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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2017 - Part 2



February 2017 - part 1 <--- February 2017 - part 2 ---> March 2017 - part 1


February 28, 2017


Auchentoshan for better times, part deux

Only some indies this time, while wondering why, generally speaking, the indies remain closer to the original distillates that they do not make themselves, while the owners, who do, tend to bury them under oak that they do not make themselves. Are you following me?

Auchentoshan 10 yo 2001/2016 (59.2%, La Maison du Whisky, Artists #6, barrel, cask #800107)

Auchentoshan 10 yo 2001/2016 (59.2%, La Maison du Whisky, Artists #6, barrel, cask #800107) Four stars and a halfYes, sure I’ve noticed that age and vintage do not match. I suppose it’s the age that’s wrong on the bottle, this baby may well be 15 or 14 years old, but technically speaking, 10 is not wrong. Colour: straw. Nose: the first high-impact Auchie within this session that we started yesterday. An utterly perfect combination of linseed oil, olive oil, honeydew, and tangerines. Superb! (and a little surprising, I should add). With water: superb indeed. Apricots and mirabelles. Mouth (neat): amazing, we’re sitting right between some of these extravagant 1988-1991 Irish that some good indies do have these days, and some kind of peachy ex-bourbon Balvenie. Yes I’m dead serious. Some superb notes of blueberries. With water: more of all that, but it goes more towards oranges. Finish: medium, with notes of honeysuckle and beedies. Comments: certainly one of the best. Skilfully selected, this cask, but didn’t it come from Cooley’s? Just joking. SGP:641 - 89 points.

Auchentoshan 18 yo 1997/2016 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #DL11203, 278 bottles)

Auchentoshan 18 yo 1997/2016 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #DL11203, 278 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: it does have a part of that oily side that the wonderful LMdW had, but other than that, it’s classic fruity Auchentoshan, with more marshmallows than in a candy store. Jelly babies and drops of green tea, plus whiffs of crushed mint leaves. Aren’t we going towards mojitos, by any chance? Mouth: very zesty! Total lime and lemon, plus barley water and green tea. This baby would go well with gravlaks if you ask me, it’s even got the dill inside. Finish: medium, all on lemon sweets and, perhaps, peaches again. And green pears. Comments: a very well chiselled Auchentoshan. No Sancerre or riesling at home? This baby will do! SGP:551 - 86 points.

Auchentoshan 18 yo 1997/2015 (52.3%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, hogshead, cask #2909, 247 bottles)

Auchentoshan 18 yo 1997/2015 (52.3%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, hogshead, cask #2909, 247 bottles) Four stars Blackadder had a very good Auchentoshan 1991 three years ago. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re clearly going towards bourbon this time, with a little fresh varnish, then vanilla, Virginia tobacco, bits of natural rubber, and a good chunk of banana cake with a little grated coconut. Some raisins as well, which rather suggests a bourbony sherry this time, but yeah, it’s a hogshead. With water: whiffs of leather cream and more tobacco. Perhaps ale. Mouth (neat): excellent, and it even goes towards rum this time. Such a versatile spirit! Think Cuba’s excellent Santiago (perhaps the only interesting Cuban rum if you ask me). With water: very good, on oils and tobaccos from the cask (because those are hardly to be found in Auchentoshan’s distillate, even after many years). Finish: long, herbal, leafy, almost resinous. Comments: I guess the hogshead had been rejuvenated or something, hence the bourbony feel. Excellent. SGP:461 - 87 points.

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



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February 27, 2017


Please do not shamelessly and systematically copy-and-paste whole sets of tasting notes and scores to other websites such as Whiskybase or else. That is highly damaging. Thank you mucho.

Addendum: I know some have been wondering why I posted that request. That’s because while I’m perfectly fine with anyone, including forumites, bloggers, distillers, bottlers and retailers republishing my humble notes, or of course excerpts and scores, I’ve noticed a new trend here and there that consists in just plundering everything as soon as I publish something new, thus simply mirroring WF, without even adding a link (not even a simple link to the home page, which would be just fine).


What’s more, our friends sometimes do that on websites that are commercial or half-commercial, while WF has never, ever, asked for one single penny from anyone, and systematically refuses any advertising, paid gigs, affiliation or else. We’re not in bed with any commercial entity. And then, there’s google. First, google hates duplicate content, and since WF is and will remain very low-tech, and since copying now happens almost instantly everyday, it’s WF that gets penalised more and more (but should I really care? Not too sure…) What’s more, since some of the websites that harbour the friendly copycats are highly SEO-ised, whenever an enthusiast is looking for my own opinions (I know, weird behaviours), it’s them that are starting to get all the hits - and the ad money or sales that I don’t want myself. Maybe I should just not care, and I usually don’t indeed, but quite bizarrely, I’m starting to find all this quite discouraging and, shall I add, slightly unethical, even if that's often done in good faith and without any agenda. Now, I insist, it’s only when all that is done systematically and without a simple link that I’m bothered. Keyword, sy-ste-ma-ti-cal-ly ;-). Dozens or even hundreds are fine. Thanks for your understanding my friend, and let’s dram on for a wee while…
PS: no hard feelings on both sides, I hope!


Auchentoshan for better times

Spring’s around the corner (quite) trees are in bloom (quite) and birds are signing (they do). Time for some refreshing Auchentoshan! (S., that was your lousiest intro ever). 

Auchentoshan 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Auchentoshan 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars Naturally, this was triple distilled and then fully matured in bourbon casks. When I last tried the 18 in 2008 (already!) I had thought it felt a little ‘wood-treated’ (WF 83). Colour: gold. Nose: light and fresh, as expected, with plenty of bubblegum and packs of jelly babies at first, then more freshish oak, vanilla, sawdust, ginger and soft curry... As well as touches of peaches and lemon drops, and a clear bourbony side. I quite like this fruity lightness, despite the oak that feels. Mouth: really light, with that usual Irish side that’s to be found in many an Auchentoshan, then oranges and mandarins, as well as cloves, speculoos and ginger from the oak. Some caraway and nutmeg too. Finish: rather short, leafier, more tea-ish. Comments: this baby may need a good fifteen years of bottle aging to become better integrated. It sure is very good, but it does feel a little too ‘oaked’ for me, given the lightness of the distillate. SGP:541 - 82 points.

Oak, he said…

Auchentoshan ‘Blood Oak’ (46%, OB, travel retail, +/-2016)

Auchentoshan ‘Blood Oak’ (46%, OB, travel retail, +/-2016) Two stars and a half No, no, not ‘bloody oak’, the name blood oak refers to the fact that red wine casks have been used. No age statement that I can spot. This baby comes straight from those major downers that airport shops have become these days. Colour: deep gold, a bit rosé. Nose: some mildly spicy oak, some vanilla, some ginger and caraway, and hints of cherry-flavoured pipe tobacco. Borkum Riff ans such. Mouth: not my kind, as expected. Big oak spices, bitter cherries again, cloves, a few drops of raspberry liqueur, flavoured teas, mulled wine… The flavouring rather feels too much for me. Finish: medium, leafy, tea-ish. Spicy raspberry jelly. Comments: never been a sucker for red wine flavouri… I mean, finishing. Now, it was not badly made, at all. SGP:651 - 78 points.

More nature please…

Auchentoshan 1998/2016 ‘Pear Crème’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 259 bottles)

Auchentoshan 1998/2016 ‘Pear Crème’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 259 bottles) Two stars and a half I have enjoyed some earlier 1998 Auchentoshans by Wemyss better than others (I’m not kidding!) Colour: white wine. Nose: crisp, on tart fruits and chalk. Green apples, green pears indeed, lime, and yeah, chalk. Rather not unpleasant, this, but it’s very summery. Also kiwis. Mouth: same feeling. Starts a little thin and bubblegumy, with indeed pears (sweets and syrups), then a slightly chalky green oak, with some white pepper. Ginger ale? It’s a rather narrow distillate, but it’s not unpleasant, just not very remarkable, in my humble opinion. Finish: short, on some kind of mildly peppered pear syrup. Comments: one of the very few series of casks by Wemyss that I do not totally enjoy. SGP:551 - 79 points.

