(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries

Petits billets d'humeur
(in French)



Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2006 - Part 1
January 2006 - part 2 <--- February 2006 - part 1 ---> February 2006 - part 2

February 14, 2006

Bowmore 18 yo 1966/1984 (53%, Samaroli ‘Bouquet’, 720 bottles) Poured by Maniac Luc as the aperitif at our latest Maniacal dinner in Oostende. Colour: pure gold. Nose: starts very fruity as expected but it’s not the usual wham-bam tropical fruits (1968, anyone?). More complex, with quite some pink grapefruit but also Williams pears and semi-dried figs, the whole developing on unusually farmy aromas (‘clean’ cow stable, fermenting hay, manure…). It gets then rather maritime and very fresh, with whiffs of freshly cut horseradish and a little vanilla crème. Definitely more complex than the usual 1968’s and others. It explores all directions, getting even rather smoky (smoked ham) and herbal and flowery (grass, lilac). A catalogue of aromas? Really, really stunning!
Mouth: the attack is nervous, fruity (lemon and grapefruit, icing sugar), sustained by a beautiful bitterness (herbs, thyme, sage but also chilli, pepper). Gets really boldly peppery and lemony after a moment, which gives it the kind of austerity and sharpness I cherish. Quite some fresh walnut, propolis, candied grapefruit skin, bitter oranges, herbal tea, liquorice… A very long development… Also some Nori (Japanese seaweed), says Michel. The finish is very long, focusing on crystallised citrus fruits and jams… Wow! Not an easy, sexy old Bowmore at all, almost a ‘bugger’ and you have to sort of tame it, but when you manage to do so, it’s just splendid. One of the very few total winners I’ve been lucky to be allowed to taste. 97 points (and thanks, Luc.)
Bowmore 35 yo 1966/2001 (44%, Douglas Laing OMC, 192 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: something similar at first nosing, but this one is clearly more a classical fruitbomb. Lots of tropical fruits ‘of course’, with the usual passion fruits, guavas, pink grapefruits and mangos. It makes me think of a multi-vitamined mixed fruit juice. We have also a little sandalwood, vanilla sauce… And finally a little peat, rather of the farmy kind (hay, cut flowers, horse sweat) but it’s rather delicate here. Not monstrously complex but nicely balanced and, most importantly, not tired at all, although there are whiffs of oak. Mouth: the attack is not too bold and a little dry, with quite some oak now. Rather tannic… It is fruity indeed but focuses on grapefruit and lemon skin, with a developing bitterness. Notes of over-infused tea, burnt herbs, olive oil, apple seeds and skin… Getting bitterer and bitterer over a few minutes, but it’s still bearable. The finish is medium long, frankly too bitter and drying now, with notes of mastic and a little peat. I’m sure this one was marvellous ten or fifteen years ago… 84 points.
Left, King Black Label, 1945: 'Be right - Drink light.' Lightness starts to be the American whiskeys' USP, and King's that light, that you can even do some ice skating after a dram or three. The ice won't break...
Right, Seagram's V.O., 1947. 'Another triumph... by Men who Plan beyond Tomorrow - Pleasure or Profit from Man-made Snow!.' This ad was part of a series about technological innovations, which was talking openly about profit and about the fact that tycoons were drinking Seagram. It was tricky to invest in skiing resorts at the time, because you could have no snow some years...


MUSIC – Recommended listening - a little bit of good, 'rooty' American country music with Kate Howser's Axton Kincaid playing Who's gonna pour my whiskey when you're gone?.mp3. Please attend their gigs - I don't think they have a CD out yet... (thanks, Ryan).


February 13, 2006

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, February 3rd 2006
It would be easy to think that the Waterboys have been treading, err….water, since the release of their acclaimed Universal Hall in the summer of 2003, with only a moderately well-received live album, Karma to burn (2005) appearing since. However that would be to ignore the fact that the band have toured almost incessantly ever since, both as an ‘acoustic’ three-piece (see the review on this site from October 2004) with Mike Scott being joined by founder Waterboy, fiddler and mandolin player Steve Wickham and keyboards wizard Richard Naiff, and more recently as a full band, joined by a soul-infused rhythm section of Carlos Hercules (drums) and Steve Walters (bass). If the three-piece gig was an evening of crescendo-driven peace and love, then the full band provided a funk-tinged Celtic roots rock and roll night, with Mike Scott – truly a rock and roller at heart if I’ve ever seen one – leading the way with some piercing guitar playing, theatrical poses and typically cryptic interchanges with the audience. Never doubt who’s in charge when Scott is about.

Mr Wickham Snr and friend
We’re upstairs at the Bush – and it’s packed. I leave my seat for a minute (well about ten really, as the bar-staff were working to rule) and return to find the photographer deep in conversation with the two old boys next to us (she seems to have a thing about older men) who, it turns out, are Steve Wickham’s dad and his pal. Cowboy-gear clad Mr Wickham gives us a brief low-down on the history of the Waterboys (more of a collective than a band it’s a long story that lasts most of the interval, and of course features Steve right at the start in the early 80s, and then again when he rejoined in 2000) and what we might expect from the evening. Useful because you never can tell with Mike Scott – a feisty soul who has single-mindedly pursued his own path in a musical world that often seems littered with disappointing compromises.
It’s a great set – with a couple of new tunes (‘Everybody takes a tumble’ and ‘Crash of angel wings’) at the start and then a roll-call of Waterboys classics, with a few slightly less well known songs from the back catalogue. The band, it appears to me, is in cracking form, with all the drive and power you expect from them, but with just a slightly different rhythmical feel coming from the bass and drums. Steve Wickham (and I don’t just say this because of his Dad) was quite outstanding – and prompted a post-gig debate over a glass of tickle-tonic as to who, between he and Fairport’s ex Soft Machiner Ric Saunders deserved the top fiddler’s spot (actually for me it’s the slightly more subtle and sophisticated Saunders, but there you go).
‘Glastonbury song’, the wonderful ‘Peace of Iona’ (definitely best heard on the deck of a boat under the stars in Scotland), ‘When will we be married’, ‘The whole of the moon’, ‘Killing my heart’ (better known as ‘When you go away’), ‘Long way to the light’, ‘Song for the life’, ‘The stolen child’, a spine tingling ‘Red Army blues’ (an odd and old song from 1984’s Pagan Place, as you might as first hearing dismiss it as corny old tosh, but Scott seems to inject enormous power, emotion and sincerity into the lyrics that tell of the hapless career of a Soviet army recruit), ‘Medicine bow’, ‘The Pan within’ and to end ‘Let it happen’, a particular favourite of mine from the sometimes overlooked 2000 album, Rock in a weary land. There was a surprising first encore of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Independence day’, and finally the crowd pleasing ‘Fisherman's blues’. Actually that wasn’t quite the end – the band came back to the stage, but with no more songs to play set about a pub bar version of ‘Sergeant Pepper’ – at which point we took our leave of Mr Wickham senior and headed for the hills.

