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Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2017 - Part 1



December 2016 - part 2 <--- January 2017 - part 1 ---> January 2017 - part 2


January 13, 2017


Two humble Japanese blends

Two newish NAS Japanese blends that are actually quite expensive. Not much hope, but let’s try them with an open mind…

Yamazakura (40%, OB, Japanese blend, +/-2016)

Yamazakura (40%, OB, Japanese blend, +/-2016) Two starsThis one from Sasanokawa Shuzo Distillery. I don’t think such a distillery exists, though, this is more or less the same situation as that of quite a few ‘distilleries’ in the US. What some call  ‘NDPs’, meaning non-distilling producers. Oh and I would love to know what Suntory and Yamazaki are thinking of this venture. Colour: gold. Nose: very dry, cardboardy, with some pear (youth!) that makes it a little nicer, but the whole remains very simple. Mouth: hot, cardboardy, spirity, with salty touches. A grassy and bitter side that’s rather unpleasant. Finish: short, with more pears – which is a little better. Comments: kind of acceptable, and the bottle is lovely. But at 50€, I think it’s two times too expensive for what it is. SGP:341 - 70 points.

UPDATE Thanks to our friend Igor who wrote: "there is indeed a Sasanokawa Shuzo Distillery, it is located in Fukushima, but its primary focus is sake (for the last 250-odd years), with whisky being a secondary undertaking. More than their own production (which they claim to go back to 1946), they are better known by the acquisition of all the leftover stocks of Hanyu when it folded in 2000, so that now they own the Ichiro's Malt brand and all its stocks." I stand corrected, thank you Igor!
FURTHER PDATE It seems that 'Sasanokawa was just kindly lending it's warehouse to Ichiro Akuto. They do NOT own, nor never did the left over Hanyu stocks.' (thank you Scott!)

Super Nikka ‘Revival’ (43%, OB, Japanese blend, +/-2016)

Super Nikka ‘Revival’ (43%, OB, Japanese blend, +/-2016) Two stars and a half Some kind of expensive replica bottling that’s ‘guaranteed matured in wood’ on the label. And of course, both ‘rare’ and ‘old’. Colour: gold. Nose: in truth this is relatively ‘nice’. Dry and cardboardy, as expected, but there are some fruits. Pears, for example. And cut grass. I’m not feeling very inspired. Perhaps a little cedar wood? Mouth: relatively good, rather spicy, but still a little tea-ish and cardboardy. Notes of caramel and corn syrup. A little malt as well, kumquats… Indeed, relatively good. Finish: a little short, but pleasantly cake-y. Some honey and lemon liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: a very good blend for sure, but I’m not sure it’s worth 50-60€. SGP:451 - 78 points.

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



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January 10, 2017


Glenfarclas, vertically again

A few Glenfarclas, some half-disclosed, starting with an old young apéritif.

J. & G. Grant 5 yo 1967 (40%, OB, Glenfarclas, +/-1972)J. & G. Grant 5 yo 1967 (40%, OB, Glenfarclas, +/-1972)

J. & G. Grant 5 yo 1967 (40%, OB, Glenfarclas, +/-1972) Three stars Although the label wouldn’t say so, this is most certainly Glenfarclas – and yes it was distilled in Ballindalloch. There’s also been a 5 yo Glenfarclas-Glenlivet a little later. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: very eau-de-vie-ish, with some kirsch and some williams pear Schnapps. Some funny touches of vegetables (French beans? Turnips?) and perhaps a little putty. Certainly light, but it’s true that light whiskies were all the rage in the early 1970s. Mouth: sweet at first, then peppery and malty, with a good breadiness and even more eau-de-vie-ness than on the nose. Williams pears again, with some ginger in the background. Good body, no weakness at all, and barely any OBE. Finish: surprisingly long and spicy. Peppered sugar cane syrup and ginger liqueur. Comments: a good very young Glenfarclas. No sherry to be spotted this time. SGP:451 - 80 points.

Family-Owned Distillery 15 yo (51.3%, The Whisky Exchange, Edition Time I, Speyside, 271 bottles)

Family-Owned Distillery 15 yo (51.3%, The Whisky Exchange, Edition Time I, Speyside, 271 bottles) Four stars Of course, the name of this bottling does not obligatorily suggest that this is Glenfarclas. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts very ‘natural’, with some dough, some butter, a touch of natural rubber, pretty much the same hints of turnips as in the old 5, and then a rather bouillony side, with some parsley, marrow… Much fun to be had with this unusual nose! Sprouted soy. With water: pain aux raisins, currant loaf… We’ve entered a Germanic pastry shop. Mouth (neat): perfect ‘nervous’ Speysider, and wouldn’t Aberlour belong to Pernod, I’d have said, well, Aberlour. Red apples, plums, cranberries, pear peelings… With water: much more classic Glenfarclas, with more nuttiness and even more raisins. A touch of leather. Finish: rather long, maltier, rather drier. More raisin bread. Comments: excellent and very ‘traditional’ once water’s been added. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Glenfarclas 26 yo 1990/2016 (50.8%, Cadenhead, sherry cask, 228 bottles)

Glenfarclas 26 yo 1990/2016 (50.8%, Cadenhead, sherry cask, 228 bottles) Four stars and a half One of, if not the only independent bottlers that still use the name Glenfarclas. Which I find refreshing (them rebels!) Colour: gold. Nose: love love love. Varnish, coal smoke, roasted pecans, damp garden peat, an old bag of old walnuts, and game. Say well-hung grouse ;-). With water: exceptional earthiness. Blended tea and tobacco. Together. Mouth (neat): superb peppery and very vegetal sherry, most unusual once again. I’m sure some would say this is flawed (after all, aubergines in whisky is not something very catholic, is it), but I’m all for it. Artichokes, bizarre smoked things, plastic, green pepper… So yeah, it’s all very odd, and supremely funny. With water: water gets it back in line – sort of – but there’s this very funny vegetal smoky peppery thing that remains. Not unlike in a great Pauillac that’s not ready at all yet. Finish: long, on a ‘funny’ jam. Green pepper, cherries, raisins, juniper berries… Comments: vive la différence! SGP:462 - 89 points.

