(Current entries)

Facebook Twitter Logo

Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2016 - Part 2



July 2016 - part 1 <--- July 2016 - part 2 ---> August 2016 - part 1


July 31, 2016


A few Dominican rums plus Bonus

It’s not often that we’ve been lucky with rums from the Dominican Republic, which have always been too sweet and even too sugary to this very whisky-soaked palate. And perhaps too ‘branded’, too ‘sexy’, too commercially appealing… In a way, pretty much the opposite of what their neighbours the Haitians make. But let’s not give up just yet, perhaps shall we find one or two that will class the place up…

Dominican republic

Matusalem ‘Solera 7’ (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015)

Matusalem ‘Solera 7’ (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015) Two stars A very cheap bottle that costs around 15€ here in France, although prices vary a lot. As often with solera numbers, many websites advertise it as a 7 years old. Colour: straw, so surprisingly pale. Nose: I find this pretty nice, fresh, with bananas and many other crushed overripe fruits. Certainly overripe melons from Provence, late in August, also vanilla and light molasses-based ‘honey’. Mouth: indeed, extremely sweet, but not as cloying as I had thought. Sugar cane syrup, banana liqueur, honey blend, little Easter eggs in sugar (I know we’re in the middle of summer)… Finish: short, very sugary. Comments: I guess you need a few ice cubes to tame the high sugariness, but other than that, I think it’s fair sweet rum. SGP:720 - 70 points.

Cubaney 21 ‘Exquisito Grand Reserve X.O.’ (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2014)

Cubaney 21 ‘Exquisito Grand Reserve X.O.’ (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2014) one star and a half What a name! We’ve already tried the 18 yo (WF 72) and the 25 yo (WF 70), both almost sugar bombs. Of course it’s advertised as a 21 years old everywhere, but the label actually says ’21 anos soleras’. Cough, cough… Colour: amber. Nose: quite pleasant, with some cedar wood and a feeling of warm molasses, Ovaltine, a little compost and other earthy notes, then more vanilla and raisins. A fine nose, for sure. But… Mouth: very sweet and liqueury, as expected. Sugar syrup, corn syrup, vanilla cream, maple syrup… That’s a lot of syrups, and at times you feel the need to brush your teeth. One the other hand and once again, on an avalanche of crushed ice, perhaps… Finish: short, very sweet, with some bitter caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: actually, I liked the humbler Matusalem a little better, for it was straighter and fresher. SGP:820 - 69 points.

Matusalem? Okay, back to Matusalem (so to speak)…

Matusalem ‘Gran Reserva 23’ (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015)

Matusalem ‘Gran Reserva 23’ (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015) Two starsSame trick, a solera number advertised everywhere as a genuine age statement. Makes the Scots look like angels, doesn’t it. Colour: golden amber. Nose: rather subtler and shyer than the Cubaney, with pretty lovely notes of orange blossom in the background. That is nice. A little cigarette tobacco as well, perhaps dandelions… I’m all for these subtle and elegant noses, do we have a wee winner? Let’s see… Mouth: super-sweet, just a tad less so than the Cubaney. Say 80g/l vs. 100 g/l, but that’s just a feeling, not some kind of measurement. Molassy, a little burnt as well. Burnt orange cake, burnt almond cake. Finish: short, a little bitter, as often with very sweet spirits. Burnt wood, coffee. Comments: certainly not a proper malternative, but there is some complexity to this brew. SGP:830 - 72 points.

This is becoming tiring already, but where there's a will there's a way…

Relicario (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015)

Relicario (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015) one star and a half No need to say that this is ‘superior’. Love all the handwritten details on the label, which just tell you… nothing. Like the geographic coordinates of the distillery that look so much like dates… Colour: amber. Nose: very round and sweet, caramely, latte-ish, vanilla-ed, and full of coconut. That makes it rather sexy and easy, certainly not off-putting, but this combo doesn’t bode well for what’s coming, unless I’m totally wrong again… Mouth: it’s not rum, it’s a kind of oak-flavoured coconut liqueur. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you may call this ‘rum’ where they make it, but all this coconutty sugar is a little disturbing. Not bad, actually, but disturbing… Finish: short, sweet, but curiously fresher. Comments: another one that desperately calls for ice. We’ve seen worse. SGP:820 - 68 points.

