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November 2012 - part 2 <--- December 2012 - part 1 ---> December 2012 - part 2


December 14, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch 3 by 3 No. 18

Auchentoshan 18 yo 1993/2012 (46%, The Maltman, cask #3872)

Auchentoshan 18 yo 1993/2012 (46%, The Maltman, cask #3872) Four stars A bottling by Meadowside Blending, which is a company run by Andy and Donald Hart (of Hart Bros fame). Colour: gold. Nose: a rather typical and rather naked Auchentoshan, less creamy and vanilla-ed that modern official Auchentoshans in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there is some vanilla but I also enjoy these notes of oranges, grapefruits and pineapples, the overall profile being gently spirity and estery. Mouth: punchier than expected but well in the style, one of the very last genuine Lowlanders out there. I get melons, bananas, guavas, then more citrus fruits and in the background, very nice touches of verbena and lemon grass. It’s all very nicely ‘nervous’. Nice oomph. Finish: medium long, slightly tarty, on lemon and cider apples. Touches of green oak in the aftertaste and even a wee saltiness – where does that come from? Comments: a most perfect example of the make, quite close to the distillate while being perfectly mature. SGP:541 - 85 points.

Cragganmore 27 yo 1985/2012 (56.1%, Signatory, cask #1242, 171 bottles)

Cragganmore 27 yo 1985/2012 (56.1%, Signatory, cask #1242, 171 bottles) Four stars and a half This baby has been maturing for exactly 10,000 days, says the label. Colour: gold. Nose: when Cragganmore is good, it’s very good. It’s not very easy to describe it because it’s a balance between many small notes, some vegetal, some chocolaty, some floral and some nutty. Let’s try… Menthol, roasted chestnuts, roots (gentian), cocoa, warm pastries (croissants, but of course), butterscotch, nectar, honey… I like this nose really a lot. With water: top notch, gains more points. More aniseed and camphor. Mouth (neat): superb! I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise but still, it’s beautifully herbal and citrusy, with an oakiness that’s anything but discreet but that’s also very perfect and kind of fresh. Bags of oranges and a lot of crystallised zests. With water: again, big yet perfect oak. Exactly the opposite of some drying old oak. Finish: long, with the mint being back and always this fresh oak… Nice bitterish aftertaste, with also some lemon. Comments: it’s a style that some may not like too much, but I believe that when the oak’s perfect – and not drying, the more, the better. Agreed, that doesn’t happen very often… SGP:471 - 89 points.

Yamazaki 25 yo (43%, OB, Japan, +/- 2012)

Yamazaki 25 yo (43%, OB, Japan, +/- 2012) Four stars It’s been a long time since I’ve last tried the well-known Yamazaki 25. In 2006 I really loved it (WF 90). Colour: dark red amber. Nose: it’s more heavy English-style rum than malt whisky, and I haven’t got anything against that. A lot of very old balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, prunes, molasses and straight cane sugar juice, tar, heavy liquorice, coffee, old cognac (it’s switching from rum to cognac, really) and lastly, quite a lot of blood oranges. Massive at just 43% vol. Mouth: well, now it’s maybe a tad ‘too much’, becoming grapy and kind of over-infused. Heavy cinnamon, grape pips, walnuts, liquorice and dark chocolate. The liquoricy part gets heavier and heavier. Finish: long, still heavy, ultra-extractive. Salmiak and ristretto coffee, with these grapy notes again in the aftertaste. Comments: I think I tried it blind for the World Whisky Awards in 2012 and quite enjoyed it, but we might be bordering ‘imbalance’ (or is that unbalance?) No other malt I know is as excessive as this baby in this ultra-heavy sherried style. SGP:483 - 86 points.





Block Today: FOLK ROCK. Still one of the greatest. Performer: Natalie Merchant. Track: Carnival. Please visit her website and buy all the music...

December 13, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch 3 by 3 No. 17

Mackinlay 'Shackleton Replica – The Journey' (47.3%, OB, blended malt, 2012)

Mackinlay 'Shackleton Replica – The Journey' (47.3%, OB, blended malt, 2012) Three stars It’s the sequel to the one-off Shackleton bottling from last year ;-). The vatting should be very close yet slightly different, as the current owners of the brand, Whyte & Mackay, wrote that it ‘takes the same base of single malts used to create the original Discovery Edition and, still inspired by the original recipe, builds on them to create a noticeably different dram - a more elegant and refined interpretation.’ Colour: straw. Nose: starts not very far from Edition #1, so fresh and slightly grassy/estery (green apples, greengages, rhubarb) but the sootiness that was in #1 isn’t as big this time. There’s some linseed oil and a little ink, then hessian, ashes and coal, then earth and moss. Also a little butter. Less big and complex, I think. Mouth: grassy again, with bitter herbs, grapefruit skin and bags and bags of liquorice. Lemon, greenish oranges, more grass, a saltiness… It’s not unpleasant at all but it does remind me of that very austere 30yo Glen Mhor by Cadenhead’s that I tried the other day – not sure it’s still got Glen Mhor inside, having said that, but the feelings are very similar. Also more lemon drops than in #1. Finish: quite long, grassy and lemony. Comments: I think this baby hasn’t quite got the first Edition’s impact and zing, nor its complexity, but it remains a very fine dram if you like old-school Highlanders. So next, a VAT 69 replica? I seem to remember that’s the brand that Shackleton selected instead when he returned to the South Pole in 1914. SGP:472 - 82 points.

Glen Scotia 1992/2012 (48.2%, Thosop for The Whisky Man, 162 bottles)

Glen Scotia 1992/2012 (48.2%, Thosop for The Whisky Man, 162 bottles) Four stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: high-impact leathery dry sherry, with a lot of smoked ham and cigars (and their humidor). Some roasted nuts as well, balsamic vinegar, then more black raisins while it becomes a little softer and rounder, as well as distinct notes of old Madeira wine. Beautiful nose, without the quirkiness that can sometimes be found in Glen Scotia. Mouth: really rich, extractive, extremely herbal, with litres of crème de menthe and Jaegermeister plus bags and bags of liquorice and chocolate. It’s obviously the cask that did most of the job here, but it was a great cask, probably a properly treated first fill sherry hogshead. So a heavy, but great cask influence, resembles a bit some tropical aged rum. Caroni, anyone? Finish: long, with more infused notes, teas, mint, liquorice, bitter almonds, pepper… Comments: heavy stuff, quite spectacular. SGP:472 - 87 points.

Glenglassaugh 39 yo 1973/2012 (50.7%, OB, The Massandra Connection, Aleatico Finish, 341 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 39 yo 1973/2012 (50.7%, OB, The Massandra Connection, Aleatico Finish, 341 bottles) Four starsIt’s funny because I had the opportunity to acquire a lot of old ‘Massandra Collection’ – not Connection - wines from Sotheby’s in the 1990s, you could get some pre-war Pinots or Muscats for less than £100 at the time. I’ve now tried dozens of vintages and most were quite brilliant – but I never came across any Aleatico from the old – or modern for that matter – Massandra estate in Crimea. In case you don’t know, Aleatico is a kind of red Muscat, so the name of a grape variety, not of a region. Colour: amber. Nose: with a good friend, we were making some quick ‘finishes’ using drops of PX the other day and believe me or not, this is the kind of result we achieved. Which may prove, once again, that most finishings are just legal ways of aromatising malt whisky with wine or other liquids. Having said that, this is quite a success, as the wine does not dominate the whisky and as we rather have a wide range of raisins (no I won’t list all the ones I know of) on top of some funny hints of Parmesan cheese or maybe even Comté. Anyway, those are very fruity and very elegant cheeses, it’s not ‘cheesy’ whisky ;-). With water: starts to smell like some classic old sweet sherried whisky. Dried figs, dates and mushrooms. Mouth (neat): yes, it works yet again. It’s not quite proper ‘old malt whisky’ because the wine imparted some much more youthful aromas (fresh raisins again, dried longans or litchis, figs, rum) but yeah, it works. Also nice notes of peppered dried beef and green peppercorn. With water: well, it doesn’t seem to swim extremely well, becomes a notch too grassy, almost ‘stalky’. Finish: medium long, with more jams and marmalades. Nice. Comments: I think the combo worked, even if we’re quite far from the wonderful very old Glenglassaughs we’ve been blessed with in recent times. SGP:561 - 85 points.



