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Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2011 - Part 1

June 2011 - part 2 <--- July 2011 - part 1 ---> July 2011 - part 2


July 13, 2011

Summer Sessions Summer Vintage Sessions, tasting eight 1989s
What to say about 1989? Well, not much... I'm not sure all distilleries were making great whisky at the time but of course there are gems, such as 'new style' Bowmores (cleaner, peatier).
Macallan Macallan 21 yo 1989 (46%, The Maltman, +/-2011) Three stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather fresh an slightly violety and liquoricy, which is quite typical of some Macallans in my opinion. Also whiffs of smoke, honey and toffee and then a faint meatiness. Refill sherry? Mouth: slightly burnt sherry notes, cake, roasted nuts and toffee once again. Good body. Finish: medium long, even more on toffee and Demerara sugar. Comments: a good bottle but you have to like toffee. SGP:451 - 82 points.
Linkwood Linkwood 22 yo 1989/2011 (47.5%, Liquid Sun, refill sherry, 226 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Refill sherry that’s almost white, that’s not second or even third fill. Nose: indeed, this is fairly naked spirit, all on ale, porridge and muesli, apple compote, touches of smoke and touches of old hay. Slightly farmy, also a little cumin. With water: more cereally and slightly yeasty. More porridge! Old leather jacket. Mouth (neat): sweet, all on garden fruits, with something slightly burnt in the background. Stout? Gooseberries, apples, pears… Also a little smoke and liquorice. With water: fresher and fruitier. Finish: medium long, on apples and liquorice. Comments: I usually like naked spirits but this one is maybe a little ‘too naked’. It’s good, very natural stuff but for once, maybe was a little more seasoning needed? SGP:441 - 80 points.
Linkwood Linkwood 1989/2010 (53.5%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #1826, 263 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: lighter and grassier than the Liquid Sun. Apple juice, pebbles and roots. Celeriac? I like this earthiness. Also fresh almonds. With water: a little earthier but that’s pretty all. Mouth (neat): a slightly bitter attack (strong tea), chlorophyll, salmiak and burnt coffee. Not the sexiest Linkwood ever so far! With water: a tad sweeter and fruitier but the bitterness remains. Burnt sugar. Finish: rather long, on the same flavours. Comments: none of these two 1989 Linkwoods were really inspiring… sob… SGP:351 - 79 points.
Glentauchers 18 yo 1989/2008 (53.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #63.22, Refill barrel, 'Tantalising opulence') Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s not that it’s very ‘opulent’, but these herbal notes are very fine. Dill, mint, coriander… Also moss, humus… Very nice! With water: becomes even more earthy and rooty. Hay. Mouth (neat): ah, now it’s quite opulent! A rich fruitiness, with a little mango, then apples and pears, white peaches… Quite some green tea around all that as well as, as very often, a good deal of liquorice wood. With water: more oranges, honey and vanilla now. Perfect balance. Finish: medium long, clean and fresh, on stewed fruits, with a little cinnamon in the background. Comments: excellent if not the most complex whisky ever. Thank you, Gordon! SGP:641 - 86 points.
Glenrothes Glenrothes 21 yo 1989/2010 (54.2%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry Butt, cask #7471, 252 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s quite interesting that the profile isn’t far from the Glentauchers’ despite a very different wood type. Same kind of fruity earthiness, toffee, but also a bigger meatiness here. Cured ham, quite loud. Jabugo? Maybe faint whiffs of sulphur (burnt matches). With water: more burnt matches, flints, earthy pu-erh tea… Mouth (neat): creamy attack, on orange marmalade and lemon rind, with quite some cloves in the background. It’s also a tad junipery. With water: more honey and caramel. Nice. Finish: medium long, malty, roasted peanuts. Comments: excellent even if a little less lush than the old or middle-aged OBs. And the gunpowder isn’t a problem here. SGP:451 - 85 points.
Tamnavulin Tamnavulin 21 yo 1989/2011 (57.4%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon, cask #1750, 204 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh vanilla and banana skin, café latte and earl grey tea (bergamots). Also a little marzipan and putty, old roses, orange blossom... It’s quite beautiful! With water: more of all that plus old books and maybe a little saltpetre. Orange liqueur as well. Wow! Mouth (neat): unusually herbal and quite citrusy as well, this attack being wonderful. Some aniseed, mint, liquorice, lemon, black pepper… Yes, unusual and wonderful! With water: indeed. It became smoother but the overall profile did not change much. Finish: medium long, slightly meaty and pleasantly ‘rotten’ (overripe fruits). Walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: it seems that Tamnavulin can become very interesting after 20 years of ageing and this is a good example. Bravo to A.D. Rattray for having selected this. SGP:561 - 90 points.
Bowmore Bowmore 21 yo 1989/2011 (48.1%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: it seems that it’s one of these Bowmores that still had a few violety notes but that’s in no way a problem here, it’s almost an asset in fact. Those notes go very well with the very briny character, as well as with the deep earthy and mushroomy profile. Also touches of camphor, kippers and herbal tea (lime-blossom), gentian spirit and… violets again. Nope, no lavender. With water: superb. A farmer by the sea, or a fisherman in a farm. Whatever. Mouth (neat): excellently earthy, peaty and lemony. I love this! With water: became a tad narrower and maybe more typically Bowmore, very briny and kippery. Finish: quite long, very briny. Comments: this one was very complex and very entertaining. I’m sure it’ll be stellar – and maybe legendary - after 15 or 20 years of bottle refining… SGP:466 - 91 points.
Bowmore Bowmore 20 yo 1989/2010 (51%, The Whisky Fair, joint bottling with Three Rivers Tokyo, bourbon hogshead, 175 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: a straighter and narrower variation on Bowmore, with more lemon rind and oysters and rather less earthy touches. Also a little tobacco and vanilla. Very nice nonetheless. With water: even more lemon, brine and oysters. Also mint and eucalyptus. Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the Nectar, much closer. This one has more lemon and a more sauvignonesque acidity (c’mon, S.!) With water: same but gets brinier, just like the Nectar. Finish: quite long, briny, dry. Very similar to the Nectar’s. Comments: very high quality once again. Maybe a tiny-wee bit less unusual (thus entertaining) on the nose. Splitting hairs once again! SGP:466 - 90 points.
My winner: the Bowmores, clearly, but the Tamnavulin by A.D. Rattray was stunning as well. Many other vintages to follow...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: one of the greatest and probably THE greatest French saxophonisy was Barney Wilen. Let's listen to his stunning version of Miles' Julien Dans L'Ascenseur - Florence Sur Les Champ-Elysees (OST of Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud), here with Mal Waldron's trio in 1989. And then buy all of Barney Wilen's music!

