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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2013 - Part 1

January 2013 - part 2 <--- February 2013 - part 1 ---> February 2013 - part 2


February 14, 2013


Tasting Karuizawa twenty years apart
(1984 – 1964)

Yes, Karuizawa again. But I wouldn’t like you to think that I’m neglecting my Yamazakis or Yoichis (or other fine Japanese), I promise I’ll organise some ultra long verticales pretty soon. As for the dreadful St Valentin(e) - yup that's today -, don't get me started...

Karuizawa 1984/2012 (61.6%, Number One Drinks Company, sherry butt, cask #3692, 359 bottles)

Karuizawa 1984/2012 (61.6%, Number One Drinks Company, sherry butt, cask #3692, 359 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark red amber. Nose: a gun that just fired, reminds me of my days in the army (conscription). So yeah, a lot of gunpowder and struck matches, and even truffles at first nosing, but no hard boiled eggs, asparagus or cooked cabbage in there. So no mercaptan/thiols, luckily. What’s more, as often those notes tend to go away, leaving room for quite some chocolate and raspberry jelly. Now, it’s very strong, so… With water: goes toward dried porcinis, cigars, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and, maybe, even old Parmesan cheese. Also bags and bags of roast chestnuts – I don’t think I ever got that that loudly. All that is quite lovely. Mouth (neat): rich and powerful, it’s more some kind of ultra-heavy jam at this point. Prunes, Armagnac, black pipe tobacco and a tarry/smoky side that may come from the high strength. Let’s see… With water: this time it became a little gamy and very dry, with this gunpowder that came back. Bitter chocolate, some ginger, heavy herbal liqueur (starting with a J., dear) or even this weird thing called Schinken häger. Ever tried that? Finish: long, dry, very chocolaty. Quite some white pepper. Smokier and ashier aftertaste. Comments: I think you have to like gunpowder to enjoy this baby, which doesn’t necessarily mean you need be a belligerent person (S., you’re tired). Not utterly stellar in my opinion but quality’s very high, no doubt. SGP:463 - 89 points.

Karuizawa 1964/2012 (57.7%, Number One Drinks for Wealth Solutions, Poland, cask #3603, 143 bottles)

Karuizawa 1964/2012 (57.7%, Number One Drinks for Wealth Solutions, Poland, cask #3603, 143 bottles) Five stars This magnifico bottle was just launched on Feb 13 in Warsaw. Colour: rich amber. Nose: rather than smoky and chocolaty like some other old Karuizawas could be, this one is full of overripe fruits and the jams made thereof, with many spices and sappy ‘things’ in the background. In fact, it’s quite extraordinary. Strawberries with menthol? Figs and marzipan? Dates and liquorice? Quinces with some putty? There’s even something coastal that’s growing and growing, but the whole rather makes me think of some glorious very old but terrifyingly vibrant sherried Speysider that would have sucked a little extra-menthol out of a magnificent cask. And maybe a little beef stock at the same time… With water: Karuizawa really loves water, the whisky became even more fabulous and incredibly complex. Some fruitcake especially made for a very wealthy and completely mad dictator? Mouth (neat): what the hell is this? I’ve never found this is any malt whisky… Some kind of overripe tropical fruits, maybe longans? There’s also this curious cheesy side, absolutely wonderful (in this context!) New Comté or other fruity Jurassian cheese? There’s also a lot of oak, which is normal, but what’s important, I think, is that it’s all perfectly integrated. Add to that some tangerine liqueur, black pepper, cumin, cloves, grape pips (ha, resveratrol!)… All that is very big, it’s almost a monster of a whisky. With water: these wonderfully strange notes grew even bigger. Swiss cheese with mango jam. Finish: endless, with the spices singing many songs. No I won’t list them all, do not worry. Bitter chocolate in the aftertaste (tannins, but no worries). Comments: first it’s brilliant whisky, and second, it’s ‘different’ whisky. Respect. I’m sorry, but that’ll be SGP:571 - 95 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Karuizawa I've tasted so far




Block Today: ROCK. Performer: no horsemeat in Captain Beefheart. Track: Bat Chain Puller. That was recorded in 1976 but released much later because of some kind of issues with Frank Zappa who was holding the rights. Please visit the website and buy the music...