Block Today: BLUES. Not too sure this is a song about Scotland ;-). Performer: Pee Wee Crayton. Track: When It Rains It Pours. Please buy the music...

December 12, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch 3 by 3 No. 16

Let’s try to find fruity ones today. After all, this is both the 12/12/12 and a Wednesday (what?)

Ben Nevis 14 yo 1998/2012 (54.7%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, bourbon, cask #1499)

Ben Nevis 14 yo 1998/2012 (54.7%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, bourbon, cask #1499) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: little oak, pure spirit. So it’s one of these interestingly ‘young’ malts that do let the distillery’s style shine through but without these rough edges that can be found in ultra-young malts. In this case it’s much less bubblegummy than expected and rather on these metallic and mineral notes that, indeed, can be found in the official 10 as well if my memory serves me well. Also quite some ham and hay. Not-too-ripe peaches. With water: more iron, rocks and fresh mint leaves. Mouth (neat): oh excellent! Creamy, oily, almost thick, very fruity but certainly not too simple, on peach liqueur, tinned pineapples, aniseed and again these touches of ham (not bacon!) With water: perfect multi-vitamin juice – with a high proportion of pineapple. This one’s good for your health. Finish: long, a notch grassier. Comments: when the original spirit was perfect, inactive wood can be just as perfect. Are you following? ;-) Excellent surprise, well done Arthur. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Limerick 24 yo 1988/2012 (56.8%, Adelphi, Irish, cask #10516, 188 bottles)

Limerick 24 yo 1988/2012 (56.8%, Adelphi, Irish, cask #10516, 188 bottles) Five stars Probably from Cooley, which started distilling right in 1988 indeed. Colour: gold. Nose: a massive – and I mean massive – fruitiness with bags and bags of passion fruits (maracuja ice cream), mangos and fresh pineapples. It’s almost fruit juice, despite the high strength. With water: perfect fern and moss that add even more freshness. High quality fresh oak in the background. Mouth (neat): the fruitiness isn’t any less massive. Same fruits plus a perfect vanilla from bourbon wood. I cannot think of any Scotch that would be as directly fruity without being dull, not even a 1976 Benriach, a 1972 Clynelish or a 1966 Bowmore if that rings a bell. Oh, or a 1981 Lochside. With water: once again, water makes it a tad more herbal and fresher. Beautiful fresh mint, dill or fennel. Finish: quite long, clean, fruity and herbal. A wonderful tea. Touches of pepper in the aftertaste, which is 100% normal. Comments: a huge surprise to me. This is absolutely terrific - don’t drink the best Irish too young! I agree, old ones are very difficult to unearth but I think this Adelphi is a great opportunity. SGP:751 - 90 points.

Let’s try to find another nice fruit bomb… Maybe such as this one…

Longmorn 27 yo 1985/2012 (48.3%, The First Editions, cask ref #ES 013/02)

Longmorn 27 yo 1985/2012 (48.3%, The First Editions, cask ref #ES 013/02) Four stars and a half Why Chivas don’t make more out of the classy Longmorn has always been a mystery. Colour: gold. Nose: a well-aged Longmorn from a shy-ish cask. As elegant as a true lady, with cut apples, greengages, gooseberries and peaches plus, more in the background, touches of earth and cut grass. So an anti-wham-bam Longmorn so far. With a drop of water: more of all that, esp. more fruits (wild strawberries). I do not always ad water to whiskies under 50% vol. but Longmorn usually swims very well. Mouth (neat): the oak’s a tad more talkative now but the fruity foundations are solid. Ahem. Apples and peaches, some white chocolate, plum pie, a little vanilla fudge and hen various aromatic herbs including a little sage and maybe oregano. With water (again, a few drops): lovely fruits, very Longmorn. It sits right between a young and an old whisky, which is interesting (and different from a middle-aged whisky – yeah, don’t ask). Finish: not everlasting but perfectly fruity. Apple peelings and a little mint in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent. Why Chivas etc etc etc… SGP:651 - 88 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: some ultra-elegant writing by Carla Bley (and her amazing band from the late 1980s). Track: Ups And Downs. Please visit the website and buy the music...

December 11, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch 3 by 3 No. 15

Dailuaine 14 yo 1988/2012 (58.5%, Riegger's Selection, bourbon, cask #3396, 298 bottles)

Dailuaine 14 yo 1988/2012 (58.5%, Riegger's Selection, bourbon, cask #3396, 298 bottles) Two stars Colour: gold. Nose: ha-ha, we have the kind of sulphur that I was expecting and that’s quite enjoyable. It’s nothing like eggs or even matches, we’re more around vegetable peelings and mashed potatoes, maybe even truffles although quite sadly, that part is quite discreet. Other than that, there’s plain grass and a little vanilla as well as notes of broken branches. With water: much more of all that plus a lot of porridge and cane juice. Also ‘ideas’ of gym socks, dare I add… Not an easy one! Mouth (neat): powerful and nervous, very grassy and very malty. Cider apples and gooseberries as well but this is no easy tipple indeed. With water: more tart fruits, white currants, not-too-ripe greengages, the whole becoming even quite sauvignony (excuse me). Finish: quite long, all on cider apples. Comments: I think it’s an interesting example of that style but again, and unlike the other ‘Riegger’s’ I could try so far, it’s rather difficult malt whisky. Probably very useful in blends… SGP:372 - 75 points.

Let’s have another one that may share some similarities with the Dailuaine…

Benrinnes 28 yo 1984/2012 (49,9%, Liquid Library, refill sherry hogshead, 271 bottles)

Benrinnes 28 yo 1984/2012 (49,9%, Liquid Library, refill sherry hogshead, 271 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: granted, it’s not the same whisky as the Dailuaine but indeed we’re more or less sailing the same seas, so to speak, that is to say that we have a lot of porridge and mashed potatoes, quite some butter as well, dairy cream, a little vanilla and whiffs of musty old cellar. It’s also a notch more mineral, with some clay and gravel… With water:  doesn’t change much although I get more fresh almonds. Mouth (neat): better. Lemon and apples, angelica, lemon grass… Good body. With water: becomes greener, with more grapefruits and limes. Grass, sorrel... Finish: medium long, with some salt appearing – seemingly. Comments: again, it’s an interesting whisky, very grassy. I’m not a sucker for these noses but I must say I really liked some parts of the palate this time. Enough to warrant 80 points in my little book. SGP:371 - 80 points.

