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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2008 - Part 3

December 2008 - part 2 <--- December 2008 - part 3 ---> January 2009 - part 1


December 31, 2008



Johnnie Walker Black Label, USA, 1989. Not too sure going 'back' to JWB would really mean good fortune in 2009 to us single malt guzzlers, but we've certainly had quite a few single malts that weren't as drinkable as this popular blend in recent years.

By the way, here's our own exclusive fortune cookie for 2009. Please just click on it!...



Bowmore 13 yo 1995/2008 (56.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #419, 627 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: starts as animal as a fairly young sherried Bowmore can get. Hare’s belly (readers keep asking us if we mean Halle Berry and we keep answering no!), old leather, pipe tobacco, strong liquorice, then new leather (very vivid), dried kelp, seashells, raw chocolate, cigar box, freshly ground pepper (huge) and dried mushrooms (boletus). Wonderfully organic, lovers of the genre will adore this one. With water (‘though water may not be needed): more leather and more game. Mouth (neat): extremely thick, rich, creamy, almost ‘screamingly’ concentrated. Heavy peat and heavy sherry, which creates a huge ‘sweet spiciness’. Gingerbread, crystallised oranges, tangerine liqueur, honey and pepper liqueur (it’s called Slavyanskaya in Russia), cardamom again, baklavas… How rich! With water: it got even spicier and drier, and more orangey at the same time. Strictly no offbeat notes and no sulphur/rubber, which isn’t too frequent with heavily sherried peaty whiskies. Finish: very long, orangey and leathery, with quite some salt now (more salt when naked, less when reduced). Comments: for lovers of strong sensations. I’d love to try this after twenty years of bottle ageing. SGP:467 - 90 points.
Bowmore 16 yo 1991/2008 (59.3%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Port finish, casks #15058/15059) Colour: gold. Nose: punchy, really candied, as if the peat was encapsulated in bitter oranges and ginger. Loads of caraway as well. No strawberries or blackcurrants so far. With water: here come the flowers (peonies, lilies) and Bowmore’s classic ‘coastal peatiness’. Still no straight winey fruitiness and that’s good news. Certainly not first fill Port! Much, much nicer with water. Mouth (neat): hot and pungent, but the profile is very nice. Peat, pepper and Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit bubblegum. Water is obligatory. With water: almost classic Bowmore now, with notes of violet sweets that may come either from the spirit or from the Port. Or from both. Blackberry jam, mild peat and soft spices. Finish: long, on pepper and Juicy Fruit again. Comments: good finished Bowmore (which means a lightly finished Bowmore ;-)) SGP:546 - 82 points.

It was in The Telegraph on July 18, 2008. Jack Priestly, a gentleman from Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire, celebrated his 100th birthday while claiming that ‘Since his first puff in 1917 he has smoked 153,000 cigars and 715,400 cigarettes and drunk a shot of whisky in his morning cup of tea every day since the age of 24.’ His mother-in-law got him hooked on whisky.

"She said the best thing for a woman is for her to drink whisky before she does anything, every day," he said. "I don't feel my age. I've still the mind of a young man. But if I had the company of a good woman, I'm sure I'd feel 40 years younger in a flash."
Now, we notice from the picture that the cigar (Cohiba?) is barely lit and that the bottle is unopened…

GOOD LAUGH on eBay Italy.

Painful price indeed...


MUSIC – Recommended listening: that's right, we had a lot of easy-easy music on WF in the past month, so time for a change... Why not Brazil's very excellent Arrigo Barnabé doing his Clara Crocodilo.mp3 (the Brazilian Frank Zappa? Or maybe the Brazilian Captain Beefheart? Both? Ornette?) Anyway, please buy his music.

Arrigo Barnabe

December 30, 2008



Caol Ila
Caol Ila 9 yo 1989/1998 (46%, Murray McDavid, Italy, cask #18/12) Murray McDavid were using different labels for Italy at the time. There was also an excellent old Macallan. Colour: white wine. Nose: a hugely buttery and kind of vegetal Caol Ila, with big notes of apple peels, white truffles, petrol, Swiss cheese, cut leaves (newly pruned privet) and metal and not much peat. Very unusual and probably flawed from a blender’s point of view, but most pleasant and interesting from an amateur’s. Mouth: wonderfully almondy and salty at the same time. The cheese is back as well (Comté, Edam), cold apple pie, kippers, walnuts… Gets then peatier and more candied (lemon pie). Very good, with some aspects remind us of ‘old’ Caol Ila (pre-1970s). Finish: medium long, still on apple and lemon pies. Peated marzipan (?) Comments: very, very good at just 9 years of age, but the nose may bother some drinkers – and really satisfy others. SGP:355 - 88 points.
Caol Ila 8yo 1998 (56.4%, Exclusive Malts, cask #8350, 329 bottles) From an ‘European cask’. Colour: straw. Nose: this is a much flintier version of Caol Ila, with a little more vanilla as well. Seawater, green apples, fresh almonds and fresh mint. ‘Pleasant’ plastic (brand new tennis shoes). Not a peat monster either. With water: gets much more organic, vegetal and even a little resinous. Fern, moss, pine needles, then ‘a bag of langoustines’, oysters… Caol Ila spends very little time on Islay (usually a few days) but this ‘coastalness’ is truly amazing. Mouth (neat): classic, excellent young Caol Ila. Fresh almonds, oysters (salt), fresh butter, crystallised lemons and just a little mint and liquorice. Simply very good. With water: more of the same, only rounder. Finish: long, clean and even saltier. Comments: sharp, straighforward, crystal-clear (and clean) young salty Caol Ila. A prototype. SGP:346 - 86 points.
Caol Ila 1996/2007 (56.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #12241) Colour: white wine. Nose: one of these ultra-clean sharp zingy Caol Ilas, close to peated grappa in a certain way (well). Big notes of plum spirit, lemon liqueur and liquorice wood, then fresh almonds and fresh putty. With water: more butter, more yeast and even more kern fruits spirit (plums, kirsch, sloe gin.) Then tons of cut grass. Mouth (neat): very good, compact, salty, almondy and lemony. Gooseberries. Simple but pretty perfect. With water: same, only saltier. Finish: long and even saltier. A lot of salt playing with your lips! Comments: there are many excellent young Caol Ilas available, this one is undoubtedly one of them. Saltier than others. SGP:346 - 85 points.
Cl1 (62.9%, Speciality Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2008) Colour: white wine. Nose: another ultra-clean, zesty, zingy young Caol Ila. A tad less fruity than the 1996 by BBR and a tad grassier and more phenolic (wet wool as well). Whiffs of diesel oil and antiseptic that reminds us more of Islay’s south shore. Baker’s yeast. With water: superbly mid-round, mid-wild. Hazelnut liqueur, shortbread… Wait, does peated Bailey’s exist? Did anybody already try to prepare an Alexandra (Alexander?) cocktail using a CS Islayer? Mouth (neat): what’s quite incredible is that one can sip this even at cask strength. It’s not even too hot, rather round (sort of), all on crystallised fruits and smoked, salted fish plus black pepper and horseradish (or wasabi). Sure it’s a little ‘bang’ but again, water isn’t obligatory. Yet, with water: once again, it’s a little ‘southshore-ish’. Rather huge notes of cinnamon cookies and cooked apples, the peat and the pepper remaining in the background a bit now. Finish: long, rather smoother and sweeter than expected. Apple liqueur again, salt, cough syrup and Haribo gummy bears (only hints, huh!) Comments: another very good young Caol Ila (quite complex considering its ‘possible’ young age, that is – maybe they threw an older cask into the vatting?) SGP:446 – 88 points.
Caol Ila 8 yo 'Unpeated' (64.9%, OB, bottled 2007) A virtually unpeated version of Caol Ila, also known as ‘Highland Caol Ila’ in the whisky trade. There had been a version in 2006 that was very good (83). Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely spirity. Apple peeling, fresh almonds, kirsch and paint thinner. Extremely aggressive but that’s the alcohol, no doubt. With water: exceptionally clean, fruity and straightforward. Apple liqueur with a little ginger powder and hints of cumin. Mouth (neat): extremely fruity and sweet (fructose), all on very big notes of lemon drops. No noticeable peat indeed. With water: sweet clean and uberfruity. Fresh pineapples and grapefruits plus grated ginger and just hints of coconut. Finish: medium long, clean, fruity, mildly spicy. ‘Maybe’ a little peat in the aftertaste. Comments: very good spirit no doubt but I’ll repeat what I wrote when I tried the 2006 version: ‘I hope we’ll be able to taste a much older ‘Unpeated Style’ Caol Ila one day.’ Yeah, I know, self-quoting is a sign of nascent senility. SGP:621 - 82 points.
Left, Ambassador 8 years old, 1975. 'The Ambassador. Among friends for the Holidays. Ambassador, Representing Scotch at its lightest.'
Right: Ferrero Rocher commercial.
Who started it first?


