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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2020 - Part 1


December 2019 - part 2 <--- January 2020 - part 1 ---> January 2020 - part 2


January 14, 2020


Time Warp

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Fettercairning again

There’s something with Fettercairn. We’re attracted to Fettercairn these days. Someone threw a spell, apparently… Do 2008 – 1988 – 1962, doesn’t that sound about right?

Fettercairn 10 yo 2008/2019 (57.4%, eSpirits for Liquid Treasures, 10th Anniversary, rum barrel, 136 bottles)

Fettercairn 10 yo 2008/2019 (57.4%, eSpirits for Liquid Treasures, 10th Anniversary, rum barrel, 136 bottles) Four stars
The lady on the label goes well with the rum cask here, does she not. Colour: white wine. Nose: the rum’s very obvious and I cannot not think of Havana Club. Pineapples, pink grapefruits, bananas, then some mentholy liquorice perhaps, then more proper maltiness, without any of Fettercairn’s usual wackier aromas. No burnt vegetables and no dead animals in this one – no tourists either. With water: amazing that water would favour the malt part, and almost offset the rum’s influence. Barley and paraffin in the front. Mouth (neat): it really is some LOL-rumsky, I’d love to meet the gentlemen who flushed the casks. So, you say he’s Mr…. …. ? Seriously, this is fun, just very unorthodox. Bananas and barley with a little brine and, indeed, cane juice. With water: once again, water almost killed the rum. The malt is nice, having said that, cleaner than other Fettercairns, more citrusy, waxier, just a tad narrow, perhaps. Finish: medium, good, on some kind of lemon bread. Comments: there’s much fun to be had with this little unpretentious baby. Resistance is futile, salud!
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Fettercairn 30 yo 1988/2019 (56.9%, Signatory Vintage for C. Dully Selection, hogshead, cask #2007, 2019 bottles)

Fettercairn 30 yo 1988/2019 (56.9%, Signatory Vintage for C. Dully Selection, hogshead, cask #2007, 2019 bottles) Four stars and a half
Little Angus tried this one earlier in these pages, and rather loved it. That couldn’t have gone unpunished! Colour: gold. Nose: this is so very Fettercairn, that is to say a little unlikely and wobbly, with tiny touches of Swiss cheese (no wonder, the friendly bottler is Swiss) and leatherette upfront, then huge, and I mean huge notes of artisanal mead. Or, say this one smells like a hive that you would open in the end of August, with all this warm wax, all the honey, the pinewood, the sourer smells… Now please watch the bees. With water: lemon juice with honey and some liquid wax. Mouth (neat): so strange and so good! Or when flaws become assets, in this case these massive amounts of mead once again, old woods, old waxes, and last night’s glass of sweet wine that you had forgotten about when you went to bed. This very specific kind of ‘mead-y’ sourness just works with me, but it’s true that I’ve done some beekeeping in my youth. It’s not meady in the urban sense of that word, although… With water: cider and mead, with some extra-dollops of honey. Finish: long and a little more bitter. Grapefruits and bitter oranges, with, indeed, mead. Comments: surely mead, yet perhaps not quite the nectar of the gods, but this still beats all officials fair and square.. Rather a fan.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Didn’t we say this would be a trio? How about this?...

Fettercairn 37 yo 1962/2000 (50.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #94.3, ‘The oldest yet’)

Fettercairn 37 yo 1962/2000 (50.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #94.3, ‘The oldest yet’) Four stars and a half
The oldest yet, good one! This was only the third Fettercairn they had ever bottled at that time. But seriously, we cannot wait, Cadenhead had some 1962s that had been pretty good. And intriguing, naturally. Colour: gold. Nose: the bridge is the mead, shall we say. In truth, this is absolutely wonderful, without any rotten waxes, and rather on a blend of the most precious honeys including genuine manuka, as well as some kind of rich old chardonnay from a hot vintage. Some would dare mention Montrachet 1976, but I’m not sure they aren’t all dead because of the absence of any proper acidic backbone. Remember, acids are life. With water: perhaps more towards Fettercairn’s usual idiosyncrasies. Sour juices, leathery waxes, soaps, plasticine… Mouth (neat): what time can do! You feel that this baby was uncertain and a little dirty when young, but long aging has turned the caterpillar into a butterfly, even if we’re not quite up there with the very best. Excellent oranges, mead again, honeys, a little ginger, some pepper tickling your nose from the inside, and just a little softer curry sauce poured over, say spareribs. It is, indeed, a little meaty; after all this is Fettercairn. With water: not sure it’s a good swimmer. Pass. Finish: rather long, but to be handled with much care, don’t try the finish when you had added water. No water, capice? Comments: ONE, add no water. TWO, enjoy.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

(Danke schoen, Angus)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Fettercairn we've tasted so far


January 13, 2020


Five Mars at the bar

I’ve almost titled this ‘Mission to Mars’; yes, no sense of the ridiculous, at all. Anyway, the other day, I was watching Colin Hampden-White’s funny and pleasantly laidback show The Three Drinkers on Amazon (I promise that’s the only thing I’ll ever watch on Amazon) and noticed that they were experimenting with deep-fried Mars bars, a.k.a. the young Scot’s haggis. And so I had a brainwave: doing a Mars session here on Whiskyfun! But do not worry, I’m not totally insane yet, that will be Mars Distillery in Japan. This time we’ll do that in ascending order as far as strengths are concerned.

Mars Maltage Cosmo ‘Manzanilla Sherry Cask Finish’ (42%, OB, Japan, blended malt, 2019)

Mars Maltage Cosmo ‘Manzanilla Sherry Cask Finish’ (42%, OB, Japan, blended malt, 2019) Three stars and a half
According to some  proper experts, this is the standard Cosmo, so most probably a blend of Mars malt and Scotch malts, that’s been finished in manzanilla (so fino from Sanlucar). So it is not Japanese whisky by our standards – although it is by the Japanese’s. Jerez – Scotland – Japan – Europe, I wouldn’t want to see the carbon footprint here. Colour: gold. Nose: feels like some young Speysider that’s been kind of upgraded using a touch of mustard, seawater, walnuts and curry. And mind you, that rather works, but the palate will tell us more. Mouth: the fino’s pretty big and the fact is, I love fino and its manzanilla variant. Big saltiness, green walnuts, mustard indeed, unleavened bread, curry indeed… Everything’s very dry here, very fino. Please pass the Iberico ham and the big fat olives. Finish: rather long, bone-dry, rather intense, with a clean salty aftertaste. Comments: I don’t think I’ve had whiskies that have been this fino-y before. Remember, manzanilla is a fino, produced anywhere in the sherry triangle, just matured in Sanlucar by the ocean (and by the Guadalquivir). My kind, I have to say, whatever the un-Japanness here.
SGP:272 - 84 points.

Mars ‘Burn The Barrel’ (43%, OB, Japan, Edition II, Y’s cask, blended malt, 2019)

Mars ‘Burn The Barrel’ (43%, OB, Japan, Edition II, Y’s cask, blended malt, 2019) Two stars and a half
There was an earlier edition at 61% vol., but I never tried it. This is a Japan-only edition and most certainly a blend of Mars and Scottish malts again. I suppose ‘burn the barrel’ refers to some heavy charring, let’s try this baby…  Colour: gold. Nose: looks like this is even drier than the Manzanilla, with rather notes of charcoal this time, straight wood smoke, burnt herbs on a bbq (rosemary seems to be obvious), perhaps a little mustard again… Wait, did they char that manzanilla cask after disgorging? Mouth: a little pungent and gritty, after a slightly gentler arrival, drying, getting almost bitter. Very ashy and pretty smoky, but not exactly peaty. What did they burn? Finish: rather long, very dry, very ashy. That feeling of having swallowed the ashes of your double-corona. Cinnamon mints. Comments: it’s very fine whisky, and I really like it indeed, but it goes from a gentle sweetness to a bitterish dryness in just a flash.
SGP: 263 - 79 points.

Mars Komagate ‘Limited Edition 2019’ (48%, OB, Japan)

Mars Komagatake ‘Limited Edition 2019’ (48%, OB, Japan) Three stars and a half
This is well the single malt from Mars Shinshu, hurray! Seriously, it’s a little mad that the Japanese would be allowed to bottle both single malts and blends under more or less the same names. On the one hand, you cannot not think of the Cardhu single/blended case from around 15 years ago, and on the other hand, I just noticed that there’s now a Chivas Regal single malt (from Strathisla’s). What is the world coming to? Colour: light gold. Nose: class. Some excellent young malt, rather fresh and citrusy/green (lemons, apples) matured in some rather perfect fresh American oak (perhaps not virgin) that’s not imparted those dreadful notes of coconut that we just loathe elsewhere. Notes of meringue and hazelnut cream. Impeccable. Mouth: the oak feels a wee bit this time (cinnamon and oak shavings upfront) but the rest just works. Vanilla, citrons, melons, meringue again… Finish: long, a little plankish. Comments: feels a bit like some start-up malts that we could try elsewhere, with a fresh oak that’s a bit too loud for me, but other than that, well, I like it quite a lot.
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Mars Komagate ‘Yakushima Ageing 2019’ (58%, OB, Japan)

Mars Komagatake ‘Yakushima Ageing 2019’ (58%, OB, Japan) Four stars and a half
This was distilled at Mars Shinshu, then matured on the Yakushima island. Remember Mars, so Hombo Shuzo, mature their whiskies in three locations, Shinshu (where they also distil), Tsunuki and Yakushima. I agree it’s all a little complicated, and frankly byzantine at times. Colour: full gold. Nose: fully on some lemon tarte, vanilla cake, warm praline, moss and autumn leaves at first, before quite some camphor would start to show up, as well as some eucalyptus and thuja wood. Love it, it’s Japanese whisky that does nose Japanese indeed, I’m even wondering if some mizunara oak has not been in use at some point. With water: miso soup! Perfect! No, really! Mouth (neat): first class ‘resinous’ malt whisky, very oily, almost viscous, with some pine resin and liquorice, limoncello, and notes of orgeat (almond syrup). All that is perfectly synchronised. With water: limoncello up and so are dried herbs, including various types of mint. Finish: long, a tad saltier, no drying, with the expected citrusy aftertaste. Comments: NAS, sadly, I’d have loved to know how young this wonderful young whisky is. Just know. As for ageing terroir in wisky, well, I won’t open than can of worms again.
SGP:561 - 88 points.