Barney Wilen

July 12, 2011


Tasting two Enmore rums by Silver Seal

Enmore was one of these little distilleries in Demerara that was closed quite some years ago. Diamond Distillery goes on using its very unusual wooden coffey still that’s in operation since… 1880! Owners Demerara Distillers have got some fab information on all their stills at Diamond’s, check them out!

Enmore 1996/2007 (46%, Silver Seal, +/-2008) Four stars Colour: pale amber. Nose: starts dry and grassy, with big notes of black olives that we often find in some Demeraras. A lot of Demerara sugar as well (not sweet, dry) and then the expected notes of prunes, ripe bananas and black raisins. Then more burnt sugar, toasted bread and a little liquorice. Ueber-classic flawless Demerara, I’d say. Mouth: a rich, sweet but not too sweet Demerara, with loads of candy sugar and touches of spices and herbs such as cardamom and cloves. It’s probably a little simpler than on the nose but it’s all perfectly enjoyable. Liquid pleasure… Finish: rather long, very candied. Some prunes and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: straight heavy Enmore with no obvious woodiness. Should please many malt drinkers. Exactly my definition of a 85-point spirit. SGP:630 - 85 points.
Enmore 15 yo 1992/2007 (55%, Silver Seal) Three stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: well, this is much sweeter than the 1992, curiously smoother despite the higher strength and a bit ‘Latino’ if I follow Rum Nation’s lectures. More molasses, some stewed fruits (bananas and strawberries, for example) and quite some sweet liquorice. Lacks the ‘toasted’ side that was so enjoyable in the 1996. With water: huge saponification, let’s wait… Okay, it became grassier and closer to the sugar cane. Frankly, it’s much nicer now. Mouth (neat): bang! Sweet and rich in-your-face Demerara with all the elements that are needed to balance the sweetness. Sultanas, liquorice, olives again and touches of leather and cinnamon. Does not need water on the palate. Finish: long, rich, candied and jammy. Some honey and ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: a curious double-style rum. All good in my opinion but the nose really needs water – while the palate doesn’t. SGP:740 - 83 points.
Okay, we had quite some great rums but I know there are also much cheaper and meaner ones around. I think I’ve got a few from Madagascar in a cupboard, maybe we’ll have them in a few days…

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a wonderful electric rendition of Django's Nuages by Allan Holdsworth - despite the, ah-hum electric piano but those were the times (the track was on 1996's 'None Too Soon'). Please buy Allan Holdsworth's music, thanks.

