(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2011 - Part 2

December 2011 - part 1 <--- December 2011 - part 2 ---> January 2012 - part 1


December 30, 2011


The extremities of Indian malt whisky

I won’t claim that all our little tasting sessions always make a lot of sense, but what’s sure is that today’s probably won’t make any at all. Indeed, we’ll pair two Indian whiskies that, according to their respective reputations, are extremely dissimilar, and yet both are genuine Indian single malt whiskies… You’ve been warned, this will probably be bizarre…


McDowell’s Single Malt (42.8%, OB, India, batch #001/3, 2004) Made at Ponda (or Goa) Distillery by UB, the owners of Dalmore, Fettercairn and Jura. This malt was first launched in 1992, well before Amrut’s single malt, yet Amrut is an older distillery. I have to say that the first McDowell’s we tried, the ultra-light ‘N°1 Diet Mate’, did not leave imperishable memories (WF 15). Colour: gold. Nose: toasted grains and a faint metallic feeling that’s akin to what we sometimes find in the lower-shelf Irish. Then burnt grass, cardboard, barley sugar and molasses plus touches of rubber. Not painful. Mouth: starts dry and plankish, with quite some sawdust, flour, tea, cardboard and just a little corn syrup in the background… Little sweetness and a thin body, the whole becoming grassier over time. Not as horrible as it sounds but it’s too dry and grassy for me. Finish: short, on cinnamon and more sawdust. Comments: rather potable – and I’m sure a few ice cubes will further improve it. SGP:240 - 50 points.


Amrut ‘Portonova’ (62.1%, OB, 2011) Four stars and a half This baby was first matured in both refill bourbon and new American oak, then reracked into first fill Port pipes and then put back into bourbon casks. Colour: amber. Nose: starts on figs, chocolate and raspberry jelly, with an unexpected sherriness that translates into all kinds of dried fruits here, mainly sultanas and figs. In the background, a little leather, angelica, touches of cigarette tobacco… The whole is rounded and pretty smooth despite the high strength. Very nice notes of fresh parsley as well. With water: beautiful spiciness, with touches of white rum, bananas flambéed and always that fresh fruitiness that lifts the whole (raspberries). Mouth (neat): round, oily, very coating, much more unusual than on the nose. Starts with jelly beans, fructose, blackcurrants… I think the Port is louder than on the nose but it works very well, especially since it’s anything but winey. Behind that, the ‘Indian’ side, with some curry (yes), cardamom, ginger… With water: Amrut’s trademark fruitiness shines through (the tropics!), together with a little dark chocolate and all the spices. Finish: long, with these raspberries playing with the spices and a sweet, gingery aftertaste. Comments: probably less ‘Scotch-bourbon’ than the ‘naked’ Amruts, and rather more experimental so to speak, but I think the Port was tamed. Another experiment that worked very, very well, it seems. This baby earned very high Silver at the MM Awards 2011 (remember, 100% blind tasting) and the Best Cask Innovation Award (Premium). SGP:651 – 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: all the beauty of repetition with Sun Ra's amazing and, indeed, entrancingly funky Twin Stars of Thence that was on 1978's Lanquidity album. Please buy Sun Ra's music!

Sun Ra

December 29, 2011


Tasting official vs. indie Knockando

The new Knockando 25 is part of Diageo’s annual Special Releases 2011. For good measure, we’ll try it along with one of the rare independent versions of Knockando and have the former first, as it’s much lighter in alcohol.

Knockando 25

Knockando 25 yo 1985/2011 (43%, OB, Special Release, 4758 bottles) Four stars and a half From first fill Ex-Sherry European Oak Casks. It’s a bit strange that this was bottled at 43% vol. More ‘Knockando’ than ‘Special Release’? But does that matter? Colour: mahogany. Nose: well, we’re a bit in old cognac territories at first nosing, with just a little varnish, quite some coffee and old polished wood striking first and then bitter oranges, dark raisins, marmalade, toffee and toasted brioche plus wood smoke and tar as well as touches of blackcurrant jelly and mint. Whew. Ultra-mega classic, you’d imagine this is the kind of Scotch one ought to sip in the company of a few (British) ministers and ambassadors.

Mouth: exactly the same feeling as on the nose, it’s almost cognac XO (at least). Starts a tad fruitier than on the nose, though, with stewed strawberries and orange marmalade, and develops on the expected coffee, toasted oak, a little liquorice, orange cake, toffee, cinnamon, cloves… Again, it’s ultra-classic. No big mouth feel but no weak body either. Finish: medium long, with the marmalady notes more in front and a few greener spices in the aftertaste (cardamom). Comments: I really, really like it, it’s not without reminding me of some older versions of Macallan 25 in some way. Btw, where’s your bowling hat? SGP:452 - 88 points.

Knockando 1994

Knockando 15 yo 1994/2009 (60.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, hogshead, cask #5314, 258 bottles) Two stars Do you know how many independent Knockandos I’ve tasted thus far? One! Maybe this will be the last one… Colour: gold. Nose: one thousand times rawer and rougher than the OB and probably one million times more spirity. Medicinal alcohol, wood alcohol, grass, lavender (or even cologne)… Well, tell me about a contrasting effect! With water: not much evolution. Maybe a little more grains and porridge… Mouth (neat): ultra raw and sweet, reminding me of some white apple brandy. Yes, that’s all. With water: more barley sugar and… plain sugar. A little grass. Finish: long, with some slightly burnt notes on top of the rest. Comments: I guess the otherwise excellent bottlers selected this one because it’s so rare. Well, it’s not bad at all and certainly not flawed, but I think it is very… say bland. But hey, I’ve now tasted no less than TWO independent Knockandos! Hurray! ;-) SGP:331 - 70 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more great roaring big band, it's Bob 'Yellowjacket' Mintzer's this time, playing Spectrum. Play it loud and please buy Bob Mintzer's music.

Bob Mintzer

December 28, 2011


Tasting two old official Glen Garioch

Old Glen Gariochs used to be stunners, and it seems that the current distillate is of high quality as well (again). But we’ll focus on older ones today, first with a 1971 for the excellent people at The Whisky Exchange and then with one of the famous official 1968s (but a rare one!)

Glen garioch

Glen Garioch 40 yo 1971/2011 (43.9%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, cask #2038, 194 bottles) Five stars Colour: light gold. Nose: yes, that’s the style. This very peculiar peatiness that we already had in many GGs from the 1960s. A kind of mineral peat, so to speak (dear botanists, don’t shoot!) There’s also a Laphroaiggy medicinal side (bandages, embrocations) and a rather Ardbeggian sooty tarriness. Behind all that Islayness, more linseed oil and lemon zest, some paraffin, whiffs of wet wool (or your tweed jacket under the rain) and hay. Quite a presence despite the relatively low strength. Great nose! Mouth: the peat is very vivid yet again, but it’s rather smoother and rounder, coated with lemon marmalade and grapefruits. Then we have that medicinal side again, cough syrup, eucalyptus, a little wormwood, salmiak, maybe touches of genever… Definitely old style and oh-so lovable. Finish: quite long, just as peaty, with a salty tang and a waxy/peppery signature. Comments: lovely, as expected – and despite the low strength. Or because of the low strength? It’s true that Glen Garioch+1971 sounds like The Beatles+1965. Just ask signor Samaroli. SGP:456 - 92 points.

Glen Garioch

Glen Garioch 34 yo 1968 (55.3%, OB, hogshead, Cask #17) Five stars While earlier very sherried 1968s weren’t uncommon (29yo), it seems that this 34yo is very hard to find. Did some tycoon buy and maybe drink them all?  Colour: mahogany. Nose: plain and pure Christmas cake. Yes, how fortunate. Then this very mineral peat again, coated with chocolate, figs, prunes, dates, Corinthian raisins and just a little blackberry jam. Big and lovely. And old balsamic vinegar, naturally. With water: more minerality. Flints and gravel, then a wonderful acidic combo involving lemon and bone-dry Riesling. And then these funny medicinal touches that we already had in the 1971 (bandages – well, I agree bandages are anything but funny). Mouth (neat): astounding peat/sherry combination. Ultra-heavy liquorice and raw menthol, tar and bitter chocolate. Maybe a tad extreme, in fact. Very extreme. With water: once again water made wonders. It got rounder and creamier, a tad fruitier as well (blackberries, blackcurrants), with a kind of peatiness that’s simply superb. Finish: long and fantastic. Comments: a grand peaty/sherried Glen Garioch. Listen, let’s club together and send a few henchmen to that unknown tycoon who seems to have bought all the bottles, what do you think? (save the one we just tried, of course)… SGP:557 - 94 points. (with thanks and lots of love to Bert V.) PS: a simple hogshead? My eye!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: essential and seminal, as they say, Monk's I should care (that version was on Solo Monk). Oh, and solar as well. Please buy Mr. Thelonious Sphere Monk's music.


