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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2014 - Part 2

January 2014 - part 1 <--- January 2014 - part 2 ---> February 2014 - part 1


January 31, 2014


Octomore vs. Octomore

There’s no peatier malt than that used for Bruichladdich’s Octomore, especially the second-era versions that were distilled from malt that used to contain 167ppm phenols. But let’s remember Bruichladdich’s stills are very tall – the opposite of Ardbeg, for example -, so the distillate then loses a sizeable part of that peatiness.  But Octomore’s still a peaty beast…

Octomore 5 yo 06.1_167 (57%, OB, 2013)

Octomore 5 yo 06.1_167 (57%, OB, 2013) Four starsColour: dark straw. Nose: starts very, very briny. Nosing a puddle of seawater under the sun, or something like that. Then waves of fresh putty and paint, plasticine, black pepper, cut grass, cigar ashes, coal pile, then more aromatic herbs, thyme, fennel, dill... The complexity is really striking, you’d rather expect this to be huge and one-dimensional, but it isn’t at all. With water: the malted barley comes out, together with touches of yeast and more cola ashes. ‘Visiting the distillery’. Mouth (neat): wham! Seawater and lemon juice and ashes and orange blossom honey (from the oak?), with an oily mouth feel but no extreme peat. It’s actually rather sweet and even quite jammy. In a way, it’s pretty soft whisky. With water: becomes drier, with more lemon juice and ashes. It lost its roundness and most fruits. Finish: long, with a clear feeling of raw peated malt and more ashes again in the aftertaste. Comments: I love Octomore, but I wouldn’t say this one’s my favourite. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t seem to be a perfect swimmer. But hey, it’s still very excellent… SGP:447 – 85 points.

Octomore 6 yo 2004/2011 '167 The Beast – Futures II' (60.5%, OB, 2011)

Octomore 6 yo 2004/2011 '167 The Beast – Futures II' (60.5%, OB, 2011) Four stars and a half These were only available from the distillery and are now pretty expensive, it seems. Colour: gold. Nose: this one is sweeter, easier, fruitier than the new one, but it’s no sweet, easy and fruity whisky of course. Well actually the ashy side grows and grows, together with some brine and more and more fresh almonds, which in turn start to resemble the plasticine and the putty that we had found in the other one. What remains much more discreet here is the brine. With water: superb. Tinned sardines, almonds, anchovies, paint… Really outruns the new one at this point. Mouth (neat): stronger than the new one, more pungent, smokier, certainly more extreme, peatier… Were the casks less active? It’s also much spicier, with more pepper. So yeah, a bigger beast altogether. With water: excellent! This one swims like a champ. Big, a little sweeter, peppery, ashy, smoky, liquoricy… Finish: very long, with some tar, pepper and many ashes. Comments: just perfect – unless you do not like peat of course. SGP:449 - 89 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: BLUES JAZZ. Performer: Dawn Tyler Watson. Track: Purple Haze. Please visit her website and buy her music...

January 30, 2014


Caol Ila again and with joy

Let’s have a few Caol Ilas again, all bottled in 2013. According to WF’s figures, we’re approaching our 400th Caol Ila, we’ll make sure it’s going to be a special one. But that won’t happen today…

Caol Ila 'Stitchell Reserve' (59.6%, OB, Special Releases, 2013)

Caol Ila 'Stitchell Reserve' (59.6%, OB, Special Releases, 2013) Three stars and a half Diageo keep proposing unpeated Caol Ilas (aka ‘Highland Caol Ila’) every year, this time it was an NAS version. Colour: straw. Nose: I think it’s the first time I find no peat in an unpeated Caol Ila. Having said that I find quite some varnish and even nail polish, then the expected lemons and a lot of grass. Really a lot of grass. Also touches of vanilla but the whole is sharper than the sharpest young peated Caol Ilas. So far… With water: whelks and kiwis. I’m serious. Mouth (neat): again, no peat that I can find this time. Green apples, custard, fructose, marshmallows and, again and again, a lot of lemon. With water: becomes sweeter, not quite banana-sweet but quite. A little hazelnut liqueur, perhaps, then more green tea, which makes it rather dry. Finish: long, grassy. Green tea with a chunk of lemon. No milk, thanks. Comments: the question might be ‘why?’, as this very good malt could have been made at one dozen other Diageo distilleries in my humble opinion. But yeah, it’s good stuff. SGP:551 - 83 points.

Let’s try to find a peaty counterpart of (probably) similar age and strength. Such as this baby, perhaps…

Caol Ila 9 yo 2003/2013 (59.6%, Adelphi, cask #301261, 285 bottles)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2003/2013 (59.6%, Adelphi, cask #301261, 285 bottles) Four stars and a half Oh, when I poured this very fragrant dram I instantly thought of Caroni rum. That’s strange… Colour: gold. Nose: high peat and high fresh oak plus some tar and bicycle inner tube. Do bicycles still have inner tubes, by the way? The combo works here, it smells almost like smoked tarry vanilla pods. Add just a few slices of green apples and lemons, just a drop of seawater and you have it. With water: superb, more mineral. Mouth (neat): I have to say this is pretty irresistible. Very oily and yet very fresh, lemony, peaty, briny and full of olive oil and custard. High impact young peater, but it’s not devoid of elegance. With water: tarry almonds and smoked lemons. Or the other way around. Finish: long, ultra-clean and yet pleasantly fat – or oily. Comments: as Pierre Corneille wrote 350 years ago after having quaffed quite a few young Caol Ilas, ‘valour does not depend upon age’. I’d add ‘not always’. SGP:567 - 88 points.

Go climb over such a young glory! Only one solution, to call to much older ones for help…  Let’s have a few 1983-1980!

Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2013 (48.9%, Signatory for 30th Anniversary Waldhaus am See, cask #8302, 250 bottles)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2013 (48.9%, Signatory for 30th Anniversary Waldhaus am See, cask #8302, 250 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s amusing how close to the youngster we are, with similar hints of tar and ‘good rubber’ at first nosing, and even these touches of sugarcane that were also hinting at true rum. After that, more lapsang souchong tea, marzipan, honeysuckle and lime tree teas, limoncello and plain seawater. It’s not a huge Caol Ila, but it’s got power and determination (excuse me?) Mouth: love this. Smoke: check, lemons: check, brine: check, almonds: check, ashes: check… And then a rather unusual blend of various herbal liqueurs with a lemony twist. No need to list those liqueurs but if I’d quote only one, I’d say genepy. Finish: long, wth more of those liqueurs, including something such as… salted absinth? Comments: I’ve tried many times, it’s almost impossible to find a bad Caol Ila from these years. This one’s even great. SGP:456 - 90 points.

Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2013 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan, butt, cask #1096)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2013 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan, butt, cask #1096) Four stars and a halfColour: pale gold. Nose: sharper and more mineral, more varnishy too, more phenolic as well, more camphory… Hence certainly more medicinal. A little hard to say, in fact, the high strength makes it a bit brutal. With water: new car and old tools. Plus a little leather polish. Mouth (neat): absolutely perfect. Ultra-zesty, lemony, slightly salty, briny and, something that the others didn’t quite have, very kippery. I do not get any sherry, but who cares in this context? With water: you know, that feeling of riesling from an excellent winemaker. Unless it’s rather chenin blanc from appropriate terroirs. Finish: loses it a bit now, because of a higher sucrosity that is coming through (barley sugar), but I’m splitting hairs. Comments: I was ready to go to 91, but the finish pulled it down to 89. So… SGP:555 - 89 points.

Let’s go on with another new 30 yo…

Caol Ila 30 yo 1982/2013 (53%, Signatory, hogshead, cask #6487, 226 bottles)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1982/2013 (53%, Signatory, hogshead, cask #6487, 226 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: this one’s even more medicinal that the W&M, with some tincture of iodine and ‘new’ bandages. Also oysters, seawater, fresh almonds, leather… Then more and more eucalyptus. Grandpa’s cough medicine. Really lovely again, but rather less smoky than the 1983s. With water: yeah, fumes, engine oil, new tyres, fisherman’s ropes, linoleum… Mouth (neat): just perfect. Lemon, verbena, smoked salmon, lemon balm, dill, lime, grapefruits… Once again, it’s not the smokiest ever but it’s just amazingly zesty. With water: kippers and pipe tobacco.  Finish: long and simply in keeping with the palate. Salty aftertaste. Comments: £150 a bottle. Excuse me, a decanter. No further comments needed. SGP:466 - 91 points.

It’s going to be hard to beat that one. One very last try if you don’t mind…

Caol Ila 33 yo 1980/2013 (58.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1980/2013 (58.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles) Four stars and a half A high strength for a 33 yo ‘coastal’ malt. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it seems that plasticine and new leatherette are back, but this time the décor rather gathers herbs and citrus first, and then  indeed bandages and embrocations. Also wet beach sand and maybe one or two rubber bands. With water: no, it all got much cleaner at +/-45% vol., with the usual brine, lemon juice and smoked oysters. Having said that, there’s also a little damp cardboard. Mouth (neat): it’s not that strong! Or is it me? Say lime juice, say green chartreuse and say tar liqueur. It’s not the cleanest old one ever, but it is different. And very excellent, as dirtiness is often an asset. With water: gets very salty, this is almost seawater. Fun stuff. Finish: lemon juice and seawater 50/50. No room for anything else. Comments: excellent again, but maybe it lacks the imposing ‘light fullness’ that other old CIs may sometimes display. Anyway, very high quality for sure. SGP:355 - 88 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Jacques Loussier. Track: no jazzified Bach this time... rather his own composition Secousse. Please visit his website and buy the music...

January 29, 2014


Yeah yeah yeah, our concert reviewer and photographer are back, with this great...


Concert Review by Nick Morgan

The Great British Rock and Blues Festival, Butlins, Skegness, 24th-26th January, 2014

While most of the world’s leading movers and shakers spent the weekend at Davos, your Whiskyfun reviewers decided to spend le week-end with the G5, in the unlikely location of Butlins holiday camp at Skegness.

It’s certainly high-security: difficult to get in, harder to get out. For those of you who aren’t aware it’s a holiday camp (er.. actually it’s now called a ‘resort’), built by entrepreneur Billy Butlin in 1935; the start of a huge popular entertainment empire that still bears his name. The G5? Oh yes, it’s a giant geriatric gourmand and (mostly) Geordie Glastonbury: the Great British Rock and Blues Festival.   And Skegness,  if you don’t know,  is ‘bracing’; especially in January.  But Butlins make a fortune selling off-season music weekends these days and clearly have a well-established audience,  if this one is anything to go by.  It’s an ‘adult’ weekend, so with no kids to skew the demographic, the average age has to be sixty significantly plus,  almost exclusively white and from the West and East Midlands, Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear.  They are all large and getting larger.  Couples, families,  groups of friends (I hear tell there’s a whole street from Bradford here) and, of course, numerous portly Peter Pans with their Lost Boys: Tootles, Nibs, Curly, Slightly and The Twins, all rarely to be seen without a plastic pint tumbler in hand.  Skegness
Your reviewers have gone undercover in typical style, with an Executive Premium Upgrade to a beachside container, which even has a specially-heated cupboard for the whippets. 