February 13, 2013


Old Glenlivets, part two

Glenlivet 1978/1994 (58.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Series, cask #4814- 4816)

Glenlivet 1978/1994 (58.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Series, casks #4814- 4816) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: harsh and grassy, ashy, almost brutal at first nosing, without much fruitiness or honeyness. So quite un-Glenlivet so far but water may help. Apple peelings. With water: much nicer, with some vibrant malty notes, raw barley, earth, wood smoke, touches of turpentine (nice in this context)… The best use of water! Mouth (neat): ultra-raw kirschy, very eau-de-vie-ish, without an ounce of smoothness, not to mention honey or jam. Cough, cough… Also lot of grass again. With water: once again, water makes wonders even if this remains a little harsh. Tarty apples, white cherries, tangerines. That’s nice. Finish: quite long, very zesty. Pear and lemon drops as well as a little icing sugar. Comments: water is obligatory but then, it sings. SGP:661 - 86 points.

Glenlivet 16 yo 1974/1990 (55.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Glenlivet 16 yo 1974/1990 (55.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars Quite strangely, Cadenhead's were still filling 'black dumpy' bottles while they had already started using the 'tall green bottle, small white label' in the last months of 1990. This is an example of the latter set-up. Colour: white wine. Nose: even more austere and grassy than the G&M, chalky… Just wee touches of beer in the background but other than that, it’s a pure grass bomb. With water: all on barley now, everything else has disappeared. Mouth (neat): ah, some fruits, at last! Big lemon and apples, heavy grapefruits and then this very grassy thing. Between harshness and fruitiness. A very lively profile. With water: behaves exactly like the 1978, becoming very zesty and fruity. Does marc de chenin blanc exist? Finish: long, nervous, citrusy. A little menthol in the aftertaste. Comments: same as the 1978. You have to tame it but then it offers lots of pleasures. SGP:661 - 86 points.

After those very punchy 16yos, let’s have something older…

Glenlivet 39 yo 1970/2009 (54.3%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #2002, 110 bottles)

Glenlivet 39 yo 1970/2009 (54.3%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #2002, 110 bottles) Four stars DT had issued several 1970s until 2010. Are all casks gone? Colour: full gold. Nose: I had expected some kind of fruity and floral extravaganza but not at all, it’s rather bizarrely cheesy and cardboardy at first nosing, with hints of cooked asparagus and maybe even truffles. Mercaptan? Let’s let this baby breathe a bit… (after fifteen minutes) Yes, that worked, it became appropriately jammy and fruity. Butterscotch, fruit salad and honey, pomegranates… What a transformation! No more mercaptan. Lovely. With water: even more so. All these ‘Western’ fruits plus touches of hay, beeswax, honeycomb and all that… Almost a wonder now. Mouth (neat): bizarre again. On the one side, there’s this very zesty profile, with a lot of orange juice, but on the other side there’s something bizarrely chemical (canned orange juice, liquorice allsorts, jell-o). Quite some green oak as well, maybe it’s the culprit, let’s wee… With water: not much changes. Maybe a little marmalade but these ‘chemical’ oranges remain there. Finish: medium long, with more zesty spices, coriander, cardamom seeds… Comments: some parts were truly superb, some others more difficult, which happens quite often with whiskies that spent so much time in wood. SGP:561 - 85 points.

Glenlivet 1967/1979 (70 Pr., OB for Peter Dominic LTD, casks #654-2657, 2674-2675, 26 2/3 ozs)

Glenlivet 1967/1979 (70 Pr., OB for Peter Dominic LTD, casks #654-2657, 2674-2675, 26 2/3 ozs) Five stars Picture of an other vintage, courtesy Lions Whisky. These official Glenlivets used to be bottled for London merchant Peter Dominic. Colour: full gold. Nose: ah yes! The strength is much lower this time yet it’s absolutely not weak. Obvious OBE (between tar, metal and old books), then quite some honeydew, pine sap, butter cream, wet clay or chalk, a little leather, shoe polish, antiseptic… There must have been quite some peat involved, it could have been a very, very old Laphroaig, in a way. Stunning old-style nose. Mouth: amazing, truly amazing. Another great example of a very old young whisky that must have gained refinement from bottle ageing. We have blood oranges, very old Chartreuse, touches of genepy and verbena, cough drops, a little lime, some aniseeds, a little tarry liquorice, then light tangerines… We’re bordering perfection despite the low strength. Finish: medium long, more medicinal again. This old-Laphroaig feeling yet again. Comments: to think that this was 12 years old at time of bottling. A superb example of a rather peaty old-style Glenlivet. Legendary series, thanks to Mr Peter Dominic. SGP:663 - 93 points.

