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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2010 - Part 2

February 2010 - part 1 <--- February 2010 - part 2 ---> March 2010 - part 1


February 26, 2010

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Little Whiskyfun has many flaws, one of them being that the layout became heavily cluttered through the years, as many readers recently told me. So, I’ve decided to do a bit of cleaning in the sidebars, especially in all the links that we had (many dead!) and created a new links page (work in progress). I also updated the FAQs page that answers a few, err, questions that we often get.  OK, back to tasting…


Tasting two Pittyvaich

Pittyvaich-Glenlivet 11 yo 1977/1989 (56.6%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: huge highland style, powerful, grassy and a tad both buttery and gingery. Very austere whisky when undiluted, even if some notes of gooseberries and apples do start to fly around after a while. Sour apples. With water: freshly grassy, with a little dill and mint as well as hints of sandalwood and incense, the whole getting more and more flowery now. Mouth (neat): rich and quite fat, powerful, with a lot of apples once again and then white pepper and something slightly bubblegummy. Goes on with some pear eau-de-vie. With water: not more complex but better polished, getting as smooth as a fruit liqueur. Maybe hints of bananas. Finish: rather long, mainly on green bananas and vanilla. Some coconut in the aftertaste. Comments: nice development from rather extreme grassiness to smooth fruitiness – with the help of a little water. SGP:461 - 84 points.

Pittyvaich 20 yo (57.5%, OB, 2009, 6000 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the high alcohol that strikes first, with notes of coffee and then pretty much the same very grassy notes as in the old 1977. Also whiffs of damp earth and ‘wet wood’ plus just a little vanilla. More straight oak after a while, also toasted oak and ‘yellow’ flowers, nectar. With water: it’s the oak that stands out now, with also hints of beer and even more toasted ‘stuff’. Mouth (neat): we’re even closer to the old Cadenhead now but this is rather creamier and even fatter. Sweet oak, vanilla, café latte, apples, grass and white pepper. No bubblegum this time. Notes of ale. With water: same as the 1977, only with more tannins. Finish: ditto (more or less). Comments: same style of whiskies, austere and quite elegant. This one is a little more marked by the wood but it isn’t drying. SGP:461 – 83 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Pittyvaich that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness (new window)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: one of my favourite contemporary big bands is Maria Schneider's (and Malt Maniac Peter Silver's of course). Let's listen to her version of Giant steps (what else?) and then buy all of her music...
BTW the other day I got a nice email asking me if Whiskyfun wasn't just a website that was promoting jazz and blues under cover of booze. Damned, we've been unmasked!

Maria Schneider

February 25, 2010

Ardbeg 1998

Tasting three young Ardbeg

Ardbeg 7 yo 2001/2009 (61.5%, SMWS, #33.75, 1st fill bourbon , 'Penetrates and explodes', 260 bottles) Two stars and a half According to the august society, this one should be a lightly peated version, maybe Blasda/Kildalton style. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: lightly peated? Excuse me but this is very peaty, albeit maybe not very smoky. An Ardbeg that casts sidelong glances at Laphroaig, so to speak. Quite medicinal, on antiseptic and a little camphor (but much less camphor than in older bottlings), some soot and some tar and slight notes of cream. Quite some vanilla and candy sugar behind all that, and then more and more marzipan. Apples. It does get less peaty indeed. With water: well, water revived the peatiness, as well as a few organic farmy and coastal notes. Gets finally quite sweet again, on a lot of barley sugar. Strange, this ‘elastic peatiness’. Traces of FWP as well, very bizarre. Mouth (neat): punchy and extremely sweet, almost bubblegummy. Bags and bags of pear drops, ‘Haribo bears’ and liquorice allsorts. Gets then much grassier and almost bitter. Medium peated so far. With water: more sugary notes and a slight soapiness. Not too nice in my opinion. Finish: long but with something burnt and again something a little soapy. Some aspects remind me of Glenturret, which is strange, agreed. Comments: not a complete disaster of course but I’m not quite into this kind of profile. A matter of taste I guess. Now, kudos to the SMWS for having proposed this unusual variant. SGP:634 – 79 points.

Ardbeg 11 yo 1998/2009 (55.4%, OB, 1st fill bourbon, cask#1275, 252 bottles) Four stars This one sold very quickly at £180 and today some profesional retailers are trying to sell it for £350, which I find quite disgusting to tell you the truth. Pecunia non olet indeed, but maybe I'm too much of a romantic? Colour: white wine. Nose: punchy, starting in an unusual way, on hints of green olive and even capers on top of a peatiness that isn’t huge but certainly bigger than the SMWS’. The rest is rather classic young Ardbeg, without any big bourbonny notes. Seawater, peat smoke, kippers and freshly cut apples. With water: more of the same, with an emphasis on the coastal notes and a little mint kicking in. Mouth (neat): powerful and very, very ‘Ardbeg’. Ashes, liquorice, smoked salmon, pepper, ‘raw’ peat, tar, green apples and a little salt. Not really complex but impressively punchy if you like them young. With water: clean, classic young Ardbeg, on apples, peat, pepper, marzipan, gentian and seashells. Finish: quite long, with quite some saltiness and notes of walnut skin as well as a little eucalyptus and lemon balm. Faint earthiness. Note that the finish is more pleasant when undiluted. Comments: very ‘young Ardbeg’, that is to say quite simple but very satisfying. I guess a good way of coming up with more complexity would be to marry various kinds of casks, including sherry. Hey, you could even call that Rollercoaster. Now, is this one worth £180 (not to mention a very stupid £350 and similar prices on eBay aka the moray eel pond)? Don’t be silly. SGP:437 - 85 points.

Ardbeg 11 yo 1998/2009 (57.9%, Adelphi, cask #1981, 1st fill bourbon, 185 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: more or less the same whisky as the OB. Same herbal notes at first nosing, same development, with maybe just a little more smoke, iodine and pine resin. Globally a little more complex so far. With water: same comments, except that this cask is clearly more coastal now. Tarry rope, seashells and then fresh almonds. Not a huge amount of peatiness, having said that. Mouth (neat): we’re even closer to the OB. Maybe a tad more mature, with more of this great resinous/smoky combination that age often brings to Ardbeg. Maybe a little more consistent. Huge liquorice. With water: same, with rather more lemon and medicinal notes as in the OB. Cough syrup. The rest is similar. Finish: very long, peaty, coastal, ashy, smoky… Comments: great. Reminds me a bit of the first Mor that was excellent. SGP:348 - 88 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Ardbeg that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness (new window)



MUSIC - Recommended listening: a friend was wondering if we weren't getting into 'harder' music on Whiskyfun. Well, maybe it's true... Must come with age... Anyway, let's listen to Australia's excellent Gwyn Ashton Getting better (on his CD Fang it) and then buy her music...

Gwyn Ahston

February 24, 2010


by Nick Morgan

Bloomsbury Theatre, London
February 6th 2010

It’s never been quite clear why the Bonzo Dog Band reunion, which began in triumphant (if somewhat chaotic) form in January 2006, petered out after its second Astoria gig in June two years later; a promised tour crumbled into dust (rather like the poor old Astoria which is now a hole in the ground), leaving only a website that still happily takes money for merchandise that is never delivered. 

