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Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild



Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2024 - Part 1

December 2023 - part 2 <--- January 2024 - part 1 ---> January 2024 - part 2


January 14, 2024


Rums, rums, rums, rums

With a very carefully selected apéritif!

Triple-column continuous still at Travellers in Belize (Dan Carey)



Damoiseau 'XO' (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2022)

Damoiseau 'XO' (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2022) Four stars
I thought the VSOP was a little disappointing (WF 79) but we last tried that one in 2016. The simpler VO was much more to my liking last year in June (WF 85). This XO is said to be 6 years old, so careful there, XO may be 'younger' in French rum than it is in cognac (minimum 10 years in cognac, usually much older). Not to mention other quasi-forgeries such as fantasy XOs from the DomRep or elsewhere. Colour: gold. Nose: no, very nice, great cane, small petroly notes, metal polish, rotting fruits especially bananas (love that on the nose), some lovely varnish, some brine, some salted liquorice… In short, everything's rather perfect here, even more so since this is a 60-70€ bottle. Mouth: yes, really quite lovely, spicier than expected, with beautiful liquorice, English sweets, hints of caramel but especially crème brûlée, then a lot of halva, turron, toasted sesame, and even a bit of butterscotch. You could add a little black olive, as in many agricultural rums in my opinion, and almond paste. Finish: long, with cocoa and a decidedly more herbaceous, tighter side. Liquorice wood, chocolate plus salt and pepper in the aftertaste. And that famous black olive. Comments: a lot of personality in this rum from Guadeloupe. The brand is very present all over France, but that does not stop it from being excellent, in my humble opinion.

SGP:562 - 86 points.

Travellers 16 yo 2006/2023 'Obano-Oyo' (58.6% , Tamosi, Belize, cask #ECA#3)

Travellers 16 yo 2006/2023 'Obano-Oyo' (58.6% , Tamosi, Belize, cask #ECA#3) Four stars
13 years in the tropics plus 3 years in Europe for this well-aged Travellers. It's interesting that Travellers/Belmopan Distillery are using molasses from local sugarcanes and seem to be doing double-distillation (not too sure they're doing that exclusively, they also make vodka, apparently, while there's a photograph of a triple-column at Wikipedia). Colour: deep gold. Nose: rather a lot of glue, varnish, acids, vinegar and all that, the whole being coated with some dark caramel and some heavy coffee liqueur. Other Travellers had been gentler, shall we say. With water: an earthier side, it's slightly musty, with old apples, molasses indeed, plus some wonderful coffee and aged black tea, Pu-ehr-style. Some nail polish remaining, but acids and vinegars are gone. Mouth (neat): a massive blend of varnish with cocoa. It's very hot. With water: it's not very fat, but oranges have made it through, together with pickles and some much softer glues. I'm also finding more and more coffee. Finish: medium, gentler, on butterscotch and Jaffa cakes. Much, much gentler. Comments: same ballpark as far as quality's concerned, in my humble opinion. The texture changes a lot over time, from rather heavy to pretty light.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Penny Blue 11 yo 2011/2023 (60%, OB, Mauritius, ex-American oak oloroso sherry, LMDW New Vibrations)

Penny Blue 11 yo 2011/2023 (60%, OB, Mauritius, ex-American oak oloroso sherry, LMDW New Vibrations) Four stars
From Distillerie Médine, as always. Colour: mahogany. Nose: it's not easy to tell what's sherry and what isn't in these mixes with pretty heavy rums, even less so at 60% vol. What's sure is that there are bags of roasted nuts and a lot of walnuts, which were roasted as well. Some black nougat. With water: very nice, still nutty but also earthy, caky, with a little brine, olives, liquorice… If I may, some Appletons are a bit like this. Mouth (neat): very hot and heavy but seemingly great. Some flamethrower, this little Penny Blue! With water: we tamed it, it's now geared towards high-class molasses, maple syrup, caramel, then clove and softer juniper, as well as thin mints (chocolate and mint, all right). Finish: long, saltier yet. More brine, the usual olives, liquorice, some saltiness, then burnt walnut cake, quite possibly from the sherry. Marmalade and a touch of ginger in the aftertaste, plus bitter chocolate. Comments: three 86s in a row. A session that starts well. I believe these Penny Blues keep improving, especially when they're pretty dry like this one.

SGP:462 - 86 points.

Papa Rouyo 3 yo 'Vieux' (46%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, 2023)

Papa Rouyo 3 yo 'Vieux' (46%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, 2023) Four stars and a half
Still sourced rum only aged at the young Distillery. I believe their own 3 yo is about to be launched, unless it already was. Remember the small Papa Rouyo Distillery was built by a gathering of much experienced Guadeloupean cane planters. Their own 1 yo 'Vibrasyon' is already sublime (WF 87). By the way they call this 3 yo 'Jénérasyon', which is proper créole for… 'Generation'. Colour: gold. Nose: where did they get this? Labat? Bielle? It's awesome, fresh, with some lemongrass, thyme, sage, fennel, anise, sugarcane juice naturally, and this very faint smoky side that's so perfect. Well if their own 3 yo is only close to this, it's going to be a roaring success. Mouth: exceptional herbal rum. Lime, more aniseed, mint, marjoram, some clay, liquorice, a rather big saltiness, gherkins… You cannot not think of the greatest cachaças and mezcals. I know, they have nothing to do with each other. Finish: long, salty, with even more thyme tea. Did they add thyme? Comments: very impressive juice. Not sure it's a single-distillery vatting. A glorious young agricole, in any case, with so much herbal freshness.

SGP:572 - 88 points.

Papalin 6 yo (54.1%, Velier, Haiti, ex-sherry casks, 2023)

Papalin 6 yo (54.1%, Velier, Haiti, ex-sherry casks, 2023) Four stars and a half
Sherry's creeping into the rum world too. In a few years, all spirits will be the same because they'll all use the same cask-bills, all over the world. Nah, I'm joking (I hope so). In any case, this is a blend of three Haitian rums, all clairins I suppose, fully aged in Port-au-Prince. We adore clairin, that cane juice that's fermented using indigenous yeast and then distilled in batches in proper alambics. Colour: dark amber. Nose: it's a relatively gentler, better polished clairin, I would suppose that's the work of both time and the sherry. For example, despite the fact that's it's clearly and wonderfully acetic, it is not that far from the Papa Rouyo. More pine wood and cedar wood. With water: seriously, someone's taken the same juice as that Papa Rouyo's and just added 10% high-ester Jamaican. And some sherry. Mouth (neat): very tight, on loads of liquorice and many roots. Vinegar de Jerez, cough syrup, gentian, camphor, green walnuts… With water: some pencil shavings, some salted liquorice, some mustard, some walnuts, some paprika. Finish: very long, on similar notes. Something Thai in the aftertaste. Comments: domesticated clairin, I thought. It's lost a part of its inherent uncontrolled wildness (what?) but it's gained some kind of Jamaicanness. Oh well, I know what I'm trying to say. Love it, no need to say.

SGP:563 - 88 points.

Long Pond 21 yo 2000/2022 (56.2%, The Colours of Rum, No.11, cask #31, 220 bottles)

Long Pond 21 yo 2000/2022 (56.2%, The Colours of Rum, No.11, cask #31, 220 bottles) Four stars and a half
Long Pond is located somehow right between Hampden and Worthy Park. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a fast-changing Long Pond, starting with vinegar, chervil and parsley, getting then fruitier (bananas, mangoes) and then chalky and varnishy. Water would tell us more about it. With water: a little seawater, very soft vinegar (we have one called Melfor), a few ashes… Mouth (neat): heavy esters but not extreme esters, rather sweet, with some sirups, sugarcane syrup, a little banana liqueur, triple-sec… It really is a different kind of 'Jamaican balance'. With water: olives and gherkins returning, but it would remain an easier, sweeter, fruitier Jamaican beast. Finish: medium, saltier again. More seawater. Comments: love this style too. After several 86s, we're now having several 88s. We'll have to add more action to our next rum sessions. Let's try to unlock this curse… So to speak.

SGP:651 - 88 points.

Enmore 34 yo 1988/2023 (47.9%, Silver Seal, Demerara, 103 bottles)

Enmore 34 yo 1988/2023 (47.9%, Silver Seal, Demerara, 103 bottles) Five stars
This is proper pre-closure Enmore! Enmore was closed in 1995 but indeed, the old wooden column still was then moved to Diamond. Colour: red copper. Nose: it's become delicate, floral, with rose petals, stewed fruits, patchouli, jasmine, even hyacinth, then damson tarte, cinnamon, incense, cedarwood… There's also an 'old wine cellar' side from the old age, with a faint mustiness and various old-skool syrups, eucalyptus, berries, camphor, peppermint, and possibly several long-forgotten aromas. How do you keep track of old aromas? We might need to visit an old perfumer's office one day, I'd love to nose labdanum essence. Mouth: this one aged gracefully. More flowers, stewed fruits, resins, saps, soft spices, everything marvellously melted together by time. Including many kinds of mints and affiliated herbs, as in an old Chartreuse from Tarragona. Except that this old Enmore has also got an awesome salinity. Finish: indeed, it's not immensely long but these salty bouillons and soups are terrific. Some sides even remind us of a very special old armagnac (from the back woods, as we say in French). Comments: some great old wine effect happening here. Or, as some say, it's become philharmonic. The flowers were especially stunning on the nose.

SGP:562 - 91 points.

Let's end this with a Caroni, if you please.

Caroni 1996/2019/2023 (58.10%, Velier, Paradise #4, cask #3786)

Caroni 1996/2019/2023 (58.10%, Velier, Paradise #4, cask #3786) Five stars
These casks had been transferred into demijohns in 2019 and kept in Cognac. Tropical aging is great, controlled aging is better (I suppose). There were four demijohns, 215 bottles altogether, that's what I gathered. Not even sure about the cask #, it's either 3786 or 3788. All bottles go for the price of a Brora plus a Port Ellen. Colour: copper amber with redder hues. Nose: what I'm finding pretty amazing is that it has left the world of rum and entered that of 'any great old aged spirit'. Indeed you could find these prunes in a very old Ténarèze. Or this metal polish/old tools in a Brora indeed. Or this coastal tar in a 1970s Ardbeg. Or these dried fruits in a proper old Macallan. These marvellous stewed peaches in an old cognac. These burnt tyres in a Port Ellen. Etcetera. With water: someone's cooked some soup using vegetable bouillon, bits of tyres indeed, oysters, a touch of liquid caramel, some ashes, bits of precious hardwood, and quite some diesel oil. Not such a bad idea, on the nose at least. Mouth (neat): exquisitely heavy and woody, the kind of woodiness that most of the 'newer' Veliers are displaying. Hevea, pinewood, fresh rubber oils, seawater, fir honey, touch of glue, tangerine liqueur, kumquat chutney, saffron sauce, sea urchin (white saffron sauce, ha - and white Beaucastel)… It's a whole dazzling adventure indeed. With water: it's just become a whole, a Caroni. I keep paraphrasing a superb old advert for Kawasaki, 'Before 20 years it's great rum, after that it's a Caroni'. Thad ad for Kawasaki that I used to love so much in the 70s was saying 'The 350 Kawasaki? Below 6000 rpm it's a 350. After that it's becoming a Kawasaki'. BTW I'm sure we're finding whiffs of those Kawa two-stroke fumes in the nose of this Caroni too. Finish: long. Comments: natürlich.
SGP:464 – 92 points.

