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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2015 - Part 2


February 2015 - part 1 <--- February 2015 - part 2 ---> March 2015 - part 1


February 27, 2015


From Alsace, five Alsatian whiskies

Alsatian malt whiskies just got their European IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée), which means that any ‘Whisky d’Alsace’ now needs to have been integrally made in Alsace from mashing to ageing, aged in oak for a minimum of three years (while further ageing in other woods is permitted) and… tah-dah, bottled without caramel! Now, apart from the caramel bit, not 100% sure all that was necessary, as Alsatian whisky is actually anything but traditional. And as many seem to use column stills, not exactly the best way to come up with characterful spirit. But hey, why not! Let’s have a few of them today, including some that just won medals at this week’s Concours Générale Agricole de Paris 2015…

Elsass Whisky (40%, OB, Lehman, France, Alsace, single malt, +/-2014)

Elsass Whisky (40%, OB, Lehman, France, Alsace, single malt, +/-2014) Two stars and a half This one’s around 7 years old and was matured in white Bordeaux casks. It just won Gold in Paris, and indeed I had found an earlier version quite palatable back in 2008 (WF 77). Colour: gold. Nose: very fruity, with clear and loud Williams pears in the front, and a bit of vanilla and warm sawdust in the background. There are a few more fruits after that, such as apples and stewed rhubarb, but the pears keep living the good life. I’m not against that, I like pears a lot. And soft vanilla. Mouth: all in keeping with the nose. These good people are fruit distillers, no wonder their whiskies are full of the same fruits (does that make any sense, S.?) So pears, pears and pears, coated with custard and a little cinnamon from the oak. What I enjoy is the purity here. Finish: relatively short, soft and fruity. You guessed it, on pears. Comments: I’m not totally sure an IGP was mandatory, as this doesn’t have much to do with classic whisky as the Scots, the Irish or the Japanese make, but on the other hand, I think it’s excellent, clean, fresh and fruity aged spirit. For next summer. SGP:730 - 79 points.

Rozelieures (40%, OB, Grallet Dupic, France, Lorraine, single malt, +/-2014)

Rozelieures (40%, OB, Grallet Dupic, France, Lorraine, single malt, +/-2014) Two stars Right, Lorraine isn’t Alsace. They’re our neighbours/cousins from the West. Well in fact we will soon live in the same mega-region, as our very wise government has just decided to amalgamate Alsace, Lorraine, and Champagne. I don’t quite know what will happen with the brand new Alsatian IGP ;-). Another version by Rozelieures, a peaty one it seems, just won another Gold medal in Paris. This one was matured in sherry wood. For how long, I don’t know. Colour: gold. Nose: more oak and more spices in this one, less lightness, more heaviness (bravo, S.), with caraway, sloe, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg… Also whiffs of grape pips oil, then the expected vanilla. Tarte tatin. Touches of menthol. Mouth: much, much, much more whisky-ish than the Elsässer, fatter (but the Alsatian was very light), less fruity, spicier again, with a faint smoke, some cloves and cumin, some ashes, even a touch of salt, gingerbread, cinnamon mints… Finish: rather short, a notch sugary perhaps. Ashes in the aftertaste. Comments: frankly, this is quite okay. The oak feels a bit, while the spirit isn’t very big on the palate. Perhaps more balance… SGP:551 - 75 points.

AWA ‘Cuvée Kuentz-Bas’ (43%, OB, France, Alsace, single malt, +/-2014)

AWA ‘Cuvée Kuentz-Bas’ (43%, OB, France, Alsace, single malt, +/-2014) Two stars AWA means Authentique Whisky Alsace. They buy malt whisky from Hepp Distillery and finish it in various Alsatian wine casks, in this case Pinot Gris from the house Kuentz-Bas. Not something very easy to do as traditionally, only pinot noir is matured in transportable oak casks in Alsace (as opposed to massive tuns). Colour: gold. Nose: why do I rather get gewurz? I mean roses, litchis and all that? It’s like opening a large box of Turkish delights. This isn’t unpleasant at all, quite the contrary, but the whole experience is rather akin to nosing a glass of good gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives, seriously. Old style perfume. Mouth: very weird, but not in a bad way. You just have to forget that this is supposed to be whisky. Violette sweets, blood oranges, more Turkish delights, orange blossom, more litchis, plus cloves and white pepper. Good body. Finish: long and violetty. Pears in the aftertaste. Comments: a true UFW (unidentified flying whisky). Very hard to score, because we’re so far from our base. A ‘whisky’ that’s got energy, for sure, and that’s really worth trying in any case. I’ll see if I can find an AWA gewurz finish ;-). SGP:741 - 75 points.

Meyer’s Blend Supérieur (40%, OB, France, Alsace, blend, +/-2014)

Meyer’s Blend Supérieur (40%, OB, France, Alsace, blend, +/-2014) Two stars The Meyer family’s been smart and fast and managed to take control of a large part of the Alsatian whisky industry (but is that an industry). And, of course, to get a high score from that writer in that holy guide. We know how that works, don’t we. Today you see Meyer’s bottles everywhere all over Alsace and I say well done. As for this blend supérieur, not too sure the word supérieur/superior means much. Colour: gold. Nose: the closest to a Scottish blend, for sure. Some caramel, sawdust, vanilla, a bit of malt, some maple syrup, a touch of honey, a little toasted oak, some beer, some malt… And that works. Mouth: same, this could be VAT69, or Passport, or any other large-ish brand. It’s just a tad fruitier and lighter on the palate, that may be the column still. Nothing to complain about. Finish: not that short, clean, fruity, with some toast bread, oak, biscuit… A touch of peppered orange in the aftertaste. Comments: drink this blind and you’ll think it’s Scotch. Or maybe a blend of Scotch and Canadian. SGP:451 - 74 points.

Meyer’s Pur Malt (40%, OB, France, Alsace, single malt, +/-2014)

Meyer’s Pur Malt (40%, OB, France, Alsace, single malt, +/-2014) Two stars and a half That’s the single malt by Meyer’s. Alsatians still believe that ‘pur(e) malt’ means ‘single malt’ ;-). Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re much closer to Lehman’s Elsass Whisky, this is much less Scottish than the blend, with more fruits again, although I wouldn’t call this an eau-de-vie-ish malt whisky. I especially detect melons and peaches, both fresh and cooked, as well as some acacia honey. More and more acacia honey… It is a light, fresh, pretty sexy nose I have to say. Tinned fruits. Mouth: as often the distillate is a tad light to stand this much newish oak, in this case ex-wine casks I believe, but beyond the cinnamon that’s a notch predominant, the fruity/honeyed development works rather well. It’s got something slightly Sauternesy (mirabelles, apricots) and keeps developing on more complex flavours, such as tea, tobacco and eucalyptus. That’s good. Finish: good length, with these leafy notes that will prevent it from getting too sweet. The aftertaste is a little drying. Comments: quite liked this one. By the way, the Meyers have built a brand new museum named La Maison du Distillateur just outside Châtenois. It’s a neat and tidy place and next time you’re in Alsace, you should go there. You might even learn a few things about… Scotch! SGP:651 - 77 points.

So, we might still miss some really high-end whisky makers in Alsace (such as Glann ar Mor in Brittany) but before that happens, I guess someone will have to invest in a pair of proper pot stills. No, not Charentais and not even more Holsteins, however good they are. And was an IGP really worth it, given the fact that all those whiskies are so wildly different? Would anyone be able to taste these whiskies blind and identify them as… Alsatian? Ja awwer! Discuss… ;-).



