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June 2014 - part 2 <--- July 2014 - part 1 ---> July 2014 - part 2


July 14, 2014


The quest for malternatives on Bastille Day, calvados part trois

This is the third – and last – calvados session this year.

Château du Breuil 8 yo 'Réserve du Château' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013)

Château du Breuil 8 yo 'Réserve du Château' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013) Two stars and a halfThe fine was meh, the X.O. was much to my liking, let’s check this intermediary bottling. Colour: gold. Nose: interesting and really nice, this is a rather herbal calvados, with notes of gin, chartreuse and Bénédictine. There’s also a little earth and cardboard, and rather less apples (or pears) than in all the other calvados we had. I also find a lot of hay. Mouth: rather powerful, this time I’m finding notes of tropical fruits that rather hint at some rums. Pineapples, for example. Also apple peelings and a slightly bitterish thing… walnuts? But I do find this one interesting indeed. Finish: quite long, a little gingery. More vegetables in the aftertaste, which isn’t as nice. Comments: this one’s got some character. Almost a malternative! SGP:560 - 79 points.

Christian Drouin 1989/2008 (42%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, fût de xérès)

Christian Drouin 1989/2008 (42%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, fût de xérès) Three stars and a half This is serious stuff. Drouin is always serious stuff. Interesting maturation in sherry wood. Colour: full gold. Nose: I have to say this is the closest to whisky calvados can get, and that’s probably because of the sherry casks. But it’s probably refill, because this is well calvados, with a lovely and smooth-yet-firm profile on overripe apples, jams, liqueurs, marzipan and cigarette tobacco. New pack of Camels. I also fid a little wood smoke. Mouth: very punchy, it feels like 50% vol., really. Apples, a touch of cologne, candy sugar, cakes, a little burnt honey… Finish: long but it’s not the best part, because it’s become very grassy and almost bitter. Overinfused green tea. Comments: forget about the finish, it’s still a very lovely calvados. Excuse me? Finishes are a very important part of any aged spirit? Sure, sure… SGP:561 - 83 points.

Roger Groult 'Vénérable Hors d'Âge' (41%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013)

Roger Groult 'Vénérable Hors d'Âge' (41%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013) Two stars This baby’s more than 18 years of age. I mean, the youngest calva in the vatting is 18 years old. Colour: orange gold. Nose: a rather shier one, which is surprising. I find whiffs of apples indeed, maybe hints of farmyard and even cow stable, but other than that it’s rather silent. A few almonds, a little caramel, hints of cooked asparagus…  All that while the notes of cow stable grew bigger. How artisan/farmy is that? Mouth: a completely different story. Much more depth and bigness, with some leather, apple peelings, maybe touches of varnish, then gingerbread, bitter almonds, cider apples, bitter oranges… All this is very dry. Finish: long, spicy, peppery, grassy and austere. Comments: a very austere and sharp style again. Probably for skilled calvados aficionados only – while I’m an absolute and utter beginner as far as calvados is concerned. And so shall I remain, since this baby was our very last calvados until… say 2015? My bad. SGP:262 - 74 points.

The new malternatives we've found in calvados:
Louis de Lauriston 1963 SGP:461 - 84 points.
Christian Drouin 1989/2008 SGP:561 - 83 points.
Château du Breuil 'Réserve des Seigneurs X.O.' SGP:561 - 80 points.
Daron 'Fine' SGP:552 - 80 points.



Block Today: PROG BLUES (?). Performer: Sonny Landreth. Track: Native Stepson. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 11, 2014


A pair of peated Jura plus bonus

There’re quite a few peated Juras around these days. I remember well the first very young official peaters that the distillery had issued around ten years ago, those used to rock!

Jura 23 yo 1989/2013 (57.6%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #30708, 196 bottles)

Jura 23 yo 1989/2013 (57.6%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #30708, 196 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s an unusual peatiness, or rather a peatiness that’s relatively light and rather hidden behind a thickish wall of vanilla and corn syrup. Not that that doiesn’t work, not at all, it’s just not ‘a peat monster’. Custard, more custard, then light honey, orange cake, a newly opened pack of shortbread… There’s also a flowery side. With water: becomes as opaque as milk, even after the addition of one drop. Other than that, doesn’t change much. Vanilla! Mouth (neat): starts very well, rather zestier and with less ‘dullish’ vanilla. I find notes of blood oranges, and many of them, then more barley water, earl grey tea, some green tea for sure… I’m afraid it’s even drinkable at full strength! So a potent zesty Jura. The peat’s not too big, having said that. With water: almost perfect now. More mint, leaves, eucalyptus, grapefruits, fresh walnuts… Very grassy aftertaste. Finish: medium length. Clean, zesty, fresh and… Islayesque. Comments: I think I liked the palate better. A quality bottling nonetheless. SGP:364 – 86 points.

Jura 24 yo 1989/2014 (58.8%, Signatory Vintage for Limburg, bourbon barrel, cask #30724, 193 bottles)

Jura 24 yo 1989/2014 (58.8%, Signatory Vintage for Limburg, bourbon barrel, cask #30724, 193 bottles) Four stars and a half A sister cask, obviously. Colour: white wine. Nose: how very interesting! Another proof that oak’s great, but that less oak can be better if the botllers have got time and can wait. This one’s obviously very close, but it’s got less vanilla, hence more brightness, vivacity and, well, peat. Very lovely nose, we could have been on Islay, or to be more precise, at the nearest distillery, Caol Ila. With water: almonds and smoked tea come out, both sister casks are diverging much more when reduced. Mouth (neat): same comments, it’s even zestier than its sister, it’s certainly peatier, and once again it’s got something very ‘Caol Ila’. Maybe did they just cross the sound of Islay at night and burgled one of CI’s warehouse? Haha… With water: even more of that feeling. Excellent. Finish: same, zesty, clean. Comments: forgot to mention crab meat, but maybe that’s only my mind playing tricks. Ever seen (or tasted) the fantastic crabs they catch in the Sound of Islay? SGP:455 - 88 points.

