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Angus MacRaild

 

 

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

November 2023 - part 2 <--- December 2023 - part 1 ---> December 2023 - part 2

 

December 14, 2023


Whiskyfun

Highland Park proper, part two and last

With an awesome flourish at the end. Well, we'll see...

 

 

Highland Park 19 yo 2003/2022 'The 26 #5' (51.8%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 48 bottles)

Highland Park 19 yo 2003/2022 'The 26 #5' (51.8%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 48 bottles) Four stars and a half
A small outturn, more or less one man's yearly consumption of good Highland Park (I mean, on Orkney). Colour: straw. Nose: it's a crystalline one. Smoked oysters, chalk and limoncello. With water: more medicinal. Embrocations, balms, bandages, tincture of iodine, charcoal. Lip balm. Mouth (neat): more limoncello, iodine, chalk, touch of green pepper, seaweed and a drop of Jäger. With water: banana skin, peppers, paraffin, sage, lemon zests. Finish: medium, greener, leafier. Holly spirit, buds and zests… Comment: did you notice how we kept this sort of short? Extremely fine middle-aged all-natural HP.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Highland Park 1998/2019 (54%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #13, 180 bottles)

Highland Park 1998/2019 (54%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #13, 180 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: pure, sooty, ashy HP. Paraffin, carbon dust, crème de menthe, touch of coriander seed. With water: more menthol, eucalyptus… Exceptional pure nose. Mouth (neat): brilliant citrusy, tense, flinty HP. No prisoners. With water: seawater and oysters chiming in, with a little drop of tabasco. Immaculate. Finish: long, with dazzling purity. A blade, as we sometimes say. Pure ashes in the aftertaste. Comment: a minimalistic, surgical HP – our favourites.
SGP:463 - 91 points.

Highland Park 28 yo 1992/2021 (46.6%, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, sherry hogshead, cask #1271, 297 bottles)

Highland Park 28 yo 1992/2021 (46.6%, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, sherry hogshead, cask #1271, 297 bottles) Five stars
Colour: gold. Nose: we're closer to the older officials this time, with some sublime waxes and a very subtle sherriness, around pecans and pistachios, walnuts, marzipan and manuka honey. And heather. An amazingly complex earthiness in the background, small mushrooms, mosses…. Mouth: much more potent than you would think, thanks to many spices, around paprika and soft curry. Awesome cereals, moist breads, beerawecka, mead, a little cedarwood, beeswax… Finish: pretty long and extremely well-polished, mainly on all kinds of waxes and salted nuts, including peanuts. Thai bouillons in the aftertaste, coriander, chilli, honey... Comment: love this one as much as the pervious one, even though they are diametrically opposed. But blend both and presto, heavens.
SGP:562 - 91 points.

Highland Park 32 yo 1989/2022 (50.7%, East Village Whisky Company, for Whisky Maniac, Germany, hogshead)

Highland Park 32 yo 1989/2022 (50.7%, East Village Whisky Company, for Whisky Maniac, Germany, hogshead) Five stars
More creative labels, as it appears, and a really old HP this time. Colour: brighter straw. Nose: this wee old one starts fully on soot and ashes, and would then move towards gooseberries, apples, melons and mirabelles, plus lemons and grapefruits. All this is perfectly perfect, well-carved, ultra-precise. With water: some fresh cakes kicking in, orange blossom panettone, croissants….. All while more fresh spearmint is coming thought, making it even fresher. Mouth (neat): sweeter, rather in the style of some legendary old officials distilled in the 1960s, with this perfect fresh fruits + honey combo. Apples are perfect, so are plums, so are heather and chestnut honeys, so is beeswax, and so are all these little herbal teas, between woodruff and just mint, which would add a feeling of yellow chartreuse. With water: we've reached the pinnacle of ripe fruits and honey combos. Mirabelles are just mad and running all over the place. Ripe kiwis too. Finish: long, with more fresh spices and waxes. The trademark heather honey keeps chirping in the background, together with a little mint tea. Comment: as good as it gets. You could have said it was an OB.

SGP:652 - 91 points.

Highland Park 27 yo (52.5%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, cask #HL20648, 268 bottles, 2023)

Highland Park 27 yo (52.5%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, cask #HL20648, 268 bottles, 2023) Five stars
A lovely series, these Kinships. Colour: straw. Nose: oh, the chalk is back, the raw sheep wool is back too, so are bandages and embrocations, with some kelp and wild leek, samphire, oyster shells, plasticine, iodine… You see. With water: a pretty coastal one indeed. Oysters, kelp, lemon and Alsatian riesling. Or zero-dosage Champagne. Mouth (neat): incredible ancient apples, hops, weissbeer, small jujubes and juneberries, sorb eau-de-vie… I deeply love all this, thank you Hunter Laing. With water: oh, herbs, resins, ointments, plaster, bandages, greases and oils… This one would almost make you feel like you should break a leg. All right, say a little finger. Finish: not that long but very coastal and salty. Superb chalky and lemony aftertaste. Tighter beers. Comment: we continue in the same vein, where is this going to stop? What a distillate! (but we knew that, right).

SGP:562 - 91 points.

Highland Park 23 yo 1998/2022 (57%, Orkney Sponge, refill hogshead, 277 bottles)

Highland Park 23 yo 1998/2022 (57%, Orkney Sponge, refill hogshead, 277 bottles) Five stars
Fact: The Sponge is a HP head. Also, Stromness/OO exegetes will have recognised the inspiration for this lovely label. Colour: light gold. Nose: dry, on sponges (yep), chalk, wool, cloth, seawater, asparagus and bamboo shoots. Gets then frankly citric. Was this one actually aged in concrete? Amphoras? With water: same, plus crushed slate and oyster shells. That's excellent for plants, I've heard. Mouth (neat): very tight, very waxy, very lemony. A lemon-scented candle burning on a beach. With water: It just softens a little bit, with green banana and fatty, salty seafood. Clams, for example, or scallops. Sautéed scallops with Noilly. Whatever. Finish: long and rather fat, salty, chalky, with a little plasticine. Lemon  and citron liqueur and cordial in the aftertaste. Comment: spirit-driven, not too old but already in the pantheon of Orkney.

SGP:562 - 90 points.

Highland Park 1991/2023 (53.4%, Signatory Vintage, 35th Anniversary, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #15088)
(The Daily Record)

PREVIEW
Highland Park 1991/2023 (53.4%, Signatory Vintage, 35th Anniversary, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #15088)
Five stars
All right, this baby's not out yet, it'll come out early next year, but since we're lucky enough to have it, we sure won't put it into WF's refrigerated safe until then (indeed we have that!) By the way, wasn't Signatory's 30th Anniversary just last year, or perhaps the year before? To my generation of whisky enthusiasts, so the youngsters, right, Signatory was and remains a very seminal bottler. The whisky world would be completely different without Signatory, perhaps still full of caramel and heavily cold-filtered uisge beatha. We owe a lot to Andrew and Signatory. Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts with a little cider or Sauternes-sulphur, with some hops, leaves, walnut skins, some gunpowder, then we have oil paint, clay, mushrooms, mustard à l'ancienne, pickled gherkins… I have to say this is a little intriguing and rather very Andalusian. Let's see how it evolves… With water:  cigars, cedarwood, figs and forgotten vegetable gratin. Parsnip, swede, cardoon… Mouth (neat): walnuts roasted in honey sauce and quite some gunpowder again. Chocolate, white truffles, touch of pointed cabbage and bok choy. Some demerara sugar. With water: awesome salted praline and nougat, earth, walnut liqueur, amaro… Finish: long and rather all on walnut wine. A little mustard, grapefruit, roasted chestnuts and pecans in the aftertaste. Comment: there is a commendable ruggedness in this old Highland Park. It seems like a real sherry cask, which held actual sherry, actually intended for human consumption. It improves with exposure to air, it just needs quite some time. Yet another 91-pointer.

SGP:462 - 91 points.

There has to be a last one, let's make it not just any Highland Park… (although no Highland Park is just any Highland Park)…

Highland Park 54 yo 1968/2023 (46.9%, OB, refill and 1st fill sherry, 225 bottles)

Highland Park 54 yo 1968/2023 (46.9%, OB, refill and 1st fill sherry, 225 bottles) Five stars
Sure it is a buy-a-whisky-or-buy-a-Tesla bottle at £39,000, but frankly, hasn't Tesla become so very 2019 these days? Several casks have been assembled and reracked into 1st fill sherry in 2008, for 14 years of further, second maturation. So, this is absolutely not 'a finishing' (whisky influencers beware). Colour: just golden. Nose: it instantly reminds me of the 1967s, of the old John-Goodwin bottle, and of a beehive that you would open for the first time in the spring. Honey is HP's main marker, and believe me, there is a lot of honeys in there, heather of course, lime blossom too, meadow all-flower, plus bags of pollen. All that is just life. Bees are life. Have you ever seen bees flying close to the ground like fighter jets on the windy Scottish islands? It's incredible to observe and the nose of this fifty-four-year-old Highland Park is incredible too. Mouth: there is a warm, honeyed sweetness to start with, followed by notes of old Sauternes and nectar of the gods (mead is the drink of the gods on Mount Olympus), a bit of crème brûlée and tarte Tatin, some notes of old wood and mint, very ripe apples, touches of oriental pastries... All of this is somewhat fragile and delicate, a bit like an ancient Baccarat crystal chandelier. One must not jostle or handle it roughly. Finish: not very long but very nicely mentholated. Still a bit of mead and old Sauternes, and very ripe figs right at the end. Comment: this isn't whisky, it's poetry. All the more reason not to hesitate between this true marvel and a mere Tesla (or any other car, really).

SGP:651 - 93 points.

37 Highland Parks and Secret Orkneys altogether, that's not too bad. What's more, the average score for them is probably extremely high (but I have yet to calculate it, ha).

(We need to thank Martin, Nicolas and many other friends for all these disclosed and undisclosed Highland Parks)

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

 

December 13, 2023


Whiskyfun

Time for Highland Park proper

After, wait, exactly twenty-one secret Orkneys, I believe we should have a few proper, official ones and quite a few independent disclosed ones as well. Let's see how far we'll manage to go… We also have things to catch up on.

Magazine ad, 1985. Let's try this wee bottle today...


HP

 

 

Highland Park 12 yo 'Viking Honour' (40%, OB, +/-2022)

Highland Park 12 yo 'Viking Honour' (40%, OB, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
A pretty un-Viking strength but I rather liked this baby last time I tried it, in 2019., even if I much preferred the fresher and cleaner '10'. Colour: light gold. Nose: really nice, pretty complex, meady and with some patchouli, a little incense, a little marmalade, touches of seafood (fresh mussels), some bread, earl grey, overripe apples, honey… All fine, it's just a little light on the nose. Mouth: good drop for sure, mentholated and liquoricy, with some walnuts and more ripe fruits that are kind of suppressing the tension that we usually like in HP. Not that it's flat, not at all, but it's a bit as if there's either too much sherry, or not enough. Finish: medium, earthier, sweeter, spicier. Mead, a little caramel, tarte tatin, walnut liqueur… Comment: same as last time. I tend to prefer them brighter and fresher, but naturally, it's a very fine drop. Mind you, it is Highland Park, part of our own 'axis of the good'. Plus, I'm not totally sure those 40% vol. do it justice.

SGP:561 - 83 points.

Highland Park 'Scottish ballet 50' (40%, OB, first fill sherry, 5,000 bottles, 2019)

Highland Park 'Scottish ballet 50' (40%, OB, first fill sherry, 5,000 bottles, 2019) Three stars and a half
This one was done to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Scottish Ballet. It is a little bizarre that they would have chosen such a light strength, but maybe the idea was to propose a featherlight HP, a kind of little opéra rat, as they say in Paris. Colour: light gold. Nose: almost same nose as that of the 12. No bad news indeed, but don't tell me they've made Vikings perform a ballet? Mouth: same feeling on the palate, it is a very similar juice, if not the very same juice. Finish: same. Perhaps a tad saltier, perhaps not. Comment: either I'm completely dulled, or it's a base extremely similar to that of the 12-year-old.

SGP:561 - 83 points.

Highland Park 12 yo (43%, OB, Deutz Import France, +/-1982)

Highland Park 12 yo (43%, OB, Deutz Import France, +/-1985) Four stars and a half
These Highland Park 12-year-olds have long been considered one of the best deals you could get at auctions. Indeed, the whisky was often extraordinary, while these so-called 'silkscreened' or 'stencilled' bottles were rather common. There have been several versions, with the most recent featuring a 'normal H', like the one we have in our glass, whereas the previous version had only an ornate H, so to speak. The kind of micro-detail that matters to... collectors. Colour: gold. Nose: characterised by the proverbial heather honey, accompanied by a beautifully effective coastal smoke. It brings to mind a campfire on a beach. There were rumours that while the distillery malted its own barley, which it still does to some extent, it would throw handfuls of heather into the kiln, but we have never had written proof of this practice. Nevertheless, this nose has remained magnificent, with added touches of old copper coins, or an antique kettle if you prefer. Mouth: vegetal notes, leather, dead leaves join the mix, with a bit of bitterness, chlorophyll, bitter almonds, old white Burgundy wine... It's a sign of a certain evolution in the bottle, with heather honey that has over the years turned rather into mead. But of course, it remains absolutely excellent. Finish: medium length, still a bit vegetal for Highland Park, but without a 'taste of light'. An excellent orange marmalade then completes the picture. Comment: after so many years, the many remaining bottles have inevitably diverged depending on their storage conditions. The absence of light and a moderate heat span always represent the optimal ones.
SGP: 552 - 89 points.

Highland Park 10 yo 'Ambassador's Choice' (46%, OB, bourbon cask and oloroso, 3,000 bottles, +/-2013)

Highland Park 10 yo 'Ambassador's Choice' (46%, OB, bourbon cask and oloroso, 3,000 bottles, +/-2013) Four stars
Imagine we've never tried this one but we're all for the HP tens and bourbon, even if this is only 70% bourbon and 30% oloroso. Nothing against oloroso. Colour: gold. Nose: nuts and a touch of varnish, cigars, fresh paint, pinesap, plasticine, candles, meadow honey… It is a little unusual. Mint tea, pack of old-school cigarettes (Senior Service, there), mead… It's not too easy to categorise. Mouth: the sherry's having the upper hand, I suppose the bourbon was refill (bourbon). Some wood and grass smoke, some green pepper, walnut skin, a very grassy oloroso (rather amontillado), some cinnamon and nutmeg, green wood… Finish: medium, salty, slightly bitter, with bitter almonds and more old walnuts. Bitter smoked citrus in the aftertaste. Comment: I'm not quite sure where to place this one, but it's very good, of course.