MUSIC – Recommended listening: Arthur Higelin aka Arthur H, son of the grand Jacques, does his hit Dancing with Madonna.mp3. Would she consent to that? Please buy Arthur H's music.

Arthur H

December 29, 2008

by Nick Morgan

The Troxy, London
November 29th 2008

This could be as far east as we’ve ever been for a gig, in this lavishly-converted 1930’s theatre of dreams for the slum-dwelling stevedores and dock labourers of the East End. It was rescued from bingo-hall dereliction a few years ago, but already looks a bad bet as its raison d’être is servicing the needs of corporate clients in nearby Canary Wharf – you know, the ones who’ve spent most of the holidays jumping from high windows at the thought of sending their third four-wheel drive back to the showroom. And frankly it’s not best fitted out for gigs – a carpeted mosh? Too few lavatories, a rather overcrowded and eventually unnerving exit, too many stewards not quite knowing what to do, and an inability to drop the house lights to an acceptable level. But thankfully the sound is pretty good, and Mr Cave and his Bad Seeds are on fire.

Nick Cave
If this year’s Hammersmith gig, the first outing of the new recession-proofed stripped-down Grinderman-inspired Bad Seeds sound that defines Dig Lazarus Dig was good, then this was even better. From opener ‘Hold on to yourself’ to the final encore ‘Stagger Lee’ it’s a relentless progression of uncompromising rock and roll of the highest order. And it’s very loud, not least due to the indefatigable fiddling and tinkering of Warren Ellis – “just how it’s supposed to be”, say one of our youthful companions. Not everything’s in full working shape – ‘Nature Boy’, sounding now as if it belongs to West Hampstead’s Railway Tavern back in 1975, is still “a work in progress”, and there’s little that isn’t given the treatment – including old songs like ‘Hard on for love’. But of course Mr Cave can still disarm everyone by dropping a wickedly funny ballad like ‘God is in the house’ into the middle of such a maelstrom. A 9+ gig if ever there was one. - Nick Morgan (photograph by Kate)
Listen: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' MySpace Page

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, December 1st 2008
Sandy Denny
It looks as ‘though the late Sandy Denny might eventually be about to get some of the recognition that she deserves, but somehow this retrospective evening doesn’t quite satisfy. There’s grumbling from the greybeards behind us, who were expecting a line-up of the great and the good, most of whom haven’t shown up. Instead we’ve got an array of young and largely impressive British talent, such as Mary Epworth, Jim Moray, Christina Donaghue and Johnny Flynn. The house band was made up of various members of Bellowhead, and Jerry Donaghue, who has just produced a very well-received album from the ‘lost’ tapes of Denny’s band Fotheringay. Dave Swarbrick nearly stole the show, and a painfully theatrical Marc Almond, with Baby Dee on harp and piano, didn’t. But at the end of it all there was something unsatisfactory here – Denny, with her complex songs and even more complex life, is an enigma that the evening did little to unravel.- Nick Morgan (photograph by Kate)
Listen: Mary Epworth's MySpace Page

Union Chapel, Islington, London, December 3rd 2008
Josh Rouse Post fish and chips it’s off to a very full and Christmasified Union Chapel for an almost solo Josh Rouse, who has a retrospective collection on the market for Christmas. Just slightly overweight, he looks like a junior professor at an American college – English Literature I would guess, probably specialising in Thomas Hardy. Never mind. He apparently doesn’t like being described as a ‘blue eyed soul singer’, but that’s what he is, and he does it very, very, well.
There are a few new songs, all inspired by his current sojourn in Valencia, but otherwise it’s ‘hit’ after ‘hit’, and the audience go really crazy, which is a little bemusing because it’s good, but not that good.- Nick Morgan (photograph by Kate)
Listen: Josh Rouse's MySpace Page

Hammersmith Apollo, London, December 15th 2008
There are few artists who can begin an almost-two-hour set with a brutally frank song about domestic violence (‘Last night I heard the screaming’) and manage to keep the attention of their audience, because believe me it didn’t get much happier than this. But the disarmingly self-effacing Ms Chapman somehow managed it, playing solo on guitars, and chatting at length in a fairly autobiographical fashion between songs. The singing was wonderful, the guitar effective, the songs mostly engaging and sadly pessimistic. But the weird thing was the audience – it was as though they’d been shipped in from a recording of a Bruce Forsyth TV Special, and yet Chapman’s material is hardly the stuff of which variety shows are made. “They’re all American” opined the Photographer, but I wasn’t so sure. - Nick Morgan
Listen: Tracy Chapman's MySpace Page

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, December 17th 2008
This show was put together and compered by Teddy Thompson as a benefit for Amnesty International, and was notable as it brought Teddy, sister Kami (she’s had an unfortunate Martha Wainwright makeover) and mum and dad Richard and Linda Thompson on stage together, a very rare sight indeed. Linda (whose only solo singing was from behind a curtain) and Teddy seemed to get very emotional about this, Kami was too busy doing her Martha stuff, and dad seemed to be suffering from mild jet lag. “Here’s a song I wrote on the plane on the way over” – it was called ‘The wrong presents’ – “I hope it’s ok. It sounded alright in my head”. They’re joined by a variety of luminaries who work their way through a variety of mostly seasonal songs. “I don’t know any Christmas songs” said an out-of-sorts Bert Jansch, who had earlier played ‘Anji’ as a tribute to Davy Graham whose death was announced the day before the gig. Glaswegian Brendan Campbell also struggled with his version of ‘Good King Wenceslas’, which was a shame as he was a most engaging singer and guitarist.
Thompson Family
Behind all the soloists was that house band to beat all house bands, led by Kate St John, and featuring Roger Eno on keyboards and David Coulter on guitars, mandolin and saw. Rachel Unthank and the Winterset sang a seasonal song from the North East of England which I’m sure was called ‘The Hexham shaggers’, whilst New York’s very camp Justin Bond sang a timely song called ‘The new depression’. The portly Chris Difford turned up with a song decrying seasonal excess – I think it might have been his Christmas single ‘Let’s not fight this Christmas’, whilst Teddy floated in and out with various performers (including Jenni Muldaur) and sang beautifully. Nor should I forget to mention human beatboxer Shlomo, whose medley of Christmas carols was to say the least surprising, and wonderfully joyful. Yes – it was a very pleasant evening.
Oh yes – and there’s a special Christmas song by Teddy & Co which you can download from you-know-where and make a donation to Amnesty – so if you still have any of that seasonal goodwill about you, you should go and have a look.- Nick Morgan (photograph by Kate)
Listen: Teddy Thompson's MySpace Page

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, December 21st 2008
The Blockheads Well it’s almost Christmas isn’t it – and it’s the last gig of a busy year, so why not indulge in a pure piece of seventies nostalgia? Not that the Blockheads would have it that way – almost half the songs they play are either from their last album ‘Where’s the party’, or their forthcoming ‘Looking down a barrel’. There’s not much to say about these tireless troubadours that you haven’t already heard. But I would say that from my vantage point I was astonished at the complexity of Johnny Turnbull’s guitar parts (and the ease with which he performed them, as he hadn’t looked entirely on top form in the Thai restaurant before the gig), and of course Norman Watt Roy’s bass playing – every song a solo. A perfectly satisfying way to end a year.- Nick Morgan (photograph by Kate)
Listen: The Blockheads' MySpace Page


