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Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2014 - Part 2

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


July 31, 2014


A session that does not make any sense, Glen Ord forty years apart

Glen Ord Carn Mor Samaroli

Indeed, this doesn’t make much sense, except if we manage to detect shifts as far as distillate profiles are concerned. Because the young one’s very young, and the old one’s not too old. Sadly, the latter is also extremely dark… Great news and bad news at the same time (great for quality – of course colours tell us something when the whisky’s not caramel-coloured – and bad for the original distillery profile.)

Glen Ord 2004/2009 (46%, Càrn Mor Vintage Collection, hogshead, cask #55, 1593 20cl bottles) Four stars Colour: very pale white wine. Let’s say last year’s Muscadet. Nose: new make, but that’s all cool given that this is Glen Ord. Glen Ord’s got a great personality, in this case I find tiny whiffs of smoke, maybe pinewood smoke, plus notes of graphite oil and paraffin. All the rest is ‘usual’, fresh garden fruits (pears ahead), sweet barley and all that. ‘Nice’ but rather uninteresting. Mouth: well, I stand corrected. The spirit talks, and in these days when many spirits are gagged with oak, this little baby tells us that when you have a great distillate, well, you have a great distillate (bravo, S.!) Perfect wax, fruits, oils, faint smoke again, notes of kiwis, citrons, nectarines… Finish: quite long, even a little hot at 46% vol. Peaches and wax. Smoke again in the aftertaste. Comments: not even sure this baby’s five, but it’s already lost its roughness and is perfectly enjoyable. Granted, not much was happening on the nose, but I loved the palate. SGP:642 - 85 points.

Glen Cawdor 1964/1983 (43%, Samaroli, sherry wood) Five stars This probable beauty is labelled as Glen Cawdor, but it’s well Glen Ord inside. Colour: mahogany. Nose: sherry matured whisky unlike any contemporary sherry matured whisky. Remember in the old days, they were using heavy sherry also to try to mimic brandy, and indeed this could as well be a very old cognac of very high quality, and even an Armagnac. It is stunning, I have to say, because behind the sherry heaviness, there are myriads of tiny organic and mineral smells. Marrow bouillon, parsley, cured ham, flints… And then pipe tobacco, dark toffee, menthol, camphor, chocolate, prunes… And then more and more freshly squeezed orange juice. This nose would beat many old Macallans, but styles are somewhat similar. You say paxarette? What paxarette? Mouth: exactly the same, only as flavours. It’s not that often that nose and palate just coincide. All right, maybe more coffee this time. Coffee with drops of triple-sec. Finish: long, and superbly dry. Amnesiacs could think they just crunched a square of chocolate with very high cocoa content. Comments: I’m afraid only Glendronach still make this style these days, even if they may not use exactly the same production methods. SGP:562 - 92 points.

Update: the Glen Cawdor may actually be Glenlivet according to our friend Carsten. There's no dead proof, and no records, and nobody really remembers either, but there!

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback in St Tropez - July 31, 2014



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July 30, 2014


Fun fun fun with three peated
Lost Spirits plus a bonus

Lost Spirits’ Leviathan I was the funniest whisky I’ve tried in recent months, so I was happy and lucky to stumble upon three other expressions concocted by these crazy people over there in Salinas, California. Never been to the distillery, but next time I’m in CA, I’ll go there.

Lost Spirits ‘Calafia’ (58%, OB, American peated single malt, +/-2014)

Lost Spirits ‘Calafia’ (58%, OB, American peated single malt, +/-2014) Four stars The malt for this insane baby was peated to 80ppm using peat from a private Californian island. The website claims that it was matured in used French Oak casks from Napa but the label says that it was matured exclusively in Hungarian oak casks. Bah, that's Europe anyway. Colour: gold. Nose: I have one question for you, can you smoke a blend of mashed potatoes and bread dough using tyres? Because this is exactly how it ‘noses’, and I’m afraid I’m a sucker for both fresh bread and tyre smoke. You got it, I’m very fond of this ‘unlikely’ nose. Reminds of a brand new Harley I had bought twenty years ago. Other than that, a little honey and speculoos. Drop water! Mouth: what the hell is this? The oak feels more, and comes with more burnt sugar/honey, but all the rest is unheard of in whisky. Caper brine? New tyres marinated in grappa? Cooked limoncello? Smoked liquorice? Grated hevea wood? Cherry stem tea? Hold on, I’ve encountered cherry stem tea before in whisky… Finish: very long and rather breadier. Rubber-smoked pumpernickel. Comments: true whisky for bored whisky enthusiasts. Would awaken a dead Malt Maniac. SGP:566 - 85 points.

Lost Spirits ‘Umami’ (59%, OB, American peated single malt, +/-2014)

Lost Spirits ‘Umami’ (59%, OB, American peated single malt, +/-2014) Four stars Peated to 100ppm using Canadian peat. Matured in used French Oak casks from Napa according to the owners' website, in sherry seasoned French oak according to the label. The mystery thickens... Oh and it was 'fermented using sea salt brine from the Pacific Ocean'. Colour: gold. Nose: something else again, even more unlikely, and even more interesting as well. Same feeling of burning tyres and leaven, but there’s something else… Brand new wellies for sure, but also… seawater? I think the combo works greatly, I especially love the fact that despite the fact that (hmm, too many facts, S.) this is obviously young spirit, the distillers haven’t only resorted to hyperactive oak. No need water! Mouth: there are similarities with Calafia, but above all, there’s a very unlikely briny side that… oh hell, I enjoy. It’s like drinking seawater from an old fishing harbour. You may add a slice of lemon. Finish: extremely long, actually rather less smoky than Calafia at this point, but just as pumpernickely (stop it, S.!) Comments: it’s pretty usless to try to score this one worse, or better than Calafia. All codes, barriers and tasting semantics have already been broken anyway. SGP:566 - 85 points.

Lost Spirits ‘Leviathan III’ (53%, OB, American peated single malt, +/-2014)

Lost Spirits ‘Leviathan III’ (53%, OB, American peated single malt, +/-2014) Three stars and a half Peated to 100ppm using Canadian peat. Matured in used French Oak casks from Monterey County according to the website, in sherry casks according to the label. The labels must be right, the Web being the Web… Err… Colour: orange amber. Nose: this is both more civilised and more ‘orthodox’. Perhaps older? It’s rounder, softer, rather less smoky, with more traditional notes of honey, malted barley, roasted nuts, even caramel… The ‘good’ rubber and the smoke and the bread are there as well, but they got toned down a bit, or maybe that’s me… These whiskies are really great, but I have to say they can be a little tiring. Mouth: yes, indeed, this is more honeyed, sweeter, oakier as well (sweet ginger jam, know that?), less offensive in a way. The rubbery smoke is less ‘wham-bam’, and the whole’s also a tad less salty. Is it the ‘de salon’ version? Luxury? Executive? Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still a big fat and pretty extreme experience, it’s just that the others were even more extreme in my opinion. More ‘doom metal’. Finish: long, smoky and gingery. I’m feeling tired now, these babies are true wrestlers. It’s not a tasting session, it’s a fight. Comments: no, great whisky again. Not only mad, also really good. I mean, to my liking. SGP:655 - 84 points.

But WAIT, we aren’t that tired. We could also try a worthy sparring partner, which would be, tah-dah-dah…

Balcones 'Brimstone Resurrection' (64.5%, OB, American Whiskey, +/-2013)

Balcones 'Brimstone Resurrection' (64.5%, OB, American Whiskey, +/-2013) Four stars I’ve already tried this Texan baby for Whisky Magazine’s World Whisky Awards. Blind, of course, but this juice is so ‘idiosyncratic’ that I’m afraid that ‘blind’ doesn’t mean much in this context. As you may know, the grains weren’t smoked, the spirit was. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: nosing a pan of warm molasses, or maybe forgotten mulled wine. There are many cooked fruits, prunes, oranges… Then round spices, aniseed, peppermint… Then toffee and charcoal, very strong Danish liquorice (okay, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, as you like…), then drops of paint thinner, maybe, but it’s not solventy at all. I also find obvious notes of bitters, or Fernet Branca, amer bière… There is a smokiness for sure, but much less than in the Californians that we had before. Smoked chocolate. Mouth: Jesus Mary and Joseph! Chewing a bunch of cigars, drinking pure pitch, ingesting ten litres of smoked lapsang souchong tea reduced down to 1cl by cooking them for three weaks (or something like that), same with bitter oranges, same with tar liqueur, liquorice liqueur… It’s one of the heaviest spirits I could try, but frankly, it’s not that smoky. I think the original Brimstone was smokier, according to my notes. Finish: extremely long, maybe a notch too acrid/gritty? Too oaky? Burnt? Comments: maybe you’re going to kill me for writing this, but I enjoy these young American monsters better than most traditional bourbons, partly because they’re much funnier, and maybe less pretentious. Now, regarding Scotch and pretention, don’t get me started… SGP:574 - 86 points.

