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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2018 - Part 2


February 2018 - part 1 <--- February 2018 - part 2 ---> March 2018 - part 1


February 28, 2018


An incredible duo of SMWS 1s

Indeed there was a brilliant SMWS tutored tasting session (a.k.a. masterclass) at Glasgow’s Whisky Show Old & Rare last Sunday, brilliantly led for us whiskysexuals by our Angus, with the help of Charlie MacLean and Arthur Motley who had been very active at the SMWS in their younger days – but of course they are both still very young. As you may guess, crusty old anecdotes have been flying throughout the jam-packed room (but what happens in Glasgow stays in Glasgow) while some very rare whiskies were poured. Just two examples today, and please note that these notes were taken on location and not at WF Towers, which happens extremely rarely…

Glenfarclas 1975/1983 (54%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.1, 75cl)

Glenfarclas 1975/1983 (54%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.1, 75cl) Four stars and a half
That’s right, the very first bottling by the honourable society, complete with SMWS founder Pip Hills' handwriting – I suppose - on the label and funny stories about a pre-war Lagonda and a private kitchen. Anyway… Colour: coffee Nose: I’m finding a lot of burnt caramel and bonfire toffee, then rather some strong chicory, liquorice and dark tobacco, then more cocoa. An ancient style that was rather all the rage back in 1983, when this was bottled. With water: forgot to add water. Mouth: powerful, very dry, with a lovely bitterness and quite a lot of proper dark chocolate and even black pepper. Indeed, everything’s dark in this whisky, although I’m also finding notes of bitter oranges and a little kirsch, which makes it slightly rustic, in the better sense of that word. With water: remember, I forgot to add any water. Finish: very long and rather all on dark chocolate. Comments: really a massive oloroso-driven Glenfarclas that reminds me of many a contemporary sherried malt from those times, especially indie Glenlivets or Glen Grants. And Glenfarclas, of course. A moving bottle, but I’ve decided to remain totally ‘organoleptical’! (and not organosceptical).

SGP:361 - 88 points.

Brora 1976/1989 (63.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.1, 75cl)

Brora 1976/1989 (63.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.1, 75cl) Five stars
That is right, the very first Brora I’ve ever known of and, naturally and consequently, the first one by the SMWS. I’ve never tried it before, although I do have some in the stash, partly because I’ve always thought it was probably much less wonderful than the very legendary 1972s, while quite a few late 1970s Broras had been a little sub-par in my book. So, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: much peatier than I would have thought, seemingly peatier than the known 1975s, and rather similar to the wonderful peaty Cynelishes 1973, if that rings a bell to you. Green peatiness, coal, green tea, lapsang souchong, olive oil, then limoncello. All that’s pretty fantastic, and a great surprise to me. With water: hessian, mud, raw peated barley, we’re almost on Islay. Or say midway between Skye and Islay. Mouth: excellent, powerful, very peaty but with a style that’s quite different from that of the 1972s, so rather kind of fatter and less tight. Some bitter oranges, some candied grapefruits. With water: really very very good, and incredibly fresh and corpulent at the same time. Faint hints of mustard – which is very Brora in my book – and bone-dry Madeira and manzanilla, cigar ashes, and a lovely wee sourness. Finish: very long, mustardy and salty, with some kippers and even more smokiness than before. Comments: what a stunning surprise! There was much more peat than expected, that’s for sure. Thought it would have been a 86-88-pointer, but it’s going to be…
SGP:377 - 93 points.

Heartfelt thanks to the Old and Rare gang for having unearthed these very rare ones.


February 27, 2018


Two celebratory Tomintoul

We all know that Tomintoul ages very gracefully, but while you could still find some early distillates (1966 – 1969) around five or ten years ago, they’re now becoming very rare. Or sometimes a tad too fragile. Anyway, today’s key number is ‘50’!

Tomintoul ‘Five Decades’ (50%, OB, 5230 bottles, 2015)

Tomintoul ‘Five Decades’ (50%, OB, 5230 bottles, 2015) Four stars
This baby’s a blend of whiskies from 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2005, so while pretty old on average, it’s technically a ten years old (or maybe even nine). It was composed to celebrate the distillery’s 50th anniversary. Colour: gold. Nose: a little mindboggling, because you can feel both the old Tomintouls (overripe apples, herbal teas and a light tropicalness) and a more ‘modern’ side, with vanilla, coconut and some sweet/herbal oaky tones. Quite some cedar wood is getting everything together. With water: notes of lager and ale, with some vanilla and overripe fruits. Mouth (neat): it’s not that all these decades diverge or collide, but once again, there’s this wee feeling of a whisky doing the splits, although the end result remains very good. Some sour apples and quite some oak, ginger, hints of green bananas (which many old Tomintouls were already having…) With water: the younger ones win it. Barley, oranges, vanilla custard… Finish: medium, with these notes of sweet ale again, while the bananas are back in the aftertaste. Comments: very solid. Would love to know about the proportions, having said that.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Tomintoul 50 yo 1967/2018 (45.2%, Masam from Private Stock of Silvano, 50th Anniversary, casks #4688 and 5425, approx 180 bottles)

Tomintoul 50 yo 1967/2018 (45.2%, Masam from Private Stock of Silvano, 50th Anniversary, casks #4688 and 5425, approx 180 bottles) Five stars
Sadly the last bottling ever composed by maestro Silvano Samaroli himself, a project that, most regrettably, he couldn’t complete in his lifetime and which his dear and lovely wife Maryse just made happen. Bravo, Maryse! Colour: gold. Nose: some could have become a little tea-ish and slightly over-oaky, but that’s not the case at all here, it’s still very fresh and very vibrant. A wonderful fruit salad, with the usual apples and bananas, but also mangos, papayas, and a hoppy touch (more IPA than lager, mind you). Some praline then, and a growing cigary side. Or rather proper Virginia cigarettes. Totally lovely and rather delicate. Mouth: there is a little oak but it’s of the greater kind, rather on the camphory side if you will. Some soft mint cordial, touches of myrtle liqueur, then our friendly green bananas, various apples and even pears, oranges, and this light yet deep tobacco-y side. Then a little cedar wood, cinnamon, and Darjeeling tea. Strength and body are both perfect. Finish: this is where a 50-yo whisky should feel over-oaked, but once again, balance has been preserved and the fruits are still singing. More Darjeeling in the aftertaste, earl grey... Comments: it’s not even a little fragile, mind you. Pace, here’s to you Silvano (and Maryse).
SGP:561 - 91 points.

(Thank you Emmanuel)

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


February 25, 2018


Various French rums on a Sunday

Easy young stuff from some French, or ex-French islands. A curate’s egg, really…

Labourdonnais ‘Classic Gold’ (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2017)

Labourdonnais ‘Classic Gold’ (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2017) Two stars
This is agricole-style rhum, from a new distillery located in an old rhum estate. Bristol had a fair 5 yo a few years back (WF 77). Colour: gold. Nose: rotting pineapples and your grandma’s old copper kettle. Really very singular… Also hints of rhubarb, ylang-ylang, elderberries and fresh litchis, then caraway and absinth. Funny, really funny… Mouth: may I write ‘LOL!’ here? Liquorice and caraway liqueurs, chartreuse, a touch of coffee (rather Kahlua), notes of fennel and celeriac, and certainly quite some sugar, by the ways of some kind of pineapple liqueur or something. Funny and even rather good, but you’d need quite some ice if you want to quaff more than 2cls. Finish: short, sugary, herbal. More Chartreuse. Comments: you’d almost believe this is made by monks. We’re closer to a herbal liqueur, but it is a fine herbal liqueur.
SGP:760 - 72 points.

Rivière du Mât ‘Grande Réserve’ (40%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2017)

Rivière du Mât ‘Grande Réserve’ (40%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
This is said to be five to six year old rhum, and it stems from the French island of La Réunion, in the Indian Ocean. It’s traditionnel rhum, as opposed to agricole, so ex-molasses and not cane juice while an earlier ‘Opus 5’ was ex-vesou/cane juice (WF 78). As for ‘grande réserve’ and just like ‘rare’ in Scotland, it means… nothing. Colour: deep gold. Nose: well, this is ‘nice’, rounded, cake-y, nutty, and cane-y. We’re very close to anything from La Martinique, except that this is a tad rounder and certainly not herbal. Maple syrup, ripe bananas, lilies, wallflowers, liquorice… Mouth: very good. You’d really believe that it comes from the Caribbean, it’s just a tad sweet(ish) and a notch more syrupy. Some sweet sauce may have been added, but not too much of that. Tinned pineapple, rose jelly, figs, straw wine, mandarins… Really, this is good and almost of sipping-quality. Finish: medium, a tad sugary, sadly. Sucrose, pineapple sweets, Turkish delights… Comments: one of the best sweet rums I’ve tried in recent months. I’d love to try one that never saw any kind of liqueur…
SGP:750 - 79 points.

Perhaps another Rivière du Mât?

Rivière du Mât 2004 (43%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2013)

Rivière du Mât 2004 (43%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2013) Three stars
Once again, it’s not an agricole, while Rivière du Mât are making both styles. It seems that they finished this one in Port wood, which, to me, is the equivalent of topping black truffles with melted cheddar. Ahem. Colour: deep gold. Nose: hold on, this seems to work. Herbs, roots, cane juice, marmalade, roasted peanuts, praline… It does remind me of that very nice Cuban called Santiago de Cuba. The best Cuban, I think, but I digress… Now watch the 11 yo… err… Mouth: really good, no question about that. Liquorice, sugar cane, marmalade, praline, pecan pie, maple syrup, late-harvest cider… There’s nothing not to like. Finish: medium, on burnt sugars and liquorice, plus many kinds of cakes. Raisin bagel. Comments: very fair, and totally Martiniquan I have to say. I think I’ll have to find and taste newer vintages…
SGP:650 - 81 points.

More of La Réunion…

Savanna 10 yo 2002 ‘Cuvée Maison Blanche’ (43%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2013)

Savanna 10 yo 2002 ‘Cuvée Maison Blanche’ (43%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2013) Three stars and a half
Maison Blanche meaning White House, It’s reassuring to know that this was bottled before the current ‘president’ was enthroned. But I agree, no politics… Let’s rather remember that Savanna are also making some superb high-ester/grand arôme rums… Colour: gold. Nose: ten’s already quite old in Rumland, and indeed this one’s pretty complex, slightly olive-y and grassy, and only marginally cake-y. Nice mentholy raisins, black olives, prunes, rose petals… Gets more fragrant over time, with also a wee metallic side. A few old copper coins… Mouth: oh very good! Grapefruits, fresh pineapples, one black olive, a touch of earth, crystallised oranges, cane juice… We’re flying quite high here. Finish: medium, a tad sweeter, with a drop of litchi liqueur, banana liqueur (or Pisang Ambon), and a good chunk of almond tarte (frangipane). Perhaps a tad too sweet for me now. Comments: very good nonetheless (you could rack your brain, S.!)
SGP:641 - 83 points.

