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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2013 - Part 1

December 2012 - part 2 <--- January 2013 - part 1 ---> January 2013 - part 2


January 14, 2013


The (not so) Mini-Verticales, today Caol Ila again.

Time to try a new bunch of Caol Ilas. Caol Ila is a always a safe bet and, I think, never disappoints. A pleasure factory…

Caol Ila 1998/2011 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, C-si; 7-471)

Caol Ila 1998/2011 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, C-si; 7-471) Three stars This version’s always finished in moscatel. That always scared me but in fact, the wine’s influence has been progressively tuned down year after year – an opinion, not a proven fact. Colour: straw. Nose: yeah, indeed, it’s absolutely not winey and there aren’t any obvious muscaty tones. It’s a mild Cola Ila, that is, with some baked apples and rhubarb compote plus the usual smoke, ashes and light brine. Oysters with a little vanilla sauce and fragments of coal. Butter. Mouth: rather sweet and, I must say, slightly weak on your palate, this lacks oomph in my opinion. What happened? Too bad because otherwise it’s very nicely salty and smoky, mild, with notes of liquorice allsorts and blood oranges (the sweeter ones). Not very peaty. Finish: a little short for Caol Ila, with more fresh fruits, between apples and maybe litchis (just touches). Comments: toned down it seems – and my palate was fresh as a baby’s, I hadn’t quaffed anything else before. Still a very, very good whisky, but lacks punch. SGP:544 - 82 points.

Caol Ila 1996/2012 'Lemon Smoke' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 380 bottles)

Caol Ila 1996/2012 'Lemon Smoke' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 380 bottles) Four stars Future distillers Wemyss already had some very nice and clean 1996s in the past, such as ‘Smokehouse’ (WF 86). Colour: white wine. Nose: oh this is unusual, grassier, very citric indeed, almost fizzy for a few seconds, before the expected ultra-clean briny, ashy and lemony notes take over. It’ll always remain very citrusy indeed, between lemons and grapefruits. Much sharper than the OB, pleasantly so. Little oak influence, which goes well with Caol Ila’s chiselled profile. Mouth: right on smoky salted lemon juice. Or when narrowness is an asset. Nice blade! Finish: quite long, zesty, greatly sharp, with a slightly sweeter aftertaste (icing sugar, fructose) despite a noticeable saltiness. Comments: one of the purest peaters. Excellent. SGP:456 - 85 points.

Caol Ila 10 yo 2000 (46%, The Maltman, +/-2011)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2000 (46%, The Maltman, +/-2011) Four stars Whoops, maybe I should have tried this one before the Wemyss. Too late, lousy taster! Colour: white wine. Nose: pretty much the same universe but a notch louder on barley and smoke while the citrusy side is less vivid. Big ashes, then more kelp, iodine... Then more apple peelings and graphite oil. Niiiice. Mouth: same feeling, a smokier and less citrusy version – although it is citrusy. Bags of ashes, salt and then more lemon marmalade and just touches of custard and white chocolate. Perfect balance. Finish: quite long, now zestier and grassier. Some pepper and chillies and again some salt in the aftertaste – or does it just trigger our salt receptors? ;-) Comments: on par. Very good if you like this profile, that’s all I’ll say. SGP:357 - 85 points.

Caol Ila 19 yo (55.3%, Whiskies of Scotland, 2012)

Caol Ila 19 yo (55.3%, Whiskies of Scotland, 2012) Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts with whiffs of struck matches and gunpowder that may come from some sherry wood, although the label wouldn’t tell you. Other than that, some hay and leather as well as notes of truffles and gas, all that isn’t quite great. Let’s try water. With water: becomes very metallic. Nails and silverware, never great news. Always quite some struck matches. Mouth (neat): nah, these heavy metallic, leathery and sulphury notes just dominate the whole thing, it’s difficult whisky. With water: some burnt wood, cardboard, beans (maybe). Finish: medium long, very leathery. Comments: I’m sorry but nope. I don’t think this cask should have been released to the thirsty masses. SGP:274 - 55 points.

Caol Ila 1990/2012 (55.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12042)

Caol Ila 1990/2012 (55.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12042) Four starsColour: white wine. Nose: this one’s rather mineral this time, you have to wait a bit before more seaweedy and salty notes emerge, iodine, a mild smokiness and then more kippers dipped in tar. Ahem… No, it’s nice so far. With water: wet dogs! Wet wool! (I’m sorry, sheep, no, wait…) Mouth (neat): starts unusually sweet, on lemon liqueur and marmalade, with only touches of salt and fish (kippers again, also tinned sardines) and a smoke that’s only in the background (smoked salmon). With water: smoky marmalade? It remains sweet and pleasantly tarty. Lemon drops. Finish: medium long, very citrusy. Comments: very good, even more lemony than the usual middle-aged Caol Ilas. SGP:556 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 22 yo 1990/2012 (56.3%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, 130 bottles)

Caol Ila 22 yo 1990/2012 (56.3%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, 130 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: this is fun, we’re having a grassier one this time, with, well, grass, broken branches, apple peelings and quite a lot of kilned malt. Also traces of bubblegum, suggesting some very silent oak. With water: perfect earthy and ‘organic’ notes. The wet dogs are back – apologies, dogs. Also some more dill and anise, that adds an extra-dimension. Mouth (neat): excellent. Crystal-clean yet sweet peat, lemon, smoked fish, lime… Perfect mouth feel, tastes like the best cool climate Rieslings (from the best parts of Alsace, no need to say). With water: anchovies in salt. You have to like that – I do. Perfect. Also a growing medicinal side, between camphor and eucalyptus lozenges. Finish: Comments: that one was rather more complex than others. A rewarding dram, as they say, I like it really a lot. SGP:457 - 89 points.

Caol Ila 1980/2011 (45%, Samaroli, USA, cask #49832, 240 bottles, 75cl)

Caol Ila 1980/2011 (45%, Samaroli, USA, cask #49832, 240 bottles, 75cl) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: a relatively light nose, with more apple juice and porridgy tones than straight smoke or even coastal stuff. Having said that, it’s becoming nicely medicinal, with some iodine and hints of antiseptic as well as more and more fresh almonds and a little olive oil. It’s all rather elegant and pretty discreet – and that’ not just the lower strength because I had a very long break after the 1990. Several hours! Mouth: medium strength and a blend of briny/coastal notes (oyster juice) with smoked almonds and a little lemon. Good and rather mellow. This feeling of oysters never stops growing, which is nice (granted, if you like oysters). Finish: medium long, with a little more oak and smoked tea (you know, lapsang souchong). Very salty and ashy aftertaste. Comments: obviously very good, the mellower side of Caol Ila but always with big coastal notes. SGP:456 - 87 points.

No 90+ so far, that’s unusual and certainly not satisfactory for a Caol Ila session, is it! So let’s resort to heavy artillery if you don’t mind…

Caol Ila 14 yo 1974 (62.3%, Intertrade, 294 bottles, +/-1988)

Caol Ila 14 yo 1974 (62.3%, Intertrade, 294 bottles, +/-1988) Five stars Most probably some old G&M filling. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a big beast, I tell you. Massive earthiness, huge smoke (coal, wood and peat) and again these whiffs of exhaust fumes. Soot and soy sauce. Not easy to nose because of the power, let’s reduce it a little straight away… With water: glorious unfolding on parsley, old dry sherry, cured ham, cigars and pine wood smoke. And menthol. Unstoppable. Mouth (neat): huge power, to the point where it distorts the spirit and makes it, well, very spirity. And yet you can feel that what’s happening in the background is probably quite glorious – it seems that lemons are screaming. Let’s check that… With water: excuse me, but wow! Kumquats, citrons, kippers, ashes, cough syrup, Seville oranges, beeswax, tobacco, manzanilla, walnuts… And myriads of other things. Fab. Balance: perfect. Finish: long, smoother, candied, finely smoky and mentholated. Liquorice wood and kumquats. Comments: mission accomplished. SGP:567 - 92 points.
(and thank you, Diego)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Caol Ila I've tasted so far



Block Today: COUNTRY FOLK. Performer: Tim Krekel from Kentucky. Track: a wonderful The angel's share. Please visit Tim Krekel's website and buy his music...