Allan Hodsworth

July 11, 2011

Summer Sessions Summer Vintage Sessions, tasting seven 1999s
Several 1999 Laphroaigs, Longrows or peated Juras were already great and fetched 90+ in my little book. But then again, young peated whiskies 'can age faster'.
Craigellachie Craigellachie 11 yo 1999/2011 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: a young Speysider with all its attributes. Muesli, porridge, dandelions, apple juice and pears. It’s all clean, all fresh, all easy and all a bit uncomplicated. Mouth: sweet, rounded, slightly violety. Apples, a little liquorice, a little vanilla, touches of white chocolate and hints of tinned pineapples. Finish: medium long, with a little pepper from the wood. Comments: as I wrote, very uncomplicated but pretty flawless. Nice fruitiness, would take ice. SGP:641 - 82 points.
Wemyss Malts 1999/2011 ‘Well Mannered Mint’ (46%, Wemyss, Islay, hogshead, 307bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: clean, mineral and medicinal ala Laphroaig. Bandages and damp clay, seashells, almond oil and fresh walnuts. Cut apples. Mouth: salty, briny, ashy and slightly lemony. Anchovies and green olives, cider apples and green tea. All good. Finish: long, even brinier. Big smoke and ashes in the aftertaste. The lemon’s back in the aftertaste. Comments: all pretty perfect, but I didn’t get the mint. I mean, not any more mint than usual. SGP:348 - 88 points.
Springbank Springbank 11 yo 1999/2011 (53%, Single Malts of Scotland, sherry cask, cask #114) Four stars A new livery for this talented and swinging bottler from London. Colour: full amber. Nose: harsh, almost violently chocolaty and farmy. Cow stable, horse dung, bitter chocolate and bitter oranges, then more dried meat, pemmican, balsamico and lovage (and soy sauce). There’s also quite some smoke, as if there was a bit of Longrow in the mix. With water: more vinegar, mushrooms and cigar smoke. Fermenting fruits. Mouth (neat): rich, meaty, a tad acrid and biting. Sour wood, teas, bitter oranges, herbal liqueurs and tobacco, then liquorice and orange wine. Creamy mouth feel. With water: we’ve tamed it! Bitter oranges, herbal teas, mint and Jaegermeister. Finish: very long and even more on Jaegermeister, with more lemon and bitter oak in the aftertaste. Comments: an anti-smooth Springbank, rather Longrowish. The sherry is very loud. I like it a lot but I think that a little more polishing would have made it even better. Re-rack it in lazier wood? SGP:372 - 85 points. Speaking of Longrow, let’s have one…
Longrow 9 Longrow 9 yo 1999/2009 (58.2%, OB for Whisky Manufaktur, red wine hogshead, 272 bottles) Three stars Ah, these scary wine hogsheads… Colour: amber with reddish hues. Nose: frankly, I think Longrow doesn’t work too well with red wine. The farmy/phenolic profile seems to create some weird short-circuits when exposed to cabernet, merlot or pinot noir (not to mention sangiovese), even if this time, it’s more or less acceptable. Metallic blackcurrants? Leathery artichokes? Sulphury oranges? With water: the spirit comes out, which is great news. A lot of gunpowder. Mouth (neat): right, right, this is very spectacular. Imagine a cocktail made out of bitter oranges, ginger, pepper, lemon, kippers and burnt matches. What’s sure is that it’s very entertaining, to say the least, but I think it’s too unlikely… With water: once again, things improve. Salt, oranges, kippers and pomegranates. Pepper in the aftertaste. Finish: very long, citrusy and peppery, with something metallic in the aftertaste (silver fork). Comments: perverse but very entertaining. Now, drinking one full bottle of this strange brew… SGP:467 - 80 points.
Jura Brutus Isle of Jura 9yo 1999/2008 (60.9%, OB for World Liquor Brutus, Japan) Five stars This is a heavily peated version of Jura (40ppm). Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh wow! Straightforward peat but on a bed of orange cake and cough syrup. It does actually smell like some wonderful cough syrup, makes you want to be ill! With water: old-style tarry peat, 1970s Ardbeg, 1960s Laphroaig or Coal Ila… Well, you see what I mean. Mouth (neat): wonderfully earthy peat, with some humus, pu-erh tea, orange marmalade, ginger liqueur and various other spices. Yes, wonderful. With water: fantastic earthy, sappy and resinous peatiness. Nine years old, you say? Finish: long, jammy, peaty, orangey… Comments: what a surprise. To be honest, we already had some fab young peated Juras in the past but this is my new favourite. Bert V., many thanks, this is unspittable! SGP:457 - 91 points.
Laphroaig MoS Laphroaig 1999/2010 (51.4%, Malts of Scotland for Aquavitae 2010, sherry butt, 121 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: a leafy and herbal young Laphroaig, rather fino-ish. The usual medicinal notes are in the background (antiseptic, camphor) while there’s an obvious nuttiness (walnuts, walnut wine, almonds, flor…) There’s also quite some tar and earth, as well as big whiffs of iodine. With water: more of the same and sea air and graphite oil. Mouth (neat): rich, leathery and tobacco-like notes, with a huge peatiness, salmiak and tarry ‘stuff’ (old tar liqueur). Walnuts again. With water: becomes brinier, saltier, gentler as well… Some marzipan and smoked almonds. Finish: long (of course) and both almondy and briny. Lemon and salted fish in the aftertaste. Comments: fino-ish! I like this because it’s a little different from the (very good) average Laphroaig. SGP:367 - 89 points.
Laphroaig Tom Laphroaig 10 yo 1999/2010 (57.1%, Whisky-Fässle, Tom's Choice, bourbon cask, 229 bottles) Four stars'Tom's choice', it says. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: the purest, and maybe the simplest form of Laphroaig. Mercurochrome and smoke (and conversely) plus touches of lemon and damp earth. Is that all? Hello? With water: even simpler. Take the lemon and earth away and simply add kippers. Mouth (neat): once again, the simplest side of Laphroaig at young age. Lime, pepper, brine and smoke (all over the place). With water: add lemon, smoke and green apples. Finish: long, brinier and more lemony. Comments: the simplest, but also the purest form of a young Laphroaig. Ziiiiiing! SGP:358 - 85 points.
My winner: a Jura defeated the Laphroaig armada! But it was not just any Jura, of course... Three vintages done, many to follow...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: another slightly unlikely but highly successful encounter between a jazz great (Archie Shepp) and a more 'fusionian' musician (Jasper van't Hof). It's called Pulse of the roots and it's on their album 'The fifth of May'. Please buy Archie Shepp and Jasper van't Hof's musics...

Archie Shepp

July 10, 2011


Tasting three more rums by Rum Nation

As you probably know, Rum Nation is Wilson & Morgan’s rum department. Their reputation is high so I have deep expectations, especially after some very good young Barbados and Martinique by the same bottler that I tried last year.

Peruano 8 yo (42%, Rum Nation, single domaine, 2008) Latino style. Colour: gold. Nose: okay, not my style I’m afraid. It’s grassy and cardboardy, with ‘weak molasses’ in the background and something too chalky as well. Very un-aromatic, so to speak. Mouth: better but I don’t like this style of rum. Molasses and corn syrup and not much else. Too sweet now. Overripe bananas. Finish: medium long, very molassy. Comments: as I wrote, not my kind at all but I’m sure some rum lovers would enjoy this style. SGP:620 - 60 points.
Panama 18 yo (40%, Rum Nation, Caribbean Spirits, 2007) Two stars and a half Latino style. Colour: pale amber. Nose: it’s not really more aromatic than the Peruvian but it’s globally subtler, with some roasted chestnuts and quite some coconut, vanilla, figs and dates… Nice nose, a tad shy but very elegant. Toasts. Mouth: once again it’s a very sweet one, very molassy, but there are enough other notes to make it stand on its two feet in my opinion. That includes citrus fruits, star anise and a little clove. The body is a tad thin, that is. Finish: medium, with more cloves and touches of malt extract. Comments: not any more my style as the Peruano but I enjoyed it more, it was certainly more complex despite a slight lumpiness. SGP:730 - 78 points.
Demerara 23 yo 1985/2008 (43%, Rum Nation, single domaine) Four stars and a half English style. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this is, of course, another story. Much more happening in this one, a big ‘Demeraraness’ (geee…), a little tar, then prunes, raisins, black olives, lovage, ‘nice rubber’ and cauliflowers and then a little beef bouillon. Also whiffs of violets, lilac and jasmine. Superb nose, very complex and very entertaining. Mouth: it’s very strange but it’s quite superb in its strangeness. Vegetables and herbs, liquorice, olives, heavy chestnut honey, something slightly briny (anchovies?)… Probably not very orthodox but oh-so fun to follow! Finish: medium long, with some citrusy tones appearing. Blood oranges? Comments: this one is really fun. I especially liked the briny notes and I must say I’d have loved to try this at cask strength, because that would have been 90-material. SGP:661 - 88 points.
All right, it seems that I’m more an Englishman than a Latino as far as my rum tastes are concerned… I think next time we’ll have more Demerara!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: in 1990 the Art Ensemble of Chicago recorded a well-known 'South-African' album named 'Art Ensemble of Soweto', on which was this powerful song called Black Man. Listen to it and then buy the album and then all of the Art Ensemble's music.


