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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2014 - Part 2

February 2014 - part 1 <--- February 2014 - part 2 ---> March 2014 - part 1


February 28, 2014


Tasting Brora 40 years old and friend

In an ideal world, the owners of the remaining casks of Brora 1972 would organise a large competition, inviting all genuine whisky enthusiasts to answer a good 500 questions such as ‘when was old Clynelish distillery converted to steam heating?’ or ‘when was the very first official bottle of Brora issued?’, or better yet, ‘where was the first distillery manager buried?’ Then the best scores would simply win a bottle. Just a regular liquor bottle bearing a simple one-colour label (granted, with the drawing of a wild cat). And all bottles and their new owners would be numbered and recorded, of course, to make sure that no discourteous punter would put his/her bottle up for auction. Or am I a complete innocent indeed? Right, right… And I won’t deny there is some kind of panache as well in selling a luxury Decanter of 40yo Brora carrying a £7,000 price tag, but it’s just not the same kind of panache. I also think it’s the first time a Brora – or Old Clynelish for that matter – comes in a container that’s as catchy as its content, but it’s also true that we’ve already seen much, much sillier decanters elsewhere. But enough babbling and stupid ideas, let’s simply try this new Brora, along a 1981 of similar strength that should make for a perfect stepping stone, or maybe even a worthy sparring partner. Let’s see…

Brora 26 yo 1981/2007 (57.1%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #1520, 391 bottles)

Brora 26 yo 1981/2007 (57.1%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #1520, 391 bottles) Five stars Signatory had quite a few 1981s and some close sister casks such as #1519 have been much to my liking, although they haven’t all been totally stellar in my opinion. Colour: amber. Nose: a very earthy sherry, how does that sound? Brora’s earthy smoke really does give a very ‘old amontillado’ character, with also a lot of cigar smoke, touches of mustard, some kind of smoked prunes and the obligatory walnuts. It was a pretty active cask, most sister casks have been shier, it seems. I also find hints of heavy rum. With water: yes! Flowers come out (roses, lilies of the valley), a little musk, Seville oranges, pack of Camels, leather polish…

Mouth (neat): first, it’s peatier than expected, and second, that peatiness manages to stand up to the heavy-ish fino-like sherry. Both mingle very well in fact, which makes for a big, big dram. I rather tend to like Brora au naturel but I have to say this one works perfectly. Tobacco, leather, cinnamon, walnuts, sweet mustard, bitter chocolate, a little curry, a saltiness… It’s all dry, beautifully dry. With water: hurray, the citrus comes out more. Tangerines, citrons, also lemon balm, drops of chartreuse… Finish: long, ample, wonderfully balanced, smokier than other 1981s, elegant, with some pepper in the aftertaste as often. Comments: it’s one the best 1981s in my opinion, whether sherried or not. Much more than just a stepping stone for the new official 40 years old! SGP:565 - 92 points.

Brora 40 yo 1972 (59.1%, OB, decanter, single cask, 2014)

Brora 40 yo 1972 (59.1%, OB, decanter, single cask, 2014) Five stars This very lovely decanter is available for pre-order at World of Whiskies, but you'll have to collect it from one of the travel retails shops in the UK from April 21, 2014. So you may have to spend £6,995.00 on the whisky plus around £29.99 on an air ticket (Easyjet or Ryanair, your call). Or you rent a jet if you’d like the whole experience to be more prestigious. Something that I really like, also, is what’s written on the bottle, “Proud survivor of a legendary distillery”. If it’s proud, it’s got a soul, and I always thought great old whiskies were having a soul… There, new evidence! Colour: gold. Nose: oh, no! I remember when we were downing the various 22yo Rare Malts like if there were no tomorrow (I may well be exaggerating a bit here, I’m a bit like Stirling Moss and his famous line ‘the older I get, the faster I was.’ The older I get, the more Brora 1972 I drank, haha), so yeah, when we were having Brora 22 72, they were all utterly brilliant, but always a little rough around the edges… Well, the nose of this 40 is utterly brilliant and its edges have been wonderfully polished with all sorts of precious waxes and oils. What strikes me as well is that we’re getting very close to the best old Ardbegs from the same era. Maybe even above them if, like me, you enjoy a kind of tenseness in your whisky. I don’t know why, it’s just a feeling… Maybe that’s these stunning resinous/sappy notes, or this medicinal side that was less obvious in the younger 1972 Broras.

Other than that and because we haven’t gotten all day, let me just mention olive oil, cigars, menthol, teak oil, smoked oysters, drops of diesel, Spanish ham, special brine, vetiver, verbena, sugar cane… So a truly fabulous nose, a real movie. With water (because you see, we must): astounding clarity and freshness, that’s all I’ll say. Mouth (neat): amazing. A tidal wave, the arrival’s incredibly smooth for Brora, and then it never stops growing, getting bigger, hitting harder, invading your palate and leaving you totally breathless (which could even be a little dangerous, seriously). It’s a symphony, or a long suite by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. You don’t control anything, the whisky controls you, which is a weird feeling I have to say. A wonderful, but weird feeling. Excuse me? Flavours? I’d say grapefruits, oysters, peat smoke, beech smoke (smoked salmon), touches of ink, wasabi, earth, samphire, lemon curd… And bags and bags of other flavours, the list is just too long, someone could build a whole website just for this baby. Full maturity but absolutely no signs of tiredness, quite the opposite. I don’t know why, Tilda Swinton’s name pops in my mind, probably because she’s Scottish. With water (which might be useless but we do follow procedures at WF Towers, mind you): a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Waxy and smoky citrus. Utter perfection. Finish: it’s the freshness that’s impressive here. An endless list of flavours, all coated with the most refined smoke in Scotland. Comments: I don’t think I’ve mentioned oak, have I? That’s whisky, when you don’t feel any oak. I’d add that I actually started Whiskyfun.com because of Brora, and this expression is the kind of whisky that keeps me going. I think this has been too long, apologies. SGP:567 - 98 points.

PS: Un-PC alert! Please don’t let only wealthy people snaffle all the bottles! Of course £7,000 is way too expensive, but if seventy friends buy a bottle and share 1cl each, I can guarantee that the whisky’s so big and so memorable that those £100 will be better spent than if you buy one full bottle of worthless new-oak-doped-no-age-statement Glenwhatever. Because you’ll remember that little centilitre forever…

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback

Check www.brora.co.uk



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February 27, 2014


A very rare Ardmore and other ones

Ardmore’s always been peated, but they do sometimes make an unpeated version only for blending, called Ardlair (and sometimes Ardless, it seems, but that’s for fun). The lovely distillery has bottled a few sample bottles but those remain off-commerce. Luckily, I visited the distillery with some good friends a few days ago, so, here we go…

Ardlair (46%, OB, unpeated Ardmore, official miniature, off-commerce, +/-2013)

Ardlair (46%, OB, unpeated Ardmore, official miniature, off-commerce, +/-2013) Four stars No age or vintage stated. Colour: gold. Nose: starts with plenty of overripe apples as well as a very peculiar kind of rubber. Old washers? I also find some stones from various fruits, but that’s not exactly almonds this time. Also touches of overripe melons, warm butter, apple compote, a little porridge… I don’t think this baby’s very old, but what’s sure is that it’s quite unusual. It does not remind me of any other distillery. Mouth: excellent! Wow! It’s young but it’s vibrant, with some high-quality gueuze beer, some butter cream, melons and peaches again, apple pie and tart, and then bags and bags of plums. Really, I like this a lot. Finish: quite long, slightly resinous (retsina wine?) and very fruity again. Melon! Comments: I’m sure the rubber in the nose came from a lack of ageing. This is a cracker, I hope they’ll issue some well-aged Ardlair one day. SGP:551 - 85 points.