We engage fully with Butlins’ all-in dining package, a very North of England version of La Grande Bouffe, and even sprinkle salt liberally on our bacon, comme on fait a la maison.  And in between the numerous musical reminiscence therapy sessions, we generously give our time to overweight pony-tailed veterans of the never-quite-famous musicians brigade, spinning yarns about  the time they nearly played with the Moody Blues, or once met Keith Emerson in the bar of the Strawberry near Newcastle’s St James’s Park.  Ever game for a laugh we also sat in on a ‘how to pogo in a mobility scooter’ session which turned out to be not too different from playing a game of Rollerball.


What about the music?  There are four performance spaces: The Blues Stage, the Rock Stage, the Blues Matters stage and the Breaking Act Stage, with band playing Friday evening, and afternoons and evenings on Saturday and Sunday.  Frankly the programming between the two main stages is somewhat random, but newcomers will learn that the real skill is not choosing who to go and see, but rather developing strategies to ensure that you can secure seating and tables for your party, in one or other (or both!) for the whole session. 

Paul Kane and Steve Walwyn (Dr Feelgood)

Naively, we went for the surprisingly frisky mosh for Dr Feelgood on Friday evening, which was largely inhabited by a party celebrating the fact that this was their one-thousandth Feelgood gig, either a stunning show of loyalty or a real lack of imagination.  Of course there are no real Feelgoods left in the band, even though drummer Kevin Morris has been with the band for thirty-one years, and bass player (and Ian McShane lookalike) Phil Mitchell, for not too much less.  In a sense, the Feelgoods are a brand, and they certainly delivered their trademark high-energy rhythm and blues, much of it originating from the pen of former guitarist Wilko Johnson, whose unique guitar style defined the band’s original sound.  The muscular Steve Walwyn on guitar plays it his own way, very effectively, and singer Paul Kane manages to generate no small part of the on-stage menace of his illustrious predecessor Lee Brilleaux.  A class act. 

Carl Palmer
Carl Palmer and Paul Bielatowicz (Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy)

Like the blues, you can hardly call the Feelgoods sophisticated. Their genre is one of immediacy, simplicity, repetition and energy, and this lack of sophistication was probably a feature of most of the weekend’s performers, with the very notable exception of the Carl Palmer Band, who probably turned in the best set we witnessed.  You remember Carl Palmer of course?  Drummer extraordinaire with Atomic Rooster, Emerson Lake and Palmer (ELP), and Asia. Well, when he’s not touring the globe with Asia he’s playing with his own three-piece outfit, with Paul Bielatowicz on guitars and Simon Fitzpatrick on bass, playing mostly the great tunes from the ELP (and The Nice) days. Now I know we all ritually burned our ELP albums years ago, and I would rarely contemplate listening to any of their recordings today.  But with Keith Emerson’s keyboard parts transcribed for the guitar by Bielatowicz, and played by him with an astonishing virtuosity, Palmer’s band turn in a captivating performance, of a class apart from anything else we saw.  We were in the mosh for that one too; Palmer’s drumming was a masterclass, and frankly it was one of those occasions when it was foolish not to have worn earplugs, as heads were still ringing the next day.  And it would be wrong of me not to mention Simon Fitzpatrick’s old-folk’s pleasing party-piece, a solo version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Wilko Johnson
Wilko Johnson

I’m not sure that Wilko Johnson would claim to be sophisticated, although in what is apparently and very sadly the twilight of his career he’s taken an odd turn by recording a new album of mostly old material with The Who’s Roger Daltrey and his touring band, featuring the great Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums.  He’s got two sets with the band (but no Daltrey – they play together shortly at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire) on Sunday afternoon.  It’s strange watching him in a large venue where some of the threat that he naturally carries with him is dissipated; face to face at the Half Moon or 100 Club is best!  But for all that it’s a great gig, with his current circumstances giving some of the lyrics to his classic songs an added poignancy.  Apparently Daltrey and Wilko got together because Roger is a great admirer of the Pirates, and of course Wilko’s bewilderingly simple ‘choppy’ way of playing was based on Pirate’s guitarist the late Mick Green. I’m glad to report it’s all still there, just as ‘choppy’ and piratical as ever. 

Chantel McGregor
Chantel McGregor

By way of a big contrast from many of the other bands on the main stages Sunday also saw Chantel McGregor take to the stage with her power-trio.  For the past few years she has been sweeping the boards at the British Blues Awards, and her live performances have garnered much acclaim.  With a degree from the University of Rock she certainly has huge technical ability; it takes a lot of chutzpah to put Voodoo Chile as the third song in your set, and execute with a degree of engaging originality, but that’s what she did.  Perhaps a tangible weakness, as many other artistes have discovered to their own cost, is in the strength of her original material: it was a bit patchy, but the guitar playing was rather exceptional, and the singing pretty good too.

Tony McPhee
Kate with Tony TS McPhee (Groundhogs), Zoot Money, Chas Hodges

And just for the record, before we set our faces into a howling wind and bade farewell to the relentlessly helpful and friendly Butlins staff, we also saw (among the many bands playing) Slack Alice, the Quireboys, Chas Hodges, Zoot Money, The Yardbirds, and the Groundhogs, but sadly not Stan Webb (of Chicken Shack fame) who failed to show up. Perhaps he’d gone to Davos for a few pints instead.

- Nick Morgan, concert photographs by Kate Kavanagh


Two natural Arran

I found all recent natural Arrans (that is to say not filled or finished in unlikely wine casks) much to my liking, with their very pleasant style that combines both liqueury and ‘nervous’ sides. No, that’s not always contradictory.

Arran 'Batch 2' (49.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 459 bottles)

Arran 'Batch 2' (49.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 459 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: a clean, malty and fruity style that rather hints at many ‘natural’ Speysiders. I find apples, plums, then more oranges and ‘sweet’ lemons, lemon grass, touches of ginger and then a wee earthiness combined with a little sea air, which isn’t exactly ‘Speyside’, I agree. A nice, easy, clean nose. Mouth: big fruits, bubblegum, more bubblegum and then even more bubblegum. Maybe a few marshmallows as well, before many oranges start to appear, although we’re rather around squash and Fanta. Spectacularly orangey/bubblegumy, I’d say. Jelly beans and bears, Haribo-style. Finish: long, with a little more sugar cane syrup and barley sugar. A little lemonade too, the finish’s a little fizzy. Comments: a spectacular sweetness. As they say, ‘It's fruitier than Glen MacFruit, the winner of last year's Fruitbomb competition’. Ha! SGP:741 - 83 points.

Arran 16 yo 1996/2013 (53%, A.D. Rattray for Brachadair, hogshead, cask #231, 329 bottles)

Arran 16 yo 1996/2013 (53%, A.D. Rattray for Brachadair, hogshead, cask #231, 329 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale straw. Nose: this one’s very different from the Boutique-y, with much more barley, porridge, mashed potatoes, milk and custard, then a fruitier side. The whole remains very, very barley-y. With water: more custard, mashed celeriac, cooked turnips… In all cleanliness. Sounds funny but I really like this. Mouth (neat): phew! I wasn’t too fond of the nose but the palate’s easier, sweeter, fruitier and zestier. The same kind of fizziness as in its bro, as well as these jellybeans, liqueurs and marshmallows. Very sweet but remains fresh. With water: very good now, on orange liqueur, a little pepper, a little ginger and touches of coconut. Finish: quite long, with more spices, esp. pepper and ginger. Comments: it’s fun to see water at work. It improves the fruitiness and tames the porridge in the nose, in a way. SGP:551 - 84 points.

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


January 28, 2014


A large bag of Longmorn

I'm expecting much consistency, which isn't always great news as stringing several similar whiskies together can become a little, say 'boring'.

Longmorn 17 yo 1996/2013 (43%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #72327, 879 bottles)

Longmorn 17 yo 1996/2013 (43%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #72327, 879 bottles) Four stars The low strength should make this one easy. Colour: amber. Nose: leafy, slightly rubbery, a tad metallic and otherwise all on chocolate and coffee, plus touches of kirsch. And a little herbal tea, around wild rose. More walnuts and earth after a few minutes, while the metallic side remains. Mouth: herbal teas all around, with some mint as well as grape skins and pips. So a very leafy/grassy kind of sherry at first sips, with some oak as well and then more and more fruitcake. Dried Corinth raisins and dates, plus cloves and cinnamon. Tends to become more and more christmassy. Finish: rather long, very chocolaty. Some liquorice as well, then quite a lot of toasted bread and bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: classic old style big sherry. Even the strength makes it old style. SGP:451 - 86 points.

Longmorn 17 yo 1996/2013 (46%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #72320, 753 bottles)

Longmorn 17 yo 1996/2013 (46%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #72320, 753 bottles) Three stars and a half The large outturn suggest a sherry butt here again, even at 46% vol. The superb sister cask #72320 was bottled for LMDW last year. Colour: amber. Nose: it's a rather dry and slightly rubbery one again at first nosing. Coffee beans and rubber bands, some soot and coal smoke, then more herbal teas (mint, thyme) and dark chocolate. There are also lees and whiffs of wine barrel, as well as a little tobacco. It's rather very herbal for a sherry cask. Mouth: we're very close to #72327, but this one has even more grass and is becoming quite bitter. Herbal liqueurs, walnut skin, grape pips... Also quite some kirsch again. Rather pungent. Finish: long, slightly bitterish again. Marmalade and thyme tea. Comments: very good but I think I liked the 'lighter' bottling a little better. SGP:462 - 84 points.

Let's have a lighter 1996. Lighter in colour that is...

Longmorn 16 yo 1996/2013 (47%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #105066, 126 bottles)

Longmorn 16 yo 1996/2013 (47%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #105066, 126 bottles) Four starsColour: gold. Nose: more typically Longmorn, since there's much less sherry, if any. That means that the fresh fruits manage to shine through this time, with oranges and apples, then gooseberries and plums. Wee touches of nail varnish and bubblegum as well, which isn't unpleasant at all. Mouth: very fruity indeed, with a grassy backbone. Actually rather sweets and jellies, jellybeans, some orange-flavoured, some cassis-flavoured, while a few are rather cherry-flavoured. Some green tea. Finish: quite long, more citrusy. Hawthorn tea. Comments: a very good fruity one, full of youth. Rather orchardy as they say. SGP:641 - 85 points.

