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Whisky Tasting


Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild




Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2023 - Part 2

January 2023 - part 1 <--- January 2023 - part 2 ---> February 2023 - part 1


January 31, 2023


Tasting peppers and plasticine. I mean, Benromach

We've got three or four recent young Benromach on the table, I believe we'll do them upon ascending colour, for once.

(Photograph, the Distillery in 1958, Benromach)




Benromach 2002/2022 (57.3%, OB, for LMDW Antipodes, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #371, 181 bottles)

Benromach 2002/2022 (57.3%, OB, for LMDW Antipodes, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #371, 181 bottles) Five stars
Gosh these 2002s are 20 already. Colour: straw. Nose: and voilà, 50% Springbank and 50% Longrow. Almond cream, lemon zests, lamp oil, paraffin, shoe polish, fish fat (salmon), garden bonfire, diesel, chestnut honey… I just adore this and shall reiterate that this sits right on the axis of good (HP, Clynelish, so Benromach in this case, Ben Nevis, Springbank). With water: a dazzling farminess, with the smile of the farmer. Sourdough, whiffs of leatherette, menthol cigarettes, grapefruit zest… Mouth (neat): tarrier, medicinal, very salty, smoky, a little rubbery, with some plasticine, Szechuan pepper, yellow chartreuse blended with some sweet chenin blanc (Chaume) and some lime tea. Very, very impressive. With water: better yet. Phenomenal proposition, with some oysters, mezcal, lemon, plasticine…  Finish: long, perfect. Lemon skin, salt, wax, smokiness, you would almost believe it's Brora. Comments: exactly my preferred kind of whisky. I agree we're a little high (as far as scores are concerned, eh) but as a good friend once told me, 'this is your blog, you do whatever the f*** you want'. A little rude, perhaps.

SGP:563 - 93 points.

With pre-emptive apologies to all the others…

Benromach 10 yo 2011/2021 (59.2%, OB, for Van Wees 100th Anniversary, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #42, 300 bottles)

Benromach 10 yo 2011/2021 (59.2%, OB, for Van Wees 100th Anniversary, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #42, 300 bottles) Five stars
Van Wees are a highly respected Dutch importer, distributor, retailer and bottler. They are famous for their 'The Ultimate' range. Only good things to say and write about Van Wees… Colour: gold. Nose: it's doing just fine after the dazzling 2002, with just a little more 'mustard and gunpowder', a combo that's absolutely not unseen in sherried Benromach. Let's say it, many sherried Benromachs are a little sulphury, but you could say that's an asset and in any case, only a matter of style and taste. New wellies. With water: down to the core, brilliant! Grapefruit, mud, porridge, beach sand, game, grouse, truffle, sulphur… Mouth (neat): it's on a different 'axis of good', rather on the Ben Nevis to Fettercairn to Glenturret to Jura line this time. Meats, sriracha, hoisin, mustard, old walnuts, snuff, pepper, chocolate… With water: salty bouillon, lemon juice, a touch of horseradish, a muddy side… Finish: long, fat, waxier, saltier again… Comments: just a happy mess, feels a bit like France just now. In the own words of Aphrodite's Child, love, love love love.
SGP:562 - 90 points.

Between us, these Benromach are superb, only a little tiring…

Benromach 2012/2022 (60.5%, OB, for LMDW Antipodes, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #601, 315 bottles)

Benromach 2012/2022 (60.5%, OB, for LMDW Antipodes, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #601, 315 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: crikey, it is the same whisky, just a tad toned down, perhaps a little more elegant and less exuberant. Less sulphur for sure, less grouse, less truffle, more oils, engine oil, cigars, pinewood smoke… With water: changes direction, uphill, towards Nuits-Saint-Georges. Old Bourgogne, ceps, civet cat, underwood, floorcloth, rabbit, cassis… In short, old pinot noir. Mouth (neat): very salty, with more olives this time, both green and black, and even an acetic side (balsamico) but it is 'too strong'. Mucho peppers and chillies. With water: but what a drop, once more. More green herbs this time, tobacco for sure, leather, cracked pepper, strong chilli sauce… This one is not for the faint-hearted, that's for sure. Finish: extremely long, very peppery. It's to be wondered if someone didn't add a bag of pepper at some point. Curiously, the aftertaste is a little gentler, even a notch 'sweet'. Sweet, imagine! Leathery and peppery signature. Comments: it's not a tasting session, it is a wrestling fight. Marvellous, the Van Wees was just a tad fresher and brighter. The bourbon one for LMDW was on another planet.
SGP:463 - 89 points.

Benromach 2012/2022 'Cask Strength Batch 01' (60.2%, OB, 30 casks)

Benromach 2012/2022 'Cask Strength Batch 01' (60.2%, OB, 30 casks) Four stars
They say it's 'made by hand'. We'll soon get up there to check all that. Not too sure about the casks here, they wouldn't tell on the front label, except that it is 'exclusively first-fill'. Oh, thanks! Colour: gold. Nose: really rather too strong, you do not get much out of it, you'll only burn your nostrils. Avoid at any costs. With water: a little sawdust, chocolate, pumpernickel, mud, horse dung (distant whiffs)… I find it pretty tough and rustic, they should sell this one at The House of Bruar. Nah, love it anyway. Mouth (neat): it sure hasn't got that sulphury attack, but it does have a lot of peppers of all kinds. Tastes good, but no chances taken… With water: yess! It's Moses saved from the waters, although I wouldn't call it Mister Gentle. Bitters, Campari-like brews, artichoke, abundant peppers, pepper oil… Finish: very long, on bitter vegetables, bitter oranges, Fernet, artichoke… And indeed, a lot of pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: great but tough, there must be something with pepper at Benromach. But I love it.
SGP:463 - 87 points.

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


WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

January 2023

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Benromach 2002/2022 (57.3%, OB, for LMDW Antipodes, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #371, 181 bottles) - WF93

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Ardbeg 25 yo 1976/2002 (53.5%, OB, for Velier, Single Cask, sherry butt, cask #2396, 492 bottles) - WF94

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Versailles at Enmore 36 yo 1985/2022 'MEV' (50.4%, Distilia, Greenheart Collection, Guyana)  - WF92 

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Don Papa 'Baroko' (40%, OB, Spirit Drink, Philippines, +/-2022) - WF45

January 30, 2023


Three Aberlour

Aberlour is one of the names we're trying to taste a few times a year, as in my book it's one of the seminal distillates, one of the very few that you could sip as quasi-newmake, like the best rums. Stunning fruitiness but it's true that we tend to rather know of the sherried versions, while the latter would diminish, if not erase a large part of the Distillery character.  
(French magazine ad, circa 1995. 'Wallace Milroy and his pears decided to vote for Aberlour even before they had swallowed one single drop'. I didn't know black tie was mandatory to be a judge at the IWSC, even in 1995)




Aberlour 18 yo (43%, OB, 50cl, +/-2022)

Aberlour 18 yo (43%, OB, 50cl, +/-2022) Four stars
The last time we tried the 18 it was a batch from 2013. So indeed, how time flies (hate that sentence). It's a great expression anyway that would crush many neighbours of similar age. Colour: rich gold. Nose: starts with some caramel and some toffee, jumps to Nutella (I know), swims towards maple syrup and molasses honey, reaches sultanas and dried figs (magnificent here), goes on with a little orange squash, or even Fanta (not that nice I'm afraid), and ends the journey amongst roasted and honeyed peanuts and pecans. Plus Ovaltine/Ovomaltine. An ultra-classic, very reassuring nose. Mouth: very good for sure, nuttier than the neighbours, a tad grittier as well (walnut skins), then totally geared towards honey, rhum agricole, toffee, marmalade and maple syrup. Finish: medium to short, more on dried fruits and milk chocolate. More honey-glazed roasted peanuts (we call them chouchous) and Cointreau. Comments: great drop. At the risk of being repetitive, I'd reiterate that 46% vol. would work rather better than 43%...Is that PC enough? Now watch it, shrinkflation is hitting hard, this is only 50cl.

SGP:551 - 86 points.

In my opinion, shrinkflation has been hitting malt whisky for years now. NAS, which consists in selling younger whisky for the same price or even for a higher price, is shrinkflation, just as switching from 70cl to 50cl is shrinklfation. Let's try one of those NAS...

Aberlour 'A'bunadh Alba' (62.7%, OB, +/-2022)

Aberlour 'A'bunadh Alba' (62.7%, OB, +/-2022) Four stars
Nothing to do with the famous Swedish pop band Abba (S., come on), the name Alba refers to quercus alba, a.k.a. American oak, so this is probably ex-bourbon wood, but let's remember that the very vast majority of sherry casks, at least the genuine ones that they're using in soleras, are made out of American oak and have been for ages. Colour: straw. Nose: I remember that when we first visited the Distillery with the Malt Maniacs, around the year 2002, bourbon casks were extremely rare and any opportunity to try any wouldn't have been missed. And wasn't missed. This is hyper-clean, oily, all on white and yellow fruits. Preserved peaches and custard are ruling the whole shebang. With water: no changes. Pleasantly elementary and even binary. Mouth (neat): a creamy, almost syrupy mirabelle and white pepper combination. The oak feels a little too much for me at this point (oversteeped tea and coconut) but water may help… With water: very simple, very excellent. Mirabelles, touch of mint, touch of quince, vanilla, tarte tatin. Finish: I'm afraid we'll need to mention limoncello once more. Comments: possibly a little too obvious, and I rather hate it that I like it a lot. Nah, it's an excellent (if a little syrupy) little NAS, really.
SGP:641 - 86 points.

Oh great, we've also got an old indie, and a barrel at that…

Aberlour 30 yo 1990/2020 (44.8%, Whisky-Fässle, barrel)

Aberlour 30 yo 1990/2020 (44.8%, Whisky-Fässle, barrel) Five stars
Long time not tried these vintages, I'm not even sure they were really out of this world. Colour: gold. Nose: a barrel! indeed there are still a few marshmallows, also some metal polish, beeswax, barley syrup, a drop of absinth, soft liquorice, fir bud liqueur (half a drop), white asparagus, sunflower and sesame oils, dragon fruit, fresh bark, white clover… It's all becoming fractal and very subtle, I'm sure we'd find hundreds of smaller aromas, should we give it more time. Mouth: exactly. The oak decomposed into waxes and pollens, woods (pine), small resins, various nuts (walnuts, almonds, brazil), bitters, amaretti, honeydew… Well, I believe this was bottled right on time, the piney notes might have taken over the next day. Right, within the next decade. Finish: wonderfully waxy, nutty, mentholy, piney, and 'fragile'. Some extraordinary citrus in the aftertaste, this is almost an Aberlour Sour (ooh that's smart, S.!) Comments: totally love this fantastically unmodern and deliciously delicate Aberlour by the Ducks. It's going to be 90, almost 91… Oh hell, that'll be…

SGP:451 - 91 points.

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


January 29, 2023


A high-flying verticale of Armagnac

Partie Deux

A Ténarèze won it last week, but we had halted the festivities in 1976. Today we shall go on down starting from 1973 and try to jump over WWII once more.

Early 20th Century advertising plate, Valdor)




Alfred Dubois-Lizée 1973 'Brigitte' (47.8%, Jack Tar, Bas-Armagnac, single dame-jeanne from the barrel #445, 107 bottles, 2022)

Alfred Dubois-Lizée 1973 'Brigitte' (47.8%, Jack Tar, Bas-Armagnac, single dame-jeanne from the barrel #445, 107 bottles, 2022) Four stars
Alfred Dubois-Lizée is an old cognac brand that seems to belong (or used to belong) to Tiffon. According to the back label, this armagnac stems from négociants J. Goudoulin in Courrensan. Connections between cognac and armagnac are absolutely not unseen. Colour: amber. Nose: rather old-school, rounded, mostly on raisins, with some coffee and dark chocolate, plus some dark tobacco (Gauloises Caporal, naturally) and old wood. Really old-school. Mouth: indeed, old-school, that is to say rather oak-driven, with once again a lot of coffee, dark tobacco and chocolate, plus preserved peaches and a little marmalade. The background is all on raisins. Finish: medium, sweet, on more raisins and clove, caraway and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: all good. Some extremely traditional armagnac. Not too sure about when exactly it was 'demijohnned' and how old it is.
SGP:631 - 85 points.

Baron de Sigognac 1972/2022 (44.5%, Old Master Spirits, Bas-Armagnac, 151 bottles, 2022)

Baron de Sigognac 1972/2022 (44.5%, Old Master Spirits, Bas-Armagnac, 151 bottles, 2022) Five stars
Some armagnac by the famous house Bordeneuve. The bottlers in Australia told me that, I quote, "The Baron was apparently quite a unique individual so they hold on to this piece of history quite fondly".  This is single-estate and 80% baco plus 20% ugni blanc. It is technically a 39 years old, which is the time it spent in wood before it's been transferred to demi-johns for 10 further year of 'mellowing' (my words). Colour: amber. Nose: love it, it's displaying rooty notes, which I always worship. Wild carrots, parsnips, gentian, beetroot, all that coated with a rich sauce made out of caramel, corn syrup and butterscotch. Sprinkle with a little amontillado and just a tiny touch of cologne, and voilà. You may add bits of well-hung grouse and very old syrah. Mouth: splendid, starting from that syrah (at random, La Chapelle) or why not Australian shiraz (at random, Grange) but that does not mean that it's reeking of red wine, au contraire. More classic notes then, prunes, cassis, maple syrup, marmalade, dried figs, touch of sandalwood… The body's perfect. Finish: medium, more roasted and toffeeish, chocolaty as well, with raisins and goji. Spicier aftertaste (cinnamon etc.) Comments: it's got this 'rustic' side that you would expect from a proper armagnac. In short, perfectly authentic old armagnac 'from the countryside'. Love it.

SGP:651 - 91 points.

Alfred Dubois-Lizée 1965 'Paul' (43.4%, Jack Tar, Bas-Armagnac, single dame-jeanne from the barrel #403, 60 bottles, 2022)

Alfred Dubois-Lizée 1965 'Paul' (43.4%, Jack Tar, Bas-Armagnac, single dame-jeanne from the barrel #403, 60 bottles, 2022) Five stars
No need to tell you that dame-jeanne means demijohn. Strange that it went from feminine in French to masculine in English, no? This one too stems from Veuve J. Goudoulin. Colour: dark amber. Nose: curiously fresher and more floral, fruity and honeyed than 'Brigitte', in that sense more 'modern'. Broom, dandelions, other yellow flowers… Also ripe quinces and mirabelles, some earthy tones, celeriac… Absolutely lovely.  Mouth: perfect brightness, this is almost some old Champagne (no bubbles though), with a brioche-y side and more quinces and mirabelles, jujubes, honeysuckle, clover flowers… Didn't you use to suck on clover flowers while you were a kid? Finish: medium, fresh, floral and gently sweet. Some toffee too. Comments: very good, easy, gentle, sweeter. It kept its freshness impeccably.
SGP:641 - 90 points.