Summum ’12 Solera Reserva Especial’ (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015)

Summum ’12 Solera Reserva Especial’ (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015) Two stars And yet another ’12 years solera’. Some say 12 is the solera’s average age, but I doubt that. Colour: straw. Nose: akin to the Matusalem Solera 7. Nice cane-y freshness, plus bananas aplenty. Some almond cream and barley syrup in the background. I like this nose. Mouth: super-sugary, of course, but I’m rather in favour of what’s behind these tons of sugar, that is to say an almondy, slightly orange-y combination. Golden Grahams, vanilla, green coffee, more barley syrup, amaretti… Did they let almonds macerate? Finish: short, sugary, a little more vulgar again. Indefinite, I’d say. Comments: the top of the basket so far and today, as we say in France, but it’s a very small basket. SGP:840 - 74 points.

That Summum was intriguing, let’s try another one…

Summum ’12 Solera Finished Malt Whisky’ (43%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015)

Summum ’12 Solera Finished in Malt Whisky’ (43%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015) Two stars HSE already did that in Martinique, with much success IMHO. Finishing rum in malt whisky barrels, that’s intriguing… (while bourbon barrel are much in use in rum countries, just like in Scotland). Oh and they even tell you which barrels they used, that was ex-Ben Nevis! Colour: pale gold. Nose: right, same as the previous one, with an extra-layer of vanilla, custard, and fat grass. As they say, the jury’s still out. Mouth: I quite like it! Bananas and Ben Nevis’ slightly whacky style, that’s a new style. I’d have rather used some ex-peater casks, as they did at HSE, but what’s sure is that the malt adds texture and fatness to an otherwise ueberfruity spirit. Even if some dissonances do occur. Finish: medium, rather spicy. Muesli from the Caribbean. Comments: we’re approaching malternativeness! Thank you, Ben Nevis. SGP:741 - 76 points.

Well, this is still a very difficult session. We ought to find a trick… Oh maybe this…

Dominidad 15 yo (43%, Compagnie des Indes, blend, batch #SB1, 1205 bottles)

Dominidad 15 yo (43%, Compagnie des Indes, blend, batch #SB1, 1205 bottles) Three stars and a half Smart! This a blend where they poured one cask of Dominican and two casks of rum from Trinidad Distillers. Perhaps the best possible use of Dominican rum… Colour: gold. Nose: it is the story of Joël Robuchon’s mashed potatoes (purée). You easily improve your potatoes by adding an equivalent amount of fresh farm butter, don’t you… Yet this is only lightly phenolic, earthy, and petroly, but it’s there and it really lifts the whole thing. Easily defeats all the sweet bombs, especially since I’m sure they did not add any additives. Yes sugar’s an additive. Also pollen and chamomile, with whiffs of mint leaves. Mouth: very good, although it remains ‘sweetish’. Tinned pineapples, lemongrass, greengages, lime, then more spices, soft curry, caraway, plus a drop of tar liqueur. Finish: rather shorter than I had expected, and it’s even a little abrupt, but the mint and the tar remain there. Also green bananas. Perhaps were the 43% not quite enough. Comments: good, I don’t think it’s perfect, but this baby just blew all the other ones out of the water. And at least it’s balanced. SGP:551 - 83 points.

All right, I’m sure we’ve ingested at least 500g of sugar today. What shall we not do for the cause! But wait wait wait…

… We have one last minute bonus, straight from London for Black Tot Day, which is right today, since according to w(is)kipedia, ‘Black Tot Day (July 31, 1970) is the name given to the last day on which the Royal Navy issued sailors with a daily rum ration, the daily tot.’ So we’ll try a rum with quite an extraordinary story, even if since Trafalgar, anything related to the British Navy might be a little less appealing to us Frenchmen. Of course I’m joking. Anyway, this is a blend of rums from the British ex-colonies (Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad…) that’s been aged in a solera exclusively for the British Navy.

