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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2016 - Part 1



January 2016 - part 2 <--- February 2016 - part 1 ---> February 2016 - part 2


February 14, 2016


A few French white rhums
at lower strengths

Contrarily to whisky, rum can be perfectly sippable and even excellent when white, especially when unaged, provided it’s high-quality distillate and, above all, unsweetened and not ‘modified’ using various additives. Some white rums are aged and then discoloured, but we’ll try to avoid those today. In theory, a proper ‘white’ should be bottled at 50% vol. or even more in my opinion, but we’ll rather have a few lighter ones today.

Savanna ‘Lontan’ (40%, OB, La Réunion, white, grand arôme, +/-2015)

Savanna ‘Lontan’ (40%, OB, La Réunion, white, grand arôme, +/-2015) Three stars This is molasses-based rhum from the French island of La Réunion, in the Indian ocean. Grand arôme means that they’ve done some ultra-long fermentation, which always brings more complexity to any spirit. Colour: white. Nose: indeed, this is almost ‘dunder style’ rum, with a lot of brine, olives, damp sand, then even something like cooked onions, before fruitier notes emerge, such as very ripe bananas and pineapples. Whiffs of fresh wood varnish as well, not from the wood, obviously. Mouth: it’s very earthy spirit at first sips, before notes of lavender sweets are making an appearance, then bananas and brine, plus liquorice wood. It’s very characterful spirit, that you could sip just like any very good eau-de-vie. But it’s still a little milder than vésou-based whites, such as our beloved clairins. Finish: medium, earthy and olive-y, with a little camphor and eucalyptus. There is, I have to say, a similarity with Ledaig, should we talk Scotch. Comments: an excellent ‘dirty-ish’ rhum, dirt being an asset in this context. It’s just a little wishy-washy at 40% vol. SGP:462 - 82 points.

La Mauny ‘Ter Rouj'’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, white, +/-2015)

La Mauny ‘Ter Rouj'’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, white, +/-2015) Three stars It’s got the appellation controlee. Ter Rouj’ refers to the red earth that they have around the cane fields in south Martinique. Colour: white. Nose: starts on the same notes as the Savanna, but tends to become fruitier and rounder, with also more burnt notes (distillation) and more flowers. Ylang-ylang, perhaps. Also fresh almonds, and a drop of kirsch. Some sea air too, which keeps it fresh and, well, quite coastal. Mouth: it’s grassier than expected, with more lime as well, a little salt, grapefruits... It’s well earthy and briny, so very ‘agricole’ indeed, with just a touch of pineapple jam and hints of smoked ham. Finish: rather long, salty, limy, earthy, with a few fermentary notes, not unpleasant at all. Yeast. Comments: this fairly new cuvee is a success, in my opinion. Very nice distillate that really tastes authentic and not designed SGP:452 - 80 points.

Père Labat ‘40’ (40%, OB, Marie-Galante, agricole, white, +/-2015) Père Labat ‘40’ (40%, OB, Marie-Galante, agricole, white, +/-2015)

Père Labat ‘40’ (40%, OB, Marie-Galante, agricole, white, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Père Labat is made by the highly reputed distillerie Poisson, on the tiny island of Marie-Galante, near La Guadeloupe. You could not come up with a simpler label, could you. They also have a funny slogan, Ici c’est Labat (phonetically, ‘here, it’s there’). Colour: white. Nose: rather gentler than both the Savanna and Mauny, with some bananas and some rocks, concrete, clay… Touches of tar and liquorice wood in the background, as well as a little fern and moss. Tends to become drier and even more mineral, losing its fruitiness, but that’s quite pleasant. Mouth: really unusual, metallic, earthy, and very mineral again. Some kind of asparagus liqueur, perhaps. This is close to nature, in a way. Nudist rhum? Finish: medium, with a feeling of ashes, chalk, a little salt, Chinese sweet and sour sauce (form dim sum)… Comments: really like it, but I’m not sure I’d sip a lot of this. Reminds of that artisanal celeriac-based spirit that some make in Alsace (when no one ‘s watching ;-)) SGP:362 - 78 points.

We’ll have the Père Labat 50 in the coming weeks. In the meantime…

Rhum J.M ‘White Rum’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, white, +/-2015)

Rhum J.M ‘White Rum’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, white, +/-2015) Four stars Why they decided to write ‘Rhum Blanc’ in English, I don’t quite know. Colour: white. Nose: oh nice! Lemons and gherkins are running the show, making this rather purer and brighter than the others. I also find some fennel, caraway, and aniseed. Really very nice. Mouth: yes, really excellent. More lemons and gherkins, but also raw turnips, olives, grapefruits, some cardamom, some earthy spices, ginger, curcuma (very vivid), perhaps even saffron… This one’s zestier and purer for sure, and possibly more consensual as well. We’ll go with the consensus. Finish: medium, fresh, zesty… Some kind of pickled cucumbers in the aftertaste, which works very well. Comments: impeccable sipper. We’ll try to taste a version at a higher proof in the near future. SGP:462 - 85 points.

Karukera ‘Silver’ (40%, OB, Guadeloupe, white, +/-2015)

Karukera ‘Silver’ (40%, OB, Guadeloupe, white, +/-2015) This one’s supposed to be a lighter agricole-style rhum, which means that it’s rather been distilled South-American style, with fewer congeners (very high-strength new make). Colour: white. Nose: indeed, it’s much lighter than all the others. Whiffs of lime, cut grass, a little sea water, citrons, but not much else. So very light, but I wouldn’t call it ‘absent’. Few ‘greases’. Mouth: easy, not quite bland, but it suffers a lot after the fatter ones. Not quite for malt drinkers, and probably more for dedicated mixologists indeed (according to Karukera’s website, but I had thought wizards of the shaker tended to look for bigger ingredients these days?) The body’s really thin. Finish: very short. Wooosh. Comments: have I told you that this was very light? SGP:441 - 65 points.

Clément ‘Première Canne’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, white, +/-2015)

Clément ‘Première Canne’ (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, white, +/-2015) Three stars and a half A white rhum that they progressively reduce within 6 to 9 months, and not in one go, as some savages are doing elsewhere ;-). Colour: white. Nose: in the style of the J.M, just a tad more maritime, with whiffs of iodine. Perhaps a notch sharper as well. Really very pleasant and fresh. Mouth: indeed, a very similar style. This one’s a notch more mineral perhaps, while being a wee bit rounder as well (mangos?) Very close, although the J.M tends to last longer and to remain rather zestier. Finish: very close indeed. Comments: it’s true that J.M and Clément belong to the very same owners, but I believe they’re still made completely separately. SGP:462 - 84 points.

Rhum Rhum ‘PMG’ (41%, OB, Marie-Galante, +/-2015)

Rhum Rhum ‘PMG’ (41%, OB, Marie-Galante, +/-2015) Four stars Made at Bielle using bespoke stills by Gianni Capovilla, and distributed by Luca Gargano’s Velier. Colour: white. Nose: it’s rather more floral and aromatic than most others, maybe better chiselled and rather less fattish/rawish. But it’s still very agricole, with olives and gherkins plus overripe bananas and pineapples. Touches of blackcurrant eau-de-vie (Capovilla makes some great one, did he add a few buckets? I’m joking of course). Mouth: it’s a little sweeter and fruitier indeed, with notes of pineapple-flavoured jell-O, then rather sweet lime, citron liqueur, and once again, some agricole-y notes of green olives. Very elegant, very fresh. Finish: medium, more citrusy, and ultra-clean. Perfect zesty aftertaste. Comments: you could drinks buckets of this indeed. All you need is a swimming pool and a parasol. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Perhaps a last one…

Arcane ‘Cane Crush’ (43.8%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2015)

Arcane ‘Cane Crush’ (43.8%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Agreed, Mauritius isn’t part of France, although it used to. This baby’s double distilled in a strange way, that is to say first in a column still, and then in a cognac alambic. What for? To further purify it? I must be missing something. Now what’s good is that they use cane juice, not molasses. Colour: white. Nose: very discreet, delicately lemony, with hints of yellow chartreuse (mint, fennel, aniseed, liquorice)… Ideas of a fresh cumin liqueur (perhaps). Mouth: bigger and oilier, a little sweet but not exactly sweetish, on similar notes of pastis and chartreuse. Also tangerines, pears, peaches, and a little white pepper. I find this pleasant, and really less sugary than I had feared after a few sugar bombs we had found in Île Maurice. Finish: medium, rather on oranges and more tangerines. Comments: not very sugarcane-y, but the fruits are pleasant and the feeling of sugar rather low. Easy and pretty pretty good, I think. SGP:650 - 79 points.

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



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February 12, 2016


Young Old Pulteney

Well, with NAS, you’re never 100% sure the whisky’s young, but it should be.

Old Pulteney 'Duncansby Head Lighthouse' (46%, OB, 1l, +/-2014)

Old Pulteney 'Duncansby Head Lighthouse' (46%, OB, 1l, +/-2014) Two stars So sadly only a NAS, but maybe not quite an Untermalt? Let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: sour sawdust, vanilla, lemon juice, tinned peaches, green apples, and whiffs of sea air (perhaps). Pretty simple, not unpleasant, but smells a bit immature. Mouth: sweet orangey and vanilla-ed arrival, then more sweet barley and apples, with a salty touch. Not bad at all, but very simple. Perhaps a few sultanas. Finish: medium, sweet, rather on barley syrup, with some sawdust in the background. Comments: drinkable, but simple and pretty boring. I love Pulteney, but this is to the distillery what the 924 was to Porsche. Not an essential bottling, in my opinion. SGP:451 - 74 points.

