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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2015 - Part 1



November 2015 - part 2 <--- December 2015 - part 1 ---> December 2015 - part 2


December 14, 2015


Austere Glen Spey

There’s a little more Glen Spey around these days, or so it seems. Let’s try three or four of them…

Glen Spey 17 yo (46%, Duthies, 312 bottles, +/-2013)

Glen Spey 17 yo (46%, Duthies, 312 bottles, +/-2013) Three stars A moderately priced bottling from the now discontinued (AFAIK) Duthies range by WM Cadenhead. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s rather raw and ‘natural’ malt whisky, full of porridge, grass, sawdust, and chalk. Not much else to add, this is naked yet unsexy malt whisky, I’d say. Mouth: quite to my liking, very grassy and pretty peppery. Something pungent. More grass, then more grapefruits. Lemongrass, a little sawdust again, lemon sweets, more chalk… Very natural indeed. Finish: rather long, zesty and sharp, on citrus and even more chalk. Some white pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: fine grassy malt whisky au naturel, a bit rough but that’s probably part of this game. SGP:461 - 80 points.

Glen Spey 27 yo 1988/2015 (47.7%, Sansibar and S Spirits Shop, bourbon, 198 bottles)

Glen Spey 27 yo 1988/2015 (47.7%, Sansibar and S Spirits Shop, bourbon, 198 bottles) Three stars and a half A samurai’s drink, apparently. Colour: white wine. Nose: there are many similarities, all around grass and sharp citrus and clay or chalk. The main difference lies in the fruitiness that’s growing more obvious in this older baby, around pineapples and even strawberries (gums). But it’s not a fruit bomb. A pleasant minerality behind all that, with more clay, fresh concrete… Mouth: it’s very citrusy! Sharp lime, then bitter grasses, walnuts, and always this chalkiness. Very tight, even if it started sweeter and fruitier. Finish: quite long, ultra-lemony, with a peppery aftertaste. Comments: one of the those sauvignony malt whiskies. More than good, I think. SGP:461 - 83 points.

Glen Spey 18 yo 1997/2015 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill hogshead, cask #11192, 297 bottles)

Glen Spey 18 yo 1997/2015 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill hogshead, cask #11192, 297 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s even grassier than the others, even more austere, chalkier as well… But I don’t seem to detect much fruitiness. Grapefruit skin, perhaps. With water: we’re going closer to the Duthie. Grass, chalk, porridge. Mouth (neat): sour, very grassy, with a feeling of dairy cream and aspirin tablets. A little barley sugar. With water: sweeter, barleyish. Rather cider apples this time. Finish: medium, malty, barleyish. A little candy sugar with water. Comments: honest and loyal natural malt whisky. Typical 80 points in my book. SGP:461 - 80 points.

A last one…

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 19 yo 1995/2015 (58.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 480 bottles)

Glen Spey-Glenlivet 19 yo 1995/2015 (58.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 480 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: yet again, this is an austere one, but this time we’re more on leather, grass, grapefruit and lemon skin (rubbed), and then we find whiffs of fennel and dill, which makes it a little ‘different’ indeed. With water: the fennel became mint and aniseed. A touch of camphor. Mouth (neat): starts as fizzy as Fanta, mustardy, mineral, chalky again, with some odd notes of peach syrup that aren’t un-nice at all. Some coffee too, which is funny in this context. With water: always this fizzy profile, Schweppes-orange, cinchona… Finish: quite long. Lemon and liquorice? Pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: may we call this style ‘out of fashion’? Malt for hipsters? SGP:561 - 84 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glen Spey I've tasted so far



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December 13, 2015


On Sunday, Armagnac is back

That’s lousy Serge, very lousy. Anyway, time for more armagnac, perhaps the other spirit that’s slowly becoming the most ‘malternative’ of them all. Let’s see what we can find in our little – but growing – stash…

Château Garreau 'Hors d'Age' (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2014)

Château Garreau 'Hors d'Age' (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2014) Two stars This baby’s more than ten years old. Château Garreau is a relatively large estate that, apparently, used to belong to a Russian prince. We’ve already had a few older ones a few weeks ago. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s a rather citrusy young armagnac, with a rather lovely combination of fresh orange juice, golden raisins, and blond tobacco. Goes on with a bit of caramel and toasted pastry, as well as a welcome touch of grass to add balance. Like this fruity freshness! Not quite one of these prune-y armagnacs, I’d say. Mouth: good and easy, rather sweet, perhaps a notch sugary to tell you the truth (feeling of late harvest wine), with some coffee liqueur and a little triple-sec. Less fresh and ‘nervous’ than the nose was, but it’s still ‘good’. Not too flabby despite the low strength. Finish: medium, with a little more toasted oak and toffee. Comments: a fine, very easy armagnac. The nose was a little too promising, as often. SGP:640 - 75 points.

Perhaps a vintage version?...

Château Garreau 2000 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2010)

Château Garreau 2000 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2010) Two stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: once again, a pleasant fruitiness, rather with peaches this time, figs, raisins… It’s very soft, quite complex, and pretty fresh. Enjoy the hints of lilies and spearmint in the background. Perhaps ‘ideas’ of Greek retsina? Mouth: really too bad that this was bottled at 40% vol. There’s ‘stuff’ happening, around peaches again and overripe apples, plus the usual sultanas, but it’s all a little weak. Quite some vanilla, a faint grapiness, some apple peeling, some fudge. Finish: short to medium, grapy. A touch of bitter caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: a missed opportunity to come up with a pretty good malternative. The spirit behind is of rather high quality. SGP:650 - 77 points.

Darroze 12 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (43%, OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015)

Darroze 12 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (43%, OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015) Three starsI’ll remember the 50 yo in this series forever! Colour: gold. Nose: much brighter and deeper at the same time, with a pretty perfect fruitiness (melons, peaches) and just the right amount of soft spices and herbs. Cinnamon and caraway, plus liquorice and lemongrass. Love these fresh noses that are neither too prune-y, nor too raisiny. Mouth: what a difference 3% vol. make! This is a pear cake covered with liquid caramel, roasted raisins, and ground cashews. And melon coulis. Notes of guavas, perhaps. The backrgound’s a little grittier, a little leafy, but let’s remember this is armagnac, not cognac. Finish: medium, just a notch drying. Quite some cinnamon. Comments: we’re already in the ‘great’ category, given this baby’s age. SGP:551 - 82 points.

Baron de Sigognac 'VSOP' ( 40%, OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2013)

Baron de Sigognac 'VSOP' ( 40%, OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2013) Three stars This is well-reputed single estate armagnac. Love their little legend, as told by their website: “One day long ago, Baron de Sigognac took all the traditional clocks out of his cellars. Fascinated by the mystery surrounding the way Armagnac ages, he had some very strange timepieces made. On these clocks, the face had ten divisions instead of twelve. The seconds had become years, the big hand moved only once a decade and the hour hand marked the centuries. Then, with time, Baron de Sigognac came to trust only his palate in telling the age of an Armagnac. The clocks were left unwound.” Lovely indeed! Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the most toasted and roasted of them all, with more café latte, brioche, some soft ginger than suggests new oak, and then vanilla and white pepper. We came very close to malt whisky this time. Mouth: indeed, although this is more fragrant, with flowers and some kind of sweet curry, then the expected vanilla, raisins, coffee-flavoured fudge, and simply toast. But once again, the low strength is a handicap, I’m sure this baby had so much to tell us… Finish: rather short, but quite perfect. Oranges, vanilla, flower jelly. Roses? Perhaps litchis as well. Comments: same high quality as the Darroze. Can we have the same at 50% vol.? I like it better than an older vintage that I tried a few years ago. SGP:550 - 82 points.

50% vol.? Just ask…

Louis Roque 'XO' (50%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2014)

Louis Roque 'XO' (50%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2014) Two stars The house Louis Roque in Souillac are well-known for their vieilles prunes, and I’m not sure they make this armagnac themselves. Maybe, maybe not. But the strength is right! Colour: gold. Nose: well, it’s certainly rougher than the others, but it doesn’t seem to have their depth and their complexity. Nice overripe apples and grapes, though. A touch of honey. With water: more honey, which is nicer. Gets softer. Mouth (neat): nah, it’s rough spirit, the kind they pour you from a jug when you’re down their in Armagnac’s region. Almost. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not unpleasant at all, it’s just very rustic. Overripe apples, artisan eau-de-vie, raisins, prunes. The strength is right, though. With water: good young, rather fresh, fruity and grassy armagnac. Nothing to complain about. Finish: medium, fruity, honeyed. Apples and raisins and honey. Comments: maybe not stellar but honest and loyal like a mousquetaire. SGP:640 - 76 points.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Louisiana Red. Track: I Been Down So Long. Please visit his website and buy his music...