Mike Scott
Actually I have to say that I was pleased to get the photographer out before the end, because the most unfortunate part of this gig was the outrageous behaviour of a few drunks at the front of the balcony. I can only offer my deepest sympathy to those sitting right in the sight line of the fou, fat, foul-mouthed woman (they must still see her bottom every time they blink) who just couldn’t sit down. And to those (including I have to say, the stewards, who did their best but in the end were just intimidated by these frankly intimidating creeps) obstructed, abused and threatened by her two falling-over-drunk acolytes. It was all getting pretty much out of hand (I’m not sure if Mike Scott could hear the continual refrain from one section of the balcony of ‘Get your fucking fat arse out of the way’ – but if he did he must have been very confused) and looked sure to kick-off big time as everyone left. Such selfish and boorish behaviour is very unusual at the boisterous and friendly Bush, and what was more surprising was the suspicion that the culprits (do you have a word for arseholes in French Serge?) were there with the liggers on the Waterboys Guest List. I hope not. Peace and love from the Waterboys? Are you listening Mike Scott? - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Many thanks, Nick! Just because you asked, and because anybody needs a little 'unwinding' from time to time, here''s a list of French expressions for 'arsehole', (but may I suggest you use them parsimoniously next time you come over here - all that is very 'colloquial', to say the least): trou du cul (abr: trouduc), gros connard (fem: grosse connasse, var: pute borgne), pompe à merde, sac à merde, anus bourré de champignons, gros beauf (fem: doesn't exist), bordel de pompe à merde de brosse à chiottes, capitaliste (used even by French capitalists), cornefoutre, cul de singe (fem: cul de guenon), étron vernaculaire (literary), face de cul, furoncle ecclésiastique... And many others, see here. Phew! As for music by the Waterboys, I think I already posted this one but 'pleasure twice can do no harm', so here's The return of Pan.mp3 again. We have also a live version of Fisherman blues.mp3 (I don't know where and when it was recorded, probably a long time ago).
Longmorn 36 yo 1968/2005 (53.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 7.27) Colour: full amber. Nose: wow, a very animal sherry, like in some old Bourgogne wines. Hare belly, game, notes of old rancio… A very nice peat, at that. Keeps developing after a few minutes, on fireplace, ashes, smoked ham… And hashish indeed (I think, yeah, yeah…) No wonder they called it ‘a Rasta malt’. Mouth: very punchy, creamy and vigorous, starting rather herbal and vegetal and getting resinous, waxy, with quite some camphor. Notes of mint flavoured tea (Oriental indeed). The finish is very, very long, very resinous and maybe just a little drying and tannic but nothing excessive. An unusual, powerful, excellent old Longmorn. 91 points (and thanks, Geert.)
Longmorn 36 yo 1966/2002 (50.7%, Premier Malts, sherry wood, cask #611) Colour: coffee. Nose: we have, once again, a beautiful sherry here, very lively and extremely aromatic. Lots of liqueur chocolate, old rum and cooked strawberries… Whiffs of wood smoke, burning matchsticks, getting then even more chocolaty and also coffeeish (top-class espresso). Notes of hot chocolate cake (hot brownies), roasted nuts… And, ‘of course’, all sorts of dried fruits. Very, very classical but very, very beautiful. Mouth: extremely fruity attack (instead of the usual winey flavours). Very ripe strawberries and redcurrants, apricot jam, cherries again (eau-de-vie soaked bigarreau cherries), kirsch… Wasn’t it rather a Chambertin cask?
Something rubbery in the background – but it’s nice here – and then a great mix of toffee, herbs (thyme, mint) and spices (Chinese anise, cinnamon). And again something smoky! The finish is long as ‘a day with no bread’, invading, on fruit liqueurs and cake… Really excellent, I think! Another Burgundian Longmorn, but not a Rasta this time… And yes, S., I must dig deeper into Longmorn! 92 points.

February 12, 2006

Glentauchers 14 yo 1990/2004 (46%, Whisky Galore) Colour: white wine. Nose: unexpectedly exuberant at first nosing, very fruity (fresh pineapples, pears, green apples). Goes on with quite some varnish, paint thinner, ‘industrial’ orange juice (Fanta) but it’s, quite curiously, rather enjoyable here. Notes of green gooseberries, lemon balm, rubbed lemon skin… Really youthful! Gets then quite grassy and flowery (dandelions), with also notes of mead. Whiffs of aniseed, dill…
Mouth: very coherent, which means lots of white fruits (apples and pears plus quite some melon) and again something like varnish (not that I drink varnish too often but I guess it would taste like this). Gets rather gingery, spicy, a tad drying but it’s all right. Something sweet and sour… The finish is medium long, on fruits and maybe a little mint. Well, nothing too special here, in fact, but this Glentaucher is perfectly drinkable. 79 points.
Glentauchers 15 yo 1990/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, cask #14521) Colour: amber. Nose: this one is completely different. Very sherried, starting extremely coffeeish and chocolaty. Lots of sultanas, chicory coffee. Develops on very bold notes of old rancio (it smells almost like an old Rivesaltes) and quite some cloves, and then it gets rather hotter, with quite some old red wine (maybe a little tired), Grand-Marnier and whiffs of soy sauce, getting very also very mushroomy (dried Chinese mushrooms). Not 100% sure the malt could stand the heavy sherry but the palate will tell… Mouth: a classic, sherried attack, dry and quite smoky. Very chocolaty, with a lot of ‘rough’ rum (Stroh!) and fruitcake. Gets really vinous, also some honey sauce, liqueur-filled chocolates, something herbal (thyme?)… The finish is rather long but a little drying now, like a 90% cocoa chocolate. Not the best sherried Speysider ever but not an unpleasant one either. 81 points.
Turin's Winter Olympics just kicked off and I thought it would be funny to see how winter sports and whisky have often been associated in advertising. At least when skiing was trendy and part of the obligatory 'Western' lifestyle... So, let's start our chronological review today with...
Left, VAT 69, 1928: 'Quality Sells - This Brand has been in the same family since its inception, and is quite independent.' Note the 'quite' and the beautiful graphics.
Right, Four Roses, 1940. America wasn't at war yet and it was cool to have a few hot toddies after a good day of skiing... Cool cap and goggles! (which reminds me, I have to post a few wartime ads one day - very interesting, I think.)


MUSIC – It's Sunday, we go classical with Danemark's Inger Dam-Jensen singing Schumann's Spillemanden Op.40.mp3 (Christen Stubbe Teglbjaerg). Please buy her records and go to her concerts! (Photo Isak Hoffmeyer)


February 11, 2006

Littlemill 13 yo 1990/2004 (43%, Signatory, cask #2374) Colour: very pale, almost white. Nose: starts very fresh and rather clean, very grainy and feinty (mashed potatoes and porridge, hot milk), getting then nicely flowery (lily of the valley) and a little fruity (sweet lemon, boxed pineapple). It gets then rather herbal on freshly mown lawn, tealeaves… Whiffs of violets. Rather nice! Not too complex but nice. Mouth: very sweet attack – maybe a little weak but not unpleasant at all. It tastes just like a peppered apple juice, with a little liquorice and light caramel. That’s all folks! The finish is rather short, at that, but it leaves your mouth fresh as a baby’s. I’ll save the rest for this summer… It’ll be nice on ice! 78 points.
Littlemill 1977 (43%, Natural Color, France, 2005) Strange that they call it ‘color’ and not ‘colour’ – it’s not a bourbon, is it? So, colour: white wine. Nose: certainly punchier but also very oaky, extremely vegetal and herbal. Lots of sour lemon juice, getting then much nicer, with an interesting mix of grapefruit and violets again. Quite some apple skins as well, cider… Again a nice, uncomplicated Littlemill. Mouth: very, very much alike, apple juice, white pepper and liquorice – and maybe also a little chlorophyll. Less sweat than the Signatory, and probably bolder, although just as simple. The finish is rather long, in fact, on gin and pepper… Getting quite drying, leaving a very cardboardy aftertaste. Almost 30 years in wood is probably a little too much for a rather simple Littlemill, but this one is far from being boring. 79 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening - We have another peaceful and quite piece, this time by Guggenheim Grotto. It's called A lifetime in heat.mp3 and I think it's rather beautiful. Please buy Guggenheim Grotto's music - thanks!