But it might not be too hard to guess.  One of the things that made the revival gigs such a wonderful, although possibly cruel, spectator sport, was the apparent tension between Neil Innes and Roger Ruskin Spear; the former driven by cues, tight arrangements, musical professionalism and some degree of discipline, the latter by a spontaneous explosion of unbridled anarchy.  Something, or somebody obviously had to give.  And there was also a growing sense of discomfort about the role of the celebrity comedians who were brought in, initially with some degree of success, to try to fill the unfillable void left by the late Vivian Stanshall, and perhaps drag the band into the twenty-first century.  It was almost as if it was becoming their gig.

“There was a general feeling within the management at the close of the last Reunion tour”, wrote Ruskin Spear recently in his blog, “that there was no future for us (the remaining Bonzos) without the help of a team of  session men and a hands-free 'star' vocalist and front man (by definition a non-Bonzo person) to carry the show”.  Clearly that was no longer what the majority of the various ex-Bonzos were looking for, so the tour having been ditched, Ruskin Spear, Rodney Slater and Sam Spoons reformed themselves as Three Bonzos and a Piano, the piano being long-time Ruskin Spear collaborator Dave Glasson.  


We missed them at the 100 Club last year, but tonight they are at the Bloomsbury Theatre with an extended line-up for a special London show.

The tone of the evening is set from the start.  The band and their guests, or those of them that can manage the walk, had a planned entrance from the foyer, through the theatre, up to the stage, but as they began their procession the auditorium doors slammed shut in their faces.  “Never knowingly over-rehearsed” declares the band’s website.  We were warned.  The performance combines a loving romp through the back catalogue of the Bonzos with songs from the band’s new album ‘Hair of the Dog’.  This material, it has to be said, mostly falls into the ‘grumpy old men’ school of rock compositions, with songs like ‘Old geezer rock’ (“a double triple bypass in 12/8 time”) and ‘Senior moments’, the titles of which speak for themselves, and the truth of which was summed up by Bohay-Nowell’s three-minute search for his Marlene Dietrich wig, which, it turned out, he was sitting on. 


But like the whole evening, it’s harmless enough stuff.  Joining the Three Bonzos were Andy Roberts, Liverpool Scene veteran and a member of the backing band for the first Astoria reunion gig (who, I read on a bulletin board, had allegedly fallen out with Innes), and former Bonzo ‘Legs’ Larry Smith, and the very-veteran Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell.  The theatre is pretty full with an audience ageing from around fifteen to seventy plus, although I have the feeling that the majority have either just drawn their pension or are about to.  On stage, average age must be sixty-five, although the energy displayed, whether from Bohay-Nowell’s twinkling eyes when he read a rather suggestive children’s bedtime story, Sam Spoons’ wild (acoustic and electric) spoon playing (in between numerous costume changes), Rodney Slater’s glowing hair and Ruskin Spears’ frenetic fiddling and fussing caused one to doubt that assumption.  Only languid, laid-back and slightly louche ‘Legs’ Larry Smith acted his age.

Bonzo 4

And of course, the devoted and highly-forgiving crowd is raring to get involved too, which is just as well.  I suppose there’s a sort of complicity between artist and audience.  Jokes are carefully deconstructed; the introduction to ‘Shirt’, possibly the best of all the Bonzo jokes, is turned into a quiz.  We all know the punch lines, and in many instances the punters get to them before the band.  No-one expects that Ruskin Spear’s many props, e.g. robots, trouser press, electric leg, will work quite as they should (“if anyone was in Andover they’ll know I’ve got a lot of mending to do”, he said, working through a spaghettini of wires).  We don’t mind if, despite the efforts of Glasson and Roberts, the music’s not really very good (although Ruskin Spear’s clarinet on ‘Ginger Geezer’ was a revelation).  And it doesn’t matter if they screw up cues or forget the words.  That’s not the point. 


This is like watching all your favourite uncles put on a show after dinner.  We’re all on their side so it can only be a hit, from ‘Jollity Farm’ (“meow meow”) to ‘The Monster Mash’.  Using as a gauge the Photographer, laughing so much from start to finish that she could barely keep her camera straight, then I have to assume it was. – Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Watch the Three Bonzos and a piano on Youtube

Nick, Kate, I'm sorry, I may have ballsed up the layout a bit. Too much Bonzo (and British humour) influence I guess. Apologies. - Serge



Tasting two Brackla

Royal Brackla 25 yo (46%, The Whisky Companion, fino sherry cask, 2007) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: maybe a tad neutral at very first nosing but it develops on a nicely balanced combination of ripe apples, vanilla, fresh walnuts and moss, with maybe these ‘notes of yellow’ that can come with dry sherry or vin jaune. Not exactly neo-oxidative but it has more and more notes of fresh walnuts. Very nice even if a tad austere. Mouth: elegant attack, on more or less the same notes but also a bigger sweetness, a little marzipan, notes of cider and then quite some black pepper. Finish: rather long, with the oak’s spices singing louder now. Pepper and cinnamon. Comments: very nice dram, not too sure about what actually comes from the fino but it does seem to display a ‘fino’ character. SGP:461 - 86 points.

Update by Arno: 'his bottling is supposedly not from 2007 but from some years before; I was told that the whisky is distilled in 1979. However, after bottling a batch had bad capsules and was therefore never labelled and put on the market. It was sold a few years later to Alba import, and they first put a part of the bottles out with a different label, which states "the whisky trail". Because they were not happy with the label design the put the rest on the market one year later with the Companion label.' Thnk you Arno.

Royal Brackla 16 yo 1992/2009 (54.7%, Cadenhead, bourbon, 183 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: this one is more powerful, obviously, but also much more vanilled and as perfumy as some grain whiskies, with quite some coconut and white chocolate. ‘Modern’, I’d say, most probably from a fresh BB barrel. Also hints of ‘freshly opened pack of marshmallows’ and a little orange blossom water. Active cask. With water: same profile, even sweeter and fruitier. Pear drops and cereals plus a little grass and a faint mouldiness. Mouth (neat): less of a vanilla bomb, with more malt character and notes of toasted bread and apple juice. Wait, once again we have these notes of juicy fruits (or say Haribo bears) in the background. Playful! With water: gets a tad straighter and grassier. Hints of sage. Finish: long, with more spices and something toasted in the aftertaste. Vanilla cake? Comments: another good dram from an active barrel. SGP:551 - 85 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Brackla that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness (new window)

