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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2016 - Part 1



December 2015 - part 2 <--- January 2016 - part 1 ---> January 2016 - part 2


January 14, 2016


Undisclosed peated single malts galore

They’re always frustrating, these mystery malts, because you just cannot draw a nice picture of the distillery, or even of its people in your mind. You’re left with only aromas and flavours, and sometimes a nice label to gaze on. And sometimes not. We’ll have a mixed bag today – obviously, since you don’t know about the distilleries – including old bottlings and newer bottlings. Lets start with an old one…

Braw Scot 10 yo (100 US proof, OB, unblended pot still Scotch whisky, USA, +/-1960)

Braw Scot 10 yo (100 US proof, OB, unblended pot still Scotch whisky, USA, +/-1960) Five stars A brand by MacPherson, Train & Co. This is a single malt, and there’s a nice notice on the label, which says ‘should be sipped without soda’, which goes to prove that it’s well a bottling from the 1960s ;-). This baby could also have been bottled in the 1950s according to some online records. Oh remember that in the US, 100 proof means 50% vol. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s very peaty! Really very peaty, and rather magnificent. Plenty of seawater too, bandages and camphor ala old Laphroaig – but I don’t think it is old Laphroaig -, with plenty of Vicks, less tar than in old Lagavulin, less carbony notes than in old Caol Ila… While Port Ellen wasn’t working at that time. Could have been Bruichladdich, which was very peaty back then (never tried any of those, sadly), or… or… or… Hold on, could this be Malt Mill? Could anyone check if a former bottler called MacPherson, Train & Co. had any contracts with a former distillery called Malt Mill? I’m joking… But this is magnificent, really, extremely bright and profound at the same time. What a superb peatiness, further enhanced by more than 50 years in well-stored good glass. Mouth: oh my oh my oh my, how pure is this? How peaty? Medicinal? How salty? We’ve tried several old bottles of most Islays, none had this profile – and this much peat after so many years. You’d almost think you’re sipping seawater blended with tobacco juice and cough syrup. It is even pretty extreme, I’d say, and in fact you could think this was some young Port Ellen. Except that as I wrote before, Port Ellen wasn’t working when this was bottled. Finish: very long, with some lemon and more smoked brine. Very impressive. Comments: shock and awe. Unless the god of whisky likes me, which I doubt, I’ll never know if this is, or even could be Malt Mill. But why not keep dreaming? SGP:357 - 93 points.

We could as well end this session now. But this is whiskyfun, let’s find some modern young undisclosed Islay of similar strength…

Islay Malt 6 yo 2009/2015 (52.7%, Liquid Treasures, Port cask) Three stars and a half Colour: blush wine. Nose: I won’t say we could have found out about the distillery just by nosing this baby, but in any case, the Port’s influence is rather obvious, so I just couldn’t tell. Smoked raspberries? Blackcurrant buds for sure… And sea breeze, a little hay, barnyardy notes… I find it fine, even if I usually dislike Port in my Islay. With water: straighter, more pure Islay, more ‘beachy’. Dried kelp. Mouth (neat): rather strange. Fudge, rosemary, thyme, smoke, salt, oregano… You could drizzle this on your pizza ;-). But it’s not bad at all IMHO, just funny and unusual – and certainly not totally offbeat. With water: very salty, with still quite a few herbs. Herbes de Provence. Eucalyptus mints, perhaps a little blood orange. Finish: long, clean, not unlike some cough syrup. More blood oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: in truth I find this very fine. Probably one of my favourite Port-finished (I guess it was a finishing) peated Islays. SGP:457 - 83 points.

Islay Malt 8 yo 2007/2015 (53.1%, Sansibar, S Spirit Shop, bourbon, 120 bottles)

Islay Malt 8 yo 2007/2015 (53.1%, Sansibar, S Spirit Shop, bourbon, 120 bottles) Four stars The label tells us it’s from Islay’s south coast, so it’s either L., L., or A. Colour: white wine. Nose: sweet and bonbon-fruity at first nosing, which, in my book, suggests Lagavulin. But there’s also an earthy, gentiany side in the background, which would rather suggest Ardbeg in my book. It’s a wee bit bandage-y as well, but not medicinal enough to suggest Laphroaig, although I don’t think Laphroaig’s recent batches have been very medicinal. Well if it’s Ardbeg, it’s a slightly Lagavuliny one, while if it’s Lagavulin, it’s a pretty Ardbeggy one. Look where that's got us! With water: crikey, some medicinal notes! Mouth (neat): yeah, again, it starts sweet and creamy like Lagavulin, with a bit of tar, while having this more intense coastal saltiness as well. Oh well oh well. With water: oh well oh well oh well. What’s sure is that it’s excellent. Finish: same. The sweetness is troubling, but there’s a lot of salt remaining on your lips. Comments: very good young peaty malt. Please do not tell me it is Laph… SGP:357 - 87 points.

One question, if you were to know only one thing about one single malt whisky, would that be its age or its distillery of origin? Discuss…

West Islay 2003/2013 (60.8%, Svenska Eldvatten, barrel, cask #882, 120 bottles)

West Islay 2003/2013 (60.8%, Svenska Eldvatten, barrel, cask #882, 120 bottles) Five stars Port Charlotte or Octomore? When was Octomore’s first vintage again? I think 2002, so yeah, this could as well be Octomore, Dr. Watson. Colour: straw. Nose: I’d rather say this is Port Charlotte, but it’s got a tarry side that’s a little… Jamaican. With olives and the whole kit and caboodle! In fact this could be Hampden rum, really. And guess what, I love this. With water: some Islayness coming through. Mud, wool, beach sand, kippers, wet dogs (we’re deeply sorry, dogs)… Mouth (neat): bang, salt, capers, black olives, earth, anchovies, smoke. Is this really whisky? What’s sure is that it’s magnificent fresh and young spirit. With water: h.u.r.r.a.y. Finish: long. And so good… Comments: totally cross-genre, and absolutely and utterly stunning. Reminds me of a wee vatting I once did, 1/3 Ardbeg, 1/3 mezcal, 1/3 clairin. Don’t try that at home! Anyway, this Swedish baby’s rrrrrright up my alley! (I think you ought to change the batteries in your keyboard, S.) SGP:367 - 92 points.

Back to the old ones, and we’re done for today…

The Eriksay 18 yo (58.1%, Eriksay ltd., single malt, +/-1995)

The Eriskay 18 yo (58.1%, Eriksay ltd., single malt, +/-1995) Four stars and a half Galore indeed. I’m not sure it’s a peater, but with a name such as Eriskay, it ought to be coastal at least. Now I’ve just seen that Eriskay Ltd. are wine and spirit merchants in… Berkshire. So it could be that this undisclosed baby’s absolutely not coastal, nor peaty. Could be Glenlivet after all, let’s see… Colour: dark amber. Nose: well, what it’s got from Eriksay is the crude oil from some boats, and rather massive amounts of sulphur. Asparagus cooking water, rotting truffles, old rusty metal parts, and even… tarry ropes. There is some fudge and roasted nuts in the background, but they just wouldn’t make it through. Let’s wait… zzz… zzz… After fifteen minutes, it’s still pretty sulphury, but the truffles got nicer and there’s now a certain feeling of umami. Oxtail. With water: ah, no, sulphur almost gone, replaced with soy sauce and chicken soup ;-). Never, ever judge a whisky within a few minutes, even if you’ve got a book to write! Mouth (neat): as always with whiskies that started sulphury, the palate’s much better. In this case, it’s rather nuts and dried fruits cooked in honey sauce, plus a good spoonful of maple syrup and perhaps a little pipe tobacco. What a shame it got so much sulphur in the nose – at first sniffs, at least. There’s even a smoky pepper that would suggest Talisker, at times. Like in the great old Talisker 20 sherry, remember? With water: pretty fantastic! Thick, pipe-y, honeyed, nutty, marmalade-y… Mr. Samaroli had such wonders, we all remember them. Finish: extremely long. Ham glazed with honey and Himalayan salt. You may forget about the Himalayan part. Comments: which part, which phase should we judge? It was a whole journey, sometimes difficult. Let’s remain conservative, there’re little chances you ever come across this baby anyway. My bad. SGP:462 - 89 points.

Phew! (and gracias, Angus)



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January 13, 2016


A little bag of Bowmore

Various styles, all from the independents.

Bowmore 17 yo 1996/2013 (49.8%, The Whisky Agency with LMDW and Spirits.com.tw, Jam Session #1, hogshead, cask #960051, 172 bottles)

Bowmore 17 yo 1996/2013 (49.8%, The Whisky Agency with LMDW and Spirits.com.tw, Jam Session #1, hogshead, cask #960051, 172 bottles) Four stars and a half Did I already tell you how much I loved these stunning ‘jazz’ labels? Colour: white wine. Nose: probably one of the farmiest Bowmores I’ve ever tried. Barnyard, an old oil tank, a pile of old tyres, and perhaps an old Citroën 2CV parked somewhere. What’s even funnier is that it suddenly does a U-turn (2CVs used to be good at that), becoming very coastal, with some seawater, kelp, oysters, a fire on the beach… It’s also quite medicinal, ala older Laphroaig (tincture of iodine, balms…) Mouth: ultra-chiselled, with a surprising touch of caraway, then as much salt and smoked fish as possible. The peat’s big too, but not stifling. The lemons too. It’s maybe just a wee tad sweet, but that’s nothing. The strength is perfect. Finish: long, very salty, lemony, and pretty sweet. Limoncello and seawater, 50/50. Comments: the sweetness is a little surprising, but it’s another very great middle-aged Bowmore. SGP:556 - 89 points.

Bowmore 12 yo 2003/2015 (49.6%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon barrel)

Bowmore 12 yo 2003/2015 (49.6%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon barrel) Four starsWith a great offbeat label depicting a travel to Mars. What the indies do, no distiller (and probably IB from the UK) could or would do! Colour: white wine. Nose: great, there. High-ester rum (Jamaican, perhaps), smoked fruits and fish, hessian, salted liquorice, grapefruits, pinesap, cough syrup, eucalyptus… I find this simply perfect. Lovingly clean. Mouth: a bit unusual, because of this combination of raw coastal peat with sweeter tropical fruits, and perhaps this pepper that rather hints at Talisker, but I’m all for funny combos and mixes. Lemon and orange drops, papayas, green apples, a vanilla-ed sweetness… It’s actually not too firm, but that works. Finish: medium, fresh, with some oily vanilla. Comments: another one that rocks, which was expected. Perhaps a tad simple at times, but no problems at all. SGP:646 - 87 points.

Images of Islay 1995/2013 'Round church of Bowmore' (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, 178 bottles)

Images of Islay 1995/2013 'Round church of Bowmore' (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, 178 bottles) Four stars Some sherry was involved, according to the colour. I have no proof that this is Bowmore, but the name should say it all. Colour: deep amber. Nose: well well well, this is very tarry, quite rubbery, and very intense at first nosing. Some burnt bread everywhere, gunpowder, black tea, damson plums (on a tarte)… Now the peat’s relatively discreet. Bitter chocolate. With water: old cardboard and pipe tobacco. Rather drier. Mouth (neat): very rich, sweeter than expected, rather on peonies, Cointreau, ginger liqueur, Schweppes, cranberry juice… This sweetness is a little disturbing, but on the other hand, it’s a very different Bowmore. Vive la différence! With water: ultra-sweet, and funnily enough, there are ‘echoes’ of the lavendery 1980s, but I find this very better. Raspberry and blackberry jams. Finish: quite long, on red fruits, while the smoke makes a late arrival. Ashes, pomegranates, and blood oranges. Comments: not a very smoky Bowmore, but a very sherried one. It may have a ‘premixy’ side, but I find it very good nonetheless. SGP:644 - 86 points.