Auchentoshan 21 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Auchentoshan 21 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars From a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. I have to say I had enjoyed the 21 a lot when I last tried it, but that was in 2008 (WF 87). By the way they have it at Amazon’s, where it’s described as an English product. I guess they’re too busy dealing with fine-tuning their stupid delivery drones a.k.a. the pigeon killers. Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, miles above the 18. Nice malty and cake-y start, with some butterscotch and various brioches and croissants, then notes of panettone, Danish, streusel, and kugelhopf. In other words, a totally European malt whisky, so there, it just couldn’t be English. Mouth: very good indeed, even if a spicy oakiness came to the front a little too much. Raisins, various herbal teas (rosehip, perhaps thyme), gooseberries, mead, greengages… No, it’s really good, just a little light(ish). Must be the low strength a.k.a. 20th century strength. Finish: a little short, but clean, and cake-y. Honey-and-ginger biscuits. Comments: no complains, this is very good, and quite profound. But why do they bottle their NAS travel oddities at 46% vol., and this rather perfect properly aged one only at 43%? SGP:551 - 85 points.

We may try more Auchentoshans tomorrow…

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



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February 26, 2017


Un peu de rhum malternatif

Let’s see what we can find, without ceremony. Mind you, you cannot taste old Appleton every time. So, we have some French rhum on the table today…

Damoiseau 8 yo (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2016)

Damoiseau 8 yo (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2016) Three stars We’ve had Damoiseau’s Cuvée du Millénaire in 2015 and thought it was good (WF 80) but this one should be a more mundane cuvee. Not sure… It comes from Distillerie Bellevue. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s quite amazing how much pineapple we find in this nose! Added touches of earthy liquorice do complement that and make this baby very easy and attractive. Fruity and rounded, but not dull at all. Z., take that. Mouth: really good, easy yet firm, less pina-colada-ish than on the nose, yet smooth, yet fresh… No, it’s really good, even if it won’t make you scratch your head. Fine oak spices, perhaps a wee slice of banana pie, a little cinnamon… All that is well integrated. Finish: medium, rather more cane-y, which is obviously nice. A little salt in the aftertaste. Comments: another session that started well. A great example of an easy agricole. SGP:641 - 82 points.

Let’s hop to…

La Favorite ‘Coeur de Rhum’ (40%, OB, La Martinique, agricole, +/-2016)

La Favorite ‘Coeur de Rhum’ (40%, OB, La Martinique, agricole, +/-2016) Two stars and a half La Favorite are relatively secretive when it comes to ‘how they make their rhums’ but the small distillery’s got an excellent reputation. This baby’s said to be around four or five years old. Colour: dark amber. Nose: very fragrant, with many more flowers than in the Damoiseau, but also some coffee and burnt sugar. Whiffs of cedar wood, as well as a molassy side – and yet this is well agricole. A pack of liquorice. Mouth: starts earthy, gets then very liquoricy, extremely liquoricy, hugely liquoricy… Well, we’re just having all the liquorice from the pack we had just opened. In some way, this is to la Martinique what the 105 is to Glenfarclas. Minus the high strength. Finish: long and, you guessed it, very liquoricy. The cedar wood is back in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, but perhaps a little monolithic. SGP:651 - 78 points.

Saint James ‘Fleur de Canne’ (42%, OB, La Martinique, agricole, +/-2016)

Saint James ‘Fleur de Canne’ (42%, OB, La Martinique, agricole, +/-2016) Three stars This one’s between 4 and 5 as well. The parallelepipedic bottle reminds us of that of Jonnie Walker (and?) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a much fresher, cleaner, more floral and fruitier rhum after the dark Favorite. Some cane juice, some oranges, tinned pineapples, perhaps touches of tinned litchis, a wee coppery side, a touch of honeysuckle… All is well in this rather elegant nose. Mouth: same flavours, it’s fresh, very cane-y, with touches of oranges, a mild spiciness, bits of zests, Jaffa cake… Indeed, all is good and well. Finish: medium, fresh, with a little more candy sugar, tobacco, café latte… Comments: a fresh, rather lovely composition. SGP:641 - 81 points.

J. Bally 3 yo (45%, OB, La Martinique, agricole, +/-2016)

J. Bally 3 yo (45%, OB, La Martinique, agricole, +/-2016) Three stars and a half What are we doing, they are getting younger and younger! This bottle is pyramidal this time, this is a very geometrical session, isn’t it. Oh and they make it at Saint James, by the way. Colour: deep gold. Nose: well, it may be young, but it rocks. Perfect caramelly and coffee-ish cane juice, dry, with an obvious floral side (broom) and these olive-y touches that, again and again, we just adore. As if hey had added a few litres of Jamaican to each cask. So it’s not all sweetness, all for the better. Mouth: really excellent. Gentian, bitter oranges, Bénédictine, cane juice, crystallised oranges, triple-sec… Fewer olives this time, and it’s probably a little sweeter than expected, but it’s a perfect distillate. And this gentian! Finish: long, rather salty, rooty, with a Cointreau-ish aftertaste. Perhaps a little sweet now, loses one or two points. Comments: only three years old and all its teeth already. SGP:652 - 84 points.

Five’s a deal, so a last one, eenie meenie… Oh yes, La Réunion!

Savanna 12 yo 2004/2016 ‘Lontan’ (64.2%, OB, La Réunion, cask #323, 721 bottles)

Savanna 12 yo 2004/2016 ‘Lontan’ (64.2%, OB, La Réunion, cask #323, 721 bottles) Four stars Ex-Cognac cask and Grand Arôme, so prolonged fermentations for more funky flavours. Hopefully. This is not agricole, it’s traditional rum, ex-molasses. The word ‘Lontan’ means ‘longtemps’ which means ‘for a long time’. Colour: amber. Nose: wahouh, as we say in France. There’s even more varnish than in Bufflao Trace’s strongest, and more black olives than in a jar of black olives. That’s the long fermentation, and believe me, it’s almost as funky as some 6 months old Worthy Park. Quite. With water: ooh! Diesel oil and crushed sardines and anchovies, plus something that I cannot seem to manage to describe, maybe something extraterrestrial… Mouth (neat): if you would excuse me… This is probably excellent, but it burns you. So, with water: there, we tamed it. Can you believe it? But what’s surprising is that it’s ridden with peaches and apricots. No, really. Jasmine tea. Perhaps ylang-ylang jelly? Yes that does exist, they have that in Madagascar. Really very funky and sometimes rather surreal, as Dali would have said. Finish: very long, and saltier. Always a great sign. Comments: if, like many a connoisseur, you believe that everything happens during fermentations, maybe you should try this baby. SGP:652 - 87 points.

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



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February 24, 2017


Please do not shamelessly and systematically copy-and-paste whole sets of tasting notes and scores to other websites such as Whiskybase or else. That is highly damaging. Thank you mucho.


Two good Glendullan

I had first thought we’d do two Singletons, but I’m not sure that would have been mathematically sound (why not, S.?) So, we have one OB and one IB on the tasting table…

The Singleton Of Glendullan ‘Master's Art’ (40%, OB, 1l)

The Singleton Of Glendullan ‘Master's Art’ (40%, OB, 1l) Three stars A very crazy NAS, former travel retail excusive, finished in muscat and priced at 150€ (for 100cl, that is). Colour: deep gold. Nose: a Danish pastry shop at 6am on a Saturday morning. Would work in other countries too. Jams and, well, pastries. Warm pastries. Mouth: good fruity and jammy arrival, not as thin as I had feared, with many ripe plums and just hints of blood oranges. Perhaps marshmallows. It’s extremely easy, we could imagine someone in London asking the Master Blender (the very excellent Maureen Robinson in this case) ‘Do us something lush and very easy for all main airports – oh and please make it very good, it’ll be very expensive’. Finish: medium, sweet, still pastry-like, with a maltier aftertaste. Comments: have I mentioned pastries and jams? SGP:541 - 82 points.

