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Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2011 - Part 2

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


July 30, 2011


Summer SessionRandom summer trio
Let’s start with a malt that should be relatively light and easy going. Ideal as #1.

Aberfeldy 1990/2010 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, refill sherry) Three stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts rather like some high-end blend, with a pleasant combination of malt, cereals, light honey, toasts and ouches of wood smoke. Develops a little more towards rubber bands, apples and cut grass, with distinct whiffs of camphor and eucalyptus in the background (Vicks!) As I said, it’s pleasant… Mouth: we’re all on the same notes as with the nose, with maybe a little more lemons and oranges. Stewed apples, pepper, pinches of cinnamon and a little liquorice. Finish: medium long, with more spices, mainly pepper and cinnamon. Comments: typical 80-points malt in my book. A very nice all-rounder for a very nice price at 20 years of age (around £35). SGP:341 - 80 points.
And now something much older, possibly something extravagantly fruity…
Tomatin 45 yo 1966/2011 (46.1%, The Whisky Agency and The Nectar, sherry butt, 391 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: nope, there’s no extravagant fruitiness at first sniffs, maybe because of the sherry, or maybe because it’s very old Tomatin. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still a complex whisky, it’s simply more on leather and tobacco at first nosing, then on old herbs liqueurs (yes, yellow Chartreuse), putty, thuja wood, cigar box and a little beef (dried). Keywords ‘polished wood’. Mouth: more fruits and a straighter oakiness as well, a tad biting and bitter. More herbal liqueur (Jägermeister – I know, no brand names!) white pepper and cinnamon, then more fruits indeed, such as kumquats and figs, as well as a little mint. Finish: long, more oaky and bitter. Comments: we’re close to the limits as far as oakiness is concerned but it’s still very drinkable, provided you’re not against herbal liqueurs. Excellent anyway but what’s sure is that it’s not the expected fruit bomb. SGP:471 – 87 points.
How about a little peat now?...
Port Ellen 1983/2011 (54.3%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, cask #229, 180 bottles) Four stars and a half 1983, the last vintage… Colour: straw. Nose: smells like Old Bothwell-type stock, which cannot be bad news. Ultra-clean, very briny, without much tar but with whiffs of kerosene and loads and loads of shellfish (just gathered). Also notes of rubbed lemon skin and maybe a little caper/gherkin. Red pepper? Fresh walnuts. With water: even cleaner, more coastal. That famous ‘walk on the beach early in the morning’. Mouth (neat): super zesty, very peaty and full of youth. As often, it reminds me of the famous tequila+lemon+salt combo. Very little cask influence here, it could have been one of those 10yo PEs that we could still find… well, ten years ago. Bitter almonds. With water: perfect briny profile. Almonds, putty, kippers and lemon, then cider apples. Finish: long, still very briny and coastal, with a little more pepper and notes of ash. Comments: textbook 1983 Port Ellen, maybe not hyper-complex but full and very satisfying. Great dram. SGP:367 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a sweet little piece called Summer song by the charming Marian McPartland, OBE at the piano. Please buy Miss McPartland's music.Her CD 'Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz With Guest Bill Evans' (from her radio show) is legendary.


July 29, 2011

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

To all my most distinguished friends who sent me moving wishes and congrats using various digital tools and other means yesterday, heartfelt thanks! You managed to make a 50 years old whisky enthusiast blush up to the ears like a 18 years old schoolgirl.


July 28, 2011


Nine Years

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Whiskyfun is 9 years old today
Friends, nine years, this is scary, isn't it! Indeed, Whiskyfun.com was launched on July 28, 2002, the very day when Lance Armstrong, who seems to have used other dopes than just whisky, won his fourth Tour de France.

What's more, I’ve checked WF’s statistics since the beginning of this year and to my utter amazement, we’re still rising despite the fact that we very rarely put up links to WF on forums, in comments on other blogs or on Facebook/Twitter. Not that I despise self-promotion but I’m still trying to observe some kind of old-school etiquette that used to state that doing so was inelegant parasitism at best. I know those times are long over and you may well call me a dinosaur but mind you, I’m not bound to follow the crowd and as I just wrote, WF’s figures are still rising after nine years of very silly posts anyway.

Having said that, I’ve noticed some fairly interesting trends. First, we have more readers again this year (around 14%) but the average reader spends a little less time on WF during a visit, which may come from the huge numbers of new and often very good whisky blogs around, some by my compadres the Malt Maniacs. You can’t spend the whole day reading whisky blogs and websites, can you! As for ‘keywords’, some names are really up, such as Talisker, Glenfarclas, Bunnahabhain, Glendronach, Aberlour, Tomatin, Caperdonich or Glenfiddich, or all the blended malts and whiskies of the world. To my surprise, a few big names such as Ardbeg are down. More globally, I feel that WF’s readers are seeking less ‘peat’ than before, and maybe more ‘sherry’. As for countries of origin, Germany’s still #1 (Danke, liebe Freunde) but the good old US of A are rising quite sharply again, as well as the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and, more importantly, New Zealand (+72%!!!), China (+50%), Italy (+45%), Australia (+35%) and Japan (+30%) that overtook Taiwan again, with a good 20,000 very distinguished readers since January. Other than that, we’re cruising along the 4,600 to 4,700 daily visitors line these days, but we’re in summer, i.e. low season… We’ll see what happens in September!

Anyway, I'd like to thank you dear reader, to thank Nick and Kate for the ever-wonderful concert reviews, to thank the Malt Maniacs and to thank all the distillers and bottlers who keep issueing marvellous drams (and a few duds from time to time, but to paraphrase Disraeli, I rather like bad whisky as well, one can get so bored with good whisky ;-)). What's sure is that all this is certainly a nice ride... So let's hope we'll make it to ten!

BONUS: many people ask me how I managed to write tasting notes for more than 7,000 different whiskies so far. Well, oddly enough, one answer is 'moderation' while the other one is 'very little TV', but I've also got some silly little tools such as this revolutionary fast tasting dashboard ;-).