Glenfarclas 1979/2016 (46.9%, OB, for Eiling Lim, cask #8818, 188 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1979/2016 (46.9%, OB, for Eiling Lim, cask #8818, 188 bottles) Five stars It seems that this baby came from a plain hogshead, not from a sherry cask. Colour: gold. Nose: exactly the opposite of the Cadenhead. This is much cleaner and brighter, starting with tangerine syrup and jam, as well as wee whiffs of camphor and mint. Rather goes on with Sancerre-y notes, grapefruits, limestone, marzipan, and wee touches of preserved pineapples. Really very lovely fresh nose. Mouth: all in keeping with the nose, with some superb medicinal menthol and camphor again, grapefruits, pineapples, and probably pink grapefruits. Pinesap and honeydew. Nutshell, another one that’s dangerously drinkable. Vorsicht! Finish: long, fresh, fruity, with bitter oranges and a few drops of Arquebuse. Do you know Arquebuse? Comments: totally excellent, and the medicinal twist makes it even more interesting. Ex-peater cask or staves, by any chance? But yeah, it’s dangerous whisky, be wary of any ‘unexpected evaporation’ that may occur. SGP:562 - 92 points.

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



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January 9, 2017


Another grainy day

Indeed we’re seeing more and more old grains coming out there and there, as if it was more financially interesting to issue them as single grains rather than as constituents in old blends. But that won’t prevent us from starting with session with a blend. A blended grain, that is…

Golden Grain 1964/2016 (50.3%, The Cooper’s Choice for True - Whisky, blended grain, bourbon cask, cask #1301)

Golden Grain 1964/2016 (50.3%, The Cooper’s Choice for True - Whisky, blended grain, bourbon cask, cask #1301) Four stars How come does it have a cask number if it’s a blend, you may wonder? Well this baby was blended at birth, which means that the new makes were blended prior to filling the cask. Typical Ben Nevis/Lochside technique, so this might be, indeed, a blend of Ben Nevis and Lochside grain whiskies. Colour: gold. Nose: very soft and vanilla-ed, as expected, but with also a little fresh varnish and very nice whiffs of high-end green tea, so it’s not only some oak-flavoured ‘silent’ spirit. Other than that, we do also have the usual white chocolate, praline, and even Nutella. And indeed a lot of custard. Doesn’t feel ‘old’ as such. With water: it’s the delicate tea-ish side that comes out, while any excessive vanilla and coconut are falling into line. Mouth (neat): really neat, sweet, and fruity. A cassata ice cream, sweet croissants (croissants shouldn’t be sweet, but there), jelly babies, and once again a lot of custard. Plus a little coconut from the oak. With water: gets a little liqueury. Sweets. Finish: medium, fruity, light, with an oak that remains well-mannered. Comments: cask #1301 wasn’t the most active cask ever, was it? This baby could as well have been 15 or 20 years old. I cannot not think of Havana Club, but of course this is more complex. SGP:631 - 87 points.

Garnheath 42 yo 1974/2016 (44.5%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, cask #11209, 130 bottles)

Garnheath 42 yo 1974/2016 (44.5%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, cask #11209, 130 bottles) Four stars Only Douglas Laing seem to have these old casks of the ultra-rare Garnheath from Moffat. Remember 1974 has been the distillery’s penultimate year. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this time we’re really all on white chocolate, custard, coconut cream, café latte, with perhaps a few drops of kirsch in the café latte. Which they won’t do at Starbuck’s would they. Mouth: you really feel the ‘columns’, it’s some light and narrow spirit, and only the cask did do a little work here. Now it was a very good cask for sure, these notes of coconut liqueur and custard are rather lovely. Also some gingerbread and perhaps Jaffa cakes, as well as some maple syrup. Finish: medium, very easy, smooth, with just a touch of grass in the aftertaste. Comments: some old grain that’s totally breakfasty. And certainly very good, should I enjoy grain whisky, I’m sure I’d love this. SGP:630 - 85 points.

Let’s find a young one…

Port Dundas 12 yo 2004/2016 (58.8%, North Star Spirits, 318 bottles)

Port Dundas 12 yo 2004/2016 (58.8%, North Star Spirits, 318 bottles) Three stars and a half Port Dundas too got closed, around five years ago. So this is silent spirit from a silent distillery. Shhh… ;-) Colour: white wine. Nose: in a way, there’s more happening in a youngster such as this one, because it’s still got a lot of grassy varnish and even some kind of earthiness. So perhaps not Cuban rum this time, rather aguardiente or something. With water: sipping a pina colada while mowing your lawn. Mouth (neat): unusual, to say the least. Some kind of tequila matured in lemon wood, with a feeling of pine resin and a very oily coconuttiness. Really fun, and perhaps rather un-whisky. With water: sherbets and grasses on a bed of lemon peel and grated coconut. Finish: unexpectedly long, but also a little more spirity. Comments: as good as young grain whisky can get in my book. What would Becks think? SGP:540 - 84 points.

