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Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2020 - Part 2


February 2020 - part 1 <--- February 2020 - part 2 ---> March 2020 - part 1


February 29, 2020





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



A Quartet Of Port Ellen Angus  
It’s the Old & Rare show this weekend, which means time is short but that we should also celebrate with something fittingly ‘old’ and ‘rare’. What could be more fitting than Port Ellen? Yeah, yeah, yeah! Maybe not the oldest, rarest or most realistically priced whisky these days, but I remain a big fan of PE and still find its shifting personality over those 16 years of production between 1967 and 1983 both compelling and often brilliant. I’m sure it’s still fashionable in some circles to be dismissive of Port Ellen, but this is Whiskyfun, and since when did we care for fashion?


If you are about at the show this weekend, come and say hello!



Port Ellen 1970 (40%, Gordon &MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 1980s)

Port Ellen 1970 (40%, Gordon &MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 1980s)
Not sure about the bottling year for this one sadly, but most of these stocks were bottled 1987-1989. Colour: gold. Nose: brimming with this unmistakeable old style Islay mix of ripe exotic fruits, wet rocks, minerals and soft peat smoke. Rather reminiscent of other old DCL makes of this era such as pre-reconstruction Caol Ila and some Lagavulin 12 year olds. Feels very ‘infused’ with various citrus, herbal, smoked tea and seawater notes. Beautifully fresh, elegant, vibrant and complex. These fleshy and bright threads of fruit are just beautiful. Mouth: as with other bottlings in this series such as the Brora 72s and some Ledaigs, Laphroaigs and Ardbegs, this is about as big as whisky can be at 40%. Big, oily and emphatic peat. Bandages, tinctures of iodine, wee hints of espresso, marmite and natural tar. Some dried exotic fruits such as mango, guava and papaya. What’s interesting here is that it lacks the natural dirtiness of later vintages; this is more about seawater, ink, medicines, oils, fruits and peat. Finish: long, fragrantly coastal, getting sharper, more punchy, salty and with a pure, crystalline and medical peat quality. Wonderfully smoky and salty aftertaste. Comments: A total thrill ride. I think these bottlings are still a tad underrated, even now. Or maybe just forgotten about.
SGP: 466 - 93 points.



Port Ellen 23 yo 1975/1998 (45%, Samaroli, 744 bottles)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1975/1998 (45%, Samaroli, 744 bottles)
This one from Mr Samaroli has a slightly muddled reputation. Let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: very austere and rather ‘tight’. Lots of raw sea salt, beach pebbles and struck flints. Crisp medical notes such as crushed aspirin and antiseptic. Rather unusual I must say. Getting more cereal and full of wet smoked grains and lightly smoked beers. Pretty tough and unyielding I have to say. Mouth: fabrics, pure chalk, crushed pebbles, plaster board, smoked olive oil, cider apples in mid-ferment. More yeasty sourdough and porridge notes. Quite salty, mashy, cooked grains and plain cereals. Not sure about this at all, I wonder if my sample was ok? Some very pure and salty peat with hints of industrial chemical, bath salts and TCP. Getting more punchy and powerful now. Finish: rather long, bone dry, full of concrete, clay, smoked sea salt, ink, fabrics and something like burnt carbon paper and carbolic soap. Comments: Hard to know what to make of this. Feels like a real oddball amongst the other Samaroli offerings of the time. If I get a chance I’ll revisit this one from a fresh bottle sometime. Probably best take this score with a generous pinch of salt, I am wondering if my sample was totally up to par.
SGP: 256 - 75 (ish) points.



Port Ellen 1977/1992 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #43.4)

Port Ellen 1977/1992 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #43.4)
Colour: white wine. Nose: oooft! If you have any tattoos on the inside of your nostrils that you happen to need removing this will do the trick! Approach with caution! Having said all that, given a little time, this is extremely lovely. A big, blustery mix of seashore and farmyard. Coal smoke, anthracite embers, hot kiln air, tarry rope, creel nets, fishing wellies and industrial antiseptic. Powerfully medical and full of molten hospitals! With water: more gravelly and full of chalky, jangly minerals. A little more coastal purity, lemon juice and generally heightened sense of precision. Although, it’s still takes a rather ‘scattergun’ approach. Bath salts, smouldering dried herbs, smoked white fish and black pepper. Mouth: pure seawater mixed with petrol  and drizzled over sheep wool. A couple of lone preserved lemons bobbing in brine, caraway distillate, more natural tar, Mezcal and some pretty brutal peat smoke. With water: green olives, capers in olive oil, chopped green herbs, seaweed in rock pools and squid ink. Finish: long, super salty, clean, punchy, peaty and still rather a lot of lemon juice and tar. Comments: A beast! Like Laphroaig, these younger, powerhouse Port Ellens can often make Octomore look like a big limp-wristed jessie. This one is also interesting as it really nods towards the more contemporary ‘Islay consensus’ style which Diageo would more or less arrive at by the late 1980s. You can see many glimmers of the Lagavulin 12yo Special Releases DNA in this distillate.
SGP: 368 - 92 points.



Port Ellen 1982/2003 (61.2%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry)

Port Ellen 1982/2003 (61.2%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry)
Colour: orangey amber. Nose: the sherry and the distillate are trying to ‘out-salt’ each other here. Some superb fresh, pin-sharp coastal salinity meets many savoury beef stock notes and salty ancient old VORS oloroso. Thankfully they dance rather than fight so the overall impression is seductive and compelling. In time it gets more umami, more meaty, more savoury, spicy, leathery and damply earthy like old earthen-floored wine cellars. There’s also some more luscious darker fruit tones such as sultana, fig and prune. Some thick and boozy old Christmas cake. Dark chocolate with smoked sea salt, smoked German dark beers and even things like rancio and unlit cigars. Hugely impressive interplay between sherry and distillate which really elevates the overall complexity beautifully. With water: herbal teas, vegetable stocks, meat broths, umami paste, black olive tapenade, salted liquorice, mutton - huge power but also demonstrating total control and poise. Mouth: amazing control and power. The syrupy sweetness of all these dark fruits plays out as almost schizophrenic against these really resinous, punchy and leathery saline qualities. Beautifully salty, savoury and meaty without really showing any of the trademark dirtiness. Boot polish, camphor, raisins, strong espresso coffee and maraschino cherry. This is one impressive sherry cask I have to say. With water: really fantastic with water! More cherries, prunes, figs, smoked meats, ginger cake, tar liqueur, smoked chilli dark chocolate and some pretty old dry Madeira. Finish: wonderfully long, leathery, tarry, smoky, deeply umami and rather oily and fat in texture. Lots of coffee, chocolate, walnut and rancio. Comments: You can so easily come a cropper with sherry peat in this kind of combination but this was a pretty old school and wonderfully fresh sherry cask, or quite possibly one that was hit with a hefty dose of paxarette (bring back paxarette!!!) and it tangos wonderfully with the brute salinity of the distillate. I love it, we’re a midgie’s razor from 93 points here!
SGP: 576 - 92 points.



Big hugs to Jon and Enrico!




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


February 27, 2020


Crazy Glen Scotia for a change
(fino anyone?)

That’s true, why always Springbank?

Glen Scotia 45 yo 1972/2017 (40.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, bourbon barrel, 144 bottles)

Glen Scotia 45 yo 1972/2017 (40.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel’s Choice, for Aad Van Zuylen, bourbon barrel, 144 bottles) Four stars and a half
I know, in theory and since this is the oldest Glen Scotia we’ll have I shouldn’t start with it, but given the very low strength, which suggests some relative fragility, I decided to stay on the safe side. Colour: gold. Nose: oh, we’re wandering throughout an old dunnage warehouse full of old barrels! This is sublime, very delicate, with notes of old roses, almonds, camphor, orange cordial, ylang-ylang and jasmine, marzipan, pinesap, old linseed oil (a painter’s old stock), perhaps a little teak oil, a few drops of fresh orange juice,  marzipan (have I mentioned marzipan before?)… Love, love, love this, but fear, fear , fear for the palate… Mouth: no, we’re fine. Some touches of varnish here and there, some white pepper for sure, some resins, pencil eraser, green tea… You do feel it is some very old whisky at (natural) low strength, but the fruits are still there, well alive, and keeping the flame alive. Especially bitter oranges Finish: medium, rather on green tannins and teas this time, which is completely normal. Touches of bitter caramel. Comments: the palate’s probably a little acrobatic at times, but the nose was stellar. You could put a few drops behind your ears before going to the dance hall. Tasting this is like driving an Austin-Healey, I would say. Or a low-battery Tesla. You’re not quite sure you’ll make it but it is fun.
SGP:361 - 89 points.

Glen Scotia 27 yo 1992/2019 (45.9%, The Perfect Fifth, bourbon, cask #05917, 174 bottles)

Glen Scotia 27 yo 1992/2019 (45.9%, The Perfect Fifth, bourbon, cask #05917, 174 bottles) Four stars
Do people outside the US of A really know what a fifth is? Colour: white wine. Nose: typically Glen Scotia from those years, so extremely singular, with a lot of bread dough, leaven, proper yoghurt, sour cream, then really hectolitres of manzanilla. With this kind of nose and once again, it’s make or break, even if it does tend to become a little more civilised, rounder, with a little more custard. Mouth: good, take a bottle of La Gitana or any good middle-of-range manzanilla. Throw away 1/3, replace with white mezcal, pepper liqueur, sake and a little cardboard and sawdust. Shake well, drink, sleep. Finish: long, on the same notes plus a touch of lime. Comments: very hard to score, for it’s so un-consensual. And porridge-y!
SGP:361 - 85 points.

Glen Scotia 26 yo 1992/2018 (47.3%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles)

Glen Scotia 26 yo 1992/2018 (47.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles) Four stars
In theory, this one should be similarly doughy – if not slightly feinty. Colour: light gold. Nose: it’s not quite the same, this cask has been a little more active, while some additional metallic notes are to be found (old coins). A little smoke as well this time, rhubarb, fino, green walnuts, mustard… This could really work. Mouth: not an easy baby, for sure, but should you not be against a little bit of pepper and chalk in your whisky, you could find this very lovely, with bags of green fruits, greengages, kiwis, apples, gooseberries, and perhaps even a little wasabi while we’re in green territories. And fino! Finish: long, and very fino-y indeed. Amazingly fino-y. A few thin mints in the aftertaste, some mint toffee, Ricola (Alpine sweets for grown-ups)… Comments: a wonderful drop, very singular indeed, and indeed pretty Jerezian. Or sherry without any sherry (big savings!)
SGP:462 - 87 points.