We wanted to add one or three new Hampden '8 Marks 1 year' that arrived at WF Towers a while back, but that would be a little 'too much' after that very competitive Caroni. See you next time.

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


January 12, 2024


A little bag of Craigellachie

Perhaps no utter stars today, but we remain open to everything.

Medlar (Thyme.co.uk)



Craigellachie-Glenlivet 15 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, Port, 2023)

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 15 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, Port, 2023) one star and a half
Colour: deep gold. Nose: it is a very chocolaty one, you would almost believe you're visiting a chocolate factory… where they also store struck matches. Behind all this chocolate and these touches of sulphur, you'll find Golden Grahams and other cereals and cornflakes, a tiny bit of aniseed bread, a little metal polish, and a little younger rancio, rather from south of France. And bicycle inner tubes. Mouth: saltier, more peppery, mineral, and indeed sulphury (cabbage and truffle). More metal polish. Finish: salty, pretty long. Salted walnuts, sour vegetables, zucchini, eggplants... Comments: it's okay, I'm sure it'll have its afficionados. Or someone has sabotaged my sample (right, right, we've got two different samples from two different sources!)…

SGP:272 - 68 points.

Craigellachie 14 yo 2008/2023 (56.8%, The First Editions, wine barrel, cask #HL19546)

Craigellachie 14 yo 2008/2023 (56.8%, The First Editions, wine barrel, cask #HL19546) Two stars
Colour: dark amber. Nose: very similar style, on chocolate truffles, compost, pumpernickel, a little menthol… With water: paraffin, chocolate, brake fluid, flints, basalt… Mouth (neat): caramel, toffee, eggplants, leather, stewed Brussels sprouts… With water: leaves, teas, marmalade. Marmalade saves it. Finish: long, on pepper, capsicum, tomato leaves, eggplants and leather. Comments: another tough one, extra-points for the marmalade. It takes all sorts to make a world, all whiskies have the right to exist, and all tastes are in nature. Besides, I know several friends who will love it, it's all only a matter of personal fit anyway. And the bottlers are easily part of the first tier. And their recent Craig' 15 yo 2007 #HL1964 had been rather stupendous (WF 89 in August). And the world needs peace. So, peace.

SGP:271 - 75 points.

We need redemption, we need bourbon or refill…

Craigellachie 12 yo 2011/2023 (58.9%, Fadandel, bourbon barrel, cask #900441, 182 bottles)

Craigellachie 12 yo 2011/2023 (58.9%, Fadandel, bourbon barrel, cask #900441, 182 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: a little brutal, very grassy, but nicely malty as well. A little generic perhaps, but water will sort things out. With water: lemon and granny smith, plus green malt and green tea and just grass (green). Mouth (neat): punchy, leafy, also very fruity, on jelly babies and gummi bears, which is kind of the same thing, we agree. With water: pure clean malt with its usual attributes. Apples, citrus, barley, bread, yeast, a little earth. Finish: rather long. No changes. Comments: totally in a state of nature, that is to say excellent. Who needs a wine cask.

SGP:461 - 85 points.

Or wait, maybe simply something by Bacardi themselves?

Craigellachie 23 yo 1999 (55%, OB, Exceptional Cask Series, Double Cask, oloroso sherry, cask #3, 542 bottles, 2023)

Craigellachie 23 yo 1999 (55%, OB, Exceptional Cask Series, Double Cask, oloroso sherry, cask #3, 542 bottles, 2023) Five stars
This is going to be tricky, as their very recent 23 yo at 46% had gone very high in my book (WF 91). Best current malt in Craigellachie Town? Not so fast, let's see… Colour: amber. Nose: you'd believe we've just opened a family-pack of Weetabix, a bottle of white Meursault, a tin of peach halves in syrup, and a bag of overripe medlars. It is pretty winey/vinous, but in the most extraordinary manner. With water: some wee metallic touches (those small copper coins), more medlars, rosehip tea, rather poached pears (pears poached in Meursault, why not, and why not use Coche while we're at it), old fur coat, old-school lady's perfume, a little hazelnut liqueur… Mouth (neat): much more oloroso-y on the palate, with the expected walnuts joining in, together with, well, bone-dry oloroso, complete with touches of mustard, ground coffee, dark chocolate and crushed limestone. That Meursaulty thing again, perhaps. With water: spices chiming in, pepper, caraway, aniseed, even a little sea salt, as if that oloroso they've used was stemming from Sanlúcar. Finish: pretty long, saltier yet, more mineral, and even a little peaty, or am I dreaming? All that while our medlars are back in the aftertaste. Comments: absolutely awesome, as expected. It's just that I love the 'regular' 23 yo at 46% vol. even better, just checked that one again. But levels are extremely close, for sure.
SGP:562 - 90 points.

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


January 11, 2024


A quartet of indie Glen Grant

There are two or three new independent Glen Grants that have quickly earned an impressive reputation and which we have yet to taste. Gone are the days when we thought we could try everything as it came along, or almost!

Untitled (textile layer 3) by Scottish artist Claire Barclay, who did the exquisite labels for the new SMWS/LMDW bottlings (Glasgow Print Studio)

Claire Barclay



Glen Grant 13 yo 2009/2023 (59.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill sherry butt, cask #900938, 642 bottles)

Glen Grant 13 yo 2009/2023 (59.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill sherry butt, cask #900938, 642 bottles) Four stars
G&M have always had very varied styles of Glen Grant, from the pure marvels of old vintages to others that were a wee bit more 'pedestrian', let's say. I have quite a good feeling here. Colour: gold, a pale colour for a 1st fill sherry. Nose: all about walnuts and chalk. You could almost say 'albariza' (the very chalky soil of the area around Sanlúcar and elsewhere in the Triangle). You could even say it resembles a fine of manzanilla, if such a thing existed. With water: moist plaster and fresh walnut, plus a few amaretti biscuits and kougelhopf. Mouth (neat): truly perfect, very compact, very coherent. Always the walnuts, whether fresh or aged, liquors made from these same walnuts, a bit of pepper, a salty side (some whelks, ha-ha), and then, as long as we're on the subject, some real manzanilla. Not so many people know manzanilla, everyone should buy a bottle, they are scandalously cheap (there are some great ones for less than €10, at least locally). With water: maltier notes come back to the surface, all the while remaining very dry and almost austere. Finish: long, on similar notes and a bit of green pepper. The manzanilla remains in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly not a very extravagant malt, on the contrary. But if you like that, you'll adore it.

SGP:461 - 87 points.

Glen Grant 20 yo 2003/2023 (53.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 40th Anniversary for LMDW Artist #13, 1st fill oloroso hogshead, #9.289, 'Break The Mould', 175 bottles)

Glen Grant 20 yo 2003/2023 (53.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 40th Anniversary for LMDW Artist #13, 1st fill oloroso hogshead, #9.289, 'Break The Mould', 175 bottles) Four stars
The bottle is truly very beautiful. In 2023, the SMWS has indeed provided some casks without using their own packaging. It appears that this cask is made from Spanish oak. Colour: glowing amber. Indeed. Nose: once again a powerful sherry, but this time with more of a focus on meats, as well as vegetables and all sorts of minor secondary aromas. Wine sauce, leeks, marrow, truffles, mushrooms, then dried grapes and a curious lactic side that's not unpleasant at all. Perhaps it's the Spanish oak. With water: it's the spices and herbs that come to the forefront. Tobacco is a herb, isn't it? Mouth (neat): a traditional sherry, plus some wood spices (Spanish ones, have we mentioned that?) Walnuts, foliage, pepper, a bit of sawdust, cedar, coriander seeds, cardamom, bitter chocolate (typical oloroso)... With water: an old-fashioned sherry, with a little more figs, dark honey, marmalade, and fruit cake. Bay leaf too. Finish: quite long, with a return of somewhat wild cocoa, allspice, slightly acidic coffee... Comments: a different style of sherry but of absolutely equivalent level – and therefore high-level.

SGP:461 - 87 points.

Glen Grant 23 yo 2000/2023 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage for Wu Dram Clan, 1st fill sherry butt finish, cask #4, 693 bottles)

Glen Grant 23 yo 2000/2023 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage for Wu Dram Clan, 1st fill sherry butt finish, cask #4, 693 bottles) Five stars
In theory… Now we haven't tried the sister cask for TWE yet, but Angus did and said good things about it in these miserable pages. Colour: lighter mahogany. Nose: a bit strong but we do detect some compost notes, fresh potting soil, pipe tobacco, bags and bags of dried dates, quite some chocolate and the expected 'armagnacqy' side. That would be some robust Ténarèze, I think. With water: pine needles, moss, Worcester sauce and five kilos of pipe tobacco, plus a ton of bitter chocolate and a small ristretto. Mouth (neat): prunes, raisins, gravy, hints of Marmite, cracked pepper… But indeed, it is strong. With water:  arch classic heavy sherry. Muscovado, demerara (sugar and rum), more tobacco yet, then smaller flavours around heavy oils (roasted sesame, perhaps) and black truffles. Take your time, it's not a flash-pleaser but it can become pretty fractal with good water. Seriously, don't be a street drinker, the kind of water you use with these is very important. Never the purest, don't believe their ads. Finish: long, unexpectedly fruitier, on anything oranges and tangerines. Liqueurs! Comments: not the first time I'm noticing these finishings by SV rather taste like full-maturation. Extra-point for the fruity, unexpectedly bright finish.
SGP:562 - 90 points.

While we're at Signatory's…

Glen Grant 21 yo 1992/2014 (52.4%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #55414, 281 bottles)

Glen Grant 21 yo 1992/2014 (52.4%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #55414, 281 bottles) Four stars
We should get closer to the original distillate here. Colour: straw. Nose: absolutely, melon skin, apples, apricots, plums, toffee apple, candyfloss, pears, plus a beach-sand side that comes a little unexpected. Also fresh almonds, clams, fresh putty, whiffs of kelp… Did this one age near the sea? With water: some light ashes and a little antiseptic, which is intriguing. Mouth (neat): a bit raw, a bit salty and tarry, with some marzipan and some plasticine, cider apples, sweet vegetables (carrots)… I doubt you could make them more 'natural' than this, in short a perfect 'anti-OB'. With water: polishes and tar, plus some grapefruit. I agree that's not very 'Glen Grant but I've just checked my note for a sister cask (55415 for Le Gus't) and indeed I was having similar feelings back in… ach, 2014. Finish: long, fairly smoky now, a tad fizzy (Schweppe's). Comments: without that curious fizzy side I would have gone up to 88. But it needs your time and a quality pipette. And proper water (more about that in a few seconds).

SGP:552 - 87 points.

(Merci Morten!)

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



Wgiskyfun 101

  What's good water
In general, I believe that the best water to dilute your spirits with is the same you would use to make fine teas or coffees. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but a certain level of minerality is essential; overly pure waters just don't work. It's better to use highly mineralised waters than those with very little mineral content, and alkaline waters rather than acidic ones, in my opinion, of course... Conduct your experiments, and you'll see! But please, do them double-blind. Blind tasting must be done properly or not at all. The water I'm strickly always using at WF HQ is Vittel. Changing water changes your spirits.

January 10, 2024


A Little Journey
in Ireland

It had been a long while since we'd done this. It's important not to forget that not so long ago, the world of Irish whiskey was dominated by Midleton and all its brands in the Republic of Ireland, and Bushmills, whether blended or malt, in Northern Ireland. And both entities were owned by the same proprietor, Irish Distillers, so Pernod Ricard. A lot has changed since then; even Paddy has been handed over to Sazerac. And the new 'distilleries', whether operational or not, following the American model, have become too numerous to count. Let's try to take a mini tour, nose to the wind, somewhat at random...

