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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2008- Part 1
January 2008 - part 2 <--- February 2008 - part 1 ---> February 2008 - part 2

February 14, 2008

Chieftains Chieftain’s Choice Lowland 30 yo 1960/1990 (50%, Chieftain’s) A mysterious bottle that’s been doing sheep’s eyes at me for many years at Paris’ Harry’s Bar. It seems that it remained unopened there since at least 10 years, so thank you guys for having opened it for me. Colour: full gold. Nose: powerful and a little spirity, as it often happens when a bottle has just been opened. Sherry notes are very obvious, though, although not overwhelming at all. Keeps improving after that, getting more on roasted hazelnuts, wax and grains plus a slight sugariness, rather Glenkinchie I think. Becomes more ‘antique’ after that, more on old furniture and leather. Faint hints of cooked cabbage and burnt tyres as well as smoked ham.
Mouth: quite beautifully sugary now (sugariness is rarely nice in whisky I think), soon to develop on cough syrup, old liqueurs, a little rubber (again, not bad here), dried pears and quality strawberry drops. Also fudge and vanilla toffee. Honey and wax. The sherry comes out very nicely after a while, with also hints of chewed cigar, liquorice and buttered toffee. Finish: long, rounded and sweet, creamy, caramelly. Comments: excellent antique Lowlander that kept its youthfulness in a certain way. No proof but this could well be Glenkinchie indeed. SGP:551 – 89 points.
Glenkinchie 21 yo 1966/1988 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label, 750ml, US Bottling) Colour: straw. Nose: starts very fruity, on rather extreme notes of both ripe and overripe apples, with superb notes of soot and coal in the background. Fantastic freshness. Develops on heavy – but beautiful – notes of shoe polish and old walnuts. That’s pretty all but the general profile is absolutely perfect. Mouth: sweet, even sugary again (cane sugar), all that being coated with tannins. Again, it’s a little simple but mouth feel and balance are perfect. Slight saltiness. Caramel flavoured tea. Apple pie. Finish: long, vibrant, with an ashy aftertaste. Comments: great old Glenkinchie, without sherry influnce this time. Or when simplicity is an asset. SGP:652 – 90 points. Apple


MUSIC – Recommended listening: we're in 1983 and Italia's Loredana Bertè (Bjorn Borg's ex-wife) sings Jazz.mp3 (from her LP 'Jazz'). Loredana Bertè on whiskyfun, who would have thought that! But please buy her music...


February 12, 2008

Glenfarclas Glenfarclas 1968/2003 (47.7%, OB for Potstill Vienna, cask #685, 56 bottles) You just can't taste two 1968 Glenfaclasses whithout thinking of a special Belgian friend who loves Glenfarclas and who'll soon turn 40, can you? Colour: mahogany/coffee. Nose: very, very typical old sherried Speysider. Prunes, coffee, chocolate, raisins, strawberry jam and old rum plus hints of mint and beef bouillon. Nothing more, nothing less. Good balance, at that. Totally classic, maybe just a tad, erm, maybe ‘boring’.
Mouth: good attack, much more unusual now. Wine poached pears, concentrated liquorice (and salmiak), chocolate sauce, liqueur-filled chocolate... Then something really tarry, heavy, thick. Armagnac-soaked prunes, rancio, highly reduced wine (or pajarette)... Hard to imagine something more concentrated than this! Finish: long, invading, still very thick. Balsamic vinegar mixed with Chinese prune sauce. Comment: you’ll almost need a spoon instead of a glass if you want to try this one. Not exactly balanced I must say, although the nose was somewhat ‘lighter’. Jumbo sherry, you really have to like that. SGP:653 – 83 points.
Glenfarclas 1968/2007 (65.1%, OB, Family Casks, cask #1316, 483 bottles) As with most of these family casks, this 1968 comes from a first fill sherry cask – at a whopping 65% ABV. Colour: dark amber. Nose: this is another story. First, it’s not overpowering – would you believe that! Second, it starts very ‘funnily’, on a mix of strawberry jam and ‘good sulphur’ (gunpowder, matches and all that jazz), getting then more apricoty, and even jammier (truckloads of figs). And then... We’ll need water indeed. So, with water: immense, albeit very pleasant sulphur and rubber. Brand new tyres and a whole box of lit matches, the whole fading away after a few seconds, leaving room for rather beautiful apricoty and herbal notes (rosemary, sage). Also prune sauce again, soy sauce, smoked tea, bitter chocolate and the obligatory hints of mint. Unusual and extremely interesting, exactly the opposite of its sibling I’d say. Something very Chinese, whatever that means. Mouth (neat): powerful of course, but sort of drinkable I’d say. Praline, jam, chocolate... No, no, this is too hot. Water is obligatory unless you take just a pinhead at a time (do you say that in English?) With water: oh yes, that was needed. Gets amazingly compact yet rich, on a whole cortege of dried and crystallised fruits (notably oranges, figs, lemons and dates) plus an unexpected smokiness. Smoked dried fruits (somebody should invent that). Finish: long, with the rubber returning now, as well as the notes of gunpowder. Not that I ever ate gunpowder, eh! Comment:a complex, rich and highly entertaining old Glenfarclas. Gunpowder aficionados ahoy! SGP:764 – 92 points (and thank you, Jean-Marc)


MUSIC – Recommended listening: trombonist extraordinaire Ray Anderson and his Alligatory Band (LOL) play Drink And Blather.mp3 (it's on 'Heads And Tales'.) Mr Anderson puts a lot of fun into his jazz, that's partly why you should buy his music and go to his gigs.


