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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2021 - Part 1


January 2021 - part 2 <--- February 2021 - part 1 ---> February 2021 - part 2


February 14, 2021


Malternatives on Sunday
A bag of rum to celebrate… err, sugarcane

I know I've literally floored you with that headline de la muerte. One day, they'll mention it in books and even have it on Topito: "The Ten Laziest Headline Ever". Let's see what we'd have today…

El Ron del Artesano 12 yo 'BA sweetwine cask' (41.4%, Riegger's Selection, Panama, cask #109-16)

El Ron del Artesano 12 yo 'BA sweetwine cask' (41.4%, Riegger's Selection, Panama, cask #109-16) Three stars and a half
It seems that the very honourable bottlers did this cask at various strengths. Indeed this one's lighter than the 52.1% seen elsewhere (same cask number). By the way, I suppose BA, in this context, means Beerenauslese rather than British Airways. Better like that. Colour: gold. Nose: a funny two-step nose. First a gentle, classic rum that just won't tear you apart in any way (some would even say it's slightly bland) but then a lovely, delicate and pretty fragrant development on flowers and oriental cakes. Baklavas, orange blossom water, wisteria, even rose petals and Turkish delights, wondering if that BA was gewurztraminer. Or grauburgunder? Mouth: I believe the wine was clearly an asset (who said for once?) Very nice notes of apple cake, possibly more cane juice than in the original rum, with these earthy touches, and some soft liquorice and perhaps a drop of litchi juice. Finish: not long, but aromatic and balanced. Notes of Liquorice allsorts. Comments: smart and good!
SGP:541 - 84 points.

Rhum J.M 'Fumée Volcanique' (49%, OB, , +/-2020)

Rhum J.M 'Fumée Volcanique' (49%, OB, , +/-2020) Three stars
Fumée volcanique, volcanic smoke, that will obviously appeal to any malt whisky lover – not to mention peatheads. Smoke, where? Hold on, as I understand it, this has nothing to do with smoke per se, it's just that the casks have been heavily charred. Which, as whisky folks know well, would not impart any form of smokiness to a spirit. But let's see… Colour: straw. Nose: young and fresh, with touches of rubber and aniseed, then indeed a wee smokiness, as if the casks had met some peaters in an earlier life. Some kind of STRised ex-Islay wood, perhaps? Ow the distillate feels very young and it's true that the heavily charred wood did not add to much vanilla here, let alone coconut. So, it's pretty dry. Mouth: first and foremost it is very spicy and vegetal. You'd almost believe this is verbena liqueur blended with green chartreuse and tar liqueur (goudron). Some lime too, but really not a lot of 'rhum agricole', in my opinion. Some kind of in-cask mixology? But don't get me wrong, I rather enjoy this, it's just very unusual. Finish: medium, with rather more mint and aniseed. What we call 'a perroquet', which is pastis with a dollop of mint syrup. Some rubber is back in the aftertaste. Comments: a rather cute alien, and perhaps a category on its own.
SGP:461 - 81 points.

Perhaps more power?

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1997/2017 (56.5%, The Rum Cask, Guyana)

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1997/2017 (56.5%, The Rum Cask, Guyana) Five stars
I just don't remember why I had not tried this one before. Perhaps because it's got a reputation? Colour: straw. Nose: please call the Anti-Rumporn Brigade! You cannot beat a mixture that would have involved tinned anchovies, bits of bicycle inner tube, nuoc-man sauce, diesel oil, lamp petrol, tapenade, seal blubber, green olives and carbon dust. With water: just the same. Mouth (neat): extraordinarily salty, 'fishy', petroly and olive-y. You'd really believe you're on board an old fisherman's boat. From Islay, naturally. Not sure these notes of black truffles belong to that boat, having said that. With water: no changes, you just end up with more great rum in your glass. Up to a point. Finish: long, with just as much salt. Do they smoke anchovies? Comments: another very amazing Uitvlugt. I'll try the remainder with some big fat salty oysters.
SGP:363 - 91 points.

Only a Jamaican…

Hampden Estate 'Trelawny' (46%, OB, Velier, Jamaica, 2018)

Hampden Estate 'Trelawny' (46%, OB, Velier, Jamaica, 2018) Four stars and a half
I don't think I've ever tried this one. It's all a little confusing at times… Or am I not paying attention? Colour: gold. Nose: it's a little troubling that we would not be too far from the Guyanese. This is even rather gentler, but there are olives, tar, tyres and liquorice. Some pencil shavings, cedar, lead… Some seawater too, while it would rather be an easier Hampden, globally. On the nose. Right. Mouth: easy? Not quite, as it would roar this time, feeling stronger than just forty-six, with rather a lot of rotting fruits (bananas), plus the harshest oils and always these salty fish, sardines, anchovies, olives. Yeah I know olives do not quite live in the high seas. Anyway, great Hampden, especially when you've had enough toying with water, pipettes or coffee spoons. As they all say, 'we did it for you'. Finish: really long, really salty, really tarry, and with a few drops of lemon juice for good mesure. Comments: I find it quite amazing that both profiles would be this close. Great rum that needs neither extra-volts, nor extra-watts.
SGP:363 - 89 points.

As on any Sunday, we'll have five tipples. Let me pick #5 very carefully…

Monymusk 12 yo 2007/2019 (49.5%, Silent Ambassador, Jamaica, 126 bottles)

Monymusk 12 yo 2007/2019 (49.5%, Silent Ambassador, Jamaica, 126 bottles) Four stars and a half
We've already tried some great ones from this range, especially an Uitvlugt 1997. Uitvlugt 1997? Rings a bell… Colour: white wine. Nose: at the Old Harbour in Marseilles. Indeed that would involve the right amount of fish and… pastis. Also fresh paint, tyres again, seawater, also some orchard fruits such as apples and pears, a wee bit of barbecued marshmallow (ever been a boy scout?) and perhaps a tiny touch of new leatherette. A drop of cologne: Acqua di Gio? Mouth: very good, goes extremely well after the Hampden and would explain that Monymusk is dirtier, more rubbery, certainly more on plastics and, as we sometimes write, 'new electronics'. Big saltiness again, fish and old tarry ropes on a boat, whelks (love love love whelks). I know not many people love whelks, that's why they're cheap ;-). Finish: long, very salty and very dry. Would be challenging to many, I think. The tarry side is just huge. Only the aftertaste is a tad 'too' dirty, with a feeling of having swallowed an iPhone 12 Pro Max. Comments: I love this but wouldn't argue if someone would claim that it's a little difficult. It is, and?
SGP:363 - 88 points.

Another good session. Happy Sunday!

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


February 13, 2021





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
A prevarication of
Port Ellen and a
cheeky aperitif
No, not sure about that title either. But we've had Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila these past couple of weeks, so why not stay on Islay and do Port Ellen while we're 'spiritually' on location. However, first of all, a bonus aperitif, if you please.


Kilchoman 13 yo 2007/2020 (55.5%, OB private cask for Max & Julia, cask #69, bourbon barrel, 215 bottles)

Kilchoman 13 yo 2007/2020 (55.5%, OB private cask for Max & Julia, cask #69, bourbon barrel, 215 bottles)
I was planning to wait until a sparring Kilchoman arrived, but, in all honesty, I can't be bothered. I'm just too curious to try a properly mature, teenage Kilchoman. Plus, I'm sure we could make some tenuous argument about doing this in a session with Port Ellen and it being the new alongside the old. Quite frankly though, I'm sure we don't need such excuses. Colour: bright straw. Nose: a dusty smokiness at first, bailed straw, hay, sunflower seeds, smoked olive oil and this rather firm and punchy note of pumpkinseed oil. Indeed, the overall impression is one of rather an oily and full bodied dram. Although, the peat itself isn't super intense. More of these dusty phenolics, and things like natural tar, creosote and roof pitch. With water: becomes softer and more fragrant with kelp, sandalwood, preserved lemon, bergamot and other hints of smoked tea and dried herbs. Mouth: big, sharp, chiselled, crystalline and pure peat. Rather ashy, tarry, salty with notes of iodine, wet wool, lemon juice and pickling brine. Feels more coastal that some other Kilchomans and in that sense more traditionally modern Islay in overall profile. Superbly clean, zippy fresh, peaty and coastal. With water: beach sand, seawater, ink, mixed dried herbs, lemon rind, smoked sea salt and dried seaweed. Finish: long, sandy, very salty, fresh sea air, citric, briny and with a crisp, slightly meaty peat smoke. Comments: I tend to find Kilchomans a notch more farmyard in style, however this one was pure coastal Islay. Not that I will complain about that, it's pretty flawless stuff and shows really well at this age.
SGP: 467 - 90 points.



An excellent start, now southwards to Port Ellen…



Port Ellen 10 yo 'Scottish Wildlife' (43%, Signatory Vintage, bottled 1993, mini)

Port Ellen 10 yo 'Scottish Wildlife' (43%, Signatory Vintage, bottled 1993, mini)
I believe Serge has proclaimed this before to be his favourite Port Ellen. Now, full disclosure, this sample is a miniature of this whisky. The level is good but after this length of time there may be some divergence between full size bottles and minis. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's funny how even at 10yo it still smells close to some of the 20-30yo examples. The PE DNA is alive and vigorous in this humble wee 10yo. I just love this uber fresh and very citric style of peat. Clay, ointments, medical embrocations, beach pebbles, mineral oils, seashore 'stuff', wood ashes and chalk. Fresh, lively and yet with a wonderful sense of 'completeness' and balance. Mouth: feels bigger than 43% which is always a neat trick that great whiskies often pull off. Rather crisp and salty, but this is perfectly balanced by waxy lemon peel, smoked olive oil, breads, a wee touch of rubber welly boot and pure peaty kiln air. You could just quaff inches of a bottle without really noticing I fear. Finish: long, lemony, chalky, mineral, bright and even some residual firm malty structure remains in place, holding everything up. Green olive and seawater in the aftertaste. Comments: It's not hard to see why this wee beauty of a dram has won so many fans over the years. Even out of a pathetic little miniature it remains superbly fresh, wonderfully structured, balanced Port Ellen. The very epitome of charming, idiosyncratic, uncomplicated malt whisky that just immediately makes you smile.
SGP: 466 - 91 points.



Port Ellen 18 yo 1981/2000 (43%, Douglas Laing 'Provenance Winter Edition', sherry)

Port Ellen 18 yo 1981/2000 (43%, Douglas Laing 'Provenance Winter Edition', sherry)
I remember buying this bottle years ago around the time it came out as a present for my Dad, I think it cost me £35 in Loch Fyne Whiskies. And yes, my Mum accompanied me (probably). Colour: amber. Nose: beautifully nutty, fudgey and raisiny sherry. The dark fruit sweetness merges seamlessly with this rather dense and layered peat smoke. Lots of tar, old style herbal medicines, green walnut liqueur and smoky black coffee. Brings to mind an old sherried Lagavulin perhaps. Mouth: a perfect balance of old style sherry and peat. Rich, tarry, leathery, lots of soft wood spices, hessian, espresso, dark chocolate with chilli, walnut oil, Maggi liquid seasoning and Bovril. Chunky, just the right side of meaty and becoming increasingly herbal and savoury. Finish: medium, umami paste, thick peat smoke, black pepper and many more herbal medicines and ointments. Comments: It's tempting to say 46% or 50% would be better for this, but there's something undeniably easy and rather dangerously quaffable about 43% that works well. Just as you can say for sure that 40% would have killed it the other way. If you want sherry and peat in perfect balance you could do a lot worse than this wee gem.
SGP: 566 - 90 points.



