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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2012 - Part 2

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


February 29, 2012


Tasting five Breton malts


Is France a whisky nation? Hard to say, France is #1 market in the world for Scotch in volume, but it's obviously more a ‘grape country’ (think cognac, armagnac and all the fines and marcs). Now, Britanny, with its Celtic heritage, may well be a true whisky region indeed, especially since there are now several distilleries that make whisky exclusively. Let’s try a few Breton whiskies today…

Armorik (42%, OB, Warenghem, single malt, Brittany, +/-2011)Two stars A no-age-statement version that’s entirely matured in Breton wood from the ‘parc d’Armorique’ – for around five years I think, before undergoing a second maturation in sherry casks. Colour: gold. Nose: quite aromatic, starting all on honey and custard, then more vanilla and butterscotch, with also a solid foundation of very ripe apples and touches of orange blossom. After that, more cereal, cornflakes, muesli (but it’s not yeasty) and just a wee smokiness that makes the whole gearing more and more towards modern Highlandparkness despite a faint dustiness in the background – or is that sawdust? Mouth: good body, with a lot of toasted bread and oak going straight to the back of your mouth, if you see what I mean. Some caramel too, coffee, pepper, nutmeg and that feeling of Ovaltine/Ovomaltine… Looses steam a bit but it’s globally pleasant and satisfying. Finish: quite short, on more toasted bread and sweet light chilli sauce. Overripe pears in the aftertaste. Comments: its no odd whisky like the majority of what’s made in continental Europe in my opinion. A solid one, on par with many Scotches. No Brora, though ;-). SGP:442 - 75 points.

Armorik 'Sherry Finish' (40%, OB, Warenghem, single malt, Brittany, +/-2011) Two stars and a half This is ex-bourbon, then finished in sherry wood. Colour: gold. Nose: this one is less big (what 2% can do!) and rather more floral and fruity. I get peonies and roses, gooseberries, greengages and just touches of watermelon. Other than that, there’s a little malt, ale and bread dough that make it smell more like some nice blended Scotch. Mouth: interesting, it’s bigger than the previous one now, despite being lighter – well, I know what I mean. In fact, it’s not that different but it’s got a bigger oiliness and a little more liquorice and even spices. I tend to like it a little better. Finish: medium long, on more liquorice and coffee (chicory coffee). Comments: good, honest and loyal malt whisky, made with craft and care and without any pointless bragging such as what can be heard and seen elsewhere in Europe (no I won’t mention any names). SGP:442 - 78 points.

Armorik 'Classic' (46%, OB, Warenghem, single malt, Brittany, +/-2011) Three stars This one was entirely matured in refill bourbon wood and not chill filtered this time. Should be bigger! Colour: gold. Nose: perhaps this one swapped wideness for more precision and more Scotchness, so to speak. More vanilla and butterscotch, new oak, artisan cider, grass and green tea, the whole remaining relatively light and pretty easy. Faint whiffs of dill and celery coming through after a few minutes, very nice. Sea breeze (but light!) Mouth: again, we’re close to the grains and oak and it works very well, the whole being kind of ‘natural’. Maple syrup, vanilla custard, green bananas, a little leather, sweet mustard, tobacco (chewing tobacco, remember that?) and a light tannicity. Good body and mouth feel. Finish: quite long, with touches of salt and a pleasant feeling of slightly bitter wood. White pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s nicely balanced and while it’s absolutely no wham-bam malt, it’s very pleasant to sip and savour. Very ‘natural’! SGP:342 - 82 points.

As a conclusion, it seems to me that Warenghem are now releasing whiskies that are up there with many Scotches, and I hope they’ve kept some casks for bottling at 12 or 15 years of age. Now, while we’re in Brittany, maybe we could have some whisky from Warenghem’s neighbours, that is to say Glann ar Mor Distillery…



Kornog 2007/2010 (57.3%, OB, Glann ar Mor for Pär Caldenby, Sauternes quartaut) Five stars A quartaut is a quarter cask, in fact, although there’s no official definition of a quartaut’s size in France. The ones that Glann ar Mor use hold around 55 litres and were made using wood that had previously contained Sauternes (so no wine remaining inside the casks as they were fully dismembered during the process ;-))

Colour: full amber. Nose: someone must have played a trick on me and sent me some Enmore or Albion from Demerara Distillers! Indeed, this is chock full of notes of leather, tobacco, earth and sugar cane, an obvious rancio that should have come after at least twenty years and bags and bags of lapsang souchong tea. And the greatest news is that it’s unlike any other whisky – or maybe some old-style sherry matured Laphroaig from days gone by. Could be stunning but adding water will help us know more… With water: less rummy, more a blend of old rum and bourbon, all high-end. Medicinal notes, camphor, wormwood, figs, garden bonfire, pu-erh tea, damp earth… Mouth (neat): quite extreme! Very high extraction, with a feeling of high-strength American this time (Van Winkle) and a lot of leather and hyper-infused herbal teas. Also toasted oak and quite some dry candy sugar as well as some earth again and maybe touches of pineapple liqueur. The peat isn’t very big but it’s there. With water: I should not like this heavy oakiness, yet I love it as the oak works like… say… wait… some old balsamic vinegar on some old Parmesan cheese. In other words, big flavours on big flavours, all for the better. Finish: extremely long, with more fruits (prunes, mirabelles) and an earthy/peppery aftertaste. Comments:… only three b****y years!…  SGP:365 - 92 points.

Kornog 2007/2010 (57.9%, OB, Glann ar Mor for Tommy Andersen, Sauternes quartaut) Five stars Colour: full amber. Nose: of course there are many common aromas but this one is rather fruitier, less dry, less leathery, more on bananas flambéed… Although both keep changing and developing – while we haven’t gotten all day to keep following these babies! Too bad… With water: oh no, they swapped places! It’s now this one that’s a notch drier and more leathery – and always wonderful. Mouth (neat): and now, it’s this one that is sweeter than Pär’s bottling again, with more jams and fruit liqueurs and rather less oak extraction. A feeling of American rye. Heavy stuff nonetheless. With water: both are extremely close now, although this one has maybe a little more sour/bitter herbs. Absinth? Finish: extremely long, herbal, heavy. Comments: gosh, I did not play with these whiskies, it’s them that have been playing with me, poor little me! Naughty wee beasties… By the way, someone will have to delve deeper into the issues of oak-peat interaction/fights one day. And although the styles are very different, I couldn’t avoid thinking of the Port Charlotte sherry bloodtubs when tasting these naughty, naughty little Kornogs. SGP:465 - 92 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: we should probably have a little Breton music to match the excellent Armoriks and Kornogs, such as pianist Didier Squiban and vocalist Yann-Fanch Kemener doing Trugerkaat Men Dous (from their album 'Kimiad'). Yes, Kemener sings in Breton. Soothing, as they say... Please buy Kemener and Squiban's music.