Tomatin 22 yo 1962/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Colour: gold. Nose: typical old Tomatin, very fruity and rather light in style, even if this one does display these old Cadenheads’ house-style (but do IB display house styles? There’s an interesting debate on that very topic over at John Hansell’s excellent blog). Something slightly metallic and sooty, even just a tad soapy but it’s not the unpleasant kind of soapiness. Other than that there are notes green bananas and hints of grapefruits. Very nice nose but not quite one of these wham-bam fruity Tomatins. After fifteen minutes: more apples and fresh almonds. Mouth: old style, expressive but maybe lacking smoothness and fruitiness, at least considering it’s an old Tomatin. Apple peel, cinnamon, tea, marzipan and then a rather big saltiness, totally unexpected. Gets then also a little bitterish. Finish: medium long, a little fruitier but also more tannic and peppery. And always quite some salt. Comments: very good but not easy at all, maybe a tad ‘intellectual’. Oh well… SGP:371 – 85 points.
Tomatin 1967/2008 (49.3%, OB, Germany, refill butt, cask #17904, 463 bottles) This has just been bottled in November, for the German market only. Ausgezeichnet! Colour: pale gold. Nose: a little more presence than in the old Cadenhead’s but oddly enough, this one smells younger despite its 40 years of age. It’s still a rather discreet old Tomatin, with a little banana, gooseberries, something perfumy (roses, fragrant apples) and hints of aniseed (that grow then bigger and bigger). Dill, plum eau de vie, whiffs of fresh ‘green’ oak… And celery, lots of it. This one needs time, it’s all rather subtle. Mouth: we are not too far from the old Cadenhead here, but there’s even more oak, more tannins and more ‘greenness’. Walnut skin, grapefruit, a little ginger, hints of white peaches and then more spices. This one has got a lot of green oak (which isn’t as drying as, err, old drying oak.) Having said that, it’s not plankish. Finish: long and maybe better balanced and smoother, with enough fruits at this point to counterbalance the oakiness (bananas). Quite peppery as well and a little prickly and perfumy (cologne). Comments: another one that isn’t too easy, or maybe a tad too difficult for my tastes. But it’s certainly good old venerable malt whisky! SGP:471- 82 points.

December 27, 2008



Rosebank 1990/2008 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #605) Colour: pale gold. Nose: pretty nice, pleasantly lemony as expected but getting also a tad ‘chemical’ (faint hints of glue, burnt plastic). Cut apples and strawberries, ginger tonic, cloves… A bit difficult I think, and a tad soapy as well. I like a little austerity in Rosebank but this is very austere I think. Mouth: rather pleasant attack but the whole gets rather bitter, with unusual notes of juniper (genever), ginger tonic again, even salsify… And a little soap again (just a little). Kind of wonky if I may say so, but surely drinkable. Finish: medium long, a tad bitterish. Comments: I think this is a Rosebank that’s pretty shippable but not quite in the same very high league as most of BBR’s usual bottlings. Only my opinion of course! SGP:261 – 77 points.
Rosebank 16yo 1991/2008 (55.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #402, 249 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: well, this is the opposite of the 1990. It’s maybe quite as austere as the latter but the general profile is much cleaner, yet complex and rich, ranging from superb mineral notes to lemon and orange marmalades. Notes of lemon balm, fresh ginger, cardamom. Back to lemon after that (fresh juice). Great Rosebank that reminds me of some much older bottlings on the nose (the old official 20 CS for example). Mouth: creamy, zesty, superbly lemony and spicy. Unusual spices that is, with quite some cardamom again, fresh pepper, even something that may taste like truffles (or maybe not…), ginger and lemon marmalade… It’s a tad richer than a ‘usual’ Rosebank in fact. Finish: very long, very lemony and very spicy, remaining very warming. Comments: oops, even forgot to add water. A great Rosebank, rich, powerful and balanced, that reminds us that Lowlanders and Campbeltowners were sometimes considered as displaying the same profiles. Indeed, this one reminds me a bit of Springbank. Almost made it to 90. SGP:551 – 89 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's got something funky-poppish-psychedelic and it's full of samples, but the main reason why we're posting about this is the band's name: Linkwood family! The tune is called Piece of mind.mp3. Please buy these pople's music (aren't all malt freaks parts of the family?)

Linkwood family

December 24, 2008



Glenfarclas 1980/2008 (48.6%, OB, Christmas Edition, Port Pipes, casks #11067 & 11069, 780 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: starts on full orangey mode (marmalade, dried ones), with also a most pleasant flintiness. Gets then both fruitier (more small red fruits) and peppery (big whiffs of freshly ground black pepper), with also a little leather and tobacco. Keeps developing for a long time, getting then beautifully waxy and leafy. This one needs time, as it started rather simply but got then wonderful. Say 15 minutes min! Mouth: goody good attack, once again maybe not extremely complex but the combination of fruit jams and spices is most enjoyable. Peppered strawberries? Other than that we have, at random: ginger, cloves, blackberry jelly, Seville oranges, fresh walnuts, tea, other spices and herbs… Excellent. Finish: rather long, maybe a tad simpler and more on burnt fruits (raisins on a cake) but still excellent. Comments: a Christmas malt indeed! Great spirit, somewhat old style, to sip with some fruitcake, of course. SGP:652 - 90 points.
Glenfarclas 1980/2008 (50%, OB, Christmas Edition, Port Pipes, casks #11070 & 11071, 903 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: a little more discreet than its sister batch at first nosing. Less fruits but maybe a little more spices and herbs. Just like its sibling, it starts to really take off after quite some time, getting even more expressive but maybe a tad rougher, more ‘obvious’ and less elegant. Also more barbecue herbs (thyme first). Oh well, a great nose anyway, almost as entertaining. Mouth: the same things happens on the palate. This is very good but it’s a little less complex than the ’48.6%’. Plain fruit spirit (plums, cherries, berries) mixed with strong spices (cloves first, then pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg – classic) and chocolate plus mocha. Improves after a while, getting a little fresher and fruitier. More playful. Finish: same thing all over again, long and very nice but just a tad simpler than the ’48.6%’. Comments: another one that’s well in the spirit of Christmas! SGP:652 – 88 points.
Glenfarclas 1980/2003 (55%, OB, Christmas, cask #11051, 607 bottles) Colour: full amber. Nose: starts more obviously winey right away, on big notes of raisins as well as the same kind of flintiness as in the ’48.6%’. Develops towards plain wine notes, mostly along the ‘Madeira – yellow wine’ styles. Dry tobacco, leather, old spices. It’s as if it was a little tired but the palate will tell. Mouth: no it isn’t. It’s a rich and almost thick kind of sherry now, with a rather unusual twist, that is to say organic notes that one won’t usually find in sherried whiskies. Mostly mushroomy/moist notes… Also hints of cured ham. Otherwise it’s all prunes and fruit liqueurs and chocolates and coffee and toffee. A tad heavy actually, but very good. Finish: very long, spicier. Ginger and pepper over prunes. Comments: another excellent one, but less complex than the ‘Ports’. Water is not necessary (yes I tried), but don’t try to sing O Tannenbaum after three glasses of this. SGP:551 - 86 points.
Glenfarclas 1980/2002 (54.8%, OB, Christmas, cask #11047, 627 bottles) Colour: mahogany/coffee. Nose: full classic deep oloroso, in that sense very different from all former three. Chocolate, wine sauce, prunes, fresh parsley and lovage, coffee-schnapps (like when you just poured a few drops –right, spoonfuls- of Mirabellenbrand into your espresso – our German speaking friends will see what I mean – psst, we make the best ones in Elsass). This seems to be thick, let’s see what gives on the palate. Mouth: it’s rather hard to imagine a thicker and darker whisky but most funnily, it’s not exempt of a certain ‘playfulness’. But frankly, not even chocolate-coated dried fruits taste as much as chocolate-coated dried fruits as this Glenfarclas. You’ll almost need a (silver)spoon! Finish: as long and thick and heavy but smooth as you would imagine. Comments: right, why not try to add two or three drops of this to a glass of very dry champagne (Brut Zero, Nature and the likes)? It’s heavy whisky but Christmas can be heavy too, don’t you think? Amen! SGP:651 - 88 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: we need groovy, honky-tonky Christmas songs, don't we? Will Silent night.mp3 do? It's a 1989 version by the good Malcolm John Rebennack aka Dr John. Happy Christmas and please buy Dr John's music!

