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Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2019 - Part 1


November 2019 - part 2 <--- December 2019 - part 1 ---> December 2019 - part 2


December 14, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Highland Parking
Probably a good name for an entirely different blog aimed at Scottish motoring enthusiasts. From experience I can tell you Drumnadrochit would score 95 but Fort William would be somewhere around the 60 mark. Dornoch usually about 83, although would probably benefit from seasonal revisions. I could go on…


Highland Park ‘Sigurd’ (43%, OB, 2014)

Highland Park ‘Sigurd’ (43%, OB, 2013)
One of these silly NAS ‘Warrior’ releases for travel retail. It feels like there’s more of these Viking things than there are episodes of Friends by now. Said to be composed of predominantly sherry seasoned European oak casks. Colour: gold. Indeed, there’s a nice and simple leafy sherry aroma to begin. Some chocolate, tobacco, Dundee cake, sweet sultana notes and a little caffe latte. Simple but perfectly inoffensive. Mouth: There’s a nice soft note of dry, sooty peat that has something of this old school heathery Highland Park peat about it. Also black coffee, bitter marmalade and pine resin. Pretty good. Finish: medium, some robust bitter chocolate, winter spices, toasty tannin and some spiced dark fruits. Comments: It’s a perfectly nice drop of Highland Park, but for NAS at circa £150 a bottle it’s also something of a piss take. Dear Edrington, at the very least please up the ABV a few notches.
SGP: 552 - 84 points.



Highland Park ‘Sigurd’ (43%, OB, 2014)
Let’s see how the follow up compares… Colour: gold. Nose: the same only a tad more towards fruits such as apricots, plums and figs. Brown breads, dried herbs and some coffee and walnut cake. Mouth: again same ballpark but maybe a little rounder and smoother and with a less overt peat note. Still nicely herbal and with a good gingery, warmth and richness. Finish: short and with chocolate orange, spiced tea and a little camphor. Comments: All fine and perfectly quaffable but again I just really resent that this is circa £150. It’s no better than the 12yo.
SGP: 551 - 84 points.



Highland Park 2007/2018 (53.7%, Duncan Taylor for Malt Whisky Hong Kong, cask #5022603, sherry octave finish, 103 bottles)

Highland Park 2007/2018 (53.7%, Duncan Taylor for Malt Whisky Hong Kong, cask #5022603, sherry octave finish, 103 bottles)
One of these funny small cask finishes from Duncan Taylor. I rather like the label on this one. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: the sherry is rather assertive at first, but it’s clean and pretty cohesive which is good news. It doesn’t ‘feel’ like a finish which is always good sign I think. In fact it’s rather elegant and leafy with these notes of damp earth, soft tobaccos, bitter chocolate and mushroom soup. Some hints of celery salts, plum wine and hessian cloth. Very enjoyable and surprisingly soft. With water: even more leafy now and developing a slightly menthol edge like mint leaf and eucalyptus. Still this nice bitter chocolate note. Mouth: you feel the wood technology a little more on arrival with these kind of peppery and spicy pencil shaving notes. Although, it’s also still quite earthy and chocolatey just with added notes of black coffee, soot and cherries. Get’s slightly meaty as well with notes of black pepper and beef teriyaki. Quite an interesting wee dram. With water: still pretty cohesive with water and maintaining this peppery, meaty and spicy quality. Although the pencil shavings are also still present. Finish: good length, rather earthy, spicy, sooty and with glimmers of cereal. The mushrooms are also back. Comments: A funny one. The finish has worked reasonably well I think, there are some slightly jarring woody moments but the overall cohesion manages to tread a careful knife edge and there’s plenty of entertaining flavours to enjoy. Although, not sure how much of the Highland Park character made it through? Still, should satisfy the sherry coveters amongst you.
SGP: 462 - 87 points.



Orkney 15 yo 2003/2018 (50%, Hunter Laing ‘Old Malt Cask’, hogshead, 343 bottles)

Orkney 15 yo 2003/2018 (50%, Hunter Laing ‘Old Malt Cask’, hogshead, 343 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: typical with these lovely notes of fabric, wet rocks, canvass, sandalwood and chalk. Rubbed lemon peels, bath salts, some rather brittle minerals and a generally flustered coastal quality. Pure, classic and very good. With water: seawater, lemon juice, linens, floral scented air fresheners and beach pebbles. Mouth: sweeter than the nose suggests with some sort of gloopy, sweetened children’s medicines,  barley sugars, lemon water, herbal infusions, medical tinctures and clay. With water: nicely chalky, saline, touches of mead, hessian, cooking oils and gorse flowers. Finish: good length, lemony, mineral oils, sourdough, yeasty, biscuity and hints of camphor and hessian. Comments: typically excellent, clean, distillate-forward modern HP. You’re left wondering why it’s always up to the indys to offer us this wonderfully natural and unvarnished style?
SGP: 462 - 87 points.



Probably Orkney’s Finest 16 yo 2003/2019 (48.4%, Douglas Laing ‘Old Particular’, refill hogshead, 371 bottles)

Probably Orkney’s Finest 16 yo 2003/2019 (48.4%, Douglas Laing ‘Old Particular’, refill hogshead, 371 bottles)
Let’s see what the other side of the Laing family has to offer… Colour: straw. Nose: We’re in a very similar ballpark with these initial notes of fabric, wet rocks and linens. Here there’s also lemon barley water, heather honey and a globally more rounded and sweeter nose. More malty sinew and richness which makes it a tad more approachable and easy I’d say. Mouth: lovely consistency with the nose. Autolytic, biscuity, yeasty, malty and lemony. Wonderfully rich and textured, notes of olive oil, fresh bread, dried herbs and salted honey. Finish: long and fragrant with notes of bouquet garni, miso, various broths, seasonings and light mineral and medical qualities. Comments: There’s an added layer of richness and sweetness here that just elevates it above its sibling cask a notch in my book.
SGP: 562 - 88 points.



Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2019 (58.2%, OB for ‘Wu Dram Clan Whisky Society’, cask #6162, 1st fill Spanish oak sherry butt, 628 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2019 (58.2%, OB for ‘Wu Dram Clan Whisky Society’, cask #6162, 1st fill Spanish oak sherry butt, 628 bottles)
Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s one of these very ‘Edrington’ sherry casks, which is to say a rather beefy and punchy initial nose full of soy sauce, star anise, cloves and black tea. Powerful, drying, bitter chocolatey and pretty direct. Although, given time, it does yield some more subtle notes of jasmine, cola cubes, stodgy Guinness cake and strong herbal teas. With water: chilli infused dark chocolate, salted caramel, beef stock, Maggi and an intriguing mix of coal dust and incense. Mouth: again this sense of strong and rather tannic black teas, herbal bitters, green Chartreuse, ointments, salty liquorice, five spice and some bassy damp earth notes and tobacco. With water: gets a tad more gamey and generally meatier, more bready, some figs in syrup, bitter coffee, wood spices and mentholated vapour rubs. Finish: good length, rather herbal, bitter, dark chocolate, more menthol notes and some cherry throat sweets. Comments: As I’ve said before with these official single casks, this is very good, but also rather difficult at times, like the whisky is pushing pack. Also, I feel like there are three identifiable and quite distinct types of HP in today’s market. The more natural, refill/distillate style mostly offered by the indys; these rather intense but technically very good official single sherry casks; and the lighter, more variable and occasionally wishy washy NAS / lower strength official bottlings. Discuss?
SGP: 672 - 87 points.



Highland Park 28 yo 1988/2017 (49.6%, Cadenhead, Port Hogshead since 2007, 222 bottles)

Highland Park 28 yo 1988/2017 (49.6%, Cadenhead, Port Hogshead since 2007, 222 bottles)
10 years in a Port hogshead, so more of a double maturation than a finish. Colour: light gold. Nose: oooh but this is lovely, acacia honey, fragrant sandalwood, herbal liqueurs, gentle medical embrocations, aged mead, quince and some underlying exotic fruits manifest as mango chutney and ripe guava. No hint of any jarring cask hopping, this is a beautiful and harmonious nose. Mouth: equally superb! Herbal infusions, exotic fruit teas, camphor, more aged mead, salted honey, ripe exotic fruits, mango, papaya, lime, lychee jam and quince jelly. This is really superb! Goes on with more classical old HP notes of waxes, hessian, camphor, soft herbal peat and medical ointments. Also a shimmering coastal note in the background. Who could be against this? Finish: long, wonderfully thick, rich and honeyed, still thrillingly luscious, jellied and lightly spicy. Comments: What is this delicious and fiendish madness? Whatever cask trickery has gone on here, it’s worked a treat. Although, what’s terrific is that this just feels like beautiful, concentrated and luscious aged Highland Park, you don’t really feel any overt wood at all. Anyway, totally splendid whisky, a great surprise.
SGP: 762 -  91 points.



Highland Park 20 yo 1975/1995 (55.2%, Adelphi)

Highland Park 20 yo 1975/1995 (55.2%, Adelphi)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: a lovely herbal sweetness to begin, rather like some syrupy cough medicine, then touches of fabrics, bath salts, lemon peel, white flowers, waxes and beach pebbles. Medical tinctures, dried seaweed and bouillon stock. Fresh, fragrant and really excellent. Not unlike some of these more contemporary refill matured HPs only with an added layer of waxy texture and depth. With water: really doubles down on these citrus and medical notes with a more herbal and lean waxiness. Also a light whiff of metallic peat. Mouth: superb arrival, all on salted heather honey, waxes, mint tea, lemon cordial, white stone fruits and notes of ripe melon, cough drops and chalk. With water: almost like pure spiced mead now. Salty, spicy, herbal, medical; some kind of pure ramen broth. The peat is getting louder with water now as well. Dry, coastal, bitterly herbal and with a few notes of fragrant teas such as bergamot and chamomile. Finish: Long, saline, waxy, herbal and sooty. Comments: It’s fascinating to see the similarities between this and the refill matured 2003s from the Laings we tried earlier in this session. The key difference is texture, depth and fatness of distillate. These older style HPs just have that extra weight and usually a more pronounced thread of peat running through them. This one was really terrific.
SGP: 463 - 91 points.



Highland Park 18 yo 1972/1991 (56%, Dun Eideann, cask #9017, sherry, 120 bottles)

Highland Park 18 yo 1972/1991 (56%, Dun Eideann, cask #9017, sherry, 120 bottles)
A loftily regarded old bottling series from Signatory which featured many stunning gems. This one also appeared in the official Signatory livery at the time as well. Colour: deep amber. Nose: a lost world. The kind of old school sherry cask that for many years held stunning, ancient sherry destined for drinking. The result is this vortex of concentrated dark fruits, aged tobaccos, earthen floored old wine cellars, mushroom powder, leaf mulch, prunes soaked in old Cognac, damson jam and all manner of sumptuous crystallised fruits.  Beyond that there’s also some beautiful dark chocolate and maraschino cherry juices. Stunning concentration and depth! With water: evolves beautifully towards more umami notes of black olive, Maggi, black pepper, beef stock and seaweed broth. Saline, meaty, bitter, herbal and fruity in perfect balance. Mouth: like the densest most syrupy dark fruit liqueurs drizzled over the the most expensive, decadent and wonderful dark chocolates. Velvety and profoundly dense in texture with an almost undulating morass of dark fruits and bitter herbal liqueurs. Add sweet dark coffee, walnut oils, exotic fruit syrups and cherry flavours cough medicines. With water: everything that’s gone before only magnified and even deeper and more complex. Call the anti-maltoporn brigade immediately if you please!  Finish: Tense, bitter, herbal, darkly fruity, earthy, spicy and thrillingly long. Comments: Anyone serious should endeavour to taste and educate themselves about these kinds of old sherried whiskies. While this style of distillate quality may soon be matched by the more ambitious distillers of today, these kinds of old style sherry casks are so rare, far harder and more obscure things to pin down. This really is an extinct profile in Scotch Whisky.
SGP: 662 - 93 points.




