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Whisky Tasting


Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild




Hi, you're in the Archives, February 2023 - Part 1

January 2023 - part 2 <--- February 2023 - part 1 ---> February 2023 - part 2


February 14, 2023


Surprise Tasting for Valentine's Day

Why wouldn't I present myself with a gift on this very day? To me, Valentine's is a day just like any other, but any occasion to have some special whisky is a good occasion. Like, some Port Ellens, some that I have tried many times without having ever published any proper tasting notes, and one that I have just never tried until now. What's more, the latter is probably one of the two rarest Port Ellens ever bottled, the other one being the famous wee 'Queen's Visit'. Shall we proceed?...

1967, first filling at 'new' Port Ellen (Diageo Archive)



Port Ellen 23 yo 1979/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #5151, 376 bottles)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1979/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #5151, 376 bottles) Four stars and a half
From the good old times when they were bottling some casks at 43% vol. because there was plenty. I used to like this one a lot but indeed, the fact that they had bottled it at a low strength used to be interpreted as a sign of lower quality. And indeed, I never published any proper tasting notes for this one, but all things come to him who waits, no? Colour: almost white. Nose: well well well, with more historical perspective, this is wonderfully 'PE', in the sense that it's fully on tar and bicycle inner tube and other bits of rubber. It is still young, pure although very faintly feinty (bravo, S.!), with something a little chemical in the background (7up) and some dandelion salad. Mouth: feels a little constrained and perhaps a tad imprecise, with some tarry brine and lemon juice, butter, fish oil, a dusty side, some bizarre sweets, lemon drops… But don't get me wrong, it's a very charming drop, it just feels like a, let's say a coitus interruptus. On the other hand, it fully remains a malt unlike any other, extremely different from, say Lagavulin or Caol Ila. Finish: medium, salty, very tarry and in that sense, very PE. Slightly frustrating aftertaste because of the lower strength, on vegetables. Tarry lemon juice. Comments: I used to have it at 88 and I think I may have been a tad generous twenty years ago, but let's not change that score, we do no cancelling and no revisionism.

SGP:466 - 88 points.

Port Ellen 23 yo 1978/2002 (54.3%, Signatory VIntage, cask #5344, 221 bottles)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1978/2002 (54.3%, Signatory VIntage, cask #5344, 221 bottles) Three stars and a half
Another one I've never written any proper tasting note for, maybe because I was pretty disappointed with the bottle(s) I had bought (WF 82). Colour: gold. Nose: tar and cabbage soup, new sneakers, dead rodent, very old waxes and glue. Not too sure indeed. With water: old plaster, saltpetre, soot, sulphur powder, washing powder… Mouth (neat): acetic, salty, vinegary, dirtyish. With water: a little better, thanks to some miso-y and umami-y flavours, malt extract, samphire, olives (but frankly, those olives do not quite belong here). Finish: rather long; very salty, better yet. Turnips and celeriac, with some lemon juice and, well, that's all. Eggplants. Comments: Port Ellen was about to become a sacred cow when this very odd one was released. So lame duck within an otherwise rather glorious range but in fact, I agree 82 was a little harsh.

SGP:366 - 83 points.

So, one of, if not the rarest Port Ellen ever for Valentine's, Samaroli's!

So, one of, if not the rarest Port Ellen ever for Valentine's, Samaroli's!

Port Ellen 12 yo 1970 'Single Islay Malt Scotch Whisky' (57G.L., Duthie's for Samaroli, 75cl, +/-1982)

Port Ellen 12 yo 1970 'Single Islay Malt Scotch Whisky' (57G.L., Duthie's for Samaroli, 75cl, +/-1982) Five stars
Or when they were still using Gay-Lussac instead of % ABV. To be honest, it doesn't say it's Port Ellen, but everyone in the know, including Sig. Samaroli's old friends, say it was Port Ellen indeed. Now it really was a bottle that used to fly under the radars until Emmanuel Dron wrote about it in his 1-ton-heavy tour de force book about old bottles, 'Collecting Scotch Whisky', and then until one of them surfaced at auction very recently and fetched £40,504. Which, as we use to say, is even dearer than a calzone in Zurich. I have to confess I've never tried this baby before, and that I never saw a bottle in real life, but is this Valentine's Day or not? Oh and it is to be noticed that the Distillery was most likely still working – barely - when this baby was bottled. Colour: light gold. Nose: it's the fatness that's standing out, this feeling of nosing a large plate of smoked salmon drizzled with olive and lamp oils. The mezcaly side is very obvious as well, so are the oysters, those famous tarry ropes, wellies, watering cans, artichokes, pencil lead, furfural, eggplants, stewed bok choy/pak choi, fino or rather salty manzanilla, ink and new magazines, new 33RPM… With water: metal polish, old coins, old copper kettle, old engine, parsnips and other unusual vegetable, rubber oil… Stunning! Mouth (neat): utterly splendid. It's a grassier dram, I would wager PE became more mineral later on. French beans, root vegetables, salty soups, fatty bouillons, fish stock, tinned sardines… In truth, all this is extraordinary and, first and foremost, nowhere else to be experienced, not even in other young PEs. So, I totally doubt it could have been another Islayer. With water: what a soup! All oily liquids leaking from James Bond's old Astons. Oils, petrol, coolers, Macallan, Bollinger… Finish: very long, very vegetal indeed, and even more on grassy smokes. Fish oils. I'll say it again, it's much more 'organic' than following vintages that, in my book, have been more on tars and coals. Pickled lemons plus a large plate of seafood in the aftertaste. Comments: I hope Diageo are having this very fat one in their working archive and are currently benchmarking it. Happy Valentine's.
SGP:566 - 96 points.

(Grazie mille, Diego!)

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


February 13, 2023


New Japan in February, blends and malts

We'll do two Japanese sessions until the end of February, both gathering only new or very recent bottlings, while we'll try to avoid the 'fake Japanese whiskies', that is to say whiskies that were not fully distilled in the land of the rising sun and yet do present themselves as 'Japanese'. Of course we'll fail.

Yuza Distillery, Yamagata (photograph Yuza)



Oh well, indeed this starts a little badly…

Kensei (40%, OB, Japan, blend, +/-2022)

Kensei (40%, OB, Japan, blend, +/-2022)
Not Japanese whisky. All right, it only says 'blended whisky' and 'product of Japan', not exactly 'Japanese whisky', so let's be fair, this is not quite a proper, fully lying brand. Now there's a good Veblen effect with the price here, around 55€ in France (remember the excellent Bowmore Legend is at 25€). Well, this Kensei is at 55€ everywhere and 61.93€ (LOL) at Amazon, with a discount of 11% that puts it at… 55€. Typical Amazon trick. Colour: white wine. Nose: very light, not totally unpleasant, rather on grass, with touches of plastic in the background (new Nikes), then chamomile tea, something slightly feinty, some vanillin – well, a lot of vanillin, milk chocolate, madeleines, and a curious sucrosity (sugar syrup). Mouth: cheap, grainy. Haig Clubman with Kanjis. Needs ice. Cereals, green tea. Medium body. Finish: bitter, caramelly. A cup of Nescafé with three sugar cubes. Comments: drinkable but pretty poor; why people would buy this poorish little thing for 55€, I have no idea, but kudos to both the marketers and the accountants.
SGP:431 - 55 points
(there, one point for each €).

Gaiaflow Whisky 'Blended M' (48%, OB, Japan, 5,555 bottles, +/-2022)

Gaiaflow Whisky 'Blended M' (48%, OB, Japan, 5,555 bottles, +/-2022) Four stars
This is a blend by the company that's behind Shizuoka Distillery, Gaia Flow Distilling Co.. They have married some 3 yo Shizuoka with some imported grain and malt, and do not call this a 'Japanese whisky', unless that's what's written in Japanese characters, which I doubt. Colour: white wine. Nose: much more maltiness and much less vanillin in this one, with rather huge quantities of plantains and green bananas. Then barley syrup and orange cake, earl grey, bergamots sweets, lemon drops. That's pretty nice, but the palate will tell us more. Mouth: probably high malt proportion. Mainly on lemon cake, lemon marmalade and small touches of camphor, with balmy mixtures and some eucalyptus behind that. Very good body, 48% always works. Very pleasant both zesty and candied citrusy combination, rather unusual. Finish: pretty long and not exactly in 'blend' territories. Candied lemons and heather honey, with some lemon grass and white pepper. Comments: I've heard both the imported grain and malt were stemming from England. Do Cotswolds do grain too? Anyway, one of my favourite recent blends, it's a very smart blend .

SGP:651 - 86 points.

Ichiro's Malt & Grain '505' (50.5%, OB, 2020)

Ichiro's Malt & Grain '505' (50.5%, OB, 2020) Two stars and a half
They do call it a 'World Blended Whisky'. I'm sure everyone realizes that it is this kind of move that, in the long run, will save Japanese whisky. How many distillers are really flying the right flag? Not many, some only do a lot of talking… Naturally, there is some Chichibu inside, as there was some Shizuoka in the M (not sure everyone's happy with that name by the way, but not our business and there are only 26 letters in the alphabet anyway). Colour: white wine. Nose: I'm not the greatest fan of these 'Malt & Grain" bottlings, this one's a tad too much on varnish, icing sugar and lemonade for me. Water should help. With water: pears and cider apples, a touch of rubber (wellies) and some bubblegum plus vanilla. Fair. Mouth (neat): a little hot, with some kirschwasser and lemon liqueur. Not extremely precise, which I find a little un-Chichibu (I'm the President for life of the Turckheimer Chichibu Club!) With water: good, grassier, maltier, with some white pepper. Still a little harsh. Finish: medium, with a little sawdust and tinned peaches. Comments: it's good, not much to add, maybe we should try not to look for 'Chichibu' when trying these. The prices are a little scary too.
SGP:551 - 79 points.

Yuza 'First Edition 2022' (61%, OB, single malt, 2022)

Yuza 'First Edition 2022' (61%, OB, single malt, 2022) Four stars and a half
As I understand it, his is a brand new whisky, created by sake makers who started distilling whisky in 2018. Their thing is not exactly Kanban, rather what, according to LMDW, is their own acronymised motto, 'TLAS', which means 'Tiny, Lovely, Authentic, Supreme'. So not quite Daft Punk either (remember, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger). But enough chitchat… Oh and of course, this one's 100% Japanese, despite the very Rothmans-Luxury-Length-like packaging. Colour: white wine. Nose: a little blocked thanks to the high alcohol, but you do feel these bananas and citrus that many best Japanese malts do display. Especially grapefruit, but no chances taken... With water: both pure chardonnay and sauvignon blanc! Amazing chalkiness, sourdough, a little dill, small herbs, woodruff, custard, white nougat… Mouth (neat): barley sweets and lemon drops! Touches of raw white mezcal too, but that may go away as soon as water's been added. With water: restless lemons and grapefruits having St. Vitus' dance. The wood was perfect and indeed, you could say there is a little sweet mezcal. Finish: long, breadier. Comments: totally in the style of several very recent Japanese malt whiskies. Great attention to details and a lot of purity. We'll see if they'll also do whacky finishes (wink wink).

SGP:551 - 88 points.

Since we've mentioned sake…

Akashi 6 yo 'Sake Cask' (61%, OB, Y's cask Tokyo, 400 bottles, 2021)

Akashi 6 yo 'Sake Cask' (61%, OB, Y's cask Tokyo, 400 bottles, 2021) Five stars
Naturally, these Akashi single malts by White Oak are properly Japanese, but the Akashi blends, although labelled as 'Japanese Blended Whisky', are not. But the public doesn't seem to care… Currently 30€ in France (those Aksashi blends). Colour: gold. Nose: 61% again but it is gentler than the new Yuza, probably thanks to some very active wood. Some wonderful spicy oranges, walnuts, some esters (olives and bananas), whiff of old magazines, a touch of mustard too, cracked pepper… Well, this is extremely to my taste. With water: even nicer. Cigars, fino sherry, walnuts, good orange wine, old books, some moisture… Mouth (neat): Ben Nevis!! I am not joking. Mustard, dirt, pepper, smoke, salt, thick ale, chillies… I would suppose a large part does stem from the sake but I cannot be sure about that. Rather love it. Yeah, I know Ben Nevis is Nikka but this is not a PC blog. With water: more of all that. An incredibly peppery, salty, coastal highly fortified walnut wine. Finish: same for a long time. Comments: how do you say surprise in Japanese? Sapuraizu, say our masters in Mountain View, CA.

