(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2010 - Part 2

December 2010 - part 1 <--- December 2010 - part 2 ---> January 2011 - part 1


December 31, 2010



The Malternative Week, two old Calvados

I believe it’s the first time we’ll review some Calvados on WF, I hope not too many readers will find that a tad too, well, alternative, especially since these won’t be just any Calvados. But what should I tell you about Calvados? Well, they’re distilled from apple and/or pear ciders and, just like Scotch, became fashionable after Phylloxera Vastatrix had devastated Cognac’s vineyards.


The appellation covers the Calvados department (clever) as well as parts of Orne and Manche, all in Normandy. The apples and pears must be of defined ‘cider’ varieties. Within Calvados, there are smaller, higher-end regions such as Pays d’Auge and Domfrontais, which we’ll both have now…

Calvados Pays d'Auge Christian Drouin 1970 (42%, OB, finished in Porto et Xérès casks, +/-2010) Four starsIn French, Porto means Port and Xérès means sherry. In Pays d’Auge and by law, the ciders must be fermented for a minimum of six weeks, which imposes a slow process. As we very well know because it’s the same with whisky, slower fermentations mean subtler and more numerous aromas. Guillaume Drouin, grandson of the founder, is a young, very passionate and very skilled maker (he’s also an oenologist!) Colour: amber. Nose: right, Calvados are usually much more aromatic than whisky, almost as aromatic as rum in my (very short) experience, and this one is no exception. Starts on overripe apples, which might be normal, with also whiffs of roses and iris plus a little fresh butter and sultanas. There are some very soft spices behind all that, touches of cinnamon, leather… And just a little sherry (redcurrants, prunes). The Port is almost unnoticeable, which isn’t bad news in my opinion. I’m no Calvados expert at all but I enjoy this nose – but you have to like ‘appleness’, I suppose. Mouth: I think Calvados is often a tad acrid or raw when compared with cognac or malt and this one is no exception, but this rustic simplicity is most enjoyable and very easy (again, provided you like apples). There’s quite some chocolate, grapes, a little fudge, mulberries and quite some cinnamon. The body is rather big at just 42%. Finish: not too long, slightly grapey, with a warming oakiness (S., since when is oak warming unless you burn it?) Slightly earthy aftertaste. Comments: please take my score for what it is, the opinion of a whisky enthusiast on another spirit he knows next to nothing about. In short, it means almost nothing (who said as usual, who?!) SGP:750 - 85-ish points.

Calvados du Domfrontais Lemorton 1926 (40%, OB, +/-2000) Four stars So this is an old Domfontais, which means that by law, at least 30% pears must have been used, and that the orchards themselves must be planted with a minimum of 25% pear trees. All Domfrontais must have spent at least three years in oak casks, just like Scotch. The house Lemorton uses approx 70% pears instead of just 30%, although I’m not 100% sure they were already doing that back in 1926. It’s said that some of their pear trees are so old that they are twenty metres high. By the way, this 1926 Lemorton will cost you approx 150 times less than a Macallan 1926 (a former most expensive whisky in the world, with a measly 58,000 US dollars back in 2008). I’m not too sure when this Domfrontais was poured out of the casks but what’s sure is that it was sold around 2000. Maybe it was kept in demijohns in some sort of paradise, or maybe it’s around 75 years old indeed? Let’s try it…  Colour: deep gold (paler than the 1970). Nose: it’s rather more discreet than the Pays d’Auge, even if pears are said to be ‘louder’ than apples in Calvados, but it’s amazing how the original ingredients remain ‘big’ in such an old spirit. Yes, apples and pears, then sultanas again, warm brioche, quite some incense and sandalwood, these floral notes again (maybe more peonies here) and finally a little camphor and pinesap, which happens very often if very old golden spirits as we all know. Also hints of plain sugar – but I doubt they would have added any, would they! Oh, and unexpected whiffs of youthful muscat wine! Amazing how playful this old glory is… Mouth: there’s more oak than in the Drouin, which was expected, and more notes of apple peelings and other dry flavours (tea, wood, green walnuts, fino). In fact, it starts more austere but then it bursts into many tiny fruity aromas, apple and pears of course but also green bananas, blackcurrants, mangos, kiwis… And once again quite some cinnamon (is that a marker of Calavados?) In short, this is unexpectedly fruitful and nothing like drying or bitter. Finish: surprisingly long, on more or less the same flavours and maybe something slightly flinty, with only a marginally drying oakiness in the aftertaste. That’s right, cinnamon again. Comments: yes it’s a surprise. SGP:841 - 87-ish points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the band Canyons is into 'indie tropical pop'. I think it works well. Okay, I must confess I chose them to go with our old Domfrontais because they have a song called Apples and pears. But please buy Canyons' music, it's nice!


December 30, 2010

Skeldon 1973

The Malternative Week, two fairly old rums

Time for two more rums today, one from Jamaica and the other one from Guyana (Demerara).

Long Pond 21 yo 1986 (50%, Silver Seal, Jamaica) Four starsLong Pond was the birthplace of the famous Captain Morgan rum, now produced at Puerto Rico if I’m not mistaken. Accordong to The Vintage House, ‘The sugar fields around the distillery provide the raw materials for molasses, from which the rum is fermented and then distilled. This rum, like so many others, was never released under its own name; all rum was sold for blending, although of course Long Pond had a name among the blenders for its high-ester style. In Jamaican parlance this is a 'Wedderburn', and experts prize it for its perfumed bouquet and marked taste, even when relatively young. These characteristics stem from the controlled addition to the mash of ‘dunder’, which naturally increases flavour levels. This is the residue of earlier fermentations, which has been allowed to develop bacterial growth, and its use is akin to that of 'sour mash' in American whiskey distillation.’ Interesting! Let’s try it… (I had only one Long Pond to this very day, a 1941 by G&M that was fab (WF92). Colour: amber. Nose: it’s rather ‘hot’ in style at first sniffs, but gets then lighter and rather esthery. We’re all on coffee, fruit liqueurs, corn syrup and, of course cane sugar. It’s very ‘rum’, so to speak. With water: becomes more aromatic, with notes of orange marmalade and bananas flambéed. Sandalwood, cedar… Mouth (neat): rich, starting dry, on wood and strong tea, with an unexpected saltiness. Some strong coffee too, pecan nut, tobacco… It’s really tannic so far. Notes of liquorice wood, nutmeg, bitter walnuts (burr)… With water: gets much fruitier and easier. Jams and soft spices, a little coconut, orange zests… Finish: long, less drying I had thought, fairly clean. Raisins in the aftertaste. Comments: very good stuff for sure, it’s not very complicated rum but pleasure is there, which is the main thing, isn’t it! SGP:630 - 86 points.

Skeldon 1973/2007 (60.5%, Velier, Demerara) Four stars and a half Skeldon is one of the numerous ex-distilleries in Guyana, the stills having been bought by Diamond Distillers later on when all the little distilleries went busted. I believe this was still made at the old distillery but I’m not 100% sure as they keep using the name when distilling using the old stills. Imagine that in Scotland with all the closed distilleries! (I know, brand names…) What’s sure is that Skeldon is very rare. Colour: mahogany. Nose: it’s not really heavy, but loud on coffee and old polished wood at first nosing. Humidor, cinnamon, roasted nuts, pipe tobacco and only faint whiffs of varnish… After a few minutes: very big notes of prunes. With water: even more prunes and a slight grapiness. Marc de gewürztraminer, old roses, muscat and a little smoke… Very nice nose. Mouth (neat): extremely concentrated, even more tannic than the Long Pond. Heavy tobacco, molasses, Thai red sauce, black tea (Russian?), herbal teas (leaves such as peach or cherry trees), cinnamon, marzipan, chocolate… It’s almost the texture of honey and it’s got something ‘cooked’. With water: it’s the oakiness that further comes out. More strong tea, more black tobacco (Gauloises!) and more bitter chocolate, cinnamon and pepper. Finish: long, dry, massive, mostly on cocoa, with a tannic aftertaste. Comments: quite a beast, very far from many sweetish rums. It needs a bit of work to be enjoyed but it’s all great, provided you like this style. SGP:460 - 88 points.

(thanks Max and Luca)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: you cannot mess with Jamaica and music, can you? So let's have something by the simply wonderful Randy Weston (easily in my top ten jazz pianists), something much lighter than usual, something with a great large band... It's called Jamaica East and it was on Tanjah (1973), with Ernie Royal at the trumpet. Please buy Randy Weston's music...

Randy Weston

December 29, 2010


by Nick Morgan

Well Serge, who does know where the time goes? It seems to me that it was only yesterday that we were enjoying the wonderful Johnny Dowd at the Borderline in May.  But apparently the year’s end is almost upon us, and I am therefore duty bound, with some apologies, to race through all those gigs which we went to see but failed to review for you and your Whiskyfun readers.


A very relaxed Richard Hawley (“I’ve just been on a fossil hunting holiday in Dorset”) and his band played an ‘intimate gig at the Jazz Café, one of a series featuring nominees for the magazines 2010 awards (Hawley subsequently scooped the Mojo award for Best Album of the Year for his Truelove’s Gutter). I have never quite seen so many guitars on one stage, what with Hawley’s collection of Gibsons and Gretsches, and those of his partner in crime Shez Sheridan. Even in the uncertain acoustics of the Jazz Café they weave layer after layer of wonderfully melodic tremolo-driven guitar, with a couple of stand-out solos from Hawley on Lady Solitude, ‘Here in my heart’ and ‘White Lies’.  We’re so close it’s like being at a master class, watching how Hawley manages his sound and tone from his guitars, and his double (or was it triple?) racked pedal board.  “Soft, almost tactile, but with a stunning hard edge” was the opinion of a lyrical admirer who happily chatted away in the urinals at the end of the gig.  It was that sort of night. 