February 23, 2010



The Singleton of Auchroisk 1975 (40%, OB, 75cl, +/-1992) Two stars I didn’t quite like a more recent version of this 1975 Auchroisk (WF 68) but maybe this one will be better. Colour: pale gold. Nose: smells very ‘funny’, on cheese, caramel and horse dung, with even notes of rotten oranges. Munster cheese. Hard. Gets then a little quieter, on malt, grass and honey/caramel. Good news! Mouth: easy, malty, honeyed and nutty. Not much happening. Rather light body. Gets a tad meatier after a while (beef jerky). Finish: shortish, a little meaty and honeyed. Orange zests. Comments: certainly not flawed, but this old dram lacks depth in my opinion. Interestingly, one can still find it in some European shops (together with the 1983 vintage). SGP:331 - 72 points.
Auchroisk 34 yo 1975/2009 (45.8%, Jack Wieber, Old Train Line, cask #71820, 206 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: much more discreet than the OB, with a little lemon and grapefruits, ginger tonic, grass and once again a slight cheesiness (very faint). Also a little vanilla. Not easy and certainly not wham-bam. A whispering dram so far. Mouth: much, much more to my liking than on the nose, starting with many citrus fruits and a rather sharp and precise oakiness, most pleasant. Grapefruits, strong green tea and ginger plus notes of fresh strawberries. A little liquorice as well, lemon pie. A very fresh Auchroisk. Finish: rather long, on grapefruits and apple peelings, with quite some pepper from the oak. Comments: the palate is much more inspiring than the nose, the whole tasting rather younger than 34 years. SGP:441 – 85 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Auchroisk that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness (new window)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: rather a whisky song, Lucy DeSoto & The Handsome Devils doing Rolling And Tumbling (on their CD 'Whiskey Dance'). Please buy Lucy DeSoto's music.

Lucy DeSoto

February 22, 2010



Now 13,007 different whiskies and 40,504 scores. 4.6MB. Click to download he Malt Maniacs' Malt Monitor



Tasting three young Glenfarclas

The ‘104’ has a nice story, as explained by John Grant in MM’s group on Facebook:

‘Glenfarclas 12 year old at 104 American proof was first bottled in 1964 when tax on alcohol in the U.S. was based on the “Wine Gallon Assessment” basis. In other words you paid the same duty whether the strength was 75 proof or 100 proof. My late father did not approve of “paying tax on water”, and felt that if we bottled at 100proof the U.S. authorities would check every consignment, so he decided we should bottle at 104 proof and pay the tiny bit extra in duty.’

Glenfarclas 12 yo '104' (104°American proof, OB, US, +/-1988) Four stars This one is the last version, bottled just before they decided to export the 105 British Proof cask strength whisky to the U.S. Colour: amber. Nose: starts rather brutal and spirity, with a lot of sherry and some obvious kirschy notes. It’s also a tad rubbery, with hints of tar and smoke. Calms down a bit after a whikes, getting a tad rounder and more of coffee and chocolate, but the notes of kirsch remain in the background. With water: ho-ho, this became big, organic and very herbal, even after having waited quite some time. Moss and mushrooms, notes of fino sherry, walnuts and leather. Shoe polish, even some deep fat. A little mint. I like it! Mouth (neat): big, fruity, quite sherried and just as kirschy as on the nose when naked. Rather aggressive once again. With water: excellent now, reminding me of many old bottlings of Glenfarclas. Old style sherried Speysider, prunes, raspberry liqueur and liqueur-filled praline. Gets even a tad lemony. Finish: long, with some liquorice coming out. Comments: a tad beastly when undiluted but water makes wonders. I’ve heard this nice baby can still be found in remote places in the US. SGP:451 - 86 points. (heartfelt thanks, Tom B.)

Glenfarclas '105' (60%, OB, +/-2000) Three starsI don’t have an older version at hand but this one should do. Colour: gold, paler than other batches. Nose: much, much less sherry than in the 104 but it’s not really more powerful despite the higher strength. More almonds and grass as well as a little porridge. Now, the sherry kicks in after a few minutes, the whole getting rather closer to the undiluted 104, including these kirschy and faintly rubbery notes and quite some chocolate. With water: farmyard, hay and grains. Much less sherry. Mouth (neat): very powerful, kind of cleaner than the 104, with lots of apples and other garden fruits. Plum spirit and almond liqueur, all that at very high strength. Frankly, it’s a tad hard to enjoy at full strength (S., you sissy!) With water: once again, water worked well even if this one is more herbal and slightly bitter than the 104. Cardamom, a little wasabi, pepper… Also pears and apples. Finish: long, ‘natural’, leaving an oiliness on your palate. Pears in the aftertaste. Comments: I’ve had some 105s that were more sherried and chocolaty, but this one is interesting, even if recent batches have been much superior, by far (some fetching 88 points in my book, imagine). SGP:351 - 82 points.

Glenfarclas 2000/2009 (46%, OB) Three stars and a half A recent version, I think it’s for France. Colour: straw. Nose: very little sherry this time, rather a fruity young spirit, clean but quite complex. Fruit eau-de-vie (but it’s not exactly ‘kirschy’), plums, a little vanilla, some smoke, grains, plain barley and just hints of marzipan. Young but relatively fatter than other young Speysiders. Also roses and peonies (just hints). Mouth: sweet, fruity and grainy young spirit with good mouth feel. Muesli and apple compote, orgeat (almond syrup), and just hints of pears. Once again, it’s rather ‘bigger’ that other Speysiders from refill wood at such young age, maybe because of direct firing. Finish: rather long, clean, fruity, with the same kind of oiliness as in the 105 in the aftertaste. Comments: very young, especially on the nose, but full bodied and very assertive. Close to nature, so to speak. One notch better than the 105, I’d say. SGP:541 - 83 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glenfarclas that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness (new window)
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

While updating the Malt Maniacs Malt Monitor I could extract my Top 15 distilleries based on the number of expressions I have tasted. It's not the same as a Top 15 based on scores because obviously, some names are more available than others.

Caol Ila (271 tasting notes) - Many independent versions. Very consistent.
Highland Park (253) - Many indie and many OBs.
Ardbeg (251) - This should slow down, there are less new indie Ardbegs these days.
Bowmore (214) - I can't resist trying the new young ones, many very good.
Springbank/Longrow (195) - Great old OBs, newer ones are up there as well.
Laphroaig (166) - Remains a star distillery. Loads of new young indies.
Port Ellen (164) - I have a tendency to try to taste just any new one.
Bruichladdich (161) - Many officials, a very large range.
Macallan (158) - ah, the classy old ones. Should slow down.
Clynelish (153) - we can't have enough of them.
Glen Grant (105) - many stunning aged versions.
Longmorn (104) - many by G&M and 'affiliates'. High quality.
Glenfarclas (100) - most officials 'of course'.
Brora (93) - same comments as for Port Ellen ;-)
Glenlivet (92) - classic.

Maybe we'll taste our 300th Caol Ila in 2010? Probably...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Malt Maniacs' Peter Silver aka the Jazz Dentist and his excellent big band aka Blue Nitrous playing a roaring Kinda May. If you're around New York City, make sure you attend one of Blue Nitrous' gigs!