Bw5 (50.2%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2015)

Bw5 (50.2%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2015) Five stars Haha, it’s NAS, but TWE’s website tells us that it’s actually a 16 yo, the youngest component having been distilled in 1996. Funny that they felt the need to disclose that… (and a good sign overall, if you ask me). Colour: straw. Nose: sharp, ‘millimetric’, with some gentian, green olives, Chablis, and whiffs of damp hessian. That’s all folks, but that’s already quite a lot. With water: fresh paint. Boat paint, of course. Mouth (neat): a blade. Bitter almonds, seawater, kippers, putty, more salty olives. With water: more of all that, with just a little more roundness. Drops of maple syrup, perhaps. Finish: medium to long, still rounded, with a little smoked salmon. Salty, smoky, and lemony aftertaste. A touch of sucrose. Comments: the purest form of modern Bowmore. It’s got it all going on. SGP:456 - 90 points.

Bowmore 12 yo 2003/2014 (58.1%, Cadenhead, wine cask, burgundy wood, 270 Bottles)

Bowmore 12 yo 2003/2014 (58.1%, Cadenhead, wine cask, burgundy wood, 270 Bottles) Four stars and a half This one was transferred into a Bourgogne cask in 2011. But white or red? We’ll see… Colour: salmony. Probably red. Nose: plenty of sawdust and nutmeg at first nosing, then rather peonies and ginger. Peppercorns, a little butter, a little incense. A little strange, but it works. With water: pencil shavings galore, old pièce (that’s the name of the casks they use in Burgundy), a wee mustiness… Mouth (neat): fun stuff indeed. Sweet oranges, raspberries, ginger, strawberries, some pretty spicy French oak, and Bowmore’s peat. It’s not easy-easy to find out about which spices came from the cask, and which from the spirit. But quite amazingly, they blend well. With water: some kind of syrup? An old cordial? It’s very spicy and very fruity at the same time, and Bowmore’s saltiness is roaring in the background. Finish: long, sweet, salty, spicy. Salted cherries? Comments: this baby will make you believe in miracles. I’d have never thought it would work, I remember a Port Ellen finished in a red Burgundy cask (not by CAD) that was really, really… unlikely. SGP:655 - 88 points.

All good, all good these late-period Bowmores. Shall we take chances now? You bet!

Bowmore 1982/2004 (45%, Samaroli, Coilltean, casks #1011-1062-1071)

Bowmore 1982/2004 (45%, Samaroli, Coilltean, casks #1011-1062-1071) Three stars and a half Most, if not all 1982s have been oddly perfumy. Now, some whisky lovers are fond of this style, so it remains a matter of preferences. Colour: pale gold. Nose: hey hey, I do not find much lavender or Parma violets, rather a funny sweet minty side… Anise sweets, blackcurrants, what we call anis bredala in Alsace (anise-flavoured hard cookies), perhaps touches of cooked artichokes, maybe a little plastic and fresh paint… Tends to lose focus a bit, but this is not quite a meltdown. Mouth: yeah, there, this violetty sweetness, cranberry juice, salted blueberry jelly (I imagine!), stuff from Haribo’s, orange squash… It’s really strange, but just between us, I’ve tasted much worse as far as these vintages are concerned. Finish: another miraculous one, because the violets do not manage to dominate the smoky/salty side of Bowmore. Comments: sure it’s weird and uncommon, but I’ll say it again, it’s one of my favourite 1980s Bowmores. I even find it pretty good! Pretty pretty good! SGP:644 - 84 points.

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



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January 12, 2016


Clearing up the Port Ellen compartment

Another totally useless session, since none of these are readily available anymore. But remember Whiskyfun’s no buying guide, it’s just a personal tasting diary. So, just for the records, a few middle-aged Port Ellens…

Port Ellen 17 yo (59.5%, Douglas Murdoch, +/-2000?)

Port Ellen 17 yo (59.5%, Douglas Murdoch, +/-2000?) Five stars Not much information about this one. Another Douglas Murdoch, a 1979/+/-1992, had been rather superb (WF 91). Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a clean Port Ellen, without tons of tar, rather on seawater and apple juice, but the very high strength may have locked it in some ways. So, with water: damp clay, rocks, limestone, plastic, wet dogs (we’re sorry, dogs), raw wool, mud, porridge… Mouth (neat): absolutely superb! Sharp and pungent, with this bit of sweetness that keeps it sexy (candy sugar), and then an avalanche of smoked herbs and grasses, the whole being enjoyably acrid. Lime everywhere. With water: it’s not a peat bomb at all, and it even becomes kind of gentle, with drops of limoncello, lemon drops, all that. I find it perfect. Finish: very long briny, smokier this time, ashy, kippery… Just not tarry. Comments: a Port Ellen without any tar, but other than that, it’s fantastically precise, well-defined, angular, sharp… And very peaty! Reminds me of the first Rare Malt 20yo, just without the tarry side. The age is perfect. SGP:458 - 92 points.

Port Ellen 22 yo 1976/1999 (55.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #4795, 282 bottles)

Port Ellen 22 yo 1976/1999 (55.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #4795, 282 bottles) Five stars £59.99 a bottle, I remember well. Very expensive, I had thought. Colour: gold. Nose: phoo, there’s this very unusual combination of Demerara sugar with smoked and burnt herbs, plus porridge, soot, new bicycle inner tube, and tarmac. Epitomically Port Ellen this time, with this ‘chemical’ side that’s so unique. With water: fab. Leatherette and supermarket plastic bags, more tyres, more smoky porridge, more pitch and tar. ‘Nosing a brand new Porsche’ (a Ford would do, S.!) Mouth (neat): so unique indeed! Rubber bands marinated in lemonade? Or would that rather be Corsican citron liqueur blended with gorilka vodka? Licking the streets after the Monaco Grand Prix? With water: extremely ‘plasticky’. Plastic pouches, lemon, ginger tonic… Finish: long, curiously cleaner and more kippery. Big fat oysters with lemon and muscadet. Comments: 1976’s not a common vintage. This one was full of flaws, lovely flaws, desirable flaws. SGP:368 - 90 points.

Since they’re rare, why not have another 1976?

Port Ellen 21 yo 1976/1998 (57.3%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, cask #4750, 234 bottles)

Port Ellen 21 yo 1976/1998 (57.3%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, cask #4750, 234 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: minimal, almost Japanese in that sense. Bauhaus-whisky! No, this is early 1900s constructivist whisky. Malevich’s favourite. White on white. I cannot even find any aromas, and yet there’s this feeling of well-being, pretty hard to describe. Say oyster water and ‘new car’? (which would involve a lot of plastic, obviously). With water: fresh oil paint, wet wool, almond oil. And fern, perhaps, pine needles… Mouth (neat): zen whisky. Lemon juice, brine, and putty. That’s all, but everything’s just perfect. With water: green olives, bitter almonds, chewing your pencil, salt. Finish: long, sharp, salty, wonderful. Comments: totally anti-commercial whisky, I’m extremely fond of this philosophical style. Some totally non-whorish malt, I’d say, which is probably pretty stupid, but since I do not care, well… SGP:357 - 93 points.

Port Ellen 26 yo 1982/2005 (55.7%, Old Bothwell, cask #2473)

Port Ellen 26 yo 1982/2005 (55.7%, Old Bothwell, cask #2473) Five stars They had many great – and cheap – late-period Port Ellens at Old Bothwell’s! Colour: gold. Nose: the opposite. Milk chocolate, Werther’s Originals, fudge, custard tart, apple pie. I find no Port Ellen in there, but maybe is it me? So, with water: a tad vinegary and lemony, which is extremely… contrasting? Seawater, whelks, kelp, oysters… We’re clearly on the coastline. This baby just loves water, it seems. Mouth (neat): the sweetest, the easiest, the smoothest Port Ellen ever… Before it takes off. Because as it takes off, it just smashes you with the rawest peatiness, some very strong coffee (the Italian’s most concentrated ristrettos are nothing), and an immense tarriness and saltiness. Tears you apart a bit, but that’s a lovely feeling. Monstrous, and that came unexpected! With water: bang-bang. Tart lemony salty smoky kippers. Finish: very long, very salty, very briny, very lemony. Salted anchovies. Comments: frankly, those Port Ellens ruled. I know some ‘smart people’ keep claiming that they closed it down because the whisky was sub-par. What’s sure is that you wouldn’t find this profile, neither west, nor east. Not to mention north. It was Port Ellen. SGP:457 - 91 points.

Time for a very last one…

Port Ellen 27 yo 1983/2010 (55.6%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, refill sherry, 96 bottles)

Port Ellen 27 yo 1983/2010 (55.6%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, refill sherry, 96 bottles) Five stars The last vintage, the last months… And not the worst distillate according to my little book! Colour: straw. Nose: twenty-seven years old, never! This is as vibrant, clean, and fresh as some ten years old Laphroaig. I mean, independent Laphroaig. Although I’d add that there is a little vanilla and chocolate coming out, but the spirit’s big enough to stand that slightly ugly make-up. Largely! Patchouli, mentholated cigarettes, dill, aniseed, almonds, fennel, candle wax, orange blossom, iodine… With water: a little oak and cork comes out, a mustiness, wet wood… Mouth (neat): very salty, extremely salty! Anchovies, perhaps a little cologne, fleur de sel, cinchona… Not a very easy/sexy one, everything revolves around salty stuff. With water: mushrooms, clay, smoked salmon… But it gets a little rounder, with some almond paste. Finish: quite long, salty/almondy and kippery. More almonds in the aftertaste, and not a huge peatiness. Comments: not one of the peatiest PEs, but quality’s extremely high. Another great one by the Whisky Agency. How are you doing guys? SGP: 356 – 91 points.

That’s it, but there will be more older bottlings of Port Ellen on whiskyfun soon. Because tasting Port Ellen is like listening to the Rolling Stones, there’s something nostalgic to it.

(Thanks Jon, Angus, Konstantin)

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



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January 11, 2016


They complained (well not really),
I retaliate (in a friendly way, I hope)

I sometimes get firendly messages from compadres who are not 100% happy with some of my scores, either because they’re too low, or because they’re too high for one given whisky (often the same whisky, mind you). And that happened several time with the newish Craigellachie 13 yo, which, I had thought, was worth 79 points. So I promised I’d try it again, and now’s the time. I believe it is a newer batch, but not too sure… And then, we’ll have other Craigellachies, as usual. Because this is Whiskyfun! (no kiddin’!)