Speaking of sherry…

Glen Scotia 25 yo 1992/2017 (53.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 2nd fill oloroso, #93.78, Like a vintage dessert wine, 186 bottles)

Glen Scotia 25 yo 1992/2017 (53.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 2nd fill oloroso, #93.78, Like a vintage dessert wine, 186 bottles) Four stars
A vintage dessert wine? Do they mean Yquem 1900? Colour: amber. Nose: LOL. Varnish all over the place, new cabinet, balsawood, models, glue, then indeed oloroso, walnuts, butterscotch… It’s actually more amontillado or palo cortado than oloroso, because of these fino-y notes that are here as well, but I have to say I rather love this. Even more Jerezian than the others – or yeah, sherry-like. Proper sherry, not flavouring PX! With water: cool and nice, pretty coastal, dry, metallic… Coins thrown into a mix of seawater and dry sherry. Mouth (neat): great at first, extremely amontillado-y indeed (remember, amontillado is a sherry that starts its life as fino and then becomes some kind of oloroso), getting just a little pungent and acrid, tannic, very peppery… Water may help. With water: yes, that works, bringing out some oranges and some cold cuts. Ham, sausages, amontillado, sweeter mustard, walnut wine… Finish: long, dry, a tad leathery, just fine despite a cardoardy aftertaste (loses points here). Comments: but where was that Yquem 1900? If this is dessert wine, it’s the driest dessert wine I’ve ever come across.
SGP:262 - 85 points.

It was a good session, I wasn’t expecting this much.

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


February 25, 2020


Crazy Deanstons

I think I’ve said it before, we’ve recently become Deanstonites at WF Towers. Sure they make no little use of any possible ‘wood technology’, but I believe they do it very smartly. By Jove, even the most unlikely claret barrique seems to work with Deanston! What’s their secret?

Deanston 11 yo 2008/2019 (58%, Cadenhead, Rum Cask, 264 bottles)

Deanston 11 yo 2008/2019 (58%, Cadenhead, Rum Cask, 264 bottles) Three stars and a half
Some fairly new warm-me-up by Cadenhead. This is a one-year finishing in one of the house’s regular ‘Classic Rum’ barrels, so no funky Jamaicanness to be expected here, I suppose. Colour: gold. Nose: rum. Banana cake, sugarcane juice, and the largest bag of marshmallows I’ve ever seen (seems that Boris has got one under his bed – and that it’s almost empty). With water: back on malt whisky. Barley, bread, pastry, sweet beer, cakes… well, you see. Mouth (neat): crikey, this kind of worked, against all odds. Orange fizz, gin-tonic, cinchona, liquorice wood, ginger cordial (or turmeric?)… I like this, even if we’re nowhere near any traditional malt whisky – or rum for that matter. Didn’t they just create a new category? This, is experimentation! With water: once again, the malt has got the last word. Which, in this case, is not ‘Schnapps!’ (our German-speaking friends will get this). Finish: long and malty. I’m not finding any remaining rumness. Comments: fine, honest, loyal, and very funny when unreduced. I’m not sure it’s a great swimmer.
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Deanston 20 yo 1999/2019 (49.2%, Jack Wiebers Whisky World, Great Ocean Liners, Whisky Fair Berlin 2019, bourbon, 120 bottles)

Deanston 20 yo 1999/2019 (49.2%, Jack Wiebers Whisky World, Great Ocean Liners, Whisky Fair Berlin 2019, bourbon, 120 bottles) Four stars
I agree that’s a lot of data for such a small outturn. Ha. Anyway, we should get a better grasp of Deanston’s ‘pure’ distillate this time. Colour: white wine. Nose: there, porridge, wet sawdust, rainwater, cardboard, coal, gravel, chalk… And more porridge. That’s very ‘old’ Deanston, as far as can remember it. Mouth: very good, very singular, very idiosyncratic as they say. Bitter oranges, chalk, plastic, bitter grass, rocket salad, wakame… It is, in fact, going towards Springbank, it’s just that it’s a little less deep, and a little bitterer. Strange malt, perhaps for purists – or perhaps for whisky historians. Again and again, I say ‘vive la difference !’ (I’ve decided to use more French since Brexit – joking). Finish: long, bitter and a rather fatter. Fish oil? Comments: extremely hard to score – as any score would be kind of political, or at least some kind of statement since this whisky’s so different from any other. Okay, here goes…
SGP:362 - 87 points.

Deanston 20 yo 1999/2019 (54.7%, Dead End Rock & Blues Bar, bourbon, 248 bottles)

Deanston 20 yo 1999/2019 (54.7%, Dead End Rock & Blues Bar, bourbon, 248 bottles) Four stars
Another one by Jack Wiebers, apparently, and one that’s clearly lethal according to the (lovely) label. At least you’re sure that no one, unless suicidal, will touch your bottle when you’re not at home. Seriously, it’s a brilliant label. No, seriously! Colour: straw. Nose: rounder, cleaner, less whacky, better civilised, and yet not void of any singularities and high porridge-y notes. Add weissen beer, ale, damp magazines, and there, you’ve nailed this one. With water: no more than a drop please! Or it would bring out massive cardboardy notes. Mouth (neat): huge. Pepper, porridge, bread, pepper, porridge, bread, pepper, porridge, bread, and a touch of molassy brown beer. With water: lovely as long as you do not drown it. Cinchona and roots, turmeric and such, then lemon marmalade and green pepper. It’s fighting you. Finish: long and pretty bitter, which comes cool under these circumstances. Comments: a beast, extreme and lovable. Imagine Murnau was a distiller, he would have made this kind.
SGP:362 - 87 points.

(Thank you Lau!)

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


February 24, 2020


Whisky of Oz

I think we’ve got a fair bunch of Australian whizzkies in the library, time to try a few…

Starward ‘Tawny Port cask’ (48%, OB, Australia, +/-2019)

Starward ‘Tawny Port cask’ (48%, OB, Australia, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
Melbourne’s whisky, perhaps the Australian whisky that’s most talked about these days. I just adore their copywriting on their blog, check it out and laugh. Colour: gold. Nose: is that Australian Port? I’m joking, no red berries in sight, I think we’ll survive. Bread, goji berries (eh?), fruit cake, Turkish currants, and just fig jam. Fig jam will kill you if you’re not careful enough – all a matter of control. I adore real artisan fig jam. Mouth: some Portness is more apparent here, so we do find more red berries, raspberries, stewed oranges with cloves and ginger, bitter oranges, more cloves, ginger, caraway… Well, this is very cool but rather too much for me. Not whisky-y enough, in other words. Finish: long, very spicy, leafy and leathery. That’s often the case with red wine, even more so when it’s fortified red wine, don’t ask me why. Comments: not my cup at all, but within its category, it’s doing pretty fine. Tawny Port, mind you… Do people still drink Tawny?
SGP:561 - 78 points.

Starward ‘Nova’ (41%, OB, Australia, 2019)

Starward ‘Nova’ (41%, OB, Australia, 2019) Three stars
I’m afraid his one was matured in red wine casks as well, but indeed you never know… Having said that, it’s Australian red wine and some are very good. Was it Grange? Colour: apricot. Nose: it is not some winesky, we’re safe. Actually, the lightness works well, while I do enjoy these blood oranges, the notes of Jaffa cake, apricot pie, brioche, lighter pumpernickel, boudoirs (Champagne biscuits)… It’s all fine, really, with some Syrah-y notes. Mouth: oh yes, it’s as if those Australian red wines behaved like if they were sherries. Walnuts, bitter oranges, a little burnt caramel, roasted nuts, beer sauce (carbonnade)… NO complains here. Finish: medium, roasted, nutty and leathery. Notes of dry Madeira. Comments: yep (you could have racked you brain here, S.)
SGP:361 - 81 points.

So, the Nova over the Tawny, but we’ve got more…

Starward 2012/2019 (59%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Australia, 2nd fill Apera barrel, 220 bottles)

Starward 2012/2019 (59%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Australia, 2nd fill Apera barrel, 220 bottles) Four stars and a half
Should we really spend some time trying to find out about those ‘Apera’ barrels? In France we know about apero very well, but apera? Joking aside, apparently, apera is some kind of Australian sherry. Not exactly needed under our European latitudes, I would say, but there. Colour: gold. Nose: stop, halt, arrêtez, silence! Lovely nose! Perfect cakes, barley, beers, coffees, breads and nuts of all kinds. Bingo. With water: I’m in heaven every time I find pumpernickel. So, pumpernickel. Mouth (neat): exactly. Walnuts, pecans, brown beers, manzanilla, and bitter oranges, plus white pepper. Perfect. With water: this feeling of liquid bread. Touches of dried pineapples. Finish: rather long, brioche-y, panettone-y (hey!) Comments: impressed with this Melbourno-Londonese effort. The only remains of the former British Empire? (check black and white stuff on Netflix).
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Perhaps fly to New-Zealand?

New Zealand 29 yo 1988/2017 (55.3%, The Whisky Exchange)

New Zealand 29 yo 1988/2017 (55.3%, The Whisky Exchange) Two stars and a half
Looks like this one’s been kind of re-launched or something. The old Willowbank/Lammerlaw stocks were petty extensive, apparently, while we were told, almost every year since the year 2000, that we were seeing the very last drops. Yeah, same story as that of Port Ellen. Colour: gold. Nose: oh?! Many oils, grasses, doughs and beers, then something hugely medicinal ala Laphroaig. Tincture of iodine, camphor, ointments, pine needles… With water: teak oil, sauna, thyme, menthol…That’s tricky! (as far as palates go…) Mouth (neat): it’s getting to the pine-y side, with many resinous flavours, old oils, waxes, oak extracts, bitter substances, spices, green tannins… This is extreme, let’s hope water won’t make it even more resinous… With water: no. Well you rather need a high-precision pipette if you don’t want to kill it (that is to say make it too cardboardy), but some bananas and pineapples make it through at around 50%. Under 50%, it’s all teas and tannins. Finish: rather long but oaky and oily. At Ikea’s. Comments: not quite the All Blacks of whisky (that was lame at best, S.) Seriously, these casks are of historical interest, no doubt about that, but I think they have now gone to the other side as far as strictly organoleptical matters are concerned.
SGP:271 - 77 points.