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February 26, 2015


A little bag of four Scottish grains

I’ll say it again and again, I’m not a huge fan of grain whisky generally speaking (those blends to which they haven’t even bothered adding malt, as Pete and Jack said), but I’ve had a few that I simply adored. A few…

Invergordon 7 yo 2006/2014 (60.2%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, Pedro Ximenez sherry Octave finish, cask ##901446B, 79 bottles)

Invergordon 7 yo 2006/2014 (60.2%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, Pedro Ximenez sherry Octave finish, cask ##901446B, 79 bottles) Three stars This could be pure madness, ex-sherry butt, finished in a small cask that should have been seasoned with PX… Let’s try to recognise the distillery! ;-) Colour: amber. Nose: rum. Or rather rum blended with armagnac. It is very powerful and burns a bit (haha), so… With water: more rum! I’m positive whisky is almost undistinguishable if you nose this blind, but I find it nicer than many rums. Mouth (neat): powerful again, rather burning because of the high strength, with a creamy mouth feel. A feeling of coffee-schnapps, some marmalade, rum-soaked raisins… Brutal but that’s normal. With water: raisins, kirsch and molasses all over the place. The PX’s sweetness really feels. Finish: long, with a little ginger from the oak. Comments: I find this baby most friendly. Good sweet rum from Scotland! SGP:640 - 80 points.

Another Invergordon…

Invergordon 1988/2014 'Vintage Strawberry Punnet' (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 242 bottles)

Invergordon 1988/2014 'Vintage Strawberry Punnet' (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 242 bottles) Two stars There shouldn’t be any sherry in this one. Colour: pale gold. Nose: much lighter than the massive 2006, and with much more American oak, with obvious vanilla, sawdust and, above all and everything, coconut. We’re at a carpenter’s, and I’m not saying this is unpleasant. You may add a fistful of jelly babies. Mouth: as sweet and creamy as some sweet and creamy bourbon, plus a few drops of strawberry liqueur. Really easy, really sweet, and, dare I say, a little childish. Finish: short, sweet, with a few oak spices such as cinnamon. Comments: probably good, but very one dimensional. Not my cup of… malt, but let’s not be too harsh. SGP:730 - 75 points.

Strathclyde 32 yo 1980/2012 (54.2%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #1499, 123 bottles)

Strathclyde 32 yo 1980/2012 (54.2%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #1499, 123 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: more silent, more discreet. I wouldn’t say I’m getting much, apart from whiffs of warm custard and maybe marshmallows. What I enjoy is what’s not there, such as those dreadful heavy notes of coconut. I also seem to find touches of pineapple. With water: lovely, water works a treat. Tinned fruits aplenty, with no dominating smells (yeah, vanilla, coconut, sawdust…) Mouth (neat): very sweet again, oily, liqueur-y and bonbon-like. Spanish manzana verde liqueur, plus pleasant notes of tangerine. Maybe a little Fanta too. Hum… With water: no, it’s to my liking. More tinned and fresh fruits. So a fruit salad. Finish: not the longest ever but its clean and balanced, and not too sweet. A little caraway in the aftertaste. Comments: we’re starting to talk. SGP:541 - 82 points.

Port Dundas 35 yo 1978/2013 (59.2%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, refill sherry hogshead, 360 bottles)

Port Dundas 35 yo 1978/2013 (59.2%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, refill sherry hogshead, 360 bottles) Four stars and a half Diageo’s Port Dundas was closed in 2010. Colour: full gold. Nose: this is something else, it’s not ridden with oak at all, rather full of oranges and honey, with even a little wax and almonds. And lemon-flavoured marzipan, perhaps. Very pleasant, fresh and aromatic nose, with even a wee feeling of litchis and/or gewürztraminer. With water: sure there’s more sawdust, but I may also find a few phenols – so to speak. A kind of maltiness, but remember there is a little malt in any grain. Not sure that’s what I’m feeling here, though. Mouth (neat): I find this very good, citrusy, fresh, clean, even zesty, without any dullness. Oranges, a little barley sugar, drops of limoncello. All fine – and you do not feel the years. With water: oh, strawberries and marzipan! And some café latte, fudge, orange zests… Finish: not very long but very clean, citrusy, very pleasant. This, is grain that I enjoy mucho. A great bottling by Douglas Laing. SGP:641 - 89 points.

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



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February 25, 2015


A Caperdonich frenzy

We haven’t had any Caperdonichs in recent time, as far as I can remember. Let’s put that straight, and we’ll even have this bunch more or less at random.

Caperdonich 16 yo 1972/1988 (40%, Signatory Vintage, Sailing Ships, cask #7130-2, 1200 bottles)

Caperdonich 16 yo 1972/1988 (40%, Signatory Vintage, Sailing Ships, cask #7130-2, 1200 bottles) Five stars At 40% vol., this baby should make for a nice aperitif. Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s not quite one of the famous ‘beehivy’ 1972s, probably because of a rather big sherriness. Having said that, the fruitiness is as luscious as fruits can get, with plenty of dried figs, dates and quinces, then a little heather honey, some chocolate sauce, blood oranges, a touch of wood smoke and then plenty of prunes and raisins. Ultra-classic, high-quality sherry ala old Macallan. Frankly, had I nosed this blind, I’d have said ‘Macallan, late 1970s-early 1970s’. I know, easy to say… Mouth: absolutely excellent, and the low strength isn’t a problem, such is this baby’s thickness. Loads and loads of liqueur-filled milk chocolate, café latte, hazelnut liqueur, high quality Bailey’s (an oxymoron?) and manuka honey. A spoonful of high-end strawberry jam. Perfect rounded and complex sweet sherry – although you may call this ‘paxaretty’. Finish: quite long, with even more prunes and raisins. Honeyed aftertaste. Comments: so much for an aperitif, this is a perfect digestif. Very high quality! Bwaaah… BTW, I just saw that I already tried this baby in 2004 and came up with a score of ‘only’ 88. That was clearly too low. SGP:641 – 91 points.

Caperdonich (45.7%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 120 bottles, 2013)

Caperdonich (45.7%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 120 bottles, 2013) Four stars Tell me about a death seat… I am sorry! Colour: straw. Nose: of course it cannot compete against the sherried 1972, but I have to say I find this nose pretty complex, with lovely notes of ripe bananas, raisins, vanilla cream, cantaloupe melons and then more and more menthol, Vichy pastilles – or Mark & Spencer’s Curiously Strong Mints… That aren’t strong at all. Mouth: fresh and complex, with these mint drops again, a touch of aniseed, pine smoke, honeydew, cantaloupe melons again, plantains… This is highly drinkable. Finish: of medium length, with rather more ashy smoke, although I wouldn’t call this ‘a peaty Caperdonich’. Comments: tastes like a very good blended malt. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Caperdonich 21 yo 1992/2014 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #121123)

Caperdonich 21 yo 1992/2014 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #121123) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: oh lovely! Some fresh marzipan at first nosing, a little pine liqueur, certainly a lot of gingerbread and spicy ‘Christstolle’ (Christmas cake), caraway aplenty, muscovado sugar… This isn’t heavy at all, and yet it’s very Christmassy. I know, we’re extremely late, apologies. Stone fruits. Mouth: less unusual, less extravagant, more ‘straightly fruity’, with ripe cherries, ripe apples, pears, gooseberries, all that topped with barley syrup and once again some cloves and caraway. Mulled whisky or something? Finish: long, fresh, fruity and spicy. Of course it’s nothing like the deadly Fireball whisky liqueur, but it does bear some kinds of similarities. Should I apologise again? Comments: highly drinkable Caperdonich. These sweet spices work very well and the strength is perfect. SGP:551 - 87 points.

All is going very well so far…

Caperdonich 37 yo 1972/2009 (52.4%, Acorn, The Malt Tribune, Ac XXXVII, Japan)

Caperdonich 37 yo 1972/2009 (52.4%, Acorn, The Malt Tribune, Ac XXXVII, Japan) Four stars and a half There’s more to read on the label than in any edition of the Daily Mail! Colour: deep gold. Nose: I’m deeply sorry, but as they say in Greenland, esta mierda es mi mierda. Textbook 1972 Caperdonich, ridden with various honeys, saps, oils, dried fruits, chocolates and soft spices. Then whiffs of menthol and damp gravel. The minerality is a little surprising, but it is an asset. There’s also a little coconut from the oak, but nothing unbearable, quite the contrary. With water: menthol and lime blossom tea. A greenness. Mouth (neat): the oak’s a little too loud, I have to say, which the coconut in the nose did imply/suggest. Too bad! Cinnamon and toasted bread, ginger… The good news is that the fruity base remained solid, with perfect notes of dried figs, acacia honey and crystallised tangerines. Too bad the oak’s a little loud… With water: not quite. Some tangerines and mandarins come out, but there are more drying tannins as well. Finish: quite long, mentholated, tea-ish. Nice freshness. Comments: do not get me wrong, this baby’s excellent, it just couldn’t make it to 90. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Let’s have more 1972s! Duncan Taylor used to be THE specialists in the good old days…

Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2008 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7419, 193 bottles)

Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2008 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7419, 193 bottles) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: this one starts a little chalky instead of fully fruity/honeyed, but the troops are soon to arrive, with an almost perfect combination of all things herbal and ‘foresty’ (pine needles and dead leaves, I’d say) and both fresh and dried fruits. I really enjoy this feeling of humus. With water: more of all that. That famous ‘walk in the forest after a heavy shower’. Almost Disneyish. Mouth (neat): how very excellent! Chartreuse and honey, raisins and ripe mangos, maple syrup and Cointreau. Pretty unbeatable. Love the nutmeg in the background. With water: excellent indeed. Perfect balance between the honey/dried fruits and the mint/sap tones. Finish: long, with some dominating oranges this time. Love oranges. Comments: I shall not write about the prices of these bottles when they were coming out – without any silly decanters. No no no. SGP:651 - 91 points.

