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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2019 - Part 1


January 2019 - part 2 <--- February 2019 - part 1 ---> February 2019 - part 2


February 14, 2019


Little duos, today Clynelish

(for Valentine’s Day, ha ha!)

I don’t think I need to tell you that Clynelish is one, if not my favourite Scottish distillery. Neither do I need to add that 1995 and 1983 were great vintages – should you believe in vintages in whisky (which are not the same thing as vintages in barley, whisky isn’t wine).

Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2018 (54.5%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butt, cask #8674, 266 bottles)

Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2018 (54.5%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butt, cask #8674, 266 bottles) Five stars
In general, ex-sherry Clynelishes aren’t exactly my favourites, same with other bold distillates by the way, but some have been very good, including a brilliant sister butt by LMDW last year (WF 91), so let’s see what gives here. Colour: amber. Nose: no clashes and no extreme leather! Wonderful! Rather smoked raisins and figs, kumquats, pipe tobacco, miso soup, bresaola, marrow soup, parsley, walnuts, thin mints… And not one single molecule of sulphur. And it’s not even heavy; it’s pretty elegant, actually. With water: menthol and raisins in full swing, old garage, chalk, a little bit of smoke, perhaps pickled fruits, chutneys… And behind all those aromas, a certain Clynelishness that manages to find its way to your nostrils. Citrons! Mouth (neat): well it is a little heavy this time, concentrated, herbal and bitter, with artichoke liqueur, bitter oranges, more tobacco, ginger, leather, more miso soup, umami, salt… There’s a feeling of European oak, not too sure about that. With water: go to adore water, as thanks to just a few drops of Evian (we ran out of Vittel at WF Towers!) it became purely Clynelish. Wax, plasticine, oranges, citrons, lemons. Nothing more, nothing less. Finish: umami striking back. Long. A few struck matches in the aftertaste. Comments: no dissonances here. Very well done, but it’ll benefit greatly from ten of twenty extra-years in glass. Yes patience remains a virtue, just ask the distillers.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Clynelish 35 yo 1983/2018 (52.2%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Aaron Chan, hogshead, cask #2566, 144 bottles)

Clynelish 35 yo 1983/2018 (52.2%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Aaron Chan, hogshead, cask #2566, 144 bottles) Five stars
You know you’re getting a little older when you still believe that a new 1983 should be 20 years old – and certainly not 35. It seems that this cask has been exclusively bottled by Diageo for various honourable Asian customers in different lovely countries, which sounds a bit like an oxymoron, but that’s not what’s important is it! What’s important is that this is a 1983! Colour: gold. Nose: maltoporn alert! Please call the Brigade immediately! It’s not spectacular whisky, it plays no tricks, it’s not doped, it’s just the most astounding combination of beeswax, orange skin, chalk, and lemon. And behind those, honeysuckle, citrons, paraffin, and a little bit of camphor. Perhaps a little coffee too. But you may ask, which kind of coffee? Well, that would be biodynamic hand-cultivated fair-trade coffee from a very small parcel of land in a well-preserved rainforest right in the middle of a tiny Bolivarian country (S., we know this is Clynelish, right…) With water: unimaginably fabulous. All herbs, all waxes, and all citrus fruits of the creation. Plus one marshmallow for good measure, a strawberry-flavoured one. Mouth (neat): this, is huge. There’s rather a lot of oak I have to say, some kind of green, sharp, almost lemony oak with a coffee-ish side (same coffee as above), but the spirit speaks out too, with citrons again, waxes aplenty, a little pancake syrup… A little uncertain at this point… With water: no, water cures it, the oak beats a retreat and gives the waxes and citrons the floor. Some fine touches of herbal oils in the background, essential oils… I’m sure this would cure some diseases. Finish: sadly, yes. Long, tense, a little tart and bitter, but that’s pretty perfect in this context. Green pepper from the oak that, apparently, had not yet said its last word.. Comments: absolutely marvellous, but certainly not bottled too early.
SGP:471 - 92 points.

(Thank you Aaron and Roger!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Clynelish we've tasted so far


February 12, 2019


Perhaps a few more grain whiskies…

I keep complaining but that’s a routine, really, as we’re finding quite some good grain whiskies. It’s good that the best ones would come my way, and that the characterless rotguts would stay away from WF Towers. Thank you, friends! We had an excellent 34 yo Cameronbridge for Taiwan yesterday, so let’s have another one. No, not one for Taiwan.

Cameronbridge 34 yo 1984/2018 (50.3%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles)

Cameronbridge 34 yo 1984/2018 (50.3%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: niiiice! Swiss cheese, leather, miso, vanilla, oranges, tobacco… It’s slightly fermentary, which is rare in grain whisky, but which I enjoy a lot. With water: peat smoke! Mouth (neat): right, can we please see the papers? Smoke, oysters, seaweed, soot, brine… Ha-ha-ha! With water: very good. And very smart. Finish: medium, sweet and peaty. There ought to be a rock and roll song about that. Comments: smokier than poor Ardbeg Blasda or Laphroaig Select! We wanna meet this cask… Well done Cadenhead, that was smart; and fun. Whisky as it should remain, light-hearted and rather made by rascals for us rascals (and affiliated scoundrels).
SGP:552 - 87 points.

Invergordon 25 yo (49.8%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, batch 9, 1093 bottles)

Invergordon 25 yo (49.8%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, batch 9, 1093 bottles) Four stars
Great label that explains the British politics to us Europeans, with much accuracy and fairness. Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s seen some well-charred newish oak. And mind you, that worked. Warm croissants, butterscotch, café latte, custard, limoncello, tarte tatin. F*****g smart (it’s good to be independent, isn’t it). Mouth: this cannot be ‘only’ grain whisky. It’s more a blend, and a great one at that. Smoke, olives, herbal teas, kippers, liquorice, gentian, celeriac… Finish: same for a long time. Perfect. Comments: excellent. But yeah, Invergordon, right… If this is pure grain whisky from Invergordon, I’m Englebert Humperdinck’s hidden second cousin. Which, to make things clear, I am not.
SGP:452 - 87 points.

So, how do we make some great grain whisky? 1. Select a great cask of characterful malt whisky (Springbank, Clynelish, Ardbeg, Ben Nevis, whatever). 2. Empty said cask, but do not rinse out. Never, ever rinse out anyway. 3. Fill with soulless grain whisky. 4. Presto, et voilà! But let’s move on…

Strathclyde 27 yo (51.8, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, 2018)

Strathclyde 27 yo (51.8, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, 2018) Three stars and a half
Love these wee bottles, and isn’t it smart to advertise this baby as a Lowland single grain? Colour: straw. Nose: this is a rather sugary nose, with several syrups, barley, agave, cane… Also acacia honey, or rather sunflower. One of the ‘sweetest’ noses I’ve ever come across. With water: hand soap and almond milk. Why not. Mouth (neat): sugarcane syrup indeed, mild oak, cappuccino, fudge… Some fatter background with oranges and some kinds of sweet oils, corn syrup, Kellogg’s wackiest (totally genetically modified ;-), limoncello and caramel… With water: fair, sweet, fudge-y. Some vanillin has been in use. Finish: medium, pastry-like. Huckleberry and mullein syrup. Comments: sweet and easy, and rather floral, actually.
SGP:640 - 83 points.

Strathclyde 29 yo 1989/2018 (55.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 330 bottles)

Strathclyde 29 yo 1989/2018 (55.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 330 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: oranges and vanilla, candy sugar, Fanta, Cuban rum, corn syrup. Not the deepest whisky ever, but it’s okay. I think. With water: engine oil, brake fluid, plasticine, peanut oil, all things never to be found in ‘pure’ grain whisky. Mouth (neat): good, vanilla, orange syrup, traces of peat, soot, and seawater. The casks were excellent. With water: creamy vanilla and almond milk, malt, Golden Grahams, pommes tapées (that’s slices of apples that are hammered and dried, a great specialty they have around Angers and Saumur. Goes well with sweet chenin blanc, I tell you). Finish: medium, on fudge and apples, cinnamon… Comments: fine! There was some peat before we added water, but it got grainier again once reduced. Should have been the other way ‘round, go figure…
SGP:640 - 84 points.

Cambus 30 yo 1988/2018 (45.2%, Hunter Laing, The Sovereign, for The Whisky Barrel, refill hogshead, cask #14857, 313 bottles)

Cambus 30 yo 1988/2018 (45.2%, Hunter Laing, The Sovereign, for The Whisky Barrel, refill hogshead, cask #14857, 313 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: American oak, vanilla, coconut, assorted cakes, cut cactus. Some say grain whiskies are boring. That’s not always the case. With water: herbaceous. Hints of clean mud, mown lawn, some cardboard. Mouth (neat): peanut syrup, coconut, vanilla, sour oak, Thai curry, satay sauce. With water: okay. Coconut and barley syrup. Finish: medium, a tad sour. Cider and grass and sugar. Comments: probably good but it's not really my scene. Let’s remain fair, though.
SGP:640 – 78 points.

Dumbarton 31 yo 1987/2018 (50.5%, Hunter Laing, The Sovereign, for The Whisky Barrel, refill hogshead, cask #15477, 207 bottles)

Dumbarton 31 yo 1987/2018 (50.5%, Hunter Laing, The Sovereign, for The Whisky Barrel, refill hogshead, cask #15477, 207 bottles) Three stars
Dumbarton, a place worse than Shutter Island if you ask me. Colour: straw. Nose: fine easy vanilla-ed and slightly nutty/grassy. Barley syrup and sunflower oil, plus ‘ideas’ of tomato leaves. Tends to go towards old metal, old coins etc. With water: warm coconut macaroons and quince wine. Old tin box. Mouth (neat): ah good. Balinese coconut wine, barley syrup, sour fruit wine, a touch of balsamico… With water: a tad indefinite. Sour woods. Finish: medium, slightly salty. Chinese medicine (which, I agree, doesn’t mean anything, but there you go). Grainy fatigue striking at WF Towers. Comments: okayish. Good? Yes. Not too sure.
SGP:550 - 80 points.

