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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2023 - Part 1
 

December 2022 - part 1 <--- December 2022 - part 2 ---> January 2023 - part 1

 

December 31, 2022


Whiskyfun

 

Serge's Non-Awards
Just a short list of my personal favourites amongst the +/-1200 whiskies and other spirits I've tried in the year 2022, as we do every year. Please do not bother too much, I believe these quick lists barely make any sense (unless you need to sell), they rather represent some kind of compuslory yearly exercise. So let's move on...

 

Favourite recent bottling

Glen Grant 72 yo 1948/2020 (52.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Premier Whisky Hong Kong, American oak sherry cask, cask #440, 290 bottles)

  Glen Grant 72 yo 1948/2020 (52.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Premier Whisky Hong Kong, American oak sherry cask, cask #440, 290 bottles)
WF 94
I'm close to feeling shame here, as this one is that exclusive, expensive, rare, old and designed as a record-breaker that it's almost 'obvious'. The only problem is that beyond all that, it is also a very marvellous whisky, typically Gordon & MacPhail, who've been nurturing their own fillings for decades and decades while so many other companies, including very famous Distilleries, need to source their older glories from outside. In short, it looks like a gem and it is a gem.

Runner-ups

Port Ellen 1980/2021 (59.6%, OB, Prima & Ultima Third Release, refill American Oak Hogshead and ex-Sherry European Oak But, 555 bottles, 2022) - WF94
Ardbeg 20 yo 2001/202 (44.5%, The First Editions, for HNWS Taiwan, refill barrel, cask #HL18657, 146 bottles) - WF93
Glen Grant 70 yo 1952/2022 'Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II Edition' (52.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry butt, cask #381, 256 bottles) - WF93
GlenDronach 50 yo 1971 (43.8%, OB, 198 bottles, 2022) - WF93
Lagavulin 30 yo 1991/2022 (44.3%, OB, Cask of Distinction, for Hong Kong Whisky Fellows, House Welley Whisky Bar, Christoph Kirsch, Sebastian Jaeger and Boris Borissov, 1st Fill PX/Oloroso seasoned European oak butt, cask #5403, 318 bottles) - WF93

 

Favourite older bottling

Laphroaig 15 yo 1967/1982 (57%, Duthie's for Samaroli

  Laphroaig 15 yo 1967/1982 (57%, Duthie's for Samaroli, sherry)
WF 98
One of the best whiskies ever made by Man, many friends even consider it to be THE number one malt whisky. And it is not even a matter of opinion or taste, it is just 'true'. Naturally, people tend to be in the know these days, so while you could still find a bottle for the cost of a pepperoni pizza in Mayfair only fifteen years ago, the prices at auctions (that often quote us by the way) seem to reach £30K or more these days. You say it's more than that?

Runner-ups

Age Unknown 'Keizo Saji(43%, OB, Yamazaki, 300 bottles, 1994) - WF96

Clynelish 33 yo 1973 '2nd bottling' (54.6%, Prestonfield/Signatory Vintage for LMDW, cask #8913, 439 bottles, +/-2007) - WF95

Brora 1972/1994 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) - WF95

 

Favourite bang for your buck

Ardbeg 10 yo 'Ten' (46%, OB, +/-2022)

  Ardbeg 10 yo 'Ten' (46%, OB, +/-2022)  
WF 91
Ardbeg do not only release strange young whiskies with a matrix approach (any wood, any variants of distillate, any tweaking and any combinations thereof), they also keep high their flagship 10 years old that's become both their best current expression (in my humble opinion), their most readily available, and probably the cheapest of them all (around 55€ here in France). The 2022 batch that I've tried was really stunning.

Runner-ups

Lagavulin 8 yo (48%, OB, +/-2022) - WF90

Talisker 10 yo (45.8%, OB, French market, +/-2022)  - WF90

Inchfad 'Gunpowder UA' (46%, Ukrainian Whisky Fans Association Kyiv, 435 bottles, 2022) - WF90 (Slava Ukraini!)

 

Favourite malternative

Vallein Tercinier 'Rue 34' (42%, OB, for LMDW, Antipodes, Grande Champagne, cask #034, 50 bottles)

  Vallein Tercinier 'Rue 34' (42%, OB, for LMDW, Antipodes, Grande Champagne, cask #034, 50 bottles) 
WF 94
Old cognacs have been running the show in 2022 on little WF, even if some outturns have been extremely low thanks to the regular bottling of demijohns rather than full casks. Now I believe the prices remain totally unjust, as this one's still available for 975€ at LMDW (no, we never, ever do any affiliation) while Macallan or Dalmore would price a comparable liquid, hopefully of similar quality, at one hundred times that amount without batting an eyelid (and perhaps not even use any crystal). This wonderful little 1934 by Vallein Tercinier is a perfect example.

Runner-ups

Mauxion 'Lot 31' (43.5%, OB, Borderies, +/-2022)  - WF93

Tiffon 'Lot 19:22 Borderies' (45%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Kirsch Import, Cognac)  - WF93

Maison Tribot 'V.70 A.51' (50.3%, Old Master Spirits, for Australia, Grande Champagne, 120 bottles, +/-2021) - WF93 

Vallein-Tercinier 'Small Batch 41/43' (48.2%, OB for Kirsch Import, Bons Bois, 2021) - WF93 

Hampden C<>H 1990/2021 (54.4%, Salon du Rhum Belgique, Jamaica, 228 bottles)  - WF93 

 

Lemon Prize

Longrow 10 yo 'Red' (52.5%, OB, refill malbec finish, 2020)

  Longrow 10 yo 'Red' (52.5%, OB, refill malbec finish, 2020) 
WF 60
I've got nothing against Longrow, or Springbank for that matter, on the contrary, I believe they're some the grandest distillates in the whole world, as my numerous extremely high scores, including for some very recent releases should prove. What really bothers me is when they put those stunning distillates, or readily-matured spirits (ex-refill or not), into wine casks that make no sense at all and that have never been 'traditional' in Scotland. It's all becoming an Encyclopedia of Grape Varieties! Bah, in any case, I know many friends love these and that I'm only one guy. But malbec in my Longrow? Jesus, no!

Runner-ups

Ardbeg 2011/2020 (57.6%, OB, for Germany, 1st fill 'Cote Rotie', cask #2303, 302 bottles) - WF70

Tamnavulin 'Tempranillo Cask Edition' (40%, OB, +/-2020) - WF70

Aberfeldy 18 yo 'Tuscan Red Wine' (43%, OB, batch #2922/A, +/-2022) - WF72

Ardbeg 'Fon Fhoid NFT' - WF00 (but we were joking)

Plus numerous insanely sugared 'rums' that we won't even mention, that would be too depressing.

 

 

 

 

Xmas Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Angus  
Old glories for new year!
I had thought it would be nice to see in the new year with a wee line-up of brand new, top notch whiskies from new distilleries. After all, isn't it better to look to the future than mull over the past? As it happened, I didn't really have anything suitable for a full session on my shelves that fit that initial plan. So, let's go with Plan B: an unashamed wallow in old glories of yesteryear with the help of some Glen Garioch and Highland Park. Isn't that what everyone is doing these days anyway?

 

 

 

 

Happy new year to all you lovely folk!

 

 

 

 

 

Highland Park 13 yo 1956/1970 (70 proof, Avery's)

Highland Park 13 yo 1956/1970 (70 proof, Avery's)
I just adore the line on these old Avery's labels: "This straight malt whisky was distilled on November 15th, 1956. It has been aged over 13 years in Spanish Oak casks which had previously contained our fine quality Sherry. It was carefully bottled in our Bond on April 2nd 1970." Mic drop. Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: we are on Orkney, and exquisitely so! The level on this bottle wasn't too great when it was opened, but despite that, and despite the 70 proof, this is just an embarrassment of riches. Layers and layers of dry, herbal, intricate Orcadian peat with long aged Sauternes, coconut, sultana, toolboxes full of old hessian rags and mechanical oils, natural tar and resinous impressions of wormwood and cough syrups. An enchanting traipse through a whole land of aroma that doesn't really exist in whisky anymore. Mouth: even with a slightly loss of ABV this is still astonishingly syrupy upon arrival. Pure, old school cough syrup mixed with yellow Chartreuse, aged Drambuie and Clacquesin. I also find suet, marrow and bouillon broth full of green and black pepper, smoked sea salt, olive oil and feelings of mutton and sheep wool oils. Hugely organic, fatty,  herbal and mechanical. Vegetal aspects which are the opposite of the more dodgy kind you may find in old blends; everything here feels like the result of stunning old HP distillate in some sublime sherry wood. Finish: not the longest, but still rather long, if you see what I mean. A glowing, still warm hearth full of peat embers. Comments: utterly exquisite old Highland Park with an indomitable wealth of old style Orkney peat character on display. I seem to recall feeling this bottle was ever so slightly tired when we opened it but revisiting this sample I'm struck by the beauty and remarkable freshness and resolve. I think a bottle with a better level would comfortably be in 94/95 point territory. As it is…

SGP: 565 - 93 points. 

 

 

Highland Park 1974/1998 'Online Tasting' (57.6%, OB, 228 bottles)

Highland Park 1974/1998 'Online Tasting' (57.6%, OB, 228 bottles)
Now a legendary bottle, which I've never formally tasted before. Let's set that straight right away…Colour: amber. Nose: fat and juicy sherry immediately up front, underpinned by softer, sooty peaty notes, camphor and things like beeswax, furniture oil and dark fruit molasses. Concentration, power and a wonderfully clear feeling of 'Highland Park'. It continues to evolve with impressions of resinous hardwoods, hints of black olive, medical embrocations - at times you would even start to think of some very top class heavy Caroni. A slow but increasing evolution and complexity in this nose, the type that draws you in hopelessly… With water: saltier, more leathery, tarry, nutty and full of all kinds of crystallised and dried fruits. Totally brilliant! Mouth: an outstanding fusion of dry, earthy, herbal peat with some stunningly salty old Oloroso VORS and then all manner of softer, dried and stewed dark fruits, aged Fins Bois Cognac, walnut liqueur and touches of gentian and pickled tarragon. One of those whiskies where as soon as you feel you have a grasp of it, it changes tack and adds in further layers of complexity. With water: goes up a notch higher with water. Extreme complexity now, coupled with a fantastically thick, chewy, dry peat smoke flavour. We'll have to stop as this could go on far too long otherwise… Finish: long, getting lighter and more playful again with green pepper, lemon rind, quince, tiny drops of iodine and more camphor and peat. Now also some dried tropical fruits in the aftertaste. Comments: another one of these whiskies that rather dominates you and leaves you with little choice but to hang onto its coat tails for the ride! Deservedly a modern legend in my view. A bridge between the profile of the 1956 Avery's and later styles of Highland Park in some ways, but it does that with rather outrageous brilliance. The kind of bottle that will probably be 94 point material in another 10 years.

SGP: 564 - 93 points.

 

 

Ok, that Avery's HP has given me an idea…

 

 

Glen Grant 13 yo 1959/1972 (75 proof, Avery's)

Glen Grant 13 yo 1959/1972 (75 proof, Avery's)
Same statement about sherry casks with same wording, which is encouraging, as is the slightly more punchy 75 proof. This was a bottle I opened the other week when visiting some friends in London. Colour: mahogany. Nose: a much deeper, denser and rather more opulent sherry style that's reminiscent of some superb old off-dry oloroso cream sherries, that used to be very popular in the UK. All manner of fudge, Armagnac-soaked raisins, figs, candied walnuts and subtle hints of meat stocks, gravies and dried cranberries. This fusion of meats, earth, fruits and some delicate medicinal undercurrents is just gorgeous. Mouth: stunning sherry, salty, gamey and riddled with umami paste and rancio! An utterly irresistible style that's now all but extinct in Scotland's warehouses I think. Maybe hard to say we detect an obvious Glen Grant profile, but then of course Glen Grant from this era would float with this kind of cask like two happy hippies on acid! The whole just screams perfect balance and utter decadence. Finish: long and full of salted dark chocolate, game meats, rancio, pickled walnuts and Irish coffee. Comments: the urge to go and pour a silly sized measure of this into a large cognac snifter glass is reaching danger level - little wonder there are so few bottles of this one left! What's rather cool is that the sherry profile is pretty different from that of the 1956 HP, which felt like it belonged more to the old G&M school transport sherry cask style. Another amazing slice of utterly gorgeous liquid history.
SGP: 652 - 92 points.

 

 

And now of course we should probably have a sparring partner for the Glen Grant…

 

 

Glen Grant 27 yo 1973/2000 (46%, First Cask, cask #7647, sherry)

Glen Grant 27 yo 1973/2000 (46%, First Cask, cask #7647, sherry)
From this rather neat wee series for Direct Wines which was sourced from Signatory Vintage. Colour: pale amber. Nose: a lighter style, more mulchy, earthy and rounded with notes of chocolate biscuit, malt loaf, brown bread spread with treacle and moist Guinness cake. Also develops some lovely classical notes of raisins, sultanas and prune. Needs a little time in the glass to gather complexity but it evolves rather beautifully with some impressions of heather ales and dessert wines. Mouth: very typical of these vintages, with waxy honeycomb vibes up front, along with runny honey, pressed flowers, pollens, dried dark fruits and crystallised citrus peels. In some ways it is struggling after the 1959, but in other ways the fact it is quite a different profile is a real asset. Olive oil, Earl Grey tea with lemon and a light medicinal note. Finish: medium, on quince jelly, more honey, sweet wines, soft waxes and wee herbal cough medicine notes. Comments: it's a short, sharp reminder of just how utterly charming and excellent these batches/vintages were for Glen Grant. The kind of bottle that has probably been remorselessly destroyed over a fair number of festive holidays since release. I was hovering around 90, but I love Glen Grant and it's Hogmanay so let's throw caution and care to the wind…

SGP: 651 - 91 points.

 

 

Ok, after that slight but very welcome sidetrack, onto Glen Garioch.

 

 

Eastern Highland Malt 1975/1988 (50%, Duthie for Samaroli, 20th Anniversary, Fragments of Scotland, 648 bottles)

Eastern Highland Malt 1975/1988 (50%, Duthie for Samaroli, 20th Anniversary, Fragments of Scotland, 648 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: take some 1974 Caol Ila, add a few good drops of 1970 Port Ellen, one or two splashes of 1968 Ardmore and finish with a scoosh of 1971 Brora. Or, if we must, perfectly pure and salty peat, tiny earthy and vegetal notes, a sense of rather fat and hefty smoke, embrocations, green olives, tar. A beautifully fresh and chiseled nose that makes you think of some of the greatest peated malts. With water: saltier, more vegetal and earthy, more medicinal and also brimming with freshness and zesty fruits. Whisky that makes you grin like the Cheshire Cat. Mouth: gah! Stunning. So textural, so fat and so oily! Slathered on peat flavour that's salty, drying, herbal, coastal and fresh while also feeling like it belongs to the farmyard and the engineers garage. Mechanical oils, tars, pickling brine and various umami things along with also preserve citrus fruits, like lemons in brine. Then camphor and iodine too. All over the place but in a joyous and utterly brilliant fashion. There's also this very clear feeling of sticking your head in a malting kiln, which is essentially the voice of the raw ingredients shining through in my book. With water: what I find so impressive is the depth and fatness of the peat flavour - you have to really work your molars to break this wondrous sludge up into consumable portions! All the while it simultaneously manages to retain this joyous complexity with all these other wee flavours and things pinging out at you. Finish: superbly long and gelatinous in the mouth. This peat has missed three busses! Salty, resinous, citric, tarry, peppery and smoky! Comments: It would appear I used the word 'joyous' twice in this note, that about sums it up. Only thing I'd add is that this is probably my favourite of the 1975 Glen Gariochs - kudos to Mr Samaroli and also, if I may, to the fact it was bottled at 50%, which I'd hazard has worked wonders over the years in glass in this case.

SGP: 465 - 94 points.