While we’re at it, let’s also have…

Ardmore 'Traditional Cask' (46%, OB, peated, finished in quarter casks, +/-2013)

Ardmore 'Traditional Cask' (46%, OB, peated, finished in quarter casks, +/-2013) Three stars and a half Last time I tried this expression that was in 2008. I had rather enjoyed it (WF 81). Colour: gold. Nose: this is a very particular peat that comes out loud and clear. We’re far from coastal peat, seaweed, hospitals or fishermen’s boats, we’re rather sitting around a campfire where someone is burning both grass and fruit tree wood. On top of that, the same kinds of melons and peaches that we had found in Ardlair, some vanilla and, maybe, a wee touch of antiseptic that I hadn’t found in the arrival. Nice freshness. Mouth: I think they improved the recipe. It’s no big whisky, the mouth feel is even a little light and thin, but it’s all beautifully clean. Lovely herbal peat, peaches, a touch of chardonnay, a little ginger, some vanilla but not too much… So all fine. Finish: not extremely long but still clean and fruity. Smoked peaches? Comments: it’s a very different peated malt, far from Islay and even quite far from other peated mainlanders from Speyside or elsewhere. I think they improved the recipe. Oh, and if you like peaches… SGP:534 - 83 points.

Ardmore 13 yo (57%, Jack Wiebers, World of Orchids, 2013)

Ardmore 13 yo (57%, Jack Wiebers, World of Orchids, 2013) Two stars and a half Unearthing series of old images that are free of rights is really becoming the favourite game at many independent bottlers’, after Moon Import who really were the pioneers. Shall we soon see series of Outer-Mongolian catapults or old Guatemalan saucepans on our favourite whiskies? Now, orchids are lovely… Colour: straw. Nose: very little peat this time, rather a lot of pineapple cooked in butter and honey. It’s got a sour side, but that isn’t unpleasant. With water: a little peat now but other than that, not many changes. Maybe more sour fruits. Mouth (neat): more peat this time, as well as a combination of pepper and ginger that should come from some rather active wood. Behind that, the expected peaches and melons. Lemon balm, ginger tonic and cooking butter… With water: the oak comes out. Ginger and Schweppes. Finish: quite long and, er, Schweppessy. Schweppes-orange. Comments: not quite my cup of malt but it’s fun whisky. Very lightly peated for Ardmore (usually 15ppm if I’m not mistaken, this feels like 5. Oh please forget about that…) SGP:552 - 79 points.

(With thanks to Alistair)

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



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February 26, 2014


The new Glenrothes 1969 and compadres

There’s a new official 1969 that looks like a (holy?) hand grenade. We’ll try it today but first, a light aperitif and one or two indies to prepare nose and palate…

Glenrothes-Glenlivet 8 yo (70° Proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 75.7cl, 1970s)

Glenrothes-Glenlivet 8 yo (70° Proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 75.7cl, 1970s) Two stars and a half These can be very good. We’ve tried one that was bottled a little later (40% vol.) and thought it was worth WF 85. Colour: gold. Nose: these wee metallic touches hint at OBE and that’s quite lovely here. Aluminium pan, old silverware... After that, cut apples, gooseberries and kiwis plus a little soot and gravel. Dry oranges? Also a little dark chocolate. Mouth: a little weirder now, there’s quite some plastic coming through at first sip, maybe a wee taste of glass, then more apple compote, angelica, hawthorn tea, a feeling of cologne and geranium leaves… Really bizarre. The good news is that all that tends to go away – or you just get used to it. Finish: rather long, with some roasted nuts and a malty side. Comments: I don’t think this baby’s quite as great as other versions, but maybe it’s all a matter of OBE gone a little wrong. Loved the nose. SGP:352 - 77 points.

Glenrothes 18 yo 1994/2013 (50.7%, The Maltman, bourbon, cask #7608, 336 bottles)

Glenrothes 18 yo 1994/2013 (50.7%, The Maltman, bourbon, cask #7608, 336 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: all on grass and green fruits, so relatively sharp and even a little acidic. Also flowers, lilies of the valley, lime-tee… Sauvignon blanc? A natural style that I quite like. With water: more of the same. Maybe a little more menthol and cut grass. Bags of fresh apples. Mouth (neat): very good, much in line with the nose. Maybe more chenin blanc this time, I find grapes, pears, lemon, apples… All that with quite some peppermint and just touches of vanilla crème. Very straight, very zesty. With water: gets rounder, sweeter, more on tinned fruits and fruit salad. A little honey. Finish: medium length, still very fruity and very clean. Comments: light unsherried Speyside style. Maybe not a racehorse but it does deliver. Very good spirit, very drinkable. Exactly a 85 in my little book. SGP:541 - 85 points.

And now probably the opposite…

Glenrothes 21 yo 1990/2011 (60.1%, Wilson & Morgan, for Taiwan, sherry butt, cask #12899)

Glenrothes 21 yo 1990/2011 (60.1%, Wilson & Morgan, for Taiwan, sherry butt, cask #12899) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: a chocolaty and leathery sherry, rather dry, with also a gamy side, it seems, but it’s all very strong. So, so far, a lot of dark chocolate. With water: oranges all over the place, plus smaller citrus, bergamots, kumquats, tangerines… A little cinchona too, bitter herbs… Campari? Mouth (neat): sweeter and fruitier, even quite zesty, it seems. Lemons? Marshmallows… And it’s very strong. Big mouth feel. Water please. With water: lovely oranges and chocolate, with a great freshness and even something ‘light’ – but it’s big whisky. Apricot jam, marmalade… Swims like a champ, remains very clean and ‘chiselled’, which doesn’t happen very often with so-called sherry monsters. Finish: long, jammier and drier at the same time. Dry jams? Comments: excellent sherry. Just a little more complexity and it would have reached the 90-mark. SGP:541 - 89 points.

Glenrothes 1969/2013 'Extraordinary Cask' (42.9%, OB, hogshead, cask #11485, 133 bottles)

Glenrothes 1969/2013 'Extraordinary Cask' (42.9%, OB, hogshead, cask #11485, 133 bottles) Four stars and a half According to The Spirit Business, this baby comes from one of twenty casks the distillers have acquired from Duncan Taylor. A bottle doesn't come cheap at £4000, Duncan Taylor used to sell these 1969s for much less money (for example, there's a 40yo 1969 Lonach that's still available online for £127, while the older Peerless/Rare Auld now fetch around £200 at auctions.) Besides, G&M still have a 1969 'Macphail's Collection' at around £250. But prices are prices and whisky’s whisky… Colour: gold. Nose: no, I mean yes, it’s one of these very fruity, almost ‘orchardy’ and pretty ‘beehivy’ old Glenrothes. A wee yeastiness at very first nosing, then ripe apples and pears, big juicy peaches, cherries, pollen, nectar, a little grass, quite some mead and just a little pipe tobacco. Not a very heavy one. Mouth: typical light old Glenrothes, with first a little drying oak, green tea, eglantine tea, then cider apples, honey and a little quince juice. Finish: rather short, fruity, delicately spicy. Apple juice. Whispers… More oak in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent but not immensely special in my opinion. Not £4000-special. I had already tried a good twelve sister casks from Duncan Taylor and I think this one is on the lighter, less beautifully honeyed side. SGP:541 - 88 points.