SGP:462 - 90 points.

Tsunuki 'Limited Edition 2022' (50%, OB, Japan, single malt)

Tsunuki 'Limited Edition 2022' (50%, OB, Japan, single malt) Four stars and a half
I think I've already said that I'm having some trouble getting everything about all these names, Mars, Tsunuki, Shinshu, Maltage, Cosmo, Komagatake, Yakushima, Kasei… Maybe that's because I do not speak Japanese at all! Colour: Nose: a wonderfully fruity gentleness, full of marshmallows, bubblegum and jelly babies and beans. Then, in the middle distance, various breads and brioches, scones, muffins (especially blueberry muffins), and then a sourer doughiness. That's sourdough, a favourite at Château Whiskyfun. Notes of granny smith and kiwi too. With water: deeper into the barley, grist, husk and all that. Fresh spongecake, génoise, madeleins… Mouth (neat): totally impeccable, as many Mars were, are and probably will be. A lot of eucalyptus, cough syrup, pectoral syrup (Vicks), also the expected bananas… With water: lemon and orange cake, plus indeed this eucalyptus. Crunching pine needles. Finish: rather long, just going on. Pure cough pastilles in the aftertaste, and touch of smoke. Comments: very high drinkability index. Perfect eucalyptus-led development on the palate. You'd almost wish you had some mucus cough, so that you could use this Mars as a cure. Cough! Cough!.
SGP:562 - 89 points.

Komagate 5 yo 2016/2022 'Yakushima Aging' (61%, OB, LMDW, first fill bourbon, cask #2063, 180 bottles)

Komagatake 5 yo 2016/2022 'Yakushima Aging' (61%, OB, LMDW, first fill bourbon, cask #2063, 180 bottles) Five stars
Yakushima Island (or Yaku-Shima) is located in the far south of Japan, within the Osumi archipelago, north of Okinawa. The whiskies sure should be more tropical than elsewhere in Japan. Colour: light gold. Nose: some grassy smoke and many bananas, plus touches of curry, fern, pine needles and green peppercorn, but quick, water… With water: wonderful, on pinewood smoke, new tyres, tar, castor oil, a new pack of rubber bands, cough lozenges, retsina… Mouth (neat): looks like someone's smoked lemons using pinecones and camphor candles. With water: a very resinous, piney smokiness, plus green olives and gentian eau-de-vie. Make sure you ask for proper 'fermented' gentian, not for the cheaper macerated ones (even if some are good). Do they have yellow gentian in Japan? Do they distil it? I mean, the roots? Finish: long and earthier, rootier yet. Herbal smoke. Very wonderful and I'm sure this one too would cure any cough, influenza or Covid-19. Comments: I can't wait to try some 15 years old 'new' Shinshus. I've tried some of the older brews from the 1980s, nothing to do with the 'new' ones.

SGP:565 - 90 points.

Akkeshi 3 yo 'Daikan' (48%, OB, Japan, blended whisky, 2022)

Akkeshi 3 yo 'Daikan' (48%, OB, Japan, blended whisky, 2022) Four stars
Akkeshi is located in Hokkaido, in the north. They started distilling in 2016, however this is a blend of Akkeshi malt with imported grain, so it is rather a 'world blend'. Colour: straw. Nose: it's pretty malty, rather on mentholy herbs, muscovado, lemon marmalade, sauna oils, lime, with drops of aguardiente thrown in. It is a very fine combination, slightly smoky (garden bonfire), with grain whiskies that have been kept at their places (in a dark corner, ha). Mouth: echoes of Laphroaig, seaweed smoke, lapsang souchong, cigar ashes and green/bitter vegetables (eggplants and compadres). Some peppered grapefruits at the helm. Feels young and probably not perfectly integrated yet, but it's got everything needed as far as knack, zing and oomph are concerned. Finish: good length, with some earthy, smoky citrus syrup. Tarry menthol in the aftertaste. Comments: very good. Now the prices for some of these world blends assembled in Japan are clearly too high. Four bottles of Ardbeg 10, really? It's all a little smelly, with all due respect. But this whisky is very good.

SGP:565 - 86 points.

Akkeshi 'Shosho' (48%, OB, Japan, blended whisky, 2022)

Akkeshi 'Shosho' (48%, OB, Japan, blended whisky, 2022) Four stars
Looks like this is even more 'world'. What's good is that nowhere do they claim that this would be properly Japanese, but indeed the bottles are designed as if it was, while the IQ and the attention span of a crowd remain those of a drunken tardigrade (with apologies to all tardigrades). Marketers cannot lose. Colour: pale gold. Nose: nice, croissants, brioche, barley, banana cake, panettone and… more panettone. Indeed, you cannot lose with panettone. Mouth: the thing is that it would crush most young or middle-aged Scottish blends. The malt is first class, with super citrus, wonderful doughs and zesty herbs, plus touches of rhum agricole. But indeed, better be good at this price (north of 150€, imagine). Bigger is more. Finish: medium, sweeter, more on butterscotch and crema catalana, plus coffee liqueur Comments: very infuriating. Let's be honest, it's a rather stunning blend. Obviously not worth its hefty price, but isn't this is a free world (to this day)? Now if you would excuse me, I need to go check what 'Shosho' means. Obviously not 'so-so'.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

Next Japanese session, all Shizuoka and Kanosuke, stay tuned.

(Vielen Dank Chris at Sushi + Soul in Munich!)

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


February 12, 2023


  A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!

Yet another basket of rum

Some frankly insane, you'll see, especially the ones that are really not recommended by dentists. I would add that friends who are suffering from diabetes should be extra-careful, it is an utter scandal that rums that are heavily dosed-up, buried under sugar or simply painted-up like a stolen lorry would get away with not saying anything about that on their labels.




A.H. Riise 'X.O. Reserve' (40%, OB, cask #9)

A.H. Riise 'X.O. Reserve' (40%, OB, cask #9)
This is 'super premium single barrel rum'. It is said that the juices are distilled by Cruzan on the Virgin Islands, others claim that it is just a blend. Colour: light gold. Nose: very intriguing, liqueury and 'spiced' from the start. Loads and loads of bubblegum, rose petal liqueur, marshmallows, violets, shampoo… frankly, you would believe this baby's been composed at L'Oréal's or at Procter's. It is absolutely not an unpleasant nose, it's just not the nose of a rum. Mouth: total liqueur, more bubblegum, Fanta, Coca Zero and first and foremost, Red bull. Huge amounts of sugars. Finish: long, a tad mentholated, very sweet. Juicy Fruit and Suze. Comments: many things in there, some kind of good, just not rum. A little slutty, with massive quantities of sugar. The branding is first-rate.
SGP:820 - 35 points.

Arundel 6 yo (40%, OB, Callwood Distillery, British Virgin Islands, +/-2022)

Arundel 6 yo (40%, OB, Callwood Distillery, British Virgin Islands, +/-2022)
This is pure cane juice distilled in pot still. Colour: straw. Nose: totally and plainly loco. You would believe someone's distilled swede or Brussels sprouts. Casein, talc, sour beer, spent lees (hectolitres!), gym socks, cat vomit and Russian Shampanskoye. Really weird, it's surprising that this funny juice would have reached our shores, especially post-Brexit. Mouth: what is this? Cabbage cooking water, asparagus water, stale Guinness, more flat champagne… Something must have gone wrong. Some cold leek and onion soup too. What's intriguing is that it's also got some kind of shochu/sake side, also baijiu… Which I find more pleasant. Finish: a little short, fermentary, very much on cooked vegetables, zucchini, parsnips, pointed cabbage. Comments: a very funny bone-dry soup. It's not impossible that it would grow on me but I'm a little lost at this point. Please don't take my score too seriously. 

SGP:271 - 50 points.

Toucan 'N°4' (40%, OB, French Guyana, +/-2018)

Toucan 'N°4' (40%, OB, French Guyana, +/-2018) Two stars
This is agricole-style rum from St Laurent du Maroni, so Saint-Maurice under another name. I think it is the first time I'm properly trying a rhum Toucan. Colour: straw. Nose: this one too is a little bizarre, with parsnips and salsify, some molasses honey, fresh caraway, some butter, mashed turnips… Mouth: between a cachaça and some funny eaux-de-vies, some grappa, with some oak and vanillin, sweet vegetables, mead, some unexpected raisins and lees once more… I would believe this one would have deserved a higher strength. Finish: medium, feeling very young, almost white. Vanilla and soft pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: another unusual one. A higher voltage would have been welcome.

SGP:350 - 70 points.

Patridom 'XO Cask' (65%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2022)

Patridom 'XO Cask' (65%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2022)
Another first at WF Towers. Most probably some heavily rectified spirit boosted with sugar, but let's see… Colour: amber. Nose: a little coconut and flowers, some sirups, some nougat, all that with a lightish body on the nose. Something perfumy. With water: artichokes and walnut skin, perhaps even struck matches but where would those come from? Mouth (neat): sweeter than some curaçao, very sugary, pretty cloying. You cannot and shouldn't drink it like that. With water: sugarcane syrup blended with plain ethanol. Just add lime juice, some mint leaves and presto, a cheapo mojito. Finish: medium, unpleasantly sugary. Some liquorice allsorts from the nearest supermarket. Comments: the spirit is extremely light and there's way too much sugar inside.
SGP:730 - 49 points.

By the way, it seems that Patridom and Ron Esclavo are the same products. About the latter, which we tried last week, I would suppose when you build a brand that capitalizes and tries to profit on some of the worst sides of History ('An Homage to History', right), you'd better leave yourself a way out. These brands can try to dress it up as virtuously as they like, but utilising rum's dreadful, and deep, history with the slave trade as part of a commercial product just plain stinks.

Now since we were doing high-proof antifreeze…

Blended Rum 7 yo (62%, Cadenhead, 'Warehouse Tasting', +/-2019) Blended Rum 7 yo (62%, Cadenhead, 'Warehouse Tasting', +/-2019)

Blended Rum 7 yo (62%, Cadenhead, 'Warehouse Tasting', +/-2019) Four stars
A blend of rums from Alsace, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Panama and Trinidad. Did you spot the odd one out? Colour: dark red amber. Nose: it reminds me of some of those British 'navy' rums. A nice caney, molassy nose, with a little chocolate, caramel, toffee, and drops of beef soup, Thai lap, the sweeter sauce that they give you with sushi, notes of brandy de Jerez perhaps, some pipe tobacco… With water: yep, roasted pistachio! Not very common but when you stumble upon this while tasting a spirit, it's for more joy. Mouth (neat): good and petroly, with Jamaica singing loud, which always helps. Tarry molasses and black olives, a feeling of engine oil, varnish, walnut oil… With water: same, plus lemon and 'dirty carboard'. 'Dirty cardboard' is a compliment in this context. Finish: long. Tar, raisins, molasses, black olives. Yallah! Comments: excellent. I would suppose it's pretty older than just 7 on average.
SGP:562 - 86 points.