Craigellachie 13 yo (46%, OB, batch #83-LH88 +/-2015)

Craigellachie 13 yo (46%, OB, batch #83-LH88 +/-2015) Two stars and a half Colour: gold (according to my older notes, the other one was paler). Nose: starts with some buttery porridge and muesli, goes on with plenty of overripe apples, and then displays notes of vanilla and a little cider. Or is that beer? Mouth: a little burnt grass, some overcooked apples, certainly quite some malt, and touches of bitter oranges. I find it a little kirschy, with notes of raw eau-de-vie. Even ‘Vorlauf’, as we say when we distil in Alsace. That’s right, the heads. Finish: quite long, a little bittersweet. Zests and candy sugar. I find the aftertaste a little bitter. Comments: no, I won’t change my score. As much as I enjoyed the 17, and just loved the 23, I just didn’t fall in love with the 13. A problem of lucky number? SGP:451 - 79 points.

Oh well, while we’re at it, let’s make this a genuine Craigellachie session! With young stuff and old stuff, and even rare old stuff. But first young!

Craigellachie 8 yo 2006/2015 (46%, Càrn Mor, Strictly Limited, hogsheads, 725 bottles)

Craigellachie 8 yo 2006/2015 (46%, Càrn Mor, Strictly Limited, hogsheads, 725 bottles) Two starsFrom two casks. Càrn Mor often bottle very young malts, which is great when you’d like to know more about a distillate. On the other hand, some may be a little immature, let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: I’d say this is the problem, not many Speysiders carry enough personality to get bottled both at a very young age, and unsherried. Some do, for sure (such as the sulphury or meaty ones), but many don’t. This may be an example, all I get is porridge, vanilla, apples, and pears. Sure we could try to play it smart and come up with other aromas, but that would pushing things too far. Mouth: same comments. Sweet apple juice, Williams pears, muesli, barley sugar, vanilla. This is certainly ‘good’, but the question remains ‘why?’ I mean, why bottle this as a very small batch and as a single malt? Finish: medium, sweet, a little sugary. Comments: the exact definition of a 75-pointer in my book. Very drinkable, and even good, but a tad boring. If I may. SGP:541 - 75 points.

Let’s look for more ‘personality’…

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 21 yo 1994/2015 (53.1%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Sauternes, 246 bottles)

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 21 yo 1994/2015 (53.1%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Sauternes, 246 bottles) Four stars and a half … Indeed, or you could do a finishing… This one was transferred into a Sauternes barrique in 2006, so it is more double-maturation than a simple silly finishing. Colour: dark gold. Nose: clever. Provided your base, so your distillate, is somewhat neutral, Sauternes can do great things to it, as we’ve seen elsewhere (but we’ve seen clashes as well). Apricot pie, our beloved mirabelle plums, a touch of honey, a wee earthiness brought by the malt, some vanilla, and almost no odd spiciness from any super-active French oak (oak that’s good for wine isn’t obligatorily good for spirits, in my opinion). Rather autumn leaves, that’s great. With water: works. Ripe greengages. Mouth (neat): this is liquid lemon honey! I think the spirit is almost anecdotal, but it managed to extract and mingle with the Sauternes in a wonderful manner. Think quince jelly, Haribo’s best, mirabelle jam, apricots in syrup, and even tinned pineapples. And yet it’s not whorishly sweet, not at all. Very well done! With water: works. Orange juice. Finish: medium, sweet and fruity. Squeezed oranges and perhaps vitamin C tablets. Comments: I shouldn’t like this, and yet I do. Split personality syndrome? Should I see a shrink? SGP:741 - 89 points.

And one from one of the magical years?...

Craigellachie 24 yo 1972/1996 (52.4%, The Bottlers, cask #6571)

Craigellachie 24 yo 1972/1996 (52.4%, The Bottlers, cask #6571) Four stars and a half When we used to rank whisky bottlers with the Malt Maniacs, The Bottlers (aka Raeburn Fine Wines in Edinburgh) have always been very, very high. At the top! Most sadly, they stopped bottling whisky a long time ago, which I always found very sad. Colour: gold. Nose: liquid honey, like. A little barley syrup, some white chocolate, an obvious flowery side (yellow, nectar-rich flowers), and once again, all these ripe plums. With water: perhaps not the best swimmer ever? Some oak coming out. Some menthol as well, which I like. Mouth (neat): once again, this feeling of drinking honey blended with orange juice and plum jam. Sounds thickish, and yet it’s not. What’s absolutely a thrill is the way it unfolds on many tiny herbal flavours. Green tobacco, lemongrass, pollen, tangerines… The citrusy side keeps it fresh and lively, in a superb manner. With water: really, careful, not too much water. More vanilla, and some curious meaty/ham notes. Finish: medium, honeyed, with more plums and some vanilla. Comments: I was ready to go higher, that is to say above 90, but the way it swims did not please me a lot. He’s not Mark Spitz. Other than that, fab whisky by a fab bottler. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Session over… Unless we find an even older one. Rummage rummage… There!

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 37 yo 1962/2000 (48.2%, Cadenhead, Millenium bottling, 144 bottles)

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 37 yo 1962/2000 (48.2%, Cadenhead, Millenium bottling, 144 bottles) Five stars A ‘small cream label’ that’s black instead of white/cream, but let us not stop there! We’ve already tried two or three old 1962s by Cadenhead, and both have been great, but they had been bottled much earlier. I find it amazing how Cadenhead, when they have/had a parcel of, say ten or twenty casks of one make, will gradually issue those casks within a 20 or even 30-year span, or even more. Because with whisky, rushing is a disease. Colour: pale gold. Nose: at first, it’s the same honey/ripe plums combination that we’re getting. But what’s coming next, that is to say a wide array of tiny herbs, some menthol-like, can only come will old age. Dill, mint, tar-like grasses, perhaps a little soapwort (very discreet soapy tones), then touches of metal, old tin box (which is very old Cadenhead), leather… It’s all getting drier and drier, but we’re almost watching a movie. It’s no picture-malt, it’s a movie-malt. Mouth: I’m surprised. I would have thought this would be a bed of honey and dried fruits, and yet its more aniseed that strikes first. Doesn’t happen often. Even pastis, and wormwood. Are we having absinth? Then rather some kind of earthy fudge, a rooty side (yup, gentian), and the earthiest pu-erh, it’s just that there isn’t any smoke in this one. Or very little, as in many older malt whiskies. Excuse me? Is it any good? You bet! Finish: long, the aniseed being joined by some fresh mint and a touch of lime. The freshness is impressive. Even more lime in the aftertaste, playing with the tip of your tongue. Comments: it needs your time, but it rewards you. To be honest I had never seen this bottle before. Bwah, so much still to learn (and so much still to taste).  SGP:562 - 93 points.

Isn’t it great when some good friends gently start complaining about one of my humble scores?

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



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January 10, 2016


Tasting six Ardbegs of rum

Some say that Caroni was the Ardbeg of rum. Except that Caroni’s closed! Not saying there’s any virtue in that… What’s sure is that I’m very happy to be able to do a little Caroni session today. We’ll have them by ascending strengths instead of descending vintages. Some are tropically aged while others were matured in the UK, so indeed ages do not matter that much in this case. And watch the last one!

Caroni 10 yo (43%, Bristol Spirits, sherry finish, Trinidad, +/-2015)

Caroni 10 yo (43%, Bristol Spirits, sherry finish, Trinidad, +/-2015) Four stars and a half This is a recent bottling, but since the distillery was closed in 2000 – or was it 2001? 2002? – this baby could be older. Or kept in some inert container. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not very heavy Caroni, and the sherry seems to have been a sweeter one. That makes this Caroni rather fruitier and rounder than usual, but the tar and even the smoke are well there in the background. Plenty of raisins, some raw cane juice, whiffs of beef jerky, burning fir wood, and above all, our beloved fermented plum sauce that the Chinese serve with Peking duck. Ah, yes hoisin sauce. This nose keeps improving, becoming extremely aromatic, fat, and rich. Mouth: bang for your buck! I don’t think you could imagine any richer spirit at 43% vol. Hoisin sauce again (don’t we learn fast), raisins, black olives, caramel, a touch of mustard, this beef jerky again (fat free!), the tar, the smoke… It just tends to become a notch ‘less big’ after a little while, but that’s more than normal. Finish: medium, on the same flavours. Including hoisin sauce, of course. Tarry aftertaste. Litres of lapsang souchong. Comments: another session that starts extremely well, me happy, me buy bottle(s). SGP:463 - 89 points.

Caroni 1996/2014 (46%, Bristol Spirits, Port finish, Trinidad)

Caroni 1996/2014 (46%, Bristol Spirits, Port finish, Trinidad) Three stars and a half It was matured in Trinidad, then moved to the UK, where it ‘enjoyed’ a Port finish, according to the label. Colour: gold. Nose: ooh, this is something else, around maraschino, bigarreau cherries, and even, guess what… Young Chambertin! Bursts with black cherries indeed, while the brine, the smoke, the olives and the tar are getting a little more discreet than in the 10. Because the cherries are taking up all the room – but on the other hand, I’m a cherry lover. Is that all the Port? Mouth: rich and tarry, and subsequently more ‘Caroni’, but the Port’s still waffling on, this time with floral notes, especially peonies and geranium (flowers, not stems, so not a flaw at all). The Port may work better than on Ardbeg, but you’ve still got a wee feeling of ‘premix’. Gets saltier over time. Pink grapefruits? Finish: long, rich, a tad oak-driven perhaps. Comments: loved the nose! But on the palate, it was a little hard after the very fantastic 10. SGP:552 - 83 points.

Caroni 15 yo 1998/2013 ‘Extra Strong’ (52%, Velier, Trinidad)

Caroni 15 yo 1998/2013 ‘Extra Strong’ (52%, Velier, Trinidad) Four stars Entirely tropically aged, first for 10 years in Trinidad, then for 5 years in Guyana. Colour: amber. Nose: this one’s rather more phenolic, and brinier, but I wouldn’t call it ‘a bomb’. Starts with some seawater and some fumes, but tends to become fruitier. Overripe bananas, then rather roasted nuts. Pecans, peanuts… So rather lovely, but not quite ‘extra-strong’. So far. With water: same. Smoked bananas with a drop of truffle oil. Italian truffle oil, of course. Alba truffles, that is. Mouth (neat): very good, not quite heavy, starting with more overripe bananas, certainly bananas flambéed, then a tarry side indeed, but without being sensationally tarry. If you see what I mean… With water: perhaps was the batch a little too large? Some parts may be a tad too ‘melted’ – there must be a better word for that. But it remains high-class, no doubt about that. Finish: medium, always on smoked bananas. A little more oak in the aftertaste. Comments: just very, very good. Perhaps just a tad soft for Caroni… SGP:552 - 85 points.

So, more power…

Caroni 1995/2015 (63.1%, Bristol Spirits, Trinidad)

Caroni 1995/2015 (63.1%, Bristol Spirits, Trinidad) Four stars A little frightening, I have to say… Colour: pale amber. Nose: take some lovage, wild thyme, ramson, and perhaps even garlic. Put into a masher. Add a little liquid clay, and some pitch. Some liquid liquorice, a pinch of salt, some olive oil, and a drop of natural vanilla extract. Push the button. To your good health! With water: some oranges, old oils, diesel oil, perhaps a few pencil shavings, black earth… Mouth (neat): it’s a very citrusy Caroni this time, interestingly zesty and narrow, without much oiliness at this super-high strength. A funny feeling, you’d almost think you’re having some very young Rosebank at cask strength. Finished in a Caroni cask ;-). With water: swims like a champ, for it becomes fatter, richer, more ‘Caroni’, with tar, pineapples, brine, tapenade… Truly excellent. Finish: long, rather fruitier than others, balanced… Tropical fruits and liquid liquorice. Comments: I’m still liking the humbler 10 a little better, but no doubt this is a great bottling by Bristol. SGP:653 - 87 points.