July 8, 2011

Summer Sessions

Summer Vintage Sessions, tasting seven 1998s
Already several great 1998 Laphroaigs (from the Whisky Fair galaxy, for example), or some Ledaig and Caol Ila (Malts of Scotland). Remember peat, just like heavy sherry, makes whisky become palatable faster, as it can masks the flaws from youth.

Clynelish Clynelish 12 yo 1998/2011 (46%, Coopers Choice, cask #7732) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, it’s one of these very leafy Clynelishes, all on green tea, fresh walnuts, paraffin and apple peelings. Loads of apple peelings! All that can give it a slightly soapy profile but it’s ‘good’ soap here. Mouth: superb oily, lemony, herbal and waxy profile. Finish: long, waxy, grassy and lemony (zests). Quite some peat in the aftertaste. Comments: bang for your buck! Now, I have no ideas regarding this baby’s price but it cannot be expensive, can it? This is for true Clynelish lovers, well done Vintage Malts. SGP:363 - 88 points.
Auchentoshan Auchentoshan 1998/2010 (54.6%, OB, sherry cask matured) Four stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: the colour was surprisingly pale for a whisky that’s supposed to have spent all its life in some sherry wood, but the nose does suggest sherry indeed. Bubblegum, strawberries and litchis are all over the place, then more oranges, marmalade, cinnamon and peppermint. The whole is very, very clean and fresh and quite beautiful I must say. With water: the sherry is more obvious and it’s rather a leafy/leathery kind of sherry influence. Beautiful nose I must say. Mouth (neat): rich and extremely sweet and fruity, it’s really ‘bubblegum at cask strength’. Also blood oranges, muesli and then candied ginger and a little pepper. With water: even fresher and fruitier. A fruit salad with a little cinnamon. Finish: quite long, fresh, with the spices coming more to the front. White pepper. Comments: very good in my opinion, even surprisingly good considering its age, and highly drinkable. SGP:751 - 86 points.
Brackla Royal Brackla 10 yo 1998/2009 (56.8%, Douglas Laing for VCWC 2009, Refill Hogshead, ref #DL4528, 317 bottles) Four stars Bottled for a Belgian whisky festival. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: wonderfully spirit-driven! Mash, fresh white bread, paraffin and chlorophyll. Sure it’s no sexy-easy dram but if you’re fed up with vanilla and maple syrup, this kind of whisky is for you (and for me). With water: even more so. Also ale and cider. Mouth (neat): punchy, sweet, playful, fruity and slightly mentholated. Liquorice allsorts, kirsch, green tea and heavier liquorice. I like this. With water: apple and pear juice, white cherries, peaches… Beautiful fruitiness. Finish: long, youthful and joyful. Comments: a superb Brackla, full of youth. Perfect spirit in my opinion. SGP:541 - 87 points.
Arran Arran 1998/2010 (56.5%, OB, Sherry, cask#603, 225 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts leafy and leathery, grassy and a tad rubbery. Whiffs of chalk and clay, cardboard, peach leaves, green tea… Rather austere so far, without the fruity and vanilled notes that are often to be found in Arran in my experience. With water: same plus plain grass. Earth. Whiffs of cow stable as well, old wine barrel… Mind you, all that is pretty nice. Mouth (neat): many red berries plus a little rubber again on top of some vanilla and white pepper. Quite nervous. More compact than on the nose. Good body. With water: the best part now, with some strawberry jam, maybe a little mango chutney and quite some vanilla crème. Water worked very well here. Finish: rather long, fruity, a little bubblegummy. Pepper in the aftertaste, as often. Comments: a very pleasant Arran but it really needs water to become smmooooth. SGP:551 - 81 points.
Glengoyne 1998 Glengoyne 1998/2010 (54.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #1131) Four stars Colour: coffee. Nose: starts very metallic and mineral, with huge notes of gunflints and of ‘a gun that just shot’. Behind all that, quite some chocolate and Corinthian raisins. With water: more of the same, no further development. Mouth (neat): rich, heavily sherried, sweet and winy, PX-style. A perfect feeling of ‘fullness’ and no off notes. With water: loads of chocolate and figs. Jams. Finish: long, sweet, jammy and very chocolaty. Mint and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: you like big straight sherry? You want this sherry monster. But if you don’t like sherry monsters, you may pass (not sure these babies are still available anyway…) SGP:651 – 87 points.
Glengoyne 1998 2 Glengoyne 1998/2010 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #1132) Four stars Colour: coffee. Nose: a rather fruitier and more ‘cooked’ version. More stewed fruits. Other than that both are similar, which was to be expected. With water: same differences with water. A fruitier and slightly rounder spirit. Mouth (neat): we’re even closer to cask #1131. Okay, maybe this one is a tad cleaner and fresher. Loads of toffee. With water: same. Finish: long, still fruitier and a little less chocolaty – but a lot of chocolate there is. Also Turkish delights and a little mint. Comments: biggish! Not enough differences to come up with a different score in my system. SGP:641 – 87 points.
Laphraig Laphroaig 12 yo 1998/2011 (52.9%, Liquid Sun, bourbon hogshead, 223 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s rather a medicinal one. In other words, less oysters, more antiseptic and bandages. Wait, no, some oysters there is. With water: unexpected farmy notes. Horse dung? Then oysters and mercurochrome. Half-coastal, half-medicinal. Mouth (neat): sweet peat, as they say. Lemon, almonds, ashes, kippers and vanilla plus sweet liquorice. With water: perfect. Finish: long, fresh, clean, brinier than before. Comments: they’re all very good anyway. SGP:457 - 89 points.
My winner: once again, laproaig won but Clynelish came close. Two vintages done, many to follow...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: it didn't always work very well when jazz luminaries tried to go a bit more commercial but in the case of trumpeter extraordinaire Art Farmer, I think it did! Today let's listen to his Soulsides (from Gentle Eyes, around 1975) and then buy all his music...

