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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2007 - Part 2
February 2007 - part 1 <--- February 2007 - part 2 ---> March 2007 - part 1

February 28, 2007

Highland Park 12
Highland Park 12 yo (40%, OB, 2006) This is the new, ‘flat’ presentation. Colour: pale gold, paler than earlier versions (I think they stopped adding caramel). Nose: extremely typical, heathery, honeyed and with the merest hint of smoke. Not bold but playful, getting more and more flowery (hints of lilac besides the heather), with also fresh butter, apple juice and even hints of fresh pineapple and ginger. Extremely pleasant. Mouth: sure it’s not too bold and maybe even a little weakish at the attack but the profile is flawless. Hints of smoke, oranges, tangerines, apples, light honey, toasted brioche, touches of pepper… And a rather short but fresh and clean finish on honey and tinned pineapples. A perfect everyday dram I think, a little better than batches from the early 2000’s and certainly not an under-18 yo anymore. 85 points.
Highland Park 10 yo 1996/2006 ‘Ambassador Cask #2’ (58.8%, OB, cask #1071) Colour: straw. Nose: starts bizarrely porridgy, milky and mashy, with certain grassiness and quite some apple compote but none of the very pleasant honeyed and flowery notes. Let’s see if water improves it: it brings out hints of celery and aniseed, fennel, apple skin, walnut skin, but the porridgy notes are still here. Hard to know why they bottled this one in these series… Mouth (neat): bold and powerful but also immature, overly fruity (like a tutti-frutti spirit) and again quite mashy (strawberry-flavoured yoghurt). A little bubblegum as well. With water: it’s closer to the core range 12 yo now but without the faintest smokiness. The finish is rather long but very sweet, fruity, almost sugary… Well, I think this one’s just uninteresting but I wouldn’t go as far as some ‘colleagues’ who really hated it. 78 points.
Highland Park 35 yo 1968/2003 (51.2%, OB, cask #2277, 546 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: not extremely demonstrative right at first nosing but then the aromas arise, with first lots of dried and crystallised oranges, then the trademark heather honey, then quite some smoke (more wood than peat), then praline and nougat… Hints of old roses, pot-pourri… Then it’s the sherry but a rather delicate one, with very ripe blackcurrants and raspberries, old rancio, sultanas… The whole isn’t extremely complex in fact but beautifully balanced, compact and direct. I must say it smells a little younger and rougher than the average 35 yo Highland Park (I know, a 35 yo HP is hardly average), and smokier as well. Mouth: nice attack, very sweet, smoky and waxy. Grand-Marnier, litres of freshly squeezed oranges (amazing), a little mint, pollen, apricot and plum jam, marmalade… It’s really powerful, maybe also a tad bitter (Seville oranges) and gingery. Quite some spices from the wood but less than expected (quite some cloves and nutmeg, though). Faint dryness/sourness like in some very infused green tea. Finish: rather long, wild, orangey of course, with a minty/waxy aftertaste. In a nutshell, this oldie is much rougher, rawer and wilder than expected., but it’s, of course, excellent malt. 89 points.
Highland Park (100°proof, OB on G&M bottle with silk screened thistles, twist cap, late 1950’s) With the famous St. Patrick label, probably distilled shortly after the Second World War. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is very different, much more ‘old style Highlands’. More austere, dry, peaty, grassy, with hints of iron, flints, coal oven, smoked tea… Something like rooibos (that South-African red tea that’s more and more popular over here), bitter almonds… Also notes of butter, fresh oak, fresh almonds… It doesn’t talk a lot actually but what it has to say is beautiful and ‘elegant’ (any resemblance between, etc.) Mouth: oh, now it got more talkative, starting on crystallised quinces, lots of peat, beeswax with honey, kumquats… Powerful, sweet and smoky, almost hot. Gets then quite resinous but still much sweeter than on the nose, with a little fructose that plays with your tongue, pink grapefruit, lemon marmalade (very nice bitterness), butter pear… Quite some pepper, at that. This one doesn’t seem to have lost one single ounce of oomph during all these years in glass! (and no OBE here). Finish: extremely long, peppery, waxy, citrusy, smoky and even a little salty. What a beautiful old beast! 92 points (and thank you Olivier).
MUSIC – Recommended listening: pianist Stephanie Ozer plays an excellent rendition of Hermeto Pascoal's famous piece Bebé.mp3. Stephanie Ozer is frequently playing in the Bay area, don't miss her! Stephanie Ozer

February 27, 2007








Ardmore 15 yo 1990/2005 (55.8%, G&M, Refill bourbon, casks #12285+12287) Colour: white wine. Nose: punchy and powerful (of course) but also very bourbonny, with bold whiffs of vanilla and oak as well as quite some warm milk. Also fruits (kiwi, green apples) and a slight smokiness (not exactly ‘peat’ I’d say). With water: now the peat comes out, with the usual whiffs of farmyard but also a huge soapiness, which happens quite often when you just added water. Let’s give it a little time… Okay, the soap vanished but there isn’t really any further development, except rather huge notes of cloves and genever. Mouth (neat): extremely sweet but also much, much peatier than on the nose. A little coffee and milk chocolate but also lots of pepper and ginger. A rather wild Ardmore on the palate but maybe water will tame it. With water: not really different, the pepper and peat are still here, maybe even bolder. Nice, long and compact finish, mostly on peat and crystallised lemon. A good peaty Ardmore. 81 points.
Ardmore 15 yo 1990/2006 (59.7%, Signatory, cask #30015, 183 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: close but even less peaty. We’re more on melon and peaches, a little vanilla again, grass… But water is needed: not really more peat, rather more milk and lactones, vanilla crème, porridge… Hints of violets as well. Mouth (neat): just the same malt as the G&M at the attack, with a little more sweetness, probably from the higher alcohol. The peat is quite bold. With water: yes, now it’s almost as peaty as an Islayer and as peppery as Talisker. Finish: similar to the G&M, maybe a tad peatier. 82 points.
Ardmore 12 yo 1994/2006 (58.6%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #58005) (picture: older version, 11yo) Colour: white wine. Nose: much more peat now it seems, wet hay, overripe apples and quite some mint, eucalyptus and camphor, which makes it more medicinal than usual. But again, water is needed: ah, it’s with this one that water works best. It brings out more flinty notes, ashes, fresh mint, maybe hints of aspirin and ginger tonic. Still the most elegant on the nose. Mouth (neat): closer to its siblings on the palate but even rougher. Huge pepper – it’s almost chilli. With water: again we’re in the same league, with something maybe more farmy and organic. And it’s a little more of a peat monster, except that there’s more fruits after a moment (quite some pears). Maybe that comes from the younger age. Finish: long, always on pears, peat and pepper. Very good even if not too complex, just like the two 1990’s. 83 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: always a big hit at home (well, among its feminine part), after Cali, it's Marc Lavoine and his slightly syrupy but nicely composed and sung Toi mon amour.mp3. Right, right... But please buy Marc Lavoine's music, he's a very nice person. Tou our French readers: don't worry, I'll stop that French invasion very soon... Marc Lavoine

February 26, 2007

Tobermory 1972


Tobermory 34 yo 1972/2007 (49.5%, Whisky-Doris, first fill sherry cask, 96 bottles) Colour: dark amber. Nose: lots of sherry, dried bananas and cooked strawberries at first sniffs. Quite wham-bam I must say, with a multilayered development.