Ray Anderson

February 11, 2008

Clynelish Clynelish 10 yo 1997/2007 (59%, Whisky-Doris) Colour: white wine. Nose: isn’t it amazing how idiosynchratic young Clynelishes are? Wax upfront, then ashes and soot, then bitter almonds, then butter and hints of ginger tonic, then sea breeze and wet stones, and finally some big notes of ground nutmeg. Not overpowering, even at almost 60%, but let’s still see what happens with a little water: well, it got really extreme now. Huge notes of ginger tonic, ale, cider apples, wet chalk and even ‘new plastic’ (and that’s nice here!) And always a big waxiness. Clynelish from Clynelishe’s.
Mouth (neat): extremely fruity and extremely spicy now, truly wham-bam. Marshmallows and nutmeg. Too strong, though, let’s add water right away: right, the fruitiness gets more detailed now. Williams pears, apples, hints of bubblegum. And a little clove. Finish: long, half waxy, half fruity, half spicy (err, wait...) Comment: typically a version that we could mix with a young Glenlivet and then put into a small cask for two or three further years. Maybe we could come close to Pr. Sainsbury’s famous vatting. SGP:554 – 86 points.
Clynelish 10 yo 1995/2006 (58.9%, The Way of Spirits, Italy) Colour: gold. Nose: this one is completely different, maybe it came from a fresh Bourbon cask. Much more vanilla, fudge, toffee, milk chocolate... And Clynelishe’s usually big character hiding behind these bourbonny notes. Let’s see if water will unleash them. With water: that brought out a lot of peat, and even an Islay character. Smoked tea, pepper, wet wool, dried kelp, cloves... It got completely different with water, actually. Two whiskies for the price of one? Mouth (neat): very sweet and creamy, with an oily mouth feel. Closer to the 1997, that is. Much more oak as well. Spiced vanilla crème. With water: really excellent now. Bigger spiciness, wax, a little salt... And much less vanilla. Good news!? Finish: very long, with more notes of pears now. Comment: a little less ‘pure’ than the 1997 but also a tad more complex, provided you don’t forget to ‘kill the vanilla’ using water. SGP:545 – 86 points.
Left, ‘Wonderful Whisky’, cubist ad for Dewar’s White Label (1930). Right, ‘Still life In Front Of A Window’, cubist painting by Juan Gris (1922).

MUSIC – Recommended listening: Richie Beirach playing Deception Island.mp3 (from his CD 'Antarctica Suite Part One & Two'.) One of the most deliciously introspective jazz artistes in my opinion, please buy his fantastic music!

Richie Beirach

February 10, 2008

RUGBY: Congrats to all Irishmen for the way they played against France yesterday, even if they lost. That was what we call fighting spirit!