Port Ellen 29 yo 1979/2009 (53.2%, Douglas Laing 'Platinum' for World Duty Free, 270 bottles)

Port Ellen 29 yo 1979/2009 (53.2%, Douglas Laing 'Platinum' for World Duty Free, 270 bottles)
I know we're kind of jumping around a bit in terms of vintage here, but I'm rather lazily going upwards by ABV. Also, 'Duty Free', remember that? Colour: straw. Nose: It's amazing how close this is to the Scottish Wildlife, purity, soft embrocations, wet rocks, chalk, bath salts, mineral oils, talcum powder, sun lotion, rapeseed oil, seawater. Beautiful, vivid, complex, refill matured Port Ellen. Gets a little more citric and lemony with time, there's also a very charming barley sweetness that seems to become more concentrated. Overall a lighter style of PE though I'd say. With water: chalkier, drier, more towards seashore, beach pebbles, dried seaweed, flowers, hessian, sand and smoked olive oil. Mouth: indeed, a lighter style, extremely soft, coastal, lots of citrus, sandalwood, bergamot, white flowers, mineral salts, beach pebbles, chalk, lighter briny notes, seawater mixed with olive oil, gorse flower and even some hints of beach foam and wax. With water: it's really a dry one, pure, extremely chiselled, salty and yet globally rather light, fragrant and subtle. Things like waxed canvass, seawater, grapefruit peel all sit alongside a rather light crystallised peat smoke, wood ashes and lighter briny touches. Finish: long, crisp, saline, maritime, very lightly oily, briny and in the background this slightly tarry and wispy peat smoke. Comments: It requires and bit of care and attention but this is a superbly elegant and deceptively complex Port Ellen that rewards a bit of focus and patience. These more floral and fragrant coastal qualities and extremely attractive.
SGP: 456 - 91 points.



Port Ellen 25 yo 1983/2008 (58.4%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #2542, refill sherry, 247 bottles)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1983/2008 (58.4%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #2542, refill sherry, 247 bottles)
Germany's answer to the SMWS already had a few top class Port Ellens in my wee book. Colour: deep ambery gold. Nose: rather typical 1983, that is to say slightly more grubby and 'coastally' dirty with lots of hessian, rubber fishing wellies, creel nets, tarred rope, ink, black olives and sharp ointments. Salted liquorice, boiler smoke and cured game meats. With water: really doubles down on these impressions of rich smoked teas, long-cured game meats, tar, bitter dark chocolate, smoked chilli and medical embrocations. Mole sauce and expensive marzipan. Mouth: extremely big, peppery, tarry and hugely medicinal flecked peat smoke. Smoked teas, dried herbs, ointments, miso paste, salted butter, smoked sea salt, brine mixed with lemon juice and charred shellfish over hot coals. The sherry works here as instead of veering towards rubber it has gone towards sea salt, meats, brine, anchovies, kippers and this wonderfully thick, salty umami vibe. Leathery, deeply tarry and very greasy and 'fat'. With water: some kind of peated treacle, root beer syrup, espresso, hot smoked paprika and fennel seed. Brilliant. Finish: long, deeply tarry, full of hessian, slated liquorice, slightly bitter notes, salted almonds and pine resin. Comments: I think these latter vintages of PE, and 1983 in particular, tended to produce some pretty challenging drams. This is certainly one of those ilk, but by golly it's really damn good as well. Powerhouse Islay malt that also manages to balance a really punchy, leathery and wonderfully dry sherry profile at the same time.
SPG: 477 - 91 points.



Port Ellen 22 yo 1974/1997 (59.2%, Signatory Vintage 'Silent Stills', cask #6754, 260 bottles)

Port Ellen 22 yo 1974/1997 (59.2%, Signatory Vintage 'Silent Stills', cask #6754, 260 bottles)
A very cool series that has sheltered some stunning drams over the years, although I have to admit, there's still a fair few of them I haven't tried yet. Such as… Colour: pale gold. Nose: we're noticeably stepping back in time a bit here. This mix of limestone, hessian and very subtle exotic notes of papaya and guava too. Quite a bit of canvass, tar, gauze and pink sea salt too. Big, pure, chiselled, fresh and expressive. With water: lemon zest, grapefruit, herbal teas, smoked sea salt, anchovies in olive oil and chopped parsley. It's also persistently coastal and with an invigorating freshness. Mouth: wonderfully salty, thick, oily and peaty. Bags of tar, seawater, hessian, rope, ointments, pickling juices and brine. There's an earthy, ragged edge to the smoke that takes in black pepper and kippers as well. Preserved lemons, camphor and smoked green tea. Coiled, controlled power, totally superb. With water: medicines, lanolin, coal smoke, tar, oyster sauce, salted almonds, fir wood, antiseptic, seawater. Also these tiny fruity touches of grapefruit, lemon and papaya remain lurking beneath all this freshness and salinity. Finish: extremely long, lemony, ashy, briny, medical, a very thick but pure smokiness and a nicely peppery, weighty peat smoke. Comments: A total star and a style that incorporates earlier and later aspects of Port Ellen's personality with aplomb. Something of a balancing, or even a juggling act, but it pulls it off with style and sheer force of personality.
SGP: 567 - 92 points.



Big thanks to Brian, Serge, and to whoever game me the mini of the 10yo Scottish Wildlife, I'm afraid I can't for the life of me remember who it was.





February 12, 2021



I always loved to taste Deanston, and actually all distilleries. They're no big names, but they're growing and some are about to overtake some much bigger names, as far as quality goes. I would day Deanston is a perfect example.

Deanston 10 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, 2020)

Deanston 10 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, 2020) Four stars
This is 80% ex-bourbon and 20% ex-Madeira. But which Madeira? Oh and indeed the Original Collection was back last year. Colour: straw. Nose: the Madeira does the job. Good sweet mustard and walnut cake, stout, sour breads, yest extracts, a touch of horseradish, also something musty, old wine cellar, old empty barrels, flints… Mouth: clearly some action. Drops of sweet malmsey, sweet mustard again, wholegrain bread, gingerbread, some chilli sauce (sriracha and such), walnut cake, Guinness… I am rather a fan, there's really a lot happening in there. Finish: long, more honeyed, fermentary, and clearly on Madeira, or some Marsalas. A lot of high-honey gingerbread. All that is well integrated. Comments: good action, here, Deanston's a distillate that can bear such treatments, as we've noticed before. Right, perhaps not red Bordeaux…
SGP:451 - 85 points.

Deanston 'Kentucky Cask Matured' (40%, OB, +/-2020)

Deanston 'Kentucky Cask Matured' (40%, OB, +/-2020) Two stars and a half
40% vol., really? Do not lower your guard, Deanston! And what's a Kentucky cask? Did the oak stem from forests in Kentucky? Or was it just ex-bourbon, as 90% of all bourbon does originate from Kentucky anyway (I think)? Anyway, this reeks of late-Friday marketing, when the bosses are already at the golf course and trainees are in charge (apologies, friends). Colour: white wine. Nose: barley, whiffs of wet sand, drop of mead, beers, leather, a feinty touch. Mouth: good arrival but loses steam. Corn syrup and fennel seeds, more mead, Swedish bread. Rye-ish. Finish: short and pretty thin, even if one would detect some good intentions here, around gingerbread and rye. Comments: they've murdered this intriguing composition with the 40% vol. 40% vol. should only be allowed below 20€. Don't laugh, that's probably 95% of the whisky market.
SGP:431 - 78 points.

Good, indie 1, owners 0.

Deanston 2009/2019 (54.6%, The Maltman for Or Sileis, PX sherry finish, cask #10025, 156 bottles) Two stars and a half
Are these ibises? Does that mean this will be a light, almost ethereal malt? Doubt it… Anyway, glad to see that the Maltman seem to be doing well. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: indeed it is not totally huge, but it rather gears towards brandies to tell you the truth. Jerez indeed, with coffee, chocolate peonies, then fumes, ashes and wisteria. Some thickish floralness. With water: sour wines, bottled orange juice… Mouth (neat): chocolate, some mineral meatiness, pepper, sour and bitter oranges, ginger, many heavy spices… Well this one isn't exactly playing with kid gloves, is it. With water: it is not. Pepper, notes of tomato sauce (all' arrabbiata), more sour wines. I would say the PX is too loud here. Finish: long, a little too sweet and spicy. Comments: I would say we're rather too far from 'malt whisky' here, this heavy concoction isn't exactly the best thing that ever came out of Scotland (of course not, that would rather be the bassline in the Average White Band's 'Stop The Rain'. Check it if you've never heard it.)
SGP:461 - 78 points.

We put a stop. CU.

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


February 11, 2021


Craigellachie at random

Craigellachie. This reminds me that we have a large stash of Macallan that we should unload here, but we keep procrastinating, for no particular reasons. A lack of goodwill, perhaps? Afraid of boredom?  Not wanting to slaughter a former sacred cow?

Craigellachie 13 yo 2006/2020 (54.6%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM257, 189 bottles)

Craigellachie 13 yo 2006/2020 (54.6%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM257, 189 bottles) Three stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: a fat and mineral spirit. Chalk and lemons, paraffin, sourdough, weissen beer, wet cement, cider apples, raw wool… Not much fun but I do like a little austerity in my malt whiskies. With water: nice earthy touches, apple peelings, muscovado sugar, beets… Mouth (neat): good sweet malt, sweet beer gueuze-style, sweeter apples (golden delicious), a few drops of agave syrup… The fact that they have millions of such casks sleeping in Scotland doesn't make it any less good, it is good. With water: it is good indeed. Sweet bread and notes of bananas. Orange drops. Finish: medium, more on sweets, orange drops, sweet bread, maize… Grass in the aftertaste. Comments: not sure I'll remember this one tomorrow, but it sure is good. Pretty, pretty good. Me, bored? Never!
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Craigellachie 2010/2020 (64.4%, C&S Dram Collection, hogshead,  cask #900147, 326 bottles)

Craigellachie 2010/2020 (64.4%, C&S Dram Collection, hogshead,  cask #900147, 326 bottles) Three stars and a half
A very good bottler from our neighbours Germany. Now, 64.4%, that could qualify as attempted murder on innocent whisky blogger. I shall ask my lawyer right tomorrow. Colour: straw. Nose: vanilla fudge, butterscotch, plantains. Some charring may have happened, or not. But let's be quick… With water: sweet beer, that's cool. After all, whisky's only distilled beer. Notes of shortbread, scones, pancakes, corn syrup, autumn leaves… Mouth (neat): I'm sure it's excellent, but boy does it knock you down if you're not careful. Stout, caramel, mead, and just ethanol. With water: as expected, nougat, turon, biscuits, popcorn, and a grassy maltiness leading to… more sweer beer. Finish: long, malty. Comments: sure it's not earthshattering, and yeah they have millions etc, but this just wouldn't disappoint you. Malt whisky that tastes like malt – and safe from PX, at that!
SGP:551 - 83 points.

