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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, December 2021 - Part 2


December 2021 - part 1 <--- December 2021 - part 2 ---> January 2022 - part 1


December 31, 2021

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

December 2021

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Glen Grant 65 yo 1956/2021 (55.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, LMDW 65 Anniversary, first fill sherry butt, cask #4451, 100 bottles) - WF94

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Strathisla 15 yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, 75cl, +/-1988) - WF91

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Tullibardine 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2020)  - WF87

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Appleton Estate 18 yo 2003/2021 (63%, OB/Velier, Jamaica, Hearts Collection) - WF92

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Black Mountain 'BM N°2' (40%, OB, France, +/-2021)  - WF35



Whiskyfun's Non-Awards

Just a short personal list of my favourites amongst the +/-1300 whiskies and other spirits we've tried in the year 2021, as we do every year. Please do not bother too much and let's move on... (we'll try to post Angus's own list soon).
Brora 1972/2021 'Triptych – Elusive Legacy' (42.8%, OB, 300 bottles)   Serge's favourite recent bottling of 2021

Brora 1972/2021 'Triptych – Elusive Legacy' 
(42.8%, OB, 300 bottles)
WF 96

A stunning bottling done by Diageo within a very posh triptych to celebrate the reopening of the refurbished Brora Distillery. Amazing whisky.
Springbank 12 yo (100 proof / 57.1%, OB for Samaroli, early 1980s, 2400 bottles)   Serge's favourite older bottling of 2021

Springbank 12 yo
 (100 proof / 57.1%, OB for Samaroli, early 1980s, 2400 bottles)
WF 98

Not the first time we're trying this legend, but this was another bottle. As usual, any excuses…
Lagavulin 12 yo 'The Lion's Fire'(56.5%, OB, Special Release 2021, Untold Legends)   Serge's favourite bang for your buck bottling of 2021

Lagavulin 12 yo 'The Lion's Fire'
(56.5%, OB, Special Release 2021, Untold Legends)
WF 92

Lagavulin 12 'SR' is always a perfect whisky, every year, but I believe in 2021 it was even 'better' than usual, despite a label that's becoming really rather hoopla.
Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Confluences Très Vieille Petite Champagne L.49.62.73' (44.3%, OB, 2021, 292 bottles)   Serge's favourite malternative of 2021

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Confluences Très Vieille Petite Champagne L.49.62.73' 
(44.3%, OB, 2021, 292 bottles)
WF 92

Many great new cognacs by little houses. We chose this one but we could have chosen Grosperrin or Vallein Tercinier just as well, or quite a few other high-quality makers. Kudos to them. Remember, we always try our malternatives from a whisky enthusiast's POV.
Mirascielo (38%, OB, +/-2020)    Serge's Lemon Prize of 2021

 (38%, OB, +/-2020) 
WF 15

More terrible heavily sweetened-up 'rum', with very good brand-building and storytelling. Which, in my book, tends to make things even worse.


A smaller bag of Highland Park

Together with Angus, we've tried loads of HPs in 2021. There are always many HPs coming out, including all those 'Secret Orkneys' that would tend, unless finished in first-fill-PX-seasoned-scratched-wood, to be totally excellent. As for our apéritif today, a recentish official NAS that had slipped through our fingers should do…

Okney's Maeshowe Dragon - >

Highland Park 'Dragon Legend' (43.1%, OB, +/-2017)

Highland Park 'Dragon Legend' (43.1%, OB, +/-2017) Three stars and a half
More peat and more sherry in this one, apparently, but also more unlikely legends and stories, in this very case a fight between a dragon, Fafnir, and a Viking warrior, Sigurd. You'll have noticed that it wasn't bottled at 43%, rather at 43.1%, which does leave us all speechless. It had been bottled quite some years ago but I had never tried it. Colour: gold. Nose: a little metallic and teaish, and certainly pretty leafy. Some damp earth and touches of black olives, while the sherry had been, indeed, very leafy. Touches of green plums as well and the faintest soapiness. Some toffee after five minutes, while it would rather improve, globally. Mouth: peaty indeed, salty, then spicy. Ginger cake, some dried dates, muscovado sugar, then lemon marmalade, while that peatiness would fade away. Echoes of Oban. Finish: medium, leafier again. Cherry stem tea, a little leather, a little olive brine (black olives). Comments: I do enjoy HP ex-refill HHD, or bourbon, much better, naturally, but I find this pretty good as well. So, who won, the Viking or the dragon?
SGP:462 - 83 points.

What are they going to do at the SMWS when most of the blue chip Distilleries will fordbid the use of their names or only sell 'blends'? Will they use random numbers? Or only bottle good-karma names that would not do that?

Highland Park 12 yo 2008/2021 (61.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #4.270, 'From Heather Moore to Seashore', bourbon hogshead, 244 bottles)

Highland Park 12 yo 2008/2021 (61.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #4.270, 'From Heather Moore to Seashore', bourbon hogshead, 244 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely rough and rustic, spirity, acetone-y and close to the rawest vodka, but rather bizarrely, I think this works a treat. Whisky as if Man had had no say in its making. With water: totally on chalk, porridge, wool, sourdough and grist. No heather and no 'seashore' that I can find at this point, but I'm sure that'll pop out on the palate. Mouth (neat): sweet Vishnu, this is a big rock and roller, extremely grassy, rugous, aggressive, you would almost believe someone distilled stadium grass. Which, I suppose, they usually do every week in Glasgow (I'm afraid they'll never let me in again). With water: perfect tight lemons, grapeseed oil, grass, green tea, a touch of rubber, and then indeed, oysters. Oysters do suggest 'the seashore', do they not. Finish: long, perfect. Lime grass dough and brine. Sends shivers down your spine. Comments: no heather that I could find, I must be heather-blind. Now what I found is a pretty perfect naked young HP de la muerte. But please use water.
SGP:372 - 88 points.

Highland Park 22 yo 1998/2021 (56.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, for LMDW, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #5300, 183 bottles)

Highland Park 22 yo 1998/2021 (56.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, for LMDW, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #5300, 183 bottles) Four stars and a half
I have this feeling… Colour: light gold with a bronze hue. Nose: was there a nail in the cask? What's sure is that this is a rather sumptuous nose, richer than the others (it's 22, S.) with some lime tea at first, a whiff of violets,  then a little patchouli, breads and cakes, mirabelles and quinces (hurray), celeriac, carrots, fir honey, peppermint, myrtle for sure… Lovely complexity, which you'll only get with age anyway. Same with men (yeah right). With water: wow. Stunning earthiness, white truffles, old cellar, dunnage… Mouth (neat): these are very hard to beat. Many HPs by G&M have been hard to beat, especially some old 'CASK' versions, well that's how we used to call them. Liquorice, sourdough, wholegrain bread, mentholy honey, walnut wine, marmalade… This is one of those funny fresh ASBs that could impart fino-like notes to the spirit, unless those were in the distillate from the beginning. With water: a wee tad on the woody side at this point (oak oils) but otherwise superb. Finish: long, solid, firm, and as they say in London, assertive. Comments: it's great to have this one after the SMWS, I love them both, for opposite reasons. Stunning consistency in both, you could almost chew these HPs.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

An Orkney Distillery 8 yo 2012/2021 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 392 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 8 yo 2012/2021 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 392 bottles) Four stars
If they bottled this one at 8 that's because they thought it was ready. Sound obvious but believe me, that's not always obvious everywhere. Colour: white wine. Nose: active wood, butterscotch, custard, croissants, rich ale, mashed potatoes and shortbread. A little maple syrup and, perhaps, a little heather honey. Doesn't scream HP this far but it's lovely. With water: more on dough, paraffin, earth and chalk… Mouth (neat): very good, fattish, orangey, with rather a lot of earl grey, bergamot bonbons, touches of ginger and then oriental pastries, orange blossom water, honeyed water… With water: just yep. Gentian! Notes of bananas in the background, most probably from the wood. Finish: medium long, more fresh and herbal. Some spearmint, roots, beets, the aftertaste being a tad rubbery, perhaps. Comments: I'm not sure you could have a better HP at 8. Great age/quality ratio – but why count?
SGP:462 - 87 points.

A last one, an even younger one:

Secret Orkney 2017/2021 (59.8%, Swell de Spirits, palo cortado finish octave, cask #717/6C)

Secret Orkney 2017/2021 (59.8%, Swell de Spirits, palo cortado finish octave, cask #717/6C) Three stars
Boy oh boy oh boy, an octave… 2017, wasn't that just yesterday? And vertical writings on labels are very cool, but perhaps not on a Mac's screen… ooh my neck! (S., are you done complaining yet?) Colour: gold. Nose: modern. Plantains, bruised bananas, panettone, teak oil, Barbour grease, leather polish (Connolly's, naturally) and beer sauce. Like, reduced trappiste. With water: carbonnade flamande, sauna oils, leather polish, smoking bidis, new-sawn plywood. Mouth (neat): no, it's pretty good if extreme. Totally modern, highly extractive, actually extreme indeed in that respect, with litres of essential oils, thyme, some rubber, bicycle inner tube, pickled ginger… With water: citrus coming to the rescue, which always works, but otherwise it's really getting tannic, green, tough… I would suppose younger generations of drinkers/tasters will be rather more into this style of whisky; this member of the old guard will remain a little prudent and circumspect. Finish: very long, green, with more essential oils. Loads of green spices then, bitters, ginger, Jägermeister... Comments: my flame's starting to flicker here, as they say in Rome. Totally spectacular for sure, but probably a little 'too much' for me. I agree, that's my problem...
SGP:273 - 80 points
(grain of salt etcetera).

But don't do that to me too often! ;-)

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


December 30, 2021


Tasting rising Tullibardine

We've been wanting to try a few Tullibardines for months. People tend to say there's much improvement around the make...

'From a reliable source (meaning spring) since ice age.' French magazine ad, 1995. ->

Tullibardine 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2020)

Tullibardine 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2020) Four stars
We've never tried this 15. It seems that it's been integrally aged in fresh barrels and that no unnecessary wine woods have been used. We couldn't wait… Colour: dark straw. Nose: starts a little fermentary, which is very Tullibardine as far as I can remember, with notes of high-class ales, surely some ripe bananas, some brioche dough, some overripe apples and pears…It would then go towards rounder, cakier aromas, praline, glazed chestnuts, millionaire shortbread, kougelhopf… But this is lovely! All the uncertainties of Tullibardine of old seem to have disappeared, while it would have remained a characterful malt. I believe I'm rather impressed so far. Mouth: oh joy! This is excellent, starting with some great teas (pu-her, best assams) and marmalade, and going on with many pastry doughs. That just always works. Coming to the surface then, many oranges, blood oranges, tangerines, also quince jelly, well-ripened kakis… Finish: medium, with some black pepper which wasn't unseen in previous expressions. Some myrtle liqueur. Comments: impressive. I should have tried this one earlier and for that I feel shame. Hope they'll do a 46 or 50 version of the very same make.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

More first fill bourbon, please…

Tullibardine 8 yo 2012 (60.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #28.60, first fill barrel, 'Juggling flavour balls', 237 bottles)

Tullibardine 8 yo 2012 (60.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #28.60, first fill barrel, 'Juggling flavour balls', 237 bottles) Four stars
Paint thinner or proper, drinkable malt whisky? Colour: white wine. Nose: custard and butterscotch – the wood was active! Some sunflower oil too, Golden Grahams, pear cake… With water: more earth, grey pepper, roots, beers, sourdough, then brussels sprouts, baked eggplants… This seems to be more 'Tullibardine' than the official 15. Mouth (neat): very oily and, it seems, very good. Oranges, mint and honey, that's a winning combo. No eggplants. But it's hot… With water: no, very good, orangey, earthy, even zesty and tight. I'm finding rather a lot of verbena, genepy, fennel… Also something a tad resinous and grassy, maybe black propolis. That's excellent for your throat and propolis is even a good virucide. Just saying, in case… Finish: long, rather resinous. Old forgotten herbal liqueur. Oranges are back in the aftertaste. Comments: class, just a tad simpler than the OB. In truth, the OB's currently growing on me…
SGP:461 - 86 points.

Tullibardine 9 yo 2011/2020 (64.5%, Hot Malt, Taiwan, sherry finish, cask #18/9133, 312 bottles)

Tullibardine 9 yo 2011/2020 (64.5%, Hot Malt, Taiwan, sherry finish, cask #18/9133, 312 bottles) Four stars
The little bird with the funny beak on the label tells me this could be good too…  Colour: deep gold. Nose: more sherry this time, obviously, with more walnut wine, garden earth, marmalade… while remember, almost 65% vol. Let's not burn our nostrils. With really a lot of water: metal polish, engine, eggplants, soot and paraffin. Mouth (neat): a malty cake and some young rancio. And 64.5% vol., mind you. With water: we tamed the utter beast! Some sour fruits, some riesling, gooseberries, a little mustard that would remind us of much older bottlings of Tullibardine… The thing is, once you've added enough water to bring a spirit down by 20% vol., so from 65 to 45 in this very case, I believe you should wait for around… three months before all molecules have recovered. Yeah right. Finish: long and rather on cakes, some a little burnt. Which works. Comments: an excellent  caky Tullibardine that needs a little work. Do they fill at over 63.5% vol. or did the strength just rise?
SGP:551 - 86 points.

We're really pleased with these little Tullies, are we not… But we've also got older ones…

Tullibardine 28 yo 1993/2021 (47.6%, Thompson Bros., UK exclusive, 347 bottles)

Tullibardine 28 yo 1993/2021 (47.6%, Thompson Bros., UK exclusive, 347 bottles) Four stars
Why an UK exclusive? We'll call Downing St. right tomorrow morning, there will be hell to pay! Colour: straw. Nose: there, old-school Tullibardine, with more suet, carbon, rubber boots, mushy peas, cream cheese, button mushrooms, yoghurt, sawdust, brake pad, pepper… Well these noses are fine, but remember the devil lives and prospers on our palates… Mouth: it's really a matter of opinions. Old Tullibardines, and old Glenturrets for that matter, have always been the whackiest, I'd even say the loco-est (should you say that in English) Scottish malt whiskies around. You're right, Fettercairn used to come close. Obsolete scraps, plastics, carbon dust, pencil lead, leatherette, sour apples, whey, lavender, yoghurt, grass juice, lime zests, bison vodka… well you see what I mean. Finish: long, green, resinous, grassy and petroly. Comments: how do you score a whisky? If it's a matter of being faithful to a regional or local style, as in wine, this would be 100%. So, 100 points. If it's a matter of intrinsic pleasure, that would rather be like 70 points. Good, 100+70=170; 170/2=85.
SGP:472 - 85 points.

Good, you've been warned…

Tullibardine 30 yo 1989/2019 (47.1%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, Platinum Selection, 295 bottles)

Tullibardine 30 yo 1989/2019 (47.1%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, Platinum Selection, 295 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: a little similar yet gentler, possibly because of some more active oak. But indeed we're finding more carbon dust, grand-prix pit (tyres, petrol, engine oil, aftershave), ashes, charcoal, leatherette, new electronics, fake sneakers straight from Alibaba or Wish (welcome BPA a.k.a. bisphenol A and phthalates), coal tar, new plywood, IKEA outlet… Yeah I know, IKEA kills it, apologies. Mouth: oh, redemption? This is not unseen in malt whisky, citrus coming to the rescue. Loads of bitter oranges, tart lemons and limes, concentrated lemon juice, crazy unripe chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc, verjuice… You could count your vertebras as this one goes down your anatomy, which comes handy. On the other hand, within this ueber-tart style, this one would be the emperor. Finish: long, extremely acidic and grassy. Comments: absolutely spectacular, and totally loco. Showcase malt whisky, for fun. Scores are meaningless in this kind of situation.
SGP:471 - 85 points.

Phew!... It could be good news that we haven't currently got any old OB in the boxes. CU, Stay safe and tuned….

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


December 29, 2021


More world whisky in a solera fashion
Which means that this won't be a proper session, we'll just add tasting notes whenever we're in the mood for more world whisky. There's so much around, even the cleaning lady just asked what it would take to start a whisky distillery…

Nobushi (40%, OB, Japan, blended, +/-2021)

Nobushi (40%, OB, Japan, blended, +/-2021) Two stars
If this is fully Japanese, I'm a real shao-ling monk. I also find it a little scary that the name would be this close, phonetically, to the expression 'no BS'. Colour: gold. Nose: sweet barley and pears. Not much happening. Some mead, perhaps. In truth it's relatively nice, caky, with popcorn and a little liquorice, but as some long-forgotten Japanese poet would have said, this would then crumble like an old rice cookie in the morning rain. Mouth: feels Canadian, that's all I'm going to say. Vanilla and corn syrup, maize, Haig Club (which is not Canadian, we agree) and pancake syrup. Finish: short, sweet, caramelly. Comments: a smart drop, not bad at all in fact. It's just a little empty and void of anything related to the remotest sense of terroir, let alone to Japanness. Sayonara.
SGP:530 - 72 points.

Hey, Japan!

Mars 2017/2021 'Tsunuki Aging' (60%, OB, for LMDW, Japan,  bourbon barrel, cask #124, 200 bottles)

Mars 2017/2021 'Tsunuki Aging' (60%, OB, for LMDW, Japan,  bourbon barrel, cask #124, 200 bottles) Four stars
Aged in Tsunuki's cellars. One day, I'll learn to discern between Tsunuki, Shinshu and Yakushima cellars. I said 'one day'. Colour: gold. Nose: seemingly exceptional, on eucalyptus and vanilla. It seems that the ppms peat are high, but at this strength, ethanol's having the lead. Move on… With water: more eucalyptus, while we're talking about a whole forest. Moss, fern, mushrooms… No peat, though… Mouth (neat): huge, on banana skins and more banana skins. Did they distil bananas? No peat that I can find. With water: superb, focussed on eucalyptus and embrocations, sauna oils, and indeed bananas. Banana foam, cough syrup, and oysters and kippers. This time, a coastal smokiness is making it, but it would remain, say a little unobtrusive. Mind you, this is not Octomore. Finish: long and oilier. Essential oils and mentholy extracts, with eucalyptus and indeed green bananas doing first violins. Comments: I love it that this would be different. They're finding their own style, I would suppose I'll bring myself to Mars in the coming years. Super-good, well done.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

To France please…

Alfred Giraud 'Voyage' (46%, OB, France, 2021)

Alfred Giraud 'Voyage' (46%, OB, France, 2021) Three stars and a half
This one has seen fresh Sauternes wood, as well as robinia/acacia. Is it still whisky when it's been doing commerce with acacia wood? Not our business, let us just try this wee baby… Colour: gold. Nose: rather about woods. That Saturday morning at Ikea's, plywood, rubber, new wellies, green pears, walnut skin… Mouth: this rather works, even if the distillate was not Ardbeg, neither was it Clynelish. A lightish distillate without much depth, but the good wood technology here did make compensation for that state of affairs. Never thought I'd write this one day. Pears. Finish: medium, now with Frappuccino and Cointreau. Comments: they have a top-gun cellar master and that feels. The base whisky was anecdotal; welcome to whisky 4.0.  
SGP:440 - 84 points.

Since we're in FR…

Black Mountain 'BM N°2' (40%, OB, France, +/-2021)

Black Mountain 'BM N°2' (40%, OB, France, +/-2021)
This reeks of BS. It's supposed to be 'premium' but it's only been 'blended and finished' in oak casks in France. Can you smell the rat? Colour: white wine. Nose: this is to whisky what medieval techno is to music. In other words, pretty unnecessary. Empty grains and vase water, plus saccharose and artificial vanilla. Mouth: a little better but these lousy notes of vanilla-ed oak and MacDonald's cold coffee just won't take us a long way. Finish: short, liqueury, sweet. Comments: poor. It's a shame that anyone could believe that this lousy juice would be representative of 'French whisky'. I suppose we got some cleaning up to do, my friend.
SGP:520 - 35 points.

