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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2020 - Part 2


December 2020 - part 1 <--- December 2020 - part 2 ---> January 2021 - part 1


December 31, 2020




Non Awards 2020

This is just a personal list of the whiskies and malternatives I liked best each and every months in 2020, for the record only. Please note that this year again, Angus's scores have not been taken into account (which is totally unjust, I agree).


Serge's favourite recent bottling of the month

Caol Ila 37 yo 1982/2019 (56.3%, Kingsbury for Club Qing Hong Kong, butt, cask #700) 

January 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Caol Ila 37 yo 1982/2019 (56.3%, Kingsbury for Club Qing Hong Kong, butt, cask #700) 
Kingsbury, who work closely with Cadenhead’s/Springbank, distribute their wonderful whiskies mainly to Japan. This old Caol Ila was complex and just wonderful.   

Clynelish 36 yo (47.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, Director’s Cut, 2020) February 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Clynelish 36 yo (47.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, Director’s Cut, 2020) 
No surprises here, this is an early 1970s Clynelish bottled by lovers of early 1970s Clynelish and of that shoebox distillery in Sutherland in general. Extremely high class, the year started well and I believe this drop protected us all from Covid while we were at the show in London.
Laphroaig 21 yo 1998/2019 (54.4%, The Whisky Exchange, The Perfect Measure, oloroso, cask #117, 322 bottles) March 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Laphroaig 21 yo 1998/2019 (54.4%, The Whisky Exchange, oloroso, cask #117, 322 bottles)
Laphroaig and oloroso, sometimes love and often muerte. Actually, we survived this one and just loved it. To death.

Lagavulin 40 yo 1979/2019 (49.1%, The Syndicate, cask #112, 188 bottles) April 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Lagavulin 40 yo 1979/2019 (49.1%, The Syndicate, cask #112, 188 bottles) 
The vintage of the first Lagavulin Distillers Edition, the best finishing even done by human beings on proper malt whisky. This old 40 yo by Sir McTaggart’s Syndicate was abysmal but we haven’t seen many bottles.
Brora 41 yo 1978/2019 (45%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Emmanuel Dron, Bihan Yang and Edward Zeng, ASB and refill hogshead) May 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Brora 41 yo 1978/2019 (45%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Emmanuel Dron, Bihan Yang and Edward Zeng, ASB and refill hogshead) 
One of these stunning private casks that Diageo have started doing after having been claiming for decades that they would never do that. I’ve seen a price list for these casks and thought I had to change spectacles.

Bowmore 2001/2019 (49.2%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse shop, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 19021, 139 bottles) June 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Bowmore 2001/2019 (49.2%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse shop, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 19021, 139 bottles) 
With Bowmore the indies kept defeating the owners at their own game, using a secret weapon: adding less wood and less wine. This is a gorgeous example. Bowmore’s distillate remains utterly brilliant.
Cragganmore 48 yo 1971/2019 (43.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, first fill sherry, cask #2301, 352 bottles) July 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Cragganmore 48 yo 1971/2019 (43.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, first fill sherry, cask #2301, 352 bottles)
It's not often that Cragganmore appears in these lists but this one, the oldest Cragganmore Diageo ever did, is just irresistible, as was the larger part of this new series. It was also part of the last batch to have been made using coal-fired stills. Full of coffee notes.
Lagavulin 12 yo 2007/2020 (56.4%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill American oak casks) August 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Lagavulin 12 yo 2007/2020 (56.4%, OB, Special Releases 2020, refill American oak casks)
The Special Releases came out very early this year. This Lagavulin is pristine and superbly carved, partly thanks to some well-behaved casks. Now last time they made a bad 12, that was probably in the 19th century. If they ever made one.
September 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Aberlour 18 yo 2002/2020(62.4%, OB, cask #2575, 263 bottles)
Everything was perfect in this A’bunadh at the power of two. Perfect distillate, perfect sherry, and perfect age. In other words, the Bill Evans Trio in a bottle.

Port Ellen 35 yo 1983/2020 (47.9%, The Character of Islay, The Stories of Wind and Wave, cask #11535) October 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Port Ellen 35 yo 1983/2020 (47.9%, The Character of Islay, The Stories of Wind and Wave, cask #11535)
A wee range by Atom/Master of Malts that I had never seen before. Stunning whiskies bottled with much self-restraint, as if they had not wanted that anyone would notice them. Well, we did. Stunning Port Ellen.

The Singleton of Glen Ord 38 yo (49.6%, OB, Master’s Casks, 1689 bottles, 2020) November 2020 (fav recent bottling)
The Singleton of Glen Ord 38 yo (49.6%, OB, Master’s Casks, 1689 bottles, 2020)
2020 has really been Diageo’s year as far as the whiskies were concerned, IMHO. This old Ord composed to perfection by Mrs Robinson was a perfect example. Now I never really understood anything about that Singleton stunt but that’s probably me.

Highland Park 30 yo (43.1%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, 2020) December 2020 (fav recent bottling)
Highland Park 30 yo (43.1%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, 2020)
What a glorious series by Hunter Laing, who do not seem to be totally obsessed with building brands out of the blue. All the Kinships I could try have ranged from perfect to utterly perfect, but I think that was the purpose of this series in the first place.


Serge's favourite older bottlingof the month

Caol Ila 16 yo 1969 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, old brown label, +/-1985)

January 2020 (fav older bottling)
Caol Ila 16 yo 1969 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, old brown label, +/-1985) 
Some of these old ‘CCs’ were a little shy and thin, and some probably too heavily caramelised, but others were stunning drops. This was a good example.

Clynelish 12 yo (56.9%, OB for Edward & Edward, white label, no rotation year) February 2020 (fav older bottling)
Clynelish 12 yo (56.9%, OB for Edward & Edward, white label, no rotation year) 
I’ll find any excuses to try and publish about any Old Clynelish 12, especially about the ones at 100°proof for ‘Baffo’ Giaccone. A few other drops do score as high or even a little higher, but that’s just because I’m a kind person.

Ardbeg 1975/1999 (43%, OB) March 2020 (fav older bottling)
Ardbeg 1975/1999 (43%, OB)
One of those glorious early vintage batches by new owners Glenmorangie plc. Despite the fact that this one was bottled at some miserable 43% vol. ‘we should have bought palettes’. Where have I put my time machine?

Macallan 25 yo 1975 (54%, Casa De Vinos, Australia, sherry butt, cask #17112, +/-2000) April 2020 (fav older bottling)
Macallan 25 yo 1975 (54%, Casa De Vinos, Australia, sherry butt, cask #17112, +/-2000) 
This one and its brother literally jumped out of Australia this year and reached my doorstep. Wow! In the meantime, the brand has stopped moving me and I’m even wondering if I do not like Mariah Carey better. Oh and The Glenlivet!

Longrow 18 yo 1974 (46%, OB) May 2020 (fav older bottling)
Longrow 18 yo 1974 (46%, OB) 
I have the impression that we’re talking a little less about Longrow these days, even if some recent batches have been fantastic. But those early vintages by Springbank have been legendary since… forever. And Samaroli.
Old Pulteney 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 fl. ozs, 1970s) June 2020 (fav older bottling)
Old Pulteney 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 fl. ozs, 1970s) 
A great example of a fairly mundane label that’s almost only known to die-hard whisky freaks these days. Catch the 100 proof versions while you can and while they remain kind of cheap at auctions, you won’t regret it.
Springbank 21 yo (100°proof, OB, +/-1970) July 2020 (fav older bottling)
Springbank 21 yo (100°proof, OB, +/-1970)
Nothing to say. Clean pristine old Springbank, king of malt whisky and just unbeatable unless there was a crack in the bottle, or the cap was loose, or it’s been stored near the boiler. Now the older the bottling, the better (where have we seen that already?)  

  August 2020 (fav older bottling)

Longmorn 36 yo 1975/2011 (50.6%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 163 bottle September 2020 (fav older bottling)
Longmorn 36 yo 1975/2011 (50.6%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 163 bottles)
This one from when a few bottlers, including The Whisky Agency and affiliated sub-brands, were having plenty of old ex-Seagram/Chivas/Pernod malts. Astounding whiskies (Longmorn, Strathisla, Glenlivet…)

Bruichladdich 36 yo 1966/2002 'Legacy I' (40.6%, OB, 1500 bottles) October 2020 (fav older bottling)
Bruichladdich 36 yo 1966/2002 'Legacy I' (40.6%, OB, 1500 bottles)
The first old Bruichladdichs by the former ‘new owners’ have suffered a wee bit from the incredible – and justified - reputation of their first 1970. It’s time to try them again…  
  November 2020 (fav older bottling)

Highland Park 20 yo 1959/1979 (43%, OB, for Ferraretto Italy, 75cl) - WF94 December 2020 (fav older bottling)
Highland Park 20 yo 1959/1979 (43%, OB, for Ferraretto Italy, 75cl)
Amazing old official HP that anyone could quaff as if there was no tomorrow. I for one could spend nights and nights trying to find out about the best within these ‘round black’ vintages, of which there were several batches by the way.



Serge's favourite bang for your buck bottling of the month

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (46%, James Eadie, 1100 bottles)

January 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (46%, James Eadie, 1100 bottles) 
I seem to have noticed that James Eadie were extremely good at issuing very satisfying young ‘modern’ malt whiskies, often well-wooden, but always balanced and just excellent. Worth trying if you haven’t yet

  February 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)

Crabbie 12 yo (43%, Single malt, Highland, +/-2019) March 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Crabbie 12 yo (43%, Single malt, Highland, +/-2019)  
An old brand that’s been revived by cool people who seem to know what they’re doing. Very good price and much better quality than Aldi. And they do no dirty PR stunts.

Benriach-Glenlivet 11 yo 2008/2020 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 270 bottles) April 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Benriach-Glenlivet 11 yo 2008/2020 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 270 bottles) 
While they seem to have less rare old glories (but who has?) W.M. Cadenhead have issued quite a few fearless young malts that have proven extremely good and very fairly priced. This Benriach is just one example.

Classic Islay (44.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd, blended malt, +/-2018) May 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Classic Islay (44.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd, blended malt, +/-2018) 
Love this discreet no-BS series by Berry Bros. I find them all very good, especially this Islay but also their Speyside. The vattings are done with care and the prices are more than very right.
Pulteney 14 yo 2006/2020 (55.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 294 bottles) June 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Pulteney 14 yo 2006/2020 (55.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 294 bottles) 
Another superb new young malt by Cadenhead but this time they’ve touched the stars. The quality/price ratio was just insane, as I remembered it. The distillery should send them money.
Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2020) July 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2020)
Again. HP 10, Ben Nevis 10, Springbank 10, some indie Clyne… I mean secret Sutherland 10… The pinnacles of distillate-driven malt whisky, never to be missed. And in 2020 the prices were still rather ridiculously low.

Talisker 10 yo (45.8%, OB, +/-2019) August 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Talisker 10 yo (45.8%, OB, +/-2019)
Talisker 10, still totally unbeatable. Kills all the NASes, some much dearer. And if I’m not mistaken, it’s rather easier to find again. Remember what the old whisky guys used to say, no ten, no deal.
  September 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)

Glenallachie 10 yo ‘Cask Strength Batch 4’ (56.1%, OB, 2020) October 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Glenallachie 10 yo ‘Cask Strength Batch 4’ (56.1%, OB, 2020)
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of all these experiments with any kinds of casks the crazy coopers can make, but I thought this one was immaculate. Another very fabulous 10!

Pulteney 12 yo 2008/2020 (43%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist Collective, November 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Pulteney 12 yo 2008/2020 (43%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist Collective, sherry butt recask, 1860 bottles) 
Another excellent young Pulteney at a good price (I think). I’m just noticing that we’ve got quite some Pulteney’s in this year’s lists, which really pleases me. Great distillate when no one masks it.

Secret Highland 2010/2020 (53.3%, Les Grands Alambics, birds, bourbon barrel) December 2020 (fav BFYB bottling)
Secret Highland 2010/2020 (53.3%, Les Grands Alambics, birds, bourbon barrel)
There, a brilliant young  ‘Secret Highland’ for half the price of the same juice bearing its original name. Under those conditions, I agree there no obligations to tell anyone this is Clynelish. Oops.



Serge's favourite malternative bottling of the month

Port Mourant 13 yo 2005/2018 (48.5%, The Rum Mercenary)

January 2020 (fav malternative)
Port Mourant 13 yo 2005/2018 (48.5%, The Rum Mercenary) 
A buoyant young Port Mourant from Diamond at a drinkable strength, well done Mr. Mercenary a.k.a. Jürgen. Possibly one of the best things any Belgian mercenaries have ever done. Hum-hum…

Castarède 1974/2018 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) February 2020 (fav malternative)
Castarède 1974/2018 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)  
A classic house that does good, even at 40%. But I believe they should all stop bottling at forty, feels either old-fashioned or stingy. Just like malt whisky, armagnac is better at 43-46%.
Worthy Park 12 yo 2007/2020 (58%, Thompson Brothers for The Whisky Exchange, Jamaica) March 2020 (fav malternative)
Worthy Park 12 yo 2007/2020 (58%, Thompson Brothers for The Whisky Exchange, Jamaica)
Love Worthy Park and Love Dornoch’s Thompson Bros. The future of spirits, surely.

Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020) April 2020 (fav malternative)
Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020) 
The Belgians again. Let me take this opportunity to state, once more, that while quite a few people keep telling me that some folks are ‘stealing’ the word malternative from me, I was not the one to first use it. It was Michael Jackson. Great old cognac.

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac d’André L.73’ (51.4%, OB, Petite Champagne, 525 bottles, 2019) May 2020 (fav malternative)
Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac d’André L.73’ (51.4%, OB, Petite Champagne, 525 bottles, 2019) 
A little house that was a revelation to me in 2020. Very excellent cognacs, never to be missed. But remember I’m no cognac expert…

Bellevue Guadeloupe 21 yo 1998/2020 (55.8%, The Rum Mercenary, Black Label Collection) June 2020 (fav malternative)
Bellevue Guadeloupe 21 yo 1998/2020 (55.8%, The Rum Mercenary, Black Label Collection) 
Bellevue and Bielle, shining stars of the northern islands. Once again, greatly done, Mr. Mercenary.

Neisson ‘XO Full Proof’ (50.8%, OB, Martinique, +/-2019) July 2020 (fav malternative)
Neisson ‘XO Full Proof’ (50.8%, OB, Martinique, +/-2019)
And here’s the shining star of the large island in the south, namely La Martinique. Neisson’s really getting expensive, but I think it’s simply better. Now as always with wines and spirits, you pay double for a marginally better item. Life’s a bitch.

Monymusk 24 yo 1995/2019 ‘EMB’ (67%, Velier, Villa Paradisetto, Jamaica) August 2020 (fav malternative)
Monymusk 24 yo 1995/2019 ‘EMB’ (67%, Velier, Villa Paradisetto, Jamaica)
Velier seem to be turning everything to good account these days, which reminds me a bit of Amanda Lear in the 1980s. Exactly, freedom of speech. Seriously, fantastic Monymusk.
Neisson 2014/2020 ‘V.S.O.P.’ (44%, OB, LMDW, Martinique, agricole September 2020 (fav malternative)
Neisson 2014/2020 ‘V.S.O.P.’ (44%, OB, LMDW, Martinique, agricole, 900 bottles)
Neisson again. This one left me virtually breathless. There will be more Neisson on WF.

W.I.R.D. 33 yo 1986/2020 (58.8%, Silver Seal, Barbados) October 2020 (fav malternative)
W.I.R.D. 33 yo 1986/2020 (58.8%, Silver Seal, Barbados)
Silver Seal have managed to put their talented hands on a few very old casks of rums lately, including this West Indies that other good folks have found even better. I trust them.
Domaine de Baraillon 1918/2019 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) November 2020 (fav malternative)
Domaine de Baraillon 1918/2019 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)
Incredible Baraillon 1918. I think I’ll keep mentioning it for a good few extra-years, while I believe it’s my favourite armagnac of all times. But don’t take my word, have to check that.

Grande Champagne Lot No.0/35 ‘Historique’ (43%, Grosperrin for Passion for Whisky) December 2020 (fav malternative)
Grande Champagne Lot No.0/35 ‘Historique’ (43%, Grosperrin for Passion for Whisky)
A very recent tasting and another Grosperrin that really impressed me. I know it’s a cliché but I believe Grosperrin are really bottling time. And with time come small bits of soul… Disney should do a motion picture about all this, in the styles of Ratatouille and Soul.


Serge's Lemon Prizeof the month

Espero ‘Reserva Especial’ (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2019)

January 2020 (lemon prize)
Espero ‘Reserva Especial’ (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2019)
Ethanol, caramel and sugar, but there are many such brands. Poor Dominicans.


Havana Club ‘Anejo Especial’ (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2005) February 2020 (lemon prize)
Havana Club ‘Anejo Especial’ (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2005)  
I don’t know what happened. Recent Havana Clubs have been better, I think. Not that I bother too much, my Cuban brand being Santiago de Cuba.

Barcelo ‘Anejo’ (37.5%, OB, Dominican Republic, Spanish market, +/-2019) March 2020 (lemon prize)
Barcelo ‘Anejo’ (37.5%, OB, Dominican Republic, Spanish market, +/-2019)
Just bad, weak, thin, sugary and very infuriating.
Ransom WhipperSnapper (42%, OB, USA, Oregon spirit, +/- 2019) April 2020 (lemon prize)
Ransom WhipperSnapper (42%, OB, USA, Oregon spirit, +/- 2019) 
Some new names and ‘distilleries’ in the US are pretty funny, but some are not really ‘burning’. Indeed, they have non-distilling distilleries. This one has been very uninspiring, but maybe was it me.
Dujardin ‘Vieux Blue Label’ (35%, OB, Spirit Drink, Dutch brandy, +/-2015) May 2020 (lemon prize)
Dujardin ‘Vieux Blue Label’ (35%, OB, Spirit Drink, Dutch brandy, +/-2015)
Fraud, swindle, scam, and probably poison. And forged Frenchness. 2 points out of Christian charity.
Two Fingers (40%, Tequila, white) June 2020 (lemon prize)
Two Fingers (40%, Tequila, white) 
I haven’t had many great tequilas or mezcals in 2020. What’s sure is that this ‘Two Fingers’ was extremely weak and I doubt it would even work in a margarita. A waste of agaves.

Linkwood 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask # 12574, 314 bottles) July 2020 (lemon prize)
Linkwood 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask # 12574, 314 bottles)
Right, a lame duck within their otherwise very appealing range. I reckon this was an accident.

