ardbeg and Glen Garioch. That’s right, there’s quite some peat again, lemon, wax, grass, salt, marzipan… And yes it’s very good. Finish: long, complex, assertive, ending on more peppery peat. Very dry and beautifully so. Comments: I think Mr Samaroli’s goal has been fulfilled, he really managed to replicate an excellent old-style Highlander, even if not a specific one. Excellent. SGP:255 – 88 points.
No Age ‘Edition 2002’ (46%, Samaroli, vatted malt, 1,980 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very different from the 1992, closer to some young malts in the sense that there’s more mashed potatoes, porridge, baker’s yeast and plain beer. Less peat as well – but there is a little peat. Now, an old-style grassiness does arrive after a while but it’s rather discreet (fresh walnuts). Mouth: sweeter and rounder than the 1992 but closer to it on the palate than on the nose, thanks to an obvious peatiness. Now, it’s also simpler whisky (peat, apple juice, pepper, salt) but maybe ten further years of bottle ageing will help? Finish: long and pleasantly Taliskerish. Comments: very good but not as spectacular as the 1992 in my book. SGP:345 – 82 points.
Glencoe 8 yo (100° proof, MacDonald & Co, vatted malt, 1970s) Colour: gold. Nose: speaking of old-style Highlanders, we’re not too far from the No Age 1992 here, with even bigger notes of soot, shoe polish and various waxes. Quite some bitter chocolate as well, old leather, raw French beans, then hints of lemon skin (rubbed) and whiffs of seawater. You got it, this is also very dry. Mouth: punchy, powerful, a tad prickly and very peppery, with big tannins… And even more pepper. It’s almost a mixture of chilli and wasabi! Let’s see what gives with a little water… Well, no, that didn’t work, it got almost completely flat and cardboardy. I think I almost never encountered such a bad swimmer. Finish (when neat): very long and uber-peppery! Comments: what a dry beast, it’s really amazing. Peated whiskies make for a huge proportion of the vatting here. Spectacular. SGP:166 – 86 points.
Charles McKinlay & Co had an important role in the whisky history. It’s a very old company, that employed famous men such as Thomas Dewar and James Buchanan in the XIXth century and that was involved with Glen Mhor and Isle of Jura distilleries. The whole story is there.
Mackinlay’s 5 yo ‘Old Scotch Whisky’ (40%, OB, Blend, Moccia, Italy, 1970s) Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s funny how our mind works. Knowing that Moccia was the importer for the famous Glen Mhor 10yo (Valentino Zagatti’s favourite), we do find notes of Glen Mhor! Beefy and metallic, smoky (ham), kind of roasted, slightly peaty and violetty… Quite a character for sure. Mouth: ho-ho, this is very punchy, very malty and very ‘old-style’. Little OBE if any but a lot of chocolate, malt, orange marmalade, liquorice and then a very smoky and sooty signature. Notes of lemonade as well. Finish: unexpectedly long, smoky, roasted and dry. Comments: more personality on the nose than on the palate but it’s still very impressive 5yo blended whisky. SGP:234 – 80 points.
Mackinlay’s 12 yo ‘Legacy’ (40%, OB, Blend, for Belgium, 1980s) Colour: full gold. Nose: very close in style to the 5yo, maybe a tad drier actually, and even smokier. Coal, cigarette smoke, whiffs of warm tarmac, cut grass… Probably a very high proportion of malt here. Keeps developing for a long time but switches to herbal notes. Dried parsley, chives, coriander… Very ‘funny’. Mouth: powerful but maybe a tad more ‘middle of the road’ now, malty, grainy, chocolaty (powder) a little coffee-ish. Hints of chestnut purée. A UMC old blend. Finish: medium long, still good but less interesting than the 5. Comments: as often, the nose was great but the palate was a little more mundane. SGP:243 - 79 points. By the way, we’re using exactly the same scale for malts and for blends. We love malts, so 79 is already a very high mark for a blended whisky.