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


December 13, 2019


Good medicine

These fine drops to recover from our 15,000th. There will be some much more serious matters in the coming days!

The Promise (46%, Compass Box, blended malt, 2019)

The Promise (46%, Compass Box, blended malt, 2019) Four stars
This baby’s only available at the Golden Promise Bar in Paris. As usual with Compass Box, good blends start with good ingredients, namely Clynelish (yeah), Talisker (yeah yeah) and Caol Ila (yeah yeah yeah). Colour: white wine. Nose: there’s a bit of a fight in there at first nosing, each malt talking one at a time for a good two minutes. But everybody hugs and makes up after that long arrival, although I’ve got the feeling that Talisker is wearing the pants, with a doughy/coastal profile that’s a little fatter, and less peaty than that of Caol Ila. But I could be wrong, naturally. Mouth: more unity on the palate, and clearly a feeling of a ‘whole’. Good yeasty/peaty development with just touches of coconut from first fill bourbon, while Clynelish is slowly catching up with the peaters. Citrons and bergamots no do lies. Finish: long, more citrusy. Citrusy finishes and aftertastes always win it. Also a lovely touch of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: an excellent composition. Good folks who know their Clynelish, Talisker and Caol Ila will have even more fun ‘reading between the lines’.
SGP:455 - 87 points.

Nectar Grove ‘Batch Strength‘ (54%, Wemyss Malts, Batch 1, blended malt, 8100 bottles, 2019)

Nectar Grove ‘Batch Strength‘ (54%, Wemyss Malts, Batch 1, blended malt, 8100 bottles, 2019) Four stars
The original version at 46% was quite good (WF 82). Colour: gold. Nose: some wine of some sort has been in use here, as we find raisins and fruity herbal teas. Behind that, some youth, some ripe orchard fruits, and a little cigarette tobacco. Sweet focaccia, middle-eastern sweet bread... With water: we’re in a pastry shop in Milan or in Paris. Mouth (neat): this is very good, and you don’t even feel like adding water. Lovely brioche dough, orange blossom, fresh cinnamon rolls, a little marmalade, blood orange… Really very good! With water: this orange-y freshness is pretty insane, how did they do that? Panettone, cassata, baklavas, Turkish delights… We’re on holiday! Finish: medium, clean, perfectly constructed on all things oranges, and perhaps dates. Comments: did they add a little Kingsbarn? To think that there isn’t even an age statement.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

963 18 yo (53%, OB, Japan, Sasanokawa Shuzo, pure malt, mizunara finish, 320 bottes, 2019)

963 18 yo (53%, OB, Japan, Sasanokawa Shuzo, pure malt, mizunara finish, 320 bottes, 2019) Three stars and a half
Pure malt, so blended. This by the Yamazakura folks in Fukujima. They probably did not make this whisky and only sourced it, but the 963s I could try to this very day have been better than their rather poor ‘Yamazakuras’ that everyone’s buying just because of the cherry blossom on the labels (and because they’re told they’re Japanese). Are you following me? Oh and no, a finish in mizunara does not make just any whisky a Nippon whisky. Colour: deep gold. Nose: the mizunara is very loud. Sauna, teak oil, then puréed chestnuts, eucalyptus, camphor, then milk chocolate and balsa wood. I could probably be persuaded, to tell you the truth. With water: return to Earth. Malt, earth indeed, cherry wine… Mouth (neat): good, I’m afraid to say. Unusual notes of cedar wood (the mizunara, I suppose) and pine resins, then bitter marmalade and some kind of sweet curry, as well as sultanas. An amusing profile, shall we say. With water: no, it’s good stuff despite its unlikely pedigree. More cherry wine, a touch of metal ala Irish whiskey (is it Irish?) and good apples and oranges. Finish: rather long, sour and sweet, with a floral side. Wee hints of rose jelly, or loukoums. Comments: this is what some will call some intriguing whisky. In all fairness, I thought it’s very good.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

December 12, 2019


Angus celebrates too and tries Brora

That was to be expected, our dear Angus could not not have a go as well at some of the celebratory Broras I tried yesterday. Please note that they have been tasted separately (Alsace - Edinburgh), and that none of us had seen each other’s comments when we did our own little scribblings. Thank you Angus!




Brora 40 yo 1978/2019 (49.2%, OB ‘200th Anniversary’, American oak hogsheads, 1819 bottles)

Brora 40 yo 1978/2019 (49.2%, OB ‘200th Anniversary’, American oak hogsheads, 1819 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: even after all these years the freshness and the coastal elements are what strike first. These kinds of leathery embrocations, sandalwood and crushed seashells with undercurrents of petrol, salinity, clay, heather honey and aged mead. This kind of nose is a paean to lightly peated whisky in my opinion, this beautiful diversity of layered aroma that peat breaks down into after many years is something you just don’t get with more heavily peated malts. Remains heathery and chalky but develops along lines of lemon cough drops, vapour rubs and hessian. Gorgeous, enveloping complexity that you can just nose for ever. Mouth: surprisingly full and still quite peaty. Again this rather herbal infused peat that seems to wed itself to the waxiness of the spirit - you could almost call it ‘Brora flavour’ in the same way pinot noir or mango are their own flavours. Harmonious, elegant and deeply complex spirit, one that still possesses impressive weight, texture and balance. There’s also a sweetness, warmth and leatheriness that alludes to some graceful old VT riesling. Finish: long, impressively salty, herbal, medical and showing this elegant leathery, waxy peat again. Comments: There are other undeniably more dazzling official Broras, and the price of this bottling makes these notes pretty much academic for most of us. However, it’s an irrefutable reminder of just how great this distillery and its varied styles of distillate was. There’s a freshness and a consistency of complexity across nose and palate about this whisky that would embarrass most other 40 year olds. The overall impression I’m left with is one of profound gladness that Diageo are re-starting the distillery. If they have the sense and determination to make something akin to this style again then that will be terrific news for anyone who loves great whisky.
SGP: 563 - 92 points.



Brora 19 yo 1977/1996 (59.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 61.5 ‘An Islay by another name’)

Brora 19 yo 1977/1996 (59.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 61.5 ‘An Islay by another name’)
Colour: gold. Nose: it’s one of these medium peated Broras where the peat is elusive and ethereal; mixed up with farmyard, medicines, seashore aspects and in this case a rather thick and profound waxiness. You just could not be nosing any other distillate. Herbal, lightly sooty, notes of canvas, oily rag, bandages and hints of pine resin. There’s also a gentle freshness of earth and damp greenery running through it - like petrichor. With water:   perfect complexity now. A sharp and tangy coastal note. Chiselled minerals, some lemon peel, camphor, herbal waxes and an undulating and wonderfully fat farmyard quality. Mouth: even with a lighter coat of peat this is still huge whisky. Powerfully, almost viscerally waxy, mineral, sooty, oily and filled with notes of polish, anthracite embers, a drying and beautifully herbal peat, salted mead, putty, medical embrocations - just totally thrilling whisky! Gets more honeyed, sweeter and almost beery with time. Some fragrant, heathery smoke and an almost petrolic mineral note. With water: broader, fatter, oilier, a more sooty smokiness and superbly mouthcoating. Time to call the anti-maltoporn brigade I feel. Finish: long, waxy and getting almost meaty while still beautifully herbal, layered and with soft flashes of peat smoke, tar, coal embers and medicines. Comments: I feel these later 1970s vintages of Brora are still underrated. You have everything here: power, structure, elegance, length, depth and complexity.
SGP: 473 - 93 points.




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


December 11, 2019


Celebrating my 15,000th whisky review
In Whiskyfun’s early days, I would never have thought I’d eventually accumulate tasting notes for ten thousand different whiskies, a milestone that I’ve finally reached in 2014. And here I am, five years later, about to write a wee review for my personal 15,000th!

What has changed since 2014? Not much at WF’s end, we’re still trying to keep it as low-tech – audience is still growing a bit, so why change? - and unobtrusive as possible, and of course fully independent. No monies involved, no miserable edvertorials, no paid banners for whisky or teeth-whitening pastes, as little self-promotion as possible, just whisky (and a few other spirits). Oh and there’s Angus, who’s of great help with his impeccable – and very similar to mine – tastes and his wonderful writing skills. Whiskyfun’s Edinburgh branch is in full swing, hurray!

As far as the whisky world is concerned, I do not spot many changes either, the trend that consisted in replacing time with hyperactive casks is going on, some prices are getting ridiculous (but remember, high prices for genuinely small batches mean nothing statistically), and even more new distilleries are being built all over the world, while anyone who’s got a wee still in a corner of an old barn has started making ‘whisky’ as well. Or antifreeze. Mind you, whisky is the current golden goose. Is it not?


What’s sure is that very few whisky makers are still talking about their distillates, nowadays everyone’s busy with ‘wood technologies’ that would almost erase any spirit character anyway, unless it’s really big and fat. PX-treated wood, shaving/toasting/recharring, or using unlikely (they say innovative) wines from just anywhere - with whisky you can now really learn a lot about the various wine regions ad grape varietals -, all methods that would allow most distillers to produce relatively acceptable whisky within a much shorter period of time.


And time is still money.
But do not get me wrong, while I still prefer distillate-driven spirits and refill wood, by far, I have found quite a lot of ‘new-method’, or ‘modern’, or ‘flavour-led’ whiskies that I really enjoyed, even if I would not be able to accurately identify the distilleries most of the times. And between us, in many cases the distillery is not that important anyway. Who could tell between two young ex-refill Speysiders, after some re-racking in very heavy PX or STR casks (the equivalent to quartz in watch-making)? Certainly not this humble taster, who believes that only very characterful distillates would manage to keep their say under such loud circumstances. You know, some peaters (not even sure), Ben Nevis, Springbank, Clynelish, HP, Benromach and a few others… But indeed, I shan’t complain and I need to admit that I’ve tried many a revamped Aultmore, Glen Moray, Aberfeldy or Glen Spey that I’ve found pretty palatable, if not totally otherworldly.

What is also sure – well that’s a personal opinion - is that there’s less and less bad malt whisky around, at least in Scotland. The only fear I keep having is that some folks would do more and more pre-blending, while keeping the single malt denomination. Like, finishing some weakish Glenwhatever in ‘Laphroaig casks’ to botch it up, without saying anything. Beyond what’s legally allowed or not, is the end result a blended or a single malt? What do you say?

Anyway, as I said all is fine at WF, we’re having many very good (if not always stellar) whiskies, whilst most greater distillates seem to remain in full form, unless a little over-wooded or buried under cheap PX. Sorry if I’m rambling.

So, how shall we celebrate my 15,000th whisky review? What will it be? Well, I decided to play it safe, and to pay tribute, once again, to that little distillery up there in Sutherland that’s currently being rebuilt: Old Clynelish, a.k.a. Brora Distillery. We’ll also pay tribute to three kinds of ‘entities’ that are very important to me and without which or whom such a website/blog simply could not exist, namely the distillers and bottlers, the whisky bars and retailers, and of course my friends.  