December 11, 2015


Yet another bag of Irish

Irish whiskeys are on the rise, and I’m not only talking about very large mass-marketed brands (no names). Smaller bottlers, sometimes indies, also have amore and more of them. And some are simply superb!

Knappogue Castle 14 yo 'Twin Wood' (46%, OB, Irish, single malt, +/-2014)

Knappogue Castle 14 yo 'Twin Wood' (46%, OB, Irish, single malt, +/-2014) Three stars This one comes from ‘from a Northern Irish distillery’ according to some sources. A 16yo at 40% vol. has been much to my liking a few weeks ago. Colour: straw. Nose: typical banane-y nose, with also ripe apples, strawberry sweets, and perhaps peaches, before more vanilla and a few golden raisins do come through. Very easy nose, very pleasant, not complicated. Mouth: a bit more potent, and almost brutal at first sips, with rather more citrus this time, and even an unexpected saltiness. Salted grapefruits? Some bubblegum as well, but it remains rather rough and unpolished. Hints of green oak. Finish: rather long, still a little raw. Green apples. Comments: very good, it just hasn’t got the complexity of the 16 yo in my opinion. SGP:551 - 81 points.

Teeling 'Small Batch' (46%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2015)

Teeling 'Small Batch' (46%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2015) Three stars A blend finished in rum casks. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s quite fruity, but it’s also rather earthy and leafy, with touches of almond oil and tree bark. Dried pears coming out, a little porridge, some green wood, and little rum that I can find. Globally quite dry, which I find surprising. Mouth: more fruits, especially as jell-Os and jams, with a tea-ish background and always quite some dry grass. Green melons and green bananas, also oak vanilla and more leaves. Finish: short to medium, rather grassy and fruity. A little mead in the aftertaste. Comments: upper echelon Irish blend, with good presence. Not one you swallow without even noticing. SGP:541 - 82 points.

Tullamore D.E.W. 12 yo 'Special Reserve' (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2015)

Tullamore D.E.W. 12 yo 'Special Reserve' (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2015) Three stars The famous Tout l’Amour Doux that the French tend to like. Tried an earlier batch in 2012, was good, but not too impressed (WF 78). Colour: gold. Nose: very very soft. Melon jam, butterscotch, chamomile tea, white chocolate, marzipan, a touch of menthol. Or rather the filling in After Eights. I find it instantly ‘Irish’. Mouth: starts well, with some praline and halva (yeah or peanut butter, as you like) but it tends to lose steam after just three seconds, I guess that’s the strength. Overripe apples and melons, plus bananas, plus this little metallic touch that I often find in these. Finish: rather short, more on herbal teas. A grittiness in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it progressed. Next step, 43 or 46% vol.? SGP:640 - 80 points.

Irish Whiskey 24 yo 1991/2015 (51.5%, The Auld Alliance, 232 bottles)

Irish Whiskey 24 yo 1991/2015 (51.5%, The Auld Alliance, 232 bottles) Four stars and a halfThis baby for Singapore’s most famous whisky bar. Colour: straw. Nose: a peated Cooley, apparently! Isn’t it amazing that the Irishness (say bananas) and the Islayness (say Ardbeg) mingle so well after twenty+ years? Sandalwood, dried kelp, dried bananas, cigars, a touch of fresh butter…  It’s all more than perfect so far. Flipside, we’re not surprised. With water: more coastalness. Coastality? Oysters, a slice of lemon, and one drop of almond oil. Unstoppable. Mouth (neat): this fruity creaminess (between jam and liqueurs) and then a smoky blast, rather towards grass than peat or coal. Kiwis, bananas, oranges. Very perfect, a style of its own. With water: gets a wee tad thinner, perhaps, tends to lose its backbone. A bit, just a bit. Otherwise, it’s great. Funny hints of green asparagus. Finish: medium, rather almondy. Bitter almonds, a touch of pineapple. Comments: excellent, greatly light for a peat monster. Wait, it’s not quite a peat monster anyway. SGP:554 - 89 points.

Irish Whiskey 27 yo 1988/2015 (51.2%, The Auld Alliance, 194 bottles)

Irish Whiskey 27 yo 1988/2015 (51.2%, The Auld Alliance, 194 bottles) Five stars The unpeated counterpart. Not sure I shouldn’t have had this one first, but as you very well know, there’s room for much improvement at WF Towerz. Colour: pale gold. Nose: there, typical. Rose liqueur, melons, light oils, overripe apples, pineapples, bananas… Long story short, an epic Irish fruit bomb, but with balance. With water: an impeccable fruit salad, with a drops of honey and maple syrup. Mouth (neat): pastries and jams, plus chocolate and Nutella (apologies). Melons and oranges first at the fruit department, then pineapples and bananas. Lovely grassy structure that prevents it from becoming just a tad ‘too fruity’. With water: swims greatly. Next stop, America ;-). Seriously, we’ve got all fresh fruits and several herbs. Mint, perhaps chervil, watercress… Finish: rather long, this time with quinces and papayas. Comments: very dangerous whiskey if you ask me. Watch refills! Technically, it’s more like 89/90, but the pleasure’s so immense, that that’ll be… SGP:651 - 91 points.

Writers Tears (40%, Irish, Irish Pot Still blend, +/-2015)

Writers Tears (40%, Irish, Irish Pot Still blend, +/-2015) Four stars It seems that this a blend of single malt and pot still. Colour: light gold. Nose: much more Midletonian than the others, with more metallic earth, fruit peelings, fresh almonds, and this very unusual waxiness and butter. That gives it a kind of fatness, and that’s why I had thought it wouldn’t get killed by the enthusiastic and powerful northerners. Also barley sugar. Mouth: excellent. It’s not an expensive bottle, and it’s even quite humble, and the strength’s a little disappointing, but it’s got body and always this waxy oiliness that gives it structure. Green apples, beeswax, plantain bananas, muesli. Finish: medium, fruitier again. Waxy honey, a drop of maple syrup, and more almonds in the aftertaste. Comments: I’ve always been a fan of Writer’s Tears. Excellent job, me thinks. And writers cry a lot anyway… SGP:551 - 86 points.

Limerick 23 yo 1991/2015 ‘Slaney Malt’ (59%, Adelphi, Irish single malt, cask # 8585, 134 bottles)

Limerick 23 yo 1991/2015 ‘Slaney Malt’ (59%, Adelphi, Irish single malt, cask # 8585, 134 bottles) Five stars This might be quick. As a previous Limerick/Slaney by Adelphi has been utterly superb. Colour: dark gold, almost amber. Nose: indeed. Passion fruit and mango cake, liquid caramel, herbs, teas, tobaccos… And myriads of other tiny aromas. With water: menthol, eucalyptus, camphor… just what the doctor ordered. Mouth (neat): extraordinary. Herbal fruits and fruity herbs everywhere. Plus just the right amount of tobacco-ish herbalness. Walnuts. Bitter oranges. Salt. Not an easy-easy chappo when undiluted, but boy it delivers. With water: uses the velvet glove this time, with papayas, guavas, vanilla, and honey. Plus, once again, many tinier flavours. Finish: quite long, with an impressive freshness. Always a little tobacco.  Comments: no quibbles, this is one of the greatest Irish out there. What a session! To think that I’m not the greatest fan of Irish whiskies – in general… SGP:651 - 92 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Irish I've tasted so far



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December 10, 2015


Little bags of whisky
Today Highlands malts

Let’s see what we can find… Rummage rummage rummage… Oh, yes, this new baby!... Now we know how these freewheeling sessions start, but we never quite know how they’ll end…

Glendronach 'Peated' (46%, OB, 2015)

Glendronach 'Peated' (46%, OB, 2015) Two stars and a half I don’t quite know what to think. If all distilleries start to make all kinds of whiskies, I hope no one over there beyond Hadrian’s Wall will dare using the word ‘terroir’ again. And what a concoction, it’s peated malt, NAS, and it’s finished in oloroso and PX. A shame, I’d have loved to try this without any make-up. Excuse me? Anything positive to say, you ask? Yeah, sure, it’s Glendronach. Colour: straw (hurray!) Nose: young smoky malt. Reminds me of Bunnahabhain’s first Moines. Some sweets. Can you smoke marshmallows? Mouth: good. Orange sweets and peated malt. Good. Ashes. Good. A touch of brine. Good. Finish: medium. Good. Oyster juice and lemon. No obvious PX (hurray, because peat and PX are dissonant in my opinion – just my opinion). Good. Comments: good. Seriously, this is very quaffable, easy, simple, unquestionably good. Maybe just not very ‘needed’, unless the only brand you’re buying is Glendronach. And you’ve got every rights to do so, of course. Next, a peated Auchentoshan? Noh, don’t tell me they… ;-) SGP:445 - 78 points.