Peter Silver

February 21, 2010



Sometimes one needs a holiday. Let’s have rum if you please, we haven’t had rum since April last year (but let’s not forget that i know next to nothing about rum, so please don’t take my scores into consideration).
Jamaica 5 yo (46%, Murray McDavid, Rum Renegade, enhanced in Tempranillo, 2009) Four stars and a half From Monnymusk distillery, enhanced in Ribera del Duero casks (Pingus? Vega Sicilia? ;-). I’ve read the distillery is now closed. Colour: gold. Nose: wow, this is nice! Warming, starting on typical notes of sugar cane and bananas flambéed but with something ‘extra’, maybe from the Tempranillo (and French oak). Then dried plums, apricots, nougat, coffee-flavoured fudge, even something flinty and maybe even smoky. It’s very elegant, not winey, and does not call for pineapple juice or lemonade at all. So far. Mouth: excellent attack! Once again, there are these typical notes of rum (not kidding) but also that ‘extra-dimension’, with a kind of sweetness that’s not usually to be found in Rum as far as I can tell. Apricots once again, figs, prunes and that very particular grassiness that’s not that far from tequila’s. Also unexpected salty notes (which I had even before I started to talk about tequila). The whole is excellent. Finish: rather long, smooth, with some liquorice now. Comments: super! As complex as a very good malt whisky and way better, I believe, that all the ‘commercial’ rums that I could already try. No obvious signs of ‘red wine finishing’ that I can detect, that is. And ah, holidays!… SGP:750 – between 87 and 89 points.
Guyana 6 yo (46%, Murray McDavid, Rum Renegade, enhanced in Tempranillo, 2009) Four stars From Diamond Distillery, enhanced in Ribera del Duero casks. Colour: pale gold, much lighter than the Jamaican (enhanced in refill?). Nose: completely different, more austere and grassy, but not less elegant. Actually, probably more elegant than the Jamaican. Green bananas, then more walnuts and kind of notes of ‘yellow’ (flor), cut grass, barnyard, roasted peanuts and maybe just a little shoe polish. We’re not that far from malt whisky here, it’s certainly got something ‘malty’. Very, very nice. Mouth: once again, this is drier and grassier than the Jamaican, maybe also a tad hotter and wilder. Also a tad dusty. Then some walnut liqueur, a little aniseed, something peppery… Reminds me a bit of La Réunion’s Savanna. Finish: long, on the same notes. Comments: a little more in the ‘rhum agricole’ style as far as I can tell. Excellent once again but I liked the Jamaican just a little better on the palate. SGP:551 – around 87 points.
Barbados 6 yo (46%, Murray McDavid, Rum Renegade, enhanced in Banyuls, 2009) Four stars This one from Four Square, a rum made out of molasses. Colour: salmony. Nose: oh, this is strange. Notes of cheese, even gym socks, cured ham (huge whiffs!), gherkins (seriously!), even capers, then various spices such as nutmeg and cardamom. Even hints of Tabasco and coal smoke! Not sure I like this, and not sure I dislike it, it’s just very unusual. Let’s see what happens on the palate… Mouth: it’s another rum, much rounder and polished (and less whacky) than on the nose. A lot of orange marmalade, Cointreau, milk chocolate, prunes, even tamarind (but I haven’t tasted tamarind since a long time), blackberry jam, strawberry jam… It’s not quite a drink, it’s a sin! And it’s got a lot of oomph at that. Finish: long, rounded, chocolaty and fruity, with just wee notes of fruity cheese in the aftertaste (comté). Comments: an extremely entertaining drink. Sure the nose is quite… bizarre by the standards of a malt whisky drinker, but fun it is. SGP:651 – around 86 points.
Ron Millonario 15 yo (40%, OB, Peru) According to the excellent Royal Mile Whiskies, this Peruvian rum has a cult following, is distilled in Scottish column stills and is matured using a solera system of American oak casks. Colour: dark amber. Nose: this one is rather shier than the three MMcDs, maybe because of its lower ABV (but as it’s 15yo instead of 5 or 6, I didn’t want to have it first). Starts on dried bananas and pine resin, sultanas, candy sugar and develops more on banana liqueur, liquorice all-sorts and dates. Probably more ‘typical’ than the MMcDs. Predictable? Mouth: extremely rich and much too sweet for my taste, almost cloying. It’s not that it’s bad, not at all, but I feel even maple syrup or plain honey are less sweet than this. Vanilla fudge, Mars bar, cane syrup, Juicy Fruit gum… Too hard to go on… Finish: long but extremely sugary. Comments: the nose was nice, but the palate frankly too sweetish and sticky for my taste, reminding me of some Demeraras. SGP:920 – around 60/65 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: it's cold out there, let's have Joseph Jarman's very lyrical Song To Make The Sun Come Up (from 'As If It Were the Seasons', 1968, recorded before he joined the Art Ensemble). Voice: Sherri Scott. Please buy Joseph Jarman's music.

Joseph Jarman

February 20, 2010


Mammoth Just a funny cartoon that I spotted in Scotland quite some years ago. Probably taken from one of Leo Cullum's books... (he's a cartoonist for The New Yorker). Woolly-mammoth? Maybe was it Shackleton's infamous iced whisky?

February 19, 2010

A shortish Glenlivet verticale (this and that…)

Mostly old ones but let’s start with a well-known middle-aged official version. I always liked those even if they’re usually a tad undemanding. Perfect as a starter!