I’m nearly dead, session over.



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July 28, 2014


WF 12 years

Celebrating Twelve
Years of Whiskyfun (quickly)

All right, little Whiskyfun is twelve today (it's no NAS website!... ermnrlr...) , but let’s keep this short. We aren’t far from our 10,000th whisky review, but that should rather happen in September. As far as WF’s readership is concerned, I’m happy to announce that we’re up again, by approx 15%, as we’re welcoming around 200,000 visits a month these days.

Maybe that’s not much, but WF only tries to cater for a small group of dedicated whisky enthusiasts anyway, and we remain 100% amateur. No ads, no bads! Granted, as with any website, not all the visitors are ‘worthy ones’, but one figure I’m particularly proud of is the proportion or returning visitors, which is 76%. On the other hand, Whiskyfun isn’t heavily seo-ised – actually, it’s very badly seo-ised – so the high proportion of returning visitors may be just a consequence of that.


There are seasons for whisky websites too...

As far as the top ten malt distilleries are concerned, and according to the number of visits to each distillery page, these are the figures (2014/2013). They may give us a faint feeling of ‘what’s happening in the high-end market’:

  1. Ardbeg (+1.79%)
  2. Bowmore (+15.35%)
  3. Highland Park (+13.99%)
  4. Glendronach (+45.97%)
  5. Laphroaig (+3.08%)
  6. Caol Ila (+22.84%)
  7. Lagavulin (+23.25%)
  8. Springbank (+9.32%)
  9. Clynelish (+22.92%)
  10. Talisker (+6.69%)

Now if you take the fact that the overall figures have risen by around 15% into account, the real movers are Glendronach (impressive!), Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Clynelish. Bowmore, Highland Park and Springbank are kind of flattish. Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Talisker are rather down. That could kind of mean that more marketing is less marketing in our circles, or maybe that NAS is not for us. Or that peat is plateauing. Or that heavy sherry’s back. Or just nothing…

And our visiting countries, you may ask? This is the top ten:

  1. Germany (+9.87%)
  2. USA (+15.13%)
  3. France (+20.42%)
  4. UK (+10.53%)
  5. Netherlands (+17.52%)
  6. Sweden (+11.78%)
  7. Belgium (+7.33%)
  8. Switzerland (+12.16%)
  9. Taiwan (+42.15%)
  10. Japan (+1.82%)

France has overtaken the UK, but that may have come from the fact that I’m French. Excusez-moi. Or do the French read more English? (yeah, rather globbish.) Taiwan has overtaken Japan. As for the famous BRICS ‘that are the future of Scotch’, Russia’s rising fast (+29.05%) but still represents less than 7% of Germany. China +46.45% and Hong Kong +108.49%! Brazil +110% but figures remain tiny. India remains very, very low as well but we know there are a few die-hard enthusiasts over there. Same with South Africa. Now, some figures matter even more to us at WF Towers: maybe you do remember we used to have one reader from the Vatican, whom had left after a few years. I’m happy to report that apparently, he’s back. Hallelujah!

Love - Serge

Now let’s move on and taste a few drams if you don’t mind…


Celebrating Whiskyfun’s 12 Years
with five symbolic drams

It’s not been easy to select a few drams to celebrate Whiskyfun’s 12 years. Verticales of old Macallans, Bowmores or Ardbegs? Nah, too obvious. Contemporary luxury bottlings? No way, too boring! Just any newish whiskies? Come on, twelve years! So why not try a funny – albeit very unlikely - selection of a few ‘symbolic’ bottles, such as these?... 

Allt-A-Bhainne 13 yo 1979/1993 (43%, The Whisky Castle Tomintoul, cask #026329)

Allt-A-Bhainne 13 yo 1979/1993 (43%, The Whisky Castle Tomintoul, cask #026329) You may think it’s a strange idea to taste this one, but I’ve got three good reasons. First, The Whisky Castle in Tomintoul was the first whisky shop I ever visited, around 1980. Second, this particularly naïve label used to be showcased in the first pages of the first French edition of Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion I ever bought. I remember the great man did not like it at all, so I’ve always been thinking ‘I’d love to try it too!’ And third, Allt-A-Bhainne is a very humble and understated name, which I find quite refreshing in these noisy days.

Colour: straw. Nose: an old style ultra-grassy and porridgy Speysider from a tired cask. Today, most bottlers would do a finishing on such a cask, or dump it into a blend. Cardboard, dust, damp oatcakes from last week (or month), stale beer, aspirin tablets, hay… Not the best part, let’s hope the palate will be better. Mouth: a little more to my liking, but here is a soapiness in the arrival, more cardboard, more porridge… Nah, frankly, it’s not good. I usually try to rather write ‘I don’t like it’, but as I doubt anybody will like this baby, I’d say it’s simply not good and that’s not just a matter of taste. Finish: a little short, always on the same cardboardish notes. The soap is back in the aftertaste, together with some stale pepper. Comments: I humbly think MJ has been a little too kind with his 73 points, but there, I tried this baby too! Cheers MJ! SGP:261 - 65 points.


Clan-An-Ghael Scotch Whisky (Blayney & Co, +/-1930?)

Clan-An-Ghael Scotch Whisky (Blayney & Co, +/-1930?) Four stars and a half I chose this baby first because it’s totally unknown, so in a way an anti-Auriverdes (I know what I’m trying to say), and second, because one of the guys who inspired me the most when I started Whiskyfun was François Audouze, a French wine freak who used to publish tasting notes for old and rare wines only, rather than new ‘commercial’ wines that everyone could find – whatever the bottlers are trying to make us believe. So this baby’s a very old Scotch, probably a blend but it could be pure malt, most possibly from between the two World Wars (early two-part welded bottle, few small bubbles in the glass), by a famous wine and spirits merchant in Newcastle upon Tyne that disappeared a long time ago.

Check the funny old advert that was published in the London Monitor in 1903, it’s interesting to see that there were four categories, from the cheapest to the most expensive: malt whisky, fine malt whisky, old Highland malt whisky and liqueur whisky. I’ve also seen other teasers such as ‘King Bacchus Never Tasted a More Delicious Nectar’, or, in 1914, ‘A General Election There May Be, But The General Opinion is That Blayney’s Clan-na-Ghael Is in The Very Front Rank of Whiskies.’ Or better yet, ‘Refreshes The Anatomy.’ Or, in 1915, ‘So Far The Great War Has Not Affected Whisky. Our Famous Clan-Na-Ghael, For Flavour And Quality, Is The Finest Whisky Yet Produced. Clan-Na-Ghael is British, And That Means It Is The Best.’


Colour: gold. Nose: dry, and tertiary at the same time. In fact it’s as dry as the Allt-A-Bhainne, and probably just as grassy, but what’s behind that is much more complex. Notes of old garage (you know, engine oil, tar, old tools and such), menthol cigarettes, quite some cured ham, newspaper-of-the-day (new ink, paper), then hints of new rubber boots and coal smoke, raw garden peat (not smoke), leaf mould… Mouth: another proof that old blends (very high malt content in this one, unless, again, it’s all malt) were much smokier and earthier than today, less smooth, less rounded… And rather more medicinal. I’d swear there’s some Laphroaig in this, or maybe it’s entirely Laphroaig, or any other peated malt. Why not Malt Mill? After all, Peter Mackie was trying to copy Laphroaig when he built Malt Mill within Lagavulin Distillery. Maybe this is Malt Mill single malt? And why not? Can you show me evidence that it’s not? ;-). Brilliant palate, just a little acrid and too grassy. Finish: very long, grassy, maybe a bit too metallic now. Comments: modal old unsweet whisky. Maybe from a legendary malt distillery that was closed even before WWII… Aahhhh, I’ll never know… SGP:364 - 88 points.