Glendullan 13 yo 2000/2014 (55.5%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection)

Glendullan 13 yo 2000/2014 (55.5%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection) Four stars Warning, this could burn a bit. Colour: pale gold. Nose: not at all. I mean, it doesn’t burn, it’s just all custard and fruit syrup, with a slightly leafy background. Some butterscotch as well, shortbread… With water: barley water and syrup! This is simply and very quintessentially (I know, back-label talk again) barleyish. Mouth (neat): it starts very creamy, and yet there’s something slightly fizzy, Fanta-like. Many sweets, marshmallows yet again, and just underneath, some slightly gingery oak. Orange-flavoured butterscotch, does that exist? Simple and good. With water: even more butterscotch, and then a good cup of earl grey tea. Finish: quite long, still simple, but quite perfect in all its simplicity. A Bauhaus whisky, in other words. Comments: did the job. Very few asperities, as we say in marketing, but strictly no flaws either. SGP:541 - 85 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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February 23, 2017


Los whiskies de la France

More and more compatriots of mine are making whisky these days. Some do it very right, using actual pot stills and proper barrels or butts, while others are just firing-up old stills that were designed for making fruit eaux-de-vie, cognac, or even armagnac, and are filling any ex-wine cask that crossed their path. Not saying one is obligatorily better than the other, but what’s sure is that I’d be hard-pressed to find any truly homogeneous ‘French style’. In fact, in France and as far as whiskies are concerned, styles are all over the place. Which, in a way, is quite ‘joyeux’, if a little ‘bordélique’. Excusez-moi madame monsieur, but we’ll do this in no particular order. Bien sûr !

Guillon ‘No.1’ (46%, OB, France, +/-2016?)

Guillon ‘No.1’ (46%, OB, France, +/-2016?) Watch this, which has been triple-matured, first in white Burgundy casks, then in Sauternes, then in Banyuls. Even Pete McPeat wouldn’t have thought about that. Guillon are located in Champagne. Now this does not seem to claim to being whisky, it’s advertised as a ‘malt-based spirit’. Not too sure why… Colour: dark amber. Nose: this is fortified wine. Raisins and ultra-ripe grapes crushed onto some bits of copper and then blended with some kind of pineapple liqueur. It’s not quite like whisky, but it’s not unpleasant. Mouth: same feeling of fortified wine, going towards PX, or indeed Banyuls. Peach jellies, mashed pumpkins, this wee metallic side (copper), and indeed bags of raisins. That goes down, but indeed it’s very unlikely. Liquorice allsorts, or what we’re calling ‘bonbons anglais’. Finish: medium, on more or less the same flavours. Plus crushed strawberries. Tends to fall apart a wee bit, perhaps… Comments: funny stuff. A Number One, perhaps not, but as they say, it has the merit of existing, even if it's not proper whisky and even if they do not seem to actually distill anything themselves. What is it? Who knows? SGP:720 - 70 points.

Armorik ‘Dervenn’ (46%, OB, France, 2016)

Armorik ‘Dervenn’ (46%, OB, France, 2016) Three stars and a half A rather rare bottle, this is single malt whisky from Brittany that was distilled at Warenghem and matured in virgin Breton oak casks made by the very last Breton cooper. It’s said to be between 4 and 5 years old. Colour: gold. Nose: some sour dough and some vanilla, muesli, cedar wood, barley water, blond tobacco, and just a little melon in the background. Melon hints at Bruichladdich in my book, and indeed this isn’t too far from some young Bruichladdich. Mouth: good, smart, well balanced, and just a wee tad oaky, but not in a bad way. Notes of liquorice wood, very obvious, some candy sugar, toasted sweet bread, and they probably threw a fistful of juniper berries into each barrel. I’m joking, but you do feel a little juniper. Good, solid body. Finish: medium, rather creamy. White chocolate and custard, plus those juniper berries. A little sawdust in the aftertaste. Comments: in fact, I say great job. I’d call it export-quality French malt whisky. No wonder, it’s ‘Dr.-Jim-Swan-inside’ whisky. SGP:541 - 84 points.

Good, you know what? I think we’ll stay in Brittany/Bretagne…

Ed Gwenn (45%, OB, France, 2016)

Ed Gwenn (45%, OB, France, 2016) Three stars This is single malt whisky from Distillerie des Menhirs, in Brittany. They’re rather famous for their Eddu range, which is made from buckwheat, so not exactly a ‘cereal’, or rather a hemi-(or pseudo)cereal (however they call that) but this is well malted Breton barley, and 4 years of age. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh! Four years old ex-refill Aberlour! Starts slightly varnishy and acetone-y, which is totally normal, and goes then towards pink bananas, williams pears, cherries, papayas, watermelons, and many other fresh fruits. I like this fresh and young nose a lot, let’s only hope the palate will be okay. Mouth: plainly and totally barley eau-de-vie, as fruity as fruits, with minimal oak impact, and a delicious creaminess. Morello cherries and a little butterscotch. I really like it that they did not try to dope it up using wood or wine, it’s very natural. The Scots should issue such young whiskies too (provided they keep the prices right). Finish: medium, with a wee return of the varnishy notes. Nothing to worry about. Pears and pineapples. Comments: it’s obviously not totally mature, so I wouldn’t score it too high, but they deserve our warmest encouragement. Not too sure they need that, but there… SGP:630 - 82 points.

Glann ar Mor ‘Marris Otter Barley 16’ (46%, OB, France, 2016)

Glann ar Mor ‘Marris Otter Barley 16’ (46%, OB, France, 2016) Four stars and a half Glann ar Mor clearly are on the podium as far as French whiskies are concerned. Some say they’re number one quality-wise, and so far I couldn’t find any evidence to the contrary. Oh and Marris Otter is an old variety, largely abandoned elsewhere since the yield was not too high. Distillers have their reasons. Colour: white wine. Nose: I’ll keep this very short, I’m a sucker for these very natural bready notes, mixed with citron juice. Smells like nature. A wee rye-y side, perhaps? Brown toasts, pumpernickel, cranberry juice… Mouth: god this is good! Elementary and yet complex, yet totally straightforward, very bready, a little less fruity than expected, with some cinnamon, white pepper, gingerbread… There’s a lightness to this, and not one ounce of weakness. A great feeling. Finish: medium, with there, some fruits! Those citrons, this bread, those cinnamony spices, this marzipan. Comments: a very ‘craft’ feeling, in the same league as Westland or Hautes-Glaces. Except that as far as I know, Glann ar Mor haven’t sold to the big boyz. SGP:641 - 88 points.