Old Pulteney 'Noss Head Lighthouse' (46%, OB, 1l, +/-2015)

Old Pulteney 'Noss Head Lighthouse' (46%, OB, 1l, +/-2015) Two stars Apparently, this humble NAS has no sherry, while the first one had some. Colour: white wine. Nose: less sour, crisper, purer than the Duncansby, all on barley and apples. Very minimal, in truth, but this purity might be an asset, provided it doesn’t collapse on your palate, let’s see… Mouth: nah, it’s very young, raw, immature, just sweet, porridgy, and oaky. Oak spices, vanilla, coconut, apple juice. Finish: medium, perhaps a notch grassier, which is good news in this context. The oak feels a lot. Comments: same level in my opinion, rather a poor little thing. It’s drinkable, it’s even kind of good, but I find it highly boring, and the oak’s too obvious and not sufficiently integrated. Probably way too young, oak = time is a wrong formula. SGP:451 - 74 points.

Help!... Pulteney’s great whisky!... Let’s try to find proof…

Old Pulteney 1997/2015 ‘Ambassador’s Cask’ (53.4%, OB, selected by Frida Birkehede and David Tjeder for Allt Om Whisky, cask #1085, 260 bottles)

Old Pulteney 1997/2015 ‘Ambassador’s Cask’ (53.4%, OB, selected by Frida Birkehede and David Tjeder for Allt Om Whisky, cask #1085, 260 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: ‘what a difference an age makes…’ Of course it’s not the number that’ll make any whisky better, but age will, and this is proof indeed. It’s not that this baby’s bursting with aromas, but it’s much more complex, more subtle than the humble Lighthouses. For example, I find aniseed and fennel, some iodine, fresh apricots, delicate whiffs of eucalyptus, a vanilla that’s vanilla (not simply vanillin), a touch of crème de menthe… I’m really fond of this freshness. With water: doesn’t change much. Perhaps does the barley come more to the front. Also fresh almonds. Mouth (neat): indeed, this is another planet. Burst with citrus and other tropical fruits, while some bitter herbs keep it kind of earthy. Fernet Branca? Salt and limejuice, you could do a nice kind of margarita out of this. Creamy mouth feel. With water: fresh barley goodness, squeezed oranges, and always a touch of salt. Finish: medium, very fresh, fruity, with the usual touch of salt. Comments: more of this and less of that, please. I know, easy to say ;-)… SGP:651 - 88 points.

Well, I’m feeling a bit bad now. Have I been to harsh on the two NAS? Shouldn’t we give them another chance?...

Old Pulteney ‘Navigator’ (46%, OB, +/-2014)

Old Pulteney ‘Navigator’ (46%, OB, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a little more porridgy than the Lighthouses, and less oaky, so rather more spirit-driven, I’d say. Nice freshness, what we should call ‘maritime’, I guess, with even oysters. This, I rather enjoy. A little patchouli, some apples. Mouth: same feeling, this is more complex, fresher, with less sawdust and rather more salt and lemon. Some oranges, and perhaps a little new make. This should be young as well, but at least it’s not ridden with sawdust. Finish: medium, fresh, more on lemonade and spicy coconut sauce. More oak and white pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: feels young, but it’s rather very honest, I’d say. SGP:451 - 79 points.

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



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February 11, 2016


Blended madness

(a session that did not quite go according to plan)

Blends. Let’s have them at random for a funnier experience. There will be new ones and there will be old ones. Unless we fail and start to follow a pattern, as we often do. You see, these things are hard to control…

House of Lords 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1980)

House of Lords 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, France, +/-1980) Three stars A blend related to Edradour at that time, as it’s base address was Glenforres-Glenlivet Distillery, that is to say Edradour. This particular one used to be imported by Champagne Besserat de Bellefon. Colour: gold. Nose: very dusty, very dry. Flour, chalk, cardboard, artichokes, then rather leather, black tea, a touch of soap, and something feinty. As they say, the jury’s still out. Mouth: better than expected, rather meaty and salty, with roasted chestnuts, tobacco, and chocolate in the aftertaste. Gets then even meatier, with this feeling of drinking miso soup, or rather Chinese chicken soup. Solid body, feels more like 43%. Finish: quite long, salty and smoky. Smoked chicken soup ;-). Comments: typical characterful old blend. Not much nose, but a potent palate. SGP:362 - 82 points.

Wait, I have an idea (oh, no…)

Chivas Regal 18 yo ‘Gold Signature’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Chivas Regal 18 yo ‘Gold Signature’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015) Three stars and a half It says ‘Gold Signature’ but I believe it’s the regular 18 yo. Colour: orange gold. Nose: nice! Starts with whiffs of earl grey tea, goes on with malty cereals, and goes on with touches of oloroso, then raisins and warm croissants. There’s a little marmalade as well, some honey, some vanilla, and a little gingerbread. Very nice nose, rounded but talkative and present. Mouth: rather polished, with some apple pie, roasted nuts, toasted bread, maple syrup, and some spicy chocolate. Weetabix, praline, some smoother milk chocolate, and perhaps one or two ripe mirabelles. Tends to become maltier over time, and perhaps a little less complex. Finish: medium, smooth, very malty again. Ovaltine and dried pears, a touch of honeysuckle… The aftertaste is a little drier, though, but that could be the caramel talking. Comments: goes down very well, a very nice ‘smooth’ composition. Classic! SGP:541 - 83 points.

Chivas Regal 25 yo (OB, blend, 113cl, +/-1915)

Chivas Regal 25 yo (OB, blend, 113cl, +/-1915) Five stars That’s right, pre-prohibition Chivas with a driven cork, that was distilled in the 19th century and bottled between 1910 and 1920, so roughly one hundred years ago. This baby was on pour at the crazy Auld Alliance in Singapore. This 25 yo was the very first Chivas ‘Regal’, a brand that’s been launched in 1908 or 1909. As you can see, age statements were all the rage at that time ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: totally malty, I doubt there was much grain in this. Only thinking about all the long-closed Alfred-Barnard-time distilleries that may have been used in this blend will put sparkles in your eyes! What’s amazing is that it’s highly expressive, totally not contemporary, and fantastically earthy and mentholy. Rosewood, thuja, verbena, wormwood, old cough syrup, chartreuse, honeydew…

Then old books, antique shop, long forgotten clothes in an old wardrobe in an old attic (yes, in an old country house), cigars… And, surprisingly, fresh overripe strawberries. Really! Mouth: amazing. What’s fantastic is that while quite a lot of old Chivas Regals bearing corks are now, well, corked, this one’s virtually untainted. The flavours are more or less the same as in the nose, with this resinous honey, these herbal tones, then soft marmalade, dried fruits, figs for sure, and a very funny salty touch that keeps playing with your lips and the tip of your tongue. Perfect conservation. As for the strength, the label wouldn’t say but it feels like more or less 45% vol. Finish: medium, with a little more old bottle effect (wee metallic touches), and a few PX-like raisiny touches. Some menthol too. The aftertaste is very fresh, and would just make you want more.

Probably my favourite Chivas ad, circa 1965.
Not sure they'd still run it these days ;-)

Comments: totally impressive, one of the best very old bottles of whisky I’ve ever tasted, if not the best. And imagine what may have been included, Dalaruan, Auchtermuchty, Ardlussa, Stromness, old Longrow… Aaaah, aaahhh, aahhhh… A plainly and utterly superb – and historical - old bottle of Scotch whisky. SGP:462 - 93 points.

Oh well, I had planned to taste quite a few novelties today, but how could they survive in the shadow of this grand old Chivas Regal? Better have other older bottles, if you don’t mind… And that would be some...

Grant's 'Liqueur Scotch Whisky' (OB, blend, early 1930s)

Grant's 'Liqueur Scotch Whisky' (OB, blend, early 1930s) Five stars Another historical bottle. The label tells us about this brand’s home distilleries, which were ‘The Glenfiddich and Balvenie-Glenlivet Distilleries’. Not much has changed, has it? I’ve seen this bottle advertised in an Australian newspaper dated 1932, so the rotation matches. Some experts are saying that early Grant’s whiskies were vattings of only Glenfiddich and Balvenie, so this baby may well be a blended malt, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: I’d swear Balvenie is recognisable, with these apricots, mirabelles, all-flower honey, and ripe pears. There’s even some natural vanilla ‘from the spirit’, that is to say not vanillin from the oak. Other than that, there’s a beefy touch but that may OBE, although the whole remained bright and vibrant. A little menthol and aniseed as well, as often. Perhaps a notch less complex than the old Chivas, but it’s probably younger as well. Mouth: ho-ho-ho, this is very fine! It’s smokier than contemporary malts, and even quite ashy, and would unfold on smoked meat, cocoa, tobacco, and some kind of umami. Lovage, a drop of soy sauce, more tobacco, some salt, smoked tea… It’s really perfect, balanced, firm, rather more ‘Highlands’ than its contemporary siblings, and never just ‘smooth’. As for its strength, it does rather feel like 40% vol. Finish: medium, still salty and ashy, with bitter oranges and more herbs. Perhaps a little tarragon, just for fun? Comments: quite amazing. I’ve got some contemporary Grant’s at hand, but out of Christian charity, we won’t have it just now (not saying it’s bad, it’s just not in the same league). SGP:352 - 90 points.

So, no modern Grant’s, what shall we do? Perhaps this…

Grant's 'Stand Fast' (70° proof, OB, blend, early 1930s)

Grant's 'Stand Fast' (70° proof, OB, blend, early 1930s) Three stars A very early Stand Fast that, I think, used to shelter some grain, while the liqueur did not. It seems that the owners recently tried to replicate this baby, pretty much like Whyte & Mackay tried to replicate Shackleton’s Mackinlay, but since we haven’t got the replica anyway, let’s not wait needlessly and focus on the original. Better like this, I suppose… By the way, as the old label tells us, ‘Stand Fast’ is the slogan of the Clan Grant. Colour: gold. Nose: it is a little lighter than the Liqueur, and indeed it could be grainier and a tad rougher and a little less complex. Perhaps a little more metallic and cardboardy as well, with hints of ink, brand new book, and hay. But it’s a very fine nose! Mouth: same comments, this is rougher, less complex, grittier, and more, say ‘rustic’. I had rather replicated the ‘Liqueur’ if you ask me ;-). Flour, paper, tapioca, tea, then more citrus, but the background remains cardboardy and dry. As almost always with these old bottles, there’s also a little meat with some mint. Typically English ;-). Finish: rather short, a little dry. Some nuts and some ashes. Comments: either it’s lost its fruits, or it was already very dry when it was issued. We’ll give it a fair score, because after all, it’s an historical bottle, but I wouldn’t say there’s much pleasure to be had. SGP:262 - 80 points.