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, January 25th 2008
Hammersmith Apollo, London, January 26th 2008
Strangely we’re in the Shepherds Bush Empire to see a film. We’re up in the deserted first floor balcony, with the VIPs. Not that we didn’t pay our ten quid a head you understand (proceeds to charity), it’s just that someone kindly put us on the list, so we’ve been arm-banded and escorted in. It’s empty because almost all of the VIPs are in the bar, which is, as Jozzer observed somewhat opaquely, “as full as a duck’s arse” – another culinary metaphor I suppose. On stage, performing some of their very nice tunes, are the Alabama 3 Acoustic line-up, of whom you will have read before.
The film? Well that’s coming later – as it turns out much later. Mr Segs is pacing around, not looking too happy. “This has just all got out of hand, it wasn’t meant to be this big …” he says before being dragged back to the bar. It’s the premiere of the film made in July last year of the last Ruts gig – featuring original members Dave Ruffy on drums, Segs on bass, Paul Fox on guitar, and guesting on vocals American punk polymath Henry Rollins. Original vocalist Malcolm Owen died in 1980 at the height of the band’s power from a heroin overdose. It’s a very special gig because Fox – or should I say – Foxy, was ill with terminal lung cancer when it was made. He died a few months later.
If fate hasn’t been kind to the Ruts then history has. They were a politically-tinged band that emerged from the Rock Against Racism movement of the late seventies (whose formation was prompted, you may recall, by racist remarks allegedly made by Rolex Brand Ambassador and sometime musician Eric Clapton). The Ruts
And although not acknowledged at the time, they wrote some of the most enduring songs of the era, which have outlasted many of their contemporaries – listen to many of them today and see how well they’ve stood the test of time. To the point where many critics now write of them as being one of the top three punk bands (I guess the Clash is number one). They were certainly hugely influential – that’s why Rollins is in the film, as a one-time one-man Ruts teenage fan club he couldn’t resist the offer to come and play with them. And he’s here tonight too.
Alabama 3
Alabama 3 acoustic
But before we get to the movie we have the music, as an assembly of bands shamble to the stage to play a handful of songs, their own, and the Ruts’, starting with the Alabama 3. They were followed by Dirty Strangers, a band Fox played with after the final break-up of Ruts DC (formed following Owen’s death) in 1982. In their heyday the West London Strangers could roll out Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood on guitars, but tonight their only celebrity is Fox’s son making a good fist of the drums. Their highlight is an amusing (well it is if you live in this part of town) ‘Shepherds Bush City Limits’. What followed was P.A.I.N. (it stands for Propaganda and Information Network) – fronted by bandy-legged tartan-trousered Phil Pain (of indeterminate age) who stumbled to the microphone and introduced the first song– “Oi oi! Fucking punk rock eh, fucking hell. Here’s one for Foxy …”. They were very noisy, and murdered the Ruts classic ‘Babylon’s Burning’ before leaving the stage. Well they didn’t really as Phil hung around swigging vodka from a bottle leering at next up, Vice School, a combination of musicians from Girlschool and Vice Squad. I think he must have had his eye on Beki Bondage. Jozzer and I had our eye on the bar, returning in time to catch the splendid TV Smith doing a solo version of ‘Babylon’, and then some Members of the Members (not Nicky Tesco), fronted by Jean-Marie Carroll, playing with varying degrees of efficiency a pretty dreadful song ‘Mid-life crisis’ (sorry), their brilliant ‘Sound of the suburbs’ (remember that one?) and a decent bash at the Rut’s “Jah War”. As the clock steadily progressed they were followed by Captain Sensible who bashed out ‘Neat neat neat’ and a couple of others before being joined by Henry Rollins of Black Flag fame for the Ruts’ ‘Staring at the rude boys’, which was pretty good.
Captain Sensible Mr Segs
Captain Sensible and Mr Segs
As the equipment was eventually cleared Mr Segs stepped up to say a few words on a lonely stage, to introduce Dave Ruffy to draw the prize raffle (very church hall I thought), and then Rollins, who prefaced the film with some powerfully-spoken words about the Ruts, and in particular about Fox, and his determination to make the last gig. Actually very moving I thought – even more so, when after the trail of warm-up acts who preceded them on that night in July last year (a sort of who’s who of punk) the Ruts with Rollins took the stage. I have to say that whilst the sound for the movie might not have been perfect (hard to judge in a big theatre for which I assume it was never intended) the filming was very good, certainly far superior to many of the “let’s knock up a quick DVD of the tour” products that you get to see. And the Ruts with Fox on pretty good form, their outstanding rhythm section, and the hyper Rollins on vocals (“he’s a fucking scary bloke” Mr Segs had told me) were very good, very good indeed. As good a last gig as you could want.
The Members
The Members
And that wasn’t quite it, as the next night we hoped along to the Hammersmith Apollo to watch Henry Rollins’ ‘Spoken Word’. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what we got was a sort of superior stand-up comedy. Very intense, highly accomplished but really not as challenging or though-provoking an evening as I might have hoped for. Mostly the stories surrounded a succession of increasingly surreal trips to Islamic countries (he was in Pakistan when Benazir Bhutto was murdered) when Henry did this and Henry did that. The best part of the night was when he spoke about his passion for the Ruts, the rehearsals leading up to the gig, his bewilderment at the Segs/Ruffy “lets go down the pub” approach to problem solving (he’s teetotal), and most of all the resolve that Fox showed (in frankly unimaginable circumstances) in making it happen. Buy the DVD – have a look yourself, and see what I mean. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)


Bowmore 13 yo 1994 (46%, Whisky-Doris The Dram, 119 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s hard to imagine this comes from the same distillery as some earlier casks distilled in the 1980’s. Maybe not much maturity (the cask was probably quite silent) but the spirit’s profile is really to my liking. Clean peat, smoke, seashells, wet wool, wet earth, lemons, fresh walnuts and just a tiny little plate of porridge. A rather beautiful naked young Bowmore.

Mouth: exactly the same as on the nose. Hard to imagine a whisky that’s more coherent, isn’t it! Finish: medium to long, always on the same flavours, with that distinctive saltiness in the aftertaste. Comment: Bowmore as it should be in my book, and as it certainly is since a few years (how pretentious is that?) We can’t wait to be able to taste these vintages at 20+ years old. SGP:347 – 87 points.
Bowmore 11 yo 1995/2006 (60.9%, The Single Malts of Scotland, 195 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: same as above, only much more powerful and maybe a tad more resinous. With water: ditto, plus more humus and kelp. Beautifully pure and clean. Mouth (neat): yes, same as above. We’re certainly not against standardisation when standardisation brings these results. With water: yes. Clean peat, liquorice, smokiness, lemons, pine resin, fresh walnuts and almonds, salt... Totally flawless. Finish: long, with more of the beautiful same. Comment: archetypical of fairly recent distillation at Bowmore. Very great young stuff, to put into your cellar and to open in 2030 after a few good years of bottle mellowing. After all, these may be the future Bowmores ‘Bouquet’? SGP:347 – 88 points.

February 8, 2008


The Roundhouse, Camden Town, London, January 22nd 2008

There was always going to be dissension, but it wasn’t helped by the chaos of our journey through a North London gridlocked by fans of the locale’s two finest soccer teams heading for a cup-tie at Highbury (sorry, the Emirates Stadium), or by Jozzer’s even later arrival from ‘lunch’.

