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Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2015 - Part 2



July 2015 - part 1 <--- July 2015 - part 2 ---> August 2015 - part 1


July 31, 2015


More newish Aultmore

Bacardi have recently come up with a quasi-clone of Diageo’s very successful Classic Malts series, with Craigellachie (I think we’ve tried them all), Aberfeldy (we’ll soon try those), Brackla (ditto) and Aultmore. They’ve called this series ‘The Last Great Malts’, which I find a little dooomy and gloomy. As my marketing masters used to say, ‘you can’t build anything positive using a negative image’. But that was a long time ago, and the series seems to be successful, so… let’s try some of these new Aultmores!

Aultmore 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015)

Aultmore 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars and a half I have to say I find the packaging totally superb. Well done Stephen and gang! The strength is cool too, and so is the colour. Colour: white wine. Nose: starts with cider and beer, in a very fresh, country-inspired manner. It’s not one of these sexy-commercial-travel-retail Speysiders at all, rather a pure and slightly raw expression of all things malty, grassy, and mineral. Apple peelings, rhubarb, wet limestone, candle wax… This is malt whisky! Mouth: it’s full and fresh, with oranges and, once again, rhubarb, plus some honey and a drop of tinned pineapple juice. Rather fruitier, but body and structure remain firm and ‘honest’. Excellent maltiness. Finish: quite long, maltier, with roasted peanuts, cider apples, and malty ale. Malty and mineral aftertaste. Comments: it’s funny, but this feels like an independent bottling. Very malty and pretty elegant. Kind of un-commercial, in a way. Beats many entry-level Speysiders in my book. SGP:452 - 83 points.

Aultmore 25 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015)

Aultmore 25 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars and a half A stunning packaging again, rather ‘elite’, and maybe just a wee tad ‘Balvenie’. Well, probably not. And it’s great that they haven’t used fake decimals for the ABV, as is customary elsewhere. You know, 45.9%, 46.1%... Having said that, it’s very pricey whisky (420€) so it better be good. Colour: full gold. Nose: yes! Artisan ales, cigars, smoky teas (lapsang stuff), roasted malt and nuts, a little burnt oak, apples from last year, brown toasts, Van Houten’s cocoa powder, dried porcinis… It’s a big style, very malty and ‘burnt’, which is absolutely great on the nose but that may suggest a palate that could be ‘too big’. Yes that’s possible, let’s see… Mouth: indeed it starts a little burnt and ‘stouty’, with some brownies, chocolate cookies, toasts, roasted pecans, a lot of malt and quite some artisan chocolate. I know some officials who would have added a lot of caramel to make this one mahogany in colour, which would have perfectly fitted this profile. But they didn’t, kudos to them. Burnt cake, leather, burnt oak, a little marmalade. I like this really a lot, it’s supremely malty whisky. Finish: long, perfectly bitter and malty, and yet balanced and spicy. It’s only now that a little obvious oak comes into play. And coffee. Comments: very high quality composition, with a distillate that’s maybe not the most characterful ever. I say greatly done. SGP:452 - 89 points.

How about an old indie ‘for the road’?

Aultmore 28 yo 1982/2011 (46%, Mo Òr Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #2219, 300 bottles)

Aultmore 28 yo 1982/2011 (46%, Mo Òr Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #2219, 300 bottles) Four stars and a half I’m still mourning the death of this collection. These great people have been right too early. Imagine, bottlings from strictly all Scottish distilleries, including Ladyburn and Glen Flagler (haven’t checked that one). But yeah, lazy people want Ardbeg… In truth, this lovely series was probably too ‘intellectual’. Colour: straw. Nose: brighter than the OBs, smokier as well, this noses like some barbecued apples and bananas. There’s something shaky as well, having said that, like hints of new leatherette, new shoes, new tyres, gravel, basalt, pitch, hay, furniture polish, old motorcycle, cured ham… Sounds unlikely? It is, but it’s fun. Mouth: ah yes yes yes. Firm malty apples, cake crust, myrtle liqueur (haven’t been to Corsica this year yet – what am I doing?), burnt cake, some kind of dry herbal liqueur, artichokes, what we call amer bière (such as Picon, Alsatians use to add it to their beers), bitter oranges… Behind that, a flowery lightness that you could miss if you rush things. Light honey, sugarcane syrup… That’s all very good. Finish: quite long, with an herbal side that makes it even better. Comments: it’s complex, it needs your time and your attention, and it delivers. Just be patient. SGP:452 - 88 points.

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



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Whiskyfun fav of the month

July 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
Ardbeg 23 yo 1991/2015 (50.6%, Master of Malt, bourbon, 216 bottles)  - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Ardbeg 14 yo 1965 (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, +/-1979) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Glencadam 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2014)  - WF 85

Favourite malternative:
Trois Rivières 1998/2012 (46.2%, OB, for La Maison du Rhum, Martinique, agricole, cask #C8-200, 272 bottles) - WF 88


July 30, 2015


Glenfiddich NAS, 19 and 1965

We had an oldie at 40% vol. as the aperitif, but since the new ones are bottled at 40% vol. as well, I guess we’d better have the venerable oldie as the last one. Pfff, 40%...

Glenfiddich 'Reserve Cask' (40%, OB, travel retail, 1l, +/-2015)

Glenfiddich 'Reserve Cask' (40%, OB, travel retail, 1l, +/-2015) Two stars Reserve Cask (how creative!) is the slightly more expensive version of ‘Select Cask’, which we found underwhelming (WF 77). Travel retail, maybe, but rather Ryanair than Singapore Airlines. But maybe will this humble NAS baby be more to my liking… Colour: full gold. Nose: ale and cider and overripe apples and leaves and caramel at first nosing, then more interesting notes of old Sauternes that went dry. That’s nice! Mouth: very ‘travel retail’. Easy, malty, caramelly (it really feels), all on sponge cake, apple crumble and a bit of sour wood. The mouth feel isn’t big, and that’s an understatement. Finish: very short. Leaves a feeling of earl grey tea as the aftertaste. A little honey. Comments: not bad, but it’s more or less in the same category as Diageo’s entry-level Singletons. These diplomatic juices sure won’t offend any travellers. SGP:441 - 76 points.

Glenfiddich 19 yo  'Age of Discovery' (40%, OB, red wine cask finish, +/-2013)

Glenfiddich 19 yo  'Age of Discovery' (40%, OB, red wine cask finish, +/-2013) Three stars Red wine cask finish? How very scary. Apparently, they’ve been using South American Bordeaux blend wine casks. Now, the Age of Discovery bourbon and Madeira have been to my liking (both WF 85) so we’ll see what we’ll see… Colour: gold. Good rinsing ;-). Nose: well done! No ‘red wine’, which is cool. I love red wine, but if I need red wine, I drink red wine. Haha. Rather Virginia tobacco leaves, earl grey tea, butterscotch, humus and mushrooms, ripe greengages (which makes it pretty summery, how appropriate), apricots… It’s a very subtle and complex nose, only the lack of watts makes it a little frustrating. Oh and there are funny hints of miso soup and smoked ham. Mouth: another world after the undemanding Reserve Cask. It’s grassier, oakier, grittier, kind of wilder, with a little ginger and green pepper (quite cabernety), then oranges, tea, dried apricots, and ‘ideas’ of smoked ham. It’s light, but it’s not too ‘scrawny’. Finish: short, but with a funny saltiness. Or something that triggers our salt receptor, as some would say. Some tea tannins. Comments: the pedigree was scary, but it was all very all right. The red wine has been kept at bay. SGP:451 - 82 points.