Fujimi ‘7 virtues of the Samurai’ (40%, OB, blended Japanese whisky, +/-2019) August 2020 (lemon prize)
Fujimi ‘7 virtues of the Samurai’ (40%, OB, blended Japanese whisky, +/-2019) 
More fake Japanese whisky, and extremely bad at that. They should stop these dirty practices nationwide. Come on, Japan! They said they would do something last year already. And the year before, and the year before…
Bladnoch 17 yo ‘Californian Red Wine Finish’ (46.7%, OB, +/-2018) September 2020 (lemon prize)
Bladnoch 17 yo ‘Californian Red Wine Finish’ (46.7%, OB, +/-2018)
When malt whisky needs table wine, the deed is done in my book. Maybe that’s me, I may like wine and whisky way too much. Plus, I thought this Bladnoch was really bad.
Tenjaku October 2020 (lemon prize)
Tenjaku (40%, OB, 'Japanese', +/-2020)
More ugly fake-ish Japanese whisky. You just cannot avoid them.

Bowmore 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2019) November 2020 (lemon prize)
Bowmore 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2019) 
Love their young ones when ‘wood technology’ (how romantic) is used with restraint and smartness, but I thought this 25 was wrecked. I suppose they should leave their remaining batches from the 1980s alone (just a guess).
Mekhong (35%, OB, Bangyikan Distillery, Thailand, +/-2019) December 2020 (lemon prize)
Mekhong (35%, OB, Bangyikan Distillery, Thailand, +/-2019)
Just for fun. When at a Thai restaurant, better go with J&B and leave Mekhong alone, although I remember it was even worse fifteen or twenty years ago.


December 30, 2020


Messy world sessions to put a proper end to a messy year
Number Seven

Let’s see what we can find and naturally, rather start from Europe. Sort of…

The English 6 yo 2011/2018 (66.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, England, sherry hogshead, cask #870, 299 bottles)

The English 6 yo 2011/2018 (66.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, England, sherry hogshead, cask #870, 299 bottles) Four stars
This from St. George Distillery, so from the English Whisky Co. I believe this was still distilled by Iain Henderson while mind you, it looks like we’ve been trying rather more English whiskies since Brexit occurred but I would say those events remain unrelated. As for the strength of 66.6%, that’s pure perfidious evil. Colour: light gold. Nose: rather some fresh oak, some gravel, and some tart lemons squeezed over porridge and clay. Curiously noseable at this strength – probably the devil indeed. With water: rounder, more on custard, shortbread, crushed bananas and chalk. A profile that we’ve always been enjoying pretty much. Mouth (neat): burns and starts to dig holes into your tongue without warning. No thanks. With water: bursts with grapefruits, pineapples, pink peppers and citrus skins. Pleasant bitterness, lager, touch of aspirin tablets perhaps… Finish: very long and very much on green peppercorns and green lemons. A bit harsh but leaves your palate clean. Comments: good, tart and a little brutal. I believe quite some work had been done on the distillate since the first batches (around 2007).
SGP:362 - 85 points.

Let’s swim to Sweden…

High Coast ‘Solera Batch 1’ (56%, OB, Sweden, 2490 bottles, 2020)

High Coast ‘Solera Batch 1’ (56%, OB, Sweden, 2490 bottles, 2020) Four stars
The word ‘solera’ has been scaring generations of whisky (and rum) enthusiasts, but on the other hand, this is some new High Coast straight from the box (S., tsk tsk), so we’re sure things have been done with care and seriousness. Colour: gold. Nose: this not a solera as in Jerez, where only virtually inert woods are being used, because what comes out first is a blend of oak spices, namely turmeric and ginger plus loads of nutmeg. Then baskets of breads, then tiny citrus (our friends in the Netherlands just adore kumquats, for example), then softer pastry-like aromas. Lemon tarte with meringue and vanilla-flavoured whipped cream. With water: lemon squash and all spice and citrus cordial. Super nice. Mouth (neat): exactly the same construction as the nose. First oak spices, then breads, then lemons, then softer pastries, then everything together. With water: lemons in the front this time, spices even more towards turmeric. Gets pretty refreshing. Finish: rather long, on similar notes, with just a little more pepper in the aftertaste. And juniper. And caraway. And fresh ginger. And green smoke. Comments: I’m sure I’m not the first human being who would say this would go well with gravlax. Very good, even if I tend to like my High Coasts a wee tad less, say pushy.
SGP:563 - 85 points.

To Canada…

J.P. Wiser’s 18 yo (40%, OB, Canada, +/-2019)

J.P. Wiser’s 18 yo (40%, OB, Canada, +/-2019) Two stars
A well-known Canadian blend, sadly bottled at some measly 40% alc./vol. Now we just love this short line on the bottle: ‘Quality is something you just can’t rush’. Please tell your colleagues! Colour: gold. Nose: really soft, on maize bread and popcorn at first, with a little putty and marzipan, a touch of candlewax, then a few floral notes (dandelions) and minimal amounts of rubber. There’s this small leafiness that I’ve often found in Canadian whiskies – not that I’ve tried zillions of them. Sunflower oil, a little tobacco and eucalyptus. Perhaps even hash. Mouth: too bad it’s so light and thin. Cheapo liqueurs, Fanta, barley water, vanilla-ed icing sugar, pomegranate syrup… I find this total lack of body very frustrating after that rather lovely and pretty glamorous nose. Finish: very short and rather empty. Saccharose, Coca-Cola Vanilla (discontinued, phew) and kid’s mouthwash. Comments: another one that disappeared quicker than Harry Houdini. Didn’t the latter have ties (so to speak) to Canada?
SGP:630 - 75 points.

To Australia…

Hellyers Road 16 yo 2004/2020 (60.4%, OB for Taiwan, Australia, cask #402205)

Hellyers Road 16 yo 2004/2020 (60.4%, OB for Taiwan, Australia, cask #402205) Four stars
I must say we’ve had quite some brilliant Hellyers Road lately. Colour: old. Nose: this one’s a little bizarre at first nosing, with a biggish peat and some bursting fruits that might well clash a bit at first. That creates a sourness that’s rather unusual, between Swiss cheese and fermenting litchis (no, not durians). Sure things get more PC after one or two minutes, but the idea of fermenting fruits never quite goes away. Perhaps with water… With water: the monster almost turned into a Botticelli (hold your horses, S.) What’s sure is that those deviant parts became assets. Old cigars, precious teas, old chardonnay… Mouth: smoked banana cake with peppermint and ginger tonic. Aha. With water: et voilà, we caught it, even if the gingery side remained a little loud. Finish: long, gingery and fruity. Banana wine and cinchona. Comments: not as classy as the 2003 we tried on the 22, and a balance that’s a little unstable at times, but we’re splitting hairs once again. Much fun to be had with this other platypus of malt whisky (of course you knew Hellyers Road was located in Tasmania).
SGP:655 - 86 points.

Off to India…

Paul John 6 yo ‘Batch 3’ (52.9%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 822 bottles, 2016)

Paul John 6 yo ‘Batch 3’ (52.9%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 822 bottles, 2016) Four stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: I find this one very chutney-y at first sniffs, with rather a lot of mango chutney for example, also tapioca and maize flour, vanilla fudge, cigarettes, macadamia nuts, blood oranges, Timut pepper… Very nice complexity and clearly an Indian side. With water: more buttery and fermentary notes. Sourdough, mashed potatoes Robuchon-style (50% potatoes, 50% butter), and more nutmeg, Herr Müller. Serious! Mouth (neat): not too far from the Tasmanian, with much work done by the wood (spices), but this one’s rather straighter. Bananas, mangos, juniper, thin mints, more tapioca, cinnamon, some peppery smoke, a little pinewood... With water: that’s what could be said about many good ‘new world whiskies’, they’re rather oak-driven. But this one is now starting to display notes of rose essence and gewurztraminer that no true Alsatian would not enjoy. Maltese rose liqueur. Finish: rather long, fruity and very floral. Let me mention gewurztraminer once more, as well as cranberries. Comments: exotic it is.
SGP:642 - 85 points.

Hasta la vista, baby.

(Thanks Lucero)


December 29, 2020


Crazy world sessions to put a proper end to a messy year
Number Six

Why not start this from Southern Spain? I’d pay big money to be able to fly to Malaga, Seville, or any other city from down there just now. Glorious places, really. So, a little Liber I would say…

Liber 14 yo 2006/2020 (59.9%, OB, Spain, Spanish Whisky Club, 1st fill PX, cask #73, 300 bottles)

Liber 14 yo 2006/2020 (59.9%, OB, Spain, Spanish Whisky Club, 1st fill PX, cask #73, 300 bottles) Two stars
We’ve had a very good 16 yo the other day. Colour: amber. Nose: gunpowder and hard-boiled eggs, that’s clearly sulphur. Stewed cabbage, truffles, gas, and struck matches too. Now this is not quite an ‘overly invading’ kind of sulphur, but it is there, for sure. Let’s call this truffles, and require water right away… With water: a little nicer. Walnut skins and pencil shavings, then miso and Maggi. Shall we also mention natto? Mouth (neat): caramel and black nougat, with an obvious sulphury game and just the crudest of all crude cocoa pods. Frankly, the sulphur is rather extreme here, even deep-sherried Dailuaine or Mortlach have never been this far. This is what you call a controversial dram. Bags of very old walnuts too. With water: sucking an old gun (I imagine, never done that, even when in the army). Finish: long and incredibly sulphury and foxed. We’ve known some very old red Burgundies… (talking about wines, ha-ha). Nicer oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: actually, you cannot score this. Alien whisky, not ‘bad’ as such, just totally deviant. For die-hard Almodóvar fans?
SGP:272 - 75 points.

Now off to Angleterre…

East London Liquor Co ‘London Rye 2019’ (47%, OB, England, 2019)

East London Liquor Co ‘London Rye 2019’ (47%, OB, England, 2019) Three stars and a half
The wood procedures have been pretty deviant here too. Imagine, virgin oak for one year, then two years in Sonoma and Kentucky casks, then six months in ex-peated whisky casks and then a finish in PX. I call that Chinese torture, but at least it’s good for employment, as I would doubt they’re using robots. Colour: gold. Nose: Lol. Absinth, pastis, verbena, parfait amour and myrtle liqueur. Totally love this, really, it’s just not whisky. At all. Mouth: Lol again. Pine tar, lime, more verbena, genepy, woodruff, and indeed, coal smoke. Finish: ashy lemons, dill, more genepy, and tiny yuzus. Long and very herbal. The aftertaste is very dry and mentholy. Comments: some UFS for sure (Unidentified Flying Sprit). Rather love this very unlikely stuff, it’s just not whisky. I mean, Heinz’s Tomato Ketchup is more ‘whisky’ than this, but I love it and the bottle is very, very cool.
SGP:572 - 84 points.

Off to Heathrow, next flight to Taiwan…

Kavalan ‘Distillery Select No.2’ (40%, OB, Taiwan, 2020)

Kavalan ‘Distillery Select No.2’ (40%, OB, Taiwan, 2020) Two stars and a half
Not too sure… Colour: gold. Nose: it sure has more knack than the very uninspiring regular Kavalans from years gone by. I mean, beyond many stunning single casks, the regular bottles have been weak. This has nice notes of Marlboros though, ripe damsons, raisins, vin santo, puréed chestnuts and red kuri squash...  It’s a rather complex nose, but within these ranges, it’s the palate that counts. Mouth: nice, just a little too teaish and oaky. Not enough refill, I would say, but other than that, these soft mentholy herbs work well. Touches of fennel seeds, eucalyptus, cough medicine, capers, pink grapefruits… It really is a very nice palate, but unless they have to abide to some kind of law, I believe doing it at 40% vol. was suicidal. Finish: short, fresh, mentholy, refreshing. Mint and hops. Comments: It’s like if Jimmy Page had willingly unplugged his amps while doing Wembley Stadium. Very good juice, very wrong strength.
SGP:551 - 79 points.

To Australia. I mean, Tasmania…

Hellyers Road 2002/2020 (60.6%, OB, European exclusive, ex-bourbon, cask #2332.01, 190 bottles)

Hellyers Road 2002/2020 (60.6%, OB, European exclusive, ex-bourbon, cask #2332.01, 190 bottles) Five stars
Great stuff they make at Hellyers Road. They have become part of the great distilleries of the world and I believe they have been pioneers in using active wood smartly. I remember well those days when the first bottles were sent to the Malt Maniacs Awards. Colour: straw. Nose: oh grapefruits and star fruits, rhubarb, jujubes, gooseberries… This is adorable. With water: impeccable. Sunflower oil, green apples, rhubarb, chalk, Sancerre. The thermometer is creeping up… Mouth (neat): tart, sauvignony, kiwi-y (apologies) and rather a little sour. Rhubarb wine and riesling from Wachau – I agree we’re too far from Australia with our descriptions. With water: and voilà. Lime-infused custard and spearmint, plus fresh brioche. We knew it. Finish: rather long, fresh, clean, on green tea and custard. Excellent. Comments: perfect use of bourbon barrels. Trying hard to find a flaw here… Shall we talk rugby? Better not.
SGP:652 - 90 points.

And to… Why not Ireland?

Irish Single Malt 17 yo 2002/2019 (47.6%, Whisky-Fässle)

Irish Single Malt 17 yo 2002/2019 (47.6%, Whisky-Fässle) Four stars
The ducks are back, hurray! Let’s try to use featherlight arguments… Colour: white wine. Nose: it is a rather chalky, almost earthy one. Apple peelings, porridge, muesli, touch of vanilla and coconut. Quite some nutmeg too, which I find rather pleasant. Whiffs of patchouli. Mouth: these relatively young Irish cannot quite compete with the glorious 1988-1991 vintages, but this very green millimetric, sharp and leafy style works too, while it would become fatter and almost syrupy after five minutes. Some kiwi juice, melon skin, and just paraffin. Perhaps a little fresh butter. Finish: medium, maltier. IPA, dry cider… Comments: isn’t it slightly embarrassing that these very engaging German indies would defeat 99% of any official Irish whiskies fair and square? Good, we’ll have the latest 30 yo Redbreast next time, and see what gives… In truth I had forgotten about it and had kept it in ’the boxes’. I feel shame.
SGP:561- 87 points.

December 28, 2020


Crazy world sessions to put a proper end to a messy year
Number Five

High powers today. Let’s start this from France. Right, more French logic in action…

Glann ar Mor 2007/2020 (57.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Version Française, France, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #13128, 184 bottles)

Glann ar Mor 2007/2020 (57.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Version Française, France, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #13128, 184 bottles) Four stars
I don’t quite know what a ‘French version’ of a French whisky could be, but we have never been afraid of moderate tautologies ourselves. Anyway, this is a very rare independent version of Glann ar Mor, in truth I believe it’s the first one. The distillery has recently changed hands but this is fully the work of Jean Donnay, and probably one of the earliest casks, fully matured on the shores of northern Brittany. I don’t think I’ve ever tried such an old one… Colour: gold. Nose: what’s striking here is the impeccable balance, and the way it remained very close to the raw ingredients all along. Barley (grist), yeast, vanilla, then rather brioche and croissants, before the fruits that would usually come with proper bourbon maturation would chime in (bananas, guavas, some toasted marshmallow). Very clean and pure. With water: waxes, fruit skins, a hint of coconut and a little liquorice wood. All that works very well. Mouth (neat): the oak bites you a wee bit at first but that could also be the high alcohol. Touches of buttered tea, green peppercorn, a little turmeric... I would say it needs water on the palate. With water: these notes of fruit and vegetable skins are pretty perfect. Apples and pepper. Finish: long and spicy. Cinnamon, pepper, a touch of rhubarb. Very spicy aftertaste, with a tiny salty touch. Comments: very good, dry, an early Glann ar Mor that’s feeling very ‘natural’ and quite surprisingly, perhaps not yet perfectly polished. No flavourings in the way, that’s cool too.
SGP:461 - 86 points.

Let’s cross the channel…

Cotswolds ‘Small Batch 20 rue d’Anjou’ (60.8%, OB for LMDW, 480 bottles, 2020)

Cotswolds ‘Small Batch 20 rue d’Anjou’ (60.8%, OB for LMDW, 480 bottles, 2020) Four stars
Four different casks (the usual bourbon, virgin, oloroso and PX) and less than 500 bottles, so either there’s more juice elsewhere, or those were quarter casks. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re rather navigating around the idea of a coffee shop at first (not in A’dam mind you) with macchiato, scones, toffee, butterscotch and millionaire shortbread. All right, Mars bar, if you must. Flowers come out later on (lilies), together with a very soft spiciness, around shy and subtle curry powders. Some oloroso coming out too (balsamico and walnut wine). With water: rather on many herbal teas. Earl grey, bergamots… Mouth (neat): a feeling of kirsch matured in acacia wood at first, bitter oranges, cardamom and caraway, mustardy liqueurs… But it is strong. With water: tangerines and grapefruits are moving forward. This just always works. Finish: long, more on teas, malt, chicory, stout and cigars. Good chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: very nice string, I mean cask quartet. Class. Lovely chocolaty development.
SGP:451 - 87 points.

Let’s fly to virtually Covid-free Taiwan…

Nantou ‘Omar’ 2014/2018 (56%, OB, Taiwan, Hotmalt, the Keeper Richard’s Choice II, cask #10841117, 210 bottles)

Nantou ‘Omar’ 2014/2018 (56%, OB, Taiwan, Hotmalt, the Keeper Richard’s Choice II, cask #10841117, 210 bottles) Five stars
All right, the Keeper Serge trying the Keeper Richard’s selection here… Nantou’s sometimes overshadowed by Kavalan, but in my book they deserve only praise. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a peaty one. Crabs, oysters, lemons, chalk, ashes, charcoal, menthol… This one reminds me of that distillery on the Sound of Islay that doesn’t start with a B. With water: absolutely perfect. A working kiln, some eucalyptus, a little porridge, dough, beer… This is just perfect indeed. Mouth (neat): not many peaty makes do manage to go the distance next to an Islay, but I believe this one does. What never works, in my little book, is a light, thin distillate that would be smoked. There are a few on Scotland’s mainland. This is different, it’s perfectly tight, focused, on pretty much the same flavours as on the nose. Let me repeat, crabs, oysters, lemons, chalk, ashes, charcoal, menthol… With water: I repeat, this is perfect. Sublime limey and sappy profile. Finish: rather long, still ueber-clean, perfectly well defined, with a splendid saltiness (licking potassium). Comments: Keeper Serge says this is perfect at just 4, and well worth a 90%. Or 90 points.
SGP:556 - 90 points.