And an older one again…

Invergordon 43 yo 1972/2016 (48.9%, Phil & Simon Thompson, cask #37, 218 bottles)

Invergordon 43 yo 1972/2016 (48.9%, Phil & Simon Thompson, cask #37, 218 bottles) Four stars and a half Apparently, not one of those very sherried old Invergordons. Colour: gold. Nose: rather delicate, beehive-y, with honey, beeswax, and pollen. Rather goes on with cake-y notes, caramel pie, fudge for sure, and then more complex notes of quince jelly and, perhaps, mullein flower syrup. Yes, I swear to Odin that there is some mullein flower in there. Mouth: really creamy and sweet, but rather with some marzipan, chocolate, and various herbal teas this time. Chamomile, plus a very discreet varnishy side. In fact it reminds me of those Austrian Mozartkugeln, do you know them? A little cider too, which adds freshness and zestiness. Finish: medium, and rather spicier. Ginger and cinnamon cakes, as well as our beloved quince jelly again. More tea tannins in the aftertaste, that’s the oak speaking out. Comments: very few grain whiskies make it to 90 in my book, but this time, we were very close. Old and easy, sounds like a song by the Stranglers, doesn’t it. SGP:641 - 88 points.

(And thank you, Paul)

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



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January 8, 2017


More rums at random,
looking for malternatives

We’ve had quite some old Cognacs and Armagnacs in November and December, and we’ve got many more to taste, but let’s get back to rum for a little while, if you don’t mind…

Ron Aguere Oro (37.5%, OB, Canary Islands, +/-2016)

Ron Aguere Oro (37.5%, OB, Canary Islands, +/-2016) ‘A modern take on an aged rum’, how scary is that? The strength is scary too, I have to say. As is that other professional website for bartenders that is claiming that it’s ‘produced from matured sugar cane juices which makes this spirit harmonious and well-balanced’. Let’s check that… Colour: straw. Nose: some grain whiskies smell like industrial column-made rum, well this one smells of grain whisky. In fact it doesn’t smell much. A little caramel, a little toasted oak, a little vanilla. In fact we’re close to the lightest Cubans. Mouth: light, sweetened, cardboardy, sugary. There isn’t much happening, to tell you the truth, I guess ice is mandatory here. Piles of crushed ice… Finish: short, with some candy sugar and molasses. Comments: if it’s really made out of cane juice (probably cane honey in fact) that wouldn’t feel. A very humble and pretty tasteless ron. Now what’s sure is that when there are no flavours, there cannot be any flaws. SGP:610 - 50 points.

Epris 17 yo 1999/2016 (46.4%, Liquid Treasures, Brazil, barrel)

Epris 17 yo 1999/2016 (46.4%, Liquid Treasures, Brazil, barrel) Three stars and a halfRum from columns, from a large distillery that’s said to work a lot for Bacardi. Now I’ve already tried some very good Epris in the past. Colour: straw. Nose: well, obviously, after the shy Aguere, any other rum would feel like a tsunami. In this particular case I’m getting a lot of fresh dill, aniseed, fennel, and lime. That’s a rather unusual combination that works very well. Mouth: same feeling of having some kind of herbal liqueur, or rather oak-aged Chartreuse. Aniseed again, lime, verbena, plus a little pear liqueur, perhaps. It’s also getting more cane-y, which can’t be bad. Finish: quite long, a little sweeter. Comments: well, if it’s industrial rum indeed, it’s still quite flavourful. Stewed celery? A very peculiar profile, never seen anywhere else. I like. SGP:461 - 83 points.

Barbados 20 yo 1996/2016 (45%, Compagnie des Indes, cask #BVR5, 394 bottles)

Barbados 20 yo 1996/2016 (45%, Compagnie des Indes, cask #BVR5, 394 bottles) Four stars and a half The label claims that this is ‘multi distilleries’ rum, and yet it’s a single cask. Could it be one of Foursquare’s pot + column blends? Not too sure… Colour: straw. Nose: dusty concrete, damp garden peat, diesel oil, black olives, seawater, capers, absinth, coal tar… Indeed, what’s not to like. What’s more, it’s not as brutal as some of the Jamaicans. So far, an ace. Mouth: sure we would have enjoyed a few more watts or volts, and perhaps is it a wee tad sweetish(like), but other than that, it’s all on what I enjoy in rum, from a whisky lover’s point of view. More olives, tarry liquorice, earth, camphor, salted cough syrup… It’s really a rather Jamaican Barbadian! Finish: medium to long, a tad sweet, brine-y, tarry… Comments: right up my alley. I’m pretty sure it would have fetched 89-90 at 50% vol. SGP:553 - 88 points.

Neisson ‘Cane Bio Still Proof’ (66%, OB, Martinique, 2016)

Neisson ‘Cane Bio Still Proof’ (66%, OB, Martinique, 2016) Four stars Neisson’s rhums are all the rage these days in France, and they seem to be very successful with some new 100% terroir/variety-driven rhums, especially white ones. I shall applaud, and loudly, while admitting that either agricole or pot still rums have a huge edge over whisky, as they can be fantastic when unaged. Let’s try one of those… Colour: white. Nose: amazing. Fresh sugar cane, cut cactus, lilies, green olives, iris, elderberry (very obvious), rotting pineapples, earth… What a distillate! But of course, at 66%, you have to be careful. With water: as often, there’s a little soap appearing, and you’ll need a lot of time to get rid of it. And quite curiously, it tends to become narrower and more sugary. Mouth (neat): probably a little too strong for me. I do get pears and grapefruits, with some phenolic touches, but, ach… Oh while we’re at it, bio in French means organic, in case you didn’t know. With water: ah yes yes yes. Cane juice again, sweet liquorice, citrons, mead… It’s not as petroly/phenolic as I had thought, but it’s still quite brilliant. And there’s some gentian in there, I’d swear! Finish: long, and much grassier, with more notes of vegetables and roots. Always something that I enjoy, I hate sweetish finishes. Is it serious, doctor? Comments: immaculate work by Neisson. Now this baby is hard to control, a lot of experimenting to do with your pipette and your water. SGP:462 - 87 points.