And he would insist!

Black Mountain 'Notes Fumées' (45%, OB, France, +/-2021)

Black Mountain 'Notes Fumées' (45%, OB, France, +/-2021) Three stars and a half
This is not Bruichladdich Black Art, mind you. It's called whisky from 'Occitany'. Well, Occitany doesn't quite exist anyway, it's just a gathering of very different regions that haven't got much in common. French bureaucracy, you know. But 'notes fumées' means smoky tones, so, let's see… Colour: white wine. Nose: hey, young Caol Ila and perhaps young smoky Bunny. Nothing bad to say, about this, it's appropriately sooty ad tarry. Nothing French I'm sure, but we're fine here. Mouth: yes, real good, smoky and salty, briny, with some seawater and then some salty and lemony fudge. Whether this has anything to do with 'Occitany' remains to be seen, but the juice is good. Remember, in Usquebaugh Veritas! Finish: rather long, smoky, salty, slightly resinous. Comments: bravo les amis, ça c'est plutôt  bon.
SGP:465 - 83 points.

Finger Lakes 4 yo 2016 (56.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, USA, Bourbon, new oak charred barrels, #B6.2, 'Pumpkin red apple sauce', 168 bottles, +/-2021)

Finger Lakes 4 yo 2016 (56.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, USA, Bourbon, new oak charred barrels, #B6.2, 'Pumpkin red apple sauce', 168 bottles, +/-2021) Three stars and a half
I believe this is a first on little WF. I mean, Finger Lake bourbon from New York… Colour: red amber. Nose: loads of Timut pepper, patchouli, dried rose petals, caraway, sandalwood (I think I've never found this much sandalwood in any whisky) and warm sawdust. Unusual and intriguing. With water: more warm sawdust and 'Saturday morning at Ikea's', incense, rosemary, oranges… I find this pleasant. Some sides remind me of some of Westland's offerings but I just cannot remember which one. Mouth (beat): oranges and juniper at first, then cherrywood and hot chocolate. Some resins, marmalade, cumin, cinnamon mints… With water: more menthol and caraway, this sure was very extractive but on the other hand, that's what you would be expecting from this kind of whisky. A feeling of oil paint. Finish: long, surely oak-driven, but the sweet spices are doing their jobs and as often happens, orange zests would help in the aftertaste. Cocoa powder. Comments: these 'authentic' young Americans would tend to be rather un-boring. What are they saying in Edinburgh?
SGP:471 - 84 points.

Cotswolds 'Founder's Choice' (60.9%, OB, UK, 2020)

Cotswolds 'Founder's Choice' (60.9%, OB, UK, 2020) Three stars and a half
This one's been fully STRised, it seems. American oak + red wine + heavy toasting + heavy charring, this set-up hasn't become totally unseen these days, has it. Colour: deep gold. Nose: the deep charring certainly offsets a large part of the red wine's influence and this little taster sure won't be the first to complain, even if the raspberries do not seem to have said their last word yet. Orange cake and cassata, sweet oak, barley syrup, Italian brioche, one preserved cherry… It sure isn't a monster and it's way less extractive than the Finger Lake, at a similar age. With water: orange squash and a little hardwood smoke. Or perhaps beech?  Mouth (neat): bready, fermentary, doughy. Oh and pungent. A little strawberry eau-de-vie, which very few people are actually producing on this planet. With water: nice, caky, bready… Notes of gooseberries lift it a little bit. Finish: balanced, while some grist and tapioca would be to be found in the aftertaste, in addition of oranges and perhaps a spoonful of strawberry yoghurt. Comments: very very nice, very balanced, but I would tend to like Cotswolds better at a civilised strength (46-50).
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Since we're in Borisland…

Bimber 2017/2021 (57.3%, WhiskySponge, UK, 257 bottles)

Bimber 2017/2021 (57.3%, WhiskySponge, UK, 257 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: LOL, a family pack of marshmallows and hectolitres of cranberry juice, really. Some very fruity IPA hops too (Citra) and rather a lot of lemonade. Was this one made at Haribo's headquarters? With water: I know I keep mentioning limoncello all the time but really, there's a lot of limoncello in there, plus that very lemony hops too (that Citra). And tangerines. Mouth (neat): mullein tea, crushed bananas, a drop of yellow chartreuse, peaches, Juicy fruit, banana foam… It is really very good, it's just that you cannot stop wondering about their production methods. How are they making this? Is it all perfectly legal? With water: all-vitamin fruit juice and more mullein syrup. A little lemon grass, more bananas (wee pink ones)… It really is a very easy drop, even at full strength. Finish: long, textured, a tad more herbal but we're still rather in easier yellow-chartreuse territory. Comments: there ought to be trick. I find it extremely good and I don't even feel any shame. Shh… They have a trick, they must be having a trick. I think I'll ask the Sponge. Always in the good plans, that Sponge (except that Caperdonich).
SGP:731 - 89 points.
January 2 update:
The Sponge tells us that there was a trick indeed, this was a 10-months finish in an Imperial Stout cask!

Kaiyo 'The Peated First Edition' (46%, OB, Japan, blended malt, Mizunara Oak, 2018)

Kaiyo 'The Peated First Edition' (46%, OB, Japan, blended malt, Mizunara Oak, 2018) Four stars
I've missed this one as it came out. Is it actually Japanese? It seems that it's partly aged at sea for three months, on boats. It's a cool idea after all, but only the glass will tell, the rest being beyond the point of talking. You could call that 'a blogger's Realpolitik'. Colour: light gold. Nose: easy, smoky indeed, relatively fresh, somewhat Ardmore-ish in my book. I'm really reminded of that lightly smoky NAS they have. Mouth: yeah, it could be Hakushu as well. I'm not saying it is. A briny smokiness, some seaweed, some tea-ish oakiness, a fresh smoke, touches of lemons and bananas… In  truth this is very good. Some charcoal. Finish: long and smokier yet. Only the aftertaste is a tad tannic, perhaps a little young. Some feeling of incense and cedarwood. Comments: how could I have missed this very nice little Kaiyo?
SGP:456 - 85 points.

Westward 'Pinot Noir Cask' (45%, USA, +/-2020)

Westward 'Pinot Noir Cask' (45%, USA, +/-2020) Four stars
OMG, Pinot Noir. It's Pinot Noir from Oregon that is, do not expect a Chambertin, a Romanée or a Corton. No offence intended, I'm sure they have flabbergasting Pinots Noirs in Oregon too. Well I know they have. Colour: red. I mean, reddish amber. Nose: varnish, nail polish remover, fresh rubber, strawberry and grenadine syrups, Himalaya pepper, rotting bananas, blood oranges, sour cherries (which is very pinotnoiry) and the sweetest and moistenedmost pumpernickel they have in Germany. Also floorcloth, which can be pretty pinotnoiry too. Civet's bum. Mouth: I believe it's the first time any whisky has properly captured the very essence of pinot noir, the closed thing to this would actually be an old amontillado. Wild, gamy, acetic, a tad dissonant here and there, even imposing or at least a little aggressive, but indeed wild and sort of uncontrolled. Napoléon would have loved this (he used to be a pinot noir afficionado, did you know that). Finish: rather long and rather all on gingerbread and cherry jam. Old boy's jam (confiture du vieux garçon). Comments: this one kind of got me in the wind. Very smart work. They should do this kind with all the Grands Crus of Burgundy. Ho great would that be!
SGP:661 - 87 points.

Ten's a good number. See you for more world whiskies…


December 28, 2021


A little trio of relative newcomers from the West

It's just that we haven't got enough different expression of each to build proper WF-style line-ups. That may happen in the future, but then there will be other newcomers. Well we hope so.

Nc'Nean 2018/2021 'Batch No.7' (46%, OB, 5,040 bottles)

Nc'Nean 2018/2021 'Batch No.7' (46%, OB, 5,040 bottles) Three stars
By 'the quiet rebels'. Good, very contemporary positioning if I may, a little 'San Francisco' but they have used STR red wine wood (2/3).  It's organic and once empty, you could even use the bottle as a small aquarium without having to spend any monies on water plants. Colour: light gold. Nose: crushed barley and apples, then peaches and whiffs of dandelions very early in the morning.. Then focaccia dough and softer honey. Very gentle yet pretty firm, solid, with good barleyness. Mouth: the oak feels a bit, sawdust, flour… Then some nougat, sunflower oil, pears… The youth feels but the oak pushes it up. A little yoghurt, then the expected butterscotch. Finish: medium, with some sawdust again, a little oversteeped tea, coffee dregs and more flour or grist. Comments: I think the very natural distillate is pretty fine, pretty fat, which is good. The casks may have been a little too dominant, though and reduction may have 'tea-ised' it a wee bit. Otherwise pretty much to my liking.
SGP:351 - 80 points.

Ailsa Bay '1.2' (48.9%, OB, 9,800 bottles, 2018)

Ailsa Bay '1.2' (48.9%, OB, 9,800 bottles, 2018) Two stars and a half
I'm extremely late indeed but the first Ailsa Bays I could try have been a little disappointing, so I have excuses. The series here is called 'Micro-Maturation', not too sure about what that means, possibly just that it's extremely young. It cannot be old anyway. Colour: gold. Nose: a feeling of smoked coffee blended with some soy sauce at first, which is not something I dislike mind you. Tends to become tarrier over time, with notes of engine oil and curry-and-mustard sauce. A peater that does not display a single iota of coastalness, how uncommon. Mouth: the kind of tar/smoke + heavy fruits combo that only Ardmore may display at times. Or some batches of peated Benriach. IN short, someone's smoked peaches, distilled them, and then filled some active wood after having added some juniper berries. Finish: long but drying, raspy and gritty. More juniper and some artichoke in the aftertaste, quinaquina, then some welcome salty lemons. Comments: a malt that still feels experimental, as if the distillers were still looking for a house style. Better than the first ones in my book, but still not up there. Too creative, perhaps.
SGP:566 - 77 points.

Ardnamurchan AD/10.21:06 (46.8%, OB, 2021)

Ardnamurchan AD/10.21:06 (46.8%, OB, 2021) Four stars
Would anyone be so kind and explain to me how the coding exactly works here? Did George Lucas take over the Distillery? What's sure is that AD/07.21:05 has been much to my liking (WF 87), let's only hope ZW/12.22:03 and QT/04.22:08 will be just as good next year.  In the meantime, let's try AD/10.21:06. Colour: straw. Nose: love fat noses. Oils, doughs, citrus liqueurs, then grist and flours and a wee pack of wine gums. I would say it's sharing some traits with that rather famous new Irish Distillery that starts with 'W'. Mouth: excellent despite the youth that keeps showing (Alsatian pear liqueur, liqueur de poire williams). The oak's a tad loud too but it's rather on pepper and cinnamon than on sawdust. Then pomegranate and cranberry syrups, Szechuan pepper, perhaps a little agave syrup. Finish: long and rather on peach syrup this time, as far as fruits are concerned. Or puréed peaches, just add some champagne to this AD/10.21:06 (gee) and we'll have come up with a first-class Bellini. No, not prosecco, thank you. Comments: I think it is pretty fruitier than 2021's  AD/07.21:05. Whatever, we'll soon need a bespoke app for anything Ardnamurchan.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

December 26, 2021





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Cognac for Boxing Day
I have so, so, so many samples of Cognac piling up. To the point that I'm afraid to even begin tackling them, even though I know that eventually it must be done. Not that tasting Cognac is a chore mind you - quite the opposite. It's a drink I've come to appreciate more and more in recent years.


It's a spirit that is almost entirely about the fine detail; whisky sways wildly from peat to fruit - sherry to bourbon - and can show obvious, immediate difference from the brim of the glass. Cognac on the other hand is about celebrating nuance and subtlety at the macro and micro levels. You must almost climb inside each dram, sleeves rolled and scalpel poised to dissect. It is why so many Cognacs, if we are being ruthlessly honest, just 'taste like Cognac'. The great ones are distinct, but those distinctions are great because they are also subtle.



It is this aspect that can make Cognac tricky to 'get' initially for those of us used to more assertive character in our drinks. Cognac devotees will tell you it is about terroir and the idiosyncrasy of the various regions. I would add to this it is also a lot to do with the commercial nature of the product itself: the vast oceans of Cognac produced are made in a highly uniform way and intended for blending, predominantly by one of four main big Cognac houses. Many of the most visible, commercial Cognac bottlings are highly processed, managed products that aren't too interesting to spirits enthusiasts. What we most celebrate at the very sharp end of the spirit-geekery spectrum, are just glittering drops of those oceans that find their way through quirk of family, ownership, history, business, disagreement, finance and pure chance, to be bottled in more natural, un-sweetened, non-intervened forms.




'What will happen in 1965? Will a Man have reached the moon?
In any case, Martell will be 250 years old'
(French magazine advert for Martell Médaillon, 1964)


Little wonder that the Venn diagram of whisky and Cognac enthusiasm is moving ever further towards eclipse. Whisky has been ahead of Cognac for quite some time now in celebration of natural, cask strength, unadorned presentation of the distillate - in single or multi-cask form. A style that Cognac has been playing catch up to recently and to great acclaim; when shed of its sugar and boisé and brute dilution, Cognac can be a drink of superluminal nuance and fruity beauty, with natural appeal to a whisky palate. What could, and should in my view, come next is that whisky may start to learn many vital lessons from the world of Cognac. There is a wealth of ideas about dilution, ageing, terroir, wood management and glass-storage that could all have positive qualitative effects if applied in whisky - but time will have to tell on that front.



I suspect - and as a bottler of Cognac myself, I hope - this overlap between the two cultures of enthusiasm is only set to continue. As mentioned, Cognac is a drink about fine detail, it's about complexity, nuance, shyness and quiet subtlety. My first love is, and always will be, Scotch Whisky, but Cognac offers a beautiful and always fascinating interlude from other more boisterous spirits. It can take a long time to get into it properly, to get to that personal 'eureka' moment that we all remember coming so powerfully with whisky. But it's worth making the effort to get there I think, it's a rewarding drink to contemplate, to spend time with, and to learn about. It belongs to the world of wine as much as to that of distillate, and as such what there is to learn will always dwarf what one mind can know.



It is also a drink very much about time, about using time patiently and deliberately as an ingredient and agent of quality. Something the French mastered and retained long ago across much of their various national drinks; something we've gone backwards on with whisky, or arguably never mastered in the first place. As such, there's no shortage of bottlings out there today which represent astonishing value for money when compared to almost any whisky/whiskey bottlings from anywhere around the world. (Let's not even get started on Armagnac!) It's as good a reason as any in today's price-obsessed age to go and explore Cognac.



Anyway, let's commence battle with this sample pile. We'll have a real mixed bag today…







Delamain Pale & Dry Grande Champagne (70 proof, OB, late 1970s)

Delamain Pale & Dry Grande Champagne (70 proof, OB, late 1970s)
A famous house located in Jarnac. 'Pale & Dry' essentially means 'without sugar'. Colour: light amber. Nose: leafy and gentle, with dried apricots, some caffe latte and caramelised brown sugar. It does indeed feel a tad more 'natural' in the way it presents aromatically. Some lighter notes of sultana and quince paste emerge as well. Mouth: soft on arrival but you feel that it is indeed a drier and slightly firmer style that incorporated tobaccos, mushroom powders, bouillon stocks and sticky preserved dark fruits. Muscovado sugars, dried mint and marjoram. Has the richness of Grande Champagne and these soft wee spices bring a feeling of classiness to proceedings. Finish: medium, probably a tad short, some spiced toffee, prunes, more apricots and more leathery tobacco vibes. Comments: these 40% ABVs are always a problem for whisky palates. However, let's not forget these were drinks designed for large mouthfuls and whole bottles to be demolished post-dinner with cigars etc. The drier and slightly more natural profile also works a charm here too.
SGP: 561 - 82 points.



Frapin Chateau de Fontpinot Grande Champagne Reserve du Chateau (41%, OB, 1990s)

Frapin Chateau de Fontpinot Grande Champagne Réserve du Château (41%, OB, 1990s)
From an estate located entirely within the Grande Champagne region, this is also Cognac that's produced and bottled by the house itself. Colour: deep amber. Nose: quite rich and robust on the nose. Leaf mulch, tobaccos, burnt raisins, quince paste, dates, fuzzy peaches and some almond oil too. In my still very limited experience, I'd say it feels like typical Grande Champagne. Mouth: even 1 single extra degree of alcohol already feels like an asset here. Some warm and rather generous spiciness, dark chocolate, toasted Brazil nuts, cloves, umami paste and crystallised citrus rinds. More of these earthen cellar and leaf mulch vibes too. Finish: medium, lightly peppery, some honeys, leather, cocoa and dried herbs. Rather charming aftertaste. Comments: a nicely chunky, classical, well balanced and uncomplicated GC Cognac that I'm sure would go down a treat while falling asleep in front of The Great Escape on a Christmas afternoon.
SGP: 561 - 83 points.



Martell V.S.O.P Medallion (40%, OB, 1960s)

Martell V.S.O.P Medaillon (40%, OB, 1960s)
One of Martell's flagship bottlings, containing Cognac from Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois all minimum 4 years old. Although, how similar that recipe was in the 1960s I couldn't tell you. Colour: deep mahogany. Nose: finely polished and rather impressively scented. Earthy, with many tobaccos, black truffle, dried mushroom and wee touches of bergamot and clove. With time there's Seville orange marmalade and that most classical of Cognac aroma: peaches! Mouth: not as 'together' as the nose, loses a little definition and has this  tiny note of soap. There's still some very nice cocoa and leaf mulch flavours going on, along with crystallised orange peel and some lovely rancio. Finish: medium, rather chocolatey, nicely herbal and bitter with an even spiciness. Comments: loses its way on the palate a bit, but overall a very fine and surprisingly good Cognac at times. Hard to score though. The nose on its own was worth easily 88 in my view. I suspect another old bottle of the same liquid could tell a different story… 
SGP: 561 - 80(ish) points.



Normandin Mercier Vieille Grande Champagne 'L'Essentiel' (41.5%, OB for Cognac-Expert, 60 bottles, 2020)

Normandin Mercier Vieille Grande Champagne 'L'Essentiel' (41.5%, OB for Cognac-Expert, 60 bottles, 2020)
Normandin Mercier is a small producer located just outside La Rochelle. This is part of an ongoing series of micro bottlings by the excellent Cognac-Expert online retailer. Their blog is a good place to go to learn more about Cognac. Colour: orangey gold. Nose: now we are talking! Many flowers, pollens, wild herbs, citrus rinds, some rather firm notes of flower honey and things like peaches in syrup, dried apricots and even slight hints of verbena and mead. The kind of aroma that puts you in mind of some 1972 Glen Grant. Mouth: very much on honeys, nectars and wood resins once again. Herbal extracts, wintergreen, citronella, bergamot and things like lemon thyme, aniseed and candied orange peel. A perfect example of a Cognac that's about finesse and detail. Finish: long, lightly spicy, warming, resinous citrus fruit notes, wood extracts, herbal cocktail bitters and hints of leather. Comments: to me, with such Cognacs, the word that often comes to mind is 'classy'. This is pure, natural, easy to enjoy Cognac that's also hugely elegant, complex and expressive.
SGP: 651 - 89 points.