Dr John

December 23, 2008

Actually, we had planned to gather also the wines for this session, to check if each one’s main markers were to be found in the whiskies but we had to drop the idea because we weren’t sure about which vintage each barrique did contain… What, you don’t believe us? ;-) It is also to be noted that first growths (premiers crus) of Bordeaux are typically ‘aged’ for 18 to 20 months, exclusively in barriques (barrels) that are just a little larger than a bourbon barrel. They all use new French oak exclusively. That means that these barrels still contain huge amounts of oak components, and are usually reused either by ‘smaller’ châteaux, or for the second wines of each first growth. On the other hand, the wood usually comes from the best French forests and is cut from very old and ultra-tight trees, which means that they usually deliver much less, say ‘vulgar’, straight in your face plain oak and vanilla notes. We’ll give you an indication of the grape varieties that are used but proportions usually vary depending on the vintages.
By the way, here's a little map:
Bruichladdich 16 yo ‘First Growth – Cuvée A’ (46%, OB, ACEd in Château Lafite, Pauillac, 2008) Lafite’s true name is actually Lafite Rotschild (not to be confounded with the Rothschilds from Mouton Rothschild). 71% cabernet-sauvignon, 25% merlot, cabernet-franc 3%, petit verdot 1%. Aged for 18 to 20 months in 100% new French oak.
Colour: salmon. Nose: yes! It’s funny how this wood imparted kind of a flinty smokiness to the whisky, something that may even be defined as ‘notes of peat’. Other than that we have quite a pleasant combo of blackcurrants, fresh mint, used matches and maybe faint notes of rubber bands. The rubber vanishes after twenty minutes. After thirty minutes: more strawberry drops and leather, gets more vinous. Mouth: punchy, much less vinous but very spicy. A lot of pepper, tealeaves, this slight rubber again, blackcurrant buds, kirsch… Very little sweetness in this one, which may surprise some drinkers, especially after the attack. Finish: long and unexpectedly dry. Comments: is it possible to recognise Lafite, or even a Pauillac in this Bruichladdich? Well, not too sure, and I probably wouldn’t be able to anyway. But it’s an interesting whisky, with a huge difference between nose (rounder, sweeter) and palate (dry). Changes a lot within just minutes. SGP:362 – 79 points.
Bruichladdich 16 yo ‘First Growth – Cuvée B’ (46%, OB, ACEd in Château Latour, Pauillac, 2008) Latour: roughly 75% cabernet-sauvignon, 20% merlot, 4% cabernet-franc and 1% petit verdot. Aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is completely different, and it’s certainly not a Latour vs. Lafite thing. This is much more roasted, nutty, even kind of caramelly, with also big notes of figs, cappuccino and even bananas flambéed.
It does not smell like red wine-finished whisky at all, or let’s say not before quite a few minutes (when hints of blackcurrants start to come through). Refill casks? After thirty minutes: more leather and tobacco, not vinous at all, flinty. Mouth: very funny, whilst this one was less ‘exuberant’ on the nose, it’s now much more so on the palate. Crystallised fruits, plums, pepper, smoked tea and quite some tannins. ‘Assertive.’ Finish: long, quite dry again now, with a pleasant bitterness. Comments: one to pour your friends blind. Will they detect wine at all? It does not smell nor taste like red-wine aced whisky at all. SGP:461 – 84 points.
Bruichladdich 16 yo ‘First Growth – Cuvée C’ (46%, OB, ACEd in Château Margaux, Pauillac, 2008) Margaux: 71% cabernet-sauvignon, 25% merlot, cabernet-franc 3%, petit verdot 1%. Aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. Colour: salmon. Nose: we’re in the same style as the Lafite’s again at first nosing, this one getting then a little fruitier (strawberries) and fresher, almost youthful.
And again what may be mistaken for ‘a little peat’. The most ‘winey’ so far. After thirty minutes: more blood oranges, a bigger freshness. Got really nice. Clean. Mouth: rich, creamy, somewhere between the Latour and the Lafite. Much more spices from the wood (pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg) and even a little salt. Less winey than on the nose. Finish: long, peppery. Tealeaves. Comments: there sure is a lot of oak in there, and maybe a little less wine than in the Lafite. Too bad we have no Glenmorangie 1987 Margaux cask finish at hand, it would have been interesting to compare both. SGP:471 – 82 points.
Bruichladdich 16 yo ‘First Growth – Cuvée D’ (46%, OB, ACEd in Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, 2008) 55% cabernet-sauvignon, 25% merlot, 20% cabernet-franc. Aged for 22 months in 100% new French oak. Colour: salmon. Nose: we’re very, very close to the Latour now. Elegant and certainly not ‘winey’ as such, even a little austere and ‘reserved’. Gets then more expressive, more organic and sort of grassy than all its siblings.
Again, it’s a little more elegant as well (as the wine is, some may say.) After thirty minutes: more leather and orange peel. ‘Sherry’. Mouth: rich and creamy, almost same as the Margaux this time. A rather big oak, bitter oranges, pepper, a lot of cinnamon, cherry stem tea... Finish: long, very peppery now but not exactly tannic. Hints of mint. Comments: this is good. SGP:361 - 83 points.
Bruichladdich 16 yo ‘First Growth – Cuvée F’ (46%, OB, ACEd in Château Lafleur, Pomerol, 2008) Lafleur is not a first growth because Pomerol was never ‘classified’ in that way and the château is much smaller than Medoc’s first growths (say ten times smaller). Not to be confounded with the very stellar Lafleur-Pétrus, but Lafleur’s reputation is still very high. Roughly 50% cabernet franc, which is unusually high, and 50% merlot. Aged in 40% new oak, the rest in refill, which is unusual again at great châteaux. Still, high extraction and a profile that’s maybe half Pomerol, half Médoc.
Colour: pale salmon. Nose: one may have expected this to be the most exuberant but it’s not the case at all. Gentle, ‘freshly’ fruity (wild strawberries, ripe peaches) but globally discreet. Unexpected indeed. After thirty minutes: more wax and leather, linseed oil. Mouth: once again we’re very close to the other reds here, but the tannins are really getting ultra-big (almost green pepper!) They’re good quality tannins. Notes of cherry jam and strawberry liqueur in the background. Finish: long, more on liquorice, Szechuan pepper and peppercorn. Comments: did these casks see Lafleur once or twice? A very existential question, agreed. SGP:471 - 81 points.
Bruichladdich 16 yo ‘First Growth – Cuvée E’ (46%, OB, ACEd in Château d’Yquem, Sauternes, 2008) Right, we should have tried the Cuvée E before the Cuvée F but as Lafleur is a red and Yquem a sweet white, we thought it would be better to have the usually exuberant Sauternes last. Yquem: roughly 80% sémillon, 20% sauvignon. Aged for 3 years+ in 100% new French oak. Colour: gold.
Nose: we’re not far from the 15yo from the core range this time, with more apricots, Mirabelle plums and bananas. Maybe a little ‘easier’ than the ‘reds’. Mouth: rich, candied, balanced, with a full basket of bananas, pineapples, chamomile and soft spices (even if the oak is rather big again). Finish: long, with more oak and more pepper. Comments: my favourite. SGP:561 - 85 points.
Overall conclusion: are these whiskies different? Yes, but the Lafite, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Lafleur are quite close to each other. Yquem is clearly different and Latour seemingly came from casks that had been ‘treated’ differently before, although I couldn’t tell you how. Are all these wineskies good? Yes, except if you hate wine-finished whiskies, which is not our case even if they aren’t really our cup of tea, as some may know. Do the differences come from the previous contents? Most probably because the barrels that are used by all these great châteaux aren’t too different, even if different specs may be used (heating and such, specifically Tronçais vs. ‘just’ Allier, different barrelmakers and so on). Does using first growth casks make your bottling of whisky a first growth? Silly question, Serge! Is it possible to recognise the original château in the whisky? Well, maybe… To do that we’d have to organise a blind session and invite a few other wine geeks… Let’s think about that!
In the mean time, here’s our own brand new ‘Classement des Crus de Bordeaux’ ;-):
- 85 Yquem
- 84 Latour
- 83 Haut-Brion
- 82 Margaux
- 81 Lafleur
- 79 Lafite
And no, this isn’t over yet! One burning question may be ‘how do these wine-enhanced 16yos compare with a more ‘traditional’ version?’ Most luckily, Bruichladdich also recently issued a 16yo ‘bourbon’, so let’s just try this one too.
Bruichladdich 16 Bruichladdich 16 yo ‘Bourbon Cask’ (46%, OB, 2008) First matured in Jim Beam casks, and then ‘enhanced’ in first fill Buffalo Trace casks. Is that any more traditional than first fill red wine finishing? Colour: gold. Nose: fresh, crisp, clean, fruity and, best of news, moderately ‘vanillined’. A fruit salad (melons, peaches, apples and bananas) sweetened with vanilla sugar and spiced up with cinnamon and ginger – and finally sprinkled with just a few drops of old rum. 100% pleasure. Mouth: exactly the same flavours at the attack, then nicely counterbalanced with a little more pepper from the oak as well as a little more vanilla. Finish: sweet, soft, medium long. Leaves your mouth as fresh as a baby’s. Comments: a modern, easy, all-pleasure-no-fuss expression of Bruichladdich. But warning, it’s highly drinkable. SGP:531 - 85 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: Ottawa’s Kathleen Edwards singing Asking for flowers.mp3. Please buy her music.