Summer SessionRandom summer trio, birthday special

I could not just choose any ‘regular triplet’ for Whiskyfun’s 9th birthday, could I? So let’s drop the new bottlings for once, they can wait… And let’s rather select three malts from an old vintage, such as… why not 1966? And let’s make them all peaty if you don’t mind! Bowmore-Ardbeg-Caol Ila, how does that sound? Will this have enough birthday panache?
Bowmore 35 yo 1966 (43.7%, Kingsbury, cask #3300, 300 bottles, +/-2001) Five stars Bowmore+1966+Kingsbury sounds pretty much like the ultimate combo, doesn’t it! And this Japanese bottling was selected by John McDougall. Let’s see what gives (while knowing that a 1973/1998 by Kingsbury was stunning – WF 93) Colour: full gold. Nose: an orgasmic combination of tropical fruits and a sooty smokiness. Like a tennis match between both universes, sometimes the passion fruits and mangos have the upper hand, sometimes it’s the very mineral peatiness. Watching the game: ham, seawater, high-end green tea, lemon, orange blossom, hessian and coriander/sorrel. What a game! Mouth: it could have been a little weak and dry at 35 years of age but it’s exactly the opposite that happens. Powerful citrus fruits and passion fruits with a magnificent ‘coastal’ peatiness. Brine, lemon juice, mangos, rocket salad, oysters, dill… Let’s shorten the litany, it’s just fab. Finish: medium long, ultra-clean, citrusy and rather more medicinal than other old Bowmores. Comments: I was about to ask you to call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Astonishing power, peatiness and fullness. Legend. SGP:756 - 95 points. PS: I think this was our 250th tasting note for a Bowmore - not that it matters!
Ardbeg 1966/1987 (46%, Moon Import, The Birds, sherry hogshead, cask #348, 360 bottles) Five stars Cask #2443 by the same bottlers was superb (WF 93) but I never tried cask #348. Now’s the time. Colour: mahogany. Nose: it’s rather quieter than the Bowmore at first nosing, quite astonishingly, maybe because there’s a lot of dry sherry that tames the malt. Having said that, the whole never stops developing after one or two minutes, all on roasted nuts, tar, old orange liqueurs, old balsamic vinegar, cured ham and camphor. Then more chestnut liqueur, mint, ginger and a little coffee. The other 1966 by Moon had much less sherry if I remember well, but this one is stunning anyway. Utterly stunning. No water. More tar. Mouth: well, it’s very big but it’s also a little drying in the attack (a little too much cinnamon/cardboard) while there’re also bags of liquorice and tar as well as something very medicinal. Salmiak, kippers, molasses, roasted peanuts, melon liqueur. Gets then saltier and brinier, with also hints of lime and cough drops. Excellent – should I add of course – but a tad roughish and too dry. Also ‘a taste of gasoline’. Finish: long, dry, smokier. More cough syrup and a leathery aftertaste. Comments: a very big Ardbeg from the 1960s – while others were rather rounder and more approachable. It’s a superb whisky, but other old Ardbegs (most from the 1970s) have been even more superb in my book. SGP:367 - 92 points.
Caol Ila 1966/1987 (57.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for Meregali, sherry cask) Five stars All 1966 Caol Ilas I could try so far - sadly, not many - have been superb so I have high expectations. Colour: full amber. Nose: once again, there’s a lot of sherry and the malt itself isn’t totally there at first nosing. There’s rather a lot of oranges, sultanas and ham and little Caol Ila, but let’s wait… Right, it does start to grow and grow and grow, with some lemon liqueur, leather, clams and mussels, tarry ropes, parsley, camphor and eucalyptus… It seems that it’s one of these old style Caol Ilas that were more in the style of the south shore than more recent distillates. With water (with immense viscimetry ;-)): the spirit kills the cask. Extreme coastal profile, oysters, seaweed, kippers and tarry ropes. Kerosene. Mouth (neat): a monster attack, like a mix of cough syrup, heavy honey and plain limejuice. Quite extreme! Also tar and kippers but it’s all within the super-rich syrupy profile. This baby isn’t for fainthearted tasters. With water: cough syrup all over the place, plus heavy liquorice, orange marmalade, pepper, strong curry and mustard. Wow. Finish: long, extreme, with a liquoricy avalanche in the aftertaste (what?) Comments: an extreme, restless old Caol Ila, with an incredible mouth feel. I’m not sure anybody’s still making this kind of spirit on this little planet… SGP:566 - 93 points. (With heartfelt thanks to Bert V.)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: something fun and sort of solemn at the same time for WF's birthday, by one of our favourite musicians: it's the great Don Cherry's March of the Hobbits that was on his very famous Relativity Suite album (around 1973). Please buy Don Cherry's music! (and thanks, Michel)