Banff 1975/2013 (43.7%, Malts of Scotland for Dram Brothers and Vinotek Massen, Luxemburg, cask #MoS 13056, 72 bottles)

Banff 1975/2013 (43.7%, Malts of Scotland for Dram Brothers and Vinotek Massen, Luxemburg, cask #MoS 13056, 72 bottles) Five stars Why this baby? Because it’s a closed distillery, because the name’s always been ‘obscure’, because there are only a few die-hard Banff aficionados, because it was bottled by one of these wonderful and truly passionate German bottlers, and because it’s exactly what one would call ‘a hidden gem’. Mind you, finding hidden gems has always been at the heart of WF. Colour: gold. Nose: can a nose be ‘un-commercial’? I’m sure 90% of the general public would find this nose ‘off’, while only 2 or 3% will really love it. Imagine, old tin box, soot, rotting passion fruits, sweet mustard, vase water, dried kelp, mead, tomato leaves, chervil… Does that sound unlikely enough? And yet it’s a rather brilliant nose… You may even add notes of menthol, cedar wood and Armenian paper (or Carta d’Amrmenia).

Mouth: probably not as unlikely now, but finding notes of raspberry-flavoured mustard is quite uncommon indeed. Mirabelle syrup as well, café latte, a little caraway and then herbs liqueurs (Bénédictine), metal (it’s a bit steely), citrons, very ripe oranges and kumquats, ashes, old turpentine… The complexity is just amazing here, this is akin to a very great old white wine. And yet, it’s very un-commercial… Finish: not very long, but hugely complex, echoing the palate from the arrival to the end of the middle. Maybe a little more leathery? Comments: the terms ‘old glory’ may have been invented for these Banffs. It’s really like tasting the past. SGP:561 - 91 points.

Port Ellen 16 yo 1978/1994 (63.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, for Intertrade, CASK series, cask #2698)

Port Ellen 16 yo 1978/1994 (63.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, for Intertrade, CASK series, cask #2698) Four stars and a half I’m not sure I have to explain why I also selected this baby. Because it’s young Port Ellen, because it’s G&M, because it’s frighteningly strong, because it’s a rare bottle, because it was bottled for the pioneering Italians, and because this now defunct series used to shelter utter beasts. Colour: gold. Nose: it is not a very tarry one, and in that sense it’s rather the antithesis of the well-known Rare Malts from the same vintage. In fact, this is rather round, civilised, even mellow, with oranges and honey, cake, mead, plum pie… And it’s not even too strong! Granted, one can feel that something raw and coastal is sleeping in the background, but so far, it’s a gentle giant (remember that band?) With water: I wouldn’t say it becomes beastly, or ultra-phenolic, but indeed I now find seaweed, hessian, beach sand, engine oil… Little tar, though, it’s a gentle Port Ellen.

Mouth (neat): holy featherless crow! There it goes again, his is as estery and fruity as malt whisky can be, and both peat and tar are almost absent. Orange drops, jellybabies, marshmallows, lime juice… Is that possible? Or is it only the very high strength? Let’s see… With water: a little more pepper and a little more peat again, but more oranges as well, more sweets, fruit liqueurs… Finish: quite long, very fruity and jammy. Cranberry juice, oranges, even raspberries… Comments: this is extremely unusual for Port Ellen, in a way it’s to PE what Blasda was to Ardbeg. Except that this PE is much, much bigger than Blasda. I’m glad I could try it, it’s a true Anniversary Dram. SGP:644 - 89 points.

And a last one if you please…

Clynelish 21 yo 1965/1986 (86 US proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers Sacramento, USA)

Clynelish 21 yo 1965/1986 (86 US proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers Sacramento, USA) Five stars I’m wondering if I really need to tell you why I chose this one. It’s ‘old’ Clynelish – later rechristened Brora, it’s utterly rare, and it should be totally stunning. It’s possibly the same juice as that of the Cadenhead/Sestante/Mainardi ‘yellow brick label’, but that one was bottled at 46% vol. while this one was reduced to the equivalent of 43% vol. Not too sure. Colour: full gold. Nose: makes you cry. First, it’s big, fat malt whisky. And second, there’s literally an avalanche of all thing oily, metallic and earthy. At complete and utter random, there’s old copper coins, old tools, engine oil, ‘grandma’s old tin boxes’, old well-cared-of leather jacket, soot, cigar ashes, a beach after the rain, tar and liquorice (the beloved black compadres), fresh asparagus, roasted chestnuts, old turpentine, mud… And thousands of other tinier notes. Dry but flabbergastingly complex!

Mouth: makes you keep crying. Absolutely stunning, now with more fruits and spices. What I find first is praline, hazelnut liqueur (quite uncommon in whisky, but very vivid here) and chocolate. Then various oranges, kumquats, bergamots and such. And then a zillion tiny spices and bits of just any matter, from earth to heavenly ones, including holy smokes. Look, you’d better call the anti-maltoporn brigade RIGHT NOW. Finish: almost eternal. At 43% vol.! Fabulous aftertaste on orange blossom water, chocolate and cigar ashes – but can there be an aftertaste when the finish is eternal? Discuss! Comments: this is just smoky/coastal perfection. Whisky’s Zauberflöte. No, it’s not whisky, it’s ueberwhisky. Metawhisky. I’m really sorry about the fact that it’s going to be very hard for you to try this whisky too, and I do hope you’re happy with a bit of vicariousness. Honestly, I’m very sorry. And very embarrassed. But hey, today Whiskyfun is 12 and let me know solemnly declare that this flabbergasting Old Clynelish is Whiskyfun’s official 12th Anniversary Dram! ;-). SGP:664 - 98 big fat points.

Post-Scriptum – It appears that Diageo decided to celebrate WF’s 12th year by expanding Clynelish Distillery. The old one used to shelter two cylinders, the new one six, and there will be six more added in the near future. A twelve cylinder distillery for WF's twelve years, hurray! (yup that would be stills). A link here.

(With many mercis to Diego, Max, Phil, Simon and Thomas)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Steve Turre. Track: a slice of coolness in The Fragrance Of Love. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 27, 2014


The Quest for Malternatives, today pisco

Pisco? And why not? Pisco’s distilled grapes and is usually made in Peru, but Chile makes some pisco too, although the Peruvians are claiming that Chilean pisco is no real pisco. An old story, isn’t it. Peruvian pisco’s usually distilled in pot stills, while Chilean pisco’s usually made in column stills. That’s more or less all what I’ve gathered.

Capel 'Moai Reservado' (40%, OB, Pisco, Chile, +/-2013)

Capel 'Moai Reservado' (40%, OB, Pisco, Chile, +/-2013) one star and a half It's a famous - and rather unlikely - bottle shaped like a moai, that is to say one of these statues that can be found in Rapa Nui. This baby was distilled from moscatel, PX and torontel (never heard of torontel before) and then aged in oak for six months. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s very aromatic, the moscatel really feels. Globally very fresh, clean and fruity, but also extremely narrow, more or less like a single fruit eau-de-vie. Less ‘wide’ than a grappa, or a marc, for example, not to mention a cognac. Touches of ginger and lemon, maybe a little sloe and juniper. Mouth: sweet and rather gingery and liqueury, with a thick mouth feel. A little hard when quaffed at room temperature, I guess it’s better cold. Or chilled. No, frozen ;-). Finish: long, grassier, always with quite some ginger. A touch of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s pretty good spirit, but it’s not a malternative in my book, it’s too monolithic. Hints at tequila at times. SGP:651 - around 68 points.

Capel 'Bicentenario' (43%, OB, Pisco, Chile, +/-2013)

Capel 'Bicentenario' (43%, OB, Pisco, Chile, +/-2013) This pisco's been aged for around one year in wood, and was distilled in Chile purely from moscatel grapes. Colour: gold. Nose: well, the oak’s made it lose its freshness and cleanliness, but it also got a little more complex, thanks to a layer of vanilla and butterscotch. Some honey too, which rather hints at rum in this context. The moscatel isn’t very obvious, but I won’t complain, moscatel can be very dull in my opinion. Mouth: syrupy and liqueury, but not exactly sugary. It’s a bizarre spirit, both creamy/easy and dry and sharp. There’s an ashy feeling, rather unexpected. I think I liked the Moai’s fruitiness better. Finish: quite long, dry, peppery… Moscatel and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: maybe I should have spent much more time with this baby, but I do not like it too much, it’s lacking… ‘vibrancy’. Maybe oak’s the enemy (who said ‘again’?) SGP:472 - around 60 points.