Kemener Squiban

February 28, 2012


Tasting Glen Garioch, vertically

Yup, today it’s Glen Garioch day on WF and we’ll kick this off with a little aperitif, the…

Garioch 8

Glen Garioch 8 yo (40%, OB, +/-2002) Two stars and a half From the former official line. Many older 8s from the 1970s were fabulous in their dumpy bottles but this might be different… Colour: straw. Nose: nah, it’s got these strange notes of plastic and chalk that weren’t utterly nice (while more recent officials have been so much more to my liking!) Whiffs of stale cider, Parma violets… But it does improve over time, with more candy sugar, butterscotch and vanilla as well as touches of gooseberries and pears. Mouth: better, much better despite something disturbingly cardboardy in the background. Speculoos, gingerbread, touches of mocha, golden rum, raisins and then a maltiness that never stops growing. Good body at 40% vol. Finish: medium long, more on toasts and caramel. A little liquorice and more gingerbread in the aftertaste. Also gentian spirit, earth. Comments: a bottling from the pivotal period, I’d say. Some very enjoyable parts, some not so much so. SGP:451 - 77 points.

All right, I think we’re ready for some serious Glen Garioch…


Glengarioch 13 yo 1993/2006 (57.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 264 bottles) Four stars That’s right, at Cadenhead’s, Glen Garioch is spelled Glengarioch. Colour: straw. Nose: raw, porridgy and mineral, with litres of graphite oil and, well, porridge. And leaven, soot, grass, cut cactus… Not one ounce of sweetness here! Extremely austere… With water: a smokiness arising (coal) as well as more flints and cut grass. Very unround. Mouth (neat): ah, this more to my liking. Cider, nutmeg, lemon and touches of star anise, very ‘Old Highlands’. Then more bitter oranges and liquorice with, maybe, touches of peat. With water: very good now, bitter oranges and Schweppes. Finish: medium long, a bit more austere again, grassy, peppery… Comments: the nose wasn’t easy but the palate was wonderful at times, reminding me of Old Clynelish, no less. SGP:263 - 85 points.


Glen Garioch 1991/2010 (50.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #3175, 142 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: the sootiness is back, as well as hints of cider apples, flour, graphite oil again, rocks, maybe a little mint, grass, humus… Marginally easier than the 1993 but it’s still no winsome whisky on the nose… Sauvignon blanc, yoghurt... With water: no, it’s still an austere one, even more on bone dry Sauvignon. Mouth (neat): big and very earthy and rooty this time. Gentian spirit matured in American oak ;-). I tend to like this profile, even if it’s not very complex so far. With water: not much evolution, in fact there’s rather more simple apple juice. Finish: medium long, on peppered apple juice and ginger. Comments: works, but it’s not a total winner in my book. A little strange, I found almost all other bottlings by MoS verging on stardom. SGP:352 - 81 points.

Let’s try another 1991 if you please…


Glen Garioch 20 yo 1991/2011 (54.4%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 182 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: a slightly rounder version this time, with more lemon liqueur and vanilla as well as some pretty beautiful touches of tangerines and rather less soot, but just as much grass as in the MoS. Nice mineral Riesling-like notes. With water: rounder now. Marmalade and Turkish delights, strawberries, marzipan… What a u-turn! Mouth (neat): same feeling as with the MoS, cask matured gentian spirit. It’s just that the oak was more active, which imparts more roundness and more sweetness. Well, a little more sweetness. With water: more earth and roots. I mean, even more earth and roots, plus bitter oranges. Finish: medium long, gingery and peppery. Gentian and bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: the problem with Glen Garioch is that there were these stunners from the 1960s and early 1970s. Why didn’t everybody keep making whisky like Morrison Bowmore in the 1960s? SGP:462 - 84 points.

And yet another 1991, and an official this time…


Glen Garioch 1991/2010 (54.7%, OB, North American oak, batch#38) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: one step further as far as roundness and vanilla are concerned but it’s still no ‘rounded’ malt. Other than that, we’ve got just as much soot, rocks, citrus fruits, porridge and grass. With water: this time it’s rather aromatic herbs that come out. Chives, rosemary, parsley, lovage… Funny that different casks behave so differently when diluted. Hints of pencil shavings, suggesting reracking in fresher wood. Mouth (neat): ah yes, very very nice this time. Much in line with the two previous ones but a little easier, rounder than both, a tad more gingery. Good earth, good roots (sounds like a blues record doesn’t it.) Bitter oranges. With water: more oranges drops, roots and an unexpected salinity. Ex-Bowmore casks? Anyway, good shtuff. Finish: long and even saltier. Pepper, bitter oranges and salt. Comments: just between us, it’s not often that some official manages to defeat the usually fab German indies in my book. Donnerwetter! SGP:462 - 86 points.

Let’s go back one year…


Glen Garioch 21 yo 1990/2012 (54%, Archives, hogshead, cask #252, 267 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this is different. Starts on a lot of ultra-fresh butter as well as the expected sootiness, then more ashes, grass and many things burning. Pine wood, cardboard, oak, leaves and, maybe, peat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not smoky whisky as such but, well, it’s pretty toasty. With water: more lemon juice this time, tart apple juice, dry white wine (we had riesling, we had sauvignon, so how about dry chenin this time? ;-)) Mouth (neat): I like this kind of acridness, involving many green apples and lemons as well as fresh walnuts and a feeling of spritzer. Sharp like a blade, as they say… With water: some ham now, that’s funny. And mint, eucalyptus… It really got wider. Finish: long, probably not as clean as some others because of these notes of ham or bacon (something slightly burnt), but it’s also rather more complex – although it’s no complex whisky as such. Smoky/ashy aftertaste. Comments: on par with the OB, I’d say, although very different. Or very pleasantly chaotic. SGP:463 - 86 points.

All right, a last one for the road (of course we never drink and drive!)


Glen Garioch 19 yo 1988/2008 (53.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #19.43, refill hogshead, 244 bottles) Five starsColour: pale gold. Nose: this is completely different this time. Much more on camphor, mint, patchouli, eucalyptus, walnuts, humus, sandalwood, bergamots… In short, it’s much more complex than all the ones from the 1990s and it hasn’t got the faintest touch of Parma violets or lavender! With water: smoky cough syrup? Mouth (neat): exactly the same feeling. Singular whisky, creamy, liquoricy, resinous and fruity at the same time, with a beautiful smokiness that coats the whole. I would not say it’s a surprise but it’s our favourite within the flight, no question about that. With water: oh yes, really. Beautiful. Touches of lavender sweets that have nothing to do with… well, you know what. Sorry for being a tad cryptic. Finish: long, mentholated, earthy and orangey. Comments: sometimes the SMWS put their hands on some real winners, and I think it’s the case here. Wonderful whisky with a lot of character! SGP: 552 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: mister Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin does The same thing. To be played loud. Please buy Bob Margolin's music.