Since we were talking about Savanna’s high-ester rums…

Savanna ‘Herr 57’ (57%, OB, La Réunion, 2300 bottles, 2017)

Savanna ‘Herr 57’ (57%, OB, La Réunion, 2300 bottles, 2017) Three stars and a half
This one’s unaged, it’s being fermenting for eleven days, and it’s got 423.4g/hlap, g/hlap being to rum what ppm peat is to whisky. That means ‘grams of esters and other congeners per hectolitre of pure alcohol’. So, we’ve got almost 5g of congeners per LPA – are you following me? Now the heaviest Jamaicans can go up to approx. 1500g/hlap if I’m not mistaken. As for ‘Herr’, that’s a fantasy name that means High Ester Rum Réunion. Colour: nose. Nose: UHU glue, fermenting longans, dried jojobas, nail polish remover, rotting bananas. There. With water: more brine, olives, gherkins, capers, all that… Mouth (neat): exceptional rotting fruits of many kinds. Bananas for sure, raisins perhaps, pears… Some flavours are unknown to me, so I just couldn’t put names on them. Some extreme tropical fruits, most probably. With water: amazingly funny, water generates new flavours that are just as unkown to this humble taster. I remember I had tried such fruits in the 1980s while wandering throughout China, but no one ever gave their names to me. Lost in (a poor attempt at) translation… Finish: long, ‘rotten’, in a good way. Long forgotten raisins in a very old tin box. Comments: unkown territories, really…
SGP:652 - 84 points.

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


February 24, 2018




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild

More assorted duos

The war on samples continues unabated...


Ardmore 7 yo 2010/2017 (61.2%, Copper Monument, cask #803521, refill barrel) Ardmore 7 yo 2010/2017 (61.2%, Copper Monument, cask #803521, refill barrel)
Colour: Straw. Nose: Yeasty, grassy and lightly ashy at first. Surprisingly approachable given the high strength. Quite an intense farmyard quality and overall pretty simple but clean and very nice. I’ve always maintained Ardmore is characterful and good quality distillate which is at its best when left to itself in refill wood. Some rubbed lemon skins, a prickle of white pepper and quite a bit of soot. With water: more citrus fruit peel, coal, a little hessian, some sourdough and an inky and slightly industrial quality as well - boiler smoke or diesel engine perhaps. Mouth: Soft peats, lemon juice, wood ash, a little bit of kerosine and some pear drops; still rather a touch of new make spirit about this, but overall it’s pretty clean and solid. Some green peppercorns and a hint of brine as well, but overall it’s very farmy. With water: The new make-ey aspects lift a little with water and it becomes more mezcalesque and full of earthy notes with a few wildflowers and a touch of ointment. Finish: Long, ashy, lemony, lightly peaty and becoming a touch herbal. Comments: I really think this sort of bottling demonstrates that if you have characterful distillate you don’t need a lot of age and you certainly don’t need lots of active wood to hurry things along. This is young and not overly complicated but it has character and it overall very find malt whisky.
SGP: 364 - 85 points.


Ardmore 7 yo 2010/2017 (61.4%, Copper Monument, cask #803522, refill barrel) Ardmore 7 yo 2010/2017 (61.4%, Copper Monument, cask #803522, refill barrel)
Let’s try the sister cask... Colour: Straw. Nose: Same ballpark: yeast, grass, sourdough starter, lemon juice, wood ash, light peat, green and grassy. This one is a little louder on the farminess and ashy notes at first. More green pepper, some yellow flowers and a gorse bush note. Perhaps a slightly more active cask as you feel the sweetness a little more in this one. With water: coal hearths, chopped parsley, preserved lemons and some engine oil. Mouth: Oilier in texture and a tad peatier. More notes of mezcal, tequila blanco and more of these yeasty and sooty qualities. Lemon oil, various medicinal flavours and ointments, a bit of orange cough medicine and some raw sheep wool and gravelly minerality. Some burnt wood as well. With water: smoked teas, citrons, some smoked oatmeal, barley sugar, graphite and some orange cocktail bitters. Finish: Long, ashy, lemony, sooty and peaty. Comments: Same as above. There isn’t really too much between them. Same quality in my book. SGP:
364 - 85 points.


Inchgower 14 yo 1999/2013 (56.1%, The Whisky Cask, Bourbon) Inchgower 14 yo 1999/2013 (56.1%, The Whisky Cask, Bourbon)
Colour: gold. Nose: A nice spread of coal dust, fresh breads and soft fruits. There’s also a little honey, butter, banana skin, nutmeg and olive oil. With time notes of very light hessian and hay begin to emerge. Very nice. With water: becomes a little more citrusy now with these notes of orange and lemon peel. Also a little green tea and dried sage. Mouth: Oils, hay, camphor, gentle waxiness, white pepper, some dry earth and a few white flowers and garden fruits. Also more soft bready notes - somewhat autolytic in fact. A little gravelly as well. With water: again these bready notes, although the whole is quite softened by water. More notes of grassy olive oil, hay loft and earth. Perhaps a light grating of green pepper this time. Finish: Medium in length and slightly drying with more grass, hay and nutmeg. Comments: Inchgower can be a characterful make and this is a fine example of that.
SGP: 331 - 83 points.


Inchgower 19 yo 1959/1978 (80 proof, Cadenhead Dumpy) Inchgower 19 yo 1959/1978 (80 proof, Cadenhead Dumpy)
Colour: Straw. Nose: A different world. This is all freshly malted barley, waxes, wrought iron, tool sheds, steel wool, flints and soft cereal notes. A few white fruits in the background as well perhaps. Gentle notes of sunflower oil, camphor, lanolin and a few very gentle medicinal aspects. Mouth: It really has this ‘dumpy’ character of ink, carbon paper, waxes, metal polish and soot that so many of these bottlings seem to posses. Tea tree oil, wood resin, beeswax and few crystalised tropical fruits and something almost salty towards the end. Remarkable punch and purity! Also has some notes of leather, old books and paraffin as well. Finish: Good length. Rather drying, chalky, white flowers, minerals, metallic aspects and wax. Comments: It’s malt whisky of a style that no one really produces any more: lean, pure, powerful and distillate dominated. That said, there is also an impressive and rather beautiful poise about the whole thing. A very good but also rather intellectual dram as well.
SGP: 362 - 90 points.


Blair Athol 30 yo 1973/2004 (43%, MacKillop’s Choice, cask #8569) Blair Athol 30 yo 1973/2004 (43%, MacKillop’s Choice, cask #8569)
Colour: gold. Nose: classic older style highland malt whisky at full maturity from refill wood. That is to say there are many soft waxes, hessians, plenty honey, assorted colours of ground pepper, a touch of soot, a little muesli and some soft, buttery cereal qualities. Green tea, menthol, plenty soft green fruits and even a touch of kumquat you’ll be pleased to hear Serge! Mouth: earthier than the nose suggested but still pleasantly waxy and full of citrus and green fruits. Becomes strikingly minty a after a few moments as well, fresh mint leaf and spearmint gum. Goes on with lemon oil, green banana, coal, tea tree oil, some soft spices and high quality olive oil. Extremely pleasant. Finish: Good length. Buttered toast, soft waxes, a little lamp oil, earth, tobacco leaf and greengage. Comments: Lovely, lively and excellent old Blair Athol. The 43% seems to work quite well with this one, it doesn’t feel at all weak and the softer, more complex aspects feel heightened. Good work!
SGP: 452 - 90 points. 


Blair Athol 28 yo 1975/2004 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, sherry cask #6373, 161 bottles) Blair Athol 28 yo 1975/2004 (53.9%, Signatory Vintage, sherry cask #6373, 161 bottles)
Colour: Deep gold. Nose: More gingery, bready and earthy. Some rich spicy notes, blood orange and lots of nougat, crushed digestive, cocoanut and camphor. Great start! Develops on a waxy and green fruit tangent with some lemon peel, white pepper, buttercream and marzipan. Yummy stuff so far. With water: waxy, earthy, nervous, soft fruits and slightly resinous. Solid! Mouth: Lemony, leafy, bitter chocolate, various spices, black pepper, camphor, soot, black olives, aged mead and a heathery note as well. Rather excellent really. With water: some notes of Victoria sponge, spice cake and this heather character is back but as heather ale this time. Some dried herbs, lemon oil and a little chalk. Finish: Long, earthy, bready and returning to this gingery, sherried aspect. Comments: A very fine Blair Athol, different and more muscular to the MacKillop’s but you get the sense it’s very similar distillate just nudged in alternate directions by different casks. Same high quality though.
SGP: 542 - 90 points.


Dufftown-Glenlivet 31 yo 1978/2009 (48.6%, Cadenhead Chairman’s Stock, Bourbon Hogshead, 207 bottles)

Dufftown-Glenlivet 31 yo 1978/2009 (48.6%, Cadenhead Chairman’s Stock, Bourbon Hogshead, 207 bottles)
A few people start to talk about Dufftown as ‘underrated’ these days. Although, I’m sure you could describe most distilleries as underrated given the right bottling... Colour: Gold. Nose: Honeys, smoked hay, light hessian and a very soft waxiness. Rather gentle and elegant. Wee notes of lychee, pink grapefruit and lemon peel. Then tiger balm and suntan lotion. Soft citrus fruits, some buttery cereals and perhaps a cough sweet or two. Mouth: light, but rather oily and well-textured. Soft white pepper, green fruits, camphor, wood resins, mineral oil, beeswax, blood orange and lanolin. Again it’s all softness and elegance but I’d say the palate is a little better and more punchy and structured than the nose. Unusual for an older whisky. Finish: Good length, all on hardwoods, resins, camphor and boot polish. A touch of cinnamon bread in the aftertaste. Comments: A very fine old Dufftown. There’s a lightness about it that really grows on you. Would make an ideal contemplative sipping whisky.
SGP: 341 - 87 points.