But mix together one youthful Smiths fan, three old cynics, and the miserable Mancunian misanthrope – aka Morrissey – then you can only expect fireworks. “You can’t tarnish Smiths’ songs just because you don’t like Morrissey - and anyway do you think he cares what a moron like you thinks?”. Hmm – fair point I suppose.
It’s the Roundhouse, and it’s night number two of a week-long residency for Morrissey and his band, led by ‘musical director’ and song writing partner, the weighty Boz Boorer. The place is packed – in fact the whole week is sold out, and sad to say for many people Moz (as I understand he’s known to his familiars) didn’t actually make it through the week – packing in early on night four due to illness and cancelling the remaining gig. So we’re luckily installed next to the sound desk, the youthful fan disappearing into the mosh, Jozzer surrounded by chattering girls (“I’ve never been to a concert where I’ve had to spend the whole evening listening to people talking, apart from myself that is”). In from of me is small bald bloke, mid forties I would think, who is word-perfect as he sings along with every song. To his left is a tonsured man of indeterminate age in loose black trousers and a black T-shirt. This guy is in an advanced state of enthusiasm from the moment the band take the stage and break into Morrissey’s ‘The last of the famous international playboys’, followed by The Smiths’ ‘How soon is now’ (that’s the one with the great sliding guitar line). When, about half way through, they play The Smiths’ ‘Stretch out and wait’ he shakes gently, clasps his hands to his chest and raises his eyes to the wonderful Roundhouse roof as if in a state of religious ecstasy, which I think he is. The girls are giggling and taking photographs of each other – “oooh, this one’s my favourite too” squeals one. Jozzer raises his heavy eyebrows and mouths “What a wanker”. Yep – here’s a guy who certainly polarises opinion.
He’s a big ugly fellow, as he’d be the first to admit – “I suppose I’m only here because of my good looks” he quips to the adorers at the front, with whom he maintains a respectful banter all evening, delicately taking a gift from one and gently laying it down by the drums, foolishly giving the microphone to another – “Morrissey – you are my drug of choice” she says. In between he shares random thoughts “We’ve got a new album, one more to wear your life down with” - “Every song a dose of syrup of figs” – and even chooses to scorn Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton and praise her opponent Barack Obama.
But despite this apparent intimacy he remains somehow aloof and in control – and there’s a sense that he’s just on the edge, which is where all great performers should be. That is probably what gives him the presence that allows him to command the stage, and the audience. He’s got the haircut, he’s got the voice (well mostly, not too many high notes but it’s strong and commanding) and he’s certainly got all the Morrissey rock star moves. He’s cool, and he knows it.
Jozzer snarls. “It’s one bloody Morrissey song to the tune of another”. And here he may have a point – there is a certain sameness about everything. It’s partly the structure of the songs – conversational, anecdotal, and often in the third person. And whilst I’ve been told that the ‘miserable’ accusation “isn’t fair - it’s just ironic for God’s sake – don’t you understand irony?”, there is a fair degree of compulsive self-obsessed and rather gloomy meanderings in the lyrics. And of course Mr Morrissey does have the habit of starting to sing each song exactly in the same place, which is never quite when you expect him to, until that is you’ve heard a few, after which the unexpected becomes a tad predictable. And I’m not sure that Boz and the boys in the band help (despite their very smart matching t-shirts) – they’re enthusiastic enough, and are surprisingly keen to make a lot of noise whenever the moment arises, but subtle they ain’t.
And as I’m reminded whenever I lock horns with the youthful Smiths fan, “It’s easy to judge Smiths’ songs the same because of Morrissey’s voice, but you should listen to Johnny Marr’s guitar because that’s where you’ll find the difference”. Quite true, and sadly Boz is no Johnny Marr, not by a long stretch. Morrissey
But nonetheless, for all this griping, it turns out to be a unexpectedly enjoyable evening – there are some not-too-bad new songs like ‘That’s how people grow up’ from his forthcoming album Greatest Hits (which I’m told, Morrissey lovers, features a picture of Morrissey’s “Arse” on the cover, with the handwritten message “Your arse an’all”), and Morrissey classics like ‘The world is full of crashing bores’ (really?) and ‘First of the gang to die’. Then there are four classy Smiths’ songs – two already mentioned and ‘Death of a disco dancer’ and ‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before’. Oh yes – and whereas on the first evening he played the not entirely comfortable ‘The National Front disco’, tonight he ends the set with ‘Irish blood, English heart’ – an equally edgy nationalistic sentiment (“I've been dreaming of a time when to be English is not to be baneful, to be standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial”) – the choice a clear and pointed reference to his current litigation with the New Musical Express over allegations of racism.
And although Mr Moz might still not be first on my list of stars to have dinner with, I ended up with a warmer sentiment towards him than I began with. And then in an unexpected moment a week or so later he earns my enduring respect. Having performed ‘That’s how people grow up’ live on TV, he strode from the stage, blanked the oleaginous, obsequious and obscenely over-paid host Jonathan Ross, and escaped his slippery embrace on the way back to the dressing room. Now there’s class! - Nick Morgan
Thank you Nick. Well, what a miserable wordplay indeed regarding the Alsatians’ favourite English football team (only because Arsene is an Alsatian, eh!) but I must say there is some nice music on Morrissey’s MySpace page. Now, let's play with words as well and declare that we'll call Mr Morrissey 'Moricette' from now on. A moricette is kind of a straight Alsatian bretzel, that we're used to, erm, stuff with all kinds of things (foie gras, cheese, smoked salmon, whatever.) - S. Moricette
Royal Brackla