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



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February 25, 2014


A few interesting Laphroaigs

Tja, Laphroaig… It’s not the first little verticale of Laphroaig we’ll do, but it’s always a thrill. And I just noticed that we’re approaching WF’s 300th tasting note for that illustrious distillery, please be sure that I’ll make that one a very special one! But in the meantime, let’s have these babies…

LP4 (54.8%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2013)

Lp4 (54.8%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2013) Five stars No age statement, this baby should be quite young, let’s see… I remember I found Lp1 just excellent by the way (WF 88) but 2 and 3 never reached our shores. Colour: gold. Nose: what’s not to like? Perfectly medicinal and smoky, and quite rounded and even smooth at that, this one’s all balance. It’s not complex whisky, but it’s perfect in its simplicity. Embrocations and artisan cider. With water: more mineral and more textile, so to speak. Old coal bag, damp hessian, fresh paint, putty… And wet dogs! (we’re really sorry, dogs). Mouth (neat): all very perfect. Big, powerful, superbly acrid and zesty, very smoky, lemony, salty, liquoricy… Can you smoke grapefruit liqueur? With water: yeah yeah yeah, the tropical fruits are coming out! Passion fruits, mangos… This one is winking at the 1960s, if I may say so. How could we be against that? Finish: long, clean, fruity and smoky. Smoked mangos and lemon balm. Comments: this session starts well, doesn’t it. SGP:557 - 90 points.

Laphroaig 14 yo 1998/2013 (56.6%, A.D. Rattray for Brachadair, cask #10481, 212 bottles)

Laphroaig 14 yo 1998/2013 (56.6%, A.D. Rattray for Brachadair, cask #10481, 212 bottles) Four stars You need not write many lines with a 1998 Laphroaig. Colour: white wine. Nose: more austere than Lp4, more naked, more mineral, more ‘chiselled’. Beautiful but I think it needs water or it’ll remain a little too closed. With water: wet dogs and sheep! And hessian, apple peelings, seaweed, iodine, touches of vanilin… Mouth (neat): a very punchy ultra-classic naked 1998. Huge lime, brine and kippers. Huge kippers, how scary is that? Big pepper too, then more sweet things. Apple juice and limoncello, I’d say. With water: it got really sweet. Grapefruits and oranges with a lot of pepper and, of course, peat smoke. Finish: very long, peppery. Chillies, almost. Comments: pleasantly brutal, but it’s not only for malt masochists. A great example of a very natural 1998 Laphroaig. SGP:358 - 87 points.

Laphroaig 15 yo 1998/2013 (60.8%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #700393, 551 bottles)

Laphroaig 15 yo 1998/2013 (60.8%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #700393, 551 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: we aren’t very far from the Lp4, except that this one’s got more menthol, turpentine and camphor. It’s absolutely wonderful, even at this very high strength. With water: it got younger! Raw peated malt, working kiln, engine oil, exhaust, earth, putty, paint, cigar smoke, bark… Mouth (neat): bang! Huge, peppery, acrid, very ashy, very smoky… Tabasco from Islay? I think you cannot avoid water in this context. With water: hits you even harder despite the fresh fruits that pop out (oranges and lemons). Quite a beast! Finish: long, briny, smoky, citrusy… In short, very Laphroaigy. Comments: I had first thought I’d like this one better than Lp4, but I think Lp4 was a little more civilised and I like civilisation (how interesting, S.!) SGP:458 - 89 points.

Yes, let’s try to find older, gentler, more civilised Laphroaigs… Maybe such as this one…

Laphroaig 21 yo 1990/2011 (46%, High Spirits, Colour Collection)

Laphroaig 21 yo 1990/2011 (46%, High Spirits, Colour Collection) Four stars A beautiful label. Italians! Colour: hay. Nose: ahhhh, this one’s almost peaceful. We’re much more on organic, natural notes. Seawater, herbs, almonds, light brine, olives, smoked salmon and kippers, sea shells, oysters… Granted, the peat is more subdued, but it’s all more elegant and refined. I also like these touches of carbon paper and ink very much. Mouth: quite unusual, I have to say. It’s much saltier this time, saltier than the youngsters in any case, with also a rather strange combination of sweet spices. Oysters and shallot, perhaps, then a little vanilla fudge. Salted fudge? Finish: quite long, very salty but the fudge remains there. Comments: not the usual Laphroaig, but I think its relative unlikeliness makes for a significant part of its assets. SGP:446 - 87 points.

Let’s have a last one, maybe an OB this time…

Laphroaig 23 yo 1989/2013 (48.9%, OB, for The Nordics, 1800 bottles)

Laphroaig 23 yo 1989/2013 (48.9%, OB, for The Nordics, 1800 bottles) Four stars This one was bottled exclusively for Sweden, Norway and Finland. It seems that some Laphroaig collectors from other countries are looking for it these days… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the style of the High Spirits, more or less. Well, rather more than less. A lot of brine and almond milk at first nosing, then passion fruits and mangos, then seafood. Oysters, old Russian leather (what?), just distant whiffs of fresh paint, a few walnuts that suggest light sherry was involved, touches of sour apples as well… That’s not the nicest part in my opinion. Let’s check the palate… Mouth: very Laphroaig but not very big, with many ripe apples and quite some honeydew in the arrival, which makes it a little smoothish for Laphroaig. My opinion, eh! Touches of chlorophyll and liquorice wood, bitter almonds, grapefruit skin and then more salty smoked salmon. Also raisins that might not go extremely well here. Sour apples. Finish: of medium length. Orange juice, apples, pepper, salt and peat. Comments: very good but not quite great in my opinion. There’s something slightly disjointed, a kind of odd fruitiness, I think this baby’s not a blade like the others could be, while it’s not as complex as some older ones. But hold on, it’s still very, very great whisky from Islay! SGP:546 - 86 points.

(With thanks to Angus and Franco)

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



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February 24, 2014


Tah-dah, more classic sherried Macallan

After the stunning 1940 that we had in Scotland one or two weeks ago, let’s have more epitomical Macallan today. In truth, I only wanted to try the newish Easter Elchies but couldn’t resist the urge to add one or two other sherried babies, especially this first well-known ‘apéritif’ that seems to be an endangered species…

Macallan 18 yo 1995 'Sherry Oak' (43%, OB, +/-2013)

Macallan 18 yo 1995 'Sherry Oak' (43%, OB, +/-2013) Four stars and a half THE classic. Not too sure if this line's been now discontinued or if they'll keep making them. Mind you, a genuine age, a genuine vintage and some genuine sherry casks from Jerez! Colour: dark amber. Nose: I don’t know how to put this, but this baby feels like home. What strikes first is a combination of juicy sultanas with orange marmalade and a new pack of eucalyptus drops, which makes it kind of wider than the usual sherry monster, whether coffeeish or Chrismassy. Then we have a little menthol, prunes, some chocolate and ganache, ultra-ripe bananas and a curious yet lovely feeling of curry powder with coconut milk and ginger. Kerala style? Mouth: it’s rather drier than expected, certainly big, very full, very rich and then ultra-raisiny, that is to say that it’s becoming sweeter indeed. Then more chocolate and touches of coffee, a wee spiciness again (mole sauce?) and the faintest traces of new oak. It’s actually not very ‘wide’ and rather pretty compact and ‘focussed’, but that works perfectly. Finish: rather long, maybe a notch oaky now, quite dry this time, with some bitter chocolate and a little mustard. The aftertaste is quite oaky. Comments: a sure bet. I think some vintages from the 1980s have been rather below par, but the recent ones are certainly up there again. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Macallan 17 yo 1996/2013 'Easter Elchies' (55.3%, OB, sherry butt, cask #26)