Dufftown-Glenlivet 1966/1989 (52.5%, Cadenhead Dumpy, Gabri import) Dufftown-Glenlivet 1966/1989 (52.5%, Cadenhead Dumpy, Gabri import)
Colour: Light gold. Nose: Wow! A stunning concentration of citrus oils, waxes, wood resins, ointments and dried herbs. There’s also desiccated coconut, green fruit syrups and jellies, star anise, a touch of leather and a peppery spiciness. Quite thrilling! With water: Gets minty now with more herbal and earthy tones. Some Earl Grey tea, wet leaves, toasted brown bread and crushed pumpkin seeds. Mouth: Dense and terrifically oily, waxy and camphory. Posh olive oil, soot, chamomile, medical tinctures, green tea, linseed oil, coconut water, smoked grains and bergamot. Stunning texture and composition. With water: a touch of cured meat but still very waxy and oily, along with some notes of aged mead and lanolin. A beautiful natural candied sweetness as well. Finish: Long, nervous, resinous, waxy, herbal and oily with plenty citrus and a lick of minerality. Comments: A big, emphatic and gloriously textured old Dufftown. Did I ever tell you I consider Dufftown to be criminally underrated whisky...
SGP: 462 - 92 points.



February 23, 2018


A few Speyside from Speyside

I mean, from the Speyside Distillery. It's always a little tricky, with all these undisclosed Speysides around, not to confuse what's from Speyside and what's from Speyside Distillery. So, let's be careful, hope we won't fail...

Speyside 'Spey Chairman's Choice' (40%, OB, +/-2017)

Speyside 'Spey Chairman's Choice' (40%, OB, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
A bottle and a name that are deliciously outmoded. Welcome to 1982! Colour: pale gold. Nose: vanilla, malt, barley, a little sawdust, a little cardboard, biscuits, touches of oranges... In truth, had I tried this baby blind, I'd have said it's some rather solid 10 yo blended Scotch whisky. Mouth: sweet and malty, with overripe apples and some vanilla, plus a little honey and barley sugar. Not totally inspiring, perhaps. We're right between Glenfiddich 12 and Glenlivet 12, I would say. Finish: short, a tad cake-ier. Comments: rather fine but I wouldn't have bottled this 65€-baby at 40% vol. plus NAS.
SGP:441 - 78 points.

Speyside 21 yo 1996/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular,

Speyside 21 yo 1996/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #12019, 362 bottles) Four stars
Colour: dark amber. Nose: charcoaled beef, gunpowder, hot brake pads, hand soap, scoria, bottled cranberry juice, black tobacco (Gauloises), pomegranates... With water: gunpowder and used matches first, then softer roasted chestnuts and black chocolates. A handful of Mon Chéris. Mouth (neat): a heavy sherry, ridden with black raisins and a lot of tobacco, fruitcake, wheelbarrows full of prunes, and much less gunpowder this time. Not unlike some slightly drier brandy de Jerez... With water: works well, even if you could believe this was some further-fortified oloroso. A little more on coffee. Finish: rather long, dry, really very nice, more on coffee and tobacco. Espresso and Gauloises? Those were the days... Comments: very good surprise. The lightish distillate took the heavy sherry very well.
SGP:361 - 85 points.

Speyside-Glenlivet 21 yo 1996/2017 (61.7%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, 354 bottles)

Speyside-Glenlivet 21 yo 1996/2017 (61.7%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, 354 bottles) Four stars and a half
A lighter colour here... Colour: gold. Nose: not dissimilar, but rather more on cake and roasted nuts. Pecan pie, roasted peanuts, roasted chestnuts, hints of brown ale... With water: it was a very good sherry cask, for sure. Soy sauce, miso soup, fern, moss, humus, earth, chicken soup, tobacco... The spirit's only the canvas here. Mouth (neat): some kind of earthy oranges plus various herbs (woodruff) and really a lot of candied angelica. Very singular! With water: and very good. This earthy tobacco works extremely well. Finish: long, with more broths and soups, meats, bitter coffee... Comments: another distillery that should thank the indie bottlers if you ask me. Most probably my favourite Speyside (Distillery) so far.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Speyside 15 yo 2000/2016 (60.7%, Master of Malt, cask #2381)

Speyside 15 yo 2000/2016 (60.7%, Master of Malt, cask #2381) Three stars
No sherry this time, according to the colour. Colour: white wine. Nose: whiffs of burning pine cones, some barley water, apple pie, and perhaps not much else. But watch these very high strengths... With water: pleasant whiffs of crushed fern and other smells from a northern forest. But careful, the saponification is massive (spirit getting soapy when you add water, but that will go away.) Mouth (neat): some very strong barley-eau-de-vie with some vanilla pods thrown in. Other than that, it remains quiet... With water: good! Cider and vanilla with a lot of barley sugar plus notes of lemon balm. Finish: medium, all on sweet barley, perhaps corn syrup, and ripe apples. Comments: faultless and even very good, just not totally noteworthy, perhaps.
SGP:441 - 82 points.

Shall we call Speyside 'the aspirator'? Looks like it's all about the wood rather than the distillate indeed... Imagine a Speyside ex-Islay cask...

Speyside-Glenlivet 24 yo 1991/2016 (50.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 630 bottles)

Speyside-Glenlivet 24 yo 1991/2016 (50.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 630 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: touches of burnt tyres over biscuits and 4-oil blends (sunflower, rapeseed, grape seed, and I just can't remember number four). Very barley-y. With water: asparagus, perhaps. Dough, croissants, sweet bread, overripe apples... Mouth (neat): good, really good at first. Pink grapefruits, a little tar, paraffin, cider apples... But perhaps something slightly soapy as well. Things are deteriorating, it seems. With water: soapy notes up, not too good. Finish: medium. Some cardboard. Comments: perhaps the only really dispensable malt within this famous and very appealing range. As always in my very own humble opinion. Alternatively, just never add any H2O.
SGP:451 - 77 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Speyside I've tasted so far


February 22, 2018


Bowmore, more of them

I hear you, we just had a good ten Bowmores the other day. Well, you see, they keep pouring in, and we shall not complain about that. And if you’re not happy, please branch out and go to commercial or industry-embedded websites and blogs! (hey, just a joke!)

Bowmore 15 yo 2002/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular)

Bowmore 15 yo 2002/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular) Five stars
This one’s brand new and I wouldn’t find any details online. The problem is that I couldn’t wait any longer. Colour: pale straw. Nose: smells like a leaking cask, and that’s not obligatorily bad news mind you. On the one hand, it went a bit towards the unlikely 1980s, with these whiffs of lavender, but on the other hand, the floralness got extremely complex, and I just adore these very tiny whiffs of sea animals and plants. Wakame, whelks, whatever… (gee, S.!) Bitter almonds as well. Mouth: oh perfect, with more almonds, lemons, salted ‘stuff’, smoked fish of many kinds, oysters, pink grapefruits, salted tequila, smoked barley water (who would like to be a volunteer to try that?)… Finish: long and marvellously coastal. That’s it, coastal. Comments: if those fine gentlemen and great ladies at DL would mind passing me the details about this very lovely Bowmore, I’d be much grateful. Ref is #OLD0483. Merci beaucoup.
SGP:456 - 90 points.

Bowmore 15 yo 2001/2017 (56.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #7, hogshead, cask #20115, 286 bottles)

Bowmore 15 yo 2001/2017 (56.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #7, hogshead, cask #20115, 286 bottles) Five stars
I can’t see what would go wrong here… I suppose this is Signatory stock. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a sharp, well-carved one, apparently. Limestone, lemon, proper sauvignon blanc, grapefruit, Islay mud, chalk, kelp, hessian, beach bonfire. With water: more of the same and we shan’t complain ‘bout that. Mouth (neat): luminous, mentholy, beautifully bitter – and even acrid and harsh – very chalky, very lemony, and extremely grassy. Big green pepper. Warning, may cut you into two halves. With water: sweeter lemon up, but it remains a blade. Finish: long, and curiously sweeter, with a feeling of smoked and salted limoncello (who’s up?) Almonds in the aftertaste. Comments: only (minor) flaw, that was to be expected. Great Bowmore, in the vein of the first ‘Tempest’.
SGP:457 - 90 points.

Since we just had a 15…

Bowmore 15 yo 2002/2018 (54.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 288 bottles)

Bowmore 15 yo 2002/2018 (54.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 288 bottles) Five stars
That is right, the Spring Collection is here! Don’t I sound like I’m Paco Rabanne? Colour: white wine (first great news). Nose: bone-dry chenin blanc (yes, chenin noir does exist), hessian, burning ashes on a beach, moderately aromatic Cuban cigars (the names escape me after so many years of not smoking), and, hell, petroly riesling! This is whisky for wine people, apparently. With water: when menthol oil and other aromatic extracts do come in, you’re in for a treat. That’s exactly what’s happening here and now. Mouth (neat): I’m not going to yodel again, am I? The very essence of Bowmore’s distillate, properly aged, not flavoured. There. With water: utterly boring. Couldn’t we have a Liebfraumilch finish instead? Or, there, a triple-mizunara finish? Kazakh oak? Please? Finish: long, and in a way, very simple, which is exactly what we were expecting. Comments: go go go (if I may)… Now, Cadenhead, and since we’ll probably meet in Glasgow in a couple of days, could you please tell us a little more about your Potter Indian Corn whiskies?...
SGP:467 - 92 points.

Bowmore 25 yo 1991/2017 (48.7%, Antique Lions of Spirits, bourbon, 218 bottles)

Bowmore 25 yo 1991/2017 (48.7%, Antique Lions of Spirits, bourbon, 218 bottles) Four stars and a half
I think this is the only one within this lovely series that we haven’t tasted yet. When I eat spinach with truffles, I’ll always have the spinach first. Ha. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not always a bad sign when you first get glue and nail polish remover (acetone). In this case, those obvious notes tend to vanish into the air after just twenty (say fifteen) seconds, leaving room for some superb late-1960s-style almondy notes, smoked salmon, olives (bags of olives), and a little saltpetre and damp concrete. This is not exactly ‘modern’ Bowmore yet, but this rather ‘muddy’ style just works. Perfect and complex. Mouth: indeed, the late 1960s. What we have today is rather astonishing, as if our friends had poured quite a few old low-level bottles into the cask prior to disgorging it, and while only friends were watching. Only 1991, really?  Very very good – and complex. Finish: medium, a tad burnt in a good way, slightly Demerara-y, and with hints of very old and slightly sweet balsamico and more leather and tobacco. Some stuff must have happened. Comments: the word any bad writers would use here is ‘intriguing’. I would make things even more difficult for myself and add ‘excellent’.
SGP:456 - 89 points.

How many did we just try? You say four? Let’s make this a 5-session, okay?