Off to Australia…

Sullivan’s Cove 10 yo (67.3%, Artist by La Maison du Whisky, Australian tawny, cask #TD0305, 336 bottles)

Sullivan’s Cove 10 yo (67.3%, Artist by La Maison du Whisky, Australian tawny, cask #TD0305, 336 bottles) Four stars and a half
LMDW had a brilliant 12yo together with the Liquor Library, two years ago. This one’s a little scary, I mean, I know water’s becoming precious but 67% vol.? Not even sure my insurance company would reimburse me, should anything happen… (like, fire, an explosion, sudden death, a good faint, a seizure, suffocation…) Colour: amber. Nose: probably great. Linden and elder flowers, blood oranges, masala, Timut pepper, Guerlain moisturiser, Bovril, and really a lot of ethanol. With water: the umami-y notes are taking over. That’s very pleasing. Mole, soy sauce, hoisin… This is just sublime in my book. Mouth (neat): orangey praline, corne de gazelle pastry, honey water… Great but boy does it burn. With water: salty, miso-y, sour and fermentary. Everything I like. Finish: the spices are taking over, this sure wasn’t silent wood. Seville oranges and all spices the Supreme Being has ever invented. Comments: just a little more restraint at the wood department would have ensured a 90-mark. But fab drop.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

And to ‘Murika!

Heaven Hill 10 yo 2010/2020 ‘Corn Whiskey’ (59.3%, Artful Dodger Collective, USA, Port pipe, cask # 152726, 2020)

Heaven Hill 10 yo 2010/2020 ‘Corn Whiskey’ (59.3%, Artful Dodger Collective, USA, Port pipe, cask # 152726, 2020) Four stars
So, there was some Heaven Hill lying in a Port pipe? It’s true that no one’s saying this is bourbon… The Scots are distilling maize/corn too but I believe the Americans let many more congeners go through. I could be wrong, though… Colour: copper amber. Nose: fully on cellulosic varnish, nail polish remover, and brand new wooden chessboard - it seems that they’re making them on a just-in-time basis since Netflix’s The Queen Gambit came out. I have to say I like this, even if, or maybe because I do not detect much Port, or was it white Port? With water: b.u.t.t.e.r.s.c.o.t.c.h. That’s rather perfect. Then a growing bourbonness, I’d even swear I’m detecting some rye. I must be dreaming. Mouth (neat): extremely strong. Takes you tongue and twists it. Water is obligatory. With water: ah good! Not one of those simplistic corn whiskeys that you could find for cheap, rather a well-constructed, even slightly malty bourbon. Only the body’s a tad thin(nish). Coconut wine, praline, vanilla fudge, violet and lavender drops, and this feeling of dinking a very tiny drop of cologne water. Don’t do that. Finish: these whiskeys or bourbons are often losing steam at the finish, in my meagre experience, but this one rather lasts the course. A little sour wood in the aftertaste, not the best part indeed. Comments: we’re absolutely not used to these whiskies, and keep looking for thicker, oilier bodies. It’s our problem. Nah, another very good drop from Artful Dodger’s, unsurprisingly.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

December 27, 2020



A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!


Yet another loco hotchpotch tasting around the world
(today Italy, France, and UK)

Strange and stranger spirits, seen from a malt whisky enthusiast’s point of view. Never forget about that part. Hope we'll find proper malternatives...

Grappa di Ribolla Gravner (51%, Capovilla, Italy, +/-2012)

Grappa di Ribolla Gravner (51%, Capovilla, Italy, +/-2012) Four stars
Ribolla is a white grape while Gravner is a famous (didn’t know him though) winemaker in Friuli. Capovilla works within the Velier tribe – have to say some recent societal statements by them on FB have shocked me a little bit, but it’s true that lockdown has taken its toll on many good people, and that we all get older. This will pass. Colour: white. Nose: nice grappa, with touches of caramel and butterscotch, which usually come with wood. But there isn’t any wood here. Sultanas, touches of soft earth, white asparagus, hints of lime, fir buds… With water: wonderful precision. More white asparagus plus bush peaches and some tobacco. Mouth (neat): really excellent, grapey and grassy, rather closer to some Marc de Bourgogne, with this grittiness that we all love so much. Do they de-stem these grappas or not? Very very good. With water: even better. Earth and herbs coming out, always a great sign. Finish: long and akin to the best French marcs. Jura, Champagne, Bourgogne, Alsace… Comments: loved this one.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

La Trentina ‘Grappa Morbida’ (41%, OB, Marzadro, Italy, +/-2019)

La Trentina ‘Grappa Morbida’ (41%, OB, Marzadro, Italy, +/-2019)
From Trentin! This is grappa of muscat, chardonnay and gewurztraminer, ‘typical of the region‘ (WTF?) according to their website, aged for a few months in wood. Which, in my book, almost never works. Vanilla kills. Colour: pale white wine. Only the bottle is dark. Nose: extremely fruity, this is almost a fruit salad. Slices of pears, apples, melons, muscat grapes and peaches in light honey and cane syrup. A nice, very easy nose. Mouth: oh no, they added a lot of sugar, which makes the arrival clumsy and cloying. I can’t quite stand this, really a shame since the nose was really pleasant. Finish: short, sugary, unpleasant. Comments: rather a liqueur than grappa. Does ‘morbida’ mean that it would kill you?
SGP:820 - 30 points.

Esprit de Bière (40%, OB, Nussbaumer, France, +/-2015)

Esprit de Bière (40%, OB, Nussbaumer, France, +/-2015) Two stars and a half
Some Alsatian spirit from the village of Steige. Actually, they make this exactly like whisky, meaning that they distil some beer twice, in this case Weissbeer, taking their time because of the foaming. No soap added! And they need no oak either… Colour: white. Nose: so light, lovely, fruity, lemony and earthy. You would almost believe this is a blend of gentian and lemon liqueur, while a delicate beerness adds depth and freshness at the same time. But we agree, it’s on the palate that things will really happen… Mouth: it’ rather some kind of gin, really. No sugar added this time, rather notes of juniper berries (where do those come from?) and pear eau-de-vie. It’s a pleasant spirit. Finish: medium, soft, fresh, I’m sure you could use this s a bitter. Perhaps in… beer. Comments: this one’s called ‘boisson spiritueuse’, so ‘spirit’, while earlier batches were still labelled as ‘eau de vie’. But rules got tougher, eau-de-vie has become an appellation, just like rum (I am joking, sadly).
SGP:640 - 78 points.

Remember we had some Quitte/quince the other day? Let’s have more…

Coing Gayral (45%, OB, Distillerie Gayral, France, +/-2017)

Coing Gayral (45%, OB, Distillerie Gayral, France, +/-2017)
These good people are located in Aveyron, which is in the middle of nowhere, really (bang, a few more friends lost forever). Coing means quince. I’m glad they chose to bottle at 45% vol., they’re smart in Aveyron! (great, our friends are back). Colour: white. Nose: crazy and sour, a tad buttery, with notes of vegetables (mashed turnips) rather than fruits and, really, and I’m not making this up, big notes of baiju. Proper madness, you could also almost believe this is some Glen Albyn new make. Mouth: what is this? Soap, rotting fruits, stewed parsnips… Now I can see where all this is coming from, since quinces do not always display ‘clean’ and ‘pure’ aromas, but that is exactly why making proper quince eau-de-vie is an art. Finish: rather long, a little better, but too hot and indefinite. And too soapy. Comments: only on a ton of ice, this. Looks like our friends in Averyon fell into the trap. I doubt they’ll ever come back.
SGP:640 - 60 points.

Why not a little absinth again? Wasn’t absinth all the rage fifteen years ago?

Absinthe ‘Abisinthe’ (45%, OB, Lemercier, France, +/-2010)

Absinthe ‘Abisinthe’ (45%, OB, Lemercier, France, +/-2010) Three stars
This one’s aged for nine months in demi-johns. Is it the real deal? Not too sure… Having said that, Lemercier are located in Fougerolles in Haute-Saône, which isn’t that far from Alsace. It’s one of the French capitals of distillation, mind you! I really need to get to Fougerolles one day, hope they have a nice wee hotel down there… Colour: white. Nose: we’re very far from the complexity of the Swiss ‘Ça C’en Est’ that we tried the other day, this is more akin to a mentholy pastis by a large maker, Pernod-style. But don’t get me wrong, it’s most pleasant, fresh and full of star anise and fennel. Mouth: nothing to complain about. Aniseed, fennel seeds, liquorice, notes of cedarwood, cinnamon, and perhaps contemporary chartreuse… With water: does not get cloudy at all. A little more lemon and earth. Finish: long, clean, like a better pastis. Comments: some ups and some downs, but as a lover of anything aniseed, I do clap my hands (watch your glass, S.)
SGP:371 - 80 points.

Château du Breuil 'Fine Calvados' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d’Auge, France, +/-2018)

Château du Breuil 'Fine Calvados' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d’Auge, France, +/-2018) Two stars
I already tried this entry-level Calvados a few years ago and was underwhelmed. I’ll have to work on my Calvados one day, perhaps go to Normandy with friends and plunder the region, why not… By the way, calvados is distilled cider, aged in oak. Colour: gold. Nose: yeah, artisan cider and rye beer. Very simple, but not unpleasant at all. No deviant or foul notes here. Mouth: sweet, with some sweet cider and some raisins, plus a little aniseed. It’s unusual, and would probably need a few ice cubes. Finish: medium, with more cider. In a way, it would never lose its path. Comments: I may have been a little harsh with y 65 point, back in 2014. I could down 5cl of this when good friends are around and we have a lot to talk about
SGP:460 - 70 points.

Liqueur du Père Bertrand (38%, OB, Bertrand, France, +/-2017)

Liqueur du Père Bertrand (38%, OB, Bertrand, France, +/-2017) Three stars
The distillerie Bertrand is located in the north of Alsace. They also make a whisky called Uberach, with a very talented and most friendly master distiller/blender/whatever called Jean Metzger. One of the shining stars of French whisky, and an all-round good chap. Now this might be something else… Colour: blush wine. Really. Nose: Aperol spritz, ginger tonic, cologne, orange peel, Campari. Get the drift? Mouth: sugared-up, but with manners. I’m not against this, really. Blood oranges, sweet ginger, tonic water, cinchona, grenadine and cranberry juice. I find this good despite the heavy proportions of saccharose. Finish: medium, sweet, orange-y. Comments: very smart, certainly better than Cointreau or Grand-Marnier. We could all guzzle hectolitres when enough ice is involved. Very well done Bertrand, I’ll buy a bottle or three for the poolside!
SGP:830 - 80 points.

Didn’t we say ‘ten’?

Eau de Vie de Vieille Prune (40%, OB, Castan, +/-2015)

Eau de Vie de Vieille Prune (40%, OB, Castan, +/-2015) Four stars
Eau de vie de vieille prune or vielle eau de vie de prune ? Whatever, let’s taste this baby, old prune can be an hidden gem, really. By the way prune in French means plum, and certainly not ‘prune’, which is called ‘pruneau’ in French. It all happens in the South-West of France anyway. Colour: pale gold. Nose: good prune (plum) always has this fermentary side that we’ll also find in, say Korean or Japanese plum wine (umeshu). It is totally the case here, with notes of old wine, old hard cheeses, and simply plums (Ente or Agen). I have to say I rather love this nose. Mouth: oh very good! Grassy, dry, on spices and earths, with once again these notes of old hard cheeses (Comté, mimolette and friends). It’s not only about ‘stupid’ plums here, it’s a spirit that’s got its own complexities. Like whisky and barley, right. Finish: long, lovely, grassy, dry, complex. Comments: yep, vieille prune is a thing. Not that we’ve tried many, and we sure won’t kickstart vieilleprunefun.com right tomorrow, but I’m sure you see what I mean. Worth checking out.
SGP:371 - 85 points.

That’s eight. Another vieille prune please…

Vieille Prune ‘25’ (40%, OB, Hepp, France, +/-2018)

Vieille Prune ‘25’ (40%, OB, Hepp, France, +/-2018) one star and a half
This one’s made in northern Alsace, but not too sure about what that big bold ‘25’ means. It cannot be an age statement, can it? Probably some kind of anniversary. Oh and it’s to be noted that ‘prune’ is different from ‘quetsche’ in Alsace, they’re not quite the same kinds of plums. By the way, the Hepp Distillery is famous for its ‘Johnny Hepp’ whisky, yes we’ve got a certain sense of humour in Alsace. Colour: white wine. Nose: a dry and grassy plum, and a light background. Not too sure this far… Mouth: it’s okay, grassy, a tad too leafy for me, dry. Not much pleasure to be had here. Finish: medium, a little thin, but with solid ‘prune-y’ flavours. Comments: it’s okay, but it does not really provoke great tastebud enthusiasm... I think we could live without this little prune from Uberach (nothing to do with the Distillerie Uberach – but don’t ask).
SGP:341 - 68 points.

Hey, why not a funny gin as #10?

McQueen ‘Batch 1’ (42%, That Boutique-y Gin Company, 665 bottles, +/-2018)

McQueen ‘Batch 1’ (42%, That Boutique-y Gin Company, 665 bottles, +/-2018)
This is some chocolate-orange gin, and some London dry gin at the same time, made by kings of SEO Master of Malts or sub-companies. Terra totally incognita to me, but you learn every day and at any age, don’t you? Learn or die, as the acculturated woodlouse in D.C. should understand. Colour: white. Nose: no it’s fine and fresh. Were I into gin, I’d like this. Lemon peel, juniper, coriander, and no chocolate that I can smell. My bad, I suppose… Mouth: fine-ish but unprecise, and a little wishy-washy. Oh I know nothing about gin anyway, better ask our good friends Joel and Neil, they’re the experts. But I find this palate pretty disappointing, dry and empty. Finish: medium, nice for a few seconds, then weakfish. Coriander and fennel. Comments: I shan’t remember this humble little spirit forever. Remember what, by the way?
SGP:230 - 62 points.



December 25, 2020



This Is How Whiskyfun's Scottish Headquarters Celebrated Christmas This Year:




Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
12 White Horses
I’m writing this in a village called Strachur by Loch Fyne, it’s where I grew up and where I was living when I got properly interested in whisky at far too young an age. Opposite us on the other side of the Loch is Inverary, home of the (once) great Loch Fyne Whiskies.


The first time I really became aware that there was such a thing as ‘old’ bottles and that they were not only different to their modern counterparts but more desirable in many ways, was reading one of the LFW owner Richard Joynson’s articles in his brilliant Scotch Whisky Review.



Richard wrote about a trip he’d taken a trip to Italy to meet famed collector Valentino Zagatti. Zagatti and Richard shared a dram of the old Lagavulin 12 year old White Horse bottling from the 1970s. I remember Richard describing it as ‘remarkably salty’ by comparison to the 16. It was a short route from reading that to googling old bottles and sifting through the early era pages of a website called ‘The Whisky Exchange’, finding names such as ‘Samaroli’ etc. Learning, stockpiling and accumulating information.

(Editor's comment) Scotch Whisky Review, best whisky writing there ever was. Here Edition 18, Autumn 2002.


Some years later, in summer 2005, I was working on Islay at Ardbeg distillery and I was offered a dram from the car boot of a Belgian whisky collector. This gentleman had arrived at the distillery with his pals, they were all wearing matching beige shirts and were part of a club called ‘Lindores’. I took this at face value and just assumed it was a Belgian thing and that this kind of behaviour was normal - these were more innocent times after all. This was the time before I realised sipping whisky from small sample bottles out of strangers’ car boots was pretty standard stuff for whisky culture. Tucked away in a box, amidst many other bottles, was a white label Lagavulin 12 yo. Needless to say I jumped at the chance. To this day I can still recall the profound and immediate realisation that this was something different, something other. I knew the 16yo well and while this was clearly familial, it was also a stranger. That was one of a handful of key whisky flashpoints for me. Crossroads in time where you can divide your thinking into before and after - the questions that whisky raised in my mind have a lot to answer for about where I’ve gone and what I’ve done since. It’s also arguably responsible for a lot of great friendships and unrepeatable, brilliant experiences.



As a result of all this, these old Lagavulin 12s remain fascinating to me, not to mention special and personal. Not only because they are often such brilliant drams in a technical and objective sense, but also because they are in some ways the epitome of what we mean when we say things like ‘old style’. Or, when we posit arguments for the evolving nature of Scotch whisky, or that many malts used to be more charismatic than their modern counterparts. Using these arguments to open up discussion and debate about what Scotch whisky should be and why it can and should be better. There are few whiskies that ground and demonstrate these arguments as profoundly or as powerfully as the old Lagavulin White Horse 12s.

I’ve been sitting on this wee pile of samples for a few months now, waiting for an opportune moment to do them justice. Like a special bottle, you can wait around for a long time to find the right moment, but I think 2020 is the sort of year where circumstances sometimes just call for great whisky.


We’ve all had shitty time this year, some of us to greater extent than others, but pain, frustration and misfortune are not competitive: we feel what we feel. So, I would simply say that, whatever your situation here at the arse-end of this most frustrating of years, I wish all of you some peace, some quiet, some relaxation and some fun over the winter break. I hope you spend time with people that matter, eat and drink well and carve out space for some decadence and joy wherever you can find it.






A couple of quick points about this tasting. Firstly, I don't have images of every exact bottle to hand I'm afraid, but they're similar looking bottles and hopefully there's enough info for these notes to be of use/interest. Additionally, I think these old 12 white labels are tricky bottles to correctly date. It seems that some batches used bottle moulds earlier than you would expect, while others can appear to be bottled later than they really are. I have indicated a bottling decade for most of these which I'm confident in, and where possible I've given the glass code, however, it's not been possible to be super specific for some of these I'm afraid. Oh, and I will try my best to keep the hyperbole and maltoporn to a minimum, but apologies in advance, just in case… 




Lagavulin ‘Pure Islay Malt’ White Horse (75 proof, OB, UK, 1970s)
Ok, not all the drams in this session are 12 year olds. This is an extremely rare NAS version for the UK from the early 1970s I believe. Never tried this one before, but as you know, I’m a huge fan of NAS… Colour: pale amber. Nose: as big as you can get at 43%. Old school peat slapped on with a trowel. Black pepper, coal embers, soot, roof pitch and buckets of tar. Feels even more ‘old school’ than the 12 yo versions; I’m reminded of a certain 14yo Laphroaig bottled in the 1950s here. Brilliantly herbal, tarry, earthy, phenolic and full of this wonderfully greasy, textural peatiness. Mouth: Indeed, this is old, old stuff. Hugely peaty, grizzly herbal bitters, smoked peppercorns, natural tar extracts, industrial cough medicines, ointments, vapour rubs and hessian. Simple in many ways, but beautifully so and with devastating poise and power. Finish: long, leafy, drying, herbal, tarry, earthy peat smoke. A briny splosh of seawater in the aftertaste. Comments: Feels rather distinct and separate from some of the later batches - were they getting rid of the dregs of Malt Mill in the early 70s? Anyway, extremely old style, properly uncompromising Islay whisky. You cannot help but imagine what kind of immense leviathan this must have been at marrying strength…
SGP: 467 - 94 points.