And the old one…

Glenfiddich 12 yo 1965/1977 (80° proof/45.7%, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Glenfiddich 12 yo 1965/1977 (80° proof/45.7%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) This baby still from the ‘Aberdeen’ W.M. Cadenhead. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how rare indie Glenfiddichs are. Oh and did you notice that it’s not ‘Glenfiddich-Glenlivet’? Colour: gold. Nose: cancel cancel cancel, this is very soapy. It’s liquid soap. Soapier than soap. Yikes! Mouth: no no no no no… And that’s a shame, because any experienced taster would feel that what’s behind all this soap 'could' be of the highest quality. Or not, not too sure. Finish: long and extremely soapy. The dearest son of Mr Palmolive and Mrs Dove. You had thought mid-1980s Bowmores were the soapiest whiskies ever? How wrong you were! Comments: the problem is that this comes from a bottle that’s just been opened, so it’s fully fresh and no tainting could have happened. Seriously, what happened? The old lady’s ‘unlikely tastes’? Dissolved plastic from the cap? Bottle stored in an IKEA warehouse? Simply a fake bottle? Bah, that’s not very important – but I’m glad I could try a very bad, very nasty, and simply horrendous whisky by Cadenhead this summer. Because the recent offerings, well, they don’t seem to be too bad… SGP:190 - 4 points (no, no figure is missing).

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



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July 29, 2015


Dalwhinnie NAS, 15, DE

A new Dalwhinnie out in September (NAS, of course), and its ancestors. A set-up we’ll probably have to use again in the near future, for the better or, yeah, for the worse.

Dalwhinnie ‘Winter’s Gold’ (43%, OB, 2015)

Dalwhinnie ‘Winter’s Gold’ (43%, OB, 2015) Two stars and a half Diageo keep issuing NAS versions of their Classic Malts, and today it’s Dalwhinnie that’s on the table. Every time, there’s the same question that arises, ‘will they subsequently discontinue the former age-stated entry-level bottling?’ In this case, that would be the 15. I do not have the answer, and after all, rumours are only rumours. This Winter’s Gold, a name that might hint at the Distillery’s rather high altitude, is supposed to be put into the freezer prior to pouring. A strange idea, but after all, adding lemon to Corona or to Belgian white beers was a strange idea as well. In short, this is chill filtering without the filtering part. For good measure, we’ve followed the owners’ suggestion and have chilled a part of this baby (at -18°C, no less), while keeping the other part at room temperature. It’s the first time we’re doing this kind of stunt, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. Colour: gold. Nose (room temp): typical honeyed and vanilla-ed profile, with the trademark maltiness and whiffs of Seville oranges. Perhaps touches of ginger, which makes it a little cocktaily, in a fairly good way. Chilled: nada, niente, nichts. Or nosing it from two metres away ;-). But it’s fun to see it move like if it was oil in your glass. Mouth (room temp): peppery and rather oaky, with a feeling of sawdust, ginger, and cinnamon. Then more Dalwhinnian oranges and honey. Tastes young, with growing notes of fruit eau-de-vie. Certainly plum spirit, young slivovitz and all that. Chilled: well, as you won’t take litres in your mouth, it heats up very fast and after a first wee ‘ice cream effect’, you end up with the same oaky and slivovitzy profile. Finish (both room temp and chilled): malt, oranges and honey are back, but the signature remains rather oaky. Comments: an honest, rather simple drop, I’d say. Freezing it seems to be only useful if you live in the middle of Death Valley or in good old Timbuktu. SGP:351 - 78 points.

While we are at it…

Dalwhinnie 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2014)

Dalwhinnie 15 yo (43%, OB, +/-2014) Three stars I guess I shouldn’t try this baby since I already tried a +/-2013 version (WF 82), but for the sake of comparison… Colour: gold. Nose: more profound, maltier, more complex, with more honeys, overripe apples, hay, maple syrup, fudge, raw malted barley, cake, shortbread… It is rather average, but in the best sense of that word, meaning ‘in the middle’. In the middle of Scotch malt whisky, that is. Mouth: less differences with the new Winter’s Gold (I would have chosen the name Winter’s Silver instead, but hey, who am I), but still, there’s more roundness, more honey, apples and pears, candy sugar, hay wine… And above all, less obvious oak. But indeed, we’re quite close. Very close! Finish: good length, with a touch of wood smoke, malt, toasts, oranges… It’s certainly more complex and fruitier, that’s where it really wins it, finishes never lie! Comments: no reasons to change my score. A very good drop, easy but not ‘too obvious’. A perfect beginner’s malt! Hope it won’t get discontinued… SGP:452 - 82 points.

While we’re at it part 2…

Dalwhinnie 1997/2014 'Distiller's Edition' (43%, OB, D. SV. 312)

Dalwhinnie 1997/2014 'Distiller's Edition' (43%, OB, D. SV. 312) Three stars and a half That’s right, we’re kind of watching flies doing their business now. Indeed we’ve already tried the 1997 bottled in 2013, but that one was bearing the code ‘D. SU. 312’. But this is ‘D. SV. 312’, so that’s completely different, for crying out loud!!! Colour: gold. Nose: oh lovely! It’s got big notes of rum agricole, really, and it’s to be wondered if they did not use ex-Martinique casks for this. I’m not joking. So sugar cane, then… wait, calvados? And even a little sweet beer. This is very fun. And even a little armagnac, with notes of raisins. A meta-spirit? Mouth: it’s really excellent. Not quite a surprise, but we’re close. Some meta-spirit again, with raisins, Muscatel, ripe apples, white chocolate, rum and raisins… Fun stuff really. Only one tiny flaw in my book, it tends to become a little sour. ‘Old’ cider. Finish: not too long, and perhaps a little sweet. It’s where the wine-finishing did not work quite well IMHO. What was it again? Ah yes, oloroso. Rather tastes like PX if you ask me. Comments: a fun drop, kind of ‘mixed’, not exactly Scottish, not precisely Caribbean, not quite Norman, and not totally Andalusian. World spirit? Just a notch too sweet for my taste. SGP:551 - 83 points.

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



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July 28, 2015


  Celebrating Thirteen
Years of Whiskyfun

My friend, today little Whiskyfun is 13 years old. Rather a non-event, and all whiskymakers, apart from Craigellachie and Whyte & Mackay ;-), know that thirteen is neither twelve nor fifteen. So we’ll keep this short and, hopefully sweet.

But still, what’s new at WF Towers, you may ask? Well, our figures keep rising at the same pace as previously, that is to say at a rate of +/-15% per year (both number of visits and visitors). More than 75% of them are returning visitors, which pleases me quite a lot. All in all, there are between 8,000 and 10,000 visits a day, sometimes a little more (when we’re trying Ardbeg, ha ha). But this is not Buzzfeed, mind you!

Other than that, not much has changed, all I hope is that we won’t see an avalanche of new young NAS whiskies replacing well-aged core ranges – and at a higher price. Looks like that is slowly happening, though, which may eventually diminish the joy of tasting new whiskies. In my views, malt whisky without an age statement is like Led Zep without Robert Plant, something is missing.

Now, you may wonder why I would care. My main problem, in fact, is that until just a few years ago, the whisky world was a place where just anybody could afford some well-aged, complex and interesting whiskies. Successful entrepreneurs and humble employees or even factory workers used to regularly gather and share equivalent drams, and we were all equals in that joyous melting pot where only one thing used to be important: shared passion for whisky. How things have changed! Because mind you, you got to be wealthy to afford some 25 years old malt whisky these days, even the weaker ones, that is to say single casks from blending stock, sold by some indies for hundreds of Euros a skittle.