January 13, 2013


The Mini-Verticales, today Miltonduff

Miltonduff 1995/2012 (56.8%, Malts of Scotland, cask #MoS 12033, 192 bottles)

Miltonduff 1995/2012 (56.8%, Malts of Scotland, cask #MoS 12033, 192 bottles) Two stars and a halfColour: white wine. Nose: hot and slightly rubbery, without too many charms at first nosing. Rubber bands, apples, pears and porridge, then more grass. Green bananas. Not the easiest and sexiest malt ever. With water: some soap and that wouldn’t go away. Muesli, apple compote. Mouth (neat): powerful, eau-de-vie-ish and even a little feinty. Strong beer, ginger, bitter apples, a little herbal liqueur, cinchona… Phew, this baby’s quite hard. With water: a little better. Barley sugar and pear drops plus some propolis (that resinous stuff harvested by honeybees). Finish: quite long and herbal. Underberg. Bitter oak in the aftertaste. Comments: some parts are nice but I’m not a fan of this style. I guess even MoS need a few duds for due comparison. SGP:371 - 77 points.

Miltonduff 1989/2012 (54.3%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #449009)

Miltonduff 1989/2012 (54.3%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #449009) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: more or less the same kind as the 1995, only with more vanilla and overripe pears, thanks to a more active cask I guess. Apple peelings, toffee and fresh oak (sawdust). With water: becomes even more sour, we’re bordering baby vomit at times, although some parts are much nicer. A walk in a western orchard and all that… More coffe and toasted oak after a while and much less ‘baby’ stuff. Mouth (neat): same comments, the 1995 with more vanilla. Heavy grass, bitter and sour apples, peppercorn. Even a feeling of artichoke liqueur (Cynar, anyone?) With water: nicer and sweeter but a tad ‘middle-of-the-road’. Barley sugar and white pepper. Finish: quite long, on muesli. Some sweet beer in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that did not manage to convince me. I think it’s all a bit too average. SGP:461 - 78 points.

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 20 yo (95.5° proof UK, Forth Wines Ltd Milnathort, +/-1970)

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 20 yo (95.5° proof UK, Forth Wines Ltd Milnathort, +/-1970) Five stars Milnathort is a village in the Scottish midlands. Forth Wines are more active than ever but they don’t seem to bottle whisky anymore. As for the strength, remember you have to divide degrees proof by 1.75, so 95.5°proof equal 54.6% vol. Colour: white wine. Nose: this is completely different. A much bigger presence and an obvious ‘old Highlands’ style this time, with damp sand, gravel, tin boxes, engine oil and metal polish. Then a mixture of chalk and cider apples (any small ‘green’ ones will do), hessian, then more and more shoe polish (say black – kiddin’). Wonderful nose. With water: shoe and metal polishes all over the place. You have to like that – I do. Mouth (neat): oily and very strong, with a similar bitterness this time but we’re going more toward medicinal notes, camphor, heavy herbal remedy, tar… Also something mineral again. Huge whisky, becoming quite peppery after a few seconds. Herbal tar. With water: brilliant, with more earth, roots, humus and… shoe polish. Finish: long and even more complex, with some lemon and grapefruit kicking in. Wonderful earthy and phenolic aftertaste. Comments: a different world. These kinds of unknown bottles can be true marvels and I guess those old wine shops were really selecting superb whiskies for their customers. It’s probably Miltonduff from the 1940s, much more phenolic and smoky at the time. SGP:563 - 92 points.

(with thanks to Angus)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Miltonduff I've tasted so far



Block Today: ALGERIAN RAI (rather Arabo-Andalusian music). Performer: pioneer Bellemou Messaoud. Track: Rire Zarga Ouana (with flying trumpets!) Please buy Mr Messaoud's music...

January 12, 2013


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))
Another list
I've built a quick and dirty list of all spirits that I scored 90 or more for Whiskyfun. Please note that the list does NOT include any other whiskies that I would have scored for other entities or platforms, esp. before 2004. It's a very simple PDF list. I've also added a permanent '90+' link/banner to this column >>>>


January 11, 2013


The Mini-Verticales, today Clynelish.
Yes, again.

We just cannot try enough Clynelish and while we cannot not regret the absence of any new ones from the early 1970s, it’s great that many 1980s and 1990s are available and just, well, almost as great.

Clynelish 1997/2012 (54.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #6473)

Clynelish 1997/2012 (54.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #6473) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: great. As mineral, grassy and austere as these Clynelishes can be, with a lot of soot, coal, graphite oil, gravels, earth and fresh almonds. Right. With water: swims like Mark Spitz and becomes quintessentially Clynelish. Yes I like that word. Mouth (neat): almost perfection in this style. Sharp, chiselled, lemony, grassy, peppery and mineral, but rather less waxy than some of it’s compadres. Dagueneau-ish (wine lovers will understand, others, just drop that ;-)) With water: perfect. Finish: long and perfect. Comments: the precision of lace and the sharpness of a spade. Just a little more complexity would have put it at 90. And bad news for the next ones… SGP:452 - 89 points.

Clynelish 15 yo 1997/2012 (55.7%, The Bonding Dram, hogshead, cask #5733, 265 bottles)

Clynelish 15 yo 1997/2012 (55.7%, The Bonding Dram, hogshead, cask #5733, 265 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: we’re obviously very close to the BB&R, with just a little more roundness and vanilla from some more active wood, most probably. The almonds are a little louder as well. And maybe a little olive oil? Or better yet, roasted sesame oil? My kind. With water: swims like Michael Phelps. Some topical fruits emerging (passion, mango, tangerine). Mouth (neat): again, it’s a rounder and fuller version, with a heaviest body but it’s all quite perfect. Lemons and pepper, maybe a little more wax (between lemon oil and beeswax), vanilla, orange blossom water and maybe even a drop of rosewater. All very lovable, as expected. With water: swims like… let’s check Wikipedia… say Ian Thorpe? Finish: long, spicier. More pepper this time, a little sour oak as well, mingling with the lemon. Comments: once again, we’re bordering perfection. Great zestiness. SGP:552 - 89 points.

Clynelish 16 yo 1996/2012 (57.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, first fill sherry butt, cask #8780, 240 bottles)

Clynelish 16 yo 1996/2012 (57.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, first fill sherry butt, cask #8780, 240 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: if it’s from a first fill butt that should have been some kind of re-coopered butt because the sherry isn’t massive. It’s slightly meaty, with also some chocolate, those almonds again, touches of fresh oak, grass, then more and more earth and humus. Damp hay, walnuts, also something slightly metallic that never stops growing. Cast-iron casserole. With water: more of the same. It’s maybe a little less precise than the others because of the more active cask. Mouth (neat): very big, very powerful, with quite some ginger and walnut water that scream new oak. Thickish mouthfeel that’s well counterbalanced by some bitter oranges and grapefruits. Also a sharp spiciness. The spirit has a little less to say in this context – and we all know that Clynelish ain’t shy spirit – but the result is appealing and not too sacrilegious. Ahem! With water: same feeling, more or less. Spicy oak, smoke, crystallised oranges. Finish: long, spicy, nervous. Comments: I think water revealed a higher smokiness than in the 1997s. It’s a very big one and a style that should further improve after thirty years in glass. Good luck! SGP:463 - 88 points.

Clynelish 17 yo 1995/2012 (51.4%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill sherry, 366 bottles)

Clynelish 17 yo 1995/2012 (51.4%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill sherry, 366 bottles) Three stars and a halfColour: deep gold. Nose: this one is rather un-Clynelish, esp. after the others. It’s rather a matter of leather, walnuts, balsamic vinegar and ‘camphory wood’ (thuja?) at first nosing, before more and more bergamots emerge, together with some cigarette tobacco (Camels, dare I add) and hay. So not very Clynelish so far, but very nice. With water: more moss, earth and mushrooms. Smells a tiny-wee bit musty for a while, but after that there are nice whiffs of potpourri and old Sauternes. An unusual Clynelish indeed. Mouth (neat): starts a bit disconcerting, with a combination of flavours that’s quite unusual again. Say lime and coffee? A little cardboard as well, cinnamon and pepper, grapefruits… Also something very lightly muscaty? With water: we’re back on tracks but it remains ‘different’, for lack of a better word. Sultanas. Finish: mid length, with more cinnamon and tea. Peppery and slightly dusty/cinnamony aftertaste. Comments: and another very good one but I like my Clynelishes rather more ‘Clynelish’. SGP:462 - 84 points.