Monymusk 1998/2022 (54.8%, Rest & Be Thankful for Kirsch Import, American oak, cask #27845, 133 bottles)

Monymusk 1998/2022 (54.8%, Rest & Be Thankful for Kirsch Import, American oak, cask #27845, 133 bottles) Five stars
There's only 62,1 gr esters/hlpa in this one, which means that it's a very 'light' Monymusk, but as we always say, it's like ppm peat in whisky, it's never linear. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: indeed it is a softer one, yet everything's in place, olives, anchovies, oysters, acetone, clay, rotting bananas and pineapples… In short, whichever the amounts of esters, a Jamaican remains a Jamaican. With water: plywood and Formica! And carbolineum. Mouth (neat): but I love it! I'll say it, I'm often finding the high-ester Clarendons and Monymusks a little tiring, while this is a perfect petroly, slightly acetic, briny, tarry Jamaican rum, with grapefruits and lemons pushing their point in the background. With water: alert, entering danger zone. Massive mangos  tarred and smoked, sprinkled with seawater and drizzled with lemon juice. Finish: long, brilliant, calling for another shot (just to make sure, just to be on the safe side). Cumin in the aftertaste. Comments: but what an exceptional drop. Note to self, with Monymusk, always favour the 'lighter' marks. In Monymusk speak, that would be marques such as MLT, MBS, MLL, MBK, AH, CHP or MPG. De nada.
SGP:563 - 91 points.

Trinidad 22 yo 2000/2022 (57%, Tamosi)

Trinidad 22 yo 2000/2022 (57%, Tamosi) Four stars and a half
This is from T.D.L. (Angostura), not from Caroni, but some TDLs have been very good. This baby's been aged for 16 years in the tropics and was then moved to Europe. The bottlers wouldn't tell you much about this one but there must be a reason. Colour: gold. Nose: ooh, banana foam, bottled mango juice, blood oranges, mimosa (that's the cocktail, Champagne with orange juice), some flowers, lilies, wisteria… In the old days, we would have said about this one that it was 'a trifle feminine'. With water: water makes it rather less expressive, grassier, greener, more on sugar canes too. No problems, this is nice. Mouth (neat): fruit bomb alert! More mangos, maracuja, papayas, bananas, tangerines, some honey, and a few drops of Balblair. I am not joking. With water: same. Rather a fruity extravaganza, with just a leafier side, green gunpowder tea etc. Finish: medium, with a syrupy mouthfeel and a rather teaish aftertaste. More of that gunpowder tea. Comments: absolutely amazing, despite a relative thinness here and there (then again, it is Angostura).
SGP:750 - 88 points.

A last one, while thinking rugby…

Fiji 18 yo 2004/2022 (58%, Dram Mor, ex-bourbon, cask #1789, 285 bottles)

Fiji 18 yo 2004/2022 (58%, Dram Mor, ex-bourbon, cask #1789, 285 bottles) Four stars
I mentioned rugby because they have a pretty good team in Fiji. This is supposed to be a secret Fiji, but if this isn't stemming from the South Pacific Distillery, I swear I eat my beret while drinking half a bottle of Bumbu, publicly. I agree eating my beret is the easier part. Colour: straw. Nose: no big esters this time, but there is some grassy firmness beyond the gentle vanilla. With water: clearly lighter than usual, low-ester but with some awesome rooty notes, some complex barks, branches and peels… Feels like light juice treated in good pot still. I think they do pot stills at the Fijian Distillery that shouldn't be named.  Mouth (neat): indeed, a lower ester count and no Bootsy-Collins type of funk, but it's still got a backbone and some pretty luminous green citrus. With water: the best part. The pot stills kept the oiliness, oranges sprang out, banana cake's coming to the rescue, tiny touches of brine and olives do as well… Finish: medium, rather fat, with some almond oil, lemon, smoked salmon… Comments: clearly not an obvious drop with an obvious style, but this 'lighter' Fijian (as far as we're talking esters count) remains right up my alley. What's more, I believe only rugby countries should be allowed to distil spirits, football states should not. Of course this is another silly joke.

SGP:552 – 86 points.

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


February 11, 2023





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Eight (mostly) wonderful old Glenlivet
I've accumulated quite a nice wee stash of Glenlivet samples /  bottles over the past year so now seems like a suitable time to get them on the tasting table. Glenlivet, like many names in malt whisky, has been on quite the journey over the past fifty years.


Older examples, which we'll solely focus on today, could be quite astonishingly beautiful, often displaying assertive levels of peat for Speyside, even in those days. While the contemporary distillery has become a behemoth that is rather soulless to visit - but still capable of making some very good, albeit modern style whisky.



Glenlivet 'Unblended Scotch Malt Whisky' (80 proof, OB, UK, 1950s)

Glenlivet 'Unblended Scotch Malt Whisky' (80 proof, OB, UK, 1950s)
A gorgeous old non-age statement official bottling from the 1950s. Perhaps NAS due to extended gaps in production after the war? Also, is this arguably the 1950s equivalent of Founder's Reserve? Sadly I don't actually have any of the current NAS Glenlivets to compare it to. Colour: pale gold. Nose: superbly fat and greasy old school distillate. A world of old took boxes, wax jackets, suet, bouillon, embrocations, hessian cloth and things like ink and earthy black teas. I also find roots, dried heather flowers, dried mint and old school Scottish beers. Really surprisingly complex as over time it starts to make you think of sandalwood and pollens too. Mouth: excellent attack and power, lots of resinous fir wood, salted honey, mead, camphor and a rather herbal waxy quality. Still these impressions of ink and bouillon stock, but also nicely sooty now and going towards paraffin wax, mineral oils and tiger balm. Really a barley eau de vie that's been rounded by some very polite wood. Gets more herbal with tarragon, then fennel and wee hints of paprika too. Finish: medium, but very waxy, oily and almost greasy with these mechanical and sooty notes. But still a little minty and mentholated in the aftertaste. Comments: this is the second bottle of this I've opened and my feelings never changed: this is brilliant distillate! It's clearly young, but that is every bit an asset here as it still packs power and complexity even after all these decades in glass. I'm reminded of a similarly youthful, non-age stated and distillate dominated Pulteney bottling by Cadenhead's from the 1960s that I wrote notes for on these pages not too long ago - they're windows into history these bottlings. Probably for the best we didn't have the present Founder's Reserve against it.
SGP: 462 - 90 points.



Glenlivet 12 yo (70 proof, OB, UK, c1978)

Glenlivet 12 yo (70 proof, OB, UK, c1978)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: clean and malty, with yellow fruits and wee sappy hints, some herbal teas and bergamot as well. Easy, rather natural and extremely pleasant malt whisky, that manages to retail a slightly firmer, older style character. Mouth: a little soft on arrival, lots of teaish impressions, digestive biscuit, barley sugars, condensed milk sweetness and a little pine wood. Finish: medium, sappy, oily and still on this nice biscuity sweetness. Comments: old fashioned in multiple sense, but an honest and very loyal malt whisky profile that is hard to argue with.
SGP: 541 - 85 points.



Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, Baretto import Italy, -/+1974)

Glenlivet 12 yo (43%, OB, Baretto import Italy, -/+1974)
Colour: deep gold - noticeably darker than the UK one. Nose: a totally different story, noticeably more sherry influence and a globally earthier, mulchier and fatter profile that involves herbs, liqueurs, wormwood and gentian. Also dried mint, tarragon and rather a lot of camphor and wax. I'm a total sucker for this style, and Baretto seemed to always be delivering this sort of Glenlivet to Italy. Mouth: also great, soft wood spices, pepper, tea tree oil, ink, dried out old herbal liqueurs, a nicely salty and resinous touch from the sherry. What's not to love? Finish: good length, still that lovely salty, drying sherry quality, along with more of these superb peppery notes that bring to mind Talisker. Comments: watch these old Glenlivet 12s, they can be deadly. But I think the importers tended to have the better batches.
SGP: 562 - 89 points.



Glenlivet 1956/1968 (80 proof, The Knapkin Syndicate)

Glenlivet 1956/1968 (80 proof, The Knapkin Syndicate)
I couldn't tell you about the origins of this bottle, apart from that it looks like one of any number of obscure, private bottlings of malt whisky that were done in Scotland during these decades. Colour: pale straw. Nose: not unlike an old Cadenhead Dumpy in some ways, with this big mix of waxes, cooking oils and shoe polish, rather typical 1950s distillate style. But excellent too I would add, especially with these wee tingles of eucalyptus and mineral oil. Mouth: the epitome of 'old style' which is waxes, green and white fruits, minerals, peppery warmth and various wee herbal and medicinal touches. Not complex particularly, but wonderfully flavoursome and clearly within this historic style. Finish: good length, quite tart and peppery now, with a little sharp acidity, flinty notes and white flowers. Comments: a fascinating historic oddity, but also an excellent, nicely naked and punchy old Glenlivet. Just lacks a bit of complexity to get over the 90 hurdle.
SGP: 462 - 89 points.



Glenlivet 20 yo (45.7%, OB, Baretto import Italy, 2400 bottles, early 1970s)

Glenlivet 20 yo (45.7%, OB, Baretto import Italy, 2400 bottles, early 1970s)
Colour: gold. Nose: that immediate sense of old style malt whisky converging with old liqueur territory, you cannot help but think of things like vintage yellow Chartreuse along with herbal infused waxes, crystallised honey and camphor. There's also a lovely sense of dried exotic fruits emerging too. Superb! Mouth: extremely herbal and waxy, with these lovely peppery and gentle medicinal tones, lanolin, tiger balm and lapsing souchong tea. Finish: long, minty, lemony and also nicely peppery, still rather medicinal and with a drier waxiness. Comments: a great old Glenlivet that that epitomises this excellent 1950s malt whisky profile in my view - that is more liqueurish, fatter and more herbal than some 1960s or later examples could be.

SGP: 652 - 90 points.



Glenlivet 18 yo 1951 (45.7%, OB, Baretto import Italy, +/-1970)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: very close to the 20yo, but we are going up a notch in terms of power, concentration and intensity of these wonderfully syrupy and liqueurish vibes. A beautifully complex herbaceousness, bags of gloopy waxiness and many wee notes of metal polish, mineral oils, olive oil and hessian cloth. It's also perfectly mentholated and showing lovely wee notes of crystallised and dried exotic fruits. Stunning nose! Mouth: outstanding concentration and this frankly gorgeous syrupy texture that coats and slathers every part of the mouth. Many earthy and herbal tea notes, more herbal liqueurs, tea tree oil, lanolin and camphor. Also getting more resinous and with these rising salty sherry notes in the background. Finish: stunningly long, resinous, salty, herbal, earthy, mulchy and with this lingering medicinal fade. Comments: what a stunning old Glenlivet, there are parts that even feel like they belong more to pre-WWII whisky styles. I remember opening a bottle of this for my 30th, do I have time to find (let alone afford!) a second for my 40th I wonder… 

SGP: 562 - 93 points.



Glenlivet 28 yo 1971/2000 (51.8%, Signatory Vintage, Millenium Edition, cask #10222, sherry butt, 392 bottles)

Glenlivet 28 yo 1971/2000 (51.8%, Signatory Vintage, Millenium Edition, cask #10222, sherry butt, 392 bottles)
Colour: deep orangey amber. Nose: all manner of dark fruits soaked in very old Fins Bois cognac. Plus old cigar humidors. Plus prune eau de vie and dark chocolate gâteaux. In some ways rather simple, but also totally perfect in this very direct and vibrant expression of superb old style sherry. With water: drier, more mentholated, a few medicinal herbs, strong black tea and walnut wine. Mouth: perfectly bitter dark chocolate flecked with sea salt and chilli. Cloves, aniseed, hardwood spices and resins, then sultanas and raisins. The whole is extremely classical with yet more of these mulchy earthy vibes and plentiful rancio. With water: wonderful flavours of aged plum wine, soy sauce and salted almonds coming through now - the sherry profile feels like it is becoming more complex rather than, say, more tannic, which often happens. Finish: medium, lightly sappy, warming soft spices, figs, sultanas and more boozy prunes in the aftertaste along with some nicely fruity black coffee. Comments: quite simply, some exemplary old Glenlivet from an exemplary old style sherry butt. At times fragile, at other times simplistic, but the whole is charming and undeniably glorious.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.