Mckinlay 12 yo ‘The Original’ (43%, OB, Blend, for France, 1990s) Colour: full gold. Nose: the profile is similar to the older 12yo’s, only a little less expressive and more mineral. Also more roasted and coffee-ish. Quite a lot of smoke again. Mouth: less big than the 12 Legacy and more herbal/minty as well. Notes of green apples topped with caramel and candy sugar. Tastes more like a ‘regular blend’ than its older siblings. Finish: medium long, clean, malty and caramelly. Comments: good blend but not really ‘involving’. More or less in the same league as JWB and Chivas. Interesting that smokiness decreased a lot with the recentness of these bottlings. The 5yo was really great. SGP:332 - 72 points.
(45 years later...)

A deluxe tasting, wazzat? Well, it’s just the same as a normal session except that we add the original ads for the whiskies we try. A weird idea? Don’t worry, we won’t do that too often…

Johnnie Walker Black Label (no ABV statement, OB, blend, duty free, 1960s) Colour: gold. Nose: a rather striking nose, starting both on camphor/turpentine and on straight malt. The trademark peatiness is well here after all these years, and the whole is anything but tired. Develops more classically that is, on dried oranges, chocolate, cereals and hints of old books (very slight moisture), before it gets finally much drier, on ‘new newspapers’ and tea box. None of the sweetness that’s to be found in most modern blends.

Mouth: sure it’s no big whisky but flavourful it is. Starts on an unexpected waxiness (very big), with also quite some smoke, honey, straight malt and something very oily, both in taste and in texture. With the smokiness it reminds us more and more of argan oil. The development rather happens on straight malty notes, but there’s also quite some salt. Very good. Finish: medium long, dry, smoky and malty, with just a faint cardboard coming through. Comments: great old whisky, worth many current single malt whiskies. SGP:344 - 85 points. (And thank you, Jean)
Haig’s Gold Label (70°proof, OB, tin cap, early 1960s) Tin caps ensured an almost perfect airtightness so this should be much closer to how it tasted when it was bottled. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s amazing how close to the JWB this one is, as if both master blenders were spying on each other ;-). Very similar, except for a slightly bigger smokiness in this one. It’s also got a little more herbal notes (hay). Well the differences should lie on the palate. Mouth: a little less body in this one (but maybe the JWB was bottled at 75 or 80°proof?) but also more resinous and spicy notes. Hints of cloves and cardamom. Gets then much more mineral and flinty, dry, herbal, with even notes of chlorophyll gums. Great whisky again, maybe a tad narrower than the JWB but also a little more peculiar. Maybe less ‘commercial’ in style? Finish: medium long, saltier, still quite dry. Notes of ale. Comments: it’s impossible to decide between these great old blends! The Johnnie Walker was, say ‘fuller’, whilst the Haig was a little more ‘Highlands’… SGP:253 – 85 points. (And thank you, Patrick)
Chivas Chivas Regal 12 yo (43%, OB, cork, 1950s) Colour: deep gold. Nose: superb, even if it’s no big whisky. Beautiful notes of tropical fruits ‘ala 1968 Bowmore’, that is to say tangerines, mangos and passion fruits, blended with a little wood smoke, chocolate cake, orange marmalade, earl grey tea and old leather (polish). Also hints of Virginia tobacco (unlit Camel). Fantastic nose. Mouth: and it keeps going on, drier than on the nose but all the elements are still there. The tropical fruits are more discreet but there’s more smoke and straight peat and pepper. The middle is a tad weaker but it does take off again after that phase. Finish: long, half-peaty, half-malty, with an orangey afterglow. Comments: no we won’t try this H2H with a modern Chivas. Because we haven’t got any modern Chivas at hand (sssh!) SGP:444 – 86 points.