First we have all these red fruits (mostly cooked, or jams), then the whole gets extremely nutty (loads of old walnuts, walnut wine - what we call Nusswasser here in Alsace), then quite meaty (game) and finally rather spicy (soft spices, curry, cardamom) with also hints of balsamic vinegar and amaretto. Extremely influenced by dry oloroso but very complex, yet massive. I like this a little better than the fairly recent 1972 OB because it’s less of a classic sherry monster. Mouth: thick, rich, extremely coffeeish but not cloying at all, unlike some other sherry monsters. Lots of bitter chocolate and blackcurrant jelly, crystallized tangerines, peppered chocolate… And then comes quite some peat (Ledaig?), mustard, even hints of wasabi… Lots happening in your mouth! Wham-bam indeed. Quite some wood after that, with some tannins, lactones, herb liqueur… The finish is very, very long, sherried, peppery and spicy – I guess one could use this one as a sauce – why not with sushi? Anyway, an excellent old olorosoed Tobermory, very concentrated – or maybe is it Ledaig? 91 points.
Tobermory-Ledaig 33 yo 1973/2006 (48%, The Whisky Fair, 281 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: little peat at first nosing, quite unexpectedly, but rather that meatiness we already had in the 34yo. Gets then delicately peppery, with also quite some plum jam, mustard seeds, oak and then lots of almond milk and hints of shoe polish. Gets smokier and peatier after a moment, with kind of ‘farminess’ that reminds me of some Broras (manure and wet dog). It’s all rather complex and certainly ‘ancient style’. Keeps developing for a long time, passing by spices (that mustard again but also cardamom and curry) and a quite enjoyable faint soapiness (a ‘nice’ one). Very entertaining. Mouth: fresher and fruitier than the 1972 and very, let’s say ‘different’. The soapiness is bolder here but still not troublesome. There’s also lots of bitter oranges, Turkish delights, plus a touch of fructose. Unusual but very pleasant I must say… Gets peatier after a moment, a little smoky, oaky and mustardy again. Oh, and have also very ripe kiwis. Finish: medium long, peppery, mustardy and orangey, which creates a very interesting mix of flavours. In short and like often with these 1972/1974 Ledaigs, the aromas and flavours combinations are very special and, again, ‘different’. One more reason to like this one a lot. 90 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Connecticut's artisan singer-songwriter Mike Bailey does Little Nikita.mp3 and it's very good I think. Please buy his CD! Mike Bailey

February 25, 2007

Benriach Benriach 1991/2006 (53%, OB for Taiwan Single Malt Whisky Association, Portwood finish, cask #6921) Colour: blush wine – or rather rosé from Provence. Nose: quite powerful, starting right on peat, smoked tea and blackcurrant buds. Hints of ripe raspberries and strawberries plus lots of pepper. This mix is very expressive, almost invading. It gets then quite minty, buttery, with a little eucalyptus… The peat really wins the fight after a moment and manages to floor the Port. Some might think that’s good news.
Mouth: this is funnier, sweter and fruitier. Almost like if someone had ‘thinned down’ raspberry jam with peaty whisky. The good news is that there’s no rubbery or sulphury notes whatsoever, so the result is all a matter of taste. I don’t usually like Port in my whisky but this one works quite well. Probably more a cocktail than ‘whisky’ but hey, let’s not be blinkered and... Okay, let’s cut the crap: if you like finished whiskies, you’ll like this. 80 points.
Benriach 1975/2004 (56.5%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #7215, 199 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this is completely different. There are whiffs of peat but also bold – yet unusual – fruity notes. Lots of pink grapefruit but also star fruit (when it’s ripe), pineapple (truckloads), mangos, kiwis… And then it’s back on grapefruits. I can’t remember any other malt that was as much on grapefruit. It’s also quite ashy, flinty, smoky, peppery… Faint hints of mescal, cactus juice, ti-punch… Rather amazing, with a stunning sharpness brought by the mix of smoke and grapefruit. Mouth: what a magnificent, fruity attack! We’re really in 1968 Bowmore territories here, with loads of mangos, oranges, passion fruits, kiwis and tangerines (although I remember old Benriachs that were as fruity, but less peaty). Goes on with crystallised oranges, kumquats, a little salt (well, lots actually), earl grey tea, lemon zest, black pepper… What a maelstrom! And what a finish, extremely long, doing ‘the peacock’s tail’ on all sorts of fruits and spices… An amazingly rich and extravagant old peaty Benriach that, again, resembles a 1968 Bowmore, except that this Benriach is much peatier (yes). 92 points (and thanks, Konstantin).
MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical with the Austrian soparno Joséphine Pilars de Pilar singing Maurice Ravel's (1875-1937) captivating Mélodie hébraïque.mp3. You should go to Miss Pilars de Pilar's concerts. Josephine Pilars de Pilar

February 24, 2007


Millburn 35 yo 1969/2005 (51.2%, Rare Malts) This famous series' last salvo and probably one of the best. Colour: pale amber. Nose: superb start on notes of underwood, moss, fern, mushrooms… Then we have lots of overripe fruits (pears and bananas), fresh vanilla, spearmint, blue woodruff, fresh parsley, garden cress… Truly superb, fresh and complex at the same time, with also hints of camphor. Beautiful old malt.

Mouth: it's all like on the nose, with a rather huge but balanced and smooth oakiness. Crystallised fruits, herbal teas (chamomile, hawthorn, thyme) and something delicately resinous. There's also a little peat and a little salt… The finish is just as great, just a tad 'varnishy' (nothing unpleasant) and quite peppery. Beautiful oakiness indeed. 91 points.
Millburn 25 yo 1975/2001 (61.9%, Rare Malts) Colour;: straw. Nose: this one is much rawer, smoky, meaty and grassy, with notes of mustard seeds, ham, wet chalk… Truly wild. Not pungent despite the high alcohol but let’s try it with water (at roughly 45%): we have more wax now, fir honey, vanilla pods, pollen… Water really worked, this one is an excellent swimmer but it’s not quite as complex as the 1969. Hints of wet dog. Mouth (neat): punchy and much fruitier, on canned pineapples, oranges and a slight waxiness. Lots of alcohol of course that quite masks the whole. So, with water: even sweeter but also spicier, with more tannins but also quite some salt and those mustardy notes. Long, peppery and spicy finish, with less sweetness but a little resin now… The whole is quite ‘natural’, a good example of most Rare Malts’ style. 87 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening, oldies but goldies: let's have a little classic Brian Eno with Julie with...mp3 (that was on Before and after science, 1977 and was composed for Eno's girlfriend at the time, British actress Julie Christie). Please buy Brian Eno's music.