Let us proceed, if you agree…


Three Brora

(You really racked your brain again, S.!)


14,998th review, this one thanks to a great whisky bar, the Golden Promise in Paris, and to their much friendly and very knowledgeable manager, Monsieur François Piriou.

Brora 24 yo 1977/2001 (56.1%, OB, Rare Malts)

Brora 24 yo 1977/2001 (56.1%, OB, Rare Malts) Five stars
This baby from UD’s May 2001 rotation. I remember you could easily find it in shops here in France for 79.00€, and naturally, I’ve tried it many times and even downed some bottles, but I never wrote a proper tasting note. What I remember, having said that, is that after the 1972s that had taken Whiskydom by storm, we used to be ‘mildly disappointed’ with these vintages, basically because they were less smoky. But it was a different era and peat was still reigning supreme. Colour: gold. Nose: this is well Brora, and after many years of rest in their bottles, I would say the 1970 – 1977 vintages tend to converge as far as styles are concerned. For example, I’m finding a both farmier and more mineral smoke, which is an instant hit in my book, while thanking the owners for having missed their main goal, which was, originally, to mimic their superstars from Islay. Fantastic notes of old fabric on the beach, wet dogs (love you, dogs), damp old cardboard boxes forgotten in a cold wet cellar (say Pol Roger, any whisky lover’s favourite bubbles, it seems), and just a pile of coal. But Brora is like Ardbeg, it’s sometimes hard to describe and you rather feel like only writing ‘Brora!’ or ‘Ardbeg!’ With water: at a garden centre. Cut plants, manure and other fertilizers, Roundup… No, not Roundup! Tends to gain polish and even roundness after two minutes, with even notes of Parisian croissants. No, no tear gas. Mouth (neat): it’s the farminess that tends to dominate, with some hay and grass, bitter tobacco, a touch of burnt caramel, and rather a lot of cardamom. I think it'll need a few drops of water… With water: some sweetness (cranberry juice, perhaps) but all the rest is rather on hay, bitter grasses, and indeed a grassier smokiness. It is, in fact, very Brora. The descriptors may well not be very appealing or sexy, because the spirit is relatively austere, but I can confirm that it is grand whisky. Finish: not as long as that of a 1972, partly because the peat level was lower, but some salt is coming out. More costal, globally. Comments: I had no notes but I had a score. I shan’t change it.
SGP:365 - 92 points.

Thank you François and le Golden Promise, and thanks to all whisky bars and retailers in the world (right, not to those stinky tax-avoiders called a****n.com and their lackeys that anyone not totally insane should start boycotting NOW. As Frank Zappa used to kind of say, when the snow is yellow, don’t eat it)!


14,999th review, this next baby provided by my great young Edinburghian friend, Angus MacRaild, who’s a die-hard lover of any whisky finished in Chilean red wine  - and yet my co-taster at little Whiskyfun.

Brora 1977/1996 (59.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.5, ‘An Islay by another name’, 216 bottles)

Brora 1977/1996 (59.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.5, ‘An Islay by another name’, 216 bottles) Five stars
This other 1977 comes, actually, from a bottle I had in my own stash, but for good reasons too long to explain, it ended up in Angus’s expert – I’m not saying safe - hands. Colour: full gold. Nose: like most Broras by the SMWS, it is rather on the austere side (grass smoke, coal smoke, coffee dregs, soot), but it seems that for once, it was matured in a rather active cask, perhaps even first fill bourbon. That imparted some lovely whiffs of camphor and menthol; also café latte, cough syrup, and very old Sauternes that got mentholy as well. More splendid than I had expected, so far. With water: superb! Raw wool, a walk on the beach, embrocations, old hessian, tarry ropes… It’s lost anything a little raw, and got just sublimely precise. Love that. Mouth (neat): sweet Vishnu! This is a very powerful combination that’s involving cardamom once again, kippers, concentrated lime juice, heavily salted liquorice, more coffee dregs, tobacco, then something very tertiary such as dried tangerine skins (chen-pi) and some kind of curry, rather Indonesian-style. A true powerhouse, one of the MC5s of whisky. Yeah, to each his/her references. With water: wham! Once again it got a little more coherent, focused, chiselled, vertical… And chalky. Finish: long, with a feeling of having just had the best Chinese green tea ever. Comments: the best Brora by the honourable SMWS? Could be, since I’m not sure they ever bottled a 1972. A whisky that I simply find luminous. Angus, could I have my bottle back (provided there’s anything left, which I doubt?) Almost devilish.
SGP:566 - 94 points.

Thank you Angus, and thanks to all my whisky friends who’ve always supported Whiskyfun over all those years! And now, my…


15,000th review, thanks to Diageo who’ve stunned the world (well, certainly this little taster) with their decision to re-start, after a lot of work, Brora Distillery, while preserving the features that used to produce the most beautiful malt in the world until 1983, such as the worm-tubs, the stills, and even the old weather vane! That’s my definition of innovation, making a product as it used to be made when it was best. Who would paint over a Canaletto or re-compose the Zauberflöte? Only Mr. Bean! Diageo have also been celebrating Brora/Old Clynelish’s 200th anniversary in 2019, with a 40 yo 1978 that’s simply going to be my 15,000th whisky. Here it is…

Brora 40 yo 1978/2019 (49.2%, OB, 200th anniversary, Exclusive Release, 1819 bottles)

Brora 40 yo 1978/2019 (49.2%, OB, 200th anniversary, Exclusive Release, 1819 bottles) Five stars
This one from twelve (12) American oak hogsheads. Love the nod to the year of foundation (1819 – hey, could we have the remaining litres?) and the fact that they have decided not to bottle it in one of those tasteless and often frankly ugly crystal decanters that make many people cringe and cry at airports and that are the despairs of any self-respecting cleaning lady. Colour: pale gold (hurray). Nose: oh, but it’s soft, even kind of light at first nosing. It’s true that 1978 is not 1977, which is not 1972. I know, a penetrating statement of the obvious, as they say. I do find notes of flowers (jasmine, lillies) and tropical fruits (maracuja, mangos) that, seriously, do hint at 1960s Laphroaig. Not a bad reference, is it? Other than that, I’m finding many smaller aromas, bandages, seaweed, clams, chalk, beach sand, half an olive, pu-her tea, fresh almonds, even a few drops of Meursault… Well, say proper chardonnay, although it would rather move towards some sharper sauvignon blanc over time. That’s the thing with an old malt that’s spent a long time in good ‘moderate’ wood, they get much more complex and elegant. That’s the word, it’s a very elegant Brora. Mouth: you would be forbidden for thinking this is Clynelish, because indeed it is very ‘Clynelish,’ even if rather on the citrus front than on the waxy one. It is perhaps even a tad fragile here and there (there’s a little tea-ish oak), but as soon as you open the drawers, you’ll find myriads of tiny flavours. Oranges, star anise, coriander, mint, liquorice, small berries, citrons and tangerines, chalk, fennel seeds, smoked eel, ex&@fc (sorry, that was Aston, WF’s chief mouser walking on my keyboard – I’m not joking!) and then lime, starfruit and green apples, and touches of sauvignon blanc once again. Pouilly-fumé. Finish: very fresh, long, rather on fresh marzipan, lime juice, beeswax  - at last – with a peppery smokiness in the aftertaste, ala Talisker. Comments: I’ve mentioned quite a few wines in this note, which could be a little disturbing indeed, but I believe this wonderful, refreshingly un-oaked old Brora does share many similarities with some of the greatest whites, without being winey, not a bit of it!
SGP:454 - 93 points.

Thank you, Diageo, and thanks to all the distillers and bottlers who’ve supported and who keep supporting this little website by fearlessly providing some of their whiskies. I’ve forgotten about the others anyway, while it’s also true that the better distillers tend to send more booze than the lesser ones – or than some of the ones who’ve handed over those issues to PR agencies that only want two things: seize, and then keep control of ‘the noise’. Very bad move on the middle and long run if you ask me, but there, I’m afraid it's the short-term that counts when you have bills – or shareholders - to pay. Oh don’t get me wrong, some PR agencies are doing a fantastic job, but some are really useless; those would be, in general, the ones that think they know, but actually know zilch about whisky, in true Dunning-Kruger fashion. Of course no names.

Anyway, all is well, there’s more whisky around than there ever was. Did you know that 20 million casks do lie in the Scottish warehouses, which represents, ach, around four casks per inhabitant, including toddlers?

Pace e salute, peace and santé/cheers to you.

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


To finish this off, a wee anecdote...

Ma loute

A few months after having tasted it, I had sent one of the three bottles I had tried on September 14, 2014 to celebrate my 10,000th whisky review to a friend who was a member of the crew of a movie called ‘Ma Loute’ (Slack Bay in English), with French actors Juliette Binoche and Fabrice Luchini. It was that rare (and controversial) Royal Edinburgh (OB, James Ainslie & Co., driven cork, +/-1910) that I had scored 91 points and that’s now become a true movie star since my bottle was featured for a good two minutes in one of the main scenes of the film! But the actors could not actually try that magnificent pre-Brora, as I had shipped the bottle... empty. I'm no fool.


December 10, 2019


A little bag of very good seasonal undisclosed malts

You’re never quite sure about what you get with these ones. Sometimes they may be like those small Mercedes-Benz with their Renault engines. Mind you, sometimes blended malts are even single malts, only called ‘blended’ on the cask’s papers. Is provenance still a virtue with Scotch whisky?

Loch Lomond ‘Glasshouse’ (46%, Glasshouse, blended Scotch, 2019)

Loch Lomond ‘Glasshouse’ (46%, Glasshouse, blended Scotch, 2019) Two stars and a half
It’s a bit unclear, the label states ‘100% malted barley’, and yet it’s classified as a blended Scotch made at Loch Lomond. Oh and it was ‘blended for highballs’, a claim that would take some cojones, wouldn’t it. Colour: pale straw. Nose: noses very young, a tad rough, with some overripe apples, half a glass of ale, some raw kirsch, and a curious blend of damp earth and wet cardboard. Mouth: fine, young, malty, with some saltiness and otherwise garden fruits and peels plus a little dust, bread yeast and cardboard. Finish: medium, rather on preserved fruits this time. Plums. A bitter side again in the aftertaste. Comments: not too memorable, but I’m sure it’ll work well in… as a highball.
SGP:341 - 78 points.

Black Friday 21 yo ‘2019 Edition’ (53.1%, The Whisky Exchange, 1800 bottles)

Black Friday 21 yo ‘2019 Edition’ (53.1%, The Whisky Exchange, 1800 bottles) Five stars
This is actually Glenburgie, but since they wouldn’t tell so on the label, that’s still equivalent to a blended malt in our book and, as we used to say with the Malt Maniacs, ‘a bastard malt’. As for Black Friday, oh well, who cares, it’s over. Colour: straw. Nose: that’s the main problem here, I’m rather against Black Friday (it’s all so vulgar!) but this nose is pretty fabulous. Hate that, I’d have loved to slaughter this bottling, but that’s just impossible to do. Fab fruity oils, maracuja, mangos, chamomile, biscuits, even Champagne… Crikey, this is so disappointingly great! With water: some sublime whiffs of bread and pastry doughs, very early in the morning. Mouth (neat): but of course. Golden delicious, mangos, papayas, wild strawberries, pink grapefruits… With water: and there, the finest sweet dough. Fruit tartes. Finish: medium, balanced, fruity, perfect. Awesome notes of Williams pears in the aftertaste. Comments: not funny. Seriously, could we rather have a similar Blue Monday bottling next year? At least, that’ll be needed!
SGP:651 - 90 points.