Good, maybe we should switch styles and go to ‘fruitland’…

Littlemill 21 yo 1991/2012 (55.2%, Cadenhead, bourbon barrel, 192 bottles)

Littlemill 21 yo 1991/2012 (55.2%, Cadenhead, bourbon barrel, 192 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah, this is interesting again. It’s not one of these ueberfruity Littlemills that have recently surfaced at many good bottlers’, it’s rather one of these grassy and porridgy Littlemills that we were used to, say ten years ago. Remember the old bulky bottles? So yeah, grass aplenty, grains, muesli and bags and bags of fresh almonds (rather their skin). Touches of mint as well and then more and more herbal teas, which is very nice (star anise, thyme, more mint…) This lazy baby takes its time! With water:  little changes, nice herbal teas. Mouth (neat): that’s funny, the fruits are well there this time, from tangerines to mangos and from papayas to, well, mangos. Really excellent now. With water: the fruits blend with the herbal teas, which works. Lemon grass. Finish: medium long, citrusy and herbal again and again. Comments: the little leaflet on the bottle’s neck reminds us that Littlemill had rectifying columns instead of swan necks on the pot stills. End of the cultural minute. Another very, very fine Littlemill, interestingly schizophrenic. SGP:461 - 86 points.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: the late Coco Robicheaux. Track: Pit Bull. Please buy Coco Robicheaux' music...

December 10, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch 3 by 3 No. 14

Let’s wander in the peaty Rhinns of Islay today…

Port Charlotte 10 yo (46%, OB, 2012)

Port Charlotte 10 yo (46%, OB, 2012) Three stars The first ‘regular’ 10 yo Port Charlotte. If the quality’s similar to that of the Laddie Ten, well, we’re happy. Colour: gold. Nose: ah well, this is massively both tarry and medicinal. It’s interesting because most PCs we could try so far, especially from indies, came from very active wood while this seems to be more ‘natural’. So we’re between fresh tarmac, mercurochrome and encaustic, which is a profile unlike any other (esp. none from the island’s south shore). Very singular and probably very polarising. Fresh barley and ‘a kiln’.  Mouth: starts a little bizarrely, hesitating between lemons, tar/liquorice and brine, all those flavours appearing intermittently. Maybe that’s what we could call an alternative whisky? ;-) Goes on with marzipan and some kind of sweet and sour notes. Lemon-sprinkled kippers and oysters. Finish: long, ashy, tarry. A very sooty/ashy aftertaste. Comments: as expected, it’s very good whisky but I must say I like most other PCs better – and god knows I’m a sucker for Port Charlotte. I’m pretty sure this 10 will improve mucho mucho when they’ll start adding newer vintages to the vatting. SGP:257 - 82 points.

Kilchoman '100% Islay 2nd Edition' (50%, OB, 2012)

Kilchoman '100% Islay 2nd Edition' (50%, OB, 2012) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s much gentler than the PC despite the higher strength, and much fruitier as well (I’m sure it’s much younger anyway). So much for ‘high/tall’ vs. ‘small/squat’ stills! Pears and smoke, a little brine, lemon, rhubarb, lemon grass, aniseeds, it’s all very youthful but I wouldn’t say it’s immature, even after the Port Charlotte. Stands on its feet. With water: becomes more barley-ish and ‘from the country’. Natural wool, hay, first rain… Mouth: it’s young, the kind of fruitiness tells you that. Pear and pineapple drops above the peat smoke, then white tequila and barley sugar. With water: same, with a little more lemon. Finish: rather long, with more berries. Funny touches of sorb eau-de-vie in the aftertaste. Comments: this babe first had a little trouble after the rather massive PC but it progressively gained assurance while remaining a young spirit. Oaky, same score. SGP:446 - 81 points.

Kilchoman 4 yo 2007/2012 (58.4%, Single Cask Nation, 1st fill bourbon, cask #378/07)

Kilchoman 4 yo 2007/2012 (58.4%, Single Cask Nation, 1st fill bourbon, cask #378/07) Four stars and a half Colour: pale white wine. Nose: you know what? I start to believe that very young malts are always better as single casks, because they need the kind of individuality (who cares about balance in that case) that a more or less large vatting will just kill or kind of debase. This one is a good example, sure it’s young and not quite mature, but it’s got this zesty and mineral sharpness that just screams ‘hey, I’m here!’ With water: plain mercurochrome, without the wounds. Mouth (neat): aaaah yes! The immaculate simplicity of a young yet flawless peated spirit. This is more eau-de-vie d’Islay than ‘whisky’, with a lot of gentian, earth, lemon, brine and just smoke, and in that sense it reminds me of the lovely very first un-bloodtubed (!?) Port Charlottes that started to appear quite some years ago when they were barely 3 years of age. Perfect. With water: ultra-clean, simple, chiselled, kind of minimal. Bauhaus whisky. Finish: more fruits and more soot/ashes. Smoked oysters with a lot of lemon juice. Comments: better young than youngish, that’ll be our new motto ;-). Crushed the official, I’m afraid. SGP:347 - 88 points.

You know what? I said three a day until Christmas, max but I just cannot resist another young Kilchoman after that glorious 4yo. Indeed, the flesh is weak…

Kilchoman 2006/2012 (60.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #129.1, refill bourbon hogshead)

Kilchoman 2006/2012 (60.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #129.1, refill bourbon hogshead) Four stars and a half This baby, the very first Kilchoman at the SMWS, is nicknamed ‘A smoky, peachy, yoghurt of loveliness’. That could be the peyote ;-). Colour: pale gold. Nose: aww, this is completely different from the 2007, much less smoky and much more on fruits such as, indeed, peaches. So it’s more spirity, more estery and more… difficult to nose. Too strong! With water: ah, good, now it works. A 5-l can of antiseptic and seawater. Mouth (neat): nah, this is quite superb. Zesty yet already rounded (I didn’t write smooth, did I!) and massively salty. The closest combination of flavours I could think of is sea urchin with a glass of Beaucastel blanc, but that would be showing off again. With water: perfect, we’re now exactly where the 2007 was, plus some unexpected notes of Vicks Vaporub. Boo hoo… Finish: extremely long, limey, salty and briney. Comments: another proof of the elasticity of time but blimey, it seems that the official’s been crushed twice! Astounding selection by the SMWS – or did they buy new fillings at the time? SGP:357 - 89 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Lorez Alexandria. Track: I Wish I Knew. Please buy her music...

December 7, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 13. No, three by three.

Friends, I think I went too far when I decided to post notes for series of five different whiskies every day until Christmas. Not enough time and maybe not enough energy – and I just do not seem to manage to keep my notes short or shortish, which I have tried to do since, what, ten years? So I’m sorry but despite all these new whiskies flying around, and since I’m not ready to do all that ‘less seriously’, I think I’ll slow down a bit and publish only three tasting notes at a time until Christmas from now on, hope that’ll be okay with you!

An exhausted taster at WF Towers

Speyside Region 8 yo 2003/2012 (48.2%, Sansibar, 294 bottles)

Speyside Region 8 yo 2003/2012 (48.2%, Sansibar, 294 bottles) Three stars This ought to be Balvenie... Colour: amber. Nose: well, it’s only the second ‘Sansibar’ bottling I try and I seem to be finding a style, especially a rather modern kind of wood influence (toward freshish oak). So, it’s the spiciness that’s quite striking here, with some ginger, some yellow curry (a sweet one) and then a lot of chocolate and coffee-toffee. Also cashews? Peanut butter? Mouth: same feeling, the spices are flying upfront and I wouldn’t think ‘Balvenie’ has a lot to say in this context. Curry again, pepper-flavoured chocolate, cloves, juniper berries, even a feeling of gin, bitter oranges… Finish: long and just as spicy. Ginger liqueur, green pepper… Comments: it’s a style that’s got more and more fans and I cannot not think of Compass Box’ Spice Tree. I think we’re quite far from old-school malt whisky, it’s not quite my style but I’d add that in its style, it’s perfectly well crafted, hence my good score. SGP:371 - 80 points.