Clynelish 1983/2000 (47%, Samaroli, cask #2684, 360 bottles)

Clynelish 1983/2000 (47%, Samaroli, cask #2684, 360 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: these vintages are another story on another planet. It’s all much more ‘tertiary’, with some engine oil, leather, old orange liqueur, metal polish, old coal stove, diesel oil… I guess you get my drift. Fantastic whisky, a true classic. There’s also a little vase water, with the good side of vase water, so to speak. A kind of smoky grassiness. Ah well, it’s not easy to describe. Mouth: absolutely fabulous. Everything’s perfect, the citrus fruits, all the waxy ‘things’, the metallic/mineral side, the mouth feel is perfect, balance is achieved, the sharp spices are roaring in the background. Well, you might consider calling the anti-maltoporn brigade, if that’s not too much to ask… Finish: again, it’s perfect. Bitter orange liqueur, wax and some kind of light cough syrup. More liquorice and peat smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: I think there’s in these 1980s Clynelishes what used to be in Ardbeg in the previous decade. SGP:354 – 92 points.

While we’re at it, let’s have a shining star for the last time, namely sister cask #2685. It’s long been one of my favourites but it just became impossible to find any other bottle once I had sipped the very last drop of my very last one. Last year I’ve been moaning about that very fact to the owner of the cask at the time, Roma’s Antonio Bleve, and guess what dropped into my mailbox a few weeks ago? A sample bottle containing Antonio’s own ‘very last centilitres’! How cool and gentlemanly is that? So let’s have this baby again, more Clynelish 1983 can’t do no harm… To your good health, Antonio!

Clynelish 1983/2002 (47%, Samaroli for A. Bleve Roma, cask #2685, 306 bottles)

Clynelish 1983/2002 (47%, Samaroli for A. Bleve Roma, cask #2685, 306 bottles) Five stars I’ve always loved this mention on the label: “Refined inside the bottle since September 2002”. Just like yours truly, Mr. Samaroli is an advocate of bottle ageing! Colour: gold. Nose: after the glorious cask #2684, I’d have loved to find many nuances but in truth, both casks are extremely similar. Maybe this one is a wee bit sharper and zestier, fresher in a way and slightly less leathery/liqueury. But other than that, it’s the very same very high quality. Wait, maybe a little waxier too… A little more beehivy too… Ah what a great nose! Mouth: it’s all even closer to cask #2684, almost undistinguishable. Maybe a wee tad smokier? Maybe not… Finish: same, for a long time. Maybe zestier. Comments: goodbye my friend… sob sob, sniff sniff… One more point wrt last time I tried this wonder. Grazie mille Antonio! SGP:354 - 92 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Clynelish I've tasted so far



Block Today: FUSION JAZZ. Performer: the fab jazz drummer, ex-Sun Ra Arkestra Larry Bright. Track: Solar Visions (1978). Please buy his music...

January 10, 2013


The Mini-Verticales, today Glenrothes

Glenrothes 18 yo 1994/2012 (50.7%, The Maltman)

Glenrothes 18 yo 1994/2012 (50.7%, The Maltman) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: I think we’ve rarely come that close to western orchard fruits, this baby just smells like a large basket full of ripe pears and apples. Add a few branches and grass blades as well as three or four flowers (maybe lilies) and you’ve got a pretty accurate picture - hopefully. Mouth: it’s some kind of fortified apple juice, really, with a peppery and cinnamony side. I think the distillate really shines through and it reminds me of some very young unsherried Glenrothes we could quaff at the distillery quite some years ago. Also touches of honey and vanilla, maybe a little white chocolate as well. Finish: medium, sweet, on more or less the same notes. Pleasant fruity aftertaste, always with these wee peppery touches and a wee smokiness. Comments: an easy ‘natural’ Glenrothes, quite flawless. Excellent drinking whisky – I know, all whiskies are meant for drinking but sometimes, you’re wondering… SGP:541 - 85 points.

Glenrothes 24 yo 1988/2012 (49.3%, Whisky-Doris, sherry hogshead, cask #7317, 288 bottles)

Glenrothes 24 yo 1988/2012 (49.3%, Whisky-Doris, sherry hogshead, cask #7317, 288 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: we’re having a rather chocolaty sherry this time, at least at first sniffs, then more plums, raisins and dried dates. Also touches of leather and ‘old’ walnuts but no gunpowder/struck matches/you name that. Overripe apples that hint at the 1994. Pretty elegant sherry. After a few minutes: some kind of chocolate and walnut liqueur? Also more oranges… Mouth: creamy, rich, balanced, starting with unexpected strawberries and maybe even a little bubblegum, then oranges again, a peppery kind of liquorice, some sweet cider and maybe salty touches. Some raisins too. Finish: medium long, with touches of coffee, probably from the sherry. More oranges in the aftertaste as well as a little ginger tonic. Comments: the styles are very different but in my opinion, the quality is very similar to the 1994’s. So, let’s be true to ourselves and give the same score. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Glenrothes 41 yo 1970/2011 (43.5%, Duncan Taylor for Whisky Shop Dufftown, Octave, cask #491630, 69 bottles)

Glenrothes 41 yo 1970/2011 (43.5%, Duncan Taylor for Whisky Shop Dufftown, Octave, cask #491630, 69 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale amber. Nose: we’re somewhere midway between the 1994 and the 1988, that is to say that Glenrothes’ ‘western’ fruitiness shines through while a kind of light sherriness is moderately present. Other than that, we have light honey and flowers such as dandelions. Nectar, honeycomb, touches of vanilla and a little café latte that suggests some newish oak. Also some wood smoke. It’s an elegant one, not tired at all after these 41 years in wood. After a few minutes: a lot of wild forest honey, which I love. Mouth: starts a little strange, on orange squash and jelly beans, the palate is very different from the nose. It does not taste like a 41yo malt I must say. Then more orange (drops this time), a little sour wood, pineapple juice, apple juice… It’s a bit bizarre I think, but it’s good. Pomegranates, juicyfruits. Finish: medium long, fruity, with something slightly tropical. Guavas? Comments: a pretty brilliant nose and a palate that’s more, say unlikely in my book. Maybe the octave treatment worked much better on the nose? SGP:641 - 83 points.

Glenrothes 42 yo 1969/2012 (42.6%, Adelphi, cask #2, 297 bottles)

Glenrothes 42 yo 1969/2012 (42.6%, Adelphi, cask #2, 297 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: coffee. Nose: this baby’s very different, as the colour already suggested. It’s no wham-bam sherry monster, though, and what shines through goes more towards light pipe tobacco, metal polish, old earthy pu-erh tea and mushrooms. After a few minutes: more cocoa, raspberry jam and roses. A very elegant one once again. After a few minutes: goes toward very old balsamic vinegar – the true stuff from Modena, not industrial junk for supermarkets. Mouth: a joyous mixture of juicy fresh fruits (always the same, please reread above) and coffee/chocolate. The oak is starting to become a notch drying but other aspects are really pleasant. Pipe tobacco again, walnuts, liquorice, drops of mint liqueur and cough syrup, overripe pears… Finish: not the longest but it’s not too drying, which could have happened. Chocolaty and peppery aftertaste. Some cloves too. Comments: high quality old Glenrothes, quite ‘infused’ if you see what I mean. SGP:561 - 89 points.

Good, I think another 1969 would be in order to round this little session off.