Equally happy was Elvis Costello, a welcome sight in these shores given his slight falling-out with the UK a few years ago ("I don't care if I ever play England again” he was quoted as saying, after a slightly dodgy, and not well received set at Glastonbury). He’s back as part of Richard Thompson’s Meltdown, performing solo to promote his new album ‘National Ransom’, mixing new material with some inspired performances from his back catalogue. There were some wonderful moments; ‘Watching the detectives’, his solo playing helped (or hindered)  by a series of delay pedals that even seemed to bewilder the performer, and new song, ‘A small drag with Josephine’, which he sang and played unamplified, sitting on the edge of the Royal Festival Hall’s huge stage.


  However I have to note that the predominantly ‘vaudeville pastiche’ of the new songs was a little disappointing, and lacked the edge one might have expected from Costello’s pen. Needless to say Richard Thompson appeared at the end of the set and duetted on a stunning version of ‘Shipbuilding’.  And just to demonstrate what a busy year it’s been, we had tickets for, but missed,  Thompson’s opening gig of Meltdown (his new composition ‘Cabaret of Souls’, which was ‘brilliant’, according to the Photographer’s neighbours who took our seats), and John Etheridge and Martin Simpson a few days later.

Patti Smith

I have fewer notes for Patti Smith’s performance at the Serpentine in Hyde Park on 29th June, largely because we spent much of the evening, after a foolishly leisurely and rather superior Chinese supper in Queensway, trying to find the entrance to the small tented area of the larger arena that serves the O2 and Hard Rock series of big concerts in the park. 

Scott Heron

We weren’t the only ones who arrived late after several circuits of the perimeter fence, and an early curfew meant that both the audience, and band, were really only just getting into their stride when time was called.  There were a few great moments – singing a poem by the late Jim Carroll, ‘People who died’, which put me very much in mind of my dear friend Don Paul, and a gloriously unrestrained ‘People have the power’.  Ms Smith is still a live force to be reckoned with, and even a badly under-rehearsed finale of ‘Perfect day’ couldn’t diminish her evident stature. Another summer’s evening saw us in the very grand courtyard of the very grand Somerset House to witness a very special gig by Gil Scott Heron and his band, featuring songs from his acclaimed new album I’m New Here.  Heron’s earlier London gig’s had received some negative comment as a result of lengthy narrations and digressions.  Here he was concise, very witty, and to the point.  “They said I disappeared.  Do I look like I disappeared?”.  And opinions may differ, but I felt privileged to hear songs lie ‘Winter in America’, ‘We almost lost Detroit’, ‘Pieces of a man’, ‘I’ll take care of you’, ‘Better days ahead’, and ‘The bottle’.  Heron is someone who clearly still struggles with his demons, but his deep, gravelly and mournfully soulful voice is one of the most delicate and moving I have heard for a very long time.


The Congos

My notes tell me that around this time we also had tickets for, but missed Robert Cray at the Barbican and Soul2Soul back at Somerset House.  Happily we did manage to get to a superlative evening of reggae at the Barbican, featuring the Congos, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and Toots and the MaytalsThe remarkably youthful Congos (front man Cedric Myton attributed this to “fish, arrowroot and exercise”, although I can’t help thinking he might have omitted one critical herbal ingredient) owe their fame to their 1977 Perry produced album, Heart of the Congos.  Recently reformed, they featured in the award winning movie ‘Wha do dem’, and have released a new Perry produced album, Back in the Black Ark.  Their Rastafarian harmonies, combined with an obvious love for life, made their set irresistible. 


Lee 'Scratch' Perry (L) and Toots (R)

Toots was of course the headliner, delivering a James Brown Soul Revue-style set, which started with ‘Pressure drop’ and then worked through a series of his most well known songs, interrupted by occasional hand-shaking forays with the guys in the seats near the stage, who include some rather alarming looking but very friendly non-Barbican skinheads c. 1969.  However for all the energy of Toots’ set and the familiarity of the songs, the magic of the evening came from Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry (supported by the Upsetters, driven by the thundering bass of Denis Bovell, surely the Mike Tyson of bass playing), whose infectious madness took the rather staid Barbican crowd to a higher plane of mystical being, at least for about forty minutes.  He was just fantastic.


  August saw us back at the Rhythm Festival for what must have been another loss-making event of spectacular proportions.  Apparently it will happen next year, but not at the rather quaint and thoroughly eccentric Twinwood Arena.  Highlights of the weekend (apart from Jozzer and Trizza’s astonishingly accomplished seven-course breakfast cooked outside their tent, which was a little reminiscent of something you might see in a UN refugee camp) were Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby.  The couple  played a mixture of songs from their first eponymous album and their most recent Two Way Family Favourites, mixed with some Wreckless classics (and I do mean classics). 

There was also the joke about Elvis Costello which the Whiskyfun lawyers have told me I’m not allowed to repeat. Their Friday afternoon set didn’t get the attention it deserved from a sparse audience  (“It’s not exactly Woodstock is it?”), but I loved it. The Damned, quite a hot live act over the past few years turned in a surprisingly eclectic set, which even included a “West Coast Hippy shit” cover of Love’s ‘Alone again or’, and Scott Walker’s ‘Eloise’, before ending with a plea to the audience to visit the merchandise store (“we’re turning into capitalist bastards ain’t we?” leered Captain Sensible). Billy Bragg managed to turn an excitable crowd into a comatose comintern with his endless holier-than-though soft centred socialist ramblings. However he did provoke one of the funnier moments of the weekend, when an outraged spectator ripped a copy of the Daily Mail from someone’s hand at the newspaper stall the following morning. ”How could you buy that after listening to Billy Bragg last night?”. The tediously transcendental Donovan (whom Jozzer more than once compared with the British Coalition Government’s Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt) made no such impact, ensuring a Saturday night crowd took to their beds far earlier than might have been expected. Singer-songwriter Jackie Leven, who claimed to have gone to school with Gordon Brown, was disappointing, a rather maudlin crooner with a considerable taste for lengthy stories about himself. 

The recession hit Whiskyfun caravan at The Rhythm Festival

  Geno Washington, who the Photographer’s plumber used to play bass for (“great performer, but could never really sing”), turned in a very proficient Saturday afternoon set, but was upstaged by Roger Chapman and the Shortlist, a surprising inclusion in the line-up given that we only saw his ‘very last and final‘ retirement gig earlier in the year.

But that notwithstanding he played a blinder in the evening sunshine.  And after the ghastly Donovan the most disappointing act had to be the franchised version of the Wailers who came on stage and killed every one of those great songs with limp and lifeless keyboard led arrangements. We won’t be going next year.

In September we heard some very good jazz at the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival, the pick of which had to be Graeme Stephen’s Quartet.  This young Scottish guitarist and his band were simply astonishing and come highly recommended.  Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, who have a new album to their names, and remain to my mind the oddest of many odd couples in rock and roll (they make Nick Cave and Kylie seem prosaic),  played the Barbican.  Campbell, all fey and flouncy white linen, Lanegan dark, motionless and growling.  It is an odd combination, but Lanegan’s brooding vocals seem to sprinkle magic dust on Campbell’s otherwise weak compositions.  And he stole that particular show with their version of Hank Williams, ’Rambling Man’, which frankly could have been written for him. Wilco, one of the Photographer’s very favourite bands were also in town.  Jeff Tweedy has the considerable facility to make every song he plays sound like one of their greatest hits (and for all I know maybe they are), and he and his band delighted the adoring fans (not me) in the Royal Festival Hall with a lengthy set. 

Isobel Campbell

Of particular note was the work of lead guitarist Nels Cline, who was pretty special.  The only problem with such a long set is that even for a fan (not me) it does all begin to sound a bit samey, and the palpable influence of the Beatles on his writing became more and more evident as the show went on.

Heaven knows what happened in October:  I was barely in one place for more than a couple of days and as a result our tickets for Grinderman, who equally delighted and dismayed with their Grinderman 2 album, were passed on elsewhere.  I was in Scotland when the Photographer went off to see Christy Moore and Declan Sinnot (“simply brilliant”), and missed Gary Burton’s London Jazz Festival gig due to the International Wine and Spirits Awards Banquet. At least the lucky ones who got those tickets reckoned it was quite possibly the most virtuoso performance they had ever witnessed.  I did manage to fly half-way across the world to get back to see Herbie Hancock performing from his new album of covers, The Imagine Project, with a theme of world peace, harmony etc.  And I stayed awake.  To be frank some of this material was not too well chosen, and the arrangements, though pleasing, tended toward the anodyne.  But when Hancock let himself go, and settled into a groove around tunes like Watermelon Man (a must for almost every party when I was at University), then one’s expectations were satisfied.  His keyboard work was astonishing, ‘tho perhaps less fluid than in the past, and his band, with guitarist Lionel Loueke and bass player James Genus, outstanding.  John Scofield, another exceptional guitarist (and Miles Davies veteran), played the Festival a couple of nights later, with his trio, and then accompanied by Tommy Smith’s Scottish National Jazz Orchestra.  Scofield’s guitar work is mesmerising, the sort of stuff that makes you feel like locking up your instruments and never playing again.  Smith’s Orchestra is accomplished, and not at all overshadowed by their brilliant soloist.  Observant readers will recall the very strong impression left by Guy Barker’s Orchestra a couple of years ago, strong enough to prompt a visit to the Barbican on 10th December to see him perform with East London born jazz singer Paloma Faith, in a show titled ‘Down at the end of lonely street’, which drew heavily on jazz classics given the Barker treatment, as well as some of Ms Faith’s own material. 

She sings in that very fashionable retro style championed by Amy Winehouse, but has a huge voice very much of her own, and a wheelbarrow full of personality to match.  In addition it seemed as if at least half of Hackney had taken over the Barbican for the night, which frankly made a refreshing change.