Giboin Borderies 'L'Essentiel' (46.5%, OB for cognac-expert.com, 2021)

Giboin Borderies 'L'Essentiel' (46.5%, OB for cognac-expert.com, 2021)
Giboin is located in Cherves-Richemont and this is a blend of three casks of ugni blanc from 2002, 2005 and 2009. Colour: pale amber. Nose: far more rustic, punchy and robust. Quite striking to jump from GC to Borderies like that. Clear notes of dried flowers, runny honey, marmalade, citrus curds, pollens and small impressions of fruit salad juices. Some nice notes of breads and toasted seeds also emerge along with a rather rustic spiciness and hints of fennel seed. Mouth: a real departure, brown breads spread with honey and orange marmalade. Also touches of mango, lemon curd and peach schnapps. I even find some notes of hessian, baked banana and apple pips. In time it becomes pure banana bread with sultanas and wee hints of chocolate. Over time the spices, aniseed and fennel come to dominate. Finish: good length, rather herbal, many dried flowers, crystallised fruits, mineral oils and wood saps. Comments: the more robust and powerful side of Cognac. There's a rustic aspect here which can make you think of Armagnac at times, yet this is Borderies through and through. Excellent once again.
SGP: 561 - 87 points.



Hermitage 10 yo 2008 (45%, OB, Grande Champagne)

Hermitage 10 yo 2008 (45%, OB, Grande Champagne)
Single barrel and single estate apparently, and fewer than 200 bottles. Colour: pale amber. Nose: has that rather firm and richly bready profile that younger GCs often seem to display. Also some raisins, milk chocolate and prunes. Some nice threads of liquorice as well. Quite straightforward and simple but very easy and pleasurable so far. Mouth: less interesting here, more on bitter chocolate, office black coffee, some walnuts, treacle and pomegranate molasses. It's all very fine but perhaps a little undefined. Finish: medium, rather peppery, a little bitter, some wood extracts and cough mixtures. Comments: decent glugging Cognac at a good strength, but not particularly complex or refined I would say.

SGP: 451 - 82 points.



Daniel Bouju Cigare Connaisseur (59.9%, OB Germany exclusive, Grande Champagne)

Daniel Bouju Cigare Connaisseur (59.9%, OB Germany exclusive, Grande Champagne)
One of the first Cognac houses to do and promote higher ABV expressions. A name that's already gathered quite some respect from whisky folk. Colour: amber. Nose: rich and emphatically spicy, on dark grained breads, cocoa powder, aniseed, Earl Grey tea, leather and white miso paste. What's great also is that it noses extremely easily at full strength - always a great sign in my wee book. With water: dried herbs, cough medicines and chai tea. More spiced dark breads, umami paste and bitter orange. Mouth: great arrival, highly concentrated and thick, a lot of fruit syrups, flower nectars and wood spices unpacking from beneath that. More cocoa, more strong earthy teas, some liquorice and very slight crystallised tropical fruit notes. With water: excellent now, goes towards liquorice root, fennel, paprika and mint. Various marmalades, chopped dates and classical rancio notes. Finish: long, peppery and riddled with soft wood spices, teas, polished leather, cocoa and dried flowers. Comments: with Cognac, as soon as you hit cask strength, you really notice it. More powerful and terrific work from Daniel Bouju.

SGP: 561 - 88 points.



Daniel Bouju 'Brut de Fût Royal' (60%, OB, Cognac, Grande Champagne, -/+2019)

Daniel Bouju 'Brut de Fût Royal' (60%, OB, Cognac, Grande Champagne, -/+2019)
Colour: reddish amber. Nose: narrower and more on wonderfully powerful notes of flints, freshly roast coffee beans, bitter chocolate and acacia honey. Roast chestnuts, wintergreen, aged orange peel (cheng pi) and some nicely resinous hints of balsamic and rancio. Some date molasses and treacle emerge with time, along with an impression of caramelised demerara sugar. With water: more aromatic, deeper, more earthy, plummier and with a slightly more pronounced rummy quality. Mouth: a bit simpler than the Cigar bottling, but perhaps more emphatic and profound. Deeply earthy, peppery and darkly fruited - all on sticky dates and plums stewed in Armagnac - with hardwood resins and herbal extracts. With water: those breads from the Cigar edition are back! Lovely rye bread spiciness, treacle, cloves, big pipe tobacco notes, leather, earthen cellar floors, leaf mulch - the whole shebang! Finish: long, very focussed on liquorice, chewing tobacco, paprika, earth and umami paste. Some sweeter molasses notes emerging towards the aftertaste. Comments: extremely good. Little wonder whisky folk are so into these bottlings. Seriously, if you are a fan of big, gutsy cask strength drams, then you should endeavour to taste one of these Daniel Bouju bottlings.
SGP: 561 - 89 points.



Daniel Bouju 'Très Vieux Edition Dully' (53.4%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, Grande Champagne, 2019)

Daniel Bouju 'Très Vieux Edition Dully' (53.4%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, Grande Champagne, 2019)
Let's try another Daniel Bouju, this time selected by our Swiss friends - between lunchtime pints of Tokaji essencia and their afternoon Toblerone. Colour: ruby mahogany. Nose: now we're talking! Superbly thick, layered and concentrated. Sultanas, crystallised citrus peels, some long aged demerara rum, expensive liquorice and then many tiny notes such as cedar wood, dried herbs, leather tobacco pouches and an increasingly elegant menthol aspect. Gorgeous! With water: works terrifically with water, becoming more fragile and complex. Many dried flowers, crystallised exotic fruit and even wee things like five spice and Szechwan pepper. Mouth: a surprisingly easy arrival, a lot of soft and intricate spices, bitter dark chocolate, dried herbs such as oregano and thyme, then pure liquorice root, miso and tarragon. Sweeter notes come from these lovely sticky dark fruits such as sultanas, fig and prune. With water: once again the texture remains superbly thick, with a lot of clean and punchy spices, hardwood resins, spiced marmalade and more miso. Finish: long, still rather amazingly fresh, still showing many wee spices, preserved fruits, herbs, liquorice and menthol qualities. Comments: unsurprisingly, outstanding old Cognac that balances power and age with freshness. The concentration on display, and the texture are also really impressive.
SGP: 661 - 90 points.



Vallein Tercinier 'Rue 91' (45.3%, OB for Wu Dram Clan, Fins Bois)

Vallein Tercinier 'Rue 91' (45.3%, OB for Wu Dram Clan, Fins Bois)
Love Vallein Tercinier. Love Fins Bois. And I suppose also love Wu Dram Clan ;) Anyway, expectations are high here… Colour: deep gold. Nose: very typical Fins Bois, superbly soft, gentle, expressive and generously fruity. Full of citrus marmalades, flower honey, mirabelle, peach stones and just the tiniest rooty and earthy touch, one that also incorporates a little damp rancio. This kind of easiness and pleasure is what Fins Bois is all about in my very humble book. Mouth: really on fruit jellies, flower honey, crystallised grapefruit peel, lemon curd and this wonderfully syrupy texture. Not the most complex, but goes down with the deadliness of a stealth ninja! Finish: medium length, syrupy fruits once again, but also now slightly sappy and resinous with wormwood and liquorice. Comments: Simple, direct and very typical Fins Bois, but also just hugely quaffable. The kind of bottle you could idly demolish over Christmas without changing your slippers.
SGP: 651 - 88 points.



Cognac Lot 19 'No.70' 49 yo (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, Petite Champagne, 234 bottles, 2019)

Cognac Lot 19 'No.70' 49 yo (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, Petite Champagne, 234 bottles, 2019)
It's been far, far too long since I tried anything from The Whisky Agency. This should be a 1970s vintage. Colour: amber. Nose: we are into earthier, mulchier and darker territories. Stewed dark fruits all sticky with syrups, roots, tobaccos, herbs and cigar humidors. Some candied citrus peels, bergamot oil and top quality orange marmalade. Very cohesive and seductive. Mouth: rather stewed and concentrated on earthy, damp tobaccos, bitter dark cocoa powder, herbal extracts and cocktail bitters. Lots of leather, sack cloth and a very classical rancio character. In time it starts to incorporate some lightly gamey, meaty aspects too, such as meat stocks, suet and gravy. All the while there's these dark fruits in the background. Lovely stuff! Finish: good length, very focused on leaf mulch, damp tobacco, earth, sultanas, fir resins, liquorice and earthy black teas. Comments: we're approaching this style of old Cognac that makes you feel as though you are sipping some kind of liquified ancient library. Which, come to think of it, is actually the name of a Whisky Agency bottling series - guys, I think you missed a trick here!
SGP: 561 - 90 points.



Borderies D65-A54 (56.7%, Grosperrin for C. Dully Selection, cask #A1, 2019)

Borderies D65-A54 (56.7%, Grosperrin for C. Dully Selection, cask #A1, 2019)
Should be from 1965. I'm also a big fan of Borderies cognacs. Colour: bright bronze. Nose: a wonderful combination of jellied citrus fruits, flower honeys and mulchy earthy tones. Also things like old shoe leather, cupboard spices, yellow plums and mineral oils. Super complexity in the nose. With water: peaches, pressed flowers, pollens and tinned apricot in syrup. Still wonderfully luscious and vibrant. Mouth: great arrival, powerful and assertive on wood spices, dried herbs, preserved dark fruits, hardwood resins, furniture oils, lanolin and herbal cough medicines. Wormwood, orange oils, fruit liqueurs and crystallised exotic fruits. Gorgeous! With water: really perfect now! A wonderful mix of wood spices, herbal extracts, resinous crystallised fruits, honeys and pollens - almost a 1965 Glen Grant! Finish: long, perfectly herbal, medicinal, intricately earthy, syrupy and more of these resinous exotic and citrus fruits. The aftertaste in particular becomes almost embarrassingly exotic. Comments: outstanding old Cognac that nods in so many ways to great old school Speyside malts.

SGP: 661 - 91 points.



Otard 1929

Otard 21 yo 1929/1950 (70 proof, Grants of St James, French Brandy)
Another auction acquisition of mine. There is nothing on the label saying 'Cognac' but having already sipped a few tipples from this bottle I have strong confidence. Also Grants of St James was one of those posh London wine merchants that would like not have bottled any old tat. Interestingly the label states: "This brandy was shipped in 1930 and was bottled by Grant's of St James after being held in cask for 21 years. A large quantity of the original shipment was lost during this period due to evaporation, and the remainder has developed into a magnificent brandy with a mellow bouquet." How very cool that they would provide such detail back in 1950! Colour: deep gold. Nose: riddled with fruit jams and preserves, feeling almost sticky with them and showing wonderful concentration. Wildflowers heavy with pollens and nectars, citrus marmalades, peach syrup, melon and flower honeys. The freshness is just glorious, it's feeling almost playful. Mouth: these sticky preserved fruits, cordials and syrups are front and centre on arrival. Pears and peaches baked with spices, more flower honeys, mentholated tobacco, eucalyptus oil, lemon verbena and baked apple that makes you think briefly of old Calvados. Finish: long, perfectly resinous and showing firmer spicy and peppery tones now, surprisingly powerful and herbal in the aftertaste. Comments: another brilliant old Cognac/brandy that seems to totally shine in relative youth.
SGP: 651 - 91 points.



Maison Prunier Petite Champagne 1919 (43%, OB)

Maison Prunier Petite Champagne 1919 (43%, OB)
Colour: coppery gold. Nose: another level entirely. On deeply scented exotic fruits - mango, papaya and guava - with many further notes of bergamot, dried flowers, mentholated herbs, lemon peel, peaches and even things like old fabrics. Quite astonishing freshness and detail. Mouth: the thing is, the label says 43%, but I have an e-hydrometer to hand which tells me 45% and it certainly feels that way on the palate. This is exquisite and perfectly powerful. Fruit salad syrups, winter spices, lemon verbena, herbal wines and a gloriously resinous honey profile. Also quince jelly, hessian and even lanolin. Outstanding power, texture and concentration of flavour. Finish: long, warming, full of peppers, honeys, wood resins, herbal liqueurs and fruit nectars. Comments: a true old glory that we might even call 'old style' Cognac. What I love is that it clearly isn't a particularly old distillate, probably around 30 years old, and yet the freshness and complexity and vibrancy of the flavours is uniformly wonderful throughout.
SGP: 651 - 93 points.



Grand Fine Champagne Cognac 1865 'Fine Old Liqueur Brandy' (OB, -/+ 1940s)

Grand Fine Champagne Cognac 1865 'Fine Old Liqueur Brandy' (OB, -/+ 1940s)
A very old bottle I bought recently at auction. Colour: deep mahogany. Nose: extremely scented with furniture oils, hardwood resins and beeswax polish. Also some ancient leather, over-extracted mint tea and then this seemingly massive herbal aspect that keeps building and building. You could be nosing some 1950s Fernet Branca mixed with cola syrup. Probably riddled with boisé I would guess - to the point of being extreme. Mouth: indeed, extreme is the word. It's not so much like old Cognac as like chewing herbs, grasses, gentian and liquorice roots and things like angelica, woodruff, wormwood and wintergreen. Belle Epoche Absinthe with turn of the century American root beer! Mental! Having said all that, it's not 'unenjoyable', it's just that you need to like herbal bitters. Finish: quite long just by virtue of this extreme herbaceousness. Medicines, gentian, liquorice and angelica once again. Comments: a useful, and humbling, reminder that not all these old pre-phylloxera Cognacs are antique glories. Fascinating to try but undeniably smothered by boisé and who knows what other additives. Also, who knows what has happened to this bottle during the intervening decades? Another funny historic oddity that is impossible to score in any meaningful way. After all, as a herbal bitter it's actually very good ;)
SGP: 582 - 65ish points.



Domaine du Clos Michelet Fine Champagne 1865 'Reserve Exclusive' (OB, 1/2 bottle, -/+ 1950s)

Domaine du Clos Michelet Fine Champagne 1865 'Reserve Exclusive' (OB, 1/2 bottle, -/+ 1950s)
A funny wee half (or third?) size bottle that I also nabbed at auction recently. Let's see how much more money I have wasted. (Thank God, Lucy does not read Whiskyfun!) Colour: deepest mahogany once again. Nose: we are comfortably in safer territories here. Deeply earthy and mulchy though. Traipsing through a giant cigar humidor in an ancient Tokaji cellar. Some lovely notes of sweet tobacco, dark chocolate cocoa, century old balsamic, natural tar extracts and fir wood resins. Certainly has that pronounced rustic, very old school edge which I find typical of many pre-phylloxera Cognacs. Buried within all this dank cellar must and rancio there are glimmers of blood orange and candied prunes. Mouth: you can tell there is sugar at work here too, but it's far more balanced by roots, earths, soft herbal resins, wormwood and lots of thick rancio notes. Liquorice root, eucalyptus bark, strong herbal teas, aniseed and even a wee nodule of kumquat. Also quite a lot of candied citrus peels. Very good and extremely decadent - which is impossible to be against. Finish: medium, mulchy, soft pipe tobacco notes, bitter chocolate, green Chartreuse and delicate wood spices. Comments: 'old style' in Cognac can mean more rustic styles of distillate, but it seems it can also mean far more aggressive deployment of boisé. This one is far more balanced, with no shortage of beauty, but it's also not perfect either. You can feel there's a more natural ancient spirit within longing to get out.
SGP: 561 -  87 points.



Heartfelt thanks to Sebastien for help with this session. And also happy holidays and all the best for 2022 when it comes around.



Slante from Scotland







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


December 25, 2021


Cognac 1992-1924 for Christmas

Magazine Ad, USA, 1960


More and more malt enthusiasts are now into cognac as well, which doesn't surprise me one bit. The old archenemies have buried the hatchet, after all many belong to the same multinationals… Now there are many more small indies in cognac, for the time being… An apéritif please…

ean Fillioux 'Très Vieux' (40%, OB, grande champagne, +/-2018)

Jean Fillioux 'Très Vieux' (40%, OB, grande champagne, +/-2018) Three stars
We know that in whisky speak, 'very old' means 'pretty young'. It's rather the same in cognac, 'très vieux' usually meaning 'not quite the youngest we have'. Although let's be honest, this very one's also a XO, even an XO Extra. Before 2016, the youngest eau-de-vie in an XO had to be at least 6, but since 2016 that's become 10. In general, makers would tend to make you believe that theirs are much older than that minimum requirement, while they would often be… right. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a very fresh nose, starting with a little liquorice and going on with a whole basket of fresh cut fruits, such as the usual peaches, mangos, starkrimsons, or even pink bananas and litchis. Then we would find nougat, fudge, maple syrup and distinct whiffs of honeysuckle. Lovely, fresh, elegant. Mouth: absolutely lovely, very elegant, just a tad feeble at this murderous strength. I mean it murders the spirit, certainly not the taster. Old pinot gris, preserved peaches, peach syrup, cantaloupe liqueur, spearmint, eucalyptus syrup… Sadly it crashes and gets flat. Finish: very short. A crying shame. Honey. Comments: they say it is actually 25 years old. That shows, it's fabulous cognac, but the 40% vol. just don't work anymore by today's standards.

SGP:630 - 80 points.

Let's go vertical while staying at Fillioux' in Juillac-le-Coq…

Jean Fillioux 1992 'La Flèche de Feu' (43%, Malternatives Belgium, grande champagne, 252 bottles)

Jean Fillioux 1992 'La Flèche de Feu' (43%, Malternatives Belgium, grande champagne, 252 bottles) Four stars
From their single estate, Domaine de la Pouyade. 43% sure work better than 40%. Colour: gold. Nose: fresher yet, more on apples and pears, plums, even calvados, really. More herbs, peelings, cut apples, hay, green melons this time… And much less on exotic fruits. Mouth: indeed a much firmer expression, with more roots, husks, branches, peelings, grasses… I'm finding even more apples as well, which I love (while they would keep the doctor away, naturally), as well as quinces and greengages, which are some of my pet fruits. Notes of jujubes and even sorb as well. Very complex, behind this slight rustic side. The 43% work perfectly well. Finish: rather long, rounder, with more cakes and honeys. Fresh pears and heather honey in the aftertaste. Comments: a tad austere at times, and in that respect rather the opposite of the very aromatic 'Très Vieux'. Pretty malternative indeedn and very good indeed.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Cognac Grande Champagne 37 yo 1979 (50%, La Distillerie Générale, grande champagne, cask #14557, 35cl, 870 bottles)

Cognac Grande Champagne 37 yo 1979 (50%, La Distillerie Générale, grande champagne, cask #14557, 35cl, 870 bottles) Four stars and a half
This is Martell. The story goes like Martell acquired this third-fill cask (they call that aged casks) in 1984 and then kept it first in a wet warehouse, then in a dry one, until bottling two or three years ago. Colour: gold. Nose: it's rather akin to the first Jean Fillioux on the nose, with a lot of fresh aromatics, except that this one was bottled at a proper strength! A few rose petals and whiffs of dunnage, many raisins, walnuts, pomegranates, oranges, melons, mangos, honeysuckle, lime blossom, then a wide range of Christmas cookies and bredala, especially anis bredala, also figs both fresh and dried, small cigars… Brilliant nose, very complex and ever-developing. I'd love to know who distilled this. With water: some beeswax coming through. We couldn't disapprove. Mouth: a few green tannins, aniseed, verjuice, apple peel… A little gritty at this point, but a little water should help. With water: bingo. Liquorice allsorts, various honeys and nougats, pistachio turon, quince jelly, Lebanese pastries (let's support Lebanon)… This is a perfect palate and probably the best use of Evian (I ran out of Vittel, temporarily). Finish: medium, very fresh and fruity when at +/-45%, exotic, a tad mentholy… In short, all is well. Liquorice in the aftertaste, as happens often. Comments: all is well indeed and we are approaching perfection in my book. Who distilled and first filled this lovely lazy cask?
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Maison Prunier 43 yo 1977/2021 (56.3%, The Purist, Wine4you, petite champagne, 90 bottles)

Maison Prunier 43 yo 1977/2021 (56.3%, The Purist, Wine4you, petite champagne, 90 bottles) Five stars
1977, that's Talking Heads! Colour: light amber. Nose: sumptuously on maple syrup and chestnut honey, with just a little sandalwood and cinnamon in the background. Lovely, but I'm sure there will be more as soon as we've added a little Evian (I insist, we ran out of Vittel). With water: fresh nougat. Is there anything better in this life than fresh nougat that they just cut for you at the nougat factory? Also a drop of Greek retsina wine – but do they make retsina elsewhere? Mouth (neat): tight, punchy, even a little aggressive, with some resinous tannins assaulting your gums. A lot of mint too. Quick, with water: a big boy, we're clearly in old malt territory here. Yep, Macallan. Superb tightness, with some mocha, roasted pecans, Smyrna raisins, black tea, and wee bits of tobacco that you would have got into your mouth from your untipped Craven A or Senior Service… Around when Talking Heads were running the show. Haven't smoked any of those since back then… Finish: long, dry and a little drying, but really right up my alley. Comments: love this kind, it's up there with the best old Speysiders. Loved the wee roughness too.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

Back to the New York Dolls…

Maison Prunier 45 yo 1975/2021 (53.4%, The Purist, Wine4you, grande champagne, 550 bottles)

Maison Prunier 45 yo 1975/2021 (53.4%, The Purist, Wine4you, grande champagne, 550 bottles) Five stars
We had tried another 1975 from la Cave de la Maison Prunier back in October; it was superb (WF 89). Did you notice, this is a grande champagne, while the 1977 was a petite champagne. Colour: deep gold. Nose: woo-hoo… Perfectly tight, compact, focussed old cognac on fudge, maple syrup, peanut butter and old Sauternes. With water: quinces, earl grey, whiffs of engine oil, wee touches of metal polish, and as we sometimes say, the exhaust of a two-stroke Kawasaki. The kind that used to roam our streets back in… 1975. Mouth (neat): superbly tight once again, fully on raisins, quinces, marmalade, figs and toffee. Another big boy that took its time in some wood that knew how to behave. With water: crème de menthe, Bénédictine and Chartreuse! What a cask. Finish: long, herbal and sweet, a tad piney and unexpectedly refreshing. Love this. Comments: this one too clicks all buttons here at Château Whiskyfun. Some friends 'might' find it a tad rustic here and there, as rustic as the New York Dolls in 1975, precisely. But I would disagree.