Glenlivet 1938 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, 1980s)

Glenlivet 1938 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, 1980s)Five stars I already tried some earlier versions of this pre-war gem from a 75.7cl bottle. Great whisky! (WF 92). Colour: gold. Nose: h.u.r.r.a.y. Astounding combination of old herbal liqueurs and overripe fruits (I get bananas, how strange, then apricots, plums and mandarins), marzipan, vetiver, sandalwood, orange blossom water, olive oil… Truly symphonic despite the low strength – it’s no big nose, obviously. Could be some very old Sauternes, in a way… It’s all wonderfully delicate. Let’s only hope the palate will stay the course!... Also a little incense and even coconut. Mouth: we aren’t too far from the 1967 (only thirty years, after all). It’s certainly a little smoky, a little liqueury as well (Cointreau), it’s got a tarry and resinous side as well, then we have more classic notes of sultanas, figs, honey cake, kumquats and maybe ore or two litchis in syrup. What’s also amazing is the fact that there’s absolutely no drying oak, despite the fact that this wonderful baby must be around 45 years of age or more. I’d add that some parts are similar to G&M’s recent and much acclaimed Glenlivet 70yo. The honeyness never stops growing, together with a little tobacco that comes playing with you. Finish: medium long, candied and fruity. Oranges dipped into chocolate and a good slice of honey cake. A little cough syrup in the aftertaste, always very nice – not only in winter – as well as a slightly smoky side, like all pre-war malts. Comments: quite a stunner, unsurprisingly. Amazing balance and complexity. Same extremely high level as the Peter Dominic, although the 1938 has much less peat. SGP:542 - 93 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glenlivet I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Some wonderful piano solo by master Ran Blake. Track: Oh, Where's My Bess?. Please visit Ran Blake's website and buy his music...

February 12, 2013


Tasting Glenlivet, old, very old
and extremely old

Glenlivet 18 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2012)

Glenlivet 18 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2012) Three stars and a half Another OB that I like to follow every two or three years. Colour: deep gold. Nose: I think it improved. It’s delicate and rounded, all on ripe plums, honey, milk chocolate, touches of mint, nectar, orange blossom and then whiffs of old roses and incense. Ultra-classic; let’s only hope the palate won’t be weakish… Mouth: sure a tad more powa would help it, but otherwise it’s a very fine all-rounder, extremely well balanced between the honey, cereals, raisins, oranges, liquorice (hints) and a few tiny kumquats. Becomes a little thin after a few seconds but we don’t always need full power, do we? Finish: a little short but clean, very slightly smoky. Honey and toasted brioche. Comments: really, I think it improved and it became more than a ‘super-Chivas Regal’. Very drinkable. SGP:541 - 84 points.

Glenlivet 1982/2012 (52.5%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #6669)

Glenlivet 1982/2012 (52.5%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #6669) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: I know this baby is 30 years old but it’s almost like the official 18 that we just had, only at a higher strength. Everything’s there, incense, flower nectar, plums, honey, malt, chocolate… With water: it’s the orangey side that comes out more. Maybe also more roses, sandalwood... Mouth (neat): and once again, a carbon-copy of the 18 with more power. Maybe more oranges as well. With water: same, louder oranges and apples. It’s even a notch younger than the 18 on the palate. Finish: long but a little narrower. Comments: I can’t see why and how I would give this very nice baby a different score. SGP:541 - 84 points.

Good, let’s go back in time, with two 1977s…

Glenlivet 33 yo 1977/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #13141, 274 bottles)

Glenlivet 33 yo 1977/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #13141, 274 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: this is more fragrant, more expressive than the previous ones, with this rather perfect blend of ripe fruits and very flowery honey that scream ‘old Glenlivet’, then more soft spices including nutmeg and cinnamon as well as a little toasted bread. Another ultra-classic mild old Speysider, very elegant and refined. Also touches of sesame oil. Mouth: first the very same soft fruity flavours (apple pie topped with honey sauce and custard), then more spices, just a tad more drying than expected (cinnamon and walnut skins). Very fine, very fine… and light? And fine… Finish: medium long, balanced, not seriously drier, ending with oranges, honey and plums – and cinnamon again. Comments: soft, easy, balanced, epitomical. Ahem. Quality’s high. SGP:551 – 88 points.