February 27, 2012


Tasting four old Glen Keith to celebrate the reopening

There are rumours that Glen Keith will soon be reopened so let’s celebrate with a bunch of old ones today… Hurray! And let’s do it vertically… (so to speak ;-))


Glen Keith 33 yo 1973/2007 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, ref #3406, 331 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: it seems that it’s no fruit bomb, rather a fairly yeasty and grassy one, developing on mint, aniseed and dill, with touches of cardboard and wet wool in the background. There’s even a little mustard and caraway seeds. Not very opulent but not unpleasant so far… With water: it’s the yeastiness that grew bigger. Boiled cereals, bread and barley sugar. Mouth (neat): pleasant citrusy and herbal attack but it all becomes a little drying after that, maybe a tad cardboardy, with this feeling of overinfused black tea. Maybe Parma violets as well, just a little… With water: a little better but lacks character, I’d say. A little weak. Finish: medium long, with this feeling of sweetened porridge that’s does not make it a winner in my book. Comments: pretty okay but there are so many nicer old Glen Keiths around… SGP:341 - 80 points. Sadly, we haven’t got any 1972s so let’s go directly to 1971…


Glen Keith 32 yo 1971/2004 (56.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Whisky Live Tokyo 2008, #81.11, cask #8124, 'A full on Demonstration of sherry maturation', 75cl) Five stars If I understand well, there should be some sherry involved here… Colour: deep amber. Indeed. Nose: wee traces of sulphur at very first sniffs but then it’s all very dry and very oloroso-ish, with plenty of coffee, soy sauce and chocolate as well as growing notes of Seville oranges. And a superb rancio! Goes on with more pipe tobacco and leather and bags of lovage. Wonderful! With water: fab! Well-hung pheasant ;-). Definitely gamey. Mouth (neat): rich, coating, hyper-sherried but beautifully so. Demerara sugar, lemon liqueur, Cynar (artichoke), bitter oranges, strong caramel, cumin liqueur… It’s quite heavy and hugely concentrated, a style that bears no flaws in my experience. Well, I can’t spot any so far… With water: enormously drinkable. Please, call the anti-maltoporn brigade before we go on… Finish: long, maybe just a tad grapey (pips and skins). Comments: fantastic. Now, no surprise that the Japanese would have selected this, they know their whisky. SGP:562 - 92 points.


Glen Keith 40 yo 1970/2011 (46.1%, Silver Seal) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s rather a herbal one, with some mint, fennel, carrot tops… Quite some sour wood as well but that works very well, imparting notes of dry white to this baby (sauvignon). Behind all that, some leather, cigarette tobacco, cedar wood and then quite some nutmeg. A lot of nutmeg! Mouth: good, no over-oakiness, rather a wide range of soft spices of various origins plus some papaya and maybe guava. Nutmeg again, cinnamon, soft curry mix… All that on top of quite some apple compote. Make that overripe apples. Also white pepper. Finish: medium long, a notch fruitier but the spices are roaring in the aftertaste, although the whole is anything but too drying or tannic. Comments: perfect but maybe too perfect. A more distinct fruitiness would have propelled it over 90 but it’s a notch too oak-driven for my taste – although, again, it’s no oak bomb. Very good anyway, like everything by Silver Seal. SGP:461 - 87 points. Let’s have a last one, maybe one from the legendary vintage at Glen Keith: 1967.


Glen Keith 22yo 1967/1989 (46%, Signatory, casks #1128-1130, 700 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this baby’s quite different, much more on putty and marzipan than the others. Many herbs as well, rocket salad (ruccola?), artichokes, whiffs of old barrel, wine cellar, moss, menthol, sap… So it’s pretty ‘green’ but it’s all very compact and, well, it’s a style that I often enjoy provided there aren’t any flaws. And there aren’t. Very curious about the palate… Mouth: bang, wonderful! All those herbs translate into a very sappy profile, beautifully resinous, akin to cough syrup by a good maker. Prohibition-era medicine? ;-). Very interesting that the greenness is a genuine asset here, but let’s not forget that this is no old whisky. Finish: long and even more on cough medicine. Menthol and liquorice everywhere! Comments: always a thrill to try young or middle-aged old vintages such as this baby. One to chase at auctions. SGP:372 - 90 points.

(With thanks to Konstantin and Max)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the sound of Maurice André's trumpet was always to be heard at home when I was a kid. RIP Maurice André. Let's listen to Jean-Baptiste Arban's Fantaisie Brillante and then buy all of Maurice André's works.


February 26, 2012


Tasting two 1983 Dailuaine

Dailuaine and not Daluaine, like so many websites write, both professionals and amateurs. I’ve often found that Dailuaine could be a little sulphury, and I’m not only meaning sulphur from ex-sherry casks… Let’s see…


Dailuaine 28 yo 1983/2012 (47.3%, Archives, hogshead, cask #865, 265 bottles) Three stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: yes, that’s typical Dailuaine, starting with that feeling of hard-boiled eggs and a little fermenting grass as well as a chalkiness and developing more on a lot of custard and granny smith apples. Become more paraffiny after a while but there are also very nice citrusy notes, lime, grapefruits, gin fizz… A very peculiar nose for sure, very curious about the palate now… Mouth: starts a little roughish, spirity, and just as much on orchard fruits as many other Speysiders from refill wood. Apples, pears, gooseberries, white cherries… And more paraffin/putty again after a few seconds, as well as some almond oil and stone fruit spirit (plum, kirsch.) Finish: medium long, with a tannicity on top of these notes of plum spirit, which translates into cinnamon, nutmeg and white pepper in the aftertaste. Also a little bitterness (chlorophyll). Comments: I don’t think it’s easy whisky, it’s got a slightly rawish side but there aren’t that many occasions to own/try a pretty natural and good Dailuaine! SGP:451 - 84 points.


Dailuaine 27 yo 1983/2011 (53.6%, Master of Malt, 231 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: this one is rather bigger at first nosing, more on overripe apples and quite some cider, while these whiffs of chalk and paraffin (verging on motor oil) are well there as well. Then, just like in the ‘Acrhives’, a development on citrus fruits, with a pleasant sourness that mingles with the cider notes. Maybe a little kiwi as well. With water: more chalk, clay and even aspirin tablets come out. Same hints of gin fizz as in the Archives’ version. Cider apples. Mouth (neat): very much in the style of the Archives, only a little creamier and rounder, maybe because of a more active cask. Barley water, vanilla, apples, plums, ginger… With water: almost the same whisky as its sibling now. Baked apples, marzipan, ginger and cinnamon. Finish: ditto. Plus green tea, bitter oranges and lime. Comments: both whiskies were very similar once this one was diluted. Same style, same very good quality despite some unlikelinesses (in my view!), same score. SGP:451 - 84 points.

Gurus, joy and shame
The other day, the very popular and much collaborative (I think some call that ‘social’ or ‘community’) website Whiskybase.com published the results of their latest poll/question, titled ‘Who`s your favourite whisky guru?

It seems that yours truly attracted one third of the votes, more or less, which - let's not be falsely modest - I find very cool and gratifying of course. After all, we must be doing something right and let me send my heartfelt mercis to all the fabulous people who voted for me. I'm just wondering how many drams they had quaffed before clicking my name...

Whisky guru with student
... Because after having seen the overall results, I just cannot not think that those flattering figures rather address online presence, because in no way this measly website can compare to the stunning printed works of, say Dave Broom or Charlie MacLean, no to mention Michael Jackson. I'm a VW Polo against Astons, Porsches and Ferraris!

These guys know (or knew in the case of Emmdjay) so much more about whisky – and other drinks – than yours truly and that’s not an opinion, it’s a fact! I’m sure the results would have been very different, had the survey been conducted on paper. So, and please forgive me, no disrespect meant to the great guys who voted for me, let me simply – and symbolically, and shamelessly – transfer a very large proportion of ‘my’ votes to my mentors Charlie, Dave and of course the late Michael, they’re the ones who really deserve them. Having said that, not sure they would be very happy with the term ‘guru’ ;-).