An indie Blair Athol 23 yo 1991 for 266 Euros? A Caperdonich 21 yo 1992 for 393 Euros (you read that right)? A Laphroaig 16 yo 1997 for 410 Euros? An Ardbeg 20 yo 1994 for 678 Euros?… Or an undisclosed NAS for 110 Euros? Slightly nauseating moves, if you ask me. What’s more, blends do not seem to sell too well these days, so some might be trying to unload their young malts as single malts instead, whether NAS or not, and further milk the malt-thirsty cow. The new drinkers, sadly, and unless very wealthy, have no other choices than enjoy the malts they can afford, and of course nobody should blame them for that. 

But I don’t want to go on burbling on about those issues, the world of spirits is rich and large enough to provide these humble little pages with many other interesting boozes, should malt whisky become too depressing or unauthentic. Including, that’s true, some that are NAS as well, such as artisan mezcals, piscos or cachaças. But at least, those are fully spirit-driven, and not flash-botoxed with oak or cooking wine.

So, if one day the world of Scotch malts (and their ‘foreign’ clones) is totally dominated by these NAS whiskies that all taste more or less the same (vanilla and basta), I think we’ll simply start to try more interesting malternatives, so not just on Sundays.

But it hasn’t come to that yet, so…

Let’s go on for a while with the current format, see what happens, and pace e salute!

Now, how should we celebrate our 13th birthday? Probably with an emblematic name, some very old whiskies, and two or three rare bottlings. Like these…


Three Ardbeg for WF's 13th anniversary

Do we really need a headnote?

Ardbeg 18 yo 1958 (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, +/-1976)

Ardbeg 18 yo 1958 (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, +/-1976) one star and a half This one sure is a controversial bottling. Genuine or not? What’s even more troubling is the fact that the label states that it’s a ‘Highland’ whisky, and not an Islay. What’s sure is that if it is the real deal indeed, it’s of the oldest vintages of Ardbeg known to Man. We’re not talking about the late 19th/early 20th century fakes that abound in various collections, of course… But indeed, nobody’s ever been sure that this well-known bottling wasn’t a fake as well, and I’m not 100% sure we could tell. Let’s check it… Colour: pale gold. Nose: hard to say (of course). There are medicinal notes, funny whiffs of crushed strawberries, notes of various Jell-Os (blackcurrant springs to mind), and something that furiously reminds me of…  Bowmore 12 years old, circa the year 2000. Ahem… Ahem indeed. Mouth: same feelings. Smoky strawberries, raspberry-flavoured yoghurt, a bit of burnt wood, malt… This is young, this is modern, and apologies, but I doubt it’s Ardbeg 1958. Although I’m not too familiar with Ardbeg 1958, of course. Finish: good length, modern tastes. Toasted bread, jams, light smoke, and, above all, very little coastalness. How strange. Comments: I wouldn’t stake my life that this isn’t genuine Ardbeg 1958, but if it was, well, Ardbeg was pretty ordinary back in 1958. Such is the life of a die-hard whisky freak, stinky fakes abound and you have to be very careful. Again, never buy from a seller whom you don’t know well, never! SGP:544 - 69 points.

Better luck now, perhaps…

Ardbeg 14 yo 1965 (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, +/-1979)

Ardbeg 14 yo 1965 (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, +/-1979) Five stars A 'Highland' malt again, this is troubling. Ah, 1965, the year of the pretty disappointing official 1965 that came out a few years ago (with pomp, circumstances, white gloves and stuff). Colour: gold. Nose: b****y, f*****g yesssss! This, is Ardbeg. Hessian, oysters, old coal stove, almond oil, genuine old turpentine, carbon paper, old books, Bakelite, natural engine oil (castor oil), crème de menthe (old Ricqlès, do you know that brilliant stuff that makes your breath just perfect for dancing cheek-to-cheek?)… This is extraordinarily complex, this is what made Ardbeg Ardbeg in many a whisky lover’s book. No, not just that one. Mouth: makes you dance and sing. More old books, carbon paper, seawater, tar, drops of cod oil (I know), whelks and other tasty sea animals, almonds again, creosote and bandages (the infernal combo), wet papers, kippers, smoked salmon, then rather spices, caraway and cloves, cardamom… Was 70° proof really only 40% vol.? Seriously, it’s no big whisky as far as power is concerned, and indeed we’re almost closer to wine, but depth and wideness of aromas are pretty amazing. Finish: sadly, it is a little short and almost too clean and tidy. On the other hand, this baby was bottled at 40% and spent more than thirty-five years in a closed bottle. Try to understand it! Comments: not much else to say. One of the seminal whiskies that raised an army of whisky (and Ardbeg) lovers. The score would have been higher at… a higher proof! SGP:456 - 93 points.

I know what you think, ‘and modern Ardbeg?’ How would it compare? Let’s find out, with an indie ‘au naturel’ …

Ardbeg 23 yo 1991/2015 (50.6%, Master of Malt, bourbon, 216 bottles)

Ardbeg 23 yo 1991/2015 (50.6%, Master of Malt, bourbon, 216 bottles) Five stars Isn’t it funny that the indies are now issuing Ardbegs that are much more expensive than their official counterparts? But I agree, there probably aren’t any real official counterparts, as all the OBs, except the Ten, are NAS. Read ‘probably very very very very young’. By the way, remember that the moribund Ardbeg whisky used to be made by the good people from Laphroaig’s at the time. Yeah, just before Allied murdered dozens of magnificent casks by vatting them all in their 30 yo ‘Very Old’. Pretty great whisky, that one, and caviar+caviar=caviar, but still… Colour: pale gold. Nose: am I the only whisky lover who often considered that Ardbeg could be more medicinal than Laphroaig? My email address is valentin@ca... I’m kidding. So oysters, fresh almonds, seaweed, embrocations, limoncello, hessian, bandages, tiger balm, creosote and smoked fish. Nothing more, nothing less. And I think it’s brilliant. With water: in a hospital near the sea, while a large pile of hay is burning in the neighbourhood. Somebody added an old tyre to the pile. Mouth (neat): I’m afraid it’s brilliant indeed. Is 23 a magical age for Ardbeg? Extremely focused and compact combination of seaweed, smoked fish, almond oils, lemons, mercurochrome, sauvignon blanc, fresh walnuts and brine. I don’t think you could do better. Only time would make it more complex, but you’d need dozens of years… With water: immaculate, perfect Ardbegness. Almost on par wit the best of the 1970s. Finish: long, clean. Smoked fish, oils. Comments: I find it embarrassing that a bottle of 20+ years old whisky that’s priced at 500+ Euros would be so good. Life is a bitch (you need holidays, S.). Oh, forgot to tell you, the smoke’s intense. SGP:458 - 92 points.

Okay, happy 13th anniversary to Whiskyfun, let’s go on…

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




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July 27, 2015


Old styles, old Strathislas

I don’t think we’ve done a Strathisla session recently, have we? It’s true that the brand is very quiet these days, it’s all about Glenlivet at Chivas Bros’. I’m even wondering if G&M do not sell more Strathisla than the owners. And I remember well the white label around 1980. We had Cardhu ‘white label’, Glenfiddich, and Strathisla ‘white label’. Oh and nasty blends.