Armorik ‘Maitre de Chai’ (46%, OB, France, 2016)

Armorik ‘Maitre de Chai’ (46%, OB, France, 2016) Three starsThis Armorik matured in sherry wood. An earlier edition had been quite to my liking. Colour: gold. Nose: haven’t Armorik made huge progress? In this case we’re navigating between Arran and, indeed, Bruichladdich, but I’m not sure the good people at Armorik need such comparisons. Red peaches, nectarines, a little cedar wood, peonies, praline, a bready side again and again, touches of earth… I may just lack a few more years of maturation, but that is all. Mouth: really super good. You’re feeling the oak, and there is a growing (and slightly drying) pepperiness, but all the rest is very fine. Bitter chocolate, ginger, bitter herbs (the names escape me), black tea… Really good, it’s just that it tends to get a little too peppery/oaky for me after ten seconds in your mouth. I mean, my mouth. Finish: rather long, a little drying. Over-infused herbal teas. Violet sweets? Comments: super good for sure, but I was starting to have trouble with the oak on the palate soon after the arrival. I thought the Dervenn, despite it being ex-virgin oak, was less oaky. Still way above average. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Eddu ‘Diamant’ (44%, OB, France, 350 bottles, 2015)

Eddu ‘Diamant’ (44%, OB, France, 350 bottles, 2015) Four stars Pure buckwheat distilled in Charentais stills (cognac) by Distillerie des Menhirs. An expensive decanter, it’s at around 220€. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s got the same varnishy start as the Ed Gwenn, and once again it’s a very pleasant varnishness (yeah right). What’s really striking though is that it’s ridden with pear notes, and you could almost think this is middle-aged Domfrontais calvados. Beyond that, there’s buckwheat indeed (galette bretonne), as well as whiffs of precious wood sawdust. Couldn’t tell you which wood. Mouth: Domfrontais indeed! What’s this miracle? Pears aplenty, wee touches of wood mushrooms, then tinned papayas, then some kind of oriental spices (yeah, there, Indian mukhwas), then hints of chlorophyll and various fruit peelings. Doesn’t totally feel ‘whisky’, but let’s not get sectarian, it’s excellent spirit. Finish: medium, exotic. Like, banana juice? Avocado juice? Comments: if you’re expecting anything like Scotch whisky, it’ll lose you. If you aren’t, you’re up for a treat. One of the most, say, greatly deviant whiskies out there. But there, buckwheat is no grain, it’s a pseudo-cereal. Not sure one should care, and hey, it’s gluten-free! SGP:740 - 86 points.

Good, I’m very happy with this little Fren... I mean, Breton session. We’ve also got quite a few peated Kornogs in the sample library, but we’ll make short work of them next time. Excellent stuff.

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



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February 22, 2017


Tullibardine, two officials and two indies

Shall we find the distillery’s usually unusual idiosyncrasies in these fairly new Tullibardines?

Tullibardine '225' (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Tullibardine '225' (43%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half I find it’s always a little nasty to use big numbers on bottles when there’s actually neither an age statement nor a vintage. On the other hand, this cannot be 225 years old, and neither could it have been distilled in 225 A.D. It’s a Sauternes finish, while that number actually relates to the size of the barriques. Colour: straw. Nose: a tad butyric at first nosing, with also mashed potatoes and quite some porridge, before some leafy spices (bay leaves) arrive, together with a little ginger and vanilla. I wouldn’t say the Sauternes is very obvious, I do not get a lot of plums, apricots, or flowers for that matter. Rather blood oranges after five minutes. Mouth: absolutely given the low strength, this time the oak must have imparted a large part of this fat body. Sweet ginger and cinnamon pies, really a lot of marmalade and white pepper, Finish: very long, with even more oak spices. Very sweet-oak-driven. Comments: feels rather doctored or even ‘engineered’, but I find it quite good. SGP:551 - 78 points.

Tullibardine 10 yo 2006/2016 (57.6%, Lady of the Glen, bourbon, cask #35)

Tullibardine 10 yo 2006/2016 (57.6%, Lady of the Glen, bourbon, cask #35) Four stars This one should roar and bite! Colour: straw. Nose: fun stuff, you’d almost believe it’s American single malt whiskey. Totally huge notes of bubblegum and marshmallows, bananas, pears, agave syrup… One of the sweetest noses I could try in recent months. I don’t find much of the distillery’s trademark mashy profile so far. With water: lovely! Some sweet malt coming out, and rather more apricots than in the Sauternes finish, which is odd. Rosewater as well. Mouth (neat): bombastically fruity. Put two dozen sweets (assorted flavours) into a jar, pour surgical spirit, close, wait… You’ll get this. Yeah, more or less. With water: indeed a perfect swimmer. Lemon balm, blue green tea, Thai basil… Finish: long and unexpectedly salty. No it does not just trigger saltiness. More vanilla and sweet oak in the aftertaste, that’s bourbon wood. Comments: a tad mundane when unreduced, but it just loves water! SGP:641 - 85 points.

Tullibardine 12 yo 2004/2016 ‘The Murray’ (56.1%, OB, Marquess Collection)

Tullibardine 12 yo 2004/2016 ‘The Murray’ (56.1%, OB, Marquess Collection) Three stars Named after a certain Mr Murray, who blended this bottling, had built the distillery with his own hands a little earlier, and defeated the Vikings around 814 A.D. right after having had sex with twenty-four Indian princesses who had just attended one of his world-famous uisge beatha masterclasses. Or perhaps not. Colour: pale gold. Nose: totally ‘carpentery’. Sawn oak, cedar wood, vanillin, linseed oil, and drops of cranberry juice. With water: gums and jellos, in that sense it’s a simpler version of the 2006. Cherry sweets. Mouth (neat): totally sweet-oaked. Vanilla, violet drops, ginger, cinnamon, and lavender. At times you would think it’s rye whisky. With water: gets rather unusual. More violets (ice cream?) and oriental pastries. The cherries are back as well. Finish: quite long, spicy and still quite oriental. Baklavas, honey, all-spice, rosewater. Comments: feels a little bodybuilt and certainly rather oak-driven, but it’s well made. SGP:561 - 80 points.

Tullibardine 27 yo 1989/2016 (51.1%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 134 bottles)

Tullibardine 27 yo 1989/2016 (51.1%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 134 bottles) Four stars There aren’t that many old Tullibardines, are there. Colour: pale gold. Nose: its not that it feels much younger, it’s just much less oaked, so more natural, and in a way more ‘authentic’ (a word to be handled with caution). Still, I do get whiffs of rye, wholegrain bread, speculoos, then rather rhubarb pie and more gingerbread. Nice nose, as expected from Maltbarn. With water: farmyardy. Mouth (neat): very unusual, extremely spicy and bready, with a dusty earthiness and the feeling of chewing your unlit cigar. The compadres cinnamon and nutmeg (big!) and more and more drying pepper. Was it new un-charred American oak rather than ex-bourbon? With water: a sudden burst of Seville oranges, citrons, and rosehip tea. Finish: long, between both worlds. Sweet fruits and dry bready spices. Comments: an IB that could have been made by the owners, really. Funny, that. SGP:561 - 85 points.

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



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February 21, 2017


Lochnagar quite vertically

Royal Lochnagar, a wonderful distillery that’s not to be missed whenever you’re wandering along Balmoral Castle. Well, I’m sure the distillery’s much more interesting  - and better inhabited - than that castle. BTW, can you visit the castle?

Royal Lochnagar 2000/2012 'Distiller's Edition' (40%, OB, batch #RL/00-12W)

Royal Lochnagar 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half The owners never quite pushed Lochnagar – well they used to a long time ago, via John Begg – but maybe that’s because the capacity is rather small. Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes, I remember, a slightly dry and cardboardy maltiness, quite peculiar, with hints of mashed vegetable (maybe turnips?) and some kind of waxy soapiness that’s not exactly soap. Much nicer than soap, let’s say. Also quite some brown toasts and a wee bouillony side. Marrow. The whole is rather unusual. Mouth: it’s a malty/meaty arrival, very dry, with even a salty touch, and good body (feels rather 43% than 40%). Gets then rather bittersweet, and stays very malty/dry. Old walnuts. Finish: a little short  - that’s the strength – with a little cardboard again. Comments: solid and honest. No we won’t wonder if ‘they’ drink Lochnagar too. SGP:361 - 79 points.

Royal Lochnagar 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2016)

Royal Lochnagar 2000/2012 'Distiller's Edition' (40%, OB, batch #RL/00-12W) Two stars and a half This baby was finished in muscat wine. Which, frankly, is a little scary since muscat can be very pushy, but you never know... Colour: gold. Nose: we are, in truth, extremely close to the regular 12, despite a few whiffs of ripe apricots and mirabelles floating around. Hold on, those notes do indeed come a little more to the front after just ten seconds, but they never become vulgar, which was my main fear. Mouth: the muscat is a little more pronounced, there’s something slightly floral indeed, but also notes of tinned pineapples and honey. Also golden raisins. The background remains dry and ‘Lochnagary’, which gives you a wee impression of two-storey whisky. Finish: medium, on the same flavours. Bitter chocolate with a little marmalade. Comments: I’d say it’s in the very same league as the 12. It goes down well. SGP:561 - 79 points.