SGP:661 - 91 points.

Further back…

Hermitage 1960 (47%, OB, grande champagne, +/-2019)

Hermitage 1960 (47%, OB, grande champagne, +/-2019) Five stars
Such a charming mention on the label, "Cognac d'une époque ancienne". Pure poetry. We've already tried a few glories by Hermitage, and what's more this one won The Cognac Trophy & Gold Outstanding Award at the IWSC 2020. But we sure won't crack under pressure, as they would say at TAG Heuer's… Colour: amber. Nose: the most deluxe pancake sauce ever. Wonderful toffees, blacker honeys, cured hams (old Parma, Iberico), chestnut liqueur from the Ardèche, and just the most wonderful rancio wines and Banyuls. Some stunning earthiness too. Mouth: no excessive wood at all, that's sorted. Some pine needles, chocolate, crème de menthe, verbena liqueur, chestnut honey, mocha, thin mints… This kind of English chocolate and mint combo just always works in my book, you just have not to think about Boris Johnson. Oops, too late. Finish: rather long, a tad jammier, earthier, with a little sorrel and fresh mint. And rancio, obviously. Comments: by the way, 1960 is my year. Perfect old cognac by the house Hermitage.

SGP:461 - 90 points.

Further down the years…

Fins Bois N°52-22 (46.5%, Jean Grosperrin, L 869, +/-2020)

Fins Bois N°52-22 (46.5%, Jean Grosperrin, L 869, +/-2020) Four stars and a half
In theory, according to some trustworthy friends, this is a blend of 1952 and 1922, the 1922 accounting for one fifth of the whole vatting. Colour: amber. Nose: it is a rather rounded one, meady, pretty much on honeys, beeswax, pollens and then quince jelly. Quince jelly being the next best thing after Zeus's very own ambrosia. Goes on with a little menthol, a little eucalyptus and myrtle liqueurs from Corsica, then a pretty Asian meaty/saucy combo. That sweeter sauce they would give you with Chinese dumplings, which I just adore in my deepest pores (what?) Mouth: a grittiness from some old piney woods, some liquorice wood, more myrtle liqueur (not very common), mead, pine resin, and then some sweet wine, like the ones they make in Sicily. Or on Pantelleria. And sultanas. Finish: medium, perhaps a tad oaky and drying now, getting a little fragile. Comments: I was having it at 90 - and easily – before the finish. Upper-echelon old cognac. Mind you, 1922, that was when Jack Kerouac was born.

SGP:461 - 89 points.

Maison Prunier 'Lot 50' (57%, The Purist, Wine4you, grande champagne, 126 bottles, 2021)

Maison Prunier 'Lot 50' (57%, The Purist, Wine4you, grande champagne, 126 bottles, 2021) Four stars
Seventy years and hundred proof, you read that right. Colour: ember. Nose: of course it's not tired, at 100 proof! Chocolate and raisins, kougelhopf, roasted chestnuts, palo cortado, then spicy cakes and biscuits. Clove cookies, anis bredala, Läckerli, ginger cookies… Some curious notes of stout too, chocolate beer, maduro cigars, glutamate, miso, umami… But boy is it vigorous, at 70 years old! Incredible… With water: we're now in malty territories. Game, cold cuts, pot ale, garden earth, pumpernickel… Mouth (neat): a lot of punch and certainly some tannins. Grape pips, pumpkin seeds, grapefruit skin, many fruit peelings, tight sultanas, mint syrup, cough medicine… But remember, 57% vol. I find it amazing that the distinguished bottlers wouldn't have reduced it to come up with 20% more bottles. Great ethos. With water: don't, it would make it too piney, gritty and drying. Oh just keep it at 57% vol (As we know, only fools never change their mind.) Finish: very long, a little grassy, with green tannins. Oversteeped tea. A lot of menthol ad pine needles in the aftertaste. Comments: this one was a tough wrestler. Not an easy one after the very stunning 1977 and 1975 Pruniers.
SGP:351 - 86 points.

Maison Prunier 74 yo 1946/2021 (49.5%, The Purist, Wine4you, grande champagne, 30 bottles)

Maison Prunier 74 yo 1946/2021 (49.5%, The Purist, Wine4you, grande champagne, 30 bottles) Five stars
Imagine the mood that used to prevail in 1946 in France. Shall we call this one freedom cognac? Colour: amber. Nose: this one's eternally fresh and integrally fragrant. Amazing whiffs of wee flowers (woodruff, lilies of the valley, borage) plus caramel cream, praline, nougat and even, yes in a 74 years old cognac, some caramel-coated popcorn! Brought by the GIs, I would imagine. What's sure is that this one's fresher than the 1950. Mouth: yep! Fewer tannins and more crystallised fruits, some herbal teas (chamomile), a moderately invasive cinnamon, same with nutmeg, then dried dates filled with marzipan (a delicacy that I'll always cherish) as well as touches of Lebanese – and Turkish – arrack.  Distilled figs. This very old cognac wanted to play and have fun. Finish: rather long and complex, with some black nougat this time, puréed chestnuts, softer peppers and cloves (soft paprika?) and  lovely chocolate/coffee combo in the aftertaste. Comments: woo-hoo! Isn't Ronnie Wood 74 too? Wonderful old fruity cognac, an ode to old age and maturity.

SGP:561 - 90 points.

Little cognac made during the war, the men were too busy and the women even more so. While the occupying forces (we're friends now) were rather busy downing the stocks that had not been properly hidden…

Grande Champagne N.39 (44.3%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, 2021)

Grande Champagne N.39 (44.3%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, 2021) Five stars
War broke out on September 1, 1939, but they still managed to harvest and distil this vintage, as Cognac was in the 'free zone' anyway (zone libre). Remember, with brandies, the vintage refers to when the grapes were harvested. Colour: deep gold. Nose: yes, some oils and even a little petrol, over a most nutty nose, full of walnuts, almonds, pecans and even roasted sesame seeds. Also embrocations, sauna oils, Barbour grease, a little paraffin, and linseed oil. Not a lot of fruits, but that's very okay as we do love all these nutty flavours. Mouth: you cannot not think of some very old Sauternes. Wee mushroomy notes, botrytis, some cocoa powder, apricot jam, dried apricots mumps, then an unfolding on raisins, resins and mints. It is just flabbergasting that this baby wouldn't be tired and woody – and it even made it to Singapore! Finish: medium and a little drying, which is totally normal. Very piney aftertaste. They wouldn't say but it's not impossible that this baby would be, wait, 80 years old or even a little more. By the way, we've kept the Glenlivet 80 yo G&M for Christmas. Doesn't charity begin at home? Comments: incredible, even if this is more a Botticelli than a Koons. Yeah we do agree.

SGP:461 - 91 points.

We've also got a '39 Prunier, mind you…

Maison Prunier 81 yo 1939/2021 (43.2%, The Purist, Wine4you, petite champagne, 42 bottles)

Maison Prunier 81 yo 1939/2021 (43.2%, The Purist, Wine4you, petite champagne, 42 bottles) Four stars
Eighty-one-years-old! That even beats G&M' latest 'livet! Colour: dark red amber. Nose: you wouldn't get the fracas of the cannons yet, indeed. It is actually a softer, fragrant, floral, peaceful petite champagne, full of buttercups, lilies, gorse, then Parma ham, mead, very old chardonnay, and just old beeswax, presbytery (careful) and root. Beets, gentian, celeriac and wartime Jerusalem artichokes. The notes of gentian would never stop growing, which I find surprising and totally amazing in such a very old cognac. Mouth: sure the oak feels, and it would feel a lot, with sour herbs and a lot of hay, but you ned to intellectualise all this, right. The better news is that some tropical fruits keep fighting in there, especially pineapples and guavas. Guavas are to be found in the most unlikely spirits. Not saying this is unlikely, it's just that old age feels. Oh well, I know what I'm trying to say. Finish: medium and dry and herbal. Comments: we're probably touching the limits of old age in any spirits. I find it also a little moving to imagine the distillers doing their work while knowing that the mighty Wehrmacht would probably take the land over sooner or later. And drink it all (quite), as the Germans used to be dedicated sponges. 'Schnaps, das war sein letztes Wort…' usw…  

SGP:371 - 86 points.

Let's further push it…

Maison Prunier 89 yo 1931/2021 (40.6%, The Purist, Wine4you, fins bois, 42 bottles)

Maison Prunier 89 yo 1931/2021 (40.6%, The Purist, Wine4you, fins bois, 42 bottles) Four stars
89 years old, this is becoming scary, but I've heard it's Keith Richards who distilled this one in his spare time…  Eighty-nine, Neunundachtzig, ottantanove, quatre-vingt-neuf, ochenta y nueve, ???! Colour: gold. Nose: it is not the most tired of then all, I'm even finding all these notes of nougat and biscuits fresh and lively. Some green bananas, dandelions, pistachios, macadamia nuts, carrots, apples… It is a very old spirit, wise, appeased and serene, and not tired in any way. Wonderful herbalness in the background, we could almost mention old Tarragone chartreuse, but green bananas remain at the lead all along. Mouth: amazing, it is not dead, neither has it become too tea-ish, it is even rather fresh, with plums and old white wines, white Bourgogne, rieslings, some moderate oaky spiciness, and rather a lot of banana skin. Banana skin remains a sign of old age, having said that. I mean, in spirits aged in oak, not in humans. Finish: medium, with some fruits and some herbs. Bananas skin again, guava, plantains… Comments: a miracle. Unless I'm wrong, this is truly the oldest spirit I've ever tried. We're talking age in wood, naturally, not age in demijohns or bottles, which would be too easy and, actually, illegal. Crazy.

SGP:361 - 87 points.

Shall we try a last one? I mean, one that was distilled 97 years ago?

Grande Champagne N.24 (43.6%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, 2021)

Grande Champagne N.24 (43.6%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, 2021) Five stars
1924, wow, that's Otto Dix's time, Edward Hopper's, Paul Klee's, Paul Whiteman's, Ma Rainey's, Fauré, Sibelius, Copland and Erik Satie's… It is so totally moving to taste a liquid that's seen those times and breathed the same air… Colour: deep red amber. Nose: this cannot be, this is fresh as a daisy in a morning in June, this has various flowers, wisteria, peonies, lilies, jasmine… This has stunning honeys, nuts, quinces (hurray), more quinces, even more quinces… Wait, this is pure liquid quince jelly, king of fruits and queen of all aromas that are to be found in any aged spirits. Masterful old cognac on the nose. Mouth: ooh… How can this be? Beyond the wee piney, resinous, propolis-like flavours that might be a tad 'too much' (but S., 97 years!) these dried and crystallised fruits are just utterly stunning. Please call the Anti-OldSpiritPorn brigade! Quinces first, they keep leading the pack, then figs, dried longans or rambutans, jujubes, tiny berries, sorb, checkerberries, holly, elderberries… Don't we just love them all? Unsweetened Darjeeling tea taking over after ten minutes, which was to be expected. Finish: not the longest ever. Cocoa powder, ground coffee, dry tobacco… Some sweeter, fresher berries in the aftertaste. Elderberries and friends. Comments: as they say in brochures and now on Instagram, this is fascinating. You would not judge it only 'technically' (f**k that) the wow effect being what's really important here.  Mind you, 97 years. Ninety-seven, quatre-vingt-dix-sept, siebenundneunzig, novantasette, noventa y siete, Kyû-jû-shich, whatever.
SGP:461 - 91 points.

If they ever do a 1907, may I suggest they call it 'Nationale 7'?

In the words of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, 'au revoir'.

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


December 24, 2021




  All the way down to Glenlivet 80 years old for Christmas 2021

I thought this would make sense, as Glenlivet is one of the brands, excuse me, one of the Distilleries that had started it all. Remember Prof. George Saintsbury in his famous 'Notes on a Cellar Book', first published in 1920, used to recommend that we should always keep  our own blend of Clynelish and Glenlivet in our cellars. Our oldest Glenlivet today won't be a 1920 thought, but we shall not be too far. I know some friends have been wondering why we hadn't tasted it when it came out, I believe that was in September. It's just that I had decided to keep it as a Christmas present to myself. Merry Christmas to you and peace!

Prof. George Saintsbury (Getty) ->

First up, our traditional wee apéritif…


Glenlivet 12 yo (40%, OB, 75cl, +/-1985) Four stars and a half
Labelled as a 'Pure Single Malt' just to be on the safe side I suppose, after they used to rather label it as 'Unblended All Malt'. Some of these old 12s had been excellent (up to WF 90 for the ones for Baretto) while others were dry and watery (down to WF 65). Let's check this very one… Colour: gold. Nose: a very leafy one, very grassy, on apple peel and peach leaves, with some mint and some smoke, some linseed oil, some plasticine, even ointments… It was a bigger and drier spirit, probably too austere by today's standards. The palate will tell us more… Mouth: most certainly one of good ones, much more 'old Highlands', salty, sooty, waxy, leafy indeed, with something medicinal, some seashells (we're often mentioning whelks), licking rocks, with a drop of seawater, some mint again, a drop of cough syrup, green walnuts, more apple peel, bone-dry artisanal cider… Finish: pretty long given the low strength, on a similar combination. Awesome salty aftertaste. Comments: absolutely not 'modern' Glenlivet, not saying his is better but it's certainly very different. Or had them followed Prof. Saintsbury's advice and added a lot of Old Clynelish? Could be… And 40% vol.!
SGP:362 - 88 points.

Indeed, a session that starts well. And naturally, a contemporary counterpart…


Glenlivet 12 yo 'Double Oak' (40%, OB, +/-2020) Three stars
Currently 25€ in French supermarkets. Remember distillers have become carpenters. We've tried the American Oak, the French Oak, The First Fill… Here's the Double Oak! But we're still far from Isle of Jura's record-breaker, 'Seven Wood'. I've heard 'Plywood' will be launched next year and 'More Oak Than You Can Count' in 2023… Not. Colour: gold. Nose: sawdust, as expected, vanilla, tea and grasses. Much more rustic than the lovely old 12, much simpler, not unpleasant tough. Some good barley bread and various Christmas cookies, how timely! Mouth: nicer on the palate, fatter, with mochis, black tea, vanilla, a few raisins and indeed quite some sawdust. A little honey and a grassier maltiness in the aftertaste. Macha rather than mochi. Finish: short, more on cakes. Cider and apple pie in the aftertaste, which is nice. Comments: really a pleasant dram, with an oak that feels a wee bit. In my book more oak commands a higher ABV than just 40.
SGP:451 - 80 points.

Perhaps one of those Nadurras at high strength… But then again, how and where do you insert an NAS into a verticale?


Glenlivet 'Nadurra Oloroso' (60.2%, OB, 1st fill oloroso, batch No. OL0818, 2018) Three stars and a half
One of Glenlivet's answers to 105 or A'bunadh, I would suppose. Colour: gold. Nose: I would guess that many 'new' first fill sherries are light in colour because the casks had been seasoned with some very young wine, which was pale in colour in the first place. In truth this is a pretty leafy sherry, with a very moderate raisinness but on the other hand, there's some very nice caramel and notes of stolle and pumpernickel, so something rather Germanic. Other than that, it's also all on spicy herbal teas with a little honey. The kind that would cure just anything. With water: more of the same plus some stout. Mouth (neat): more of those spicy herbal teas that would cure just anything, with even more honey, also ginger and lemon tea. With water: coffee and chocolate, then more spicy grasses and more stout. Half a pint of Guinness (don't Pernod own a brand too? Have to check that…) Finish: rather long, leafier and really spicy. Walnut wine with rather a lot of ginger and nutmeg, Seville oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: very good but a tad rough perhaps. The Master Carpenters may have wanted to polish this one a little further.
SGP:461 - 83 points.

Off to the indies…


Glenlivet 14 yo 2007/2021 (65%, Signatory Vintage for LMDW, first fill sherry butt, cask #900282, 550 bottles) Four stars and a half
Signatory's very bombastic Glenlivets 2007 are now well-known within Whiskydom, it's just that they may tear you apart if you're not careful enough. Colour: deep gold. Nose: stunning cakes, pastries, bredala, praline, quince jelly, vendanges tardives… It's just incredible that at some coughy 65% vol., this baby wouldn't even be heavy. Now we do keep our glass at some distance… With water: rather sublime and pretty much all on panettone. As you may know, panettone is a favourite in the house, especially that brand that's called… 'Valentino'. Seriously. Mouth (neat): I have the impression that this will be epic and glorious, but I'm afraid I'll need a little water before I can tell you more… With water: orange cake, and one of the best. Finish: same for a long time. Perfect gingery oranges and an even spicier aftertaste. Comments: we knew this would be pretty superlative.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

I'm glad I survived that one, as I barely survived my third jab of Covid vaccine last week. It was not the jab actually, it's just that after they had done it they asked me to sit down on one of those very lousy brand new IKEA chairs they had just ordered 'from The Internet'. I'm not even heavy these days but the chair exploded immediately, literally, and I fell head-first onto an old cast-iron radiator. Thank God it's not been too bad, there's just been rather a lot of blood and I now have a large scar on my big head. So more fear than pain, and a (hopefully) rather funny story about Covid vaccines to tell my friends. And even more excuses to have more whisky…

Glenlivet 15 yo 2006/2021 (62.5%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask # 900550, 300 bottles) Five stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: sameish, really, perhaps just a notch more floral and fruity. And a notch more herbal, perhaps. And much, much lighter (62.5 vs. 65, that really is a lot, uh). With water: a splendid zestiness involving grapefruits and yuzu. Not too sure about hose yuzus but there. Mouth (neat): wow! Reminds me of some of the best batches of the old Macallan 10 C/S (I think the mould's been broken since back then). With water: citrus plus chocolate truffles and then some young ueber-first-grade cognac. Remember that historically, malt whisky was an alternative to cognac. Finish: rather long, pretty perfect. Well-caramelised lemon and orange cake, that thing that is actually one of the lesser-known deadly sins. Maple syrup in the aftertaste. Comments: so brilliant that I'm sure Lady Gaga will want to do a duet.
SGP:551 - 90 points.