MUSIC - Recommended listening: be aware that it's not easy not to get gooseflesh when Sarah Vaughan starts to sing In a sentimental mood. Well, you've been warned. Plese buy Sarah Vaughan.


February 24, 2012


Tasting five Glenrothes from the 1970s

A little verticale of Glenrothes, we haven’t done that since a long time… We’ll have to retrieve a few old glories to do that but I need lightness and honeyness these days, so it’s worth it…


Glenrothes 1979/2005 (55.3%, OB, cask #13470, 583 bottles) Five stars I remember another 1979/2005 bottled at 55.2% (cask #3808) that was quite excellent (WF 89). Colour: mahogany. Nose: well, it’s obviously an heavily sherried version and maybe I shouldn’t have started with this baby, as it’s also the strongest… But a verticale is a verticale, isn’t it! Anyway, bags of chocolate and prunes, Armagnac, deep oloroso, morello cherries, raspberry jam and blood oranges, so it’s a fruity/sweet sherry it seems. Quite heavy so far… With water: quite superb, classic development on balsamico, leather and walnut liqueur, with also touches of bacon. Mouth (neat): ultra-rich, thick, concentrated sherry. Walnuts, dried figs, prunes, quince jelly and again that feeling of old Armagnac, but there’s also something citrusy that really lifts the whole and makes it fresh and (almost) sippable just like that. With water: the oak’s spices come out (ginger, cinnamon) but the citrusy notes remain and keep it lively. Finish: long, on gin fizz and ginger liqueur, then classic prunes and figs. Comments: an ultra-sherried version that reminds me of some of Glenfarclas’ Family Casks. After all, we aren’t very far geographically speaking… SGP:552 - 90 points.


Glenrothes 1974/2000 (50.5%, Scott's Selection) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: the exact opposite of the official, that is to say a relatively light, honeyed and almondy spirit, very clean and very pure. Beautiful notes of lemon, tart apples, putty, vanilla fudge, dill, coriander… Almost granny smith juice after a few minutes. I like this profile a lot. With water: more almonds, linseed oil, putty, marzipan, apple peelings… Well, you get the drift. Mouth (neat): pure, crystal-clean yet rather almondy and resinous Speysider, developing on apples again, lemon and just that feeling of putty that could be somewhat close to soap, but which isn’t in my book. Whew! With water: more of the same, with gingery spices on top. Lemon liqueur, maybe a stiff mojito?... Finish: long, very almondy, putty-like, citrusy… Comments: a little scary at times (courting soapiness?) but otherwise quite brilliant. Let’s be men and not be too shy with our scores… SGP:471 - 88 points.

Let’s break off momentarily, as the next one should be much lighter…
All right, we’re back.


Glenrothes 16 yo 1975/1991 (43%, Signatory, cask #10322, 1200 bottles) Two stars 1200 bottles from one single cask, even at 43%, that was a lot! Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts well, with the trademark honeyness and plenty of stewed apples and ripe pears, but tends to become a little light and slightly tea-ish. Interesting notes of chamomile and thyme tea. It’s very nice, just a tad shy… (and not unlike many OBs at 43% vol). Mouth: surprisingly big this time, honeyed and citrusy, with good body and touches of chalk and shellfish (yeah, really). Maybe that came from bottle ageing?... Also medicinal touches, aspirin tablets, something lightly ‘chemical’ that was often to be found in various indie bottlings twelve or fifteen years ago (and Signatory was not the only ones, far from that). Maybe that came from what they were using to clean the pipes? Finish: medium long, with again this ‘chemical’ feeling. Pine, lavender… Comments: I liked the nose really a lot but it all went rather wrongly on the palate in my opinion. SGP:441 - 75 points (because of the nose).


Glenrothes 16 yo 1975/1991 (43%, The Prestonfield, cask #10322, 1200 bottles) Two stars Uh-oh, same cask #, same number of bottles… Same whisky under a different name? Let’s see… Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s rather different, which suggests that ageing in glass does change destinies! In fact, the piney notes are there right in the nose this time. Chalk, clay, liquid detergent, pine sap… It’s not as bad as it sounds, but it’s very, well, peculiar… Mouth: same as the Signatory, no differences at all this time. Finish: same. Comments: interesting to see what was most probably the same whisky becoming quite different on the nose after 20 years of bottle ‘ageing’. Yeah, the way we store our precious bottles is very important, probably much more so than we ever thought… SGP:351 - 72 points.


Glenrothes 41 yo 1970/2011 (45.1%, e Spirit Whisky & Acorn Ltd, 150th anniversary of the German-Japanese friendship, bourbon) Four stars and a half 150 years of German-Japanese friendship? Ah… After all, this is 2012!… Colour: straw. Nose: friendly indeed. Fresh fruits galore. Well, this is going to be short and sweet: it’s plain fruit salad, yet it’s elegant and certainly not wham-bam. Extremely fresh. Mouth: same. Apples, pears, gooseberries, kiwis, pineapples, cranberries, a little coconut, vanilla, papayas… And very little oak! Good mouth feel. Finish: medium long, still very fruity, with just a little green tea and ginger from the oak. Comments: something of Irish pure pot still here. The cask was shy and this could have been a 20, or even 15 years old in my opinion – but a brilliant one. The antithesis of an oak-driven whisky. SGP:631 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a short slice of Brazilian samba (well, all sambas are Brazilian, aren't there?) with Vanessa de Mata singing Quando Um Homem Tem Uma Mangueira (from 'Sim'). That's very sunny. Please buy Vanessa da Mata's music.

Vanessa da Mata

February 23, 2012


Tasting two Auchroisk

There are so many new Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Glen Grant or Bunnahabhain around that we tend to neglect the littler distilleries these days. I’m not talking about capacity of course, rather about reputation! Time to do something about that...


Auchroisk 22 yo 1988/2011 (52%, Duncan Taylor, Octave, cask #770686, 73 bottles) Three stars Colour: dark straw. Nose: well, I get peat smoke, which came unexpected. Or rather whiffs of lapsang souchong tea and barbecue. After that funny start, it all unfolds on jelly beans, apple juice and chicory, with touches of apricots and melons in the background as well as a little honeysuckle. With water: more liquorice and whiffs of burnt grass. Becomes much drier, even after having waited for a looong time. Mouth (neat): rather raw and kirschy, kind of unpolished despite the vanilla and maple syrup that may have come from the octave. Obvious notes of fruit eau-de-vie, not only kirsch in fact, also plums and pears, with even touches of youngish calvados. With water: the vanilla comes out more, as well as notes of tangerines and bergamots. Nicer! Finish: medium long, all on garden fruits and sweets. Plum spirit again in the aftertaste, as well as a little cardboard. Comments: maybe a little middle-of-the-road but it’s certainly good malt whisky. SGP:641 - 81 points.