Alfred Dubois-Lizée 1963 'Jane' (46.2%, Jack Tar, Bas-Armagnac, single dame-jeanne from the barrel #406, 80 bottles, 2022)

Alfred Dubois-Lizée 1963 'Jane' (46.2%, Jack Tar, Bas-Armagnac, single dame-jeanne from the barrel #406, 80 bottles, 2022) Five stars
Colour: amber. Nose: some kind of blend of the 1973 and 1965, with both some fruity and floral freshness and rather more 'old oak' than in the 1963. That makes it a little traditional again, with some coffee and dark tobacco, but stewed red peaches and even blood oranges would bring their joy, while some liquorice is lurking in the middle distance. Some heather honey too. It is a splendid combination. Some oloroso. Mouth: exactly the same feeling, some old wood plus some lively jams and jellies, all in sync. More blood oranges and other citrus (proper lime, not hose small green lemons), apples, plus chocolate and tobacco. Excellent. Finish: medium, with a little caramel, honey, and the inevitable raisins. A little menthol and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: to be honest, those style were pretty much out of fashion only ten years, but people seem to be seeking authenticity again. They say the people are always right!

SGP:641 - 90 points.

Domaine de Bigor 1963 (46%, LMDW, Version Française, armagnac, cask #404, 301 bottles, 202)

Domaine de Bigor 1963 (46%, LMDW, Version Française, armagnac, cask #404, 301 bottles, 202) Five stars
The Domaine de Bigor used to belong to the house Goudoulin in the past. The cask number here, which is extremely close to that of the 'Jane', would suggest that that one was actually a Domaine de Bigor as well, but that's pure conjecture. Besides it doesn't say so but this is probably Bas-Armagnac, a.k.a. Armagnac Noir (black armagnac). Colour: reddish amber. Nose: almost the same indeed, just a notch more peppery (cracked pepper) and a little more on coffee. The Gauloises are back too and would come together with oak leaves. Mouth: almost undistinguishable from the 1963 'Jane' on the palate. You could drink five litres of each to try to find tiny difference and nuances, and that would end in disaster. Finish: same. Comments: another exquisite 1963.
SGP:641 – 90 points.

Alfred Dubois-Lizée 1934 'Claude' (44.2%, Jack Tar, Bas-Armagnac, single dame-jeanne from the barrel #477, 88 bottles, 2022)

Alfred Dubois-Lizée 1934 'Claude' (44.2%, Jack Tar, Bas-Armagnac, single dame-jeanne from the barrel #477, 88 bottles, 2022) Five stars
A large part of my family was born in 1934 and so it's a vintage that I've tried several times. Pommard, Gevrey, Pauillac… ;-). This time again, it is Veuve Goudoulin stock. Colour: dark reddish amber. Nose: roses, violets, broom, wisteria. Indeed, it starts floral, the freshness being just incredible, as if it had been demijohnned pretty early. Extraordinary whiffs of raspberry ganache, old-style lady's perfume (we often quote Joy de Patou), then marmalades of many kinds, orange, lemon, pomelos, citron, then a little incense, sandalwood, cigar box (tobacco and cedarwood), a hint of jamon iberico, certainly some heather honey, quite possibly some gentian, some high-end coffee…  Wow wow wow. Mouth: game set and match. An orgy of stewed fruits, many spices, some rarer spices (saffron for sure) and an incredible floral side, simply leading to some old Sauternes from one of the greatest châteaux. There's one that I've tried only three weeks ago, Sigalas Rabaud 1960. A very rare vintage given that the reputation's always been bad, but this very Château did wonders. Anyway…  Finish: medium, still fresh, with some polished oak and quite some tobacco. May I quote Gauloises for the very last time today? I promise. Comments: this is not a spirit; this is pure poetry.

SGP:561 - 92 points.

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


January 28, 2023





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Four Braeval
I couldn't tell you much about Braeval, it's one of the distilleries I have the least experience with, or interest in if I'm being brutally honest. But let's try four of them today.


Braeval 24 yo 1997/2021 (58.4%, The Good Spirits, cask #38066, barrel, 170 bottles)

Braeval 24 yo 1997/2021 (58.4%, The Good Spirits, cask #38066, barrel, 170 bottles)
The Good Spirits being a very cool wee shop and bottler in Hong Kong, not to be confused with The Good Spirits Co, which is a very cool bundle of wee shops and bottler in Glasgow. Colour: pale gold. Nose: honeys, breakfast cereals, sweetened porridge, flower nectars and slightly limey infused green fruit notes. Extremely easy, classical and 'Speysidey' in the best possible sense. With water: lemons, limes and flower blossoms! Also wee hints of pineapple, jelly beans and custard. Mouth: yellow and green fruits, with citrus rinds, soft notes of fruit teas, lightly peppery warming aspects and then some sweeter touches of condensed milk and a return of those nice honey vibes. With water: snapped twigs, lychee, wet brackens and ferns giving a slightly petrichor vibe, and a little more peppery and spicy aspects from the wood, such as ground ginger and cinnamon. Finish: medium but surprisingly exotic and tropical with a lovely fruity flourish in the aftertaste. Comments: an excellent fruity and easy drop that is reminiscent of some Burnside/Balvenies of similar pedigree. Probably the best Braeval I've ever tried, not that that's saying much to be honest.

SGP: 641 - 87 points.



Braes of Glenlivet 17 yo 1979/1997 (59.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #113.1 'Sweet tobacco and pandrops')

Braes of Glenlivet 17 yo 1979/1997 (59.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #113.1 'Sweet tobacco and pandrops')
Colour: gold. Nose: rounded and sweet with ginger biscuits, sweetened breakfast cereals, brown bread spread with honey and some old school beery notes such as milk stout and shilling ales. There's also something a little leafy and earthy with these wee impressions of potting sheds and cigarette rolling tobacco. With water: some vapour rubs, a little tree bark, hessian, cooking oils and a slightly mentholated edge. Mouth: a tad plain perhaps, breads, dried flowers in vase water, ales, a touch of camphor, some shoe polish and hessian cloth. Feels like the cask has done a fair bit of heavy lifting here, even without being too impactful in terms of 'additive' flavours, if you see what I mean? With water: the same really: beers, breads, dried flowers, some ink, putty and graphite oil. Also a return of these nice ginger biscuit and cupboard spice notes. Finish: medium and a little sweeter, on cocoa, caffe latte and milk chocolate biscuits now. Comments: A perfectly decent and harmless wee curiosity, but not much else really. A good example of how many Scottish distilleries improved their makes over the next couple of decades I'd say.
SGP: 451 - 81 points.



Braes of Glenlivet 18 yo 1979/1998 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #113.3, for USA)

Braes of Glenlivet 18 yo 1979/1998 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #113.3, for USA)
Colour: gold. Nose: the same, broadly speaking, except here a little more honeyed sweetness, something more like condensed milk, rice pudding with cinnamon sugar and a more elegant and intriguing note of flower nectar and golden syrup. Generally a more charming take on this sort of profile I'd say. With water: vase water, chlorophyll and a hint of caramelised oatmeal. Mouth: indeed this is more syrupy, more fruity and yet still with some of these interesting notes of ginger biscuit, vapour rubs and camphor. Some caffe latte and hand cream in the mix too - unusual whiskies these. With water: more of these sweet biscuity notes, more overt honey flavours, putty, camphor and some general cooking oil vibes. Finish: good length this time, rather mechanical, on cooking oils, bruised green apples and some more of those sugary breakfast cereals. Comments: I definitely prefer this one over .1, but this is still a bit of a challenging style I think.
SGP: 551 - 83 points.



Braes of Glenlivet 30 yo 1974/2004 (57.0%, Signatory Vintage for USA, cask #550, 535 bottles)

Braes of Glenlivet 30 yo 1974/2004 (57.0%, Signatory Vintage for USA, cask #550, 535 bottles)
Presumably from some kind of big, knackered old butt… Colour: white wine. Nose: some kind of petrol doused linens in an airing cupboard! Chalk, wool, plaster, ink and ironing water. Distillate aged oxidatively for 30 years with barely splinter of oak about it - now, not too sure how charismatic that distillate really is in this instance, this cask with Laphroaig for example would probably be already drifting into the low-90s With water: crushed flower stems, vase water, agave, paint, getting a bit tough now. Mouth: firm, peppery and rather neat and sharp with hints of plain medicines, aspirin, mineral oil, shoe leather and sandalwood. A really funny thing with a curious medicinal quality about it. Also still extremely raw and petrolic. With water: still on wood, linens, very plain wet cereals, medicine, something slightly lactic too. Finish: medium, peppery, some green nettles and watercress and more cereals and damp grains. Comments: in theory this is my style of whisky, but when the distillate lacks charisma it can really become a hinderance. Not 'bad', but an extreme and highly austere oddity.
SGP: 341 - 78 points.



The modern one wins it, hands down, on this occasion.




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


January 27, 2023


The jungle's most secret Islay (part III)

Simply because there's a lot, as I told you. First, two for China.

(picture, not sure this remedy actually works but I like its cherry and plum taste)




Islay 1991/2022 (49.8%, The Auld Alliance for Gene's Dram, China, barrel, cask #2718, 258 bottles)

Islay 1991/2022 (49.8%, The Auld Alliance for Gene's Dram, China, barrel, cask #2718, 258 bottles) Four stars and a half
What a lovely post-Alsatian label, great to see it travel afar. Colour: light gold. Nose: this one's rather ultra-tight, totally focused on iodine, roots, carrots, porridge and grass smoke. Some gherkin brine and some tincture of iodine. Mouth: grasses and brine, lemon juice… Excellent although pretty elementary and feeling much, much younger than 30 or 31. Finish: long, a little sharp. Very medicinal aftertaste. Comments: water improves it a little bit. It's a wonderful drop but it could have been 10, 15 or 20 just as well. Nothing against 10, 15 or 20 years old Laphroaigs, naturally, well done Gene.

SGP:555 - 88 points.

Islay 30 yo 1991 (51%, Thompson Bros. for Edward Zheng, China)

Islay 30 yo 1991 (51%, Thompson Bros. for Edward Zeng, China) Five stars
Sadly no picture at hand for this one. (updated, thank you Tony!) Colour: light gold. Nose: the colour is light but the cask was rather active, as this baby would start with some vanilla and blancmange, before switching to mango cream and umami sauce. Some dazzling earthy menthol. With water: cockle soup! You can't beat properly made cockle soup. Mouth (neat): big, peppery and smoky at first, then saltier, on vegetable bouillon (cube). Some tight and gritty grapefruit as well. With water: it becomes one big salty whisky! Have I told you about cockle soup? And winkle bouillon? Finish: medium and very bouillony. Lovely touches of tangerine cordial as well, cherry liqueur, fermented plums… Comments: superb, very well selected, Edward!
SGP:565 - 90 points.

Islay 30 yo 1991/2021 (50.2%, Thompson Bros. for HNWS Taiwan, refill barrel, 263 bottles)

Islay 30 yo 1991/2021 (50.2%, Thompson Bros. for HNWS Taiwan, refill barrel, 263 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: in the style of the Auld Alliance's, both noses being the same actually. With water: a tad more acidic, more on ultra-tight Sylvaner, plus damp chalk. Nosing the peat bog near the Distillery, where they have those myriads of little flags that make the landscape look like an old WWI battlefield. Mouth (neat): creamier on the palate, fruitier as well, with new culprits (peaches) and a wonderful secondary medicinal side (old syrups, old medicines). Notes of bark and fruit peel. With water: ultra-vertical. Salted lime juice. Finish: long and even more on seawater plus lime juice. Comments: another one that could be of any age. As they say, it's sending shivers down your spine, brrr…

SGP:455 - 88 points.

Secret Islay 32 yo 1990/2022 (50.7%, Swell de Spirits, Field Trip)

Secret Islay 32 yo 1990/2022 (50.7%, Swell de Spirits, Field Trip) Five stars
Some wonderful labels at Swell's! Colour: white wine. Nose: more varnish in this one, nail polish remover, then seawater and lemon plus bandages, new wool and ointments. Granny smith and lime, chablis. With water: tangerines and more chablis (in French the capital letter goes off as soon as you're substantiving any proper noun, except people – but why am I telling you this?) Mouth (neat): super. Dry chablis and lemon juice, touch of pepper and vanilla. With water: tropical fruits coming out, together with some spearmint and rosemary. Finish: long, on similar notes. Comments: this note was short but the whisky is excellent. I know this will sound weird but trying many +/-30 years old Laphroaigs is not such an easy task. But it's OK, I'm not complaining.

SGP:655 - 90 points.

We've got many more but I think it's time to put an end to this madness, with a very last 'secret Laphroaig'…

Islay Single Malt 1989/2022 (52.1% The Whisky Jury, refill barrel, cask #4416139, 269 bottles)

Islay Single Malt 1989/2022 (52.1% The Whisky Jury, refill barrel, cask #4416139, 269 bottles) Five stars
A prince charming on the label, unless that would be a leader of one of our non-progressive French unions. Forever toads. Colour: straw/white wine. Nose: back to old-school Laphroaig manners, rather in the style of the old official 30, or even 40 indeed. Drinkability index through the roof this time, I would suppose. With water: oh, fresh almonds and high-end putty, linoleum, leatherette, moisturiser, engine oil… Mouth (neat): my favourite this far. Full, integral, unadulterated Laphroaigness. Is it a matter of vintage? With water: awe. Gulping down the most fantastic oysters, with a little lemon, pepper and tabasco. We don't even need any Champagne, since we've got this pretty phenomenal Laphroaig. Finish: long, mentholy, peppery, lemony and superbly coastal. The most medicinal and iodine-y finish of them all. Comments: I hope our friend Marcel, kumquat aficionado and #1 Laphroaig specialist (way beyond anybody officially related to the brand) could try this one. Otherwise, Marcel, I'm keeping some for you.

SGP:566 - 92 points.

Islay Single Malt 31 yo 1990/2022 (51%, Whisky Sponge, refill barrel, 239 bottles)

Islay Single Malt 31 yo 1990/2022 (51%, Whisky Sponge, refill barrel, 239 bottles) Five stars
Dads are important. Colour: straw. Nose: it is a subtle one, rather on fruit peel, white asparagus, fresh bark, fresh almonds, orange skins, rapeseed oil, lamp oil, chalk and wool, hand cream… With water: love this, new wool, new tweed, fresh plaster, rainwater, pistachio, almond cream…  Mouth (neat): hold on, this is another strong pretender to the crown. Exceptional small herbs mixed with lime juice, dill, sage, verbena, wormwood, chervil, parsley… It's got a very 'modern cuisine' side, too bad Noma are closing down. With water: careful, don't add more than two drops or you'll ruin it. Pomelos, lettuce juice, lemon… Finish: very long, ultra-focused on all herbs and bitterer nuts of the creation. Bitter almonds are particularly obvious here. Comments: moving. Certainly one of the best Laphroaigs of the last, say three years. Such a joy that great friends would bottle such great whiskies!
SGP:565 - 92 points.