While we’re at it, we could also have a little digestif…

Isle of Jura 1972/1991 (55.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #31.4, 75cl)

Isle of Jura 1972/1991 (55.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #31.4, 75cl) Five stars I couldn’t tell you if 1972 was as much a ‘vintage of the century’ as at other well-known Scottish distilleries. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: makes you cry. This is exactly it, a blend of high focus and complexity. Amazing ‘real mangos’ (since I could recently check how far from the junk mangos we find in our supermarkets real mangos can be), papayas, pink grapefruits and rhubarb, then more sorrel, soft curry and sweet chives. I cannot not think of Lochside 1966, if that rings a bell… With water: same, which is great. Couldn’t have gotten any nicer anyway. Mouth (neat): amazingly fresh and fruity arrival, but there isn’t only fruits, here’s also a little tobacco, olive oil, liquorice, green pepper and maybe juniper. The oily side really hints at old Jura, it’s one of the distillery’s markers in my book. Absolutely beautiful and quite complex, while other well-know fruit bombs can be superb, but simple (or the other way ‘round). With water: a perfect old dry Vouvray. Like, 1959. Enough said… Finish: long, absolutely perfect. Comments: this is malt whisky. Lifts your spirit and puts you in a better mood – and that’s not the alcohol. SGP:752 - 94 points.

(with heartfelt thanks to Carsten)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Isle of Jura I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Jimmy D. Lane. Track: In This Bed. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 10, 2014



Tasting two Arran

Arran’s reputation doesn’t seem to stop growing within connoisseur circles, which, I think, is more than deserved.

Isle of Arran 12 yo 2001/2013 (46%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13064, 310 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: smells a bit like some date arrak at first nosing, on sweet grapes, sultanas, dates indeed and then more overripe plums and apricots, with a honeyed touch. A very sounded nose, very raisiny, but there are leaves and grass emerging after two minutes, which balances that. A very pleasant, rather uncomplicated nose. Mouth: same feeling. Raisins and dates, dried figs, a little marmalade, a little sweet wine Rivesaltes-style, and then more grass, tea and pepper, although the whole remains sweet and easy. I find this very good, and again, very easy. Finish: quite long, with more Ovaltine, raisins, honey, maple syrup… More salted fudge in the aftertaste. Comments: a clean sherried version that’s please just anyone, especially at this easy strength. Very, very quaffable. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Arran 17 yo 1997/2014 (50.1%, OB for The Whisky Fair 2014, sherry hogshead, cask #1997/518, 246 bottles) Four starsColour: straw. Nose: rather more citrusy, and less candied and honeyed. Oranges, lemon zests, lemongrass, then a little cooked rhubarb and earth. Then rather orange blossom honey, raw malted barley, meadow flowers and, well, simply nectar. A very light style, with something ‘Lowlands’ that works very well. Mouth: exactly the same, plus a curious meatiness and flintiness that may come from the sherry cask. Tart citrus, grapefruits, icing sugar and jellybeans (lemon-flavoured), lemon curd, then drops of lemon sauce (Thai-style, I’d say). Good body, does not seem to need water. Finish: long, lemony, slightly acidic, nervous and very clean despite the unusual meaty side. Comments: same high quality as the MoS, despite some very diverging styles. SGP:551 - 85 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Arran I've tasted so far


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback in St Tropez



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Joe Henderson. Track: Tress-Cun-Deo-La. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 9, 2014


Tasting Benriach again. And peat.

Long time no Benriach, time to have a few again. But first, a little aperitif…

Benriach 17 yo 1996/2014 (43%, Chieftain's, St. Etienne rum finish, cask #93951/93953, 1063 bottles)

Benriach 17 yo 1996/2014 (43%, Chieftain's, St. Etienne rum finish, cask #93951/93953, 1063 bottles) Three stars A rum finish at 43% vol. is not a thing of the past, apparently. Colour: straw. Nose: well, I’m afraid I quite like this nose, it’s very fresh and fruity, and the rhum agricole from HSE seems to have brought notes of bananas and pineapples that perfectly complement Benriach’s usual mangos and tangerines. This premix isn’t very complicated, but indeed the fruitiness is very sexy. Mouth: again, no dissonances, it’s an engaging fruity malt, although there’s rather more grass as well. Grapefruits, skins and peelings… The body’s also more than satisfactory. Finish: a little short, maltier, maybe a little bitter now. Touches of burnt sugar. Comments: some friends are looking for easy summer malts these days. This baby’s one worthy candidate. SGP:551 - 81 points.

While we’re doing finishings…

Benriach 20 yo 1993/2013 (54.2%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, Madeira wood finish, cask #1878)

Benriach 20 yo 1993/2013 (54.2%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, Madeira wood finish, cask #1878) Five stars Madeira’s one of the wine finishings that can really work, in my humble experience. Colour: dark gold. Nose: exactly what I was expecting, that is to say a rather leathery, flinty and aromatic profile, showing much complexity. Many tobaccos, spices, then sweet mustard, sweet curry sauce… Not to forget walnuts, of course. And then comes a second layer around Benriach’s trademark fruitiness. Mango chutney and jam, covered with honeydew and artisan maple syrup. Just great. With water: a newly opened box of high-end puros and an old cake of pu-erh tea. Earthy, you say? Mouth (neat): the wine is loud, and would rather hint at malmsey (not too sure), with a creamy sweetness that’s balanced by even more spices, Szechuan pepper, flints again… There’s something bittersweet, maybe tamarind, blackcurrants, black grapes… So yeah, a lot of wine but it works greatly (who said for once, who?) With water: excellent. Perfect balance between some spicy jams and earthy herbs. Finish: long, not heavy (an achievement), and even quite clean and fresh. Comments: I’d have loved to try the Madeira that was used here. A great bottle, especially if you’ve already got two or four ‘regular’ Benriachs on your shelves. SGP:661 - 90 points.