Confiture de Vieux Garçon
(Casa e Comida)



Lost Irish Whiskey (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2022)

Lost Irish Whiskey (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
'A modern Irish whiskey as adventurous as you are', they say. It's a blend of grain, malt and 'pure' pot still, aged (well, finished, I suppose) in casks from 6 continents (here we go). So S-A brandy, mizunara, sherry, bourbon, rum, Australian 'Port' and Colombian rum. They also say it's triple-distilled, so I suppose the grain was done in pot stills. The bottle is lovely. Colour: yellow. Nose: some vinous notes, vanilla, a hint of coconut, peach and melon, English sweets, marshmallow... It's light, pleasant, quite refreshing, and remains Irish in style, but the palate will tell the truth. Mouth: It's really very light, the woody notes and a touch of sweet wine are discernible, along with orchard fruits, not so ripe banana, a bit of aspartame (Coca Zero Sugar), apple peel... Finish: short, woodier Comments: really quite charming. The casks make their presence felt a bit too much for me.

SGP:540 - 78 points.

West Cork 'Maritime Release' (43%, OB, Irish single malt, virgin oak cask, +/-2023)

West Cork 'Maritime Release' (43%, OB, Irish single malt, virgin oak cask, +/-2023) Two stars and a half
Awesome bottle! I suppose you could reuse it to grow avocados once you've emptied it. This was actually finished in Kelvin cooperage virgin oak casks. Good to know, I suppose. West Cork Distillery has now a capacity of 4 million LPAs a year, which is quite huge, think Glenfarclas. Now Midleton is close to 70 million LPA altogether. Colour: pale gold. Nose: I like this better than last time I tried some West Cork, there is a pleasant bready sourness with some nice notes of dough and all things fermentative, plus apples and bananas. It does not reek of fresh-sawn plank at all, rather of some farmyard. Mouth: like it. Nothing to do with the earlier 'Glengarrifs'. Some good cider, pear juice, cinnamon and ginger, gingerbread, lavender drops, caraway…  Finish: medium, with the expected oak spices but things remained under control. Pepper and tea tannins in the aftertaste, plus more pears yet and some salinity. Comments: To be honest, I had braced myself for a few difficulties, so I was positively surprised. And I love the bottle.

SGP:450 - 79 points.

Fercullen (46%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2023)

Fercullen (46%, OB, Irish single malt, +/-2023) Three stars
I've already tasted two excellent Fercullen 'Powerscourt' of a good age, which were actually Cooley, but never 'Fercullen' as such, that is really coming from the Powerscourt distillery, which started production in 2018. The good news is that it's 100% ex-bourbon, so no red wine cask was mistreated for this bottling. Ha. Colour: white wine. Nose: we're back to fresh bread at the start, but this time it then moves on to lilac, fresh pineapple, cranberry, green apple, elderflower... You have to like elderflower, but I do. Mouth: it's very fruity, fresh, Irish, 'triple-distilled', with a variety of beers, pineapple again, grapefruit, hops... The wood hasn't had time to fully integrate but that's perfectly normal, we're not on sawdust juice either. Finish: medium, fresh, fruity, pleasant. Some green earl grey tea at the end. Comments: a fine success for a necessarily young NAS. There must be some science in there.
SGP:650 - 82 points.

Waterford 'Argot' (47%, OB, Irish single malt, 2023)

Waterford 'Argot' (47%, OB, Irish single malt, 2023) Four stars
Always inspired by the world of fine wines, the folks at Waterford here shift from Burgundy-esque hyper-terroir concepts to the more Bordeaux-like 'second wines'. In short, this 'Argot', a word meaning 'slang', is somewhat the Pavillon or the Alter Ego of Waterford, although it's difficult to apply the concept of young vines to barley, which is an annual plant, as everyone knows. Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, we're on pure, almost rustic barley, then fresh marzipan, Jaffa cakes, marmalade, lime blossom, candle wax, and then there's a tiny hint of wild strawberry. So, simplified Waterford? Not really. In fact, it's a bit like a dry Chenin from Loire. Yes, indeed. Palate: it's pretty successful, a bit more marked by the spices of the wood than the other 'cuvées', as if the substance was indeed lighter. I must be dreaming. Lemon, grapefruit, English champagne (hey, I'm jesting), some beech and pine ash, vineyard peaches, elderflower again... You could concoct a spritz from this Waterford. Finish: quite long, a bit smoky (is there peat?) and more maritime. Pink bananas at the very end of the palate. Comments: talking about a second wine, they do everything to downplay this cuvée, a kind of Catholic coquetry, it seems. I do not agree, not at all.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

As long as we're doing the unusual...

Teeling 'Pineapple Rum Cask' (49.2%, OB, Irish blend, 2023)

Teeling 'Pineapple Rum Cask' (49.2%, OB, Irish blend, 2023) Three stars and a half
Some kind of collaboration between Teeling and the house Ferrand/Plantation. I think some pineapple has been in use. Well, given that we find pineapple in many Irish whiskeys, like Bushmills or Cooley indeed, looks like this time we're going to be served even more pineapple. Colour: straw. Nose: I'm not quite sure where we are, but adding pineapple to pineapple just reinforces the pineapple aspect of the drink, right? To be honest, it's not bad, especially since there's also prairie honey, ripe bananas, orange blossom water, and pure orange juice. We also find a bit of lime blossom tea. But that was the nose... Mouth: a peaty feeling at the start, peels, rather dry herbal teas, then honey, peach and melon skin, bananas flambéed, a bit of peppermint, but not as much pineapple, oddly. Or maybe it's just me. Finish: quite long, on candies, violet, and Szechuan pepper. But where did the pineapple go, I ask you! Comments: I'm not sure we need to produce three tankers of this, but it's quite successful, the two styles are not so far apart from each other. So, not just the Hawaiian pizza of whisky

SGP:651 - 83 points.

Ireland 22 yo 2001/2023 (54.4%, The Nectar of The Daily Drams, Irish single malt, peated)

Ireland 22 yo 2001/2023 (54.4%, The Nectar of The Daily Drams, Irish single malt, peated) Four stars and a half
There were three sister casks but we'll only have this one. This one should remind us of when some first brought some very young peated Cooley to Feis ile, around twenty years ago. Some stir, shall we say. Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh yes. Peated with hints of menthol and lemon, one of the most delightful combinations there is. Let's say a South Islay with a bit of crème de menthe and limoncello added to the cask. I'm sure a distillery will soon launch collaborative versions of this sort with Italian or French liqueur makers. With water: more cough syrup, balms, menthol, camphor... Mouth (neat): very creamy, medicinal, fruity, mentholated, maritime. It has shades of those old Laphroaigs and Bowmores from the 60s we so adore (exotic fruits and peat) but not in the same proportions, of course. With water: it's the very slightly disappointing part for me, the medicinal peat and fresh fruits are a bit disjointed. They don't divorce completely, fortunately. A hint of butter tea. Finish: long, more herbaceous, with a nice bitterness, on fruit peels and infused green tea leaves. The finish is saltier. Comments: I almost went up to 90. Not that it's very important, we agree.
SGP:655 - 89 points.

Shortcross 2017/2023 (55.1%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Pioneers, Single pot still Irish whiskey, barrel, cask #48)

Shortcross 2017/2023 (55.1%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Pioneers, Single pot still Irish whiskey, barrel, cask #48) Four stars
What a great series by BB&R. We've tried several, all fab and smart, unsurprisingly (if a little 'London' when seen from France, if I may - joking). Having said that, I have to confess I had never, ever heard of Shortcross, which is made at one 'Rademon Estate' in County Down, Northern Ireland. Colour: full gold. Nose: Not typically Irish this time, even though it's pure pot still, there's some very nice malt, cakes, biscuits, a range of diverse and varied pastries, then dried flowers, patchouli, lots of heather honey... and finally large fruit pies, especially apple, pear, and mirabelle plums. And tarte tatin; even better, quince tarte tatin. Well now, I'm hungry... With water: we stay with similar aromas. Pear studded with pistachios, oranges, cloves... Mouth (neat): very good, very creamy, very mentholated, with juniper and softer pepper from the cask, gingerbread, honey, cedar wood... With water: we continue in the same vein. Lots of gingerbread. Finish: quite long, spicy, rich, honeyed... We find the tarte tatin that we had on the nose. Comments: perfect in the malty, rich, and thick style. So, you're saying Rademon Estate? We'll take a closer look, thanks Berry Bros.

SGP:651 - 86 points.

Dingle '6th Small Batch Release' (46.5%, OB, Irish single malt, Tawny Port cask, 14,500 bottles, 2021) Four stars
On one hand, it's just Tawny Port, on the other, it's a 'full maturation', not just a 'quickie finishing'. We'll see... Colour: gold. Nose: well, what we see is that it's not overwhelmed by strawberries and blackberries, and we're glad . Okay, there is a bit of strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, grenadine, redcurrant, cherry, wild strawberry (I think they've got it, S.), but the malt and associated cakes and pastries blend quite well, avoiding the, uh, how should we say without offending anyone, let's say very slightly 'slutty' side. Potpourri, bouquet of dried flowers, peonies... Mouth: but yes it's good, with pretty spices and all these fruits we mentioned, just dried, candied or turned into jam. A bit like old bachelor's jam (*). Finish: quite long, fruity and jammy, but never vulgar. Blood oranges and figs at the end. A magnificent finish. Comments: the tawny behaved well, even if it did mark quite strongly this very pretty Irish-Portuguese, thus perfectly European Dingle. I remind you that Dingle is located in the southwest of the Republic of Ireland, roughly at the level of Cork.

SGP:641 - 85 points.

(*) An exclusive recipe for 'old bachelor's jam': Take fresh, ripe, and healthy fruits. Wash them and cut the larger pieces into chunks. Weigh them and put them into large glass jars. Add the same weight of sugar and cover completely with cask strength whisky, rum, cognac, or any mixture of these. Avoid the spirits you don't like, but there's no need to use Brora '72 either. Once the jars are full, close them and let them rest for at least three months before starting to indulge. As you enjoy the jam, replenish with fruits, sugar (or honey), and spirits in similar proportions. Your jars can thus last for centuries, like true soleras!

Let's finish with two old Bushmills that we have just tasted for Whisky Magazine:

Bushmills 1985 'Sherry Cask' (56.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Irish single malt, cask #15183, +/-2008)

Bushmills 1985 'Sherry Cask' (56.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Irish single malt, cask #15183, +/-2008) Five stars
This is a true single malt distilled during the French era of the famous Bushmills distillery, which has since changed hands two or three times. A fair number of old casks have found their way to the market on these occasions, but they have always been offered without mention of the original distillery. However, the dazzling fruitiness of the malts from that era, the 1980s to the early 1990s, has ultimately fooled no one; these Bushmills are simply inimitable. Colour: Gold. Nose: mangoes and little pink bananas take immediate control, and you simply cannot escape them. They are joined by slightly overripe passion fruits, thyme honey, a few touches of pine sap, and a sherry of infinite softness that only complements the intense fruitiness of the Irish malt. Perhaps a few hints of Viognier? Three drops of water reveal notes of old garages, old tools, lanolin, and even a bit of diesel... Mouth: it's very explosive, the fruitiness is terribly intense but never displays the slightest hint of vulgarity. Mangoes and small bananas remain at the head of the parade, but blood oranges and nectarines come to complement them. A few sultanas and a bit of all-flower honey also end up joining in. Water brings out lemony notes. Finish: long and even more citrusy. Citrus fruits always make a strong impression in the finish of a spirit (we know that S.). Corsican citron on the retro-olfaction. Comment: A true poem, provided that you appreciate very fruity whiskies. That is certainly the case for me; let's never deny our pleasure.

