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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2016 - Part 2



January 2016 - part 1 <--- January 2016 - part 2 ---> February 2016 - part 1


January 31, 2016


Other rums, malternatives or not

WF’s mousers haven’t been very useful last time we asked them to select a few rums with their paws, but let’s give them another chance today. If they fail again, no croquettes today! Of course I’m joking… But let’s go…

Mocambo 20 yo (40%, OB, Mexico, Art Edition, barrica unica #106, +/-2014)

Mocambo 20 yo (40%, OB, Mexico, Art Edition, barrica unica #106, +/-2014) Four stars and a half Looks fishy, I know, and the bottles couldn’t be uglier, but I have to say I really enjoyed other ‘barricas unicas’ by Mocambo. The Mexicans do not only make great mezcals… Colour: bronze/mahogany. Nose: yeah this could be old armagnac. It’s full of prunes and black raisins, with a medicinal background that fits like a glove. Camphor. Noses very concentrated, but never heady, and would rather go on with sugar cane and our beloved black olives. All for the better. Mouth: you’d expect some sugar, while there isn’t any. It’s actually very dry (manzanilla-dry), with some genuine chocolate, some olives, some gherkins (traces), and plenty of tobacco. Such a shame that they didn’t bottle this at a higher strength! Finish: still, the finish is long, quite salty, olive-y, briny, with more olives and chocolate. Comments: olives and chocolate? Something we shall try! Great spirits give you ideas. Oh and I found this cask much drier than other ones. Good job, Zooloo and Aston! SGP:472 - 88 points.

Port Mourant 13 yo 2002/2015 (59%, Compagnie des Indes, Guyana, cask #WPM36, 239 bottles)

Port Mourant 13 yo 2002/2015 (59%, Compagnie des Indes, Guyana, cask #WPM36, 239 bottles) Five starsThis does not come from the original Port Mourant/Morant, of course, rather from its still that’s still in use at Diamond Distillery in Georgetown. Colour: straw. Great, some naked Port Mourant! Nose: makes you wanna sing. Pure, crystalline, high-ester, super-briny Demerara, in a style that’s almost Jamaican. You know, rotting bananas, olives, capers, vegetal earth… With water: at the petrol station. Mouth (neat): triple bang! Olives, limejuice, grass smoke, tar… Perfect! With water: right up my alley. It’s a wee tad smoother than the Jamaicans (say Worthy Park), and a notch more limy/citrusy, but everything is just totally perfect. Finish: ultra-long, with liquorice, tar, olives, and lemon juice. You can’t beat that kind of combo. Comments: just amazing. I just adore this purity, and how this spirit was chiselled. Great that the cask’s been fairly inactive! Ace selection. SGP:473 - 91 points.

The kittens are doing it right, this time…

WeiRon (50%, Svenska Eldvaten, blend, +/-2015)

WeiRon (50%, Svenska Eldvaten, blend, +/-2015) Four stars Ah. I know these good people up there in Sweden are suckers for spirit-driven spirits (sounds like a pleonasm, or like stating the obvious, but we all know it’s not), so I’m really curious. What have they blended?... Did they add any surströmming? Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: as expected. It’s fairly ‘Jamaican’, but a notch lighter and easier, with also some milk chocolate and custard. Smoked butterscotch and olive-y praline, plus some tarry cinnamon. Of course, none of those combos exist in real life ;-). No water needed, let’s move on. Mouth: the lemon kicks in, and there is a faint sugary fatness (sugar cane syrup), but the tarry liquorice and the salty bananas (ha, another idea!) are soon to put things straighter. We’re between two worlds, in a way, but Jamaica dominates just like some peaty Islayers would dominate in a Scottish blend. Finish: long, banany, with a touch of honey, some corn syrup, and plenty of salted liquorice. Comments: if I ever call these good people up there ‘the Compass Box of rum’, will they send me their bodyguards? I’d have favoured even less sweetness, but that’s just me. Greatly done, fellows! SGP:563 - 87 points.

Shoot again, Zooloo and Aston…

Le Rhum par Neisson (52,5%, OB, Martinique, +/-2015)

Le Rhum par Neisson (52,5%, OB, Martinique, +/-2015) Two stars Oh, a white rhum agricole. Do not forget, please, that it’s not because a spirit is white that it’s not aged. Sure that’s true with large commercial brands (vodka, gin, some rhums, eaux-de-vies), but some exquisite white distillates are being aged for years and years in inert containers. Because, again and again, oak does not equal age/time (bonkers, that!) Colour: white. Nose: right, this is extreme. Smoked ham, kippers, even game (well-hung pheasant), dirty earth, seawater… Some would even add old socks and wine vinegar. Not obligatorily wrong. With water: asphalty, shall we say. A road after a rain after a long dry period. Mouth (neat): a U-turn. This is much sweeter, simpler, and I have to say, less interesting. Bananas, pineapples, molasses, touches of litchis, liquorice allsorts, marshmallows, sugar… It’s good, it’s just a little… shall we say boring? With water: not quite. It got a little grassier, but there is this sugar… Really tastes of sugar. Finish: medium, very sugary, yet not extremely sweet. Comments: it’s not often that this happens. I thought the nose was fabulous, and I had high hopes, but the palate was just uninteresting (to put it mildly). Now, go score such a funny thing… SGP:363 (nose) 720 (palate) - 75 points.

That one was tricky, very tricky. Please…

Bellevue 17 yo 1998/2015 (54.3%, Cadenhead, Guadeloupe)

Bellevue 17 yo 1998/2015 (54.3%, Cadenhead, Guadeloupe) Four stars Many bottlers have or have had some Bellevue 1998, and most have been excellent in my opinion. Colour: amber. Nose: very agricole, so rather earthy, dry, without being wham-bam, a tad ashy, with a mentholy background, plus a certain tarriness. With water: more putty, paraffin, and vegetables. Cucumber pie (I know). Pencil shavings. Mouth (neat): really very good, right between the extreme earthy/tarry side of some of the Jamaicans, Trinidadians or Guyanians, and the sweeter, slightly rounder side of the Martiniquans, but without any of the stuffiness that can be found further west. Or, yeah, in the DomRep (great place, lousy rums if you ask me). With water: ah, good! Phenolic, liquoricy, and fruity. Blood oranges, mint, liquorice, and honeydew. Truly excellent. Finish: very long, on even more liquorice, honey, and lemon juice. Eucalyptus in the aftertaste. Comments: not an utter fan of the nose, but the palate was perfect in my opinion. SGP:562 - 85 points.

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



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January 29, 2016


Only two blended malts

Yes, a lean day at WF Towers. There will be more next time.

Monkey Shoulder (40%, OB, blended malt, +/-2015)

Monkey Shoulder (40%, OB, blended malt, +/-2015) Two stars Last time I tried Monkey Shoulder I had found it pretty decent. Not earth-shattering, but decent. Now I’ve noticed that bartenders rather use it in cocktails. Colour: gold. Nose: young raw malt. Nosing your porridge when holidaying in the UK, some porridge into which one would have added a drizzle of whisky. Quite some cardboard too, apple peelings, grass… I find it particularly un-fruity. Mouth: indeed it rather happens on your palate. Apples, grass, a touch of ginger, barley and maize, a little caramel, and something spirity and curiously bitter, as if this combo was very young when bottled. Certainly not ‘smooth’. Finish: short, a tad sugary, rough, a little burnt. Tennent’s stout. Bitterer aftertaste. Comments: what happened? Is it me? I believe earlier batches had been ‘smoother’. SGP:251 - 73 points.

The Six Isles (43%, Ian McLeod, blended malt, +/-2015)

The Six Isles (43%, Ian McLeod, blended malt, +/-2015) Three stars and a half The Six Isles 10 yo from a  few years back had been excellent (WF 84) but this is the NAS version, bottled at a lower strength. Six Isles is a blend of malts from six different islands, Arran, Islay, Jura, Mull, Orkney, and Skye. So we’re sure there is some Arran, some Jura, some Tobermory/Ledaig, and some Talisker in there. We just cannot be sure about the Islay and the Orkney! Colour: white wine (hurray). Nose: it’s pretty ashy and even medicinal at first nosing, then we find touches of plasticine and paint, but that’s all right. Some coastal elements, for sure. What’s smart is that it feels like ‘a whole’, it’s all very coherent. Nice nose! Mouth: good, Caol-Ila good, I’d say. Smoked fish, coal, ashes, smoked water, a little lemon, a touch of dill, a hint of salt, that’s all you need. Even the body’s good. Finish: a little short, perhaps, but clean and well-chiselled. Comments: more than good, only its lightish side at times may be seen as a very minor flaw. What’s more, it does not feel ‘too young’, at all. SGP:345 - 83 points.



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January 28, 2016


Nine undisclosed Speysiders…

… That ought to come from that particular distillery starting with ‘Glenf’, and that does not finish with ‘dich’.  But you can never be 100% sure, even when the bottlers talk about a ‘family owned distillery’, or any other more or less subtle clues…

Speyside 1993/2014 (50.3%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #1794, 263 bottles)

Speyside 1993/2014 (50.3%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #1794, 263 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it’s fresh and fruity, with notes of Gueuze lambic and plums, plus apples and vanilla. Typical middle-aged Speysider from some not too active oak. With water: touches of green almonds, broken branches, and perhaps a little moss. Porridge. All fine. Mouth (neat): I find this very good, even if not extremely complex. Oranges and apples, touches of mint and ginger, sweet barley, and a little grass. Some white pepper. With water: more of the same, just smoother. Good balance, good fruitiness. More oranges. Finish: medium, clean, fruity, becoming grassier towards the aftertaste, which is normal. Comments: really very good, that’s all I can say. Drinks well. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Speyside Region 17 yo 1995/2012 (52.6%, Liquid Sun, refill hogshead, 272 bottles) Four starsSorry, no picture. Colour: straw. Nose: same style, just a little rougher, grassier, more mineral, and less fruity. Other than that yeah, it’s more or less the same J. With water: gets a little soapy but as usual, that goes away. Nice blend of fresh oak and damp earth. Mouth (neat): very good, creamy, super-zesty, with lovely grass and herbal teas. Plenty of kiwi, lemon, and rhubarb in this one. With water: indeed, excellent, ‘nervous’, citrusy… A touch of ginseng, perhaps. Finish: quite long, with a lovely grassiness. Comments: an absolutely excellent bastard malt, as we used to say. Love the herbs/lemon combo. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Chieftain's 'Speyside' 1993/2014 (54%, Chieftain's, sherry butt, cask #3611, 628 bottles)

Chieftain's 'Speyside' 1993/2014 (54%, Chieftain's, sherry butt, cask #3611, 628 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: coffee. Nose: typical chocolaty and prune-y and raisiny very sherried Speysider of high quality. Not quite towards game, rather towards menthol and shoe polish With water: some earth and some mud, that’s all fine. Roasted chestnuts, porcinis… Mouth (neat): very excellent, heavy, thick, massive sherry monster, ridden with black raisins, coffee, and chocolate, plus marmalade A stone-y touch. And a little black pepper. With water: quite perfect. Mars bar, raisins, chocolate, marmalade… It’s all there. Finish: long, with a little lemon in the aftertaste, which I always find very pleasant. Comments: flawless likely Glenf… Well done Ian McLeod! SGP:651 - 89 points.