Benriach 17 yo 1995/2012 (53.2%, Single Cask Nation, bourbon barrel, cask #2522, 225 bottles)

Benriach 17 yo 1995/2012 (53.2%, Single Cask Nation, bourbon barrel, cask #2522, 225 bottles) Four stars and a half Provided by Joshua, the American Jean-Jacques Burnel. Colour: straw. Nose: ouch, a peated one. I mean, I had planned to try some peaty Benriachs later, but let’s try to make the best of it… So, it’s a rather crystalline peat, rather narrow, not very ‘coastal’, nor medicinal, nor even earthy/farmy, it’s just an ultra-clean peat-smokiness. Actually, what I also get is rather menthol and camphor, but not antiseptic. Then a little ‘clean’ tar and some lemon, always a winning combo. The jury’s still out, but this smells good. With water: needs no water. Okay, I tried and found more almond skin. Mouth (neat): once again, an ultra-clean, hyper-chiselled combination of lemon juice and straight peat smoke. Then more vanilla and lemon cake, as well as tinned peaches, Ardmore-style. In the background, a little pitch and engine oil, but it’s no fattish peater. Finish: quite long and much more dry, even a little acrid. Ashes. Comments: rather elementary, I’d say, but it’s totally to my liking. Superb purity. SGP:466 - 89 points.

Well, since we’ve just had a peater, let’s not switch back to unpeated and just go on with peat…

Benriach 19 yo 1994/2014 (53.1%, OB, The Whisky Fair, hogshead, cask #1616, 257 bottles)

Benriach 19 yo 1994/2014 (53.1%, OB, The Whisky Fair, hogshead, cask #1616, 257 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it’s rather sweeter and fruitier version of peated Benriach, with less straight smoke and rather more apples and nectarines at first nosing. There’s also a little brine, as well as more soaked peated malted barley. We could have been on Islay this time, while the 1995 couldn’t have been an Islayer. Hard to say which one I like best at this point… With water: no, now it’s the same whisky as the 1995. They’re almost undistinguishable. Mouth (neat): we’re much closer to the 1995 again. They are not strictly identical, as this one’s a little more on brine and seawater (Islay!) but styles are close. With water: even closer. Excellent. Finish: good length. Maybe more roots? Comments: I find these better chiselled than other batches of peated Benriach. SGP:466 – 89 points.

Benriach 19 yo 1994/2013 (53%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, refill hogshead, cask #1567)

Benriach 19 yo 1994/2013 (53%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, refill hogshead, cask #1567) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: this one’s completely different, even if ‘the juice behind’ is the same. The oak’s been more active, which added more roundness, more honey, more marmalade, more vanilla… It’s sexier, easier, fuller, less ‘segmenting’ and probably more complex. Mentholated cigarettes (Kools), gentian, tar, earth and mushrooms after a heavy rain (whatever!), pu-erh, cigars, old leather jacket, plum jam… Second after second, the peat wins the fight and sends the oak back to school. Yeah! With water: if you like the smell of unlit high-end tobacco, this is for you. Mouth (neat): magic! I wouldn’t say this came unexpected, but yeah, it did, because the balance is just perfect between herbs, smoke and candied fruits. Can you grass-smoke kumquats? With water: top notch. Swims greatly. Finish: long, oily, invading. Comments: these recent peated Benriachs are embarrassingly to my liking. Great work in the warehouses, I guess, they’ve lost their former thinness. SGP:565 - 91 points.

All right, a last, older peaty Benriach…

Benriach 28 yo 1984/2013 (49.9%, OB, batch 10, Peated, Pedro Ximenez finish, cask #1051, 248 bottles)

Benriach 28 yo 1984/2013 (49.9%, OB, batch 10, Peated, Pedro Ximenez finish, cask #1051, 248 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: warning, this could be different. In truth, it’s intriguing. On the one hand, there are echoes of old sherried Ardbeg, which can’t be bad. On the other hand, there’s a lighter backbone, which could give you the impression that the spirit could not totally sustain the heavy peat and the heavy sherry. Not too sure… There are a few struck matches too, roasted chestnuts, graphite, pipe smoke… And even a little olive oil, which I always enjoy. Correction, love that. Not quite sure, the palate will tell… Mouth: oh, there are bags and bags of fresh mint leaves! Where does that come from? Colliding molecules? And eucalyptus drops, After Eights, raisins, damp wholegrain bread, sour jam (eglantine jam, sadly a lost art) and lastly, notes of pencil shavings and pepper/ginger that hint at newish wood. That’s not the best part, in my opinion. Finish: nah, indeed, it’s losing a bit of steam, with notes of sour wood, caramelised beer and blackcurrant jelly. Comments: really a rollercoaster of a dram. I had it at 90, then 91, then 88, then 86 because of a finish that I did not like too much. It’s to be added that another drop(s) of the 1994s have been further nails in this one’s coffin. SGP:665 - 85 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Benriach I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Stanley Cowell. Track: Cal Massey. Please buy his music...