And that Serge, is that, save for the fact that we ended the year close to home at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.  Folk ‘tyros’ Bellowhead took their acclaimed live show there to promote their new album Hedonism, and I have to say that from the opening bars of ‘Yarmouth Town’ I was simply captivated. High energy, over-arranged folk tunes, played by an accomplished big band (fiddles, guitars, accordion, percussion, brass).  The Photographer, surrounded by geriatric Fairport Convention loving Morris-dancing enthusiasts, most of whom had very weak bladders, found the whole thing rather tiresome. With little common ground for reconciliation we were home in time to catch all of Match of the Day.  Then a week or so later we were back to see Squeeze (with the Attractions’ Steve Nieve on keyboards) again work through their huge back catalogue of truly fantastic songs. Glenn Tilbrook’s singing and guitar playing was first-class, matched only by the soft-shoe shuffles and wonderfully monotone singing of his song-writing and sometimes sparring partner, Chris Difford.  And they were playing customised and matching Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster.  Now there’s an idea … - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)



The Malternative Week, two young ryes

I didn’t know much about rye until some friend sent me a few whiskeys (ah the Willets!). Today I don’t know much more about ryes, except that I like them. Let’s have two young and fairly cheap ones today for a change…

Old Overholt 4 yo (40%, OB, American rye, +/-2008) Two stars and a half This is distilled in Kentucky. I’ve seen very mixed reviews for this baby, said to be ‘a pale shadow of its former self’. Well, I never tried its former self anyway… let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: a fairly nice gingery and spicy nose, with also a little mint and aniseed and touches of gingerbread. It’s rather fresh and lively, delicately grassy and not yeasty nor feinty at all in my opinion. Pleasant, that’s the word. Mouth: not bad, not bad… May lack backbone and oomph but again, it’s far from being bad in my opinion, despite the fact that it gets a little tea-ish and cardboardy. Quite some peppermint again, ginger, tonic water, a mild honeyness… It’s all perfectly palatable in my opinion. Finish: medium long but with good balance between the fruitiness (oranges) and the spiciness (ginger, pepper). A little bubblegum. Comments: a very good surprise. Sure it’s not the wonder of wonders but I had though this would be 50/60 points fodder. It’s not, at least not in my book. SGP:631 - 79 points.

Lot 40 (43%, OB, Canadian rye, +/-2008) Three starsI already tried an earlier batch in 2005 and really liked it (WF80) Colour: gold. Nose: this is very different from the Old Overolt, much fruitier and honeyed, with many tropical notes such as passion fruits and tamarind. Yes, a lot of tamarind, which is rather unusual in whisky but maybe not in rye. I also find quite some blood oranges, whiffs of roses, pomegranates. It’s only after a few minutes that notes of bread emerge (leaven) together with quite some ginger and nutmeg. Very nice! Mouth: we’re closer to the OO but this is creamier, more syrupy, even fruitier and more honeyed. The spiciness is bigger too and there’s even a faint saltiness in the background. Base fruit: oranges again, with cloves, pepper and ginger. This rye is full of flavours to the point where it may become a little cloying to some tasters. Finish: very long, orangey and gingery. Comments: this one is spectacularly flavourful and ‘richly textured’, as they say. Extreme, in a certain sense, it would be interesting to try this at cask strength. SGP:761 - 81 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Tex Ritter singing Rye Whiskey around 1945. 'If whiskey don't kill me I'll live till I die!'. Please buy Tex Ritter's music.

Tex Ritter

December 28, 2010


The Malternative Week, two Bas-Armagnac

Armagnac is the oldest aged spirit in France and maybe in the world. What seems to be sure is that they were already making some in the Middle-Ages. A monk (monks again!) in Armagnac, Vital Dufour, wrote the equivalent of Friar John Corr’s manuscript in 1310 and the good people in Armagnac take it as the ‘seminal’ piece although it may be more like the 15th century as far as quaffable spirits are concerned.

Armagnac celebrated the appellation’s 700 years right in 2010. The Armagnac region is divided into three sub-regions (please see map), Bas-Armagnac being in the West and more influenced by the Atlantic ocean. Its spirits are said to be lighter and fruitier than the full-flavoured Tenarèzes. ‘Bas’ means ‘low’ but that’s purely geographical and it isn’t related to quality at all, although beginners often get caught. I think they should change the appellation’s name one day! Anway, let’s try two Bas-Armagnacs now… (after a little map of the region, as knowledge is power, maybe even on the Internet!)
Bas-Armagnac Tariquet 1988/2005 (45,5%, OB, Château du Tariquet) Two stars and a half Tariquet is a very successful domaine, their white wines being more and more well-known in France and abroad. Their Armagnacs are said to be more traditional and a little less ‘marketed’. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very aromatic and very fresh, starting with ‘funny’ notes of dill and vetiver instead of the usual prunes and grapiness. Also quite some honey and bergamot (earl grey), then a pleasant flintiness, wet gravel, slate… Maybe only faint hints of distillation, rubber, extremely discreet. Very pleasant globally, any malt freak would enjoy this. Mouth: exactly the opposite! Simpler, bursting with fruits including grapes (muscaty ones), bubblegum, syrup, jelly beans, apple juice… I must say this is much less to my liking now. It’s also got something overripe. The mouth feel is quite perfect, that is, 45—46% is a perfect strength. Finish: medium long, with a slight grassiness. Comments: a good one with a great nose and a rather okayish palate in my opinion, but I’m no Armagnac expert. Not even a casual Armagnac drinker – to think that a part of my family is into Armagnacs! I guess I’ll have to taste some of theirs one day on WF. SGP:630 - 78 points.

Bas-Armagnac Ducor 1990 (47.6%, Desbons, Jean Boyer, +/-2008) Five stars Desbons is an IB owned by the very excellent Jean Boyer, who are also into whisky with their ‘Best Casks of Scotland’ line. Ducor is a small but reputed domaine. Please note that the label on the picture is for another maker but the Ducor’s is more or less the same. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this style is the opposite of the Tariquet’s. Much heavier, rummy, with bags of prunes, Demerara sugar, molasses, roasted nuts, coffee… Frankly, this is extremely nice but it could be mistaken for some heavy Demerara rum (we’ll have a few of them in the coming days). Mouth: ah yes, this is excellent! A little less rummy but it’s still a little Caribbean with these notes of liquorice, molasses, cough syrup and… rum. Quite spectacular and very warming to say the least. Also bananas flambeed and coffee liqueur (Kahlua, also a little Bailey’s). All good. Finish: long, rich but clean, with a few spices in the aftertaste, such as cinnamon, cloves and quite some vanilla (natural sticks). Comments: a great surprise, this is eminently quaffable. Now wonder Armagnac is in the South of France, where everything’s a tad more ‘tropical’. Very well done, Jean Boyer! Dear reader, if you're looking for a nice maltervative spirit, try to find this bottle, it cannot be very expensive. SGP:730 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Wynton Marsalis wrote a superb piece called Armagnac Dreams that's on his septet's fantastic Marciac Suite (recorded 1999). Marciac is in Armagnac territories, there's one of the best jazz festivals there every summer. I think you should go there one day... And buy Wynton Marsalis' music of course.


December 27, 2010


The Malternative Week, tasting two 1992 Caroni rums



Right, today it’s going to be rum, with these two heavy Caronis from Trinidad and Tobago, both bottled for the excellent Luca Gargano’s V.E.L.I.E.R. in Genes, Italy. After having produced some heavy ‘navy’ rum for years and years, it seems that Caroni was closed by Trinidad’s government in 2003, for some obscure reasons. Right, probably political.

Caroni 1992 (55%, Velier, Trinidad, +/-2010) Three stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: pure heavy rum, all on molasses, honey, sultanas, liquorice and a little tar, with a slight sea breeze blowing over the whole and making it actually less ‘heavy’. It’s not really complex but the profile’s perfect. With water: more grassy elements, sugar cane (I suppose), honey and liquorice. These maritime notes vanished, have I been dreaming? Mouth (neat): perfect attack, with some mint and cough syrup mixed with banana liqueur, liquid liquorice and maple syrup. No more but no less. With water: once again it became rather grassier, with the oak being louder and the mint as well. High extraction. Finish: very long, thick, coating… Liquorice and millionaire shortbread. Comments: well, you have to like liquorice! This rum isn’t really subtle or complex but it does what it says on the tin: being heavy (and pretty flawless). SGP:750 - 84 points.

Caroni 1992 ‘ Full Proof’ (61.2%, Velier, Trinidad, +/-2010) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: rather less aromatic than the version at 55% vol., which probably comes from the higher strength. It’s also a little more herbal and slightly gingery. Takes off after fifteen seconds, becoming heavier, molassy and raisiny. Maybe also a little medicinal. With water (at more or less the same strength as the ‘55’ when diluted): no changes that I can detect. Mouth (neat): similar to the 55% but punchier of course, maybe a tad more liquoricy if that’s possible and slightly woody and acrid. Hard to describe at such high strength. So, with water: perfect and heavy, heavy and perfect. What an infusion! Finish: extremely long, liquoricy and honeyed. Comments: it’s not one of those overly sweetish and cloying rums at all despite its heaviness. Balance is perfect, you just have to like… guess what? Yes, liquorice. SGP:760 - 86 points.

Two interesting links about Caroni:
The Caroni Rum Quest

Trinidad and Tobago News

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Seattle's excellent Pica Beats doing their song Cognac and Rum. It's on their album 'Beating Back the Claws of the Cold', please buy it! (see how we smartly avoided Trinidean steeldrums for tourists?)