Don Cherry

July 27, 2011


Summer Session

Random summer trio

What shall we have today? Hmm… I remember when we first tried various new makes from barleys grown on different farms while at Bruichladdich a few years ago, it was most interesting to detect some differences (while they were all distilled in the same way, of course). Why not try one that was bottled just a few weeks ago?
Bruichladdich ‘The Organic’ (46%, OB, Mid Coul, Coulmore, Mains of Tullibardine Farms, 2011)Four stars ‘Land and dram united’ says the label. How could we be against that? Colour: white wine. Nose: this is unlike any other malt whisky I could try. Extremely close to the mash/the grains, with very little oak influence apart from a few notes of vanilla flying around. A little banana, porridge, muesli, gooseberries, a little ale, baker’s yeast and then hints of strawberry-flavoured yoghurt (all organic of course). Mouth: very rich, rather heavier than the usual Bruichladdich, fuller and bigger than on the nose. Cider and pepper, custard, touches of liquorice wood, brioche, cornflakes… It’s the fullness that’s quite impressive here. Finish: rather long, more on peppered apple juice and then lemon and gooseberries (with something of the famous X4). Comments: maybe more a statement than ‘typical malt whisky’ but I think I never came this close to the cereals when tasting whisky. The cask’s influence has been kept to a minimum this time and I think the whole is very good. SGP:341 - 85 points.
Let’s try something different now, with a bottle I just brought back from a very short trip to Brittany. It’s a bottling for a very nice little spirit shop in the capital city of Rennes, called Whisky & Rhum. If you’re ever in Rennes, don’t miss it!
Macduff 2000/2010 (61.1%, A.D. Rattray for Whisky & Rhum, L’Esprit Whisky, 60 bottles) Four stars and a half There’s also a version bottled at 46%. Colour: amber with orange hues. Nose: big, very big, a typical young sherry monster full of Seville oranges, leather, cigars, cloves and milk chocolate, with only hints of burnt matches (to go with the cigars, ha-ha). With water: impressive mineral notes, pebbles and gravel, then some moss, humus, hints of bellota ham, wild Havana cigar, old leather jacket… Beautiful. Mouth (neat): superb attack, full and powerful of course at 61% but also perfectly fruity, very raisiny, without any heaviness. It’s even graceful, with a sulphur that’s hardly detectable and rather an asset here. With water: wonderful yet again. More crystallised oranges, black pepper, touches of coriander… Finish: very long, more on jams, coffee and spices. And of course fruitcakes. Comments: very impressive young sherry monster. So sad that there are (or should I say were) so little bottles, but maybe A.D. Rattray have other casks? Watch them… SGP:642 - 89 points.
Let’s choose a scary one now, as I’ve never found that peat and Port were going well together. I’ve even tried some independent Portified Laphroaigs that I just couldn’t swallow.
Benriach 15 yo 'Solstice' (50%, OB, 2011) Three stars and a half This was aged in bourbon wood and then finished in tawny Port pipes. Why not! Colour: pinkish. Nose: right, it’s a style. It’s not to my liking but this time it’s not repulsive, not at all, and we’re rather in the style of Edradour’s Ballechins. Probably from inactive casks before the finishing process. Notes of strawberries, ‘green’ peat, garden bonfire and quite a lot of smoked tea. Cherry stem tea. With water: becomes very farmy, ala Ballechin indeed. Mouth (neat): smoky strawberry jam! It’s a narrow and simple profile but it’s very spectacular and technically perfect (as far as I can tell). With water: more of all that. Smoked strawberries, Jell-O, peated jelly beans? Finish: long, very clean. Comments: very odd but very well made, even if it’s more some sort of cocktail in my view. We may soon start to play with some peaters and a little grenadine or strawberry syrup… SGP:836 - 84 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: back to the blues today with the legendary Albert Collins and his Icebreakers doing My Woman Has A Black Cat Bone, with this funny George Benson thing (it's on their album 'Live 1992-1993'). Please buy Albert Collins' music, thanks.

Albert Collins

July 26, 2011

Summer Session You know what? My idea about doing vintage sessions instead of ‘distillery’ sessions was too boring. Boring for me and maybe (who said certainly, who?) boring for you. Yet we still need an easier set-up for summertime. Right, how about this: tasting trios completely at random? After all, that’s what many tasters usually do… But we’ll try to focus on newish bottlings!

Random summer trio

Let’s start with a ‘humble’ blend, always a good way of awaking your senses…
Cutty Sark 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/- 2010) Two stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather spirity and slightly soapy at first nosing, with hints of cardboard and dust, but it does improve with a little breathing. More malt, oranges and whiffs of liquorice and violets (the flowers, not any confectionery). Mouth: good body but just as on the nose, it needs a little time to overcome the spirity and slightly burnt notes. Then more oranges again (crystallised) and touches of pear drops and honey. Finish: medium long, slightly peppery. Comments: no blend for malt freaks, but it’s a decent composition. Cutty ‘Black’ and the 18yo were more to my liking (WF 78 each) SGP:342 - 72 points.
What’s next? Ah, yes, I had this Balvenie on my shelves since quite some months, time to try it. I think Balvenie’s always great after a blend because it’s usually smooth and rounded…
Balvenie 'Tun 1401' (48.1%, OB, 2010) Four stars A vatting of six casks from 1966, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1978 and 1988, some being ex-American oak and others from sherry butts or hogsheads. Price: £399 on the Web, we’ve seen cheaper whiskies, haven’t we? Now, it was for sale at the distillery for only £150 last year. Colour: full gold. Nose: very, very ‘Balvenie’ and that’s great news. An avalanche of honeys, melliferous flowers and juicy ripe plums and apricots. Dandelions, orange blossom… Also touches of toasted brioche and hot croissants, then a little more leather and Virginia tobacco. Beautiful nose. Mouth: rich, creamy and certainly quite oaky. Oakier than what the nose suggested in any case. Unsweetened tea, cloves, then more vanilla and citrons, then a little cranberry (drops), possibly from the sherry. It’s rather less luscious than other old Balvenies in my opinion. Finish: long, still oaky and slightly drying. Comments: it’s an excellent dram but maybe one or two casks were past their primes (too oaky) and ‘had’ to be vatted? The nose is absolutely superb. SGP:461 - 87 points.
Did you hear that owners Diageo had plans to redevelop the Dailuaine Distillery? The cost should be £9.5m… Let’s celebrate with an old Dailuaine by Berry Bros…
Dailuaine 1973/2010 (50.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #10418) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: strangely enough, there’s a Balvenie-ness in this nose, with these whiffs of buttercups and lime-blossom, then plums, mead and just touches of musk and roses. It’s also faintly smoky (coal smoke?) With water: more grass and something slightly medicinal. Camphor and antiseptic (only touches!) Mouth (neat): creamy, rich and unexpectedly citrusy. A lot of orange squash, lemon drops, even some limoncello, then more oak, cinnamon and pepper. Amusing combination of peppery oak with lemony notes and tangerines and grapefruits. With water: doesn’t really change. The oak got slightly bigger (cinnamon) while there’s a little less citrus. Finish: quite long, nervous. Peppermint, cinnamon and lemon. Comments: I like this a lot. Just a little less oak would have put it at 91 or even 92 in my book. SGP:652 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Cuba's old guard striking again, with Omara Portuondo and Chucho Valdes playing a soulful Nuestra Cobardia (from their new CD 'Omara & Chucho'). Please buy all of their wonderful music.