Right, let’s try to find a much older one…

Royal Lochnagar ‘Selected Reserve’ (43%, OB, 75cl, +/-1988)

Royal Lochnagar ‘Selected Reserve’ (43%, OB, 75cl, +/-1988) Five stars A rather famous bottling and one of the very early ‘premium NAS’. According to some, Queen Victoria used to quaff some of this one’s ancestors, except that she was mixing it with claret. Which leads me to think that they should have done a Bordeaux finishing on the DE, the story would have been nice and funny. Colour: dark pink gold. Nose: but this is superb! Dried figs kept in an old tin box, some kind of smoked honey – but could you smoke honey – and some kinds of sweet cigars, plus some high-end leather polish and then more and more tangerines, as marmalade, as syrup, as fresh juice… Wonderful old-school nose. Mouth: totally superb, meaty, sooty, ashy, camphory, sappy… It’s really very complex, the tangerines are there again, and there’s many ‘old’ dried fruits, manuka honey, mead… While the whole tends to become saltier and saltier, which reminds me of the current 12. It’s really deep and complex. Finish: rather long, with some Spanish ham, more mead, those figs… It’s really superb! The aftertaste is grassier and drier, so never tiring, you’re ready for another glass. Comments: it’s not that I’m very fond of the expression ‘a blast from the past’, but it’s pretty appropriate. Superb sweet and dry style. SGP:452 - 90 points.

Wait, John Begg, he said… Oh well, after all this is whiskyfun.com…

John Begg ‘Royal Lochnagar’ (OB, late king George V, late 1930s)

John Begg ‘Royal Lochnagar’ (OB, late king George V, late 1930s) Five stars Indeed, George V died on January 20, 1936, so this is a very old, certainly pre-war bottling of what’s probably pure Royal Lochnagar, as it only says ‘Old Scotch Whisky’. I can’t wait, can you?... Colour: gold. Nose: it’s always troubling to notice some obvious parentage after so many years. This is simply some kind of even ashier and sootier Selected Rerserve, but let’s remember that that one was probably distilled just a few years after the war, so actually, the time gap is narrow. Plenty of dried herbs, touches of husk, a few bouillony smells again (chicken soup with parsley and chives)… There is some OBE, but not a lot. Old cigars, rust, these sorts of things. Mouth: it’s very earthy and mentholy, which is a perfect combination when balance is right. Then cured ham, tobacco, sweet tomatoes, and some more ‘easy’ grapefruit marmalade, with this eternal touch of salt. I’d even say potassium, and before you ask, yes we had a mine not too far away, and I’ve licked a lot of potassium when I was a kid (potassium hydroxide). See the result… ;-). Finish: medium, and even saltier and more bouillony. Shall I also dare mention Marmite? Comments: typical old style Highlander, drier and ‘wider’ than current production. SGP:362 - 90 points.

(Thank you Mr Phil)

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



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February 20, 2017


Bunches of Bunnahabhain - part seis

No we’re not done with Bunnahabhain!

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1991/2015 (49.3%, Lockett Bros, the Island of Bass, sherry hogshead, cask #5420)

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1991/2015 (49.3%, Lockett Bros, the Island of Bass, sherry hogshead, cask #5420) Four stars I had thought I’d do a silly joke with the Island of Bass and Jaco Pastorius but no… Colour: gold. Nose: ah, a rather tropical one this time. Tinned guavas and mangos, plus a little vanilla and acacia honey. Those wee pink bananas. Before that became un-PC, I’d have added that it’s a little feminine. Mouth: reminds or some early 1970s Bowmore. More tropical fruit purée mixed with some soft oak tannins and various herbal herbs. Our faithful chamomile tea, for example. Touches of malt, hints of roasted nuts. Finish: medium, with the usual salty tang, as they say in brochures. Comments: rather wonderful. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1991/2015 (47.5%, Whisky-Fässle, for WET, hogshead)

A sister, I suppose…

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1991/2015 (47.5%, Whisky-Fässle, for WET, hogshead) Four stars and a half I don’t know what WET is, but there’s a diving duck on the label. Colour: gold. Nose: almost the same as the Lockett, just a tad less fruity, and a notch grassier. Mouth: so very good! Some kind of salted fruit salad, with grasses and herbs thrown in. Very very good. Finish: long, clean, citrusy, salty. Comments: why would you need a longer tasting note? What’s sure is that this baby’s very ‘Islands’, with a perfect cut and no nutty flavours. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1989/2014 (42.9%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #5716)

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1989/2014 (42.9%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #5716) Three stars Berry bros already had some excellent 1989, especially one for Taiwan (cask #5894, WF 89). Colour: straw. Nose: another very fresh and fruity one. Wandering throughout an orchard in Kent (wherever) in the midst of July. Greengages, a few remaining cherries, gooseberries… Also something slightly hotter. New kirsch? Mouth: as often with these low-strength oldies, the oak started to take over, and you cannot not feel strong black tea and its tannins. Other than that, same fresh ‘western’ fruits, especially plums. Finish: short to medium, fruity, with tea tannins in the background. Perhaps a few slices of bananas. Comments: pretty good again, it’s just that the oak started to feel a little more. SGP:551 - 82 points.

Bunnahabhain 27yo 1987/2014 (51.9%, The Whisky Agency for TFWS Taiwan, Refill Hogshead, 190 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 27yo 1987/2014 (51.9%, The Whisky Agency for TFWS Taiwan, Refill Hogshead, 190 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s one of those beautifully honeyed 1987s again. Beeswax, touches of earth and humus, pollen, apples, plums… And indeed, all-flower honey. Perfect. With water: honeycomb and apple pie, with a little Virginia tobacco as well. Mouth (neat): very good, bright, quite citrusy, then a little more mango-ish, then a little more honeyed, with touches of mint and eucalyptus in the background. Perfect balance. It gets even zestier and more lemony/limy over time. With water: really wonderful, honeyed, orchardy, very mildly waxy… Finish: medium, with a little cracked pepper over this wonderful honeyed fruit salad. The usual salty touch in the aftertaste, very discreet here. Comments: as we sometimes write, this one’s dangerously drinkable. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Bunnahabhain 39 yo 1976/2016 (49.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, sherry butts)

Bunnahabhain 39 yo 1976/2016 (49.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, sherry butts) Four stars and a half Colour: gold/amber. Nose: first, it’s not too oaky. Second, there is some caramel and fudge, but also many flowers and honeys, nothing is buried under a heavy sherry – because there isn’t any heavy sherry. What I’m starting to find after a few minutes is rather a combination of strawberry jam and copper, as well as a little sandalwood. After five minutes, more camphory earth, typical in very old spirits. Mouth: miraculously lightly oaky, although there is some oak of course, but we’re rather geared towards old cognac, with some lovely mentholy peaches and ripe mirabelles, plus walnut wine and bits of pipe tobacco. Then rather raisins, of all kinds. Finish: as expected, it’s the finish that’s a little less ‘easy’, for there’s more oak (cinnamon and black tea), but it never loses its fruitiness. Starts to wander off in the aftertaste though, but that’s rather normal. A little rosemary. Comments: at times you would have thought the oak would take over, but that never quite happens. Great to taste this ‘against’ an old Cognac or even Armagnac. SGP:561 - 89 points.