February 23, 2007

Tomatin 21 yo 1968/1990 (40%, Sestante, Antica Casa Marchesi Spinola #1) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a typical fruitiness at first sniff (bananas) but also something quite bizarrely milky and buttery. Gets then very herbal (chives) and a little minty. Hints of iron (OBE developing), aniseed and mint. A little shy in fact, getting a little papery and still quite minty. Waning quite quickly, alas. Mouth: too bad, the papery and cardboardy notes do really dominate the whole now. A little weak, dry, strangely vegetal (over-infused tea), with also something like capers or gherkins… Not very enjoyable I must say. Quite some salt at that, mint, camphor (but an odd one)… The finish is even weirder, quite long but rather bitter… Raw turnips? And always this cardboardiness. 72 points (for the nose).
Tomatin 12 yo 1989/2002 (46%, Signatory UCF, Cask #11642, 864 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: completely different, much more grainy and mashy, porridgy… Apple juice, mashed potatoes, beer… Gets yeastier with time, almost sour like raw yoghurt. Hints of parsley and small sour apples. You have to like this profile but if you do, this Tomatin is quite perfect. Mouth: quite bold, rough, a little spirity, still very mashy and yeasty… It’s really on porridge now – with a good spurt of raw schnapps. Gets a little easier after a moment, with a little fruit (but it doesn’t go any further than apples and pears). I sort of like this roughness I must say. Rather long finish, maybe a little dirty (still very mashy). A honest, ‘rural’ Tomatin. 82 points.
Tomatin 16 yo 1989/2006 (46%, Signatory UCF, cask #11644, 709 bottles) A sister cask, let’s see what happened within four years of extra-ageing. Colour: straw. Nose: ah yes, it’s well the same whisky but it got more caramel and vanilla as well as a deeper fruitiness (bananas as expected). Other than that we still have something mashy and yeasty, sour apples, grains… Not sure I don’t prefer the younger version, but this one is very nice, no doubt. Mouth: now it’s frankly better than its younger sibling, starting with some funny and most enjoyable notes of olives. Quite powerful, assertive… White rum, even tequila… An interesting beast and a different kind of roughness, maybe brought by the wood. Gets quite spicy, peppery… I like it. Very long finish, still rough, a tad metallic, definitely on white rum. Good! 83 points.
Tomatin 23 yo 1976/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 293 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: a very excellent start, somewhat Irish this time, on truckloads of fresh pineapples and bananas. Sort of amusing, joyful. Goes on with lots of pink grapefruits and bunches of other tropical fruits (mostly ripe mangos and papayas). A crossbreed of old Bowmores and Bushmills? Mouth: wow, this is still hugely fruity, almost like a mix of multivitamin fruit juice and white pepper, with the wood and the extreme fruitiness mingling perfectly. Quite extravagant and truly excellent, although not overly complex, with a rather long and still very fruity finish. Very different from all the ones we had before, much fruitier. Tropical! 88 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: English chanson? What's sure is that Leed's David Thomas Broughton makes beautiful music and compares to nobody else as his long but beautifully crafted song Walking over you.mp3 will testify. I think you should buy his music. David Thomas Broughton

February 22, 2007

Red Lanterns

The Astoria, London
February 17th 2007

It’s Chinese New Year. The streets of London’s Chinatown are crammed with people, shoulder to shoulder. A sea of flame-red paper lanterns hangs over our heads, slowly moving in the breeze like gentle waves. Cartoon-fat chefs, tunics white with comedy hats, are standing at street side stalls making won-tons.

Every other person is either trying to sell you a folding paper dragon, or has just bought one themselves. And every restaurant has queues of impatient people falling out into the street, none of whom had apparently thought that anyone else might have had the brainwave of going to Soho to eat Chinese chow on this particular day. We’re tucked away safely in our regular haunt with our chirpy cockney Chinese waiter to boot. “Where you going later, film, theatre?” he asks, as he delivers some delicious slices of sea-bass with prawn won-tons. “Concert. Jarvis Cocker”. “Ahhh, Jarvis!” he grins, turning from our table with a perfect impersonation of Mr Cocker’s now infamous bum-wiggling at the 1996 Brit Awards. You see Serge, love him or hate him, everyone knows Jarvis.
Actually Jarvis has undergone a bit of rehabilitation (if he ever needed one), mainly as a result of last year’s triumphant eponymous ‘comeback’ album, and of course a handful of outstanding live performances. He was nominated for ‘Best Male Artist’ at this year’s Brits, an award that was taken by someone (apparently) called James Morrison, but this might have been a joke. And he’s also up for ‘Best Solo Artist’ award in the NME annual gong-giving. That’s why he’s playing at the Astoria tonight, as part of a series of sponsored ‘Awards shows’. And if you’re surprised Serge, that we’re back to see Jarvis so soon, then let me explain. Firstly we had an unfulfilled obligation to take a guest who wasn’t able to make December’s Roundhouse gig, and secondly since that night I’ve been asking myself if Jarvis could really have been as good as I thought – a second viewing, it seemed, was a useful check on my waning critical faculties. Jarvis NME
We’ve pushed ourselves through the crowds to the Pickle Factory. It’s only about seven o’clock but the Factory goes GAYE on Saturdays so we’ll be back on the streets by ten at the latest. Inside it’s busy and getting busier, and having barely recovered from the bashing around we got downstairs when Jamie T was playing we head for the balcony. It’s packed too, but it’s a nice crowd, in good humour which only increases as the night wears on. To our right with a gang of friends is support artist Bat for Lashes (actually she’s called Natasha Khan and lives in Dave Broom’s Brighton). We arrived in time to see her perform debut single ‘Prescilla’ which would go under the positive heading of ‘intriguing’. In front are a furtive group of half a dozen or so – as it happens they’re blowing up red balloons, of which more later.
It’s a slightly sized-down band that takes the stage. There’s no Richard Hawley – his place on guitars and an array of pedals is taken by Leo Abrahams who really impresses – particularly when he’s given his head on ‘Disney Time’. I see that he lists Marc Ribot as one of his principle influences, and it’s not hard to see why. Also, unlike the Roundhouse gig, there are no rigs of tubular bells, glockenspiels and so forth – and wisely in their absence the charmingly delicate ‘Baby’s coming home’ doesn’t make the set list. Instead it’s a very rocking affair – kicking off with a threatening ‘Fat children’ (if ever there was a song for the moment in the UK then this is it), dedicated to “everyone in South London”, the scene, if you haven’t caught up with the news from old Blighty, of a spate of gang killings involving teenagers over the past ten days or so. As the band play the opening chords Jarvis walks to the front of the stage and stands hands on hips, almost defying the audience with a questioning stare before he karate-kicks his way into the lyrics “last night I had a little altercation – they wobbled menacingly beneath the yellow street light” while as big a group of photographers as I’ve seen for a long time rush to get a shot of the media’s favourite thinking pop-star.
Then it’s a run-through of the album material, plus ‘new’ songs - the masturbatory ‘One man show’ and ‘Big stuff’. And of course there are the trademark Jarvian bons mots, the conversational jousting with fans (“the Daily Telegraph described me as the Judi Dench of Indie Rock – is that good?”), and the Proustian musings (“this song’s about … well I dunno really”). Sweets are exchanged with the audience, a photograph is signed. Actually he has the crowd eating out of his hand – so that when he decides to deliver a few words about the anti-Trident badge he’s wearing (“I mean I’m sorry, I don’t want to give you a boring speech or anything”) the audience hears him out and then bursts into tumultuous applause. This almost matches the rapturous reception for each of the songs of which it should be noted 'From Auschwitz to Ipswich” (which begins with what I can only conclude is a headline from the Daily Mail – “They want our way of life”), 'Big Julie', 'Disney time' and set closer ‘Black magic’ were outstanding. The simple lighting is exceptional. And I haven’t forgotten the inflatables, which are still being blown up and hidden away by a group of enthusiasts who pulled the same trick at Koko in November. They appeared, possibly ninety-nine or more, cascading from the balcony at the start of the brooding ‘I will kill again’. “That’s possibly the most inappropriate use of red balloons I can think of” said Cocker.
Jarvis Ballon
Jarvis Cocker and a balloon
What is it about Jarvis? It’s almost as if he’s the slightly eccentric and non-conformist uncle that everyone wishes they had, with a twinkle in the eye that means you never quite know if he’s serious, and an ability to maintain a look of surprised innocence when provoking outrage and mayhem. He certainly seems to be in tune with the zeitgeist of this Astoria crowd – who sing along with more than gusto to encore ‘Cunts are still ruling the world’. And then the finale – “you know we’re here in the Astoria, well sometimes I like to think of it as the Ozztoria” – an unlikely cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’. Critical faculties in place and working fine, like a well oiled machine. Slightly different from the Roundhouse, but just as good. You need to judge for yourself – buy the album, but try and get to see him – he’s heading for Australia and the USA, and no doubt some more UK gigs as well. Black Magic - yeah, yeah, yeah! - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Many thanks, Nick. I think I'll really have to go to Jarvis Cocker next time here's in the neighborhood. Some music? Let's see... Why not his Pulp's famous 1995 anthem Common people.mp3? I always thought it had something of the early Roxy Music. - S.
Glenturret 12