BONUS: Grant’s 25 yo (43%, OB, ceramic, sword handle, 1980s) Isn’t this absolutely beautiful? Colour: deep gold. Nose: extremely vegetal and dry, totally unlike any Glenfiddich or Balvenie we ever tried (and Kinninvie didn’t exist at the time.) Takes off after that but slowly, with first a few metallic notes (aluminium pan), then hints of citrus fruits (lemon), then shoe polish, then fermenting grass… Ends up by being kind of Madeirized, not unlike an old white wine. Strange… Mouth: yes, this is quite flat, tea-ish and cardboardy. Only a few notes of overripe apples do linger on. Ha, ceramics! Finish: almost non-existent. Comments: like many old ceramics, this one didn’t stand the test of time it seems. Better to keep them unopened I guess… SGP:120 – (useless) points. Grant's 25
Hankey Bannister NAS (no ABV statement, OB, blend, 1960s) Colour: gold. Nose: typical old blend, a tad dusty, sooty, smoky, dry and much more nervous than current blends. Lacks depth, that is, even if the bottle kept very well it seems. Mouth: good, smoky, slightly metallic, malty, with some tropical notes (incense, sandalwood). Notes of wild mushrooms as well and finally hints of chestnut crème and mocha. Lots happening in this one! Finish: unexpectedly long, a tad citrusy now, with a little salt playing with the tip of your tongue. Comments: contrarily to what usually happens with these old whiskies, the nose was rather indefinite and simple but the palate was complex and almost restless. And very good! SGP:232 – 79 points.
Martin’s V.V.O. 8 yo (no ABV statement, OB, blend, USA, 1960s) Colour: white wine. Very unusual colour for an old blend. Nose: extremely dry and very spirity, which is unexpected. Huge flintiness, whiffs of rubbed lemon skin, big smoke, peat, metal… There must have been a lot of Islay in there. Hugely different from most old blends we could try so far (except ver, very old ones). Mouth: same, this is amazingly peaty, to the point where it could be mistaken for a modern Caol Ila - honestly! Also ultra-big notes of lemon and quite some salt. Whoo-hoo! Finish: ultra-long, very peaty and zesty. I’d have never said this was an old blend. Comments: an amazing old blend. Too bad we haven’t got enough time to do some research but it would be very interesting to check what they used to put into Martin’s VVO forty years ago. Anyway, it’s brilliant old blend. SGP:426 – 84 points. Martins
Hudson Bay Hudson’s Bay Best Procurable Scotch Whisky (40%, OB, France, blend, 1960s) So Hudson’s Bay doesn’t come from New York? I’m falling off my chair… Colour: deep gold. Nose: very antique! Old furniture, old Italian ham, cigar box, old leather, attic, wet paper… It’s quite pleasant but with this kind of nose, the palate is often completely out. Let’s see. Mouth: dead. As flat as water - honest. Finish: none. Comments: it’s quite interesting that the nose kept glowing whilst the palate went completely off-road. ‘Unratable’.

As for the very unlikely Hudson's Bay ad, well, it's just as 'unratable' as the whisky.
Holt's Buff Label (40%, OB, blend, late 1960s) A little-known brand, at the time connected to Aberlour I believe. This comes from a mini. Colour: white wine. Nose: another old-style blend, much peatier than current blends, with little sweetness and quite some ashes, notes of stones, wax, linseed oil, green apples, almonds. Dry and austere but not unpleasant. Mouth: a tad weakish at the attack but takes off after two seconds, very peaty, smoky, peppery and mineral, somewhat in the style of the Martin’s VVO, only a little weaker. Finish: quite short, very dry and quite tannic. Comments: old style indeed. SGP:234 – 77 points. Buff
Long John Long John (no ABV statement, OB, blend, early 1960s) Long John used to be a heavy seller in France when I was young (yes, not so long ago). Colour: deep gold. Nose: dry and tea-ish at first nosing, then quite malty and chocolaty. Hints of old roses, sandalwood and oranges. The opposite of the Buff Label. Mouth: unexpectedly punchy, malty and peaty, dry, with also notes of bitter chocolate. Reminds me of old versions JWRed. Big body. Finish: quite long, still malty, with notes of roasted peanuts. Comments: an old bottle that kept perfectly well. Another proof that old blends really used to be much peatier than today’s versions. SGP:244 – 75 points.