Good, we’ve got many more, but we’ve tried exactly thirty different Bunnies in a row (not within the same session, mind you!) so maybe we could switch to another distillery next time. Yep, I think that’s what we’re going to do, stay tuned (and attuned)…

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



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February 19, 2017


Looking for malternatives at Appleton’s

All right, we had promised we’d do a nice verticale of Appleton, and now’s the time. Now what we’re going to do is not taste contemporary bottlings – because frankly, some do not totally live up to their reputation - this will only be about older bottlings. Although, I feel I should add that I quite enjoyed their latest 12 yo (WF 80) while I’m finding their 21 yo very disappointing and much too sweet (WF 60).


Appleton Estate V/X (40%, OB, Jamaica, 1l, +/-2000?)

Appleton Estate V/X (40%, OB, Jamaica, 1l, +/-2000?) Three stars and a half A recent bottling fetched 80 in my book. Not bad at all for a cheap entry-level Jamaican. Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes, it talks. It’s appropriately petroly, so Jamaican, but relatively easy and rounded. Above all, there’s this thing that I always totally enjoy in any spirit, olives. Someone will have to try to distil olives one day, even of you’d need to add tons of sugar so that they ferment. Or a maceration? Mouth: very good, olive-y, tarry, very liquoricy, smooth but not too smooth, and probably sweetened up a bit, but without excess. Nice smokiness as well, and perhaps, even, I mean, kippers. Really! Finish: medium, more on liquorice, with a touch of lime. Comments: this starts extremely well. I had thought we’d start from +/-80, but not so. What’s sure is that it feels more phenolic than the more recent V/X. SGP:552 - 84 points.

Appleton Reserve 12 yo (43%, OB, Jamaica, ceramic jug, +/-1975)

Appleton Reserve 12 yo (43%, OB, Jamaica, ceramic jug, +/-1975) Five stars Good, we’ve tried a similar jug, only a 20 yo, in 2015. It was utterly brilliant (WF 92, no less). Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh this is crazy, amazing, wonderful, and it just leaves you speechless. Who said good news, who? Amazing tar and tropical fruits combination, with an endless and relentless arrival of all oils, olives, tars, ashes, plastics (really), liquorices, papayas, bananas, guavas, sultanas… It really is a stunning nose. What I particularly enjoy is this herbal/meaty side, in the back, with some beef, tarragon, even lamb… Look I haven’t checked if they were using dunder pits in those days, or if they used to throw dead goats or poultry into them to further enhance/stimulate bacterial fermentation, but what’s sure is that this is one of most complex noses I could try. Ever. Mouth: oh get out of here. First, it feels like 53% vol., not 43. And second, it’s totally ueber-rum, gathering every styles from Guadeloupe, Demerara, Barbados, and of course Jamaica. Enough said, please call the anti-rumoporn brigade! Finish: wait wait wait, the finish is a little less nice, perhaps a little dry and drying, with a chalky side that’s not always good news. Perhaps some kind of jug effect. But no worries, it’s still brilliant. Comments: legendary, big-bodied, and… eh, irrefutable. Whatever. SGP:562 - 91 points.

Appleton 12 yo ‘Rare Old’ (43%, OB, Jamaica, +/- 1980) Four stars They’re hard to follow, sometimes it’s Appleton, sometimes it’s Appleton Reserve, and sometimes it’s Appleton Estate. Not sure that means a thing. Bottled by J. Wray and Nephew in Kingston. Colour: gold amber. Nose: well it’s much lighter than the jug’s, much rounder, and in away, it feels ‘blended’, if you see what I mean. So a much gentler Appleton, without much ‘Jamaicanness’, and you could think it’s some fairly young rhum from La Martinique. Notes of cane juice/vesou, chocolate, ripe bananas, perhaps a little coffee… That’s pretty all. Mouth: not quite the same feeling, while it was shy on the nose, it now kicks you and starts to shoots chocolate and coffee beans. It’s actually much more molassy than the 12 from the jug, and certainly less salty/olive-y, but it does have tar and ultra-ripe bananas. Let’s call it mildly phenolic. Finish: good, it does get more phenolic now, with some salty olives (brine) and some smoked black tea. Nice earthy aftertaste (clay), also stewed pineapples and burnt sugar. Comments: suffers a bit from the comparison with the stunning jug, perhaps did they add too much caramel or something? Still extremely fine, even if it’s a little too El Dorado-ish. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Appleton Reserve 20 yo (43%, OB, Jamaica, ceramic jug, +/-1975)

Appleton Reserve 20 yo (43%, OB, Jamaica, ceramic jug, +/-1975) Five stars Not the first time we’re trying this star of rumdom, but this is from another jug. Yeah yeah, any excuses, really, I feel shame. Colour: amber. Nose: have you ever tasted Yquem 1967 or, perhaps, 1988? Although the 1988 is still a little young… Because, I mean, this is very similar. You’d even believe there was some noble rot on the sugarcanes, really. A-ma-zing. In no particular order, I would mention golden sultanas, longans, dried apricots, lilies, Swedish ultra-strong liquorice, burnt tyres, miso soup, dried bananas, olives (again and again), garden peat, pine bark, Bakelite, engine oil… And myriads of other smells, better stop there since you and me haven’t gotten all day. Mouth: oh sugar, what a monster! 43% vol., really? Are you sure? This is so thick and rich, and yet so elegant, tarry, liquoricy… Long story short, it’s one of the best rums available to mankind. Well, it used to be available. I’ll add that I totally cherish all these tiny notes of small herbs… I do get peppermint, for example, or borage (very obvious, really), oxalis… Wow wow wow! Finish: the fact that it finishes is the real flipside in this sort of case. Amazing, the finest kind of liquorice-based substance out there. Comments: I’ve been to niggardly last time, with my lousy 92 points. But yeah, that was another jug, and most probably another batch. SGP:562 - 93 points.

Okay, drum roll please…

Appleton Estate 50 yo 1962/2012 ‘Jamaican Independence Reserve’ (45%, OB, Jamaica, 800 decanters)

Appleton Estate 50 yo 1962/2012 ‘Jamaican Independence Reserve’ (45%, OB, Jamaica, 800 decanters) Four stars and a half Right, one of, if not the oldest rum ever bottled. Some are claiming to even older ages, but those are fake, really. It’s also said that the angel’s share has reached more than 90% of the initial amount of spirit that had been filled into wood in 1962. What’s a little troubling is that you can still buy this bottle, quite easily, but you’ll have to shell out around 4,000-4,500€. I agree, almost Scotch prices, no wonder few people ever bought it. Anyway, let’s proceed with caution… Colour: mahogany amber. Nose: oh, you’re in Kentucky. Really, blind, I’d have said A.H. Hirsch 16 yo 1974. Warm pencil shavings, burnt eucalyptus wood, Chinese lacquer, we’re almost at a cabinetmaker’s. Goes more towards small herbs and grasses after five minutes, dried parley, a little soy sauce, these notes of miso soup again, some kind of meaty mint sauce… Now what’s sure is that something very ‘rum’ remains, ripe pineapples! Oh and bananas. Mouth: quite miraculous, really. Sure there’s some oak, and this cannot compete with the stunning 20 yo, but this feeling of pineapples stewed in mint sauce and flower extracts (rose? Lilly?) is absolutely thrilling. There are unusual essences in the background, it’s hard to put words… What are they? Shall we leave them unnamed and mysterious? Only one flavour springs to my mind, tamarind. Other than that, I wouldn’t call this old glory ‘tannic’, even if it tends to become rather cinnamony. A little agave sugar, perhaps, but it doesn’t feel sweetened up at all. Not even philistines would add any sugar or sugary stuff to some good-to-great rum anyway! (wink, wink). Finish: medium, all on bananas and pineapples plus cedar wood, cigars, and sweet cinnamon. Perhaps a little burnt rubber in the aftertaste? Comments: frankly, this isn’t as oaky as you would have thought. There are many wood essences (-ols, you know), but yeah, it’s not ‘oaky’ as such. In fact, there’s only one comment I would make, it’s not very Jamaican. As if just like peat in old Islay, Jamaicanness would slowly vanish in the air after many years. Great rum, anyway! SGP:661 - 88 points.