Bw7 (53.2%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2017)

Bw7 (53.2%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2017) Three stars and a half
Missed Bw6 but who cares. I think Bw5 was superb (WF 90), but this is much darker, so perhaps a rather sauce-y Bowie. Colour: amber. Nose: you’ve got chestnuts roasted over some wood smoke, plus a curious feeling of smoked blood oranges and even strawberries. And before I forget, notes of proper old PX or Moscatel. Serious! With water: once again, careful with water. Muddy feelings at +/-40% vol. Mouth (neat): it’s a thick one, and indeed it’s a little heavy, but I just like proper pipe tobacco and puréed roasted pecans and sesame very much… Some old rancio in there too. It’s not a zesty or subtle one for sure, it’s even rather heavy to tell you the truth, but things do work so far. Oh, smoked prunes! With water: rather great when at +/-45% vol., do not go beyond that. Finish: long, earthier. Comments: peated Armagnac, that’s smart. I like the purer Bowmores better, obviously, but this slightly clumsy one remains in premier league.
SGP:466 - 84 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Bowmore I've tasted so far


February 21, 2018


Three unusual indie Springbank

Not a month without Springbank, that is one of Whiskyfun’s mottos. I have to say that quite a few years ago, I used to believe that the distillery’s heydays were over, and that no newer bottling could ever match the older Local Barleys, or the old regular 10, 12 or 21s, or, of course, the West Highland Malts. Especially because of some pretty appalling sulphury bottlings, or because of the first very unlikely wine casks… And then, around eight or ten years ago, things started to get much, much, and I mean much better, and Springbank became one of the very few ‘Grands Crus of Scotland’ again in my book. But enough small talk, let’s move from words to action if you don’t mind…

Springbank 17 yo 2000/2017 (41.6%, Wiskybroker for Port of Holmsund, Demerara refill cask, cask #630, 196 bottles)

Springbank 17 yo 2000/2017 (41.6%, Wiskybroker for Port of Holmsund, Demerara refill cask, cask #630, 196 bottles) Four stars and a half
A private bottling for a fearless bunch of friends in Holmsund/Umea in Sweden. Apparently, no one can explain the low ABV and what’s more, the cask was not leaking according to some reliable sources. Let’s see… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: imagine some fresh apple juice blended with some seawater, a brew to which you’d have then added quite some crushed chalk, drops of ink, a hint of carbolinium, and a little ski wax to improve this baby’s gliding properties once you’ll have it past your gullet. It’s relatively light, but very clean, quite subtle, and certainly not very ‘rummy’, which is just as good even if we all remember Cadenhead’s famously superb green 1973. Mouth: perhaps touches of rum this time, as if the lovely mineral side had been coated with a little cane honey. Just a little! Other than that, it’s well a coastal, rather smoky/Longrowy Springbank, with a little green pepper, shoe polish, brine, and a feeling of coal plus artichokes plus oysters. Please don’t try that at home. Finish: rather long, with more pepper and bitter herbs, always with this waxy quality. Comments: superb, and indeed rather Longrowy. Remember that many Longrows are labelled as ‘Springbank Distillery’ at the indies.
SGP:364 - 89 points.

Springbank 24 yo 1992/2017 (47.1%, The Maltman for The Whisky Foundation, sherry cask, cask #212214, 244 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1992/2017 (47.1%, The Maltman for The Whisky Foundation, sherry cask, cask #212214, 244 bottles) Four stars and a half
The Whisky Foundation is a funny new concept, some kind of auction whereby the buyers make the price, each new buy making the next one more expensive until, I suppose, no one’s buying anymore. So the very first bottle was sold for $1, while at time of writing, the prices have reached $270.42. We’ve heard Dalmore and Macallan are about to do the same with their new 50 yo crystal decanters (we ‘might’ be joking)… Colour: gold. Nose: a completely different style, much more ‘coated’, rounder, nosing a tad sweet (which isn’t bad at all), with whiffs of coconut milk and rose petals, then quinces and mandarins. No smoke this time, rather a perfect, slightly oriental/raisiny fruitiness. In that respect, we aren’t too far from some official Springbanks of old. Mouth: same kind of combination, with some sweet spices, some coconut, baklavas, quince jelly, then notes of menthol tobacco, peppermint (do you know that French liqueur named Get27?) and indeed raisins. This raisin/menthol combo really makes it ‘oriental’. Good body. Finish: medium, on the same notes, plus an even more obvious Springbankness in the background. You know, that waxy side… Comments: Springbank doing the dance of the seven veils. It does it extremely well, I think.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Springbank 18 yo 1996/2014 (56.3%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, sherry hogshead, cask #491)

Springbank 18 yo 1996/2014 (56.3%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, sherry hogshead, cask #491) Five stars
One that I had saved for later days, and indeed those days have come. Colour: dark gold. Nose: believe me or not, this is more or less a blend of the two previous ones. That is to say a rather more mineral and waxy Springbank, coated with some rounder, more raisiny aromas. Leather, mud, tobacco, saltpetre, roasted chestnuts and toasted walnuts, ink, carbon paper, new magazines… You see. With water: rather a pile of old magazines in an old attic. You know, Kennedy shot down, Man on the moon, Vietnam, Jimi Hendrix… Mouth (neat): great rubber and brake fluid and new tyres and struck matches and paraffin and… salty oranges. In short, the Springbankest of them all. With water: there’s a quality limoncello quality to it once you’ve reduced it. A dirtiness as well, but Springbank ought to be a little dirty, in my opinion. Finish: long, with this wonderful wee salty sourness that’s so… idiosyncratic. Comments: whisky for great adventurers, whisky that doesn’t belong in all hands (and palates).
SGP:462 - 90 points.

(Thanks Kjell and Miriam)

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


February 20, 2018


A good bag of hopefully good Laphroaig

We’ll try to carefully avoid any new-oak-doped ones (we may fail, the way things are going), while also hoping that no red wine has ever been in use with these…

William & Son 9 yo 2008/2017 (56.8%, Single Cask Collection, blended malt, bourbon barrel, 260 bottles)

William & Son 9 yo 2008/2017 (56.8%, Single Cask Collection, blended malt, bourbon barrel, 260 bottles) Four stars
Our friends are playing with words, this is probably not from William Grant & Sons, and neither does it stem from luxury retailers William & Son in London, this ought to be Williamson, a.k.a. ‘teaspooned’ Laphroaig, named after legendary manager Bessie Williamson. By the way, ever spotted any distillery workers wandering throughout the warehouses (or at the filling station) carrying teaspoons and a can of ‘other malt’? Me neither… Colour: white wine. Nose: some pure, crystal-cut Laphroaig, with a lot of seaweed, fresh almonds, iodine, smoked fish, ashes, and say lady’s moisturizer. With water: smoked skincare products? Mouth (neat): still a few pears from its youth, but otherwise lemons, salt, iodine and wood ashes are having the upper hand here. Narrow and millimetric, while wonderful. Chiselled, as we sometimes say. With water: pears come to the front, together with citrons and lemons, while the background remains very ashy. Indeed, and quite medicinal. Finish: medium, ashy, rather sweet. Drops of Cointreau. Comments: in transit from youth to maturity. And extremely good already.
SGP:547 - 86 points.

Laphroaig 1998/2015 (54.9%, OB, hand-filled, cask #636)

Laphroaig 1998/2015 (54.9%, OB, hand-filled, cask #636)
Our friend Fabien’s own bottle from the distillery. Never miss that when you visit the distillery, it’s fun to fill your own wee bottle and of course, some unwanted overfilling, spillage and subsequent licking are almost requested. It would be rude not to do it! Colour: straw. Nose: fresh bourbon or even virgin oak. A lot of vanilla, hints of coconut, and the gentlest hints of a medicinal and iodine-y Laphroaigness. In the style of Select, only ten times nicer. With water: a lot of old hessian. Mouth (neat): a sweet, very bourbonised, bonbony, and yet very coastal Laphroaig. Coconuts abound, and so do passion fruit syrup and Cointreau again. With water: oysters sprinkled with vanilla essence and tangerine liqueur. How modern! Finish: medium, rounded, modern. Comments: really the modern side of Laphroaig. Some re-racking must have occurred.
SGP:646 - (not available, so no score) points.

Laphroaig 15 yo 2001/2016 (56.2%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, refill hogshead, cask #12787, 270 bottles)

Laphroaig 15 yo 2001/2016 (56.2%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, refill hogshead, cask #12787, 270 bottles) Four stars
Yes, refill! Colour: deep gold. Nose: well if this is a refill hoggie, the previous content has been grain whisky and it was kept in the cask for only three years, because there’s quite some vanillin left, and all things cellulosic and hemi-cellulosic as well… Having said that, this is no vanilla bomb at all, and I’m rather finding very nice notes of fresh almonds, kelp, hessian, and a lighter kind of smoke. Some brine too, of course. With water: lime, smoky mezcal, and… salt. Mouth (neat): oh excellent! Powerful, very zesty, and yet quite massive, very almondy, lemony, and smoky. We’re having a dozen big fat oysters while smoking a large cigar and drinking Sancerre. How very Parisian. With water: no quibbles, does the job to perfection. Gets quite mentholy. Finish: pretty long, a tad round, a tad fat, and very good. Medicinal aftertaste (dentist’s toothpaste). Comments: as I said, no quibbling here, this is excellent.
SGP:557 - 87 points.

Laphroaig 20 yo 1996/2017 (51.3%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular for HNWS Taiwan, refill hogshead, 178 bottles)

Laphroaig 20 yo 1996/2017 (51.3%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular for HNWS Taiwan, refill hogshead, 178 bottles) Five stars
Frankly, these birds and flowers and butterflies do really improve DL’s labels. Too eccentric? Nah… Colour: gold. Nose: o.l.i.v.e. o.i.l.! Then lemon curd plus hessian and those famous fisherman’s tarry ropes. And fresh shrimp, perhaps, kelp… And more olives. Totally a winning combo at WF Towers… With water: when old clothes come out, it’s a win. Old tweed jackets, specifically. Mouth (neat): superb, I’ll say right away and without any ambiguity that this is one of the best recent Laphroaigs I’ve tried. Perfect lemons, brine, seawater, kippers, pepper, and everything’s perfectly synchronised. Love these hints of olives with Tabasco. With water: almonds and kippers, plus pink grapefruits. Another winning combination. Swims very well. Finish: not the longest, but there is some elegance to it. Comments: this one goes to stress the fact that vanilla, coconut and wine are totally unnecessary in whisky.
SGP:457 - 91 points.