Back to the officials…

Glenlivet 25 yo 1995/2020 (54.7%, OB for Navigate World Whisky, 2nd fill American oak, cask #9477, 126 bottles)

Glenlivet 25 yo 1995/2020 (54.7%, OB for Navigate World Whisky, 2nd fill American oak, cask #9477, 126 bottles) Five stars
Twenty-five years, second-fill… As Boris would have said a few years back, what could go wrong? That would have been Boris Spassky, of course. Colour: straw (hurray). Nose: wandering throughout an old orchard, say in Kent, with many apples, pears, plums and flowers (wisteria, lilies)? Simple, millimetric, high-precision, perfect. With water: even tighter, with kiwis and rhubarb. A little barley syrup and acacia honey to add some roundness. Mouth (neat): fantastic brightness, on white fruits (white peaches, granny smith) and sweeter root-vegetables, as chefs now say. Carrots, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes… Some white cherries and a little lemon juice too. With water: a chalky and earthy side. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Well either of those. Finish: medium, vertical, zesty without citrus… Some malt from an western orchard, really. Comments: I've been hesitating between 89 and 90 but this is Christmas and this wee 25-yo 'livet has been bottled for the Republic of South Africa. So…
SGP:641 - 90 points.

Good, a last one please. Let's make it the oldest Scotch malt whisky ever bottled, without getting all Fox News about it…

Glenlivet 80 yo 1940/2020 (44.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Generations, first fill sherry butt, cask #340, 250 bottles) Five stars

Glenlivet 80 yo 1940/2020 (44.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Generations, first fill sherry butt, cask #340, 250 bottles)

G&M must feel like Usain Bolt, every few years they're breaking a world-record that was previously held by… themselves. 50, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80. What's particularly spectacular here is that it is not only about 'prices fetched at auctions', which is the lousiest way of breaking records in whisky (anyone can manipulate any auction prices when there's only one bottle at stake) and the fact that they would let quite a bunch of whisky people actually try the juice, which is not what other 'record-breakers' do. How many record-breakers are actually badly tired whiskies? How would anyone know anyway? So kudos to G&M here, and Merry Christmas! Oh by the way, just saw a picture of the butt's head at Sotheby's, it would display the name of the bodega, 'Jose Ramirez in Puerto de Santa Maria'.

Colour: amber. Nose: the news that it is not tired at all has already spread like wildfire, and indeed it is not. A little pine essence and a drop of coconut water at first, which was to be expected, some fern and mosses too, certainly some old mead and any other honeyed delicacies, a little teak oil, sauna oil and several tiny empyreumatic aromas, old leather polish… Alright but what's really striking is that after all those 'antiquey' aromas, some fresh fruits would come out, apples stewed in white wine, tarte tatin, pears poached in Sauternes (try that, some good Sauternes have got cheap these days)… There are also medicinal notes, some coastal ones too… In fact, this is a great example of a fractal nose. Each and every aroma triggers a few smaller ones, which in turn would… You see what I mean, let's move on…  Mouth: this is the most amazing part. Very old whiskies with great noses and failing palates aren't rare, but very old whiskies that would display both a superb nose and a palate that's still in full form, if not totally vibrant, are almost unseen in whisky (they are not in cognac or armagnac, having said that, while rum seems to be a whole different story). Long story short, this has many roasted nuts coated with honey sauce, some nougats of various kinds, surely some Pu-her tea, and then fruitcakes of all kinds, every country, if not every region or land having got its own recipe. Even every family, in truth… Mine for one always uses a lot of figs, we could almost call them fig-urative fruitcakes. Ha. Anyway, really an entrancing palate given its age. Not exactly a senior citizen of Maltdom.

Finish: medium, on piney flavours and fried figs and dates. I'm keeping this short because I've already downed everything I had, to be honest. Comments: 1940? This is the whole Duke Ellington Orchestra in your glass. I'm finding it a little vulgar, or at least inelegant to give a score to such an old wonder, but as Angus already said in these little pages, it's probably worth a good 93% or points, for zillions of reasons. Merry Christmas indeed.
SGP:561 - 93 points.


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


December 23, 2021


Toppest Glen Grant

Glen Grant
A trio that will culminate with Gordon & MacPhail's recent Glen Grant 65 yo for La Maison du Whisky, mind you. Now for once, we won't have any of the young old ones by either G&M or the Distillery, while those used to be staples of our Glen Grant sessions…

'Glen Grant. A colour of Scotland that breaks away from the herd.' Unlikely French ad, 1995. - >

Glen Grant 18 yo (56.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, for 19 Greville Street, #9.198, Crumbly Biscuits and Heavenly Blossom, 222 bottles, 2021)

Glen Grant 18 yo (56.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, for 19 Greville Street, #9.198, Crumbly Biscuits and Heavenly Blossom, 222 bottles, 2021) Two stars
One done for their address in London and then for their advent calendar 2021. Colour: straw. Nose: it's an extremely neutral Glen Grant, on grass and lime juice, without much honey, flowers, or even apples. Some oranges seem to be trying to get to your nostrils, though, but the whole remains rough and raw. As the other guy said, this oak has been reused so many times that it's probably never seen a tree in the first place. Right. With water: acacia honey and a little vanilla, plus a little meringue. This is nicer, not earthshattering but nicer. Cauliflowers not so much. Mouth (neat): very tart and grassy, aggressive, pungent… One cannot not wonder if the decision to bottle this was not prompted by some bad shrimp at the headquarters. With water: nicer once again, but really very grassy. A few zests. Finish: medium, extremely grassy and leafy. Comments: very tough baby. Not sure these batches of Glen Grant were big enough to stand this kind of ultra-moderately active maturation.
SGP:371 - 75 points.

Glen Grant 23 yo 1997/2021 (53%, Quaich Bar Singapore, Signature Reserve, 220 bottles)

Glen Grant 23 yo 1997/2021 (53%, Quaich Bar Singapore, Signature Reserve, 220 bottles) Four stars
Another one that was selected by Frank McHardy. Colour: gold. Nose: a whole different world, thanks to some lovely marzipan, custard and peppermint. Some orange blossom, , raisin rolls, with a growing butterscotch and thin mints, lime blossom, honeysuckle, buttercups… This is eminently 'Glen Grant'. With water: acacia honey all over the place, plus a little grass and cut green apples. Touches of pineapples and grapefruits, fruit drops... Mouth (neat): all on a huge spice and honey cake, rather nutmeg-forward. Also a lot of cardamom, pepper, Schweppes, cinnamon… With water: fruit drops and marshmallows are back. Banana skin. Finish: long, grassier again. Comments: really a fruitier alternative to the SMWS. Fruits make all the difference, but it would remain a grassy Glen Grant.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

Glen Grant 65 yo 1956/2021 (55.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, LMDW 65 Anniversary, first fill sherry butt, cask #4451, 100 bottles)

Glen Grant 65 yo 1956/2021 (55.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, LMDW 65 Anniversary, first fill sherry butt, cask #4451, 100 bottles) Five stars
I find it remarkable that they would have bottled this antique Glen Grant as a Connoisseurs Choice. A very good feeling here… We've already tried a few 1956 GGs by G&M, all pretty perfect, the latest of them having been the utterly flabbergasting 62/1956  'Mr George Centenary Edition' (WF 94). Top of the pyramid as far as sherried Speysiders are concerned, all brands and distilleries included. Colour: light mahogany with red hues. Nose: totally astounding, as expected. Roasted chestnuts and chestnut honey speaking out first, which I adore, then precious wood polish and varnish (old Jag as we used to say), then two or three hundred different dried fruits (papayas, dates, currants, figs, guavas…) then the most fantastic chocolates as well as some well-roasted robusta coffee (beans), then tiny 'Asian' notes, miso, cheng-pi, hoisin, soy sauce… And umami sauce! We could go on and on and on… With water: please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade, this baby swims insanely well, you would believe it's team USA at the 4 x 100m freestyle relay in Tokyo. Gold medal of malt whisky. Sublime resins, balms, liqueurs… It is a masterpiece. Mouth (neat): mint cream, chocolate, caraway liqueur and proper Italian coffee. Then tar, liquorice, pu-her, more chestnut honey, heather as well, white clover honey, bags of raisins, a drop of sriracha and one of tabasco… But rather less meaty/gamey tones than in other similar bottlings. With water: it's the tightness, the freshness, the vivacity that's most impressive here. Some sublime figs, kumquats and bergamots plus some superlative mints of all kinds, while I could not find even the faintest flaw this far. Not even 'wood'. Finish: this is where they would tend to become a little woody, a little drying, a little too 'tannic'. Not this one! Darjeeling, lapsang souchong, marmalades, chocolates and coffees, hoisin sauce, more chestnut honey, spearmint, cough syrup, tar liqueur, etc etc etc. Comments: may I just write 'wow!' Please? In my book, it's on par with 2021's 67/1953 'Mr George Legacy'.

SGP:662 - 94 points.

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


December 22, 2021

Imperial like crazy


Imperial Distillery in 2011 (Andrew Wood)

To us Frenchmen, Imperial can only refer to our last emperor, Napoléon III, who wasn't exactly 'a sword', as we say in French. Only our friends across the Channel could have both an empire and a queen or a king. Strange… Anyway, there was also an Imperial Distillery, which stopped producing in 1998 and was subsequently demolished in 2013, before Chivas/Pernod built a new Distillery, Dalmunach, on its very site. Let's have a few Imperials if you please, totally at random.

Imperial 25 yo 1996/2021 (53.6%, Watt Whisky, refill barrel)

Imperial 25 yo 1996/2021 (53.6%, Watt Whisky, refill barrel) Five stars
I might be wrong, but I have the impression that bottlers who are located in the UK are fonder of Imperial than the ones who are established elsewhere. A matter of nostalgia? Colour: gold. Nose: I believe the word perfect has different meanings, but English is only my second language, if not my third one. This, is perfect, it's got malt, barley, cake, all pastries, wines and meads and beers, plus this slight earthiness that will always enhance any whisky. With water: just perfect. A fresh panettone, while I'm a sucker for panettone. They'll soon call me Mr Panettone at home. Mouth (neat): undisputable. Overripe apples, IPAs, mangos, preserved apricots, acacia honey, great chardonnay. We would even describe it as being 'Meursaulty', even if we won't mention Coche or the Counts. Well we just did. With water: even better. Oranges and peppered tangerines or something. Finish: long and chalkier, tenser, even more lemony. Comments: wine whisky. I mean, whisky for wine people. Now remind me where that Masai emblem on the label came from?
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Imperial 23 yo 1997/2020 (45.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, for the USA, barrel, cask #2798, 151 bottle)

Imperial 23 yo 1997/2020 (45.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, for the USA, barrel, cask #2798, 151 bottle) Four stars and a half
In theory, this should be quick. Elixir/TSMOS are Imperial specialists. Colour: light gold. Nose: acacia honey and mango chutney, then maple syrup and beeswax. There's nothing you can do against this profile, just bow and say your prayers. Mouth: heather honey, orange cordial, dough, fresh panettone, barley syrup, crushed bananas, all that at a perfect strength that doesn't even call for water. Vittel is getting expensive! Finish: medium, honeyed, a tad waxy. Comments: the Watt was a tad more tense and nervous, thus deserved one extra-point in my book. But this quasi-fruit-bomb is just absolutely superb too.
SGP:641 - 89 points.

America it is…

Imperial 24 yo 1996/2020 (54.6%, Single Cask Nation, bourbon barrel, cask #3420, 184 bottles)

Imperial 24 yo 1996/2020 (54.6%, Single Cask Nation, bourbon barrel, cask #3420, 184 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: what happened to Scotland in 1996? A comet? Did the Sun Ra Arkestra tour the country? The Stranglers? Did aliens take over the distilleries? Why are all these malt whiskies so good? Do vintage effects actually exist in whisky? When was the barley actually harvested, in 1995 or in 1996?... And where? … … I say those are the issues whisky youtubers should be busy with! Vanilla, honey, all-vitamin fruit juice, mead, nougat, etc. With water: same. Very nice. Mouth (neat): brilliant, malty, brioche-y, with some banana jam and just, indeed, a large fresh panettone. I believe I need to go see a shrink so that he/she would de-panettone-ise me. With water: raisin rolls and a drop of triple-sec blended with mint cream. Otherwise more honeys, earl grey… Peach skins too. Finish: same notes for a long time and a leafier and more tea-ish aftertaste. Comments: just between us, I wouldn't have demolished the Distillery, even if I'm sure they were having 'very good reasons'. High marks.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Fast-forward please…

Imperial 22 yo 1998/2020 (52.1%, Chapter 7, bourbon barrel, cask #104355, 218 bottles)

Imperial 22 yo 1998/2020 (52.1%, Chapter 7, bourbon barrel, cask #104355, 218 bottles) Four stars and a half
From the last year, sniff-sniff… Colour: straw. Nose: some fresher fruits, perhaps some melons, vanilla, whiffs of cellulose (varnish), peaches, bananas… This is a little different. With water: still a little varnishy and even waxy. Lovely fresh barley, grist, ground grains of all sorts, beers…  Mouth (neat): hypra-good, earthier, as if the cask had been used for a light peater before. You never know. This gives this baby a pleasant Ardmore-y side, then peaches indeed, melons, prickly pears, honey… With water: fruit peelings, leaves, softer bitters… Water really made it change direction. Some slightly medicinal smoke for sure – where did that come from? Finish: long and even smokier. Ardmore-y indeed. Lemon foam (really?) Comments: a different, tighter Imperial. The thing is, I like it just as much.
SGP:461 - 88 points.

Imperial 21 yo 1997/2019 (49.6%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail, retro label, cask #2471, 169 bottles)

Imperial 21 yo 1997/2019 (49.6%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail, retro label, cask #2471, 169 bottles) Four stars and a half
Late as ever indeed, but why retro label? All whiskies are going retro anyway, if not retro-futuristic, are they not? Granted, just not the ones for China… (Paco Rabanne and Givenchy, get ready!) Colour: straw. Nose: honey, barley syrup, biscuits, old champagne, mead, sweet bitters (amer bière, Picon, stuff like that). Mouth: naturally. Very good, peach skins, apples, prickly pears, IPA, high-level cider, mead, touches of beeswax, citrons. Finish: medium fresh, citrusy, waxy and earthy in the aftertaste. Comments: I particularly liked this one. Indeed, late as ever.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

I'm afraid this is all going to be a 88-90 thing. Unless we would try to go a bit down the vintages…

Imperial 28 yo (40.8%, Elixir Distillers, Marriage, 600 bottles, 2020)

Imperial 28 yo (40.8%, Elixir Distillers, Marriage, 600 bottles, 2020) Three stars
Possibly a marriage of convenience, according to the strength here. Perhaps one or two wizened old casks that were in the need of some doping-up? Indeed no less than five barrels have been married together here – but that may work, just ask Springbank. Colour: light gold. Nose: mead and vanilla, then pear and apple ciders, then old cellar and moist old magazines. Say The New Yorker. Mouth: just very good. Some greenish oak for sure, hashish, banana skins, mead again, fruit peelings… Now it does tend to become a little tea-ish, rather with green tea. Finish: short to medium, green, tea-ish, leafy. A green tannicity. Comments: the limitations of this exercise, I would suppose. Really good and certainly not a wet noodle, but not quite my favourite. Ha, marriage!
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Quick, redemption…

Imperial 24 yo 1995/2020 (51.5%, Elixir Distillers, The Single Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #7854, 127 bottles)

Imperial 24 yo 1995/2020 (51.5%, Elixir Distillers, The Single Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #7854, 127 bottles) Five stars
A tiny outturn but hurray, it made it to France! Colour: white wine. Nose: pristine, almost crystalline waxy and doughy arrival, then porridge, wool and fermenting chalk. Oh come on, I know perfectly well that chalk wouldn't ferment, that was a figure of speech. With water: chalk and plasticine. Mouth (neat): fantastic waxiness ala Clynelish and grapefruits. Enough said. With water: bing and bang (are you all right, S.?) Finish: long and more vertical than the Empire State Building. Comments: exactly my kind. I suppose it's sold-out; what is this society coming to?
SGP:551 - 90 points.

Imperial 25 yo 1995/2020 (48.2%, LMDW, Artist #10, hogshead, cask #50270, 197 bottles)

Imperial 25 yo 1995/2020 (48.2%, LMDW, Artist #10, hogshead, cask #50270, 197 bottles) Four stars
Came with a lovely Rothko-y label. Indeed we're late, once again. Colour: straw. Nose: a similar chalky arrival, then waxes and oils of all kinds, including mint oil, but also rather a lot of woody elements, eucalyptus wood, teak, thuja, taxus… It'll happen on the palate, I would suppose… Mouth: thick, tight, and this time, Sancerry rather than Meursaulty. One day, my wine friends will execute me in the public square, forcing me to down 10cl of a Macallan finished for three weeks in PX! Now this little imperial is excellent and would tend to become more piney over time. Finish: rather long but maybe a little too green, gingery… The wood really starts to feel. Comments: upper-echelon Imperial for sure, it's just lacking the fruity brightness that others would have had.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Let's call this a proper Imperial session, and please allow me to bow out…

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


December 21, 2021


Another little bag of whatever malts

But we won't try the ones we're totally sure about, such as those 'Secret Orkneys' or those 'Northernmost Islay malts' or those 'Stars of Sutherland'… Bu we'll do this randomly!

A Fine Christmas Malt 16 yo (53.2%, The Whisky Exchange, 2021)

A Fine Christmas Malt 16 yo (53.2%, The Whisky Exchange, 2021) Four stars
All right honey, London says this was distilled on Orkney. Not a bad place to make whisky, uh? (S., even Boris would have done better in this situation, really, you do not make WF's readers proud). Colour: straw. Nose: peanut oil (love), banana cake (love), panettone (ueber-love), quinces (love) and just grist and fresh kougelhopf. With water: sameish, just breadier, doughier, more on beers and all kinds of fermented things, including beers and wines. Mouth (neat): super good, oily, grassy and peely, with excellent thick fruits (green bananas) and bitter almonds. With water: as good as it gets. Provided this is, indeed, HP, I would say it's a nod closer to the OBs than to the now usual 'Secret Orkneys', perhaps thanks to some refill sherry or something. Finish: rather long, saltier, with a menthol/liquorice combo that would just always work. Pickled lemons in the aftertaste. Comments: great drop. I suppose the whole lot ought to be downed before December 25.
SGP:363 - 87 points.

Islay Single Malt 33 yo 1985/2021 (47.1%, C. Dully Selection, refill hogshead, refill hogshead, cask #8, 98 bottles)

Islay Single Malt 33 yo 1985/2021 (47.1%, C. Dully Selection, refill hogshead, refill hogshead, cask #8, 98 bottles) Four stars and a half
I know, the numbers don't add-up, let's not care. Colour: light gold. Nose: I'm lost. Not smoky enough for the south shore, neither is it for CI, while to my knowledge, neither Bunna nor the Laddie were doing any peaters back in 1985… Could this really be Bowmore 1985? But then where's the lavender perfume? The Parma Violets? The shampoos? Even the plasticine? It is a soft yet assertive coastal malt of good age and of high elegance, with marvellous notes of seashells, kelp, old boat, gherkins, and of one of the most entrancing liquids ever made by Man, Gentian eau-de-vie! Now, to be honest, the bottler here being Swiss, I'm starting to wonder if he did not add a few litres of Gebirgs Enzian to the bottling (I for one would have done it). Mouth: yeah you do feel the lavender sweets and even the cologne, but those notes would mingle with some seawater and crushed kippers. The mid-1980s-Bowmoreness feels more on the palate, but frankly, we're far from those deeply FWPed batches of old. Very smart selection. Finish: long and extremely briny. Oysters and tinned gherkins. Extreme aftertaste on salted liquorice. Comments: woo-hoo, that was some ride. Lousy writers would have added that this is both an historical and an hysterical bottling. I'm one of them for sure.
SGP:364 - 89 points.