Omara Chucho

July 25, 2011

Summer Sessions Summer Vintage Sessions, tasting four 1979s
Those were the strange years, the whisky loch was very high and a few distilleries were making, err, rather strange whiskies, although there were also gems as always… Let's have two Speysiders and two Islayers today, will those be gems indeed?…
Glenlivet Glenlivet 31 yo 1979/2011 (40%, Coopers Choice) Five stars Colour: pale amber. Nose: oh yes! Sure it's no powerful whisky but it's perfectly malty and rounded, somewhere between the best Glenrothes, Macallans and, obviously, Glenlivets. That means that it's got a fairly bigger profile than most Glenlivets in my view. Superb notes of flowers, roses, peonies, then various honeys, herbal teas, toffee, milk chocolate, fruits… As I wrote, this is exquisitely complex, with superb balance. I cannot not remember the older Macallan 30 in its all-blue livery… Mouth: one of these malts at 40ù that do not need more power, although it's maybe a tad less complex than on the nose now. Mead, orange cake, roasted nuts, quince jelly, touches of tobacco and then a little rose jelly and strawberry jam. Finish: astonishingly long, on more jam and strawberries. Malty/toasty aftertaste. Comments: Coopers/Vintage Malt Society seem to own quite some fab Glenlivets. This is a wonderful old style bottling, the exact opposite of a new young Ardbeg ex-American oak in a certain way (that can be wonderful as well, of course). SGP:552 - 91 points.
Glenfarclas Glenfarclas 1979/2008 'Family Casks III' (50.6%, OB, bourbon barrel, cask #2216) Five stars There aren't that many '100% bourbon' Glenfarclas around… Colour: full gold. Nose: it's big and it's all on white fruit jams and vanilla, with herbs in the background. Quinces, plums and Williams pears (as jam or dried) plus a little patchouli, green tea and sweetened horseradish. Also obvious whiffs of Virgina tobacco (unlit Camels). With water: super. Hay and 'clean cow stable'. Mouth (neat): starts just like it was on the nose plus some oranges and tangerines, but gets then rather spicier. Fresh and 'nervous' spices such as fresh ginger, green cardamom… This is excellent I must say because this baby doesn't display any dullish vanilla. Also strawberries. With water: keeps going on with the same notes. Swims like a champ! Finish: rather long, fresh, jammy and honeyed. Comments: to tell you the truth, I feel it's of the same very high quality as the Glenlivet. Speyside's best. SGP:642 - 91 points. (many thanks, Anthony)
Bowmore Bowmore 1979/1990 (46%, Duthie for Samaroli, flowers, 480 bottles) Four stars I'm really curious about this rare one, will it be like the stunning 1966 'Bouquet' by the same bottler (WF 97) or more like the embarrassing 1984 'fino puncheon' (WF 61)? Colour: white wine. Nose: no lavenderish notes yet in this Bowmore, but it's already lost the 1960s and early 1970s' magnificent fruitiness (passion fruits and mangos better than passion fruits and mangos). In fact, it's very mineral and austere, with a medium peatiness. A little sea air as well, grass, touches of soap… I wouldn't say there's much happening here. Mouth: rather more interesting than on the nose. Raw peat and dried apples, sugar cane, oils (sunflower) and growing lemon notes. Now we're talking, because the lemon brought the riesling, touches of sage, celeriac, something rooty ineed… Very good! Finish: medium long, with a greasy and very sweet vanilla on top of the 'riesling notes'. Comments: not much on the nose and a slowish palate, but then… Now, it was a young one. SGP:365 - 85 points.
Caol Ila Caol Ila 32 yo 1979/2011 (52%, The Whisky Agency, joint bottling with The Nectar, bourbon hogshead, 242 bottles) Five stars I never came across a 1979 Caol Ila that wasn't to my liking. Those babies are getting old now… (who said and so we are, who?) Colour: straw. Nose: hmm… A little lumpish at first, slightly cardboardy and curiously shy… Grass, walnut skins, linseed oil… This baby will need time! After a few minutes: more tar, pine sap, leather grease… Oh well, let's use a powerful weapon: water. So, with water: whoosh! It became ultra-austere, all on seaweed and gravels/pebbles. Some brine as well. Mouth (neat): quicker in action. Salty, resinous, tarry and very leafy/rooty, thicker and bigger than most other old Caol Ilas I could try. Very nice mint and lemon combination supporting the whole, but it gets then a little bitter (strong tea). With water: back to life. More lemon, brine, kippers, almonds and grapefruits. Finish: medium long, very briny. Comments: hard to tame, this old Caol Ila! A true fighter - or rather a rollercoaster. SGP:376 - 90 points.
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK in St Tropez - July 15, 2011
Yup, an old one...

MUSIC - Recommended listening (highly): this little gem of a tune called After you've gone, with Django and Joseph Reinhardt on guitars, Stéphane Grappelli on violin and Freddie Taylor on vocals. Amazing sound for a 1936 recording, like many of the Quintet du Hot Club de France recordings. Please buy their musics.


July 23, 2011


Clynelish 1982

Clynelish 1982, do opposites attract?

I think you cannot oppose two whiskies that are more different. One’s young, probably from silent oak and bottled at very high strength, while the other one’s old and finished in the most active wood that’s to be found: new oak. Let’s see what gives… Note that we should have started with the lightest one but in this set-up, I believe age and wood treatment command.