Auchroisk 29yo 1979/2008 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #22450, sherry, 474 bottles) Four stars Sister cask #25427 was excellent but a bit hard… Colour: gold. Nose: the notes of apricots and melons are there as well but little smoke this time, rather some grass and ham, then juniper berries and a little kirsch. It’s quite powerful and pretty unusual, especially because of the notes of juniper. With water: becomes pleasantly sour, on apple and lemon juices as well as a little dill and aniseed. Sauvignon blanc. Mouth (neat): creamy and very fruity, rounder than the 1988. A fruit salad with quite a few drops of tutti-frutti spirit on top of it. Also touches of icing sugar or fructose, pear drops and liquorice allsorts. Very pleasant fruitiness, it’s almost a sweetshop. With water: more of all that, more fruit salad and more icing sugar, with a little mint as well. Very good! Finish: quite long, on exactly the same notes. Aftertaste: like if you had just had one or two orange drops. Comments: not the most complex dram ever but it’s much to my liking. A perfect alternative to the very good official 20yo that was issued, I think, in 2010. SGP:641 - 86 points. Hum, BTW, it seems that this was our 7,777th tasting note. Meaningless but funny - not.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: 'a velvety sound', they say. He was Willis 'Gator' Jackson and he blew Blue and Sentimental (that's from his CD Bar Wars). I think Pat Martino is on guitar. Please buy Willis Jackson's music.

Willis Jackson

February 22, 2012


Tasting two independent 1992 Ardmore

We’ve already tried quite a few 1992 Ardmores and I think all have been quite great. I think many people forget Ardmore when they thinnk peat…


Ardmore 19 yo 1992/2011 (49.3%, The Single Malts of Scotland, 207 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Exactly Ardmore, with this very precise moment where the fruitiness and the smokiness find perfect balance. I don’t know if it’s rather smoked peaches and cranberries or the other way ’round, but what’s sure is that it works. Also melons, hay, garden bonfire, a little coal, tangerines… I short, very Ardmore. With water: the barley comes out more. Fresh muesli. Nose (neat): Mouth: plain and pure estery peat. I mean, smoked sweets and drops (pineapples, oranges, strawberries, apricot, melon and god knows what else). Then more roots and pepper, both white and black, but this very peaty fruitiness will just remain there. Spectacular in its own kind. With water: an even bigger fruitiness. Lovable and much quaffable. Finish: medium long, tart, light, fruity, very clean. Comments: I love these Ardmores. Perfect if you like peat but do not always want to feel like you’ve put your head into a stovepipe. Ahem. SGP:546 - 90 points.


Ardmore 1992/2012 (49.9%, The Whiskyman, 'Peat Fighting Man', 146 bottles) Five starsColour: white wine. Nose: same whisky as the TSMOS. I’m not saying it’s exactly the same whisky (nor the same cask of course), I’m just saying these two babies are even less distinguishable than the Kessler twins. Mouth: maybe a notch rounder/vanilla-ed, maybe not. Very same-ish for sure! Finish: ditto. Comments: the wonders of consistency. Same pointless comments about stovepipes. SGP:546 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Japanese bassist and wonder of fusion jazz Tetsuo Sakurai does Wonderland in the Sky with luminaries Greg Howe and Dennis Chambers (from his CD Gentle Heart, 2001). Not everything fusion is good of course, but this is very impressive methinks - and I'm sure Al di Meola would agree. Please buy Tetsuo Sakurai's music!


February 21, 2012


Tasting old and very old Lochside

Time to have more Springbank of the East today.


Lochside 1981/2005 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old) Three stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: it's not the expected fruity burst that happens, rather a slow take-off on all kinds of teas such as earl grey and chamomile, with the expected tangerines and kumquats only whispering in the background. More menthol after a while, walnut liqueur, a little toffee, marzipan, chartreuse… It's all quite subtle but certainly not weak. Very nice profile, with even old roses and Turkish delights coming through after quite some minutes. Kind of oriental… Also a little ale. Mouth: the oak's louder and there are also unexpected notes of Guinness and other stout beers (Guinness is stout, right? I know nothing about beer). Very big maltiness, then more herbs, cinnamon (quite huge) and cloves. Good body at 43% but this is quite un-Lochside in my opinion. Finish: medium long, even more on malt. Ovaltine, chocolate and cinnamon. More bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: not much citrus fruits (or they're buried deep underneath the maltiness) but an interesting profile. As sometimes happens, a bottling by G&M that's quite different from the usual distillery style. SGP:452 - 83 points.


Lochside 1981/2010 (50.5%, Thosop, refill sherry, 206 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: we're more or less in the same style as the G&M's, even if this is even drier and vegetal. I get a lot of nutmeg, 'nice dust', cinnamon, lime blossom, beeswax, mushrooms, liquorice, mint leaves… Once again, no fruity explosion this time and a very complex profile that just wouldn't stop developing. With water: a walk in the forest in the middle of October. Moss, mushrooms, truffles, Havana cigars, then more citrus fruits. Quite superb. Mouth (neat): starts on green tobacco and bitter oranges, then ginger and grapefruit, the whole being slightly prickly (Schweppes feeling). Develops on more orange zests and ginger liqueur, with touches of guavas. With water: swims like a champ. Here they are, tangerines, papayas, oranges, bergamots and, err, Lochside! Finish: long, candied yet fresh and vibrant, on all these tropical fruits intermingled with herbs and soft spices. A little soot and more ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: yeah! (being a lazy writer again, S.?) SGP:651 - 90 points.


Lochside 44 yo 1967/2011 (41.5%, Coopers Choice, cask #807) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: it's the oak that's talking but it's absolutely not oaky as such. So vanilla and coconut at first, then more marzipan, custard, putty, hazelnut liqueur (and even touches of the dreaded Bailey's) and then only distant ideas of limes and lemons. Frankly, it's a big surprise that this baby wouldn't be oakier and more tired, esp. at such low strength (btw, it's cask strength). Mouth: the miracle goes on, with a very wide assortment of tropical fruits (coconuts first, then mangos, pineapples and papayas) and aromatic herbs and flowers (teas). Rosehip, hawthorn, honeysuckle pastries, baklavas, vanilla… It's quite incredible that oak didn't take control here, and there's certainly something of an old high-quality grain whisky (although the label stipulates 'single malt'). Finish: more of all that plus strawberries and orange blossom water in the aftertaste. Comments: old malt whisky that tastes pretty much like old grain whisky in my opinion. Who cares, quality's very high but warning, it's extremely quaffable. SGP:641 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the Swingle Singers' absolute lightness, with their rendition of the Largo of JSB's Harpsichord Concerto No. 5 in F minor BWV 1056. Don't we all need a little lightness these days? Please buy the Swingle Singers' music.


February 20, 2012


Ten Laphroaig

Remember we’ve started to taste Caol Ila ten by ten? Yeah well, I’m afraid we’ll have to do the same with Laphroaig as there are peated oceans lapping against WF Towers these days, really! But remember our rules for these sessions: there are none! Which means that these ten babies have not been tasted ‘together’….


Laphroaig 12 yo 1996/2009 (46%, Milroy's, bourbon hogshead, cask #7289, 337 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: nice, as all youngish ‘phroaigs are, but a tad simple and subdued. Sea water, soot, hessian, and only the tiniest wet dogs. Chihuahuas? Also peat of course, and ripe apples. Mouth: good, easy, rounded, candied, smoky and slightly salty Laphroaig. Quite briny, in fact. Simple and mucho quaffable. Finish: long, ashy, briny, salty and liquoricy. Dry and ashy aftertaste. Comments: very good, but may lacks ageing, thus complexity. The fact that Laphroaig can be very good when very young isn’t an excuse, is it? And between us, there are countless thousands of similar indie Laphroaigs around, but yeah, this is still very good. SGP:347 - 84 points.