Macallan 17 yo 1996/2013 'Easter Elchies' (55.3%, OB, sherry butt, cask #26) Five starsThis baby was bottled only for the 'visitors to The Macallan' and it seems that that caused some huge queuing in front of the distillery's visitor centre. Colour: red mahogany. Nose: this one, while being even more sherried than the 18, also displays more bourbony notes that may come from some very active oak. Like, pencil shavings. Apart from that, it’s a maelstrom of dried fruits including small berries as well as a few mentholated notes like we found in the 18. Prunes, raspberries, dates, kumquats (there, Marcel), cassis, then more cinnamon and cocoa powder, more cassis, a lot of cassis… Crème de Cassis Dijon-style? With water: goes toward the 18, only with more freshish oak. So more pencil shavings, but also more fruitcake and spearmint. Mouth (neat): as creamy as honey and as thick as, well, honey. Almost some kind of tutti frutti jam with some green pepper, cloves, mint, liquorice and cinnamon. You may need a spoon rather than a glass! Big bitter oranges too. With water: rum and raisins emerge, and so do blood oranges and cinnamon. A wee touch of ginger from the oak. Finish: very long, a bit greener, which isn’t unpleasant. Mint-flavoured liquorice. That leaves you with an unexpected fresh and clean aftertaste. Comments: it seems that it was worth queuing up. Having said that, it’s only a notch more to my liking than the 18. The best sides of The Macallan. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Let’s go on with some independent sherries if you don’t mind…

Macallan-Glenlivet 21 yo 1974/1996 (46%, Murray McDavid, fresh sherry, cask #MM6024)

Macallan-Glenlivet 21 yo 1974/1996 (46%, Murray McDavid, fresh sherry, cask #MM6024) Four stars and a half It’s old, but its strength’s not very high, so let’s have it before we tackle more punchier ones. Colour: amber. Nose: ooh, this is superb, mellower and more aromatic than the OBs, with more fresh fruits and even flowers. Superb tangerines, sultanas, ripe kiwis, bananas (it’s pretty tropical indeed) and even cut apples, passion fruits and pink grapefruits. Lovely, lovely nose, very elegant. We’re far from those massive fruitcakes… Mouth: perfect, very zesty, very fruity, with a light and complex style. Amazing oranges, grapefruits, bergamots, raisins and dried papayas. Only a very, very faint soapiness in the background leads it off the straight and narrow, which is a shame. Finish: long, with this persisting soapiness beyond the lovely fruitiness. Comments: Marray McDavid had several stunning Macallans, and this one’s a fine example. Ah, bloody wee soap, without it we’d have had a 92-punter or something. Well, it’s something between soap and rubbed orange peel. SGP:641 - 88 points.

Macallan 1980/2010 (49.6%, Jack Wiebers, Prenzlow Portfolio Colection, sherry butt, cask #16447, 120 bottles)

Macallan 1980/2010 (49.6%, Jack Wiebers, Prenzlow Portfolio Colection, sherry butt, cask #16447, 120 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: a rather dry version, rather on walnuts and hay so quite fino-ish, with some grass, bark, leaves, leather and bitter chocolate. The exact opposite of the Murray McDavid, in any case a very dry version of ex-sherry Macallan. There’s even a little antiseptic, hospital-style, that’s not immensely ‘Macallan’ in my experience. Mouth: fruitier but also a little odd, with some cardboard, ginger tonic, walnut wine and wee touches of plastic. Other than that, we have oranges and grapefruits. Finish: long but a notch bitter and gingery. Comments: not bad at all but I believe this is not exactly what you’d expect from some sherried Macallan. SGP:461 - 79 points.

Let’s try another 1980, maybe it’s a vintage issue, which should be more apparent in a young naked version at full strength. I’m asking you, what wouldn’t we do for the sake of whisky research?...

Macallan-Glenlivet 12 yo 1980/1992 (60.4%, Cadenhead's, 150th Anniversary, Black Label)

Macallan-Glenlivet 12 yo 1980/1992 (60.4%, Cadenhead's, 150th Anniversary, Black Label) Three stars and a halfRocket fuel? Let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: another world. This is all on barley and apples and apples and barley, with only a hint of paraffin that, indeed, may be related to the ‘plastic’ side that we found in the Prenzlow. Also white chocolate and some kind of wood smoke. Pinewood? All this is rather brutal and youthful. You little rascal! With water: oooh, water works and brilliantly so. In fact, we now have a pretty Springbanky, old-style whisky that’s rather petroly, sooty and globally mineral. Great wax too. Mouth (neat): high impact naked barleyish, lemony and kind-of-waxy/plasticky malt whisky. Brutal stuff, water is needed indeed. With water: bingo again! I wouldn’t say the plastic is totally eradicated, but the added lemon notes manage to bury it. Great wax again, somewhat ala Clynelish. Finish: long, grassier, sharp, mineral. Comments: it’s pretty mysterious style, not quite Macallan, probably with some tiny flaws here and there, but also a wonderful old-Highlands style. Interesting, very interesting… SGP:352 - 84 points.

All right, a last one for the road, and we’ll go back to sherry this time…

Macallan 20 yo 1984/2005 (55.9%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #7099, 515 bottles)

Macallan 20 yo 1984/2005 (55.9%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #7099, 515 bottles) Three stars Let’s take care, it’s the 80s again… Colour: amber. Nose: a little closed, maybe, with rather leaves and leather at first nosing. So a kind of leafy sherry, not very aromatic despite some nice whiffs of oranges and cloves. With water: more oranges, marmalade, maybe plums, and a few strawberries that come unexpected. Some tobacco too. A fine nose. Mouth (neat): good oranges and kumquats, ginger, cinchona, leather… Some kind of wood polish too, tonic water, paraffin again, plasticine… Like many independents from that era or before, it hasn’t got the fullness of the OBs. Still nice whisky, though. With water: good but once again I find an odd waxiness, around plasticine. Was that a style? Finish: of medium length, quite clean, leafy, with oranges and a drop of seawater. Comments: independent Macallans used to be quite rare, and they were often pretty unlikely in my experience. The exact opposite of several other brands, where the large indies such as Signatory often had/have better bottlings. Go figure! SGP:451 - 80 points.

(With thanks to Benjamin, Konstantin and Marco)

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



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February 23, 2014


Tasting young Springbank helter-skelter

So, our dear Springbank once again. We’ll first have a newish official 12 years old, and we’ll go on with various older young bottlings that we’ll pick more or less at random from WF’s ever-growing sample library, one after the other and just for fun. How does that sound? So first, the (kind of) new official…

Springbank 12 yo 'Cask Strength' (50.3%, OB, +/-2013)

Springbank 12 yo 'Cask Strength' (50.3%, OB, +/-2013) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it seems that it’s rather gentler than earlier CS versions, or is it me? Or is it the lower strength? The vanilla seems to be more forward, while the expected sooty/phenolic notes seem to be shier than usual. What’s quite loud is this bag full of green and less green apples, all covered with some sunflower and linseed oils and a little wax. I think it’s rather less smoky than earlier bottlings. With water: this feeling of Schweppes that’s often to be found in modern Springbank or Longrow. What did you expect? Mouth (neat): seriously more springbanky this time, with bags of bitter oranges, a little curry powder and mustard, some liquorice, ashes, a coating vanilla and touches of earth and grass. Very satisfying. With water: easier, softer, all on fresh oranges and grapefruits, with some liquorice and a little pinesap. Finish: not that long, but clean and fresh, with a slightly salty and barleyish aftertaste. Comments: a notch gentler in my opinion, but simply great again – even if my favourite recent young Springbank remains the 10yo 100 proof from three or four years ago. SGP:462 - 88 points.

