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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2012 - Part 1

January 2012 - part 2 <--- February 2012 - part 1 ---> February 2012 - part 2


February 14, 2012


Shameless tasting for Valentine's Day, young very old and very old young whiskies

You’re probably not without knowing that there’s a new ueber-bling Johnnie Walker ‘Diamond Jubilee’ that retails for around US$ 150,000 and guess what, we won’t try it (because we haven’t got it, eh…), but to find consolation, we’ll have a nice wee beast from 1912 that’s obviously even rarer, head-to-head with a former ‘rarest Johnnie Walker’, the Baccarat Edition that was issued for Mr Walker’s 200th birthday a few years ago. Let’s shamelessly bathe in luxury today!...



Old Liqueur Pre War Whisky 1912/1922 (17 up, Dundee Supply Company) Five stars A very interesting bottle, although it’s impossible to know whether this was single malt, vatted malt or a blend. It could be from one of those long gone distilleries that were still active in 1912, such as Ardlussa in Campbeltown, or Stromness on Orkney… Who knows? As for the bottlers and as written on the label, they were ‘Wine merchants and Italian warehousemen’, an old designation for delicatessen. And regarding the strength of ’17 up’, that means 17 under proof, so 83° UK proof, that is to say around 47.3% vol. if I’m not mistaken. Colour: full gold. Nose: smells like malt whisky, and a peated one at that, but many malts were peated at the time so that doesn’t mean it’s an Islayer. In fact, it’s quite amazing that the peat smoke remained so loud and clear after all these years, but it’s also true that long driven corks used to make for much better closures than today’s tiny corks. So, a lot of peat smoke and other smokes, some burnt bread, cigar ashes, old stove, gunpowder and then a very complex mix of Barbour grease, leather, black Corinthian raisins, camphor and freshly sawn pine wood. What’s sure is that it’s spectacularly vivid and expressive – and extremely dry, manzanilla-style. Mouth: amazingly creamy, citrusy and peaty, big-bodied, becoming more peppery and gingery by the minute. An ode to driven corks! Bitter oranges, Jägermeister, liquorice, peppermint… There’s actually more and more mint, which is something I’ve often found in very, very old whiskies. Was that already there in the beginnings? What’s sure is that this is brilliant almost-Shackletonian whisky ;-). Finish: amazingly long, still very smoky and mentholated, with some citron and lemongrass in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe this was single malt whisky, or a blend containing a very high proportion of one single peated malt. Fascinating whisky, that I’d describe as ‘globally peatier and drier’ than modern offerings. SGP:356 - 92 points.


Johnnie Walker Blue Label 'Baccarat' (60.5%, OB, blend, 200th anniversary, 2005) Five stars I believe there's been different versions of this baby, some recently bottled at 40% or 57% under various names but in the very same decanter, while the original one that we'll have today was bottled at even higher ‘cask’ strength, that is to say 60.5% vol. (for the bicentenary, in 2005). It's said to contain the oldest and rarest malt whiskies but one cannot not wonder how the strength could be so high if the whiskies inside were so old... Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s absolutely incredible that this baby is actually quite close to the old Dundonian, as it starts on almost as much peat smoke and a very comparable oomph. Frankly, they’re very similar whiskies, although this JW has a little more fruits such as blackberries and hints of oranges. Maybe a little more bacon as well. Me likes this! With water: more differences with water. The smokiness is almost as big as in the Dundonian but there are even more fruits. Very nice shoe polish/soot combo in the background. Mouth (neat): … and once again, we’re in an old style, rich and dry at the same time, very smoky and sappy and not too hot. Wonderful development on many tart fruits that keep the whole ‘flying’, lemon, tangerine, grapefruits… Even touches of strawberries. Well, this baby had to be good, I guess, and it is, no doubt. With water: more earth, leather, mushrooms and tobacco. A little green tea as well. Finish: very long, more and more on bitter oranges but it seems that the peat still had a lot to say in the aftertaste. Comments: right, it’s the kind of bottling that us malt aficionados love to hate. First, because of its ‘bling’ side (but no worries, many malt brands seem to be catching up ;-)) and second, because of all the great old malts that were probably sacrificed. Well, it’s still my opinion but I won’t deny that the end result was of the highest orders in this case. A very great, very old style whisky, and I cannot see why I’d give it a different score. Well worth 92! Ha, blends! SGP:455 - 92 points.
(with heartfelt thanks to Pat and Pierre)


Sir, this is a revolution!
I keep getting gentle pushes from many friends who think WF should go Web 2.0 (3.0, 4.0, 5.0…) and I keep telling them that the Jaguar E-Type Series 1 was a much nicer car than all its ‘updates’ (same with many other nice little items in my opinion…)

Having said that, sadly, WF isn’t a Jaguar E-Type (no kidding) so maybe we could do something indeed, now that we’ve reached our 6,500,000th visit and our highest month ever in January. But what? I think I’ve got an idea, and it’s going to be a revolution, I tell you… And as usual, no sacrifice too great, no task too difficult... trumpets please, drum roll… Yeah, to rejuvenate this measly website, we’ll simply remove the annoying eyelets that we had in each top corner of WF’s main frame! I told you, a revolution…


The nasty eyelet The revolution!
With thanks to Geert. Check Brora cashmere

MUSIC - Recommended listening: maybe you remember when Mr Hancock's Headhunters returned, around 1997? There were many punchy and bouncy pieces, one of my favs having been Skank it (from the album 'Return of the Headhunters!', obviously). Please buy the Headhunters' music.


February 13, 2012


Tasting three official sherried Glendronach 1972 plus aperitifs

We know what that means, quite some wonders to be expected! And as we like to do from time to time, we’ll kick this off with a little aperitif at low strength. Right, make that two… Or maybe three…

Dronach Moon

Glendronach 1971/1990 (43%, Moon Import, The Birds, sherry, 600 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark brown amber. Nose: ah well, this is simply the most complex and richest kind of raisiny sherry-matured malt one can find on Earth. In other words, an avalanche of fruitcakes, figs, dates, sultanas, dried bananas and even touches of Demerara, then old balsamico. What’s quite incredible is that it remained extremely elegant and never ‘too much’, which may partly come from bottle ageing. It’s also a bit similar to the best old cognacs. Mouth: probably a little less polished now, maybe a little metallic in a certain way, but it’s still very excellent. Notes of strawberry jam and then more marmalade and liquorice, as well as some cloves, star anise and cinnamon. And what a body at 43% vol.! Finish: medium long, on a combination of coffee and liquorice, with some mint and more liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: quite amazing, almost on par with the best old Macallans in a similar style. This little session starts well! SGP:452 - 91 points.

Dronach Prest

Glendronach 18 yo 1970 (43%, The Prestonfield, Highlander, casks #542-558, +/-1988) Four stars and a half These 1970s by Signatory and affiliated names are a bit hard to track down and understand, as we’ll find different combinations of the same cask numbers under various labels. But who cares, should be excellent… Colour: reddish mahogany. Nose: this baby is rather drier, more on malt, coffee, chocolate and roasted nuts than the Moon, although global styles are rather similar. It becomes also a little more herbal (parsley, which we often find in so-called sherry monsters) and even a little sooty and mineral, quite unexpectedly. What’s sure is that it’s another brilliant nose. Mouth: very, very strange now, and I’m not meaning badly so. Starts on notes of oysters and curry, which reminds me of some manzanilla (but this is oloroso, I’m almost sure) and develops rather on strawberry drops and bitter oranges, with a feeling of squash, then plain orange drops. Quite some green tea and bacon as well and a little tonic water. Quite unusual. Finish: rather long, drier, on bitter chocolate and again something slightly metallic. Comments: some parts are totally fab, some others maybe a notch disturbing (on the palate). That may come from the bottle methinks. SGP:462 - 89 points.