Laphroaig 18 yo 1990/2008 (46%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather candied version of Laphroaig, that verges on white rum at times. It’s also a tad buttery and pretty porridgy I must say. More and more notes of horse sweat and cow stable. Dung? Mouth: nicer now. Still sweet and almost sugary but I enjoy these touches of cider apples and oysters. A blend of brine and apple juice, 50/50, plus a little fruity Swiss cheese. Fribourg? Finish: medium long, on seashells and Demerara sugar. Comments: was this baby from refill sherry wood? Too bad the label wouldn’t tell us… And too bad some parts were a tad flabby – I think. Aren’t we becoming hard to please with anything Laphroaig? SGP:447 - 81 points.


Laphroaig 22 yo 1987/2009 (46%, Silver Seal) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes, now we’re talking. Keyword: balance. Balance between lemon and lime juice, seawater, oysters, cough syrup and a very delicate smokiness, then some beautiful farmyardy notes. Touches of passion fruits as well, grapefruits, a little high-end vinegar, then more butterscotch… Great nose! Mouth: a wonderful liqueurish Laphroaig, complex and becoming more and more medicinal ‘the old way’, with quite some eucalyptus and… more eucalyptus. And olive oil. And plain olives. Maybe capers. And lemons. And more and more salt. Finish: not the longest ever, and certainly not the smokiest, but maybe the saltiest. Comments: spectacularly briny Laphroaig. You have to like that style but if you do, you’ll love this baby. Ueber-salty! SGP:357 - 90 points.


Laphroaig 12 yo (48.4%, Mr. P.G. Jensen & Sons, Denmark, 4 months sherry finish) Four stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: classic Laphroaig but rather rounder than usual offerings. Brine, seaweed and bandages plus touches of kumquats, oranges and quinces, then soot and plain peat smoke. In fact, this has something of the best batches of the official – and sadly discontinued – 15yo. Mouth: ooh-ah! Very, very, very nice, and I mean it. Perfect combination of raw, medicinal peat and orange marmalade, with also these notes of passion fruits and mangos that scream ‘old 10’. Too bad there’s a slight bitterness in the background (leaves), otherwise this would have been fab. Finish: long, with a little salt and again that slightly leafy thing. Smoked maracuja ice cream. Comments: Laphroaig can be very versatile and this baby is a fine example. Well done, Mr. Jensen! SGP:557 - 88 points.


Laphroaig 16 yo 1995/2011 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for Paris’ Harry’s New York Bar, bourbon barrel, cask #49, 229 bottles) Five stars A cool decanter – a silkscreened flagon - for the famous bar’s 100th anniversary. It was bottled at 100°proof because of the bar's 100 years. Why not? Colour: full gold. Nose: a top Laphroaig, extremely smoky, lemony and salty, with a little vanilla and maple syrup in the background to make it just a tad rounder. Mouth: very punchy and truly ‘uncompromising’. Only hints of grapefruit liqueur make it a little more approachable after a while. After a few minutes, more vanilla again and a little more smoothness. Finish: long, very salty. Comments: plain and pure Laphroaig, hinting at the famous official 10 years Cask Strength. SGP:358 – 90 points.

Laphroaig WF

Laphroaig 11 yo 2000/2011 (53.6%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon, rum cask finish, 276 bottles) Four stars Do a few litres of rum stand any chance against a 2000 Laphroaig? Let's see… Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed, this seems to be a slightly sweeter version of a young, potent Laphroaig, and maybe there's a little more marzipan and putty than usual? Also wee notes of Grand-Marnier that are just as unusual in Laphroaig… Hard to say, all that may come from autosuggestion…  Mouth: I think the rum is a little more obvious on the palate, and it's far from being unpleasant. Some candy sugar and wee touches of banana skin, marmalade, sweet ginger liqueur… And in the background, Laphroaig's roaring peat! But little salt or brine this time, as if the rum had annihilated that side. Funny! Finish: medium long, rather round and candied. A little more lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: a nice variant, that works well. Who will ever try to smoke sugar canes? Or even peat them? Yeah, a strange idea… SGP:657 - 85 points.

Laphroaig WM

Laphroaig 21 yo 1990/2011 (56.3%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #2351, 215 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: this is more complex, with more secondary and tertiary notes but quite funnily, I find a little rum again. Strange how the mind works. Seriously, we're rather on tobacco (new pack of Camels), smoked salmon and other fish this time, then some Demerara sugar (here we go again), liquorice wood, pine sap, humus, putty and cough syrup. Very, very nice nose, les extreme and deeper than others. Mouth: excellent, candied yet nervous start, with some pineapple jam, papayas and vanilla, then more honey and mint liqueur. Big peat of course but not that big, some leather, tobacco again, a little brine, kippers, lemon… Finish: long, with more sweet cough syrup and touches of green Chartreuse. Passion fruits and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: a very active cask here! I think it's the kind of great bottling that will benefit from further ageing in glass - all we need is twenty extra-years ;-). SGP:657 - 89 points.

Laphroaig DT

Laphroaig 12 yo 1997/2010 (54.7%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #56363, 187 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: textbook young Laphroaig, coastal, smoky and… well, very smoky. I'm meaning not only peat but also coal and wood, with even a little tar in the background as well as hints of cinchona (Campari). Unfolds of herbs and leaves, grass and leather. Mouth: excellently earthy and citrusy. Very fresh, nervous, beautifully sharp and crystalline. Bags of lemons. Hurray! (curb your enthusiasm, S.!) Finish: long, chiselled, resinous, peaty and lemony. What the people want. Comments: a little beauty if you like them ultra-clean and almost Riesling-like, as I do. Great quality/age ratio. SGP:658 - 90 points.

Laphroaig TWF

Laphroaig 20 yo 1990/2011 (52.1%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 221 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather sappy, rounded and vanilla-ed version, with a lot of custard and cake that make this baby much smoother and rounder than most of its brothers and sisters. Even the peat is kind of discreet, while there's more oysters and fresh butter. Funny whiffs of sorrel and fresh coriander in the background. Mouth: we're back on the tracks now, with more peat and, above all, litres of grapefruit and lemon juice that make it very tart and nervous, not unlike the marvellous 1997 by DT. Excellent. Finish: long, clean, salty and limey. Some toffee in the aftertaste, as if the hogshead had been heavily recharred prior to filling. Comments: a bit of a Janus, so to speak. Quality's high, as expected. SGP:557 - 88 points.

Laphroaig DT

Laphroaig 25yo 1986/2011 (60.6%, AD Rattray, bourbon, cask #2123, 170 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: hot and powerful, seemingly a little buttery and quite mentholated, but that may be the effects of the very high strength. With water: more butter and even yoghurt, muesli, boiled cereals… And a moderate smokiness. Mouth (neat): ah yes, this works greatly. Starts with some sweet round vanilla and touches of pink grapefruits (more than touches, actually, there’s plenty) and goes on with a great balance between lemon, smoke and brine. With water: more of all that, it all becomes nicely tart and very nervous. Passion fruits. Finish: long, citrusy. Notes of tinned pineapples and orange segments (in syrup). Comments: I’m not extremely fond of the nose but the palate is something. A peaty fruit salad. SGP:656 – 86 points.