Okay, it is insane to taste many grain whiskies in a row. Granted, some are very good, but I find most uninspiring and simply… unnecessary. Remember, what we try is the very best, while grain whisky as a whole remains awful, dull, puke-y and philosophically empty. Loathable stuff, or the dirtiest dungeons of whisky. Hate, hate, hate. Good, I may have exaggerated those things a little bit.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all grain whiskies we've tasted so far


February 11, 2019


Perhaps a few grain whiskies…

Mind you, even Gordon & MacPhail have some single grain these days! While I remember well those happy times when you only had Cameron Brig, and then William Grant’s Black Barrel (Girvan). Don’t grain whiskies belong to blends? Discuss… (while I’m having a few of them…)

Girvan 12 yo 2006/2018 (60.3%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 216 bottles)

Girvan 12 yo 2006/2018 (60.3%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 216 bottles) Two stars
They keep bottling these grains under their ‘world whiskies’ banner, which may go to prove that they do not actually consider grain as proper Scottish whisky. Ahem. Colour: white wine. Nose: all right, it’s not pure nail polish remover, but it certainly does have an obvious varnishy side. Wood alcohol, antifreeze (which comes handy), vanillin, and a wee pack of gummy bears, most lemon-flavoured. With water: extremely high-columny. Havana Club 3 years is a bit like this, perhaps could we do mojitos out of this wee Girvan? Mouth (neat): pure ethanol flavoured with vanilla and lemon extracts, plus coconut balls. Assorted marshmallows. With water: something mad by Starbucks. Vanilla Creamer or something. Finish: short. Lemon and vanilla fudge, chicory coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: not my thing at all, but I find it better than the official ‘Patent Still – Proof Strength’.
SGP:440 - 72 points.

Cambus 30 yo 1988/2018 (45.5%, Cadenhead, 258 bottles)

Cambus 30 yo 1988/2018 (45.5%, Cadenhead, 258 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: rather another world, with an old grain that’s much more complex and elegant while not being dominated by any sort of cask influence. Fine touches of grass, fresh asparagus, fresh walnuts, fresh sugarcane, then indeed coconut balls and candyfloss, a touch of tobacco, prickly pears, a hint of banana, melon skin… It’s all very subtle, and much less ‘empty’ than many grain whiskies that I’ve known, including similarly aged ones. Also wee whiffs of fresh mint leaves. Mouth: a little rougher and less complex, but still very good, on lemon curd, angelica, a little fresh oak, cinnamon and candy sugar. Finish: medium and with more American oak character. Nice lemony touches in the aftertaste, with a little bitter ginger. Comments: interesting, some rather complex old grain that was not pumped-up by a lot of sherry or fresh American oak.
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Cambus 29 yo 1988/2018 (45.4%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 294 bottles)

Cambus 29 yo 1988/2018 (45.4%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 294 bottles) Four stars
This should be similar. Colour: white wine. Nose: it is, actually, more restrained, more on bread and light beer, with a little sloe and ginger, oak, croissant… It really isn’t big whisky, it’s almost whispering, which isn’t obligatorily a problem. Almost no coconut this time! Mouth: oh, very good! Notes of peat, seawater, Jamaican rum, olives… That’s probably the cask, and it’s certainly a blessing. Rather a kind of blend than pure single grain if you ask me. Finish: medium, fresh, brine-y, rather smoky and, once again, Jamaican. Comments: excellent! Although I doubt that came from the distillate in itself. Great surprise.
SGP:452 - 87 points.

North British 28 yo 1990/2018 (61%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill sherry puncheon, cask #73847, 181 bottles)

North British 28 yo 1990/2018 (61%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill sherry puncheon, cask #73847, 181 bottles) Four stars and a half
So the first grain whisky by G&M (excluding their blends, naturally). As far as I can remember, North British were using maize when this was distilled, but I’m not 100% sure. Colour: coffee. Nose: coffee. Seriously, coffee, and schnapps, and then Christmas cake, morello cherries, Nuits-St.-Georges, chocolate and dried beef. Frankly, could as well be malt whisky behind this sherry-laden nose. With water: maraschino, marzipan, pumpernickel, chocolate, cherry liqueur, wild pipe tobacco. Mouth (neat): one of the heaviest grains I could try, full of chocolate, tobacco, tea, parsley, heavy liquorice, menthol, Cherry Heering, earth… With water: gets meatier, almost bouillony. And malty, in a slightly Marmitte-y way. Finish: long, on pretty much the same flavours. A feeling of walnut stain. Comments: quite a decoction! Not sure the base distillate was of any relevance in  this context, all I can say is that I liked this rather monstrous grain rather a lot. It also reminds us that grain whisky was often used for roughing new casks before they were used for malt, before everyone started to be obsessed with first fill.
SGP:672 - 88 points.

Invergordon 44 yo 1974/2018 (46.5%, The Whisky Blues, Taiwan, refill butt, cask #29, 250 bottles)

Invergordon 44 yo 1974/2018 (46.5%, The Whisky Blues, Taiwan, refill butt, cask #29, 250 bottles) Four stars and a half
This baby by a new independent bottler from Taiwan. Loud applause, whisky and blues sure go together! Colour: amber. Nose: these old sherried Invergordon could be extraordinary, and probably the best grain whiskies ever made (read my lips). No exception here, this is wonderful, all on brownies, roasted chestnuts, chestnut honey, leather and pipe tobacco, Corinth currants, chocolate, mocha, and kumquats. Superbly balanced, without any varnish or other grainy ‘stuff’. Mouth: right between great old bourbon and great old malt whisky. Wouldn’t that be on the Azores? Vanilla, raisins, touches of coconut, drops of PX, chestnut purée (a lot, really), brioche, streusel, macaroons… Liquid pastry, really. Finish: medium, amazingly fresh and void of any excessive oak. Miraculous. Café latte, vanilla, shortbread, kougelhopf. Comments: great old Invergordon from a great cask. To think that this is quasi-vodka (ooh careful with that, S.!)
SGP:640 - 89 points.

While we’re in Taiwan…

Cameronbridge 34 yo 1984/2018 (53.2%, Cadenhead, for HNWS Taiwan 13th anniversary, bourbon barrel, 210 bottles)

Cameronbridge 34 yo 1984/2018 (53.2%, Cadenhead, for HNWS Taiwan 13th anniversary, bourbon barrel, 210 bottles) Four stars
Let’s see what our Taiwanese friends have selected. Coz they know their whisky! Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a more reflexive one again, a little shier, perhaps more elegant as a result, with some candy sugar, some soft rum, notes of Swiss milk chocolate (please no vegetal oils in chocolate), and wee whiffs of geranium flowers. Can’t be against that. With water: more on butterscotch and café latte. Mouth (neat): good. Look, grain needs at least 30 years to become kind of interesting, capice? Chocolate, coconut, herbal tea, guava, vanilla, grenadine… With water: back to café latte and custard, with some grenadine syrup again. Grated coconut. Finish: medium, oj pretty miuch the same notes. What some mad marketeers call mochaccino – that’s right, that’s simply cappuccino made with mocha. Whiskyccino soon in a shop near you, I suppose… Comments: another old grain that’s absolutely excellent, but it’s hard to beat those old sherry casks, isn’t it.
SGP:540 - 85 points.

More grains tomorrow, since we aren’t done with them yet. Saint Diastase, pray for me.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all grain whiskies we've tasted so far


February 10, 2019


Some more Cognac

I’ve got the feeling that things tend to improve on the Cognac front, with more smaller houses issuing better composed small batches, including cask strength versions that cannot not capture the attention of us poorer whisky lovers! What’s more, you may have noticed that there’s now a new category in Cognac, named XXO. In that category, the youngest component in any blend has to be aged for a minimum of 14 years.

Jean Fillioux ‘Star Gourmet’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2017)

Jean Fillioux ‘Star Gourmet’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2017) Three stars and a half
Said to be seventeen years old, but sadly bottled at some rather petty 40% vol. Which is so 1980s, don’t you agree? But the house has got a very good reputation, having said that. Colour: gold. Nose: yes, very fine, with a little liquorice and earthy peels at first, then touches of sandal wood, the usual peaches and apricots, then angelica and broom as well as orange zests. A rather complex nose. Mouth: really good indeed, too bad it’s a little ‘wobbly in the knees’ as they say, and that’s the low strength. Orange liqueur, Turkish raki, marzipan, raisins, halva (or crushed pistachios), roasted pecans… Finish: a little short and a little grassy, with some tea. Comments: very good juice that would have deserved four or five extra degrees if you ask me.
SGP:551 - 83 points.

Camus ‘Borderies VSOP’ (40%, OB, 2015)

Camus ‘Borderies VSOP’ (40%, OB, 2015) Three stars and a half
Remember, Borderies is one of Cognac’s main regions, and is said to be a little quicker to mature than others. Naturally, houses that have got a lot of Borderies will claim that it’s the best. It’s also the smallest of all crus. Colour: full gold. Nose: a little more modernity in this one, which translates into more toasted oak, I would say. Brioche, cappuccino, butterscotch, charcoal, toasts, then orange blossom water and marmalade. Stewed peaches, which I find in many a Cognac. Mouth: denser and fatter than the Fillioux, sweeter as well, with more raisins, maple syrup, barley sugar, then chocolate and dried figs. A very sexy modern Cognac that tends to leave a wink for Macallan, I would say. So to speak. Finish: a little short, but with a fine fatness. Fruit peels and a touch of aniseed. Comments: perhaps a wee bit more rustic than the Champagnes. Perhaps… Very fine own-vineyard Cognac by Camus.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

François Voyer ‘XO’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015)

François Voyer ‘XO’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015) Four stars
Some 25 years old Grande Champagne, 100% ugni blanc. Colour: amber. Nose: oh my, this is something else! The fruitiness is immense here, almost extravagant, as this baby is ridden with peaches, bananas, mangos, papayas, watermelons, grapes, blood oranges, and even tinned litchis and rambutans… An amazing nose, equidistant from some 1980s Bushmills, 1970s Benriach, and 1960s Lochside and perhaps Tomatin. Capice? Mouth: same, more or less, with a bit of spicy old oak and touches of sweet wine. Rather sweet chenin from Loire. Other than that, it’s a whole fruit salad with a few spoonfuls of Cointreau or Grand-Marnier. Indeed, as it should be. Finish: short to medium, extremely fruity. Papayas are back. Some candy sugar. Comments: I wouldn’t say it’s the most complex old Cognac ever, but this huge fruitiness is totally spectacular and impressive. Plus, psst, the prices are extremely fair at Voyer’s. Bang-For-Your-Buck old Cognac for sure.
SGP:741 - 87 points.