Kathleen Edawrds
Christmas ideas for those who already have everything!

These marvellous handbag wine (or whisky!) carriers come from Australia (cellarbrate.com.au) and are meant to be used as gift packaging. They would probably attract many more female whisky buyers, wouldn't they? But would they repel men? Not sure...
"Honey, this is for you, merry Christmas! What do you say? Why would a bag maker brag about pure water running down a hill on the inner side of his bags? No idea, honest!"

December 22, 2008



Tullibardine 12 yo 1965/1977 (80° Proof, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label) Colour: gold. Nose: much less ‘dissonant’ or porridgy than several old versions of Tullibardine I could try, which means very classic, round, fruity and jammy. All on apricots, vanilla crème, quinces and honey. Had I tried this one blind, I would have put all my money on Balvenie. Maybe better than at Lehman Bros’, after all… Super nose! Mouth: absolutely perfect old Highland malt whisky, with everything it needs. Peat, pepper, wax, oranges, citrons, honey cake, walnuts and ginger, with a few salty touches and a slight mintiness. Simply perfect, even if much less ‘Balvenie’ than on the nose. Finish: as with many great whiskies, it gets a little bitter in the long finish, which forbids any ‘lazy/lumpish’ feeling. Comments: old style, good style. Perfect age, perfect bottle ageing, maximum pleasure. SGP:453 - 90 points.
Tullibardine 1973/2004 (49.2%, OB, cask #2517, 183 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: ah, now we have them, these ‘funny’ notes. Not too loud but there are small whiffs of cologne and new plastic, bread, butter and Vicks Vaporub (I know it’s ugly to quote brand names but at least we all know what we’re talking about, don’t we?) Gets then cleaner, more resinous and almondy, but the notes of Vicks get even bigger after that. Eucalyptus and porridge galore! Then it gets much, much quieter and almost silent after fifteen minutes or so. Bizarre… Mouth: much, much better now, and much closer to the old 1965, only rather oakier and more tannic. These heavy tannins go well with the resinous and grassy profile I must say. Good notes of crystallised lemon. It’s grassy old malt! Finish: long, very grassy and ‘walnutty’, with quite some salt. Hints of old wood in the aftertaste. Comments: I don’t quite know what to think of the nose but I enjoyed the palate despite its rather extreme austerity. Certainly not an all-round commercial malt! SGP:261 - 84 points.
Tullibardine 32 yo 1976/2008 (54.3%, OB for The Whisky Fair, light sherry, cask #3157, 177 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s funny when what can be seen as a flaw becomes an asset (I’m sorry, I’ll dare to say that it’s the same with some women – nah, go, shoot!) It’s certainly the case with this Tullibardine, as the notes of plastic, resin, porridge and oil are well here but they’re sort of encapsulated in a very elegant sherry of the refill type, which gives the whole great notes of bitter orange marmalade and even something remotely maritime. And once again, a little Vicks comes through. A perfect winter dram? Mouth: this is fun! Once again, some may claim that this isn’t ‘normal’ whisky and, agreed, it certainly isn’t, but the ‘flavours’ journey’ is worth it. Starts on orange blossom water, then orange marmalade and rose-flavoured Turkish delights (I swear I’m not making this up), then ginger tonic (a tad prickly I must say), then peppered strawberries, then quite some salt, then something like fried bacon, then cigarette tobacco, then strong liquorice… Well, this is what I’d call a big, entertaining whisky, even if it’s probably full of tiny, very forgivable flaws. Finish: long, with more salt and more woody tones. Comments: not academic at all, but great! (or hence great?) The fun alone is worth 5 point here. SGP:372 - 89 points.
Tullibardine 32 yo 1976/2008 (54.1%, OB for The Whisky Fair, dark sherry, cask #3155, 189 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: we’re really back to strangeland here, and this time it’s rather some ‘weird kinds of chocolaty notes’ that prevail. Extremely unusual, on something like olive-flavoured chocolate (never seen that) or even lavender-flavoured chocolate (seen that, they make some in Belgium). You may make that scented soap. There’s also notes of plastic (brand new car) and then ultra-huge whiffs of old wine cellar, old barrel, even wine vinegar and mushrooms. Definitely acetic but unlike any other whisky I could try. These slightly excessive notes do vanish a bit after a moment but that’s almost a shame. Once again, a lot of fun here! Mouth: big, coating, extremely salty, toffeeish and spicy (tandoori style). Less sherry as such (winey notes) but many more spices than on the nose. Right, I’ll spare you the full list. Finish: long, round, creamy, orangey/spicy/salty, which makes for a most unusual combo. And loads of salmiak (strong salted liquorice). Comments: the nose is seriously winey (mushroomy barrel), but once again, the whole is fun. Which one do we prefer, the ‘light’ or the ‘dark’ sherry? Both, Captain! but the light’s nose with the dark’s palate would have made for an even more perfect combination. But we all know that perfection can be boring, don’t we? SGP:462 - 89 points.
Christmas ideas for those who already have everything!

Even more good taste, this Shot Gun Pump that's available at budk.com. Blurb: "Pump up your favorite drink and fire the Wild West style pistol at will. Holster holds your pistol between “shoot outs”. Fits most liquor, wine, and other spirit bottles. Bottle and liquor not included."
I'm speechless (who said good news?)


MUSIC – Recommended listening: just for fun, Frankie Smith and his bombastic Double Dutch blues.mp3, recorded in 1981. Please buy Frankie Smith’s music.

Frankie Smith

December 20, 2008

Kramer on Scotch, we just can't have enough of this! Now, this may work with 'Hennigan's' but it won't work with Ardbeg or Laphroaig, will it? Xmas tips: you may even buy Hennigan T-shirts at Kaptain Myke's. And of course the Seinfeld DVDs... But no Hennigan's Scotch because that was a fictionnal brand. A pity?
PS: sorry about the Portuguese subtitles ;-).
Update: we got many reactions from Sweden, telling us that it's not Portuguese. We stand corrected, it's Croatian!