King’s Ransom 12 yo (43%, OB, blend, for France, cube bottle, 1960s) Colour: white wine. Nose: very different from all the other old blends. Unusual notes of cologne (it’s pleasant here), furs, violets, orange liqueur and liquorice… Very, very retro. I’m really curious about the palate. Mouth: very unusual again. Violet sweets, Turkish delights, rosehip tea, oriental pastries, orange blossom, a little cinnamon… And, once again, quite some peat and pepper. Finish: medium long, even peatier, with quite some pepper. Very peppery aftertaste. Comments: funnily antique and unlike any other blend I could try so far. A style of its own. SGP:333 – 74 points. King's Ransom
McGibbon’s Special Reserve (40%, OB, blend, cubic bottle, round red label, 1960s) An old bottling by Douglas Laing. Colour: gold. Nose: this is fruitier again, with quite some citrus fruits (oranges first, then grapefruits) as well as notes of peat once more, metal, stones, ashes and hints of shoe polish. Rather complex. Mouth: it’s fairly big whisky after all these years. Creamy, very orangey again (pure orange juice), fresh, getting then spicier (cinnamon and cloves). The peat is well here in the background. Finish: unexpectedly long, with more pepper and straight malt. Comments: a good example of these super-blends that Douglas Laing used to compose. SGP:434 – 80 points.

A BAG OF BLENDS FROM THE 1970s and 1980s

Black & White ‘Choice Old Scotch Whisky’ (40%, OB, blend, France, early 1980s) Colour: full gold. Nose: rather malty, caramelly, with whiffs of hot bread and roasted peanuts. Maybe not the hugest personality. Mouth: creamy, malty, peatier than on the nose, with also notes of apple juice and apricot pie. Gets a tad too caramelly for my tastes after that but it’s good whisky altogether. Finish: medium long, sweet and smoky. Comments: exactly what we’d call an ‘averagely good Scotch’. Not bland. SGP:313 – 74 points.

Black White
Johnnie Walker Red Label (40%, OB, blend, Kupferberg, Germany, 1970s) Colour: full gold. Nose: less malty and nutty and a tad smokier. Garden bonfire, barbecue, flowers (dandelions). Wax. Mouth: creamier, with more flavours and smokiness than the B&W. Very obvious peatiness, spices, orange liqueur, fudge and pepper. Finish: long and peppery. Comments: Johnnie Red used to be a big whisky. Twenty five years of bottle ageing added a pleasant complexity. Buy such old bottles for cheap on eBay? Good idea! Especially since this may well contain some 1972 Brora ;-). SGP:324 – 78 points. JWR
Ballantine’s Finest (40%, OB, blend, Spirit SpA, Italy, early 1980s) Colour: pale gold. Nose: lighter and much less malty and peaty than both the B&W and the JWR. A little more floral as well. Hints of shoe polish and metal. Mouth: lighter body again but more fruits (apples, oranges) and also something pleasantly resinous. Cough sweets. Also a bigger yeastiness. Let’s say it’s a tad more ‘natural’. Finish: longer than expected, and peatier as well. More spices (pepper). Comments: another good whisky from the old days. SGP:432 – 76 points. Ballantines
Langs Supreme (40%, OB, blend, France, 1980s) Colour: gold. Nose: more nervous and less polished. More leather and tobacco, Indian spices, roasted nuts… Also a little more cardboard. Mouth: very punchy, starting on tinned pineapples and apple juice, even pears, with a good spicy backbone. Malt, pepper, burned bread. Also a little varnish and fruit eau de vie. Very punchy in fact, picking up steam after a slightly difficult middle (we observed that many old bottles display a slight drop in the middle of the palate). Finish: very long, peppery. Comments: a wilder blend, with a big personality. Big malts in there. SGP:343 – 75 points.