But let’s try another old 1970 just to double-check all that…


Glendronach 1970/1990 (56%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry, casks #513-518) Five starsColour: full amber. Nose: well, we’re much closer to the Moon here, with the very same kind of rich, fruity sherriness. I’m meaning bags of dried figs, bananas, kumquats, sultanas, dates, then prunes, toffee… Ultra-classic sherry monster of high quality. With water: great, typical development of a classy sherry monster, that is to say more tobacco, leather, smoked tea, balsamico, Seville oranges… Absolutely superb! Mouth (neat): perfect nervous, citrusy sherry this time. Many marmalades, bergamot, kumquat, raisins, citrons… And a pleasant dryness behind all that (cocoa powder) that prevents it from becoming cloying. Well in the style of several great sherry monsters that Signatory had at the time (Glenlivets, Fetterairns, Glendronachs…). With water: perfect again, with more passion fruits and mangos (chutneys) and soft spices. These hints of curry again. Finish: long, extremely well balanced, very lively. Kumquats, cardamom and curry. Comments: just great and to tell you the truth, that as expected. I had it at 91 and finally decided to go for 92, because life is too short (hey?!?) SGP:651 - 92 points.

Good, maybe it’s time to have the three official 1972s, don’t you think? Will they stay the course? Let’s not forget that one 1972, cask #712, was the overall winner of the MM Awards last year (we tried it on Dec 1, 2011)…

Dronach Japan

Glendronach 39 yo 1972/2011 (53%, OB for Shinanoya, Tokyo, oloroso, cask #717, 150 bottles) Five starsColour: dark amber. Nose: certainly a different style, heavier than the 1970 but let’s remember this baby spend much more time in wood. In fact, it’s a little orgiastic, so to speak, as it’s extremely aromatic, rich and jammy, not too far from the style of some very old Demerara rum (our beloved Port Mourant). So yes, we have Demerara sugar, game, figs, bacon, cured ham, blood oranges, flowers (peonies, as often with sherry monsters), chocolate, sandalwood, raspberry jelly, prunes… What a maelstrom! With water: yeah yeah yeah, same kind of development as with the old 1970 by SSMC. Stunning notes of tobacco! Mouth (neat): classic very chocolaty sherry monster, with also some raspberry jam, liquorice and espresso coffee (not decaf, George!). And the same notes of Demerara and bitter oranges. Very, very classic and classy… With water: purrfekkt. Orange and tangerine liqueurs plus the finest spices. Finish: long, very clean and fresh despite its ‘pedigree’. Great feeling of chewed Havana cigar in the aftertaste. Comments: same very high quality as the 1970 SSMC, even it this one took twice the time to reach quasi-perfection, but who counts? ;-) SGP:651 - 92 points.

Dronach 37

Glendronach 37 yo 1972/2009 (54.8%, OB, oloroso, cask #719, 474 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: completely different. Drier, shier, kind of mineral, leathery and herbal but all that with an immense elegance. Fig liqueur, camphor and liquorice, maybe old roses. I think I love this nose just as much as the 717’s. With water: indeed, it’s superb. More camphor and menthol this time, eucalyptus, Spanish ham… It’s all very great! You just cannot beat a great old sherry cask, can you? Mouth (neat): more powerful and hot than cask #717, less jammy again, and spicier and more peppery. Quite a lot of ginger and green tea from the oak, then more oranges (liqueurs, marmalades, juices, zests, anything). With water: same feeling, the spices and an oaky sourness are rather more in the front than with cask #717. It’s all very all right, it’s just a notch less perfect. Finish: long, somewhat tannic but very nice of course. Comments: extremely high quality and a magnificent nose, too bad the wood became a tad too loud and tiring on the palate in my opinion. SGP:561 - 89 points.

Dronach Taiwan

Glendronach 39 yo 1972/2011 (54.7%, OB for Taiwan, PX Puncheon, cask #2033, 450 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: we’re somewhere between both previous ones, although we’re closer to the richer Tokyoite. In fact, it’s probably gamier, meatier, with more balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and beef bouillon. Unexpected as I had though PX would impart insanely sweet notes to this baby… With water: probably the least expressive within the trio, but I enjoy these rather subtle notes of orange blossom and Muscat wine. Also marzipan and a little menthol… Mouth (neat): it is sweeter now, but also slightly sour (grape skin, lemon juice), with more and more cider apples after that. Greengages? It’s quite unusual in my opinion. Very nice but quite unusual, not exactly ‘PX’ again… With water: ditto, with a tannic sourness that keeps growing. Finish: quite long but rather dry, with a lot of heavy green tea and other pretty tannic stuff, such as grape pips. Also mint and leather. Comments: in fact, it’s excellent old whisky, with a superb nose yet again, it’s just that it doesn’t swim too well on the palate in my opinion. And frankly, it’s more ‘oloroso’ than ‘PX’ but we won’t complain! SGP:461 - 89 points.

PS: I think it’s not very easy to taste several very heavily sherried whiskies in a row, it can even get a little tiring towards the end (which may show in some scores) because you reach some kind of saturation point quite quickly, even when you down quite a lot of water during the proceedings. That’s why we’ll try not to do that again (well, not too often!)
(with heartfelt thanks to Emmanuel, Hiroyuki, Konstantin and Mike!)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: that's the sound! Mister Gene Harris and his famous and much sampled yet unpronounceable Losalamitoslatinfunklovesong (from 1974's album Astral Signal). Please buy Gene Harris' music.


February 11, 2012


Looking for Mr. Macduff

Macduff is one of those distilleries - and there are many - I do not know much about. Granted, I've tasted a few (around 35, it seems), but I have almost no points of reference and while I've seen my 'Macduff' compartment filling up with quite a load of new young sherried ones last year, I've been procrastinating a bit with them. So today I thought we could try to know more about Macduff, thanks to a special 'wide' tasting session during which we'll try to use some 'artillery' tactics, shooting first at the extremes and then having the recent youngish ones. Let's see if we'll learn something…

So, to kick this off, what better way than tasting some 'almost new make'?


Macduff 2005/2009 (46%, Càrn Mor, Scottish Liqueur Centre, hogshead, cask #23, 20cl) Colour: water. Nose: pure new make. It's a mix of kirsch and unaged plum spirit, with whiffs of burnt grass and an obvious soapiness, very common in new makes in my experience. Thankfully, that will go away with more age! Mouth: applejack, kirsch, barley water and… Well, that's all. Impaired whisky, for education purposes only. Finish: very short. Ripe 'dull' apple, with little character. Comments: maybe you remember we tried some White Dog a few days ago, and before that an extremely young Clynelish. Well, those had much more character, while this baby Macduff is very, very dull. So, one thing we might have learnt already: Macduff's distillate seems to display little personality. SGP:330 - 55 points.

And now another extreme, a very old version of a young Macduff…


Macduff 12 yo 1964/1977 (80° Proof, Cadenhead, dumpy, black label) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: it's another world. No, another planet. Greasier, waxier, sootier like many of these old CAD (hard to guess what comes from the bottle itself, from the cap, from bottle ageing…), with these notes of metal polish (do you know Glanzol?) and motor oil. Then more humus, new leather, humidor, cigarette pack, hot chocolate, then rather eucalyptus and camphor, mint liqueurs (peppermint), After Eight… Really beautiful if you like this ancient style. Mouth: once again, an obvious feeling of peppermint liqueur blended with various greasy/metallic things. Old tools? Even rust? After that, bags of overripe apples, Williams pears and some kind of ashes, not at all in the Islay style. Finish: medium long, very mentholated, with a sooty aftertaste. Comments: nah, probably not the best example of an old style Macduff since there's a lot of OBE, like in many CAD dumpies. Having said that, it's incomparably better than the very meagre 2005. We may have to find a better benchmark now… SGP:453 - 87 points. (und danke schoen, Heinz)

Let's try that again, with a more recent version of an old Macduff that should display much less old bottle effect (OBE)…


Macduff 32 yo 1965/1998 (53%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: many of these 30yo+ malts that Cadenhead's bottled around ten years ago were absolutely superb and it seems that this one is no exception. Directly complex, resinous, fruity, honeyed and pretty phenolic, with these notes of tropical fruits that were often to be found in these bottlings. No, I don't know why. Passion fruits, papayas, tangerines… And mint-flavoured Turkish delights. Perfect nose, even if there's more and more straight oak (new plank). Mouth: rich, creamy, even more resinous and phenolic than on the nose. A lot of mint, chlorophyll, apple pie, liquorice, hints of marshmallows, then more kumquats and honey, a little bergamot… It's all very perfect and what's striking is the mint. We already had some in the old 1964 but there was none in the blandola. So, is mint part of Macduff's profile? Well, mint usually comes from the wood, but we'll see with the next ones… Finish: long, on pink grapefruits and mint again. Comments: lovable old Macduff, complex and rich. SGP:462 - 90 points. (with thanks to Cyril)

So, that was still an old-style Macduff, let's try a newer old one now if you please… Will there be mint?