Things are going well, but back to toddlers…

Laphroaig 6 yo 2011 (58.7%, Exclusive Malts for The Whisky Barrel, refill sherry hogshead, cask #195, 337 bottles)

Laphroaig 6 yo 2011/2017 (58.7%, Exclusive Malts for The Whisky Barrel, refill sherry hogshead, cask #195, 337 bottles) Four stars and a half
This is one of the bottlings they’ve done to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of The Whisky Barrel. Colour: gold. Nose: the cask, although refill, was pretty active here, but it rather imparted floral notes, as well as herbs. I’m thinking rosehip, honeysuckle, eucalyptus (big time), then rather lapsang souchong, and a welcome bready side. There’s something ‘crafted’ to this nose. With water: gingerbread and toasted pumpernickel, while someone’s smoking his pipe not too far away. Mouth (neat): indeed, the cask was very active, and that worked. Again, we’re rather in crafty territories, and I cannot not think of Westland’s peaters. Blueberries, ginger, smoked meats, caraway… All very good. With water: spiced bread, gingerbread, Maggi, caraway, miso soup, pepper… Finish: long, salty. Asparagus soup (with croutons!) plus anchovies and crushed black olives. That’s right, tapenade. Comments: some very active refill wood here, pretty brilliant. Once more, I have the feeling that some distilleries should watch what some indies are doing very carefully - and perhaps do the same. But not my business…
SGP:467 - 89 points.

Lp8 1998/2017 (53.5%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay)

Lp8 1998/2017 (53.5%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay) Four stars and a half
NAS, gone for good! Ex-Madeira wood, so total hit or utter miss… A matter of singing in tune, you know. Colour: deep gold. Nose: ah. Crayons, sweet mustard, candied papayas, woodruff, zucchini flowers, cane juice, and very little smoke. I’d have never said ‘Laphroaig’, but I would have reported contentment, happiness and satisfaction – which is exactly what I’m trying to do just now. With water: many Islayers get a tad ‘muddy’ when watered down, and that’s what’s happening now. Honeyed cardboard? Mouth (neat): some funny concoction that works. Let’s try to gather our thoughts… Say sweet leather, bitter oranges, pepper, mustard sauce (palette à la diable, a dish we have here where you bake ham covered with mustard), candied oranges, grapefruit marmalade… With water: works. Pepper, mustard, oranges, umami. Finish: long, a notch more on straight oak. Orange liqueur back in the aftertaste. Comments: another funny and very good baby. But we’ll try to find Laphroaig au naturel before this session is over, read my lips…
SGP:556 - 88 points.

Laphroaig 21 yo 1996/2017 (53.4%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, for La Maison du Whisky, refill hogshead, cask #11990, 253 bottles)

Laphroaig 21 yo 1996/2017 (53.4%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, for La Maison du Whisky, refill hogshead, cask #11990, 253 bottles) Four stars and a half
What could go wrong here? Colour: gold. Nose: all is tranquil and quiet here, there’s a little custard, soft fresh marzipan, apple peelings, argan oil, olives… the calm before the storm? With water: this is plain seawater. Brilliant. Mouth (neat): incredible (and as one friend would say, in ‘incredible’ there’s ‘edible’), salty, lemony, extremely zesty, angular, and yet not brutal… This is pure Laphroaig, an incomparable ode to this great distillery that’s making such a superb distillate – a distillate that should always either remain pure and untouched, or very carefully hybridised (see the Exclusive Malt, see the Lp8). As they used to say in marketing brochures, no half measures! (not sure that was Laphroaig though)… With water: seawater again. Oyster juice. Perhaps a touch of vanilla that makes it a tad rounder, and simpler. Finish: this is where it loses points, it got a tad too simple. Salted marzipan. Comments: perhaps still a wee tad young? But there is immense potential, watch these mid-1990s batches once they reach the age of 25 or 30… Same elsewhere, by the way.
SGP:457 - 89 points.

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


February 19, 2018


Four Tomatin

I’ve heard that in Gaelic, ‘Tomatin’ means ‘joyful fruits’, but my sources aren’t very reliable, so please don’t quote me on that…

Tomatin 6 yo 2009/2015 (52.8%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #900016, 844 bottles)

Tomatin 6 yo 2009/2015 (52.8%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #900016, 844 bottles) Two stars and a half
Not a single cask, I suppose. Let’s hope this won’t be pure new make… Colour: white wine. Nose: toasted pastries, malt, vanilla, fudge, then orange candies, slivovitz… Definitely modern, well crafted, pleasant. With water: gets much grassier, but not in a bad way. A little aniseed, which isn’t uncommon in very young spirits. Mouth (neat): very eau-de-vie-ish. New kirsch and again, slivovitz, williams pears... Not quite new make anymore, but I wouldn’t call it mature. Transitional malt whisky, I would say. With water: same. Pear juice. Finish: medium, rather fresh, with some saccharin. Rather a feeling of saccharin. Comments: frankly, it’s good, fresh, fruity… And very interesting if anyone would like to check how good malt whisky tastes when still very young (and not oak/wine-doped).
SGP:641 - 79 points.

Tomatin 2007/2017 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, casks # casks 4920, 4921, 4922)

Tomatin 2007/2017 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, casks # casks 4920, 4921, 4922) Four stars
Yes we’ve tried quite a lot of whiskies from this series lately, but I have to say many have been really impressive, so I’m happy to go on. And we all know that small batches (2-5 casks) can be superior to single casks… Colour: straw. Nose: some walnut cake straight from a professional oven, plus all things orange-y, then many citrus fruits, with an amazing freshness. Tangerines direct from the tree, also guavas and mangos, which reminds me of older vintages. Perfect. With water: citrus peel all over the place. Mouth (neat): oh good! Citrus and acacia honey, then a green oakiness that works very well in this context. Green earl grey tea, croissants, scones. Is it five-o’clock yet? With water: more of all that, with a lovely orange-y freshness. Swims very well. Finish: medium, and always very orange-y. One drop of Southern Comfort in the aftertaste, but no worries… Comments: smashing. Who’s blending the casks these days, at G&M’s?
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Tomatin 23 yo 1994/2018 (47.4%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 234 bottles)

Tomatin 23 yo 1994/2018 (47.4%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 234 bottles) Four stars
A +/- two years finishing in a sherry hogshead. Colour: gold. Nose: walnuts, old wood, hints of acetone (nothing excessive), whiffs of manure, old cigars, fermenting hay, musty cellar, old barrlques… Do I find this nice? You bet, love it! Mouth: who was the sorcerer? Some kind of Cuban cigar dipped into marmalade and then rum, and then lit up. There’s something a wee tad unlikely here, but it just works. Gets more peppery after a few seconds. Proper pepper and Szechuan pepper. Finish: only the finish is a tad below par, getting a little too leafy for me. Just a little… Comments: I was a bit scared, but while the palate was good-not-great, the nose was really superb.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Tomatin 1983/2017 (44.6%, OB for Quaich Bar Singapore, hogshead, cask #14192, 158 bottles)

Tomatin 1983/2017 (44.6%, OB for Quaich Bar Singapore, hogshead, cask #14192, 158 bottles) Five stars
Colour: gold. Nose: as expected, this oldie bursts with sour fruits, mangos, passion fruits, grapefruits… It is a fact that Tomatin lost its tropicalness quite some years ago, but each and every time we’re trying one of these older casks, well, it’s a thrill. Mangos tend to take over the whole range, but that’s all for the better. In the background, hints of toasted brioche, drops of maple syrup, and very funny hints of strawberry yoghurt.  Superb nose nonetheless. Mouth: perfect, complex, extremely tropical again (passion fruits and mangos are really running and ruling the show), with a wee buttery side, hints of Noilly, and this perfect savoury sourness that’s usually rather to be found in the greatest Belgian beers. Shall we mention umami? Totally delicious. Finish: perhaps a little less entrancing, and that’s the old oak that’s fighting back. Only solution, drink a lot and never get to the finish. You didn’t read that here. Comments: fantastic nose and palate, and a finish that’s just a wee tad more difficult, but that’s the fate of many a very old whisky. Mind you, this baby’s almost 35!
SGP:751 - 90 points.

(Thank you Benjamin!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Tomatin I've tasted so far


February 18, 2018


Time for more Armagnac

Watch it, Armagnac could really grow on you whisky lovers, assuming you manage to separate the wheat from the chaff (or, yeah, the juice from the lees)… Let’s see what we have today…

Darroze 30 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (43%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015)

Darroze 30 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (43%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015) Four stars and a half
We had the whole series, but for some forgotten reasons, never tried the 30 and the 40. The 50 had been utterly stellar, having said that (and totally a steal…) Colour: dark amber. Nose: ooh, reseda, figs, honey cake, oriental pastries, juicy blond sultanas, tangerines, apricots… In truth I’d say we’re rather close to Cognac here. Some lovely Cognac… Mouth: we’re finding menthol, orange cake, pistachios, honeydew, mead, figs about to ferment, arrak, stuff like that… Love the tiny herbs that pop out, parsley, watercress, lovage… Tends to become pretty bouillony, which is just great. There is some oak, but we’re fine. Finish: medium, rather fresh, on some kind of peach/parsley combination. Plus Thai basil. Comments: it’s a great series by Darroze, for sure, and a perfect introduction to Armagnac from a whisky lover’s POV. Just saying.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

And naturally…

Darroze 40 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (43%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015)

Darroze 40 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (43%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015) Four stars and a half
Colour: deep amber. Nose: what, rum? We’re approaching sugarcane-y cake-iness, so to speak. Sponge finger cakes, then litchi syrup, heather honey, zucchini flowers, Havana Club’s oldest (just better than that), dried flower petals, patchouli… This one’s really very floral and cake-y, really curious about the palate I have to say… Mouth: this one has more knack, zing and oomph that I had expected, and frankly, 1950s Macallan isn’t too far away. I mean, Macallan from the times when they were mimicking brandies… Figs, raisins, orange liqueurs, a wee hint of coal smoke, a drop of brine, a spoonful of chestnut honey (by the way, our close friends at Domaine Apicole de Chezelles have just won Silver in Paris for their Chestnut Honey!) Finish: medium, a tad more herbal and bouillony. Honey and olive oil, a winning combo. The aftertaste is a tad tannic, sadly. Comments: too close to call.
SGP:561 - 88 points.