SGP:462 - 85 points.

Highland Park 11 yo 2010/2022 'Edition France' (64.4%, OB, refill hogshead, cask #2777, 322 bottles)

Highland Park 11 yo 2010/2022 'Edition France' (64.4%, OB, refill hogshead, cask #2777, 322 bottles) Four stars and a half
A very crazy strength, watch what could happen… Colour: amber. Nose: polishes have taken over. Metal polish, shoe polish, lanoline, carbolineum… Utterly love this pretty garage-y nose, but you just cannot further nose it without risking harm to your nostrils and olfactory bulb (bulbus olfactorius). So, sorry but with water: oh, salted tarte tatin, good fumes (Ferrari – ha), cigars, sandalwood, cedarwood, more shoe polish… Mouth (neat): rum at super-cask strength. I suppose it's the ethanol that's clouding our tongue receptors. Do they use multiple-columns at Highland Park? Of course they don't… With water: oh, perfect now, salty, tarry, with some olive oil, bitter oranges, many herbs, a little umami sauce, some smoked lemons, some pine ashes, cigar ashes… Finish: very long, towards orange liqueur. Comment: excellent, but they should sell it with a half-bottle of mineral water, but please not too soft. Don't even think about tasting it without water.

SGP:463 - 88 points.

Perhaps some older indies for a change…

Highland Park 9 yo 1989/1999 (50%, Coopers Choice, for France)

Highland Park 9 yo 1989/1999 (50%, Coopers Choice, for France) Five stars
I'm not 100% sure but this may have been bottled for Auxil. These young malts by Coopers Choice / Vintage Mat Whisky Company are legendary. Just the mere mention of their young Port Ellens brings tears to my eyes… Colour: pale gold. Nose: oils of all kinds (sunflower, olive, engine, lamp) and a lot of hay and dried herbs of all kinds, including teas, chamomile, woodruff… You could add a little marrow, whelks, seaweed and bean curd. Wow. With water: chalk, limestone and marls. Mouth (neat): holy Suzy Creamcheese, this is some kind of millimetric lemon + chalk + oils combo that's just irresistible. With water: lemon bliss, chalk bliss, dough bliss…  And a tiny touch of lavender which poses no problem. Finish: long and chalky as a good Pouilly (your pick). Lemongrass and a little seawater again in the aftertaste. Comment: pure crystals of HPness.
SGP:562 - 91 points.

Back to the officials…

Highland Park 13 yo 2006/2019 'Saltire Edition 2' (43%, OB)

Highland Park 13 yo 2006/2019 'Saltire Edition 2' (43%, OB) Four stars
A collaboration with F1 driver David Coulthard. In Whiskyfun's private collection, we have a bottle of whisky given by David Coulthard to his team for Christmas, signed of course, but it's just a simple bottle of Ballantine's Finest. Classic David. Colour: gold. Nose: a pretty tropical one this time, pleasantly simpler, with mangos, oranges and bananas, then heather honey and liquorice. Very nice. Mouth: very nice and very good. Something a little old-school HP, with some mint, broth and bouillons, then these meads and honeys. Gets a little drier and narrower then, that must be the low strength. Finish: a tad short but good, no doubts. More heather honey, a little bouillon, a little seawater. Comment: I sure would have gone for petrol strength here, but the juice is good, very classic Williams G… I mean Highland Park. The decision to opt for a 43% alcohol content seems somewhat Scottish, if I may say so.
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Highland Park 25 yo 1997/2023 (49.6%, Royal Mile Whiskies, hogshead, cask #5293, 303 bottles)

Highland Park 25 yo 1997/2023 (49.6%, Royal Mile Whiskies, hogshead, cask #5293, 303 bottles) Five stars
It's rather rare that RMW's whiskies make it to Europe, but when they do, we're all in joy and awe. Now it really feels like absolutely no one wants to fight against this bloody Brexit, and meanwhile, things are not really getting any better overall, are they. Colour: pale gold. Nose: shoe polish in majesty, plus olive and grape pips oil, apple peel, teak oil, hessian, quinces, cigar ashes... But this is magnificent indeed. Mouth: we have a winner. Grapefruit skins, limestone, ueber-green tea, kippers, smoked mussels, green lemons, cucumber water, seawater, tar, mezcal… Finish: very long. A blend of seawater and lime juice, really. Oysters in the aftertaste. Do they have oyster farms on Orkney? Comment: some well-cut HP, absolutely flawless, like a Flawless diamond (FL grade). According to google (stealing someone else's content, naturally), less than 0.05% of all diamonds are Flawless.
SGP:562 - 92 points.

We'll be back for more HP…

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

 

December 12, 2023


Whiskyfun

Secret Orkneys Part Three

Please be patient, we'll have disclosed Highland Parks tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

Magazine advert, 1986. It is well documented that some copywriters could have had a tendency to consume excessively large quantities of the products they were supposed to promote.

HP

 

 

Secret Orkney 17 yo 2005/2023 (51.9%, Signatory Vintage, Kirsch Import, Seasons Winter 2022, 1st fill oloroso sherry butt, cask # DRU 17/A63 #6, 658 bottles)

Secret Orkney 17 yo 2005/2023 (51.9%, Signatory Vintage, Kirsch Import, Seasons Winter 2022, 1st fill oloroso sherry butt, cask # DRU 17/A63 #6, 658 bottles) Five stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: nuts and grasses, cigarette tobacco, leather polish, candlewax, wood and grass smoke, dried fruits and tighter honeys… Not a deviant HP for sure. With water: awesome walnut wine, pecans, pistachios, cashew… And leather polish. Mouth (neat): excellent sherry that really fits and matches HP's style, even if the whole would get a little brutal and rough. But this is Orkney, this is not Buckingham. With water: perfect tango, salty and nutty. Very dry, very 'amontillado'. Finish: long and saltier yet. Liquorice, walnuts, grapefruits, mustard. Comment: whatever happened here, it worked a treat. But only if you enjoy bone-dry sherry as much as I do.

SGP:462 - 90 points.

Whitlaw 8 yo 2014/2022 (65.2%, Fadandel, red wine barrique, 123 bottles)

Whitlaw 8 yo 2014/2022 (65.2%, Fadandel, red wine barrique, 123 bottles) Two stars
Goodness me, more red wine, it reminds me of when everyone started using electronic drum kits in the 1980s. Or the vocoders like Cher or Madonna used. We really must stop with that! And yes, Whitlaw is HP. Colour: gold. Nose: pastries with raspberries and strawberries, Kriek beer, touch of gunpowder… With water: herbs and pepper. Not my stuff. Mouth (neat): goodish. Oranges, ginger, pepper, capsicum. With water: nope. This red wine stuff was unnecessary. Notes of celebrity tequila or mezcal. Finish: okayish. Comment: I know, everyone's doing red wine these days, but seriously, folks, as the great Joe Walsh would have said.… … … Nota bene: Fadandel are usually having the greatest whiskies.

SGP:552 - 76 points.

We're about to launch the NRWIMWA, are you in? That's the No Red Wine In My Whisky Association. Some work to do…

The Holy Illicit 13 yo 2009/2022 (56%, The Whisky Cask Company, oloroso sherry, 339 bottles)

The Holy Illicit 13 yo 2009/2022 (56%, The Whisky Cask Company, oloroso sherry, 339 bottles) Four stars
No proof of nothing here. Besides, this is a blended malt, but it says 'Isle of Orkney', so… . Colour: gold. Nose: aged apples and shoe polish, plus a few pine needles and menthol cigarettes. Intriguing cask from our Swiss friends'. Nice combo. With water: leaves, buds, walnuts, touch of curry, compost… Mouth (neat): excellent, on old walnuts, oranges, polishes, ginger and gentian, brine, menthol and ginseng. It's really very salty. With water: very good, even if we don't quite know about what's 'illicit' here. Many drops of many eaux-de-vie, gravenstein apple, raspberries, cherries, small plums… Finish: rather long, perhaps a notch mess precise and definite. Comment: seriously great drop, even if we aren't sure of anything here. We need to learn to navigate in a more vague and uncertain environment, I believe; don't you agree? But as a true Frenchman, I do like anything illicit, one cannot change one's nature I suppose.

SGP:462 - 87 points.

From Orkney Islands 2005/2022 (59.3%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, for Kirsch Import, hogshead, cask #2, 317 bottles)

From Orkney Islands 2005/2022 (59.3%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, for Kirsch Import, hogshead, cask #2, 317 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: fine, simple, grassy, mildly waxy. Apple and lemon liqueurs. The bone is near and close. With water: barley… Mouth (neat): good syrups, good fruits, good liqueurs, but it's not deep. A very fruity HP, you'd have believed we're in Dufftown, seriously. With water: pretty good but eau-de-vie-ish, simplistic, elementary. Tiny smoky touch, around bacon. Finish: some earthiness. Great peaches too, they save this one. Comment: little smoke and minerality in this very good one that I shall probably not remember forever.

SGP:551 - 83 points.

An Orkney Distillery 12 yo 2009/2022 (56.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, US release, butt, cask #5, 615 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 12 yo 2009/2022 (56.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, US release, butt, cask #5, 615 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: office coffee. Ha. Nose: varnish, cigars and walnuts, that's all and it is much. Plums and raisins and chocolate and coffee too but those are far behind at this point. Water may change the balance… With water: super sherry, meaty, smoky, with even more walnuts inside, flints, smoked meat, bresaola, and then indeed some chocolate and prunes kept in eau-de-vie. Slivovitz, armagnac, vieille prune, schlehenbrand… Mouth (neat): rich, heavy, punchy, with a lot of pepper, glue and varnish, walnut wine, black mushrooms, coffee beans, brine… With water: awesomely dry and even pretty medicinal. These cough syrups that'll cure anything, especially in wintertime. Right, that's now. Finish: long, dry. Nocino, walnuts, Jäger, cigars… Salt in the aftertaste. Right, a feeling of salt. Say some salinity. Comment: extremely good dry maritime sherry.

SGP:462 - 89 points.

An Orkney Distillery 14 yo 2008/2022 (64.8%, Whiskynavi, cask #139, 302 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 14 yo 2008/2022 (64.8%, Whiskynavi, cask #139, 302 bottles) Four stars
The picture on the label, especially the two kilns, is leaving little doubt, is it not… But watch the strength… Colour: white wine. Nose: apples and pears, distilled, running from the still. That's all I'm getting at full strength, could be me… With water: ah, phew, seawater, crushed chalk and slate, kelp, beach bonfire, rubbed mint leaves… Mouth (neat): murderous. The assault of lemons and green apples is so intense, one could almost make a horror film out of this story. With water: the whisky gets really warmer once you've added H2O, which says a lot. Other than that and thanks to our reducing skills (but of course), it's become a perfect, bladey, ultra-tight, salty and lemony HP that, between us, feels younger than 14. Some dry porridge. Finish: long, grassier, with a little mint, chalk, roots… and a smokier aftertaste. Comment: in truth it's really not that easy to reduce such a beast, It can snap suddenly, one must be careful. They should add guidelines to the labels. Perhaps. Such as 'two drops of water per 2cl spirit' or something.

SGP:463 - 87 points.

Distilled at an Orkney Distillery 22 yo 1999/2022 (52.6%, The Peninsula Collection, Nanyang Whisky & Rejo Beverages, Singapore, hogshead #8, 280 bottles)

Distilled at an Orkney Distillery 22 yo 1999/2022 (52.6%, The Peninsula Collection, Nanyang Whisky & Rejo Beverages, Singapore, hogshead #8, 280 bottles) Four stars and a half
I'm really glad we're having so many HPs for Asia. Colour: gold. Nose: this feeling of creamy, liqueury lightly-smoked citrus, lemon tarte, rhubarb tarte (as always, preferably with meringue), plus small herbs, from woodruff to lime tea. This time it is not a very coastal/briney one this far. With water: tighter and grassier. Charcoal, hay, fruit peels, seaweed, touch of camphor and ointments… Mouth (neat): much spicier, much more powerful on the palate, with bitter leaves, zests, menthol and liquorice, green tobacco, then much lemon and lime, plus a welcome small flat oyster. Little flesh, amazing taste - but this is not oysterfun.com, right. With water: the whisky spreads across your tongue, with herbal and coastal notes. Touch of juniper and capsicum. Finish: long. Bitter beer, seawater, bitter oranges, smoky leaves… Comment: full class slightly more austere style. Lovely bitter on the palate.

SGP:462 - 89 points.

Secret Orkneys Part Two


OO

 

 

Secret Orkney Distillery 14 yo 2009/2023 (47%, Signatory Vintage for Whic, Spirits of the Forest, bourbon hogshead, cask #DRU 17/A67 #37, 411 bottles)

Secret Orkney Distillery 14 yo 2009/2023 (47%, Signatory Vintage for Whic, Spirits of the Forest, bourbon hogshead, cask #DRU 17/A67 #37, 411 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: a little gasoline and chalk at first, then shoe polish, young calvados and just beer. After five minutes: more saltiness, a touch of vanilla, more green apples and pears. Mouth: green fruits and brine, bitter beer, hints of smoked chicken, a bit of pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, salted Dutch liquorice, some lapsang souchong… It's quite crazy but better focused than its sister bottling (SV UCF) getting ashier by the minute. Finish: long, with some green pepper, more shoe polish, seawater, apple peel and lemon zests in the aftertaste, as well as something medicinal, camphory. Comment: some kind of raw, smoky fighter that grows on you. Really smoky for HP – if this is HP indeed.

SGP:373 - 87 points.