Wait wait wait, there’s also this…

Small Concern 23 yo 1996/2019 (53.2%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, Tasmania, 198 bottles)

Small Concern 23 yo 1996/2019 (53.2%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, Tasmania, 198 bottles) Three stars
Small Concern Distillery, a.k.a. Cradle Mountain. We’ve had a few, all have been pretty difficult but we do applaud the efforts of  what is essentially a family distillery. This one’s ex-Cabernet-Sauvignon barrel, which sounds pretty Frankensteiny I you ask me, but then again, small is good and big is evil. Let’s see… Colour: deep red amber. Nose: cherries all over the place. As liqueurs, as kirsch, as jam (check black cherry jam from Itxassou in Bask country, France), as sweets, even as yoghurt… You could add a little varnish, but that’s what you would already find in proper kirsch eau-de-vie. With water: I kind of like this, it smells like the cherries on my cherry tree when the birds and the wasps have attacked them all and they’re rotting in situ. A very distinctive smell. Mouth (neat): varnish, peanut butter, and indeed cherry liqueur. Loads of peanut butter, I believe this is the first time I’m finding this much peanut butter in any whisky. With water: maraschino, guignolet, varnish, and almond oil. Finish: sameish, but getting sour. Comments: love these series by Cadenhead, they seem to be afraid of strictly nothing in Campbeltown. To the taster they’re a joy since they’re so unusual and entertaining. And plain crazy. And sometimes lethal.
SGP:452 - 80 points.

Right, better call this a tasting session… See ya!


February 23, 2020


A few vintage Bas-Armagnacs on a Sunday

We’ve tried some very good Cognacs last week, so let’s have some of their little brothers today. Not that the good people down there in Gers or Landes would easily agree with that term…

Delord 1986/2016 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Delord 1986/2016 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Three stars and a half
This baby by the very well-reputed house Delord in Lannepax (Gers). It came in different bottles, halves, regular ones, basquaises, magnums… It’s to be remembered that 1986 was a great vintage in Bordeaux, which lies just West of Gers. Mouton 1986, anyone? Colour: deep gold. Nose: deep and rich, full of raisins and prunes as well as maple syrup and honey, going more towards quinces and dried apricots after just three seconds. Behind that fruity arrival, some coffee, tobacco, and echoes of old rancio. A little toasted oak as well. All is fine so far, this is very ‘traditional’ old Armagnac, apparently. Mouth: there might be a little bit of old wood, which a higher bottling strength may have easily counterbalanced, but other than that it’s a very fine drop, drier than expected, rather on black tea, coffee and bitter chocolate, also old oloroso. No no no, this can’t be a sherry cask! Finish: medium, a tad gritty and rustic, but otherwise all fine and pretty chocolaty. Some welcome oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: I’ll keep rambling on and ranting, 40% cannot do such fine drops justice. If you like, ‘anymore’.
SGP:361 - 83 points.

Delord 1995/2017 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Delord 1995/2017 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Three stars and a half
This one’s a blend of four main varietals, bacco, ugni blanc, folle blanche and colombard. And let’s not forget that with French brandies, the vintages are those of the harvests, not the years when the spirits were distilled. Although in general, they would not wait for long between the two events (not even sure that would be legal). Colour: amber. Nose: a very similar style, although this one would be rather fresher and fruitier. Peaches and almond milk. Rather beautiful, and perhaps a notch Cognacqy. Mouth: more assertive than the 1986, fresher, more flavoursome… A wee feeling of coffee-schnapps, mirabelle eau-de-vie, mocha, quince jelly, toasted cake… This is very satisfying. Finish: medium, fruity, with more oak again in the aftertaste. Comments: once again the low strength’s a little problematic, but I wouldn’t say they get away with murder, it’s still a very fine drop, perfectly balanced. Would be a hit at 46% vol.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Let’s try to find an example…

Darroze Domaine de Jouanchicot 19 yo 1997/2016 (49.6%, OB, Unique Collection, Bas-Armagnac)

Darroze Domaine de Jouanchicot 19 yo 1997/2016 (49.6%, OB, Unique Collection, Bas-Armagnac) Four stars
Another very well-reputed house! This time it is pure ugni blanc. Colour: deep gold. Nose: we ‘re a little closer to malt whisky here, and that’s not all due to the higher strength. I would say it is a little more floral, for example, while it’s also waxier, with whiffs of fresh putty, sap, then quite a lot of orange blossom, which I just cherish. A little olive oil. Perfect nose, well done Darroze. Mouth: excellent and very ‘Armagnac’ this time – pretty unsurprisingly – with some coffee, dried currants, dried figs, one or two prunes, then these nots of putty once again, even a little chlorophyll, which makes it even more rustic.  Thick and oily mouthfeel. Finish: long, on bitter oranges, dried pears, and just espresso coffee. Comments: a great Armagnac that rather reeks of the countryside. For your hipflask.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Domaine de Lasgraves 1978 (46%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2017)

Domaine de Lasgraves 1978 (46%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2017) Four stars and a half
This is own-estate Armagnac from Labastide d’Armagnac in the Landes. I believe it is pure bacco (or baco) this time. Colour: amber. Nose: another one that’s very lovely, this time more traditional again, with polished wood, marmalade and mango jam (not that mangos are often to be found in Armagnac), then an obvious floral side, with orange blossom this time again, ylang-ylang, lime blossom, even lilies… You could almost make a great perfume out of this. Some cappuccino and mocha too. Beautiful aromatic nose, but remember that with many Armagnacs, it’s peace on the nose and war on the palate (not an official saying, just my own opinion). Let’s see… Mouth: some grittiness from the oak (and bitter cocoa), but other than that, it’s all a bed of apricots, quinces, mirabelles, and perhaps rose petals. Also touches of dried porcinis and some lovely albeit tiny varnishy notes. Wait, did someone distil some top notch Sauternes or Barsac here? Finish: rather long, fruitier than all the others, and rather on coffee-mirabelle this time. Love this. Comments: we’re almost touching the stars this time. To think that I had never heard of this small domaine before! Looks like it’s easier to find in the UK (I know, bl***y Brexit)…
SGP:651 - 89 points.

A last one, because five’s a perfect number…

Castarède 1974/2018 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Castarède 1974/2018 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Five stars
Ouch, 40%, the house Castarède is highly reputed too, but those 40% might just sink this old baby. My bad, I should have had it earlier in this flight. By the way, it is well 44 years old, while the price would lie around 200€. You read that right, no missing zero here, but no inflated marketing to pay for either. In other words, booze that does not constantly try to scr*w its customers (deepest apologies to anyone who’d feel offended just now). Colour: deep gold. Nose: there, stewed peaches and ripe melons, that’s the most perfect start. Then Toulouse violets (that’s not far), geranium flowers (not leaves),golden sultanas, and dandelions and assorted yellow flowers. In the background, some faint coastal notes, perhaps a little kelp? Let’s just hope it won’t fall apart on our palates… Mouth: well, not quite, looks like the distillate was having substance and body. I cannot not think of some 1950s-1960s Macallans. Oranges, honey, mead, touches of eucalyptus, liquorice, wee waxes and oils, dried figs and dates, quinces, light toffee and fudge, mocha, a little tobacco, nectarines, coffee, a little pine wood... Well, I should have asked you to call the Anti-Armagnaporn Brigade! Finish: only medium -a wee shame – but lovely, fruity, waxy, and rather all on dried figs after a while. Comments: this would have been ‘de la bombe’ at 45 or 46% vol. I told you we’d start to use more French…
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Enough with 40% vol.; Brussels, please do something!

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


February 22, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Old & Rare Preview Session
Next week is the Whisky Show Old & Rare in London, which I co-organise and am quite looking forward to. So, as has become tradition, let’s have a rummage through an incoherent mixed bag of some of the drams which will be at the show. Needless to say, we should probably expect some high scores, but I’ll do my best to keep the maltoporn to a minimum.


Glenordie 12 yo (43.5%, OB, 1980s)

Glenordie 12 yo (43.5%, OB, 1980s)
A reasonably scarce old official Glen Ord bottled for the export market around the mid-1980s at the curious strength of 43.5%. Other bottlings under this livery at lower ABVs have been generally pretty good in my experience. Colour: gold. Nose: lovely! Honeys, waxes, pollens, some rather punchy cereal notes, buttered toast and things like clay, chalk and other pleasing mineral qualities. Pretty typical old school Glen Ord in other words, a style that nods rather clearly towards some of the later and excellent official bottlings from the Special Releases (the 28 and 30yo bottlings in particular). Mouth: clean, waxy and showing some rather fleshy and pulpy exotic fruit notes. Oily rags, tool boxes, hessian cloth, dried herbs, mango – all manner of older style flavours and fuller, more ‘old highland’ style characteristics. Finish: good length, on camphor, waxes, metal polish, hessian, lemon peel and olive oil. Comments: I love these old Ord bottlings, they’re kind of like the diet version of old Clynelish. All those old school flavours in abundance but with a lower fat content. Anyway, this is great!
SGP: 563 – 89 points.



Scotch Whisky. Late 19th Century.

Scotch Whisky. Late 19th Century.
One of these random ancient bottles spat out of a time warp by an auction house. No label remained on the glass but the wax seal stamp on the top of the driven cork stated ‘Whisky’, beyond that however, I couldn’t tell you about brands, distilleries or malt content. Colour: gold. Nose: a superbly fat, almost glycerol peatiness, camphors, barbour grease and gloopy old herbal cough medicines. This kind of aroma seems to be found only in these extremely old peated whiskies. Which suggests something to do with the peat itself and – more than likely – something to do with the way the peat’s phenols evolve in bottle over such timespans. This one becomes more honeyed but also more tarry, more emphatic and more earthy and medical. Totally thrilling. Makes the hairs stand up on your neck! Mouth: what I often find with such ancient whiskies is this mechanical aspect: old tool boxes, copper coins, steel wool, embrocations, diesel oil, boiler smoke. There’s a really raw and unctuous depth to this profile. Old Victorian distillers often presented themselves as being at the cutting edge of modern engineering and mass production, so this profile is kind of fitting in a way. Gets again peatier, more herbal, more sooty and more greasy. Finish: long, sooty, metallic, camphory and slightly earthy and vegetal. Comments: You have to be careful with such drams as your emotions can run away with you. However, this is still a tremendous dram. The power and depth are still hugely impressive given the time in bottle. You do feel some OBE here and there but it’s integrated rather than lopsided, and the flavour of the peat is totally captivating. Not every day you can taste whisky from the 19th century.
SGP: 476 – 90 points.