Royal Brackla 22 yo 1976/1999 50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 217 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: quite vibrant and powerful, mostly on freshly cut apples, fresh walnuts, linseed oil and wax polish. Half-fruity half-waxy, with a beautiful freshness and something very ‘natural’. Hints of metal polish. Very classy nose, no dramatic effects and no make-up here. Also hints of leather and hay. Mouth: punchy attack, very sweet and very oaky but certainly not drying. Nutmeg, white pepper, tea, ripe apples and crystallised lemon. Maybe not overly complex but the balance is perfect here. With water: it got more candied and a little less oaky but the general profile didn’t change much. Finish: long, vanilled and spicy. Comments: a good exemple of a heavy but very enjoyable oakiness, without excessive vanilla and no bourbonny notes. SGP:551 – 88 points
Royal Brackla 30 yo 1976/2006 (53.6%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, 126 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is even fresher despite it’s greater age! Same notes of high-end apples and wax polish, also tea, bergamot, warm oak, vanilla pod, orange cake and cigar box. Faint whiffs of incense. Extremely classy again – even classier with the addition of a little water (bigger notes of freshly opened box of Havana puros). Mouth: more of everything here. The OMC with a loudspeaker and with added liquoricy notes. Big, big whisky. With water: a bigger fruitiness. Raspberries, blueberries, apricot pie. Finish: very long, with a very peppery aftertaste as well as notes of Williams pears. Comments: excellent whisky, very focused and compact. SGP:661 – 90 points.
Royal Brackla 1976/1988 (66.2%, McLelland’s for Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #1976/924) This one was the first bottling for the SSMC ever. Tell me about a cask strength whisky! Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re in the same family again, obviously, even if the higher alcohol seems to block the aromas a bit. Slightly waxier (and with more linseed oil). Let’s add water right away... With water: it got more mineral than its siblings, grassier, also slightly beefy. Maybe a little more ‘disorganised’ than its brothers. Mouth (neat): more pears here but it’s probably the amazingly high strength. Quick, water! With water: very good, that works, but the whole is a little more sugary and ‘simple’ than both the OMC and the Cadenhead now. Notes of pears again, marshmallows. Finish: long, ‘marshmallowy’, with a slightly spirity aftertaste (even at roughly 45%). Comments: very good whisky again, this Brackla, just a little simpler and rougher. SGP:640 – 85 points.

February 7, 2008

Glenrothes Glenrothes 38 yo 1969/2007 (43.1%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #386) Bottled in December 2007. Colour: gold. Nose: starts on ripe bananas and honey plus vanilla and warm oak. More mint then, a little varnish, hints of camphor, orange cake and roots. Very faint earthiness. The oak grows bigger but it’s never really invading nor drying on the nose. Carpenter’s workshop. Mouth: rather similar. Again quite some bananas, vanilla and oak. Slightly lactic (lactones) with also big coconut notes. If you like it oaky but not too drying, this is for you. Something of an old bourbon in a certain way (but no varnish at all). Finish: long, all on oak and not too ripe bananas. Comments: again, a good one if you like oak that’s not drying. Quite spectacular in that sense. SGP:450 – 84 points.
Glenrothes 37 yo 1969/2006 (57.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #13482, 160 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: just the same whisky, only more powerful and maybe even a tad oakier. With water: wait, this is different now. Amazing how water changed this one. Oranges, hay, pu-erh tea and sake. How unusual in Glenrothes! Mouth: much, much sweeter and more complex than it’s lighter sibling now, and it’s not only for the higher alcohol. Coriander, pine resin, nutmeg, coconut milk (or maybe even Malibu here). Other than that it’s all vanilla and oak. Big and good. Water is not obligatory on the palate it seems, so let’s drop it. Ha! Finish: long, compact, ‘vibrant’, with something bourbonny again. Hints of bubblegum and caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: a big bold whisky, very assertive. A little unusual for Glenrothes I think, thus even more interesting. SGP:530 – 89 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: We got quite some comments last time we posted about the marvellous Azeri pianist Aziza Mustafa Zadeh so let’s have more with this short piece called Aspiration.mp3 that was on her album ‘Dance of Fire’. Please buy the princess’ music and go see her live.


February 6, 2008

In these days when the stock markets plunge (including in ASIA) while whisky is getting more and more expensive (and bling-bling), we thought all distillers and bottlers should watch this clip by MS (well)  
Laphroaig 15


Laphroaig 15yo 1978 (43%, OB, donated to the Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund by HRH Prince Charles, 254 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: yes. Superb. Exactly Laphroaig, starting all on seawater, wet wool, soaked grains and antiseptic. The whole isn’t very powerful, though, even a little fragile. Sort of fades away after a few minutes, alas, leaving room for light notes of almonds and wet newspaper, as well as seashells, fish and chips (really!) and hints of diesel oil. Beautiful and complex nose actually, despite its fragility, but this at cask strength would be a dream.