Glenrothes 1969/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, MacPhail’s Collection)

Glenrothes 1969/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, MacPhail’s Collection) Four stars and a half Colour: reddish amber. Nose: we are extremely close to the Adelphi, this one being just a notch less aromatic – I might be dreaming, in fact. Very similar profile, with tobacco, chocolate, polish, a little smoke… Maybe just a tad less balsamic vinegar but I’m not even sure. The more you wait, the more both Glenrothes becdome similar. In truth, they’re more or less the same whiskies. Mouth: even more so, it’s extremely difficult to spot differences. Finish: same. Maybe this one is a tad fruitier? Comments: almost identical. High quality. SGP:561 – 89 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glenrothes I've tasted so far

(Christina Hendricks drinks Johnnie Walker ;-)) More here



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the great late German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff. Track: an utterly stunning - and funny - version of Mood Indigo. Please buy his music...

January 9, 2013


The Mini-Verticales, today Oban

We’ll have another ‘large batch’ OB that we like to follow, namely Oban 14, and of course a worthy sparring partner as always… But it’s going to be short…

Oban 14 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2012)

Oban 14 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2012) Three stars I like Oban 14, but always thought it was lying between two worlds, in a way. Or caught between two stools… A +/-2010 bottling had fetched 82 points pretty recently. Colour: full gold. Nose: yes, it’s no easy whisky and it’s certainly rather un-commercial for a commercial whisky. I get some butter, vegetables, cardboard, leather, touches of mustard, quite some kirsch (stones) and plum spirit, something coastal indeed but that’s very distant, hints of rotting oranges… In short, it’s a rather dry and austere Oban. Not easy! Mouth: it’s better, much better, starting with some kind of salted kirsch and maybe a little olive oil. Some pears as well, before it becomes much maltier, with also a little coffee and leather. I think it’s quite different from earlier versions. I could do some HtoHs but I haven’t got enough time, I’m sorry. Good body anyway. Finish: it’s the best part, by far. Some salt, some coffee, some herbs and some orange liqueur. Caramel. All that mixes well together. Comments: not an easy nose, a fair palate and a great finish. We’ll try Oban 14 again in a few years (if WF’s still alive). SGP:451 - 80 points.

Oban 13 yo 'Manager's Dram' (62%, OB, screw cap, 1990)

Oban 13 yo 'Manager's Dram' (62%, OB, screw cap, 1990) Five stars The managers always had true monsters to quaff. Rocket fuel!  Colour: pale gold. Nose: raw, extreme, ultra-grassy. Once again I get some kirsch – straight from the still at 75% vol.! Water is probably obligatory… With water: well, it’s maybe the best kirsch ever. Water did it a lot of good, it became easier, spirity in a great way, slightly smoky, with more and more stone fruits, which gives it an even bigger almondy side. 100% spirit driven, the managers know what they’re doing. Mouth (neat): indeed, stone fruit spirit straight from the still. High power distillate without much wood influence – if any. With (quite some) water: pure peach juice now, with drops of lemon and just a little green tea. Finish: long, sharp, clean, chiselled. Cherries and peaches. Comments: fab distillate, extreme purity. Only time made it mature, not wood. Having said that, it’s quite simple. Beautifully simple. SGP:541 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Oban I've tasted so far



Block Today: ALT COUNTRY. Performer: Canada's Scott McLeod. Track: big sound and slide on Yer Fired... No, I Quit. Please visit Scott McLeod's website and buy his music...

January 8, 2013


The Mini-Verticales, today sherried Glenlivet

We’ll try to tackle four consecutive decades, little distilleries will allow you to do that. Rule The Glenlivet!

Glenlivet 30 yo 1981/2012 (53.4% Signatory, sherry hogshead, cask #9457, 186 bottles)

Glenlivet 30 yo 1981/2012 (53.4% Signatory, sherry hogshead, cask #9457, 186 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a rather meaty and vinous kind of sherry at first nosing, although it becomes rounder and more on dried fruits after a few seconds. Quite a lot of old balsamic vinegar, leather, old Madeira (also Banyuls), old wine cellar, mushrooms, cigar humidor… I like this kind of sherry-matured malt. With water: some mint and camphor come out, always welcome at WF Towers. Black raisins. Mouth (neat): pretty excellent, starting all on spices and bitter oranges, with only a slight grapiness in the background. Blackcurrants, chocolate, prunes, old armagnac… Indeed, something French. With water: it seems that we wakened a little ginger and white pepper. Bitter oranges. Finish: quite long, with more ginger, pepper and cinchona. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: high quality old sherried Glenlivet, pleasantly unsmooth. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Glenlivet 1973/2012 (48.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #10658)

Glenlivet 1973/2012 (48.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #10658) Five stars We had a sister cask that was bottled around the same time earlier in December (#10822, WF 89). Colour: deep gold. Nose: exactly the opposite of the 1981 as far as styles of sherry are concerned. This one is fully on sultanas and honeycomb, much smoother and rounder, well in the style of these Caperdonichs and Glen Grants that we all know very well. Pollen, nectar, quince jelly, dried figs (a huge pack!)… It improved a lot with quite some breathing, it was less entrancing when I first tried it a few months ago. No water needed. Mouth: oh yes, this is pretty perfect. Lovely combination of mint and liquorice with many dried fruits and a Christmassy side. Don’t ask… Still, raisins, dried pears, cloves, star anise, orange marmalade… Balance is perfect and so is the body. Perfect strength. Finish: long, with a few more vegetal notes (maybe along parsley?) Old sweet wine in the aftertaste (rich Sauternes). Comments: again, this one really improved after a few months. Another one that should have joined my lousy ‘best of 2012’ list. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Glenlivet 21 yo 1960/1981 (54%, OB for Nadi Fiori)

Glenlivet 21 yo 1960/1981 (54%, Gordon & MacPhail for Nadi Fiori) Four stars and a half G&M aren't mentioned on the label so it could be that it's an OB as well. It’s one of the various 1960s I had poured for my 50th birthday in 2010. More than time to try it more ‘formally’! Colour: dark amber. Nose: and yet another style, this time we’re on a drier profile, much more on dark chocolate and coffee beans, with a good deal of coal and wood smokes. Touches of asparagus, game, leather and very old dry sherry (or walnut liqueur). Brilliant and, sadly, a style that’s nowhere to be found anymore, probably from some genuine sherry casks that had contained genuine dry oloroso sherry for quite some time. With water: oh my, we have asparagus soup all over the place! A little soy sauce too, love that. Mouth (neat): what a strange one! Not everyone would like it because it’s ridden with ginger, those parsley notes that sometimes abound in heavy sherry, some slightly shaky old-style orange liqueurs and then quite a lot of chocolate sauce (modern mole). With water: became very big. It’s one of these malts that, quite bizarrely, are bigger at around 45% vol. than at cask strength. A lot of ginger from the oak (from a new transport cask?) Finish: long, dry, with metallic touches. Comments: extreme sherry, all very free, in a way. A Sun Ra of whisky, with the flaws being assets. Having said that, we couldn’t go too high as far as scores are concerned, just because of the latter (although I love Sun Ra!)  SGP:372 - 88 points.

Glenlivet 27 yo 1955/1983 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Glenlivet 27 yo 1955/1983 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Five stars Yes, there’s old and there’s older. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: holy featherless crow! We have yet another style, this time it’s revolving around cigars and cedar wood, porcinis, earth, peat smoke (wee whiffs) and Spanish ham (bellota and stuff). The smokiness keeps growing bigger, we’re even going towards exhaust fumes, while there are even more mushrooms as well (dried morels spring to mind and I’m not making this up). Fantastic nose. Mouth: we’re pretty closer to the 1960, with a feeling of ginger and bitter oranges. It’s probably not as magnificent as its most magnificent nose but I quite love these notes of old orange liqueurs mixed with ham again. Prunes and cured ham, then something slightly metallic that’s often to be found in these old ‘black dumpies’. Finish: medium long, a tad drying now. White pepper, bacon, grapes, prunes. Chocolaty aftertaste. Comments: the nose alone was a 95-point miracle, the palate was a little less, say flabbergasting because of the drying/grapey part. Funnily enough, it reminded me of a Talisker from the same vintage (G&M Cask series). SGP:472 - 90 points.