More, more, more…

Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2009 (47,8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7449, 158 bottles)

Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2009 (47,8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7449, 158 bottles) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: very similar, obviously. Maybe a little more nutty/vanilled aromas, possibly from a more active cask, which the lower strength might confirm. Rather more notes of fern, moss and such, and a little less honey and dried fruits. Starting to split hairs, I know… Mouth: indeed, it’s a more piny, sappy, herbal Caperdonich, but that imparts more tertiary notes. There’s also more citrus, bitter oranges, grapefruits… So the whole’s rather fresher, zestier, tenser, cleaner… So it’s rather unusual for a 1972 Caperdonich, but I find this absolutely perfect. Old whisky that kept its freshness is always the best, says yours truly. Ermnlrmnr… Finish: long kind of sharp, whistle-clean, lemony, amazing. Comments: this baby took me by surprise. To be honest, there was also a very faint soapy side, so I couldn’t go much above… SGP:651 - 90 points.

Caperdonich 37 yo 1972/ 2010 (51.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7436, 152 bottles)

Caperdonich 37 yo 1972/ 2010 (51.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7436, 152 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one seems to be more herbal, drier, without the entrancing fruitiness and the stunning honeyness. Bizarre… With water: water further wrecks it. Whiffs of washing-up liquid. What happened? Mouth (neat): these piny flavours are a little too much, it’s as if the cask had been much more extractive. With water: no, there’s too much soap. Finish: same. Comments: I think there’s been an accident. The ‘background’ seems alright, it’s this piny/soapy layer that just kills it. SGP:371 - 65 points (for the record – oh forget).

Last try…

Caperdonich 37 yo 1972/2010 (56.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7414, 147 bottles)

Caperdonich 37 yo 1972/2010 (56.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7414, 147 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber gold. Nose: oh yess! Baklavas, honey, nectar and orange blossom, then a touch of mint, humus, camphor and tobacco. Long story short: this is perfect. With water: utter top notch. Everything’s there, including these tiny farmy aromas that bring so much complexity. Get your iPhone ready (unless you’re more into the Nokia revival – are you?) Mouth (neat): exceptional, rich yet ‘vibrant’, with many dried fruits, honeys, saps, oils and this feeling of high-end arak. Yes there are figs. The whole’s quite powerful. With water: the number of the Anti-Maltoporn brigade is 56 64 89 3… haha. Finish: quite long, a bit rough, which is great in this context. Great notes of peppery apples. A little more oak in the aftertaste. No, quite some oak. Comments: cancel your call, I was about to go to 92 but the oak in the finish was a tad ‘too much’. Very excellent nonetheless. SGP:561 - 90 points.

There are many more 1972 Caperdonichs in our sample library, but I think we’ve had enough. Next time.

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



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February 24, 2015


Whiskies of the World

What a lousy headline! In truth I had intended to call this session ‘stupid whiskies’, but not all whiskies will be stupid, far from that, so that would have been totally unfair and very... erm... stupid. Quite.

Gold Cock 3 yo (40%, OB, Czech Republic, 2003)

Gold Cock 3 yo (40%, OB, Czech Republic, 2003) A weird bottle that I had kind of won for some odd reasons at some kind of whisky festival organised by some kind of friends in western Belgium. It’s distilled by R. Jelinek, out of Moravian barley. Please don’t laugh, the Scots have been distilling ‘Danubian’ barley for centuries. Colour: straw. Nose: how would I describe this. Let’s say it’s very, very light, with a bit of vanilla and flattish notes of flat fruits. Not talking about their shapes here. Sugar syrup. It’s not bad because as there isn’t much happening, we couldn’t really complain. Mouth: not bad either, and there is something happening. Some sweet spices from the oak, a little ginger, some sugar, maybe ‘ideas’ of tinned pineapples, a few spicy herbs… We’ve seen worse. There’s always worse. Finish: short, on notes of apple liqueur (yep, like they make in Spain). Bitter sawdust in the aftertaste. Comments: almost drinkable. I’m not joking. They’ve added stuff, I think. SGP:430 - 45 points.

Mackmyra 'Special 08' (46%, OB, Sweden, 2012)

Mackmyra 'Special 08' (46%, OB, Sweden, 2012) Two stars It’s really sad I haven’t got enough time to try all these world whiskies that are coming out these days. Mackmyra’s a good example. Regrets regrets. I think this one was matured in Sauternes casks. Colour: pale gold. Nose: nice nose, with limoncello, then some kind of citrusy hay, then rather plums and oranges. In the background, a little sour wood, some caraway and quite some earth. Wet peat (from the garden centre). Mouth: creamy, bizarre, but not uninteresting. Funnily enough, I find notes of aquavit, some ginger liqueur, quite a lot of gingerbread and then rather notes of lemongrass. It’s got a liqueury feeling, possibly from the Sauternes casks – or not. Finish: good length. Ginger and herbs liqueurs, caraway, sloe, Grand-Marnier. Bready aftertaste. Comments: unusual, kind of organic, and very herbal/spicy. I haven’t managed to find much Sauternes, but I’m not too sure that’s a shame. SGP:461 - 76 points.

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 2011/2014 'Flavis' (54%, OB, France, Vin Jaune cask, 323 bottles, 2014)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 2011/2014 'Flavis' (54%, OB, France, Vin Jaune cask, 323 bottles, 2014) Three stars One of the very rare truly ‘terroir’ whiskies out there. Own barley fields, own stills, own warehouse, fully organic… In short, a domain rather than just a factory. This baby was distilled in 2011 but the barley was harvested in 2010. I’m a fan of the concept, but how’s the whisky? Colour: pale gold. Nose: the greater side of breadiness. A breakfast somewhere in Tyrol or Bavaria, with thirty different breads at the buffet. I love it when whisky reeks of cereals and bread. There’s some honeysuckle too, sunflower seeds, fresh butter (breakfast indeed), some toasted brioche (breakfast again) and then fern and, maybe, fresh parsley. Touches of citrons. With water: same. Beautiful bready tones. Mouth (neat): thick and very spicy. Not 100% sure about the vin jaune wood, there’s something oddly dirty and ‘greenly’ sour, but other than that, this baby unfolds with plenty of walnuts (the vin jaune, I guess), a little mustard and many lemony spices. With water: more mustard. Sweet mustard. Finish: long, spicy, mustardy and lemony. Comments: truly craft. No junk ‘marketing’ craft. Having said that – and not my business at all of course -, I wouldn’t use wine wood. The distillate’s pristine enough.  SGP:361 - 80 points.

Potter 24 yo (56.5%, Cadenhead, Indian corn whisky, Canada, 2014, bourbon barrel, 126 bottles)

Potter 24 yo (56.5%, Cadenhead, Indian corn whisky, Canada, 2014, bourbon barrel, 126 bottles) A true UFW (Unidentified Flying Whisky) from Canada. I guess it’s akin to bourbon, or Scottish grain whisky… Colour: gold. Nose: eh? Vanilla, coconut and tinned pineapple, then warm pastries straight from the oven. It seems that the barrel has done most of the work. With water: more of the same. One of Midleton’s warehouses. Mouth (neat): very sweet, easy, sugary, and ‘artificially fruity’. Tinned fruits, tinned fruit juices (guavas), jellies… Pineapples and tinned litchis. The 24 years do not feel at all, this could be 5 years of age. Forgot to mention vanilla and coconut – again. With water: extremely sweet. Sugarcane syrup. Finish: medium. Bubblegum. Comments: there’s something girly to this. I’m sure many would like this, but it’s not my style at all. Way too sweet! SGP:830 - 65 points.