Glenrothes 17 yo 1995/2012 (46%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #6184, 774 bottles)

Glenrothes 17 yo 1995/2012 (46%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #6184, 774 bottles) Four stars The label does not say so but 774 bottles from one single cask, even at 46%, suggest a butt. Colour: deep gold. Nose: nearly perfect middle-aged mildly sherried Glenrothes with all of its attributes, that is to say a pretty perfect blend of raisins, honey, bitter oranges and just touches of grass and gunpowder. Mouth: ditto, with a very good spiciness that prevents it from being too sweet. Superb notes of bitter oranges again and wee touches of cinchona or straight Campari (oops). Finish: quite long, with the spices and always these bitter oranges. Drier, peppery and leathery aftertaste. Comments: classic Glenrothes with more oomph than the OBs – and more spices. Much to my liking and I think the price is fair there in Engadine. Perfect après-ski whisky methinks. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Ledaig 1993/2012 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, St Joseph wood finish)

Ledaig 1993/2012 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, St Joseph wood finish) Three stars A scary combination... What the label doesn't say is whether it was red or white St Joseph. Colour: apricot/salmon. Right, red St Joseph. Nose: hum. First, it’s not a dirty Ledaig. OK, that’s done ;-). Then, indeed the wine imparted some obvious notes of red berries that did not overwhelm the peat but that do kind of control it. The whole creates a kind of third dimension, quite medicinal and pretty hard to describe – or I’m not good enough. Raspberry-scented leather? Mouth: alleluia, it’s a miracle: total integration! Well, almost total, this is quite a surprise. Liquorice and raspberry drops, spearmint and smoked meat (beef?) It’s alive! Finish: not too long but it does not fall into pieces. Some cardamom. Comments: a relief. Frankly, Ledaig + red northern Rhone sounded utterly unlikely to me… SGP:664 - 82 points.



Block Today: JAZZ SOUL. Ah, that good old sound... Performer: Lonnie Liston Smith. Track: Sideman. Please visit the website and buy the music...

December 6, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 12

I think we’ll start this session with a blend, but not just any blend…

Lochside 47 yo 1965/2012 (54.6%, Adelphi, single blend, cask #6779, 552 bottles)

Lochside 47 yo 1965/2012 (54.6%, Adelphi, single blend, cask #6779, 552 bottles) Four stars and a half We had sister cask #6778 earlier this year and really loved it (WF 90). Remember Lochside used to distil both grain and malt whiskies so this baby was ‘blended at birth’. Colour: dark gold. Nose: it’s really fun how both the grain and the malt are still alive and well after 47 years of marriage in wood! So almost a golden wedding but it seems that the grain says ‘coconut and pineapples’ whilst the malt says ‘chocolate’. Thankfully, both go very well together. I like the mint and eucalyptus from the wood very much as well, as well as these notes of old Sauternes and balsamico that develop over time. With water: more eucalyptus, liquorice wood, old palo cortado... Mouth (neat): the freshness is impressive although this is clearly some very old whisky. Some kind of elaborate mixture of herbal liqueurs, fruit wines and soft spices from the wood. With water: becomes fruitier and even fresher, water really ‘lifts’ it. Notes of mangos but also, just like in the sister cask from last year, an obvious rancio that hints at the best old cognacs. Finish: rather long, still without any excessive tannins or dryness. Cinnamon and oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: less chiselled and emphatic than the Lochside malts from the mid-1960s, but beautiful and complex. SGP:561 - 89 points.

Good, I think we could go on with more old/oldish whiskies…

Glenallachie 40 yo 1971/2012 (47.7%, The Exclusive Malts, cask #739, 162 bottles)

Glenallachie 40 yo 1971/2012 (47.7%, The Exclusive Malts, cask #739, 162 bottles) Four stars and a half There aren’t many Glenallachies around but there’s been quite a few great oldies recently… Colour: gold/bronze/greenish. Nose: ha-ha, great jammy nose! Apricots, plums, quinces… Add to that some honeydew, touches of pine needles and moss, drops of chestnut honey, old leather jacket, old humidor, earth… It’s not really bold but all that is pretty perfect so far, let’s check the palate… Mouth: excellent, between fruit jams and marmalade again and a slightly resinous/sappy oakiness that works very well and creates a feeling of soft liquorice. Some grapefruit as well, the whole becoming very pleasantly bitter after a few seconds (but never Jaegermeisterish, if I may say so). Finish: medium long, just a notch too drying for my taste (loses its 90-seat here) but it all remains very fine. Some lemon zest in the aftertaste and quite some peppermint and bitter chocolate. Comments: high quality old whisky bottled just before it could have become a little too oaky. Hey, as always, only a single individual’s opinion! ;-) SGP:661 - 88 points.

Strathisla 1970/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling)

Strathisla 1970/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling) Four stars and a half An archclassic series, always alive and well. Colour: deep red amber. Nose: who said archclassic? Strawberry jam, mango chutney, putty, raisins and milk chocolate – and plenty of all that. Second layer: camphor, mint and liquorice plus touches of tar. Third layer: cigars, parmesan cheese and old balsamico. All that is bordering perfection. Mouth: of course we won’t find the exact glorious combination that we had on the nose again, but this is very engaging albeit a notch drying, with rather more liquorice and tar than usual. Unfolds on black raisins and touches of dark rum, the whole being rather ‘darker’ than usual this time (i.e. more liquoricy). Mint from the wood. The middle is a notch weaker but nothing embarrassing. Finish: a tad short but I love all this mint. Crunching a few After Eights (without all that damn and deadly sugar that they now put into them). Comments: like many very old malts, it loses one or two points at the finish but otherwise, what an excellent old Strathisla by G&M again! PS: more than 40 yo, approx £200.00. SGP:561 - 89 points.

Tomintoul 44 yo 1967/2011 (50.9%, The First Editions, cask ref #ES 007/01)

Tomintoul 44 yo 1967/2011 (50.9%, The First Editions, cask ref #ES 007/01) Four stars and a half Colour: straw (very pale for a 44yo malt). Nose: the usual fruity combo that many old Tomintouls do display (apples, guavas…) plus this je ne sais quoi (have to use a bit of French in my notes) of both mushroomy and mentholated tones. Dry cough syrup. That makes it quite unusual in fact and I think it works very well, provided the palate doesn’t nosedive. Mouth: there’s quite some oak and it’s even ‘oaky’, but this time it’s an oakiness that really works well in tandem with the fruits. It gives it notes of liquorice allsorts and even a kind of smokiness (lapsang souchong) that coats the expected tangerines and bananas. We’re globally in the same ballpark as with all the previous ones. Finish: for once it earns one more point at this stage because some mangos and more tangerines join in the dancing. White pepper and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: very good. It’s fun to ‘feel’ the fruits resisting the oak on your palate and sort of winning – in the end! SGP:561 - 89 points.