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (75 proof, OB, UK, 1970s, SC295)
Colour: pale amber (I’m seeing a pattern here). Nose: the peat is a notch lighter than the NAS, it’s more on this wonderfully metallic and autumnal sherry profile. Lots of subtle tarry notes, wet leaves, camphor, metal polish and oily toolbox rags. In time there’s a more defined peatiness emerging. Riddled with dried seaweed, old school herbal medicines and camphor. Mouth: that familiar thickness and textural oiliness is very present. These older style Islay whiskies were really so much about texture. A rather greasy slick of peppery, dry, tarry peat along with more touches of metal and furniture polish and more herbal medicines. Finish: medium and rather peppery, coastal, tarry and with a lovely drying peat. The impression of peat embers fading in a sooty hearth. Comments: brilliant whisky that’s emblematic of this place and era. It reminds me instantly what I love about the older Lagavulins: they display this very specific, bone-dry and idiosyncratic peat flavour. Distinct in the same way Highland Parks of this era have their own peat personality.
SGP: 466 - 92 points.




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, CINOCO Brussels import, Belgium, 1970s)
Colour: pale amber (I think we can start cutting and pasting thanks to E150.) Nose: different again, a more luxurious and velvety fusion of fruitier sherry and softer peat. The immediate impression is that this is smoother, rounder, and perhaps composed with some older stocks in the mix? Gorgeous, quilted layers of peat smoke, natural tar liqueur, smoked olive oil and the best VORS oloroso fresh from the bodega. Mouth: indeed, deeper, oilier, silkier, rounder, tarrier, the peat softer, more peppery, smoked black tea, lemon rind, herbal ointments and even some wee exotic fruit notes. Finish: feels short at first but it resurges beautifully with lapsing souchong, cured meats, herbal-tinged peat smoke and more soft tarry vibes. Comments: A rather more luscious and ‘complete’ batch that feels like there’s more sherry influence and age involved.
SGP: 555 - 93 points.




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, Para Espana, 1970s)
A version for Spain, not too sure I’ve tried this one before either… Colour: pale amber. Nose: interesting, this is drier, sharper, more coastal, narrow and chiselled. Lots of dried seaweed, wet rocks, chalk, old dried out medicines, herbal teas, more distant tarry notes and things like vapour rubs and camphors. Even more modern things like mineral salts and beach sand being to appear - kind of foreshadows later styles. Mouth: drying, rather mineral sherry, motor oils, camphor, peppery tar, smoked sea salt, olive brine and anchovies. This one is more chiselled and more precisely coastal and even slightly fishy than the others. Some wee hints of smoked grist and cured meats. Finish: long, getting deeper, tarrier and finally peatier now. In fact the finish really soars. Comments: a funny one, deceptive in some ways but quite fun. Gathered an extra point in the superb finish.
SGP: 365 - 92 points.



Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, Ausländisches Erzeugnis, German import, 1970s)
I’m told that ‘Ausländisches Erzeugnis’ just means ‘foreign import’ and that the importer was usually Stahlkopf in Hamburg. Colour: yes. Nose: another sharper, more chiselled and coastal one. Superbly fresh, salty, briny and with plenty seaweed and nervous, mineral sherry. In time the peat comes through more clearly. It’s dry, very peppery, quite assertive and with lots of tarred rope and hessian supporting it. More of these impressions of dusty, phenol-ridden old malt bins. Mouth: wonderful arrival. Surprisingly thick, tarry, textural and full of oily peat, sardines in olive oil with herbs, anchovy paste, olive brine, kelp, smoked herbs and tarry rope again. Some velvety sherry gluing everything together. Brilliant! Finish: long, more smoked herbs, cured meats, tar liqueur, fir wood and peat embers. Comments: Feels like a hybrid of the nose from the Spanish import and the palate of the CINOCO. We’re approaching danger levels of sheer, unbridled quaffability here.
SGP: 466 - 94 points.




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, Carpano Torino, Italy, 1970s)
Colour: wait…! Deep gold I think. Perhaps the caramel guy was hungover that day? Nose: I really do think these bottlings have more in common with some of the old official Highland Park dumpy bottlings than with their contemporary Laphroaig and Ardbeg neighbours. This very particular and stunning combination of dry, rooty and herbal peat smoke, mixed with embrocations, tar, pepper and wee touches of metal polish speaks to me more or Orkney than Islay in some aspects. Either way, this is stunning and there’s more in the way of aromatic dried seaweed, sweet herbal cough medicines and oily, mineral-flecked sherry. Joy and pleasure unbridled! Mouth: just gorgeous! There’s something ‘extra’ going on here in terms of thickness, velvety texture and an almost syrupy sweetness that adds in things like natural tar liqueur, coconut, smoked olive oil and cream sherry. Just devastatingly gorgeous old Islay whisky. Indeed, this is another one where the palate knocks it out of the park and leaves you questioning the age statement. Finish: thrillingly endless, riddled with cured meats, salty old oloroso mixed with sweeter cream style sherries, natural tar extracts, herbal cocktail bitters and leathery, tarry old rope and hessian. Comments: Disgustingly, shamelessly, unequivocally brilliant! I just adored these sweeter we coconut notes in here, they feel outrageously decadent. The very epitome of what makes this such an iconic bottling series in my view.
SGP: 566 - 95 points.




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, Montenegro Zola, Italy, 1970s)
I don’t know enough about the different Italian importers of this era to tell you more precise dating info on which of these came first etc. Colour: amber. Nose: the same, and yet with its own idiosyncrasies once again. This is extremely thick and dense on the nose. Lots of tarry, leathery, almost syrupy peat wrapped up in ancient cream sherry, smoked herbal teas, camphor and the purest and most beautiful peat smoke. The peat in fact possesses some more modern facets such as a more assertive and sharper smokiness, but in combination with these other aspects its quite stunning. Mouth: wonderful arrival in the mouth, beautifully thick, dense, oily - almost fatty peat. Peppery, ancient tar liqueur, long aged yellow Chartreuse, mineral oils, ointments, camphor, soot and oily smoked fish. This is the fishiest one so far in fact. Amazing that whisky can retain such textural heft and muscle at 43% and after decades in glass. To try this at its original marrying strength… that’s the dream! Finish: similar comments to the Torino… endlessly long, mesmerisingly thick, textural and with a glow of deepest, darkest peat and smouldering seaweed you could melt a marshmallow over without compromising social distancing! Comments: Leaves you a little bit speechless really. These bottlings really do deserve their reputations. They’ve captured a process, ingredients and style that, in the grand arc of history, only existed for the shutter snap of a few decades.
SGP: 556 - 95 points.




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, UK, glass-moulded horse in bottle shoulder, early 1980s)
Let’s see how things evolve as we shift forwards in time… Colour: amber… I mean, does anyone really care about colours? I know, I know, my apologies to all the Macallan fans out there ;) Nose: at first this is gentler and softer, rounder as well with a more subdued mix of leathery old sherry, peat smoke and many tiny notes of herbal medicines, pine sap, smoked teas and hessian. With time begins to get superbly gamey, leathery, salty and with a sharper, more precise coastal and mineral aspect. This impression of a more blustery, playful and fresher profile is really endearing. Mouth: indeed, ‘meatier’ is the word. We’re not talking biltong here, but certainly cured game meats, pheasant in bouillon stock, old pinot noir and many subtle smoked teas and crystallised exotic fruits. This is one thing that you feel is absent from these old Lagavulins in some way, the fruits. But it’s just that I often forget to mention them in face of such monumental peaty/tarry/sherry/herbal beauty. Indeed, they’re here on display, and there’s a snippet of kumquat and blood orange too. Finish: long, thicker again, this lingering, very textural feeling, deeply unctuous and almost sappy peat flavours mixed up with tar extracts, mineral sherry, salty game meats and more crystallised exotic fruits. Comments: It’s starting to get hard to really be objective about these, the pleasure factor is pretty overwhelming. These are very much the kind of whiskies that almost compel you to sit back, forget about all this scores and notes nonsense, and just bask in their hypnotically brilliant glow.
SGP: 565 - 93 points.




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, UK, early 1980s)
Probably the kind of bottling they were giving away free if you bought a few bottles of Gordon’s Gin in Oddbins at the time. Colour: amber. It’s true that the colour seems to darken as we head into the 1980s - I blame Thatcher! Nose: we’re back to a very tar-forwards style. Dense, thick, greasy peat, coal embers, anthracite, pine wood, some kind of tar syrup and crystallised orange peel. Beyond that smaller notes of old leather, brine, salted liquorice and boiler smoke. Some aspects recall the NAS from the start of this tasting funnily enough. Mouth: it’s brilliant but in many ways simpler and more focussed than previous batches. Sharp salinity, nervous leathery sherry that includes some nutty and rancio aspects, tarry rope, dried seaweed and smoked black pepper. These wee fishy touches are back: peppered mackerel I think. In time there’s a stunning medicinal aspect coming through, herbal cough medicines extraordinaire. I know often use that as a tasting note, but here you really get this flavour in a pure and vivid way. Finish: long, tarry, full of supple, peppery, herbal peat smoke, crystallised citrus peels and exotic fruits, emblematic once again of this profile. Comments: I was wavering around the 92 point mark at first but this one just grows and grows on you. The evolution on the palate and finish in particular is pretty breath-taking.
SGP: 466 - 94 points.




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, Montenegro Zola, early 1980s, SD133)
Back to Italy… Colour: amber. Indeed, it would appear they hired a new, teetotal caramel dude by this point. Nose: once again, we’re back at the peat-face! A big wall of tarry, leathery, oily and dense peat. This one even starts to display notes of kippers, brine mixed with lemon oils, cracked black pepper on cured meats and a dry, rather punchy smokiness with touches of struck flints and puffer fumes. Just great, once again! Mouth: there is something about the Italian batches, they seem to possess a thickness, spiciness and roundness of the palate that is utterly enchanting. This series is so much about texture and fatness on the palate anyway, but here it’s at its most vivid, luxurious and velvety. No wonder everyone was banging on about malt whisky being ‘smoooooth’ in these days. Anyway, the usual suspects are all here: tar liqueur, greasy peat, smoked olive oil, camphor, herbal extracts etc… Finish: long, deeply peaty, oily, tarry, camphory and with loads of leather, salty sherry and wee crystallised fruit notes. Comments: I don’t think this is quite as spectacular as the late 70s batches for Italy, but we’re very close.
SGP: 566 - 94 points.




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, Montenegro Zola, Italy, 1980s, SD170)
By the way, in case you didn’t know, those wee codes I’m noting above are glass codes from the base of the bottles. They’re pretty essential in dating and differentiating batches of older official bottlings. This one should be from a year or so later than the SD133… Colour: Whoa, STOP PRESS! It would appear we have struck ‘reddish amber’. Evidently ‘Mr Caramel’ had taken up yoga or jogging by this point. Nose: it’s funny how these batches change incrementally, going back to the NAS briefly we’ve clearly come quite a distance. The sherry here is bigger, more obvious, sweeter and more syrupy. The peat feels a similarly thick, tarry and herbal, but it’s more in equal billing with the sherry. There’s smoked mint, eucalyptus resin, tea tree oil and wee hints of the kind of funky, fermented weed they use to assassinate stray Scotsmen in the Netherlands. Also some funny notes of black olive, pickled herring and other more obviously fishy qualities. I don’t think we ever really commented enough on quite how fishy old Lagavulin could be. I remember a rotation 1958 spring cap Lagavulin that was essentially a smoked mackerel smoothie. Anyway… this is otherwise typically superb. Mouth: the arrival is softer but this may be the silkiest expression of peat flavour thus far. Also sublime tarriness, kumquat, apricot, smoked olive oil, rancio, smoked walnuts, ancient balsamic - the sherry really does have a more assertive voice here, so perhaps ‘Mr Caramel’ was simply being restrained for once? Finish: long, with lots of leafy, rather earthy and raisiny sherry. Salted walnuts and almonds, natural tar and herbal liqueurs and wispy peat smoke. Comments: A divergence for sure, but it feels like very similar distillate just from more active sherry casks.
SGP: 655 - 93 points.   




Lagavulin 12 yo White Horse (43%, OB, French import, 1980s, SD522)
Probably one of the last batches of the 12yo with the white label before the switch to green glass and the roundel distillery label for a brief spell before finally settling on the 16yo. Colour: pale amber. Nose: the shifting profile starts to become more noticeable here. This is a notch grassier, the peat smoke rawer and a little harsher, more boiler smoke, hessian, smoked meats and even a slightly balsamic / acetic note to the sherry. Some tarred rope and drying kelp. Mouth: big arrival, with lots of dunnage earthiness, dry peat smoke, black pepper, tar, iodine, kelp and some ashy wood smoke. Flinty, gravelly minerals, smoked olive oil and iodine. Finish: long, boisterously peaty, more gravel, earthy, herbal medicines, wormwood, antiseptic and smoked black pepper. Comments: Rather suitably this one firmly points in the direction of later iterations of Lagavulin. However, it’s also another one of these rather sly batches that starts off with simplicity and then bamboozles you with raw brilliance and power on the palate.
SGP: 466 - 93 points.



And now, because it would be a shame not to…



Megavulin 12yo White Horse (43%, MacRaild’s Private Covid Reserve, vatted 2020)
Colour: pale amber. Nose: what’s funny is that a roughly equal vatting of all twelve rather focuses the sherry aspects and brings forward these stunning notes of smoked coconut, tar, seawater and olive oil. Some tropical fruit syrups and divine, old school, earthy, herbal peat. In many ways these old 12s are reminiscent of those old 1980s bottled G&M wartime distilled Speysiders with this peat, exotic fruit and coconut fusion. Anyway, this is all getting a bit silly… Mouth: stunning! A perfect fusion of all the peat, tar, smoked oils, dried seaweed, hessian and ancient herbal liqueurs and medicines. Finish: brilliant as expected. Comments: not really sure we learned anything by doing this. But we had fun dammit!
SGP: 566 - 94 points.



Ok, one last wee bonus, just for sake of comparison and to kind of bring us closer to modernity, but gently so…



Lagavulin 16 yo White Horse (43%, OB, UK, +/-1990

Lagavulin 16 yo White Horse (43%, OB, UK, +/-1990)
I wanted to do one of the current Laga 12s but sadly I just don’t have a single drop of one t available. So this sample of a very early 16yo will have to suffice. I’ve recorded notes for this before so this is really just for the record and sake of comparison… Colour: gold (huzzah!) Nose: what’s immediately obvious is that they stepped away from such a dominant sherry profile which was so often the case with the 12s. This is greener, lighter and more on refill wood qualities such as more direct and obvious green and exotic fruits. Although, this coconut aspect does remain here. You can certainly see the DNA of the modern era Lagavulin fully formed here. Lots of elastoplasts, bandages, embrocations, seawater and gorgeous fruits. What it shares with the 12s is more this hessian and herbal medicinal profile. It also feels older than 16 funnily enough, reminiscent in many ways of some latter era Port Ellen special release batches (batch 9 onwards for example). Mouth: stunning freshness and fruitiness. Whereas the 12s are all on crystallised and dried fruits, this is freshness and ripeness in abundance. Greengage, star fruit, pineapple, guava and banana. The silkiest of peat smoke as well, almost ethereal, drying and medicated. Finish: long, layered peat smoke, fruits, seaweed, medicines. Stunning! Comments: a different animal to the 12s but brilliance that is Lagavulin remains undimmed I would say. No wonder we are all in love with this distillery to varying degrees.
SGP: 446 - 93 points.



And that’s a wrap!



I’m indebted to Hans Ekström for this tasting. Cheers and hugs to you Hans!




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


December 24, 2020


Feasting, rewards and
old malternative brandies

In my family, we’ve always quaffed cognac and armagnac on Christmas day. Or on Sundays. Mind you, whisky was rather for discotheques or parties. Oh and for mixing, I’ve never seen any of my ancestors drinking whisky just like that. Never, ever. So I must be the first in my lineage to drink whisky neat – still quite some catching up to do, I suppose (yeah, just any excuses). But today is today, and it’s rather a day for very special cognacs…

Petite Champagne ‘D67 – A52’ (49%, Jean Grosperrin for C. Dully, cask #F15, 2020)

Petite Champagne ‘D67 – A52’ (49%, Jean Grosperrin for C. Dully, cask #F15, 2020) Four stars and a half
Well, either M. C. Dully wants to play Battleships with us, or these codes do actually mean something, such as the vintage and age of this little petite champagne. I’m leaning toward “vintage and age”. Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s a very fresh, tart, very citrusy profile at first (blood oranges), then we have ripe damsons (or zwetschke/zwetschge if you’re playing Scrabble), then more tertiary aromas, old wines, earths, tobacco, rancio, ale, miso, chocolate… Mouth: rich and punchy, yet well-chiselled, rather on rich honeys, Corinth raisins, then all kinds or dried and crystalised citrus. The background is pretty spicy, on cocoa, English tea, and black tobacco. Cocoa tends to take the lead. Finish: long, really punchy and spicy, even somewhat aggressive, not unlike some single cask cognac straight from the… hold on… So exactly not one of those old blends in crystal. Saltier aftertaste. Comments: a bit tough and rough in the end, perhaps, but I do like this style a lot. My ship is sunk!
SGP:461 - 89 points.