And now three Peruvians, all from the very same distillery. They’re completely white but they could have aged in stone, steel or glass, not too sure. What’s sure is that these vintages are still easily available.

Vinas de Oro 2010 'Acholado' (41%, OB, Pisco, Peru)

Vinas de Oro 2010 'Acholado' (41%, OB, Pisco, Peru) Three stars This Peruvian pisco is a blend of quebranta, italia and torontel grapes. Colour: white. Nose: now we’re talking! It’s a rougher, dirtier spirit, but it’s got a lot to tell us. Earth, brine, lees, cold green tea, grapefruits, a touch of wood smoke, seaweed, then rotting melon… Me like this, despite, or rather because the ‘dirty’ side. No I have no shame. Mouth: it’s not a very easy spirit, I have to say. The huge grassy side can be a tad intimidating. I also find melon and cantaloupe skin, green apples, green pears, lemon… Also a ‘salady’ side, unsweetened green tea, lettuce… Indeed, not very easy, but really fun. A pisco that does not need ice. Finish: quite long, a tad acrid, astringent… But all is well, there are great grapefruits as well. Comments: the first pisco I really enjoy. Peru 1, Chile 0. SGP:462 – around 80 points.

Vinas de Oro 2008 'Albilla' (41%, OB, Pisco, Peru)

Vinas de Oro 2008 'Albilla' (41%, OB, Pisco, Peru) Three stars and a half It's a single grape pisco, all from albilla. I’m not very well acquainted with albilla, I have to say. Colour: white. Nose: haha, this is even more ‘artisan’ than the acholado, we’re now almost in mezcal territory, which can only be good. Cut flowers, stems, mown lawn, fennel, pinecone smoke, vase water, clay, aniseed, banana skins… It’s all very vegetal, very grassy. Great nose if you enjoy grassy spirits. Mouth: powerful, grassy, ashy, sooty, dry, smoky… It’s all quite extreme, and once again I’m thinking of single village mezcal. I doubt this was distilled in clay stills, but I do feel a lot of clay and stone. There’s definitely a little brine, touches of iron (or silver spoon), maybe even ham, and oysters with Tabasco sauce… Only tiny flaw, it gets a little bitter. Finish: long, green, astringent. Fruit peelings, raw potatoes, stems… Comments: rather crazy spirit. Not everyone will like it, but I do, mucho. Peru 2, Chile 0. SGP:372 - around 84 points.

Vinas de Oro 2008 'Negra Criolla' (41%, OB, Pisco, Peru)

Vinas de Oro 2008 'Negra Criolla' (41%, OB, Pisco, Peru) Four stars This time it's 100% negra criolla. Colour: white. Nose: it’s a slightly fatter, more buttery and more aromatic version of the albilla. I find more fennel, more aniseed, more dill and more, well, pastis. Also green tobacco and coffee, rather coal smoke this time, French beans, leaves, grapefruits, lime, fresh mint leaves… Simply another nose that I enjoy. It’s got character, characterless spirits are totally useless. No, more oak does not impart more character, oh misery! Mouth: exactly the same feeling, it’s the albilla, only with more pastis ;-). Otherwise it’s all there, iron, ham, grass, Tabasco, leaves, green fruits and vegetables… Finish: same, for a rather long time. Pepper and lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: feels like much more than just 41%. Great malternative. Peru 3, Chile 0. SGP:472 - around 85 points.

Next pisco session, around 2027.



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July 25, 2014


Mortlach DL Adelphi

Two Monstrous Mortlach

In my experience Mortlach + sherry can make for a magnificent combination, but sometimes the spirit’s trademark sulphury tones can add-up to a sherry cask’s sulphur, and generate a rather… bombastic experience. Let’s check two of them…

Mortlach 21 yo 1992/2013 (56.7%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, sherry butt, cask #10143, 255 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: it is, indeed, a big fat dry sherry, with plenty of roasted chestnuts, dark chocolate, torrefaction and menthol, but with very little, if any, notes of gunpowder. Then thuja wood, wood polish, hot sawdust (fruit tree) and a hint of wood smoke. Very heavy but the dryness works well. With water: more rubber comes out. New rubber boots and a drop of lapsang souchong. Mouth (neat): ultra-heavy, a little acrid, highly concentrated. Did they cook it? Bags and bags of oak spices and bitter chocolate plus a touch of leather and a big… Christmas cake. Dried figs. It’s only after two minutes that notes of oranges and lemons manage to come through, and ‘lift it’. The bitter spices remain there. With water: this time water works well, bringing out more lemon and maybe quinces. Finish: long, with all the oak’s spices in the front. Mint lozenges in the aftertaste. Comments: heavy and bestial. No breakfast dram. SGP:462 - 83 points.

Mortlach 26 yo 1987/2014 (56.8%, Adelphi, refill sherry, cask #3103, 200 bottles)Four starsColour: rich gold. Nose: almost sylphlike after the DL, and yet it’s no light dram at all. There’s more marmalade, Seville oranges, a touch of coal smoke, this very particular sulphury/inky side, linseed oil… What’s really nice is this tropical side that are sometimes to be found in old Mortlach, between pink grapefruits and guavas. Even mangos, actually, but it hasn’t got the high topicality (?) of other distilleries. With water: a little rubber coming out yet again. Mortlach + water = sometimes strangeness. Mouth (neat): once again, I should have tried this baby first. Because once again, it’s very powerful whisky, but it feels almost light after the very heavy DL. Grapefruits again, curry powder, ginger, nutmeg… A little sour wood. With water: a feeling of peat, bitter oranges, leather, ginger and more nutmeg. And mint. Finish: long, grassier, oakier. Comments: very fine for sure, but I think I enjoyed sister cask #3101 by Adelphi much better (WF 91), I thought everything was better integrated. SGP:462 - 85 points.

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



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July 24, 2014


Two Ben Nevis from the 1970s

Old Ben Nevis again, and another opportunity not to get bored. Because there’s always something happening in Ben Nevis…

Ben Nevis 43 yo 1970/2014 (44.8%, Eiling Lim)

Ben Nevis 43 yo 1970/2014 (44.8%, Eiling Lim) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes, this very idiosyncratic mix of rose-scented soap (which isn’t exactly soapy) and carbon paper at first nosing, followed by several tropical fruits such as papayas and mangos. After two or three minutes, rather more almonds as well as hints of marshmallows and bubblegum, which is very Ben Nevis indeed. Tree bark. After all these years it’s still the distillate that remained quite vocal, but it’s true that there isn’t the usual heavy sherry that’s often to be found in old Ben Nevis. Mouth: very much in keeping with the nose, with more or less the same combo in the arrival, then more green oak but ‘in a good way’. Green tea and tobacco, more leaves, chlorophyll, a bit of green curry powder… I also find herbs (tarragon?) as well as notes of barbecued marshmallows. Ever tried that? Finish: medium length. Some oranges coming through now, grapefruits, one or two bitter spices… Comments: surprisingly fresh for a 43 yo malt whisky. I enjoyed this greenish oak, it added freshness. Also funny that the distillate itself never gave up! SGP:661 - 88 points.

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1977/1995 (59.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1977/1995 (59.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Two stars and a half An old bottling. Many whiskies in this ‘small white label’ series used to be quite… brutal! Colour: straw Nose: how close! Same branches and bark, almonds, ink, paraffin… Having said that it’s much less fruity than the 1970, without any sweets this time, and with more grass, leaves and even walnut skin. A rather austere and shy Ben Nevis. With water: quite some soap, paraffin, waxed papers, mashed potatoes… Not an easy one – and certainly not a sexy babe. Mouth (neat): very aggressive and very lemony and mentholated. Ultra-sharp and, in that sense, extremely spectacular. But hard to try like that… With water: water works much better on the palate. Lovely ultra-zesty profile, with litres of lime juice. A wee soapiness remains in the background, though, not too nice here. Finish: very long, all on lime juice. I’m sure we could try to make a mega-margarita by mixing this with heavy mezcal. Comments: other 1977s by Cadenhead have been much more to my liking. SGP:471 - 79 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback in St Tropez



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July 23, 2014


A bag of newish Bunnies, part deux

Promises are made to be kept, let’s have a few more Bunnies…

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2007/2013 (51.9%, Liquid Sun, refill hogshead)

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2007/2013 (51.9%, Liquid Sun, refill hogshead) Three stars Love the rhino on the label. Will this youngster be heavy… or flowery? Colour: white wine. Nose: very young, on barley sugar, apple juice and acacia honey. In the background, raw barley, grass and a little earth. Not unpleasant, I must say. With water: as usual, a little more grass, earth, barley… Mouth (neat): all right, this is good, unadorned malt whisky. Honey cake, malt, roasted nuts, vanilla, cappuccino. Good sweetness. With water: sweet barley water, a little liquorice, vanilla, grass, cake… Perfect balance at a very young age. Finish: of medium length, with a little more earth and a touch of salt. Sunflower seed. Comments: very good, very honest and very easy young malt whisky that goes down (only too) well. Strictly nothing to complain about. SGP:541 - 82 points.