Glenlivet 1973/2012 (47.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #10822)

Glenlivet 1973/2012 (47.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #10822) Four stars and a half We had already previewed this one earlier this year and loved it. Time to publish proper notes! Colour: gold. Nose: perfect light fruitiness and many honeyed flowers, all being very elegant and almost feminine (sorry gals). Mirabelle pie and buttercups with just touches of old Sauternes. Mouth: a bit of drying oak but all what’s on top of it is quite perfect. Vanilla, overripe apples, honey and cinnamon, then more tarty notes of stewed rhubarb.  It’s all extremely elegant, really, despite the white pepper that tends to grow bigger (oak). Finish: medium long, always on white pepper, cinnamon and now apple peelings. Plum pie and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: mega-ultra-classic old Glenlivet with very little sherry, if any. More or less in the same league as the others, once again. SGP:561 - 89 points.

Well, that was a very consistent 'random' flight!



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December 5, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 11

But first, a few words about…

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))
Those bloody scores again...

It’s one of the questions that are permanently asked here and there: “Why use a 100-scale for scoring spirits when 90% of what’s tasted, if not more, will fetch between 70 and 95 points on most 'Parker' scales (such as WF’s) or even 85-99 at other places?” Indeed, that can be seen as a waste of points, or sometimes even as only a way of trying to generate more publicity for the shameless taster or ‘expert’, as all bottlers - esp. the small ones who desperately need 'content' and exposure - will tend to extensively advertise extremely high scores. So it's all very easy, give super-high scores to at least one whisky by just any company, give also a very low score to another whisky by the same company so that nobody will say you're biased, and presto, a lot of free publicity for you!
Yes all that can be true but I believe there’s another, much better reason not to scrap the lower end of the scale and not to make 50 points the median: you really need the lower end for the crap...


Scoring almost all malts between 70 and 95 could simply mean that you’re tasting a lot of good stuff, and very little crap, either because, like yours truly, you’re no masochist, or simply because the crap tends not to come your way, for whatever reasons. And remember that with all these new carefully-selected single casks around, the proportion of really crappy bottlings gets smaller and smaller, which in fact may well not happen if we’re talking volumes. Say you score some entry-level blend 55 points, that could mean that millions of cases of whisky are worth 55 points, whereas if you score a new cask of Caol Ila 30 yo 93 points, you’re only praising… maybe 250 bottles? So while a serious taster’s average score may lie around 84 or 85, if you take volumes into account instead of numbers of different bottlings, your average score may in fact lie around… 50 points indeed or even lower! Just think about all the cheap high-volume supermarket or even ‘street’ whiskies that are sold daily all around the world!

Anyway, here’s a good – albeit rare on WF, I agree - example of such low-end whisky that, in my view, should further explain why the 0-69 part of the 100-scale IS much needed… And it’s a malt!

Glen Wick 8 yo (40%, Leclerc, France, blended Scotch malt, 2012)

Glen Wick 8 yo (40%, Leclerc, France, blended Scotch malt, 2012) The price lies around 16.00€ a litre. The name Wick suggests Pulteney, which should be good news to malt lovers, but the general French public may also think of… Air Wick, which ain’t that good, is it! ;-). The label also states that this malt was ‘transformé en France’, so probably blended and coloured in France. Let’s see what gives… Colour: gold/orange. A dull orangey gold is always very bad news (high caramel). Nose: fairly pleasant whiffs of malted barley but also a lot of vanilla, toasted bread and plain caramel. It’s not ugly, but it’s ultra-simple, without any specific – not to mention interesting – aromas. Maybe a little industrial chocolate. Blandola… Mouth: exactly the same feeling, an okayish attack on malt and pepper plus vanilla and caramel but then it crashes, literally, and becomes very dry and bitter. Too much caramel indeed? Very thin mouth feel, very little body. Finish: ultra-short, leaving only drying notes of, well, bitter stuff. Over-infused cheap black tea? Comments: this wouldn’t even be good for mixing in my opinion. Maybe it’s not totally flawed, strictly speaking, but it’s very bad whisky. There are many, many entry-level blends that are much better or at least more ‘intriguing’. SGP:230 - 50 points.

Good, maybe it’s time to tackle a few more serious ‘Glens’…

Glen Garioch 1997/2012 (54.1%, OB for LMdW, bourbon, 132 bottles)

Glen Garioch 1997/2012 (54.1%, OB for LMdW, bourbon, 132 bottles) Three stars and a half Glen Garioch, in my experience, had also a ‘slightly violetty’ period just like its sister distillery Bowmore, but things really changed again in the 1990s… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a fairly hot and floral start. Say meadow flowers infused in apple juice with a little flint and lager beer. There are also a few bubblegums thrown into the mix, as well as plums and a few spoonfuls of porridge. It’s all very ‘natural’. With water: some marzipan and a little humus coming through but the bubblegummy fruitiness remains there. Mouth (neat): young, fresh and fruity, with typical notes of redcurrants and strawberries, fruit drops and then pears and grass. It’s quite hot again. With water: the oak’s vanilla and ginger come through, as well as a little cumin and green tea. Also bitter oranges. Finish: rather long, with the malted barley talking louder, as well as more liquorice and just a little white pepper. Interesting touches of mint and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: a very ‘natural’ spirit, rather full-bodied. Glen Garioch makes a classy distillate. SGP:441 - 84 points.

That one was good, let’s have another newish Glen Garioch…

Glen Garioch 1991/2012 (52.6%, Liquid Sun for The Whiskyman, 177 bottles)

Glen Garioch 1991/2012 (52.6%, Liquid Sun for The Whiskyman, 177 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re more or less in the same territories at very first sniffs but this gets more mineral and even smokier, then grassier and kind of sharper and more ‘chiselled’. Also quite some coal and linseed oil, with a clear ‘Highlands’ style that may hint at, ah, err, Old Clynelish. Some eucalyptus as well. With water: more of the same, that is to say even more Clynelishness. Mouth (neat): great. The peat is really noticeable, and so are lemons and grasses. Wonderful cleanliness, it’s another wine-whisky, toward, say Pouilly-Fumé. Wonderfully mineral. With water: blimey, here come the wax and the citrons! Finish: long, always chiselled. Coats your throat. Comments: fully spirit-driven, I love this slightly austere style a lot. I can understand why the owner selected this baby. He did well! SGP:362 - 88 points.

Glen Moray 21 yo 1990/2012 (55%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead #4560)

Glen Moray 21 yo 1990/2012 (55%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead #4560) Four stars and a half There are rather more indie Glen Morays around than ten years ago, and many are very good. Colour: straw. Nose: starts on wet wood and moss, bread leaven and mint, baker’s yeast and real ale. Becomes even more mossy after that, slightly sappy too (pine needles). A most enjoyable forest freshness. With water: a little more oak, coffee, vanilla, malt and maple syrup. Lovely nose. Mouth (neat): an unusual arrival, with a kind of sweet and lemony oakiness that works very well. Lemongrass, honeydew, tangerines, vanilla and pink grapefruits (the sweeter ones). Wonderfully tart, I’d say. With water: as expected, it got a little rounder and more jammy but the citrus fruits and the honeyness remain there. Maybe added touches of raspberries? Finish: rather long, deliciously fruity, with some praline and caramel/vanilla in the aftertaste. The mossy and minty notes are back in the aftertaste. Comments: hard to say anything else than ‘lovely’, because lovely it is. Same overall quality as the G. Garioch 1991, no mean feat for G. Moray. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Glenturret 34 yo (47.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask ref #2, 2012)