Delord 1976 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2016)

Delord 1976 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2016) Three stars and a half
This baby comes in one of these traditional flat bottles called basquaises that really look like tennis rackets. No, do not try that. Delord’s one of the most famous houses in Armagnac. Colour: amber. Nose: oh pretty perfect! It’s a rather fat Armagnac, and it’s even got something phenolic, almost high-ester. Quite. Rotting bananas, black olives, then figs and dates plus prunes, as usual. Almost forgot the raisins. Mouth: a tad more ‘vague’, with some earth, leaves, prunes, black raisins, PX, rancio, stewed peaches… It’s more an Armagnac like the ones my grandpas used to quaff on Sundays. A little earthy mint coming through, that is nice. Finish: medium, drier. Unsweetened black tea and half an olive, plus one prune. After all, this is Armagnac. Some mint in the aftertaste. Comments: all very fine in this rather rustic Arrmagnac. 1976, that was the year of the great heat wave in France!
SGP:461 - 83 points.

Perhaps an older bottle of a young folle blanche?...

Domaine de Boignières 1985/1997 (49%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, for Italy)

Domaine de Boignières 1985/1997 (49%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, for Italy) Five stars
This is pure folle blanche again, and folle blanche’s one of the things in Armagnac. As for the strength, it seems that some people were already quite smart back in 1997… Colour: amber. Nose: lovely orange cake, figs galore, pecan pie, earthy/sweet mushrooms (boletus), pu-erh tea, more earth, oak smoke, proper coffee, oxtail soup… It’s actually becaming soupier and soupier. Mouth: superb. Sharp oranges and grapefruits, plus green olives, plus a touch of vanillin, plus quite some honeydew, plus a little cane juice, plus a salty touch. You can’t fight this, and indeed the strength is perfect. Finish: rather long, and rather malty, salty and smoky. You could believe this is Glen Garioch, really. Comments: totally impressed – sadly I had never heard of the Domaine de Boignières before, neither have I heard of owners Léon Laffite. Great people, obviously.
SGP:562 - 90 points.

Perhaps another 1985?...

Domaine de Baraillon 1985/2012 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Domaine de Baraillon 1985/2012 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Five stars
I did try a 1988 by Domaine de Baraillon, and it was great (WF 87). Colour: deep amber. Nose: please have a seat, this is great. Imagine some kind of cocktail made by the maddest mixologist (they’re all mad anyway, aren’t they), with puréed roasted chestnuts, lapsang souchong, cigar ashes, Grisons meat, the driest manzanilla, garden peat, black volcanic earth, bits of grilled cured ham (what our Anglo-Saxon friends call bacon, I suppose), very old muscat wine that went bone dry, fern… All this is just wonderful, and utterly and plainly malternative, I have to say. Mouth: s’il vous plaît appelez la brigade anti-maltopornographique, merci beaucoup. Shouldn’t I rather review my Cognacs and Armagnacs in French? What do you say? Okay, okay… But this is stunning, tarry, dry, avoiding any possible pitfalls, including any excessive prunes or raisins. Wonderful smoky earthiness, and a palate that is wholly tertiary. Tiny herbs, fern, mushrooms, cocoa, moss, bacon, and a funny lactic side that’s anything but embarrassing. Finish: long, with the oranges chiming in, right on time. And cocoa in the aftertaste. Comments: I adored this one. Same category as that of the greatest Springbanks or Clynelishes. Indeed, proper spirits.
SGP:462 - 92 points.

Extremely happy with this session, but stay tuned, we’ve still got many great Armagnacs to taste…

(Thanks a lot again, Francesco)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Armagnacs I've tasted so far


February 17, 2018




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild



Drams for Old & Rare:
A Wee Miscellaneous Assortment

As you may or may not know, the Whisky Show Old & Rare is taking place in Glasgow next weekend, an event which I happen to co-organise and am very much looking forward to (I’ll be there too - editor’s note). With this in mind I thought a wee warm up / whistle whetting / mini-celebration session might be in order. So, let's try a few select rarities that will be available at the show next week as a wee preview…


Apologies in advance for any maltoporn which may or may not occur...



Macallan 25 yo 1967/1993 (43%, OB, Anniversary Malt) Macallan 25 yo 1967/1993 (43%, OB, Anniversary Malt)
These old official Macallans are sailing into the stratosphere in terms of price at auction these days; to the point that I scarcely consider them on my radar anymore. Which is a pity as many of them were excellent whiskies. Always a pleasure to revisit them. Colour: Amber. Nose: A rather pure aroma of old sherry. VORS Oloroso poured fresh in the Bodega (ahhh Jerez!), some well-aged Cognac, a little prune juice, wet earth, dried wild mushrooms and some chopped sultanas. A bit of orange zest, linseed oil, furniture polish and some spiced mead. The kind of oomphy, super clean and wonderfully rich sherry that is pretty non-existent these days. Mouth: Pure decadence. It's the epitome of this deeply opulent house style that Macallan built their name upon (who mentioned subsequent demolition…?). Leathery, lots of citrus fruit peel, earth, umami paste, black olives, some dried herbs such as rosemary and mint, then darjeeling tea and a touch of cough medicine. Finish: Good but perhaps a tad short of soft. Still lingering dark fruits and an increasingly bitter and rather wonderful chocolate note. Comments: At times the strength feels just right; at others it smacks slightly of weakness - particularly in the finish. However, it's a beautiful and extremely fine old Macallan. The kind of sherry profile that people go a bit doolally for these days.
SGP: 652 - 89 points.


Ben Wyvis 31 yo 1968/2000 (51%, Signatory Vintage, cask #685, hogshead, 191 bottles) Ben Wyvis 31 yo 1968/2000 (51%, Signatory Vintage, cask #685, hogshead, 191 bottles)
I've never tried Ben Wyvis single malt before… Colour: Gold. Nose: Leafy and green, full of green apple peelings, porridge oats, lemon oils, a little toasted sourdough bread, freshly malted barley, dry earth and after a little time some lightly sooty aspects. Really rather lovely! Takes on a gravely, mineralic edge after a while as well. A touch of mustard seed and mixed moroccan spice. With water: some spearmint, green tea and a handful of trail mix. Also a touch of chamois leather. Mouth: Rather spicy, all on white pepper and camphor initially, although this quickly gives way to a rather beautiful waxiness with lamp oil and hessian abound. Grassy olive oil, sandalwood, a well-buttered slice of malt loaf and some toasted sunflower seeds. With water: more citrus and grassy notes along with a lightly chalky mineral quality and a few white flowers. Some pollen and beeswax as well. Finish: Good length, slightly drying but with some elegant honeysuckle and light spice notes towards the end. Comments: I had no idea what to expect really. There's always a concern with these stupid decanters that leave an inexplicably massive amount of air and headroom at the top of the bottle that the whisky will be out of condition. However, I'm pleased to report that isn't the case here. A lovely and rather humbling wee dram. Perhaps akin to a lighter Glen Ord of similar vintage.
SGP: 452 - 90 points.


Highland Park 1966/1979 (75 proof, Berry Brothers) Highland Park 1966/1979 (75 proof, Berry Brothers)
Colour: Gold. Nose: This really reminds me of the older green dumpy official Highland Parks from the late 1950s and early 60s vintages. It has this same kind of elegant herbal peat crossed with earthy and coastal aspects. Sheep wool, camphor, wet beach pebbles, heather honey, a distant farmyard and many sooty and oily complexities. Totally harmonious and beautiful. These lower abv old school Highland Parks had this sense of immense power gently flexing in the glass and you get that here in spades. More herbs and lemon rind with time. Mouth: Majestic! Ridden with soft peats, coal dust, soot, waxes, mineral oil, dried herbs and earth. Also some assorted citrus peels, old ointment and a little sandalwood. Probably best to stop here. Finish: Long, harmonious and totally beautiful. Full of minerals, waxes, dry peat, soot and camphor. Also little glimmers of wildflowers and white fruits peeping through towards the end. Comments: Yet another spectacular old, evocative Highland Park. Nuff said!
SGP: 464 - 93 points.


Glenlivet ‘Pure Malt Over 10 Years Old’ (75 proof, Sworder & Co Ltd, -/+ 1960) Glenlivet ‘Pure Malt Over 10 Years Old’ (75 proof, Sworder & Co Ltd, -/+ 1960)
A rather lovely looking old indy bottling of Glenlivet from some time around the late 50s / early 60s. Colour: Amber. Nose: A beautifully leafy and earthy old style sherry. Lots of chocolate, crushed nuts, walnut oil, cereals, sultanas and dates. A little graphite, some soot and notes of darjeeling tea with lemon peel in. With time these rather mushroomy tertiary aspects arise along with more dried dark fruits and berries. Mouth: Good! It’s surprisingly punchy, emphatic and powerful on the palate. Beautifully nervous sherry wrapped around lots of earth, walnut wine, dark chocolate, a little natural tar resin, aged cognac and a few fresh green fruits such as cider apple and ripe damsons. Goes on with a few dried cranberries, some wood ash and a few sprigs of dried thyme. Finish: Long, elegantly earthy and full of balsamic, rancio and mint tea. Comments: A beautiful and eminently quaffable old style malt that showcases stellar, full-bodied old school Speyside distillate in tandem with perfect sherry. Although, I would hazard that there are probably stocks somewhat older than 10 sloshing about in the depths of this one...
SGP: 562 - 92 points.


Can’t do that one and not do this one with it...



Glenlivet ‘Pure Malt Over 10 Years Old’ (75 proof, Sworder & Co Ltd, -/+ 1970)

Glenlivet ‘Pure Malt Over 10 Years Old’ (75 proof, Sworder & Co Ltd, -/+ 1970)
From around a decade later and looking not a little sherry influenced... Colour: Bronze. Nose: Rather different. This one is really on pure prune juice, fig jam, crushed brazil nuts and sultanas. Although it is still wonderfully leafy and earthy with notes of green banana skin, blood orange and milk chocolate. With time it converges more with the older one with these light mushroomy notes. Mouth: Again rather punchy and spicy this time. Towards a good XO cognac with some notes of boot polish, toasted cereals and fresh brown bread. Some ground sunflower seeds, olive oil, bay leaf and more notes of raisins, banana bread, sultanas and some very good rhum agricole. Increasing earthiness with time and even a little waxy punch. Finish: Long, earthy, leafy, full of dark fruits and soft spices. A slab of Dundee cake perhaps. Comments: Another pretty thrilling old sherried dram that also probably contains quite a bit of stock older than 10. A pristine example of old school sherry maturation. Not quite a brilliant as the 1960s one but, as Serge says, ‘we’re still flying high...’
SGP: 551 - 91 points.



While we’re on Glenlivet it seems a shame not to make it a hat trick...