Oh well, let’s keep this ‘pre-war’, with…

Old Angus (OB, blend, 1930s)

Old Angus (OB, blend, 1930s) Five stars Old Angus used to be a whisky that, according to some old ads, used to be ‘gentle as a lamb’. It is ‘liqueur blended scotch whisky’, bottled by Train & McIntyre, a company that later acquired Glenlochy, and that was bought by the D.C.L. in 1953. It seems that the Old Angus brand is extinct. Colour: pale gold. Old Angus
Nose: this is something different. It’s got more fruits, around grapefruits and not-too-acidic lemons, and then many more floral and tea-ish notes, around lime tree blossom, lemongrass… So it’s globally fresher, and I do notice notes of mineral riesling, which just cannot be bad. It’s really the freshness that’s most impressive here, there’s not one ounce of OBE. Mouth: a-m-a-r-i-n-g. I know I got one letter wrong. This is a peaty blend, like, say a Talisker-grade peatiness, with a feeling of coal dust, some hessian, tarry ropes, oysters, and all that. It’s actually somewhat Ardbgeggian, but at times it also makes me think of old Islay Mist. It is quite fantastic, this Old Angus, but they should have fired that adman. Gentle as a lamb? Come on! Finish: rather long, superbly peaty and candied, very coastal. Salty aftertaste. Comments: I’d kill to be able to get a list of the malts that have been used in this glorious old peaty blend. Yeah, dream on… Sometimes, I couldn’t not think of Old Clynelish…SGP:454 – 92 points.

It’s all going very well, isn’t it. Oh, and Old Clynelish? Why not have one of their blends?...

King’s Legend ‘Old Special’ (OB, Ainslie & Heilbron, blend, spring cap, +/-1955)

King’s Legend ‘Old Special’ (OB, Ainslie & Heilbron, blend, spring cap, +/-1955) Five stars I know, we’re now after the war, but these sessions are unpredictable. It is an old bottle, there’s no ABV, so maybe was it bottled even earlier. As all WF readers know, Ainslie were the owners of old Clynelish (AKA Brora). This should shelter quite some Old Clynelish, let’s see… Colour: deep gold. Nose: yes, it’s very sooty, ultra-dry, mega-austere… Think plasticine, lamp oil, coal, soot, hay, and paraffin. I know, sounds horrible, and yet… But let’s not exaggerate, this baby won’t win Booze Mag’s best nose of the century competition. Also some old copper (coins) and quite some engine oil. I’m even finding a little castor oil. Mouth: of course. I knew it reminded me of another whisky I used to sip, and that’s the famous Glen Brora blend. Well, not that famous. It is the same whisky, actually, I’m dead sure about that. Greasy, ashy, sooty, slightly metallic, with some pepper, some grapefruits, this feeling of quaffing engine oil (not quite like that guy in one of the latest James Bond movies, eh) while eating cigar ashes… And all that is covered with some kind of citron liqueur, Corsican style. Only gunpowder is missing ;-). Very oily mouth feel, but I doubt the strength would be higher than 40%, perhaps 43% vol. Finish: medium, very sooty and ashy, but with a liqueury coating. Some kind of sweet oil. Comments: another great old blend with an incredible personality. Nothing to do with contemporary blends, except a few by some indies such as Compass Box, DL, and a few others. It’s Rembrandt vs. Jeff Koons! SGP:453 - 91 points.

Good, before this gets too political, let’s have a very last one and call this a tasting session…

Fifesay 10 yo (20 U.P., OB, bottled 1920s)

Fifesay 10 yo (20 U.P., OB, bottled 1920s) Five stars Everything is to love here. Like this mention, ‘strength about 20 under proof’, so about 80° proof. Or the fact that this is another proof that age statements were much in use in the early 20th century (yet the industry wants us to believe that that was a recent, temporary thing), or even the back label, that I shall now copy integrally for your pleasure. “This Whisky is bottled at the distillery (oops, so it is probably a single malt!) under the most scrupulous and unremitting care. Absolute freedom from all trace of anything deleterious IS GUARANTEED, and, after most searching and exhaustive chemical analysis, medical experts (ha, reminds us of White Horse and old Lagavulin!) pronounce it to be of the highest PURITY, THOROUGHLY MATURED (yeah!!!!), and of particularly fine flavour, and recommend it with every confidence, as a wholesome and reliable stimulant. TEN YEARS OLD.” Capital letters not mine!

Beats both Emily Dickinson and Oscar Wilde, doesn’t it! Sadly, I couldn’t find any information about this whisky, the distillery, or the company behind it. Could be any of those long-forgotten closed distilleries – ooh I’d sure kill again to be able to know more about this wee baby… But let’s proceed… Colour: gold. Nose: sure it hasn’t got the oomph and the presence of the old Ainslie’s, but it’s got a coastal freshness that mingles to perfection with a greasy and almondy side. The whole’s rather light, having said that, and as Kurt Weill would have said, it speaks rather low. Love these touches of machine oils and gun grease, though… Mouth: not so fast! It was a bit shy on the nose, but it rocks on your palate. It’s even a little harsh after all these years, acrid, very sooty, smoky and salty for sure, and immensely medicinal. There are no tropical fruits, otherwise I’d have said this could be old Laphroaig. A kind of concoction made with eucalyptus syrup, charcoal ashes, caraway liqueur (say Linie aquavit), lime juice, and a few drops of the heaviest Jamaican rum. And boy this rocks! Forgot to mention salt – but there’s no salt in whisky, naturally. Finish: long, herbal, smoky, salty, sooty, getting a little drying, with even a wee feeling of shoe polish… Truly fantastic. More mentholated things in the aftertaste. Comments: a poem indeed. Good, any distinguished reader who’d send me any bits of information with regards to this bottle will win an autographed photo of WF’s new official mousers, Zooloo and Aston. Shipping fees mine. Deal? SGP:354 - 93 points.

Update: Angus, of many fames, just sent me an update about the Fifesay. It was a brand that belonged to an English Wine merchant. The ‘Fife’ part may refer to one of the old Fife distilleries. There were three still active into the 1920s: Grange, closed 1927, Auchtertool, closed 1927, and Auchtermuchty/Stratheden, closed around mid-1920s. So since the Fifesay was definitely a single malt, it could conceivably be one of these distilleries ‘but it is a bit of a leap’.


(With hugs to Angus and Emmanuel)

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



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February 10, 2016


Bruichladdich, a few

It’s Bruichladdich Day. I mean, on Whiskyfun. We’ve kind of lost contact with the distillery (perhaps because the owners are French ;-)) so don’t expect any new officials –are there any, by the way? But there are some great new indies, beyond this little (older) apéritif…

Bruichladdich 15 yo (43%, OB, Moon Import, 75cl, +/-1985)

Bruichladdich 15 yo (43%, OB, Moon Import, 75cl, +/-1985) Three stars This baby bottled long before the ‘small blue label’ that used to be a little undemanding, to put it mildly. Colour: gold. Nose: it is to be wondered if they hadn’t added a little peated old Bruichladdich, as what I’m getting at first sniffs is rather metal polish and soot/ashes. Whiffs of brake fluid as well, then rather herbs and grasses, with some fern, and perhaps grapefruit skin. It’s only after a good five minutes that the expected melons do start to come out, and they would come with peaches, although the whole will remain pretty sooty and grassy. Perhaps fresh walnuts (sherry?) Mouth: it’s not huge, but once again it’s surprisingly dry and grassy. Still some soot, touches of bitter caramel, a little cardboard, grapefruits and bitter oranges… And those ashes plus some pepper. Quite austere, globally. Finish: medium, with an oiliness, zests, grass, and something both metallic and cardboardy in the aftertaste. A touch of lemon too. Comments: a dry old Bruichladdich, rather unusual. SGP:362 - 82 points.

Bruichladdich 1991/2015 (53.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill hogsheads, casks #2775, 2776, 2780)

Bruichladdich 1991/2015 (53.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill hogsheads, casks #2775, 2776, 2780) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: entirely different, with many more fruits at first nosing. And yes we’re meaning melons and not-too-ripe apricots. There’s also quite a lot of soy sauce, which is very unusual (we’re not talking hints of soy sauce as in some oloroso-ed malts), and then even bouillon and oxtail. Fun! With water: rather less soy sauce, and rather more tobacco, beef jerky, thuja wood… Mouth (neat): thick, on… some kind of sauce, very funny indeed. Chinese plum sauce, for example, or quince chutney, bay leaves, pink pepper… All that’s drizzled over some kind of all-fruit jam that would have involved melons, peaches, and oranges. With water: spicy and jammy, with some bitterness. Natural liquorice, perhaps. Finish: long, and almost all on liquorice indeed. Perhaps a little salt. Comments: not sure a traditional blender wouldn’t have rejected such a deviant cask. But to the whisky lover, that’s great news. A very different, very funny, and very entertaining Bruichladdich. Sherry hogshead? SGP:561 - 87 points.