Blairfindy 16 yo 1997/2013 (56.2%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, hogshead, sherry cask finish, cask ref #BF 2013-2, 287 bottles)

Blairfindy 16 yo 1997/2013 (56.2%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, hogshead, sherry cask finish, cask ref #BF 2013-2, 287 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: akin to the Whisky-Doris, pleasant and fruity, with a good maltiness and touches of sweet beer and vanilla, plus a faint earthy side. Pleasant malty character. With water: a wee touch of rubber, perhaps. Mouth (neat): the sherry’s much more obvious on the palate. Sweet walnut cake, Ovaltine, cappuccino, the whole being rather dry. With water: gets sweeter, with the expected raisins, as well as a little marmalade, but it remains globally malty, mostly. Finish: medium, and very malty. This is malt whisky, alright. Comments: honest and loyal, and a good friend – wait, no, it’s another distinguished bottler who’s using that line, kind of… SGP:551 - 83 points.

Black Snake 'Vat 6 First Venom' (56.3%, Blackadder, PX Sherry Cask, 398 bottles, 2015)

Black Snake 'Vat 6 First Venom' (56.3%, Blackadder, PX Sherry Cask, 398 bottles, 2015) Three stars and a half This is well a single malt, and not a blended malt, but they do it a bit the style of a solera, topping up the vat every time the draw a part of it for bottling. Colour: gold. Nose: rather different, that is to say wilder, rawer, leafier, breadier, and yeastier. That suggests a younger age. With water: this baby loves water! Perfect leafy, tobacco-like nose, with some patchouli and camphor. Mouth (neat): really punchy, gingery, with a coastal side that wasn’t to be found in the others. More smoke as well, more bitter oranges, a little wax, lemon… All that should mean that it’s not the same distillery indeed, but not sure. My bad anyway. With water: really very good IMHO. Green tea, oranges, earth, a little gentiany side… All good indeed. Finish: long, malty and gingery, with herbs. Raisins in the aftertaste, that’s the PX. Comments: the PX doesn’t feel this much, and that’s all for the better if you ask me. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Let’s try to find older ones…

Speyside Malt 38 yo 1977/2015 (46,1%, Sansibar and Spirits Shop Selection, sherry butt, 582 bottles)

Speyside Malt 38 yo 1977/2015 (46,1%, Sansibar and Spirits Shop Selection, sherry butt, 582 bottles) Five stars A single malt again, as stated on the label. Colour: dark amber. Nose: a wee mustiness at first, then roasted nuts and dried fruits with a little green chartreuse and Grand-Marnier. All that works in sync and is very fresh given it’s a sherry butt. Dried dates, Corinthian raisins, a little wood polish, our friends the fresh porcinis… Mouth: I find this pretty perfect. Big sherry at first, with old walnuts and some chocolate, then rather tobacco leaves, a little gunflint, coffee beans, drops of cough medicine, a little liquorice… Notes of Seville oranges keep it fresh and lively, especially s it becomes a little oakier – but never ‘oaky’ as such. Excellent palate. Finish: rather long and ‘digestive’, that is to say a bit Cognac-like. Ah, if only the large Cognac houses didn’t heavily reduce their old vattings, they get away with murder! But I’m digressing again… More tobacco in the aftertaste. Comments: I find this simply very perfect. If only we knew the provenance for sure, we could congratulate the distillers! SGP:561 - 91 points.

Speyside 33 yo 1976/2009 (53.4%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 125 bottles)

Speyside 33 yo 1976/2009 (53.4%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 125 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts beehive-y, ala old Caperdonich if that rings a bell, but it’s a little less polished, perhaps. Honeys, orange cake, touches of vetiver, golden raisins, tinned oranges… It’s the freshness that I find impressive. If it is Glenf…, and it should be Glenf…, it’s probably one of the fruitiest old ones. With water: beeswax everywhere, that’s something I adore and cherish. Let’s save the bees! Mouth (neat): lemony oak! That would be lemon wood, I imagine. And tangerines, papayas, then acacia honey, with a waxy mouth feel… And plenty of mint as well. I find this just excellent, with an unexpected old-Balvenie-ish style. With water: very excellent, superbly citrusy, with some zing and some oomph, and yet there’s this honeyed lightness… Finish: rather long, perfectly defined. Comments: I’m glad I had kept this one for so long, without tasting it. Because there aren’t many new old ones of this super-high quality. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Findlater's Mar Lodge 1978 (43%, OB, single malt, French market, +/-1990)

Findlater's Mar Lodge 1978 (43%, OB, single malt, French market, 75cl, +/-1990) Four stars Said to be Glenf… Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather smokier than the average Glenf… and more herbal as well. There’s some paraffin and some plasticine, but also almond oil and linseed oil, beyond a rather massive showcase of pure appleness. Smoked chocolate. Exceptional whiffs of precious black tea. Perfect nose, but some parts may come from bottle aging, let’s see… Mouth: there is a soapiness indeed, and it’s not impossible that the paraffin took over. A shame, because all the rest is brilliant. Marzipan, orange blossom water, rosehip tea… The body’s quite impressive given the lower strength. Finish: rather long, leafy, tea-ish, with a little smoke. Excellent. Comments: it’s completely impossible, to be honest, to tell if this is Glenf… or not. In truth, I find it rather more ‘old Highlands’. These old bastard bottles go for very cheap at auctions, and they’re always worth of your bids. My tuppence. SGP:362 - 86 points.

Oh I think I’ve still got an old sherry monster from possibly the same origin… And we’ll be done for today.

Glen Avon 1959/2010 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)

Glen Avon 1959/2010 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) Five stars I do hope G&M are keeping this deliciously outmoded label. Well, taking many new bottlings into account (Craigellachie OB anyone?), just wait five more years and this one will become as trendy as some white-truffle-flavoured parsnip chips for post-hipsters from London. As for the 1959 vintage, it’ll always be most appealing to us wine freaks. The vintage of the century! Colour: coffee. Nose: purrfekt, just a little whispering. Cold hot chocolate (if you see what I mean), embrocations, prunes, drops of walnut stain, a little camphor and eucalyptus… Let’s only hope the palate won’t be… well, flat dead. Mouth: not at all. Same mentholy profile, with some chocolate, and then something really antique, between caraway and incense. Chewing on incense paper – maybe not recommended. More menthol, myrtle syrup, tar liqueur… And it never bows down, despite the low strength! Finish: even the finish is surprisingly long, and of course mentholy. I’m all I, favour of menthol in my wood, rather than the dreadful vanillin and coconut. Comments: oh, I didn’t notice that this baby was 50 years old. But age doesn’t matter, does it? SGP:352 - 91 points.



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January 27, 2016


Tasting ultra-rare Lomond

A little while ago, I got an old Inverleven from a friend (through another friend), which I had never tasted before. Very cool, isn’t it? Sadly, I hadn’t got any other Inverleven left in WF’s sample library, so it was impossible to do a duet, let alone a trio or a quartet. So there was a kind of dilemma, either wait until we found another Inverleven, or break our rules and choose other sparring partners. You got it, that’s what we’ll do today, and to keep some kind of consistency, I thought we should stay in the Lowlands, and only select old whiskies from closed distilleries. For instance, one old Rosebank and one old St Magdalene. How does that sound? Well, fine I’m sure, but not so fast, that’s not what we’re going to do, mind you. Because in fact, it is not just any Inverleven that we’ve got, it’s a Lomond (no, not a Loch Lomond)! Lomond’s only been bottled as a single malt twice or thrice, so it’s extremely rare. And I think we’ll rather try to find another Lomond still malt whisky as the sparring partner. Sounds good?

Ballantine's Dumbarton distilling complex, demolished in 2006

Lomond 1972/1992 (58.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 98.1)

Lomond 1972/1992 (58.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 98.1) Three stars This is that rare bottling of Lomond, one of only two ever done by the honourable SMWS. Lomond was made at Dumbarton, alongside Inverleven, in a Lomond still that’s now at Bruichladdich, where it’s used to make gin (the still is nicknamed Ugly Betty), while Inverleven’s pot stills are in use at Waterford Distillery in Ireland. In a way, Lomond was to Inverleven what Mosstowie was to Miltonduff (more about Mosstowie later). In case you don’t know, a Lomond still is  more or less a column fitted to a pot still, and it seems that the one at Inverleven/Dumbarton, so the very one that was used to make this whisky, was the first ever built, although Littlemill had already been using a similar set-up (reflux column). Colour: gold. Nose: starts both quite oaky and a little floral and perfumy, with scents of rose petals and, perhaps, lilies of the valley. That’s the path it’ll follow all along, with whiffs of orange blossom water, and perhaps cranberries and gooseberries. I find it relatively discreet, but water might help. With water: it’s rather oak that comes out more, and it would come with some grass and some, well, some sawdust.

Mouth (neat): it is a whole pack of liquorice allsorts mixed with jelly babies or beans. All flavours are there, but citrus dominates. Orange drops, marshmallows, bubblegum… In a way, it reminds a bit of light style rum, such as some Cubans, but with more fruity flavours. There are even strawberry bonbons. With water: once again, the oak comes to the front, but the fruits won’t give up. All of Haribo’s products, beans, babies, crocodiles, banana or strawberry-shaped sweets, all that. It’s not unpleasant at all, quite the contrary, we’re somewhere between a malt and a grain, if you like. Finish: short to medium, on more or less the same flavours. There’s still some oak, but I do not find the aftertaste too drying. That’s good. There’s a little coconut, though. Comments: it’s extremely rare, but it’s neither Malt Mill, nor Stromness. I mean, I wouldn’t say this whisky’s got a huge personality. But it was very fine, finer than many grain whiskies if you ask me. I’m really glad I could taste this utter rarity, thank you Andrew B.! SGP:630 - 80 points.