Let's swim, okay fly, to Asia…

Craigellachie 12 yo (59.3%, OB for Quaich Bar 12th Anniversary, Singapore, PX hogshead, 264 bottles, 2019)

Craigellachie 12 yo (59.3%, OB for Quaich Bar 12th Anniversary, Singapore, PX hogshead, 264 bottles, 2019) Four stars
Good, let's pretend we haven't noticed that this has had some guilty relations with PX. Colour: deep gold. Nose: some fun here, with walnut stain, raw chocolate, a little ammonia, moist cigars, and just a little hoisin sauce and malt extracts. Very fermentary, which is something that I usually enjoy. With water: some warm walnut cake and fresh millionaire shortbread. No, that's not heavy. Mouth (neat): very rich, with more walnuts, pepper and Demerara syrup than anywhere else, tankerloads of molasses, and the thickest maple syrups ever, tabernacle! With water: orange liqueurs chiming in, that always works. Chocolaty caramel. Finish: long, still thick and concentrated. Molasses. Comments: it's a thick one, you'd almost need a spoon to get it out if your tulip glass. But it is very good, just a little tiring at times. Not cloying.
SGP:661 - 85 points.

Back to Europe…

Craigellachie 11 yo (61.6%, Whic, Amazing whiskies, 1st fill sherry cask, 289 bottles, 2020)

Craigellachie 11 yo (61.6%, Whic, Amazing whiskies, 1st fill sherry cask, 289 bottles, 2020) Four stars
Colour: rich amber. Nose: many things coming out of a high-class oven, especially cakes and tartes. I'm thinking Zwetschke tarte, panettone, Linzertorte, kougelhopf, beerawecka (no oven needed for beerawecka), and some kind of mushroom and meet pie, English-style. When a Frenchman is quoting English cuisine, you know that something's happening. With water:  cool, the meaty side takes over. Miso, beef soup, th?t kho tàu. That's caramel pork. Mouth (neat): earth and cakes and a huge caramelised power. Be careful, this one too will knock you down without notice. With water: chocolate (Twix, Mars, whatever) seasoned with Asian spices and herbs. Does that sound unlikely? Have faith! Finish: long with some oak spices, shavings, cinnamon and caramel… Comments: would this word, 'concoctionary', kind of work?
SGP:561 - 85 points.

Back to Asia…

Craigellachie 12 yo 2007/2020 (54.9%, Duncan Taylor, The Octave, Singapore exclusive, 99 bottles)

Craigellachie 12 yo 2007/2020 (54.9%, Duncan Taylor, The Octave, Singapore exclusive, 99 bottles) Two stars and a half
A small cask for a small world. Duncan Taylor, how are you doing? Colour: light gold. Nose: soft cakes and breads, with tiny spices and seeds and nuts. Poppy seeds, sesame… then sweet beers and perhaps a few drops of moscatel. With water: malt. A tad undefined, perhaps. Mouth (neat): good fudge, bitter oranges, allspice, pepper… It sure is very spicy. Tiny casks, huge spicy flavours! With water: good sweet pastries, scones, ginger cookies, honey glaze… Good, but this is another one I won't remember forever. Not even sure I still remember what it was, wasn't it young Macallan? Finish: medium, grassy and malty. Nothing standing out, only a little rubber. Which kind of kills it, I'm afraid. Comments: I think they call this a downward spiral. The rubber in the finish (when reduced) just rather killed it. I'm deeply sorry, deer Singapore – did you know I first visited Singapore in 1987? But why am I telling you this? Who would care?
SGP:361 - 77 points.

A last Craig' and we'll call this a session. Indeed no OBs on the table, but do we need them? I cannot even remember to whom Dewar's belong these days, tell me about 'a brand'…

Craigellachie 2010/2020 (63.6%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #900189, 295 bottles)

Craigellachie 2010/2020 (63.6%, Or Sileis, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #900189, 295 bottles) Four stars
Another murderous strength. I don't quite know what's on the label, but abstractedly, it's all rather lovely. Colour: white wine. Nose: classic modern malt, with proper fudge, butterscotch, finger biscuits, Jaffa cakes, soft white nougat and rubber – which should go away once we've brought it down to civilised levels. With water: sourdough and plaster, and no rubber left. Love sourdough, baker's yeast, ale… And these wee touches of aniseed, or fennel seeds, or dill… Mouth (neat): very good, on sweet malt, oranges, bitters, Campari, well why not bring the prosecco! No, please don't… With water: very good, dry, extremely bready, dry, peppery, dry (give it a rest, S.) Finish: not a single ounce of sweetness here, it is all about yeasts, herbs, and sour breads. We've got a wonderful one over here in Alsace, we call it Süweckla or one-penny-bread. So f***g good with good butter. Good bread with good butter, that even beats good whisky. No? A little caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: extreme at times, but with good intentions. Competition malt whisky, be careful.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

(Thank you Benjamin!)

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


February 10, 2021


Balvenie and Burnside

Indeed, we could do with a little Balvenie and Burnside. First up, aperitif!

Balvenie 12 yo 'Single Barrel' (47.8%, OB, cask #6752, +/-2019)

Balvenie 12 yo 'Single Barrel' (47.8%, OB, cask #6752, +/-2019) Four stars
I believe these are all first fill. I doubt different casks will be very different, it's probably all under control. Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh and citric at first, chalky and lemony, with touches of fresh oak (not totally dry) and just cut grass. A little iron too. It's very tight, with growing notes of paraffin and fresh cement, then green apples and a wee menthol/camphor combination. Refreshing altogether. Mouth: really very good. Lemon sherbet, tight grasses, the greenest green apples and the greenest limes, then perhaps mirabelles and damsons, but it'll never get as mellow and rounded as some other casks that I had tried earlier. Finish: long and sweeter, more on jellybeans, then just a lot of grass. Perhaps a little too much sourness in the aftertaste, sour fruits… Comments: it's remarkable that it never got vanilla-driven given that this was first fill.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Well that was some potent aperitif. Perhaps another 12…

Balvenie 12 yo 'DoubleWood' (40%, OB, +/-2020)

Balvenie 12 yo 'DoubleWood' (40%, OB, +/-2020) Two stars
I suppose I should have had this one instead as the aperitif. Just blame lockdown. What's sure is that we've tried many earlier renditions, and that only very early versions had really convinced me. Let's see if they've upped their game…Colour: gold. Nose: some sour apples and whiffs of 'grandma's old copper kettle' (good I know grandmas now have stupid voice-assisted electronic devices that steal all their data, but there), sour cherries, cake-y notes, notes of butter, black tea, a little mint… It's perhaps a little uncertain here and there, but globally pleasant. Mouth: not quite, it's a little too light and too bitter at the same time. Burnt cakes and burnt herbs, and really a lot of pepper. Bitter oranges. Finish: medium, dry and bitter, with only a little sour apple at the fruit section. Comments: pretty okay but it's suffering a lot after the much, much better Single Cask (in my opinion). Thin, dry and bitter.
SGP:361 - 76 points.

Balvenie 14 yo 'The Week of Peat' (48.3%, OB, The Stories, +/-2019)

Balvenie 14 yo 'The Week of Peat' (48.3%, OB, The Stories, +/-2019) Three stars and a half
The official story is that for one week every year, the Distillery are burning peat (during, or just after malting, I suppose) and consequently make some peaty malt whisky. Okay…  This was formerly named 'Peat Week' (liked them, WF 85), I suppose there's a reason to this change of names, but let's not dig any deeper… Colour: gold. Nose: it's a rather obvious, yet gentle peat ala Ardmore. Preserved plums and peaches, plus some bitterish herbs and this ginger that sometimes rises from Mainland peaters, I have no ideas why. Certainly something farmy, cow stable, horse saddle, also a little eucalyptus… Mouth: nicer on the palate, more on smoked limoncello and white peaches. I really cannot not think of Ardmore, I am sorry. Nice spices, around gentler Thai mixes. Pepper. Finish: rather long, smoky and 'green'. What I'm really missing from all these un-coastal peaters is… the coastal side. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: really good, but let me talk like a brochure: we're missing the Atlantic freshness. A wee bit… And sure that may only happen in my head.
SGP:464 - 83 points.

Burnside 27 yo 1991/2019 (43.6%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon barrel, 168 bottles)

Burnside 27 yo 1991/2019 (43.6%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon barrel, 168 bottles) Four stars
This a blended malt. In truth you never quite know as I seem to remember Cadenhead were owning the brand name 'Burnside', directly or indirectly. So in theory, they could bottle 3 years old Girvan and call it 'Burnside'. On the other hand, Burnside's also the name of Balvenie when it's sold as blended malt (you know when Dufftown's Scrabble Club comes over with teaspoons and the ladies add a drop of Glenfiddich to each cask – benevolently, I've heard). So, what is this? Colour: straw. Nose: it's got the waxy purity of natural Balvenie. Mirabelles, apricots, ashes and flints, beeswax, tin box, popcorn, fresh oak. No Rio Carnival as far as aromas are concerned, but I've always rather loved this kind of self-restraint on the nose. Provided the palate will not be all on Quaalude, naturally… Mouth: I believe the cask has been leaking, because I get some typical notes of parsley and chives, copper, some sour oak, silver spoon, bitter ale, bay leaves, walnuts… What's missing is the fruitiness, it's almost as if it oxidised, as oloroso does. The thing is, I also like this very rare profile. Finish: long, bone dry. Walnuts, mustard, copper coins. Comments: as I said, the problem is that I like this style as well. I really need to go see a doctor.
SGP:361 - 87 points.

Burnside 28 yo 1991/2020 (45%, C Dully Selection, cask #7367, bourbon barrel, 199 bottles)

Burnside 28 yo 1991/2020 (45%, C Dully Selection, cask #7367, bourbon barrel, 199 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: extremely similar, with similar metallic touches, the usual mirabelles, beeswax and mead, and this slightly tired sourness that you would get from a wonderful Meursault… the next morning. I have to say I enjoy these mustardy notes too, as well as all these green walnuts. Pretty un-Balvenie – but is it Balvenie? – but really very nice. Mouth: it's fresher than the Cadenhead, and certainly much more mentholated and herbal after an excessively short fruity arrival. Then all things old waxes and polishes, old bottle of mead from under the telly at grandma's, bits of cigarette tobacco… This sure is an unusual adventure, one that I like. Finish: long, dry, bitterish, on Cynar and Fernet-Branca. Rings a bell? Quite bizarrely, the aftertaste will be rather more Balvenie-nish, with a return of the ripe plums, shall we say. Comments: these two old Burnsides have been pretty sketchy, but I suppose you can't only have 1970s or 1971s. They carry many charms.
SGP:461 - 88 points.

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


Our cask of Kornog: £4,470.00 donated to Parkinson's UK

We do hereby certify that all bottles of Kornog 15 yo 2005/2020 '18 years 4 months and 7 days of whiskyfun' (50.4%, WhiskySponge), apart from WF's own little stash of less than 20 bottles which will be either drunk or given as gifts, have been sold very quickly despite Brexit and various concerns related to taxing, VAT, new transport regulations and so on.


We do also confirm that Whiskyfun or its proprietor have not made any monies thus are 'safe from any diabolical profit' and that as planned, a global amount of £4,470.00 has been donated to Parkinson's UK on Monday, February 8, in memory of the great late Michael Jackson.
We plan to do something similar again around the year 2047.
Thanks to all smart buyers, hope you'll enjoy this wee Kornog.
Pace e salute!