Springbank 13 yo 1991/2004 (50%, Lombard, Jewels of Scotland, sherrywood) I haven’t heard much from Lombard’s in recent years, have you? Colour: straw. Nose: uh-oh, I’ve never nosed a whisky that was this acetic before. Imagine a blend of acetone, apple vinegar and custard. Sounds awful? It is. Mouth: a little better, but it’s still very vinegary, although some much nicer things start to happen, especially the arrival of some kind of smoked apple juice mixed with brine. Also liquorice wood, leaves, cardamom, pepper… But the vinegar remains there, and it’s not 50 years old balsamico from Modena, I can tell you. Finish: long and quite tannic. Great news, the vinegar almost disappeared. Comments: I’ve given this baby quite some time and indeed, the acetone and such tended to become more acceptable, but it’s probably rather my nose and my palate that got accustomed and filtered all that out, as usual when there are some very whacky aromas. Or some kind of bottle contamination? Please take my score with a pinch of salt. SGP:272 - around 40 points.

Another chance for 1991…

Springbank 1991/2004 (54.2%, Murray McDavid, for Taiwan, bourbon, cask #MM430, 300 bottles)

Springbank 1991/2004 (54.2%, Murray McDavid, for Taiwan, bourbon, cask #MM430, 300 bottles) Five stars Murray McDavid had some brilliant Springbanks! Colour: gold. Nose: aaah, this is much greater. Cleaner for sure – that wasn’t difficult to achieve – and unexpectedly peaty, almost as peaty as Longrow. Or is it Longrow in disguise? So smoke, ashes, grapefruits, engine oil, freshly ground pepper… and all that. With water: some smoked floor-cloth – and I like that ;-). Mouth (neat): a perfect ultra-lemony and very acrid/pungent palate that probably a little ‘love-it-or-hate-it’, especially since there’s also more and more salt. But it’s my thing ;-). With water: more of all that, plus bitter oranges. Finish: long, acrid, lemony, smoky, sooty, ashy, ultra-dry. Comments: remarkably unsweet and probably very ‘segmenting’. Not for the fainthearted. SGP:264 - 90 points.

Springbank 1992/2005 (46%, Whisky Shop Tara, cask #327, 100cl) Two stars Tara is a nice little whisky shop in Munich, Germany. Colour: straw. Nose: barley but also a little vase water, there’s a weakness in this nose. I also find some ink, carbon paper (remember?), old coins, sweet lager… Could be nice, but the jury’s still out. Mouth: nope, there’s too much plastic and unlikely commercial lemon juice. Quite some naked Spirngbanks had that at the time, it’s all kind of oddly chemical. Pass. Finish: quite long and rather nicer, with a pinch of salt and more lemon. Comments: one of the bizarre ones. Interesting documentation, I’d say. I remember I’ve causally tried some other Springbanks for Tara that were much, and mean much more to my liking. SGP:343 - 72 points.

Springbank 12 yo 1996 (59.1%, OB, Private for J. Brass, cask #196, 287 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo 1996 (59.1%, OB, Private for J. Brass, cask #196, 287 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: same feeling as with the Lombard, this one starts hugely acetic, with even notes of gym socks and various cheese, but this time all that just vanishes in the air, leaving room for some ultra-chiselled notes of sooty grapefruits and a lot of fern and wild grass, even a little bison grass vodka or something like that. With water: water definitely killed any remaining acetic notes and brought out more smoky porridge and some baker’s yeast. Mouth (neat): very dry, with high impact bitter oranges, lemon grass, limes and, well, sooty things. Very excellent this time, no vinegar at all. With water: it got rounder, with a little more newish oak (gingerbread, pickled ginger, nutmeg) and a lot of smoky/ashy marmalade. Finish: long, with more oak spices. Comments: I got a little scared when I first nosed this baby, but then it just unfolded nicely after two or three seconds. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Springbank 10yo 1991/2002 (57.4%, Blackadder, cask #4, 285 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: not a lot happening here, this baby’s curiously silent. Maybe a little candy sugar, grass and raw barley? Hello? With water: sour apples, cider, sour wood… And some soot. That’s nicer in this context. Mouth (neat): starts sweet but notes of plastic are soon to arrive, together with bitter oranges and tonic water. Not easy, not easy… But there’s also some nicer grapefruits. With water: now it really delivers. Peppered marmalade and touches of salt. Finish: long, zesty and peppery. Orange drops in the aftertaste. Comments: ups and downs in this baby. I really enjoyed some parts. SGP:541 - 79 points.

Not too sure I should go on, those were the unlikely years… Oh well, one last try and then we’ll try to find some older young ones.

Springbank 17 yo 1992/2009 (46%, Silver Seal)

Springbank 17 yo 1992/2009 (46%, Silver Seal, Sestante Collection) Two stars Colour: white wine. Nose: oh gosh, aspirin tablets this time, linseed oil, ink, waxed papers, new plastic, tin, coins, plasticine, hay, carbolineum… Not too sure I like this, to tell you the truth. Mouth: no, it’s really weird. As usual, there are some nice lemons, grapefruits and oranges, but these chemical notes that are so big are really difficult. Some kind of very grassy industrial gin. Finish: quite long, inky and chemical. Comments: you should try to try these batches, in case you haven’t yet. Quite an experience. It’s amazing how much progress they’ve done since back then (or ‘before’, of course). One historical btotling? SGP:373 - 70 points.

But I can hear the old young cavalry coming…

Springbank 1975 (46%, OB for Tesco, early to mid-1990s)

Springbank 1975 (46%, OB for Tesco, early to mid-1990s) Five starsThat’s right, Tesco the supermarkets. Colour: amber. Nose: oh my oh my oh my, this is a different world. An avalanche of dried and fresh fruits with a slightly camphory and metallic background. Just to quote four or five of them I’d say tangerines, passion fruits, raisins, figs, papayas and oranges. I know, that’s six of them. Gets then smokier (coal smoke?) while some dried longans or litchis are also appearing. Wonderful nose from one or several perfect sherry casks. Mouth: yes, this is perfect. Starts a little mentholated and liquoricy, goes then towards overripe apples and a lot of sultanas, passes by a coal pit and a bag of vanilla fudge and ends up right in the middle of middle-eastern spice shop that would also sell pastries and a few leather items. You’re right, a souk. Choukran! Finish: not that long but all on dried figs, dates and sultanas. It’s only in the aftertaste that more tannins start to show up. Comments: simply old style Springbank from perfect sherry wood. It was good to shop at Tesco’s at the time. SGP:651 - 91 points.

A quick last one for the road (so to speak, of course we never drink and drive at WF Towers!)