Secret Orkney 16 yo 2006 /2022(54%, Chapter 7, Monologue, bourbon hogshead, cask #63, 382 bottles)

Secret Orkney 16 yo 2006/2022(54%, Chapter 7, Monologue, bourbon hogshead, cask #63, 382 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: more sweetness, more roundness, more buttercream and shortbread, custard, also zesty juices, maybe a little kiwi and strawberry, then pink bananas and mangos, then some classic coastalness, totally HP. Awesome so far. With water: some plasticine coming out at first, then a grassy smoke, touches of new rubber, a little grist and husk… Mouth (neat): impeccable fresh fruits and salty seashells, melons, peaches, oysters, a little eucalyptus… This is just perfect. Excellent definition. With water: menthol, seawater, lemons. Great combo, it takes water extremely well. Finish: rather long and really very coastal. Some bitterer lemon zests in the aftertaste, that's impeccable. Comment: it's almost a prototype, racing HP.

SGP:562 - 89 points.

Secret Orkney 8 yo 2014/2022 (52.8, Chapter 7, Monologue, red wine barrel, , cask #177, 314 bottles)

Secret Orkney 8 yo 2014/2022 (52.8, Chapter 7, Monologue, red wine barrel, , cask #177, 314 bottles) Three stars and a half
Well if it is a red wine barrel, it's not a monologue, it's at least a duet. Right… Colour: apricot. Nose: buds and leaves, strawberry jam, honeys, peonies… I believe this one's pretty safe but what is it with everyone and red wine at the moment? With water: fine, Jaffa cakes, marmalade, hints of rose petals, more cassis, fruity beers, and elastoplasts… Mouth (neat): certainly not a bad drop. Funny touches of bidis, eucalyptus, cassis, bay leaves, a little potting soil, blood oranges, Szechuan pepper… With water: candied cherries, some crème de menthe, Cynar, beer… Finish: rather long, rather mentholy, not too much of red berries. Comment: not really my thing but I must admit it was very well done. Pétrus? Romanée? I'm joking…
SGP:651 - 84 points.

An Orkney Distillery 10 yo 2011/2022 (49.9%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Kirsch Import, sherry butt, cask #5, 565 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 10 yo 2011/2022 (49.9%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Kirsch Import, sherry butt, cask #5, 565 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: amber. Nose: a lovely dustiness at first, then some toffee, black raisins, old marc de Bourgogne, candied cherries, furniture polish, dried figs, some molasses, old demerara rum, treacle toffee pudding… You see. Mouth: caramel cream, tobacco, cracked pepper, coffee, dark chocolate, a little lime and lemongrass, more old Demerara, also old armagnac, prunes, black raisins, more pipe tobacco… It's heavy but it is not stuffy at all, a perfect dram to have while singing O Tannenbaum or Fairytale of New York (RIP Shane McGowan – and Kirsty MacColl). Finish: long, rich and very Christmassy. Fruitcake moistened with kirschwasser all over the place, more bitterness in the aftertaste. Comment: Santa's own tipple. One of them.

SGP:652 - 88 points.

Old Orkney 19 yo 2004/2023 (53%, Decadent Drinks)

Old Orkney 19 yo 2004/2023 (53%, Decadent Drinks) Five stars
The latest inception of Decadent Drinks 'O.O.s'. Amazing old school label, with some real work done on it, no simple replicating. But this time again, I'm afraid it won't be a proper Stromness (you wish)… Colour: light gold. Nose: fat and tense nose, very typical, with some shoe polish, candles and slate, then more honeys, perhaps chestnut rather than the expected heather, as well as some fern and moss. With water: some perfect Japanese fermentary notes, fermented seaweed, just umami, shochu… Mouth (neat): exactly it. Sour fruits, full-bodied honeys, pink grapefruit, drop of thyme tea, some liquorice, pine-sap drops and some rounder coastal, salty smokiness. With water: lemons, granny smith, seawater, smoked water, pepper, wakame, more shochu… Finish: rather long, very salty and fermentary, sake-like in the end. Grapefruits and balms in the aftertaste. Comment: I thought this one was curiously 'Japanese', whatever that means. As utterly lovable as New O.O.'s first edition, and much more sophisticated than you would think. Utterly loved the balms.
SGP:562 - 90 points.

An Orkney 6 yo 2016/2023 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, bourbon)

An Orkney 6 yo 2016/2023 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, bourbon) Four stars
Only 6? Colour: straw. Nose: apple juice, a little varnish, nail polish, hops, pineapples and pears… Well it is a fruity very young malt whisky, probably extremely fairly priced (haven't checked that). Mouth: really good, young but well-formed, with a nice lemony grassiness, more pineapples, medlars, quinces, white wine, touch of seawater, apple juice, cider… Finish: medium, good. Nice apple and lemon juice combo. The usual salty touch in the aftertaste. Comment: young but very fine, the spirit speaks out. No infanticide here (I agree that's an ugly term, we will need to make some adjustments to the official vocabulary).

SGP:462 - 85 points.

Orkney 22 yo 2000/2023 (52.7%, The Whisky Exchange for the Whisky Show 2023)

Orkney 22 yo 2000/2023 (52.7%, The Whisky Exchange for the Whisky Show 2023) Five stars
London! Colour: straw. Nose: ancient-style, muddier HP, with more porridge, lanoline, engine oil, carbon dust, soot, bandages, hessian, dunnage… With water: little herbs, little ferments, little doughs, little earths, little citrus…Mouth (neat): the very definition of perfection. Bananas and menthol, heavy liquorice, slate and chalk, oysters, watercress, a little rhubarb… With water: more small herbs, lemony coriander, sage, parsley, more cress, alfalfa… Finish: not thaaaat long, but superbly fermentary. All small herbs in the final choir. Comment: beatus vir… I'd have hated to miss this one. Now, careful with water!

SGP:462 - 91 points.

#4.277 20 yo 2000/2021 (55.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill bourbon hogshead, 'A punch and a pout, honey and heft', 304 bottles)

#4.277 20 yo 2000/2021 (55.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill bourbon hogshead, 'A punch and a pout, honey and heft', 304 bottles) Three stars and a half
All right, everybody knows #4 is Highland Park. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's rather an acetic, varnishy one, with some acetone and lemon oils. Tight green rhubarb and not-too-ripe kiwi. With water: the usual chalk and raw sheep-wool. Mouth (neat): extreme lemons and varnish. Tough boy but there's something attractive too… A bit ambivalent, shall we say. With water: pure lemons, chalk and green apples. Finish: long, kind of muddy and very doughy. Green walnuts in the aftertaste. Comment: it sure doesn't beat around the Highland bush. Hum-hum.

SGP:372 - 84 points.

An Orkney 15 yo 2007/2023 (55.9%, Malt Universe, China, hogshead, cask #6, 323 bottles)

An Orkney 15 yo 2007/2023 (55.9%, Malt Universe, China, hogshead, cask #6, 323 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: awesome porridge, seawater, beach sand, mud, chalk, lemon and old apples. There. With water: same plus some paraffin. Mouth (neat): as good as it gets, just a tad monomaniacal, shall we say. Raw earthy, coastal maltiness and un-GM apples. With water: raw eaux-de-vie, plums, grass, yeast, apple juice… Finish: rather long, grassy and earthy. Comment: very good whisky, but I haven't found much HPness in this one.

SGP:461 - 84 points.
 

December 11, 2023


Whiskyfun

And how about we try some
Secret Orkney?

Would we stumble upon some Scapas? You never know, let's see… What's more we'll do this in a completely random organised manner, if you agree. And, ideas-ideas, we could even throw in a few true HPs here and there. But beware, we currently have zillions of them…

Orkney

 

 

Old Orkney Whisky 13 yo (50%, Decadent Drinks, 2023)

Old Orkney Whisky 13 yo (50%, Decadent Drinks, 2023) Five stars
I think it was great move to acquire this old brand, a.k.a O.O. or Double-O, formerly used by and for Stromness Distillery. Naturally, they couldn't bottle any Stromness anymore, but I know the spirit is there. Colour: straw. Nose: let's try to get Stromness, which we've tried two or three times, out of our head. This is rather on ink and porridge, beach bonfire, seawater, gherkin brine, olives indeed, oysters, embrocations, menthol-based ointments… To add that this is maritime would be an understatement. With water: it's really peatier and more coastal than your average whisky 'from the island'. Also lovely whiffs of Scottish rainwater - which they have plenty of, as we all know. Mouth (neat): lemons and peat, more olives and gherkins, something 'from Skye' (how bizarre), more oysters and mussels, pepper… With water: a tad sweeter, around marmalade, but other than that it's is one of those fatter sauvignons blancs, made whisky. Finish: long, salty, coastal. Oysters and a dollop of grapefruit liqueur. Comment: it is so great to see a legendary old brand being revived with gusto and no pachydermic moves (as seen elsewhere). I'd even swear there are echoes of Stromness, so presto, one more point just because of that.

SGP:564 - 90 points.

Secret Orkney 15 yo 2007/2022 (48.6%, The Whisky Agency for RIFA, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #7, 222 bottles)

Secret Orkney 15 yo 2007/2022 (48.6%, The Whisky Agency for RIFA, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #7, 222 bottles) Five stars
Taiwan's really become a crazy country, whisky-wise. Colour: light gold. Nose: we're closer to the core of HP, with more honey, mead, kippers, overripe apples, sea spray, puréed chestnuts, dried figs… Was it a refill sherry hogshead? Mouth: we're reminded of the best batches of the official 18, really. A lot of demerara sugar, salty soups and sauces, dried figs, a touch of salted caramel fudge, then old mead, the trademark heather honey… You would have believed this cask was sourced straight from the Distillery (but in the 1980s, ha). Finish: long, honeyed and salty. Comment: pure 'official' HP, really. No variants, no simplifications, no deviances. Well, in the name of Al-Jaber, this session is already too fast and high!…
SGP:553 - 90 points.

Unnamed Orkney 16 yo 2006/2022 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, refill butt, cask #DRU17/A65)

Unnamed Orkney 16 yo 2006/2022 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, refill butt, cask #DRU17/A65) Three stars and a half
I think they were playing Battleships when they decided on the number for this butt. Colour: full gold. Nose: it's a mellower one, rather on fudge, shortbread, butterscotch, barley sugar, Golden Grahams, then dunnage and 'old hessian bags lying in the cellar'. Mead is obvious too, as well as hints of old sweet wine. Mouth: the saltiness kicking in, together with broths and soups, some earthiness, stewed root vegetables, touch of good sulphur (candlewax-like), a drop of sweetened leek soup, a drop of Islay malt… Well, anything an old butt could provide us with. No 'clear line' here, but there is a comfortable Sunday-afternoon-feel to it.  Finish: rather long, spicier, more peppery. Chocolate in the aftertaste. Comment: a bit jumbled but still jivy, so this time again, we'll declare we're rather pleased. Indeed it was a little hard to come after the OO and the TWA.

SGP:552 - 83 points.

Secret Orkney 13 yo 2009/2023 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, refill hogshead, cask #DRU17/A67 9/10/13/21)

Secret Orkney 13 yo 2009/2023 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, refill hogshead, cask #DRU17/A67 9/10/13/21) Three stars
Have you seen the cask number? They're taking the mickey out of us, it won't go down like that, let's fight back! Colour: pale white wine. Nose: saccharose, apple liqueur (manzana), drop of pastis, fennel, mashed potatoes, porridge, pot ale… It's not on the nose that everything is happening, apparently… Mouth: more HPness, peat, sour wines, seawater, lime juice, and a feeling of Scottish T-punch that's not totally unpleasant. It's raw and unpolished but on the other hand, that may be its main asset. Malt whisky for the countryside. Finish: rather long but curiously sugary, once more. Sweet beers and limoncello… Comment: 1. buy a house in the Scottish countryside and 2. bring this bottle and invite neighbours. As we all know, our dear Scottish friends (love you all) will drink anything just because they always manage to intellectualize any of their own products. Even Irn Bru.

SGP:552 - 82 points.

Orkney Distillery 19 yo 2002/2022 (54.3%, Chorlton Whisky, Nouvelle Vague, hogshead, 324 bottles)

Orkney Distillery 19 yo 2002/2022 (54.3%, Chorlton Whisky, Nouvelle Vague, hogshead, 324 bottles) Two stars and a half
Chorlton, some of the nicest, most peaceful labels (and whiskies) in town. Colour: straw. Nose: all right, it is one of those pure, yet oily, yet pretty mineral HPs. Sunflower oil, lamp oil, linseed, lemon zests, chalk, metal polish, fresh engine oil, lemon juice, seaweed… How very HP! With water: moves towards vegetables, cabbage perhaps, damp magazines, ink… Very Nouvelle Vague indeed, not much is truly traditional here.  Mouth (neat): some deviant notes at first (around plasticine and 7UP) but those are soon to become moderate assets, should you not be afraid of strange oils and other thicker substances. Like lavender liqueur. With water: do-not-add-any-water, unless you've got a doctorate in nuclear chemistry. Finish: long, still on plastics, stearin, lavender oil, rubber and… well, the name escapes me. Glue, perhaps? Scotch tape? Comment: It's strange, for sure, but it's also amusing. Political whisky, almost. Score for my own record only.

SGP:362 - 78 points.

An Orkney Distillery 17 yo 2005/2022 (60.3%, The Dava Way, hogshead, 300 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 17 yo 2005/2022 (60.3%, The Dava Way, hogshead, 300 bottles) Four stars
This from Bimber's own range of indie malt whiskies. Colour: gold. Nose: an easy, citrus-led, slightly coastal style, pretty tight, clean, smoky, mineral, earthy, all that even at full strength. With water: gets a tad acetic. Lemon juice, drop of cider vinegar, a little nail polish remover… Mouth (neat): rich mineral and waxy arrival, then peppers and capsicum, smoke, greasy soups… With water: a salty blast, stones, rocks and sands, lemons… and elastoplasts. Just apples in the background. Finish: rather long, with some plasticine and salty waters. We've got one in France called Vichy. Not a very nice name. A drop of vinegar in the aftertaste. Comment: a fattish natural HP. Some strangeness and some mysteries, and I like this punk aspect rather a lot.

SGP:462 - 86 points.
 

December 10, 2023


Whiskyfun

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

 

 

Rum, from Java to Trinidad

So it's rum again today, but we'll do cognac and armagnac when we get closer to Christmas. As usual, let's first have an uncertain little apéro… Meaning we don't quite know what to expect.