Mouth: very excellent attack, reminding me a bit of the 1976 Vintage now, but maybe with more complexity. Excellent balance between fresh almonds and walnuts on the one side, and peaty/smoky flavours on the other side. Picks up steam, which is quite the opposite of what happened on the nose. Slight saltiness. Salted butter toffee, peppermint, a little tar, even hints of dried apples and pineapples. This one really broad! Finish: very long, coating, peaty, tarry, salty and almondy. Comments: huge contrast between nose and palate as far as the power is concerned, but the whole is of the highest quality. Thank you, your highness. SGP:357 – 92 points.
Laphroaig 19 yo 1966/1985 (50.2%, G&M for Intertrade, 360 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: oh, this is very unusual! A start that happens more on roasted almonds and suntan oil, argan oil, fusel oil... Then walnut skins, wet hay, tomato leaves... Unusual indeed, but totally beautiful. Is this the end? Of course not, because it’s the herbal notes than take the lead now, lemon balm, fresh mint, dill... It all comes in waves, with the coastal elements now, oysters, kelp, big notes of whelks and queen scallops, then camphor, pine resin and eucalyptus (make that cough syrup), then all sorts of wet ‘things’ (from papers to dogs)... It’s really endless, this one needs a lot of time (or it would be like a Hitchcock movie that you would stop watching five minutes before the end.) Back on fresh mint now. Wait, fisherman’s nets. Almond milk. Plain peated barley. Old books. My! Laphroaig 19
Mouth: this one is incredible at the attack, I believe I never tasted something like this. It all starts on all sorts of roasted and/or smoked things. Various nuts, various oils, various fish species... And then there’s a true resinous blast that happens, like a maelstrom of eucalyptus, mint, mastic, salt, paprika, curry, fish tandoori, cough sweets, cardamom (and these seeds they give you after a good meal at an Indian restaurant – which they sometimes call Indian chewing-gum). All right, time for the anti-maltoporn brigade to intervene or this will soon become incontrollable. Finish: they probably invented both the words ‘endless’ and ‘concentrated’ for this whisky. The aftertaste is as salty as salt. Comments: well, I’m sure you’ve had enough, especially since this bottle is so easy to find, isn’t it. We’re very, very close to perfection here, definitely in the same league as, for instance, the immense but sadly famous Springbank 12yo 100°Proof for Samaroli. An uber-whisky in my book. SGP:578 – 98 points. (not sure I should say thank you, Marcel ;-))


MUSIC – Recommended listening: Let’s have more gnawa-sounding music today, with the Orchestre National de Barbès and their brilliant piece Mimouna.mp3 played live (it's on their CD 'En Concert'). Please buy these guys' music, thanks!


February 5, 2008



Invergordon 40 yo 1965/2006 (50.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #15514, 238 bottles) Colour: Nose: starts on very obvious notes of white chocolate, vanilla crème and nutmeg, with also something coffeeish from the alcohol as well as coconuts. Also praline, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stays there but as it’s all very pleasant, we won’t complain. Very, very, very faint hints of cooked cabbage.

Mouth: sweet, very sweet... Orange liqueur, vanilla cake, light honey, marshmallows and dried bananas and coconuts. Something of young rum – after 40yo! Finish: long, sweet – almost sugary - and coconutty. Comments: aboslutely flawless but without the help of sherry, an old grain like this one is rather simple whisky in my book, even after 40 years. But it’s very drinkable! SGP:720 – 83 points.
Invergordon 35 yo 1971/2007 (52.1%, Bladnoch Forum, cask #52392, 65 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: a little rawer than the DT, less polished at first sniffs, but guts then quite similar. Vanilla and coconuts. Also nicely floral (buttercups an dandelions) and sugary (cane sugar, light caramel). Other than that it’s nice old grain whisky, not exceptionally complex but I rarely find grain whisky to be very complex. Mouth: very close to a bourbon. Huge sweetness (maybe a tad sugary actually). Strawberry sweets and vanilla flavoured yoghurt, custard. Milk chocolate. Finish: long, clean, sweet... Vanilla crème indeed. Marshmallows in the aftertaste. Comments: roughly the same quality as the 1965. If you love grain you’ll adore this one. SGP:721 – 83 points.
Irish Coffee
Left, in 1964, Jameson 7 year old teaches the American public how to make Irish coffee, ‘The Drink with Synergistic Action’. Right, in 1968, Old Bushmills retaliates with its own new recipe for Irish Coffee: ‘Forget the coffee’. The body adds ‘Splash it with water or float it in ice cubes or spritz it with soda, if you must. But please, have your coffee on the side.’ We’re still looking for the other famous brands’ takes on this...


MUSIC – Recommended listening: We love this fast and short rendition of the standard Sometimes I’m happy.mp3 by Toronto's very excellent Terry Cade! Please buy her music and go see her live...

Terry Cade

February 4, 2008

Glenlivet Glenlivet 39 yo 1968/2008 (44.8%, Duncan Taylor, Lonach) For some people, their birthdays come as a shock... Getting old and all that. For me, it’s every time I see a whisky that was bottled in a new year that this happens. Anyway, here’s our first whisky bottled in 2008... sob... Let’s only hope it’s a good one. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts all on vanilla and good oak plus notes of pollen and light honey. One of these flowery Glenlivets it seems, funny how it reminds me of the excellent Nàdurras, only with more age (but not that much age). The oak gets more obvious after a moment, with also whiffs of aniseed, warm butter, cake, and even a little wood smoke. Very clean, very ‘natural’, no signs of over-ageing so far. See, one more year doesn’t mean a thing... Oh, some funny hints of fish in the background (tinned sardines).
Mouth: very good attack, very ‘young’ and fruity, on a blend of white fruits (apples, pears, yellow peaches) and good tannins. Goes on with plum spirit (or do you know sloe gin?) and vanilla, and gets finally quite spicy (nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom seeds). Gets very slighty sourish from the wood but that’s far from being a flaw here. Finish: medium long, mid-fruity mid-oaky, with just a slight ‘greenness’. Comments: a youthful old Glenlivet with no traces of sherry whatsoever. Excellent balance and huge drinkability despite the wood. SGP:552 – 88 points.
Glenlivet 37 yo 1970/2008 (53.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #2020) Colour: straw. Nose: much more powerful ‘of course’, even maybe a little brutal at first nosing. Oak, bananas, vanilla, fresh butter and a little smoke again. Then a little varnish coming through (usually, I find that varnish comes out first but not here). Gets grassier after that, as well as fruitier (granny smith), with also hints of muesli and wet stones. 37 years old you say? Botoxed? ;-) Mouth: rather better on the palate, close to the 1968 but of course punchier and with added notes of liquorice, coriander and dill. Huge sweetness and excellent fruitiness (crystallised pineapples, golden delicious apples), also more pepper than in the 1968. Big whisky. Finish: long, sweet, with ‘good’ acridity now that compensates the sweetness. Comments: very good ‘natural’ whisky, I like the palate a little better than the nose, but 37 years old, really! SGP:651 – 87 points.