Another example…

Glenturret ‘Peated Edition’ (43%, OB, 2015)

Glenturret ‘Peated Edition’ (43%, OB, 2015) Three stars The Whisky Shop already had a peated Glenturret. I thought it was fine. Colour: straw. Nose: much breadier than the Glendro, with much more, well, porridge, baker’s yeast, mineral oils, coal, earth… But it’s also lighter. A different style for sure. Mouth: more complex than the Glendronach, dirtier and wackier as well (but that’s the distillate), with more vegetables (French beans, perhaps) and then more ginger, sea fruit, putty, ginger, a touch of mustard… Acceptable body. Finish: short to medium, very ashy, quite salty. Okay, it triggers salt. A feeling of rye in the aftertaste. Comments: feels more ‘craft’, and more deviant (greatly so), and simply more interesting. Now, if you need peat, there’s always Islay ;-)… SGP:345 - 81 points.

Ooh, this is becoming a peated Highlander session. And why Not? Let’s do that!

Isle of Jura 12 yo 'Elixir' (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Isle of Jura 12 yo 'Elixir' (40%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars and a halfWhat’s quite bizarre and scary is that you may find this expression at several strengths. No, not just 40/43%, also at 46% vol.! Sadly, it’s the one at 40% that we’re having on the tasting table. Colour: orange. That’s E150A, no doubt. Nose: there is a little peat, but very little. Other than that, it’s soft, cake-y, with raisins, milk chocolate, brioche… In fact it’s one the most brioche-y malts I’ve tried this year. Mouth: more peat, and a rather lovely profile.. for breakfast. Coffee everywhere, Kahlua, salt, sweet mustard, cardboard, rubber, cinnamon, oranges… This idiosyncratically Jura! Finish: medium, stone-y, mustardy, salty, yeasty, leathery… Comments: I know, sounds awful, and yet it’s not, not at all. It’s got something that the others didn’t have, to this extend: presence. A great dram, really, but I now want to try the one at 46% vol. Next time! SGP:453 - 84 points.

Ballechin 'Sauternes Cask Matured' (46%, OB, 2015)

Ballechin 'Sauternes Cask Matured' (46%, OB, 2015) Three stars and a half The 8th release, apparently. Fully matured in Sauternes hogsheads at Edradour. No need to say that they’ve never heard of hogsheads in Sauternes, so I guess these casks have been custom-made somewhere in Scotland. How, I don’t quite know (Sauternes-treated hogsheads or reconstructed barriques?) Colour: gold. Nose: isn’t it amazing how Edradour changed over the recent years? Great progress made, and this is another example. Forget about any excessive plums, pineapples or raisins, this is balanced, rather soft for a peater, and rather on lapsang souchong and cocoa powder (Van Houten’s). That, we cannot not like. Mouth: rather more exuberant, with more apricots and pineapples, but the peat does manage to balance that, bringing even notes of kippers and oysters. Yes I know where Pitlochry’s located. Okay, there’s one mirabelle, but it’s a small one. Finish: rather long, smoky, never vulgar, and actually rather more on herbal teas. Honeysuckle? A touch of citrusy curry. Thai food? Bitterish lime in the aftertaste. Comments: progress is continuous at Edradour. Only the aftertaste was a little less thrilling. SGP:555 - 84 points.

Benromach 2006/2015 'Peat Smoke' (46%, OB)

Benromach 2006/2015 'Peat Smoke' (46%, OB) Three stars 67ppm and first fill bourbon, that’s a lot. Not first fill bourbon, eh. We had tried the 2000/2007 version, and found it very very fine (WF 82). Colour: pale white wine (hurray). Nose: there, machine oil, greases, rocks, concrete, beach sand, textile, vanilla… now it’s not utterly expressive, I’d even call it shy boy. Mouth: I think I prefer the normal Benromach. This is very fine, and the smoke’s fine, and so are the pineapples and apples, but I don’t find it extremely cohesive. Or coherent? There’s a sweetness in the background that’s a little disturbing. Jelly beans? Other than that, nothing to complain about. Finish: rather long, rather ashy, rather kippery, but there’s a wee lack of… of what? Of depth, perhaps? Comments: better than what you might think, it’s just that I was expecting (even) more. I really prefer the regular range (5, 10, CS – lots of love) because it’s got more… depth? Oh and I don’t think that, as I could read elsewhere, this is the Ardbeg from the north. SGP:546 - 80 points.



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December 9, 2015


Time warp sessions, Talisker

We’ve got a very old NAS to try, but while what may sound logical would be to try it vs. a current NAS (Skye, anyone?), we preferred to pick a current 18. Indeed, we haven’t tried the 18 since quite a few years.

Talisker (43%, OB, for Grande Marche Francesi, Italy, +/-1965)

Talisker (43%, OB, for Grande Marche Francesi, Italy, +/-1965) Five stars We’ve tasted the famous 8 yo from roughly the same period a while back, and just adored it. But I believe this is an even earlier NAS version… Colour: deep gold. Nose: hard to say. Perhaps overripe mangos crushed with a piece of limestone or something like that, then filtered using an old brass sieve, then blended with menthol cigarette juice and old engine oil? Add a drop of ink and a drop of graphite oil, perhaps, as well as a spoonful of seawater. Crushed lovage leaves? Brilliant ;-). Mouth: totally exceptional, starting as brutal as a 100proof whisky, greatly bitter and peppery – this is well Talisker – and getting saltier and saltier, while it’s more dried fruits that are playing second fiddles this time. Mentholy raisins? The power and the depth are insane considering the moderate strength. Finish: extremely long, peppery and ‘tropical’, with mangos and passion fruits cooked with gravy. And seawater. Very salty and smoky aftertaste. Comments: it does not disappoint. One of the great classics, whether NAS or bottled at 8 years of age. It’s also funny that it rather remained as smoky as some other well-known classics, the Laphroaig 10s from the 1960s. SGP:565 - 93 points.

Talisker 18 yo (45,8%, OB, +/-2015)

Talisker 18 yo (45,8%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: it is extremely different, but it’s hard to know what comes from bottle ageing or not. This one’s gentler, narrower, rather more on green walnuts and ashes, then lemon-flavoured brioche and some kind of mentholy leather. It whispers a bit, but the whole remains clean and pleasant. Also some hessian, old tarry ropes and all that in the background. Mouth: we’re a little closer to the old NAS, with more power this time, salty leather, certainly a camphory side that makes it taste like ‘an older bottle’, a little ginger liqueur, then more and more bitter oranges, before it gets frankly dry and more bitterish(ish). I think I’ve found it lighter and gentler last time I tried it. Finish: quite long, peppery, leathery, salty, walnutty. Again, much drier than I remembered. And smokier too! Comments: more austere, and a little rougher than expected. Bah, a great dram anyway. Love it, it’s probably a future classic that we’ll miss eventually. SGP:466 - 89 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Talisker I've tasted so far


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




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December 8, 2015


Three Longrow, two new, one old

Longrow remains a rather discrete brand, which I find a little surprising given the smashing 1973s and 1974s that they had a few years ago – not to mention some legendary 1987s. In a way, it’s a bit like Ledaig. I believe Longrow would deserve more attention from the blogging and quaffing masses.

Longrow (46%, OB, +/-2015)

Longrow (46%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars and a half Always a favourite at WF Towers, and proof that NAS, when appropriately priced (that is to say as if they were entry-level whiskies – which they are), can be great. Don’t just price them as if they were 18yos! Colour: straw. Nose: spirit. I could leave it at that. Buttered soot and old woollen jumper, gravel, first tropical rain over a very busy city somewhere in the far-east, coal smoke, bandages, raw malt… Brilliant! Mouth: fantastic. Powerful, raw, uncompromising (they could use Laphroaig’s tag lines), salty, earthy, lemony, medicinal, coastal… I especially love this feeling of salted lemons. Finish: long, more mineral, and more on seawater. As if Longrow was becoming more and more ‘Islay’. Comments: bang-for-your-buck provided you’re not a sweet-vanilla-and-coconut-above-all kind of whisky enthusiast. Otherwise it may be a little too challenging… Totally and utterly spirit-driven. SGP:356 - 89 points.