Speaking of Indian stuff…

Amrut 2009/2013 (59%, OB, India, Port pipe, cask #2713, 246 bottles)

Amrut 2009/2013 (59%, OB, India, Port pipe, cask #2713, 246 bottles) Four stars Amrut… It’s been a while! Colour: gold. Nose: four years old and a lovely nose! I rather get a blend of cassis liqueur with camphor and humus, a combination that works extremely well. Port wood always scares me, but this time that worked a treat, despite a few buttery smells that might be a little ‘too much’. With water: a street after a heavy shower, an old wine cellar, an old leather jacket. Mouth (neat): extremely rich, bittersweet and pleasantly sour, with blood oranges, cinnamon cake and quite a bit of cinchona. A wee feeling of kir (crème de cassis and white wine, preferably Burgundian aligoté). With water: more youthful fruits. Pink grapefruits. Finish: quite long, rather on tree leaves, stems and buds? Cherries, blackcurrants, peaches… Comments: some Port thing that I enjoy. Amrut do not seem to have lost it. SGP:551 - 86 points.

And speaking of Port…

Lark 'Distiller's Selection' (46%, OB, quarter Port cask, cask #387, 2013)

Lark 'Distiller's Selection' (46%, OB, quarter Port cask, cask #387, 2013) Four stars Colour: gold with salmony hues. Nose: our beloved bready notes are back. Fresh dough, cumin, gingerbread and all that, plus blackcurrant jell-O. Having said that this is no bomb, but balance is achieved. Cassis jam on pumpernickel. Mouth: well done, once again. Whether you’d call this ‘aromatised whisky’ or not is another issue, but this really works. Blueberry pie (or muffins, says Frank Z.), bitter oranges, a touch of caramel, some clove, green peppercorns, leaves… I do enjoy this grassy/fruity/spicy combination. A little cabernety, perhaps, but that works. Yes I know there’s no cab in Port. Finish: long, spicy, bready and fruity. It’s a thin line but it never goes over the edge. Comments: well done once again Lark, well done! (shouting that through planet Earth). SGP:551 - 85 points.

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



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February 23, 2015


Two unique whiskies

Every once in a while a ‘singleton’ arrives at WF Towers, that is to say a whisky that’s completely unpairable under our usual scheme. I’m asking you, who would have a ‘reserve’ Glenisla, for example? But we’ll find a solution…

Glenisla 36 yo 1977/2014 (43.3%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #19603, 238 bottles)

Glenisla 36 yo 1977/2014 (43.3%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #19603, 238 bottles) You know the story, Glenisla used to be a peated whisky made in the 1970s at Seagram’s Glen Keith – some say Strathisla – using peaty water from the outer Hebrides instead of peated malt. In other words, Glenisla was an experiment, and as far as peatiness is concerned, it failed. Colour: straw. Nose: fun stuff for sure. Imagine some kind of light apple juice infused with hay, sawdust and tobacco. There’s a sourness, and I may well find a little smoke indeed, but I’m not too sure. A very distant garden bonfire. The whole’s also a little butyric, there’s some yogurt, custard, butter cream… A very, very bizarre nose. Odd! Mouth: this is very difficult. Fun, but very difficult. Infused and fermented sawdust, stale lemon juice, cardboard, cream cheese (hey Suzy), an open bottle of Budweiser from last night, and other strange half-fermented things. Quite an experience. Finish: a little short, flat, rancid, with more sawdust and yogurt. Comments: I think I liked other Glenislas by Signatory better. Now I do applaud, this is History, and I find it absolutely great that they have bottled this weird cask and are selling it for less than £200. Vive la difference! But organoleptically, well well well… Oh, and even weirder, they seem to have bottled this funny baby on Valentine’s Day last year. Mmmmpfff… SGP:241 - 62 points.

Now, having no Old Rhosdu, no other Glenisla and no Craigduff at hand, let’s try to find another rare one. Maybe this baby…

Glenugie 30 yo 1980/2011 'Deoch an Doras' (52.13%, OB, Chivas Brothers)

Glenugie 30 yo 1980/2011 'Deoch an Doras' (52.13%, OB, Chivas Brothers) Four stars These ultra rare bottlings – there was also a 1977 - have gone almost unnoticed when they came out three years ago, at WF Towers included. Boooh! Come on, it was an official Glenugie, so the equivalent of a Brora or Port Ellen Special Release by Diageo! Let’s see what gives… Colour: amber. Nose: sadly, I don’t seem to find Glenugie’s proverbial intense fruitiness, rather a combination of oak spices with toasted brioche, and bark and walnut. Some beeswax too, a little wood smoke, a touch of mocha and a little damp earth/old musty cellar. Some rubbed mint leaves as well, and perhaps a drop of pinesap. Hasn’t the cask been a little too active? With water: oh, mandarins come out, together with some sweet ham. Ribs cooked in honey sauce or something. Mouth (neat): ah this has more Glenugieness, should such a thing have ever existed. Grapefruit compote or something like that, spicy mango chutney, touches of passion fruits… We’re nowhere near the legendary Sestantes, but we’re above other indie bottlings of late 1970s vintages in my opinion. The oak’s a tad too loud, though, and there’s quite a lot of pepper. With water: very good, jammy and citrusy. Some thick citrus liqueur with peppermint and pepper. Finish: long, rich, jammy and citrusy. Spiced citrons, perhaps. Comments: I think it’s natural that we would prefer ‘naked’ long gone malts, to stay close to the original spirits, but this works well. The cask(s) had just been a little too active – in my opinion. SGP:561 - 87 points.
Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




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February 22, 2015


Malternatives on Sunday, four more rums

Today we’ll visit St. Lucia, Panama, Barbados and Brazil. Really curious about the Brazilian…

St. Lucia Distillers '1931 Second Edition' (43%, OB, St. Lucia, 81st Anniversary, 2012) Three stars A multi-vintage blend of young St. Lucian rums. Seeing mentions of old-looking vintages and years on some young spirit always slightly… err, stinks in my book. This baby’s also very expensive for its age (75€ for what’s basically 6yo rum). But let’s see… Colour: gold orange. Nose: well, I’m afraid this works, with pretty high esters, some tar and diesel oil, brine, olives, then a little camphor and turpentine, then more molasses and overripe bananas plus pineapples. This is what we’d call ‘proper rum’. Mouth: a little more sweetness but other than that, this is in keeping with the nose, just a little flat because of the strength. Salt and liquorice, touches of pickled capers, sugarcane, a drop of sour lemon, then touches of metal. Maybe copper. Finish: quite long, mostly on liquorice and molasses. Sweet green olives in the aftertaste. Comments: rather some medium bodied rum, with a ‘pot still’ feeling. Not the most complex ever but I find it much to my liking. A good surprise. SGP:562 – 80 points.

Panama 21 yo (40%, Rum Nation, +/-2011)

Panama 21 yo (40%, Rum Nation, +/-2011) Three stars This should be much sweeter and rounder. Colour: deep amber. Nose: typical South American, with litres of coffee liqueur, then dried figs, raisins, bananas and dates, then quite some pipe tobacco. An enjoyable touch of earth and damp wood in the background, that brings more complexity. Other than that, it’s some kind of super Tia Maria or Kahlúa. Mouth: starts sweet and even sugary, as expected, but I wouldn’t say it’s cloying – the nose wasn’t heady either. More coffee liqueur, but there’s also a little triple sec this time. Maybe a little strawberry liqueur as well, and certainly some banana liqueur. And molasses. Finish: relatively long, with more sugar cane this time, which is something I like. Comments: look, this is not my style at all, but I won’t deny it’s high quality – in its own style/family/genre. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is for you. SGP:720 - 80 points.