Glenlivet 1972 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante, 1980s)

Glenlivet 1972 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for Sestante, 1980s)
Colour: mahogany. Nose: the kind of sherry cask that G&M seemed to specialise in filling during this era, very punchy and hugely on dry earthiness, cured game meats, freshly brewed black coffee and some very fine bitter dark chocolate. There are fruits as well but they take some time to show, eventually damson jam, plums, prunes and fig all come through and the overall profile becomes juicier and a little more generous with the sweetness. Detailed, powerful but excellent sherry! With water: more flowers, preserved dark fruits, leather and rather rustic earthy qualities. Still this subtle meatiness too. Mouth: once again this is huge whisky, and very powerful, but not overpowering. A lot of bitter herbal extracts, chocolate liqueur, natural tar and fir resins with walnut wine, treacle and some very old Grande Champagne Cognac. Truly, one for sherry fanatics! With water: wonderful development, incorporating many subtle spices, natural tar and precious hardwood resins. Very peppery and warming too. A rather monolithic dram! Finish: very long, peppery, full of wood spices, spiced dark fruits, aged cognac impressions once again and more walnut and chocolate characteristics in the aftertaste. Comments: I would say water is pretty essential here. As time goes by, whenever I taste old style sherry bombs such as this one, I am left just desperate to know more about the history and origin of the casks used. A very 'G&M' profile and very specific to this era I think.

SGP: 571 - 92 points.



Hugs to Iain!




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


February 10, 2023


Little Duos, today two indie Deanston


Deasnton Distillery (photograph Deanston)

Indeed, again. Love to try Deanston every now and again, in twos. However, no officials today, rather two wee indies…


Deanston 13 yo (52.5%, Dram Mor, 1st fill bourbon barrel finish, cask #188, 2022)

Deanston 13 yo (52.5%, Dram Mor, 1st fill bourbon barrel finish, cask #188, 2022) Four stars
It's good fun that they would now call the old practice of re-racking some lazier whiskies into fresher casks to beef them up a '1st fill bourbon barrel finish' (in this case). Most distillers would just not tell, or at least haven't in the past. At least they haven't called it 'Double Oak' or other such pretty ridiculous monikers. Colour: straw. Nose: first a little hot and shy, if that's possible, then displaying mirabelle tarte with custard, quince jelly and a slight piney/mentholy part in the middle distance. Not too sure, let's add water quick… With water: yep, fresh bread, porridge, sweeter roots (sweet carrots) and a little gentian and verbena. IT loves our Vittel. Mouth (neat): it's a rather tight one at first, with some mirabelles once more, also greengages and 'green' custard. Plum eau-de-vie. With water: once again sweet carrots coming out, tiny touches of turnip, more lemon too, blue tea, also faint echoes of ginger and turmeric. Finish: medium, more citrusy now, almost refreshing. The usual oak spices in the aftertaste, cinnamon… Comments: phew, no vanilla or coconut bomb! I find this youngster excellently natural.

SGP:451 - 86 points.

Let's do Port…

Deanston 11 yo 2009/2021 'Port Wood Finish' (51%, The Cooper's Choice, cask #3211, 252 bottles)

Deanston 11 yo 2009/2021 'Port Wood Finish' (51%, The Cooper's Choice, cask #3211, 252 bottles) Three stars
The Vintage Malt Whisky Co. who do Cooper's Choice, also use the expression 'additional aging', which I find smart. Good, let's go cassis and peony hunting… Colour: gold. Nose: cassis and peonies upfront indeed, some fruitier dough or brioche dough, clearly something medicinal (cough medicine for kids), some kriek beer, some pink peppercorn of some sort, a little Jell-O (rather sherry), and just some malt. No obvious dissonances this far. With water: sour woods, yoghurt, strawberry yoghurt for example, cracked pepper… Mouth (neat): some pepper and gunpowder, struck matches… This might be the trickier part. I remember my cap guns… With water: the gunpowder is still there but water brought out the small red fruits, strawberries, dried goji berries, candied cherry… Finish: medium, on similar notes. Comments: much fun to be had with this baby, unless you're firmly against gunpowder (both in life and in your whiskies). It's 'a style'.
SGP:661 - 81 points.

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


February 8, 2023


A suitable verticale of Bowmore, Part Two

Quite a few recent indies at first, then some glorious oldies that we've never properly assessed yet. Remember, yesterday we had stopped in 2003…


Bowmore 20 yo 2001/2022 (58.1%, Paradigm Malts, for BOW.pl, ex-dark sherry cask, cask #1378) Four stars and a half
This baby for Poland. It's refreshing to spot the wording 'dark sherry' on a bottle again, It reminds me of the good old times. And is that Chihuahua Pearl on the label? Colour: dark amber. Nose: classic, on loads of cocoa, tobacco, fumes, struck matches, soy sauce, pine bark, old humidor… I cannot not mention gunpowder too, which I would have preferred to avoid given the context. Stay strong! With water: classic too, more on Islay mud, rubber (new wellies), chalk, wool, and wet dogs (we're sorry as ever, dogs). Wondering is there isn't also some bub (https://youtu.be/Vihwz4Xjcjs). Mouth (neat): the official 18 on steroids, clearly. More chocolate, charcoal, sour apples, some very grassy smokiness, burnt leaves, grapefruits, some leather, a feeling of gunpowder again, marmalade and roasted chestnuts, hoisin sauce… With water: more saltiness, seawater, olive brine, oysters, cracked pepper… Finish: pretty long and curiously fruitier. We're not far from the Sponge's 2003 from yesterday. Some toffee and butterscotch in the aftertaste, plus this gunpowder. Comments: another Bowmore + sherry combo that worked. It was les citrusy than others, having said that.

SGP:465 - 89 points.

Bowmore 24 years 1997/2021 (45.1%, Mr. X, co-selected by Steven Lin, China, sherry butt, cask #55, 506 bottles)

Bowmore 24 years 1997/2021 (45.1%, Mr. X, co-selected by Steven Lin, China, sherry butt, cask #55, 506 bottles) Five stars
You rarely see these bottlings in the west. Please note that this baby was bottled at natural cask strength, while I find it cool as well to spot seagulls again on a bottle of Bowmore. Colour: gold. Nose: it's a very different kind of sherry, much more on fresh walnuts, a sherry that would rather let the distillate do the talking. We cannot be against that. So, it's fresh, pretty delicate in fact (almond oil, sunflower oil, riesling), with oysters and our friends the whelks, some lemon, some chalk, zests, some shoe polish, that raw wool we've already mentioned several times, and indeed what we call 'Islay mud'. Hard to beat. Mouth: it sure isn't very big, but this is probably as close as you could get to the late 1960s – early 1970s vintages. In other words, this is some exotic fruit juice blended with seawater and a little benzine. In the background, this very peculiar combination of almonds and fresh rubber, geared towards fresh oil paint and linseed oil. Maracuja getting a little louder too, which is even more Bowmore. Finish: not that long but waxier. Tropical fruit juice with some beeswax, pollen and the usual seawater. Comments: an amazing softness, a sherry that's been anecdotal, for the better in my book. Grand Bowmore, only a little too drinkable.

SGP:664 - 91 points.

Imagine the next one will be our 600th Bowmore here on little WF! But Caol Ila is still far ahead, with our 800th CI tasted pretty, pretty soon. By the way, I just realised that we also had our 200th Lagavulin the other day, without noticing. But those are only hardly relevant numbers...

Bowmore 25 yo 1997/2022 (47.7%, Douglas Laing, Extra Old Particular, Antipodes, refill hogshead, cask #DL16154, 220 bottles)

Bowmore 25 yo 1997/2022 (47.7%, Douglas Laing, Extra Old Particular, Antipodes, refill hogshead, cask #DL16154, 220 bottles) Five stars
Douglas Laing! Nostalgia is hitting hard at WF Towers today. Colour: light gold. Nose: 91 points. What I'm meaning is that we're extremely close to the one for China, which may have stemmed from the same parcel of casks. This DL is just a little sourer, more on cider apples, and perhaps more on 'acidic' tropical fruits. That's right, passion fruit and all that. Fantastic nose. Mouth: just perfection. Pure, crystalline salty Bowmore, which just demonstrates that these vintages, which we were already finding exceptional when they were young (it's true that a large part of the 1980s had been miserable, but let's just stop mentioning those depressingly perfumy years), so I was saying that those vintages were stars at Bowmore, and this is more proof. Finish: exceptional. Tar, olive, lemon, menthol cigarette, lemon balm, seawater and the most perfect sauvignon blanc. Comments: fantastic. I think we'll have one more 1997, at this rate…

SGP:664 - 91 points.

Bowmore 1997/2022 (53.2%, Berry Bros. & Rudd for Kirsch Import, sherry butt, cask #79, 515 bottles)

Bowmore 1997/2022 (53.2%, Berry Bros. & Rudd for Kirsch Import, sherry butt, cask #79, 515 bottles) Five stars
I love it that BBR would now proudly add this mention to their labels when appropriate; Finish: NONE. Wonderful selling point, I say! Colour: gold. Nose: 91 points. Indeed this is embarrassing, despite a sherriness that's a tad more present and a little fatter, this is another straight Bowmore that's got everything you need, and nothing you don't need. See what I mean? Wax, sourdough, shoe polish, chalk, new tweed, riesling, oysters, seawater, peat smoke, lemon… etc. With water: emphasis on seawater and raw chalk and wool. The most stunning smoky porridge, when they add a nip of… Bowmore, for an even better breakfast. My friends here in France believe that's part of a 'full Scottish breakfast' anyway. Ha, the French. Mouth (neat): perhaps a little simpler, but even more perfect. Someone's just decided to smoke some citron liqueur using peat. With water: does the peacock's tail, with mango, passion fruit, seawater, lapsang souchong, oysters, bitter almonds, whelks, apple peel, fresh walnuts, etc., etc., etc. Finish: pretty long, a tad more peppery, although the whole would have been rather rounder than the two other 1997s. . Comments: this one too brought me back to vintages such as 1967-1972. I think we're about to double-check that…

SGP:654 - 91 points.

Good, let's put our little theory to the test…

Bowmore 1972/1990 (43%, Samaroli, Flowers, sherry wood, 480 bottles, 75cl)

Bowmore 1972/1990 (43%, Samaroli, Flowers, sherry wood, 480 bottles, 75cl) Five stars
This is another rather famous Bowmore by Master Samaroli, after the very famous 'Bouquet' from the previous decade. This is not from the swinging 1960s anymore, but many were still fantastic, before things went south in the late 1970s. Naturally, this is all only the dedicated amateurs' theory, while the owners have always played it rather a little Putinian with those issues. You know, d.e.n.i.a.l. and all that. Colour: yellow gold. Nose: it's a 1972 in the style of the middle-to-late 1960s, with a few herbs and an earthy side, as well as some leather at first, then a little camphor and cough syrup. And then, suddenly, there's an avalanche of exotic fruits of all kinds and in all their guises, fresh, preserved, as liqueur, as jam, candied… As usual, mango is the chef and passion fruit is the sous-chef. The low strength never actually feels, there's only a little charcoal, Provence herbs and some subtle smoke coming out after a few minutes, for further luxury. Mouth: it is almost useless to try to describe this palate, as it is totally, purely, impressively Bowmorian. A wonderful salinity, some smoked fish, then the same tropical fruits as on the nose, that charcoal, then notes of bits of pipe tobacco, then a more obvious smoke, and finally, blackberry jam and prunes. Finish: sweet and salted chutneys, mango chutney, and oysters in the aftertaste. Comments: after all, it's rather a transitional Bowmore, probably peatier than its elders from the 1960s, as well as a tad less tropical. Still of very superlative level, even if one might have preferred a version at 50% vol. We are never happy!
SGP:652 – 93 points.