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Nostalgie’ (45.6%, OB, Grande Champagne, 500 bottles, 2017)

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Nostalgie’ (45.6%, OB, Grande Champagne, 500 bottles, 2017) Four stars
The wee house Pasquet is located in Eraville near Segonzac, the capital city of Grande Champagne. It is, of course, own-estate Cognac, here a mid-life vatting of several vintages ranging from 1991 to 2000, all matured separately until the year 2008, then blended together, then bottled nine years later. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re much more on flowers this time, dandelions, orange blossom, honeysuckle, buttercups… There are wee notes of orange juice as well, a touch of chocolate fudge, and hints of roasted cashews. Whiffs of sandalwood as well. Very elegant, especially after the rather boisterous - yet excellent - François Voyer. Mouth: it’s tenser, tarter, more citrusy than the others. Lovely notes of blood oranges, pink grapefruits, tangerines, even bergamot (really reminds me of those marvellous Bergamottes de Nancy – those are sweets that you should try). A very faint salty touch in the background, as well as a little miso or even umami. That’s pure fun! Finish: longer than the others, a tad more restrained and grassy, perhaps a little less ‘commercial’, whatever that means. Excellent. Comments: a serious style, extremely good. I think we’ll try an older one in a few seconds…
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Très Vieille Réserve’ (44.2%, OB, Grande Champagne, 336 bottles, +/-2017)

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Très Vieille Réserve’ (44.2%, OB, Grande Champagne, 336 bottles, +/-2017) Five stars
This one’s 45 years old, while the price is… 132€ a bottle! You know about the shameful prices for any miserable 45 yo malt whisky, don’t you. Colour: amber. Nose: sublime raisins and waxes, with some rancio appearing, mandarins, citrons, church candles, chén pi (some say pericarpium citri reticulatae), pipe tobacco, dates, pine needles, drops of motor oil, paraffin… This is splendid indeed, very complex, and relatively ‘serious’. Meaning it’s not a fruit bomb. Mouth: when, after many years, oranges meet with pine resins and herbal teas. Rosehip, hawthorn, tangerines, some tobacco again, that miso soup, rather Corinthian raisins this time, something delicately glutamate-y, some cinnamon (as always with these old ages), a little cedar wood, a little liquorice… Finish: long, well balanced, never drying, never too oaky. Oranges, some honey, cedar, cinnamon. A rather waxy aftertaste. Comments: didn’t someone pour a bottle of old Clynelish into the cask? Some marvelous old Cognac of the same quality as those of some similarly aged old Glen Grants or Glenlivets. It’s just that the Cognac’s twenty times cheaper. I agree, a no brainer.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Cognacs we've tasted so far


February 9, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
The Search For Fruit
Last week we had a fistful of Lagavulin, so this week why not a smorgasbord of Laphroaig? Thanks largely to the fact that we have a Laphroaig tasting lined up for this year’s Whisky Show Old & Rare, which myself and others contributed bottles to, I’ve got quite a few that should be pretty excellent. It’s as good an excuse as any to really delve into this great distillery’s past and search out some elusive and classical Laphroaig tropical fruits. It’s also a good excuse to go through the small pile of additional Laphroaig samples I’ve accumulated in recent months. We’ll generally try to go backwards in time. But first, an aperitif...


Islay Mist 8 yo (43%, OB Mario Rossi Import, 1970s)

Islay Mist 8 yo (43%, OB Mario Rossi Import, 1970s)
The famous blended whisky brand that was renowned for containing a ‘heart’ of Laphroaig. There was also a version for Bonfanti as well which has quite a reputation. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it is indeed riddled with this old school Laphroaig character. That is to say embrocations, soot, some dried tropical fruits, old medicines, camphor, putty and a slightly acetic note of cider vinegar and green apple peelings, which probably comes from the grain component. Some sea salt crisps, a hint of bouillon and tar. Very good and with gentle and rather elegant OBE aspect. Mouth: big, fatty and oily. The malt - the Laphroaig in this case - is really what does the talking up front. Some notes of damp hay, olive oil mixed with brine, black olives, umami paste and cough medicines. Some old herbal liqueurs, grapefruit peel, anchovy butter and salted liquorice. Very good! More of these dried fruit notes such as banana chips and dried mango strips. Finish: good length, full of salt and pepper, Magi liquid seasoning, a little pine resin, pot pourri, more tarry and medicinal notes. Getting drying towards the end. Comments: an excellent old blend, full of Laphroaig character and extremely quaffable.
SGP: 463 - 89 points.



Laphroaig 21 yo 1996/2018 (48.9%, SMWS 29.258 ‘Remembrance of fruits past’, bourbon hogshead / oloroso hogshead, 231 bottles)

Laphroaig 21 yo 1996/2018 (48.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 29.258 ‘Remembrance of fruits past’, bourbon hogshead / oloroso hogshead, 231 bottles)
Suitably named for this wee session’s theme... Colour: gold. Nose: there is indeed a wee glimmer of fruitiness. Things like lemon peel, guava, wet rocks, sheep wool and canvas. Wee touches of iodine, sweet peat smoke, tar and shellfish. No real evidence of a finish so far, that is to say there’s no jarring sherry or new wood - instead it’s more a classical and pure style of Laphroaig. Which you’ll never hear me complaining about. In time it gets more leafy, more gently medicinal and with this really fresh and elegant coastal side. Really excellent. Mouth: soft and syrupy on arrival. Lots of hessian, a touch of wood spice, some treacle, tar, iodine, soot, mercurochrome and indeed a little hint of tropical fruit jelly and fruit salad syrups. Rather lemony and limey with children’s cough medicine and juicy fruit chewing gum. Some orange soda tablets, pine liqueur and various smoked teas and black pepper. Really very good stuff that straddles two different characters of Laphroaig with real aplomb. Finish: long, gently medicinal, sooty, olive oil, hints of brine, lemon peel, caraway, white pepper and gently wafting peat smoke. Comments: Quite simply, a very very good mid-aged Laphroaig. And a very good finish as well, in that it was pretty much invisible and left the distillery character beautifully intact.
SGP: 664 - 91 points.



Laphroaig 25 yo (52%, OB, 2018, bourbon casks)

Laphroaig 25 yo (52%, OB, 2018, bourbon casks)
The most recent release. Obviously, I suppose, given it’s only the start of January. The label describes it as ‘extremely rare and unique liquid’, isn’t everything becoming ‘unique’ and ‘rare’ these days? Perhaps the good folks at the dictionary will simply relent and change the meanings of those words. Colour: straw. Nose: sharp and briny peat. Lemon juice drizzled over concrete. Some bonfire ashes, tarpaulin, creel nets, grilled oysters - it’s rather hefty and even slightly austere. In time there’s a few glimmers of bandages and orange peel. With water: more smoky, towards smoked paprika, smouldering leaves, light tarriness and green pepper. More straightforward ashy and salty notes. Mouth: sweeter, straightforward peat, black pepper, cured meats, black olives, more brininess, antiseptic and a fug of cigar smoke. Clean but rather simplistic. With water: some putty and clay notes, salt water, anchovy, hot smoky notes, beach pebbles and more antiseptic notes. Finish: medium in length with a wink of lusher, fruitier character about it. But it’s kind of fleeting and more of a sensation than a palpable flavour. You can also add more cured meat and salted butter. Comments: All fine, but I think it’s a tad simple and bit tough at times. Many superior Laphroaigs to be found in my wee book.
SGP: 365 - 82 points.



Laphroaig 25 yo (48.9%, OB, 2017, bourbon & sherry)

Laphroaig 25 yo (48.9%, OB, 2017, bourbon & sherry)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: softer, gentler, a leafy smokiness that nods to pipe tobacco, dried herbs, various medicines, white pepper, mustard powder and wee hints of citrus pith. There’s also salted almonds, some dried lavender, iodine and some grilling shellfish. Mouth: again it’s a more suave and gentle Laphroaig. Notes of preserved lemon, aspirin, iodine, tiger balm, salted trail mix, bread and olive oil. Herb-flecked smoke, lemony brine, cough medicine and a slightly kippery note. Very nice but again perhaps it’s a little too simple? Finish: medium and rather salty, gritty, ashy and more towards white pepper and lemon juice. Comments: I like it a little more than the 2018 but it’s still a tad underwhelming all things considered.
SGP: 455 - 84 points.



Laphroaig 25 yo (46.8%, OB, 2015, bourbon & sherry)

Laphroaig 25 yo (46.8%, OB, 2015, bourbon & sherry)
Colour: gold. Nose: well, hang about! There does indeed seem to be an immediate and rather striking fruitiness about this one. It certainly feels like quite a big departure from the previous two. This one opens all on lemon peels, bandages, ointments, caraway, softer medicines, grapefruit and boiled lime sweets. It’s pretty reminiscent of the late 1980s 10 year olds such as the Cinzano and Genova import examples. Gets more coastal and develops notes of things such as squid ink, seashells and clay. A wee prickle of iodine underneath it all as well. Mouth: gentle bonfire smoke, seashore freshness, lemon infused olive oil, peppered mackerel, guava, melon, dried herbs such as tarragon, sage and thyme and a slight fisherman’s welly note. There’s also stuff like salty honey, wood resin, mustard seeds, pineapple jelly and coal smoke. Finish: medium in length but nervously tropical, salty, coastal and full of gentle, wisping kiln air and smoky barley notes. Comments: another league from the later batches. This one really sings with a Laphroaig accent and does indeed show off some delicate but very charming fruity sides.
SGP: 574 - 90 points.