Strathisla 35 yo (43%, OB, Bicentenary, 1986, 75cl)

Strathisla 35 yo (43%, OB, Bicentenary, 1986, 75cl) Three stars A rare bottling, done by Chivas Brothers to celebrate the bicentenary of Strathisla Distillery, founded 1786. Distilled around 1950, I wager. Colour: gold. Nose: oh lovely overripe apples and soft honey (and honeycomb, beeswax)… Plus some light OBE, rather of the tea-ish and metallic kind. Copper, old coins, apple crumble, very ripe kiwis, then more blond tobacco (Virginia) and a slightly sour, winey side that hints at sherry. Am I dreaming or they added drops of old Chablis to this? A very elegant nose, rather complex, and delicately un-modern. Mouth: the oak’s a little loud, perhaps, and there are bags and bags of apple peelings, green tea, green peppercorns and orange zests. But what’s behind that, that is to say this mellow honeyness and all this spicy compote works very well. A touch of cinnamon, then plain oak. A little bitter. Finish: rather long given the strength, spicy and slightly bitter. The aftertaste is a little drying and too mentholated, which often goes together. Comments: it started very well but I find this old baby a little too oaky for my taste. Maybe more a collectable than a drinking star? SGP:471 - 83 points.

You may be wondering why we’ll have this one after the older OB. I’d say the answer lies in the tasting notes…

Strathisla 30 yo 1954/1984 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl)

Strathisla 30 yo 1954/1984 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather similar, with a little incense, all things honeyed, some tobacco and some overripe apples, but there’s little OBE this time, and this nose is as bright as if it was bottled yesterday. A lot of pollen and nectar, quinces, sultanas, then drops of cough syrup and powerful chestnut honey. A slight meaty side (ham?) and a little chicken soup – with parsley. Very lovely nose. Mouth: easily beats the OB. Softer, rounder, fruitier, more honeyed and, above all, much less oaky. Some pipe tobacco, orange cake, all things from a beehive, drops of old Sauternes, apple pie, a touch of liquorice, even a little salt… What’s more, the low strength never feels. Finish: quite long, clean, honeyed, delicately spicy. Cinnamon sweets, wax, oranges, apples, a touch of white pepper… It’s only in the aftertaste that a little green tea shows up. Comments: these old Strathislas by G&M used to be gems – and the prices were very fair! It was another very fine example… SGP:551 - 89 points.

More of this old breed before we try a contemporary old one…

Strathisla 42 yo 1954 (40%/80 US proof, Gordon & MacPhail, for John Gross Baltimore, +/-1996)

Strathisla 42 yo 1954 (40%/80 US proof, Gordon & MacPhail, for John Gross Baltimore, +/-1996) Five stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: oooh… This is stunning! It’s even more complex than the 30, absolutely not tired, rather bright and vibrant, with blood oranges, these hints of old copper coins indeed (pennies, of course), honeydew rather than honey, honeysuckle and lime tree blossom, all ripe plums of the creation, and whiffs of old late harvest Gewurztraminer. Am I an Alsatian or what? After ten minutes, it’s rather old cigars, parsley, sandalwood, cedar wood… Perfect! Mouth: perfect indeed. Granted, the oak’s more prominent this time, but the honeys and the fruits more than support it. Fruit soup, crystallised tangerines, citrons, sultanas, some liquorice wood (the oak talking), honeydew again, a little sap, a little putty, a little triple-sec by a good maker, dried figs… It’s amazing how youthful it remained, and yet its very mature and complex. The casks must have been perfect, probably refill sherry of exquisite provenance. Finish: unexpectedly long and mouth-filling, with ripe apples, a little fudge, spicy oranges, tobacco and a grittier cedar wood in the aftertaste. Comments: this is why we need age statements and/or vintages. Mind you, 1954, that’s when Elvis made his first radio broadcast. It’s important to know that, isn’t it! SGP:561 - 91 points.

And now, a modern one by a good house!

Strathisla-Glenlivet 25 yo 1989//2015 (42.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 150 bottles)

Strathisla-Glenlivet 25 yo 1989//2015 (42.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 150 bottles) Four stars Cadenhead always like to add ‘Glenlivet’ after some of their, err, Speysides. I guess the cask was stencilled that way. One day, they’ll come up with an Ardbeg-Glenlivet by mistake, and it’ll become the most collectable Ardbeg ever. But shhh… Colour: gold. Nose: this is completely different. We’re having crème au beurre (you may call that butter cream), vanilla fudge, café latte (not from Starbuck’s mind you), a curious herbal combination (hay, asparagus, woodruff), and then vin jaune. That is to say these sourish touches of green walnuts and, well, green walnuts. Unusual, interesting, and likeable. But at this strength and with a nose like this, the palate could be troublesome… Mouth: it’s an exact copy of the nose, descriptor for descriptor. Very unusual, buttery, coffee-ish, herbal, slightly sour, with some old oak but also sweets and liquorice allsorts, green tea, and vin jaune. Or, if you prefer, manzanilla pastrana (old style, lightly filtered). Finish: rather long, with the miracle. The miracle is that the oak did not take over. Comments: an unusual winesky, or wisky-wine. It’s not that its an ex-sherry cask or else, but the style reminds me of some wines. Like, indeed, vin jaune, or Noilly Prat. It’s so unusual that it’s hard to score. Let’s remain conservative, George. SGP:461 - 85 points.

Good, we already had quite a few old low-strength Straths, let’s call this a session. But first, let’s have a stronger one, and we’ll be done.

Strathisla 27 yo 1979/2007 (55.7%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butt, cask #1534, 605 bottles)

Strathisla 27 yo 1979/2007 (55.7%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry butt, cask #1534, 605 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Not much sherry. Nose: it’s clean, but kind of middle-of-the-road soft and fruity Speyside. That the cask hasn’t been very active is an understatement, but that works well with characterful distillates. Not too sure that’s the case with Strathisla. Barley water, tinned pears, sweet almonds (some kind of Italian liqueur), ripe apples, plums… With water: grass, lemongrass, paraffin. Mouth (neat): same, average good-quality Speysider, a little peary given the respectable age, sweetly barleyish. Gooseberries, plums. With water: more sweet barley, lemon liqueur, grapefruits… That’s nice. Finish: rather long, grassy, lemony… Comments: typically what you’d call ‘a very fine drop’, but perhaps more a cask that would go well for an old blend. Just wondering. SGP:451 - 80 points.

(and Patrick, encore mille mercis!)

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



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July 24, 2015


Ach, Glendronach

Yes, we’re still trying to win an award at WF Towers. That would be the Lousiest Headline Ever Award. Please, oh please!... By the way, someone called me ‘the anarchist whisky taster’ the other day. You just wouldn’t imagine how pleased I was… But bach to Glendronach (that’s not funny one bit, S.)…

Glendronach (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1970)

Glendronach (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1970) Five stars A perfect aperitif, I’d bet. Love the ‘A Perfect Self Whisky’ mention on the label, what an elegant way of saying ‘single malt’. Colour: straw. Nose: oil. Sunflower, grape pips, argan, whatever, this reeks of vegetal oil. And then, we have apple juice, grapefruits, pieces of mangos, something delicately floral (lilies), something rather ‘old Highlands’ (old motorbike, why not a Norton?), some carbon paper, drops of ink, new magazine (that would be Whisky Magazine France, of course!)… This nose reminds us that older malts used to be more complex than today’s offerings, however good those are. Facts. Mouth: kills you. Another era, other perspectives, other aims, other goals (whaaaat?) Amazing complexity – and ‘compact fullness’ at the same time. Old Sauternes, some kind of banana liqueur long forgotten in Grandma’s cabinet-just-under-the-telly, many herbal teas, some loud and clear malted barley, a wee metallic touch that often appears in these old bottles by G&M (or Cadenhead)… and all that. Above all, it’s a classy distillate. Finish: not too long, of course, but never tired, never dull, and never flabby. Some smoke. Comments: one of my favourite NAS whiskies ever. SGP:452 - 91 points.