December 19, 2008

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, November 26th 2008
(SPECIAL WARNING - As Kate, WF's excellent London-based photographer (aka The Photographer), didn't provide us with any photographs at all, we're afraid we were obliged to hand-pick two or three ourselves. - Ed.)
It’s the thirtieth anniversary of Rough Trade (Records that is, not the shops of the same name) which despite its slightly chequered history remains one of the most influential independent labels in the UK, with a hall of fame that includes artistes as diverse as Aztec Camera, The Smiths, Pere Ubu, Subway Sect, British Sea Power and Robert Wyatt. And of course Whiskyfun favourite and Francophile Jarvis Cocker, who’s been on the road with his ‘Looking Rough at Thirty’ tour. Kitty
Jarvis writes: “Rough Trade has always been about discovering the new, exploring the unknown & giving a voice to those who would otherwise remain unheard. And they’re still doing it 30 years on. This is no dewy-eyed nostalgia trip – it’s an on-going revolution. Stand up & be counted! (Actually, comfortable seating IS available in most of the venues – should you require it)”. Not quite true. We’re crammed into the back of the standing area at the Shepherds Bush Empire, with a very happy crowd of sardines, the Photographer not even able to reach the camera, let alone get a picture. At one point she does manage a glimpse of Mr Cocker’s knee, and possibly his long socks.
Eiffel Jarvis is here with some new band members, some new songs, and a new, leaner, stripped-down sound, as is becoming fashionable in these recessionary times (how, I wonder, might bands like Radiohead fare in these less extravagant times, when ‘back to basics’ may become the musical rule once more?). He’s also got a projector and some Powerpoint slides. Looking like a comprehensive school art teacher, with beard and shambolic suit, he gives us a short lecture early in the set on the history of the Bush, from Music Hall via BBC Studio to its current use. Later he returns to the subject of Rough Trade, but it’s not the label that is his focus but rather the shop, which leads him into a discourse on retailing, the credit crunch, and of course our new Westfield Shopping Centre, a gigantic cathedral to Mamon which has just opened round the corner, with valet parking and – wait for it – ‘deluxe dining’. For Jarvis fans these apparently rambling interludes, which are often very cleverly constructed segues (as they say in Italy) into the next song (although pity the poor drummer who missed his cue), are just as important as the music – few artists are indulged quite as much by their audience as Mr Cocker.
But the songs aren’t bad. From the eponymous Jarvis we’re given (as I recall) ‘Don’t let him waste your time’, ‘Fat children’, ‘Big Julie’, ‘Tonite’ and a rousing ‘Cunts are still ruling the world’ – everyone seemed to know the words to that one. The new songs would all fall into the category of ‘promising’ – some much more so than others. But we enjoyed ‘Caucasian Blues’, ‘Never told you’, ‘Further complications’, ‘I’m not deep I’m profoundly shallow’, ‘Girls like it too’ and ‘A fucking song’, the content of which should be self-explanatory – well, more or less. There’s a new album here – more or less – which promises to be very good and probably much in tune with the moment of 2009. Whether or not the Shaft meets Barry White finale, ‘I don’t want to loose you’ makes the cut remains to be seen (the Yorkshire accent isn’t somehow quite as persuasive as the late Isaac Hayes’ Memphis drawl). But it seemed to work on the night, as live concert gave way to discothèque (remember those Serge?) for those who wanted to celebrate the birthday long into the night.

Now you’ll remember what a considerate performer Mr Cocker is. Time was when he’d happily share his cigarettes with the audience, in the absence of which he was happy to hand round his glass of ‘medicinal’ Scotch. But in between sips I managed to ask him my burning question of the night: “What should I buy my mum for Christmas, Jarvis?”. I should have guessed the answer. “Black Magic, yeah yeah yeah!” - Nick Morgan

Listen: Jarvis Cocker's MySpace page


Christmas malt cocktails

Cocktail #4:
"Celtic and Exotic"

Pour into a shaker, with ice:
- 6 cl Celtic Connexion Sauternes finish
- 1,5 cl exotic liqueur (mango, passion fruit, banana,...)
- 3 cl pineapple juice
- 1,5 cl lime juice
- a few pinches of ginger in powder
Shake and strain into a beautiful wine glass of your choice.
Deco: a stick with slices of various tropical fruits.
You should propose this cocktail around a "festive cocktail party" featuring for instance foie gras toasts. Please do one or two tries before to achieve proportions that suit you best, between strength, sweetness/acidity...
This could also be the base of a punch. You will just have to multiply the quantities, to add more tropical fruits, cinamon sticks, spices of your choice... and let the whole rest in the cold for 24/48h before serving.
Variants: Add 1 or 2cl of white 'Floc de Gascogne' for a more unusual taste. You may also s
ubstitute the whisky with another white sweet wine-finished single malt " (such as Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or, Benriach Sauternes, some Bruichladdies and so on). 

Glen Elgin


Glen Elgin 32 yo 1976/2008 'Green Elgin' (40.8%, The Whisky Exchange, cask #5443, 215 bottles) Cask type: unknown – that’s what’s written on the label! Colour: pale gold with light green hues indeed. Nose: very alive and fruity at first nosing, maybe more ‘Ordish’ than ‘Elginesque’ (!!!). Very nice notes of crushed bananas and coconut butter, which may suggest an ex-rum cask. Also nougat, white chocolate, roses… Loses a bit of steam after a moment, getting a little more vegetal (green tea) but the notes of coconuts are still there. Also ‘old strawberry liqueur’, Parma violet, Beaujolais wine. Mouth: soft but not shy, very coherent with the nose. Barley sugar, grated coconut, dried bananas, milk chocolate, cider apples… Notes of mint flavoured tea, then more oak (cinnamon, nutmeg) and various dried herbs. Finish: not too long but clean, ‘softly’ spicy and fruity. Comments: a great profile, complex and entertaining (and intriguing) but the whole lacks maybe a little oomph. In short, excellent but too bad this one doesn’t go to eleven! SGP:641 – 87 points.
Glen Elgin 1971/1985 (50%, Samaroli, White Label w. Distillery drawing, 75cl) Let’s see if this one is a great as the famous 1971 ‘Fragments’ that was to be bottled three years later (91). Colour: white wine. Nose: this smells exactly like when you’re entering a genuine Chinese restaurant – no kidding. A most unusual mix of soft spices and herbs (coriander, green pepper, lovage) and sweet and sour tones (plum sauce, red sauce for dim sum – can’t remember the name, and dried longans). Even roasted duck! Goes on with ham, slightly stale orange juice, blackberries, gingerbread. Slight soapiness. Extremely unusual whisky. Mouth: we’re a little closer to the 1976 now, but with a bigger body. Dried fruits, sweet spices, a little ginger, lemon, a little mint… A little prickly, alas (lemon peel). Hints of coconut liqueur. Finish: long, candied. Crystallised quinces, cinnamon. Comments: bigger than the 1976 but also a little less complex and entertaining in fact. SGP:551 – 86 points.
And also Glen Elgin 1968/2005 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice) Nose; quite close to the official 12 in style. Caramel, toffee, malt, Seville oranges and chocolate liqueur. Mouth: rather dry now, concentrated, tannic, developing on liquorice allsorts and blackcurrant jelly. Toffee. Long and slightly astringent finish. Blackcurrant leaves. Great but not the finish. SGP:361 – 86 points.
Christmas ideas for those who already have everything!

If you're trying to date a French girl (or boy for that matter) and think that letting her/him think that you're drinking Cognac whilst you can't stand anything but whisk(e)y, why not buy this new bottle of Crown Royal 'XR'? She/he'll need pretty good eyes to be able to read either 'Crown Royal' or, even smaller, 'whisky'.
Now, to be honest, this isn't a sure bet because French people don't care for cognac anymore, and prefer whisky, by far. Which is a shame, of course.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: a very, very sweet little song called The birds don't care.mp3 by Anna Ash and the Family Tree (they're from Ann Harbour, Michigan). It seems that they're unsigned at this moment, which is a shame.