Longmorn 21 yo 1992/2013 (46%, Wemyss Malts, 'Coconut and Sandalwood', hogshead, 330 bottles)

Longmorn 21 yo 1992/2013 (46%, Wemyss Malts, 'Coconut and Sandalwood', hogshead, 330 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: it's fresher than all 1996s, seemingly lighter in body, more on fresh fruits and vanilla, with indeed some lactones in the background. That's the coconut. Also nougat, marzipan and melted cassata ice cream. I enjoy this freshness. Mouth: sweet, rounded and fruity. Not unlike the Duncan Taylor but with rather less bitterish greenness. Oranges, vanilla, white chocolate, a feeling of jellybeans once again and then, indeed, more coconut that hints at bourbon. A very easy, pretty sexy Longmorn. Finish: medium length, a tad greener this time. Green tea, tea tannins - I guess that's what they call 'sandalwood'. Comments: typical fruity middle-aged Longmorn. There are literally hundreds around,  and many are very easy/good in my opinion. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Longmorn 21 yo 1992/2013 (49.8%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon, 271 bottles)

Longmorn 21 yo 1992/2013 (49.8%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon, 271 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: extremely close to that of the Wemyss, to the point where both whiskies are undistinguishable. Maybe is this one a notch more lemony? Mouth: indeed, both are very similar, but this one's got a little more sour wood, cider apples and such. Also more marshmallows, it's all a little bigger and more vivid, so to speak, while all that cannot only come from the higher strength. More squash and maybe touches of kiwi. Less coconut as well, maybe. Finish: same. Long. Touches of bitter oranges. Comments: maybe the maltiness is a little bigger too. As far as quality's concerned, it's a tie in my book. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Longmorn 19 yo 1992/2012 (58.2%, Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #71779, 270 bottles)

Longmorn 19 yo 1992/2012 (58.2%, Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #71779, 270 bottles) Four stars Coopers Choice already had a great 1992 at 46% vol. two or three years ago. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's all waxier and oilier than the other 1992s, but that's probably the higher strength. Fresh butter and sunflower oil on vanilla, white chocolate, marzipan and various ripe 'western' fruits. With water: it's now the same whisky as both previous ones. Maybe a little more barley sweetness. Mouth (neat): big, punchy, fresh, zesty. Apples and lime, vanilla, green tea, gueuze and lemon honey. Very oily mouth feel. The high strength imparts a few coffee notes. With water: same as above again. Maybe added touches of ripe kiwi? Finish: same when reduced. Comments: all good once again. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Good, it's not that those babies have been boring, but better keep other Longmorns from the 1990s for future sessions. Bwaaah... Let's have some older ones.

Longmorn-Glenlivet 26 yo 1987/2013 (49.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 402 bottles)

Longmorn-Glenlivet 26 yo 1987/2013 (49.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 402 bottles) Four stars Another one from this infernal new black series. Colour: white wine. Nose: as naked as possible, this baby's got neither vanilla nor any other kinds of 'oaky' aromas. So it's more or less barley eau-de-vie, with a lot of, well, barley, touches of moss, fern, tiny-wee touches of compost, apple peelings and gooseberries. Add to that a few floral notes, a little patchouli, pot-pourri, roses... And that's it. Interesting. Mouth: same flavours, that is to say many apples and gooseberries, plus some lemon and lime. Add a spoonful of honey, a drop of amaretto and a little sugarcane syrup. Maybe a pinch of white pepper... Finish: quite long, very zesty. Almost Littlemill-zesty, in a way. A little horseradish in the aftertaste. Comments: as I said, this is interesting. Fully time-matured, and certainly much to my liking, even if it wasn't totally heroic. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Time for the digestif, don't you think?...

Longmorn 16 yo 1972/1988 (58.8%, Intertrade, 507 bottles)

Longmorn 16 yo 1972/1988 (58.8%, Intertrade, 507 bottles) Five stars That's right, this is the famous 'Highlander' label. Colour: full amber. Nose: the digestif will win it, no doubt about that and that was to be expected. It's one of these stunning old-style Longmorns that were fatter and oilier than more modern offerings. Stunning nose, full of beeswax, old turpentine, apricot jam, earthy pu-erh tea, pipe tobacco, metal polish, date wine, chocolate liqueur, mushrooms, old balsamic vinegar... All this is really stunning. With water: even more so. A box of puros from Cuba's best factory. And I'm very fond of these touches of parsley in the background. Mouth (neat): this is liquid honey blended with limejuice and a whole bottle of prohibition-time cough syrup (I imagine). Totally exceptional whisky, I especially adore these sherry monsters that show great balance because of a zesty/tarty side. With water: well, maybe it's time to call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Please... Finish: long, more on orange liqueurs and old Sauternes from a great year. There's something slightly muscaty as well, and some mint, and some liquorice... Comments: extremely impressive, some of these old Longmorns were simply unbeatable. Well done, Nadi, this one goes straight into the Pantheon. SGP:562 - 94 points.

(with many thanks to Diego, Franco and Herbert)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Bill Laswell and Peter Brötzmann. Track: a crazy Locomotive. Please visit their website and buy their music...

January 27, 2014


A little verticale of oldish Glenturret

Glenturret's always an adventurous, and sometimes challenging malt whisky, but I seem to have noticed that recent bottlings have been kind of straighter and a little more mainstream, pleasantly so. Let's have few newish ones today...

Glenturret 26 yo 1986/2013 (46.8%, Hunter Laing licensed bottling, 2400 bottles)

Glenturret 26 yo 1986/2013 (46.8%, Hunter Laing licensed bottling, 2400 bottles) Four stars This is a new Hunter Laing bottling that's officially endorsed by Gordon Motion, the distillery's Master Distiller. Colour: gold. Nose: it's a very grassy and rather mineral one, it seems, which doesn't come as a surprise. Some kind of blend of fern juice - can you press ferns? - with grapefruit juice and quite some tonic water. Campari, hay, paraffin, touches of yoghurt, ale, branches, hints of mustard... In short, it's very 'Glenturret'. Mouth: this time it's the oranges and the grapefruits that are talking first, and plenty of them. There is a grassiness again but it never gets the lead, while touches of mustard and salt are playing with your tongue. Simpler on the palate, but better focused and easier. Rather fat body, with an oiliness. Finish: long, always quite oily and very pleasantly bitter this time. So bitters, Fernet-Branca, lemon zests... Some character for sure. Even bitterer aftertaste. Comments: indeed, characterful malt whisky, maybe for the more 'advanced' malt aficionados amongst us. It's got many stories to tell but it's a bit restive. SGP:471 - 86 points.

Glenturret 30 yo 1982/2013 (46%, The Maltman, bourbon, cask #258, 242 bottles)

Glenturret 30 yo 1982/2013 (46%, The Maltman, bourbon, cask #258, 242 bottles) Four starsColour: gold. Nose: wackier than the 1986, that is to say starting more with butter and cream, a little wine vinegar, sour lemon juice, Swiss cheese and beetroots. It's a very singular malt whisky that really develops on vegetables and roots, although there's also a little orange blossom water, oriental pastries, bergamots... That side tends to grow, all for the better. Mouth: sharp and almost pungent, fruitier and much more citrusy than the 1986. It's actually like the zests of 10,000 oranges, lemons and grapefruits that you would have squeezed. That's right, it's almost like quaffing essential oils. Huge palate. Finish: long and now grassier. A cocktail made out of Jaegermeister and Cointreau, 50/50. Have to try that one day. Some pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that's truly spectacular and pretty extreme. Feels like more than 46% vol. SGP:561 - 85 points.

Glenturret 32 yo 1980/2012 (42.4%, Liquid Sun, refill hogshead, 227 bottles)

Glenturret 32 yo 1980/2012 (42.4%, Liquid Sun, refill hogshead, 227 bottles) Four stars A very low natural strength, the angels were more into ethanol than into water, it seems. True angels! Colour: gold. Nose: a real two-step nose. First it's a little cardboardy and even quite flattish, and then some rather beautiful notes of bergamots, earl grey tea, fresh baklavas and passion fruits start to arise. And after five minutes, it's pure passion fruit juice, really. Spectacular. Mouth: oh, this is lovely. Simple but lovely. Again, passion fruits juice with a few slices of banana thrown on, as well as bits of mangos and papayas. There's also these faint touches of cardboard again, but nothing embarrassing, no handicap. Finish: not that long this time, but always with a lot of tart fruits and this wee tea-ish-ness. White pepper in the aftertaste, as often. Comments: another one that I really enjoyed a lot. This, at a slightly higher (natural) strength and with a little less cardboard, my my my! SGP:641 - 85 points.

Glenturret 35 yo 1977/2013 (47.5%, Berry Bros & Rudd, LMDW, cask #25)

Glenturret 35 yo 1977/2013 (47.5%, Berry Bros & Rudd, LMDW, cask #25) Four stars and a half Bearing the 'retro' label. One colour only, that's economical! Colour: gold. Nose: superb. Fudge and butterscotch, orange cake, 'good' soap (saponin, perhaps), lamp oil, ripe mirabelles and dandelions plus lime-tea and fresh mint tea (in the Sahara, ha). A rounder but no-less entertaining Glenturrety nose. In other words, a civilised one. Mouth: I have the impression that everyone bottled the crappy casks ten or twenty years ago, and kept the good seed for the 2010s. Seriously, Glenturret's never been this good, at least it wasn't ten years ago, I'm dead sure. Liquorice, citronella, baked cider apples, curry sauce, mangos, tobacco, citrons, whitecurrants... It's all big and yet it's so fresh! I'm impressed. Finish: it's really the freshness that's impressive, and the fact that it kept much distillery character while losing the, say the unlikely edges. Comments: I had already tried a few excellent 1977s (First Ed., TWA and such) but this one sure takes the biscuit. SGP:551 - 89 points (almost 90).

And also (these had been tasted earlier)

Glenturret 35 yo 1977/2012 (46.2%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)

Glenturret 35 yo 1977/2012 (46.2%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Four stars The Nectar already had a very good 1977 that was joint-bottled (!) with The Whisky Agency a few months before this one. Colour: gold. Nose: starts on big notes of encaustic, grandma’s old wardrobe, forgotten patchouli, old newspapers and then a little Swiss cheese (we aren’t talking gym socks here). It’s not quite a fondue, though. After that, more ‘classic’ vanilla, tinned pineapples and coconut oil. Quite a lot happening in this one, there’s even this unusual Glenturretness nested in the background, around metal polish, parsley and cough syrup. Fun! Mouth: a funny one indeed. It’s a little whacky at first sips, with some paper and flour making it a little drying, but then it’s becoming more ‘pina colada’, with some coconut from the American oak and quite some pineapple juice. Even some avocado, which doesn’t happen often in malt whisky. Finish: medium length, maybe a notch drying/papery. Ginger tonic. Still very pleasant. Coconut and maybe mint and tapioca in the aftertaste. Comments: a fun dram, worth tasting. There’s no other whisky like a good old Glenturret. SGP:461 - 85 points.

Glenturret 35 yo 1977/2012 (46.4%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, bourbon, 239 bottles)

Glenturret 35 yo 1977/2012 (46.4%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, bourbon, 239 bottles) Four stars and a half So, will this be almost the same whisky as the Nectar’s or not? Colour: gold. Nose: no, not the same whisky. This is cleaner and immediately fruitier, and even if there is a little metal polish and maybe ink, there are also wonderful notes of fudge, cookies (or millionaire shortbread), white chocolate and fresh mint. Rubbed mint leaves. I like this nose a lot, it’s very entertaining and greatly un-modern (meaning it’s not whisky that smells just like any other whisky – there!) Mouth: it’s probably the wood that was rather different and probably a little more active. This is fuller, fruitier, cleaner, straighter and immediately sexier. A blend of fruit salad with chocolate, fudge and praline. No paper, ink, metal and such this time. Finish: the oak became louder, which is normal at 25. Long, a little drying, chalky… Remains very good and clean. Comments: good good good and good but goes down too quickly. SGP:551 - 88 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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January 26, 2014


Yet another bag of rum, all young

Since this is Sunday, let's go on with our little exploration of rum and try to find more malternatives. We'll have young ones again today but we'll soon try a large bag of much older ones.