Ugly Betty
Ugly Betty at Bruichladdich

And now,  a new Mosstowie…

Mosstowie 35 yo 1979/2015 (48.1%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #25756, 171 bottles)

Mosstowie 35 yo 1979/2015 (48.1%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #25756, 171 bottles) Four stars and a half Isn’t it great that Signatory keep issuing some Mosstowies, even if the general public do not seem to have any clues? Mosstowie was distilled at Miltonduff only between 1964 and 1981 (Lomond/Inverleven had started in 1956 - some rather say 1959, forgot to say), but the name became kind of famous because of some Italian gentlemen who imported and distributed a few Mosstowies that they had sourced from G&M. Once again, the Italians were pioneers. G&M keep issuing some from time to time, but sadly, they seem to go relatively unnoticed. Maybe because the average whisky lover isn’t curious enough? Colour: straw. Nose: there are similarities and differences with the Lomond. On the one hand, it’s got the same kind of fruitiness, albeit toned down and a little more citrusy. On the other hand – and maybe that’s the older age – it’s got many more herbal notes, including fresh mint and lemongrass. After a few seconds, you’d almost believe you’re nosing an old chartreuse or Bénédictine, which I find lovely provided the palate won’t be totally in keeping with the nose. Let’s see… Mouth: lovely indeed. The oak seems to have imparted piny, sappy flavours, while the spirit remained very citrusy and herbal. Imagine a blend of pastis, chartreuse, and limoncello, plus a drop of coconut liqueur. Perfect body and strength. Finish: quite long, fresh and mentholy (as when you just brushed your teeth), with a sweeter and fruitier aftertaste? Oranges. It’s interesting that after all these years, the oak never managed to taint the spirit. Comments: it’s a very excellent truly rare and genuinely old whisky at a very fair price, I think Signatory deserve our loudest applause! SGP:661 - 89 points.

Good, we’ll stop here. We could have had some Scapa as well, as they still have an ex-Lomond still that was modified later on and became a strict pot still, or a Loch Lomond indeed. Or a Glencraig from Glenburgie, but sadly, no Glencraig in the house at this very moment.

(Many thanks again, Andrew!)



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January 26, 2016


Balblair vertically part two

Remember that a superb 1968 by the SMWS was fantastic last time. Shall we find even better old Balblair today?...

Balblair (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1970)

Balblair (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1970) Five stars This wonderful and rare NAS baby bears the distillery’s older label. Probably distilled very early 1960s or late 1950s. Colour: straw. Nose: one of the most delicate noses I’ve ever come across. It’s not impossible that bottle ageing made it even more complex than it was when it was bottled, but we’re really nosing the subtlest fruit salad ever. Red apples, pears, bananas, kiwis, mangos, papayas, oranges, you name them. All that is seasoned with a little mead, a drop of mint liqueur, a little grated ginger, and probably one dollop of Cointreau. All that is totally exquisite. Mouth: impressively un-weak, and akin to a 20 yo grand cru of Sauternes, I would say. A little Muscat, oranges, tinned litchis, lilies, various honeys, tangerines… And in the spice department, we’re rather having cinnamon and caraway. Finish: surprisingly long, with even more Muscat, litchis, and roses. Almost an Alsatian gewurz’! Comments: one should let some high-ranked sommeliers who don’t know much about whisky (there are thousands of them) try this. We’d win them over in a flash. SGP:741 - 92 points.

Balblair 24 yo 1951 (80° proof, OB, private bottling, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1975)

Balblair 24 yo 1951 (80° proof, OB, private bottling, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1975) Five stars These lovely bottles used to come with a neck label stating that it was ‘small still’ distillation. Charming! This is certainly the oldest vintage of Balblair I’ve ever tried, but that wee record may not hold for very long… Oh and it’s an extremely rare bottle, no need to say. Colour: gold. Nose: a similar style, with a little more wood influence, which translates into a little more coffee and, perhaps, horseradish. Other than that, it’s a tad more on western orchard fruits as well (cider apples, greengages), and a notch less on tropical ones. Traces of sawdust and vanillin. Mouth: one of the zestiest ones for sure. This is a lemon tarte! Lemon curd, orange zests, vanilla cream, kiwis, rhubarb… Yesterday we had one Balblair that tasted a bit of Bladnoch, this time that would rather be Rosebank, except that there are more passion fruits coming out in this Balblair. Finish: medium to long, superbly citrusy, with a spicy edge (nutmeg). Comments: marvellous, I just liked the G&M’s more natural side – that is to say with less wood spices - a notch more. SGP:651 - 91 points.

And now, drum roll please…


Balblair’s workforce in 1949 (courtesy Balblair Distillery).
Perhaps is our next whisky from one of these casks?

Balblair 1949 (OB, Bertie Cumming's private cask, +/-1970)

Balblair 1949 (OB, Bertie Cumming's private cask, +/-1970) Five stars Only very few bottles of this existed. Bertie Cumming bought the distillery in 1948, restarted it in 1949 (so this is from one of the very first batches), expanded it in 1964, and sold it to Hiram Walker (Allied) in 1970 before retiring. It’s more or less at that time that this bottle was drawn from the cask. No need to tell you that this is a very historical bottle, and that I’m extremely proud to be able to taste it, thanks to my great friend Angus. Colour: deep gold. Nose: nettle, lemongrass, hemp, and citrons. What a marvellous combination, and it’s fab to see that this style is still to be found in contemporary Balblair, provided it didn’t get buried under US oak or sherry (not saying that wouldn’t be good, but distillery character gets obviously a little overwhelmed). Love this menthol, these gentian roots, the elderberries, and the citrons indeed. And then the whiffs of saltpetre, old musty cellar, old barrels, humidor… An exceptional nose! Mouth: high power, perhaps like, say 55% vol. Starts a little sappy and resinous, goes towards turpentine, and ends up close to honeydew and some kind of sharper limoncello. It is just the opposite of a smooth whisky. With just a few drops of water: there, the tropical fruits! And I’m meaning passion fruits and mangos! There’s also a green tannicity, not obligatorily the greatest thing, but we just won’t care. Finish: long, tart, green, zesty. Litres of grapefruits in the aftertaste, and also a little mango and mint. Comments: it’s almost impossible to give a score to this kind of historical glory, it’s almost like going ‘right, the Sistine Chapel, 14.5/20’. Un-modest at best. But if I had to, especially if I had tasted it blind, I’d have gone for… SGP:661 - 91 points.

(With heartfelt thanks to the Balblair boyz Angus, Jon, and Phil)

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



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January 25, 2016


Balblair vertically

This is something I’ve always wanted to do, a proper, serious, extensive vertical tasting session with Balblairs from various eras. Let’s see what the fruity and complex Highlander will have to tell us!...

Balblair 1990/2013 (46%, OB, 2nd Release)

Balblair 1990/2013 (46%, OB, 2nd Release) Three stars I had found the first Edition a little simple five years ago, so have been procrastinating with this second edition. Perhaps a bad idea, let’s see… Colour: dark gold with bronze hues. Nose: a tad un-Balblair, but that’s probably the sherry. Some fresh walnuts and some tobacco, autumn leaves, super-dried raisins (grandma’s old box ;-)), then touches of cured ham, perhaps, all-spice, a curious meaty earthiness… It’s in fact pretty complex, but it needs your time. Some fresher oranges will come through after two or three minutes. Mouth: once again, an unusual Balblair that starts with slightly tart, almost too acidic oranges, and would rather go on with a little curry powder, limejuice, and some kind of almost as acidic coffee. A touch of grapefruit as well. This tart side is a bit troubling, perhaps. Finish: medium, very lemony. Concentrated lemon juice. Some nutmeg, cinnamon, and curry in the aftertaste. Comments: well, it really is an unusual Balblair, it’s not often that sherried whiskies are this zesty and almost acidic. But it’s good, for sure. SGP:461 - 81 points.

Balblair 2000/2014 (53%, OB, The whisky Exchange, first fill sherry, cask #1343)

Balblair 2000/2014 (53%, OB, The whisky Exchange, first fill sherry, cask #1343) Four starsProbably a lot of sherry in this baby, a single cask bottled to celebrate TWE’s 15 years online. Colour: mahogany/coffee. Nose: bursts with rose jelly, old barrels, Turkish delights, cherry liqueur, cinnamon cake, plum tarte (Damsons), pumpernickel baked just this morning, and, well, the whole bakery. Quite spectacular. With water: Cherry Coke (dear people at TWE, I’m deeply sorry, please do not send your Albanian hitmen just now). Mouth (neat): it is some kind of blend of maraschino and amaretto. With perhaps even some of the heaviest Amarones. Now there’s also some fruity lightness in this, with more cherries and blood oranges, then rather cloves and more cinnamon. It’s not an usual sherry monster, in the sense that it’s neither ridden with raisins, nor with chocolate, walnuts, tobacco, or coffee. Neither is it meaty. With water: the citrus comes out more, but the cherry isn’t gone. Finish: long, and spicier. More cinnamon cake, grapes, a touch of liquorice, and perhaps prunes, with a wee Spanish-brandy-like feeling. A little mint in the aftertaste, and perhaps myrtle. Comments: globally drier than it may have sounded. I’d be curious to know about the sherry that’s been in use. SGP:451 - 86 points.