Bruichladdich 11 yo 2004/2015 (58.4%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask #2530)

Bruichladdich 11 yo 2004/2015 (58.4%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask #2530) Three stars and a half This one’s brand new, I haven’t seen it online yet – at time of writing. Colour: very dark amber. Nose: a rather meaty and mineral kind of sherry, with struck matches and assorted scents. Smoked ham, Grisons meat, gunpowder, bitter chocolate, earth, and marmalade. Then pu-erh tea and some metallic notes. Old rusty tin box. With water: oh, soy sauce again! And lovage, Maggi, these sorts of things. Mouth (neat): a very meaty sherry. Beef cooked in orange juice with a lot of cracked pepper, plus some pipe tobacco and Mexican mole sauce. With water: some shy blood oranges manage to come through the sherry wall, a bit. Finish: long, Schweppes-y, gingery, with a flinty aftertaste. More bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps for lovers of this very meaty/chocolaty style only. I know quite a few of them ;-). Hard to score, because this one’s even more about taste and colours. Some will love it, some will hate it (where have I heard that before?) SGP:472 - 84 points.

Bruichladdich 22 yo 1992/2015 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles)

Bruichladdich 22 yo 1992/2015 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles) Four stars and a half Back to bourbon… Colour: deep gold. Nose: probably the most ‘Bruichladdich’ of them all. All kinds of melons (you wouldn’t want me to list them all, would you?) with a little white chocolate and sea air. Perhaps a little almond oil. With water: a little more grass, and discreet whiffs of seaweed. And bonbons, perhaps. Mouth (neat): so very typically Bruichladdich! It’s a bit in the style of the first 15 that the former new owners hat issued around 2002 or 2003. Bright Provence melon, a little honey, some guavas and papayas, and a thin layer of custard. Very clean, very pure, very Bruichladdich indeed. With water: totally excellent. Pure fruity goodness, without excess. Finish: medium, elegant, fruity but not too fruity. Comments: I found this independent Laddie more official than the officials, if you see what I mean. As they say, a very fine example of the make. And it’s so very drinkable. Almost always impressive these days, Cadenhead’s (so, is the cheque in the mail, at last? The barrel of Brora never reached my doorstep!) SGP:651 - 88 points.

Another 22 yo and we’re done…

Bruichladdich 22 yo 1991/2014 (55.9%, Anam na h-Alba, bourbon hogshead)

Bruichladdich 22 yo 1991/2014 (55.9%, Anam na h-Alba, bourbon hogshead) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: same ballpark, but this one’s got a discreet smokiness, and perhaps a little less fruits. It’s also got a wee farminess, which makes it a little more ‘Highlands’. So far, so very good. With water: barley, gravel, fumes, Barbour grease… Mouth (neat): wow! Sharp, lemony, a little smoky, briny, mineral… I’ve had some ex-refill Highland Parks that have been a little bit like this. Green tea, smoked fish, pepper, lemon, chalk… With water: perfect. Sharp waxy lemons, oils, green pepper, some salt, greengages (no lemons this time!)… Finish: long, kind of smoky, lemony, fat, oily… Indeed, we’re almost between Highland Park and Clynelish. Bruichladdich, you say? May we see the papers? (I know, yet another stupid joke). Comments: this little-known bottle is really worthy of your attention, even if it’s quite un-Bruichladdich. Perhaps not a surprise, but… yeah, a surprise, a great surprise. Loved it. SGP:562 - 90 points.

(with thanks to C.J. and Ron)

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



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February 9, 2016


New Benromach 1980 (I suppose)

I know I’m sometimes late, and I sure am today, since many blogs have already commented on the new Benromach 35. Time to catch up the delay! With regards to the sparring partner, I had thought we could have an old G&M, but those could be relatively ‘light’, so better have a recent beast, for some better foundations. Such as this baby…

Benromach 10 yo '100° proof' (57%, OB, +/-2015)

Benromach 10 yo '100° proof' (57%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: definitely modern, with quite a lot of ginger and vanilla, then these very singular whiffs of gunpowder that are not ‘sulphury’ at all – let’s say it’s a different kind of gunpowder – and ‘good’ notes of cabbage and artichokes. A lot of walnuts too, bitter oranges… We’re almost nosing some manzanilla. Which, no need to say, is right up my alley. With water: correction, a smoky manzanilla. And always this pleasant sulphur that’s not quite like (unpleasant) sulphur. Mouth: same procedures, starts full of gingery and vanilla-ed oak, but rather develops on grassy, peppery, rather rustic notes of artichokes and bitter chocolate. Plus, naturally, quite some soot and bitter oranges. Thick mouth feel. With water: bitter oranges, pepper, ginger, green tea. Serious, potent stuff. Finish: long, peppery, drying – like cocoa can be drying – and rather leathery. Comments: I do prefer them with a little less active/extractive oak, but on the other hand, I’m a fan of this biggish distillate, so… SGP:463 - 87 points.

Benromach 35 yo (43%, OB, 2016)

Benromach 35 yo (43%, OB, 2016) Five stars Good, this baby wouldn’t tell its vintage, BUT a leaflet says that it was ‘laid down to mature in the 1980s’. I suppose the vatting was done last year, so that means that it must be some 1980, unless the casks were disgorged in 2016, which means that there could be some 1981 as well. Doesn’t that make sense, Watson? So in theory, it could be the same juice as that of the 30 yo from circa 2011, which wouldn’t be bad news (WF 90). But enough speculation, let’s try this new baby… Colour: deep gold. Nose: instant pleasures. A beehive in the midst of summer, some fresh apple juice, and very discreet touches of mustard, or perhaps horseradish. Let’s go a little further, that would be beeswax, heather honey, pollen, artisan cider, and yes, horseradish (smidgens), then hints of old books, furniture polish, and orange zests. All this is very lovely, both compact and complex. Forgot to mention walnuts. Mouth: starts bitter like old style manzanilla (indeed, again – that’s pasada) and raw cocoa powder, plus walnuts yet again, and bitter oranges. This bitter style is something that I enjoy a lot, this baby could be seen as the most complex form of Jaegermeister. Yes, in a way. Keeps unfolding on various dry herbs (thyme) and even more walnuts, with an ashy smokiness that’s also very ‘Benromach’. The oak tends to come to the front, but it would come with quite a lot of tobacco, Habana-style. And some pepper too. It’s also a case where the 43% are not a problem at all. Finish: long, herbal, with some dry mint, some bitter oranges, and quite a lot of cinnamon. The lovely old oak has got the last word. Comments: very excellent as such, but also singular, and different from any other old malt. That’s clearly a tremendous asset, when many whiskies – unless peated - tend to taste more or less the same. Vanilla? Who mentioned vanilla? SGP:372 - 91 points.

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



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February 8, 2016


Glenmorangie sixty years later

There’s a newish Glenmorangie ‘Private Edition’ called Milsean, that came without an age statement (boo) but at 46% (hurrah). So we’ll have it today, and for a better historical – and perhaps stylistic - perspective, let’s first have some really old one, if that’s okay with you…

Glenmorangie 10 yo (70° proof, OB, UK, bottled 1950s)

Glenmorangie 10 yo (70° proof, OB, UK, bottled 1950s) Four stars and a half The oldest official Glenmorangie 10 I’ve ever tried, and yet another example of an official Scotch single malt that was bottled way before the modern single malt category was even created, in the 1960s (according to marketers working for another large company), and way before the Scots started to add age statements to their labels (yeah yeah yeah). Oh well, who cares about the past and its truths? Colour: white wine (surprise surprise). Nose: pure, naked, smoky, mineral. Oh the lovely pre-vanilla days! Silverware, chalk, metal polish, touches of rhubarb and cider apples, a little brine, and certainly a little peat smoke. It’s not impossible that this baby was distilled when oil was still in short supply, and that they had used peat instead. Love this purity. Mouth: smoky ashes, camphory touches, watermelon, shoe polish, apples, drops of brine (a saltiness for sure)… Glenmorangie is very hard to recognise, this is a much smokier and saltier spirit. The whole’s pristine, although a tad simple, perhaps, despite these notes of honeydew melon that are coming out, with some pepper. I’d say it’s more or less Talisker-smoky, to give you an idea. Finish: medium, very salty, and more lemony. Always this pure freshness. Even more ashes in the aftertaste, perhaps some pears. Comments: absolutely excellent, with almost no signs of tiredness. It’s really a thrill to be able to try such ‘natural’ old spirits and check to which extent a distillate has changed over the decades. Very lovely. SGP:453 - 89 points.

Glenmorangie ‘Milsean’ (46%, OB, +/-2016)

Glenmorangie ‘Milsean’ (46%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars A nice retro packaging that reminds me of an old circus, perhaps (check Compass Box’ next bottling in that respect!) Or an old ice-cream truck, remember? This baby was matured in bourbon wood, then finished in re-toasted wine casks. Why not! Colour: gold. Nose: the antithesis of the old 10. When that one was saying ‘rocks’, this one says ‘candy floss’. Indeed, candy floss, and marshmallows, jelly babies, the expected vanilla, touches of coconut, and then drops of light rum and nail polish. I don’t know why, I cannot not think of Auchentoshan. Mouth: we’re going towards bourbon, or even pure corn whiskey. That’s funny indeed. Sweet maize, coconut, vanilla, sultanas, plenty of sweet oak (not tannic as such), and a feeling of cassata ice-cream. From the aforementioned ice-cream truck, of course. Ends up with more pears, which suggests youth. Finish: rather short, clean, and always on sweets and jellies. Some might say this is a sexist remark, but I find it a little girly. Comments: some light bourbon from Scotland – a Scottish obsession these days, it seems. Drinks very well, for sure. SGP:741 - 81 points.

Oh, no, I was sure I had some Westports left (teaspooned Glenmorangie), but I can’t find them. Bah, next time! (and thanks again and again, Angus)

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



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February 7, 2016


More rums, looking for malternatives

Holy Mary, help those in need of unfiddled with spirits, give strength to the weak distillates, comfort the sorrowful tasters, and… Please help us avoid sugar! As we often do, we’ll have these rums at random (with the helps of our small hairy friends).