(with thanks to Jeroen)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glenlivet I've tasted so far


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))
Sherry casks, yee-haa
It’s probably the most widely spread mistake in whisky books, articles and (should I add ‘of course’) websites, social media and blogs. Why?

Maybe because it seems natural, obvious and logical. And yet, it’s totally untrue: genuine sherry casks in their very vast majority are NOT made out of European oak – whether Spanish or French (or Bulgarian, whatever) – sherry casks are usually made out of American oak, just like bourbon barrels! And I’m not only talking about sherry casks ‘made in or for Scotland’, I’m well talking about sherry casks made by the Spaniards to genuinely ferment and then age sherry (solera) – and then to transport it in the old days when bottling in Spain wasn’t yet mandatory (1981, although the sherry industry had already started to use inert tanks before).

And that’s no new process, as according to the Consejo Regulador de la Denominaciones de Origen Jerez, “it has been used since the first trading exchanges with the Americas, from which Spain imported wood and to which it exported wine.”
No need to say that that won’t prevent Scottish distillers from letting some ‘sherry casks’ being made out of European oak and then filled with a few litres of sherry, but those will rather be ‘designer casks’, they’re not quite traditional anymore since... two centuries or more.

Sherry cask
A traditional American oak sherry cask that used to shelter G&M's famous Glenlivet 70 yo >>

PS: in truth, these common mistakes may have come from the whisky industry itself that, in the old days and sometimes still today, used to use the wording ‘European cask’ or even ‘European wood’ for any cask that wasn’t clearly a bourbon barrel or a bourbon hogshead. But indeed, those ‘European woods’ were in fact often American.

PPS: the largest source of traditional European oak casks today is the wine industry (un-fortified wines, such as Bordeaux) and that’s why we’re seeing more and more barriques, for example, at Scottish distilleries. Having said that and quite confusingly, many second-level winemakers are now starting to use American oak as well because it’s cheaper and quicker. Yeah, it’s all becoming complicated…

PPPS (lazy writing, I'm sorry): maybe you gathered that in fact, what we call ‘a sherry cask’ today isn’t a sherry cask, it’s rather a cask that’s been coopered on purpose and then treated/seasoned with a little sherry (after having used the now banned concentrated juice called pajarette). So sherry casks now used by the whisky industry, while entitled to be called ‘sherry casks’, were never used to mature sherry, apart from a few genuine (decommissioned?) solera butts that are usually very old so completely inactive as far as wood is concerned, but deeply soaked with sherry.

You'll find some great information about sherry at Nicks Wine.



Block Today: BLUES JAZZ SOUL FUNK (yeah, or else). Performer: Don Byron. Track: the unbeatable Cleo's Mood. Cheered up! Please visit Don Byron's website and buy his music...

January 7, 2013


The Mini-Verticales, today Benromach

I like Benromach, I think it’s characterful malt and that cannot be said about all contemporary distillates. What’s more, I like to publish new notes for the major ‘wide batch’ whiskies every two or three years because mind you, batch variation does occur! So, let’s have the 10 once more…

Benromach 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2012)

Benromach 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2012) Four starsLast time I tried the 10, that was in 2009 and I loved it! (WF 87). Colour: gold. Nose: you know what, this greasiness and this mineral smokiness just cannot not make us think of modern Springbank, which can’t be bad news. I find some smoked tea, touches of truffles, graphite oil, quite some fresh barley (or is that porridge?) and quite some raw wool and grass. Old school for sure! Mouth: excellent, smoky, mineral, phenolic, waxy and displaying various citrus fruits without any excessive sweetness. Excellent body at 43% vol. Then more liquorice, a little sweet mustard (cassis flavoured like they make in Burgundy) and quite some bitter oranges. Finish: quite long, smoky, with notes of agaves and minerals. Comments: tastes like a true islander. We used to say that Lochside was the Spirngbank of the east, now it’s rather Benromach. I’m a fan. Same score as before. SGP:553 - 87 points.

Benromach-Glenlivet 17 yo 'Centenary' (43%, OB, 3500 bottles, 1998)

Benromach-Glenlivet 17 yo 'Centenary' (43%, OB, 3500 bottles, 1998) one star and a half According to The Whisky Exchange, 'this 17yo Benromach spent its final two years in sherry casks dating from 1886, 1895 and 1901 before bottling by Gordon & Macphail, who had recently taken over and re-invigorated the distillery in 1998 after a fifteen year hiatus.' More than ever, knowledge is power! Having said that, these notes are long overdue indeed… Colour: gold. Nose: well, I liked the modern 10 much better. This is nice but these metallic notes are a little weird and I’m not sure I like these whiffs of new plastic (new car). Some bitter oranges too, some grass, hay, a little cardboard, coffee… Not quite my style. Mouth: nah, I like strange whiskies and I agree with the motto ‘vive la différence’ but this is too strange, cardboardy, dry, kind of chemical… Pass! Finish: medium long, dry, walnutty. Orange squash and burnt herbs in the aftertaste. Comments: actually, it’s interesting whisky but I think there are quite some flaws. Not at all the same very high quality as modern Benromach’s! SGP:362 - 69 points.

Benromach 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1985)

Benromach 1968 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1985) Three stars So this was bottled by G&M way before they bought the distillery. Colour: dark gold. Nose: we’re very close to the Centenary but in fact, this is cleaner and rounder despite a similar ‘plasticness’. A lot of apple peelings and fresh walnuts, some smoke (garden bonfire), some metal (old aluminium pan), a little butter and dairy cream, cardboard… Interesting but pretty wacky. Benromach IS a malt that really improved after it was taken over. Mouth: there are strange notes (touches of soap this time) but we’re way above the Centenary. Nice bitter chocolate, oranges, green tea, gentian, roots, earth… Its no big spirit but it ain’t weak. No mean feat at 40% and after almost 30 years in glass. Finish: not short, more roasted. Some kind of smoky oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: a good old style Benromach. Lots of charms even if it’s got a few weaker spots. SGP:452 - 82 points.

That one was good, but maybe we could try to find an even better – and older – one?

Benromach 27 yo 1966/1993 (53.5%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Benromach 27 yo 1966/1993 (53.5%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Five stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s alive, it’s alive! A massive grassiness and plenty of waxy notes, shoe polish, rocks, engine oil, metal and coal. In a sense, it’s much closer to the new 10 than to both the Centenary and the 1968. With water: shoe polish all over the place. Old stove, ink… Mouth (neat): big big whisky! Metallic, mineral, waxy, leathery, extremely grassy and greatly bitter. Austere, in a way, but also quite philosophical (oh drop that, will you!) With water: it’s amazing what water can do to grassy monsters. Wonderful development on tangerines and kumquats, but the wax and the rocks remain there. My style! Finish: long and as ‘old Highlands’ as the most old Highlands of all old Highlands malt whiskies. Yes, that includes Glen Albyn ;-). Comments: it’s not totally impossible that the current owners would have benchmarked these batches when designing modern Benromach, because there are a lot of similarities. Whether that’s true or not, well done! ;-). SGP:364 - 91 points.

I’m sorry, no older Benromach in stock.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Benromach I've tasted so far



Block Today: BALLAD. Performer: June Tabor. Track: Shipbuilding. Or when a great voice sings one of the greatest sad songs ever (thanks to Elvis Costello). Please visit June Tabor's website and buy her music...

January 6, 2013


The Mini-Verticales, today Deanston

Two is a verticale, isn’t it!