Chollet 1960/2020 ‘Le Bon Vivant’ (46.3, Malternative Belgium, 109 bottles)

Chollet 1960/2020 ‘Le Bon Vivant’ (46.3, Malternative Belgium, 109 bottles) Four stars and a half
Looks like this is a Fins Bois. Chollet are both producers and négociants and are located in Boutiers-Saint-Trojan. I suppose this stems from their own estates. Anyway, another brandy that seems to have flown through that secret pipeline that goes from Armagnac straight to Belgium, via Cognac. Oh and this is my year, so it better be good. Colour: deep amber. Nose: exactly the opposite to the Grosperrin. Much softer, fruitier, smoother, with honeys and many crystallised and dried fruits, figs, longans, raisins, Stolle, ripe mirabelles, wee herbs wormwood, fennel, dill, verbena, yellow chartreuse… Mouth: indeed it is all fruits and flowers, but with a little black tea indeed this time, quite some pipe tobacco, moss, mint, liquorice wood... Touches of coffee too, molassy rum (just two drops), and then once again, rather a lot of honey and even pancake syrup. Finish: it’s funny that both old cognacs would converge in their finishes. More spices, pepper, bitter chocolate, cinnamon… A touch of tamarind jam and prunes in the aftertaste. Comments: it started mellow ans easy, but never stopped picking up steam then. Same ballpark.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Fins Bois No.45 Héritage (50.8%, Grosperrin for Passion For Whisky, 2020)

Fins Bois No.45 Héritage (50.8%, Grosperrin for Passion For Whisky, 2020) Five stars
So, as the vintages are related to the harvests and not to the years of distillation (but in truth, those ought to be the same), this was made right after the end of WWII. In other words, it should be a very celebratory old cognac. Remember, within the bois, you’ve got fins bois, bons bois, and bois ordinaires, from best to less best (but there are hundreds of exceptions and we’ve had some superb bois ordinaires). Colour: deep amber. Nose: much love already. I’m a sucker for dried figs while this has plenty, especially those small ones they have in Turkey. Wonderful focused nose, tight, well-ordered, with just a little menthol and liquorice on top of those marvellous little figs. No water to be added. Mouth: exactly the same feeling, a tight, totally focussed, almost narrow style, on figs and raisins. But some figs are extremely complex and hey, take a pack of dried figs and try them all, you’ll notice that they’re all different. Same with dried litchis or longans by the way. How strange and funny! Finish: long, on figs. Touch of muscovado sugar and orangettes. Comments: simple pleasure from a singular year. Rather irresistibly peaceful, in fact; makes you forget about the clash of arms.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Grande Champagne No.35/41 ‘Héritage’ (45.8%, Grosperrin, lot #778)

Grande Champagne No.35/41 ‘Héritage’ (45.8%, Grosperrin, lot #778) Five stars
A wonderful and sad story about this cognac from Bonneuil that had been stored in an attic while the owners, who were résistants, were later captured by the enemy, deported, and never came back. Their son, who had been captured too but came back, took care of this very moving old cognac after the war… Colour: wonderful amber. Nose: what can I say? It’s got sesame oil, tangerine liqueur, macadamia nuts, old Yquem (no less), pink grapefruits, cigarettes, citrons, figs… Did you notice that no single smell would suggest old age, or over-maturity? This was disgorged exactly when it had to, to the day. Wow. Mouth: exceptional. This sense of focus that was already in the ‘45, except that we’re more on wallflowers here, jasmine tea, dandelions… It is, in truth, a very floral palate. And I absolutely love these touches of old chardonnay that are making for a splendid background. Yeah, Coche-Dury, if you like, be my guest. Finish: rather long, rather more on cedar wood, cinnamon and chocolate, with a little coffee in the aftertaste. Ah coffee in any aftertaste, that too always works. Comments: amazing and moving work by Grosperrin, and thoughts to whom made this glorious and very ‘resistant’ cognac. Shakes you soul.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

Grosperrin are the best curators there ever was in cognac. They tell, rather than invent stories, just ask any un-embedded aficionado. Oh well let’s just have another one by them, while remembering this all-important motto: bad packaging = great spirit. The opposite works too, just ask champagne makers.

Grande Champagne Lot No.0/35 ‘Historique’ (43%, Grosperrin for Passion for Whisky)

Grande Champagne Lot No.0/35 ‘Historique’ (43%, Grosperrin for Passion for Whisky) Five stars
Good, from what I can read, quite a lot of bottles were given as a dowry to a young couple when they got married in 1922, and have been kept in the family ever since. This comes from one of those bottles, which have just been reconditioned and labelled by those wizards at Grosperrin’s. It is, in a way, what Sotheby’s did with the Massandra collection. Now when was this actually distilled? The answer is flying in the wind of time… 1900? Obviously not 1935. Colour: mahogany amber. Nose: oh yes, very old. It is reminiscent of all very old bottles of brandy I could try, especially cognacs, with more ‘roundness’ (a feeling of coffee liqueur, very typical) and these wonderful mushroomy smells that are usually not to be found in modern cognacs. Other than that, we’re rather finding old sauces (grand veneur, bordelaise) and anything that would remind us of pipe tobaccos. Some liqueurs too, but the palate will tell. This was distilled a very long time ago. Mouth: it is a saltier, meatier style, with black olives, very old red wines, game, salted prunes, chen-pi, English brown sauce (soon illegal in the EU – I’m joking), and many tiny sweet-and-sour and bittersweet elements. Let’s call them forgotten molecules. Also very old beers (old trappiste) and meads. Liquid time, really. Finish: not very long but wonderfully meaty, sour, almost balsamic. Comments: this one too is very moving. I say aged spirits ought to move us - which no stupid NAS will ever do. Great success here. I would add that you could pour a few drops of this over goose foie gras, if you feel so inclined. Forgot to say, this is extremely good too. Oh and I hope it was a happy marriage, and that the guests really enjoyed this one, back in 1922…
SGP:561 - 92 points.

December 23, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Return to Campbeltown
Which sounds like a questionable 1980s action thriller starring Kurt Russel which I absolutely would watch. However, we’re instantly getting side-tracked. Looks like the sample pile of Campbeltowners has accumulated once again here at Whiskyfun HQ Edinburgh. Time to tackle them.


Glen Scotia 1999/2018 (57.9%, OB ‘Distillery Edition No 6’, cask #463, 195 bottles)

Glen Scotia 1999/2018 (57.9%, OB ‘Distillery Edition No 6’, cask #463, 195 bottles)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: there is a coastal aspect at first which is rather reminiscent of some younger Springbanks, however here you also get this sense of sheep wool doused in olive oil, muddy leather boots, gorse flower and rather gloopy mechanical oils and old toolbox rags. All rather more ‘Glen Scotia’ in my view - which is great of course. In time the balance swings slightly back towards the cask with some sweeter and creamier notes that include some vanilla custard. Globally pretty excellent so far I think. With water: back towards these leafier, greener and slightly grassier notes. Pollens, white flowers, very soft waxes, sunflower oil. Very attractive. Mouth: quite sweet initially upon arrival. All on pineapple cubes, white jellybeans and more custard made with young dessert wines. Quite cask forwards I suppose. There’s also grassiness, a few more mechanical touches and things like chopped parsley and fresh butter. With water: now we’re getting there. Bitter herbs, rapeseed oil, pasta water, white pepper, chamois leather, old toolbox rags again, mineral oils, beach pebbles. More of a Scotia charisma about it now. Finish: medium, rather peppery, oily, grassy, mineral and with a few subtly bitter herbs coming through such a tarragon. Comments: Feels like about as ‘safe’ as Glen Scotia gets these days. I can understand why they would pick such a cask as a distillery exclusive, it is technically very, very good. But there are more boisterous, unlikely, charismatic and - ultimately - more fun Glen Scotias lurking around out there.
SGP: 662 - 86 points.



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)
Colour: gold. Nose: well, we are certainly at Glen Scotia! A whole workshop full of weirdness. Mechanical oils, old bicycle chains, mysterious toolboxes, steel wool, oily rags, every shade of cooking oil available, funny lactic notes, very old Irish pure pot whiskeys, hot copper coins, sour bubblegum, motor oil, gravel… Do not adjust your sets! Mouth: ok, take some expensive olive oil and mate it with a wild goat. Then put it through the Heriot Watt brewing and distilling course and give it the run of Glen Scotia distillery and hey presto! Also some kind of fermented herbs, sheep’s cheese, bacterial wort, carbon paper, fermenting eucalyptus (a thing?), slightly ‘off’ mushrooms and brand new leather shoes. I’m a bit lost here I have to say. The feeling of casually crunching your way through a raw turnip - ‘Baldrick style’. I’m sure some people would say this is flawed but I cannot help but be entertained. Now some partially molten plastic dipped in rapeseed oil. Finish: rather long, sour olive oil, plastic again, beach sand, mustard powder, camphor, plain porridge with overripe grapefruit peel? Some kind of ash-rolled goat’s cheese in the aftertaste I think? Comments: Ok, when I said ‘charismatic’… be careful what you wish for I suppose. Quite frankly, this is ridiculous whisky which I’m sure many people would tell you is flawed. However, I could not help but chuckle to myself the whole time while recording this note. I would say these two humble wee Glen Scotias are the difference between technical and soulful. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have an exorcist on speed dial for the 1992… I have precisely zero idea of how to score this whisky.
SGP: 471 - 79 (utterly meaningless) points.



…Necessary break…



Springbank 12 yo (no ABV, OB, ceramic, Belgian import, rotation 1974)

Springbank 12 yo (no ABV, OB, ceramic, Belgian import, rotation 1974)
This one comes with a handy import sticker on the back stating a rotation year. Good old Brussels; let’s call this a Brexit commemorative decanter. Now, I wasn’t aware these ceramics were in use this far back. As for the strength, there’s none stated but these were usually 43% in my experience. Colour: straw. Nose: very ‘old Springbank’ with these wonderfully fragrant coastal qualities alongside lemon rind, chalk, mineral salts, white flowers and sandalwood. Digging deeper it becomes a little oilier, waxier and more mechanical with light greasy hints, old toolbox impressions and dried herbs. Extremely pure and totally non-commercial in style compared to many modern single malts. Mouth: indeed, barley eau de vie with touches of waxed fabrics, Barbour grease, mineral oils, animal fats, bone marrow, camphor, pine resin and tea tree oil. Some eucalyptus oils, cough medicines and herbal teas. There’s a lightness as well which would indeed suggest a lower ABV. Beautiful but feels a little fragile in the mouth now. Finish: medium, drying, coastal, slightly brittle salinity, more waxes, animal fats and herbal cough medicines. Comments: The nose is beautiful, pure and fresh, but the palate fades a little towards the end. Perhaps it didn’t travel too well inside that old ceramic over the years. Now, it’s still some delicious old school Springbank so let’s not split too many hairs.
SGP: 462 - 87 points.



Springbank 1998/2020 (52.1%, Archives for Taiwan, cask #226, port hogshead, 173 bottles)

Springbank 1998/2020 (52.1%, Archives for Taiwan, cask #226, port hogshead, 173 bottles)
A bird on the label this time, clearly the Samoan authorities have finally deported those cheeky Dutchmen… Colour: amber. Nose: big, unctuous and rather beefy in style that blind I would just have said was sherry rather than obviously port. Goes on with natural tar, leather, herbal bitters, dark chocolate and wee hints of miso and soy sauce. I really love this style, but you need a serious appetite and a knife and fork to tackle it. Even begins to show notes of marmite on brown toast, ancient Fernet Branca, English mustard and Bovril. Suspect you could make a terrific meat pie using this as a base for the stock. With water: heather ales, fresh pumpernickel bread, pumpkinseed oil, meat gravy, rancio, game meats and more natural and soft tarry notes. Mouth: yes! Big, powerful, lean, earthy, drying and meaty. Port doing an impression of sherry once again. Lots of roasted nuts, walnut liqueur, herbal tonics, old school cough medicines, winter spices, natural tar, beef stock, bouillon and black miso. Feels like this was captured just at the right moment. With water: this impression of bitter herbs becomes more heightened, there’s also more lean, leathery aspects, more meats, cocktail bitters, tar, soot, canvass, putty, bitter citrus piths and aged black teas. Finish: long, leafy, herbal, nicely bitter, subtly meaty and with, hessian, dried seaweed, heather and camphor. Comments: A terrific cask of Springbank that leans towards the ‘gamey but clean’ profile. You just kind of have to be in the mood to tackle something this chunky. And I really didn’t get much in the way of ‘Port’, blind I’d just have said a pretty typical latter-era Springbank style of sherry cask, but I’ll not complain.
SGP: 463 - 91 points.



Hazelburn 1998/2020 (46%, North Star, sherry hogshead, 230 bottles)

Hazelburn 1998/2020 (46%, North Star, sherry hogshead, 230 bottles)
Springbank that has been triple distilled. So, Hazelburn then. Colour: amber. Nose: wooft! Beautiful sherry, the very best of the ‘Springbank’ style of sherry cask. That is, rather than veering too much off towards rubber, we’re instead more on gun oils, bouillon stocks, game meats, old pinot noir, leather and old tweeds and hessians. Behind that I also find sticky dark fruits, candied citrus peels, golden sultanas and some wonderful wee touches of camphors, vapour rubs and medicines. These early vintages of Hazelburn now really start to just resemble lighter batches of Springbank. But what’s so great is that they still reek of Campbeltown - in a good way. Mouth: extremely sharp and almost like walnut stain with this very precise mix of rancio, ancient balsamic, cured game meats, hessian and dunnage earthiness. Walnut oils, green walnut liqueur, herbal wines and cough medicines. Unusual and with the sherry starting to ‘lean in’ more assertively now but it remains clean, lean, earthy and with this wonderfully sinewed meatiness. Finish: long with bitter herbs, some ancient Fernet Branca, verbena, lemon cough drops, cloves, shoe polish and walnuts once again. Comments: Amazing that a wee triple distilled spirit like Hazelburn could navigate such a boisterous sherry cask, but then again this is Campbeltown, where not all is as it seems… Anyway, an excellent, extremely old school Hazelburn.
SGP: 462 - 90 points.



Springbank 1994/2020 (48.5%, North Star, refill hogshead, 270 bottles)

Springbank 1994/2020 (48.5%, North Star, refill hogshead, 270 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: exquisite! An ode to coastal and waxy aromas in whisky. Crushed chalk, brittle seashells, lemon-scented bath salts, freshly starched linens, subtle hints of petrol underneath, pithy lemon peels, light sooty touches and, with a little breathing time, the most fragrant curls of soft, quilt-like peat smoke. Even hints of earl grey tea and seawater. Just beautiful, a nose to die for. Mouth: superb arrival. A little lighter, subtler and gentler than the nose suggest. But still many stunning flavours gently piling up. Sandalwood, lemon rind, white pepper, waxes, a light touch of peat, vapour rubs, cough medicines, herbal teas, gentle sooty qualities. Pristine distillate at a perfect age. This sense of coastal freshness, chalkiness and these petrol and mineral aspects just build and build. Finish: medium and on bitter herbs, green tea with lemon, green olive, brine with lemon rind, smoked olive oil and camphor. More medicines and peppery waxes in the aftertaste. Comments: The nose is 94 point material, the palate perhaps lacks a little oomph to keep up but is still stunning. Evocative malt whisky that exudes a clear and powerful sense of place and style. Decadent pleasure, utter class and a testament to distillate, gentle wood and time.
SGP: 462 - 92 points. 



Longrow 1994/2020 (52.1%, North Star, refill hogshead, 130 bottles)

Longrow 1994/2020 (52.1%, North Star, refill hogshead, 130 bottles)
The label says Springbank but I think we can dispense with that little technicality. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one feels shier at first; more coiled and poised. However, you also get an unequivocal announcement that this is Longrow with these brilliant notes of seawater, petrol, medicines colliding with olive brine and pure antiseptic. Then this rising and totally idiosyncratic tang of Machrihanish peat. Keeps opening up: bandages, wet rocks, ink, dried seaweed, putty, camphor, beach bonfire embers. I’m almost sorry to report that it is totally stunning. With water: gets rather camphory, elegantly drying, notes of waxed canvass, chalk, olive oils and more seawater. Mouth: Pow! A sucker-punch of utterly glorious peat smoke. Soaked in mercurochrome, iodine, lime oils, waxes, white pepper, dried seaweed flakes, natural tar and the most vivid and powerful medicinal profile. Whereas the Springbank was kind of ‘nose-forwards’ this one is quite the inverse. Stupendously mouth-filling, slathering on this petrolic, jellied peat with a trowel! With water: brilliantly medicinal, oily, sooty and with this peculiarly sharp and pointed smokiness. Chiselled coastal aspects, light briny touches and now also some farmyard aspects like oily sheep wool, lanolin, wintergreen and even things like caraway and fennel. The complexity really builds, just brilliant, brilliant old Longrow. Finish: very long! Now really tarry, phenolic, peppery, saline and still with this brilliantly sharp and precise smokiness. Getting beautifully herbal and medical in the aftertaste. Does that peacock tail thing where every wee flavour and impression takes a bow. Comments: indeed, a totally stunning Longrow. What unifies these old Springbank distillates, when they’re at their best, is that they reek of distillery identity. This one just could not be any other distillate on the planet than Longrow. A tour de force!
SGP: 466 - 93 points.
<< PS: There's alo a magnum for The Auld Alliance in Singapore, with exatcy the same juice inside

Auld Alliance


We will need to dig deep to find anything with a hope of climbing over that Longrow…



Springbank 15 yo 1973/1989 (50%, R W Duthie for Samaroli ‘Ageing Monography’)

Springbank 15 yo 1973/1989 (50%, R W Duthie for Samaroli ‘Ageing Monography’)
I remember when I first saw these labels I thought momentarily this series was called ‘Ageing Monogamy’… Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather shy at first. A gentle unfolding of waxes, honeycomb, pollens and medial vapour rubs. Mead, camphor, fir wood, lanolin and cough syrup. Extremely elegant, classical and with these wee subtle mineral touches that I love. However, it’s not an ‘immediate’ dram in the same way the Longrow was. With water: tiger balm and herbal vapour rubs, salted honey, wintergreen and more of these rather precise and old school medical complexities. Mouth: more direct upon arrival, pine sap waxiness, herbal medicines, acacia honey, a sweet but extremely subtle peatiness and hints of exotic fruit cordials. It’s beautiful but maybe not quite as thrilling as you might expect from such provenance. Again these elegant mineral qualities such as beach pebbles and mineral oil emerge. With water: opens nicely with water, some crystallised citrus fruits, candied lemon peel, citronella wax and olive oil. Finish: medium and nicely drying, peppery, warm and still showing this elegant fusion of coastal and honeyed. Comments: Don’t get me wrong, this is excellent whisky. It’s just that you expect more. And that the Longrow kind of crushes it. A rather subtle and shy old Springbank that requires patience and only one or two drops of water. Afternoon whisky I suppose.
SGP: 562 - 90 points.



Thanks to KC!