El Dorado 21 yo (43%, OB, Demerara, +/-2015)

El Dorado 21 yo (43%, OB, Demerara, +/-2015) Two stars Ah. I was highly disappointed last time I tried this bay, two or three years ago. First because many commentators used to say it was one of the best rums in the world, and second because I had thought (how naïve) that all high-end Demeraras had to be similar to those by Velier, or Bristol, or other independent bottlers. But it was ridden with sugar, and way too thick and cloying for me. Always remember, only a personal opinion! Colour: caramel. Nose: extremely molassy and jammy. Liqueur-filled chocolate, stewed strawberries and bananas, prunes, raisins, crème de menthe… And it’s only moderately cane-y. A rather nice nose, quite complex. Mouth: it’s not that it’s extremely sugary, but you feel some sugar. Some oak too (pencil shavings), Cointreau, tamarind sauce, raisins, banana liqueur, pineapple liqueur… It’s really very sweet and jammy. Some tarry, liquoricy and petroly notes are there in the background, but sadly, the sugary side will never quite let them through. Finish: medium, very sweet. Sugary aftertaste, as if you had quaffed sugar cane syrup. Some bitterish oak too. Comments: I know it’s a sacred cow, but it’s totally not my style. Why they add so much sugar – because that’s neither in the distillate, nor in the barrels – is a mystery. I know, demand… I hope – well, I’m sure - the new, and very expensive, official single-mark small batches will be in a much higher league. We’ll see. SGP:720 - 75 points.

Centenario 12 yo 'Gran Legado' (40%, OB, Costa Rica, +/-2015)

Centenario 12 yo 'Gran Legado' (40%, OB, Costa Rica, +/-2015) one star and a half Ouch, I hope this baby won’t be just another sugar bomb… Colour: gold. Nose: relatively light, much less aromatic than the El Dorado for sure, with a little cardboard and dust, then chocolate, leather, and vanilla. Then sugar syrup and even more vanilla. Rhum ‘arrangéed’. Then plain caramel. Mouth: burnt caramel all over the place, corn syrup, brown sugar, molasses, and perhaps a little marmalade. A curious fizziness in the background (Schweppes). Finish: short to medium, rather on very sweet gingerbread and more caramel. Jelly babies in the aftertaste, but also grassy notes. Artichokes? Comments: as they write on booze blogs, we’ve tasted worse. Some very sweet and light rum of modest means and proportions. SGP:720 - 68 points.

Barbancourt 2004/2014 (43%, Bristol Spirits, Reserve Rum of Haiti)

Barbancourt 2004/2014 (43%, Bristol Spirits, Reserve Rum of Haiti) Two stars and a half I guess this is already ‘new Barbancourt’, since the distillery replaced their old pot stills with double columns some time in the 1990s, thus switching to rather lighter rhums. Colour: straw. Nose: well, maybe is it lighter than before, but it’s certainly not light. Some lovely very agricole-y whiffs of fermenting cane juice, our friends the green olives, a touch of diesel oil, then rather more beeswax and vanilla, while the petroly side tends to decrease. I also find a little camphor, all for the better. Mouth: it’s dry, grassy, perhaps a tad acrid, but it loses steam after just a few seconds. Pineapples and cane juice, plus a little curry. Roasted pistachios, perhaps. Light body. I liked the nose much, much better, this lacks oomph for me. Finish: rather short, dry. The spiciness is a little unusual, and kind of gritty. Comments: high quality rhum, no doubt, but the somewhat flabby palate is a clear handicap. SGP:461 - 78 points.

Well, perhaps is it time to call in the Haitian cavalry!...

Clairin Casimir ‘Batch 2’ (54%, OB, Haiti, +/-2014)

Clairin Casimir ‘Batch 2’ (54%, OB, Haiti, +/-2014) Five stars Love, love, love… Colour: white. Nose: totally amazing, a spirit like no other spirits – and that would include white Jamaicans. Superb notes of fermentation, engine oil, crushed black olives, caviar (not making this up!), truffles (same comment), bottarga (just in case, remember Google is your friend), very spicy late-season mushrooms, pulque, balsamico, and even that tremendous sauce they’re making in Italy, all'amatriciana. Green pepper, chillies… Amazing distillate. With water: more fruits coming out. Fermenting pineapples? Mouth (neat) massive, perhaps a tad rough and raw, and extremely grassy, with a few burnt notes. What’s really surprising is this huge ashy side that’s quite mezcaly. Also lime, brine, cough syrup, eucalyptus… And indeed sugar cane. With water: a little more ‘classic white agricole’, but what’s amazing is how it carefully avoids anything sweetish. Great work by Douglas Casimir! Finish: long, surprisingly fresh and limey. Ashy, slightly harsh(ish) aftertaste. Comments: love, love, love… SGP:372 - 90 points.

Neisson ‘Extra Vieux’ (43%, OB, Martinique, +/-2015)

Neisson ‘Extra Vieux’ (43%, OB, Martinique, +/-2015) Three stars This agricole baby was aged for approximately seven years in the tropics. That’s like 713,524 years in Scotland. Quite. Colour: gold. Nose: funny. Neisson’s unlike any other rhum, and I find each and every expression quite singular. This time we’re having rather more custard and plain vanilla, drizzled over tinned fruits and jellies. Some oak feels, with notes of cocoa powder, and perhaps lightly roasted coffee beans. Mouth: indeed, very singular. Once again, the oak feels a bit, but it’s rather sweets and bonbons that we’re finding. Tangerine jelly, perhaps, or blood oranges. I find it most pleasant, but it’s as if its inherent ‘phenolness’ (hey?) was a bit blocked by some newish oak. Having said that, some lovely fruity notes keep emerging one after the other, such as pink grapefruits, bananas, lime, guava… That’s very good. Finish: rather medium, rather fruity (guava, really), with an oaky signature. Vanillin. Comments: a kind of finishing in active oak, something very fashionable in Scotland thee days. That may work better with Neisson’s lovely rhum. SGP:551 - 82 points.

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



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February 5, 2016


The Mortlach week, Friday

Our last Mortlach session – for the time being. Let’s gather our forces and find more interesting ones! Starting with this little baby that I had loved when I tried the first batch…

Mortlach 25 yo (43.4%, OB, 50cl, +/-2015)

Mortlach 25 yo (43.4%, OB, 50cl, +/-2015) Four stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: there’s a little honeyed sauce, and roasted peanuts at first nosing, but this sooty, slightly meaty, and rather citrusy style is soon to show off, together with more ‘beehivy’ notes of pollen and beeswax. Walnuts. It’s rather fresh, going on with apricots and juicy red peaches. It is rather more aromatic, and fruitier than what you’d expect from Mortlach, I’d say, but I find this nose really superb. Mouth: starts a tad dry, with some cinnamon and bitter chocolate, and rather develops on oranges, honey, and sweet barley. There is a sooty ash in the background, but little meat and leather, let alone spirit sulphur. So again, I find it excellent, just not wildly Mortlach. Finish: medium, rather spicier. Cinnamon and eau-de-vie. Comments: I find it a little different, rather less emphatic than the first sample that I got. Still great. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Another 25 please…

Mortlach 25 yo 1989/2015 (52.4%, Silver Seal, cask #3911, 480 bottles)

Mortlach 25 yo 1989/2015 (52.4%, Silver Seal, cask #3911, 480 bottles) Five stars Yes, another one by Silver Seal. Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s mineral, grassy, and waxy. We’re talking clay, autumn leaves, cut grass, linseed oil, green tea (opening a new pack), even concrete and plaster… With water: gets earthy. Mushrooms, dead leaves, humus, moss, all that… The kind of ch-ch-ch-changes that we love at WF Towers. Mouth (neat): excellent, really. Wheelbarrows of oranges and lemons, a touch of strawberry sweets, then this grassy citrus that always ‘lifts’ any whisky (pink grapefruits, perhaps), all that being coated with some kind of mineral oil. Admirably zesty, but with Mortlach’s fatness that keeps it, well, fat. With water: perfect, just perfect. Another one that hints at old Rosebank, with just a little more fatness. Perfect lemons, grapefruits, oranges, mandarins, tangerines, clementines, bergamots, citrons, kumquats, pomelos (that’ll do, S.) Finish: medium, fresh, zesty, very clean. Lemons, grapefruits, oranges, mandarins, tangeri… (tsk tsk)… Comments: there isn’t much that isn’t perfect in this one. The fact that it’s not quite meaty? Well… SGP:651 - 92 points.

Mortlach 1994/2012 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12059, 235 bottles)

Mortlach 1994/2012 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12059, 235 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: this one’s ridden with old walnuts, leather, black chocolate, wood smoke, and autumn leaves at first sniffs, before it gets fatter and fruitier at the same time. Corinth raisins, prunes, figs, old Sauternes, apple compote… A little bizarre, going from oloroso style to Pedro Ximenez within fifteen seconds. With water: the leather comes out more again. Mouth (neat): fat and sweet, with a leathery background. I find molasses, blackberry jam, some welcome notes of bitter oranges, then a little Demerara sugar and, funnily, hints of pineapple flambéed. With water: once again, its leathery side stands out. Cinnamon, coriander… Finish: quite long, well balanced, with orange zests and tobacco. Grassier aftertaste, with hints of sugar cane. Wood smoke again. Comments: the sherry does not dominate – I mean, not totally. Very very good, I think, if maybe a little raw. –Ish. SGP:652 - 86 points.

While we are at it…

Mortlach 16 yo 1992/2009 (57.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 263 bottles)

Mortlach 16 yo 1992/2009 (57.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 263 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: more US oak influence in this one, with toasted bread and brioche, shortbread, cappuccino, custard… Whiffs of newly sawn oak as well, apple compote, a touch of leather… Had the hogshead been re-scratched? Or was it first fill? I also find hints of papayas. A gentler Mortlach. With water: strange-ish. Sour cream, leaven, not quite gym socks, but we’re getting there… Socks or no socks, I’m not sure this baby swims well. Mouth (neat): strong, with a little varnish, then bonbons and marshmallows, then green tea and lemon. A wee bit spirity, perhaps. With water: better, but still a little unlikely. Sour wine, artisan mead… Finish: medium, a little bizarre indeed. Jell-O made with dry white wine instead of water, or something like that. Comments: a funny one, that’s all I’ll say. SGP:461 - 77 points.