While we are at it…

A Fine Christmas Malt 10 yo ‘2019 Edition’ (54.2%, The Whisky Exchange)

A Fine Christmas Malt 10 yo ‘2019 Edition’ (54.2%, The Whisky Exchange) Three stars and a half
Does the bottle say that this is Linkwood? Anyway, this is to celebrate both the birth of a magical child a long time ago, and shopping. Colour: white wine. Nose: more austere, oilier, waxier, more mineral, with flying scents of diesel oil, miso, olives, and pipe juice. Some oloroso too. Curiously assertive for Linkwood – well, no way I would have said Linkwood, I’m very afraid. With water: more miso and more malt sauce. Even whiffs of blue cheese. Mouth (neat): perhaps a little more ‘regular’, but still very fine despite a certain raw hotness. Raw eau-de-vie and grandma’s walnut wine. What are the police doing? With water: more raw bready tones and some grass. Finish: rather long, a tad bitter, otherwise fine. Comments: death seat after the Glenburgie. Not my business, but I would have put this one on bl**dy Black Friday, and the Glenburgie for Christmas. Yeah I’m always finding a way to complain, but that’s what bloggers were meant to do in the early days. Argue, quibble, complain and pester triumphant capitalism.
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Speyside Blended Malt 25 yo 1993/2019 (47.1%, Whivie.be, single sherry cask, 100 bottles)

Speyside Blended Malt 25 yo 1993/2019 (47.1%, Whivie.be, single sherry cask, 100 bottles) Four stars
This baby to celebrate the 10 years of Mark Dermul’s blog, whivie.be. Congrats, Mark! It is not teaspooned malt, rather one that was blended at birth. It’s said that the distillery that produced the base malt was founded in 1824, which leaves us with several choices (such as Macallan, Balmenach or Glenlivet!) Colour: amber. Nose: plenty good dry shoe-polishy sherry at first nosing, with walnuts, metal polish, copper, then black tea, Christmas cake, touches of English brown sauce, and then tiny spicy elements, cracked pepper, a little vegetal earth, then pipe tobacco and black moscatel raisins. Impeccably dry and pretty old-school, so no quibbles whatsoever at this point. Mouth: a tad more rustic, perhaps, but that works while it would get a little smoother over time, on some kind of peppered fruitcake. Crystallised cherries, blackcurrant and blueberry jams (watch your teeth), chocolate, prunes, and even a few drops of well-aged Armagnac. Cloves as the signature. Finish: rather long and mostly on some dark fruitcake. Dried figs and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: Signatory have had many such casks over the years (as far as style is concerned). Wait, wasn’t Glendronach founded in 1824? I think not…
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Cheers everyone; see you tomorrow, we'll have our 15,000th!


December 8, 2019


Rums, limitless

Well, I suppose that was pretty self-explanatory, was it not? Indeed I’m having a go at empty web-writing, since we must keep up with the times (wha-a-at?)… Let’s see where the wind takes us…

Clairin Communal (43%, OB, Haiti, +/-2019)

Clairin Communal (43%, OB, Haiti, +/-2019) Four stars
I love Clairin. Hard places, great people (really, really great), true traditions, no unnecessary so-called ‘technologies’, proper raw materials, raw equipment, commitment to authenticity, no BS innovations, honesty, no junk ‘branding’, no lies, no stinky crowdfunding, just a little ‘push’ from some well-known Italians who are sometimes a little loud and even deafening (ciao, ragazzi) but always true to their values and committed to true quality. Colour: white. Nose: bl**dy hell! Olives, capers, new rubber boots, tinned sardines, rotting pineapples, tar liqueur, pencil eraser, plantains, acacia gum, seawater… Mouth: impeccable, evident, obvious, salty, fruity (rotting fruits), tarry, brine-y, lemony, and full of olives. Do they grow olives in Haiti? Finish: medium, perhaps a little sugary-ish. Demerara? Comments: not my business at all, but I would have bottled this perfect distillate at 46% vol. Other than that, it’s truly impeccable spirit despite the finish that was just a little sugary for me.
SGP:652 - 87 points.

Another characterful white perhaps…

Savanna ‘Créol Straight’ (67.2%, OB, La Réunion, 1350 bottles, 2019)

Savanna ‘Créol Straight’ (67.2%, OB, La Réunion, 1350 bottles, 2019) Four stars and a half
This was distilled in a Savalle still from canes harvested in 2018, and then bottled in May 2019, after a bit of rest. Colour: very very pale white wine. Nose: big fat o.l.i.v.e.s. at first, then a little rubber, shoe polish, and, yeah olive oil. I often mention olive oil, but here we’re having more olive oil than there is in olive oil. With water: few changes, just these touches of rotting bananas… Mouth (neat): a splendid mix of cologne and olive oil. I suppose the cologne comes from the super-high strength. With water: opens up like an oyster, with a lot of lemon and lime, more olive oil, capers, brine, and yeah, oysters.  Finish: long, tense, sharp, lemony, briny and even a little smoky. Comments: it’s a bit like if someone well-intentioned had poured a few litres of Caol Ila into the vatting tank. With very excellent results.
SGP:472 - 88 points.

From Savanna to…

Savanna 15 yo 2004/2019 ‘Port Cask Blend’ (49.2%, OB, La Réunion, cask #931, 922 bottles)

Savanna 15 yo 2004/2019 ‘Port Cask Blend’ (49.2%, OB, La Réunion, cask #931, 922 bottles) Four stars
This is a grand arôme (so high ester) from one ex-Cognac and one ex-Port casks. Not a finishing, so all should be fine. Oh and not properly a blend since this baby stems from one single distillery. Phew. And one single cask, which is a little bizarre given the fact that it’s a blend. Go figure… Colour: amber. Nose: this one’s more agricole, richer, a tad rounder (but this ain’t Zacapa), and really in the style of the best Guadeloupans. Olives, metal polish, overripe bananas, liquorice, a pleasant wee dustiness, some caraway from the casks… And no Port ‘as such’. Hurray. Then massive amounts of camphor and cough medicine. Mouth: very lovely, rich, and yet neither fat nor cloying, ridden with salty liquorice, floral essences and syrups (elderberries) and softer oak extracts bordering liquorice. Sweeter notes of goji berries. Finish: long, really rich, jammy. A feeling of tropical mulled wine, shall we say. Comments: no detectable Port, that’s great. Another top rum from the French island of La Réunion, in the Indian Ocean. Well, they’re not all like this one, sadly.
SGP:562 - 87 points.

Oh, for once…

Savanna 10 yo 2007 ‘Omaggio’ (55.1%, OB, cask #515, 740 bottles)

Savanna 10 yo 2007 ‘Omaggio’ (55.1%, OB, cask #515, 740 bottles) Four stars and a half
This grand arôme was finished in a cask of Savanna Herr for Velier. So it’s a self-finishing, shall we say, or a slightly masturbatory bottling. Colour: amber. Nose: unexpectedly gentler, a little cake-y, with some wax polish and tar, some blond pipe tobacco, a little weed smoke, and touches of gherkin brine. Having said that, it’s also the most Jamaican at this point. With water: Hampden, moscatel and Chartreuse. I’ll give you some time. Mouth (neat): not very far from the Port, only rather more medicinal. Ointments, mercurochrome, then liquorice and brine. I have to say I find it very good. With water: indeed. Perfect spices, ginger, caraway, cinnamon, all that plus dates and figs for good measure. Rum for Christmas. Finish: long, a tad drier, more on tar and liquorice. Comments: same ballpark once again. These Savannas grand arôme are pretty exceptional if you ask me, if not totally 90-material in my book.
SGP:552 - 88 points.

Let’s change region, completely.

FSPD 13 yo 2004/2018 (58.5%, Valinch & Mallet, Fiji, cask #18-1301R, 148 bottles)

FSPD 13 yo 2004/2018 (58.5%, Valinch & Mallet, Fiji, cask #18-1301R, 148 bottles) Three stars and a half
I believe FSPD stands for Fijian South Pacific Distillery, but I may be wrong. I’ve already come across some surprisingly good pot still Fijians. Colour: gold. Nose: peaches and mangos for a start, then pure cane juice, in an agricole-y style. It is not, so far, a high-ester Fijian and indeed you’d rather think you’re in Martinique. With water: even more so. Mouth (neat): really, Martinique or Guadeloupe, with a slightly thinner body. It hasn’t quite got the olive-y, tarry side that’s to be found in other South Pacifics. With water: ditto, although I am finding two or three black olives, as well as a little lemon and tar. Finish: rather long, prolonging all these feelings for a long time. A touch of menthol in the aftertaste. Comments: a lighter Fijian than usual, but I have to say they do this style very well.
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Another very good session. Rum is great as long as you avoid added C12H22O11 like the plague. That would be saccharose.

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


December 7, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Mixed malts:
& Glentauchers
A quick visit to some more left field distilleries today. 


Fettercairn 12 yo (40%, OB, 2019) 

Fettercairn 12 yo (40%, OB, 2019)  
I’m aware Serge tried these quite recently, but I have a solo Fettercairn that is calling my name and I am more than a little curious myself. Colour: pale gold. Nose: Even at the rather miserly bottling strength this is still cries out ‘Fettercairn’ with these notes of mud, cheese rind, steel wool, mechanical oils, farmyard and root vegetables. It doesn’t sound pleasant I know, but there’s plenty of charm to admire here. Continues to develop with some rather nice notes of sunflower oil and various freshly bake breads. Mouth: a tad straighter than the nose might have suggested, although the arrival is still rather fatty and all on copper, metal polishes, turnips and touches of caraway and muesli. Some kind of fermented green tea perhaps? Finish: Medium and back to these various notes of lamp oil, pumpernickel, tea and roast root vegetables. Comments: Seriously, Fettercairn, 40%? I can’t help but feel this stubbornly bewildering yet undeniably charismatic make would benefit hugely from a bit more oomph. 
SGP: 451 - 79 points. 



Fettercairn 28 yo (42%, OB, 2018) 

Fettercairn 28 yo (42%, OB, 2018) 
Colour: gold. Nose: there’s a very pleasing syrupyness about this one initially, with a light waxiness and exotic note to boot. Although you still get wee whispers of the more upfront unusualness of the 12yo in the form of damp grains, cow shed, puddle water, bitter cereals and metal polish. Again a rather vegetal aspect too. Mouth: again this feeling of damp grains, but also tea leaves, fresh mint, asparagus, vegetable oil, some sootiness and notes of bitter ales, camphor and menthol tobaccos. Again this feels a curious mix of unusual but a little lacking in power at the same time. Finish: A tad short and on breads, ground ginger, mustard powder and cornflakes. Comments: Hard to know what to make of this. It had some very attractive moments, but I can’t shake the impression Fettercarin - in all its glorious weirdness - is a spirit that needs a higher abv. Same score as the 12 I think. 
SGP: 461 - 79 points.