John Brown & Son Finest Old Highland Whisky. Bottled 1930s.)

John Brown & Son Finest Old Highland Whisky. Bottled 1930s.)
Another of these beautiful old time warp bottles. Colour: coppery gold. Nose: Richer, more polished and with more than a hint of old school sherry about it. Although, there’s a similar depth and complexity to the peatiness. More of this herbal cough medicine, soot and earthiness. Only globally this is more refined and elegant, the sherry adds these salty and savoury notes of Maggi seasoning, bouillon stock, walnut skins and miso broth. We’re really in a totally different era of whisky production here. Mouth: Rather fatty, earthy and herbal but also gamey, meaty and animalistic as well. More of this lovely salinity from the sherry – like a particularly nutty and salty old Oloroso. Some cooking oils, Scotch broth and more notes of natural tar and cough medicines. Finish: medium, coal smoke, dried herbs, putty and camphor. Comments: Great old whisky, perhaps a tad simplistic at times but pleasurable and undeniably moving all the same. Probably a high malt content blend.
SGP: 564 – 89 points.



Old Pulteney 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, late 1970s)

Old Pulteney 8 yo (100 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, late 1970s)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely pure, mineral and chalky. Almost dusty and flinty, showing this beautifully chiselled and taut profile. Citrons, petrol, light waxiness, sandalwood and crushed sea shells. Also aspirin, gauze, light embrocations and hints of brake fluid. Powerful but superbly controlled. Very old school and old highlands in style. With water: superbly ‘clear’ with this very petrolic kind of minerality. Soots, iron, camphor, dried flowers, wax paper, hessian and Mirabelle eau de vie. Mouth: terrific arrival! All on punchy minerals, petrol, waxes, chalk and limestone. Also rather beautifully drying with this kind of brittle medicinal side. Unlike anything bottled these days. With water: barley sugars, hessian, dried flowers, cereals and freshly chopped parsley. Still wonderfully chalk, coastal, mineral and medical. Finish: Long, punchy, becoming slightly greasy and fat with waxes, petrol, honeysuckle and pollens. Still brightly coastal. Comments: These are just such superb old school whiskies. Windows that leave the distillate nowhere to hide; thankfully these old school makes had nothing to hide.
SGP: 354 – 92 points.



Coleburn 26 yo 1983/2010 (48.6%, Exclusive Malts, cask #1463, hogshead, 209 bottles)

Coleburn 26 yo 1983/2010 (48.6%, Exclusive Malts, cask #1463, hogshead, 209 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: hyper fresh and full of clay, fabrics, crushed seashells, limestone, plasticine and ink. The purity is superb! Lots of linens, mineral oils, freshly baked soda bread and even these wee hints of gauze, waxes and petrol. Like a bastard sibling of Clynelish. But then again, don’t we often say that about all these older style lost highlanders such as Glenlochy etc? Really, isn’t Clynelish just a bit old school highlands rather than the other way round? Discuss, write detailed essays and send them all to Serge on Facebook. Anyway… beautiful old Coleburn. Taut, fresh, aromatic and nervous. A wine drinker’s malt for sure. Mouth: pow! Emphatic, rich, oily, powerful, medical, chalky and full of these citrus and waxy flavours. Really terrific stuff! Peppery, lightly herbal, slightly salty and still many of these very structured and balanced mineral qualities. Finish: long and full of soft waxes, gentle medical embrocations and chalk minerals. There’s rather a lot of honey and salty old mead notes in the aftertaste. Comments: Isn’t there already a bit of revisionism going on with Coleburn? I’m sure there’s only about seven people who really care, but I think it was a pretty special distillate. Or, once again, was that simply the broader style of the time amongst those slightly less efficient distilleries that all got the chop in the 1980s?
SGP: 463 – 91 points.



Glenlochy 38 yo 1965/2003 (42.3%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 171 bottles)

Glenlochy 38 yo 1965/2003 (42.3%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 171 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: the kind of aroma that seems to exist only with old style distillate aged for a long time in refill wood. That is to say a huge collision of old cedar cigar boxes, beeswax, pollens, heather honey, waxes, white truffle oil, dried mint, leather, ink and many subtle wood spice notes. Warming, deep and displaying this rather beautiful yet fragile complexity. Mouth: the wood is loud but it is hyper clean and showing all manner of exotic hardwood resins, spices and these warming notes of old leather and toasted pepper. Boot polish, furniture oil, camphor, dried herbs, bay leaf, old green Chartreuse, menthol tobacco. The kind of palate that actually matches the nose and possibly even outstrips it a little, which is rare with these older malts. Some crystallised fruits and citrus peels keep things fresh and just the right side of tidy. Finish: medium but beautifully leathery, camphory and with this slightly lactic and beery quality that gives maltiness and backbone. Comments: Still kicking, although you get the impression this was captured in the nick of time. Beautiful old style distillate in rich and opulent form showing the kinds of deep, aromatic complexities that only a long stretch of time in refill wood can deliver. Fragile to an extent but still beautifully elegant and impressive.
SGP: 562 – 91 points.



Longmorn 1968/2004 (61.4%, Scott’s Selection, Speyside Importing Co USA)

Longmorn 1968/2004 (61.4%, Scott’s Selection, Speyside Importing Co USA)
Colour: orangey gold. Nose: it’s the viscosity of the fruit that strikes first. Emphatic and highly syrupy and concentrated. Lots of exotic, green and yellow fruits. Almost quivering in jellied form. Very typical old Longmorn; which is to say: brilliant! In time it becomes more jammy, mentholated and gives up notes of tea tree oil and light, playful waxiness. With water: gets almost salty and fatty now. Notes of verbena, mango, wormwood, camphor and tropical juice. Mouth: the arrival is surprisingly subtle and all on spearmint, camphor, olive oil, flavoured pipe tobaccos, dried mint, eucalyptus resin and crystalised tropical fruits. Dried pineapple, papyay, exotic fruit teas and lime zest. Like juicy fruit chewing gum! With water: concentrated waxes, dried exotic fruits, passion flower, juniper and old herbal liqueurs. Finish: Long, lemony, minty, waxy and peppery. Comments: Brilliant. But then, anyone that knows old Longmorn could probably have guessed that. Boringly terrific whisky that should keep you stocked up on vitamins and fructose for at least a week!
SGP: 752 – 92 points.



Talisker 28 yo 1973/2001 (43.3%, OB for Oddbins, 100 bottles)

Talisker 28 yo 1973/2001 (43.3%, OB for Oddbins, 100 bottles)
A rather legendary wee bottling done for Oddbins, back when they were more of a thing. And also back when distilling companies would countenance such crazy schemes as doing 100 decanters of 1973 Talisker for a wine merchant. Although, I dread to think how many pallets of 10yo Talisker Oddbins had to agree to buy in order to get this… Colour: bright straw. Nose: more than a nod and a wink over the hills to Brora here. It’s Talisker Serge, but not as we know it! Beautifully peppery and salty but also this rather resinous and camphory peat, medical embrocations and an almost Clynelish-esque waxiness. You might add fresh fabrics, leather, mineral salts, chalk, bandages, seawater and bouquet garni of dried herbs. Elegance, control and complexity are the watchwords here. Mouth: Really, this could be a 1972 Clynelish! Superbly herbal, waxy, coastal and with this rather honeyed and vivid peatiness. Some more Taliskerish embrocations and pepperiness in the background but it’s all waxes, citrons, minerals and tertiary, earthy complexities up front. Brilliant whisky! Finish: long, leathery, herbal, beautifully coastal, waxy, honeyed and gently peaty. Comments: Everyone says this is great, and they are not wrong. The fact there’s only 100 of these wee decanters probably explains why it’s not more widely known and why it hasn’t appeared on wee Whiskyfun before. Anyway, a Talisker that talks with a Sutherland accent. The development, complexity and quiet power are hugely impressive.
SGP: 464 – 93 points.



Tamdhu 27 yo 1970/1997 (49.5%, Signatory Vintage, cask #375, sherry butt, 230 bottles)

Tamdhu 27 yo 1970/1997 (49.5%, Signatory Vintage, cask #375, sherry butt, 230 bottles)
These casks have a pretty mighty reputation. Colour: deep amber. Nose: immensely unctuous and full of stewed dark fruits, old Cognac, rancio, dark chocolate, leather and many concentrated stocks and umami pastes. Amazing concentration, power and depth. The kind of luscious old sherry that just kills modern sherry casks stone dead. Mouth: pure bitter chocolate sauce, game meat, leather, mushroom powder and more old resinous rancio. Lashings of cocoa, raisins, hessian and prunes stewed in Armagnac. The sherry is so rich and impressively dense but never overly drying or tannic – always erring on the side of fruits and things like bitter chocolate and coffee. Finish: Super long, lightly drying, darkly fruity, meaty and leathery. A brilliant pepperiness in the aftertaste. Comments: Yes, pretty much as was to be expected.
SGP: 653 – 94 points.



Ardbeg 1975/2002 (47.6%, OB for VELIER, cask #4703, sherry hogshead, 240 bottles)

Ardbeg 1975/2002 (47.6%, OB for VELIER, cask #4703, sherry hogshead, 240 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: typically tarry and full of simmering embrocations, pure peat smoke, seawater, old creel nets, rope and hessian. There’s also flint smoke, chalk, beach pebbles and a more direct and fulsome minerality than usual in these old Ardbegs. You also get a hint of rancio and walnut oil from the sherry which is extremely pleasing. Further notes of waxes, mustard powder, smoked paprika and aged pu erh teas. Mouth: hugely peppery, spicy, dry peat, something like smoked mushrooms (if such a thing exists) and preserve lemons in brine. Leans heavily towards hessian, camphor and smoked olive oil. Salty, fat, oily, tarry and very classical, with a mouthfeel that feels bolder and bigger that it’s ABV would suggest. Finish: Long, medical, wonderfully tarry and full of pure peat smoke, black pepper, smoked meats and black olives. Comments: Pure class. An old Ardbeg that feels like it’s been caught at just the right moment. Love the salty interplay between the distillate and the sherry cask.
SGP: 466 – 93 points.