Art Farmer

July 7, 2011



Tasting three cognacs by whisky people

Many independent bottlers who are well known for their whiskies do also select and bottle other spirits from time to time, especially rum and cognac. Let’s try three cognacs today, two Grande Champagne (usually the finest cognacs) and one Fins Bois (the largest ‘terroir’ in Cognac), all XO. XO means Extra-Old, the youngest spirit in the vatting being at least six years of age but usually much older.

Cognac 'Grande Champagne XO' (40%, The Whisky Fair, +/-2008) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a very smooth and elegant one, not on caramel and candy sugar at all and not too grapey, displaying notes of stewed peaches and melons as well as just a little vanilla. Also touches of almond oil and marzipan, then just a little Turkish delight and/or marshmallows. Also a little grass, grape skin… Again, it’s all rather delicate…Mouth: good attack, rather rougher than what the nose suggested, with notes of stalk. Becomes lighter and smoother after a few seconds, with hints of tinned litchis and peaches again. Some candy sugar, caramel, touches of kirsch… Finish: shortish but clean and, once again, not grapey at all. Comments: an easy, very quaffable one, quite light and fruity but rather complex as well. Yet, a little more punch would have been welcome. SGP:630 - around 82 points (please don’t take that score too seriously).

Cognac 'Grande Champagne XO' (43%, Berry Bros & Rudd, +/-2010) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: this has more power and a very faint ‘good’ soapiness (rose scented soap) as well as a little candy sugar. Also cloves, then more marshmallows and touches of blackcurrant jelly. Very nice nose, globally fruitier and sweeter than the Whisky Fair, more compact. Also raisins… Mouth: we’re much closer to ‘traditional’ cognac than with the Whisky Fair. Much more raisins and prunes, Seville oranges, touches of coffee and just a little pepper. Also some milk chocolate. A fairly big body here. Finish: long, a tad hotter, on candy sugar and raisins. Comments: this one is very satisfying and quite full. I’m sure it would please many whisky drinkers. SGP:740 - around 85 points (please don’t take that score too seriously).

Cognac 'Fins Bois XO' Pierre Croizet (49.8%, Cadenhead, 447 bottles, 2008) Four stars This is single estate cognac from the region of Jarnac. Colour: full gold. Nose: much grassier than both Grande Champagne, more austere at first nosing, maybe a tad shy? Some crushed apples, maybe a little banana, gooseberries… Takes off after two or three minutes, with more orange liqueur and sultanas. Barley water? Ahem, right, this is no whisky… Very nice nose nonetheless! With water: funny feeling of hay and grass that’s more ‘whisky’ than ‘cognac’ in my opinion, then more fresh oranges. Mouth: starts very dry for a cognac, with quite some toasted bread, bitter chocolate and coffee. Then more bitter oranges and even more chocolate and cocoa nibs. Around all that, raisins as expected. With water: excellent now, complex, full, creamy, fruity… Finish: quite long, full, fruity, raisiny. Comments: water makes it very similar to a well-aged sherried Highlander. Dalmore? I’d grab one of these if I were you… SGP:641 - around 87 points (please don’t take that score too seriously).

Conclusion: I’d recommend any of these three cognacs if you’d like to try something that’s quite different from the more ‘commercial’ ones. Tomorrow, back to whisky!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: everbody knows that Art Tatum was a genius. Let's listen to this stunning rendition of Tenderly (the sound is unusually good!) just to gather even more evidence and then buy Art Tatum's music.

Art Tatum

July 6, 2011

Introducing The Summer Vintage sessions
Don’t we all need more fun in summer? Pairing whiskies from the same distilleries as we usually do can be a little boring (although I still think that only comparison is reason in whisky or wine), so let’s go for another, possibly funnier set-up in summer: comparing a few whiskies from the same vintage.

Sure that’s a bit artificial, as there’s very little vintage effect in whisky, at least no global vintage effect that would impact all distilleries at once. But anyway, from time to time in July and August, we’ll taste up to seven or eight whiskies - sometimes only one or two – from the same vintages. So, if you don’t mind, let’s start all this new summery madness with…

Summer Sessions

Summer Vintage Sessions, tasting six 1997s
My favourite 1997s so far have been a few Clynelishes (such as the official Manager's Choice or some by David Stirk's Exclusive Malts) or some Bowmores (Jack Wiebers).