Doorly's XO (40%, OB, Barbados blend, +/-2013)

Doorly's XO (40%, OB, Barbados blend, +/-2013) Four stars This is a 6yo blend of various Barbadian rums. It's also finished in Oloroso. Colour: amber. Nose: it's pretty dry and oaky, with some burning grass and in the background, the usual molasses as well as hints of chocolate. A small earthy touch that I quite enjoy, then more sugar cane and tar. It's getting nicer and nicer. Mouth: quite dry again, maybe a little weak, but there's some earth again, mushrooms, more and more liquorice, some leather, bitter chocolate, a feeling of cigars... Indeed, this is to my liking. Finish: quite long, dry, with some tobacco, cocoa and liquorice again. Comments: quality rum for sure, with something agricole. So much more to my liking than all the sugar bombs we had recently... And it's not expensive! SGP:362 - around 85 points.

Gosling's Gold (40%, OB, Bermuda, +/-2013)

Gosling's Gold (40%, OB, Bermuda, +/-2013) Two stars A rather inexpensive one, and the colour suggests it hasn't been heavily caramelised. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's an uncomplicated, light and very grassy one. Herbs, leaves, freshly broken branches, apple peels, a little almond oil... Rather shy but pleasantly unassuming. Mouth: feels more arranged now, I find quite some caraway and aniseed, then more orange and lemon zests as well as, maybe, drops of gin. It's not too sugary, though, so I wouldn't say it's a liqueury rum. Finish: medium length. Grass, fennel, cumin, dill... Comments: I haven't got much to say. The palate suggests this ought to be sipped on ice. Not bad. SGP:550 - around 75 points.

Botucal 'Reserva Exclusiva' (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2013)

Botucal 'Reserva Exclusiva' (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2013) Two starsThis is actually Diplomatico by another name. What was wrong with diplomacy? Colour: amber. Nose: this baby's very toffee-ish, this is almost liquid caramel mixed with chocolate and candy sugar, then fruitcake and raisins. It's very rounded. Mouth: really too sweet for my taste, although it's no cloying rum. Litres of caramel sauce, chocolate, then millionaire shortbread, raisins, Mars bar... Some touches of orange in the background manage to make it a little lighter, which is welcome. Finish: relatively long but the sweetness is too high for me, makes you want to brush your teeth. So, probably quality rum, but not quite my style. Comments: ditto. SGP:730 - around 70 points.

Fair. 5 yo 'Belize' (40%, Fair. Spirits, Belize, 2013)

Fair. 5 yo 'Belize' (40%, Fair. Spirits, Belize, 2013) Three stars This one's aged for five years in American oak. It's truly 'Fair Trade'. I've enjoyed a Jamaican by the same French bottlers (will they bottle 'fair' Scotch one day? ;-)) Colour: gold. Nose: sugar cane, diesel oil, hay, tar and coal smoke, what's not to like? A rum that smells of sugar cane and not of molasses and plain sugar, that's cool. Mouth: very good, balanced, rather less phenolic and tarry now, with more banana skin and stewed mangos, with also a little salt and liquorice. I also find a little eucalyptus and pine sap. All good. Finish: rather long, grassier and slightly burnt. Sugar cane. Comments: a style that I enjoy, between agricole and heavy traditional. Having said that, a higher strength would be much welcome! SGP:541 - around 82 points.

Rebellion 'Premium Black Rum' (37.5%, OB, blended rum, +/-2013)

Rebellion 'Premium Black Rum' (37.5%, OB, blended rum, +/-2013) This blend is bottled in Holland. Colour: coffee. Nose: not much. Molasses, molasses, molasses and molasses plus coffee and chocolate. Mouth: very weak... Whoooof. Not much happening. Molasses again, burnt sugar, 'American' coffee, chicory and then quite some juniper. Finish: short. Comments: not like, but I'm sure this isn't made for straight sippers. Premium? But of course, what isn't these days... SGP:340 - around 50 points.

Pampero 'Aniversario' (40%, OB, Venezuala, +/-2013)

Pampero 'Aniversario' (40%, OB, Venezuala, +/-2013) Two stars A well-known bottle. Will this baby be as sickly sweet as other South-American rums? Colour: dark amber. Nose: smoky cocoa and burnt molasses, that not obligatorily unpleasant. Also a little varnish, vanilla and more chocolate, then some leather and tobacco. Again, this isn't unpleasant and balance has been found, in my opinion. Mouth: very sweet but I like these notes of bitter oranges and smoked caramel (or something like that) plus all these Corinth raisins, that works. Also spice mix for mulled wine, cloves... Too bad it's also a little sluggish, maybe that's the low strength. Finish: not too short, on raisin cake and burnt brioche. Burnt raisins in the aftertaste. Comments: rather a good surprise. No junk. SGP:640 - around 75 points.

Velho Barreiro 'Silver' (40%, OB, Cachaça, +/-2013)

Velho Barreiro 'Silver' (40%, OB, Cachaça, +/-2013) Basically, cachaça is rum agricole made in Brasil, so distilled from sugar cane juice and not from molasses. Colour: white. Crikey, I had thought this would be aged but actually, it's the bottle that was brown. Silly me. Nose: a little caramel, a little burnt grass, touches of aniseed, some paraffin, plastic, plasticine, sour apples... I find this a tad undefined. Ahem. Mouth: a funny spirit, bizarrely earthy, metallic and sour. Smoked ham, perhaps? Burnt grass? Not easy, I guess this should go into cocktails. Finish: quite long, pretty smoky and quite herbal. Cardamom, juniper, sour apples. Comments: not too sure. A mistake. SGP:370 - no score.

Yah! We couldn't stop here, we need some good rum. Maybe a Caroni will work...

Caroni 'Caribbean Rum XO' (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, Trinidad, +/-2013)

Caroni 'Caribbean Rum XO' (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, Trinidad, +/-2013) Four stars and a half Caroni can be a perfect malternative, when it's the 'heavy' style that we're heaving in our glasses. Colour: amber. Nose: typical but not extremely big. It's got this earthy side, almost musty, these touches of petrol, liquorice, burnt molasses, black olives, pitch... And yet it's not a very heavy one. Maybe a blend of light and heavy Caronis? Mouth: excellent. Menthol, oranges, glazed chestnuts (bags and bags!), salmiak, cough medicine, honeydew, marmalade, salt, black olives, smoked fish... All simply very excellent and truly 'XO'. Finish: long, even smokier. A blend of lapsang souchong tea and orange liqueur. Comments: a superb rum, rather easier and less 'explosive' than other heavy Caronis but everything's there. Well done as always, BB&R. SGP:462 - around 88 points.

Wait, maybe we could try one more. Something funny and interesting, such as...

Rhum Rhum 'Liberation 2012' (45%, Velier, Marie-Galante, 2012)

Rhum Rhum 'Liberation 2012' (45%, Velier, Marie-Galante, 2012) Four stars A bottling by the infernal tandem Luca Gargano (of Velier fame) and Maetsro Gianni Capovilla, the slowest and most skilled distiller in the West. It's made at Bielle on Marie-Galante (a small French island near Guadeloupe) but it's Sig. Capovilla who's behind the wheel. Colour: amber. Nose: oh wow, this rum is unlike any other rum, including Bielle's. Starts on pipe tobacco, Amsterdamer-style, and spices such as soft curry or Moroccan mix for tajine. Goes on with dried longans, kumquats, dried tomatoes and gingerbread, with hints of tar and brine in the background. Also a growing camphory side and touches of walnut wine. Mouth: first briny and appealingly sour (cider apples), then very salmiaky, we're somewhere between some classic agricole and Caroni's heaviest. A little ginger from the oak, gingerbread again, spicy fruitcake, caraway seeds, marmalade and then more green tea. The strength is perfect, you need no more and no less. Finish: quite long but fresh, with (even) more gingerbread and notes of grapefruits that 'lift it'. Some kind of smoked brine in the aftertaste. Comments: I guess this was aged on Marie-Galante, that's why it feels older than its actual age (probably around 5). The freshish oak shows a bit but the spirit's big enough to stand and balance it. Even better when cooled down - just a bit. Say 15°C. Really love it. We'll try the cask strength version later on. SGP:462 - around 87 points.

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



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January 24, 2014


Two 1997 Deanston for fun

I find that very cool that some indies manage to bottle Deanston. It's usually a rather, arr, err, unusual malt in my experience...

Deanston 16 yo 1997/2013 (46%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #1344, 769 bottles)

Deanston 16 yo 1997/2013 (46%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #1344, 769 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: ah well, why don't we go straight to a second nosing and forget about a first one? Because at first nosing, what I'm getting lies around cooked cabbage, truffles, hard-boiled eggs and 'an old gun'. You see what I mean, don't you. What's funny, though, is that all that tends to vanish and to leave room for an even funnier combination of metal polish, old tools, chocolate and dried porcinis. Rather unorthodox but pretty, well, funny. Mouth: more fun. Would you imagine a blend of Chinese plums sauce (Peking duck, anyone?) with Nutella and Bailey's? That's more or less what's happening here. Fun stuff indeed. Finish: long and, for once, the best part. No, not because this is the finish, because we're now finding some menthol and some marmalade. That's petty English, isn't it. Comments: whacky and wobbly, but also very funny, and in that sense anything but flawed. It deserves a good score. Try it if you can. SGP:462 - 80 points.

Deanston 15 yo 1997/2013 (55.8%, Archives, hogshead, cask #1959, 327 bottles)

Deanston 15 yo 1997/2013 (55.8%, Archives, hogshead, cask #1959, 327 bottles) Three starsColour: white wine. Nose: it's got a sulphury side, but much less so this time, while it's rather oranges and gooseberries that are playing first fiddles here, whilst a lot of cut grass is beating the drums. BTW, that would be actual sulphur, not burnt sulphur, candles and such. With water: grass forward, no sulphur left. Lamp oil and moss, cinchona and fir honey. Mouth (neat): there are some parts that remind me of the Signatory, frankly, this is no clean distillate, there's some cod oil (well, around cod oil), a kind of plasticine, certainly a lot of grass, herbs (rosemary? Oregano?), bitter oranges, this strange thing called myrtle that I rarely find in whisky, some cumin... In short, it's very herbal, in an odd way. All that on quite some barley water, mind you. With water: I love water, water does miracles. Like turning cod oil into grapefruit juice. Finish: once again it's the best part. Waxy citrons and a little salt, more pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: an herbal adventure rather than whisky. Really worth trying! SGP:361 - 81 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: FUSION. Performer: Christian Vander. Track: Magma's drummer sings a tribute to Otis Redding, Merci Otis (listen till the end). Please visit the website and buy the music...

January 23, 2014


Another Bowmore extravaganza

Today we'll revisit a few well-known officials, and also have a few indies for good measure.

Bowmore 'Legend' (40%, OB, 2013)

Bowmore 'Legend' (40%, OB, 2013) Two stars and a half It's been years since I last tried the humble 'legend'. That was in 2007 and I think my little score (and remember a score is only an opinion) hasn't been too bad (WF 78). Colour: pale gold. Nose: I'll say it, I find this quite nice and even pretty complex, with a blend of brine, lemon juice, oyster juice and fresh butter. It's only mildly smoky but all this works. Lapsang souchong tea. Very clean nose. Mouth: a little weaker, and maybe a little too sweet/sweetish (lemon drops), but it's pleasant. I find quite some pepper, but rather less brine/salt than in the nose. Less coastal notes for sure. Finish: short and a little tea-ish and chalky. Loses steam. Comments: very honest stuff, but the 40% vol. are a problem. I liked the nose much better than the rather shaky palate. SGP:344 - 77 points.

Bowmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Bowmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2013) Three stars and a half I last tried the 12 in 2010 and thought it was better than earlier versions (early to mid 2000s) Colour: gold. Nose: it seems that they're more and more on sour apples, polishes and brine, and that the flowery side is gone for good at Bowmore. Also sea breeze, seashells, seaweed and touches of tropical fruits, but those are much more discreet than twenty or thirty years ago. So not the same kind of fruitiness, less mangos, more passion fruits. Mouth: I find this excellent despite the weakness. Smoky/salty fruits, oranges, passion fruits, lemons... Finish: short but nicely salty and citrusy. Comments: I find this very good. The strength's a shame, this baby would make it to 85+ with just a little more power. SGP:545 - 84 points.

Bowmore 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2013)

Bowmore 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2013) Two stars I thought the 18 used to be very disappoint around 2007, when I last tried it. It was ridden with those odd flowery aromas, you know... That's why I had never touched it again... until today. Colour: dark gold. Nose: phew! No geranium leaves, no lavender, no Parma violets, rather some earth, a little tobacco, dried kelp, new leather, orange zests, peaches, menthol, iodine and... more earth. I like this nose. Mouth: first a little grenadine and cranberries, pomegranates, all that from some fruity sherry, maybe, then a little lavender. Lavender drops, a little plastic. I'm not a fan of this palate, I liked the younger ones much better, they were cleaner and straighter in my opinion. Finish: quite short. Jell-Os and liquorice allsorts plus some brine and tannic black tea. Comments: I'm not a fan. The nose was very, very nice, though. SGP:464 - 76 points.

Bowmore 1996/2011 (46%, Moon Import, cask #1330, 268 bottles)

Bowmore 1996/2011 (46%, Moon Import, cask #1330, 268 bottles) Four stars Not many new Moons around, sadly... Colour: white wine. Nose: it's a very straight, clean and pure youngish Bowmore. Fresh butter, peat smoke, sea air, iodine, tarry ropes, camphor, eucalyptus and then a little candy sugar. Just a little. Classic. Mouth: fab. Gentian, earth, smoke, tar, liquorice, lemon, brine, olive oil, orange drops, almond oil, Suze, white pepper, more lemon, more gentian, more lemon, more...  All very great. Finish: very long, clean, sharp, even rather fat at times. Lemony and peppery aftertaste. Comments: classic middle-aged, slightly almondy Bowmore. Quality's high. SGP:555 - 87 points.

Bowmore 'Feis Ile 2013' (56.5%, OB, bourbon, 1000 bottles)

Bowmore 'Feis Ile 2013' (56.5%, OB, bourbon, 1000 bottles) Three stars and a halfNAS again. Pfff... Colour: white wine. Nose: young. Porridge, yeast, leaven, dairy cream, touches of soap... But all that doesn't last, and it all gets nicer, smokier, brinier and more herbal. Oysters, lemon, seaweed, grapefruit... And a little kirsch. Kirsch means youth. With water: works a treat. Cleaner, earthier, all 'feinty' smells are gone and we have a lovely ashy/smoky profile. Moss. Mouth (neat): sweet and earthy start. Lemon, green tea, smoked tea, salt, kumquats and more salt. Thick and oily mouth feel. With water: works a treat again. Lemon and tangerines, earth, a little tobacco, olive brine, kippers... A little vanilla too, but it's not quite bourbony. Finish: long, clean, zesty. Comments: water is obligatory, it kind of makes it older. Or less young. SGP:456 - 83 points.

Bowmore 16 yo 1997/2013 (56.3%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, bourbon wood, cask #800203)

Bowmore 16 yo 1997/2013 (56.3%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, bourbon wood, cask #800203) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: it's a brutal one, sharp, elementary, simple... There's some bubblegum and some earth, a combination that isn't as strange as it sounds. But the jury's still out... With water: grapefruit jelly and all-colour Haribo bears. A little sweetened porridge and slices of bananas. It's neither a very smoky one, nor a coastal one, and yet it's very fine. Mouth (neat): perfect. Salty rocks and huge fruits, greengages and grapefruits, with an extreme sharpness, Puilly-Fumé style. With water: perfect indeed. Earthier than on the nose. Pink grapefruits and touches of salt. Finish: long, even more on sweet grapefruits. Comments: if you like your Bowmores fruity and big... SGP:645 - 85 points.

Bowmore 16 yo 1997/2013 (56.1%, Riverstown, hogshead, cask #3013-205, 251 bottles)

Bowmore 16 yo 1997/2013 (56.1%, Riverstown, hogshead, cask #3013-205, 251 bottles) Four starsRiverstown is a Blackadder sub-brand. Colour: white wine. Nose: we're close to the other 1997, very close. Maybe a little more candied, perhaps? With water: earthier, rootier, a little more mineral. Clean wet dogs (we're really sorry, dogs). Mouth (neat): same. Salty crystallised fruits, orange, plums... With water: clean, sharp, citrusy. Lemons with a little salt and gravel. Grapefruits. Lovely spirit. Finish: long. Grapefruits galore, salt, lemon... Comments: maybe a little monolithic and 'simple' but the distillate is perfect. SGP:546 - 85 points.

Bowmore 22 yo 1990/2013 (46.8%, Wilson & Morgan, PX sherry finish, casks #3321-3350)

Bowmore 22 yo 1990/2013 (46.8%, Wilson & Morgan, PX sherry finish, casks #3321-3350) Three stars and a half Will the spirit and the wine clash? Colour: amber. Nose: tobacco and sandalwood, then damp earth and walnuts. Soy sauce. Little sweetness, rather something pleasantly gamy. Dried kelp. Works well. Mouth: rich and sweet, with many raisins, figs, plums and blackcurrants. Some honey and some leather, also chutneys and herbal liqueurs. Fir liqueur, bergamots, strawberries, peppers and a little tar. Good body. Finish: long, tarry and herbal. The aftertaste is very peppery. Comments: a finishing that worked. Funny and interesting bittersweet profile. SGP:655 - 84 points.

Bowmore 25 yo 'Small Batch Release' (43%, OB, +/-2013)

Bowmore 25 yo 'Small Batch Release' (43%, OB, +/-2013) Two stars and a half 2013-25=1988, which is a little scary I have to say. Colour: amber. Nose: not quite. Dusty dried flowers, old lavender, tea, pot-pourri... It's one of the floral ones. Also overripe sour apples, seaweed, perhaps strawberries... Not quite my preferred style. Mouth: marshmallows galore! And Parma violets, many sweets (esp. orange), Juicyfruity, white chocolate, perfume... The body's relatively light. Finish: not that short and rather cleaner. Blood oranges and a mild smoke. Orange blossom, cassis. Comments: as I said, not my preferred style of Bowmore. SGP:633 - 78 points.

Since we're having those vintages, let's have a 1989...

Bowmore 23 yo 1989/2013 (52%, The Whisky Agency and Three Rivers Tokyo, refill butt, 300 bottles)

Bowmore 23 yo 1989/2013 (52%, The Whisky Agency and Three Rivers Tokyo, refill butt, 300 bottles) Four stars and a half 1989 is in the danger zone ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: it is a sweet, fruity and floral Bowmore but I do not find much lavender, violets or any other FWP-ish notes. Hurray! Rather some earth, roots, branches, tincture of iodine, seaweed, oysters... All is fine, all is fine. With water: a little brown sugar comes out. A little coffee too. Mouth (neat): it's a very briny one, and then it becomes very medicinal. Huge notes of pine needles, fir liqueur, pinesap, cough medicine and such. It's a different kind of medicinal side than that of Laphroaig, which is more on antiseptic and such. With water: excellent. Smoked grapefruits and rather less resinous/sappy things. Finish: long, earthy, salty and citrusy. Big peat. Maybe touches of grenadine now, but that's rather an asset. Blood oranges, pepper. All perfect. Comments: I'm impressed. No, or very little  'French' stuff. Merci beaucoup. SGP:557 - 89 points.

If you don't mind, let's go on until we find a 90+...

Bowmore 1976/1994 (51.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.22)

Bowmore 1976/1994 (51.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #3.22) Three stars and a half These vintages were hit or miss in my experience. Let's see... Colour: pale gold. Nose: hit. Olive oil, fresh butter, almond oil, branches, almonds, leaves, grass and engine oil. Seaweed. Little smoke so far. With water: many fresh fruits with some herbs and grasses. Acacia honey, crushed bananas and tangerines. The fruits really come out, while the grassy side is becoming more discreet. Little smoke in this nose. Mouth (neat): yesss. The sixties' tropical fruits are still there, especially bananas, and they come with some white chocolate and quite some fructose. A little sugar cane too, as well as quite some custard. Big custard. With water: very sweet, very fruity. Syrups. Finish: medium length. Rounded fruits, sweetened juices, syrups... Comments: excellent, but once again this is not my favourite kind of Bowmore. A little too sweet, I'd say, and the smoke's a little weak for Bowmore. SGP:644 - 84 points.

That means we have to go on, I'm afraid... Let's start the time machine!

Bowmore (?) 1961/1973 (43%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Best Milano)

Bowmore (?) 1961/1973 (43%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Best Milano) Five stars A no-distillery-statement bottling but trained tasters say this ought to be Bowmore. Colour: gold. Nose: you know, when you find these stunning notes of mangos, it cannot not be 1960s Bowmore. Fabulous nose, with also guavas, papayas, passion fruits and then a lorryload of very tiny aromas, most phenolic. Such as argan oil, horse sweat, aluminium, rubber boots, chartreuse, seashells, wool... It's all extremely complex. Complexity is what's really missing in modern whiskies. Mouth: peat+mangos=old Bowmore indeed. No doubt about that. What's also really striking in this oldie is the huge raisiny side, there's many of them, sultanas, Smyrna, Corinth, big fat muscats... So the very early 1960s were probably rounder than the well-known mid-1960s, unless it all comes from the casks. Hints of Turkish delights, even a little fudge, some salt, something like tinned sardines cooked in vanilla sauce, mango jam... Ah well, this is simply very great. Finish: rather long and very raisiny. It's not that often that raisins are so big in old Bowmores - whatever the wood. Comments: Bowmore 1961. Very hard to beat. In awe. Session over. SGP:645 - 94 points.

(with thanks to Angus)

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



Block Today: HARD AMBIENT (or something). Performer: Norway's Eivind Aarset. Track: Sign of Seven. Please visit his website and buy his music...

January 22, 2014


Two new official Balvenie

It's no secret that I love Balvenie, but I have to confess that all these figures and numbers are making me feel giddy. Single barrels, double maturation, triple casks, not to mention the Tuns... Anyway, there's this new triple, we'll have it first despite the fact that it's a 16, since it's lighter than the single 12. Ooh my head...