Glendronach 18 yo 'Allardice' (46%, OB, 2015)

Glendronach 18 yo 'Allardice' (46%, OB, 2015) Four stars I had thought I’ve tried this 18 very recently, and then I checked Whiskyfun, and noticed that that was in 2009. I had liked it, but thought the 15 ‘Revival’ just killed it. But then again, that happened in 2009. Time to do some kind of revisionism… Colour: amber. Nose: it’s not the first time that a whisky reminds me of the first pack of cigarettes I ever bought. I do not smoke anymore, but I remember very well that pack of Camels that I had bought in Dusseldorf when I was 13 or 14. Taking out the cellophane and smelling the pack was like… nosing the most complex malt whisky ever. On the stereo, there was ELP’s brand new LP, Tarkus. But why am I telling you this? Why would you care? So, this Glendronach smells like a 1970’s pack of untipped Camels (while Keith Emerson’s doing his riffs on his half-destroyed organ). Mouth: no, this is seriously good. Dry sherry, figs, dates, something mineral, a touch of cologne – nothing to worry about-, marmalade, a little nutmeg… What strikes me is that it’s a fairly dry drop. Finish: long, perhaps a notch too mineral and flinty, with some quinine and pepper. Comments: is it really a Macallan-killer? What’s sure is that it got that style, but I’m not 100% fond of the flinty, grassy, almost metallic side. But it’s a very great sherried drop anyway. I’m sure it got drier than earlier batches, what would Carl Palmer think? SGP:561 - 86 points.

Good, let’s tackle the other, punchier side of Glendronach, and we’re done. This time.

Glendronach 21 yo 1993/2014 (56.4%, OB, for LMdW, oloroso, cask #475, 627 bottles)

Glendronach 21 yo 1993/2014 (56.4%, OB, for LMdW, oloroso, cask #475, 627 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: mahogany. Nose: chocolate, tamarind, strawberry jam, prunes, triple-sec, raisins, cask strength cognac, tar, liquorice, Spanish ham, pipe tobacco… I don’t think you could find heavier whisky, and yet there’s a lightness to this. With water: the oak comes out. Pencil shavings and all that. Mouth (neat): spectacularly liqueury, prune-y, chocolaty, orange-y, raisiny… It’s sweeter than what the nose suggested, but it is high-impact oloroso-ed malt whisky. A bit rough, perhaps? With water: lovely lovely, but once again, the oak feels. Wouldn’t that be sherry-treated rejuvenated oak? Finish: long, oaky, leafy, jammy, chocolaty. Comments: very good no doubt, but I’m not a total fan, as water kind of deconstructs it. You feel the layers. SGP:552 - 84 points.

(merci beaucoup Mister Angus)

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



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July 23, 2015


Bunnahabhain again

Don’t cheap rhymes kill? What’s sure is that we have many, and I mean many Bunnahabhains to try. Let’s try to start to empty the slot…

Bunnahabhain 1988/2014 'Kirsch Gâteau' (56%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 442 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1988/2014 'Kirsch Gâteau' (56%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 442 bottles) Four stars What’s exactly a kirsch gâteau? A forêt noire or Schwarzwalder? Hold on, I had thought this baby was bottled at 46% as usual, but it’s 56%. Not quite a proper #1 in a line-up, is it! But what’s done is done, let’s go on… Colour: dark amber. Nose: this is armagnac. Prunes, black raisins, spicy chocolate, coffee-schnapps (indeed), then rocks and matches, gunflints, gravel and guignolet. Or rather maraschino. It’s big and fat, and yet it hasn’t lost all of Bunnahabhain’s engaging lightness. With water: touches of earth and wet concrete. Hessian, tobacco… Mouth (neat): it’s Demerara rum this time, blended with armagnac indeed. Chocolate, kirsch (there), molasses, prunes, Corinthian raisins, fruitcake… It’s not exactly a summery malt, but I like it. With water: smoother and fruitier. Cointreau and raisins. Finish: quite long, and quite fresh given the heavily sherried profile. Comments: a sherry monster that’s not monstrous at all. Great balance, high quality. SGP:652 - 87 points.

Good, while we’re having heavily sherried ones…

Bunnahabhain 1997/2013 (57.8%, Malts of Scotland, Christmas 2013, sherry hogshead, cask #13060, 248 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1997/2013 (57.8%, Malts of Scotland, Christmas 2013, sherry hogshead, cask #13060, 248 bottles) Four stars I know, this doesn’t make the slightest sense, a Christmas malt from two year ago right in the middle of summer… But isn’t that some kind of creativity? Colour: deep gold. Nose: yeah, and a peater at that! We’re close to some sherried Laphroaigs in style, with an acrid smoke, roasted chestnuts, cloves, cigar smoke, and quite some ginger. With water: more ginger, smoked things, a bag of cinnamon mints. A touch of brine. Mouth (neat): rich but zesty, sharp and ‘coated’ at the same time. Lemons, smoky salt, Seville oranges, then Provence herbs, especially thyme and rosemary. That part makes it a little unusual. With water: becomes gentler, still spicy, Christmassy indeed, and there is a little Schwarzwalder – wasn’t that supposed to be in the Wemyss? Finish: long, salty, rather zestier than the usual smoky sherry monster. Comments: different styles, similar quality. SGP:457 - 87 points.

Perhaps we should try to find lighter ones…

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2008/2014 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #602, 336 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 6 yo 2008/2014 (54.4%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #602, 336 bottles) Three stars Six years old! Well, perhaps we cannot ask for age statements while complaining about whiskies being bottled at very young ages (what some call whisky infanticides – agreed, that’s not very elegant). But I tell you, one day they’ll bottle barley… Colour: straw. Nose: American oak. Vanilla, Starbuck’s hazelnut coffee, fudge, maple syrup… Behind that, a pleasant maltiness and a few Mars bars. How Scottish indeed. With water: it’s the barley that roars, and we like that at WF Towers. It’s malt whisky, after all. Mouth (neat): cereals, cornflakes, energy bars, vanilla, Ovaltine, marmalade. Not bad, not bad, just very modern. With water: improves. Fresh oranges, maple syrup, a little Nutella, chestnut purée. Finish: medium, very malty. Milk chocolate. Comments: I find this baby pretty good, despite its age. But you see, it’s got an age statement, and I wouldn’t have liked it to bear a statement such as VSOP instead. Or a funny Gaelic name. SGP:541 - 82 points.

… But let’s have some older Bunny…

Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1987/2014 (49.1%, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, 99 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1987/2014 (49.1%, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, 99 bottles) Five stars The Auld Alliance in Singapore is my favourite amongst the whisky bars I’ve never been to ;-). One day, one day… Colour: straw. Nose: ah, it’s a fresh one, more on fruits than on chocolate or nuts, with a solid earthy and beachy base, and only a mild honeyed background. That means than it’s rather fresher and cleaner than the ‘average’ old Bunnahabhain. What I particularly enjoy is this chartreuse-y side that arises after a while, these notes of verbena, vetiver, mustard, cherry stems… It’s a very complex one. Mouth: excellent, fruits, apples, kiwis, drops of pisco, Muscat, gooseberries… It’s all very fresh, and I especially like these touches of fresh walnuts. After ten minutes, oranges rule the whole thing. Orange squash, tangerines, a wee saltiness, brine… I find it Dagueneau-esque. Wine freaks will understand what I mean. Finish: not too long, but exceptionally clean, fruity, zesty… And the aftertaste is a bit smoky. Smoky green bananas? Comments: it’s wine-malt. So malt for wine lovers. Excellently selected! SGP:552 - 90 points.