February 21, 2020


A double verticale of Clynelish

Double because we’ll have some Clynelish from both distilleries today, the ‘new’ one and the old one that was to be rechristened Brora in 1969 after the new one had been erected. Are you following me? Having said that, we’ve got quite a few babies on the tasting table today, so maybe shall we have to cut this session in halves. Or not, we’ll see… By the way, looks like we’ve tried our 400th Clynelish in December, without even noticing. Bwah…

Distilled in Sutherland 9 yo 2010/2019 (51.3%, Thompson Bros., refill American oak barrel, 320 bottles)

Distilled in Sutherland 9 yo 2010/2019 (51.3%, Thompson Bros., refill American oak barrel, 320 bottles) Four stars
I mean, isn’t it all becoming ridiculous? Not being allowed to use the name Clynelish? Secret Islay, Secret Orkney, Secret Speyside, Secret Lowland, now Secret Sutherland, soon Secret Skye… Can’t we already smell some new kinds of crookeries coming? Colour: very white white wine. Nose:. pure wax, with touches of animal fat (mutton suet), then metal polish and grapefruit skin. It’s pretty acidic, almost a razorblade on the nose. Some flints too. With water: dairies, aspirin, limestone, lemon, touches of fennel. Mouth (neat): it is a little eau-de-vie-ish (pear), then extremely citrusy. Dry lemon cordial (limoncello without the cellos, as they say). With water: chalk and ink – we’re at school. Some paraffin. Finish: rather long, with the lemons wining it in the end. Ashes and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps still  a bit in its infancy, but that’s also what makes it interesting. Some kind of virtual Clynelish, I would say.
SGP:362 - 85 points.

Clynelish 11 yo 2008/2019 (53%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Sponge, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 250 bottles)

Clynelish 11 yo 2008/2019 (53%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Sponge, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 250 bottles) Four stars
This one came with a very strange cat on the label. In case you don’t know The Whisky Sponge, it’s a blog that’s more or less a natural son of Charlie Hebdo and Private Eye, fueled with whisky, naturally. The Sponge is also a friend, but that’s not the reason why I love reading his writings (looks like it’s also the industry’s preferred website). Now as for the Sponge’s own bottlings, let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: mirabelle eau-de-vie, crushed chalk, eucalyptus, fresh almonds, broken branches, the faintest echoes of grated coconut, and touches of custard. Pretty civilised this far, and not as controversial as his master’s blogging. With water: there, earth, old jacket, rainwater, mint, cut cactus, fresh almonds, a little fresh butter… Mouth (neat): much more mature than the 2010, but that’s partly thanks to some active American oak that imparted a little coconut and vanillin indeed. Other than that, we’re having green apples, lime, plasticine, chalk and touches of ripe kiwis, then quite some white pepper. With water: water makes it gentler, with even tiny echoes of almost-neighbor Glenmorangie, but that may be the American oak talking. Finish: medium to long, and rather closer to the 1990s vintages now, that is to both waxier and more citrusy. The distillate has been taking its time. Comments: these 2008s seem to be real good, I can’t wait to check these vintages when once they’ve reached 20.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Distilled in Sutherland 19 yo 2000/2019 (51.7%, Thompson Bros., 181 bottles)

Distilled in Sutherland 19 yo 2000/2019 (51.7%, Thompson Bros., 181 bottles) Five stars
Here we go again… Or maybe is it a wee joke by the excellent Thompsons? After all, their own distillery (Dornoch) lies in Sutherland too, the town’s even the region’s former capital city. Plus, should anyone doubt this is Clynelish, they've rather smartly put a kitty on the label. Colour: white wine. Nose: you can feel this is older, there are additional aromas such as bicycle inner tube, linseed oil, acacia gum, pine cone smoke, barbecue, leatherette (a.k.a. leather for vegans)… It’s all a little acrid, but I love this. With water: top notch, perfect age, perfect spirit, perfect cask. Mouth (neat): perfect, not extremely emblematic but perfect. Smoked tangerines, plasticine, rubber and leather, charcoal, wormwood and even absinth (a drop), green bananas… With water: oils. Funnily enough, we’re geared towards Ben Nevis, somehow. Finish: medium to long, waxier, almondy, with citrons in the aftertaste. Love citrons, they’ll soon be able to grow them, up there in… Sutherland. Comments: extremely good, and a little gentle. The world needs more gentleness, does it not.
SGP:552 - 90 points.

Looks like it’s all going well and according to plans, so let’s keep going back in time…

Clynelish 13 yo 1997/2013 (48.9%, The Whisky Agency for Groningen Whisky Festival)

Clynelish 13 yo 1997/2013 (48.9%, The Whisky Agency for Groningen Whisky Festival) Two stars and a half
I know the numbers don’t quite add-up, we’ll have to work on this (later). Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a gentle Clynelish, fruity, not very waxy, rather on overripe apples and various compotes. Ripe gooseberries. Perhaps was it distilled just as the receiver had been thoroughly cleaned? Mouth: it’s a bizarre Clynelish, with odd touches of plastic, over-infused herbal teas (thyme), and something that could be remnants of  little fusel oil. Something a little bitter too (glue?) Finish: rather long, curiously cleaner and more lemony. Comments: not 100% sure about this one, I’ll try to try it again in the future. Still a fine drop though; mind you, it is still Clynelish.
SGP:362 - 79 points.

Another 1997 please…

Clynelish 20 yo 1997/2017 (56.5%, Sansibar for Spirits Shop Selection, hogshead, cask #6932, 276 bottles)

Clynelish 20 yo 1997/2017 (56.5%, Sansibar for Spirits Shop Selection, hogshead, cask #6932, 276 bottles) Four stars and a half
This baby for our excellent friends in Taiwan. You would hardly know that from the label ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: waxier than wax this time, with new Wellies, bicycle inner tubes yet again, paraffin, drawing gum, oil paint, then unexpected notes of old dry Madeira, mustard and walnuts, old chardonnay… Was it not a sherry hogshead? With water: wood smoke, walnuts, bone-dry oxidative sherry. That’s right, oloroso. Mouth (neat): grand sherried Clynelish, full of tobacco, mustard, old walnuts and pepper. It’s really very big, without a single off-note (just like all other big distillates, Clynelish and sherry may sometimes clash in my book). Amontillado. With water: lovely bitterness. Brown beer, more walnuts, drops of Jamaican rum, a little salt… There are lots of action in there. Finish: long, on the same flavours, with a salty, almost umami-y signature. Comments: I’m surprised the label didn’t mention sherry, but there, it’s bigly lovely, believe me, no other malt is biglier than this one (D.J., come out of this body!)
SGP:362 - 89 points.

Back to the early 1990s… with more sherry!

Clynelish 14 yo 1990/2004 (53.1%, Kingsbury, sherry cask, 455 bottles)

Clynelish 14 yo 1990/2004 (53.1%, Kingsbury, sherry cask, 455 bottles) Five stars
Was this baby one of those ex-Valdespino Clynelishes? Not easy babies if I remember well, let’s see… Colour: brown amber. Nose: I think I remember these batches. Something metallic (old copper coins), notes of fumes and old guns, some bitter oranges, artichoke liqueur (or Cynar), bitters, then umami sauce, glutamate, soy, a whole box of cigars, the obligatory walnuts, walnut liqueur, then cured ham, black olives… In truth this is a whole meal! With water: very old riesling, smoked muffins (FZ would have enjoyed this), bags or raisins, and good bouillons and miso. Wasn’t this bottling for Japan? Mouth (neat): no clashes here, rather an avalanche or raisins, goji berries, prunes, marzipan, pudding, chocolate, mocha, tobacco… What would Gwyneth say? With water: bitter chocolate, espresso coffee, and perhaps a little bit of cooked garlic. Again, almost more some plain fortifying food than a liquor. Finish: long, meaty, with some liquorice. Salty aftertaste (beef and asparagus soup). Comments: I’m just noticing that I haven’t said that I enjoyed this one a lot, for it’s so much less unbalanced (and sulphury!) than others in the same cluster. Huge whisky.
SGP:572 - 90 points.

Perhaps a new old one before we start to tackle a few ‘Old’ Clynelishes?...

Clynelish 36 yo (47.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, Director’s Cut, 2020)

Clynelish 36 yo (47.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, Director’s Cut, 2020) Five stars
They had to have it good in London after Brexit and after having been crunched by the French at the 6 Nations Tournament. Yep that’s rugby. Looks like they’ve found relief in this wee Clynelish that’s just been bottled exclusively for the Old & Rare Show that will happen by the end of this month in London this time, rather than in Glasgow. Let’s try this baby, since the vintage is good (as if you need that excuse, S.) Same level as that of the 1972s in my book. Yes. Colour: gold. Nose: plenty of natural oils at first (rapeseed, grape pips, linseed) then ground fresh almonds and pecans, marzipan, and some cellulose, or fresh bark, green coffee, cocoa pods, balsam, camphor, ointments, massage balms… That’s all rotating around waxiness, as you may have noticed. Mouth: miraculous intact, that is to say un-oaky, and yet superbly resinous, with some almond paste, putty, beeswax, pistachio cream, peanut butter and all that. Citrons and kumquats at the citrus department, some red apples as well, grapes, then a little gentian (which is very Clynelish as well)… Perhaps a touch of turmeric as well – so this baby will cure just anything and make us live longer. What’s extremely impressive here is the freshness, the total absence of anything tannic or drying, and, well, just the utter Clynelishness, not always easy to describe. Finish: long, with an incredible freshness, more citrus now, and a very funny and intriguing passion fruit in the aftertaste, mingled with just the wee-est ideas of some very infinitesimal oak extracts. Comments: luminous whisky and quite a coup here. This, is luxury, and a very rejuvenating experience. Okay, good, I’ll definitely go the Old & Rare Show, it’s decided. But don’t we now need visas?
SGP:561 - 93 points.

Good, no 1972 currently in the library I’m afraid, so let’s just jump to… Old Clynelish, the Brora-Distillery-to-be (are you still with us?)