Balblair 1996/2013 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive to Inverness Airport, cask #412)

Balblair 1996/2013 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive to Inverness Airport, cask #412) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: and yet another unusual one! This time it’s very mineral and almost medicinal, with some chalk, some tincture of iodine, some bandages… It’s after one good minute that more citrusy notes come through, around lemons and grapefruits. There’s also a touch of camphor, perhaps. This one reminds of some old Bladnochs on the nose. Mouth: no, there, this is plain and pure fruity Balblair, very well balanced and yet full of bananas and guavas. It echoes the official ones that were distilled in the 1960s, remember those glories? A little more vanilla and white pepper after a while. Good body. Finish: medium, very fruity, with some peppery oak as well. That makes the aftertaste a notch drying. Comments: I’ll probably go for a similar score, although styles are widely different. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Time to tackle older ones…

Balblair 33 yo 1968/1998 (59.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #70.4, Faded pot-pourri)

Balblair 33 yo 1968/1998 (59.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #70.4, Faded pot-pourri) Five stars The name’s a little frightening, isn’t it. Now the vintage isn’t, not at all! Colour: gold. Nose: bang. Instant old Balblair goodness. Passion fruits, mangos, papayas, acacia honey, blood oranges… All those sorts of things. Simply brilliant. With water: beautiful whiffs of old wine cellar, a touch of ground coffee, a little sweet Tokaji, this grapefruity combination that’s a little ‘chenin blanc’… Mouth (neat): a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Extreme maracuja and mangos again, then rather more pineapple, then bananas seasoned with a little fresh mint. Perhaps is it a little simple, but everything’s so utterly perfect that we just shan’t care. With water: in the same vein, perhaps a little more towards jellies and sweets than fresh fruits. Finish: long, extremely fresh and fruity. The pineapples are back. Comments: faded pot-pourri? A great old Balblair, with a little more complexity we might have gone even higher. SGP:751 - 92 points.

Good, the older ones are much lighter in strength, I think it’s better that we stop now and do them tomorrow. Stay tuned…

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



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January 24, 2016


Malternatives, today rambling rums

Selected at random, as we like to do. Let’s hope that we won’t stumble upon some that are sickly sweet, I’m really beginning to hate those! Let’s see (with the help of WF’s new mousers, Zooloo and Aston, who’ll kind of select the rums with their paws)… Oh and the two buggers can get very nasty...


Old Monk 'Supreme XXX Rum' (42.8%, OB, Indian rum, +/-2015)

Old Monk 'Supreme XXX Rum' (42.8%, OB, Indian rum, +/-2015) Two stars Blimey, the Old Monk! This starts well… It’s some Indian blend, made in Uttar Pradesh, aged for seven years, I believe. Colour: dark amber. Nose: but it’s not ugly, not at all! Sure it’s very molassy, but it’s got this heavy style that can also be found in some Demeraras. Tar, cane juice, oil, ashes, overripe bananas… This would beat many a lazy South-American on the nose, IMHO. Mouth: yes, really, it’s fine and fair heavy-style molasses-based rum. There’s probably some added sugar, but we’re not over the top, and this cane-y side kind of balances that. Seriously, I find it pretty good, if not utterly complex. Well, it’s not complex at all. Finish: medium, a little more on coffee liqueur. Kahlua. Comments: I’m really surprised. SGP:640 - 76 points.

Diplomatico ‘Reserva’ (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2015)

Diplomatico ‘Reserva’ (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2015) Vorsicht! Caution! Attention! Colour: amber. Nose: not much. Burnt sugar, overcooked coffee, stewed artichokes, molasses, cardboard… I’m afraid this won’t be very diplomatic. What’s sure is that this is a no-nose rum, especially after the Indian that had much more to tell us. Mouth: more burnt sugar, some regular sugar, corn syrup, caramel, plum liqueur, and bags of vanillin. Most probably not one to sip on its own, you really need to add ‘something’. Like, plenty of ice. Finish: short, but a little thick, which isn’t a pleasant feeling. Comments: more a liqueur than ‘rum’. Exactly the unbalanced style that I do not like, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, why not? Plus, it’s relatively cheap. Now, it’s the opposite of a proper malternative. SGP:720 - 58 points.

Flor de Caña 25 yo (40%, OB, Nicaragua, +/-2014)

Flor de Caña 25 yo (40%, OB, Nicaragua, +/-2014) Two stars This older one sounds promising, provided we can believe in the age statement. Now the bad news about the dying cane cutters just where this is produced (a matter of pesticides, apparently) is a little worrying . Maybe we shouldn’t drink too much of this… Colour: very dark amber. Nose: polished woods and plenty of chocolate, also prunes and black raisins, and almost no fruitiness. This nose is surprisingly dry and austere – which is something we often like. Mouth: starts a little sweetish and weakish, as it’s lacking power, but I find it relatively complex, with nice stewed bananas and guavas, plus some caramel and some honey. What I really enjoy is the nutty side. Honey-coated roasted pecans spring to mind. Too bad the sugar starts to come out after twenty seconds, making it, well, sugary. Finish: a little short and a little too sweet, but there are pineapples and I like pineapples. Kahlua again in the aftertaste. Comments: not my style, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that this syrupy rum is ‘very good rum’, but I enjoyed India’s much cheaper Old Monk almost as much. SGP:620 - 76 points.

Zooloo and Aston, please! Oh, no…

Pampero 'Añejo Selección 1938' (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2014)

Pampero 'Añejo Selección 1938' (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Rum distilled in 1938, how cool is that? Pfff… Colour: amber. Nose: hey hey, no, this is rather nice! It’s full of caramel but it is nice caramel, and at least the sugarcane is not totally muzzled. There’s this very discreet briny side that I enjoy so much – although there could be more of that. And a pecan pie – love pecan pie. Mouth: nah, it is too sweet, too cloying, and a little too whorish/vulgar, but I find it a notch better than the Flor de Caña. It’s got more zing and more oomph, which partly balances the sugary side. But it remains very molassy. Finish: medium, sugary, syrupy… Oh well… Comments: some honest and loyal sweet South-American rum. SGP:620 - 77 points.

Bloody kittens, please guys, couldn’t you do better?... (but at least we’re getting rid of the junk…)

Ron Viejo De Caldas 8 yo (37.5%, OB, Columbia, +/-2014)

Ron Viejo De Caldas 8 yo (37.5%, OB, Columbia, +/-2014) Yeah, right, thank you! Colour: amber. Nose: what the hell is this? Gym socks and rotten turnips? Stale balsamic vinegar and baby vomit? Quick… Mouth: not much happening – which is actually great news. Fruits squeezed two days ago, old pineapples, sugared water… It’s severely handicapped spirit. And yet it tends to improve a bit if you give it a little time, with an herbal side that’s kind of enjoyable. Spanish faked chartreuse bought for 6€ a litre in Andorra – stuff like that. Despite that there’s no body and no structure, I’m afraid. Finish: very short. Bad genepy for tourists. Comments: no. A very weak thing, but what’s good is that it is an opportunity to use the lower end of the 100-scale. SGP:630 - 30 points.

Meow, meow… Please!...

Lost Spirits 'Polynesian Inspired Rum' (66%, OB, USA, 2015)

Lost Spirits 'Polynesian Inspired Rum' (66%, OB, USA, 2015) Four stars Ha, ha, and I mean, ha! I’m a fan of Lost Spirits, they’re the Marcel Duchamps of the spirit world. Sadly I haven’t got much time so I won’t google this, but what I’ve heard is that they’re using some kind of secret technology to do some flash aging on their spirits. How fun is that? Will this be the Kraftwerk of rum? Let’s see… (as for Polynesian rums, I’m afraid I have little clues). Colour: dark amber. Nose: strong! I’m finding this nose a little sour and very caramely, but hey, 66% vol.! So… With water: me likes. Cane, olive brine, sour cream, mezcal, onion soup… What’s not to like? Mouth (neat): good and strong. What’s sure is that it easily beats Austria’s Stroh and Australia’s Bundaberg Overproof, aka the window cleaners. With water: it doesn’t feel aged, actually, but I’m a sucker for great white rums and clairins, so I won’t complain. Lime, olives, brine… But why ‘Polynesian’? This is rather agricole-y, say midway between Martinique and Haiti. Very very good. Finish: same, with just a thin layer of soft caramel. Comments: great distillate. Not sure I wouldn’t have kept it white, though, but obviously not my business. SGP:472 - 87 points.

Thank you Aston and Zooloo, good work. Could we have just one more?... Oh, no!!!...

Zacapa 23 'Centenario Sistema Solera' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2015)

Zacapa 23 'Centenario Sistema Solera' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2015) Most websites, even the largest and the most respected ones, keep advertising this as a 23 years old. It is not, for crying out loud! It’s probably not even 10, some even say it’s 6. Colour: dark amber. Nose: some kind of blend of fruit syrups (plums) with orange blossom water and molasses. It’s not ugly, at all, it’s just light and a little undemanding. In other words, innocuous… Mouth: much too sugary. Another liqueur. I find this unpleasant, cloying, and really too sticky, despite a thin body. Pineapple syrup. Sure it’s soft, but between softness and evanescence, there’s not enough room for the thinnest cigarette wrapper. Finish: very short. Comments: a poor and weakish little thing, in my opinion. Pure bottled marketing. I had found previous batches rather bolder, having said that. SGP:720 - 50 points (out of Christian charity - but remember, it's all a matter of personal taste).

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



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January 22, 2016


A trio of good Tullibardine

Tullibardine’s becoming rare, I don’t quite know why. Very few indies have some, it seems, while the officials aren’t often to be seen either. Maybe are they focussing on a few remote markets?

Tullibardine '500' (43%, OB, sherry finish, +/-2015)

Tullibardine '500' (43%, OB, sherry finish, +/-2015) Three stars We already tried this baby two or three years ago. I had found it rather better than earlier official Tullibardines. Colour: gold. Nose: starts a little buttery and slightly metallic, with hints of vegetables in the background. Which is rather Tullibardine in my experience. Rather fresh cabbage (nothing to do with cooked cabbage), and perhaps turnips and beetroots? All that’s rather unusual, but frankly, many usual whiskies are becoming boring, aren’t they. There’s a plankish side as well (sawdust), plus quite some apple peelings. Mouth: starts very leathery, both a little bitter and raisiny. Cinnamon cake, bitter chocolate, bitter oranges… There’s some white pepper and nutmeg, and rather plenty of those. Cardamom. Really spicy, as if the butts it’s been finished were very active, not only talking about the sherry. The whole is relatively dry. Finish: rather long, still spicy, with some cloves, and more bitter oranges. Comments: if you like dry and spicy whiskies, you’ll like this. SGP:361 - 81 points.

Tullibardine Royal 15 yo (40%, Amalgamated Brewing co ltd Dundalk, 75cl, +/-1980)

Tullibardine Royal 15 yo (40%, Amalgamated Brewing co ltd Dundalk, 75cl, +/-1980) Three stars and a half An unusual old Irish bottling of Tullibardine. It reminds me of one Tomintoul from the same era that was bottled for the same company in Dundalk (also known as A.B.C.). That one was weak! (WF 65). Colour: amber. Nose: no no no, this is lovely. A bit shy, perhaps, but full of honeys and plum jam, then herbs, earth, and tobacco, a bit ala old Highland Park. Well, had I nosed this blind, I’d have said HP. There’s none of Tullibardine’s older weirdnesses. And no porridge. Mouth: there are aspects that do resemble the new 500, especially this leathery earthiness and these notes of vegetables. Beyond that, distilled mead, or chouchen, and notes of stout beer. Pink grapefruits, perhaps. The spirit’s quite fat, despite the low strength. Finish: medium, rather peppery. The oranges are back in the aftertaste. Comments: great at times, sometimes less so. It’s a bit sinusoidal, if you will. SGP:451 - 83 points.