January 26, 2023


More Shhecret Islay from the jungle… and some red wine now and again.

Shh… We'll have both undisclosed singles and blended ones again. Naturally, some are 'rare', let's remember that Islay only produces around 25 million litres of pure alcohol. Per year.




Islay Journey (46%, Hunter Laing, blended malt, +/-2022)

Islay Journey (46%, Hunter Laing, blended malt, +/-2022) Three stars
I would suppose all whiskies that are harboured within a blended malt bearing the name Islay ought to stem from Islay, but I'm not sure, there was 'Isle of Skye', for example, that wasn't totally from Skye. Really not too sure… Colour: white wine. Nose: a little medicinal alcohol at first, then sea breeze, oyster shells, roots and Islay mud. Whiffs of wet dogs too (we'll be sorry eternally, dogs), plus porridge and damp oatcakes. Apple peel. Mouth: tastes extremely young at first, with a sweet and oily coating, possibly from some very active American casks. Then green pepper, lemon syrup, a little salt, some white tequila, capers, seawater… Finish: medium, a tad acetic perhaps, not in a bad way at all. One oyster with some tabasco and new oak in the aftertaste. Comments: feels a little young yet consensual but can that be a bad thing?.

SGP:465 - 81 points.

Angel's Nectar 7 yo (46%, OB, Islay Rioja Cask Edition, +/-2022)

Angel's Nectar 7 yo (46%, OB, Islay Rioja Cask Edition, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
Islay and Rioja, why not. After all, some are adding milk to their pu-ehr tea or, indeed, pineapple to their pizzas (S., not again!) Remember Rioja's a thick and rich red Spanish wine. Granted, white Rioja does exist too, but I doubt whisky coopers would use it. While we're at it, Rioja is famous for its main varietal, tempranillo, but they also use grenache/garnacha, mazuelo and graciano. Next time you meet a distinguished distiller who's using wine casks, ask him/her about the varietals. Colour: blush wine. Nose: right, pastries (strawberry roll) and smoked raspberries, fruit yoghurt, oysters and grenadine, hints of scented soap (rose), fresh almonds and walnuts… Well this is not unpleasant. Mouth: I believe it is extremely hard to achieve any kind of balance with such as set-up. I know this style has got its , well, aficionados, and that's just fantastic, but I'm having trouble with peppered strawberry yoghurt sprinkled with smoked water and diesel oil. But it's me, I know it's me. Finish: rather long, more on leather, blood oranges and Szechuan pepper. Salty aftertaste. Comments: still way, way better than all Longrow Reds in my book. Devilish sweet and salty combination.

SGP:666 - 79 points.

Speaking of wine…

Mac-Talla 'Red Wine Barriques' (53.8%, Morrison, Islay single malt, 7,200 bottles)

Mac-Talla 'Red Wine Barriques' (53.8%, Morrison, Islay single malt, 7,200 bottles) Three stars
Barriques means Bordeaux, should we expect some red pepper and bitterish cassis buds? Strong liquorice? Or prunes? Colour: apricot. Nose: what is this… reminds me of something… wait… ah, yes, Linzertorte! It is a smoked Linzertorte, with a little mint and various leaves and stems in the background. A savoury side too. I would suppose this was European oak if it was proper Château casks. With water: cherry stem tea, walnuts, leaves, wool, washing powder, chalk… Looks like the whisky's managed to have the upper hand. Mouth (neat): very close to the Rioja, just a tad sweeter and more peppery at the same time. With water: same, plus bay leaves and orange skins, goji, damsons… Also this musty/muddy side that's very typical of red wine casks, in my opinion. Finish: medium, saltier. Vegetables, eggplant, cranberry sauce, Rumpflaumen… Touch of soapiness plus artichokes in the aftertaste. Comments: indeed, it's an Islay with some Bordeaux, but I think it rather feels a little Germanic. I believe more and more people enjoy this style, which is just perfect, it's a whole new category in the making and I'm sure there will soon be some 'bodegas' in Bordeaux too, where they would only make bespoke casks for the whisky industry, as they do in Montilla, Jerez etc.
SGP:566 - 80 points.

Flaming Feast (46%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, +/-2022)

Flaming Feast (46%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, +/-2022) Four stars
I've already tried what I think was an earlier batch a few years ago; It was very good in my opinion (WF 85). I haven't tried any new single malt by Wemyss since years – apart from their own Kingsbarns), but I remember extremely well their Caol Ila or Bowmore… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: some waxier combination, with more oils (and fresh macaroons) and less peat, rather some kind of wood smoke. Burning palettes and old furniture, plus heather honey and a mild coastalness. This should not be purely Islay, but it is lovely. Mouth: excellent given what is probably a very young age, citrusy, a tad raw (cereal dregs, grist) but honey, beeswax and chalk are soon to bring some roundness. There's a little brine as well. Finish: pretty long, with some green pepper, more peatiness and a little resin. Lemon peel in the aftertaste. Comments: medium peat, medium salinity, medium wax. Excellent young blended malt.

SGP:564 - 85 points.

Good, let's change gear and try a bunch of independent 1989-1991 secret Islays that should all be undisclosed Laphroaig. It seems that a vast parcel of casks from those vintages have been put on the market in very recent years, most having been, I have to say, rather better than the latest old officials we could try.

Secret Islay 1990/2022 (50.7%, Jean Boyer, Gifted Stills of Scotland, barrel, 263 bottles)

Secret Islay 1990/2022 (50.7%, Jean Boyer, Gifted Stills of Scotland, barrel, 263 bottles) Five stars
I'm wondering if Jean Boyer haven't been the first French indie bottlers, in any case they have been pioneers. Colour: white wine. Nose: some wonderful assorted sour fruits (lemons, passion fruits, starfruit) plus this no-less wonderful medicinal smoke, plus whelks and oysters with shallots and  lemon juice. Some mud and clay too, seawater, as expected. With water: mercurochrome and bandages, plus that Italian liqueur made with lemon peel, what's the name again? Mouth (neat): wonderful, very fresh, all on lemon, brine, smoked almonds, lapsang souchong, marzipan, drop of kirschwasser, quince, iodine, throat lozenges, grapefruits… With water: saltier, with some smoked herring too, smoked eel… This will go extremely well with sushi. Finish: rather long, very clean and very soft, saltier yet. Comments: in truth it isn't very complex, but we do not really need a profound complexity with these fresh, crystalline old Islays. The barrel was some barrel! Discreet and racy, even if it hasn't got much tropicalness, we're reminded of the official 40/1960 here and there, somehow. Very classy drop that could have been 20, 30 or 40 just as well.

SGP:456 - 90 points.

A Secret Islay Distillery 31 yo 1990/2022 (51.5%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 252 bottles)

A Secret Islay Distillery 31 yo 1990/2022 (51.5%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 252 bottles) Five stars
In theory… Colour: light gold. Nose: same juice with more cask influence, which translated into a deeper profile, a little more vanilla and, first and foremost, those mangos and papayas that were missing from the Jean Boyer. Awesome. With water: we call this 'kilny'. Akin to visiting a working kiln, such as, err, Laphroaig's (just a happy coincidence). Mouth (neat): almost a tad brutal at first, with some 'dirty chillies' here and there, then it would be more and more geared towards the aforementioned mangos and papayas. The rest is classic smoke, grapefruit, chalk, eucalyptus, iodine, oysters… With water: it loves water. I know many friends would believe that since it's not that strong, water would be superfluous. Serious mistake! Finish: rather long, salty, a tad leafy and leathery, and perhaps a tad less elegant and classy than the Jean Boyer, but still very high level. The mangos have left  at this point. Comments: another excellent fresh old Laphroaig. No finishing hoopla or triple oaks in sight!

SGP:566 - 90 points.

Islay 31 yo 1990/2022 (50.6%, Islay Sponge, refill barrel, 253 bottles)

Islay 31 yo 1990/2022 (50.6%, Islay Sponge, refill barrel, 253 bottles) Five stars
Hold on, isn't that Ardbeg's Jackie Thompson (the actual Queen of Whiskydom) fighting a Sponge on the label? Would this be a clue, or is the Sponge trying to confuse us once more? Colour: light gold. Nose: please don't tell anyone, but the Sponge can be a b*****d, as this does have some Ardbeg traits indeed, especially this very peculiar tarriness and these soupçons of turpentine. But these stunning whiffs of cough syrup for kings and fir bud liqueur for queens give it away in the end. With water: broken branches, pine needles, almond milk, putty, whelks, seawater, samphire… Mouth (neat): a richer version of the same make, this time full of honeys and herbal liqueurs. Towards chartreuse. With water: wonderful, saltier, with a riesling side and some green tea. It got much drier once reduced. Finish: long, tighter, drier. Thyme tea without any sugar. Comments: this from Signatory Vintage's warehouses. Very rich when neat, much drier and herbal when brought down to +/-45% vol. Hey, two whiskies for the price of one!

SGP:566 - 91 points.

I believe the 1991s aren't half bad either…

Islay 30 yo 1991/2022 (49%, Thompson Bros., hogshead, 260 bottles)

Islay 30 yo 1991/2022 (49%, Thompson Bros., hogshead, 260 bottles) Five stars
A wonderful label once more. They should sell lithographs for £1,000, plus free matching bottle of whisky. Colour: white wine. Nose: back to the sourer, more briney style of Laphroaig, with extremely deep notes of fresh leaven bread, wild-agave mezcal and smoked porridge. I totally love this. Water and stories (I mean senseless gibberish) are unnecessary. Mouth (neat): this one's extremely singular, you would believe it's been aged in pinewood, or perhaps mizunara. It is as if this cask's life has not been a bed of roses, yet the end result is fantastic, with some barbecued marshmallows, chartreuse VEP, celeriac, brussels sprout, wakame, varnish, menthol tobacco, Cuban aguardiente, even some burnt plastic of some sort… Pretty proto-punk, this old Laphroaig! Finish: long, sour, fruity and mildly smoky. Smoked maracuja and oyster water. Comments: perhaps not the Mona-Lisa of Islay malt whisky but great, great fun.

SGP:665 - 90 points.

Goodbye, we'll be back with more secret Islay…


January 25, 2023


The Jungle of the Secret Islays

I don't think anyone's still entitled to using the names of any Distillery on the Kildalton coast, except the owners of course. This is why we're seeing more and more 'secret Islays' popping out of nowhere, which I find a little boring but on the other hand, 'they' often have the best casks. I mean, the indies…

(Photograph, Bessie Williamson, Glasgow University Archives, via Laphroaig Collector)




On A Sawmill 10 yo 2011/2021 (54.7%, Cut Your Wolf Loose, Islay blended malt, ex-vino de color butt, cask #323, 305 bottles)

On A Sawmill 10 yo 2011/2021 (54.7%, Cut Your Wolf Loose, Islay blended malt, ex-vino de color butt, cask #323, 305 bottles) Four stars
More fun from those fine people. Vino de color, basically, is paxarette (which, allegedly, made Macallan Macallan). So, boiled-down PX mosto (or moscatel). Colour: amber. Nose: more fun than in Rowan Atkinson's finest (remember the Indian restaurant, paperback raita and all that). The fumes from an old American truck, loads of caramel, a lorryload of brand new tyres, some thick molasses honey, some compost, some humus, some smokes… With water: lovage, Maggi, more fumes, coal smoke, heavy fuel oil… Mouth (neat): it's loco-loco and I love it. Rubber, honey, maple syrup by the bottle and eating your cigar instead of smoking it. But who would do that, that's poisonous. With water: some leathery tones coming out. Finish: more leather, leaves, rubber and heavy honey. Comments: reminds me of some peated Bunnies (Moine, Stoi-something etc.) but that's a very wild guess, as the paxarette is still getting the better of this baby. Oh dear, it's great fun and pretty devilish.
SGP:666 - 85 points.

Secret Islay 11 yo 2010/2022 'Bessie' (56.5%, The Whisky Jury, blended malt, refill sherry butt, cask #138, 360 bottles)

Secret Islay 11 yo 2010/2022 'Bessie' (56.5%, The Whisky Jury, blended malt, refill sherry butt, cask #138, 360 bottles) Four stars
With the name 'Bessie' and the very '10 C/S' layout, what could this be? Williamson! By the way, Formula One enthusiasts will seize this opportunity to have a special thought for Roger Williamson, who killed himself in Zandvoort in 1973. Colour: pale gold. Nose: white asparagus, oysters, turnips, kelp, sea breeze, black radish, smoked fish… With water: sour bread, acetic notes, ammonia/cheese, cow dung, farmyard… In short, holiday on a farm. Mouth (neat): hot, cleaner, pure, huge, millimetric, salty, very ashy, pretty drying. With water: bone-dry, not a single molecule of fructose, glucose or saccharose. Ashes and burnt herbs, plus plain seawater. Finish: very long, very very dry. Greens and kippers, with a pretty rubbery aftertaste. Plasticine. Comments: holy smokes, this was some tough baby! Perfect counterpoint to the crazy 'Sawmill'. By the way, may I suggest some distinguished bottlers of secret Laphroaig would also use the figure of Ian Hunter? They could call it 'Mott The Hoople', for example.
SGP:277 - 85 points.

La Frog 9 yo (54.5%, Whisky-Hood, Monbazillac finish, 2020)

La Frog 9 yo (54.5%, Whisky-Hood, Monbazillac finish, 2020) Four stars
With a name like that… Now I seem to remember that Murray McDavid's 'Leapfrog' was not received too well, around twenty years ago. Colour: straw. Nose: sweet wine such as Monbazillac (south-west of France) could wreck even the most extreme peaters, but that's not what's happening here, the spirit's keeping the upper hand. Sea air, seaweed, embrocations, mercurochrome, tarry smoke, charcoal, fireplace… With water: putty, rubber and Gruyère cream. Mouth (neat): good tango, limoncello with pepper and smoke. Hints of dried apricots – that's the Monbazillac having something to say. With water: sweeter, with peaches, raisins and, indeed, apricots. The wine was not crushed, after all. Finish: long, more peppery. Some kind of smoked fruit chutney, with raisins in the aftertaste. Comments: just very fine, hallo Roger!
SGP:657 - 85 points.