Longrow 12 yo 'Red' (52.9%, OB, Pinot Noir, 9000 bottles, 2015)

Longrow 12 yo 'Red' (52.9%, OB, Pinot Noir, 9000 bottles, 2015) Two stars and a half 11 years in bourbon wood (aahhh), 1 year in Pinot Noir (heeey?) Seriously, I’m not a fan of red-wine-finished peaters, but while I almost hated the cab (WF 70), the shiraz (WF 79) and the Port (WF 78) have been a little more to my liking. I love pinot noir, but maybe not in my whisky, let’s see… Oh and it’s not even Burgundy or Alsace pinot noir, it’s a Kiwi. Colour: salmony/apricoty. Nose: wait, this seems to work, more or less. Sulphur, blackcurrant buds, floor cloth (typical pinot noir), ham, bananas, then cakes, strawberry jam… I don’t find this particularly unbalanced, mind you. With water: dust, old wine cellar, all things musty, old bookshop in a small northern village (wot?)… It’s not unpleasant, it’s just peculiar. The strawberries have vanished – all for the better. Mouth (neat): rather more difficult. Stems and leaves plus lime and Haribo’s strawberry gums, British strawberry-flavoured yoghurt, a feeling of cheapish champagne rosé, with a gingery fizziness… It’s a fine drink, just not very ‘whisky’ in my book. So far. With water: starts to pitch and toss, so to speak. Old leaves, salt, old brine, dust… Finish: long, smokier again, void of any fruitiness. Comments: oh, why not? But you know, grape and grain… (not talking about sherry, Madeira, and other such wines). SGP:465 - 78 points.

Phew… Another one please…

Longrow 1987/1999 (55%, Samaroli, cask #141)

Longrow 1987/1999 (55%, Samaroli, cask #141) Five stars Always loved Samaroli’s tasting notes on the back labels. You never quite knew if that was all a little clumsy, or extreme avant-garde Italian poetry. In any case, this one’s ‘reach and pulpy’ and has got ‘lucky heather in flower’. Very artsy, isn’t it! (I know, I know, that’s the pot calling the kettle black)… Colour: straw. Nose: they may have broken the mould, because after 1987, this style was never to be found again. Fantastically limy and almondy at first nosing, then delicately smoky (heather smoke indeed?), then wonderfully medicinal and coastal at the same time. Tiger balm and lemongrass, oysters, and a little soot. Then embrocations, more tiger balm, menthol… I find this nose stunning, just like other 1987s used to be (all Signatory or Samaroli, the De Niro and Pacino of Longrow). With water: burning fir wood, tincture of iodine, mashed turnips, perhaps celeriac, pickled samphire… Oh so very peculiar! Mouth (neat): perfection in its very own genre. Wine vinegar, seawater, bone marrow, sharp lemon juice, smoked oysters, liquorice wood, ashes… Shouldn’t work, and yet it does. Extreme mezcal? With water: becomes a little gentler, but this sharp lemon-and-coal-smoke combination just roars. Finish: long and very salty this time. More seawater. Almondy and lemony aftertaste. Comments: oh why haven’t we bought more of these when they were available? A style that’s nowhere else to be found, the Frank Zappas of malt whisky (older Ledaigs being the good captain, I suppose). SGP:366 - 92 points.

(thank you Massimo)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Longrow I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Maria Muldaur. Track: We Can Let It Happen Tonight. Please visit her website and buy her music...

December 7, 2015


Some stunning Tomatin

These days there are distillers and brands that are moving away from the consumers, by being less transparent and more arrogant than ever, whilst other brands seem to be taking the opposite direction. The latest example of the latter trend is Tomatin in my opinion, as could be seen in the open letter they just published on their Website, asking to be allowed to be transparent regarding their vattings, especially their NAS expressions. It’s a smart move that already generates more consumer goodwill, and rightly so! Let’s just hope there will be more such brands, and that the SWA and other official bodies and lobbies will agree to discuss these matters. But let’s not dream, the bigger boys won’t like to lose their main excuse for not disclosing the actual ages of their new ultra-young oak-doped concoctions… Anyway, let’s celebrate Tomatin!...

Tomatin 12 yo 'French Oak' (46%, OB, 2014)

Tomatin 12 yo 'French Oak' (46%, OB, 2014) Three stars Matured in bourbon for 9 years and finished for 3 years in French oak wine casks that have been scratched and charred. I’d rather call that double-maturation! Colour: gold. Nose: this is unusual, I rather get coffee beans and tapioca, before more sawdust, chocolate, and autumn leaves kick in. I find this very dry, but that’s not totally unpleasant. Mouth: Tomatin’s fruity brightness seems to be staying in the background, while many spices get louder. Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cocoa powder, almonds… Now there are oranges as well, and perhaps a little tamarind. Good body. Finish: medium, always on cinnamon and other dry spices. Perhaps gooseberries in the aftertaste. Comments: an interesting game, between the spirit’s fruits and the oak’s rather dry and spicy influence. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Tomatin 14 yo 'Port Wood Finish' (46%, OB, +/-2015)

Tomatin 14 yo 'Port Wood Finish' (46%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars and a halfFinished in Port for one year. Yeah yeah, Port. Now while I don’t like what Port and big-bodied and peaty malts do together, I guess lighter, fruitier malts may stand that treatment better, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: I instantly remember some Balvenies ‘Portwood’. Butterscotch and blackcurrant jam, roasted peanuts, blood oranges, marzipan, a little caramel and toffee, some dry honey (chestnut-style)… And perhaps drops of young cognac. This seems to work. Mouth: indeed, it works. Spicy blackcurrants, stewed oranges, peaches, and apples, then some pepper and some caraway, then a chunk of cinnamon cake. Finish: quite long, rather spicier. Spicy Christmas cake (not the heavy black ones), bitter chocolate and coffee, more blood oranges. Gingerbread. Comments: these expressions will always remain variants, but I find this baby extremely well-made, even if it’s not quite my style. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Tomatin 9 yo 2006/2015 (55.7%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon barrel, cask #726, 253 bottles)

Tomatin 9 yo 2006/2015 (55.7%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon barrel, cask #726, 253 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this one ain’t easy. I find some varnish, then cellulose, then plenty of grass, bark, carbon paper... Not sure it’s meant to be enjoyed when undiluted. With water: indeed, this is the best use of water. Green apples and lemon juices, a touch of mango, a touch of papaya. This is Tomatin as we know – and live it. Mouth (neat): powerful, fruitier, and brighter. Lemons and roots, chalk, grass, perhaps chillies (but rest assured, that’s not quite bird’s eye chilli!)… With water: a fruity one indeed. An all-fruit salad topped with some honey sauce. Finish: medium, a little rounder and more honeyed. Comments: water is mandatory here! SGP:551 (when diluted) - 82 points.

Tomatin 36 yo 1977/2015 'Rare Casks - Batch 1' (46%, OB, casks #48 & 30142, 798 bottles)

Tomatin 36 yo 1977/2015 'Rare Casks - Batch 1' (46%, OB, casks #48 & 30142, 798 bottles) Five stars They priced this one rather fairly, despite the age, the decanter, and the large wooden box. That’s £450. Colour: gold. Nose: old Tomatin with flying colours and bursting fruits and honeys. Exceptional oranges topped with olive oil and honey, some fresh mint, hints of old roses, precious woods, mangos, skincare… And in the background, these earthy touches that we enjoy so much. Fantastic nose! Mouth: a superlative brightness, some stunning honey, an unusual earthy/mushroomy side, plenty of mangos, and a good deal of maracuja. Oh and oranges again. It’s one of these easy and bright, yet very complex and refined old Tomatins. Finish: medium long, on the same notes, with some unexpected bacon in the aftertaste. Sherry? Comments: very dangerous whisky, for it goes down so easily and brightly. Really worth buying at this price. SGP:751 - 93 points.

I wanted to stop here but that fantastic 1977 pushes me a bit… Let’s try to find an older bottle for the road…

Tomatin 34 yo 1976/2011 (51.9%, The Whisky Agency, Perfect Dram, sherry wood, 396 bottles)

Tomatin 34 yo 1976/2011 (51.9%, The Whisky Agency, Perfect Dram, sherry wood, 396 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: almost the same whisky, with just a little more Demerara sugar and a generally rounder profile. Marmalade, honey, guavas, mangos, raisins, passion fruits, bananas, pollen… With water: even closer. Blond tobacco. Mouth (neat): indeed, this is just more powerful than the OB, so a tad harsher and more pungent, but all the rest is very similar. Fruit salad, honey, oranges, touches of earth, all that. With water: oranges everywhere, plus honey, mint leaves, pollen, mangos… Extremely good. A perfect dram indeed. Finish: medium long, fresh and fruity, with moderate sherry influence. Comments: another one that’s dangerously drinkable. The official 1977 is just a notch more saline and mineral, and a tad more complex, hence my higher score. What a glory, that one, certainly one of the stars of 2015 (together with Crown Royal Rye – of course I’m joking). SGP:751 - 92 points.