February 9, 2021


A few Japanese malt whiskies

Indeed, and we'll try to avoid any imported ones. Now we may fail, as there are quite a few new brands around, all adorned with proper kanji. Let's stay alert… (I'm sure we'll fail; Japan whisky is full of traps…)

Shinobu 10 yo (43%, OB, Japanese, pure malt, mizunara oak finish, +/-2020)

Shinobu 10 yo (43%, OB, Japanese, pure malt, mizunara oak finish, +/-2020) Three stars
Say you finish some average Speysider in mizunara, does that make it any more Japanese? Some blurb is quite revealing, I quote, 'vintage expressions are made by carefully selecting quality whiskies from different distilleries which are first reserved in ex- sherry and ex-bourbon casks and then finishing with precious Japanese Mizunara oak in Japan.' Does that stink or not? The packaging is very dodgy too, they tried really too hard. Now it won a World Whisky Award – and the category, so they've been officially laundered, so to speak… Colour: amber. Nose: say some average young Glenfarclas that they wouldn't have bottled under their own brand. I'm not saying that's what it is, it was just to give you an idea. Naturally, the price is like four times that of such unnamed Glenfarclas. Fruit cake, sour cherries, burnt toasts, malt extracts. It's okay, barely. Mouth: not bad, of course, with touches of leaf smoke, eucalyptus, burnt herbs (thyme, rosemary), and really a lot of burnt cake and bread. A feeling of resinous woods. Finish: medium and, I hate to say, pretty nice. Notes of honey-glazed ham, more rosemary, sage… Comments: it bugs me that this burglary was done this well. The whisky's very good, mind you, it's just not Japanese – in my opinion.
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Let's find another odd one…

Kirin 'Pure and Mellow Riku Land Discovery' (50%, OB, Japanese, +/-2020)

Kirin 'Pure and Mellow Riku Land Discovery' (50%, OB, Japanese, +/-2020) Two stars and a half
This is a sourced blend as well, but some parts are Japanese, from Gotemba. Rumour has it that this contains Four Roses, as Kirin own Four Roses. Really? Colour: gold. Nose: between Scottish grain and bourbon indeed. No clear maltiness that I can detect, rather barbecued corn and rather a lot of maple syrup and liquid caramel. Vanilla. I'm not a fan, but things may improve… With water: light maize, earth, vanilla, rye… Good bourbon? Mouth (neat): sweet and light, but there's some textured smoke to it, possibly from Gotemba. The rest is light and thin, sweet, on vanilla and coconut water. With water: not much to complain about, this would be a young bourbon with a malty edge. Now careful, it does not swim too well and tends to get shattered if you add too much H2O. Finish: rather short. Sweet and sour. Comments: 'pure' I don't know, 'mellow' for sure!
SGP:541 - 79 points.

Oh something funny…

Miyagikyo 'Apple Brandy Wood Finish' (47%, OB, Japanese, 2020)

Miyagikyo 'Apple Brandy Wood Finish' (47%, OB, Japanese, 2020) Four stars
Sounds like nonsense. Any bottlers in the whole world, once they've disgorged a cask of anything, start to wonder about what they're going to do with said empty cask. 'Finish a whisky' is probably the lousiest option, 'feed the fireplace' being the smartest. But let's see… Colour: light gold. Nose: boy is this smooth and rounded, and cake-y, and all on 'a five o'clock tea'. So scones, white toasts, brown toasts, lemon pudding cakes, cheesecakes, cupcakes, cranberry muffins, blackberry twists, lemon cookies, blueberry tartlets, pumpkin bread… And just English tea. Yes that's obligatory, Lagavulin's not an option. Mouth: the trademark resinous smoke's kicking in on the palate, giving no chances to the apple brandy. No regrets. Excellent lemons, camphory smokiness, eucalyptus, liquorice, peppered smoke, lemon, a touch of sriracha sauce, horseradish… I'm afraid we had forgotten that Miyagikyo's such a stunning distillate. Anyway, no 'apple brandy' in the way here. Finish: long and excellent. Always this lovely feeling of 'resinous peat', which has always been very Miyagikyo in my book. Only the aftertaste is a tad more 'jumbled'. Comments: I did drag my feet a little bit with this one, but I was wrong. Forget about the apple brandy.
SGP:553 - 87 points.

Shizuoka 3 yo 'Prologue' (55.5%, OB, Japanese, 2020)

Shizuoka 3 yo 'Prologue' (55.5%, OB, Japanese, 2020) Five stars
We've had a few cask samples, and still have a little bag to taste, and just hated them all because they were so exactly perfect. May I remind the good folks at Shizuoka that a great malt whisky ought to 1). Stem from a closed distillery, 2). Have been bottled at least 30 years ago, and 3). Be of proper age, certainly above 15? Colour: light gold. Nose: perhaps a little gingerbread-heavy? I believe some single casks have been purer, crisper… Now good news, the malt is soon to have the upper hand, with some awesome notes of pumpkin bread, buckwheat crêpes, and artisan pilsner. That's all good. With water: perfect. High-precision millimetric fermentary smoke, reminding me, that's true, of that Malt Mill by James MacArthur, not even sure it was genuine. But there…  Mouth (neat): tight smoke and mustard and walnuts and bitter oranges. Perfect touches of Stollen, which is close to that gingerbread that we first found on the nose. Anise cookies. With water: excellent. Glue (yep), gingerbread, sake, anise, caraway and fennel seeds, lemon bread… What's not to like? Very thick body, always a good sign. Finish: long, fat, almost sticky, bready… Comments: love, love, love… Totally my cup of malt, well done little Karuizawa still! Huge quality/age ratio.
SGP:464 - 90 points.

That first official Shizuoka sure was a session killer,  but aren't we supposed to be resourceful at WF? I have an idea…

Akkeshi 'Sarorunramuy' (55%, OB, Japanese, lightly peated, 2020)

Akkeshi 'Sarorunramuy' (55%, OB, Japanese, lightly peated, 2020) Three stars and a half
Great real Japanese whisky again, but gosh aren't they making our lives difficult? I mean, that name, that's a mouthful! Colour: straw. Nose: indeed the peat's very discreet, while the vanilla cake is not. Custard and carrot cake, whiffs of green pepper… With water: pure malt, ink, yeast, cement, grist…  Mouth (neat): extremely very good. Lime, peat, a baguette smoked over some pinewood fire (who's ever done that?) and some rather bitter eggplants. Much nicer than it sounds (my fault, assuredly). With water: I'm not sure I get everything from that 'light peat', but all in all, this works a treat. Very fermentary. Finish: medium, saltier, all on sourdough now. Süweckle, some honey in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe we've tried another expression back in October, this one's rather more to my liking.
SGP:353 - 83 points.

(Thank you Chris and Trevor)

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


February 8, 2021


Talisker and Torabhaig from Skye

For a long time, we've been joking about those 'secret malt whiskies from the Isle of Skye', stressing the fact that there was only one distillery on the Island anyway. BBR's 'Isle of Skye', DL's 'Tacticals', TWA's 'Talimburgs', Adelphi's 'Fascadales' and quite a few others. That era just came to an end, after some false start elsewhere, thanks to Mossburn's new Torabhaig Distillery, on the south shore.


Just like the Orkneys that are not obligatorily HP, the Skyes will not obligatorily be Talisker anymore either. Granted, you could argue that Raasay's almost Skye too, but I'm not sure they would agree with that. Harris? Not too sure either. Anyway, the first official Torabhaig is now available, and naturally, we'll have it alongside some Talisker. Since the new one is obviously very young, we'll choose some NAS Talisker that should be pretty young too. Game?

Talisker 'Storm' (45.8%, OB, +/-2017)

Talisker 'Storm' (45.8%, OB, +/-2017) Three stars and a half
Sadly I haven't got any very recent Storm up my sleeves, but this one should do the job. Colour: light gold. Nose: it is extremely bready and farmy, it just reeks of ground barley, farmyard, mud and damp peat, with rather less pencil shavings and tropical fruits than in earlier batches. On the other side of the spectrum, there would be more camphor, embrocations, chalk and hessian. We're actually almost nosing a handful of fresh smoked malted barley. Mouth: pretty much the same feeling, this is almost seawater with a lot of pepper, chalk and grist. Bandages. Lemons and oak spices would make a late appearance in this very gristy malt.  Finish: long, dry, salty. Brine and chilies. Comments: I used to like the Storm better, I believe the 10 keeps beating it. But it's a very fine dram. We may try some other Talisker…
SGP:366 - 83 points.

Torabhaig 2017/2020 (46%, OB, Inaugural Release, Legacy Series, first fill bourbon, cask #300-600, 32,000 bottles)

Torabhaig 2017/2020 (46%, OB, Inaugural Release, Legacy Series, first fill bourbon, cask #300-600, 32,000 bottles) Four stars and a half
A legacy, already? But what do we know about Torabhaig? That they mash 1.5 tons at a time, that they have 8 fir washbacks, two stills (8.000 and 5.000 litres) and that they could produce 1.5 million bottles of malt whisky a year. This baby was distilled using malt peated to 55ppm phenols (16ppm residual phenols). That's it with figures, let's become more subjective… Colour: white wine. Nose: there's a half myth that runs and that says that peated malts are always mature much earlier, since the smoke would mask any flaws anyway. Well, I'm sure that's not the reason why this is very bright, full of iodine, soft vanilla, less pear eau-de-vie than expected, touch of grapefruit, hessian, mint, eucalyptus, a tiny touch of banana… Mouth: very good, well done, loud applause! Crisp and clean, totally well-chiselled, with lemons, only a little vanilla, iodine, a grassier peat on the palate, some mint drops, Ricola, touch of celeriac, fennel, gentian… Finish: long, still clean, with a good little fatness (sunflower oil) and a little walnut oi too. Comments: well, I'm rather reminded of another young distillery, from the other side of the world, that's sometimes doing impeccable natural peaters too. The name ends with 'bu'. Much impressed.
SGP:457 - 88 points.

I'm really happy about several 'new' distilleries, that's all good for my interest in whisky (not that you should care). Daftmill, Chichibu, Bimber, Shizuoka, and Ardnamurchan's not too bad either… And several others. That's pretty stimulating, while many old glories are now almost extinct (Coleburn, Lochside…), should I want to push WF to 20,000 personal whisky notes. We'll see…

Back to Talisker…

Talisker 2010/2020 'Distillers Edition' (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5W1)

Talisker 2010/2020 'Distillers Edition' (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5W1) Four stars
As always, Talisker's latest DE was finished in amoroso, which is not the most famous kind of sherry-type wine. It's in fact rather a fantasy name, the wine consisting in an oloroso blended with around 10% PX or a little more, also known as 'oloroso dulce' in the old days. Not quite the same thing as cream sherry. I've always rather liked Talisker DE, but not as much as the regular 10. Colour: dark gold. Nose: pretty much Talisker on walnuts, or Talisker with a good few drops of walnut liqueur. Cigars are obvious here (humidor) and so are bitter oranges, faint whiffs of horse saddle, and the usual cracked pepper. Everything's fine here, even if it was just a finishing. Mouth: lasts the course after the ultra-bright Torabhaig, even if it tends to get a little sour and leathery. Bitter nuts, leaves, tobacco, brine… Well that amoroso was not very dulce! But yeah, it's still very good. Finish: rather long, very salty and leafy. Something glutamate-y, big cracked pepper and some mustard in the aftertaste. Comments: still one of those finishings that work very well.
SGP:365 - 85 points.