Laphroaig 10 yo ‘Original Cask Strength’ (57.3%, OB, mid 1990s, litre)

Laphroaig 10 yo ‘Original Cask Strength’ (57.3%, OB, mid 1990s, litre)
Some of these early batches were more exotic than others, let’s check this one... Colour: gold. Nose: not a fruit bomb, rather a huge blast of sea air, wet rocks, oysters, Atlantic freshness, sandalwood, brine, sardines in oil and smoked mussels. Hugely salty, tarry, iodine droplets, mouthwash, gauze and a rather pure and precise peatiness. In time it begins to move more towards pink grapefruit, lemon pith and various citrus peels. Some crystalised orange as well perhaps. It’s one of these aromas that just seems to gain in complexity with time. Notes of lanoline and coal tar smoke along with some burning rosemary and limoncello. With water: saline, fresh linen, mineral, delicately ashy and with hints of ink and carbon paper. Mouth: superb power! Farmyard earthiness and smoke with encroaching tropical fruits in the background, seawater, grilling shellfish, brine, preserved lemons, tar liqueur, ointments, antiseptic, putty, germoline, lemon oil. Totally spectacular! There’re a few wee nods to the raw ingredients as well with these slightly punchy gristy notes. With water: more of these syrupy lemon notes, a more elevated tropical character and things like hay, grist, fresh barley, orange oils and dried herbs. Finish: long, wonderfully smoky, gently herbal, immense coastal freshness and wee lingering tropical and sandalwood notes in the aftertaste. Comments: I love that the fruitiness is more profound on the palate than the nose, it makes for a constantly compelling whisky that evolves beautifully and in unexpected ways that continually command your attention. A bottle that certainly deserves its reputation in my book.
SGP: 566 - 92 points.



Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, unblended, late 1980s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, unblended, late 1980s)
What could go wrong here? Colour: deep gold. Nose: Wow! A superbly fruity one, straight away on pineapple, guava, passion fruit and mango mixed with tar liqueur and brine. Some sweet old herbal liqueurs, pomegranate molasses and a hint of grassy olive oil and various typical notes of mineral oil, cough medicine and softy sooty touches. Classical and brilliant. Mouth: this is really as good and as big as whisky can get at 40%. Tropical fruit salad mixed with soot, lemon infused olive oil, dried herbs, wet beach pebbles and seawater. This wonderfully meandering path that runs between fruits, coastal mineral inflections and hints of the farmyard. Finish: not the longest but full of lemon jelly, mineral salts, kipper smoke and hints of smoky bacon, passion fruit cordial and sheep wool. Comments: little wonder these bottles are so coveted these days, the phrase ‘pure class’ springs to mind.
SGP: 653 - 91 points.



Laphroaig 10 yo (45%, OB, Buckhingham Wile Co NY NY, late 1980s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (45%, OB, Buckhingham Wile Co NY NY, late 1980s)
Colour: gold. Nose: It’s funny how there are these very obvious strands of DNA linking this one and the 2015 edition 25yo above. Although it lacks the immediate exoticness of the previous 10yo, this is initially more a combination of coastal elements, iodine and things like sandalwood and beached seaweed. However, give it a little space to breathe and you get these wonderfully textured and layered tropical fruits. A syrupy embarrassment of guavas, pineapple, lemon jelly, mango and passion fruit. Beyond that you also get many other complexities such as chalk, clay, dried banana and a kind of heathery, fragrant peat smoke. This feels different from the more common European bottlings of the 10yo from the same era at 40% and 43%. The extra alcohol really does elevate the impression of texture, weight and the depth and concentration of aroma. Mouth: Pow! Totally superb! Crushed seashells, rowan jelly, iodine, ointments, medical tinctures, brine, sea air, lemon balm, pineapple syrup, orange bitters, cough medicine, lime zest, red chilli and a kind of earthy, sooty peat profile. Not as overtly tropical on the palate as on the nose but these kinds of fruit jelly textures and flavours remain and the overall punchiness, poise and power are quite immense. Finish: long and full of syrupy peat, salted liquorice, ointments, medicines, tar, herbal liqueurs, mouthwash and saline mineral aspects. Comments: When casual malt whisky drinkers joked about Laphroaig being ‘undrinkable’ in the 1990s and 1980s, this is probably exactly the sort of bottle that inspired such perspectives. I’m comfortably in the ‘Love It!’ category.
SGP: 675 - 93 points.



Laphroaig 15 yo (45%, OB, Buckingham Wile Co Lake Success NY, late 1980s)

Laphroaig 15 yo (45%, OB, Buckingham Wile Co Lake Success NY, late 1980s)
Back to the late 80s for this one, although again the company info appears to be slightly different. Did it have ‘tax issues’ perhaps? Colour: gold. Nose: this one is curiously more towards smoked cereals. A very fragrant, seashore bonfire kind of smoke with kippery notes, wild flowers, kelp, oysters, hessian and lamp oil. There’s a dusting of fruit notes across the surface as well: lychee, passion fruit, melon, orange and mango. The 15s always seem to stand apart from the 10s and this one is no exception. Hints of mushroom, coal dust, wet leaves, white asparagus and then moving more towards ointments and medical embrocations. Mouth: big, bold and fruity but also sharper than the 10s. More lemony, more yeasty and more salty as well. Notes of lime, lemon rind, fresh oysters, mango puree, salted butter and chopped chives. A fug of blue peat smoke slowly drifts across the palate which is pure Laphroaig. A touch of barley sweetness, some menthol tobacco and finally more medical and hospital notes such as good old iodine and TCP. Finish: long, full of smoked lemon barley water, engine oils, mechanical notes, soot, earth, mushrooms, tobacco, lemons in brine and herbal toothpaste. Salty peat notes in the aftertaste. Comments: Not quite as totally spellbinding as the 10. But we’re still flying exceptionally high with all the glory of old school Laphroaig. And, once again, the higher ABV is really helping the whisky sing loud and clear.
SGP: 564 - 92 points.



Further back in time...



Laphroaig 12 yo (91.4 US proof, Prime Malt, Carlton Import USA, 1980s)

Laphroaig 12 yo (91.4 US proof, Prime Malt, Carlton Import USA, 1980s)
A pretty scarce bottling these days, there was also a 15 year old Laphroaig and some Glen Grants in the same series. Colour: gold. Nose: emphatic, punchy, briny and coastal Laphroaig. Loads of salted almonds, antiseptic, mouthwash, peat embers, wee glimmers of tropical fruit syrups, tar and iodine. Bursting with vibrancy and purity. There’s also things like smoked seawater, turf, petrichor, lime zest, kumquat and earthen dunnage floors. Some crushed coriander seed, hospital corridor, gauze, mint and a scatter of smelling salts. Mouth: massive! A real mix of olive oil, seawater, lime juice, pineapple jelly and mustard powder. Raw peat smoke, antiseptic, lemon jelly, paraffin and tar. Resinous, salty, earthy, peaty and profoundly excellent! Finish: long, lightly ashy, rolling tobacco, black olive tapenade with chopped parsley, boot polish, soot and many wee tropical inflections. Mineral salts towards the aftertaste. Comments: Superbly powerful, precise and dazzling old school Laphroaig.
SGP: 575 - 93 points.



Laphroaig 15 yo (91.4 US proof / 45.7%, Prime Malt, Carlton Import USA, 1980s)

Laphroaig 15 yo (91.4 US proof / 45.7%, Prime Malt, Carlton Import USA, 1980s)
Speaking of the 15... Colour: gold. Nose: far more resinous and earthy than the 12. More towards crystalised fruits, citrus fruit peel, camphor, wood resins, lapsang souchong and blood orange. Some very light barley sugar sweetness, coal tar soap, greengages and salty mead. Mouth: Herbal notes, hints of meat broth, salted peanuts, olive oil, camphor, lemon rind, waxes, salty bacon frying in a pan and a little hessian. Full bodied but a striking lack of peat I find. Beautifully salty, muscular and oily distillate. Hints of gorse, coconut, chamomile, herbal liqueur and a few drops of ointment. Finish: long, salty, muscular, drying, the fruitiness remains resinous and vibrant while these earthy and herbal tones remain pretty lasting and intact. Comments: It’s extremely good, old school Islay whisky. But it feels strangely far from Laphroaig, or at the very least it’s a surprisingly light example of the make. Still, as I say, excellent all the same - just very curious.
SGP: 452 - 90 points.



Laphroaig 10 yo (90 US proof / 45%, OB, Julius Wile Sons & Co New Hyde Park NY, circa 1980)

Laphroaig 10 yo (90 US proof / 45%, OB, Julius Wile Sons & Co New Hyde Park NY, circa 1980)
An even earlier example from the same importer as the previous 10 and 15 from the turn of the decade. Obviously a forerunner of the Buckingham Wile Corporation, or perhaps before a merger of some kind. I can find very little about it online. If any American friends know anything about the history and dates of this company please do get in touch with me. The label also states ‘Sole agents for the USA’. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re really going back in time here. This is every inch a 1960s, sherry-driven style of Laphroaig. It’s earthier, fatter, oilier and just deeper and heavier. Even though the peat itself is perhaps a little shier. Notes of fennel, strawberry tobacco, salted liquorice, old leather, furniture polish, walnuts, salted almonds and this fascination fusion of peat and rancio. A style that’s hypnotic and almost poetic. The fruits are kind of crystalised and resinous, although there’s still glimmers of tropical fruits they’re mixed in with raisins and sultanas from the sherry. Mouth: huge! Stupendous! But also broad, complex and teetering on perfection. These earthy medicinal tones mix with coffee, strawberry wine, dried cranberries, iodine, roasted nuts, charred hardwoods, ointments, mercurochrome and dried mango and papaya. Reminiscent of the Bonfanti to my mind. Now notes of polish, wax, leather, cranberry gravy, citronella candles, camphor and hessian. Please call a certain brigade! Finish: long, meaty, oily, mentholated, peaty, medical, coastal, lingering rancio. Just utterly beautiful! Comments: this really feels like proper 1960s Laphroaig, and that sherry influence running throughout is enough to raise goosebumps! A humbling and totally dazzling old Laphroaig.
SGP: 673 - 94 points.