Glenturret 34 yo (47.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask ref #2, 2012) Five stars Glenturret? Let’s get ready for some fun, even more so since the excellent BBR haven’t declared any vintage for this, so maybe it’s a multi-vintage i.e. a marriage of several casks (which ‘cask ref #’ instead of ‘cask #’ may imply as well). But let’s not to lose ourselves in conjectures, let’s rather try this intriguing baby… Colour: gold. Nose: well well well, it’s not one of the whacky ones at all, which does not mean this baby’s boring, quite the opposite. First there’s a gentiany and liquoricy oak, then some quinces and kumquats, then touches of scented soap (it’s not soapy at all, rather toward roses, or say high-quality anti-wrinkle cream ;-)) and lastly, a blend of apple peel, cigarette tobacco and an earthy kind of tea. I think it’s wonderful. Mouth: bang! The only and very minor flaw is that maybe the middle is a tiny-wee bit thinnish but other than that, we have an almost perfect combination of overripe apples, salted butter toffee, various herbs, gingerbread and butterscotch. It becomes even a little medicinal, with tiny notes of cough lozenges. Finish: unexpectedly long, with some grapefruits and more apple peelings coming to the front as well as a most pleasant grassy bitterness. Comments: whatever they did, this is absolutely excellent and for once, that’s no opinion, it’s a fact. SGP:461 - 91 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Jessica Williams. Track: Impressions Of Spain/Will O' The Wisp (some wonderful piano solo). Please visit the website and buy the music...

December 4, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 10

With a few funny ones...

Ted Lindsay's Viking (48%, OB, blend of Abhainn Dearg and Säntis, 250 bottles, 2012)

Ted Lindsay's Viking (48%, OB, blend of Abhainn Dearg and Säntis, 250 bottles, 2012) Two stars This is a transnational vatting of some Scotch and Swiss malts that comes with a nice story as long as a leg, google should find it for you in case you’re interested. Colour: amber. Nose: a fun nose for sure. Between four Pirellis P Zero after thirty rounds of the Nürburgring and the exhaust pipes of a 1970 shovelhead. Add to that some pencil shavings and a few bitter oranges and you’ve got a general idea. As I wrote, it’s fun. Mouth: well well well, this sort of works despite its very high unlikeliness. Certainly not 100% balanced and obviously unlike any other spirit around, it’s full of smoky/tarry oak impacts and quite salty. There are various burnt notes, these pencil shavings again – or rather chewed pencils, remember our schooldays? - and something like plasticine. Tar liqueur. Finish: it’s quite long, salty, putty-like, tarry and slightly gingery. Orange drops in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m fonder of Säntis’ ‘normal’ whiskies I must say but I’m asking you, how could we be against all this fun? And it’s certainly no schmaltz. SGP:236 - 75 points.

Craigellachie 11 yo 2000/2012 (57.3%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, cask #150)

Craigellachie 11 yo 2000/2012 (57.3%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, cask #150) Three stars I always liked James MacArthur's motto that's printed on their labels: ‘An honest bottle and a good friend'. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: sometimes it’s really a thrill to nose a very young spirit with very little oak influence – provided the distillate is top notch of course. It’s the case here, with this utterly simple yet perfectly balanced combination of sweet barley and apple juice. With water: gets a notch grassier, which is normal. A little more mineral too, which is just as normal. Mouth (neat): excellent mouth feel, thick and syrupy in a nice way, some kind of apple and lemon liqueurs mixed together. Add to that a little honey and a few slices of tinned – and thinned - pears. With water: same with a little corn syrup added to the mix. Very easy and pleasant to quaff once it’s been reduced. Finish: not the longest ever but it’s clean, fresh and fruity. Comments: sometimes you need simple, flawless pleasures. SGP:540 - 80 points.

Strathmill 21 yo 1990/2012 (54.1%, The Warehouse Collection, refill sherry butt, cask #2254, 552 bottles)

Strathmill 21 yo 1990/2012 (54.1%, The Warehouse Collection, refill sherry butt, cask #2254, 552 bottles) Two stars and a half Yet another new German bottler – I had thought the Germans were busy making the best cars these days? ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: after all these fruity malts that are issued here and there, it’s great to come across a very grassy and flinty one. I quite like the fact that we’re actually very close to the barley here, just as much as these ashy and sooty tones that are pretty unusual in Speyside. Fresh walnuts. With water: the barley comes more to the front. Muesli, leaven, cider. Mouth (neat): an oomphy, flinty Strathmill, firm, rather nervous, with a moderate sherry. There are also tangerines and touches of chlorophyll. I cannot not think of some older babies such as Banff or the three defunct Inverness distilleries (Millburn, Albyn, Mhor). So, what I mean is that this is quite un-modern. With water: grass and barley and porridge and a few ashes. Finish: medium, grassy and barleyish. Apple juice, white pepper. Comments: it’s very honest and loyal, I say. Au naturel! SGP:341 - 79 points.

We were taking about Glen Mhor, well Cadenhead just issued a new 30yo, let’s have it if you don’t mind…

Glen Mhor 30 yo 1982/2012 (54.1%, Cadenhead, bourbon cask, 198 bottles)

Glen Mhor 30 yo 1982/2012 (54.1%, Cadenhead, bourbon cask, 198 bottles) Three stars In my experience Glen Mhor could be hit or miss, whatever Neil Gunn’s views on the matter. Colour: straw. Nose: it seems that the cask was just a lazy b****d, this could be ten years old. In a sense, that’s great because it gives us the opportunity to taste an almost newmaky Glen Mhor 30 years after the distillery’s been closed. So grass, grass and grass plus a few farmyardy notes and quite some yeast (It’s not feinty but we’re close) as well as a few gingery/grassy spices. Having said that, I enjoy the whiffs of rubbed grapefruit and lemon skins very much. Graphite oil. With water: becomes very whacky. Cheese and vinegar… ahem… Mouth (neat): you’d think you’re quaffing sunflower oil mixed with lemon juice. So we’re having a thickish yet very nervous mouth feel (certainly not 30 years old) and some bitter oranges (almost green). Cider apples. With water: nicer this time, lemon and tarty riesling. Finish: of medium length, with more tart fruits, green apples, lemons… Comments: a bit shaky but so totally un-commercial that I think it’s worth buying, as a testimony to the olden days. SGP:361 - 80 points.

While we’re in whacky lands, let’s have another old Glenturret to end this little session…

Glenturret 34 yo 1977/2012 (46.1%, The First Editions, cask ref. #ES 021/01)

Glenturret 34 yo 1977/2012 (46.1%, The First Editions, cask ref. #ES 021/01) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this baby’s well in ‘the’ style, that is to say vegetal and leathery as well as a little meaty. There’s also a little coal, touches of bananas, a little mint (fresh leaves), a lot of hay, touches of rubber, eucalyptus leaves, walnuts… and then more and more cough syrup and plain ‘Vicks’. Very old dry white wine. As usual, it’s fun and this nose is certainly more to my liking than many other old Glenturrets’ that sometimes really went off the track. Mouth: quite some infused oak, with a sourness (sour apples, cider) and some green tannins as well as this feeling of ultra-dry manzanilla that I enjoy. A lot of tea, dried porcinis, walnuts, bitter chocolate and white pepper. Also bananas again (and their skin), cinchona… Finish: medium long, dry, leathery and fino-ish. Bags of walnuts in the aftertaste and a little lemon. Comments: I’d say this one isn’t for everyone as it’s quite extreme but it’s a dry style that I do really enjoy. One of the very good old Glenturrets in my opinion. SGP:362 – 85 points.