Back to the south-east of Skye…

Torabhaig 2017/2020 (61.67%, OB, first fill bourbon, cask #307)

Torabhaig 2017/2020 (61.67%, OB, first fill bourbon, cask #307) Four stars
Not sure this single cask was, or will be bottled in a 'regular' bottle. Colour: white wine. Nose: we're clearly in a hospital this time. Litres of disinfectant, tincture of iodine, mercurochrome, piles of Band-aids, antiseptics… And just a tiny touch of vanilla. Well I would hope water will make it smoother and a little more 'commercial' (yep, Serge speaking). With water: it is still very medicinal, and I'm sure this would certainly cure any rheumatisms (just a couple of rubdowns et voilà), but more fruits and fresh almonds and hazelnuts are popping out as well. Natural oils, sauna, rhubarb, gooseberries... Mouth (neat): a bullet. Green lemon, grass, peat, aspirin, Rinathiol… With water: pretty perfect, but still more medicinal than the large release – at a sameish strength – and with less vanilla. But some vanilla there is. A little green coffee, perhaps. Finish: very long, very vertical, well-carved, pretty pure. Comments: perhaps not an absolute sipper as it's a rather restless, pungent one. On the other hand, it would cure you.
SGP:367 - 87 points.

Let me leave the last word to Talisker (and make sure it wins this session, to give honour where honour is due).

Talisker 1957 (53.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, +/-1985)

Talisker 1957 (53.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, +/-1985) Five stars
So this was obviously distilled before the huge fire of November 1960 that almost destroyed the Distillery. We've tried many 1950s Taliskers by G&M (I mean, not hundreds!) and most have been pure thrills, including four or five other 1957s, especially the all-famous black label at 57.5% vol. But we had never tried this very one… Colour: amber. Nose: all right; high-end OBE. Verbena liqueur (Verveine du Velay) and old Chartreuse, maraschino, camphor, lapsang souchong, fir honeydew, some kind of candied smoke, old triple-sec, resins… Well this is just totally epic and glorious. With water: more very old chartreuse, and probably a few extremely old high-malt blends from like 90 or 100 years ago. Hints of bouillons, marrow, miso, certainly some beeswax, bull-dog sauce, a pinhead of Marmite… Mouth (neat): immensely smoky, lemony, mentholy, terpenic, and shock-full of eucalyptus and affiliated tinier flavours (myrtle, for example, soft basil, wild thyme…) With water: just perfect, with more old magazines and books, sucking liquorice wood, lemon marmalade, marrow quenelles, cress soup… Amazing development and a great example of perfect bottle maturation. Finish: long, rich and yet tight and focused, rather resinous. Thai bouillon, I would say. Comments: very impressive and still very much alive and progressing, even if the aftertaste was a little dry.
SGP:475 - 93 points.

Did you notice that we did not do the bloggers' favourite joke, "the Skye is the limit"? De nada, my pleasure.

(Merci Phil!)


February 7, 2021


Five Cognacs with some niaque

Just a silly headline, don't bother (niaque means drive, or fighting spirit, more or less). Now they're currently under water in Cognac, because of a very severe flood of the river Charente. Courage and resilience are needed but they do have what it takes! First, an aperitif…

Baron Otard 'VSOP' (40%, OB, Fine Champagne, +/-1995)

Baron Otard 'VSOP' (40%, OB, Fine Champagne, +/-1995) Three stars
A relatively cheap bottle that you could find in just any hotels back in the days. Mind you, this is part of Cognac's history. Colour: amber. Nose: shock-full of raisins and sweet wines, Monbazillac, Cérons, or Cadillac style. You could find some great ones for very cheap in the old days, but actually, this rather reminds me of the great pineau des Charentes, an aperitif that's totally out of fashion. Naturally, out of fashion means ueber-trendy these days. Anyway, this is totally on raisins and only the palate will tell… Mouth: sweet and good. Raisins, raisins and raisins everywhere, that's just lovely but you really need to love raisins, or you'll find this baby rather cloying. A cognac that rather feels like a very sweet wine, almost PX-style. I doubt anyone would still dare making this style, which you would rather find in Jerez, or Armenia these days. Ararat, anyone? Finish: medium, very sweet, rich, raisiny, honeyed. Comments: like it but I doubt this was entirely natural. Sunday morning blending… (that's when any official bodies, customs or else, are still trying to sober up in their – not always theirs - beds)…
SGP:830 - 80 points.

Hermitage 'Chez Richon Café 20' (42%, OB, +/-2020)

Hermitage 'Chez Richon Café 20' (42%, OB, +/-2020) Four stars
A rather mysterious bottle, but it's to be known that it fetched Gold at the Cognac Masters 2020. It's more than 20 years of age. Colour: amber.  Nose: marzipan and old-style Viennese hot chocolate, very dry fig spirit, more figs, dates, the blackest black currants, menthol, pine essence, old balsamico, fermenting prunes, very old sherried Speysider (G&M-style), I fact this is really brandy that noses like whisky that noses like brandy that noses that whisky that noses like brandy that noses like whisky… etcetera. Mouth: oh! Total old-style, rich, chocolaty, ridden with prunes and dates, resins, pine needles, cigars, glue… In fact it's getting drier by the minute. Finish: rather long, with pine-y tannins and a walnut-chestnut combo. Tons of prunes in the aftertaste, and indeed coffee. Ristretto! Comments: this is cognac like my grandpas used to quaff. Those good folks were all born in the 19th century, mind you. Museum cognac? Totally out of fashion but very good nonetheless, provided you've got the proper references.
SGP:751 - 86 points.

Let's try another Hermitage…

Hermitage 30 yo 'Chez Richon' (43%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2018)

Hermitage 30 yo 'Chez Richon' (43%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2018) Four stars
Looks like Fiona Beckett loved it, while it's to be said that we're rather fans of Fiona Beckett. Having said that, we're not quite fans of those nasty flat bottles, but there, who cares… Colour: dark amber. Nose: all on sauna oils, menthol, pine resin, bitter chocolate, and the blackest 'black' raisins, Corinth style. This is really uber-old school, but there are so many charms to this style… Prunes, glue, bull-dog sauce and mint, there. Mouth: high extraction and yet the fruits are keeping it afloat, especially peaches, totally in majesty. Peaches are the kings of fruits in my opinion, while they abound in the better cognacs. Finish: medium, very chocolaty, very old-school. Thin mints and curious hints of malt extracts in the aftertaste. Comments: we've tried a few cognacs that had been distilled in the 1800s, and the styles were rather similar.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Late Bottled Brandy 27 yo 1993/2020 (52.3%, Thompson Bros for whic.de, Tasting Circle, 187 bottles)

Late Bottled Brandy 27 yo 1993/2020 (52.3%, Thompson Bros for whic.de, Tasting Circle, 187 bottles) Four stars and a half
All right, so I'd swear this is some early landed cognac from France, bottled by some friendly Scots, for some German friends. Makes much sense, no? Viva Europa! (insert Beethoven's Ode to Joy here) Colour: mahogany. Nose: boy is this rich, and yet elegant! Prune juice, black currants, damson liqueur, ganaches, cherry tobacco (Borkum Riff), linoleum, diesel oil, bull-dog sauce, Marmite… How lovely is this fat and yet agile old cognac? With water: pinewood, mint and chocolate. Artisanal thin mints (we'd kill for proper thin mints). Mouth (neat): superb! This is old-school for sure, with heavy mentholy oak and some embrocations, but it would always keep some kind of freshness, despite these heavy pine-y oils. Proper coffee and chocolate. With water: same. I had thought it would become meatier and saltier, it did not. Finish: long but bone-dry. The bitterest bitter chocolate and the tightest mints. Comments: totally high-class, within this ueber-dry and very un-fruity style.
SGP:371 - 88 points.

Fins Bois 1968/2020 (55.4%, Grosperrin for Cognac Sponge, 350 bottles)Fins Bois 1968/2020 (55.4%, Grosperrin for Cognac Sponge, 350 bottles)

Fins Bois 1968/2020 (55.4%, Grosperrin for Cognac Sponge, 350 bottles) Four stars and a half
It is a bit troubling that our dear friends the Brits – the Sponge is 'also' a Brit, after all – would romanticise what happened in France in 1968. I'll say no more but only now are we really starting to understand to which extend the Sartre-ist, Maoist or Trotskyist ideologies of 1968 have been mortiferous. It's forbidden to forbid, yeah right. But enough with that, this is neither the moment, nor the place… Colour: amber. Nose: this, is modern cognac, with much more tension, fruits, herbs… Peaches of course, blood oranges, tiny herbs, chamomile, honeysuckle, verbena, genepy… There's this freshness that's rather to be found in the west of the cognac region, including the islands. Yes cognac's got islands too, namely Ré and Oléron, both parts of the Bois Ordnaires. With water: gets very dry and leafy, sweetness is gone, but lees, stems, pips and leaves are there. Mouth (neat): upper-excellent, really tense, rather more acidic (the west again), tart and fruity, reminding us all that first and foremost, cognac is wine, distilled and aged. Gets a tad dry and bitter, let's see what happens once water's been added… With water: you have to be careful, three drops will suffice. Peaches, mint leaves, some chestnut honey. Please check chestnut honey if you haven't already, any human being should know about chestnut honey, king of all honeys. Finish: long and leafy. Gets a little bitterer, perhaps not the best part. Comments: a rather tough cognac. Most parts are splendid, a few are  a little harsher. Yeah right, 1968.
SGP:361 - 88 points.

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


February 6, 2021





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
An accumulation
of Caol Ila
I believe that's the collective noun for Caol Ila. At least it feels correct when you realise a sufficient quantity of samples have amassed on your shelves to do a wee Whiskyfun sesh. We're anticipating impeccable distillate, consistency and purity…


Caol Ila 11 yo 'Batch 12' (48.1%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1489 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 'Batch 12' (48.1%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1489 bottles)
A label featuring Brian Blessed, now there's an idea…! Colour: white wine. Nose: it's one of these ones which displays these rather yeasty, fermentary aspects, like sea salt on fresh sourdough. I think it's a quality that is often magnified in Caol Ila by reduced bottling strengths. Beyond that a more scented and elegant profile, all about the shoreline, with sandalwood, rock pools, beach pebbles, sand and some fragrant bath salts. Easy and super pleasant. Mouth: indeed, these yeasty aspects persist, but here there's also more saline minerality, more seawater, lemon juice, pickling brine and this impression smoked sea salt. Simple but faultless. Finish: good length, gently ashy and with a deeper and more robust smokiness. Comments: impeccable, consistent and pure: check!
SGP: 365 - 87 points.



Chaos Edition No 2 (50%, North Star, 2 oloroso butts and one refill hogshead oloroso finish, bottled 2020, 1500 bottles)

Chaos Edition No 2 (50%, North Star, 2 oloroso butts and one refill hogshead oloroso finish, bottled 2020, 1500 bottles)
It doesn't say Caol Ila on the label. But, according to 'chaos theory'… I'm sorry. Colour: bright amber. Nose: the sherry adds a totally different, very leathery and umami element with lots of lightly cured game meats, ointments, damp earthiness, hints of herbal liqueurs and some wonderfully resinous saltiness. With water: softer, more herbaceous, sandalwood, sappy touches and beach woods. Mouth: the sherry works, which isn't always the case with these modern Islays. It's nicely sappy, salty, ashy, briny and full of nice pickled notes. Gherkin, cornichon, anchovy and miso. More cured meats again. With water: olives, TCP, ointments, camphor and classical briny notes mixed with an easy, leafy sherry quality. Finish: good length, becoming very tarry, salty, slightly mustardy and with tobacco and thick medicinal notes. Comments: extremely good. A rare example where modern peat and modern sherry get along just fine.
SGP: 476 - 86 points.



Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (58.2%, North Star, oloroso sherry butt, 410 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (58.2%, North Star, oloroso sherry butt, 410 bottles)
Sticking with North Star and with sherry. I hear at North Star they circumvent Brexit import issues by transporting their sherry casks from Spain to Scotland by Tuk-Tuk. Not that's innovation! Colour: deep gold. Nose: interesting, this one is really more on hessian, aniseed, herbal cough medicines, jasmine and a rather briny and kippery smokiness. The sherry certainly evolves this blade-like distillate in different direction, one that's earthier, rounder and more 'organic' in style perhaps. With water: herbal, undergrowth, rugged smokiness, black olives, tar and some sooty notes. Mouth: deeply tarry, leathery, herbal, sooty and with many classical meaty notes such as bacon jam and scamp fries - things that you really only find in British pubs I suppose. Indeed, I'm not getting pork scratchings, but this could be the power of suggestion. With water: gets saltier, more coastal and more towards pickling juices, black olives, cured meats, bouillon broth and mustard oil. One of those drams that seems to accrue power and heft with dilution. Finish: long, rather peppery, spiced with smoked paprika, more mustardy notes, horseradish and wasabi. Pointedly spicy I'd say. Comments: A whole heap of fun, although at times rather brutish. Kind of like a bar brawl captured in a tasting glass. Another one where the sherry influence works precisely because it is rather restrained and keeps largely out of the distillate's way.
SGP: 477 - 88 points.



Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (58.8%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts Of Scotland', cask #317838, hogshead, 300 bottles)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2009/2020 (58.8%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts Of Scotland', cask #317838, hogshead, 300 bottles)
Apparently this one hasn't been released yet, so it's an extremely rare occurrence where I'm publishing notes in advance. Colour: white wine. Nose: quite closed at first but you do get these rather specific notes of hospital corridors and strong floor cleaner. Caustic soda, chalk, wet hessian and mineral salts. Probably needs water: shakes its head with water and there's now this nice cluttered minerality. A big, jangly, wind-raked seashore. Lots of dried seaweed, seashells, sheep wool and pure seawater. Excellent but you have to like them extremely pure and - as Serge would say - 'millimetric'. Mouth: there's a lovely sense of concentration at first. Like syrupy peat, olive oil and natural tar with TCP, ointments, lemon juice and salt cured white fish. A total blade! With water: dustier, thicker, tarrier, more towards the farmyard but still with a firmly coastal aspect. Wet rope, white pepper, hessian, smoked olive oil and anchovy paste. Finish: long, briny, smoky, salty and fresh. Comments: at times it's a little challenging, but the big picture is undeniably impressive. Once again we're in the  same ballpark of quality.
SGP: 367 - 87 points.



Caol Ila 12 yo 2008/2020 (58.5%, The Whisky Exchange, cask #313261, hogshead, 283 bottles)

Caol Ila 12 yo 2008/2020 (58.5%, The Whisky Exchange, cask #313261, hogshead, 283 bottles)
Back to Elixir House, and straight to the board room please… Colour: white wine. Nose: raw, bright, lemony, briny goodness. It's one of these ones where the purity and the precision are immediately there, but there's also a sense of fragrance, seashore and general freshness which elevates it further. This rather soft, fragile minerality that takes in bath salts, beach sand and then things like gorse flower and hints of seaweed. Extremely attractive, even at full strength. With water: a beautiful and quite surprising fruitiness emerges, bergamot, lemon peel and grapefruit. Also some very delicate notes of dried lavender and Earl Grey tea. This impression of softness and fragrance is really lovely. Mouth: superbly sharp, chiselled, bright, citric and ever so slightly tart with green acidity. Lemon peel, chalk, seawater and a touch of hessian. With water: soft, unfurling wispy smokiness now, more citrons, chalk, beach pebbles, grapefruit pith, smoked teas and dried flowers. Finish: long, elegant, drying, brittle smoke, minerals and seaweed. Comments: I was teetering between 88-89 at full strength, but water really propels this one comfortably up a notch. There are many Caol Ilas that have this perfect purity and precision balance, but occasionally you get these examples that have something 'extra' which elevates them a notch higher. A lot of pleasure here.
SGP: 466 - 90 points.



Caol Ila 35 yo (50.9%, Elixir Distillers 'Director's Special', bottled 2020, 144 bottles)

Caol Ila 35 yo (50.9%, Elixir Distillers 'Director's Special', bottled 2020, 144 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: I'm starting to think maybe we should just have an aroma called 'old Caol Ila smell'. This wonderful mix of fragrant smoked teas, camphor, seaweed, cough medicines and soft, wispy puffs of peat smoke. Exquisite. Lovely notes of lapsing souchong, umami paste, pickled ginger, peppercorns in brine and lemon liqueur. With water: brighter, fresher, more citric, more crisply smoky and with notes of toasted fennel seed, lanolin, camphor and smoked olive oil. Just beautiful. Mouth: herbal and wonderfully syrupy in texture. With many subtle suggestions of gorse, wormwood, aniseed, cough medicines, old Chartreuse, lemon rind, bergamot and this beautifully fragrant, heather-centric smokiness. With water: indeed it awakens just the right amount and develops a firmer edge on the palate, more salty, a little more assertive peat smoke and flavours of mixed herbs, umami and green olive with the softest natural tar note. Finish: a long fade of soft peat smoke, medicines, seashore freshness, sandalwood, gorse and herbal teas. Comments: Like most of these casks, this is just totally spellbinding, fully mature Islay whisky. Not exotically fruity, rather more on citrus fruits, but really showcasing the full spectrum of elegance and subtlety to be found in coastal accented single malt. Exquisite, is the word I believe.
SGP: 565 - 92 points. 



Sometimes you just cannot beat a good Caol Ila session. They may not always score the highest, but I find it one of the most comforting and reassuring distillates to sit and nose away at. And, in times such as these, don't we all need a little comfort and reassurance?




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


February 5, 2021


Some Ohthrusk

Yes wouldn't we do a little Auchroisk today? Remember some experts say we should pronounce that 'Ohthrusk', but I can tell you if you ever go to a shop in France and ask for 'Ohthrusk', they say wrong place and send you straight to the Tourist Office. Let's do this randomly if you please…

Auchroisk 25 yo 1995/2020 (49.4%, Whisky Erlebnis, bourbon, cask #2063, 129 bottles)

Auchroisk 25 yo 1995/2020 (49.4%, Whisky Erlebnis, bourbon, cask #2063, 129 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one from their 'Pop Art Collection'. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh olives and capers matured in used engine oil with pieces of lemon and orange, then pollen, mead, avocado and papaya juice, and a drop of banana wine for good measure. I'm really a fan this far, but how well will this unusual profile translate to the palate? Let's see... (come on S. this is not the BBC)… Mouth: forget about the oils, we're right on tropical fruits and the juices or liqueurs made thereof. Bananas, papayas… The structure remains malty having said that, and rather creamy. I don't know if this is art, but it is clearly pop. Finish: medium, very fruity. Notes of fruit jellies, beans, crocodiles, bears… Comments: I was not quite expecting this, although we'd somewhat go towards the very good Special Release 1990 the owners did a few years ago. Same quality.
SGP:651 – 88 points.

This started a little fast…

Auchroisk 12 yo 2007/2020 (56.3%, Lady of the Glen, PX hogshead finish, cask # 816839, 265 bottles)

Auchroisk 12 yo 2007/2020 (56.3%, Lady of the Glen, PX hogshead finish, cask # 816839, 265 bottles) Three stars
Colour: gold. Nose: rather thick dry white wine than sticky PX here, or was it some Pedro that's not been done as a sherry? Some lamp oil too, paraffin, pine needles, mutton suet, white beer, sour cherries… In short, anything but PX, and not much tropicalness either at the fruit section. With water: gets a tad dirty once reduced, rather on sourer breads and carbon dust or something. Mouth (neat): good extractive maturation, this time on the usual café latte and butterscotch, but also ginger tonic and pepper liqueur. With water: some tobacco, a little leather. Mrs Macron's walnut wine (in case you're wondering, I'm joking). Finish: medium with touches of soot and sour fruits, perhaps blood oranges. Comments: it's been a little hard after the nearly perfect 1995, but I would still recommend it. Very good Ohthrusk.
SGP:362 - 82 points.

Let's calm this down…

Auchroisk 11 yo 2007/2018 (43%, Signatory Vintage, hogsheads, casks #803194 – 803195)

Auchroisk 11 yo 2007/2018 (43%, Signatory Vintage, hogsheads, casks #803194 – 803195) Four stars
I'll say it again, I've always been a fan of this little 'budget' range. Some 18 yo Port Ellen for 25€, anyone? Granted, that was a long time ago… Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: paraffin and pear juice, I would say, plus lemon. Very elementary but I believe it captures the real style of the distillery. Mouth: very good, with a little toasted oak, otherwise apple crumble and again this dry paraffiny side. Finish: medium yet fat, sooty, slightly dusty and dirty but once again, that's part of the game here. Williams pear spirit. Salt and smoked salmon in the aftertaste – really. Comments: very very good and a clear BFYB whisky. The saltiness came unexpected. Great little whisky, great series.
SGP:352 - 85 points.

Auchroisk 27 yo 1991/2019 (48.7%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask #19-2701, 293 bottles)

Auchroisk 27 yo 1991/2019 (48.7%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask #19-2701, 293 bottles) Four stars and a half
Another one that I should have tried before, but years have only 365 days, have they not. Colour: white wine. Nose: sits right between the ueber-fruity 25 yo 'pop' one and the salty Signatory. It's even got this greasy fatness that we enjoy so much in several high-class malts, soy sauce, as well as a lot of crushed chalk the next morning after a rainy day. More or less. I may have said Hazelburn, you know. Mouth: no distillery should ever be overlooked. Extremely good Auchroisk, very tight, sooty, almost phenolic, greasy and, may I add, Springbanky. I have to say I'm not well-acquainted with Auchroisk and remember only too well the Singleton of Auchroisk of times gone by. So this is almost a revelation – well not quite but there, you get the drift. Finish: loses one or two points here, which happens pretty often as finishes tend to lose focus in many cases, and to get a little too dry and jumbled. Comments: Ohthrusk, your Majesty!
SGP:362 - 89 points.

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


February 4, 2021


An Aberfeldy Trio

Just en passant. So sad that they mustn't have too many tourists there these days, as it's a lovely tourist-friendly place. In short, not quite Mortlach (better for us).

Aberfeldy 18 yo (43%, OB, French red wine cask, +/-2020)

Aberfeldy 18 yo (43%, OB, French red wine cask, +/-2020) Two stars and a half
So, this was finished in some 'French red wine cask', namely a Pauillac as it seems. So in theory, a full cabernetty red that may well totally dominate the gentle whisky. Now they would know what they're doing, so let's check that out… Colour: apricot. Nose: ah, no dissonances, really? No invasive raspberries? No lousy strawberry jam? No unbridled cassis? Indeed, rather cherries (but not quite à la pinot noir) and, first and foremost, tons of honeyed pastries. We're in a pastry shop in Istanbul or anywhere in Maghreb, with all those stunning wee things made out of almonds, pistachios, orange blossom water, dates, pine nuts and yeah, honey. Give me a break, I'm so hungry now (well done, S.) Mouth: feels stronger than just 43, more mineral and leafy and leathery and grassy, and certainly less fruity. All the leaves, buds and stems are coming out, while the whole would get mush bitterer now. Where's the fruitiness? Now there are notes of bitter oranges and green pepper indeed, and a sourness that's not unseen in wine finishings. We're far from the nose's elegance I'm afraid. Finish: medium, a little sour, bitter and sweet at the same time. A tad indistinct. Comments: rather Al-Behr-Feldi on the nose if you ask me, while I'm finding the palate much more ordinary. Un-recharred red wine casks, you see. Perhaps a missed opportunity? They did a 15 'French red wine' that was much more to my liking.
SGP:561 - 79 points.

Ten more years please…

Aberfeldy 28 yo 1991/2020 (42.4%, Single Cask Nation, bourbon hogshead)

Aberfeldy 28 yo 1991/2020 (42.4%, Single Cask Nation, bourbon hogshead) Four stars
Our friends in America always manage to bottle 'different' whiskies. Like, when everyone's got middle-aged Glenrothes, they have some old Aberfeldy. The styles of the whiskies are often singular too. Colour: white wine. Nose: you see, this is very singular, which the lower strength had already suggested. First, it's full of mushrooms of all kinds (do you really need a list?) and second, there's this thing right between beer and mead, a little hard to describe. There's also some fermenting honey – not many honeys do ferment, which leads us to… mead. All right. A lot of fern too, when you rub some leaves between your fingers… Mouth: a tad loco in a good way, you do feel that not everything's well in place, while there's this seductive fermentary echo that would lead us straight to… mead. Some meady whisky! It is also pretty salty, which I find extremely bizarre… and pleasant. What a funny Aberfeldy. Finish: medium, with lovely bitter notes, Cynar, rum bitters, Campari perhaps… I am sorry, I am not finding anything related to Bacardi. Comments: some great fun to be had here. Go find another one that tastes like this one – good luck! One of the 'greater flawed ones'.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Do we say three's a good number?

Aberfeldy 15 yo 'Exceptional Cask Series' (43%, OB, sherry finish, 4800 bottles, 2019)

Aberfeldy 15 yo 'Exceptional Cask Series' (43%, OB, sherry finish, 4800 bottles, 2019) Three stars and a half
Oh, no, given the name I had thought this would be a single cask at cask strength, while it's just a vatting of around ten casks (I presume) reduced down to 43%. This reminds me of the 1970s, when we would add 'turbo' stickers to any lousy Renaults or Volkswagens. Come on, remember even Porsche used to add a 'turbo look' to their regular 911s! So this is clearly a 'single cask look' bottling. Good, I think we're digressing here… Colour: gold. Nose: touch of sulphur, then porridge, cigar ashes, bay leaves, tea, sour cream, perhaps a quarter of a drop of baby vomit, pine needles… Frankly, I'm not too sure here. Notes of fresh olive focaccia too. A little bizarre to me… Mouth: no no no, cancel that, I think the palate's much better, for once. Sure I would have done 46, and this feels a tad stingy, but all the rest is rather perfect, with miso, vetegable bouillon, the obligatory umami (remember, osmazôme it is), puréed chestnuts, muscovado sugar, allspice, a little butterscotch, acid coffee Luwak-style, cracked pepper… Finish: curiously long, leafy and bitter in a good way. Much peppered Thai soup. Comments: what a curious bottling indeed. I liked the palate ten times better than the nose, but pst, if this was an 'eceptionnal cask', why do a finishing on it?
SGP:361 - 84 points.

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


February 3, 2021


You say Tomato, I say Tomatin

I suppose we've done that lousy joke fifty times already. And they say a little Tomatin lifts your chin! Yes we also do free slogans for the post-Covid brands that would like to adopt future marketing methods. Which, as we all know, will also involve words such as 'hacking', 'exploding' or 'bombing'. But first, the usual aperitif…

Tomatin 'Limited Metal Edition' (46%, OB, bourbon barrels, 6000 bottles, +/-2020)

Tomatin 'Limited Metal Edition' (46%, OB, bourbon barrels, 6000 bottles, +/-2020) Three stars and a half
This has not, mind you, anything to do with heavy metal doom hard rock bands or any other aural delicacies, the word 'metal' being related to their stills. Not bad, in the old days good whisky folks used to talk much more about their stills, and much less about their woods that anyone's got anyway. The good old times… Colour: very pale white wine, so probably very little wood indeed. Nose: pears, chalk and porridge, that's what we were expecting. Feels extremely natural at first, before a little more bourbonness would chime in, around vanilla and barley syrup. Gooseberries, probably, but no metal as such (like tin box, copper coins, old iron, tools and such). So perhaps not quite for Ozzy O.… Mouth: good, mucho natural indeed, on barley or just grist, then golden delicious and a few orange zests. Uncomplicated, but body and balance are perfect. Finish: of good length, with a little more oranges, barley syrup, and apples in the aftertaste. Pleasant lightness. Comments: no doom metal, it's all about good simple pleasures. Like Ozzy O., no? Goes to show you how much I know about those areas of rock and roll. Good and gentle.
SGP:541 - 84 points.

Perhaps something a little more rock and roll…

Tomatin 10 yo 2009/2020 (61.2%, OB for Whisky Journey Singapore, verdejo cask, 350 bottles)

Tomatin 10 yo 2009/2020 (61.2%, OB for Whisky Journey Singapore, verdejo cask, 350 bottles) Four stars
Verdejo ? Gulp, I like that but the wines can be green and tart, I sometimes call them 'vertebra ticklers'. But then again, I'm French. What I understand is that this was a 'recharred verdejo hogshead'. All right then, there's something new every day… Colour: gold. Nose: this is strong but we're well in Tomatin territories, with all these tart fruits, including granny smith and grapefruits. The thing is, in my meagre experience those fruits are also to be found in verdejo. All right then… With water: totally young Tomatin of high quality. I would say the hogshead, whether recharred or not, did not change much to this classic profile. Forgot to mention melons. All right then…

Mouth (neat): yes, very Tomatin, very sharp in a good way, acidic, blade-y. Actually, it's more on unripe green fruits and lemons, which indeed, reminds me of those chilled verdejo (or verdelho) you could drink with langoustines in coastal Spain or Portugal. With water: rounder, fruitier, and this time we're even closer to 'Tomatin' (fruit salad here) with just a touch of rose jelly or gewurztraminer. Probably from the verdejo this time. Finish: rather long, fresh and refreshing – but not a 61.2%. Comments: a very interesting set-up where the wine cask may have added 'more of the whisky' instead of complementing it, if you see what I mean. Next, a Clynelish wax finish? Really cool and good.
SGP:651 - 86 points.


Did you think those 61.2% vol. were a little steep? Watch this…

Tomatin 2014/2020 (66.4%, Or Sileis, Strathdearn, second fill sherry barrel, cask #9900001, 282 bottles)

Tomatin 2014/2020 (66.4%, Or Sileis, Strathdearn, second fill sherry barrel, cask #9900001, 282 bottles) Two stars and a half
Strathdearn is a hall in Tomatin. As for the strength, that's no typo, I suppose this one was stored just under a roof (in Death Valley Junction, California). As you know, strengths go up in a hot and dry environment. Colour: salmony amber, I would say. Nose: acetone, butterscotch and café latte – but of course. With water: a jeroboam of old balsamico vinegar, perhaps touches of truffle oil, old hessian, and probably even more acetone too. Very unusual nose. Gets rounder and gentler but needs time (cake and ripe apples). Mouth (neat): not sure I should, but it seems that Covid succumbs to these strengths, so… More café latte, varnish, probably eggplants, blueberry jelly, perhaps… With water: still very bizarre, and on the same notes, more or less. Some kind of liquid Scottish moussaka. Touches of metal polish (there!) and more eggplant yet. Finish: rather long, on similar notes. Some metallic sourness in the aftertaste, some lime juice too, and a sulphuriness. Comments: a lot of fun to be had with this one, but it really is a little, say lunatic. A mad scientist's whisky.
SGP:552 - 79 points.

Let's try to cool all this down…

Tomatin 30 yo 1990/2020 (48.9%, The Whisky Agency, 'Keep Going', hogshead, 180 bottles)

Tomatin 30 yo 1990/2020 (48.9%, The Whisky Agency, 'Keep Going', hogshead, 180 bottles) Four stars and a half
With such a name, I suppose this is a tribute to Johnnie Walker, is it not? And with such a bottler, we have expectations… Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes, it's a bit like the 'Metal' OB, but times ten. A large fruit salad (preserved pears and peaches, bananas, oranges, cherries…) with some mountain honey and dashes of chalk. A perfect breadiness is complementing all that (or fresh fruit brioche), as well as a wee glass of Sauternes for good measure. Mouth: perfect bright fruity freshness that would remind us of the 1960s and 1970s. Same flavours as on the nose, fresh and preserved fruits, an adorable lightness that's not light (are you following me?), possibly as subtle and delicate as, as, come on, drop Botticelli, say Giovanni Strazza's famous Veiled Virgin! Several kinds of lemons are particularly noticeable. Finish: medium, but possibly not totally the best part. Loses a bit of wee bit zing and gets a tad too grassy. Comments: this time we're nearing perfection. Very well done, Whisky Agency.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

And to make this a quintet…

Tomatin 10 yo 2006/2016 (58.9%, The Cyprus Whisky Association, cask #4191, 222 bottles)

Tomatin 10 yo 2006/2016 (58.9%, The Cyprus Whisky Association, cask #4191, 222 bottles) Four stars
I-want-to-fly-to-Cyprus! Colour: white wine. Nose: a natural, naked one again, with even a little paraffin this time. Other than that, let's mention white peaches, apples, and probably fresh almonds. I find this pretty perfect – and chalky to boot. With water: cassata and muesli, plus this chalkiness. Mouth (neat): fat and even thick, oily, creamy, pretty much on apples and almonds, with the high strength adding a lot of body. Should be good. With water: it is, citrus are popping out, so do tiny mentholy herbs, a little butter, perhaps a wee spoonful of mashed pumpkins, with a dollop of double cream of course. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Finish: medium, with unexpected touches of burnt pine wood. No, really. Comments: not much to add, except that this is as good as 10 yo 'natural' whisky can get, and that I-want-to-fly-to-Cyprus! Meanwhile, we're in lockdown.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

(Thanks Benjamin)

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


February 2, 2021


Balblair, Switzerland vs. Belgium

Nah that doesn't make any sense, but indeed we'll have a Balblair for Switzerland and another one from Belgium. Remember we think tremendously highly of that tremendous fruit-bomb called Balblair (S., he's gone!)