Glenturret 12 yo 1965/1977 (80°proof, Cadenhead, dumpy) Colour: straw. Nose: quite silent at first nosing but getting then very grassy, herbal, vegetal (well, you se what I mean). Whiffs of wet paper as well, mint, coal oven. Not too expressive and a bit austere I must say. Hints of camphor, mastic, Vicks… Rather pleasant I must say, even if it hasn’t got the oomph and long development of most of these old dumpies. Mouth: ouch! It’s plain soap now, maybe orange-scented… Hard, very hard to enjoy this one – even perverts won’t like it too much I’d say. It’s not a consequence of oxidation, it’s certainly a flaw that was here right from the day when it was bottled. Okay, let’s stop the pain. 40 points (because of the nose, obviously).
Glenturret 27 yo 1978/2005 (46.1%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 241 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this one starts hugely grassy, immensely vegetal and, well, quite bitter… Very 'green' if you see what I mean. Loads of old walnuts that make it sort of interesting - but not really pleasant I’d say. Harsh. Mouth: the same happens, the malt being hugely peppery, woody, drying but that’s all. In short, extreme! 77 points (again, because of the interesting nose)
Glenturret 17 yo 1985/2002 (58.2%, Scotch Single Malt Club, cask #123) Colour: pale straw. Nose: now we’re on full milk chocolate mode but also on something like baby vomit (not too nice here) and brand new plastic. Hmm, let’s give it some time and then a splash of water… With more time, it got immensely farmy, with bold notes of manure and all kinds of rotten fruits and plants. I don’t quite know what to think… With water: yes, that worked. All the vomit notes have now vanished and we’re all on farmyard, hay, soaked malt, porridge… Farmy indeed. Mouth (neat): bold, compact, assertive, sweet and very herbal. Artichokes? Orange sweets, well-hung game, lavender sweets… A bit strange but very entertaining. With water: gets a bit more mainstreamish but also better, rounder, spicy and herbal somewhat like a good Chartreuse. Maybe just hints of cardboard. Finish: long, getting a little salty but still very farmy, peppery, with something like sweet oft curry. Very, very interesting malt and the best Glenturret I ever had. 86 points.

February 21, 2007

Dufftown 8 yo (40%, OB, circa 1985) Colour: gold. Nose: light, nutty and cardboardy, getting then surprisingly spirity. Whiffs of mint and something metallic as well as hints of grilled beef. Obvious OBE but the whole isn’t too pleasant. Mouth: better now, even nuttier and more caramelly, with a little salt. Nice mouth feel. Goes on with notes of vanilla fudge, candy sugar, speculoos… Enjoyable. Finish: caramelly and liquoricy – and quite long at that. The palate is much nicer than the nose, it’s not that often than that happens. Very drinkable but maybe not worth chasing at auctions. 79 points.
Dufftown 15 yo ‘Flora & Fauna’ (43%, OB, circa 2000) Colour: pale gold. Nose: mashier and grainier. Vanilla custard, getting then yeastier (something like stale beer). Also something slightly soapy and ‘dirty’ (wet dog, wet newspaper). Hints of peanuts and lavender. Mouth: more watery and weakish than its older brother. Again these cardboardy notes, even paraffin and plastic (in a certain way). Quite some salt again, roasted nuts, strong liquorice. Longer finish, on caramelized cereals and always this saltiness. 75 points.
Dufftown 1993/2006 (43%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice) Colour: white wine. Nose: shy, very shy at first nosing. Something like sea water, lightly infused green tea, wet cardboard… And again hints of wet dog. Gets grassier with time but the older OB’s were much rounder and expressive, although not that expressive. So, not much happening, maybe the palate will be more assertive. Palate: oh, it’s almost like pure vanilla fudge now! Also notes of caramel sweets (Werther’s) and liquorice allsorts, with again certain saltiness. And again, it’s better than on the nose, although quite simple. Nice roundness. Finish: not too long but again, pleasant, sweet, round and caramelly. Too bad, had the nose been more ‘talkative’, the whole would have got more than just 78 points.
Dufftown 29 yo 1976/2006 (46%, Coopers Choice) Colour:straw. Nose: more, much more happening but it’s again very mashy and yeasty, like a much younger malt. Then we have an even huger ‘animality’, with more wet dog, horse stable… Nice flowery notes in the background (buttercups), a little honey, peanuts, strawberry jam… Something ‘natural’ and ‘wild’. Traces of peat and then quite some camphor and mint and finaly rather huge notes of pine needles and fir liqueur. Very pleasant development, the start was a bit so-so but it keeps improving. Mouth: this is amusing, it’s again quite caramelly and fudgy but soon more complex and ‘broad’ than all three. The salt is well here, playing with your lips, and also something nicely rooty, earthy and tea-ish. Liquorice. Alas, gets a little carboardy after a while but never drying or too tannic. Maybe not as bold s expected. Finish: medium long, salty (yes), with even hints of brine. This time, the nose was nicer than the palate. Good but maybe a little average in fact, considering this is almost a 30 yo malt. 82 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: some good African reggae with Ivory Coast's Tiken Jah Fakoly and his Le pays va mal.mp3 (The country's in bad shape). Excellent backing vocals, good brass, great music. Please support Africa and its music.