Williamson 10 yo 2011/2022 (59.4%, Dramyouth Whisky Bar, blended malt, barrel, cask #426, 209 bottles)

Williamson 10 yo 2011/2022 (59.4%, Dramyouth Whisky Bar, blended malt, barrel, cask #426, 209 bottles) Four stars and a half
Another fine bottle for Taiwan. Nothing funnily secret this time, Williamson is Laphroaig, only with different papers. I hate it that we wouldn't have the latest batch of the official 10 C/S at hand for due comparison… Colour: white wine. Nose: perfection can be a little boring. This is perfect. There isn't much to say, perhaps mention parsley and dill? Samphire? Citrons? Indeed this is pure perfect young Laphroaig that's  got no hair out of place, as we say in French. With water: broken branches, sourdough, weissbeer, damp chalk… Mouth (neat): perfect indeed. Iodine, lime, salt, oysters, kippers, lapsang souchong… With water: gets a tad sweeter, as always. Grapefruit liqueur and salted fish, plus rucola. Pepper. Finish: long. Salt, lemon, wakame, borage, oyster, etcetera. A little vanilla and ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: none, it is perfect, just not extraordinarily complex.

SGP:457 - 89 points.

An Islay 13 yo 2008/2022 (53.9%, Duckhammer's for Wu Dram Clan, sherry hogshead, cask #4073, 180 bottles)

An Islay 13 yo 2008/2022 (53.9%, Duckhammer's for Wu Dram Clan, sherry hogshead, cask #4073, 180 bottles) Four stars
They should have let us play the guessing game and not add the round church onto the label. By the way, did you ever visit the cemetery behind the church? It's beautiful, with many distiller's tombs. As moving as Jim Morrison's in Paris' Père Lachaise. No, no intended play on words here. Colour: gold. Nose: these vintages are/were peatier. Now Bowmore + sherry remains a tricky combination in my book, whichever the vintages, but here it seems to work, with some metallic tones and some sauna oils, smoked cold-cuts, violets… But something remains a little scary here, let's see… With water: no, we're fine, with some sour wines, muscadet, grapefruit juice, porridge, raw yoghurt… Mouth (neat): smoked chocolate with polenta, rubber and roasted chestnuts.  Very unusual, if not a tad dissonant. With water: more slightly acetic tones, grapefruit juice, fino sherry, the greenest walnuts, lemon yoghurt, seawater… Finish: very long, salty. Wine vinegar, lemon and walnuts. Comments: how shall I put it? It's antithetical to the notion of ultra-clean Islay whisky (such as the previous Williamson). Many twists and turns. Probably rather exceptional, but a little a tiring.
SGP:466 - 86 points.

Islay 25 yo (48.4%; Spheric Spirits, 407 bottles, 2022)

Islay 25 yo (48.4%; Spheric Spirits, 407 bottles, 2022) Four stars and a half
Rumour has it that this would be A****g, but if there ever was an un-A****g label, it's this one. Let's see if we find those world-famous tarry ropes… Colour: white wine. Nose: yep, could be. Tight and narrow at first, rather on bicycle inner tubes and engine oil (we'll have to find another descriptor once everyone's driving those ugly Teslas), but these notes of lemon juice and ashy ointments aren't exactly A****g in my book. I'm not sure it's fat enough, even at 25 (A****g ages rather fastly). Whiffs of mashed celeriac. Mouth: rather medicinal, rather a little fruity, with grapefruits and lemons, and even pineapples of some sorts. I wouldn't bet my house on it. Finish: long to medium, lightly heavy (I know what I mean). Tarry ropes indeed in the aftertaste, but that's a little late. Comments: a pretty superb drop that could be A****g  indeed, but it's not a classic vintage, that's for sure.
SGP:566 - 88 points.

Bud Spencer 'The Legend' (49%, OB, Germany, peated, +/-2022)

Bud Spencer 'The Legend' (49%, OB, Germany, peated, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
LOL, looks like this was made by St. Kilian Distillers in Germany while I had thought it would have been an Islayer. Oh well, since we're here, let's try it. I mean, Bud Spencer! Bud Spencer? Bud Spencer! Colour: white wine. Nose: perfectly fine. Some sour bread, charcoal, artichoke, blackcurrant buds, celeriac and tomato juice. Gazpacho. That last part is a little unusual I have to say. Mouth: very good. Not Islay, it's more on smoked fruits, pineapple, lapsang souchong, retsina wine, eggplant liqueur (but did anyone ever decide to make eggplant liqueur?) and braised Brussels sprouts and endives. There's a Belgian side to this, in other words. Finish: medium, lovely, with good sweet smoke. Touches of curry and oyster plant. Bubblegum in the aftertaste – no, really. Comments: not the first St. Killian I enjoy, but Bud Spencer? Bud Spencer! Good fun, I was afraid this would be some kind of spaghetti whisky. Seriously, it's really very good. I know, Bud Spencer.

SGP:555 - 84 points.

Smokehead 'Terminado Tequila cask' (43%, Ian MacLeod, Islay single malt, +/-2022)

Smokehead 'Terminado Tequila cask' (43%, Ian MacLeod, Islay single malt, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
That's right, some kind of cyborg has decided to finish some single malt from Islay in ex-tequila casks. I would suppose the word 'terminado' means 'finished' rather than 'terminated'. Or does it mean 'trans'? The packaging is hurting your eyes a bit, I know, but not my fault, now it's good fun that Ian MacLeod would do 'this' while rebuilding Rosebank at the same time. God moves in multiple mysterious ways. Colour: gold. Nose: of course they did it right. I get no tequila, all I get is a soft, Caol-Ila-like Islay whisky, with seashells, ashes, bread dough, putty and almonds. Very soft. Mouth: strangeish. I would suppose it's the tequila that's adding this soap, paraffin, plasticine… But the Islay malt resists well,  to be honest this is not exactly the massacre I was afraid of. Finish: medium, fine. Comments: it's not surprise that agave spirit and peated malt would get along relatively fine. Seriously, it's a good drop, if a slightly unnecessary one.
SGP:454 - 79 points.

Time to take a break. CU.


January 24, 2023


Little Duos, today Balblair

Mehr Frucht! We'll first have a young one for the northern flatlands that we love so much, then the new(ish) official 25.




Balblair 8 yo 2012/2021 (57.3%, Kintra Spirits, refill sherry hogshead, 307 bottles)

Balblair 8 yo 2012/2021 (57.3%, Kintra Spirits, refill sherry hogshead, 307 bottles) Four stars
We'll see if melons, bananas and mangos are making the rendezvous.  Colour: white wine. Nose: not quite, it's an unusual Balblair that would rather start on linseed oil, metal polish and paraffin, but it's citrus that's rather jumping forward after two seconds, grapefruits, plus a tight white-wine-ness and then some butterscotch and black nougat. Roasted peanuts. Extremely positive, I am. With water: pastry doughs, many of them. It was a very smart sherry hogshead, and certainly not an inactive one. A little Swiss cheese, baker's yeast, bicarbonate of soda, also Werther's Original (which we just adore)… Mouth (neat): very good and very Balblair. Perfect jammy and yet fresh fruitiness, plus literally tons of sultanas. It is a sultana-bomb, if you will, but we're talking juicy golden ones. With water: butterscotch and triple-sec, touches of leaves and ginger tonic in the background. Finish: impeccable. Creamy stout, butterscotch, aquavit and pepper liqueur. Pepper liqueur is an obtained taste, I need to add. Comments: a lot of fun to be had with this one. Some cleverness was in action (not talking about this lousy taster).

SGP:651 - 87 points.

Balblair 25 yo (46%, OB, +/-2022)

Balblair 25 yo (46%, OB, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
Edderton's own this time. Not too sure why, more or less at the same time as Glenrothes, they've abandoned their vintage bottlings to go AS. I'll ask. Colour: amber. Nose: whoops, we're not that far from the 8 yo. Roasted peanuts, pecan pie, walnut cake, nougats both white and black, soft liquorice, a little black garden earth and a few mushrooms (wee oyster mushrooms), a drop of Maggi, or Bovril, or Viandox, some chocolate and dark pollen, toffee… In short, it's wonderful but it's lost a part of its trademark fresh fruitiness that used to harden any connoisseur (S.!!!) Mouth: not too sure. Some bitter almonds and bitter oranges, leaves, tobacco, malty drinks and beers, chocolate and coffee, but there's a little too much black tea for me, which would block any willing fruits. Finish: rather long, chocolaty. Walnut wine and black tea. Drying bouillon. Comments: very good, and after all it is Balblair, but in my humble opinion, the oak's a little too prominent and in that respect, it feels older than just 25, rather 50. Probably not my favourite Balblair ever.
SGP:451 - 84 points.

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


January 23, 2023


A Ben Nevis session de la muerte

In the still house with manager Colin Ross, 2006



In my opinion, Ben Nevis is one of the few real enthusiast's malt whiskies, a name that the general public wouldn't quite know of unless someone's been a tourist around Fort Williams. Maybe that's why most boutique whisky bottlers are making every effort to have some within their range. Not a bad idea, it's a brilliant malt indeed, easily top-ten! Let's have as many as we can, but this will be a 'solera' session,  meaning that we won't try them all in one go, as we did with Clynelish the other week. Or we would be dead… Oh and we'll do this randomly, as far as vintages or ages go. Let's kick this off from the neighbouring city of Zürich, while thinking of Colin Ross… Caution: Ben Nevis is one of my favourite Distilleries, so expect quite a few higher scores and certainly a high average, as was the case when we tried 30 Clynelishes the other week.



Ben Nevis 15 yo 1999/2014 (48.7%, COTWE Zürich, refill sherry butt, 136 bottles)

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1999/2014 (48.7%, COTWE Zürich, refill sherry butt, 136 bottles) Four stars and a half
COTWE stands for 'Confrérie de l'Ordre des Taste Whisky Ecossais', so 'Brotherhood of Scotch Whisky Tasters'. Sounds good, doesn't it. Colour: gold. Nose: I agree this is not for everyone. Metal polish + mustard + leather + rotting fruit + pepper + umami sauce, that's probably not your average 'Macallan'. Only other suspects, Fettercairn or Glenturret, in my opinion. Mouth: great fun. Orange cordial, sweet mustard, walnuts, seawater, copper, roasted pecans, caraway and juniper, toffee, walnut cake… and sauce à la diable. Finish: rather long, with some salted chocolate, coffee and old walnuts indeed. The mustardy side is back in the aftertaste. Comments: this thrilling loconess is what we like so much in Ben Nevis. I'm sure some would say it's faulty –of course it isn't, but it's a malt that's deliciously difficult. Hoppla Zürich!

SGP:372 - 88 points.

Remember, we said we'd do this randomly…

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1996/2022 (49.9%, Whisky AGE, refill butt, cask #21, 431 bottles)

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1996/2022 (49.9%, Whisky AGE, refill butt, cask #21, 431 bottles) Five stars
1996 was one of the 'better' vintages at BN, but that statement may well be related to the parcels of casks that have been made available to brokers and bottlers – or not. Colour: gold. Nose: I hate it when we start this high. Fumes, chocolate, espresso, walnuts, almonds, new books, ink… Hate it, really. With (unnecessary) water: jasmine, thyme, Benedictine, verbena. Mouth (neat): superlatively incredible. A top Pauillac made whisky. Bored, because that's what we've been expecting. Please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade. With (unnecessary) water: what a stunner. Pepper, smoke, chestnut purée and honey, bergamots, cigar, lemon, seawater, oyster plant, miso… To hell with all this! Finish: long, extraordinarily bouillony, with a little parmesan cheese, grapefruits, sage, sorrel, tobacco, smoke, pink grapefruit… Szechuan pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: sc**w them, they wrecked our session, already.
SGP:662 - 92 points.

Only two BNs in and a 92 already? This is a nightmare… We might need to try to avoid those mid-1990s vintages for a short while…

Ben Nevis 7 yo 2014/2022 (48.5%, Decadent Drinks, Equinox & Solstice)

Ben Nevis 7 yo 2014/2022 (48.5%, Decadent Drinks, Equinox & Solstice) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: fudge and mustard, lamp oil, linseed oil, paraffin, dried kelp and floated wood, ointments, fresh concrete… Mouth: salty and with touches of sherry (raisins + walnuts), plus some saltiness, soups, leather, tobacco, mustard… In short, Ben Nevis. Finish: rather long, much drier, with more pepper and cocoa powder, plus some acidic coffee, I believe the Javanese coffees are a little bit like this. Comments: obviously not in the same league (but what a 1996 that was!) but it's still doing extremely well. Very high quality/age ratio, true to the Distillery (which is what you would expect from a single malt, no?)

SGP:362 - 87 points.

Ben Nevis 9 yo 2012/2022 (50%, Thompson Bros., 11 months ex-Cromarty double-rocker, 166 bottles)

Ben Nevis 9 yo 2012/2022 (50%, Thompson Bros., 11 months ex-Cromarty double-rocker, 166 bottles)
I'm a little lost, what's an 'ex-Cromarty double-rocker'? I have no idea… Probably something related to beer… Colour: straw. Nose: tequila (?!) and fir buds, beer eau-de-vie indeed, sour bread, saponin, geranium leaves, stewed cabbage… What is this? With water: rubbers and rubbery leaves, fig leaf, geranium, ferments and yeasts… Mouth (neat): akin to Brewdog's cold-distilled beer from a few years ago. I'm sure many people will adore this, or rather have adored this, but it's not quite for me, I'm afraid. With water: nicer, with some citrus. Finish: long, funny, rubbery, fermentary, with some eggplants and Brussels sprouts. Bitters in the aftertaste, Campari and Fernet, grenadine... Comments: extraordinarily creative. But I'm out and shan't even dare scoring this most extravagant concoction by the very engaging brothers.
SGP:271 - ?? points.

Back to normality…

Ben Nevis 31 yo 1991/2022 (62.1%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, oloroso sherry, cask #56324, 540 bottles)

Ben Nevis 31 yo 1991/2022 (62.1%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, oloroso sherry, cask #56324, 540 bottles) Four stars and a half
A very high strength at 31 years of age! Colour: gold. Nose: whiffs of hard-boiled eggs for starters (sulphur) and white wine must, but it's all becoming more normal then, with dried apples, artisan mead, chalk and clay, cider and many breads, brown, white, pumpernickel, then bouillons and soups, chocolate sauce, mustard, red cabbage, leek, even horseradish… With water: leathery mustard and a new box of Cuban cigars, which is all pretty BN, we agree. And peppered marmalade. Mouth (neat): flints, wasabi and mustard, plus the strongest 'honey' sauce they have in China. And chen-pi. With water: honey and onion sauce, leek, caramel, malt extract, bitter herbs, liquorice wood and propolis (a lot of black propolis!) Finish: long, with some old Parmesan cheese and mimolette, balsamico, marmalade and thick tarry honeys. But do thick tarry honeys even exist? Comments: this is free malt whisky as in free jazz. Harmolodic whisky, shall we say; we're not afraid of dissonant whiskies, are we. I'd love to go to 90 but I'm thinking of my friends and believe it would be just impossible.
SGP:562 - 89 points.

Ben Nevis 2012/2021 (68.4%, Joecy & Or Sileis, 1st fill PX octave, cask #17368, 714 bottles)

Ben Nevis 2012/2021 (68.4%, Joecy & Or Sileis, 1st fill PX octave, cask #17368, 714 bottles) Four stars
I couldn't believe my eyes, 68.4%! Even if they fill at still strength, it's pretty high, even if it was the last octave right under the roof in a modern warehouse. Wish me luck, here I come Jesus, Mary and Joseph… Colour: light gold. Nose: model glue, as we sometimes say, plus rather a lot of plasticine, fresh almonds, kirschwasser and thuja wood. Those artisanal wooden boxes they would sell in souks, in Morocco. Some cologne too, but I wouldn't say this is extravagantly hot on the nose. With water: yess, the mustard, walnut skin, and acrid herbs coming out. Some meaty and fermentary notes too, perhaps a little Marmite. Mouth (neat): it's beyond human threshold, even if once again, you do get the feeling that you could, but you shouldn't drink it like that. Not too sure it's 68%... With water: mustard, citrons, pepper, tobacco, paraffin (crunching candles) and various leaves. Finish: long, bitter and savoury. Horseradish, bitter almonds and mustard. Comments: I wouldn't say poor PX was having the right to speak here. Very good, very young Ben Nevis, but a little hard to handle.
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Another youngster…

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012/2021 (54%, Roger's Vintage Selection, bourbon cask, cask #2086, 330 bottles)

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012/2021 (54%, Roger's Vintage Selection, bourbon cask, cask #2086, 330 bottles) Five stars
There's been a 6 yo 1995 under this flag that had been rather magnificent (WF 90). Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely oily, on graphite oil, lamp oil, with really a feeling of fatness. By the way it moves like oil in your glass. Other than that, we're finding sourdough bread, chalk, limoncello (again!) and the obligatory mustard. With water: raw wool, new jumper, old tweed jacket. Mouth (neat): high-power coastal arrival, full of mineral oils, green lemon, chalk and oyster shells, then a little barley syrup and a pepper + chili combination that works extremely well. And a lot of mustard and horseradish. With water: sublime sharpness, yet a very fatty mouthfeel. Gets very mineral too. Finish: very long, pure, peppery, ashy, lemony and chalky. Awesome salty aftertaste. Comments: as we often say, another Sancerre of whisky. I love it, it's exactly my favourite style. I could have gone even higher but let's hold our horses, this is an 8 yo.

SGP:462 - 90 points.

Perhaps another 1996 this time?

Ben Nevis 1996/2019 (49.7%, S Spirit Shop Selection, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #1435)

Ben Nevis 1996/2019 (49.7%, S Spirit Shop Selection, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #1435) Five stars
With a very frightening warrior on the label. Does he run on Ben Nevis? Colour: white wine. Nose: age often brings bananas and beeswax to Ben Nevis, pushing it towards Clynelish. But it is not a smoky one this time, it would even ten to move towards waxy Speysiders after a short while, let's say Caperdonich? Lighter honey, elderflowers, beeswax indeed, pollens and mead… And fewer coastal notes, of any. Feels very gentle… Mouth: oh it is glorious! It's got this Irish side, with beeswax, a little metal polish, artisan apple juice, many honeys, a lighter pepper, apple pie with cinnamon… It would tend to become saltier over time, but naturally, 'there is no salt in whisky'. It never stops getting more beautiful. Finish: rather long, let's say with some kind of Asian sauce gathering honeyed, salty, and spicy elements? You're right, like most Asian sauces, but in any case, this is beautiful. Comments: top Ben Nevis from a top vintage, made a little easier by a lower strength.

SGP:551 - 90 points.

Why not an official 1996…

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2018 (55.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, refill sherry butts, 1049 bottles)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2018 (55.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, refill sherry butts, 1049 bottles) Four stars and a half
This is a vatting of two sherry casks. I stumbled upon this bottling for France in… lovely Warsaw. Colour: full gold. Nose: the keyword here is 'refill', which great news. Not much work to do here (work?) as the very first notes of sunflower and sesame oils just give it away: stunner alert. We'll just mention old-school apples (from the vicar's garden) and peppery mustard. With water: some medicinal notes, bandages, also pencil shavings, almonds and walnuts, a feeling of fino… Mouth (neat): oh! Dried apples this time, Canadian late-harvest apple wine, less mustard and more cigars, salted lemon liqueur, cinnamon mints, etcetera. With water: tart and yet unexpectedly fruity, with also unexpected notes of wine gums and jellies (blueberry big time!) This comes all a little unexpected indeed, with rather less of Ben Nevis' cutting edge profile, but it remains very marvellous. Marmalade with a little cinnamon in the background. Finish: rather long, fruity, with some ganache, I would suppose that's the sherry. And, err, raspberry jam in the aftertaste? Just a tiny bit of that. Comments: terrific, just a notch 'lower' than the brighter, more natural ones in my book. Sherry with big distillates is always a complicated match, but we're rambling on and on now… .
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1995/2021 (47.9% Single Malt Dreams, bourbon hogshead, cask #962, 221 bottles)

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1995/2021 (47.9% Single Malt Dreams, bourbon hogshead, cask #962, 221 bottles) Five stars
From Norway's first independent bottlers! Colour: straw. Nose: once again this feeling of noising oil at first (sunflower, grape), these whiffs of mustard and tobacco, firm honey, candlewax, limoncello, a few roots (celeriac), some chalk… Nutshell, it's is classic Ben Nevis from a classic vintage. Oh and it's displaying nutshells too. Mouth: just it, once more. Pepper, stone dust, mustard, bitter oranges, lemon, waxes, white pepper, some sage perhaps… It would tend to become a little sweeter over a minute, which is a good development, obviously. Finish: still a little dry and bitter, but that works just beautifully here. Grapefruit skin, more mustard, more horseradish, more celeriac, cinnamon lozenges… Comments: it is a little challenging at times, but a taster (perhaps not a casual boozer) loves a good challenge. Perfect natural Ben Nevis from those years. No saltiness this time.

SGP:452 - 90 points.

Back to official 'sherries'…

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1998/2013 (56.1%, OB, fresh sherry butt, cask #586, 595 bottles)

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1998/2013 (56.1%, OB, fresh sherry butt, cask #586, 595 bottles) Four stars
According to the label, the good folk at Ben Nevis considered this one ready for bottling in October, 2013. RIP Colin Ross! Colour: amber. Nose: I find these ones always a little more difficult, as the 'mustard' from the distillate and the 'walnut skins' from the sherry would just kind of amplify each other, sometimes creating feelings of 'sulphur', as is the case now. It's Plant and Page, really, and they're having their faithful Marshall amplifiers (well, I think). Burnt wood, burnt leaves, burnt 'other things'. Some chestnut honey in the aftertaste while there are burnt chestnut as well). With water: some soapiness, then that fades away, then we have more roasted chestnuts, meat, truffled sausage, cracked pepper, acidic coffees… Mouth (neat): big, sweeter and really spicier when neat, this one too would go well with spicy Thai food. Well, it is almost spicy Thai food. With water: there, the fruits are coming out (basically, oranges) but boy is this one spicy! And leathery at that… Finish: long, bitter and spicy, but some honeyed walnut cake or something would make it more civilised in the end. Cinnamon mints in the aftertaste. Comments: this one was some fighter! But I think it suffered from the comparison with the fresher ones.
SGP:362 - 85 points.

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1996/2021 (52.1%, Wilson & Morgan, oloroso sherry finish, casks #1819/20, 504 bottles)

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1996/2021 (52.1%, Wilson & Morgan, oloroso sherry finish, casks #1819/20, 504 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: phew! It was a light finish; they've not gagged this splendid well-aged Ben Nevis from a great vintage. Even if it is a softer one, more on pine honey, light raisins, moss, mushrooms, poached peaches and pears… I especially enjoy all this humus, it's like having a stroll in the woods after the rain. There's also a little pipe tobacco, while we really appreciate that this was oloroso and not PX. With water: more earth yet! And pine needles, compost, more mushrooms, pine bark… Mouth (neat): wonderful, I really get why they've done this finish that really worked out. I remember there used to be some energy bars that were gathering walnuts, oranges and honey, but the name escapes me. I'm also finding pink pepper, Szechuan, Timut… I'm a sucker for this too. With water: some saltiness and oranges, wax, more bitter dried fruits. More bitterness. Finish: long, on pepper, bitter citrus and herbs. Propolis and a few bitter tannins. Comments: we were almost at 90, until the finish that we found a tiny tad too bitterish. Still a wonderful oloroso-finished Ben Nevis.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Back to the youngsters, with The Sponge… (The Sponge himself remains a youngster!)

Ben Nevis 7 yo 2014/2022 'N.A.S' (57.1%, Decadent Drinks, 2nd fill sherry butt)

Ben Nevis 7 yo 2014/2022 'N.A.S' (57.1%, Decadent Drinks, 2nd fill sherry butt) Four stars and a half
Reduced to 100°proof UK. This is in the newest within the Notable Age Statement series, that statement being, as I understand it, that whichever the age, young or old, it's always worth mentioning and knowing of. Colour: gold. Nose: a tad modern, in that sense that there's a little toffee and butterscotch that ought to stem from some wood that was actively, err, active, but beyond that, the spirit just speaks out. Mustards, fresh walnuts, paraffin, that horseradish and wasabi, sesame oil, perhaps some cough lozenges… With water: drops of cold bouillon, some chalk, perhaps nori… Mouth (neat): absolutely excellent. Peppered butterscotch with some coffee, pipe tobacco and some salted raisins. With water: wonderful saltiness, soups, marrow, escargots (hi!) and sourer pepper sauce. Oh and mustard. Finish: rather long, with a little chocolate. Totally Ben Nevis. Comments: the age doesn't obligatorily matter as such, but it is consubstantial to, well, to any aged spirits, by definition, and hiding it is just a nasty sleight of hands, or often just lying by omission.

SGP:462 - 89 points.

Back to the mid-nineties…

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1996/2022 (53.1%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #1349, 183 bottles)

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1996/2022 (53.1%, The Whisky Jury, refill hogshead, cask #1349, 183 bottles) Five stars
There is no reason… Colour: pale gold. Nose: exactly on sunflower oil, candlewax, softer mustard, tangerine liqueur, sourdough, croissants, marzipan, then a wee mango, custard, more marzipan, some mustard sauce rather than plain mustard (say sauce à la diable – the devil's sauce)… In fact, it is a softer one, perhaps better polished, perhaps more for the city than for the country. Let's dig deeper…  With water: it's 'doing a 1972!' Honeys, beeswax, dried fruits, Clynelish, Glen Grant, Caperdonich, HP… Mouth (neat): wasn't it rather an ex-1960s Bowmore cask? It is bursting with mangos and maracuja, while the peppers and mustards would rather act as some seasoning agents. Perhaps a tad less 'BN', but it is stunning for sure. With water: what a hoggie. Caramel cream, vanilla, mango jam, papaya, passion fruit, juicy fruit, all-vitamin fruit juice… Finish: medium, extraordinarily fruity. Comments: really, I find this one a little un-Ben-Nevis, at least softer and fruitier than its compadres, but it is absolutely not schmalzy, it's only way, way too drinkable. I recommend you bury your bottle in the garden, next to the gold lingots.
SGP:751 - 91 points.

What was that? Another try…

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1996/2022 (48.5%, The Whisky Jury, for Asia, refill hogshead, cask #522, 257 bottles)

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1996/2022 (48.5%, The Whisky Jury, for Asia, refill hogshead, cask #522, 257 bottles) Five stars
Colour: straw. Nose: where can we lodge a complaint? This is not Ben Nevis, this is Clynelish. I am not joking. Well, I am, but by billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles in a thundering typhoon, what happened? Good, indeed, if you give it a tiny portion of your most precious time, you'll find a little pepper and mustard that do not quite belong to Clynelish. But other than that… Mouth: crikey, they've added some old Balblair. Same comment, only wee bits of bits of salty and costal mustard will confirm that this 'could' be Ben Nevis indeed. Finish: medium long and, phew, indeed, chalkier, more peppery, more on bitter herbs and sorrel soup (perhaps). Seawater and one mussel in the aftertaste. Comments: what-was-that? Please burry this one next to cask #1349 and use the gold lingots to buy more bottles.

SGP:561 - 92 points.

Seriously, those two were possibly the most treacherously drinkable Ben Nevisses ever, which makes them extra-dangerous. In general, the good thing with Ben Nevis is that they can be flabbergasting, but often a tad, say 'difficult' and to be drunk parsimoniously . Oh forget about that, let's move on…

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1998/2018 (51.5%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead)

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1998/2018 (51.5%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead) Four stars and a half
Our favourite ducks are back on Whiskyfun. Colour: white wine. Nose: we're back! Chalk, lamp oil, wool, green pepper, ink, mustard, sage, even a little glue, a touch of acetone… With water: more chalk yet, new sweater, new Brora cashmere (LOL), cut grass, linseed oil and paraffin… Mouth (neat): yeah, a greasy, peppery, bitterish, leafier Ben Nevis, with a feeling of crunching grape pips and biting into a grapefruit. With water: fresh breads, lemons, chalk indeed, Sancerre, thyme honey in the background… Finish: long, oily, more on lemons and waxes. Some sourness. A lot of limestone in the aftertaste; don't you sometimes lick rocks when visiting vineyards? You should! Comments: pure Ben Nevis this time, and what a marvellous middle-aged example indeed. The ducks they are working good.

SGP:462 - 88 points.

A much older bottling now, perhaps, just to gain more historical perspective. Let's make it a BN that was bottled, rather than distilled, in 1996. You're right, how time flies!…

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1977/1996 (57.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1977/1996 (57.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars and a half
What's really good with this series is that they've never, as far as I can tell, tried to pump-up the juices using any 'active' wood (a.k.a. legal flavouring). In short, it's malt whisky as nature intended, sometimes utterly brilliant, sometimes pure kerosene. Colour: pale gold. Nose: typical. Bananas, grass, limoncello, metal polish, Japanese roasted tea, wholegrain bread, curry rather than mustard… In short it's close, but different. With water: some banana wine, some old books, old humidor, chicken soup, raw rum, mashed turnips… In short it's going in all directions. Mouth (neat): hey wonderful! Fat, peppery, with a very oily mouth feel and rather a lot of 'sweet bitterness', some Läckerli, some speculoos, some copper… It's wilder than the newer ones, probably with a lower definition as well. More curry, caraway, gin (I know)… With water: excellent, better focused if I may say so, more on mead and honeyed sauces and juices, sweet wines that went a little too old, raisins… Finish: medium, with a curious fruitiness, wine gum, jelly babies and all that. Some kind of sweet spice mix in the aftertaste. Comments: another superb one, even if it as missing a little focus. In all directions indeed, but isn't that pretty 'BN' anyway?

SGP:551 - 88 points.

Perhaps another older vintage…

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1984/2000 (63%, Blackadder, sherry oak, cask #255, 244 bottles)

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1984/2000 (63%, Blackadder, sherry oak, cask #255, 244 bottles) Three stars
Why are finishes always 'lingering' on whisky labels? But it's a joy to try this, cheers Robin! BTW I had tried a 1984/2002 that had been a tad difficult (WF 80), but that was nine years ago and that's bygones… Colour: amber. Nose: old sherry and Ben Nevis! Roasted nuts, chestnuts, marmalade, orange squash, burnt butter, gas, truffles and struck matches. Pretty particular. With water: pink bananas do manage to come out! Notes of mangoes in the middle distance, plus old walnuts and lime tea. Mouth (neat): bites you at 63% vol. Rum and raisins, chocolate, concrete dust, chalk, ink, orange zests, a feeling of scoria, some soot, some dirtiness, some leather… With water: what, fish? Sardines? Olives? Tar? Cole black tea? What a bizarre Ben Nevis… But it's having its charms and knows it (what?) Finish: rather long, on leather and orange juice. Dome dissonances, shall we say. Comments: great fun but you need to keep an open mind.

SGP:562 - 82 points.

More funny sherry (perhaps)…

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1990/2017 (60.5%, Signatory Vintage for Velier's 70th Anniversary, La Première Fois, sherry butt, cask #1507, 644 bottles)

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1990/2017 (60.5%, Signatory Vintage for Velier's 70th Anniversary, La Première Fois, sherry butt, cask #1507, 644 bottles) Four stars and a half
Well, 'La Première Fois' means 'The First Time' while in French literature, it's usually referring to the first time any human being would, well, meet with another human being, generally of the other sex, and, well, you see what I mean, what needs to happen happens... But I'm not sure that's got anything to do with either Signatory, or Velier, or Ben Nevis. Colour: gold. Nose: the age feels but that's charming, with rather sour fruits, apples, pears, quinces, figs, then we have rather a lot of beeswax, furniture polish, with a little earth in the distance and some very elegant Meursaultness (I'm afraid I'll need to apologise again). Mead. With water: some varnish coming out, but that's not unseen with Ben Nevis. Otherwise some vanilla and some sultanas, moderately. Mouth (neat): superb, firm, slightly 'peaty', with great peppers of all kinds and various dried fruits, figs first. Did they distil figs? (nah, raw fig spirit tends to be lousy, believe me I've tried to distil some quite a while back). With water: there was something with figs, honestly. Also citrons and kumquats, then more and more pepper, even ginger, and Meursault. I keep mentioning Meursault, hoping that a case of Comtes Lafon or Mikulski would arrive but that hasn't happened to this day. Coche? Forget about Coche, it's so 2010s… Finish: yes, perfect, with tiny herbs and even flowers. Honeysuckle, mullein… Some spicier olive oil in the aftertaste, coming unexpected, as well as some sourer wood and a slightly winey side in the end of the aftertaste. Comments: yes, more of these please.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Ben Nevis 2013/2022 (48%, Signatory Vintage for LMDW Singapore 15th Anniversary, 1st fill sherry butt finish, cask #15)

Ben Nevis 2013/2022 (48%, Signatory Vintage for LMDW Singapore 15th Anniversary, 1st fill sherry butt finish, cask #15) Four stars and a half
For once, let's hear from the bottlers: "This is part of the 'Robertson Quay' range featuring a detailed zoomed-in map of this iconic Singapore location. The name of the range comes from the map displayed on the label, honouring the neighbourhood where La Maison du Whisky has, since 2006, established its flagship Asian storefront." Alright then! Colour: amber with brown/red hues. Nose: chocolate and cedarwood at first, chicory coffee too (do they get that in Singapore?), stock cube, then something that's not too common at WF towers, slow-cooked leg of lamb, tajine, Mars bar… And then the expected walnuts, more chocolate, and more coffee. Some copper (old kettle). No water needed. Mouth: the Ben-Nevisness is more obvious on the palate. Dark chocolate, old walnuts and pepper/mustard in the arrival, then salty bouillons and a handful of small black bone-dry raisins. Some pipe tobacco, mussels, a little clay, more coffee, some umaminess… The distillate just takes over after fifteen seconds in your mouth. Finish: long. Could we settle on lamb chorba with some Mexican chocolate sauce or would that be too… disruptive? Comments: the sherried officials and the sherried indies (whether full sherry or finishing) remain pretty different. Bizarrely, the indies are somewhat cleaner, in my humble opinion. This one's excellent and you don't even need to toy with a pipette or a teaspoon.
SGP:552 - 89 points.


BTW, today the 'tunnel' is pretty narrow as far as scores are concerned, that's because Ben Nevis is a brilliant distillate that, even when it's bad, is good. I know what I'm trying to say. Oh and don't get me started again on 'using or not using the whole scope' from 0 to 100 points (or %), that old chestnut… The 'range' was not established by our ancestors to address only Ben Nevis, or even only malt whiskies, but to score any theoretically swallowable spirits, from, say Tequila Rose or Fireball to Laphroaig 1967 or Brora 1972. At least that's how we're using it at WF. By the way, we may well soon try a 100-tickler that very, very few people have tasted until now, but shh… In the meantime, more Ben Nevis please…


Ben Nevis 21 yo 1990/2012 (59.8%, OB, refill hogshead and Port bodega butt, cask #3/104, 825 bottles)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1990/2012 (59.8%, OB, refill hogshead and Port bodega butt, cask #3/104, 825 bottles) Four stars
I remember they were pretty proud of these rather 'un-Japanese' combinations when we once visited the Distillery, around 2005, and that they were willing to make more of these. This very one was transferred to a Port butt in 2003, so it's real double-maturation, not quick and dirty flavour… I mean finishing. Now, Port being Port… Colour: dark rosé wine, or rather 'oeil de perdrix' (the colour of a partridge's eye). Nose: not too sure, honestly. I know strawberries with pepper remains fashionable but in this very case, it's a little dissonant. Same with redcurrant jam with metal polish, raspberries with rubber or cassis leaves with mud. Unless, with water… With water: it's funny that water would really work as a binding agent after all these years. A better feeling of wholeness, more on pipe tobacco, juniper berries, mutton soup, chen-pi, soy sauce, fig leaves… In short, it became more 'BN'. Mouth (neat): leather with blood oranges, tobacco with prickly pears, coffee with mangos… With water: got to love water. Lovely blood oranges, heather honey, figs… Finish (with water): pretty long, jammy, on more figs, pink grapefruits, prunes… Only the aftertaste is a little musty/muddy, with hints of rotting strawberries… with this pepper. Comments: rescued by water! Not the first time this happens, having said that. A 'funny' expression in my book.

SGP:762 - 85 points.

Ben Nevis 7 yo 2014/2022 (61%, The Nectar of The Daily Drams and LMDW, second fill sherry butt, 400 bottles)

Ben Nevis 7 yo 2014/2022 (61%, The Nectar of The Daily Drams and LMDW, second fill sherry butt, 400 bottles) Four stars and a half
Another super-youngster from Fort Williams cooked with active sherry wood. This recipe has worked before, it should work again here. Colour: gold. Nose: wood varnish and nail polish, not something that we weren't expecting. Then chocolate and stout (or Belgian dunkel, right), then beeswax and stronger honeys (those chestnut and heather that we keep mentioning every other day) as well as some pollen. And then, just dumpers of chocolate and toffee. It is liquid chocolate. With water: some medicinal notes, bandages, tincture of iodine, also a little thyme oil, and even a feeling of mizunara, but obviously, no one's used any mizunara oak here. Mouth (neat): some roots, smokes and earths that remind us of other distillates, plus some tarter citrus, yuzu, bitter oranges, some brine… And always quite some chocolate. It feels a bit like if the former content of this butt was a peater, but if that was the case indeed, that really worked. With water: more of that feeling. Now it's true that Ben Nevis did some peated batches too. Finish: long, zesty, cleaner that your usual BN, perhaps sleeker. Comments: some excellent peated Ben Nevis – whether that peat was in the distillate or in the cask.

SGP:564 - 88 points.

Can we have bourbon? I mean, ex-bourbon BN?

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012/2021 (59.9%, Golden Cask for The Whisky Barrel, bourbon barrel, cask #278, 315 bottles)

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012/2021 (59.9%, Golden Cask for The Whisky Barrel, bourbon barrel, cask #278, 315 bottles) Four stars
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: back to nature, with a few embers, the salty wind howling on top of Ben Nevis, some small wildflowers, some paraffin, some dry and mineral oils, our limoncello, some damp limestone and pebbles, today's rainwater in the old bucket, in the garden, herbs and fern… With water: grass and chalk, plus some fresh paint and some glue. No further development, on the contrary. A bad swimmer on the west coast? Mouth (neat): high-precision, totally distillate-driven young Ben Nevis that's even still got its pears and pineapples. From youth. Then chalky lemons and elderberry syrup. With water: some wonderful chalky citrus! Well, what water didn't do to it on the nose, it does on your palate. Thick and profound citrusy liqueurs, both old-school and for yuccies – but aren't yuccies out already? Finish: long, ultra-citrusy, clean, liqueury. Comments: a notch simpler that the good sherried youngsters, but hugely drinkable. Insane fruitiness.

SGP:751 - 87 points.

More than just a sister cask, this is a twin cask:

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012/2021 (59.9%, Golden Cask for The Whisky Barrel, bourbon barrel, cask #277, 257 bottles)

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012/2021 (59.9%, Golden Cask for The Whisky Barrel, bourbon barrel, cask #277, 257 bottles) Four stars
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: fascinating differences. This is more on vegetal oils, paraffin, broken branches, drawing gum, linseed oil… With water: antirust, putty, stewed cauliflowers…  Mouth (neat): less expressive than cask #278, more on brake fluid and leaves. No citrus extravaganza yet. With water: hurray for water! Chalky citrus once more, limoncello, wax, also granny smith… Finish: pretty long, a tad less bright and immediate than its twin at this stage. Comments: both have been rather easier Ben Nevisses, without the metallic/mustardy side of the make, but they were clearly different. #278 was more spectacularly fruity when watered down. A blend of both (of course we tried) works very well and would be closer to #278, with just more tight grassiness.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Ben Nevis 24 yo 1996/2021 (55%, WhiskySponge, refill hogshead, 153 bottles)

Ben Nevis 24 yo 1996/2021 (55%, WhiskySponge, refill hogshead, 153 bottles) Five stars
This was part of a 'triptych', as the greatest masters of Renaissance painting used to do (that'll be a beer, Sponge), but I believe I've missed it all and, in any case, I'm way too late with this one. Having said that, by rule and since some have asked again, we never try any of The Sponge's bottlings while they're still available. Which, between us, is very easy to do as they tend to sell like drones to the Russians. Colour: light gold. Nose: another 1996, another majestic nose, extremely elegant, firm, with superb waxes and these small mustardy notes that are so entrancing. Asparagus and fresh bark, sunflower oil… With water: chalk, wool, new tweed, peppermint, eucalyptus, cough lozenges..; What a nose. Mouth (neat): what can I say? Stones, mustard, horseradish, leaves, tobacco, peppers, grapefruits, 'resinous' honeys, plasticine, vanilla, drop of guava liqueur… The mouth feel is perfect. With water: that saltiness chiming in, anchovies in brine, oysters, small yellow olives, pickled citrus… But some coating honey keep it sweet and (relatively) easy. Finish: perhaps not that long but I adore these anchovies. Comments: tja, 1996 plus refill. Noah's own. Remember he'll take HP, Clynelish, Ben Nevis and Springbank. Not too sure he'll take all their people, having said that, especially the marketing people. I mean, probably not all of them (peace, love, smile).
SGP:562 - 91 points.

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1996/2022 (53%, WhiskySponge, refill butt, 348 bottles)

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1996/2022 (53%, WhiskySponge, refill butt, 348 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: whitest white wine. Nose: 5 years old, not 25, right? Fresh paint, green pears, apple peel and washing powder. Something may have happened, or rather not happened with this one. Let's try to find out… With water: a pile of old jumpers just back from the laundry. Mouth (neat): I think I understand, it's a 'palate' whisky, even if this remains ultra-green and acidic. Many green fruits, none too ripe, plus some glue. In theory, I love this uncompromising style, but in practice, I believe this was rather destined to end its life in a Scottish daiquiri, no? With water: ah, at last, civilisation, in the form of lemon syrup, lemonade and Fanta Lemon Zero (apologies). There's clearly more Ben-Nevisness as well, with these anchovies, olives, wasabi, green mustard, chalk… Finish: long, better. Let's call it a chalky limoncello. Leafier and saltier aftertaste. Comments: we'll call this one 'the misunderstood Ben Nevis'. Perhaps was it for intellectuals only? Seriously, I believe this one took the death seat after its more than brilliant predecessor. And 83 remains a high score.

SGP:462 - 83 points.

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1996/2022 (50.1%, WhiskySponge, refill hogshead, 213 bottles)

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1996/2022 (50.1%, WhiskySponge, refill hogshead, 213 bottles) Five stars
This one's about highballs and Japan, apparently. Colour: old. Nose: all right, it's a tropical Ben Nevis and it is full of wax. This is an example of the best of the better 1996s, in my humblest opinion, a taster wouldn't even need to move any further, as this nose says it all. Rose petals, mangos, custard, marzipan, sweet mustard, fresh nuts, and a lot of elegance and restraint. A beauty this far… With (a single drop of) water: more stuff harvested and made by the bees. Save the bees! My father was a beekeeper, by the way. Mouth (neat): so easy, so immediate, so perfect. More beeswax and pollen, Clynelish (yep), passion fruits, citrons… Let's keep this short. With water: totally grand. Balance is perfect. Absent-minded whisky lovers will believe that, indeed, this is Clynelish. Finish: same. However, there's a salty/spicy firmness in the distance that keeps it firmly on the west coast and that reminds you that this is Ben Nevis, not Clynelish. Comments: extraordinary, even if it's a pretty unchallenging drop. Power to all whisky drinkers!

SGP:651 - 92 points.

BN 300


The next one – and today's last – will be our 300th Ben Nevis. Not that it matters too much, I agree…

Ben Nevis 23 yo (48%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 558 bottles, 2019)

Ben Nevis 23 yo (48%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 558 bottles, 2019) Four stars and a half
Most certainly some mid to late 1900s juice in there, perhaps even a single vintage (perhaps 1996!). Colour: gold. Nose: I find this one extremely chalky at first sniffs,  while candied citrus and yellow fruits (plums perhaps) would then get in and create a more civilised composition, a little less rustic than other Ben Nevisses that we love so much (some friends say that I can be rustic too). Bergamot sweets, some herbal/floral notes (borage), then a little caramel cream, gentian and mocha. So, a relatively gentle Ben Nevis but with all its attributes. Pretty gorgeous on the nose. Mouth: just to contradict me, a few dusty/dirty notes at first, some pepper right from the start, and only then some rounder, sweeter, more candied notes of crystallised tropical fruit and dried citrus. Bits of zests, with some saltiness too. Nah, in fact it's a typically robust Ben Nevis on your palate. Even some prickly mustard is there. Finish: long, peppery, with more dirty oils. No spent frying oil, though… Very peppery aftertaste. Comments: excellent and somewhat drinkable, another pretty dazzling Ben Nevis as our #500 tasting note.
SGP:652 - 89 points.

(Thanks to the BOW team in Poland, to Carlos, to KC and to everyone else)

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


January 22, 2023


A high-flying verticale of Armagnac

What we seem to notice is that no one in Armagnac is trying to push super-young oak-doped spirits to the enthusiasts, which is really a thing in malt whisky these days. Now, cheap 'commercial' armagnacs would take care of those stocks, from the VS or *** to the VSOP that can be as young as six and the XO or Hors d'Âge that may be only ten. Naturally, most houses will tell you that they're using much older stock in theirs. By the way, in theory only sessile (Quercus Petraea) or pedunculate (Quercus Robur) oaks may be used, so only 'European' oak, but I've seen some Armagnac finished in ex-bourbon barrels. Isn't everything going to hell… quite. Please note that we'll only try high-ranking bottlings today.

Old ad for Gauloises cigarettes, UK



Château Garreau 2003/2022 (44.8%, C. Dully Selection, Bas-Armagnac, cask #T7, 200 bottles)

Château Garreau 2003/2022 (44.8%, C. Dully Selection, Bas-Armagnac, cask #T7, 200 bottles) Four stars
The back label tells us that this is 100% baco, aged in medium-toast Gascon oak, so probably new. It was bottled at cask strength. Colour: amber. Nose: rather a rich one, pretty compotey as we say in French, compotes being less sweet than jams (am I not stating the obvious?) It is very full, very aromatic and an ultra-classic, with some raisins, prunes, toffee, dried apricots, stewed peaches, Christmas cake, then nougat and praline, plus a little pancake sauce (which gives me an idea for tomorrow's breakfast, ho-ho). A total feeling of fullness and oneness. Mouth: once again, this is an ultra-classic armagnac of good age, but rather on the fruitier side, without any big oak. Dried fruits (dates, figs, apricots, raisins) coated with strong honey and, indeed, a little pancake sauce. Only tiny hints of pine resin, liquorice and menthol, but a little coffee liqueur. It's pretty easy, which is a huge asset, we agree. Finish: medium, a tad fruitier yet. Ripe peaches and indeed, those compotes. A little toffee or caramel in the aftertaste, plus notes of williams pears. Comments: absolutely excellent at 18 years of age, and very post-prandial. We had tried several other Château Garreau but all had been bottled at some rather frustrating 40% vol., a strength that would tend to make the oak stand out, in my own experience.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Maison Aurian 2001/2022 (50.6%, Whic, Voyages Extraordinaires, Bas-Armagnac, 150 bottles)

Maison Aurian 2001/2022 (50.6%, Whic, Voyages Extraordinaires, Bas-Armagnac, 150 bottles) Four stars and a half
We're in Condom now. We already tried some excellent Aurians. By the way, it's good that more and more indie whisky bottlers would be into armagnac, in my opinion they have been doing much good to malt whisky. Colour: bright red copper, almost as pink as a footballer's watch in rosé gold. Nose: less of a classic, more of a luscious flower-driven nose, full of lilac, wisteria, peonies. Then tamarind jam, blood oranges, thick mead and moscatel, ganaches… With a drop of water: that red liquorice we were having when we were kids, toffee apples, cinnamon rolls (awesome) and half a drop of absinth for good measure. And more and more juniper. Mouth (neat): this time it's jams that are leading the pack, rich ones, raspberries… and assorted liqueurs and cordials. Rich and almost molassy, but absolutely not cloying. You may add some black nougat and some rich honey to the list. With water: some 'old oak' spices, which really belong here. Close to cocoa and even to some 'dark' rums, especially some better Cubans such as Santiago. Finish: medium, back to flowers (broom) and to that 'red liquorice'. Comments: very different from the Garreau but in the same ballpark as far as quality's concerned.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Since we were at Aurian's…

Aurian 1995/2022 (48.9%, Grapediggaz, cask #72, 248 bottles)

Aurian 1995/2022 (48.9%, Grapediggaz, cask #72, 248 bottles) Four stars
This is 70% baco and 30% ugni blanc. That's another major difference from cognac, while in cognac they basically use only one varietal (ugni blanc, all the others are anecdotal), in armagnac they still use several. Having said that, baco's always had the reputation of driving drinkers crazy (which may explain a few things – no, no names). Colour: dark copper. Nose: this explains why I always try to compare my spirits and never taste any out of the blue. When nosing both this 1995 and Aurian's 2001, I suddenly realised that the latter was rather full of juniper on the nose, which I hadn't noticed before. Compare-and-contrast!  Other than that, they're close, this 1995 being a tad more 'polished'. Mouth: very different this time, much more 'artisanal', akin to many old armagnacs 'from the grandpas' that you'll find everywhere in the Gers, for example. Almost. A little varnish. The oak is much more present (black tea, cedarwood) and the spirit a tad more fragile. Perhaps not the king of balance but on the other hand, it reeks of the countryside down there. Notes of mulled wine, a lot of cinnamon. Finish: rather long, wood-forward. Bitter chocolate and coffee beans, black pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: absolutely 'authentic'. All you need to further enjoy this is a beret and a marinière.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Domaine de Mestépès 1990/2022 (58.2%, Swell de Spirit, Bas-Armagnac, single cask series 2 – 05, 200 bottes)

Domaine de Mestépès 1990/2022 (58.2%, Swell de Spirit, Bas-Armagnac, single cask series 2 – 05, 200 bottes) Four stars and a half
Seen the label? I didn't know Daft Punk were now into spirits, but great artwork for sure. The Domaine de Mestépès is a small family estate located in Cabauzon in the Gers. Nearest proper town is Paris; I'm joking, that would be Mauléon d'Armagnac. Colour: copper. Nose: very close, perhaps just on slightly softer tones, such as white chocolate and popcorn, although quite some piney, mentholy and liquoricy notes would start to spring out of your tasting glass as well. Could be that the very high strength would block it, 58% being basically the average, usual filling strength in Armagnac. With water: classic, firm, with a little fresh paint, peaches, tobacco and just small whiffs of tomato leaves. Mouth (neat): funny, with some acetone, fern, salty broths, even a small petroly and salty side… Don't tell me they're re-racking into Laphroaig-seasoned wood in Armagnac too (HEY this is a joke; they don't know about the existence of Laphroaig anyway and that doesn't do them any harm). With water: I think we tamed it but there remains a tiny feeling of peat smoke. Really. Otherwise raisins and marmalade plus that famous rancio and a touch of umami. Finish: long. The oak's coming out of its den but in general, brandies take oak better than malt whisky. A shocking statement, isn't it. Comments: rather a powerhouse, hard to tame. I believe the bottlers should write about the proportions of water they recommend on their back labels, same with whisky the way!
SGP:572 - 88 points.

Oh, a Ténarèze!

Famille Fezas 1981/2022 (42.1%, LMDW Version Française, Ténarèze, 514 bottles)

Famille Fezas 1981/2022 (42.1%, LMDW Version Française, Ténarèze, 514 bottles) Five stars
I've heard people down there claiming that Ténarèze was the real armagnac. The problem is that such important matters must be discussed over a good glass and that no one will ever agree before everyone's bought his/her round of drinks, which is why this debate has been constantly postponed. What's sure is that a Ténarèze 'should' be more rustic. BTW this estate is located in Larroque, in the Gers. Colour: full amber. Nose: well, no, a pile of gibberish, this is not rustic, on the contrary it is closer to a great cognac if you ask me, with peaches and grape juice, sultanas, melons, papayas, apricots, also touches of mushrooms, mosses, angelica and several small aromatic herbs. A little wormwood and verbena, for example. Mouth: yeah there, a small grittiness and rather a lot of black tea and menthol tobacco, I was right. Many herbal teas, some deep-steeped and a little tannic, but these marvellous honeyed peaches and apricots plus some soft deep-honeyed nougat are holding them off. I persist, this is close to an excellent cognac, why not a Fins Bois. Finish: medium, soft, awesomely refreshing. Comments: seriously good cog… Ténarèze and excellent wood management (even if that consisted in doing… nothing). As usual with armagnac, the price doesn't make any sense, but shh...
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Let's drop ugni blanc (hey, it was 100% ugni blanc, no wonder it was cognacqy)…

Domaine de Jouatmanou 1976/2022 (41.6%, Swell de Spirits, Flashback, Bas-Armagnac)

Domaine de Jouatmanou 1976/2022 (41.6%, Swell de Spirits, Flashback, Bas-Armagnac) Four stars
50% baco and 50% folle blanche. Colour: dark reddish amber. Nose: back to classic old armagnacs, this time with just a few piney touches that you would find in old whiskies too. Stewed fruits, including tropical ones, especially bananas and papayas, plus drops of old apple brandy and just a pack of Dunhill's. However, please note that the last time I 'nosed' a pack of Dunhill's, that was around the year 1995. In the background, several small herbs, certainly verbena (Verveine du Velay) and even genepy, plus a large family pack of salted liquorice. And banana skin. Mouth: the oak feels, this one being frankly tea-ish. Many herbal teas, tobacco, the darkest chocolate, ground coffee and a large stick of liquorice wood. Luckily, some stewed peaches, some ripe damsons and some rosehip tea keep holding the flag high. Finish: medium, fine, on English-style black teas. Comments: in my little book, this is a fine example of some old spirit – after all it is more or less 45 - that's about to change dimension. But the heart and the soul will keep ticking forever, it is/was a great armagnac. The nose remained superb.

SGP:561 - 85 points.

A last one, another 1976, and we'll go on with some older ones next week, if God and the French unions let us live…

Domaine de Baraillon 45 yo 1976/2022 (44%, The Roots, Bas-Armagnac, cask #6, 75 bottles)

Domaine de Baraillon 45 yo 1976/2022 (44%, The Roots, Bas-Armagnac, cask #6, 75 bottles) Four stars and a half
The Roots, that sounds like the name of a mid-1960s rock and roll band. I've seen it's also the name of an American hip-hop band, but that's American hip-hop. Colour: deep amber. Nose: there's always this incredible fatness, this oiliness in Baraillon, even on the nose. I'm finding whacky vegetables (cabbage and artichoke), which is close, some gas as well, but it would then take off on tangerines and mangos, earths, sandalwood, and above everything, old red Bourgogne, complete with civet cat, undergrowth, mushrooms and 'good sister who doesn't take care of herself'. Yes, that's a proper, although rarely used descriptor. Mouth: sure it's a tad gritty and tannic, but the creamy, oily fruitiness holds it tight. First and foremost, raisins and peaches, then bananas and papayas. Then chocolate, coffee, tobacco, cloves and cracked pepper. Finish: very long, very consistent, with tons of Jaffa cakes and some fruitcake (beerawecka) in the aftertaste. Clove as the signature. Comments: it's been flirting with the 90-limit all along. Baraillon I always big.

SGP:661 - 89 points.

Good, more armagnacs next week (1973 to 1934).

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


January 21, 2023





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Three recent Lagavulin
There was a time when doing a session titled 'three recent Lagavulin' was impossible. Now you could probably do between 2-4 such sessions each year, probably more if you added in all those vulgar yet annoyingly delicious Casks of Distinction. Make of that what you will, but I have no doubt it says something profound and interesting about the nature of the contemporary whisky world.


I still adore Lagavulin, and in particular the wonderful people that work at the distillery, so I am always happy to see more expressions on the market. Even if the 16 year old isn't quite what it used to be, in my humble and entirely unimportant opinion.



Lagavulin 10 yo (43%, OB for Travel Retail, -/+2020)

Lagavulin 10 yo (43%, OB for Travel Retail, -/+2020)
A rather cool and, on paper, legitimately good value bottling that seems to have just flown under the radar in recent years. Colour: gold. Nose: feels like a younger version of the 16yo, in a very good way and in a way that, for example, the 8yo does not. Lovely fat peat, dried seaweed, soot and earthy and rooty medicinal notes, a little seawater and a little hessian. Very smart! Mouth: excellent! Jammy, sweet, oily peat, tar extracts, seawater, iodine, sooty smoke, more tar and more of these hessian cloth notes. I also find some cured meats and various notes of herbs, ointments and salty liquorice. In some ways it is also even reminiscent of some old 12 year old Lagas at 43%, which is no mean feat! Finish: good length, very peaty, sooty, salty, tarry and earthy - terrific! Comments: extremely impressive, and especially for the price. I don't do bang for your buck bottles each month on WF, but this would almost certainly qualify. There is something charmingly old school in the use of 43% here, which works extremely well. The whole thing screams charm, confidence and charisma!
SGP: 466 - 88 points.



Lagavulin 11 yo 'Offerman Edition' Charred Oak Cask (46%, OB, 2022)

Lagavulin 11 yo 'Offerman Edition' Charred Oak Cask (46%, OB, 2022)
Nick Offerman is a very good American character actor and seemingly all round lovely guy who legitimately loves his Lagavulin (and having actually read his book I can say his love of whisky is certainly authentic). Although, it's interesting to note that, if like me you do have opinions about what Diageo should be doing with your favourite distillery, all you need to do is become a moderate celebrity and they'll bend over backwards to accommodate you. Dear Diageo, once I land a role in a reasonably popular Netflix series, can we please arrange that meeting about the Talisker 10yo 100° proof…? (I can't do Tuesdays, just for reference). Colour: gold (although the rear label mentions 'Mit Farbstoff', so caramel.) Nose: It's funny how this one is so much quieter and apparently 'lighter' than the 10yo. Green and pink peppercorn, aniseed, some background peat smoke and a little mixed olive tapenade that adds saltiness. Not too sure it's my cup of Lagavulin this… Mouth: pretty sweet, sweet peat, oak spices, sweet tarriness, wee brine touches, some preserved lemon and lapsing souchong tea. Perfectly fine, but it feels as though it has been slightly flattened out in some way. Finish: medium and actually rather nice with some root beer, cola syrup and tar liqueur along with a nice salted almond note. Comments: I have no idea how involved Mr Offerman was in the actual whisky creation, but perhaps he enjoys his Lagavulin more wood-forward than I do. I find this just a tad buried under active wood and lacking direction. The 10yo crushes it in my view.
SGP: 656 - 84 points.