Clynelish 12 yo 1982/1995 (64.2%, Cadenhead, USA, 750ml) Four stars and a half 64.2% vol. are nothing, W.M. Cadenhead already had another Clynelish 1982 at… 66.3%. Colour: straw. Nose: sure it’s powerful, sure it’s hot, but fresh and lively notes of green apples, lime, beeswax and cut grass (and maybe cut cactus) do make it to your nostrils. Not much else but at such high strength, it’s better not to try any harder. Our noses are precious! With water: how green, grassy and lemony! Ultra-zesty, sharp, riesling-esque… Mouth (neat): only a drop really explodes on your palate, into a lot of lemon, apple and these waxy/resinous elements that really scream ‘Clynelish’. It’s very strong and void of any detectable oakiness, or so it seems. With water: perfect, ultra-crisp, lemony, grassy, very ‘pointed’ so to speak. Some olive oil as well. You hate this or you love it. Finish: more of the same for a long time. Comments: this is probably immature, unbalanced and too raw. Yet, it’s splendid spirit in my opinion. SGP:373 - 88 points (and many thanks, Tom B.).
PS: what I also like is that at 64.2% vol., the distinguished bottlers felt the need to add that it was bottled at cask strength ;-).

Clynelish 27 yo 1982 (45.5%, Exclusive Casks, finished in fresh European oak, cask #9865, 2010) Three stars Colour: amber with orange hues. Nose: it’s always better to try such bottlings blind because of course, once you know that there’s new oak, you get new oak. My bad. Having said that, I like these slightly farmy notes that hint at neighbouring Brora distillery, the new leather, the whiffs of pencil shavings and fresh sawdust, then the mocha and café latte, vanilla, beeswax, young Swiss cheese (not cheesy at all, rather flowery), dog rose tea, toasted bread and oak… It’s not very ‘Clynelish’ in my opinion but this difference is pleasant. Mouth: this is more ‘Clynelish’ for sure, even if it’s a tad unlikely. The saltiness is rather obvious, the resinous waxiness as well, there’s also something slightly meaty/yeasty (brown sauce?), some walnut liqueur (the one you make using green nuts with the bur)… It’s all very different, without Clynelish’s usual crispness.  Finish: medium long. Notes of cured ham and herbal liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: right, this is difficult whisky. As a Clynelish lover, I’m missing Clynelish. As someone who’s regularly tasting quite a few whiskies, I applaud the rather ‘whacky’ profile, because this whisky is unlike any other whisky. Vive la difference! Now, as always, I’d have been keen on trying this baby before finishing… SGP:452 - 80 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: late singer and composer extraordinaire Alain Bashung doing his Tango Funèbre (the Mournful Tango) in a rather Brellian way. Please buy all of Bashung's music!


July 20, 2011

Summer Sessions Summer Vintage Sessions, tasting seven 1992s including three Ardmore
Some distilleries were improving their makes in the 1990s and the 1992s are now 18 years of age or more, so I guess we can expect some wonderful whiskies...
Longmorn Longmorn 17yo 1992/2010 (53.9%, Adelphi, cask #48430, 186 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: a rather mineral one, with also some vanilla and a faint sourness (cider apples), then more marzipan and almond oil as well as just a little tar. Also some leather and tobacco, the whole being slightly aggressive but really complex. With water: more grassy and herbal notes, Bénédictine, touches of porridge… Then more vanilla again. Mouth (neat): rich, both spicy and orangey, with nice notes of chlorophyll chewing gum and liquorice that give it an herbal side. Hints of rhum agricole as well. With water: sweeter and fruitier (apricots) but also a tad more drying. Cinnamon. Finish: rather long, with even more cinnamon from the oak. Comments: a rather harsher Longmorn but quality is high. SGP:471 - 86 points.
Benriach Benriach 18 yo 1992/2010 (54.1%, Whisky Tales, sherry, 345 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: big, on a very chocolaty sherry, some mint and a lot of liquorice. Whiffs of cough syrup and a little varnish, then more humus and earth. After Eights. With water: more dry and herbal sherry, fino-like. Walnuts… Also hints of old pinot noir, something animal… Very nice. Mouth (neat): sweet, rich, fruity and herbal at the same time. Mangos and green tea, liquorice and blood oranges. Also notes of blackberry jam. With water: much more of red berries plus cloves and cardamom. Finish: long, creamy, with (even) more sherry. Comments: big sherry but Benriach's fruitiness manages to shine through. Very good. SGP:561 - 87 points.