Clan Campbell 5 yo (40%, OB, blend, France, blac oval label, early 1980s) Clan Campbell is tightly related to Aberlour and a big brand in France. Colour: gold. Nose: a lot of young malt in there it seems. Mashed potatoes, baker’s yeast, orange juice, passion fruit (some Bowmore?) and green vegetables. Unusual. Mouth: the fruitier of them all so far, with again these Bowmore-ish notes of tropical fruits. Pineapples, guavas… A blend that does not taste like a blend. No caramel and/or roasted nuts. Finish: medium long, with even lemon now and the smoke in the background. Comments: well, it’s a surprise. Good stuff, but stuff that cannot be found these days. The French drank all of this rare 5yo! SGP:532 – 80 points. Clan Campbell
W5 ‘double-u-five’ (40%, OB, blend, Gio Buton & Co, Italy, 1980s) I always found this bottling to be funny, but never gotten around to try it. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re in mundaner territories here, at least at first nosing. Slight fruitiness, slight maltiness, faint smokiness… It’s not tired at all, just uninspiring. Apologies! Mouth: more oomph now. Creamy body, sweet and fruity (banana liqueur), with notes of hazelnuts and café latte. Quite some vanilla as well. Not bad at all. Finish: medium long and a little firmer, with a little pepper in the aftertaste. Hints of cloves and ginger. Comments: another good one. We’ve yet to come across a bad one in this flight! SGP:422 – 75 points.
Kenmore (40%, OB, Marks & Spencer, blend, 1980s)
This one bears a blue diamond-shaped label. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it has obviously a larger proportion of grain whiskies when compared with the older blends. Now, it’s pretty ‘noseable’, with hints of smoke and quite some cereals and butterscotch. A little spirity and young, that is, this hasn’t been maturing for long. Mouth: sweet, grainy, slightly malty. Apples and candy sugar with, again, hints of salt and smoke. Finish: medium long. Comments: it’s inoffensive but certainly not unpleasant. Simply a tad simple… Err… SGP:321 – 70 points.
Teacher’s Highland Cream (43%, OB, blend, 1980s) As you may know, Teachers means Ardmore! And old Ardmores can be terrific! Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is much more vegetal and grassy than all the other ones. A little rubber, then coal smoke, cut grass, paraffin, pencil shavings, ink, peat, beer… Very interesting but much less sexy than the ‘teacher’ they were using in their beautiful ads. Mouth: now we’re talking! Fat, big, punchy, peaty, candied, creamy… What a beautiful attack! And then come the lemons and the grapefruits, together with even more peat, spices (chilli!) and crystallised orange zests. Impressive, very impressive. Finish: incredibly long and peaty. Comments: this one isn’t a blend for nosing (but I guess no blend drinkers spend much time nosing their whiskies) but the palate is quite incredible. This would send many malts back to school – indeed!. Big peat. SGP:435 – 86 points (honest). TEacher
Haig (43%, OB, blend, Vibena, Portugal, 1980s) Colour: full gold. Nose: another austere one, extremely grassy, cardboardy, then resinous (pine resin, mint leaves), going on with ‘a walk in the forest’ as dear old MJ would have said. Moss, fern, mushrooms, earth, dead leaves… Mouth: balance! Nothing really stands out at the attack but the general sensation is pleasant. Oranges, cereals, milk chocolate, notes of mocha, Turkish delights, caramel… And yes, a little peat once again. In fact, all these old blends had quite some peat! Finish: rather long, balanced, very, let’s say ‘satisfying’. Comments: simply very good Scotch. Eminently sippable and better than many malts in my opinion. SGP:333 – 80 points. Haig

Clan Campbell 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, France, 1980s)
Colour: gold. Nose: not unlike the 5yo we had before, this is very fruity, almost Irish. Rum-soaked bananas and pineapples, orange liqueur and custard. Pleasant and inoffensive (wait, isn’t that a pleonasm?) Mouth: round, sweet, malty, candied, ‘roasted’, with notes of fresh pastries, warm butter and café latte. As smoooooth as whisky can be. Finish: medium long, clean, fruity. Comments: harmless, and in that sense maybe not for malt drinkers. But it’s good! Less peat than in other blends – the older 5yo was more impressive. SGP:431 – 76 points.