July 8, 2014


Tasting rye, USA vs. Europe

Of course it’s a fixed game, the US are kings of rye. Right, maybe Canada as well…
FEW 'Rye Whiskey' (46.5%, OB, +/-2014) Four stars FEW’s single malt had really impressed me (WF 86), so I have high hopes… Colour: orangey amber. Nose: this is what I enjoy with some of the American craft whiskies: they can be very bready, and I love bread. And then of course, rye can be even breadier than other grains. Other than bread, we also have curry powder, ginger, some loud and clear cumin and some bitter oranges. And this bread! We’re not talking baguette, we’re talking pumpernickel. Mouth: wow, this is powerful! I especially love the fact that they did no go ‘the sugary way’ at all, as this is rather packed with spices and, again, wholegrain bread. On top of that, honeydew and gingerbread. Finish: very long, maybe a notch drying (heavy cinnamon and nutmeg.) Comments: indeed, craft isn’t always crap. Exactly the contrary, in fact… SGP:462 - 85 points.
Stauning 2010-2011/2013 'Young Rye 6th Release' (51.2%, OB, Denmark, 2013, 2500 bottles) Three stars and a half Just like the FEW, this baby’s very, very young. But sometimes, with whisky and as the saying goes, if they are good enough, they are old enough. Colour: gold. Nose: this one hasn’t got the FEW’s immediate sexiness, but on the other hand, there’s some mirabelle jam, and I love mirabelle jam as much as I adore pumpernickel. Love this nose, well done Denmark. Mouth: we’re closer to the FEW, this one’s just a little dustier and more drying, with a chalkiness in the background. Other than that, I find it perfect, superbly spicy, earthy, rooty, with the expected caraway, sloe, genever and bitter oranges. Almost forgot to mention our beloved pumpernickel. Finish: long, with more citrons and bitter oranges. Comments: another very impressive ultra-young rye. Young rye is growing on me, it seems… Is rye addictive? SGP:562 - 84 points.
Knob Creek 'Small Batch' (50%, OB, rye, USA, +/-2014) Three stars and a half A brand by Jim Beam. Love these words on the label, 'patiently aged'. Reeks of the good old days, doesn’t it. Colour: rich gold. Nose: not as emphatic as both the FEW and the Stauning, and maybe more straightly oaky (vanilla and such), with less rye and bread and something more ‘bourbon’. Maple syrup, cinnamon, touches of caraway… A fine nose, quite complex, but again, it doesn’t ‘takes your tie’ as much as the others did. Mouth: yeah, once again, it’s suffering after the young beasts. In a way, it’s easier and more ‘commercial’, more bourbony indeed, a little sweeter… Having said that I really enjoy these notes of violets and liquorice, they’re very singular. Finish: long, with touches of redcurrants and other small red berries. The aftertaste is a little drying (cardboard). Comments: I should have tried this one first, but as the strength was higher, well… Anyway, I’m sure it’s very good. A little perfumy after the others. SGP:551 - 83 points.
Millstone 2004/2013 '100 Rye' (50%, OB, Zuidam, Holland) Three stars and a halfBack in old Europe. Colour: orange. Nose: it’s rather lighter in style, even lighter than the Knob Creek as far as rye-ness is concerned, and much rounder. I find much more vanilla, for example, more maple syrup, caramel, vanilla fudge, then menthol and even camphor. Maybe that’s the older age. What’s more intriguing is the fruitiness that comes out after a few minutes, with ripe mangos and peaches. That’s very nice! Mouth: more rye goodness. The mangos are already there, and even if the oak’s a little too loud for me (heavy black tea), the whole works well. Liquorice, cinnamon, blood oranges, toasted oak, then violet drops and a little sloe. No rye monster, in fact, but it’s pretty complex. Finish: long, with even more liquorice and a tart lemon in the aftertaste, which lifts it and cleans it. Comments: simply another excellent surprise. Very well done, Holland. SGP:641 - 83 points.
And now, a classic to loop the loop…
Sazerac 18 yo 'Fall 2013' (45%, OB, Kentucky straight rye, USA) Three stars Yes it’s part of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection. Colour: orange. Same colour as Irn Bru, honestly. Almost. Nose: it’s more polished, it’s fruitier, it’s more civilised, it’s easier, I’d even dare adding that it’s kind of weaker, in a way. There’s certainly more straight oak (pencil shavings and all that) that in all the others, more candy sugar and, above all, much less ‘rye’ as such. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great, it’s just that I’m missing the ‘rye punch’. A kind of ‘different bourbon’. Mouth: the oak took over. This is drying, oaky, very tea-ish, with also burnt molasses, plenty of raw cocoa powder and then just touches of corn syrup. I’m not quite a fan of this totally oak-driven style. Finish: good length, with a lot of cinnamon and liquorice wood. Also oranges and caraway, which is a little late, but good. Comments: this baby’s got a high reputation, and that’s understandable and certainly more than deserved, but it’s not quite my style. It’s simply too much on the oaky side for me. Remember, one man’s opinion, a man who liked Thomas H Handy 2013 much better. SGP:471 - 80 points.



Block Today: BLUES ROCK. Performer: Joe Stump. Track: no-drum-no-bass Blues Hell. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 7, 2014


Dallas Dhu, hello or goodbye?