Oh well, we could as well have a last one that was distilled even before, but bottled at a much younger age. This should be interesting…

Tomatin 19 yo 1974/1995 (43%, The Cooper's Choice, for VA.MA. Italy)

Tomatin 19 yo 1974/1995 (43%, The Cooper's Choice, for VA.MA. Italy) Five stars I’ve always loved this old label by the Vintage Malt Whisky Co.! Colour: white wine. Nose: this goes to show – once again - that the old Tomatin’s ‘tropical’ style does not come from long ageing, since it appears that it was there as well in younger bottlings. Mangos, mint, papayas, oranges, light honey, these touches of earth, cigarettes, old papers, a small piece of candle wax… It’s true that the 43% feel, but this is not weak at all and the older, stronger ones never manage to bury it. Mouth: so good, so good… Oranges, white grapes, citrons, lemongrass, passion fruits, sauvignon blanc, tangerines, kiwis… And this time, it does feel like 45% vol. Finish: quite long! And once again, a touch of earth comes through, all for the better. Comments: it’s one of these exceptional bottles that we had in France in Italy in the mid to late 1990s, both by Cooper’s Choice and Dun Eideann. Sob sob sob… SGP:651 - 91 points (really!)

(and gracias, Tom!)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Hermeto Pascoal. Track: Coalhada. Please visit his website and buy his music...

December 4, 2015


Grainy days

The big distillers are really pushing their single grains these days, perhaps because the blends don't sell too well. When you can't sell the whole, try to sell the parts for heavier prices, you never know, that may work. Because remember the magical word is 'single', so the average Joe might believe a single grain is something more prestigious than a blend. I remember, in the old days, you only had Cameron Brig, William’s Grant’s Black Barrel, and the occasional official North British. But today, these silent spirits are really trying to catch more light… Shall we call them industrial whiskies? Mass-produced flavoured ethanol? Maybe not, let’s see… And we’ll try not to be too harsh because… well, some good friends like their grain whiskies. You know, a matter of empathy, just when the world needs it…

Port Dundas 12 yo (40%, OB, single grain, 2015)

Port Dundas 12 yo (40%, OB, single grain, 2015) Port Dundas was a very important distilling facility at Diageo’s, but they closed it down in 2010. And there is some stock… It appears that this baby’s solely for the USA. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very light, as expected, and indeed almost silent, but there are interesting citric whiffs, as well as wee touches of windshield washer fluid. Nicer than it sounds, I can assure you. Mouth: light rum, with coconut and vanilla. Very thin body. I don’t think the distillate has much to tell us, but in a way, this is kind of pleasant. All you need is a lot of ice and a swimming pool. No, not the Kardashians. Finish: nonexistent. Comments: one of the lightest spirits I’ve ever tried. Not repulsive at all, but indeed, ice is mandatory. Maybe not one for us, rather for retired footballers again? SGP:620 - 65 points.

Port Dundas 18 yo (43%, OB, single grain, 2015)

Port Dundas 18 yo (43%, OB, single grain, 2015) Colour: gold. Nose: a little more depth, perhaps, but I wouldn’t call this ‘a nose’. A wee chalkiness, a touch of vanilla, today’s newspapers, a little grated coconut… And perhaps some corn syrup. Visiting a carpenter’s. Mouth: lactones, vanillin, coconut oil, ginger, blended herbal tea, saccharine, sawdust. Finish: short, oaky. Sourish aftertaste. Perhaps a touch of lemon, which is welcome. Comments: it’s not that I’m deep in despair, but at around USD 100.00, come on… Almost makes me want to put the much nicer 12 years old at 70 points, retrospectively. One of the thinnest whiskies out there, the absolute anti-Brora. SGP:630 - 60 points.

Caledonian 40 yo 1974/2015 ‘The Cally’ (53.3%, OB, single grain, Limited Release, 5060 bottles)

Caledonian 40 yo 1974/2015 ‘The Cally’ (53.3%, OB, single grain, Limited Release, 5060 bottles) Four stars and a halfLovely half-pre-Castro-Cuban, half-Alfred-Barnard-era label. The whisky industry will soon call a guy named Gutenberg at the current rate ;-). Nah, Da Vinci’s too expensive. More seriously, we haven’t tried many Caledonians so far, let’s simply remember that the Haymarket distillery (Edinburgh) was closed in 1987. So, as far as grains are concerned, this is a historical bottling. Colour: gold. Nose: ha, now we’re talking! And we’re talking… Irish. Seriously, you’d think this is pure pot still whiskey, with overripe apples, butterscotch, and this very peculiar metallic side that just works in this context. And of course there’s plenty of vanilla and coconut. Fresh and vibrant, certainly not ’40 years’. I quite like this so far. With water: I like it even more. Some kind of softer bourbon, perhaps. No rye, though. Mouth (neat): very good, I think. It’s not malt whisky, obviously, but it’s got depth and structure, and all this tropical stuff (Irish indeed) just works. Mango chutney covered with buttered caramel and coconut liqueur, plus mandarin liqueur and perhaps Turkish delights. Goody good, and the oak never comes in the way. Meringue. With water: really very good. No oaky ventures, only stewed fruits and various pastries, including oriental ones. Finish: quite short, as expected, but clean, fruity, and praline-like. Comments: I haven’t checked the price, but if it’s fair(ish), it’s a good bottle to own to show your friends that grain whisky’s not always only oak-flavoured ethanol. I really like it very, very mucho. SGP:640 - 89 points.

Oh well, while we’re at it, let’s have more bread! I mean, more grain…

Invergordon 1988/2015 ‘The Nose Art’ (47.4%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #8096, 141 bottles)

Invergordon 1988/2015 ‘The Nose Art’ (47.4%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #8096, 141 bottles) Four stars We’ve had some good Invergordon. As for the label, not sure about which one I like best, the Cally’s or this sexier one… Colour: pale gold. Nose: yeah, I had thought Invergordon would be fatter. In this case that means more white chocolate, custard, fudge, millionaire shortbread, vanilla cake, kugelhopf… And all that. Perhaps even croissants bought around 6am in Paris, according to the label… Mouth: the oak roars a bit, but there’s a funny feeling of Chinese dim-sum, with all these superb sauces they have, then roasted nuts and stout beer. A lot of chocolate as well, malt extracts (I know that’s surprising), and perhaps a little strong chestnut honey. I’m a sucker for chestnut honey, if you’ve never tried that, please do. Finish: long, and even more Chinese. Chocolate and this stunning sauce they serve with Peking duck, made with plums and I don’t-know-what-else. Only the aftertaste is a little more problematic, with some gingery oak that’s a little too much for me. Comments: certainly one of the better grain whiskies. Very well selected, Whisky-Doris! A little less sure about the label, but indeed we all need more fun in our lives. SGP:650 - 86 points.

Oh well, let’s have (almost) all grain distilleries! Is this whiskyfun or what?

Strathclyde 1988/2015 (53%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #62118)

Strathclyde 1988/2015 (53%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #62118) one star and a half Apart from a stunning 9yo (yes) by Douglas Laing, I’ve often found Strathclyde pretty ordinary. Colour: pale gold. Nose: always this lack of depth, and this very simple coconutty/vanilla-ed profile. It’s not ugly, but this was made to dilute malts and make them cheaper and easier. I’m not too fond of these notes of cheap marshmallows and acetone, not to mention all this coconut. With water: corn syrup. Mouth (neat): better, but it’s simple sweet oak, coconut, vanilla, and oranges. Very easy, sweet, perhaps a little whorish. Jelly babies, Chinese confectionary, sweet oak. With water: no time for that. Finish: yeah. Comments: at 35€, yes, at 165€, no way. Keep putting this stuff into blends please – yeah I know blends don’t sell well these days. Or, I don’t know, maybe re-distil and make luxury vodka? SGP:640 – 69 points.

I agree, this is getting boring. Lets have a last one, and let’s try to make it a great one…

Carsebridge 38 yo 1976/2015 (55.8%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #130950, 184 bottles)

Carsebridge 38 yo 1976/2015 (55.8%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #130950, 184 bottles) Four starsAlmost as old as The Cally, this may work. Or not, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: croissants. I mean, fresh croissants. Perhaps a little butter. And Starbuck’s café latte. Plus, maybe, a little hay. Other than that… With water: old perfume? Joy de Patou? Best of cologne? Old roses? Mouth (neat): oh, good! Tinned pineapple, bananas, tropical juice, avocado purée, mango juice, aniseed, liquorice, angelica… Yeah, sure, you can always pour grain new make into and ex-1972-Clynelish cask with plenty of devil’s cut… ha-ha. With water: no, this is seriously great. Mango purée, papaya juice, blood oranges, spice cake, Himalaya salt (yeah right)… It is quite salty indeed. Perfect texture. Finish: medium, sweet and salty. Fudge flavoured with mangos and salt. As almost always, pencil shavings in the aftertaste, which might be a little vulgar. Cheap Californian cabernet (but does that exist? I mean, cheap ones?) Comments: typical great grain whisky. Almost no nose, great palate, slightly lousy finish. Could you please cut the price in half? Because the palate is worth 90 points in my book, or even more. While the nose, well… It was purely anecdotal. But not repulsive. SGP:740 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Grains I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Kirk Fletcher. Track: What Is Going On. Please visit his website and buy his music...