Balvenie 16 yo 'Triple Cask' (40%, OB, 2013)

Balvenie 16 yo 'Triple Cask' (40%, OB, 2013) Three stars and a half There is a true recipe behind this name, but I find wood technology boring so I won't mention it. Colour: full gold. Nose: mastered for sure. Mirabelle jam, apricot pie, acacia honey, dandelions and vanilla crème, then broken branches - which is much nicer than newly sawn oak. Extremely easy, extremely pleasant. Unstoppable, in a way. Mouth: works. I had feared the 40% vol. would be too low, not at all (yet, I'm sure 43% or better yet, 46% would have worked even better - right, 43.1% and 46.3% ;-)). Custard, cinnamon pie, dried apricots, then white pepper. A little oak starts to show after a few seconds, but it's not too plankish. There's some toasted oak for sure, though. Finish: unexpectedly long. Apricot jam with cinnamon and more white pepper. More oak - maybe a little too much. Comments: lost two or three points during the finish, a little too much oak coming to the surface in my opinion. SGP:451 - 84 points.

Balvenie 12 yo 'Single Barrel' (47.8%, OB, cask #12759, 2013)

Balvenie 12 yo 'Single Barrel' (47.8%, OB, cask #12759, 2013) Four stars We already had another cask back in October. Liked it a lot (WF 87). Colour: straw. Nose: more austere and grassier than the 16, although I also find more marshmallows. Lovely notes of greengages, yellow melon, barley water, hay jelly (ever tried that? It's surprisingly good), a touch of fresh mint... It's a very elegant nose, less easy/sexy/obvious than the 16. Mouth: perfect. Fresh fruits plus mint, aniseed and wormwood. There's a wee feeling of absinth, really! Also strawberry sweets, more apricots, mirabelles, maybe a little banana, jellybeans (or bears), tangerines... The strength is absolutely perfect. Finish: long, sweet and fruity. Drops of gewurztraminer and muscat. One drop each. Comments: wins where the 16 lost it a bit. SGP:641 - 87 points.

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



Block Today: BRITISH SOUL. Performer: Demon Fuzz. Track: 1970, the killer line of Message to Mankind. Please buy their music...

January 21, 2014


Two very funny prestige blends

Malt whisky's usually quite serious, but blends can be hugely funny. Although it's sometimes to be wondered whether the distillers and bottlers are doing that knowingly. Or, as the joke goes, if some bottlings aren't simply the results of too many other whiskies...

Chivas Regal 18 yo 'Pininfarina Level 1' (40%, OB, blend, 2013)

Chivas Regal 18 yo 'Pininfarina Level 1' (40%, OB, blend, 2013) Three stars and a half This is a part of a set of three. I find the packaging very unlikely and very amusing. Beats the bottle of Ballantine's Finest hand-signed by David Coulthard himself that's the crown of my whisky collection. Not. I guess the whisky inside is just the same as the regular 18's, but I'm not sure. I have to say I really enjoy Chivas 18 (WF 83). Colour: gold. Nose: exactly what you'd need to please an international traveller who's not that much into whisky. Easy honey, easy figs, easy oranges and easy overripe apples, then a touch of malt, a little sherry, a vague idea of some malty beer, a little pollen and just a little leather. Smooth, easy, very pleasant. And sexy.

Mouth: with all these commercial blends, even the deluxe bottlings, the palates never, ever match the noses and this is another example. It's not bad at all, but it's more mundane, on malt, roasted nuts, apple crumble and raisins. Drops of orange liqueur and more honey after a few seconds, which make it even smoother and rounder. Finish: not that short, maltier, with more toasted/roasted elements. Comments: seriously, I really own a Ballantine's that was signed by David Coulthard himself. Price on Application (I'm joking). SGP:541 - 83 points.

The General (53.4%, Compass Box, blend, 1698 bottles, 2013)

The General (53.4%, Compass Box, blend, 1698 bottles, 2013) Five stars A blend of two blends that both spent a lot of 'marriage time' in cask, one being 33 yo according to the company's website (which, if I got that right, as the only age you're allowed to disclose is that of the younger component, may suggest that the other cask was even older). What I find positively funny is this mention on the label: "Ridiculously Rare". Beats even Glenmo's "Unnecessarily Well Made" ;-). Let's try to come up with some astoundingly sharp tasting notes. Colour: glowingly bronzish amber. Nose: immediately destroys the Chivas, but that was to be expected. Very lovely - impressively lovely - notes of carefully composed fruit cakes, bags of patiently dried figs, some massively juicy sultanas and drops of spectacularly fragrant essences of incense and menthol. After that, more Demerarily brown sugar (what?) and a few drops of unwearyingly distilled old Armagnac. I don't seem to find much unaristocratically simple grain whiskies. With a little drop-by-drop-ly added water: more uncomplainingly polished oak and precious woods. Sandalwood. Mouth (shamelessly neat): Romanorgiacally rich and fat, emphatically fruity (slow-dried fruits of course) and with many fruit crumbles and cakes. I'm afraid I'm running short of stupid adverbs. With water: excellent, more citrus and zesty spices. Butterscotch. Finish: long, fruity, nutty, raisiny, luscious... Cloves and cinnamon, but not too much. Comments: devastatingly good and very Armagnacqy. Most probably one of the best blends I've ever tasted, whether circumspectly or audaciously. Ah well... SGP:642 - 91 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: The John Betsch Society. Track: Ode to Ethiopia. Please visit buy his music...

January 20, 2014


Three Lochnagar

There isn't much Lochnagar around, but I could gather two indies to go along the new official for the Friends of the Classic Malts. The indies, especially the first one, will probably be much more 'spirit-driven', which is always interesting when you'd like to assess a 'style'. The distillery's style, that is.

Royal Lochnagar 10 yo 2002/2012 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #9047, 360 bottles)

Royal Lochnagar 10 yo 2002/2012 (46%, The Coopers Choice, hogshead, cask #9047, 360 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: it's a slightly fatter Speyside style, I'd say. So slightly hotter fresh fruits, apples, cherries, gooseberries, pears... And underneath those fruits, touches of yoghurt, sour cream, embrocations and lemons as well as just a hint of baker's yeast or beer. So a fresh, youngish malt with very little oak influence. Mouth: sweet barley, sweet beer, green tea and cider apples. Good body, good balance, good greenness. Tends to become more lemony and sour, in a pretty good way. Slightly acrid too. Finish: rather long, with more pepper, lemon and green apples. Peppermint in the aftertaste. Comments: good natural malt whisky, very close to the raw materials. SGP:351 - 81 points.

Royal Lochnagar 'Triple Matured Edition' (48%, OB, Friends of the Classic Malts, 2013)

Royal Lochnagar 'Triple Matured Edition' (48%, OB, Friends of the Classic Malts, 2013) Three stars and a half This baby was 'treated' in the same way as the Talisker for friends that we tried last week. Colour: dark gold. Nose: this one's a smokier version for sure, but I couldn't tell you if this smoke comes from the spirit. Touches of coal smoke, actually, then more candy sugar and gingerbread, as well as some apple crumble and touches of earth, leather and almonds. I humbly think that the triple-cask thing worked better on this Lochnagar than on the Talisker, even on the nose. Lochnagar's probably more docile than Talisker. Mouth: indeed. The gingery/oaky side that I already found in the Tasliker is well here but it doesn't fight the spirit, and the general feeling is rather that of some kind of spiced walnut cake. Candy sugar. Now it tends to become very peppery, you can even feel that on your lips, which is unusual. Chillies? Finish: long and spectacularly spicy. Ginger and pepper on marshmallows. Comments: the oak feels a lot but I think that kind of works. Definitely very modern and fully oak-driven. SGP:462 - 83 points.

Royal Lochnagar 20 yo 1991/2011 (54.8%, Signatory, refill butt, cask #374, 577 bottles)

Royal Lochnagar 20 yo 1991/2011 (54.8%, Signatory, refill butt, cask #374, 577 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: touches of smoke again but otherwise this one's much grassier than both the 2002 and the NAS. It's really like 'a walk in the forest', with some grass, moss, leaves, broken branches, then more leather as well as whiffs of menthol and liquorice wood. A little austere, perhaps, but I enjoy this. With water: same, just a little lighter. Maybe touches of fennel and dill. Mouth (neat): it's the 2002 with more sweetness, even more sugar, a fatter body and many tinned fruits. Pineapples, oranges, peaches, then more acacia honey and in the background, lemon balm tea and green tea. With water: once again, no changes, just more smoothness and lightness. Very pleasant. Finish: long, always very grassy, with drops of aniseed liqueur, pastis, ouzo and such. Comments: a lovely grassy and totally flawless natural Lochnagar. Long live refill wood! SGP:461 - 85 points.


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performers: Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery. Track: an orgasmic Down by the Riverside sometime in the 1960s. Please buy their music...

January 19, 2014


Another bag of rum

We had quite some rum in 2013 and I think we'll have many again in 2014. What I'll do is keep these sessions a little 'varied' so that they do not get boring. Boring to me, that is. Today it's going to be a bunch of 12 yo rums at 40% vol.

Quorhum 12 yo (40%, Oliver & Oliver, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Quorhum 12 yo (40%, Oliver & Oliver, Dominican Republic, +/-2013) We had a 23 yo back in 2013 and thought it was fine but very sweet (WF 75) Colour: dark gold. Nose: nice nose, relatively petroly and with distinct notes of sugar cane, but you can 'smell' the sucrosity (molasses, burnt sugar, overripe bananas). It's also quite light. Mouth: very sweet, thick, this is hard for a whisky drinker. Sweeter than liqueurs, with a lot of caramel and vanilla. Cointreau, sultanas... Finish: quite long and sweet but I quite enjoy these touches of liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly fine rum but nah, this is too sweet for me and it's hard to resist the urge to add a dozen ice cubes to make it fresher. Pass. SGP:830 - around 65 points.

Botran 12 yo 'Anejo Sistema Solera' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2013)

Botran 12 yo 'Anejo Sistema Solera' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2013) Two stars Ex-American oak sherry wood. Colour: dark gold. Nose: a pretty similar style to that of the Quorhum but this Botran is a little drier, also with more herbs, a little mint and then whiffs of sawdust. So less 'sugary', it seems, and I also enjoy these notes of unripe bananas that come through as well as a few nuts. Macadamia? A little wood smoke too. Mouth: yes, this is more like it. No big distillate but it's better balanced and, above all, not sickly sweet. Too bad it tends to become a little disjointed, with some cardboardy oak and a feeling of bitter caramel. Some liquorice again. The body's a little light. Finish: quite short, with an unexpected saltiness. Comments: a light bodied South-American that doesn't play it too sugary. Good news. SGP:541 - around 70 points.

Tres Hombres 12 yo (40%, Rum&Co, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Tres Hombres 12 yo (40%, Rum&Co, Dominican Republic, +/-2013) Colour: amber. Nose: we aren't far from the Quorhum 12 but this one's a little more restrained and kind of more elegant. Vanilla cake, some wood smoke, even touches of soot, burnt bread and then nice touches of fern, grass and even pine needles. There's something happening in this nose but it's all quite light. Mouth: much sweeter, liqueury, molassy, with a lot of cane syrup and, well, a lot of sugar. Some honey too. Not my style at all I'm afraid, too cloying. Finish: rather long and extremely sugary. Comments: I liked the nose but the palate doesn't work for me. Too sweet and too sugary again, a total anti-malternative. SGP:830 - around 60 points.