Bunnahabhain 1997/2014 'The Bosun's Dram' (46%, Wemyss Malts, 380 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1997/2014 'The Bosun's Dram' (46%, Wemyss Malts, 380 bottles) Three stars and a half Well I didn’t know what a bosun was, you learn every day (it’s a boatswain.) Colour: deep gold. Nose: modern official Ardbeg, and I’m not joking. Some antiseptic, raw peat and oak spices, with a good layer of vanilla. Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg… Seriously, this could really be one of these new yearly NAS bottlings by our beloved Easterkildaltonian distillery. Mouth: a little less Ardbeggian this time, but we stay close. Citrusy oaky spices on raw peat smoke and ashes, with a medicinal feeling in the background and a few drops of brine – or rather seawater. Simple and good. The main difference with Ardbeg is that the mouth feel of this Bunnahabhain is a little less oily, so a little lighter. Finish: medium length. Brine and oyster plus the usual oak spices. Ginger, white pepper and gang. Comments: fun stuff to poor your friends (on Ardbeg Day?) Blind, of course. SGP:456 - 84 points.

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1989/2014 (50.8%, The Warehouse Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #5695, 267 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1989/2014 (50.8%, The Warehouse Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #5695, 267 bottles) Five stars This should be unpeated again. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s an interesting one, with notes of rhum agricole at first nosing, as well as whiffs of sunflower oil and even engine oil. Or castor oil? There’s also more earth than in the others, something very faintly acetic (which is all right) and then lots of roasted nuts, old walnuts, shoe polish, ink, new papers… With water: lovely and perfect. Mushrooms, humus, moss, barley, almonds, wax. Mouth (neat): unusual and excellent, I think. There is some peat, just as in the 1988 by Douglas Laing that we had yesterday. Both malts are actually pretty similar, which is great news to this one. Lime, lemongrass and all that. Great grassiness. With water: indeed. Superb citrusy profile with a peaty backbone. Finish: long, same, clean, fresh, citrusy, salty. Comments: as good as malt whisky can get these days. Superlative Bunnahabhain, as they say. SGP:453 – 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2014 (49.9%, Maltbarn, sherry butt, 121 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2014 (49.9%, Maltbarn, sherry butt, 121 bottles) Five stars Martin Diekmann’s got some great little bottlings in recent months, let’s hope this one will be on par. Why wouldn’t it, you may wonder! Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s an oily one again. Not that the texture is oily, it’s just that it smells of various oils, between straight engine oil and vegetal ones, sunflower, grape pips, even hazelnut… Behind that, some apples and greengages, a little ink again, waxed papers, grass, cut cactus, a little eucalyptus, some paper smoke, a little camphor… So this is different again, it’s incredible how Bunnahabhain can be variable – in a good way. Mouth: bingo, same very high quality as the 1989. Drops of seawater, lemon juice, dried porcinis, tangerine juice, crème de menthe, gentian (Suze), then more brine, tinned sardines, cough syrup… I know the inventory sounds unlikely, but believe me it’s all perfectly amalgamated – so to speak. Finish: long, briny, with a mild peatiness and more and more earth. Lemony aftertaste – lemon in the aftertaste is always good news, keeps your palate tidy and ready for a next dram. Comments: the smoke never stopped growing. SGP:453 - 90 points.

A last one, and why not choose another 1987?

Bunnahabhain 1987/2014 (50.4%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 210 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1987/2014 (50.4%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 210 bottles) Five stars No, seriously, what’s this thing on the label? I’m no spoilsport, I’m not prudish, and Whiskyfun’s standards are known to be very low, but seriously and just between us, what the hell is that? Colour: gold. Nose: in the same vein (as the previous Bunnies, not as the label, eh!) Bunnahabhain is often overlooked because there are so many around, but these vintages, provided the casks have been carefully selected by passionate whisky enthusiasts, can beat any other whisky. I just love this combination of earthy smoke, sea ‘things’ and citrus fruits. A wonderful freshness and a perfect complexity. Also hints of sour apples this time, maybe a little beer. Such as these little Lagunitas that really impressed me last time I was in CA. No water needed (probably.) Mouth: perfect perfection. Very fresh, salty, coastal, lemony, cheninesque (I mean, it’s got notes of chenin blanc), earthy, peaty, peppery. And I love these notes of lemon honey. Only tiny little flaw in my book, very wee, almost infinitesimal touches of rancid butter. Splitting hairs again. Finish: long, a tad more candied. More brine in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s not that I’m feeling particularly lazy today, but I’ll go for the same score again. Loses one point because of the microgram of rancid butter. SGP:562 - 90 points.

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



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July 22, 2014


A little bag of newish Bunnies
as they come

Yes that would be Bunnahabhain. There’s more and more Bunnahabhain at the indies and we wouldn’t, and shouldn’t complain, even if they aren’t all ‘auld acquaintances’. Not talking about the bottlers, of course…

Bn6 (56.9%%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2014)

Bn6 (56.9%%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2014) Four stars I’ve only tried Bn1 so far. Liked it. Colour: gold. Nose: someone must have bought ten packs of Werther’s Original and one litre of pure alcohol, and made all that marinate for three months! Caramel, toffee, fudge, butterscotch… you name it. Almost forgot café latte. With water: more of all that. Do Cadbury now own Bunnahabhain? Mouth (neat): rich and fruity, yet again on all things caramely and fudgy, plus plenty of Seville oranges and sultanas. Quite a lot of vanilla too, as if this came from 50% PX and 50% virgin American oak. Probably not. No complex spirit but it’s all perfectly balanced. With water: more malt, oranges and honey. We’ve got closer to the distillate. Finish: of medium length, a tad leafier. Honeydew, oranges, honey sauce, malt. Ovaltine after Werther’s. Comments: reminds me of some earlier versions of the official 12, only at a much higher strength. Much to my liking – it also reminds me of some official Glenrothes. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Bunnahabhain 11 yo 2003/2014 (58.8%, Signatory Vintage for The Bonding Dram, sherry butt, cask #1152, 627 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 11 yo 2003/2014 (58.8%, Signatory Vintage for The Bonding Dram, sherry butt, cask #1152, 627 bottles) Four stars To think that the 2003s are already eleven, how time flies… Colour: gold. Nose: styles are extremely similar after Bn6, this one’s just got an added earthy touch, and perhaps a little more grass. Same batches? With water: same feeling. Mouth (neat): yet again, it’s very similar. Maybe a wee mustardy touch that wasn’t there in the Bn6, but other than that, both Bunnies are almost undistinguishable. With water: maybe a little more oranges and honey than in the Bn6 this time. Finish: medium length. Ovaltine, agave syrup, honey, Werther’s… Comments: another excellent one that’s true to the distillery’s official style. Only bigger! SGP:541 - 86 points.