Deanston 12 yo (46.3%, OB, +/- 2012)

Deanston 12 yo (46.3%, OB, +/- 2012) Three stars The first time we tried this ‘upped’ version of the entry-level Deanston, we weren’t utterly convinced (WF 74 in 2009) but maybe things have further improved? Colour: gold. Nose: the very porridgy and grassy profile remains, with also quite some hay and then toasted bread and wood. Very pleasant whiffs of roasted malt, chestnuts and then more orange marmalade and cornflakes. Breakfasty indeed and nicer than I recalled. Mouth: ah yes, it improved and mucho! It’s still a little unlikely (don’t expect something rounded and very ‘focussed’) but I enjoy these half-sour, half-grassy tones as well as the obvious vanilla and toffee from newish oak and the nice notes of orange drops and salty caramel. Corn syrup. Finish: not very long but full and sweet. Fudge and oranges, café latte. Comments: I think we’re not that far from the very good old 12 and ‘Deanston Mill’ from 20 or 30 years ago anymore. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Deanston 13 yo 1995/2008 (60.8%, Warehouse Collection, refill sherry butt, cask #1952, 546 bottles)

Deanston 13 yo 1995/2008 (60.8%, Warehouse Collection, refill sherry butt, cask #1952, 546 bottles) Two stars Independent versions of Deanston are quite rare, for whatever reasons. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very powerful but interestingly metallic, quite old-style. Sour apples and wet clothes, a little tar, lemon yoghurt, dairy cream and more lemons. Some cardboard too, as well as a little ink and crème de menthe. More and more wood smoke. A singular nose, as they say. With water: funny-ish. Wet clothes, newspaper of the day, raw wool and a saucerful of porridge. Mouth (neat): hugely unlikely and sort of fun. Burnt oranges? Cold espresso? Cranberry juice? Green peppercorns? The peppery side never stops growing… With water: bitter oranges everywhere. Green cardamom, ginger tonic… It’s clearly Deanston as we knew it (before the officials got ‘reworked’). Finish: medium long, on more or less the same notes. Nice touches of orange syrup. Comments: unlikely but obligatory, in a way, as I believe any dedicated whisky aficionado should have tried this very unusual style at least once. Buy and share bottles! SGP:462 - 76 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Deanston I've tasted so far



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January 4, 2013


The Mini-Verticales, today Balmenach

Balmenach 2001/2009 (46%, Càrn Mor, Scottish Liqueur Centre, barrel, cask #800412)

Balmenach 2001/2009 (46%, Càrn Mor, Scottish Liqueur Centre, barrel, cask #800412) Two stars and a half Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s a fresh, rather fruity and still quite grainy/porridgy young malt whisky. Apple and pears, cherries and gooseberries, muesli and white bread, plus whiffs of fresh mint, then wheelbarrows of barley. As natural as malt whisky can be but not quite characterful, to say the least. Mouth: barley sugar and apple juice with a little cinnamon, sweet beer and white pepper. Good body. ‘Malt whisky’. Finish: medium long, with a little more pepper and cinnamon, especially in the aftertaste. Comments: not a lot happening here, it’s just good quality unpeated malt whisky of youngish age. You cannot be against that but it’s not exactly mindboggling. SGP:331 - 78 points.

Balmenach-Glenlivet 12 yo 1981/1993 (62.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Balmenach-Glenlivet 12 yo 1981/1993 (62.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Two stars I already had a similar cask at 62.3% quite some years ago. It wasn’t easy whisky. Colour: white wine. Nose: absolutely no changes wrt the 2001, this is just more powerful at this point. Very representative of the young malts at very high strength that Cadenhead’s were bottling in the 1990s. Apples, pears and barley etc etc etc. Becomes very grassy after ten minutes. With water: much grassier. Hard. Moss. Mouth (neat): spirity, youthful, powerful and fruitful. Apples again, pears, pineapples and plenty of grass, white pepper and cinnamon. Strong stuff! With water: better! Barley water, liquorice, peppermint… And always a lot of grass. Green vegetables. Finish: long, with a little more bubblegum, proof of youth. Then a little lemon. Comments: frankly, it’s pretty raw spirit and I’m not sure Balmenach’s distillate has/had enough to tell us when young. SGP:441 – 75 points.

Balmenach 32 yo 1979/2012 (53.1%, Maltbarn, bourbon barrel, 209 bottles)

Balmenach 32 yo 1979/2012 (53.1%, Maltbarn, bourbon barrel, 209 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: most interestingly, we’re in the same ballpark yet again, despite a much older age. So yeah, apples, pears and barley… Having said that, quite a few tinier notes do emerge after a few seconds, such as vanilla, custard, good lager, hay, more muesli, fresh brioche, maybe even watermelon, wild flowers… It’s all pretty light and elegant aroma-wise. With water: more artisan porridge, baker’s yeast, it also gets more mineral, which I like a lot. Rocks, clay… Mouth (neat): creamy fruits, banana liqueur, ripe apples, pineapple drops, greengages and other plums plus some grassy spices, cardamom, white pepper and cinnamon yet again. A very average profile but it’s very good in its averageness. Well, I know what I’m trying to say! With water: not much changes but it’s all good. Fruit salad, with oranges and honey. Some grass too, again and again. Finish: quite long, with more citrus fruits and quite some cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it’s a perfect example of a malt that’s exactly that, a malt. In a way, it’s quite narrow but it’s absolutely flawless. Au naturel! SGP:551 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Balmenach I've tasted so far





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January 3, 2013


The Mini-Verticales, today Littlemill

As I have written before, Littlemill was one of the best surprises in 2012 and probably in 2011 as well, thanks to a few indies.

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (54.8%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #44, 339 bottles)

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (54.8%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #44, 339 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s well in the style of some other 1992s I could try, that is to say rather less ‘emphatically fruity’ than earlier vintages, with also more grassy and mineral/oily touches that remind us of earlier Littlemills. So we’re somewhere between passion fruits/grapefruits and linseed oil/paraffin. A little clay and broken branches as well, violets (flowers). With water: would you think ink and grapefruit juice would mix well? Here’s the answer: yes. Mouth (neat): a different profile this time, the expected fruits are much louder. Lemons and beeswax, pink grapefruits, lemon balm and touches of coriander. I must say this is pretty perfect. Great, full body. With water: swims like a champ. A feeling of zesty fullness, if I may say so. Mango and grapefruit juice. Finish: long, very zesty, ultra-clean and, it seems, with something of, wait, Clynelish? Comments: one of these Riesling-malts that I enjoy so much. SGP:641 - 90 points.

Littlemill 20 yo 1985/2005 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, small map Label, sherry)

Littlemill 20 yo 1985/2005 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, small map Label, sherry) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s really whispering after the 1992, even after a long break, but this very fresh fruitiness is quite marvellous. Passion fruits, mangos, lemons, guavas… In a way, we’re somewhat around Lochside 1981 if that rings a bell to you. Also unexpected touches of tinned litchis and rose petals. I simply hope the palate will stay the course. Mouth: soft and extremely elegant – and, dare I say, feminine. Between vanilla fudge, lemon and orange zests, litchis again and butter cream. Sadly, it tends to fall apart after a few seconds and becomes much more cardboardy and tea-ish. This should have been bottled at CS. Finish: very short, a pity and a shame. Comments: no, really, reducing this down to 40% was some kind of execution but thankfully, the otherwise very excellent bottlers stopped doing that a few years ago. SGP:431 - 78 points.

Littlemill 18 yo 1975/1993 (55.8%, Signatory, cask #2144, 225 bottles)

Littlemill 18 yo 1975/1993 (55.8%, Signatory, cask #2144, 225 bottles) Three stars I think Littlemills from the 1970s are/were fairly uncommon. Colour: straw. Nose: ah yes, I remember this style. No fruits this time, rather cardboard, new leatherette, grass and more grass (and even more grass). Hay, then dried mint leaves and a little shoe polish. Also something metallic (old toolbox). With water: a huuuuge toolbox, with some engine oil and other strange fluids poured in. Graphite oil? Mouth (neat): ha-ha, there is a lot of lime and lemon! But there’s also something plastic-ky, bitterish, not quite clean enough for Littlemill. Icing sugar, lemon squash, white pepper, nutmeg and ink. With water: a little better, that is to say cleaner, but it never matches the 1992’s perfect, crystal-clean zestiness. Finish: medium, with a few more spices. Ginger. Comments: it’s a difficult one to score, some parts being quite superb, other parts being a little underwhelming. Oh well, it’s an old bottle… SGP:551 - 81 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all LIttlemill I've tasted so far


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))
Where we are standing
(but where the hell is Kiribati?)