 

 

Naga 'Java Reserve' (40%, OB, Indonesia, Batavia arrack, +/-2023)

Naga 'Java Reserve' (40%, OB, Indonesia, Batavia arrack, +/-2023) Two stars
We've had a Naga 'Pearl of Jakarta' at 42.7% earlier this year, we found it to be rather proper despite vast amounts of sweetness. This Batavia arrack is 'made with Indonesian aged rum' but in theory, these arracks could also shelter rice spirit if I'm not mistaken. This one's is partly aged in local tropical wood (Jati). Colour: amber. Nose: a lot of caramel upfront, some kind of herbal toffee, pancake sauce, molasses, then roasted peanuts and pecans. A little mocha too. Mouth: pretty sweet, pretty light, starting with triple-sec or curaçao, drops of coffee liqueur, before some molasses and simply candy sugar would return in waves, together with those roasted pecan nuts. Rather kind of fine but there isn't much body. Finish: short, with a little caramel and sugarcane syrup. Comments: I find it acceptable, this very light little Javanese arrack/rum. At least it's not extravagantly syrupy.

SGP:720 - 71 points.

Rhum J.M 2015/2023 (53.3%, OB for Wu Dram Clan, Martinique, agricole, American oak and French oak, cask 200097, 274 bottles)

Rhum J.M 2015/2023 (53.3%, OB for Wu Dram Clan, Martinique, agricole, American oak and French oak, cask 200097, 274 bottles) Four stars and a half
As usual, it'll be about the amount of new oak/bourbonness, given that I'm more in favour of some relative moderation in that respect. Colour: deep amber. Nose: varnish, coconut and pinesap at first, then banana bread, menthol and a little pineapple liqueur. The piney menthol never stops growing, that's the wood. Let's see what water will do to it… With water: good fun, it's now geared towards model glue, balsawood, sauna oils and, perhaps, a little ylang-ylang. Cinnamon oil. Mouth (neat): high-concentration, extractive oak, fresh-sawn pinewood and coconut. Wham! Then marmalade… With water: once again, water makes wonders, it would relax everything and make it more fruity and floral, easier too. Mint and liquorice plus touches burnt molasses in the background. Finish: medium, very agricole now. Vanilla, honeysuckle, more liquorice, some roasted honeyed pecans. Comments: excellent, but be careful, the rather civilised alcohol content might lead you to think that adding water is unnecessary. On the contrary, I believe we need to soften the woods.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

Rhum Dieu-le-Veut 7 yo 2016 (52%, OB, Belize, 485 bottles)

Rhum Dieu-le-Veut 7 yo 2016 (52%, OB, Belize, 485 bottles) Four stars
Most probably a Travellers, which is good news. It was matured in bourbon, then cognac. Colour: straw. Nose: small whiffs of engine oil and paraffin at first, then pistachio cream, praline cream, vanilla, raisin rolls (from the cognac, I would suppose) and honeysuckle. It is a very elegant nose, slightly discreet, in a good way. With water: more towards hay and bagasse, cane honey… Mouth (neat): sugarcane and small anise-like herbs, preserved peaches and pears, custard. With water: cane juice, really. A little fudge too, butterscotch, some soft gingerbread… Finish: medium to short, globally on cane syrup. Comments: it's a fine, relatively light (but not thin) rum, pretty elegant and refined.

SGP:631 - 85 points.

Chairman's Reserve 15 yo 2006 (59%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, St Lucia, New Vibrations, 2023)

Chairman's Reserve 15 yo 2006 (59%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, St Lucia, New Vibrations, 2023) Four stars and a half
This baby was made in the distillery's Vendôme pot still. We've tried some wonderful Chairman's Reserve within the last two or three years. Colour: deep amber. Nose: pretty incredible arrival on carbolineum and proper balsamic vinegar, really not a common combo. Loads of crushed slate, petrol, new electronics (designed in California, ha-ha) and then, very old Sauternes, botrytis, barbecued herbs (thyme, rosemary) and anything empyreumatic. Very unusual. With water: more on salted liquorice but something very pleasantly acetic remains. Mouth (neat): I'd have said old Port Mourant, plain and simple, or lighter Clarendon. Turpentine, olives, rotting pineapples, glue, varnish, dried pears, drop of seawater… With water: more glue and varnish yet. Finish: long, salty, estery, 'Jamaican'. Woody and petroly aftertaste. Comments: we're all chairmen with Chairman's Reserve. No, that's no official baseline, just a little joke. Loved this one, even if the oak has tried to take over all along.
SGP:562 - 89 points.

Romero & Sons 1973 (50.4%, Flensburg Rum Company, Kirsch Imports, Ecuador, cask #36, 198 bottles, 2023)

Romero & Sons 1973 (50.4%, Flensburg Rum Company, Kirsch Imports, Ecuador, cask #36, 198 bottles, 2023) Four stars
Made out of sugarcane honey, in pot stills. We've tried our first Romero just one month ago and while I wasn't expecting much (nah, plain and simple ignorance), I was pleasantly surprised with their 'Solera Especial' – while the name solera itself is usually rather a turn off at WF Towers, I mean with rum. Colour: light gold. Nose: a pastry shop, really, with croissants, danishes, cupcakes, shortbreads, then Turkish delights, baklavas, with rather a lot of honey and orange blossom water. Something delicately oriental - yes, I know where Ecuador is located. With water: touches of ink, old books, honeycomb (from Melipona, ha). Mouth (neat): sweet but not too sugary, rather on old triple sec, orange cordials, jam, cane honey indeed… It's an easy drop at 50 years of age and no oak got in the way during all those years, which I find miraculous. Having said that I've seen it has aged at high altitude, probably in a cold environment. With water: little further changes, but it really remains an elegant, well-behaved old lighter rum. Finish: medium, with notes of early grey. Comments: to think that indeed, this baby is 50… I think it is an extremely fine old rum. I can't wait to try new stuff by the Romeros.

SGP:531 - 86 points.

Do we say Bielle?

Bielle 19 yo 2001 (43.8%, The Auld Alliance & Famille Ricci, Marie-Galante, agricole, 48 bottles, 2023)

Bielle 19 yo 2001 (43.8%, The Auld Alliance & Famille Ricci, Marie-Galante, agricole, 48 bottles, 2023) Five stars
I really don't know where our friends managed to find this very rare small stock of Bielle. Their new 15/2008 has been terrifyingly good last week. Colour: dark amber. Nose: et voilà. Old wardrobe, old polishes (old Jag, old library), honeysuckle and jasmine tea, liquorice and apricots (new on WF, apricot-flavoured liquorice - ha), then potting soil, garden peat, porcinis, black earth… This nose is simply extraordinary. Mouth: reminiscent of some of the most dazzling folle-blanche armagnacs, with peaches in all their guises and some stupendous earthy liquorice, as well as pinewood and menthol tobacco, snuff… The peaches are exceptional, the raisins too. Notes of very old V.O.R.S. sherry, but I doubt this was sherry cask. Finish: long, with a drop of coffee, a drop of old Bénédictine and a drop of peach liqueur. And more folle blanche in the aftertaste. Comments: just a grand, totally superlative old Bielle. Has it been resting in a demijohn between, say 2020 and 2023? Asking for a friend…

SGP:662 - 92 points
(almost 93).

Last one… Let's make it big enough so that it doesn't get crushed by the Bielle…

Caroni 24 yo 1998/2023 (58.1%, Precious Liquors, Tortuga Edition No.3, Trinidad, mizunara finish)

Caroni 24 yo 1998/2023 (58.1%, Precious Liquors and East Asia Whisky Conpany, Tortuga Edition No.3, Trinidad, mizunara finish) Four stars and a half
Well, asking why they did a 2-year mizunara finish on a Caroni 1998 is the same as wondering about the meaning of life. Just don't ask. After all, some are adding Coke to Pétrus. Colour: dark reddish amber. Nose: petrol, teak oil, Barbour grease, new tyres, cedarwood and 'a very old pipe full of tar'. A few leaves and stems too (cherry, peach). With water: a little more on moss, old tump, minty mushrooms (blue foot mushrooms, blewit, lepista or clitocybe nuda, it depends)… Mouth (neat): huge. Think chestnut honey, with some truffle, heavy meat reduction, pine tar, heavy cough syrup (menthol, coriander seeds, eucalyptus) and a drop of turpentine. This feeling of turpentine may – or not – stem from that mizunara wood. With water: sweet petrol, shall we say. The oak's getting a little insistent, maybe. Finish: long, between pinewood/mizunara and olives, lemons, liquorice and tar. Some sweeter fruitiness in the aftertaste. Comments: it's absolutely excellent, I just had a bit of trouble understanding everything about the woods they used.
SGP:563 - 89 points.

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

 

December 9, 2023


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland


Old Irish once again 

Let's have a few old Irish whiskeys this week if you please. These are always fun and often refreshing to try amidst many modern (or even many old style) Scottish and other malts. For once we'll start in the distant past and move forward through the decades. We are anticipating grass, metal and oily toolboxes galore… 
Angus  

 

 

 

 

 

Henry Thomson Old Irish Whisky (OB, Henry Thomson & Co Newry Ireland, -/+1900)

Henry Thomson Old Irish Whisky (OB, Henry Thomson & Co Newry Ireland, -/+1900)
A beautiful old label, and another old brand which was 'supplied to Queen Victoria', but did she drink any of it? Probably, she liked a dram I believe. And also note 'whisky', not 'whiskey', which on the really old bottles seems to have been pretty common. Colour: pale straw. Nose: oh, this is a little unexpected, something almost peaty, a grassy, dry and slightly turfy style of peat, along with some roasted turnips, old copper coins and impressions of old, slightly dried out herbal liqueurs - which we find more commonly in older Scottish whiskies than Irish I would say. Perhaps the nose is a little tired, or oxidised? It's hard to say where some of these aromas come from, or what remains of how it would have presented originally. I rather like it, I have to say. Mouth: indeed, peat! Dry, earthy, sooty and very old school peat flavour, with a little sense of grain whisky in the background too, like old bruised green apples and their peelings, then rather a lot of camphor, vegetable stock and wet grains. In time also some old oily toolbox rags and impressions of hessian and more copper coins. Blind you might easily have said an extremely old Scottish blend from the same sort of era, the presence of peat and the slightly heavier profile all lean in that direction, rather than, say, an old pure pot still character. Finish: medium, on slightly medicinal and faded herbal notes, more wet cereals, bouillon, camphor and metal polish. Comments: very old school, and probably on the decline in terms of freshness and power, but there are some fascinating and charming old fashioned flavours in here, particularly that of the very dry and turfy peat. An old Irish blend cosplaying as a Scotch perhaps? Was this a deliberately commercial move on the part of the blenders during this era? As ever, with such antique bottles, more questions than answers.

SGP: 464 - 85 points. 

 

 

John Jameson & Son 10 yo (OB 'Bottled by Comet Lounge Bars Ltd', -/+ 1960s)

John Jameson & Son 10 yo (OB 'Bottled by Comet Lounge Bars Ltd', -/+ 1960s)
A very cool old Irish bottle that seems like some kind of official / semi-indy version for Comet Lounge Bars. I don't know anything about them, but I have a sudden urge to go drinking in their establishments. Ideally in the 1960s if possible. Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: yup, we are in old Ireland alright! A big and immediate mix of old toolbox rags, hessian cloth, mechanical oils, metals, coins, breads and the most grassy of olive oil. A style that's rather extreme in some ways and very particular to Ireland. It's also to be wondered what parts of this belong to, or have been enhanced, by old bottle effect? You can add quite a bit of bouillon, vegetable stock, soup and dried out old bouquet garni. Mouth: getting tougher here. Presents with a highly medical side that's akin to pure old mothballs, plasters and medical tincture. That's along with this same mechanical and oily toolbox / old garage side. Also soot and shoe polish impressions, along with camphor, putty and something that gives a rather unfortunate impression of stale, sour beers and carpet - pub whiskey indeed! Finish: medium-short and getting rather grainy, lots of metal polish, plain mashed potatoes and old copper coins. Comments: fascinating whiskey that, just like the Henry Thomson, raises many more questions than it answers. Not the best technically but I'm always happy to taste such liquid artefacts. Now, some of these old Irish bottlings can be much, much better, let's not forget… 

SGP: 461 - 75 points. 

 

 

John Jameson & Sons 7 yo (43%, OB, 1960s)

John Jameson & Sons 7 yo (43%, OB, 1960s)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah, this is more like it, big, greasy and fat distillate with a wealth of underripe green and even exotic fruits peeping through. Things like green banana, some mango and then some unexpected things like rapeseed oil, olive oil cake and fermenting beer. Really a funky and left-field style, but one with significant charms! Mouth: excellent arrival! Great power, sharp, grassy and peppery attack, with mineral oils, suet, vegetable stocks, white pepper and crystallised citrus fruits with more impressions of cooking oils, primarily of the rapeseed and olive varieties. There's also these more familiar impressions of copper coins, toolboxes and metal polish, but they feel well balanced by a good sense of power and the presence of these various fruits. This at 100° proof would be stellar I suspect. Finish: long, grassy, full on olive oil, lemon rind, some putty and waxes and more of these nicely punchy peppery and even watercress notes. Comments: awesome old Irish pure pot, that recalls some very old bottlings of Redbreast. Love the palate on this one, it has amazing freshness and power considering the age and ABV. I could quaff a modest flagon of this stuff, washed down with the occasional Guinness or Murphy's, naturally. Now, Whiskyfun of course suggests that you drink responsibly. 

SGP: 651 - 88 points. 

 

 

Let's get back to the future…

 

 

Cooley 22 yo 2001/2023 (52.6%, Radiomars, bourbon barrel, 194 bottles)

Cooley 22 yo 2001/2023 (52.6%, Radiomars, bourbon barrel, 194 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: bright and extremely fruity, all on mashed banana, overripe pears, pineapple juice and greener things like lime and then grass and crushed nettles, doing that familiar and very pleasurable cosplaying as New Zealand sauvignon blanc which I really enjoy. Also a little mango and some olive oil vibes too. Excellent and approaching fruit bomb territory. With water: a tiny note of nutmeg and a little cannabis oil, but otherwise still dominated by green fruits with slightly exotic touches too. Mouth: oily and full of citrus and yellow fruits, also a strong flavour of juicy fruit chewing gum and even bubblegum. Then evolving into muddled fruit salad juice territory. Excellent fruitiness and lovely oily mouthfeel supporting that. With water: really superb now, pure fruit bomb, extremely pleasurable and showing a natural fructose sweetness. More juicy fruit chewing gum and nettles. Finish: medium, once again on various bubblegum vibes, pineapple, lemon jelly and hints of juniper and aniseed. Comments: deadly! Works extremely well with water too I would say, especially on the palate. Perhaps just loses a single point in the finish, but we are nit picking.