Glenlivet Solera. (48.3%, Thompson Bros, drawn from solera 6/4/94, 20 bottles)

Glenlivet Solera (48.3%, Thompson Bros, drawn from solera 6/4/94, 20 bottles)
This extremely limited bottling came about as the result of some very old stocks from a private cellar that my erstwhile pal / nemesis Phil 'Fill' Thompson from Dornoch purchased at auction a few years back. The liquid is multi vintage mix of older Glenlivets that the original owners had stored in a stoneware flagon and 'topped up' over the years, until it was eventually put into glass in 1994.



Colour: Deep gold. Nose: In the words of Serge Valentin: 'Sweet Vishnu!'. This is a gloriously dense concoction of old style, earthy peat, ancient yellow Chartreuse, smoked treacle, earthen floors, dried herbs - specifically tarragon, sage and bay leaf - lapsang souchong, antique polished hardwoods and the most elegant and subtle of waxes. With time you also have many tertiary notes such as wet earth, rancio, aged Sauternes, some coconut butter, steel wool and camphor. Quite spectacular, a nose that really reminds of these wartime era distillates that G&M bottled a number of in the 1980s; only this one shows considerably more punch thanks to the strength. Mouth: Massive, fat, oily peat. Herbal, earthy, waxy, deeply heathery as well and filled with pine resins, natural tar, embrocations, gorse and black pepper. Stunning! Continues with camphor, coal hearths, metal polish, olive oil, creosote and even a touch of brine. Quite majestic. Finish: Superbly long and resinous but also oily and filled with lingering savoury complexity, notes of black olives in oil, various dried herbs, bottle aged Drambuie, green tea and lemon oil. Lingers in a way which is perfectly drying and mouthwatering. Comments: Totally stellar whisky. The sort of dram that makes you wonder what many of these wartime vintage G&M bottlings would have been like at cask strength, or even 46%. That aside, this is a wonderful younger example of an older, peatier and far more fulsome style of Glenlivet. Not to mention a totally extinct style of whisky that sadly isn't made at any distillery on the planet these days. I wonder just how often it was 'topped up' as a solera, the character to me feels like 'balls to the wall' peaty wartime (or immediately post-war) whisky. On the nose I had it at 93 but the palate took it to…
SGP: 475 - 94 points.



Glengoyne 40 yo (56.8%, Director’s Special, Elixir Distillers, +/-2017)

Glengoyne 40 yo (56.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Director’s Special, Elixir Distillers, +/-2017)
A bottling by/for The Whisky Exchange. Colour: Deep amber. Nose: Intense Oloroso, precious hardwoods, five spice, firecrackers, earthen floors, all manner of figs, dates, prunes and other dark fruits in compote form. Then there is also old leather, aged library books and quite a lot of rancio and mushroom powder. Impressively dense, spicy and sumptuously sherried. Not unlike some older Karuizawas in some aspects. With water: some baked apple tart with a drizzle of aged Moscatel. With time it gets more bready and earthy in a pleasingly savoury way. Some bitter chocolate and toasted hazelnuts. Mouth: Rather immense delivery, all on dried dark and tropical fruits. Some orange cocktail bitters, aged demerara rum, wet earth, tobacco leaf, muscovado sugar and ground black pepper. More simmering Chinese spices and rancio qualities. With water: softens up with some wonderful notes of lemon peel, wet leaves, moss and various dried herbs such as sage and thyme. Still rather massive and thrillingly spicy in a way that never spills over into overly extractive tannin. Finish: Long and elegantly drying with masses of spice, dark chocolate, raisins, aged cognac and earth. A lingering hint of rancio and very old balsamic. Comments: A majestic old Glengoyne and a perfect example of that great rarity: an old whisky that manages to thrill equally across nose and palate.
SGP: 662 - 92 points.



Bowmore 20 yo 1965/1985 (48.5%, Intertrade)

Bowmore 20 yo 1965/1985 (48.5%, Intertrade)
Colour: Amber. Nose: Flinty at first with a kind of vegetal earthiness. Not an uber-tropical example of 60s Bowmore. Instead we have some coastal funk like grilled whelks, a few smouldering peat embers, sautéed mushrooms, camphor and notes of soot, squid ink and beach bonfires. With a little breathing a smoky minerality emerges, alongside dried herbs, sandalwood and some more medicinal touches such as mercurochrome and dettol. There’s also a increasingly meaty aspect like fennel sausage or salami. Really quite complex. Not the easiest or most straightforward of old Bowmores but extremely satisfying to nose away at for ages. The fruitiness is more on nervous citrus notes and a few green apples and tart gooseberry. Mouth: Pow! Much more evidently peaty on the palate. Big notes of tarry fishnets, oily kippers, soot, hessian, camphor, pitch and some smoked mussels in brine. Goes on with black olives, rosemary, lapsang souchong and a little smoked mead (although I’m sure that isn’t a thing - even if it should be!). Fantastically oily, briny, smouldering and punchy with a resilient salt and pepper edge to it. Finish: Long, earthy, herbal and peaty with preserved lemons, sardines in olive oil and many rugged coastal complexities. Comments: An old mariner/warrior/sailor/fishwife (delete/include depending on your hyperbole preferences) battling away into the storm. Or whatever you’re supposed to say about these amazing old Islay whiskies these days. Anyway, it’s another remarkable old Bowmore - goes to show they didn’t just make Umbongo there in the 1960s.
SGP: 566 - 93 points.



Glenugie 30 yo 1966/1996 (62.4%, The Bottlers, cask #856)

Glenugie 30 yo 1966/1996 (62.4%, The Bottlers, cask #856)
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you in just how high esteem whisky lovers tend to hold The Bottlers. They’ve unearthed many totally stunning whiskies over the years. Although sadly they’re pretty quiet these days. Colour: Light amber. Nose: Where do you start? It’s a difficult aroma to describe, there is almost an abundance of overripe fruits - not unlike a smoothie of assorted green, garden, white and tropical fruits that all needed using up. Beneath that there’s barley sugar, fresh malt, a hay loft. Then aged Sauternes, caramelised muscovado sugar, wild mint, many kinds of fruit jam, wild strawberries, some jasmine tea... the complexity, even at full strength is just totally flabbergasting. With time there is an earthiness, old spice boxes, unlit cigars and something like currants and cognac stewed raisins. Just astounding really. With water: more chiselled and mineral now; notes of sourdough, lemon jelly and coconut water. Beautiful! Mouth: Massive delivery. Hugely syrupy, lusciously fruity and superbly spicy and punchy. A whole tub of quince jelly, damsons, rhubarb crumble, jasmine tea, mirabelle eau de vie, mustard seed, white pepper, cloves. The list goes on. This is getting silly, let’s add water... with water: I think it’s probably long past time to call in the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: Endless, meta-complex and utterly thrilling! Comments: It shouldn’t really be a surprise, Glenugie is probably one of Scotland’s greatest ever distillates. Although what is fascinating is that this is quite obviously different from the 1965 and 1967 Glenugies that you can find. Who said vintages didn’t matter in whisky? It’s a style of whisky which is hard to pin down and quantify as it doesn’t really conform to any other distillates/distillery/regional styles. It’s just: Glenugie. Another mini-masterpiece by The Bottlers.
SGP: 762 - 94 points.



(Big thanks to Phil, Jonny and Eddie.)  



February 16, 2018


New whiskies

And very young ones, at that. Toddlers, even…

Ailsa Bay (48.5%, OB, +/-2017)

Ailsa Bay (48.5%, OB, +/-2017) Two stars
Already tried the first batch of this newish malt spirit by William Grant. It was okay (WF 70) but this is a newer batch. I believe it would be better that they told us about the vintage etc., we know it’s young anyway. Colour: straw. Nose: young sweet peat. It reminds me of all these young peaters from the mainland when they were young, AnCnoc, Benriach, Tomintoul… and others. Nice smoke, but it hasn’t quite got the ‘background’, in my opinion, it’s to be wondered if you do not need a heavier distillate. I find it extremely lapsang-souchongy, if I may, while some buttery notes are still there. Mouth: certainly not bad, nicely vegetal (chives? Agave? Tequila? ) and with touches of grapefruits. I have the feeling that they improved the recipe. Grass smoke. Finish: medium, not deep, with these pears that keep screaming ‘I’m young!’ Comments: it seems that they’re progressing. And after all, I’m often quoting the old Scots, ‘if the new spirit’s too good, the whisky will be crap’.
SGP:455 - 75 points.


Raasay new make (63.5%, OB, 5/10/17)
That’s right, Raasay Distillery’s new make! Tasting new make isn’t easy to do, because you have to try to translate your feelings a bit… Colour: very very very pale white wine. Nose: oh!!!!! No, really, oh!!!! White cherries, mirabelles, kiwis, crushed barley, hops, fresh almonds, tangerines, a box of assorted Turkish delights… In truth I’m not sure I’ve ever nosed a new make that was this talkative. Of course we’re not talking rum or mezcal here. With water: grist and mash and wort and everything, plus mud and earth, horse dung, hints of lilies, and, well, a well-cared-of cow stable. All nice, naturally. Mouth (neat): very thick and creamy, sweet (of course), yet grassy, yet bonbony, but with an excellent barely-y foundation. It is a fat spirit, and we always prefer fat spirits. Notes of sake, a good sign. With water: really good and fruity (forget about what the old Scots used to say), with plums and cherries. It’s still got this fatness that cannot not succeed on the long term. Finish: a little short, but all new makes are short. A tad petroly, a good sign as well. Comments: I won’t score it, as usual, all I’ll say is that I’m rather impressed. Watch them, they plan to launch their first whisky in 2020.
SGP:740 - (no score) points.

Oh while we’re doing new makes…

Asaka ‘New Pot’ (63%, OB, Japan, 7/2/17)

Asaka ‘New Pot’ (63%, OB, Japan, 7/2/17)
This from the Sasanokawa Shuzo sake and shochu factory. Those are the good people that helped Ichiro Akuto when he was building Chichibu (that was the expurgated version of the story). This mew make was bottled, I mean, bottled in a proper ‘commercial’ bottle, it’s not a distillery sample. Colour: white. Nose: a little hard after the Raasay, this one’s much shier, although there would be some elegance to it, with touches of apricots and peaches. Litchis. What’s sure is that it’s a lighter spirit. With water: a few more yeasty smells, and above everything, many more pears. Mouth (neat): again, a rather lighter style, more on sweet tinned fruits, but it’s enjoyable. More eaux-de-vie, less bread, to cut a long story short. With water: but-it-is-pear-eau-de-vie! Finish: medium. Williams pears anyone? An unexpected touch of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: a very fruity, very pear-y new make. It won’t get fat.
SGP:830 - (no score) points.