SGP: 741 - 91 points.

Bushmills 1986 'Bourbon Cask' (56.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Irish single malt, cask #3422, +/-2008)

Bushmills 1986 'Bourbon Cask' (56.5%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Irish single malt, cask #3422, +/-2008) Five stars
Bourbon casks are always much more consistent than sherry casks, which can show enormous variations and consequently alter the styles of the distillates. In my opinion, they match perfectly with the very exuberant style of the Bushmills of those times, let's see right away if that's indeed the case... Colour: chardonnay. Nose: Incredible. It's hard to tell if it's the bourbon barrel that has added these notes of olive oil to the pink grapefruits and passion fruits, but the result is stunning and takes Bushmills away from the 'all about the fruit' side that I personally adore but which may disturb some fans of more austere, more self-controlled spirits. You will also find a bit of beeswax, orange zest, some wisteria, and sweet woodruff... A few drops of water will reveal the thyme honey that we had already found in the sherry version. Mouth: absolutely irresistible, slightly salty, overflowing with citrus and small aniseed notes, fennel, dill... The whole is taut as a bow string, very clean, very pure. With water: just a bit more honeyed roundness and vanilla, typical of some rather active American oak, 'but not too much'. Finish: long, on zests, with some pine needles. Comment: in the end, there was not so much difference with the sherry version, but I slightly prefer the bourbon which offers the purity of quasi-abstraction. I know what I'm trying to say. A Bushmills for the MoMA (Museum of Malt).

SGP: 751 - 92 points.

Well, we will redo a very large Irish session very soon, with other Dingles, Waterfords, Midletons, Bushmills etc...

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


January 9, 2024


Just a couple of great Bowmores

We tasted quite a few at the end of last year, but we still have some to finish. By that, we only mean tasting in the most subtle and attentive way possible. Who doubts it? Let's be honest, we were looking for an excuse to taste a version of the Bicentenary for which we have not yet written any official tasting note. Official, if you can call it that.




Bowmore 26 yo 1997/2023 (49.5%, Cut The Leftovers Loose, refill hogshead)

Bowmore 26 yo 1997/2023 (49.5%, Cut The Leftovers Loose, refill hogshead) Five stars
A small bottling from one of Artful Dodger's sub or sister brands. A Highland Park we tried very recently was quite astonishing, if memory serves. Colour: straw. Nose: a rather medicinal Bowmore, with hints of mercurochrome, iodine tincture, and bandages at first, before gradually moving towards exotic fruits and menthol cigarettes. Mangoes and clementines take centre stage, with a touch of pine smoke as well. It all remains rather delicate. Mouth: the same pattern follows, ending up tasting rather like a multi-vitamin fruit juice seasoned with sea water and peat smoke. Hints of toothpaste, cough syrup, passion fruit, a few small oysters, some seaweed… Finish: medium-length but with a perfect profile. Pine sap, sea water, grapefruit, peat, green pepper, it's all there. Comments: this splendid, rather tender but complete old Bowmore should be perfect with sushi. Or oysters. Excellent.

SGP:654 - 90 points.

Another 1997, please...

Bowmore 22 yo 1997/2020 (52.6%, Old Master Q Series, HK Whisky, Hong Kong, refill sherry butt, 642 bottles)

Bowmore 22 yo 1997/2020 (52.6%, Old Master Q Series, HK Whisky, Hong Kong, refill sherry butt, 642 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: a significant step up in intensity, almost brutal, despite the presence of only 3% more alcohol by volume. Gorgeous mineral oils, beach pebbles, a bit of turpentine, linseed oil, lemon, throat lozenges… Then tomato and fig leaves, very fresh almonds, fresh putty... It's very intriguing. With water: fresh paint and damp hay. Mouth (neat): very active citrus, with a hint of saltiness. Almost like biting into a grapefruit with the peel still on. A magnificent oily wrap-around. With water: perfect coastal salinity and exotic fruit peels. Cough lozenges and salted liquorice. Finish: longer this time, with smoked fish and still an oily aspect. Anise and liquorice at the very end, with a fun absinthe twist and even some mezcal. Comments: in 1997, we were already witnessing a return to the great Bowmore vintages, a revival that began in the early 1990s after the troubled 1980s for Bowmore, which reminded us of the infernal drum machines and vocoders in the pop music of that era. It's funny how some are nostalgic for that.
SGP:566 - 90 points.

Let's have a young Swiss before the Bicentenary...

Bowmore 9 yo 2013/2023 (58.3%, Douglas Laing, Single Minded for World of Whisky Waldhaus-am-See, refill barrel, cask #DL17879, 244 bottles)

Bowmore 9 yo 2013/2023 (58.3%, Douglas Laing, Single Minded for World of Whisky Waldhaus-am-See, refill barrel, cask #DL17879, 244 bottles) Five stars
We had already tasted a wonderful young Talisker featuring a portrait of the father, Claudio Bernasconi, now here's the son, Sandro, already very active both at the famous hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and in its immense whisky bar. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's pure and precise, as expected. Sea water, seaweed, ink, smoked fish, lemon, green pepper, and a new jumper. With water: full on ink, daily newspapers, weekly magazines… Mouth (neat): lemon, mint, anise, pepper, smoke, olives, and Swiss white wine. Well, not necessarily Dôle blanche or even the famous Petite Arvine... And we'll skip the white Merlot, shall we. Oh by the way, we just tried some superb Sauvignon Buxus by Louis Bovard three days ago, highly recommended. In any case, this young Bowmore is perfect. With water: succulent, very medicinal this time. Finish: very long, saltier. If I wanted to provoke a bit, I'd talk about Grisons meat, but that would be pushing it. Comments: a very, very impressive young Bowmore. After 15 years in the bottle, it will have gained an extra point, and after 30 years at least three more points, you can feel it, so that's guaranteed on the invoice. I've recently tasted some +/-10 years-old distilled in the early 1990s, they had already progressed.
SGP:467 - 90 points.

PS: Over time, a great whisky can become very great, but alas a nag will never become a racehorse.

Bowmore 'Bicentenary' (43%, OB, multi-vintage version, SNPA Import France, 1979)

Bowmore 'Bicentenary' (43%, OB, multi-vintage version, SNPA Import France, 1979) Five stars
There were several versions of these Bowmores released to commemorate the distillery's bicentenary in 1979. Some came from a single vintage displayed on the neck label, specifically 1964, others showed no vintage, others listed the vintages involved in a small letter added in the wooden case, about ten of them ranging from 1950 to 1966. It's this last version that we're tasting today, a French rotation no less. Let's remember that they all came in replica bottles from the... Napoleonic era. I'll add that all these 'Bicentenary' Bowmores ranged from excellent to sublime. And they could still be easily found in French gourmet shops twenty years ago 'because they had always been very expensive'. We're talking about sums close to 80 French francs per bottle, imagine!

Colour: deep gold. Nose: less on fresh fruits than the vintage versions and more on canned fruits and jams, mainly exotic indeed. There's an aromatic blitzkrieg that doesn't give you time to put a word on a sensation before it's replaced by another. However, there is more smoke, iodine, even oysters and kelp than in the vintage versions, but the mango continues to hold centre stage. It's all masterful, with sensations that you almost want to keep to yourself. I'm joking. Mouth: tighter, almost a little austere, salty, probably a bit more evolved now, after nearly forty-five years in glass. Seawater, shellfish, a slightly acrid smoke, and even a bit of a rural touch. We're talking about the Islay countryside, of course. All complemented by malty and slightly meaty notes, chicken broth, a bit of chicory and toasted bread… It's a little less precise perhaps, and maybe that's also due to the multi-vintage aspect of this version which remains sumptuous. Finish: very slightly short, maritime, salty and malty. The exotic fruits make a strong comeback at the very end of the finish, mainly orange marmalade and, as a final point, the proverbial mango. Comment: what an adventure! It was the same each time I tasted these Bowmore Bicentenaries which, it seems to me, have simply never been exactly the same. Incredible.
SGP:564 - 92 points.

(Thank again, the Golden Promise, Lars and Whisky Magazine & Fine Spirits)

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


January 8, 2024


WF's Little Duos, Today very old
Glenrothes plus apéritif


Not just any aperitif, so let's get to it... And long live the hogsheads!



Glenrothes 25 yo 1997/2023 (47.5%, Thompson Bros. for The Whisky Show London 2023, refill hogshead, 231 bottles)

Glenrothes 25 yo 1997/2023 (47.5%, Thompson Bros. for The Whisky Show London 2023, refill hogshead, 231 bottles) Four stars and a half
Ah, a refill hogshead, that's a change from the seas of wine flooding our distilleries these days. Bravo, London, even if we're a bit behind here. I mean, with this beautifully aged Glenrothes for the Whisky Show. Colour: white wine. Nose: it starts with a bit of glue and fresh varnish, which is far from unpleasant in this context, then moves on to orchard fruits, starting with greengages and cherries (including their stems and pits). Then we find apricots, quite common in natural Glenrothes, as well as thyme and linden. A bit of coconut in the end, the hogshead was thus far from exhausted. Mouth: starts with a lot of fresh marzipan, pistachios, bitter almonds, then moves on to grapefruit and orange peels, goes through a slightly metallic phase (silver spoon), then comes back to cherries and kirsch, with a rather pronounced stone-y aspect. Finish: medium length, with unexpected notes of very young gamay, almost like a Beaujolais nouveau, which I quite like and moreover, it's not really wine (but of course it is). In fact, it's quite close to varnish, cherry stems and fruit peels, and it works very well. One can have wine notes without adding wine, you see. Comments: very, very nice natural Glenrothes, quite tense.

SGP:651 - 88 points.

Let's move on to the antique casks...

Glenrothes 37 yo 1985/2023 (43.3%, The Roots, hogshead, 33 bottles)

Glenrothes 37 yo 1985/2023 (43.3%, The Roots, hogshead, 33 bottles) Four stars and a half
A very small number of bottles, quite Christ-like. Colour: white wine. Nose: we're in a very similar universe, on wood glue, stems and leaves, herbal teas and green tea, a bit more mint this time, some floral notes, fresh almonds, apples, plums, and there's marzipan here too... Mouth: we move on to wax, even more marzipan, different fresh mints, fruit peels, a slight saltiness and above all, not the slightest sign of tiredness, even the cinnamon is very much under control. Finish: not immensely long and even more on herbal teas and mint. White pepper and cinnamon at the near end, then a bit of pine resin at the very end of the aftertaste. That's where you can tell it's an old whisky. Comments: Glenrothes isn't a malt with a very extroverted character, just like its former colleague from that era, Bunnahabhain, but as a result, it offers over time some refined and delicate nuances.

SGP:561 - 89 points.