Last but certainly not least...



Laphroaig ‘Non Peaty’ Old Liqueur Scotch Whisky (80 proof, OB, 1940s)

Laphroaig ‘Non Peaty’ Old Liqueur Scotch Whisky (80 proof, OB, 1940s)
A bottle that’s been hovering at the top of my hit list for years now. A rather infamous old bottle that purports to be a ‘non peaty’ style of Laphroaig. Whether this was released due to an incidental batch of unpeated malt being used, or - as seems more likely - the owners recognised a commercial potential for a lighter style of Laphroaig, we’ll can’t be sure. But enough prevarication, let’s try this beauty! Colour: deep gold. Nose: I remember well the old Laphroaig 14 year old OB for America rotation 1953 that Serge recorded notes for here, this would have been distilled in a similar era (sometime in the 1930s) and there certainly is comparatively less peat in this one. Rather this is a stunning mix of herbal-infused waxes, hessian cloth, lamp oil, very old yellow Chartreuse, cough medicines and tiny hints of sea salt and brine. I find these wee notes of preserved lemon, iodine, vapour rubs and subtle hints of chamomile and lapsang souchong teas. A soft and gentle earthy side appears as well along with a touch of rancio and tar liqueur. Just beautiful! Whisky from another dimension that keeps aromatically evolving and unfolding in an almost poetic fashion. Mouth: it is indeed relatively light on the peat. However, it is still a big whisky. It also has some good OBE towards metal polish, furniture wax, soot and steel wool. Also hugely resinous and salty - we’re getting the bones and leathery sinew of very old style Laphroaig without its jacket of peat. Salted liquorice, brine, heather ale, many more soft waxy notes and things like paraffin wax and dried seaweed strips in miso broth. Some hints of sweetness akin to cola cubes and root beer emerge in the background. Some gentian root and medical throat syrups. Also rather peppery as well. Finish: long, leathery, salty and full of umami and black olive notes. Some more wispy smoky notes like burning heather and coal smoke. A slightly farmy and mechanical sensation in the aftertaste. Comments: The overall impression is that this is just such superb distillate. It doesn’t feel like and ‘old’ whisky in terms of years in cask (pffft, typical NAS!), rather you feel the weight and ‘fattiness’ of the spirit and the directness of many of the flavours. It still manages to give an impression of identity; of Laphroaigness; and an evocative sense of place. I was swithering around the 93 point level on the nose but the immensity and texture of the palate really propelled it a notch higher. Irrespective of the emotional aspect, this is thrilling and technically brilliant whisky.
SGP: 472 - 94 points.



Heartfelt thanks to Emmanuel, Sukhinder and Dirk!



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


February 8, 2019


Little duos, today Rosebank

(to celebrate planning permission)

Elixir are having a new Rosebank! Couldn’t wait to try it, and I’m sure we’ll find a suitable sparring partner. Wasn’t Rosebank at the zenith of the Lowlands? (I agree, another terrible play on words – for exegetes, or Italians only)…

Rosebank 21 yo ‘The Roses Edition III - Jealousy’ (52.5%, Elixir Distillers, 695 bottles)

Rosebank 21 yo ‘The Roses Edition III - Jealousy’ (52.5%, Elixir Distillers, 695 bottles, 2019) Five stars
This new Rosebank will be launched on Valentine’s Day (a funny idea, really) and is part of a series of seven bottlings, each issued annually. It’s to be noted, while I don’t own a PhD in mathematics, that since Rosebank was closed in 1993 and this bottling’s issued as a 21 years old in 2019, it must have been bottled around 2014 or 2015 at the latest, unless the greatly creative folks at Elixir have decided to ‘downgrade’ the age, as LMDW do with their Artist series. Whisky coquetry, you know. Colour: straw. Nose: a rather perfect and pretty millimetric (that’s the metric system, you Brexiters) cross between some green apples and some lemon juice at first, then chalk and limestone after a short rain, whiffs of kiwi juice, tangerines, a drop of chenin blanc, and a little fresh mint rubbed between your fingers. It’s rather a wine-malt, I would say (just the opposite of some whisky finished in wine wood). With water: menthol up, eucalyptus up, all the rest remains the same. Mouth (neat): totally it. Lemon sweets, grapefruits, icing sugar, little Easter eggs, lemon curd, gummy bears, and some chalk and plaster to keep all that coherent. Same feeling of crushed mint as on the nose in the background. With water: some earthiness, which isn’t uncommon. Water makes it thicker and maltier, as if we had left the Lowlands. More menthol as well. Finish: medium, fresh, more on lime juice this time, tangerines, green tea… Comments: textbook Rosebank, pretty fresh, citrusy, extremely quaffable. Narrower than St Magdalene, but fruitier and fresher. Always happy to taste and drink Rosebank, but you know what they say, ‘the only difference between drinking and tasting is paying attention’. So true.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

And so, a sparring partner. Rumble, rumble… Maybe a much older one?...

Rosebank 25 yo 1967/1998 (54.4%, Signatory Vintage, casks #4393-94, 220 bottles)

Rosebank 25 yo 1967/1998 (54.4%, Signatory Vintage, casks #4393-94, 220 bottles) Five stars
Never tried this baby before, but I remember well a flabbergasting 65/93 by SigV (WF 93 back in 2016). Colour: straw. Nose: there is some obvious parentage, styles being similar, with a lot of citrus, chalk, and green fruits, and then these notes of eucalyptus. But this one goes a little farer, becoming frankly medicinal after just five minutes. We’re talking bandages, tincture of iodine, camphor, cough syrup and all that. And a lot of chalk, once again. Very pure. With water: extraordinary. We’re in an herbalist's old shop and there are many herbal teas, embrocations, strange balms, and indeed old furniture and waxes. Mouth (neat): smashing mineral and mentholy grapefruits and lemons, in their purest form, with a little pine nut oil. Amazing purity. With water: resins and saps first and foremost plus a little Chartreuse and old forgotten herbal liqueurs made by monks. Fantastic. Finish: long, pine-y, resinous, and curiously floral this time. Zucchini fries? Comments: it’s one of those old Rosebanks that could make you think of Springbank. Perhaps was that because it was triple-distilled, while Springbank’s notoriously two-and-a-half times distilled? Pure speculations – and another glorious galaxy-class old Rosebank  
SGP:561 - 93 points.

Loved both, really! Oh and so, just a few days ago Falkirk Council have granted planning permission for the restoration of Rosebank by Ian MacLeod! Apparently, the owners still plan to open the refurbished distillery in late 2020. Hurray and kudos to them!

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Rosebank we've tasted so far


February 7, 2019


Three Chichibu and blend

Love love love Chichibu! Now they’re also rather in the process of doing an Arranladdich these days, meaning that they seem to be finishing their splendid distillate in just any kind of casks that exist on this wee planet. I suppose they must! Anyway, let’s first have some proper clean Chichibu, and then some stuff that even Austin Powers may have seen as… a little bit whacky. To me, the equivalent to Hawaiian pizza if you like, yep that’s the one with pineapple…

Chichibu 2011/2018 (58.8%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Chronicles, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1296, 216 bottles)

Chichibu 2011/2018 (58.8%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Chronicles, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1296, 216 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: typical lemon (I won’t mention yuzu) and oak dust at first, then rather citrons and vanilla, with half a coconut ball. I’m sure it’s more complex, but as always, water will be needed to bring the tinier aromas out. With water: ah yes, breads, softer spices, much less new oak, touches of hand cream (Dior, naturally Charlize), ripe gooseberries, and some fresh homemade custard. Mouth (neat): fat and spicy at first, with a lot of ginger and cinnamon, then touches of salt and miso (sorry I can’t help), as well as more yuzu and bergamots. Feels more European oak than American, and yet it’s well ex-bourbon. At which strength are they filling at Chichibu? With water: yep, works once more. Lemons, ginger, spearmint, lemon curd, a little green tea. Finish: rather long, and even more on green tea. A rather complex one, with wee bits of chen pi inside. We’re well in Asia. Comments: a young distillate full of citrus and oak spices.  Something Thai, I would say.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Chichibu 2011/2018 (60%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Chronicles, Burgundy wine cask finish, cask #5080, 210 bottles)

Chichibu 2011/2018 (60%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Chronicles, Burgundy wine cask finish, cask #5080, 210 bottles) Two stars and a half
Always beware pinot noir in whisky! Now agreed, could have been merlot ;-). Colour: apricot. Nose: it’s okay, the whisky’s rather safe, even if you could sometimes mistake it for some fiery young armagnac. Tomato leaves, prunes, blackcurrant buds, geranium flowers (not stems ort leaves, no worries), plus some garden peat and black humus. Whiffs of old pu-erh, not bad, not bad. With water: no real changes, perhaps a few more leaves. Mouth (neat): much, and I mean more oak. Loads of leaves and stems, sour teas, heavy liquorice… With water: sure there’s a feeling of readymade cocktail but it’s a rather fine oak-led winesky. Black bread, cherry stem tea… Finish: rather long, a little drying. Tomato leaves, more cassis. Comments: we’ve seen much worse and I can see why someone would enjoy this quite a lot, but you need to be into heavy French oak, I would say.
SGP:371 - 79 points.