Big Peat 'Christmas Edition 2021' (52.8%, Douglas Laing)

Big Peat 'Christmas Edition 2021' (52.8%, Douglas Laing) Four stars
They keep doing it and they do it right. Good fun, even if good old Captain Haddock may start to feel a little tired. To think that this series started with a noticeable proportion of Port Ellen inside… Colour: white wine. Nose: feels very young. Smoked and tarred pears, fish oil, whelks, drops of engine oil and benzine, plasticine, fresh almond paste, fresh plaster… With water: more fresh plaster, concrete, even Islay mud, grist, semolina… Mouth (neat): sweet pears, lemons, and brine. That's the thing, the combo would just always work, since controlled diversity (what?) always adds complexity. With water: works. Salted root juice and lemons, plus crushed sardines and cigarette ashes. Finish: long, perhaps a tad sweet (pears), but very good. Eucalyptus and liquid propolis in the aftertaste, as well as a small rubberness. Comments: feels young but it's very good and at least they did not burry it under tons of butterscotch.
SGP:476 - 86 points.

Blended Scotch Whisky 18 yo 2003/2021 (56.3%, Watt Whisky, hogshead)

Blended Scotch Whisky 18 yo 2003/2021 (56.3%, Watt Whisky, hogshead) Three stars and a half
Since, according to some, Edrington have started selling their malts to brokers or blenders as 'blended scotch' lately, everybody's starting to believe that any blended Scotch around is Macallan (*). Even Passport and The Claymore. Ha. Colour: gold. Nose: a tight, muscovado-y, nutty arrival on the nose, then cakes and biscuits. Roasted peanuts and black nougat. Move along! With water: very viscimetrical. Loads of barley syrup, agave syrup, roasted chestnuts, fudge, raisin rolls, cinnamon donuts… Mouth (neat): exactly. Pear eau-de-vie aged in deep-charred oak, caramel, fudges, butterscotch, pear cake and Guinness. With water: maltier. Brown ales, peppery tobaccos, some chlorophyll, bell pepper… Finish: long and bitterer. Comments: I would doubt anyone's actually 'blended' this; this is not a blender's work. I could be wrong, but there, my very humble tuppence.
SGP:561 - 83 points.
(*) Update, this is Inverhouse stock.

Speyside 1998/2021 (51.6%, The Maltman, Or Sileis, first fill sherry cask, cask #1389)

Speyside 1998/2021 (51.6%, The Maltman, Or Sileis, first fill sherry cask, cask #1389) Four stars
That's the main problem, we've got dozens and dozens of samples of whiskies that are labelled as 'Speyside' while we just wouldn't know whether those were 'anonymous' Speysiders or malts from the Speyside Distillery. We'll never known and shall probably dump them sooner or later. Yeah or redistill them. Colour: red amber. Nose: gunpower and walnuts, Spanish ham, cigars, copper, rose petals, metal polish, cedarwood. More than okay… With water: more walnuts, mutton, metal polish and compost. Mouth (neat): good, a fruitier, fresher kind of sherry monster, with a lot of blood orange and orange cake. Very good, actually, even if the cask did all the work, or so it would seem. With water: bitter tobaccos and dried herbs. A feeling of bone-dry oloroso, extremely on walnuts and polishes. Finish: long, meaty, a tad sulphury. Good nuts and beef ham in the aftertaste, plus a lot of proper chocolate. Comments: heavily cask-influenced, not sure the distillery had anything to say. What was the distillery? The end result's way above average, though.
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Black Friday 22 yo (49.2%, The Whisky Exchange, 2021)

Black Friday 22 yo (49.2%, The Whisky Exchange, 2021) Three stars and a half
Black Friday, not quite our thing. So we're fashionably late, I would say. Have you ever heard of Pink Tuesday? Colour: light gold. Nose: bits of grated coconut, touches of camphor, ideas of mint essence, embrocations… With water: porridge with slices of over-bruised bananas. Mouth (neat): fine malt whisky, really, rather on the safer vanilla-ed side. Some bitter herbs. With water: some malt, stout, toffee… Finish: same for a rather long time. More toffee yet in the aftertaste, as well as some sourness. Bitter pears? Comments: good but who cares, we're very late anyway. Tja, Black Friday… London's Christmas malt was in a whole different dimension. And why not blue Mondays? Seriously, you don't do Black Fridays…
SGP:551 - 83 points.

Aurora Aldehyde 41 yo 1980/2021 (46.2%, London Whisky Show 2021, Superheroes of Flavour, blended Scotch, sherry butt)

Aurora Aldehyde 41 yo 1980/2021 (46.2%, London Whisky Show 2021, Superheroes of Flavour, blended Scotch, sherry butt) Three stars
A 3D bottle. You see, everyone's believing that these are Macallan, while they might be Whyte & MacKay. So, disclose if you can, or pay the consequences… Colour: deep amber. Nose: roasted nuts and cereals, maple syrup and pancake sauce, peanut butter, millionaire shortbread, sesame oil, turon, figs… Very nice nose, even if it does not quite feel '41'. With water: copper polish, earth, old ointments, pine resin, perhaps vase water. Not that it would fall apart but it sure lost focus. Mouth (neat): very good, if a little extreme, too peppery and too herbal. Underberg at the power of ten and oversteeped thyme tea. With water: this metallic side, old nuts, earth, herbal liqueurs, Jäger and stuff… It lost all oomph, I'm afraid. Finish: over the hill, grassy, drying, lacking body. The aftertaste is very herbal, very grassy. Some coconut butter too. Comments: lovely label and great fun, but the juice was a bit tired, if I humbly may say. After all, 1980, that's Duran Duran.
SGP:361 - 82 points.

Another try…

Captain Congener 20 yo 2001/2021 (57.6%, London Whisky Show 2021, Superheroes of Flavour)

Captain Congener 20 yo 2001/2021 (57.6%, London Whisky Show 2021, Superheroes of Flavour) Four stars
A journey through intergalactic ethanology, they said. So, Glenfarclas (no?) Colour: deep gold. Nose: some mentholated leaves and fruit peelings plus a little pine resin and hand cream, marmalade, raisins... A rather fat make, with a grassy and greasy backbone as well as a grassier kind of sherry indeed. With water: autumn leaves and old walnuts, verbena liqueur, more pine resin. Indeed, Christmas tree. Mouth (neat): hot, very punchy, with a smokiness as well, Seville oranges, herbal teas, allspice… With water: gets fruitier, with more oranges, some cinchona, bitters, Campari and walnuts. Big bespoke sherriness. Finish: long and leafy, peppery. Rather green walnuts in the aftertaste, as well as a few dry black raisins. Comments: a tad folksy, which in my book is rather typical. I find it very good and it seems that the price is very right, should you enjoy these leafy/grassy sherry monsters. Moderately monstrous.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Compass Box 'Wisdom' (50.1%, La Maison du Whisky, blended Scotch, Artist #11, Pentalogy, 654 bottles, 2021)

Compass Box 'Wisdom' (50.1%, La Maison du Whisky, blended Scotch, Artist #11, Pentalogy, 654 bottles, 2021) Four stars
We've already had some lovely compadres from this new series. It is technically a blend, but I would suspect it is very, and I mean very malt-driven. Colour: gold. Nose: a lot of marzipan and a lot of beeswax at first, then linseed oil, rubbed fern, white nougat, cider apples, jujubes, stewed rhubarb and preserved greengages. Everything's perfect here, it is subtle, fresh, elegant… No water needed but still… With water: aren't we rather in Craigellachie? This is maltier and with many more roasted nuts. Pecan pie and energy bar. Mouth (neat): a tad cakier now, less purely waxy, with a little coffee or rather coffee liqueur, chicory coffee, roasted chestnuts… Are these the possible grains speaking out? With water: more leafiness and some spicier, almost green oak. Bears some resemblance with the Captain Congener. Finish: long, good, leafier indeed, but also with even more toffee and coffee. Chestnut honey in the aftertaste. Comments: an intriguing and excellent combination.
SGP:461 - 86 points.

Some unapologetical single malt please…

Secret Speyside 30 yo 1990/2021 (53.2%, The Whisky Jury, refill barrel, cask #TWJ-GR-1990, 263 bottles)

Secret Speyside 30 yo 1990/2021 (53.2%, The Whisky Jury, refill barrel, cask #TWJ-GR-1990, 263 bottles) Four stars and a half
So no sherry this time. I believe more and more that those sherry-seasoned casks have to be perfect or should just not be used. On the other hand, the Jerezians and other bodegas in the south of Spain deeply need this business… Colour: gold. Nose: but naturally, this is brighter, purer, zestier, more refreshing even on the nose, better chiselled and with a clearer maltiness. With water: breads and cakes, plus dried yellow fruits and pastry dough, as well as whiffs of new dandelions very early in the mornin'. That is to say before the bees have come and plundered all the nectar. Mouth (neat): overripe apples, lemon zests, macaroons and finger biscuits, lemon tarte (with meringue) and tiny touches of papayas. As good as it gets. It is a rather 'lighter' Speysider. With water: excellent 'lightish' Speysider indeed, with good herbal teas and just a dollop of fir resin. Chamomile, vanilla, touches of aniseed. Finish: medium, clean, malty, fruity and herbal. Some grassier honey in the aftertaste, and just a little green pepper. And grapefruit. Comments: as good as it gets. Yeah, most bourbon casks work, while sherry casks ought to be perfect.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

A last one…

Secret Speyside 30 yo 1990/2021 (46.6%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #TWJ-GL-1990, 159 bottles)

Secret Speyside 30 yo 1990/2021 (46.6%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #TWJ-GL-1990, 159 bottles) Five stars
I would suppose this is the same distillery, only filled in a hogshead instead of a barrel. Colour: deep gold. Nose: bingo, let's turn off the light and double lock the door, this session is over. Stunning orange blossom water, earl grey, praline, macchiato, acacia honey, proper homemade custard,  and, dare I add, Bailey's Irish Cream. I know, I know. Mouth: exactly. Late harvest riesling, more earl grey, honeysuckle, zucchini flowers, sultanas and just a little popcorn. Mirabelle eau-de-vie. Finish: rather long, fresh, fruity, complex, rather on more orange blossom and citrons. Comments: splendid and even a notch superior to the barrel version. But let me issue a warning, it is dangerously drinkable; they should add that to the labels.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

December 20, 2021


Oscar Wilde And Other Crazy Irish

Remember this incredibly unlikely old advert for Jameson's? How times have changed since 1968! Let's have a good few Irish (and northern Irish) whiskies, as they come, without any order or law.

Bushmills 2014/2021 (47.3%, Dumangin J. Fils, ratafia finish, Batch 017, 282 bottles)

Bushmills 2014/2021 (47.3%, Dumangin J. Fils, ratafia finish, Batch 017, 282 bottles) Four stars
The house Dumangin are Champagne makers in Chigny, near Reims. As is traditional over there, they also make 'ratafia champenois', which is a 'muté' wine, that is to say that they stop fermentations by adding eau-de-vie. The best ratafia makers would then let their output mature in oak casks, although the majority would use stainless steel. The house Dumangin would then let various sourced whiskies being finished in some empty ratafia casks, in this very case they kept some six years old Bushmills for twelve further months. This is really a first for me, thank you Philippe… Colour: by the way, I like good ratafia a lot, it's become fashionable again. The colour is gold. Nose: I would tend to believe that Bushmills' usual buoyant fruitiness and the ratafia would overlap in small parts, which is absolutely fine, on the contrary. So no dissonances whatsoever here, rather apricots and raisins, tiny touches of rose petals, rambutans, whiffs of jasmine and honeysuckle, a few small mangos as expected, and probably some overripe pears. A small chalky side too, not sure where that came from. From the cellar or the chai? Mouth: you could almost call this Bushmills plus, or believe that the finishing in ratafia sped-up the maturation. Feels like a ten or a twelve, really. Chalky raisins, stewed peaches, honey sauce, a touch of olive oil, oranges, a little mango 'if we must'… It's all very good. Finish: long and rather more on cakes and tartes. Apricot tarte covered with honey, ground cinnamon and roasted chopped almonds. Hungry yet? Oranges and a little ginger from the ratafia cask in the aftertaste. Comments: it does not feel like a finishing at all and that's no bad news in my book. I'm usually not a sucker for regional experiments, but in this very case, it worked a treat. Ratafia, of course!

SGP:641 - 87 points.

Cooley 2009/2021 'Single Grain' (47.1%, Dumangin J. Fils, ratafia finish, Batch 016, 258 bottles)

Cooley 2009/2021 'Single Grain' (47.1%, Dumangin J. Fils, ratafia finish, Batch 016, 258 bottles) Two stars and a half
Same set-up, a twelve months finish in an ex-ratafia champenois cask. The house's website is suggesting that this would be single grain Irish whiskey distilled twice at Cooley's, which may sound a little odd, but remember that's what they do/did indeed at Cooley's. Colour: darker gold. Nose: indeed, feels like grain, with some butterscotch, touches of varnish, popcorn, Frappuccino (don't laugh), toffee, then these earthy raisins that we had already found in the Bushmills. Surely a fatter grain whisky than your average grain whisky, now remember that if this is Cooley's Greenore indeed, it's maize. Mouth: this feeling of coffee-schnaps, easter eggs, syrups, wine gums, coconut balls… Well, this is not quite for me. I should have tried this one before the awesome Bushmills, this feels a bit like if they had added a second layer of sweetness. Finish: short, sweet. Comments: some double-sweet grain whisky, how funny. I'm sure this style will find its afficionados.

SGP:730 - 78 points.

Kilbeggan 'Single Pot Still' (43%, OB, Irish, 2019)

Kilbeggan 'Single Pot Still' (43%, OB, Irish, 2019) Two stars and a half
Made in the old Kilbeggan Distillery, which had been restarted in 2010. I haven't checked yet but single pot still would suggest a set-up like this, first run -> receiver -> second run in same pot still. How very discontinuous! Unless it is a single double-pot still… or just marketing speak. Colour: straw. Nose: lemon curd all over the place, gym socks, raw wool, mashed turnips, lime, fermenting hay, damp oatcakes… I'm wondering if they haven't had a go at bacterial fermentation while no one was watching… Mouth: loads and loads of sultanas at first, then bonbons and white pepper, in a rather dissociated way. Some soft nougat, then mashed cereals. Not a very common profile, both thin in the middle and dense on the periphery. Does that make sense? Finish: medium, fine now. The sultanas are back, with oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: an unusual drop, pretty nice actually. Perhaps not exactly for Ardbeg fans.
SGP:640 - 79 points.

J.J. Corry 'The Gael Batch 2' (46%, OB, 2,800 bottles, autumn 2019)

J.J. Corry 'The Gael Batch 2' (46%, OB, 2,800 bottles, autumn 2019) Two stars and a half
A blend of 60% malt and 40% grain. Found this in London, not sure it ever reached our shores. Colour: straw. Nose: vanilla and scones running the show, plus touches of pears and pineapples. This reminds of ancient Tullamore Dew, in a way. Not earthshattering but pleasant, I'm just not sure I'll remember it… Mouth: sweet and easy blend, of good quality, sweet, with some brioche, icing sugar, sweet beers, sugar cubes, candyfloss… The 46% vol. work really well, as always. Finish: shortish but sweet and pleasant. Sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: sweet indeed, and perfectly all right for a NAS  blend.

SGP:640 - 78 points.

Waterford 'Cooladine 1.1' (50%, OB, for South Africa, 2020)

Waterford 'Cooladine 1.1' (50%, OB, for South Africa, 2020) Four stars and a half
This one from Navigate World Whisky's racing stable. I'm now lost with all these single farms and just wouldn't remember them all, but in the words of the great Lemmy Kilmister, 'I can't remember them but I'll never forget them'. Colour: gold. Nose: cool bassline indeed, classic bread and chalk and barley and nectarines and croissants. Some fatness coming through, already. Sunflower oil. Mouth: superbly fermentary and reminding me of Jamaican rums. Not as far as flavours are concerned, naturally, but the texture and the wideness of the fermentations feel a little similar on the palate. Very solid body and in that sense, it is not Irish (but of course it is). Kumquats chiming in after a short while, white pepper, some chalky lemons, tight aligoté (wine lovers special)… Finish: long and wide. Lemon bread. Some kind of Sicilian focaccia? Have to go there check that, which I was about to do before Omicron, mind you. Earthier aftertaste. Comments: a very lousy blogger would have concluded this like this: Cooladine is cool. Afraid of nothing.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Wait, isn't Waterford about comparisons?...

Waterford 'Knockroe 1.1' (50%, OB, for South Africa, 2020)

Waterford 'Knockroe 1.1' (50%, OB, for South Africa, 2020) Four stars and a half
Oh, just saw that's there's a cabsauv in Stellenbosch called Waterford Estate! So I would suppose 'someone' could do a Waterford Waterford Finish, no? Good, that's gonna be a glass of Meursault and a pub-size pack of crisps. Colour: light gold. Nose: chalkier yet, muddier would I add, even more fermentary, more on weissbeer, grist, button mushrooms, and just a large dough roll in a good bakery, around 4.5am.This is invigorating. Mouth: we're much closer to the Cooladine. I wouldn't want to down 750ml of each to try to list all the nuances; the whole concept is very hazardous indeed (drop the Meursault, but keep the pack of crisps). Finish: sameish. Comments: I find some vattings, such as the biodynamic Luna or that Gaia a wee tad deeper, but we're flying high anyway. Great selections, South Africa!

SGP:551 - 88 points.

Something even madder from Ireland, perhaps…

Knappogue Castle 25 yo 1996/2021 (53.1%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Remarkable Rocket')

Knappogue Castle 25 yo 1996/2021 (53.1%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Remarkable Rocket') Five stars
I find these labels by LMDW sublime, as I am a fan of Ex-libris myself and do actually own a wee collection. Whenever I start my own bottling series (like, around the year 2078), I promise I'll make good use of that wee collection. What's more, the name 'The Remarkable Rocket' alone sounds furiously Dada, or even pataphysical… It is actually the name of a short story by Oscar WIlde, but may I suggest a Grande Gidouille Collection next year? Colour: straw. Nose: just as sublime as the label. Coulée de Serrant and, indeed, Meursault (not obligatorily from Coche's or the Comtes') Please call the Anti-maltoporn brigade or I don't take any responsibility anymore. With water: chalk, lemon, lime, oysters, grist, engine oil, lady's moisturiser, grapefruit, fresh baguette, green bananas… The list would be endless. Mouth (neat): utter perfection. Lime, maracuja, granny smith, riesling, limestone, and an avalanche of tinier, even tarter flavours. Did you ever hear of Buddha's hand, for example? With water: more Coulée de Serrant. Did you call the Brigade? Finish: did you? Comments: only reduction has to be done with circumspection, the rest is a bed of Irish roses. What a fabulous whisky, one of the very best of 2021 for sure.

SGP:651 - 93 points.