Anna Ash

December 18, 2008



Talisker 16 yo 1970/1986 (53.1%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s maybe a tad ‘silently monolithic’ at very first sniffing, and it certainly takes its time to unfold, but then it gets totally great albeit still a little monolithic, in the sense that it’s really a magnificent whole rather than a composition with various aromas (gibberish alert!) Let’s simply say ‘smoked almond and quince jam’. The rest is exactly as one would have expected (sea air, pepper, oils, camphor, oxtail soup and herbs.) Highest grade. With water: more leather (not of the feinty kind), more tea, more ham, more wax polish, more, more, more… Mouth (neat): amazing. Astoundingly compact and complex, an embodiment of ‘coherence’ as far as malt whisky is concerned. Please don’t call the anti-maltoporn brigade yet… With water: please call them now. Finish: no comments. Comments: the only problem is that ‘average’ malt drinkers such as us have to down at least 1,000 other malts before we ‘may’ come across such a legendary bottling. Except, of course, if a good friend tipped us the wink about it before. Enormous. SGP:656 - 96 points.
Talisker 25 yo (58.1%, OB, refill casks, bottled 2007, 6894 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: on the one hand, this is more brutal and more peppery than the 1970, but on the other hand, it’s more honeyed and candied as well. Unexpected notes of strawberry jam, the general profile being seemingly rounder and fruitier than both the previous and the 2008 versions of the Talisker 25. Other than that we do have the traditional notes of pepper, seashells and apples, with a great beefiness (bouillon as well) and quite some almonds just like in the 1970. With water: yes it works very well! We’re getting closer to the 1970 now. More flowery notes, not so usual in Talisker (yellow flowers, nectar). Camphor and eucalyptus. Fantastic. Mouth (neat): I had thought that despite its very high profile, this one would be in trouble after the legendary 1970 but it’s not the case at all. Sure this is a little less ‘beautifully mingled’ and a little rougher but otherwise it’s a very rich, fruity, spicy and wonderfully oaky Talisker. It’s just a tad too powerful when neat, so let’s see what happens with water. With water: works well, the profile doesn’t change much (maybe a little more salt and more crystallised lemon) but it got more, say ‘drinkable’s. Finish: long, balanced, rich and very, very ‘Talisker’. Comments: a big, big dram but not lacking complexity, maybe thanks to the refill casks. SGP:546 – 92 points.
And also Talisker 1957 (51.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, old Cask label, early 1980s) Nose: extraordinarily meaty and as smoky as the inside of a coal stove. Also parsley, herb sauce, chlorophyll, fried foie gras (not joking), meat sauce… Truly emphatic. Mouth: maybe more classic but big, powerful, very medicinal, resinous, tarry and smoky. Say, a 1968 Norton Commando ;-). Sake, liquorice and crystallised lemon. A lot of salt in the finish. Comments: not that we had dozens but 1957 was a great vintage at Talisker. SGP:266 – 94 points. (And thank you Heinz) Talisker
Christmas ideas for those who already have everything!

Want to make your own whisky in 2009 and become the next Jim McEwan? Easy, for $339.00 (you save $10 - hurray!) you can order this 30-litres milk can moonshine still at milehidistilling.com. Comes with gasket, clamp, thermometre, bung, hoses and column packing but 'not the girl' (so silly, S.!)
And btw, no you can't just distil milk, you have to brew something, or let something ferment before you can extract any alcohol.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: a beautiful instrumental by Angolan superstar Bonga, called Ghinawa.mp3. It was on his second LP, Angola 1974 and Guinean blower Jo Maka is on sax. Please buy the great master’s music and support African music!


December 17, 2008

by Nick Morgan


Hammersmith Apollo, London,
November 22nd 2008

We shouldn’t be here. No disrespect to National Treasure Lemmy (“Good evening. We are Motörhead and we’re gonna play some rock and roll”), but we shouldn’t be here. As Lars and Klars, two heavy metal hounds from Helgeland, high five in front of us at the start of every song, turning in an impressive imitation of comedian Harry Enfield’s Kevin and Perry, the Photographer slumps further into her seat, ear-plugs firmly in place.

I’m getting a bit worried about the extra-large lairy largered-up leather-jacketed market traders behind us, who are beginning to act as though this might be a BNP rally rather than a rock concert. And there’s a recession on. People of our age should be at home enjoying a special-offer Marks and Spencer meal for two (free bottle of wine) and watching television, apparently a programme called Strictly Come Dancing, rather than enduring ear-splitting nut-grinding nostalgia.
Maybe Goethe was right – “See Motörhead and die”. Because it certainly seems that whilst once was a pleasurable novelty, twice (unless you’re down in the mosh, stripped to the waist, dripping with perspiration and beer, and lurching, shoving and pushing like a mad thing, clearly intent on not living forever) is an unfortunate surfeit. So I’m going to erase this one from my memory, and simply keep happier impressions of the gig at Brixton a few years ago. Although I should add that we were hugely entertained (‘though I’m not sure we were supposed to be) by support act Saxon, led by gnarled veteran Biff Byford. With their equally unreformed take on Sheffield Metal with songs like ‘Wheels of steel’, ‘Witchfinder General’ and ‘Denim and leather’ they were very, very, Spinal Tap.
So that’s it. ‘You win some, lose some, it's all the same to me’, as they say. An early finish for us and back home in time for shortbread and cocoa. And a special Motörhead Christmas gift? Some earplugs of course! - Nick Morgan (poloroids by Kate)
Listen: Mötorhead's MySpace page


Macallan 17 yo 1991/2008 (46%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection, First Fill Sherry Butt) Colour: gold. Nose: starts very sweet and very fruity, with a lot of apple juice, apple pie and vanilla custard. Nice wood, a little gingery. Notes of warm cider and beer, slight yeastiness (porridge and yoghurt). Very ‘natural’ and organic. Farmyard. Mouth: sweet, soft, caramelly, roasted, very malty at the attack, getting then a tad grassier. Strong tea, strawberry syrup, bubblegum (hints). Good spiciness as well, but also a slight ‘kirschiness’. Finish: rather long, natural, a tad drier now. More oak. Comments: a good, rather natural Macallan, nicely fruity, vanilled and gingery, with more oomph than most current OBs. SGP:431 – 83 points.
Macallan 20 yo 1988/2008 (46%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Sherry Butt, cask #5809) Colour: gold. Nose: very similar profile, with maybe even more cut apples and very ripe pears. Whiffs of old barrel, wet wood. Even more pears coming through (hot pear pie straight from the oven). Hints of old roses, patchouli and litchis (gewürztraminer?) Mouth: once again, this is extremely close to the 1991. Just a little more wood, maybe a tad prickly because of that. More ginger and pepper, hints of orange marmalade. Finish: long, fruity and peppery, with notes of kirsch once again and a little more candy sugar as well. Rum. Comments: same league as the Hart Bros. SGP:441 – 83 points.
Macallan 19 yo 1988/2008 (54.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, Germany, sherry cask #8423) Colour: gold. Nose: same as the Wilson & Morgan, only more powerful. Please read above. With water: Mouth (neat): exactly like the W&M but at cask strength, with a bigger sweetness from the alcohol. With water: same whisky indeed. Maybe a tad less rummy/candied – maybe not. Finish: long and, once again, very similar. Comments: same parametering, same whiskies. SGP:441 – 83 points.
And also Macallan 15 yo ‘Fine Oak’ (43%, OB, +/-2008) Nose: rather malty but discreet, developing a little more then, on overripe apples and oak sawdust. Hints of orange peel and apple peeling. Mouth: much more expressive, compact, fruity and nervous. Strawberry pie, coconut milk and Turkish delights. Also hints of ripe kiwis. Much more interesting on the palate than on the nose. A little more mundane than the indies. 79 points.

December 16, 2008

I had hoped this would remain ‘secret’ but as some Malt Maniacs just noticed it and started to ‘chat’ about it, I now have to confess that indeed, I recently scored my 5,000th whisky. But truth is that I don’t quite know which one was #5,000, so I decided that it would be the old Clynelish 12yo for the US, for which I published my notes on December 8. Why? Because it’s rare (even the font that’s been used for the distillery’s name is unusual – and no it’s not a fake), because it’s extremely good and because I think it’s the epitome of ‘old style’ Highland malt whisky, a style that I cherish but that just doesn’t exist anymore to my knwoledge. Pure magic! But okay, let’s move on…


Bunnahabhain 16 yo 1985/2001 (54.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #10.51) Colour: amber. Nose: a big, big sherry! Rich, thick, loaded with raisins, orange marmalade, tobacco and meat sauce. Not really complex but perfectly balanced and without any sulphury notes. Ultra-clean sherry, no water needed despite the high strength. Mouth: yummy sherry, once again perfectly balanced. It’s even a little more complex than on the nose, with funny touches of salt right from the attack. Perfect notes of chocolate, coffee, liquorice, figs, oranges, raspberry liqueur, dates and café latte. Finish: long, exactly in the same vein. Comments: not the most complex sherry monster but 100% pleasure, without any off-notes whatsoever. Only problem, this is dangerously drinkable (and probably hard to find). SGP:732 - 90 points.
Bunnahabhain 31 yo 1976/2008 (46.5%, Jack Wieber, Old Train Line, refill sherry, cask #3128, 324 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this one if a fresh, fruity, natural and clean version of Bunnahabhain. Orange scented candles, cut apples and melons, bergamot flavoured tea… It’s also rather flowery (violets and lilies of the valley), with hints of wildness in the background (forest, wet herbs, wet farmyard) and just faint whiffs of coal smoke. The whole is very delicate, rather complex and sort of introspective. Intellectual? Mouth: once again, this one isn’t an extravagant bunny at all. Sure it’s a little more ‘directly’ fruity than on the nose, and more ‘directly’ expressive as well, but it needs quite some time to unfold and to display its numerous layers: fresh fruits, then soft spices, then various herbal teas and finally very pleasant phenolic hints (oils, resins). And then we’re back on fresh fruits (peaches and bananas). Finish: rather long, a tad grassier and oakier now, with salty touches again. Comments: exactly the opposite of the 1985. This one needs time but then it offers a very entertaining journey. SGP:641 – 89 points. (And thank you Herbert)


MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's pay homage to the wonderful late Lebanese-Colombian vocalist Soraya with her beautiful rendition of Ryuichi Sakamoto's famous Tango.mp3. And please, please buy Soraya's music!