Clan Campbell
Dimple 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, late 1970s) Aka Pinch in the US. Colour: full gold. Nose: hey-hey! Complex, smoky, resinous, fruity and spicy… That is to say perfectly balanced. Candied oranges, peat smoke, seawater, iodine, spearmint, tobacco, old leather… I told you, it’s very complex. Brilliant in fact. Mouth: how rich! Amazing presence and oomph, starting on something like ‘resinous oranges’ (yeah well…) and developing on loads of various spices and mints, lemon balm, ‘good’ marshmallows, liquorice drops and just a tiny little bitterness that may come from wood. Masterfully composed. Finish: long and in the same style. Comments: an exceptionally composed blend. Was Stravinsky working at John Haig’s? Now, seriously, all true whisky lovers know that old Dimples/Pinches were fab whiskies, but it’s always great to be able to confirm that. SGP:543 – 90 points. Pinch
Ballantine’s 12 yo (43%, OB, blend, dark brown label, Barton & Guestier, France, late 1970s) Well, we did put this one after the Dimple because the ABV was higher but maybe it wasn’t such a good idea, after all… Colour: gold. Nose: this is well in Ballantine’s style – as far as we know – that is to say floral, light and fragrant. Cut apples, lilac, apricots and just hints of leather polish. A little vanilla as well, orange squash and very soft spices. Mouth: it’s the first time that we get so much honey in a blend. So, we have honey (light, like acacia or ‘all-flowers’), apple compote, orange cake, sugared tea (just any black tea, really) and then he expected peatiness, rather delicate yet firm here. Actually, this won’t make you scratch your head but it’s perfectly composed. Finish: medium and a bit more indefinite, alas. Comments: this one did not stay coherent till the finish but other than that it’s good scotch. Good scotch? I wouldn’t have thought I’d write that one day. SGP:332 - 77 points. Ballantines
Ballantine’s 12 yo Gold Seal (43%, OB, blend, black label, France, 1980s) I added ‘black label’ because there’s also been a grey label. Don’t know what the ‘gold seal’ added to this bottling, that is. Let’s see. Colour: gold. Nose: guess what, it’s nicer than the ‘non-gold seal’. For once, it starts all on peaty and coastal notes, almost like an Islayer. Seashells, seaweed, plain peat smoke, wet rocks… Then it’s rather its herbal side that shines through (mostly pine resin), a little camphor… An unusual profile nevertheless, it’s strange that a blender composed this for the ‘general public.’ Well, we won’t complain. Mouth: excellent. Round yet nervous, creamy, fruity, resinous, peaty, globally phenolic… Very, very good whisky for sure. And the peat grows bigger and bigger. Finish: very long, peaty, peppery and ‘roundly’ fruity. Comments: isn’t it amazing what a simple gold seal adds to whisky ? ;-) Seriously, this one is really worth chasing down. SGP:344 - 86 points.
Addendum: we quickly tried the ‘Grey Label’ version of the Gold Seal just to make sure (we believe it’s more recent, say early 90s) and even if it’s still good whisky, it just doesn’t hold a candle to the older ‘black label’.
Chivas Regal 12 yo (43%, OB, blend, Corima, France, late 1970s) ‘The’ Chivas Regal we used to down in nightclubs while listening to the Bee Gees. I mean, you just couldn’t avoid the dreadful Bee Gees at the time, could you? Anyway, I believe it’s the first time I try it neat (no ice, no coke, no orange juice!) Colour: full gold. Nose: I think this is really going to become an ode to bottle ageing. I mean, I tried around 5,000 different malt whiskies so far and I believe I ought to find any Chivas Regal totally repulsive just because of that. Yet, I find this very nice but indeed, it’s now rather obvious that it’s bottle ageing that improved the ‘stuff’. No simple caramelly-malty notes, rather an elegant smokiness, notes of roasted chestnuts, vanilla pods, old orange liqueur, then a grassier phase (straight grass but also ‘dry salad’ -rocket and so on- or raw asparagus) and finally all things leathery and ‘globally phenolic’. I’ll spare you the list. Chivas
Mouth: very creamy, round, polished, fruity (strawberry cake, quinces), with a lot of vanilla (custard, cake, crème) and oranges in all their states. There’s maybe less peat than in other old blends, but there’s another kind of smokiness instead. More like roasted nuts, dark praline and toffee, heavy liquorice and so on. You got it, I think this is very good. Finish: not exactly endless but more than sufficient (how stupid is that?) Comments: seriously, this one isn’t quite as brilliant as the old Dimple or as the old Ballantine’s 12 Gold Seal but I’m 100% positive it got way better than it was, after 30 years of bottle ageing. Pssstt, I think there are still quite a few 4.5l bottles flying around in Italy… SGP:432 - 84 points.