February 10, 2006


The Barbican, London, February 2nd, 2006
I sometimes wonder what we did to deserve Billy Bragg. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’s a nice guy (or should I say bloke?) and I don’t question the sincerity of his views, and I would be the first to confess that he can write a decent song or two, but doesn’t his brand of simple minded and sanctimonious schoolboy socialism just wear you down after a while? It’s the sort of naïve and haplessly enthusiastic amateurism that would only be tolerated in Britain, where (judging by his audience tonight) he is held in high esteem. But I’m sorry, and if I may use a comedic metaphor, I have to say that for me he’s the Harry Worth of revolutionary socialism.
But then maybe I’m the sort of disenchanted, middle-aged, comfortably-off cynic that Dick Gaughan (one of the stellar list of performers who joined blokey Billy in this BBC 4 sponsored evening of songs of protest) sang about, preferring an easy life of material pleasure to one of continual struggle. Well perhaps. But I don’t see why I have to put up with patronising primary school lectures from Billy the Bloke about the p’lyikul folk tradition, what it means to be English (a subject which, god help us. Billy Bloque is writing a book), the English p’lyikul folk tradition, Billy’s role in the p’lyikul English struggle of the traditional folk – well, I think you get the picture. We’re here to listen to some outstanding talent (on a good day I might even put BB in the lower quartile of that group) celebrate the songs of Woody Guthrie and Ewan McColl in particular, not to suffer the Blokeoid bouncing around the stage like a podgy Leninist Labrador pup with pitiable posture. Enough!
To be frank when I booked these seats the line up was only about half complete. So I was as surprised as anyone when, after Billy and his two accompanying blokes first kicked off with a couple of tunes (including Florence Reece’s ‘Which side are you on’, which gave the evening its title) and then with Robb Johnson sang Woody Guthrie’s ‘I guess I planted’, Donovan walked on the stage. Looking like a portly pixie who’d spent the last thirty years in the magic pie shoppe he briefly presented his credentials - “It was out of Glasgow that I came, and my father was a socialist” – and then, sadly, croaked his way through his mega-hit, Buffy St Marie’s ‘Universal Soldier’.

Martin Carthy
But the evening got better – Martin Carthy, (who I have come to regard as truly outstanding since I saw him last year, having revisited some of his old stuff that I had hidden away, and explored his newer material) gave us a master class in two short sessions of how English folk music should be played and sung. His well chosen songs were MacColl’s ‘I’m champion at keeping them rolling’ (yikes – a song about British truck drivers?), the moving ‘Company policy’, an angry lament for the lost British sailors of the Falklands war, and the even more moving ‘18th June’ , about THAT famous battle at Waterloo in 1815. If you haven’t listened to Carthy then you should – his droning, picking guitar style is almost unique. But it does remind me a little of Dick Gaughan, son of Leith, with a spine shuddering voice and an astonishingly aggressive and staccato guitar style. In addition to giving us complacent ones a sharp dig in the ribs, Dick sang ‘Outlaws and dreamers’ and Peggy Seeger’s ‘Song of choice’. Frankly I could have listened to him all night and wouldn’t have got too cross about his unyielding dialectic – for a debunking of the romantic myths of Scottish History as refreshing as Michael Marra’s, try and find him singing ‘No gods and precious few heroes’.
We got history of a sort from Maggie Holland singing her award winning composition ‘A place called England’ (BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards “Best Song of 1999”). This England, so much admired by Radio 2 listeners, is one where freedom and liberty is assured to all good and true providing we set about growing nasturtiums and runner beans on the land occupied by disused steel works, shipyards etc. Yes friends, it was predictable that this had to be followed by an ensemble performance (Bragg, Gaughan, Holland) of ‘The world turned upside down’, a celebration of the short lived Digger movement of the English Civil War, much feted in a book of the same name by the great Marxist historian Christopher Hill, who like all good scholars never allowed facts to get in the way of an argument. It’s all Golden Age nonsense really, and only goes to confirm my suspicions that all Radio 2 listeners live firmly in a fantasy world. Ironically when I typed ‘The world turned upside down’ into Google one of the first references I got was to a popular song from the seventeenth century lamenting the defeat of King Charles at the Battle of Naseby, and the subsequent suppression of festivities (English good and true) such as Christmas by the radicals and Cromwell’s New Model Army. Strangely this song of protest didn’t get onto the set list.

Left to right: Dick Gaughan, Billy Bragg and Andy Irvine
But some cracking ones did. A real surprise to me was the foursome of Chris Wood, Karine Polwart, and Neill and Callum MacColl – the two sons of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. They performed three songs written by their father, the stunning highlight of which was Chris Wood singing the touchingly cynical ‘The father’s song’. I read that Wood’s 2005 album The Lark Descending is a real cracker – put it on your list, it’s certainly on mine. But before these guys we had, in my opinion, the star turn of the night, Andy Irvine of Planxty fame. Readers may recall my enthusiasm for Irvine from last year’s Planxty gig at the same venue – apparently Irvine is a great Guthrie scholar, and much admired by Mr Bragg. This evening his short performance alone was worth the cost of the ticket. With Bragg and Gaughan he performed Guthrie’s ‘Do re mi’, and solo, playing bouzouki and harmonica a simply jaw-dropping version of ‘Tom Joad’, followed by his own song about Guthrie, ‘Never tired of the road’. Just wonderful. And Billy didn’t do too badly towards the end as he sang his lovely ‘Between the wars’...
But then of course it was time for the dreadful bit when the stage was filled (at least when Gaughan and half the performers could be lured back from the smoking room) and the assembled cast stumbled their way through MacColl’s ‘Dirty old town’. Of course by this time we were all bursting to rush for the barricades, so as soon as the fulsome and largely deserved applause died down we scrambled for the fenced-in taxi rank. “Anyone like to share a cab to the revolution in W4?” - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate).
Thanks Nick. Very interesting, now we (well, I) know much more about the "conscious English folk scene". I must say you're very lucky, our own "conscious" artistes are all dead since quite a long time. OK, we still have a few, breeding horses or geese in the south of France but other than that... I must say we sometimes miss them (especially the ones who died before the Berlin wall got in shambles, or even before Soljenitsin). But as Signoret said, even nostalgia isn't what it used to be, even if we can still watch Alice's Restaurant or Costa-Gavras' movies on cable TV from time to time... As for Billy Bragg, I must say I knew him more thanks to the few songs he sang with one of my idols, the great, great Natalie Merchant (another conscious artist), but let's listen to him now, doing (of course) NPWA.mp3 - oh, and Sexuality.mp3. I'm sorry but I quite 'liked' that one. Perhaps because it sounded very much like a 10,000 Maniacs piece?