Macduff 30 yo 1980/2011 (54.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #6107, 175 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one has lost the phenolic side, but it probably got more elegant, refined, better 'chiselled' I'd say. The chlorophyll is well there, together with several dried herbs (teas) and touches of earth and leaves. But I hear you, is there any mint? Yes there is, even if it's more spearmint than peppermint here (S., you nitpicker!) Other than that, not too ripe bananas and just touches of coconut and cinnamon. Maybe a little tinned pineapple too? Ah, topical fruits, another marker of Macduff? Mouth: this is funny, we're giving almost the same palate as the 1965's! Seriously, I'm having a hard time finding nuances. Maybe a little more pineapples? But that may well be my nose playing tricks on me. And more oranges? What's sure is that it's excellent. Finish: long, fruity, beautifully nervous at 30yo. Blood oranges and cinnamon (a little) in the aftertaste. Comments: lovely, and for once I liked the palate better than the nose. Impossible to say whether it's better or worse than the 1965. Same high quality and same profile, with a few differences on the nose. SGP:562 - 90 points.

So, let's try to find mint and tropical fruits in another, younger Macduff displaying less age/wood influence according to its colour…


Macduff 1990/2009 (46%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #2346) Two stars and a halfColour: white wine. Nose: you know, the problem is that when you're looking for something in a whisky, you'll find it, and it's the case here with the mint. This has mint. Having said that, I don't seem to find any tropical fruits, rather a lot of grass, moss, fern, hay… Pretty farmyardy, I'd say. Mouth: well, it's more the 2005, with more ageing of course. Apples, apples and apples, touches of bitter oak, green tea, a little lemon (not in an exuberant, 'tropical' way) and maybe a little cardboard. Not too bad but it really lacks wideness and oomph. Keywords: simple apples. Finish: medium long, with no changes, except a little cinnamon. Curious metallic notes in the aftertaste. Comments: drat, no actual confirmation of the presence of neither mint, nor topical fruits. Or so little that it could be pure autosuggestion. Maybe apples are one of the main markers of Macduff, after all? Pfff, apples… SGP:451 - 79 points.

So we need to delve deeper into Macduff! Let's avoid the sherry monster just now, and rather try to find another 1990 from fairly 'neutral' wood. We'll get it, we'll get it!


Macduff 21 yo 1990/2011 (59.4%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #1424, 262 bottles) Two stars Colour: gold. Nose: this is much dirtier and wackier. Musty and mouldy, very yeasty, with notes of stale lager and then sorrel. Maybe even some cheese and, dare I add, gym socks. Strange from a BB hogshead, that, maybe water will kill all those fairly nasty aromas. With water: porridge galore! Clean porridge, but porridge. Mouth (neat): okayish, I'd say. Big attack but it's kind of green and acidic. Cider apples, pepper, lemon squash… Not much pleasure in my opinion. Indeed, maybe a little mint… I may be dreaming… With water: not much development. It became a little cleaner and rounder, a little less acidic as well, but that's all. Overripe apples? (apples, yeah!) Finish: shortish. Apples indeed. Comments: not quite up to A.D. Rattray's usual very high standards in my opinion, but it's still okayish malt whisky. SGP:441 - 75 points.

We may have found a common denominator: apples. Not mint, not tropical fruits, but apples. The problem is that there are apples in many, many whiskies, especially in Speyside. Unless, of course, sherry just masks those rather mundane and 'narrow' aromas and flavours. Let's see…


Macduff 2000/2010 (61.1%, Whisky & Rhum, L'Esprit, First Fill Sherry, cask # 5778) Four stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: pure coffee-schnapps (my Swiss friends would rather say schnappsli). Add to that gunpowder and used matches and you get the drift. It's not unpleasant, it's just that this has gone to far for my taste, it's too raw and unpolished. As they say, not all sherry monsters are equal! But maybe water will change everything… With water:  well, it did! The mint is back (hurray!), together with some walnut liqueur, Seville oranges and dark chocolate. No more matches, no more straight schnapps(li). Mouth (neat): much better than on the nose when undiluted, much much better. Less raw, smoother, fruitier and frankly, very Glenfarclassy. And in Glenfarclas there's class - it's not one single 's' that'll bother us. Try this blind and you'll think it's Glenfarclas 105. With water: same. Pipe tobacco and chocolate. Finish: long, balanced, with more jams (once diluted). Comments: I think this kind of restless baby always needs water. It's incomparably better with water. SGP:452 - 85 points.

Incomparably better with water? Maybe that's why the bottlers had an excellent idea, which was to bottle a part of the cask at 46% vol. instead of cask strength. Let's try that version…

Macduff 2000/2010 (46%, Whisky & Rhum, L'Esprit, First Fill Sherry, cask # 5778) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: same whisky as when we diluted/reduced it ourselves. Aren't we good with a pipette? ;-) (the water was our usual Vittel). Maybe the 'official' one has a notch more walnuts, or maybe not. Mouth: same, and I mean exactly the same. Finish: same. Comments: enough babbling. SGP:452 - 85 points.

I'm not sure we made any real progress regarding Macduff's profile. The sherry was so loud in the previous ones that they could have been any fairly light unpeated malt behind the heavy sherry in my opinion. And while I've got quite a few other unsherried Macduffs yet to taste, once you've had some sherry monsters, it's too late. The heavies only bear their equals over them - and that's exactly what we're going to do, with two sister casks that were probably distilled in the same week, if not on the same day… But we'll do that quick, it's all becoming a little tiring…


Macduff 10 yo 2000 (56.5%, Exclusive Malts for The Bonding Dram, sherry but, cask #3525, 200 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: classic, drier sherry, on chocolate, prunes and raisins. No matches this time and very little winy aromas. With water: more jams, raspberries, marmalade, leather… Nice freshness for a young sherry monster. Mouth (neat): good, rich, fruity and spicy attack. Crystallised oranges, pepper and cloves plus full fruitcake. With water: same, plus a little sweet white wine and even a muscaty side. I like! Quite some nutmeg too. Finish: rather long, a little drier, as often with these sherry monsters. More spices coming out, cloves, cardamom… Comments: as I wrote, I doubt the distillate has much importance here, but does the distillate have anything to say anyway? Quality's high. SGP:552 - 86 points.


Macduff 10 yo 2000 (56.6%, Exclusive Malts for Whisky.com.tw Taiwan, cask #5800, 349 bottles)Four stars I think this one won an award at the MMA 2011, but not the one that the very excellent bottler, who did not submit the bottle (the distributor or 'sub-bottler' did), would have been pleased with, while the distributor was. Do you follow me? It was a Kafkaian situation that made quite a few people laugh, for once ;-). Colour: full amber, slightly paler than #3525. Nose: this baby's more expressive, fruitier. In fact, we're right between casks #5778 and 3525. Oranges, sultanas. With water: more sultanas and just a little vinegar (volatile?) Mouth (neat): closer to #3525 - although mathematically farer but there are even more spices. Mulled wine. With water: a slightly more nervous version. More fruits (raspberry purée). Finish: same as with cask #3525. Comments: a very pleasant young sherry monster once again. SGP:552 - 86 points.