Epris 1999/2012 (47.7%, L'Esprit, Brazil, bourbon, cask #52, 198 bottles)

Epris 1999/2012 (47.7%, L'Esprit, Brazil, bourbon, cask #52, 198 bottles) Four stars I believe it’s my first rum from the Epris Distillery ever. It’s distilled from sugar cane juice – so not molasses – in a column still. Colour: pale gold (hurray!) Nose: oh this is fun! Imagine a blend of liquid shoe polish and fennel liqueur. Sounds unlikely? It’s not. I also find genepy and other anise-y/citrusy herbs (wormwood?), some mint, and just a little tar. The freshness is impressive. An unusual and lovely nose. Mouth: even more unusual. Let’s say Sultanas infused in mezcal, perhaps. Also some shoe polish again, maybe pomelo grapefruits, a touch of clay, bitter herbs, caraway… It’s quite spicy, while being full-bodied, while being very ‘natural’, while being fresh. Finish: long, now salty and slightly smoky. Who said mezcal? Lime juice – a lot. Comments: a surprise, this is no light ‘tropical’ rum for cocktails. A genuine malternative, I’d say. Very smartly selected, L’Esprit! SGP:462 - 85 points.

Foursquare 10 yo 2004/2014 (50%, Silver Seal, Barbados)

Foursquare 10 yo 2004/2014 (50%, Silver Seal, Barbados) Three stars and a half Foursquare’s high in my (meagre) rum book. Silver Seal are quite high too. Colour: gold. Nose: there’s much more vanilla than in all the others - even more than in the Panamanian – but underneath that vanilla, we’ve got this sooty, grassy, cane-y, olive-y profile that we love so much at WF Towers. The smell of rain water, ozone, olive oil, wet gravel and all that… With water: fresh fruits! Cherries, apples… Mouth (neat): rich, starting with unexpected notes of Williams pears – and plenty of them. But its true that this baby’s ‘only’ ten years old. Then ripe gooseberries, then more sugar cane, olives again and again, a touch of salmiak… With water: same, with a little more salt. Finish: quite long. Salted pears? Comments: we’re more or less between two worlds, that is to say between ‘western orchard fruits’ and ‘Caribbean tarry sootiness’. Yes, I guess you could call that a bridge. SGP:551 - 84 points.

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



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February 20, 2015



The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

The Sequel Tastings,
the Laddie and the Bunny

Our very last ‘Islay Odyssey 2015’ session, most sadly. We’ll have an old ‘Laddie’ vs. an old ‘Bunny’, both at high strength, and then a very strange new one. And that will be it. Boo-hoo-hoo…

Bruichladdich 21 yo 'Limited Edition' (53.4%, OB, 389 bottles, 1994) Another rare bottle, distilled in the early 1970

Tomas' Bruichladdich 21 yo 'Limited Edition' (53.4%, OB, 389 bottles, 1994) Five starsAnother rare bottle, distilled in the early 1970s, in all likelihood, so before the number of stills was doubled (from 2 to 4), and bottled just before the distillery was mothballed (in 1995). Colour: dark red amber. Nose: it’s one of these marvellous old sherried Bruichladdichs that reminds be of al old 10 for France that was very chocolaty as well. So chocolate, soy sauce, dried porcinis, walnut wine, then a touch of blueberry jam, then rather blood oranges, then truckloads of all kinds of raisins. There were also some sherried 1986s by the former new owners that were very great as well. With water: big saponification, so let’s wait… zzz zzz zzz… After 15 minutes: oh yes! Camphor, eucalyptus and raisins. A magical trio in (some) whisky. Mouth (neat): it’s jam! Superb notes of rose liqueur, litchis, plenty of tangerines, bags of raisins, more raisins, even more raisins… Some sweet Port as well, a touch of rancio, then tinned peaches, then ginger and pepper… It’s really old-style sweet sherry, and one cannot not think of pajarette. Spectacular sweet raisiny sherry. There’s even a little muscatel, perhaps. With water: raisins again, plus dried figs. Jam, not whisky. Finish: quite long, very jammy, very raisiny. Comments: it’s not often that some many raisins are to be found in a whisky. Love that. SGP:751 - 91 points.

Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1976 (55.7%, The Taster, Japan, fino sherry, cask #6382, 120 bottles, +/-2008)

Hideo's Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1976 (55.7%, The Taster, Japan, fino sherry, cask #6382, 120 bottles, +/-2008) Four stars and a half This baby was bottled for our friend Hideo Yamaoka. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s the antithesis of the Bruichladdich as far as sherry’s concerned. This one’s much leafier, more on grass, tea and walnuts, with some leather as well, a wee rooty side… So much less emphatic, but maybe more elegant. With water: a touch of varnish, then more earth and leather. Mouth (neat): superb! Fruitier and zestier, very grassy as well, with a buttery side, some sour apples and oranges, earl grey, notes of rosehip syrup, liquorice allsorts, more walnuts (both fresh and old), cranberries… Also notes of orange squash. It’s lovely and rather unusual. With water: not so sure, some tannins are brought out, as well as more sour apples, Gueuze beer… Finish: quite long, on sour fruits. Cranberries, apples. Comments: I find this baby excellent and really enjoyed its ‘difference’. Almost made it to 90. SGP:461 - 89 points.

And also:

Bunnahabhain ‘Eirigh Na Greine’ (46.3%, OB, travel retail, +/-2014)

Bunnahabhain ‘Eirigh Na Greine’ (46.3%, OB, travel retail, +/-2014) Two stars A strange NAS containing ‘a significant proportion of high-quality ex-red wine cask-matured Bunnahabhain whiskies of various ages’. Err… As for the name, you should pronounce it ‘ae-ree ne gray-nyuh’. All that is quite unlikely, isn’t it, but the truth lies your glass. Let’s see. Colour: gold (I had thought it would be pink). Nose: starts a little butyric and sweaty (so to speak), with a spicy background. Those spices are soon to come to the front, with some ginger and cinnamon, nutmeg, quite some juniper, and then some cumin. It’s the oak that’s doing the job here, the distillate – and the fruits – do not have much to say. Some pleasant malty notes do come through, though. Sweet beer, hops, IPA… Mouth: more sweet spices. This baby’s very oak-driven, and very ‘modern’, but that rather works, you just have to be into this contemporary, rather Heathrowish style. In other words, young Scotch 2.0. Finish: long, very spicy. Ginger galore! Raspberries in the aftertaste. Comments: very, very okay and certainly well made, just not my style I’m afraid. Maybe a matter of generation. Tastes a bit like peppered vodka and Red Bull. SGP:661 - 72 points.



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February 19, 2015



The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Sequel tasting,
Bowmore and Caol Ila

Aka the lightly peated Islays, but we all know that many Bowmores and many Caol Ilas can be heavily peated. That’s why its so hard to put distilleries into clusters or categories.

Caol Ila 15, Jon and Dick

Jon’s Caol Ila 15 yo (43%, OB, golden jug, +/-1985) Five stars Some whiskies are leaving an everlasting impression. When we opened this baby I had thought I had last tried this famous jug just two years ago. And when I checked my notes I noticed that had actually happened… In 2006. Anyway, I’m always glad to revisit these bottlings, especially since this is pre-rebuilding Caol Ila, so from the ‘small’ distillery.  Colour: gold. Nose: ‘old’ Caol Ila used to be more phenolic and tarry, and this is another fine example. Maybe were they cutting lower? New plastic pouch, leatherette, putty, ashes, then green apples, walnuts, seaweed, humus, a drop of plum spirit, old papers… It’s both subtle and big. Mouth: it’s the saltiness, the brine that strikes first, and that would come together with wee notes of tinned pineapples. After that it becomes very fino-ish, with these walnuts, sweet mustard, more walnuts, manzanilla, green coffee… The strength is perfect. Only problem, it goes down a little too well. Finish: long, rather ashy, a tad astringent in a good way (walnut skins) and with quite some salted liquorice in the background. Comments: as I was remembering it, that is to say big and charming. More so than the container ;-). No need to change my old score. SGP:467 - 92 points.