Good, let’s have a very last one…

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2014 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #2787)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2014 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #2787) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re wandering throughout a working kiln! Not at Bunnahabhain of course, but these whiffs of smoked bacon, kippers and barley are just spectacular. It’s great to be able to try these earlier batches of ‘Moine’ after more than 25 years of ageing. They seem to be doing very fine! But the smoke tends to dissipate, and to leave room for lime, gooseberries, greengages and… well, anything fruity and green. As you say, kiwis. Mouth: oh yes, this is interesting. We’re having a grassy peat, in a style that I’ve never quite encountered before. There’s something buttery, definitely ‘fishy’ (smoked salmon), with a layer of salty vegetables, maybe capers, maybe samphires or glasswort. Yes, google is your friend. Finish: relatively long, with a feeling of ‘old muted peat’ that you would get from an old Black Label by Cadenhead, if you see what I mean. I mean, a Laphroaig or an Ardbeg (more about those very soon, stay tuned!) Comments: fun and unusual. I have to admit I’m a little lost here, and scoring this is not easy. You see, it’s a lack of references. SGP:455 - 85 points.

(and thank you, Scott, and thank you Keith for all your hard work!)

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



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July 22, 2015


Three Glencadam, Mr Adam

Glencadam is one of these names that are virtually unknown these days. I remember when the new 15 was launched, many whisky lovers had hoped that the brand would start to catch more light (especially as Big Jim McEwan had claimed that it was his favourite tipple – after Bruichladdich of course), but it doesn’t seem that that ever happened. And yet, Glencadam can be very good!

Glencadam 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2014)

Glencadam 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2014) Four stars I’ve first tried this expression in 2009, and really liked it (WF 84). Colour: white wine. Nose: what the colour already suggested, there’s no oak treatment behind this baby, it’s fully on barley, porridge, cider apples, Williams pears and fresh baguette. There’s something fundamentally honest in this lovely malty nose. It’s well malt whisky, not caramelised oak juice! Mouth: in keeping with the nose, albeit sweeter and fruitier. Green apples, golden delicious, granny smith (are you going to list all apples you know, S.?) There’s some green lemony barley, touches of fennel and dill, white bread, grapefruits… Indeed, this is very honest. Finish: rather long, partly thanks to a perfect strength, on more fresh barley, apples, and sweetened porridge. Comments: I believe it’s a bottle that you must have in your bar, to check every once in a while ‘what’s the taste of pure malt whisky’. Very good. SGP:451 - 85 points.

I think we have a perfect sparring partner…

Glencadam 10 yo 2004/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10596)

Glencadam 10 yo 2004/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10596) Four stars This should be similar, but let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: LOL, it’s the same whisky! Well, almost. This one’s perhaps a notch zestier and fruitier, with a little more citrus, but also a faint soapy side, very discreet but noticeable. Soapwort? Mouth: same comments, minus the soap. Almost the same whiskies, with these apples, lemons, barley, aniseed, oranges… I find it really good. Perfect mouth feel. Finish: long, and certainly more citrusy than the OB at this point. A touch of kirsch. Comments: same very appealing malty profile, with a lot of freshness. Quality’s totally equivalent, this one’s just 20% more expensive. But we don’t taste price tags, do we. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Glencadam 26 yo 1989/2015 (55.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 180 bottles)

Glencadam 26 yo 1989/2015 (55.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 180 bottles) Four stars Another brand new Cadenhead, bottled this month. Colour: straw/pale gold. Nose: proof that ageing does some good to fine whiskies. This is more complex, with a deeper fruitiness, a slightly mentholy oak, and, guess what? That’s right, barley, apples, pears and baguette! Very nice old whisky au naturel. With water: gets sauvignony, all for the better. Pouilly-Fumé with some thickness. Mouth (neat): we’re really close to the tens this time, but there are added touches of tropical fruits, maracuja, blood oranges, orange drops, melons… It’s got a vibrancy that’s a little unusual at this age, and a lot of freshness. In a way, it reminds me of some Bruichladdichs, which may explain why Jim McEwan likes his Glencadam. Bingo! With water: dry cider and sauvignon blanc, 50/50. Perfect for summertime. Finish: good length and a herbal side that comes through. Chives? Also limes. Margarita? Oh forget… Comments: this one’s excellently fresh. It would even take a few ice cubes when temperatures go up. SGP:551 - 87 points.

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



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July 20, 2015


Four old Lowlanders under the sun

This is where WF’s system doesn’t work too well. As you may know, I’m keeping a fairly large sample library of yet-untasted whiskies, which allows me to find proper sparring partners whenever an interesting new bottling reaches my doorstep, as I only believe in comparisons. But when a rare drop arrives, such as an old Inverleven, that won’t work as, sad but true, I do not seem to have any other Inverleven at hand. That means that I’ll have to find something else. And why not try to give a hard time to this nasty new Inverleven? With, for example, some Auchentoshans of similar age? We could even do a little horizontale… yes, let’s try that…

Auchentoshan 31 yo 1965/1997 (47.1%, OB, hogshead, cask #2503)

Auchentoshan 31 yo 1965/1997 (47.1%, OB, hogshead, cask #2503) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: these bottlings were rather famous when they came out – there were some excellent 1966s as well – and this nose is an instant hit. Probably one of the earliest examples of active American oak impacting a spirit that’s otherwise relatively quiet. And that worked, with superb notes of vanilla, sawdust and coconut that are much better balanced than other, more contemporary vanilla+coconut+sawdust-driven whiskies. Also the expected notes of bubblegum and marshmallows. So it’s rather oak-driven, but in a very nice way. Mouth: same profile, a rich, creamy, sweet, vanilla-ed palate, with more and more coconut and white pepper. Almost oak-aged pina colada! Add a few slices of tinned grapefruits and touches of mandarins and passion fruits. Finish: quite long, but probably a little too oaky this time. Plenty of bourbony oak in the aftertaste. Comments: mixed feelings, in fact. The oak’s a little loud on the palate, and the spirit a little light, which creates dissonances. Let’s call this ‘a mild disappointment’. SGP:650 - 84 points.

Auchentoshan 31 yo 1965/1997 (48.9%, OB, hogshead, cask #2508)

Auchentoshan 31 yo 1965/1997 (48.9%, OB, hogshead, cask #2508) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: we’re obviously close, but this one’s rather jammier, fatter, with more quinces and dried pears. But the oak roars… Mouth: I like this much better than cask #2503. Profiles are very similar, obviously, but this one has extra-fruits, bags of jelly babies, sweets, bubblegum, marshmallows, tangerines, passion fruits, banana sweets… Granted, the coconut hasn’t flown away, and neither did the sawdust and the vanilla, but the very lively fruitiness does stand all that. A little less bourbony than its sibling, I’d say. Finish: rather long, better balanced, and still quite fruity. Comments: balance! A very fine drop, with a proper finish that’s still got fruits. My favourite so far. SGP:650 - 87 points.

Auchentoshan 31 yo 1965/1997 (49.2%, OB, hogshead, cask #2507)

Auchentoshan 31 yo 1965/1997 (49.2%, OB, hogshead, cask #2507) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: back to the style of cask #2503. Vanilla and coconut to the power of two, a little cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper, bread crust, on ripe and green bananas, jelly beans and a whole bag of assorted bubblegum. Mouth: the ‘youngest’, and probably the oakiest as well. Chewing on your pencil at school. Really, it’s getting extreme, I’m not sure the distillate was big enough to stand such actively active oak. Eating banana skin. Finish: it’s the better part this time, as it couldn’t have become even oakier. And a wee warning, make sure these drams are served at a relatively cool temperature, they just don’t stand it above, say 22°C, and become pure plank juice. Comments: ah, the old Auchentoshan ex-sherry casks, those were superb! Next time, next time… SGP:560 - 80 points.