Strathisla 40 yo 1955 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
Colour: amber – Cognac. Nose: not violent, as expected but very expressive, with lots of dried oranges, caramel and vanilla – lactones at first nosing. Not ‘simple’ at all, in fact, because it really takes off then, with whiffs of menthol and eucalyptus together with lots of candy sugar, soft brown sugar, roasted nuts… Astonishingly fresh and lively, not tired at all. There’s something Irish in the background (red fruits, Bailey’s) and hints of pistachios and Chinese anise. Super! Hints of curry as well… Really complex, with even some distant maritime notes. More or less in the same vein as the brilliant recent 30 yo for La Maison du Whisky, even if the 1955 seems to be less sherried.

Mouth: good news, it’s not too tannic nor drying. Rather punchy, in fact, even a little prickly, which is ‘nice’ here. I guess they did not need to reduce it a lot to reach the 40% vol. It develops on caramel, espresso coffee, herbal teas, lots of various herbs and gets sort of waxy (propolis, chlorophyll) and minty again, with also quite some burnt cake (an enjoyable bitterness). Sure there’s quite some wood but it’s nicely integrated here. The finish isn’t too long but balanced, with soft tannins, green tea, praline and caramel. A very, very good one in any case, despite the 40%. 90 points.
Strathisla 34 yo 1967 (46%, Hart Bros) Colour: gold. Nose: less expressive, certainly rawer and grainier at first nosing but with some ultra-bold smells of freshly opened Havana cigar box. It gets then quite soapy (freshly washed hands – no I didn’t wash mine ‘lately’) It gets also a little beer-ish (Guinness, English bitter), mashy and malty. Notes of chicory ‘coffee’, American coffee… It’s in now way as ‘perfect’ as the old G&M but it’s still an enjoyable, yet unusual Strathisla. Mouth: punchier again, with quite the same aromas aas on the nose. Quite some green pepper from the wood, liquorice, cocoa powder, getting a little cardboardy. Lots of tannins in fact, not as nicely integrated as in the G&M but there are also more fresh fruits (mainly pears). A little ginger… And a medium-long finish, maybe a little too drying but the whole is still quite enjoyable. Not a winner but a good, serious and solid old Strathisla with little sherry influence if any. 87 points.

February 9, 2006

Teaninich 12 yo 1993/2005 (51.5%, Exclusive Malts, sherry) Colour: pale straw. Nose: really punchy, powerful, starting on something very winey, feinty, minty and sulphury at the same time. Probably not very academic, to say the least, but I must say this strange mixture produces rather interesting results. Notes of rubber (band), hot milk, beer, Indian yoghurt and these funny notes of spearmint flying over the whole, plus quite some apple juice and freshly cut grass. Interesting, really. Mouth: lots of vivacity and an attack that’s much cleaner than I feared. Starts on apple compote and cider, aniseed, dill, getting quite ‘leguminous’ (celeriac, salsify).
It gets much more bitter after a moment, though (very strong liquorice, salmiak, pipe juice - err…-, strong caramel…) and has a long, ‘mentholated’ finish… Again, it’s not very ‘orthodox’, and probably a little perverse but don’t we need differences from time to time? Maybe some would say it’s a little flawed but I quite like it. 85 points.
Teaninich 21 yo 1982/2004 (62.3%, The Bottlers, refill sherry butt, cask #7202) Colour: full amber. Nose: wow, extremely sherried for a refill cask! Are they sure it’s a refill? Lots of coffee, rum and cooked fruit with, again, some very bold minty notes – it’s almost overwhelming. Tell me about a sherry monster! Notes of salted liquorice, rubbed orange skin, turpentine, a little camphor, eucalyptus (Vicks)… And maybe faint hints of ammoniac. Something odd here, but again it’s an interesting whisky. Mouth: extremely creamy, starting sort of similarly, on ultra-bold notes of liquorice and mint mixed with dried fruits and caramel. Lots of cough syrup, salmiak again, dried plums, pipe tobacco again… Not lace, that’s for sure. Almost monstrously liquoricy! Goes on on fruitcake, strong herbal tea, mint drops (again!) Now it gets a little hard to enjoy, probably too extreme for my tastes… And the finish gets a little bitter, at that. Well, it’s an interesting one again but I feel it’s got less ‘charms’ than the ‘Exclusive Malt’. 83 points.
Teaninich 22 yo 1957/1979 (80° proof, Cadenhead dumpy) Colour: pure gold. Nose: starts incredibly fruity and as waxy as an old Clynelish, with a very genteel peat. Loads of grapefruit, mangos and guavas but the whole stays beautifully fresh and elegant. Whiffs of freshly grinded white pepper… Just superb. Mouth: takes off quite smoothly and a little discreetly but it gets much more bodied after a while. Peppery, spicy, gingery, starting to display a wide range of fruits (apples, grapefruits, pears, peaches, gooseberries – probably less ‘tropical’ than on the nose). The finish is very long, quite waxy, with a very enjoyable bitterness (candied lemons). This one is pure pleasure, this time! 91 points (and thanks, Michiel).

MUSIC – Recommended listening - I can hear you thinking from here, 'Oh no, Serge got completely mad! He's posting about the new Sing-sing! Too much Brora?!' You're right, I should hate Sing me a song.mp3 but hell, I can't help it, I like it! Maybe it's the solid combo they have behind them... Anyway, 'please buy their music'...


February 8, 2006

Glenfiddich 1955/2006 (53.5%, OB for Hans-Henrik Hansen, cask #4221, 1 bottle) Hans-Henrik is a famous Glenfiddich collector from Danemark and the distillery just made a one-bottle bottling just for him. Thank God Hans-Henrik got a sample bottle as well, so that he/we could taste the malt without having to crack the bottle open! Colour: amazingly pale, almost white wine. Nose: extremely fresh and very ‘Glenfiddich’, with a beautiful oakiness and very elegant notes of fresh butter and flowers from the fields. Most elegant and well bred.
Develops on freshly squeezed oranges, old dry white wine (something of a Montrachet) and apples… Amazingly clean and pure. Mouth: more tannins now but very silky ones, superbly integrated. Still quite grainy – superbly again, with notes of corn flakes and oat cakes and a pinch of white pepper. Keeps developing superbly, on apple compote and quite some spices (nutmeg). The finish isn’t extraordinarily long but very delicate and elegant. In short, a stunning, quintessential Glenfiddich, probably the best I ever tasted. Don’t look for it, because again, there’s only one bottle! (I know, those were rather useless tasting notes then ;-)) 92 points.
SPECIAL FEATURE: Hans-Henrik just sent us the beautiful photographs of the bottling operations. How many people does it take to 'do' one single great bottle? The answer is here! And many thanks again, Hans-Henrik!
Glenfidddich 1991 ‘Vintage Reserve’ (40%, OB, 2005) Colour: gold. Nose: fresh, a little spirity, starting on notes of tea and something lightly minty (dried mint leaves). Also quite some citronella, lemon balm, developing on vanilla crème and light caramel. We have then whiffs of resin and cooked mushrooms (funny!), plus touches of eucalyptus and lots of various herbal teas (chamomile, linden tree, a little verbena). Not really bolder than the regular expressions (12-15-18) but certainly a little more complex. Mouth: the attack isn’t too bold but neither weak, rather grainy (cereals) and getting quite perfumy (lavender sweet). Quite some wood in the background, a little liquorice and finally something a little bitter – not too nice now, like some strong, un-sugared herbal tea. Notes of orange skin. A rather short, but very herbal and tea-ish finish… Well this one has quite some personality! An interesting dram, no doubt. 79 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening - Oldies but goldies (Nick, don't laugh!): 1965, Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie aka Lulu sings Try to understand.mp3. Wasn't it groooovey? And she's still around, isn't she? Anyway, let's all buy Lulu's music... (unless some have the LP's in their attics...) And no, it's not going to be Petula Clark bext time... Nor Peter Skellern!