Picas Beat
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

About the 100-scale again
Friends, there’s one remark that often pops up here and there about the traditional ‘100 scale’ that Michael Jackson popularised in whisky and that many are now using, including this humble taster.

It's the fact that only a part of the scale is used (say 65-95), which makes it a virtual 30-scale, or sometimes even a 20-scale. That’s both true and wrong, it all depends on which kinds of liquids you’re willing to score using that scale. For most tasters, the same scale is used for just any spirits, especially aged spirits but not only. Especially for flawed ones, or very cheap ones (think molasses-based Asian whisky, or think supermarket all-grain whisky at less than 8 Euros a bottle), the lower end of the 100-scale is very useful! Here’s a wee chart that will give you an example of typical score ranges for different kinds of spirit. If one always tastes ‘loyal’ malt whiskies, the lower end is useless indeed, but as soon as you try some fairly putrid swill, it becomes de rigueur. But please take all this with a grain of salt, in my opinion scores are always comparative personal opinions ONLY that are numerically expressed with more or less accuracy and this chart is an opinion as well, no rocket science and certainly no gospel.

Score scale

December 26, 2010


A Malternative Week until the new year

After all these old malt whiskies that we had for Christmas, let’s now have a few malternatives until the end of the year. Some great, some more mundane, but none uninteresting! Rum, armagnac, calvados, tequila, rye… A bit of everything, really, save malt whisky! Let’s get this small series underway with one tequila iif you please…


The Malternative Week, tasting one tequila

Why only one tequila? Because I haven’t got two in my ‘spiritual library’. We already had a couple aged tequilas in the past and our favourite has been a Jose Cuervo Anejo ‘Reserva de la familia’ that was bottled in 2007 (WF87). Another Arette ‘Anejo’ was much less to my liking I must say, but let’s have another Arette today, that’s both older and bottled at a higher strength. To our French-speaking friends, yes it’s ‘Arette’ and not ‘Arrete’, which means' stop it!' in French and which is precisely what we won’t do now…

Tequila Arette 10 yo 1999 ‘Gran Clase’ (52%, OB, 144 bottles, 2010) Four stars 100% agave, ‘of course’, and from as single ex-bourbon cask if I’m not mistaken. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s what I like in good tequilas (again, I didn’t try many), they display medicinal notes that remind me a bit both of Laphroaig and of some high-end gins (such as Bruichladdich’s or so I’ve heard, still have to try it). So we have a little antiseptic, quite some juniper, some pepper, a distinctive earthiness (or rather wet chalk, maybe moss), touches of horseradish or wasabi and a very faint soapiness, all that coated with a little vanilla and honey. Also ginger, speculoos… It’s all rather ‘creamy’ and rather less vivid than other tequilas but that’s all good news so far. Mouth: excellent attack, very lemony and peppery, with that creaminess again and these big bold notes of juniper and ginger. Oily mouth feel, maybe brought by the bourbon wood. Then more and more lemon, rather lime in fact, with also some coriander and other herbs. Sorrel? It’s all very lively and very nervous. A bit of, say cane sugar around all that, that gives it a feeling of ‘mojito’ even there’s no rum of course. All good! Finish: long and penetrating as they say, medicinal again, with a very nervous signature on a lot of salt, horseradish and lime. Comments: you don’t feel the age here, but the spirit if first class for sure. The 50+% vol. go extremely well. This tequila should please any dedicated malt drinker but warning, it’s very expensive (275 Euros for a 10yo tequila, even if mas especial, that should shock many malted chatterboxes including this very one.) SGP:380 - 87-ish points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the wonderful jazz pianist Michel Camilo doing a very humorous version of The Champs' Tequila live. Well, Tequila was humorous in the first place. Please buy Michel Camilo's music, thanks.

Michel Camilo

December 25, 2010


Merry Christmas from Whiskyfun

Turckheim and its Brand from the windows of Whiskyfun Towers, Dec 25, 2010

Laphroiag 1967

Old wonders for Christmas, two old Laphroaigs Christmas whisky
Time to try the heavy hitting Laphroaigs within our wee Christmas series. One was most probably distilled in the 1950s while the other one is a little more recent but comes from sherry wood. Ah, Laphroaig and full sherry…

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB for Filippi Fausto, Italy, 1960s) Five stars The bottlings that were imported by Bonfanti in the 1970s are now legendary while the ‘Cinzano’ versions from the 1980s were excellent as well. This one is a very rare ‘Filippi’, that is to say a 10 that was imported even before the Bonfanti era. Colour: gold. Nose: no wham-bam nose, no peat burst and no avalanche of tropical fruits, rather a very delicate, almost whispering combination of make-up remover, almond oil and old limoncello (it’s Italian, eh!) It’s very long to take off, with small floral notes popping up at times (lilies, patchouli), whiffs of high-end oolong tea, a very faint mustiness, maybe traces of linseed oil, more fresh almonds… We’ve finally quite some maritime notes but delicate ones, such as fresh clams (yes, better fresh), maybe winkles… It’s only after five minutes or so that some more defined peaty notes emerge but of course, it’s no peat monster anymore. Nutshell: delicate and whispering old Laphroaig. This should be bad news for the palate, unless… Mouth: okay, it is not tired, not at all, and the amount of peat in such an old bottle is quite surprising. The saltiness is really big (anchovies, brine) and doesn’t stop getting bigger while other components have to fight their way onto your palate. Do I seem to detect passion fruits? Earl grey tea? Almond oil again? Smoked tea? I seems that it’s not the most delicate old Laphroaig ever on the palate (while it may have been on the nose) but it’s still beautiful. And so powerful after more than 40 years in glass! Finish: rather long, very salty and almondy, with touches of grapefruits and a little wax. Comments: I must say this is a surprise. Not as much to my liking as the miraculous Bonfantis but still superb. Now, did they use seawater to reduce the whiskies prior bottling at the time? SGP:357 - 90 points.

Laphroaig 15 yo 1967/1982 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, sherrywood) Five stars A 12yo that was bottled by Cadenhead in 1977 in a tall bottle bearing a black ‘art deco’ label was absolutely fabulous (WF96) while a 1967 by sub-brand Duthie’s for Samaroli was simply out of this galaxy in my book (WF98) so our expectations are very high now… Colour: brown. Nose: bang bang! It’s this perfect kind of match between peat and oloroso indeed, you know, that third dimension of whisky that’s so miraculous when it works. Now, you have to like whisky that’s extremely gamy and flinty, immensely earthy and tremendously leafy. The notes of bitter chocolate, old rancio, old walnuts and old leather are fantastic, and so are all the cigars, chips of cedar wood and dried mushrooms that were infused in this whisky. What, that’s not how they did it? Enough said. Mouth: plain and simple, please call the anti-maltoporn brigade right now. Seriously, it’s no classic, explosive or ‘very biggish’ sherry and peat monster such as, say the famous Caol Ila Manager’s Dram or some old sherried Port Ellens by James MacArthur, or such as the more recent Lagavulin 21 (just to give you a few examples), and it’s not even very complex, but the balance between the sherry and the peat is just perfect. It’s no whisky, it’s a tightrope walker. Finish: dry as long as a day without bread as we say over here (or as a speech by Fidel Castro as they say over there) but certainly less boring. I love these notes of smoky blackcurrants in the aftertaste, as well as the Laphroaiggy signature: a few drops of cough syrup. Comments: this was most probably from a genuine sherry cask. I think all modern bourbonites should try this kind of make one day. Everything is perfect here. Imagine this at cask strength… oh my! SGP:466 - 95 points. (and heartfelt thanks, Carsten).

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I like Tania Maria's version of Come with me now a lot but I must say Guida de Palma's is nice too. That was on her 'One take' album that she recorded with the Piri Piri Funk Machine. Please buy Guida de Palma's music (or Jazzinho's, that's her other name).

Guida de Palma

December 24, 2010



Old wonders for Christmas, two Longrow, or maybe only one Christmas whisky
There are many single malts that were supposedly distilled between 1850 and 1930 around and the very vast majority are fake bottles, usually relabelled old blends.

All those bottles were made twenty or thirty years ago and were never sold for big money at the time, but as the market for single malt developed, and as some wealthy people from ‘new countries’ started collections, some unscrupulous retailers or private individuals started to ask big money for those odd bottles, and many newborn collectors got burnt. While it’s not too difficult to identify fake bottlings of well-known brands that are still produced today (such as, say, Lagavulin), that’s much trickier when the distillery and/or its owners went bankrupt eight or one hundred years ago. That’s the case with the original Longrow Distillery…

Longrow 1890 (no ABV, OB, W.&J. Greenlees) Three stars Right, this could very well be a fake old Longrow but ‘maybe’ is it genuine? We’ll never know as the distillery stopped working in… 1896 and as no official archives seem to remain today. What’s sure is that both the owners’ name (Greenlees) and the vintage do fit. So, even if the chances are extremely slim, let’s declare that this baby may be an original Longrow indeed. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s an old bottle for sure. This nose is extremely interesting in fact, unlike any modern whisky, displaying mostly notes of damp earth and clay plus quite some fresh wild mushrooms. I mean, a lot of them. Also moss and fern, fresh parsley... Behind all that, some tangerine liqueur and these whiffs of metal that we often find in old bottles, plus quite some peppermint coming through after a while. The freshness is quite superb I must say… Imagine this would be genuine! I must confess I find ‘a modern Longrowness’ here, even if it’s not from the same distillery. Simple autosuggestion? Let’s Check if the palate is ‘blendy’ or not… Mouth: hmm… This shouldn’t be a blend, it’s too unusual and ‘unpolished’ for that. Starts relatively weak but not absent, mostly on the same notes as on the nose. Same kind of earthiness, some fresh herbs, touches of candy sugar, roots, gentian, a mild peatiness, a little brine… Orange zests. We’re not too far from some very old Talisker in style. Finish: quite short but clean, maritime, salty… The aftertaste is both waxy and salty, with also notes of turnips. Comments: whatever this is, it’s good despite its lightness on the palate. It’s no cheapo blend, it’s no currently produced malt whisky and it’s definitely not modern. Who knows, maybe it’s some original Longrow? SGP:333 - 82 points.