December 27, 2011


Wandering in the Lowlands of Scotland


Inverleven 1991/2010 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) Two stars and a half There were many vintages in this relatively light series but as 1991 was the last vintage at Inverleven, I guess it’ll soon come to an end. Colour: straw. Nose: very light and pretty much on pears and barley, with a little bubblegum in the background, then more watermelon and maybe strawberry sweets (Haribo’s Tagada?) Mouth: again, very light, sweet, almost a little sugary, with the same kinds of fruits. It’s pleasant enough and I guess it’ll take a few ice cubes with gusto. Becomes maltier after that, a tad tea-ish and rather drier. Finish: shortish but pleasantly waxy. More oak in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it’s rather nicer than earlier vintages and after all, it’s become a slice of whisky history! SGP:431 - 78 points.


Glenkinchie 1996/2010 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, finished in amontillado, G/283-7-D) Two stars and a half The exact opposite of the Lagavulin DE, in a certain way… Colour: gold. Nose: this edition starts rather fragrant, with roses, musk and even touches of old style blusher. Kissing an old lady? Then more soft spices, caraway, curry powder… and a little bubblegum just like in the Inverleven. An unusual nose, I think I’ve never encountered this style it in any other whisky except in earlier versions of Glenkinchie DE. Mouth: much more toasted and malty, with also some honey cake, earl grey tea, vanilla, apricot jam… It’s all a little light but it’s pleasant. Finish: quite short and rather grassier, with something faintly mustardy in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s a slightly strange dram, maybe the distillate is a tad too light to sustain the sherry? But it’s loyal and honest whisky for sure…  SGP:441 - 78 points.


Littlemill 22 yo 1989/2011 (48.3%, Archives, Refill sherry hogshead, cask #RTN-11-238, 120 bottles) Five stars Many great Littlemills lately! Colour: pale amber. Nose: tell me about light, floral Lowlanders! This is a big as the biggest Highlanders at first nosing and full of soot, shoe polish and ‘garage tools’ before it starts to unfold on more fruitiness (stewed mangos?), with great whiffs of eucalyptus, mint liqueur and tiger balm and then whiffs of musty old cellar, mushrooms and cigars. Even some ‘Chartroose’ as Tarentino would say. Huge complexity and even a feeling of ‘good OBE’ (old bottle effect – yep I know this is no old bottle). Mouth: awow! Very complex, oily, almost thick, with a lot of rum agricole, olive oil, lime liqueur and bitters. Very unusual in fact, I don’t quite know what happened here but what’s sure is that the end result is quite brilliant. A cask with heads in eucalyptus wood? Or an ex-Ardbeg cask? (that would be my guess). Finish: medium long, on crystallised lemon zests and again these notes of chartreuse. The aftertaste is a notch more bitter. Comments: ultra-good and mega-interesting. Vive la différence, this is exactly what you need when you’re tasting a lot of whiskies! SGP:562 - 91 points.


Rosebank 20 yo 1990/2011 (56.7%, Silver Seal, Sestante Collection) Four stars and a half Ah, the Rosebank 1975/2005 by Silver Seal!!! Let’s hope this baby will come close… Colour: white wine. Nose: sharp, austere start, on clay, rocks, flints and lemon skin. The citrus fruits only come out after a few seconds, with mainly limes and grapefruits that make it ultra-zesty and greatly ‘sharp and narrow’ (chiselled). Unsexy but very appealing if you like the style. With water: even more mineral and citrusy, with only touches of porridge. Mouth (neat): tart, literally bursts with fruits, both citrus and tropical. Passion fruits, lemons, limes, grapefruits… Also something slightly ‘candy-like’ (cherry drops?) It’s even a tad fizzy on the tongue. With water: excellent. The best limoncello? Finish: medium long, more on candied citrons, lemon pie... Comments: all very good, even better chiselled than all the new and excellent Littlemills we saw in 2011 but maybe a tad less complex. Anyway, as I said, excellent. SGP:551 - 88 points.


Bladnoch 21 yo 1990/2011 (58.7%, Silver Seal, Sestante Collection) Three stars and a half Colour: pale white wine. Nose: I think Rosebank and Bladnoch usually share a few common descriptors, especially the citrusy notes, but its not the case at all this time. This baby is much, much more on grains, porridge, white bread, leaven, yeast… It’s almost like smelling a handful of soaked malted barley in a malting plant. It’s only in a second stage that more fruits come out as well as more minerals, but the whole remains very porridgy. With water: ginger tonic and yeast, with a little cheese as well (not gym socks!) . Mouth (neat): a strange attack, peppery and rather bubblegumy at the same time, with also a lot of beer, hops eau-de-vie (ever tried that? They make some in Alsace) and a little Swiss cheese… And some lemon indeed in the background. With water: now we’re talking! The yeasty/cheesy notes have disappeared, leaving room for bags and bags of lime and the grapefruits. Finish: long and citrusy, extremely zesty. Comments: it took its time and twists and turns but it got there! Water is obligatory here. SGP:451 - 84 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I think there are more Zappa tribute bands that 'pseudo-Pink Floyds' around. This one is called the Filthy Habits Ensemble and I think they're pretty good! Let's have a go at them playing Echidna's Arf (Of You) - yup that was on Roxy & Elsewhere - and then buy all their music!


December 26, 2011


Xmas cleaning:
1995-2000 Laphroaig

No literature, no water, no pictures, let’s do it in a rough and ready way for once. Photograph: in a warehouse at Laphroaig, may 2002.
Laphroaig 10 yo 2000/2010 (51.5%, Daily Drams Germany, bourbon) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: a very smoky, sooty and ashy young Laphroaig. Like visiting the kiln there. No fruits. Mouth: excellent, smoky and almondy, briny, with a pretty fruitiness behind all that. Juice apples and touches of quinces (jam). Finish: long, savoury. Peated fruits. Comments: sometimes Laphroaig can be stunning even at very young age. This is a fine example. SGP:448 - 89 points.

Laphroaig 10 yo 2000/2010 (59.4%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead) Four stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: similar but just a tad less sooty/ashy. Raw peated malt. Mouth: same style as the DD, a wee-tad harsher and less polished. A little earthier/rootier. Finish: long, salty. Comments: all good. SGP:348 - 87 points.