(Many thanks to the Rumaniacs!)

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


February 17, 2017


Bunches of Bunnahabhain – part five

This humble little session to the memories of Dr. Jim Swan and Maestro Silvano Samaroli. R.I.P.


Bunnahabhain 2006/2016 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, MacPhail’s Collection)

Bunnahabhain 2006/2016 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, MacPhail’s Collection) Three stars and a half Not the popular 8 years old by G&M, this one, and it’s not a peater this time. Colour: straw. Nose: a bright, slightly orchardy/acidic nose, full of cider apples and green pears, with a background rather on ale and damp crushed chalk. Mouth: sweet, grassy, and chalky, with a little burnt malt in the back. Plums and more apples, more ale, and certainly some Ovaltine. Chicory. Good body at just 43% vol. Finish: relatively long, and very malty. Roasted nuts, chestnuts, more malt… The aftertaste is a tad more bitter, as often. Bitter beer. Comments: a very malty young Bunnahabhain, good for showing to your friends ‘what’s the taste of malt’. SGP:451 - 83 points.

While we’re doing young ones…

Bunnahabhain 11 yo (55.4%, Cadenhead for Dugas, France, Small Batch, 2017)

Bunnahabhain 11 yo (55.4%, Cadenhead for Dugas, France, Small Batch, 2017) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s almost-new make, but that’s nice when that new make is, well, nice. Coal smoke, ink, clay, and lime, with a little sea air. Simple pleasures and a mezcaly side that we always enjoy. With water: iodine and ozone everywhere, then wet fabric and damp beach sand. Mouth (neat): a creamy, sweet and lemony peat, zesty and very clean, with touches of jelly babies, Haribo style. And lemon-flavoured! With water: very good, well-chiselled, slightly fattish (think smoked salmon) lemony peat. Finish: long, and almost totally salty-lemon-driven. Comments: perfect spirit, we’re in the same league as the best mezcals and tequila jovens. Huge quality/age ratio. SGP:457 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 14 yo 2002/2016 (51.6%, Claxton’s, hogshead, 305 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 14 yo 2002/2016 (51.6%, Claxton’s, hogshead, 305 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: another nice nose, rather on butterscotch crushed with limestone, then custard, barley, brioche, and fresh sponge cake. No peat this time, it’s soft as young Glenlivet. With water: the limestone comes to the front of the stage, like when Keith does a solo (what?) Mouth (neat): indeed, malt drink, cake, croissants, praline, pistachio halva, and a chalky side. Love all these pistachios that are coming out. In fact that chalky side makes it all taste like macadamia nuts. With water: takes water extremely well. More Macadamia nuts. Finish: medium, and really cake-y. Hazelnuts, and perhaps ‘ideas’ of Mars bars. I apologize. Comments: super good, once again. SGP:441 - 86 points.

Perhaps a popular OB?

Bunnahabhain 18 yo (46.3%, OB, +/- 2016)

Bunnahabhain 18 yo (46.3%, OB, +/- 2016) Five stars Last time I tried the 18 – excuse me, the XVIII – that was still a 43%-version. But they’ve upped their game… Colour: pale gold. Nose: ooh, shoe polish! Something that I always enjoy a lot, reminds of both the best Alsatian rieslings and my time as a corporal in the French army (when we still had conscription). So shoe polish, then menthol, then nuts roasted with mint and honey, then a kind of lemony sea breeze. Yes, oysters and lemon, and finally, cigar boxes and sandalwood. Even balsa wood, remember when we were building those wee planes? Mouth: very, very good, they’ve upped their game indeed. Chestnut purée again, carrot cake, walnut wine, tobacco, and guess what, the same pistachios as in the Claxton’s. Some sides remind me of the early official 12s, those were superb. Finish: medium, and just perfect. Chestnut cake with drizzles of lemon juice and pinches of sea salt. Love the maltier and oloroso-ier (hey!?) aftertaste. Comments: I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise, since back in 2009, I had thought the 18 at 43% vol. was worth 88 points. But you’re really worth this one, as they say at L’Oreal’s. SGP:351 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1990/2016 (51.1%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 274 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1990/2016 (51.1%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 274 bottles) Five stars Pretty impressed with everything North Star Spirits have bottled so far. And the name always reminds me of that wonderful song by Annie Haslam and Renaissance, Northern Lights. Colour: straw. Nose: oh it’s one of those fresh minty, malty, and lemon-grassy ones. Sea air, fresh rhubarb, ale, lemon marmalade, a wee touch of camphor… Not a throwaway in the bunch. With water: few changes. Perhaps more damp chalk, but that’s what often happens. Touches of overripe apples, or artisan cider. Mouth (neat): totally excellent, and totally in keeping with the nose. Malted and mentholated lemon juice with drops of seawater and grass juice thrown in. I’m even finding a Clynelishy side to it, which isn’t normal, must be me… With water: like when you’re cutting a pink grapefruit and you’re licking your knife afterwards (time to say night-night, S.) Finish: crystalline, malty, lemony, and always with this salty touch in the aftertaste. Comments: wonderfully spirit-driven. When you think of those big fat stills… SGP:551 - 90 points.

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


February 16, 2017


Bunches of Bunnahabhain – part quatro

Yes we’re going on, but this time we’ll try to sneak some officials into the session…

Bunnahabhain ‘Eirigh Na Greine’ (46.3%, OB, +/-2016)

Bunnahabhain ‘Eirigh Na Greine’ (46.3%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars The name alone explains why telemarketing doesn’t work with whisky. Besides, some red wine casks have been used here, so, caution is requested… Now we’ve already tried an earlier batch (WF 72) but maybe did they improve the recipe? Oh and it’s also one of those former travel-retail exclusives. Colour: gold. Nose: rough and grassy, slightly feinty, with growing notes of ‘spicy spices’ such as nutmeg (huge) and then more cloves and juniper from some seemingly very active oak. Some toffee too. Feels a little immature to me. Mouth: very oak-driven indeed, despite a pleasant honeyed arrival. A creamy bitterish development, with bitter herbs, green pepper, and quite a lot of bitter marmalade. Finish: rather long, a tad sugary now (raspberry sweets), but also pretty bitterly spicy. Comments: one more point because I’m in a jolly good mood. SGP:561 - 73 points.

Bunnahabhain ‘Ceobanach’ (46.3%, OB, +/-2016)

Bunnahabhain ‘Ceobanach’ (46.3%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars More NAS, more unpronounceable names. I would never dare go into a whisky shop in Scotland and ask for this bottle, I’m sure they would shriek with laughter. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a peater, and a nice one at that. Very simple, it seems, but what it does it does well. Garden bonfire, burning kelp, tincture of iodine, and allspice powder. Mouth: starts sweet and spicy and smoky, with touches of lemon marmalade and quite a saltiness. Then white pepper and vanilla, a combo that’s quite simple, but that works. Relatively mild. Finish: medium, rounded, ashy, smoky and citrusy, with again a pleasantly salty aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s rather simple (youth?) but that’s very nicely balanced. A very good introductory peater for your new guests. SGP:555 - 81 points.