Wemyss Malts 1997/2011 ‘Vanilla Summer’ (46%, Wemyss, Highland, hogshead, 363 bottles) Three stars and a half This one from a single cask. What could it be? Colour: straw. Nose: very young Clynelish, starting with wax, paraffin, soot and rocks as well as touches of smoke and sea water, becoming fruitier after a few seconds, with more gooseberries and white apples. Very clean spirit, very ‘idiosyncratic’. Mouth: firm, fruity and slightly smoky again, with less wax and paraffin but more pepper and ginger. Touches of bubblegum. Goes more towards Glen Garioch at this point but it’s still got something very ‘Clynelish’. Finish: long, peppery and gingery as well as freshly fruity (apples again, touches of grapefruits). A little burnt sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: good fresh young Highander. I got the summery part but not quite the vanilla – although there’s always a little vanilla in any whisky. SGP:552 - 84 points.
Clynelish Clynelish 13 yo 1997/2011 (48.9%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 170 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this one has more vanilla despite the lighter colour, more sweetness and more roundness. Also more sour/acidic notes (lemon, grapefruits) and then the expected waxiness as well as quite some spearmint. State of the art young Clynelish. Mouth: perfect, citrusy, vibrant, then a little bitter (Campari, cinchona) and gingery, with quite some grapefruit zest as well. Much less roundness than on the nose. One of these ‘riesling’ Clynelishes. Finish: long and zesty. Comments: textbook youngish Clynelish with a lot of oomph. It’s quite dense, I’d be curious to know if the ABV is natural. SGP:563 – 87 points.
Celtique Celtique Connexion 1997/2010 (46%, Celtic Connexion, Saussignac Finish, 381 bottles) Four stars Saussignac is a sweet white wine Bergerac-style from the south-west of France, not too far from Bordeaux. This whisky won high bronze at the MMA 2010. Colour: gold. Nose: very sweet and quite aromatic at first nosing, slightly muscaty, all very well balanced. Then more herbal notes (patchouli, pot-pourri), toasted bread and vanilla. Very nice ‘smooth’ nose. Mouth: sweet and rounded, with typical notes of sweet white wine and then more spices from the wood, mainly cinnamon. A little apricot and pineapple. Finish: medium long, clean, with only touches of rubber and cherry stems in the aftertaste. Quite some pepper as well. Comments: a very, very nice one, sweet but not cloying or heady. SGP:541 - 86 points.
Tomatin BBR Tomatin 1997/2011 (54.4%, Berry Bros & Rudd, for Germany, cask #2548) Two stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: starts rather rubbery and maybe a tad sulphury as well (cooked cabbage), grassy, austere and very un-Tomatin, that is to say with very little fruitiness. Stays there. Quick, water…  With water: improves a bit, becoming much fresher, with more oranges and even mangos but there’s also a little soap (even after the mandatory ten minutes). Just a little. Mouth (neat): starts well, on apricots and oranges but there’s also this rubber again in the background, together with a slightly weird fruitiness. Some kind of strange squash? Litres of cranberry juice – not that I don’t like that but… Quite some pepper as well. With water: indeed, cranberry juice and vanilla. Finish: medium long, a little bubblegummy. Comments: I’ll dare saying that this baby is as un-Berry Bros as it’s un-Tomatin. Bizarre… Now, it does improve quite a lot with water. SGP:461 - 78 points.
Bunnahabhain Bunnahabhain 12 yo 1997/2010 'Moine' (54%, Riverstown, cask #5415, 259 bottles) Three stars As you know, all ‘Moines’ are peated – which you wouldn’t say in French as moine means monk. I’ve met some smoked monks but never peated ones ;-). Colour: pale white wine. Nose: straight raw, tarry peat, very smoky and ashy (and sooty). No signs of Bunnahabhain’s usual fruitiness so far. With water: some pears come through but other than that, it’s still very sooty and ashy. Ashtray. Mouth (neat): young straight peat on apples, pears and lemons. That’s it, smoked fruits. It’s not thick but it’s very strong. With water: same, the lemons and apples being louder. Finish: medium long, very ashy. Comments: it’s rather a good Moine, with very little oak influence, as the colour suggested. SGP:547 - 82 points.
Laphroiag AD Laphroaig  13 yo 1997/2010 Sherry Finish (58%, A.D. Rattray, cask #3329, 307 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: straight peat and little sherry influence so far, it’s not one of these peat+sherry bombs, not at all, although there’s a little more sweetness than usual. Becomes extremely coastal, all on sea air, oysters, fisherman’s nets and sea water (or even brine). With water: ‘a walk on the beach along the ocean at 8am, with your Irish setter’. Forget about that. Mouth: very creamy, rich, with an oily mouth feel. Touches of fructose on pepper, ginger, salt (anchovies), kippers and lemon. Lemon drops. With water: a little more vanilla and touches of green olives. Finish: long, briny and sweet at the same time. Very ashy and smoky aftertaste. Comments: very little sherry-ness in this one. I had this baby at 85 before (unpublished) but I think it really improved with a little more breathing. SGP:458 - 88 points.
My winner: the Laphroaig by A.D. Rattray. One vintage done, many to follow...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more Hammond organ today with WF favourite Barbara Dennerlein playing a funky and very old skool Bloody Mary (that was on her album 'Outhipped'). Please buy Miss Dennerlein's music!

Barbara Dennerlein

July 5, 2011


Tamdhu 1984

Tasting two sherried Tamdhu
New labels and bottlers now show up on a weekly basis in good old Germany – almost. Not that we’ll complain, as all these guys are usually doing a great job! As for the formerly rather obscure Tamdhu Distillery, it seems that the fact that it’s not active anymore ignited some kind of bottling frenzy… (just like what happens with Littlemill, Caperdonich or Lochside…) LATEST NEWS: the distillery was just sold to Ian McLeod!