So like other distinguished bloggers have done lately, I just checked our stats and it seems that WF pulled exactly 1,826,961 visits in 2012. Sounds very high but actually, it was only a modest rise over 2011, less than 10%. In December, our record month, we had 117,626 single sites (IPs) visiting, which, I think, isn’t exactly the same as ‘pure’ single visitors as some readers may surf WF using various devices (computer, mobile, tablet…) Our record day was October 18th with exactly 8,676 single IPs on that very day. Why, I don’t quite know…

The large countries that rose much more than the average in 2012 were China (+89%!), Hong Kong (+135%!), Malaysia (+35%) and South Africa (+45%) plus all the countries from the former Eastern Block, except Russia. Within Europe, the countries that rose (rather moderately) were Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. Were losing a bit of steam the good old US of A (only +1,5%), the Netherlands, Canada, Russia, Australia and New Zealand (but that may have had something to do with the rugby world cup ;-)).

At the lower end, it seems that we now have two new readers from Kiribati, an independent island in the central tropical Pacific Ocean I had never heard of before. Hurray! But still no news from our old reader in the Vatican, he didn’t come back in 2012, unless he’s been browsing WF on his brand new iPad while travelling abroad, of course.

Sadly, it seems that some of
Kiribati's islands are about to sink because of climate change >>

So, should we be happy about those figures? Well, I don’t quite know what to think. We’ve lost three features that used to bring quite a little extra-traffic in the last two years: Nick’s Concert Reviews (mind you, quite understandably he’s busier playing music with his excellent own band The Limelight Bandits but maybe he’ll be back?), then the Malt Maniacs’ Monitor that WF used to host before our online database the Whisky Monitor was launched and third, full integration with the Malt Maniacs’ website. So actually, I think WF’s done quite well because none of those obvious handicaps seem to have, well, seriously handicapped WF’s figures.

Now, any SEO/social expert will tell us that there would be easy means to make WF’s audience grow much faster. Such as finally using social media (quick and easy with WF’s RSS feed), allowing readers’ comments on WF (there are nifty little applets for that) or switching to a fully SEO-ised blog engine (Wordpress?) Not to mention simply improving a few things on the current website (ah, these title tags! Oh, this cluttered layout vintage 1995! Google likes WF less and less but I don’t like google too much either so fair game ;-)).

The main problem, in my opinion, is that all that would certainly improve the quantity, but probably not the quality of WF’s readership. I like the idea that you came and decided to spend a few minutes here for a good reason, hopefully related to fine whiskies, and not because you’ve been pushed/pulled in any sorts of way.

By the way, after our ten years in July last year, maybe you’ve noticed that I have decided to keep WF alive and kicking for a while, thank you for your encouragements! I’m not saying I won’t change anything in the future but at this very moment, I’ll try to go on favouring content (substance?) over function. That means spending my time sourcing and assessing more interesting whiskies rather than trying to build up traffic. Hope you’ll understand and approve. Merci, hugs and Happy New Year once again! – your comrade, Serge

PS: next milestone, WF’s 10,000th tasting notes but that should rather happen in 2014 if I’m still alive by then.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Grachan Moncur III. Track: Air Raid. Please visit his website and buy the music...

January 2, 2013



The Mini-Verticales, today Benriach

How about a little Benriach verticale indeed, all officials? Let’s see how far we’ll manage to go (we’ll start it in the eighties)…

Benriach 21 yo 1988/2010 (54.8%, OB, Generations, for Singapore, Barolo hogshead, cask #4423, 269 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold/apricot. Nose: it’s the wine’s grassy part that speaks first, with stems, stalk and leaves and then more and more blackcurrants. Behind all that, some leather, almonds and metal polish and not much of Benriach, I’m afraid. Not saying it isn’t very nice, it’s just not very Benriach (with its lush fruitiness). With water: I have to say the fruits manage to come through now, while all that leather and the vegetal notes vanish a bit. Mouth (neat): works, we’re not far from sweet sherry maturing, with raisins aplenty and quite some honey and liquorice. It’s all very rich yet elegant and balanced. I think the people at Benriach are really mastering wine finishing since a few years (earlier attempts didn’t quite convince me, I have to say). With water: very fine, all sorts of dried golden fruits and quite some old sweet wine (I cannot not think of straw wine – vin de paille, I know, that’s very far from Barolo). Finish: long, rather grapy again. A little slivovitz (plum spirit like we had the other day). Comments: a few downs and many ups, quite a rollercoaster. I’m more into classic Benriachs but this is very well made for sure. Big whisky. SGP:652 - 86 points.

Benriach 27 yo 1984/2012 (52.2%, OB, peated, hogshead, tawny port finish, cask #4050, 283 bottles) Five stars All this is very unlikely (peat, tawny port finish) but my compadres the MMs loved it at the MM Awards 2012, and I trust them, so... Colour: gold/apricot. Nose: it’s very spectacular, I believe this red wine/peat combination works one time out of ten and lucky me, it does here. In fact, it creates a very farmy feeling, between a yard in the middle of summer, lots of grains, hay and just touches of ‘clean’ manure. There’s even a funny mentholated side and the tractor’s fumes. Or is it the harvester? With water: more mint and camphor ala old Islay. Diesel oil (yes, the tractor’s). Mouth (neat): lots of fun despite the grapiness that makes the whole a notch bitter. Smoked sausages and plenty of dried fruits, bitter oranges, spearmint, crème de cassis and a growing leathery side. With water: it’s almost perfect now. Some passion fruits and other tropical fruits come through while the smokiness becomes more peppery. It’s got something Skye-ish (?!) Finish: long, halfway between that peppery and leathery smokiness and blood oranges and tangerines. That works. Comments: strange but great. No, strange and great. SGP:565 - 90 points.
Benriach 29 yo 1980/2009 (43.9%, OB for Taiwan, barrel, cask #12, 128 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: after the heavies, this one means almost holidays, with all these clean summery fruits. Apples, peaches, plums and behind them, papayas and guavas. It’s not quite a ‘sexplosive’ as a 1976 but the general feeling is pretty much the same, it’s all quite, yeah, sexy. Some vanilla as well but not too much. No water needed. Mouth: very Benriach. A lush fruitiness, right between a western orchard (juicy pears, cherries, mirabelles) and a tropical plantation (bananas, pineapples, maybe litchis). Some vanilla and acacia honey to bind all that plus a few soft spices. It’s an easy dram, dangerously quaffable. Finish: medium long, just as fruity. More green peppercorn in the aftertaste, though. Also a little gewürztraminer, probably the litchis talking. Comments: it’s relatively simple but everything here is pretty perfect. We’re bordering the 90-border in my book. Like, 89.90. SGP:741 - 89 points.
Let’s stay in Taiwan…
Benriach 28 yo 1980/2008 (48.5%, OB for Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt finish, cask #5542, 120 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold/apricot. Nose: wait, this is something very different and certainly not classic sherried malt whisky from Speyside. In fact we’re somewhere between an Italian trattoria (with the hams, the porcinis, the tomatoes and all that), a carpenter’s workshop (hot sawdust) and an oriental souk, with dried fruits (dates, figs) and many spices, curry powders and such. Oh, and we also have wild cigars as well as a little varnish (did you ever smell a brand new humidor?) It’s spectacular on the nose, let’s only hope the palate won’t be too wacky or wobbly. Mouth: spectacular 3-stage development. First the usual fruits, fresh ones plus raisins, then more leather and tobacco, and lastly, some dry spices including cinnamon as usual and touches of mustard and cardamom. Finish: it’s the more difficult part, the spices become drying and we’re going toward strong tea, with an obvious tannicity. Grape pips. Comments: I fell in love with the nose but I’m not a huge fan of the palate. We all know that song, don’t we… SGP:472 - 84 points.
And while we’re in Taiwan…
Benriach 32 yo 1977/2009 (45.1%, OB for Taiwan, port pipe, cask #2594, 573 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber/salmony. Nose: this one is relatively discreet and quite soft. The tropical fruits are there (more towards banana skin this time) and so are the cherries and a little Virginia tobacco, but it all ends up smelling like some old Bourgogne, that is to say a tad gamy (what we call civet cat). Having said that, there are also very nice touches of natural turpentine, almond oil and then more guignolet (cherry liqueur). Yes, old pinot noir… Peach leaves. Mouth: great arrival, more on oranges this time, but the middle is weaker and a tad drying. A little abrupt, so to speak, with quite some tea and pepper starting to coat the sides of your palate and the back of your tongue. Having said that, there’re also very nice touches of rose jelly and litchis that we already had in the 1980/barrel. Finish: recovers a bit, with oranges again, tangerines, litchis and good deal of white pepper, ginger and nutmeg. Comments: it’s a little hard to comment on this one. Some parts are absolutely beautiful (the nose) while some others seam to be a little thin and oaky. Hard to score as well… SGP:561 - 85 points.
Meanwhile, in Taiwan ;-)…
Benriach 39 yo 1970/2010 (44.3%, OB for Taiwan, sherry hogshead, cask #2855, 166 bottles) Five stars Colour: brown/bronze. Nose: FAB! One step above all the others, very complex yet rounded, soft, smooth (don’t shoot), with plenty of raisins and other Christmas-caky notes (quiet please) while the distillery’s usual tropical fruits really show up as well, perhaps more towards mangos this time. Chutney? Then old Sauternes, ham, balsamic vinegar, cigars, old leather polish and all that jazz. What’s really striking is the elegance and the softness. Stunning nose. Mouth: yesss! Coffee, tropical fruits, mint tea, bitter chocolate, black pepper, bitter oranges and liquorice wood. Chlorophyll chewing-gum. Perfect body, with an appealing lightness and yet it’s full and wide, in that sense the feeling is very different from what we’ve felt with the 1977. Growing mint and chocolate (early After Eights way before they made them frankly too sugary – they’re now disgustingly sweet). Finish: medium long, perfectly chocolaty. Mint again in the aftertaste. Comments: this is the sugar. SGP:562 - 91 points.
Good, let’s venture into the 60s but this baby will be our last Benriach (for today!)… No, no Taiwan, rather Japan!
Benriach 41 yo 1968/2010 (51%, OB from Speyside to Kobe  for Bar Main Malt, hogshead, cask #2709, 104 bottles) Five stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: look, I had the previous 1970 at 92 points but after having nosed this 1968, I simply had to downgrade it a bit because THIS is the sugar. And utterly perfect fruitiness blending with tiny phenolic, mineral and oily notes that can only make us think of a great Montrachet. All that is quite unbelievable and only the very best 1976s can match this in my opinion. High high high. Mouth: simple and evident. Tropical fruit juice with just hints of spices that make it all extremely elegant and light (which is the opposite of weak or thin in this context). A sylphlike fruity profile, it’s impossible not to love it. Finish: medium long, extremely fresh, wonderfully fruity and miraculously un-oaky. Comments: one of the unbeatables. I know those notes were short but mind you, there were only 104 bottles! SGP:751 - 93 points.
(with big hugs to Emmanuel, Konstantin and Olivier)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Benriach I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: McCoy Tyner. Track: African Village (part 1). Please visit the website and buy the music...