 

 

Glen Garioch 15 yo 1973/1988 (60.5%, Slim Cowell's personal selection III)

Glen Garioch 15 yo 1973/1988 (60.5%, Slim Cowell's personal selection III)
A famous and extremely rare bottling that carries a mighty reputation and that I never tasted before. I'm extremely happy to finally be able to try this one. Colour: deep dirty gold. Nose: what's amazing is how the 1973s, and this one specifically, are so different from the 1975s. This is just so much more organic, farmy, metallic and dirty in a good way. Black olives, brine, anchovy paste, silage and tarry rope. Saying that it's also showing some superbly salty and pure sherry notes, like some ancient Amontillado with these salty, walnutty vibes. The peat is also sharper, more sinewed and slightly more specific but still wonderfully weighty and enveloping. I also get pinewood and burning rosemary branches. It's another of these story book whiskies that has tales to tell and will lead you down some long and wayward paths. With water: becomes tenser and really balanced between saltiness and these gamey/tarry accented peat smoke aromas. Such an unusual and brilliant profile that is really quite unlike most other old peated makes. Mouth: holy moly, we've stumbled upon some 100° proof peated green Chartreuse. Also stunning tarriness, medical embrocations, pure iodine, camphor and smoked olive oil. You can also add tobaccos, walnut wine, leather, smoked game meats and flamed orange rind. With water: more of these orange notes, along with other preserved citrus rinds, massive of smoke, herbal ointments, very salty liquorice, cocktail bitters and sooty peat flavours. Finish: wonderfully long, resinous, herbal, tarry and peaty. A superb interplay between a unique peated distillate and some ruggedly excellent old style sherry cask. Comments: I understand why people would enjoy the purity of the 1975s, but these 1973s possess some kind of otherworldly charm and charisma that is extremely hard to put your finger on in my view. This is a big old shaggy beast of a Glen Garioch, and I absolutely love it!
SGP: 476 - 93 points.

 

 

Hogmanay hugs to Olivier, Iain, KC, Cicada and Mike D.

 

 

Happy 2023 everyone!

 

 

 

 

December 30, 2022


Whiskyfun

Thirty Clynelish
from 2011 to 1971
(Because there is no limit to true love)

Clynelish

(Bodeboca)

Before the end of the year, as promised.
Indeed we've got a lot of Clynelish on the table, which comes handy to further celebrate WF's 20th Anniversary right before the end of the year. I had first thought we'd do a verticale, but we've got too many of them for that. Same with a retro-verticale, which, what's more, is much trickier to do by nature, even if a retro-verticale would also better showcase the fascinating evolution of the distillate over the years and decades. But well, I would say we'll do this randomly, because after all, some say you and I are well-acquainted enough with the make. Nota bene: because of some busy schedule (and some last traces of reason and sanity at WF Towers), all these Clynelishes won't be actually assessed within one single tasting session. Let us proceed, and adios 2022! (Tomorrow it's Angus who's on duty)…

Clynelish fruit

 

 

Clynelish 11 yo 2011/2022 (58.7%, The Whisky Show 2022)

Clynelish 11 yo 2011/2022 (58.7%, The Whisky Show 2022) Four stars
This lovely baby came with an UV-sensitive label (it's that, right?) and a QR-code. All what's missing is some NFT and perhaps own crypto. Next year, perhaps? Colour: straw. Nose: I've noticed that my thirst for Clynelish never stopped growing, and it seems that this little beauty won't do anything about that. There are bonbons all over the place, it's almost like the rear seats of a car after a 10 hour drive with three little kids. Main flavours, orange, pineapple and pear. There's probably a little nail polish too, but the wax is not coming through yet. With water: it does now. Aren't the simplest pleasures the best? And the kids did not gulp down all the sweets (yet). Mouth (neat): those sweet bonbons indeed, these touches of varnish and bitterish fresh oak as well, but this time the waxiness is present right from the start. With water: perfect now, with peach sweets and syrup chiming in. A Scottish Bellini? Finish: medium and well balanced, between the sweet and the oak. A little feeling of green tea flavoured with fruit. Comments: Clynelish is one of those distillates that can be rather stunning at a very young age, even when al natural.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

Clynelish 12 yo 'The Golden Eye Guardian' (58.5%, OB, Special Releases, Elusive Expressions, 2022)

Clynelish 12 yo 'The Golden Eye Guardian' (58.5%, OB, Special Releases, Elusive Expressions, 2022) Three stars and a half
The cask-bill here gathered refill American oak, PX and oloroso. Hope this gumbo won't have   offset the Distillery character, but probably not, Diageo do care about Clynelish! What's sure is that it was a good idea to hire Syd Barrett's little nephew to do the names and stories… Colour: straw. Nose: it's pretty fascinating to have this one after the more elementary (in the best sense) TWS. Nutshell, the sherry has erased a part of the bright fruitiness and added some wine, walnuts and teas. English breakfast tea, naturally. With water: a little more fruitiness but walnut skins and other fruit peelings, and even eucalyptus tea tend to dominate. But the paraffin and beeswax are there, hurray. Mouth (neat): the fruits and rather a lot of paraffin are having the upper hand this time. Once more, a little bitter oak coating that, even chlorophyl. With water: very good, if a little cask-heavy indeed. A notch harsh, perhaps, otherwise oranges and a little honey are adding some needed lightness, although this isn't fruity whisky by any means. Finish: rather long, but the oaks and their spices are at the helm. Some raisins from the PX (I would suppose) in the aftertaste, plus a faint saltiness. Comments: super-good, it's just that I shouldn't have had the rather pristine young 2011 just before this one. My bad.

SGP:561 - 84 points.

Perhaps an older 12, for fun and comparison?...

Clynelish 12 yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, 75cl, +/-1985)

Clynelish 12 yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, 75cl, +/-1983) Five stars
In theory, this is stemming from the earliest vintages of the 'new' Distillery. In Ainslie's label book at Diageo's Archive this very same label is marked as from June, 1983. We've tried several bottles already, but perhaps not exactly this batch. I know, any excuses… Colour: gold. Nose: you would almost believe they've added some 'old' Clynelish to this, for it is so sooty and petroly. The waxiness is insane too, the old greases, also the ripe garden fruits (apples), the rocks, the spearmint, the flints, the metal polish… Boy I may be wrecking this session. I mean, completely. With water: a little mead, old white wines, toolbox and old copper coins, more metal polis… You see. Mouth (neat): God's own malt. It's got everything, including some old Clynelish, I'm almost sure about that. We'd better sing you a song now… But not before we've mentioned beeswax, engine oil (a feeling of…), benzine (something reminiscent of…) and just chewing candles. When we were kids… With water: I had forgotten how good these were/are. Some seawater now, oysters, sorrel soup, soot, ashes… Finish: endless, stunningly salty and honeyed. You could use this as some condiment, perhaps with caviar or lobster? Love the mustardy aftertaste too. Comments: I remember one evening in Limburg. There was a lovely dinner but no proper wine. We downed a bottle of this instead, and as for going back to our hotel, well… Why am I telling you this? What's sure is that these Clynelishes do make for great substitutes for white wine. Believe me.
SGP:662 - 93 points.

This could really get tough, but there's a bunch I've already wet my lips in, so pretty confidently…

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 (54.5%, WhiskySponge, refill sherry butt, 505 bottles)

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 (54.5%, WhiskySponge, refill sherry butt, 505 bottles) Five stars
Colour: light gold. Nose: this is much, and I mean much waxier than many more later vintages, and it's really all on beeswax, pencil eraser, drawing gum, fresh walnut skins, and indeed almond paste, with only touches of tangerines in the background. Feels almost more '1982-1983' than '1995-1996', says this humble exegete. Oh an in truth, you could almost quote '1972-1974' as well (not the smokier ones). With water: chalk, paraffin, wet plaster, metal polish. 110% Clynelish. Mouth: orange and tangerine juices blended with liquid beeswax and honey. Some aspects would also remind us of 1960s Lochside, honest. With water: brilliant Finish: medium, fresh, superbly honeyed. Comments: I've tried to keep this short since we have several Spongey Clynelishes on the desk. Otherwise I would have, oh, hum, waxed lyrical.
SGP:551 - 91 points.

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 (56.6%, WhiskySponge, refill sherry butt, 528 bottles)

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 (56.6%, WhiskySponge, refill sherry butt, 528 bottles) Three stars
Colour: amber. Nose: Clynelish + sherry can, in my experience, generate dissonances, including feelings of sulphur while there's not obligatorily any sulphur inside. That's exactly what I'm finding here. Pass, this time… With water: glutamate at the power of seven. Make that eight. A lot of earth too, saltpetre in abundance, etc. Mouth (neat): rather a little nicer on the plate, thanks to bitter oranges and tobacco, but there's really a lot of pepper and some walnut wine in excess. With water: cold cuts and leather, smoked sausage, bitter oranges, old 'sour' wax indeed. Finish: rather long, on peppered oranges. Comments: Cadenhead used to have such 'deviant' batches too. It's terrible to come onto the tasting desk after that splendid, all-bright '505 bottles', but let's be honest, I know this style has got its utter fans so as always, that's just me.  And don't get me wrong, it's still great whisky,

SGP:462 - 82 points.

Clynelish 26 yo 1995/2021 (57.7%, WhiskySponge, refill sherry butt, 532 bottles)

Clynelish 26 yo 1995/2021 (57.7%, WhiskySponge, refill sherry butt, 532 bottles) Five stars
Colour: gold. Nose: somewhere between both but nearer the 'clean' one. Love these whiffs of greasy fat Chablis (Grenouille) and Sancerre. Superb (didn't we say we'd do this quickly?) With water: bouillons and broths, marrows, chives, onion soup, grapefruit liqueur, earths and mushrooms… Mouth (neat): tops, mineral, waxy, resinous, citrusy, huge. Love it. With water: perfection, please call the Anti-ClynoPorn Brigade! Finish: rather long, waxier, and with more flavourful honeys and citruses. Stunning chalk, wax and lemon in the aftertaste, a well-known winning combo. Comments: aren't these vintages coming of age? Oh and by the way, I don't think I've ever found any notes of sponge in any whisky. Or perhaps 'old sponge', as in 'old floor cloth', but those are not enviable descriptors, are they. Anyway, superb Clynelish, state of the art and really hard to beat here and now. I mean, generally speaking.

SGP:561 - 91 points.

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 'Cuvée' (53%, WhiskySponge, Third Secret Edition, 131 bottles)

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 'Cuvée' (53%, WhiskySponge, Third Secret Edition, 131 bottles) Four stars
Right, it seems that, maybe because he was feeling guilty with regard to the 'sulphury sherry', the Sponge decided to vat a wee part of all three casks to produce a little 'Cuvée' that, I suppose, would have gathered all what's great in the individual casks while offsetting what's a little, say 'deviant'. Right, sulphury. Having said that, I wouldn't impute motives one way or another, that's all my own humble theory… Colour: gold. Nose: hem, not 100% sure. Meat extracts, soy sauce, plasticine, beef fat, Cuban cigars… The honeyed fruits aren't having the upper hand this far, that's for sure. With water: Marmite? A little basalt too… Mouth (neat): not too sure. I'll ask the Sponge about the proportions, let's hope he'll give us the answers. I don't think the vatting was done in equal shares, but naturally, I could be totally wrong. With water: no, better now. Classic, cleaner wax and honeys coming through, mead, some savoury old pinot noir perhaps… It came to its senses and so have I. Finish: medium, still a tad wobbly here and there, but this saltiness wins it. Comments: fun stuff that would, at times, remind us of some sherried 'Old Clynelishes' or of some of Ainslie's darker blends. But it remains a complicated whisky, somewhat, somehow…

SGP:552 - 86 points.

Good, that Spongey quartet gave us a true run for our money, but we're not completely done with Clynelish, far from that…

Plan

'New' Clynelish's original architect plan, 1966, R.P. Morris (Diageo Archive)
 

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 (53%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #11, cask #11235, 580 bottles)

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 (53%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #11, cask #11235, 580 bottles) Four stars and a half
I would imagine, according to the colour, that this one's from the same parcel as that of that 'Sponge' that was a little bit on hung grouse, fungus and struck matches, let's see... Colour: mahogany. Nose: coffee, crude chocolate, tar, old oloroso, proper walnut wine, miso and umami, old Partagas, oyster sauce… Well this is a true sherry monster of the highest order and this far, almost any distillate would have partnered with this cask beautifully. There are echoes of 'old Craigellachie', for example, just saying. With water: possibly one of the loveliest ex-heavy-sherry Clynelishes out there. Earth, polish, tar, mushrooms, plasticine… Mouth (neat): yeah, heavy high-grade orangey sherry, this would work even with mineral water. Quite. Okay, I'm exaggerating. With water: excellent, these are just hard to water down with precision. Just one or two drops will suffice. Bovril, brown sauce, ceps, miso, mead… Nah, one drop will be enough. Finish: long, meaty, fat, very sherry-y. Comments: extremely good, it's just that once again, I shouldn't have had the two utter stars by the Sponge within the very same tasting session. Always the same problems as soon as a distillate has got a little character (Springbank, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ben Nevis, and many others, including Clynelish…) Well, that's what I think.

SGP:462 - 88 points

Back to the youngsters…

Clynelish 10 yo 2011/2021 (59.1%, The Whisky Exchange, barrel, cask #800293, 205 bottles)

Clynelish 10 yo 2011/2021 (59.1%, The Whisky Exchange, barrel, cask #800293, 205 bottles) Four stars
In my short experience these recent very young Clynelishes may rely a little more on fresh orchard fruits, and less on that traditional waxiness, which could make them rather less recognizable, let's see… (come on, we're not tasting blind anyway)… Colour: straw. Nose: it is not a very waxy one indeed, as it appears, we're rather reminded of dough, breads, apple pies, grist, or cider, although I do find touches of paraffin, but that may be my mind trying to find what it knows should be there. Any taster's worst enemy. With water: some waxy bread indeed, sunflower oil, quince jelly… Mouth (neat): a little icing sugar and orange blossom honey, then reaching panettone and pear tart, citron liqueur, and yes, perhaps, there, a little candlewax with a wee soapy side. Or are those just fresh almonds? Not too sure… With water: more bitter grasses and zests, grapefruit skin, a little bell pepper, sloe, juniper… What's sure is that it is not a wax monster. Not that we always need them anyway… Finish: long and, guess what, much more on paraffin, candlewax, and proper argan oil… ! All things come to him who waits. Comments: a very lovely young Clynelish that takes its (and your) time.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

Back to old ones… (this session is a merry chaos, I tell you)…

Clynelish 30 yo 1990/2022 (47.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #12, bourbon barrel, cask #3477, 137 bottles)

Clynelish 30 yo 1990/2022 (47.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #12, bourbon barrel, cask #3477, 137 bottles) Five stars
More barrels, more greatness I would suppose. It's to be noted that the age here is rather 'over 30 years', some charming cocketry on the part of LMDW. Colour: light gold. Nose: these early 1990s, as they become older, start to resemble the early 1972s, which is great news of course. We're thinking old pinot gris from a great house, beeswax 'of course', cakes, dried flowers, a lighter tarte tatin, our beloved stewed quinces, sweet polenta, French toast… And in the back, some sea breeze that's the guardian of the freshness here (pardon?) Mouth: someone's mistakenly bottled a 1972, it's obvious. But shh… More beeswax and pollen, dried figs, tangerines, orange blossom water, papayas, acacia beignet, touches of salted butter caramel… Finish: not too long but charmingly delicate. Perhaps an old white Graves, perhaps even Laville, our friend Christophe's favourite white (but they stopped producing Laville in 2009). Comments: extraordinary, if elegantly fragile here and there. Do they also do magnums?

SGP:551 - 92 points.

Break! But we'll be back with more young Clynelish…

Clynelish 9 yo 2011/2021 (56.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, second-fill barrel, #26.117, Gathering, Butterscotch-pear pie In a lemon orchard, 215 bottles)

Clynelish 9 yo 2011/2021 (56.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, second-fill barrel, #26.117, Gathering, Butterscotch-pear pie In a lemon orchard, 215 bottles) Three stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this one's really raw and eau-de-vie-ish, we're almost nosing plum spirit as it's running off the still, with just touches of vanilla and ripe bananas from the barrel (I would suppose). With water: sourdough and some sour juices coming out. Lemon indeed and greener apples. Mouth (neat): really, it's almost new-make, complete with a little soap and lemon skin. With water: the powerz of Clynelish working their magic, but this is still a little too rough and immature for me. Finish: medium, green, lemony. The aftertaste is really rather sour. Comments: it's Clynelish, but these are perhaps the limits of the exercise. Youth is great… up to a certain point.
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Edradour 16 yo 2004/2021 (59.9%, The Maltman, Or Sileis, 1st fill Marsala hogshead, cask #73, 403 bottles)

Secret Highland 16 yo 2004/2021 (59.9%, The Maltman, Or Sileis, 1st fill Marsala hogshead, cask #73, 403 bottles) Four stars and a half
More crazy whisky selected by our Taiwanese friends. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a Marsala that would behave and indeed these waxes and oils, this time with a few aromatic herbs and flowers, some dried. Patchouli, orange blossom, honeysuckle, or just a pot-pourri. Is that all the Marsala? Wee touches of sweet mustard too, which would suggest a 'Madeira-Marsala' (with apologies to our friends both in Portugal and in Italy). With water: mushrooms, moss, mustard, wild carrots, celeriac, beets… Probably all from the cask. Mouth (neat): this is oily, tight, with some walnuts and lemons, woodruff, a little horseradish, and one question: was this a fino-type dry Marsala? With water: same, mustardy, a little salty, and pretty fino-y indeed. Finish: long and more on roots. Salty carrot juice and coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: I then to like the naked ones tiny-wee-tad better but this is extremely close, for once. I have to say I was having doubts but it's been confirmed that this was truly Clynelish.
SGP:461 - 88 points.

Highland Single Malt 11 yo 2010/2021 (54.1%, Thompson Bros. for Rum & Whisky Kyoto, hogshead + rum, 295 bottles)

Highland Single Malt 11 yo 2010/2021 (54.1%, Thompson Bros. for Rum & Whisky Kyoto, hogshead + rum, 295 bottles) Four stars and a half
By internal rule, we're only posting such secret Highland malt amongst Clynelishes when we're dead sure that they're Clynelish. This baby's be re-racked into a rum cask from Diamond Distillery in Guyana (marque was sxg, so probably from the Versailles still). Colour: white wine. Nose:  so, si or no? War or peace? I'm happy to report that the Clynelish and the Demerara seem to get along extremely well, but it's true that they're sharing some traits in the first place. So more a gathering of like-minded spirits than whacky aromatisation with rum. A little engine oil and the expected waxes, more brine than in 'pure' Clynelish, candied citrus, perhaps that famous olive everyone's talking about… With water: almost pure Clynelish now. Majority wins. Mouth (neat): really punchy, perhaps a little more disorienting than on the nose because of these sweeter caney notes, but there's also some heather honey, which is perfect. It's as if the second maturation added much maturity, and more salt as well. With water: indeed. It rather feels like, say 17 years. Finish: rather long, salty, sooty, with even, wait, echoes of Old Clynelish! How bizarre… Comments: much more Champagne with peaches than coffee with mustard, if you see what I mean. Brilliant young drop, should they all treat their (young) whiskies like this one, I would become the #1 fan of finishing!

SGP:562 - 89 points.

Clynelish 23 yo 1997/2021 (53.3%, The Whisky Cask Company, bourbon, 209 bottles)

Clynelish 23 yo 1997/2021 (53.3%, The Whisky Cask Company, bourbon, 209 bottles) Five stars
These vintages have an excellent reputation. There must be a reason. Colour: light gold. Nose: much love for this. It's a slightly shier one, but it's showing elegance and distinction, with some fresh bark, sunflower oil, those softer waxes, candles, plaster and chalk, apples, then mirabelles and quinces… With water: a delicate earthiness and even a few ashes, perhaps coal. A little fresh coriander, and always these waxes. A nose to marry (why would you marry only a nose, S.?) Mouth (neat): ueber-class Clynelish, everything being exactly right here. Citrus, apple peel, beeswax and honeycomb, acacia blossom, quince, not-too-ripe mirabelles, plus just a faint saltiness, nothing dominant. Shh, much respect… With water: more towards citrus, which is brilliant. I was about to mention kumquats but my Dutch friends seem to be firmly against that. So, say yuzu and bergamot. Finish: the chalk is back, with some lemon and a little cold earl grey tea. Wax in the aftertaste, as is customary. Comments: I think I'll add nothing. De nada.

SGP:551 - 91 points.

Clynelish 18 yo 1997 (55.5%, Adelphi Archive, 20 years of Whiskyfun, cask #12378, 145 bottles, released 2022)

Clynelish 18 yo 1997 (55.5%, Adelphi Archive, 20 years of Whiskyfun, cask #12378, 145 bottles, released 2022) Five stars
It's not that I'm into onanistic tasting (?!) but indeed, I had to write some note for this baby that, let's make this clear, I did not select myself. However, the good folks at Adelphi are smarter than Einstein himself and knew that this would be 'my' thing. Thank you, Adelphi! I'd add that I already tried it, in… lovely Warsaw. What's more, the bottle came with a magnifier, a response to my constant jibe because they were doing such small labels that I just couldn't read, even when I was still less than 40 (so very recently… I can hear you thinking!) Colour: straw/pale gold. Nose: it's fascinating to try this one after the 1996, for they are so close. Same elegant citrus, wax, chalk, oils and yellow garden fruits. I'm not even sure I should say more. With water: fresh baguette, sourdough bread, a little porridge, chalk, flints… Mouth (neat): epitomically Clynelish, fully on the make, perfectly citrusy and waxy, with a fantastic greenness that would remind us of the best sauvignons blancs. With some chalk of course, there. With water: candied citrus and coriander, plus some white pepper. Finish: some saltiness, lemon, a little bitter marmalade. Comments: we could have done some minimalistic tasting note instead. Like, Clynelish 18 yo 1997 (55.5%, Adelphi Archive, 20 years of Whiskyfun, cask #12378, 145 bottles, released 2022) Colour: straw. Nose: mid-1990s Clynelish. Mouth: mid-1990s Clynelish. Finish: mid-1990s Clynelish. Comments: mid-1990s Clynelish.
SGP:551 - 91 points.

Clynelish 24 yo 1996/2021 (52.2%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions for HNWS Taiwan, hogshead, cask #18250, 258 bottles)

Clynelish 24 yo 1996/2021 (52.2%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions for HNWS Taiwan, hogshead, cask #18250, 258 bottles) Five stars
With cats playing pool. That's what cats do, right? Colour: white wine. Nose: we'll never get out of here. What I could say, and perhaps that was the hogshead, is that it is a Clynelish that's got some Ben Nevis traits. Such as this concrete and these garage-y touches, spent oil, old toolbox and all that. Other than that, it is perfect. Don't get me wrong, the Ben-Nevissy side was perfect too (S., is this about Clynelish or about Ben Nevis?) With water: these crystalline apples and quinces that we love so much. Mouth (neat): pure, crystal-clean waxy and citrusy Clynelish, a tad fatter than the two previous ones, but just as splendid. Perhaps a touch of mustard ala Ben Nevis (perhaps not, S.!) With water: it's glorious, perfect, a Miura of malt whisky. Finish: hey hey, some smoke? Was that the Ben Nevis? (S., please…) Firmer aftertaste, peppery, salty and hugely waxy. Comments: what can I say.

SGP:561 - 91 points.

To the dedicated taster, this is a happy nightmare, at least a trap. Too many quasi-identical whiskies! Whether the ones you've got on your table are sublime or plain rotguts, this kind of situation is never easy to handle. But back at Hunter Laing's…

Clynelish 27 yo 1993/2021 (53.8%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions Author's Series, bourbon barrel, cask #HL 18443)

Clynelish 27 yo 1993/2021 (53.8%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions Author's Series, bourbon barrel, cask #HL 18443) Five stars
The gentleman on the label is Edward Everett Hale, an American clergyman and writer (1822-1909). Not too sure Mr. Hale has ever had anything to do with whisky, but I love this slightly circumvolutory quote, 'I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.' Such as trying more Clynelish… Colour: gold. Nose: it's incredible how the older age feels, even if that's only three years. Cakes appearing, jams, candied fruits, even 'bourbon raisins', mead, old cognac (we've just tried a good dozen the other day), cigarette tobacco (Camels, even if I believe I smoked my last Camel around thirty years ago), patchouli, lime tea… But what a glory, what a glory… With water: this is terrifying, we re-created a 1972, as we did with a 1990 only yesterday. Mouth (neat): it swapped its crystal-clean waxy and citrusy freshness for more spicy cakes and pastries, stollen, also moshi, banana cake, honey cookies… Now the level remains ueber-high. With water: nah, it's just incredible too, with more cough medicine, syrups and herbal teas this time. Finish: do we really need to tell you that waxes and citrons are coming to the front? Stunning finish. Comments: just as amazing as the other ones. Of course you could say that the 1990s were when most Distilleries started to make good malt whisky again, but in my book, Clynelish never quite lost any steam. Perhaps in the end of the 1970s, and sometime around the mid/late 1980s? I'm not even sure about that… anyway…

SGP:561 - 91 points.

Perhaps an easier, lighter one?

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (46%, Chieftain's Choice, bourbon hogshead, casks #6580/6581, 544 bottles)

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (46%, Chieftain's Choice, bourbon hogshead, casks #6580/6581, 544 bottles) Four stars
Long time not seen any Chieftain's, are they still kicking around? Used to love some of their bottlings in the past. Colour: straw. Nose: indeed it is an easier one, one that's rather rounder, with some vanilla and orange cakes, madeleines, some pollen, a little milk chocolate, even a little sweeter ale… It is not an intransigent Clynelish that would bite you, that's for sure. Mouth: the vintage talks and so does the Distillery. Some beeswax indeed, some praline, those cakes, a little lime tea, a wee saltiness indeed, and more chocolate. Very good and a proper Clynelish 1997, even if I think I should have had it upfront, given the lower strength. Finish: good length. Some spices from the oak that, it seems, has been rather active. Some bitter walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps not a star but very good and not that easy, after all.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

I think I need a younger, fresher one again at this point…

Clynelish 10 yo 2011/2022 (59.5%, Watt Whisky, barrel, 210 bottles)

Clynelish 10 yo 2011/2022 (59.5%, Watt Whisky, barrel, 210 bottles) Four stars and a half
I'm a little surprised they would be allowed to bottle some Clynelish in Campbeltown, but there, not my business. Come on, isn't that like bringing your own French langoustines to a Scottish seafood restaurant? Perhaps not… Colour: light gold. Nose: not one that's fully on orchard fruits, this has seawater, soot, brine, stearin, granny smith and lime juice… Almost cask-strength cachaça on the nose! With water: or mezcal? Gentian? Celeriac eau-de-vie? Crazy sour cherries? Now some honeyed vanilla is bringing a little gentleness after just one minute. Mouth (neat): as perfect as a 10 yo Clynelish can be. A real blade this time, the first one we're encountering in this two-part session, that would mercilessly throw smoked green apples and just salted limes at you. With water: cuts you like a laser. Little salvation on the palate. Finish: no, there, some sweetness, honey, beeswax, candied lemon… Comments: tops. Possibly my favourite 2011 this far, but don't take this on faith, I haven't checked our index. Oh who cares, it is just great.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Clynelish 26 yo 1995/2022 (56.2%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, sherry butt)

Clynelish 26 yo 1995/2022 (56.2%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, sherry butt) Four stars and a half
Whenever I read 'Clynelish' and 'sherry' on a label, some lights are starting to flash in my head, but there were many exceptions. It's just that I believe that it's hard to get the balance right (as Frank Zappa used to say). Colour: gold. Nose: it is certain that the freshness was toned down, but it is just as certain that some lovely chocolate and tobacco are making up for that. A wee feeling of armagnac, perhaps, some raisins, surely a few pencil shavings, a Mars bar, millionaire shortbread… So, some Clynelishness has been lost but balance has been kept. With water: classic walnut wine and cigars. Mouth (neat): hold on hold on hold on hold on, this works! We're far from just chocolate and tobacco, it is got a chicken-soup quality, even some venison, chocolate sauce (mole), hoisin and miso, something slightly metallic and salty, but no actual dissonances. Hurray. With water: that's the thing, with these profiles you need to have the proportions of water right or you could flatten your whisky and make it too dry. Hard work but I think I succeeded, with just two drops. Finish: long, very chocolaty. Oloroso-y aftertaste. Comments: I prefer them shiny and bright, but indeed this is very excellent. Well done Nectar.
SGP:461 - 89 points.

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 (53.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, 15th anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #11238, 501 bottles)

Clynelish 25 yo 1995/2021 (53.5%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, 15th anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #11238, 501 bottles) Four stars
Stuff from Signatory Vintage, they say good springs make good water. Colour: mahogany. Nose: deeper into toffeeish sherriness. More Mars bars, Carambar (do you know Carambar?), moshi and Japanese red bean curd, fresh-polished hardwood, toffee, then indeed a little hoisin sauce… No doubt quality is extremely high, but I doubt anyone would recognise Clynelish. I know I wouldn't. With water: ah, beeswax? Metal polish? Old pipe tobacco? A little sea air for sure, that's good news. Otherwise armagnac and toffee. Mouth (neat): some walnut stain, soy sauce, chocolate, blackish toffee, stock cube, a little carboard and a little sulphur… That last part would suggest it desperately needs H2O. With water: water will kill it if you're not careful. Say just one drop. Pine needles and really a feeling of super-dry oloroso that would have dropped below those 18% vol. Or amontillado. Finish: very long, piney. Coffee and chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: very tough dry sherry bomb. It is a difficult style that I enjoy a lot, but between us, this could have been any other malt Distillery, even Auchentoshan. I liked 2022's better, for it was more Clynelishy. 2019's 1995 had been superb too (WF 90).
SGP:471 - 87 points.

New break…

An old receiver full of that 'black gunge' that's said to be responsible
for Clynelish's trademark waxiness (WF Archive)
 

Clynelish 27 yo 1993/2021 (51.4%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions CMC for Malt Cask Hong Kong & Dadi Liquor, bourbon barrel, cask #HL 18455, 130 bottles)

Clynelish 27 yo 1993/2021 (51.4%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions CMC for Malt Cask Hong Kong & Dadi Liquor, bourbon barrel, cask #HL 18455, 130 bottles) Five stars
This one has travelled from afar! In theory, this should be another bed of roses, quality-wise… Colour: gold. Nose: something of an old chardonnay at first, with a little sour wood, then rather triple-sec, tangerine liqueur, and rather mead than beeswax this far. Whiffs of brand new sweater (pure wool). With water: it's even a tad diesely at first, but then, paraffin and linseed oil are running the show. The wool is still there too. Tiny touches of fermented oranges or something like that. Mouth (neat): a wonderful citrusy arrival, this time fully and properly Clynelish, with just the right amounts of waxes. The barrel feels a little bit but the lemons do counterbalance all that. How many times have we used the words 'lovely' and 'awesome' these days? With water: no complains at all. Perfect saltier Clynelish. Finish: medium, totally Clynelishy, with more beeswax than in a 15th century church and more citrus skin than in… oh forget. Comments: right up my alley once more. It's going to be 91 because it is more than perfect. There.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

And good news, there's more…

Clynelish 27 yo 1993/2021 (52.5%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, Platinum Selection, for The Whisky Library Hong Kong, refill barrel, cask #140 bottles)

Clynelish 27 yo 1993/2021 (52.5%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, Platinum Selection, for The Whisky Library Hong Kong, refill barrel, cask #140 bottles) Five stars
No cask number that we can spot but we know it was bottled in August. Err… Colour: gold. Nose: this one's a little different at first, probably fresher, more on 'that walk in the woods', humus, then camphor, ointments, crushed fern leaves, also sea air… With water: awe! It's high-precision, rather restrained but just stunning Clynelish on the nose. 25-30 years is a perfect age. Mouth (neat): formidable! It's got both the freshness from the land and from the sea, and the paraffiny, lemony waxiness. I can't wait to add two drops of Vittel (our official water, Vitell, yeah I know the cheque's in the mail, you already told me last time). With water: all the expected compadres are coming out one after the other, wax, lemon, pepper, sourdough, chalk, angelica, pollen… Only the oak is a wee tad too present this time, I would say, making it 'only perfect' in my book. Nit-pickers of all nations, unite! Finish: same developments. Lovely citrus, maybe just a tad more on skin than on flesh. Reminds me of… oh forget (JM, get out of this body!) Lovely honey and beeswax in the aftertaste, it's definitely 'perfect'. Comments: nobody will believe me if I say, once again, that these sessions are difficult to do because the whiskies are so close. Spoiled, we are.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Clynelish 26 yo 1995/2022 (51.5%, The Whisky Exchange, 50 years in the drinks industry, hogshead and sherry butt)

Clynelish 26 yo 1995/2022 (51.5%, The Whisky Exchange, 50 years in the drinks industry, hogshead and sherry butt) Five stars
This baby to celebrate Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh's (plus family) 50 years in the business. This is bizarre, last time I met them, not that long ago, they were looking much, much, and I mean much younger. What's sure is that they know their Clynelish. Colour: light gold. Nose: it starts a bit like the Platinum, that is to say very fresh, zesty, a little tight, lemony and not quite unlike some Rosebanks of old. I utterly love this chiselled style, let's hope it'll all go on like this. With water: a little sake (believe it or not, that's the sherry), otherwise an extremely coastal Clynelish. Oysters, lemon, a little tobacco. Tobacco is an useful descriptor, you just write 'tobacco' and presto, two dozen sub-aromas are heading your direction. Mouth (neat): the sherry brought just a tiny colouring, I would say, perhaps a bit of walnut cookie and a little coffee/chocolate. Other than that, it's perfect well-defined and well-carved Clynelish. Awesome lemony saltines (or, you're right, the other way 'round). With water: the dry sherry gets louder. More tobacco, chicken soup, a little clove, walnuts… I would suggest you just don't add any water. Finish (when neat): pure citrusy and moderately waxy Clynelish. Salty and peppery aftertaste, with some dark chocolate in the back. Comments: what a mercy it is that the sherry behaved! Happy 50 years in the business, Messrs Singh and family!
SGP:562 - 91 points.

Clynelish 31 yo 1990/2022 (42.6%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, bourbon barrels, casks #3689 – 3690, 197 bottles)

Clynelish 31 yo 1990/2022 (42.6%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, bourbon barrels, casks #3689 – 3690, 197 bottles) Four stars and a half
Looks like the angels have been greedy here. We're also out of the comfort zone at 31 years, but let's see… Colour: light gold. Nose: age indeed, evolution, softening… It is, in truth, a little worrying at first, but many smaller, tertiary aromas are starting to appear, mead, encaustic, pine needles, old wardrobe, syrups and cordials from the 1970s, then we have apple pie, that famous tarte tatin, quinces, lamp oil, balms and polishes… Well it'll all happen on the palate anyway. Or not… Mouth: frightening for a second (tea, cardboard) but everything's falling into place then, mead, waxes, overripe apples… But it's lost the citrus over the years and becomes a tad fragile again around the middle. Just a tad. Finish: not very long, rather on apple peel and old honeyed cordials. Stuff that monks used to make to convince non-believers. Right. Some rhubarb in the aftertaste, which is perfect as it lifts it like when Tom Cruise almost hit the mountain with his plane. Right, that's the only comparison I could come up with, but it works with James Bond too. Comments: simply another fantastic one.

SGP:551 - 89 points.

Good, there's another vintage that I always loved, that's 1983.

Clynelish 16 yo 1983/2000 (57.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.14)

Clynelish 16 yo 1983/2000 (57.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.14) Five stars
Not a very well-known bottling and it didn't even come with one of those silly names we love to make jokes about. Well, we just love those names, in fact. Colour: white wine. Nose: exactly a blade. As we sometimes say, it cuts you into two halves of exactly the same dimensions. Lime, chalk, mercurochrome, rhubarb and basta. With water: porridge and damp oatcakes. Grapefruits and a tiny bit of passion fruit. Mouth (neat): ziiiing! Well in the style of these youngish naked malts by the SMWS from that time, the Broras for example. Pure, crystalline, high-definition wax and lemon. Incredibly sharp, in all senses. With water: keeps sending shivers down your spine, but this lemon marmalade is of the highest possible grade. Finish: long, immaculate, amazing. Salty aftertaste. Comments: who would have known? Probably Angus… A.m.a.z.i.n.g.

SGP:562 - 92 points.

And now to be consistent…

Clynelish 23 yo 1983/2007 (57.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.50, 'Heather, hay and honey', refill hogshead)

Clynelish 23 yo 1983/2007 (57.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.50, 'Heather, hay and honey', refill hogshead) Five stars
No picture for this one. Bah they all look the same anyway, don't they. I've put a fantastic Scottish Wildcat found at The Guardian instead, I don't think that's a bad deal, is it. Colour: light gold. Nose: winner, provided you enjoy Clynelish that is. Shoe polish, soot, lemons, beeswax, sunflower oil, grapefruits, shellfish (the whelks are back!)… With water: waxy perfection. This will be the fasted tasting note ever. Mouth (neat): I don't know what to say. Shuts you up for good. I can hear you. With water: a grand Montrachet, with a medicinal and smoky side. In fact, we're pretty much on Islay here. Finish: herbal liqueurs! Comments: to the dedicated taster, there are two kinds of fabulous whiskies, the ones that will make you write a novel (almost, I mean, better not) and the ones that will leave you speechless. This astounding Clynelish by the Society remains firmly in the second category. Who knew about it?
SGP:562 - 93 points.

Perhaps an official little 1982 now?...

Clynelish 15 yo 1982/1997 (57.7%, OB, Flora & Fauna Cask Strength)

Clynelish 15 yo 1982/1997 (57.7%, OB, Flora & Fauna Cask Strength) Five stars
This one's becoming really rare, as many F&F CS have. This should be more on classic beeswax and candied citrus, let's see… Colour: white wine. Nose: starts with an astounding purity, almost solely on beeswax and paraffin indeed, plus some expected citrons (liqueur) and small crystallised citrus fruits. Goes on like this forever. With water: some fermentary notes coming in, fresh bread, some beer, leaven, and naturally, always a lot of wax and citrus. Corsican citron liqueur (Cédrat). Mouth: still a little hot and rustic at 15 yo, with rather massive chalky notes beyond all the wax and the citrus. This one's eminently 'Clynelish', which the regular Flora & Fauna wasn't quite in my book. I'm sure water will work wonders here… With water: pure, epitomically Clynelish, with even more wax, some putty, orgeat syrup, even a little turpentine and sweet pine sap drops as they make them in the nearby Vosges mountain. Lemons in ambush in the background. Finish: long, with the lemons coming out of the woods, so to speak, plus some lovely bitterness, liquorice wood, cherry stems perhaps… Comments: still very slightly brutal here and there, but we accept it and even bow with delight. You're right, typical fan attitude.

SGP:562 – 91 points.

Good, we've also got two Clynelishes that were distilled in the 1970s to put an end to this unseen madness and I think we'll first have the oldest, as it should be a little gentler. Important word here: 'should'.

Clynelish 36 yo 1971/2007 (51.5%, Murray McDavid, Mission Cask Strength, bourbon cask, 265 bottles)

Clynelish 36 yo 1971/2007 (51.5%, Murray McDavid, Mission Cask Strength, bourbon cask, 265 bottles) Five stars
Very early vintages of 'New Clynelish', 1969 – 1970 - 1971 have always been rare, Diageo themselves only ever bottled some 1972. Douglas Laing have had some 1970 and 1971, while Gordon & MacPhail have had a 1969 distilled in May as well as some 1971. Signatory had some 1971 too, and that's pretty much it, apart from less than a handful handed over to high-quality 'sub-bottlers'. Colour: light gold. Nose: this incredible fruitiness from those years, topped with the right amounts of honey and wax. Say acacia honey, tangerines, beeswax, mirabelle plums, apricots, tinned peaches, also a floral side, with some woodruff, wisteria, geranium flowers and a handful of fresh almonds. With water: a tad more towards precious woods, related spices, and perhaps some old-style liqueurs, Bénédictine for example, as well as orange blossom water. Mouth: impressively fresh, with even more honey, wax, candied citrus, zests… A little peppermint in the background, then rathe tropical touches, around pink bananas. On the palate, the oak's impressively unobtrusive, doing its job without ever getting in your way. With water: more wee herbs and camphor coming out, old embrocations, a little eucalyptus, all that always with a lot of freshness. Finish: very good length, still pure and fresh, with a few coastal touches now and some polished (and polite) wood coming to greet you in the aftertaste before the end. Comments: this wonderful old Clynelish is, in my book, of a high quality equivalent to that of the Flora & Fauna, in a rather 'beautiful beast and beastly beauty' situation. Oh well… I'm not sure the water was mandatory.

SGP:651 - 91 points.

Good, I would suppose it's time to put a definitive end to this utter madness. So a very, very last one (I promise)…

Clynelish 33 yo 1973 '2nd bottling' (54.6%, Prestonfield/Signatory Vintage for LMDW, cask #8913, 439 bottles, +/-2007)

Clynelish 33 yo 1973 '2nd bottling' (54.6%, Prestonfield/Signatory Vintage for LMDW, cask #8913, 439 bottles, +/-2007) Five stars
Please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade. Good. We did a 'masterclass' this year at Whisky Live Paris that was meant to be 100% blind. The kind of session that's the equivalent to the breaking wheel to any taster that's still got a little ego, except, in my own case, when one of the whiskies that are poured is such a Clynelish from the early 1970s. You just cannot miss them, they are the GTOs of the whisky world! I would add that sister cask #8912 is at some meagre 95 points on little Whiskyfun. At 95 or more, we consider them 'transcendental'. Colour: straw. Nose: transcendental. One part is that 'meta-blend' of spirits that only a few malts may display. Like mezcal + gentian eau-de-vie + shochu, perhaps even + moutai. And then this very perfect combination of chalk, raw wool, grist and beeswax. Should we need to use only one word, we'd probably use 'mineral', rather than 'waxy'. Okay, two words then. With water: flabbergastingly pure. Sublime minerality. Mouth (neat): extraordinary. This is one of those very few casks of Clynelish that have been pretty Brora-y, with a high peatiness that's never to be encountered in 'regular New Clynelish', neither was it to be found in 'pre-Brora a.k.a. Old Clynelish', at least not to this extent. And yet, some waxy tropical fruits and honeyed lemons are there too, while they are rarely to be found in Brora either. But as I often say, Brora and Clynelish were connected with pipes and only God (and most probably Diageo) knows what used to run through those pipes in the 1970s. Mash? Wash? Low wines? Spirit?... Or only fuel? Or just nothing? Only for decoration? With water: I have to say the Old-Clynelishness is pretty obvious this, with this sootiness and these tiny touches of mustard ala Ben Nevis (indeed). There's some salty and lemony tar as well. Finish: very long, this time much more on pure smoky lemon and paraffin. Pepper, liquorice wood and, indeed, a little mustard in the aftertaste. Plus, perhaps, a little fuel oil… Comments: transcendental.

SGP:464 - 95 points.

 

The Podium

95 points
Clynelish 33 yo 1973 '2nd bottling' (54.6%, Prestonfield/Signatory Vintage for LMDW, cask #8913, 439 bottles, +/-2007)
93 points
Clynelish 12 yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, distillery label, 75cl, +/-1983)
Clynelish 23 yo 1983/2007 (57.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.50, 'Heather, hay and honey', refill hogshead) 
92 points
Clynelish 16 yo 1983/2000 (57.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.14)
Clynelish 30 yo 1990/2022 (47.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #12, bourbon barrel, cask #3477, 137 bottles)
… and quite a bunch of stunning 91s and 90s. What a session!


I had thought we would also have some pre-Brora Old Clynelish, but no, we won't welch on our promise, so next time!

(With many, many thanks to Angus, the Burlet Bros., Lars (big time!) and Thierry as well as the LMDW / Whisky Live / WhiskyMag / Golden Promise crew and all the lovely bottlers who keep releasing some wonderful Clynelish, including the owners of course).


Clynelish 8
Notice to the public: this is the one Clynelish I desperately need to try one day, before closing. >>>

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

 

December 29, 2022


Whiskyfun

Monk

Today's Time Warp Duo, Glen Grant forty years apart

Indeed, distilled forty years apart but both bottled right this year. While that Glen Grant can age very gracefully is no secret!

 

 

Glen Grant 1995/2022 (58.2%, LMDW Partners, selected by Navigate World Whisky, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #56908, 84 bottles)

Glen Grant 1995/2022 (58.2%, LMDW Partners, selected by Navigate World Whisky, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #56908, 84 bottles) Four stars and a half
A small outturn for South Africa. The label bears a wonderful painting by Cape Town's artist Tanja Truscott, titled 'Swartland Sunset'. Hope the whisky will be as beautiful… Colour: gold. Nose: it's rather all on vanilla and hay at first, then just soft malt, panettone, brioche and orange blossom, earl grey… Some mirabelle jam and quince jelly would join in too after a few seconds as well as a large bowl of cereals. Say Golden Grahams (de nada, Nestlé). With water: as usual, it's the bready side that would come out, oats, baguette, leaven, then fresh moist orange cake. We could have said panettone again just as well. Mouth (neat): rather oranges and golden delicious apples at first, with a little icing sugar, star fruit and kiwi. Lovely acidic side. Then custard and white grapes. Really a zesty, tart one on the palate, after 27 years in first fill ASB. With water: fully on fresh fruits, rather granny smith, rhubarb, kiwi again, some lemon, lemon squash… There's also a little honey, cinnamon (rolls) and a little greenness (fruit peel, leaves). Finish: medium, still zesty, but with a few juicy sultanas, one small lichee, some vanilla custard indeed, and a touch of savagnin in the aftertaste. Also some lemon again as well as a flinty, chalky side. Comments: the barrel did its job as a maturing vessel, without adding much 'flavouring' impact, which is pretty much the way it should be in our (slightly narrow-minded) opinion. We're fans of this style.

SGP:651 - 88 points.

Glen Grant 67 yo 1955/2022 (49.8%, Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection for LMDW, Collection Antipodes, first fill sherry butt, cask #839, 100 bottles)

Glen Grant 67 yo 1955/2022 (49.8%, Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection for LMDW, Collection Antipodes, first fill sherry butt, cask #839, 100 bottles) Five stars
We've had a few 1955s by G&M in the past but we're still waiting for a glorious one, for reasons I couldn't explain. Probably the oak if I remember well. Obviously not a matter of vintage, or maybe because Charlie Parker passed away in 1955? Now it's also the year of 'Monk Plays Duke Ellington'… Bah indeed, vintages don't mean a thing anyway (do they?) Colour: mahogany. Nose: rather a lot of walnut wine, dark chocolate and coffee at first, but it would then get a little garagey, which I always love. We're talking metal polish, old bits of iron, various scraps, spent engine oil, tyres, old toolbox. It would then get more amontillado-y, with those walnuts indeed but also some beef stock, lovage, Maggi, old waxes, chestnut honey, old Madeira, cigars… And wallflowers! Wallflower is a high-echelon flower as far as whiskies are concerned, in my book at least. These carnations in the nose too. There's also a small touch of old-style varnishes, the ones they would use with musical instruments. Mouth: naturally, we were fearing some excessive woodiness. That's not the case this time, we're rather on thin mints at first, tamarind jam, some kind of fruity liquorice (perhaps with some raspberries, or at least raspberry eau-de-vie)… And all kinds of ganaches and chocolates made by today's trendiest chocolatiers. There's also something of some upper-class Châteauneuf (not obligatorily Rayas… well, there, Rayas, what's good when writing tasting notes is that you may quote the most expensive drinks and comestibles… for free! So rather mention Rayas than any lousy wee Châteauneuf brands exclusive to discount supermarkets...) Let's go on, with many raisins and currants, especially the most intense deep-dried black ones, some rancio, and just a lot more chocolate. And moist pipe tobacco. Finish: I just cannot not think of the very best old armagnacs at this point. More raisins of all kinds, this liquorice again, perhaps a little coffee liqueur, and in the aftertaste, a lot of dark chocolate plus raspberry and apricot eau-de-vies. Especially that 'apricotine' that our Swiss friends excel in distilling. Plus a little camphor, eucalyptus, cough medicine, stocks and bouillons and all that. A rather fractal aftertaste, which is funny – and fascinating. Comments: I am glad we've found an extremely brilliant, almost mystical 1955! On a side note, we've also found a rather perfect Grande Champagne 1955 by Jean Fillioux this year, so there was no curse against this vintage at WF Towers, after all. Phew!

SGP:661 - 92 points.

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

 

December 28, 2022


Whiskyfun

Time

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Glenrothes 25 OB
vs 30 1966 IB

Glenrothes

 

  I've never quite managed to recognise Glenrothes when trying it blind, maybe because it's such a perfect allrounder, without many clear asperities (as they say in marketing). By the way, sometime in the 1990s, the first time I ever wanted to have a look at Glenrothes Distillery, I drove straight to... the city of Glenrothes in Fife and naturally, never found the Distillery. (photograph Glenrothes)

 

 

Glenrothes 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2022)

Glenrothes 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2022) Four stars and a half
I'm not sure it was a great idea to part with their earlier 'all vintage' strategy. I'm not sure it was a bad one either. This baby comes at around 500€, which is a little, how would I put it, pretentious? But as my grand-mother used to say, 'if it works, it's that it's working'. Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, I wouldn't recognise it but I rather love it, with this honey, molasses, puréed chestnuts, pipe tobacco, this wee burnt wood, toffee, millionaire shortbread, coffee liqueur, fig liqueur, black tea… A rather perfect allrounder indeed. Tiny scents of old tools, soot, old cellar in the background. Mouth: the 43% work. It is rather sweet, with more puréed chestnuts (sweetened and vanilla-ed up), treacle, clover honey, mango jam, mirabelles, café latte. In truth it is rather excellent, really sweet and easy, and complex. Finish: a little short, but with the same flavours. Comments: excellent. No, we never factor in the prices, so many new whiskies would then crawl below the 50-line. Forgot to say, the Glenrothes bottle itself has always been one of my favourites, but that too doesn't count.

SGP:651 - 88 points.

Glenrothes 30 yo 1966/1997 (62.20%, The Bottlers, cask #15260)

Glenrothes 30 yo 1966/1997 (62.20%, The Bottlers, cask #15260) Four stars and a half
The Bottlers have always had glorious whiskies in their cognac-style bottles. I can't see why this one would be any different… Colour: gold. Nose: strong and a little blocked. There cannot be only white chocolate, candy sugar and cornflakes, I would suppose... With water: soft wood, tea, oak, a little mint, celeriac, roots… Well it's not a wham-bam malt, even when reduced down to 45% (approx..) and despite some emerging honey notes. Mouth (neat): su-bli-me now. Flower water, honey, bergamot, quinces, lemon curd… Something's happening, clearly. With water: same, water doesn't change much, which is really bizarre. The good news is that it was already rather brilliant when at full strength. No, wait, whoops, it's closing, it's even getting teaish… no, wait, now it's taking off again, getting fruitier again… Finish: medium, a little oaky, but there's some lovely marzipan, and orgeat. Mirabelle and quince, the usual compadres, in the aftertaste. Comments: hard to follow and you'll sure have to be a master of the pipette to get the most of it.
SGP:561 - 88 points.

An unexpected tie today…

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

 

December 27, 2022


Whiskyfun

Time

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Longmorn
2005 vs 1969

Old Longmorns, whether sherried or not, were something. I'm glad to try this 1969 that I had never tasted before. I mean, I've certainly never scribbled any tasting note for it… But first, the youngster, I've chosen one that could well go the distance…
(Picture, a younger Andrew, a younger Richard, and a younger admirer)

Andrew

 

 

Longmorn 15 yo 2005/2020 (49.2%, The Whisky agency, sherry butt, 323 bottles)

Longmorn 15 yo 2005/2020 (49.2%, The Whisky agency, sherry butt, 323 bottles) Four stars
TWA have bottled many superb earlier vintages of Longmorn. Colour: amber. Nose: wee whiffs of gunpowder, then dried meats (jerky, biltong), clay and concrete, chocolate, coffee, old walnuts and fresh mushrooms, old musty cellar… It is, indeed, very oloroso-y and very dry on the nose. Mouth: the sweeter side, bags of oranges, some gunpowder and flints again, artichokes and eggplants, not quite cabbage, chocolate, tobacco, leather, bitter oranges, rum and raisins, dates… It would get rounder over time, almost losing its flints that, by the way, never bothered us in this context. Finish: long, on chocolate, clove and marmalade, with a little leather in the aftertaste. Plus cocoa and walnuts, naturally. Comments: rather dry sherry. Very very good, as expected, TWA are quasi-specialists.
SGP:661 - 87 points.

I'm glad I had kept that rather perfect sparring-partner, because see what's coming…

Longmorn 28 yo 1969/1998 (56.3%, Signatory Vintage, 10th Anniversary, cask #4254, 220 bottles)

Longmorn 28 yo 1969/1998 (56.3%, Signatory Vintage, 10th Anniversary, cask #4254, 220 bottles) Five stars
Well this is not a sherry monster, according to the colour. And it was Signatory's 10th anniversary, well done Andrew!… well we may be late at the party, are we not? It's a rare bottle, we've never tried it. Colour: gold. Nose: grandiose, an all-natural cask, and a stunning nose on tangerines, bergamots, chartreuse and camphor, plus perhaps dragon fruit and a pack of menthol cigarettes (as far as I can remember). Incredible, ravishing freshness. With water: oh everything from a beehive, pollen, nectar, honey, old pinewood, beeswax, resin (propolis)… Save the bees! Mouth (neat): almost in all points identical to the nose. Citrus, mint, and some honey to bind everything together in perfect harmony. With water: the fruity 1960s in their most majestic glory. Quince and mirabelle, butter pears, acacia honey, candied clementines, bergamots indeed, honeysuckle and mullein syrup… Finish: perhaps not the longest ever, but these fruits and honeys are just perfectly perfect. Comments: Only the backbone or structure was a tiny wee tad flabbier and 'sweet', if I humbly may, which will prevent me from going even higher than...
SGP:741 - 92 points.

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

 

December 26, 2022


Whiskyfun

Time

The Time Warp Sessions today Glenlivet
+/-21 years old

We keep trying new expressions vs older bottlings, from the same makers and, when possible, sharing similar ages, or casks etc. We used to do that often in the olden days, it was time to keep reviving that tradition on wee WF!

Xmas

Glenlivet 21 yo 'Sample Room Collection' (43%, OB, +/-2022)

Glenlivet 21 yo 'Sample Room Collection' (43%, OB, +/-2022) Four stars
We last tried the regular Glenlivet 21 years old 'Archive' in… 2006, but we had really liked it back then (WF 87). Time to try a newer expression and check if it's kept its reassuring, very faintly smoky old-schoolness in this new guise that now includes a finishing in Cognac, Port and Oloroso… Colour: gold. Nose: I have the impression that it became more floral, kind of fresher, with more dandelions, also orange juice, also stewed mirabelles… But indeed this is not the old 'Archive'. I'm finding this extremely nice, but perhaps less old-school that it was earlier. Probably less core-quality sherry in there, and consequently, more vanilla. What's sure is that it's still an upper-class Speysider on the nose. Mouth: much maltier, much more on cakes straight from the oven, brownies, palo cortado… We're also finding a little mint, some camphory elements, angelica, aniseed, liquorice… While the lower strength doesn't seem be a problem here, on the contrary. There's even a little rancio in the background, and prunes. Finish: medium, perhaps even a little short, but some raisins and some coffee are flying to the rescue. A little black tea and just oak in the aftertaste. Comments: an excellent expression, one of the best within the official range, which got funnily modern on the nose, and extremely classical on the palate. I have the feeling that our score needs not be changed from that of the older 21 'Archive'. Having said that, quite intriguingly, they say that 'The brand recommends pairing with brie, green olive tapenade, and roasted almonds.' Roasted almonds?
 SGP:551 - 87 points.

Glenlivet 1972 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Sestante import, Distillery label, 75cl, +/-1992)

Glenlivet 1972 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Sestante import, Distillery label, 75cl, +/-1992) Five stars
This one came with a cork stopper. We've guestimated the year when it was bottled, that couldn't have been much later anyway as it is a 75cl bottle that, by the way, stems from the wonderful Golden Promise Bar in Paris. Actually, it's probably younger than 21, perhaps around 18? Or even 15? We've never tried this one. Colour: amber. Nose: classic deep and thicker sherry, yet I wouldn't say it is a 'sherry monster', it's more delicate than that. In truth you have the impression of visiting Bodega Tradicion (or any other high-end bodega within the magic triangle), copita in hand. Fino, amontillado, palo cortado, oloroso, then the various old glories, but not much sweet PX or moscatel. You may then add teaspoons of old balsamico, artisanal soy sauce, some pipe tobacco, some old armagnac, vieille prune… And rather a lot of chocolate. Rather magnifico. With water: some kind of very high-end bouillon that posh restaurants would only serve around 2 or 3am on January 1. Notes of artisanal biltong too, as well as cooked ceps. Cigars. Mouth (neat): starts a little syrupy, with some coffee liqueur and some sweet pepper cordial, with various dried and candied fruits kicking in successively, in a very traditional (and Christmassy) manner. Dried apricots, candied oranges, beerawecka, dates filled with marzipan, and yeah, Christmas cake. Fewer salty elements than on the nose, no bouillon, soy sauce and so on, this far. With water: old Ténarèze! Loads of chocolate and tobacco, and a much drier profile altogether. Finish: long, all on chocolate and just a marvellous old oloroso. Corinthian currants and tobacco in the aftertaste. Rather no bouillon in the aftertaste , some marmalade instead. Comments: I believe this is an ode to bottle aging. We'll keep a sample and next time G&M release an 1972, we'll try both head-to-head.

SGP:561 - 92 points.

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

 

December 25, 2022


Whiskyfun

Time

Christmas Special, a Verticale of the Grandest Cognacs... and Peace, hopefully

Bell

At Whiskyfun, it's become a tradition to try cognacs on Christmas Day, even more so when Christmas falls on a Sunday, while let's remember what Gustav Mahler said, 'tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.' Hope the spirits industry as a whole will remember that forever. Good, as for this little verticale, we'll focus on the 1948-1919 vintages and assume that the lot numbers are vintage statements in moderate disguise. Which, between us, they are. Right. Let's just have a little 55 years old youngster as the apéritif…

 

 

1967

Petite Champagne 55 yo 1967/2022 (57.3%, Michiel Wigman, Precious Moments, 120 bottles)

Petite Champagne 55 yo 1967/2022 (57.3%, Michiel Wigman, Precious Moments, 120 bottles) Five stars
I know, hardly a youngster. But all people involved are indeed youngsters, Michiel who did the bottling, Hans who did the label, Jimi who composed the soundtrack in 1967, and obviously the lady on the label… Colour: amber. So, no purple haze. Nose: cracking. Some maltiness (really), then abundant yellow jams (mirabelle, melon), then raisins and really a feeling of a perfect old ex-refill Speysider, such as an old B******e from Dufftown. Quince jelly. With water: I said quince jelly! And popcorn, nougat, crema Catalana… Mouth (neat): boy does it rock. Big, loud, massive, full of mirabelles, quinces, turmeric, even ginger, cinnamon, white pepper… You would almost believe this was a very old cognac that's been treated as if it were malt whisky. By some fearless Scots, for example… With water: great fun with water. If you keep it above 50% vol., it's malt whisky (quite), whereas if you bring it down to +/-45%, raisins, preserved peaches, figs and plums would make it totally… Cognacqy. That's all rather spectacular, who said water was unnecessary? Finish: rather long, still a bit between both worlds. Comments: kudos to everyone involved, except that this makes for a bad apéritif: too high, but my fault.

SGP:651 - 91 points.

On to the very old ones...

1948

François Voyer 'Lot 48 – La Montgolfière en Bois' (49.2%, Malternative Belgium, Grande Champagne, 2022)

François Voyer 'Lot 48 – La Montgolfière en Bois' (49.2%, Malternative Belgium, Grande Champagne, 2022) Five stars
This post-WWII Grande Champagne had been kept in a demi-john, we don't know when it was drawn out of wood. Montgolfière means hot-air balloon, the Montgolfier brothers having invented that nifty device (first flight in 1783). Colour: amber. Nose: it's a wonderful, aromatic and yet rather earthy and herbal old cognac, with first the much expected quintet of aromas, liquorice, raisins, preserved peaches, camphor and eucalyptus. It doesn't stop there though, displaying many half-dried, half-fermented fruits, especially figs and apricots, plus orange blossom and meadow honey. Some wonderful touches of peppermint and furniture polish in the background. This one's kept all of its original brightness, and yet has become superbly mature. Mouth: I believe they shouldn't have waited another week when they decided to fill this demi-john. Neither should they have done that one week earlier, as there is this slightly fragile, but perfect feeling of equilibrium between everything from the wood and everything from the spirit, plus everything that's been generated by 'the interplay' over the years. Long story short, there's rather a lot of chocolate, also flower jellies and syrups, also many tertiary flavours, rather around teas, herbal Xmas tea (star anise, thyme, clove)… Add to that strong, tannic honeys, such as our beloved chestnut honey.  Finish: even in the finish the wood doesn't show as such. Wonderful. Mint, chocolate and chamomile in the aftertaste. Comments: a feeling of liquid thin mints at times. Love thin mints!

SGP:561 - 91 points.

1947

Maison Prunier 'Lot N°47' (57.8%, Through The Grapevine, LMDW, Grande Champagne, 2022)

Maison Prunier 'Lot N°47' (57.8%, Through The Grapevine, LMDW, Grande Champagne, 2022) Five stars
This glorious 1947 cognac first spent 70 years in wood in a damp warehouse (chai humide), and was then transferred to demi-johns, where it only spent 5 additional years prior to bottling. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: it's not uncommon that some old cognacs would first nose like some great old bourbon, such as, in this case, Old Fitzgerald. Amazing varnishes, ripe bananas, savoury/honeyed sauces, hoisin, furniture polish, also wisteria and lilies, humus, black garden earth… With water: love this wood glue! And the pine needles, dried porcini, meats (beef jerky, bresaola), orange zests, and even these few drops of old oloroso. A few tropical fruits way back in the background. Mouth (neat): I'm not sure I've ever tasted any 70 years old spirit that was this powerful. Once again, there is a lot of chocolate, then black tea, liquorice wood and thyme tea… I believe water is almost obligatory. With water: it's rather funny that it would now 'join' the 1948 as far as styles are concerned, with a similar feeling of 'cask disgorged just at the right moment'. We're right on Jaffa cakes and, indeed, thin mints. Finish: long, this time with some tobacco and something a little rustic (very pleasantly so) that would perhaps rather hint at some very old Ténarèze. Old walnuts, walnut wine, amontillado, clove, marmalade… Comments: we sometimes say that old spirits converge. Well, that's even more the case between (some) cognac and (some) armagnac, which should surprise no one. Another perfect old cognac that's older than most of us.

SGP:461 - 91 points.

Alienor.org, Musées de la Ville de Cognac


1940

Prunier 'Lot 40' (55%, The Whisky Mercenary, Grande Champagne, 42 bottles, 2021)

Prunier 'Lot 40' (55%, The Whisky Mercenary, Grande Champagne, 42 bottles, 2021) Five stars
Perhaps another demi-john, or is this older than 80 years? This is certainly a 1940, so clearly wartime cognac. No ideas if they keep distilling in wartime Ukraine, we certainly hope so, perhaps their famous vodka 'Nemiroff'? They also make 'cognac' brandy but I don't think I've ever tried any. Colour: dark amber. Nose: some burnt oak and many spices at first, surely some dark chocolate and some espresso, then molasses, black raisins and tamarind. It's not that it's locked, but water should make wonders here… With water: old style, more on meaty, savoury notes, beef stock, lovage, onion soup, olives, and even a little shochu, plus camphor. This is terrific. Many dried figs, large or small, are singing in the choir in the back. Mouth (neat): very concentrated, very piney and even tarry at first, with a lot of toffee, raisins, and a feeling of 'old sherry monster from Speyside'. Absolutely! No gamey flavours so far. Oh and it wants, even begs for water. With water: water brings out more wood, black tea, raw chocolate, grape pips, and simply oloroso. Now many currants do keep it afloat, so to speak. This part would suggest that this cognac did, indeed, spend its whole long life in oak. Finish: long, and rather more on old pineau, PX, or Banyuls, but always with a lot of chocolate. More spices in the aftertaste, led by cinnamon, then caraway and clove. A little oregano, perhaps. Comments: I believe we shall use the word equilibrium once more.
SGP:361 - 90 points.

1938

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot N°38' (42.6%, Through The Grapevine, LMDW, Petite Champagne, 2022)

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot N°38' (42.6%, Through The Grapevine, LMDW, Petite Champagne, 2022) Five stars
So, a 1938, aged for 60 years in wood, then in demijohns until it was bottled at natural strength this year. Colour: dark amber. Nose: perhaps not as fruit-forward as other old cognacs by Vallein Tercinier, but it's still a fruity one, with many jams, cordial and syrups. Triple-sec, old Bénédictine, Mandarine Napoléon, plus some homemade chocolate liqueur, and nocino. Some dark honeys too, some molasses as well, old rancio and amoroso, glazed chestnuts, black turon, and a moka-spoonful of Bovril and even one of malt extract. No, not obligatorily Marmite. Mouth: I do not mean to bore you, but I'll use the word 'equilibrium' once more. Indeed the oak feels, with some old walnuts, chestnut purée, black tea, oak spices and dark chocolate, but the fruits and flowers remain there too, flying the flag of (a relative) freshness. Tamarind, black raisins, figs, dates, also peels (apricot, peach) and thick-skinned pinot noir berries. Finish: long, rather on tea liqueur, more peach skins and always rather a lot of dark chocolate. A little very old balsamico in the aftertaste. Comments: we always try to keep a cold head, whenever we taste some extremely old spirits. That's not always easy to do… Anyway, another marvellous old Vallein Tercinier, perhaps just a tiny tad less bright than others.

SGP:451 - 91 points.

Ten years earlier…

1928

La Patine 1928/2018/2022 (40.2%, Malternative Belgium and Passion For Whisky, Grande Champagne, 240 bottles)

La Patine 1928/2018/2022 (40.2%, Malternative Belgium and Passion For Whisky, Grande Champagne, 240 bottles) Five stars
The name of the Distillers can't be disclosed, but it is known that this one was transferred to demijohns only in 2018, at the ripe age of 90. The records are impeccable. Mind you, ninety years! Quatre-vingt-dix! Or nonante, as our friends say in Belgium. By the way, the price is 500€. A famous brand in Speyside would probably sell something similar for £150,000, but granted, it would come with a ton of rosewood, crystal and PR. Colour: red amber. Nose: it's probably the fruitiest this far, with several kinds of raisins at first (Corinth, sultana, muscat..) then various honeys and old sweet wines. Add cigars, cedarwood, old leather, old peppermint liqueur (a touch), plus various mentholy herbs, dill, wormwood, mint thyme, costmary… Between us, this freshness is just flabbergasting. Mouth: same feeling, and even something that would remind us of G&M's oldest malt whiskies, as if this had been kept in American oak sherry casks (which it couldn't be). Wonderful, classic dried fruits, Christmas cake (may we mention Christmas cake on Christmas Day?) and assorted raisins. Figs again, dried apricots, dried pineapple, dried bananas, and only a tiny touch of beef bouillon. Dried fruits keep running this spectacular show. Finish: pretty long, with the usual 'dry' suspects chiming in, such as chocolate, coffee, tobacco, walnuts, cinnamon… Comments: in the glass and in my modest opinion, these fabulous old brandies cannot quite fetch the super-high scores that, say their 40/50 years old counterparts could sometimes reach when they're incredibly perfect (say 92/95). But this 1928 remains extremely impressive, nonetheless.

SGP:551 - 91 points.

1922

And now, quite a coup by Berry Bros & Rudd for Kirsch Import, three new likely 1922s from three different parts of Cognac, all from the house Tiffon! The brands (I agree the word 'brand' is vulgar in this context) Tiffon and Braastad belong to the same company. I've just learned from La Cognathèque that Sverre Braastad moved from Norway to Jarnac in the beginning of the XXth Century, where he married the heir of the house Tiffon in 1913. He took over Tiffon in 1919, and passed away in 1979, at the age of 100. Which just goes to prove that… Erm, no, nothing. Anyway, there's a Fins Bois, a Borderies and a Petite Champagne, which we'll rather have by ascending strengths I you don't mind…

Tiffon 'Lot 19:22 Petite Champagne' (41.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Kirsch Import)

Tiffon 'Lot 19:22 Petite Champagne' (41.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Kirsch Import) Five stars
This Cognac 'should' have been distilled exactly 100 years ago, or at least the grapes should have been harvested in 1922. Unless the mention '19:22' would rather be related to Proverb 19:22 in the Bible (not the Whisky Bible), which says that 'Loyalty makes a person attractive. It is better to be poor than dishonest.' That's exactly right! Colour: amber. Nose: this one has rather more wax than the previous ones, it's rather more on bee products, honeys of course, fresh pollen, with just a little liquorice wood and then old ripe apples, quinces and pears, which is always stunning. There's also the expected trilogy menthol/camphor/tobacco, but in all subtlety. No massive chocolate and tea this time, rather a tiny touch of mango completing this astonishing showcase of delicacy. Mouth: fruits all over the place! This is astonishing indeed, I had been expecting more wood. Same honey, wax and pollen combination at first, then same apples, pears and quinces, which is one thousand times less pedestrian as you would believe in this context. Tiny herbs and flowers are completing the picture, as well as our friends the dried figs, which we find in almost all very old aged spirits. Only a tiny piney/putty-like note reminds us that this was made four years after the end of WWII. Hard to believe. Finish: medium, rather honeyed, with notes of very, very old Tokaji. Say 6 puttonyos. A funny, infinitesimal hint of grilled and buttered maize in the aftertaste. Perhaps… Comments: no fragility whatsoever at this kind of age and strength. Should we really score such a divine old spirit? Isn't doing this a little vulgar too?

SGP:561 - 92 points.

Next up, the Fins Bois…

Tiffon 'Lot 19:22 Fins Bois' (43%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Kirsch Import)

Tiffon 'Lot 19:22 Fins Bois' (43%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Kirsch Import) Five stars
I don't think I've ever come across any such very old 'Bois', except in old bottles of blended cognac (I would suppose). Remember the ranking, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, Bois Ordinaires. But that's all only theory, as we could find out, for example, at Grosperrin's. Fins Bois is by far the largest of the Crus. Colour: dark gold. Nose: less aromatic than the Petite Champagne, rather more on putty and fresh paint, almond skins, Wulong tea (blue-green tea), fresh bark, pine needles, apple peel… Green and yellow plums too, but no mirabelles. A little plain grass – imagine, 100 years old grass! And grassier oils, not quite olive oil, rather grape-pip oil… I have to add that I'm fond of this kind of more austere profile. Mouth: same feelings, this is relatively grassy, rather on green fruits, greengages, gooseberries, also star fruit perhaps… The Wulong tea is there too, as well as some melon skin, fresh French beans… And green melons. What's really spectacular, this time again, is that there's no proper 'oaky oak' standing in the way. Finish: probably not the longest ever, but this freshness is impressive. Even the aftertaste remains a wee bit grassy. Comments: far from being just 'a lowlander', I'm finding this tighter, more austere style of cognac, extremely pretty too. I just cannot believe that we're comparing pure 'Crus' that were distilled one hundred years ago. I'm not sure the bottlers and distillers know about the grape varietals, though, that would be interesting. Perhaps was there still some pre-phylloxera folle blanche?

SGP:461 - 91 points.

After the largest of the six Crus, let's try the smallest…

Tiffon 'Lot 19:22' (45%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Kirsch Import, Borderies)

Tiffon 'Lot 19:22 Borderies' (45%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Kirsch Import) Five stars
Indeed, Borderies is the smallest of the Crus, it is located in the immediate northwest of the city of Cognac and gathers less that 5% of all the vines in Cognac. It is said to display notes of violets, let's check that! Colour: amber. Nose: the fruits are back, both fresh ones and dried ones. In a way, it's the brightest of all three Tiffons on the nose, perhaps the most complex as well, as it's showcasing additional earthy and floral tones after the fruity and honeyed Petite Champagne and the grassier Fins Bois. We're even finding violets (there, they were right), otherwise wisteria and jasmine. Peaches and melons as far as fruits are concerned, a little heather honey, dried figs, marmalade… Perhaps is it also the easiest? Which, in my book, is a quality. Brilliant. Mouth: we're even closer to the Petite Champagne, there's some beeswax and pollen, some praline and liquid caramel, even a drop of sugarcane juice, many dried fruits, preserved peaches, a little liquorice, a tiny touch of chocolate and tea, a drop of oloroso and one of walnut wine, some apple crumble, a tiny cup of mead, some nougat, and there, in the background, a little resin, from the wood I would suppose. Probably the most consensual of them three Crus. Finish: rather long, this time with more spices, cinnamon… Marmalade and liquorice in the aftertaste. Oh and there, violets. Comments: the Fins Bois was more intellectual, while the Petite Champagne was not just an easy old sipper either. Which this Borderies rather is. Well, I am a simple, uncomplicated person, so this is my favourite.

SGP:561 - 93 points.




… a 'blend' of those three Tiffons is perfectly naughty, especially on Christmas day. Now Hennes-sy
told us that naughty was nice. Let's have some Hennes-sy then!

(Press ad for Hennes-sy, USA, 1990)

Hennessy

Circa 1900

Jas Hennessy & Co X.O. (OB, +/-1930s)

Jas Hennessy & Co X.O. (OB, +/-1930s) Five stars
An old cognac in an old bottle this time. No ABV statement here, just this wonderful label bearing Hennessy's famous armed arm (bras armé). What's pretty funny is that 'Jas Hennessy & Co' remains the name of the company to this day. It is by far the largest cognac producer, bottler and exporter, and of course belongs to LVMH. Colour: dark gold. Nose: this is totally different, much earthier, more on oils and tobaccos, plus dried flowers, rose petals, patchouli, bidis, meaty soups and bouillons, mushrooms, polishes, old cigars and just 'a full humidor'. Now as for what's coming from the original distillate and what's the effect of OBE, I couldn't quite tell you. Probably both, perhaps for the better…
Mouth: between old wines and old spirits. Peach and apricot, porcini, tobacco, earthy sake, Chinese soups (any, really), roasted nuts, marrow, glazed chestnuts, small bit of fudge, raisins… I find this amazing, with all these tiny flavours that have been created by time. Good body by the way, rather feels like 43% vol, so probably more when this was bottled, before WWII. Finish: pretty long, rather meaty, with marrow quenelles and rather a lot of mead. Typical very old bottle. Comments: Angus already tried this one and concluded his note with this line, 'I don't have a current bottling of the Hennessy XO to hand for comparison, but from recent memory, I'm pretty confident it would be sorely matched against this old beauty.' I do concur.
SGP:461 - 91 points.

 

 

Circa 1880

Louis de Salignac & Co. 75 yo (OB, late 1950s)

Louis de Salignac & Co. 75 yo (OB, late 1950s) Five stars
No A.B.V. statement. There, we have our pre-phylloxera cognac, as this was clearly harvested and distilled in the 19th century. Well not sure it is totally pre-phylloxeric, but if we assume it was harvested around 1880 on average, they sure hadn't pulled up all the old vines yet. Angus did some research and concluded that the brand De Salignac has been absorbed by Courvoisier. So, err, Beam Suntory. This is obviously a bottling for the UK, as I believe age statements were nowhere to be seen in France at that time. What's more, it says 75 years old, not 75 ans d'âge.

Colour: mahogany. Nose: oloroso, fortified with old brandy de Jerez, plus fumes, dark chocolate, dried mushrooms, walnut wine and the strongest black tea ever. Very old-school cognac, pretty spectacular but I suppose the palate will be hit-or-miss. Mouth: ex-tra-or-di-na-ry! Exceptional chocolates and tobaccos, various liquorices, meats, embrocations, and probably old substances everyone's forgotten about. Liqueurs, cordials, preparations… Finish: astonishingly long, rather on coffees this time. Moka and dry vermouths. Awesome salty, meaty aftertaste, with some old salty-ish amontillado as well. Comments: I'm not sure this was all-natural, it's not impossible that some sauces and 'liqueurs' had been added at some point. But this time, and only this time, we just shan't care. Monsieur de Salignac, we salute you.
SGP:462 - 93 points.

Salignac

A last one, although I'm sure we shouldn't…

Not too sure...

Fine Old Cognac (70° UK Proof, Saccone & Speed ltd. London, +/-1960)

Fine Old Cognac (70° UK Proof, Saccone & Speed ltd. London, +/-1960) Two stars and a half
Not sure what to expect. London merchants Saccone & Speed used to import many brands, such as Otard or Hine, but this one's anonymous, or probably 'the house's cognac'. These tend to go for very cheap at auctions, but you never know, after all this is Christmas… Now, unless we're wrong once more, Saccone & Speed seem to have relocated to Gibraltar. Colour: dark amber. Nose: some sweet and jammy cognac, rather on raisins, old Sauternes, panettone, honey, brioche, dates… And with a little parsley and fern in the back. That is nice, the whole is nice. Mouth: it's all right, with some salty praline and some biscuits with slightly burnt raisins. Nice marmalade too, but thanks to the lower strength and given that it may have lost one or three more degrees in the bottle since it was bottled, it's nosediving towards the middle and would tend to become a little cardboardy. It is not going to improve anymore… Finish: short, dry. Office coffee and a soapier aftertaste. Comments: a fine old cognac indeed, but while it started very neatly, it all went pear-shaped around the middle of the palate. That's the fate of many an old bottle.

SGP:441 - 78 points.

No, let's end this on a high note...

1900

Grande Champagne ‘Récolte 1900’ (Woltner Frères

Grande Champagne 'Récolte 1900' (Woltner Frères & Cie Paris, +/-1935?) Five stars
Récolte meaning harvest, this is a genuine vintage 1900! The house Woltner were wine merchants and used to own châteaux in Bordeaux, such as La Mission and Laville, no less. The company's been absorbed but apparently, they're still active in the wine business. As for the vintage 1900, there's no need to further stress its massive emotional and symbolic value. Colour: dark reddish amber. Nose: just totally incredible, almost fat and heady, very deep, bursting with raisins and, to be honest, very old PX, or very old cream sherry, VORS and so on. The feeling of oneness is perfect, this one stayed perfectly focussed over all those years in wood and glass. Strictly no signs of overaging but an obvious savoury rancio, in its original sense. Remember rancio is bone-dry wine matured while in contact with oxygen, not unlike oloroso. Also whiffs of thyme tea and the usual camphor and eucalyptus. What an exceptional nose! Mouth: feels like 45% vol., certainly not 40. Still thick and fat, a bit sweet (PX style) but that was the style of the time. Loads of raisins and prunes, some molasses, chocolates filled with liqueurs, then a growing bitterness, towards long-steeped black tea and very dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more). This awesome palate is perhaps not as extravagantly impressive as the nose, but how could it be? Finish: long and it is almost as if you just enjoyed a whole artisanal chocolate bar. Some high-end spicy tones in the aftertaste, around saffron and capsicum. Comments: another one that would remind us of the very best old sherried malts. But let's not forget that some of those whiskies have been trying to mimic cognac for many decades and have even been open about that on their back labels.
SGP:561 - 92 points.

Phew, what a session! Merry Christmas to you and to all your acquaintances and relatives. And pace & salute!

(Thank you Angus and Nicolas)

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

 

December 24, 2022


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Xmas Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Angus  
A festive feast of Springbank!
I was already accumulating quite a few Springbank samples on my shelf, but then Whisky Magazine France asked us to pen notes for some rather irresistible old distillery bottlings and the result is today's suitably excessive session. We agreed it seemed like an ideal Christmas post for this year - hard to think of many names which are as celebratory for whisky lovers these days as Springbank. 

 

Like most contemporary whisky enthusiasts, I still love Springbank. It remains one of the unequivocal grand cru names in Scottish single malt distilling. The standard 10yo, if you can get it, is still one of the all time great benchmark official bottlings in my view.

 

 

I do not always agree with their way of doing things, but isn't fandom about that delicious tension between the aspects you disagree with alongside those you love? Does this make Springbank the Star Wars franchise of single malt fandom? Or are they the Rebel Alliance and the mainstream whisky industry is the Empire? Is Hedley Wright in fact Yoda? All important philosophical questions that we may never truly know the answer to, but should endeavour to discuss all the same. Preferably over a dram of Springbank. 

Springbank  

 

Thank you to everyone who continues to read, support and engage with Whiskyfun. It is a wonderful community and very much still puts the 'fun' in Whiskyfun. And also congratulations to Serge one last time. 2022 has been Whiskyfun's 20th anniversary year and I think this 'wee website', as he often refers to it, has been a great achievement; I remain honoured to contribute to it. 

 

 

Happy holidays to everyone from Whiskyfun HQ and its Scotland field office. 

 

 

Let's kick things off with a suitable aperitif… 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campbeltown Blended Malt 5 yo 2017/2022 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, Watt Whisky & Friends 2022, 150 bottles)

Campbeltown Blended Malt 5 yo 2017/2022 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, Watt Whisky & Friends 2022, 150 bottles)
This one by Kate and Mark for their wee festival/event that took place in C-town this year - which was by all accounts a whole heap of fun. Colour: pale straw. Nose: chalk, linens, plaster, citrons and beach 'stuff' such as sand, pebbles and rock pools. Also something a wee bit mechanical and not the sooty side of Campbeltown. Very fresh, characterful and ever so slightly medicinal too. With water: more of these linens and chalky notes, oatcakes, Elastoplast and sheep wool. Mouth: these batches start to feel very cleverly older than 5 - or maybe that was just this cask. Either way, a lot of lemon juice, light waxes, some sugary breakfast cereals, ink, cursed seashells and hints of bouillon. A lot of fun stuff happening. With water: goes towards swimming pools, crushed grass, rapeseed oil and lanolin now. This nice undertone of medicine persists. Finish: good length and rather salty, drying and full of sharp mineral aspects. Comments: a very good and rather potent drop that certainly feels like it lives up to these rumours about 'teaspooned' Glen Scotia.
SGP: 462 - 87 points.

 

 

Springbank 21 yo 2000/2022 (43%, OB Private Bottling for Starkicker, fresh sherry and port hogsheads, 188 bottles)

Springbank 21 yo 2000/2022 (43%, OB Private Bottling for Starkicker, fresh sherry and port hogsheads, 188 bottles)
Colour: deep rose gold. Nose: you do notice the port with these up front notes of Turkish delight, lychee and subtle red fruit jams, but thankfully you also notice the Springbank very abruptly too, with lots of soft medical embrocations, coastal air, gentle waxes and crystallised citrus rinds. Feels like a nicely harmonious balance has been struck here. Mouth: slightly sappy at first with tea tree oil, vapour rubs, toolbox rags and hessian. Also salted and red liquorices, umami paste, mineral oils and shoe polish. A big jumble of Springbank 'stuff' with clear influence from the sherry and port fading in and out. Fun stuff, and very easy to quaff at this strength. Finish: medium in length, nicely resinous and salty now, falling firmly on the side of the sherry with oils, flints, game meats and wee tarry notes. Comments: thankfully the Springbank DNA was at no point subdued, it's just a nicely different and dangerously sippable take on it I would say.
SGP: 652 - 88 points.

 

 

Springbank 28 yo (48.9%, OB for Springbank Society, sherry and bourbon, 2966 20cl bottles)

Springbank 28 yo (48.9%, OB for Springbank Society, sherry and bourbon, 2966 20cl bottles, 2021)
One of these dinky wee 20cl bottles they did in order to try and stretch the juice further amongst the Springbank Society. Which at the last head count is probably about to surpass the population of Luxembourg. Colour: pale amber. Nose: what I love here is the very obvious - and very Springbank - sherry influence and how it has been perfectly softened and balanced by the bourbon component. Lots of leaf mulch, Irish coffee, walnut oil and a little mint choc chip ice cream, but then also hessian and cough mixtures. Gorgeous nose! Mouth: perfectly salty and resinous sherry with shades of treacle, salted caramel, fir wood resins, natural tar and roof pitch. Nicely medicinal, camphory and peppery but backed up by some lovely dark fruit and rancio qualities too. Finish: medium and on wet leaves, cellar earth, bitter chocolate and herbal extracts. Comments: an extremely classy sherried Springbank, one that cleverly balances out some of Springbank's often whacky sherry cask flavours. I suspect I'd be sadly gazing into an empty 20cl bottle if I had one.
SGP: 562 - 90 points. 

 

 

Springbank 22 yo 1999/2021 (54.7%, Mossburn, bourbon, 206 bottles)

Springbank 22 yo 1999/2021 (54.7%, Mossburn, bourbon, 206 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: a rather shy Springbank at first, feels like it has more in common with some earlier, less likely, 1990s vintages than more recent production. Gently coastal with sea breeze, some linens, subtle wood saps, a slightly lactic touch and some soft notes of herbal and fruit teas. Tiny wee notes of wax and hessian too. All fine, but perhaps a tad soft. With water: ok, improvements in the form of more waxes, waxed lemons, or citronella wax perhaps. Some tiger balm, mineral salts and bandages. Mouth: actually, scratch what I said about softness, this is top notch. Assertive, peppery, warming, waxy, perfectly salty and drying with the usual infections of medicine, coastal notes and citrus fruits. Perfect power in the mouth. With water: still nicely powerful and mouth-filling but indulges some of the softer, more coastal and fruity aspects of the Springbank character now. Finish: good length, gentle notes of smoked olive oil, tar and pepper with some waxy citrus rinds and a hint of lemon and ginger tea. Comments: very solid, benchmark Springbank with abundant distillery character. Just a rather slow starter maybe, and works very well with water I think.
SGP: 463 - 90 points.

 

 

Springbank 30 yo 'Golden Strength' (50%, Milroy's Of Soho, 1990s)

Springbank 30 yo 'Golden Strength' (50%, Milroy's Of Soho, 1990s)
Not sure about the vintage, but certainly 1960s distillate… Colour: pale gold. Nose: you are immediately transported to another dimension, all these layers and layers of ripe green and exotic fruits interlaced with heather and flower honeys, soft medicines, aged herbal liqueurs and resinous fir woods. Simple in some ways, but stunning fresh, vibrant and gloriously vivid. With water: probably scratch what I said about simplicity. Becomes more and more complex now with water, taking on mineral and salty qualities with impressions of beach pebbles, vapour rubs, crystallised fruits and aged mead. Mouth: superb attack, peppery and medicinal but then lots of fruit salad juices and fruit syrups. Guava, mango, rhubarb and custard boiled sweeties, star fruit and grapefruit. Still a lot of honey too. With water: outstanding now! Combines medicines, honeys and gorgeously fresh fruits with a perfect saltines, mineral salts and some superbly sharp herbal notes. Finish: long, salty, honeyed, exotically fruity and still full of medicinal herbs and resinous wood extracts without ever really being 'woody'. Comments: Quite simply, yet another outstanding and hugely pleasurable old Springbank from slap bang in the distillery's glory years.
SGP: 663 - 92 points.

 

 

Springbank 10 yo 1967/1978 (59.0%, OB 'Sutti import', cask #3129, sherry butt)

Springbank 10 yo 1967/1978 (59.0%, OB 'Sutti import', cask #3129, sherry butt)
This may take some time… Colour: amber-bronze. Nose: the immediate impression is that this reminds me of the famous Samaroli 12yo, only with a denser and more direct sherry profile. Which is to say, an out of this galaxy sherry style and quality that does not exist in whisky any longer. The density, salinity and earthiness combined with the depth and power of the rancio quality is really otherworldly. The most beautiful green walnut liqueur combined with Maggi and various umami liquid seasonings that take in game meats and subtle vegetal notes. There is also medicine too, in the form of cough syrups and herbal tonic wines. I also find the intricacy and harmony of it all breath-taking. It isn't a monster or a beast at all, but it is monolithic and humbling in its complexity. As we often say on Whiskyfun in such situations: this is a whisky you can only hope to follow. I've been nosing for 20 minutes and I'm really trying to resist just endlessly listing tiny aromas. With water: same commentary as before but I would say it very notably now goes towards honeys and ancient Sauternes as well. Mouth: astounding. Poetically beautiful from the get-go and also monumentally powerful and complex. Goes through everything from tars and phenolics, to fruits - both fresh and dry - to medicines and always coming back to perfectly salty, ancient, rancio-drenched sherry. With water: the most stunning umami profile, salted liquorices, soy sauce, liquid seasonings - all of world class quality. Beautifully herbal too, in a way that manages to incorporate both sweeter impressions such as very old liqueurs and the more bitter and vegetal side such as extracts, bitters, teas, roots and stocks. An utter glory that you could go on dissecting for hours. Finish: extraordinarily long with a feeling like it sticks to the back of your throat and teeth. Gamey, jammy, the darkest, stickiest most beautifully preserved fruits that have been soaking in 100 year old Cognac. Ok, enough, I'm getting far too carried away. Comments: some of the greatest distillate ever made, combined with a perfect sherry cask, plus ten years in the wood and a few decades in glass is the recipe for this pure, molten poetry. A moving, challenging, humbling and mesmeric drinking experience. One of the all-time great Springbank's from my personal perspective.

SGP: 673 - 96 points.

 

 

Quite a long break is required after that. But we still have quite a few heavyweights to go…

 

 

Springbank 21 yo 1966/1987 (46%, Samaroli, 408 bottles)

Springbank 21 yo 1966/1987 (46%, Samaroli, 408 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: harmonious is the word that comes to mind. A whole beehive of honey and honeycombs. Then some aged mead, very old liqueurs such as Drambuie from the 1940s. Wonderfully gentle, peppery, soft phenolics, natural tar, fir wood resins and delicate menthol notes such as menthol cigarette tobacco and tea tree oil. I also find terrific medicinal herbal things such as wormwood and wintergreen. Layered and extremely beautiful - very 'Samaroli' I think we can say with hindsight. Mouth: same story, outstanding resins, herbal extracts, many shades of honey, camphor, hessian and olive oil. Only it is also rather salty and sharper now, showing a little more assertiveness and heft. Even some more direct peaty notes coming through. Eucalyptus, tiger balm and serrano ham. Constantly evolving and enthralling. Finish: long and outstanding fruity now, green and exotic fruit syrups with still more honey, herbal teas, wee salty touches and crystallised citrus rinds. Stunning! Comments: so detailed and beautiful, even at 46% it manages to do remarkable things. The way it captures and holds your attention from beginning to end is just brilliant.
SGP: 662 - 93 points.

 

 

Springbank 30 yo 1966/1996 (51.2%, OB 'Local Barley', bourbon, cask #474)

Springbank 30 yo 1966/1996 (51.2%, OB 'Local Barley', bourbon, cask #474)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: tingling with fresh and crystallised fruits! Star fruit, kiwi, mashed banana and dried mango. Also spiced exotic teas, big waxiness and fruit salad juices with runny honey. I also find lime and flower blossoms with pollens. A playful and beautifully varied nose so far. With water: evolves some beautiful aromas of bergamot, kumquat, tangerine and aged Muscat wine. I love the constantly moving fruitiness in this one. Mouth: perfect attack, wonderfully resinous and herbal and full of all these familiar pollens, honeys, custard with aged sweet wines, waxes and those trademark Springbank threads of dry phenolics, cough medicines and delicate peat. With water: more syrupy, more honeyed, going towards flambeed orange peel over an Old Fashioned, blood orange and herbal wines. Also a little coconut, the wood in fact feels a little more assertive here but it's beautifully integrated and controlled, in close harmony with all these fruits and resinous qualities. Finish: long, getting more towards hessians, olive oil and camphor now. Lime once again, mineral oils, natural tar and medicinal herbal qualities in the aftertaste. Comments: totally superb, as expected. What I love here is the playfulness and the way it just throws out wee unexpected twists and turns at you as you go along. Some new fruits here, a little extra wood there. A whisky that is both beautiful and fun!
SGP: 652 - 93 points.

 

 

Springbank 1966/1997 (53%, OB, Local Barley, bourbon, cask #486)

Springbank 1966/1997 (53%, OB, 'Local Barley', bourbon, cask #486)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: another story all about honeys, flowers, waxes, pollens, deep layers and sublime concentration. The fruits here feel more crystallised and preserved in style, also a wonderfully textural impression of jellied green and yellow fruits. Gloopy, fat, gelatinous old Springbank that brims with a sense of body and texture. With water: hot house flowers, pollens, aged mead and camphor. A very heady and rather assertive floral quality but also eucalyptus, tobacco and quince - wonderful complexity now. Mouth: great attack, all on aged teas, preserved citrus rinds, a rather brittle waxiness and suggestions mineral salts, lanolin, herbal medicines and wood extracts. It is beautiful but I would say the wood is ever so slightly too much, if we're really splitting hairs. That said, this is still stunning and drenched in honeys and nectars. With water: many more fruits with water, orange marmalade with spices, tangerine, peaches in syrup. At times it would make you think of one of these stunningly fruity old Vallein Tercinier Cognacs. The wood is quieter now and there's more exotic fruit teas, melon liqueur and honeys once again. Finish: long, warming, on honeycomb, sandalwood, lightly smoked teas such as lapsing souchong and touches of camphor once again. Comments: walks a tightrope with the wood at times, but a few drops of water tidy all that up. Another old glory that seems to stand as an ode to honey and flowers.

SGP: 662 - 92 points.

 

 

Springbank 25 yo 1965 (46%, Duthie for Samaroli 'Flowers', 480 bottles)

Springbank 25 yo 1965 (46%, Duthie for Samaroli 'Flowers', 480 bottles)
Colour: bright gold. Nose: a nice variation, immediately beautiful once again but more distinguished by a medley of subtle earths, medicinal roots, dried herbal notes, wet stones and a drier, more brittle and intricate waxiness. You can add to that impressions of dried sandalwood, gorse flower and dried mint. There's also those more familiar honeyed components but they aren't as forward in the mix here. Another harmonious old Springbank that shows stunning aromatic detail. Mouth: again this is earthier, more medicinal, involving tobaccos, cigar humidor, hessian, metal polish, tiny sooty inflections, mineral oils and camphor. A feeling of peat being involved somewhere in the distant past and now leaving myriad tertiary fingerprints. Goes on with herbal liqueurs, menthol scented tobaccos and crystallised heather honey. Finish: surprisingly long for the ABV, more fully on honeys and herbal liqueurs now, a warmth of pepper and still this earthy and waxy beauty. Comments: these old Samarolis are all about harmony, intricacy, detail and subtle beauty. It's tempting to wonder what this old glory would have been like at full strength, but then you also see why he would choose to present it in a reduced way like this. Whisky to get lost in.
SGP: 562 - 94 points.

 

 

Springbank 31 yo 1965/1996 (44.7%, The Bottlers, cask #2628)

Springbank 31 yo 1965/1996 (44.7%, The Bottlers, cask #2628)
Colour: gold. Nose: stunning! An immediate and totally gorgeous mix of green and exotic fruits with the usual avalanche of slightly salted honeys, resinous fir woods, supple waxes and exotic fruity and herbal teas. Immediate and a cohesive, highly distinctive profile that just screams "1960s Springbank!", while also managing to be simultaneously extremely detailed and intricate. Given time you could identify any number of tiny wee aromas that keep popping out suggestively. I find kumquat, citrus marmalades and aged sauternes to name but three! Mouth: a little soft on the attack, that nose is a tough act to follow. But it is still beautifully sappy, honeyed and mentholated with background medicinal roots and herbs, sandalwood and touches of coconut and shoe polish. Finish: medium and nicely resinous, elegantly drying and showing more herbs, honeys, fir wood resins and crystallised citrus rinds. Comments: the nose was utterly sublime, and the palate only extremely excellent. A familiar story with older single malts, but taken as a whole still a moving and hugely pleasurable dram. And another terrific old selection from The Bottlers.
SGP: 651 - 92 points.

 

 

Springbank 29 yo 1962/1992 (46%, OB, sherry)

Springbank 29 yo 1962/1992 (46%, OB, sherry)
I've tried a few versions of these early 60s vintages with the big 'S' white label, including on these pages a 30yo dark sherry 1962 for Japan which was breath-taking (WF95), so high expectations here… Colour: mahogany. Nose: takes you to another galaxy straight away. Not unlike the 1967 cask #3129, this is a profile of immediate and devastating beauty that you can only follow. The most stunning fusion of sublime sherry with faint but hypnotic traces of drying peat smoke, precious hardwood oils and resins, camphors, antique furniture oils, stunning complicated spice aromas and long-aged tar liqueurs. An utterly mesmeric and almost haunting nose. Mouth: power and assertiveness but also incredible warmth, nuance and precision of flavour. Aged cigars and pipe tobaccos, the best dark chocolates and liquorices infused with sea salt, all manner of liqueur including herbal, fir and green walnut varieties - and why not some ancient Drambuie as well. The perfect tension of sweetness, bitterness, warm spices and the darkest, stickiest preserved fruits. Finish: fantastically long and pristinely bitter! Aged herbal extracts and cocktail bitters with fresh espresso, tars, black pepper, unlit cigars and hints of wormwood, fennel and aniseed. Comments: there are a lot of exciting things happening in whisky making all over the world, but when you taste something like this it is very hard to visualise the roadmap in your head of what it would take to make something like this again. A humbling and dominating masterpiece that is both poetry and power in a glass.
SGP: 672 - 95 points.

 

 

Heartfelt thanks and hugs to Jonny, Andy, Jolyon and the LMDW crew!

 

 

 

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

 

December 23, 2022


Whiskyfun

Happy Holidays!

Wishes

Tomorrow Angus will do the mother of all Springbank sessions (quite), then on Christmas day we'll have a massive Cognac session (a verticale 1948-1900!), and then we'll do quite a few time-warp sets with many prestigious oldies, as well as a massive Clynelish extravaganza (30 different ones, perhaps more). And then, we'll see, if Santa lets us live… Cheers everyone!

 

Time

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Port Ellen

… While Diageo are completing the building of the new Distillery. Well, 'modern-day' Port Ellen Distillery has only been functioning between 1969 and 1983, so not even for fifteen years altogether, so this won't be a real 'time-warp' session, rather another comparison between some young fresh PE and some older counterpart, bottled around ten years ago so obviously at 25 years of age, at least.

Port Ellen
(The last cask, at PE Maltings, 2007, WF Archive)

We were meant to get some new PE but they never reached our doorstep. I believe we will survive.

Port Ellen 11 yo 1983/1995 (43%, The Cooper's Choice, VA.MA Bergamo) Five stars
These young no-fuss PEs have become very rare but were not, as far as I can remember, exactly gathering unconditional love from the whisky cognoscenti when they were available. I for one love them, since Signatory's first 'Scottish Wildlife' at 40% vol., remember that one? Anyway, this will be as close as we can ever get to the original spirit of Port Ellen. Colour: white wine. Nose: incredible after almost thirty years in its bottle. Pure ink and tar, plus tons of damp chalk and tincture of iodine. Very pure, very fresh, with the trademark bicycle inner tubes coming through after just thirty seconds. I certainly hope those inner tubes will be there in the 'new' spirit when it comes out. Mouth: goes down like a good white Reuilly or Quincy. It's become a little greener (green peppercorns), with a little more fresh rubber as well, but this very particular mix of seawater, grapefruits and tar is soon to take the helm. Some smoked kippers are there too, some salted liquorice as well. I have to say the 43% vol. are working very well and are making this PE unexpectedly drinkable, not unlike some high-end, yet pretty easy mezcal. Mezcal from Islay! Finish: medium, really on seawater and tar. Some smoky, briney waxiness in the aftertaste. One tiny oyster too. Comments: some would regret the low strength but the very rare young PEs at cask strength (I believe most by Cadenhead) were a little difficult, only Signatory's 10 yo at 58.4% had been totally brilliant in my book. This Cooper's Choice by the excellent Vintage Malt Whisky Co was rather in the higher league, IMHO (as we used to say around when this was bottled).