Tullibardine 32 yo 1964/1997 (48.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, USA market, 75cl) Four stars An old one, probably from refill wood, this is a great opportunity to get a better grasp of the spirit once it’s fully matured. Colour: gold. Nose: starts with a breath of newly sawn oak, and quite some vanilla of course, but it tends to become more floral and honeyed, what I sometimes call ‘beehivy’. It hasn’t got any leathery/porridgy notes whatsoever, and you could think it’s an old Glen Grant, a bit like the ones that Duncan Taylor had. Overripe apples as well. Mouth: cider apples and raw rhubarb all over the place, that’s unusual indeed. Both tart and slightly acid, certainly green, sharp, becoming extremely lemony. Lemon drops. Some porridge and raw barley in the background, bit also more and more lemongrass and green peppercorns. A little honey coats all that, which makes it a little smoother and rounder, but boy is this old malt angular and tight! Finish: long, very lemony and peppery. Some new oak remaining in the aftertaste. Comments: quite a blade. I had a very young Rosebank that was a bit like this. You do not notice the 32 years. SGP:661 - 86 points.

BONUS… this brand new baby arrived after I was done with this short session…

Tullibardine 22 yo 1993/2015 (47.3%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 528 bottles)

Tullibardine 22 yo 1993/2015 (47.3%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 528 bottles) Five stars Not sure when this new one was bottled, perhaps this year already? Colour: straw. Nose: grains and bread. It’s like nosing the bread buffet at breakfast in a posh hotel in Tyrol or in the Bavarian Alps. I won’t list all breads, but there are at least fifteen different ones. What’s particularly striking is these notes of gourd seeds, then we have a little ink and, imagine, some rye, as in some young American ryes. Fun stuff! (do Tullibardine source from MGP? Hey, I’m joking!) Mouth: very un-Scottish indeed. This could be a blend of Mackmyra with High West rye or something. So plenty of bread, geranium syrup, some ginger, some nutmeg, and then a little maple syrup and custard. I do seem to detect pomegranates as well. Oh, almost forgot to mention olives. Fun stuff indeed. Finish: quite long, still a bit ‘wacko’ but in a great way, and always extremely bready. A touch of lavender sweets in the aftertaste, and some ginger liqueur plus new oak and pepper. And some lapsang souchong. Comments: totally unexpected. Maybe a cask that some Scottish blenders would refuse because of its huge idiosyncrasies, but whisky enthusiasts who’ve already tried everything will love this. Nutshell, different and excellent, a whisky that’ll make you smile. SGP:352 - 90 points.

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



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January 21, 2016


Young Americans
(another tribute to you-know-who)

There’s really a lot happening on the whisky front in America. Just have a look at Sku’s amazing list of distilleries and you’ll be flabbergasted. Now, as we all know, they aren’t all true distillers (someone should sell plastic stills just for decoration, I’m sure that would be a hit), but we’ve already had some high-quality new whiskies that went to prove that it’s not all only about vanilla and coconut. Let’s have another little bunch of newish Americans…

Crater Lake Rye (40%, OB, Bendistillery, Oregon, +/-2015)

Crater Lake Rye (40%, OB, Bendistillery, Oregon, +/-2015) Two stars and a halfThe mash bill containing 95% rye, and the distillers not claiming to the opposite, this is most likely young sourced whiskey from MGP – even if it says ‘handcrafted’ on the label. At least they haven’t ‘just found, in an old drawer, grandpa’s forgotten recipe that was such a hit before prohibition’. Colour: gold. Nose: easy, rather light, delicately spicy and caramely, with some vanilla and whiffs of geranium flowers, then more caraway and cinnamon. Really gentle. Mouth: indeed, it’s light and easy rye, with some fudge and some caramel, notes of buckwheat, bitter oranges, lavender sweets, and again some caraway. Finish: medium, bready. Even more caraway. A bitterness in the aftertaste. Comments: fine, but at 40% vol., it may lack the punch that you may find in, say Bulleit’s Rye. SGP:451 - 78 points.

Dry Fly ‘Washington Bourbon 101’ (50.5%, OB, +/-2015)

Dry Fly ‘Washington Bourbon 101’ (50.5%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars Some young ‘hand-crafted’ bourbon from the Northwest, said to be 3 years old. Made out of maize, wheat, and barley. I remember I really enjoyed Dry Fly’s triticale last year (WF 83). Colour: amber. Nose: it is the kind of nose I enjoy, with almost as much bread as in a good rye, and a rather complex grassy profile that does not reek of vanilla and coconut, at all. A very interesting ‘flourness’ (tapioca?), some kind of burnt pinewood, and whiffs of old style cocoa powder. Really very nice. With water: vegetal dust, flour, some kind of minty mushrooms (remember wood blewits or blue stalk mushrooms?) and a great freshness. Mouth (neat): it’s fruitier, with oranges and cranberries, but gets then spicier and breadier. A very peculiar earthiness, hard to describe, plus even more caraway than in Crater Lake, this is almost aquavit at times. With water: all on cereals and breads, which I like a lot. Finish: medium, dry, bready, but never yeasty. Comments: I’m simply a fan of this dry style. SGP:361 - 85 points.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 8 yo 2006/2014 (61.9%, OB, for DougDogz, bourbon, West Virginia, barrel #900, 122 bottles)

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 8 yo 2006/2014 (61.9%, OB, for DougDogz, bourbon, West Virginia, barrel #900, 122 bottles) Four stars Sourced from MGP, but I have really enjoyed the other Smooth Amblers I could try. Doug ‘Dog’ Philips is some kind of highly-respected barrel picker, as it appears in online literature. Colour: copper. Nose: more power bourbon than the others, that is to say starting with more varnish and nail polish remover, but without being acetone-y, and rather developing on just-made candy floss, banana sweets, and bubblegum, all that mingled with some rather subtle – yet obvious – American oak. All that works very well. With water: more classic bourbon, with some kind of spicy coconut sauce, Thai-style. Vanilla and a little humus. Mouth (neat): sweet goodness, but my god this is strong. Sweets and candies everywhere, it seems, plus cinnamon and a peppery rye. Perhaps an hoppy side? Sweet hops. With water: perfect, sweet without being cloyingly so, with some coconut, more candy floss, and then more and more pineapple. Not quite super-strength pina colada, but we’re getting there. Finish: long, sweet, very pleasantly cocktaily (whatever that means!) Some vanilla fudge in the aftertaste. Comments: very much to my liking, but don’t even consider sipping this big boy without water! SGP:740 - 87 points .

Westland 2 yo – 26 mo ‘Sherry Wood’ (46%, OB, USA, single malt, 5000 bottles, Dec. 2014)

Westland 2 yo – 26 mo ‘Sherry Wood’ (46%, OB, USA, single malt, 5000 bottles, Dec. 2014) Four stars We’ve really enjoyed some single barrels a few days ago, this is a much larger batch. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s almost as if they had recreated Arran, as I find both styles pretty similar. The sherry isn’t very big, and what we rather find is plenty of butterscotch, barley, and teas, which just works. Beyond that, indeed, there’s a raisiny side, but also plenty of murmuring spices and herbs, a list of which would be too long. Sage, perhaps, tarragon, nutmeg, a drop of soy sauce, a wee piece of bacon… Mouth: it’s the balance that’s rather impressive, given the very young age – and I doubt Seattle’s climate would accelerate any aging process. I find a little coffee, cornflakes, cereal bars, raisins indeed, then more chocolate. A lot more chocolate. Gets then very malty, almost Ovaltine-y. Finish: medium, extremely malty. Chicory drink and more cornflakes. Some gentle raisins in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s really soft and malty. That they manage to do this within just 26 months is a little hard to fathom, having said that. Secret electronics? Climate-controlled warehouses? Aging chambers? Or do they play some Lady Gaga in the warehouse, so that the whisky wants to get out as fast as possible? SGP:551 - 86 points.

Westland 2 yo – 24 mo ‘Peated’ (46%, OB, USA, single malt, 3000 bottles, Oct. 2014)

Westland 2 yo – 24 mo ‘Peated’ (46%, OB, USA, single malt, 3000 bottles, Oct. 2014) Four stars and a half Yes Westland even do peated. Most interestingly, they seem to be mashing a blend of heavily peated malt and unpeated malt, which sounds relatively smart as a way of adjusting the ‘peat levels’ in the spirit. But I believe they do more or less the same in Scotland, although they’d rather do that straight at the malting plants. Colour: gold. Nose: very very smart, because it’s delicate and subtle, much more so than what you can get when tasting some very young Scottish peaters. What’s even more amazing is that we’re relatively close to old-style Laphroaig, that is to say to the 10s from the 1970s, if that rings a bell. This is way less complex, obviously, but the profile is in the same vein, with plenty of soft tropical fruits and a delicate smoke, and even hints of camphory balm. Mouth: I-am-impressed. It’s lacking ‘mingling’ and ‘polishing’, and you feel that the oak and the smoke, for example, are not quite tangoing to perfection yet, but other than that, this is a pretty marvellous soft tropical peater, with a smell of the 1960s on Islay in the air. They sure are onto something. Citrons, passion fruits, ashy smoke, even touches of salt… This is absolutely excellent. Finish: medium, clean, zesty, ashy, smoky… And the aftertaste’s even a little bready. Comments: unexpected. 24 months, they say. How many days in a month, in Seattle? 250? SGP:546 - 89 points.

I have other Westlands to taste but since those aren’t peated, and since I’ve been stoopid enough to have the peater first, I guess we ought to call this a complete session. More later.

(With thanks to Scott and Steve from idigcottagecheese.org)

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



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January 20, 2016


Not just any Glen Ord session

… Since we’ll try to have both some of the current ‘Glen-ordinary’ ones, and some rare old ‘stuff’, as we like to do.