Glenmorangie Glenmorangie 18 yo 1992/2010 '125.39' (55,7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, first fill bourbon hogshead, Gateau de Mille-feuilles) Four stars and a half One of very rare independent Glenmorangies but as you may know, the SMWS belongs to them. Colour: gold. Nose: unexpectedly austere, mineral and grassy. Fresh almonds, chalk and sawdust. A little fresh mint and eucalyptus in the background, which is nice. With water: much more fresh oak and vanilla, which was to be expected more. Also nice whiffs of warm hay in summer. Mouth (neat): well, this is a typical 'almost new' American oak profile, with a lot of maple syrup, vanilla and greengage jam and a good deal of white pepper and ginger in the background. Big sweetness and a rich body. With water: a little more fruits, bananas, papayas… A little more green oak as well. Finish: long, creamy, fruity and honeyed. Tinned pineapples. No drying oak in the aftertaste. Comments: very modern and very, very good. Very sexy bourbonny profile. As for that 'Gateau de Mille-feuilles', well, in French you simply say 'mille-feuilles'. SGP:651 - 88 points.
Glen Keith Glen Keith 18 yo 1992/2011 (59%, Signatory, Cask Strength Collection, bourbon barrels, casks #120549+550, 352 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: powerful, rather grassy and grainy. Porridge and clay, then more vanilla, menthol, freshly broken branches and a little vanilla crème. Nice balance despite the high strength. With water: becomes completely cloudy. More vanilla… Mouth (neat): spectacularly thick and coating, it's almost jam! Orange marmalade, sweet curry, ripe mirabelle plums and touches of liquorice and vanilla. A big Glen Keith! With water: superb combination of many fruits and soft spices from the oak. Finish: long, just as fruity. Comments: excellent in my opinion. State of the art bourbon maturation with good complexity. In the same vein as the Glenmorangie. SGP:651 - 88 points.
Let's have three 1992 Ardmores now if you please… They can be very good (especially since they all come from some distinguished German malt mads)
Armore Ardmore 18 yo 1992/2011 (49.1%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon barrel, 69 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: nutty, very nutty at first nosing. Pecan pie, walnut cake, then bitter oranges… The peat is rather discreet but it does add complexity here, as well as these slightly tropical notes that can be found in old Laphroiags and Bowmores (I know you know what I mean). Almond oil. With water: more coastal notes. Amazingly coastal when considering this is Ardmore. It's even got a Broraness. Mouth (neat): perfect peat, fresh fruits and jammy jams (but of course, S.) Slightly earthy as well, ashy, citrusy… Frankly, this is perfect. With water: more roots, gentian… Finish: long, earthy, smoky, sooty and herbal. Apple peeling, mangos… Comments: yay, this is good! Between us, it's to be wondered if Allied didn't try to copy-and-paste Ardbeg at the time. SGP:456 - 90 points.
Ardmore Ardmore 1992/2010 (49.4%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #5014, 185 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: very similar to the W-D, maybe a tad rounder and more vanilled as well as less peaty, but very faintly so. Same superb tropical fruits. With water: they're even closer to each other… Mouth (neat): same whisky as the W-D, maybe a wee touch more liquoricy. Splitting hairs again. With water: splitting hairs indeed. Finish: same. Maybe a little coffee. Comments: same. SGP:456 - 90 points.
Ardmore Ardmore 18 yo 1992/2011 (49.1%, Liquid Sun, bourbon barrel) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: once again we're very close. Maybe, I said maybe, this is a tad smokier and sootier, and a little less fruity. With water: maybe a little more on hessian and wet dogs (sorry dogs). I think the cask was a little less active. Mouth (neat): same. I get a little more earth, maybe… With water: indeed, maybe a little more freshness, apples… Other than that, it's all perfect yet again. Finish: ditto. A wee tad sootier and ashier. Comments: with many distillers mastering wood technology better and better since the 1990s, I think it's to be wondered if the concept of single casks will still make much sense in a few years. Anyway, these three Ardmores were really superb. A few more years and they'll be 91-92 material. SGP:456 - 90 points.
Conclusion: all these 1992s were simply excellent in my opinion. More vintages to follow...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Benny Golson bopping even more than usual. It's called Origin and it's on his album 'This is for you John' (they all recorded such LPs after John Coltrane passed away, even if this one is from 1983.) Please buy the great Mr Benny Golson's music.