Longrow 1973/1985 (53%, Samaroli, picture of distillery label) Five stars 1973 is the first vintage when Springbank reused the brand name for their peated, double-distilled malt whisky (remember Springbank is 2.5 times distilled). They’ve also been using Longrow’s old warehouses for quite some time. I adored the official 1973s, especially the one that was bottled around 1990, with the ‘small cap label’ (WF94). Colour: straw. Nose: starts all on these very typical half-medicinal, half-mineral notes that are to be found in these old Longrows – as well as in the 1987s. A lot of gunpowder (but not quite sulphur as such), artichokes, bitter oranges, antiseptic, hints of new plastic pouch, wet gravel, putty, wet earth, seaweed, rusted iron, bandages, paraffin, horse dung, manure… Very unusual, very ‘Longrow’ and quite extreme. With water: it’s its farmy side that further comes out, together with some camphor and mint. Beautiful. Mouth (neat): just the first second is a tad wobbly or shaky (because of these slightly plastic-like or chemical notes that are really unusual) but then it’s all a wonderful development, mildly peaty, fantastically earthy, with these slightly rotten notes that are so fantastically nicer than they sound (I guess I’ll have to find another word next time). Bitter oranges, game (a lot), kippers, lime, beeswax, cinchona, ginger tonic, artichoke liqueur (do you know Cynar?), Jaegermeister, salted liquorice… What a beast! Good medium power, easily drinkable without water but still, let’s check what happens. With water: the peat stands out and it's beautiful. It’s got something of an old style Caol Ila at this stage. Finish: long, saltier, peaty, clean, with touches of Cynar and earth back in the aftertaste. Comments: this make is monstrously unusual. It’s probably a tad more, say ‘unorthodox’ than the old official 1973s but superb it is. SGP:374 - 92 points.
(with thanks to Max, Franco, Luc and Bert)

Caol Ila 1968

Old wonders for Christmas, two old Caol Ila Christmas whisky
I won’t tell you again the story of Caol Ila that was rebuilt and extended in the early 1970s and… Okay, you know all that, let’s simply have two ‘old’ Caol Ila today

Caol Ila 15 yo 1969 'The Famous Original' (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Pinerolo, Italy, +/-1984) Four stars I don’t quite know what the bottlers were meaning with ‘The Famous Original’. Were they simply characterising the whisky as a whole or were they trying to suggest that it had changed after the rebuilding, and that this is ‘the original’? Colour: straw. Nose: right, this is certainly different from Caol Ila’s (superb) newer make. It’s less clean, less maritime and less ashy, and rather more farmy, oily and tarry. This one has also litres of brine and some very unusual notes of green olives, pickles and capers. No I’m not joking. Strange, but nice. Nice, but strange… Mouth: quite some power in the attack despite the 40% and a style that’s rather less tarry now. A lot of salt, seafood, kippers, even anchovies, all that in a gangue of sweet vanilla, almond cake and light fudge. Medium peat. Too bad the middle is weakish, which makes this baby a little meteoric. Finish: shortish, very briny. Some marzipan in the aftertaste. Comments: all good but it’s a little diluted and bald on the palate. SGP:355 - 86 points.

Caol Ila 21 yo 1968 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask series, for Nadi Fiori, +/-1989) Five stars Nadi Fiori knows how to select whisky so this should be fab. Let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: yes, we’re well in the same style as the 1969’s, except that this is smokier and more mineral. It seems that there’s also more lemon and grapefruit, cut grass, oysters… Also something rather medicinal, antiseptic, mercurochrome. But it’s really punchy so let’s add water now. With water: it became simpler but beautifully sharp and crystalline. Superb whiffs of camphor, smoked ham and charcoal arising after a few seconds. More and more smoked ham and smoked salmon. Coal stove. Mouth (neat): powerful, ultra-sharp and perfectly chiselled grassy peat. Bitters, cardamom, pepper and lime. Woosh! With water: perfect. Almonds, smoke, salt, lemon and plain peat. Also something superbly green (herbs). Finish: long, sharp, almost ‘pointed’ so to speak. Comments: was this marinated with smoked salmon? Maybe not as fabulously fabulous and multidimensional as some sherried versions of the same make but close to perfection. SGP:276 - 92 points.




Whiskyfun’s Christmas gift to our most distinguished readers

Do you know Tomi Ungerer? He’s one of the most famous Alsatian born artists, having published many books and drawings and having been an illustrator for Esquire, Vanity Fair and many other famous magazines.

He’s also worked as an adman for Scotch and his ads for The Antiquary in the late 1950s are quite famous. Anyway, Tomi can also be very irreverent and politically incorrect, as today’s little gift will show you. So, to see your gift (it’ IS a drawing and it HAS something to do with spirits), please click where appropriate:
Nope, I’m not 21 yet OR I'm easily offended
Yup, I’m 21 or over AND I'm not easily offended

Ungerer 2

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I've been thinking hard about which slice of music I'd post for Christmas, as there are so many dull ones around. I had thought about the good Captain when WF fav Bela Fleck crosssed my mind, so to speak. Or how to convert the most 'commercial' music ever into a masterpiece. Let's listen to his White Christmas and then buy all of Bela Fleck's music. Thank you.

Bela Fleck

December 23, 2010


Macallab 36

Old wonders for Christmas, two pre-war Macallan Christmas whisky
After the 1937 that we had on Monday, let’s have two other pre-war Macallans, including another 1937, a younger one that was bottled for Donini instead of Pinerolo.

The Macallan 1936 (70°proof, OB, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, 1960s) Four stars and a halfThis one bears the 'official' label, close to the famous 'Campbell Hope & King' labels. It's technically an official bottling bottled by an independent bottler and it bears the 'The' in front of the distillery's name. Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts slightly metallic and quite sooty and ashy, with more and more liquorice after that and whiffs of pinesap and moist pipe tobacco. Develops more on macaroons and butterscotch, with only hints of fruitcake. The third stage involves more meaty notes, ham, dried beef (Grisons meat) and we’re finally back on camphor, mint and resin. It’s not a big old Macallan but it’s all very subtle and very, very complex. Keywords: meat and mint. Mouth: how punchy! The attack is very surprising, peppery, with quite some bitter chocolate, tar, smoked tea and even a bit of salmiak. The middle is a tad weaker and maybe a little bitter. Notes of oxidation (amontillado, walnuts). Takes off a bit after a while, with more pepper and burnt caramel. Finish: surprising long considering the middle was a little hollow. Leathery, peppery and dry. Bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, should I add ‘of course’ but maybe not in the same very high league as most 1937s or, above all, 1938s that I could try. Anyway, a beautiful old dry, sooty and smoky Macallan. SGP:453 - 88 points.

Macallan-Glenlivet 32 yo 1937 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Donini, Italy) Five stars A 1938 by G&M for Donini, bottled at 31 years, was utterly stunning (WF93) so we have high expectations here. It's also great that these series for Italy were bottled at 43% vol instead of the usual 40%/70°proof. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very different from the 1936, much more organic, with more sherry, mushrooms, and balsamic vinegar at first sniffs. Gets then much closer to recent sherried Macallans, with many dried fruits (figs, quinces, dates, sultanas, orange marmalade…), touches of liquorice and mint, tobacco and just a faint earthiness. After a few minutes: smells almost like an unlit Habano. Globally a little rounder and smoother than the 1936. After 15 minutes: whiffs of coconut coming through that give it a Springbanky feeling. Mouth: dried mushrooms galore! Also even more pepper than in the 1936, more smoked tea, ginger, paprika… Also touches of cardboard and… maybe hints of cork? (yes it was a twist-cap). No drop in the middle this time, rather a development on more dried fruits (especially Corinthian raisins), with also an obvious rancio. Faint hints of kummel and juniper berries. Finish: long, balanced between a dry oakiness (cinnamon, white pepper) and dark raisins, with an ashy and liquoricy aftertaste. Slightly metallic. Comments: this oldie was amazingly punchy! Finally not that different from the 32/1937 for Pinerolo. SGP:363 - 90 points.
(Many thanks, Bert V.!)


Old wonders for Christmas, two Macallan from the 1950s Christmas whisky
After the very old vintages of Macallan, let’s have two more epitomical ones today, namely a 1959 and a 1955, both bottled by brewers and whisky blenders Campbell, Hope & King in Elgin.

I can’t remember if I already told you that old tale about Campbell, Hope & King always having the best Macallans at the time because they were… adding brandy to it. A legend? What’s sure is that they were the first bottlers to widely use the 80°proof/46% vol. strength, probably even before W.M. Cadenhead. I believe the company went busted around 1975-1980 (it had been bought by Withbread around 1968). Some other vintages by C,H&K that I could already try were fabulous indeed (such as 1958, WF93 or 1954, WF96).

Macallan 1959 (80°proof, OB, Campbell Hope & King for Rinaldi, Italy, +/-1973) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: oh my! Let’s keep this short. Sumptuous sherry, rich, fragrant… Orange blossom, quince jelly, sultanas, old Sauternes, cured ham, pipe tobacco, wet earth, old books, various herbal teas, toffee and spearmint. Utterly fabulous nose, the style that defined ‘The Macallan’ as it used to be. Mouth: glorious attack, just like if you bit into a slice of Christmas cake (or Alsatian berawecka). Thousands of dried fruits, chocolate, marzipan, jams, soft spices, old cognac (eh?)… and an avalanche of tinier flavours of the ‘chocolate-coffee’ universe. Brilliant. Finish: long, coating, creamy and jammy but not heavy, mainly thanks to the fairly spicy aftertaste. Comments: what can I say? This defines authentic sherry-matured malt whisky. Only a slight roughness at times will prevent me from scoring it even higher. SGP:562 - 93 points.