Okay, let me solemnly state that I did not choose those three heavily US-oaked Auchentoshans just to make the life of the new Inverleven easier. Cross my heart!

Dumbarton/Inverleven 27 yo 1987/2015 (53.9%, Cadenhead, Closed Distilleries)

Dumbarton/Inverleven 27 yo 1987/2015 (53.9%, Cadenhead, Closed Distilleries) Four stars Just bottled this month. Ah, Inverleven. There were those fairly mundane G&Ms, and that was it. And yet, we’ve tried some excellent ones, but the problem is that those stills that used to lie within the Dumbarton whisky plant (for lack of a better term) have only been working until 1992. There are strange stories around Inverleven, some saying that it was a mix of pot and Lomond stills, others that it was pure pot still whisky… What’s sure is that the stills have been brought to Bruichladdich ten years ago or so, where they never actually functioned, and that they have been shipped to Ireland a few months ago, where they should roar again at Mark Reynier’s new Waterford Distillery. So, Inverleven’s story isn’t over. Colour: straw. Nose: now I remember why I chose the old Auchentoshans. Styles are similar, with this combination of vanilla-ed sawdust and coconut oil. What’s funny is that I’m also finding ‘ideas of Ladyburn’ (what?), with this very bright ‘yellow’ fruitiness that would involve peaches and mirabelles. Chamomile. With water: pure vanilla fudge mixed with apple compote. And one croissant au beurre. Mouth (neat): acacia honey, mint-flavoured tea, argan oil (we’re definitely in southern Morocco), pear paste – or crystallised pears -, mirabelles, marzipan, hay wine (they make that in the Vosges mountains, sounds crazy but it ain’t too bad)… I find this neat. What may also save it is the fact that the oak wasn’t too active. Hurray for lazy casks! With water: works. Cereals, sweet lager, dry cider, a few drops of limoncello. In other words, back to the barley. Finish: some grassy oak coming through, but it remains brighter than the old Auchs. That would be Auchentoshans. Comments: not just rare, historical whisky. This is a style that’s gone, unless some ‘new old’ Glenkinchie comes out. Not easy to score – say it’s more or less of the same overall quality as the best Auchentoshan we had today. SGP:551 - 86 points.

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



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July 19, 2015


Malternatives for a summery sunday: rum

A few rums, that’s perfect when you’re enduring high temperatures. We’ll pick them completely at random. I’m serious, totally at random.

R L Seale's 10 yo (43%, OB, Barbados, +/-2013) Three stars A high reputation, and, apparently, no fiddling with caramel, sugar, ‘family recipes’, or other tricks. And the age is not that of an imaginary solera! Made by Foursquare. Colour: gold. Nose: olive oil. Really, this is olive oil, at least for a while. And then, we have plums, toasted bread, ripe bananas, liquorice, and lastly, ripe mangos and papayas. No extravagant artificial sweetness/fruitiness, all is fine so far. Mouth: it’s not got the knack of a Jamaican, and indeed there’s a slight lumpiness, but other than that, I enjoy the texture and the style. Liquorice, bananas, black olives, oak-aged limoncello, crystallised oranges. Tends to get drier after a few minutes. Finish: yeah, the finish is drier, leafy, grassy… But that’s not bad news, I literally h.a.t.e. sweetish, schmaltzy finishes. Comments: right up my alley, even if I prefer punchier rums. And yeah, the bottle’s very strange. SGP:551 - 81 points.

Espero 'Reserva Especial' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015)

Espero 'Reserva Especial' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015) Two stars The Dominican Republic and a solera ‘aged from 7 to 12 years’, that’s all what we need. Please fasten your seatbelts… Colour: full gold. Nose: sweet rum. I haven’t got anything to say against this, and nothing for it either. Sweet rum. Okay, perhaps is the vanilla a little too loud. Mouth: no, this isn’t bad, seriously! There’s plenty of spicy herbs, wormwood, verbena, lime, fennel, aniseed… and of course plenty of sugar, but there is a freshness. It’s just not rum, i.e. a by-product of sugarcane. More a liqueur. A well-made liqueur for sure, but a liqueur. Finish: rather long, herbal, between Jaegermeister and Unicum. Comments: made in the lab. A good lab! SGP:770 - 72 points.

That’s the problem with randomness, results may be random…

Trois Rivières 1998/2012 (46.2%, OB, for La Maison du Rhum, Martinique, agricole, cask #C8-200, 272 bottles)

Trois Rivières 1998/2012 (46.2%, OB, for La Maison du Rhum, Martinique, agricole, cask #C8-200, 272 bottles) Four stars and a half Oh no, I’m sure this one will kill this little session. Colour: red amber. Nose: superlative spicy and fruity oak, extraordinary tropical fruits (tamarind first, then papayas), majestic coffee and tobacco, astounding brininess (black olives, capers, salmiak). This nose is amazing. Or why complexity is not the enemy of fullness. Discuss ;-)… Mouth: you have to enjoy loud, in-the-front-liquoricy-oak, but if you do, you’ll simply adore this. Concentrated, perfectly extractive, cane-y, greatly acrid and gritty, all on sugarcane, with a varnishy side that works well. Big, heavy, rich rum, without any obvious sweetness. Remember, sugar kills millions. Finish: long and oaky. Chewing on liquorice sticks for hours. Comments: good, this is not for everyone – and I’m not an elitist – well I might be one – but any new rum freaks who enjoy plain junk such as Don Papa, Kraken, or any other heavily marketed sugar bombs, please try to put your hands on one of these bottles. And we’ll talk later. SGP572 - 88 points.

That was quite a session killer, but we’re fearless and intrepid at WF Towers…

Six Saints (41.7%, OB, Grenada, +/-2015)

Six Saints (41.7%, OB, Grenada, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Don’t tell me Stranger & Stranger have designed this bottle as well! The fake strength (come on, 41.7%) makes this thing pretty fishy, but you never know. Indeed, like in whisky, decimals kill and the people, you know, they grow up and learn. Colour: pale gold. Nose: cancel what I just said, this is pretty nice. Light, grassy, slightly smoky and herbal, with notes of smoked bananas (eh?) and ‘ideas’ of bubblegum and Toplexil. Right, flash-pasteurised cranberry juice. Mouth: no, it’s honest juice, light, fruity, appropriately herbal and ‘phenolic’ (don’t expect Laphroaig, though), with a touch of salt. Seriously, it’s very honest rum. Finish: medium, sweet, slightly salty. Banana sweets in the aftertaste. Comments: honest and loyal stuff, not just a victory of brandisation gone mad. SGP:562 - 78 points.

Four is not a session. Five is…

Chichigalpa 15 yo 1995 (45%, Alambic Classique, Nicaragua, +/-2011)

Chichigalpa 15 yo 1995 (45%, Alambic Classique, Nicaragua, +/-2011) Three stars According to may rum luminaries on ze Web, Chichigalpa makes Flor de Cana. I have no acquaintances with the latter, but I very well know that Alambic Classique is a very reputable German bottler of rum and whisky. Colour: full gold. Nose: it seems that we’re avoiding the dreadfully heady South-American style here, as this is relatively light and elegant. Burnt toasts, hay, caramel, fudge, smoked things, wood smoke, coffee, cake straight-from-the-oven. Nice (the guy who invented the word nice deserves our eternal consideration). Mouth: really, it’s nice. Rather hot and rich in style, and yet pretty elegant, with olive-y, phenolic, almost dundery notes. A Nicaraguan that’s making googly eyes at Jamaica. Finish: long, slightly smoky, salty, without any dull sugariness. That’s most appreciable. Comments: great distillate, between two worlds somehow. SGP:452 - 82 points.