January 1, 2013


MM Wishes 2013


Tasting two festive new oldies

Auchentoshan 44 yo 1966 (50.1%, OB, bourbon hogshead, 257 bottles, 2012)

Auchentoshan 44 yo 1966 (50.1%, OB, bourbon hogshead, 257 bottles, 2012) Five stars An expensive but very elegantly packaged new official offering following another 1966 that was bottled at 40.9% in 2011. According to a very recent press release that includes a picture of last year’s bottling, this new one was distilled on 21st February 1966, so why it’s bottled at 44 yo and not 45 yo or even 46 yo is a little unclear. Have they kept the bottles for a while before releasing them? These notes were taken in Scotland with the MMs while we were having a large official advance sample thanks to The Whisky Shop. The ABV was the sample’s ABV, I couldn’t find any data about the actual strength so far (no data in PR material or on the distillery’s website I’m afraid), but it should be the same. Enough babbling, let’s try it… Colour: deep gold. Nose: very unusual start on olive oil, linseed oil, wax polish and then green tobacco, before an unexpected coastalness kicks in, in a kind of Bowmorian way.  Beautifully dry as well. Very unusual for Auchentoshan but very perfect.  Mouth: very creamy this time, nervous, with a zesty start and then bags of star anise, tobacco and soft spices, slightly 'Indian'. Also a little mango chutney by the way, old palo cortado, then more and more raisins. Great sweet and spicy combination! Finish: more and more black pepper, it gets really big. Maybe the aftertaste is a tad too dry but after 44 years, let's not quibble, it's all great. Comments: it's got something of the old official 1965s and 1966s from around ten or fifteen years ago. Only the slight dryness in the finish and aftertaste will prevent me from going even higher than… SGP:652 - 91 points (notice the '2' in the SGP? Unusual with Auchentoshan in my experience!)

Glenfarclas 1968/2012 (54.4%, OB, Family Cask, Special Release, ‘Tribute to the 175th Anniversary’, selected by Luc Timmermans, cask #5241, 175 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1968/2012 (54.4%, OB, Family Cask, Special Release, ‘Tribute to the 175th Anniversary’, selected by Luc Timmermans, cask #5241, 175 bottles) Five stars Luc has been behind several 1968s already. Colour: dark amber. Nose: first dried fruits (figs, dates, bananas) then mentholated touches, with also a little camphor and eucalyptus as well as a little wood smoke. Grows richer and richer, on a combination of notes of cedar wood, orange liqueur and Havana cigars. The whole is very classic and very expressive, making us think of some very old cognac. With water: a fine and elegant oak comes through. Encaustic, beeswax, walnut stain. Mouth (neat): much more powerful and robust than what the nose suggested, almost brutal, with an acridness that evokes Russian tea. The oak’s stronger, bringing touches of mustard and Havana cigars once again. The fruits remain in the background at this point. With water: the fruits come to the front, with a lot of oranges, raisins, prunes and very pleasant  touches of chocolate and liquorice. Finish: long, very balanced between the oakiness and the dried fruits. The menthol comes back in the retro-olfaction, together with notes of cloves, cinnamon and Toulouse violet drops. Comments: an archclassic, with an oak that’s much present but silky and well integrated. It brings some great structure to this very old Glenfarclas that’s very firm when neat and smoother and more seductive when diluted. SGP:471 – 92 points.





Block Today: MODERN ARABIC. Performer: Jordan's Zaman Al Zaatar. Track: Al Wisal. Please visit the website and buy the music...

December 2012 - part 2 <--- January 2013 - part 1 ---> January 2013 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Auchentoshan 44 yo 1966 (50.1%, OB, bourbon hogshead, 257 bottles, 2012)

Benriach 41 yo 1968/2010 (51%, OB from Speyside to Kobe  for Bar Main Malt, hogshead, cask #2709, 104 bottles)

Benriach 39 yo 1970/2010 (44.3%, OB for Taiwan, sherry hogshead, cask #2855, 166 bottles)

Benriach 27 yo 1984/2012 (52.2%, OB, peated, hogshead, tawny port finish, cask #4050, 283 bottles)

Benromach 27 yo 1966/1993 (53.5%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Caol Ila 14 yo 1974 (62.3%, Intertrade, 294 bottles, +/-1988)

Clynelish 1983/2000 (47%, Samaroli, cask #2684, 360 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1968/2012 (54.4%, OB, Family Cask, Special Release, ‘Tribute to the 175th Anniversary’, selected by Luc Timmermans, cask #5241, 175 bottles)

Glenlivet 27 yo 1955/1983 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Glenlivet 1973/2012 (48.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #10658)

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (54.8%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #44, 339 bottles)

Miltonduff-Glenlivet 20 yo (95.5° proof UK, Forth Wines Ltd Milnathort, +/-1970)

Oban 13 yo 'Manager's Dram' (62%, OB, screw cap, 1990)