Caol Ila 12 yo 1979/1992 (45%, Bristol Brandy Company Ltd., American oak cask)

Geert’s Caol Ila 12 yo 1979/1992 (45%, Bristol Brandy Company Ltd., American oak cask) Four stars The Bristol Brandy co. is more famous for their rums these days – although the company’s become Bristol Spirits, but I already tried a very fair Aultmore by them. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a narrower spirit than the old 15, with more burnt things, wood, grasses… It seems that the spirit also got fruitier, and that wouldn’t be just lemons or grapefruits. Raspberries? Other than that, we’re finding the usually sooty tones, some gravel, rocks, a little seawater, peated barley…

Mouth: it’s a little slimmer than the 15, but it’s got good punch, an inky style, notes of lemon liqueur, a feeling of eau-de-vie again (from the young age?) and some obvious coastal notes. Maybe a tad thin on the palate, but it’s good stuff nonetheless. Finish: medium length, with more fruits. Tinned ones, jellies… Limoncello in the aftertaste. Comments: the fruitiness is a little unusual, but again, it’s an excellent young post-rebuilding Caol Ila. SGP:646 - 86 points.

We’re having the Bowmores after the Caol Ila because they’re so much stronger.

Bowmore 2004/2015 'Hand-Filled' (57.5%, OB, sherry cask)

Bowmore 2004/2015 'Hand-Filled' (57.5%, OB, sherry cask) Three stars No antique this time, this is the current offering at the distillery. Colour: amber. Nose: a mineral sherriness. Struck matches (no eggs, no cabbage), some pencil shavings, bitter oranges, burning fir cones, raisins, a little soy sauce and sweet game (with cranberry jam), some humus for sure… This is very compact, and rather complex at the same time. Needs breathing, but in my experience, any sherried Bowmore needs breathing, especially old bottles. With water: when some sherried whisky noses like bourbon, you know the wood’s been very active. Mouth (neat): the wood might be a little heavy, with more pencil shavings, some ginger, plenty of cinnamon and cloves, as well as quite a lot of nutmeg. A feeling of new or rejuvenated wood seasoned with sherry. On the other hand, there are very pleasant fruits, such as blood oranges… And some peat and pepper. With water: rye? I’m not joking. Finish: long. Ginger, pepper, nutmeg and raspberry jam. Comments: ‘modern’ sherried whisky. Little peat. Very pleasant, but very ‘contemporary’. No I’m not that old. SGP:653 - 82 points.

Bowmore 20 yo 1976/1996 (53.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #8547, 275 bottles)

Phil and Simon’s Bowmore 20 yo 1976/1996 (53.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #8547, 275 bottles) Four starsWe’re quickly revisiting this baby that we last tried in 2007. Colour: deep gold. Nose: heavy fruits! Kumquats from Kumquats’ (yup), figs, papayas, then some slightly sour notes of… ‘clean’ gym socks, some wood extracts (around menthol and pinesap, as well as honeydew), and then rather sandalwood, cigars… It’s pretty unusual, and certainly not unpleasant.

With water: no! It doesn’t swim. 1970s Chinese grocery store, damp paper, linoleum and gym socks (nothing Chinese in gym socks of course). Mouth (neat): same trio, tropical fruit jams, mint and liquorice, and cedar/sandalwood. The peat’s very discreet, but the very kumquaty profile (ha ha) works very well. With water: old herbal liqueurs, tropical fruit juice from last night, Finish: good length. Peated papaya and mango juice. Comments: a funny baby, a bit ‘retro’ and slightly unlikely. There aren’t any unlikely ones around anymore, most sadly. Too much industrialisation?  SGP:654 – 86 points (unchanged).



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February 18, 2015



The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Sequel tasting,
Ardbeg 1965 vs. 1966

Only two Ardbegs today, but not just any Ardbegs. One of them is pretty well known, while the other one is extremely rare. It’s one of the rarest, in fact, possibly the rarest of them all. Because mind you, the distinguished Japanese people in Mizuhashi (that’s not too far from Nagano, it seems) were probably drinking their Ardbegs. We’ll first try the lighter one if you don’t mind.

Ardbeg 1966/1987 (46%, Moon Import, The Birds, hogshead, cask #2443, 264 bottles)

Olivier’s Ardbeg 1966/1987 (46%, Moon Import, The Birds, hogshead, cask #2443, 264 bottles) Five starsWe’re revisiting this glorious baby that we had last tasted not so long ago, in 2011. Colour: full gold. Nose: starts with a feeling of old yellow chartreuse, and would rather go on with some artisan apple juice (no b****y concentrate), notes of dill and fennel, then earthy teas, cigars, cough syrup and crème de menthe. It’s no big whisky on the nose, but its no shy baby either. Some kind of antique cough syrup, or embrocations. Or 19th century camphorated alcohol. Mouth: exactly the same, plus bitter oranges, olives and much smoked kippers. I need not say more. Finish: long, very ashy. Salted fish, lemon marmalade, a little chlorophyll (gums). The aftertaste is a notch astringent, perhaps. Comments: we’ve always had this glorious old Ardbeg at 93 points, but now that would rather be 93+. But we don’t do halves or quarters, do we? SGP:467 - 93 points.

Ardbeg 23 yo 1965/1988 (55%, Cadenhead for Mizuhashi total liquor supply, Japan, sherry cask)

Patrick’s Ardbeg 23 yo 1965/1988 (55%, Cadenhead for Mizuhashi total liquor supply, Japan, sherry cask) Five stars Wow, and I mean wow! Colour: pale white wine. Nose: ooooh… It’s so great to be able to try middle-aged mid-sixties unsherried cask strength Ardbeg! It’s actually a rather delicate spirit, and most of what you get is one thousand variations on the theme of smoke and ash. Was this distilled by JS Bach? And then, some fresh earth, fresh almonds, apple peelings, linseed oil (big) and lamp oil. Mechanics rather than coastal things.

With water (huge viscimetric whorls by the way, we’ve managed to awaken the serpent!): perfection. Green olives, great mezcal, sour apples, wet wool, hay, bandages, cigar ashes. Mouth (neat): oh my oh my oh my oh my oh my (that’ll do, S.) This is so focussed, so simple, and yet so brilliant! Almond milk, smoked seawater, plasticine, salted fish, a touch of lemon, and basta cosi. You just don’t need more when everything’s so perfectly balanced and characterful. With water: this has become m.a.s.s.i.v.e. Or Wagnerian. Hits you right between your eyes. And it remained so simple, almost minimal (S., do Wagner and the word minimal really fit together?) Not unlike those fabulous buffalos or horses that the Neanderthals used to draw on the walls of their caves. Definitely a ‘ligne claire – or clear line’ whisky. I think it’s time to call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: can whisky be both fat and clean? Discuss. The aftertaste is a little dirtier, though. Greatly dirty (ashes). Comments: I may have forgotten to tell you that the peatiness was huge. An entrancing simplicity, and one of my favourite whiskies ever. Like, top ten for sure. Merci Patrick, tu nous en auras sorti des merveilles! SGP:358 - 97 points.

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



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February 17, 2015



The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

The Sequel Tastings,

This will be a little bag of Laphroaigs that were all distilled around 1965-1970. And then there should be a wee surprise…

Dick's Laphroaig 15 yo (40%, OB, UK, +/-1985)

Gentleman Dick's Laphroaig 15 yo (40%, OB, UK, +/-1985) Five stars One of the all time classics, but we’re more accustomed to the ‘European mainland’ version at 43% vol. Great stuff, those! Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh lovely indeed. Superb notes of cut flowers and mango juice, then engine oil, then oranges, porcinis, humus, blond pipe tobacco, bacon, passion fruits, persimmon, old woods (or the dashboard of a 1960 Jaguar, which shouldn’t be disagreeable to Dick ;-))… The complexity is pretty amazing here. The lower strength does not feel at all.

Mouth: fantastic indeed. Sootier, smokier than others (certainly than the recent 15s from a few years ago), with plenty of hay, garden bonfire, ashes, burnt grass, bitter tea… The tropical fruit are rather shy in this context, which is a surprise. A lot of salted liquorice too. Tends to lose steam a bit after a little time, but that’s quite normal at 40%. Finish: a tad short, perhaps, but the style is perfect. Ashes, burnt herbs, soot, a feeling of coal… Comments: perhaps more a nosing Laphroaig, but what a nose! The palate was a tad dry, in fact, but overall quality remains extremely high. Very peaty. SGP:467 - 90 points.