Now, achtung baby…

Chichibu 2011/2018 (57.4%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Chronicles, Belgian stout cask finish, cask #4548, 250 bottles)

Chichibu 2011/2018 (57.4%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Chronicles, Belgian stout cask finish, cask #4548, 250 bottles) Three stars and a half
Excuse me, but LOL! While wondering about what dear Michael Jackson would have said… Now, grain + grain sounds more legit than grain + grape, doesn’t it? Colour: gold. Nose: a pleasant concoction that’s even more on the earthy side, with this fattish sourness that reminds us of beer, and then many more fruits than in the previous ones. Cherries, strawberries, blackberries… Some kind of fresher fruitcake, in other words. Not exactly whisky, but this Belgo-Japanese cocktail seems to work. With water: more fruity hops-heavy IPA than stout! And meadow flowers. Mouth (neat): I like! It’s beer-heavy, really, and at some point I do think of Brewdog’s cold-distilled beer (that was mad!) but indeed there are very nice notes of overripe bananas and strawberries that are pretty sexy. With water: I wouldn’t have thought the beer would totally dominate the whisky. But it’s a very nice beer, really… Finish: long, on tangerine-y hops. Isn’t it called Citra or something? Comments: full of fun. Now I wouldn’t call this whisky, someone might have to find another name. Nope, too busy elsewhere.
SGP:651 - 83 points.

Crazy Chichibu! One for the road now…

Ichiro’s Malt & Grain (59.7%, OB for 10th anniversary of Whisky Boutique Claude, bourbon barrel, cask #8259, 245 bottles, 2018)

Ichiro’s Malt & Grain (59.7%, OB for 10th anniversary of Whisky Boutique Claude, bourbon barrel, cask #8259, 245 bottles, 2018) Two stars and a half
Said to be a blend of Chichibu with some old Kawasaki grain. Whisky Claude is a whisky shop in Gifu, central Japan. As it happens, my second name is Claude, ha! Colour: gold. Nose: really smooth and rounded, creamy, on butter fudge and fresh brioche, vanilla, grated coconut, and really a lot of grain. Sweet maize, popcorn… With water: loads of freshly sawn oak. IKEA. Mouth (neat): really good, almost totally un-fruity, and ridden with pastries of all kinds. Cinnamon rolls, croissants, panettone, more popcorn, a touch of light rum (Havana Club)… With water: spicier, rather gingery. Cinnamon and a little curry, cloves (Gudang Garam), oak, caraway… Finish: rather long, all on sweet spices. Comments: some oak-led blend, a style never to be seen in Scotland. Indeed, it’s typically Japanese. Very good but not quite my favourite style.
SGP:361 - 78 points.

(Merci beaucoup Alex and Jose!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese whiskies we've tasted so far


February 6, 2019


Blends and undisclosed malts, part deux

I told you there would be more bastard stuff…

Speyside 26 yo 1992/2018 (51.6%, Liquid Treasures, Snakes, bourbon barrel, 270 bottles)

Speyside 26 yo 1992/2018 (51.6%, Liquid Treasures, Snakes, bourbon barrel, 270 bottles) Four stars
Look, let’s issue an official statement. Sure I’ve got nothing against snakes, and sure bagpipers, thistles and stags heads are extremely passé, but frankly, snakes on a bottle of whisky? Oh wait, maybe is that a nod to W.C. Fields? You know about one of his brainwaves, don’t you, ‘Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake’… Colour: straw. Nose: pure, robust, unadulterated maltiness, with some barley, apple skins, muesli, shortbread, liquorice, and perhaps hints of raw turnips. With water: nosing barley and the earth into which it grew. I mean, the roots. More muesli. Mouth (neat): good sweet barleyness, with apples and oranges and then a touch of mint and chocolate. Very average, in the best sense of that word. Say ‘central’. With water: very good, very ‘centred’ indeed. Pure malt whisky. Finish: same. Cider, beer, and cornflakes. Comments: for your friends who haven’t tasted properly aged proper malt whisky yet.
SGP:451 - 85 points.

More snakes please…

Blended Malt 17 yo 2001/2018 (46.3%, Liquid Treasures, Snakes, sherry butt, 396 bottles)

Blended Malt 17 yo 2001/2018 (46.3%, Liquid Treasures, Snakes, sherry butt, 396 bottles) Three stars and a half
So when a blended malt is advertised as coming from a sherry butt, does that mean that all constituents did come from sherry butts? Just wondering… Colour: amber. Nose: touches of used matches and wood smoke at first, then brake pads and roasted chestnuts, then leather polish, then bitter oranges, then ham, then lees. Mouth: much rounder and sweeter, and fruitier to boot. Seville oranges, candyfloss, triple-sec, a touch of ginger, raisins, cinnamon rolls, greener coffee. I think the palate is much nicer than the nose. Finish: medium, with some ginger, orange zests, and a bitterish grittiness in the back. Comments: fine fine fine, just a tad raw at times. For the (silver) hipflask!
SGP:452 - 83 points.

Speyside 45 yo 1973/2018 (53.2%, Maltbarn, sherry, 299 bottles)

Speyside 45 yo 1973/2018 (53.2%, Maltbarn, sherry, 299 bottles) Five stars
What could go wrong here? Nothing, just nothing, absolutely nothing. Colour: gold. Nose: little sherry, rather an immaculate ex-X-fill barleyness, with honeys, waxes, and last year’s fruits in the cellar. Apples, walnuts, pears… This is all extremely subtle, perhaps a little maltier and more ‘earthy’ than other ‘old anonymous Speysiders’. With water: beeswax coming out. Typical and great. Mouth (neat): ‘stroadinary. Almonds and oranges in perfect sync, tangoing to the stars. Plus hay, pine sap, tobacco and camphor. And nutmeg from the old oak. With water: Mandarine Impériale blended with yellow Chartreuse. Finish: rather similar. Nuts. I mean, there are nuts. I mean, there are flavours that are reminiscent of nuts. Comments: smart man don’t buy vulgarly branded whisky in stupid crystal decanters, smart man buy much better whisky such as this one for twenty times cheaper.
SGP:562 - 92 points.

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (51.3%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry butt)

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (51.3%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry butt) Five stars
Ducks, ducks, and quality. Let’s see what the little cask has found this time. Colour: gold. Nose: how similar, although this one would be a little more austere than the Maltbarn, and perhaps a tad earthier… But styles are very similar. With water: bark coming out, earth, peels, apples, a little ale, wax… Mouth (neat): perfect, still fresh after all those years, finely gingery, with cider apples, cinnamon rolls, figs… With water: love this earthiness, the fresh wood (really), the herbs, teas, grassy spices, grapefruits… Finish: long, rather spicy. Chambord, ginger liqueur, caraway, curry… Comments: actually, this little duck was rather spicier than its German sibling. And excellent too.
SGP:461 - 91 points.

St. Ola 8 yo 2010/2018 (66.6%, The Whisky Barrel, Orcadian blended malt)

St. Ola 8 yo 2010/2018 (66.6%, The Whisky Barrel, Orcadian blended malt) Four stars
Ha-ha. So, unless those great folks decided to pull our legs and bottle some single (or teaspooned) malt as blended malt, this cannot be anything but a vatting of HP and Scapa. By the way, isn’t the strength quite devilish here? Colour: straw. Nose: vanilla fudge – so pretty psychedelic. Ha. Vanilla cake, café latte, butterscotch, lemon barley cake. With water: touches of lemon and ale. Belgian beer and toasted bread. Mouth (neat): huge and superb. Hate to love such a rough and raw young malt, but I really do, cross my heart… Barley, bitter herbs, stems and leaves (as teas, peach, cherry…) With water: the better part. Oranges, grapefruits, finger biscuits, and touches of salty smoke, that cannot not some from some fiery young HP. Finish: very long, grassier, more bitter, more peppery. Comments: another one that hits you right between your eyes – cheeks – Ray-Bans - ears (delete as applicable).
SGP:462 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all undisclosed malts we've tasted so far


February 5, 2019


Blends and undisclosed malts

So bastard whiskies, as we used to call them amongst the Malt Maniacs. Was that a little excessive? Not too sure…

William Cadenhead Blend 20 yo (46%, Cadenhead, blend, butt, batch 2, 2019)

William Cadenhead Blend 20 yo (46%, Cadenhead, blend, butt, batch 2, 2019) Three stars
That is right, the first whisky bottled in 2019 that we’re trying on little WF! Every year a great moment, a moment that happens earlier and earlier in the year, having said that. Colour: reddish mahogany. Nose: sherry, walnuts, chestnuts, strawberries, figs, geranium, peonies, rosehip tea, prunes, goji berries. That’s right. Some pencil shavings too. Mouth: there’s more grains in mezcal, I’m telling you. In truth this is the heaviest form of whisky one could think of, chock-full of caraway, sloe, blackberries, cloves, morellos, and the oddest Outer-Mongolian herbal liqueurs ever. Really totally odd and un-whisky, perhaps a drink for hard-brexiters only? Finish: extremely long, liqueury, pine-y, heavy, thick, invading, tarry… Comments: a statement? A cry for help? A tribute to the Austro-Hungarian empire? Slade? T-Rex? Golden Earring?
SGP:382 - 82 points.

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (47.4%, The Whisky Agency for The Whisky Exchange, butt, 568 bottles)

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (47.4%, The Whisky Agency for The Whisky Exchange, butt, 568 bottles) Five stars
We know these batches well, all bottlings we’ve tried so far have been pretty brilliant. Colour: gold. Nose: madre de dios! Old apples, honeycomb, beeswax, oranges, lime-flower tea, honeysuckle, a touch of camphor, jujubes, cigarette tobacco… This nose is simply astounding, magnificent, otherworldly, superlatively entrancing (that’ll do, s.)… Mouth: as I said. There’s some kind of mentholated oak as well, toffee apples, thyme honey, crystallised tangerines, earl grey, peaches, apricot stones, ripe mirabelles and the spirit made thereof, pine sap sweets… It’s all perfect, while the oak would never get in the way. After forty-three years! Finish: rather long and rather sappier, with even more pine, camphor, and eucalyptus. A wonderful cough medicine, this. Sumptuous earthy/pine-y aftertaste. Comments: maybe I’m amazed. Well, I am. If you like pine-y stuff as much as I do, you may consider trying to secure a bottle of this wonder!
SGP:562 - 93 points.

