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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2018 - Part 2


December 2018 - part 1 <--- December 2018 - part 2 ---> January 2019 - part 1


December 31, 2018





No-Awards 2018

Strictly no awards, this is just a personal list of the whiskies and malternatives I liked best each and every months this year, for the record. Please note that this year again and most sadly, Angus's scores have not been taken into account, but you may scroll down a bit to check his overall favourites of 2018...


Favourite recent bottling of the month
January 2018   92   Bowmore 15 yo 2001 (55.6%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, hogshead, cask #20117, 233 bottles)
Feb. 2018   92   Caol Ila 2006/2017 (60.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, first fill sherry butts, casks #306183, 306184, 306186, 306187)
March 2018   92   Teeling 27 yo (41.6%, OB, for Switzerland, Irish, single malt, rum cask, cask #658, 2017)
April 2018   93   Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2017 (58.4%, Cadenhead’s Small Batch for The Auld Alliance Singapore)
May 2018   92   Ar10 2001/2018 (52.4%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon barrels)
June 2018   92   Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2018 (52.9%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 210 bottles) 
July 2018   90   Bowmore 21 yo 1997/2018 (56.2%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12539, 317 bottles)
August 2018   92   Teaninich 32 yo 1983/2016 (51.8%, Adelphi, for Paul Ullrich Switzerland, cask #6753, 211 bottles)
Sept. 2018   91   Glenturret 18 yo 1999/2018 (51.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice cask strength, First fill Sherry hogshead, cask #690, 265 bottles)
October 2018   93   Rare Ayrshire 44 yo 1974/2018 (53%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #2606, 122 bottles)
Nov. 2018   92   Unicorn 30 yo 1988/2018 (43%, CWS China, Myths and Legends, First Fill Oloroso Sherry Butt, cask #22, 630 bottles) 
Dec. 2018   93   Caol Ila 50 yo 1968/2018 (52.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill sherry hogshead, 190 bottles)
Favourite older bottling of the month
January 2018   91   Linkwood 22 yo 1972 (54.3%, OB, Rare Malts, +/-1995)
Feb. 2018   93   Brora 1976/1989 (63.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.1, 75cl) 
March 2018   95   Ardbeg 18 yo 'Special Liqueur' (91.3° US proof, OB, USA, Kraus Import New York, 4/5 quart, 1930s)
April 2018   94   Very Old Fitzgerald 8 yo 1958/1966 (43%, OB, for Germany, Kentucky Straight Bourbon)
May 2018   94   Highland Park (98°proof, John Scott, pure malt, +/-1950)
June 2018   92   Royal Brackla 60 yo 1926/1985 (40%, OB, James Buchanan, for Japan, 60 decanters) 
July 2018   92   Balmenach-Glenlivet 14 yo (57.5%, Sestante, +/-1985)
August 2018   --   None
Sept. 2018   --   None
October 2018   85   Pittyvaich-Glenlivet 16 yo 1977/1994(60%, Cadenhead)
Nov. 2018   94   Scapa 1958/1985 (46%, Samaroli, 180 bottles)
Dec. 2018   95   Bruichladdich 25 yo 1958/1984 (92 US proof, Cadenhead Dumpy)
Favourite bang for your buck bottling of the month
January 2018   89   Ben Nevis 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2017)
Feb. 2018   89   Kilchoman ‘Loch Gorm’ (46%, OB, 2017 release)
March 2018   90   Ardbeg 10 yo ‘Ten’ (46%, OB, +/- 2018) 
April 2018   --   None
May 2018   90   Caol Ila 2006/2017 (59.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, first fill sherry butt, casks 306189, 306191, 306195)
June 2018   91   Kilkerran 8 yo (55.7%, OB, 2017)
July 2018   87   Allt-A-Bhainne 7 yo 2008/2016 (46%, Hepburn’s Choice, 300 bottles)
August 2018   91   Port Charlotte 15 yo 2002/2018 (60.2%, Whisky Broker for Spirit of Islay, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1161, 254 bottles)
Sept. 2018   88   Ben Nevis 7 yo 2010/2018 (48%, LMDW, Artist Collective #2.5)
October 2018   91   Talisker 8 yo 2009/2018 (59.4%, OB, Special Release, first fill American oak hogsheads) 
Nov. 2018   89   Ballechin 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2014)
Dec. 2018   90   Sonoma Bourbon (46%, OB, USA, bourbon, 2018)
Favourite malternative of the month
January 2018   92   Grande Champagne 1835 (42.7%, Jean Grosperrin, Cognac, 2017)
Feb. 2018   92   Domaine de Baraillon 1985/2012 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)
March 2018   91   Hampden <H> 7 yo 2010/2017 (62%, Velier, 70th anniversary, Jamaica, #107, 1679 bottles)
April 2018   91   South Pacific 15 yo 2001/2016 (58%, Cave Guildive, Fiji, bourbon) 
May 2018   91   Vallein Tercinier 27 yo ‘Lot 90’ (49.7%, Maltbarn, Grande Champagne, 2018)
June 2018   90   Hampden 10 yo 2007/2018 (64.1%, Hunter Laing for The Whisky Barrel, Kill Devil, Jamaica, 290 bottles)
July 2018   91   Hampden 16 yo 2001/2018 (60.7%, Hunter Laing for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 265 bottles)
August 2018   89   Hampden Estate 7 yo (46%, OB, Jamaica, 2018)
Sept. 2018   93   Bellevue 19 yo 1998/2018 (59.7%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Guadeloupe, 254 bottles)
October 2018   90   Domaine de Baraillon 20 yo (42%, OB, Claverie, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015)
Nov. 2018   92   Enmore 30 yo 1988/2018 (47.9%, Silver Seal, Demerara, 150cl) 
Dec.2018   90   Fiji 2009/2018 'FSPA' (63.3%, Old Brothers, 2018)



Serge's overall favourites of 2018...


Rare Ayrshire 44 yo

< Recent bottling
Rare Ayrshire 44 yo 1974/2018 (53%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #2606, 122 bottles) - WF 93

Ardbeg 18 yo 'Special Liqueur' (91.3° US proof, OB, USA, Kraus Import New York, 4/5 quart, 1930s)

Older bottling >
Ardbeg 18 yo 'Special Liqueur' (91.3° US proof, OB, USA, Kraus Import New York, 4/5 quart, 1930s) - WF 95

Kilkerran 8 yo (55.7%, OB, 2017)

< Bang for y. buck
Kilkerran 8 yo 
(55.7%, OB, 2017) - WF 91

Bellevue 19 yo 1998/2018 
(59.7%, Hunter Laing

Malternative >
Bellevue 19 yo 1998/2018
(59.7%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Guadeloupe, 254 bottles) - WF 93



Angus's overall favourites of 2018...


< Recent bottling
Talisker 8 yo 2009/2018 (59.4%, OB, Special Release, first fill American oak hogsheads) - WF 91

Milton duff

Older bottling >
Milton-Duff 100% Malt 13 yo (85 proof, OB, 1950s) - WF 95

< Bang for your buck
Ben Nevis 10 yo 
(46%, OB, +/-2017) - WF 89



December 30, 2018


A few French rhums for
the last Sunday of the year

Let’s see what we have…

Montebello 4 yo 2010 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2015)

Montebello 4 yo 2010 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2015) Four stars
This is a ‘rhum vieux’ from one of the most elusive and discreet rhum distilleries in France, the distillerie Carrère in Basse-Terre.  They’re rather small as they produce only around 200,000 litres of rhum per year. Colour: gold. Nose: nice! New sneakers, benzine, cane juice, new wellingtons, olives, smoked fish, a bit of chlorophyll, carbon paper… In truth this very ‘agricole’. Mouth: yes it is very good, olive-y, salty, with excellent liquorice, brine, lime juice, a few drops of Champagne… Really, this young single-vintage Montebello just rocks. Finish: rather long, brine-y… Sour syrup and green olives. Comments: not quite a surprise, but yeah, this rather unknown bottle is worth your attention. Hope you can find it, it’s not very expensive. Bang for your euros!
SGP:462 - 87 points

Trois Rivières 2001/2014 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, cask #L1A)

Trois Rivières 2001/2014 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, cask #L1A) Four stars
These Martiniquais have got the appellation contrôlée. So, much higher production costs while having to compete with all the unregulated junk of the world. Typically French ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: much, much, much gentler than the Montebello, rounder, sweeter, cakier, more on bananas and pineapples, stews and jams, soft spices, saffron, sweeter curries, cooked apricots, caraway, sloe, balsam, perhaps a little incense, musk… It’s all very aromatic and complex, and pretty soft. A little feminine, as we used to say in the 20th century. Mouth: oh very good! Liquorice and flower jams, honey-roasted pecans, a little maple syrup, a rather fruity kind of woodiness, and a very floral development, rather hard to describe. Vanilla pods for sure. Finish: long, silky, with touches of camphor beyond all the rest. Small overripe bananas. Comments: I have a fondness for the tighter style of the Montebello, but this one’s excellent too, no doubt.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Look, I have an idea, let’s rather quickly do a Montebello vs. Trois Rivières session, what do you say? Coz as always, out of chaos comes order…

Montebello 8 yo 2005 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2014)

Montebello 8 yo 2005 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2014) Four stars
Everything’s done on site, brewing, distilling, aging, bottling, drink… Not. Colour: deep gold. Nose: splendid earth, burnt molasses, stewed bananas, liquorice, olive cake, cane juice, crème de menthe, almonds… It’s less on esters than the younger 4, but the parentage remains obvious. Love this. Mouth: how fantastically good! Rotting fruits mixed with a little liquorice and tar, eucalyptus, drops of raspberry eau-de-vie (funny molecules), a spoonful of seawater, and then even more fruity liquorice. Frankly, I could drink litres of this, but on the other hand, I liked the freshness and the tightness of the glorious 4 yo even more. Finish: long, perhaps a tad too syrupy at this point, although I wouldn’t say it’s ‘too sweet’. No stoopid ‘dosage’ added to these batches. Comments: we’re still flying very high, it’s just that the 4 was quite something (and he insists…)
SGP:642 - 85 points.

Back to the Three Rivers…

Trois Rivières 2000 (42%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2013)

Trois Rivières 2000 (42%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2013) Three stars
Did you know that the Plantation Trois Rivières exists since the year 1660? Erm, I know, sounding like a marketing brochure now… Colour: deep gold. Nose: yeah, Trois Rivières is rather more about wood, roasted nuts, coffee, varnish, vanilla and all that. In a way, we’re a little closer to some bourbons here, with quite a lot of nail polish (and the removers that should come with them). Other than that, I’m finding quite some pineapple, as well as roses, Turkish delights, rosewater… Mouth: older rums or rhums are not always the best, and I’m not sure they stand longer tropical aging. This is a good example, it’s pretty tannic, gritty… Of course, aging in the tropics is more romantic, and probably politically correct, but the oak’s impact gets really loud and heavy, frankly. So, this remains good, but the youngsters will beat this fair and square – and at a much fairer price. Rather finish in Europe? Tsk-tsk… Finish: medium, a tad gingery and a little too cinnamony. Sour oak. Comments: as I said, it’s great juice but the oak got too loud for me.
SGP:471 - 82 points.

Montebello, the floor is yours again…

Montebello 10 yo 2002 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2013)

Montebello 10 yo 2002 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2013) Four stars
Colour: green gold. Nose: hold on, no excessive oak this time, rather lovely rotting bananas and oranges, liquorice, olives, new rubber boots, a feeling of peat, and some tarry liquorice. The fatter distillates really stand the distance much better, or so it seems. Mouth: oh yes indeed, this is pretty perfect, on cane juice, liquorice, tar, salted olives, more tar, more olives, more liquorice, cane syrup, smoky molasses, lime juice, the smallest kipper ever… Finish: rather long, salty, slightly cologne-y. Banana wine. Comments: still excellent, but it’s starting to become a little phat.
SGP:542 - 85 points.

Another Montebello…

Montebello 14 yo 2000 (50.6%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2015)

Montebello 14 yo 2000 (50.6%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2015) Two stars and a half
A ‘grande réserve spéciale’ at natural cask strength, mind you, so a rather expensive bottle. Let’s only hope all those years in the tropics did not just kill the juice or make it too planky. Colour: amber. Nose: oh get-out-of-here. Precious vinegars, verjuice, tar, acetone (lovely), smoked salmon, caviar (not joking), olives… What kind of sorcery is this? It is an exceptional nose, a crying shame that the name remains virtually unknown, as far as I can tell. With water: olives baked in honey and liquorice sauce. Something like that. Mouth (neat): well, it is a bit on the oaky side already, and indeed that’s not what rum lovers are looking for, but all names need prestige bottlings, I suppose. Why not ship the casks to Europe after the first five years of aging? I know that’s a lot of trouble (and less romanticism), but complexity comes with age, not with wood. Well, anyway, a good bottle on the palate, but I think the juice went past its prime. With water: no water please, water makes it even more tannic. Finish: a bit sad. A nice floral side, but the oak’s almost killing everything. Nice liquorice, though. Comments: a stupendous nose and a highly disappointing palate. Not much to add, but I’d rather take six bottles of the 4 yo for the same price, just saying. But shh…
SGP:572 - 78 points.