Crikey, isn't that ten Laphroaigs already? More, many more to come within the next few weeks… And Caol Ilas too!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a little fugue with a Cuban feeling by the wonderful flutist Jane Bunnett and her Cuban masters. It's called Fugado y Son Nocturno and it's on the lady's fantabulous album 'Jane Bunnett And The Cuban Piano Masters'. Please buy it - and many others.


February 19, 2012


Auctions, tricks and traps
After McTear’s whisky debacle the other day – remember they refused a refund after having sold bottles that had been opened while the description on their website did not mention any problems -, may I humbly suggest a few guidelines as soon as absentee bids are allowed, a situation which makes the “sold as seen” condition pretty one-sided if not plain fallacious…

Any bottle that’s not perfectly alright should be advertised as such, just like an old car that would have no engine.

Pictures should be of the genuine items, not from a database of bottle pictures.
When the glass is dark, or whenever the picture isn’t good enough, the level should be mentioned in the description (like, in the neck, lower neck, shoulder and so on). Well, better always put that!
Pictures should be taken at a standard temperature of around 20°C and not at 30°C (mind you, alcohol expands so levels go up!)

Ceramics should be weighted and subsequent filling levels should be advertised. It’s not difficult to keep a list of the ‘normal’ weights of the most well-known ceramic bottles and decanters, like Springbanks, Highland Parks, Signatory Vintage and others…)

Always better with also pictures of the backs (labels…)
Any use of ‘extra’ stuff such as lacquer, wax or cling film should be advertised, especially when that’s hard to spot from the pictures.
Items should not be touched/changed anymore after pictures were taken. Well, certainly not opened!
Any change of conditions after the picture was taken should grant the possibility of a full refund. It’s amazing how quick a level can go down or even a cork go dry when you display a bottle right under a 100-Watt halogen lamp for just a few days!
Only sell items that are 100% genuine and 100% no refills. If you’re not 100% sure, refuse the bottle. If you fail, which can still happen because nobody’s perfect, never hide behind the dreadful ‘sold as seen’ clause…
After all, the auction house is the expert, not the buyer, (well, he should not have to be one!) If some items have not being evaluated, advertising the fact that you've got inhouse experts becomes misleading at best.
All that in good spirits! Anybody can fail, let's just not repeat mistakes.

February 17, 2012

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

Does Glentauchers have anything to say?


Yeah, I’m trying to be creative with my titles. What? I can hear you!…

Glentauchers 2006/2009 (46%, Càrn Mor, Scottish Liqueur Centre, cask #9, 20cl) Two stars Barely whisky, this! Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: apples, pears, white cherries, grass, sweet barley and vodka. Definitely not whisky if ‘mature’ is a part of the definition of whisky. Not an unpleasant newmake, though, but it’s almost newmake. Mouth: not bad, to be honest, quite oily, with some barley water, pear liqueur and touches of liquorice allsorts. Very simple, very sweet, with good body. Finish: medium long, more on cane syrup. Comments: quite passable, this baby whisky. Not one to nose but it’s kind of sippable. SGP:430 - 70 points.


Glentauchers 10 yo 2000/2011 (46%, Aberdeen Distillers, ABD 1010, 360 bottles) Two stars A series by the excellent Blackadder. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s not very old either but the grassiness has disappeared and it became rounder, with pleasant notes of plum pie and custard. Other than that, we have apples, pears, barley water and just a touch of muesli. Pretty harmless. Mouth: now we’re talking – a bit! It’s still very simple and rather sugary, but some parts are pleasant, such as some apple pie, cane syrup again, light honey, vanilla sugar, maybe touches of agave/tequila? Finish: medium long, with something slightly salty and then more herbs, chives, rosemary, mint... Very nice finish I must say. Comments: it’s youngish malt whisky of decent quality in my opinion. Nothing to write home about but the finish worked well. Typical 75 in my book. Right, 76. SGP:531 - 76 points.


Glentauchers 30 yo 1981/2011 (58.5%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, cask #11/839, 175 bottles)Four stars and a half A nice new series by LMDW, with a fairly Parisian label. No I’m no Parisian. Colour: gold. Nose: to tell you the truth, the 2006 and the 2000 were only (valid!) excuses to have a go at this baby and indeed it’s just the opposite. Of course much more complex, more mature, more ‘tertiary’ and, frankly, much more interesting. Starts on some herbs liqueur, with some mint and kummel, then we have more and more earth and roots (gentian, that’s usually more to be found in the peaters in my experience), then tropical fruits (green bananas? No fruit bomb) and some vanilla. Keeps developing on leather and beeswax and then we’re back on earth. To earth? Anyway, a nice, complex and changing nose, really entertaining. Mouth: rich, creamy, starting very earthy and sweet at the same time. A funny feeling of bourbon (ginger-vanilla-corn sugar) and some bitter herbs that prevent it from getting too sweet. Cloves, liquorice wood, then cough lozenges, more candied ginger, plain grass, maybe that gentian again, bitter apples… And then more and more pepper. I like this quite a lot, but let’s try to add a few drops of water (while the nose became even earthier and more camphory): water doesn’t make much differences, maybe more citrus, grapefruits… Finish: long and more citrusy now. Ginger and Seville oranges, with always that earthiness in the background. Camphory aftertaste. Comments: a very interesting oldie. Glentauchers is no big name so it may pass unnoticed but that would be a shame. In short, if you haven’t got any Glentauchers in your bar… SGP:462 - 89 points.


About investing in whisky.
Yes I’m late.