Glenlivet 33 yo 1977/2011 (53%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask #13149, 189 bottles)

Glenlivet 33 yo 1977/2011 (53%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask #13149, 189 bottles) Three starsColour: pale gold. Nose: same territories, for obvious reasons. Just noticed it’s a sister cask! The added 7% don’t show too much, maybe it’s a notch more almondy and metallic (aluminium pan), which even lifts it a bit. With water: doesn’t work extraordinarily well, there’s more cardboard and ‘junk’ tea (supermarket teabags). Mouth (neat): this is strange, both whiskies tend to diverge, this one becoming rather harsher and, just like on the nose, more metallic. Didn’t someone lose a valinch back in 1977? With water: bizarrely toasted. Orange squash, burnt bread and more metal. Having said that, the base remains very nice, with these ripe plums and apples. Finish: long, with the cinnamon starting to show off, which makes it a little dry. Nice notes of orange juice and honey, though. Comments: very fine whisky with a few tiny flaws added. Nails, patches or, indeed, a lost valinch? ;-) What’s sure is that there’s no need to quote Black Adder to Baldrick (Spit it out! You horrid little scabby reptile!) Haha… SGP:551 - 80 points.

I’m sorry, duty calls, I have to rush out, I’ll try to post more (older) Glenlivet stuff tomorrow. I may have some from the 1930s yet to try ;-)…

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glenlivet I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ BLUES Performer: Oliver Nelson. Track: Cairo To Benghazi (who would take that route today?) Not everything Oliver Nelosn did after his grlorious LPs from the 1960s was great, but this is. Sadly, he passed away one year later, in 1975. Please buy his music...

February 11, 2013


Tasting more Bunnahabhain

It’s really raining Bunnahabhains these days but we won’t complain, many are excellent. Besides, there are two very different kinds nowadays, with all these peated ‘Moines’ that were distilled from 1997 on.

Bunnahabhain 12 yo (46.3%, OB, +/-2012)

Bunnahabhain 12 yo (46.3%, OB, +/-2012) Three stars and a half Another popular official that I like to revisit every once in a while. Last time a 2010 fetched 85 in my little book. Colour: gold. Nose: malt, honey, ale, farmyard, then more bread dough and fresh brioche as well as growing whiffs of orange juice. A very pleasant nose, I think we could call this a perfect all-rounder, sitting well in the middle of all other styles of malt whisky. Having said that, it’s relatively light. Mouth: again these notes of ale, as well as rather more sultanas and other sweet dried fruits than in earlier batches. Date spirit, orange liqueurs, hazelnut liqueur (that’s quite something, ever tasted it?)… Wait, even something of Bailey’s? A very faint sourness, not unpleasant, as well as a little black pepper. Finish: rather long, enjoyably beerish and yeasty. Very fresh brioche. A little toasted oak in the aftertaste, a little dust as well (loses one point here). Comments: I think it’s one of the safe bets and even if newcomers don’t read whiskyfun (so I’ve been told!), it’s probably one of the ten OBs that just everyone should have in his cabinet. SGP:452 - 84 points.

Bunnahabhain 21 yo 1989/2012 (51.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd for whisky.com.tw Taiwan, cask #5894, 231 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 21 yo 1989/2012 (51.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd for whisky.com.tw Taiwan, cask #5894, 231 bottles) Four stars and a half How a 1989/2012 can be 21 years old, I don’t quite know but is time really linear anyway? Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a very fresh, very coastal one at first nosing, it’s even got something of Pulteney. So sea air, iodine, oysters… I also get melons and peaches, some light honey like often in Bunnahabhain, ripe apples, a little clay… I really enjoy all this freshness. With water: perfect, closer to the grain, to earth, to meadows… Yeah, it’s all extremely natural. Mouth (neat): excellent, first rounded and candied and then beautifully herbal, with bags of fresh wild mint as well as touches of aniseed. Other than that, there’s also a handful of assorted sweets, strawberry, raspberry, pear… Also a delicate oak, discreet and elegant. Great Bunny, if I may say so. With water: the oak comes a little more toward the front but it’s a very fresh, very ‘un-vanilla’ oak so all good news. Roots, earth… Finish: medium long, son some kind of mint and grains mix. Quite a saltines in the aftertaste. Comments: beautiful middle-aged coastal Bunnahabhain, totally au naturel. SGP:552 - 89 points.