There are rumours that Dallas Dhu could be restarted in the future, but you know, rumours. I’ve kept a few Dallas Dhus in my sample library to be able to ‘compare’ any new bottling, but I haven’t seen any since years (have you?), so maybe it’s time to try the handful I’ve still got. We’re talking about Dallas Dhus I’ve not tasted yet, of course… (Attention newbies – but do newbies read WF - Dallas Dhu was NOT a Texan distillery ;-))
Dallas Dhu
Dallas Dhu 16 yo 1978/1995 (43%, The Ultimate, Van Wees, cask #2614, 440 bottles) Two stars Colour: white wine. Nose: oh lovely! In the true old-Highlands fashion, starting with greases and oils, waxed jacket, old toolbox, paraffin… And then we find banana skin, tobacco, leather, shoe polish to match (I love shoe polish in my old malts) and, lastly, a little more cardboard. Not such a good sign, usually, cardboard in the nose may suggest a flattish palate. Let’s see… Mouth: yeah well, indeed, this is a little difficult. Imagine you let a hundred old copper coins macerate in honey… Add some carbon paper, ink, seashells, engine oil, coffee, drops of cod oil, some kind of flower syrop (dandelions?) and you’ll have a better idea. In short, it’s very likeable, but it’s full of technical flaws.  Finish: suddenly becomes salty and sour. Gherkin brine? Comments: really loved the nose, but the palate wasn’t even intellectualiseable, dare I say. Strange stuff. SGP:462 - 70 points.
Dallas Dhu 23 yo 1978/2001 (58.1%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butt, cask #345, 348 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: same as the Van Wees, the nose is really superb if you’re into ‘old scents’. Shoe polish again, old tools, silver cutlery, bitter oranges, paraffin, ink, newspaper of the day, the London tube (really), engine… It’s really a greasy malt, almost a mechanical one. The sherry adds touches of walnuts. With water: old apples. Mouth (neat): it is a little unlikely again, but not as much as the Ultimate. Sure it’s a little cardboardy and rather dirty-ish, but there are also wonderful notes of bitter oranges, old herbal liqueurs and fresh limejuice. Not a gentle whisky for sure, but it’s got something to say! With water: marzipan! Finish: long, still pleasantly dirty, and unorthodoxically salty. Lemony aftertaste. Comments: a strange, but fascinating whisky. Not state of the art at all, but greatly… I would say modal. SGP:462 - 85 points.
Dallas Dhu 30 yo 1962/1993 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars A rare old Dallas Dhu. Colour: gold. Nose: there’s a bigger Old Bottle Effect in this one, with (even) more metal, wee whiffs of tomato sauce, maybe tinned samphires, then rather a lovely earthiness, with mushrooms, dead leaves, moss, and earthworms. Forget about the earthworms. Seriously, this is a great nose, totally ‘unfindable’ in modern whiskies. Whiffs of manzanilla, walnut wine, more earth, soot, saltpetre… With water: more of old that. An old forgotten garage. Or the engine of an untouched E-type. Mouth (neat): excellent! A blend of engine oil with old date spirit (arak), oranges, chartreuse, drops of ink again, metal polish, pepper and seawater. Well, its more drinkable that it sounds ;-). With water: oh, no! It just wouldn’t swim, even the tiniest drop of water just kills it and makes it as flat as a flatfish. Finish: greatly earthy and mentholated when unreduced, boringly flat when reduced. Comments: can you call a whisky ‘adventurous’? Another territory, so far from contemporary malt whiskies… SGP:452 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Dallas Dhu I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: some boppy goodness with Jackie McLean. Track: Bird Lives. Please buy his music...

July 6, 2014


The Sunday Quest for malternatives, calvados part deux

Because we’re not done with Calvados!...

Daron 'Fine' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013)

Daron 'Fine' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013) Three stars A house that I don’t know too well. What I really enjoy is the fact that they’re telling you about all the apple varieties they’re using, in this case Peau de Chien (dog skin – ha), Douce Moen, Clos Renaud and several other local varieties. Colour: gold. Nose: hey, great! This one has more briny oomph, good vinegars, even a little tar and smoke… It’s got an agave-y side that I do enjoy. Also ‘opening a new pack of liquorice allsorts’. I really like this youthful nose. Mouth: it’s a sweeter Calvados indeed, we’re rather on apple liqueur, cakes, then blood oranges, with always a faint tar/smoke in the background. Even a little salt! Finish: quite long, surprisingly salty. Comments: the (smooth) Islay of calvados? Did they peat their apples? A very good surprise, seems that I’ll have to try to put my hands on older Darons. SGP:552 - 80 points.

Anée 'Fine' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013)

Anée 'Fine' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013) Two stars Anée is a brand that’s owned by Busnel. More about Busnel later… Colour: gold. Nose: back to normality. It’s a grassier, drier, less sexy calvados, in fact apart from raw cider apples, I do not find many other aromas. No flaws, but I find it very simple. Mouth: yeah, in fact it’s rather okay, with some apple pie, a little caramel, a few roasted nuts and drops of acacia honey, and it’s even quite good and pleasantly rounded (a little marmalade as well), it’s just a little too simple. Finish: medium length. Honeys, baked apples and cake. Comments: the nose was absent, the palate was very fair. Yeah, it’s some fair calvados. SGP:540 - 72 points.


Busnel 'Vieille Réserve V.S.O.P.' (40%, OB, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013)

Busnel 'Vieille Réserve V.S.O.P.' (40%, OB, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013) Two stars Another large and old brand that’s widely available in France. They tell us that they need sixteen pounds of apples to make one bottle – which is more than one kilo of barley, isn’t it. Colour: deep gold. Nose: many apples, as well as something rather pleasantly acetic. Apple vinegar, apple cake, baked apples, with a little caramel, fudge and cappuccino. Good balance, everything’s in place, it’s just a little… mundane? Mouth: good, solid, easy calvados, starting honeyed and slightly fudgy/caramely, then we have more overripe apples, then just touches of oak spices, cinnamon, a little nutmeg and ginger, and then more cider. Fast, easy, approachable, sympathetic. Finish: good length, sweet, round, easy. Caramelised apples. Comments: some would call it ‘commercial’, but I think it’s a well made calvados. It’s just not very… interesting? SGP:540 - 75 points.