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December 3, 2012



Malt Maniacs Awards 2012
The results will be published today at 16:00 GMT
Great work again by my compadres and chief of the MM Awards Keith Wood. There was a Senna-Prost kind of situation. 100% blind tastings are simply implacable!
You'll find all the results at Malt Maniacs' later today.


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 9

Westport 7 yo 2005/2012 (48.6%, Sansibar, refill sherry wood, 228 bottles)

Westport 7 yo 2005/2012 (48.6%, Sansibar, refill sherry wood, 228 bottles) Three stars and a half This is labelled as 'blended malt' but Westport should be Glenmorangie! Colour: gold. Nose: I know this is a sherry cask but this baby’s rather more on vanilla fudge, toffee, milk chocolate and touches of ginger than the expected raisiny notes. There are many spices in fact, including cloves, caraway seeds… Smells more and more like some artisanal speculoos. I like that. Mouth: it’s big whisky, it isn’t too youngish (thanks to some very active wood) and its very spicy again, mainly on cloves, white pepper and ginger. There’s even a good deal of curry powder. It’s an unusual whisky because of that but it’s quite spectacular, I’m wondering whether the cask wasn’t rejuvenated, or was it European oak? Anyway, good unusual whisky in my opinion. Finish: very long, you’d bet this was much stronger than just 48%. Very spicy aftertaste (nutmeg and white pepper this time). Comments: I’d say it’s probably the best you can do with a 7yo unpeated malt whisky. It’s really packed with spicy oak flavours. SGP:561 - 84 points.

Bruichladdich 1992/2012 (46%, The Ultimate, cask #1383, 315 bottles)

Bruichladdich 1992/2012 (46%, The Ultimate, cask #1383, 315 bottles) Three stars and a half From a hogshead. Colour: gold. Nose: plum pie and plum pie plus melon jam and melon jam. In other words, a lot of cooked plums and melon plus a little vanilla and butterscotch. Very rounded and easy, it’s not without reminding me of the newish official 10yo. Mouth: truly excellent. The oak imparts a lot of vanilla and more ginger than on the nose, there’s quite some honey as well and then… you guessed it, melon and plums (jams). Touches of caramel. Finish: quite long and more gingery, with parts that are alike the Westport’s (the spiciness). Quite some salt in the aftertaste. Comments: all good if you like talkative American oak. SGP:551 - 83 points.

Bunnahabhain 18 yo 'Liddesdale' (46%, Adelphi, batch #3, 1432 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 18 yo 'Liddesdale' (46%, Adelphi, batch #3, 1432 bottles) Four stars A vatting of several casks (yeah, obviously). Colour: full gold. Nose: so typically Bunnahabhain! Starts on chestnut purée and honey, with some earth and humus in the background as well as a little bacon and gunpowder. Becomes a little gamy after that, more leathery as well, while the earth became mushrooms and even truffles. Nope, the s-word isn’t appropriate. Mouth: a very fine arrival on fino-ish notes, leather, those mushrooms again (porcini), walnuts and no-too-sweet black raisins. Quite some bitter oranges as well, pepper, a little cardamom… I have to say it’s got something Taliskerish. Finish: long, grassier and smokier. More walnuts as well. Comments: some personality, this baby’s less smooth than the OBs of similar age and strength. Very good stuff. SGP:461 - 85 points.

Glenglassaugh 33 yo 1978/2012 ‘The Chosen Few’ (46.3%, OB, Mhairi McDonald, bourbon, 275 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 33 yo 1978/2012 ‘The Chosen Few’ (46.3%, OB, Mhairi McDonald, bourbon, 275 bottles) Five stars Just like the ‘Manager’s Legacy’, this series never disappoints. Well, I’ve only tried one so far ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: it seems that it’s one of these ‘old’ noses that start to display some wee notes of camphor and mint above a bed of roasted nuts, wood smoke (even charcoal) and walnuts. So we’re going toward vin jaune, fino or manzanilla, with even faint touches of mustard. It’s absolutely not ‘boubonny’. Mouth: excellent! Some complex notes of old polished wood, nuts, toasted brioche, mead and cinnamon. Perfect spiciness (ginger again and again, cloves, cardamom) and then more bitter oranges. It’s one of these bourbon casks that do hint at sherry wood, which is quite tricky if you taste whisky 100% blind. Finish: medium long, a notch rounder (vanilla) and spicier at the same time. Quite some spiced honey in the aftertaste as well as a little mango. Chutney? Comments: simply extremely good, with a lovable complexity. SGP:562 - 90 points.

And now some peat… It seems like these will be WF’s 300th tasting notes for an Ardbeg! I know figures are stupid but the only other distillery that’s crossed the 300-mark so far is Caol Ila (354 tasting notes at time of writing), while Bowmore (293) and Highland Park (298) are very close. So, our 300th Ardbeg notes will be for this new one:

Ardbeg 21 yo 1991/2012 (44.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles)

Ardbeg 21 yo 1991/2012 (44.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles) Four stars and a half An intriguingly low strength for a 21yo ‘beg. Colour: white wine. Nose: home! I mean, the home of older tasters such as yours truly, with this unstoppable sootiness floating over the sea at first sniffs, and then a very complex yet perfectly chiselled combination of gentian roots, verbena, lemongrass and pitch. You may add a little grapefruit, dill, kelp and hessian. In truth, it’s no big Ardbeg and the peat remains delicate and even sometimes ‘suggested’, but it’s wonderfully crystalline. Mouth: it’s even sootier and it’s very ashy, while some pretty unusual notes of dried coconut are flying around. A little butter and vanilla too. It’s only after a few seconds that some pure Ardbegness starts to strike, with some brine, kippers, grapefruits and just anything smoked. Eucalyptus lozenges, then also coffee beans, probably from the wood. Finish: medium long, with gentian and lemon plus quite some ashes and tar (lapsang souchong tea). Cough syrup. Comments: well, yes. It’s neither a peat monster nor a 1975 (no kidding?) but everything’s there, like in the good old days, despite a few weaker spots. Sob… SGP:456 - 89 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Carmen McRae. Track: Miss Otis Regrets. Quite something, isn't it. Please visit her website and buy her music...

December 2, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 8

We'll have some really special and rare ones today...

Glenfiddich 19 yo 'Age of Discovery' (40%, OB, Bourbon, 2012)

Glenfiddich 19 yo 'Age of Discovery' (40%, OB, Bourbon, 2012) Four stars After the ‘Madeira’ version from last year, here’s the ‘bourbon’ one, always rather over-packaged but in a nice way (but you know, tastes and colours…) Colour: gold. Nose: yes! It’s one of these Glenfiddichs that resemble super-blends, it’s all very balanced and ‘right in the middle’ (well, I know what I m’ trying to say). So malt, apple pie, light honey, meadow flowers (buttercups!), a little white chocolate, vanilla, shortbread and just a little gingerbread – or rather speculoos, with just a little wood smoke – or toasted bread. Mouth: I have to say this is very nice (I hate to write ‘nice’ but it’s very appropriate here), all on baked apples, more milk chocolate this time, butterscotch, caramel, earl grey tea and just wee touches of a gingery/cinnamony spiciness. It’s no big whisky but it’s full and certainly not weak. It does have echoes of the 30yo, in a way. Finish: not very long but clean and rather maltier. More oranges and cloves in the aftertaste. Comments: on par with the earlier Madeira and my exact definition of a 85-point spirit. Would love to taste this at around 45%. SGP:451 - 85 points.