Bunnahabhain 1997/2012 ‘Billowing Embers’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 331 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1997/2012 ‘Billowing Embers’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 331 bottles) Four stars Here’s a probable ‘Moine’… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s so young that we’re actually closer to mescal here, which is not obligatorily a problem (as long as it’s wild agave, haha). Seriously, it’s crystal-clean lemony and iodized peated malt, becoming a little more farmyardy only after a good ten minutes. After fifteen minutes, we’re simply in a working kiln. Cough, cough… Mouth: same feeling except that there’s a very nice combination of fresh almonds, barley sugar and orgeat syrup, so there are touches of orange flower water that give it more dimension. In case you don’t know, orgeat is usually made out of a blend of barley and almonds. I love genuine orgeat! Finish: quite long, clean, zesty, ashy, smoky. Comments: in my view very young peaters – this isn’t very young but oak influence is certainly minimal – can be boring unless there’s something extra. It’s the almondy side that brings that in this instance. SGP:346 - 85 points.

Bunnahabhain 1979/2011 (54.7%, Berry Bros & Rudd for whisky.com.tw, Whisky Live Taipei, cask #1794)

Bunnahabhain 1979/2011 (54.7%, Berry Bros & Rudd for whisky.com.tw, Whisky Live Taipei, cask #1794) Four stars and a half This baby did very well at the MM Awards 2011 (very good silver) but for some reason, I have never tried it myself. Colour: coffee. Nose: heavy oloroso, so strong that the whisky’s almost smoky (no gunpowder though). Also huge notes of Havana cigars, old balsamic vinegar, Spanish ham, overripe Zwetchke and very old Bourgogne, between civet cat and Russian leather (well what ought to be Russian leather according to wine freaks). Definitely some rancio and quite some vin jaune after that, old walnut liqueur, old Swiss cheese… It’s quite extreme in this style ‘but I like it’, even if poor old Bunnahabhain doesn’t have much to say in this heavy context. With water: it’s Banyuls or old ‘drying’ PX, not quite whisky ;-). Mouth (neat): fruitier, zestier, more chocolaty and even more raisiny. Some kind of reduced jam mix, all very extreme. With water: excellent, fruitier. Not without making us think of some old sherried Glendronach. Finish: quite long, a little fresher and more lively? Mulled red wine and orange juice. Comments: quite a sherry bomb and in that sense the straight opposite of the 1989 by the same excellent bottler (and their honourable Taiwanese importer). Wildly different styles, same high quality. SGP:741 - 89 points.

Last minute bonus (just in)

Bunnahabhain 21 yo 1991/2012 (49.1%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #5468, 290 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 21 yo 1991/2012 (49.1%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #5468, 290 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: well in the style of the 1989, only a notch more spirity. Superb clean fruitiness with peaches, melons, apples, then a little honeydew and mint, whiffs of damp earth after a heavy rain (whatever). Classy. Mouth: impeccable start, more on citrus fruits this time, pink grapefruits, grass, a faint smokiness, liquorice wood, then touches of green tea and cinnamon. In short, another beautifully balanced and pretty naked Bunnahabhain. Finish: medium long, with touches of salt and a few bitter herbs. Comments: excellent once again, just the finish is a wee tad bitterish but that could be seen as an asset. SGP:552 - 88 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Bunnahabhain I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Hajime Yoshizawa's Sleep Walker. Track: Ai No Tabi (2006, on The Voyage). Wonderful easy jazz by one of the best Japanese combos ever. Please visit the website and buy the music...

Clos Uroulat Cuvée Marie 2011

Wine (for Whisky Lovers)
Sweet Jurançons are rather well-known abroad but dry ones are a little more confidential. This very mineral white Clos Uroulat Cuvée Marie 2011 is impressively dynamic and chiselled, one of the best young gros manseng I’ve tried in recent months. Oh, yeah, gros manseng is the main grape variety in Jurançon.
If it was a whisky: a young Rosebank


February 10, 2013


Tasting two 1978 Glen Albyn

In these times when all independent bottlers have more or less the same names (Bunnies, ‘Phroaigs, Ilas, Tomatins and such), and even if those are usually great - so let’s not complain, that would be silly - it’s a thrill to see one bottler issuing a new Glen Albyn. Glen Albyn? Some wacky fun to be expected! But first, let’s have a little aperitif from the same vintage…