Glenlivet 'Archive' 21yo (43%, OB, batch#0209C, +/- 2009) Four stars Colour: pale amber. Nose: typical Glenlivet, mildly sherried and rather nutty and toasted, with hints of wood smoke. Chocolate cake, Seville oranges and just a little tar. Moderately expressive but very nicely balanced. Gets rather grassier and nuttier after a few minutes with also hints of green bananas and maybe a faint flintiness. Very nice, slightly shy whisky. Mouth: more character than on the nose, with a rather nervous attack on malt and coffee, with oranges and cinnamon in the background. Goes on more or less on the same notes. Roasted nuts. Finish: medium long but perfectly balanced, roasted, with quite some bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. A little green tea as well. Comments: probably no racehorse but it’s superbly composed and won’t disappoint anybody. One of the best ‘easy/commercial’ malts in my opinion. SGP:341 - 87 points.
Glenlivet 1971/2007 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #6450) Five stars Not the first time I try this baby but I never wrote any tasting notes. Go figure. Colour: gold. Nose: straighter than the 21yo, rather less toasted and malty but also more fruity and honeyed. Notes of pollen, apricots, orange cake, roasted peanuts and just wee hints of wood smoke again. Quite perfect! More sherry coming through after a while, a little raspberry eau-de-vie, blackcurrant buds, roses… Mouth: sweet, fruity and creamy, pretty perfect. Excellent body. Notes of candied tropical fruits, oranges, ripe apples, ‘arranged rum’ (with pineapples) and then just the right amount of spices and herbs to prevent it from becoming ueberfruity. Finish: long, rich, candied, fruity, fresh, clean… Comments: maybe not utterly distinctive but otherwise absolutely perfect. A good example of a 90 points whisky in my book.  SGP:541 - 90 points.
Glenlivet 39 yo 1970/2010 (50.9%, Duncan Tayor, Rare Auld, cask #2007) Four stars A brand new bottling from Duncan Taylor’s large stash of well-aged Glenlivets. Colour: gold. Nose: this one hasn’t any of the sherry notes that both the 21 and the 1971 had. It starts rather more on marzipan and overripe apples, that wee smokiness again, and develops mostly on honey and very nice flowery notes. Smoked dandelions? Once again, balance is perfect here and no obvious oakiness comes through. At least no tannins or tea-ish notes because there is a little vanilla. Mouth: it is a tad oaky at the attack but also unexpectedly bubblegummy at such old age. Not youngish, that is, but these sugary and perfumy notes were unexpected. Turkish delights, marshmallows, rose-flavoured sweets… Very funny! All that calms down a bit after a moment, leaving room for more vanilla and oak (green tea). Orange drops, tinned litchis, strawberries. Finish: not too long, the huge sweetness suddenly vanishes. Quite some bitterish oak in the aftertaste but it isn’t over the top. Comments: a spectacular whisky, was it finished in an ex-Wrigley cask? Seriously, it’s very good but, well, a tad bizarre. Worth trying for sure. SGP:741 - 85 points.
Glenlivet 34 yo 1968/2003 (50.6%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection) Two stars Colour: gold. Nose: the first one that’s less of an all-rounder, with these unexpected notes of soot and shoe polish on top of more smoke than in the others. Not sure I’d have guessed Glenlivet here. Development more on cider, smoked fish (serious), leather and pipe tobacco. An ex-Islay cask? Also notes of old white wine. Very nice nose but I’m very curious about the palate, could be hit or miss with such a nose. Mouth: well, bizarre it is. Some peat, something plastic-like, salt, bitter herbs, something metallic and ‘chemical’… Is this flawed or not? Let’s add water and see. With water: not quite. A little less ‘chemical’ but also more cardboardy. Finish: long, a tad straighter now but still quite, well, unusual. Quite some pepper. Comments: a tad weirdo so to speak. The nose was quite nice but the palate was, well, highly unusual. A professional blender would tell us if it would be classified as flawed or not, too bad I haven’t any at hand. SGP:263 - 75 points (for the nose).
Glenlivet 1967/1994 'Oak Port Cask Matured' (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, casks 8923-24-25) Two stars A rather strange old bottling, fully matured in ex-Port casks. Colour: amber/apricot. Nose: this works! Creamy and candied, rather big at just 40% vol., but also expectedly different, even if no Port as such is detectable. Now, it is kind of winey, with hints of old sweet wine (rather white than red). Old Muscat? Also a tad mushroomy and weirdly resinous (glue, retsina wine – not that retsina usually smells like glue, mind you). Faint meatiness as well, beef jerky, Grisons meat. Fades away a bit after a few minutes. Once again, I’m curious about the palate. Mouth: nope! Once again, the palate is way ‘below’ the nose even if this isn’t really chemical. Let’s say it’s pretty much on blackcurrant Jell-o and dusty old wine, getting then sort of chalky and papery. Cheap ‘chemical’ cranberry juice. Finish: quite long and a tad nicer now. Liquorice allsorts and blackcurrant jelly plus a little pepper and cloves. Comments: certainly different but it’s almost as ‘twisted’ as the 1968. Also fruitier. SGP:531 - 74 points.
Glenlivet 26 yo 1959/1985 (46%, Cadenhead’s, Dumpy Black label) Four stars and a half Colour: brown/mahogany. Nose: haha, old sherry, soot and OBE with flying colours at first nosing! Could be any unpeated malt, such is the sherry’s ‘heaviness’ here. Loads of coffee and chocolate, walnut liqueur, a little spearmint, hints of very old cognac, ham and something pleasantly metallic. Extreme profile that I didn’t find in any recent bottling, this one was probably from a true sherry cask (no seasoned custom-built ‘sherry’ casks). Superb dryness but let’s check the palate, maybe it’s too dry… Mouth: it’s not. Granted, it is very dry and starts all on bitter chocolate, but the development is long and gripping. Liquorice, ashes, shoe polish (not that I eat that every morning), natural tar sweets or pine tar liqueur (tried once, never forgotten!), coffee beans, cardamom… Also something that I unknowingly tried one day, and I’m sure you’ll find this pretty ridiculous: dried ant abdomens like they have in Brazil. Please don’t quote me on this, thanks. Finish: medium long, just as dry and still extremely chocolaty. Comments: okay, please forget about the stupid passage on ant abdomens. This is very spectacular despite the dryness that could be seen as excessive. SGP:271 – 89 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Glenlivet that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness (new window)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the easiest side of the great Chick Corea, with his groovey and playful Fickle funk (it's on 1978's Secret Agent). Just fab. Please, please buy Chick Corea's music...

Chick Corea

February 18, 2010

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
31st January 2010

The reviled leader of the equally reviled British National Party (BNP) recently made it known that Eliza Carthy was one of his favourite singers.  Indeed this fascist group have been trying to take some degree of ownership of English (and for that matter, Scottish and Welsh) folk music for some time, presumably to try to grab some cultural richness for their perverted view of patriotism. 


It’s sad (and not a little ironic) to see great compilations of folk music for sale on their website, which must infuriate the artists featured.  Certainly Griffin’s claim infuriated Carthy, who was provoked to write a pretty stiff letter to the Guardian (which had reported the fact) repudiating Griffin’s alleged liking of her work, and clearly restating her own anti-racist credentials (not that it  was really necessary).  And it is ironic that while the BNP might like to conjure up Maypoles and Morris Men as symbols of a golden age of a pure English past, the fact of the matter is that folk music, despite its rustic charms, has always leant towards radicalism and socialism.  Now I don’t want to start sounding like boring old Billy Bragg, who has his own rose-tinted spectacles which give him a rather myopic view of the realties of the past, but I will concede that ‘the tradition’ and ‘the struggle’ are as closely linked as the arms of the protestors who famously manned the barricades against Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in Cable Street in 1936Not that that doesn’t stop the folk movement from worrying, if not obsessing, about nationality, and the concept of Englishness.  Which is where The Imagined Village comes from; a collective of musicians put together in 2004 by Simon Emmerson of the Afro Celt Sound System “as a way of exploring our musical roots and identity as English musicians and music makers”, at a time when “it is more relevant now than ever to question who decides what it is to be authentic and English and more importantly what it is that makes us proud to be English musicians”.

The first incarnation of the Imagined Village boasted participants such as Billy Bragg, Benjamin Zephaniah and Paul Weller.  This more recent incarnation, touring to promote the new album Empire and Love, is a scaled-down version, but still has the feel of a folk super group, featuring as it does both Eliza and Martin Carthy, and Chris Wood.  Wood is another one who can’t seem to get ‘Englishness’ out of his system.  He’s the founder of the English Acoustic Collective, a group “grounded in a love for their common cultural inheritance…” seeking “to articulate and amplify the case for authentic and meaningful indigenous forms of cultural expression”. 