Laphroaig 12 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: less power, not only because of ‘low’ strength, more porridge and cider apples. Touches of mint, wet dogs (sorry, dogs), wet wool. Mouth: easy, sweet, rounded peat, then grapefruits and crystallised lemons. Very easy, very satisfying. Finish: quite long, smoke and lemon squash. Lemon blossom honey. Comments: the nose was a bit indistinct but the palate is very moreish. Mucho quaffable. SGP:447 - 85 points.
Laphroaig 12 yo 1997/2010 (54.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, hogshead, cask #56441, 197 bottles) Four stars A 12yo in that series, that’s strange. Or maybe it’s really stellar? Colour: straw. Nose: same style as the NC2, with even more apple peelings and fresh walnuts. But it’s not the most expressive Laphroaigs on the nose. Mouth: this is excellent, nervous, lemony, briny, very fresh. Not very medicinal that is. Finish: not very long, which is strange, but clean and briny. Comments: I like it but it’s not one of the peatiest Laphroaigs and it’s not very medicinal. SGP:447 - 86 points.
Laphroaig 12 yo 1996/2009 (60.3%, A.D. Rattray, hogshead, cask #7290, 303 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: a very punchy, very medicinal and very spirity Laphroaig this time. Antiseptic and coal smoke everywhere. Mouth: sweet, creamy, much rounder and fuller than the 1997s although the pat is heavy. Touches of burnt cake as well and something slightly disturbing, a tad ‘chemical’ for lack of a better term. I had two samples and checked both, same results. Finish: long, with more green apple liqueur, Spanish-style. Comments: unusual! Some parts are great, some others are disconcerting. SGP:368 - 80 points.
Laphroaig 12 yo 1998/2010 (52.4%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon hogshead, 158 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: typical very medicinal peat with some barley sugar and stewed apples underneath. Antiseptic and tarte tatin. Mouth: sweet peat, lemon marmalade, a lot of smoke and brine and almonds. Finish: long, liquoricy, slightly bitter. Lemony aftertaste. Comments: certainly good but not as stunning as another version by the same bottlers (59.9%, WF 91). SGP:547 - 87 points.
Laphroaig 1996/2010 (57.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #7307, 273 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this one is very austere, flinty and sooty. Behind, some lemon and candied citrons and a little bacon and mint. Mouth: excellent, full, nervous yet rich and creamy, with this perfect combination of peat and lemon marmalade and just touches of salt, maple syrup and vanilla. Finish: long, rich, with an aftertaste on lapsang souchong tea. Comments: very nice nose and brilliant palate here. Maybe the hoggie was recharred? SGP:548 - 90 points.
Laphroaig 1996/2010 (57.3%, Malts of Scotland, Clubs for The Bonding Dram, bourbon hogshead, cask #7313, 255 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: same as cask #7307, maybe a wee-tad sharper and more austere. Strait in its boots! Mouth: same as above, a little more on lemon liqueur. A lot of smoke and quite some tar. Finish: long, more on coffee. That’s it, Laphroaig-improved ristretto. Comments: a beast, this one. As they say, iron fists in velvet gloves. Excellent. SGP:548 - 89 points.
Laphroaig 13 yo 1996/2009 (59.8%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead) Five stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: oh, this is an earthier one, with some humus, leaves and mushrooms. A walk in the forest (with a hipflask full of Laphroaig, eh!) And like with the 2000 we started this session with, we’re more and more on ‘visiting the kiln’ as well. A kiln in a forest, does that make any sense? Mouth: top notch creamy, citrusy and very smoky Laphroaig. Very oily mouth feel. Finish: very long, becoming saltier. Very salty aftertaste. Comments: purfekkkt. SGP:548 - 90 points.
Laphroaig 16 yo 1995/2011 (57.4%, Signatory, bourbon barrel, cask #44, 140 bottles) Four stars Signatory already had so many great Laphroaigs! (1990 or 1991 anyone?) Colour: straw. Nose: this is both lighter in style and much more coastal than all the other ones. It’s also a little more eau-de-vie-ish, with a little kirsch. Maraschino. Relatively discreet, I’d say. Mouth: indeed it’s very different from the others. Intriguing notes of tinned pineapples, then a little mead, even coconut… Of course, the background is very ‘Laphroaig’ (peat, salt, lemon, antiseptic) but this tropicality came unexpected. Also curious touches of Swiss cheese, not unpleasant I must say. Finish: long, always with these coconutty notes. Comments: the wonders – or disasters, it all depends on how you see it – of newish American oak? Lacks a bit of classicism but on the other hand, it’s very entertaining. Yeah, especially after nine other youngish Laphroaigs. SGP:637 - 85 points.
Laphroaig 16 yo 1995/2011 (58.1%, Signatory, bourbon barrel, cask #52, 193 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: closed! Very little happening this time, which is a tad bizarre. Ideas of walnuts and almonds flying around… Let’s try to wake it up with water… With water: there are bursts of both bubblegum and, indeed, kirsch again, but also fern, moss, brine. Mouth: ah yes, this is a creamy, rounded, lemony and chiselled kind of Laphroaig, although there are touches of tinned pineapples, kumquats and even pear drops yet again. Something to do with the vintage? The cut? Sadly, I don’t seem to find any other 1995 I could already try… wait, there’s one, the official and oddly labelled ‘1995 Duke of Rothesay' and indeed I found something kumquaty and bubblegumy according to my old notes. Oh well… Finish: long, fruity and smoky (smoky like some smoked salmon, not really very peaty). Coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: lots of fun in this one, despite – or thanks to – the very unusual and slightly shaky profile. SGP:646 - 88 points.
In the coming says we’ll also try to finish off quite a few 1990-1995 Laphroaigs… Stay tuned!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a good slice of an humorous, second degree brass-filled jazz with Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy playing Unchained Melodie (from the album 'When The Spirit Returns'). Please buy Lester Bowie's music.


December 24, 2011


It’s hard to choose a few Christmas drams

Which whiskies shall we have for Christmas? There were so many new malts in 2011 that they started to invade little whiskyfun.com, to the detriment of our beloved oldies – and still, I have so many new ones yet to taste! So, shall we have a few recent glories or shall we rather try to find a few even more glorious oldies? Well, I think we’ll rather have the oldies if you don’t mind. After all, it’s Christmas! And I think we’ll set our hearts on three old 1969 Springbanks by Signatory. We already had other casks from that vintage, especially a ’51.8%’ version bottled in 1996 that was stellar (WF 93) while others were quite great but rather less stellar. Indeed, in my experience not all 1969 Springbanks were equal. Let’s see…


Springbank 26 yo 1969/1995 (51.7%, Signatory, sherry, 790 bottles) Five stars some versions didn’t bear cask numbers at the time. Colour: gold. Nose: foo, what a nose! Starts on avalanches of dried fruits, jams and honeys and gets then beautifully drier, much more on leather polish and tobacco, with some smoke in the background and a little metal polish/old tool. Also something curiously medicinal that hints at Longrow – but Longrow didn’t exist at the time, did it. With water: totally wonderful, with this old-style medicinal profile growing bigger. Old embrocations and secret potions, mint, camphor, antiseptic… and cranberries! Mouth (neat): a very creamy-jammy attack, absolutely wonderful and very ‘old Springbank’, with these curious medicinal notes that are not to be found anywhere else. Something like cough syrup mixed with lemon juice… Goes on with bags of bitter oranges, caraway seeds, cardamom, bitter almonds, a little olive oil… Truly wonderful. With water: in the same vein but with more liqueurs and fine spices, it becomes almost oriental. Finish: long, with this stunning spiciness. For the thousand and one nights? Comments: a big, glorious old Springbank from some perfect sherry wood, I think you cannot beat this. SGP:662 - 94 points.


Springbank 26 yo 1969/1996 (52.8%, Signatory, sherry, 440 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one is almost silent after the very expressive ’51.7’, maybe we should give it a little more time… zzz… zzz… Indeed, it wakes up but slowly, with much less fruits and honey and more grass and oak. Cedarwood, tobacco, then more quinces. A rather dry fruitiness but it’s coming, with notes of oranges, but the oak remains quite load (carpenter’s workshop). With water: it’s funny how the fruits came out, this is almost like the ’51.7’ but when that one was undiluted. Very little medicinal notes here, rather sultanas, honeydew and spiced chutneys and behind all that, seaweeds and hessian. Mouth (neat): what we didn’t have in the nose (neat) is on the palate. So we’re much closer to the previous one except that there’s even more spices and tobacco-like notes. Big cinnamon and cloves, a little molasses and then more ginger and caraway, just like in the previous one. With water: gets rather drier and oaky, quite tea-ish, without the stunning kind of development that the previous one displayed, but it’s still great. Cedarwood and cinnamon, then candied citrons. Finish: long, on cinnamon, citrons and oranges. Comments: excellent, should I add of course, even if it’s maybe not one of the most glorious ones. SGP:562 - 91 points.


Springbank 27 yo 1969/1997 (54%, Signatory, sherry, butt #2383, 580 bottles) Four starsColour: full gold. Nose: well, this is even drier than the two other one, more metallic and very, very grassy. The smoke is bigger too, it’s all rather sooty. A lot of hay too, leather, waxed papers, ashes, pepper mill, walnuts... No fruitiness coming through, even after quite some minutes. With water: nah, that doesn’t quite work, it became even drier and very oaky. Walnut stain? Old stove… Mouth (neat): metallic and bizarrely herbal. Agave… tequila? Lemon grass, peppermint, something a little cardboardy, aspirin tablets… I think it’s kind of dirty-ish, maybe something strange happened with the cask. A few nails? With water: hurray, that worked this time! It was about time… Spicy lemon marmalade, ginger, cloves, drops of lemon juice, a little icing sugar, lime… Too bad there’s also something a little cardboardy behind all that. Finish: long and lemony, with more ginger and these funny sugary notes. Fructose? Comments: the hardest, no question about that, but don’t get me wrong, some parts were still wonderful, especially the pleasantly nervous/citrusy finish. SGP:362 - 86 points.

Do you have a little time for a last one? Because with Springbank, the officials often rule! So let’s try to find a worthy opponent of similar age… Like this baby, for instance...


Springbank 30 yo (46%, OB, +/-1992) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: holy featherless crow! Maracuja juice and oils, oils and oils plus fresh putty, fresh almonds, fresh walnuts and fresh hazelnuts plus a full bag of sultanas, dried figs and orange blossom water. Add a few ashes and a touch of kelp. Amazing freshness, amazing nose. Mouth: exponentially emphatic (what???), with strictly all tropical fruits, all oils, all soft spices and… Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: length isn’t this baby’s strongest point, but the feeling is amazing, especially with these passion fruits and kiwis that keep singing their beautiful song. Comments: I know, a classic bottle and certainly no news to any whisky lover, but my god this is good! SGP:752 - 94 points. (heartfelt thanks to Jörg and Angus)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the great Kenny Burrell doing Merry Christmas Baby. Merry Christmas and please buy Kenny Burrel's music!

Kenny Burrell

December 23, 2011


A few good or interesting Linkwood


Linkwood 12 yo 1998/2011 (54.6%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, bourbon, cask #11650) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: very interesting because there are these whiffs of roses and maybe lilac that are sometimes to be found in Linkwood in my experience. Other than that, some very nice notes of fresh oranges and liquorice as well as, maybe, a little aniseed. Also a little herbal liqueur, maybe genepy and verveine (verbena). Nice ‘difference’ here, it’s not just any young ‘naked’ Speysider. With water: gets farmyardy as often and that lasts. Mouth: a creamy, very fruity attack, much on cherries and orange liqueur yet again. Goes on with the same notes of liquorice that we had in the nose and then quite some muesli. Good body, good mouth feel. With water: more raw malt and ale. Finish: long and very, very malty. Comments: very pleasant, natural Linkwood, true to the make. SGP:551 - 84 points.