Glen Albyn 19 yo 1978 (43%, Hart Bros, +/-1997)

Glen Albyn 19 yo 1978 (43%, Hart Bros, +/-1997) Two stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes, this old Inverness style, with all these sooty, metallic notes that remind us of grandpa’s old toolbox (or an old car engine). There’s also quite some apple peelings (grandma’s, obviously), some dust, several herbs such as chives or parsley, and then more classical butterscotch and vanilla as well as a little lager, hops, then more apples again, prunes – or rather big greengages. Definitely old style, I think this baby’s relatively cleaner than the usual Glen Albyns but then again, I haven’t tasted hundreds and most sadly, I’m afraid that will never happen. Mouth: green, dry, grassy, cardboardy, acrid, tea-ish… Yeah well. Bitter cocoa powder, macha tea that you would eat just like that… I’m sure you know what I mean. This is no easy palate, but it’s got good strength at 43%. Finish: medium long, dry and ashy. A mix of cigar ashes and cinnamon plus a little lemon. Bread dough in the aftertaste. Comments: what a harsh and pungent little fellow! SGP:262 - 75 points.

Glen Albyn 32 yo 1978/2011 (50.3%, Exclusive Malts for Whisky.com.tw, hogshead, cask #690)

Glen Albyn 32 yo 1978/2011 (50.3%, Exclusive Malts for Whisky.com.tw, hogshead, cask #690) Three stars Not that I want to insist but I find it very cool that our Taiwanese friends have selected a Glen Albyn. Also that the bottlers have added some kind of pheasant (*) onto the label. Colour: gold. Nose: ah the old days… This is certainly no flawless nose, it’s even a tad too butyric at first sniffs, yoghurty, yeasty… There are also touches of manure, maybe baby v… you know what… but on the other hand, the second part is much nicer, with these whiffs of crushed dill, wild mint, fresh almonds, moss, porcinis, then fresh croissants, warm custard, old books, leaves… This baby tells you a story and sometimes I like that better than McDonald’s whiskies that are technically perfect but tell you nothing. Whatever the story! Mouth: is this some kind of sweeter Tabasco sauce? Once again, it’s malt whisky unlike any other, with some acidic sides (lemon and lime) and a big greenness that involves both plain grass and many herbs, sorrel, coriander… The oak’s quite green as well, slightly biting. Nutmeg, white pepper… And good news, there’s also a little honeydew that coats the whole and makes it a little rounder. Finish: long, lemony and peppery. Very nice at this point, the spices aren’t too dominant. Comments: to be honest, this is probably no consensually great whisky and some aspects (that green spiciness) can make it a little difficult, but I find the fact that it’s so un-modern quite heartening. In that sense, it’s a genuine collector’s item. SGP:372 - 82 points.

(*) Feb 11 update: our excellent friend Tobias tells us that the pheasant on the label "is a Swinhoe's-Pheasant (Lophura swinhoii). This is a endemic pheasant-species in Taiwan and it's named after the famous british ornithogist Robert Swinhoe, who found this species in 1862." Aren't we impressed?

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glen Albyn I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: French drummer and WF favourite Jacques Thollot. Track: Cinq Hops with vocals by Elise Ross (1978). Please visit Jacques Thollot's page and buy his music...

February 8, 2013


Tasting three pretty high-end blends

Cutty Sark 'Prohibition Edition' (50%, OB, blend, 2013)

Cutty Sark 'Prohibition Edition' (50%, OB, blend, 2013) Three stars and a half I found the picture on the Web, not too sure it’s the definitive label. Colour: gold. Nose: starts with a massive dose of caramel, butterscotch, maple syrup and vanilla crème, getting then maltier, a little closer to the grains and lastly, smokier, earthier and, well, wider. The malt content is probably quite high. With water: more earth and barley, which is pleasant and pretty un-blend if I may say so. Mouth (neat): rich, honeyed and smoky. This feeling of ‘natural’ caramel again, rich sweet beer, vanilla, praline, milk chocolate, apple pie, Ovaltine… Also touches of orange marmalade and strawberry sweets. With water: rather more on candy sugar and baked apples, with a little less caramel. Finish: quite long, sweet. Barley water, plum pie, more butterscotch… Comments: certainly a very good blend and not a sub-malt at all. It’s all very well balanced, between the toffee-like sweetness and the malt. Having said that, and even while knowing that Cutty Sark was ‘the thing’ in the US during prohibition, I’d have rather celebrated the end of prohibition than prohibition itself ;-). SGP:541 - 83 points.