Balblair 18 yo 2002/2020 (51.7%, Single Malts of Scotland, Elixir Distillers, for The Nectar, hogshead, cask #20100, 200 bottles)

Balblair 18 yo 2002/2020 (51.7%, Single Malts of Scotland, Elixir Distillers, for The Nectar, hogshead, cask #20100, 200 bottles) Four stars and a half
So the Belgian. Colour: straw. Nose: dipping your nose into a large glass of fruiticello. Indeed that doesn't exist yet but let's be creative and say that it would include citrus juice, melon juice, passion fruit juice and mango juice, plus a bottle of Absolut and a spoonful of agave syrup. With water: fresh baguette and chalk and porridge are up, but we're still having a huge quantity of fruiticello. Mouth (neat): oh so very Balblair! In truth I can't wait to bring it down to 45% vol. as I believe that's this make's ideal strength. For the time being, there are tiny touches of peary nail polish and varnish, which is absolutely normal. With water: yes, there, much better. Bananas and pineapples are chiming in, also starkrimsons and kiwis. Lemon squash, lemonade, and welcome hints of green walnuts to prevent it from becoming overly fruity. Yes that may have happened. Finish: medium, superbly fruity, rather on a banana and tangerine combo. Green walnuts and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: a wonderfully structured ueber-fruity Balblair, a bit in the style of some 1970s Benriachs. Loves water. We're very close to perfection.
SGP:751 - 88 points.

Balblair 9 yo 2011/2020 (56.3%, Whisky Is The Limit and Bar du Nord, 1st fill oloroso sherry barrel finish, cask #800129/2011, 298 bottles) Four stars and a half
It's been a 2 year finish, so almost double-maturation, although I'm afraid no one's ever come up with a proper definition of what's a finishing vs double maturation. Colour: gold. Nose: oh, after the fresh fruits we're rather having the pastries and other fine specialties made thereof, first and foremost cassata and that thing we call 'brie au kirsch', which is not cheese at all mind you. Whiffs of warm focaccia, a touch of concrete and metal polish, walnut wine, blond pipe tobacco (I remember Amsterdamer), cherry stem tea… I find this nose awesomely complex, so far, this baby clearly stands up to the fruit bomb. With water: what a glorious sherry barrel! Looks like they've used good quality oloroso here, from a good tonneleria. Unless it came straight from a Scottish cooperage. Anyway, the nose didn't change much, it just became even more complex and with rather more citrus, and mosses… Mouth (neat): notes of eucalyptus and perhaps myrtle, a very curious earthiness, surely many walnuts, a little mustard, grapefruits, some kind of spicy cough medicine, crunching pine needles… It's very singular and most lovable. I would have believed this was ex-Madeira wood. With water: works but you have to be careful and not make it a tad too leafy and leathery. Finish: long. Herbal teas, zests, nutmeg, cinnamon… And myrtle. We've come full circle. Comments: we're extremely close to perfection. If you like dry Madeira wine…
SGP:561 - 89 points.

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


February 1, 2021


A stop at Blair Athol

Emptying the 'BL' box today. Yes there's also Bladnoch but as they say, in the bible I believe, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. But Blair Athol, such a lovely place - such a lovely place, such a lovely place – right in Perthshire, on the road to the flock of distilleries that's located further north.

Blair Athol 9 yo 2009/2019 (50.8%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry, 638 bottles)

Blair Athol 9 yo 2009/2019 (50.8%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry, 638 bottles) Four stars
With an outturn of 638 bottles, I suppose it was a butt. Colour: gold. Nose: it's clearly a cake-y sherry, full of toasted cake, scones, Ovaltine, roasted raisins, all kind of warm pastries, all that. No quibbling so far. With water: the malted barley's popping out. In short, more Ovaltine/Ovomaltine. A very regressive thing methinks. Mouth (neat): rather tart after a rounder palate,  with a lot of marmalade, then ginger cookies, nods to Pad Thai, wee touches of young artisan cognac, some very malty beer and even a little Guinness. I think I'll buy a palette of Guinness one day and distil the lot, we'll see what happens. With water: really good, fresher and fruitier than expected. I would say some slightly overburnt pear cake. Finish: rather long, a little leafier and spicier, as almost always with this set-up. Ginger, cinnamon, bay leaves… Cinnamon mints in the aftertaste. Comments: I say this is a very good sherried baby, thanks to Mr Valinch and Mrs Mallet.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Blair Athol 14 yo 2005/2019 (58.6%, Lady of the Glen, bourbon hogshead, cask #3657, 153 bottles)

Blair Athol 14 yo 2005/2019 (58.6%, Lady of the Glen, bourbon hogshead, cask #3657, 153 bottles) Three stars and a half
These top people often had pretty tight and sometimes austere young to middle-aged malts. Looks like that's the case again here… Colour: white wine. Nose: sends shivers into your spine even before you have a single drop in your mouth, but that's not obligatorily a bad thing mind you. Bags of green lemons – tarter than lime – cider apples and starfruits covered with custard and a curious yet awesome herbal combo where I'm finding chives, mint and even a little garlic. Seriously, that's lovely. With water: yellow peaches and muesli, with bits of tangerines. Breakfast for champions – or bagpipers. Mouth (neat): textbook fresh and citrusy malt whisky from quiet refill wood. Some white pepper, more fresh herbs, and indeed, garlic. With water: a little rounder, with awesome touches of honeydew melon and just sweets. M&S assorted fruit sherbets, a shame that those are about to disappear from our shelves post-Brexit. Well I think we shall survive that challenge. Finish: medium, soft, fruity, easy. Comments: it's funny that we would remember the old official 8 yo here, but this is much better, I think. Do you remember that OB had been, very temporarily, part of the Classic Malts range?
SGP:641 - 83 points.

Blair Athol 21 yo 1996/2017 (47.8%, Aqua Vitae Whisky Selection, sherry butt, 300 bottles)

Blair Athol 21 yo 1996/2017 (47.8%, Aqua Vitae Whisky Selection, sherry butt, 300 bottles)
I believe this was bottled for Japan. The label is elegant, refined, discrete and tasteful. Makes a change. Colour: gold. Nose: it's somewhat reminiscent of the V&M but with more butterscotch and raw dry cider, which is not a very common combo. Some artisan mead too, perhaps even a quarter of a drop of balsamic vinegar, then drops of rancio too, Madeira, homemade walnut wine – not sure anyone's making that on an industrial scale anyway and that's it. Perhaps, since we're in Japan, a drop of umami sauce too. Mouth: weird. Perhaps an accident? Pepper, old beer, walnut skins, bitter almonds, leather… I find this one really challenging, now some friends are finding Ardbeg 1975 challenging too. A matter of POV. Finish: how would I describe this… Perhaps a blend of walnut stain with some kind of nutmeg infusion and pine resin? Comments: whacky malt whisky for the ueber-whisky-elite that's seen it all. So not us, my friend… But good fun for sure.
SGP:272 - 65 points.

Blair Athol 5 yo 2015/2020 (48%, Skene, sherry oloroso, cask # 900093, 246 bottles)

Blair Athol 5 yo 2015/2020 (48%, Skene, sherry oloroso, cask # 900093, 246 bottles) Four stars
Boy is this young! I suppose the cask had been treated modernly (Donald!)… Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed, there's cappuccino, butterscotch and fudge just everywhere in this nose and I'm sure Starbucks could sell these (at twice the price). Touches of ale too, wholegrain bread, a wee yeasty side and indeed young oloroso (walnuts). Well this style is growing on me. Never liked the idea, but I cannot deny that they now master it to near perfection. Oh well, as long as they have the age statements… Mouth: same all over again. Malty beer, shortbread, butterscotch, malt extracts, Ovaltine, café latte, pumpernickel, gingerbread… well we wanna know how they treat these casks! STR sherry? One day you'll have a special section for whisky casks at Amnesty International. Finish: same, butterscotch, ale and cinnamon with a drop of Maggi in the aftertaste. Comments: hate it that I would find it this good.
SGP:451 - 86 points.

Blair Athol 10 yo 2009/2020 (56.2%, James Eadie, recharred hogshead, cask # 307362)

Blair Athol 10 yo 2009/2020 (56.2%, James Eadie, recharred hogshead, cask # 307362) Four stars
Of course this will work. Colour: white wine. Nose: not quite a buoyant rejuvenated oak over an nondescript malty distillate here, rather a pretty soft, jammy and fruity salad that would even involve herbs. Looks like they keep perfecting the processes. Oranges, honey, sunflower oil, custard, barley water, nougat, brioche, café latte… All that works a treat. With water: more bread, grist and all that. The thing is, does the Distillery play any part? Mouth (neat): just very good, as expected. Blend freshly squeezed orange juice, natural vanilla, a pinch of ras el hanout, raisins (as in proper couscous) and just soft maize bread. I'm terribly afraid this is irresistible, unless you just hate ras el hanout, that is. No luck, I love it. With water: yeah it's just excellent, I think. Modern malt whisky with flying colours and no scruples. Finish: same. As always, the finish is a tad spicier and drier. Comments: where is Blair Athol's gentle softness? Isn't modern 'wood tehkknohlohdgy' just bulldozing any distillery styles? Is it better or worse than in-cask blending (like ex-Laphroaig casks and all that jun.. I mean jazz?) To be discussed over a glass of Champagne.
SGP:451 - 86 points.

I totally hate it that I would enjoy these modern concoctions so much. I really need a shrink. Or a last Blair Athol (for the road…)

Blair Athol 14 yo 2006/2020 (54.6%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Elixir Distillers, hogshead, cask #8002620, 326 bottles)

Blair Athol 14 yo 2006/2020 (54.6%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Elixir Distillers, hogshead, cask #8002620, 326 bottles) Four stars
Elixir would usually rather select classic woods and distillate-driven bottlings. Or say 'distillery-apparent bottlings', yet a new unnecessary concept. Pff… So just like, say Cadenhead and as far as I can tell, they would rather lie on the other side of IBdom. You know, the resistance ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: I was right (ta-dah), this is pure fruit syrup with a little honey and brown sugar. Apple, preserved pears, peaches, apricots, kiwis, muscovado sugar… With water: fresh baguette, leaven, silage, porridge, Heineken… Excuse me? Good, choose another lager yourself then (S.!) Mouth (neat): I'm not saying the hoggie played no part, naturally, and indeed there's a little 'leafy stout' from the wood, but other than that, orchard fruits are running free. Plums, apples, pears… It is almost moving. With water: it is superior. Barley syrup, preserved fruits, muesli, any fruit cereals, citrons, chalk, lemon zests… Finish: rather long, tarter, pretty nervous, refreshing, grassier. Having said that, some vanilla and coffee liqueurs and creams are occupying the aftertaste, and that's the wood. Comments: perfect, meaning without any flaws.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Very good session, but we remained a little far from the fantastic old OBs that predated the 'blue designs'. You know, the old black labels, utterly stunning whiskies. We'll have some next time.

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


WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

January 2021

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Redbreast 30 yo 1989/2020 (57.2%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Port cask, cask #38635, 444 bottles) - WF92

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Ardbeg 10 yo (46%, OB, rotation 2003, for duty free, 1 litre)- WF90

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Dailuaine 12 yo 2008/2020 (57.8%, Watt Whisky, 312 bottles)  - WF89

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Rum 'Mden' 1997/2020 (55.6%, The Whisky Jury, Jamaica, cask #TWJ-HA-01, 241 bottles) - WF92

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Reimonenq 2020 'Rhum Agricole Dynamique' (50%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, 698 bottles, 2020)  - WF30

January 2021 - part 2 <--- February 2021 - part 1 ---> February 2021 - part 2




Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Talisker 1957 (53.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, +/-1985)

Shizuoka 3 yo 'Prologue' (55.5%, OB, Japanese, 2020)

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1997/2017 (56.5%, The Rum Cask, Guyana)