Uitvlugt 23 yo 1992/2016 (50%, Silver Seal, Guyana, 231 bottles)

Uitvlugt 23 yo 1992/2016 (50%, Silver Seal, Guyana, 231 bottles) Five stars Did you know that Uitvlugt used to lie on the Atlantic coast, so almost at the mouth of the Demerara River? And Uitvlugt can be purely magical (and sometimes just above average as well). Colour: pale straw. Nose: yeah, Uitvlugt was probably the most ‘Jamaican’ of all Demerara rums. Astounding fresh tar, crushed olives, oysters, mezcal, plasticine, embrocations, engine oil… And on top of all that, a few floral notes, around roses. So well-carved, this nose! No water needed, let’s go on… Mouth: amazingly salty, briny, lemony, liquoricy, smoky… And Ardbeggian. I’m not joking. Long story short, this is superb. Amazing mouth feel, fresh and full at the same time. Like a great wine, in a way. Finish: long and very salty. You just had Scandinavian salted liquorice. Comments: great. Sadly, I had expected this would happen, whilst I love surprises. Silver Seal, booooo! Totally malternative, in any case. SGP:363 - 91 points.

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



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January 5, 2017


A gang of four blended malts

More bast… I mean, vatt… I mean, blended malts. There are more and more of them around, it doesn’t seem like the ‘blended malt’ appellation did any harm to the category. And between us, they’re often very good, and fairly priced, at that.

Blue Hanger ‘13th Release’ (45.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Taiwan exclusive, blended malt, +/-2016)

Blue Hanger ‘13th Release’ (45.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Taiwan exclusive, blended malt, +/-2016) Four stars Recent Blue Hangers have displayed various styles, while earlier versions had often been quite sherried and ‘Speysidy’. Let’s check this brand new 13th edition… Colour: deep gold. Nose: malt whisky à l’ancienne, as we say over here. I’m finding apple pies, earl grey tea, pear peelings, then an obvious floral side, including rose petals, as well as whiffs of seaweed and oysters. It’s a very subtle composition, probably just a few casks, which wouldn’t blur all details while adding much complexity. Mouth: some peat for sure, I’ve actually known some Taliskers that had been less peaty than this. Smoked seashells, tobacco, green spices, bitter oranges, touches of star anise, red apples (Gravenstein?), touches of pepper and ginger, cloves… It’s all fresh, well-defined, and pretty spicy. Finish: medium, with even more spices. Pepper and ginger. Earthier aftertaste. Comments: excellently composed, and rather old-school. SGP:554 - 87 points.

Since we were having spices…

Spice King ‘Batch Strength’ (56%, Wemyss Malts, batch #1, blended malt, 6000 bottles, 2016)

Spice King ‘Batch Strength’ (56%, Wemyss Malts, batch #1, blended malt, 6000 bottles, 2016) Three stars and a half I would have gone to 56.9 and label it ‘100 proof’ but that’s just me. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re a bit in the same territories, with a mild smoke, but this one feels younger and more porridge-y. Some leather, grass, old walnuts… With water: some damp earth and a farminess. A grassy peatiness. Mouth (neat): oily, sweet, and seemingly young. When you find this much pears and pineapples, the whisky’s young. Green spices, capsicum, cloves, green pepper… Very creamy mouth feel. With water: more pears! I’ve know some very young peated Bunnahabhain that had some flavours that are also to be found in this King of Spices. Finish: quite long, good, refreshing. Smoky spices. Comments: the smoky side never stopped growing. I like this one better than The Hive, but I haven’t tasted the Peat Chimney yet. SGP:553 - 83 points.

The Tweeddale ‘The Last Centennial’ (52.1%, Tweeddale, blended malt, 2016)

The Tweeddale ‘The Last Centennial’ (52.1%, Tweeddale, blended malt, 2016) Four stars This is ‘a blend of 4 single cask single malts predominantly from Islay, with plenty of Highland and a dash of Speyside’ so I’m expecting a similar style again. I had found the 10yo excellent six years ago (WF 85) but that one had an age statement – and, granted, a lower strength. Colour: gold. Nose: definitely a peaty whisky. Very nice freshness ala Islay East Coast, with something medicinal, balms, hessian, tarry ropes, seawater… Not sure the Speysider has much to say here. With water: an old hessian bag forgotten in a working kiln. Mouth (neat): smoky pear eau-de-vie! Feels young again, but that works nicely. Lemons, more seawater, some iodine, a little wax…  Didn’t they hire John Glaser? With water: more fresh fruits coming out, especially grapefruits. Gets then greener and spicier. Well, yeah, there are green spices. Finish: medium, well balanced, young, fruity, and smoky. Comments: simply great work. One to sip ad libitum SGP:555 - 86 points.

Timorous Beastie 21 yo (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2718 bottles, 2016)

Timorous Beastie 21 yo (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2718 bottles, 2016) Four stars and a half Well, the 40 yo has certainly been one of 2016’s F-F-Y-B whiskies! I find all these funny series by DL very smart. They do not take themselves too seriously, which is actually very serious. Quite a few bragging brands should draw inspiration from them, if you ask me. Colour: gold. Nose: raisins, roasted nuts, brioche, panettone, earl grey tea, maple syrup, drops of ginger liqueur, honey, a little tobacco, a little earth… All that is very smart indeed. Very very smart. Mouth: some kind of Glenlivet with much more oomph. Overripe apples, honeydew, cider, raisins, walnut wine, toasted bread and pastries, marmalade… And then cloves and cinnamon, with a little mulled wine. Finish: quite long, sweet and spicy. Spicy herbal tea – or isn’t that mulled wine again? Mulled white wine? Oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps not the sheer complexity of the 40, but it’s still superbly composed. SGP:651 - 89 points.

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



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January 4, 2017


Two excellent wined Aberlour

Probably quite wine-influenced, these two. Aberlour takes wine, whether fortified or not, quite well in my experience. Right, not quite merlot or cabernet-sauvignon, let’s not exaggerate.

Aberlour 11 yo (48.7%, OB, The Whisky Lodge Edition, first fill oloroso butt, cask #96352, 610 bottles)

Aberlour 11 yo (48.7%, OB, The Whisky Lodge Edition, first fill oloroso butt, cask #96352, 610 bottles) Four stars Aberlour is the #1 single malt in France, while The Whisky Lodge is one of the top whisky shops. What could go wrong? Colour: amber. Nose: ultra-classic sweet sherry, with prunes, raisins, chestnut honey, Christmas cake, a bit of cured ham, and pipe tobacco. Extremely neat and easy. Mouth: indeed, a prune-y and raisiny sherry, slightly liqueury, with good liquorice and a good slice of Christmas cake. Perfect body, and a huge easiness. A wee feeling of Mars bar sprinkled with Ovaltine. Finish: rather long, with even more prunes, roasted raisins, and again a little liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: one of this year’s easiest sweet sherry monsters. Very well done Whisky Lodge! SGP:641 - 86 points.

Aberlour 10 yo 2006/2016 (56.6%, Single Cask Collection, cask #103)

Aberlour 10 yo 2006/2016 (56.6%, Single Cask Collection, cask #103) Four stars and a half We’re in Austria this time. Colour: gold. Nose: a straighter, rather more mineral sherried Aberlour, less straight-sherried, and perhaps a little more complex. Some cut grass, a wee grappa-ish side that’s very pleasant here, some menthol, dried apricots… So a rather ‘funny’ one, most pleasant. With water: humus and mushrooms! Always liked that. Old musty wine cellar. Mouth (neat): excellent, malty and slightly Sauternesy, with raisins, apricots, honeydew, and a dollop of maple syrup. A pinhead of fir liqueur. With water: sharper and brighter. Oranges and Timut pepper. Finish: quite long, very clean, fruity, and delicately mentholated. Comments: some good tricks may have been played on this baby. With excellent results, should I add. SGP:651 - 88 points.

(Merci Fabien!)

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



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January 3, 2017


Ardbeg 1993-1966

It’s become quite fashionable to despise Ardbeg in some circles, but it’s true that people always feel the need to knock down icons. I won’t play that game, Ardbeg remains one of my favourite distilleries, even if it’s lost some of its gloss since they’ve ran out of whiskies distilled in the glorious 1970s. The Ten remains excellent in my opinion. Anyway, Cadenhead just had yet another Ardbeg this year, and as usual, it was sold out even before the barley was harvested. More or less. Let’s try it, for the record.

Ardbeg 23 yo 1993/2016 (47.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles)

Ardbeg 23 yo 1993/2016 (47.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles) Three stars A 22 yo 1993 has been fantastic earlier this year (WF 91). Colour: white wine. Nose: this kind of citric coastal smoke, with some metal polish, custard, and whiffs of wet fabric/hessian. It’s a little shy for Ardbeg, perhaps. Candle smoke. Mouth: good not great, I’d say. A little vague, musty, with notes of smoked salmon, Sprite from last night, apple juice, and burnt papers. So good but probably not very Ardbeg. Perhaps did someone forget to put the bung back in, a few years ago? Finish: only medium, and a wee bit flabby. A little frustrating. The aftertaste is a little better, with some kind of smoked limes and kiwis. Comments: feels a little stale, really. I think the finish was the best part, not only because it was the finish. Now it’s still good Ardbeg, but rather Blasda-style Ardbeg in my opinion. Remember Blasda? SGP:445 - 80 points.

Right, we may need some secret potion. Rummage rummage… Like this? What it’s not fair?

Ardbeg 1966/1992 (50.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #33.13) Ardbeg 1966/1992 (50.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #33.13) Five stars I’ll always remember a 1966 from Cadenhead’s, bottled 1999. What a star! (WF 94) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s much, much straighter than the 1993, much better focused, and wonderfully medicinal and, well, straight. Camphor, smoke, pink grapefruits. Little OBE this time, you could think this was bottled yesterday. Wee whiffs of old style perfume, old mink coat, these whiffs of fern that we like so much, and then plasticine, broken branches, and carbon paper. Typically Ardbeg. With water: ashes everywhere, plus some distant beach bonfire. Burning kelp. A few whelks, perhaps. Mouth (neat): a very simple arrival, but it’s the kind of simplicity that’s just thrilling. Plasticine-y balm, lemon, smoked fish, and basta. Elementary yet superb. With water: pure Ardbegness, actually hard to describe. A mixture involving plasticine and crushed kippers and charcoal with drops of lemon juice, perhaps? Finish: medium to long, saltier, juicier. Smoked pink grapefruit juice, kippers, almond oil. Zestier aftertaste. Comments: I’ve always thought the 1970s have been better than the 1960s at Ardbeg, and I persist. But this 1966 was totally excellent for sure, just not flabbergasting. IMHO, as we used to say before Facebook. SGP:555 - 91 points.

(Danke schoen Angus!)

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



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January 2, 2017


The cream of the Irish plus aperitif

For many years I had found most Irish whiskeys rather unimpressive, too light and weak, and sometimes too unlikely. But it’s true that all what we could get were the large brands, and most used to be bottled at 40% vol., or 43% vol. if you were lucky. It’s only when the first Cooleys appeared, and then when Midleton’s Redbreast was re-launched, that things started to change. And then you had these utterly stunning independent 1988-1991s... Let’s see if we find other gems today, and start all this with an unknown apéritif…

Blarney Stone 25 yo (40°, OB, for Switzerland, 1970s)

Blarney Stone 25 yo (40°, OB, for Switzerland, 1970s) one star and a half Probably an Irish blend, although the Blarney Stone lies 5 miles from Cork, while Cork is the home of Midleton, of course. Now given that this baby was possibly distilled in the early 1950s, it may have come from the old Midleton distillery (closed in 1975 if I’m not mistaken) but sadly, the label wouldn’t tell us anything. Colour: dark gold. Nose: some nice tinned and candied pineapples for a start, which reeks of Irishness indeed, with some white chocolate and touches of metal polish. Gets then very mossy and vegetal, with fern, crushed leaves, mown grass, and simply quite a lot of chlorophyll and freshly sawn pinewood. Some coconut balls, perhaps. The jury’s still out… Mouth: too bad, it got too pine-y, too sappy, and actually very resinous. It reminds me of Cadenhead’s very old Irish, which they were having around twenty years ago. Fir liqueur, Unicum, Fernet-Branca… All that without the sweetness that could have made it easier. Finish: medium, dry, always very pine-y. The coconut returns in the aftertaste. Comments: some very interesting parts, especially the nose, but the palate’s too difficult for me. Unbalanced. SGP:271 - 69 points.

Good, now that we’ve got a stepping stone, let’s tackle those glorious ones again…

Emerald Isle 24 yo 1991/2016 (57%, Specialty Drinks, cask #8583)

Emerald Isle 24 yo 1991/2016 (57%, Specialty Drinks, cask #8583) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: exceptional fruity nose, well in line with other bottlings of a similar make. Astounding mangos and passion fruits, plus juicy golden sultanas and a hint of peaty tropicalness, as could be found in old Bowmores or Laphroaigs that had been distilled in the 1960s. This style is just unassailable. With water: earth, humus, and moss! Always a wining combo that often fights the dullest vanillas with gusto and panache. Mouth (neat): immensely fruity, and yet magnificently balanced and elegant, with just the right amount of menthol and eucalyptus from the wood. Bags of passion fruits again, some spearmint liqueur, and one tiny drop of Jaegermeister. Implacable – unless it wouldn’t take water well on the palate, you never know when there’s oak... With water: no, it loves water. Multi-vitamin fruit juice, this does much good to our health. Finish: long, very fruity, and delicately mentholy. Still a little earth in the aftertaste, pine needles, moss… Comments: just as good as many very good 1991s from the same origin. Hope they have more. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Cooley 24 yo 1991/2016 (53.8%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles)

Cooley 24 yo 1991/2016 (53.8%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: a completely different style, this is a much peatier, more austere whiskey, with some yeasty beer and hints of olives, certainly some brine, and a handful of old pennies. With water: earth, yess, gentian, yesss, fresh diesel oil, yessss… Mouth (neat): much, much, and I mean much more like it, this is almost a blend of 60% Ardbeg with 40% mezcal. Salt, brine, kippers, olives, lime, peppermint, tar… With water: ah yes it swims. Gets more Ardbeggian, more citrusy, tarrier, waxier… And more fruits are coming out, lemons, tangerines, grapefruits, white currants, bitter oranges. I also love this bitter background, rather on propolis and other blackish things that the good people in the north used to chew. No, I’m not talking about sürströming (sp?) Finish: long, briny, perfect. The mezcal is striking back. Comments: Cadenhead, when are you going to bottle mezcal? Excuse me? You say you just did? SGP:456 - 91 points.

Irish Single Malt 27 yo 1989/2016 (45%, The Whisky Agency and Eiling Lim, barrel, 177 bottles)

Irish Single Malt 27 yo 1989/2016 (45%, The Whisky Agency and Eiling Lim, barrel, 177 bottles) Five stars Back to the fruit bombs, I suppose… Colour: straw. Nose: can you name at least thirty tropical fruits? Well done, they’re all in there. Especially pink bananas and tangerines! A touch of spearmint too. Mouth: well, we’re still in the same very fruity territories. Passion fruits for sure, grapefruits, mangos, a little chlorophyll, Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gums… Plus a little green tea, and perhaps a tiny bit of Jaffa cake for good measure. I don’t think I’ve met another whisky that’s as splendidly fruity as these Irishs in recent times, given that those old Benriachs and Lochsides and early new Clynelishes are all gone, gone, gone. Right, perhaps not all Littlemills (more about those soon on WF). Finish: medium, fresh, fruity, easy. Easiness is an asset in this context. Grassier aftertaste. Comments: this one’s up there too. The others had just a little more knack. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Fine Single Malt Whiskey 26 yo 1989/2016 (47.2%, Whisky-Fässle, barrel)

Fine Single Malt Whiskey 26 yo 1989/2016 (47.2%, Whisky-Fässle, barrel) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re closer to the Cadenhead, with more grassy smoke, cut grass, peelings, eucalyptus, paraffin, various green teas… It’s actually rather a shy one, but should you give it some of your precious time, it’ll start to deliver. Some mentholy passion fruits wakening up after around three minutes. Mouth: ah this is superb! Grassy fruits and fruity herbs, pineapples, red apples, pomegranates, blood oranges, mangos, elderberry flowers (jelly)… There’s also something  (citrusy) that reminds me of the best sweet Jurançons. Always a hit at WF Towers. Finish: rather longer than feared, with notes of Canadian ice wine. No, really! Comments: the nose was not the most extravagant ever, but I adored the rather unusual palate. SGP:651 - 90 points.

A last one and we’re done with all this Irish tropicalness…

Emerald Isle 26 yo 1989/2016 (59.2%, Specialty Drinks, cask #16244)

Emerald Isle 26 yo 1989/2016 (59.2%, Specialty Drinks, cask #16244) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: I’m rather getting more vanilla, and hints of varnish. I suppose the higher strength prevents the fruits from speaking freely. So, with water: fruit bonbons and green-blue teas, then preserved peaches. Mouth (neat): it’s really strong! Very crisp, spirity, biting… But one can feel that what’s happening behind those thick curtains is cool and good, let’s see… With water: it’s actually the sweeter of them all, but it’s also got something that the others did not have; honey! Excellent. Finish: rather than Canadian ice wine, this would rather be Canadian ice cider. No, really. Comments: it’s really great to be able to monitor all these tiny differences between them all. Always compare! (if you can). SGP:641 – 90 points.

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



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January 1, 2017


Happy New Year with...

More old Cognac. Really old Cognac.

As promised on Christmas day, we’ll do even older Cognacs today. Remember we had ended our Xmas session with a few old 50 years old, some truly wonderful (Hedges & Butler, Rouyer-Guillet’s Réserve de l’Ange). This time we’ll kick off the session with a little Cordon Bleu by the famous house Martell…

Typical early to mid 1970s ad for Martell. Or when double meaning was king ->


Martell ‘Cordon Bleu’ (40%, OB, 2,400 bottles for Italy, rotation 1976)

Martell ‘Cordon Bleu’ (40%, OB, 2,400 bottles for Italy, rotation 1976) Four stars The Cordon Bleu has been created in 1912, with a large proportion of Borderies Cognac. It’s always been a rather expensive bottling, to this very day (approx 120€ for contemporary bottlings). It’s actually an X.O., so I’d wager this one was distilled around the 1940s and 1950s. And by the way, it’s one of the rare cuvees that used to be available with spring caps a little earlier, I’ve got some of those myself. Anyway… Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a rather potent Cognac on the nose, with these notes of old Calvados that can sometimes be found in some ‘natural’ Cognacs. Notes of ripe gooseberries as well, quinces, oranges, and then rather tinned peaches with a little maple syrup and honey. No heady coffee or toasted oak this time, and no obvious caramel either. In fact, it’s a superb nose, rather of old Macallan quality and style.

Mouth: once again, I cannot not think of some earthy Calvados. There’s also plenty of rancio this time, some coffee, and a pretty perfect earthiness, which would include a mossy side. Some thick black honey. Good body at just 40% vol., no tiredness detected. Finish: surprisingly long, appropriately gritty (is that the Borderies?) and a tad more rustic than others, so perhaps a little more towards Armagnac. Coffee and pear eau-de-vie (inside!) Comments: this starts very well. I had thought we would be more around 80-82. SGP:451 - 87 points.

And now, the age-stated ones…

Latour 70 ans ‘Vieille Réserve’ (no ABV, Cognac, +/-1950s)

Latour 70 ans ‘Vieille Réserve’ (no ABV, Cognac, +/-1950s) Five stars As you can see, there’s not much to be read anymore from the label, while I’ve drawn a blank on the internet. But this may be pre-phylloxeric Cognac indeed! Colour: mahogany/bronze. Nose: this is different, we’re going more towards very old brandy de Jerez, or even very old oloroso. Indeed I’m rather finding black earth, old walnuts, pipe tobacco, crème de menthe, and then more and more roasted nuts, between pecans and almonds. Perhaps even preserved morello cherries. What’s sure is that this lovely nose is very intriguing! Mouth: what a brute! Quite… It’s rough and rustic, in a more than beautiful way, with more morello cherries, prunes, liquorice liqueurs, pipe tobacco, a little car, some triple-sec, and always those walnuts that give it a fino-ish character. Definitely quite Jerezian, this old Cognac! Finish: long, absolutely wonderful, and akin to the finish of one of Samaroli’s very sherried old Seysiders (Glen Grant, Glenlivet) if that rings a bell… Splendid old Cognac. Comments: we’re already flying very high, aren’t we. In Cognac too, it seems that age does matter… Mind you, seventy years of age! SGP:362 - 93 points.

Further down the ages (perhaps)…

Martell 1905-1980 ‘Jubilee’ (45%, OB, Italy, 500 bottles)

Martell 1905-1980 ‘Jubilee’ (45%, OB, Italy, 500 bottles) Five starsThis rare Martell was bottled to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the house’s relationships with their Italian importer, Salengo-Spirit. I’m not sure it’s all Cognac from 1905, as the back label rather mentions a blend of ‘very old and rare spirits from the paradise’. So perhaps is it even older, you never know. It was bottled in the year 1980. Colour: amber. Nose: it seems that it’s rather older than the Cordon Bleu indeed, and probably more a classic Cognac, with a little more fudge and toffee. Having said that the fruits abound, especially peaches and oranges, while a superb rancioty meatiness starts to show up after one or two minutes. Ham cooked in a mint and orange sauce? Indeed, that sounds pretty English ;-). Exceptional nose.

Mouth: what a great idea it was to bottle this at 45% vol.! It starts relatively grapy, a bit like some good old aged marc, but some liquorice quickly appears, some pear cake, touches of clove and cumin, and then massive amounts of candied quince paste. Which I totally a-d-o-r-e. Perfect body. Finish: long and sharper, more citrusy, and in a way more youthful. Not totally sure it was 75 years old Cognac when it was bottled, but quality’s extremely high nonetheless. Comments: as always, the Italians have been very careful with what they put into their mouth. Haha. I still loved the 70 yo Latour better, having said that. There! SGP:451 - 91 points.