December 22, 2020


Crazy world sessions to put a proper end to a messy year
Number Four

Let’s fly straight to India…

Amrut 10 yo 2010 (63.9%, Artist by LMDW, ex-Pedro Ximenez, cask #3521, 286 bottles)

Amrut 10 yo 2010 (63.9%, Artist by LMDW, ex-Pedro Ximenez, cask #3521, 286 bottles) Four stars
For once we’ll rather talk about the label if you don’t mind (of course we’ll try the whisky too). Isn’t it wonderful? I find it extremely reminiscent of one of the lesser known, and yet most magnificent albums by Carlos Santana, called Borboletta (1974). All right, I agree, on to the whisky… Colour: golden amber. Nose: unusual for sure. We’ve known old bottles of Talisker that used to display such noses, between green walnuts, thick black olive brine, mentholated camphory balms, and grass smoke. I need my nose so I won’t take any further chances, but it seems that it’s rather beautiful. Quick, with water: hold on, some huge saponification happening, so let us wait… … … (after five good minutes)…  good, milk chocolate and figs, lit cigar, tinned mussels, big paraffin and lamp oil, eucalyptus, ointments, Vicks…

Mouth (neat): walnut stain and nail polish remover. Tends to anaesthetise your tongue so we shall not insist – except that we might send a letter to Bangalore. Right. With water: bags of pepper coming out. Also raisins and dried figs. Perhaps too many spices? Cardamom and coriander seeds. Finish: long, a little leafy and leathery, the rest being rather perfect. Mentholated, peppered and smoked raisins, something like that. Comments: I do recommend both Borboletta by Carlos Santana and this restless little Amrut by La Maison du Whisky.
SGP:573 - 86 points.


Let’s take Qantas, fasten our belts, and fly to Tasmania…

Hellyers Road 2003 (60.6%, OB, for Taiwan, Australia, cask #3163.11, 2020?)

Hellyers Road 2003 (60.6%, OB, for Taiwan, Australia, cask #3163.11, 2020?) Four stars and a half
We’ve already tried quite a few good many Tasmanian Hellyers Roads. Looks like our friends in Taiwan have just imported quite a few casks. Colour: straw. Nose: but yes, one of those rare whiskies that feel very oily right on the nose. Sunflower and walnut oils, lamp petrol, coconut wine, pad Thai, white chocolate, karite, suntan lotion… Who needs holidays in the tropics just now? Yours truly! With water: perfect putty, marzipan, sesame oil, and coriander. Bring the prawns! (oops, carried away…) Mouth (neat): wonderful at this age. Many sauces and dishes from Thailand or why not Bali, garam masala, coriander, more coconut water, puréed avocado perhaps, sour spices… Now it’s a tricky baby, you would believe you could down it like that and forget about the high strength. That would be lethal, almost. With water: perfect. Notes of chicory and caramel make it a tad rounder. Torrefaction. Finish: long, extremely well balanced, spicy, fruity, and just ‘Thai’. I agree I need to widen my tasting vocabulary. Comments: they should do a version at 46 or 48 or 50% vol. 60+ is cool but it’s an uphill struggle to find the right strength, even with a golden pipette from Van Cleef’s. Don’t google that, I was joking.
SGP:663 - 89 points.

Since were flying high (figuratively), let’s gear towards Japan…

Shizuoka 2019/2020 (61.4%, OB, Japan, octave, cask #2019-530)

Shizuoka 2019/2020 (61.4%, OB, Japan, octave, cask #2019-530) Five stars
Virtually newmake, unpeated, me not believe this was bottled, me not sure. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: tangerines, grapefruits, citrusy hops, acetone and model glue, cherries, williams pears. W.w.: more acetone, sourdough, mussels, carbon paper, kelp, lime. Mouth (N.): asparagus, gherkins, olives, pears, pineapples, UHU stuff, salt. W.w.: isn’t this the best distillate in the world, currently? (not talking ‘bout our own, naturally, but those are off-commerce). Finish: I hope Covid won’t catch me, so that I can live long enough to be able to try this utter jewel when it’s 15 or 20. Comments: what were you saying? As good as the peated ones. And yes life is unjust. They really have both the worst swill there ever was and the most fantastic spirits ever in Japan. A land of contrasts, as they say at National Geographic’s.
SGP:661 - 91 points.

Crikey, we’re too high, we’re really too high (and the Scots will start complaining…) so let’s push it hard and off to Ireland…

The Ash Tree 30 yo 1989/2020 (48.1%, The Whisky Cask Company, Irish, rum cask, 276 bottles)

The Ash Tree 30 yo 1989/2020 (48.1%, The Whisky Cask Company, Irish, rum cask, 276 bottles) Five stars
I’m sure the rum cask will have become superfluous in this wonderful Swiss bottling of B. They’re champions by the way, I believe they’re number one with these batches. Bravo, TWCC! Colour: light gold. Nose: oh they’re now getting rather smoother, closer to old rieslings would I say, which is a compliment, naturally. Perhaps a little less on mangos and affiliated tropical fruits than before, and a little more on cantaloupes, peaches, and perhaps litchis (which is pretty tropical, I agree). Let’s say these B.s seem to be getting more elegant with older age. Just like whisky tasters. No, no winks. Mouth: fruit salad, oranges, bananas, passion fruits, guavas… Well I agree that’s all pretty tropical, but there are also softer honeys, acacia, perhaps lavender, also some green tea from the oak. Not that they’re getting oaky, not at all, but I’m not sure they would go the distance until 35. To be discussed. Finish: medium, soft. Crushed bananas, white chocolate, a drop of coconut water, some slightly sour green tea from the oak. Comments: superb and exceptional, as expected.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

What’ really fascinating, and full of hopes if you ask me, is that the baby Jap managed to hold a candle to the old Bushmills. If this is the future of whisky, instead of unbridled arrogance and fake branding from Speyside, well, I’m game! Good, didn’t we say five ‘odd’ bottles per day? Looks like we need one more…

Let’s fly to… eenie meenie… Ta-dah, France!

Yeun Elez ‘Jobic’ (46%, OB, Armorik, France, 2020)

Yeun Elez ‘Jobic’ (46%, OB, Armorik, France, 2020) Two stars
All right, Armorik have done some peat too. Who hasn’t? Perhaps Auchentoshan? Not even sure… I would add that just like Gaelic, Breton is a lovely language. And just like Gaelic, it may get a little tiring to non-speakers (so to 99.99% of the audience). Just saying, as they say. But anyway, great people, great place, great distillery, great label, yada yada. No, that’s true. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: simple, elementary smoke. Smoked apples if you could do that. Some varnish, some acetone, some amyl acetate. So, feels very young. Mouth: it’s good, no doubts, but it’s not Lagavulin-good, not Laphroaig-good, not Caol-Ila-good, and not Ardbeg-good. But indeed it’s good, with perhaps a wee Ardmore-ness. Actually, the peat/smoke is really rather huge, it’s just very monolithic. Finish: rather long, still rather simple. Comments: I utterly love Armorik and what they do, and they sure belong to the top-three of French malt whisky (mail me $10 in an envelope and I tell you about the other two), but I think this is a little too simple and, well, maybe a little boring. Love you guys.
SGP:357 - 76 points.

Thanks to the fine folks at Whiskay


December 21, 2020


Crazy world sessions to put a proper end to a messy year
Number Three

Let’s start from… France (typical French logic).

Distillerie du Vercors ‘Sequoia Bio’ (42%, OB, France, 2020)

Distillerie du Vercors ‘Sequoia Bio’ (42%, OB, France, 2020) Three stars and a half
This a new young organic single malt whisky that’s been made in a bespoke ‘pressure’ still. Looks like it’s already pulled Gold at the ‘Women’s Wine & Spirits Awards 2021’. You couldn’t make that up, could you! Colour: straw. Nose: not unpleasant! Pretty much on grist and husk at first, with a little leaven, then on lemon, pears and green bananas, porridge, mashed potatoes, and then a tiny whiff of peppermint. I find it cool that they haven’t tried to put makeup on this little three-year-old (like PX and stuff). Mouth: really honest, malty, very close to the grain, with a good bready and lemony unfolding, moderate vanilla, a little lager, a little pepper, and only a small spoonful of sawdust. Finish: medium, rather fresh, still close to barley and to bread. Comments: not mindboggling, but it just couldn’t be a barely 3. I would applaud the fact that they’ve chosen to go au naturel. Not saying that because it’s organic, mind you. A good surprise; well not quite a surprise because I’ve just seen that I had already like their ‘Première Impression’ two or three years ago, while that one wasn’t even whisky yet.
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Off to the Netherlands…

Millstone 4 yo (49%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, Batch 3, 2025 bottles, 2020)

Millstone 4 yo (49%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, Netherlands, Batch 3, 2025 bottles, 2020) Four stars
Only good things to say about pioneers Millstone. Some of their expressions have been just fabulous in the fairly distant past, but I think I have some catching up to do. Colour: deep gold. Nose: excuse me, but LOL. Which is a compliment in my book. How would I put this? Some kind of burning spruce, plus camphor, juniper and myrtle balm, sauna oil, sourdough, then wild strawberries. It’s not often that I’m finding this much myrtle in a whisky. Perhaps even in some myrtle liqueurs, ha. A little thuja wood too, Moroccan furniture… In short it is very exotic, whatever that means. Mouth: richly extractive, but I’ve noticed in the past that these good folks were very good at doing that style. Huge cloves, beerewecke, dried figs, caraway, cinnamon, cloves. Some very spicy and earthy pumpernickel, with extra-spices and, err, a wee glass of myrtle liqueur. Finish: long, with touches of mushrooms now. That would go well with the spruce. Comments: really a different proposition, in short a style of its own. That’s clearly a tour de force in these days when everybody goes for virgin oak, STR, or P over very unnoticeable distillates.
SGP:563 - 87 points.

Why not England (forget about that mutant Covid-19 they now seem to have over there...) ?

Bimber 2016/2020 ‘Virgin Oak’ (58.5%, OB, for LMDW, France edition, England, cask #93, 257 bottles)

Bimber 2016/2020 ‘Virgin Oak’ (58.5%, OB, for LMDW, France edition, England, cask #93, 257 bottles) Four stars and a half
Didn’t Bimber singlehandedly manage to ease the pain of Brexit on us? Colour: deep gold. Nose: pure Californian IPA, pink grapefruits, mango peel, papayas, and guess what? Yuzu! With water: more of all that. Green earl grey, braided breads, orange blossom water... Mouth (neat): wham! More citrus, zests, peel, hops, with touches of orange blossom honey and clearly something ‘pure pot still’. Or there, that other distillery, which is located in Northern Ireland and that starts with a B too. No, that’s not Bruichladdich. With water: just impeccable. Ace maturing, but I’ve heard they’re hiring their fanbase and make them go around the casks while singing psalms of praise all day long. Finish: long and just ueber tropical. Mangos and maracuja. Comments: we’re bordering perfection, which I’m sure will be brought by a few extra-years. Impressive fruity Bimber from Albion.
SGP:751 - 88 points.

Hold on, I’m just noticing that the next one will be my 16,000th tasting note for whisky here on Whiskyfun, taking neither other spirits, nor dear Angus’s tasting notes into account. So, let’s choose wisely, and maybe fly to the motherland, that is to say Scotland. And maybe select something both emblematic and brand new, rather than an umpteenth Brora, Port Ellen, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Springbank, Clynelish or Macallan (find the odd one out)...

WF 16K

Dornoch 3 yo 2017/2020 (59.4%, OB, Thompson bros. first fill ex-oloroso butt, cask #1, 893 bottles)

Dornoch 3 yo 2017/2020 (59.4%, OB, Thompson bros. first fill ex-oloroso butt, cask #1, 893 bottles) Four stars and a half
Crikey, looks like some disgusting flippers have already put this one on evilbay, with a minimum price of 890€! I wish millions of fleas will start itching their miserable bottoms. Now, seriously, I’m really glad to be able to try this very first official whisky from Dornoch’s famous pocket, but very well proportioned Distillery. We’re told that this is organic, that the barley was Plumage Archer, and that it was brewers’ yeast that’s been used. Oh and that they were playing Harry Lauder on eleven while distilling this. Not too sure about that last part… Colour: pale gold. Nose: I see. Soft-curry-flavoured butterscotch, with notes of focaccia, panettone, a touch of violet, and surely a handful of juicy golden sultanas. It’s pretty much sultana-driven at this point, but I do love that, it’s got a regressive side that reminds me of my childhood, when with Mum and Dad, together with Mao our spaniel, we used to… err, please excuse me. With water: bingo, roasted hazelnut, mocha, butterscotch, praline, then our sultanas, a few of them about to ferment. It’s really like putting your nose above a proper butt’s bunghole. As for the sherry itself, it does feel like some kind of old Cream but it says oloroso. Mouth (neat): those juicy sultanas all over place. I am reminded of actress Carole Bouquet’s famous sweet wine from the island of Pantelleria. Some chocolate, praline, nougat and cracked pepper in the background. With water: same, no changes. Perhaps a wee dollop of very old balsamico? Finish: rather long, with a few more oaky tones but those would rather gear towards spicy breads. Wholegrain. Comments: I don’t think the brothers have chosen this one only because it was cask #1. Very clean raisiny sherry over a rather bready distillate, with perfect interaction. It’s impossible to fetch 90, but we’re already extremely close. I can’t wait to try an ex-first fill or new bourbon/American oak. Rather a master stroke. Forgot to say, on the label a wonderful painting by Hans Dillesse.
SGP:641 - 88 points.

On to our 16,001st whisky… Perhaps a little Irish?

Egan’s 10 yo (47%, OB, Irish single malt, bourbon, +/-2019)

Egan’s 10 yo (47%, OB, Irish single malt, bourbon, +/-2019) Two stars
An old brand and some sourced whiskey. We’ve tried one named ‘Fortitude’ a few months ago, and thought it was pretty unlikely. There’s no point in sourcing bad whisky, I suppose, why not make it yourself? ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: oils, a drop of vinegar, some green apples, some acetone, some sawdust and vanilla, cider… Well I do not dislike this at all, it’s got some character. Mouth: a little too much on the beer and pears side, perhaps, but there’s some smoke now, fruits, something acetic… Some sides remind me of the early Connemaras, remember them? Finish: medium, smoky, a little sour. More beer, then some Jell-O. Comments: a little wobbly and uncertain, but quaffable. It’s true that it is not easy when you’re coming last within a rather beautiful line-up.
SGP:544 - 74 points.

December 20, 2020


A few malternative French spirits to put an end to a messy year

In the words of John Cabot, let’s see what we can find…

Camus ‘Grand VSOP’ (40%, OB, cognac, +/-1995)

Camus ‘Grand VSOP’ (40%, OB, cognac, +/-1995) Three stars
Ah, an older bottle that’s been waiting for quite some time. We might be a little late, as these juices used to be light and sometimes even fragile… By the way, ‘Grand VSOP’ is a fantasy appellation, either you’re VSOP or you’re not. Colour: amber with copper hues. Correct, caramel. Nose: well, if you enjoy sultanas, you would love this. This is all about juicy golden raisins, sweet Malaga, Monbazillac, with a little toffee and whiffs of molasses. Mouth: oh well, no this is not fragile! It’s even pretty hot after all those years, but the style remains all on raisins and cooked sweet wines, thick old muscat, late-harvest gewurztraminer… Seriously, it’s even becoming a tad cloying after five or ten seconds. Finish: very long, sweet, molassy, with a lot of Demerara sugar and even more raisins. Notes of cough syrup and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: wondering whether this was heavily obscured or not. Rather a good surprise, but you won’t take two glasses as it really is very thick old-style cognac.
SGP:750 - 80 points.

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac de Paul L.49’ (41.9%, OB, Petite Champagne, +/-2020)

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac de Paul L.49’ (41.9%, OB, Petite Champagne, +/-2020) Five stars
This baby stems from the same property as Le Cognac d’Elisabeth that we had tried on November 8, that is to say the now sadly extinct ‘La Grange du Bois’. The code name suggests this is a 1949, but that’s, well, only a suggestion. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this one’s pretty much all on stewed fruits, while there are many of them. I’m thinking persimmon, quinces, peaches, apricots… Some roasted nuts, warm nougat, praline, even maple syrup tend to take over after a short while, but that is a very pleasant feeling. Some rich Xmas jam being cooked in the kitchen… Mouth: a very well controlled oakiness, so I suppose this wasn’t in oak when they bottled it. A lot of chocolate, fruitcake, roasted walnuts and pecans, black nougat, then some marginally lighter notes of fresh fruits. As often, ripe peaches are running the show, together with quinces. Some awesome sour and bitter touches, perhaps something Indian? Coriander. Finish: rather long, a little rustically earthy but that’s absolutely fine in this context. Comments: rather a terroiry old cognac. Yeah, massaging my little tasting dictionary, that word might be needed in 2021. Well what I mean is that this is not Louis XIII, you understand?
SGP:551 - 90 points.

Domaine La Croix Montjoie 2009 ‘Hors d’Âge’ (42%, OB, fine de Bourgogne)

Domaine La Croix Montjoie 2009 ‘Hors d’Âge’ (42%, OB, fine de Bourgogne) Four stars
This estate is located in Vézelay, which isn’t ‘too’ far from Chablis. An astounding place where one of my favourite restaurants used to be located, namely L’Espérance in St-Père. Sadly the former three-Michelin star chef, Marc Meneau, just passed away two weeks ago. This is for him! And by the way, and as you know, a ‘fine’ is distilled wine, while marc is distilled pressed grapes. Cognac is a fine, for example. Colour: gold. Nose: in truth some fines are close to marc when they press the grapes hard and with all their stems, which would give you a pretty ‘green and rustic’ wine to be distilled. But in this case we’re somewhat in cognac territory, with stewed fruits, peaches indeed, raisins, vanilla toffee, milk chocolate, roasted sesame seeds, all-flower honey…

Seriously, I’d have said cognac. How bad is that, doctore? Mouth: indeed, these fines tend to be more grapey on the palate, and that’s the case here. Some leaves, pips, green tea, notes of pink peppercorn, rather yellow peaches, hops… So not cognac this time, but it’s still a beautiful fine de Bourgogne. It’s good that the monks don’t quaff them all anymore, but remember abbeys and monasteries used to be cold and damp. Amen! Finish: medium, rather fresh, with an awesome feeling of oranges, heather honey and mead. Comments: a rather superb little fine from northern Burgundy.
SGP:561 - 86 points.