The Singleton of Glen Ord 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015)

The Singleton of Glen Ord 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars I last tried this Singleton in 2012, and had found it very honest. It’s true that I’ve always liked the make. Colour: deep gold. Nose: I really enjoy this blend of apple juice with an obvious maltiness and these hints of fresh oranges. There’s also a little bergamot (earl grey tea) and a croissanty side. Well, rather brioche-y. Add a little honey and you’ve got a perfect breakfast malt. Mouth: sure it’s light but I find it finely crafted, very well balanced, and never dull or weak. Sweet marmalade, honey, a malty side yet again, some chocolate… And just a little bitter tobacco in the background. I find it rounder and fruitier than the one I had in 2012, which is good. I really enjoy the fact that they preserved the ‘Ordiness’. Finish: medium, even maltier, and toastier. A wee touch of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: maybe my favourite entry-level Singleton. SGP:441 - 81 points.

Another young one from the Ord box…

Glen Ord 1999/2011 (54.4%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask # MoS 110013, 292 bottles)

Glen Ord 1999/2011 (54.4%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask # MoS 110013, 292 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts very malty, yet again, this time with a discreet smokiness and rather more vanilla than in the OB. Other than that, we’re having breakfast yet again, with various pastries, cakes, and a few dried fruits. Oh, yes, that would be a continental breakfast, without ham, eggs, or anything like some black pudding or haggis. With water: more of all that, with a grassy smoke that got bigger. Mouth (neat): it’s almost the OB at cask strength. Some hot malt drink, marzipan, marmalade, honey, a little caramel… I’m really fond of this very malty style, this is almost Ovaltine (called Ovomaltine over here). With water: sweeter, perhaps a wee tad rubbery and spirity at the same time, but no worries. Finish: quite long, now with some cinchona, Schweppes, ginger tonic… That’s funny! Rather orange drops in the aftertaste. Comments: malt whisky that’s got some personality and character. SGP:452 - 86 points.

… Since we’re harvesting the old Ord box…

Ord 19 yo 1983/2003 (57%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles)

Ord 19 yo 1983/2003 (57%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: aaaah, the older official 30 in its funny square bottle! How glorious it was! This one’s in the same cluster, perhaps less entrancing/aromatic, but we’re there, with a perfect combination of honeys and dried fruits that never gets ‘too sweet’. It’s also got these tropical fruits that, in my opinion, are not to be found in all Glen Ords. Around papayas. Also great whiffs of potpourri and cigarette tobacco (I now just hate cigarette smoke, but I love the smell of unlit cigarettes.) All very nice. With water: orange juice and honey. Mouth (neat): perfect whisky! Now sappy and fruity at the same time, this is some kind of high-end chutney, with some oranges and mint essence, plus sultanas and mangos. Forgot to mention honey, plenty of honey. Perhaps heather honey, ala Highland Park (which is, in my book, Glen Ord’s twin malt whisky, in some way). With water: reminds me of Ratafia, but I may have added a little too much water. Remains excellent nonetheless. Finish: long. Pinesap, honey, and lemon juice, always a winning combo. The raw malt strikes back in the aftertaste. Comments: some Glen Ord! SGP:551 - 90 points.

We’re already flying high, so let’s select the next ones with much care. Because we wouldn’t like to crash…

Ord 12 yo (76° proof, OB, UK, +/-1970)

Ord 12 yo (76° proof, OB, UK, +/-1970) Five stars I’ve tasted the Glenordie 12 from the 1980s back in 2005, and found it disappointing (WF 75). But that was ten years ago – my this website’s getting old – and I’m glad we’ve got an even earlier version, from when it was still called Ord. Alles in Ord-nung, as they say in Germany. The strength’s rather unusual. Colour: white wine. Nose: the best OBE (if you’re new, that’s Old Bottle Effect), the one that includes copper coins, metal polish, and some grassy earth. The base remains on ripe apples and tea, but there’s also some putty, plasticine, ‘light’ turpentine, and almond oil. It’s just a little shy, perhaps. Mouth: not shy this time, rather phenolic-as-if-it-was-an-Islay, sappy, even salty, oily, coaly, with honeydew and smoked tea in the background. In some ways, its got echo of pre-reopening Caol Ila, if that rings a bell, although there would be rather more honey. In fact, it’s perfect. Finish: not ultra-long, but so wonderfully phenolic and honeyed at the same time. Comments: this, at 50% vol., would be a sure 93-pointer. What’s truly great is that it’s got a little bit from every region of Scotland – right, perhaps not the Lowlands. SGP:462 - 91 points.

I think we need a true monster now… Such as this baby, perhaps…

Glen Ord 1969/1993 'Celebratory Whisky' (60%, OB, 25th anniversary of Glen Ord Maltings, 75cl)

Glen Ord 1969/1993 'Celebratory Whisky' (60%, OB, 25th anniversary of Glen Ord Maltings, 75cl) Four stars If you’ve ever visited Glen Ord, you couldn’t have missed the maltings nearby. This very rare whisky was bottled to celebrate… well, it’s all in the name, isn’t it. It’s a 75cl bottle, so probably one of the very last whiskies that have been bottled in that capacity. Colour: pale gold. They did not choose some heavy sherry! Nose: I’d have never thought such a high-octane monster would be so elegant, so refined, and even so reserved. A little barley sugar, tinned peaches and pears, some light tea (what my dear wife drinks, English Breakfast tea), a touch of nectar and pollen – not quite honey – and then drops of menthol essence on a handkerchief. Like in Proust. Elegant indeed. With water: not many changes, which is a little disappointing. Mouth (neat): totally in the style of the very sadly missed Rare Malts, the best and the greatest series any distillers have ever done. That is to say a little challenging and philosophical at times, probably a little brutal as well, but so highly complex that you immediately think you’ll need at least one hour to properly assess it. Which we’ll do another time. Barley sugar, tinned fruits, beeswax, pollen, ripe apples. Forgot to mention honeysuckle syrup and liquorice. Funnily enough, it’s got the texture of Lagavulin, just not the peat. With water: once again, no real changes. Barley syrup. Finish: medium, fruity, perhaps a little minimal? Too intellectual for me? Comments: it’s funny that it didn’t further develop once reduced. It all started very brilliantly, though… SGP:551 - 87 points.

(thanks again, Angus)

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



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January 19, 2016


A rather mad Irish session

And I mean, truly mad. Something I’ve always wanted to do, one day, without being sure I’d ever make it. And now’s the time, Charlie. First, we’ll post the very first tasting notes (or some of the very first?) for one of the newest Irish distillates, and then some notes for some of the oldest Irish whiskies humans could still find here or there, at auctions. And between them, maybe other Irish whiskies, we’ll see. So, first, this brand new Irish distillate…

Waterford's still house

Waterford 2015 (+/-70%, OB, Irish single malt new make, very first run) That’s right, this is the heart of the very first trial run made on December 9 at Waterford Distillery. Some of the owners are probably the most barley-and-distillate obsessed distillers I know (as opposed to carpent… I mean, wood-obsessed ones), which may partly come from their wine background.

As you may guess, we just cannot be against that at WF Towers. The stills that have been used were the ex-Inverleven ones that used to be stored at Bruichladdich. Let’s (re)taste this baby (baby in all senses of the word)… Colour: white. Nose: it is deep new make. There’s a rather wonderful breadiness instead of the usual pears-and-basta, a very surprising feeling of rye, and some kind of phenolic side that may be a bit ‘Highlands’, which is just great news. It is not one of these new makes that could be a little too easy, but it’s not crude oil either. With water: the viscimetry is very profound! What’s absolutely incredible is to which extent this gets very barleyish. Which may mean that they’ve rather used yeast that ‘respects’ the raw materials, instead of yeast that creates and pushes fruity aromas (and yield). Mouth (neat – with caution): some kind of limoncello poured over a large slice of wholegrain bread… But it is extremely strong, so without further ado... With water: it is very fat, always with quite some lemon (which balances that feeling), and then more ‘Highlandness’, with perhaps touches of crushed salted anchovies, some kind of greenish putty, and simply more wholegrain bread. I could sip this! Finish: long, grassy, rather austere, which is certainly great news. Coz remember what the old Scots used to say, if the new make’s too easy, the whisky will be crap. Or something like that… Comments: only one word, smart. SGP:362 – (useless) points.

The Irishman 'Founder's Reserve' (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2015)

The Irishman 'Founder's Reserve' (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2015) Two stars and a half This is a NAStified blend of pure pot still and single malt. There is no column still whiskey in this (no grain). Colour: gold. Nose: very fruity, with whiffs of pear, banana, and peach liqueurs, and a little more coconut and vanilla in the background, which gives it a bourbony side. After a few minutes, rather more honeysuckle and touches of elderflowers. Mouth: smooth (some friends don’t like that word but since the whisky police isn’t watching…), certainly malty, less fruity than I would have thought. A wee harshness suggests this is young spirit on average, but it’s a pretty composition. Lemon pips in the aftertaste (when you cut them in halves while making slices for some cocktail). The body’s a little thin. Finish: a little short, but both grassier and a little oilier – not talking about the body, rather about the taste. Comments: fine, honest, and loyal, as I sometimes write. A higher strength would have put it at or a little above 80. SGP:540 - 78 points.

The Irishman ‘Single Malt’ (40%, OB, Irish, +/-2015)

The Irishman ‘Single Malt’ (40%, OB, Irish, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Sadly no age statement either. Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re not that far from the blend. Perhaps do we have rather more bananas and vanilla, as well as a little more fudge and butterscotch. Some kind of sweet sunflower oil. Mouth: it’s a fatter, and livelier version. Oranges, banana liqueur, sponge cake, tinned peaches, a little bergamot, perhaps, then a touch of lemon squash. A little green tobacco, just like when you’re having those Indonesian green cigars in your mouth. Very pleasant. Finish: short, but again, a little fatter. Fruit syrups, a little coconut. Comments: very easy, quite light, and most, yeah, pleasant. SGP:551 – 79 points.

Bushmills 10 yo (40%, OB, Irish single malt, bourbon and oloroso, +/-2013)

Bushmills 10 yo (40%, OB, Irish single malt, bourbon and oloroso, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: close, a tad nuttier, perhaps. A little more raisins as well, but the differences are minimal. Mouth: same comments. Good fruity juice, extremely easy, pleasant (here we go again), going down well, with a slightly oily texture. Finish: a notch coarser, but it’s no coarse whiskey, of course (don’t do that again, S.) I enjoy the little earthiness in the aftertaste. Comments: we’re progressing, aren’t we. I believe these batches did improve over the years, I used to find them weak around ten years ago. SGP:651 - 79 points.