Mathez 75 ans (38/40%, OB, Grande Fine Champagne, +/-1950)

Mathez 75 ans (38/40%, OB, Grande Fine Champagne, +/-1950) Four stars and a half I could not find any serious traces of a Cognac house called Mathez, whether in Jarnac, which is the city that’s mentioned on the label, or elsewhere. All I’ve found is that, apparently, there used to be a relation between them and the house Louis Royer, which is located in Jarnac indeed. So Mathez is probably an extinct brand. And yes, it’s funny that they weren’t too sure about the alcohol content ;-). Colour: dark coffee. Nose: back to the style of the Latour 70 yo, with a lot of coffee, toffee, even tar, and liqueury ganaches. Same feeling of old olorosoed whisky, and indeed, that may have confused the gentry of London eighty or ninety years ago. Also love these notes of crushed mint leaves and chiselled parsley in the back, the faint mustiness, and these touches of hay and even mild manure.

Mouth: it’s amazing how it roars and kicks you! Grapefruits and oranges in such an old glory, really? Now it hasn’t quite got the complexity that was to be found in the Latour, and it even tends to become a little drying and oaky. Just a little. A little too coffee-ish too. Really nitpicking now! Finish: medium, dry, on cocoa powder and more coffee. So pretty dry and drying indeed, but that’s more than all right. Mind you, 75 years in wood and probably almost 75 years in glass! Gets meatier again in the aftertaste. Dried meats. And raisins! Comments: it is not impossible that this was folle blanche, distilled around the year 1875 from pre-phylloxeric grapes. SGP:451 - 89 points.

And now, the grande finale. Because we already tried some 75 years old malt whisky (thanks to G&M), but never any 100 years old. Will that ever happen? With Cognacs, yes…

Château Paulet 100 ans (no ABV, OB, Grande Fine Champagne, +/-1950?)

Château Paulet 100 ans (no ABV, OB, Grande Fine Champagne, +/-1950?) Five stars This baby’s at least 100 years old indeed, as the label certifies that it’s always been kept in casks and only bottled at time of shipping. And it’s clearly pre-phylloxeric. This time we’re also tasting a brand that’s still quite active and that seems to belong to the house Frapin. Oh and Paulet too have been using crystal decanters made by Alsace’s cristallerie Lalique. Rings a bell? Colour: deep amber. Nose: this old wonder is much more elegant and floral than all the other ones, so more feminine if you like (you sexist!) as well as more oriental, I’d say. Whiffs of incense, reseda, orange blossom, honeydew, fig cake… There’s also a very delicate oakiness, rather around old cedar wood actually, French varnish (obviously)… But the raisins are well there. And so are Cognac’s beloved peaches and apricots! A totally glorious, very complex nose, much more a movie than a picture. A very long movie by Akira Kurosawa…

Mouth: a crazy freshness! But let’s remember one thing, in Cognac they usually fill active wood first (or even new wood, as they cannot, by law, use recycled barrels from any other part of France or of the world), and would soon transfer the distillate to older wood that’s much less active, where it will age at a much slower pace and gain all its complexity. That’s why you may encounter such extremely old Cognacs that remained fresh and lively, and almost never too oaky. In any case, this is just a symphony of ripe peaches, shy(ish) raisins, small oranges, cedar wood, and tiny herbs and spices. Dill, for example. Sure there’s also quite some coffee and bitter chocolate, but both are under control. The ABV feels like 38 or 39%, I’d say, which is more than enough when the spirit’s got much to say, which is the case here. Where’s the anti-malternativeporn brigade? Finish: this is where it loses one or three points, it got slightly flabby and dryish/tea-ish. Just one tiny wee bit. Imagine, 100 years in wood!

Comments: it’s always difficult, when tasting very old spirits, not to take their ‘stories’ into account. Like, the fact that this was probably distilled even before 1850. Your mind will always start to wander off, especially if you like History, arts, politics, or music. Liszt, Wagner, Schumann, Ingres, Corot, Delacroix… SGP:561 - 91 points.


Perhaps one last thing, with these very old spirits, I think it’s probably better not to leave them for too long in your glasses, because some tend to oxidise quite quickly and to become a little bitter/tea-ish and a tad too resinous. I know some experts would rather tell you that you should give them plenty of time (like that one-minute-per-year tale), but believe me, if you keep some 100 years old Cognac at around 40% vol. or less for one hour and a half in your glass before tackling it, it’ll probably have died way before your very first sip.
(And Diego, you rock)

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




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December 2016 - part 2 <--- January 2017 - part 1 ---> January 2017 - part 2



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ardbeg 1966/1992 (50.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #33.13)

Glenfarclas 1979/2016 (46.9%, OB, for Eiling Lim, cask #8818, 188 bottles)

Emerald Isle 26 yo 1989/2016 (59.2%, Specialty Drinks, cask #16244)

Emerald Isle 24 yo 1991/2016 (57%, Specialty Drinks, cask #8583)

Cooley 24 yo 1991/2016 (53.8%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles)

Fine Single Malt Whiskey 26 yo 1989/2016 (47.2%, Whisky-Fässle, barrel)

Irish Single Malt 27 yo 1989/2016 (45%, The Whisky Agency and Eiling Lim, barrel, 177 bottles)

Château Paulet 100 ans (no ABV, OB, Grande Fine Champagne, +/-1950?)

Latour 70 ans ‘Vieille Réserve’ (no ABV, Cognac, +/-1950s)

Martell 1905-1980 ‘Jubilee’ (45%, OB, Italy, 500 bottles)

Uitvlugt 23 yo 1992/2016 (50%, Silver Seal, Guyana, 231 bottles)