Off to Armagnac…

Château de Laballe 1980 (44.4%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015)

Château de Laballe 1980 (44.4%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015) Five stars
This is proper own-estate bas-armagnac from Parleboscq in the Landes. It is, I believe, a single cask bottling. Colour: rich amber. Nose: I always love it when any aged spirit starts with a little glue and acetone, which is the case here. Thinks Caroni or the Jamaicans! I love it even more when stewed yellow and white fruit are kicking in, in this case rather bananas and apricots, which is a combination that I’m often finding in malt whisky. I’m also finding this menthol and wee touches of rubber and camphor. Fantastic nose I have to say (malt enthusiasts would love this). Mouth: starts with some obvious and yet very pleasant gritty oak, bordering Russian tea and crude cocoa, then gears towards marmalade and tangerine liqueur as well as quince paste, a combo that always wins in my book. These few drops of pine bud liqueur from the oak just complete this grand slam. Stunningly rustic brandy. The body and the strength are just perfect. Finish: long, rather more on Jaffa cakes and anything chocolate and marmalade. The mentholy aftertaste is perfect too. Comments: in French, we would try to be funny and say “c’est de la balle” (c’est de Laballe, understood?) Which is slang for ‘it rocks’.  Oh well oh well oh well…
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Well, I had planned to do a Calvados but I think we’ll rather stay in Armgnacland, if you agree…

Laguille 1993/2020 (47.4%, Mistigma, Bas-Armagnac, 394 bottles)

Laguille 1993/2020 (47.4%, Mistigma, Bas-Armagnac, 394 bottles) Four stars and a half
This was matured in ‘black oak’ from Gascony. I’m surprised no Scottish distiller’s ever used that very tempting marketing gimmick. I mean, it’s not a gimmick in Gascony, but it would be in Scotland. Oh well, I know what I’m trying to say. By the way, Mistigma are a fairly new French independent bottler, what’s more one to follow I’ve heard. Laguille is an estate in the Gers. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re immediately in malt whisky territory, with rather a lot of custard, shortbread, brioche, raisins, croissants, crushed bananas, even butterscotch, churros… Then citrons, spearmint, touches of nutmeg and caraway… I insist, malt whisky! Sure I’m exaggerating now, but at least you get my point. I hope! Mouth: indeed, it’s a tighter and yet wider Armagnac, rather fresh and even a little fermentary, with raisins, quinces and peaches, as expected, but also small touches of tequila, rum, malt, and even beer. How funny is that? Notes of mint liqueur and liquorice are rounding this off. Finish: long, spicier, with notes of cinnamon mints and there, perhaps drops of aquavit and genever. Comments: some kind of world blend that needed no blending work whatsoever, how cunning! Seriously, this is extremely to my liking and highly malternative. I won’t even mention the price, looks like they’ve missed a zero. Just saying.
SGP: - 89 points.

(Merci Aurélien!)


December 18, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Glen Spey
Vs Loch Lomond
I know, a rather pointless and arguably meaningless head to head of names. However, do we really need to have meaning in order to have fun? First up is Glen Spey, and as all whisky lovers say when confronted with this distillery: “Hallelujah!”


Glen Spey 14 yo 2006/2020 (59.1%, North Star, refill hogshead / oloroso sherry, 247 bottles)

Glen Spey 14 yo 2006/2020 (59.1%, North Star, refill hogshead / oloroso sherry, 247 bottles)
Colour: brownish amber. Nose: the sherry really has quite a voice, how long was the finishing? This is all on stewed fruits, malt loaf, Battenberg cake, dates, walnuts and coffee liqueur. Further sweetish notes of fudge and sticky toffee pudding, but a wee nibble of hessian in the background too. With water: some canvass, soda bread, bitter lemon and milk chocolate. Mouth: ok, the wood is a little more active here. Lots of green and black pepper, spiced black teas, Fernet Branca, menthol sweets, cloves, ground ginger, red chilli and Jamaica cake. Can’t shake these wee impressions of pencil shavings, but there’s a firm bready quality that emerges now too. With water: these denser and sweeter tones of fudge, chocolate sauce and caramel are back. Salted caramel, wafer biscuits, miso, flower honey and bitter herbs. The wood is active but the sherry itself feels like good quality, it’s just that these two forces feel a little wobbly together. Finish: medium and rather peppery, warm, bready and persistently spicy with a leathery gamey note. Comments: Glen Spey is probably the kind of distillate that works well in finishings because its rather a blank canvas to begin (with apologies to the Glen Spey fanatics out there). Anyway, this one was good if a little on the wood-dominant side for me. I preferred it with water.
SGP: 551 - 82 points.



Glen Spey 21 yo ‘Batch 1’ (49.7%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1278 bottles)

Glen Spey 21 yo ‘Batch 1’ (49.7%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1278 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: grassy, green and fresh with quite a lot of plain cereals, buttered toast, freshly laundered fabrics and wee chalky touches. Clean, bright and perfectly fine, it’s just that there are any number of casks like this lying about Scotland’s warehouses. Mouth: a little more interesting than the nose with more oily vibes, sunflower oils, soda bread, barley water, malt extract, slightly notes of hops and various old school bitter ales. Once again: fine. Finish: short, lightly cereal, citric and some subtle vanilla notes. Comments: indeed, a blank canvass. Refill wood can do remarkable things if the distillate it is holding is top notch, this is a good example of what happens when that isn’t the case.
SGP: 441 - 75 points. 



Loch Lomond 10 yo 2010/2020 (57.7%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, cask #349, 1st fill barrel, 241 bottles)

Loch Lomond 10 yo 2010/2020 (57.7%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, cask #349, 1st fill barrel, 241 bottles)
This is one these batches they occasionally make using wine yeast, which they also seem to do with Inchmurrin on occasion and usually elevates the ester levels and general fruitiness… Colour: pale straw. Nose: it is indeed a fruitier style and a specifically ‘Loch Lomond’ one at that. The other style it really brings to mind is these older Irish malts with these quite pronounced notes of crushed nettles, Sauvignon blanc, lime zest, passion flower and runny honey. Rather tart green fruits like cut Granny Smith apple and fresh gooseberry. With water: gets a little drier now and more cereal, mineral, dusty and floral with these notes of pollen and white flowers. Some new leather shoes as well. Mouth: these fruits remain but they are sharp, tart and lightly acidic - almost showing a firm ‘under-ripe’ profile. Lemon zest, fabric softener, unusual hints of quinine and bitter lemon and then pear drops and lychee. A lot of fun but a tad unusual. Getting rather peppery and sharp now. With water: some nectars, residual honey notes and hints of baking soda, mineral oil and wee chalky touches. Finish: good length and showing a fruity resurgence with gooseberry, crisp green apple and lemon peel again. Comments: Hard to know what to make of this. It’s excellent and quite fun, but at times feels a little challenging. I think the Inchmurrins are a few notches above the Loch Lomond examples in my book. Now, having said that, this is a fresh and fascinating divergence from the dull march of distilling yeasts - more of this sort of thing please!
SGP: 641 - 86 points.



Inchfad 13 yo ‘Batch 1’ (49.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 2473 bottles)

Inchfad 13 yo ‘Batch 1’ (49.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 2473 bottles)
I couldn’t tell you much about Inchfad, beyond the fact the name comes from one of the wee islands dotted throughout Loch Lomond and that it’s one of their more obscure peated makes. Colour: straw. Nose: gentle peat that shows chalky smoke, laundered fabrics drying near a shoreline, lemon peel, cake mix and then something more towards yeasty sourdough and bailed hay. Typically ‘unusual’ stuff from Loch Lomond’s magical mystery stillhouse. Mouth: the peat is a little louder, sharper, more coastal and classically salty and citric. More lemon rind, briny touches, kelp, tar, ointments, chalk, mustard powder and hessian. There’s a farmyard aspect in the background too. I find it pretty good. Finish: quite long with a more grubby smokiness like wet wood on a bonfire and boiler smoke, charcoal, tar, wet leaves and burning hay. Comments: If you’re looking for a more left field expression of peated malt whisky you could do a lot worse. Quite charming I think.
SGP: 465 - 85 points.





December 17, 2020


Messy world sessions to put a proper end to a messy year
Number Two

Let’s procéeed as if there were no Covid and fly to Israel first…

Milk & Honey ‘Israeli Wine Cask’ (46%, OB, Israel, 2020)

Milk & Honey ‘Israeli Wine Cask’ (46%, OB, Israel, 2020) Two stars and a half
Does it make any sense to use some Israeli wine casks to mature an Israeli malt whisky? You decide… (I have to say I’m glad they don’t make much wine in Scotland). Colour: deep gold. Nose: bready and ‘world’. Guinness, cakes, bachelor’s jam, cherry liqueur, some earthy pepper. Certainly better ‘focused’ than a Welsh whisky we tried the other day, on the other hand I’m not finding any watercress. Mouth: bites you a wee bit, with some pepper and leaves, while I’m not finding much fruitiness. Not quite a fan of this, while I’m quite a fan of M&H’s more ‘traditional’ expressions, especially their very good ‘Founder’s Edition’ from last year. Finish: a little bitter and dry. Comments: not totally for me, as expected, and perhaps a waste of excellent malt whisky if you ask me. BTW I’m sure the wine was good too, but both mixed together? I’m really not 100% sure, these combos being pretty tricky everywhere around the globe, in my opinion…
SGP:261 - 78 points.

You’ll see, I’m not even scared…

Ninkasi 2016/2020 ‘Version Française’ (46%, OB, France, for LMDW, 342 bottles)

Ninkasi 2016/2020 ‘Version Française’ (46%, OB, France, for LMDW, 342 bottles) Two stars and a half
This is a French single malt from Lyon that’s a mix of both peated and unpeated malt, distilled in a cognac still, aged in Condrieu casks (so viognier I presume) and finished in Montagny, so chardonnay I suppose. Phew, even Bocuse’s most elaborate recipes are simpler. Colour: gold. Nose: typical of a blended distillate, with notes of cognac (peaches, sultanas) and brioche dough, panettone, kougelhopf, with a little glass of fruity and citrusy IPA, then rather a lot of custard after a good two minutes. A pretty easy drop, pretty pleasant, not extremely malty. Another meta-brown spirit, would I say. Mouth: a rather pleasant surprise at first, with some nice fruity notes (preserved peaches) and the expected raisins (some burnt), but a rather acrid kind of wood smoke is coming through after a while, making it a little drying and bitter at the same time. Chlorophyll, leaves, rucola. Finish: medium, drier, rather on old walnuts and a little tobacco. The aftertaste is pretty bitter and green (peppercorn, bitter ale). Comments: I would say this is like Led Zep rehearsing in the late 1960s. Some great ingredients are there, but some fine-tuning remains to be done.
SGP:464 - 79 points.

I believe that’s the thing with peat, it works only when there’s either none, or very little, or rather a lot.

Let’s fly to Thailand…

Mekhong (35%, OB, Bangyikan Distillery, Thailand, +/-2019)

Mekhong (35%, OB, Bangyikan Distillery, Thailand, +/-2019)
A well-known drop that’s always made tourists cringe, but I’ve heard they have improved it. It doesn’t say it is whisky, but I remember it used to fifteen years ago. I’ve tried this several times alreandy but I do not ‘follow’ it as much as I follow, say Lagavulin 16. Colour: suspiciously golden. Nose: wood alcohol and a lot of Cointreau and other orange liqueurs, I find it a little nicer that last time but it’s still pretty unlikely. Touches of chiselled coriander leaves – very Thai indeed. Mouth: rather weak but once again, I believe they improved the recipe a wee bit. Neutral alcohol plus a little pepper and plain sugar, then molasses and caramel. Finish: short and rather bitter now. Burnt sugar in the aftertaste as well as a little cheap coffee liqueur. Comments: I wouldn’t advise you drink it without a lot of crushed ice, but then again, I don’t think it’s poisonous.
SGP:730 - 25 points.

Back to the EU (no pun intended)…

Waterford 2016/2020 ‘Single Farm: Sheestown 1.2’ (50%, OB, Irish, 30,000 bottles)

Waterford 2016/2020 ‘Single Farm: Sheestown 1.2’ (50%, OB, Irish, 30,000 bottles) Four stars
This one for European and Asian markets. Does that include the UK?  I liked some earlier ‘farms’ a lot, now this one’s seen some American first fill, American virgin oak, French oak, and some vin doux naturel wood. Whew, another complicated recipe – marquetry, really - that does remind me of the French Ninkasi, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: yeah right, Danish pastries, custard, popcorn, apricot tatin, soft bread, maize bread… And barley. Touches of shortbread and chalk. With water: these whiffs of hot waxes and paraffin that always work in any properly textured spirit. Yep, even on the nose. Mouth (neat): this style just clicks, they manage to use some unlikely wine casks whilst that wouldn’t feel. Citrons, cassata, pink bananas, biscuits, quinces… With water: careful, it is not water’s best friend and would get a little tea-ish. Better leave it at 50% vol. Finish: rather long, with tiny mentholy notes, a little myrtle perhaps, rosemary, and pink peppercorn… The oak’s perhaps a tad loud in the aftertaste. Comments: we’ve got many other Waterfords yet to try, and we can’t wait.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

And now, a triple-flip-triple toe-loop-jump combo please, peat and Port!

Amrut 6 yo ‘Peated Port Pïpe’ (60%, OB, India, for LMDW, cask #2713, 516 bottles)

Amrut 6 yo ‘Peated Port Pïpe’ (60%, OB, India, for LMDW, cask #2713, 516 bottles) Four stars
Did anybody really try to smoke a Port pipe? Colour: rosé gold going towards apricoty salmon. Ha. Nose: that’s the thing, we’ve noticed quite a few times already that Amrut could achieve things that great people such as Bowmore, Laphroaig or Bunnahabhain would just, ach, err, slaughter. Such as, indeed, combine peat and Port. Perfect miso and hoisin, walnut wine, cured ham, pipe tobacco, maraschino, morello cherries, rancio, perhaps even malmsey… But watch it, the roundness could make you lower your guard and the 60% vol. will then just wreck your nose. With water: in theory, smoked strawberries should be a no-no. Like, say a Christmas album by Mariah Carey (I know). But he fact is, this really works, it’s even rather subtle, not unlike a Christmas album by… Dolly Parton. Yes she’s back. Mouth (neat): a bit LOL at times (I mean, peat and Port!) but I shall not deny that all these peppers work in unison, from the blackest cracked ones to the softest Timut-style pink ones. Big honey and pepper, that’s pleasantly weird. With water: yet again a feeling of smoked strawberry jam, or rather yoghurt. A little bay leaf too. Having said that, you really need to have the amount of water right or it would get unpleasantly bitter. Say don’t go below 50. Finish: long, very leafy when diluted. Masala, juniper, cloves, liquorice. Oh keep it at 60, that may scare the virus. Comments: they do it right, even if this one’s been a little sketchy here and there. By the way, did anyone spot some study that would tell us whether high-ethanol blocks the virus or not? I mean, it does that to our hands, why wouldn’t it in our airways? Indeed we were already wondering about that in February or March, but what is science doing?
SGP:557 - 85 points.

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


December 16, 2020


Funny world sessions to put a proper end to a messy year
Number One

After all, why always try to have the same distilleries on the table, or to find any kind of coherence between the whiskies? Oh let’s do all this shambolically if you don’t mind, since after all it’s only whisky. But to preserve some kind of Cartesianism, we’ll try to only taste whiskies that came out in 2020. D’accordo?

La Victoire ‘Batch 1’ (54.7%, Two Worlds Whiskey, USA, straight bourbon whiskey, 2020)

La Victoire ‘Batch 1’ (54.7%, Two Worlds Whiskey, USA, straight bourbon whiskey, 2020) Four stars and a half
A vatting of eleven barrels done for France exclusively, to celebrate La Fayette’s inaugural trip to America. Hold on, didn’t that happen in 1777? But the ship was, indeed, named ‘La Victoire’. The distillery isn’t disclosed, but the ages range from 5 to 15 years here. A l’attaque!... Colour: deep gold. Nose: it is a relatively soft and fragrant bourbon, with lovely notes of buckwheat, popcorn, quince paste, then buttered croissants (mais bien sûr), orange blossom and brioche, gorse, wisteria, dandelions, shortbread... With water: gets earthier and spicier, more complex, with a little rye, more buckwheat (galettes), then the expected menthol and eucalyptus. A very, and I mean very lovely nose, without that massive vanillaness that’s sometimes to be encountered with many bourbons. Mouth (neat): a little hot at first but some further notes of orange blossom and orange fudge make it very much alive. Jaffa cakes and a lot of quince jelly for sure. With water: classic fresh bourbon, again with a rye-y and earthy spiciness that would not wipe any fresh fruity and floral notes away. Very minimal lavender, more orange blossom water, triple-sec, caraway liqueur… Finish: medium, rather soft, on more oranges and a moderate amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. Comments: this baby is like pastis, it loves water. But it’s better than pastis and by the way, there are wee notes of aniseed and liquorice too. Top notch bourbon, very well put together.
SGP:551 - 88 points.


Elch Whisky ‘Torfduett’ (50.6%, OB, Germany, 2020)

Elch Whisky ‘Torfduett’ (50.6%, OB, Germany, 2020) Four stars
As far as I can tell and if I haven’t lost my Deutsch, this was made using malt smoked to 34ppm using German peat, and matured in ex-bourbon and acacia woods. It’s to be noted that acacia, just as chestnut, has often been used for wine, even great wines, especially for transport. But those were the olden days… By the way, the distillery’s located in Gräfenberg, which seems to lie between Regensburg and Würzburg. Is that still in northern Bavaria? (apologies if I’m wrong!) Colour: gold. Nose: what I like with many ‘new’ German whiskies is that they make them less silly than the French. I mean, closer to the natural ingredients (barley and stuff), and less tinted with any unlikely wines that are to be found in the neighbourhoods of the distilleries. So that’s exactly not the case here, with perfect notes of wholegrain bread, cakes, touches of earth, husk, cracked pepper; fresh walnuts… I mean, this is malt whisky! With water: smelling fresh bread and various honeys. A perfect breakfast somewhere in the German Alps – when shall we be allowed to drive to Garmisch again, for crying out loud? Mouth (neat): well, yes, sure! Granted, you do feel ‘a spicy youth’ while the casks seem to have been rather buoyant, but this feeling of having a malt that’s been treated as a bourbon is absolutely not unpleasant, on the contrary. Many kinds of breads, that’s cool! With water: water does it much good, brings the peat further out, enhances the maltiness, and generates even more breadiness. Like, notes of pumpernickel. Finish: rather long, absolutely not over-wooded, and even rather fruitier. Dried apricots, muesli, prunes, caraway, wood smoke… Comments: but this is super-good! I have another Elch whisky in waiting but we’ll have that one next time. Mind you, I wouldn't want to overdo a good thing.
SGP:464 - 86 points.