SGP: 751 - 89 points. 
 

 

Thanks to Martin, Aaron and Cicada!

 

 

 

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

 

December 8, 2023


Whiskyfun

Long time no Tamnavulin

Mind you, I've formally tried 25 Tamnavulins within our many years of Whiskyfun, that's barely one Tamnavulin per year. It's true that it's a fairly 'new' distillery (youngsters will laugh) as it was only built in 1966 to produce a main component for Whyte & Mackay. It's been kind of relaunched as a single malt pretty recently but the newest owners seem to have believed that it was a good idea to do a whole series of table wine finishes. Let's check that and see if we can also find a clean one…

It is believed that it was Charlemagne who first planted Pinot Noir / Spätburgunder in current Germany, actually in Rheingau (portrait by Dürer, Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg)

Charlemagne

 

 

Tamnavulin 'White Wine Cask Edition' (40%, OB, Sauvignon Blanc, 2022)

Tamnavulin 'White Wine Cask Edition' (40%, OB, Sauvignon Blanc, 2022) Three stars and a half
I love the whiskies that display notes of sauvignon blanc, but that doesn't mean that I'm expecting some distillers to add some straight to the whiskies. NAS, sauvignon (without even knowing about its origin) and 40% vol., I can't see what could go wrong. Seriously, you never know, while the price cannot be fairer (approx. 26€)… Colour: straw. Nose: ah well, this seems to work, with these notes of granny smith and greengages upfront, then green bananas, nectarines and maybe a few rose petals and acacia blossom. Turkish delights aren't far away… You would believe this is a nice young 1970s Lowlander. Mouth: absolutely, no quibble, no complaints, this is a good fresh young malt that keeps its promises. So… a young fresh Sancerre, with white peaches, honeysuckle, pomelo, Crenshaw melon, elderflower syrup, and even a little celery. Finish: not that long but neither thin nor weak, with lemon drops and sweet lime. Fruit bonbons in the aftertaste, perhaps a little too sweet now. Comments: this is perfectly all right. God knows I was expecting much worse but remember I had only tried 25 Tamnavulins until today.
SGP:640 - 83 points.

Tamnavulin 'Red Wine Cask Edition No.3' (40%, OB, German Pinot Noir, 2020)

Tamnavulin 'Red Wine Cask Edition No.3' (40%, OB, German Pinot Noir, 2020) Two stars
What is German Pinot Noir? Why don't they call it Spätburgunder since they have a name for their very excellent PNs? Granted, it's the same varietal, let's not be overly picky (we're never overly picky, are we). But would you call bubbly from Sonoma 'Californian Champagne'? Hold on… Colour: apricot. Nose: once again, no straight cassis or cherry bomb here, it's been rather well mastered, it does not nose like an old bachelor's jam or liqueur. Having said, you could have believed you were having a cherry clafoutis under your nose, plus a cup of thyme and menthol tea. That's good for our bronchial tubes (not the clafoutis). Mouth: nah, not quite, dissonances appear now, tomato leaves, cassis leaves and buds, capsicum, plus candied cherries indeed, drops of Heering… It is really pretty premixy. Pass. Finish: sweet. Bonbons and bubblegum. Comments: absolutely not a disaster but I do not fancy these very hybrid palates.
SGP:751 - 75 points.

Bah there's more and more hybrid whisky around anyway… I'm meaning whiskies that borrow a significant part of their aromas and flavours from other drinks, wines, beers, other spirits…. But let us move on, if you please…

Tamnavulin 'Oloroso Cask Edition' (40%, OB, 2021)

Tamnavulin 'Oloroso Cask Edition' (40%, OB, 2021) Two stars and a half
Another NAS finishing at 40% vol., but in oloroso we trust. Colour: gold. Nose: sweet nut cakes and tart, praline, butterscotch, shortbread, earl grey, raspberry muffins, plus indeed a little walnut wine but I'm not finding it particularly oloroso-y on the nose. I would have thought Pedro. Mouth: really fine, once again not that thin despite the low, slightly stingy ABV (come on even on Planet Mars they know it's the legal minimum) and rather on apple pies and fruitcakes, toffee apples, touch of pancake sauce... It's not high-def sherried malt but it's pleasant. Finish: very short this time, with notes of sweetened beer (that Kriek beer that we keep mentioning for no particular reasons). Comments: the (relative) tour de force was rather the Sauvignon Blanc.
SGP:651 - 79 points.

Can we have a Tamnavulin 'Tamnavulin Edition' please? Let's ask the indies…

Tamnavulin 6 yo 2016/2023 (50%, Claxton's Exploration Series, Ruby Port hogshead)

Tamnavulin 6 yo 2016/2023 (50%, Claxton's Exploration Series, Ruby Port hogshead) Two stars
No luck, this young baby was boosted in ruby Port, as it appears. Ruby Port was all the rage in 2022 and 2023, let's see what 2024 will bring. My money is on Recioto or Tokaji Aszù. Colour: garnet red (for fun). Nose: pastries full of buttercream, strawberries in all their guises, gingerbread, mulled red wine, Sachertorte and fifty cinnamon rolls. After all, it will soon be Christmas. It really smells of an Xmas liqueur rather than whisky, but it is pretty joyful. Water unnecessary. Mouth: peppered strawberry cake, carrot cake and zwetschke tart with tons of cinnamon drizzle. With water: water brings out a little maltiness – remember this is malt whisky! Sweet stout. Finish: rather long, with more strawberry jam and cinnamon, plus rosehip tea. Comments: hyper-hybrid drink and total winesky, but with some pleasant aspects.
SGP:741 - 76 points.

Let's insist, can't we have a Tamnavulin 'Tamnavulin Edition'? There, just ask…

Tamnavulin 2009/2023 (54.8%, Malt Universe, China, hogshead, cask #4504, 313 bottles)

Tamnavulin 2009/2023 (54.8%, Malt Universe, China, hogshead, cask #4504, 313 bottles) Four stars
It's quite mad that one has to go all the way to Guangzhou in China to find a natural, well-aged Tamnavulin! Now one doesn't need much convincing to go to Guangzhou... Colour: white wine. Nose: high-precision, crystal-clear fresh and tight malt whisky on apples, greener melons (honeydew, perhaps casaba) and white flowers, acacia… Then vivid whiffs of crushed slate. With water: more of that slate, some clay, some chalk, otherwise some carrot juice. Mouth (neat): exactly a clean, fresh and fruity Speysider, almost totally on fresh green and white fruits. Green melons again, custard apples, gooseberries, green bananas, apples once more, also mulberries, and a little cane syrup drizzled over this lovely fruit salad. With water: no real changes… Finish: medium, clean, fruity, easy yet firm and compact. So, lovely. Comments: It might not be the kind of whisky that makes your head spin 360 degrees (you might say that's for the best), but it remains perfect, in the purest sense of the word perfect (oh really, what's that, S.?)

SGP:651 - 87 points.

'Mission accomplished.'

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

 

December 7, 2023


Whiskyfun

Burnsides and Balvenie

There's more Burnside (teaspooned Balvenie) than proper Balvenies around these days.

Mirabelles (Pleine Vie)

Mirabelle

 

 

Taken From a Cask Labelled Burnside 23 yo 1999/2022 (49.2%, Acla Selection, Switzerland, Classic, blended malt, hogshead, cask #2139)

Taken From a Cask Labelled Burnside 23 yo 1999/2022 (49.2%, Acla Selection, Switzerland, Classic, blended malt, hogshead, cask #2139) Four stars and a half
I like the name of this whisky, well done Swiss friends. Colour: straw. Nose: epitomically fresh Balvenie, shock-full of oranges, tangerines, apples and, drum-roll please, mirabelles! Plus quinces, Pilsner, hops and even more mirabelles. In my little book, Balvenie, unless heavily sherried, always means mirabelle plums. With just a drop of water: some barley syrup, toffee apples… Palate (neat): mirabelles, acacia honey, citron liqueur, quince jelly, touch of wormwood, all that with a creamy mouthfeel. There's nothing to throw away. With a drop of water: a little more vanilla, custard tart, otherwise a perfect summary of everything one might find in a quaint, old garden in the heart of Europe. See what I mean, it's ravishing. Finish: long, with a little citrus chiming in, lime, candy sugar, drops of sweet ale, apple liqueur… And of course, mirabelles. Comment: extremely close to the core of the distillery. Lovable drop, very, very close to perfection.

SGP:651 - 89 points.

Burnside 28 yo 1994/2022 (45.4%, Whisky Picnic Bar, Taiwan, 1st fill bourbon hogshead, cask #3523, 207 bottles)

Burnside 28 yo 1994/2022 (45.4%, Whisky Picnic Bar, Taiwan, 1st fill bourbon hogshead, cask #3523, 207 bottles) Five stars
We've already noticed quite a few times that these good people over there in Taiwan knew how to select a cask. Colour: gold. Nose: oh. Old beeswax (when it gets darker), old Sauternes (ditto), banana wine, overripe mirabelles (the ones people usually distill – we did this year BTW), old furniture polish, humidor, citron liqueur, white chocolate, mead, then embrocations, camphor, secret balms… There's something voodoo in there. Mouth: mysteriously meady, with notes of very old chardonnay, buttercream, walnuts, sour apples, medlars, jujubes… You would believe there's some old cognac in there too. Tiny touch of coconut wine, white currant jelly (why oh why has that become so rare?), elderflower liqueur… Then beeswax again and 'soft old spices' from the cask, soft cinnamon, a touch of black tea… Finish: medium, this time more on dried fruits, figs first. Some menthol in the aftertaste, which is refreshing indeed. Comment: a very chic old Burnside, very emblematic of the distillery.

SGP:641 - 90 points.

Burnside 28 yo 1994/2022 (48.2%, HNWS, The Spirits Hunter, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #5137, 236 bottles)

Burnside 28 yo 1994/2022 (48.2%, HNWS, The Spirits Hunter, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #5137, 236 bottles) Four stars and a half
I have the feeling that this shouldn't be too different. Just a slightly silly question, supposing the distillery wanted to buy back one or more of these sublime barrels, could they revert them to single malt and sell them under the Balvenie name? Or are they doomed to remain Burnside blended malt, reserved for true connoisseurs like you and me? Hope so, ha-ha. Colour: light gold. Nose: it's a tenser, tighter 1994, showing less age and more fresh Western fruits, rather in the style of Acla's 1999. This means we have various apples, beers, plums (includes mirabelles), loads of quinces, honeys, flowers (honeysuckle)… There's a lot Nature in there. Mouth: there was little doubt that this would be perfectly fruity, between apples and pears, plums, lemons… Now there's also a little more wood, green tea, green spices… I believe the Picnic is keeping the upper hand all along, as it is significantly more complex. Finish: rather long, sweet, maltier. Bananas flambéed au whisky. Au Balvenie, bien sûr. Comment: no, it's very excellent too. Isn't it tricky when whiskies are this close to each other? Just forget about scores, please, they are only personal.

SGP:651 - 88 points.

Good, please an OB…

Balvenie 18 yo 'Classic' (43%, OB, Marie Brizard Import France, 75cl, +/-1985)

Balvenie 18 yo 'Classic' (43%, OB, Marie Brizard Import France, 75cl, +/-1985) Five stars
This Balvenie dates from a time when it was still in good taste for a Scotch whisky to draw on an imagery more commonly associated with French brandies, in this case the famous Basque bottles also known by the general public as "raquette" (racquet) bottles. There was also a ten-year-old aged in a more "Cognac-style" bottle, as well as NAS and 12 yo versions of this 'racket' bottle. Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more "old Highlands" than the more recent Balvenies, with a lot of polish, some deliciously rancid walnut oil, engine oil, and even kirsch and service berry. Then acacia honey, quince, and mirabelle plum notes, more typical of contemporary Balvenies, do start to appear after about ten minutes but remain rather discreet. Old walnuts and polish ultimately prevail. Palate: the whisky has probably evolved over the years, now displaying notes of broth, marrow, salt, and leek, mingled with walnuts and a rancio character that has become completely dry. Finish: medium length, saline, quite oxidative, with tobacco and still nuts. Sometimes reminiscent of an old amontillado. A hint of pine smoke at the very end. Comment: this subject remains highly controversial, but for me, this old Balvenie has evolved in its bottle like a great Pauillac, certainly slowly, but surely. However, I cannot tell you if the "Basque" shape of the bottle has further favoured this evolution, we will try to remember to ask a few friends in the Gers or in the Landes about that.
SGP:562 - 90 points

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

 

December 6, 2023


Whiskyfun

A flight of 7 Octomore

While the very first 'new' Bruichladdichs at the very beginning of the 2000s were lightly peated, it was soon decided to go back to zero peat, all while adding peated variants of the make, including a very smoky one called 'Octomore', which was the name of both a farm and an ancient small distillery in the neighbourhood.

Bairds
Bairds Maltings in Inverness, home of the company's
peated malts. The site is expanding. (Bairds Malt)

The new Octomores have always been super-peaty, starting from 80ppm peat in the malt up to 200 or even more, all sourced from the mainland (from Bairds' if I remember well, produced according to own specifications)... Having said that, we've already noticed that the 'effects, of the ppms' in the glass are never linear. The first vintage of Octomore has been 2002. There, that's more or less all I know, let's catch up now…

 

 

Octomore 5 yo 2015/2021 'Edition 12.1' (59.9%, OB, The Impossible Equation, 1st fill bourbon) Five stars
130.8ppm peat here, while as always, Edition #**.1 is matured in first-fill bourbon, so with no wine in the way. According to the distillers, 5 years is also the ideal age to retain as much peat as possible. Now we also seem to know that it's mainly between the malting plant and the mashtuns that most smokiness can be lost. Colour: white wine. Nose: these batches are always very pure, surgically cut, almost mono-dimensional in fact but that's exactly what you'd be looking for. Ashes, chalk, soot, brine and basta cosi. With water: kelp, oysters, chalk, new sweater, wool... Mouth (neat): rather fat, all while being sharp as a scalpel. More ashes, olives, seawater, also lemons. Certainly the malt that's closest to the heaviest Jamaican rums, you could almost call it 'funky'. With water: a lot of salt, coriander, lemon, ashes, thyme oil and coal tar. Finish: extremely long, with much more pepper and lime, beyond all the ashes. A lot of seawater in the aftertaste. Comments: very ashtray-y, as we used to say. It's high-precision malt, far from being only a stunt. But Octomore remains a little frightening and when you bring out a bottle after dinner, you often see your guests quiver a bit.
SGP:468 - 90 points.