Fettercairn 30 yo 1988/2019 (56.9%, Signatory for C. Dully, cask #2007, hogshead, 219 bottles)

Fettercairn 30 yo 1988/2019 (56.9%, Signatory Vintage for C. Dully, cask #2007, hogshead, 219 bottles)
A bottling for some notorious Swiss whisky folk who don’t seem to need sleep whenever they’re in Limburg… Colour: gold. Nose: what I love is that there’s a definite DNA between this and the officials. These notes of grease, exotic fruit syrups, horse sweat and - if I may borrow a Sergeism for a moment - wet dog. It’s just that here everything is more muscular, direct and punchy which works very well. Rye bread, herbal medicines, bitter ales, soot and roast root vegetables again. Fettercairn raw (what a frightening thought). With water: some kind of salted honey drizzled over breakfast cereals. Ginger cake, Scotch broth and hints of plasticine. Mouth: lots of putty, concrete, muesli drizzled with heather honey, some very light hints of fragrant soaps, mint leaf, caraway and crushed Brazil nuts. Sweet, spicy, unusually lactic and with some lightly extractive notes from the wood. With water: wow! opens terrifically with water. Wider, spicier, more breads, sultanas, dried fruits, some bitter herbal notes, darjeeling tea, camphor, tool boxes. Pretty excellent with water I have to say. Finish: Long, rather bitter and herbal, notes of heather, caraway, olive oil, yeast and baking soda. Comments: Switzerland: I came for the yodelling, but I stayed for the Fettercairn! Very clever selection, worth trying if you can. Although water is pretty essential with this one I’d say, I initially had it a couple of points lower when neat. 
SGP: 572 - 88 points. 



Benrinnes 15 yo 2004/2019 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Chilean red wine cask, 252 bottles)

Benrinnes 15 yo 2004/2019 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Chilean red wine cask, 252 bottles)
Quite frankly, this looks terrifying… Colour: radioactive salmon. Nose: roses, litchis, raspberry jam, pot pourri, red fruit teas and things like rainbow sherbet and candy floss. Otherwise it feels oddly taut and closed. With water: some touches of bread and green pepper emerge but generally this is strange and jarring. Organoleptic dissonance. Mouth: I’m sorry but: ouch! This is just overwhelmed with jarring and bitter red wine flavours. A kind of flabby, plastic fruitiness. I really find this unpleasant and seriously imbalanced. With water: not much in the way of improvement. A kind of sickly, jammy and flabby fruitiness. Disjointed whisky. Finish: medium and on sweet jams, cloying cereals and artificial fruit notes. Comments: I’m sorry, but why bottle this? For the amusing colour? I am reminded of everything I hate about wine finishing. I know that others disagree and of course that’s fine, but this really feels like a flawed mess. 
SGP: 631 - 63 points.



Benrinnes 18 yo 2000/2019 (55.7%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 4 bourbon barrels, 618 bottles)

Benrinnes 18 yo 2000/2019 (55.7%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 4 bourbon barrels, 618 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: a breath of fresh air after that wine abomination. Soft waxes, menthol vapours, sweet cereals, butter and lime curd. Very good, clean and characterful Benrinnes. With water: lovely development towards white flowers, lemon balm, more vapour rubs and sweet cereals. Mouth: rather gentle on arrival, plenty heathery honey notes, cereals, light tobacco notes, more menthol, waxed canvas and lemon tea. Unfolds rather beautifully from a shy start. With water: great texture, lightly waxy, bready, notes of pollen, mint tea, lemon peel and white pepper. Finish: good length, all on putty, mint, cereals, pollen and more fruit tea notes. Comments: straightforward, clean, simple and rather elegant Benrinnes that manages to be both light but charismatic at the same time. I’d take a miniature of this over an entire cask of that wine finish. The kind of whisky that any malt drinker could find abundant pleasure in. 
SGP: 561 - 87 points. 



Benrinnes 18 yo 2000/2019 (58.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 186 bottles)

Benrinnes 18 yo 2000/2019 (58.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 186 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: very similar territories to the Small Batch only here there’s more greenery, more ripe garden fruits, grassy notes, newspaper ink, dried banana chips, oatmeal and some bitter orange marmalade. With water: interesting development towards dried flowers, geraniums in greenhouses, potting sheds and things like clay, brown bread and a tiny hint of marshmallow. Mouth: a tad drier and leaner than the Small Batch, rather peppery, punchy, flinty and on dry cereals, dried herbs and hints of eucalyptus and hessian. Still same excellent quality though. With water: a little sweeter and more opulent now. Lime leaf, hessian, custard made with old dessert wines and hints of lamp oil. Finish: good length and on white pepper, heather honey, dry cereals, breads, dried herbs and sunflower oil. Comments: I can see why they chose this one for the single cask, rather smart as it has some notable and quite fun deviations from the Small Batch. Same quality and same score, despite the different profile. 
SGP: 461 - 87 points.



Benrinnes 18 yo 1999/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, sherry butt, 253 bottles)

Benrinnes 18 yo 1999/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing Old Particular, sherry butt, 253 bottles)
Colour: light amber. Nose: very lovely initial aromas of damp leaves, soft earthy tones, wine cellars, fruit tobaccos and aged mead. They always used to say Benrinnes worked best in sherry and its easy to see why in a nose like this. Some nicely drying notes of fresh brown bread, walnuts and then damson jam and rosewater. Lovely stuff. Mouth: a beautifully old school sherry. Leafy, nutty, very slightly meaty, some bitter chocolate, herbal extracts, black coffee, prunes, strawberry jam, green walnuts and more tobacco. There’s an overall lightness of touch about this one but the flavours are all perfectly pitched and harmonious with each other. Impressive! Finish: Good length, some bitter chocolate alongside more savoury notes of liquid seasonings, dried herbs, old fruit liqueurs and Dundee cake. Comments: A great wee surprise. No doubt from an impeccable, and possibly rather old, sherry cask. 
SGP: 661 - 88 points.



Glentauchers 2004/2018 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, refill hogsheads)

Glentauchers 2004/2018 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, refill hogsheads)
Always love these licensed ‘distillery labels’ from G&M. Colour: white wine. Nose: rather autolytic and yeasty at first nosing, also with some acetic notes of white balsamic, fermenting hay and some kind of lemony goat cheese. Sounds funny but it’s actually pretty good. One of these whiskies that manages to feel bigger than its ABV. Continues with some lovely notes of trampled ferns, grasses and petrichor. Mouth: nice arrival, all on muesli, soft waxes, paper, clay, canvas, cereals and lemon jelly. Easy, yet displaying a clever complexity. The cereal profile gets bigger and more dominant with time. Finish: medium and all on buttery toast, cereals, sunflower oil, plain pistachio nuts and cornflour. Comments: The epitome of naked, easy and pure malt whisky. A perfect intro for anyone who wishes to understand the benefits of good refill wood. 
SGP: 551 - 84 points. 



Glentauchers 2011/2018 (63.4%, Whisky Illuminati ‘Solaria Series’, cask #900364, sherry butt, 150 bottles)

Glentauchers 2011/2018 (63.4%, Whisky Illuminati ‘Solaria Series’, cask #900364, sherry butt, 150 bottles) 
A series from a newish indy bottler here in Scotland. This cask has only been partially bottled, and the rest will continue to mature until a later date. Which sounds quite fun to me. Colour: amber. Nose: a rather punchy and direct sherry. Quite modern in style with lots of red fruits, bitter chocolate, freshly brewed black coffee and maraschino cherry juices. Some soft herbal notes along with cocoa and something like Jagermeister. Surprisingly open considering the strength. With water: again rather dense and rich, all on chocolate sauce, Nutella, treacle, caramel toffee and muesli full of chopped dates and walnuts. Mouth: impressively syrupy and velvety in texture. Almost like quaffing pure chocolate sauce cut with prune eau de vie. Don’t get me wrong, there are still quite a few pangs of youth but you feel the cask and its machinations for this distillate are towards cleanliness and opulence. Rather sticky and fudgey in the mouth with notes of treacle sponge and fruit jams. With water: perhaps tad cloying now with these notes of ruby port, raspberry jam and cassis. However, it remains impressively full bodied, nutty and clean. Finish: long, chocolatey, leather and increasingly meaty with these notes of herbal broths, meat stocks and then some gingery spice in the aftertaste. Comments: There’s plenty to admire here, not least the impressive mouthfeel and texture. There’s still a few imbalances of youth but will be a fun one to follow when the next bundle of bottles come out of the cask in a few years time.
 SGP: 661 - 85 points. 





December 6, 2019


World whiskies ad libitum

We’re trying this again. Last time, we started in London and then got stuck in lovely Sweden because of some excessive amounts of very good whiskies! That’s what’s happening when you improvise a line-up, but let’s see if we can do better. And we’ll start this in… France! Ta-da-ta-da-taaa-taaa-taaa-taaa-ta-da… Err, excuse me…

Armorik 10 yo ‘Batch 2’ (46%, OB, 2,000 bottles, 2019)

Armorik 10 yo ‘Batch 2’ (46%, OB, 2,000 bottles, 2019) Four stars
2018’s first batch was excellent (WF 87), but it’s true that Bretons are Celts too (as if that mattered much…) Colour: gold. Nose: yeah, malt, barley, cakes, roasted nuts, touches of raisins, walnuts, drops of stout, gâteau Breton (hey I am joking), a little menthol and a few pine needles… This is malt whisky as in the books, as we say. Mouth: big, very slightly smoky (where does that come from?), with a sappy side, perhaps touches of fresh putty, otherwise all those roasted nuts and slightly burnt cakes that we were expecting. And of course this maltiness, and this handful of raisins. Finish: rather long, rather drier, with a few rubbery notes (all good in this context) and more cakes. Orange cakes, perhaps. Comments: not much to add, this could as well be some very good 20-yo Speyside whisky. Score unchanged, let us rest our mind for a moment.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

From France to… the Czech Republic!

Pradlo 2002 (41.7%, OB, Czech Republic, +/-2019)

Pradlo 2002 (41.7%, OB, Czech Republic, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
Pradlo are rather famous for their pre-Velvet Revolution ‘Hammerhead’, which surprised everyone when it was bottled, a few years ago, but this is their newer capitalist juice, if I may say so. Colour: colour. Nose: I knew it was going to be pretty good, and I have to say I find it even better. There’s one thing that’s more in the front than elsewhere, for example, and that would be honey (and mead, nectar, pollen)… A beehive-y nose, how come could I be against that? Gingerbread, honey cookies, touches of gentian and other roots, drops of maple syrup on pancakes, whiffs of earth… Hey hey! Mouth: a little more unlikely on the palate, because of some very gingery oak and some funny notes of turnips and stewed celeriac. A little less sure now, there’s quite some sawdust as well. Finish: medium, with some sawdust and hints of burnt wood. Blueberry jam in the aftertaste, that’s cool! Comments: I think they reduced it a little too much, which may have made the oak stand out. Now I’m all in favour of blueberry jam.

SGP:541 - 78 points.

Let’s fly to Taiwan…

Holy Distillery ‘Amazing Grace’ (55%, OB, Taiwan, rice whisky, cask #43, 2019)

Holy Distillery ‘Amazing Grace’ (55%, OB, Taiwan, rice whisky, cask #43, 2019) Three stars
Neither Kavalan nor Nantou, this is yet another Taiwanese distillery, which I hadn’t heard of before. I haven’t tried many rice whiskies (I mean, knowingly), I just remember Brooklyn’s Môtô that was… pretty unusual. It’s true that Môtô are using glutinous rice. Anyway, let’s see if this is a holy spirit indeed (S., you old French secularist!) Colour: red/mahogany. Moves like oil. Nose: we’re rather far from malted barley, but there’s something extremely attractive in this nose, something that reminds me of some of Lost Spirits’ experiments. Let’s say some coffee, something slightly merloty, whiffs of old copper kettle, a little umami, miso, soy sauce, caraway, cloves, and really a lot of myrtle liqueur. Ever tried myrtle liqueur? Check the Corsicans. With water: blackberry liqueur, walnut stain, kummel, Bovril, pumpernickel, gingerbread, heavy stout… Well, there is some action in there and that’s an understatement. Mouth (neat): extremely thick and heavy, hyper-extractive, spicy, concentrated… Loads of ginger and cloves, myrtle again (really, it’s the first time I’m finding some whisky that’s this close to myrtle), coffee-Cointreau, black pepper, bitter oranges… It’s really got the texture of some liqueur, but without any sugar (and no glycerine either, I suppose). With water: it does take water well but gets extremely herbal, while the very spicy wood tends to come to the front. Lavender and dried fish or something. I know, how unusual. Finish: a long as a Fidel speech, as we used to say when the Lider was still alive. But agreed, quoting Castro about a holy whisky may sound as a little too provocative. What would the Vatican say? Comments: very entertaining but extremely difficult to score, for lack of any proper references or comparisons. Apart from Lost Spirits’… But I’m positive this is good and very interesting.