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



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July 17, 2015


Heat wave special, a bunch of…

We’re still recovering from the heat wave (which isn’t totally over, mind you.) Perhaps we should try to find some refreshing malt whisky… Like, Caol Ila?

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2014)

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2014) Three stars and a half Everybody keeps saying that Caol Ila’s the gentle, light peater from Islay, but you know what, I’ve always thought Caol Ila wasn’t that gentle and light. We’ll have some examples soon, but first things first, let’s retry the official 12. Colour: white wine. Nose: more medicinal than you’d think, smokier than you’d think, and more coastal than you’d think. Band-aid, beach bonfire, iodine, then white bread, leaven, grapefruits, and seawater. It is relatively lighter than its bros from the south shore of Islay, but in no way ‘light’. Mouth: keyword, balance. Lime, smoke, bitter marzipan, cigarette ashes, whelks (I’m sorry, whelks – hold on…), leaves, bitter grass, apple peelings… If this is light whisky, I’m Taylor Swift. Finish: not short, a little acrid, very smoky, salty, ashy… There’s this feeling of ‘eating an ashtray’ that doesn’t go too well with the concept of lightness. Does it? Comments: it’s the strength that’s a tad problematic, perhaps. There’s a wee feeling of coitus interruptus that may come from the 43% vol. Other than that, it’s an excellent smoky tipple IMHO. SGP:356 - 84 points.

Caol Ila 18 yo 1995/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage for LMdW, refill butt, cask #10031, 797 bottles)

Caol Ila 18 yo 1995/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage for LMdW, refill butt, cask #10031, 797 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: there’s a sweeter side at first nosing, some funny hints of ripe kiwis, then vivid notes of chenin blanc, ala Vouvray sec (François Chidaine’s, of course) or Jasnières (Eric Nicolas’, of course). Sure the Band-aidy notes are there, and so are the smoke, the ashes, the brown coal, the seashells… But yeah, what’s striking here is chenin blanc. Smoky chenin blanc. Mouth: this is dry. Drier than the official 12, and drier than any chenin. Bites a bit for a while (cracked black pepper), then displays a lot of almondy notes, and gets then very, very ashy. Not just a regular ashtray, rather an Ibiza ashtray around eight in the morning. Yep, including those things. Finish: sharp, salty, lemony, tense, chiselled. Somebody should try to smoke chenin grapes prior to pressing, one day… Any volunteers? Comments: not much sherry in this sharp blade. In fact, there might be less sherry than in an ex-bourbon cask. Quality’s undeniably high. SGP:457 - 86 points.

A last one… but we’ll have many more Caol Ilas in the coming days, I promise!

Caol Ila 17 yo (43%, Dun Eideann, decanter, +/-1995)

Caol Ila 17 yo (43%, Dun Eideann, decanter, +/-1995) Two stars and a half Oh well, I thought we could try an older CI of the same age, by the same bottler (these Dun Eideanns used to be done by Signatory). I’ve written ‘+/-1995’ but that may have been ‘+/-1990’. Mid-to-late 1970s distillation, in any case, so immediate post-rebuilding. Colour: white wine. Nose: rounder and fruitier, with notes of, say, medicinal bananas? Old white wine? Typically old Caol Ila, probably subtler than today’s drops, and certainly less smoky. Some kind of jelly beans. It’s lovely, but it’s not ‘immediate’. Mouth: so funny! And whacky! It’s big, extremely lemony and zesty, with some lemongrass, unripe gooseberries, then some hessian, graphite, a feeling of gravel… The whole’s a tad shaky, perhaps, less well-defined than modern bottlings, but it’s got some dazzling sparks of medicinalness (come on!) Almond oil and lemons, more hessian, a touch of chalk, some bitter herbs, peels and leaves… I’d have thought it would be an easy dram – it’s not. Finish: the hardest part. Everything got a little bitter, and unless you’re willing to intellectualise your whisky, it’s become difficult. All right, a little too bitter. Comments: rather for Caol Ila exegetes. Some sides are brilliant, while others are probably a little too… bitter. SGP:375 - 79 points.

We’ll have more Caol Ila in the coming days…

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



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July 16, 2015


Two official Dalmore

We’re back, with two official Dalmores. The coming days and weeks should be relatively quieter work-wise at WF Towers, and the weather more or less acceptable, so we’ll try to post more regularly again. Perhaps even 6/7, because mind you, there are many new whiskies in the sample library. Such as a new Dalmore ‘Distillery Exclusive’…

Dalmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2015)

Dalmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2015) Three stars This is the aperitif. We quite liked the Dalmore 12 last time we tried it, back in 2011 (WF 82). Colour: gold. Nose: it’s really malty, with a blend of Mars bar, chicory, Ovaltine and slightly burnt maple syrup. There’s also a winey touch (PX style), then rather a lot of chocolate and café latte. Well in the style of Dalmore, but with rather less oranges than usual, it seems. Mouth: in keeping with the nose, only rather less smooth and rounded than expected. That means that the chocolate is of the bitter kind, and that there’s really a lot of malt. Stout? Also tobacco, leather, some hay, bitter dry herbs, bitter marmalade, some cardamom… The whole’s much drier than I remembered. Finish: dry, maybe a tad short, on bitter chocolate, coffee beans, roasted walnuts… A little marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: I don’t think Dalmore 12’s ever been a sweet and jammy whisky, but this time we’re really having a dry one. Slightly salty oloroso? SGP:351 - 81 points.

Dalmore ‘Distillery Exclusive 2015’ (48%, OB, distillery exclusive, 450 bottles)

Dalmore ‘Distillery Exclusive 2015’ (48%, OB, distillery exclusive, 450 bottles) Four stars This baby is a blend of various wine casks. The price is… err, the price, £150 for a non-cask-strength NAS bottling. Perhaps a bit heavy? Colour: deep amber. Nose: you’re in Jerez, sipping some old amontillado. Would you mind passing the croquetas? There’s a little oak at first nosing (warm sawdust), then walnut cake, quince jelly, mushrooms, pipe tobacco and crystallised oranges. Maple syrup, ganache, Ovaltine, mint tea. The composition works well, and is very ‘modern Dalmore’, with more chocolate and less exuberant fruits than in older bottlings (say pre-1980). Mouth: there must be some old casks in this. Lovely arrival, on rose jelly, earthy teas, Turkish delights and oranges, all that coated with chocolate and a little green coffee. And some caramel/praline. Roasted cashew. The oranges fight back, but the spicy chocolate never gives up. Good body, the strength is perfect. Finish: long, with a feeling of old armagnac, which cannot be bad news. The signature is slightly salty, with a grassy bitterness, some liquorice, a little mint. Old oak? Comments: expensive and certainly very good. It’s got a retro side that’s very pleasant. SGP:461 - 86 points.

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



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July 2015 - part 1 <--- July 2015 - part 2 ---> August 2015 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Ardbeg 14 yo 1965 (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, +/-1979)

Ardbeg 23 yo 1991/2015 (50.6%, Master of Malt, bourbon, 216 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1987/2014 (49.1%, The Auld Alliance, Singapore, 99 bottles)

Glendronach (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1970)

Strathisla 42 yo 1954 (40%/80 US proof, Gordon & MacPhail, for John Gross Baltimore, +/-1996)