Bell’s Extra Special (40%, OB, blend, mid 1980s) This isn’t the 8yo version. Colour: gold. Nose: smoky start, rather pleasant, a tad spirity that is. Gets then very mundane, grainy, mashy and ‘simply’ fruity (apples and pears). Hints of liquorice. Mouth: weakish, caramelly, roasted, tea-ish. This is why we’re into malts. Finish: short. Comments: none. Okay, drinkable. The best part was the smoke at first nosing (Islay!) SGP:321 - 65 points.

J&B 15 yo ‘Reserve’ (43%, OB, blend, late 1990s) Colour: gold. Nose: much more character than Bell’s. Very pleasant ‘oriental’ notes, orange blossom, marzipan, orange marmalade, cardamom… Hints of turpentine and eucalyptus. Lychees. Round and rather profound. Mouth: creamy, nervous, very peculiar. Ripe kiwis, small bitter apple, almonds, argan oil, Seville oranges, mint drops… Very good. Finish: it’s the peat that does all the talking now, and for quite a long time. Comments: very good blend with a big personality. SGP:343 - 78 points.
  JB Ballantine’s 17 yo (43%, OB, blend, +/-2007) Colour: pale gold. Nose: more vegetal, herbal, dry and mineral. Fresh walnuts and almonds, then pear drops and sea breeze, farmyard, hay… The most complex on the nose. Mouth: the creamiest as well. Thick, resinous, phenolic, minty. Cough syrup? Pleasant woodiness. Finish: medium long. Green apples, peat and resins. Comments: another very good blend with quite some peat. In the same league as J&B 15. SGP: - 78 points. Ballantines 17
And also Dewar’s 12 yo (43%, OB, blend, +/-2008) Nose: A very nice nose, rather malty for a blend, with floral hints (mullein, dandelions) and sultanas plus acacia honey and buttered fudge. Mouth: smooth and expressive but rather simple, on notes of caramel, with quite some tannins. Finish medium long, maltier and gingery. The nose is much more appealing than the palate. 68 points.
Cutty Sark 18 yo (43%, OB, blend, +/-2008) Nose: pleasant complexity on the nose, with hints of peat and maritime touches, then a little menthol and fir honeydew. Good character. Mouth: the attack is rather powerful, candied, on notes of orange marmalade and ganache. Gets bigger after a while, even fruitier (raspberry jam). Very enjoyable but at this price one may prefer a good malt. 78 points.


The Spey Cast 12 yo (40%, James Gordon, blend, late 1980s) Exit the pure malts, this version of G&M’s Spey Cast is well a blend. Colour: full gold. Nose: very malty for a blend, caramelly, with also hints of aniseed and mint. Coffee and chocolate. Nice nose. Mouth: round and orangey. I mean, big orangey notes. Muscat, vanilla fudge, apple juice. Good. Finish: medium long, on vanilla and orange juice. Comments: not the full class of the older 15yo ‘pure malt’ that we had the other day but still very drinkable. SGP:431 - 79 points.