Glenrothes 39 yo 1980/2020 (44.8%, Elixir Distillers, 40th Anniversary Davidoff of London, Edward Sahakian, bourbon cask, 179 bottles)

Glenrothes 39 yo 1980/2020 (44.8%, Elixir Distillers, 40th Anniversary Davidoff of London, Edward Sahakian, bourbon cask, 179 bottles) Five stars
The ties between old spirits and great cigars have always been quite strong, I've myself met Zino Davidoff several times when he was the honorary president of our own club, a long time ago, between the late 1980s and the early 1990s. Even though I no longer smoke, including cigars, I have great memories of our evenings, of Zino Davidoff himself, his torcedors and his countless Cuban puros (that was before the brand left Cuba). His cognacs weren't bad at all either. But let's move on to this old Glenrothes... Colour: deep gold. Nose: it's very surprising, I find notes of fresh, freshly rolled cigars. Doubtlessly a bizarre memory effect/echo... Apart from that there are magnificent camphor and menthol, mushrooms, autumn leaves, roasted nuts, a bit of tar and, really, quite a bit of tobacco and even the smoke of a good crackling blaze in an old fireplace that's drawing just a little bit badly. Mouth: very beautiful, very much on damp undergrowth, mushrooms, pine and fir, sap, mosses, camphor, mint, then roasted nuts and tar, once again. I might not have said Glenrothes, but that doesn't really matter. I think we've rarely been so close to the spirit and aromatic profile of a cigar. Finish: long and more on coffee and bitter chocolate, as well as cracked pepper. Some mint returning in the aftertaste. Comments: a thought for the very charming Zino Davidoff (1906-1994)!

SGP:472 - 91 points.

Part of the board of our Cigar Club, including the humble
author and our Honorary President Zino Davidoff (circa 1990)


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


WF Fact

  Ardbeg's 500th
I've just realised that we've just archived our 500th Ardbeg (and our 200th Benriach). It doesn't mean much, but still, these are small milestones for WF. Come on, let's continue.

January 7, 2024


Time to taste some rum in 2024

Here, a good illustration of why we don't taste blind. The first rum we're going to try is a Mocambo from Mexico at 40% ABV. We like Mocambo, but later we'll probably have one or more new Jamaican cask-strength rums, or perhaps a Caroni, for example. How would we do that blind? Would we choose randomly by masking the glasses or use black/blue ISO ones? And would we take the risk of tasting this agreeable Mocambo at 40% just after a Hampden DOK at 65% ABV? I don't think that would be a good idea… In fact, technically, it would be feasible, but then we would have to reserve a lot of time for the operations. At least 1 hour per spirit. And we don't have them…




Mocambo 20 yo (40%, OB, Mexico, Art Edition, +/-2023)

Mocambo 20 yo (40%, OB, Mexico, Art Edition, +/-2023) Four stars
We've tried this expression several times over the years and just loved it last time, in 2016 (WF 88). Surprisingly enough, to tell you the truth. Let's revisit a newer batch, eight years later… Especially as the packaging, which I find very 'Addams Family', remains funnily terrifying. It's a blend of column and pot still rum, exclusively from molasses, of course. Colour: office coffee. Nose: but yes, it's nice, with indeed quite a bit of coffee, but also notes of tar, a lot of orange liqueur, damp earth, roasted pecan nuts and, especially, obvious notes of very old palo cortado from Jerez. A very old Barbadillo, in their famous carafes. Mouth: the thing that immediately surprises, given that it's a Spanish-style rum, is the (relative) near-absence of sugar as such. Basically, it doesn't at all feel 'tampered with like a stolen truck'. So, there are very nice liqueurs, of orange, coffee, chocolate, but also clove, cumin, saffron, paprika, and always this damp earth, which evokes when they water the floors in Jerez. Do they also do this in Mexico? The 40% ABV are never a problem. Finish: not very long but nicely spiced, always with molasses and orange liqueur. Comments: I think I was too enthusiastic in 2016, but still, it remains very much to my taste. That said, these are unique casks, so I imagine there could be variations. It seemed drier to me last time. Still by far my favourite 'Spanish' rum, I think.

SGP:661 - 86 points.

Isautier 15 yo 2006 'Audacieux' (72.8%, OB, La Réunion, Agricole, LMDW Edition, 125 bottles, 2023)

Isautier 15 yo 2006 'L'Audacieux' (72.8%, OB, La Réunion, Agricole, LMDW Edition, 125 bottles, 2023) Four stars
I utterly love it that at 72.8% vol., they would have felt the need to specify that it was bottled 'brut de fût' (at cask strength). Colour: golden amber. Nose: coconut, biscuits, vanilla, a little metal polish. I don't think one should expect much more expressiveness at these degrees, especially since we're not going to sniff too violently, right? With water: it's pretty, quite floral, with also notes of ham. Yeast with ham notes to be more specific, carnations, roasted hazelnuts, roasted peanuts, a bit of marzipan, cane syrup, maple syrup... Mouth (neat): it seems nice, there's a fair amount of liquorice and polish, like those competition bourbons that are bottled at similarly lethal strengths. With water: we're truly within the agricole style now. Sugarcane, cigarette tobacco, nutmeg, maple syrup, honeys, a few herbal touches... Finish: long, with very ripe banana, more roasted nuts, praline, cane sugar, oriental pastries, orange blossom, and liquorice and a bit of tar in the aftertaste... Comments: it's very good, it actually has quite a gentle personality. And indeed there is a bit of a bourbon side to it.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Trinidad Distillers Limited 18 yo 2005/2023 (64.1%, Rhum Attitude, Trinidad, ex-bourbon, 255 bottles)

Trinidad Distillers Limited 18 yo 2005/2023 (64.1%, Rhum Attitude, Trinidad, ex-bourbon, 255 bottles) Four stars and a half
This baby spent 10 years in its country of origin, then 8 years in the UK. TDL (Trinidad Distillers Limited) is one of those names that has recently acquired an excellent reputation, and it's entirely thanks to the independents and the casks they've been able to find in Europe through brokers. Colour: dark yellow gold. Nose: polish, acetone, cut grass, hay in the barn, then much more classic notes of roasted peanuts, herbal teas, cigarettes, sweet mint, chlorophyll chewing-gum... With water: it's the vanilla and shortbread that stand out. Champagne biscuits, known as 'ladyfingers', and a bit of ripe papaya. Mouth (neat): soft and very fruity, on oranges and mangoes. It's really the mangoes that create the uniqueness of this rum which, apart from that, remained quite classic. With water: and there you have it, a lovely little bomb on fresh and well-ripened mangoes, with just a bit of brown sugar. Finish: long and, once diluted, adorably and tropically fresh. Comments: you almost want to add a bunch of ice cubes, to be able to drink two or three litres of it. As little Line would say, here at WF towers, 'it's far too good!'
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Foursquare 16 yo 2006/2023 (63.3%, Precious Liquors and Fine Spirits Club Poland, The Broken Trident, cask #18, 229 bottles)

Foursquare 16 yo 2006/2023 (63.3%, Precious Liquors and Fine Spirits Club Poland, The Broken Trident, cask #18, 229 bottles) Four stars and a half
I've heard this wee bottling was having nothing to do with the house Maserati. 8 years in Barbados and 8 years in the UK (Scotland, baby). Colour: gold. Nose: barbecued thyme, rosemary, parsley, pine needles and liquorice-flavoured marshmallows. With water: very pleasant whiffs of fresh mastic and plasticine (and new trainers), plus a formidable earthy side, mushrooms, moss, lichens... Mouth (neat): it's a bit strong, but it seems to be more classic Foursquare, with orange peel, a bit of mint, honey, sugarcane... With water: sweeter, orange juice, edible flowers, maple syrup, small hints of stout beer (even Guinness, imagine that). Finish: medium length, on honey, sugarcane and oranges. As I said, it's classic. There are even a few notes of little sugar Easter eggs in the aftertaste. We haven't cancelled that yet, have we? Comments: nothing to add.

SGP:641 - 89 points.

Here's something amusing, by the way...

Off-Road Rhum 'Series #02.1' (59%, Vagabond Spirits, blended rum, 2023)

Off-Road Rhum 'Series #02.1' (59%, Vagabond Spirits, blended rum, 2023) Five stars
A bit of a crazy rum. They blended 2/3 Barbados rum (wink), with 1/3 Jamaican rum, both very young, then aged the result in an ex-Beaumes-de-Venise cask, which, apparently, had previously held Australian rum. No joke. The cask was then secured on the deck of a sailing boat (not in the hold), which sailed from France to New York and then to the Dominican Republic for about four months. They call it dynamic 'High Sea' ageing. Very good! Colour: dark gold. Nose: oh yes, very good! There are these little extra esters that go so well with Barbados rum, those little petrol-like, tarry notes, olives, smoky touches, all very mellow, while the honey, cakes, and spiced bread, as well as this muscat side without excess, keep it all sweet and easy. And I swear there's some Highland Park in there. With water: superb. I don't know if everything was controlled, or if they could reproduce this little rum at will, but it is truly excellent. Mouth (neat): it's frankly excellent, indeed. To say it was worth all the effort, I don't know, but this blend of honey, tar, black olives, muscat-poached pears and sea water (inevitably) works perfectly. Accelerated ageing for sure. With water: it becomes dangerously drinkable. Luckily in this context, there were never more than 135 litres available. Finish: quite long and, above all, perfectly balanced. Liquorice, salt, sugarcane, sweet mint, honey... Comments: it's very impressive, beyond the amusing story. How do we go about ordering twelve pallets? Do we need to book the sailboats?

SGP:652 - 91 points.

Since we're on the subject of strange blends (but ones that work)...

The Duo LP & HD (56.9%, The Whisky Jury, blended Jamaican rum, 143 bottles, 2023)

The Duo LP & HD (56.9%, The Whisky Jury, blended Jamaican rum, 143 bottles, 2023) Five stars
As I understand it, this is 2/3 LP (right, not Laphroaig) from 1998, with 1/3 HD (right, not Harley-Davidson) from 2014. Let's see if this will be another rasta rocket from Jamaica. Colour: gold. Nose: but naturally. A blend of several green olives (Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Greece) with a few light acids, varnishes, glues and fibre coatings. Damp earth after a massive rain, in a pine forest by the Mediterranean. With water: it becomes very acetic and we quite like that. Lemon with apple vinegar and touches of caramel. In fact, it's superb. Mouth (neat): it's so good! Purely Jamaican but not extreme, with fruits (papayas, mangoes, bananas) that can express themselves without being stuck in wood glue, if you see what I mean. I know you see what I mean. Otherwise, benzene, motor oil, anti-rust paint and carbolineum. You see the thing. With water: ultra-classically Jamaican. Beautiful salinity, polish, glue, pickles in brine, bananas just a tad overripe, petrol (who's never had petrol in their mouth when siphoning a friend's tank at three in the morning, with their agreement of course, to try to avoid running on empty?) Finish: long, saline and acetic. Liquorice and olives in the aftertaste. Comments: damn, but it's so good!
SGP:562 - 91 points.

Ten Cane 10 yo 2012/2023 (53.4%, Whisky Picnic Bar, Trinidad, bourbon barrel, cask #77, 89 bottles)

Ten Cane 10 yo 2012/2023 (53.4%, Whisky Picnic Bar, Trinidad, bourbon barrel, cask #77, 89 bottles) Four stars
That's a small outturn. We're in Taiwan once more. Ten Cane should be pure cane juice and not molasses. Yes, remember, Ten Cane was a distillery set up by LVMH with the goal of making premium pure cane juice rums, but it didn't work out and they quickly dismantled it. Some think, quite rightly if you ask me, that stubbornness is what sinks companies. Colour: gold. Nose: it's very soft, round, not too complex really, mainly on cakes, with a little bit of earth and roots, as well as a bit of mint tea. With water: legumes make an appearance, lentils, things like that. It's amusing. Like leek soup. Mouth (neat): it's very good, quite tight, a bit in the Foursquare style but with a little less depth. Nice citrus liqueurs. With water: yes it's good, slightly salty, with vegetables here again and some modelling clay. Finish: quite long, a bit sweet and salty, with a waxy texture. The aftertaste is magnificent, though, with a sumptuous olive oil such as Cuvée Paradis by Domaine Salvator, check l'Esperantine de Marseille <end of free publicity for friends>. Comments: it's very hard to know what to make of Ten Cane. The concept seemed ideal (pure juice, pot still, Trinidad) and yet… But could it be the Port Ellen of rum? Not so sure because the style remains quite, let's say 'undefined'. There's a bit of everything and not many, as they say, 'idiosyèncrasies'...