I guess we need a general conclusion, don’t we? Did we find Macduff's profile? Or at least a few markers? Or only one we could be sure about? A way of recognising Macduff while tasting some whiskies blind? Well, I'm sorry but I'm afraid the status of our mission is: failed. And we won't try again anytime soon!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Mister Augusto Martelli plays his Krypto Blues (it's on Black Sound From White People, Italy, 1972). Ah, the good old sound of early lounge jazz... Well, what we call lounge jazz today .Well, that was better than today's lounge jazz. Oh well... Please buy Augusto Martelli's music.


February 10, 2012


Tasting two 22yo Glenburgie and Glencraig as an aperitif


Glencraig 1970/1991 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old map label) Two stars and a half As you most probably know, Glencraig was the name of the malt whisky made at Glenburgie with two Lomond stills between 1956 and 1981. I’ve not tried dozens but the ones I tried have been relatively poor… Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, it’s not unpleasant, just quite light and all on apple juice, with a little lemon and cinnamon thrown in. Also a little malt and orange juice. Mouth: on exactly the same aromas as on the nose, with a slightly weak start but a rather sufficient mouth feel. A little cardboard, touches of caramel, tea…  The  more apple and orange juice again. Not unpleasant. Finish: short but pleasantly honeyed and orangey. Comments: quite good and not as weakish as I had feared. Good apple juice! SGP:331 - 79 points.

Glenburgie DT

Glenburgie 22 yo 1988/2010 (52.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #11239, 233 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts extremely waxy, earthy and mineral. Soot, gravel, paraffin, fresh walnuts, apple peeling… And becomes even more austere after a few seconds. Anti-sexy so far, I’d say. With water: becomes a little medicinal. Also notes of warm milk, flour… Maybe not the best part.  Mouth (neat): the exact opposite of the nose when undiluted. Bags of vanilla, lemon and coconut, Turkish delights, marshmallows… And then wood spices. It’s actually more ‘Lomond stills’ than the Glencraig! With water: a fruit salad that would include both ‘Western’ garden fruits and tropical ones. Right, sweet apples and guavas… Also a little barley sugar. Finish: rather long, with more spices and bitter walnut skin. Comments: two whiskies in one! A very funny and interesting dram – well, maybe a tad schizophrenic. SGP:651 - 86 points.


Glenburgie-Glenlivet 22 yo 1966/1988 (58%, Nibada, 323 bottles) Five stars There used to be another version by Sestante bearing exactly the same label, but I think it wasn't a single cask, while this one is. So, different whiskies… Colour: amber. Nose: interesting how close to the 1988 we rare here. Same austerity, same waxy/flinty notes and then more metal polish, soot, mint and camphor. In the background, a dry sherry, all on dark chocolate and coffee. Also whiffs of old wine vinegar and leather. With water: huge and beautiful OBE. Dried mushrooms and a mechanic’s old toolkit. Mouth (neat): big notes of blackcurrant jelly and spices at first sips, it’s almost old-style gingerbread. Very excellent, in fact. Goes on with a lot of cloves, star anise, a little cumin, chocolate, raspberries… Once again, an austere nose and a pretty extravagant palate. With water: top notch, complex, both fruity and kind of phenolic. Very tertiary, in fact. Finish: long, rather more on chocolate and spices. Comments: this is G&M stock and G&M had many fab Glenburgies. This is a good example. SGP:642 (palate) - 91 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: something very sweet and even soothing, the great, great Brazilian multi-instrumentist and WF favourite Egberto Gismonti plays Palhaco (from his 1986 album 'Alma'). Please buy the master's music...


February 9, 2012


Malternatives: tasting a few more rums en passant

After quite a pot-pourri last time, we’ll have three or four rums from Trinidad today. And Trinidad means… drum roll… Caroni!


Caroni 1996/2008 (43%, Bristol Spirits, Trinidad) Two stars and a half Caroni is a closed distillery that used to make heavy style rum. I think this particular bottling came from ex-bourbon barrels. Colour: amber. Nose: the oak comes out, definitely bourbon. Not that it’s plankish, not at all, but there are notes of pencil shavings. Other than that, it’s nicely aromatic, with many dried and tinned fruits including pineapples. Quite some honey too, and then a little ginger coming out (the oak again). Mouth: my, this is too drinkable, especially because of the moderate strength. Very nice combination of dried fruits and spices, some from the wood. Yes, ginger again, a little mead, then quite some nutmeg… Finish: medium long, with the spices showing more in front, especially in the aftertaste. Comments: to my liking for sure, but in fact, I find those oaky notes a little disturbing. In other words, lacks integration. Was it just finished in bourbon wood? SGP:540 - around 78 points.


Caroni 1997/2011 (46%, Silver Seal, Trinidad) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: no obvious oaky tones here, rather unexpected notes of… black olives. Well, we shouldn’t be surprised, olives, usually black ones, are often to be found n some rums in my experience. I’m not talking about James Bond. Other than that, we get motor oil, heavy tar, brine, camphor… And no, it’s not some Ardbeg sherry cask! Lovable… Mouth: brilliant. More or less the same notes as on the nose but also a feeling of hessian, earth, mushrooms… And always these olives. Rum for malt drinkers! Finish: long and pretty salty. I told you, Islay… All what’s missing is peat. Comments: spectacular whisk… rum. I think any whisky (or olive) lover who’d like to try some rum should love this style. SGP:462 - around 90 points. Not ‘around’ actually, 90 big, fat, genuine points.


Providence Estate 1990 (43%, Bristol Spirits, Trinidad, sherry wood) Two stars Not sure when this baby was bottled, there’s no indications on the label. I think it’s the first time I try rum from Providence… And first time I hear of Providence ;-). Colour: deep amber. Nose: pencil shavings once again, just like with the first Caroni, then more chocolate and coffee from the sherry. The ‘rumness’ is a tad hidden underneath the wood and there are rather notes of ginger that become louder and louder. Not unpleasant, rather a tad… say indistinct. Mouth: same feeling, the rum does not have the upper hand – but it must have been light rum anyway. Notes of blackberries and coffee. Finish: rather long, in fact, more on raisins. Bags of raisins… Comments: I don’t know what to think. It’s not really ‘rum’, and it’s no whisky either, obviously. Some kind of rummy world spirit? SGP:451 - around 75 points.


Trinidad 1991/2011 (50%, Silver Seal, Trinidad Distillers Ltd.) Three stars Trinidad Distillers make Angostura rum, so maybe this could be called an independent Angostura? Are we even allowed to write that? Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, smells like Angostura 1919 (or is it 1818?) Litres of honey, corn syrup, barley water… And then tinned pineapples. Kind of pleasant but too sweet for my taste, despite the faint earthiness that pleasantly arises after a while. Oak? Mouth: way nicer now. It’s still extremely sweet although not thick at all. Jams and sweets on a bed of vanilla… And straight oak, with this feeling of sawdust that’s not obligatorily a problem. Finish: medium long and sweet and fruity. Litchis. Comments: indie rum for teenagers? Modern rum like we have modern whisky? What’s quite striking is how both light and syrupy it is. In short, not quite my kind but it’s probably very good stuff. The excellent bottlers would know… SGP:830 - around 80 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: what could be better, whie sipping a few rums, than listening to the fab percussionist Poncho Sanchez and his Papa Gato, I ask you? Please buy Poncho Sanchez' music, thanks.