Bowmore 27 yo 1972 (53.3%, OB, 466 bottles, +/-1990)

Bowmore 27 yo 1972 (53.3%, OB, 466 bottles, +/-2000) Five stars
Honor to whom honor is due, let's end this with an official, and with another expression that's really not very common. What's sure is that I've never tried it before, while a slightly earlier 1972, at 43% and under the earlier official livery, was 'great, not very great' in my book (WF 89 in 2010). This one is not a single cask, as the label states that it's stemming from 'specially selected casks'. Oh and from Number One vault, naturally. Colour: yellow gold. Nose: more immediate and massive than other old Bowmores that would tend to come toward you step by step, the Samaroli was a good example. So it's a bang, with some pine resin and tiger balm spread over the expected mangos and passion fruits, as well as some blood oranges, some manuka honey and some fresh paint. That fresh paint is a little intriguing in this context… With water: pine and spruce resin are rather taking over; you'd believe you've gone walking in the Vosges forest. A few hints of wood varnish rather than paint.  Mouth (neat): massive, impressive, curiously both liqueury and dry, resinous and honeyed, and much more on citrus skin than on citrus flesh. With water: perfect balance between sap and citrus. Still a pretty big Bowmore. Finish: long, with the same notes of candied citrus, bitters, fir buds and kid's glue, or Play-Doh. Comments: that pine resin that came first had been a little frightening, but it never stopped getting more complex and frankly magnificent throughout this beauty's tasting. In short, another huge Bowmore from those early 1970s vintages that no one should ever underestimate.

SGP:563 – 93 points.

I think we're good, see you.

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


February 7, 2023


A suitable verticale of Bowmore Part One

In two parts, looking for our 600th Bowmore. Today we'll rather focus on the widely available officials…

Genuine Islay oysters, Whiskyfun archive



Bowmore 'Legend' (40%, OB, +/-2020)

Bowmore 'Legend' (40%, OB, +/-2020) Four stars
This early wee NAS has always been their cheapest expression (which is where all NAS by all brands should sit in my opinion) and it is still very cheap, currently 25.75€ at Carrefour in France but we've seen it below 20 rather recently. Colour: light gold. Nose: impeccable! The purity of bourbon wood, probably mainly refill, with all aromas you'd need from Bowmore, including mussels and whelks, beach pebbles, lime juice, seawater, oysters and a little wool and mint. Absolutely impeccable indeed on the nose, but that happened already with earlier batches, while the palate had been, well….  Mouth: certainly not as bright as expected, but this salty, smoky (lapsang souchong) combination works. Some liquorice wood, grapefruit skin, drops of seawater, lemon… Finish: medium, not short, very briny. The mussels are back. Comments: I might be wrong (who said once more?) but I feel like they've improved the recipe mucho mucho. Will this Legend become legendary one day? (ooh that was lame, S.) To think that I used to have the earlier renditions at 77/78.

SGP:466 - 85 points.

Good, let's see if we find a kind of BFYB, in the style of recent Ardbeg 10/Springbank 10/HP 10…

Bowmore 10 yo 'Aston Martin' (40%, OB, 1l, +/-2021)

Bowmore 10 yo 'Aston Martin' (40%, OB, 1l, +/-2021) Three stars and a half
Come on, really, an Aston Martin at 40% vol.? That's neither a straight-6 nor a V12, it's more a Cygnet (remember Google is supposed to be your friend). It's still advertised as being 'Dark & Intense', let's check that… Colour: golden amber. Nose: some walnut wine at first, plus horse saddle and old leather jacket, tamarind jam, marmalade, a little spent engine oil (and voilà), then ras-el-hanout and a little ginger tonic. Blood oranges. This rather leathery smoke works well I have to say, even at 40% vol. There's also the obligatory lapsang souchong and cocoa. Mouth: nice salty arrival, with lots and lots of walnuts and a cup of oversteeped lapsang souchong. Some grapefruit then, chicken bouillon, orange zests dipped into chocolate (orangettes), smoked oysters… All nice, the problem is that it would tend to nosedive after ten seconds, and that's strictly because of the minimal strength. An Aston Martin with an empty petrol tank (which is not an unseen situation). Finish: pretty short, what a pity. Some toffee. Comments: I'm absolutely sure that even at 43% vol. this would have been a winner. One solution though, find a young indie Bowie at 50-60% vol. and pour a few drops into this one. I'm sure it'll be fantastic.
SGP:466 - 84 points.

Bowmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2022)

Bowmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
A classic. Recent batches have been good I think (up to 2019, 84 points) even if once again, these 40% feel a bit miserable and pretty 'budget'. Colour: gold. Nose: right, it is a mix of the Legend with the Aston. The salty brightness of the Legend, plus the leathery, walnutty and spicy sides of the Aston. A little liquorice, rubber boots, more lapsang souchong yet, plus funny, infinitesimal notes of tequila… Mouth: drier, saltier yet, this time with olives and juniper, plus something medicinal and 'Chinese'. I mean, some of those fabulous little spicy sauces they have in the Middle Kingdom. Finish: pretty long this time, and very salty. I think we've got the mussels, please pass the muscadet! Comments: very good I think. There must be some markets where they get this one at 43%, no? Italy?

SGP:456 - 84 points.

I have the feeling that they kept cranking up the peat levels, but perhaps am I beginning to hallucinate…

Bowmore 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2022)

Bowmore 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2022) Three stars
The one formerly known as 'Darkest', a sherry finish that, in my book, never worked extremely well, depending on the batches. Coffee with mustard. Colour: amber. Nose: horse saddle, cigars, horse dung, cocoa, leather, Maggi, lovage, Madeira… It's all well and well, but I believe some aromas are fighting each other. Mouth: it's okay, with salted and smoked chocolate and toffee and all that, but some parts are screeching although, if you give it time, it will tend to display nicer notes of soy sauce. Please bring the sushi in! Finish: medium, on salted caramel. Some slightly dissonant rubber in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly not terrible, even pretty good here and there. The thing is, Bowmore's distillate having become magic again, you could do a surströmming finish on it, it would still kind of work.

SGP:456 - 81 points.


Bowmore 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2022)

Bowmore 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2022) Four stars
Colour: full gold. Nose: a nose that's extremely 'sweet', jammy, as if they would have used sherry plus rechar. A lot of beeswax and manuka honey (boy that got expensive), toasted oak, some caraway liqueur or aquavit, a small gamey side (grouse), some Spanish ham, cigarette tobacco, muscovado, marmalade, plus, as I had already noticed last time in 2017 (2017! Scandal!), echoes of Lagavulin 16. Must be a very specific kind of peat + sherry combination. Mouth: a great batch, a great whisky, even if this amontillado-type of dryness might not be for strictly everyone. Stunning smoked toffee, milk jam, butterscotch, pipe tobacco, spicy beef soup, bitter oranges… Finish: only the finish is a tad drying. Wonderful salty, meaty aftertaste though. Biltong. Coriander leaves, picante pizza oil, maraschino (really, there's something Italian to this one)... Comments: rather superb. 88 guaranteed next time, if they keep improving it like that.

SGP:565 - 87 points.

We'll have some older OBs later, but in the meantime, some 18 yo indie…

Bowmore 18 yo 2003/2022 (55.3%, WhiskySponge, refill sherry butt, 629 bottles)

Bowmore 18 yo 2003/2022 (55.3%, WhiskySponge, refill sherry butt, 629 bottles) Five stars
Once again, this one's stemming from the mysterious and magical warehouses of Signatory Vintage, I which it's said that only whiskies get older. Colour: full gold. Nose: not that different from the official 18, mind you, except that this one's stronger. The sherry vs. distillate proportions are extremely similar and the general profile is also on… well, Lagavulin 16, and tobacco, and seawater, and more tobaccos, and marmalade… With water: it's diverging, with more mineral notes, metal polish, brake dust, wool, fumes… That's nice. Mouth (neat): some heavyish oak spices at first (ginger, curry, turmeric, cinnamon), then strong honeys, a side that I'll always cherish. Also mango jam and plum wine. With water: oh excellent, it adulates water, as it seems (are you sure you should use the verb 'adulate', S.?) Oysters and peppers and grapefruits, even oyster plant and, in the back of the back, passion fruits and olives. Finish: long and sweet and sour. Lemon juice and bone-dry riesling. Comments: I'll say it again, peat + sherry is never an easy configuration, but this time, provided you've got enough time and enough water to devote to it, it's going to be perfect. By the way, comparison also highlights the caramel in the official 18.
SGP:565 - 90 points.

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


February 6, 2023


Three Blair Athol,
two youngsters and one oldie

Blair Athol

Blair Athol Distillery and surroundings (Diageo)

We've always believed Blair Athol was a perfect Midlander, even if there isn't such a thing within official Scotch whisky classifications. And if you ever need something bolder, all you have to do is climb to lovely Edradour…



Blair Athol 10 yo (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, for UK, 1st and refill bourbon hogsheads, casks #309846-700641-700643, 1,007 bottles, 2022)

Blair Athol 10 yo (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, for UK, 1st and refill bourbon hogsheads, casks #309846-700641-700643, 1,007 bottles, 2022) Four stars
It's always good to have a lot of data and details, now which was the ruling mouser at Blair Athol when this was distilled? Colour: white wine. Nose: mown lawn and sourdough all over the place at first, then some ink and fresh concrete, wet limestone, then a little vanilla, polenta, grist and the not-so-unusual apple peel/lemon zest combo. Pure malt whisky as nature intended, shall we say, they should have kept the appellation for these kinds of malt whiskies. Mouth: pure indeed, and exactly on the same aromas/flavours as on the nose, plus some liquorice wood. Finish: medium, very much on barley, then apples, peach skin, bread and white pepper. Comments: not everyone will immediately fall in love with this baby, as it is so 'natural' and, in a way, unsexy. But I for one do find its natural purity gorgeous. Malt whisky as in malt whisky.

SGP:451 - 85 points.

Blair Athol 11 yo 2011/2022 (53.9%, Thompson Bros., exclusive to Ensign Ewart, Dechar/Rechar hogshead, 266 bottles)

Blair Athol 11 yo 2011/2022 (53.9%, Thompson Bros., exclusive to Ensign Ewart, Dechar/Rechar hogshead, 266 bottles) Four stars
The Ensign Erwart is a pub on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, located not too far from the Scotch Whisky Experience. Colour: pale gold. Nose: close to the JE, unsurprisingly, perhaps even tighter and grassier despite the rechar, but that may be the higher strength. Rather a lot of sourdough as well, plus some plasticine and notes of white wine lees and weissbeer. With water: rather geared towards mint cordial for a while, while concrete and doughs would then have the upper hand. Mouth (neat): even closer to the 10yo just with more tropical citrus, probably from the rejuvenated cask. With water: excellent, this time on lemon cake, finger biscuits, malt, some fresh peppercorns, plus once again a little mint. Mint tea with pine nuts, plus pepper. Finish: rather long and a tad greener and grassier, with a greener tannicity, allspice… Comments: the activated oak feels a bit in the finish, perhaps, but this is still an ultra-natural malt whisky.
SGP:451 - 85 points.

Yeah, in some cases, the 100-scale is too narrow, especially when you feel the need to differentiate spirits that are extremely close. But why that need to differentiate spirits that are extremely close? I see, you're telling me I should see a shrink…

Blair Athol 32 yo 1989/2022 (52.2%, The Whisky Blues, hogshead, cask #5774, 217 bottles)

Blair Athol 32 yo 1989/2022 (52.2%, The Whisky Blues, hogshead, cask #5774, 217 bottles) Four stars
Lovely kind of post-apocalyptic label, which goes to prove that malt whisky will be needed whenever they fire us towards planet Mars. Colour: light gold. Nose: it's the light, fruity and cakey softness of the make that stands out after 30+ years in well-mannered wood. Pear cake, mango cake, tarte tatin, some papaya and banana, acacia honey, finger biscuit, Champagne… With water: few changes. Some pollen and more flowers, perhaps, acacia flowers… Mouth (neat): passion fruits coming to the front, with their very, very faint sour and metallic side (grandma's silver spoons). Touches of Fanta and green earl grey too, lemon drops, plus some very remote putty-like soapiness that's absolutely not problematic, and some mead. With water: some piney wood and some marmalade. You do feel that a little tension has been lost over the years, but we're still flying particularly high. Finish: medium, rather more on 'tannic' tropical fruits and honey. And in the aftertaste… Champagne! Comments: so, some charming fragility, stuff by our friends the bees, and just nothing to complain about.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

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


February 5, 2023


Rums from chums and other sources

Another assorted bag, without any kind of logic, including a few brands that we do not taste often.