Roger Groult 15 yo (41%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013)

Roger Groult 15 yo (41%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013) After the large brands – wait, none of those were Diageo-sized – let’s have true artisan calvados. Roger Groult is a well-reputed small house, I’m sure this will be good… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a sharper, grassier and much drier calvados after the good commercial ones. It’s not a very easy nose, I guess it’s more for die-hard calvados freaks. Calvados maniacs? I also find whiffs of ‘cabbage’ sulphur, which isn’t particularly nice, is it? Very austere calvados, that’s for sure… Mouth: good, what wasn’t in the nose is on the palate. It’s still grassy and austere, but there’s a good complexity and, above all, a very appealing herbal side. Aniseed, wormwood, celery… Finish: no, drop that, the very grassy and ‘cabbagy’ side is back. Comments: a problem with the bottle? Not much fun to be had with this baby, but we’ll have another Roger Groult soon, so we’ll see. SGP:271 - 55 points.

That’s enough for today, but stay tuned…



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July 4, 2014


A few whiskies from the rest of the world

… As the Scots use to say (but for how long?) We’ll just plunder WF’s library completely at random, just for fun!
Fary Lochan et all
Fary Lochan 2010/2013 (48%, OB, Denmark, batch #1) Two stars and a halfA new Danish distillery. It seems that the Danish whisky enthusiasts are relatively proud of this one, which is always a good sign. Colour: dark gold. Nose: a light spirit in a rather dominant new oak, which translates into a lot of cinnamon, vanilla and light honey. Rather refreshing, in fact. I also find quite some white chocolate, then quite some porridge, oatcakes and eucalyptus. The grains are more and more present, all for the better. Needs a little time even if it’s very young, don’t rush it. Mouth: a little more unlikely, with notes of rye (is there some rye inside???) and some cardboard, then a touch of salt and butter, all that on white bread. Maybe dried mangos? Sultanas? Finish: rather long, spicier, with some caraway, pepper and ginger. Comments: young, but fine! SGP:441 - 78 points.
Embrujo (40%, OB, Spain, single malt, +/-2013) This new baby’s made by the Liber Distillery in Granada. It’s been aged (for how long?) in ex-American oak sherry casks. Colour: gold. Nose: very porridgy and slightly sulphury at first nosing. Then we find roasted nuts, Smyrna raisins and toasted bread, always with a slight eggy side. Rubber bands. Mouth: this is rather better, although notes of hard-boiled eggs do remain. Notes of molasses, old wood, saccharine and caramel. Malt, chocolate, café latte… Thin body, but I wouldn’t call this weak. Finish: surprisingly long but not exactly clean. Mead, overripe apples, rubber. Comments: as they say, we’ve tasted much worse. SGP:331 - 55 points.
Old Raven 2006/2013 (55%, OB, Austria, Laphroaig/PX cask) Three stars Another whisky made by brewers, in this case the RabenBräu Brewery near Vienna. In case you haven’t guessed yet, Raben means raven in German. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s rather clean and straightforward for a brewer’s whisky, and indeed there are traces of Laphroaig in the background. It’s a relatively dry and mineral kind of malt, not feinty/sour at all, with nice touches of earth, clay and roots. Mouth: the Laphroaig’s impact is really huge, unless the malt was peated in the first place. Pepper, peat smoke, earth, hessian, mustard… Then, indeed, a wee yeasty side, not unpleasant at all. Weizen beer (wheat). Finish: long, peaty, with touches of cider apples and lemons. Balance is kept. Water brings out more hessian and damp earth. Swims well! Comments: ausgezeichnet if not totally Mozartian (how does one fire himself?) SGP:345 – 82 points.
Millstone 12 yo 1999/2013 (46%, OB, Holland, Zuidam, sherry casks, +/-2014)Four stars I liked Millstone’s rye very much. Now, how a 1999/2013 could become a 12 years old, I don’t quite know - but we've seen that done elsewhere (at Balvenie, for example). Colour: dark gold. Nose: ho-ho! This one does not nose like any unlikely ‘foreign’ malt, it’s as high in fruits as one of the best Benriachs or Littlemills, if that says something to you. Very impressive, everything is just perfect in this nose, the milk chocolate, the pink grapefruits, the passion fruits, the golden raisins, the touches of cappuccino, the very elegant maltiness... Mouth: oh yes! I’m speechless, I knew of Zuidam but only by name, I just didn’t know that they were making ‘Scotch-like’ wonders. Prejudices prejudices… A great fruit salad with apples and oranges first, then mangos, bananas and many other fruits. Finish: long, fresh, clean, just a tad yeastier. Pencil shavings in the aftertaste. Comments: had I tried this blind, I’d have said ‘it’s an unusual Littlemill’. Only the finish was a little less to my liking. SGP:641 - 86 points.
Slyrs 'Pedro Ximenez Finish' (46%, OB, Germany, 2013) Two stars and a halfI’ve just visited the Slyrs Distillery in Bavaria, it’s a very cool place, very tidy, with huge attention to details and, as I told my friends, ‘a feeling of Chateau Lafite’ rather than that of a Scottish distillery. Bavarian Ordnung! To be honest, I had found the first Slyrs rather difficult, but it seems that things have mucho improved since back then. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s young whisky, but the finishing (who said for once?) did wonders, making it rounder, smoother, fuller and deeper. I get Ovaltine, chocolate, raisins, marmalade, notes of sweet wine (right, PX) and then more orange cake and butterscotch. What’s not to like? Mouth: very distant traces of sulphur, then a rather narrow spirit, but a pleasant one. There’s less substance and fatness than in the nose, with overripe apples, cider and grape juice. The youth prevails here, but the whole remains pleasant. Notes of new oak in the background. Finish: not too long, with quite some toasted oak and apple peelings. Comments: it’s always a mystery to me that PX finishes aren’t actually sweeter (same at Glendro/Benriach). Anyway, great progress at Slyrs’, and the PX wasn’t my favourite. So as they say, stay tuned… SGP:451 - 78 points.
(With thanks to Andreas, Franco and Steffen)



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July 3, 2014


A sure bet, another three Clynelish from the mid-1990s

What’s to be added about Clynelish? One of the few characterful malts that need no sherry, no peat, no new oak, no vanilla, no coconut, no wine… All it needs is a glass, as they say.