Nagahama ‘New Make’ (59%, OB, Japan, lightly peated, 2016)

Nagahama ‘New Make’ (59%, OB, Japan, lightly peated, 2016)
Another distillery that’s bottling their new make.  They’re located in the Shiga Prefecture. Colour: white. Nose: delicate and shy, starting with melons and going on with butter pears. It’s an even lighter style than that of Asaka. With water: the most sake-like so far. Did I tell you that I love sake? Damp hessian, raw wool, baker’s yeast, a touch of washing powder, Woolite… Mouth (neat): very similar to Asaka on the palate. Light, fruity, pleasant, eau-de-vie-ish, barley-ish… With water: and yet again, the yeastier side comes out, which we enjoy. Could you blend a good lager with some good sake? No, no apologies… Finish: medium, with excellent sweeter yeasts and notes of lemon. Or would that be those famous hops, Citra? Comments: not much when neat, but it started to talk when reduced using my trustworthy Vittel. Was that the ‘light peat’?
SGP:650 - (no score) points.

While we’re still in Japan…

Okayama ‘New Born Whisky’ (60%, OB, Japan, +/-2017)

Okayama ‘New Born Whisky’ (60%, OB, Japan, +/-2017)
This one from the sake makers Miyashita. I had enjoyed their new NAS a few months ago (WF 79). Now as an European, I’d say it cannot be both ‘new born’ and ‘whisky’, can it? But who cares, this is very micro anyway. Colour: white. Nose: some action! Crushed fresh almonds, green tobacco, green tea, and above everything, really a lot of olive oil. It’s not one of those fruity new makes at all, which comes as a surprise, really. Let’s see… With water: oh yes! Mud and petrol, Jamaican-rum style. Mouth (neat): you would think this is four or five years old. Green pears, smoked fish, lime, olives, and lemongrass. This is, in fact, very excellent. With water: smashing! Mud, tar, liquorice, salted olives, pistachios, oils… Finish: long, fat, phenoly, salty… Comments: totally impressed, that’s all I’ll say. Now if the Japanese could get rid of their extremely loose legislations, we’ll be most happy to quaff all these ‘Japanese whiskies’ that are genuinely Japanese, and not imported from Scotland/Canada/India/wherever. Just saying.
SGP:564 - (no score) points.


Mars ‘Tsunuki’ (60%, OB, Japan, 12/2016) This is non peated new make from Mars’ Tsunuki Distillery. Colour: white. Nose: there, we know that Mars make a beautiful whisky, and yet this new make is rather unimpressive, hot, with some rotting coconut and some dirty floor cloth juice. And yet, this will give some great whisky… With water: dirty waters, stale fruit juices. Great! ;-) Mouth (neat): extreme rotting coconuts and super-heavy eau-de-vie at 80% vol. Foooh… With water: better, a little easier… Finish: long and dirty, as it should be. Comments: making whisky is a dynamic game, you have to play with one of its main ingredients: time. This ‘will’ be good, provided they remain patient and don’t botox it using stupid new oak... But yeah, who am I?
SGP:462 - (no score) points

Nagahama ‘New Make’ (59%, OB, Japan, 2016)

Nagahama ‘New Make’ (59%, OB, Japan, 2016)
This is the unpeated version of Nagahama’s new make. Yes I know we should have tried this one first. And funny that they're allowed to call this 'single malt whisky'. Colour: white. Nose: a fresh, slightly smoky (still) spirit, with good dirt and good soot. Olives. Notes of burnt oak and artichokes. Why not. With water: more of all that. Gravel, concrete, not tons of pears. Then all on barley, with a hint of coconut water. Mouth (neat): fruity, and akin to millions of litres of new make that are resting elsewhere, I would say. Burnt pears, plums, grains, kirsch… With water: easier, sweeter, more Speyside-y, with more apples and pears indeed. A touch of pineapple. Finish: medium, rather sweet. Pears and apples. Comments: nothing particular to add. Or rather this, it’s hard to taste several new makes in a row.
SGP:540 - (no score) points.

I think we’re done.

(With many thanks to Chris at Sushi + Soul in Munich)


February 15, 2018


Tormore vertically, part two

Well, rather horizontally, since we’ll only have Tormores from one single vintage today. And that vintage would be…

Tormore 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.6%, Sansibar and S Spirit Shop, 228 bottles)

Tormore 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.6%, Sansibar and S Spirit Shop, 228 bottles) Three stars and a half
This bottling stems from Sansibar’s Ming period ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: pretty hot after the very fruity 1990s yesterday, and rather meatier, with notes of charcoal, grilled steak, then tobacco, roasted chestnuts, Fanta… Really, Fanta. With water: some kind of soup, herbs, soy sprouts, braised chicory, zucchini, caramel… Mouth (neat): good fun here. On the one side, it’s got this clean and zesty citrusy fruitiness, but on the other side, it’s also got bouillony notes, some toffee, cigar tobacco, parsley, asparagus soup (with croutons)… How funny is that? With water: gets into line, but these notes of chicken and vegetable soup do remain there. Then oranges, apples, and papayas. Finish: rather long, rather meaty. Parsley and wine sauce in the aftertaste. Comments: not a very clean one this time, perhaps thanks to a ‘funny’ sherry cask. But we aren’t against a little fun in our whiskies, are we.
SGP:451 - 84 points.

Tormore 27 yo 1988/2016 (51.6%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead and Madeira, 200 bottles)

Tormore 27 yo 1988/2016 (51.6%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead and Madeira, 200 bottles) Three stars and a half
I’m not sure it says Madeira on the label, but it does on my official sample. Madeira? The plot thickens… Wasn’t that Madeira as well in the Sansibar? That would explain a lot. Colour: gold. Nose: no, wait, this is much cleaner, fruitier, and Tormore-y. It doesn’t display the incredible amount of citrusness that the younger ones had, but it does have grapefruits. Also nuts, a wee touch of sweet mustard, some dry pipe tobacco, and hints of peanut butter and pecan pie. With water: mud, humus, Italian porcinis in vinegar, Fanta… Mouth (neat): it’s rather thick, it’s got tobacco, spicy herbs (right, caraway), roasted honey sauce, toffee, and only then orange juice. Roasted cashew. With water: still quite meaty and spicy. Finish: rather long, with some leathery notes. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: same ballpark. Not quite your clean and fruity Tormores…
SGP:451 - 84 points.

Tormore 28 yo 1988/2016 (50.4%, Antique Lions of Spirits, 254 bottles)

Tormore 28 yo 1988/2016 (50.4%, Antique Lions of Spirits, 254 bottles) Four stars
Another one from the ‘homage to Moon Import’ series. Colour: gold. Nose: a fruitier, cleaner one this time, with some barley water and some preserved fruit mix, plus a bonbony side. Wine gums, liquorice allsorts, Juicy fruit… It wears its age well, but this is no actress… With water: mead! Love mead in my whisky. Chop-chop, one more point! Mouth (neat): certainly excellent, very clean this time, but also pretty oily as far as both texture and flavours are concerned (sunflower oil). Touches of mangos, green apples, straw wine, grass, apple compote, puréed pears… With water:  good greener fruits, rhubarb, kiwis… Finish: medium, rather on sour fruits, apples, lime, honeydew, mead indeed… Comments: I’m starting to wonder whether I didn’t prefer the younger vintages. But this is extremely fine, for sure!
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Tormore 28 yo 1988/2016 (63.3%, The Single Malts of Scotland, barrel, cask #0602, 165 bottles)

Tormore 28 yo 1988/2016 (63.3%, The Single Malts of Scotland, barrel, cask #0602, 165 bottles) Four stars
Indeed, 2016 was the year of the 1988 Tormores… But 63.3% vol., really? Let’s get ready… Colour: gold. Nose: Maggi, lovage, parsley, then barley syrup, banana and avocado smoothie, then white asparagus (even with global warming, they’re not there yet, which is kind of reassuring), plus custard. With water: it got much gentler. Some custard, preserved fruit mix… Mouth (neat): sweet and fruity, that’s all I’ll say, because at 63.3% vol…. and since we’ve got a lost episode of Inspektor Derrick (I know, controversial character) on Channel 3 tonight, which I couldn’t miss… With water: a plain and fruity natural Speysider. Very good, most certainly, just not totally mindboggling. Finish: medium, sweet, on apple compote and light honey, plus a touch of melon. More Williams pears in the aftertaste. Comments: very very good, just not totally memorable. A bit boring? Hell, no! Which distillery was it, by the way?
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Time to call this a tasting session, after eleven Tormores. Unless we find an older one in a drawer… You know, to give us perspective… Perhaps this?...

Tormore 17 yo 1985/2003 (43%, Krüger, Ship No. 1, 390 bottles) Two stars
Sorry, no picture for this very anecdotal Tormore that’s been sitting there for ages. Colour: gold. Nose: this older one is very floral, you’ve got rosewater, then mango juice, ‘ideas’ of 1960s Laphroaig (passion fruit)… But it tends to fall apart, sadly. Shoe polish and cardboard. Mouth: it’s a very fine drop… for three seconds. Loses steam after just, well, three seconds, a shame because the arrival all on mangos and waxes was pretty perfect. I guess reduction kind of murdered it. Finish: short, grassy. Indeed, a shame… Comments: I’m sure this was brilliant whisky… once upon a time…
SGP:441 - 75 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Tormore I've tasted so far

February 2018 - part 1 <--- February 2018 - part 2 ---> March 2018 - part 1



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Bowmore 15 yo 2002/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular)

Bowmore 15 yo 2001/2017 (56.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #7, hogshead, cask #20115, 286 bottles)

Bowmore 15 yo 2002/2018 (54.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 288 bottles)

Brora 1976/1989 (63.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.1, 75cl)

Laphroaig 20 yo 1996/2017 (51.3%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular for HNWS Taiwan, refill hogshead, 178 bottles)

Springbank 18 yo 1996/2014 (56.3%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, sherry hogshead, cask #491)

Tomatin 1983/2017 (44.6%, OB for Quaich Bar Singapore, hogshead, cask #14192, 158 bottles)

Tomintoul 50 yo 1967/2018 (45.2%, Masam from Private Stock of Silvano, 50th Anniversary, casks #4688 and 5425, approx 180 bottles)

Domaine de Boignières 1985/1997 (49%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, for Italy)

Domaine de Baraillon 1985/2012 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)