Clynelish 1965/1988 (54%, The Gillies Club Australia, cask #665)

Clynelish 1965/1988 (54%, The Gillies Club Australia, cask #665) Five stars
Holy featherless crow! We’ve found the missing cask, it had gone to Australia! Signatory Vintage had bottled the others (666 and 667) a few years later in their bulky livery, but to be honest, I had never seen #665 before. Never, ever. More proof that all things come to him who waits, and that the Gillies Club were real pioneers. Colour: white wine. Nose: an incredible, and pretty austere blend of soot, metal polish, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, coal, ink, old oil paint,  washing powder, old tweed, shoe polish and engine oil. Perhaps some of last week’s vase water too. Beautifully austere, really, and rather on coal smoke globally. With water: touches of fresh oak, raw wool, more metal polish, brake fluid, brine, that old tweed jacket, and just the wee-est whiffs of rabbit hutch. Just cleaned. Mouth (neat): love this so much! It’s really cool to have it right after many ‘new’ Clynelishes, because it’s pretty different, with many more roots, gentian, beets, celeriac, then some salted lime juice (the best margarita ever) and really a lot of ink, tonic wine, cinchona, chalk, paraffin… Some would call it a little cerebral, perhaps, but I do not agree. It’s just the best mezcal aver. Did I just write mezcal? I mean old-school coastal Highlander. Huge grapefruit too. With water: well, imagine eighty percent proper ‘wild’ mezcal mixed with twenty percent limoncello from a good maker’s. Plus pepper, salt and basta. Finish: really long, smoky, bone dry, a tad steely, otherwise very salty and, yes, waxy. A perfect bridge to the much fruitier ‘new’ Clynelishes. Comments: feels like home to me, but indeed housing is becoming very expensive in our parts of the world, figuratively speaking. And by the way, are there other unknown casks around? #664? #668? You know my number, that would be +44 20 7925 0918. Don’t, that’s 10 Downing.
SGP:363 - 94 points.

Clynelish 12 yo (56.9%, OB for Edward & Edward, white label, no rotation year)

Clynelish 12 yo (56.9%, OB for Edward & Edward, white label, no rotation year) Five stars
I’ve probably already tried this one as rotation 1969 or 1971, but in this very case, I couldn’t tell you which it is – haven’t seen the cap - hence I solemnly declare that it is ‘new’ to me. And I do what I want, capice? Mind you, who could resist one of these wonders at 100 proof that used to be ordered by Eduardo ‘Baffo’ Giaccone while the Distillery was content with doing 43% vol. for its own use? Colour: white wine. Nose: similar territories, but this one’s fatter, oilier, and rather more herbal (fern). It’s also greasier, with some suet, even some marrow, cold cuts, some camphor, some menthol… It was an even bigger distillate, but remember this one was rather distilled around the mid 1950s, which was before the distillery was converted to steam heating (1961). So this was direct-fired using coal, albeit probably not coal from the old Brora mine anymore. Brilliant, please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade immediately! With water: paraffin, fresh butter, linseed oil, new fabric, and lemon juice. Mouth (neat): best whisky made by men and women, period. Right, one of them. Huge brine, lime, soot, eucalyptus, grapefruits, paraffin and iodine, all that in perfect synch. As they say, this is like Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band after a bottle of bourbon. Each. With water: sweet Vishnu! Should Ettore Bugatti, or Enzo Ferrari have been distillers rather than carmakers, this is the kind of spirit they would have made. Good, I suppose they would have given better care to the design of the bottle as well. Finish: very long, salty, chalkier, with touches of lemon fizz. Incredibly bright and lively. Comments: some magistral, pretty transcendental whisky that will make you touch the skies and mix with the eagles (S., we have to talk).
SGP:463 - 96 points.

Why not some even older Clynelish and then call this a session?

Clynelish 14 yo (92° proof, Royal Marine Hotel, 26 2/3 fluid oz, +/-1970)

Clynelish 14 yo (92° proof, Royal Marine Hotel, white glass golden foil straight label, 26 2/3 fluid oz, +/-1970) Four stars
92° proof UK means around 52-53% vol. BTW, will BoJo want to go back to old Imperial scales? These bottlings used to be sold at the hotel in Brora as very small batches, which means that they were almost never totally the same. Some have questioned the authenticity of some bottles that were still to be found relatively easily around ten or fifteen years ago, but I have to say that I could try quite a few, and that they’ve all been good. By the way, I had one bottle stolen from me a few years back, so if you ever spot one with a golden cap, clear white glass and tilting label, please advise, thank you mucho. Colour: light gold. Nose: it is lighter than the others, and that’s not only the slightly lower strength. Have to say it’s got something of an old blend, perhaps one by Ainslie’s? A little cardboard, toasted oak, gravel, grilled beef… Some Royal Edinburghs used to be a bit like this. This is intriguing, to say the least, let’s see if water wakes it up. With water: this is much nicer, with a meaty sherry, walnuts, notes of palo cortado, butterscotch, and a little beef soup. Having said that, it’s not extremely Clynelish. Mouth (neat): hard to say, it’s having a lot of trouble after the 1965 and the 12 (but both were stellar whiskies), having said that some sides are on the spot, especially this fatness and the notes of polish. Not too sure, really… With water: not quite, rather too much cardboard now. Ut it remains pretty good.  Finish: medium. Old walnuts and more bouillon. Comments: it’ true that most Royal Marines did share a bit of this dirty-ish meatiness. What’s sure is that this style is nowhere near  that of the OBs, and neither is it close to the dumpy ones by Cadenhead. It’s also true that they’ve always been a little mysterious anyway, those RMs…
SGP:362 - 85 points.

It seems to me that provided there was no sherry in the way, I wold say Old Clynelish was probably the ultimate ‘riesling’ whisky. We’re talking well-aged riesling from a legendary terroir, made by a great winemaker!

(Thanks Angus, The Good Spirits, Otto and the others)

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


February 20, 2020


Time Warp

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Balblair

Always loved the fruitiest Highlander of them all. We’ll have a new indie 10 years old, and then see if we can find an older baby…

Balblair 10 yo 2009/2019 (59.4%, The Whisky Barrel Originals, 1st fill oloroso hogshead, cask #TWB1008, 284 bottles)

Balblair 10 yo 2009/2019 (59.4%, The Whisky Barrel Originals, 1st fill oloroso hogshead, cask #TWB1008, 284 bottles) Four stars
Let’s see if the sherry’s heavy here, and if it would block the spirit’s trademark fresh fruitiness… Colour: light gold. A miracle that it’s not really dark. Nose: it’s not dark but it is extremely vinous, not in a bad way at all. So no whiffs of plonk, rather some bone dry walnut wine as well as whiffs of exhaust fumes and struck matches. Fresh coffee roasting. With water: earthier, more vegetal, with even notes of mud and damp garden peat… Mouth (neat): really punchy and very dry, on more or less the same flavours as on the nose. Walnuts, soot, ashes, very bitter teas, Fernet-Branca, Noilly Prat, even a feeling of salt... Isn’t this some kind of oak-aged dry martini in disguise? With water: add thyme and rosemary, cloves, allspice, caraway, and a little leather. Still rather extreme. Finish: long, very bitter. Eating tobacco, I would say. Comments: rather spectacular, I do enjoy this ultra-dry and bitter style, but I’m not sure you should try to pour this to, say dedicated Jack Daniels lovers. Anybody finding the distillery here deserves Donald J. trump’s History of the Origins of Christianity in twenty-seven volumes (hardcover deluxe edition).
SGP:272 - 86 points.

So find an old Balblair… Oh perhaps this?...

Balblair 35 yo 1970/2005 (44.2%, OB, bourbon)

Balblair 35 yo 1970/2005 (44.2%, OB, bourbon) Five stars
This was ‘a specialist bottling’, you understand. What’s sure is that the 1966 that they had bottled a few months earlier as a 38 yo had been just superb (WF 92 back in 2004). Why I’ve never tried this little 1970 before, I don’t know. Colour: gold. Nose: well, ite missa est right upfront, no question. Amazing pollen, beeswax, honey, preserved peaches, apricots and mirabelles, then more tertiary elements such as almond milk, putty, old books, sweet little mushrooms (not those), a wee slice of tarte tatin, an even smaller spoonful of crème brulée, some orgeat, just a wee bit of pine resin (after all, it’s 35)… Well, there was another 1970 that used to showcase a similarly perfect nose near those times, that was the Bruichladdich, remember? Mouth: bites you just a wee bit (oak) at first, but gets then chewy and superbly citrusy, rather on grapefruit and bitter oranges. Some nutmeg and some pepper too, plus all the fruits albeit toned down a wee bit. The oak seems to be willing to take over, but the distillate is still resisting, even if there would be a wee feeling of ‘Fort Alamo’s last hours’. Finish: medium, drier. Teas and oak spices, with fewer fruits. Echoes of honey in the aftertaste. Comments: absolutely lovely, if a little fragile on the palate. I’m not sure they could have made a 36 yo out of these very bourbon casks. Right on time!
SGP:561 - 90 points.

(Merci François!)

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


February 19, 2020


Ten Mortlachs or more

Shouldn’t we do a few Mortlachs? Long time no Mortlach on WF, but we may well pass over last year’s OBs, for once. Game of Throne memorabilia and stuff; that's not really necessary anyway. I mean, why not some Pétrus Star Wars while they’re are at it? … Or Bollinger James Bond? (hold on…) Anyways, let’s do this randomly, and perhaps a little confusingly, since we've got plenty...

Mortlach 17 yo 2002/2019 (55.5%, Hidden Spirits, cask #MR219)

Mortlach 17 yo 2002/2019 (55.5%, Hidden Spirits, cask #MR219) Five stars
Let’s see what our friends in Ferrara, Italy have found this time. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s an ueber-clean Mortlach, without much wood in the way, if any, which is perfect to let us delve into the distillate, so to speak. So it is not clearly sulphury, not even sure it’s wee-witchy-y (private joke, almost), but there sure is a waxiness, bordering sunflower oil (proper sunflower oil, not the atrocious industrial ones that are sold for cheap at supermarkets), then apples and plums. Fresh and fat, shall we say. With water: rather superb, pure chalky malt on apples and waxes. Mouth (neat): I believe it is the fattest Speysider indeed, and we would rather locate it in the North to be honest. Chalk, citrons, wax, grapefruits, angelica, aspirin. You could believe this is some slightly lighter Springbank, which may actually come from the 2 ½ set-up as far as distillation is concerned. It’s all Byzantine anyway. Yeah, you’re right, and Benrinnes. With water: fruits coming out, beyond citrus, chalk and wax. Finish: long, perfect. Comments: aging whisky in concrete vats (or better yet, eggs) should be allowed. Get rid of wood! This little natural Mortlach will tell you why I said this! Okay, I may have pushed things a little too far, but the SWA or any other honourable body should definitely allow such experiments. Or why not amphoras?
SGP:562 - 90 points.