SGP:472 - 80 points.

While we’re at it, perhaps another kind of biblical whisky, bottled at 55% vol. as well…

Milk & Honey (55%, OB, Israel, for La Maison du Whisky, 2019)

Milk & Honey (55%, OB, Israel, for La Maison du Whisky, 2019) Three stars and a half
This one was finished in a peated cask, so it is some kind of pre-blended malt, shall we say. I’ll add, before we proceed, that I could informally try M&H’s new ‘regular’ malt and thought it was wonderful. Never judge a distillery by their odd single casks, try their core range! Colour: gold. Nose: there clearly is a feeling of assemblage, with a combination that’s a little unusual, with some juniper, a smokiness that’s not totally a smokiness, quite some ginger indeed, some stems and leaves, ferns, camphor, pine resin, and then perhaps some green curry and hints of garam masala. At some crossroads, shall we say. With water: calms down, with more custard and softer honeys and creams. The peat is more obvious, more delicate as well. Very nice nose, I would recommend you reduce it right away. Mouth (neat): very much similar, very spicy, curry-like, with a pleasant bitterness (chewing your used tea bag, eating wakame), and a growing fruitier roundness that starts to balance it after a few seconds. Kumquats, mango chutney… With water: once again, water does wonders and lets oranges and quinces come out, while we almost say adios to any kind of grassy bitterness. Finish: long, the spicy oak being back. Some salt and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: a difficult exercise and another one that they should deliver with a wee bottle of water. It loves swimming. Very good, but the new ‘regular’ M&H is even better in my book.

SGP:463 - 84 points.

Back to France…

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 2013/2019 ‘Ampelos’ (52.5%, OB, France, 584 bottles, 2019)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 2013/2019 ‘Ampelos’ (52.5%, OB, France, 584 bottles, 2019) Four stars and a half
This is ‘Climatic Single Malt Whisky’, you understand, meaning it comes from a single ‘climat’ (a s they would say in Burgundy, for example), so pretty much a small ‘terroir’. It was distilled in 2013 but the barley was harvested in 2012. Colour: full gold. Nose: crushed bananas, coriander seeds, Moroccan sweet bread, gingerbread and speculoos, and just a drop of liquid chicory coffee. Add some notes of honeysuckle, elderflowers, and gorse. With water: another one that loves water. Were in front of a table full of various breads, somewhere in a ski resort in, say Tyrol. Not showing off, they really serve dozens of various breads for breakfast over there. Mouth (neat): very bready, in the very best sense of that word. So, bread (mazeltov, S.!), cumin cookies, a drop of absinth, peach leaves (did you know you can make a great liqueur out of peach leaves?) and various spicy cookies. Not spacey cookies, right. With water: unexpected salty touches. The tiniest bit of anchovy. Finish: long, more on fruit breads. Wholegrain bread with tiny bits of dried apricots and orange zests. Would you pass the foie gras, please? Comments: love this feeling of liquid bread. Expecting a Lafayette blend, 50% DHG, 50% Westland. No, pure speculations.

SGP:561 - 88 points.

Why wouldn’t we drive back to the Czech Republic?

Pradlo 30 yo (43.7%, OB, Czech Republic, 2019)

Pradlo 30 yo (43.7%, OB, Czech Republic, 2019) Two stars and a half
This old ‘Hammerhead’ was just bottled to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the velvet undergr… I mean, the velvet revolution (no disrespect meant at all, friends, on the contrary). I suppose it was distilled before the Velvet Revolution, since that took place between November 16 and December 29, 1989. Colour: gold. Nose: really very soft, rather on fruit peels, overripe apples, barley, oatcakes, and greengages. Mown lawn. It whispers rather than shouts. Mouth: indeed, it’s soft, rather on walnuts indeed, orange zests, teas, rhubarb, Swedish bread (Krisprolls), then more grass indeed. A wee touch of sugar, perhaps. Finish: a little short and a little more liqueury, not too deep and a little sweet. Comments: rather light whisky, pretty good but more historical than hysterical (yellow card, S.!)

SGP:341 - 79 points.

Let’s fly to Australia…

Starward ‘Two-Fold’ (40%, OB, Australia, 2019)

Starward ‘Two-Fold’ (40%, OB, Australia, 2019) Three stars
They’ve distilled wheat and malted barley and matured the result in some Australian red wine barrels. I agree that’s all very scary, but I’ve tried it before and thought it was rather ‘good to print’. Now who still bottles at 40% vol.? Colour: apricot. Nose: the thing is, at 40%, even the wackiest concoctions become noseable. In fact, this is pretty nice, think panettone with additional red berries inside and a poke of goji berries, as they would say in Scotland. Nice bready/leaveny background. Mouth: this is clearly something else. I had expected something ‘pure pot still’ given the recipe but not at all, it’s more kriek beer and Jaffa cakes, more gojis, and green tea. Cherry-stem tea. We’re clearly far away from Scotch malt, for example, and perhaps not even extremely ‘whisky’, but it’s a fine spirit, rather fresh, with good red fruits. For once, the red wine did not kill the whisky. Finish: nice, fresh, very cake-y, very pleasant. Comments: I was about to go for 79 but the nice finish lifted that a wee bit. Very honest effort from Downunda – and I know regular barrels will be much more to my liking.

SGP:341 - 80 points.

And now, India…

Rampur ‘Double Cask’ (45%, OB, India, 2019)

Rampur ‘Double Cask’ (45%, OB, India, 2019) Four stars
Rampur’s maybe a little less well-known than Amrut and Paul John, but I thought their ‘Select’, which I had tried last year, was extremely okay (WF 80). This one’s seen both some bourbon and some sherry wood, hence the word ‘double’. No they haven’t racked their brains. The price is a little steep though (72€). Colour: gold. Nose: get out of here, litchis and rose petals! We’re between mei-kwei-lu and gewurztraminer, but the funny thing is that this works a treat. Litchi juice, really, and a few mucaty touches. Mouth: impressively on gewurztraminer. Really, I made some marc de gewurz quite a few times with my friends, and flavours are rather similar. Turkish delights, rose jelly, parfait amour, blueberry muffins… And not one single off-note. Finish: medium, fresh, on… marc de gewurztraminer. Comments: some Indian whisky that’s rather more ‘Indian’ than others. Did you notice that I have refrained from quoting rose lassi? Impressive Rampur, smartly done.

SGP:641 - 85 points.

Good, a last one, and let’s stay in beautiful India – that would be in Goa. Or would that be Campbeltown?

Paul John 7 yo 2011/2019 (55.4%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, India, bourbon hogshead, 348 bottles)

Paul John 7 yo 2011/2019 (55.4%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, India, bourbon hogshead, 348 bottles) Three stars
Matured for 5 years in India and 2 years in Campbeltown. Not too sure about the outturn, please don’t take my word for it. Colour: amber. Nose: starts Laphroaiggy, really, so pretty camphory and even smoky, and would go on with mangos and mouthwash for kids. Funny and unusual. With water: bandages and ointments blended with mango juice, then grass smoke. I mean, proper grass. I mean, from a lawn. Mouth (neat): big peat, tiger balm, mojito, tropical wood (cachaça) and cedar wood. Highly unusual indeed, let’s hope water won’t make it… explode! With water: no, on the contrary, it became a little saltier, more on brine and oysters with some tabasco spread. Gets peppery indeed. Finish: long, bitterish, salty, bittersweet in fact. A lot of ginger. Comments: another labyrinthic one that would just lose you. Very hard to score.
SGP:464 - 82 points.

That's enough for now. See you.

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


December 5, 2019


Little duos, today Craigellachie 2005

We’ve had some very good Craigs’ a few weeks ago, so time to go for them again, although we’d just have two little 2005s today.

Craigellachie 13 yo 2005/2019 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill bourbon barrels, batch #19/101, 1314 bottles)

Craigellachie 13 yo 2005/2019 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill bourbon barrels, batch #19/101, 1314 bottles) Three stars
This baby’s a vatting of four casks. Colour: white wine. Nose: plain and pure barley eau-de-vie an custard with drops of pastis and some kind of fennel extract, then apple pie, sweet beer, williams pear and brioche. Does what it says on the tin, it’s well Scotch single malt whisky (Mr. Einstein, you’ve got competition). Mouth: very malty and very much on ale, with quite a lot of sourness, green oak perhaps, artisan cider, then calms down, with more vanilla, brioche again, and just a drop of café latte. Also stewed rhubarb an green plums. Finish: rather long, sweeter and rather rounder this time, but with quite a lot of pepper and greener ginger. Comments: certainly good and even rather flawless, but I would have thought this baby would have been, say a little silkier and smoother.
SGP:351 - 80 points.

Craigellachie 13 yo 2005/2019 (58.1%, Single Cask Nation, bourbon hogshead)

Craigellachie 13 yo 2005/2019 (58.1%, Single Cask Nation, bourbon hogshead) Four stars
(Picture of a sister bottling). Our American friends’ ‘first UK + European release’. So, virtually Brexit-ready already, that’s what I’d call an admirable adaptability ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s much stronger, and yet relatively easier at very fist nosing, more mineral for sure, getting then pretty leafy/chalky and a tad aguardienty, as they say in… err, well, no one’s saying that I suppose. With water: fennel seeds just like in the G&M, aniseed, then muesli, raw wool and some unexpected seaweed. Mouth (neat): sharp in a good way, on not-too-ripe kiwis and lime. Which, I suppose, you could mix with that aguardiente. Then a touch of wasabi, which completes this feeling of ‘green’ whisky. With water: super-good, and rather more on all things green apples. A glutamate-y touch (I know, no one’s saying that either). Finish: long and rather sharper yet, on wasabi and pepper over green apples. Peelings in the aftertaste. Comments: some very excellent ‘green’ whisky – but is it organic as well?
SGP:461 - 86 points.

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


December 4, 2019


A little tour of Ireland

Angus-in-Edinburgh had had quite a bag of old Irish the other day, which made me kind of jealous. Let’s have some newish Irish to recover!

The Pogues (40%, OB, Irish blend, 2019)

The Pogues (40%, OB, Irish blend, 2019) Three stars
This is the band’s official whisky. It’s said that it is what keeps Shane MacGowan alive (although not exactly kicking). Hey, my words, not an official statement of any sorts! Colour: gold. Nose: certainly not unpleasant, even if a little light and with whiffs of sawdust and coconut, certainly not something unseen in Irish blends. Notes of milk chocolate, café latte, walnut cake, and some engaging freshness. Mouth: it really is good whiskey, with this feeling of coffee-schnaps, notes of sweet ale, overripe apples, and a touch of soot and green smoke. A drop of lapsang souchong, shall I say. The body’s a tad thin but not exactly weak. Finish: a little short but with good presence and a sour-sweet aftertaste. More ale, in other words. Comments: I’ve been told this was made at West Cork, but I think it’s got more bone and more flesh. Very good Irish for the price.
SGP:452 - 80 points.