Glenlivet 27 yo 1971/1999 (54.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 2.31) Colour: full amber. Nose: this is completely different, starting on a rather heavy dry sherry. Coffee, dark chocolate (even cocoa)... Changes very quickly, though, with now rather heavy notes of ale and then barbecued beef as well as mint sauce. Coal smoke. Very nice but maybe it lacks a little roundness. The smoke is quite spectacular – barbecue indeed. Mouth: interestingly, it takes off very slowly (like an overloaded plane) but gets then really big. Coffee, rum, prunes, chocolate raisins and all that jazz. Alas, there’s also a rather huge tanicity and quite some rubber if not sulphur. Too bad because the rest is very pleasant behind that. Finish: long but a bit too thick, almost cloying. Rubbery. Comments: heavy sherry doesn’t always work, does it? (useless comment, son). Now, water improved it I must say (good beefiness). SGP:651 – 81 points (but only with water).


MALT MANIACS GOSSIP (not always sure, but...)
Springbank will soon issue a Longrow CV, a vatting of young and older casks, as well as a Longrow 18yo from sherry casks. There will also be new versions of the Springbank 1997 (great news) and a Campbeltown Loch 30yo. (source: Springbank Distillers)



MUSIC – Recommended listening: This rather beautiful rendition of Pink Floyd’s Wish you were here.mp3 by Ivory Coast’s Seydou Koné aka Alpha Blondy. Blending bagpipes and reggae? You bet? Please buy Alpha Blondy's music... (and thanks for this, Polo!)

Alpha Blondy

February 3, 2008

MUSIC – Recommended listening: It’s Sunday, let’s go classical with a lively andante-presto.mp3 by little known French composer and cellist Charles Henri de Blainville (1711-1769), recorded in 2006 by Le Parnasse Français (conductor Louis Castelain) at the Mont-Saint-Michel. Please buy the wonderful recordings by Le Parnasse Français! (and visit the Mont-Saint-Michel - when it’s not overcrowded, that is).

Bowmore 1982


Bowmore 22 yo 1982/2004 (51%, Signatory, cask #1314, 162 bottles) It was the difficult years for Bowmore (and for many other distilleries as well) so let’s try to be lenient... Colour: white wine. Nose: err, no. No fruitiness and no ‘true’ phenols, just a sharp, oddly lemony spirit (yup, there’s good lemon and there’s bad lemon in whisky methinks). And an extreme grassiness. Something like new plastic in the background (which some people may also call ‘lavender’). An un-sexy malt.

Mouth: lemon drops and lemonade, ginger tonic, paper, plastic and tapioca. The ‘good’ side of this is the rather pleasant ‘coastality’ (seashells) but it never manages to have the upper hand. Finish: long but a bit acrid. Comments: amazing that they managed to make such fantastically better whisky before these years... and after them as well at Bowmore. It’s drinkable but I wouldn’t swap ten bottles of this for one single bottle of 1993 or later vintage. SGP:243 – 76 points.
Bowmore 24 yo 1982/2006 (53.2%, Duncan Taylor, cask #85029) Colour: white wine. Nose: nicer, thanks to added almondy notes, but still no winner on the nose. Geraniums and wet cardboard. Mouth: no way. The weirdness of these years at its best (I mean, at its worst). Finish: yes. Comments: I wouldn’t swap twenty bottles of this for one single bottle of 1991 or later vintage. SGP:143 – 69 points.
Bowmore 23 yo 1982/2006 (54.7%, Duncan Taylor, sherry, cask #85184, 208 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: more of the same. Wet papers and... err, wet cardboard. Plastic and porridge plus lavender cologne. Mouth: same as cask #85029, maybe a tad better. Finish: you bet. Comments: what do you think? SGP:143 – 69 points.
Bowmore 21 yo 1982/2004 (58.8%, Duncan Taylor, cask #85009, 166 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: a little nice again, thanks to fresh almonds again. Other than that it’s all in the same league. With water: cow stable spread with mint. Quite interesting, actually... Not really nice, but interesting. Mouth: yes, better, but these geraniumy and lavenderish notes are well here. Quite extreme, in fact. With water: not really. Finish: yeah. Comments: that’s life. SGP:143 – 70 points.
Bowmore 22 yo 1982/2005 (62.2%, Duncan Taylor, sherry, cask #89545, 157 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: oh well. Kerosene. With water: exactly the same as with cask #85009. Cow stable, mint, cloves and liquorice. Almost nice this time but they should provide you with a free bottle of Highland Spring bundled with this bottle. Water is obligatory. Mouth: ah, yes, this is nicer, no kidding. Interesting citrusy notes. With water: again, this is a little better. Finish: not too embarrassing, actually. Comments: the nicest of the flight I think. Between us, it’s absolutely amazing that they made such stunning whisky at Bowmore in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, and then again from the early 1990’s on (today’s newmake is of the highest quality) whilst the 1980’s were so... well... may I say ‘geraniummy’? SGP:244 - 78 points.