A last Trois Rivières and we are done…

Trois Rivières 1995 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015)

Trois Rivières 1995 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015) Two stars
Not sure when this was bottled, don’t take my word. Colour: amber. Nose: at these ages (around 20), these rums are becoming jams, and indeed, in this case, we cannot not mention zucchini flower jam (a delicacy, really), balsa wood, incense, potpourri, chamomile, dried figs, glazed chestnuts (marrons glacés), as well as white chocolate and Cointreau. Some raisins too, cassata, Szechuan pepper... It’s a very complex, very appealing nose, but this war will be won (or lost) on the palate!... Mouth: no. Oak, planks, black tea, tobacco, no fruits, all tannins. Well, almost. This is what I was expecting, a rather stunning nose and a dry and drying palate. Pass, let’s move on… Finish: no, you’d almost believe you just ate a whole cigar. Comments: none, really.
SGP:371 - 72 points.

Good, that was not the easiest session ever. But once again, we found out that oak can be any spirit’s best friend, and yet its worst enemy. I believe there’s still much to study about and around those issues, beyond what everybody’s doing, that is to say try to sell what they will be doing anyway (just because it’s cheap and convenient).  

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


December 29, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Assorted Holiday Pairs
I know, tenuous in the extreme. However, there is always simple pleasure to be found in these kinds of mini head to head sessions. Let’s try to pick good ones today if you don’t mind. I don’t tend to feel very masochistic during the holidays...


Ben Nevis 21 yo 1997/2018 (49.7%, Maltbarn, bourbon cask, 192 bottles) Ben Nevis 21 yo 1997/2018 (49.7%, Maltbarn, bourbon cask, 192 bottles)
There’s a lot of Ben Nevis around these days it seems. You’ll not hear any complaints from me... Colour: yellow wine. Nose: it’s a rather grassy and slightly austere one. Lots of chalk, soft minerals, wool, freshly laundered linen, canvas and various breads. Particularly sourdough with these soft yeasty touches. With a little breathing it becomes fruitier - towards citrus oils and peels. Some notes of clay and earth as well. Excellent. Mouth: fruitier than the nose would suggest, lots of citrus and white stone fruits. Also rather textured and waxy as well. More breads, more minerals, lightly sooty, various toasty notes such as seeds and cereals. Some light notes of bath salts and fragrant soaps - although that’s not to say that it’s ‘soapy’. Finish: long, waxy, citrusy, oily, grassy, mineral and very full and bready. Comments: I just love these late 1990s Ben Nevis, some of the most characterful contemporary Scottish whiskies around if you ask me. They don’t rely on peat or excessive wood, it’s really just an abundance of distillery character in full bloom.
SGP: 561 - 89 points.


Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2018 (53.8%, Berry Brothers for Royal Mile Whiskies, cask #1196, refill butt) Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2018 (53.8%, Berry Brothers for Royal Mile Whiskies, cask #1196, refill butt)
Colour: white wine. Nose: not totally dissimilar to the 97, there’s still this slight sense of austerity with these flinty, chiseled, lemony, slightly yeasty and autolytic qualities. A very good blanc du blanc champagne. As it opens up it goes more towards chalk, limestone, olive oil and lime zest. There’s also bailed hay, light cereal tones and assorted dried herbs. With water: chiseled, pin-sharp, mineral, oily and with a few nervous and resinous fruity notes. Really excellent and very old school in character. Mouth: Great arrival, all on juicy fruits, lemon sherbet and a big burst of bubblegum up front. Lemon cheesecake, sourdough starter, sandalwood, dried thyme, herbal extracts, citrus infused olive oil, light mustardy notes and camphor. Gets more tropical as it goes on but it’s more towards dried fruits such as papaya, banana and pineapple. With water: remains dry but also pretty fruity, an old buttery riesling, some cornflakes dusted with icing sugar and hints of chamomile and grapefruit. Finish: long, mustardy, peppery, oily, lots of resinous fruits, citrus peels, some cough medicine and hints of fruit salad sweets. Comments: The kind of whisky that is on one level extremely pleasurable, but at the same time you could take a pipette and a spare hour and really dissect all that’s going on inside. Another terrific Ben Nevis, the complexity propelled this one a couple of notches higher than the 97.
SGP: 661 - 91 points.


Glenallachie 9 yo (59.3%, Jack Wiebers ‘World Of Orchids’, cask #3004, bourbon, 264 bottles) Glenallachie 9 yo (59.3%, Jack Wiebers ‘World Of Orchids’, cask #3004, bourbon, 264 bottles)
I like the name Jack Wiebers ‘World Of Orchids’, sounds like a very niche German garden centre that you might stumble across while on holiday. Colour: light amber. Nose: a curious immediate fusion of steel wool and apricots. Rather active wood on display as well with these notes of coconut water, pencil shavings and vanilla cream soda. Continues with notes of putty, raspberry syrup, strawberry curd and hints of butter biscuits and lanolin. Interesting stuff, a tad extreme in some aspects. With water: perhaps the label is playing tricks on me, but I do get this rather pleasant floral aspect once water is added, a kind of geranium and carnation note. Also a little red liquorice and pine cone. Mouth: new leather, oak sap, graphite, carbon paper and foam banana. A bit tough, but the texture is good and syrupy. With water: mushroomy, earthy, mossy, banana liqueur, tarragon, cough mixtures and various fruit cordials. Some cocktail bitters to boot! Finish: medium and rather spicy, some more leathery aspects, black pepper, cough syrups and some sticky sweetness. Comments: There’s some pretty entertaining aspects to this one, and it certainly is rather nice with water. But I feel the wood is a tad too much overall.
SGP: 641 - 79 points.


Glenallachie 43 yo (50.4%, Elixir Distillers ‘Director’s Special’, sherry butt, 313 bottles) Glenallachie 43 yo (50.4%, Elixir Distillers ‘Director’s Special’, sherry butt, 313 bottles)
Colour: rosewood. Nose: a perfect storm of cough medicine, prune juice, very old Armagnac and various stewed fruits such as dates, figs and sultanas. There’s also an acidity-laced sweetness of old balsamic, something chocolatey like a pocket-warmed Toffee Crisp bar and plenty of lovely rancio. Many lovely notes of old wine cellars, bodegas, salty old Oloroso, cinnamon sugar and toasted fennel seeds. With water: earthier, sootier, more herbal and more of these cough medicine aspects. Hints of marmite, leaf mulch, walnut oil, hessian and some pretty old, gamey pinot noir. Mouth: the sherry is pretty hefty, all towards mushrooms, earth, cola syrup, cherries soaked in cognac, strawberry wine, very old Madeira, expensive cured meats and very bitter dark chocolate. There are some pretty big peppery tannins but they’re just about held in check by these big dark, syrupy fruit notes and the light salinity of the sherry. With water: bigger fruits which is excellent news. Lots of jams, precious teas, jasmine, coal dust, five spice, walnut wine, natural tar extract, hardwood resins, prune eau de vie and some mineral oils. Finish: long, leathery, herbal, full of bitter chocolate, more very old oloroso, crushed walnuts, dried mixed herbs, lemon peel and some warming espresso notes. Comments: Touch and go at times in terms of tannin and wood influence, but a drop of water really elevates all the best aspects and dials up the complexity. A terrific old, uber-sherried Glenallachie, bottled just in time I’d say.
SGP: 661 - 91 points.


Tamnavulin 25 yo 1974/2000 ‘New Century’ (45%, OB, casks #5989-5993) Tamnavulin 25 yo 1974/2000 ‘New Century’ (45%, OB, casks #5989-5993)
I’ve never really been that convinced by Tamnavulin as a whisky, but we have a pair of 25 year olds to hand so why not... Colour: gold. Nose: well, this is all rather lovely. Lots of baked apples, ripe pears, garden fruits glazed in golden syrup, various fruit crumbles, a wee sprig of mint. Perhaps some other nice fruitiness such as melon and banana as well. Very pleasant, fruity and easy going. Mouth: again, this is rather syrupy, fruity and well-textured. Some coconut, flaked almonds, buttery pastry, orange oils, fruit cordials, yellow wild flowers, heather honey and a few soft cereal notes scattered throughout. It isn’t overly complex by any measure and I’m sure it won’t win any awards, but it’s simple, pleasurable and undeniably attractive malt whisky. Finish: good length, fragrant with herbs, flowers, honey, wood resins and citrus peels. Comments: tasty old malt whisky that you could quite easily dispatch into a tumbler and slowly fall asleep with in front of the television at this time of year.
SGP: 541 - 85 points.


Tamnavulin 25 yo 1992/2018 (50.6%, Elixir Distillers ‘Single Malts of Scotland’, cask #5377, hogshead, 247 bottles) Tamnavulin 25 yo 1992/2018 (50.6%, Elixir Distillers ‘Single Malts of Scotland’, cask #5377, hogshead, 247 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: rather different. This one is all on quince, rose petals, fabric, lime jelly, millionaire shortbread - even a tiny slice of kumquat. There’s a biscuity richness and a sense of fatness that I don’t usually find in Tamnavulin. Although, these golden syrup and light garden fruit aspects are also to be found in this one, and there’s a similar sense of ‘easiness’ and simplicity. With water: roses, lychee, vase water, desiccated coconut, hay and muesli. Rather typically Tamnavulin now I’d say. Mouth: a little punchier and spicier with perhaps a slightly louder wood presence. Pleasing things like nutmeg, cinnamon, brown bread, cloves and heather ale. With water: lime zest, strawberry yoghurt, fruit chews, lemon and poppy seed cake, freshly malted barley and toasted cereals. Finish: medium in length and full of nectars, natural sweetness, ginger, a hint of juniper and some lightly green and leafy notes. Comments: Globally I’d say it’s remarkably close to the 1974 only a tad punchier and spicier in places. But this same overall profile of light sweetness, garden fruits and easy softness remains. Another one for the tumbler.
SGP: 551 - 86 points.


Cask Orkney 18 yo (46%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon, 2018) Cask Orkney 18 yo (46%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon, 2018)
Highland Park, like Ben Nevis, is another name which has become ubiquitous at the indys these past couple of years. Once again, no complaints here! Although, it appears that Serge already tried this one, oh well... Colour: white wine. Nose: this rather typical mix of salted honey, heather ale, ozone, mead, oily brine, freshly chopped herbs and soots. Very fresh, delicately medicinal, rather coastal, lemony and with some slightly fermentary notes such as sourdough starter and more beery qualities. Mouth: light, herbal peat, aged mead, lanolin, carbolic aspects, herbal toothpaste, salted bread and freshly malted barley along with various other cereal qualities. Coastal, freshly herbal, notes of bitter throat sweets and dried mint. Some eucalyptus sweets and salty marzipan. Finish: long and full of grapefruit pith, bitter lemon, tonic water, baking soda, clay, lime and a big coastal freshness. Comments: terrific distillate. How many such casks are now sloshing about the market in various form? Looks like we’ll have plenty ‘Orkney malt’ to quaff for the medium term future.
SGP: 462 - 88 points.


Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1983 (46%, Duthie’s for Broadwell Vintner’s Ltd) Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1983 (46%, Duthie’s for Broadwell Vintner’s Ltd)
Why not counter that excellent 18yo with a much older and rarer one. This one comes from Duthies (Cadenhead) who had a 1961 22 year old in the famous Dumpy series around the same time. Once again, Serge already wrote some notes for these. I generally try not to ‘double up’ on Whiskyfun too much, but for old rarities such as this I think it’s not too much of a problem. Colour: gold. Nose: a myriad of various wood polishes, waxes, tinned peaches, camphor, cough medicines, natural tar extract, lanolin and many crystalised fruits. A stupendous concoction of waxes, tinctures, embrocations, old dessert wines and earthen floored cellars. Plenty of notes of waxed canvas, putty, hessian and lamp oil. Just brilliant. Mouth: cough syrups, herbal extracts, many ointments, peppery waxes, carbon paper, old inkwells, orange oils, tarragon, old chartreuse, fir liqueur, olive oil and mead. Pretty emblematic old school Highland Park, totally thrilling old malt whisky with a big mouth feel for 46%. Many more fruit extracts, syrups and peels. In time there’s rather a lot of peat as well, warm, herbal, earthy peat along with some metal polish and beeswax. Finish: long, earthy, herbal, slightly salty, notes of orange bitters, peat, fruit resins and lemon jelly. Comments: lovely old school Highland Park, yet another stunner from this distillery. I found the mouthfeel and flavour particularly excellent.
SGP: 562 - 92 points.


Bowmore 22 yo 1996/2018 (50.4%, Elixir Distillers ‘Single Malts Of Scotland’, cask #1371, hogshead, 210 bottles) Bowmore 22 yo 1996/2018 (50.4%, Elixir Distillers ‘Single Malts Of Scotland’, cask #1371, hogshead, 210 bottles)
You may notice that many of the bottlings by Elixir Distillers seem to hover around the 50.2/4% mark. It’s an ill-kept secret that the ED’s chief cask botherer, a certain Mr. Chilton, is a fan of bottling at slightly reduced strengths. Primarily so there are enough of the various whiskies for him to send them out as Christmas presents to all the bloggers he loves so dearly. Colour: pale gold. Nose: It’s one of these rather coastal and chiseled Bowmores. Lots of crushed seashells, Atlantic bluster, shellfish, dried kelp, miso broth and seagreens. But there’s also some more ‘inland’ aspects such as sheep wool and earth, then lemon zest and juice, olive oil diluted with brine and rock pools. A rather gruff and gravelly minerality arises slowly over time. With water: warmer and sootier, more notes of wood embers, fish nets, salted vegetable crisps, crushed aspirin and oyster sauce. Mouth: lots of ash, antiseptic, wafting peat smoke, capers in brine, smoked teas, lemon juice and mouthwash. Again this is rather chiseled and sharp - which I love. With water: minerals, flints, lime juice, sandalwood ash, bath salts, dried herbs such as tarragon and sage, lemon balm and a slight petrol note. Finish: long, salty, limey, mineral, full of old rope, hessian, tar liqueur, ash and beach sand. Comments: An extremely coastal Bowmore that’s very concentrated on its drier and leaner qualities. Thrilling distillate, perhaps not the most stellar example, but still benchmark stuff.
SGP: 365 - 88 points.