So, even more power…

Caroni 16 yo 1998/2014 ‘Full Proof’ (64.5%, Velier, Trinidad, 18 bourbon casks)

Caroni 16 yo 1998/2014 ‘Full Proof’ (64.5%, Velier, Trinidad, 18 bourbon casks) Four stars Tremble, mere mortal, tremble… Colour: amber. Nose: it’s even nosable at such a strength! But you have to be careful, one sniff too deep and you get burned. It seems that there are aromas similar to those of the 15, with fumes and lapsang souchong, plus bananas flambéed and cigar smoke. Some fresh sawdust as well, but let’s add water… (S., you sissy!) With water: as often, it’s the earthiness that comes out, and that would come with some chocolate, banana cream, sandalwood, and drops of that famous sauce that comes with Peking duck, what’s the name again? Mouth (neat): very strong, it almost peels off your oral mucosa. Not such a good idea as long as this little session isn’t over. So… With water: it got much gentler, almost mellow, with more ripe bananas, cassata ice cream, and even some sappy honey. Crystallised pineapples. A little peppery oak roaring in the background. Finish: long, much drier, oakier, tannic… It’s funny how it changed. Strong black tea. But the aftertaste is more Caronian again, with some tar, olives, and brine. Comments: excellent. Bristol’s 1995 was a notch more phenolic. SGP:652 - 86 points.

It seems that the cheapest one won it today! But this session isn’t over, because we’ve also got this possible beauty…

Caroni 20 yo (46%, Moon Import, The Birds, Trinidad, 900 bottles, 75cl, +/-1989)

Caroni 20 yo (46%, Moon Import, The Birds, Trinidad, 900 bottles, 75cl, +/-1989) Four stars A funny label that calls it ‘rhum agricol’. Yes, no ‘e’. Were Caroni distilling fresh cane juice in the 1960s, and not molasses? That’s not impossible, I should ask rum experts, but it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts. I believe this was a 1969 bottled in 1989, but I’m not 100% sure. In any case, it’s a thrill to be able to taste such an old Caroni. Colour: dark amber. Nose: much more complex, smoother, mellower, rounder… It’s a dry nose, but there are totally lovely notes of dandelions, roasted hazelnuts, praline, green tea, linseed oil, old books, hand cream, asparagus… And then plenty of milk chocolate and cappuccino. The whole’s very delicate, subtle, and in a way, totally un-Caroni. Perhaps was it ‘light’ Caroni? Mouth: indeed, it’s rather light and dry, kind of carbony, papery, ashy… The salt is there, the tar is there, and there are olives and even kippers, also lemon… It is gaining a little strength over time, but it’s true that we had genuine monsters just before. Let’s take our time… zzz… (Ten minutes later)… It got even smoother, with more and more raisins. Finish: medium, sweet, rounded, raisiny. Leafier aftertaste, with hints of artichokes and asparagus, but that could be bottle aging. Comments: great, but perhaps not quite ‘Caroni’ by today’s standards. Or did they ‘push the phenols’ in the last years? Or is it the distillery’s lightest style, given that they did make both ‘light’ and ‘heavy’? SGP:541 - 86 points.

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



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January 8, 2016


Various Glenfarclas

... Looking for one or several sherry monsters...

Glenfarclas ‘511.19s.Od Family Reserve’ (43%, OB, 2015)

Glenfarclas ‘511.19s.Od Family Reserve’ (43%, OB, 2015) Two stars and a half A lot of numbers on an NAS bottle! These cryptic data are related to when the distillery was purchased by the Grants and to its price. It’s an expensive bottle given the lack of age statement (+/-£80), it seems that the disease strikes just everyone over there in Scotland. Colour: gold. Nose: rather more used matches than in my ‘usual’ Glenfarclas, more leather, more plasticine, more grass, hints of cooked artichoke and cabbage, gas… Frankly, I find it very strange. You’d rather think it’s Benrinnes, or perhaps Dailuaine. Mouth: in keeping with the nose, plus walnut pie. A feeling of truffle and gunpowder. Finish: medium, grassy, leathery. Comments: very unusual indeed, and pretty un-Glenfarclas in my book. I think I’ve tasted around 200 better Glenfarclasses! I mean, Glenfarclasses that have been more to my liking. Wait, maybe did they try to replicate 1865 Glenfarclas? SGP:362 - 78 points.

Let’s fix that ;-)…

Glenfarclas 1989/2014 'Vintage' (46%, OB, sherry casks, 2400 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1989/2014 'Vintage' (46%, OB, sherry casks, 2400 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: there are similarities, but everything’s much better integrated, in my opinion, with more malt, walnut cake, dried and dry raisins, menthol, liquorice wood… It’s sherried, but rather mildly so. Mouth: same feeling, a grassy arrival, then more leather and cocoa, as well as paraffin, but bitter oranges and perhaps roasted chestnuts add balance and complexity. A few tannins from the wood. Like it. Finish: medium, rather fresh. Oranges and a touch of asparagus, some tobacco in the aftertaste, then plain oak. Comments: refill sherry, I wager. A whole different league, I think. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2015)

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars Long time not tasted the official 25. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s one of the most Cognacqy malt whiskies – and that would rather be a dry Cognac, with peaches cooked in butter and black raisins at first nosing, then rather teas and herbs, especially mint. Whiffs of wood varnish, then butter cream. Fine, not really huge, but elegant. Mouth: pretty much the same Cognacqy feeling, this time with a little kirsch, prunes, raisins, then more malt (Kellog’s) and oranges. A little tar and liquorice as well, also coffee. Good body at this strength. Finish: medium, a little drier again, with roasted nuts, toasts, and chocolate. The raisins are back in the aftertaste. Chocolate-coated raisins. Comments: it goes down very well, and indeed would match a very good cognac, after your dessert. SGP:551 - 86 points.

While we are at it…

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2007)

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2007) Four stars Let’s see if it changed within 8 years… Colour: amber. Nose: it is a tad leafier and even smokier, with less rounded sherriness, less dried fruits, and more grass. I don’t find the menthol either. Mouth: same feeling, it’s perhaps a little more complex, in a way, but it’s frankly leafier and grassier. Not a bad thing mind you, not at all. Perhaps some rhubarb and fruit peelings. Finish: medium, a little earthier than the contemporary 25. More complexity, more depth, a little less fullness. Comments: similar quality, as expected, but styles are rather different. This older one may be a little more ‘Highlands’, while the new one’s firmly ‘Speyside’. We won’t scratch our hair too much, the ratings will be identical. SGP:461 - 86 points.

Glenfarclas 19 yo 1994/2014 'Double Cask' (58.7%, OB, Family Casks, oloroso, casks #3913 & 3914, 556 bottles)

Glenfarclas 19 yo 1994/2014 'Double Cask' (58.7%, OB, Family Casks, oloroso, casks #3913 & 3914, 556 bottles) Five stars This baby was the supreme winner in the Ultra Premium Category (price greater than €150) at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2015. Colour: coffee. Nose: a rich sherry monster, full of chocolate, prunes, coffee, and raisins. Second level: black cherries, maraschino, marmalade, polished oak. All perfect, this is ultra-classic sherried Glenfarclas. With water: pencil shavings, black tea, pipe tobacco, a little humus and mushrooms.

Mouth (neat): extremely rich and concentrated, even more so than a 50/50 blend of Kavalan sherry and Yamazaki sherry! The black cherries are first to come out, then there’s some blood oranges, dates, raisins, a drop of balsam liqueur, and simply coffee-schnapps. Yamazaki 18, come out of this body ;-). With water: old Macallan, please come out too! More delicate notes of sultanas and quince jelly. Finish: long, unexpectedly fresh. Always a good sign. Blackcurrants. Comments: a rather bombastic sherry monster, not to handle with kid gloves! SGP:561 - 90 points.

Undisclosed Glenfarclasses abound at the indies, under various names, the most common one being a creative ‘Speyside’. Let’s have only one today, for the road, but we’ll try to do a large session one day, with only these ‘bastard malts’ as we used to say in the old days.

Green Meadows 19 yo 1993/2012 (52.2%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #605)

Green Meadows 19 yo 1993/2012 (52.2%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #605) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: full of raw barley, leaven, fresh brioche, and then plums. There’s a sour side that’s far from being unpleasant, and everything’s coated with vanilla. With water: more apples, cider, perhaps a little sweet and hoppy IPA… Mouth: very sweet, young, typical unsherried Speysider that can also be found at Aberlour, for example. Sweet bread, apples, plums, orange syrup, bonbons, all that. Juicy Fruit. With water: more of all that. Really extra-sweet, this is almost a super-bag of liquorice allsorts. Minus the liquorice ;-). Finish: medium, very fruity. They have some sweets in Switzerland called Sugus; this is pure Sugus madness. Comments: super good, really. This baby would please just anyone, even beginners. SGP:741 - 88 points.

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



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January 7, 2016


A few great American whiskeys

A few carefully selected American whiskies/whiskeys, tasted more or less ‘at random’, not taking anything into consideration, apart from the fact that they all come from the good United States of America – and that they’re supposed to be very good according to some good friends. All that is good.

Cut Spike 2 yo 'Batch 001' (43%, OB, single malt, USA, Nebraska, +/-2014)

Cut Spike 2 yo 'Batch 001' (43%, OB, single malt, USA, Nebraska, +/-2014) Four stars First time I’ve got Cut Spike on the tasting desk. In truth I had never heard of Cut Spike, but it seems that many American whisky enthusiasts are already saying great things about this baby single malt. Let’s see… Colour: bronze-ish. Nails? Nose: we’re between brandy and whisky, I’d say, at least at first nosing, because of these ‘grapy raisins’ (well done S.) But the maltiness is soon to get the upper hand, and comes with hints of the richest IPA beers, a discreet musty minerality (garden peat?), and them more chocolate, praline, toffee, and more chocolate. It’s really unusual that this would reek of sherry-like notes, while it’s fully matured in new American oak, but that’s not the first time I come across such a funny – and lovely, say, hybrid? Mouth: hold on, American, you say? It’s not totally ‘Scotch’, but it’s hardly ‘bourbony’. Chestnut purée, chocolate, rich sweet bread (pumpernickel – do they have that in Nebraska?), muscovado sugar… The mouth feel is quite rich and textured, with some oiliness. Very, very cool. Finish: medium, again with a small brandy-like feeling, but also a touch of salt and mint. As if they had added a little mezcal from ‘down there’. I really enjoy this finish. More liquorice wood and perhaps a little thyme in the aftertaste. Sweet oak. Comments: very impressive. And I find it cool that they would proudly display this baby’s very young age. Great, great job! SGP:652 - 87 points.