Dewar_House 17 yo 'Experimental Batch N.A39' (58.9%, OB, blend, sherry finish, 2012)

Dewar_House 17 yo 'Experimental Batch N.A39' (58.9%, OB, blend, sherry finish, 2012) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is completely different, much, much oakier, in a nice kind of way. It’s like entering a carpenter’s workshop late in the afternoon ;-). Varnish, warm sawdust, broken branches (fresh wood), cellulose… Also bags of grass and cinnamon, then something slightly mushroomy, possibly from the sherry. I like that. With water: ah yes, opens up like a peacock’s tail. Wonderful notes of old wine cellar (in Jerez?), pot-pourri, old roses, incense, sandalwood, spicy herbs… We’re not in blended territories at all. Mouth (neat): same feeling of high oak extraction but quality’s high. Cinnamon ice cream, maple syrup, some kind of Indian spice mix (very very mild ;-)). And always something slightly varnishy. With water: once again, water does wonders. Beautiful range of fruit jams and dried fruits, from figs to plums. Finish: long, sweet, fruity, jammy. Comments: is there any grain whisky in this? What’s sure is that water really transforms it. Swims like a champ. SGP:652 - 87 points (with water, rather 82 without water).

Blended Scotch Whisky 21 yo 1988/2009 (47%, Scotch Whisky Experience, 498 bottles)

Blended Scotch Whisky 21 yo 1988/2009 (47%, Scotch Whisky Experience, 498 bottles) Two stars and a half Issued in 2009 but it's still available from the Experience's website. It's true that £100.00 a bottle was maybe a little too much. Colour: gold. Nose: a very great leafy/sooty start that hints at St. Magdalene, with an obvious old-school side. This could have been a very old bottle, such as these wonderful old White Horses from the 1950s or 1960s. Humus, fern, leaves, camphor, mushrooms, linseed oil, old dry sherry – or rather manzanilla… All great so far, let’s only hope the palate won’t be too dry, which can happen with this kind of nose. Mouth: no, it’s not too dry but it’s a little strange, it’s not impossible that the peaty side was brought by some 1980s Bowmore if you see what I mean. Certainly a little violety-cologny. Ahem… Other than that, it’s a very fine orchestra but there’s this violin with its sour notes. It’s spoiling it a bit… Finish: medium long, malty and fruity. Too bad these notes of Parma violets and rotting oranges remain there. Salty aftertaste. Comments: great nose, but… Well, its still worth a very honest score in my little book. SGP:553 - 79 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all blands I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: George Coleman. Track: the stunning 5/4 Thing. Please visit George Coleman's website and buy his music...

February 7, 2013


Hello nose, how are you? Tasting two new rums by Duncan Taylor

Good, I think my nose is now in a much better shape (that’s what my benchmark whiskies tell me) but let’s not take any chances and rather try rum for this first new session. For rum, we usually only use rough scores anyway… By the way, that cold has been very tricky and using no benchmark whiskies would have proved dangerous. Indeed, while tasting with a clogged nose simply doesn’t work because you don’t get anything out of your temporarily useless appendage, several tricky phases can occur after a cold and if you do not take care, you could take some aromas and flavours for granted while they actually remain much distorted. For example, right after my cold, my benchmark whiskies were quite loud but much drier than usual and not fruity or sweet at all. After a few more days, they became unusually grassy while the sweetness remained quite shy. It’s only after almost ten days that everything was back to a ‘low’ normal. Benchmark whiskies are painful to use, but for me they’re compulsory. Anyway, let’s have these little rums at a jog-trot - only two will do.