Springbank 10 yo (59%, OB, sherry, +/-1978)

Springbank 10 yo (59%, OB, sherry, +/-1978) Five stars This is the pretty famous '100% pure malt in red - dark sherry' version. Colour: mahogany. Nose: yes it does remind me of the no-less famous 12 yo for Samaroli. This is simply amazing, with all dimensions involved. So a huge complexity, even at this very high strength, with first, all kinds of raisins plus prunes and marzipan-filled dates, then a wee blend of other stunning old spirits (mainly cognac and rum), then all waxes and oils of the creation as well as the rarest aromatic herbs. You may forget about ‘rarest’. What an experience… With water: not the best use of water ever, the whisky doesn’t change much. Well, it couldn’t have gotten any better anyway… Mouth (neat): where to start? This is big, this is huge, this is as rich and yet elegant and even kind of refreshing as the grandest Montrachet (Serge, we’re getting tired of your wine quotes). The only tiny-wee-ish flaw is an infinitesimal soapiness. Otherwise we have more or less the same aromas as in the nose. With water: please immediately call the anti-maltoporn brigade. And water killed that faint soapiness, unsurprisingly. Finish: long and now rather spicier. Cloves and mint first, which keeps it all fresh, then crystallised ginger and a little paprika. Comments: grand, very grand. Great spirit from some superb sherry casks. And I liked the touch of soap at some point, that kept this whisky human. Haha. SGP:652 - 95 points.

(with thanks to Angus, Bill, Emmanuel, Ho-cheng, Konstantin, and Tomislav)

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



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February 21, 2014


A trio of old bottlings of Rosebank

Rosebank is another mystery, it only stopped distilling in 1993, so only twenty years ago, and yet there's not been any new bottlings since quite some months or even years, unless I haven't seen them of course. So let's try to keep the flame alive by tasting a small bunch of older versions today, and by keeping this very varied as we'll have a very young one, a very old one and a big sherried beast...

Rosebank 7 yo 1989/1997 (43%, Signatory, cask #1739, 660 bottles)

Rosebank 7 yo 1989/1997 (43%, Signatory, cask #1739, 660 bottles) Two stars This should make for a perfect apéritif. It's one of, if not the youngest Rosebank I've ever tried. Colour: straw. Nose: it is bizarre whisky. I was expecting a citrusy blast but that's not quite what's happening, as what I'm finding rather lies around small berries eaux-de-vie and almonds. Sorb, sloe and such. There are also whiffs of new plastic and leatherette as well as quite some waxed papers, so not exactly something hugely entrancing. Also fern, which is much nicer. Mouth: big stuff, that wasn't expected, but it's very grassy this time, and peppery at that. Sorrel, lemon balm, sage, fresh coriander and then, once again, these bitter notes of plastic and cardboard. A little weird and rather interesting, but it's not something you'd sip 'like that'. Finish: unexpectedly long, a little acrid, with a little more lemon and grapefruit in the aftertaste. Chewing zests. Comments: quite an experience. I'll still come up with a relatively 'good' score because it's interesting whisky. I think nobody bottles such malts anymore these days. SGP:362 - 75 points.

Rosebank 1978/1991 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #25.4, screw cap, 75cl)

Rosebank 1978/1991 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #25.4, screw cap, 75cl) Five stars An early SMWS, there used to be wonders and wonders at the honourable society... And of course there still is. Colour: coffee. Nose: ah yes! I wouldn't say Rosebank is very recognisable, but I love this very 'fino-ish' profile, with wheelbarrows of old nuts (not us!), some bitter chocolate, some tapioca and probably a little curry powder as well as cigars and leather. So an ultra-dry ex-sherry Rosebank so far. Let's see if water will unleash the citrus... With water: I wouldn't say it does, but this hyper-concentrated walnut wine is superb. Manzanilla, vin jaune, old wine cellar, hazelnuts, earth, cigars, old balsamic vinegar... All that is much to my linking, I have to say. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, hyper-sherried, with a huge pile of bitter oranges and again a lot of walnuts. It's hot and pretty violent, water is more than needed. With water: more oranges but also figs, sultanas, dates and a lot of cinnamon, 'in a good way'. Not drying cinnamon. Some mustard too. Finish: very long, rather tannic. Strong tea and peppercorns. There's even something cabernety. Comments: quite fabulous. If you like manzanilla, good finos or vin jaune/Château-Chalon, you'll love this. Yeah I know, it's very hard to find, I'm sorry. SGP:372 - 92 points.

Rosebank 34 yo (88°proof, George Strachan, 26 2/3 fl. Ozs, 1970s)

Rosebank 34 yo (88°proof, George Strachan, 26 2/3 fl. Ozs, 1970s) Five stars This bottle is a little unlikely since it states 'Highland Malt' in big bold letters, but it appears that the company authenticated this bottle (as seen on www.htfw.com). It's 1940s distillation, so 'truly rare' (as simply 'rare' can often be to whisky what 'collector's edition' is to CDs or DVDs). Colour: white wine. Nose: definitely old stuff, with quite some metal polish at first nosing, a lot of soot, engine oil, old tools and all that jazz. Then we have overripe apples and oranges (very peculiar) as well as a little shoe polish, camphor and wee hints of manure and hay. Also an earthy side that never stops growing. Lovely old whisky, but once again, I wouldn't have recognised Rosebank. Maybe that's me, after all... Mouth: drinking time. Definitely Rosebank this time, with a lot of lime, tangerines, grapefruits and lemons and always a sooty side beneath all that. Shoe polish, a chalkiness, green tea, grape pips and skins, grape stalk... Stalk is often bad in wine but in this context, it's quite brilliant. Also liquorice and then more salt. Olive brine. Finish: long, green, lemony and sooty. Even ashy. Very peppery aftertaste. Comments: it's the oldest that's the most 'Rosebank', funnily enough. Some very old Alsatian rieslings can taste like this, especially the petroly ones. SGP:462 - 91 points.

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



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February 20, 2014


A trio of Lochside for the glory of it

Maybe you've noticed that in the olden days, I used to taste many more old bottlings, whilst there's so many new whiskies these days that I sometimes have much less time for the oldies. I try to use them as 'apéritifs' or 'digestifs' from time to time, but that only works when there are new bottlings of this or that distillery. Which is hardly the case with many a name, such as, say Lochside. When was the latest new bottling of Lochside malt again? I'm not talking about the single blends... Quite some months ago, maybe even years! A crying shame! So, this is what we're going to do to keep all this fun, we'll simply organise sessions with only older bottlings when there's no new ones, and that's all. Starting with Lochside, precisely...

Lochside 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-1995)

Lochside 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-1995) Two stars and a halfI've tried this baby several times already, but never came up with proper tasting notes. The general consensus at the time was a surprising 'meh'. In fact, it was like at Littlemill, the indies always had much better bottlings than the owners, don't ask me why. Colour: straw. Nose: there is the Lochside fruitiness, with some grapefruits, tangerines and bananas, but there's also a weird metallic side and a dull kind of graininess, approaching cardboard. It's actually a nice fruity nose, but there are imperfections that, if I remember well, were even more apparent on the palate. Let's see... Mouth: yeah, a shame. Lovely notes of passion fruits, papayas, bananas and tangerines mingled with a mustiness, some yoghurt, some wet cardboard and something like bitter ink. Well all inks are bitter, aren't they. It's also becoming more and more mushroomy, not in a very nice way. Good body, though, it's no weak whisky. Finish: pretty long, maltier, with some weird metal. Used coins and silver spoon. Comments: I had it at 82 in my book but I think I was too generous at the time. The fruits are perfect, the rest is, well, rather flawed. Musty cardboard. SGP:651 - 79 points.