Whiskey, we have to talk…

Liqueur Whiskey 36 yo (75° proof, Charles Deighton Ltd, Irish, bottled 1940s)

Liqueur Whiskey 36 yo (75° proof, Charles Deighton Ltd, Irish, bottled 1940s) Four stars and a half Charles Deighton Ltd used to be wine and spirits merchants in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, England. That would be West of Birmingham. The company doesn’t exist anymore, but what’s sure is that finding such an old Irish – and even if we’d love to know about the Distillery that produced it – is very rare. Only whisky super sleuth can do it! This is, obviously, very early 1900s distillation, and another proof that age statements were not uncommon around WWII. Colour: deep amber. Nose: incredibly focused at first nosing, almost narrow in the good sense of that word, rather on mocha for a good three minutes. And then we have quite some mint and pinesap, plus whiffs of roses, sandalwood, and patchouli, perhaps a little beef bouillon, with marrow quenelles while we’re at it, and lastly, these touches of copper or other metals that are sometimes to be found in old Irish whiskeys. This nose is beautiful, possibly pure pot still, but we cannot be sure. Mouth: oh this is great! It’s a three-step whiskey, in fact. First, roasted chestnuts and this little metallic side. Then something oriental, with Turkish delights and Corinthian raisins, and then an uncommon combination of jams and fruit syrups, with perhaps some tamarind, or maybe grape jelly? It does have something muscaty. The whole’s very peculiar, and certainly very good. Finish: not too long, but perhaps a little jammier. More raisins, always this metallic side, and perhaps a little mead. No, there’s even more mead in the aftertaste. A little tobacco as well. Comments: only the body was a little light, perhaps, but other than that, it’s a very lovely old Irish. The oldest I ever tried! SGP:452 - 88 points.

And now, more History, and we’re done.

Dunville's Special Liqueur Whisky (70° proof, OB, rotation 1948)

Dunville's Special Liqueur Whisky (70° proof, OB, rotation 1948) Two starsThis old glory was distilled at Dunville’s old Belfast Distillery. The brand’s been revived last year, but this is the real, legendary Dunville’s pure pot still. New whisky bloggers or journos may have noticed that this was spelled ‘whisky’, not ‘whiskey’. Just saying. Dunville stopped operating in 1936, but the whisky was still sold until around twelve years later, which implies that this one’s one of the very last bottles of genuine Dunville’s. Colour: gold. Nose: to be honest, there isn’t a lot happening. I find poached pears, a little sunflower oil yet again, some barley for sure, these faint metallic touches again (copper coins), and just a drop of soy sauce. Like in many old whiskies – I mean, from very old bottles – there is some kind of umami developing, but you’re never quite sure about its provenance. Spirit or bottle ageing? Or both?

Mouth: how interesting, and how good! Well, perhaps not ‘good’ by today’s standards, because it’s fairly dry and grassy, but the texture’s quite fat, which creates an unusual contrast. Licking an old tin box, stock cube, a touch of sour cream, perhaps, some kind of dry toffee, drops of dry white wine, then a little ink, with a sooty side… And perhaps a little slightly stale lemon juice? A pinch of salt? Nah, it’s perhaps not ‘very very good’, but it’s got more fatness and body than the contemporary Irish, in my opinion. Unless, you know, Waterford, we’ll see… Or of course the other new Irish Distilleries! Finish: medium, with more cardboard. That’s normal with these very old bottles. Comments: a very moving session, not sure I’ll ever be able to do it again. I’ll give this legendary baby a score, but I’m feeling a bit of shame. Bah… SGP:231 - 75 points.

Dunville's advert, 1925 ->

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



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January 18, 2016


Old, older, and even older Glenglassaugh

Some old Glenglassaugh, what could go wrong? We don’t see them as often as their compadres Benriach and Glendronach, but we all know that there’s less mature whisky in the warehouse, since the distillery was closed from 1986 to 2008.

Glenglassaugh 30 yo (44.8%, OB, +/-2015)

Glenglassaugh 30 yo (44.8%, OB, +/-2015) Five stars Not too sure this isn’t actually the same batch as the one bottled in 2013, which I really loved (WF 90). But that is an excuse as good as any, isn’t it… Colour: amber. Nose: beeswax, almonds, mirabelles, cigarette tobacco, sandalwood (a little), the dog rose tea, early grey, more furniture polish… And just, maybe, a smidgen of curry powder (nosing from the pack). And golden raisins. I find this nose just perfect indeed. Mouth: the arrival’s perhaps a little dry, with a good dose of cinnamon powder and some kind of gingery tea, as well as bitter oranges, but as long as you’re not firmly against this style, you’ll rally enjoy the development, especially all these teas, this bitter chocolate, the raisins, the sweetish curry that’s back… I really enjoy this relative dryness. The body’s perfect, no need to unholster your pipette (or mocha spoon). Finish: pretty long, with a blend of coffee and marmalade, and rather more oak tannins in the aftertaste. Comments: as I remembered it. I may well have been the same batch indeed, but not sure. As for the score, no need to further scratch our heads. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Glenglassaugh 41 yo 1972/2014 'Rare Cask release' (50.6%, OB, refill sherry butt, cask #2114, 582 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 41 yo 1972/2014 'Rare Cask release' (50.6%, OB, refill sherry butt, cask #2114, 582 bottles) Five stars Ha-ha, 1972! I had thought our German friends had ‘stolen’ all the casks. It’s true that their bottlings had been super-fab (for example, #2896, WF 93). Colour: deep amber. Nose: there was definitely something with 1972 at many distilleries. The most wonderful combination of honeys and ripe plums, blended with some Sauternes and PX of the highest quality (not touristy ones). And it all blends well! With water: some wonderful complexity – while it wasn’t too complex when undiluted. Wet chalk, the same kind of sandalwood as in the 30, a little marzipan and putty… And always this marvellous honeyness. The wonders of refill casks! Mouth (neat): exceptional, in my opinion. Same winning combo as on the nose, ripe plums and apricots, Sauternes, juicy golden raisins, then a slice of cinnamon cake, and perhaps a little tobacco. Forgot to mention honey. It’s amazing that the oak – because some oak there is – never gets in the way. With water: just b***y perfect. Do they have some kind of de-oakening machine? Because once again, you feel the oak, but the whisky never gets oaky. Wonderful sweet spiciness. Finish: medium, always with this impeccable honeyed profile. It’s got something oriental, with this sandalwood, the very soft curry sauce, and all that. Ravishing. Comments: me want to know what happened in 1972 over there on Scotland! Imagine, according to Wikipedia, even the pipe band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards released their instrumental recording of ‘Amazing Grace’ in 1972, which reached No. 1 in the UK! Above the Rolling Stones! On the other hand, Compton Mackenzie died in that year, so it must be something else… SGP:651 - 93 points.

Glenglassaugh 45 yo 1968/2014 'Rare Cask release' (44.3%, OB, sherry hogshead, cask #1601, 349 bottles)

Glenglassaugh 45 yo 1968/2014 'Rare Cask release' (44.3%, OB, sherry hogshead, cask #1601, 349 bottles) Four stars1968, another great year. For example, the General Post Office introduced the first postbus in Scotland. But also, Jim Clark was killed… (S., drop Wikipedia, now!) Colour: dark amber. Nose: it’s a ‘darker’, more chocolaty and more prune-y version of the 1972. A tad earthier as well, and a little more coffee-ish. Other than that, there’s almost as much honey, PX, and even sandalwood. Long story short, it’s just great again. Mouth: perhaps not. Some parts are very lovely, especially the honey sauce, the pipe tobacco, the dried figs and prunes and dates and even bananas… But the oak got a little loud this time, making it a little drying. Cinnamon cake plus ground coffee plus strong tea. All this is very very okay, don’t get me wrong, it’s just lost a part of the, say vibrancy that both the 30 and the 1972 had. A feeling of walnut stain – not that I drink walnut stain every day, of dried porcinis, and more coffee beans and bitter chocolate. Finish: medium, dry, and a little drying. More bitter chocolate and coffee. Comments: perhaps the death seat effect, since the 1972 was so great. So let’s remain fair and balanced… SGP:371 - 87 points.

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



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January 17, 2016


Possible malternatives, another bag of rum

We’ve already done a few ‘specialised’ sessions, but the funniest and easiest sessions to do are the ones where you just taste what falls into your hands. Not very serious, but there, so…

Angostura ‘1919’ (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2015)

Angostura ‘1919’ (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2015) Two stars I hate this bottle. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t got anything against the juice, the company, or even the country, but I find these ‘fake’ vintages in big letters just appalling. Just yesterday (at time of writing) a friend saw this bottle and asked me whether everything was distilled in 1919, or if that’s just a part of the vatting. No comments. Colour: gold. Nose: honest, rounded, honeyed, caramelly, easy, with a cane-y side indeed, and perhaps touches of pineapple syrup. What I do kind of enjoy is this meaty side, around smoked beef. It’s discreet, but it’s there. Mouth: sweet and too sugary for my taste, which is a shame because beyond this liqueury side, there’s something pleasantly fruity and ‘exotic’. A little too much vanilla, though. Banana liqueur, caramel, maple syrup, white chocolate… Finish: short, syrupy, sugary. Asks for ice, but it’s certainly not ‘bad’. I even kind of like it. Comments: there certainly is much worse in the sweet, undemanding style. I would even recommend it to absolute beginners (sweet D.B.!) SGP:620 - 70 points.

Cockspur ‘12’ (40%, OB, Barbados, +/-2015)

Cockspur ‘12’ (40%, OB, Barbados, +/-2015) Two stars and a halfContrarily to what the rooster on the label may suggest, this is no French rhum. It’s actually a ‘Bajan rum’, so a blend of pot still and column still rums. Well, apparently. Once again the figures on the label are very misleading, as it doesn’t say that the bold ‘12’ are years. Nasty, very nasty… (unless that’s 12 yo indeed!) Colour: amber. Nose: not big, more austere than the Angostura, perhaps a little earthier and grassier. In fact there isn’t much happening, so nothing bad and nothing good. Perhaps a little coffee? Back to square one… Mouth: ah, this is quite to my liking. It’s much more talkative than on the nose, and despite a weakish arrival due to the low strength, it unfolds nicely on pineapples and bananas, with a very small petroly side that adds dimension. A touch of salt. Finish: a little short, but nice. Earthy, slightly tarry, a little salty… Comments: the problem lies in the inappropriate strength. This style deserves 43 or 45% vol., and I’m sure it would be pretty excellent. SGP:462 - 78 points.