Hampden 12 yo 2000/2012 (53.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rum, Jamaica, cask #122)

Hampden 12 yo 2000/2012 (53.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rum, Jamaica, cask #122) Four stars From Hampden’s pot stills, so probably quite heavy. Please note that the picture shows another bottling of Hampden by Duncan Taylor. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it is, indeed, a pretty ‘agricole’ style at first nosing, with this great combo of olives and grass (but not sure Hampden use can juice, do they?) It’s rather the opposite of a heady or lumpish heavy rum, it’s well chiselled. Goes on with more cumin, kumquats, liquorice, banana skin and yet again quite a lot of olives, which gives it a welcome Mediterranean profile, if I may say so. Moroccan tajine? I like this nose a lot. No water needed I guess… Mouth: powerful, maybe simpler now, slightly burnt like many rums can be, with a lot of candy sugar, maple syrup, molasses, raisins… Having said that, it’s no cloying rum, it isn’t really thick, it’s just the profile that quite ‘candied’. Gets then spicier, even a little mustardy. Pepper, cardamom. Simple but good. Finish: long, with more zesty/citrusy tones on top of quite some sweet liquorice. Something slightly ashy and our beloved olives are back in the aftertaste. Comments: high quality big rum, with some parts reminding me of Trinidad’s sadly missed Caroni. SGP:661 - around 85 points.

Sancti Spiritus 14 yo 1998/2012 (53.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rum, Cuba, cask #78, 245 bottles)

Sancti Spiritus 14 yo 1998/2012 (53.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rum, Cuba, cask #78, 245 bottles) Two stars This is column still distillation, it’s molasses based. The distillery lies in the central part of Cuba and it seems that they provide Glenfiddich with the casks for the 21yo ‘Havana/Rum finish’. Colour: pale gold. Nose: of well, I had thought the Hampden wasn’t heavy but then this is super-light. Much sweeter and molassy, very easy, also rather more on orange juice, vanilla, maybe hints of litchis and possibly wee touches of gherkins (as opposed to the Hampden’s olives – aha.) So globally lighter and sweeter than the Jamaican. No water needed either. After a few minutes: pineapple sweets. Mouth: very interesting, this is extremely different from the Hampden (who said rums are all the same – or that it’s all much more narrow and simpler than malt whisky?) Funny start on fresh mushrooms and violet sweets, with something custardy and quite some cranberry juice or even pomegranates, then something cologne-y or even soapy, not too sure I’m too fond of this at this point. Finish: medium long, maybe a little thin. Sugared water. The mushrooms return in the aftertaste. Comments: we’re maybe a little too far from malt whisky here, while the Hampden (or Caroni, or the Demeraras, or some French agricoles) have much more in common in my opinion. Mind you, we’re malt freaks. SGP:740 - around 75 points.



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Phil Ranelin. Track: Sounds from the Village (1976). Please visit Phil Ranelin's website and buy his music...

February 6, 2013


Spiritual tasting will resume tomorrow. In the mean time...



Pouilly-Fuissé Tête de Cru 2008 by Château-Fuissé

Wine (for Whisky Lovers)
There are true gems to be found in Maconnais (or Chalonnais) and this Pouilly-Fuissé Tête de Cru 2008 by Château-Fuissé is a fine example. Amazing fullness and complexity, zing and wow! An irresistible white, heartily recommended.
If it was a whisky: a Lochside 1981



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Pharoah Sanders. Track: Astral Traveling (from 1971's famous Thembi album).Please buy Pharoah Sanders' music...

February 4, 2013


Friends, it seems that the bad nose days are almost over, I think normal service will resume shortly. Thanks for you patience. In the mean time, I'm posting another little wine recommendation, some Pete & Jack and a litle music as usual…



Bourgogne Denis Mortet Cuvée de Noble Souche 2010

Wine (for Whisky Lovers)
Granted, it’s a ‘simple’ Bourgogne but the family of the dearly missed Denis Mortet have got most if not all of their vines in Gevrey, so unsurprisingly, this Bourgogne Denis Mortet Cuvée de Noble Souche 2010 is fantastic. Simple appellations from great domaines often outclass famous ones by more, say large and commercial houses. Thanks for the tip and experience, Olivier.
If it was a whisky: a perfect young Glenfarclas ex-sherry.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: king of klezmer Frank London. Track: Imanu Malkheteynu (from the wonderful Scientist at Work CD). Please visit Frank London's website and buy all the music...

January 2013 - part 2 <--- February 2013 - part 1 ---> February 2013 - part 2



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

Glenlivet 1967/1979 (70 Pr., OB for Peter Dominic LTD, casks #654-2657, 2674-2675, 26 2/3 ozs)

Glenlivet 1938 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, 1980s)

Karuizawa 1964/2012 (57.7%, Number One Drinks for Wealth Solutions, Poland, cask #3603, 143 bottles)