February 7, 2006

Bowmore 25 yo 1968 (43%, OB) Bottled around 1993. Colour: gold – amber. Nose: we have the much anticipated blast of tropical fruits right at the start, with lots of pink grapefruits, papayas, guavas, mangos and truckloads of passion fruit. It gets then a little waxy, with also notes of caramel rice, a little smoke, heather, hints of sandal wood, balsam, light cigarette tobacco (Virginia). Typically 1968 Bowmore (remember, when a truck loaded with ripe mangos went into the ditch next to the filling station ;-)) Quite some caramel, whiffs of white pepper, and always quite some tobacco. It keep developing for a long time (on wax, eucalyptus, camphor, old books) and then we have also notes of forest after the rain (pine needles, ferns, moss…) Just superb. Mouth: almost the same profile here, although it’s perhaps more on orange juice, tangerines, lemon squash… We have the usual tropical fruits cocktail, together with something resinous and then it gets quite cardboardy – not excessively. It’s very minty at that, with spearmint and also citronella. The palate is perhaps not as complex as the nose but it’s still really excellent, with a rather long finish despite, perhaps, kind of a weakness, on lemon zests and smoked tea. A true classic, anyway. 91 points (and thanks, Luc). .
Bomore 33 yo 1968/2001 (46.2%, Signatory, cask #1431, 218 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: again a beautiful 1968 Bowmore, even if it’s quite different from the usual bunch. Starts on tobacco and boiling milk, almond milk, before the bold notes of passion fruits do arrive as expected. The whole is probably more straightforward and less complex, though, and also mashier (muesli). Some very enjoyable whiffs of fresh herbs (dill, chives, plain grass) and summer Comté cheese. Surprisingly youthful, although not as ‘wham-bam’ as the OB – I like it almost as much. Mouth: we’re in the same family, obviously, with lots of citrus fruits (but more lemony and less orangey) and quite some pepper, the whole getting even quite hot after a while. Quite some ginger, spices (clove, nutmeg). The finish is rather long, again quite lemony and spicy, the whole being finally rather simpler than the OB but with lots of oomph and a rather unusual pepperiness. Very good, in any case: 89 points (and thanks, Ho-cheng)
Left, Harwood's Canadian 1948, 'The Distillery Behind the Bottle' - right Grant's 1972, 'In 1899 Major Grant installed new equipment to make his Scotch distillery run smoother. Cooper Duncan's cow'. Both ads ran in the US, with slightly different approaches... What's more reassuring?
MUSIC – Recommended listening - French one-man band (!) I N Fused aka David Lavaysse plays this.mp3 and this.mp3. Sorry, I don't know the titles but both tracks are on his CD 'Kind of Clue', which I think you should buy asap! Easy music with a serious twist...

February 6, 2006

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, January 29th 2006

Whiskyfun readers will no doubt be shocked to discover that my ‘The Gig that was So Bad that I Couldn’t Be Arsed to Review It’ Award, that I presented to Steve Harley in the Whiskyfun Music Awards for 2005, did not find favour with all parties. In fact “your review stinks” was what was written in an e-mail to Serge, which some may remember is more or less what I thought about the gig (actually that’s an understatement, but let’s not start that again).
Our mystery correspondent continued, “Perhaps you should have gone to see Babyshambles... sounds like more your scene”. Hmmm….well, never one to resist a challenge, I managed (that very day!) to get hold of tickets for said band of the moment, fronted by Kate Moss’s ex boyfriend, tabloid darling Pete Doherty, at the Bush. “You’re wasting your time dad” sighed my daughter as she agreed to stand in for The Photographer, “he’ll never turn up”. Well, for once I should have listened to the voice of impetuous youth, as over the past few weeks Pete’s been arrested for possession of cocaine and heaven knows what else twice, and as a result is now languishing at her Majesty’s Pleasure, as we like to say, rather than cavorting about the stage of the Bush. The only thing that consoles me is that Pete was quoted as saying at the time of his arrest "Please, officers, don't do this. I've got a gig tonight, cut me a break." No doubt it was the Whiskyfun review he was thinking about.
Well Pete, I hope you're getting the care and attention that you need (‘though I somewhat doubt it) and that you get well soon. In the meantime readers could do worse than listen to some of the new Babyshambles album Down in Albion which is decent enough, and certainly shows that young Mr Doherty is on the way to wasting a considerable talent.
Err… can I have my money back please? - Nick Morgan
Well, thank you Nick... I tried to find some Babyshambles music on the Web but couldn't (So I had to cancel my researches as well). But I just checked that my very own progeny knows Babyshambles quite well - and does have the CD!
Longmorn 30 yo 1972 (50.2%, Kingsbury for Japan, cask #1100, 312 bottles)
Colour: mahogany. Nose: ah, what a beautiful sherry we have here! Rather unusual, with something smoky and mineral upfront (flints) and not the usual heavy sweetness. Dry, almost sharp and fantastically elegant, although it gets quite meaty after a while (high-end wine sauce, game). Develops on bananas flambéed, very old rum, pu-erh tea… And we also have whiffs of menthol, citronella, old rancio. Absolutely fab! Mouth: oh yes! A fantabulous sherry indeed, quite similar in style to the Black Bowmores or to the Bowmore 1964 ‘oloroso’.
Something heavy and aerial at the same time. Lots of tropical fruits but not of the ‘too obvious’ kind, crystallised kumquats, getting then very chocolaty (bitter chocolate) with also notes of mocha, toffee… Wow! And then we have other fruits arriving, such as cooked strawberries and very ripe mangos… This one is stunning, really. It gets then quite spicy (lots of nutmeg and quite some white pepper). Some notes of orange marmalade and strong tea give it kind of a bitterness that balances the whole beautifully. And the finish is long, at that, compact and still flawless, mainly on chocolate and candied citrus fruits. In short, this Longmorn is totally stunning, I love it. 94 points. (and thanks, Govert).
Longmorn 17 yo 1986/2004 (58.2%, OB, Chivas) This one is/was sold only at the distillery. Colour: pale gold. Nose: powerful but rather unimpressive, close to raw spirit. Hey, somebody in there? A little grainy, mashy, but that’s almost all. Maybe a little vanilla. Let’s try it with a little water, it’ll improve, I’m sure… Oh no, it’s not a swimmer. No further development, I’m afraid. An obvious lack of maturing – in my opinion of course. Mouth: (neat) again, just raw spirit, with a little fruit (apple juice) and perhaps hints of violet and lavender sweets. Gets quite Sugarish. With water: it gets a little more vegetal, herbal, even a little acrid. Too bad, no interest whatsoever as far as I’m concerned (but I know Martine and Dave liked it, and they are the pros). Or a matter of tastes and colours?… 71 points.
Just a few words about the Lindores Whisky Festival in Oostende, Belgium (I'm just back). It was a fantastic, very friendly event with lots of high-end old whiskies to taste, so lots of tasting notes to come on Whiskyfun. You should not miss the next one! (in 2008, I've heard).