July 18, 2011

Summer Sessions Summer Vintage Sessions, tasting nine 1995s
Quite a few vintages down already, let's address 1995 today. There were some excellent Bowmores and Clynelishes distilled in 1995 but we won't have any of those today...
Glenkinchie Glenkinchie 1995/2009 'Distiller's Edition' (43%, OB, Amontillado casks, G/282-7-D) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: starts fresh and rather on oranges and vanilla fudge, with some white fruits and grass in the background as well as something slightly burnt (cake). Goes on with some unusual spices, curry, allspices, maybe caraway… Also a little smoked tea and a faint mustiness (old cellar). The whole is, well unusual but not unpleasant. Mouth: rather creamy and toasty at the same time, with notes of dried apricots and a little honey. A little leather, barley sugar and vanilla. It’s quite oily but it may lack a little more liveliness. Finish: rather short, on honey and a little cardboard. Some cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: I had some previous batches at 79 and I’ll stick with that. SGP:341 - 79 points.
Linkwood Linkwood 15 yo 1995/2011 (40%, Coopers Choice, refill butt, cask #489, 600 bottles) Three stars and a half Not many independent bottlers bottling at 40% vol. these days… Colour: gold. Nose: oh, a typical mildly sherried Linkwood displaying whiffs of roses, Turkish delights, Seville oranges and caramel flavoured fudge. Or millionaire shortbread? A tad ‘antique’, so to speak, and quite beautiful. Let’s only hope the palate won’t be weakish… Mouth: funnily, we’re closer to sweet wine than to whisky here. Don’t get me wrong, it’s well whisky but the softness and these notes of figs, sultanas and oranges make me think of some Banyuls or Rivesaltes. Also a little caramel again as well as some milk chocolate. A little honey and malt as well. Exactly, err, nice. Finish: a little short but nicely honeyed and chocolaty. Comments: a soft malt, very drinkable, a bit in the ‘ueber-blend’ style. Reminds me of Johnnie Walker Green Label. SGP:541 - 84 points.
Imperial Imperial 15 yo 1995/2011 (46%, Signatory, Un-chillfiltered Collection, hogshead, cask #50306+50307, 721 bottles) Four stars There are some gems in this series that’s always fairly priced. Colour: white wine. Nose: a malty, close to the grain whisky, with quite some muesli at first nosing and then whiffs of fern and fresh mint that are very enjoyable. Gets then earthier. Humus. Mouth: excellent! Earthy again, peppery, waxy and fruity (grapefuits). Also touches of honeydew and then liquorice. Also a little gingerbread, speculoos… Very nice. Finish: long, on peppered liquorice (yeah, should that exist). Comments: an excellent surprise but we all knew that Imperial could be quite fascinating – and sometimes a bit crappy as well ;-). SGP: 452 - 87 points.
Springbank Springbank 15 yo 1995/2010 (49.9%, A.D. Rattray for Alba Import, Germany, sherry hogshead, cask #96, 220 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: it’s one of these ‘strange’ ones, with quite some paraffin and gunpowder (some ‘private’ OBs were like this a few years ago). Huge notes of leather, damp earth, saltpetre and bitter oranges… With water: becomes very farmy. Wet dogs (sorry, dogs) and moss (sorry, mo… hold on…) plus soy sauce and old balsamic vinegar. Mouth (neat): rich and very peppery, powerful, extremely leathery, with notes of gin and quite some cardboard in the background. Salmiak. With water: becomes a little grassier, with also quite some pepper, cloves and these gin notes once again (no soap though). Finish: rather long, with the spices coming to the front. Ginger. Comments: sometimes scary, sometimes beautiful. What a ride! What’s sure is that it’s very unorthodox… I like it a lot but I like the mildly or totally un-sherried Spirnganks even better. SGP:373 - 85 points.
Glenturret Glenturret 15 yo 1995/2011 (53%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles) Three stars Just like Springbank, Glenturret can be very entertaining ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: starts on some mega-huge notes of pecan pie, then a lot of custard and sugar cane, then more grassy elements such as fresh walnuts and, well, grass and oatcakes. A little lamp oil in the background, or is that linseed oil? With water: more genuine apple juice (from apples, not from a factory if you see what I mean) and sweet barley. Very, very ‘naked’. Mouth (neat): ultra-fresh, very young, very fruity. We’re close to new make or pear spirit here, the cask must have been flat dead. What’s really cool is that the distillate shines through and that it’s absolutely not ‘whacky’ like older Glenturrets used to be in my opinion. With water: lovely pear spirit plus a little earth and sugar cane. Finish: medium long, all on barley sugar, with just traces of mustard in the aftertaste. Comments: very simple and very good. Although this lacks maturing, itt seems that Glenturret’s spirit really improved from the mid-1990s on.  SGP:630- 80 points.
Glengoyne Glengoyne 13 yo 1995/2009 ‘SC’ (56.1%, OB, Oloroso Hogshead, cask #2082, 256 bottles) Three stars and a half No need to say that SC stands for Sans Caramel. Okay, Single Cask… Colour: full amber. Nose: a rich chocolaty sherry with touches of struck matches and wet gravels. Hints of cured ham and a little brine, which is unusual in a sherried Glengoyne. With water: becomes unexpectedly coastal. Sea air… Then more old leather and a few farmy notes. Say a horse saddle. Mouth (neat): rich, powerful, mega-fruity sherry with an avalanche of oranges, dates, raisins and papayas. Touches of lemon rind in the background, as well as cloves and pepper. A lot of cloves. With water: more dried fruits. Figs, quinces… a little coriander as well. Finish: rather long, all on fig jam and white chocolate. Comments: this is extremely good but I doubt the original spirit has much to say. Having said that, the other MMs really loved it at the MMA 2010 and it won very solid silver. SGP:731 - 84 points.
Macallan Macallan 14 yo 1995/2010 (57%, Adelphi, cask #10450, 268 bottles) Five stars This one by Adelphi, the great people who’ve got such good eyes ;-). Colour: pale gold. Nose: brilliant! I remember ten years ago or so, when we were all chasing unsherried Macallans like if there was no tomorrow. They became common since then but this Adelphi is a good example of a beautiful spirit, with this greasiness that’s so typical. Sunflower oil, then more oranges and citrons, touches of fresh coriander, vanilla and spearmint. Lovable. With water: more freshly broken branches and ginger, wet fabric, a little chalk… All that is quite wonderful. Mouth (neat): an explosive fruitiness and many fresh spices. Lemons, tangerines and pomegranates plus dill, liquorice, fresh ginger and celery. Love it. With water: wonderful. Finish: quite long, a tad more bitter, in a wonderful way. Grapefruits and honey. Comments: I must apologise, I had this one at 87 at the MMA 2010 but now I feel it’s well worth 90. Try to find one bottle and tell me what you think! SGP:552 - 90 points.
Balblair Balblair 15 yo 1995/2010 (59.8%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, refill sherry, cask #1687, 266 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: this is a good example of how refill sherry would let the original spirit shine through while adding depth and complexity. Wonderful notes of tangerines and mangos, typically Balblair from the 1960s (yes I know this was ditilled in 1995), then more ‘light’ dry fruits, figs, pears, bananas… All that is coated with a mix of honey and sugar cane. Only a very discreet dustiness in the background. With water: wow, butter and Williams pears all over the place. Pies, jams, liqueurs and sweets. Having said that, ihey’re not ‘young pears’ at all (amyl acetate). Mouth (neat): more nervous and eau-de-vie-ish than expected, maybe a little rough at this point. Litres of kirsch and plum spirit with touches of honey. It’s very good but it’s much less luscious than on the nose. With water: the ‘old’ pears are back, as well as tangerines and oranges. Notes of marc (Burgnundy?) Finish: long, clean, fresh, on… high-quality pearsand juicy sultanas. Comments: matured pears! The whole is quite wonderful and reminds me of some of G&M’s best (the older ‘CASK’ series). SGP:641 - 88 points.


Glenallachie 16 yo 1995/2011 (53%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #6707, 222 bottles) Two stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: young spirit from barely active wood. Rain water, touches of cologne and green apples. Hello? With water: raw spirit. Not unpleasant at all but bland – in my opinion of course. Mouth (neat): it’s a little more interesting than on the nose. Touches of white pepper on raw apple juice and gooseberries, with a little lemon. Touches of oak. With water: sweet barley and apple juice. Nothing else. Finish: medium long, on the same flavours. Comments: these very naked bottlings can be great because they let the spirit shine through, but that’s only great when the spirit is interesting. In this case, well… It’s a little surprising that the otherwise very excellent MoS decided to bottle this humble cask. Don’t they make blends? ;-). Having said that, it’s not flawed, not at all. SGP:331 - 72 points.