Macallan 1955 (80°proof, OB, Campbell Hope & King for Rinaldi, Italy, +/-1970) Five stars Colour: pale amber. Nose: oh my! Probably a little less boldly aromatic than the 1959, and probably a little more phenolic and dry. Wet gravel, tar, soot, mint liqueur and bitter oranges. Superb notes of carnation, butter crème, honeydew, mint-flavoured tea… And big notes of morels. Wow. Espresso. Globally less sherried than the 1959 but maybe even more complex. The palate will determine which is our favourite… Mouth: extraordinary. It’s got everything. A movie-malt that keeps changing while remaining extremely coherent. Dried fruits, herbs, jams, spices, leather, shoe polish (tarry and phenolic), tobacco… Oh well, please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: amazingly long, dry, clean… Superb pepper. We’re close to perfection. Comments: none. SGP:563 - 95 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the warm voice of the great late Odetta singing Livin' with the blues. Please buy Odetta's music.


December 22, 2010


Glen Gordon Glen Avon

Old wonders for Christmas, Glen Gordon 1958 vs. Glen Avon 1958 plus a bonus Christmas whisky
This little session should be funny, as we’ll oppose two similarly labelled 1958 Glen Gordon and Glen Avon.

It is to be noted that both 1958s are still bottled, or were recently bottled (I’ve seen both in 2007 versions) and that they’re very fairly priced, at around 160 Euros for fifty years old single malt whiskies! Both are single malts – and not vatted malts as I’ve seen at some retailers’. Glen Gordon could be Macallan whilst Glen Avon could be Glenfarclas but of course, simple conjectures.

Glen Gordon 1958 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, twist cap, +/-1990) Three stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: this one starts with rather heady notes of toasted bread, brioche, dates, baklavas (orange blossom) and bananas flambéed and goes on with bags of roasted nuts, still warm. Warm croissants, marzipan, walnuts, café latte (remember, “latte” is Italian for “you paid too much that coffee.”) This one smells just like a patisserie on Sunday morning. Obviously ‘nice’. Mouth: hmm, this is much drier, more bitter, leafy and unexpectedly grassy. Notes of rancio, cognac, burnt sugar, plum spirit, paraffin and a little cardboard. Not the same whisky as on the nose at all! Having said that, good body and mouth feel.  Finish: medium long, rather on bitter walnuts and very dry sherry. Comments: lacks a little more smoothness on the palate but the nose was very enticing. Did I recognize Macallan? I think not. SGP:252 - 83 points.

Glen Avon 1958 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, twist cap, +/-1995) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: there’s more straight sherry in this one, more chocolate, more prunes and more dried fruits. It’s a little easier on the patisserie notes as well but we’re in the same family. Also a little more orange liqueur, liquorice and, yes, probably caramel. Mouth: much, much, much creamier and fruitier than the Glen Gordon, classic round sherry, blackcurrant jelly, marmalade, figs and prunes, all that peppered with quite some… pepper, cloves and touches of cinnamon. All good. Finish: long, rich, coating, jammy and spicy. Cloves and Chinese anise in the aftertaste. Comments: we’re in Armagnac and Cognac territories here, as if those appellations were sort of benchmarked. Very good. SGP:452 - 87 points.

PS: regarding my previous comments about Scotch being ‘the new cognac’ around one hundred years ago, I just found this nice picture that I had taken from Ainslie’s label book quite a few years ago. The second paragraph is very interesting and revealing (marketing blurb on a pre-war back label.) Although that may rather have been the pylloxEra ;-).


Pride of Strathspey 1938

Wait, this funny back label made me even thirstier, so why not have another old ‘undisclosed’ malt by G&M? Something even older, bearing another delightfully old-world label: a Pride of Strathspey that was distilled in 1938 and that’s an ‘all malt whisky’, that is to say most probably a vatted malt.
Pride of Strathspey 1938 (70°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1970) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: wow wow wow! THIS is Macallanny, with quite some wood smoke and superb notes of fruitcake, sultanas, dried bananas, bergamots and then camphor and old mint liqueur. Quite some honey as well, orange blossom, roses, litchis… How elegant and complex! Keeps developing with more resinous notes, pinesap, a little rubber (nice here), tar… Again, wow.

Mouth: okay, less ‘wow’ in the attack, but it’s still graceful and elegant despite the slightly disturbing woody notes (old plank). Very faintly stale, with some ‘old’ cold tea, tannins, liquorice wood… But after that it’s all good, with these resinous notes coming back, figs, kumquats, liquorice… Finish: medium long, a tad drying but again, all right. Comments: I guess G&M used to pour their best Macallans, Glenlivets, Glen Grants, Mortlachs or Linkwoods into their ‘licensed’ single malts and probably not into their vatted ones but this is still very nice, especially the nose, that’ll keep it above, or rather at 85. SGP:362 - 85 points.


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

The big names on Whiskyfun
The year isn’t quite over but maybe we could have a look at our current Top Ten as far as numbers of different expressions that I could taste so far are concerned.

Top Ten Malt Whisky

  These figures take all tasting notes since the beginning into account (and rarely only scores). We’ll also check the progressions since 2006, that is to say within exactly four years.
Those figures do not have much statistical meaning as day in day out, I decide on what I taste and what I do not taste, but they still mean something in my view. The biggest ‘proportional jumps’ are made by Laphroaig, Caol Ila and Highland Park. Those are the names that one can now find at all independent bottlers’, often with several casks at the same time.

The smallest progressions, proportionally again, are made by Ardbeg, then Springbank, then Macallan, probably because there are fewer and fewer different single casks under those names. Or, in some cases, fewer ‘must tastes’ such as the glorious old Ardbegs that are now more or less gone.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: one of these 'seminal' solo pieces by one of the greatest jazz guitarists: Larry Coryell playing Eyes Of Love. No wonder everybody said 'wow' back in 1975, when the Planet End album came out. Please buy Larry Coryell's music!

Larry Coryell

December 21, 2010


Mortlach 1936

Old wonders for Christmas, two very old Mortlach Christmas whisky
Okay, we had a Linkwood 1938 and a Macallan 1937, let’s go further ‘down’ today, with a Mortlach 1936 by the very same and very excellent bottlers, G&M of Elgin. We’ll oppose it to a truly royal Mortlach…

Mortlach 25 yo 'Silver Jubilee' (70°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, bottled 1977) Four stars This one was part of a series issued to celebrate the silver jubilee of Liz the 2nd back in 1977. I remember very vividly the HP in the same series, it was absolutely stunning (WF94). The Talisker was great as well (WF91) so we have the deepest expectations today… Colour: dark straw. Nose: holy featherless crow! Nothing antique and nothing old-fashioned in this baby, it’s simply a nervous, complex and wonderfully oily Mortlach. Oils indeed, limejuice, brown coal, wet gravel, clay, linseed oil, lemon skin, fresh butter, lime tea… No traces of sherry or other flavourings here, it’s as ‘strong’ and elegant as a naked Mortlach can be. My, what a spirit! Mouth: how peaty! Seriously, this is as peaty as an old Caol Ila on the palate, and I’m not joking. It’s also very rooty and earthy, ashy, briny… Yes, really sounds like some Islay whisky and I swear there was no mismatch with sample bottles and labels. This is a big surprise, I have to check if Mortlach made some very peated batches around 1950. Now, I liked the nose a little better, it was more complex. Finish: quite long, just as peaty, with notes of almonds, grapefruits and passion fruits in the aftertaste, like in many very old peaties. Maybe a tad sour. Comments: what a surprise. Great nose but again, it’s not that the palate was abfab… It was just amazingly peaty. SGP:354 - 86 points.

Mortlach 43 yo 1936 (70°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, +/-1979) Five stars Older 1936 Mortlachs have been particularly to my liking in the past, especially a 35yo (WF96 – that was something!) and a 36yo (WF91), both bottled at 43% and not 40% like this one. The 50yo bearing the book of kells label was maybe a tad less great but still superb (WF89). This one was from the rotation 1979, meaning it was sold in 1979, hence bottled in 1979 as it’s a 43yo distilled in 1936. Do you follow me? Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s amazing how close we are to the 25yo in style. This one is just a tad rounder and marginally more on marmalade and mint, with also added whiffs of old roses and honeydew. Globally, it’s just fabulous. Mouth: ah yes, yes and yes! Now we’re talking, this is as big as such an old glory can be at 70proof, starting on a lot of resin, mint and smoke (Kools ;-)), with a great bitterness and then a very honeyed development. Honeydew, marmalade, ginger liqueur, mint-flavoured marshmallows, Turkish delights… And then more spices, of all kinds (cinnamon and nutmeg first). Amazing body at 43+31, the Sharon Stone of malt whisky (S., cut the crap, will you? It’s Demi Moore.) Finish: again, surprisingly long and without that cardboardy or tea-ish signature that’s often to be found in these old glories. Comments: what can I say? Mortlach ages particularly well and this kind of old bottling simply sends most of the current baby whiskies back to school in my opinion. SGP:462 - 92 points. (and thanks a lot, Angus)

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some say she's the prettiest jazz guitarist around, what's sure is that she plays very, very well and knows how to arrange a very 'infectious' rythm section. For example, listen to Cool of the night (it's on her latest CD Global Cooling). What do you say? Yes, please go buy Joyce Cooling's music!