Knappogue Castle 25 yo 1995/2021 (50.9%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Devoted Friend') Four stars and a half
I remember a Knappogue 1995 'Twin Wood' that had been excellent a few years ago (WF 86 in spite of a weakish strength of 40% vol.) Colour: light gold. Nose: rounder, oilier, more on sunflower oil, but absolutely wonderful too. We'll keep this short. With water: tropical fruits and fresh wood. Awesome but his '95 hasn't quite got the insane depth of the '96, in my humble opinion. Mouth (neat): mangos all over the place, as well as mango eau-de-vie. That's maybe a wee tad simplistic at this point, but I may be nit-picking. With water: superb, just a tad sweet. Melons, mangos, papayas, plus any syrups or liqueurs made thereof. Finish: medium, extremely fruity and sweet, almost bonbony. Comments: now I understand why they would have called this one 'The Devoted Friend'. It's a very friendly whisky indeed but in my little book, the 1996 rather crushes it. By the way, The Devoted Friend's is another short story by Oscar Wilde, who spent a lot of time in Paris and passed away there in 1900.

SGP:741 - 88 points.

But it is a trilogy, as Richard W. would have said…

Knappogue Castle 27 yo 1994/2021 (50.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Happy Prince')

Knappogue Castle 27 yo 1994/2021 (50.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Happy Prince') Five stars
We'll keep this very short, we haven't got much of it anyway. We'll do some micro-dramming (an expression coined by our dear Maniacal friend Peter Silver – R.I.P. Peter). Colour: straw. Nose: typical mango-y and banana-y extravaganza, in the style of the famous 1988-1992 unnamed Bushmills (oops) that many indies have had in the not so distant past. Mouth: extremely sweet and fruity, syrupy, liqueury and tropical. Pink grapefruits, passion fruits, mangos and friends. Finish: rather long, pretty thick, fruity and sweet. Comments: some would say it's even a little pushy, but it's brilliant fruity whisky, extravagant and boisterous. The 27 years do not quite show and I don't think you could make them any fruitier. What we used to call an utter fruit bomb.

SGP:841 - 90 points.

What a trilogy that was! I'm not sure any other Irish could ever surpass those, so let's call this a session, thank you.

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


December 19, 2021


Five Cognac and Five Armagnac

This time again, we'll have both armagnacs and cognacs. You may also expect a rather dazzling verticale of cognac around Christmas, going way down to Bix Beiderbecke's time. Come on, Bix Beiderbecke!… We'll do this alternatively this time, cognac, armagnac, cognac, armagnac, cognac, armagnac, cognac (I think they got the picture, S.)

1970s advert, 'In his own way, he's an artist'. Whisky makers have cut the 'in his own way' part. ->

Bisquit 'V.S.O.P.' (40%, OB, Cognac Fine Champagne, +/-1985)

Bisquit 'V.S.O.P.' (40%, OB, Cognac Fine Champagne, +/-1985) Two stars and a half
Exactly the cognac in the ad. Made by the famous old house Bisquit-Dubouché. Some very old bottles of Bisquit-Dubouché may still be found here and there, including vintages from the 19th century, but careful with the 1811s... Colour: amber with copper tones. Nose: very raisin-dominated, with some stewed melons and peaches in the background. Gets then grassier and drier, but raisins keep running the show. It's a pretty good entry-level cognac on the nose. Mouth: pretty good indeed, maybe just a tad indefinite and possibly obscured and boiséed. Raisins and peaches, touches of liquorice, some muscovado and sweetened black tea. Gets then really dry. Finish: a little short, drying, with a little cardboard and more black tea. Comments: harmless, drinks pretty well after all those years. A good steppingstone, shall we say…

SGP:451 - 79 points.

Vignobles Fontan 'Hors d'Âge' (42%, Bas-armagnac, +/-2020)

Vignobles Fontan 'Hors d'Âge' (42%, Bas-armagnac, +/-2020) Two stars and a half
All juices they've married here were 10 years old or more. It's pure ugni blanc from their own estate, Domaine de Maubet, which is located in the Gers. Colour: amber. Nose: whiffs of varnish, pine, fern and parsley at first, wood glue, a touch of acetone, then raisins and prunes, plus a rather earthy liquorice mingled with some Chocolate. A pack of thin mints, thin mints being very popular in the house. Mouth: classic, almost old-school piney, chocolaty and raisiny armagnac, very dry, very much on bitter chocolate and tea a. Finish: medium, nice, with a little menthol and always this dryness. Burnt sugar in the aftertaste (demerara).Comments: not a fruity one at all. I rather enjoy this style too.

SGP:361 - 79 points.

Rémi Landier 'Special Pale Sigle Barrel Lot 2012' (45%, OB, cognac, 900 bottles, +/-2020)

Rémi Landier 'Special Pale Sigle Barrel Lot 2012' (45%, OB, cognac, 900 bottles, +/-2020) Four stars
You could believe that 900 bottles from a single barrel are a lot, but this was not exactly 'a barrel', it was a 450l cask. Rémi Landier is an excellent house, located in the Fins Bois. Colour: gold. Nose: fresh orchard fruits in abundance this time, around ripe greengages (which we love!) and plum jam, with whiffs of dandelions and wisteria plus a moderate amount of liquorice. Some meadow honey too, and remarkably few raisins. Mouth: a pleasant rusticity, some grassy liquorice, with notes of williams pears this time, a tiny touch of litchi and roses, then a little hay jelly and green tea. Very good. Finish: long, grassier, on fruit peel (pears) and a wee bit of Zan (mint-flavoured liquorice). More tea tannins in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, vivace young cognac. Goes down very well.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Château de Laubade 1998/2018 (52.1%, OB, Bas-armagnac, casks #98072-98074)

Château de Laubade 1998/2018 (52.1%, OB, Bas-armagnac, casks #98072-98074) Four stars
Baco and colombard, from the well-known house Laubade, of which we've already tried two or three wonders lately. There will be more older ones, but in the meantime, let's try this little 1998. Colour: golden amber. Nose: superb. Nail polish, pear cake, mocha, forastero, pine needles, drop of soy sauce, bit of Spanish ham, roasted pecans, black nougat… Really superb, while I doubt my Vitell will kill it. With water: no problems, more ham and soy sauce. I suppose you could virtually 'eat' this one with a fork and knife. Mouth (neat): a tight, firm, peely start, with notes of marc de gewurztraminer at first and then some grittier marc de Bourgogne. Some green liquorice and a few varnishy tannins here and there. With water: too much water would pull too many tannins out, but at +/-45% this sweet and sour combo just clicks. Spareribs baked in honey sauce, plus mirabelle jam and just five raisins (am I not being clever?) Finish: rather long, grassier, with some mint and a tiny rubbery touch, plus more fruit peelings. The gewurz is back in the aftertaste, but then again I'm an Alsatian. Comments: no complains.

SGP:561 - 87 points.

Giboin 'L'Essentiel' (46.5%, OB for cognac-expert.com, Cognac Borderies, 2021)

Giboin 'L'Essentiel' (46.5%, OB for cognac-expert.com, Cognac Borderies, 2021) Four stars
I've always had a soft spot for the Borderies. Giboin are located in Cherves-Richemont. This is a blend of three casks of ugni blanc, 2002, 2005 and 2009, done for the famous website cognac-expert.com, a cool place where whisky enthusiasts would learn rather a lot about, well, cognac. Colour: amber. Nose: rather soft yet tight and compact, starting fruity and floral (more oranges than in the others, more pink bananas as well), then geared towards spices and tropical deserts. Bananas flambéed, cinnamon rolls, the usual liquorice, chestnut honey, a smidgen of ras-el-hanout… Mouth: tighter, grassier, more on peelings, leaves, banana skin, indeed chestnut honey, green pepper, then even touches of stewed spinach that would lead to more rooty earthiness, and even to some saltiness, which is not extremely common in cognac upon my short experience. Uncommon, but very good and, I have to say, a little whisky-like. Finish: long, rather more on aniseed and liquorice tea. Red apples and sweet carrots in the aftertaste. Comments: leaves a wink for whisky folks. Pastis fans such as yours truly will love it too.

SGP:561 - 87 points.

Back to armagnac…

Château de la Béroje 1995/2021 (42%, LMDW, Version Française, Bas-armagnac, 300 bottles)

Château de la Béroje 1995/2021 (42%, LMDW, Version Française, Bas-armagnac, 300 bottles) Four stars
Never heard of these good folks before. I mean Béroje, not LMDW. They're located in Le Hougat, west of Nogaro and according to the pictures on their website, the place is just stunning. Colour: deep red amber. Nose: this one's much more 'roasted', jammy, honeyed, even molassy, some might even call it Macallany (whether that's a good thing or not, up to you). You would almost believe it's been aged in PX wood, or perhaps rancio wood. So, I find it spectacularly rich, with even a little tar, even moscatel, prune juice, rich rum… Mouth: huge extraction, some coffee, cold cuts, Marmite, Maggi, black nougat, ham, Bovril or Viandox, Jägermeister, liquorice, black Russian tea, Gauloises… So a whole different proposition. Finish: long, salty, bouillony and even varnishy. Drying aftertaste, not the best part. Comments: probably a little love-it-or-hate-it. I think I love it… just the same as the previous ones. Forgot to mention a big T-bone steak.

SGP:361 - 87 points.

To Cognac…

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Lot 88' (48.7%, Malternatives Belgium for Art Malts, Grande Champagne, 124 bottles, 2021)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Lot 88' (48.7%, Malternatives Belgium for Art Malts, Grande Champagne, 124 bottles, 2021) Four stars
Colour: amber. Nose: rather in the style of that heavy-ish Béroje at first, but with this lovely fruitiness that this now famous house are famous for. Melons, peaches, plums… There's some picture varnish too, millionaire shortbread, maple syrup, pecans roasted in honey (try that and die), and then some mentholy raisins. A pretty good feeling here, what could go wrong on the palate? Mouth: some wood varnish for sure, tobacco, bonbons, grenadine syrup, Turkish delights, black pepper, cinnamon… Some oak and some varnish here, this sure isn't some sylphlike cognac. In a way, it's a cognac that's rather in the style of an armagnac. Hope I'm not ruffling any feathers here… Finish: long and very earthy. A feeling of having sucked your cigar. Burnt caramel and pine needles in the aftertaste. Comments: there are parts that I just adore here, but it's a tough boy. Plays with your lips.
SGP:371 - 86 points.

To armagnac…

Aurian 1979/2021 (46.5%, OB, for Wu Dram Clan, Armagnac)

Aurian 1979/2021 (46.5%, OB, for Wu Dram Clan, Armagnac) Four stars and a half
What's cool when you have enthusiasts such as the Wu Dram Clan who would select some spirits, is that you do not need to separate the weed from the chaff yourself. It's pre-selected, you understand. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: awesome varnishes and many roasted nuts. Pecans as usual, but also peanuts, macadamias, walnuts… You could add a little beef stock, marrow bouillon, chicken soup, sauna oils, asparagus, and the expected umami mingling up with some old rancio wine… And Cuban cigars. High-rank nose. Mouth: sure it's tad too meaty/oaky/varnishy, but remember its 40+. The salty soups are stellar, the fruits, well, a little absent, and the herbal liqueurs are wonderful. Green chartreuse, Underberg, ueber-miso, pine extracts. Gets drier and drier. Finish: very long, all on the most extreme herbal liqueurs, with bags of cloves in the aftertaste. Comments: extreme? Yes and no. I'm ready to surrender.

SGP:272 - 89 points.

To Cognac…

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot 75 GrapeDiggaz' (51.7%, OB for Kirsch Import and Wu Dram Clan, Petite champagne, 252 bottles, 2021)

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot 75 GrapeDiggaz' (51.7%, OB for Kirsch Import and Wu Dram Clan, Petite champagne, 252 bottles, 2021) Five stars
A grapediggaz, not a gravediggaz, well hopefully. Colour: dark amber. Nose: there's always something with Vallein Tercinier. Perhaps is it balance. In this very case, we're having fruits stewed in honey, and no single obvious 'woody' notes, not to mention varnishes. Peaches in acacia honey, melons in heather, pears in honeysuckle, apricots in manuka. With water: incense, cedarwood, sandalwood, peach skins. Mouth (neat): luminous, coherent, wonderfully resinous and mentholy yet never drying. Some verbena and caraway syrups and liqueurs. I'm thinking of old Bunnahabhain from the 1960s, but please don't ask me why. With water: resins and mints up, leafiness up as well, but the expression 'flirting with the limits' has been invented for this one. Careful with H2O though, some boastful liquorice would tend to come to the front. Finish: long, on resins, angelica, mint cream and myrtle liqueur. Comments: long time not tried an old VT (Vallein Tercinier, not Vendanges Tardives!) . Was missing those. Brilliant stuff.

SGP:461 - 90 points.

We're missing an old armagnac, are we not…

Bas-armagnac 1972/2021 (42.7%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore)

Bas-armagnac 1972/2021 (42.7%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore) Five stars
Why should old armagnacs flow to Singapore? Maybe because a certain Frenchman is at the helm of one of the most stunning spirits bars in the world? Wouldn't that be a good reason? But why Grosperrin, who are within the top 5 in… Cognac? I'm a little lost… Colour: perfect amber. And why not? Nose: cellulose varnish and peanut butter, then truffle bouillon. I know that was short but truffle bouillon is a whole cluster of aromas in itself. Think Bocuse (works better when you're French). Mouth: this is more wine than a spirit. Early 20th century Yquem, mushrooms, truffles, mosses, cigars, guinea fowl soup, old Pauillac, more truffle soup… The thing is called soupe VGE and beyond the truffles, the key ingredient would be...  celeriac. Celeriac is king (or queen) in many old spirits, it's just that folks would not be in the know. Finish: it's extremely rare that a finish would be 'sweeter', as finishes tend to be 'drier'. Quite some old mead. Comments: great soup.

SGP:362 - 90/91 points
(I won't do this too often, cross my heart… No Panama hat on my humblest head).

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


December 18, 2021





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Five Octomore
I generally prefer Port Charlotte as I find they tend to be more balanced and consistent, but having said that Octomore is rarely ever boring.


Octomore 5 yo 2015/2021 12.1 'The Impossible Equation' (59.9%, OB, 1st fill bourbon) 

Octomore 5 yo 2015/2021 12.1 'The Impossible Equation' (59.9%, OB, 1st fill bourbon) 
Distilled from mainland Scottish barley and kilned to 130.8 PPM - for those phenol spotters out there… Colour: pale straw. Nose: I suspect Serge would say 'millimetric', so in other works extremely pure, narrow and precise. A blade of seawater, ash and peat - an epitome of good quality, modern, heavily peated whisky. I also find quite powerful notes of whelks charring over coals, petrol and mercurochrome. With water: rock pools, iodine drops, wet seaweed, burnt sheep wool, coal smoke and bacon fat. Mouth: what's excellent is that it's rather textural as well as very sharp, pure and powerful. I know this sounds silly but it is also quite peaty - which I do not always find to be the case with Octomore where peat flavour often manifests more as seawater, smoke and grapefruit juice. With water: gets deeper and wider now, smokier, sootier, peatier, more sheep wool oils, dried herbs, dung, roof pitch and raw tar! Finish: long, ashy, briny, citric, petrolic and still with this sense of sizzling bacon fat. Comments: Octomore at its raw and no-nonsense best. I had it at 89 but water really helps to propel this one along.
SGP: 468 - 90 points.



Octomore 5 yo 2015/2021 12.2 (57.3%, OB, 1st and 2nd fill bourbon with 1st fill Sauternes finish)

Octomore 5 yo 2015/2021 12.2 (57.3%, OB, 1st and 2nd fill bourbon with 1st fill Sauternes finish)
129.7 PPM this time. Sauternes - and some other sweet wines - are occasionally an exception to my general mistrust of wine casks. Let's see what they've been up to in this case… Colour: gold. Nose: farmyard and seashore lashed together with strands of sugar. On first impressions this works pretty well. Some kind of smoked flower honey, dried seaweed, nori, smoked olive oil, seawater, lime juice and hessian. A nicely sharp smokiness comes through over time. With water: cod liver oil, Bakelite, jute bag, black olive tapenade and plasticine. Mouth: the sweetness is still present but once again it works pretty well, the impression of a balancing act underway. Slightly acidic farmyard peat smoke, coal embers, wood ashes, natural tar, petrol and pickling brine. With water: vary tarry, lots of smoke, soot, ashes, camphor and brine. Perhaps more simple and classical peat monster territories now. Finish: long, sooty, briny and showing a slightly more grubby puffer smoke vibe. Anchovy paste and bacon lardons. Comments: a lot of fun and I think very good as the Sauternes involvement has been done quite cleverly. Just runs out of steam a bit towards the end perhaps.
SGP: 567 - 87 points.



Octomore 5 yo 2015/2021 12.3 (62.1%, OB, 75% 1st fill bourbon & 25% 1st fill PX sherry butts) 

Octomore 5 yo 2015/2021 12.3 (62.1%, OB, 75% 1st fill bourbon & 25% 1st fill PX sherry butts) 
118.1 PPM and barley grown on Octomore Farm in 2014. Two parcels of stock matured full term respectively in bourbon and PX sherry. Colour: bright straw. Nose: green olives, wasabi, pickling brine and anchovies in olive oil. There's also even some raw barley sweetness still in there surprisingly. Once again I'm finding this similar impression of deep, bass-like farmyard smokiness as on the 12.1. Here there's also more camphor and more brazen medicinal profile too. Excellent nose! With water: riddled with sooty smoke, rollmop herring, pickling juices, camphor and raw seawater. Also develops this leaner medical side that goes towards bandages and antiseptic. Mouth: very tarry and peppery up front. Glycerine, smoked mead, hessian, carbolic acidity, boiler smoke, iodine and a slightly dirty dried herb aspect. Olive bread, cough mixtures and umami paste. Very salty and tarry. With water: the texture is really impressive now, you feel like you're sipping top notch smoked olive oil. Perhaps a cornichon or two bobbing about in there along with a stray pork scratching. Some kind of peated mead with traces of heather smoke. Finish: long, tarry, leathery, briny and still on many of these impressions of pickling juices, olive oil and fat medicines. Comments: really excellent, and the sherry takes a very quiet back seat here which I think works very well. I suppose I just prefer the 12.1 by a single notch is all. On average though, this is probably my favourite 'batch' of Octomores for a while.
SGP: 567 - 89 points.



Octomore 7 yo 2013/2021 (62.3%, Dramfool 'Jim McEwan Signature Collection', cask #1872, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 256 bottles)

Octomore 7 yo 2013/2021 (62.3%, Dramfool 'Jim McEwan Signature Collection', cask #1872, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 256 bottles)
Let's see what the Ken Dodd of Islay had schnaffled away for himself shall we… Colour: straw. Nose: I have to report, that this is lovely. Pure, classical and almost embarrassingly fresh and coastal. Riddled with ozone, shoreline, rock pools, sandalwood and anchovy paste. This evolves more towards fatter, thicker notes of farmyard smoke, hessian canvass and once again this impression of very fine smoked olive oil - which I'm always a sucker for. With water: molten vinyl, camphor, crab sticks, iodine drops and lapsing souchong. Bruised cooking apples, malt vinegar and preserved lemons. Mouth: Zap! Pow! Kersplatt! And many other Batman references. Rather like the 12.1 but with added thickness from extra age. Oily, concentrated peat and phenolics. Soy sauce mixed with Maggi seasoning, natural tar extract, peated heather ales and pure brine. With water: once again a wee apple note, crisp green apple acidity, then heather flowers, natural tar again, richly smoky kiln air and anchovy paste. Gets very umami and peppery. Finish: über long, full of crystalline pure peat smoke, brine, anchovies, dried herbs, soy sauce and seawater. Comments: really superb, I love this big umami, farmyard tang to the smoke. I know we often say peat covers up immaturity in youth, but even so, isn't Octomore a rather speedy whisky?
SGP: 477 - 90 points.