Perhaps a little indie before we call this a session?

Mars Shinshu 2013/2016 (61%, Blackadder, Japan, refill bourbon barrel, cask #1647, 239 bottles)

Mars Shinshu 2013/2016 (61%, Blackadder, Japan, refill bourbon barrel, cask #1647, 239 bottles) Three stars
Yeah, 3 years old refill! Please note that this is an official bottle with a Blackadder label. But how do Blackadder cunningly manage to source these odd (in the best sense of that word) whiskies? Colour: white wine. Nose: really, it’s cool to be able to ‘get’ the distillate with no oak in the way, and yet with all roughness gone. Mind you, this is not new make at all. First, there’s a rather crisp, lemony peatiness, then notes of gooseberries and rhubarb, then some wool and the kind of clean coastal farminess that could be met in, say… ach, Brora. But this is not Brora, let’s not dream too much. With water: raw peat smoke, so like in a working kiln. Where’s the nearest laundry? Mouth (neat): sweet, crisp, very fruity and very peaty. Let’s be honest, it is a little new-make-y, but lemons would come to the rescue. I think water is required, though. With water: very nice, but its lacking that je-ne-sais-quoi (how’s my English?) that make the Islays and a few others so wonderfully coastal. More a peated Speysider, in other words. Finish: long and ashy. That common feeling of having quaffed half a litre of lapsang souchong. Yeah, or licked an Ibizan ashtray around 9am. Comments: pretty good yet a little simple. Reminds me of Birnie Moss.
SGP:457 - 82 points.

(Thansk a lot, Chris at Sushi+Soul in Munich!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese whiskies we've tasted so far


January 11, 2020




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Bowmore Legends: Battle Royale
One of the great things about whisky culture is that great ideas very quickly grow arms and legs. A few extremely rare and legendary bottlings of Bowmore were proposed for tonight’s tasting. But of course the temptation with these kinds of whiskies is to add, to compare, to discuss and to define. So, it’s no surprise that from the small group of folk attending, other bottlings have been procured and opened; sample cupboards raided and other pretty thrilling bottles added to the lineup.


There aren’t too many points of consensus amongst whisky folk around the world today. As the whisky world expands and gets more argumentative and complicated, the islands of agreement shrink and grow ever more distant from each other’s shores. However, I would hazard that Bowmore from the 1950s and 1960s is still recognised as one of the greatest spirits ever produced by mankind. It is this recognition of sublime liquid quality and character that has driven its prices into the stratosphere. It’s also what makes these kinds of tastings increasingly difficult to assemble. Having said that, it is important to point out and bear in mind that these whiskies were already receiving universal praise and high scores when whisky enthusiasm was a smaller, cheaper and more confined culture in the fledgling days of the internet. Indeed, several of the whiskies we’ll have tonight already appeared with lofty praise on Whiskyfun many years ago when the landscape of whisky looked far less cynical than it does today. Sometimes beauty is just beauty - no matter what price you hang around its neck.



Having said all that, please accept my apologies for any garish maltoporn that follows.



Bowmore 1957/1990 (40%, Moon Import, 120 bottles)

Bowmore 1957/1990 (40%, Moon Import, 120 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: what’s most interesting is that aside from the very obvious (if rather light in this instance) exotic fruits, there is an allusion to this more perfumed and lavender side which is more associated with 80s Bowmore. We talk about whether this is a character which has always been present to varying degrees in Bowmore - I’m inclined to think it probably is. This is not excessive or soapy, rather I get the impression of citrus bath salts, heather flowers and a more lean minerality than you might expect from 50s Bowmore which is more reminiscent of the early 70s style. There’s also some pink sea salt and sandalwood. Extremely fragrant and more coastal than I would have expected. In time it moves more towards direct aromas of mango, guava and pineapple. Mouth: indeed there is a kiss of lavender but there’s also extremely fragrant and beautiful coastal and seashore complexities. Seagreens, gorse, myrtle, dried seaweed, fresh citrus peels, tart grapefruit juice and slightly stinging salinity. Also things like linens, orange water, chalky minerals and a little sooty note. Finish: good length. Not the longest but lingering, fragrant and showing a rather chiselled saltiness, crushed seashells, fish sauce and some smoked herbs in the aftertaste. Comments: Undeniably beautiful whisky. However, I wouldn’t say it is ‘up there’ with the greatest old Bowmore. There are wee fragilities and inclusions of more unusual flavours that would prevent it from going higher. However, this is 1950s Bowmore, and we are already at pretty loft heights.
SGP: 653 - 92 points.



Bowmore 1955/1974 ‘For 12th September 1974’ (unknown ABV, OB, ceramic half flagon)

Bowmore 1955/1974 ‘For 12th September 1974’ (unknown ABV, OB, ceramic half flagon)
A bottle that has garnered a mighty reputation in recent years. I’ve been fortunate enough to try it from two separate bottles on previous occasions. Once at the Lindores Whisky Festival back in 2011 (I think, or possibly 2012) and then again on Islay in February 2015. My feeling on tasting it the second occasion was that there was some discrepancy in quality between the two bottles, not impossible with it being such a small ceramic bottle. So I’m extremely curious and happy to taste it again from a third bottle. Colour: pale gold (almost identical to the 57 interestingly enough). Nose: more honeyed than I recall. Overall more syrupy and ‘fat’ than the 57. The fruits come through as lime, grapefruit, mango and guava. Also getting rather more coastal with some green olive and seaweed. I have to say it’s majestic, although perhaps not as intense and overwhelmingly brilliant as I remember… given quite a bit of time to breathe it starts to develop and almost leathery and animalistic side while also a more direct tropical fruit quality. It is an undeniably compelling nose, I think it just really needs time to open and evolve. Mouth: Superb and impressive delivery. I wish someone would test one of these jugs with an e-hydrometer to discover the strength. It certainly feels higher than 40 or 43%. Superbly sharp citrus and exotic fruits mixed with pure brine, rock pool water and anchovy paste. A taut, mineral-strewn and powerfully direct presence in the mouth. Impeccably structured and complex. In time it develops more pure peatiness and a very thick and ‘present’ herbal quality. Really starts to become almost like an ancient herbal or honey based liqueur. 1950s Drambuie mixed with 1920s yellow Chartreuse! The complexity is sublime, one of those whiskies you could really just keep picking out tiny and beautiful wee flavours all night long. So I won’t! Finish: long, syrupy in texture, fragrantly peaty, yellow flowers, very subtle iodine notes and still coastal and even slightly waxy too. Comments: This was a surprise. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a totally stellar whisky, one which is ultimately defined by it’s stunning complexity and beautiful, captivating evolution in the glass. However, we certainly are not around the 96/97 mark previous two bottles were. It’s also not as exuberantly, blatantly tropical as I recall. I’m sure that if you opened another three of these bottles beside this one you would get three different scores again. Ceramic + small + over 40 years = a different story with each bottle.
SGP: 764 - 94 points.



Bowmore ‘Bicentenary’ (43%, OB, UK, 1979)

Bowmore ‘Bicentenary’ (43%, OB, UK, 1979)
Colour: amber. Nose: thrillingly earthy, salty sherry. This wonderful duality of sweet raisins and fresher exotic fruits. Dried pineapple, mango chunks, passion fruit syrup, then breads, cough medicine and a rather old school, herbal peatiness. Camphor, hardwood resins and more herbal qualities like throat sweets, waxes and old liqueurs. Brilliant and compelling as expected. Mouth: a tad soft on arrival but otherwise gloriously tropical, salty and fatty. Bacon fat, tar, ointments, dried herbs, cured meats and jellied tropical fruits. Getting wonderfully broad and complex; the peat is generous, herbal, thick and warming. Let’s not beat about the bush here. Finish: long with a deep and drying peatiness. Surprisingly peaty really. More tar, dried herbs, cured meats and salinity in the aftertaste. Comments: Probably not the best old Bicentenary but this is still mesmerising and heartwarming old whisky, just a tad fragile I think. I wonder if this will be an increasing phenomena as these old bottles get even older: bottle variation? The fruits, salt and meaty, earthy robustness are still profoundly pleasurable here though. However, a bottle in better condition can easily hit 95+
SGP: 655 - 93 points.



Bowmore 1964/1979 ‘Bicentenary’ (43%, OB)

Bowmore 1964/1979 ‘Bicentenary’ (43%, OB)
Colour: slightly darker amber. More sherried, leathery, animalistic and full of bitter chocolate with sea salt, cured game meats, black olives and a very earthy, oxidative old school sherry quality. Pure rancio with old hessian and walnut oil. In time the chocolate note becomes more dominant and ‘pure’. Mouth: pure old school sherry. Walnut wine, bitter chocolate, expensive soy sauce, balsamic and liquid seasonings such as Magi. Very umami, nicely bitter and treading a beautiful balancing act between herbs, medicines, peat and a rather nervy, crystalline sherry. Finish: long, earthy, sooty and riddled with tobaccos, more dark berry fruits, bitter chocolate, smoked sea salt and earthy Chinese teas. Comments: I think this one trumps the NAS on this occasion. It’s more sherried, more direct and more precise. While still demonstrating a terrific depth of flavour, complexity and profound ‘fatness’ and texture in the mouth. Overall more concise, fresh and a tad more powerful than the NAS.
SGP: 665 - 95 points.