Speyside 29 yo 1989/2018 (49.1%, Maltbarn, bourbon barrel, 133 bottles)

Speyside 29 yo 1989/2018 (49.1%, Maltbarn, bourbon barrel, 133 bottles) Four stars and a half
Love squirrels, but friends who live where there are many say they’re a nuisance. Colour: straw. Nose: the parentage with the 1973 is pretty obvious, although this one would be fresher, and more on a blend of orange and apple juices. Add vanilla and add fresh almonds, and presto, you’ve got a marvellous fresh old Speysider. We could also mention sunflower oil and just wee ideas of copper. One penny, no more. Mouth: almost perfect. Fresh, a tad more mentholy now, rather fat, with walnut skins, pumpkin seeds, a touch of salt, more apple juice, and a curious tea-ishness, not easy to describe. Anyway, the whole’s absolutely lovely and rather characterful (not always the case with some Speysiders). Finish: rather long, malty and barley-y at the same time. Tell me about some energy bar! Oranges are back in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, pure ‘malt’. You actually feel the barley.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Port Askaig 34 yo (49.7%, Elixir Distillers, 2019)

Port Askaig 34 yo (49.7%, Elixir Distillers, 2019) Five stars
A single cask and a brand new bottling I couldn’t even find a picture of (at time of writing), so I've decided to put a portrait of Elixir's master blender instead. So, Caol Ila or Bunnahabhain this time? Well I guess someone could also name some Glenturret ‘Port Askaig’, would that be verboten? Colour: gold. Nose: not Bunnahabhain (and neither is it Glenturret, ha). Rather the purest form of old peated Islay, extremely vertical, iodized, almondy, brine-y, wonderfully sour (riesling), and very delicately peaty. Raw wool, oysters and langoustines. You may drop the langoustines. Or, there, squat lobsters. Mouth: amazing how it remained bright and lively. Still kicks you, mind you, with salt, olives, peat, peat ashes, oysters, and that element I always find in Caol Ila, fresh almonds. And let’s not forget lemon. Finish: very long, still fresh, vertical, lemony, smoky. Smoked trout. Comments: impressive. I’ve often noticed that Caol Ila could age extremely slowly, I just couldn’t tell you why. Anyway, this Port Askaig is simply fantastic, please do not miss it.
SGP:357 - 91 points.

And why not another Port Askaig of similar age?

Port Askaig 33 yo (50.3%, Elixir Distillers, Impex Beverages USA, 2018)

Port Askaig 33 yo (50.3%, Elixir Distillers, Impex Beverages USA, 2018) Five stars
An USA-only bottling, so 750ml, naturally. So with one third of an extra-dram ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: same whisky. I mean, perhaps not exactly the same, word for word, but quite. Very mucho beaucoup quite. Mouth: well, I could quaff twenty-five litres of each trying to detect major differences, and I sure would ask for twenty-five extra litres. Of each. Say the 33 has got a little more earthy/rootiness, but that’s like comparing plain white with plainer white (with apologies to Kazimir Severinovich Malevich). Finish: did I ever tell you the joke about that chef who always cooks with whisky? Comments: or, there, the one about the recipe of the whisky turkey?
SGP:357 - 91 points.

There will be more bastard whiskies tomorrow on WF, stay tuned…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all undisclosed malts we've tasted so far


February 3, 2019


Rums that rock

Let’s try to find bigger ones today. Well, that shouldn’t be too difficult to do…

New Grove 2007/2017 (59.7%, OB for Salon du Rhum Belgique, Mauritius, cask # 428-17, 167 bottles)

New Grove 2007/2017 (59.7%, OB for Salon du Rhum Belgique, Mauritius, cask # 428-17, 167 bottles) Four stars and a half
We’ve only ever tried some New Grove at 40% vol. yet thought it was pretty good (around WF 80-82). This is molasses-based rhum traditionnel made by the Grays distillery in Beau Plan. Colour: copper gold. Nose: extremely fruity, full of pink bananas, sweeter mangos, cane syrup, peaches and apricots, pineapples, all those rather as preserved fruits than as fresh ones. With water: more toasted oak, vanilla, brioche… This is all seductive and perfectly made, rather modern in fact, not unlike some contemporary cognacs that are also keeping an eye on malt whisky. Mouth (neat): an extravagant fruit bomb, which, bizarrely, makes it rather more malternative, the Irish way. You cannot not think of Bushmills’ single malt. More bananas, pineapples, papayas, plus some chocolaty oak wrapping all that. With water: yes indeed, Bushmills, or Cooley’s fruitiest, really. Now not sure bananas and pineapples don’t rather belong to rum, having said that. Finish: medium, bright, always extremely fruity, but rather on citrus this time. Big juicy oranges. Comments: I have to say I’m impressed. Perfect engineering and wood technology here, just with a different accent…
SGP:741 - 88 points.

While we’re in Belgium…

Four Square 10 yo 2007/2018 (62.9%, Compagnie des Indes for Salon du Rhum Belgique, Barbados, cask #BF019, 246 bottles)

Four Square 10 yo 2007/2018 (62.9%, Compagnie des Indes for Salon du Rhum Belgique, Barbados, cask #BF019, 246 bottles) Two stars and a half
I believe, but I’m not totally sure, that this is some single blended continental-aged Foursquare, so both ex-pot and ex-column. Oh and indeed it’s labelled as Four Square. Colour: dark gold. Nose: rather column content, it seems. A little varnish over Danish pastries, banana cake, barbecued marshmallows, some cellulose, and then a little strawberry liqueur. Certainly not some higher-ester Foursquare. With water: something Cuban, I would say. Foursquare’s lighter side. Cakes, pack of sweets, cane syrup, coconut… Mouth (neat): varnish, coconut balls, sawdust, vanilla, raspberry eau-de-vie, ginger… Very strong! With water: same, more or less, plus a little earth, which is welcome. Finish: long, getting a little bitter. Comments: really not a huge fan of these ones, I believe all OBs, including the youngest Doorly’s, are playing in a higher league. But again and again and again, only one man’s opinion. Some superb new pot-stilly Foursquare soon on WF!
SGP:631 - 78 points.

Look, why not have three crazy Hampdens now?...

Hampden 17 yo 2000/2018 (57.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, cask #27, 194 bottles)

Hampden 17 yo 2000/2018 (57.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, cask #27, 194 bottles) Five stars
Oh well, these are all good anyway, why bother… (perhaps because they’re all good, precisely?) Colour: straw. Nose: UHU glue, rotting turnips and bananas, ink, brake fluid, new leatherette, Barbour grease, linoleum, diesel oil… What’s not to like? With water: typical shoe polish, peat, cedar shavings, castor oil… Mouth (neat): perfection made rum. Gritty fruit peels, fresh walnut skins, brine, olives, crazy guavas, saltpetre, capers, Indonesian cigars, ink… With water: perfect. Love these notes of new plastic and tobacco pouch (I know, I know). Finish: long but not eternal. Slightly gentler than others at this stage. Comments: there was actually something ‘easier’ to this one. Brilliant rum anyway and nonetheless.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Hampden 17 yo 2000/2018 (58.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, cask #54, 189 bottles)

Hampden 17 yo 2000/2018 (58.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, cask #54, 189 bottles) Four stars and a half
In theory, this should be quick. Colour: straw. Nose: rather less on brine and olives, and rather more on vegetables and oils. Asparagus, sesame oil, vanilla… Looks like this cask has been a little more active. The cores are totally similar, having said that. With water: indeed, more vegetables. Artichokes, tinned chickpeas, samphires… Also some kind of mentholy earth. Or Kools (not Kool-Aid mind you). Mouth (neat): we’re even closer to the previous one, with perhaps a little more fruits this time, and rather less diesely touches. Shall we call it ‘gentler’? In a way, yes… With water: a little more polished, I would say. One that you could actually bring to a family reunion. Finish: long and saltier. Comments: flying high again on Air Jamaica. Peace.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Let’s change vintages…

Hampden 16 yo 2001/2018 (61.2%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 156 bottles)

Hampden 16 yo 2001/2018 (61.2%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 156 bottles) Five stars
I totally hate all these homicidal continental Hampdens by H. Laing. I hate them because they’re so predictably great…  Colour: gold. Nose: as the colour suggested, this has a little more oak influence, and that was American oak, with its attendant vanilla and coconut. Having said that coconut, capers and diesel oil seem to get along pretty well. Rotting bananas and vegetal ink, new electronics, etcetera. With water: we’re at Home Depot’s now. Formica board, plywood, various glues and varnishes, lineoleum… and also ripe bananas and papayas, we’re not savages. Mouth (neat): get-out-of-here, this one’s quicker off the line than a Jack Russell on caffeine. Murder attempt, that’ll cost you! With water: hugely diesely (I know, not good for our little planet), salty, and chock-full of olives and liquorice. A little vanilla behind all that, reminding us that, well, that the cask also wanted to tell us something. Finish: long, with, wait, maracujas? Some vanilla too, okay. Comments: I was having it at WF 91, but thought the finish was a little less, how shall I put it, idiosyncratic? Focussed?
SGP:562 - 90 points.

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


February 2, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Recent Official Lagavulins
Given the insatiable thirst for Islay whiskies, there is understandably more motivation for Diageo to release a greater array of bottlings from what is undeniably one of its most iconic malts. If not the most iconic: Lagavulin. Increasingly it also seems this includes just bottling private single casks for wealthy people. Apparently ‘doing single casks’ is no longer so ‘cost inefficient’ for Diageo. Anyway, no excuses ever needed to try some Lagavulins and we’ll not complain.