Smögen 6 yo ‘100 proof’ (57.1%, OB, Sweden, sherry quarter cask, 2020)

Smögen 6 yo ‘100 proof’ (57.1%, OB, Sweden, sherry quarter cask, 2020) Five stars
Not need to tell you what I think of Sweden’s Smögen Distillery. What’s more, I would suppose a ‘sherry quarter cask’ is better than a ‘quarter sherry cask’, no? Colour: deep gold. Nose: I knew this was going to rock and to be honest, I’ve been keeping this bottle closed for a good few months. It’s like when you have mashed potatoes with a truffle, you eat the truffle last. I mean, I do that. Sublime butterscotch and cashew praline, roasted raisins, super-old brandy de Jerez, panettone, black turon... I mean, how ‘world’ is this? With water: some splendid earthy developments, various fresh nuts of all kinds, old cigarettes forgotten in a drawer… I mean, I haven’t properly smoked a cigarette since around the year 2005, and I agree tobacco should be banned, but I can tell you that nothing beats the nose of a pack of untipped Senior Service, Craven A, Benson & Hedges, or even Dunhill’s. There, I said it, you may put me into jail.  Mouth (neat): ah those quarter casks! Nasty on the papers, truly great in real life. I’ll say it, this reminds me of those stunning early ex-bloodtub Port Charlottes, a.k.a. the fastest whiskies on earth. Brilliant meaty and fudge-y profile, tar, lapsang souchong, old cigars, glutamate (have I told you about osmazôme lately?)… And chestnut honey, king of all honeys in my book. With water: gets dry and leafy. Careful, it’s fighting back! Finish: long and Scandinavian. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but with all due cognitive myopia related to distance, that should mean sauna oils, pine tar, hard liquorice, and salted fish. What stereotypes? Comments: clearly one the very best drops from ‘the rest of the world’ (as seen from Edinburgh or Glasgow).
SGP:366 - 91 points.


Cardrona ‘Just Hatched’ (63.8%, OB, for Dramfest, New Zealand, cask #735, 2020)

Cardrona ‘Just Hatched’ (63.8%, OB, for Dramfest, New Zealand, cask #735, 2020) Three stars
Ex-bourbon finished in sherry, made by some new Kiwi distillers as it appears. One day I’ll tell you about a flight from Edinburgh to Strasbourg together with the All-Blacks, in a small plane, sitting next to a brilliant winger named Kirwan. Great stories but next time, okay?... Colour: gold. Nose: hold on, isn’t this rum? Indeed, it would rather feel like some kind of short-column molasses rum this far but remember, almost 64% vol. alc. So, with water: more bourbon than rum now. Lovely custard and butterscotch, geranium flowers, a wee touch of shoe polish (always welcome in whisky), old copper coins, gingerbread… Well it just loves water. Mouth (neat): between bourbon and lemony high-roof rum, with a rather thin body. Not easy to decipher, but then again, water should help indeed… With water: better indeed, nuttier, more leathery, with sour fruits, fruit wines, miso, black pepper… Water makes it fatter and bigger, which is just mega-cool. Finish: long, with perhaps a little too much oak now. Comments: would love to meet with Kirwan again after so many years, and maybe share this excellent wee Cardrona with him. By the way, Jacinda Ardern is a star over here, would you mind loaning her to us for a couple of months?..
SGP:551 - 82 points.

New Zealand

Liber 16 yo 2009/2020 (59.6%, OB, Spain, Spanish Whisky Club, 1st fill PX, cask #009, 300 bottles)

Liber 16 yo 2009/2020 (59.6%, OB, Spain, Spanish Whisky Club, 1st fill PX, cask #009, 300 bottles) Three stars
First time I’m hearing about Liber Distillery, did you know about them? They appear to be located near Granada and to have been founded in 2001, while they seem to specialise in both liqueurs and whisky. A first at WF Towers, that’s always extremely cool. Colour: amber. Nose: total praline, caramel, and butterscotch. Milk chocolate and both white and black nougats. Macadamia nuts and proper maple syrup. Regressively enjoyable, I would say. With water: more fermentary notes, pumpernickel, heavy black beers, rancio… Mouth (neat): very punchy, but this feeling of black nougat and Guinness sauce is working well. Stout and pipe tobacco, I’m sure the PX hasn’t been inactive, wasn’t it PX from the nearby Malaga? With water: sour wines, sour fruits, figs, stout, fig wine… Finish: rather long, sour and sweet, bitter as well, thick… You’d almost believe this was made by monks. Comments: indeed you cannot not think of some black trappists, between Rochefort and Westvleteren. Like. In short, another great surprise, even if ‘Balance’ sure wouldn’t be this baby’s first name. To watch and to follow…
SGP:561 - 81 points.


Five is a good number. See you soon.

(Thank you Greg)

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


December 15, 2020


Twelve young Caol Ila with envy

There’s more and more and I’ve heard no one complaining. Mind you, and unless I’m wrong, CI is #1 on little Whiskyfun, with 650 tasting notes published already. And counting (we’ll do this randomly, okay?)…

Port Askaig 12 yo ‘Autumn 2020 Edition’ (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, Refill bourbon and sherry butts, 9,000 bottles)

Port Askaig 12 yo ‘Autumn 2020 Edition’ (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, Refill bourbon and sherry butts, 9,000 bottles) Three stars and a half
Wow 9,000 bottles that’s a nice contingent; kudos. Oh and just to make things clear, no one’s ever certified that these Port Askaigs were Caol Ilas. Even after a magnum of Pol Roger. Colour: light gold. Nose: seems that they got the cursor right between bourbon and sherry. Lovely coastal, seaweedy arrival with only a wee handful of fermenting raisins thrown in, then mead and whiff of old penny books, muscovado sugar, and chestnut purée. Mouth: very smartly composed, even if it tends to feel a bit like a finishing (a well done one). Grassier raisins, rum, smoked tea, these metallic touches… Finish: medium, leathery, raisiny, leafy, with camphory touches. The aftertaste is a tad metallic and rather peppery. This finish is not the best part. Comments: great nose and a good rounder palate but I’m afraid I was a little less fond of the finish. How do you shunt a finish without using Coca-Cola?
SGP:555 - 84 points.

Caol Ila 8 yo (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, 912 bottles, 2020)

Caol Ila 8 yo (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, 912 bottles, 2020) Four stars
From three casks, some recharred. Remember recharring is ‘the’ secret weapon. Colour: white wine. Nose: how do you smoke a panettone? Mouth: equanimously perfect. I had to use that word at least once in a tasting note. Fat peat, honey, salt, pepper, brine, green pepper, grapefruits. Finish: long, perhaps a tad fat and minimalistically cloying. Had to use that one too. Comments: seriously, it’s a very good young Caol Ila, even if I like mine a little more ‘fresh and coastal’ while this one’s rather fat. And peat and vanilla do not obligatorily tango well. Recharred oak, remember. But yeah, excellentissimal drop (please scrap those barbaric words – Ed.).
SGP:556 - 85 points.

Caol Ila 9 yo 2011/2020 (52.2%, Chapter 7, cask #160, 285 bottles)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2011/2020 (52.2%, Chapter 7, cask #160, 285 bottles) Four stars and a half
I like what they do at Chapter 7. At least they wouldn’t put a manga-y geisha playing the bagpipe while climbing Mount Fuji at dawn amongst knights of the round table, Heidi and her friends, and endangered sub-Saharan mammals. I mean, on the label (l am not looking at you, Whisky Sponge). Colour: light gold. Nose: tense and tight, with oily notes (sunflower) and nice smoked grapefruits and quinces. Having said that, it feels hotter than 52%. With water: cleared. Mouth (neat): exactly what we like so much in young Caol Ila. Crabs and oysters with a dollop of custard and just the right amount of spicy citrus. Have this with sushi? Sure, even if it is a little fatter than others. Make that scallop sushi. With water: Alles in Ordnung. Did you ever notice that great malts will make you speak German? Finish: long, clean, tense, salty, on green grapefruits and grape pips. The aftertaste is a little fattish-like… Comments: extremely good. Cellar this if you can find it.
SGP:567 - 88 points.

Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (57.4%, Watt Whisky, 303 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (57.4%, Watt Whisky, 303 bottles) Four stars and a half
All Watts and no whats with these first bottlings, I mean so far. This should be ‘in the trend’. Now, I’ll ask again, why a Masai symbol on the label? Or is that Zulu? Having said that I would understand that they would have chosen one of their mottos, remember, ‘if you move forward you’re dead, if you move backward you’re dead, so why move backward?’ Colour: light gold. Nose: well-chiselled and crystalline, extremely typical, on seaweed, kippers, lemons, chalk and brine. Very pure. With water: this is pure ocean water mixed with peanut oil. Some kind of vinaigrette, if you like. Mouth (neat): olives and almonds, lemons, oysters, brine… A little chlorine, perhaps. With water: good sweetness (limoncello) and salted almonds plus sage and tarragon. You could really sprinkle some salad with this – and convert quite some carnivores to veganism along the process. Finish: rather long and rather more on brine. Comments: very good, no surprises here. I would like to fly to Campbeltown NOW.
SGP:456 - 88 points.

Good, I’m not keen on wine finishings, that’s an understatement, but when I read ‘palo cortado’ and ‘amontillado’, my gates open…

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2020 (54.1%, James Eadie, 1st fill amontillado finish, cask #356845, 325 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2020 (54.1%, James Eadie, 1st fill amontillado finish, cask #356845, 325 bottles) Four stars and a half
Remember, amontillado is a fino that became an oloroso. Oh well, more or less that, don’t start quibbling… Colour: pale gold. Nose: however they make this, it is brilliant. Green walnuts, sweet mustard, olive cake, seawater, fresh baguette, sourdough, grapefruits, chalk… What else would you need? With water: louder olives and Formula One fumes. We surrender. Mouth (neat): hot but magnificent. Olive oil and kippers, plus some kind of burnt bread and, well, that is all. With water: it is becoming embarassing that all these super-young Caol Ilas would be this good. They make millions of litres, for crying out loud! Which is a little communist to tell you the truth, to each according to his needs! Dear Diageo… Finish: long, with appropriate rubber. Comments: a perfect bone-dry, somewhat fattish young CI. Oh and I need to read Edgar Allan Poe again… Long time…
SGP:366 - 88 points.

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2020 (56.5%, James Eadie, first fill Palo Cortado hogshead finish, UK exclusive, cask #354542, 315 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2020 (56.5%, James Eadie, first fill Palo Cortado hogshead finish, UK exclusive, cask #354542, 315 bottles) Four stars
So, palo cortado, that’s more or less similar to amontillado as far as I can tell, but don’t take my word, this is not sherryfun, better check Ruben’s very excellent sherrynotes. What’s sure is that a palo cortado hogshead doesn’t exist in real life,  it’s just a bespoke cask made for whisky, not for sherry. Oh well, we all know about all those shady operations, don’t we… Colour: gold. Nose: perfect. Walnuts, peat, mustard, seashells, miso. Transcendent young CI. With water: my grandma’s walnut wine; she used to call that Nusswasser. Mouth (neat): I hate it that it’s just a young malt similar to billions of other young malts, and just a cheap finishing in wines that no one’s drinking anymore (sadly). The fact is, it is still smart and fab. Walnuts, chocolate, coffee, bitter oranges… With water: incredible green walnuts, olives, cardamom, pizza dough and capers. Bites you a wee bit, some like this it seems. Finish: long, green, acrid, pungent, bitter, austere, and excellent. Comments: let’s be honest, this is not an easy ooh-ah malt at all, it’s rather a fighter. You’ll hate this but I would say it is like an old 911.
SGP:376 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 2012/2020 (54.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #20002, 230 bottles)

Caol Ila 2012/2020 (54.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #20002, 230 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this is as pure as possible, extremely lime-y, with oysters and kelp as well as iodine and chalk. Takes no prisoners, as they say. With water: some grist and a few drops of ale, putty, perhaps a touch of rubber, oatcakes, and the smallest feintiness, perhaps. Mouth (neat): terrific young Caol Ila, perhaps a tad rough, otherwise ridden with chalk, crushed seashells, granny smith and salt. Huge and raw. With water: sourdough and brine. Finish: long, raw, natural, salty. Comments: a little minimal but rather wonderful. A Bauhaus whisky.
SGP:356 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 7 yo 2013/2020 (55.2%, Lady of the Glen, PX octave finish, cask #305417)

Caol Ila 7 yo 2013/2020 (55.2%, Lady of the Glen, PX octave finish, cask #305417) Three stars and a half
Whoops, I had missed both the PX part and the octave part. Too late, let’s proceed… Colour: gold. Nose: rather on natural rubber, turon and popcorn, custard, masala, juniper berries, caraway and café latte. I could see this being served at Starbucks. “Mr. Ballantines, your frappuxila is ready!” With water: cappuccino and café latte, Nescafé, more cappuccino, some ginger and some green pepper. A touch of jasmine tea. Mouth (neat): big extractiveness, with massive spices (cardamom and juniper plus really a lot of nutmeg). Sweet Vishnu! With water: the distillate having a few things to say. Green lemons and some seawater, plus a tiny touch of wasabi. Finish: very long, very spicy, with a lemony signature. Some horseradish and green oak extracts. Comments: quite a beast. Very intriguing and somewhat challenging, I know quite a few friends who literally adore this style, but they are rather younger than yours truly. A matter of generation, perhaps… Good fun nonetheless, and after all they have produced 9,900 bottles (a limited edition elsewhere).
SGP:477 - 83 points.

Good, a purer youngster please and we’ll be done.

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2020 (57.9%, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, bourbon hogshead, cask #319291)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2020 (57.9%, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, bourbon hogshead, cask #319291) Four stars and a half
I know the numbers don’t quite add-up but who cares? *Colour: pale white wine. Nose: mercurochrome and lime juice at first, also a little acetone, before it would get a little gentler, on the trademark oysters, fresh bark, fresh almonds, and some kind of rhubarb pie (without meringue this time). With water: chalk, dough and weissen beer. Mouth (neat): zing! Very good, sharp and blade-y, with a good few glasses of sauvignon blanc, gooseberry juice, and just more lime. Also oysters and mercurochrome, naturally. With water: even at +/-43% it would still cut you in halves, ala Lucy Liu in Kill Bill. So, careful. Finish: long and extremely sharp, acidic, mineral and lemony. Comments: this, on big fat oysters, but be careful this could wear down your teeth.
SGP:376 - 88 points. *Update: this was actually bottled in 2019 and released in 2020

Good, a very, very last one and we’ll be done

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2020 (57.1%, The Single Cask, Merry Christmas, cask #318694, 233 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2020 (57.1%, The Single Cask, Merry Christmas, cask #318694, 233 bottles) Four stars and a half
A Christmas bottle, how very charming and delicate! Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re rather closer to the officials this time again, with more (very relative) lightness and fruitiness, green pears and apples, also the expected and rather perfect brine and oysters, lime, samphire, a touch of basil… Oh well this is extremely lovely for sure. With water: wet dogs and raw wool! We’ve told you many times already, dogs, we’re totally sorry and eternally indebted to you. Mouth: earth and roots! Gentian spirit sprinkled over oysters and lemons, that sure is a winning combo – and surely a thing that proper chefs should try to make after Covid. Superb. With water: just pristine young Caol Ila, just slightly hottish but after all, it’s not even twelve. Finish: long and just perfect. Salt, lemon, seashells, smoke, kippers, and one tiny olive. Olives always win. Comments: bordering perfection. Perhaps only one more year of maturation would have propelled it to 90. Anyway, love restless this wee Christmas malt, thank you very much.
SGP:467 - 89 points.

No, wait, there’s another one!

Cao Ila 11 yo 2008/2020 ‘Super Bottle’ (56.5%, Gleann Mor Spirits, for Taiwan)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2020 ‘Super Bottle’ (56.5%, Whiskay, The Netherlands, cask #14, 348 bottles) Four stars and a half
A strange story about being thirsty, done for Jhen Chang Wine & Spirits Shop, Whisky Gallery, Spirits Salon and Whiskay. I’m not dead sure I’m getting just everything here, but I do kind of know about Caol Ila (ha-ha), so let us proceed if you please… Colour: white wine. Nose: that this is similar to the ‘Single Cask’ is an understatement. Let’s say this very one is a little more petroly, perhaps. Some old tarry ropes too. No quibbling… With water: crushed chalk in abundance. Mouth (neat): just one hundred percent perfect. Some rough edges again, but there, that was to be expected. Lemons, gasoline, oysters, roots. With water: so very good. More extreme sauvignon blanc from the best parts of Pouilly-Fumé or Sancerre. Finish: long, very briny and limey. Comments: these bottles will reach the 90 mark and possibly way beyond after five to ten years of cellaring. Wet cellars are best but they’ll wreck the labels, so your call. Cling film up to the necks but not over the caps might be a solution. There, de nada. A super bottle indeed.
SGP:367 - 89 points.

Hold on, perhaps a light wee pre-Brexit, farewell digestif? The French way?

Caol Ila 5 yo (46%, Hunter Laing for Fortnum & Mason, 20cl, +/-2019)

Caol Ila 5 yo (46%, Hunter Laing for Fortnum & Mason, 20cl, +/-2019) Four stars
Fortnum & Mason? Remember? I used to love the place, but with both Brexit and Covid, I would say this kind of place is about to be down in a couple of shakes. Adios Fortnum & Mason, it’s been nice but I’m afraid you’ve gotten a bit unnecessary and irrelevant to us. Now as an au-revoir and with wet eyes … (this bottle bought in London a good few months ago…) Colour: white wine. Nose: brine, seawater, green tea, lemon juice, and repeat. Brine, seawater… Mouth: very good and pretty simple. Oysters, granny smith, lime, chalk, mercurochrome, parsnips (for the rooty, earthy side). Finish: medium, a little more medicinal. More mercurochrome. Comments: very good, even excellent. A 5 that rather feels like a 10, but I’m sure that’s rather down to Hunter Laing than to… Hold on, what was the name of that old grocery store again?
SGP:456 - 86 points.


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

December 2020 - part 1 <--- December 2020 - part 2 ---> January 2021 - part 1




Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Shizuoka 2019/2020 (61.4%, OB, Japan, octave, cask #2019-530) 

The Ash Tree 30 yo 1989/2020 (48.1%, The Whisky Cask Company, Irish, rum cask, 276 bottles)

Hellyers Road 2002/2020 (60.6%, OB, European exclusive, ex-bourbon, cask #2332.01, 190 bottles)

Nantou 'Omar' 2014/2018 (56%, OB, Taiwan, Hotmalt, the Keeper Richard's Choice II, cask #10841117, 210 bottles)

Smögen 6 yo '100 proof' (57.1%, OB, Sweden, sherry quarter cask, 2020)

Château de Laballe 1980 (44.4%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015)

Fins Bois No.45 Héritage (50.8%, Grosperrin for Passion For Whisky, 2020)

Grande Champagne No.35/41 'Héritage' (45.8%, Grosperrin, lot #778)

Grande Champagne Lot No.0/35 'Historique' (43%, Grosperrin for Passion for Whisky)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Le Cognac de Paul L.49' (41.9%, OB, Petite Champagne, +/-2020)