February 8, 2012


Tasting two little Littlemills

More and more Littlemill around these days, did they rebuild the distillery? Remember it was destroyed by a fire…


Littlemill 20 yo (46%, Hart Bros, Royal Wedding Celebration) Three stars and a half This one to celebrate the wedding of Kate and Will last year, obviously. Notice the subtly interlaced rings on the label? Better try this baby before they divorce… Colour: straw. Nose: interesting, it’s not so much one of these recent indie Littemills (many are great!), rather something akin to the last official 12, with some cardboard, dust, butter and beer at first nosing. The good news is that it keeps improving after that, with more lemon and tea, but there’s always this big yeastiness that’s a little disturbing – to me. The dust didn’t go away either. Mouth: rather better, with that candied citrusnesss (citrusity?) that’s often to be found in the good Littlemills and nice touches of liquorice and maybe Chartreuse. Some barley sugar as well, cornbread, even that very sweet blackish bread that our German friends call pumpernickel… Really, nice palate. Finish: medium long and even more ‘new Littlemill’ (relatively speaking). Candied citrus fruits. Comments: I don’t like the nose too much but I liked the palate quite a lot, which makes scoring difficult. Let’s try… SGP:641 - 83 points.


Littlemill 24 yo 1988/2012 (54.2%, The Whiskyman, 159 bottles) Five stars This baby is nicknamed ‘Sympathy for the Whisky’, so there should be obvious connections to Keefff… Colour: pale gold. Nose: ha, Cointreau! Or rather Compass Box’s Orangerie, and I’m not making this up, I just tried some for some well-established whisky awards (not the Malt Maniacs!) Well, it was supposed to be blind but you just cannot not recognise Orangerie – esp since I love Orangerie. But back to this very unusual Littlemill, it’s really something special that goes on with more citrus liqueurs, maybe Mandarine Impériale, until your nose got accustomed and you start to find many other aromas, such as coriander, cardamom, ginger, vanilla fudge, kiwis… Spectacular whisky from a rare vintage. Mouth: … and it goes on with the same notes of Cointreau, except that there’s also more limoncello and other lemon liqueurs. What happened? We all know Littlemill can be very citrusy but this is almost extraterrestrial. Some kind of tweakings? Keeef? Finish: long, greatly bitter and lemony this time. In short, no more Cointreau, only limoncello. Comments: spectacular and in that sense, brilliant. Perfect for anyone who’d already have quite a few different malts in his cupboard. Say 50. In the meantime, I can’t wait to taste other 1988s, I hope there will be others around! SGP:851 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a pirouetting track from Sllovakia by the David Kollar Band, with a firing guitar and excellent swing. Sounds unlikely? Try Ethnology (Swing part I) and see... And then please buy David Kollar's music.


February 7, 2012

Tasting three indie Benriach 1991, then two officials for Asia
Moor Benriach 19 yo 1991/2011 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #110681, 300 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: a very naked one, with numerous vegetal and fruity notes such as gooseberries, apples, watermelon, pear drops or cut grass, becoming then flinty and even grassier. It's no sexy ooh-ah Benriach, rather an unusually austere one. Faints whiffs of coal smoke in the background and then more and more light honey. Mouth: oily mouth feel, it's almost very liquid honey now. Also notes of cake, brioche, butterscotch, custard and then touches of liquorice and spearmint. The whole is unexpectedly sweet after a more austere nose, but that happens with very whiskies, especially in Speyside in my experience. Finish: not very long but it's still almost pure honey. Lavender honey (which, as you may know, is not 'lavendery' at all). Ripe apples in the aftertaste. Comments: like spending some time in an orchard sometime in august. Aha. SGP:641 - 86 points.
MOS Benriach 1991/2011 (51.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #32283, 251 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: similar whisky but with less grass and more fruits as well as a little more vanilla, barley water and marzipan. A little fern as well. Somewhat fuller in fact but again, we're very close despite a (marginally) different kind of cask. Mouth: exactly the same feeling, with exactly the same differences. Maybe more spices from the oak, which should make sense. Finish: medium long, on bags and bags of juicy apples. Comments: spending more time in that orchard. SGP:641 - 87 points.
BLCK Benriach 19yo 1991/2011 (57.9%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask # 32284, 238 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: and once again, this is very close but it's true that this baby is a direct sister cask of the Malts of Scotland version. This one is maybe a wee tad smokier, just a wee tad, and maybe the oak's a tad bigger as well (coconut and vanilla). Takes water well, it brings out more ripe summer fruits. Granny smith? Mouth: same whisky as the MoS, it's very hard to find differences and nuances. Finish: same. Comments: same, that thing about an orchard... Very good. SGP:641 - 87 points.
Time to try the officials, both are single cask for Asian countries…
1985 Benriach 1985/2011 (51.7%, OB for Shinanoya Tokyo, hogshead, cask #2000, 309 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is very different, much closer to the raw materials, that is to say malted barley and yeast. I think it's not that often that a fairly old whisky is so close to its origins and in fact, it's all very brilliant in my opinion. Nosing this is just like visiting a working distillery! I don't mean it's youngish or immature, quite the opposite. It's just that it kept its barleyness in a beautiful manner. Other than that, there's a little earth, leaves, butter pears, apples and maybe some green tea and even smoke (coal smoke again). A very perfect nose! Mouth: punchy, with a peatiness that was less noticeable in the nose. So yes, quite some peat, then grapefruits, barley, liquorice, cinchona, tart apples, oolong tea, lemon… I think this is wonderful. Balance is perfect. Finish: long, with some pepper ala Talisker and more tart/cider apples. A great grassiness as well. Comments: I love this style, it's mucho elegant and wonderfully austere and self-restrained. Kudos to our Japanese friends for having selected this baby. SGP:555 - 91 points.
1976 Benriach 35 yo 1976/2011 (45.3%, OB for The Auld Alliance Singapore, hogshead, cask #3010, 196 bottles) Five stars Benriach 1976, we know what to expect, don't we? Colour: gold. Nose: a true fruitbomb! Wheelbarrows of tangerines, pineapples, passion fruits, kiwis and mangos. Long story short: it's an atomic fruitbomb. Oh, and a little fresh coriander to make the whole not only a fruitbomb. Mouth: totally in keeping with the nose. Passion fruits, mangos, mead, pineapple liqueur, pink grapefruits, cranberries and just a few spicy touches that add complexity to the whole. Pouilly-Fumé (Dagueneau). Absolutely no oakiness, which is amazing. Finish: long, on the same notes. Comments: as good as it gets. Stunning whisky, technically worth more than 92 but I couldn't go above 92 because of the way the (wonderful) fruits tend to dominate the whole shebang. Well, I know what I'm trying to say… SGP:741 - 92 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a total orgy of ultra-funky synthesizers sometime in the '70s, with that 'let's try all the buttons' feeling. It's Miroslav Vitous (should I add of course) and it's called the Synthesizers Dance (from the crazy and quite orgasmic LP 'Magical Shepherd'). Please buy Miroslav Vitous' music.