Cimborazo 12 yo (40%, OB, Ecuador, +/-2013)

Cimborazo 12 yo (40%, OB, Ecuador, +/-2013) one star and a half Colour: deep amber. Nose: ha, this is pine resin! It's extremely terpenic, we aren't very far from fir honey and liqueur. Behind that, stewed fruits and caramel as well as overripe bananas. It's all a little strange, but not unpleasant... Mouth: there is a little honeydew again, but it's not as resinous as on the nose. There's also something of some sweet brandy, this baby actually reminds me of some of the Armenian brandies we had last year. It's certainly too sweet again but a least, some personality! Finish: medium length, with no some mint and liquorice. Oh, and fir liqueur... Comments: a funny one. I wouldn't quaff more than 2cl of this but hey, yeah, it's, like funny. SGP:750 - around 68 points.

Centenario 12 yo 'Gran Legado' (40%, OB, Costa Rica, +/-2013)

Centenario 12 yo 'Gran Legado' (40%, OB, Costa Rica, +/-2013) Two stars Colour: amber. Nose: some kind of smoked liquorice on caramel, maple syrup and toasted bread. Works pretty well, but there's maybe a little too much vanilla arising after just one minute. Mega-huge vanilla! Mouth: very sweet again, with a thick, sugary attack on bananas and coconut, then a lot of vanilla and honey again, all that with good yet lightish body. I do also find a little aniseed, ouzo-style. Serious! Finish: quite short, liquoricy. Comments: I find this one very acceptable, but once again it's rum that's rather too sweet. Duty, heavy duty... SGP:740 - around 70 points.

El Dorado 12 yo (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013)

El Dorado 12 yo (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013) Two stars and a half A very well-know rum, it was about time we tried it. Colour: gold. Nose: immediately more complex than all the others, fresher as well, with some liquorice again but also a little tar, smokes, sugar cane, then more wood and vanilla as well as touches of caraway, aniseed and even fennel. I have to say this baby reminds of some bourbons but I just couldn't tell you which ones. Must be the oak. Mouth: a wee tad too sweet again at the attack, but we're more geared toward ultra-ripe fruits than plain sugar and caramel. Some kind of banana wine like they make in the Caribbean (there's a good one in Guadeloupe), cane syrup, pineapple... It's not got much petroly notes like the high-end Demeraras can have, but I do enjoy this. Finish: medium length, a notch too sugary this time. Comments: I'm sure rum drinkers love this. Whisky drinkers may find it very good, but a little too sweet again on the palate. Anyway, by far my favourite so far. SGP:740 - around 78 points.

Since we've had some El Dorado, we could as well go on with the 15 and the 21...

El Dorado 15 yo (43%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013)

El Dorado 15 yo (43%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013) Two stars and a halfColour: dark amber. Nose: much, and I mean much more Demeraraness in this 15! That is to say more tar, more olives, more soot, more pitch, more diesel oil (sell, drops) and, above all, less 'dull' fruits. It's not that it's huge, it's that it's bigger than the 12 and, again, more on tarry and even phenolic notes. I guess they used more heavy ones in this vatting, which was a great idea. Mouth: sadly, there's this invading sweetness again, but on the other hand, the tarry and liquoricy notes manage to make up for that at times. But otherwise, it's too sweet for me. That disappoints me. Finish: not too long, sugary and fruitier. Arranged rum, pineapple juice... Comments: I had thought I could go much higher, but I think they add too much sweet 'stuff' to this combo. Quite a shame, the nose was almost perfect. SGP:741 - around 78 points.

El Dorado 21 yo 'Special Reserve' (43%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013)

El Dorado 21 yo 'Special Reserve' (43%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013) Two stars Colour: very dark amber. Nose: less petroly and tarry again, so smoother and rounder, more on fruits and jams, blackberries, bananas, strawberries... It's all very aromatic. I also find quite some chocolate, a little coffee, more spices from the oak, certainly some cinnamon, touches of pencil shavings, then some menthol from the oak, some parley, lovage, humus... I find this very complex, but let's start to pray... Mouth: it is sweet for sure, but the spices tend to balance that. Honeydew, crème de banane, triple-sec, raisins, figs and, above all some oranges that bring more life to this thickish combination. But it remains a very liqueury rum. Finish: quite long, with some coffee liqueur, marmalade and... molasses. A little cumin in the aftertaste. Comments: no luck today, I must have already swallowed the equivalent of thirty sugar cubes. These El Dorados are simply not for me - and god knows I love my Demeraras. Well, there's Demerara and Demerara, it seems... Now, I'm sure it's perfect rum, if you like them sweet, so my score will be 'good'. SGP:730 - around 76 points.

Good, enough with commercial syrups for today, I think we'll call in the indie Italians, what do you think? Oh, and we'll stay in Guyana...

Port Mourant 37 yo 1975/2013 (49.9%, Silver Seal, Demerara, cask #2042, 159 bottles)

Port Mourant 37 yo 1975/2013 (49.9%, Silver Seal, Demerara, cask #2042, 159 bottles) Five stars Colour: red mahogany. Nose: h.o.m.e.! I mean, this is as smoky, tarry and ashy as true heavy Demeraras can get. Superb notes of black olives, liquorice, soot, petrol, cigars, brine and, at the florists', orange blossom and peonies. Impeccable straight Port Mourant, and it's even elegant, especially with all this cigar smoke. With water: swims like a champ. Some kind of smoked all-fruit jam. Mouth (neat): heavily concentrated, very briny, with pickled gherkins and capers, then a lot of salted liquorice and a medicinal side that never stops growing. Heavy cough syrup. With water: becomes a little gentler. Chocolate, Corinth raisins, chestnut honey... A little black tea too, tannicity isn't far away. Finish: long, admirably balanced. Sweet spices and more liquorice in the aftertaste as well as honey, but the olives remain there as the main signature. Comments: on par with the superb Port Mourant 1975 that king of Demerara Velier had issued three or four years ago. SGP:652 - around 90 points.

Port Mourant 37 yo 1975/2013 (51.1%, Silver Seal, Demerara, cask #2050, 139 bottles)

Port Mourant 37 yo 1975/2013 (51.1%, Silver Seal, Demerara, cask #2050, 139 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: dark mahogany. Nose: we're obviously very close to the sister cask, but this one is a tiny-we bit more on brine and olives, with also touches of banana skin. With water: I get more ripe pineapples. Almost rotting ones but that's all fine. Touches of passion fruits, also more earth. Mouth (neat): a little thicker and more oaky than it's bro, there are a few biting tannins as well as even more cough syrup. Barrel-aged salted cough medicine, I'd say. A lot of heavy liquorice too, as well as some marzipan. With water: superb but it's becoming a little drying. Black tea! Also more prunes than in the other. Finish: long, quite salty, tannic. Comments: absolutely marvellous, it's just that the sister cask was even more marvellous. SGP:652 - around 88 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ for rum. Performer: Duke Ellington And His Orchestra. Track: perfect with (some) rums, Chico Cuadradino. Please visit buy the Duke's music...

January 17, 2014


Tradition vs. modernity, two new Talisker

I'm a die-hard fan of Talisker, and I even quite liked the ones that were treated with a lot of newish American oak. Only the Port thing didn't convince me. Now, a very GlenWonka-ish triple maturation - or double-finishing, that may be something else, let's see...

Talisker 'Triple Matured Edition' (48%, OB, Friends of the Classic Malts, 2013)

Talisker 'Triple Matured Edition' (48%, OB, Friends of the Classic Malts, 2013) Three stars A new one for the 'Friends' in Switzerland, Germany and the UK. Triple is the new double (double's very 2012, my friend) and in this case, it means refill wood -> charred American oak hogsheads -> European Oak refill casks. Phew! Please note that this is very different from blending whiskies from three different kinds of casks, as can be seen elsewhere. Colour: dark gold. Nose: the treatment was relatively light, it seems. It's true that they haven't used any first-fill, not to mention virgin oak. So it's rather a smooth and rounded peat smoke that we're having, mingling cigarette smoke with ripe plums and acacia honey, with only a moderate vanilla (hurray) and a mild half-coastal, half-earthy side. An old fisherman's boat run aground in the middle of a muddy barley field. Or something like that. Although after ten minutes, some ginger and capsicum, possibly from the European oak, do start to break out. Mouth: starts a little weird this time. Spices and a greenness from the oak, radish, mustard... Feels unusual. Then a sucrosity, bitter oranges, tonic water, artichokes... It's a rather strange and pretty electric combo, I think. Finish: quite long and peppery. Some blackcurrant jelly. Comments: I think the combination of the peaty distillate with all these woods created a kind of... aged gin? Now, I've heard there are great aged gins out there. I really enjoyed the nose, I have to say, but I'm much more into the Storms, for example. SGP:575 - 80 points (because of the nose).

Talisker 27 yo 1985/2013 (56.10%, OB, Special Releases, 3000 bottles)

Talisker 27 yo 1985/2013 (56.10%, OB, Special Releases, 3000 bottles) Five stars One of the few Special Releases of 2013 that I hadn't tried yet. It was fully matured in refill American oak, which sounds pretty good to my ears. Colour: gold. Nose: this is a different story. It's not that it's a fully naked oldish Talisker, and there is a little vanilla, but the whole is, well, pretty magnificent. I find rather more passion fruits and mangos than in other old ones, but the briny side is big. Salted warm croissants? And shoe polish, quince jelly, seashells (you know we love whelks at WF Towers), soot, a drop of olive oil, our beloved gentians...  All pretty perfect so far. With water: more perfect. Salted almonds and deluxe shoe polish. Brown. Ha! Mouth (neat): perfekkt. Huge, massive and yet elegant and immediately pleasing. It's strong and yet it goes down a treat, as they say, which may be dangerous. Oily mouth feel, some touches of gingery oak (but those remain very discreet), orange zests, mangos, lemon juice, a little pepper, oysters, brine, tar and Chinese sweet and sour sauce (the one for dim-sums, I've seen it's called gwoo low jup in Cantonese and tang cu zhi in Mandarin). Phew. With water: becomes zesty, lemony, chiselled, rieslingesque. And more oysters. Finish: long, this time more on grapefruits, which is normal. Grapefruits often appears in the finishes in my experience, and bring a welcome freshness. Also green apples, while the trademark pepper remains, say very civilised. Comments: grand whisky, as expected. There's some youth in this oldie. SGP:566 - 92 points.

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



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January 16, 2014


Three Glenmorangie including Companta

The new Glenmorangie Companta just reached our shores and as I like to do, we'll try it together with a newer bottling of my favourite recent Glenmorangie, namely the Quarter Century, as well as with a 'mysterious' independent version branded 'Westport'.

Glenmorangie 'Companta' (46%, OB, 2014)

Glenmorangie 'Companta' (46%, OB, 2014) Four stars A true winsky, as it's not one, but two different wine casks that have been used to finish this baby that bears no age statement. On the one side, a Clos de Tart, which is a tiny grand cru from northern Côtes de Nuits in Burgundy (actually a monopoly that, incidentally, used to belong to one of my clients), and on the other side, a 'sweet fortified wine from Côtes du Rhône' which could well be a white muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, or maybe a Rasteau, as those two appellations are the only vins doux naturels that are produced in the Rhône Valley. But enough with wine chit-chat, let's try the whisky... Colour: dark apricot. Nose: I think the vin doux shows first, but I wouldn't say it's a muscaty whisky. There are whiffs of roses and maybe benzoin, certainly some raspberries if not straight pinot-noiry notes (no civet cat ;-)), notes of old wine barrels with a faint mustiness, a touch of tinned pineapples and then more floral notes, around the expected peonies. This is wine-driven, but I think balance and harmony were achieved, even if this concoction may well not be 'exactly Scotch' anymore. A very fine nose. Mouth: a little syrupy and a little liqueury, but the citrusy side keeps it all balanced and even zesty. Not much gingery French oak this time, rather toasted bread, praline, butter cream and maple syrup, then raspberry jam again and a little eglantine jelly. A fine spiciness keeps it firm and even quite tense. Finish: medium length. A slight feeling of sangria, including more oranges and zests. More brown sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: I don't think many wine-finished whiskies do please the wine crowds, and many just put me off because of an obvious lack of balance, but this one really worked. Maybe not quite 'Scotch' anymore, but I really like it. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Glenmorangie 25 yo ‘Quarter Century’ (43%, OB, +/-2013)

Glenmorangie 25 yo ‘Quarter Century’ (43%, OB, +/-2013) Five stars Always loved this one, the last version I've tried was bottled circa 2010 (WF 90). Colour: full gold. Nose: this is the perfect 'traditional' Glenmorangie, honeyed and floral at first nosing then fruitier and more on milk chocolate and dried fruits such as figs and pears. What I really enjoy a lot are all the tinier and more complex aromas that show up one after the other, like in an old Sauternes or a very old Monbazillac (so cheap at auctions!) So notes of wine that do not come from wine, in a way. Tobacco, ripe plums, sultanas, beeswax... Mouth: exactly the same flavours and aromas, the palate is an extension of the nose, which is great. Only the strength is a bit low, 45 or 46% would work even better in my opinion. Touches of salt on top of the orange cake, honey, figs, sultanas etc. Finish: more Demerara sugar, Seville oranges and speculoos, and more tannicity. Touches of ginger but it's all fine. Comments: remains very high in my book. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Westport 2000/2010 (58.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #8001004)

Westport 2000/2010 (58.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #8001004) Four stars Westport is the name given to 'teaspooned' Glenmorangie, so officially a blended malt that, at least on the papers, also contains a few drops of another malt such as Glen Moray. Colour: dark amber. Nose: it's funny that we aren't too far away from the Companta, maybe was the butt made out of European oak? But this is also hotter and a little more leathery. Otherwise, it's almost all there, mushrooms, red berries, peonies, sultanas, oranges, chocolate and, indeed, a little leather. With water: the mystery thickens, we're even closer to Companta. Right, maybe this one's a notch thicker and sweeter, with even more jams. Kiwi jam, for example. Mouth (neat): ultra-rich, creamy, fat and extremely fruity. Eating spiced jams and marmalade by the spoon. Soupspoons! A feeling of sweet curry sauce, at times. With water: same. Maybe a little more oranges and apricots. 'Yellower' and 'less red' as far as fruits are concerned. Finish: long and still very rich. Turkish delights with a little pepper. Comments: I can't see why I would come up with a different score. SGP:651 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: ROCK. Performer: very cult French band Dynastie Crisis. Track: Merci Monsieur Chapman. A tribute to Family's Roger Chapman, recorded in 1972. Please buy their music...

January 15, 2014


A few Scotch blends

New or recent ones more or less at random. We'll also try to find a worthy digestif!

Teacher's Origin (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013)

Teacher's Origin (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013) Two stars and a half A blend with a high proportion of malt, finished in quarter casks. It's premium and NAS of course, but I tend to believe Teacher's actual origin is Ardmore. Colour: gold. Nose: there is a smokiness indeed, coated with some vanilla, some tea and overripe apples. As often with blends in my opinion, there's not much definition and 'accuracy', but this baby's quite noseable. It's globally rather dry and grassy, while the vanilla remains discreet. Great news. Mouth: indeed the smoke and the peat are very noticeable, I would call this one a 'peaty blend'. After that, more fresh apples and oranges, with a little white pepper. Globally, it does hint at the marvellous old versions of Teacher's Highland Cream, but as expected it's not match to them. Let's not dream. Finish: short, with some peat and some sugar/caramel. Salty aftertaste. Comments: a traditional Teacher's indeed, with a very obvious peatiness. The caramel in the aftertaste is a little 'too much' I think, and yet it's a fine smoky blend. SGP:442 - 77 points.

Bailie Nicol Jarvie (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013)

Bailie Nicol Jarvie (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013) Two starsI've always had a bad - irrationally bad - opinion of BNJ because of what 'somebody' wrote about this blend a few years ago, I quote: '(it is) as fruity and mouthwatering as a riesling, but infinitely better'. How dumb is that? Anyway, that was ten years ago, it's time to properly try this popular blend. Colour: straw. Nose: light and fresh, malty and honeyed, with a touch of earth and ale and something clearly fresh. I also find pears and vanilla, then dandelions. I'm not sure there's some Glenmorangie inside, but it does hint at Glenmo indeed. Mouth: rather nervous, on apples again, dried pears, some honey and a little toasted brioche. A faint smokiness as well, glazed chestnuts and then more malt. A notch lighter than the Teacher's. Finish: short, malty, on apple pie and cinnamon. Grassier aftertaste. Caramel again. Comments: a notch below the Teacher's but it's a fine blend indeed. Oh, and I haven't found any riesling. Bah, that's so very unimportant... SGP:431 - 76 points.

Black Bottle (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013)

Black Bottle (40%, OB, blend, +/-2013) one star and a half This the new one bearing the retro label, which is said to be much less smoky than it used to be. Colour: dark gold. Nose: smooth and rounded indeed, rather on tea and tobacco this time, which I enjoy. I do not find much peat, but it is kind of phenolic. What I like a little less is this feeling of new oak, with some sawdust, ginger and cinnamon that's all a little heady. Mouth: again, the oak's too loud, which gives it a drying and weirdly spicy side in my opinion. Cinnamon, tea, cardboard, cloves, speculoos... Not my preferred style, it's a profile that we sometimes find in the new 'virgin oak' bottlings by other makers. Finish: of medium length, always quite spicy and gingery. Comments: I'm sure the 10 yo - is there a 10 yo? - is much better. No exposed beams please ;-). SGP:361 - 68 points.

Campbeltown Loch 21 yo (46%, OB, +/-2013)

Campbeltown Loch 21 yo (46%, OB, +/-2013) Three stars and a half This one's famous and popular. Last time I tried CL 21yo that was in 2005 when it was still bottled at 40% vol. (WF 80). Today the packaging is more and more Springbankised. Colour: pale gold. Nose: now we're talking. Starts with apples and waxes that suggest a high malt content, then we have more mineral notes, white cherries perhaps, touches of peaches and greengages... And lastly, rather more leather. Also touches of old wine. Mouth: firm, quite powerful, with a grain that's anything but self-imposing. So all malts, peaches, apples, oranges and then a little oak (cinnamon, cocoa). Touches of bubblegum as well. Finish: rather long, spicier but never oaky or drying. Gingerbread. Comments: I like their malts better, but I enjoy this blend. No dullness and no uebersmoothness. SGP:441 - 83 points.

Johnnie Walker 'Swing' (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Johnnie Walker 'Swing' (40%, OB, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Not the most famous Johnnie Walker! "Swing strikes the perfect balance between luxuriousness and sophistication", wrote the owners. Let's see. Colour: full gold. Nose: there is an oaky spiciness at first nosing, a bit similar to that of the new Black Bottle, but it's otherwise both leafier and rounder. Oranges, earl grey tea, honey and touches of ginger. Pretty pleasant, I'd say. Mouth: rather full bodied despite the low strength, very 'traditional', with some malt, honey, toasted bread, roasted nuts, marmalade and butterscotch. Again, all that isn't unpleasant, quite the opposite. Finish: of medium length, rather smokier and drier, with also walnuts and more toasted bread. The marmalade is back in the aftertaste. Comments: easy, not dull, well-defined, pleasing... Well, it's blend. A good blend, no doubt about that, I can imagine an Agatha Christie character quaffing this near the Pyramids. David Niven? SGP:441 - 79 points.

And now the digestif...

White Heather 5 yo (43.4%, OB, 1970s)

White Heather 5 yo (43.4%, OB, 1970s) Four stars Another old brand that's legendary. Loved the old 8 but never tried this 5. The base malt was said to be Aberlour. Colour: straw. Nose: nothing to do with the modern ones, not even with Campbeltown Loch. This is much firmer, peatier, oilier and waxier. Glass maturing made it nose older than 5 for sure. Litres of smoky tea, earthy tea, soot, then metal polish, 'old garage', rocks, ashes... And mint, camphor... In short, the best side of Old Bottle Effect. We're not very far from the old White Horse. Mouth: same feeling, ashes, liquorice, rocks, soot, tar, then pink grapefruits (with a little icing sugar) and a growing smokiness. There's even some brine and something like smoked oysters, which further stresses this baby's coastal side. Finish: long, sooty. Sweet grapefruits, a little paraffin in the aftertaste. Comments: it's one these old marvels. Fans know it and that's why all old WHs are quite expensive these days. SGP:553 - 86 points.

Bonus: almost forgot this one, I hadn't noticed it was a blend...

Vintage 1979 (52.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, blend, sherry, 197 bottles, 2013)

Vintage 1979 (52.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, blend, sherry, 197 bottles, 2013) Four stars and a half This is a single cask blended Scotch that was 'blended at birth', that is to say prior to filling the cask. I haven't tried many of those, I can only think of the old 'single blends' by Ben Nevis and Lochside. Colour: full gold. Nose: starts with some fresh 'foresty' notes, around moss and broken branches, chestnuts, walnuts, then we rather have lemon zests and just a little wood smoke, as well as touches of thuja and cedar wood. Also cider apples, then more and more menthol and eucalyptus. Great oak. With water: rather more tropical fruits this time, as well as pears. Passion fruits, mangos, guavas... What's not to like? Mouth: very responsive, zesty, with some lemon grass, walnuts again, some green tea, bitter oranges, liquorice wood, just a little vanilla and maybe touches of green banana. No thinness at all and just a tiny varnishy side. Also peaches, more and more peaches. I don't think the sherry's very obvious. With water: once again the tropical fruits are popping out, while the oak's coming back into line. Finish: long, fresh, clean. Oranges and lemon honey. Comments: I don't know if that's the 33-years marriage, but this a blend that could as well have been a single malt, such as an old very lightly sherried Aberlour. What's sure is that it's extremely to my liking. SGP:641 - 88 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Dennis Chambers. Track: Roll Call. Please visit his website and buy his music...

January 2014 - part 1 <--- January 2014 - part 2 ---> February 2014 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Bowmore (?) 1961/1973 (43%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Best Milano)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1982/2013 (53%, Signatory, hogshead, cask #6487, 226 bottles)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2013 (48.9%, Signatory for 30th Anniversary Waldhaus am See, cask #8302, 250 bottles)

The General (53.4%, Compass Box, blend, 1698 bottles, 2013)

Glenmorangie 25 yo ‘Quarter Century’ (43%, OB, +/-2013)

Longmorn 16 yo 1972/1988 (58.8%, Intertrade, 507 bottles)

Port Mourant 37 yo 1975/2013 (49.9%, Silver Seal, Demerara, cask #2042, 159 bottles)

Talisker 27 yo 1985/2013 (56.10%, OB, Special Releases, 3000 bottles)