Octomore 5 yo 2016/2022 'Edition 13.1' (59.2%, OB, The Impossible Equation, 1st fill bourbon)

Octomore 5 yo 2016/2022 'Edition 13.1' (59.2%, OB, The Impossible Equation, 1st fill bourbon) Four stars and a half
137.3ppm in this one. Colour: straw. Nose: immediately softer and fruitier than 12.1, with more lemon tarte, meringue, nectarines, even mangos, vanilla… Even the peat remains discreet, and so do seashells, seaweed and just anything coastal or medicinal. This is very intriguing, I would suppose the American oak was fresher, or at least more active this time. With water: naturally, it goes in the other direction once water has been added, the spirit of contradiction I would suppose. Olive brine, clams, olive oil, seawater, limoncello… Mouth (neat): rather back to big smoke, rubber and seawater, but there's a lot of some kind of grapefruit liqueur, Szechuan pepper, even a feeling of hops. Some deep-smoked India Pale Ale, perhaps… With water: it remains rather fruitier this time, with even more salty citrus, while the background would remain very ashy and drying. Indeed, ashtray-y. Finish: very long, very salty, with some kind of super-margarita. Indeed, a feeling of tequila, how funny is that? Comments: superb once more, but I enjoyed its brother's extreme purity even better. This 13.1 is already 'civilised', I would say.
SGP:557 - 88 points.

Perhaps the newest '.1'…

Octomore 5 yo 2017/2023 'Edition 14.1' (59.6%, OB, The Impossible Equation, 1st fill bourbon)

Octomore 5 yo 2017/2023 'Edition 14.1' (59.6%, OB, The Impossible Equation, 1st fill bourbon) Four stars
128.9ppm this time. Alert, we're losing peat, ha! Just like the others, it's been using Concerto barley. Colour: white wine. Nose: back to austere ones, it seems. A lorryload of chalk and plaster, beach bonfire, 'a huge ashtray late at night', tyres, coal, a bit of glue, some iodine… With water: rather more green vegetables than more wool or chalk. Rucola seems obvious. Mouth (neat): scalpel-like again, with more bitterness, loads of ashes, lemon skins, seawater, oysters, a little varnish… With water: we're closer to 13.1, with ashes and… salted tequila. Quite some nutmeg. Finish: very long, lemony, grassier, and always very ashy. Olive brine in the aftertaste. Comments: it's a little tough to have many Octomore in a raw like this and we're absolutely not done! Liked this one too.

SGP:567 - 87 points.

Let's do the '.2s', the ones that have met with wine…

Octomore 5 yo 2015/2021 'Edition 12.2' (57.3%, OB, The Impossible Equation, bourbon with 1st fill 18 months Sauternes finish)

Octomore 5 yo 2015/2021 'Edition 12.2' (57.3%, OB, The Impossible Equation, bourbon with 1st fill 18 months Sauternes finish) Four stars
129.7ppm peat. It's to be remembered that if you want to keep barrels that had contained sweet wine, for example for long distance travels, you need to burn rather a lot of sulphur, unless the distillers would have shipped quite a few litres of spirit upfront to protect the cask. Not too sure how they do it here… BTW I remember having seen quite a few ex-Yquem casks arriving at the distillery, but that was a good ten years before these recent vintages. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it is another world, rather full of bananas and pears, then camphor and mango chutney. Tiny touch of vinegar, no detectable sulphur. With water: cough syrup, kids' mouthwash (strawberry and cherry), yeast, pastry dough, honey… Mouth (neat): rich, mentholy. Thyme tea and olives, apricots, heather honey, blood oranges… There seems to be some excellent whisky – wine integration, but it's true that they've become rather skilled at this game. With water: olives fighting back. Apricots and olives? Not too sure. Seriously, this is good, if a tiny tad dissonant here and there. Serious sweetness. Finish: long, with a feeling of smoked honey. Overripe bananas, seashells and a little rubber in the aftertaste. Comments: the Sauternes does mellow the peat. Not my preferred Octomores but it remains excellent.
SGP:666 - 86 points.

Octomore 5 yo 2016/2022 'Edition 13.2' (58.3%, OB, The Impossible Equation, Rey Fernando de Castilla Oloroso Sherry)

Octomore 5 yo 2016/2022 'Edition 13.2' (58.3%, OB, The Impossible Equation, Rey Fernando de Castilla Oloroso Sherry) Five stars
137.3ppm. I've heard Rey Fernando de Castilla's brandies de Jerez were pretty good; I'll have to check them out. Colour: gold. Nose: the power of good sherry. More dimension, a richer style and yet no loss of identity in this case. Wonderful walnuts, smoked meats, beef jerky, cigars, artisan butterscotch, menthol, myrtle, burning hay, liquorice… With water: more flinty notes, basalt, slate, some deep-smoked bacon too, greasy ashes, blood oranges… Mouth (neat): phenolmenal, as young bloggers would say. Amazing smoky citrus, tar, 'good' sulphur (matches), some bitter chocolate, plus most naturally, a lot of old walnuts and touches of artichoke liqueur. With water: this 'good sulphur' is still there, and would come with oranges, peppers, eucalyptus oil, seawater, black olives… Finish: long. Smoke and gunpowder, roasted chestnuts, more walnuts, some ham and bacon, herbs, verbena… Comments: this one was more complex and I believe the sherry was splendid.
SGP:567 - 90 points.

Octomore 5 yo 2017/2023 'Edition 14.2' (57.7%, OB, The Impossible Equation, 1st fill oloroso and 1st + 2nd fill Amarone)

Octomore 5 yo 2017/2023 'Edition 14.2' (57.7%, OB, The Impossible Equation, 1st fill oloroso and 1st + 2nd fill Amarone) Three stars
128.9ppm peat and… Amarone, this strongly reminds one of a Hawaiian pizza. Let's proceed with caution then… But does modern Scottish whisky really need so much wine to stand up? Don't talk to me about innovation or experimentation, everyone is doing the same these days, which is quite odd, is it not? Colour: apricot. There. Nose: the heavy red wine literally ate the peat. Well, quite. Red grapes, dried goji, grenadine syrup, poppy jelly, then toffee, rose blancmange, arrack, moist dried figs… I find it really strange, but not un-nice. Certainly not 'Islay', let alone 'Rhinns'. With water: closer to pastry dough and even grist, with the fat red Italian kept at a distance this time. Mouth (neat): huge and a bit misshapen, sweet and salty, mild and peaty. It's somewhat like two young mutts meeting for the first time, see what I mean? Some squeaks were to be expected. With water: no, this was unnecessary. With strawberry-flavoured buttercream topped with ashes and olives, you would be immediately sacked from any culinary school. Finish: long, not very easy. Smoked goji berries or something. Comments: ban Amarone. Love (some) Amarone, but not in my whisky. Having said that, this remains Octomore.
SGP:756 - 80 points.

This website is becoming wineskyfun.com, no? Time for a last one, with mucho caution…

Octomore 5 yo 2016/2022 'Edition 13.3' (61.1%, OB, The Impossible Equation, Islay barley, 1st fill bourbon and 2nd fill Rivesaltes + Ribera del Duero)

Octomore 5 yo 2016/2022 'Edition 13.3' (61.1%, OB, The Impossible Equation, Islay barley, 1st fill bourbon and 2nd fill Rivesaltes + Ribera del Duero) Four stars and a half
129.3ppm peat and, apparently, more crazy winesky. But watch these Rivesaltes casks, they can be great when not too muscaty and anyway, they were second fill. Colour: straw. Nose: good, the wines were anecdotal, this a pretty pure crystalline, full-smoky Octomore with some coal, tar, kelp, beach sand, smokes (cigars, candle) and only then a little aniseed and peaches, possibly from the wines. Honeysuckle and woodruff coming through too. Chilli. No quibbling. With water: ripe peaches coming out. Nothing can beat ripe peaches, whichever the context. Mouth (neat): super, hyper-punchy, salty and peppery, tarry and rubbery, with a je-ne-sais-quoi of that distillery that's sitting furthest east on the south coast of Islay. Yep, that one. Excellent. With water: excellent it is. Some kind of smoky and peppery goulash sauce. Awesome fruits then, peaches indeed, prickly pears… Finish: very long but balanced, briney and fruity, with good chilli and pepper. This with Phaal curry! Comments: seriously, great drop, with a lot of action. Maybe to be also tried chilled and undiluted, in very small measures. I'm not sure I got the Ribera del Duero part having said that, but I shall not complain.

SGP:568 - 89 points.

Tough session because of the heavy profile of these drops. We've also got bags of Port Charlotte and Lochindaal to unload, but probably not in 2023.

(Merci Franco !)

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

 

 

December 5, 2023


Whiskyfun

Notice

A dark tale of missing files and pictures meant that we couldn't publish the second part of Angus's grand Bowmore tasting last Saturday. So here it is today.. Profuse apologies (but of course...)

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland


A big pile of Bowmore: part II

All the rest, going back into the 1950s this time, and including a couple of very special bonuses to round things off.
Angus  

 

 

 

 

 

Bowmore 24 yo 1989 (54.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #3.208 'A beach bonfire barbeque', refill hogshead, 254 bottles)

Bowmore 24 yo 1989 (54.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #3.208 'A beach bonfire barbeque', refill hogshead, 254 bottles)
Distilled in March 1989, which is worth noting… Colour: straw. Nose: bath salts, citrus rinds, sea air and beach pebbles with only fain hints of very brittle, dry peat smoke and a sense of freshly starched laundry. With time some feelings of lavender do begin to emerge which feels like Deacon 3 1980s Bowmore. With water: hand cream, seawater and an undeniable, fragile soapiness. Mouth: ok, we're immediately at Defcon 2 now, this is getting more towards violets but without straying into excessive or pure 'soap'. There's also soft notes of tarred rope, seawater, pickling brine and a nicely sooty peatiness. Feels like two whiskies grappling for dominance. With water: feels pretty comfortably in 1980s Bowmore territory now: violets: check! Lavender: check! Hand soaps from old Scottish B&Bs: check! Finish: medium and with a surprisingly nice and rather fresh, dry smokiness in the aftertaste. Comments: such funny and odd whisky. It's certainly a style, and one that has its fans, I'm not one for these 80s Bowmores that edge into soap territory but this one has its charms and wins points by not being too excessive in these traits. Mind you, by this stage we were approaching the endgame of this particular style - mercifully. 
SGP: 454 - 77 points.  

 

 

Bowmore 24 yo 1989 (51.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #3.223 'Sweet, floral, perfumed smoke', refill hogshead 213 bottles)

Bowmore 24 yo 1989 (51.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #3.223 'Sweet, floral, perfumed smoke', refill hogshead 213 bottles)
This was distilled in September… Colour: straw. Nose: a distinct change of gear. This one is indeed floral, but we are much more towards smoked dry flowers, heather, sandalwood and many coastal subtleties such as beach driftwood, wet rocks, sand, crushed seashells etc. A much more elegant and controlled affair altogether, also some lovely gentle wisps of peat smoke and wood ashes. With water: grapefruit, citrons, plain smoke and some cereals. Mouth: clean, salty, sharp, citric and with this nice slightly sooty smokiness. They clearly twigged something was definitely not right and changed something - just what the something is we will probably still be debating in the year 2085… With water: smoked muesli! A little creamier in texture, and a rather more emphatic medicinal and peaty side, but generally still nicely clean, crisp and coastal. Finish: good length, lightly smoky and coastal and with a nice wee wink of exotic Bowmore fruitiness in the aftertaste. Comments: we do not know what happened, only that 'something definitely happened'. The quality was not completely up to scratch as it would be from around 1991 onwards, but I think it's clear the latter half of 1989 was a point of massive improvement for Bowmore. 
SGP: 465 - 87 points. 

 

 

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

Islay Single Malt 33 yo 1985/2021 (47.1%, C. Dully Selection, cask #8, refill hogshead, 98 bottles)
This is smack bang in 'violet territory'. Colour: pale gold. Nose: actually, this is not particular on the expected soaps and violets. We're rather more on beach foam, sandalwood and coastal 'stuff', also geraniums, lemon air freshener on laundered fabrics. There is a wee peck of what I'd call '1980s Bowmore aroma' but it is very cleverly buried in the mix. I actually rather enjoy this nose, if I am being ruthlessly honest. Mouth: ok, so there is a 'bit' of that Bowmore 80s stuff going on, but it is impressively dominated by crushed seashells, miso, dry, crisp peat smoke and sandalwood. There's even glimmers of very nice citrus and exotic fruits going on. I'm even finding the peat building rather beautifully and starting to involve such things as peppered smoked mackerel and tar liqueur. Smoked olive oil, whelks, gherkins etc… Finish: long, lightly tarry, hints of hessian, lime, seawater and puffer smoke. Comments: maybe the best 1980s Bowmore I ever had? Or am I sucker for whiskies that are my vintage? Funny that such a gem would have been unearthed by a rogue Swiss Tokaji coveter. 
SGP: 465 - 89 points.

 

 

Bowmore 1972/1990 (43%, Samaroli, Flowers, sherry wood, 480 bottles, 75cl)

Bowmore 1972/1990 (43%, Samaroli, Flowers, sherry wood, 480 bottles, 75cl)
Probably due to the frankly monolithic reputation of the 1966 Bouquet Bowmore, I never paid much attention or thought to this follow up by Mr Samaroli. 1970s Bowmore offers us significant variations, but these early vintages can be luminous… Colour: deep gold. Nose: layered, ripe exotic fruits with beeswax, honeys and shoe polish. Feels superbly fat for only 43%. I also detect a few more specific fruity notes of guava, mango and papaya. Beautifully scented and well-rounded. Mouth: crystallised citrus fruits, dried mango chunks and notes of melon liqueur, resinous fir wood saps, chai tea and mint. A lovely soft earthy quality with some fig jam, eucalyptus and a very ethereal peat smoke. More honeys, hessian and medicinal qualities. Just the right balance of gentility and power. Finish: long, herbal, honeyed and again this combination of soft medicinal and earthy peat smoke notes and then a superb, controlled saltiness in the aftertaste. Comments: long overshadowed, but this is humble wee Bowmore is a total star! Harks back to the mid-60s vintages in many ways. 
SGP: 652 - 93 points. 

 

 

Bowmore 27 yo 1972 (53.3%, OB, 466 bottles) 

Bowmore 27 yo 1972 (53.3%, OB, 466 bottles) 
Let's see how this OB stacks up against the gorgeous Samaroli… Colour: deep gold. Nose: fantastically salty and on passion fruits, kumquat, hessian and wee touches of pink grapefruit and seawater. A little more playful than the Samaroli, but also with more punch and assertive saltiness. Some lovely herbal cough syrups and sooty peat notes underneath. With water: yet more fruits, with a hint of juniper, wood smoke and sandalwood. Becoming more coastal and fragrant. Mouth: terrific attack! Sharp, salty, coastal and wonderfully fruity. Fresh exotic fruit juices, zesty citrus, bitter orange marmalade, fennel seed, eucalyptus and bergamot tea. Wonderful richness and texture on the palate, extremely satisfying. With water: doubles down on these fir and herbal liqueur notes, medicinal herbs such as wormwood and wintergreen, aniseed, tar extracts, ointments and exotic fruit teas. Finish: long, slightly mentholated, more herbs, roots, tars and wonderful resinous and salty qualities. Comments: a slightly fresher and more powerful take on this vintage, but with similar exotic abundance. Same quality in my view, a drop dead gorgeous Bowmore that really holds onto that 1960s profile. 
SGP: 663 - 93 points.  

 

 

Bowmore 30 yo 1972 (53.2%, Kingsbury, cask #927, hogshead, 209 bottles)

Bowmore 30 yo 1972 (53.2%, Kingsbury, cask #927, hogshead, 209 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: it's really jam. Peated tropical fruit jam. Passion fruit jelly, mango puree, guava jam very specifically and various types of honey. You can also add hints of eucalyptus, tiger balm, beeswax and camphor. The whole nose implies a great fatness of texture. There's also wintergreen, bergamot and dried mint. Stunning, naturally. With water: some clay, ointments, beach pebbles, more exotic fruit 'medley' and some savoury and umami notes that imply things like Maggi. Mouth: a subtle arrival and then it just starts to gather complexity and power Not really about individual flavours so much as just 'old Bowmore': that specific fusion of gelatinous, overripe and pulpy exotic fruits, with rich, drying, gentle peat smoke, coastal notes and delicate medicines. A singular and inimitable style. And indeed, incredible textural and waxy qualities too. With water: more coastal, more waxy and with a broader, fresher smokiness that's still nicely crisp, thick and quilting the whole palate. Also still many glorious exotic fruity notes. Finish: good length, sweet exotic fruit extracts, mineral oil and touches of sandalwood. Comments: the missing link between the 1960s and early 1990s probably.
 SGP: 654 - 92 points. 

 

 

Bowmore 1969/1979 'Bicentenary' (56.2%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa for Federico Minetti, cask #322, sherry, 300 bottles)

Bowmore 1969/1979 'Bicentenary' (56.2%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa for Federico Minetti, cask #322, sherry, 300 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: wildly coastal and aromatically on dry peat smoke, herbs, bitters, medicinal roots and very old cigar humidors. The youth, power and detail of the distillate are stunningly preserved and dominate the nose. Add in some artichoke preserved in smoked olive oil, touches of soy sauce and some wet beach pebbles and hessian. With water: stunningly medicinal and herbal, going towards herbal bitters and liqueurs simultaneously, but also more of this crisp, dry peat smoke, more punchy impressions of saltiness and things like smoked mint tea and eucalyptus. Amazing complexity alongside immense power. Mouth: fantastic arrival, extremely salty and punchy! On seawater, charred grapefruit, dried seaweed, nori and salted liquorice. Extremely coastal, powerful and mineral with even a wee farmyard aspect as well. There's also an earthy and salty old sherry quality, with only a few glimmers of various fruits showing through. With water: oh, here are the fruits! Stunning crystallised tropical and citrus fruit notes, lemon marmalade, herbal liqueurs again, bandages, aniseed, camphor and tar extracts! Then resinous fir woods and seawater. So much going on and you feel yourself being pulled in many directions simultaneously. Finish: long, ruggedly coastal and powerful. Full of more of these earthy and salty old sherry notes, tarred rope, peat smoke, hessian and black pepper. Deeply and enchantingly peaty in the aftertaste. Comments: the power of this one is incredible, and indeed this seems to be a quality that all of these super rare, young cask strength single cask Bowmores from these vintages possess. Immense and immaculate distillate of bewildering complexity, one of those whiskies that you would ideally sit with for hours armed with only a pipette and some slippers. 
SGP: 576 - 93 points. 

 

 

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

Bowmore 1967 (50%, OB, Auxil France, 75cl, +/-1990)
These old OB vintage bottlings at 50%+ are generally total stunners. Brace for fruit… Colour: gold. Nose: a little shy at first but you feel the rumblings of what's coming… yup, an avalanche of exotic fruits of all shades, ripeness and style. Intensely juicy, vibrant and showing an elegant sweetness of flower honey, then wee hints of tangerine, a rather compact coastal note and fresh passion fruit. Hard to say anything other than: sixties Bowmore! I also find some mineral qualities like wet pebbles and mineral salts. Preserved lemons in brine with herbal teas and wormwood. Utterly irresistible! With water: even more fruity if you can imagine such a thing, but also wonderfully peppery and intricately spicy. More exotic liqueurs and honeys, liquorice root, verbena and a feeling of incense and pot pourri. Mouth: amazing freshness, precision and power with total immediacy. But it then uncoils with purpose and drags you along for the ride. Bewilderingly fruity with fresh, dried and crystallised fruits of all variety. But the way this integrates with the most gentle and elegantly drying peat smoke, pristinely sharp and chiselled coastal salinity and then medicines, roots, wood extracts and waxes too. A majestic unfolding of beauty and complexity. With water: deadly! An encyclopaedia of fruit! Still with such power, freshness and ability to deliver these flavours with such directness and persistence. An utter glory! Finish: long and glowing with exotic fruit pulps and syrups. The aftertaste riddled with medical roots and herbs and still this lattice of salted honey and crisp peat smoke. Comments: these bottlings are, in my wee opinion, still the absolute benchmark of what fruit flavour is in single malt whisky. Not many whiskies in existence can take you to these kinds of places. 
SGP: 753 - 95 points.

 

 

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

Bowmore 44 yo 1964/2009 'Gold' (42.4%, OB, 701 bottles)
I remember when this series (along with the White and Black versions) was initially released and a seemingly vast number of 10cl trade sample bottles were sloshing about various branches of Oddbins, the briefcases of brand reps, beneath festival stand tables etc. I agree, such a time feels almost like pre-history nowadays. I would love to see someone at Beam Suntory try to suggest such a move today. Colour: suitably deep gold. Nose: what's so fun about going to this from the 1967 is seeing the immediate impact of extra decades of ageing. Here it delivers far more honeys, waxes and resins up front, but also adds a more syrupy profile to the fruits. Everything is still superbly exotic but more concentrated and even rather oily. Tangerines, mango, guava and grapefruit but all preserved, crystallised or pulped! The collected gunge and mush of a tropical fruit salad - spiked with a shot of very old yellow Chartreuse! Frankly, it's all rather outrageous and at this stage we would traditionally call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Mouth: one of those whiskies that manages to wear its age and wood with utter class! Precious and exotic hardwood resins, sandalwood, gorse flower and putty along with linseed oils, waxes, hessian and an intricate display of preserved fruits. Not only exotic but also touches of red apple, lime and peach in syrup. That's without even mentioning all the herbs and medicines that also appear. What is just so overwhelming is the sheer, unashamed juiciness of it all. It is (almost) literally like drinking some kind of outrageous pina colada. Finish: lengthy and just fruits piled upon fruits. Interlaced with honeys, resins, herbal medicines and the most gloriously warming and exotic of aftertastes. Comments: it is really extremely silly whisky, when you think about. An outrageous flavour profile that leaves you scratching you head and desiring only one or two IBCs more of this deliriously beautiful fruit juice. 
SGP: 752 - 94 points. 

 

 

To round this madness off, let's have a couple of cask samples that I was able to buy privately a few years back. We've similar feelings to when we had the Longmorn 1897 and old 19th century Blair Castle whisky the other week: peeking behind the curtain of history a little…

 

 

I got the ABV on both of these using an Anton Parr electric hydrometer. 

 

 

Bowmore 1960 4 yo (53.1%, cask sample, 'plain wood')

Bowmore 1960 4 yo (53.1%, cask sample, 'plain wood')
Colour: extremely pale white wine, almost new make. Nose: seawater, artichoke eau de vie, powerfully grassy olive oil and then things like rice wine, hints of fennel seed and camphor. Extremely pure distillate, with a very clear and pronounced coastal element, but also a really rugged earthiness about it. With water: becomes a little grassier and greener, with crushed flower stems, clay and vase water. Also eucalyptus, sooty notes and some briny touches. Still wonderfully fresh and vivid. Mouth: again, stunningly salty arrival, along with some peppery, seawater and smoked teas. But it's the presence of some subtle tropical fruits, chiefly passionfruit and guava, which are most surprising and thrilling! Even at this young age and in such neutral wood, this exotic fruit character can be present. With water: pure sea salt, with a glimmer of peat smoke and various things like anchovy paste and soy sauce adding to this sense of salinity but also underscoring it with umami characteristics. Those fruits are still there, particularly towards the finish. Finish: long, salty and with a wonderfully clear continuation of these background tropical fruit notes, adding lemon, star fruit and dried mango to the mix. Comments: lifting the bonnet on old Bowmore! As someone who is daft enough to be undertaking a distillery venture themselves, this kind of historic distillate example is heartening as it does suggest that these extremely prized and beautiful fruit characteristics can be present in extreme youth and without the aid of any active oak to elevate them. Now, it's just a random old cask sample, so we shouldn't take too much from it in terms of 'lessons', but it's amazing to try. 
SGP: 653 - 93 points. 

 

 

Bowmore 1958 6 yo (58.1%, cask sample) 
Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is immediately more developed, and also rather clearly from some kind of rather salty and leathery old sherry cask as well. It recalls quite clearly the 1969 #322 with its very powerful and almost aggressive impression of saltiness, seawater and rugged coastal character. I'm also getting more of these vegetal aspects, like artichoke eau de vie again, or salt-baked turnips and parsnips! Then earthiness, aged cigars, lamp oil and hessian, underneath that things like wintergreen, bergamot and a very powerful vibe of herbal liqueurs - as we so often find in such old style whiskies: old Chartreuse! With water: a big medley of herbs, ointments, vegetables, tar and even some slightly wilder farmyard notes that suggest meats, suet and the oiliest of sheep wools!

 

 

Mouth: incredible arrival! Stunning texture and a far more vivid peat flavour, thick peat smoke, tar liqueur, artichoke in smoked olive oil once again, smoked sea salt, herbal ointments and aniseed distillate! Incredibly power and again this feeling of freshness and vivid coastal qualities. The fruits are once again more detectable and present on the palate than the nose, here its more an even mix of exotic and dark fruits in various preserved and crystallised forms. Goes on with intense salty, herbal, earthy and medicinal flavours all intersecting and fading in and out at various levels of intensity. Quite amazing and rather breath-taking! With water: hugely thick and textural now, dominated by camphor, tar, fir liqueur, black olive in brine and further impressions of smoked olive oil and various herbal and fruit teas. Finish: very long, similarly salty and also with the presence of preserved exotic fruits really dominating the aftertaste. Same feelings of wildness, ruggedness and this sense of a big mash up of the shoreline and the farmyard at times. Comments: the fruits were once again more present on the palate, while the whole remained globally more about the seashore with its very impressive saltiness. An astonishing distillate that pulls no punches and displays quite breath-taking complexity for only six years old - I wonder which random blend these two casks ended up being tipped into…. ? 
SGP: 574 - 94 points.

 

 

The first thing that comes to mind comparing these two, is that this characteristic of a big blast of fruitiness emerging in the finish, is something that seems to have stuck with Bowmore through the decades as a hallmark - barring a few hiccups in the 1980s I suppose. It's impossible to draw any concrete conclusions tasting such ancient, one-off wee artefacts, but they do confirm at least, that these sorts of distillate attributes that we adore so much and associate so powerfully with Bowmore, can be found in extreme youth and were very much 'of the distillate' itself. 

 

 

Finally, a 50/50 blend of the two is totally exceptional and seems to combine the best attributes of both, and more than either individually, leaves you with the feeling that this is a drink that is so staggering distant from almost all contemporary 'whiskys'. The greatest spirits are precisely that: spirit! Not oak-flavoured, not sweetened and not in some other way bastardised or standardised, but personalities born from, and drawn out of, immaculately constructed distillates. Anyway, this is nothing new and nothing I haven't already written a thousand times in various other ways on these very pages and elsewhere. But the greatest whiskies have a remarkable ability to re-enforce these feelings and perceptions with a renewed intensity and perspective. 

 

 

Hugs to KC and to the good folk at Golden Promise! 

 

 

 

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

 

December 4, 2023


Whiskyfun

A Triplet of Bracklas

We do enjoy sampling a few Bracklas from time to time; it's not a malt that's easy to categorise, so it's always a bit of a discovery…

Picture: new favourite maple syrup at Château WF, Escuminac Late Harvest from Québec

 

 

Royal Brackla 1975/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Royal Brackla 1974/1999 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Four stars and a half
It's always a joy to taste one of those old 'new map labels' that we haven't tasted yet, thanks to some good friends who keep opening these bottles. In theory we should have had it last as it's old as the hills, but since the others were bottled at boisterous strengths, well… Colour: deep amber. Nose: oh, awesomely delicate, so un-modern, with amazing meadow flowers and honeys, biscuits, madeleines, very old sweet wines with a little camphor showing up, some mushrooms (simply fresh white buttons), then a little white chocolate and cappuccino. Rather geared towards precious meads after a few minutes, but remember mead was the drink of the Gods in ancient Greece. Mouth: absolutely ravishing even if a little light, with astounding coffees and teas, various syrups (cane, agave, barley of course, maple), rather a lot praline, a few raisins, then even more top-of-range maple syrup. Maple syrup isn't too common in France but I just love it and I've got some good Canadian friends (cheerio). Finish: not that short and I have the impression that there is even more maple syrup in this finish. Comments: a ravishing delight indeed. I'd have happily gone to 90 and above but in truth and TBH, those 40% vol. remain a wee tad frustrating. But it is a nectar of the gods.