Bowmore 1976/1995 (52.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.17)

Bowmore 1976/1995 (52.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.17)
I’ve tried a few of these 76 Bowmores in my time, some are great and some a little more ‘unlikely’. It’s very much a transitional year between the tropics and the perfumery. Colour: gold. Nose: thankfully this one seems to lean backwards rather than forwards, in the sense that it’s a rather farmy one, but sprinkled with a few tropical fruit notes. There’s damp earth, then guava, mango, papaya and banana. Then cider apples, custard and hints of smoked shellfish, paprika, buttermint and lapsang souchong. A pretty unusual nose, but very good and highly intriguing. No soap or perfume that I can detect. With water: nettles, grass, sauvignon blanc, lillies, mustard powder, pollen, fennel. Much fun to be had here. Mouth: indeed this is rather fruity. It’s a soft and gentle mix of tropical and green fruit syrups, an exotic cocktail if you will. On top of which there’s fragrant peat smoke, camphor, a touch of brake fluid, salted butter, mango puree, green peppercorns in brine and some salty meat stock. With water: many various oils (cod liver, olive, rapeseed), chalk, brine, lemon balm, bitter herbal extracts, anchovy paste, umami and even something like Tizer. Finish: long, sooty, peaty, ashy, sharp, peppery and smoky. Comments: One of the good ones. If you’re bored of your relatives this holiday you could easily retreat somewhere quiet with a large dram of this and try to list all the whacky flavours you find. Although, I have to say, I also find it technically pretty excellent as well. It’s a rather specific style of Bowmore that only seems to exist in 1976. Who said vintages in whisky were pointless? 
SGP: 664 - 90 points.



Thanks to KC, Dirk & Harrison.  



December 28, 2018


Four Auchentoshan

Auchentoshan’s rather a malt we usually enjoy in summer, but with global warming in the way, isn't any time becoming Auchentoshan time?

Auchentoshan ‘The Bartender’s Malt’ (47%, OB, +/-2018)

Auchentoshan ‘The Bartender’s Malt’ (47%, OB, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
Doesn’t that name suggest that we should not try this neat? This was blended by bartenders and it contains malts ex-rum casks, ex-red wine (aargh), ex-German oak, ex-bourbon, and ex-Laphroaig. Remember Laphroaig now belongs to the same owners. What a cocktail indeed. Colour: gold. Nose: the oak’s a little loud, with this feeling of entering a cabinetmaker’s workshop. Some pencil shavings, sawdust, tobacco, then rather lemon curd, which is nicer. Not totally IKEA-y, phew. Mouth: it’s good, nicely lemony at first, zesty, creamy, vanilla-ed… But sadly, the oaks tend to take over, which generates this feeling of sucking your pencil. Goes way too far for me. Finish: medium, rather all on wood shavings and cinnamon. Not quite enough citrus to fight back, but the aftertaste is unexpectedly nicer, fruitier, and cleaner. Comments: not as terrifying as I had thought, and the red wine kept quiet. Thank you, red wine.
SGP:561 - 79 points.

Auchentoshan 21 yo 1996/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask # 12591, 191 bottles)

Auchentoshan 21 yo 1996/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask # 12591, 191 bottles) Four stars
This one should be much less oaky. Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, much less oak, rather herbal teas and sour fruits. Hawthorn, guavas, vanilla pods, lime juice, lemon zests, wee whiffs of menthol… It’s rather delicate and subtle, with also notes of sunflower and pumpkin oils. With water: green teas and earthy herbs. I’m reminded of carrot tops. Mouth (neat): very good, rounded, light and yet firmly fruity, with good vanilla and sunflower oil again, perhaps even a touch of grassy olive oil, then all things lemons and grapefruits. With water: going towards marshmallows and coconut balls, which had to happen with Auchentoshan. The earthy side balances all that. Finish: medium, rather on vegetables this time. Rather apple peelings than citrus. Comments: all very good, fresh… Another case of ‘natural’ maturing defeating excessive wood works, fair and square.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Auchentoshan 21 yo 1997/2018 (52.4%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Barrel, refill sherry hogshead, cask #2911, 168 bottles)

Auchentoshan 21 yo 1997/2018 (52.4%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Barrel, refill sherry hogshead, cask #2911, 168 bottles) Three stars
A black label? Does that mean something? Colour: amber. Nose: and now for something different… That is to say liquorice, peat (yep, peat), strawberry syrup, rum, blood oranges, pipe tobacco, blackcurrants… That the distillate wouldn’t have much to say in this heavy-ish context is an understatement. With water: ginger tonic and grapefruit peels, plus a few metallic smells. Mouth (neat): very rich, with quite a lot of ginger and a little rubber, plus prunes, molasses, flints and a lot of oloroso-y flavours. Heavy indeed. With water: earth, tar, struck matches, chalk and marmalade… Finish: long, on more ginger tonic, cinchona, liquorice, bitter oranges. Comments: more a fight than malt whisky in my book. Rather good, but I don’t think the boisterous cask has been very cooperative…
SGP:361 - 80 points.

Auchentoshan 27 yo 1990/2017 (53.1%, OB, for CWS China, 1st fill oloroso sherry cask, 512 bottles)

Auchentoshan 27 yo 1990/2017 (53.1%, OB, for CWS China, 1st fill oloroso sherry cask, 512 bottles) Four stars and a half
More bottlings for China, that really is a new - and good - thing. Colour: amber. Nose: this time the situation’s under control, with a sherry that’s not too loud, a rubber that’s rather not there, and some rather wonderful notes of bitter oranges. You’re almost wandering throughout a Sevillian orchard! There’s some Swiss milk chocolate too, not the ‘international’ crap that’s full of palm oil and that’s killing the last orangutans. There. With water: pot-pourri and orange blossom, plus a little copper (old coins). Mouth (neat): rather wonderful gingery/orangey sherriness, both heavy and vibrant, with an oily mouthfeel and some lovely notes of Szechuan pepper. Not mentioning that because this is a bottling for China, of course. With water: rather perfect, with even more bitter oranges. Finish: rather long, thick, spicier as usual. White pepper, cloves, and nutmeg from the oak. Comments: a fearless Auchentoshan that spent quite some time in an excellent cask.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Auchentoshan we've tasted so far


December 27, 2018


More Ardmore

From Teacher’s very lovely and very traditional Speyside Distillery up there.

Ardmore 15 yo 2002/2017 (46%, Chieftain’s, Madeira finish, cask #94091, 519 bottles)

Ardmore 15 yo 2002/2017 (46%, Chieftain’s, Madeira finish, cask #94091, 519 bottles) Four stars
Not exactly all wine-finished whiskies are under-spirits, that’s what we could learn over the years. And Madeira often works! Colour: light gold. Nose: yes indeed, this worked! Wonderful breads and sour creams and fruits, mild chutneys, and a little manure. Horse saddle and very earthy teas. Very nice nose! Mouth: really excellent. Sweet mustard, triple-sec, a drop of pastis, wholegrain bread, liquorice, cinnamon cake, heather honey and sour apples. Extremely good, greatly made. Finish: medium, yet rich, jammy and spicy. Notes of mead and canchanchara (google is your friend, even if some say they’re thieves). Comments: what a lovely concoction by Ian MacLeod! Loved the sweet mustard and caraway that were roaming around this wee whisky. Now I’m afraid there wasn’t as much peat as in other Ardmores – or was this Ardless rather than Ardmore? Not a joke, some do use that name in the business, mind you!
SGP:653 - 87 points.

Ardmore 1996/2017 (53.5%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 90 bottles)

Ardmore 1996/2017 (53.5%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 90 bottles) Two stars and a half
Other expressions from these batches have been a little difficult I have to say, too yeasty or even feinty for me, let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: indeed, I remember these, they’re full of ink, porridge, dry herbs, coal ashes… And absolutely no fruits. With water:  hay and dung, we’re in a farm somewhere in Aberdeenshire. Mouth (neat): really bizarre, not totally integrated, with a feeling of smoked pears that’s not extremely pleasant. And chewing pine needles. It really is an unusual peater, pretty acrid and pungent. With water: careful, it’s not a great swimmer as tends to become even more drying and acrid. Very dry herbal and mineral smoke. Finish: rather long, with a very green smokiness over… dry absinth? Comments: I think I’ll have to work further on these (not too) funny 1996s.
SGP:255 - 78 points.

Back to a younger one…

Aird Mhor 8 yo 2009/2018 (55.3%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask # 707910, 261 bottles)

Aird Mhor 8 yo 2009/2018 (55.3%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask # 707910, 261 bottles) Three stars and a half
This is well Ardmore, matured in an ex-Laphroaig barrel. I don’t quite know why ‘London’ are using the name Aird Mhor, but why not? Colour: white wine. Nose: Williams pears, so young. A touch of vanilla, moss, mercurochrome, and deep-smoked water. With water: visiting a distillery that’s doing peaty. Just any. Or perhaps the Port Ellen Maltings? It’s true that there might be very wee whiffs of strawberry yoghurt… Mouth (neat): much less immature than on the nose, tenser, very smoky, with more medicinal notes (from Laphroaig?) and touches of aniseed and caraway in the background. The smoke tends to bite your lips – well that’s not the smoke, but you get the idea. With water: young indeed, yet balanced, although it would become a little metallic. Pineapples have joined in, but the whole picture remains as smoky as a… say a working kiln. Finish: long, rather on smoked pears this time again. Comments: a very good extra-smoky young Ardmore. It’s hard to find better ones at such young age.
SGP:457 - 84 points.

Ardmore 9 yo (60.10%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon barrel, 153 bottles)

Ardmore 9 yo (60.10%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon barrel, 153 bottles, 2018) Four stars
So another young one, let’s see. By the way, Chorlton are really having exceptional labels, this one looks a bit like some Jheronimus Bosch, doesn’t it? Once the bottle’s empty you could always frame the label and hang it in your room… Colour: white wine. Nose: bang, perfect balance, with liquorice, smoked bread, vanilla, and butterscotch. The cask was good. With water: preserved mirabelles, and much less smoke, as if my faithful Vitell did eradicate any peatiness. That’s funny. Mouth (neat): excellent and simple, simply excellent. You don’t always need complexity when you’ve got balance and a feeling of fulness. Peanut fudge, custard, smoked malt, iodine, that’s it. Great! With water: once again, don’t add too much water. Isn’t Ardmore a bad swimmer, generally speaking? With only a few drops, it’s perfectly constructed, really all on some kind of smoked butterscotch. Someone will have to start a GoFundMe campaign one day and try to make that (no, please don’t). Finish: long, simple, focused, very good. Smoked cakes and… that’s right, butterscotch. Comments: excellent.
SGP:456 - 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Ardmore we've tasted so far


December 26, 2018


Four little Springbank

Always a joy to taste a few Springbanks. Clearly one of the #1s, or perhaps the #1 today. And one of the distilleries that haven’t become ‘just a brand’ yet, which I find very refreshing.

Springbank 23 yo 1995/2018 (48%, WhiskyNerds, fresh sherry hogshead, cask #63, 243 bottles)

Springbank 23 yo 1995/2018 (48%, WhiskyNerds, fresh sherry hogshead, cask #63, 243 bottles) Four stars and a half
High hopes here. Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s a heavy one, with high cask extraction, this very typical sulphury side, roasted chestnuts, notes of new tyres, old chestnuts, heavy pipe tobacco, fresh moist pumpernickel, and simply loud bone-dry oloroso. Right, perhaps half a prune. Mouth: indeed, this is pretty extreme, now mentholy, tarry, with loads of marmalade, prunes, old Armagnac, fruitcake, chalk, some slightly sulphury kind of paraffin, plasticine (remember when we used to eat some at kindergarten?) Some espresso too. Whether the distillate is still detectable is not very obvious, but we’ll say ‘yes’. Black Corinthian currants, some lovage. Finish: long, rather dry, thick, extremely oloroso-y. Comments: perhaps not exactly my favourite style because of the heavy extractiveness but it’s some kind of wrestler! Imagine this at 60% vol.! Also, it’s not got the immaculate complexity of the most famous sherry-monstrous Springbanks (such as Samaroli’s old 12) but it insatiably roars and kicks with much gusto. It was probably a good idea to bring it down to 48% vol.*
SGP:362 - 89 points.
(*) Actually, it was bottled at cask strength.