Laphroaig 19 yo 1969 (40%, Sestante, +/-1988)

Hideo's Laphroaig 19 yo 1969 (40%, Sestante, +/-1988) Three stars We’ve already tried the 16 yo 1968 within that ‘sailing ship’ series. It was much to my liking, but maybe not totally great, because of some weaknesses (WF 87). Colour: deep gold. Nose: this one’s extremely sooty and earthy, farmy as well, without any tropical fruits. Which, I agree, is very un-1960s-Laphroaig. Hay, grass, a touch of manure, garden bonfire, some wet paint, wool, wet dogs (we’re sorry, dogs)… All that makes this baby a little narrow and very dry. I also find a little tallow, or marrow. Some ink too. Maybe a touch of chamomile tea? Mouth: same profile, with some astringency, teas, soot, ashes, coal, liquorice, earth, camphor. In truth, that earth and that camphor really save it. Grape pips oil. The body’s a little thin, which may increase the dryness. Finish: a bit short, cardboardy. Nice touches of grapefruit in the aftertaste, though. Comments: rather too fragile for me, but some parts were still beautiful. Old Laphroaig for scholars? SGP:276 - 80 points.

Laphroaig 30 yo 1966/1996 (48.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #559, 204 bottles)

Phil and Simon's Laphroaig 30 yo 1966/1996 (48.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #559, 204 bottles) Five stars I had found sister cask #560 absolutely flabbergasting back in 2006 (WF 94). Colour: gold. Nose: there, a medicinal Laphroaig! A huge bag full of tincture of iodine and bandages, putty, marzipan, plasticine, bitter oranges, quinces, menthol, olive oil, pinewood, seawater, shoe polish, old leather (horse saddle), tiger balm, and of course smoke and ashes. What a whirlwind. I especially love all this fresh putty. Mouth: smoked oranges? Salted cough syrup? Kippers marinated in lemon liqueur? Eucalyptus-flavoured marzipan? Quinces in liquorice juice? Or just everything? Fire! Fire?...

Finish: very long, sappy and resinous, liquoricy, greatly bitter. Salty aftertaste, as expected and anticipated. Comments: which cask was the best? We’ll try to do a head-to-head one day. Massive old Laphroaig, with a lot of punch and peat. SGP:467 – 94 points. PS: original old fire sign at Lagavulin

Laphroaig 13 yo 1972/1985 (56%, Cadenhead for Scoma, Germany)

Emmanuel's Laphroaig 13 yo 1972/1985 (56%, Cadenhead for Scoma, Germany) Five stars Cadenhead, just like Gordon & MacPhail, were behind many legendary bottlings by smaller brands, companies or distributors. They’ve really been instrumental in the development of single malt, beyond the officials. Colour: gold. Nose: this is a very austere, raw, almost brutal Laphroaig. More or less a mixture of cut grass with chalk and clay, with the usual whiffs of antiseptic and creosote in the background. Kind of minimal, ultra-sharp. With water: wet chalk and clay, earth, grass, creosote… In short, not many changes, apart from touches of humus and dead leaves that do come through. Mouth (neat): huge arrival, acrid and astringent, on lemon juice and smoke. Massive amounts of smoke! Just as minimal and sharp as on the nose when undiluted. Ultra zingy and zesty. With water: same plus pineapples. Some fortified Sancerre? Finish: long, sharp, very zesty and smoky. Comments: a superb one again, very pure, pristine, chiselled. I find it reminiscent of some 1990s and 1991s, esp. some by Signatory. SGP:368 - 91 points.

Laphroaig 1970/1985 (55.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Meregali)

Patrick’s Laphroaig 1970/1985 (55.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Meregali) Five stars 1970! Remember the Samarolis? Plain and utter masterpieces… Will this one match them? Colour: full gold. Nose: phuuuh! It starts both mineral and chartreuse-y, kind of haughty, and certainly very medicinal, albeit not exactly ‘hospitaly’. Wet concrete and rocks, camphor, aniseed and mint, cedar wood, sour apple juice, grapefruit, bandages… And then more tropical fruits kick in, such as not-too-ripe mangos. Maybe these funny star-shaped fruits, I think they’re called, err, star fruits. It’s fuller, wider, kind of sexier than the 1972. More extravagant. With water: fab. Polishes and dried tropical fruits, tiger balm, and everything we’d already found before water was added. What a nose!

Mouth (neat): holy featherless crow! Liquorice, mango chutney, marmalade, camphor, myrtle, sloe, kippers, chartreuse again, caraway, salt, menthol, caraway, grapefruits, ashes, something fusely… A real tornado of a whisky that combines some fatness and a superb sharpish side. With water: exceptional again. Please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade again. Finish: endless, citrusy, waxy, peaty, salty, tropical, medicinal. There isn’t anything missing. Perfection. Comments: only disappointment, I was expecting this – while we all love good surprises, don’t we. Pure magic, these batches of Laphroaig sure are among the best whiskies ever bottled. Shouldn’t we contact the UNESCO commission? They sure deserve classification! SGP:568 - 96 points.

And now, a wee bonus. It’s a self-made blend of two barrels of Laphroaig 2003 that’s been entirely distilled from barley that was malted in the distillery’s own malting floors. I believe these barrels will soon be used in a special bottling for Feis Ile this year…

Laphroaig 2003 (OB, own maltings, cask samples, 2015)

Laphroaig 2003 (OB, own maltings, cask samples, 2015) Four stars Drawn by John Campbell, Distillery Manager. This could be different from the official bottling, but not that different. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s obviously more ‘modern’ than the oldies, with more American oak (vanilla, cinnamon and sawdust), but after some breathing, there are huge notes of lapsang souchong overwhelming the whole and, well, even more lapsang souchong. And old stove, fireplace, cigar ashes and all that. It’s rather massive, but I love good lapsang souchong.

Mouth: huge! We’re probably around 60-65% vol. Same huge lapsang souchong notes, acrid smoke and ashes, charcoal… Behind this smoky cavalry, some vanilla, butterscotch and sawdust, as well as touches of oranges, but the (pretty active) oak never manages to come out on top against the massive distillate. Finish: long, ashy. Touches of tinned pineapples and fresh grapefruits in the aftertaste, but the ashes keep singing in the aftertaste. Comments: I find this spectacular and dominant. And it loves oxygen – this little babe was kind of duller, simpler and (even) more monolithic when we first tried it at the Distillery. But blending two casks already made it much more complex. I’ll certainly buy a bottle or three when it’s out. SGP:558 – no score since those were cask samples.

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



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February 16, 2015



The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

The Sequel Tastings,
the last Port Ellens

This will be the last flight of Port Ellens from our Islay Odyssey. Yes we’ve had quite a bunch, and no I haven’t even tried all the ones we had. This time we won’t do this ‘vertically’, and rather take the strengths into account. Oh and some pictures by Dutchman Marcel Van Gils, the famous tulip and gouda collector.

Port Ellen 1979/2013 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old, lot #R0/12/08)

Phil and Simon’s Port Ellen 1979/2013 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old, lot #R0/12/08) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts with smoked fish, smoked argan oil, some wet fabric for sure (wool), rather more damp earth than in other PEs and then a delicate combination of apple peelings and putty.

It’s no big monstrous PE at all, and even the smokiness is subtle and discreet. After the minutes, it’s all rather sooty and vegetal. Wood ashes, sour apples. Mouth: I’d say it’s a rather gentle Port Ellen at first sips, rounded, pleasantly fudgy, with rather some oriental pastries, butterscotch, orange blossom water, and only then a mild smoky lemony side. Vanilla. I think it’s rather unusual to come across some Port Ellen that’s not either fully naked (second, third or even fourth fill), or strongly sherried. This one is a rare example, I find it very good, but I tend to prefer zestier, sharper, better defined ones. But don’t get me wrong, this is no vanilla bomb at all, neither is it ‘oaky’ as such. It’s just rounder. Finish: quite long, and rather more on spices (caraway) and smoked oranges. Comments: a civilised Port Ellen. Very high quality, just a bit too… yeah, civilised for my taste. SGP:556 - 87 points.