Octomore 13 yo 2007/2021 (57.5%, Dramfool 'Jim McEwan Signature Collection', cask #3807, 1st fill Sauternes barrique, 290 bottles)

Octomore 13 yo 2007/2021 (57.5%, Dramfool 'Jim McEwan Signature Collection', cask #3807, 1st fill Sauternes barrique, 290 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: smoked orange blossom, lightly kippery, citrus curds, diesel fumes, tarragon and then grapefruit and seawater. There's a definite tension between the sweeter fruitier components, and the slightly more funky smoky aspects. With water: some greengage, heather flower, beers, dark grained breads and a rather earthy, bass-line smokiness. Wine cellar must - or am imagining things now? Mouth: well, we could very easily be quaffing peated Sauternes. This is surprisingly syrupy, honeyed, sweet and almost viscous with these impressions of nectar, mead, smoked honey and touches of olive oil. The lightest of the bunch which means I'm probably silly for doing this last. With water: silky threads of peat smoke, tiny briny touches, thick olive oil, anchovy paste, Maggi, natural tar, TCP and iodine drops. The peat is more magnified by water I think, and as such it feels more balanced. Finish: long, tarry, that kipper smoke is back, some pink peppercorns, gauze and sweet herbal cough syrup. Comments: If, like me, you have a weird soft spot for Sauternes maturation and peat, then you will probably also really like this. But if you aren't a Sauternes maturation fan then you should probably take a diversion flight via-Mongolia. A very fun, very silly and probably pointless to score whisky* (*shout out to the 'All whiskies are pointless to score' crowd at the back).
SGP: 666 - 88 points.



As I mentioned, Octomore is fun - if a little tiring after five in a row.




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


December 17, 2021


A Strathisla Lament for Glory

I just stumbled upon some old Strathislas while looking for Strathmills. No, really. I find it scandalous that no proper Strathisla's reached the doorstep of Château Whiskyfun since… around 1885? I mean, who's heard of Strathisla recently? The oldest Highland Distillery? Or is this perception exaggerated? In any case, I couldn't leave WF Strathisla-less for more months/years/decades, so let's just dig deeper into the old stash… (*)


Strathisla 1987/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label)

Strathisla 1987/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label) Two stars
From the good old days of low strengths and assumed caramel and cold-filtration… Now why G&M have sometimes used this label instead of the splendid classic white one, I don't know.  Colour: light gold. Nose: light it is. Very light, with indeed touches of caramel and toasted brioche, a drop of stout, vanilla, crystallised apples (slices), apple icewine, chamomile, a little white wine (regular chardo)… But boy does it whisper low. Mouth: not really. Notes of burnt sugar, marmalade, rancio, apple juice… It is a little flattish, would I say. Finish: short. A little cardboard but good cakes too. Comments: not such a total disaster, but so much for the good old days. Not the first time I'm trying this light one 'informally', I'm not sure it ever convinced anyone. It's 'an okay drink'.
SGP:331 - 76 points.

More from G&M's…

Strathisla 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, 75cl, +/-1980)

Strathisla 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, 75cl, +/-1980) Four stars and a half
There are various 8s, this is the one with a 'green 8', at 100 proof/57% vol. I've got much more faith in this one, I don't know why… Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, amazing sucrosity, you're almost nosing some muscovado sugar from an old tin box. Iron, lemon juice, chenin blanc, old tools, sugarcane syrup (huge notes), proper all-honey nougat, white bananas, blancmange… Wow, this is clearly 'different', some kind of malt whisky made in the Caribbean. With water: sunflower oil, green bananas, peanut butter, more blancmange… This will make us all speak Creole! Mouth (neat): awesome tight lemony and sugary profile. Sugary in a good way, it's all cane sugar. Some ongoing tension in this one, this is rather spectacular and very 'un-modern'. With water: grapefruits, green bananas, kumquats, barley, mead, nut oils. Bags of fresh nuts. Finish: long, more lemony, zesty and yet fat. Ginger tonic. Comments: now we're talking.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

G&M, the floor is still yours…

Strathisla 15 yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, 75cl, +/-1988)

Strathisla 15 yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, 75cl, +/-1988) Five stars
Not sure it's good that we need to unearth our relics to keep our Strathisla section alive, but there, while we're at it… (duty, heavy duty)… Colour: full gold. Nose: this one's got a deserved high reputation as a kind of 'Macallan killer'. In fact, it is wonderfully thick, rich, complex, and just unquestionably 'great-Macallan-y'. Cuban cigars, quinces, bouillons, ointments, cough syrup, chestnut honey, Maggi, Bovril, praline, old Sauternes, pine smoke, shoe polish, black nougat, olives, liquorice… This is just a whirlwind of aromas, and the sherry isn't even heavy. Now there's more and more shoe polish as time goes by, which is not obligatorily a good sign. With water: nah, we're fine, there's indeed more shoe polish and Barbour grease, but also chestnut purée and umeshu. Plus these notes of great rhum agricole, some having been seen in the 8. Mouth (neat): amazing, more on marmalade and tight, resinous liqueurs. Tends to bite your tongue, I would say let's ad water right away. With water: yeah, as expected, this is perfect. Peaches stewed in mint and honey sauce, fir liqueur, verbena, and an avalanche of small herbs, flowers and nutty elements. Such as, well, nuts. Finish: long. Comments: I would suspect the 8 and this 15 had been distilled within the same season. Just a wild, wild guess. Incredible whiskies: G&M, is there more in wood?
SGP:562 - 91 points.

Let's leave Elgin (with tears in our eyes) and seek doom and murder…

Strathisla 13 yo 1981/1995 (63%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, sherrywood)

Strathisla 13 yo 1981/1995 (63%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, sherrywood) Five stars
Yes, murder, did you see this strength? Ah, those 'small cream labels'… Colour: white wine. Nose: kerosene. I would guess Bezos's ridiculous penis 'rocket' used to smell like this. And whey, pisco, green bananas, white beer, white cachaça, just cut grass… All rather raw stuff, and yet there's a feeling of unity and tightness. And peace. No, really. But sherrywood? With water: all oils you could think of, plus antiseptics and green apples and pears. Philosophical whisky (no worries, I won't quote Sartre again). Mouth (neat): lemon juice and acetone, ethanol, paint thinner, antifreeze and strong glue. In other words, water's more than welcome. With water: wonders. Ueber-tense lime and grass juices, distilled lawn, chalk, paraffin. Unsweetened holly and sorb eaux-de-vie spring to my mind, or perhaps checkerberry... Mad stuff indeed, stuff for distillers. Finish: long, so strong, so elemental, so narrow, so precise, so hazardous. Comments: philosophical whisky for PhDs only.
SGP:371 - 90 points.

Perhaps a gentler, older indy Strath' before we call this a tasting session…

Strathisla 30 yo 1976 (48.4%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry, +/-2016)

Strathisla 30 yo 1976 (48.4%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry, +/-2016) Four stars
We love ducks, either as foie gras or on Whisky-Fässle's labels. Colour: gold. Nose: yeah there, we're reminded of other distilleries in the same vintage, Benriach, Caperdonich… Lovely notes of pollen and nectar, beeswax, sweet cider, good orange wine (some are crap, some are great), mirabelle jam, quince jelly… Quinces actually tend to take over, which is very good news in my book. I'd kill for quinces, the king of fruit. What durian? Are ye joking? Mouth: ah, no, it's a tight and rather resinous one, tougher than expected, almost a little brutal, with wood varnish and ultra-dry cider. I think we'll add a drop of water… With water: back to mead and honeys, so success but moderately. Finish: rather long, rather on cider again. Not much of a honeyed frenzy. Comments: a very lovely drop, with a very fabtastic nose and a palate that may have gotten a little too dry and grassy and peely.
SGP: - 87 points.

A message to the world (and to Pernod): "send new Strathislas!"

(Gracias Konstantin, Tim and Christin)

(*) Oh well, not long after I had done this session, quite a few weeks ago, Angus sent me notes for some Strathislas and then this new Stathisla reached WF's doorstep, quite serendipously....

Strathisla 13 yo 2004/2021 (56.9%, La Distillerie Générale, France, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #47932, 35cl, 1296 bottles)

Strathisla 13 yo 2004/2021 (56.9%, La Distillerie Générale, France, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #47932, 35cl, 1296 bottles) Four stars and a half
56.9%, that's exactly 100 proof, am I not right? A semi-official bottling bearing a very hippy-glam Goa-style label. Bring your sitar! Colour: deep gold. Nose: you would almost believe this is some Ténarèze at cask strength. Indeed, armagnac. Some kind of earthy raisins with quite some menthol, camphor and varnish at first, then preserved peaches, fruitcake and some pancake sauce. Perhaps a notch heady this far but I'd say the quality of this armagnac, I'm sorry, of this Strathisla is high. With water: bread pudding, a meaty touch (foie gras, really!) and some pipe tobacco. I like this one really a lot. Mouth (neat): creamy, rich, and very old-school sherry, in the style of the older Macs C/S or of some of G&M's own C/S Strathislas. Loads and loads of raisins, dried figs, prunes, Jaffa cakes and walnut wine, which would bring some lovely bitterness to the combo. With water: more Jaffa cakes, oranges, marmalade, soft pepper… It got a tad tighter, which is working perfectly well. Finish: long, rather on gingerbread this time. Raisins keep singing in the aftertaste, together with a little liquorice. Comments: superb. A few years in glass will push it towards 90 or more. I think I'll now play that fab older LP by Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass…
SGP:661 - 89 points.

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


December 16, 2021


Thinking about you, your amazing photographs of Labyburn's stills,
and our Weissbrot watches, Peter Hofmann!

December 15, 2021


More young Coal Ila

There's always more Cola Ila. At this pace we'll soon try our 1,000th Caol Ila and I am not joking, time to go ask Diageo about that pack of assorted marshmallows they had promised to me, around twenty years ago. Now I'd happily trade that pack for a hogshead of Brora…

Caol Ila 10 yo 2010/2021 (48%, LMDW, Artist Collective 5.0, refill sherry butt, 2,139 bottles)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2010/2021 (48%, LMDW, Artist Collective 5.0, refill sherry butt, 2,139 bottles) Four stars
Whether you could call 2K+ bottles a limited bottling, I'm not too sure. In my book, Malt Mill or Stromness are 'limited', not quite Caol Ila. But Caol Ila is always good… (S., what's this lousy chitchat about?) Colour: amber. Nose: peat and sherry, that's always a tricky combination. Sometimes it works a treat (Laph 74, Laga 21…) and sometimes it would just clash and fail miserably. Not quite sure yet, smoked coffee okay, smoked ham okay, salted cigars quite okay, pinewood and raisins relatively okay… Oh well, in these cases it's the palate that's king… Mouth: bingo, no clashes, this rather works. Smoked raisins, smoked oysters, pipe tobacco, salted and peppered chocolate, salty liquorice, salted pine liqueur… Well as long as any flavours can take salt, this remains fine. Phew, almost a hold-up. Finish: long, salty, smoky, a tad 'dark' (synesthesiacal compadres, ahoy!) Comments: heavy peat and heavy sherry together are always challenging, sometimes even straight nightmare worthy of a series on f****g Netflix. A successful challenge in this very case, even if I prefer my CI pure and naked.
SGP:467 - 85 points.

Caol Ila 11 yo 2010/2021 (53.2%, Watt Whisky,Japan exclusive, hogshead, 326 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2010/2021 (53.2%, Watt Whisky,Japan exclusive, hogshead, 326 bottles) Four stars and a half
They have it good in Japan. Colour: pale white wine. This should be quick. Nose: mercurochrome, lime juice, oyster juice, carbon, seaweed. Millimetric and fantastic. In a way, this is Scottish sake. With water: since we've mentioned sake…  Mouth (neat): pure sweet lemony seaweedy smoky palate. With water: immaculate smoky whisky, getting just a tad more on rooty vegetables, beets, celeriac… Finish: sweeter, long, pure, fermentary, even yeasty, and totally superb. Comments: extreme purity, white mezcal from Islay. It seems that the years in wood only filtered out the roughness and a few unwanted aromas and flavours, and kept the spirit totally pure and crystalline. You could almost settle a new religion around those concepts, even if CI is a distillery that's 'run by one man and thirty computers'. Computers have become our masters, have they not?
SGP:456 - 89 points.

Caol Ila 13 yo 2007/2021 (48.5%, Decadent Drinks, Equinox & Solstice)

Caol Ila 13 yo 2007/2021 (48.5%, Decadent Drinks, Equinox & Solstice) Four stars
From their autumn edition. Late as ever… I mean, I am late as ever. Colour: white wine. Nose: totally Islay, that is to say full of seawater, raw wool, chalk and bits of kippers and oysters. What it hasn't quite got this far is lemon but that may come… The woolly side never stops growing on the nose, I'm even finding some Woolite, washing powder, fresh-laundered sweater and all that. In short, a very clean CI (you've outdone yourself once again, S.) Mouth: very salty and briney, going towards green olives and green peppercorn, while some kind of lemon chutney and a feeling of coal smoke would complement all that. Smoked olive oil. Finish: long, with more smoked olive oil and a lot of brine. Very moderate tarriness, sauvignon blanc and a couple of whelks in the aftertaste. Grated lime zest. Comments: very pure, very vertical, extremely good. We're approaching the 88 mark.
SGP:466 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 13 yo 2007/2021 (55.6%, The Whisky Exchange, hogshead, cask #320247, 242 bottles)

Caol Ila 13 yo 2007/2021 (55.6%, The Whisky Exchange, hogshead, cask #320247, 242 bottles) Four stars
I would suppose this one will be similar. Colour: White wine. Nose: not quite, this one has more tar, coal, new wellies, also iodine, bandages… I would have put this one on the south shore, really. With water: it got rounder, with a little custard and a little butterscotch. I suppose the cask had been more active than that of the Decadent one. Some nice Islay mud and raw peat too after a while. Mouth (neat): closer on the palate, also much more lemony, zesty, tight and indeed, vertical. More bruits or bonbons but that may be the higher ethanol. With water: sweet, citrusy, with some wine gums. It was not the higher ethanol, this is a rather sweet Caol Ila. Finish: long, with some limoncello and one good oyster. Limoncello and oysters? Hem… Comments: it think I enjoy the brinier ones a tad better, but his one was very excellent too. Sure bets.
SGP:556 - 86 points.

Caol Ila 7 yo 2014/2021 (59.1%, The Whisky Exchange, hogshead, cask #311507, 251 bottles)

Caol Ila 7 yo 2014/2021 (59.1%, The Whisky Exchange, hogshead, cask #311507, 251 bottles) Four stars
This is a little young, no? Let's see whether the hogshead had been super-fast or not. Colour: white wine. Nose: candy sugar, croissants, butter cream, smoked malted barley, then ointments and balms. A little jasmine too, perhaps fresh turnips. Intriguing… With water: tends to close. Weissbeer, plaster, bandages… Mouth (neat): loads of sweets, smoked, with some grey pepper and perhaps some radishes. Something gritty on your tongue. With water: water kills the sweets (not obligatorily a bad thing) and makes it all greener, smokier and more fermentary. It would also pull out some chilli notes. Finish: rather long, really gritty now. Oversteeped green tea with some lemon. Comments: not an easy one and possibly rather an example of a great whisky in the making, as Samaroli used to bottle within his Ageing Monography series, remember?
SGP:656 - 85 points.

Another very young one…

Caol Ila 8 yo 2012/2020 (57.8%, Signatory Vintage for Navigate World Whisky, 1st fill sherry butt finish, cask #12, 525 bottles)

Caol Ila 8 yo 2012/2020 (57.8%, Signatory Vintage for Navigate World Whisky, 1st fill sherry butt finish, cask #12, 525 bottles) Four stars
This one, which was bottled for South Africa, could be a little explosive, so careful… Colour: copper amber. Nose: dried porcini and gunpowder at first, then walnut wine, cigars and pipe tobacco. Exactly what we were expecting. No clashes peat vs. sherry this far. With water: marrow, umami sauce, Chinese mushrooms and a new box of cigars. Cubans, naturally. Mouth (neat): massive and much sweeter. Peppered blood oranges, perhaps, smoked Turkish delights, tarred liquorice allsorts, heavily reduced PX (paxarette-style), chilli liqueur… See what I mean? With water: success! Eggplants stewed in honey (I know that sounds odd) and baked ham glazed with honey. Very lovely meatiness. Finish: there, the walnuts are back. Nocino a.k.a. green walnut liqueur (check Silver Seal's, they're excellent!) Comments: I was scared but everything went smoothly. Very well produced. Mind you, it's only 8!
SGP:666 (devilish profile) - 87 points.

Caol Ila 2014/2020 (60.4%, L'Esprit, 10th Anniversary, Château Latour, cask #2005795, 293 bottles)

Caol Ila 2014/2020 (60.4%, L'Esprit, 10th Anniversary, Château Latour, cask #2005795, 293 bottles) Four stars
I know I'm late but happy anniversary, L'Esprit and Whisky & Rhum! Not too sure this very young CI spent the totality of its short life in a Latour cask (so Cabernet red and fresh French oak), but let's just try it. Colour: blush  and orange wine, 50/50. Nose: blackcurrant buds, geranium, seawater, kippers, liquorice, grapefruits, diesel oil… I'm happy and honoured to report that there are no clashes this far. With water: sour wines and beers, sour cherries… I'd have said pinot noir but naturally, there isn't a single drop of pinot noir in Latour. Mouth (neat): oh hell, why not! I would suppose the spirit spent only a short time in that Latour barrique, as the grasses, the artichokes, the raspberries, and even the tomato leaves in there seem to behave. Some nougat too, sesame, oranges… With water: clap clap clap, this is the best part. Raspberry liqueur with some seawater and smoked almonds. Sounds extremely loco, I know, but since balance was achieved, I would applaud the combination. I'm sure this is not only the result of pure luck. Finish: long, on peppered and smoked strawberries this time. Strawberries and pepper works. Comments: phew! Now please make this again…
SGP:766 - 86 points.

Quick, a last clean one… No, actually not, I think I'll keep those smoked strawberries in my mouth for a little longer, adios.

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

December 2021 - part 1 <--- December 2021 - part 2 ---> January 2022 - part 1




Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Glen Grant 65 yo 1956/2021 (55.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, LMDW 65 Anniversary, first fill sherry butt, cask #4451, 100 bottles)

Glenlivet 80 yo 1940/2020 (44.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Generations, first fill sherry butt, cask #340, 250 bottles)

Glenlivet 15 yo 2006/2021 (62.5%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask # 900550, 300 bottles)

Glenlivet 25 yo 1995/2020 (54.7%, OB for Navigate World Whisky, 2nd fill American oak, cask #9477, 126 bottles)

Imperial 25 yo 1996/2021 (53.6%, Watt Whisky, refill barrel)

Imperial 24 yo 1995/2020 (51.5%, Elixir Distillers, The Single Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #7854, 127 bottles)

Strathisla 15 yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, 75cl, +/-1988)

Strathisla 13 yo 1981/1995 (63%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, sherrywood)

Secret Speyside 30 yo 1990/2021 (46.6%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #TWJ-GL-1990, 159 bottles)

Grande Champagne N.24 (43.6%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, 2021)

Grande Champagne N.39 (44.3%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, 2021)

Knappogue Castle 25 yo 1996/2021 (53.1%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Remarkable Rocket')

Knappogue Castle 27 yo 1994/2021 (50.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex-libris, 'The Happy Prince')

Hermitage 1960 (47%, OB, grande champagne, +/-2019)

Maison Prunier 74 yo 1946/2021 (49.5%, The Purist, Wine4you, grande champagne, 30 bottles)

Maison Prunier 43 yo 1977/2021 (56.3%, The Purist, Wine4you, petite champagne, 90 bottles)

Maison Prunier 45 yo 1975/2021 (53.4%, The Purist, Wine4you, grande champagne, 550 bottles)

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot 75 GrapeDiggaz' (51.7%, OB for Kirsch Import and Wu Dram Clan, Petite champagne, 252 bottles, 2021)

Bas-armagnac 1972/2021 (42.7%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore)