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Whisky Tasting

 

Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild
2002-20
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Hi, you're in the Archives, January 2024 - Part 2
 
 

January 2024 - part 1 <--- January 2024 - part 2 ---> February 2024 - part 1

 

January 31, 2024


Whiskyfun

Strange mixtures and funny blended malts of high quality

So, malt that's been mixed, for the better or the worse. Let's hope we shan't come across any 'Hawaiian pizza'. Well, I'm sure we will… That being said, one should never underestimate the work of blenders, who are often more akin to Rothkos than Pollocks, so to speak. Well, one would hope so...

 

Dalaruan (43%, The Lost Distillery Company, blended malt, +/-2023)

Dalaruan (43%, The Lost Distillery Company, blended malt, +/-2023) Four stars and a half
This series, which stirred quite a controversy upon its release due to the use of names from old distilleries, eventually led people to realise two things. Firstly, that nobody really remembered Auchtermuchty Distillery (just an example) and, secondly, that the new whiskies created in tribute to these forgotten distilleries were actually quite good. Of course, we can't verify if the one we have in our glass truly resembles Dalaruan, but we'll see if it's good, despite its two obvious shortcomings: firstly, the fact that it's NAS (No Age Statement), and secondly, its low bottling strength. Colour: dark gold. Nose: there's definitely a greasy, mineral aspect, reminiscent of motor oil and vegetable soup, all things that seem quite ancient. Coal smoke, turnip, tar, seaweed... Yes, one could well imagine that the Campbeltowner Dalaruan might have been somewhat like this, why not. Could there be some... Ben Nevis in it? Mouth: well, it's very good, there's a real antique side to it, with peat, salt, soups and broths, old fruit liqueurs, perhaps sherry, a certain minerality... Finish: and dry fruits. Comments: at the risk of making a few friends scream, you have them taste this, then you tell them it's Macallan 1947, and no one will call you out on it. But no, no, don't do that! However, I find this humble little blend very impressive. Unless they've snuck some Macallan 1947 into my sample without me realising it.

SGP:462 - 88 points.

In the same vein...

Coleburn 20 yo 2002/2023 'Deluxe Blend' (42.7%, Murray McDavid, Mission Gold, blended malt, oloroso sherry cask, 537 bottles)

Coleburn 20 yo 2002/2023 'Deluxe Blend' (42.7%, Murray McDavid, Mission Gold, blended malt, oloroso sherry cask, 537 bottles) Four stars
Okay, I know what you're thinking, but first, Murray McDavid/Aceo indeed are allowed to use the Coleburn brand, and they do occupy the premises/warehouses. Then, the label clearly states that it's a blend of Speyside and Highland from a total of eight distilleries. But yes, it's a strange bottle, I agree. Let's see if the wonderful fruitiness of the original Coleburn is found in it, remembering that Coleburn was sort of the sister distillery to Clynelish before the Second World War. But it's not certain that Aceo's goal is to replicate Coleburn… Colour: golden. Nose: more like wet chalk and a bit of porridge with pieces of fresh fruit, then Haribo sweets of all kinds, some foam too, a bit of vanilla, really juicy sultanas, a few toasts and brownies... It really screams 'blended malt' but it's nice, with those hints of menthol liquorice that come through next, along with a bit of rum and raisin cream. Mouth: quite firm, with more of a dry sherry character, the usual walnut cake, orange marmalade, a little hint of mustard, then some slightly burnt almonds, coffee and chocolate. A mix a bit in the style of Glenrothes. Finish: quite long, with burnt caramel, coffee again and a few notes of brown tobacco and toasted malt. Comments: the nose is fresher than the palate, which is a bit more astringent. Overall, I think it's a very nice 'blend', quite classic, that likes to take its time.
SGP:451 - 85 points.

In the same spirit...

Crimson Godzilla 18 yo (46%, Ian Macleod, Taiwan, blended malt, 999 bottles, 2022)

Crimson Godzilla 18 yo (46%, Ian Macleod, Taiwan, blended malt, 999 bottles, 2022) Four stars and a half
They have made various Godzillas at Ian Macleod. I'm afraid I know next to mothing about Godzilla, except that it's huge and that it reminds me of a few politicians. Not too sure about what's inside this blended malt (not too sure about what's inside politicians either). Colour: amber. Nose: milk chocolate is absolutely everywhere at first, it's like visiting a Lindt factory. Then comes an avalanche of fresh fruit and fruit preserves, especially plums, then apricots and some peaches. It's quite dense and rather charming, more in the style of Snow White than Godzilla for now. No complaints at all. Mouth: one might almost wonder if there's quite a bit of Tamdhu in this blend. Malt, stout, roasted nuts, tobacco, espresso, a drop of Maggi, black pepper, black nougat... For me, it's more Black Godzilla, which is positive of course. Finish: the same. Green walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: I forgot to mention a Christmas cake; it's just that it's not really the season anymore. Excellent blended malt.

SGP:461 - 88 points.

St Bridget's Kirk 'Solera Batch #1' (48.8%, Hannah Whisky Merchants, 186 bottles, 2023)

St Bridget's Kirk 'Solera Batch #1' (48.8%, Hannah Whisky Merchants, 186 bottles, 2023) Four stars
A three-cask solera, one ex-fino and two ex-oloroso. Not sure when they change these casks because I suppose they need to (while solera casks in Jerez are virtually inert), or if they do that gradually, when they become more inert indeed, but I think it's good that they would use ex-sherry wood and not anything else. I would suppose the last oloroso cask could be called 'the finishing vessel'. Oh and it's fab that they wouldn't use solera numbers, such as, you know, a large '23'. Colour: amber. Nose: I almost thought I was assessing the kind Crimson Godzilla again, by mistake, the styles being so close. Lots of sherry, walnuts, coffee, dark chocolate, tobacco, damp earth, with a bit of leather (horse saddle) and a medicinal and slightly smoky touch. A very nice nose, certainly. Mouth: more peat, plenty of candied lemon, a bit of brine, very dry raisins, candied orange peels... All this works very well together. Finish: quite long, balanced, it's a bit like peated whisky truffles, I actually helped a high-end chocolatier in the neighborhood prepare some a few months ago. We had done that with some funny bottle of Ardbeg NAS 'that would not go down the normal way' (excellent in chocolate, less so in your glass). Comments: I had tried a very fruity St Bridget's Kirk 8 yo (WF 85) while Angus recently tried a 20 yo (WF 88), but none were ex-soleras. Solera or not, this peaty one is rather splendid too.

SGP:5645 - 87 points.

The Gauldrons 'Campbeltown Blended Malt' (50%, Douglas Laing, sherry finish, batch #002, 5,580 bottles, 2023)

The Gauldrons 'Campbeltown Blended Malt' (50%, Douglas Laing, sherry finish, batch #002, 5,580 bottles, 2023) Three stars and a half
This Campbeltowner is part of Douglas Laing's 'Remarkable Regional Malts'. The first batch, at 46.2%, might have been a little difficult, IMHO (as we used to say). Colour: gold. Nose: there's a good amount of spent matches and gunpowder initially, followed by plenty of ground coffee and cake burnt in the oven, with the corresponding carbon smoke. Quite a bit of soot. With water: it becomes friendlier, more lemony, also more maritime, while the gunpowder has almost vanished. Mouth (neat): tinned fruits, leather, and dead leaves, followed by soot, a bit of salt and lemon zest. It's harsh and somewhat austere, but it fits Campbeltown (in a downpour). With water: the same phenomenon as on the nose, it becomes more 'congenial', almost more civilised, but also brinier. Lemon candies and budget tequila with its worm inside (which isn't a worm, but let's move on). Finish: of medium length, with an even more pronounced margarita aspect. A bit of mint and aniseed follow. Comments: I think I enjoy it much more than the first batch of The Gauldron.

SGP:462 - 84 points.

Campbeltown 6 yo 2017/2023 (58.6%, Watt Whisky, blended malt, barrel, 252 bottles)

Campbeltown 6 yo 2017/2023 (58.6%, Watt Whisky, blended malt, barrel, 252 bottles) Four stars and a half
Angus has already tasted this baby and liked it a lot. It's another one of those blended Campbeltowners where half the planet insists it's pure Glen Scotia, while the other half is certain there are a few drops of Springbank or Glengyle in it. Colour: white wine. Nose: the fact is, there's paraffin, linseed oil, soot, lime and hints of new plastic. Not to forget chalk and wet sand. With water: that brand new sweater, porridge and bread dough straight from the baker's kneading trough. Mouth (neat): I won't throw stones at anyone who tells me there's a fair bit of Springbank in this maritime, oily, and chalky composition. The lemon is splendid. With water: excellent, with the arrival of grapefruit, not very ripe mangoes, and more chalk. Finish: quite long, very balanced, coastal and especially, very, very 'Campbeltown'. We're not talking about the Glen Scotia of twenty years ago or more, are we? But things have changed. Lemon candy touches at the very end, not very 'Springbank'. Comments: it is said that Springbank doesn't give away any casks to blenders, but there's still a lot to be found with independents, they must come from somewhere. Well, in theory, there shouldn't be any Springbank. Let's move on to something else...

SGP:552 - 88 points.

Big Peat 'Bordeaux Edition' (48%, Douglas Laing, LMDW, blended malt, 600 bottles, 2023)

Big Peat 'Bordeaux Edition' (48%, Douglas Laing, LMDW, blended malt, 600 bottles, 2023) Three stars and a half
Good one, this one is 'Predominantly finished in French red wine casks'. Since we know the theoretical composition of these Big Peats (Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila, and Port Ellen), it would also be nice to know that of the Bordeaux châteaux that have been used. Or maybe not. Colour: Provence rosé. Please pass the olives. Nose: the less red wine you can smell in whisky, the better the whisky. To be honest, the rosé wine colour was quite alarming, but the whisky seems to have held its own, with pink grapefruit (there you have it) and cranberries in addition to the usual peat. In the end, it's wet earth, crushed slate and peat that come out on top. It's a fun nose that feels a bit like a premix, but if an Instagram mixologist served it to you more like a cocktail in a fancy Paris bar, it would probably work. With Italian sausage chips, for example. Or indeed olives. Mouth: yes, it's good. Green pepper and pink pepper, cherries and nutmeg on top of the usual super-blend of these Big Peaters. Finish: fairly long, on red fruits, pepper and peat. Comments: sooner or later, there are going to be some eccentric mixologists offering homemade 'winskies'. A Brorus, for example, that's Brora with five drops of Pétrus. What, you say that's already being done?

SGP:656 - 83 points.

Tomorrow we'll try to taste some blended Scotch instead…

 

January 30, 2024


Whiskyfun

One Dallas Dhu because
we've only got one

In the series of almost pointless tastings. We never do this, having only one whisky out of the blue, but did you hear that some great 'private' folks were about to restart Dallas Dhu Distillery, after some first rumours in 2015 and 2018? I don't know exactly when and how, and perhaps is it in the pipe already, but I believe it's great news and that is why we'll now taste the only yet-untasted Dallas Dhu we've got in the Library.

Dallas Dhu
Terrifying photo of a Michael Myers type mannequin
pushing barrels - or doing something else - at the
Dallas Dhu 'museum distillery' (Max K.)

 

 

Dallas Dhu 28 yo 1975/2004 (45.9%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills Collection, for Waldhaus am See St. Moritz, cask #2352, 308 bottles)

Dallas Dhu 28 yo 1975/2004 (45.9%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills Collection, for Waldhaus am See St. Moritz, cask #2352, 308 bottles) Four stars and a half
I have just checked, we indeed tasted sister cask #2353 in 2016, and we quite liked it (WF 86). But I would be quite incapable of painting an organoleptic portrait of Dallas Dhu. Maybe Charlie Maclean could? Colour: white wine. Nose: I had forgotten everything, really. This plasticine, these notes of putty, stearin, candle smoke, these pine needles, these various and varied resins, Barbour grease, waxed cloth, brake fluid... And these orange cookies. That's the fun part. Mouth: this resinous side, frankly forgotten, is quite remarkable. One could almost say that pine resin is to Dallas Dhu what beeswax is to Clynelish. Except that beeswax is, after all, much sexier (if one can still use that term). Finish: long, very pretty, more fruity and a bit less resinous, with a lot of marzipan and not at all the sensation of eating a tin of shoe polish. There, I'm really exaggerating. A very nice lemony aspect in the aftertaste. Comments: Dallas Dhu has really become rare, even in conversations among uber-geeks. It would be great if the distillery could make a true comeback!
SGP:462 - 88 points.

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

 

January 29, 2024


Whiskyfun

Eleven Bunnahabhain

Tja, I've heard alliterations and rhymes kill more than both sharks and snakes. We'll now taste  a good load of various Bunnahabhains from Islay and try to avoid their peaters that are sometimes named 'Bunnahabhain' too instead of Moine or Staoisha. Nothing against them, mind you, it's just that both styles do not work well together within one single session. Let's do this randomly, we've got so many of them…

 

 

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2009/2022 (46%, Canmore, sherry butt, cask #900019, 913 bottles) Four stars
Bunnahabhain tends to take sherry well. Colour: dark reddish amber. Nose: isn't this chocolate? Some liquid brownie with candied cherries and fresh blueberries? Old cream sherry? Christmas pudding? All that works in sync, it's a pretty perfect old-style chocolaty sherry on the nose. Mouth: same combo, only with more meaty tones, English brown sauce, overripe bananas, plus a lot of chocolate, butterscotch and pancake sauce. Also dates, prunes and old armagnac. The strength is perfect. Finish: rather long, a little more herbal now. Allspice, old walnuts, marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: arch classic. A charming chocolaty rusticity.

SGP:451 - 85 points.

Bunnahabhain 15 yo 2008/2023 (55.8%, Dramfool, 1st Fill Pedro Ximenez Hogshead, cask #993, 270 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 15 yo 2008/2023 (55.8%, Dramfool, 1st Fill Pedro Ximenez Hogshead, cask #993, 270 bottles) Four stars
In theory, this could come close. Colour: gold. Light for first fill. Nose: a family pack of white and black nougats, toffee of all kinds, chocolate, then grilled steak and drops of American BBQ sauce. Yeah I know there are literally thousands of different ones but I'm an anti-expert here. With water: a little plasticine, model glue, then potting soil and just more chocolate and toffee. Very lovely. Mouth (neat): we're extremely close to the Canmore. Chocolate, praline, caramel, toasts, maple syrup, prunes… All very good. With water: a little leafier, more on tobacco, allspice, raw armagnac indeed, moderately spicy beef jerky… Finish: long, candied, with a lot of black nougat, caramel and various syrups (cane, agave…) Comments: extra point for the extra strength. It's awesome.

SGP:451 - 86 points.

Bunnahabhain 13 yo (52.4%, Whisky Racing, Jack Wiebers, sherry cask, 120 bottles, 2023)

Bunnahabhain 13 yo (52.4%, Whisky Racing, Jack Wiebers, sherry cask, 120 bottles, 2023) Five stars
You can't drink and drive but you can drink and race, is that the message? (hey, we are joking, sarcastically – ask Jenson Button with his own brand of Scotch, and many others. Poor James Hunt). Colour: deep gold. Nose: bizarrely bourbony, but fantastic. Varnish, roasted almonds, praline, toasted oak… The sherry's kicking in later. Tobacco, menthol, leaves, and just proper dry sherry. Amontillado? Great cask. With water: a.w.e.s.o.m.e., pretty much in the style of some old sherried Bunnahabhains that were distilled in the 1960s. I'd swear I'm reminded of the Auld Acquaintance at times. Mouth (neat): super. Rich, sweet and spicy, with loads of toffee, butterscotch, Corinth raisins, millionaire shortbread, sticky toffee pudding… With water: herbal teas, chamomile, quite some cinnamon, cigarette tobacco. Something a little drying now. It's almost for the best; it would have been an absolute star without that. Finish: rather long, on nougat and black tea, plus some apricot jam. The usual marmalade and walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: whisky racing… to the shop.

SGP:561 - 90 points.

Speaking of old ones…

Bunnahabhain 33 yo (48.8%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, cask #HL20649, 292 bottles, 2023)

Bunnahabhain 33 yo (48.8%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, cask #HL20649, 292 bottles, 2023) Five stars
The Kinship 30 was superb (WF 91) and the Kinship 28 as well (WF 90). Colour: gold. Nose: remember when we used to sometimes write 'OMG!' on the Internet? You would believe you're in front of an old bottle as there's some awesome 'good' OBE, including various metals, polishes, waxes, forgotten liqueurs and discarded ointments and embrocations. But never has some oldness nosed this fresh and lively. I'm reminded of Bocuse's 'Soupe VGE' (truffles, foie gras, chicken bouillon, vegetable bouillon, Noilly Prat – well, more or less). Only a very faint dusty/soapy side in the back of the back of the background. Mouth: amazingly firm and tight (I suppose it is a 1989?), salty, with more bouillon, glazed chestnuts, which I already found in several old Bunnies if I remember well, then more Thai soups, coriander, soft chilli and ginger, lime, pickled palm hearts… And then some more classic Islay coastal flavours, oysters and crabs… Finish: not that long but incredibly fresh and complex at the same time. And isn't there some smoke? More Thai soup in the aftertaste, chilli, also raisins and chocolate… Comments: just dazzling. These Bunnahabhain age as gracefully as… well, some actresses.
SGP:562 - 92 points.

Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1988/2023 (46.5%, Silver Seal for Whisky Antique)

Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1988/2023 (46.5%, Silver Seal for Whisky Antique) Five stars
Colour: mahogany. Nose: this is more old-school than the House of Lords. Not talking about the Scotch whisky. Prunes, old cognac, dates, chocolate, figs, whiffs of moss and old pine wood, a few mushrooms and a little liquorice, plus a few roasted nuts, especially pecans. Mouth: we're deeply reminded of some old Speyside malts by G&M. Like pre-war, bottled in the 1970s and 1980s. It is a time machine! More bouillons, chocolate, pipe tobacco, liquorice, truffles, puréed chestnuts, pears poached in Sauternes, very old Sauternes, very old Malaga… It is definitely very 'antique'. I would love to watch young whisky enthusiasts tasting this whisky, or similar whiskies, for the very first time. It would undoubtedly be a real revelation, as they are becoming so rare. Finish: rather long, rather sublime to tell you the truth. Comments: as I sometimes say, we could spend hours sipping a magnum of each to try, and fail to decide which one, between the Kinship and the Silver Seal, is our favourite. That wouldn't be too reasonable.
SGP:651 - 92 points.

Back to younger ones, please, this is a slippery slope…

Bunnahabhain 14 yo 2007/2022 (53.9%, The First Editions for Whiskyshop Neumarkt, refill hogshead, cask # HL19623, 265 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 14 yo 2007/2022 (53.9%, The First Editions for Whiskyshop Neumarkt, refill hogshead, cask # HL19623, 265 bottles) Four stars
Looks like we're in lovely Switzerland again. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh indeed, these ones, all on crème brulée, muscovado, tarte tatin, nougat, roasted peanuts, marzipan, aged williams pear eau-de-vie… This is working very, very well, you could have it with Läckerli With water: closer to the barley, grist, fresh bread, crêpes, stewed apples... Mouth (neat): perfect young malt, with a faint coastal side (some salinity) and plum tartes, roasted nuts, halva, pistachio, then fresher fruits, even cider. And always stewed apples. With water: awesome combination, between the bready and malty side on one side, and the saltier, more coastal, more lemony aspects on the other side. Finish: rather long, perhaps a little narrower, grassier, greener. Comments: it's obviously tough to come after the HL and SS, but I think it's done very well.

SGP:562 - 85 points.

Perhaps some older bottling(s)…

Bunnahabhain 1992/2010 (54.4%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #1419, 603 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1992/2010 (54.4%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #1419, 603 bottles) Four stars and a half
It's strange that we have never tried this one. Felix qui potuit etcetera… Colour: dark copper amber. Nose: some slightly leafier sherry, with more black teas of all origins and styles, plus a little new leather, bay leaves, a little wood smoke – it cannot be a peated one, can it – and some fresh-sawn pinewood. With water: wonderful pipe tobacco, plus whiffs of plastics, say brand new vinyl record. Say original Dark Side Of The Moon just taken out of its sleeve for the very first time. Ha, I agree I could have chosen something more exclusive than Dark Side Of The Moon. Mouth (neat): very good deeply chocolaty sherry, with a few metallic touches and some cured ham. Raw cocoa. With water: sweet tobacco, figs, sweet sherry, onion jam, some saltiness, some menthol… It seems to have gathered different styles of Bunnahabhain. It was a wild butt, for sure. Finish: long and with a little tar on top of the figs, chocolate and dry raisins. Comments: that tar popped out was very intriguing. Intriguing, but top drop for sure. All the best to Malts of Scotland!
SGP:452 - 88 points.

Bunnahabhain 1997/2011 (52.9%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #3258, 175 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1997/2011 (52.9%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #3258, 175 bottles) Four stars
Colour: amber. Say even profound amber. Nose: whoops, it's a peater, one of the early 'Moines' the great folks at the distillery were so proud of when we were visiting them back in the days. Well some were proud; others were a bit apologetic. Peat was like doing finishings back then, it was meaning 'running after the market' rather than 'doing what we're best at'. But no one thinks like that anymore, there's no longer any pride, only the market, and therefore the marketers, are right. Except that the market is changing increasingly quickly, but that's another matter. Tja, in any case, this is cough syrup aged in oak and it is bone dry. Pinewood smoke and the bitterest chocolate. With water: menthol and chartreuse, plus tar liqueur. Mouth (neat): but this is very good! Totally on smoky cough syrup, with loads of eucalyptus and pinewood smoke. With water: someone's aged crème de menthe in pinewood. Then added a few spoonfuls of fir honeydew and rubber process oil. Granted, we do not drink rubber process oil every day. Finish: long and very piney. Comments: I believe we can achieve a similar result by using less expensive methods. For instance, by mixing turpentine with cough syrup. But that's none of our business... Great thick piney drop, nonetheless.
SGP:475 - 85 points.

I think we should stop there. See you soon with many more 'Bunnies'. Hold on, there are these brand new Signatories! Let's not wait any longer…

Bunnahabhain 44 yo 1978/2023 (41.5%, Signatory Vintage, 35th Anniversary, second-fill oloroso sherry butt, cask #7638, 238 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 44 yo 1978/2023 (41.5%, Signatory Vintage, 35th Anniversary, second-fill oloroso sherry butt, cask #7638, 238 bottles) Five stars
Here they are, the famous new bottlings celebrating the 35th Anniversary of Signatory Vintage. We have already tasted the Highland Park in December, but now it's time we have the three Bunnahabhains. We shall have the others in a few days, depending on WF's schedule and the passing trains. These venerable Bunnahabhains can be majestic, sometimes slightly weary, but I doubt that's the case here. Let's proceed, if you will... Colour: pale gold. Nose: there's all the beauty of the world in the aromas of these long-aged refills. But one almost wants to say nothing in front of these simple garden apples tinged with pine honey, blancmange, and very ripe pineapple touches. What if we said nothing? Mouth: it's quite incredible how the old butt predominantly conveys pine honey, just like in the aroma, but also pine needles, apple skins, and cinnamon. It truly turns its flaws into virtues, it really does a sort of judo move on you. Finish: not very long and more on a little damp cardboard, old walnuts, touches of very old calvados, and always this pine honey. Marzipan in the aftertaste. Comments: superb. Like an ancient work of art, one would almost want to restore it by adding a few drops of young peated Bunnahabhain, for example, but of course, it would then no longer be an original piece (and what an horrible idea, S.)

SGP:451 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 45 yo 1978/2023 (42.6%, Signatory Vintage, 35th Anniversary, oloroso sherry butt, cask #2588, 351 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 45 yo 1978/2023 (42.6%, Signatory Vintage, 35th Anniversary, oloroso sherry butt, cask #2588, 351 bottles) Five stars
We wager that this one will be more dominant, more in the style of the older Bunnahabhains from the 1960s. Shall we bet? Colour: office coffee. Nose: well, it's not so dominant after all, and ultimately not immensely different from the 'refill' version. Naturally, there are more sultanas, toffee, as well as treacle toffee, but all this remains gentle and extremely sophisticated. Even the orchard apples make a noteworthy comeback. There are also pinecones. Mouth: once again, it's not immensely different from its brother, but let's not forget that it's the same distillery and the same vintage. A bit more coffee, old armagnac, chocolate, and marmalade, with once more a presence of pine wood, as well as very dark tea, in the style of Black Assam. In the end, it is quite different and certainly a bit less delicate on the palate than its brother. Finish: we always fear that these old glories may crumble at this stage, but that's not the case. Medium length and a superb dark chocolate. The Black Assam makes a return in the aftertaste. Comments: let's be honest, I would have liked to place the refill at the top of the podium, but this one offers a bit more bite.
SGP:451 - 91 points.

And now for the last one…

Bunnahabhain 48 yo 1975/2023 (50.2%, Signatory Vintage, 35th Anniversary, oloroso sherry butt, cask #2845, 361 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 48 yo 1975/2023 (50.2%, Signatory Vintage, 35th Anniversary, oloroso sherry butt, cask #2845, 361 bottles) Five stars
It's always very classy when bottlers decide to release their whiskies at ages like 48 or 49 years rather than waiting for the 50-year mark, which would add £1,000 or more to the bottle's price. Colour: deep amber. Nose: it must be admitted that an additional 8 or 9 degrees of alcohol can change a lot of things. Here we are firmly in the territory of an old cognac. Baked peach, sultanas, dried apricots, hints of menthol, a tiny bit of aniseed, then apple compote and quince tart, followed by very ripe damsons... All this parades by quite magnificently. With a drop of water: it moves even closer to an old cognac, quite spectacularly. Mouth (neat): yes, here we bow down, even if, or perhaps because there's a kind of brutality, charred wood, burnt cakes, carbonised nuts... And we love it! (he's crazy). With a drop of water: everything falls into line, the old cognac is back. But this global feeling might stem from the fact that we taste much more very old cognacs than very old malts. I mean, really old ones. It's really very good but be careful in a blind tasting! Finish: the old wood stands out more but the whole remains gentle, quite fruity, and moderate in terms of spices. Lovely bitter oranges and quinaquina in the aftertaste. Oddly, black pepper comes in right at the very end. Comments: all in all, this all makes sense (there, a conclusion that was really worth it, S.)

SGP:551 - 92 points.

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

 

January 28, 2024


Whiskyfun

  A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!

 

 

A new jaunt among the rums

There are so many! It's a real joy, and the standard seems to be rising, even if we mostly taste small-batch and single-cask rums proposed by independent selectors. Of course, if you're tasting mainly juices heretofore unknown, laden with sugar, packaged like baubles from Swarovski's or Franklin Mint, and bearing the names of unlikely heroes of the revolucion, that will be something else. You'll notice, however, that we make sure to taste them now and again, for the cause. After all, they do exist.

(The National Air and Space Museum, DC)

 

 

El Ron Prohibido 15 yo 'Gran Reserva' (40%, OB, Mexico, +/-2023)

El Ron Prohibido 15 yo 'Gran Reserva' (40%, OB, Mexico, +/-2023)
We place as much trust in the age stated on the bottle as we do in the content of a speech by Nigel Farage. That said, we had tasted a NAS version of El Ron Prohibido in 2016, and we survived quite easily, and even better (Whisky Fun 78 points). And then, this baby still managed to snag the Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition! Colour: espresso. Nose: molasses, burnt caramel, and coffee liqueur in astronomical quantities, plus a bit of fresh mint that, against all odds, keeps this 'thing' afloat. One cannot help but think of After Eight thin mints. By the way, does Nestlé not own a distillery yet? Mouth: no, this is just too much. Way too sweet, it rapidly becomes sickening, almost repulsive. They're mad! Finish: quite long, alas. You immediately gulp down half a litre of sparkling water and it's still not enough to eradicate all that damn ultra-sweet caramel. Comments: well yes, this thing ought to be 'prohibido'. The NAS was much more elegant back in 2016.

SGP:820 - 25 points.

Let's go on but first drink lots of sparkling water (it lifts the sugar off your mouth's walls; and off your oesophagus, if you have been mad enough to swallow more than a mocha-spoonful of it. If you've added plenty of ice, you have an excuse.

Cartavio 12 yo 'Solera' (40%, OB, Peru, +/-2023)

Cartavio 12 yo 'Solera' (40%, OB, Peru, +/-2023) Two stars and a half
It was quite decent the last time we tried it (Whisky Fun 75) but that was... in 2009. Sweet Vishnu, 15 years ago. Colour: coppery amber. Nose: it's really another world, even if it's not very expressive. Roasted nuts, praline, roasted peanuts, remnants of sugarcane (after pressing, bagasse), a bit of chocolate, very light coffee… In short, it doesn't talk much but then again, it remains elegant. Mouth: if there's added sugar, there isn't really much of it. Anyway, after the previous one, even pure cane syrup would seem not too sweet. Return of roasted peanuts and hazelnuts, chocolate, light coffee, and arrival of brown tobacco. A few notes of humus, undergrowth, that's nice. Finish: not very long, and maybe a bit too sweet now, but honey and maple syrup add a bit of refinement. Aftertaste quite clean. Comments: boom, we're promoting it to 77. I like this Cartavio, even if it doesn't exactly set the world on fire.
SGP:540 - 77 points.

Let's move on to more serious matters, at least we hope so...

Clément 'Select Barrel' (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2022)

Clément 'Select Barrel' (40%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
Yes, 'Select Barrel', in English, not 'Barrique Sélectionnée' or 'Fût Choisi'. I'm not quite sure why... Well, one can guess. It's an inexpensive assemblage (there), probably quite young, but with agricole rums, one must be wary of youth, in the good sense of the term. Colour: gold. Nose: it's star anise and fennel that speak first, something that sometimes happens with young agricole rums. Then comes liquorice, fresh cane juice, damp earth, and finally vanilla, custard, and just a hint of camphor. Nothing to complain about. Mouth: very good, more woody but in an elegant way (cedar, pine, oak), with fresh mint and pineapple, anise, lemon balm water, even green apple. Alas, it lacks just a bit of oomph but I think reducing it to 43% instead of 40 would already be enough to give it some more liveliness. A pity. Finish: not very long but nicely spiced, as if the barrels had been quite active. This is felt in the aftertaste, which is rougher (sawdust, cinnamon). Comments: it remains very good. Even the most modest of agricole rums turn out to be very good, I find.
SGP:561 - 84 points.

Panama Rum 2006/2022 (56.4%, HNWS Taiwan, bourbon barrel, cask #11, 261 bottles)

Panama Rum 2006/2022 (56.4%, HNWS Taiwan, bourbon barrel, cask #11, 261 bottles) Four stars
Generally, these secret Panamas would tend to be Don José, which sure isn't bad news. By the way, cheers to all our Taiwanese friends and congratulations on their vote last Saturday. They are proud and free people, but we already knew that. Colour: dark gold. Nose: it's almost like a jam of mirabelle plum, quince, and apricot, enriched with honey and agave syrup. Also a tiny hint of old sweet wine, like a Sauternes. In other words, this rum seems to be a real sin. With water: more on herbal teas, dried fruits, green tea... The water somewhat diminishes the jammy and fruity side. Mouth (neat): what a treat! A sweet fruitiness and menthol, orange blossom water, Turkish delights, Lebanese pastries, more apricots, oranges, and just hints of varnish, but perhaps that's just the alcohol – or the wood. We love the varnish in bourbons or Jamaican rums, for example, but maybe not so much with this kind of rounder and fruitier profile. With water: no, it's fine, it's very good, increasingly orangey, with orange liqueur, candied oranges, orange marmalade (we get it, S.) Finish: quite long but a little less interesting, it's the herbal side that comes back into play. Comments: it remains that this kind of bottle is as good as it gets for a Panamanian rum.

SGP:661 - 85 points.

Chairman's Reserve 13 yo 2010/2023 (61%, OB, Master's Selection for Rhum Attitude, St. Lucia, bourbon cask, cask # 0167032009, 239 bottles)

Chairman's Reserve 13 yo 2010/2023 (61%, OB, Master's Selection for Rhum Attitude, St. Lucia, bourbon cask, cask # 0167032009, 239 bottles) Five stars
We must admit that 'Chairman's Reserve' is a peculiar name for a rum brand; it sounds more like the name of a range within a more traditional line. For example, 'Glenmorangie Chairman's Reserve' seems to make more sense, right? And then, that could be used for all kinds of merchandise, couldn't it. That said, beyond this somewhat unnecessary comment, I confess that it's one of the brands that has impressed me the most over the last three years. It's really the product that speaks for itself, the rest — branding, packaging, and other social events — we'll leave that to the TikTokers. Colour: dark gold. Nose: very subtle, very elegant, slightly in the territory of a great malt, for example, an old Glen Grant. There's none of the mischievous rum character left, we find orange cake, blueberry muffins, toffee and fudge, nougats, a clear floral side (dandelion, lily), light tobacco notes, chamomile, Sichuan pepper, raisin bread... All that at 60% ABV! With water: initial hints of wood glue, fresh paint, putty, lanolin, then macarons and little Christmas biscuits. Yes, we're behind schedule. Mouth (neat): toasted sesame, candied oranges… And quite a bit of ethanol. So, we'll be careful. Speaking 'parenthetically', it does have a bit of a Foursquare feel to it. With water: the slightly salty and tarry notes come through, resins, fruit skins, pits as well, and salt. Salt always works. Finish: long, indeed salty, with salty liquorice, black tea, a bit of varnish, coffee… And malt whisky. I'm serious. Bitters and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: it's the complexity that is the most impressive part. Its main fault is that it takes quite a bit of your time.

SGP:562 - 90 points.

Réunion 6 yo 2016/2023 (60.8% , Hidden Spirit The Wild Parrot, La Réunion, cask ref #WP 16608, 285 bottles)

Réunion 6 yo 2016/2023 (60.8% , Hidden Spirit The Wild Parrot, La Réunion, cask ref #WP 16608, 285 bottles) Five stars
This baby aged for 1 year on the island, then 5 years in the UK. Why in the UK, I don't know. This should be Savanna, most possibly a grand arôme so high-ester tum. We had tried a disclosed Savanna by Wild Parrot back in 2019, it was very, very good IMHO (WF 87). Colour: full gold. Nose: the keyword here is balance; we're right between a rum that leans towards solvents and varnish, and on the other side, a rounder rum with notes of tarte tatin, mirabelle plums, fresh sugarcane, and perfectly ripe (but not overly so) bananas. The whole thing slightly reminds one of an unfiltered manzanilla from a reputable house. But are there any bad houses in Sanlucar? Also, some unexpected aromas of truffle and cabbage, which I believe sometimes give this falsely sulphurous aspect to grand arôme. More a typicity than a flaw, quite the opposite in fact. With water: heavy on new rubber and olives. Olives are often mentioned, but here, it's an avalanche of olives. It turns out we love that at Château Whiskyfun. Also a lot of truffle oil. Mouth (neat): very unusual. A Greek retsina side, varnish, olives and pepper, with a lot of salt but also a lot of myrtle, which is not that common in rums. With water: anchovy-stuffed olives, with a hint of lemon. When I say anchovy olives, I mean ninety-five kilos of anchovy olives. Finish: similar. Comments: the question is, do you like varnish, olives, truffle, and myrtle? If so, quickly get yourself a pallet of this slightly mad rum (if that were possible!)
SGP:473 - 90 points.

Ben-Nevis-times-ten.html

Jamaica 12 yo 2010/2023 (66.2%, LMDW, Flag Series, cask #MM10VF52, 220 bottles) Four stars and a half
Hold on, is that the Jamaican flag on the label? No too sure… An artist's impressions, perhaps… Or Usain Bold running so fast that the flag on his shirt is going pretty blurred… As for what this undisclosed Jamaican actually is, I suppose the cask number gives it way (MM, Mony-Musk). Colour: gold. Nose: rather low-ester this time, but there are some, with a little olive oil and concrete dust at first, but almost no solventy notes, rather stewed peaches, fresh mint and a little masala. And really a lot of ethanol. With water: steamed artichokes, sultanas and just touches of diesel oil. Uncommon, but extremely pleasant combination. Mouth (neat): massive, rather on mangos and tangerines, as liqueurs or as jams. And once again, a rather lethal dose of ethanol. With water: more saltiness, more coastalness once water's been added. Yet peaches and mangos keep expressing themselves. A little salted liquorice in the background. Finish: pretty long, this time with a little varnish again, three olives, some lemon and some unexpected williams pears beyond the peaches. A little cough syrup in the aftertaste. Comments: it's true that these lower-ester-count Jamaicans can be more complex than their beastly colleagues.
SGP:652 - 88 points.

Caroni 25 yo 1998/2023 (61.3%, Rum Sponge, LMDW New Vibrations, 1st fill barrel, 243 bottles)

Caroni 25 yo 1998/2023 (61.3%, Rum Sponge, LMDW New Vibrations, 1st fill barrel, 243 bottles) Five stars
Roughly 12 years in the tropics and 12 years in Europe. Yeah that sounds like the life of a biotech whiz. It's not often that bottles for France would display interpretations of the Parisian Metro rather than the Arc de Triomphe or the Tour Eiffel. In any case, we're delighted to hear that there's a new subway station called 'Rum Sponge'; we'll try to pay it a visit. As long as this Caroni doesn't come with a 'Mind the gap' warning, we should be alright... Colour: full gold. Nose (neat): oh my, it shifts gears rapidly. A lot of shoe polish initially, then patchouli and mothballs, followed by industrial solvent, then old rags in an old wardrobe, and old paint pots forgotten in the cellar... Well, you get the picture. We won't dwell too much on it at 61% ABV. With water: it becomes very elegant, almost refined, with a slight old cognac aspect. One could enjoy it at the bar of The Lanesborough. Sorry, I mean the Hotel Raphael. Mouth: you're realizing that they're having us drink a mix of petrol, very, very ripe crushed bananas, acetone, and motor oil, and once more, with hints of quite herby green olives. It's just missing an address on the label for us to write a complaint. With water: beautiful, really focused on these olives, smoked almonds, lapsang souchong, licorice... And much less on all things hydrocarbons. Finish: completely different depending on whether you've added water or not. Black Sabbath or Mozart, as it were. Comments: it's a 'heavy' Caroni that's quite different, which seems to have followed its own path, even if it retains a, let's say 'British Petroleum' side. It loves water, as long as you don't drown it. It's almost the whole history of civilization that you have here in your glass (typical exaggeration); well not sure though that the Paris metro is a great example of that civilization.
SGP:463 - 91 points.

You might have noticed that we always put the rubbish at the beginning of the line-ups to give them a chance, to let some positive aspect come through. Just imagine what it would have been like if, for example, we had tasted the very humble Prohibito after the Caroni!

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

 

Wgiskyfun 101

  Make your own alcohol-free 'rum'

A nice little trick with this kind of very 'heavy' rum, especially when you're going to drive (or vote, ha):

  1. Put glass in a clean freezer.
  2. When chilled, fill with a little rum and swirl thoroughly.
  3. Empty your glass, do not rinse.
  4. Fill glass with taste-free sparkling water.
  5. Cover and keep for an hour or two at room temperature, to allow the bubbles to escape.
  6. Taste. You almost get the profile of the rum, while ingesting infinitesimal amounts of alcohol.

Alternatively, you could use cold sparkling water and drink your 'alcohol-free rum spritzer' immediately instead of letting the bubbles go away and the rum warm up.
Please note, this won't quite work with light rums or ultra-doséed ones.

 

January 27, 2024


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

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


Ben Nevis times ten

The sample pile of Ben Nevis has self-rejuvenated once again, so it seems fitting to ritualistically deplete it once more. I always enjoy these sessions because Ben Nevis is one of those distilleries that can vary a lot, usually in highly entertaining fashion, over the years and eras of production. It's also honourably included in Serge's 'Axis of Minerality', or Axis of Wax? Not too sure, but the concept is alive and in flux I believe… 
Angus  

 

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012/2021 (53%, Dram Mor, cask #2084, white port finish, 102 bottles)

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012/2021 (53%, Dram Mor, cask #2084, white port finish, 102 bottles)
Not too sure about white port, but Dram Mor seem to be quite adept at these sorts of funny flash finishes. So, our mind hangs open like an abandoned fridge…  Colour: yellowish white wine. Nose: nothing against this, it's familiar Ben Nevis fatness and greasy quality, overlaid with yellow flowers, some white stone fruits and some lemon marmalade. With water: really getting in the DNA of the spirit now, lots of crushed greenery, vase water, concrete (perhaps from Ben Nevis' very own concrete fermenters? Yes, perhaps a stretch.) Also some nice, slightly sweetish breakfast cereal vibes. Mouth: again this is pretty typical youthful Ben Nevis with oils, stones, waxed cloth and things like ink and aspirin. There is a slight winey which presumably comes from the port, which isn't too much my style, but it's pretty well buried in the mix. With water: goes towards rather young apple distillate, grass, cactus, bamboo shoots and putty. Still a tad vinous as well. Finish: medium, a tad sappy and still this mix of young greener notes and more brutal Ben Nevis concrete! Comments: I don't think the port interfered too much here, in fact I rather think it got punched square on the jaw by this young brute of a Ben Nevis. 

SGP: 461 - 82 points. 

 

 

Ben Nevis 8 yo (57.9%, Dram Mor, cask #108, PX sherry hogshead finish, 328 bottles)

Ben Nevis 8 yo (57.9%, Dram Mor, cask #108, PX sherry hogshead finish, 328 bottles)
Ben Nevis and sherry usually go reasonably well together in my view. Colour: orangey amber. Nose: nicely juicy, sticky and sweet modern sherry profile. You can tell there's some newish oak in the mix but it isn't an aggressive component of this nose. Instead I find some nice cupboard spices such as clove and star anise, also sticky date loaf, ginger cake and leather tobacco pouch. There's even something suggesting medicines or phenols, like there was a glimmer of peat somewhere in the depths, which is really appealing. With water: BBQ sauce, charcoal and smoked paprika. Mouth: the oak comes calling much more assertively and directly now, probably too much for me I'm afraid, it's getting a tad 'tongue splintery'. Behind that some very bitter dark chocolate and many more dried cupboard spices. With water: sooty, spicy and leathery with more of these rather punchy tannins and wood spices. Finish: long, very spicy and on punchy herbal bitters and aniseed. Comments: this is too much wood for me I'm afraid. I actually preferred the slightly more naked white port finish. I wonder if these phenolic notes are really coming from wood the wood?
SGP: 372 - 81 points. 

 

 

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012 (59.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society7 #8.52 'Jolly nice fruit and spice', 1st fill bourbon hogshead, 257 bottles)

Ben Nevis 8 yo 2012 (59.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society7 #8.52 'Jolly nice fruit and spice', 1st fill bourbon hogshead, 257 bottles)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: very typical modern, young Ben Nevis with this quite plush fat and waxy distillate profile, only here it's a little creamier and more rounded by the first fill hoggie. Some really lovely honeyed notes, flower nectars and some of these familiar wee touches of vase water and pebble notes. With water: honeys and waxes and even a hint of young sauternes. Really lovely stuff! Mouth: lovely, simple combination of orchard fruits and waxes upon arrival. Some cooking oils, some nice natural sweetness that once again involves honey and nectars and then impressions of putty, grassy olive oil and camphor. With water: shoe polish, richly waxy in texture, a creamy sweetness that never gets too much and in general a superb fatness of texture. Finish: good length, waxy still but getting more peppery and nicely drying. Comments: a humble but superbly fat and tasty young Ben Nevis. Also a rather smart first fill hoggie that never dominates the spirit. 

SGP: 461 - 87 points. 

 

 

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1999/2020 (52.7%, Nanyang Whisky, cask #255, hogshead, 139 bottles)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1999/2020 (52.7%, Nanyang Whisky, cask #255, hogshead, 139 bottles)
Nanyang whisky being a small indy outfit started by some whisky friends in Singapore. Colour: gold. Nose: a big mix of tree saps, flower nectars, heather honey and more delicate things like myrtle, lemongrass and, in time, a growing waxiness. A sort of halfway house between the 1996s and later vintages. I have to say, given time, this quickly evolves into a wax and honey tango that's extremely impressive. With water: getting wonderfully, yet subtly coastal now, with sandalwood and beach pebbles, a little chalk too, some lemon rind and yet more wonderful waxy notes. Mouth: lovely peppery attack, slight herbal and green bitterness, these nice delicate sappy notes once again, and then a really pure waxiness that very vividly recalls similar vintages of Clynelish. One for Serge's Axis of Wax, or Waxis of Minerality - whatever that emerging categorisation is called? There's also some lovely yellow and green fruits in the mix, syrupy fruit salad juices and the like. With water: again a little saltier and a little more coastal, which is just perfect as it brings a dimension of added freshness while still keeping these waxes and fruits in play. Finish: long, perfectly waxy, lemon, on fruit teas and even a few exotic touches too. Comments: hard to ask for more from a Ben Nevis of this pedigree. 
SGP: 562 - 90 points. 

 

 

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1998/2022 (54.1%, Nanyang Whisky, cask #662, hogshead, 207 bottles)

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1998/2022 (54.1%, Nanyang Whisky, cask #662, hogshead, 207 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: ha! Much leaner and more mineral than the 99, on olive and mineral oils, sandalwood, crystallised honey, camphor and putty. This one goes more generally towards Ben Nevis' fatter and greasier side, which I'm not at all against. With water: brighter, more citric and again much more coastal, going towards some beautiful, bone-dry Manzanilla. Add to that some dried banana chips, ointments and dried herbs. Mouth: indeed, very mineral, nicely sharp, on lemon peel, putty, herbal teas, a much more brittle waxiness, stones, roast vegetables, soot, ink and camphor. A powerful and charismatic mature distillate profile, it just perhaps lacks some of the overt fruity glory of the 99. With water: big, bold, dry, peppery and superbly waxy whisky. Really a powerful and very 'old highlands' style that would probably be completely stunning with a couple of extra decades in glass! Finish: long, salty, peppery, bone dry and with a superbly powerful dry waxy note. Comments: excellent and perhaps even more singular and emphatic in character than the 99 in some ways, it's just that the 99 had such a devastatingly luscious quality about it that it makes this ones austerity a little exposed by comparison. But… but, as I said, 20 years in glass… 

SGP: 362 - 88 points. 

 

 

1996, you have the floor…

 

 

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1996/2022 (45.9%, The Good Spirits, cask #1377, hogshead, 190 bottles)

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1996/2022 (45.9%, The Good Spirits, cask #1377, hogshead, 190 bottles)
The Good Spirits are an excellent whisky shop in Hong Kong. Colour: bright straw. Nose: oh dear, a frankly gorgeous mix of ripe and also dried exotic fruits, white pepper, tiny coastal inflections, these typical waxy notes, overripe banana, wee camphory notes. Pitch perfect 1996 Ben Nevis in other words. And I would say this naturally easy ABV just makes it all the more approachable. Mouth: an immediately stunning fruitiness, that just seems to explode in the mouth. Backed up by a nervous, vibrant and perfect saltiness that keeps everything super tight and fresh. Not a single suggestion of tiredness at all, completely the opposite in fact. Dried mango, pollens, salted honey, all the usual suspects in other words! Finish: long, leathery and involving impressions of bone-dry Fino, green walnuts, waxed hessian, camphor and aged mead! A stunningly salty aftertaste as well. Comments: I'm going out on a limb and guessing that they have precisely zero bottles of this one left on the shelf. Just as well, because it is terrible! Me say definitely avoid! 
SGP: 462 - 91 points.

 

 

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

Ben Nevis 1996/2019 (49.7%, S Spirit Shop Selection, Taiwan, hogshead, cask #1435)
Colour: straw. Nose: soft waxes, yellow and green fruits, dried banana chips (which I seem to find quite often in these casks), dusty pollens and a lovely impression of high quality, peppery olive oil. Beautiful but it has a delicate quality about it which makes the whole feel a bit more subtle that the more overt and up front style of the Good Spirits bottling, for example. Mouth: easy, waxy and delicately sweet arrival that quickly ushers in these terrific peppery and salty notes, again going towards bon dry Fino and Manzanilla vibes, mustard powder, green peppercorns in brine and umami paste. There's also a slightly funky cider note arising too, with chalky notes, lemon rinds and that ever-present Ben Nevis waxiness. Finish: long, salty, mustardy, waxy and on that lovely grassy and peppery olive oil vibe once again. Comments: Another terrific 1996 Ben Nevis that speaks intermittently with an Irish and Spanish accent. Perhaps also by way of the old Banff distillery with these mustardy impressions?

SGP: 561 - 90 points. 

 

 

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1996/2016 (51.8%, OB, Private Cask, cask #1424)

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1996/2016 (51.8%, OB, Private Cask, cask #1424)
This one carries a bit of a reputation already, probably no thanks to a certain Mr S V of Chateau WF, Turckheim… Colour: bright straw. Nose: this one is strikingly more medicinal up front, with the same familiar waxy power behind that, then crushed nettles and flints that recall Loire sauvignon, chalk, aspirin, petrol and artichokes in olive oil. There seems to be a level of distillate power here that's above and beyond indeed. Also white flowers, citrons and vase water that sit alongside these more industrial and mechanical characteristics, which only serves to elevate the overall feeling of complexity. With water: aniseed, verbena and overall a more medicinal and herbal side dominating now. Extremely mineral, pure and a sense of perfectly rounded distillate and totally silent, almost submissive wood (as it should be!). Mouth: pow! Stunningly, powerfully waxy, extremely mineral, salty, tense, pure and petrolic. On seawater, gherkins, waxed hessian, rapeseed oil, tiny background tarry notes, herbal ointments and beach pebbles. I'd also add salt-baked vegetables, green olives and squid ink. Powerful, almost brutalist whisky, but the level of distillate charisma is quite staggering. I'd also add that it feels rather different from many of the other 1996s, which may be down to the younger age, or just one of those mysteries of single cask variations. With water: immensely fat, pretty much clinically obese distillate! That waxiness is back in full force, resurges like the Red Army circa 1943! Finish: wonderfully long and dominated by a stunningly brittle and pure saltiness. Magnifique! Comments: I have to tell you, I agree with Serge on this one. If you love charismatic distillate driven whisky, this one really takes it to another level. 

SGP: 463 - 93 points. 

 

 

Let's have a break after that mini masterpiece. 

 

 

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1978/1993 (55.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #78.8, sherry)

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1978/1993 (55.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #78.8, sherry)
Colour: deep reddish amber. Nose: excellent start, full of plummy dark fruits and generous aromas of date, sultana and quince, but all backed up by a firm, clean earthiness, peppery notes, damson jam, mirabelle eau de vie and further suggestions of plums - plum wine perhaps? Still, really lovely and still giving this impression of nicely fat Ben Nevis distillate at work despite the clear sherry influence. With water: gets more intricate and herbal now, things like earthy black teas, eucalyptus, yellow plum jam and fruity black coffee. Mouth: same feeling of fatness and richness, excellent earthy sherry once again, but with a more distinct gamey and leathery side now, still a lot of dark fruits but now with more spices such as clove and ginger, then also liquorice, marzipan and damp tobacco leaf. Very thick and rather superb I have to say! With water: still treads this nice balance between richly earthy and drying, with many dark fruits and jammy notes to counter that. Very big, very powerful sherried whisky, but manages to keep everything in check, somewhat miraculously. Finish: long, on treacle, dark fruits soaked in Armagnac, fir wood resins, pickled walnuts and the rather spicy end of a cigar. Comments: a beast! But its charms are many and I don't find it too imbalanced at any point. Feels like Ben Nevis is the perfect distillate to grapple with this sort of old school bruiser of a sherry cask. 

SGP: 572 - 91 points. 

 

 

Ben Nevis 30 yo 1975/2006 (63.9%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #7445, 169 bottles)

Ben Nevis 30 yo 1975/2006 (63.9%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #7445, 169 bottles)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: unsurprisingly, a glass of petrol. Noses like 10yo rather than 30yo if you ask me. There's also a ton of putty, mineral oil, plaster, soot and mustard powder; globally an extreme and austere style, but with a glimmer of white fruits and waxes as well. With water: gets fatter, broader, more waxy, more oily, on aniseed, putty, limestone and some extremely grassy rapeseed oil. Mouth: young apple eau de vie, with more waxes, mineral oils, suet, fir wood and very powerful fruit eau de vie impressions. Brutally strong though, so… with water: really doubling down of feelings of fresh fruit distillates, marc de gewurz, tarragon pickled in spirit vinegar, roast parsnips and even things like turpentine and mercurochrome. Hard to untangle such a beast, but it's an undeniably charismatic and fun distillate. Finish: medium, sharper, more salty and still with these impressions of salt-baked vegetables and hyper grassy cooking oils. Comments: not in the same league as the 1996s by any measure I would say, this really recalls the days when we all thought of Ben Nevis as 'funny' or 'at least never boring' - how times have changed. I think these batches were pretty tricky to be honest, but I rather like this fruit distillate theme.

 SGP: 441 - 84 points.

 

 

 

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

 

January 26, 2024


Whiskyfun

A Quartet of Unusual Young Benromach

We're quite fond of Benromach at WF, but take heed, today we're introducing some unconventional styles to our rather concise line-up. One cannot merely sample the classic expressions, but you'll tell me that in Scotland and in the whisky world at large, classic whisky is becoming unusual…

 

 

Benromach 2011/2022 'Contrasts : Triple Distilled' (46%, OB)

Benromach 2011/2022 'Contrasts : Triple Distilled' (46%, OB) Three stars and a half
This Benromach could be from the Lowlands or Ireland, in a manner of speaking. But you might say that even in those two places, triple-distillation itself is becoming rarer. This interesting Benromach has been through the spirit-still twice before being aged in first-fill bourbon casks. We had tasted the 2009/2017 edition, and it was quite good (WF 84). Colour: pale gold. Nose: the chalky aspect of Benromach remains, as does the porridge, virgin wool, fresh bread, damp earth, ink... It's somewhat like a slightly lighter Benromach. Mouth: it's really good, with peat that becomes delicate, lemon and green apple, that vanilla from the cask, a bit of green apple liqueur (a Spanish specialty)... Finish: medium length, more lemony. A bit of green tea, sweet pepper... Light smoke at the end. Comments: we wouldn't call it 'Benromach Light', but the standard 10 and 15 year olds, as well as the last vintage ex-bourbon ones were so stellar that by comparison, let's say this one might be a little more 'optional'.

SGP:452 - 83 points.

Benromach 12 yo 2011/2023 'Contrasts : Bordeaux Finish' (46%, OB)

Benromach 12 yo 2011/2023 'Contrasts : Bordeaux Finish' (46%, OB) Three stars and a half
If they must. This one baby spent its last 5 years in wood in 'Bordeaux wine casks', so it's double maturation instead of finish, although they would write both on the label. I suppose it was red Bordeaux but they wouldn't tell. Many people believe Bx is red, but you can have them in all colours. Sauternes is Bordeaux too. Colour: gold. Nose: all right, it is not about red berries, bell pepper and stuff. We're leaning towards fresh cakes, brioche, cut grass, and also a bit of cooked ham. These ham notes are quite unusual, especially to this extent. Mouth: yes, not bad at all! A bit of strawberry jam this time, as well as green pepper, bay leaves, small salty and smoky touches, bitter oranges, and then a slightly unexpected fino-like side. In short, we're not on raspberry and blackcurrant liqueur, thankfully. Finish: quite long, indeed pleasant and ultimately rather coastal. But Bordeaux is located by the ocean. Comments: nice, just perhaps not something to replace the... classics.

SGP:462 - 83 points.

Benromach 2013/2023 'Vintage Cask Strength Batch 1' (59.7%, OB, bourbon and first fill sherry)

Benromach 2013/2023 'Vintage Cask Strength Batch 1' (59.7%, OB, bourbon and first fill sherry) Three stars and a half
They had already released a 'Cask Strength Batch 01' in 2022, not certain if it's from the same series, all that might be a bit complex (one has to keep up a bit, S.!) Colour: gold. Nose: quite some woodiness initially, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, which gives it a cask-driven aspect that's not necessarily the most marvellous ever. A reversal of values? We shall see… With water: green tea, asparagus, laundry powder, new sweatshirt, lentils and leeks… Mouth (neat): it starts strong and even though there's a lot of wood, the robust distillate balances it all out. There's quite a bit of curry, green pepper, ginger… With water: it works, the water brings the distillate back to centre stage, thankfully. Smoke, yuzu, green apples, lemons, sea water, green pepper… Finish: long, herbaceous, spicy. Ginger and wasabi, that would be good for seasoning sushi – but they say you should never season sushi yourself, don't they. Comments: one really feels like buying a pallet, putting everything back into demijohns with split corks (certainly not in casks), and waiting thirty years… But it seems we are making good progress, nonetheless.
SGP:473 - 84 points.

Benromach 2013/2023 (59.9%, OB for Whisky Club Nantais, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #498, 216 bottles)

Benromach 2013/2023 (59.9%, OB for Whisky Club Nantais, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #498, 216 bottles) Five stars
Done for a great whisky club in Nantes, a Breton town of note (yes, indeed). We've already sampled some excellent malts selected by the Whisky Club Nantais. Be warned, given the pedigree here, this can be a swift experience... Colour: white wine. Nose: there we have it, deeply into clay, damp chalk, sourdough bread, raw wool, slate, beach bonfire, even oyster shells... With water: it's the raw wool that wins the battle. There are even wafts of Woolite and this laundry detergent aspect is incredible. Mouth (neat): lemon, chalk, peat, sea water and oysters, fattier vanilla, aniseed mint, black pepper… Not much to add, it's a surgical Benromach, just as we like them. With water: yes, of course, obviously. A touch of lemon meringue pie adds a bit of roundness, but with some menthol. Finish: long and crystalline. We're at the heart of the reactor. The aftertaste is a little bitter, with a very small hint of Brussels sprouts or chicory. Or dandelion. salad Or something... Breton. Comments: jokes aside, this is pure Benromach. It can be said that it has crushed the competition today. Mind you, it's better without water, but they've bottled it at 60% ABV. A cruel dilemma to consider here.

SGP:463 - 90 points.

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

 

January 25, 2024


Whiskyfun

A little trio
of Tullibardine

We do enjoy tasting Tullibardine. And ras el hanout.

Ras

Tullibardine 18 yo 2005/2023 (43%, OB, bourbon and sherry)

Tullibardine 18 yo 2005/2023 (43%, OB, bourbon and sherry) Three stars
I'm afraid I've never tasted an official 18-year-old Tullibardine. This baby, already of a good age, has aged in bourbon and sherry casks, and it seems no improbable finishing has been imposed on it. Colour: golden. Nose: it's quite special and that's precisely what we like about Tullibardine. For example, this wet chalk mixed with notes of rennet, soluble aspirin, linseed oil, soda (just a little), then vanilla and coconut milk, probably from the bourbon casks. A little bit of butter too. Unusual nose, very nice. Mouth: starts with coffee, resins, and herbs, more orange peel. It then becomes more and more herbaceous, marked by pine needles, bay leaf, green pepper, then green walnut and ginger. Bitter oranges and a lasting fermentative side. Finish: there's a very dry Madeira side, I find. Quite long, with the green nuts very present as a signature. Comments: a very distinctive malt, quite austere, whose differences I quite like. But it might not be for the neighbours. I mean, you see what I mean.

SGP:361 - 82 points.

Tullibardine 9 yo 2013/2023 (46%, Murray McDavid, Benchmark, 1st-fill Koval four-grain finish, 1220 bottles)

Tullibardine 9 yo 2013/2023 (46%, Murray McDavid, Benchmark, 1st-fill Koval four-grain finish, 1220 bottles) Three stars
There are quite a few old casks from Koval used in the Scottish business to give a kick to some scotch whiskies. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's rather the slightly metallic and mustardy side that stands out first, then damp earth, again wet chalk, bay leaf, some vegetables (aubergines), and ginger, sweet pepper, and nutmeg. It's probably not immensely different from the 18-year-old official on the nose. Mouth: same comment, but there are more wood spices, cumin, ginseng, toasted wood, a bit of bitter orange marmalade, pepper... Finish: long, spicy, herbaceous. Ras el hanout, green curry, green pepper… Vanilla and peppermint in the final finale. Comments: not the easiest malt, but like the official, it offers particular and very interesting rough edges.
SGP:361 - 80 points.

Tullibardine 8 yo 2015/2023 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage, 100 Proof, 1st fill oloroso butt)

Tullibardine 8 yo 2015/2023 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage, 100 Proof, 1st fill oloroso butt) Four stars
A December release and an amusing series at '100 proof', so the old way. On old releases, '100 proof' could mean 56.9% as well as 57% or 57.1% as here, but we tend to believe Signatory. Of course, these are British proofs, not US. As you know, in the US, 100 proof is 50% vol., not +/-57. But enough chatter… Colour: dark gold. Nose: yes indeed, the 1st fill sherry magician wins, with nut cake, roasted pistachios and then a bit of whey and a pleasantly 'chemical' side. But that's the distillate, rather on, let's say new rubber boots (size 45 and up). With water: we go onto ferns and mosses, with a little gunpowder and that metallic side. It's like being on a big game hunt in a Scottish forest. Mouth (neat): honey, pepper, rubber, and mustard, how amusing! And at 100 proof, it really sweeps clean. With water: here comes the pine sap again, mosses, bitter oranges, and new rubber touches. Also some fresh nuts from the sherry and maybe one little sultana, no more. Finish: long, with forest-like flavours, let's say. Mustard and honey come back at the very end. Comments: a nice little herbaceous creature, perhaps for your flask when you go hunting (for deer or troubles). PS: we do not hunt.

SGP:361 - 85 points.

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

 

Wgiskyfun 101

  Ras el hanout
Ras el hanout is a blend of spices from North Africa, particularly associated with Moroccan cuisine. The name translates to 'head of the spice store' in Arabic, implying that it's made of the best spices available. The composition of ras el hanout can vary significantly, often containing over a dozen spices such as coriander, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon or nutmeg. Some friends in Morocco call it 'the best spice mix for the worst cooks', meaning that you cannot mess up any recipe when using ras el hanout. In spirits, finding ras el hanout is pretty common when some young whiskies, for example, have been matured for a short time or finished in very active, often new-oak casks or STR (mainly European oak)..
 

January 24, 2024


Whiskyfun

A second short trip to Ireland in January

On a return visit to Ireland this January, we pick up where we left off a few days ago, not quite in Northern Ireland, but close – we're off to Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland, just a few kilometres from the border...

(Wonderful map of Ireland's whiskey distilleries available at etsy.com, without our crappy green dots of course. Those are the distilleries we'll taste today).

Ireland

 

 

Great Northern 5 yo (58.2%, Whisky AGE, Ireland, batch #WA02, 866 bottles, 2023)

Great Northern 5 yo (58.2%, Whisky AGE, Ireland, batch #WA02, 866 bottles, 2023) Four stars
So we're at John Teeling's Great Northern Distillery, in Dundalk, a former brewery. This is a single malt, not a pure pot still Irish. They make both double and triple distilled malt whiskies, not too sure about this very one. We've tried one by Whisky AGE before, it was impressive (WF 87). Colour: white wine. Nose: It's quite amusing, it's akin to a fresh vegetable juice featuring cucumber, celery, and carrots, all laced with notes of honey and vanilla. In the background, there's a hint of baker's yeast and croissant dough. The aroma of fresh carrots becomes more pronounced over time, now joined by a dash of coconut milk. With water: the whiffs of bread dough and brioche dough take over, almost transporting one to a traditional five o'clock tea. Mouth (neat): the almost comedic aspect of the nose continues, with these fresh vegetables tinged with coconut, banana, and vanilla, plus a bit of pine resin. It's reminiscent of a craft cachaça. Please note that all these observations are made in a very positive light! With water: it's those refreshingly cool notes that remain. Wood has undoubtedly played a significant part but has managed to blend into the background seamlessly. Finish: medium, softer, more honey-like. A trace of fir bud liqueur. Comments: this is an original style, definitely Irish, truly refreshing but never, let's say, 'lacklustre'. You might say that there are fewer and fewer 'lacklustre' Irish whiskies these days, except for certain blends. Well, alright then...

SGP:651 - 86 points.

Right, we'll avoid any form of order, agreed?

Burke's Fine Old Irish Whiskey 'Three Star' (45%, OB, +/-1930s)

Burke's Fine Old Irish Whiskey 'Three Star' (45%, OB, +/-1930s) Five stars
The addition of an ABV mention and of the content to the label may suggest this is possibly not one of the earliest expressions of Burke's Three Star. Interestingly, the Great Northern Distillery released a modern 'Burke's Three Star' pretty recently, it seems that they're owning the old brand name. This old one is most probably a blend, done by Edward John Burke in the brand's hometown of Dublin. Love the back label by the way, which stipulates, in true early 20th century fashion, that a professor of chemistry and hygiene at the Royal College of Surgeons of Dublin examined the whiskey and considered that it was 'a very pure article' and 'a first class whiskey'. Apparently, there was also a Burke's Distillery in Galway, but that one was closed around the middle of the 19th century. Colour: straw. Nose: wonderful OBE, towards medicinal notes, old ointments, oils, old humidor, old herbal liqueurs… You could really believe it's an old bottle of Chartreuse Jaune. An no signs of exhaustion. Moving towards crème de menthe, with touches of bouillon and even lamb, and even goulash. Mouth: the taste is 'old', the power is not. Some superb soft liquorice, salty bouillons, more mint, cough syrup and lozenges, some mango chutney (yes), a faint feeling of garlic and aniseed – works well, then more citrus, ointments, forgotten medicines, mead… All this is extremely impressive, absolutely not tired, and probably an ode to further maturation (if not aging) in glass. Absolutely no signs of 'taste of glass' or 'taste of light', no cardboard, no dusty matters… (or dusty ideas for that matter). Finish: not even short, not even tired. Comments: there might have been some peat in the beginning, some very old bottles of Laphroaig, for example, have been somewhat similar in that respect. Superb, flawless bottle.

SGP:471 - 92 points.

Alright, let's not try to compete with this sublime Burke's; instead, we'll look to establish another form of connection… Perhaps Dublin?

The Dubliner 'Rascals Irish Coffee Stout' (40%, OB, Irish, batch 1, +/-2023)

The Dubliner 'Rascals Irish Coffee Stout' (40%, OB, Irish, batch 1, +/-2023) Two stars
As I understand it, this is some young blended Irish whiskey finished in some coffee stout barrels from Rascals Brewing Co. Coffee stout is infused with crushed coffee beans. I have never, in my life, tried coffee stout. Colour: pale gold. Nose: coffee! That's rather nice, it's not that far from the kind of coffee notes that you would find in a few olorosos. Having said that, in my experience your olfactory bulb is soon to filter out notes such as 'coffee', leaving room for some breads and meads, as well as some chocolate. Mouth: good fun, once again, the coffee really feels and it is not, this time, filtered out. A feeling of Kahlua or Tia Maria, then triple-sec, honey liqueur, Drambuie, Glayva, all these sorts of things. … Finish: not too long and a little sweet. Roasted malt, coffee, chocolate and honey. Comments: I'm not sure I'd quaff a whole double-magnum, but it's good fun.

SGP: - 76 points.

Let's get back to serious matters…

Fercullen 'Falls' (43%, OB, Irish blend, ex-bourbon, +/-2023)

Fercullen 'Falls' (43%, OB, Irish blend, ex-bourbon, +/-2023) Three stars
Powerscourt's first blend of malt and grain. I believe the grain too is produced at Powerscourt, but not too sure. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: pear, pineapple, apple, jellybeans, liquorice allsorts, easy sauvignon, pink grapefruit. Mouth: sweet, on bonbons and fruit drops. More jelly babies and beans and crocodile and even little sugar Jesuses, a thing we have in Alsace. Finish: medium, really very sweet. Syrups and liqueurs. Comments: faultless. Add ice cubes and presto, bottle is down. Oh I know this is not very PC, but it is not a sipper anyway.

SGP:730 - 80 points.

Teeling 19 yo (56%, OB for Dutch Whisky Connection, Michiel Wigman, They Inspired III, white wine, cask #17208, 2023)

Teeling 19 yo (56%, OB for Dutch Whisky Connection, Michiel Wigman, They Inspired III, white wine, cask #17208, 2023) Four stars
The back label is more worth it than the front label, as it's featuring our friend Jon Beach, of Fiddler's Drumnadrochit fame, Speyburn collector extraordinaire. This baby was finished in a white wine cask – or was it full maturation? After all, all sherries are white wines. Colour: gold. Nose: this is why Cooley and Bushmills can sometimes be challenging to tell apart. Pink bananas, passion fruit, acacia honey, fresh mangos, oranges, granny smith apples, honeysuckle, dandelion flowers, with a hint of fresh pineapple... With water: the same, just a tad more herbaceous. It's like a stroll through a fruit market. Mouth: quite good, but I'm not entirely convinced that the white wine cask has contributed anything beyond a somewhat chalky and herbaceous edge. Sediments, grape clusters, leaves... That said, the fruitiness is very much there, with plenty of grapefruit, green apples, green bananas... However, the wine and particularly the wood it was in seem to have introduced an additional tension. With water: the water rounds it off nicely, bringing out the honey and the well-ripened exotic fruits, like guava. What a remarkable fruit, guava. Finish: medium length, with more pronounced honeyed notes, pine syrup, but also a slightly tannic black tea. Some curious notes of cranberry in the aftertaste. Comments: have I mentioned how magnificent the portrait of Jon Beach by Hans Dillesse, featured on the back label, is?

SGP:661 - 87 points.

Let's find an older one...

Teeling 28 yo (46.6%, OB, The Irish Whiskey Collection, Dublin airport exclusive, sherry, cask #6756, 2019)

Teeling 28 yo (46.6%, OB, The Irish Whiskey Collection, Dublin airport exclusive, sherry, cask #6756, 2019) Five stars
Some reputation here. Remember Cooley was sold to Beam in 2012, with an agreement to buy back rather many casks that had been distilled since the start, in 1987 or 1988. The earliest Cooleys I've tried myself were distilled in 1991, and this is probably a 1991 too. Colour: gold. Nose: would I shock anyone if I said this truly resembles an old malt from Bushmills? The exotic fruits are just sublime, one couldn't even begin to compile a complete list. This nose is incredible. If we had to mention just one fruit, it would be mango, of course. The sherry remains utterly discreet, but I'm certain it plays its part. Mouth: a simply splendid fruitiness, with slight woody nuances that bring to mind herbal teas. Well, either we leave it at that, or we could list the flavours, but that would take a good hour. Thanks for your understanding. Finish: medium length but with an astonishingly fruity profile. We must mention the ripe mango once more, plus Provence melon. Some very juicy sultanas in the aftertaste. Comments: let's say that four distilleries could offer this style of fruitiness, two Irish (Bushmills, Cooley) and two Scottish (Littlemill, Lochside). A very personal opinion, naturally.
SGP:741 - 92 points.

Now let's look for a bourbon barrel…

Cooley 21 yo 2001/2022 (54%, The Whisky Blues, cask #3071, bourbon barrel, 193 bottles)

Cooley 21 yo 2001/2022 (54%, The Whisky Blues, cask #3071, bourbon barrel, 193 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: There's an increased complexity, I believe, not just focusing on the earth's most splendid fruits. For instance, it starts with a touch of putty and marzipan, some toasted sesame, a drizzle of barley syrup, and just a smidgen of shoe polish... But of course, what follows is a deluge, and all the fruits come rushing in at once. Banana, papaya, guava, mango, grapefruit... With water: we drift towards herbal teas and pink peppercorns. Mouth (neat): citrus and honey. There's little in the world that can compare, perhaps except for Page and Plant, Trane and Miles, or Tinguely and Nikki de St. Phalle, to be less obvious. It's up to you to find the countless other examples, perhaps closer to your own experience.. With water: does pink grapefruit and some more flavourful watermelon sound good to you? Finish: of medium length but with a purity of fruitiness and honey sweetness that is quite beautiful. Comments: If one were to find a tiny flaw, it would be that it's a little simple, a little too straightforward. But that would be a rather cold remark.

SGP:641 - 90 points.

Let's look for an older bourbon barrel...

Waterford 'Hook Head Edition 1.1' (50%, OB, Irish, 2023)

Waterford 'Hook Head Edition 1.1' (50%, OB, Irish, 2023) Five stars
These blue bottles are splendid, once they're empty, for use as decanters during your blind wine tastings. Provided, of course, that the glasses are blue or black as well. But try finding a quality blue or black decanter, good luck with that! Right, we're here with a single farm, with barley harvested in 2015, so this barley has rested for a long time before being brewed and distilled, which shows that a whisky's vintage doesn't really have much to do with the barley's year of harvest, we're not in Cognac. Colour: straw. Nose: as usual with Waterford – usual, a word that demonstrates how well Waterford has already become part of the landscape – we're on bread, cereals, beer, earth. Moist earth, rainwater, baker's yeast, even pizza dough. Irish pizza, naturally. This time, we remain fully focused on these bakery aromas. With a bit of water: a hint of lemon comes through. That always works. Mouth (neat): we'll keep this short and sweet, limoncello biscuits and panettone. Well, after the pizza, here are some other Italian elements. And I'd swear there's also just a hint of spicy salami, I can't remember what they call it on the other side of the Alps. With water: it's more concentrated, more tense, but it remains a very textured and rather rich spirit. I'd like to rub a bit of new make spirit between my fingers, just to see how it behaves... Finish: long, on fresh bread, amaretti (undeniably) and citrus fruits, this time more on clementines than lemons. Saltier coastal touches right at the end. Comments: it's very relatively restrained, not the most expansive Waterford I've ever tasted, but I like this discreet and confident elegance (what?) rather a lot. And the purity of the whole.

SGP:551 - 90 points.

Waterford 2019/2023 'Micro-Cuvée Good Vibrations' (50%, OB, LMDW, Irish, 2023)

Waterford 2019/2023 'Micro-Cuvée Good Vibrations' (50%, OB, LMDW, Irish, 2023) Four stars and a half
What, the Beach Boys now? A blend of four casks, all distilled in 2019 from various origins (farms, peat, varietal) and all ex-bourbon. In short, a micro-cuvée that's not that 'micro'. Colour: white wine. Nose: peat is like chili, once it's there and even when in infinitesimal proportions, you feel it. Let's say Ardmore-level peat here. That peat makes it frankly medicinal, truly smoky, earthy, with some crushed slate and oyster shells. And bandages dipped into custard (I know). With water: that walk on the beach. Mouth (neat): clean and yet fat, with a creamy mouth feel, citron liqueur, nutmeg, lapsang souchong, cigarette ashes, more citron liqueur, lemon tarte (always ask with meringue)… With water: tiny pinheads of wasabi, horseradish, mustard, pickled lemons… Plus just ashes, lemon and shellfish. Finish: medium, rather pure, with an 'almondy' smoke, some cough medicine, some salty edible seaweed, then something fruitier again, hard to describe. Comments: a rather Brownian bottle. It first went in all directions and found its natural way later on. A tremendous version, possibly slightly disadvantaged by its closeness in the line-up to the purity of the Hook Head we just tasted. In summary, this Waterford is a bit more for the Club Med crowd (loyal customer level).
SGP:654 - 88 points.

Should we move on to Dingle...

Dingle 'Small Batch 4' (46.5%, OB, Irish single pot still, 8,000 bottles, 2020)

Dingle 'Small Batch 4' (46.5%, OB, Irish single pot still, 8,000 bottles, 2020) Three stars and a half
¾ bourbon and ¼ oloroso, these proportions seem sensible to me. And we're behind schedule again. Colour: gold. Nose: fresh butter, banana, this morning's baguette, a tiny bit of wood glue, nutmeg, putty, then orange zest. Everything is very fine at this stage. Mouth: very good, sweet and salty, slightly acidic (white wine from cold and damp regions), with lemon zest and notes of thyme tea. Then a little bit of olive fougasse. Do you know olive fougasse? If not, your life is incomplete (that's right, S.) Finish: rather long, with a more pronounced woodiness. It's always the slightly more complicated part for the very young whiskies which have necessarily used relatively active casks. Comments: very good, this Dingle from... wait, four years ago already? Okay, three years.
SGP:561 - 84 points.

I think it's time for one last one. But we will have another Irish session very soon…

Redbreast 22 yo 2000/2023 (58.3%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, fist fill oloroso sherry, cask #32336, 564 bottles)

Redbreast 22 yo 2000/2023 (58.3%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, fist fill oloroso sherry, cask #32336, 564 bottles) Four stars and a half
I would say it was about time we had a pure pot still from Midleton. The Redbreast brand has truly made an impact on whisky enthusiasts, I notice it almost every day. That's really good given there are so many new distilleries, and high-quality new whiskies in Ireland. Apart from that, I still haven't understood why they switched from the 'pure pot still' to 'single pot still'. It's almost worse than going from 'pure malt', which was quite flattering, or even 'vatted malt' (nobody knew what that meant, but at least it was neutral) to 'blended malt', which frankly sounds a bit canteen-like. But let's not reopen that old debate, let's taste this precious Redbreast... Colour: brown and opaque. Nose: heavily on chocolaty oloroso and full of coffee. Then on Andalusian turron, caramelised pecan, pipe tobacco, old wine cellar, and walnut liqueur. We're practically in Jerez de la Frontera. With water: now we are indeed in Jerez de la Frontera. Incredible chocolates, roasted nuts, damp earth, and slightly acidic coffees. Mouth (neat): do you know chestnut jam? And Armagnac? Really, it's almost a blend, let's say 75% old Ténarèze and 25% very old brandy de Jerez (those with names of governors or admirals of the invincible armada). Behind that, dried grapes of all kinds and a myriad of assorted dried fruits, plus a nice little salty touch to great effect. With water: the raisins take control again, some brandy de Jerez that's a bit too sweet as well. Finish: long, broad, very rich, even closer to the most prestigious brandies de Jerez. Like those decanters that are, oh absolute scandal, worth over 100 euros! A hint of mint liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: there was a Redbreast 'Lustau' that was not bad at all, well this one is pretty good too. But I think one should be able to prove that they've spent at least two weeks in Andalusia before having the right to buy such a bottle. It's a matter of understanding of the product, even education, if you will.
SGP:661 - 88 points.

Well, I believe we've had a lovely Irish stroll today. I also suggest you listen, if you have three minutes, to the charming 'Ballade irlandaise' by Bourvil.

(Thanks Joe H., KC)

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

 

January 23, 2024


Whiskyfun

WF's Little Duos, Strathisla and aperitif

We are very pleased to have the opportunity to taste two Strathislas. Twenty or thirty years ago, the name was among the top guns, partly thanks to the wizards at Gordon & MacPhail, but it's not impossible that some young friends reading these lines today have simply never heard of Strathisla. But actually, everybody knows it well, it's that adorable and very old distillery built in 1786 (!) that you see in so many Scottish tourist brochures. It's true that Strathisla is also one of the base camps of Chivas Regal and Royal Salute… Oh but wait, of course, here's a perfect aperitif...

Chivas

 

 

Chivas Regal 12 yo (43%, OB, blended scotch, cork, USA, New York, 75cl, +/-1955)

Chivas Regal 12 yo (43%, OB, blended scotch, cork, USA, New York, 75cl, +/-1955) Three stars
A legendary bottle with its cork stopper, but these series are also often affected by cork taint which makes them very risky to acquire at auctions or elsewhere. No wonder that in the 1960s, the brand launched the very famous advertisement above, after having changed... the closure of its famous bottles. Anyway, let's see what this gives us here... By the way, the importer was General Wine & Spirits Company, established in the famous Chrysler Building in NYC. Colour: deep gold. Nose: no cork taint for now, but a rather evident and quite perfect OBE, going towards herbal teas and distant smoky notes (a wood fire on the horizon). Some moss, slightly old fruits (a bag of last year's apples, in burlap bags, of course), mushrooms, soot, a bit of mead, then meatier notes with poultry broths and, why not, a pea and bacon soup. I told you, all of this is old-fashioned... I was also about to forget to mention some old raisins kept in an old tin box, as well as old mint leaves in another old tin box. Mouth: still no cork, but a mighty presence, lots of smoke, very nice bitters, still those old fruits, meat extracts, dried grapes... Does this nice bitterness come partly from the cork? I don't think so, it would be detectable on the palate. Finish: surprisingly long, quite dry. Regarding the cork taste, I'm now hesitating just a tiny bit... Especially since the aftertaste is very bitter. Comments: let's not forget that Chivas Regal also made much of the use of its age statement, which also helped to premiumise the brand. Well, I think there was a little bit of cork, other bottles from the same period had been much 'cleaner' (WF 86-88). And some others much worse.

SGP:462 - 80 points.

Now, let's move on to the Strathislas…

Strathisla 17 yo 20029/2020 (52.47%, Hidden Spirits, first fill bourbon barrels, cask #ST220, 201 bottles)

Strathisla 17 yo 2002/2020 (52.47%, Hidden Spirits, first fill bourbon barrels, cask #ST220, 201 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: rather big menthol, tealeaves, banana skins, then putty and lanoline. It then becomes fruitier and more approachable, with apricots and melons, and a profile that somewhat reminds me of Aberlour ex-bourbon. Candy apples, pollen, ripe apples... With water: there it is, we've broken it (I mean that in a good way) with even more fruits coming through. A fresh fruit salad, sweet honey, a bit of fresh mint – what a nice combination. Mouth (neat): really tight, with fresh fruits but also apple skins, bunches of grapes, green tea, gooseberries and rhubarb, then green pepper and a growing bitterness. With water: once again, there it is, the fruitiness takes the lead, with a bit of hops and white peaches. Only a few stems and leaves remain, like tea for example. Finish: medium length, quite balanced between herbs, leaves and orchard fruits. We're not exactly on mango or lychees. The aftertaste is more bitter. Comments: it does require some work, it doesn't give itself away easily. The bitterness comes and goes.

SGP:561 - 84 points.

Here is a much older one…

Strathisla 33 yo 1989/2022 (54.6%, HNWS Taiwan, The Spirits Hunter, hogshead, cask #5943, 165 bottles)

Strathisla 33 yo 1989/2022 (54.6%, HNWS Taiwan, The Spirits Hunter, hogshead, cask #5943, 165 bottles) Five stars
There you have it, the wonderful distillery with its two pagodas on the label. By the way, sorry for only posting small vignettes of the bottles, solely for recognition purposes, we absolutely wouldn't have time to do better. Even though I sometimes regret it (yes, I swear). Colour: dark gold. Nose: there are more fruits than in the Garden of Eden! It's magnificent. Peaches, apricots, melons, hardy buttered pears, fully ripe mirabelles (when they turn from yellow to red), and then all-flower honey from a very good beekeeper. Long live the bees! As you know, we wouldn't have all these fruits without the pollination by bees (and a few other charming little creatures). There's not much more to add. With water: it goes towards herbal teas, chartreuse, a little mugwort, woodruff, honeysuckle… All of which is, of course, admirable. Mouth (neat): it really is a beautiful age, as we've often noted when other famous vintages have reached it. 1965-1967, 1971-1972, 1976-1978… The woodiness is there but it only underlines, gracefully, all these fruits, which are quite simple, but just perfect. Especially the plums of all kinds. A tiny bit of glue, that's charming too. With water: it unfolds effortlessly, on ripe fruits and herbal teas, which must have, I feel it, some medicinal properties. Finish: medium but perfectly fruity. A tiny bit of salt and spices at the very end, but that, that should be the hogshead which undoubtedly still had a few little things to tell us. Comments: very happy to have been able to taste a rather old Strathisla. The previous one was the famous 72-year-old Milton from G&M, Milton being the former name of Strathisla. When will the next one be? (we'll ask Elgin…)
SGP:551 - 91 points.

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

 

January 22, 2024


Whiskyfun

WF's Little Duos, Today young
and older official Oban

If there's one distillery that's been, apart from a few rare old bottlings, exclusively available through its owners, it's certainly Oban, very hard to find through independent bottlers.

At WF we have a soft spot for Oban, which is not just a stop on the way to Ben Nevis on the west coast, far from it. It's a malt with character, carried by its legendary condenser that you can visit by going through the distillery roofs (well, if I remember correctly). Consequently, today we will be tasting two recent official versions.

Oban Distillery in 2005. Sadly no old bottles to be found at the Clearing Shop (WF Archive)


 

 

Oban 11 yo 'The Soul of Calypso' (59.7%, OB, Special Release 2023, Caribbean Pot Still Rum Finish)

Oban 11 yo 'The Soul of Calypso' (59.7%, OB, Special Release 2023, Caribbean Pot Still Rum Finish) Four stars
Well, it seems we shouldn't expect too much of malt whiskies in their natural state anymore; finishes are really becoming common everywhere, even in more or less prestigious ranges, which seems a bit contradictory. In our simple minds, finishes are the cheap versions of malt whiskies, done exclusively for clumsy newcomers (exaggerating a wee bit, once more). Colour: white wine. Nose: a form of sweetness is felt, orange syrup, guava, but not really high-ester rum, at least not notes that could be clearly attributed to any Jamaican pot still, for example, rather than the saline and slightly mustardy character of Oban. Let's see what water will do: not much further development, other than a curiously 'Talisker' side, smoky, with damp earth and polish. Much less exotic fruit than I expected, in the end. Mouth (neat): very powerful, very salty, always with mustard, black olive... With water: more sweetness, around a cough syrup to which honey, Italian bitter, and oranges have been added. I don't find it particularly tropical. Finish: long, earthy and rooty, this time with indeed exotic touches. Mustard returns in the aftertaste, with pepper, nutmeg and a bit of paraffin. Comments: I'm not too sure, actually, in the long term (let's say twenty minutes) the rum notes do come and go. But it remains Oban and I really like Oban.

SGP:562 - 85 points.

Oban 26 yo 1996/2022 (55.2%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill European oak butt, 428 bottles, 2023)

Oban 26 yo 1996/2022 (55.2%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill European oak butt, 428 bottles, 2023) Four stars and a half
It's becoming an unfathomable joy to discover a version totally ex-refill and without any finishing, so a distillate that stood on its two feet and didn't need a crutch (OK I'm exaggerating a bit again, intentionally). It seems that this is their very last Oban of this vintage. Colour: golden. Nose: damp chalk, mustard, seawater, bandages, iodine tincture, polish and various balms. Nothing to complain about, it's quite perfect and it's the style we like. With water: brine, seawater, horseradish, walnut husk, virgin wool, it's unmistakably Oban. Mouth (neat): superb salinity, lime, green pepper, a small mezcaly side, and tight green spices. Artichoke, eggplants, green pepper... A bit of rock candy too. With water: more roundness but with moderation. Bitter oranges, ashes, walnut liqueur, demerara sugar... Finish: very Oban, with mustard, green nuts, shellfish and cigar ashes. Salted orange marmalade in the finale. Comments: it's really excellent. They say this last bottling comes from three butts, but 428 bottles aren't much in that case. Unless a lot of evaporation has occurred, you never know.

SGP:562 - 89 points.

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

 

January 21, 2024


Whiskyfun

There are more and more rums

Today we'll visit Mauritius, Paraguay, South Africa, Guadeloupe, Trinidad, Cuba, and Jamaica. Let's start with two high-quality apéritifs...

(A truly bizarre American poster for Caribair, 1960. Who would want to fly to Guadeloupe only to find themselves... right in the middle of the Beaujolais Country? And drink Morgon instead of rhum?)

 

 

New Grove 10 yo 'Old Tradition' (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2022)

New Grove 10 yo 'Old Tradition' (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2022) Three stars
We had tasted the 5-year-old last year, and it was quite good (WF 81). In general, the rums from Mauritius are improving, in my opinion. I remember, ten years ago, there were still some that were monstrously sweeter than pure sugar. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: nice, round, soft, with hints of cane honey and candied oranges, plus a pretty floral side (ylang-ylang). Not much to add, but it's quite nice indeed. Mouth: no sugar on our path, rather sweet liquorice, sugar cane, 100% natural vanilla... alas, it then dips, probably due to a light texture and an alcohol content cut to the strict minimum. The vanilla remains... Finish: short and slightly caramelised. A bit of roasted pineapple and a bit of tar in the finale, that's good. Comments: same score as the 5 for me. The 5 was fresher and, above all, fruitier, I believe. Pity about the 40% ABV, it feels a bit light.

SGP:641 - 81 points.

Fortin 'Epopeya' (40%, OB, Paraguay, +/-2022)

Fortin 'Epopeya' (40%, OB, Paraguay, +/-2022)
There really aren't many rums from Paraguay. It must be said that Fortin 'Heroica' left us somewhat cold in 2022 (WF 75). And are they looking for their cuvée names in the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue? That said, it's interesting, in Europe this baby is a 'Premium Spirit of Paraguay' and not a rum per se. Colour: gold. Nose: it's in the style of the dreadful Don Papa, stuffed with aromas of vanilla, orange, and pineapple that you would never find in nature. In short, it's a liqueur. Shame, I would love to discover a really good rum from Paraguay. Mouth: it's not unlike a slightly stale Cointreau, or like cocktails for tourists made with loads of blue curaçao. It's nothing like rum. That said, it's kind of drinkable. Finish: average, with an amaretto side and a lot of not-too-expensive orange liqueur. Comments: I can't quite see the saga (epopeya, right) that might be in this drink, let's say it's certainly not a complete scam and on ice, it's okay.
SGP:830 - 65 points.

Okay, let's stop fooling around…

Mhoba 'Indlovu' (58.5%, OB, South Africa, LMDW New Vibration, bourbon and brandy casks, 2023)

Mhoba 'Indlovu' (58.5%, OB, South Africa, LMDW New Vibration, bourbon and brandy casks, 2023) Four stars
Finished in brandy, but let's see, rumdy - or brandum -  can still be good. And let's admit it, we have already tasted great Mhobas; it's one of the recent distilleries that has truly managed to attract attention. To be honest, LMDW does a superb job with these kinds of somewhat exclusive, trendy, somewhat 'world' distilleries… Colour: amber/deep gold. Nose: forget about the 'brandy', this is a blend of diesel oil, tar liqueur, balsamic vinegar, black tapenade (crushed olives) and windshield cleaning liquid. Yep. With water: new magazines, ink, carbon dust, brake pad, acetone… Mouth (neat): huge, Jamaican, with tons of olives, hectolitres of cellulosic varnish and kilos of liquorice. Brandy, they say, ha-ha-ha. Wait, then there's honey. With water: citrus coming out? Spearmint and grapefruit, coated with heather honey. Finish: long, salty, varnishy. Still no actual 'brandy' in sight. Comments: we've only tried a handful of Mhobas but they've all been superb, brandy or not. Stupid joke, I know, brandies have the right to exist.
SGP:463 - 87 points.

Bielle 20 yo 2002/2022 (49.4%, Rasta Morris, Marie-Galante, cask #RM029, 57 bottles)

Bielle 20 yo 2002/2022 (49.4%, Rasta Morris, Marie-Galante, cask #RM029, 57 bottles) Five stars
There's a saying that goes like 'low outturn, greater burn'. Of course not, but Bielle is really getting precious. Colour: deep gold. Nose: new sneakers, new stereo, new iPhone, sauna oils, Barbour grease, stewed white asparagus, linoleum and car batteries. Then kumquats. Mouth: top five, evidently. Sublime liquorice, in fact this is almost liquorice eau-de-vie. I'm sure you could do that and as a matter of fact, I shall try to make some later in the year, when we distill with friends, in November. Watch these pages…  Finish: long, salty, sublimely liquoricy. Ideas of glue and plastics in the aftertaste. Comments: holy Suzy, what a juice. We're probably far from your usual 'great agricole', and indeed you have to appreciate liquorice. But then…  What a crazy Bielle. Touch of toffee too in the aftertaste. Where are we?
SGP:373 - 92 points.

Angostura Distillery (43%, The Firkin Whisky Company, Trinidad & Tobago, cask #SCR1, 346 bottles, 2023)

Angostura Distillery (43%, The Firkin Whisky Company, Trinidad & Tobago, cask #SCR1, 346 bottles, 2023) Four stars
Wait wait wait, let's see if I'm getting this right. This is some TDL, aged or finished in some Speyside Malt Whisky cask. What's more, as an adman, I just adore these lines such as 'Rare & Downright Drinkable' or 'Every Drop – A Drop of Comfort'. We're back in 1930, pure genius. Colour: deep gold. Nose: boy this works, after a Mhoba at 58% and a Bielle at almost 50%. Some smoky tones, old stump, mushrooms, damson tarte, roasted peanuts and pecans, blackest turron, burnt muffins, ashes in the fireplace, a little thyme tea… Love it. All that at 43% and without any age statement, aren't we going soft? Mouth: and it would continue. Great TDL, but wondering about that Speyside impact. These apples, perhaps?  Finish: medium, saltier, tarry, with a little carbon, juniper, oranges, elderberry syrup. Add Champagne and Perrier, and presto, a proper spritz. Only the signature part is a little weaker, and reminds us that this was bottled at, wait, is this possible, 43% vol.? Comments: much fun. I had thought we were going for some 77-point-rum.

SGP:462 - 87 points.

Caribbean Rum 1993/2023 'Siglo 1' (60.5%, DH Global Spirits, Cuba, solera system, cask #5, 295 bottles)

Caribbean Rum 1993/2023 'Siglo 1' (60.5%, DH Global Spirits, Cuba, solera system, cask #5, 295 bottles) Four stars
I'm not quite sure what 'solera system' means in the context of a rum with a specific vintage and cask number. Theoretically, this should mean that it's a solera started in 1993, with a single cask here, from which old rum would have been gradually removed and replaced with new spirit, to result thirty years later in a 'perpetual' blend in which the oldest of the vintages used would be 1993. But all this is quite mysterious; in any case, it should not be a Jerez-type system with several criaderas, sometimes well over ten, where 'solera' is actually just the name of the last cask level, the one closest to the ground, so the one that contains the oldest blend 'on average'. Yes, it's complicated but in any case, all 'solera' systems involve 'fractional blending', and both age statements and vintages should be taken with a pinch of salt. So to speak. Colour: dark amber. Nose: it's pretty, caramelised and toasted, with roasted hazelnuts, praline, vanilla, cappuccino, liquorice, and a bit of tobacco. Cuban, naturally. The very high degree of alcohol is not really felt. With water: more tension, fresh cane, hay, bagasse... Mouth (without water): it's a rather deep Cuban and one that's a bit phenolic, which reminds me a little bit of the famous Santiagos that I'm rather fond of. But this one burns a bit, due to the high alcohol. With water: ah, very nice now, with anise, fennel, a bit of parsley, green apple, even a bit of chartreuse. It reminds me a bit of certain old bottles of Havana Club this time, which were said, perhaps wrongly, to contain a good proportion of young aguardiente (ex-pot still and not column). Finish: medium length, with liquorice and even a light 'high ester' side. The aftertaste is more herbaceous. Comments: quite an intriguing Cuban, firmer than most of its compatriots. I really like it a lot.
SGP:451 - 86 points.

Jamaica 2008/2023 (58.9%, The Colours of Rum, premium blend, No.1, 233 bottles)

Jamaica 2008/2023 (58.9%, The Colours of Rum, premium blend, No.1, 233 bottles) Four stars and a half
I note that a small number of quality independents seem to be tempted to create premium blends rather than just buying and reselling ready-made casks. I find this more interesting than doing express finishings in improbable casks, if you want my opinion. In any case, this Jamaican blend contains Long Pond, Monymusk, New Yarmouth, and Worthy Park, so we should be in the realm of esters... Colour: gold. Nose: I'm not expert enough to immediately detect the different distilleries, especially since they all have their own diverse marques, so let's just say it's totally Jamaican and should contain, very roughly, around 300 grams of esters per litre of pure alcohol. I think I'm taking risks by saying so, hum hum. There are olives, carbon, concrete dust, seawater, pickle juice, nail polish, wood glue, lime... Well, you see. With water: Ikea plywood, formica and much more wood glue. Also bursts of new inner tube. Mouth (without water): glue, varnish, overripe banana, overripe mango too, and brine. And quite a bit of ethanol. With water: softer, fruitier, but salted liquorice takes over. Finish: long, with a return of the glue, varnish, brine, and new rubber. Like chewing on rubber bands at school, for lack of gum (streng forbidden!). The aftertaste is really salty. Comments: one could attempt to make a Jamaican caipirinha out of this one; apparently, with rum it's called a caipirissima. Good Lord, I don't know anything about all this!
SGP:563 - 89 points.

Last one, a Hampden. When it's Hampden, it ought to be the last one anyway.

Hampden 3 yo 2020/2023 'HLCF' (63.5%, Whisky Live Paris 2023, ex-Lustau, cask #330)

Hampden 3 yo 2020/2023 'HLCF' (63.5%, Whisky Live Paris 2023, ex-Lustau, cask #330) Five stars
It was about time we tasted this baby. Between 400 and 600 grams esters per LPA and a full (yet short) maturation in some oloroso sherry cask from Lustau. Let's see whether this is Ali vs. Foreman (a.k.a. The Rumble in the Jungle) or a gentle tango. We have our little idea… Colour: gold with bronze highlights. The sherry? Nose: we adore Lustau (including their three unfiltered Finos, El Puerto, Jerez, and Sanlucar!) but sorry, Hampden keeps full control for now. Carbon dust, ink, old papers, olives, capers, varnishes, and glues, half-burnt pine wood in the fireplace, seawater... With water: if we really sensed the sherry, it would then be fino, indeed, with its touches of mustard, seawater, and green walnut. But it is oloroso. Mouth (neat): an uppercut to the chin. UHU glue, concentrated liquorice, ashes, tar, lime juice... As they say, it pulses. With water: a slightly sweeter brine, the same for the liquorice, bananas gone dark brown, some organic materials almost gone ammoniacal but not excessively so... Finish: long, salty, very Hampden. Comments: age has never been of much importance with Hampden, in my humble opinion, it's always primarily a matter of distillate. By the way, I forgot to tell you, moreover, the 'HLCF' marque is my favourite at Hampden, followed by 'LROK'. And yes, we also adore Lustau, I think we're even going to open a little Papirusa tonight.

SGP:563 - 90 points.

Well, there is still something that goes well after a Hampden, it's of course another Hampden. And what if it had also been up close with an oloroso sherry cask?

Hampden Estate 'Pagos' (52%, OB for LMDW and Velier, Jamaica, sherry, 2023)

Hampden Estate 'Pagos' (52%, OB for LMDW and Velier, Jamaica, sherry, 2023) Four stars and a half
We had loved 2022's edition, this is the newest version, fully aged at the distillery in proper oloroso butts from Bodegas Fundador. Now for how long, we don't quite know, but they would no doubt have indicated the age if it had been for a long period. Colour: deep gold. Nose: I'm not saying that this time there wasn't a real exchange between the rum and the sherry, but nothing would suggest any sort of dissonance was generated. Chestnuts roasted over a diesel fire, I'd say, coal tar, amaro (Montenegro), Barbour grease, new tyres, slightly rancid old walnuts (which I love), cigars, and orange too, lots of roasted almonds... With water: a few rusted nails in an old tin box, engine oil, jute bags of walnuts, and a little bit of 'old wine'. Mouth (neat): actually it's quite extreme, I don't know which Hampden marks they used but the whole thing is extremely powerful in taste. A lot of shoe polish, a bit of plastic material, old metal objects (silverware), pipe tobacco, more walnuts, grape seed oil, very strong honey, mead... In fact, it's not very classic. With water: not many changes. Liquorice, old nuts, a bit of rubber, a touch of mustard, anchovies. Finish: long and salty. Perhaps the oloroso itself was salty. Maybe two or three very, very dry raisins as a signature. Comments: it's perhaps a little more sensible than the 2022 edition, but in any case it is excellent, as expected.
SGP:563 - 88 points.

See you next week, unless we rather have cognac or armagnac. Or gin. Not gin.

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

 

January 20, 2024


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

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


A pair of Pulteney

We are fans of Pulteney here at Whiskyfun, it's a distillate that usually manages to show a decent amount of character and often has something rather evocative about it that makes you think of things like… the north eastern highlands! I know that I know what I mean.
Angus  

 

 

 

 

 

Pulteney 23 yo 1998/2022 (56.6%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseur's Choice', UK exclusive, cask #17603801, refill bourbon barrel, 243 bottles)

Pulteney 23 yo 1998/2022 (56.6%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseur's Choice', UK exclusive, cask #17603801, refill bourbon barrel, 243 bottles)
At what number of digits does a cask number cease to be romantic and start to resemble a phone number? Personally speaking, once you hit five figure cask numbers, they start to become a little self-defeating in my view. Colour: straw. Nose: fresh things, like wet bracken, grasses, chalky beach pebbles and mossy bark. A feeling of petrichor, that lovely aroma of forests after rain, and then a rising waxiness which suggests a weighty distillate. Some lovely impressions of putty and various cooking oils. With water: canvass, aspirin, beach pebbles and more mineral vibes. It also retains this nice freshness and sense of greenery. Mouth: rather tense, peppery and nicely sharp upon arrival. I like this feeling of tautness with brittle mineral qualities, a rather impressive saltiness and general feelings of dried flowers, herbal teas and bouillon stock. Looked at in a certain light you might be tempted to think more of its neighbour Clynelish than Pulteney. Excellent bitter citrus notes, like pithy citrus rinds, and still some waxes and a little crystallised honey. With water: excellent! Very textural, mouth-coating and pepper with more bitter citrus notes, waxes and minerals. Finish: good length, still quite salty, peppery and drying. Comments: a rather rugged, unfussy, distillate-driven highland dram. Very much of our preferred style here at WF.
SGP: 462 - 87 points.

 

 

Pulteney 13 yo 1967/1980 (46%, Cadenhead 'dumpy')

Pulteney 13 yo 1967/1980 (46%, Cadenhead 'dumpy')
Are we expecting shoe polish and the contents of an old toolbox? Yes, yes we are. Colour: gold. Nose: it's a sherried one! But one of those old school sherry profiles that's all about coins, soot, waxes, wee briny and salty notes and big wafts of hessian, salted walnuts and bodega funk. I also find a nicely leathery edge and more background notes of marjoram and sandalwood. Mouth: what's funny is that I find it similarly peppery to the 1998, only this is globally much fatter, greasier and more towards toolbox rags, oily sheep wool, herbal cough syrup and sooty and camphory notes. Gets seemingly more punchy with time, gathering these medicinal and peppery notes while retaining this sharp and rather brutal saltiness. It's a powerful profile and one I really enjoy. Finish: long, sharp, on bitter orange marmalade, salty old Amontillado and more camphors, walnuts and earthy black tea. Comments: Lots of typical 'old Cadenhead dumpy' notes going on in this one, but it has something else that seems to come simultaneously from the sherry influence and from the Pulteney distillate itself. Maybe a good quality refill sherry butt at work? Either way, a lovely old bruiser.
SGP: 373 - 89 points.

 

 

 

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

 

January 19, 2024


Whiskyfun