Linkwood 17 yo 1992/2010 (53%, Chieftain's, pinot noir finish) Three stars and a half Finished in German Franconian Pinot Noir. Shouldn’t be my style, I’m afraid… Colour: gold. Nose: hey-hey, this is not vinous at all! And it does not reek of cassis, raspberries or even these animal notes that can be found in good Pinot Noirs. Instead, we have these notes of roses again, maybe even a little litchi (tinned) and then a nice development on orange marmalade and various herbs. Maybe a little parsley, dill, fennel… With water: nice notes of hay and grains. A farmyard in… Franconia? Mouth (neat): once again, no huge winey notes although there is something unusual indeed. Some very sweet ginger, for example, or these touches of cardamom. Bitter oranges. Oily mouth feel. With water: these notes of herbs that we already had in the nose, plus green tea. Finish: medium long, more on blackcurrant buds this time. Leaves. Comments: a very pleasant finishing this time, an interesting variant. SGP:551 - 84 points.


Linkwood 21 yo 1989/2011 (61.7%, Signatory for LMdW, Sherry Butt, cask #3207, 303 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: a classy sherry, not overpowering, with a lot of chocolate, prunes and leather and just a little yeastiness (bread). Also some Barbour grease (have to find a more generic descriptor one day) and roasted pecans. With water: it’s as if some peat came out, but it cannot be peat. Hay and more Barbour grease (I know, I know). Mouth (neat): creamy, sweet and very rich, all on Christmas cake (how fitting) and violet liqueur (some Parfait Amours). Then more walnut liqueur, chocolate and a faint tarriness. With water: more jams (apricots and plums) and more soft spices. Chinese anise, cinnamon, cloves… Finish: long, with added touches of tobacco and a little cough syrup in the aftertaste. Comments: just excellent, a very chocolaty Linkwood. SGP:551 - 88 points.


Linkwood 21 yo 1988/2010 (58.6%, The Stillman's) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: a very elegant nose, all on orange blossom and oriental pastries (which may be the same, arh…), with some unexpected notes of fresh spicy mushrooms arising. I don’t mean old floorcloth, rather, say… bluefoot mushrooms. Aha. With water: more of that superb earthiness. Maybe boletus this time? Behind all that, apple pie and shortbread. Mouth (neat): excellent attack, honeyed and creamy, with many jams and tinned fruits. Quince jelly, marmalade, Seville oranges, white pepper… Really excellent. With water: even more so. Funny notes of litchis and gewürztraminer. Finish: medium long, still very creamy, honeyed and jammy. Touches of ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: this wee Swiss bottler selected a truly great cask. Congrats! SGP:641 - 89 points.

Linkwood MOS

Linkwood 1987/2011 (51.4%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #11008, 315 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: a naked Linkwood again, but this time it’s the cleanest and most elegant Linkwoody profile. Maybe these roses yet again, then quite some barley sugar, almonds, ‘good’ putty (I’ve seen some friends using putty in a negative way while I like it a lot – have to be careful) and the faintest hints of smoke. With water:  some peat comes out, together with mint, grass and eucalyptus. Ginger tonic. Having said that, the other aromas have vanished. Mouth (neat): sweet and rounded at first sips, and then we have a true peat blast. Okay, no blast but the peat is very vivid now. Having said that, it’s all pretty grassy and narrow, and it’s soon to drop. Aw. Too bad because there were also pleasant mentholated notes. With water: mildly peaty and sweet. Candy sugar. Finish: rather short. Peat and caramel. Comments: we already had one of these peated Linkwoods and it didn’t quite convince me. Having said that, this one has its moments, especially on the (nice) nose. And hey, peated Linkwoods are rare! SGP:466 - 81 points.


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
You say water?
I get many questions about the water I use when tasting whisky. It’s true that different waters can really change a dram, as we found out when we did such a special tasting session with Martine Nouet for Whisky Magazine France seven years ago.

Try different waters on different whiskies, you’ll see! There are many waters that work pretty well (my favourites are Vittel and Glenlivet) and in my opinion the best waters to brew tea ore coffee are the best waters for whisky. What’s important is that the water is odourless and not too soft. Tap water can work but chlorine is a no-no and can wreck the heaviest young peater.
A little trick to check some water that can smell fairly neutral yet be very bad for your whisky: boil half a litre and then ‘nose’ it while it’s hot (carefully!), the faintest hints of chlorine will come out. It should have remained odourless.



MUSIC - Recommended listening: Miles Davis, Bob Dorough on vocals, Gil Evans arranging the whole, it's the legendary Blue Xmas (to whom this may concern) recorded in 1962. Please buy all these people's musics. (and thanks Michel)


December 22, 2011


Tasting more newish Port Ellen

One of these will be our 200th Port Ellen, I think it’ll be the third one we’ll have today. Nothing meaningful or too important of course, but I do notice that there are still quite a few new bottlings that are launched these days while ten years ago already, some people were claiming that we were seeing the last drops. Those ‘last drops’ will happen eventually, but it doesn’t seem like that’ll happen anytime soon (which, by the way, doesn’t seem to be the case with our beloved Brora, sob…)


Port Ellen 29 yo 1982/2011 (58.5%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #18, 212 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts very citric, very lemony and very briny/coastal. Lemon-spread kippers and oysters. Stays on those simple yet pretty entrancing notes for a looong time, with no tarry burst, no new tyres and no brand new rubber boots… Maybe a little café latte. With water: even more brine and, yes, a little fresh tar. Mouth (neat): excellently nervous and citrusy, with a lot of salt right from the start and a very ‘kippery’ and almondy peatiness. Once again, the beauty comes from its simplicity (says the guy who keeps advertising complexity in whisky). With water: a delicious salty and citrusy profile, bordering on tequila + lemon + salt (the best of each). Finish: long and even saltier. You could almost use it instead of salt on your favourite dishes – a very valid excuse, don’t you think? Comments: one of the tireless chiselled PEs, with little oak influence. This could well spend 50 years in ‘wood’ and not lose steam… SGP:358 - 91 points.


Port Ellen 28 yo 1982/2011 (60%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #2033, 534 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one seems to be mellower and rather subtler, with more fresh butter, apple peelings and almonds. The peat blast is more discreet and in that sense we’re closer to the recent OBs. Yet, it is briny and peaty of course… Also some very nice whiffs of fresh herbs, a little wormwood, aniseed, dill, chamomile tea (yeah, chamomile in Port Ellen!)… With water: touches of pencil shavings coming through and always those herbs, as well as quite some menthol… Mouth (neat): it’s funny that those herbal notes are well there again in the palate, I guess they came from the wood. The best absinthe ever? Other than that, there’s brine and lemon plus lemon and brine – and big time. With water: once again some fresh oak comes through, together with a little ginger. All that on top of what? Yes, lemon and brine. Finish: medium to long, on the same notes. It’s salty but less so than the Whisky-Doris. Comments: slightly disconcerting at times but quality is very high. A very worthy award-winner at the MM Awards 2011! SGP:367 - 90 points.


Port Ellen 1983/2011 (58.9%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask # MoS 11011, 267 bottles) Five stars I think this one is our 200th tasting note for a PE. Colour: straw. Nose: yet again, this is completely different. More lemon, more youth and much more brine at first nosing, this could be much younger than 28. More fresh walnuts after that, butter, rocks, shellfish, coffee… Another one that’s not immensely complex, but it’s perfect distillate for sure. I’m wondering if the recent OBs’ very complex profile does not simply come from the fact that they’re vattings of ten casks or more (thank you Sherlock!)… With water: more almondy/buttery notes as well as more medicinal ones (antiseptic). Mouth (neat): a tad more bitter than the others, a little resinous and sappy, with more tar as well, liquorice… And other than that, yes, brine and lemon. More and more salt. With water: even more herbal/bitterish notes. Liquorice wood and tar drops. Finish: long, with some marzipan plus always a lot of b**** and l****. Comments: it’s the biggest and roughest, with more classic tar. And yet again, a great dram. SGP:368 - 90 points.
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
Watch the cannonballs
Seen in the latest issue of the excellent Whisky Magazine France, this comment: “Whiskyfun (is) a space of malted freedom that’s closer to a pirate radio station or a speakeasy than to a website.” That, I liked very much, thank you!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Pierrejean Gaucher plays FZ's Inca Roads. It seems that jazz doesn't even smell funny. Please buy Pierrejean Gaucher's music.