Elijah Craig 12 yo 'Small Batch' (47%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015)

Elijah Craig 12 yo 'Small Batch' (47%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015) Four stars I’ve had a fondness for the ‘Barrel Proof’ version (WF 85). It seems that this bottle is very fairly priced, around US$30-35. Colour: red amber. Nose: typical bourbon – as far as I can tell – starting a bit solventy and varnishy, then bursting with vanilla, toasted oak, fudge, maple syrup, sawdust, and just hints of geranium flowers. A little cough syrup as well, more towards eucalyptus than mint. Mouth: exactly what you’d expect. A little simple, perhaps, but otherwise great, with tinned pineapples, coconut oil, sultanas, white chocolate, and maple syrup again. The strength is just perfect. Finish: rather long, pleasantly oily, on vanilla cake and grated coconut. So that would be grated coconut on some vanilla cake. Only the aftertaste is a little woody as such. Comments: there’s everything to like in this, and I guess whisky lovers who only need one or two bourbons in their bars ‘just in case’ may well rather choose this one. BFYB. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Coppersea 'Green Malt Rye' (45%, OB, USA, New York, +/-2015)

Coppersea 'Green Malt Rye' (45%, OB, USA, New York, +/-2015) Four stars and a half This is well green malt, that is to say malt that’s not kilned/dried after floor-malting. It’s distilled in small pot stills, and aged for only 7 months. Sounds strange, but since a very knowledgeable American enthusiast and blogger mailed it to me, well, there must be a reason. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: exactly the opposite of the Elijah Craig. This is shock-full of honeydew, gingerbread, lime tree blossom, fresh baguette, leaven, quince jelly, and damson plum jam. Emphasize on the damson plum jam. I’m simply finding this exceptional as a spirit – perhaps less so as a whisky, but who cares. Mouth: what? Rye and… say barbecued melons? Slightly burnt brownies and crème caramel? Toasted brioche and walnut wine? There’s something very caramely as well – and that would burnt caramel – but this works in this context. Oh forgot to mention damson plum pie or tarte. Unusual and spectacular. Finish: medium, a tad earthy, and even more on damson plums. Or zwetschke, or quetsches. Comments: as we sometimes say, aged spirits can be either oak-driven (meh) or spirit-driven (my favourite). Well this one’s one of the very rare spirits that are both. Very, and I mean very impressed. SGP:761 - 88 points.

Corti Brothers 7 yo ‘Exquisite Whiskey’ (45.2%, OB, USA, 2014)

Corti Brothers 7 yo ‘Exquisite Whiskey’ (45.2%, OB, USA, 2014) Three stars and a half Oh yeah Corti Bros.! Most of the old Scotches they used to select from Cadenhead’s/Duthie’s or Avery’s in the olden days have been hits at WF Towers, so it’s so great to see that they’re into whisky again! Although this pedigree is a little strange. Imagine, young bourbon finished (they say enhanced) in Amador County Mission del Sol wine casks. No need to tell you that I’ve never tried Amador County Mission del Sol wine. Anyway… Colour: red amber. Nose: we’re a bit in the same territories as with Cut Spike, with a rather lovely raisiny side and something slightly brandy-like, but there’s also some Demerara rum, perhaps some Malmsey, and perhaps some slightly minty Banyuls. Behind that, touches of ham and beef jerky, as well as a wee cup of beef bouillon. Which works extremely well, you’d never guess there’s bourbon behind this ‘wall of aromas’ (unless your nose is better trained than mine at detecting bourbon). Mouth: okay, okay, bourbon. I find the palate a little more difficult, not sure about which wood was used for the wine, but it may have been spicy European oak, if not French. A little green pepper and ginger. The good news is that that doesn’t last, and that some great notes of pies, jams, and jellies do appear after two seconds. Plums, mandarins, guavas… But there’s always this spicy bitterness in the background. Blackcurrant buds. Finish: long, maybe a tad dichotomous – or do you say trichotomous? (Is he proud of that one!) Bourbon wood, spicy oak, rich fruit jams. Comments: I think I was a little fonder of the nose, but it’s quite an experience. SGP:661 - 83 points.

Westland 4 yo 2011/2015 (55.4%, OB, USA, single malt, Hungarian oak Port cask, cask #16, 246 bottles, 2015)

Westland 4 yo 2011/2015 (55.4%, OB, USA, single malt, Hungarian oak Port cask, cask #16, 246 bottles, 2015) Four starsWestland is one the names everybody’s talking about. While some distillers in other countries will now just disclose a funny name (possibly in Gaelic, if you’re lucky), Westland tell you everything. For example, the ‘grain bill’ (Washington Select Pale Malt, Munich Malt, Extra Special Malt, Pale Chocolate Malt, Brown Malt), or the kind of yeast (Belgian brewer's yeast). Colour: red amber. Nose: ah yes. No heavy Port, that’s done. Some fresh malt, that’s done as well. Then rather jams – an American thing, perhaps – and pastries, with various plums, apricots, a bit of spicy chocolate, a drop of PX, and in the background, this earthiness that I cherish. I find the whole rather elegant and delicate, I must say. With water: the oak comes out. Damp sawdust, new magazine, a little custard. Mouth (neat): they avoided the trap! I do not find any dominant Port flavours – but some Port there is, obviously. It’s rather all on plums and chocolate, with perhaps black cherries and a little marzipan. Perhaps a small bit of any oriental pastries, such as baklavas. It’s the balance that’s impressive here, with such a ‘story’, it could have gone astray. With water: excellent. Praline, praline, and praline. Does Rudolf Lindt – or his descendants - own Westland? Finish: medium, really all on good milk chocolate, malt, and a little toffee. Comments: that they managed to tame a first fill Port cask just baffles me. Another one that’s extremely good. SGP:541 - 85 points.

I’ve got several more Westlands to taste, but let’s have only one more today, because I’d like to do a ‘grand finale’ after the next one. And this is already becoming ‘a proper session’. Don’t you agree? Let’s find one Westland that’s ‘all American’… Like this one…

Westland 3 yo 2011/2015 (55 %, OB, USA, single malt, Heavy char new American oak, cask #50, 173 bottles, 2015)

Westland 3 yo 2011/2015 (55 %, OB, USA, single malt, Heavy char new American oak, cask #50, 173 bottles, 2015) Three stars This baby was bottled in June last year. Grain bill and yeast were the same as above. Colour: amber. Nose: yessss… A Mars bar straight from the plant, a tri-pack of Lindt’s creamiest milk chocolate, a handful of Werther’s Originals, and the most natural vanillin… I mean, vanilla. BTW, isn’t it funny that the island where you find the best vanilla, now called La Réunion, used to be called the Bourbon Island? (l’Île Bourbon). That was the cultural minute. With water: caramel and fudge. Perhaps a notch simple. Mouth (neat): it’s some very good young bourbon, but there’s less ‘dumb’ coconut in this, and more chicory, cappuccino, and toasted brioche. It’s perhaps not the most complex whisky ever, but everything’s at the right place. Easy and, in some ways, a tad ‘Japanese’ (very young ex-bourbon Yamazaki). With water: the oak comes out, that’s a little too much. Finish: medium. Very good when undiluted, but I think water let’s the tannins come out – a little too much. A little marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: very fine, for sure, but perhaps a little too one-dimensional for my taste. Or too young. SGP:451 - 80 points.

As I said, we’ll have more Westland soon. But in the meantime, the grand finale! Drum roll please…

Hannisville Rye Whiskey 1863/1913 (US, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, 24 bottles, 2015)

Hannisville Rye Whiskey 1863/1913 (USA, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, 24 bottles, 2015) Five stars Well, it is believed to be from 1863 (but I’ve seen some controversy online), which was, according to some trustworthy sources, the first year of operation at Hannis Distillery in Philadelphia. Right during the American Civil War! The cask was put into carboys in 1913, which would make it a 50 years old, more or less, then bought and bottled very recently by the famous Auld Alliane bar in Singapore. This old glory should have come from the estate of John Welsh of Philadelphia, U.S. ambassador to Great Britain in the late 1870's. It is the oldest whisky I’ve ever tried, the only even older spirits I could try having been brandies. You’ll find more information there.

Colour: gold. Nose: still vibrant, still fruity, still quite amazing, even if it’s probably lost a part of its rye-ness. What it’s kept is this superb mentholated profile that may suggest it had been kept in (rather inactive) oak for a long time indeed, as well as a honeyed combination that’s just amazing. All honeys are there, from the lightest acacia to the strongest chestnut and fir honeydew. Sure it’s not the most powerful whisky ever, but it’s certainly not weak. Because as we’ve seen in Cognac, for example, carboys and demijohns excel at keeping spirit for a long, long time. Mouth: whaaaattt!? The arrival is stunning, on caramel cream, crème de menthe, and the purest artisan maple syrup from Quebec (hi cousins!), while the development is just amazing, with crème brûlée, light gentiany drinks (Suze), and a touch of earthy tea. Having said that it does not quite feel like some 50 years old whiskey on the palate, rather like a younger spirit that’s beautifully aged in glass for a very long time, which would be even better in my opinion. What’s sure is that this whiskey’s absolutely fresh and fantastic. Finish: medium – so not even short – and adorably herbal and mentholated. Peaches in syrup, and some, wait, yes, some rye coming out, with even a bready side. That, I’m very fond of.

Comments: whatever this is, whatever the vintage, and whichever the age, it is/was some very exceptional pre-prohibition rye whiskey. Whether it was, indeed, distilled in 1863 under Abraham Lincoln, or if it’s rather Al Capone himself who distilled it ;-). Great spirits never die! SGP:541 - 92 points.

The original carboys ->

(with heartfelt thanks to Emmanuel, Scott, and Steve from cottagecheeseplease.com)



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January 6, 2016



A few Laphroaig, great and less great

Laphroaig… Great name, but there are questions being raised about its style these days. Having said that there’s also this absolutely fantastic new book by Marcel van Gils and Hans Offringa, 200 Years of Laphroaig. Utterly love it, this is work that can be done only by passionate people, people who care, people who’re deep into it… You should really buy and read it, it’s perfect amateur work, professionally done. Well, they couldn't have done it better. Did I make my point?

Marcel book

Laphroaig 16 yo (43%, OB, 200th Anniversary, travel retail, 35cl, 2015)

Laphroaig 16 yo (43%, OB, 200th Anniversary, travel retail, 35cl, 2015) Three stars Some say that what’s good with the fact that we’re in 2016, is that we’re done for good with Ardbeg and Laphroaig’s 200th anniversaries ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: light, smoky, and medicinal, with grapefruits and wee whiffs of sea air. It’s very well Laphroaig, but this shyness is a little surprising. A very light one. Mouth: indeed, it whispers a bit low, but on the other hand, I find it very Laphroaig, in all simplicity. Acrid smokiness, grapefruits, a touch of salt, a little iodine, salt… It’s good, it’s just a little frustrating. Nice mango jam. Finish: short to medium, with a little more oak. Comments: a fair offering, depending on the price. What’s the price? Let me check that for you…  around 45€, that’s kind of okayish, but it’s only a half. Everything’s pretty half with this wee bottle… But it’s a fine little whisky. SGP:545 - 82 points.