Tiken Jah

February 20, 2007

THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES with N’Dea Davenport, David McAlmont
Carl McIntosh and Omar, the Barbican, February 2nd 2007
Brand new heavies
In recent years the Barbican has had a pretty good track record of running themed concert series. ‘It came from Memphis’, loosely inspired by Robert Gordon’s obsessively detailed yet compelling book of the same name, saw an inspired series of concerts focussed on the city’s main record labels and spawned a double CD (produced by Gordon) narrating the development of the distinctive sound of Memphis. Last year we had Folk Britannia, staged in conjunction with BBC 4 (the digital TV station with a 0.4% share of the British TV audience - which doesn’t include me), a well thought out series of three shows which traced the progress of the ‘folk tradition’ in the UK since the 1950s. These featured a veritable who’s who of British folk from young to old, and also, as readers may remember, Billy Bragg. So I had high hopes of this year’s Soul Britannia, even if an aversion to the square box in the corner and a lack of digital connectivity meant I wouldn’t be able to follow the TV documentaries. I bought tickets for the Soul Britannia Allstars (with the likes of Madeline Bell, Linda Lewis and the AWB’s Hamish Stuart) – a night which promised to “illustrate soul and reggae music as the soundtrack to a Britain torn asunder by the new politics of race” and was frankly pissed off when the event was moved a day and replaced by The Brand New Heavies and their guests, a gig marking “the triumph of black culture in the UK”. For the sake of completeness the third concert was Transatlantic Soul Connections, with Geno Washington, Jimmy James and veteran Sam Moore (the other half of Sam and Dave, who’s been doing the rounds in the UK promoting his new CD Overnight Sensational).
I have to say that taken on their own merits the concerts, unlike those of previous series, seemed to do little to support the conceit of the theme – perhaps you really needed to see the (apparently well received) TV shows to get the bigger picture around the contribution of American and Caribbean influences to the development of British music. As it was, the programme - “Soul Britannia is a transformative journey in which black and white Britons are brought through difficult times by music, who find their identity in taking from the Americans rather than copying them; it’s a journey into the body, into the groove, and out of that old-time stiffness into something funkier”, sounded like bullshit. In fact I began to wonder if Billy Bragg hadn’t written it.
Moan over. What I should say is that the Brand New Heavies, pioneering acid-jazz tinged funksters from the unlikely London Borough of Ealing, were simply awesome. Fronted by the tireless N’Dea Davenport the three original Heavies, bassist Andrew Levy, drummer Jan Kincaid and guitarist Simon Bartholomew were given added presence by keyboards and a thumping three-piece brass section. They played throughout the night, first with Davenport on vocals, then as backing band to a series of guests showcasing the best in current British soul talent – sometime Bernard Butler collaborator David McAlmont (who wouldn’t win any prizes for dress-sense with his awful brown suit), the reclusive Carl McIntosh of Loose Ends, and ‘nu-soul’ prodigy Omar. N'dea Davenport
Mica Paris was apparently also on the bill but called off. The ‘guest stars’ didn’t get a lot of time – really just long enough to remind us of their big hits and why they were there – so McAlmont sang ‘Yes’ (sadly without Butler’s guitar), McIntosh ‘Hanging on a string’ and Omar ‘There’s nothing like this’. Davenport then re-emerged for another thirty minutes or so (during which she sang the Heavies’ outstanding version of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I don’t know why (I love you)’, which I’ve been humming ever since) before the whole crew joined for a funk-fuelled finale tribute to the late James Brown.
Brand New Heavoes and Omar
The Brand New Heavies and Omar
Really apart form McAlmont’s suit and shoes (did I mention the shoes?) my only complaint was that the mix gave such prominence to Levy’s bass at the expense of the skilful and subtle guitar work of Bartholomew – but that’s a minor point really. The audience, a mixture of 1990s soul survivors and clubbers, for whom much of the Heavies’ songs have become dance floor anthems, loved every minute of it. Davenport had the audience in the stalls on their feet and dancing half way through the second song and they didn’t stop all night, despite the best efforts of the Barbican’s aghast stewards. It was a fantastic atmosphere which continued afterwards in the foyer with MC for the night Jazzie B and the Soul 11 Soul sound system. So maybe I shouldn’t moan at all about the weakness of the intellectual construct that had been shaped around these gigs, and instead simply accept the fact that Soul Britannia was really just an excuse for a few cracking nights at the Barbican. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank you, Nick. I guess it won’t surprise anybody that I add one of the Brand New Heavies’ jazziest pieces, the instrumental Shake down.mp3 (from their 1992 record ‘The Brand New Heavies’). Ah, true horns! - S.
Glen Grant 10 25


Glen Grant 10 yo (43%, OB, 75cl, bottled 1970) Colour: gold. Nose: quite an old bottle effect, with lots of tea and camphor, a little cardboard, slight oxidation. Gets then very meaty (smoked ham), with overripe apples and quite some peat as well a just a little soap (high quality soap, of course). Smoky soap? Truly nice even if it gets a little too tea-ish.

Mouth: rather bold now, nervous at such old bottle age. Tea and pepper, getting very dry but not very woody. Quite some chlorophyll, bitter caramel, bread crust, getting more and more toasted and smoky. Not bad at all despite the rather invading old bottle effect. The finish isn’t too long but nicely toasted, roasted, with lots of praline… In short, a very nice old Glen Grant, quite complex and definitely worth the try. 86 points.
Glen Grant 25 yo 1952/1977 'Silver Jubilee' (43%, OB, Directors’ Reserve) Bottled to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee. Colour: pale amber. Nose: starts at full speed on shoe polish, metal polish (do you know Glanzol?) linseed oil, with a little mint. Extremely unusual and very peaty, with whiffs of brown coal, aluminium pan, gun that just shot… Gets then rather soapy, with also whiffs of hot brake pad… Good or not? Hard to say, it’s so unusual… Let’s see what happens on the palate. Mouth: ouch, it seems to be completely stale and flat. Weak, cardboardy and very metallic… A poor one, with a nonexistent finish. An accident? Too much breathing? A thing with the monarchy? 55 points (for the nose)
Glen Grant 1972/2006 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #1982) Colour: full gold. Nose: a truly superb start on a whole basket of fresh and sometimes overripe fruits, both tropical and ‘western’. Apples, mangos, bananas, papayas, pineapples, passion fruits, longans, dates… the list is endless. Gets then magnificently honeyed, heathery and then slightly resinous and camphory. Let’s keep this short: it’s a fantastic nose that’ll arouse anybody’s enthusiasm, with also kind of an old bottle effect – yes, I know it’s not an old bottle. Mouth: a very good start, probably a little less demonstrative but really multidimensional. Kind of a ‘toasti-smokiness’, a little spearmint, dried fruits (not fresh ones this time), tobacco, marmalade, bitter chocolate, un-sugared espresso, superb hints of marc de gewürztraminer eau-de-vie (but then again, I’m an Alsatian)… Glen Grant 1972
It’s getting better and better, fab, fab, fab. And the finish is long, very long, very very long, smoky and jammy but also ultra-clean. In short, a true masterpiece that will make your day just like it just made mine. 94 points.

MUSIC – Highly recommended listening: trombonist and WF friend Darren Kramer and his Organization are playing In the now.mp3 (excerpt) with the extraordinary Michael Brecker, who sadly passed away in January this year. Please buy Darren's music and please buy Mr. Brecker's as well. (picture, Darren with Michael Brecker)

Darren Kramer michael Brecker

February 19, 2007

Glen Ord








Glen Ord 39 yo 1965/2004 (41%, JWWW Old Train Line, cask #1373, 222 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: hey, lots happening here! It starts right away on quite some camphor and cigar box (with nice vitoles inside), shoe polish, metal polish, ‘grandma’s cupboard’, very old liqueurs… Classy stuff, for sure, with these antiquated smells we cherish. Develops superbly on forest after the rain, mushrooms, moss, wet leaves… There is some peat in the background, beeswax, a little thyme… The wood’s coming through now but it’s a rather beautiful one. High end sawdust (if that exists). Very complex and superbly balanced, this is why we’re into whisky. Mouth: maybe a bit dry at the attack, the wood has its say right from the start here. A mix of spices from the wood (white pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg) and both dried and crystallised fruits (mostly bananas in fact). Nice caramel, candy sugar, crystallised angelica, liquorice… Excellent balance, this is very satisfying and drinkable, the oak being of the best kind indeed. Finish: rather long, very liquoricy now, lemony (skin). In short, maybe not extremely complex but nothing but pleasure in your glass here. 91 points. (and thanks, Pierre)
Glen Ord 22 yo 1983/2006 (55%, Cadenhead, Bourbon, 210 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very different, this one, much more on caramel and milk chocolate as well as all kinds of caramelized nuts and cereals. Certainly simpler but very enjoyable, honeyed… I’m sure water will do it good. So, with water: gets a little wilder but also greenish, a little acrid, and the roundness disappeared. I was wrong. Mouth (neat): powerful and a little bitter at first sip but the caramel and vanilla are quick to take control, as well as quite some nuts (nuts always take control, err…), candied fruits (notably quinces)… Gets a bit hot after a moment, maybe water is needed this time: yes, it worked a little better here. More on smoked tea, orange marmalade and chamomile. The finish is probably the best part, better balanced, with the oakiness mingling with the caramel and soft spices (soft paprika?) A very good whisky, no doubt about that. 86 points.
Glen Ord 28 yo (58.3%, OB, 2003) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is a wilder but also more brutal version of Glen Ord. More spirity, herbal, grassy at first nosing, much less rounded and sexy than the rather recent official 30yo. Whiffs of mint… This one desperately needs water I think., let’s see… yes, it worked this time. Not that it got completely transformed but we do have more roundness, a little liquorice, nice tannins, smoked tea, cake but also hints of ‘farminess’ (wet hay and all that jazz)… Mouth (neat): closer to the Cadenhead now but more complex. We do have lots of caramel and vanilla as well as crystallised fruits but also something herbal and waxy. An extra-dismension but the whole is very strong. Water please… It got really rounder and sweeter this time, with more chocolate and apricot jam, honey… Finish: coherent, cereally and caramelly, with a little chamomile tea and gingerbread. Very good but if there’s one worth your savings, it’s the 30 yo OB I think. 85 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: she's from New Orleans and she likes to vocalize on blues, funk or Caribbean pieces. She's Charmaine Neville and she's doing Lights.mp3 (from her 1996 CD Up up up). Please buy Charmaine's music and go to her gigs. Charmaine Neville

February 18, 2007


Trois Rivières 1982 (45%, OB, Rum, Martinique, bottled circa 2000) Colour: amber. Nose: slightly spirity at first nosing but pretty close to a malt (while the three others will be much more different). Goes on with candy sugar and crushed bananas, caramel, cigarette tobacco, something faintly smoky, sultanas, then a little mint and whiffs of farmyard. Perfect balance, I’d say, but maybe not lots of presence. Mouth: very classical (I think), with a nice woodiness and lots of candy sugar, banana skin, quite some tannins, sultanas, walnuts and mint. Flawless. Finish: rather long but maybe lacking a little roundness and a little too tannic. Well, it’s very good rum, no doubt. Rating: around 80 points on my scale.
Habitation St-Etienne VSOP ‘Special Reserve’ (45%, OB, Rum, Martinique) Colour: amber with bronze hues. Nose: it’s the wood that shines out at first nosing, with lots of nail polish, cellulose varnish and menthol, together with liqueur-filled chocolate and bananas flambéed. Gets more and more mentholated and spicy (soft curry) with time, with also an unexpected freshness (leaves). Also notes of vanilla custard, more and more vanilla in fact. Quite classic I’d say. Mouth: rather soft and balanced, rounded, candied… It’s rather less woody now as well as fruitier. Lots of very ripe pineapple, overripe apples, caramel, then tobacco and dried ginger… Not extremely complex and lacking a little zing for a whisky lover but perfectly enjoyable. Finish: pretty long, with the wood striking back, getting even a little drying but never too tannic. Nice minty signature. Hard to rate it, I’m not experienced enough. I’d say 83-86 points.
Port Morant 30 yo 1974 (46%, Berry Bros, Demerara Rum, Guyana, bourbon barrel) Colour: dark amber. Nose: very different, starting on an explosive oakiness that more of the ‘marzipan’ kind. Huge notes of paint, varnish and new plastic (brand new BMW – whatever). Goes on with shoe polish, scented wax, incense, sandalwood, cigar box… Reminds me also of lit beedees, these Indian cigarettes made out of eucalyptus. It gets then much more meaty and animal, with lots of soy sauce, oxtail and English brown sauce… Then it’s back to wood, mostly on freshly varnished furniture. Extremely demonstrative, for sure. Mouth: lots of wood again, tannins, apple skin, Corinth raisins, wax… Then it’s all on spices (cinnamon and Chinese anise, soft mustard) and bitter orange marmalade. Gets quite tannic after a while (slightly sticky tannins) and liquoricy, with also a salty feeling. Finish: long, very woody but balanced, soothing and toffeeish, with a very raisiny aftertaste. Great rum, I’m sure ;-). Rating: 88-90 points.
Savanna Grand Arôme 2001 (59.8%, OB, Rum, La Réunion, cask #492, 778 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: bang! An amazing mix of crushed olives and varnish with hints of tar and burning rubber. Extremely unusual, even if again, I don’t know much about rum (yet, I hope). It’s more and more on green olives, brine, tapenade (savoury spread made with pureed olives, anchovies and capers)… Tabasco? Worcester sauce? Frankly, I don’t know what to think. Is this good or not? Do I like it or not? Let’s check the palate… Mouth: oh well, it’s really in the same vein, with again these very heavy notes of olives and Tabasco, capers and, well… Olives (no, I’m not obsessed by olives). Maybe something like mescal? Tequila? It’s also quite camphory and liquroricy… Isn’t there also notes of gherckins? Thank God it gets then a little sweeter and fruitier (very ripe bananas) but the whole stays very, very strange according to my own little tasting paradigm. Finish: long, bold, assertive, mostly on, yes you got it, olives (maybe black this time). Probably the most difficult to rate, for it’s almost as much a sauce as a spirit. Let’s say 80-87 points. Yes, that’s very wide, I’m sorry, and I’m wondering what Jack Sparrow would have thought about this one.(and thanks Gilles).
Maison Guerbé 25 yo (53.3%, Cognac, Cadenhead, 534 bottles, bottled 2004) It feels so strange to try a sample of a French Cognac bottled by a Scottish company and presented to me by a German friend! Colour: caramel. Nose: shyer than the rums but maybe more elegant at first sniffs, and definitely closer to malt whisky. Very, very close to malt whisky, in fact, and unlike all the cognacs I know. More like a lightly sherried Speysider in fact, with hints of peonies and sultanas, ripe apples, caramel, nougat and sweet wine as well as quite some raspberry jam. Nose: we’re a little more in Cognac now, with huge notes of cooked strawberries, raisins, a little rum (eh?), just a little caramel, raspberry sweets… The wood is quite discreet. Gets fruitier and fruitier, almost young, jammy… Lots of quinces as well. Finish: long, hyper-fruity (red fruit flavoured sweets)… And still not woody at 25 yo despite a little rubber in the background. Again, not too far from a good whisky. I’d say around 83-85 points (and thanks Carsten).
Jay Carter MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical with young American countertenor Jay Carter singing Henry Purcell's Evening Hymn.mp3 with Jan Kraybill on harpsichord and Brenda Allen on 'cello. Plain beautiful! Please go listen to Jay Carter!

February 17, 2007

Dalmore DL


Dalmore 14 yo 1991/2005 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 340 bottles) Nose: a grassy and austere start with some bitter oranges after that but that's pretty all. It’s rather spirity, at that. Mouth: now it's quite sugary, still very spirity, on pear eau-de-vie… Not far from new make weren’t it for the rather heavy tannins. Not bad in fact and more than just drinkable but a little too immature for a 14 yo malt, I think. 76 points.

Dalmore 14 yo 1987/2001 (60.2%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead) Colour: white wine. Nose: hugely spirity, acrid, too austere, lacking depth, although there are some nice farmy notes (wet hay). Water brings out the wood and a huger grassiness, with notes of butter and a little coffee but that all. Mouth (neat): young and pearish, just as spirity. Hints of bubble gum and pineapple sweets, with a little pepper from the wood. Quite indefinite I’d say. With water: sweeter and fruitier, young… reminds me of all-fruits schnaps. Finish: long but too indefinite again, with just alcohol and apple juice. Not that it’s flawed of course, it’s perfectly drinkable, but I can’t quite see why this was bottled as a single malt / single cask. 73 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Cali's everywhere in France, radio, TV, magazines. An overwhelming tidal wave and some are fed up but I guess The World should know about what he's all about so let's listen to La fin du monde.mp3 ('I know what I'd do, should somebody announce the end of the world within ten minutes, baby'). Please do what you have to do - and if you're French, I'm deeply sorry about this post. Cali

February 16, 2007

Craig Daniels Oyez! Fellow maniac Craig Daniels and gang (the Malt Whisky Society of Australia) are organising Australia's Third Malt Whisky Convention in Melbourne from August 24 to 26, 2007. Lots of Masterclasses, hundreds of malts, a special Festival Bottling (they're still negotiating but it could well be an excellent 28 year old Longmorn) and, not to be missed, a Plenary on 'The origins of aroma and flavour in single malt whisky' presented by Dr Paul Rasmussen and our very own Craig. More on their website, don't miss the event.
Dallas Dhu 1980/2001 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) Colour: white wine. Nose: certainly not as weak as expected but very cardboardy and waxy, with quite some paraffin, hints of olive oil, cod oil… Very unusual to say the least. Candle wax, motor oil, hints of lavender and then geranium. Nicer than it sounds ;-). Mouth: a bit weakish at the start (probably because I’m not used to low strength malts anymore) but otherwise we have the same, rather interesting cardboardy and waxy notes plus something like smoked tea, quite some olive oil again, a faint saltiness and also something like pickled herrings. Very strange but certainly not unpleasant, and a finish that’s longer than expected, just as ‘oily’, salty and cardboardy. Very entertaining if not academically good. 81 points.
Dallas Dhu 17 yo 1974/1992 (43%, Signatory, cask #1496) Colour: straw. Nose: it’s funny how we get roughly the same bizarre aromas, just amplified as well as ‘rounder’. Various oils and waxes plus these lavender and geranium notes. Maybe something more metallic and mineral in the background. Very interesting again. Mouth: ouch, now it’s frankly weird at the attack. We have cardboard but also chemicals and rotten oranges, cooked turnips, plastic… Close to being flawed in my opinion, almost undrinkable. Too bad, the nose was worth it. But if see one of these on eBay, beware! (we’ll see that there are also much better Dallas Dhu by Signatory very shortly) 59 points (unchanged, had it already but from another bottle, so it’s no accident).
Dallas Dhu 22 yo 1981/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 408 bottles) Colour: dark amber. Nose: lots of sherry now, but again these weird but interesting smells hiding behind it. What’s funny is that both mingle quite well after a moment, creating an unusual but highly enjoyable combination of crystallized oranges and sultanas with those waxy, oily and mineral notes and with the strong minerality. Actually, it’s quite superb although a little hard to describe. Lots of Grand-Marnier, in fact, tar, rubber (nice rubber – new Pirellis), then mega-huge notes of absinth and yellow Chartreuse. Lots happening in there, it’s really fun to dip your nose into this one. Mouth: oh yes, it’s all in the same league, even if it’s very unusual again. Starts principally on grapefruit and lemon marmalade, a little pepper and that huge ‘jamminess’ (wot?): quince, apricot, figs… There’s also an incredible amount of various spices (some I don’t even know by there names). Lots of cardamom, in any case. What a superb whsky, with Dallas Dhu’s somewhat ‘whacky’ style counterbalancing the rich sherry with perfection. The finish is in the same vein, lingering, orangey, rich… An amazing Dallas Dhu, certainly the best I ever had. 91 points.
Dallas Dhu 30 yo 1975/2006 (48.3%, Signatory, bourbon barrel #1495, 191 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: no sherry this time but again a superb nose, very typically ‘Dallas Dhu’ but totally flawless this time. Fantastic notes of olive oil, wax, newly cut grass, walnut skin, fresh mushrooms, brand new book (ink). Quite some peat in there, it seems. Hints of oysters, fresh butter… And then it switches to peppermint and high-end Chinese green tea… Just superb. And my beloved argan oil is well here as well – and camphor. Mouth: whacky indeed – hugely whacky. Lots of cardboard, plastic, strong tea, cod oil (aargh), chlorophyll chewing gum, olive oil (but of course)… Truly ‘Dallas Dhu’ but the balance is really perfect, which makes that a malt that’s on the verge of being totally flawed is actually excellent (if you see what I mean). Gets hugely herbal, grassy, fantastically bitter (Campari but also gentian spirit). An UFO-malt and a true ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ expression (brand claim here). Only the rather strong woodiness is maybe a little over the top but the finish is perfectly ‘strict’ now, cleaner, austere and very elegant, juts like a good olive oil’s. Two great DD’s in a row – quite unexpected I must say. 90 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: more Peru with Susana Baca (she's on Luakabop, the same label as WF favourite Jim White) and her Samba malato.mp3. Please buy Miss Baca's works! Susana Baca