Bowmore 1969/1979 ‘Bicentenary’ (56.2%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa for Federico Minetti, cask #315, sherry, 300 bottles)

Bowmore 1969/1979 ‘Bicentenary’ (56.2%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa for Federico Minetti, cask #315, sherry, 300 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: immediately grassy, punchy and very mineral. Impressions of squid ink, anchovies, tar, embrocations and horseradish. Like many of the OB single casks of this era this is raw, powerful, petrolic and rather dominating. Brutal yet rather brilliant at the same time. Given time it yields a little more softness and a more easy and fresh coastal salinity. It also becomes a tad more citric, fruity and complex. With water: much more bready, autolytic and olive oily. Camphor, more sweat and some very soft notes of dried tarragon. Mouth: Wow! Stunning delivery. The nose really wrong foots you on the levels of fruit in this one. The palate is stunningly syrupy, fresh, salty and superbly fruity. Vividly coastal, lemony and medical. Full of ointments, embrocations, crushed seashells and brine mixed with olive oil. Passion fruits, coal dust, dried mint, old cigarettes… you could spent all day listing beautiful wee complexities. With water: Quite simply outstanding! The nose in no way prepares you for how thrilling and dominating the palate is. A perfect fusion of oily peat, jellied exotic fruits and salty, umami broths. Finish: endless and twining all the above flavours together like rope. Devastating complexity. Grisly, gutsy exotic fruits, fatness, greasy peat, chunky minerality and again this feeling of petrol. Comments: quite simply, this is genius whisky. The power, concentration and depth are just devastating. The kind of whisky that controls you, there’s no choice but to go with the flow. And that’s it’s ultimate asset, it takes you on a journey which is just spellbinding.
SGP: 766 - 96 points.



Bowmore 1969/1978 (58%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa import, cask #6639, sherry, 300 bottles)

Bowmore 1969/1978 (58%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa import, cask #6639, sherry, 300 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: grassy more more unusually so. A kind of sweaty lemongrass. Horse sweat, farm stables, tar, fermenting mangos and pork-based ramen broth. Fatty, greasy and immensely characterful. This is a side of Bowmore we rarely see or talk about. Uber powerful, complex and austere yet rather brilliant. This is challenging but very captivating malt whisky. Again this petrol quality but also gravel, paraffin and hessian. In time it gets more lemony and chalky. With water: extremely salty and with a superbly brittle and blade-like smokiness. Sardines, salt-baked white fish, crushed aspirin and the tiniest glimmer of gooseberry. Mouth: pure seawater, petrol and syrup-textured peat. Not as peaty as cask 315 but stupendously saline, pure, precise and direct. Flavours going round and back into each other like Escher stairs! There are fruits but they are acidic, pin sharp and citrus dominated. Magnificent and thrillingly different from cask 315. With water: raw citrus juices, seawater, pure peat smoke, petrol, tar and fresh oysters. The kind of purity, precision and power that most modern whiskies cannot even dream of. The flip side of 315 but still the same kind of mesmeric quality. In time the exotic and tropical fruits really start to emerge. Pure passion fruit, guava, mango and star fruit. All mixed up with some kind of thrillingly dirty seawater and diesel. Finish: Another one that just goes on forever. But again here the purity sings the loudest. Grass, lime, minerals, petrol, pure wood smoke, limestone, chalk, syrupy old medicines and an echo of passionfruit in the aftertaste. Comments: This cask and the 315 are Bowmore’s ying and yang. Polar opposites but both just as potent, controlling, devastating and hypnotic as each other. Whereas 315 was deceptive and and clever, 6639 was honest and direct. A whisky that feels confident in its own unbridled power and precision. Impossible to pick a favourite between the two, but then I don’t really think the beautiful difference in character equates to a separation in quality.
SGP: 677 - 96 points.



Time for a break.



Bowmore 1966/1984 (53%, Samaroli ‘Bouquet’, 720 bottles)

Bowmore 1966/1984 (53%, Samaroli ‘Bouquet’, 720 bottles)
What can you say about this bottling that hasn’t already been gushed by myself and many others elsewhere. I’ll simply re-state my own feelings: that this is a significant and important bottling. It fused very deliberate and brilliant cask selection by Mr Samaroli, clearly considered bottling choices (the choice to do it at cask strength for example) and captivating label artwork that alluded in distinct aesthetic style to the character of the whisky within. I would also add that this is the first time that I, or any of my whisky pals that I’m aware of, are tasting this whisky against some of its fellow legends. It will be interesting to see if it can stand its ground against the formidable Largiemeanoch… Colour: light gold. Nose: there is fruit and there is fruit. This is the every inch the latter, and precisely why this whisky sits apart from almost all others. I will try not to go on, but there is a level of specificity, intensity and clarity about the tropical fruit notes here that is hard to articulate. It truly is a whisky which stops you dead and seizes total control; which you cede happily. Exotic, flawless, sublime, chiseled, fathoms deep and, at the end of the day, just utterly sublime giving you the impression that the whole thing is effortless. There are other tertiary characters that you could go into - farmyard, earthy, umami note - but I’ll write a novel if I don’t resist. With water: euphoric. Better than being on drugs. Mouth: This is where I start to run out of words. I will simply say that it is a mix of exotic fruit freshness and power wrapped around a kind of trembling mineral structure which is just otherworldly. This is definition of real perfection in whisky - where you are just stopped dead and cannot really find the words to describe your way out of it. With water: It is still broadly about fruit, but there is just so much else. This is a whisky that takes the definitions of ‘tertiary’ and ‘complex’ to their absolute extremes. Fuck it, call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: as long and deep as you might imagine. But what is so striking is that it does not wander or meander randomly. You still feel so utterly controlled and in the grip of a whisky that is just irrefutably in control and moving and developing with purpose and genius precision. Comments: I have tried this whisky twice before but never recorded proper notes. In the back of my mind I had kind of expected to score it 97 but I am afraid to say I am left totally reeling by this utterly spellbinding whisky.
SGP: 767 - 98 points.



Bowmore ‘Largiemeanoch’ 12 yo 1967/1079 (54.2%, Howgate Wine Co, casks #2655/6/7, sherry)

Bowmore ‘Largiemeanoch’ 12 yo 1967/1979 (54.2%, Howgate Wine Co, casks #2655/6/7, sherry)
This bottling came to wider attention when a few friends shared the purchase of a bottle in Italy and one Mr S V recorded some rather enthusiastic notes on these very pages. Again this is another one which I’ve been fortunate enough to taste from a few different bottles now, although, unlike the 1955 ceramic, as far as I could discern the quality has been uniformly sublime on each occasion. Colour: reddish coffee. Nose: difference and similarities. You feel this is the same distillate in different clothes. Whereas the Bouquet is about an axis of freshness and depth, the Largiemeanoch is really about concentration and intensity. This is really pure sarsaparilla syrups, molten cola cubes, ancient tar liqueurs and simmering, intense coffee. Jellied peat, hot liquorice, red chilli and some kind of industrial antiseptic cut with brine. For all this muscle, swagger and clout, it is still a coiled and controlled whisky. There’s a lot of dichotomies about this whisky, but this is absolutely an asset not a flaw. With water: with the neat nose you feel the specificities and the individuality of the various components. Here though everything coagulates into a perfect cohesion. The most syrupy and dense whisky imaginable. Above all though, it is hauntingly, irrefutably beautiful. Mouth: utterly sublime. Perfect sherry. Salty, meaty, pure, earthy, chocolatey, minty, leafy and dense with rancio. To a combination and cleanly purity that is scarce even in old school single malts of this era. You could spend hours picking our all these variations of themes of meatiness, earthiness, medicine, peat, smoke, spice and minerals. Like the Bouquet, it swiftly confronts you with the limits of your own abilities. With water: as on the nose, all these tertiary tangents align and become streamlined and more singular. The sense of harmony, concentration and cohesion is totally sublime. Finish: raw, sweet, smoky, terrifyingly deep, haunting and totally endless. The darkest of nights in a glass. Comments: This is undeniably one of the greatest whiskies every bottled. A paean to peat, fruit, sherry and harmonic balance in single malt Scotch whisky. But the Bouquet beats it by a midge’s valinch.
SGP: 678 - 97 points.



Any sane person would of course stop here. But…



Bowmore 22 yo 1965 (43%, OB for Prestonfield House, cask #47)

Bowmore 22 yo 1965 (43%, OB for Prestonfield House, cask #47)
Colour: light amber. Nose: the sherry is rather prominent with a wonderfully leafy, marmalade-forward quality. Soft notes of herbal wines, milk chocoalte, honeycomb and menthol tobaccos. Beyond that the fruit begins to emerge. Blood orange, kumquat and mango. Beautifully balanced, elegant and with a kind of compacted fruity earthiness which is quite specific to old sherried Bowmore at lower abv. Mouth: soots, herbs, earths, chocolate, freshly brewed black coffee, salty liquorice and plum jam. Also a rather precise mix of dry, herbal peat and exotic fruit teas. Finish: good length and nicely earthy, minty and playfully fruity. Comments: A wonderful balance between dark and exotic fruits and more earthy, peaty qualities. The more ‘Winston Churchilly’ side of 60s Bowmore.
SGP: 654 - 93 points.



Bowmore 35 yo 1966 (43.7%, Kingsbury, cask #3300, 300 bottles, +/-2001)

Bowmore 35 yo 1966 (43.7%, Kingsbury, cask #3300, 300 bottles, +/-2001)
Another that carries quite a hefty reputation. Let’s try it! Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is probably the purest and most immediate aromatic definition of why people fall so hopelessly in love with this distillery and this era. Enough fresh tropical fruits to start a hipster food truck! Seriously, almost just nothing but mango, passion fruit, guava, papya, star fruit and pineapple. Pulpy, fleshy, über fresh and with an impression of quivering exotic fruit jellies. Some softer notes of fruit teas, mint leaf and even something approaching good quality fresh cannabis. No wonder these whiskies are so addictive! The absolute epitome of freshness, exoticism and ripeness in whisky. Mouth: the wood is more present than the nose suggests - as with so many old whiskies - but it adds rather than subtracts. There’s herbal bite, wood spice, warmth, honeyed sweetness and syrupy concentration. Still layers and layers of beautiful fruits but here they are crystallised, poised, nervous and with a streak of bitter herbal extracts running through. Finish: superbly long, mineral, oily and still vividly fruity and wonderfully herbal. Comments: a sublime and justifiably famous Bowmore that epitomises utterly just how thrilling and brilliant this decade was for this distillery. At this strength and age it is devastatingly lethal as you could just guzzle it by the litre.
SGP: 755 - 95 points.



Bowmore 30 yo 1972/2992 (49.5%, Signatory Vintage ‘Rare Reserve’, cask #930, 198 bottles)

Bowmore 30 yo 1972/2002 (49.5%, Signatory Vintage ‘Rare Reserve’, cask #930, 198 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: ahhh! Pure freshness! Sometimes, after the rather embarrassing opulence of the 1960s, there is something profoundly refreshing and crisp about early 70s Bowmore. Like a glass of smoky Champagne. Wonderfully salty, citric, mineral, pure, cereal and possessing a wonderfully thready citrus fruitiness. However, there is more. Also farmyard notes, hay, smoky grist, savoury meatiness, ink and chalky, rather feisty minerals. Mouth: Wonderful delivery! A powerful, structured, almost swollen cereal profile. Lemon peel, bath salts, hessian, olive oil, brine, putty, ointment and passion fruit. There’s also something very fish and coastal about it. Sardines in oil, anchovies, preserved lemons and malt vinegar. Robust, playful and superbly balanced between fruits, farmyard, seashore and more unusual, meaty tones. Finish: long, lemony, sooty, chalky, petroly, mineral and peaty. In the aftertaste we are almost back at the start - lingering in that 1950s twilight between fruit, peat, lavender and the eye-watering disquiet of the Atlantic… Comments: It’s easy to forget just how totally sublime Bowmore remained into the early 1970s. Not all bottles hit this height, but when they do, they really can rival the very best.
SGP: 666 - 94 points.



In conclusion… These bottles are why we love whisky!



There are a few things I think we can take away from this tasting. Firstly, and perhaps most notably, there are many older bottlings that are really beginning to diverge from each other after such a long time in glass / ceramic. I was expecting the 1955 jug to fly higher than it did, but it turned out to be a tad flat (relatively speaking; it was still stunning whisky). It was the same story with the NAS Bicentenary. However, on the flip side, as much as I am aware of how incredible the Bowmore Bouquet is, I wasn’t really prepared for just how unstoppably sublime it was when I spent time with it in the glass. These are the kinds of tastings and moments in whisky that we live for. Made all the more brilliant by the fact it was shared with great people. 



This is the second rather crazy Bowmore tasting I’ve been lucky enough to be part of in my life thus far. The first being during the Islay Odyssey nearly five years ago back in 2015. It would be remiss to do a tasting like this without acknowledging the fact that these are deliriously expensive bottles. The Bouquet alone now represents a good year’s salary or a house deposit. Whether they are worth the prices they command is up to each individual to decide. I am keenly aware that not everyone will get to taste these whiskies; indeed many of you may read this kind of post and think it is hyperbolic gibberish. Fair enough, but these whiskies exist. They’ve gone on their own journey from new and inexpensive to legendary and highly sought after. The only constant has been the irrefutable brilliance of the whisky itself. They have had significant impact and influence upon whisky and the people that consume and enjoy it. I believe that in the process of understanding and recording something about them there are good ideas and inspirations to be found for the future. 



Ultimately, they are expensive because they represent the very pinnacle of Scotch whisky, these are pretty much the best whiskies ever made. To taste them is instructive, decadent, thrilling and humbling. Hot, fruity memory in a glass! I cannot afford them. I am able to buy old Bowmore on occasion due to the fact I’ve developed a business model built around monetising open bottles. I did so precisely because I wanted to be able to open, taste and share these kinds of whiskies. However, these old legends are out of my reach and I can only participate in these kinds of tastings largely due to the generosity of those who are able and willing to open these kinds of bottles. With that in mind I’d like to express hugs and gratitude to Jon, Aaron, Emmanuel, Edward, KC and Kennis. Without friends, whisky is just fading flavour.






More tasting notesCheck the index of all Bowmore we've tasted so far


January 10, 2020


Little Duos, today indie Glenallachie

We’ve got quite a few official wine-finished ones yet to try, but we’ll rather focus on some little indies today, if you don’t mind…

Glenallachie 2007/2019 (62.8%, La Maison du Whisky, Chapter IV, sherry hogshead, cask # 900170)

Glenallachie 2007/2019 (62.8%, La Maison du Whisky, Chapter IV, sherry hogshead, cask # 900170) Three stars
This one could well be a little extreme… Colour: amber with red hues. Nose: nosing a pack of Mars bars, plus a little Bovril. I don’t get much else so far, but that’s most probably the very high strength. With water: soups won it. Vegetable soup, leek, chicken bouillon, and then a feeling of Mexican chocolate sauce. All that works pretty well. Mouth (neat): heavy and thickish sherry, somewhat cloying I have to say, with touches of rice pudding here and there. Once again, it’s a little too strong when neat. With water: good sherry, with oranges, raisins, chocolate, and the usual spicy cake, caraway, cloves… Finish: long, a little saltier, with a meaty aftertaste. Comments: not sure the distillate had much to say, and this baby may have lacked a few more years of ageing anyway, but it is a very fine drop for sure. The thing is, Glenallachie is neither Ledaig nor Ben Nevis so this was rather some heavily fortified sherry in my book.
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Glenallachie 8 yo 1991/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry butt, cask #1343, 890 bottles)

Glenallachie 8 yo 1991/2000 (43%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry butt, cask #1343, 890 bottles) Two stars
Some sister casks had been a little difficult, ranging from WF 70 to 75, but that was a long, long time ago. Colour: white wine. Nose: chalk and porridge, with some cut grass and quite some yoghurt and cream cheese (hey Suzy), then gym socks and a little baby vomit. Not sure anyone would still bottle something like this in 2019; certainly not Signatory! Mouth: nicer, but still shaky and wobbly. Sour fruits, cream, bitter herbs (crunching pine needles), white pepper and some baker’s yeast. Some nicer fruits emerging after a little while, but that’s a little late while those fruits may have started rotting. Finish: rather short, grassy and bitter, but with nicer lemons in the aftertaste. A feeling of Schweppes. Comments: a pretty difficult and somewhat cubist drop, but it’s got something charming. Perhaps its humbleness? Perhaps the fact that it could have resembled Ben Nevis, had some cursors been pushed to the max? Let’s not be too harsh, and it’s an old bottling anyway.
SGP:351 - 70 points.

That was what we could call a pretty ‘small’ session, was it not.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glenallachie we've tasted so far


January 9, 2020


Time Warp

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Glenlivet

Since I’ve discovered a wonderful video of the Sun Ra Arkestra playing at the Chivas Jazz Festival in Brazil around twenty years ago, I’m going all Pernod today…

Glenlivet 19 yo ‘Campdalemore’ (58.1%, OB, cask # 35239, 2015)

Glenlivet 19 yo ‘Campdalemore’ (58.1%, OB, cask # 35239, 2015) Four stars
This was an official single cask. I have to say these bottlings are not very talked about amongst the whisky chatterattis, I don’t know why. Colour: full gold. Nose: barley, milk chocolate, brioche, cakes, fudge, butterscotch, malty beer. Fine, just not out of this world, but I suppose that’s down to a pretty ‘commercial’ (nothing bad to that) profile. Not really characterful, shall we say. With water: Ovaltine! Mouth (neat): very good this time, I have to say. Ale, marmalade, sour beer, chestnuts, and loads of chocolate. Stout. With water: oranges come out. And more stout. Finish: rather long, brioche-y and chocolaty, with really a lot of Ovaltine/Ovomaltine in the aftertaste. A little water, and presto, breakfast! Comments: the three names that have become almost unrecognisable when you compare old and newer bottlings are, indeed, Glenlivet, Glen Grant, and of course Macallan. Was there a meeting of the boards sometime, somewhere? But then again, new drinkers won’t have tried the older juices, but hey, they could read good whisky blogs! More seriously, this strangely named camp de la mort (death camp) (*) was really very good, just pretty ‘modern’. Excellent chocolate stout.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Glenlivet 15 yo (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 fl.ozs, 1960s)

Glenlivet 15 yo (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 fl.ozs, 1960s) Five stars
Complete with the stencilled bottle, ‘De Luxe quality’,  and a torn label. Psst, these ones are sure bets at auctions. Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is what you never get in newer bottlings (in any of the aforementioned names); meat, bouillons, tertiary notes, old jams, old wines and meads, and all things chestnutty. Not that those are mandatory in any whisky, but when they do show up, you’re in for a treat. Which is the case here, as you may have guessed. Some wee whiffs of pinewood smoke too, that always works. With water: h.o.n.e.y.s.! And pipe tobacco, third-tier marmalade, marzipan, and amaretti. Mouth (neat): glorious, as expected. Many fruits, jams, jellies, chutneys, salty and spicy things, marrows, greases, soups… And spices as well. Caraway and tarry nuts (tarry nuts?) With water: oh no, these small herbs and flowers, woodruff, angelica, mullein, spearmint! Finish: it’s absolutely amazing that this baby would have developed this many tiny herbs and flowers. That’s the sign of a grand aged spirit, and not something you would find very often in simpler contemporary offerings. Chocolate, smoke, chicken bouillon and orange blossom water in the aftertaste. Comments: is that really all down to better sherry casks?
SGP:662 - 92 points.

That’s the thing with modern whisky, it’s simpler. Sometimes extremely good, but simpler. Let’s have more Glenlivet…

Glenlivet 20 yo 1995/2016 (57.2%, Signatory Vintage, The Un-Chillfiltered Collection, for Taiwan, First Fill Sherry Butt, cask #166957, 563 bottles)

Glenlivet 20 yo 1995/2016 (57.2%, Signatory Vintage, The Un-Chillfiltered Collection, for Taiwan, First Fill Sherry Butt, cask #166957, 563 bottles) Four stars and a half
We’ll do this fast, as almost all these sherried 1995s by SigV have been boringly great anyway. Colour: red amber. Nose: maraschino everywhere! Then raisins, grouse, and Nuits-St-Georges. What you never get when you do a lousy pinot noir finish, I would say. With water: gets very soup-y. Marrow soup, bouillons, Irish stews, perhaps even lamb chorba… Mouth (neat): great, tense, sharp and rich, on blood oranges and bitter chocolate, plus salty soups, raspberry ganache, and blackberry jam. With water: yup yup yup. Perhaps just a wee tad gritty, but we’re splitting hairs once again. Finish: long. Who distilled these Chambertins? Comments: misses the 90-mark because of that gritty tannicity in the end, but no quibbles here, it’s a great bottle, as expected.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Back to the OBs…

Glenlivet 16 yo 2001/2017 (57.5%, OB, Distillery Reserve Collection, second fill sherry butt, cask #6060, 768 bottles)

Glenlivet 16 yo 2001/2017 (57.5%, OB, Distillery Reserve Collection, second fill sherry butt, cask #6060, 768 bottles) Four stars
Second fill, that’s cool as well. Colour: gold. Nose: I don’t know why, all OBs are shier, more self-restrained, more on tranquil cakes shall I say. Scones and shortbreads, fudge, and malty beer. This is perfectly all right, it's just that I won’t remember it forever – and that’s not just Alzheimer’s. With water: distilled ale. Hold on, isn’t that the exact definition of whisky? Mouth (neat): good of course, sweet, malty and cake-y, a tad ale-y and a little bitter. Some disturbing rubber in there, but I’m sure water will fix that. With water: I was right (shh-shh), this baby became a rather perfect malty and cake-y dram once reduced. Cinnamon rolls, chestnut purée, shortbread, sweet ale… Finish: medium, a little sweeter, cake-y, with some fudge and even more puréed chestnuts than before. Comments: the exact definition of some very good malt whisky. Right in the core of Scotch whisky.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Someone really mad would now look for some very old Glenlivet before calling this a proper tasting session. Unless, wait, said person would first stumble upon some mad 2007s.

Glenlivet 12 yo 2007/2019 (54.1%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead, cask #900216, 329 bottles)

Glenlivet 12 yo 2007/2019 (54.1%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead, cask #900216, 329 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: amber. Nose: this time there’s more chocolate than in chocolate, as well as a little sawdust, teak oil, and just a new (stupid) chair from IKEA’s. With water: new MacBook (terrible, really, keep and cherish the old ones!) or anything from the internet of things, what we now call the internet of, ach, err, the internet of s**t,  and carbon paper. Who’s still using carbon paper? Mouth (neat): very good, perhaps just a tad too extractive. I mean, the oak’s not exactly shy here. A feeling of plum jam too. With water: good, jammier, less oaky, better balanced, and simple. That’s the thing, it’s pretty simple whisky.  Finish: rather long, on oak and blacker jams. Blueberry, blackberry, damsons… Comments: I think I liked last year’s 11yo much better. This is a little, yeah, simple, and yet very good.
SGP:651 - 83 points.

Glenlivet 10 yo 2007/2018 (66.5%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, Artist #8, sherry, cask # 900192, 306 bottles)

Glenlivet 10 yo 2007/2018 (66.5%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, Artist #8, sherry, cask # 900192, 306 bottles) Three stars
Attempted murder on so-called whisky blogger, you are a witness now! Colour: amber. Nose: looks like there are some dried dates and figs, but also that I could make even better use of my nostrils in the coming hours. That is why we’ll thwart this attack right away. With water: bourbon! Not the first time that happens when whiskies are this strong, water would just bring out notes of bourbon – whether sherry or not. How bizarre… Mouth (neat): orangettes dipped into chocolate and ginger liqueur, that’s all I’m getting at 66% vol. Aren’t there laws? With water: amazing how water made this one warm, almost hot. I mean, figuratively, we’re talking temperatures. Like, from 20°C to 25°C in a flash! Other than that, we have oranges, chocolate, ginger liqueur, Chambord, Aperol, and other rather subversive stuff. Finish: long and Aperoly indeed. Quite some spicy oak. Comments: seriously, I’m not too sure. Not that we obligatorily need subtleties and refinements, but this really is some panzerish malt.
SGP:561 - 82 points.

Perseverare humanum est, as they say in D.C. Let’s see whether thee are right…

Glenlivet 11 yo 2007/2018 (66.8%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Barrel, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #900134, 315 bottles)

Glenlivet 11 yo 2007/2018 (66.8%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Barrel, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #900134, 315 bottles) Three stars
Utter madness one again. Colour: amber. Nose: chocolate sauce and kerosene. I mean, this is funny for sure, but it is t.o.o. s.t.r.o.n.g. With water: sour walnut wine, ginger wine, brine… Mouth (neat): yeah right. Very good, very spicy, burning. Reminds of that time when a good friend who used to be a copywriter in America (whatever) mailed me some kind of GMO chilli that he had named himself ‘The End Of The World’. He was a very good copywriter. With water: with really a lot of water, you would manage to take it down to approachable honeyness and marmalades. But a lot of work is needed. Finish: long, oaky, too much. Comments: you could call this the doom-metal-hard-rock of whisky if you wished. Not that I always need Vivaldi or Haendel, but frankly, you need to be the king of the pipette masters to start to really enjoy these funny monsters. Too much for me.
SGP:461 - 82 points.

We’ve got many more but it would be better to have a very old one instead, as the definitive signature.

Smith’s Glenlivet 1949 (Proof strength, Archie Kirkland of Glasgow, pure malt whisky, early 1960s?)

Smith’s Glenlivet 1949 (Proof strength, Archie Kirkland of Glasgow, pure malt whisky, early 1960s?) Five stars
Proof strength means around 57% vol., pure malt means single malt, and Glasgow means Glasgow. There’s a ‘Kirkland’ brand that’s still around with supermarket-quality whiskies, but I doubt those are related in any ways (**). I’m also sure some whisky historians would find out, but I’m just a humble not-so-skilled taster from Eastern France. Colour: straw. Nose: no high-impact oldie this time, rather a fine-ish salty, metallic and bouillony nose, lacking fruit to make it kind of sexy. Remember, not all old bottles are utter gems (are you listening, China?) With water: just beeswax everywhere. Mouth (neat): it is very good this time, very powerful, very 100 proof, quite waxy, and rather on crystallised citrus and salty mineral waxes. Glenlivet was much, much closer to, say Springbank at that time. Beautiful old-Highlandness, in fact, it’s just the nose that’s a little more uncertain. With water: wonderful but then again, you start to think about Highland Park, Clynelish, or Springbank, and you start to hold your horses. Finish: very long, waxy, herbal and mineral, very old-Highlands, with this very particular sootiness that’s now gone in all corners of Scotchland. Comments: not an obvious one, and indeed the nose was a little difficult (a thesis on Trumps’s accession to the White House would be easier to write), but it almost went wild on our palates. I suppose you have to earn these…
SGP:462 - 91 points.

(Merci Angus and François!)

UPDATES Many thanks to Ian at Chivas Bos.
* Campdelmore is a farm just outside Tomintoul.
The current Kirkland range is Costco.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glenlivet we've tasted so far


January 8, 2020


Time Warp

Time Warp Sessions,
today Glenmorangie

Let’s see what we have, because even if there aren’t that many Glenmorangies around, it’s still a big and very popular name.

Westport 22 yo 1995/2017 (52.6%, Càrn Mor, Celebration of the Cask, cask #360391)

Westport 22 yo 1995/2017 (52.6%, Càrn Mor, Celebration of the Cask, cask #360391) Four stars
Officially a blended malt, from Morrison & MacKay’s. We’ve had some good Westports -A.K.A. Glenmorangie incognito- in the past. Colour: straw. Nose: pure clean maltiness, no sideways, no seasoning, no wine, just barley-eau-de-vie with a little vanilla, then acacia honey, drops of orange juice, and a touch of grass and chalk. Rather simple, but kind of irrefutable, should we be entitled to use that word in tasting notes. With water: typical clean straightforward Glenmo. Almonds, halva, vanilla, malt, tarte tatin and crème brulée. Mouth (neat): rather excellent, well in line with the earlier CS officials, like the ‘Traditional’ (if I remember well). Ale, apple juice, mead and fresh brioche. Good naked malt whisky. With water: custard, melon jam, barley syrup, a touch of light honey. Finish: medium, sweet and malty, with buttered apples. Right, tarte tatin. Comments: the cask was as lazy as a French trade unionist, but that was all for the better this time, since Glenmo’s distillate is rather first-tier in general.
SGP:541 - 86 points.

So, the game is to find an old bottlings… Rummage rummage… Perhaps this…

Glenmorangie 1987/2006 ‘Margaux Cask Finish’ (46%, OB, 3551 bottles)

Glenmorangie 1987/2006 ‘Margaux Cask Finish’ (46%, OB, 3551 bottles) Two stars
This one from when Glenmo were still believing it was cool to mimic wine appellations and even designs. I have to say I too used to think it was a bit cool… Until all Scots started innovating (which, over there, consists in doing exactly what the neighbours are already doing – but without, apparently, telling the PR agency). Colour: salmon. Nose: active French oak, cabernet, and barley, what could go wrong? Very leafy, with notes green pepper, peach leaves, tomato stems, leather, then touches of raspberries. I have to say it improves quite a lot over time, getting rounder and better integrated, and rather on Jaffa cakes and sponge cake. Just drop the first nosings (that’s smart, S.) Mouth: it’s not as terrible as, say Bowmore’s ‘Claret’ (that one used to pull your teeth) but still very vinous, with this feeling of wine cocktail that many early finishings used to pull. Raspberry jam, chocolate, and sourdough, plus fruit leaf teas of many sorts. Finish: medium, rather sour. Sour cherries, I would say. Comments: exactly what we used to call a winesky. I’m glad I could finally try this one, but poor Margaux wines, that wasn’t exactly good publicity for them, was it!
SGP:661 - 75 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glenmorangie we've tasted so far


January 7, 2020


Time Warp

Time Warp Sessions,
today Benrinnes 21 yo
at kerosene strength

Loads of new Benrinnes around, but I thought we’d rather have a short session with two bottlings that were both 21 years old when bottled, both at 60+% vol. Wish me luck… We’ll have many gentler Benrinnes soon.

Benrinnes 21 yo 1997/2019 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #36.166, Silky, smooth and sweet, 2nd fill bourbon barrel, 194 bottles)

Benrinnes 21 yo 1997/2019 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #36.166, Silky, smooth and sweet, 2nd fill bourbon barrel, 194 bottles) Four stars
What ‘smooth’? Smooth as in ‘smooth’? At 61.5% vol.? Colour: gold. Nose: I find it rather fermentary at first, with also notes of cauliflower beignets, but it seems to tend to move towards baguette dough, citrus and orange blossom… Water is more than needed here. With water: rather delicate, with notes of grated zests indeed, plus a rather subtle range of all things around fresh brioche dough and warm pastries. Orange blossom is back too, perhaps a touch of baker’s yeast, leaven… We’re at a good baker’s. Mouth (neat): potent, as expected, but really tense and lime-y, which bodes well for a fine palate once water’s been added with care and maestria (what?). Lemongrass. With water: very good, totally spirit-driven, as expected, on sweet citrus (liqueurs) and, well, with a feeling of focaccia. It really is all about bread and pastry. Finish: rather long, on some lemon tarte covered with meringue and grated lemon zests. Comments: it is not an obvious, sexy Benrinnes, it needs your time and attention, which often happens with good refill wood. Shall we call it Mr. Uncommercial?
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Benrinnes 21 yo 1974/1996 (60.4%, OB, Rare Malts)

Benrinnes 21 yo 1974/1996 (60.4%, OB, Rare Malts) Four stars and a half
Right, it’s not often that a Rare Malt would be the lightest whisky within a flight. Not sure this was still from a single cask, as other early RMs used to be unless I’m mistaken. Well, probably not, I’ve seen bottles sporting numbers in the high 3000s. Colour: light gold. Nose: harsher yet, as it appears, certainly grassier, with a medicinal side that wasn’t to be found in the SMWS. Camphor, eucalyptus (poor koalas in Oz, did you see that!)… Then all those lovely bready smells. Not sure the distillate has changed much between 1974 and 1997. With water: less fruity than the SMWS, more mentholy, more on grasses and herbs. Mint sauce. Mouth (neat): not too far from the 1997, but it does have more medicinal notes once again, as well as more menthol. Which, I theory, should mean it’s ‘better’. Let’s see… With water: perfect! Oils and citrus, plus touches of salt, marrow, olives, marmalade… Finish: very long, vertical, really very lemony now, but always with oils and cough syrups in the aftertaste. Comments: not the first time we’re noticing that Benrinnes could be rather stunning, as these two very ‘natural’ versions go to show. But once again, it’s no sexy dram and it will need your time. I rather hate to say this, but there, it’s ‘probably not whisky for beginners’. Yeah right, no single Rare Malt was anyway. Gosh we’re missing the Rare Malts!
SGP:461 - 89 points.

A little bonus, just in from Hong Kong… (another 21!)

Benrinnes 21 yo 1997/2019 (52.8%, Signatory Vintage for Club Qing & Shinanoya, sherry hogshead, cask #9747, 221 bottles)

Benrinnes 21 yo 1997/2019 (52.8%, Signatory Vintage for Club Qing & Shinanoya, sherry hogshead, cask #9747, 221 bottles) Four stars
Looks like Signatory’s older livery is back. The retro wave keeps striking us, shall we soon see new goatskins of whisky? Colour: coffee. Nose: coffee. Seriously, this is well a sherry bomb, well in Signatory’s style (Glenlivet, Braeval…) with touches of metal and wax polishes at first, then coffee, chocolate and prunes. It’s also got the lovely roundness of some proper old ex-solera PX, which is not exactly the same thing as those ‘PX’ they use to season bespoke whisky casks. Malaga currants. With water: this is not unseen, a development on tiny meaty tones, ad drop of soy sauce, pipe tobacco, some kind of waxy almonds… Mouth (neat): powerful and rich, not inelegant (?), with quite some cracked pepper and blackcurrants right in the arrival, which is a tad unusual. Then wild raspberry eaux-de-vie, ganache, prunes again, some rather rustic armagnac (Ténarèze) and a few cranberry drops.  Ricola have got some, said to be packed with vitamin C and to ‘provide a soothing, refreshing experience for the mouth and throat.’ All right then, but isn’t that the definition of whisky? With water: less ‘mellow and silky’ than the nose had suggested, and indeed rather rustic again, but really seriously good. A touch of salty mint sauce. Finish: a tad bitter, leafy, with green walnuts, plants extracts… Comments: I believe it struggled a wee bit on the palate once diluted, getting bitterish, but what had happened before had been just perfect.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Benrinnes we've tasted so far


January 6, 2020


Time Warp

Time Warp Sessions,
today Aberlour 24-25

First a new little indie – indie Aberlours are not very common – then an old OB. Old OBs could be just terrific!

Aberlour 24 yo 1995/2019 (61.3%, Liquid Treasures, eSpirit for 10 years dailydram, bourbon hogshead, 139 bottles)

Aberlour 24 yo 1995/2019 (61.3%, Liquid Treasures, eSpirit for 10 years dailydram, bourbon hogshead, 139 bottles) Four stars
Most indie Aberlours are un-sherried, which makes them even more interesting. Indeed Aberlour used to be a fruit bomb, and probably still is. Colour: light gold. Nose: rather brutal, and mainly on mirabelle and damson eaux-de-vies, which is rather normal at 60+%. Well, perhaps not after 24 years in wood. Some fresh almonds too, a yeasty touch, porridge… Well, it’s a pretty fresh old one so far. With water: bread and brioche with candied fruits, or Genoese cake, plus touches of liquorice wood, all that with good balance and freshness. Good barleyness, but it does not quite feel ‘24’. Mouth (neat): kirsch, panettone, and more kirsch that comes with its usual wee almondy notes. With water: totally typical un-sherried Aberlour, as they used to have within their ‘fill-your-own’ program at the distillery. I suppose they still do that. Melon jam, pears, cherries, apples… Still rather eau-de-vie-y. Finish: long and, as usual, more citrusy. Lemons and grapefruits coming out, rather candied angelica in the aftertaste. Comments: the cask was probably a little lazy, but the spirit is very good. Oh, this at 80 years of age! (joking).
SGP:641 - 86 points.

Aberlour 25 yo 1964/1989 (43%, OB, 75cl)

Aberlour 25 yo 1964/1989 (43%, OB, 75cl) Five stars
There once was a very good cube-shaped 1964 that was only 8 yo, but I believe this 25 yo has got an even higher reputation. Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts a little steely, but that may be OBE in action, and gets then pretty leafy and dry, you would almost believe you’re nosing some old amontillado. That would involve the usual walnuts, some tobacco, a wee yeasty/umami-y side, and then many many earthy and mossy aromas, moss as such, wee mushrooms, Cuban cigars, artisanal chocolate, some kind of mentholated miso or something, truffled mashed potatoes… It is a fantastic nose, rather reminiscent of early Macallan 18s, just drier (1960-1970s vintages). Excuse me, but wow! We might have to call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade, let’s have their number ready…  Mouth: bingo, please call them. Stunning mead and tobacco, chestnut honey, amontillado again, walnuts aplenty, old Sauternes that’s digested its sugars, touches of salt and smoke (old Mac indeed), miso soup, beef soup, citrons… The saltines is really impressive. Did you call them yet? Finish: long, superb, dry, on walnuts, chestnut honey, tobacco and miso. Only the aftertaste is a notch weaker, probably because of the rather low strength. Comments: old school Scotch malt whisky from the legendary years of Scotch malt whisky. Wonderfully complex, dry and tertiary.
SGP:362 - 92 points.

(Merci François !)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Aberlour we've tasted so far


January 4, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Two old Signatory
Glen Grant
A pair of old and theoretically rather sexy Glen Grant both bottled by Signatory. And why not?


Glen Grant 31 yo 1965/1996 (58.4%, Signatory Vintage for USA, cask #5849, sherry, 176 bottles)

Glen Grant 31 yo 1965/1996 (58.4%, Signatory Vintage for USA, cask #5849, sherry, 176 bottles)
One of quite a few bottlings which Signatory did for the USA that are now extremely hard to come by. Colour: deep gold. Nose: an immediate plunge into tinned apricots, quince jelly, menthol tobaccos and exotic fruit syrups. Indeed, ‘syrupy’ is the watchword here. Concentrated and evolving a rather thrilling complexity. Lots of tiny notes of ripe plums, five spice, leather, camphor and mango chutney. This kind of dense, squidgy fruitiness that old Glen Grant so often excels at. With water: more apricots - fresh ones this time - some bouillon stock and a rather nice leafiness developing. Shades of tobaccos and damp earthen cellars. Mouth: you could be forgiven for thinking it was ten years younger. An abundant array of stewed spiced and fruits. Mulling spices with pears baked in VSOP Cognac. More of these warming quince jelly notes, dried tarragon, hawthorne and many sultanas and chopped dates. It’s a quiet sherry that has kept everything wonderfully punchy, nervous and fresh. Not to mention superbly clean and fruity. With water: perfectly rich, syrupy and fat now. Textural, gloopy and displaying all manner of tinned fruits, exotic fruit syrups, treacle, heather honey and dried mint. Finish: long, prickling with toasted spices, ripe banana, fruit compotes and then a rather bready and cereal flecked aftertaste which is quite refreshing. Comments: No surprises here. The kind of whisky that helped define what ‘good malt whisky’ was for a new generation of curious drinkers. Not to mention cement the reputation of this particular bottler.
SGP: 651 - 91 points.



Glen Grant 50 yo 1966/2016 (54.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #884, sherry hogshead, 108 bottles)
I believe this bottling was/is a distillery exclusive only for sale at Edradour itself. Colour: amber. Nose: a beautiful aroma that manages to be both graceful and concentrated. Beeswax, pollens, quince, heather honey, precious hardwoods, camphor and furniture oils. Rather typical of old Glen Grant and totally superb! It’s also inhabiting quite a different ballpark to the 65 which is fun. With water: develops a beautifully taut aromatic profile full of resins, rare teas, soft tobacco notes, dried fruits and thrillingly clear and pure dunnage style earthiness with waxes and canvas cloth notes. Mouth: brilliant and powerful delivery. Roast chestnuts, almond oils, vapour rubs, old herbal liqueurs, long aged demerara rum, linseed oil, anthracite and every kind of dark fruit you can think of. Prunes soaked in Armagnac, raisins and maraschino cherry juices. Not tired at all - precisely the opposite in fact. Loads of warming grippy wood spices with bitter chocolate and espresso notes. With water: pristine! Out come many different dried and crystallised fruits, mint tea, coconut, lime leaf and always this peppery edge of clean, spicy wood around which everything else gravitates. Although, it never dominates or over-exerts itself at the expense of other flavours. Finish: long, leathery, spicy, chocolatey, nicely drying, earthy and leafy with some herbal cough mixtures in the aftertaste and dried tropical fruits. Comments: God I love Glen Grant. This one feels like it was captured at a perfect peak. Concentrated, complex, powerful and yet also controlled, balanced and beautifully structured. What a cask!
SGP: 561 - 92 points.




More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Grant we've tasted so far


January 2, 2020


Young distilleries

Just that, young distilleries from the British isles and Ireland.

Daftmill 11 yo 2008/2019 (55.5%, OB, for The Whisky Bars of Scotland, bourbon, cask # 068/2008)

Daftmill 11 yo 2008/2019 (55.5%, OB, for The Whisky Bars of Scotland, bourbon, cask # 068/2008) Four stars and a half
The whisky bars of Scotland? That’s virtually everyone up there north of Borisland, is it not? Having said that, no need to tell you about all the good I think of Daftmill again, so let us proceed. Colour: gold. Nose: shh, this is perfect, let’s not disturb it. Citron, vanilla pods, baguette dough, fresh panettone, lemon sherbet, celery, carrot top… Shh… With water: wet sand, green pepper, toolbox, kale, watercress… It’s all so subtle, so delicate… Shh… Mouth (neat): lemon butter, angelica, fennel, lime, grapefruit… shh… With water: a little more on the peppery side. Peppermint and sawdust, this is where it starts to get kind of destabilised. It’s the trickiest part with almost any whisky, when you just added water and you take your first drop. Having said that and despite some marginally excessive woodiness, it remains fresh and vibrant like a good Chablis. Finish: long, pretty perfect, on lime-y grasses and fruits. Comments: superb whisky, with just a little too much active oak for my taste, but I guess it’s impossible to get that exactly right when you produce only a few casks every year. Unless someone smart invents a device that would take any excessive oak out of whisky.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

The Lakes ‘Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1’ (60.6%, OB, England, 2019)

The Lakes ‘Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1’ (60.6%, OB, England, 2019) Three stars
These good people south of the border ‘practise holistic whisky making’, but they decided to mature their first expression in PX and red wine. All right then, I suppose we’ll just have to wait a little longer to get a better grasp of their distillate. No problems, In the meantime… Colour: amber. Nose: perhaps a little crayony at very first nosing (cedar shavings, lead) but more importantly, it is not actually vinous, phew. Brownies, vanilla, cocoa, toffee, roasted pecans… With water: it does swim well, getting breadier, with some pumpernickel, then fruitcake and a little pinesap. Seems to be integrally cask-driven. Mouth (neat): the PX sings loudly I have to say, and so do the oaks. Cherry cake, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, leather… It reminds me a bit of some of Lark’s early offerings. With water: the best part despite the heavy oak spices. Plum cake and allspice, cloves, cinnamon… Finish: very long, sour-sweet, and pretty peppery. Comments: just the opposite of the Daftmill, which was much more distillate-driven. Having said that I do rather enjoy this highly extractive style, I just hope the oak came from some sustainable forests.
SGP:571 - 80 points.

The Lakes ‘Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.2’ (60.9%, OB, England, 2019)

The Lakes ‘Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.2’ (60.9%, OB, England, 2019) Three stars and a half
This one was matured in PX, red wine and bourbon. I just hope the bourbon part was very significative. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: quite bizarrely, I find it even more wine-led than No.1. Cherry stems and leaves, oak, black currants, but then I find fudge and coffee, which I like much better. Needs a little time… With water: water works extremely well, I have to say. Walnut cake, butterscotch, touches of rum, allspice, muscovado caramel… Mouth (neat): the very active oak is running the show, with the wines as first assistants. Not much to say about the distillate, but at least it does not clash with the boisterous casks. With water: once again, water works very well. Many red fruits do come out, which in theory, I do not like too much in  whisky, but which would just work in this very case. Reminds me of the Tasmanian Lark once again. Blueberry jam (watch your teeth), cherry liqueur, raspberry eau-de-vie… Finish: rather long, with blood oranges and pepper this time. Works. Comments: phew, water was needed indeed. At 60%+, no wonder.
SGP:561 - 84 points.

Let’s fly to Ireland!

Waterford 3 yo 2016/2019 ‘Ratheadon’ (50%, OB, Irish, sample bottle)

Waterford 3 yo 2016/2019 ‘Ratheadon’ (50%, OB, Irish, sample bottle) Four stars and a half
You won’t find this baby in retail, but indeed it’s old enough to have become ‘whiskey’. All the barley stems from one single farm, but four different kinds of wood have been used (American, new American, French, and VDN, which means Vin Doux Naturel, I suppose), so not totally sure the ‘single terroir’ will have its say, although it will for sure in my head. Colour: straw/gold. Nose: I am instantly reminded of our Domaine des Hautes-Glaces here in France, with this very natural -some would add authentic – combination of pure barley, bread, and soft oak. The casks had good manners here and never quite got in the way, while this pure breadiness is just, well, immaculate. For barley lovers! With water: there sure is some kind of earthiness, which may be linked to the notion of terroir, as you would find that in, for example, some Alsatian rieslings. Do they have muschelkalk in Ireland? (Joking). Or rather gypsum in this very case? (joking again). Mouth (neat): small berries at first, especially white currants and gooseberries, then a huge breadiness, perhaps right between brown bread and baguette. It is extremely barley-y, that’s for sure, it’s almost eau-de-vie de barley aged in oak, with a moderate spiciness, as if the French oak was refill. That’s good. With water: got to love it when oranges are peeping around the corner. Finish: rather long, certainly on oranges. Comments: could you make Jaffa cakes with very, very little chocolate? I wouldn’t score this sample – as it’s a sample, precisely – but that would already approach the 90-mark. Respect.

Now, should we want to check if there ‘could’ be some terroir in these whiskies (I believe there is anyway, unless you do mixes, which pretty much the whole industry’s doing indeed), we would have to do sound comparisons. Which is exactly what we’re about to do…

Waterford 2 yo 2016/2019 ‘Rathclough’ (50%, OB, Irish, sample bottle)

Waterford 2 yo 2016/2019 ‘Rathclough’ (50%, OB, Irish, sample bottle) Four stars and a half
Right, this baby’s only two years and ten months old, but I doubt a few extra-weeks would change much. Barley is the same (Irina 2015 – sounds like a Moldavian chick on Twitter, does it not), cask composition is the same, only the farms are different. The kind of soil too, I suppose… Colour: same as that of the Ratheadon, so I doubt any oak impact will be different. Nose: it is rather more boisterous, with more small fruits, fresh currants, and something like rhubarb wine. Its slightly acerbic if not acidic, perhaps more Sancerre than riesling, perhaps a little yeastier as well. All the rest is purely bready and barley-y. Wait, I’m also finding touches of morello cherries. Come one, Burgundy? I have to say this is very fascinating. With water: they tend to converge a little more once reduced, but all these wee differences here and there remain fascinating. Mouth (neat): it’s rather hotter than Ratheadon, more acidic once again, with touches of varnish and ‘fruity glue’, and with oranges arriving faster than they used to just fifteen minutes ago. Notes of fresh almonds hint at those cherries that we had found on the nose. Rhubarb. I would add that there are similarities with Daftmill, but I’ll just leave that here. What Chablis? With water: more chocolate! Lemons too, as well as a few fennel seeds, or perhaps pastis? Finish: long, and I would say a little fruitier and more complex than its brother. Comments: so are these whiskeys clearly different? Indeed they are. They’re even dangerous because you could easily quaff 10cl of each while detecting all differences and similarities, a thrilling (yet dangerous indeed) game. So am I now convinced that terroir exists in whisky (provided you don’t erase it)? Of course not, since I already was.

Waterford, bring them out!


January 1, 2020




A little Cognac
to celebrate the New Year

Because in my (relative) youth, having old Cognacs as digestives was mandatory after any New Year’s lunch. The family ritual was actually always the same on January 1st, first some late breakfast while listening to Wien’s Neujahrs-Konzert on the radio, then apéritif, then lunch, then old Cognacs and Alsatian eaux-de-vie. We’ve dropped breakfast some time ago. Let’s see what we can find as far as good Cognacs go…

Alsatian banquet by Louis-Philippe Kamm, 1926 (Photo: F. Walgenwitz)


A.E. DOR ‘Napoléon’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018)

A.E. DOR ‘Napoléon’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
This house was very prestigious a while back, but I have to say I’ve not heard much of them in recent times. I mean, within the last twenty years. This little Napoléon is a blend of several regions, so not a ‘Cru’. I’d add that I had really enjoyed their VSOP last time I tried it, in 2017 (WF 85). Colour: amber. Nose: starts with a wonderful dusty side (old library, encaustic, paper dust), gets then fruitier (the expected juicy peaches), then very floral (many nectars, many flowers), then superbly vinous. We’re talking proper old Pinot Gris (not the grigios, okay?) and a little feeling of good pineau des Charentes, which is only natural, is it not. A box of assorted Turkish delights, including the ones that are flavoured with rosewater. Love this very aromatic nose, I hope we haven’t started this session ‘too high and fast’. Mouth: it’s a little humbler on the palate, just a little. Peaches stewed in honey and tangerine sauce, more Turkish delights, more pinot gris (late harvest) and some wonderful blood orange juice. Some white pepper from the oak. Finish: rather long despite the lower strength (but why oh why?) and all on peppered peaches of some sorts. Comments: just impeccable. This little Napo at say 45%, and bang, 90 in my book. Granted, not that that really matters.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Frédéric Mestreau ‘X.O N 28’ (42.3%, OB, Fine Champagne, 496 bottles, +/-2018)

Frédéric Mestreau ‘X.O N 28’ (42.3%, OB, Fine Champagne, 496 bottles, +/-2018) Four stars
A single-cask blend of Grande and Petite Champagne. This old little house has been bought by the well-known house Jean Grosperrin, which simply bodes well for its future and overall quality.  But not sure ‘N 28’ means 1928 this time… Colour: amber. Nose: it’s rather a soft and delicate one, certainly less trumpeting than the A.E. DOR, and rather on soft fruit compotes, peaches, honeydew, with whiffs of peonies ad lavender honey (which, as you probably know, does not reek of lavender at all). Really light and delicate. Mouth: starts with touches of small sour fruits, also persimmons, the expected peaches, while it would become a little grassier over time, with delicate notes of white tea, jujubes, red apples… It’s really very delicate and pretty lovely. And drinkable, let’s be careful. Finish: perhaps a tad short, but really fresh and softly fruity. Persimmons again, small bits of cinnamon cake… Oranges and mead lift it a bit in the aftertaste. Comments: high-quality softer Cognac, shall we say. Delicious and, as we used to say in the 20th century, perhaps a little feminine.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

André Renard ‘XO’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018)

André Renard ‘XO’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
I don’t know what this is, they call it ‘Fine Cognac’ but aren’t all Cognacs ‘fines’, by definition? I mean, ‘fine’ means distilled wine, as opposed to ‘marc’ or grappa which is distilled grapes. Anyway… Colour: amber. Nose: nice, rounder, less complex than the two first ones, more ‘stewed’, more on cooked fruits, liquid caramel, maple syrup, honey and muscovado sugar. Nothing wrong with all that, mind you, it’s just that there are less asperities in this one, let’s say it seems to be a little more commercial, for lack of a better term. Mouth: same feeling, it’s good juice, rather soft, nicely fruity, stewed, flawless, without any excesses (boisé and stuff), with a tiny touch of strawberry yoghurt and a small bit of Jaffa cake. Some raisins too, naturally. Finish: a little short, a tad too sweet, but nothing too bad, at all. Comments: average Cognac in the very best sense of that word. Delivers what it’s meant to deliver, for a fair price.
SGP:641 - 83 points.

Daniel Bouju ‘Très Vieux Edition Dully’ (53.4%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, 2019)

Daniel Bouju ‘Très Vieux Edition Dully’ (53.4%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, 2019) Five stars
This dark baby states, on a neck stripe, that this would be ‘For whisky lovers, by whisky lovers’. No problems with that! What’s more, we Alsatians know that our neighbours the Swiss know their Cognacs as much as they know their Bourgognes and their whiskies. And that they are, ach, err, fast buyers. Oh and that this is a blend of the 1974 and 1984 vintages. Colour: dark amber. Nose: starts all on stewed red fruits. Grandma letting her strawberry jam simmer in her old large copper pan, elsewhere some marmalade and whiffs of menthol and liquorice, also some ultra-ripe red peaches, tamarind jam, a wee glass of traditional guignolet (cherry liqueur), morellos and maraschino, perhaps a smaller glass of proper old PX blended with rancio… All that is luscious and rich, without getting heady at all. With water: some additional freshness. A perfect Zwetschgentarte with almonds and cinnamon, hoppla. Mouth (neat): rather huge and ridden with black cherries, marmalade and small dark figs, with a good deal of black chocolate plus a ristretto. We’ve known some oloroso-ed Glendronachs that have been a little bit like this. With water: back to Cognac and to mentholated matters. Some pine needles, liquorice, marmalade, mulled wine, cloves and chocolate. Not to mention our beloved chestnut honey, which has always got some oaky tones, as you may know. Makes sense, does it not? Finish: long and very chocolaty, with an earthier and more peppery aftertaste. Comments: this is almost Cognac for sherry monster lovers, so if you’re into Glendronach, Macallan of the Gran Reserva kind, or into the heavier Glenfarclas, this is Cognac for you. If you’re rather into Glenkinchie, maybe not. Great and smart exercise by Mr. Bouju, shall I add.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

There’s another ‘malternative-y’ new Cognac in this new series…

Grosperrin Borderies D65-A54 (56.7%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, 2019)

Grosperrin Borderies D65-A54 (56.7%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, 2019) Five stars
Interesting to check what the excellent house Grosperrin have come up with for us whisky lovers. I’d bet that it’s going to be very different from Bouju’s usually heavier style. Naturally, the name does not give you the itinerary from Basel to Zürich via the autobahn,  it would rather suggest that this was distilled in the year 1965, and that consequently, it is 54 years old. Let’s proceed… Colour: amber. Nose: starts with a rather unusual mix of dunnage and custard, plus fresh laundry. A little white chocolate too, tapioca, balsa wood… Looks like this baby’s a little slow to take off, but no worries, we have plenty of time. (after ten minutes)… There, redcurrants, a little grenadine, tiny tangerines, a touch of violet, perhaps lavender… Good, let’s make good use of water, if you don’t mind. With water: a little tar and rubber would come out and then go away, but a few notes of engine oil and ski wax do remain, as well as tiny floral notes, rather around violets and lavender again. But make no mistake, this is no 1980s Bowmore. Mouth (neat): rather hot. Not a lazy one at all on the palate, on the contrary, this bursts with orchard fruits, greengages, pears, cherries, apples, apricots, gooseberries… The power and the freshness are quite spectacular here, given the older age. I’ve even found touches of varnish. With water: unfolds on citrus, mostly oranges of all kinds. If the sibling was ex-sherry Glendronach, I would say this is rather ex-bourbon Balblair. No bad name either, I agree. Finish: long, still fresh, maybe more classic Cognac, with many stewed fruits, peaches… A touch of wax and even natural rubber in the aftertaste, all that works very well. Comments: I could not tell you which one I liked best, both being very idiosyncratically malternative-y. And yet so different. Great work by both houses, and by our Swiss friends. These ones as digestives after some proper röstis, ah, yummy…
SGP:651 - 90 points.

… And since we were at Grosperrin’s…

Grande Champagne Lot N°39 (44.3%, Jean Grosperrin, 82 litres, 2019)

Grande Champagne Lot N°39 (44.3%, Jean Grosperrin, 82 litres, 2019) Four stars and a half
This rare Cognac stems from a small parcel of demi-johns that were found in the cellar of a small farm in Salles-d’Angle, in the middle of Grande Champagne. The vintage (1939) is pretty symbolic too, is it not? A perfect Cognac to celebrate peace, love and understanding between all people, while hoping that all the forms of fascism and nationalism that we’re all spotting here and there on all sides of all seas and oceans will fail miserably in 2020, and will just get nipped in the bud. Let’s drink to that! Colour: dep amber. Nose: this is oh so soft, elegant, refined, civilised, sophisticated, and stunningly fruity! Our friends the stewed peaches and melons are loyal to the job, and would come together with notes of hessian, older mead, menthol and liquorice, a touch of camphor, crushed bananas, earl grey, and cigarette tobacco. Al that is exactly not boisterous, and pretty smooth indeed. Very delicate old Cognac, despite the cannons’ roar. Mouth: hold on, it’s not that soft! It’s even a tad rustic for a while, rather on apple peelings and artisanal cider and wine, but it would become a little gentler after a few seconds, with more nuts and all-fruit jams. A perfect example of some farm Cognac that’s never been blended away, and that remained a little fiery over the years. While, yes, the nose was way subtler. Finish: rather long, and rather on stewed peaches and apricots. Some cloves in the aftertaste. Comments: best wishes to you all! Let’s only hope the world of spirits will become a little more authentic and a little closer to the products, with a little less unnecessary bling than we’ve seen in recent years. Just like this lovely old Cognac. Santé!
SGP:551 - 88 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Cognacs we've tasted so far


WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

December 2019

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Brora 40 yo 1978/2019 (49.2%, OB, 200th anniversary, Exclusive Release, 1819 bottles) - W 93

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Brora 1977/1996 (59.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.5, ‘An Islay by another name’, 216 bottles) - WF94

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Black Friday 21 yo ‘2019 Edition’ (53.1%, The Whisky Exchange, 1800 bottles) - WF90

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Angostura 16 yo 2003/2019 (55.4%, Single Cask Nation, Trinidad, sherry hogshead, cask #3, 309 bottles) - WF91

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Laphroaig 'Select' (40%, OB, +/-2018)  - WF74

December 2019 - part 2 <--- January 2020 - part 1 ---> January 2020 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Aberlour 25 yo 1964/1989 (43%, OB, 75cl)

Glenlivet 15 yo (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 fl.ozs, 1960s)

Smith’s Glenlivet 1949 (Proof strength, Archie Kirkland of Glasgow, pure malt whisky, early 1960s?)

Daniel Bouju ‘Très Vieux Edition Dully’ (53.4%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, 2019)

Grosperrin Borderies D65-A54 (56.7%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, 2019)

Grosperrin Borderies D65-A54 (56.7%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, 2019)