February 6, 2012

The roaring 50s by Gordon & MacPhail
As you probably know, Liz II is celebrating her 60th Jubilee this year and as they already did in 1977 for instance (with several fabulous 25yo whiskies), G&M have issued a very special bottling for the occasion, a Glen Grant 60-1952 in a very classic decanter. We’ll try it today but before that, let’s have two nice little aperitifs by the same bottlers if you don’t mind, both from the 1950s as well...
Glendronach 27 Glendronach 27 yo 1955 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old brown label, +/-1983) Three stars I don’t think I’ve ever tried a Glendronach from the 50s before… Colour: gold. Nose: antique, definitely. A lot of wax polish, mead and nectar at first nosing but all that tends to partly disappear, leaving room for a little marzipan and apple pie. Maybe there’s a little cardboard behind all that as well, some tea and touches of ashes. All that is just whispered so is it very delicate or too shy?  As often, the answer will be found on the palate… Mouth: starts very well (it’s not without reminding me of some old Italian Macallans by G&M), with many stewed fruits on a bed of soft spices (cinnamon) and liquorice, the whole becoming drier and ashy/chalky after just a two or three seconds. There’s also something smoky but it becomes even ashier after a while. Not much body ad almost no oomph in fact. Finish: short and thin, but pleasantly resinous/sappy. Cough lozenges? Amusing touches of spicy mushrooms in the aftertaste. Blue foot? Comments: well, this baby spent the same amount of time in glass and in wood (around 27) and as it was originally at 40% vol., I guess it’s been losing a bit of steam over the years. In fact, the profile is quite brilliant, it’s just that it’s got a little weakish. SGP:331 - 80 points.
Glen Grant Glen Grant 1953/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling) Three stars From G&M’s popular ‘licensed’ range, always rather fairly priced and bottled at around 53 years of age this time. Some gems to be found in this series! Colour: brown/bronze. Nose: not big, of course, but rather aromatic and, above all, absolutely not cardboardy. We’re rather on raisins and milk chocolate this time, with touches of honey, old Armagnac and prunes, then a little more mint and liquorice. Also funny hints of dried goji berries, and maybe also dried longans (it’s all close to raisins but it’s not exactly raisins – oh well…) Becomes drier and more sooty after fifteen minutes. Mouth: I think it’s a profile that needs 43 or 45% vol. All very pleasant, with great flavours here and there (old sauternes, sultanas, even a little calvados, figs…) but it kind of fires on 3 cylinders. You know when you need a lot of whisky to jot down just a few notes. In fact, the whisky is great, it’s the alcohol that’s weak ;-). Finish: short, raisiny. Bitter oranges in the very discreet aftertaste. Comments: this is probably great whisky if you pour 7cl in a large snifter fishbowl-style and can take you time. In tasting conditions, it’s more difficult. BTW, not my business of course but I’m wondering if the SWA shouldn’t forbid the dilution of any whisky that’s older than… say 40 ;-) (we sometimes call that the Very Old Ardbeg syndrome…) SGP: 441 – 82 points.
Glen Grant 60 Glen Grant 60 yo 1952/2012 'Diamond Jubilee' (42.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, 85 bottles) Four stars and a half This baby’s got everything, elm, silver, crystal and Harris tweet. I must say I find it less kitsch - or bling - than other recent efforts by other whisky people who are currently trying to trade up. Colour: gold (much paler than the 1953). Nose: makes the 1953 winey in comparison, it’s interesting that G&M chose one that was rather subtle and ‘un-raisiny’. No bomb on the nose, once again it’s a delicate and elegant malt, rather on baked apples, bitter oranges, touches of cloves and candied ginger plus a little marzipan and orange blossom water. Also very ripe gooseberries and then discreet whiffs of humus and moss. Maybe old roses. Again, it’s more lace than Harris Tweed! Mouth: the difference with the 1953 is striking. This is only a wee bit stronger in theory, but on the palate it’s another world. The first thing that’s also striking, just like with the 70yo Mortlach and Glenlivet, is the fact that the oak never takes control. It’s there, of course, but it works just like some cinnamon on a plum pie, if you see what I mean. It’s still plum! No biggish notes of anything in fact, rather a complex assortment of tiny flavours such as kumquats, caraway, liquorice, dates, maybe chestnuts, a little tobacco, mead, pecans… Granted, the oak becomes a notch louder towards the finish (white pepper) but it’s all under control. Finish: medium long, on mint and earl grey tea. More cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: quite a miracle. I believe these very old malts cannot compare to some 30 or even 40yo bottlings that are usually more full and satisfying (but there are exceptions, such as the fabulous 1952 by G&M for LMDW that we tried on January 19 – WF 92!), but this one is a good example of a very old one that kept a large part of its vibrancy, so to speak. Despite a rather low strength. So worth some big fat 88 points in my book, which is a lot in this context since I try to never take the whisky’s ‘pedigree’ into account when scoring it. By the way, a part of that pedigree is the price: £8,000. Royal! SGP:451 - 88 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Daevid Allen and Robert Wyatt do Memories (from Allen's Banana Moon album). It's obviously Wyatt who's singing. I think this was recorded in 1967 so it's actually Soft Machine material that's been released a few years after. Not too sure, but please buy Daevid Allen's music.


February 4, 2012

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
The hard truth behind this blogger and whisky samples
Many questions about samples these days so rather than some pointless ramblings, here’s a list of the FAQs…
Q: Do you get free samples from the industry?
A: Yes I do.
Q: Do you ask for free samples?
A: Never, or extremely rarely. Some bottlers ask if they may send samples and I’ll usually answer positively (and politely, hopefully). Life
Life is a bitch
Q: Do all the whiskies you taste come from free samples from the bottlers?
A: Not at all. I buy also quite a lot of whisky and I get some from good whisky friends. A guestimate would be around 30% coming directly from ‘the industry’ these days.
Q: Why don’t you always disclose it when a sample was free?
A: Because that would be complicated. I don’t even always remember if a sample was ‘free’ when trying it. But I’ve added some general ‘FTC disclosures’ to WF’s home page quite a long time ago, when I had read that was obligatory – it appears it wasn’t if I’m not mistaken.
Q: Does getting free samples mean you’ll be biased when trying them?
A: I do not think so but of course I’m not the best placed guy to tell you about my ‘independence’ or biases. Better ask other whisky lovers, retailers or bottlers what they think. Besides, I’ve never heard any spirits or wine ‘writer’, whether pro or amateur like this little taster, claim he/she was not independent. It’s like asking the waiter if the fish on the menu of the day is fresh, and I also think the people who never stop asserting their independence may have serious problems with those very matters. Did you notice that some people always tend to insist on their weaker spots, as if they wanted to counterbalance them by permanently denying them?
Q: Don’t the bottlers send you only their best stuff, which may distort your general perception towards them?
A: Many don’t do that, some may do that, but remember I’ll also find/buy their other whiskies elsewhere, like at festivals. Were I to try only ‘free samples sent by the industry’, that would be a possibility indeed, but as I said, it’s far from being the case.
Q: Yet, you seem to taste more great whiskies than mundane booze!...
A: Sure, because Whiskyfun is my tasting diary, it’s not a buying guide and was never meant to become one. I’m no masochist. Although I believe I try many regular whiskies as well, the proportion of high-end whiskies is probably high indeed. Having said that, I try to taste most large batch official malts on a regular basis and I don’t think there are so many missing from WF’s tasting index, are there? Oh, did you know that the whiskies that are the most difficult to source are… the cheap and/or crappy ones? Really! (I’m not suggesting cheap whisky is always crap of course).
Q: Do you taste everything you get?
A: No, I can’t. Some new whiskies will be tasted later and used in future pairings with newer stuff… Or never. So, WF’s ‘rolling’ sample library became quite large.
Q: How do you decide on what you taste?
A: I’m human and I like whisky. I’ll tend to favour the names that are rarely seen, the old whiskies, the ‘important’ novelties and my favourite distilleries. And the samples that are filled to a lower level because those may not keep as well as samples that are filled to the top.
Q: Why don’t you only taste ‘free samples’ and why do you keep buying/retrieving many? That must be costly!
A: It is, but that’s the only way of being able to taste whiskies from pretty much all origins and bottlers. If you taste only free samples from the industry, you’ll only taste whiskies from bottlers who send/give free samples. Yes, stating the obvious. Again, as I said, I try to taste whiskies from pretty much all bottlers.
Q: Don’t you think the bottlers who’ll never send samples do that because they know their whiskies are bad?
A: No, some are also skinflints! Seriously, no, that could be the case here and there but generally speaking, I know many very great bottlers who just don’t do samples, which is perfectly fine of course. Any blogger or print writer who’s interested in their whiskies will manage to find them anyway, provided he’s got the budget end network for that of course.
Q: Don’t you fear some bottlers will stop sending you samples if you publish a bad review? Isn’t that a threat? Doesn’t that threat make you biased anyway?
A: Look, Whiskyfun could go on for ten more years without one single free sample. What’s more, I always tell the story of a very well-reputed bottler whom I met for the first time in real life, six or seven years ago, while I had just slammed one of his whiskies. No need to tell you I was a little scared, especially since the guy’s a real Goliath. Well, quite. To my amazement, he’s been very friendly so I first thought he hadn’t seen the review, but this is what he told me: “I’ve seen it Serge, and that was just fine, because if you don’t say it when you don’t like one of our whiskies, nobody will trust you anymore when you’ll write that you enjoyed another whisky of ours a lot!” That worthy piece of advice remains carved in golden letters in my brain since back then. Being a bootlicker will lead you nowhere!
Q: Are samples reliable, generally? Do they keep well?
A: That’s a good question! Indeed I think most travel and keep extremely well, but it’s always better to give the cap a further twist if you’re not ready to taste any new sample yet. It’s even more important if the samples will have travelled by plane because differences of pressure and temperature tend to unscrew the caps. With a little experience, it’s easy to know which caps are good and which are bad. Good thick metal and soft plastic are usually good because they won’t be ‘pushed upwards’ too much when the whisky will expand a bit with higher temperatures on your shelves or in your shoeboxes. Hard Bakelite-like plastic, on the other hand, tends to ‘unscrew’ so it’s always better to replace those caps if you keep your samples. Oh, and one last tip, many bottlers cover the caps with Scotch tape when mailing samples, which is perfect but please never keep those tapes because the faintest breathing may carry over notes of glue and plastic. Better replace with parafilm or just nothing! I should add that I sometimes have two or more samples of the same whisky, from different sources, which is always a good occasion to double-check the ‘reliability’ of those little bottles.
Q: What do you make of the leftovers?
A: I do not make cocktails. I keep some for future reference, I give some to whisky friends when they visit WF Towers and I just ‘blend’ the rest. I have quite a few full ‘living’ demijohns that are stashed away and the only problem is that if we ever have a fire, all what will remain will be a lot of broken glass and a 75-metre crater ;-). Hmm, I guess I should give a buzz to the insurance company…
Q: Frankly, are you sure you don’t you do all this just to get free whisky?
A: Exactly, that’s the whole point. I’ll never manage to drink everything but just between us, my ultimate goal is to stop buying petrol for my car and to use all this whisky instead.