Tamdhu 20 yo 1990/2011 (49.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #8119, 209 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: dark gold. Nose: ah, another middle-aged sherried malt that starts a bit like some Demerara rum, on candy sugar, molasses and loads of raisins! And then it’s more Armagnac, because of the very same raisiny notes. Also quite some bitter oranges, zests and flint. Maybe a faint soapiness in the background, or waxed paper… With water: the fruity side comes out more, with dates and figs, then white chocolate and prunes in Armagnac. Mouth (neat): starts very honeyed, with also quite some orange marmalade and raisins again (sultanas). A slight acridness (grape pips), walnut skin, apple peelings… A little cocoa as well, touches of burnt caramel… Good mouth feel. Also touches of coffee. With water: a little more marmalade and hints of strawberry jam. Finish: rather long, mainly on orange marmalade and a little pepper. Comments: this sherried Tamdhu would need a little more polishing to make it to 85+ in my book but it’s largely above average for sure. The sherry’s maybe a little ‘direct’, not unlike with some finishings. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Tamdhu 21 yo 1989/2011 (50%, Dailydram.de, Liquid Treasures, sherry cask) Three stars and a half Colour: dark gold. Nose: this is not from the same cask or series as the MoS, obviously, the vintages being different, but the noses are very similar. This one is maybe a tad flintier and drier. With water: once again we’re extremely close. Maybe a little more flowery notes here, jasmine, roses. Maybe I’m dreaming… Bitter chocolate. Mouth (neat): once again, we’re extremely close to the MoS. They’re almost identical, although this one might be a wee touch drier. Maybe a little more spices (black pepper). With water: same. This one is maybe a tad rounder now. Finish: same. Quite some pepper. Comments: very same quality. Maybe not totally inspiring because of its relative straightness but very good for sure. SGP:551 - 84 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness
And now by popular demand, another brand new little section on WF: our favourite bottlings we tasted in the last month.
Whiskyfun fav of the month

June 2011

Favourite recent bottling:
Caperdonich 38 yo 1972/2011 (57.4%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #1144, 98 bottles) - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Longmorn 30 yo 1969/1999 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 191 bottles)  - WF 95

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:

Springbank 1992/2011 'Peat-Smoked' (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #61) - WF 91

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more proof that whisky and music go together, especially in Scotland. Our globe-trotting friend Angus MacRaild, who blogs at whisky-online, has just recorded a great album called 'Twelve Songs', on which is this little gem of a song called 'A Season of Dreams'. Please buy Angus' music!

Angus MacRaild

July 4, 2011


Tasting the new Earl Haakon by Highland Park

All right, after the ‘earl’ and the ‘saint’, here’s the third HP in the ‘Magnus replicas’ series, this one christened ‘Earl Haakon’. Haakon was Magnus’ cousin and he’s the one who ordered Magnus’ murder (or simply killed him according to some sources), so this new 18yo bottling may be much more ‘quarrelsome’ than both the 12 and the 15. A familicide within a range of whisky, did anyone ever witness that? For good measure, we’ll oppose the new Earl Haakon (£160) to the regular HP 18 (£57). 

HP18 Highland Park 18 yo (43%, OB, UK, +/-2010) Four stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: typical, starting with a little ‘nice tar, smoke and rubber’ as often, this very peculiar peatiness that’s often to be found in HP as well and then more grassy honey and baked apples. Also touches of dried mushrooms, flowers (dandelions) and dried fruits as well as fresh walnuts. Maybe melon. It’s relatively dry and pretty complex, Mouth: a tad narrower than on the nose but that phenomenon isn’t uncommon with malt whisky. Some honey and honeydew, touches of mint, liquorice wood, coffee and Seville oranges, with quite some peat in the background. Also a little cough syrup, pine sap, something pleasantly bitter… Good body although it’s no monster of course. Finish: medium long, with a little more toffee and touches of salt. Maybe a little rubber and smoke again in the aftertaste. Some lemon as well. Comments: a classic, all good, maybe a little less round and smooth than earlier batches but it’s really characterful. SGP:453 - 88 points.

Highland Park 18 yo ‘Earl Haakon’ (54.9%, OB, 3,300 bottles, 2011) Five stars No photograph yet but it seems that it’ll be offered in the same ‘replica’ livery as the former Magnusses. Colour: full gold. Nose: frankly, it really makes me think of a regular 18yo that would have been bottled at higher proof. Same kind of profile, just with more oomph. Please read above. With water: seriously, it’s almost the same whisky as the regular 18. Maybe it’s just a tad earthier – or maybe not. Mouth (neat): creamy and punchy at the same time, peppery, with quite some orange marmalade in the attack. It’s quite smoky as well, rather dry. Once again, we’re quite close to the regular 18 but of course, the extra-12% vol. make more difference on the palate than on the nose. With water: well, it’s almost the same whisky now. Maybe a little more orange marmalade and kumquats. Also the mouth feel is a tad creamier but I didn’t try to use deionised water and probably didn’t manage to reduce this baby down to exactly 43%. Finish: same comments. Maybe a little more pepper. Comments: one cannot not wonder if this isn’t the regular 18, only bottled at higher strength. What’s sure is that it’s quite excellent. Excuse me? No, of course not 3 times better than the regular 18. SGP:453 – 90 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: so in 2008 there was this superb tribute double CD called 'Miles from India' that gathered many jazz luminaries... and of course there was a So What, played by Louiz Banks, Ron Carter, Ndugu Chancler, Chick Corea, Selva Ganesh, Sridhar Parthasarthy and Taufiq Qureshi. Yes. Please buy the whole album and all these great musicians' music while you're at it (right, quite a budget needed).


July 3, 2011


Oban 18

Tasting two difficult Oban

There are so little Obans around! Imagine, I could only formally taste around 15 expressions so far, two or three independents included.

Oban 18 yo (43%, OB, Limited Edition, 8778 bottles, 2008) Three starsI think this was an US-only bottling but luckily, some bottles surfaced in Europe as well. Ah, international smuggling! Colour: full gold. Nose: one of these rare whiskies that smell a bit like rum at first nosing, because of these whiffs of sugarcane and Muscovado. Also bananas flambéed. After that we’re more on spicy notes, cumin, a little juniper, caraway seeds… And then more wax and putty as well as distant whiffs of seawater. Maybe I’m dreaming here… Some parts do remind me of the regular 14 but I must confess I haven’t tried that one since quite some years. Nice, candied nose. A little leather as well. Mouth: well, it’s a rather strange whisky. It’s a tad cardboardy and curiously sour and dry, with some flor, walnuts, tapioca, yoghurt sauce and then these notes of rum yet again, very loud. Did they ship tankers to the Caribbean and fill the bottles there? Quite some salt as well, chlorophyll, tea… Some Muscovado sugar again. Finish: medium long, saltier… Touches of balsamic vinegar in the aftertaste, plus bitter chocolate. Comments: sometimes quite superb, especially on the nose, and sometimes a tad ‘unusual’. SGP:341 - 82 points.

Oban (55.2%, OB, Distillery Only bottling, Bottled +/- 2010) Three stars and a half This one has been rather polarising at the MMA 2010. Let’s try to remember why… Colour: full gold. Nose: well, this baby smells exactly like the 18, only with more punch of course. Maybe more notes of walnuts and cocoa? With water: again we’re close to the 18. Maybe this is a wee tad farmier? Hay, horse dung… Mouth (neat): once again, we’re in the same ballpark as the 18, with even more salt here and a very curious dryness. Wheelbarrows of salty liquorice. Oily mouth feel. With water: even more salt, liquorice, herbal teas and plain tea, walnuts… Frankly, it’s no easy dram, to say the least. Finish: long, punchy, salty, slightly sour (apples), drier than the 18 at this point. Lots of walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it’s a very tricky one and for once, I’ll lower my MMA score by quite a few points, although I like this baby a little more than the 18. SGP:341 - 83 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: what I like with Henry Threadgill's music is that it's always challenging but never boring or 'botchep-up', which can happen with jazz, as well all know. Today let's listen to To Undertake My Corners Open (from This Brings Us To, Vol. 1, with Zooid) and then buy Henry Threadgill's music.


July 1, 2011



Tasting three Tequilas anejo

The weather is still quite hot and now also humid in Alsace at time of writing (and freezing at time of editing), a bit equatorial I must say. No good for whisky but after the rums, why not try a few tequilas 'anejo' today? It seems that Anejo means that the tequilas were aged for from 1 to 3 years in oak barrels. More than 3 years is called extra-anejo. And as I know next to nothing about tequilas and just wouldn’t know how to rank them, we’ll have these three babies in alphabetical order. Is that scientific enough for you?

Aha Toro Anejo (40%, Tequila, +/-2011)Three stars This is made by a Mexican company called Destilados Olé. You couldn't make that up! It was double distilled and the distillery is located in the Highlands (Los Altos). Colour: straw. Nose: this is extremely fresh and fragrant, with little oak influence that I can detect. Rather lemons, violet sweets or jam (like they make in the South of France) and a little ginger. Minimal vanilla and ginger but a little fudge and other sweetish things. Café latte? A most pleasing nose, without the kinds of aromas from ageing that we usually find in whisky or brandies or rums (or else). Moderately ‘agavy’, I’d say. Mouth: sweet, smooth, fresh, easy… It’s maybe a tad too sugary for a whisky lover but it’s pleasant. Some lemon again, fresh ginger, sour apples… The middle is a tad thin but that’s all right. Finish: unexpectedly long after the weakish middle. A little more pepper, lime and ginger. Sour apples in the aftertaste. Comments: good stuff, not quite entrancing but mucho drinkable despite – or maybe because of – the rather thin body. Great nose. SGP:470 - 80 points.

Casa Noble Anejo (40%, Tequila, +/-2011) Three stars and a half This was triple distilled and its seems that it comes from a single barrel although there's no mention of a cask number or such. The distillery is located in the Lowlands. Colour: straw. Nose: much, much more straight agave notes than in the Aha Toro, which gives it a funny ‘soapy’ profile that no tequila aficionado would probably dare calling ‘soapy’. It’s also more on oranges than on lemons, and globally bigger. I also get a little white chocolate as well as cloves and ginger. It really becomes beautiful after a few minutes but you have to like, well, tequila. More and more white chocolate. Mouth: bigger body, almost oily, with this soapiness again and a little artificial vanilla. No big problem, though… Rather more oak and ginger, then orange cake, cloves, pepper and agave. Finish: medium long, with louder spices (ginger and black pepper). Comments: very good stuff even if the nose had more to say than the palate. SGP:480 - 84 points.

La Cofradia Anejo 'Reserva Especial' (40%, Tequila, +/-2011) This one comes from the Lowlands and I believe it’s made at the same place as the Casa Noble. Colour: white wine. Nose: suffers a lot after the Casa Noble and the Aha Toro. Much less clean and expressive and rather grassier, rougher and spirity. Reminds me of some tequila blanco from some large manufacturer. Mouth: nope. Cheapish, sugary and then too peppery. Not pleasant. Finish: rather long but rough, very grassy and spirity. Very peppery aftertaste. Comments: not my cup of agave, I’d say. The Casa Noble from the same makers was so much better (maybe I shouldn’t have trusted the alphabet and tried this one first?) SGP:260 - 55 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a very nice and catchy little song by a nice little band. It's False Alarm by The Wooden Birds. Please buy The Wooden Birds's music...

Wooden Birds

June 2011 - part 2 <--- July 2011 - part 1 ---> July 2011 - part 2

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Bowmore 20 yo 1989/2010 (51%, The Whisky Fair, joint bottling with Three Rivers Tokyo, bourbon hogshead, 175 bottles)

Bowmore 21 yo 1989/2011 (48.1%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)

Highland Park 18 yo ‘Earl Haakon’ (54.9%, OB, 3,300 bottles, 2011)

Isle of Jura 9yo 1999/2008 (60.9%, OB for World Liquor Brutus, Japan)

Tamnavulin 21 yo 1989/2011 (57.4%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon, cask #1750, 204 bottles)