December 3, 2015


Little bags of whisky
Today Speyside malts

Like we sometimes do, we’ll blend (so to speak) different new or newish bottlings in these series. Why? Why not!

Mannochmore 15 yo 1999/2014 (46%, Scyfion, Ukraine, muscat Dniprovskyi finish, 312 bottles)

Mannochmore 15 yo 1999/2014 (46%, Scyfion, Ukraine, muscat Dniprovskyi finish, 312 bottles) Four stars This is probably our first bottling for Ukraine! And I need to add that we haven’t tasted many Mannochmores (of Loch Dhu fame), and neither have we tried many muscat finishes. So, this is a genuine first. Colour: gold. Nose: this feeling of entering an old wine cellar, with whiffs of mushrooms, old oak, saltpetre, gravel… And yet it’s not totally musty, not at all, especially since notes of sweet white wine do emerge indeed. Even if to be honest, I wouldn’t recognise Muscat. Rather sweet pinot gris, in fact (late harvest). With water: becomes cake-y, which is great. Orange cake, apple cake, apricot pie. It never gets heady. Mouth (neat): it reminds of Glenmorangie’s older Sauternes finish (a 1981) that I had found quite excellent. Notes of apricot jam, roasted peanuts, chamomile tea… The good news is that we remain ‘around’ malt whisky. Some tart oranges as well. With water: really good! Musty oranges – much better than that sounds. Mirabelles. Finish: rather long, very sweet but not sugary. Wine gums. A leafiness in the aftertaste, cherry stems, buds… Comments: I was scared; I was wrong. Sweet wines, when not used ‘excessively’, may really work. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Benriach 25 yo 1990/2015 (47.9%, Liquid Treasures, Travel to Mars, bourbon barrel)

Benriach 25 yo 1990/2015 (47.9%, Liquid Treasures, Travel to Mars, bourbon barrel) Three stars and a halfLet’s see if this little baby is otherworldly or not. Colour: straw. Nose: oh, it’s one of the chalky ones! Starts with, well, chalk, aspirin tablets, or clay, or limestone… And it’s only after a good fifteen seconds that more Benriachy notes of white fruits start to rise to your nostrils. White peaches, yellow peaches, greengages, cider apples… They come together with a little menthol and fresh almonds. Mouth: sweet and fruity, very ‘refill’, with an acidic side. Barley sugar and a lot of grapefruits. The gooseberries are back as well. Finish: medium, kind of green, with a peppery aftertaste. Comments: a pretty raw and green old Benriach. Rather the opposite of the lush ones. Pretty good, of course. SGP:461 - 84 points.

Miltonduff 6 yo 2008/2015 (65.1%, Chapter 7, sherry butt, cask #900109, 663 bottles)

Miltonduff 6 yo 2008/2015 (65.1%, Chapter 7, sherry butt, cask #900109, 663 bottles) Three stars and a half Whah, this should be brutal and beastly! Where’s my parachute?... Colour: gold. Nose: you can nose it, but you have to be careful. What I get is a lot of roasted nuts and toasted pastries, a bit in the style of several very young Aultmores that some indies had last year. Freshly made praline. With water: phew, it does seem to swim. Plenty of butterscotch and shortbread. Even more than at Harrod’s in Heathrow! Mouth (neat): I hate writing that you can sip it like that. Cappuccino, pistachio cream, hazelnut liqueur, a touch of peppered baklavas. But it, ach, err, starts to burn. Where’s my pipette? With water: some gingery oranges coming out, but not ‘sherry’ as such. And indeed, it’s well in the style of the aforementioned Aultmores. Creamy and cake-y. Nutella. Finish: rather long, kind of pleasantly light. Loads of softish marmalade. Comments: I find this excellent given the age. Its extremely drinkable, provided you’ve got water at hand. SGP:641 - 83 points.

Miltonduff 1996/2015 (47.4%, Sansibar, S Spirit Shop, bourbon cask)

Miltonduff 1996/2015 (47.4%, Sansibar, S Spirit Shop, bourbon cask) Three stars Our bad habits are back, we could not not select another Miltonduff. Hope this is not a picture of a guy who just tried this whisky, on the label. Colour: white wine. Nose: sucrose and Haribo’s Christmas selection (if they do that). Ultra-sweet and all on bonbons, sweets, drops, and God knows what else. Most being orange-flavoured. Mouth: fully naked, whistle-clean, fruity (as in sweets, again), with a little grass in the background. Sugarcane syrup, lemon juice… You could almost make a mojito out of this, you don’t even need rum, lemon, or sugar cane syrup. Just add a few mint leaves! Finish: rather long, sharp, grassier, and more lemony. Only the aftertaste is a little less ‘chiselled’. Comments: a lovely freshness in this one. Just a wee tad too sweet for me. SGP:651 - 82 points.

Mortlach 16 yo 1998/2015 (48.8%, Ceder & Tjeder, Dram Good Whisky No.2, 1st fill barrel, cask #11016, 270 bottles)

Mortlach 16 yo 1998/2015 (48.8%, Ceder & Tjeder, Dram Good Whisky No.2, 1st fill barrel, cask #11016, 270 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: light gold. Nose: so very Mortlach! Graphite, sulphur (stones or powder, not burnt), citrons, linseed oil, vanilla, wet clothes, hay, sour dough, leaven… The most characterful of them all, for sure. Mouth: ah this is pretty perfect. Oranges and honey sauce dropped onto some kind of resinous oils, pink grapefruits, fresh croissants (no need to sing the Marseillaise, no worries), lemon, angelica, gooseberries… The strength is perfect. Finish: rather long, with a tropical side. Mangos joining in the dancing fun. A touch of vanilla in the aftertaste, and even a little salt. Comments: superb Mortlach au naturel, without any obvious (and vulgar) wood – even if this was first fill, it’s ‘light’ first fill. What a distillate! Almost 90 points in my book – but this isn’t quite Christmas yet, is it. SGP:551 - 89 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Eddie Pamieri. Track: Tin Tin Deo. Please visit his website and buy his music...

December 2, 2015


Laphroaig, a stairway to heaven

Yeah well, a stairway to heaven is fine, but doesn’t it depend on where you’ve started from? The owners seem to have found out that to catch and sustain attention, you need to issue new bottlings every two weeks. Okay, three. With a lot of NAS. In fact we won’t try most of those, because we find them rather unimportant (and because there are 245,672,687,566 other new whiskies to try), but a new or newish Laphroaig bearing an age statement will always be welcome at WF Towers. Such as this baby from last year…

Laphroaig 12 yo (48%, OB, for the Nordics, sherry butts and 1st fill hogsheads, 1278 bottles, 2014)

Laphroaig 12 yo (48%, OB, for the Nordics, sherry butts and 1st fill hogsheads, 1278 bottles, 2014) Three stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: the oak feels a bit, it’s a somewhat thickish nose, without Laphroaig’s usual brightness, and rather more sappy notes than usual. A little camphor as well, almond oil, then bitter oranges, and raisins. A wee feeling of fino sherry, which is nice. Mouth: sweet arrival, then a peaty blast, then a thick layer of oak spices. A touch of lavender ice cream, some salt for sure, raisins, some gentian eau-de-vie, with this rooty side, and then rather eucalyptus. Good body, solid mouth feel. Or the other way ‘round. Finish: rather long, on peated raisins. Perhaps. Comments: the casks feel as in a finishing, so it rather feels like a ‘flavoured’ Laphroaig, a little mellowed down. But Laphroaig’s good spirit, so this is good whisky – albeit a modern one. SGP:457 - 82 points.

Lp6 (51.3%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2015, 50cl)

Lp6 (51.3%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2015, 50cl) Four starsLiked Lp5 quite a lot (WF 86). Colour: gold. Nose: much closer to the distillate, cleaner, brighter, tenser, and yet not exactly explosive (so to speak). What’s sure is that the briny and medicinal style is much more obvious. Kippers too. With water: becomes extremely medicinal. Band Aid, camphor, embrocations… Laphroaig, eh. Mouth (neat): typical clean, pungent, yet perfectly balanced arrival, between lemons, smoke, brine, and this little rooty side. It’s this citrus that I was missing in the OB. Goes on with more citrus, a little vanilla (lemon curd, tarte), and always this salty and coastal side. With water: an earthy peat comes to the front. Some grass, grapefruit skins… Finish: long, well chiselled, salty, with a minty side. More kippers in the aftertaste. Comments: maybe is it very young, but it does feel like a 1998 or something. Excellent. SGP:457 - 87 points.