Laphroaig 1997/2015 (51%, Berry Bros & Rudd, La Maison du Whisky, cask #55)

Laphroaig 1997/2015 (51%, Berry Bros & Rudd, La Maison du Whisky, cask #55) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not that this baby’s immensely more complex than the wee OB, but it packs more punch, more fruits, and more Laphroaigness, although I wouldn’t say it’s a beastly one. Very fine notes of green olives, perhaps samphires, a little fresh butter, dandelions, citrons… In fact it’s rather delicate as well. Or is it me? With water: these tarry ropes, those floor clothes, and the hessian. Mouth (neat): yippie yee yah! Excuse me. This time we’re having Laphroaig in full form, perhaps not as majestic as it used to be until, say the mid-1990s, but very fruity and phenolic at the same time. It may have lost a part of its medicinal side, tough. Salted lemon and orange juice, two olives, and some smoked tea. Quite some custard, suggesting fresh American oak. With water: good zesty smokiness. Bitter apples (skins), grapefruits. Finish: quite long, saltier, more on iodine, green tea, and tannins. Blood oranges, which is cool. A little tinned pineapple in the aftertaste (that’s the oak IMHO). Comments: a fine example of that make in this vintage, as they say in catalogues. SGP:467 - 86 points.

Laphroaig 17 yo 1998/2015 (56.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles)

Laphroaig 17 yo 1998/2015 (56.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s a tad more buttery and sour at first nosing, fatter as well. More sawdust. But the coastal side is soon to take over, with kelp and sea water, not to mention oysters. Damp earth. With water: carbon paper, seawater, seashells, paraffin, linseed oil. What’s not to like? Mouth (neat): kirsch, almonds, marzipan, and salted slivovitz. That’s spectacular and, in my opinion, very good. One of the rare Scotch whiskies that are kind of close to artisan mezcal or white agricole rum (or better yet, clairin). With water: very good. Salty oils, kippers, a slice of lemon, some brine, ashes, smoked water. Finish: long, appropriately bitter, smoky, ashy, and salty. And almondy. Comments: almost perfect, just a notch simpler than earlier vintages, as far as I can tell. SGP:557 - 87 points.

Only one way to find out…

Laphroaig 23 yo 1986/2009 (51%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon, 120 bottles)

Laphroaig 23 yo 1986/2009 (51%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon, 120 bottles) Five stars Agreed, it was about time I taste this baby! Colour: straw. Nose: more depth, immediately. Brine, green olives, smoked fish, oysters, green apples, grapefruits, menthol… The spirit’s simply more complex, better chiselled, and brinier. You just have to enjoy brine in your Islay whisky. With water: the vanilla comes out more, a bit. A wee bit. Custard, pastries… But in moderation. Mouth (neat): yes, more grape skins, citrons, salt, our friends the whelks, kippers, green pepper, lemons, smoke, peat, cough syrup… I simply find this (even) better than the others. But do not try these bottlings along any new young or middle-aged ones, unless you’re totally sure you’re entirely immune to depression. With water: wham! Huge chiselled lemony smoke. Finish: long, ashy, lemony, smoky, salty. Comments: unquestionable, both when unreduced and when watered down (a bit, never too much). SGP:357 - 90 points.

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



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January 5, 2016


Glendronach retro-vertically

Glendronach’s one of the names that gained much respect and love from most whisky enthusiasts in recent years, thanks to some sherry treatments that have been done with much care and maestria. But how was Glendronach in the first place? How was it a long time ago? Let’s try to answer that question today. Indeed, instead of going back into time, we’ll do that the other way ‘round, starting with some older bottlings. Some much older bottlings…

Glendronach (75° proof, OB, bottled 1930s-1940s)

Glendronach (75° proof, OB, bottled 1930s-1940s) Four stars A very rare and very famous bottling that I’ve always wanted to try, especially because of this funny statement on the label: ‘Most suitable for medicinal purposes’. Also because it’s called ‘a perfect self whisky’, which simply used to mean that it was a single malt. And third, because while some brands have been claiming that they pioneered the single malt category around the early 1960s, this is a fine example of an official single malt that used to be sold even before WWII, rather widely, like Laphroaig used to be as well, and several others. But let’s taste this medicinal malt whisky, I feel fever coming ;-). Oh and please note that this version at 75° proof is even rarer than the one at 70° proof. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not uncommon to find plenty of vegetables in very old bottlings, and that’s really the case here. Cooked turnips, for example, or cress soup, steamed asparagus… After a few minutes, this is almost becoming a blend of beef stock and chicken bouillon! Perhaps also a little soy sauce, bone marrow, grilled duck… A few nuts as well, but that would rather be roasted chestnuts. In the background, some coal smoke, a little tar, and a few ashes. Mouth: amazing, while I had feared this would be plain and pure meat soup, it’s actually much more citrusy and peaty, and salty as well. Salted liquorice, sooty/tarry stuff, oils, earth… But there remains a little dry/vegetal feeling as well. Fried beans? The body remained firm after more than 70 years in glass. Finish: medium, and really very salty. This bouillon again, with a few Chinese mushrooms (the large black ones). Comments: echoes of yesteryear, as a progressive folk-rock band from the early 1970s would have said. Always very moving, but perhaps not 100% tuned to today’s tastes. SGP:273 - 86 points.

Glendronach 8 yo (80° proof, OB, UK, 26 2/3 fl ozs., +/-1970)

Glendronach 8 yo (80° proof, OB, UK, 26 2/3 fl ozs., +/-1970) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: ah, fruits! Its got that impressive fruitiness that could be found in early ‘naked’ Glendronachs, between pink grapefruits and kiwis, while the background remains sooty, oily and ashy, around an old garage or things like that. It’s really interesting to see how those two main aromas blend and collaborate, but that’s something that could also be seen in old Laphroaig. Gracious nose, just a bit shy. Mouth: most older malt enthusiasts already know how good these bottlings could be, and this is just another example. Should anyone try to smoke grapefruits one day, this is probably what you would get. Touches of passion fruits as well, and yet again, quite a pinch of salt. The spirit itself is relatively fat, but the grapefruits lift it. Finish: long, wonderfully citrusy, with hints of coffee, perhaps from the wood. The aftertaste is tarrier. Comments: makes you think of a greasy Springbank. This is potent malt whisky. SGP:462 - 90 points.


Glendronach 12 yo (40%, OB, UK, late 1980s) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: this one was sherried, and probably one of the bottlings that started to build Glendronach’s reputation as a sherry-monster-producing distillery. It does have similar aromas to those of the old NAS, but it’s less on vegetables, and more on dried fruits and rich tobacco, plus mint, parsley, and camphor. This combo works extremely well, and makes this baby both rich and light. Touches of lovage, tiger balm, mandarin liqueur, earthy tea… It’s well a whole, and yet it’s superbly complex. Mouth: not even the lower strength is a problem. Stunning arrival on quince jelly and tarragon – not as unlikely as it sounds – and long development on some earthy black tea, chocolate, dates, black olives (just bits) and, again and again, roasted chestnuts. There’s a smokiness as well, and indeed a salty touch, just like in the others. Finish: perhaps a tad short – that’s the strength – but fat, smokier, with some bitter chocolate, dried figs, black pepper, and always a touch of salt. Comments: exceptional whisky. With this, at 50% vol., you die. SGP:562 - 91 points.

I’ve got an idea…

Glendronach 12 yo ‘Original’ (43%, OB, +/-2015)

Glendronach 12 yo ‘Original’ (43%, OB, +/-2015) Three starsLong time not tasted some modern 12. Last time that was in 2009. Colour: dark gold. Nose: strictly nothing to do with the old 12. It’s not often that that happens. This one’s much more on raw malt and Williams pears, with a moderate sherry influence, but then some whiffs of Vicks (camphor, eucalyptus, mint) that are much to my liking do come out. Feels younger and simpler than the old 12, though. Greengages, gravel. Mouth: starts with some lactones and stuff (coconut, vanilla), as if some newish oak’s been in use, which even gives it a bourbony side. Goes on on pears and nuts (pistachios, macadamia) plus Weetabix. Muesli. Tends to become a little dry. Finish: pretty long, malty and green. A few raisins. Comments: it’s got a rawness that I enjoy. Another one that would be good for your hipflask. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Glendronach ‘Cask Strength’ (55.3%, OB, batch 5, 2015)

Glendronach ‘Cask Strength’ (55.3%, OB, batch 5, 2015) Four stars Glendronach’s newish antifreeze ;-). Loved batch 4 (WF 90), it was a true bang-for-your-buck bottling. Now at more than 80€ a skittle, that may change… It’s seen some PX and oloroso sherry casks. Colour: gold. Nose: so far from being the 12 at a higher strength! Granted, it is a little rough, and green, and spirity, but there are also rather lovely herbs and dried fruits. Sultanas, cinnamon cake, figs… With water: nice chocolate, Mars bar, cornflakes, dates. Mouth (neat): rich, sweet, punchy, malty, citrusy. I did not care too much for the nose (a little simple, perhaps), but I have to say this arrival is great. Hot chocolate, malt bars, Guinness, dried figs, raisins, and perhaps the tiniest ‘pinhead’ of Marmite. This is a product from the UK, isn’t it? With water: swims very well. Touch of oak, chocolate, marmalade, ginger, all-spice… Finish: long, relatively dry, gingery, peppery. Comments: it’s a bit like at Laphroaig, with the rather huge gap between the 10 and the 10 CS. The oak feels a bit, perhaps (ginger/nutmeg). Love the maltiness. Still excellent. SGP:451 - 86 points.

We’ve also got plenty of single casks to taste, but that will rather happen in the near future. (Thanks again Angus)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the extraordinary Maria Schneider. Track: Arbiters of Evolution. with WF favourite Donny McCaslin on the tenor sax. Please visit her website and buy her music...

January 4, 2016


Dallas Dhu 1975 head to head, plus bonus

A festive little session. We haven’t done any Dallas Dhu sessions for ages, and let’s only hope this one won’t be the last. Well, perhaps not, because if you’ve heard the news, it seems that there are plans to reopen the distillery in the future. That would be cool, although in my experience, Dallas Dhu’s whisky could jump up – or down.

Dallas Dhu 1975/2010 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, refill barrel)

Dallas Dhu 1975/2010 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, refill barrel) Three stars and a half I know what you think, it’s a strange idea to reduce such a venerable old malt from a long-closed distillery down to 40% vol. I agree. Colour: gold. Nose: certainly old-school, a little dirty(ish), pretty cardboardy, somewhat metallic, and developing on whiffs of damp wool, concrete, graphite oil, and old papers and plastics. Forgot to mention a little turpentine, almond oil, and overripe apples. Whisky from another age, for sure, but it’s refreshingly vanilla-free. Mouth: sweeter and rounder, but not quite fruity. Starts with plenty of marzipan and various oils, with a leafy bitterness in the background, and rather goes on with, yes, fruits, but that would be tinned nectarines or something. Grapefruit skin. What’s impressive here is the freshness, while there are a few raisins coming through, making it rounder. Finish: rather short, but sooty and kind of smoky, so very old-style. Marmalade, cinnamon, and white pepper in the aftertaste. Mandarin liqueur. Comments: this one would have been great at cask strength, as we’ve already found proof in Italy (older Dallas Dhu bottled by G&M for Italy). I like it quite a lot, not least because of its tastes and smells of times gone by, but there’s this feeling of missed opportunity. SGP:462 - 84 points.