Bruichladdich 'Cuvée 640 Eroica' (46%, OB, Cognac finish, 2012)

Bruichladdich 'Cuvée 640 Eroica' (46%, OB, Cognac finish, 2012) Three stars These cryptic new ‘cuvées’ by Bruichladdich are NAS finishings. ‘Eroica’ suggests Beethoven of course (Eroica symphony => Napoleon => Cognac?) but this baby’s also nicknamed ‘O Mensch! Gieb Acht!’, which rather implies a relation to Mahler or Nietzsche if I’m not mistaken. Well, let’s check if this is at least symphonic… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not grapey and certainly not Cognacqy at first nosing and it’s got all of Bruichladdich’s usual freshness. Melons and peaches plus various fruit stems and leaves (or the teas made thereof), then more nectar and plum pie (tarte aux mirabelles). Also a little grass and candy sugar. Mouth: once again, very little Cognac but maybe a few spicy notes that hint at French oak indeed, that is to say some green curry and ginger. Other than that, there’s quite some lemon grass, melon again, tangerines, bitter oranges and these notes of herbal teas again, maybe around cherry stems. It’s globally quite grassy and I think it’s the French oak that’s talking. Grape stalk? Finish: medium long, grassy and slightly salty. More candy sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s a different dram and a different Bruichladdich, with seemingly a rather high impact from European oak. So less fruits and more grass but I think it’s good. SGP:361 - 82 points.

Springbank 17 yo (52.8%, OB and Ralfy.com for charity, fresh Port, 1 bottle, 2012)

Springbank 17 yo (52.8%, OB and Ralfy.com for charity, fresh Port, 1 bottle, 2012) Five stars This is something very special and, I should add, very ‘ethical’! All the benefits from the sale of this unique bottle on scotchwhiskyauctions.com (without any stupidly high reserve price, which is so much smarter than what we’ve seen elsewhere recently) will go to Campbeltown's Dalintober Primary School. At time of writing, the highest bid is already at… £1650.00! Triple kudos to our mate Ralfy, to Springbank and to scotchwhiskyauctions (no auction fees will be taken). Of course we won’t taste this from bottle #1 of 1 but from a side sample. It’s also great for me to taste a “1 of 1” bottling because very little people will be able to contradict me (for once, LOL!) Colour: deep gold. Nose: makes you want to find some spare £1,675.00. It’s dry, it’s orangey, it’s definitely oily and mineral and it’s absolutely Springbank. Complex touches of cow stable, orange zests, camphor, motor oil, cinchona, cigar smoke, plain cigars, sugar cane, gingerbread, crème de menthe, damp earth, old wine cellar… I guess that’s what some may call a ’multi-layered malt’! With water: extraordinary now. Gamy, leathery, spicy and even more Habano-like. I mean, an unlit Lusitania from an old well-kept cabinet (whatever!) Mouth (neat): ho-ho-ho-ho, this is so unusual… To be honest, it’s more Longrow than Springbank at this stage, because there’s quite some peat wrestling with the unusual fruitiness that should come from the Port, between black cherries, blood oranges and cranberries. Superb development on bitter oranges and nutmeg. Wow. With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! In fact, it’s rather less complex than on the nose but these smoky oranges are perfect. Finish: long, quite rich and perfect. Comments: I hereby certify that I did not make these notes and score up, cross my heart and hope to die. Brilliant whisky, brilliant operation, very well done. SGP:653 - 92 points.

Dec 3 UPDATE: final bid £3,650.00. Hope we've helped!

Macduff 38 yo 1973/2012 (46.9%, The Exclusive Malts, cask #16, 213 bottles)

Macduff 38 yo 1973/2012 (46.9%, The Exclusive Malts, cask #16, 213 bottles) Five stars I hate to talk about prices but I think around 180€ for a 38 yo malt whisky is very fair, kudos to David Stirk. Colour: gold. Nose: geee, ‘noses’ like a 1972 Caperdonich or Glen Grant. It’s not easy for an oldie to stand on its feet after a glorious and punchy Springbank but this Macduff does it, in an impeccable way. Impressive freshness and fruitiness, with juicy ripe plums, acacia honey, vanilla custard and just touches of more tropical fruits (maybe bananas and mangos). Oh yes, passion fruits, definitely. Mouth: the most silky and polished oakiness, with very little tannicity and dryingness, coats the same kinds of fruits that we had in the nose. Also a little pineapple and coconut. Lovely fruity palate, an ode to refill bourbon hoggies (I guess). Finish: medium long, slowly switching to mint-flavoured tea, chocolate, nutmeg and cinnamon but it never becomes drying. Comments: very hard to beat, esp. at this price (Serge, talking about prices yet again!?) SGP:651 - 91 points.

I have an idea, let’s have another 38 yo and not just any 38 yo…

Rare Ayrshire 38 yo 1974/2012 (50.8%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See St. Moritz, cask #2604, 124 bottles)

Rare Ayrshire 38 yo 1974/2012 (50.8%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See St. Moritz, cask #2604, 124 bottles) Four stars This is, you guessed it, Ladyburn, no need to tell you how rare Ladyburn has become. It’s been bottled as Waldhaus am See’s 50th bottling. Hope it’s as good as the previous 49 ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: I haven’t tasted dozens of Ladyburns so it’s hard to tell whether the spirit still has much to say after all these years but what’s absolutely certain is that this bourbon wood was of the highest grade (it’s been confirmed that this baby was fully matured in one single cask). Perfect combination of vanilla, praline, bananas flambéed and tarte tatin, with only distant whiffs of pencil shavings. With water: some very fine grassy touches coming through, with something Irish (you could think this came from Midleton). Mouth (neat): I think it’s a miracle that the oak, which was probably pretty active, hasn’t overwhelmed the shy Lowlander after all these years. So bananas again, vanilla (a lot of custard), coconut, tinned pineapples, touches of jelly babies and marshmallows plus a very soft spiciness, with a little white pepper and cinnamon. A miracle, really. With water: it swims! Little added tannins or drying ‘things’ such as excessive cinnamon. Finish: medium length, with touches of mint and even a little mango that hints at the Macduff that we just had. Comments: just like another 1974 by Mo Or that we had earlier this year, this baby’s much more to my liking than the few other Ladyburns that we could try, including the officials. So, maybe it’s not all over… SGP:640 - 87 points.


Whiskyfun fav of the month

November 2012

Favourite recent bottling:
Glengoyne 1972/2012 (55.5%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Diamonds, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12044, 254 bottles) - WF 94

Favourite older bottling:
Jura Whisky (75° proof UK, OB, bottled +/-1979) - WF 92

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Isle of Jura 24 yo 1988/2012 (50.8%, The Whisky Agency & Bresser & Timmer, bourbon barrel, 251 bottles) - WF 92



Block Today: FOLK JAZZ. Performer: Joni Mitchell. Track: This Place. Please visit Joni Mitchell's website and buy her music...

November 2012 - part 2 <--- December 2012 - part 1 ---> December 2012 - part 2

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



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

Glenglassaugh 33 yo 1978/2012 ‘The Chosen Few’ (46.3%, OB, Mhairi McDonald, bourbon, 275 bottles)

Glenturret 34 yo (47.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask ref #2, 2012)

Limerick 24 yo 1988/2012 (56.8%, Adelphi, Irish, cask #10516, 188 bottles)

Macduff 38 yo 1973/2012 (46.9%, The Exclusive Malts, cask #16, 213 bottles)

Springbank 17 yo (52.8%, OB and Ralfy.com for charity, fresh Port, 1 bottle, 2012)