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1989/2016 (45.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 246 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1989/2016 (45.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 246 bottles) Four starsColour: white wine. Nose: much fresher and more complex, without any dominant spiciness from the oak this time. Probably ‘very refill’, which the colour already suggested. Red currants and gooseberries, raspberries, then more malted barley and custard. It’s the freshness and the lightness that are most pleasant here. Mouth: really very fresh indeed. Same fruits, even kiwis, with a wee feeling of mojito and a once again, a touch of salt. Hold on, that would be a margarita then… Finish: a very lovely fruity finish, on some syrup from some tinned fruit salad, and more orange juice in the aftertaste. Comments: one of the best swimming pool whiskies. Not for the fireplace! Goes down extremely well. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1987/2014 (49.8%, Sansibar/Spirit Shop Selection, sherry cask)

Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1987/2014 (49.8%, Sansibar/Spirit Shop Selection, sherry cask) Five stars It’s always funny to see these samurais on Scotch whisky labels. Now I’d add that I’m finding them rather beautiful. Colour: gold. Nose: a very lovely sherry, rather around chestnut cake and purée, natural vanilla (pods), heather honey, milk chocolate… Before it rather tends to go towards mentholy herbs, wormwood, fennel, perhaps chervil… Mouth: excellent, rather powerful, very fruity (there are many, kiwis, tangerines, fresh almonds…) and becoming surprisingly smoky, but that’s not totally uncommon with those vintages. I also enjoy how it goes back to chestnut purée. Finish: rather long, a little maltier and more chocolaty again. Perfect citrusy/salty aftertaste. Comments: simply superb, with a great complexity. It also loves water. SGP:552 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.3%, Single Cask Nation, refill oloroso hogshead, cask #7403)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.3%, Single Cask Nation, refill oloroso hogshead, cask #7403) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: wait, some peat-like notes that aren’t smoky, that’s not very common. What’s amazing is how this baby travels throughout both the fruit and the spice departments, while keeping perfect balance and freshness. Lovely hints of manure and farmyard, perhaps even Islay mud and Cuban cigars, and bags and bags of fruits starting to ferment. Which is rather magnificent, mind you. Band-aid and a little antiseptic. Mouth: once again it starts rather peaty (did some re-racking take place?) and goes on with many fruits, chiefly citrus (say pink grapefruits) before it becomes more herbal. A little myrtle, perhaps? An earthy side as well, always welcome. Roots. I’m really fond of this palate. Finish: long, superbly fresh and citrusy, with a very lovely herbal side (dill?) and then more coastal touches. Oyster juice? Comments: this bottling for America is really impressive. Love both the freshness and the full body, we’re almost in Meursault. Quite. I know, forgot to add water. SGP:562 - 91 points.

Indeed Bunnahabhain can be extremely versatile!

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



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February 15, 2017


Bunches of Bunnahabhain – part trois

We’re going on, calm and unruffled. But we shall try to add a bit of ‘disordered fashion’ today – which, granted, we never quite manage to do. B****y Descartes!

Bunnahabhain 1997/2015 'Lemon Buttered Kippers' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 210 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1997/2015 'Lemon Buttered Kippers' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 210 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a peater. Fresh, millimetric, smoky, ashy, inky. It’s a rather ‘narrow’ peatiness, but there's not a throwaway in this well-chiselled nose. Mouth: indeed, a rather easy peat, with some candied lemon and a touch of mustard over a rather grassy smokiness. Also sweeter grapefruits, but I’m not finding many buttered kippers. Not that we shall complain. Finish: medium, simple, pleasantly bitter/herbal. Comments: this feeling of grassy peat that’s to be found in some Bunnahabhains ‘Moines’. SGP:356 - 84 points.

Bunnahabhain 1990/2015 ‘Blowing on a Sea Breeze’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 209 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1990/2015 ‘Blowing on a Sea Breeze’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 209 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: much less smoke, rather a crystalline orchardiness, I’d say, involving greengages and gooseberries. Behind that, bits of hessian and a wee mentholy grassiness. And, perhaps and indeed, a little sea air and smoke. Mouth: exactly the same flavours as in the nose, which doesn’t always happen. Gooseberries with a little vanilla and green tea. Solid body. Finish: long and rather maltier, although the aftertaste would be grassier again. Touches of grass smoke. Comments: Bunnahabhain quite au naturel, with a pretty light peat and certainly without sherry. As if they had used an ex-peater cask. SGP:453 - 86 points.

Bunnahabhain 1990/2015 ‘Fields of Barley’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 278 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1990/2015 ‘Fields of Barley’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 278 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: gone is the smoke this time, this is rather full of Kellogg’s best and of various ripe western fruits, first pears and apples, then yellow and green plums. Notes of barnyard in the background, making it just a tad farmy. Very nice and very ‘natural’. Mouth: a very gentle Bunnahabhain, delicate and classy, all on sweet barley indeed, then melons and yellow peaches. Seriously, had I tried this baby blind, I’d have said Bruichladdich. Finish: medium, a tad more farmyardy. Farmhouse bread and peach jam. Comments: the gentlest side of Bunnahabhain, totally au naturel this time. SGP:551 - 86 points.

I know what you’re going to say, so much for a disordered session… It seems that one cannot change his own nature.

Bunnahabhain 1987/2015 ‘Sea Swept Barnacle’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 600 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1987/2015 ‘Sea Swept Barnacle’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 600 bottles) Four stars and a half You see, there is some form of creativity, since this is a sherried version… Colour: amber. Nose: starts all on cigars and dried fruits, with a mineral side far away in the back. Gets then seriously mineral, which I always enjoy. Flints, clay… And what I especially adore is the way it becomes earthy after twenty seconds, with a lot of garden peat (no smoke!) and humus/moss. And this metal polish… Mouth: the fruits are kicking in, figs, prunes, raisins… They do complement the notes of smoked fish, soy sauce, natural chocolate, tobacco, black tea… Then rather marmalade, marzipan, walnut wine… Finish: long and more herbal. Jägermeister and Chartreuse, just much drier. Seville oranges. Parsley and umami sauce in the aftertaste. Comments: extremely good, really. It’s almost hyper-fortified amontillado, in fact. SGP:462 - 89 points.

Good, no more good Wemyss, let’s find something else…

Bunnahabhain 42 yo 1973/2016 (47.9%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butt, cask #12145, 427 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 42 yo 1973/2016 (47.9%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butt, cask #12145, 427 bottles) Five stars I brought this little baby back from my latest visit at Edradour. Signatory have had some great Bunnies in he past… Colour: certainly refill indeed, since it’s golden. Nose: it’s the most floral Bunnahabhain since we started this little series. Lilac, lilies of the valley, roses… Then light all-flower honey, various aromatic herbs (wormwood?), then more raisins and dried plums. Sweet ham. I often write this, but it does remind me of some great old Sauternes. No, this time, it’s true ;-). Mouth: magic! Really punchy, with not one jota of fragility or over-oakiness, shock-full of earthy dried fruits (I’m think Turkish small figs), and becoming meatier, in a gracious way. No big beef, rather ham again. Ham and figs, did you know about this great combo? The strength is utterly adequate, you do not have to intellectualise it to enjoy it to the max – which sometimes happens with very old whiskies. Finish: medium, jammy, almost fresh, without any traces of any obvious woodiness. Rooty raisins and Saharan mint tea in the aftertaste. Comments: another coup by Signatory Vintage, bottled at just the right time. SGP:561 - 91 points.

Will there be a part quatre? And even cinq? Six? We’ll see, stay tuned…

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



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February 2017 - part 1 <--- February 2017 - part 2 ---> March 2017 - part 1



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Bunnahabhain 11 yo (55.4%, Cadenhead for Dugas, France, Small Batch, 2017)

Bunnahabhain 18 yo (46.3%, OB, +/- 2016)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1990/2016 (51.1%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 274 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1987/2014 (49.8%, Sansibar/Spirit Shop Selection, sherry cask)

Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.3%, Single Cask Nation, refill oloroso hogshead, cask #7403)

Bunnahabhain 42 yo 1973/2016 (47.9%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butt, cask #12145, 427 bottles)

John Begg ‘Royal Lochnagar’ (OB, late king George V, late 1930s)

Royal Lochnagar ‘Selected Reserve’ (43%, OB, 75cl, +/-1988)

Appleton Reserve 12 yo (43%, OB, Jamaica, ceramic jug, +/-1975)

Appleton Reserve 20 yo (43%, OB, Jamaica, ceramic jug, +/-1975)