Pierrejean Gaucher

December 21, 2011


Tasting grains, grains, grains and grains


Invergordon 38 yo 1971 'Hedonism' (46%, Compass Box, 10th Anniversary, 2010) Five stars For once, Compass Box displayed the distillery’s name on this rare bottle. Colour: pale gold. Nose: what’s quite impressive with this old Invergordon is that it does not reek of toasted oak and related aromas. It’s rather more on espresso and warm brioche, then millionaire shortbread and roasted pecans. You say that comes from the oak? Maybe, but there’s also some apricot pie, plum jam, vanilla cake, sugar cane… Anyway, a very nice nose, less ‘excessive’ than other old grains in my opinion. Mouth: all right, this is quite a fruit bomb, very impressive yet not quite ‘wham-bam’ if you see what I mean. I mean it remains delicate and elegant, just like a carefully composed fruit salad that you’d serve along some artisanal vanilla ice cream. Perfect spices as well, between nutmeg and cinnamon. Finish: medium long, still fresh and fruity. The apricots are back in the very clean aftertaste, together with a little ale. Comments: one of the best grains I could try, but that was to be expected from John Glaser’s. And imagine, a 10th anniversary bottling! SGP:731 - 90 points.


Dumbarton 46 yo 1964 (47.4%, Douglas Laing, Clan Denny, Refill Hogshead HH 7542, 2011) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: we’re midway between some varnishy oak extracts and a fresh fruitiness that’s quite impressive. Stewed fruits, papayas, coconuts, pineapples, then quite a lot of fudge and caramel. The combination works well and reminds me a bit of hot praline, or maybe those hazelnuts liqueurs that the Italians make. Mouth: nervous and fresh, absolutely not overoaky or tired, all on fruits, sweet spices and various nuts. In fact, I get something like a pecan/pineapple mix. Also ripe mangos and kiwis. Then more café latte, praline again, maybe Bailey’s (yeah, yeah, I know) and finally a bourbon-like feeling. High quality bourbon, that is. Finish: long, clean and amazingly fresh, although the aftertaste is a tad oaky/plankish. Comments: as I said, there’s an impressive freshness in this oldie. SGP:631 - 89 points.

Port Dundas

Port Dundas 20 yo 1990 (57.4%, OB, Special Release, 1920 bottles, 2011) Four stars From a combination of bourbon, new European and sherry casks. Colour: amber, with red hues. Nose: well, this is unusual. Not the usual old grain for sure (coconut and vanilla galore) and of course no malt, in fact it’s more akin to rum agricole. So we have sugar cane, obviously, and then quite some varnish and pencil shavings as well as notes of raspberries and tarte tatin. With water: doesn’t move a toe. Maybe a little more fresh sawdust and toasted oak. Mouth (neat): the oak is loud in the attack, very sweet, with something frankly plankish but I wouldn’t say it’s unpleasant. Goes on with more grape juice, these notes of rum again, American corn whisky and even a little grappa. In other words, it’s very ‘world’. And the tarte tatin is back again. Make that candied apple pie. With water: bourbon! Finish: medium long, mainly on maple syrup ad cinnamon. Comments: this baby lost me. Where are we? America? Trinidad? Italy? Spain? Scotland? Excuse me? Of course it’s very good. SGP:720 - 87 points… And let’s try another, older Port Dundas for good measure…

Port Dundas

Port Dundas 37 yo 1973/2010 (55.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, sherry, cask #128319, 374 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: deep amber with red hues. Nose: this is almost plain coffee with a glassful of Cointreau thrown in. It’s also very chocolaty, toasted and somewhat aggressive, maybe because of the high ABV. Very oaky too (toasted). With water: bourbon! All the sweet/fruity notes come out, with a lot of tinned pineapple and sultanas but also rather extreme notes of toasted wood. I get very little sherry. Mouth (neat): extremely sweet, with bags of fructose, liquorice allsorts, pineapple drops, marshmallows and white chocolate, with something frankly rye-ish. Really spectacular but a tad too much for me. With water: even more so, it becomes almost liqueurish. It’s very good for sure but I guess liqueur makers could produce something similar without needing 37 years ;-). Finish: medium long, on the same liqueurish/toasted notes. Comments: extreme old grain whisky, bourbony and sweeter than the sweetest sweeties. Lovers of that kind of profile will adore this and indeed I won’t deny it’s perfect in that style. It’s just not my style. SGP:730 - 84 points. And now a last one…


Invergordon 18 yo 1993/2011 (65.67%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #G5.3, virgin toasted oak hogshead, 'Extraordinary taste intensity', 279 bottles) Two stars and a half A whopping ABV for a rare grain by the Society. Colour: full gold. Nose: right between Demerara rum and bourbon. Cane sugar, vanilla, corn syrup and coconut ‘at full speed’, with nothing Scottish at all. With water: oak galore, a carpenter’s workshop, really. Mouth (neat): pure bourbon, with a very heavy and very sweet oakiness. With water: just the same. Heavy vanillin, tea and coconut oil. Finish: long, on the same notes. Comments: a curiosity, bourbon made in Scotland. Why not. SGP:630 - 78 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more blues with Jeannie Cheatham with Jimmy And The Sweet Blues Band. It's called Rock me in your arms tonight and it's on 'Back To The Neighborhood'. Please buy Miss Cheatham's music, thanks.


December 20, 2011


Old Bunnahabhain, almost a strike

There are many very old independent Bunnahabhains around these days, and many are very fairly priced. Let’s try a few today, we’ll have the oldest first since they’re also the lightest…


Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968/2011 (45.7%, The Whisky Agency and Three Rivers Tokyo, bourbon hogshead, 211 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: pure honey at first nosing. I mean, really, plain and pure honey. Or rather a blend of various kinds of honeys, what we sometimes call ‘all-flowers’ (my dear dad used to be a beekeeper). And maybe tarte tatin and other rich pies… And maybe also a little banana flambéed. Mouth: honey again, and big time, but it’s rather honeydew in fact, with these resinous and oily notes. Plenty of beeswax, propolis… The oak is loud and clear but it’s completely an asset here, it never ‘fights the distillate’. Finish: medium, still very honeyed, with a little mint in the aftertaste, from the big yet gentle oak. Comments: what strikes me is how simple this old malt is and yet, balance and style are so perfect that it’s totally lovely. SGP:551 - 90 points.


Bunnahabhain 42yo 1968/2011 (45.5%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #3, 224 bottles) Five stars W&M already had another excellent 1968 in 2011 (cask #12408, WF 90) Colour: pale gold. Nose: as expected, we’re close to the TWA, although this one would be a bit more floral and dry – just a bit. It’s maybe also a tad more complex, with very nice notes of botrytis, old Sauternes, a little leather, plum pie… And honey indeed but It’s say it’s rather lightly honeyed this time. Also a little coffee and toasted bread. Mouth: well, this liquid honey yet again, we’re extremely close to its predecessor here. Maybe it’s a notch fruitier (garden fruits). Finish: fairly long, with touches of mint and liquorice, just like in the TWA. Comments: similar style, similar quality. High quality, no need to say. SGP:551 - 90 points.


Bunnahabhain 1968/2011 (43.8% Whisky-Fässle, refill sherry) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: and yet again, we’re in the same ballpark. Most probably a sister cask. Maybe this one is a tad quieter and has a little more grass and green tea, but other than that, as I said, it’s globally the same whisky. Mouth: same. You could reread my notes for the Wilson & Morgan if you like ;-). Finish: same. This baby and the W&M are almost undistinguishable. Comments: what a great series of casks. I know these notes are too short, so now, I’m going to tell you the joke about a chef who always cooks with whisky and who, sometimes, even adds it to the food… Ahem. SGP:551 – 90 points.


Bunnahabhain 1968/2011 ‘Romeo’ (44.8%, Spirit Empire, Whisky Antique, sherry, 221 bottles) Four stars and a half This is part of a 2-series, Juliet being an old Glen Grant. Ah, these Italian bottlers, always so romantic… Colour: pale amber. Nose: it’s rather more discreet than its sisters, less emphatically honeyed and fruity and rather more on light Havana tobacco and old leather, although some delicate notes of tangerine liqueur, verbena and wormwood do arise after a short while. Also nice touches of old pu-erh tea, leaves, humus… Curious about the palate, it could be worn-out with such a nice but delicate nose. Mouth: not at all, not at all! It’s actually fuller and more vibrant, with very nice notes of herbal tea (many kinds, rosehip, thyme, maybe anise…) and dried fruits. Spice mix for mulled wine, speculoos, sultanas, a little tobacco again… All that before it becomes a little drier and maybe a tad too much on cinnamon. Finish: medium to short, even more on cinnamon. Also raisins. Comments: very excellent again. I’ll give it one less point because of the finish that’s just a tad drying. SGP:461 - 89 points.


Bunnahabain 38 yo 1972/2011 (46%, Silver Seal, Sestante Collection) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this time we’re more on polished wood at first nosing, with the honey underneath and some fresh and lively coastal whiffs surrounding the whole. Also beautiful floral notes, more towards dandelions and buttercups, a little fudge and then delicate hints of tropical fruits, mainly papayas. Plus touches of vanillin. Mouth: perfect! A fruit salad with a little olive oil, fresh oranges, tangerines, almond oil and then a little pepper. Quality’s very high here. Finish: medium long, with the oak coming out (pepper and green tea) but everything’s under control. Comments: they invented the word ‘lovely’ for this but warning, it’s another very, very drinkable whisky. Lock your whisky cabinets! SGP:551 - 91 points.


Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1976/2011 (48.8%, The Whisky Cask, The Whisky Fair 10th anniversary, sherry butt) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a drier and grassier version this time, with less fruits and honey and more grains and fresh butter as well as big notes of fresh walnuts, then parsley, lovage, mint and soy sauce, with a little sea breeze on top of it. Fino-ish, I’d say, and that’s great news. Mouth: sweeter, certainly more nervous than the others, more on lemons and grapefruits, with several other tart fruits such as kiwis and not-too-ripe passion fruits. You’d think it’s one of the great white Sancerres! And a little salt… Finish: long, nervous, citrusy and… pretty perfect. Very amusing salt/lemon combo in the aftertaste. Comments: another fantastic one, more nervous and less luscious and rounded  than the others. And very salty! SGP:551 - 91 points.


Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1979/2011 (47.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #38408, 182 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the shiest so far, the more ‘minimal’ so to speak. Apples, barley sugar, butterscotch, grass and rocks, with a little sea air. Fairly nice but just like many 1979s I could try so far, it’s a tad too narrow and inexpressive in my opinion. Maybe the palate will be bigger? Mouth: a little bizarre. Parma violets and calvados, with a soapiness… Improves after that but never becomes ‘wide’ despite the pleasant notes of lemon, bordering on squash. Also a little coconut from the wood. Becomes more custardy after a few minutes. Finish: not long (right, shortish), with some ginger and a little cardboard. Demerara sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: well, I think I’ve had quite a few 1979s that were way worse than this baby. Actually, it’s pretty nice old whisky but it really suffers from the comparison with the others. Yes, there can be some sort of vintage effect with whisky. SGP:441 - 82 points.


Bunnahabhain 36 yo 1975/2011 (58%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams and La Maison du Whisky) Five stars Colour: light gold. Nose: this is different, obviously. Less honeyed/jammy and sharper, more precise, more phenolic (well, a little phenolic), and more coastal as well, with these whiffs of sea air and then mint and aniseed. Smoke, tangerines… Becomes more floral after a while, with some lime and orange blossoms. Impeccable! With water: not many changes but we didn’t need any, did we? Mouth (neat): perfect, nervous, phenolic, mentholated and, once again pretty peaty for Bunnahabhain. Develops on bitter oranges, citrons, spearmint… Really complex and beautifully tart. With water: magnificent, all on marmalades and touches of mango chutney, while the unexpected smokiness got quieter. Finish: medium long, with some salt playing with the tip of your tongue and even your lips. Comments: very high class and very assertive Bunny, probably from an excellent refill sherry butt. SGP:552 - 92 points.

Good, that was quite a ride!…



MUSIC - Recommended listening: Playing on the front porch with Charmaine Neville and her gang. Please buy Charmaine Neville's music. Oh, that was on 'It´s About Time'.


December 19, 2011


Lemon galore

I’m not 100% sure what we’ll do makes much sense but I’ve often thought Lochside and Rosebank used to share a similar profile, at least in some vintages. You know, citrus and such. So we’ll take the opportunity of a brand new 30 yo Lochside by Cadenhead’s to try it along with a 30 yo Rosebank that, furthermore, was bottled at almost exactly the same ABV. Simple coincidences? Let’s see…


Lochside 30 yo 1981/2011 (54.9%, Cadenhead, bourbon hoghsead, 246 bottles) Five starsColour: full gold. Nose: yay, it’s well one of these explosive 1981s. That’s right, a fruit bomb. And what’s really beautiful here is the way the citrusy, tarty notes mingle with a superb ‘mineral waxiness’, that is to say notes around graphite oil and paraffin. In short, wheelbarrows of lemon zests and then tangerines and passion fruits. With water: astounding fruity freshness. Enough said. Mouth (neat): wham! It’s not a fruit bomb, it’s a missile. Very nervous, very citrusy, wonderfully acid, tart, fizzy, ultra-zesty, with a creamy/rounded base that make it totally delicious – and dangerous. Like a missile. With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: not the longest ever but it’s as perfectly ‘chiselled’ as a winning Montrachet (or Alsatian Riesling). Comments: we all know these 1981 Lochsides can be stunning, but many are totally excellent yet not 100% convincing, maybe because some tiny offbeat notes. Well, this one hasn’t got any. Alert! SGP:741 - 93 points.


Rosebank 30 yo 1975/2005 (54.8%, Silver Seal, 1.5l) Five stars From a classy magnum aka future lamp stand. Colour: gold. Nose: there are obvious similarities indeed although this is rather less citrusy (but it is citrusy) and rather grassier. Very nice notes of chives, dill, grass and then damp chalk, clay… Lime? In short, where the Lochside was lush, this is more austere and kind of restrained so far. With water: that unleashed more lemony notes as well as this wee smokiness that’s sometimes to be found in older Rosebanks (rather coal smoke). Rather more porridge as well. Mouth (neat): we’re much, much closer to the Lochside now. It’s one of these perfect citrusy Rosebanks on the palate, nervous, extremely fresh despite its age, with bags of lemons, tangerines, oranges, citrons… So rather in the style of the well-known old official 20yo ‘white label’. Fab. With water: perfect. Candied citrus fruits and all of them. Funny that it’s almost the same whisky as the Lochside now – but that’s also why I had decided to try those together. Finish: long, sharp, clean, fresh, citrusy. In short, ultra-classic. Comments: same very high global quality. This one was just a notch slower on the nose. Pffff… SGP:641 - 92 points.

Excuse me? Yes, you’re right, that one called for another Rosebank, it was so good. With the current avalanche of new bottlings, I should rather be tasting new stuff but let’s make a break and try to find a version from the olden days. Such as this one?...

Rosebank 15

Rosebank 15 yo (50%, OB, Zenith, Italy, ceramic, +/-1975) Four starsAnother lamp stand with whisky inside ;-)… It’s not impossible that it was the same whisky as the 15yo ‘white label’ from the same era. Colour: straw. Nose: this time it’s almost only lime and grapefruit plus a very big waxiness, between straight paraffin, fresh walnuts and chalk. Then loads of grass and hay. Great nose for sure but I’m not sure it’s got the 1975’s rich yet sharp fruitiness. With water: hmm, it’s rather a mineral, almost ‘aspiriny’ profile that emerges. Also a little baking powder. Mouth (neat): pure lemon liqueur now. Perfect tartness, the whole being extremely nervous and ‘sharp’. With water: it becomes rather less fruity and rather more mineral and grassy yet again. Also grapefruits. The whole is very austere I must say. Finish: long, grassy, lemony and a little chalky. Comments: rather simpler and certainly even more austere than the 1975 but quality is high. Besides, buy this baby at auctions and you’ve got a nice free lamp stand fro your own English lounge ;-). SGP: 551 – 86 points. Right, I think we cannot not have the new Special Release now...

Rosebank 21

Rosebank 21 yo 1990/2011 (52.8%, OB, Special Release, 5604 bottles) Four stars and a half From a blend of European and American casks, all refill. Colour: straw. Nose: all delicate despite the power, starting with whispering notes of damp clay, grass and lemon oil as well as touches of beer yeast and leaven. There’s also a little dill, mint, maybe chives, almonds, putty… Again, it’s all rather delicate and very different from the old official 15. With water: it’s the fresh barley that speaks. Hay. Mouth (neat): once again, it’s no citrus bomb at first sips – although there is quite some lemon juice – but these citrusy notes really take off after a few seconds, together with some fructose, icing sugar, ripe kiwis, angelica and violet sweets (like they make in Toulouse). With water: more of the same. Big lemony notes, very Rosebank indeed. Lemon drops, in fact. Finish: medium long, even more on lemon drops, with maybe a little rubber in the aftertaste. Ginger and green pepper as well. Comments: just very excellent, a very, very typical middle-aged Rosebank. Just a little more complexity would have pushed it towards 90+ in my book. SGP:551 - 88 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the great sitarist Collin Walcottlets us Travel by day (from his CD 'Works') . Atmospheres... Please buy Collin Walcott's music.


December 18, 2011


Tasting Dallas Dhu 1980 and 1970

It seems that Dallas Dhu is becoming very rare, we might well be seeing the last drops these days. Unless G&M have kept a few casks ‘up their sleeves’… Having said that, I could well have written the same about Lochside or Littlemill a few years back, and now they sort of abound. Well. I have to admit I was never a huge fan of DD, I often found it to be a tad ‘dirty’, with sometimes notes of… floorcloth? But hey, only stupid people never change their mind, as we say over here.