I agree we’ve started too high, but too late…

Mortlach 12 yo 2006/2018  (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12579, 367 bottles)

Mortlach 12 yo 2006/2018  (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #12579, 367 bottles) Three stars
Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: ditto, this has even less wood, as the almost white colour suggested. Whiffs of williams pears, then chalk and a touch of earth. Not very aromatic to say the least, but clean and pleasant. Not much to add this far… Mouth: fine, really, but too young, spritzig, Schweppessy. Apples and pears plus, yeah, Schweppes. It hasn’t got the waxes at this stage, it’s more an ‘average’ fruity young malt, although it would tend to be willing to go towards bitter oranges, which would be nicer, should that ever happen. Finish: medium, nicer. Oranges, ginger, grapefruits. Comments: not a bad drop at all, it’s even pretty much to my liking, but I find it a little immature. Or too similar to other Dufftowners, such as… Glenfiddich. Oh let’s not be too harsh here… (hey, love Glenfiddich!)
SGP:551 - 80 points.

I suppose we’ll find something bolder from DL’s… Ah, yes…

Mortlach 30 yo 1989/2019 (44.5%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, Black Series, refill hogshead, cask #13609, 267 bottles)

Mortlach 30 yo 1989/2019 (44.5%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, Black Series, refill hogshead, cask #13609, 267 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: a lot of fresh putty at first, fresh marzipan, dairies, pine needles, cones, sap… Rapidly goes towards honeydew and mead then, then exotic fruits, mangos, maracuja, papayas… All that with a very thin layer of fresh varnish. Really wondering about the palate, such a varnishy nose is not always very good news. Let’s see… Mouth: no no no, this is pretty brilliant, if oh so slightly fragile here and there. You do feel that it shouldn’t have been kept for many more years in wood, with these typical herbal teas and saps starting to come through (pinesap), while the core is a tad fragile (stewed apples). But we’re nit-picking, it’s a lovely old dram, very elegant, with some hops, pink grapefruits, lime tree tea, orange blossom, old chardonnay and matching limestone, some artisan cider… Holds well after all. A little eucalyptus. Finish: medium, reminding me of some very old Cognacs. Now we always found out that old spirits tend to converge and that it’s not always totally obvious to tell between a 40yo Cognac and a 40yo malt whisky. Unless it’s Brora ;-). Comments: lovely, that’s the word I’d use. Of course you could tell between Cognac and malt.
SGP:571 - 90 points.

Mortlach 26 yo 1993/2019 (56.2%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail Jazz series, hogshead, cask #85, 190 bottles)

Mortlach 26 yo 1993/2019 (56.2%, Elixir Distillers, Whisky Trail Jazz series, hogshead, cask #85, 190 bottles) Five stars
Jazz and whisky, that’s like oysters and champagne, it just works. Colour: straw. Nose: chalk and aspirin are back, and so are bandages and ointments. So it is a fatter Mortlach yet again, while once again, the 1993 vintage is in question. Positively, of course. With water: more clay, chalk, stoneware, damp sandstone… Mouth (neat): same ballpark as that of the 2002, only with even more depth and fatness. Blood oranges, waxes, clay, limestone, touches of parsley and green pepper, eucalyptus… In truth this is fab. Oh there, why always feel the need to over-analyse everything, I’m asking you. Great whisky, and basta cosi. With water: sublime. Finish: sublime. Comments: if this is another golden age for whisky, that’s because of a few distillates such as this one. Stock up before they finish everything in Zinfandel and drop all age statements (hey I’m joking).
SGP:562 - 91 points.

Indeed, with distillates such as Bowmore, Springbank, Clynelish, Ben Nevis, Highland Park or, apparently, Mortlach and Benrinnes, this is a golden age. Just avoid unlikely woods or wines that would make your future collection look like a LeRoy Neiman exhibition. Of course only a personal opinion, but let’s move on...

Mortlach 30 yo 1988/2018 (48.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American hogshead, cask #18/068, 129 bottles)

Mortlach 30 yo 1988/2018 (48.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill American hogshead, cask #18/068, 129 bottles) Four stars
G&M did a lot for Mortlach’s reputation. Remember the 50yos? The pre-WWII vintages? The licensed labels with the eagles? Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s got a side that we haven’t really found in all the other Mortlachs that we’ve just tried: some meatiness. Wondering, by the way, if they haven’t dropped that part in the distillate since the very early 1990s. Pure speculations… So overripe apples, Grisons meat, touches of sulphur (candles, not quite matches), butter cream, vanilla, fudge, menthol… It is a pretty different nose, but that may also come from some more active wood. With water: butter and gas, then olive oil. Love love love olive oil. Mouth (neat): extremely good, it’s just that this kind of amount of (good) oakiness is a little harder to enjoy after a good deal of all-natural malts. Butter, brioche, Jaffa cakes, candied clementines (they say clementines have disappeared and have been replaced with further hybrids, is that right?), smoked salmon, green liquorice… With water: extremely Mortlach, sulphury in a good way, meaty, roasted, even coffee-ish. Flora & Fauna, anyone? Finish: long and grassier. You could almost feel a little methanol, or at least foreshots, but that’s most certainly my mind playing tricks on me. Happens often. Yes I’ve tried many a foreshot. Comments: a much debatable malt whisky, in the best sense of that word (I mean the word debatable). Could be that Mortlach got a little straighter around the years 1990.
SGP:462 - 87 points.

Well, Mortlach could be a little tiring (again, that’s not negative) but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Let’s move on…

Mortlach 2006/2018 (53.4%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 18030, 329 bottles)

Mortlach 2006/2018 (53.4%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 18030, 329 bottles) Four stars and a half
Let’s see what our excellent friends in Paderborn (Fraumerkelland) have found. Colour: gold. Nose: rounded butter and praline custard, butterscotch, kougelhopf, baklavas, then more fruits, mainly dried pears and apricots. More cask influence, obviously, but the end result is pretty perfect, let’s just check if it swims, and if it swims well. With water: it does, getting younger, more on pears, more on some kind of smoky/farmy earthiness. Perhaps a touch of cow dung, which is an asset in classic Mortlach. Mouth (neat): impeccable, big, very butterscotchy, without one single faulty note, going towards café latte and, perhaps, Sachertorte. Do not touch Sachertorte by the way, cocaine is more harmless. Sure I know that’s Austrian, not German. I mean, Sachertorte (S., please gather your wits!) With water: very good but don’t drown it, or it would tend to go towards McDonald’s ‘coffee’. That’s right, dishwater. Finish: medium, cake-y, maltier. Comments: a very lovely drop. Reminded me of chicory coffee at times.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

We’ve also found this older drop in the boxes, let’s do it quick before it evaporates… (gee-ee-ee, any excuses)…

Mortlach 11 yo 1989/2000 (59.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, sherry butt, #76.26, 514 bottles)

Mortlach 11 yo 1989/2000 (59.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, sherry butt, #76.26, 514 bottles) Three stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: indeed, it is meatier, with more mutton suet at first, then cigars, then Haribo babies and crocodiles (all rather orange), then fried parsley and other herbs, then marmalade. Not your average development, I agree, but there’s much fun to be had with this wee baby. With water: burnt cakes, walnuts and jamon iberico. That, you cannot fight. Mouth (neat): oranges, roasted nuts, dried meat (jerky), and that paraffin that we’ve already found on several occasions. With water: bitter oranges and marmalade all over the place. Takes water very well, in the sense that you could bring it down to 5% vol while it would still roar. Quite. Finish: long, a tad raw. Burnt cakes, molasses honey, Demerara sugar. Comments: it’s very okay, but probably no need to rush on mywhiskyauctionsdelamuerte.com.
SGP:651 - 82 points.

Shall we go on? Try to break a Mortlach record? Where’s the Guinness crew when you need them? (agreed, not really)… Let’s try to find a lighter one, by way of holydays…

Mortlach 14 yo 1990/2005 (43%, Signatory Vintage, sherry butt, cask #05/050, 35cl)

Mortlach 14 yo 1990/2005 (43%, Signatory Vintage, sherry butt, cask #05/050, 35cl) Two stars and a half
Love these humble wee budget bottlings, they’ve shaped a large part of any possible French malt-mania (which remains relatively moderate, I have to say). Colour: gold. Nose: but there, this is lovely and very Mortlachian! Could be that a little bit of bottle aging already occurred here, as this is rather complex, meaty and mineral, waxy, with notes of bouillon, marrow, candlewax, plus chives and mint leaves. Really very nice. Mouth: there, flints and sulphur, oranges and grapefruits, cardboard and mushrooms, a few wee chemicals (plastics -I’m sorry, Greta), some burnt herbs, rubber… Finish: rather long despite the low strength, a little bitter, and little too cardboardy… Roasted pecans in the aftertaste, which is better. Comments: okay, this wee baby didn’t quite make it to the podium, but there, I’ll keep sending my deepest and eternal sympathies to this little series.
SGP:462 - 77 points.

While we’re at Signatory’s…

Mortlach 27 yo 1991/2019 (51.7%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, sherry butt, cask #4239, 542 bottles)

Mortlach 27 yo 1991/2019 (51.7%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, sherry butt, cask #4239, 542 bottles) Five stars
I’m so glad we’re still having a few ‘30th Anniversary’ bottlings yet to try. I would have liked this wonderful series to last forever… Colour: amber. Nose: there, exactly. Cigars, autumn leaves, flints and used matches (very Mortlach), coffee, roasted chestnuts, walnut wine, and drops of acidic coffee. Right, luwak-style, but I’ve heard 90% of all luwaks sold in the world were fake. What’ the world coming to, friends? With water: miso and chestnut soup, soy sauce, mole, dates… Mouth (neat): perfect dry oloroso-y malt, full of tobacco, beef soup, raisins, bresaola, soy sauce, walnuts, and just anything related to umami. Having said that, it’ is a little dry and biting (90% cocoa chocolate) so let’s see what water will do to it. With water: not sure it needs water, unless you love smoky, almost steely pipe tobacco. Cocoa. Finish: long, on many walnuts, then bouillons and ore miso. The one with wee bits of tofu. Comments: meaty sherry in full swing here. Very lovely.
SGP:362 - 90 points.