Okay, enough with the 1995s… The Macallan by eagle-eyed Adelphi has been my favourite but the Balblair was impressive as well. Which vintage shall we have next? Stay tuned...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the very funny veterans Eric Burdon and Brian Auger doing a crazy No More Elmore James live (from their superb joint CD 'Access All Areas', around 1992). This, is fun. Please buy the music of these two luminaries...
Hold on, let' also have their frenzied version of Burdon and War's fan-tas-tic hit Spill the Wine while we're at it...

Burdon Auger

July 15, 2011

Summer Sessions Summer Vintage Sessions, tasting three 1963s
Many great whiskies from those golden years, esp. Ardbeg, Bowmore, Glen Grant and Strathisla. G&M had, and still have some fantastic ones.
Macallan Macallan 1963/1980 'Special Selection' (43%, OB, Rinaldi) Five stars There used to be an official 1963 in a crystal decanter that was very good (WF 89) but not stunning. This may be greater… Colour: amber. Nose: how did they do that? Unmistakably old sherried Macallan, with this wonderful balance that’s rarely to be found in any other malt (including modern Macallans). Many fruit liqueurs, many dried fruits and many herbs, all that being wonderfully ‘interwoven’ and hence more ‘compact’ than others. Wild strawberries, figs, orange blossom water, rosewater, white chocolate, hawthorn tea and this very peculiar smokiness that was only to be found in these old Macs. Also polished wood (precious wood, sandal, thuja…) And parsley and lovage… Better stop now because it would just go on and on.
Mouth: big and rich, maybe less entrancing than on the nose because of the slight dryness (grape pips, walnut skin) but still quite beautiful. Orange marmalade, dates, raspberry eau-de-vie and old fortified wine (Banyuls). I guess that’s the sherry talking… Touches of lemon. Finish: medium long, with a little more smoke and liquorice. Some mint and cough syrup in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s maybe not as flabbergastingly complex as some other vintages at Macallan (1930s, 1940s, 1950s and some from the 1960s) but it’s still fabulous whisky. This smokiness isn’t to be found in any modern Macallans. SGP:653 - 91 points.
Ben Nevis Ben Nevis 40 yo 1963/2004 (45.7%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old and Rare, 339 bottles) Colour: deep gold. Nose: what a difference! This one has a lot of glue and varnish, acetone, pinewood and heavy mint liqueur. It’s not that it’s repulsive but it’s very extreme. Huge oak extraction! In the background, some pineapple and oranges. I’m really curious about the palate, it could be great… or totally flawed. Let’s see! Mouth: okay, it’s not an utter disaster, thanks to some creamy fudge and custard that manage to keep the bitterness at bay. Well, sort of… But it’s still all on artichoke liqueur (Cynar), Underberg, glue… No, frankly, I think it’s flawed. Finish: long and very bitter. Some burnt plastic in the aftertaste. Comments: what’s great is that you can count your vertebras when swallowing this weird oak infusion. One, two, three, four… SGP:282 - 48 points.
Strathisla Strathisla 48 yo 1963/2011 (51.8%, Gordon & MacPhail for Limburg, Book of Kells label) Five stars How many great old Strathislas did G&M bottle so far? Dozens? Hundreds? Colour: deep gold. Nose: much more restrained, much more elegant than the Ben Nevis, without any extreme oakiness at this point. Rather beautiful metallic and mineral notes (old tools, pebbles), some cough syrup, tangerine liqueur, pecan pie, light camphor and honey, becoming a tad cardboardy after a while, very faintly so. Beautiful nose, very slightly restrained. After 15 minutes: more cured ham and herbs, which is always great news. With water: more farmy and meaty notes but other than that, no huge development. No wonder, it was already very talkative without water…
Mouth (neat): there’s a lot of oak but the poor Ben Nevis that we just had showed us that there can be awful old oak and much nicer old oak, which is the case here. So, some tannins and eucalyptus/pine drops but also wonderful notes of nectarine jam, tangerines as well, fresh papayas, hints of old rum, vanilla fudge, rosehip syrup (love that) and many other tinier notes. With water: superb old liqueurs and dried fruits, especially all kinds of raisins And it did NOT get any oakier. Finish: medium long, on cinnamon and raisins (and dozens of other tinier notes). Some unexpected bacon in the aftertaste and retro-olfaction. Comments: contrarily to the crappy Ben Nevis, this one is an ode to oldness in whisky, even if I’d have scored it even higher with a little less oak. SGP:662 - 92 points.
My winner: the old Strathisla, but tasters who can't stand oak (even when it's polished oak) may have liked the Macallan better. More to come...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: something easy, a Frenchman having a go at Philly's sound around 1970. He's Claude Moine aka Eddy Mitchell and the song is C'est Facile (It's Easy). Please buy Mr Eddy Mitchell's music.

Eddy Micthell

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

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



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

Ardbeg 1966/1987 (46%, Moon Import, The Birds, sherry hogshead, cask #348, 360 bottles)

Ardmore 18 yo 1992/2011 (49.1%, Liquid Sun, bourbon barrel)

Ardmore 1992/2010 (49.4%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #5014, 185 bottles)

Ardmore 18 yo 1992/2011 (49.1%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon barrel, 69 bottles)

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

Caol Ila 1966/1987 (57.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for Meregali, sherry cask)

Caol Ila 32 yo 1979/2011 (52%, The Whisky Agency, joint bottling with The Nectar, bourbon hogshead, 242 bottles)

Dailuaine 1973/2010 (50.6%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #10418)

Glenfarclas 1979/2008 'Family Casks III' (50.6%, OB, bourbon barrel, cask #2216)

Glenlivet 31 yo 1979/2011 (40%, Coopers Choice)

Macallan 1963/1980 'Special Selection' (43%, OB, Rinaldi)

Macallan 14 yo 1995/2010 (57%, Adelphi, cask #10450, 268 bottles)

Strathisla 48 yo 1963/2011 (51.8%, Gordon & MacPhail for Limburg, Book of Kells label)