Speaking of 1998…

Laphroaig 16 yo 1998/2015 (59.9%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask # 700389, 585 bottles)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1998/2015 (59.9%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask # 700389, 585 bottles) Five stars Loved 2013’s 1998 (WF 89). Colour: amber. Nose: zim bam boom! The exact combination, peat and sherry like Jagger and Richards. We’ve seen many fails with this combination, but this one seems to be perfect. Salty and smoked chocolate, seawater, leather, smoked fish, soy sauce, a little ink… What’s not to like? With water: indeed. Linseed oil, almond oil, oysters and curry sauce, ham, more seawater, iodine, bandages… Mouth (neat): exactly perfect, since this tart lemon adds zing and zest to the combo. Very great. With water: swims like Shirley Babashoff. The tax evaders starting with ‘Goo’ are your friends. Oysters, bitter chocolate, brine, earth, porcinis (dried then moistened)… Finish: very long, with tons of salted and smoked chocolate. Comments: why wouldn’t the owners issue such bottlings? Magnificent selection. SGP:467 - 91 points.

I’m really pleased, so let’s celebrate with an old glory – and just be a little careful because of the much lower strength…

Laphroaig 10 yo (70 proof, OB, UK, 75.7cl, +/-1960?)

Laphroaig 10 yo (70 proof, OB, UK, 75.7cl, +/-1960?) Five stars A very rare bottle, the bottlings for Italy being more common – without being common of course. Colour: gold. Nose: any whisky lover should try to taste these old Laphroaig 10. Unblended, Cinzano, Philippi, Bonfanti, Sommerset, whatever, it’s almost obligatory to have tried one of those at least once. Yes, I know they have got very expensive, but gather a few friends and share a bottle! What’s really impressive here is the way it displays many tropical fruits, while keeping an ‘idea’ of a coastal smokiness in the background. Maracuja, mangos, hessian, dried kelp, not-too-ripe pineapples, garden bonfire, old books and papers... What’s even more impressive is the way it holds its head high, after the powerhouse from TWE. Mouth: I had found it a little subdued when the bottle was opened, but after a few days of breathing, it just got utterly splendid. The complexity is amazing, and actually, you just don’t know where to start. With these grapefruits? The pineapples? The salted fish? The smoked seashells? The lapsang souchong? The kiwis? The fresh oils and butters? The old-style cough syrups? The dry white wines? The notes of liquorice allsorts mingled with the ashes and cigar smokes? My, what a glorious glory! In fact, there are hundreds of other flavours, but I guess you’ve got other things to do… Finish: medium, but so complex and ‘peacock-taily’ (apologies) that it brings you straight to nirvana. Comments: buy a bottle, share. Those 2 or 3cls alone will be worth cases of contemporary unaged oak-doped whiskies. One small Alba truffle vs. 25 kilos of Nutella! SGP:656 - 96 points.

Good, I had planned to try a few more Laphroaigs, but that just got impossible to do. I agree, not that that was unforeseeable… So see you next time, with more Laphroaig.

(Olivier, merci!lll)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Laphroaig I've tasted so far



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December 1, 2015


Intense Longmorns, watch out

I know I’m not the only one who never quite understood why Longmorn wasn’t more ‘pushed forward’, and why the indies almost always had to do all the work (for once, some may add). Such as G&M! For more fun – fun for me that is -, we’ll do it without order again, but let’s start this with a young G&M, which should make for a perfect apéritif…

Longmorn 2002/2015 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling)

Longmorn 2002/2015 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling) Four stars What’s good when you keep using old labels, is that you’ll become fashionable again eventually. Fashion is all circles, they say. Colour: gold. Nose: oh, shoe polish! Green tobacco leaves! Mineral riesling! Cough syrup! One style that we enjoy a lot at WF towers, even if this came unexpected. 2002? Are they sure that wasn’t 1952? Mouth: perhaps a little drying, but this surely isn’t modern. Where else, except in Campbeltown, would you find some salted sweet mustard and this much tobacco? Curiously un-round, but very perfect – if you like this super-old style. Even older than the label ;-). Finish: long, sooty, fino-ish. Fried bacon and chocolate. Comments: a surprise, I had thought this baby would be jammy and honeyed. Ha, preconceptions… SGP:362 – 87 points.

Longmorn 30 yo 1984/2015 (56.3%, Silver Seal, sherry cask)

Longmorn 30 yo 1984/2015 (56.3%, Silver Seal, sherry cask) Four stars and a half There’s a wonderful panther on the label. Unless that’s a leopard. Or a cheetah. Let’s just hope this incredibly pale sherry-matured old Longmorn doesn’t bite (diving to even lower lows, S.) Colour: white wine. Nose: no sherry, or very, very little, rather a full-bodied mineral and citrusy malt that offers fresh almonds, putty, perhaps a few mushrooms, and then a little chalk and saltpetre, plus various breads. In truth, the age doesn’t show at all. With water: 30 years old porridge! It’s amazing ho close we are to barley, and yet this is fully mature. Only time in action. Mouth (neat): the wonders of refill at great age showcased once again. Exceptionally oily mouth feel, bitter oranges, sunflower oil, green tea, not too ripe bitter oranges, Seville-style (I stole one from a tree last year while down there, and tried to eat it. It served me right), grape and orange pips, green walnuts… You got it, this is splendidly bitter. With water: a totally naked barleyness. Good, it does become a little too austere, to be honest. Finish: medium, with a feeling of… green tomatoes? Comments: any true whisky lover should try this style of old whisky. You’ll almost never see it at any owners’, the last ones having been some of Diageo/UDV’s Rare Malts. A glorious series, bitterly missed. SGP:372 - 89 points.

Longmorn 1997/2015 'Bitter-Sweet Barley' (46% Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 291 bottles)

Longmorn 1997/2015 'Bitter-Sweet Barley' (46% Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 291 bottles) Four stars Actually, my little bottle says ‘Longmore’, does that make it a collectable? Should I keep it closed? Hope they didn’t fire the secretary, that’s funny. Oh and it’s the first time I notice this motto on their label: ‘Je pense’, which means ‘I think’. We Frenchmen would add ‘therefore I drink’. Colour: pale gold. Nose: indeed it is barleyish, but gentler than the others, better polished, more civilised, and rather more on apples. As pies, as tartes, as juice, and as cider. So a little more mundane, perhaps, but the balance is impressive. This is well malt whisky. Mouth: a little creamy vanilla in the arrival, and a rather grassy fruitiness. Green pears and apples, then light honey and some custard. Perhaps a little minimal, in fact. Finish: medium, perhaps a little one-dimensional (no, nothing to do with the band). Barley water, stewed apples, butterscotch. Comments: exactly one whisky that falls into the ‘very very good, but not mindboggling’ category here in WFland. Typical 85 points. So… SGP:451 - 85 points.

Longmorn 24 yo 1990/2015 (53.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #191954, 216 bottles)

Longmorn 24 yo 1990/2015 (53.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #191954, 216 bottles) Four stars and a half I fondly remember a 1990 19 yo by SMoS. WF 91! Colour: light gold. Nose: what a distillate. It’s a whole, and yet it swarms with all kinds of tiny fruity and oily aromas and fragrances. Kiwis, apples, sunflower oil, putty, gooseberries, shortbread, brioche, barley, leaves… You have to give it your attention, or you may miss many of them, but it rewards you. With water: gets farmier, around hay. Fruit peelings, pollen… Mouth (neat): perfect malt whisky. No sherry, no peat; malt. And brioche, croissants, butterscotch, lemons, oranges, honey, buttered tea, sweet earth… Yeah, it’s the centre of the malty Earth. With water: what we’re usually expecting from unsherried Longmorn: a fruit salad dressed with honey sauce. Finish: medium, with a touch of American oak. Comments: a shame that I haven’t got the 19 at hand, but I think that one was a bit brighter. Anyway, perfect malt whisky for malt freaks who’re not into artificial flavouring. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Longmorn 22 yo 1992/2014 (54%, Adelphi, refill sherry, cask #48509, 250 bottles)

Longmorn 22 yo 1992/2014 (54%, Adelphi, refill sherry, cask #48509, 250 bottles) Four stars and a half What’s good with Aldephi’s labels is that we can check whether your eyesight isn’t worsening. So far, so good. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s one these sherry casks that are a little bourbony, perhaps because contrarily to what many people believe, traditional sherry casks are made out of American oak. So a rounded honeyed and vanilla-ed profile, then ripe apples and cherries. Then a little earth. With water: it gets beehivy, a hit in da house. I utterly adore bees and their products, and guess what, next year I’ll try to distil honey (and yes, first make mead). Mouth (neat): very excellent, with an added citrusness as well as some tropical fruits, coconut, and vanilla. Totally American oak, what’s the trick? With water: really, totally sweet American oak. I don’t even find one single raisin or walnut! Not to mention prunes, or chocolate… No, wait, there is some chocolate, but that would be white chocolate – which isn’t quite chocolate anyway. Oh well… Finish: medium, very honeyed, with a drop of sweet olive oil, Provence style. Comments: just as excellent as the 1990. If this was sherry, it was rejuvenated tenth-fill sherry wood. Not for the worse, it seems. SGP:551 - 89 points.