December 15, 2008



The new Monitor now displays no less than 36,183 ratings for 11,744 different whiskies. You may download it here.
Heartfelt thanks to MM's Luca for his tremendous work and to all the other scorers.



As we get it 8 yo (58%, Ian Macleod, 2008) ‘Notoriously Laphroaig’ Colour: white wine. Nose: punchy, very straightforward and extremely smoky. Notes of tar, new tyres, bicycle inner tube and used gunpowder (used cartridge). Very spectacular and not especially medicinal so far. With water: it got extremely wild and, indeed, medicinal and maritime. A hospital near the ocean. Hints of fresh almonds, wet fabric, ‘a plate of seashells’. Mouth (neat): big, big stuff, almost aggressive I must say. Loads of peat, salt and pepper, maybe just a tad too spirity at this point. With water: a little sweeter now, with notes of strawberries and raspberries coming through. Big smokiness, still. Finish: long, very clean, all on smoke and also lemony touches. Very, very ‘alive’. Comments: SGP:348 – 87 points.
LP1 (58.8%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2008, 50cl) Nice bottle with a trendy minimalist/chemical design. Colour: straw. Nose: less extreme, a little more on wood smoke and antiseptic at first nosing, with also a little more fruits (mostly ripe apples) but gets then almost as smoky, sooty and tarry as the ‘As we get it’. Very similar as a matter of fact. With water: the resemblance with the ‘AWGI’ got even bigger. Same brilliant whisky, please read above (S., you lazy old bean!) Mouth (neat): as powerful as the ‘AWGI’ but a little more complex and certainly more medicinal. Huge spicy notes (pepper galore) and an immense ‘tarry’ peatiness. Salmiak. Rather extreme, a true Peat Monster. With water: now it got clearly different from the AWGI. Earthier and rootier (liquorice wood). Hints of gentian and marzipan mixed with a little honeydew (note to self: have to try that one day). Finish: as long as a job done using MS Excel 2008 for Mac. Comments: classic young Laphroaig from the best cuvees. SGP:348 - 88 points.
Laphroaig 18 yo 1989/2008 (53.7%, SMWS #29.66, 'Maritime and sweet') Colour: gold amber. Nose: more maturity and complexity here but we’re well in the same family. Very interesting combination of an almost brutal peatiness with big notes of vanilla fudge and even bigger notes of pu-erh tea. Sherry. Quite some gunpowder as well, bicycle inner tube again, notes of old rum, candy sugar… Very big Laphroaig, very expressive. With water: at full speed on wet tobacco, leather polish, dried figs and grilled bacon now. A lot of bacon actually! Mouth (neat): thick, concentrated, pleasantly rubbery, with a heavy liquorice mixed with mocha and both milk and bitter chocolates. Notes of orange marmalade as well. With water: now it’s close to perfection. Ultra-perfect balance between the trademark wildness and a, err, perfect creaminess brought by the wood. Liquorice. Finish: long, lingering, peaty, earthy yet round (toffee). Comments: brilliant middle-aged Laphroaig from a very active cask. Very opulent but never cloying. SGP:548 - 91 points. (And thank you Marcel).
Laphroaig 21 yo (53.4%, OB for Heathrow Terminal 5, 750 bottles, 2008) Assembled out of 9 casks, so we guess that not all the casks’ content has been used here. Colour: gold. Nose: very expressive again but rather more polished and fruity than its three siblings. Beautiful notes of quinces and passion fruits topped with fresh crushed mint leaves, then more camphor and eucalyptus before it gets hugely maritime. Seaweed, sea air, sea water... Some delicate toffee notes as well. Mucho brilliant so far, with hints of the very old 10yos that were bottle thirty years ago or even before. With water: really exceptional now. More resinous (superb) and rounded (vanillin), with also more soft spices (ginger, Indian sauce). Hints of new oak, maybe there was some fresh bourbon involved. Mouth (neat): wonderful attack, big but not aggressive, very ‘wide’ – it does ‘the peacock’s tail’ right from the start. Goes into many consecutive directions (if you see what I mean), with leathery/earthy tones, classic peat, spices (cloves and pepper), salt and bitter oranges, juicy fruits (tangerines, mangos). Then the whole medicinal shebang. Wow. With water: it got marvellously zestier, almost lemony, candied yet very phenolic in the background. Finish: very long, softer now but truly multidimensional, even if there are some faint notes of fresh oak again. Comments: just perfect. Going through Heathrow’s infamous Terminal 5 had to offer compensations I guess, but we’re asking for more of this for Charles de Gaulle and Orly as well (no we won’t start a Facebook group), and ‘maybe’ other airports ;-). SGP:557 – 92 points. (And thank you Alexandre and Guillaume Laudic from Beijin)
Dec 16 update: both Geert and Marcel confirmed that there were also 1427 75cl bottles made for the US, which, with the Heathrow edition, makes for the 9 casks. The US version is cheaper: $325 instead of £299 at Heathrow and, as Geert pointed out, it includes a free 5cl dram ;-) Laphroaig US

STEPHANE THE MAD MALT MIXOLOGIST proposes his Christmas malt cocktails

Cocktail #3:
"X-mas G.G.B."

Pour into a shaker, with ice:
- 6 cl young Glenrothes (e.g. 1992/05, or Select)
- 2 cl ginger liqueur
- 1,5 cl triple sec (Combier, Cointreau...)
- 1 cl lime juice
- 1 cinamon stick

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass, onto the cinamon stick.
Add a pinch of powdered ginger
Deco: one orange slice.
Fun: the cinamon stick may also be used as an original and tasty straw!
This cocktail reminds me of gingerbread (hence its name) and should be very tasty at the end of a Christmas dinner, with some sweet and/or spicy dessert...

Christmas ideas for those who already have everything!

A foldable stemware dryer. This is serious stuff and holds up to 8 glasses.
Price: $24.95. Available at wineenthusiast.com.
WF tip: does not work with tumblers or Glencairns but may work as a TV aerial.
You may also have a look at this 'StemGrip Dishwasher Wine Glass Rack'.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: Nick points this very nice - albeit unusually a propos - version of Jingle bells.mp3 by the very idiosynchratic Johnny Dowd out to us. Please buy Johnny Dowd's music!


December 2008 - part 2 <--- December 2008 - part 3 ---> January 2009 - part 1

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



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

Bowmore 13 yo 1995/2008 (56.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #419, 627 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 16 yo 1985/2001 (54.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #10.51)

Glenfarclas 1980/2008 (48.6%, OB, Christmas Edition, Port Pipes, casks #11067 & 11069, 780 bottles)

Laphroaig 18 yo 1989/2008 (53.7%, SMWS #29.66, 'Maritime and sweet')

Laphroaig 21 yo (53.4%, OB for Heathrow Terminal 5, 750 bottles, 2008)

Talisker 1957 (51.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, old Cask label, early 1980s)

Talisker 16 yo 1970/1986 (53.1%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade)

Talisker 25 yo (58.1%, OB, refill casks, bottled 2007, 6894 bottles)

Tullibardine 12 yo 1965/1977 (80° Proof, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label)