SGP:641 - 89 points.

The powerhouses now…

Royal Brackla 8 yo 2014/2023 (56.3%, Lady of the Glen, oloroso butt, cask #169, 49 bottles)

Royal Brackla 8 yo 2014/2023 (56.3%, Lady of the Glen, oloroso butt, cask #169, 49 bottles) Four stars and a half
I believe this wee chunk of a butt was bottled for Tyndrum Whisky. Colour: reddish coffee. Nose: ooh, meats, Texan barbecue sauce, hoisin, grilled steak, teriyaki, umeshu, huge bag of prunes, chocolate truffles, lamb tagine… Well it was some butt, as it appears. An international butt! With water: the expected walnuts chiming in, black turon, quite some copper polish too, mosses, chervil, a little fenugreek, even leeks, bouillons, shiitake… Boy does this youngster speak. Was it a proper solera butt for once, by any chance? Mouth (neat): heavy, spicy, sweet concoction. It is some kind of sauce at this stage, but I believe no one's expecting anybody to try this crazy baby without any water. With water: the wood joining in, with some cedarwood, pencil shavings, then we rather have toffee, bitter marmalade, bitter oranges, curry leaves, caraway, pepper, clove, leather, tobacco… This one's really packed with action. Finish: anything bitter marmalade taking over. Wood extracts, peppers, capsicum, juniper… Comments: a real fighter. You won't gulp down 10cl just like that, for it is extreme, but I say everyone needs an insane bottle like this. Open. Now I know, they produced only 49 of them, but since it was from a butt, let's say the hunting season is open. See what I mean.

SGP:762 - 88 points.

Good, I suppose something a bit closer to the original distillate would be in order too…

Royal Brackla 10 yo 2013/2023 (58.9%, James Eadie, re-charred hogshead, cask #302358, 285 bottles)

Royal Brackla 10 yo 2013/2023 (58.9%, James Eadie, re-charred hogshead, cask #302358, 285 bottles) Four stars
A recharred hogshead? We're all for a circular economy, are we not. Colour: light gold. Nose: the calm that follows the storm. Some gentler vanilla, some good beers (proper Pilsner), some bread dough, some very fresh panettone, some shortbread… In truth it's a chamber music quartet after the Berliner Philharmonic (or after Mogwai, ha). With water: fresh croissants, various rolls, chalk, vanilla, pancakes… Mouth (neat): classic malty and fruity arrival, with apples and lemons plus peppery spices and a bit of white sugar. Not too sure, this time again I doubt anyone would drink this neat. With water: lovely, with oranges, cassata, many candied fruits, more pastries and some white pepper. Finish: medium, sweet and pleasant, with some nougat and oranges liqueur this time. Sweet apples, pastry dough and sweet beers. Comments: right, perhaps not the ultimate competition beast, after all, but it does the job rather to perfection.

SGP:541 - 85 points.

(Thank you Sasa)

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

 

December 3, 2023


Whiskyfun

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

 

Some more rums

With apéritif, as always (for the cause)…

Bits, pieces and scrappings at Bielle. Old pots, better soups, and all that. (Distillerie Bielle).


Bielle

 

 

Amrut 'Two Indies' (42.8%, OB, blend, +/-2023)

Amrut 'Two Indies' (42.8%, OB, blend, +/-2023) Three stars
Indeed, they make rum too at Amrut, but I think this is a blend of own and sourced juices rather than rum that they would have integrally distilled themselves, as the name would have suggested. Colour: light gold. Nose: it's pretty, it's slightly British (I hope they won't mind me saying) with hints of petroleum, leather, liquorice, and a subtly Jamaican touch. Then come the very ripe fruits, mango (in moderation), apricot, raisins, plus other very, very ripe fruits, and half a small olive to recall the Caribbean vibe. Really nice. Mouth: yes, it's good, it's truly a Navy-style blend, with these ultra-ripe exotic fruits and hints of hydrocarbon. There's even a salty edge. Finish: quite long and more on the salty liquorice and mango chutney. And our little olive is still there at the very end of the finish. Comments: nothing to add, this little fruity blend with a slight Jamaican twist is very well-composed, but that doesn't surprise us at all.
SGP:652 - 82 points.

Lazy Dodo (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2023)

Lazy Dodo (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2023)
This is single-estate rum by Grays (New Grove). So, supposedly, a member of the aristocracy of spirits. It is molasses-based, so 'traditional', not 'agricole'. Colour: full gold. Nose: flowers, orange blossom, pastries, vanilla, ylang-ylang, quinces, mandarins and then just sugarcane syrup. Nice, easy, pleasant, does not feel tampered with. Mouth: sweet, a tad narrow perhaps, with some molasses, triple-sec, raisins… A Cointreau side, if you will. A little too sweet for me. Finish: short and sweet, if you could say that. Sugary aftertaste, as several other Mauritian rums are. Not my preferred side of Mauritius as far as rums are concerned. More triple-sec in the aftertaste. Comments: as I just said. A little disappointing, a legendary dodo would have deserved something with a little more oomph, I would say. With ice, perhaps?

SGP:730 - 65 points.

Let's give Grays another chance…

Grays 11 yo 2010/2022 (51%, Dram Mor, Mauritius, bourbon barrel, cask #994, 444 bottles)

Grays 11 yo 2010/2022 (51%, Dram Mor, Mauritius, bourbon barrel, cask #994, 444 bottles) Four stars
Said to be 'agricole', so not molasses-based this time. Colour: full gold. Nose: we'll find the oranges this time again, less flowers, more citrus, more fresh deepness, a higher precision, orange juice… With water: touch of gunpowder, touch of seawater, a few mussels and oysters, almond paste and indeed, just fresh cane juice. Im-pec-cable. Mouth (neat): very good citrus and flower jelly, bags of oranges, tangerines, touch of salty wax, mango jam, mirabelles… What's not to like? With water: spices, herbs, toffee, bitterer liquorice, café latte. Not an extremely thick mouth feel but it's still one of the heaviest lattes around. Ha. Finish: medium, on oranges, fudge, touch of salt. Comments: so much better al natural. One of the top Mauritians and truly rum for (and by) whisky people.

SGP:551 - 85 points.

Since we were having 'agricole'…

Longueteau 'Ambré' (40%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2023)

Longueteau 'Ambré' (40%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2023) Three stars and a half
Matured for 18 months but sadly in ex-cognac casks, we would have preferred some pure Guadeloupean agricoleness. Let's see… Colour: bright straw. Nose: well, this is pure Guadeloupean agricoleness I have to say, even pure Longueteauness (ha, apologies to the brand owners). Think Chinese-anise-flavoured custard and heather honey, plus this kind of citrusy earthiness that's working so nicely. No cognac in sight, maybe was it just marketing spiel. Phew.  Mouth: so epitomically Guadeloupe. Anise cookies, white mulled wine, citrons and indeed pure cane juice. Cinnamon rolls and a small salty touch. Say clams. Finish: a tad short but that's because we haven't got the Ambré at 45%, this is only the Diesel version. See what I mean. More anise, cinnamon, cane honey and oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: I love this distinctiveness. It's not uncommon for the 'simpler' versions to be better than those that are further 'enhanced' using extravagant casks. In any case, I like this one, I'll have to find the 45% version, or maybe I already have it in the WF boxes? We'll see about that later...
SGP:551 - 84 points.

We're going to stay in France, I believe…

Rhum J.M 2014/2023 (48.6%, OB, Kirsch Import, Martinique, agricole, new American oak char 5, cask #210098, 252 bottles)

Rhum J.M 2014/2023 (48.6%, OB, Kirsch Import, Martinique, agricole, new American oak char 5, cask #210098, 252 bottles) Four stars and a half
Don't start talking to me about 'char numbers' ;-), it's a bit too Buffalo Trace or Glenmo for me (smile). Colour: dark gold. Nose: well yes, we are in Bourbon territory, at least partially. Ripe banana, wood varnish, vanilla, a touch of acetone, a bit of melted caramel, fresh cane... Then well-ripe pineapple, which is less 'bourbon', I agree. Actually, it's a nose that's relatively uncomplicated but extremely precise and compact, which more than compensates for that feeling. As usual, the palate will have the final say... Mouth: ah yes! The same feeling of relative simplicity, but those bananas, that white chocolate, those varnishy touches, those oranges and that hint of salty liquorice mixed with vine peaches are working very well. After all, it is quite complex, you just need to give it a little time. Finish: quite long, with some sweetness, oranges, and always that slightly salty edge. The wood doesn't stand out that much, forget everything I told you about Buffalo Trace and Glenmo. Comments: it's great and it drinks extremely well (be careful, as a consequence it's a little hazardous).

SGP:651 - 88 points.

Let's try a different charring level. (S. !)

Rhum J.M 2014/2023 (50.3%, OB, Kirsch Import, Martinique, agricole, old bourbon cask char 3, cask #162705, 259 bottles)

Rhum J.M 2014/2023 (50.3%, OB, Kirsch Import, Martinique, agricole, old bourbon cask char 3, cask #162705, 259 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: dark gold. Nose: It's very slightly less expressive, with less banana and varnish, but on the other hand, there's more of a focus on sugarcane, herbs, leaves, melon, peach... The vanilla is still there, though. With water: a freshness that's almost maritime. Martinique is an island, isn't it? Mouth (neat): I love it, it's a bit more complex, there's a lot of different citrus fruits (kumquats, bergamots, yuzu), mentholated and aniseed herbs, fennel seeds, coriander, but also plum jams, quince jelly, mild spices… With a few drops of water: it doesn't go as much towards the fresh and fruity side, instead, there are more dried figs and a touch of your choice of sweet-savoury sauce. Finish: quite long, with some chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And quince jelly. The cask is now speaking. Comments: these remain simple yet very effective rums. In my mouth and in this context, the word 'simple' is a great quality, expressing the precision of the distillation and aging. After all, you see, right... In any case, I prefer this cask but as usual, that's very personal.

SGP:651 - 89 points.

Well, we just hope that the very best rum producers, like J.M, won't start promoting the idea that rum is primarily about wood or even wine flavouring, as many Scots do. Have you seen that there are now Scottish distilleries that offer nothing but malt whiskies 'finished / aromatised / arranged' in strange barrels? Saint Drostan, come save them! Good, and what if we went back to Guadeloupe?

Bielle 15 yo 2008/2023 (51.8%, The Auld Alliance and Famille Ricci, Marie-Galante, agricole)

Bielle 15 yo 2008/2023 (51.8%, The Auld Alliance and Famille Ricci, Marie-Galante, agricole) Five stars
As you know, Marie-Galante is part of Guadeloupe but it is a different island. Colour: full gold. Nose: it's denser, almost thick on the nose, more medicinal for sure, with elements of bandages and tiger balm, and there's almost a hint of smoke, akin to that of L. on the south coast of Islay. It's very intriguing… With water: it's like old Laphroaig in a former Bielle cask, right? Of course, I'm joking, but not by much. Superb eucalyptus, and I do love eucalyptus. Mouth (neat): a massive aromatic explosion, with tons of coriander seeds and cumin at the start, then sea salt, pink grapefruit, and juniper. It's a bit mad, almost venturing out of rum territory with all that cumin. With water: be careful with water. Very pretty pink bananas, oranges, quince, guava, and... menthol, cumin, and juniper. Actually, is this a very old Caribbean gin, perhaps. Finish: the exotic fruits, tar, and caraway come back in full force. Comments: this is a sublime, explosive rum, a bit 'cross-category' or 'fusion' at times. Chartreuse? Islay? Juniper? Rum? Orange liqueur? All mixed together? Not sure we'll ever know…

SGP:662 - 91 points.

One last one for the road…

Enmore 32 yo 1990/2023 (53.6%, Rum Sponge, Guyana, #24, 197 bottles)

Enmore 32 yo 1990/2023 (53.6%, Rum Sponge, Guyana, #24, 197 bottles) Five stars
Thinking about the western part of the country that's currently so heavily threatened by the Venezuelan dictator, who's really not that 'diplomatico' I'm afraid. This is a vatting of two casks. In theory… Colour: very dark amber. Nose: old wood and old cigars, pipe tobacco, coffee, candied clementines, clove, mandarin liqueur, meat sauce, teriyaki-flavoured beef jerky, camphor, and menthol... It's word for word what we were hoping for, you can't get more classic than this. With water: and boom and bam, juniper, cumin, and plant tar are back. We're talking about fir tar here. Mouth (neat): this salty, tarry, and mentholated aspect is very classic too. There's quite a bit of old wood and tobacco, but it's amusing to note that the menthol supports everything in the most beautiful way. What would we do without mint (and citrus), I ask you. Also chestnut honey. With water: It's very tarry and resinous, but it works incredibly well. Finish: almost eternal. I'm exaggerating again, but mint and tar go for a Page and Plant for quite some time (with nods to Bonham and Jones). Comments: these creatures are quite unstoppable. This Enmore and the Bielle echoed each other throughout this little session, it was very funny. So close, yet so far, so similar in terms of quality. But let's not forget that the Bielle was eighteen years younger...
SGP:572 - 91 points.

We really hope that the growing political tensions in some countries won't throw an indescribable mess into the world of rum. And also that consumers won't start steering their choices based on these events. For example, Venezuelan rum producers or sugarcane growers have nothing to do with it if the highly disliked President Maduro now wants to annex two-thirds of Guyana because they found oil there. Granted, the capital Georgetown and thus Diamond Distillery are not part of it, but imagine if El Dorado were to become a Venezuelan rum one day!

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

 

Wgiskyfun 101

  Water and rum
Be careful with water; my humble experience suggests that rum is more sensitive to H2O than whisky, and consequently, it's always better to add too little than too much. I find that rum 'snaps' more quickly when you dilute it in your glass, so a drop-by-drop approach is essential.

 

 

December 1, 2023


Whiskyfun