Imagined Village

An anthology of his earlier work goes under the name of Albion, and in his half-hour warm-up set, he sings some very well-crafted songs from his new album Handmade Life, where songs such as ‘Spitfire’ (“there goes the sound of another England”) return to his favourite theme.  ‘My darling’s downsized’ and his musings on allotments began to sound a little like painfully contrived variety show songs, more Victoria Wood than Chris Wood.  But ‘Hollow point’, which slowly revealed itself as a narrative of Jean Charles de Menezes’ fateful last walk to work was a really masterful composition, making it clear why Wood (currently touring the UK for anyone who is interested) has earned so many awards and plaudits.

When Imagined Village take the stage the centre is dominated by the two Carthys, but what makes their performance so captivating is the contribution of the other musicians, drawn in from a variety of different cultural and musical backgrounds.  To be honest, there’s nothing strikingly remarkable or innovative about what they’re doing, and I don’t really buy all of the sham pseudo-intellectual nonsense about national identity.  What’s really different here is that an outstanding dollop of indigenous talent has been brought together to produce fine reinterpretations of some ‘classic’ English tunes. Sheema Mukherjee’s droning sitar adds a haunting presence to songs like ‘Scarborough Fair’ (“here’s one that Martin taught to Paul Simon”) and ‘Sweet Jane’, and it’s matched by Wood’s voice, transformed from the cheeky-chappie of his solo set into a pained and mournful drone, perfectly matching the sitar.  Mukherjee’s voice is also a crucial part of the complex vocal arrangements on ‘The handweaver and the factory girl’.  This song was also interesting because a careful study of Emmerson’s cittern playing revealed what a difference he did make to the structure of the songs: it was too easy, but simply not true to think that he was a redundant member of the band.  At the back, Andy Gangadeen played drums and Johnny Kalsi several varieties of percussion and a very theatrical Dhol, which got the Sunday night (predominantly white and Observer-hugging) audience very excited in a way that frankly I found somewhat patronising.  But Kalsi and Gangadeen, along with bassist Ali Friend, gave provided spine for songs like ‘My son John’, as did the updated lyrics which brought in the current conflict in Afghanistan.  And something totally unexpected was Simon Richmond’s keyboards, samples and wonderfully played Theremin, which shone on songs like ’Space girl’, and provided yet more haunting atmosphere (how much haunting do you want in one night?) on ‘Lark in the morning’.  It goes without saying that both generations of the Carthy family on stage were superb. The Village were joined by younger members of the Copper family, who provided a ensemble finale of ‘The hard times of old England’, as good a tune as I can think of for England in 2010.

Imagined Village

And apart from Eliza Carthy’s understandable fury at being associated with the BNP, what else did we learn from the evening?  Well, according to Martin Carthy, the song ‘My son John’ was apparently collected from a family in Bedford.  We then learnt that the couple next to us came from Bedford (“yeah, Bedford”).  We also pretty soon learnt that one of them was an enthusiastic but hopelessly tuneless non-stop singalong artist.  And I discovered from the Photographer, at length, that even if you are the grand old man of English folk, you don’t fuck around with songs by Slade, which Carthy and the ensemble did as they performed ‘Cum on feel the noize’ as an encore. 

“Like a lot of folk music, it’s one in the eye for the moralising middle classes’ said Emmerson in an interview.  Hmmmmm.  Jozzer said later “It’s a pop song.  It should be played loud.  In two minutes”.  Especially when the Photographer’s got a tuneless Bedfordshire warbler warbling in her ear.  Ouch! - Nick Morgan


Listen: The Imagined Village on Myspace




Glentauchers 1991 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-2009) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: starts on roasted marshmallows (a delight when I was a boy scout) and Turkish delights, then more ripe apples and something slightly perfumy (rosewater, old style perfume), all that on a layer of cooked butter and vanilla crème. Also dairy cream. Rather singular and very pleasant, unlike any other malt whisky in my opinion. Having said that, it loses steam a bit after a few minutes and these very fragrant notes tend to disappear. Mouth: sweet, all on cooked apples and a little cinnamon, getting then a tad dusty/cardboardy. Roasted nuts, sweetened black tea and grains. Less ‘singular’ as on the nose. Finish: medium long, grassy, maybe a tad bitter. Comments: a very interesting dram, kind of ‘honest’, with a rather spectacular nose. SGP:341 – 79 points.
Glentauchers 16 yo 1990/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2, cask #14434) Two stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is much straighter and less emphatic than the G&M, that is to say grassier, maltier and more on various grains and cereals. There’s also a little wood smoke and, just like in the G&M, a little cooked butter and milk. Maybe just whiff of old roses. Mouth: very grassy and a tad bitterish and slightly burnt. Freeze-dried tea, hints of strawberry drops. Not very appealing I’m afraid, but okay. Finish: medium long, still a bit burnt/bitter. Comments: not bad but at the lower end of Duncan Taylor’s usually great range in my opinion. Not bad but not very interesting, in fact. SGP:251 - 72 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Glentauchers that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness (new window)

February 17, 2010


A Karuizawa verticale: stairway to heaven? (what a cheap headline)

To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Karuizawa before around 2003. Today, despite its 'unpeatedness', it became the Port Ellen of the Japanese. (photograph of distillery by Chris at Nonjatta.com)

Karuizawa 13 yo 1988/2001 'Vintage' (59.3%, OB, cask #7683) Four stars Colour: old. Nose: rather hot and a tad rough, starting on kirsch, orange liqueur and maybe hints of rubber. More and more gunpowder, gets quite vinous. Rather youngish so far, it’ll probably need quite some water. With water: much, much, much nicer! More on various herbs, pine resin and mint. Nice freshness. Hints of clay. Mouth (neat): thick and extremely sweet and perfumy. Tinned litchis and oranges, kirsch again, a bitterness… Extremely hot and powerful. Water needed again! With water: just as rich and concentrated, with more gingery/oriental notes. Tastes a tad older than 13yo now. Very pleasant notes of lime. Finish: long, citrusy and coating at the same time. The Sweet ginger is back in the aftertaste. Comments: this one didn’t stop improving! Ah, precious water… SGP:551 - 87 points.

Karuizawa 1987

Karuizawa 15 yo 1987/2003 'Vintage' (60.2%, OB, cask #2114) Three stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: we aren’t too far from the 1988 but it’s rather more polished and less winey. More fudge and caramel, butterscotch and mild ‘sherriness’. Whiffs of sour apples, damp wood, freshly sawn oak. With water: oh, immense whiffs of menthol! Vicks! Then mint-flavoured nougat. Once again, water works great even if the difference is less striking than with the 1988. Hints of soft cheese as well. Mouth (neat): thick, fat and very spicy at the attack, with a lot of ginger. High wood extraction it seems. With water: indeed. The oak got louder, and so did the spices. Pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. Loses points here. Also a tad cardboardy. Finish: long but rather oaky. Comments: exactly the opposite of the 1988. Started better, ended ‘worse’ and doesn’t swim too well. SGP:452 - 80 points.