How many have we had? You say only five??? Let’s go on… Perhaps with this older baby that I always wanted to try…

Longmorn 36 yo 1967/2003 (43%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #3345)

Longmorn 36 yo 1967/2003 (43%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #3345) Five stars Mackillop had an utterly stunning 1976 a while back (WF 94 – yup). Oh and remember the old adage, crappy packaging, wonderful whisky! Colour: gold. Nose: pah-pah-pah… Honey, olive oil, peeled oranges, pinesap. This is so totally perfect, despite the lower strength, and so extraordinarily close to the old Macallan’s from Macallan’s days, that you almost need a tissue. Makes you cry. Mouth: 43% vol.? Are we kidding? Wouldn’t that be 53% vol.? Mesmerising combination, involving honeys, spearmint, peppermint, tobacco, marzipan, liquorice, roots (gentian, ginseng and the likes), more olive oil, white Alba truffles, a drop of turpentine, crystallised oranges… Well, I haven’t had to resort to maltoporn too often in recent months, but beware, it may be coming! Finish: long, and greener/grassier, which is always fab because that leaves your palate cleaner and fresher (for the next one, ha-ha). Saps. Comments: one of the ugliest labels ever, and one of the greatest Longmorns from the swinging sixties. Please, dear whisky industry, do not break the mould once and for all! SGP:561 - 93 points.

Eenie meeny miny moe …

Longmorn 1971/2009 (57.3%, Spirito Divino)

Longmorn 1971/2009 (57.3%, Spirito Divino) Four stars and a half A wee Belgian bottling from a few years ago. Colour: gold. Nose: I find it curiously shy, I’d have expected a little more from a 1971 Longmorn. There is some honey, some spices from the oak, some apples… But after the Mackillop, it’s getting hard. Death seat effect? So much for ‘random’ sessions. Let’s try water… Yeah that works, there’s more lemongrass, passion fruits, honey… In short a Longmorn that’s a little more Caperdonich. Mouth (neat): oranges, beeswax, honey, tangerines, mangos, peaches… Fresh fruits everywhere. We cannot be against that. With water: yeah nice, a fruit salad, some honey, and quite a dew litres of fruity IPA beer. Not that I have tried many. Finish: medium, citrusy, rather tropical. Honey cake in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s great, it just lacked a little ‘obviousness’ and complexity for a 1971 Longmorn. But agreed, who cares, it’s an old bottling. SGP:541 - 89 points.

And why not another Silver Seal?...

Longmorn 30 yo 1981/2012 (50.3%, Silver Seal, 205 bottles)

Longmorn 30 yo 1981/2012 (50.3%, Silver Seal, 205 bottles) Five stars From hen Silver Seal’s labels were even more baroque ;-). Colour: light gold. Nose: is there a pattern? We’re back to the first one by Silver Seal, with a grassy, waxy, and vegetal style that’s totally refill, and that wouldn’t let any oaky dullness enter this glory of a whisky. What’s extremely noticeable here is that there are kippers and there is some seaweed, which isn’t very Longmorn, I agree. But this hay, this blond tobacco, and this linseed oil just do wonders. With water: here, there, barley! And rippling fields after a long summer day at the farm and… Oh forget. Mouth (neat): fights and dances, starting with some acidic coffee (perhaps mocha), and going on with oranges, oils, waxes, and more and more cappuccino. Hey, my Italians friends (who own Silver Seal), did you put the barrel under the espresso machine? With water: malty naked perfection. Finish: ditto. Comments: that’s the thing, only time can do this. Never oak, never wine. SGP:461 - 91 points.

I told you maltoporn would come… And since plenty is no plague…

Longmorn 15 yo 1974/1989 (46%, Dun Eideann, cask #85/194-101)

Longmorn 15 yo 1974/1989 (46%, Dun Eideann, cask #85/194-101) Five stars We’re missing this series, sob… Colour: mahogany/coffee, ha-ha! Nose: totally and utterly sherry-monstrous, but with some elegance. More chocolate than in chocolate, more fruitcake than at Christmas, and more prunes than in armagnac. Plus some garden peat, black earth, Corinthian raisins, and walnut wine. It ain’t no use in grubbing it in, I guess. Mouth: totally classic ultra-sherried, mentholated, earthy, prune-y sherry. Exactly what finishings can’t achieve, that is to say full integration. Some adorable oranges keep it fresh, never cloying, never stuffy. Finish: long, with touches of pepper, all for the better. More leather and bacon in the aftertaste. Comments: I’ve not encountered this style since ages. I guess this was a genuine sherry cask! Yeah, or a carefully paxaretted one ;-). Old Macallan quality, not question about that. SGP:552 - 91 points.

Good, how many did we just have? You say nine? Let’s make it to ten and call this a proper tasting session, agreed?

Longmorn 37 yo 1968/2005 (56.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #7.34, ‘An absolute stoater’)

Longmorn 37 yo 1968/2005 (56.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #7.34, ‘An absolute stoater’) Five stars What a stoater is, I don’t quite know. But I know what they used to smoke at the SMWS at that time (hey, the statute of limitations has expired!) And no, Google’s not my friend. Colour: reddish mahogany. Nose: chocolate, prunes, blackberry jelly, hay, pipe tobacco, tamarind purée, Spanish ham (you don’t need the details, do you), a touch of walnut liqueur. It’s clear to us, isn’t it. Old-style sherry monster with flying colours. With water: I’d add that it’s getting appropriately humussy and mushroomy. Mouth: old Demerara rum. Port Morant, perhaps. And clove liqueur, more walnut wine, more chocolaty liquorice… And ristretto coffee, cough syrup, all that… In fact it’s so thick that some friends may find it a little tiring. You can’t quite take more than three drops at one time. With water: as often, citrus saves it. Lemons and oranges will cure any whisky. Finish: long, massive. Orangettes! (that’s candied oranges dipped into chocolate, in case you don’t know). Comments: so, what the h**l is a stoater? Me poor Frenchman, me not know subtleties of English language, monsieur madame excusez-moi. SGP:652 - 90 points.

No, really, this wee session is over.

(and thanks mucho Angus and Govert)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Longmorn I've tasted so far


Whiskyfun fav of the month

November 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
Brora 37 yo 1977/2015 (50.4%, OB, Special Release, 2,976 bottles) - WF 95

Favourite older bottling:
Glenlochy 39 yo 1965/2004 (46.3%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, cask #706, 194 bottles) - WF 89

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Kilchoman ‘Loch Gorm 2015’ (46%, OB, 2015) - WF 90

Favourite malternative:
Monymusk 1979 (46%, Moon Import, 10th Anniversary, Jamaica, 1990) - WF 90



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November 2015 - part 2 <--- December 2015 - part 1 ---> December 2015 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Irish Whiskey 27 yo 1988/2015 (51.2%, The Auld Alliance, 194 bottles)

Laphroaig 10 yo (70 proof, OB, UK, 75.7cl, +/-1960?)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1998/2015 (59.9%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask # 700389, 585 bottles)

Limerick 23 yo 1991/2015 ‘Slaney Malt’ (59%, Adelphi, Irish single malt, cask # 8585, 134 bottles)

Longmorn 36 yo 1967/2003 (43%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #3345)

Longmorn 37 yo 1968/2005 (56.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #7.34, ‘An absolute stoater’)

Longmorn 15 yo 1974/1989 (46%, Dun Eideann, cask #85/194-101)

Longmorn 30 yo 1981/2012 (50.3%, Silver Seal, 205 bottles)

Longrow 1987/1999 (55%, Samaroli, cask #141)

Talisker (43%, OB, for Grande Marche Francesi, Italy, +/-1965)

Tomatin 19 yo 1974/1995 (43%, The Cooper's Choice, for VA.MA. Italy)

Tomatin 36 yo 1977/2015 'Rare Casks - Batch 1' (46%, OB, casks #48 & 30142, 798 bottles)

Tomatin 34 yo 1976/2011 (51.9%, The Whisky Agency, Perfect Dram, sherry wood, 396 bottles)