Joyce Cooling

December 20, 2010


Macallan 1937

Old wonders for Christmas, two Macallan from ‘7 vintages Christmas whisky
These old Macallans both by G&M for Pinerolo and the ‘OBs’ by Campbell Hope & King are legendary but sadly, fakes abound. The good news is that these two bottles come from reputable and knowledgeable sources (you need both when buying such bottles today).

Macallan 33 yo 1947 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Pinerolo, Italy, sherry wood, +/-1980) Five stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh yes! It’s one of these smoky Macallans, well in the style of the pre-war versions but with maybe even more smoke, ashes and soot. It’s quite spectacular in that sense, not too far from some old Taliskers by the same bottlers (black label). There’s also an unexpected earthiness, whiffs of humus, mushrooms… Yet it isn’t mouldy at all. Also roasted chestnuts, toasted bread and just touches of Seville orange and burnt caramel. More and more mushrooms (morels? boletus? chanterelles?) and more and more smoke. Truly spectacular. As for the palate, let’s pray… Mouth: no? yes? No? Yes! As always, it isn’t quite as spectacular as the nose but this time we’re quite close. Mentholated, unusually phenolic and quite dry, with something of an old amontillado. Rancio, ashes, toasts, then marmalade and cinnamon, with a little paprika. Finish: medium long, dry, very slightly vinous (the sherry?), with again quite some mint in the aftertaste. Also a little kirsch and strawberry jam. Comments: a wonderfully smoky old Macallan from the old days. Only a slight lack of oomph on the palate will prevent me from going over… Say 91. And again, what a stunning nose! SGP:454 - 91 points.

Macallan 37 yo 1937 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Pinerolo, Edwards & Edwards, Italy, sherry wood, +/-1974) Five stars I had a 36yo 1937 a few years back and it was quite dry and bitter. Let’s see if this 37-37 will be better. Colour: deep gold. Nose: sweet Jesus! Even more smoke, even more soot and even more toasted bread than in the 1947 but also with a little more dried fruits, raisins, oranges and quinces, then touches of camphor and pinesap. After a few minutes, it explodes into a myriad of tinier aromas such as various honeys, various tinned fruits, various leathery/resinous notes and quite some nectar/flowers. We’re finally back on camphor and pipe tobacco. Wham, this is pretty much in the same league as the legendary 1938s (both OB and by G&M). Let’s pray again now… Mouth: it’s a miracle! This palate is almost on par with the nose, it’s even a tad roughish after 37 years in wood plus 36 years in glass! Okay, I may exaggerate a bit but it’s indeed surprisingly nervous, dry, smoky, also a little leafy. Bitter oranges, black tea, snuff (menthol), chlorophyll, liquorice, touches of ginger, honeydew… Gets then drier and maybe a tad cardboardy but can miracles last? Finish: medium long, a tad oakier and drier but it’s more than okay, clean, with notes of bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s different from the 1947 but its global quality is the same in my opinion. This, at 50%! (let’s not dream…) Anyway, fab old selection by Eduardo Giaccone aka ‘Edwards & Edwards’ yet again. SGP:463 - 91 points. (Max, grazie mille!)

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Brazilian jazz at its best with Ney Matogrosso and Pedro Luis E A Parede and their Vagabundo. Matogrosso is more famous for his 'mainstream' work (and his feathers) but he excells in this kind of repertoire. Please buy his music.

Ney Matogrosso

December 18, 2010



Captain Beefheart
by Nick Morgan

It’s snowing again in London.  Instead of the hustle-bustle of a pre-Christmas weekend a strange Saturday stillness has settled on this part of the capital.  I should be in Kew getting one of my guitars fixed but almost nothing is moving here.

I have ventured out only for a newspaper and coconut macaroons.  I’m worried about the fox who’s taken to sleeping in my garden; ‘dying not sleeping’ is the thought that has occurred to me but that is another story.  And the snow-fall silence is only broken by Captain Beefheart’s one seasonal offering, ‘There ain’t no Santa Claus on the evenin’ stage’.  The Captain sailed on last night after a long, long illness, and almost thirty years away from the music business; living, painting, and eventually dying a recluse in California.  But few musicians can have cast such a long shadow, and few truly deserve the description ‘unique’ which surely the Captain owned.  Listening to his great albums now, it’s hard perhaps to see quite why people were so taken aback by his music; it is after all, just a truly left-of-field take on the blues infused with a wry, knowing and slightly surreal humour.  But no one had done it, or will do it again, like the Captain.  Famous for his sparring with Frank Zappa, his outlandish vocals on ‘Willie the pimp’ and his brief flirtation with Ry Cooder, Beefheart lived in the moment of the late sixties and early seventies.  Ask me and I can tell you exactly where I was when I heard ‘Spotlight Kid’ for the first time. He was in the true style of the dictatorial American band leader: every song was rehearsed to death. And despite what one might have thought, no improvisation was tolerated during live performances.  Every song had to be played note for note, night for night.  Hardly surprising then that the first Magic Band walked out on him on mass (he snaffled all the publishing rights too, which probably didn’t help), after which he never recaptured the genius of his early work, eventually retiring from music in 1982.  But if you’re like me you’ll find that the Captain is one of those artists that you can go back to time after time, and never be disappointed.  There’s not only a real energy about his early recordings, but still an unpredictability that brings new surprises with each listening.  And I have to say, that the Captain should be recognised for singing one of the greatest pop-hits that never was, ‘Too much time’, which will always remain one of my favourites.  So Don Van Vliet, on this snowy London Saturday, rest in peace. – Nick Morgan
Let’s listen to The Clouds are full of Wine (not Whiskey or Rye) – from ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ (1970).

Christmas whisky

Tasting old wonders for Christmas

It’s our most cruel dilemma: should I, following some friends’ requests, taste more new bottlings so that this little website becomes more useful to the ‘whisky community’, or should I rather focus on old, rare and sometimes very expensive bottlings and become (even) less relevant to the buying masses? Well, I’m trying to do both and to please everybody (especially, er, myself) but the Christmas week gives me a good excuse for tasting a few more old glories. So, every day until Christmas, we’ll have a pair of rare old expressions. This is the program, in no particular order: Mortlach 1952 and 1936, Macallan 1947 and 1937, Linkwood 40yo and 1938, Macallan 1959 and 1955, Longrow 1973 and 1890 (well!), Laphroaig 1950s and 1967… And maybe a few other rare ones. Today, let’s kick this off with the Linkwoods if you don't mind…

Christmas whisky

Old wonders for Christmas, two pre-war Linkwood


G&M had quite some very old Mortlachs and Linkwoods, not to mention Macallans, Glenlivets and Glen Grants. Most were very good and, obviously, quite moving. Let’s try two wartime versions today, or rather pre-war versions as 95% of all Scottish distilleries were closed during WWII as you probably know, because of restrictions on the use of grains for distilling. Mind you, bread was more important than whisky in those gloomy times!

Linkwood 40 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante, +/- 1980) Four stars sA no vintage version. Colour: full gold. Nose: waaah! The most wonderful combination of dried fruits (especially sultanas) with light smoke and cough syrup. There’s this sootiness that’s often to be found in these old malts, some unexpected medicinal notes (embrocations, camphor, incense paper), hints of date liqueur like they make in Turkey (can’t remember the name, maybe ‘date liqueur’?) and then quite some spearmint. All that on a bed of sultanas, figs, longans and just a little thuja wood (resinous). Perfect old malt whisky, deliciously complex yet firm and assertive. Let’s only hope the palate will be half as stunning as this nose. Mouth: sure it’s not as flabbergasting in the attack, as it’s a tad weak, a little cardboardy and much, much grainier. Notes of tea, white pepper, a little cinnamon. Improves after a few minutes, though, becoming rounder and more on dried fruits but without ever matching the memorable nose. Finish: short, a little drying. Slightly metallic aftertaste. Comments: a nosing whisky, and what a nose! The palate was of more minor interest. SGP:342 – 85 points (but the nose was worth a good 94).

Linkwood 45 yo 1938/1983 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante) Two stars Ah, 1938, the year of the Macallan 1938! (clever, innit!) Colour: full gold. Nose: hmmm… This is drier, slightly metallic and, most curiously considering this baby’s age, also very pearish. It’s not OBE, it’s rather a style that’s very different. Also more ashy, slightly spirity, grainy… Could it be a fake 1938 Linkwood? Hmmm… Let’s check the palate… Mouth: hmmm… Hard to say. Same notes of pears, malt, tea and cardboard but also pleasant notes of mead, honey and quinces. It’s actually a little more to my liking than the 40 – just a little. Finish: short, cardboardy and rather tea-ish. Comments: frankly, I don’t know if this is authentic or if it was a refill or something like that. Hard to say. What’s sure is that it didn’t have the characteristics of an old Linkwood that didn’t keep well or that got oxidised. The whisky’s okay, only quite poor (considering its pedigree and after the 40yo) SGP:231 - 72 points. Right, this isn’t quite 'Christmas' yet… But tomorrow should be more spectacular (hopefully!)

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Anna Fisher plays the oboe and she does it beautfully, including in jazz! Let's listen to her rendition of Michael Franks' Antonio's Song (rather on English horn)... And then buy all of Anna Fisher's music!