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage for The Bonding Dram, The Un-Chillfiltered Collection, hogshead, cask #4613, 320 bottles)

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage for The Bonding Dram, The Un-Chillfiltered Collection, hogshead, cask #4613, 320 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a rather mineral one, quite earthy too, displaying a lovely combination of ‘old waxes’, humus, wet limestone and then grapefruit skin and touches of dill. It’s just a perfect whisky. Mouth: really excellent, hinting at the early 1980s rather than the mid-1990s, with even more citrus skins and juices than in the nose. Very zesty, tense, chiselled and err, nervous. A style that I love. No cask strength needed in this context in my opinion. Finish: long, a notch grassier. Comments: I truly am a huge fan of this style. B-F-Y-B. SGP:362 - 88 points.

Clynelish 1997/2012 (51.5%, The Whisky Mercenary, bourbon)

Clynelish 1997/2012 (51.5%, The Whisky Mercenary, bourbon) Four stars and a half An older bottling that slipped through whiskyfun’s net. My bad. Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather rounder one, with more banana from the bourbon wood, more fruits, jellybeans, liquorice allsorts, then rather oranges. One of the fruitier Clynelishes from that era, but the mineral wax (or waxy minerals) remain just below the surface. With water: the farmy side comes out. Soaked barley? Mouth (neat): starts very lemony, with a little icing sugar as well, then some creamy all-flower honey as well as an engaging greenness (grass, tea). I also find notes of seashells and edible seaweed, Japanese style, then much more pepper and even peat. Very good. With water: great, a mezcaly side comes out. Smoked agaves, citrons… You may add half a marshmallow. Finish: long, ultra-clean and zesty. Comments: loved the peaty side in this one. Lots happening while it always remained elegant. SGP:463 - 88 points.

Clynelish 18 yo 1995/2014 (57.5%, Single Malts of Scotland, cask #10193, 265 bottles)

Clynelish 18 yo 1995/2014 (57.5%, Single Malts of Scotland, cask #10193, 265 bottles) Five stars I think it’s no secret that the excellent folks at The Whisky Exchange / Specialty Drinks / Single Malts of Scotland are as much fans of Clynelish as I am. They’ve already had quite a few brilliant ones in the past. Colour: straw. Nose: amazing. This one sits right between the ‘fruity’ ones and the ‘austere’ ones, with the assets of both categories. Wax, paraffin, lemon, grapefruit, limestone, clay, earth, liquorice, menthol… I even find touches of myrtle, but maybe that’s because I’m about to fly to Corsica. With water: a Montrachet, really. Mouth (neat): really huge, a little pungent, with a kind of mix of wasabi with limejuice. In the background, a sweeter side (limoncello) and quite some pepper. A big beast! With water: just terribly impeccable. Wonderful bitterness, citrus, wax, drops of engine oil (not that I quaff that every day) and pepper. Finish: very long and quite spicy. Maybe a little bergamot (do you know the fabulous sweets called bergamotes de Nancy?) A little Demerara sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: the only flaw this one had is that it did not surprise me (pfff…). SGP:452 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Clynelish I've tasted so far



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July 2, 2014


A’bunadh and older compadre

It’s time to have one of last year’s A’bunadhs, but first, let’s have an old 8 for which I’ve never written proper tasting notes.

Aberlour-Glenlivet 8 yo (43%, OB, Rinaldi, square bottle, 75cl, +/-1975)

Aberlour-Glenlivet 8 yo (43%, OB, Rinaldi, square bottle, 75cl, +/-1975) Four stars and a half I have to say I know the one that was bottled at 50% vol. much better. A glorious one, that one. Colour: gold. Nose: I often find butterscotch in my malts, but this time this is plain and pure butterscotch! Right, you may add a little milk chocolate, crumbles of millionaire shortbread, two or three sultanas and just a little toasted brioche, with a faint smoky side. Simply magnificent. Mouth: it’s incredibly big, starting on pineapples flambéed and oranges, going on with roasted nuts and raisins, and further developing with some honey sauce and orange marmalade. The power is astounding for a malt at 43% vol. that was bottled forty years ago. My god, forty years, already! Finish: very long, punchy, with a touch of smoke and rather more tart citrus to complement the raisins. Comments: these cube bottles were all great, and they’re still quite easy to find. I said nothing. SGP:552 - 88 points.

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' Batch #45 (60.28%, OB, 2013)

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' Batch #45 (60.28%, OB, 2013) Four stars A'bunadh is a series that everyone loves, rightly so. I couldn't try all batches, this is not aberlourfun.com, but something does puzzle me a bit. Indeed, the label states that it consists in 'single cask Spanish oloroso butts'. What does that really mean? Colour: amber. Nose: the filiation is obvious, we’re well in the same family, even if this baby’s much rougher and a tad more winey. There’s a little gunpowder too, then bags of Seville oranges, some leather, a heavy chocolate and some chestnut honey. With water: earth and gunpowder. Malt extract. A battlefield. Mouth (neat): huge! Raspberry eau-de-vie straight from the still, cassis, ganaches, prunes, middle-aged armagnac to match them, and obviously raisins. Very big stuff, as they say. With water: all good. Gingerbread, cinnamon, raisins, figs, chocolate… Err, wouldn’t that be Christmas cake? Finish: long and even more on dried fruits and oak spices. Comments: excellent, just a notch roughish, but it’s probably not very old whisky. SGP:661 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Aberlour I've tasted so far