Lagavulin 12 yo (57.3%, OB 'Special Releases', 2022)

Lagavulin 12 yo (57.3%, OB 'Special Releases', 2022)
Apparently this one is supposed to be called 'The Flames of The Phoenix'. So, someone in the marketing department has successfully justified their job for another year it would seem… Colour: white wine. Nose: that familiar 'hug' of Lagavulin 12 that includes hot chips drenched in malt vinegar, cornichons in brine, smoked sea salt, mezcal and gentian distillates, and a rather massive but brittle, crystalline peat smoke. Terrific distillate, not doubt. With water: pine wood smoke, green olives in brine, anchovy paste and seawater. Mouth: hey hey, great arrival, on fat and farmy peat, greasy smoke, toolbox oils, camphor and raw iodine drizzled through sheep wool (yes, every day for breakfast before you ask!) and then more of these malt vinegar and gherkin vibes. The nose felt a tad light on its feel but the palate comes home like a sledgehammer. With water: more medical tinctures, lemon juice, raw oysters and more seawater. Also more of this rather fat and grizzly peat. Finish: long, lemony, woolly peat smoke, ashy and full of raw lemon juice and dirty Martini vibes. Comments: I don't find it as luminous as previous batches (although I've missed several in recent years I must admit) but I also still think it is flying high and very much still within that 'Laga 12 groove'. Serge also tried it recently and found a bit more sweetness in this batch, not sure I get that myself, but I agree same ballpark as far as quality and score are concerned.
SGP: 367 - 89 points.



Diageo certainly seem to be putting out more weird and varied expressions of Lagavulin these days. What's for sure is that when they remain unvarnished (like the 12yo) or humble and classical (the 10yo) then they're hard to argue with.




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


January 20, 2023


France, Namibia, England, Germany, New Zealand and Canada:
around the world once more

Long time no whisky trip around the world! As usual and to save on petrol, we'll kick this off from France. Even better, from Alsace…


St Wendelin 'Le Souffle Marno-Calcaire' (46.2%, OB, Uberach, France, 2022)

St Wendelin 2011/2021 'Le Souffle Marno-Calcaire' (46.4%, OB, Uberach, France, 430 bottles, 2022) Four stars
This one's got the GI 'Whisky d'Alsace'. It's doubled-distilled in some copper Holstein and fully matured in an Alsace cask 'from a prestigious house' (from Bas-Rhin). To be honest, using Pinot Noir has often meant pure wreckage in the past, but some distillers seem to have learnt, over the years, how to do it and that it wasn't just a matter of 'dumping Ardbeg into Chambertin' (and writing that in big letters on the labels). Colour: deep gold, with only the faintest hues of copper. Nose: it really is 'a creation', rich, with indeed whiffs of peonies and blueberry tarte, but I spot no dissonances and no problems of balance, on the contrary. Small herbs and spices coming out after a short while, touches of juniper and caraway, fig leaves, blood oranges, tamarind, a little guava, and a very particular kind of natural rubber, from some tree that I couldn't even identify, all I know is that I've smelled this two or three times already. But where and when, I don't know. Also the smallest bit of swiss cheese. Awer scheen! But again, the devil usually sleeps on your palate… Mouth: very good, no devil! There are flavours that 'should' not belong here but that, as if by magic, really work, such as gin (gin!), rose, salt and lavender (its good side), as well as caraway liqueur, which I was expecting. Then cake, perhaps raspberry muffins? Finish: medium, with lovely sweeter spices, rather in the family of the Szechuan peppers and such. Comments: looks like this cask was monitored very closely, at least twice a day (right). An unlikely Elsass-made idea, executed with a lot of care.

SGP:651 - 86 points. (some data ammended)

Speaking of red wine, off to…

Ondjaba 'The Namibian Whisky' (46%, OB, Namibia, +/-2021)

Ondjaba 'The Namibian Whisky' (46%, OB, Namibia, +/-2021) Three stars and a half
A new whisky country on little Whiskyfun, hurray! The last new country was South Korea, excellent whisky by the way. This Namibian is actually a single grain, matured in virgin and red wine casks, now 'grain' refers to many kinds of cereals and methods of production; in whisky terminology, grain is all what's not malt, while malt has to be barley, unless that's a Scottish rule only? Even malted barley in columns produces grain whisky, mind you. Colour: deep gold. Nose: great fun. A lot of ski wax at first (I am not joking), spruce, thuja, asafoetida (that's singular!) and pencil shavings, then hashish, liquorice, pinewood smoke, garden smoke, cigars, some lovage… Well, this would please any slightly bored taster (which I am not). But remember, the devil… Mouth: love it, even if, or maybe because it is a kind of art-house whisky. First salty liquorice and more pinewood smoke (crazy lapsang-souchong), then fermenting fruits and some grassy berries, around cassis, or even holly spirit (not holy, right). Some spicier pumpernickel too, and something that reminds me of some of those crazy newish Americans such as Koval. Not too sure, maybe Milk & Honey? Finish: rather long, more on moist prunes, damsons, juniper… Comments: more than just a curiosity (just seen that some elephants have been involved in some way). As I said, the blasé taster with love it and what's more, the red wine did not, as it appears, exactly have the upper hand.

SGP:574 - 83 points.

Since there was smoke…

Bimber 'The 1st Peated' (54.6%, OB, England, 1,140 bottles, 2022)

Bimber 'The 1st Peated' (54.6%, OB, England, 1,140 bottles, 2022) Four stars
That's the thing, when friends ask you whether this or that distillery makes peated or plain, all you're able to answer now is: 'both'. But it's good fun to witness all these heirs of Ledaig, Longrow or Brora in action. Colour: gold. Nose: less entertaining, but much cleaner and straighter than the Namibian, as we would have expected. Somewhat in the style of peated Chichibu, even if it would tend to display more earths, ashes and leaves, and perhaps less straight lemons. Very faintly mouldy. With water: mud, damp chalk, wool and even tiny whiffs of wet dog (again, we're sorry, dogs!) Mouth (neat): lapsang and resins over some rich and creamy fruitiness, it is almost as if they had smoked some classic readymade ex-bourbon Bimber. Of course that's not what they've been doing (but you can buy smoked water, min you!) but it does feel a bit like a turbo look on an old Porsche. Which, to be honest, I've now got a fondness for, isn't everything only a matter of time? With water: fresh and tangy. Salty smoke. Finish: medium, with lemons and seawater. Seawater from the River Thames? Also tangerines and a very small oyster. Comments: possibly only medium peated, and/but certainly very excellent and flawless. My main problem, and that's me of course, is that I just cannot get Islay (and Brora) out of my head whenever I try a peater. Perhaps a story of chance and necessity… But yeah, excellent, as expected.
SGP:555 - 86 points.

We'll soon try some glorious plain Bimbers, but in the meantime…

Elsburn 'The Journey 2022' (43%, OB, Germany)

Elsburn 'The Journey 2022' (43%, OB, Germany) Three stars
It was matured in 'fortified wine casks'. Wineskies rule the new world of whisky! Colour: deep gold. Nose: not too sure this time. We've had some other Elsburns that had been straighter and fuller, but this is rather made-u… I mean flavoured with really a lot of oak and wine, which creates a kind of sourness. On the other hand, some moist all-grain breads, or perhaps fresh pumpernickel would put things straighter when they would join in the dancing. Also Caramelised Macadamia Oat Latte. Mouth: much more to my liking on the palate. Big raisins, caramel, corn syrup, molasses honey, proper honey and butterscotch. This one goes down like Klammer or Moser-Pröll on the Lauberhorn. Finish: breads are back, especially pumpernickel. I'm not going to tell you why it's called pumpernickel again, am I? Comments: some extremely pretty drinking whisky. As for the nose, we may have gotten other preferences, but there.

SGP:641 - 82 points.

No All Black is joking…

Cardrona 5 yo 'Growing Wings' (64.9%, New Zealand, bourbon and sherry, 2022)

Cardrona 5 yo 'Growing Wings' (64.9%, OB, New Zealand, bourbon and sherry, 2022) Four stars
We've already tried some excellent 'Just Hatched' expressions from Cardrona's. Colour: gold. Nose: that's the thing with such high strengths, the nose can be blocked and this one is. Seemingly. A little bread, a little sawdust, a little vanilla, a few raisins, some cut apples… With water: nice earths! Bread crumbles, praline brittle, mushrooms cooked in Noilly, cured ham, overripe apples, a little walnut wine (my grandma used to make the best in the world), touches of paint and wood varnish… All is well here. Mouth (neat): good and too hot. Very hot. Burns. Please… With water: there, excellent, modern, with touches of pears, apples and pineapples, plus vanilla and sourdough bread. Citrus coming in then, with oranges and a salty touch. Well, something that triggers 'salt' on your palate. Finish: long, creamy and fruity. Williams pear liqueur plus a cup of mushroom soup (with some coriander please). Orange squash in the aftertaste. Comments: many 'new' Distilleries are making them good these days. I went to my huge local 'hypermarket' the other day and couldn't help but notice that whiskies of the world (not Scotch, Irish, American or Canadian) were making up for more than half of the references. And it's very far from being a specialist shop.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Speaking of Canada… Will this be the oldest Canadian ever?

J.P. Wiser's 40 yo 1982/2022 'The Apprenticeship' (61.9%, Ex-Libris, LMDW, blended Canadian, 240 bottles)

J.P. Wiser's 40 yo 1982/2022 'The Apprenticeship' (61.9%, Ex-Libris, LMDW, blended Canadian, 240 bottles) Four stars
Good, this old glory was beefed-up using several fighting casks, including  ex-Speyside, then it was further 'enhanced' in quarter casks having contained some peated Scottish malt. I'd bet the latter started with an 'L'. Some cooking! Colour: gold. Nose: as always, the peat comes out first and it's hard to get rid of it, even when rather vast amounts of coconut water and vanilla should help. But at 62% vol. I'm not sure anything remains logical, especially when the whisky's 40. With water: all asparagus, eggplant and salsify, stewed. What a curious old whisky… Mouth (neat): clearly something else. A thinner body with rather a lot pf peat, that's unseen in my meagre experience, I would suppose you could only achieve this when using some ex-peater casks (or peater-seasoned casks? Are we there already?), which so many good people seem to be doing these days anyway. With water: a feeling of peated light bourbon. More coconut and some citrusy, slightly salty and medicinal smoke. Finish: medium, on similar notes. Comments: an odd whisky, very intriguing. At times you would believe they've recreated Laphroaig Select starting from the other side. Seriously, it's very good, we're just not used to this unseen combination. Moses saved from the waters.

SGP:633 - 85 points.

Can you buy 3 litres of 'L' new make, inject them into an average hoggie under high pressure and temperature, and immediately use said hoggie as a finishing vessel for a few days? And then repeat? Is that doable?


January 19, 2023


Little Duos, today 27 yo Balvenie

Or rather one Balvenie and one Burnside, both twenty-seven. The problem is that whenever I try some Burnside, I just cannot get R.L Burnside.'s 'It's Bad You Know' out of my head. Another bluesy earworm…

(picture R.L. Burnside)

RL Burnside



Burnside 27 yo 1994/2021 (46.9%, Le Gus't, blended malt, first fill bourbon hogshead, cask #3522, 231 bottles, 2022)

Burnside 27 yo 1994/2021 (46.9%, Le Gus't, blended malt, first fill bourbon hogshead, cask #3522, 231 bottles, 2022) Four stars and a half
More blended malt from a single cask. Oh, another guaranteed earworm by the way, R.L. Burnside's 'Let My Baby Ride'. De nada. Colour: gold. Nose: pure mirabelley (what?) Balvenie, with also a lot of quinces, butter cream, custard and pink grapefruits. This nose reminds me of the 1970s (we're talking vintages here) and does not need a lot of provincial-station-level literature. Mouth (neat): same combination, mirabelles and quinces plus custard and grapefruits, but this time you'll also find peaches and yellow melons. A tiny sprinkle of grated coconut. With water (although water is not necessary): emphasis on mirabelle, especially mirabelle eau-de-vie. Finish: medium, more herbal. A feeling of hay and chamomile. Coconut in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps a few tiny fragilities here and there, which happens with natural low strengths, but the Balvenieness was pretty superlative. More very smart selection by Le Gus't.

SGP:551 - 88 points.

Balvenie 27 yo (48%, OB, 'A Rare Discovery From Distant Shores', Caroni Rum Cask Finish, 2022)

Balvenie 27 yo (48%, OB, 'A Rare Discovery From Distant Shores', Caroni Rum Cask Finish, 2022) Four stars
A little perplexed. Feels a little like more Doritos whisky, any flavours and any variations, as long as it's legal. I mean, as long as the proprietors of the brand names are okay with it, why not a Hampden finish, a Worthy Park finish, a Neisson finish, a Foursquare finish, a Bielle finish, a Bellevue finish, a Port Mourant finish, a Diplomatico finish, or an Enmore finish (spot the odd-one out)… Anyway, let's see if the mirabelles resisted the diesel oil… Colour: white wine. Nose: not a slaughter, they did it smartly, even if these whiffs of two-stroke benzine do feel a little out of place. My problem is that I love these smells of… say old Kawasaki. The mirabelles are still there having said that, and so are the quinces. Whiffs of concrete, hay, straw, wormwood, just a drop of seawater and one of olive oil… Well I just don't know how they managed to keep it balanced. Mouth: more Caroniness on the palate, which, on malt whisky, generates… a feeling of peat. Some tar as well, perhaps a little rubber, tarry olives… and rather greener, unripe fruits. Green bananas for example. Finish: long, dry, a little astringent but not unpleasant. Comments: they just shouldn't tell us. Remember the saying, it's like the law or mortadella, you shouldn't know about how it's made. It's a good drop, but you cannot escape the feeling that you could do these kinds of meta-blends yourself, with a good pipette.

SGP:462 - 85 points.

Don't you think this is a funny situation, whereby some distillate that was in-cask-blended with some heavy rum would remain a single malt whilst the same distillate allegedly 'teaspooned' with some light malt whisky from the same town would not?

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


January 18, 2023