February 3, 2012


Four old and one peated Speysiders

For once we'll have the peated first - and take our time.


Benriach 17 yo ‘Septemdecim’ (46%, OB, 2012) Four stars A brand new expression, matured in ex-bourbon casks. Oh, and it’s a peated Benriach… Colour: white wine. Nose: starts right on soot and coal, with whiffs of pine cone smoke and fresh ink, then more fresh walnuts and almonds before some wee notes of apples and gooseberries arise. Also exhaust fumes (from a two-stroke engine – Kawasaki H2 anyone?) More smoky than peaty, if you see what I mean, thus quite far from an Islayer in a certain way. Mouth: we’re even farer from Islay now. It’s really a two-step malt (right, those two strokes) as it starts quite ‘simply’ on garden fruits, barley syrup and just touches of eucalyptus, while the peat blast only happens after a few seconds, which is kind of funny. It’s a sappy peatiness this time, rather leathery too. And a feeling of ‘ink’ once again (Prussian blue – joking). Then more cough syrup. Finish: medium long, with a nice fruit/peat combination that’s not often to be found elsewhere. Sooty and peppery aftertaste, drier. Comments: why one would put the age of a whisky in Latin on the label, I don’t quite know, but what’s sure is that it’s a rather big dram of high quality. A very nice alternative to the middle-aged Islayers. Ave, Billus Walkerus! SGP:457 - 87 points.


Glenrothes 1970/2011 (44.5%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 11026, 135 bottles, 35cl) Five stars From a nice new series that’s bottled in halves. It seems that these whiskies come from ‘low level’ casks – not talking about the strength here – hence the reference to the thirsty angels. But we’re all thirsty angels, aren’t we? Right, more ‘thirsty’ than ‘angels’… Colour: straw. Nose: yeah, Glenrothes 1970. Starts a bit varnishy and rather estery, with quite some fresh pineapple and strawberries, and goes on with an even bigger fruitiness but the varnish has vanished (kudos, S.!) Jelly beans, blackcurrants, cranberry juice… The freshness is very surprising, given both the age and the low level in the cask, there’s very little tertiary notes (in short, coming from age).  After a few minutes, develops more on mint and eucalyptus – that comes from old age.

Mouth: when the encounter of some very fruity old spirit and vanilla/lactones from the oak creates one of the best… pina coladas in the world! Indeed, there’s a lot of coconut oil and tinned pineapple, then touches of lemon and a development on café latte and light fudge. Incredible freshness and playfulness. Finish: medium long, on exactly the same notes. The finish of a pina colada… Comments: spectacular whisky, a true anti-classic with something Irish, extremely fun and immensely drinkable. It’s not complex enough to go above 90 in my book but those are good, solid 90 points. Oh yes yes yes, as Ralfy would say. SGP:731 - 90 points.

That one was great, so why not have another new one from the same series for good measure? Maybe a Glenlossie?


Glenlossie 1975/2011 (49.8%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 11022, 96 bottles, 35cl) Four stars96 bottles of 35cl, that’s barely 33 litres if I’m not mistaken. Bad, bad angels! Colour: straw. Nose: very nice profile at first nosing, with some marzipan and true marsh mallow, then more ripe apples, peelings, muesli and touches of paraffin. Having said that, it loses steam over time and becomes simply ‘malty’, with also more and more vanilla. I hope the palate will be ‘wider’… Mouth: interesting, a similar feeling here. Starts a tad unusual, with this marzipan again as well as nice notes of bitter oranges and aniseed – and maybe a little kiwi liqueur, but it all falls back into line after a few seconds. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certain very good and absolutely flawless, it’s just a tad simple… Wait, no, there’s also some very nice touches of herbs, aniseed again, wormwood, probably some thyme… And more lemon. In short, needs time! Finish: long and fuller, with the lemon in full swing (marmalade). Very moderate oakiness, including in the aftertaste. Rather ‘ideas’ of Turkish delights. Comments: what a pull-up! SGP:551 - 87 points.

Good stuff, really, and certainly no tired oak infusion. Wow. I feel we could have a last one for today, a very old one…


Tomatin 1966/2011 (46.9%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, sherry butt, cask #MoS 11021, 122 bottles, 35cl) Four stars Tomatin likes vintages in 6, and the other way ‘round. Colour: full gold. Nose: yellow chartreuse! And an old one at that, Tarragone-style. Granted, it’s not as herbal but this baby is very complex, very protean as they say, and every time you dip your nose into your glass you get a different profile. In fact, that can be troubling… So it can be herbs (as I said), or it can be shoe polish, soot and metal, or it can be glazed chestnuts and Ovaltine, or it can be prunes, chocolate and raisins… And it just keeps changing. So, very nice or a problem? The palate will tell us…  

Mouth: right, it’s not a classic. There’s more oak than in both the Glenrothes and the Glenlossie, more bitter herbs, more strong mint-flavoured tea (in Marrakesh – and why not?) and certainly more liquorice. And the kind of straight oak that gives this feeling of mint lozenges… All good, in fact, but we’re approaching the limits. Finish: medium long, always with this Marrakchi feeling. Mektoub! The raisins are back in the aftertaste, as well as a feeling of green tea (tannicity). Comments: not an easy one. Some parts are stunning, some others a little bit more difficult in my opinion, because of the oak/herbs. Mind you, this restless baby spent 45 years in wood!  SGP:471 - 87 points.

Quite excellent, but maybe we could try to find an even better one… I couldn’t be really younger, but it could start with Tom as well (WTF?). This baby, for example… And I promise we’ll keep this short and that it’ll really be the last one – for today.