Dallas Dhu 1980/2011 (46%, The Ultimate, Rare Reserve, cask #2110, 310 bottles) Four starsAs you probably know, The Ultimate is a series by Van Wees in Holland. It’s great that they could find some more Dallas Dhu for the thirsty masses. Colour: straw. Nose: okay, this is Dallas Dhu. Imagine some brand new plastic bag in which you would have put a lot of ash, soot, ginger tonic, linseed oil, porridge and cod liver oil. Shake well, and then nose… Seriously, it’s far from being as ugly as it sounds, it’s even got this ‘old Highlands’ style that we otherwise cherish (well, that I cherish) but I think these notes of plastic are a bit too much. Let’s check the palate… Mouth: well, it’s even more unlikely. Ashes, tar and lemon squash, then bitter grass, fresh walnuts, apple peelings, almond oil, sap... In fact, it does improve over time and these smoky/phenolic notes become quite interesting. Finish: long and more gingery. Quite some nutmeg in the aftertaste. Comments: very difficult to score this one. At times you could think it’s a little flawed, but then some aspects make it very entertaining. And this style is probably gone forever. SGP:363 - 85 points.


Dallas Dhu 31 yo 1970/2002 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 211 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: frankly, same style as the 1980 here, with even more plastic and soot. Even exhaust fumes. Having said that, this very unsexy smoky profile can also make us a little nostalgic. No current malts are even remotely akin to these Dallas Dhus – or maybe some Longrows or Ledaigs (yes, Longrow and Ledaig are very different). Mouth: once again, we’re close to the 1980, but maybe this one saw a fresher oak because there’s rather more vanilla and ‘roundness’. On the other hand, there’s also more bitter tea and herbs. More pepper too (from the oak?) Oh, and more porridge/sour muesli. Finish: long, spicier. Peppered liquorice and lemon? Comments: again, and although some parts are very interesting, it’s all a little unlikely in my opinion. And then there’s this nostalgia that tends to hit us all in these troubled times… SGP:363 - 84 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a wonderful little song called Leonor by Katell Keineg. Please buy Katell Keineg's music.


December 16, 2011

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
Let’s all become Masters!
Hurray, he’s done it! Dave Broom’s online ‘World Masterclass’ is now available and from what I could already gather, it’s utterly brilliant, funny, very informative and even witty.

I’ve enrolled, of course, and could already find quite a few cool pieces of advice in the first four videos/lectures I’ve watched (my favourite so far being ‘Relax! It’s just a drink!’ in the video ‘How to Taste Whisky’, but there are many others of course ;-)) Anyway, 50 lessons, 150 video clips of distillers and distilleries and over 100 tasting clips is what’s included, not to mention the multiple choice tests on each lesson which unlock the following levels. It even seems that they’ll mail samples! All I hope now is that I’ll manage to graduate or I’ll simply have to dump this measly website called Whiskyfun, in a fit of pique. See you in The World Masterclass!



More new stuff, a true hotchpotch today


Dalmore 1995 ‘Distillery Manager’s Exclusive’ (40%, OB, for The Whisky Shop, 1800 bottles, 2011) Four stars A vatting of American oak and Matusalem sherry casks. Colour: dark gold. Nose: extremely ‘Dalmore’, that is to say all on orange liqueur and chocolate at first nosing and developing on more coffee and tobacco smoke. Plus just touches of tar. It’s very compact and aromatic, pure style. Mouth: it’s not as thin as I would have thought considering the strength, and hyper-coherent with the nose. So oranges, chocolate, coffee and just a little ginger and pepper. Maybe touches of sweetened earl grey tea (bergamot). Mucho drinkable. Finish: maybe a wee tad shortish but clean and still very coherent. Comments: I’ll say it again, this is exactly ‘Dalmore’, a bit like the 15yo with a little more lightness. Goes down a treat, which might be the problem. SGP:431 - 85 points.


Glenmorangie 'Artein' (46%, OB, 2011/2012) Four stars A brand new one, not yet in the market. It was finished in Sassicaia casks, a well-known Bordeaux-style red Tuscan wine, and is a blend of 1990 and 1996. We’re tasting it from a lab preview sample bottle. Colour: apricot. Nose: burst with red berries and peaches at first sniffs, with the maltiness underneath. Raspberries, cranberries, a little bubblegum or marshmallows and then a feeling of Champagne rosé - rather saignée here. Strange because that’s rather ‘pinot noir’ while Sassicaia is almost pure cab. Evolves more towards toasted bread (covered with raspberry jam) and a little gunpowder. Mouth: the ‘whisky’ part is bigger on the palate but there’s still these notes of red berries, especially the jams made thereof. Also peaches again, maybe liquorice allsorts, and then more black pepper and cardamom, as well as a faint touch of rubber that’s not unpleasant at all – maybe that’s actually blackcurrant buds, a typical cabernety thing. Also notes of orange drops. Finish: medium long, clean, even more on marshmallows, with some green pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: works very well in my opinion, with the wine’s fruitiness well in the front but without any excessive vinous notes. SGP:741 - 85 points.


Aberlour 18 yo 1993/2011 (54.3%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #7371) Four starsDimensions is a new range by Duncan Taylor that comes both at cask strength and at 46% vol. The range should showcase the ‘true multi dimensional character of the distillery’, so I guess that should mean complexity. Let’s try this Aberlour… Colour: straw. Nose: well, I don’t know if this is multi dimensional but what’s true is that it’s very ‘Aberlour minus the sherry’, with that big fruitiness that will remind us of an orchard in summer (whaf!) That means several breeds of apples and pears and then gooseberries, and then rhubarb. Behind that, a little wood smoke and barley syrup. With water: even more of the same. Traces of menthol. Mouth (neat): a very fresh and fruity profile, on exactly the same notes as on the nose plus, maybe, a little lemon sherbet. With water: excellent, a sweet, ‘septentrional’ fruit bomb. Also juicy, ripe peaches. Finish: medium long, on the very same notes. Comments: multi dimensional, I don’t know, I’d rather say very focused on the distillery’s very fruity character. Perfect in that very ‘naked’ style. SGP:741 - 86 points.


Arran 9 yo 2001/2011 (58.8%, Mr. P.G. Jensen & Sons, 234 bottles) Four stars This baby was bottled for the Members of The Arran Cask Club. I think it’s a very cool idea to put a picture of the cask on the label. Colour: white wine. Nose: wait, isn’t this a peaty one? I get a very mineral smokiness and quite a lot of soot and ashes, rather coal in fact. Flint, carbolineum, tar, new tyres… In fact, there’s something of some Port Ellens (the very dry, extreme ones when they were around 20) but without any brine or even lemons, although this is less peaty of course. With water: more towards ‘damp’ peat and, yes, wet dogs (how much do we owe you, dogs?) Mouth (neat): more sweetness this time, as almost always, rather towards barley sugar and corn syrup, but the rest is still rather ashy, smoky and sooty. I think the whole is even peatier than the official peated 2005 that I could try last year. With water: some lemon and grapefruit coming out, excellent! Finish: long, with the lemon becoming even louder and just touches of bubblegum in the background. Comments: a genuine surprise to me. I had thought it was a ‘normal’ Arran, I’ll have to make a long break now before I can go on with a few other (unpeated) whiskies ;-). No peat monster of course but I wasn’t aware of the fact that they were already making peated Arran in 2001, or was this an ex-Ardbeg cask or something? SGP:355 - 87 points.

Glen Scotia

Glen Scotia 19 yo 1992/2011 (59.2%, Silver Seal, Sestante Collection) Two stars Colour: amber. Nose: bags of gunpowder and wheelbarrows of struck matches at first nosing, then a development more on rocks, metal and orange skin before we get more and more vegetables. Asparagus, cabbage… With water: extreme leather now, more metal, beef bouillon, a mustiness growing bigger and bigger... Very unusual, thus interesting. Mouth (neat): strong, starting on very sweet orange liqueur but becoming acrid, grassy and very peppery, in an odd way. Some tobacco as well (chewed cigar or even chewing tobacco) and some aniseed. A strange beast indeed. With water: touches of grapefruit coming through, but also more grass. A very grassy grass ;-). Finish: long, bitter, even gamy. Some rum and artichoke liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: honestly, this isn’t my style, but I can see why the otherwise very excellent bottlers (see the next whisky) have chosen to bottle this. It’s spectacularly unusual and aficionados seeking extreme sensations may love it! SGP:262 - 76 points.

Highland Park

Highland Park 22 yo 1988/2011 (53.4%, Silver Seal, Special Bottling) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: ah yes, it’s one of those naked, smoky ones! Mineral, flinty, peaty, oily, greasy and very ‘old style’, with that ‘old-Clynelishness’ that’s sometimes to be found in these HPs. Lovable (I think). With water: more pepper and even myrtle. Mouth (neat): wonderful straight HP, austere, zesty, mineral, herbal, greatly bitter (Campari – I’m not saying this because the bottler is Italian, eh!), becoming more lemony and waxy after a while. It’s even a little prickly/fizzy, a feeling that maybe not everyone will like but I do. With water: more or less the same plus more sweetness. Lemon curd. Finish: long, peppery, still a tad fizzy (Schweppes grapefruit – do you also have these commercials with Nicole Kidman or Uma Thurman?). Comments: this, is my style. Quite superbly distillate-driven this time. SGP:462 - 90 points.