Lochside 14 yo 1989/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, ref #915, 331 bottles)

Lochside 14 yo 1989/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, ref #915, 331 bottles) Five stars I think this one was extraordinary. Colour: pale straw. Nose: pah-pah-pah-pah-pah... Immense grapefruit, beeswax, agave, new leatherette (becoming a tad nostalgic now) and mown lawn. When is the World Cup again? With water: the most amazing fruity grassiness - or grassy fruitiness. Cactus, agaves indeed - did you know those aren't cactus? - and all kinds of grapefruits. Keyword p-u-r-e. And there's even a little tar coming through, and even a little brine, which is even greater. Mouth (neat): huge and amazing. Multi-vitamin fruit juice at cask strength. No other malt is as tropically citrusy, not even Bowmore in the 1960s, Clynelish in 1972 or Benriach in 1976. An extravagant fruit bomb, with a layer of grass juice that prevents it from getting too sweet and rounded. Huge fruity impact. With water: and once again, some brine and tar coming through. Even a little salt. Finish: long, on more or less the same flavours. Comments: I think I forgot to call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Simply my kind of malt whisky. SGP:652 - 93 points.

Lochside 1981/2001 (59%, Blackadder, cask #614, 314 bottles)

Lochside 1981/2001 (59%, Blackadder, cask #614, 314 bottles) Five stars1981, together with 1966, used to be the fruitier years at Lochside, in my experience. I remember a Murray McDavid that was pure tangerine juice. Where are Murray McDavid? Colour: pale gold. Nose: take three grapefruits, four tangerines, one orange and half a mango. Squeeze, nose. You got it. With water: touches of candy sugar, otherwise 100% citrus fruits. Mouth (neat): we're close to the 1989. A citrus bomb, even zestier than the 1989. Sharp cool-climate riesling and massive doses of grapefruit and lemon juice. You know, some fruity whiskies are a bit girly, in a way (no, no, I'm not being a sexist), but these Lochsides were different. More Charlotte Rampling in the 1970s than Miley Sirrus. Isn't that Cyrus? Ceyrus? Seyrrus? Who cares? With water: oh, olive oil! Finish: long and simply amazing. A blend of limoncello and mezcal, 50/50. Comments: I could spend countless hours pondering whether the 1989 was better, or this 1981, or the 1989, or the 1981... I also think bottle ageing do these babies much good. SGP:652 - 93 points.

(with thanks to Konstantin and Tobias)

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

PS: A quick word to the new whisky enthusiasts.
Hi, maybe you're considering buying some expensive new malt whiskies with wood technology inside. Good for you, but for the same budget, you may consider snaffling the best bottlings of all those long-gone whiskies instead, before it's simply too late. My humble advice...



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Chris Potter. Track: The wheel. Please visit Mr Potter's website and buy his music...

February 19, 2014


Some Aberfeldy today

The Midlander Aberfeldy is usually a rather light malt but the owners seem to be willing to launch punchier – and more limited – versions these days. We’ll have one today but first, a recent bottling of the regular 12…

Aberfeldy 12 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2013)

Aberfeldy 12 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2013) Two stars and a half I've tried the 12 last time in 2009? I liked it but it wasn't big (WF 79). Colour: gold. Nose: mild and round. Honey, nectar, roasted nuts and a little white chocolate, then more apple compote, sweet cider and barley. It’s fresh, barleyish and seemingly quite harmless. Everybody should rather enjoy this light and honest nose. Mouth: it’s the low strength that makes it a little too light, because what’s ‘inside’ is pleasant, malty, honeyed and nicely fruity. Apple pie, custard, marmalade, maple syrup, a little Ovaltine… It’s actually maltier than I remembered. Finish: a little short, with a feeling of caramelised beer and roasted peanuts. Comments: I won’t change my score, because of the lightness, but the core is enjoyable. One of the malts that hint at good blends in my opinion. SGP:441 - 79 points.

Aberfeldy 16 yo 'Ramble' (56%, OB, 643 bottles, 2013)

Aberfeldy 16 yo 'Ramble' (56%, OB, 643 bottles, 2013) Four stars and a half The label has been designed by Glasgow based artist David Galletly. I think he's talented. Colour: dark amber. Nose: cocoa, soot and ashes, this is very different. It’s actually immensely chocolaty and it’s only after a good fifteen seconds that stewed fruits and prunes and blackberry jam start to show up. Also something frankly metallic, in a good way. Old tin boxes full of chocolate-coated prunes. With water (while it became as opaque as milk): spicy raisins, ginger and crystallised oranges everywhere. Mouth (neat): very spicy, rich, coating, extractive and kind of oriental. Sweet curry, ginger sauce, gingerbread, raisins, honey and mustard sauce… I’m sorry if that sounds unlikely, because it’s not. This works! Probably some very active oak involved. With water: same profile, just easier and maybe fruitier. A lot of bergamots and kumquats. Finish: long, fruity and spicy. Oranges. Reminds me of some Christmas Stolle or of some artisan Panettone. Love that. Comments: you can feel the oak and the technology, but this baby just gets you. Well done Aberfeldy. SGP:552 - 88 points.

That one was much to my liking, let’s try to find a much older, and more traditional Aberfeldy in WF’s library, but one that would bear a similar age… (rummage rummage)… maybe this?

Aberfeldy 17 yo 1978/1995 (57.9%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection)

Aberfeldy 17 yo 1978/1995 (57.9%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection) Two stars This one could be quite brutal… Colour: straw. Nose: wah. It’s the kind of extreme nose that only this series could display at the time, or maybe a few Rare Malts or Manager’s Drams (Mannochmore at 66% vol., anyone?) Squeezed grapefruit skins and crushed chalk, grass, bread and plasticine. Do you get the idea? With water: no no no, that doesn’t work, unless you’re passionately fond of new leatherette. Mouth (neat): extremely acrid and sharp, on concentrated lemon juice, grass juice and putty/plasticine. A pinch of icing sugar. Frankly, this is almost lemon juice. Totally naked whisky. With water: no again. Can you distil plasticine? Finish: long, on the same notes, although the lemon’s having the upper hand, which is great news. Comments: spectacular ultra-grassy and lemony malt, tinged with leatherette and plasticine. Very, say ‘experimental’, which makes it interesting. In a way. SGP:471 - 72 points.

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



Block Today: LATIN JAZZ. Performer: Ray Barretto. Track: Power. Please visit the website and buy the music...

February 17, 2014


A few Tomintoul 1967

Yes, let’s have some 1967 Tomintoul today, while hoping they won’t be too oaky and dry, as Tomintoul’s not a big distillate in the first place in my opinion.

Tomintoul 46 yo 1967/2013 (47.6%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 215 bottles)

Tomintoul 46 yo 1967/2013 (47.6%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 215 bottles) Four starsColour: gold. Nose: there’s this very typical nose of fresh apple juice and artisan cider mixed with a little butterscotch and rather delicate touches of cedar wood and cinnamon. After that, a little orange juice and more flowery scents, rather around ‘yellow’ flowers and maybe lis, but it’s not heady in any way. Mouth: I’ve had some old Tomintouls that were a little flat or weak, or too tea-ish/woody, but it’s not the case here. Orange sweets first, then kiwis, green apples, then milk chocolate and green tea (more and more of tea, that’s the tannicity coming out)… Also a touch of fudge and corn syrup, as well as some pretty acrid herbal liqueur, a little Underberg-like. Finish: long, rather bitter now. Cynar, do you know that? Comments: I think the oak starts to show a bit but the whole remains very enjoyable within this style. And hey, 46 years! SGP:561 - 85 points.