There’s only one remedy…

Mortlach 26 yo 1988/2015 (56.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, butt)

Mortlach 26 yo 1988/2015 (56.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, butt) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: there, this is a more traditional Mortlach (in a way), starting leathery, full of walnuts, and a tad sulphury (used matches, gunpowder). It’s quite ashy as well, and really very meaty. Smoked beef stands out. I also find some herbalness, around fruit stems, as well as a little cough medicine. A big old-school Mortlach! With water: more beef, cold cuts, parsley, even shallot… Plus pipe tobacco and, indeed, leather. Totally ‘Mortlach’. Mouth (neat): indeed, a super-beefy one. Can you season some beef stock with Grand-Marnier? And leather powder? I’d say this is not for everyone, but experienced malt enthusiasts may find a kind of… authenticity to this. With water: more bouillon, plus chestnut honey. If you never tried chestnut honey, please do, it’s hidden in many malt whiskies, you’ll see. Finish: long, a tad sweeter and jammier, but there’s some ginger and there’s some leather. And walnut wine. Comments: it’s obviously very cool to find a Mortlach that doesn’t taste like Glenfiddich or Cardhu (yeah or Rosebank). But once again, a word of caution, this is maybe not for the casual whisky lover. Me, I quite love. SGP:562 - 88 points.

A very last one, one that we’ll select because it comes from a city that’s been very important to us whisky lovers. And that wouldn’t be Elgin, Dufftown, or even Bowmore, because it’s… Limburg, baby!

Mortlach 17 yo 1991/2008 (56.6%, Villa Konthor, Limburg, sherry)

Mortlach 17 yo 1991/2008 (56.6%, Villa Konthor, Limburg, sherry) Two stars and a half The Villa Konthor is one of the places where ‘some things happen’ during Limburg’s Whisky Fair. By the way, the WF crew (well, that’s me) should attend Limburg again this year, see you there? Colour: gold. Nose: well, it’s a fairly wacky one, with gunpowder, cabbage, and truffles to boot. Concrete and clay as well, coal smoke, Brussels sprouts… And plenty of leather. Particular, as they say, and time wouldn’t change much to the situation. With water: as usual, water only makes things more… obvious. Old tools, sulphur, leather, lemon juice, patchouli, cigars. Mouth (neat): beefy, leathery, gingery, peppery, marmalade-y. Not the easiest ever, I’d say. With water: improves a lot! Bitter oranges, ginger liqueur, cinchona, marmalade… The butterfly's coming out of his cocoon, but that’s a little late… Finish: long, good, on citrus and leather, with pickled ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: this little baby’s got its good sides, but others were a little difficult IMHO. Bah, I’m sure we’ll find much better Mortlachs at this year’s Limburg Whiskyfair. SGP:562 - 78 points.

We’ve tried thirty Mortlachs, unless my math’s wrong. That’s fair, that’s fair… But we’ll have more around spring! BTW, the clear winner has been the 1989 by Silver Seal. That doesn’t surprise me one bit, well done, Massimo!

(Many thanks David, Mark, Max, Michel, Ron, Tomislav, and other friends)

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



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February 4, 2016


The Mortlach week, Thursday

This is well Thursday, isn’t it?

Mortlach 1998/2012 (56.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #3798)

Mortlach 1998/2012 (56.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #3798) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: there, Mortlach’s waxy, sooty, mineral and grassy side, with even these medicinal notes that we had found in one or two others. Iodine, benzoin, grapefruits, plasticine… This one’s very ‘Mortlach’. With water: sawdust and varnish. The oak wasn’t lazy. Mouth (neat): perfect, spicy and almost smoky, with a thick mouth feel and plenty of tropical fruits. The vanilla may have gotten a little too loud (and so did the coconutty lactones), but on the other hand, this baby’s extremely satisfying. Top notch stuff. With water: very very good. Water did not make it over-US-oaky this time, even if there might be a little too much sugariness for my taste. Nitpicking now. Finish: medium, on tangerine jam and almond oil. Comments: this baby may have seen some rejuvenated US oak at some point. And that worked. SGP:551 - 87 points.

It would be nice to find a totally naked young Mortlach… Oh, maybe this one…

Mortlach 8 yo 1987/1995 (61.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, USA)

Mortlach 8 yo 1987/1995 (61.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, USA) Four stars From an oak cask, naturally. Good to know. It’s absolutely fab that Cadenhead would have bottled just ‘anything’ at that time, such as hyper-young immature malt whiskies. What a library of authentic Scottish distillates! We’ll soon have one of those 8 yo Saint Magdalenes, I can’t wait. Right, digressing again…  Colour: white wine. Nose: strong. Me feel lemon drops and wood varnish. With water: rocks, clay, chalk, graphite oil, grass… Mouth (neat): extraordinary spirit. Citrus everywhere, and a sharpness that reminds me of Otto Herschmann, an Austrian sabreur, who won silver medal in sabre team competition in 1912’s Olympics (S., this is so despicable…) With water: I would swear I’m feeling Wee Witchie’s work. It’s not easy, there’s an herbal fatness that’s a little difficult, but the mineral grapefruits are rather extraordinary. If that exists. Finish: long, ultra-sharp, and mega-oily. It’s almost got the texture of oil. Comments: very intellectual. Meaning you do not quite get everything, but you know it’s authentic. As for the score, let’s be serious… Oh and I find it funny that someone in Aberdeen (wasn’t it Campbeltown already?) had decided that this was a cask for good old America. SGP:462 - 86 points.

Mortlach 23 yo 1988/2012 (56.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, refill sherry butt, cask #4741, 562 bottles)

Mortlach 23 yo 1988/2012 (56.6%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, refill sherry butt, cask #4741, 562 bottles) Three stars Colour: bronze, which is bizarre. Nose: good, that’s the problem with our feeble minds, I cannot not think of Black Adder, hence of Baldrick, and I just cannot help finding notes of cooked turnip in this. I really do. Even celeriac, salsify, and beetroots, imagine. How bad is that, meelord? Seriously, this is very wacky, there’s even truffles and cabbage. No I won’t use the S word. With water: gunpowder and struck matches. Need I say more? Mouth (neat): awww, this is superb. Lemon liqueur, ginger, creamy honey, mandarin jam, Banyuls, rancio, amaretto, tobacco, Grisons meat, or beef jerky… This was some cask! And some spirit! With water: amazing. Bitter oranges, smoky tea, tobacco, marmalade… Finish: long, leafier and grassier. Comments: I knew this would happen, eventually. Hated the sulphury nose, absolutely adored the meaty/mineral palate. Now, go score this… SGP:472 – 82.5 points (no we don’t do halves, and never will, but that’s just an average, 75 for the nose, 90 for the palate. I know, a very stupid way of scoring whisky, but for once…)

That one was a bit tiring, I have to say.  Better stop right now and do a last big fat Mortlach session tomorrow. If you don’t mind… 

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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February 3, 2016


The Mortlach week, Wednesday

We’re simply going on, okay… And we’ll start this sub-session with an old one at light strength…

Mortlach 21 yo (40%, Sestante, +/-1990)

Mortlach 21 yo (40%, Sestante, +/-1990) Three stars With the famous and oh-so charming ‘Highlander’ label. When I tried last time it was dead so I did not take any proper notes. Colour: gold. Nose: unusual, to say the least. Starts with plenty of olive oil, goes then towards old books, or cardboard, and lastly, a lot of ‘artificial’ orange juice, ala Fanta. Not much Mortlachness to be had this time, but let’s dig deeper… Mouth: no, this is Mortlach. A tad acrid, with some lemon, grapefruits, then quite some sawdust and white pepper, this mineral side, and a small touch of, say salted candle wax. I know. I find this good, and pleasantly ‘old school’. The low strength is a problem, though. Finish: a bit short, unexpectedly salty. The olive oil is back in the aftertaste. Candy sugar. Comments: frankly better than I remembered it, but the 40% vol. represent a handicap. SGP:452 - 82 points.

Mortlach 14 yo 1997/2011 (57.7%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon)

Mortlach 14 yo 1997/2011 (57.7%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: another clean, fresh, Mortlach au naturel, but this one’s fruitier and a little lighter than others, without much sooty/metallic/meatiness. Barley syrup, apples, white peaches, a few lactones… So it’s a little less ‘Mortlach’ than others, and could be a neighbour. With water: same feeling. The oak comes out. Mouth (neat): very fresh, and very lemony, bright and zesty, with plenty of grass beyond that. Gooseberries, pineapple jelly, a touch of salty liquorice. With water: it became fatter, even fruitier, and better. Some thickish fruit syrup with a spicy background. White pepper. Finish: medium, rather on pink grapefruits this time – this is very vivid. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: this one loves water on the palate. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Mortlach 13 yo 1988/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #2638, 948 bottles)

Mortlach 13 yo 1988/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #2638, 948 bottles) one star and a half Another one that I tried before, while not taking any notes. I think it’s difficult… Colour: straw. Nose: yeah, it’s rather butyric, sourish, almost acetic, with notes of cheap white Bordeaux and quite some bubblegum. It tends to improve though, as more fruits come out, especially tinned ones. Peaches, pears, apricots… Mouth: starts well, fruity and grassy, but the oak makes it bitter, gingery, and almost plankish. As shame, because the distillate had something to tell us, but it’s as if watering it down kind of made it disjointed, or something like that. And that revealed some kind of drying tannins as well. Finish: medium, oaky, and drying. Comments: pass. But this range used to be very, very fairly priced, so strictly nothing to complain about. I guess others would have done a finishing on this baby. SGP:352 - 69 points.