Tomintoul 1967/2011 (47.5%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 11023, 69 bottles, 35cl) Five stars 69 bottles at 35cl, that’s about 24 litres, so 10% of the capacity of a hoggie! But enough maths… Colour: straw. Nose: bingo! Amazing elegance and complexity, not wham-bam at all, extremely complex (but not to be rushed), elegant, with a little of everything. I notice camphor, liquorice, beeswax, banana skin, fresh mint, chives, vanilla, sultanas, quinces, greengages, tangerines, grass, mushrooms, earth… No aroma is dominant, certainly not oak. If the palate is cast in the same mould, we have little winner. Mouth: h.u.r.r.a.y! There’s this wonderful feeling that’s called balance, which is much rarer than what we usually think, and both a huge complexity and a feeling of fullness and density. Maybe it’s time to call the anti-maltoporn brigade? Finish: long and beautifully herbal. Comments: I especially love the way the oak, that’s not missing in action of course, just underlines each aroma and flavour in this very cute micro-bottling. SGP:562 - 92 points.

Now that we have a perfect winner, I think we can draw he curtains!



MUSIC - Recommended listening: the Barry Romberg Group plays an energizing Chinoiserie that hasn't got much Chinese elements but that's plain great (it's on 1992's Greatest Hits album - humour humour!). Wonderful drumming by Mr Romberg! Please buy his music.


February 1, 2012

Fighting against Thor
Sorry about that crappy title but there’s this brand new Highland Park ‘Thor’ that’s packaged in some kind of drakkar (longship) and comes with heavy Viking/Norse references. I’m not too sure this kind of paraphernalia appeals much to us Latin people (we never drank our Chambertin from the skulls of our enemies) but after all, what counts is what’s inside the bottle. Let’s check that…
THor Highland Park 16 yo 'Thor' (52.1%, OB, Valhalla Collection, 23,000 bottles, 2012) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather on red berries and discreet whiffs of rubber bands, before it gets rather more mineral, flinty, quite smoky (rather coal than peat) and then more and more herbal, earthy and spicy. In short, it seems that it’s not one of these lush, rounded and honeyed HPs (although there is a little honey), it reminds me of one of the Ambassador’s Casks but I can’t remember which one… Then more butterscotch, caramel and something slightly metallic. With water: the earthiness stands out and the rubber has vanished, completely. Farmyard, slightly gamy, ham, Havana cigar (very obvious) … It swims very well, the nose really became wonderful with water.
Mouth (neat): quite punchy and rather more ‘classic HP’ now, with quite some honey, toffee, caramel, soft gingerbread (the one with a lot of honey) and a very faint saltiness. Develops more on pepper, ginger, nutmeg and liquorice, with always a discreet smokiness in the background. Creamy mouth feel. With water: once again, water makes wonders, even if a few drying tannins woke up. Perfect hard liquorice. Excellent, did they dump some salmiak into the vatting to make it even more ‘Norse’? Finish: long, with the liquorice still loud and clear. A little cumin and bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: this little Viking never stopped improving, from the first sniffs to the aftertaste – and it swims extremely well. Not 90 in my book but certainly 89+++, should I use plusses like Standard & Poor's ;-). SGP:453 - 89 points.
For good measure, and because I believe only comparison is reason with whisky, as I always say, let’s have another fairly recent official HP.
HP Highland Park 1978/2011 'Vintage Collection' (47.8%, OB, for Global Travel Retail) Three stars Colour: pale amber. Nose: age shows here, as it starts all on old humidor, various pieces of wooden furniture (old wardrobe) and camphor and eucalyptus. Goes on with more liquorice and honeydew, a little tobacco and then plums and old-style fortified wine (some kind of very sweet Muscat in this case). I’m not too sure, but there could also be a little rosewood, and then more and more mint liqueur (Get, Crème de Menthe…) I like this nose a lot but this style isn’t always good news wrt the palate, it could be overoaky. Let’s see… Mouth: yeah, the oak’s loud here, as feared. Starts right on a feeling of strong black tea and liquorice wood, with the spices in the front while they should rather be in the background in my opinion. Bags of cloves, cinnamon, caraway seeds, mint liqueur again, old walnuts… Well, you get the drift. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very good whisky but you just have to like this style more than I do. Not an oak infusion but we aren’t far from that in my view. Finish: rather long but drying and quite bitter. Jaegermeister! Comments: the nose was quite superb but the palate was too oaky for this little taster. Still worth a pretty good mark in my book! SGP:372 - 80 points.
All right, that one wasn’t exactly a perfect sparring-partner for the new Thor. Let’s rummage in our HP compartment and try to find another worthy opponent… Oh, like this baby (another travel bottling)…
HP World Highland Park 32 yo 1975 (50%, OB, for World Duty Free, cask # 6596, +/-2008) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this is interesting, we aren’t far from the Thor, it’s just a wee bit rounder and wider at the same time. Well, at first sniffs because it really unfolds after a few minutes (right fifteen seconds). Honeycomb. More flowery as well, with these huge notes of heather and pomegranate, nectar, dandelions… Typical! Goes on with more maple syrup, kumquats, then patchouli, sultanas, marzipan, old roses… Well, this is quite magnificent and a bit in the style of the best old officials in their dumpy bottles/round black labels. You know, that label that used to look like a wee vinyl record… Anyway, this 1975 easily beats Thor on the nose (aha) but remember it’s twice its age.
Mouth: all right, maybe it’s not quite up to the best old ‘vinyl’ HPs but it IS very excellent, superbly fruity, nervous and rounded at the same time, honeyed of course and pleasantly tart (orange liqueur). Rich plum jam, mango chutney, figs, a little aniseed (a funny wee touch of pastis), tobacco, caraway seeds, cough syrup… It’s very complex and never, ever oaky as such (I mean plankish). Truly excellent. Finish: long, creamy, citrusy and spicy, which is a perfect kind of finish, even if some tannicity arises in the aftertaste – which is more than normal at 32 years of age. Did I mention liquorice? Comments: all very good, all very great. Having to spend some time in some crappy airports (not to mention total nightmares such as Charles-de-Gaulle or Heathrow) had to have advantages! SGP:562 - 92 points.
(With thanks to Olivier!)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Alice 'Wife Of John' Coltrane plays Blue Nile (that was on 1973's album 'Reflection on Creation and Space'). Sheer bliss by The Late Wife of John! Please buy Alice Cotrane's music, thanks.

Alice Coltrane

January 2012 - part 2 <--- February 2012 - part 1 ---> February 2012 - part 2

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



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

Benriach 1985/2011 (51.7%, OB for Shinanoya Tokyo, hogshead, cask #2000, 309 bottles)

Benriach 35 yo 1976/2011 (45.3%, OB for The Auld Alliance Singapore, hogshead, cask #3010, 196 bottles)

Caroni 1997/2011 (46%, Silver Seal, Trinidad)

Glenburgie-Glenlivet 22 yo 1966/1988 (58%, Nibada, 323 bottles)

Glendronach 1970/1990 (56%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry, casks #513-518)

Glendronach 1971/1990 (43%, Moon Import, The Birds, sherry, 600 bottles)

Glendronach 39 yo 1972/2011 (53%, OB for Shinanoya, Tokyo, oloroso, cask #717, 150 bottles)

Glenrothes 1970/2011 (44.5%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 11026, 135 bottles, 35cl)

Highland Park 32 yo 1975 (50%, OB, for World Duty Free, cask # 6596, +/-2008)

Johnnie Walker Blue Label 'Baccarat' (60.5%, OB, blend, 200th anniversary, 2005)

Littlemill 24 yo 1988/2012 (54.2%, The Whiskyman, 159 bottles)

Macduff 30 yo 1980/2011 (54.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #6107, 175 bottles)

Macduff 32 yo 1965/1998 (53%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Old Liqueur Pre War Whisky 1912/1922 (17 up, Dundee Supply Company)

Tomintoul 1967/2011 (47.5%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 11023, 69 bottles, 35cl)