February 15, 2007

Corn Exchange, Brighton, February 12, 2007
“Do you think it will be the same as last time?” asks The Welshman, recalling Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s previous day trip to the seaside. On that occasion his support act was a modern classical quartet (that choice didn’t go down well with most) and his set was whispered so softly that after 30 minutes, many in the audience appeared to be snoozing.. or meditating...it was hard to tell, this is Brighton after all. Will Oldham
“You can never tell,” I counselled, “he could decide to play it loud, or do it all in polka time.” The interval music continued. Ritual chanting. The Welshman (who, it has to be said at the outset is A Huge Fan) wasn’t impressed. “He’s just doing this to wind us up,” he concluded. Maybe.
I wonder to myself if this is the set. The Bonnie “Prince” in darkness somewhere howling into a distorting mike. I decide it’s probably best not to proffer that as a suggestion. The Welshman has just spent the afternoon stripping a strimmer with a plastic spatula.
On stage a young roadie was fiddling with the drum kit. He sits down behind it and tests out his handiwork. Patterns, light touches, strange rhythms. Free. “I heard the drummer from the Dirty Three was playing with him,” says Wookey Joe fresh up from his Somerset cave. That’s the thing with the ‘Prince’, you can’t even tell if he’s coming on with a band or not.. and what band it will be. The roadie finishes his soundcheck. Pity, would have preferred him to play.
The chanting continue, there’s a heaving call and response going on now. The Corn Exchange is full. That’s a big turnout for a ‘minority’ act. “I mean,” says the Welshman, “He’s hardly a zillion selling platinum album artist is he?” He, the Wookey and I moan about the Police reforming.. and Genesis, though the Stooges getting back together is agreed to be A Good Thing.
It’s a strange venue the Corn Exchange. Just a large hall really, with bad acoustics that’s used by bands who are too big for the Concorde but not quite big enough for the Centre. It can be hired for other events. I recall the time I accidentally drop-kicked a small child across the floor while dancing (rather too enthusiastically) at Iranian New Year. That didn’t go down too well.
Bobby Charlton   A shuffle of musicians on stage. A few whoops. Young kid in red plaid shirt on electric guitar, bass guitarist with Hawaiian shirt and (it appears) permed hair, while the roadie kid settles down behind them and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy/Will Oldham/Palace/Bonnie Billy (whatever he’s calling himself tonight) stage centre. Tight black suit, buttoned up black shirt, mountain man beard, a hint of a Bobby Charlton comb-over which cannot stop the lights reflecting from his huge bald dome.
It starts. A spiritual to kick off with, tinged with country. It’s a sound of old America shot through with religion and British folk melodies. He hops around, holding the guitar high in that strange Springsteen fashion, yelping and hollering. The vocal lines are extended, improvised. By the third song things are getting louder and looser. It’s clear suddenly that the drummer is leading this with a continual pulse of rolls and fills, cymbal snatches, patterings. Suddenly the music drops the beat, goes free. I look at the Welshman. He’s grinning madly. No chance of a snooze tonight.
It’s more or less what you’d expect from Will Oldham (to give the Prince his proper name) 12 albums in, and many more collaborations. He was born (and still lives) in Louisville -- there’s a whiskey connection Serge -- and became part of a local scene which took ‘rock’ or ‘blues’ or ‘country’ and threw away the labels, found a new ground; bands like Slint, artists like the great Tara Jane O’Neil. He’s drifted through many aliases, singing his poetic songs about love, loss, deviancy. They are odd songs, literary. Mrs Broom would call them miserable, but even she would be enjoying tonight.
They are his songs and like Dylan he does what he wants with them. He recently reworked his Palace back catalogue as Nashville schmaltz. Ostensibly, he’s here to promote his new album ‘The Letting Go’. Recorded in Iceland with a string quartet it is (mostly) quiet, reflective. Tonight though the songs are being reworked as psychedelic country that touches on the Dead (at their free-est, but also their most rootsy) Dinosaur Junior, Neil Young, early Flaming Lips, free jazz. Aha! That’s who the kid on drums is.. the greatest free drummer.. no make it the greatest drummer working in Britain, Glasgow’s own Alex Neilson, the perfect foil for Oldham’s fractured rhythms and vocals. The leting go
He dips into the back catalogue: an extended. loud, ecstatic Master and Everyone, Lion Lair. The words roll over each other. He stops and rambles about how “the culture of the burning leaf and the culture of liquid” can never properly meet. I look at the packed bar. The no smoking signs. “You drink a lot here,” he points out.
The two hour mark is passed and he sings on, stopping to discuss webbing between the fingers which brings him, circuitously, to a fusing of ‘Is it the Sea/My Home Is the Sea’, then a country/acid conflation of two sings about John The Baptist by John Martyn and EC Ball.
The encore (taken quickly) stretches out to five maybe six songs. “Love Come to Me’, sung with Dawn McCarthy and finally a redemptive ‘I See A Darkness’ [yes, the one that Johnny Cash recorded]. You get the feeling he could have gone on all night were the Corn Exchange staff not getting twitchy.
The next day I downloaded pretty much the same set from a gig he and Alex had played in Edinburgh, this time with a folk band. That worked too. - Dave Broom.
Many thanks Dave! These artistes who change names (or new artistes that choose names that are just 'ungooglable' for that matter) always amaze me. Supreme vanity or true detachment? Like Love Symbol... Who seems to be Prince again, according to the latest Super Bowl... Anyway!. - S.
Balblair 1966


Balblair 1966/2006 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail) Colour: pale straw. Nose: very nice right away, with something wild and animal. Civet, game, truffle, wet dog, my beloved pu-erh tea… Faint sulphur but nothing unbearable. A very pleasant profile, really old style, with lots of personality, complexity and depth. Hints of metal as well as a little mint and whiffs of coal smoke.

Mouth: starts all on liquorice sticks and all kinds of roots. Really earthy, with also hints of peat and quite some mint again. A rather beautiful bitterness (chlorophyll) and quite some oak but a nice one. Maybe just a tad drying. Finish: not too long but complex and ‘interesting’, with salty and herbal notes (mastic, olive oil, grains, salted liquorice and not too ripe bananas). Gets just a tad too cardboardy and drying but let’s remember it’s 40 years old. In short, I like this antique malt quite a lot, even if a few more degrees would have given it a little more oomph. 89 points.
Balblair 35 yo 1966/2002 (44%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 207 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: quite close, as expected, this one being a little fruitier, with also a little more wood influence. Develops more on bananas and vanilla, getting then more camphory and minty. A superb nose in fact, very coherent and compact, that reminds us of the fabulous recent 33 yo and 38 yo OB’s. More exuberant than the G&M and marginally less complex. Mouth: we’re even closer to the G&M now, with just a little more zing (can that be just the extra-1%?). That said, it does get fruitier again after that, with more bananas, vanilla custard, crystallised quinces, dried pears… Surprisingly, the wood is less present on the palate, the whole getting quite hot in fact. Rather exuberant indeed. Finish: rather long, bold, assertive, on caramelised bananas and a little white pepper as well as hints of mustard, with an oaky signature. Another excellent version, maybe not as explosive and magic as the 38 yo OB, that is. And less honeyed. 89 points again.
February 2007 - part 1 <--- February 2007 - part 2 ---> March 2007 - part 1

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

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

Benriach 1975/2004 (56.5%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #7215, 199 bottles)

Dallas Dhu 22 yo 1981/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 408 bottles)

Dallas Dhu 30 yo 1975/2006 (48.3%, Signatory, bourbon barrel #1495, 191 bottles)

Glen Grant 1972/2006 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #1982)

Glen Ord 39 yo 1965/2004 (41%, JWWW Old Train Line, cask #1373, 222 bottles)

Highland Park (100°proof, OB on G&M bottle with silk screened thistles, twist cap, late 1950’s)

Millburn 35 yo 1969/2005 (51.2%, Rare Malts)

Tobermory-Ledaig 33 yo 1973/2006 (48%, The Whisky Fair, 281 bottles)

Tobermory 34 yo 1972/2007 (49.5%, Whisky-Doris, first fill sherry cask, 96 bottles)