Glen Calder (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, blend, late 1980s) Claims to be ‘from the Glenlivet district’ but not to be a vatted/pure malt. Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is very ‘funny’, as it smells almost entirely like cocoa powder, switching to more fruits and herbs only after a few minutes. In the same league as the Spey Cast but a tad bolder and better constructed. Mouth: huge fruitiness mixed with oak and vanilla plus a much bigger peatiness than in the Spey Cast. Cider apples, pepper, peat, rosehip tea, cloves. Good body. Finish: rather long, half-fruity, half-peppery. Comments: a blend that’s got quite a backbone. A lot of malt in there. SGP:433 - 80 points.
Campbell’s Tomintoul Special Highland Whisky (57%, P&J Campbell, blend, early 1990s) Another strange labelling, this one is well a blend and neither pure Tomintoul, nor pure Highlands malt. It’s made for the very friendly Whisky Castle shop in Tomintoul (not to be missed if you pass by Tomintoul). Colour: gold. Nose: very close to Glen Calder, only at full strength. That is to say all on cocoa powder and then cut grass. A little cardboard. With water: gets much more medicinal (tincture of iodine, aspirin) and herbal (plain grass, green tea.) Certainly not the kind of profile that you would expect from a blend. Mouth (neat): big, round and spicy. Orange marmalade with cloves. With water: more of the same but with even more different fruits such as guavas and papayas (crystallised.) Quince jelly. Very good blend. Finish: long, round, candied and very fruity. Turkish delights and marshmallows with pepper. Comments: worth trying! It’s to be wondered if there’s any grain whisky in there. Big whisky. SGP:543 - 81 points.


Auld Blended 38 yo (40%, Duncan Taylor, 2008) ‘A marriage of Bunnahabhain, Highland Park, Glenburgie, Miltonduff, Glenlivet and Springbank with Invergordon grain whisky’. All 38yo or more, obviously. There’s already been a 38yo issued in 2006 and it was rather good but extremely woody. Colour: gold. Nose: starts on a blast of oak and other woods (sandalwood, cedarwood), with an enjoyable fruitiness in the background (Bunny and HP play first parts here). Also whiffs of old roses, patchouli, musk. Gets finally a tad yeasty and ‘mishy-mashy’ (beer, baker’s yeast). It’s a most interesting nose but this kind of profile usually implies very tannic palates. Let’s see… Mouth: well, it’s not overly woody. It’s not big, though, with kind of a dustiness (flour, tapioca, cocoa powder) combined with vanilla and coconut as well as notes of very ripe strawberries. Quite some nutmeg and white pepper from the wood. Apple pie with a lot of cinnamon. Finish: medium long, sweet and dusty/spicy (nutmeg). Comments: perfectly drinkable but lacks a little oomph. Well, I guess it’s inherent to this series’ concept. SGP:331 - 78 points.
Blended 33 yo (43.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, 750 bottles, 2007) This one has been made using the ultra-rare Kinclaith and Ladyburn malts plus Glen Mhor, Glen Albyn, Glencraig (malt made in Lomond stills) and Carsebridge as the grain. Colour: gold. Nose: somewhat in the same vein as the 38yo on the nose, only less woody and more yeasty/mashy. Not feinty, of course. Notes of old cardboard, wine cellar, attic (dust), then ham and even beef stock (from Glen Mhor I imagine). Also hints of ginger, pepper, mint and mustard. Gets back to baker’s yeast and fresh bread after that. In short, a wild nose, extremely far from what you’d expect from a very old blend (usually more Cognac-alike). Mouth: I would not say this is very ‘definite’, as it goes into different directions, which makes it a little ‘fuzzy’. Wood extracts (including notes of ginger and cinnamon), acidulated fruits (lemon, green apples, kiwis), herbs (dill, chives) and fudgy notes (and coffee, caramel, praline…) Gets much more coherent after a little time, around notes of coffee liqueur and soft spices (anise, cinnamon). Keeps improving. Finish: rather long and oriental (sweet and spicy). Comments: frankly I didn’t quite like the nose but the palate really kept improving. Worth trying, it’s not only a vanity bottling. SGP:441 – 82 points.

December 2008 - part 1 <--- December 2008 - part 2 ---> December 2008 - part 3

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