Last Vatted

The Last Vatted Malt (53.7%, Compass Box, 1323 bottles, 2011) Four stars and a half This vatting of 26yo Islay and 35yo Speyside malts was bottled just before the appellation ‘Vatted Malt’ became illegal. As you now, this kind has now to be called blended malt ,which, quite some whisky lovers think, will cause confusion because of the word ‘blended’ which, to some people, means ‘inferior’. Well, I guess some of us bloggers will keep using the word ‘vatted’ from time to time. Colour: gold. Nose: does the Islayer have the upper hand? Well, yes, as always, but I think the Speysider was fruity and complex enough to add a nice layer of red fruits and jams. As for the tobacco and sandalwood notes, not sure where they come from but that’s the magic of the vatted whiskies I guess. With water: a lot of manure now, horse dung… Mind you, all that’s very, very positive in my mouth. Mouth (neat): this is excellent. Once again the peat strikes first but the combination with the Speysider moves the whole more towards ‘Indian’ spices and notes of leather, smoked oils (argan?) and cough syrup. Seville oranges. With water: you know what, I’m wondering if they didn’t manage to recreate some old Talisker ;-). Finish: long, on an organic peatiness. It’s at this stage that the peat’s the loudest. Comments: it’s a different whisky for sure, the few ‘double malts’ in the market being usually much younger. I think it’s not only the last vatted malt, it’s also one of the best despite (or because of) some unusual parts. SGP:466 - 88 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a wonderful traditional 'detuned' Mississippi blues that was on Javon Jackson's 'A Look Within' album. It's sung by Cassandra Wilson herself and it's called Country Girl. Please buy Javon Jackson and Cassandra Wilson's musics.


December 15, 2011


Tasting five old Speysiders


Tamdhu 31 yo 1980/2011 (51.4%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, bourbon, cask #0411, 174 bottles) Four stars Jack Wiebers had a wonderful old Tamdhu 1958 a few years back. Colour: gold. Nose: starts a little spirity and soapy (say Cadum ;-)) but it’s soon to become more floral (roses), with quite some coffee and toasted bread as well as vanilla and liquorice. With water: rose petals and fresh white breadcrumbs on porridge. Maybe a few dandelions. Mouth (neat): rich and very malty, powerful, a tad kirschy. Maybe a few burnt notes flying around. Liquorice. With water: it became smoother and fruitier. Apple juice, apple pie and white pepper. Finish: medium long, quite fruity/yeasty. Very malty and rather peppery aftertaste. Comments: very good stuff but it may lack a little more personality in my opinion. SGP:451 - 85 points.


Glenglassaugh 37 yo (54.8%, OB, 'Rare Casks', 20cl, +/-2011) Five stars The two old Glenglassaugh we’ll have were part of a prestigious triple pack that used to include a 26, à 37 and a 43 years old, each in a 20cl bottle. Colour: full gold. Nose: superb. All on honeycomb, flowers, milk chocolate and fruit jams, mainly plums and apricots. Some mango chutney too. Frankly, this nose is brilliant. With water: orgasmic honey and ripe fruits style. Mouth (neat): a fruit bomb, pretty much in the Caperdonich 1972 style. I’m sure you see what I mean. Honeys, stewed fruits, jams, a little cough syrup and just the right amount of pepper, nutmeg and cloves. With water: deliciously citrusy now. Takes water like a swimming champ. Amazing freshness. Finish: medium long, with more pepper and other spices from the wood, as almost always. Maybe something slightly sourish but nothing important. Comments: terrifically complex, fresh and fruity SGP:742 - 92 points. And now the 43yo…


Glenglassaugh 43 yo (48.7%, OB, 'Rare Casks', 20cl, +/-2011) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: shier, more restrained than the 37, with maybe more dry sherry notes and coffee as well as something very faintly metallic and leathery. Traces of gewürztraminer in the background. Very nice nose but it’s struggling a bit after the 37. With water: rather nicer, with some soot and gunpowder coming out as well as something earthier. Old pu-erh? Also a little bacon. Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the 37 but there’re also these slightly strange notes of shoe polish. Not unpleasant at all but strange. Then more Seville oranges, marmalade, lemon zests and cardamom and pepper. A little mead as well. With water: it’s the mint and the eucalyptus drops from the wood that come out. Finish: rather long, a little dry, a little tea-ish but perfectly all right. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: this baby had a bit of a hard time after the 37, but it’s still a great old whisky. It’s just that there are even greater ones at Glenglassaugh in my opinion. SGP:461 - 87 points.


Glenrothes 41 yo 1970/2011 (47.7%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 197 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Surprisingly pale. Nose: very complex, ah the wonders of old whiskies ex-refill wood. Various touches of many things, mainly the trademark honeyness and apple compote, then a little leather, menthol, rocks, hay, freshly mown lawn, white cherries and maybe distant whiffs of manure that give it a wilder side, maybe a tad un-Glenrothes but it’s all very nice. With water: we’re closer to the original barley, bread, muesli… Also a touch of wood smoke. Mouth (neat): I think this was bottled just when the oak was going to become a tad louder than the garden fruits, so right on time. Indeed the spices are right there in the attack (cloves, cinnamon, white pepper) while we have apple compote and touches of rhubarb pie at the fruit department. With water: the good news is that the oak did not come any further to the front. More apple compote and a little green tea. Finish: short to medium, greener. Green tea, ginger and a tannicity in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent whisky – should I ask of course – but I think the oak is starting to take over on the palate. Of course it’s not a flaw at such old age! SGP:461 - 87 points.


Caperdonich 39 yo 1972/2011 (45%, Whisky-Fässle, refill sherry) Five stars We were talking about 1972 Caperdonichs while trying that Glenglassaugh, so time to have one I guess. Colour: straw. Nose: yes, it’s one of them, even if this is probably a little more restrained and even mineral than other honey-and-fruit bombs. On the other hand, it’s very subtle and complex, with touches of wood smoke and coal that give it an extra-dimension. Lovable. Mouth: same feeling here. Rather less extravagant and rather more elegant, with some fresh walnuts, papayas, green bananas, mead, green tea and then bags of white chocolate. Quite some lemon and lime too. Finish: long, superbly sharp, with some great notes of tea. The best wulongs? Great lemony signature. Comments: excellent and different from most others. Maybe less ‘wow!’ but again, maybe more elegant and ‘rieslingesque’. I can’t be against that, can I? SGP:561 - 91 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: one of the most incredible slices of big band music ever in my opinion, I must have listened to it 1000 times already since I was a boy. It's called 13 (death march) and it's by Jimmy Smitth and Wes Montgomery, from their fantabulous album 'The Dynamic Duo' that you must buy NOW.

Jimmy Wes

December 2011 - part 1 <--- December 2011 - part 2 ---> January 2012 - part 1

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



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

Bunnahabhain 1968/2011 (43.8% Whisky-Fässle, refill sherry)

Bunnahabhain 42yo 1968/2011 (45.5%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #3, 224 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968/2011 (45.7%, The Whisky Agency and Three Rivers Tokyo, bourbon hogshead, 211 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 36 yo 1975/2011 (58%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams and La Maison du Whisky)

Bunnahabain 38 yo 1972/2011 (46%, Silver Seal, Sestante Collection)

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1976/2011 (48.8%, The Whisky Cask, The Whisky Fair 10th anniversary, sherry butt)

Caperdonich 39 yo 1972/2011 (45%, Whisky-Fässle, refill sherry)

Glen Garioch 34 yo 1968 (55.3%, OB, hogshead, Cask #17)

Glen Garioch 40 yo 1971/2011 (43.9%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, cask #2038, 194 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 37 yo (54.8%, OB, 'Rare Casks', 20cl, +/-2011)

Highland Park 22 yo 1988/2011 (53.4%, Silver Seal, Special Bottling)

Invergordon 38 yo 1971 'Hedonism' (46%, Compass Box, 10th Anniversary, 2010)

Laphroaig 13 yo 1996/2009 (59.8%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead)

Laphroaig 1996/2010 (57.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #7307, 273 bottles)

Littlemill 22 yo 1989/2011 (48.3%, Archives, Refill sherry hogshead, cask #RTN-11-238, 120 bottles)

Lochside 30 yo 1981/2011 (54.9%, Cadenhead, bourbon hoghsead, 246 bottles)

Port Ellen 1983/2011 (58.9%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask # MoS 11011, 267 bottles)

Port Ellen 28 yo 1982/2011 (60%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #2033, 534 bottles)

Port Ellen 29 yo 1982/2011 (58.5%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #18, 212 bottles)

Rosebank 30 yo 1975/2005 (54.8%, Silver Seal, 1.5l)

Springbank 26 yo 1969/1996 (52.8%, Signatory, sherry, 440 bottles)

Springbank 26 yo 1969/1995 (51.7%, Signatory, sherry, 790 bottles)

Springbank 30 yo (46%, OB, +/-1992)