Springbank 25 yo 1993/2018 (55.2%, OB private for Feinkost Reifferscheid, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #596, 120 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2018 (55.2%, OB private for Feinkost Reifferscheid, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #596, 120 bottles) Five stars
I have a feeling… Colour: straw. Nose: naturally. Chalk, fresh concrete, lemon, bandages, soot, camphor, cigarettes, aspirin tablets, kelp, gentian eau-de-vie. There. With water: more of all that, plus dry riesling and chenin blanc. Bandages and that typical mustiness that almost only works in Springbank. There. Mouth (neat): amazing pepper, clay, lime juice, paraffin, linseed oil, rhubarb, kippers, smoke. With water: even more on lemons and chalk. Superb medicinal development – this will cure just anything and make any other medicine as useless as Apple’s touch bar on new MacBooks (what a nuisance!) Finish: long, very mineral, chalky, wonderful. Lemon’s back in, the aftertaste. Comments: not all 1993s have been stellar, and could be that you wouldn’t love this one every day, but today I do (okay, S.).
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Springbank 22 yo 1996/2018 (54.9%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #55, 259 bottles)

Springbank 22 yo 1996/2018 (54.9%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #55, 259 bottles) Four stars and a half
From a series named ‘Shells from the Bay of Caraccas’. I’m asking you, don’t they have any shells around Campbeltown? Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a more buttery Springbank, I would say, with more cask influence (here coconut oil and papaya), but it tends to become sharper and better while it remains a rather cleaner one, less dirty/greasy than the 1993. With water: indeed it is a fruitier one. Some lemonade, kiwi juice, and only then a little more Springbanky dirtiness. Mouth (neat): a rather perfect lemony one. Imagine someone would have smoked lemons and then made some limoncello out of those. With water: a little more earth, while that fruity American-oak character remains. Finish: medium, fruitier than most Springbanks from that era – which may come from the cask. Comments: this one’s a notch lighter than others, I think, but it’s excellent.
SGP:652 - 88 points.

Springbank 22 yo 1996/2018 (55.8%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #56, 277 bottles)

Springbank 22 yo 1996/2018 (55.8%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #56, 277 bottles) Five stars
That’s right, a sister cask (well spotted, Sherlock). Colour: straw. Nose: yeah well, we have our drier, earthier, more medicinal and mineral none. Less papaya, more damp chalk, more Springbankness. And there, seashells (which is very fitting indeed.) With water: perfectly pure, almost immaculate Springbank goodness. Mouth (neat): indeed, same comment, this is more mineral, more mentholy, earthier, with more raw wool as well than in the sister cask. Wonderful sharp lemon, also. With water: as on the nose, perfectly pure, almost immaculate Springbank goodness. Finish: rather long and very chalky. Just a tad sweet in the aftertaste. Comments: clearly my favourite among the two casks, but both are wonderful.
SGP:452 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Springbank we've tasted so far


December 25, 2018


High-Octane Port Ellen
for Christmas Day

And so we had accumulated a few Port Ellens that we hadn’t tried before, and so we were waiting for 2018’s Port Ellen within the annual Special Releases, and so there hasn’t been any, and so we’re left with our wee old sparring partners to taste. But I’m asking you, why would we complain?

Port Ellen 1978/1996 (60.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #43.10) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely brutal, not without reminding me of the 20 yo Rare Malts which, incidentally, was a 1978 as well. Oh I just noticed that we’ve never published any proper tasting notes for that one, by the way! Hum-hum… Anyway, there are notes of old Zippo in this old SMWS, tow, gunflints, kerosene, coal tar, hessian… Save our souls! With water: it needs a lot of water, really a lot, and would get then totally hessiany. We’re entering an old forgotten warehouse full of old casks… Mouth (neat): hugely brutal indeed, with some pure kilny flavours and some immaculate barley-y notes. That would be peated barley, of course. With water: rough and rustic, and very fat at the same time. Finish: extremely long and curiously green. Green pepper, green tea, various leaves… Comments: it’s a rather simple Port Ellen, and a difficult one at that. There are many more complex ones, but I would say this huge brutality has got its charms.
SGP:367 - 88 points.

And so, since we never published any formal tasting notes for this one…

Port Ellen 20 yo 1978/1998 (60.9%, OB, Rare Malts)

Port Ellen 20 yo 1978/1998 (60.9%, OB, Rare Malts) Five stars
One of United Distillers’ early keros… I mean, high-volume peaters. I had it at WF 91 until today, let’s see if fifteen additional years of bottle aging will have changed anything… Colour: dark straw. Nose: sweet Vishnu, this one hits you! Right between your eyes! Seriously, it will bring tears to your eyes, as well as a feeling of farmy wellness, I would say. We’re wandering throughout an old farm in the middle of nowhere, there’s some petrol on the floor, a rusty old truck, some cows, a lot of hay, an old dog (sorry, dogs), and bizarrely, a pile of old kelp drying in a corner of the yard. The old truck’s also lost a lot of engine oil over the recent years. With water: dung, some cleaner kind of horse dung, and a rather Brora-y feel. Mouth: great! Totally vertical, much cleaner on the palate, all on lemon juice, peat, brine, kippers and tar. I know, that was short. With water: ooh it’s hitting harder when reduced, getting much tarrier, peatier, greasier (we’re talking graphite oil blended with liquid tar), and then very salty and very lemony, which always, strictly always works. Finish: long, very salty. Oysters with a little curry and pepper. Less lemon this time. Comments: well bottle aging didn’t do much to it, it’s still a huge brute. We’ll try it again around 2050.
SGP:368 - 92 points.

We need a little more lightness if we want to reach 2050…

Port Ellen 15 yo 1974/1990 (64.5%, Sestante)

Port Ellen 15 yo 1974/1990 (64.5%, Sestante) Five stars
Yeah right, this one’s much lighter, okay, well done S.… Now the 14 yo in the same series by Sestante that we had tried back in 2006 was even stronger (65.5% vol.) and, to tell you the truth, a bit too brutal – although my score was still very high (WF 90). Get ready – a bit of yoga might be necessary… Colour: straw. Nose: it was a very oily and herbal Port Ellen, as were many PEs from those earlier years. I’m meaning Jerusalem artichokes, Brussels sprouts, linseed oil, hessian, waxed paper, plasticine, ink, new plastics… Not an easy nose for sure, but water will help. With water: oh, fresh concrete, damp dust, old wardrobe and mothballs, hessian, smoked fish, more ink, more new plastic, burning tyres… Well these Port Ellens were really smelling ‘industrial’. I a good way! Mouth (neat): stunning! Pure salted lime juice infused with crushed anchovies and sardines, plus a very moderate, almost whispering peat smoke. This is intriguing… With water: totally huge. Spearmint absolutely everywhere, crème de menthe, strong toothpaste, smoke, plastic and plasticine, and just a little lemon. Totally a blade. Finish: very long, very ‘nervous’, you’d almost believe you just quaffed some used Veedol (5W-40). After having chewed some new Michelins (Pilot Super Sport). Comments: love these extreme PEs that will remind us of tar and rubber, and yet remain tight and straight as arrows.
SGP:367 - 92 points.

Good, we had more on the table but three’s a nice number when the whiskies are this big and, I have to add, this challenging. See you.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Port Ellen we've tasted so far


December 24, 2018


Six-hand tasting
Malt Mill for Christmas Eve

By Angus, Emmanuel and Serge.

Malt Mill did not always possess the kind of iconography and ultra-cultism that it does today. Indeed, for a good few decades after it closed it was a rapidly vanishing footnote in the hefty shadow of Lagavulin. However, the upswing of interest in single malt whiskies of the 1990s, the rise of the internet and the way it proliferated knowledge and interest in malt whiskies; and in particular Andrew Jefford’s book Peat Smoke And Spirit which discussed Malt Mill in some depth, all helped elevate the name of this elusive malt. 


<< When Lagavulin was sporting two chimneys...

It is commonly said to have been founded in 1908 after an acrimonious fallout between Peter Mackie and the owners of Laphroaig. This led to Mackie losing the license for Laphroaig and so, in characteristic ‘single bloody minded’ fashion, he decided to make his own Laphroaig at Lagavulin. Oral history records that - as you might assume - he didn’t succeed. However, the resultant whisky was said to be notoriously heavy and intensely peaty. It functioned quite happily churning out distillate for blends such as White Horse, Mackie’s Ancient Brand and Logan’s until 1960 when it was dismantled. The general trend of the time was for less peat character and overall lighter styles in the blends, as evidenced elsewhere by Bruichladdich and Bunnahabhain switching to unpeated makes in 1960 and 1963 respectively. Some reports state it ceased production in 1962, however this refers to fillings labelled as ‘Malt Mill’ but which were actually distilled at Lagavulin - into which the Malt Mill equipment and stills had been incorporated. So the flask of new make at Lagavulin stating ‘Malt Mill last filling June 1962’ is technically Lagavulin, and any true Malt Mill should be from 1960 or earlier. 

Malt Mill's last 'filling' (at Lagavulin Distillery) >>


<< Casks of Malt Mill being loaded onto the famous puffer 'Pibroch' in the very early 1960s. Screen capture from a wonderful documentary by the Scottish Television.

It’s not surprising that the name has garnered such fascination. Its story is elusive. It’s an Islay whisky. The legend of its massive peatiness is painfully intriguing to whisky nerds of all shades. And on top of all that it has proved frustratingly persistent in not appearing in any authenticated bottlings and no casks have surfaced. Its legend was sufficient for it to be chosen for inclusion in Ken Loach’s film The Angel’s Share, co-starring Charlie MacLean as whisky expert Rory MacAllister (who’s 100% the real Charlie, actually). Perhaps what really is surprising is that almost no cask samples or anything have ever shown up. Almost... 

part des anges
French (of course) film poster for Ken Loach's movie The Angel's Share, by famous Alsatian compatriot Tomi Ungerer. >>

The one bottling that has surfaced from time to time in discussions about Malt Mill is the James MacArthur 10 year old miniature purportedly from a sample bottle found on Islay distilled in 1959 and drawn in 1969. It was sometimes dismissed as a fake; however, if you know the history of James MacArthur and their links with the UK Mini Bottle Club then it makes sense.

They would often decant other companies’ bottlings of elusive names such as Killyloch in order to have a set of minis from all these distilleries within their range. So a lab sample was said to be found on Islay in the early 1990s by miniatures collector Mike Barbakoff, naturally during a discussion with an ex-Lagavulin Distillery worker in a pub in Bowmore. That sample bottle was then tasted with another famous mini collector and friend, Alex Barclay (who’s the President of the Mini Bottle Club by the way), and then brought to usual bottling partners James MacArthur, who reduced it to 46% vol. and decanted it into only four miniatures for the Club, of which only a couple have surfaced at auction over recent years. It is said that those four minis have actually never been sold outside the board of the Club.

Peter Mackie
Sir Peter Mackie >>

But are they really genuine? The story from today back to that famous meeting in that pub in Bowmore sure is, but was it really Malt Mill in that sample bottle? No way to know for certain, but naturally, we deeply hope, and would actually believe it’s the real deal, even more so since this very bottle that we’ll try today seems to stem from Alex Barclay’s own collection that got auctioned earlier this year. And what’s sure is that no other non-fictional bottle, however big or small, ever came closer to being ‘the real deal’, not even Mackie's Ancient Scotch that's said to be a blend even if it doesn't say so on the label (whereas Mackie's Ancient Brand does). Until another old sample bottle is found in the family estate of an old Ileach, that is, who knows!

Let’s add that the only reason we’re able to try this is thanks to our great friend Emmanuel who was kind enough to crack one of these elusive minis open. For ‘research’ purposes. Needless to say, big thanks Manu! 

Malt Mill 10 yo 1959/1969-1995 (46%, James MacArthur, Fine Malt Selection, 5cl)

And with that, let us try that  extremely rare little ‘Malt Mill’ that got the whole whisky community very excited earlier this year… As well as in 2012, when Ken Loach’s film came out.

Malt Mill 10 yo 1959/1969-+/-1995 (46%, James MacArthur, Fine Malt Selection, 5cl) Five stars
Colour: straw. Nose: starts with a very fat and grassy peatiness, with touches of powdered parma violets, medical tinctures and sea salt, which reminds Emmanuel of the famous Bowmore 18 yo pear shape. We’re also finding notes of celery stalk, floated wood and preserved lemons. Angus also notices beach pebbles, bath salts and miso soup, while Emmanuel would add flints and myself, some moss and fern.

Mouth: feels stronger than 46% vol, and it might well be stronger indeed. Starts with cigarette ashes and potash, as well as a feeling of salted grapefruit and tequila joven, while it would remain clean and herbal all along. Angus says it’s got a raw herbal liqueurish character, reminiscent of the old-iodine pre-tropical fruit style of Islay whiskies, so rather raw, austere and brutal. It fits the anecdotal character of Malt Mill as based on historical records, that is to say an uncomplicated and raw malt. Angus would even add that it’s the best Malt Mill he ever tasted – a little joke that both Emmanuel and I found very funny. Quite. Not. What’s sure is that the whisky tended to become saltier and brinier by the minute. Finish: long, salty, with more acidic citrus and an almost Ardbeggian profile at this point. Bitter almonds in the aftertaste, as well as a little fennel.

Back label

Comments: clearly better than expected, according to the three of us, and certainly not the exotic side of Islay whisky. It started more like a grassier Laphroaig and then got a little tarrier, so more Lagavulin. But it did have its own style, it’s not a ‘copy’ of another distillery, even if Angus thought it was a tad reminiscent of old Caol Ila (1968 Intertrade, adds Emmanuel, but without sherry). I for one found it rather dry, quite farmy, rural and definitely rustic, with obvious echoes of Mackie’s Ancient Brand/Scotch, that old blend that used to shelter a lot of Malt Mill. 
SGP:367 – 91 points (Angus 91, Emmanuel 91, Serge 90).