Lagavulin 2002/2018 Distiller’s Edition (43%, OB, lgv 4/507)

Lagavulin 2002/2018 Distiller’s Edition (43%, OB, lgv 4/507)
Always enjoyed this bottling over the years, generally my favourite ‘finished’ whisky ever. Although quality has been a tad up and down in recent years I’d say. Colour: light amber. Nose: sweet peat, something like salted melon and then more classical things like bacon frys, smoked meats, hessian, black pepper, tar, smoked tea and vapour rub. Lots of smouldering wood, hints of brine, waxed canvas, squid ink and herbal toothpaste. Gets increasingly kippery, gristy and slightly greasy. A few wee hints of active oak with sawdust and pencil shavings peeping through. Mouth: oily hessian rags, sooty coal scuttles, damp earth, raw peat smoke and hot, smoky grist. Pancetta wrapped scallops on a BBQ, some charred toast and things like root vegetables and gentian eau de vie. The thing I always liked about this bottling is the integration of the PX and that’s very much the case here - you really can’t see the join. Hot cooking oils, black olives, anchovies and seawater. Getting increasingly medical as well with some hospital antiseptic and gauze. Finish: long, full of heathery smoke, new leather, ointments, iodine, dried seaweed in miso broth and soy sauce. Still very kippery. Comments: Still a delicious and dependable dram. Although I feel it’s lost some sense of depth over the years.
SGP: 476 - 85 points.



Lagavulin 8 yo (48%, OB, 2018)

Lagavulin 8 yo (48%, OB, 2018)
I very much enjoyed the first release for the bicentenary in 2016, as did Serge who gave it 90 points at the time. Let’s see how this follow up compares... Colour: pale white wine. Nose: we’re really close to the raw ingredients here, raw smoked grist, smoky wort, yeasty sourdough starter, chalk, mineral salts, wet beach pebbles, lemon juice, sheep wool, freshly washed fabric, carbolic soap and green olives in brine. An extremely open and naked style that is pretty unforgiving to the base distillery character, however, this being Lagavulin, that’s no bad thing. If you like this fresh, in your face, distillate-forward style - which I do - then this is really great stuff. Little things like newspaper ash, ink and carbon paper emerge, along with a slight farminess which adds a touch of funk. Gets increasingly mezcal-esque with a bit of time. Not unlike the 12yo Special Releases from 2018. Mouth: hugely briny, pickled onion Space Invaders (I’ll bring you a pack Serge), freshly kilned malt, sea salt, smoked mussels, natural tar extract, burning rosemary, some fennel, tarragon and bay leaf and a big, dry, tarry rope note. Uncompromising is the word. Seriously salty stuff. Salt baked cod, more brine, anchovy paste, both shades of olive, some grass, lemon juice, oysters, fish sauce, miso. Packs a mighty punch and swooshes like a Katana (what?). Finish: long, full of bonfire smoke, ash, burning pine cones, malt vinegar, iodine, kelp and salt-cured meats. Comments: It’s very good. I’m swithering to an extent though. On one had the purity and power are impressive. On the other it is rather singular and perhaps lacks complexity. But, I’m feeling generous and it does doubtless fly the flag for excellent whiskies at younger ages that wear that age on their sleeve (label) with pride.
SGP: 367 - 89 points.



Lagavulin Distillery Exclusive Bottling (54.1%, OB, 2017, 7500 bottles)

Lagavulin 'Distillery Exclusive Bottling' (54.1%, OB, 2017, 7500 bottles)
Diageo seem to be rather fond of these NAS distillery specials these days. Rumour has it this one contains a high proportion of 16 years old that was re-racked into ex-Moscatel casks married with some younger bourbon matured stocks. Moscatel being a sweet sherry similar to PX. Colour: gold. Nose: it certainly ‘feels’ like an older dram - although after the 8 that’s not saying much. A little more mentholated, herbal and petrolic with these lovely notes of salted almonds, kippers drizzled with lemon juice, salted mead, birch beer, cough medicine and iodine drops. There’s also a peppery vinaigrette note with watercress, waxed lemon rind and something like smoked shoe polish (which probably exists in some hipster modern man shop somewhere). Some ash-rolled goats cheese, cow shed, vapour rub, lemon balm and a rather strong note of mocha and a little very bitter chocolate. With water:   much more coal dusty, tobacco leaf, lemon rind, earthy mulch, seaweed and touches of beef stock. Mouth: thick, salty, fatty, lots of bacon, salted almonds, soy sauce, a few drops of good limoncello, old ointments, cough syrups and herbal extracts. Excellent delivery. Returns to these light menthol qualities such as eucalyptus vapours and balms. Sandalwood, black olives, mushroom powder and lapsang souchong. A big, emphatic, mouth-coating texture. With water: green peppercorns in brine, game meats, fir liqueur, antiseptic and plasticine. A big, fishy, oily and leathery Laga. Finish: long, leathery, slightly gamey, salted meats, tar, iodine, seaweed, brine and soot. Comments: A big, hearty Lagavulin. There’s obviously been a game of musical casks played with this one at some point but I think it worked very well.
SGP: 477 - 89 points.



Lagavulin 'Jazz Festival 2017' (57.6%, OB, refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts, 6000 bottles)

Lagavulin 'Jazz Festival 2017' (57.6%, OB, refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts, 6000 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re is back to this more pure and direct style of Lagavulin. Lots of grilling shellfish, whelks, scallops, cured bacon, smoky grist, a lungful of kiln air, beach pebbles, tractor tyres, barnyard, bailed hay, chalk and minerals. It’s a rather busy, petroly nose with plenty between the farmyard and the seashore to keep it chattering away. Beach foam, smelling salts, clay and many ointments and punchy medicinal notes of floor cleaner and mercurochrome. Very good! With water: mineral salts, almonds, chamois leather, lighter fluid and a hint of salted pistachios. Pristine and chiselled. Mouth: hot and peppery at first with notes of smoked paprika, burning bracken, dried sage, hot smoked salmon, peppered mackerel and antiseptic mouthwash. Some cooked grains and roasted vegetables as well. Then a brinier edge of seawater and fish sauce. With water: really excellent with water now, swims very well. Gets fatter and oilier in texture but without losing that purity and that saline edge. Rather there’s touches of tobacco, some wee sweeter touches and hints of olive oil and freshly chopped herbs like chives and parsley. Finish: long, ashy, lemony and rather tart with light herbaceous qualities and autolytic notes of yeast, bread starter and baking soda. A soft and slightly wispy smokiness fades in and out. Comments: A very good and pretty classical Lagavulin that’s a lovely balance of power, precision and a good level of complexity with interesting development. A big fat 90 in other words. And a strong swimmer to boot.
SGP: 367 - 90 points.



Lagavulin Jazz Festival 2018 (58.5%, OB, 1st fill American oak barrels, refill American oak hogsheads & European oak puncheons)

Lagavulin 'Jazz Festival 2018' (58.5%, OB, 1st fill American oak barrels, refill American oak hogsheads & European oak puncheons)
Colour: white wine. Nose: tarter, sharper and slightly yeastier than the 2017. Rougher and more gravely as well with a rather more taught and punchy mineral profile. Malt vinegar on fish and chips, tar, aspirin, fresh oysters, lime juice, floor cleaner, caustic soda, air freshener and clean linen. Some brine, an abundance of ash and green olives. Not as interesting as the 2017 I don’t think, but still in possession of a commendably chiselled and sharp profile. With water: really pure petrol now. Mercurochrome, kerosene, sandalwood ash, beach sand and sea air. Mouth: white hot peat smoke, green peppercorns in brine, sea water, oyster sauce, lime juice, cigarette ash, coal tar smoke, lanolin, hot smoked white fish, tar liqueur, soot and miso. Quite a beast and a couple of notches better than the nose I’d say. Goes on with things like fermented fish paste, sardine spread, kippers in oil, germoline and antiseptic. Powerful stuff! With water: blue peat smoke, putty, raw barley, lemon thyme, a wee scoosh of WD40 and black olive tapenade. Finish: long and extremely smoky, a big rush of kiln peat smoke, the sweetness of an old barley wine, salt n vinegar crisps, brine and ointments. Comments: I wasn’t sure at first but it comfortably caught up with the 2017 in the end. An extremely useful bottle to have to hand in case you run out of fuel for your tractor or need to dissolve some barnacles from an old surfboard. Or perhaps listening to weird Jazz while slightly pissed in a random garage somewhere near Colmar...
SGP: 358 - 90 points.



And just briefly, because science, a wee vatting of all five is highly recommended should you be so inclined. Seriously, 91 points material. Rather like a slightly punchier, drier version of the 16. Now, of course I’m not going to let you know my vatting ratios. That shit costs money!



More tasting notesCheck the index of all Lagavulin we've tasted so far


February 1, 2019

Whiskyfun fav of the month

January 2019

Serge's favourite recent bottling:
Glenallachie 43 yo (50.4%, Elixir Distillers ‘Director’s Special’, sherry butt, 313 bottles) - WF 92

Serge's favourite older bottling:
Laphroaig 13 yo 1967/1980 (46%, Cadenhead, sherry wood, dumpy) - WF 94

Serge's favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Hazelburn 13 yo 2005/2018 (54.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 192 bottles)  - WF 90

Serge's favourite malternative:
Grosperrin 32 yo (52.8%, Cadenhead, Grande Champagne, 384 bottles, 2018)  - WF 90

January 2019 - part 2 <--- February 2019 - part 1 ---> February 2019 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Clynelish 23 yo 1995/2018 (54.5%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butt, cask #8674, 266 bottles)

Clynelish 35 yo 1983/2018 (52.2%, OB, Casks of Distinction, for Aaron Chan, hogshead, cask #2566, 144 bottles)

Port Askaig 34 yo (49.7%, Elixir Distillers, 2019)

Port Askaig 33 yo (50.3%, Elixir Distillers, Impex Beverages USA, 2018)

Rosebank 21 yo ‘The Roses Edition III - Jealousy’ (52.5%, Elixir Distillers, 695 bottles, 2019)

Rosebank 25 yo 1967/1998 (54.4%, Signatory Vintage, casks #4393-94, 220 bottles)

Speyside 45 yo 1973/2018 (53.2%, Maltbarn, sherry, 299 bottles)

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (47.4%, The Whisky Agency for The Whisky Exchange, butt, 568 bottles)

Speyside Region 43 yo 1973/2017 (51.3%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry butt)

Hampden 17 yo 2000/2018 (57.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, cask #27, 194 bottles)

Hampden 16 yo 2001/2018 (61.2%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 156 bottles)

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Très Vieille Réserve’ (44.2%, OB, Grande Champagne, 336 bottles, +/-2017)