More pawah please…

Mortlach 10yo 1989/2000 (57.2%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)

Mortlach 10yo 1989/2000 (57.2%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection) Four stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: we all know that Mortlach and sherry can tango to perfection. Well, this one kind of does, with plenty of cured ham, pipe tobacco, black raisins, and of course old walnuts. Mortlach’s mineral side keeps singing in the background, like if you nosed some rock after a rain. Some pitch as well. With water: becomes a tad bizarre, but all for the better. Did this baby age in a balsamico cellar somewhere in Modena? Plenty of parsley and yes, old balsamic vinegar. Mouth (neat): it’s a bit extreme, to tell you the truth, but it is spectacular. Take Fernet-Branca, add tar liqueur, add some tiger balm or something, add hyper-concentrated black tea, and add slices of bacon, congrats, you’ve come up with this. Thick mouth feel. With water: more of all that, plus bitter oranges. Finish: extremely long, as if you had quaffed… indeed, old balsamic vinegar. Comments: certainly not for the fainthearted, as they say in black death metal. Ha, the Italians! SGP:462 - 89 points.

Mortlach 1993/2011 (56.6%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry octave, cask #796872)

Mortlach 1993/2011 (56.6%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry octave, cask #796872) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: another ‘natural’ one, but it’s got more mineral and waxy notes than the ‘The Whisky Cask’. So, in a sense, this is more ‘Mortlach’. I’m glad that the octave (not a fan, usually) did not impart too many oaky tones. Green apples and paraffin, soot, cut grass. With water: no, there is some dry oak, but since the spirit’s fairly big, that won’t matter much. Mouth (neat): a sharp lemony one, very grassy, with many herbs. This is almost Unicum ;-). Like that. With water: water brings more oak out, as well as earthy notes and a little salt. Not sure the salt comes from the wee cask. Finish: rather long, on green fruits and herbs. Rhubarb, lime, and green pepper, if you like. Comments: really, I’m not a fan of these octaves, but this one didn’t fail. Bah, as long as they’re not using oak chips… SGP:571 - 81 points.

… and he wouldn’t give up…

Mortlach 1993/2011 (51.2%, Duncan Taylor for Men O'Quaich, sherry octave, cask #796864)

Mortlach 1993/2011 (51.2%, Duncan Taylor for Men O'Quaich, sherry octave, cask #796864) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: something else, and that’s the sherry. Raisins, milk chocolate, praline, some light pipe tobacco (not the heavy black stuff)… While Mortlach’s fattish/mineral profile’s singing in the background. Not unpleasant, this! With water:  a bit more sand and earth, a bit more cardboard and sawdust. Not water’s best friend ever (that would be pastis!) Mouth (neat): praline and smoky halva! That’s the wee cask, and indeed it reminds me of some super-young American craft whiskies. In theory, I shouldn’t like this. In practice, I do. How bad is that, Doctor? Ginger cookie, pumpernickel, speculoos, caraway liqueur… All that. With water: swims better on the palate. Creamy marzipan, chocolate, almond oil, vanilla oil (should that exist), and wood smoke. Finish: rather long, oily, marzipany. Comments: oh I hate it that I like this! SGP:462 - 87 points.

Let’s leave it at that. Two more Mortlach sessions to go…

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



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February 2, 2016


The Mortlach week, Tuesday

More Mortlach, this time at higher strength (sometimes), and of higher ages (sometimes). But first, a little apéritif at low strength…

Mortlach 14 yo 1995/2010 (43%, Chieftain’s, butt, cask #7279, 870 bottles)

Mortlach 14 yo 1995/2010 (43%, Chieftain’s, butt, cask #7279, 870 bottles) Three starsThat’s what’s cool with a low strength, you may draw many bottles out of a single butt. Colour: gold. Nose: more like the official Old and Rare (so young and quite common ;-)), that is to say pretty leathery, ale-y, chalky, a bit sour, possibly thanks to the sherry. Some bitter oranges. May lack a little more focus. Mouth: oranges, maple syrup, a touch of mustard, some leather, some raisins, some walnuts. No more, no less. Drinks well, partly thanks to the very approachable strength. Finish: not that short, more or less all on bitter oranges. Comments: very fair, not lacking of any Mortlachness. An excellent introduction, I’d say. SGP:551 - 82 points.

Mortlach 13 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Silver Seal, 270 bottles)

Mortlach 13 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Silver Seal, 270 bottles) Four stars and a half From when Silver Seal’s labels were a little less baroque – who said rococo? - than they are today. But I love baroque! Colour: amber. Nose: it’s almost like if they had bought palettes of the old Flora and Fauna and re-bottled it. Of course I’m joking, but this is all on meaty and mineral sherry, with some gunpowder and plenty of bitter chocolate, cocoa powder, and walnut wine. And let’s not forget cigars. Mouth: we’re sipping old oloroso at high strength. Touches of mustard and bags of old walnuts. All we’re missing is a large plate of fresh water prawns straight from the Guadalquivir. I find it very excellent. Finish: long, with a little balsamico, more walnuts, some bitter oranges (Seville, of course), and plenty of tobacco. Salty aftertaste. Comments: a great bottling, this is textbook oloroso-ed Mortlach. Now, go find this one… sob sob sob… SGP:462 - 89 points.

You just cannot have a bunch of Mortlach without trying some G&M, can you…

Mortlach 15 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, +/-1995)

Mortlach 15 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, +/-1995) Two stars and a half Just checked, I’ve never written any tasting notes for this famous baby. Shame on me. This is still the version that was saying ‘rare old Highland Malt’, not ‘Speyside’. Colour: gold. Nose: oh lovely. Tobacco, dandelions, a very mild metallic/earthy side, some roasted nuts, a slice of Spanish ham (whatever), some honey, roasted chestnuts, some toffee, chocolate, coffee… Everything’s pretty perfect, especially balance and complexity. Mouth: a little wacky, but that’s an asset. Tin, coins, cigars, bitter chocolate, dry malt (some kind of strange beverage that our very good friends the English would drink), and then litres and litres of walnut wine. Only the body’s a little thin, but that’s the low strength. Finish: a little short but the flavours are perfect, from salty mustard to walnuts and bitter chocolate. Sadly, the aftertaste is difficult, cardboardy and drying. Stale orange juice. Comments: everything was just perfect, till the rather terrible aftertaste. It lost a good ten points there. Now, they also had versions at high strength. SGP:362 - 78 points.

Mortlach 18 yo 1990/2008 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, butt, cask #5961)

Mortlach 18 yo 1990/2008 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, butt, cask #5961) Two stars and a half Not first fill, according to the colour. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this time, it’s a medicinal one. Bandages, embrocations, Band-Aid, then chalk, sour cream, flints, raw barley, beach sand… So clearly a different Mortlach, but I have to say I have a soft spot for these kinds of styles. Mouth: ex-cel-lent. Where else would you find Brussels sprout? I mean, in which whisky? I know what you’re thinking, ‘that is sulphur’. Perhaps it is, but it’s a funny baby. Chalk, ginger, paper, tequila blanco (blanca?), lemon juice… Finish: quite long, with some Schweppes, some kind of Brussels sprout liqueur that a dissident monk would have made somewhere in the northern wet plains, and drops of bitter orange liqueur. Comments: a lot of fun in this wacky baby. I’m trying hard, but it’s just impossible to give it more than… SGP:352 - 79 points.

Mortlach 1989/2010 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask # 5141)

Mortlach 1989/2010 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask # 5141) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it’s one of the ‘smoky’ ones, on the verge of being sulphury, without being sulphury, I’m sure you see what I mean. There’s plenty of chalk, soot, and saltpetre, plus a lot of leather and walnuts, with this medicinal side again in the background. That’s right, bandages. As they say in Sundance, the jury’s still out…  Mouth: great! Leather, waxes, bitter apples, eucalyptus, perhaps a little Swiss cheese (genuine Gruyère, not the utter junk they sell us in supermarkets), and plenty of walnut liqueur. This, is pretty perfect, provided you’re into salty/wacky sides in your whisky. Finish: long, more leathery and more gingery. Good sulphur, even a little plastic. Very Mortlach. Comments: one to drink with a fondue savoyarde! Very well done, Doug and BB&R (yeah I know, I’m late…) P.S. not everyone would enjoy this. SGP:372 - 88 points.

Speaking of dear Doug…

Mortlach 1982/2002 (46%, Dundeil Selection, cask #4167)

Mortlach 1982/2002 (46%, Dundeil Selection, cask #4167) Five starsSome ‘devilishly good whisky’ according to the label. But the devil is in the detail… Colour: straw. Nose: chalk, mud, clay, bandages, aspirin tablets, hay, paraffin, plasticine, lemon juice, menthol cigarettes (mums’ Kools)… What’s not to like? ;-) Mouth: some high-expression Mortlach, with magnificent notes of grapefruits and lemon juice (I know a small village in Corsica, named San Antoninu, where they make the best lemon juice in the world – even if they haven’t really gotten any lemon trees, but that’s Corsica.) Deliciously waxy ala early 1980s Clynelish, with a fatness that’s kind of light, and an unexpected saltiness. Coastal Mortlach… mmm… maybe have they stored the barrel at Lagavulin? Okay, okay… Finish: long, very waxy, orangey, kind of phenolic and peaty. Comments: bang, our first 90. Some superlative middle-aged Mortlach, without any obvious traces of oak – which is the whole spiel with malt whisky, if you ask me, and that’s why so many modern malt whiskies are so… say mundane. SGP:463 - 90 points.

Perhaps another older Silver Seal…

Mortlach 13 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Silver Seal, 353 bottles)

Mortlach 13 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Silver Seal, 353 bottles) Four stars and a half The one with the fox. Foxes will always remind me of the original Thin Lizzy (not the current line-up, saw them three years ago, was appalling). Colour: amber. Nose: almost the same whisky as the previous 1997 by Silver Seal, just lighter, and more ‘refill’. Which makes it earthier and kind of more mineral, and rather less chocolaty and cigary. Fine. Mouth: goody good. Oranges, a drier Cointreau, a touch of cough syrup, some tobacco and leather as usual, and then more and more bitter oranges. It’s a fresh and clean one – given that this is sherry – and it even tends to become very lemony. Finish: long, unusually zesty, almost sauvignony. Wine freaks would call it ‘Sancerre-y’. I agree, bl**dy wine freaks. Quite curiously, the aftertaste is fatter again, almost honey-like. Mysteries mysteries. Comments: top notch stuff. For the Italians again, this is becoming kind of unfair. SGP:461 - 88 points.