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback in St Tropez



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July 1, 2014


A little bag of interesting Irish

… And probably good ones, according to their impeccable pedigrees… I mean, lineages.
Irish Malt 22 yo 1991/2014 (49.2%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon barrel, 184 bottles) Four stars In theory, this bottling should be either a Cooley or a Bushmills. Such old Irish are very uncommon! Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a very fruity one, ridden with bananas and ripe mangos, with touches of vanilla and lemongrass in the background. In a way, it hints at some Benriachs, or maybe older Balblairs. Very sexy, very easy, very appealing. Mouth: same kind of profile, bursting with tart tropical fruits, grapefruits, oranges, passion fruits… There’s also a little more oak and a growing bitter sourness (apples) that’s anything but a problem in this context, as it adds balance and vivacity. Finish: long, grassy and oaky. Fruit peelings, green pepper and grapefruits. The aftertaste would rather be bittersweet. Comments: great sexy nose! The palate is unusually punchy for an Irish. Rather Bushmills than Cooley in my opinion, and if it’s well Bushmills, it’s certainly the biggest Bushmills I’ve ever tried. SGP:761 - 87 points.
Let’s double-check that…
Bushmills '1608' (46%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2013) Three stars and a half This recent batch of this NAS baby isn’t a malt, but it impressed me the first time I tried it (blind), while I had found the first edition a little underwhelming five years ago . Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, both are hard to compare because this one’s rather got the profile of a blend indeed, but there are obvious similarities, with these notes of mangos again, banana, then we have rather more fresh walnuts and almonds, some green tea and something slightly metallic. Mouth: creamy and sweet, with apricots and peach syrup, then rather tangerines and more green tea. Vanilla, cranberries, honeydew and something slightly metallic that I often find in these expressions. Very good body. Finish: quite long, still a bit syrupy. Tinned peaches, agave syrup, green bananas. Comments: I think it’s a great fruity tipple. In a way, it’s got something ‘pot still’. SGP:751 - 84 points.
Speaking of which…
Green Spot (40%, OB, Midleton, single pot still, +/-2013) Four stars I’ve tried this baby many times, but I just noticed that I’ve never published any tasting notes, unless I just couldn’t find them. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s fatter, more herbal, greener (obviously) than the Bushmills, with some hay, plantain bananas, fresh walnuts and then more tinned peaches. Having said that, we’re more or less in the same family, surprisingly (or not.) Very nice nose. Mouth: it’s big whisky again, the 40% don’t feel. Very nice mouth feel, rather oily, with peaches again, a little barley water, touches of sunflower oil and then more and more almond oil. Drops of coconut liqueur, sunflower oil. Finish: rather long, still quite fat, with more almonds and peaches as well as, maybe, a salty touch. Comments: it’s really excellent, and even complex. Great character. SGP:651 - 85 points.
Crested Ten (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2014) Three stars Ten is a brand by Jameson’s, so Irish Distillers. You don’t see it often, but it’s said to contain a lot of pot still whiskey. Colour: light gold. Nose: indeed, the pot still content shows, with these metallic touches and these notes of vegetables (zucchini), green coffee beans, fresh mint and various leaves. It’s very un-sweet and un-rounded. I also find a little lime tree tea and funny hints of tinned sardines. Must be the metallic part. Mouth: a little more disjointed, especially after Green Spot, but there is a presence. Butterscotch, sour tea (eglantine), custard, tinned peaches again and again, a little candy sugar, fudge, butter cream… I have to say I like this and would rather call it an ‘upper-Jameson’. Finish: medium length. Rather more on overripe apples and pears. Comments: upper echelon, no doubt. Why is Crested Ten so discreet? SGP:641 - 82 points.
St. Beccan’s Dram 22 yo 1991/2013 (55.3%, The Stillman’s, single pot still, bourbon wood, 210 bottles) Five stars The Stillman’s is an excellent little Swiss bottler. Let’s see if we can guess what this is… Colour: straw. Nose: reeks of Redbreast if you ask me, but it’s a little less rounded and polished than Midleton’s ‘usual’ output. Actually, there are more fresh fruits, and less fatty/oily parts. Tangerines, oranges, Williams pears… Some parts remind me of the Whisky Fair’s 1991 as well. These Irishes can lose you, I tell you! Mouth: absolutely terrific! Mangos, Juicyfruits, cassata ice cream, passion fruits, raspberries, mint, chives, aniseed, liquorice… This is simply superb! What it exactly is, I don’t know, but it’s a brilliant Irish. One of the best I’ve ever tried, in truth. Finish: long, fresh, superbly ‘nervous’ and citrusy, ultra-clean, sauvignony (!) Comments: I find this one absolutely exceptional. Very well selected, Stillman! I even forgot to try it with water… SGP:761 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Irish I've tasted so far


Whiskyfun fav of the month

June 2014

Favourite recent bottling:
Lagavulin 1995/2014 ‘Feis Ile’ (54.7%, OB, European sherry oak butts, 3,500 bottles)  - WF 94

Favourite older bottling:
Port Ellen 17 yo 1970/1987 (62.4%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, 243 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Glenlivet 16 yo 1997/2013 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, sherry butt, cask #123546, 742 bottles)  - WF 90

Favourite malternative:
Vallein Tercinier 'Grand Rue 34' (42%, OB, Cognac, Grande Champagne, +/-2012) - WF 93



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Michael Burks. Track: Lonely Heart. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 2014 - part 2 <--- July 2014 - part 1 ---> July 2014 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Benriach 19 yo 1994/2013 (53%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, refill hogshead, cask #1567)

Benriach 20 yo 1993/2013 (54.2%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, Madeira wood finish, cask #1878)

Clynelish 18 yo 1995/2014 (57.5%, Single Malts of Scotland, cask #10193, 265 bottles)

Isle of Jura 1972/1991 (55.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #31.4, 75cl)

St. Beccan’s Dram 22 yo 1991/2013 (55.3%, The Stillman’s, single pot still, bourbon wood, 210 bottles)