While we’re at it…

The Pogues Single Malt (40%, OB, Irish single malt, 2019)

The Pogues Single Malt (40%, OB, Irish single malt, 2019) Three stars
As it says. The 40% vol. are bad news here, feels a little scrimpy. Colour: paler gold. Nose: feels a little younger, quite bizarrely, and certainly much maltier, breadier, sourer and even more on ale. Wee touches of tequila and white rum here and there, some gingerbread, walnut wine, and then even grappa. It is kind of grappa-y, and that works. Mouth: misery and putrefaction, why oh why not 43% vol.? Because this is very good juice, with the same slightly ‘meta’ flavour palette, with pears, grappa, rum… How funny and how good! A feint metallic side in the background, which is very Irish in my book. Also rosehip tea and more gingerbread. Finish: sadly a little short, with more spices around cinnamon and just plain sawdust. Comments: not my business but I would do a version at 46 or 50% vol., the juice would stand it.
SGP:451 - 81 points.

Jameson ‘Triple Triple’ (40%, OB, Irish blend, 2019)Jameson ‘Triple Triple’ (40%, OB, Irish blend, 2019)

Jameson ‘Triple Triple’ (40%, OB, Irish blend, 2019) Two stars
A fairly new Jameson for travel retail. Triple triple does not refer to the number 9, it’s a matter of being triple-distilled and matured in three kinds of cask, namely bourbon, sherry and malaga. Colour: gold. Nose: at bit hard after the Pogues’ malt, as this JJ&S is much shier and almost silent, although I’m starting to find nots of raisins after a minute or two, and then hints of eucalyptus. Very light, but this is another one that’s not unpleasant, without the raw harshness of some of the Scotch blends that are sold for similar prices. Mouth: less defined and refined than both Pogues, and rather on wood and fruit peeling. I suppose most people drink these juices on ice, or as mizuwari. Yeah I can use that word too. Probably refreshing once you’ve added a lot of fresh water and ice cubes. Finish: short, a tad sweet and ethanoly. Comments: not a bad tipple (wow!) there are some very nice parts, such as the nose. The palate is not necessary, I would say.
SGP:341 - 73 points.

Tullamore D.e.w. 12 yo (40%, OB, Irish blend, 2019)

Tullamore D.e.w. 12 yo (40%, OB, Irish blend, 2019) Two stars and a half
40% vol. once again, but this is a disease! This is the 21st century, good folks!  Colour: gold. Nose: nice, fresh, on apples and peaches, then sawdust and these wee sooty and metallic touches. Then hints of brioche and baked raisins, or perhaps panettone, with whiffs of orange blossom. Very light, but balanced and rather seductive. Mouth: ah, good, fresh, with banana cookies and some chocolate, IPA, some mead, some gingerbread, but sadly a little sawdust once again, beyond cinnamon. A higher strength would have improved that part, for sure. The middle is thin. Finish: short, even abrupt. Leaves only sawdust and two raisins. Comments: good but frustrating.
SGP:341 - 77 points.

Tullamore D.e.w. 14 yo (41.3%, OB, Irish single malt, 2019)

Tullamore D.e.w. 14 yo (41.3%, OB, Irish single malt, 2019) Two stars and a half
Comes with a very William-Grant-ish cask-strength look-alike A.B.V. Come on, 41.3%, that’s just like 40%, is it not. This was matured in bourbon, sherry, port and madeira. Madeira can work very well, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: pear cake, melon cream, preserved peaches, custard, acacia honey, tinned litchis, and a drop of gewurztraminer. Not a bad combo, I have to say. Mouth: good. IPA and the same flavours that we found on the nose, that is to say (I’m copy-and-pasting) pear cake, melon cream, preserved peaches, custard, acacia honey, tinned litchis, and a drop of gewurztraminer (S., you lazy piece of a so-called whisky blogger!) Finish: good but a little too short, and probably a little too sweet, as if some syrup was added, which cannot be the case. Very sweet malmsey? Comments: certainly a good drop! The body’s frustratingly weakish, though.
SGP:431 - 79 points.

More oomph, please!

Redbreast 12 yo ‘Cask Strength Batch B2-19’ (55.8%, OB, single pot still, 2019)

Redbreast 12 yo ‘Cask Strength Batch B2-19’ (55.8%, OB, single pot still, 2019) Two stars and a half
I had rather loved a 12 C/S at 57.7% but that was in 2011. Colour: gold. Nose: what a difference 15 more degrees make, used to sing Gloria Gaynor. Quite. Having said that I’m not quite finding the expected melons and mangos, I’m rather unearthing notes of rum and chocolate. Water, maybe… With water: some menthol, fabric, and above everything, metal polish and chlorophyll. Mouth (neat): bursts with fruits and sweet grains, which gives it a blendish side, rather than pure pot still. Popcorn, bubblegum, a little varnish, saccharine, sweet maize… With water: I must be doing something wrong, it keeps feeling young and blendy. Finish: medium, a little harsh and rustic. Comments: water is totally mandatory here, but even then, we’re very far from the previous Redbreasts, whether young or older. A much simpler, harsher spirit, without much of the trademark seductively arrogant fruitiness.
SGP:451 - 78 points.

Ireland, let’s talk!...

Eala 24 yo 1991/2016 (55.8%, The Whisky Cask Company, Celtic Trilogy, rum cask, cask #6847, 283 bottles)

Eala 24 yo 1991/2016 (55.8%, The Whisky Cask Company, Celtic Trilogy, rum cask, cask #6847, 283 bottles) Five stars
A Swiss bottling. I believe this stems from those parcels of casks of Bushmills that were sold before Diageo handed over the distillery and the brand. We’ve already tried the two sisters and both were magnificent. We had kept this one for harder days… Colour: chestnut wine. Nose: sweet Vishnu, hurray! Pipe tobacco, Jamaican rum, tar, tamarind jam, black olives, tomato compote, crude cocoa, chicken soup, miso, chestnut honey, Marmite… What a maelstrom! With water: melon liqueur and the most fantastic dried figs ever. Mouth (neat): sweet Vishnu, are you still there? In truth this is a little brutal, not quite properly polished around the edges, but the rest is luminous, on pomegranate juice, oloroso, straw wine, prune juice, molasses, pipe tobacco, tar drops, more miso… Well, you see. It’s just a little harsh. With water: we tamed it and brought out figs, dates, cinnamon rolls, and raisin bread. Oh and a little cane juice, perhaps. Finish: long, on fig wine and drops of arrack and raki. We’re almost in Turkey now. Comments: Extraordinary Irish whisky, even if we tend to like the cleaner counterparts even better. Like, you know, simply ex-bourbon.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Irish Single Malt Whiskey 15 yo 2002/2019 (57.9%, Artful Dodger, bourbon, cask #346, 291 bottles)

Irish Single Malt Whiskey 15 yo 2002/2019 (57.9%, Artful Dodger, bourbon, cask #346, 291 bottles) Four stars
Mathematically speaking, a 2002/2019 cannot be 15 years old, it can only be either 17 or 16. Now speaking legally, it could be of any age, even 3. That would be fun! Colour: straw. Nose: all on coconut water, vanilla and sawdust at first nosing, it’s almost as if we were entering one of those huge palettised warehouses at Midleton. Then a little earth, prickly pears and oolong tea, which is very lovely. With water: lovely touches of soft hand-cream (Chanel, ha-ha) and marzipan, then fresh baguette. Mouth (neat): rich and creamy, slightly sour and yeasty (in a good way), with sweet pastries, greengages, and a good glass of artisanal mead. With water: loves water and swims well, getting fruitier, more honeyed, and more in the style of ‘B.’ Finish: rather long, going towards some kinds of pre-Brexit peppered thin mints of some sorts. Jaffa cakes as well. Comments: a superb middle-aged Irish that would just play with you. A teaser!
SGP:661 - 87 points.

An Irish 12 yo 2006/2018 (47.5%, Cadenhead for Flanders Finest Cask Selection, bourbon hogshead, 324 bottles)

An Irish 12 yo 2006/2018 (47.5%, Cadenhead for Flanders Finest Cask Selection, bourbon hogshead, 324 bottles) Four stars
This one for Belgium, so probably good with waffles. Or mussels. Or carbonnade flamande. Or garneelen croquettes. Or political stability. Colour: straw. Nose: super nice, although probably ‘coloured’ with some cask stemming from some not-too-distant island. I mean, not too distant both from Campbeltown and Ireland. A lovely medicinal side that’s got strictly nothing to do with Ireland (or only after a rugby match against the French, ha), and some melons. Unusual, but very nice. Mouth (neat): yeah, this is not quite ‘Irish’, unless some ex-peated Connemara wood was used. Peat, mercurochrome, preserved peaches, bananas, brown bread, cinnamon, breading, and some echoes of coal. Finish: long and really very peppery. We’re almost geared towards old young Talisker. Comments: it is all a little mysterious here. Connemara? Or some unpeated Irish that’s been finished in some ex-Laphroaig (respectively Lagavulin, Ardbeg or Caol Ila) wood? I couldn’t tell you, but I’m finding this hybrid baby very good.
SGP:553 - 86 points.

We’ve got many more Irish to taste, but that’ll happen… well, sooner or later. Please stay tuned.

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


December 3, 2019


Little duos, today Glen Scotia

Everybody seems to love the new official oak-boosted expressions, and indeed they seem to have saved many an uncertain cask using contemporary wood technology (rejuvenation/STRising and re-racking, really). But we’ll rather have two little IBs today…

Glen Scotia 9 yo 2008/2018 (55.9%, Kintra, 239 bottles)

Glen Scotia 9 yo 2008/2018 (55.9%, Kintra, 239 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: indeed there is this pretty peculiar coastalness, as if someone would have slightly smoked some mentholated gooseberries and then shipped them to America on a ship. Like Greta. Very nice wax, candlewax, paraffin, plasticine… It really is a ‘different’ malt whisky, but I find it much less porridge-y and even yoghurty than earlier Glen Scotias. With water: it’s got an obvious medicinal side, also some vanilla. Mercurochrome matured in first fill bourbon wood. Mouth (neat): indeed, it’s very idiosyncratic. Crushed mint leaves plus lime juice plus engine oil and waxes. Works. With water: gets very creamy, while lemons would creep in. Another malt that’s pretty limoncello-y. Finish: long, creamy indeed. Limoncello wood? Comments: I can’t remember having spotted lemon trees on the Mull of Kintyre. Have you? After all, they’re still getting a wee bit of the Gulf Stream, aren’t they.

SGP:551 - 86 points.