There are lots of strange comments and hyperbolic articles on investing in whisky or even speculating since the end of last year. In fact, so much has been spoken and so much written (*) about those very topics that I won’t add much and only make a few observations.
First, people tend to put everybody into the same bag. Investors, speculators, collectors, ‘accumulators’… I wouldn’t. ‘True’ collectors are passionate and often fountains of knowledge. They sometimes know even better than the brands’ people themselves. They do not collect for the sake of making money and having to sell only one of their precious bottles is usually excruciating. In short, they are the exact opposite of speculators and should not be mistaken for them. If they sell, it’s because they have to – or because they just lost interest. Yes, that can happen.
The speculating breed is different. They’re seeking short-run profits while investors seek long-run returns, although the long run is often a short run that had failed, with whisky just like with many other goods. Just ask Ernst & Young or your bank.
So, the general press has pushed ‘investing in whisky’ a lot before Christmas. It’s one of the old chestnuts, every once in a while those people need to find ‘a hidden gem’ – and one or two ‘experts’ to match and give credibility to the claims. There used to be old cars, contemporary art, photographs, Bordeaux, watches, comic books… and now whisky. As always, the clever dealers know how to whip the cream. Fair game! But sadly, newborn collectors will rarely make any extra-buck out of their new collections, just because the ‘collectability value’ was already in the price in the first place. And because it was already too late when they started. Sure they can ‘win’ with a few bottles - usually starting with an A - , but they’ll also lose with several others and their overall profit will probably be small.   Glenlivet
Glenlivet ad, 1986.
I’d add that it’s not easy to detect true collectable items when you’re not experienced enough. Many new so-called ‘collectable’ bottles may well be to whisky what Franklin Mint’s, err, ‘things’ are to fine arts. In fact, it could be that any new bottle that’s pushed as ‘a collectable’ (on the label, box or in the usually delightful yet silly press releases) is a perfect example of what’s NOT collectable, precisely. Mind you, no genuinely collectable item has ever had ‘collectable’ written on it, even Picasso wouldn't have done that.
Lastly, three personal pieces of advice if you really want to ‘invest’ in whisky but are not ready to buy Diageo or Pernod shares (which is the normal way of investing in a business, isn’t it?):
1. Secure your investment. Watch the closures, watch the levels, watch changes of temperature and hygrometry. Often levels go down over time and a level that’s ‘low neck’ already means a significant loss of value. A level that’s ‘in the shoulder’ means a very heavy loss. Very important: it’s not so much whether the level is a little low or not that’s important when you buy whisky, it’s whether it’s in the process of going down or not, and at which pace. That, you won’t see on a picture. Experienced collectors know which series are ‘dangerous’ and which aren’t, and check if some levels suddenly start to go down.  What’s more, perfect storing conditions as far as levels are concerned can be quite bad for labels, and labels are important as well. I’d add that whisky companies should start to propose ‘official reconditioning’ for their most valuable bottles, just like the châteaux in Bordeaux do. Luckily, a relatively low level does not mean that the whisky got worse (it’s sometimes the opposite!) but it means indeed that the value got lower.   Banff
A low level Banff at
The Whisky Exchange.
Shown and advertised
as such, and priced
2. Be aware of fakes. I’ve stopped writing about fakes for several reasons. First, because that was damaging to the ‘serious’ whisky merchants, especially several very honest, friendly and highly reliable Italian sellers. Then, it was a negative topic and I’d like to keep whisky positive. And lastly, I started to get many requests from good people who had just bought a bottle of Glentowbullin 10yo at the nearest supermarket and who were wondering if it wasn’t a fake because the foil over the cap was a little loose. Or dark green instead of light green. But there aren’t only fakes, there are also refills (genuine bottles that have been refilled with cheaper whisky). So, beware and try to buy only from reputable sellers and houses because most know how to detect fakes and would never take chances with their reputation (**).  
3. Invest in good whisky, never, ever invest in bad whisky. Unless you’re a serious collector and would like to own complete series, but that’s another topic. When a bubble bursts (remember bubbles look perfectly all right just before they burst), the high-quality items tend to be less affected than the ‘junk’, provided you did not already buy them at a ‘collectable’ price or at their peak of value, which is hard to define. Bell's decanters, anyone? ;-).
Well, it seems that I did not manage to keep this short. Apologies!... But if you want to read more and have a little fun, why not check what the excellent Sku wrote about those topics… All very true!
(*) Latest example, an article in The Scotsman quoting a collector who bought an Ardbeg Provenance twenty years ago for £200 (while it was first issued fifteen years ago, but who counts?) that's now worth £4,000 to £5,000 supposedly (while it actually sells for around €800 to €1,100).
(**) Oh, while I'm at it, just a last example of a deadly trap...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I may have posted this before but after all these years, it's still immensely powerful and after all, it talks about whisky's best friend: water. So yes, it's Mr Fela Anikulapo Kuti and his wonderful, unbeatable incantation called Water No Get Enemy. Remember to buy Fela's music!


February 16, 2012


Tasting two new official Dalmore


Dalmore ‘Cigar Malt Reserve’ (44%, OB, 2012) Three stars The successor to the discontinued former Cigar Malt. Matured in 70% oloroso and 30% bourbon according to the official website – successively it seems. Colour: amber. Nose: rich and well in the Dalmore style, a style that, I believe, isn’t to be found at many other places these days. Toffee and lovage, a little parsley, caramel, milk chocolate and orange marmalade, then just whiffs of toast crumbs and mint. Works well, in a fairly antique style (think old gentlemen’s club and, maybe, cigars…) Hints of Port. Mouth: starts all on gingerbread and raspberry jam, although it’s no thickish palate. Quite some bitter chocolate too. Nice attack but it’s soon to become a little lighter, yet I like these touches of pink grapefruits and oranges. Finish: rather short but pleasantly chocolaty and gingery. Citrus fruits and cardamom in the aftertaste. Comments: a pleasant, old-style dram, well-composed for sure. I like the fact that it’s rather less sweetish than some. SGP:541 - 82 points.


Dalmore 1996/2012 'Cromartie' (45%, OB, oloroso finish, 7,500 bottles) Four stars Bottled for some kind of charity for some kind of castle up there. Not too sure it’s finished in oloroso as the press release mentions both techniques, finishing and full maturing. Well, it’s probably finished (finessed in Dalmore speak). We also learn that it’s ‘a complex composition of unashamed luxury’. Must be true! Colour: amber. Nose: it’s rather a lighter and rather more mineral (in comparison) style. A little more grass, mint, leather and then touches of peonies, chocolate and kumquats. Again, lighter and a notch more elegant than the Cigar Malt in my opinion. Mouth: definitely more to my liking than the Cigar. More oomph this time, more body, more herbs and liquorice, more spices, more Seville oranges, lemons, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, kumquats (and that feeling of earl grey)… This is pretty excellent! Finish: long, on pepper, sultanas and marmalade. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: I find this excellent. Should I have to have only one ‘current’ official bottle of Dalmore, I may select this one (not talking about the GlenWonkish bottlings of course). SGP:552 - 87 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I know we have some reggae fans amongst WF's distinguished readers so let's have a good slice of pure, rare Jamaican stuff. It's called In Time to Come and it was crafted by Earth and Stone in the late '70s I think. Please buy their music.


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

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



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

Ardmore 19 yo 1992/2011 (49.3%, The Single Malts of Scotland, 207 bottles)

Ardmore 1992/2012 (49.9%, The Whiskyman, 'Peat Fighting Man', 146 bottles)

Glen Garioch 19 yo 1988/2008 (53.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #19.43, refill hogshead, 244 bottles)

Glen Keith 22yo 1967/1989 (46%, Signatory, casks #1128-1130, 700 bottles)

Glen Keith 32 yo 1971/2004 (56.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Whisky Live Tokyo 2008, #81.11, cask #8124, 'A full on Demonstration of sherry maturation', 75cl)

Glenrothes 1979/2005 (55.3%, OB, cask #13470, 583 bottles)

Kornog 2007/2010 (57.9%, OB, Glann ar Mor for Tommy Andersen, Sauternes quartaut)

Kornog 2007/2010 (57.3%, OB, Glann ar Mor for Pär Caldenby, Sauternes quartaut)

Laphroaig 22 yo 1987/2009 (46%, Silver Seal)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1995/2011 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for Paris’ Harry’s New York Bar, bourbon barrel, cask #49, 229 bottles)

Laphroaig 12 yo 1997/2010 (54.7%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #56363, 187 bottles)

Lochside 1981/2010 (50.5%, Thosop, refill sherry, 206 bottles)

Lochside 44 yo 1967/2011 (41.5%, Coopers Choice, cask #807)