Karuizawa 15 yo 1986/2002 'Vintage' (59.1%, OB, cask #4988) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: no obvious sherry influence this time, rather more almonds and vanilla. A tad bourbonny. Quite fresh but once again, it’s ultra-powerful so water is needed. With water: not much development this time. Maybe more flints and a faint earthiness. Grass. Mouth (neat): once again, a very powerful attack, on sweet vanilla and apple jelly. Some oranges as well, lemon honey… It’s a very nervous one. With water: not unlike the 1988, only with more oak and less roundness at this point. Citrons. Finish: long, the oak getting bigger in the aftertaste (a lot of pepper), closer to the 1987.  Quite tannic. Comments: ‘wood technology inside’. Fresh oak? SGP:451 - 81 points.


Karuizawa 1985/2009 (60.8%, OB, No.1 Drinks Company, cask #7017) Four stars and a half Colour: full amber with red hues. Nose: quite some struck matches at first nosing (sulphur) but that slowly disappears, leaving room for a big candied sherry, toffee, dried figs, blackberry jam and quite some chocolate. A little leather. With water: water does not kill the sulphur but it does reduce its effects. Still a tad leathery and maybe even ‘medicinal’ (or encaustic?) The other aromas didn’t change much. Mouth (neat): very rich, thick, oily, with that ‘sulphur’ striking again in the attack (it’s almost smoky but it isn’t smoky as such, if you see what I mean), some ashes, paraffin, bitter oranges, resin, cardamom and then classic slightly mouldy sherry… With water: its best part. Even more pine resin, wax, orange drops… Great body at +/-45% vol. Finish: rather long, on exactly the same flavours. Some tannins in the aftertaste, which is pretty normal.
Comments: well, if you hate ‘gunpowder’, this isn’t for you. If you think it can be an asset to a malt whisky, rush out before it’s too late. Me? I’ll choose a rather conservatory score. SGP:543 - 88 points.

Karuizawa 1982

Karuizawa 1982/2009 (56.1%, OB, No.1 Drinks Co for TWE 10th Anniversary, First Fill Sherry, Cask#2748) Five stars This one almost fetched gold at the MM Awards 2009 (high silver). Colour: amber. Nose: a different planet here, this more sumptuous and wonderfully balanced, with many ‘candied’ aromas, nougat, café latte, raspberry liqueur, oranges, Nutella (not kidding), then old rancio, walnuts… Fantastic, even at such high strength. With water: wow! Earth and mint, then various fresh mushrooms (no mouldiness). Even truffles (but not these, err, sulphury notes that sometimes come with truffles). Mouth (neat): it’s a tad less rounded now, and probably more vinous than on the nose, but the earthiness is superb, as well as all the notes of herbs and teas. Mint, hawthorn, lemon balm… All that coated with a sauce made out of prunes and oranges.
With water: more oak but it’s a flavourful oak, adding many spicy and vegetal notes that aren’t so common in whisky. Savory? Mother-of-thyme? Finish: long, oak-coated thus maybe a tad dry-as-dust but it actually works greatly, with quite some mint and even a little eucalyptus counterbalancing the whole in the aftertaste. Comments: a rich, mature yet restless dram. I scored it 91 points at the MM Awards so I won’t change the rating, but I might have gone a tad higher… SGP:562 - 91 points.

Karuizawa 21 yo 1981/2003 'Vintage' (58.6%, OB, cask #2409) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: extremely close to the 1982, only a wee tad rougher and more on the fruity side. But both style and quality are up there so far. With water: same development as with the 1982, only a tad less complex now. A lot of mint but no truffles this time, too bad. I had thought this one would have been the winner. Mouth (neat): once again, this is extremely close to the 1982. Maybe a tad more complex (yes, even more complex), with more tertiary aromas, and an even wider range of herbs and spices and quite some prune sauce (like they make in China or Vietnam, so fabulous). With water: okay, please read above. Maybe even more oomph. Finish: more oomph indeed. Even longer, with extra spices and touches of old-fashioned herbal liqueurs. Comments: very, very, very high standards. To think that we never heard of Karuizawa until quite recently… SGP:562 - 92 points.

Karuizawa 1976

And also Karuizawa 32 yo 1976/2009 'Noh' (63%, OB, No.1 Drinks Company, sherry butt, cask #6719, 486 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: once again we’re within the same style as with the 1982 and 1981, although this one seems to be a tad more polished and a little less sherried. Very obvious notes of tangerine liqueur (Madarine Impériale). It seems that this is great but at 63% abv, let’s not take chances by nosing it too deeply… With water: high viscimetric index! ;-). Right, right, this one is the closest to the greatest Scotches within the bunch, and I can’t help thinking of a great old HP. Mouth (neat): once again, we’re in the same territories, although this seems to a little more on the oaky side… Or maybe not, hard to say at 63%. Burns your throat as soon as you ingest more than half a drop. With water: exceptional, just exceptional. Time to call the anti-maltoporn brigade if you please… Finish: wow.
Comments: no whisky, pure sin – and big cojones. Not very far from the stunning 1967 for LMdW and TWE… As for the price - around £130, well, it may let a few Scots die of shame.  SGP:662 - 94 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Japanese that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Nonjatta (new window)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: excellent energizing soul blues by Francine Reed, it's called Foolin' With My Respect and it's on her CD 'Can't Make It On My Own'. Please buy Francine Reed's music.

Francine Reed


In PDF this time: Nabil Mailloux' 'Peak Whisky' E-pistle explains the crude truth about the relation between whisky and oil. A must read!


February 16, 2010

Tasting four Highland Park exclusive to travel retail

Highland Park

The three ‘Vintages’ we’ll have will be in the market around April this year, alongside a 1973 at higher strength.

Highland Park 1998/2010 (40%, OB, travel retail, 1l) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: very ‘Highland Park’! Hardly a surprise but this one is rather ‘chiselled’ so to speak, which makes a few main aromas really stand out. First, it’s rather smokier than the usual HP, with a fairly distinct peatiness. Then, we have some fresh mint (and maybe just a little aniseed), then these notes of heather honey and finally a very pleasant minerality (flints). All that on top of hints of grains and porridge. Gets more honeyed over time, with some, well, ‘honeyed’ sherry coming out. It reminds me a little of some much older bottlings. Anyway, very nice nose and no weakness despite the low strength. Mouth: good attack, not big but not weak, rather more malty and nutty than on the nose. The sherry is also a tad more noticeable. Apple, toasted bread, a little toffee, a little coffee, cornflakes… Nice bitterness after that. Chlorophyll. Finish: medium long and quite dry, clean. Some liquorice and ‘green’ spices in the aftertaste – make that chlorophyll again. Comments: a very pleasant HP, rather more austere and ‘restrained’ than other youngish versions. An elegant dram. SGP:353 - 84 points.