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1990/2014 (47.9%, Archives, sherry butt, cask #52, 201 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1990/2014 (47.9%, Archives, sherry butt, cask #52, 201 bottles) Four stars Rather first fill this time, or so it seems according to the colour. Colour: dark amber. Nose: starts with a little gunpowder, menthol and cured ham, and would rather develop on soy or even oyster sauce, parsley, hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts and walnut cake. Even pecan pie. Some heavy honey too. Mouth: very rich, rather old-style, it reminds me of many a bottling done by the Italians twenty or thirty years ago. A very heavy, old-style sherry, with plenty of jams (blackberry, raspberry), marmalade, chocolate, coffee, prunes, raisins… A touch of leather and rubber in the background, but nothing too embarrassing. Finish: long, ample, on coffee-schnapps(li). Pipe tobacco. Comments: classic. The slight rubber and the gunpowder work as seasoning agents here. I’m sorry, but it’s the same score again in my book. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Another 1990…

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1990/2014 (50.5%, Asta Morris for Mikhail Selivanov, Russia, cask #AM 035, 204 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1990/2014 (50.5%, Asta Morris for Mikhail Selivanov, Russia, cask #AM 035, 204 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: once again, two similar whiskies are following each other, but this one hasn’t got the gunpowder, or very, very little. On the other hand, it’s got even more sultanas, as well as a more obvious coastal side. Sea breeze. Globally rounder and sweeter, and pretty cleaner. With water: more tobacco coming out. Amsterdamer pipe tobacco. Wee touches of leather. Mouth (neat): big fat old style sherry again, this time with more limoncello on top of the raisins, prunes, pipe tobacco, jams and chocolate. Easier and sexier. With water: honey and mint lozenges, fudge, orange marmalade, maybe touches of peat… All great. Finish: long, with even more honeydew (fir honey) and raisins. Comments: goes down too well. Heavy sherry without the dirty-ish corners, I’d say. SGP:651 - 88 points.

And a last one…

Bunnahahbhain 25 yo 1988/2014 (56.9%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, hogshead, cask #10272, 104 bottles)

Bunnahahbhain 25 yo 1988/2014 (56.9%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, hogshead, cask #10272, 104 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a rather more ‘natural’ one after the heavy sherries, probably a little more complex, more elegant and… less immediate. I find an earthiness that wasn’t in all the others, notes of roots, raw celeriac, then more vanilla, branches, wee touches of varnish (not that it’s solventy of course), something a little medicinal… With water: maybe this baby doesn’t swim too well, it becomes a little muddy, in a way. No big deal. Nice notes of hay, though. Farmyard. Mouth (neat): oh this is quite superb! An unexpected peatiness, a lot of spearmint, lemongrass, peppermint, lemon liqueur, grapefruits… A surprise, really, and a great one. Where was the peat in the nose? With water: even more excellent? All citrus, lemony grasses and medicinal fluids and ointments. Finish: long, a notch grassier and oakier, spicier, greener, earthier again. Comments: what a great palate! Very well selected Messrs The Directors. SGP:453 - 89 points.

We may have more Bunnahabhain tomorrow…

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



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July 21, 2014


Two Old Pulteney ex-bourbon

Two Old Pulteney ex-bourbon

Pulteney’s often compared with Clynelish. It’s true that both distilleries are pretty close to each other (when seen from here, at least), up there in Sutherland, and that both can be rather coastal and mineral, as well as similarly fruity, but what Pulteney seldom has is wax. In my experience it’s also a little more… say kind of erratic, depending on the freshness of the wood, but there are also many gems that came out of Pulteney. Let’s hope we’ll find two of them today…

Old Pulteney 1997/2011 (45.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, for Aalborg Whisky Laug, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #8038702, 208 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: erm, this could be Clynelish indeed, with these notes of citron zests, this very faint smokiness (pinewood smoke?) and the rather obvious minerality. Some gunflints, then just traces of bubblegum, which I often find in Pulteney. Becomes much drier after a few minutes, with some ‘good’ cardboard and many dry herbs. Parsley, for example. Mouth: this is pretty perfect, I have to say, and indeed it could be Clynelish. Big and vibrant, as they say, and yet fresh and nervous, as they also say. There’s citrus but also touches of strawberries, which you’ll never find in Clynelish, more wax than expected (I like to prove myself wrong, happens quite often I’m afraid), and then touches of ripe peaches and brine. Finish: long, rather drier, and quite peppery. Must be the first fill barrel. The peaches are back in the aftertaste, rather as preserved ones. Comments: it’s a big and very good Pulteney in my opinion. Tastes stronger than just 45% vol. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Old Pulteney 33 yo 1980/2013 (45.8%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, bourbon barrel, cask #MoS13066, 98 halves) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts very bizarre, with notes of Swiss cheese and white balsamic vinegar, before some much nicer notes of damp earth and eucalyptus are starting to arise, together with marzipan and plain fresh almonds. Also a little liquorice roots, and then touches of brine and just seawater. Remains pretty unusual, I’m very curious about the palate…Mouth: this is different. First, it’s cleaner. Second, it’s very peppery and ‘cinnamony’. And third, it’s very complex, despite the rather heavy oak. A lot of tea, both black and green, grass, notes of carrot cake, perhaps, a lot of cocoa powder, funny notes of gritty calvados, apple peelings… You have to like oak, because this old baby’s got quite a lot, but if you do you’ll like this one. Finish: quite long, with some oak, chlorophyll and unsweetened green tea. Comments: you really feel the oak. Some aspects are really lovely, though, but this time the 17 extra-years (wrt the G&M) did not add any extra-points in my book. SGP:371 - 86 points.

(Thank you Carsten H.)

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



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July 20, 2014


The Sunday Quest for Malternatives,
yet another bag-o-rum

We aren’t done yet with our rums, there are so many yet to taste! I’m planning to write a little piece about ‘rums for malt lovers’ in a few months – but haven’t I already told you that? Today we’ll try a few newish ones, all selected completely at random. Let’s only hope we won’t stumble across some sugary junk!

Westerhall Estate 'Superb Light Rum' (40%, OB, Grenada, +/-2013)

Westerhall Estate 'Superb Light Rum' (40%, OB, Grenada, +/-2013) Even the owners are claiming that this baby’s made ‘particularly for cocktails and enjoyment with mixers.’ But we’ll try it neat! Colour: light gold. Nose: it’s light and rather grassy indeed, without much aroma. Hello? I’ve had some indy Westerhall (Sansibar, Plantation) that was much more talkative. Almost no nose. Mouth: light, sweet, a little sugary. Un-distinctive. Some candy sugar, touches of overripe bananas, traces of molasses and hints of sugarcane. Not for sipping indeed, unless you’re very busy doing something else. Finish: yes there is one, but it’s… indefinite. Comments: forgettable. I like the fact that it’s not too sugar-doped, but other than that, there… Hey, what was I talking about? SGP:530 - 60 points.

St Nicholas Abbey 10 yo (40%, OB, Barbados, +/-2012)

St Nicholas Abbey 10 yo (40%, OB, Barbados, +/-2012) Four stars Ah, this should be different! I liked the 15 yo very much (WF 86) despite the heavy price tag, so this should b quite to my liking as well. Colour: light gold. Nose: another world, another galaxy! It’s a grassier one, more on our beloved olives and smoked fish, with a good dose of tar and petrol and a straight agricole side. Smoky molasses and tapenade, 50/50. Mouth: maybe a notch lightish for a few seconds, but then it really delivers, with sweet notes of ‘active American oak’, tinned apricots, olive oil and then blood oranges. There’s also something mildly agavey, a welcome brine, more olives… It’s the style of rum that I enjoy. A kind of medium-bodied Caroni, if you like. Finish: medium length. Same flavours, with more salt(iness) in the aftertaste. Pepper, oranges. Comments: good, good rum and a genuine malternative. Now, it’s almost more expensive than 10 years old malt whisky, so… SGP:552 - 85 points.

Ocean's Rum 1997 'Atlantic Edition' (43%, OB, blended rum, +/-2013)

Ocean's Rum 1997 'Atlantic Edition' (43%, OB, blended rum, +/-2013) Two stars This one’s made out of rum from various origins, including Martinique, Jamaica and Demerara. 1997 does NOT seem to be the vintage. That’s what’s funny with rum, in most countries you can do whatever you like and nobody will start bothering you. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: classic sweet and honeyed nose, with a good fruitiness. Bananas flambéed, papayas, liquorice allsorts and a little coffee liqueur. Seems to be on the sweet side but you never know… Mouth: yes, it’s sweet one, too sweet for my taste but not unbalanced and certainly not cloying. Notes of grenadine, coconut liqueur, honey, Demerara sugar, raisins and sweet liquorice (rolls!) Not ugly. Finish: rather long, with some oak coming through, together with some white pepper and cinnamon. Comments: again, not my style but I find this honest and loyal. Right, maybe not €75-loyal. SGP:731 - 75 points (one point per Euro, isn’t that smart?).