MUSIC – Recommended listening - Today we have some rather good 'honky-tonk country' (and God knows I'm...) by Truckstop Honeymoon, who are doing Johnny and June.mp3. I think you should consider buying their music!


February 5, 2006

Rosebank 12 yo 1991/2004 (43%, Signatory, casks #4700/02) Colour: white wine – very white. Nose: rather mellow, a little toned down but not weak in any way. Starts on both some mashy and grainy notes (porridge) and the usual citrus fruits (lemon juice, grapefruits), with also hints of freshly roasted coffee beans. It gets then quite toffeeish, with hints of burnt bread crust and cake, and finally quite some apple juice. Certainly a nice one, the prototypical aperitif – as far as the nose is concerned. Mouth: smooth, sweet but quite nervous at the same time. Very typical, with litres of sugared lemon juice, getting rather malty and vegetal… Not much else but it’s enjoyable – lemon vodka drinkers should try these young Rosebanks, they’ll probably change habits. The finish is a little short but with a nice taste of aniseed (pastis?) A good, harmless Rosebank, in any case. 82 points.
Rosebank 22 yo 1981/2004 (61.1%, Rare Malts) Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather discreet aroma wise but otherwise really punchy, with quite some fresh pear juice. Almost pungent, in fact - let’s add a few drops of water. Right, it gets much farmier now, as often, but with still a nice cleanliness and the usual lemony aromas coming through now. In short, it’s quite simple (simpler than the beautiful 20 yo 1979, in my opinion) but flawless. Mouth: very powerful when neat, mostly on candied lemon. With water, it gets even fruitier (all sorts of citrus fruits such as grapefuits and tangerines), with a nice sweetness but always some kind of simplicity. Quite some honey too. Typically Rosebank again and certainly more body. 85 points.
 With thanks to Davin


MUSIC – It's Sunday, we go classical with Raina Kabaivanska singing Puccini's Suor Angelica.mp3 (an opera in one act). Quite beautiful, I think, and even if her voice isn't 'of prime youth' anymore, there certainly is quite some depth here. Please buy her records or go to her concerts.


February 4, 2006

 With thanks to Davin
Highland Park 25 yo 1967/1992 (51.6%, Signatory, cask #6685) From a mini. Colour: straw. Nose: punchy, powerful and spirity as often with these indie Highland Parks. Masy, feinty, grainy (mashed potatoes, cereals, porridge), getting rather smoky and sort of meaty (cold cuts). Quite some cod oil, pencil box (graphite). Rather aggressive, despite the quite nice flowery notes that arise after a while (peony). Also gin fizz, artichoke liqueur, bitter oranges… Not directly enjoyable but interesting.
Mouth: rather nervous and fruity attack but it’s soon to get quite aggressive again, with ‘something’ that sort of affects your gums… Er… It goes on with notes of lemon pie, dried fruits, fruit eau de vie (tutti frutti) A little difficult, I must say, although it’s still interesting. The finish is very long, almost invading, a little Sugarish and quite spirity. A virulent HP; yes, ‘interesting’. 82 points.
Highland Park 22 yo 1966/1989 (52%, Signatory, cask #7815) From a mini. Colour: gold. Nose: rather similar, very similar in fact at first nosing, maybe a tad fruitier (ripe apricots) and more vegetal but otherwise it lacks a little smoothness and compactness again. There’s a little sherry coming through after a moment, and then it gets frankly vinous but in a nice way. Keeps developing on bitter almonds… It gets definitely nicer than its brother now, more complex and, above all, more enjoyable. Mouth: now we have the sherry right at the start, together with lots fruits and spices. Creamier but still very sharp an aggressive, getting a little salty but also nicely ‘camphorated’ and resinous, almost minty. Better indeed but again, it’s quite a beast as well even if the ABV isn’t that high. The finish is long again, lemony and waxy… Another one for big boys? 85 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening - Oldies but Goldies - 1936, member of the Royal Hawaiian steel guitar Hall Of Fame Andy Iona records Naughty hula eyes.mp3 Isn't it beautiful?


February 3, 2006

Astoria, London, January 28th 2006
Life’s like that isn’t it? I mean sometimes it’s hard just to know where things went wrong. There I was, a nice lower middle class boy, school rugby team, brought up on roast meat, home grown vegetables (we even had kept hens at one stage, which has now become fashionably chic), Three Way Family Favourites, The Navy Lark and the Sunday Express. And then – whoosh – rock and roll hit me like a disease.
But it didn’t happen like that – it never does. So there was a gradual process of exposure before the infection properly took hold – my chum from the States playing me his West Coast rock records, illicit trips to the Blues Attic (you know, the one that wasn’t really an attic but a function room – “weddings, family parties, funerals” – at the back of the Jolly Weavers), John Peel on the radio (did I ever tell you about the first time I heard Interstellar Overdrive, sitting in the back of the family car in a pub car park in Kenilworth, eating crisps, drinking lemonade and listening to Peel?).
And of course, at the more surreal end of things there was the short lived television programme (1968-1969) Do Not Adjust Your Set, 29 episodes, Thursdays (or was it Wednesday?) at 5.30, featuring the rump of what would be Monty Python, David Jason and Denise Coffey and the mind altering Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (you probably know Serge that they were originally called ‘Da Da Band’, which I think means ‘father’ in your French, but changed it to ‘Doo Dah Band’ to prevent any confusion with your Gallic Dads).
The Bonzos provided wit, music, tomfoolery and an infectious madness. In fact once bitten by this dog you would be deeply scarred for life. Ask me, I know.
The Bonzos had been formed out of a thriving art college jazz scene in London in the mid sixties, but took traditional jazz as their starting point, mixed with a heavy splash of surreal seasoning. However as they developed they pioneered a unique mixture of jazz, rock and roll, satire (readers of this website should try and track down their John and Yoko parody ‘Give booze a chance’), bizarre slapstick (mainly fuelled by Ruskin-Spear’s robots, musical legs, and other mad inventions) and otherworldly humour.
By 1967 they had released their first album, Gorilla, lost a few early members – notably Sam Spoons and Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell (who joined another early Bonzo Bob Kerr in his Whoopee Band) – and relatively ‘settled’ into a line-up of Vivian Stanshall, Neil Innes, Roger Ruskin-Spear, Dennis Cowan, Legs Larry Smith, and Rodney Slater. Minor chart success (‘I’m the Urban Spaceman’) - several albums (the classic Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse, Tadpoles, Keynsham) was followed by two fruitless US tours and near bankruptcy, leading to the break-up of the band in 1971 and a final contract fulfilling album Let’s make up and be friendly in 1972.
In the aftermath only Innes sustained a musical career, performing (sometimes with Stanshall) with Grimms – an poetic scousers amalgam of Liverpool Scene and Scaffold, pursuing a solo recording and touring career, tying up with the Pythons, various TV series, The Rutles (with Python Eric Idle) and most recently co-writing and performing some frankly mediocre radio comedy programmes. Stanshall never lived up to the promise of his enormous talent, plagued by alcohol dependency and illness his work mainly centered on Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (recorded in 1978 and finally filmed in 1980) and various outstanding radio and TV cameos, ‘till his untimely death in 1994. Perhaps most famously he was ‘the voice’ on Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. Cowan died in 1972; Slater whilst performing occasionally turned to social work; Ruskin-Spear to teaching art (his Dad Serge, is apparently a famous painter), Legs Larry Smith to design and, err, tap dancing. A Bonzos’ reunion? Pigs might fly!
So like most of the aged audience in the Astoria on this coldest of January nights I’m pinching myself, partly to get my circulation going after queuing outside for an hour, but also out of disbelief.
The pickle factory is packed – well not really packed as it’s seated, plastic chair village hall style, so probably only half the normal crowd are in. Maybe partly explains why tickets went so quickly and were so hard to find – changing hands, or so I’m told, for hundreds of pounds (it must be that madness). I’m in the second row! To my left the Chelsea and Kensington set, fur coats, jewels and all – but having a great time (Mrs Chelsea and Kensington was almost word perfect). To my left a man with a weak bladder and pre-senile dementia (I promise I’m not making this up Serge) – so everytime he goes to the Gents the very patient steward has to rescue him as he wanders – lost in his personal Bonzo heaven - around the auditorium trying to find his seat. The excitement and sense of expectation is palpable. The gig is being filmed for TV and a DVD. And we’ve been asked very nicely not to take photographs – a shame, as in the temporary absence of The Photographer I’d smuggled the new Whiskyfun camera in inside my sock (maybe I could be one of Her Majesty’s Spies in Moscow?). So no picture from me boys.
The stage is packed. In the centre is Innes on keyboard and guitars, in so far as it’s possible directing the course of the evening. To the right is the band, Innes collaborators J J Jones (drums) Tom Fry (bass) Mickey Simmonds (keyboards various) and Liverpool Scene veteran guitarist Andy Roberts. To the left are the Bonzos. At the rear Sam Spoons on drums and Bohay-Nowell on banjo and saw. At the front a straight-faced Kerr (quite how he managed this all night is a mystery) on trumpets, cornets and teapot, a very lively Slater on saxophones, clarinet and percussion, and in his own chaos corner Roger Ruskin-Spear, on god knows what. He was so wired up with energy that I feared he might explode. Legs Larry Smith was downstairs putting on his make-up.