Dallas Dhu 29 yo 1975/2005 (45.5%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #2353, 201 bottles)

Dallas Dhu 29 yo 1975/2005 (45.5%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #2353, 201 bottles) Four stars Signatory had many casks of 1975, but I’ve only tried one (boooh!) It was excellent. Colour: gold. Nose: the G&M at the power of three. Fresh concrete and raw wool everywhere, then new leatherette, linseed oil, newspapers, grass, almonds, touches of parsley and chives, and perhaps hints of lemon grass. Very austere, very ‘old style’, but not on the tarry side at all. Mouth: how bizarre! Some might call it a little chemical, and indeed this combination of lemon squash, tobacco, thyme, propolis (there’s plenty of that), and plasticine make it rather un-modern. On the other hand, and despite the fact that it’s fairly challenging malt whisky, it’s got something… say romantic? Just like in the G&M, there’s some marmalade coming through after a few minutes, which makes it marginally rounder and smoother. Kind of. Finish: long, peppery, a little drying. Some coffee and oak in the aftertaste. Comments: hard to score. On the one hand, it’s a little difficult, and on the other hand, it’s fabulously un-commercial. Not a whisky for travel retail for sure. Very curious to see, if they ever reopen the distillery indeed, if they’ll smoothen up the style of the distillate… or play it ‘Glengyle/Kilkerran’. I’d do that! SGP:462 - 86 points.

And the bonus…

Dallas Dhu 35 yo 1979/2014 (53.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch)

Dallas Dhu 35 yo 1979/2014 (53.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch) Four stars and a half A micro-bottling, apparently. Very curious about this one! Colour: gold. Nose: lovely lovely lovely. An old cellar filled with old bottles, old barrels, and old books, plus perhaps some old tools. I’m also reminded of some old greased WWII guns and riffles that you could still find in many Alsatian basements or attics when I was a kid. Also a little brine and leather, old musty magazines, mushrooms… And perhaps old mothballs? Old waxes and oils for sure. Barbour grease. With water: a few old coins in the pocket of an old forgotten tweed jacket. Yeah, in an old wardrobe. Mouth (neat): many more fruits than I had hoped for, chiefly citrons and mandarins, then rather… buttered strawberries? Green melons? Behind that, always an oiliness. A little dill as well, and perhaps kippers and smoked salmon. Very peculiar, very good. With water: herbs come out, parsley, lovage, bay leaves… Well, anything you’d put into your favourite soup. Including whisky ;-). Finish: only medium, but the fact the citrus fights back and makes this finish clean, fresh, and almost zesty is almost a miracle. The aftertaste is more peppery, though. Comments: very graciously un-modern, if not a little intellectual. SGP:462 - 89 points.

(merci Nicolas and Phil!)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Lage Lund. Track: Folly. Please visit his website and buy his music...

January 3, 2016


Malternatives, today Armagnac again

This is our first malternative session of the year 2016, so let’s make it all Armagnacqy. We won’t only select old glories this time, but there will be some, if all goes well. Allez, Montjoie Saint Denis ! En avant!...

Domaine de Labadie 'Blason Noir' (40%, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2013)

Domaine de Labadie 'Blason Noir' (40%, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2013) Some very young Armagnac, around 4 or 6 years old depending on the websites ;-). So this is either ***/V.S. (two years or more) or V.S.O.P (five years or more), or better yet, X.O. (six years). While we’re at it, Hors d’Âge means that the youngest eau-de-vie in a blend is at least ten years old. Well, that’s the theory, because the makers seem to use these appellation rather loosely, often down-aging their bottlings. And so, while this Labadie is N.A.S., most Armagnacs are not totally N.A.S. Do you follow me? Colour: gold. Nose: fresh, young, rather grassy, and rough. You feel it’s not totally mature, there are sharp edges. Other than that, there are whiffs of tinned pineapples, raisins, worm brioche, yeast, and fruit stones, with this almondy side. Mouth: same roughness, this is not polished Armagnac – and neither is it polite. A little soapy, perhaps, acrid… Notes of very young calvados, pears... Finish: medium, bitter, grassy. Comments: we needed a stepping stone ;-). SGP:260 - 60 points.

Clos Martin 8 yo 'VSOP' (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, Folle Blanche, +/-2013)

Clos Martin 8 yo 'VSOP' (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, Folle Blanche, +/-2013) Two stars and a half A good example of a down-aged Armagnac, since at 8 years of age, they could as well have called it XO if I’m not mistaken. Colour: gold. Nose: another world, although there’s a little varnish and nail polish remover this time. But this mocha, the black raisins, the faint tar, the walnuts, the hints of gewürztraminer and roses (it’s quite floral indeed, with also lilies of the valley), and then the cedar wood make it quite lovely. Patchouli. Mouth: it’s not that it’s a smooth and polished Armagnac either, and indeed it’s quite brutal spirit, as many young Armagnacs can be, but I find it more satisfying, with walnuts again, burnt bread, something slightly ashy and drying… And grassy. Finish: medium, grassy, a little pungent. Oakier aftertaste. Comments: a whole different world, but you have to like them raw and grassy. SGP:361 - 77 points.

And now a Hors d’Âge…

Château de Lassalle 'Hors d'Âge' (44%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2013)

Château de Lassalle 'Hors d'Âge' (44%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2013) Three stars This one’s more than 12 years of age. The domaine is owned by the Baroness of Pampelonne. We had a good 1979 two years ago. Colour: dark amber. Nose: ah, now we’re talking. Much more depth, fatness, raisinness, more precious woods, more old calvados, old Sauternes, some rancio, dried apricots, fudge, vanilla, a touch of liquorice… This one has something to say! Mouth: very punchy and extractive, with an obvious varnishy side at first sips, then this feeling of thick-skinned green apples and pears, so certainly some tannins, and then more tobaccos of various sorts. Behind that, more apples and pears, as well as greengages, but it’s globally dry, and never quite sweet. Finish: long, very green and tannic, but in a way, that works. Armagnac for your hipflask. Comments: an Armagnac with a very strong presence. A bit unpolished again, perhaps, although the casks were seemingly very active. SGP:461 - 82 points.

And an AS…

Darroze 20 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (43%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015)

Darroze 20 yo ‘Les Grands Assemblages’ (43%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015) Three stars I’ll always remember the great 50 yo in this series (WF 93). Colour: dark amber. Nose: a little shier than the Lassalle, perhaps a little dustier too, but there are beautiful whiffs of green tea and perhaps soft curry powder in the background. Cocoa powder, chestnuts. Not extremely aromatic, to say the least, neither is it very fruity, although it does open up a bit after almost thirty minutes. Mouth: quite dry again, perhaps a little acidic, but otherwise finely fruity, on stewed peaches and apricots. Some raisins and some caramel, a little toffee, some tannins. Bites a bit. Finish: quite long, softer and rounder, which is unusual in a finish. Candy sugar, Brighton rocks, these things… Comments: there wasn’t a lot happening in the nose, while the palate was rather more expressive. Good, of course, as anything from Darroze. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Time for some vintages!...

Domaine de Pouchégu 27 yo 1986/2013 (45%, OB, Armagnac, K&L Exclusive, USA)

Domaine de Pouchégu 27 yo 1986/2013 (45%, OB, Armagnac, K&L Exclusive, USA) Five stars Some Armagnac that flew back to France from California, how cool is that? This is pure baco from a very small producer in Castelnau-d'Auzan near Eauze. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this if fuller, both rounder and deeper, starting with some chocolated coffee (or the other way ‘round), and cigarette tobacco, before many tiny whiffs of dried flowers and herbs start to add more complexity. Lime tree blossom and wormwood, for example. Then come sandalwood, thuja wood, walnut bread, and raisins stewed in peach juice. It’s a perfect nose! I’m afraid our American friends know more about Armagnac than us Frenchmen! Mouth: absolutely delicious, with a bright fruitiness that makes this arrival as fresh as possible given this baby’s age. Williams pears, peaches, a touch of tropicalness (mangos?)… Develops rather on more oak spices, cinnamon, caraway, liquorice wood, then toffee and, perhaps, pistachio halva. That’s very good. Finish: long, a little more oak-forward, but also with funny touches of mirabelle eau-de-vie. Comments: very high-class, both polished and slightly rustic, as Armagnac should be according to some experts – but not everyone agrees on that part. SGP:552 - 90 points.

Domaine de Roumegoux 1970/1991 (52.4%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Domaine de Roumegoux 1970/1991 (52.4%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Four stars and a half An other small producer, from the Landes d’Armagnac. This is an old bottle, let’s see if bottle ageing did impact this baby. Positively, of course. Colour: deep amber. Nose: what happened. This is almost exactly the same spirit as the Pouchégu, only more powerful because of the higher strength. Bizarre, isn’t it? Perhaps a wee tad more oranges? Perhaps not. With water: no, they’re a little different. This one has a little more menthol, liquorice, green walnuts, and camphor now, which is not something I find bad. Mouth (neat): indeed, once again, we’re close, but this one really bursts with passion fruits and grapefruits after just three seconds. And pears. With water: very good, more raisiny, fresh… And the peaches are back. Peaches in syrup. Finish: rather long, a little more candied and prune-y, but it remains fresh. More pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps just a tad less ‘immediate’ than the Pouchégu. Not always an asset as such, but well… SGP:551 - 89 points.

Château de Flarambel 1965/2015 (41.9%, OB for The Auld Alliance Singapore, Ténarèze, 12 magnums only)

Château de Flarambel 1965/2015 (41.9%, OB for The Auld Alliance Singapore, Ténarèze, 12 magnums only) Five stars This rare Ténarèze was bottled to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Singapore. Only in magnums! The definition of panache if you ask me. Colour: very dark amber. Nose: glazed chestnuts and prunes dominate at first nosing, before a little polished oak and hints of spent lees kick in. And, then there’s a true mentholy cavalcade (a touch of turpentine, some mint, eucalyptus, terpene…) and lovely whiffs of old wood, old wine cellar, a little saltpetre and wet chalk… What’s funny is that some coffee starts to appear, and that after fifteen minutes, you’d almost almost believe this is some old sherried whisky. Mouth: feels much stronger than just 41.9%! Bags of old walnuts in the arrival, then plenty of chocolate, an unexpected touch of red pepper, then Seville oranges, blackcurrants, and more glazed chestnuts. No, this is not a Pauillac ;-). Finish: rather long, a tad more peppery, with a little tamarind coulis, perhaps. Comments: a great example of an old Armagnac that became rather ‘different’ after fifty years of aging. I find it rather exceptional, to tell you the truth, not only because of that. Too bad there are, or rather were, only 12 magnums. SGP:562 - 91 points.

(Thanks a lot Angus, Emmanuel, Steve)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Pharoah Sanders. I thought this would fit a bunch of Armagnacs. Track: Harvest Time. Please visit his website and buy his music...