A last one – but we’ll have many more Mortlachs tomorrow…

Mortlach 21 yo (46%, Duthies, sherry wood, +/-2010)

Mortlach 21 yo (46%, Duthies, sherry wood, +/-2010) Three stars and a half From Cadenhead’s now discontinued Duthies range. A big name amongst hardcore whisky enthusiasts, but there, there are thirty-seven of us. Okay, one hundred. Two hundreds? Colour: gold. Nose: very Mortlach-sulphury. Plenty of plasticine, sour dough, cooked cabbage, public pool, damp peat (not burned – yes that smells of something), and fresh baguette. You see what I mean. Mouth: forget about sulphur! This is definitely no nosing whisky, but on the palate, it does deliver. It delivers grapefruits, linseed oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, plasticine, grape pip oil… And all that. The strength is perfect, drop the pipettes, this is a new life! (S., eh?) Finish: rather long and, dare I say, fairly Springbanky. Duthie/Cadenhead, may we see your bond book? The aftertaste is curiously fizzy. Schweppes-Lemon. Comments: a cruel dilemma, as Frank Zappa used to say when in front of a Stratocaster. Some charming flaws… SGP:462 - 84 points.

Mortlach fans, stay tuned…

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



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February 1, 2016


The Mortlach week

Something that may have never been done before, one different Mortlach session every day, for the whole week. That should make for thirty, perhaps forty, or even fifty different Mortlachs within this week, we’ll see. Good luck to us all! So…

The Mortlach week, Monday

That’s one of the problems with NAS whiskies, you can’t quite add them to a vertical tasting session. I mean, you can, but where would you put them? The taster’s actually forced to assume that they’re 3 yo, so to have them first, unless ‘something’ says otherwise. Not quite so with Mortlach’s ‘Rare Old’ version, which we’ve already tried two years ago, when the first batch came out. So we’ll have it first, and then, have a bunch of other Mortlachs at random. Mind you, we’ve got many dozens to taste…

Mortlach 'Rare Old' (43.4%, OB, 50cl, +/-2015)

Mortlach 'Rare Old' (43.4%, OB, 50cl, +/-2015) Three stars A controversial bottling when it came out, because it’s bottled at 50cl, because of the lack of age statement, because of the slightly pushy packaging, and because of the price, but it seems that it’s slowly gone off the radar since back then. Colour: orangey gold. Nose: starts with leather, bitter oranges, and Mortlach’s trademark meatiness – but that would rather be ham. After that, rather youngish notes of plum eau-de-vie and flint, coffee, as well as yeasty touches that suggest youth. A little earth as well, beer… I find it rather different. Mouth: I like it a little better on the palate. Leather again, chestnuts, orange zests, something slightly sour (lemon juice?), and a little mead and mustard. Then a little metal, some bacon, and a little leaven. It’s a little rough, but that may be an asset. Finish: medium, with some kind of sour honey, more leather, and certainly more malt. A metallic/salty touch in the aftertaste, as well as Seville oranges, pepper, and caramel. Comments: rather rustic and robust. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Mortlach 1995/2014 'Stem Ginger Preserve' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 303 bottles)

Mortlach 1995/2014 'Stem Ginger Preserve' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 303 bottles) Four starsColour: straw. Nose: it’s the Rare Old with less oak, so with more freshness and more fruits. More my style, with hints of tiger balm, green bananas, old coins, limestone, cigarette tobacco, and only far in the distance, a little ham. So, this one’s globally much cleaner. Mouth: same comments. More lemon, grapefruits, even kiwis, plus touches of vanilla and coconut. The whole works perfectly well, its one of the fresher Mortlachs. Finish: long, very zesty. Very very zesty for Mortlach. Mineral aftertaste (chalk). Comments: I’m a fan of this style that let’s the distillate speak out. Really excellent. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Mortlach 12 yo 1998/2010 (43%, Dun Bheagan, sherry hogsheads, casks #10188/10189, 810 bottles)

Mortlach 12 yo 1998/2010 (43%, Dun Bheagan, sherry hogsheads, casks #10188/10189, 810 bottles) Three stars Long time no Dun Bheagan! Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s well a Mortlach, with these leathery, bacony, and mineral notes, but it’s also got walnuts, possibly from the sherry, as well as touches of honey vinegar and brown ale. Mouth: good, easy, lacking a part of the great definition that the Wemyss had, but it’s got these touches of mustard, then dried fruits such as raisins and dates. Sulphur-like hints, oranges, more leather… Good body given the low strength. Finish: medium, with more ginger, leather, and oranges. Comments: we’re closer to the Rare Old. Very similar profiles and overall quality. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Mortlach 14 yo 1997/2011 (46%, Murray McDavid, Château d'Yquem finish, 400 bottles)

Mortlach 14 yo 1997/2011 (46%, Murray McDavid, Château d'Yquem finish, 400 bottles) Three stars This baby from MMcD’s most emblematic ‘ace-ing’ period. Colour: gold. Nose: the famous Sauternes does the talking here, even a bold distillate such as Mortlach doesn’t have much to say in this context. Or rather, it does, but only after honey, ripe apricots, and mirabelle jam have spoken. Quite some fudge too. Mouth: really sweet and jammy. I was afraid the spirit’s natural sulphury side and the barrel’s burnt sulphur would have combined and created a monster. Not so, in fact, but we known that they’ve learnt that ‘sweet’ barriques ought to be rinsed in and out before filling them with whisky. Mortlach’s leather roars beyond the plums and honey. Finish: medium, a touch gingery, leathery, peppery… But all that is coated with raisins. Muscadelle, I suppose? Comments: one that worked pretty well. SGP:651 - 82 points.

Let’s see what else we can find (at low strength)…

Mortlach (40%, OB, 75cl, +/-1980)

Mortlach (40%, OB, 75cl, +/-1980) Four stars This baby from the last time Mortlach was sold as a single malt by its owners (beyond the Flora and Fauna or Rare Malts ranges). Colour: pale white wine (hurray!) Nose: you have to like this style, but if you do, you’re in for a treat. Indeed, this is full of paraffin, ink, waxes, old newspapers, sulphur (real sulphur), and then cured ham. On top of all that, a few yellow flowers, such as dandelions. Great nose, very concise and clean. Mouth: the low strength is a problem with this profile, because it makes it a little too cardboardy and dry. Not the first time I’m trying this whisky, I’ve always experienced this. But the core is pretty perfect, with waxy and inky lemons that would kind of hint at the old Inverness distilleries, rather than at classic Speyside. Finish: medium, ultra-dry. Damp papers, flour, soot, more ink, citrons and grapefruits… Comments: a totally un-modern style, really worth trying if you never did. SGP:362 - 86 points.

Mortlach 14 yo 1998/2013 (46%, The Maltman, bourbon cask, cask #10998, 376 bottles)

Mortlach 14 yo 1998/2013 (46%, The Maltman, bourbon cask, cask #10998, 376 bottles) Three stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: sweeter, fruitier, gentler, with tangerines, nectar, light honey, vanilla fudge, beeswax… It’s rather un-Mortlach, and quite Glenmorangie-ish, how bizarre. Nice nose, though… Mouth: more body this time, more sooty acridness, more grassy tobacco, more leather… In short, more Mortlach. A good, solid Mortlach. Overripe apples, acacia honey, a little green tea, also. Finish: medium, with some ginger and chalk, then vanilla and apple juice. The bourbon wood may have smoothened it up a bit. Comments: goody good, that’s all I can say. Apologies. SGP:451 - 83 points.

A last one today, perhaps. We’ll have many more Mortlach very soon...

Mortlach 18 yo (43.4%, OB, 50cl, +/-2015)

Mortlach 18 yo (43.4%, OB, 50cl, +/-2015) Four stars Really liked it the first time I tried it. Colour: gold orange. In my experience, orange hues and a kind of evenness always imply that caramel’s been added. Nose: the oak feels more (warm sawdust – all OBs have that these days), but there are also lovely notes of praline, chocolate, mushrooms, chalk, cigars, sandalwood, espresso… All that really works. Mouth: despite the drying oak that feels a bit too much for my taste, this cigary, herbal, liqueury, tarry, and waxy combination really works. Goes on with raisins, prunes, drops of date arak, speculoos, mocha (plus Schnapps!), bitter chocolate… It is a characterful malt, which is obviously great. Finish: rather long, this time more on leather again, green tobacco, coffee beans, bitter oranges, more bitter chocolate… Comments: a relatively dry one, but I guess that’s what Mortlach is all about. Right up my alley (despite the oak that§ feels a bit). SGP:352 - 87 points.

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



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January 2016 - part 2 <--- February 2016 - part 1 ---> February 2016 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Benromach 35 yo (43%, OB, 2016)

Bruichladdich 22 yo 1991/2014 (55.9%, Anam na h-Alba, bourbon hogshead)

Chivas Regal 25 yo (OB, blend, 113cl, +/-1915)

Fifesay 10 yo (20 U.P., OB, bottled 1920s)

Grant's 'Liqueur Scotch Whisky' (OB, blend, early 1930s)

King’s Legend ‘Old Special’ (OB, Ainslie & Heilbron, blend, spring cap, +/-1955)

Mortlach 1982/2002 (46%, Dundeil Selection, cask #4167)

Mortlach 25 yo 1989/2015 (52.4%, Silver Seal, cask #3911, 480 bottles)

Old Angus (OB, blend, 1930s)

Clairin Casimir ‘Batch 2’ (54%, OB, Haiti, +/-2014)