Neil Innes
It’s easy to forget what a wealth of material the Bonzos put together, and it obviously proved no easy task to agree the set list, which at two hours challenged the Astoria’s Saturday night curfew. What we got was, roughly speaking, a jazz set, followed by an electric set, both kicking off, in suitably patriotic vein, with ‘Rule Britannia’. The first half included ‘Hunting tigers out in Indiah’, ‘Little Sir Echo’ (with Sam Spoons as the ventriloquists dummy), ‘Ali Baba’s camel’, Bohay-Nowell singing a Euro version of ‘Falling in love again’, ‘By a waterfall’, ‘My brother makes the noises for the talkies’ (with Ruskin Spear on his improvised sound-effects rig), ‘Look out there’s a monster coming’, and ‘Jollity Farm’. Somewhere in the middle of this we caught our first glimpse of Legs Larry Smith – “Hello Mabel!” – “Hiya fellas”, not looking at all bad in his tartan mini-skirt and breast-hugging sweater as he tap-danced across the stage with Ruskin-Spear following at his feet with a microphone.
He reappeared later to perform ‘Three hands’. And Ruskin-Spear, introducing an element of shambolic anarchy into almost everything he did (“are you waiting for me Neil?”, “well yes Roger, but I don’t think I’m the only one”) performed, so to speak, with his Theremin Leg. “Well, that was a surprise to all of us” concluded Innes.
The ‘electric’ second half focussed primarily on the material most readily identified with Vivian Stanshall, much of it from the Doughnut album. To help them out in Stanshall’s absence the Bonzos got assistance from comedian Phil Jupitus, who sang and played on ‘Mr Apollo’ (perfectly), ‘Can blue men sing the whites?’ and ‘Canyons of your mind’. Adrian Edmondson sang the lavatorial ‘Strain’, ‘Tent’, and (excellently) ‘I’m bored’; cavorted around as a parrot for ‘Mr Slater’s Parrot’, and turned in an outstanding version of the wonderful ‘My pink half of the drainpipe’, with word perfect narration by Rodney Slater – “have you seen my bullfight poster on the wall?”. Paul Merton sang ‘Monster mash’ (and demonstrated to everyone in the audience that he really can’t dance) while Sam Spoons played a spoon-playing monster to Ruskin Spear’s Frankenstein.
And Stephen Fry was simply perfect – and you should realise how hard it is for me to write that about this usually grotesquely self regarding egotist – but yes, Stephen Fry was simply perfect on ‘Sound of music’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Rhinocratic oaths’. He also added the coda (“the part of old Bill was played by a Frying pan, the rest of old Bill was played by …”) to Ruskin-Spear’s masterpiece ‘Trouser Press’. Quite what the wigged and white-coated Ruskin-Spear was doing is another matter, but fighting with an exploding musical trouser press (which looked, as did most of his props, to be close to the original one he had used in the late 60s) probably best sums it up. Is that clear Serge?

Stephen Fry
I should add that the guests avoided that stage-hogging limelight-grasping behaviour that often happens on such occasions, and that they were anyway all upstaged by Legs Larry Smith performing ‘Look at me I’m wonderful’ and ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’. It was only a shame that someone had decided to end the evening with the recorded version of ‘The Intro and the Outro’ – as the stage filled with costumed family, friends and relations the whole thing became a bit of a mess, and ended with a fizzle rather than a bang, with the Bonzos not even getting an opportunity to line up at the end to take the audience’s fulsome applause. But they’d given us a memorable two hours of under-rehearsed and rather poorly prepared pleasure, full of a somewhat old-fashioned, innocent and naive humour tinged with contagious lunacy. There was a lot of laughter, loads of applause, and not a few tears as the evening went on. But it was probably the expletive fuelled Adrian Edmondson who captured the spirit of the moment for everyone: “I just can’t fucking believe this, I can’t fucking believe I’m here. These guys were my fucking heroes, my fucking heroes …” - Nick Morgan

Many thanks, Nick. I must say 'Da Da' or 'Dada' doesn't mean anything in French I'm afraid, it's closer to your 'Daddy'... Or is it Russian? (Yeah, yeah)... Or maybe was it a reference to the Dada 'non-art movement', of which I'm a devoted fan (you know, Picabia's "the best way of keeping your ideas clean is to change them frequently" etc.) Sure the Bonzos sound a little 'Dada', or even like The Mothers of Invention go to London', which is good news. See the record covers below... As for the music itself, we have the interesting The Intro.mp3, where we get introduced to the band - funny indeed, and a very Zappa-esque - I think - The brain opera part 3.mp3. I also found a pretty excellent No matter who you vote for.mp3 by Neil Innes. And we need The Photographer's photographs!