January 1, 2016



A Happy New Year, with…

Can you mention one distillery that everyone just loves, that’s never tried to bully anyone, that believes in tradition (given that tradition is just the point where a product became so perfect that you just couldn’t enhance it anymore), that remains true to its style and personality, and that keeps its prices kind of fair? Of course, that’s Springbank! A good reason to select a few Springbanks for our first session of 2016. Oh, and to add a little spice, we’ll do it randomly, without any ideas of verticale, horizontale, ascending strengths, or else. Because this is a free website (what what what?)

Springbank 1950-1978/1996 solera (+/-45%, solera firkin, demijohns) Five stars A very moving story. A 50l firkin was first filled in 1964 with 9 gallons of Springbank 1950 from Eaglesome of Campbeltown, by a Scottish gentleman who wished to remain anonymous, then topped up on various occasions with vintages such as 1958, 1960, 1962… to 1978.

In 1996 the content of the firkin was transferred to 6 demijohns, which were, in 2015, decanted into a carboy at our friends’ Dornoch Castle. This is a sample of that vatting, which will be bottled eventually. I just cannot wait… Colour: chestnut honey. Nose: this is so plainly and utterly old Springbank! It’s got this greasy minerality that can still be found in contemporary bottlings, then a leafy smokiness (garden bonfire), then plenty of roasted nuts as well as a touch of old oloroso. It’s also got the typical leather and sulphur – we’re not talking about sulphur candles here, at all and a blend of pipe tobacco and chocolate cream. Superb! Mouth: they say only approx 45% vol., but it feels more like 50. Starts with some pepper, some ginger, and some orange zests, and develops more on chestnut honey, pinesap, tobacco, leather, and a fantastic liqueury bitterness, as can be found in Cynar and Fernet Branca. Maybe even in Aperol ;-). The oranges are ‘singing back’ after a while, making the whole fruitier, but always appropriately heavy. Finish: long and graciously bitter, with an oaky signature that’s not quite too oaky. And some salt and pepper too, as in Springbank ;-). The pepper is lingering on your tongue. Comments: magical story, magical whisky, a true work of love by a dedicated whisky enthusiast who was already around… In 1964! Prof Saintsbury would have approved – and so do we. SGP:372 - 92 points.

Springbank 12 yo (80° proof, Cadenhead's, 1960s)

Springbank 12 yo (80° proof, Cadenhead's, 1960s) Five stars That’s right, this is the distillery’s official label, but it’s well an old bottling by Cadenhead of Aberdeen that was done way before Springbank bought Cadenhead, of course. Colour: white wine. Nose: aaah… I’m a chick finding its mother again. Rarely has raw, natural, virtually unoaked malt whisky been so immediately impressive. You just have to like limestone, fresh rubber, coal dust, paraffin, soot, lemon, and leatherette in your whisky. We’ll be quick, rather bizarrely, this baby reminds me of the latest Kilkerran bourbon. As if they had tried to replicate old-school Springbank… Dear Springbank, was that what you’ve tried to do? If you did, success success! Mouth: astoundingly clean, yet oily, mineral, yet lemony, almost fat, yet bright and ‘jumpy’, massive, yet fresh, sappy and resinous, always with these lovely gingery touches (ginger can be either great or a nightmare in whisky, IMHO), and a smoky sootiness combined with iodine and a few medicinal touches. Mineral camphor, does that exist? It’s an exceptional palate, everything’s perfect. Finish: long, magically herbal, a little bitter again (like the old solera), very mineral, and marvellously lemony. Which, naturally, adds zing and freshness to the finish. I think too many distillers don’t care much for the finishes of their whiskies, if I may. Comments: I’m afraid I should have started with the younger ones. Yeah, go innovate with anything related to whisky! SGP:463 - 94 points.

Springbank 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1985)

Springbank 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1985) Five stars Twenty years forward, and a true official 12. Note the lower strength, most of these Springers were usually bottled at 46% vol. if I’m not mistaken. Colour: straw. Nose: very different. It’s also got this mineral side, the waxes and the paraffin, or the sootiness, but it hasn’t got any fruits this time, not even lemon. So it’s rather drier, leafier for sure, with plenty of fresh hazelnuts. I don’t think I’ve ever found this much fresh hazelnut in any whisky. It’s no big aroma, but when there’s plenty, it feels. More and more chalk after that, and a little beach sand. Perhaps one drop of wine vinegar, which goes well in this context. Mouth: oh yes, same fatness, same oiliness, same bigness. It’s to be wondered if Springbank couldn’t bottle at 12% vol., just like wine, and remain very good. Grape pip oil, some lemon this time, some chalk again, soot, angelica, gooseberries that kind of lift it, and this sooty smokiness again. Superb again, perhaps just a tad less ‘wow’ than its older bro. Finish: long, with more pepper and lemon, and always the same sooty/waxy smoke. And this salt in the aftertaste. What a distillate! Comments: glorious, as expected. An essential bottle (I’m saying that because you may still find one of these, while I’m afraid the older version is, well, introvabile). SGP:463 - 92 points.

Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015)

Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015) Five stars That’s right, a contemporary bottle for a change. Colour: straw. Nose: this baby didn’t benefit from some long bottle ageing/resting, obviously, so it’s still got a few rougher edges, but the similarities are totally astounding. I do not know of any other distillery that managed to keep and cherish its DNA this well, beyond back stories about wrong casks and such. So it’s obviously a little simpler, but the core is there. Limestone, soot, bitter herbs, paraffin (which can be a flaw but not here), beach sand, these rubbery touches that are so funny in Springbank… In short, love this too. And it’s cheaper ;-). Mouth: don’t they push the smoke these days? Because I find this baby very smoky. All the rest is perfect as well. Lemons, limes, bitter herbs, soot, wax, you name them. I’m very fond of this style, but that’s no secret. I think any whisky club in the world should erect a statue to the glory of Springbank. Finish: sadly. Comments: this is refreshingly void of any vulgar oak influence. But they could mature Springbank in plastic tanks, would that be allowed, that would work as well. Exceptional spirit-driven whisky. I’m sad I’m publishing this in 2016, it could have been a strong contender to some kind of Best Bang For Your Buck Award 2015. But one last thing, this is no commercial ‘consensual’ whisky, so try a sample or something before you rush out and buy a bottle. Unless you already know that Springbank can be glorious. SGP:452 - 91 points.

Springbank 21 yo 1993/2015 'Brothers Reserve' (49.4%, Lockett Bros, bourbon hogshead, cask #470, 235 bottles)

Springbank 21 yo 1993/2015 'Brothers Reserve' (49.4%, Lockett Bros, bourbon hogshead, cask #470, 235 bottles) Four stars and a half Ah, an indie! Colour: white wine. Nose: I don’t think longer aging did change much, this is as bright and fresh as the official 10. And as sooty, paraffiny, and waxy. There’s also this cool ‘chemical’ thing, is that leatherette? Is that Bakelite? Having said that, it’s also got a little more raw herbalness. Cut grass, perhaps. Or cactus? Mouth: so good, so good. Bizarrely, it’s a little simpler, and harsher than the 10 OB, and that’s not just the higher strength, but other than that, it unfolds of grassy smoke, oils, lemon peel, and just lemon juice. I find it extremely fresh. The strength is perfect. Finish: long, sooty, a tad pungent-like-it-should-be, with a mineral, lemony, and slightly mineral aftertaste. Some pepper too. Comments: it’s the rawness that will prevent me from going up to 90, but we’re close. Natural whisky at its best. SGP:362 - 89 points.

And a last one…

Springbank 14 yo 2000/2015 (49%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, New Zealand whisky cask, 234 bottles)

Springbank 14 yo 2000/2015 (49%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, New Zealand whisky cask, 234 bottles) Four stars and a half Many questions here. First, is a Springbank bottled by Cadenhead an official bottling or an independent one? Discuss… And second, haven’t we seen very few Scotches that were matured in whisky casks from other countries? Nah, not talking about bourbon barrels, of course. I guess they reused one of these casks of Lammerlaw that they had in the early 2000s, but I could be wrong. Bah, let’s try it. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh yeah, there, some very obvious Kiwi notes, and this thing that really reminds us of the southern hemisphere… I’m joking! It’s some pure, rather more austere than others, stony and grassy Springbank. There’s a little more porridge (NZ porridge?) and whiffs of damp raw wool, then muesli and lemon squash, with a wee smokiness. Rather coal smoke. And perhaps turnips? Celeriac? Uncooked, no need to say. Definitely one from the countryside. Mouth: indeed, it’s very austere, sharp, tense, angular, and sooty. And smoky (rather wood smoke this time). Grasses, bitters, stones aplenty, with sour apples as well (which we like)… It’s the austere sharpness that works here, this is some uncompromising whisky. Perhaps not one for the mother-in-law, unless you ant to get rid of her. Finish: quite long, with a smidgen of sweetness. Candy sugar, perhaps? But really smidgens, it remains austere. Nice bready aftertaste. And some grapefruits too! Comments: this baby loses you at times, as if it was only 95% Springbank (yeah, that’s smart, S.), but it’s my favourite style of whisky anyway. Did Richie McCaw try it? SGP:362 - 88 points.

As you could see, I made sure that the new year started well! So happy New Year! We’ve got many more rare, funny, or interesting whiskies up our sleeves. So, as they say in free jazz, stay tuned!

(Many thanks to Phil from Dornoch, Angus, and Tomislav, guys do you rock!)

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. May 2016 be as funky and 'wah-wah-wow! as this. Performer: Paul Brown. Track: Real mutha For Ya. Please visit his website and buy his music...

December 2015 - part 2 <--- January 2016 - part 1 ---> January 2016 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Bw5 (50.2%, Speciality Drinks Ltd, Elements of Islay, 2015)

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 37 yo 1962/2000 (48.2%, Cadenhead, Millenium bottling, 144 bottles)

Glendronach 8 yo (80° proof, OB, UK, 26 2/3 fl ozs., +/-1970)

Glendronach 12 yo (40%, OB, UK, late 1980s)

Glenfarclas 19 yo 1994/2014 'Double Cask' (58.7%, OB, Family Casks, oloroso, casks #3913 & 3914, 556 bottles)

Laphroaig 23 yo 1986/2009 (51%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon, 120 bottles)

Port Ellen 17 yo (59.5%, Douglas Murdoch, +/-2000?)

Port Ellen 27 yo 1983/2010 (55.6%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, refill sherry, 96 bottles)

Port Ellen 26 yo 1982/2005 (55.7%, Old Bothwell, cask #2473)

Port Ellen 21 yo 1976/1998 (57.3%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, cask #4750, 234 bottles)

Port Ellen 22 yo 1976/1999 (55.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #4795, 282 bottles)

Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015)

Springbank 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1985)

Springbank 12 yo (80° proof, Cadenhead's, 1960s)

Braw Scot 10 yo (100 US proof, OB, unblended pot still Scotch whisky, USA, +/-1960)

West Islay 2003/2013 (60.8%, Svenska Eldvatten, barrel, cask #882, 120 bottles)

Château de Flarambel 1965/2015 (41.9%, OB for The Auld Alliance Singapore, Ténarèze, 12 magnums only)

Domaine de Pouchégu 27 yo 1986/2013 (45%, OB, Armagnac, K&L Exclusive, USA)

Hannisville Rye Whiskey 1863/1913 (USA, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, 24 bottles, 2015)