Tomintoul 45 yo 1967/2012 (48.9%, Exclusive Malts for Taiwan.com, refill hogshead, cask #6579, 220 bottles)

Tomintoul 45 yo 1967/2012 (48.9%, Exclusive Malts for Taiwan.com, refill hogshead, cask #6579, 220 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: dark gold. Nose: that both whiskies are similar is an understatement, this one being just a tad more vigorous and slightly less ‘cidery’. Maybe also green bananas but just touches of that. Mouth: more power but once again, a very similar style, with an oakiness that’s very obvious and yet it’s not too bitter – yet. Chlorophyll, cider apples, walnuts, Jaegermeister, apple juice and bitterish malt. Oh and orange drops. The oak tends to become louder than in the TWA. Finish: long, acrid, bitter, very green. Comments: I think the finish is a little difficult, but the rest is quite lovely. And hey, 45 years! SGP:571 - 84 points.

Let’s try to find other 1967s (rummage, rummage…)

Tomintoul 43 yo 1967/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #4691, 215 bottles)

Tomintoul 43 yo 1967/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #4691, 215 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it seems that this one’s both softer and fruitier, while remaining within the same borders. Apples, light honey and flowers, oaky spices. Cinnamon again, touches of marzipan, hints of bananas, ideas of coconuts… Maybe will the palate be fresher than the others’? Mouth: almost the same development again, except that this one has a little more citrus and rather less oak. Also touches of melon, honey, mead, gingerbread… In short, it’s rather fresher and fruitier indeed. Finish: good length, with a tea-ish tannicity yet again but I wouldn’t say it becomes acrid or too bitter. Comments: This one was about to reach the limits, just ‘about’. And hey, 43 years! SGP:551 - 86 points.

Tomintoul 43 yo 1967/2011 (49.8%, Liquid Sun, bourbon hogshead, 209 bottles)

Tomintoul 43 yo 1967/2011 (49.8%, Liquid Sun, bourbon hogshead, 209 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is both frankly fresher and grassier, which could be good or bad, we’ll wee while having our first sips. We aren’t much on cider or beer anymore, rather on broken branches, cut grass, fennel, fresh butter. It seems that the cask was much less active, hence the lighter colour – and the fresher nose. Let’s see… Mouth: exactly the same whisky as the Mo Or, even the extra-4% don’t change much. Oranges and grapefruits, melon, light honey… The tannicity is rather earthy and not really tea-ish, which I enjoy. But there is a little mint. Finish: long, clean, not too tannic, not drying. Some very nice oranges remaining. Comments: excellent. Like most old Tomintouls, it’s not immensely complex, but it’s full, fresh and most enjoyable. And hey, 43 years (is that it, S.?) SGP:651 - 88 points.

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



Block Today: SOUL JAZZ. Performer: Norman Connors. Track: Blues. Please buy his music...

February 16, 2014


Four Blair Athol, old and new

Blair Athol is the other light Midlander that should not be overlooked. A beautiful distillery too...

Blair Athol 15 yo 1998/2013 (46%, Càrn Mor, hogshead, 2 casks, 736 bottles)

Blair Athol 15 yo 1998/2013 (46%, Càrn Mor, hogshead, 2 casks, 736 bottles) Two stars Colour: straw. Nose: wait, this is pure Williams pear eau-de-vie, straight from a Holstein still! That lasts for quite some minutes before more vanilla and sweet barley notes show up. Corn syrup. Mouth: sweet apple juice, sweet beer and just touches of pepper. Bubblegum, jellybeans, pear drops again, barley water… It’s fine but I wouldn’t say there’s much character. A touch of yeast too. Finish: shortish, a little bitter now. Leaves and stems, green tea… Comments: averagely to my liking. SGP:451 - 75 points.

Blair Athol 20 yo 1993/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, ref #DL9908, 477 bottles)

Blair Athol 20 yo 1993/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, ref #DL9908, 477 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: a rounder, more matured and more sweetly oaky version this time. Butterscotch, fudge, millionaire shortbread, then more hay and straight vanilla. With water: the yeasty side comes out, beer, cider, fresh bread, porridge… Mouth (neat): a nice citrusy arrival, mainly on caramelised tangerines and orange blossom honey, with then more mead and lemon pie with meringue. Never forget meringue on lemon pies! With water: sweeter, even a little sugary, with a faint rubbery bitterness in the background. Finish: medium length. Candy sugar and apple pie, malt and green peppercorns in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly fine but I don’t find it outstanding. May lack character. SGP:441 - 78 points.

Blair Athol 20 yo 1993/2013 (57.8%, The First Editions, sherry butt, 512 bottles)

Blair Athol 20 yo 1993/2013 (57.8%, The First Editions, sherry butt, 512 bottles) Three stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: rather some rum, Demerara sugar and caramel this time, with touches of cherry liqueur and raisins. Then various herbal teas, chamomile, plain grass and hay… With water: it’s now grassier. Leaves, branches, bark… Also porridge and bread. Mouth (neat): very similar to the DL this time, with just the same citrusy notes, the tangerines, the lemon pies (and their meringue, ha)… Even the extra-6.3% don’t quite feel. With water: a little rounder, with also more marmalade and bitter oranges. So a little more to my liking than its brother. Finish: medium length. Again a little rounder and more marmalady and lemony. Comments: another fine Blair Athol in my opinion, although I wouldn’t say it’s the most entertaining malt ever. SGP:541 - 80 points.

And now a little digestif...

Blair Athol 12 yo (46%, OB, Italy, 1960s)

Blair Athol 12 yo (46%, OB, Italy, 1960s)Four stars and a half This could be really grandiose. As you may know, the Dufftowns and Blair Athols from the 1960s or even early 1970s could be fabulous. And did you notice the strength? 46% vol. is nothing really new. Colour: gold. Nose: oh yes, a fragrant blend of herbal teas (verbena and wormwood first, then chamomile and honeysuckle) with a little tar, pollen, honeycomb, camphor, tobacco and just a touch of metal (iron). Perfect Old Bottle Effect. Enough said. Mouth: excellent, vibrant, fruity, herbal and phenolic. Much more tropical than the others (but tropical fruits can come with Old Bottle Effect in my opinion), mangos and passion fruits, oranges, aniseed and fennel, mint, liquorice, citrons, coriander leaves, angelica… What a whirlwind at 46% vol.! Only these faint notes of damp cardboard could be seen as a very minor flaw. Finish: very long, jammy and fresh. Mango chutney and bitter oranges marmalade. Even a little peat in the aftertaste. Comments: I won’t go too high because of the touches of cardboard, but other than that, what a marvellous old Blair Athol again! SGP:652 - 89 points.

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



Block Today: LATIN JAZZ. Performer: Santana. Track: Give and Take (from my favourite album, Borboletta). Please visit his website and buy his music...

February 2014 - part 1 <--- February 2014 - part 2 ---> March 2014 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Brora 26 yo 1981/2007 (57.1%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #1520, 391 bottles)

Brora 40 yo 1972 (59.1%, OB, decanter, single cask, 2014)

Lp4 (54.8%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2013)

Lochside 1981/2001 (59%, Blackadder, cask #614, 314 bottles)

Lochside 14 yo 1989/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, ref #915, 331 bottles)

Macallan 17 yo 1996/2013 'Easter Elchies' (55.3%, OB, sherry butt, cask #26)

Rosebank 1978/1991 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #25.4, screw cap, 75cl)

Rosebank 34 yo (88°proof, George Strachan, 26 2/3 fl. Ozs, 1970s)

Springbank 10 yo (59%, OB, sherry, +/-1978)

Springbank 1975 (46%, OB for Tesco, early to mid-1990s)

Springbank 1991/2004 (54.2%, Murray McDavid, for Taiwan, bourbon, cask #MM430, 300 bottles)