Plantation ‘20th Anniversary’ (40%, Plantation, Barbados, +/-2014)

Plantation ‘20th Anniversary’ (40%, Plantation, Barbados, +/-2014) With a deluxe packaging, always a little, say suspicious. And once again, a nasty figure that suggests an age, while it just isn’t. It’s an anniversary, get it? Even beats Zacapa’s vicious solera number, if you ask me. I’m so glad you can’t do that with Scotch, so glad… Colour: amber. Nose: it’s okay, but there is a little too much coconut for me. White chocolate, custard, a little marzipan… Other than that, we aren’t that far from the Cockspur. Not much happening, I’m afraid. As always with aged spirits, a good plumage doesn’t make a beautiful bird. Mouth: too much sugar! This is doped to the ears, I’m afraid. I find it really difficult to swallow. Finish: medium, but cloyingly sweet. Comments: no thanks, really. An anti-malternative. Bah, it’s almost sugarcane liqueur, actually. Heavily disappointed, I had a good image of Plantation. SGP:730 - 50 points.

Good, let’s get down to the nitty gritty…

Neisson 'L'Esprit' (70%, OB, Martinique, white agricole, 2015)

Neisson 'L'Esprit' (70%, OB, Martinique, white agricole, 2015) Four stars You know, it sometimes happens, when you’re visiting any distillery and taste the new make – and find it excellent – that you tell the distillers that they should issue it ‘like that’, without aging. Generally, they just shrug their shoulders, but some are getting into it, such as Neisson. Indeed, this baby’s bottled just after distilling, almost straight from the still. But let’s be careful… Colour: white. Nose: you can’t do more spirit-driven than this, can you? Sure white rhum is extremely common, and sure you can find 5l-packs at 55% vol. for very cheap in Martinique, but this is something else. I find almond biscuits, plenty of praline, a cane-y side of course - but we’re far from bombs such as the Haitian clairins – and then rather fresh pineapples, whiffs of ylang-ylang, and fresh strawberries. Funny, that. With water: there, the sugar cane, the olives, the brine, the diesel oil, and the crushed capers on a little black truffle. Mouth (neat): very strong, but provided you only take a tiny drop, you don’t instantly die. I find it sweet and lemony, which can’t be bad. With water: we tamed it. It’s somewhat half-way between Jamaica and Cuba (have to check a map), with perfect earthy tones (and yes, some gentian, for sure) and some salted, pickled fruits. Very good. Finish: long, earthy, briny… But not too much. Comments: I like the clairins even better, I think they’re a little fatter and more profound, but this sure rocks. And it is a perfect malternative – who needs wood when the distillate’s great? SGP:562 - 87 points.

A last one for the road – and let’s fly to Haiti, since we were talking about clairin…

Barbancourt 11 yo 2004/2015 (43%, Compagnie des Indes, Haiti, cask #BMH18, 263 bottles)

Barbancourt 11 yo 2004/2015 (43%, Compagnie des Indes, Haiti, cask #BMH18, 263 bottles) Four stars This should be column-Barbancourt. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh lovely. It’s delicate, fairly grassy, with a briny side yet again, very close to the cane, and with great notes of noble vegetables. Such as stewed white asparagus, or perhaps samphires… Rotting bananas as well – hey rotting doesn’t mean rotten! Mouth: goody good. There’s a buttery side, some cumin, then wormwood, lemon, traces of overcooked beans (no problems at all) and perhaps roasted peanuts. What I particularly like is the way it is un-sweet, and yet smooth and approachable. But some fruits there are, of course, especially the traditional bananas and pineapples. There’s a lot happening in this spirit that stands the 43% vol. as if they were 50% vol. Finish: pretty long, grassy, but with a sweeter aftertaste. Comments: I had the impression that modern Barbancourt had less presence than this. Good news! SGP:452 - 86 points.

Wait wait wait, we’ve got one at cask strength!

Barbancourt 11 yo 2004/2015 (59.4%, Compagnie des Indes, Haiti, cask #BMH32, 285 bottles)

Barbancourt 11 yo 2004/2015 (59.4%, Compagnie des Indes, Haiti, cask #BMH32, 285 bottles) Four stars Oh, yes, you may already know that Barbancourt distil cane juice, and not molasses. Colour: straw. Nose: just more powerful, and perhaps a little ‘sweeter’, but I’m not sure. With water: no, rather a little grassier. But we’re extremely close. Mouth (neat): power and glory (ach, er…) We’re really right between the Martinique and Jamaica here. Wonderful lemons, salt, olives… With water: this time it gets a little gentler, but very oily. Cress soup, green bananas, liquorice, perhaps even a touch of garlic… Finish: long, briny, lemony, grassy, just slightly fruitier. Comments: a great malternative. Very good, I think, but careful when you don’t add water. It starts kind of cool, so you could think you’re fine, bit if you need your tongue and your gums, please use H2O. SGP:462 - 87 points.

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



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January 15, 2016


A little more Invergordon

Shall we see the light today, or only an ocean of bubblegum, coconut, and vanilla? Now it’s true that I’ve already tasted some great Invergordon grains, especially old ones. So, without fuss…

Invergordon 27 yo 1988/2015 (51.3%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 132 bottles)

Invergordon 27 yo 1988/2015 (51.3%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 132 bottles) Two stars and a half Hope it’s not a lame duck (that was hilarious, S.) Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather grassier grain, but that may be the oak. Some grass, some cut apples, a little wood alcohol, perhaps… And a touch of acetone. Yeah well… With water: a bit of oak juice, a bit of vanilla, perhaps a drop of metal polish. Mouth (neat): it’s a bit like chewing on some giant marshmallow, just before quenching your thirst with a glass of grass juice. That’s good for your health! With water: better for sure, just not utterly complex. Custard and apple juice, plus some green tea. Finish: medium, a little sugary. Bubblegum indeed. Some light Cuban rum in the aftertaste. Comments: very fair, in fact, just not my style. Doesn’t quite hold a candle to Maltbarn’s malts, which are always of very high quality. IMHO! SGP:541 - 79 points.

Invergordon 1988/2015 ‘Applewood Bake’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 697 bottles)

Invergordon 1988/2015 ‘Applewood Bake’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 697 bottles) Two starsColour: white wine, so it was very ‘refill’ sherry. Nose: same profile as that of the Maltbarn, only even harsher, with less oak, and curious notes of old bread and coal dust, as well as some stale apple juice starting to ferment. Mouth: this is rather better, but it’s still some sugary, at times vodka-ish grain whisky. I do not find any depth of flavours in this. Finish: short, with perhaps a little pepper from the oak. Comments: of course it’s drinkable, and some will even find it good, but to me it’s just flavoured ethanol. You got it, I’m not a fan. Very un-Wemyss! SGP:531 - 72 points.

Invergordon 24 yo 1988/2012 (55.5%, Single Cask Collection, barrel, cask #18589, 188 bottles)

Invergordon 24 yo 1988/2012 (55.5%, Single Cask Collection, barrel, cask #18589, 188 bottles) Four stars That is right, we’re insisting. Colour: white wine. Nose: ah, this is more to my liking, probably thanks to a better cask. It’s leafier, with some teas, banana skins, a little menthol, and various apples, certainly not overripe or as stale juice this time. Like this freshness. With water: some wool and some chalk, which just works for me. Mouth (neat): once again, it’s got more depth, a vibrant citrus, and a feeling of… malt whisky. How could we be against that? With water: a fruit salad with fresh mint leaves. Fresh pineapples may be leading the way. Finish: medium, clean, with a little light rum again, just like in the Maltbarn. Tangerines in the aftertaste. Comments: success! In the case of grain whisky, I may agree with G&M’s new motto, which is that ‘the wood makes the whisky’ (when the distillate’s pretty silent, I would add). SGP:641 - 85 points.

Good we’ve had enough 1988s. Let’s jump to…

Invergordon 50 yo 1964/2015 (43%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, cask #2)

Invergordon 50 yo 1964/2015 (43%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, cask #2) Four stars and a half This baby was the 24th sample in Master of Malt’s advent calendar last year. Very sensible! Colour: amber. Nose: as you probably know, very old spirits tend to converge, and in this case, we could as well be in Cognac, or it could be some super-old light rum. What I get is mostly milk chocolate and cigarette tobacco, then raisins and dried dates, then quite some praline and honeydew. It is a very elegant nose, very easy, and pretty Christmassy indeed. Although there are hints of coconut and vanilla in the background. Mouth: all creamy easiness this time, but rather than Cognac, this could be bourbon. Which, agreed, is only normal. Coconut cream, vanilla cake, maple syrup, a touch of honeydew again, and repeat. Very, very, very smooth and easy. What’s impressive is the fact that it’s not tired at all, just very, very smooooth. Finish: medium, with more sweet oak, and always plenty of coconut cream. Some Grand-Marnier in the aftertaste. Comments: this old baby won’t do any harm to you, it’s as smooth s silk. And oh, I find it extremely good. SGP:730 - 88 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Maceo Parker. Track: In Time. Please visit his website and buy his music...

January 2016 - part 1 <--- January 2016 - part 2 ---> February 2016 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Balblair (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1970)

Balblair 1949 (OB, Bertie Cumming's private cask, +/-1970)

Balblair 24 yo 1951 (80° proof, OB, private bottling, 26 2/3 fl ozs, +/-1975)

Balblair 33 yo 1968/1998 (59.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #70.4, Faded pot-pourri)

Glen Avon 1959/2010 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)

Glenglassaugh 30 yo (44.8%, OB, +/-2015)

Glenglassaugh 41 yo 1972/2014 'Rare Cask release' (50.6%, OB, refill sherry butt, cask #2114, 582 bottles)

Ord 12 yo (76° proof, OB, UK, +/-1970)

Ord 19 yo 1983/2003 (57%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles)

Speyside 33 yo 1976/2009 (53.4%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 125 bottles)

Speyside Malt 38 yo 1977/2015 (46,1%, Sansibar and Spirits Shop Selection, sherry butt, 582 bottles)

Tullibardine 22 yo 1993/2015 (47.3%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 528 bottles)

Port Mourant 13 yo 2002/2015 (59%, Compagnie des Indes, Guyana, cask #WPM36, 239 bottles)