SGP:457 - 90 points.

Pe4 (58.2%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2011)

Pe4 (58.2%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2011) Five stars
One of the last Pe within this series, I believe they produced only five altogether. I'm not sure the whole series is still on; I haven't seen anything since quite some time. I hope it is, it was a brilliant idea. Colour: gold. Nose: pure thick peat smoke, burning tyres (another PE thing), then gentler roots and herbs, angelica, wild carrots perhaps, arnica, also gentle shellfish, clams, whelks, cockles and compadres. And this unusual feeling of smoked apples. With water: really on old embrocations and medicines, plus a little fish oil and a basket of old garden apples. Waxy peelings too, then this curious walnuts + curry combination that's to be found in some finos or vins jaunes. Mouth (neat): huge is the word. Rubber bands, grapefruit juice, more green peppercorns, oysters, and really a lot of tar. Thick and tight. With water: just like the 11 years old, it's full of tarry things. Do you know of any apple varietals that you could call 'tarry apples'? Finish: very long and a little sweeter, with something of Dutch-kumquat quality. Salted lemon and apple juices in the aftertaste, plus a little oak. Comments: tasting PE is slowly becoming like visiting the Louvre or any other large museum, a dive into the best of the past.

SGP:567 - 92 points.

(Thank you Sukhinder and Chris!)

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

 

December 22, 2022


Whiskyfun

Time

The Time Warp Sessions,
today a Trio of Laphroaig

Only proper Laphroaigs bearing the name Laphroaig on them, and no 'secret Islays' this time, not even any of those many fabulous indie 1989-1991s that would crush many officials anyway. We'll try those separately, later… Anyway, first a recent young one, then a recent old one, then an old 10 because we have the feeling that, err, we'll see…

 

 

Laphroaig 10 yo 'Original Cask Strength Batch 15' (56.5%, OB, Dec 2021)

Laphroaig 10 yo 'Original Cask Strength Batch 15' (56.5%, OB, Dec 2021) Four stars
We do not follow all batches, all I'll say is that I've kept one of those early 1-litre 'green stripe' versions stashed away. I agree, not the same paradigm, having said that I thought last year's batch 14 had been very good (WF 86)… Colour: gold. Nose: perhaps a little too much wood smoke at first, too many wood spices too, but the rest seems to be rather perfect, salty, medicinal, in short Laphroaig. With water: paint! Then engine grease and tarmac, and of course those old tarry ropes found on a beach at low tide etc. Now any proper medicinal note has gone. Mouth (neat): good, powerful, piney and salty arrival, with crystallised lemons in the back and a growing smokiness. With water: straightforward, peaty, once again a tad too much on oak spices for me (hell, let's just forget about those stunning tropical fruit in the early versions!) but it still has it, largely.  Finish: long, rather tarry, simply much more on straight smoke than older young Laphroaigs. Comments: let me give you an example…

SGP:457 - 86 points.

Laphroaig 34 yo 1987/2021 (46.2%, OB, Ian Hunter Story, Book 4 : Malt Masters)

Laphroaig 34 yo 1987/2021 (46.2%, OB, Ian Hunter Story, Book 4 : Malt Masters) Four stars and a half
Ex-bourbon and finished in oloroso. Why would anyone finish such an old whisky? This old 34 seems to be a little controversial, that's why we're having it before that old 10 we were mentioning. You're never too cautious, are you… By the way, this is not Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople fame, he was Ian Hunter one the former managers of Laphroaig Distillery. Colour: rich gold. Nose: no glorious straight Laphroaig on the nose, rather a gathering of sherry walnuts, kelp, many old polishes and waxes, old ointments, old mead and cider, putty, paraffin, old furniture, sweet and spicy soups (gentler Thai stuff), the expected hessian, pipe tobacco, last year's old apples in the cellar… This is all complex and rather enticing, it's just lacking the clarity we're expecting from Laphroaig. But it's old so it has excuses… Mouth: same feelings on the palate. There are many superb parts but the make is not that easy to recognise, the whole being a little… untidy or muddled, shall we say. Some old wood, black tea, old raisins, cigar tobacco, a touch of good sulphur (of the truffle kind), some sour sauces (dim-sum stuff), some curious vanilla, roasted nuts, some brine, tiny bits of black olive, and indeed more and more black tea. That's the wood talking. Finish: not too long and mostly on lapsang souchong and fermented plum sauce. Some bacon and a little BBQ sauce in the aftertaste. Comments: please do not get me wrong, even if virtually goes in all directions, I'm still rather a fan of this rather talkative old Laphroaig. Now I've had another sip of the official 40 the other day, it's a whole different world.
SGP:564 - 88 points.

On to that older tenner…

Laphroaig 10 yo (90 US proof, OB, 'Unblended', Julius Wile Import, USA, screw cap, +/-1980)

Laphroaig 10 yo (90 US proof, OB, 'Unblended', Julius Wile Import, USA, screw cap, +/-1980) Five stars
We always laud the old 10s for Italy (Philippi, Bonfanti, Spirit Import or Cinzano…) but the various ones for American states have been utterly splendid too (we would mention Elsbach & Co,  Regal Brands, Buckingham Wile, Hiram Walker or, for that matter, Julius Wile, probably the same company as Buckingham Wile). Colour: yellow gold. Nose: at the intersection of some sumptuous medicinal peat (camphor, bandages, pinewood smoke, various balms) and tropical fruits led by mangos plus citrus led by oranges. One of malt whisky's most seminal noses, while this one didn't totally indulge in tropical fruits. Mouth: fresh mangos and a medicinal peat smoke tangoing forever, the latter keeping the lead, as it did on the nose. Maybe that's because of the higher strength, 90° US proof meaning 45% vol. instead of the usual 43 or even 40% vol. Finish: long and with more and more salinity, totally geared towards oysters until the mangos would fight back. Stunning mangos! And there's even a drop of gewurztraminer, with rose petals and litchees. Yep! Comments: wherever you go, always check any old cupboards that may shelter unlikely liqueurs brought back from the Club Med twenty or thirty years ago. I for one have already unearthed (literally) quite a few old Laphroaig 10, while no one seems to know how good they are. Same with the old Bowmores 'dumpy brown glass' by the way.

SGP:654 – 93 points.

Fully agreed, an expected outcome today.

(Thank you Whisky Magazine France)

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

 

'Own bottlings', I believe this needed to be said

Left to right, Clynelish by Adelphi (it came with a small magnifier), Glentauchers by Michiel Wigman, Sutherland blended malt by Thompson Bros. (some Brora inside!)

There's been some new very lovely bottlings recently that were related to whiskyfun in some way. We keep getting requests for bottles, which is awesome, but let me remind everyone that I am not the initiator, the seller, the selectionist (do you say that) or the promoter of those in any kind of way. They're just done by very engaging friends who, on a side note, happen to belong to the cream of the crop of the whisky business. So, should you desperately need some of those bottles, please refer to the bottlers or vendors, although I'm not sure they're not sold-out. And to think that we haven't even written a single word about those liquids yet… (S., you lazy...)
PS: No, no monies involved either.

 

December 21, 2022


Whiskyfun

Time Farclas

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Glenfarclas 2012 vs 1961

That's sixty years apart! We'll see if we find any autumn leaves in either of these...

(Very lovely wee magazine ad, circa 1968. They should run these again, it's all going retro and 'analog' everywhere anyway. And stunning font!)

 

 

Glenfarclas 10 yo 2012/2022 (60.9%, OB, Family Casks, for LMDW, Collection Antipodes, sherry hogshead, cask #2584, 300 bottles)

Glenfarclas 10 yo 2012/2022 (60.9%, OB, Family Casks, for LMDW, Collection Antipodes, sherry hogshead, cask #2584, 300 bottles) Four stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: ultra-classic sherry, with cherries and stewed coriander, walnuts, flints, marmalade, kumquats, mashed potatoes (I know that's not 'classic' but it's there), whiffs of wisteria, then raisin rolls and apricot cake. Danishes. With water: earth, cherries and marzipan, very nice combo. Mouth (neat): rich sherry, eminently and epitomically (that'll do, S.) Glenfarclas, with this faint rusticity fuelled by chocolate and marmalade, with a leathery, leafy touch. With water: Mon Chéri. Right, chocolate and kirschwasser. Finish: rather long, rather fat, kirschy, chocolaty, with some rhum agricole in the aftertaste, a floral side, molasses, coconut, bananas flambéed, cane syrup… well it's almost got a second life. I would suppose that was the oak. Comments: excellent young Glenfarclas. The Distillery almost always excels in this game.
SGP:661 - 87 points.

Glenfarclas 1961 'Nineteen Sixty-One' (43%, OB, USA, 750ml, 2500 bottles, +/-2005?)

Glenfarclas 1961 'Nineteen Sixty-One' (43%, OB, USA, 750ml, 2500 bottles, +/-2005?) Five stars
Another 1961 bearing the same label, bottled for Germany, is high in my book (WF 91). Colour: reddish amber. Nose: I understand why this baby's got a reputation, as you would almost believe it is Laphroaig. Seriously! Bandages, tiger balm, iodine, seawater, lemon balm, stewed mangos and papayas... But naturally, it would then diverge and move towards 'that beehive', honeys of all origins, sweet meats, apple and quince pies, raisins and crystallised tangerines… all that before a wonderful sherry, full of walnuts and tobacco, would come to the front. Rather extraordinary and you wouldn't even notice the lower strength. Mouth: a notch drying at first (walnut stain, chocolate), but soon to become wonderfully jammy, given that all fruits used were pretty tannic, such as cassis, blackberries, wee apples, pomegranates… Other than that, we have classic fruitcake, raisins, figs, plus spices from the oak (nutmeg and cinnamon) and a touch of cedarwood. Really starts to resemble that other famous Distillery in Speyside, the one that starts with an M; yes I know there are several of them. Finish: pretty long, more on coffee and raisins, and with prunes and old brandy in the aftertaste. Comments: sublime sherry integration, and probably the best bottled coffee ever made by man.

SGP:651 - 93 points.

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

 

December 20, 2022


Whiskyfun

Time

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Bowmore +/-22 years old

We'll try to sneak quite a few glorious older bottlings that we haven't tasted yet before the end of this year.This one should be fun. It's true that you could find some smells of vintage cars in old Bowmores (leather, engine oil, polishes…), well they've now added those cars to their labels!

DBS

Bowmore 22 yo 'Aston Martin' (51.5%, OB, Master's Selection, 2022)

Bowmore 22 yo 'Aston Martin' (51.5%, OB, Master's Selection, 2022) Three stars and a half
I have to say I'm pretty much into Bowmore, and that I rather like Aston Martins as well, but seeing both names associated like this sounds really odd to me; I just cannot seem to find any obvious rationale behind these kinds of associations (what luxury?) while even if this is a free world, we shan't even start to mention the heavy issues around 'drinking and driving'. But let's not be a killjoy and rather try to focus on the liquid here, while hoping we won't find smells of burnt electronics or wrecked clutch… Colour: gold. Nose: it is a very medicinal Bowmore, full of ointments, camphor, notes of bandages, old cough syrup … for starters! Then more classic brine, ashes, lit cigar, tar and pine smoke. Boy scouts' campfire. With water: some oak spices popping out, some caraway (aquavit) and preserved vine peaches. Very nice nose. Mouth (neat): a little heavy this time, and a little too much on raspberries for me. It's true that I haven't even checked the cask-bill here. Port? Sweet sherry? We'll check that later… Some dissonances, tar and red berries, pomegranates, poppy jelly… With water: it's almost as if they had tried to recreate the style of the 1980s (Bowmore's, not Aston's), with some violet liqueur, touches of blood oranges, a little candy sugar… Finish: medium, still sweet and jammy. More raspberries, cassis… Comments: some lovely aspects, especially on the nose, but the palate's been sweetened up a little too much for me. Own opinion, naturally, as always.

SGP:754 - 83 points.

Speaking of fruity Bowmore…

Bowmore 1967 (50%, OB, Auxil France, 75cl, +/-1990)

Bowmore 1967 (50%, OB, Auxil France, 75cl, +/-1990) Five stars
Other importers have had these 1967s, such as Soffiantino in Italy, but this is well the version for France. I've never tried it before, but the reputation is as high as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. We'd add that we're tasting this probable utter glory while thinking of Auxil's Jean Marie Kovacs, who very sadly passed away earlier this year. This is for you, dear Jean-Marie! Colour: gold. Nose: as always with old bottles of Bowmore, this baby's got to breathe a little bit before the diamond is freed from its gangue. … zzz … zzz … There, the much anticipated and expected mangos… And the passion fruits … And the pink grapefruits … and this very delicate tobacco smoke … and these earths, leaves, tobaccos, mushrooms, precious liqueurs, kumquats, then pot-pourri, patchouli, ylang-ylang (very 1960s Bowmore)… Then soups, marrow quenelles, bouillons, ceps, even wee touches of lamb chorba (really!) The thing is, these Bowmores just never stop unfolding; they are the most fractal whiskies you could ever think of. And there, some Linzertorte! With water: emphasis on citrus. Grapefruits, citrons, clementines, oranges… Plus all the smaller ones that all chefs are currently adding to their food. Mouth (neat): bam, a lorryload of stewed tropical fruits. That's it, and that's a lot. As much as the nose never stopped evolving, this palate is immediate, almost instantaneous, and stunning. Grapefruits, maracuja, mangos, hints of pineapple and basta. With water: no, it needed that drop of water to burst into myriads of fruits. We shall not list them all, but citrus first, then small berries (even taxus – without the seeds, naturally), then Szechuan pepper and assorted 'sweeter' spices. It is even refreshing, you could quaff this whenever you're a little thirsty. Finish: medium and just immaculately fruity. I'm sure there are many fruits in there we haven't even heard of. Small berries from remote valleys high in the Himalayas or the in the Andes. Comments: 50% vol. is such a perfect strength. It was ex-sherry wood. I may have forgotten to mention goji. And a 1965 for Auxil at 43% was of the same order. Nothing to add.

SGP:652 - 95 points.

Oh well, while we're on the subject…

Bowmore 44 yo 1964/2009 'Gold' (42.4%, OB, 701 bottles)

Bowmore 44 yo 1964/2009 'Gold' (42.4%, OB, 701 bottles) Five stars
From three bourbon and one oloroso casks, so a combination of 'white' and 'black' Bowmores 1964. For the record, we've got the 'White' at WF 95 and the last 'Black' at WF 91. The first 'Black' was more like WF 96. But who counts? Who needs scores? This drop too stems from the Golden Promise Bar in Paris, anyone should first go there, and only then go see the Tour Eiffel. Salvatore is a Tour Eiffel of whisky anyway. Colour: it is golden indeed. Nose: this time it is an immediate old Bowmore, pure liquid fruit salad, with only drops of clover honey (perhaps) and, maybe, tiny whiffs of summer truffle (tuber aestivum, the light ones, I for one like those a lot). As for the fruits, most are tropical (mangos etc.) but I do find wee bits of granny smith and other green apples. All in all, a flabbergastingly fresh nose, a little summer dress in your glass, as they say. I mean, you see what I mean. Stunning citrusy freshness. Mouth: indeed, what an incredible freshness at forty-four. It's not that tropical this time, I'm finding several 'western' orchard fruits as well, chiefly apples indeed, but also plums, sloes, gooseberries… And then indeed, mangos, passion fruits, grapefruits, a touch of guava, honey… But this Bowmore transcends all that; just like the 1967, it would indeed transcend any human-made transcription. And an A.I., you're asking? Well an A.I. would claim this is olive oil. Or, there, mango juice. Finish: just prolonging the fruity thrills, in perhaps a slightly more liqueury manner. Extraordinary. Some peelings in the aftertaste, that's the oak. Comments: not really needed. I've long wanted to add the Gold to our index, well that's done, I'm going...

SGP:652 - 94 points.

(Thank you Whisky Magazine France)

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

 

December 19, 2022


Whiskyfun

Time

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Longrow,