With heartfelt thanks to Emmanuel Dron (and, indirectly, to Alex Barclay and Mike Barbakoff from the UK Mini Bottle Club, and to Arthur Winning of James MacArthur).


<< Some last comment by Rory ‘Charlie’ MacAllister:




December 23, 2018


Crazy French
for the

Not that these will all be of ‘festive quality’, but since we’re in France here… We may even play a few cunning tricks, we’ll see…



Bologne ‘VO’ (41%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2017)

Bologne ‘VO’ (41%, OB, Guadeloupe, +/-2017) Three stars
Some rather young (3 to 6 yo) rhum from Basse Terre on the lovely island of La Guadeloupe. It is agricole, so distilled from cane juice and not molasses. Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather perfectly cake-y but tends to become a little metallic. Old tin box, old coins. It’s actually rather grassy and dry, but on the hand, the notes of sugar cane are well-defined. The exact opposite of a South-American ron. Mouth: totally agricole. A touch of green olive, a lot of cane juice, some liquorice, notes of overripe pineapples, and the faintest caramel. Finish: short to medium, sweet and sour as many agricoles can be, with some lime juice and fruits starting to ferment. Pineapples. The aftertaste is a little less clear. Comments: lacks a bit more power, but the distillate’s very nice and very typical. There are higher cuvées, I’m sure we’ll try them eventually.
SGP:541 - 80 points.

J. Bally 7 yo (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2018)

J. Bally 7 yo (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
A very famous and well-respected line of rums. Many are vintaged but this is a large-batch blend in its trademark pyramidal bottle. Those come at many different ages, 3, 7, 12… Colour: gold. Nose: fully on ripe pineapples and bananas, but there are cigars, there is some hay, and there are quite some yellow flowers such as wallflowers, buttercups, dandelions and brooms. Gets then more caramelly, not sure that’s fully natural. Mouth: totally excellent, even rather impressive. Concentrated pineapple syrup, liquid liquorice, tobacco, perhaps one or two mushrooms, half a black olive, a perfect earthiness… Really, I’m impressed and I rather need mucho to get impressed (how gratuitous, S.!) Finish: long, perfectly olive-y and liquoricy. Excellent. An unexpected smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: not that the nose was out of this world, but the palate sure was. Impressive value for money, I would say, and I think it would please many a whisky drinker. To think that they’re not using the old Bally column at St. James anymore, and that these recent Ballys have rather poorer reputations! Not deserved!
SGP:462 - 88 points.

See, J. Bally’s still a great name! And this is the festive season, he said…

J. Bally 1924 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1985)

J. Bally 1924 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1990) Four stars
The second oldest vintage ever as far as French agricoles are concerned, after St. James 1885 - thank you Quentin. We should play trumpets and drums now, as this is the real deal, genuine Bally, pre-war distillate and all that. But we’re rather cold-hearted and you’ll see that we’ll have even rarer stuff before the end of the year. After all, this is Whiskyfun! (and?) Oh and yes, this is even ‘older’ than Macallan 1926, you know that thing that went for twelve billion American dollars (the sums are irrelevant anyway) at some auctions. And it’s not even very good, mind you. You know that I totally hate those stoopid PR stunts, don’t you. Colour: deep amber. Nose: oh the chocolaty freshness! And the earths, the old woods, the tobaccos, the baked vegetables (aubergines), the ox bone soups, the mint, the touches of camphor, the wee touches of parmesan, the leather, the old raspberry liqueurs, this walnut stain, the old cigar box… And all that. Have I mentioned high-end chocolate? Mouth: holy smokes! Impressive - albeit a bit too oaky for me - chocolaty arrival. Then salted coffee (only better than actual salted coffee), lemon curd, cigars, even more cigars, and yet more cigars. And litres of black tea, Russian style. Finish: long, rather drying I have to say. Cigars, chocolate, mint, and coffee. Mushrooms and chicken soup in the aftertaste. Comments: is it a scandal that I liked the 7 yo even better? This 1924 is very moving indeed – and hey, 1924! – but organoleptically speaking, it’s simply got a little too much oak in my humble opinion.
SGP:361 - 86 points.

Look, since we’re at Bally’s…

J. Bally 1939 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1970)

J. Bally 1939 (45%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-1975) Four stars and a half
I believe, but I could be wrong and that wouldn’t be the first time, that this 1939 from the Plantations Lajus du Carbet was bottled before the 1924. It’s not a very rare bottle, you could find it at several recent auctions in France. And the vintage is gloomy, isn’t it (any more sad remarks to make, S.?) Colour: bronze amber. Nose: it’s more on resins, or pine than the 1924, and certainly earthier. Even less fruits, more herbs, leaves, mosses, autumn leaves, menthol, eucalyptus, Vicks, other kinds of embrocations… I like this nose very much, but the overall profile is not obligatorily good news as far as the palate’s concerned. Let us check that… Mouth: no no no, wait, this is fantastic. Granted, it’s totally flawed as you wouldn’t find any bananas, or pineapples, or coconuts for that matter, and rather many soups, broths and bouillons, but if you like this resinous style as much as I do, you would be in for a treat (I know this is all too vicarious, I apologise). So dry herbal liqueurs, artichokes, chestnut honey, more chestnut honey, even more chestnut honey, and a drop of pine sap. It is, indeed, very pine-y, got to like that. Finish: long, extremely sappy, and rather sweeter this time, as if they had added some kind of secret sweeter concoction at time of bottling. Or filling, who knows? Comments: what a mad vintage, on all accounts. In any case, the rum’s excellent.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Good, let’s forget about historical rums, and rather focus on newer French rums of high reputation…

Neisson 2012/2017 (49.2%, OB, for 4eme Salon du Rhum de Belgique, 250 bottles)

Neisson 2012/2017 (49.2%, OB, for 4eme Salon du Rhum de Belgique, 250 bottles) Four stars and a half
Don’t we have a strange feeling here? As Neisson’s clearly the Springbank of rum… (I know, a bold statement)… Colour: deep gold. Nose: excuse me, but LOL! Jerusalem artichokes, struck matches, older eggs, gas, truffles, game… This is a bit crazy, to tell you the truth, and rather sulphury in fact. Where does all this sulphur come from? With water:  good news, the sulphur is gone with the wind (almost). Wonderful whiffs of puréed and glazed chestnuts. I believe Häagen Dazs have something like that. Also stunning oranges. Mouth (neat): just perfect, just very Neisson. Chestnut honey, proper maple syrup, banana cream, roasted pecans, lime juice, and one slice of green olive. Really fat and deep, this whacky young Neisson. With water: oranges, cane juice, fresh hazelnuts, Korean plum wine. Indeed. Finish: long and a tad more banana-y. Do not ad too much water. Grapefruits, star fruits, Victoria pineapples, light caramel, tobacco. Cloves and caraway in the aftertaste. Comments: a bit raw and rough, but that’s the young age. Very well selected, Gregory and La Belgique! (that would be Belgium).
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Since our Belgians friends seem to enjoy French agricole…

Rhum J.M 18 yo 1999/2018 (44.53%, OB, for 5eme Salon du Rhum de Belgique, American oak, 245 bottles)

Rhum J.M 18 yo 1999/2018 (44.53%, OB, for 5eme Salon du Rhum de Belgique, American oak, 245 bottles) Three stars and a half
J.M. are making great rhums when they’re not doing very unlikely finishes. They all can’t help it, can they! Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh yes. Sour fruits, copper, tobacco, and tropical flowers. So mangos and maracujas, coins and kettles, pipes and cigarettes, and ylang-ylang and wallflowers (again). Yes I know wallflowers aren’t very ‘tropical’. Also whiffs of balsa and cedar wood. Mouth: starts with a lot of sour wood, then massive amounts of liquorice. Sounds odd but actually, it is all rather brilliant because balance’s been preserved, in a rather miraculous way. It’s pure magic that this much oak still works, and that you don’t even have the feeling of ‘sucking your pencil’. Mangos and guavas, pineapples, pine sticks, cedar wood indeed, cinnamon, more cinnamon, even more cinnamon, all the cinnamon of the creation… But oranges save it all, oranges do save many spirits! Gotta love oranges… Finish: long, with that feeling of eating both your Faber-Castell and your Cohiba. But once again, oranges and mangos are dashing to the rescue. Comments: it was touch and go there for a moment, but the perfect spirit managed to save this ‘old’ agricole. A very intriguing bottle nonetheless.
SGP:661 - 84 points.

(Merci beaucoup Vincent!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


December 22, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Glug Glug Club Christmas AGM
Well, not quite annual, or general, but certainly some kind of meeting. We’ve managed to co-ordinate a seasonal rendezvous at Dornoch Castle Hotel where we will proceed to taste many silly whiskies. Quick fire notes tonight. Onwards!


Imperial 21 yo 1996/2018 (44.8%, Thompson Bros, refill barrel, 152 bottles) Imperial 21 yo 1996/2018 (44.8%, Thompson Bros, refill barrel, 152 bottles)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: grassy, lemony, strawberry candy floss, mint julep, green tea and some very subtle waxes. Like so many of these 1990s Imperials, this is rather lovely. The lower strength works nicely. Mouth: white stone fruits, heather, soft vanilla notes, yellow flowers, mint tea, olive oil and some background green fruits. Gets nicely lemony with time. Finish: medium and very soft but full of rather luscious notes of apples, green banana, gooseberry tart, lemon and wax. Comments: a hyper easy drinking Imperial. Quaffing juice.
SGP: 651 - 89 points.


Carsebridge 45 yo 1973/2018 (53.5%, Thompson Bros, sherry butt, 349 bottles) Carsebridge 45 yo 1973/2018 (53.5%, Thompson Bros, sherry butt, 349 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: if it were possible to polish cereals then this might be the result. These typical grain notes of wood shavings and banana syrup but also things like Jamaica cake, leatherette, lemon oil, cloves and brown bread. Unusually complex and ‘big’ for a grain - even an old one. Hints of honey, milk bottle sweets and rye spice. With water: marshmallow, BBQ char, toasted spices, horseradish and something rather mossy and mushroomy. Mouth: many toasted seeds, trail mix, spiced honey, cloves, milk chocolate, teacakes, grapefruit pith and lanolin. Very good! With water: gets gently sweeter but also rather intensely bready and limey. The tannins are a tad more biting now. Finish: good length. All on honeys, ginger, spiced breads, sultanas, fruit loaf and warm mead. Comments: I think I prefer it without water, but this is undoubtedly an excellent old grain. One of the best I’ve had in a fair while I’d say.
SGP: 640 - 88 points.


Bladnoch 13yo (80 poof, Cadenhead miniature, 1970s) Bladnoch 13yo (80 poof, Cadenhead miniature, 1970s)
Colour: light gold. Nose: lightly honied, nervous cereals, tutti frutti, bubblegum and grassy olive oil. Some lemon jelly as well. Very lovely and rather typically Bladnoch. Some tinned pineapple after a while. Mouth: quite cereal and mineral. Soft sooty notes, mushrooms, lime skins, a little saltiness and some creamy camphory aspects. Wax paper and dried leaves. Finish: long, peppery, oily and with a resinous fruitiness. Comments: Excellent old Bladnoch. Rather bigger and fatter than usual for Bladnoch, but still with plenty of the green and citrusy Bladnochness.
SGP: 541 - 88 points.


Glenury Royal 13yo (80 poof, Cadenhead miniature, 1970s) Glenury Royal 13yo (80 poof, Cadenhead miniature, 1970s)
Colour: gold. Nose: superbly coconutty and richly waxy. Lots of soots, polishes, crystalised fruits and wee mushroomy and miso notes. Excellent. Mouth: terrific presence in the mouth. Very Cadenhead dumpy, even in the mini format. Lots of metal oils, mechanical notes, dark dried fruits, damp leaves, leather, pot pourri and cough medicines. Finish: good length. All on cereals, sooty waxes, more crystalised fruits and putty. Comments: Many great wee drams to be found in these old minis. Amazing staying power even in small format with a slightly low level. Big, old school highland style Glenury.
SGP: 561 - 89 points.


Springbank 17yo (80 poof, Cadenhead miniature, 1970s) Springbank 17yo (80 poof, Cadenhead miniature, 1970s)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: rather soft and slightly distant. Clay, dried cereals, hay, hessian, beach pebbles and white pepper. Gets a little less shy with time. Mouth: better! Classically waxy, lightly peaty, coastal, citrusy, mineral, pebbley, salty and some wonderful waxes and oils mingling together. Superb! Finish: medium, salty, oily, peppery and waxy. Comments: It’s mostly happening on the palate, but what is happening is pretty terrific!
SGP: 562 - 90 points.


Highland Park 22 yo (80 poof, Cadenhead miniature, 1970s)
Colour: gold. Nose: leather and wax mixed up with sandalwood, herbal cough syrups and dried mint leaf. Outstanding old Highland Park, same league as these other Cadenhead dumpy 57s. Some beef stock, earthy peat and metal polish. Mouth: brazil nuts, walnut oil, resinous peat, dried fruits, crystalised lemon peel, brine mixed with olive oil and many, many wee herbal aspects. Finish: long, salty, lemony, oily, peaty and lightly fruity. Comments: Outstanding old HP. One of the great styles of malt whisky.
SGP: 473 - 92 points.


Bowmore 13 yo (80 proof, Cadenhead miniature, 1970s) Bowmore 13 yo (80 proof, Cadenhead miniature, 1970s)
Colour: straw. Nose: nettles, new world sauvignon, lemons in salt, very fragrant peat smoke, lime juice, white pepper, star fruit, oyster sauce. Lovely, extremely pure old school Bowmore. Mouth: tropical fruit flavoured medicines, ointment, lemon juice, waxes, cough mixtures, olive oil, brine, sandalwood ash, tar and soy sauce. Grassy, grapefruit and pickling brine. Finish: long, lemony, salty, very fresh, mineral salts and miso broth. Comments: A luscious, pin-sharp and extremely pleasing old school Bowmore. Reminiscent of some of the simpler Bicentenaries.
SGP: 653 - 91 points.


Balblair VH ‘Small Still’ (88 proof, OB, early 1970s) Balblair VH ‘Small Still’ (88 proof, OB, early 1970s)
A very cool old NAS bottling of Balblair at the curiously lucky/alt-right strength of 88 proof. This will appear at the Whisky Show Old & Rare in February should you wish to try and nab some. Colour: gold. Nose: pure acacia honey, heather ale, calvados, mulled cider and these lovely wee nutty notes such as toasted hazelnut, sunflower seeds and some aged Gueuze beer. Unusual but totally excellent! Mouth: hugely peppery, oily, camphory and riddled with winter spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Lots of earthy, leafy notes, meat stock, waxes, dried herbs, cooking oils and putty. Gets increasingly green, herbal and liqueurish. Mead, thyme, paprika and chocolate orange. I’m wondering how many of these ‘seasonal’ tasting notes are coming via the power of suggestion...? Finish: long, lemony, leafy, waxy, mineral, oily and full of thick, dark fruity notes like sultanas and dates. Comments: Superb and highly unusual old Balblair. I can’t help but love it. These wonderful and unusual combinations of fruits, herbs, resins and spices is pretty thrilling.
SGP: 662 - 92 points.


Ord 27 yo 1962/1989 (55.4%, Cadenhead miniature) Ord 27 yo 1962/1989 (55.4%, Cadenhead miniature)
Colour: light amber. Nose: wax mixed with mashed root vegetables, olive oil, various stocks, ointments, furniture waxes and polish. Cooking oils, lime syrup, mango chutney, soy sauce, cloves, sheep wool. The most stunning accumulation of old highland style malt whisky characteristics. Waxy, oily, syrupy fruits, marzipan, so many wee flavours. Anti-maltoporn brigade territory to say the least! With water: sweeter, lightly oxidative, more lemony and totally stunning! Mouth: majestic waxes, fruit oils, green fruits, apple rings, cider apple, old calvados, lemon balm, very soft peat. Exquisite! With water: utterly majestic! Putty, minerals, molten sugars, waxes, verbena, wormwood, cough drops... anti-maltoporn brigade NOW! Finish: endless, earthy, camphory, sooty, waxy and kind of bottomlessly complex with all herbal liqueur notes and fruit extracts. Cannabis as well. Comments: not surprising. But holy hell! What utterly incredible whiskies these old 62 Ords were!
SGP: 672 - 94 points.


Ord 26yo 1962/1988 (56.5%, Duthie for Japan)

Ord 26yo 1962/1988 (56.5%, Duthie for Japan)
Colour: gold. Nose: we’re in extremely similar territories. This one is a tad more savoury but we’re still getting these abundant notes of waxes, exotic and green fruit syrups, mushrooms, old sweet wines, hints of toasted fennel seed, caraway and toasted coconut. With water: get’s almost a little salty now. Salted waxes, mushroom powder, damp wine cellar, old chartreuse and yellow wild flowers. Stunning! Mouth: there’s more divergence here. This is leafier, more tobacco accented, drier, sharper and more precise but also perhaps a tad narrower as well. Some wonderful notes of aniseed, lime skin, something gently tarry, more notes of soy sauce, stocks and hessian. With water: really towards some old Clynelish now with this waxy intensity, salty/fruity combinations, sea greens, wild flowers and natural sweetness. Finish: long, fruity, nervous, resinous, camphor, old liqueurs, dried herbs, flowers and more waxiness. Comments: Very close to the 27yo but maybe not quite as stunning. However, we’re still flying extremely high. What a batch of casks these 62 Ords were!
SGP: 462 - 93 points.



Thanks, as ever, to Phil, Simon and Jon.  



December 20, 2018


Mixed bags

Whiskyfun's mixed bags
Session Four

From all nations, of all colours and of all kinds… But only whisky!

Mackmyra 2013/2018 (49.4%, OB, Sweden, for SE23 whisky club, 1st fill oloroso, cask #7404)

Mackmyra 2013/2018 (49.4%, OB, Sweden, for SE23 whisky club, 1st fill oloroso, cask #7404) Four stars
A peated (rök – which means smoke in Swedish, not rök and roll) Mackmyra from a small 30l cask, so let’s expect a little extractiveness (but is that even a word?) Colour: straw. Nose: well, it’s not that extractive, rather on all sorts of smoked herbs, especially thyme and rosemary. Which gives it a wee ‘BBQ in Provence’ side. Then rather fresh almonds, a rather grassy/green peat, and some fresh walnuts from the oloroso (I suppose). Well other small 1st fill sherry casks have been much louder in the past, but I shall not complain, certainly not! Mouth: sharp lemon and smoked herbs again, with some acidic coffee in the background. It’s a pleasant and rather unusual style, just wondering if they actually used only peat to smoke this malt, and not unusual woods or herbs. Also notes of caraway and juniper, and a small fatness (smoked salmon?) Finish: rather long, nice, a little more on juniper berries. Perhaps a touch of soap in the aftertaste. Comments: you could drink this with smoked salmon, really.
SGP:565 - 85 points.

Special Scotch Whisky 50 yo (79.4° proof, Strachan’s of Royal Deeside, bottled 1968)

Special Scotch Whisky 50 yo (79.4° proof, Strachan’s of Royal Deeside, bottled 1968) Five stars
A very mysterious bottle from those famous independent bottlers in Aboyne who gave us some wonderful old malts such as some legendary Rosebanks or Mortlachs. This very one won’t even tell us whether it’s a blend or a malt. Oh and it seems that this baby will be poured at the Whisky Show Old and Rare in Glasgow next year in February. Colour: gold. Nose: malt, I would say. It’s perfectly old school, fat and greasy (suet), with whiffs of old books and old leather rising to your nostrils (clearly a sense of the past, isn’t it), then chestnut purée flavoured with parsley, lovage and some kind of concentrated chicken soup (Kub). A little camphor an menthol too, as often in these old bottles. Mouth: totally excellent, and very wide and complex. Starts with various raisins including muscats, but is soon to get more herbal, and drier altogether. Those soups again, chutneys (onion?), salted ham, leather again, tobacco, touches of roots (beet?)… It really is totally wonderful. As for the distillery, and provided it’s malt indeed, I would say we’re travelling between Orkney and Sutherland. Pulteney? Could be! Or the West coast, why not Oban? Finish: long, complex, wonderfully bouillony. Comments: we’re flying extremely high, I may have kept an understated tone in my notes just because we don’t know what this is. But 50 years old or more, mind you!
SGP:562 - 92 points.

Black Friday 18 yo ‘Orkney’ (54.6%, The Whisky Exchange, 2018)

Black Friday 18 yo ‘Orkney’ (54.6%, The Whisky Exchange, 2018) Four stars and a half
Apparently, Black Friday is some kind of ultra-commercial event akin to Halloween or St. Patrick (or, yes, Christmas). Everybody feels it stinks and yet many good people are starting to play along. Well I don’t, we’re something like three weeks late here (apologies, good people in London!) Colour: gold. Nose: naturally, this is very good, some rather fat spirit with a mineral side and a few spoonfuls of heather honey. One cherry too, perhaps. With water: that old worn-out tweed jacket that’s seen so many rains and spilled whiskies. Mouth (neat): lemon, grass, chalk, ashes, touch of honey. With water: sure. A tad more medicinal now. Artisanal toothpaste for hippies, perhaps (look, it’s my blog, okay?) Finish: rather long, a tad rounder and sweeter. Fruitcake, raisins and dried figs, I would say. Comments: Black Friday, right. An idea that smells really funny, ueber-consumerism will kill us all sooner or later. But in the meantime and Black Friday or not Black Friday, it was a very excellent HP. When is Pink Monday again?
SGP:552 - 89 points.

Hey why not fly back to Sweden?...

High Coast ‘Dàlvve Sherry Influence’ (48%, OB, Sweden, 2018)

High Coast ‘Dàlvve Sherry Influence’ (48%, OB, Sweden, 2018) Four stars
Sorry about the wrong accent on the a, French keyboards, you know… This is Box under a new name, of course (we’ll spare you the story, everyone’s seen it) while I would add that I had really enjoyed their original Dàlvve back in January (WF 85). Colour: gold. Nose: starts with whiffs of struck matches and flints, develops on raisins and pecan pie, and gets then more raisiny, with some marmalade in the background. Pretty nice but I wouldn’t say the ‘sherry influence’ leaves much room for the distillate at this point. Mouth: well, no, I was wrong. You’ve got a similar earthy/flinty start, but rather bizarrely, we’re soon to think about… Highland Park!  Raisins, honey, and these peculiar mineral notes. And some wonderful lemon, we’re even homemade lemon marmalade, plus a little leather and tobacco. Don’t leather and tobacco often walk together? Have you noticed? Finish: long and a tad meatier. That could be the sherry. Comments: hurray, double back summersault!
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Sequoia ‘Pure Malt 1ère Impression (46%, OB, Distillerie du Vercors, France, 2018)

Sequoia ‘Pure Malt 1ère Impression (46%, OB, Distillerie du Vercors, France, 2018) Three stars
A new distillery in the Alps, how cool is that? This is not quite whisky yet, but the name ‘Vercors’ will always remind me of one of my favourite French (and Alsatian) singers, the late Alain Bashung. Colour: white wine. Nose: but this is fine! There are pears, of course, there are pears in many a young whisky anyway, but in this case there are also flowers (wallflowers) and touches of light syrups that bring elegance in all simplicity. But cane or agave? The jury’s still out. Nice light and clean nose. Mouth: indeed, it is a relatively light spirit but it’s got a very peculiar, very unusual spicy side, between juniper and perhaps nutmeg and soft paprika. There’s also a little earl grey tea and touches of kumquats (the Dutch’s favourite fruit), while pear compote provides a solid foundation. Finish: a little short but that is no problems. More stewed pears with a smidgen of Christmas spices. Comments: I liked it a lot, really, there are no off notes and it’s pretty singular already. And I think it’s nice that they played it gently, while so many other new distillers are trying to reinvent Springbank.
SGP:541 - 80 points.

Campbeltown Blended Malt 4 yo 2014/2018 (57%, North Star Spirits

Campbeltown Blended Malt 4 yo 2014/2018 (57%, North Star Spirits, two refill hogsheads, 726 bottles) Three stars
Angus already tried this one but I have no fear. Colour: white wine. Nose: pears and varnish, I say. Then seawater, wine vinegar, and samphires. A tad brutal, but remember it’s only three. No Springbank/Longrow/Kilkerran that I can detect, so maybe Hazelburn (could be) and/or Glen Scotia? But let’s not play the guessing game… With water: pear syrup all over the place, with rather lovely touches of roots behind that. Celeriac? Jerusalem artichokes? Carrots for sure! Mouth (neat): butter, pears, vanilla yoghurt, haddock, gherkins and brine, plum eau-de-vie. It is a little brutal, but there’s some civilisation already. With water: sweet roots all over the place now. Carrots indeed, parsnips, or rather butternut? That kind of thing, you could make soups out of this youngster. Finish: medium, sweet, young. Ripe pears and apple juice. Comments: excellence knows no age, they say. Well I’d add that maturity does, but I find this baby really good, just young. Very good quality/age ratio.
SGP:641 - 80 points.

(Gracias Angus, Nikola)


December 19, 2018


Aberlour, two of them

Love Aberlour. Lovely distillery, lovely whiskies. It’s big in France, which is fully deserved. Here are two new ones…

Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ (48%, OB, 2018)

Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ (48%, OB, 2018) Four stars
Sure the name sounds a little stupid (aren’t they being almost as creative as Bunnahabhain in that respect?), but that does not obligatorily mean the whisky’s poor. Plus, the price is rather fair (approx. 45€) so they’re not trying to suggest that this is the Koh-I-Noor of whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: typical Aberlour, really. Nuts, Mars bars, rose petals, milk chocolate, butterscotch, roasted raisins, walnut cake, Ovaltine and morello cherries. Mouth: chocolate and malt cake, more Ovaltine, raisin cake, Christmas cake, more walnuts and Mars bars, toffee, cinnamon rolls… Finish: rather long, and clearly on panettone. A wee drop of mulled wine too, and even more Ovaltine mixed with orange liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: Aberlour are very good at making this very style of malt whisky. Another fine example - despite the lack of age statement (and the funny name). Nothing against Gaelic, of course, but it’s all becoming a little tiring, is it not.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Aberlour 13 yo (57.7%, OB for The Whisky Lodge, 1st fill sherry, cask #79212, 618 bottles)

Aberlour 13 yo (57.7%, OB for The Whisky Lodge, 1st fill sherry, cask #79212, 618 bottles) Four stars and a half
The Whisky Lodge in Lyon/Lyons are one of the oldest whisky houses in France. They’re very knowledgeable people, don’t miss their shop next time you’re in the capital of the Gauls! Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a rather earthy one, ridden with old and fresh walnuts, crushed mustard seeds, old books, old furniture polish, then bone-dry Madeira and pipe tobacco. It’s almost musty, in a good way. With water: very oloroso-y, and rather more on moss, fern, mushrooms, tobacco, more walnuts… Mouth (neat): rich and spicy. This is almost Christstollen! A lot of cloves, cinnamon, caraway, raisins, candied orange zests, liquorice and tobacco. Some cardamom too. With water: sweeter, rounder, more orange-y, so easier, but the spices are still there. Oranges and cloves, a classic duo. Finish: long, rather more on crude raw chocolate. The usual spicy walnut cake in the aftertaste. Comments: the Whisky Lodge were having a bourbon version not so long ago that I enjoyed even more, but this is excellent too. Full classic Aberlourness.
SGP:461 - 88 points.

(Merci Fabien)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Aberlour we've tasted so far


December 18, 2018


More crazy Clynelish

Clynelish’s not always ‘crazy’, some vintages having been quieter, lighter, and rather fruitier. But in general…

Clynelish 20 yo 1997/2018 (46%, Orcines, hogshead, cask #12351, 278 bottles)

Clynelish 20 yo 1997/2018 (46%, Orcines, hogshead, cask #12351, 278 bottles) Five stars
Orcines is The Whisky Lodge’s series of own bottlings. Colour: straw. Nose: not your average Clynelish, as it starts a little acetic (cider vinegar, lemon juice) and with touches of fennel, but it would get into line after just a few seconds, with classic waxy notes mingled with some citrons and bergamots. After two minutes, it would smell just like a fresh pack of bergamot sweets, which is something that I enjoy tremendously. Please check the Bergamottes de Nancy as soon as you’ve got two minutes! Mouth: Clynelish lovers will love this, as it’s got all of the make’s traditional markers, including some kind of light dirtiness. I’m finding grapefruit juice, chenin blanc, lime juice, chalk, paraffin, beeswax, and a wee coastal side, around kelp and seawater. Two grains of salt playing with your lower lip. Finish: long, very waxy, a notch sour, chalky. Plasticine. Comments: a great Clynelish at a perfect drinking strength – worthy savings on water to be made here.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Clynelish 1995/2018 (53.6%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, 20 rue d’Anjou, refill sherry butt, cask #8680, 570 bottles)

Clynelish 1995/2018 (53.6%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, 20 rue d’Anjou, refill sherry butt, cask #8680, 570 bottles) Five stars
As far as I’m concerned, with Clynelish, the best sherry is no sherry. But refill can be close… Colour: deep gold. Nose: two or three struck matches at first nosing, then cakes, walnuts, dried meats, leather, tobacco, beef bouillon, beef jerky, miso soup… I wouldn’t tell you I’ve found a huge Clynelishness so far, but the sherry’s absolutely perfect. With water: it’s not totally unseen that some bone-dry sherry would impart some smoke to some otherwise virtually unpeated whisky. That’s what’s happening here, and the combo gives you a totally unexpected feeling of Old Clynelish. I couldn’t possibly be against that, could I? Mouth: umami in full swing. Glutamate, tobacco, leather, salted oranges, Chinese dried tangerine peel (chen pi), marrow dumplings, parsley… With water: there, grapefruits, citrons, limoncello, beeswax, plasticine… Finish: long, waxy, citrusy. And with some umami at that! Comments: it’s easy to find out who's responsible for this sorcery, they’re right on the back label. The names are Jean-Marc and Salvatore.
SGP:462 - 91 points.


Clynelish 23 yo 1990/2014 (49%, Adelphi, refill bourbon barrel, cask #3233, 176 bottles) Five stars
High hopes here but careful with these vintages… Colour: straw. Nose: phew, it’s a waxy batch. We could stop here but since it‘s Clynelish… Orange peel, beeswax, sunflower oil, burning candles, riesling, ink and newspapers, baker’s yeast, sourdough, pine needles… This is what I’d call an obvious nose. Or perfection made whisky. Mouth: medicinal arrival, then chalk, lemon, plasticine, riesling, pine liqueur, a drier chartreuse, a drop of Jägermeister (ich bitte um Entschuldigung) and a vast amount of citrus peels. Terrific. Finish: long, tense, almost a little brutal, as when you’ve had the strongest and driest herbal drinks. I think we could have called the anti-maltoporn brigade. Comments: insane whisky that hits you right between your eyes in spite of the moderate strength and the virtual absence of peat. Hate it that I missed this one when it was still on the shelves; what was I doing?
SGP:462 - 92 points.

Don’t we love a wee challenge? So why not try to climb even higher and defeat that flabbergasting Adelphi?


Clynelish 1972/2002 (58%, Scotch Malt Sales, Japan) Five stars
An extremely rare bottle by Liquid Gold/Scotch Malt Sales. We’ve tried a 1974 by them just a few months ago and thought it was just out of this world (no less than WF 94). Oh and it seems that unless WWIII happens before February 23 next year, this little 1972 will be poured at Glasgow’s Whisky Show Old & Rare. Do they do book-a-dram? Colour: gold. Nose: put Frank Zappa on the stereo, take apple pie, pour honey over it, add beeswax, add Yquem, add drops of yellow chartreuse, add lemon juice, and this time, please call the anti-maltoporn brigade. With water: oh, no! Mead, precious old sweet wines, forgotten waxes and oils, the rarest flowers (I’m not an expert), and such. Mouth (neat): I’m sorry but this is almost indescribable for it is rather a whole than the sum of several parts. In other words, proper tasting notes here would rather read like ‘Clynelish 1972’. Which, I agree, would not be very useful, but there, I did the best I could. Did you call the anti-maltoporn brigade yet? With water: if you don’t mind, I’ll keep this between this little whisky and me. Finish: great whiskies often lose a wee bit of steam at this point, and indeed this fantastic Clynelish gets a tad ‘too’ grassy. More peels than fruits, if you like, but I may be trying to be clever now. Comments: seriously, the 1974 was as brilliant, I think. This 1972 lost one point, or maybe two, at the finish line. Other than that, it’s just glorious, plainly unforgettable malt whisky. One of the greatest distillates ever made by Man.
SGP:651 - 94 points.

What a session!

(Thank you Angus, Cato and Fabien)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Clynelish we've tasted so far


December 17, 2018


Mixed bags

Whiskyfun's mixed bags
Session Three

Let’s see what we have, probably quite a lot of American whiskies, among others…

Very Old Barton (40%, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, +/-2018)

Very Old Barton (40%, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, +/-2018) Two stars
Remember, when whisky distillers use words such as ‘very old’ without disclosing neither ages nor vintages, that always, strictly always, means that the whisky’s very young. Stuff by Sazerac. Colour: gold. Nose: nice but light, whispering, with some popcorn and vanilla, acacia honey, sponge cake, and a little sawdust. This baby won’t harm anyone. Mouth: really very easy, mild, without much kick and almost no ryeness that I can find, rather grenadine syrup, Jell-O, more popcorn, marshmallows, and some wood spices that are not very well integrated (young whisky). Finish: medium, sweet, rather on fudge, sawdust and caramel. Too much raw oak in the aftertaste for me. Comments: humble bourbon. I suppose its siblings at higher strengths are better (watch the labels when you buy, this is tricky).
SGP:630 - 70 points.

Redemption, perhaps…

High West ‘American Prairie Reserve’ (46%, OB, USA, bourbon, +/-2018)

High West ‘American Prairie Reserve’ (46%, OB, USA, bourbon, +/-2018) Three stars
This is a blend of 6 and 10 yo bourbons. The distillers are donating 10% of their profits on this bottle to the American Prairie Reserve, in Montana. Let’s see if this is as good as their Double Rye, which I really enjoy. Colour: deep gold. Nose: nothing to do with the humble Barton, this has pies and tartes, some rye indeed this time (while it seems that there isn’t more rye than in the Barton), and then some kind of lightly smoked butterscotch, should someone be  mad enough to try to make that. Mouth: perhaps not as bready as I had hoped, and probably sweeter, with caramelised popcorn, various cakes, a touch of chocolate, and a good slice of gingerbread covered with strawberry jam. Some nutmeg and cinnamon from the oak. Finish: rather long, both sweet and spicy. Vanilla, cinnamon, cassis jam, white pepper and, once again, a little sawdust in the aftertaste. Comments: forgot to mention lavender sweets, my bad.
SGP:641 - 82 points.

Pikesville 6 yo (55%, OB, USA, Straight Rye, +/-2018)

Pikesville 6 yo (55%, OB, USA, Straight Rye, +/-2018) Three stars
I didn’t quite like this one when I first tried it back in 2016 (WF 70) but let’s give another batch another chance. Colour: deep amber. Nose: not a lot happening, and certainly no obvious ryeness, rather a little fudge, cake, coconut, white chocolate, and popcorn. Some varnish too. With water: a little charcoal, grenadine, sawdust, and these notes of geranium that I had already found in the earlier batch. Mouth (neat): some syrupy oak, burnt caramel, and a lot of cinnamon. Too oaky for me. With water: rather better, hurray! Good progress with water, pineapples, oranges, even mangos… Where were they hiding? Finish: rather long, pretty nice when reduced down to approx. 45% vol. Mango marmalade and pink pepper, I would say. Comments: could be that Heaven Hill improved the recipe, but it really needs water, I believe.
SGP:551 - 80 points.

Russel’s Reserve 9 yo (111 proof, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Flask/Bruce Select select)

Russel’s Reserve 9 yo (111 proof, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Flask/Bruce Select select) Four stars
Not too sure I’ve got all my data right, neither am I sure that the picture is correct. Any comments? Please drop me a message. Colour: full gold. Nose: amazing melony freshness. Melon jam, a moderate vanilla, some honeysuckle flowers, dried figs, a little cane juice, touches of earth that would always improve any bourbons… So, so far, so good. With water: yellow jams galore and milk chocolate, plus sweetcorn/ Mouth (neat): really good indeed, sweet and fruity at first, then spicier but never plankish, and rather void of any sawdust. Ripe melons again, apricots (preserved), mirabelles… With water: more of all that. Really lush. Finish: medium, sweet and fruity. They should sell this at the honey and jam department. Comments: perfect sweet and fruity goodness, very easy bourbon. Easiness is absolutely not a flaw in such context!
SGP:640 - 87 points.

Sonoma Bourbon (46%, OB, USA, bourbon, 2018)

Sonoma Bourbon (46%, OB, USA, bourbon, 2018) Five stars
I always liked what Sonoma/1512 Spirits have been making since I found one of their first wee bottles just next to… Opus One, in the Napa Valley. Looks like they just changed liveries. Colour: deep gold. Nose: first totally and plainly on caramel spread and bread, and then on more butterscotch and fudge than you could find in the largest tourist shop in Scotland. Indeed, that’s a lot. Mouth: I just knew I would be a fan. Exceptional gingerbread, honey, corn syrup, sweeter beetroots, liquorice, pumpernickel, Balkan pipe tobacco, cough syrup, fir liqueur, mint, apple fritters, orange-flower water… What a whirlwind of flavours! Finish: indeed, and yet it would leave your palate as fresh as a baby’s. Comments: this is unbelievably amazing, that’s true! I must tell you, to be perfectly honest and in all fairness, everybody’s talking about how amazing it is, I’ve witnessed it! People who don’t like it do not have a clue, believe me! (I may even buy one bottle or three).
SGP:631 - 90 points.

Uh, looks like we’re staying in America…

Yellowstone Select (46.5%, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, +/-2018)

Yellowstone Select (46.5%, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, +/-2018) Three stars
This from ‘Limestone Branch Distillery’ according to the brand’s website, but it looks like they haven’t distilled it and rather sourced the juice. So possibly just another stupid brand, so more half-lies in other words, never a good start… Colour: gold. Nose: sure they sourced it form a good place where they know how to make proper bourbon whiskey, but why do they call themselves ‘Distillery’, for crying out loud? Mouth: caramel, oak, vanilla, cinnamon. And of course, they ‘hand selected’ it – from some spreadsheet, I suppose. Finish: medium, good. Getting tired of these fake distillers. Comments: I just shouldn’t have checked their website, the bottle is correct and doesn’t seem to mention ‘a distillery’. The whisky’s pretty good, by the way.
SGP:541 - 82 points.

Hold on, there’s some last minute bonus…

Heaven Hill 9 yo 2009/2018 (66.1%, North Star Spirit, USA, bourbon whiskey, 253 bottles)

Heaven Hill 9 yo 2009/2018 (66.1%, North Star Spirit, USA, bourbon whiskey, 253 bottles) Four stars
Some bourbon finished in ex-Islay wood, this should be funny since many new Islayers are virtually finished in first fill bourbon casks, ha! Colour: gold. Nose: burns a bit but the lighter fruitiness is already rather enjoyable. Orange squash plus warm brioche with a little caraway, cinnamon, and powdered clove. But quick… With water: some headbanging high-quality vanilla, even more rock and roll than Jack, then… please excuse me, I haven’t added enough water… riiiight, so, I was saying, it’s very vanilla-ed, and yet spicy, with touches of popcorn, cinnamon-flavoured fudge - should anyone be mad enough to make some – and just a touch of pine wood and dried mushroom powder. I am sorry but I do not seem to find much Islayness here, but that’s totally not a problem. Mouth (neat): another one that’s good at making you yodel. Very strong juice!... With water: ah, there, perhaps, a little peat, coated with the thickest cream made out of custard and American oak dust. It remains sweet and rounder than other indie Heaven Hills that I could try, ironically (given that it’s an Islay finishing). Finish: rather long, yet a little peatier, with some green pepper, pencil shavings, and some grapefruit peel in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s funny how it gradually becomes peatier, while it wasn’t at all when we first nosed it. But maybe that was because of the anaesthetic effect of these huge amounts of C2H5OH. Big whiskey!
SGP:653 - 85 points.

(Thank you Jay!)


December 16, 2018


Cognacs for Sundays

Indeed more cognac. Good cognac grows on you, while bad cognac (especially the very caramelised and boiséed ones by large brands) will throw you right back into whisky’s arms. And remember, too much branding is always a bad sign w.r.t. the quality of the makes, same with whisky BTW – malt whisky, at least. Let’s see what we have in the boites (that would be boxes)…


Frapin 15 yo (42%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
Claims to be ‘rare et exceptionnel’. Please C.T.C.!* Colour: gold. Nose: a rather dry style, it seems, rather more on peels and leaves at first nosing, as well as flowers, than on straight fruits. Broom and wallflower. After three minutes, rather more burnt cakes, a touch of liquorice and coffee, and the obligatory raisins and dried apricots. A rather firm style. Mouth: a tad gritty and grape-y at first, and rather fruity. Raspberry liqueur, marmalade, blackcurrant buds. Touches of oak coming through, getting a notch drying. Tea tannins, cloves, cocoa powder. Finish: medium, green and grassy. Leaves and stems, green sour tannins… Comments: I find it rather rustic, and grassier than expected. A little too much fresh oak, perhaps? I have to say was expecting a little more from the great house of Frapin.
SGP:461 - 78 points.

Since we’re doing rustic ones…


Bache Gabrielsen ‘Pure & Rustic XO’ (40%, OB, +/-2017) Three stars
A house that’s clearly looking in whisky directions. Hey you don’t even need age statements anymore to look ‘malty’. Colour: gold. Nose: well, it’s not that rustic, it’s rather smooth and fruity, full of peach jelly and preserved apricots, then ripe yellow melons, then rather small-berry muscat. We’re almost in Sauternes territories… No, wait, rather Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise! Check Domaine des Bernardins, it’s my favourite. Mouth: tenser and a little more tannic, but we’re far from the Frapin’s all-green-tea profile. Melon skin, apple peels, pencil shavings and tobacco, cedar wood, liquorice wood… This baby may have seen quite some new oak too, but not too sure. Finish: medium, grittier yet again. Over-infused green tea. Comments: really good, but a little too much on the oaky side for me. More fruits s’il-vous-plaît !
SGP:551 - 81 points.


Normandin-Mercier ‘Vieille Fine Champagne’ (40%, OB, Fine Champagne, +/-2017) Three stars and a half
A well-reputed house ! Fine Champagne, as you know, is a blend of Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. They could as well have called that ‘Moyenne Champagne’. Joking. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the freshness that’s impressive right from the start, with gooseberries and peaches, then ripe apples and watermelons. Really very nice! Also stewed rhubarb, nectarines, plums, roasted pistachios… I do love roasted pistachios, I have to say. Mouth: all pleasures, with just a wee sugary side in the arrival. Then roasted nuts, a little coffee, tangerines and oranges, a little fudge and butterscotch, quince jelly, more plums (mirabelles), and ‘of course’ raisins. Finish: medium, fruity, with a little caramel. Jams and caramel, with a little tobacco in the aftertaste. Comments: high quality young cognac, rather approachable and yet not dull or too ‘commercial’.
SGP:551 - 84 points.


Vaudon 1996/2018 (51.1%, Through The Grapevine, Fins Bois, 429 bottles) Four stars and a half
A single cask from the Fins Bois selected by La Maison du Whisky. Vaudon’s a relatively new domaine that belongs to Voyer’s former cellar master. Colour: deep gold. Nose: lovely, the extra-%s clearly are an asset here. Wee whiffs of saponin at first, then some unexpected notes of rum agricole (sugarcane juice, at least), then many crystalised or dried citrus fruits, especially mandarins. Also quince paste – always a hit at WF Towers – and a beautiful slightly gingery earthiness. Only good things to say so far. With water: a fresh pack of Camels, circa 1978, and Jaffa cakes (contemporary Jaffa cakes). Mouth (neat): very, and I mean very fruity. Pineapples, tangerines, oranges, even touches of tinned litchis, then honeysuckle honey and lighter pipe tobacco. Rather cinnamon at the Spices department. With water: gets really very citrusy, with a floral side in the background. Tangerine wine with a touch of aniseed and rosewater. Classic peach juice as well. Finish: long and very ‘peachy’. Comments: right on the money! Loved the freshness and the tension.
SGP: 651 – 89 points.

Perhaps another Fins Bois, from one of our favourite houses…


Vallein Tercinier ‘Lot 89’ (48.5%, OB, Fins Bois, 2018) Five stars
I’d love to hang something on them someday, but I just keep failing to do so… Colour: gold. Nose: well, it is a little less ‘VT’ than usual, and perhaps a tad more ‘in the norm’, with rather less explosive honeyed fruitiness, and rather more cake-y, fudge-y notes. On the other hand, I love these puréed chestnuts, this peanut syrup (we have some good one here in France under the Bacanha brand), this vanilla and all the biscuits and cookies. Hints of dried jujube, perhaps. Mouth: the house style is back, with these honeys and these dried fruits, but I’m also finding notes of oloroso. Roasted nuts again, Seville oranges, halva, Turkish delights, oriental pastries (orange blossom water, honey, pistachios, almonds)… Also a touch of menthol and a nascent rancio. Strength and body are just perfect at 48.5% (cask strength here). Finish: long, on a combination of honeys, especially strong ones. Chestnut, heather, fir honeydew... Comments: once again, I failed. But I’ll get them one day or another (… cavernous sardonic laughter…)
SGP:651 - 90 points.

(*) Cut The Crap

More tasting notesCheck the index of all cognacs we've tasted so far


December 15, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Four Bunnahabhain
I tend to find the indys reign supreme with Bunnahabhain these days. It’s often another example of the owners putting out rather a lot of ‘unlikely’ finishes and strange NAS editions that really scrape the bottom of the Gaelic barrel in terms of naming. Whereas the indys tend to focus more on the natural distillery character. Which, with Bunnahabhain, is great because in its naked form it’s a distillate I love. We’ll try four of them today, the only trouble is whether to start old and light or young and boisterous... let’s try to find a compromise...


Bunnahabhain 11 year old (43%, G&M ‘Discovery’, sherry casks, bottled 2018) Bunnahabhain 11 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Discovery, sherry casks, bottled 2018)
From G&M’s new introductory range of malts. Colour: gold. Nose: nice! A rather easy, syrupy fruitiness. Lots of golden syrup, polenta cake, bracken, damp forest, salted caramel, peanut brittle. A little orange pith. Fairly classical and very approachable and easy. Mouth: ginger bread, blood orange, crispy bacon, various salted nuts, trail mix, cooked cereals, slightly mashy and sweet. Simple but easy and quaffable. Finish: medium, all on glazed fruits, nuts, slightly saline, again pretty textbook Bunna. Comments: I like that they cleaved close to the distillery style. The sherry is present but nicely balanced. A good, solid introduction whisky that fits the ethos of its series pretty well I’d say.
SGP: 541 - 82 points.


Bunnahabhain 27 yo (48.4%, The Single Malts Of Scotland ‘Marriage’, 2018) Bunnahabhain 27 yo (48.4%, The Single Malts Of Scotland ‘Marriage’, 2018)
A rather lovely looking bottling from the folks at Elixir Distillers (TWE), which is a marriage of four casks spanning three different vintages. As we often point out on these pages, the sum of two or three casks together often tends to be better than the individual component parts. Colour: light gold. Nose: fresh fruits and coastal greenery. Very ‘Bunnahabhain’, which is a great asset here. Unfolds with these notes of fragrant sandalwood and wee touches of kelp and green olives. Some sunflower oil as well, very light leather notes and some waxy lemon peel. A few hints of green pepper and freshly sawn wood add a little bite, although they’re rather restrained. Mouth: superb fruitiness, lusciously waxy, salty, slightly mushroomy and earthy, some petrichor, more sandalwood, little resinous touches, spices and things like gorse, soft ointments and salted mead. The nose suggested softness but this is in fact rather punchy and textural on the palate. Really excellent. Finish: long and full of these slightly saline, leathery and wood spice notes. Hints of liquorice, mint tea, citrus peels and a touch of herbal cough medicine. Comments: why the owners wouldn’t issue such bottlings is a bit bewildering really. This simple combination of Bunna in refill casks and time is such a winner. The mix of fruits, freshness, the right amount of bite from the wood and coastal character is pretty irrefutable. Great work by Elixir Distillers.
SGP: 551 - 90 points.


Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1975/2018 (41.4%, Director’s Special, refill hogshead, 341 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1975/2018 (41.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, refill hogshead, 341 bottles)
A new addition to this rather lavish, recent range from Elixir Distillers. Colour: gold. Nose: you certainly get the familial resemblances more between this one and the 27yo than you do between the 27 and the G&M 11yo. This is more concentrated fruit syrups, children’s medicines, lime leaf, heather honey and more specific fruit notes such as cider apples, pear liqueur and things like aged mead and furniture wax. A beautifully luscious, layered, fruity and honeyed nose. No sense of fatigue so far, but, as is often the case with older whiskies, let’s check the palate... Mouth: there is wood no doubt, but I’m pleased to say it is clean. It has bite but it’s like sandalwood, polished furniture, precious hardwoods, tree bark, winter spices and this mushroomy, earthy character again. There’s also more of these syrupy qualities that manifest as things like quince paste, lemon jelly, lime curd, green fruit syrups, rosewater and eventually lamp oil and camphor. More up front waxiness as well, along with a gentle salinity. There’s still a sense of coastal freshness about it, even though it wears its age front and centre. Finish: Good length, surprisingly warming, slightly mentholated, notes of graphite, lemon oil and various mineral twitches. Something akin to old Bourbon in the aftertaste. Comments: It’s another excellent Bunna, only a slight inkling of tiredness on the palate will prevent me going to 90. But it’s supremely quaffable old juice that still retains a clear thumbprint of identity.
SGP: 561 - 89 points.



Bunnahabhain Moine 13 yo ‘Marsala Finish’ (63%, OB ‘Hand Filled’, bottled 2018) Bunnahabhain Moine 13 yo ‘Marsala Finish’ (63%, OB ‘Hand Filled’, bottled 2018)
I haven’t tasted any of the peated Bunnas for quite some time. Although, peat and marsala wine? I’m gently terrified... Colour: light amber. Nose: a fairly straightforward, leafy kind of peat. Some hints of bicycle inner tube but it’s by no means excessive. Rather sooty, briny and displaying notes of sardines in oil, creosote, kippers and things like gravel and fisherman’s wellies. With water: rope, tar, cooking oils, smoked potatoes, hot paprika. Funny stuff. Mouth: One thing to note is that it wears its strength surprisingly lightly. Hot plasticine, petrol with iodine, smoked mussels, canvas, pencil erasers, tar, smoky grist and a slightly cloying aspect from the marsala. Although, it’s not as disjointed or imbalanced as I feared, it’s just that the peat rather scorches everything in its path to some extent. More salt water, coal tar soap and industrial strength malt vinegar. With water: sweeter with a more direct peatiness. More ashy, BBQ sauce, wood char, embrocations, hospital floor cleaner and some slightly industrial aspects like WD40 and brake fluid. Finish: quite long. A lot more things like smoked shellfish, tar, light rubbery notes, squid ink and plasticine. Comments: Not too sure what to make of these Moines. There’s a slightly elusive dirty side to this one, although I’m not sure whether it’s cask derived or from the distillate itself. I find these sorts of bottlings entertaining up to a point but they can become a little tiresome.
SGP: 466 - 80 points.


December 2018 - part 1 <--- December 2018 - part 2 ---> January 2019 - part 1



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Clynelish 1972/2002 (58%, Scotch Malt Sales, Japan)

Clynelish 1995/2018 (53.6%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, 20 rue d’Anjou, refill sherry butt, cask #8680, 570 bottles)

Clynelish 20 yo 1997/2018 (46%, Orcines, hogshead, cask #12351, 278 bottles)

Clynelish 23 yo 1990/2014 (49%, Adelphi, refill bourbon barrel, cask #3233, 176 bottles)

Malt Mill 10 yo 1959/1969-+/-1995 (46%, James MacArthur, Fine Malt Selection, 5cl)

Port Ellen 15 yo 1974/1990 (64.5%, Sestante)

Port Ellen 20 yo 1978/1998 (60.9%, OB, Rare Malts)

Special Scotch Whisky 50 yo (79.4° proof, Strachan’s of Royal Deeside, bottled 1968)

Springbank 22 yo 1996/2018 (55.8%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #56, 277 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2018 (55.2%, OB private for Feinkost Reifferscheid, refill bourbon hogshead, cask #596, 120 bottles)

Sonoma Bourbon (46%, OB, USA, bourbon, 2018)

Vallein Tercinier ‘Lot 89’ (48.5%, OB, Fins Bois, 2018)