Haitian Rum 7 yo (46%, Cadenhead's Green Label, +/-2011)

Haitian Rum 7 yo (46%, Cadenhead's Green Label, +/-2011) Three stars The label doesn’t say so but I’ve seen that this one was distilled in 2004. It should be Barbancourt, thus rhum agricole. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: it’s got agricole’s grassiness and earthiness indeed, and it’s great to be able to nose one that hasn’t got any oak, or so little… There’s an obvious smoke, rather around a garden bonfire with a lot of hay, then more grass, sugarcane… It’s only after a good five minutes that a bright fruitiness comes out, with melons and peaches, as well as a few strawberries. Hold on, that would rather be wild strawberries! Mouth: great arrival, petroly and olive-y as it should be, but then notes of burnt sugar take control, which isn’t quite as nice. Sweets, orange drops… It’s good, but it’s a little indistinct. Too young? Love the olives in the background, though. Finish: a little short but the olives came to the front. We won’t complain. Comments: much to my liking despite a few weaker spots. You feel ‘nature’. SGP:572 - 80 points.

Bellevue 1998/2013 (46%, L'Esprit, Guadeloupe, cask #BB 44, 201 bottles)

Bellevue 1998/2013 (46%, L'Esprit, Guadeloupe, cask #BB 44, 201 bottles) Four stars Oh, Bellevue! We’ve already tried quite a bunch of pretty great ones. Colour: amber. Nose: yeah! It’s big, fat, oily, greasy, very aromatic rhum. This one’s not totally petroly and/or grassy, it’s actually rather fruitier than others, but it’s got this fatness that works so well. As for the fruits, I find tinned litchis and papayas, touches of mangos and very lovely hints of pink grapefruits. Perfect balance. Mouth: maybe a notch too sweet for me, and too syrupy, but other than that it all goes very well, with plenty of fresh fruits (passion fruits this time, maybe blueberries…), some welcome camphor, liquorice and eucalyptus (that is right, cough medicine), and lastly, just straight sugar cane. Finish: very long, which is a trademark feature. Olives and liquorice in the aftertaste, what’s not to like? Comments: big rhum for big boys and clever girls. Yes I am a little tired. SGP:652 - 87 points.

All right, a last one (is it wise?)

Diamond 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Guyana, cask #72, 324 bottles)

Diamond 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Guyana, cask #72, 324 bottles) Five stars Ha! As you may very well know, Diamond in Georgetown is the daughter of all deceased Demerara distilleries. Since they have several of their old stills, when someone asks me which distillery I’d love to visit, I always answer ‘Diamond’. One day, one day… Colour: straw. Nose: great, it’s not the lighter style! Nor is it the kind of lumpish/sweaty/sweetish El-Dorado style. You may well call this ‘dundery’, but it’s exactly the ‘Old Ardbeg of rum’ kind of style. Are you following me? Pitch, tarmac, diesel oil, crushed black olives, clay, bandages, gherkin brine and all that. No water needed. Mouth (neat): oh this is highly unusual. Salt, lavender and violet sweets, juniper berries, green olives, black olives, red olives, pink olives (that’ll do, S.), pepperoni, tar liqueur, shoe polish (yes), marmalade, pinesap, tamarind… This is just great. I’m not sure the other Diamonds I could taste have been this good. I mean, to my liking. Finish: eternal. Don’t expect to be able to taste the latest Glenkinchie after this muscular baby. Or any other spirit. Comments: very spectacular young rum, very well selected Duncan Taylor! A metaspirit that would beat many a Scotch. Or rum. Ardbeg guys, try to find a bottle of this, it’s truly exceptional! SGP:573 - 91 points.

… Wait, unless we also try this possible marvel that’s just in!...

Finest Jamaican Rum 9 yo (86.8 US proof, Averys for Corti Brothers, USA, Wedderburn and Vale Royal, +/-1975)

Finest Jamaican Rum 9 yo (86.8 US proof, Averys for Corti Brothers, USA, Wedderburn and Vale Royal, +/-1975) Five stars Very rare stuff! Most probably distilled in the 1960s, this Jamaican is a heavy ‘dunder-driven’ molasses-based Vale Royal rum of the Wedderburn style, that is to say, as I understand it, rum that underwent a very long fermentation and was pot-distilled. As you may know, 86.8 US proof means around 43.4% vol. Colour: pale gold. Nose: pah-pah-pah-pah… This baby’s got the very same kind of mega-olivy, hyper-petroly and super-earthy profile as the Diamond. A lot of brine too, liquorice, rotting hay and vegetables (a little manure), gherkins, samphires in salt, clay, Cuban cigars… Amazing, totally amazing! Mouth: it’s saltier than any malt, including the saltiest coastal ones. So heavy salt and brine, black olives, salted anchovies, tar and salted liquorice… It’s a bit drier than the Diamond, with less fruits, but it’s also even more massive, despite the lower strength. Loads and loads of salmiak, with a mouth feel that’s just perfect. Another old Ardbeg of rum, I’m saying this because modern Ardbeg is much lighter spirit in my experience. Finish: very long, all on olives and salmiak. Very salty aftertaste. Comments: what a big fat bastard! Takes no prisoners, no wonder this style of rum used to be mixed with very light ones or even industrial alcohol to produce more ‘commercial’ tipples. Same extremely high quality as Duncan Taylor’s stunning Diamond, so same score in my book. Hurray! SGP:373 - 91 points.

No, no, no other rum could ‘climb over’ that one!
(Grazzie mille, Diego!)

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



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July 18, 2014


A first, tasting Ailsa Bay.
Unless this is not Ailsa Bay.

Don’t we all love mysteries? Well the excellent German bottlers Malts of Scotland are full of mysteries these days, as several among their new bottlings are carrying fantasy names, usually places or monuments that are located not too far from the distilleries. That means that while we do not have the distilleries’ names, we may sometimes find the key to the riddle, so to speak. All you need is Google Maps and/or a bit of logic. This one should make for a great example…

Images of Ayrshire ‘Dalrymple Bridge’ (68.3%, Malts of Scotland, single cask Scotch, 328 bottles, 2014)

Images of Ayrshire ‘Dalrymple Bridge’ (68.3%, Malts of Scotland, single cask Scotch, 328 bottles, 2014) Four stars and a half The name ‘Ayrshire’ or ‘Rare Ayrshire’ is often used for undisclosed Ladyburn. Now 68.3% vol. should mean that the whisky’s very young, so it just couldn’t be Ladyburn, which stopped working in 1975. Or they would have used ages and/or vintages. But ‘Dalrymple’ rings a bell… it’s the trading name of teaspooned Ailsa Bay, isn’t it? And this is not labelled as a single malt, so it could well be blended malt indeed (on the papers). And the owners William Grant do not let other bottlers use their distillery names indeed… And Ailsa Bay is, indeed, located in Ayrshire. So, this just cannot not be Ailsa Bay, Watson! And it does not smell of grain, so it couldn’t be Girvan. A real first for me, I’ve never tasted Ailsa Bay before.

Colour: deep gold. Very active wood, it seems. Nose: it’s obviously young, but Ailsa Bay cannot be old as they started distilling in 2007. It’s very powerful, but I do get a rather lovely mix of raisins, sweet wine and brandy, plus orange cake and, say millionaire shortbread. Right, Mars bar. You have to be careful at this strength… With water: blimey, you really need to add a lot of water to smooth it up. But then it becomes even more beautiful, raisiny, Sauternes-like, with also a rather Indian kind of spice mix. Sweet curry, sweet mustard. Great nose, maybe thanks to a great cask. Mouth (neat): how powerful! And yet you can feel a bourbony sweetness, some honey, a biting oak and large bag of raisins. Cough, cough… Burns your throat. With water: works! Litres of orange blossom water, also Seville oranges, sweet curry, raisins again and again, sweet wine, a little mint and liquorice, pepper… All very, very good. Finish: long, clean, on more or less the same notes. Good clean aftertaste, on speculoos and oranges, I’d say. Comments: my only disappointment comes from the fact that the cask was great – and greatly active. That means that this baby’s anything but distillate-driven, so I just couldn’t tell you much about Ailsa Bay’s original character, even if it seems that they’re actually producing various styles of malt whisky over there. But what a great Lowlander! SGP:651 - 88 points.

No sparring-partner today, I could not find another Ailsa Bay – no wonder – and I haven’t got any sample of Roseisle in my library either!



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July 17, 2014


Glen Garioch

Two evident Glen Garioch from earlier vintages

Recent vintages aren’t hard to find at many indies – and at the owners of course – but older ones are becoming very scarce.