Perhaps a young fruiter to lift us all up…

Mortlach 12 yo 2005/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #11595, 329 bottles)

Mortlach 12 yo 2005/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #11595, 329 bottles) Three stars
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: pears and a little smoke. That’s not an unpleasant combo. Mouth: good and fresh, with wee touches of iron at first, then pear cider and a little mead. Mirabelle eau-de-vie, great eau-de-vie as long as no one’s added any deadly sugar (as rum folks do). Finish: medium, on pear liqueur and a little mead. Comments: not unforgettable but loyal and of fair marketable quality. There.
SGP:541 - 80 points.

Mortlach 10 yo 2006/2016 (55.5%, Svenska Eldvatten, sherry hogshead, cask #SE075, 312 bottles)

Mortlach 10 yo 2006/2016 (55.5%, Svenska Eldvatten, sherry hogshead, cask #SE075, 312 bottles) Three stars
Svenska Eldvatten are usually having excellent bottles. Colour: straw. Nose: a very peary Mortlach, totally in the style of the DLs. IPA, pear cider, touch of wood smoke, there. With water: sameish. Mouth (neat): very good, better than on the nose for sure. Tart, earthy, on cider apples and lime. Other than that, it’s a little strong. With water: we’re okay, but it is not a deep Mortlach. Do not add water. Finish: medium, fruity, perhaps a notch boring. Tree leaves in the after taste. Comments: really good but nothing earthshattering. Isn’t Mortlach getting rather thinner? Just wondering… Slightly forgettable whiskies, this age/vintage combo.
SGP:551 - 81 points.

Let us insist…

Mortlach 17 yo 1997/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, hogsheads, casks #7165-7166)

Mortlach 17 yo 1997/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, hogsheads, casks #7165-7166) Two stars and a half
The UMC of SigV’s ranges. Bob Seger had a great song about UMC classes in the late 1960s, but that’ got just nothing to do with whisky. Colour: straw. Nose: cider, cider, vanilla, and cider. And a little coconut. That’s fine, just not very Mortlachy. Mouth: better, sweet, sour, more on ciders (both pear, apple, and then pear + apple). Sour woods, apple juice, touch of wax, coconut water… Bwah… Finish: medium, okay, on apples and coconut plus drops of papaya juice. Not obligatorily a good sign. Comments: another drop that I won’t remember forever, and I have to say I rather hate coconut in my spirits. As they say, by definition I cannot remember a more forgettable one. Ha.
SGP:551 - 78 points.

It's all going kind of downhill, is it not? Perhaps a powerful youngster?...

Mortlach 8 yo 2008/2017 (59%, Signatory Vintage, casks #800007-8, 498 bottles)

Mortlach 8 yo 2008/2017 (59%, Signatory Vintage, casks #800007-8, 498 bottles) Three stars
Look, if the good people at SigV have decided to bottle such a young malt in one of their pretty high-brow decanters, there ought to be a good reason. Let’s try to unearth it… Colour: straw. Nose: STR. Shaved, toasted, recharred. Which equals to vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, and breads. A combo that would make any Victorian spirit taste like some new-world malt whisky for hipsters.  Nothing against hipsters, naturally, but didn’t they say hipsters would be dead and buried by 2005? Isn’t Boris essentially a hipster too? What that’s got to do with a tasting note? With water: yeah, fine, bready and fruity. Pears and plums. Mouth (neat): good, raw, simple, fruity, malty, gristy. Malt for penniless hipsters indeed. Pears. Plums. With water: same. Panettone and kougelhopf doughs before anyone decides to put them into ovens. Finish: medium, on pears. A little simple. Comments: he thing is, all these vintages are really fine, but they do not seem to display any of Mortlach’s usual markers. Like, fatness, sulphur, oiliness, meats…
SGP:551 - 80 points.

A last one, maybe…

Mortlach 22 yo 1997/2019 (56.9%, Silver Seal, My Name is Whisky, sherry cask, cask #10090, 121 bottles)

Mortlach 22 yo 1997/2019 (56.9%, Silver Seal, My Name is Whisky, sherry cask, cask #10090, 121 bottles) Four stars
According to the label, this baby’s ‘Dedicate to G. D’Ambrosio’, so some kind of tribute bottling. Always great to see friendly faces on any whisky labels, Galileo Galilei, Robert Burns, Charles Dickens, Alexander Graham Bell, Boris Johnson, Giorgio D’Ambrosio, Edgar Allan Poe… (find the odd one out – well spotted, you win, that would be BoJo)… Colour: amber. Nose: raisins, cognac, mint, dried apricots, whiffs of cracked pepper and new leather. Typical. With water: really a lot of leather, tobacco, flints, and struck matches. Mouth (neat): really meaty and mentholated now, with a lot of leather and pepper as well. Very spicy. With water: the expected marmalade, a little caramel, and bags of ginger, nutmeg, bitter oranges and pepper. A feeling of young Armagnac. Finish: rather long, spicy, a bit rough, with this typical Mortlachy sulphur. More pepper as well as bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: really good but it may have needed further polishing. The leathery side was a wee tad too ‘forward’ for me, but it sure is a top notch dram. Cheers Giorgio!
SGP:362 - 85 points.

Once again, looks like with a few exceptions, Mortlach really needs proper aging.

(With thanks to Lucero and many other friends)

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


February 18, 2020


Time Warp

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Strathisla and sherry

It is true that Strathisla has got rather more discreet than it was twenty or thirty years ago. Having said that there’s a newish Chivas Regal Strathisla that’s pretty intriguing but sadly, we haven’t got it. Let’s see what we can find…

Strathisla 13 yo 2003/2017 (58.3%, OB, Single Cask Edition, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #62274, 654 bottles)

Strathisla 13 yo 2003/2017 (58.3%, OB, Single Cask Edition, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #62274, 654 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one’s dark as some chocolate cake. Colour: mahogany. Nose: it’s full of charcoal, toasted oak, and engine oil. I would almost call it ‘old-garage-y’. Some very big amontillado too, very black chocolate, old guns, truffles, mint extracts, cold-brewed ristretto, roasted chestnuts, all that. Heavy sherry, heavy extraction. With water: as usual when water’s been added to some very oloroso-ed malt, Bovril and other very dark meaty sauces come out.  Mouth: really huge, sharp, pungent, full of cracked pepper and oak extracts, roasted nuts, bitter oranges, ultra-black chocolate (like 90% at the very least)… In short not one that would take prisoners. With water: chocolate and Armagnac, plus that salty sauce once again. Oxtail soup. Finish: long and very dry. Raw crude chocolate indeed, and more beef soup. Bitter marmalade, caraway, cloves and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: we’re pretty close to some early A’Bunadhs, but this is even thicker, more bitter, and certainly drier. Love all the pepper and cocoa in there.
SGP:362 - 89 points.

Good, back exactly 30 years…

Strathisla 16 yo 1973/1989 (62.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Sestante Italy, licensed label, 75cl)

Strathisla 16 yo 1973/1989 (62.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Sestante Italy, licensed label, 75cl) Five stars
Wouldn’t we rather expect just another sherry monster? Everyone loves this label that’s always been ‘old-school’, hope they’ll never change it. Have they? Colour: deep amber. Nose: another bigly sherried one (your English never stops improving, S.), but this time we’re rather more on prunes and raisins, Christmas cake, figs and dates, chestnut honey, molasses, and then a lighter, very engaging fruit cocktail. We’re noticing pears, papayas, tamarind, blood oranges, a touch of mint, a touch of olive oil… It’s amazing that it would be this expressive at such high strength, but that may be one of the benefits of bottle aging. With water: just perfect, wonderfully drier, rather on some old sweet wine that digested its sugars. Oh let’s paraphrase Carla Bley if you don’t mind, ‘I like whiskies that are very lush, with all the lush parts taken out.’ Sweet Carla Bley!... Mouth (neat): very strong, naturally, but absolutely fantastic, with just the right balance between mint and other tiny herbs on the one side, and lush dried fruits on the other side. Lush? With water: absolutely glorious and even epic. A perfect example of what good bottle aging can do to a whisky that was probably quite a brute when it was bottled. Magical oranges, figs, and all kinds of spices. The oranges are mesmerising here. Finish: very long, rather on some kind of artisanal Jaffa cake, with a very dry and very wonderful chocolaty and coffee-ish aftertaste. Comments: textbook middle-aged sherry monster. 16 years in wood + 30 years in glass, that’s perfect – and isn’t that one of the secrets of many a greatest Cognac by the way?
SGP:551 - 91 points.

All is perfect so far, so I guess we could push things a little further down the years…

Strathisla 1949/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label)

Strathisla 1949/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label) Five stars
Good, let’s do a little math… Wait but this is 56 or 57 years old! Not sure anyone would have bottled such an old malt under such an understated livery these days. And at, ach, err, at 40% vol…. Colour: gold. Nose: tops. Old herbal teas from grandma’s old tin boxes, chamomile, spear mint, peppermint, pollens, wormwood, lily, some camphor, Vicks, honeydew… There isn’t much sherry this time, unless the distillate’s absorbed everything within all those years in wood. Yes we’ve seen that happening quite a few times. Right, two or three times. I just hope it won’t have got flattish on the palate… Mouth: sure it is not an utter monster, but it is not flat whisky at all, it’s just that it really went towards all things bouillony and herbal. So fewer fruits, rather a feeling of ‘nice’ cardboard, wood smoke, many teas, some bouillons of all kinds, perhaps rather more nutmeg than usual, and then quite some cedar wood, incense, balsa, cinnamon… Sure it’s a little drying, but we’re nowhere near any limits. Some very lovely old herbal liqueurs do emerge as well, although that would all be a little jumbled. Mandarine? Gentian? Unicum?... Finish: medium to short but clean and not frustrating at all. More wee herbs and spices, and a perfect meadiness in the aftertaste. Comments: this one should do wonders in a large Cognac glass (a.k.a. fishbowl) Not many whiskies do in my book. Imagine, 1949! Whisky blogger 101, never mention historical events that occurred in the year a spirit was distilled, that’ lame at best and everyone knows about wikipedia. Not that I’ve never done that myself, mind you.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

(Merci François and Patrick)

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

February 2020 - part 1 <--- February 2020 - part 2 ---> March 2020 - part 1



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