Port Ellen 1980/2003 (46%, MARA Malt Rarities, 4th Anniversary, 74 bottles)

Hideo’s Port Ellen 1980/2003 (46%, MARA Malt Rarities, 4th Anniversary, 74 bottles) Four stars and a half A very rare wee bottle by the guys who used to own the largest PE collection in da world. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s got this slightly butyric, rather vegetal side that some Port Ellens can display. I find a little chlorine and certainly a lot of iodine and mercurochrome, then whiffs of rainwater and apple peelings. Also a little fish oil, which we had already encountered in the superb 1970 for Meregali. Seems quite dry, let’s see…

Mouth: it’s a rather narrow one, it seems, with some green apples and a sooty/ashy side. Then salt and lemon juice, seashells, almonds, putty and the fattest kippers. There’s a roughness in this but we shan’t complain. Some antiseptic too. Finish: long, rather green and lemony. Some iodine again, raw rhubarb… The aftertaste is unexpectedly sweet. Salty lemon sweets? More pepper. Comments: the exact opposite of G&M’s much gentler 1979. And yet, scores will be almost identical in my book. SGP:367 - 88 points.

Port Ellen 18 yo 1981/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry cask, 444 bottles)

Jan Peter’s Port Ellen 18 yo 1981/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry cask, 444 bottles) Four starsThese ones could be quite brutal, if I remember well. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s got an eggy edge at first sniff, quite some sulphur for sure, and certainly a lot of clay, chalk and gravel. Not the ‘average’ PE for sure. I also find some bread dough, a lot – and I mean a lot – of soot and saltpetre, and then notes of yoghurt and more struck matches. How should we call this? Uncommercial, perhaps? The whole feels very mineral. Graphite oil.

Mouth: excellent! This is really funny, the nose wasn’t my favourite ever, but this palate just works. Some sharp, tart lemon sweets, more mineral oils, smoked fish aplenty, then an unusual saltiness that reminds me of my youth, when I used to lick potash (long story, this is neither the time not the place). Very oily mouthfeel. Finish: very long, lemony, ashy, salty and sulphury. Comments: a dry beast from hell. Never found this much sulphur in a PE, but hey, it’s no ‘bad sulphur’ at all. SGP:267 - 85 points.

Port Ellen 1983/2012 (50%, The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2012)

Tomas’ Port Ellen 1983/2012 (50%, The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2012) Four stars Just like Brora, Port Ellen has only been working for a few months in 1983, but I’ve always thought that those final salvos had been of the highest quality. As if the distillers were trying to convince the board that their distilleries shouldn’t get closed. A sad vintage, but usually a great one. Colour: amber. Nose: ah. This has depth, this has agave, this has sugarcane and this has cigars. It’s also got raisins, so it must have been a sherry cask.

Other than that, there’s an earthy, farmy, almost muddy side to this baby. I also find notes of orange squash, then more and more leather. Some soy sauce. Let’s add water: something metallic. Copper coins? Smoked raisins. Mouth: the sherry feels a bit like an ‘added layer’. Prunes and raisins on peat, pepper and brine. Lots and lots of pepper, then quite some bitter chocolate and dry marzipan. A very spicy beast. With water: some lemon coming through. Something metallic again. Finish: long, peppery. Oranges, tobacco, raisins. The aftertaste is more Port-Ellenish, that is to say zestier and peatier. Comments: I don’t find this one easy. Sometimes I felt like it’s worth 90 in my little book, and sometimes I was thinking it was rather worth 80. I’m kind of paralysed by indecision just now. Let’s resort to advanced mathematics if you agree. SGP:557 - 85 points.

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



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February 15, 2015



The Islay Odyssey 2015
Bringing rare whiskies back to their birthplace to open them.

Sequel tasting, two old rums

Would you imagine that we had also brought some rums to Islay? You know Islay -> Bowmore/Laphroaig -> old ones - > tropical fruits -> Caribbean -> rum. Doesn’t that make sense? Now we had so much whisky that we did not really find the time and occasion to taste them. So here are only two of them…

Rhum des Plantations Saint-James 1939 (OB, Martinique, French import Ernest Lambert, imported 1950s)

Emmanuel’s Rhum des Plantations Saint-James 1939 (OB, Martinique, French import Ernest Lambert, imported 1950s) Four stars and a half This one is fully agricole. The back label clearly states that it's 'from pure cane sap, excluding any molasses'. If you wanna know more about these bottles, please check WF, January 8, 2015. Colour: dark amber. Nose: rather extraordinary, with superb notes of espresso coffee, chocolate and caramel, then tar and liquorice. As often, there are hints of brine and even seawater in the background (that lifts it). And then, notes of black cherries, rich Burgundy wine (really) and even something Pomeroly. Yep, that could be prunes. Maybe a slice of ultraripe banana. It’s all rich and very aromatic, and yet there’s no heaviness.

Mouth: extraordinary indeed, despite a wee sugariness in the arrival. Other than that, it’s an orgy of dried fruits and jams, including bananas and peaches, plus a little salt, coffee, tar liqueur, camphor and a drop of myrtle liqueur. Perfect fat mouthfeel. Finish: long, with a salty touch that, indeed, is pretty Islayesque. Yes we’re petty much single-minded. Black olives. Comments: to be honest, the small touch of sugar in the attack was a tiny wee tad ‘too much’ for me, and that’s why we won’t go to 90. But other than that, it’s fabulous rum. I mean, rhum. SGP:652 - 89 points.

Demerara 32 yo 1975/2008 (57%, Norse Cask, barrel #1231, 178 bottles)

Hans E.’ Demerara 32 yo 1975/2008 (57%, Norse Cask, barrel #1231, 178 bottles) Five starsI'd wager this is Port Mourant/Port Morant. Colour: mahogany. Nose: really a big fat baby, and yet, once again, some briny, olivy, seawatery notes manage to keep it afloat. Behind that, dumpers of dried apricots, loud and clear, as well as the expected tar and liquorice. In a way, we’re in the same family as that of the old Saint-James. With water: my stuff. Nosing a can of Veedol oil into which some mad soul would have thrown seven black olives and a whole pack of salmiak. Rather eight black olives.

Mouth (neat): heavy and oaky, but that oak translates into a lot of menthol, thin mints, pinesap and peppermint, which I like as long as it doesn’t get really cloying. Heavy tar, and heavy sugarcane, which is the whole point I imagine. Quite some salt too! With water: more of all that, plus wheelbarrows of big Corinthian raisins. It did not get any more tannic – which was my fear. Finish: very long, a bit heavy perhaps. You just couldn’t have any other spirit after this one – or you’d have to take a long break. Or crunch fifty coffee beans and drink one litre of Perrier. Comments: one of the double-heavy ones. Maybe not for the fainthearted, but I love it. SGP:562 - 90 points.

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



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February 2015 - part 1 <--- February 2015 - part 2 ---> March 2015 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Ardbeg 23 yo 1965/1988 (55%, Cadenhead for Mizuhashi total liquor supply, Japan, sherry cask)

Ardbeg 1966/1987 (46%, Moon Import, The Birds, hogshead, cask #2443, 264 bottles)

Bruichladdich 21 yo 'Limited Edition' (53.4%, OB, 389 bottles, 1994)

Caol Ila 15 yo (43%, OB, golden jug, +/-1985)

Caperdonich 16 yo 1972/1988 (40%, Signatory Vintage, Sailing Ships, cask #7130-2, 1200 bottles)

Caperdonich 37 yo 1972/2010 (56.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7414, 147 bottles)

Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2009 (47,8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7449, 158 bottles)

Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2008 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7419, 193 bottles)

Demerara 32 yo 1975/2008 (57%, Norse Cask, barrel #1231, 178 bottles)

Laphroaig 15 yo (40%, OB, UK, +/-1985)

Laphroaig 30 yo 1966/1996 (48.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #559, 204 bottles)

Laphroaig 1970/1985 (55.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Meregali)

Laphroaig 13 yo 1972/1985 (56%, Cadenhead for Scoma, Germany)