(Distillerie La Favorite, Martinique, Odyssea)




Ron Esclavo 'XO Cask' (65%, World Class Spirits, Dominican Republic, small batch, batch #10, 4937 bottles, +/-2020)

Ron Esclavo 'XO Cask' (65%, World Class Spirits, Dominican Republic, small batch, batch #10, 4937 bottles, +/-2020)
I found this odd bottle at a friend's who likes his rums but who is not completely maniacal about them. I had to explain to him that no, 'XO cask' does not mean it is a single cask, at all.  Having said that, amazon puts this one in Guyana while others tell that it is 'is 23 years old in solera.' Good luck, chatGPT! Colour: amber. Nose: very spirity, rather sugary (sirup) and light as far as aromas are concerned. Water brings out some grass and leaves but it remains pretty neutral. Mouth: a creamy mouthfeel and a very sweet profile, most certainly 'boosted', rather towards Cointreau or Grand-Marnier. Water makes it frankly sugary. Finish: shortish, on other triple-secs, curaçao etc. Comments: let's be honest, this is what the general public wants. I've asked chatGPT and other 'AI' 'what is the best rum in the world?' and Diplomatico kept standing out. Which means that in this new world, what's best is what sells, not the other way around. And it is not a matter of price. The fact that Longmorn's Pernod-Ricard have just bought start—up brand Bumbu while Clynelish's Diageo have acquired Don Papa says really a lot as well. Anyway, I find this Esclavo XO Cask uninteresting and too sugary, but still better than its terrible 'low strength' version (WF 30).
SGP:740 - 50 points.

Speaking of Diageo…

Zacapa 'Royal' (45%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2020)

Zacapa 'Royal' (45%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2020) Two stars
I've kind of liked some Zacapas in the past. Interestingly, this one is both from a 'Solera' (right, a Solera Gran Reserva Especial) while at the same time the story goes like it is a blend of rums of from 8 to 30 years of age. It is also 'finished in French oak casks from Le Bois du Roy ™', not too sure what that is. Right, just saw that it's the gathering of the four main oak regions, namely Allier, Nevers, Vosges and Tronçais. That's huge. The bottle is lovely and the price is high (250€).  Colour: reddish mahogany. Nose: molasses, coffee liqueurs, Starbuck's whole pricelist and some corn syrup. Rather a nice nose. Mouth: relatively dry for Zacapa, pretty good I think, if a tad flabby. Sadly it tends to become much more molassy and sugary over time. A lot of caramel and thick orange liqueurs. Finish: medium, very syrupy and sugary. Comments: it started rather well, but it tumbled down then. Recent Zacapas used to cruise along the 50-point-line in my book - see, you do need the whole 100-scale - while older bottlings – the ones with the wrong age statements, 23anos etc. - had been more to my liking (70-75 points). This is one of the 'better' ones, but I don't find it very royal, rather a little 'working-class'.
SGP:740 - 72 points.

La Favorite 2008/2017 'Fût Unique' (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, cognac cask, cask #19, 265 bottles)

La Favorite 2008/2017 'Fût Unique' (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, cognac cask, cask #19, 265 bottles) Four stars
I don't think anyone keeps reducing single casks to 40 or 43% in whisky, but indeed, this is rum. I don't think it is a sauced-up expression of La Favorite. Colour: amber. Nose: very unusual, mainly on aniseed, fennel, liquorice, chartreuse… That makes it really different, fresh and indeed, since this was a regular cognac cask, you cannot not wonder if some kind of 'preparation' hasn't been added. That said, this nose is very lovely. Mouth: very unusual indeed, with some oak, plus rather a lot of cough medicine and even some pastis, the whole being dry and, I insist, refreshing. Finish: quite long, with more piney oak and more liquorice. Dill and chartreuse in the aftertaste. Comments: I'm not very well acquainted with La Favorite so I couldn't tell you if this is its 'normal' style, all what's sure is that I liked this Caribbean absinth rather a lot.

SGP:561 – 86 points.

T.D.L. 25 yo 1991/2017 (52.1%, Duncan Taylor, Trinidad, cask #2466, 296 bottles)

T.D.L. 25 yo 1991/2017 (52.1%, Duncan Taylor, Trinidad, cask #2466, 296 bottles) Four stars
It's good to try another rum by DT but I'm not sure they keep bottling these kinds. We'll do this one very quickly, sorry about that. Colour: gold. Nose: not very expressive but elegant and balanced, with some nice muscovado. Water brings out oranges and butterscotch. Mouth: sweet but with a little liquorice and tar, which is pleasant. Not 'Caroni-tarry', though. Finish: medium, not bold but balanced. Some herbs in the aftertaste, cough lozenges… Comments: pretty fresh and really nice. Some average rum, the word average being taken in its most positive sense. Perhaps 'central' would have been better.
SGP:651 – 85 points.

Perhaps some Guyana proper…

Diamond 11 yo 2008 (62%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Guyana, refill bourbon barrel, finished in recharred new oak barrel, #R2.9, 'Demerara Deliciousness', 198 bottles)

Diamond 11 yo 2008 (62%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Guyana, refill bourbon barrel, finished in recharred new oak barrel, #R2.9, 'Demerara Deliciousness', 198 bottles) Three stars
I'm not too sure why anyone would or could rechar some new oak barrel, but there… I mean, fine with char, but rechar? Not too sure this possible rocket fuel stems from one of the historic stills. Colour: gold. Nose: this feeling of diesel oil aged in deep-charred American oak indeed, full of custard, almond oil and hand cream or moisturizer. Pretty soap-forward when undiluted, some ginger tonic too, fruit stones... With water: it is a grassy, lighter Demerara. Kirsch and soap, plaster, cardboard… Mouth (neat): relatively light in style but the high alcohol smashes you. Pickled and crystalised ginger, stranger liqueurs (parfait amour), bonbons, some salty sweets and chocolate… With water: phew, saved by water! More 'normal' olives, cane juice, varnish, petrol, lemons… But it is not an old Uitvlugt! Finish: long, a little rough, grassy, leafy. Banana skin. Anchovies and olives in the aftertaste, with some kind of fizziness remaining on your tongue. More ginger tonic. Comments: a good, rather rustic and robust young Demerara by the honourable Society.

SGP:462 - 81 points.

Versailles at Enmore 28 yo 1994/2022 'REV' (50.2%, Distilia, Greenheart Collection, Guyana, cask #25, 201 bottles)

Versailles at Enmore 28 yo 1994/2022 'REV' (50.2%, Distilia, Greenheart Collection, Guyana, cask #25, 201 bottles) Five stars
I believe REV is a broker's marque that means Rum Enmore Versailles. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: oh, old woods, Dutch liquorice, rosewood, caraway and Timut pepper, eucalyptus, then old tweed, cedarwood, old cigar case, also a drop of gewurz, tinned lychee… This nose is simply sumptuous. These indie series are just incredible, we need one or two bad ones to make sure this is well a human venture. I even believe we'll start petitioning. With water: ooh, dried meats and all kinds of mints and molecules ending with -ol. Terpinol, for example. Mouth (neat): phenomenal, all about precious woods, liquorices and petroly spices. Blood oranges and a few underripe grapes as well. With water: geared towards salted fish this time, olives, salted liquorice, oysters, crabmeat… We're almost at Caol Ila. Finish: long and more medicinal. Loads of resins and oils – and stuff ending with -ol indeed. Comments: these are just my thing and love the piney side. Viva turpentine!
SGP:473 - 91 points.

Versailles at Enmore 31 yo 1991/2022 'KFM' (55.6%, Rock & Rhum, Guyana, 203 bottles)

Versailles at Enmore 31 yo 1991/2022 'KFM' (55.6%, Rock & Rhum, Guyana, 203 bottles) Five stars
The marque KFM refers to the name of one of the owners of the Enmore Distillery. To be honest, all these marks are a tad muddy, VSG? MEV? KFM? BEM? Which are actually original and which are brokers' marques? And does it really matter? Colour: mahogany. Nose: good one, this is almost old armagnac. For a few seconds, at least, until it would move towards the most exceptional combination of pine resin, liquorice, black earth, compost, rotting stone fruits and sultanas. Absolutely amazing. With water: morels and Caesar's mushrooms, tamarind jam, old Pomerol (your pick)... Mouth (neat): abnormally oaky and resinous, but we just love this, while some might consider it's somehow gone over the hill. It's a state of spirit aging that's not uncommon in… Armagnac. A lot of oversteeped black tea, the bitterest marmalade, the heaviest liquorice and loads of cough lozenges… With water: we tamed it, the tannicity got somewhat silkier, but there's also even more black tea. Finish: very long, this time a tad rough. Loses one point at this stage. Cinchona, bitter zests, ginger, pine needles, bitter marmalade… Comments: this little tightrope walker has been flirting with the limits of oakiness from the start, but it always remained on the right side. At least I know what I'm trying to say. Love it.
SGP:472 - 90 points.

Since we were already doing extreme sports anyway…

Uitvlugt 30 yo 1991/2022 (68.7%, Wealth Solutions, The Colours of Rum, Guyana, 277 bottles)

Uitvlugt 30 yo 1991/2022 (68.7%, Wealth Solutions, The Colours of Rum, Guyana, 277 bottles) Four stars and a half
A funny past here, this baby was all aged in Europe, first ten years in bourbon and the rest in French oak. Wine then, I would suppose? Remember Uitvlugt got closed in 1999. This is from the ex-Port Mourant double wooden pot still that later went to Diamond. Colour: light gold. Nose: the exact opposite. This is grassy and petroly where the Enmore was all on thick raisins. Some burnt woods, fresh paint and putty, 'a Saturday morning at Ikea's' (no meatballs!) some linoleum, engine oil, dry vegetables (eggplants)… And a lot of ethanol that burns your nose and makes your spectacles opaque. Mind you, 68.7% at 30 years! They must have filled at still strength, given that this was aged in a cool climate. With water: the expected anchovies and olives, lemongrass, pickled small artichokes.. Mouth (neat): don't. Like drinking half a bottle of Weak Knees sriracha sauce. With water: I'm happy to report that we got it. Pure, almost crystalline citron liqueur with some oysters and tar. Green peppercorns. Finish: very long and possibly the most vertical old rum I could try. Some lime juice and half a glass of Laphroaig C/S. Comments: they bottled a blade here. Loved this one too but it may give the casual taster a hard time. Oh and no live flames allowed!

SGP:463 - 89 points.

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


February 4, 2023





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Visiting Sweden
Sweden's whisky scene accelerates almost monthly it seems, and I for one am embarrassingly far behind. I really need to go back there for a proper distillery tour, one of these days…


A wee tasting of some new and closed distilleries today (it's truly a whisky nation now that it has its own closed distilleries is it not?) along with a shout out to all my Swedish pals currently attending a big whisky festival over there at the time of writing.



Agitator 1st Release (43%, OB, Sweden)

Agitator 1st Release (43%, OB, Sweden, 2021)
A distillery I am not familiar with, but they are apparently rather small and high-tech, employing vacuum distillation among various other highly disciplined practices. This one was matured in a combination of American oak ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and chestnut wood casks… Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's the kind of profile that until recently we would term - probably rather patronisingly - 'new world', which is to say rather dominated by fresh breads, lightly hoppy beers such as golden ales and IPAs. I also find some spicier oak tones and toasted cereals. Mouth: very honest and all about natural ingredients, although I think it feels a little on the young side and there are some slightly spicy oak components such as ginger and green pepper that begin to come through over time. Finish: medium, spicy, gingery and peppery with toasted cereals again. Comments: feels like excellent distillate that is perhaps still on the youthful side, and I'm not too sure the 43% isn't letting it down a bit here.

SGP: 541 - 79 points.



Agitator Four Grain '3 Cask Adventures - Selected Swedes' (52.9%, OB, bourbon cask, 719 bottles, 2022)

Agitator Four Grain '3 Cask Adventures - Selected Swedes' (52.9%, OB, bourbon cask, 719 bottles, 2022)
A series of wee 20cl bottles of three different expressions, which sounds like a rather nifty idea for those who want taste along with a distillery's experimentation. This one is a 'four grain', so a grain whisky in Scottish legal terms, but I couldn't find out which four grains I'm afraid. Colour: deep gold. Nose: creamy and full of biscuits, breads and cakes. Quite a few freshly glazed pastries, a feeling of pumpkinseed oil and a wee hint of sandalwood. With water: lemon jelly and some more oaky spices. Mouth: again it's a rather oak-forward profile, but the higher ABV carries this much more effectively here. It's nicely juicy with fruit salad 'goo' and some custard and dessert wine notes. Sweet cider and a wee hint of chamomile tea. With water: more notes of fruit teas and hints of juniper, fruity pink peppercorn and perhaps some youthful calvados. Finish: medium, sweet and a little sappy and hoppy. Comments: I prefer this more assertive style and higher ABV, but this rather modern and oak-forward style isn't necessarily my cup of tea I'm afraid. Now, I still think there's a lot of technically impressive stuff going on here…

SGP: 551 - 82 points.



Agitator Un-peated '3 Cask Adventures - Selected Swedes' (52.9%, OB, PX cask, 719 bottles, 2022)

Agitator Un-peated '3 Cask Adventures - Selected Swedes' (52.9%, OB, PX cask, 719 bottles, 2022)
Unpeated single malt matured in PX this time… Colour: amber. Nose: a lovely mix of fig paste, dark fruit jams and quince. I also find quite a few fruit teas, some cranberry jelly and good old fashioned fruit cake with quite few sultanas! With water: breadier, rootier, slightly more earthy and with slightly sweetened black tea. Mouth: feels like proper PX, which is to say: very sweet! Which I'm not at all against with this mix of chocolate sauce, cola syrup and wee touches of sugary black coffee and sarsaparilla soda. Also some wee medical herbal notes such as wintergreen. With water: a tad more peppery and leathery, but overall still quite jammy and on dark fruits with a hint of gamey meatiness. Finish: good length, with plenty chocolate, coffee liqueur and more black pepper. Comments: these whiskies all feel very deliberately technological, once again this one is very driven by its cask, however this sort of distillate with this sweet PX sherry is a lovey match and I think works better than the slightly spicier bourbon examples for me.

SGP: 641 - 85 points.



Agitator Peated '3 Cask Adventures - Selected Swedes' (52.9%, OB, ex-Islay quarter cask, 719 bottles, 2022)

Agitator Peated '3 Cask Adventures - Selected Swedes' (52.9%, OB, ex-Islay quarter cask, 719 bottles, 2022)
We're presuming ex-Laphroaig casks. The question is, was it peated malt to begin with or does the peat come from the Islay casks? Colour: pale straw. Nose: a breath of fresh, very coastal, air. Lemon air freshener, chalky peat smoke, dried seaweed, beach sand and wet pebbles. Very evocative and very elegant, but perhaps could be any number of very well made modern peaters. With water: a little greener and more herbaceous with crushed nettles and green olives. Mouth: nicely chunky and peaty up front! Lots of seawater and lemon juice with brine, anchovies and sardines in smoked olive oil. Actually, feels the most 'Swedish' in some ways, if you see what I mean. With water: lemon juice over kippers, aniseed and mercurochrome. Finish: long, salty, peaty, pin-sharp and citric. Comments: excellent, probably because it is driven more by peat and distillate influence than wood, in my personal view. But I wonder how much of this is Islay talking? Anyway, a very good wee peat bomb!

SGP: 456 - 87 points.



Let's have a couple of suitable bonus drams while we're here…



Grythyttan 7 yo 2011/2018 (61.2%, Svenska Eldvatten 'Silent Swede', cask #196, ex-Sauternes, 352 bottles)

Grythyttan 7 yo 2011/2018 (61.2%, Svenska Eldvatten 'Silent Swede', cask #196, ex-Sauternes, 352 bottles)
A series by Swedish bottler Svenska Eldvatten that focusses on closed Swedish distilleries, in this case Grythyttan, which operated only from 2010 to 2013. I have no idea what to expect, except to note the bottle says this was peated to 16ppm, so we can perhaps expect some funky interplay of phenol and Sauternes… Colour: amber. Nose: yup, some kind of sticky, raisiny, lightly smoked jam mixed with mead and a splash of herbal tonic wines. A style that is pretty odd really, but I find it actually rather charming so far. With water: cask strength Buckfast, with a shot of Jägermeister and some fruity black coffee, a few sultanas bobbing about in the depths too. Mouth: I think lower peat levels tend to deliver pretty interesting whiskies, this is the case with a lot of things like salted marmalade, hessian, cured Jambon, liquorice root, and in fact salted liquorice - a Swedish brand I'm sure! - then a lot of caraway and spicy brown bread like pumpernickel. With water: soft notes of tar, strong impressions of resinous fir and pine woods, aniseed, liquorice, ointments and gentian spirit dosed with herbal cough syrup. Mad stuff! Finish: long, going now firmly towards Fisherman's Friends, smoked fish, throat lozenges and cured meats. Comments: what a funny and fun wee whisky. The sort that is rather pointless and impossible to score, and would bamboozle the most experienced of tasters when presented blind. Please take my score with a whole bushel of salted Swedish liquorice!

SGP: 654 - 85 points.



Grythyttan 7 yo 2011/2018 (60.7%, Svenska Eldvatten 'Silent Swede', cask #118, ex-Brandy cask, 351 bottles)

Grythyttan 7 yo 2011/2018 (60.7%, Svenska Eldvatten 'Silent Swede', cask #118, ex-Brandy cask, 351 bottles)
Looks like I'm a complete fool for doing this one second, which seems to be lower in ABV and lower in peat level… Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: indeed, this is much more rounded and full of apricot jam, Australian muscat wine, tobacco leaf and sultana. A little oak spice, some cinnamon sugar and quite a few notes of freshly baked brown breads. With water: proper cakes, breads and jams all over the place - cream scones with strawberry and damson conserve! Mouth: that jammy and sticky side is a little too much up front here, going also towards strong notes of shoe polish and leather. But with time some nice spiced dark fruit notes though, and indeed things like clove-studded orange peel. With water: fig rolls, orange cocktail bitters, heather ales and more brown breads and pastries. Finish: good length, sweet, earthy, jammy and with more tobaccos and wee gamey touches. Comments: very good, still unusual but a bit more classical and well-rounded I think. What happened to this wee distillery? Are there any other casks about the place?

SGP: 651 - 86 points.



Big hugs and thanks to Mattias for today's session!




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


February 3, 2023


Little Duos, today strange Glen Scotia

Because it's not always all about Springbank.

Glen Scotia



Glen Scotia 10 yo 'Unpeated' (40%, OB, +/-2022)

Glen Scotia 10 yo 'Unpeated' (40%, OB, +/-2022) Two stars
Was Gen Scotia ever associated with peat? I mean, Ardbeg Unpeated or Laphroaig Unpeated would make sense, but Glen Scotia Unpeated? Why not Glenkinchie Unpeated, by that notion? Colour: gold. Nose: some charcoal, some charred oak, green tea, spicy cake, Läckerli, caraway… This one's met with some active oak it seems, I'm finding this spiciness a little 'too much' I'm afraid. Mouth: feels spiced-up, really, and not very pleasant. A curious herbal mix (carrot, chervil, parsley, turnip). Finish: medium, all on spicy oak. Comments: very bizarre. Many new Loch Lomond/Glen Scotia expressions are really exquisite, but I find this one difficulty oaky. Wood technology gone a little too far, perhaps; the low strength doesn't really help either.

SGP:441 - 70 points.

Glen Scotia 17 yo 2000/2018 (56.4%, Cadenhead's Warehouse Tasting)

Glen Scotia 17 yo 2000/2018 (56.4%, Cadenhead's Warehouse Tasting) Two stars
So Springbank doing Glen Scotia. Got to love Springbank, they're like Ardbeg, both seem to be working for mankind as their cheapest expressions, the tenners, are currently and by far their best. Colour: gold. Nose: loads of cappuccino, toffee, butterscotch and struck matches, plus some gas and truffles. With water (careful, it may go off): burnt caramel, burnt toasts, Maggi, fumes, toffee. Mouth (neat): whacky. Massive grapefruits and coffee for starters (strange combination), then gouda and ginger, speculoos and turmeric, cracked pepper, quinine. How bizarre indeed. With water: no comprendo quite. Artichoke? Eggplant? Some Campbeltownian moussaka? Surely some chicory and coffee essence, or simply some roasted chicory juice concentrate. Finish: long, on maraschino and gunpowder. Bitter almonds, salted liquorice and Nescafé in the aftertaste. Comments: what-was-that? We'll do another, cleaner Glen Scotia session soon…

SGP:582 - 72 points.

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


February 2, 2023


Tough guys : a bunch of youngish Dailuaine


Charles C. Doig's sketch for the recently rebuilt Dail-Uaine Distillery,
The Building News, Dec. 6, 1889 (Whiskyfun Archive)



The name used to fly under the radars but the indies have been having more Dailuaine for the last two or three years. Not sure I could describe the profile very accurately, having said that, all I remember is that it is not always a very easy spirit. Let's try a few recent ones…



Dailuaine 13 yo (50%, The Dava Way, cognac butt, 510 bottles, 2022)

Dailuaine 13 yo (50%, The Dava Way, cognac butt, 510 bottles, 2022) Three stars
A new independent operation which is in the hands of the lovey people who are also behind Bimber. While indie bottlers starting or buying distilleries is certainly not an unseen situation, it's more uncommon that distillers would decide to delve into indie bottling. Colour: white wine. Nose: I remember! Curry, pepper and damp chalk, mashed turnips, Brussels sprouts, baker's yeast and leaven, sour cream… In short, not the tiniest fruitiness, indeed a singular grassy/fermentary profile. With water: some saponification occurring, then we find cut cactus, clay, possibly something basaltic… Mouth (neat): some bitter fruits, a little salt, salty plasticine, lemon peel, some chalk, bitter beer, green peppercorn, sour white wine… With water: a little maltier, with also a little vanilla and fir honeydew, but it would remain a little tough. Silverware, also more lemon and grapefruit peel. Finish: medium, saltier yet. Eggplant gratin drizzled with lemon juice. Comments: this slightly off (and odd) baby reminds me of many an independent whisky from twenty years ago. I had thought this profile had disappeared. Good fun, but to me it is a tad tough for the modern taster. The other new Dava Way bottlings are much more to my liking.
SGP:362 - 80 points.

Dailluaine 15 yo 2007/2022 (56.2%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 279 bottles)

Dailluaine 15 yo 2007/2022 (56.2%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 279 bottles) Three stars
Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: good fun here too, but instead of mashy, fermentary notes, we're rather finding some kerosene and fresh baguette, plus some rubber or bicycle inner tube. With water: water does it much good, provided you enjoy sour and acidic styles. Lemon yoghurt (organic – ha). Mouth (neat): green lemon and some rubber indeed. Almond milk, parsnip, asparagus, young sauvignon blanc from the newer new world… With water: huge lemon and grey pepper. A feeling of crunching grape pips and bits of lemon peel. Finish: rather long, on similar notes. Comments: spectacular, I don't think you could go any further as far as acidic profiles in whisky are concerned. Well, not that I remember. So, hard to score, but it would certainly grow on you.

SGP:371 - 82 points.