SGP:552 - 86 points.

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


January 6, 2024





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland

Two old Benrinnes

Happy new year! Just a quick pair of old Benrinnes by Cadenhead to kick off 2024 if you don't mind. 






Benrinnes 23 yo 1962/1986 (46%, Cadenhead 'Original Collection')

Benrinnes 23 yo 1962/1986 (46%, Cadenhead 'Original Collection')
Must be one of the earliest editions of this series, the humbler sibling of the Authentic Collection that actually sheltered many beautiful whiskies over the years. Colour: straw. Nose: pure and almost monolithic waxiness, along with Barbour grease, hessian cloth, toolboxes and things like dried out make up and hand cream. There's also many notes of resinous old fir woods and hardwoods, cedar and sandalwood too. Very old school and charmingly un-sexy in style. Mouth: paraffin wax, olive oil, dried greengages, tarragon and putty. Strop leather, waxes sandalwood, fir woods again, essentially it is the nose in flavour from really, very consistent. Finish: Long, and I find a lovely tang of something like salty Manzanilla combined with a more dominant medicinal and even ever so slightly peaty side. Comments: the nose was rather simple and boisterous, but the palate and the finish just never stopped picking up steam - the aftertaste is really quite stunning. A great benchmark example of old style 'charismatic' distillate.
SGP: 473 - 91 points.



Benrinnes 25 yo 1971/1997 (46.9%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, sherrywood matured)

Benrinnes 25 yo 1971/1997 (46.9%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, sherrywood matured)
Colour: reddish black coffee. Nose: hardwood resins, trifle soaked in kirsch, walnut oil and mushroom powder. Really gathers a lot of savoury and umami vibes with time, also going into things like date loaf, miso paste, bitter dark chocolate and very slight gamey notes that also bring to mind very mature old Burgundy. An excellent and earthy old style sherry that (so far) doesn't feel too dominating or overcooked. Mouth: very heavy sherry, wonderfully on leather, ink, chocolate sauce with sea salt, pickled walnuts, date molasses and black coffee sweetened with natural tar liqueur. Very thick and heavy but manages, just about, to avoid being too cloying, thanks mainly in part to the many soft dark fruit aspects which feel like they bring some sweeter and fresher elements to the wood and spice notes. Still very mushroomy, mulchy, earthy and umami. Finish: medium and full of herbal bitters, aniseed, cough syrup, salted liquorice and many more walnuts, dried mushrooms and preserved dark fruits. Comments: heavy stuff and probably testing the limits in terms of intensity here and there, but undeniably a profile of sherry that doesn't really exist in whisky anymore. A very excellent drop, you probably just have to be in the mood.
SGP: 471 - 89 points.




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


January 5, 2024


Around the World for the second time this year
To France, China, Mexico, Switzerland, Poland and Sweden.

There are so many new malts! Great joys ahead, no doubt plenty of big surprises, and probably some bursts of laughter too. You know our obsession, that they don't all start using exactly the same types of hyperactive casks, intended to impart more flavour to the young spirits. We'll see about that... In any case, we're kicking this off from France...

Goalong Distillery, China (Goalong Liquor)



Armorik 16 yo 2006/2023 (60.5%, The Auld Alliance, Sauternes cask, cask #8003)

Armorik 16 yo 2006/2023 (60.5%, The Auld Alliance, Sauternes cask, cask #8003) Four stars and a half
Remember, Armorik, made at Warenghem in Lannion, pioneers of French (thus Breton) whisky. Auld Alliance, famous whisky bar in Singapore, with French ownership and management. Colour: gold. Nose: slightly blocked. Roasted nuts and burnt cake, plus cooked wine. With water: indeed between triple-sec and Sauternes, with some sweet beers too, apricot eau-de-vie (Swiss apricotine) or liqueur, plus some fresh panettone. Grist and orange blossom, nice combo. Mouth (neat): you do feel many iced apples (iced cider as they make in Québec) and tart oranges and apricots, plus touches of menthol and some roastedness. But it's strong… With water: pure fruity sin. Apricots and apricot jam, apples and apple jelly, mirabelles and mirabelle jam… A little oak too, clove, and rather a lot of cinnamon. Finish: some slightly burnt pastries are back. Overbaked mirabelle tartelettes (right, right). Apricots and a little brown tobacco in the aftertaste. Comments: joyful Breton whisky, less creamy and thick than I had thought.

SGP:651 - 88 points.

Let's have some fun… Off to the People's Republic of China!

Goalong Single Malt Whiskey 5 yo (40%, OB, China, bourbon, +/-2023)

Goalong Single Malt Whiskey 5 yo (40%, OB, China, bourbon, +/-2023) Two stars
I knew this was coming, a neighbour also just bought an MG, imagine. This little 'Goalong' – funny name, did they indeed think of 'go-along' or is it the name of a place in Hunan, where the Distillery's located ? – comes both as a 'blended whiskey' and as a 'single malt whiskey'. You cannot not think of the Cardhu affair of around ten years ago. You say fifteen years? You'll also find a Goalong malt at 48% vol. instead of just 40%. Colour: white wine. They did not caramelize it to death, as some would do in S******d. Nose: yep this is fine, with good cakes, vanilla, shortbread, a little sesame oil, pancakes, butterscotch, then touches of ripe pears and just a tiny amount of sawdust. We're reminded of current young Glen Grant (not those crazy old young ones that Angus is quaffing every night). Mouth: absolutely! Perhaps a tad sweet and slightly brandy-like at first, then a little too much on apple and pear juices, but it does go down effortlessly. We're somewhat reminded of some whiskies from the Eastern Block, but this is much better. Finish: not that short, still a little sweet, but with good vanilla and pears. Comments: the palate is light and rather uninteresting but not repulsive, while I think the nose was very all right. We'll try it again as we go along (junk joke S.) and try to taste the one at 48% vol. soon. Respect!

SGP:420 - 75 points.

Off to Mexico!

Abasolo (43%, OB, Mexico, maize whisky, +/-2023)

Abasolo (43%, OB, Mexico, maize whisky, +/-2023) Three stars and a half
'You have still, you make whisky', that's the leitmotiv all around the world these days. This one is made in Jolotepec de Abasolo, in the state of Mexico, from some local maize called Cacahuazintle, partly malted and partly stewed (a process they call nixtamalization). The small Distillery looks very modern and I have to say I'm finding it pretty. Colour: straw. Nose: maize's sweetness but not quite like in American corn whiskeys, this one's having a hint of charcoal, notes of radish and celeriac, even turnips, quite some hay, then more sweet syrups, maize syrup, marshmallows, maple syrup… This is really very pretty, it's rather unusual that some whisky would smell pleasantly 'sweet' like this. Mouth: an earthy start, again some hay and some chalkiness, then these syrups that we were mentioning. Notes of oranges, a small dusty side, some all-flower honey, a little lavender, a little caraway… That's all good. Finish: medium, earthy, sweet but also bready, with a feeling of rye (yep). Molasses in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent surprise. I would do a 46% version, or perhaps 50%. I agree, not my business.

SGP:740 - 83 points.

To Swissland…

Goldwaescher Swiss Rye 5 yo 2018/2023 (53.5%, OB, Switzerland, first fill Swiss oak, cask #44, 200 bottles)

Goldwaescher Swiss Rye 5 yo 2018/2023 (53.5%, OB, Switzerland, first fill Swiss oak, cask #44, 200 bottles) Four stars
This is made at Distillerie Willisau and it is malted rye. Willisau is located near Lucerne, where one of the loveliest whisky festivals is taking place every year. Colour: deep gold. Nose: love. New rubber boots, fresh-cracked pepper, star anise, extreme ryeness, bitter oranges, elderflowers, horseradish, burnt caramel, and a feeling of… tequila. More tequila, in any case, than in that lovely Mexican corn whisky. Superb nose. With water: literally, putting your nose into a loaf of rye bread. Mouth (neat): extreme sensations. Heavy bitter marmalade, more anise and clove, dark hard caramel, gingerbread, liquorice and poppy jelly… With water: a bourbon side. And more oranges, aniseed, liquorice, lavender… Finish: long, caramelized, floral, spicy. Lavender sweets in the aftertaste. Comments: could you malt rye using peat? Or simply peat-smoke malted rye? I utterly love this young Swiss rye, as much as I love rösti and proper fondue. And I'm sure you could pour a small glass of this rye into your fondue, instead of just any kirschwasser. Btw, did you try Ardbeg?
SGP:661 - 87 points.

To lovely Poland…

Paprocky Single Malt (40%, OB, Poland, +/-2023)

Paprocky Single Malt (40%, OB, Poland, +/-2023) Two stars
To be honest, I'm not familiar with this Polish whisky; no one mentioned it to me the last time I was at Whisky Live Warsaw, but perhaps it has been released since then? It's true that these 40% ABV can always be a bit concerning. Colour: gold. Nose: classic pears, caramel, vanilla, cornflakes and overripe apples. Pear tarte sprinkled with a little cinnamon. Ripe apples and pears, that's always more than fine. Mouth: it's really okay, a little thin, a little oaky (sawdust, cardboard) but our pears are doing their job. Fine, a little J&B-ish, if I may. Finish: short, but with nice honeyed notes, on top of those ripe apples and pears. Comments: perhaps not whisky for the Olympics (of whisky) but there are no flaws. It's just a little undemanding and light, a little shy. To drink with pirogis, perhaps (I prefer them steamed). Na zdrowie.
SGP:431 - 76 points.

To Sweden (last destination today)…

Agitator 2018/2023 (57.7%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Pioneers, Sweden, Single Malt, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #741, 369 bottles)

Agitator 2018/2023 (57.7%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Pioneers, Sweden, Single Malt, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #741, 369 bottles) Four stars and a half
Peated malt whisky (40ppm) from Stockholm. The Distillery's very environment-conscious and seems to be using very 'green' methods, which include drinking everything they make themselves with local friends, instead of shipping their bottles to the remotest corners of our planet. Hey, is it still allowed to joke a little bit? Now we're still waiting for one or several 'distilleries' close to the Arctic Circle, which is far from being the case for Stockholm, we agree, to start using exclusively 'cold distillation', which involves extracting the water rather than the alcohol, thanks to natural freezing. Colour: gold. Nose: we were joking because we were knowing that this would be terrific. Very fat, doughy nose, full of sweet cereals, including many that are probably not even there, such as rye, buckwheat (I know), even rice… And wholegrain bread, bananas, greengages, drops of sake… Now what I'm not really getting this far is the peat. Was that 40ppm 'peat'? With water: now the smoke does come through, but rather timidly. We're not complaining, we enjoy this fermentary side, the sake, the beers and the wines, the miso soup, the chalkiness… Mouth (neat): smoke, straight peat, gherkins, lime, oysters. It's much straighter, and smokier than on the nose. Two whiskies in one. With water: back to sweeter matters, including sweet rye and rice. I'm finding something Okinawan. But it's then moving to much saltier pastures… Finish: indeed, this is salty, nuttier, with even a little fudge and pistachio brittle. Is that the sherry? The aftertaste is much peatier, strangely, with even some smoked bacon. Comments: I find it extremely good, but I spent half the time chasing the peat that was coming and going, as if it had been 'added peat' (using ex-peater casks a.k.a. cutting corners). But I doubt it was. Anyway, when you're called Agitator, you agitate (wink).

SGP:564 - 88 points.

(Merci Franco!)


January 4, 2024


Around the World for the first time in 2024
To France (and Brittany) then to Australia (and Tasmania)

Our first trip around the world in 2024. We'll keep kicking them off from France as long as we've got new French whiskies in the boxes. But no fears here, everyone's on the verge of starting up whisky distilleries anyway… You'll soon spot them wearing kilts and berets at fairs and festivals… No, seriously… And of course it's not too late; in France, the saying 'you can always drink your own production if you can't sell it' really does hold true.



Bache-Gabrielsen 5 yo 'BGW Batch #1' (41%, OB, France, single malt, 3,000 bottles, 2022)

Bache-Gabrielsen 5 yo 'BGW Batch #1' (41%, OB, France, single malt, 3,000 bottles, 2022) Three stars
Whisky by cognac makers, this is becoming pretty common. As long as they don't distill cognac in Scotland… By the way this was aged in ex-cognac and old pineau casks. At least it was 'in-house stuff'. Colour: light gold. Nose: pears and pastry dough, then vanilla custard, roasted peanuts and, guess what? Ta-dah… croissants! Mouth: nice pear liqueur with maple syrup and stewed peaches. TBH it's got something of cognac, especially these preserved peaches and these apricots in honey. The pineau feels more and more too, but we do love old pineau des Charentes (soon at Scottish brands too, some have them already). Finish: medium, very sweet. Pears and peaches poached in sweet white wine. Comments: you could call it a cognacsky or a whisgnac, but honestly, it was very well made.
SGP:731 - 80 points.

To Brittany…

Armorik 14 yo 2008/2023 (58%, OB, France, LMDW New Vibrations, Spanish oak sherry, cask #3339, 244 bottles)

Armorik 14 yo 2008/2023 (58%, OB, France, LMDW New Vibrations, Spanish oak sherry, cask #3339, 244 bottles) Four stars and a half
Armorik/Warenghem are the true pioneers of whisky making in France, so anything but opportunists. Their recent offerings have been just perfect. There. Colour: mahogany. Nose: great, some piney sherry! It's not a very common style, but I love it. Imagine, dark chocolate, pine resin, pine needles, camphor, massive loads of eucalyptus, walnut stain, coffee beans… Then tar, terpenes and menthol. With water: a new box of thin mints. Mouth (neat): when heaviness and chemicals are assets. Well, not quite chemicals but there is a lot of piney varnish, green chartreuse, concentrated bitter marmalade, damson eau-de-vie (straight from the still) and just the blackest black and bitter chocolates. With water: more of all that, plus touches of salt. After all, we're very close to the sea. Finish: long, a little sweeter but still piney, mentholy and chocolaty, in perfect proportions. Some smokiness in the aftertaste, no? Comments: perfect proportions indeed. Also, someone's thrown a few After Eights into the cask, as it appears.

SGP:662 - 89 points.

Since we're in Brittany…

Kornog 10 yo 2012/2023 'Le Poids d'un Nuage' (58.5%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex Libris, 2nd-fill bourbon)

Kornog 10 yo 2012/2023 'Le Poids d'un Nuage' (58.5%, La Maison du Whisky, Ex Libris, 2nd-fill bourbon) Five stars
Le Poids d'un Nuage – The Weight of a Cloud – is a novel written by famous Breton poet Yvon Le Men and part of a trilogy. That's why LMDW have actually three different Kornogs within this series. Now, remember a cloud is pretty heavy, hundreds of tons! Colour: light gold. Nose: pristine peat, lemons, granny smith, virgin wool and olive oil. These batches have become magnificently pure, there isn't much to add. With water: porridge, fresh baguette, new jumper… Mouth (neat): I think I understand why anyone would believe there's a link to Breton clouds. It is immaculately on green apples, lime, grapefruits, oysters and slate. The precision of a Swiss watch (brand your choice, the most expensive are not the most accurate – it's like whisky ya know). With water: incredible brine, lemon, melons and lemons, bihan seashell… 'Bihan' means small in Breton. A.k.a 'wee' in whisky talk. Finish: perhaps not the longest ever but it remains pristine. Peaches emerging in the aftertaste. Comments: top 2 non-Scottish European peater, the other one being Smögen. They should do a collaboration and blend a Smörnog or a Korgen. Watch new collaborations to come…

SGP:656 - 90 points.

Let's do a long flight…

Spirit Thief 'Distiller's Cabernet Select' (46%, OB, Tasmania, 2023)

Spirit Thief 'Distiller's Cabernet Select' (46%, OB, Tasmania, 2023) Two stars
A company who's 'reason why' is to 'bring the two worlds of fine wine and super premium whisky together in a new way that highlights the strengths of both Tasmanian industries'. They seem to be sourcing and/or renting other distillers' equipment to produce their own bespoke spirits, which are always put into ex-red wine casks, such as this 'Cabernet' (wondering which kind of cabernet it is, franc? Sauvignon?) And so, strawberry alert? Colour: apricot. Nose: new-world whisky for sure. New sweet spice-mix (Timut pepper), strawberry jam indeed, strawberry liqueur, grenadine, rosé de Provence, Japanese red-bean paste, so mochi, then sweet flowers, wisteria, pansies, acacia flowers, orange blossom water… All this is appealing, actually, truly a new concept, probably a little 'mixologic'. Mouth: really less my thing on the palate. Red berries but also a lot of ginger, leaves, curry, bay leaves, leather, even rubber, beyond the winey fruitiness. I would suppose one would need to let this interesting juice rest in fairly inert barrels for quite some years of peaceful marriage, as the best brandy makers do. Finish: long, full of green spices and ginger, beyond the strawberries. Comments: it seems a bit like we're in the middle of the ford here. The idea has potential, but time is going to be a major ingredient. Or perhaps autoclaves or some kind of reactors to cook it all up a bit, as some slightly eccentric distillers already do.

SGP:760 - 76 points.

Let's quickly try another one…

Spirit Thief 'American Oak Shiraz' (48.3%, OB, Tasmania, 2023)

Spirit Thief 'American Oak Shiraz' (48.3%, OB, Tasmania, 2023) Three stars
I don't believe I've seen anyone talk as much about the wines that were once in the barrels and even about the terroirs (McLaren Vale here), rather than about the distillate itself, but it's true that we saw it coming. Generally, European winemakers don't like this at all and block the practice because it can sometimes border on brand and reputation infringement (do that with Champagne and you're practically behind bars), but this may not be the case in other wine countries. Not sure that we should regret this, though, mutual back-scratching may be needed more and more in the coming years… Colour: deep gold. Nose: many more notes of fermentation here, less 'STR' character, more breads, pumpernickel, fruitcake, prunes, stewed peaches and berries… And just malt. Nutshell, it's rather less strawberry-driven. Got to love a good syrah. Mouth: bingo. Not saying this is 'pure' malt whisky, and indeed the wine remains loud, but the oak was rounder here while the fruits are richer and more complex. As we said, prunes are leading the way, then oranges, violet sweets, liquorice, salty touch… Finish: etcetera. More oak spices and chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: I'm reminded of some old batches by Lark, fifteen or twenty years ago. Rather fond of this little beast.
SGP:661 - 82 points.

… and since we're down there…

Hellyers Road 6 yo 2012/2023 (67.6%, OB, Tasmania, Peated, LMDW New Vibrations, cask #16322,02)

Hellyers Road 6 yo 2012/2023 (67.6%, OB, Tasmania, Peated, LMDW New Vibrations, cask #16322,02) Four stars and a half
It's incredible what you learn from good websites such as LMDW's, did you know that Hellyers Road was owned by the second largest dairy cooperative in Australia? Colour: gold. Nose: very specific, hevea wood smoke, rubber, sauna oils, pine tar, grapefruit skin, and a lot of ethanol all right. With water: towards pine sap, cactus, washing powder and just raw malted barley, straight from the kiln, drums or boxes, whichever they're using. Mouth (neat): you do feel Hellyers Road's very thick texture, concentrated limoncello, with touches of gasoline perhaps, linseed oil, seawater… And once again, a lot of ethanol. With water: limoncello galore! And lemongrass, peppermint, tarragon, wormwood… This is extremely well carved. And always with this engaging fatness that's coating it all…  Finish: long fat and tight at the same time. A feeling of big-city margarita (same as a regular margarita, plus £10). Lime, salt, earth… Comments: truly the devil's own tipple. Imagine, you can even enjoy it without a single drop of H2O.

SGP:666 - 89 points.

January 3, 2024


WF's Little Duos, today two
12 yo Talisker, indie vs. official


Hotel Waldhaus am See in St. Moritz

We've tasted quite a few new Taliskers in 2023, in particular the grand and rather amusing 45-year-old 'Glacial Edge' (what a story, those iced casks!) and the new 46-year-old 'Prima & Ultima', both rated WF 93. But we hadn't yet tasted the Special Release 2023... Are we still on time? But first, a sparring partner, as we always do.


Talisker 12 yo 2011/2023 (56.3%, Douglas Laing, Single Minded for World of Whisky Waldhaus, Claudio Bernasconi 'The Experience', refill hogshead, cask #DL17878, 159 bottles)

Talisker 12 yo 2011/2023 (56.3%, Douglas Laing, Single Minded for World of Whisky Waldhaus am See, Claudio Bernasconi 'The Experience', refill hogshead, cask #DL17878, 159 bottles) Five stars
A generational change is underway at the famed Waldhaus hotel in St-Moritz, Engadin, also renowned for its gigantic assortment of whiskies to taste at the bar and its own bottlings, such as this Talisker selected by the 'experienced generation', shall we say. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's a somewhat brutal Talisker, with acetone and burnt rubber initially, then fresh rhubarb juice and kiwi, without too many coastal or even smoky tones for now. But it's still quite magnificent and a bit of water should 'put the church back in the middle of the village', as we say. With water: it becomes very maritime, very fresh, with seafood, an old ashtray, some worn ropes, and a bit of low tide sea water. Mouth: here we are on classic Talisker, with oysters covered with plenty of mill-ground pepper. With water: there we have it! Magnificent lemon, peppermint, pure peat, and sea water. Finish: very long, very vertical, slightly mustardy too. A bit of lemon liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: all these 2008 to 2011 by both branches of the family were quite superlative. We adore their rather absolute purity.

SGP:567 - 90 points.

Talisker 12 yo 'The Wild Explorador' (59.7%, OB, Special Release 2023, White, Tawny and Ruby Port Finish)

Talisker 'The Wild Explorador' (59.7%, OB, Special Release 2023, White, Tawny and Ruby Port Finish) Four stars and a half
Well, they've certainly put Talisker through its paces in recent years, with a huge variety of cask finishes. But Talisker is a big boy, it can always hold its own... Colour: pale gold. Nose: inevitably, after a Talisker of the same age but completely natural, the sojourn in these Port casks, inevitably sweet, is even more apparent by contrast. Rest assured, there's no tenfold raspberry and blackcurrant jams, but still sultanas and figs initially, before the coastal power takes the lead again, without completely eradicating the sweet wine. There are very pretty notes of black nougat. Or rather of turrón, since we are in the Iberian Peninsula (sort of). With water: salty and peppery walnut liqueur. Mouth (neat): it's amusing, the Port has added notes of dry sherry, with walnuts upfront, but also a bit of moscatel. Is it the white Port speaking? With water: we return to Skye, to pepper liqueur, ashes, dry smoke, but also green pepper and simply salt. All this works very well. Finish: long, quite herbaceous, less sugary than I feared. Horseradish and chilli make for a warm and spicy continuation, you could splash some of this Talisker on spaghetti with tomato sauce. Or on some Portuguese dish, I suppose... Comments: so, a Talisker for chefs? The ones who always cook with whisky – and sometimes even add some to the food? It's very, very good, I don't think the Port has softened it too much.
SGP:556 - 88 points.
the Special Release is just a NAS and not a 12-year-old as previously announced.

In any case, these two young gems have shown us, once again, that Talisker has become much peatier (and spicier) in recent years. That's just as well, because we rather like that, don't we?

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


January 2, 2024



The New Time Warp Sessions, Today a few American whiskies

I'm afraid we're not tasting enough American bourbons and whiskies. It's almost as if the rest of the world, including countries with the most recent whisky traditions like African countries or Asian ones excluding Japan or India, are more connected to Europe. It's rather odd; I even have the impression that we used to see more bourbons around, at least in terms of volume if not in the number of different types available, twenty or more years ago. But I could be wrong, and I'd like to be wrong. And no doubt our dear American friends consume far more of their own produce now than back when you could still come across entire shop windows decked out in the colours of Jack Daniel's here.

Magazine ad for I.W. Harper, early 1970s.
When lightness was all the rage.
We shall try an I.W. Harper from that era today.

We are, by the way, going to sample two old bourbons that were imported into France a long time ago, but before that, let's try a few much newer ones, selected somewhat at random...


Indiana Rye Whiskey 5 yo 2007/2023 (55%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, Individual Cask, barrel, 222 bottles)

Indiana Rye Whiskey 5 yo 2017/2023 (55%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, Individual Cask, barrel, 222 bottles) Two stars and a half
From an undisclosed distillery but it should be MGP, a large company that produces and sells rye whisky to a wide range of brands such as Bulleit, High West, Templeton, James E. Pepper, Dickel, Smooth Ambler, Redemption or Widow Jane, to name but a few, not to mention MGP's own brands, such as Remus. Many believe that it's better to buy a good rye from MGP than to make a poor one oneself, and I have to say it's hard not to agree. Colour: gold. Nose: it's quite dry at first, rather on husk, flour, shortbread, semolina and polenta, pancakes… I'd say the ryeness remains discreet this far. With water: whiffs of dried coconut and metal polish, plus the expected rye bread. I'm not finding any lavender/violets/cologne. A little gingerbread, though, a growing rootiness too (celeriac). Mouth (neat): sweet, spicy (bags of juniper and coriander seeds), with some ginger and rather a lot of 'sweet varnish'. Glue. I find it raw and a little brutal but I'm not sure it was meant to be quaffed neat in the first place. With water: more genever, plus indeed lavender this time. Shall we call this an acquired taste? Finish: long, with notes of glue again. Some unexpected maltiness in the aftertaste, with also pears, oranges and lemon drops. Comments: I think either it's too young or it's too old, but I still rather like this eau-de-vie-ish style. I almost wrote 'gin'.

SGP:631 - 79 points.

Westland 2014/2023 (53%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Pioneers, Single Malt, Madeira finish, cask #6235, 207 bottles)

Westland 2014/2023 (53%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, The Pioneers, Single Malt, Madeira finish, cask #6235, 207 bottles) Four stars
We've already had a wonderful cognac by the house Pasquet in this smart new series by BB&R. Colour: dark amber. Nose: a lot of wood spices, pipe tobacco, prunes, bitter oranges, varnish, metal polish, black raisins, and even touches of folle blanche. Really. Now you do feel that water would unleash quite a few more aromas… With water: a little more moss, juniper again, chocolate, earth, pine needles, a feeling of oloroso (must be the Madeira) or amontillado… Mouth (neat): big chocolaty and praline-led oak, this is almost distilled Nu***la at cask strength. Then mole sauce, curries, fruitcake, paprika, nutmeg, coriander seeds… With water: just great now. Great chocolate, oranges and many spices, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, pepper, juniper… Some earthy honey too. Finish: long, on similar flavours. More fruits then (citrus, prickly pears, medlars) and honeyed biscuit. Comments: I don't think I would have said 'America' but that's not what's important. Very fond of this Westland, unsurprisingly, even if I tend to enjoy the 'natural', a.k.a. unfinished ones even better.

SGP:561 - 87 points.

WhistlePig 10 yo (55%, OB, Single Barrel Rye, La Maison du Whisky, New Vibrations, cask #177026, 2023)

WhistlePig 10 yo (55%, OB, Single Barrel Rye, La Maison du Whisky, New Vibrations, cask #177026, 2023) Four stars
We're in Vermont this time, with a very high rye-content mashbill (96%). Whistle Pig started with some rye sourced in Canada, then kicked-off their own stills in Vermont in 2015. Which means that since this baby's 10 years old, it is actually Canadian rye whisky (from Alberta). Afterall, it is the same continent. Colour: deep gold. Nose: back to polenta, lavender, juniper, gorse, then shortbread, scones, unleavened bread and a little liquorice. And vanilla. With water: oh very nice, some custard tarte with grated zests and meringue. Mouth (neat): sweeter, playful, easy, full of violet (liqueur), tangerines, mangos, custard, juniper, fennel seed bread, caraway… Oily mouthfeel. With water: more sipcy ryeness, nutmeg, saffron, pink peppers, tangerines yet again, papayas, blood oranges. A few sour apples are brining balance. Finish: medium, pretty much on oranges and grapefruits, with some cocoa powder in the aftertaste, as well as the expected notes of lavender. Drops of heavier IPA too. Comments: a rather buoyant, extravagant, well-aged, sweet North American rye.

SGP:651 - 85 points.

George Dickel X Leopold Bros. Rye (50%, OB, blended rye, 2022)

George Dickel X Leopold Bros. Rye (50%, OB, blended rye, 2022) Four stars
A blend of ex-column rye from G. Dickel's with some ex-Vendome three-chamber-still rye from Leopold Bros. in Denver, Colorado. This kind of collaboration is said to be rather innovative but don't our friends the Scots do this all the time? Well, indeed, except for a few trials by, for example, Douglas Laing it's uncommon that the makers would be disclosed like this. But big boy + small craft is smart, imagine Talisker X Dornoch, for example… Anyway… Colour: gold. Nose: buttercream, shortbread, sweet maize, chocolate, wholegrain bread, limoncello and sweet malt ala easy Lowlands... Touches of cinnamon and incense. With water: gets breadier. Pumpernickel. Mouth (neat): like this a lot, you would believe it's a 'single'. Awesome citrus all around and everywhere. Curd, syrup, creams, marmalades… Superb zesty spiciness coating it all. With water: just love it, and it would take water well. Awesome spices. Finish: long, with more or less the same profile, which is good news. Comments: frankly, I didn't care much for the nose, but I just adored the tart yet creamy palate. I'll have to try to get me some Leopold Bros. stuff in 2024.

SGP:751 - 87 points.

Willett 6 yo (64.7%, OB, Family Estate, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, LMDW Selection, cask #22513, 173 bottles, 2023)

Willett 6 yo (64.7%, OB, Family Estate, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, LMDW Selection, cask #22513, 173 bottles, 2023) Four stars
I remember that the first, older Willett bourbons I had the chance to taste really blew me away. 'New' Willett is anything distilled after the reopening, in 2012, so indeed this is 'New' Willett. Colour: amber. Nose: roasted nuts aplenty, pancake sauce, maple syrup… Not much else I'm afraid but this is normal at roughly 65% vol. With water: a little earthy varnish, a little candlewax, coconut, vanilla, stewed celeriac (very impressive), then cedarwood and cinnamon. Mouth (neat but with caution): big oranges, camphor, eucalyptus and sweeter peppers. And a lot of ethanol. With water: sweet peppers, cinchona, ginger tonic, bitter oranges, a pinhead of horseradish, then more and more kumquats sprinkled with ginger liqueur.. Finish: long, with oranges taking over again. Triple-sec, candied ginger and a little pine resin in the end. Feels like there's quite some rye. Comments: it's not that easy to get these at the right drinking strength (That's why they let you do the job yourself, hehehe) but what's sure is that, even if they got rather simpler, these Willetts remain very beautiful bourbons.

SGP:651 - 86 points.

I.W. Harper 6 yo (43 G.L., OB, Kentucky Bourbon, Import Carmona Paris, circa 1970) Four stars
A Kentucky bourbon brand that was really quite rare in France when this magnificent decanter was imported in the 1970s. It is worth noting the use of old Gay-Lussac degrees on the label. Colour: amber. Nose: very brioche-like, not tired at all, marked by fudge and, of course, maple syrup. Delicate menthol notes quickly add to the mix, while the traditional coconut and vanilla notes have now perfectly melded into a whole that also exhales some almost malty and earthy touches. There is also a floral side that evokes mullein and woodruff. A very delicate bourbon. Mouth: not tired at all, the palate displays peanut butter and roasted hazelnuts, brown sugar, old Sauternes that has digested its sugars, and dark chocolate. Some notes of cappuccino and a small cup of chicory coffee complete the journey of this kind old and elegant bourbon that has tenderly crossed the decades. We are far from any very rock and roll bourbons. Finish: we were expecting them, here are some hints of coconut and sweet grilled corn on the barbecue. Comment: a tender bourbon to be savoured while watching an old John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock film. One almost expects to find Cary Grant or Gregory Peck enjoying the same bourbon as us.
SGP: 531 - 85 points

Evan Williams 23 yo (53.5%, OB, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, SNPA Import France, +/-1995)

Evan Williams 23 yo (53.5%, OB, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, SNPA Import France, +/-1995) Four stars and a half
Evan Williams has remained a very active brand of Heaven Hill to this day, but I think the 23-year-olds with their blue labels are very rare, although a few bottles were still produced about a dozen years ago. This old bottle was imported to France about thirty years ago. Colour: dark gold. Nose: very modern, powerful, filled with old varnish, forgotten paint pots, linoleum, broom, espresso... Chocolate truffles add a bit of sweetness to this aromatic monster that hasn't aged a bit over the years, quite the contrary. A very, very great bourbon that reminds in some ways the nose of the Very Old Fitzgeralds. As often happens, a few drops of water bring out a mentholated side. Mouth: even more powerful on the palate, but with some sweeter notes, like English candy, for example. However, we are far from the gentle elegance of IW Harper; this Evan Williams is a real cowboy. It reminds one a bit of wood glue, liquorice, and even burnt wood and tobacco. Water further enhances the liquorice aspect and adds touches of anise. Finish: long, almost a bit brutal, but very seductive, with salted butter caramel. Varnish, coffee, liquorice, and anise return in the aftertaste. Comment: under these conditions, we are willing to be a bit brutalized by our whiskey. Perhaps around a campfire somewhere in its native Kentucky.

SGP: 661 - 88 points

(Merci Edouard, le Golden Promise et Whisky Magazine France)

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


January 1, 2024