Glen Garioch 24 yo 1989/2014 (51.4%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, refill hogshead) Five stars Isn’t it great that the Agency could find a pre-1990 cask! Colour: white wine. Nose: well, it seems that there were still echoes of GG’s former mineraly, if not smokiness. In truth, this is very mineral and quite medicinal, and notes of chalk, aspirin tablets, limestone, eucalyptus and antiseptic do abound. After a few minutes, we find more apple and walnut peelings, as well as an unusual ‘grassy’ smokiness. Garden bonfire, broken branches… The whole is quite austere, but it’s got some great character. With water: some dry barley and other grains come out. Smoky porridge, perhaps? Mouth (neat): all the fruits that weren’t in the nose are here, together with a perfect old-style-ness that would involve raw wool, chalk, ink, grass, even vegetables, walnuts… The medicinal side is there too, but it’s rather more discreet. With water: yes, grapefruits and limes. Great bottle. Finish: relatively long and beautifully lifted by citrus and lemony grasses. Not just lemongrass! Comments: I simply say ‘kudos’. Not a style/expression of Glen Garioch that’s easy to find as a new bottling anywhere else these days. Right up my alley! SGP:463 - 91 points.

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1973 (43%, OB, +/-1994) Five stars I’ve tried bunches of 1968s, 1971s and 1975s, but only one from 1973, a glory by Slim Cowell (WF 91). Colour: gold. Nose: same style, just more emphatic, more obvious, and probably even more complex. Iron, chalk, eucalyptus tea, flints, antiseptic and, let’s cut this short, 4,231,215 tinier aromas. The golden age of Glen Garioch, in line with those of the 1965-1971 era. What else can I say? Mouth: awe and genuflexion. Fat and crystalline at the same time, and kind of metaniocal. It’s thousands and yet it’s one. God? Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade, and quick! Finish: how could an old bottle – I mean, the whisky inside - at 43% vol. be so long? Comments: seriously, this is absolutely massive malt whisky. It’s got everything, from peat/phenols to fruits/honeys and from spices to herbs and flowers, and yet it’s the compactness that’s really striking. It’s One. Who stole the recipe? SGP:664 - 94 points.

(with thanks to Carsten)

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



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July 16, 2014


Two Ardbeg including that one

Two NAS Ardbeg including that one
All right all right all right, now that the Brazilian World Cup is over, I thought we could as well have a go at Ardbeg’s Auriverdes. WF might well be the last ‘blog’ to try this newish baby, but indeed I had thought there was absolutely no rush. And first, another NAS for due comparison… (that’s the problem with NAS, it’s hard to build proper tasting flights – either horizontal or vertical ones.)

Images of Islay 'Eilean a Chuirn Lighthouse' (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, 227 bottles) Four starsThe name of the distillery is nowhere to be found on the label, but the Eilean a Chuirn Lighthouse is located not too far from the Kildalton Cross, which might (I insist, might) suggest this could be Ardbeg indeed. Colour: white wine. Nose: very sharp, very grassy and ultra-austere at first nosing. We’re very close to young Ardbeg ex-refill indeed. After two or three minutes, it’s the earth that comes out, together with mercurochrome and rather more fruits, but I would not call this a fruity nose. Bandages, green apples, rhubarb peel. With water: more soaked barley and bread, while the peat remains pretty shy. No peat monster for sure. Also brine. Mouth (neat): big, very grassy, ashy and peppery in the arrival. A sooty side, something accordingly acrid, then grapefruit skin. Always rather austere, but it really does the job. With water: simple but quite lovely. Pepper and ashes, smoked barley, touches of orange cake. Finish: medium length. Salt, pepper, grapefruits, one cranberry. More straight smokiness in the aftertaste. Comments: much to my liking despite its narrowness. We’re very far from the 1970s, but this baby sure does the job. SGP:366 - 85 points.

Ardbeg 'Auriverdes' (49.9%, OB, 2014) Three stars and a halfOr ambush marketing in malt whisky! Let’s only hope this baby will perform better than the team that was wearing similar colours during the World Cup. Colour: pale gold. Nose: same whisky, with an extra-layer of oak. I have to say this seems to work pretty well, because it’s not coconutty oak, rather burnt chips and even charcoal. Also wee notes of ripe bananas. Other than that, same combination of mercurochrome, bandages, grass and earth. With water: some marzipan coming out, café latte, custard… And not much peat either. Mouth (neat): definitely ‘modern’, in the sense that the first flavour you get is that of new oak. Grated nutmeg, ginger, strong black tea, cinnamon. And then more new-Ardbeg goodness, lemon, salt, pepper, ashes, grapefruits… Especially the saltiness is very obvious – and pleasant. With water: same. The oak’s spiciness is in the front row. Finish: quite long, on oaky pepper and ashes. Salt and lemon in the aftertaste. An alternative to a tequila shot? Comments: indeed I do prefer less new oak in my whisky, but I would not cry with the wolves. I find this Auriverdes very all right – although I like the regular Ten better. SGP:456 - 84 points.

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


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July 15, 2014



Two very surprising Glenallachie

I don’t know why, I’ve always had a soft spot for Glenallachie. I haven’t got any explanations, I do not find the whisky always stellar, and I’ve never visited the distillery. Mysteries mysteries…

Glenallachie 15 yo 1999/2014 (57.3%, dailydram.de, Limburg Dramclub, sherry) Four stars and a half I think this one comes from the Whisky Agency’s Mannschaft. Ah, the Mannschaft… Colour: gold. Nose: a raisin cake, really. Or a kugelhopf just out of the oven, with a little kirsch and Grand-Marnier. Or rum baba? It’s quite simple but there isn’t anything missing in the picture, you just have to enjoy raisins as much as I do. With water: superb! Notes of cigarette tobacco, old leather jacket, candied oranges, horse saddle… I really love this. Mouth (neat): just excellent. Again, it’s simple malt whisky when undiluted, but these raisins are just perfect. So is the triple-sec that must have been poured into the cask! Oh and the praline-filled milk chocolate. With water: as good as a middle-aged Speysider can get. Now I remember why I’ve always had a soft spot for little Glenallachie (not that the distillery’s small, mind you.) Finish: medium length. The leathery side comes out more, but the raisins never gave up. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: simply ‘wow’. Only the finish was a little less, say immediately stellar. Maybe just a tad too bitter? SGP:561 - 89 points.

Glenallachie 39 yo 1973/2012 (45.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12045, 86 halves) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: oh this is funny! Starts with massive doses of chlorophyll (chewing-gum), whiffs of brand new rubber boots, tiger balm and grapefruits. Perfect. Goes on rather on mead and honeydew, hints of mashed pumpkins, perhaps, then roasted chestnuts and quite some wet chalk and clay, which is something that I personally enjoy. So yeah, an unusual oldie that would make you shout ‘vive la difference!’ After ten minutes, touches of antiseptic come out, and it becomes more and more medicinal. Mouth: oooh yes! Very medicinal, with camphor again, cough syrup, drops of myrtle liqueur (not writing that because I’m about to fly to Corsica, I swear), then wonderful notes of citrons and lemons, pink grapefruits, cough lozenges, a funny old French sweet called ‘Pastille Vichy’, and lastly, drops of limoncello and maraschino. Very Italian, this bambino. Perfect mouth feel, the strength is perfect. Finish: rather long, between medicinal and citrus notes. Comments: there’s something ‘old Islay’ to this. SGP:551 - 91 points.

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



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



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Banff 1975/2013 (43.7%, Malts of Scotland for Dram Brothers and Vinotek Massen, Luxemburg, cask #MoS 13056, 72 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1987/2014 (50.4%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 210 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2014 (49.9%, Maltbarn, sherry butt, 121 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1989/2014 (50.8%, The Warehouse Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #5695, 267 bottles)

Clynelish 21 yo 1965/1986 (86 US proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers Sacramento, USA)

Glenallachie 39 yo 1973/2012 (45.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12045, 86 halves)

Glen Cawdor 1964/1983 (43%, Samaroli, sherry wood)

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1973 (43%, OB, +/-1994)

Glen Garioch 24 yo 1989/2014 (51.4%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, refill hogshead)

Finest Jamaican Rum 9 yo (86.8 US proof, Averys for Corti Brothers, USA, Wedderburn and Vale Royal, +/-1975)

Diamond 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Guyana, cask #72, 324 bottles)