February 1, 2008


MALT MANIACS GOSSIP (not always sure, but...)
This may well be a first! An Alsatian winemaker of great reputation has filled a small cask that had previously contained Scotch Single Malt Whisky with some Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives (late harvest) of the vintage 2007. It seems that the results are, well, extremely surprising. Tit for tat?








Dailuaine 1994/2006 (45%, Samaroli, sherry cask #206/06086, 390 bottles) Colour: white wine/pale straw. Nose: starts a bit youngish and quite spirity, with rather big mashy notes. Pear spirit and kirsch. Yoghurt, vanilla and hints of cologne... Finally fresh almonds and hints of grass, cardamom and wood smoke. Nicer than it sounds actually, but definitely not very, very mature. Mouth: starts very sweet and very fruity, not unlike tutti-frutti eau-de-vie actually. Very little cask influence except for a little pepper and nutmeg. Hints of rubber, peppermint, thyme. Not really spectacular. Finish: long, more on pepper and cardamom but with these kirschy notes remaining on your tongue. Comments: not bad at all but no real thrill here I think. Young average malt whisky, no flaws-no thrill in my opinion. SGP:442 – 78 points.
Dailuaine 10yo 1996/2007 Médoc Finish (50%, Chieftain's, C#90421/90422, 618 bottles) Médoc is the homeland of cabernet and a large region in Bordeaux, where one can find the greatest wines – but like everywhere, also dodgier ones. An interesting bottling that all other Maniacs liked it a lot at the MM Awards 2007 but I didn’t. Let’s try it again... Colour: gold. Nose: not very far from the 1994 at first sniffs but with even more smoke, gunpowder... And then quite some strawberry jam as often with red wine finished whiskies. Redcurrants. The mashy notes are more subdued here. Mashed potatoes and vanilla crème. Faint hints of rubber band. Mouth: creamier and livelier than the 1994, with the red fruits and the maltiness mingling quite pleasantly. Hints of burnt cake, roasted raisins. Finish: rather long, on the same flavours plus a little rubber again. Comments: a little better than last time in my book. Am I influenced by the other Maniacs? SGP:432 – 80 points.
Dailauine 12 yo (62.4%, James MacArthur, cask #6911, circa 1989) This one from a mini, not sure it was ever bottled in a 75cl. Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely spirity. Cologne and medicinal alcohol. Quite scary, let’s drown this one straight away. With water (down to roughly 45%): oh, it got really beautiful! Immense fruitiness (pink grapefruit and pineapple) plus hay and smoked ham. Extremely expressive. Mouth (neat): something like a fruity panzer division. Let’s skip this part if you please... With water: again, it got quite fantastic if you’re into fruit. Juicy fruity, jell-O, tinned pineapple and raspberries plus a little pepper for good measure. Finish: oh very long! Liquid fruit sweet... Comments: ditto. It’s spectacular young fruity whisky. SGP:721 – 87 points.
Wiser This one is an old ad for Wiser’s De Luxe, a Canadian whisky that, just between us, doesn’t really compare to the best Scotch in our book. Not sure that J.P. Wiser was a “whisky baron” either, or at least that he was in the same league as, say the great Victorian Whisky Barons, but this ad is fun to read. The body reads: “J.P. Wiser refused to age his whisky in 110 gallon butts. “A barrel of that enormity,” he said, “bequeaths absolutely nothing to its contents.” Thus, all the whisky J.P. produced would acquire its unique smoky flavour and uncommonly mellow body in small 55 gallon casks. The way J.P. saw it, the closest the wood was to the whisky, the closer the whisky would be to perfection. These days very little has changed. In fact, every last drop of whisky ... (usual gibberish)... When it came to making the very best whisky, he was Wiser.” Good one!


MUSIC – Recommended listening: In 1976, Genesis was still a great band despite Peter Gabriel’s departure, and there was this beautiful and delicate song on the Trick of the Tail LP, called 'Ripples'. Today let’s listen to Annie Haslam’s very sweet version, that was on the 1995 Genesis Tribute album ‘Supper’s Ready’. Annie Haslam’s was the singer of the famous progfolk band Renaissance... Please buy her music.

Annie Haslam

January 2008 - part 2 <--- February 2008 - part 1 ---> February 2008 - part 2

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



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

Glenfarclas 1968/2007 (65.1%, OB, Family Casks, cask #1316, 483 bottles)

Glenkinchie 21 yo 1966/1988 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label, 750ml, US Bottling)

Royal Brackla 30 yo 1976/2006 (53.6%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, 126 bottles)

Laphroaig 15yo 1978 (43%, OB, donated to the Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund by HRH Prince Charles, 254 bottles)

Laphroaig 19 yo 1966/1985 (50.2%, G&M for Intertrade, 360 bottles)