Left, Zappa and The Mothers 'We're only in it for the money', 1968 - right, the Bonzo Dog Band 'Tadpoles', 1969.
Macallan 25 yo 1967/1993 (43%, OB, Anniversary) Colour: full amber – Cognac. Nose: very ‘oloroso’ of course, starting mainly on chocolate, dried oranges and something fairly minty. Really powerful at 43%! An old-style, full-bodied Macallan, getting rather coffeeish with also quite some plum jam, molasses and high-quality balsamic vinegar (not the supermarket stuff). Hints of Guinness and gin, mulled wine, getting very spicy (cardamom) and even a little herbal (fresh coriander). Very complex and quite different from what we’re used to nowadays – a true, classic Macallan. Mouth: ah, now it’s a little simpler, starting quite salty and slightly rubbery, without the expected bold oloroso notes. A little ‘strange’ but enjoyable. Sweet and rather tannic, with again something ‘beer-ish’, ginger ale, maybe a certain weakness in the middle. It gets a little deceptive now, the finish itself being unexpectedly a little short, caramelly and slightly drying. No doubt it’s not one of the very best old Macallans, finally, although it’s still worth 87 points in my books.
Macallan 31 yo 1966/1998 (53%, Signatory, cask #4178, 198 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: extremely different, yet very enjoyable at first nosing. Punchier, probably thanks to the 53% vol., but also milkier and more fruity (apricots). It gets then very waxy, on paraffin, then passion fruits, diesel oil… Very unusual for a Macallan (closer to a Clynelish, in fact!) Some superb notes of camphor as well, it gets nicer and nicer and rather smoky (fireplace) with also quite fresh vegetables and freshly cut grass. Unusual indeed – and beautiful. Mouth: a creamy, fruity attack, very bold and compact at the same time. It’s quick to get really spicy and gingery (the wood I guess), developing on lots of dried tropical fruits, bananas flambéed, rum-soaked pineapples, coconut…
Yes, it gets very Springbank-ish now! In no way I’d have said it’s a Macallan, had I tasted it blind. And then it gets even spicier (clove, nutmeg, pepper…) The finish is long, very satisfying, creamy, fruity and perhaps a tad too herbal and bitter now. Very demonstrative in any case, even if, again, it’s not ‘Macallan’ at all (rather like a vatting of old Bowmore, Clynelish and Springbank). 91 points (it would have fetched 93 points with a little less bitterness at the finish).

February 2, 2006


Ardbeg 1974/2005 (51.7%, OB for France, bourbon cask #2743, 106 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one starts astonishingly fresh and very, very classically aroma wise. Sort of delicate, with the usual tary, slightly rubbery notes but it’s not ‘agitated’, with obvious ‘fullness’ and ‘plenitude’. Develops on almond milk and marzipan, getting then rather maritime (sea shells). Hints of camphor and walnut skins. Extremely balanced, probably a tad simple but the plus is a superb compactness. Very pure, with something that reminds me of the old 10yo’s (white label, red lettering). Youthful yet mature, and most enjoyable, as expected.

Mouth: very creamy, very compact, really full bodied but not excessively ‘wham-bam’. Smoky and nicely rubbery, quick to develop on bold notes of liquorice and lemon pie. Again, it’s not too complex but very satisfying and ‘full’. Develops on notes of earl grey tea (bergamot), gentian eau de vie, crème brûlée (the bourbon cask?)… Most harmonious. The finish is long (the kind of Ardbeg you keep remembering for two hours), peaty and quite fruity (lemon) now… A classical, full-bodied, tireless, uncomplicated old Ardbeg. 92 points.
Ardbeg 1974/2005 (53.1%, OB for Belgium, bourbon cask #2738, 75 bottles) Colour: gold (slightly darker). Nose: a very, very similar profile and it’s hard to come up with outright differences. There’s a little more vanilla and notes of tangerine liqueur, although the whole is a little more discreet, a little more delicate, and probably a tad less phenolic. Otherwise we have the same superb smokiness, freshness and these maritime notes (sea shells again) and also hints of freshly cut apples. A little camphor as well. Really hard to tell whether this one is any better – or worse – than its French sister.
Mouth: ah, now it’s even closer to the cask for France. Almost the same whisky, so no need to tell you more, going into details would be pure madness ;-). Same kind of barrel, probably same day of distilling, probably same spot in the warehouse, same day of bottling (my birthday!)… Same whisky! 92 points.
Ardbeg 28 yo 1974/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 264 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: ah, it’s very similar again, perhaps a tad more ‘elegant’ and discreet but maybe that’s the slightly lower ABV. Otherwise we’re strictly in the same category! Mouth: almost exactly the same whisky as the OB for France, amazing. Perhaps an added micro-touch of fruitiness but that’s all. Ha! 92 points.
Left, Maker's Mark 2003, right Ardbeg 2003. Hum...


MUSIC – Recommended listening - Mike Wexler's music and voice ring a bell (well, all the bells of Notre-Dame) and/but it's most enjoyable. Try Sound the mirror.mp3 and you'll see what I mean - and then buy his music, please.


February 1, 2006

Ardbeg 14 yo 1991/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, DL 1297, 340 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts slightly more medicinal than usual, with rather big notes of bandages and camphor. Goes on with lit candles, campfire, getting quite chalky… Much less sweet than the official 10yo, for instance. I like that, I must say. Mouth: much more vegetal and bitter than the same 10 yo OB we all know very well and, again, much less sweet. Gets rather leafy after a moment, with some tea, dried parsley… and also drier and drier. Perhaps a little too austere in fact, a little more fruit would have been welcomed but it's still a very nice ones for fans of the 'austere' side of Ardbeg. 85 points.
Ardbeg 21 yo 1974/1996 (40%, Sestante) Colour: gold. Nose: ah, this is much nicer than last time I tasted this one (from another bottle)! Starts very waxy and resinous (like an old Clynelish?) with whiffs of smoke. Beautiful notes of argan and olive oil, toasted bread, marzipan. Gets smokier with time (campfire) but not exactly peaty. Very nice, even if a little simple. Mouth: a bit of old bottle effect, with lots of wax and maybe something metallic. A bit thin at first sip but soon to grow rather bolder. I’ve had some very old blends that tasted similar. Herbal tea, marzipan, something papery and slightly lemony at the same time. Finish: long but getting rather bitter and drying (lemon seeds). In short, a different Ardbeg. Not a stunner but I do like it, Johannes ;-)!. 86 points.
An also Ardbeg Committee (55.3%, OB, bottled 2002) A very dry one, probably too austere now. Lots of peat and lemon skins, but lacking a bit of sweetness for my taste. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice Ardbeg OB but I think there are many much better ones. 85 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening - I wanted to post about Nellie McKay again but it's going to be NYC's 'anti-folk diva' Regina Spektor instead today, with Prisoners.mp3. Doesn't she have, I mean... Anyway, please buy her music!

January 2006 - part 2 <--- February 2006 - part 1 ---> February 2006 - part 2

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Ardbeg 28 yo 1974/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 264 bottles)

Ardbeg 1974/2005 (51.7%, OB for France, bourbon cask #2743, 106 bottles)

Ardbeg 1974/2005 (53.1%, OB for Belgium, bourbon cask #2738, 75 bottles)

Bowmore 18 yo 1966/1984 (53%, Samaroli ‘Bouquet’, 720 bottles)

Bowmore 25 yo 1968 (43%, OB)

Glenfiddich 1955/2006 (53.5%, OB for Hans-Henrik Hansen, cask #4221, 1 bottle)

Longmorn 30 yo 1972 (50.2%, Kingsbury for Japan, cask #1100, 312 bottles)

Longmorn 36 yo 1968/2005 (53.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 7.27)

Longmorn 36 yo 1966/2002 (50.7%, Premier Malts, sherry wood, cask #611)

Macallan 31 yo 1966/1998 (53%, Signatory, cask #4178, 198 bottles)

Strathisla 40 yo 1955 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)

Teaninich 22 yo 1957/1979 (80° proof, Cadenhead dumpy)