Highland Park 1994/2010 (40%, OB, travel retail) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: more mature, obviously, and even more aromatic than the 1998, globally more honeyed and jammy. Orange marmalade. Having said that, it’s as flinty and mineral, and maybe even a little metallic, pleasantly so. Maybe also a little more coastal with whiffs of brine, also a little leather. It’s an expressive nose (once again, despite the low strength), rather complex. Mouth: richer and fruitier than the 1998, seemingly more powerful as well. Dried fruits, apricots, fir honey, candied lemon zests and a few spices (quite some nutmeg). Maybe more ‘Highland Park’ than the 1998, and probably easier. Finish: long, with more citrus fruits. A grassiness in the aftertaste, mint, a faint tannicity as well. Comments: more a classic HP than the 1998 in my opinion and something that reminds me of the excellent old regular 12s from the 1980s, with maybe just a little less ‘fat’. Less creamy. SGP:451 - 85 points.

Highland Park 1990/2010 (40%, OB, travel retail) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: quite curiously, this one isn’t quite as expressive as the younger ones even if I do get a little smoke and a rather obvious peat. Marginally more leathery than the ’94. Becomes quite ‘tertiary’ over time, with whiffs of herbs (Provence herbs, thyme, even hints of olives), a little paraffin oil, a little shoe polish and just hints of honeydew. Also a little camphor and eucalyptus coming through after a while. Fruitcake but not much, ham. A complex nose, just not a big one. Maybe this one would have deserved to be bottled at 43 or 46%? Mouth: indeed, it does lack a little more oomph, the attack being a tad ‘flabby’, but it does take off after a few seconds in your mouth, contrarily to many whiskies that display a nice attack but that drop in the middle. Quite the opposite here. Amusing notes of OBE (old bottle effect) – and this one isn’t even on the shelves yet! Some mint, bitter liquorice, various herbal teas, spices, touches of honey, rosehip tea, some tobacco… A very interesting palate. Finish: medium long, on more or less the same notes of ‘old whisky’. Still quite resinous, with a little peat as well. A lot of cough syrup in the aftertaste as well as something metallic. Comments: again, this is excellent but it would have deserved a higher strength. You may amplify the nose using proper glassware but there isn’t much you can do for the palate… I’m sure it would have gained 3 or 4 extra-points in my book at 45/46%. SGP:352 - 86 points.

Highland Park 21 yo (40%, OB, travel retail, 2009) Four stars This is the newer version at 40% vol. instead of the earlier 47.5% version. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is completely different. Not really big and rather grassier and more resinous than the three ‘vintages’. Also grassier than the older 21 at 47.5% vol. Develops on walnuts, apple pie, leather, hints of raisins and wee floral notes (dandelions?) Hints of wet cloth, damp clay, earth, almond… It’s very nice and subtle but it whispers a bit too much in a tasting glass. It would probably benefit from a large cognac glass (aka fishbowl ;-)) Mouth: creamier and oilier than all three ‘vintages’, probably a little bigger as well but I wouldn’t say it’s ‘big’ whisky. Many citrus fruits (oranges, bergamots), then a ‘greenness’ (apple peeling, fresh walnuts, green tea), some honey (but it’s less honeyed than other HPs) and finally some classic spices. Ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Finish: medium long, on just the same notes plus a little pepper. Comments: very good, potent HP but once again, a few more degrees would have been welcome. Even 3, like in all these old glorious ‘dumpies’! But hey, WF isn’t ‘the market’, and certainly not the ‘travel market’. SGP:441 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Highland Park that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness (new window)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: just the right amount of strings in Hampton Hawes' 1969 version of The music that makes me dance (from Hampton Hawes Plays Movie Musicals). Hampton Hawes was a great pianist, let's buy his music!

Hampton Hawes

February 15, 2010

Glen Mhor

Tasting two Glen Mhor

Glen Mhor 1982/2009 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #1231) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: starts unusually gentle and rounded for Glen Mhor, on notes of flowers from the fields and apple and pear pies, honey and fruit salad (tinned fruits). It’s only after a moment that more ‘secondary’ aromas do arise, with some shoe polish, apple peelings and coal, then something like unlit menthol cigarette. We’re finally back on tinned apricots and a wee grassy smokiness. No big meaty, grassy or sooty notes in this Glen Mhor, which is unexpectedly elegant and complex. Glen Mhor de salon? Mouth: well, not quite as ‘de salon’ as on the nose, rather more ‘warped’ but not as much so as other Glen Mhors. Somewhere between both worlds. Sour apples, orange cake, chlorophyll gum, liquorice, then coffee drops and a little marmalade. Very good body and some character for sure. Finish: long, more on coffee and just a little kirsch. A ‘leatheriness’ in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, old style but accessible, probably an easy introduction to Glen Mhor, before they’re all gone (remember, distillery closed in 1983). Fairly priced too (+/- £70) SGP:552 - 89 points.

Glen Mhor 1975 (60.9%, Cadenhead's, white label, cask #931, +/-1993) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: yes, here’s the usual Glen Mhor. Hugely huge, ultra-grassy, aggressive, sooty and ashy, with big notes of Barbour grease, green almonds and bitter apples. Really powafull. Some chocolate and coffee from the alcohol. Maybe also something slightly ‘chemical’. Alka-Seltzer? With water: well, it didn’t become any smoother or rounder, even at +/-40%. Grass juice and bitter almonds, then a little menthol and just hints of dry white wine (sauvignon blanc). Lemon. I told you, a beast. Mouth (neat): ouch! Very powerful, ultra-grassy again, very lemony… And the rest I couldn’t detect because it’s really too strong. With water: ho-ho-ho, it just started to do ‘the peacock’s tail’, being both very compact (grassy and ashy) but extremely ‘wide’ within that scope. Err, it’s hard to explain. Say it’s got each and every tiny flavours that range from extreme ash to extreme grass. Many herbs, hydrocarbons, minerals, grass… Finish: very long, flinty, still very precise. More lemon. Comments: a spectacular malt, maybe not for beginners but the absence of any oakiness, whether dry or sweet, further enhances its ‘precision’. Superb, a shame that these old bottlings are so hard to find these days. SGP:273 - 92 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glen Mhor that we tried so far (new window)
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness (new window)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: remember Martha Reeves & The Vandellas and that good old Jimmy Mack who didn't want to come back? Let's listen to the James Taylor Quartet trying to make Jimmy Mack come back again (on Don't Mess with Mr. T/James Taylor Quartet Plays Motown). Please buy the James Taylor Quartet's music.

James Taylor

February 2010 - part 1 <--- February 2010 - part 2 ---> March 2010 - part 1

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

Glenlivet 1971/2007 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #6450)

Glen Mhor 1975 (60.9%, Cadenhead's, white label, cask #931, +/-1993)

Karuizawa 21 yo 1981/2003 'Vintage' (58.6%, OB, cask #2409)

Karuizawa 1982/2009 (56.1%, OB, No.1 Drinks Co for TWE 10th Anniversary, First Fill Sherry, Cask#2748)

Karuizawa 32 yo 1976/2009 'Noh' (63%, OB, No.1 Drinks Company, sherry butt, cask #6719, 486 bottles)