Dailuaine 12 yo 2009/2021 (55.8%, Fable Whisky, The Moon, refill hogshead, 243 bottles)

Dailuaine 12 yo 2009/2021 (55.8%, Fable Whisky, The Moon, refill hogshead, 243 bottles) Three stars
Always these mezcal-like labels that I enjoy so much. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this time varnish is in the lead, together with some fresh oak and touches of limoncello and Malibu (apologies). It's also rather grassier (fresh-mown lawn). With water: back to chalkier, more sauvignony aromas. In other words, off to Sancerre. Mouth (neat): some fruity wood has brought a rounder, fatter structure, with some vanilla and acacia honey that are almost making it 'gentle'. Barley syrup, cane juice, green peppercorn and lemon peel in the background. Pepper liqueur. With water: the lemons are fighting back. Grape pips and green peppercorns too. Finish: long, tighter, acidic, peppery, grassy… Liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: not one Dailuaine that the taster needs to intellectualise too much.

SGP:461 - 82 points.

Dailuaine 12 yo 2008/2021 (60.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #41.139, 'A complex character', 1st fill bourbon barrel, 190 bottles)

Dailuaine 12 yo 2008/2021 (60.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #41.139, 'A complex character', 1st fill bourbon barrel, 190 bottles) Three stars and a half
Let's hope this one won't tear us apart, now the label announces juicy fruit and juicy fruit never killed anyone. Well, not sure about that, actually… Colour: white wine. Nose: in the style of the Watt Whisky. Huge notes of glues of various kinds, plus lemon peel and mercurochrome. Some coconut too, tsk tsk… With water: some bread dough. Mouth (neat): there, juicy fruit, marshmallows, jelly babies and sunflower oil. This oily fatness that we've already found in these Dailuaines. With water: I'm afraid we'll have to mention limoncello again, perhaps also some late-harvest riesling from Germany. Finish: rather long, well-balanced, easy, fruity, bonbony. Comments: absolutely not my favourite style, but let's be honest, the did this one extremely well. An unusual fat, clean and fruity malt, if not quite one bearing 'a complex character'.
SGP:651 - 84 points.

Dailuaine 12 yo 2009 (56.1%, Adelphi, for Whisky Live Taipei, sherry, cask #313241, 312 bottles)

Dailuaine 12 yo 2009 (56.1%, Adelphi, for Whisky Live Taipei, sherry, cask #313241, 312 bottles) Five stars
Dailuaine's rubbery fatness plus sherry, well, let's see what happens… Colour: rich gold. Nose: I'm happy to report that the worst has been avoided. Nutshell, no whacky sulphur, no odd metals and meats, rather a clean, albeit fatter fruitiness, around figs and raisins. Then indeed, some marrow quenelles and some English mint sauce, all we'd also need is a leg of lamb and some pub rock, but I doubt Adelphi could do anything. With water: big muscat raisins and gewurztraminer (grains nobles, Trockenbeerenauslese). More marrow quenelles too, oxtail bouillon… Mouth (neat): pretty excellent, spicy, meaty and dry, mustardy, sitting somewhere between Fettercairn and Glenturret. See what I mean. With water: oh lovely! I wasn't expecting this kind of spicy and muscaty gewurzness, this rancio, even these tiny touches of expensive moutai (I know nothing about moutai but it's on my list since the year 2000). Finish: long, rich, more on heather and manuka honeys. Characterful honeys for sure. Comments: big surprise. My intend is not to be rude but was this done on purpose or is it just the work of luck? You say bit of both? Peace… One of the best Dailuaines out there, for sure.
SGP:652 - 90 points.

Dailuaine 13 yo 2009/2022 (55.9%, James Eadie, refill PX hogshead finish, cask #354544, 291 bottles)

Dailuaine 13 yo 2009/2022 (55.9%, James Eadie, refill PX hogshead finish, cask #354544, 291 bottles) Three stars and a half
Finished for 25 months in 2nd fill, that's not exactly a finishing in my book, it's better than that. Colour: gold. Nose: you could argue that this is the best of both worlds, on the one side the tight acetic, varnishy side of some Dailuaines, on the other side the rounded figs, raisins and walnut cake from the sherry. In the background, some fresh mint leaves and a little fern. With water: sourdough, lemon peel, clay… Mouth (neat): starts rounded and honeyed, then becomes more acetic, yeasty and lemony. You really feel the original distillate that kind of refused to be walked over. Great fun once more.  With water: water binds spirit and cask together, as it sometimes does. Some mustard and bitter nuts, some metallic fats. Finish: long and appropriately dirtier. Very fat. Mustardy and metallic aftertaste. Comments: this one makes you travel, but do not forget your water. A little crazy.
SGP:562 - 84 points.

Believe me, it's a tough session. Let's face it, some bottlers are having Dailuaine because the casks are much cheaper than Macallan or Ardbeg. Then again, cheaper casks are rarely the worst. But let's have a last Dailuaine, quickly but zealously…

Dailuaine 20 yo (50.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, batch 4, 442 bottles, 2018)

Dailuaine 20 yo (50.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, batch 4, 442 bottles, 2018) Three stars and a half
Even the label is scary… Colour: white wine. Nose: back to fat and oily doughs, mustard, lemon peel and some kind of acetic varnish. You're right, that could be white zinfandel. With water: fir honey (honeydew) and sweet doughs, pastries, yeast, mashed pumpkins, chalk… Mouth (neat): tight lemons, grass, green peppercorns, with some curious syrup coating it all. Feels like agave syrup. With water: all very fine, with once more that feeling of Fettercairn plus Glenturret. This with apologies to all brand holders, I know we're using names loosely, but remember I'm a simple amateur. Finish: pretty long, more on stronger honeys, mead, also the trademark mustardiness. A dirtyish aftertaste, this is well Dailuaine. Comments: very good, not too unlikely.

SGP:651 - 84 points.

It's been a little tough but kudos to Adelphi and Taiwan, they rather crushed the competition today.

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


February 1, 2023


Two 15 yo Strathisla and old bonus


At Duncan Taylor in 2007. The Strathisla 1967 is not in the picture

Last year's vertical series of five Strathisla by LMDW was superb, not to mention G&M's 72 years old Milton. Glad to see more indie Strathisla around!

Strathisla 15 yo (54.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 38 Bath Street exclusive, refill bourbon barrel, #58.41, 'Nut Crushed by Falling Fruit', 209 bottles, 2021)

Strathisla 15 yo (54.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 38 Bath Street exclusive, refill bourbon barrel, #58.41, 'Nut Crushed by Falling Fruit', 209 bottles, 2021) Four stars
I've heard they have been using ChatGPT to find their names for years already. Colour: white wine. Nose: punchy, on grass juice, nail polish remover, apple peel, pine wood, porridge and ink. In short, not much cask influence in there, if any. Water may bring out the expected fruitiness. With water: rather mint leaves, lemon zests, green melon, hops… Mouth (neat): pure varnish and lemon juice, fifty-fifty, plus 50% grass and 30% liquorice wood. I know, doesn't quite add up. With water: there, lemon drops, jelly babies, green bananas, sauvignon blanc, some tiny coconut ball, green tea… Finish: pretty long, on quasi-identical flavours, till the end of the aftertaste. Comments: Strathisla completely al natural. Very good, I think, if a notch severe.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Strathisla 15 yo 2007 (60.3%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, small batch release, first fill American oak barrel, +/-2023)

Strathisla 15 yo 2007 (60.3%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, small batch release, first fill American oak barrel, +/-2023) Four stars
Probably the first, or one of the first collaborative efforts between The Whisky Exchange and new owners Pernod Ricard (who own Strathisla Distillery). There is also a new official Scapa; let us pray that there will also be zillions of single cask or small batch Longmorns. Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely close, perhaps just a tad fatter, with some fresh butter and some almond/mango combo that's just lovely. Right, and rather fresh paint than nail polish remover. Cider apples and quinces. With water: porridge and fresh mint, apple crumble, watermelon, greengages… Mouth (neat): a bit hot at 60+, but there's good liquorice. There's half a spoonful of coconut milk too. With water: fruit drops, more greengages, damsons, plus drops of some kind of herbal cordial. Montenegro, perhaps, but not too sure who owns Montenegro. You may add some amaretti. Finish: long and absolutely identical to the SMWS. Only the aftertaste has more ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Comments: very similar whiskies, this one being just a notch fruiter and spicier, probably thanks to some fresher wood. Very good.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Strathisla 40 yo 1967/2008 (48.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #2716, 160 bottles)

Strathisla 40 yo 1967/2008 (48.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #2716, 160 bottles) Five stars
Right, I already tried this baby, as it was coming out, in 2008, after a similar Whisky Agency. I only wrote these three miserable lines: 'Colour: gold. Nose: extremely close to the TWA, just a tad drier and oakier. Please read above. Mouth: ditto. Finish: ditto. Comments: sister casks, obviously. This one is maybe even oakier, actually. SGP:461 – 91 points.' Very unsatisfactory, to say the least, let's complete our work. Colour: full gold. Nose: typical Abe Rosenberg/Duncan Taylor stock from those times. Exceptional honeys, pollens, very ripe apples, beeswax, myriads of small berries (sorb, goji, raisins, frosted holly…) plus moist white nougat, pistachio syrup, maple, poached pears (poached in Sauternes, ha-ha)… Mouth: wonderful! I believe this one already benefitted from old bottle effect, after 15 years. What was 'oak' became 'pine', strange alchemy we agree, but it works in my book. Otherwise a combination with similar ripe apples, honeys and beeswax. There's a small Meursaulty side too, it's almost a little 'malolactic' (good one, S.) Finish: indeed, the finish remained a little oaky, peppery, drying. Even more tannicity in the aftertaste. Comments: I was about to add one point, but the finish somewhat curbed my enthusiasm. By the way, a good Larry David quote for you: "When I'm in social situations, I always hold onto my glass. It makes me feel comfortable and secure and I don't have to shake hands." Don't we all do that? Oh and see how the SGP changed within 15 years…
SGP:551 - 91 points.

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

January 2023 - part 2 <--- February 2023 - part 1 ---> February 2023 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Bowmore 24 years 1997/2021 (45.1%, Mr. X, co-selected by Steven Lin, China, sherry butt, cask #55, 506 bottles)

Bowmore 25 yo 1997/2022 (47.7%, Douglas Laing, Extra Old Particular, Antipodes, refill hogshead, cask #DL16154, 220 bottles)

Bowmore 1997/2022 (53.2%, Berry Bros. & Rudd for Kirsch Import, sherry butt, cask #79, 515 bottles)

Bowmore 1972/1990 (43%, Samaroli, Flowers, sherry wood, 480 bottles, 75cl)

Bowmore 27 yo 1972 (53.3%, OB, 466 bottles, +/-2000)

Bowmore 18 yo 2003/2022 (55.3%, WhiskySponge, refill sherry butt, 629 bottles)

Dailuaine 12 yo 2009 (56.1%, Adelphi, for Whisky Live Taipei, sherry, cask #313241, 312 bottles)

Port Ellen 12 yo 1970 'Single Islay Malt Scotch Whisky' (57G.L., Duthie's for Samaroli, 75cl, +/-1982)

Strathisla 40 yo 1967/2008 (48.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #2716, 160 bottles)

Akashi 6 yo 'Sake Cask' (61%, OB, Y's cask Tokyo, 400 bottles, 2021)

Komagatake 5 yo 2016/2022 'Yakushima Aging' (61%, OB, LMDW, first fill bourbon, cask #2063, 180 bottles) 

Monymusk 1998/2022 (54.8%, Rest & Be Thankful for Kirsch Import, American oak, cask #27845, 133 bottles)

Versailles at Enmore 28 yo 1994/2022 'REV' (50.2%, Distilia, Greenheart Collection, Guyana, cask #25, 201 bottles)

Versailles at Enmore 31 yo 1991/2022 'KFM' (55.6%, Rock & Rhum, Guyana, 203 bottles)