Now who would have easy access to Glen Scotia’s warehouses? But of course, their favourite neighbours…

Glen Scotia 27 yo 1992/2019 (45%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 150 bottles)

Glen Scotia 27 yo 1992/2019 (45%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 150 bottles) Three stars
That’s not many bottles and given the low natural strength, some leakage may have occurred. Just a wild guess. Colour: straw. Nose: this is a little touchy, I would say. It’s pretty sooty, with also whiffs of chemical yeast, then yoghurt sauce, soft honey vinegar, Woolite, copper polish, fino, fabric, turnips, sorrel soup… I’m really curious about the palate, because the nose was a little unlikely. Quite a soup, really. Mouth: it’s a little hard, dry, austere, very grassy and leafy, bitterish, with a sour, almost yoghurty dirtiness in the background, then those turnips again, eggplants, artichokes… A very unusual drop for sure, void of any kind of sweetness, not to mention fruits. Would they have distilled roots and vegetables? Finish: rather long, now with green lemons (not lime) and notes of raw aguardiente. Comments: it’s actually not too far from some cachaças that I could try, or am I dreaming? A very different malt, not easy to assess but really worth checking out.
SGP: 361 - 81 points.

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


December 2, 2019


Little duos, today perfect Teaninich

Another little name that’s gaining traction these days… I’d bet that in twenty years’ time, after peat, the blue chips will be Strathmill, Glen Spey, or Teaninich. No I won’t mention the future third-rank names, but I have got a few ideas, haven’t you?

Teaninich 12 yo 2006/2019 (51.7%, Hidden Spirits, cask #TH619)

Teaninich 12 yo 2006/2019 (51.7%, Hidden Spirits, cask #TH619) Four stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: classic malty and beerish start, going towards tomato leaves after that, then seaweed and moist chalk and plaster. Some cider as well, which is to be found in many such raw youngish malts – and which I rather enjoy. With water: yeah, that old sweater that you once forgot on the beach, and more chalk. Mouth (neat): oh excellent! Straight lemon juice blended with pastry dough, fresh brioche… and chalk. No further literature needed, this combo always works in my book. With water: excellent. Teaninich, really! Fresh liquorice, green pears, more chalk, limoncello, that’s all a well-known song, and that’s not Katy Perry. Finish: medium to long, maltier again, with good dough, chalk, and grapefruit/lemon. A touch of nougat in the aftertaste. Comments: cool Teaninich, almost a surprise. Ah, Diageo’s old shoebox distilleries..
SGP:452 - 88 points.

Teaninich 13 yo 2005/2019 (56.2%, Single Cask Nation, 2nd fill bourbon hogshead, cask #487, 277 bottles)

Teaninich 13 yo 2005/2019 (56.2%, Single Cask Nation, 2nd fill bourbon hogshead, cask #487, 277 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: a little more rounded, vanilla-ed, syrupy in a way, but only by contrast, otherwise we’re rather on broken branches, more fresh breads and pastries, that chalkiness again, perhaps fern and moss, cider apples, perhaps a little hessian, a touch of mercurochrome… That’s a little intriguing, I have to say, let’s see what happens once water’s been added: perfect! Citron liqueur, watermelon juice, fresh croissants, and barley syrup. Mouth (neat): starts creamy, with a little ginger cream and certainly some white pepper, goes then the melon route, but it would remain peppery all along. Some sweeter harissa – bring the couscous! Bitter oranges. With water: much sweeter and fruitier. Syrups, liqueurs, and citrus juices. Impeccable. Finish: not that long, but right on the same citrusy flavours. Comments: lovely, it’s a tie. Reminds me a bit of some old (obviously) young Rosebanks.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

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


December 1, 2019


Cognacs randomly
(not obligatorily a good idea)

Let’s see what we have…

Pierre Ferrand ‘Renegade Barrel No.2’ (47.1%, OB, eau-de-vie de vin, +/-2019)

Pierre Ferrand ‘Renegade Barrel No.2’ (47.1%, OB, eau-de-vie de vin, +/-2019) Two stars
Most online retailers advertise this as being a Cognac, but it is not since they’ve done a finishing in chestnut on it. By law and like with Scotch, Cognac = oak. Now it’s to be remembered that chestnut was not uncommon in the wine world, but that was mainly because chestnut barrels used to be… cheaper. Oh and this is NAS. Colour: gold. Nose: not quite Cognac indeed, despite some rather lovely notes of stewed peaches and melons, rather a spirit that would sit between Scotch and Cognac. Some sultanas, vanilla, also balsa wood, perhaps? Cedar? Feels young. Greengages. Mouth: pretty good, a tad sweet, raisiny, with typical stewed melons, grapes, apricots, also honey and a little caramel. Feels a little too sweet for me, in fact. Finish: long, really too sweet now, this is a little cloying. A shame, because the juice was probably pretty good in the first place. Why torture some fine Cognac? Comments: feels a little unnecessary, but I can’t think of any spirit that’s properly ‘necessary’. Except that one that cures snake bites, according to W.C. Fields. So, what’s next?
SGP:631 - 76 points.

Tesseron ‘Composition’ (40%, B, Cognac, Fine Champagne, +/-2018)

Tesseron ‘Composition’ (40%, B, Cognac, Fine Champagne, +/-2018) Two stars
A youngish blend of Grande and Petite Champagne (a.k.a. Fine Champagne), packaged like if it was whisky. Aye, why not! Loved Tesseron’s Lot 90 earlier this year (WF 89). Colour: deep gold. Nose: not extremely expressive, and that’s an understatement. Buttercream? Fresh American oak? Popcorn? Watermelon? Vanilla? That’s the problem with these 40% vol., that’s really getting too low, especially, listen to this please, since no one’s using those large ‘fishbowl’ style Cognac glasses anymore, you know the ones that used to amplify just any nose. Mouth: better, brighter, with good honey and peach sauce, sultanas, jams, touches of wild strawberries as well as strawberry yoghurt, but it would then start to nosedive, getting weaker and a little tea-ish, which is another word for drying.  Finish: fine but short and a little liqueury. Peach and melon liqueur, with a little tea from the oak. Comments: no, not my business but they could have done this much better. A rather wibbly-wobbly offering, pretty disappointing given the Tesseron name and their reputation. Bad malternative.
SGP:520 - 70 points.

A bad start, that happens… But…

Vallein-Tercinier 32 yo Lot 86 ‘Bons Bois’ (44.5%, Maltbarn, 158 bottles)

Vallein-Tercinier 32 yo Lot 86 ‘Bons Bois’ (44.5%, Maltbarn, 158 bottles) Five stars
Why and how this would be a miss, I don’t know. After all, this one has got a number of excellent advantages, the name Maltbarn, the name Vallein-Tercinier, and last but not least, the vintage that was the year when the band ‘Europe’ released their wonderful single, ‘The Final Countdown’ (which opened a whole new market for hearing aids). Joking. Colour: gold. Nose: typical house-style, ridden with preserved and fresh fruits, from papayas to melons and from pink bananas to peaches. This style is extremely appealing to malt enthusiast, because we’re oh-so close to some 1966-1972 vintage malts such as Lochside, Clynelish, Caperdonich, Glen Grant, Glengoyne, Glenugie… Well, you see. Mouth: ah, this one’s a notch more herbal than other expressions, which is lovable. Between fresh liquorice and melon skins, I would say. Other than that, we’ve got all our friends, figs, cocoa, dates, mangos, raisins, chestnut honey, cinnamon… It’s also a tad more drying than some siblings, or is that me? Finish: rather long, rather more on chocolate. Comments: no-quibble Cognac. Reminds me of that new chocolate that Lindt & Sprüngli have just released, which is milk chocolate with 65% cocoa inside. It’s called Lindt Excellence, and of course they pay me. Not, but love it almost as much as I love this Cognac.
SGP:641 - 90 points.

Let’s keep our game high, if you don’t mind…

Borderies N°65 (55.8%, Cognac Grosperrin, +/-2019)

Borderies N°65 (55.8%, Cognac Grosperrin, +/-2019) Four stars
Which equates to the 1965 vintage, in unofficial Cognac talk. Borderies is a smallish cru that’s supposed to age a little faster than Grande or Petite Champagne, but to tell you the truth, I’m totally unable to confirm that. Colour: deep amber. Nose: I find it relatively earthy at first nosing, and a tad spirity as well, but that may well come from the pretty high strength (by Cognac standards). Notes of caramel and molasses, perhaps. I suppose we’ll have to wake it up… With water: menthol and camphor win it, it’s almost as we had opened a new pack of thin mints. The usual stewed peaches are there too. Mouth (neat): extremely punchy, almost aggressive, acerbic, pungent, with big sharp citrus and some gritty caramel. Water please! With water: it would remain a little harsh, almost young, rustic, on the other hand I really enjoy how lively it remained. Bags of oranges, perhaps a little horseradish, pepper, grittier teas… Finish: long, with a certain tannicity, some dry spices, and a few old walnuts. Comments: just the opposite of a silky old Cognac, this one’s a pretty dry, tireless fighter.
SGP:361 - 86 points.

Grande Champagne N°34 (45.1%, Grosperrin, +/-2019)

Grande Champagne N°34 (45.1%, Cognac Grosperrin, +/-2019) Four stars and a half
That’ right, 1934, great vintage in Bordeaux and elsewhere, so I suppose that’s the same with Cognac. Colour: deep amber. Nose: always like it when it starts with coffee and hints of burnt molasses, while in this very case, stewed and preserved fruits would really start to abound after just five minutes, offering a rather huge complexity. Apricots covered with caramel, peaches poached in sweet wine (PX), some perfect artisan milk chocolate, black nougat, notes of Turkish delights, mocha, liquorice… It really is a wonderful nose, with no signs of tiredness whatsoever after eighty-five years. Reminds me of some old jazzmen in that respect. Mouth: just a touch of tannic oak in the beginning of the arrival, but the fruits instantly take over in a beautiful manner. Various oranges, the usual peaches, some liquorice, a good few aromatic flowers (haven’t we mentioned wormwood before?) plus some pink grapefruit that prevents the oak from fighting back. More and more bitter chocolate, cracked pepper, tobacco (like Gauloise), dry molasses… But then again, the fresh fruits would never give up. It’s almost Federer vs. Nadal on our palates. Funny touches of cumin and cloves emerging after a good five minutes. Finish: long, surprisingly tense and citrusy, almost acidic. The same cloves and cumin remain in the aftertaste. Comments: not very fruit but absolutely fantastic, if still a little rough and tannic at times. These old Cognacs will never, ever die – contrarily to most malt whiskies, who would probably be flat dead, or at least pure oak juice at this ripe old age. Incredible work by Grosperrin, sourcing these old glories throughout the countryside (while avoiding the gunshots, ha-ha).
SGP:461 - 88 points.

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


WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

November 2019

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Jura 1989/2019 (53.5%, OB, Rare Vintage, bourbon, 1,500 bottles) - WF91

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Bladnoch 32 yo 1958/1990 (44.5%, Duthies)- WF93

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Balblair 8 yo 2011/2019 (57.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 648 bottles) - WF89

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Worthy Park 2017/2019 (67%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Jamaica, single cask)  - WF91

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Suntory Brandy ‘V.O.’ (37%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019?)  - WF18

November 2019 - part 2 <--- December 2019 - part 1 ---> December 2019 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Black Friday 21 yo ‘2019 Edition’ (53.1%, The Whisky Exchange, 1800 bottles)

Brora 24 yo 1977/2001 (56.1%, OB, Rare Malts)

Brora 1977/1996 (59.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.5, ‘An Islay by another name’, 216 bottles)

Brora 40 yo 1978/2019 (49.2%, OB, 200th anniversary, Exclusive Release, 1819 bottles)

Eala 24 yo 1991/2016 (55.8%, The Whisky Cask Company, Celtic Trilogy, rum cask, cask #6847, 283 bottles)

Vallein-Tercinier 32 yo Lot 86 ‘Bons Bois’ (44.5%, Maltbarn, 158 bottles)