Anna Fisher

December 16, 2010



Tasting one old Glenallachie

Glenallachie, another distillery that I don’t know too well, as I only tried ten of them so far, with mixed results I may add… But this one may be more to my liking, let’s see…

Glenallachie 38 yo 1972/2010 (49.9%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 102 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes, I remember well some of the Glenallachies I already tried, this one displays some of their aromas, that is to say something ‘chemical’. The main difference is that these ‘chemical’ notes (say concentrated lemon juice) are well integrated here, and even give the spirit much personality. Quite some grass as well, waxed papers, dry white wine (hectolitres of Riesling, serious!) It’s a very unusual malt for sure. Let’s see how it behaves under H2O. With water: it became grassier, more papery and almost closed. Faint hints of cheese (say… gouda). Mouth (neat): funny, it became almost Rosebanky! A very oily mouth feel and a lemony profile that’s still very unusual. A bitterness in the background… Olive oil? With water: really good now. Lime juice, cactus juice, lemon oil, marzipan… Finish: hello? Wooosh, this was short! Why not! Comments: what a strange dram, but what a funny one as well. Sometimes excellent and sometimes as weird as Glenallachie can be according to my shortish experience, what’s sure is that it’s a very entertaining one. And 38 years old! The old age is undetectable. Kudos to the bottlers, we need more unorthodox (and fun) whiskies! SGP:371 - 83 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



TASTING THREE DAVIDOFF from the Dominican Republic


  Davidoff left Cuba in the early 1990’s and move the production of their cigars to the Dominican Republic. Today those Cuban Davidoffs (the famous Chateaux Series, Margaux, Dom Perignon, Lafite …) are as legendary as the old Samaroli bottlings but nowadays, Davidoff is no longer on the top list of most true cigar lovers. The brand suffers from an excessive ‘marketing image’.  A reputation of very clean cigars, perfectly rolled but with a lack of savours and, most of all, overpriced. It’s time for me, who smoke mostly Cuban cigars, to make my own opinion. I chose three formats, all from the 2003 vintage. Davidoff  



DAVIDOFF Millenium Blend Petit Corona (Dominican Republic)

Length:  114 mm   diameter: 16 mm (Cepo 41)
Format: Petit Coronas
Vintage: 2003

The wrapper: colorado mat Ecuadorian Sun-grown wrapper
Dry Smoke: creamy, vanilla, caramel
Draw: excellent
Combustion: perfect, nice light grey ash. The cigar is very steady and does not require to be rectified or relit.
Strength: medium light
Aromas: start on smoky almost peaty notes, woody, toasted almond then burnt wood. The aromatic evolution is quite nonexistent.

The three thirds: 1) quite dry, light body,  2) gain in body and strength, less dry 3) the third third becomes bitter with a medium length

Conclusion: the Millenium Blend series is the most “powerful” series of the Davidoff cigars. But this Petit Corona remains quite gentle, a teatime cigar. The construction is very good but the cigar really leaves us wanting much more. More flavours, more complexity, more evolution.

79/100 (the rating of a cigar can only be the evaluation of a unique cigar smoked at a unique moment.)




DAVIDOFF “Special R” (Dominican Republic)

Length: 124 mm   diameter: 20 mm (Cepo 50)
Format: Robusto
Vintage: 2003

The wrapper: nice claro mat Connecticut (USA) wrapper
Dry Smoke: soft, woody and floral, dry fruits
Draw: excellent
Combustion: beautiful white ash. Does not require to be rectified or relit.
Strength: light
Aromas: woody, nutty, marzipan, some sweet spices and liquorice notes

The three thirds: 1) nice start, creamy, light body, elegant, good volume of smoke 2) not a frank evolution, stays on the same tonality 3) the cigar keeps its creaminess with a sweet bitterness, quite pleasant.

Conclusion: once again the range of aromas is quite restricted. But the cigar is pleasant with a good volume of smoke. I liked it.



DAVIDOFF Aniversario No. 2 (Dominican Republic)

Length: 178 mm   diameter:  19 mm (48 Cepo)
Format: Churchill
Vintage: 2003

The wrapper: claro mat
Dry Smoke: vanilla, soft iodine, floral
Draw: excellent
Combustion: perfect, nice white-grey ash. Does not require to be rectified or relit.
Strength: medium light
Aromas: macadamia, sweet woodiness, slightly earthy, dry fruits

The three thirds: 1) soft, light body, balanced 2)  gain in body and structure, the aromas remain discret 3) endless …

Conclusion: for this type of format, we expect more complexity. The cigar becomes really boring on the third third. Not a bad cigar but too monodimensional



Conclusion on the cigars tasting:  Even if I tried not to compare or rate those Davidoffs as if they were Cuban cigars, the fact is that the tasting confirms the not so good reputation of the brand, especially when taking their price into consideration. The packaging impresses more than the smoke. I would say it’s a good introduction to the cigar world, but why not rather go for some nice Nicaraguan cigars (Nicarao, Flor de Selva) or straight to some good and affordable Cuban cigars (Hoyo de Monterrey) that offer a much better value for money.




Balvenie 21 YO Port Wood Finish (40%, OB, 70cl): rating by Serge 86/100. I have a few friends who really like this whisky. It is not a fantastic single malt but I understand why they appreciate it. It is smooth, very pleasant and easy to drink. A well done cask finish.




On Petit Corona MB: brings some creaminess to the whole when the cigar tends to be too dry. The cigar also reveals a more elegant fruitiness from the Balvenie. A very good pairing. 4/5
On Special “R”: good pairing but not as balanced as with the Petit Corona. Tends to bring more bitterness to the whisky.  3/5
On Aniversario No. 2: nice easy and balanced match but doesn’t give too much excitement. 2.5/5




Glendronach 1970 18 YO (43%, Prestonfield): 93 rating by Malt Maniacs. This old Prestonfield bottled in 1988 represents the beginning of the success story of Andrew Symington, who started to bottle a few casks under the Prestonfield banner before he created Signatory Vintage and, in the early 2000’s, bought his own distillery, Edradour. A very good old Glendronach sherry cask.

On Petit Corona MB: a not very balanced match. Each plays its own partition. The aromas become unpleasant.  1/5
On Special “R”: reveals some strong interesting coffee notes but the pairing is not very balanced.  2.5/5
On Aniversario No. 2: same as for the two previous cigars, the pairing of the aromas do not match. The strong dark chocolaty, old leather notes of the Glendronach doesn’t seem to suit the Davidoff style. 1.5/5




Talisker 1956 34 YO (54.4%, G&M, 75cl):  A fantastic dram, typical from those old Taliskers from the 1950’s bottled by G&M. I think the key in those bottlings was the high quality of casks that were used, which gave a beautiful smooth creaminess with some outstanding aromas.

On Petit Corona MB: the whisky totally overpowers the cigar that lacks creaminess. It would have been perfect with an old Cuban Davidoff Chateau Margaux … 1/5
On Special “R”: curiously, if the cigar seems not as strong as the Petit Corona, the pairing is very nice and balanced. The whisky does not overpower the cigar that was finally rich enough. 4/5
On Aniversario No. 2: same as for the “Special R”, the cigar stands the match, however it’s a little bit less interesting.   3/5




Conclusion: the Balvenie was a quite obvious pairing before I started the tasting. The Talisker, a ‘big’ whisky, very different in style, was a surprisingly good match except with the Petit Corona that’s too dry and discreet.  The Glendronach, curiously, was completely out of tune. Usually, a sherry cask represents an easy pairing with a cigar but this Glendronach was really too heavy in aromas for the too gentle Davidoff cigars. An Aberlour 18 Y.O or a Strathisla 25 Y.O would have been better choices. - Emmanuel Dron, Singapore




MUSIC - Recommended listening: what a voice, what a voice! She's a true diva, her name is Nana Caymmi, she's from Brazil and she sings Não Se Esqueça de Mim with Erasmo Carlos. Please buy Nana Caymmi's music!

Nana Caymmi

December 15, 2010



Tasting one old Longmorn

Longmorn 1964/2010 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW, 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead, cask #1034) Five stars It seems that it’s one of these heavily sherried Longmorns from the mid-1960s such as the ones that G&M already bottled for LMdW or for the Italians (Intertrade). I tend to like the lighter old Longmorns just a little better but let’s see… Colour: coffee. Nose: classic. Raisins, fruitcake, milk chocolate, raspberry jam, blackcurrant jelly and prunes, then more mint liqueur, liquorice and just a little leather. No gamy or ueber-winey notes here. Globally pretty elegant.

Mouth: this is different. More oak, more tannins and globally much more concentration than in the nose. Verbena, wormwood, strong tea, aniseed, strawberry jam, liquorice, then more cinnamon straight from the wood, cocoa powder, coffee beans… I wouldn’t say this is tannic nor drying but it isn’t ‘light’ on the woody side. Finish: its long and mentholated, ‘extractive’ as the pros say, with even more cinnamon. Bags of cinnamon. Also a little kirsch. Comments: it’s a stunning whisky but at 45 years of age, the oaky gangue starts to show in my opinion. The ‘whisky’ is well worth 92 or 93 but the oakiness pulls it down to 90 – I almost went for 89. But hey, 90 is a lot of points. SGP:572 - 90 points.

BONUS: Johannes at the malt madness blog just reposted a link to one of our favourite websites ever, flavornet.org, that offers us the chemical names behind most aromas that we can find in whisky, wine and other drinks. Let’s take this opportunity to translate our notes for the nose of the very good Longmorn into a more, say ‘serious’ language:
Nose: classic. Ethylmethyl pyrazine, butyl methylbutyrate, dimethyl pyrazine, raspberry ketone, mercaptomethylpentanone and methyl benzoate, then more methylpentanone, diethyl 2-hydroxyglutarate and just a little hydroxypentanone. No 12-methyltridecanal or butanol notes here. Globally pretty elegant.
See, tasting whisky CAN be rocket science! ;-).

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



MUSIC - Recommended listening: time for something more adventurous again, with guitarist extraordinaire Fred Frith and female super-drummer and percussionist Evelyn Glennie doing a wonderful piece called Scuttlebutt that's on the 'Sugar Factory' CD. Maybe it's not for every ears but if you dig these, please buy Fred Frith and Evelyn Glennie's musics.

Evelyn Glennie

December 2010 - part 1 <--- December 2010 - part 2 ---> January 2011 - part 1

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



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