Black Tot

The solera was closed in 1970, when the ‘tot’ was abolished, and transferred into flagons, while it is believed that the solera was from 50 to 70 years old. The good people at Specialty Drinks/The Whisky Exchange managed to source and buy several of these old flagons, and married them together, before bottling the end result as ‘Black Tot Last Consignment’ in 2010.

Black Tot ‘Last Consignment’ (54.3%, Specialty Drinks, British Royal Naval Rum, 2010)

Black Tot ‘Last Consignment’ (54.3%, Specialty Drinks, British Royal Naval Rum, 2010) Four stars and a half Colour: coffee. Nose: oh! Very ‘British rum’ indeed, so partly Jamaican, with the appropriate amount of tar, coal smoke, black olives, brine, chicken soup (must be the dunder pits), liquorice, heavy molasses, juicy prunes, moist cigars… But as we all know, very old spirits tend to converge, and indeed, we’re slowly getting closer to some old sherried Speysider, perhaps via the Demerara River. Soy sauce, Corinth raisins, more prunes, parsley, pipe tobacco… I was even about to mention old armagnac, but I guess that would be a little too French for the British Navy ;-). With water: the fine herbs and oils from the wood come to the front (pinesap, menthol) but the liquorice never gives up. There’s also a medicinal side, rather ala old Ardbeg than Laphroaig.
Mouth (neat): exceptional arrival, very tarry and extremely liquorice-y, thick yet dry, a little smoky, and ridden with all sorts of pipe tobaccos, from the most ‘golden’ to the blackest oriental blends. Very heavy, it reminds me of some old Wedderburns. Not exactly lace as we say here, but who needs lace when on board one of his/her majesty’s warships? With water: it’s the sugar cane that comes out, and it would come together with coffee and cassis eau-de-vie. BTW, great cassis eau-de-vie – not talking about liqueurs or creams - is not easy to find, but you may check Capovilla’s works (hint, hint). Finish: long, perhaps a notch drying but no surprises here, and with bags of oranges. I don’t know why, but it reminds me of some old Dalmores now, but I guess Dalmore was rather for the naval officers. Strong coffee in the aftertaste, ristretto style. Comments: heavy and thick rum, but there is a lightness to it and many subtleties, it just needs quite a lot of your time. But it’s worth it. And now, à l’abordage! SGP:563 - 89 points. (thanks Ollie!)

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



Block Today: JAZZ FOR RUM. Performer: Caribbean Jazz Project. Track: One for Tom. Please buy their music...

July 29, 2016


Little duets, two octaves by Glenglassaugh

There’s been some stunning old Glenglassaugh, and while the older official Family Silver never quite impressed me, a few 1972s, especially some selected by some German friends, have been unquestionably stellar. But we’ll have different beasts today, some new NAS ‘octaved’ ones. Remember the distillery had remained silent for many years, so this is obviously young juice as it was restarted around 2008 or 2009.

Glenglassaugh ‘Octaves Classic’ (44%, OB, 2016)

Glenglassaugh ‘Octaves Classic’ (44%, OB, 2016) Two stars and a half I’ve tried quite a few octaves by other makers that had been too new-oaky (vanilla, coconut, and basta), but let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s got a ‘crafty’ side for sure, with a youth that shines through (porridge, pears) and some half-sweet, half-spicy oak, very ‘American’. Vanilla, ginger cake, then rather butterscotch and crème brulée. The earthy/bready touches in the background work well, this is not a new-oak bomb. Mouth: a creamy mouth feel, it almost flows like honey, and a very pleasant acidic sweetness mingle with grassy oak. Citron liqueur and green tea, pepper, a few grassy eau-de-vie-ish notes (I’ve distilled spent lees on day, the result had a few similar notes), some bay leaves perhaps… The oak’s influence never stops growing and rather makes me think of European oak this time. But I doubt it’s European oak. Finish: rather long, really grassy and bitter, not in a bad way at all. Herb cordial. The vanilla is back in the aftertaste and comes with oranges or citrons. Comments: a good example of some young malt from some active oak. This time, balance has been found. SGP:561 - 78 points.

Glenglassaugh ‘Octaves Peated’ (44%, OB, 2016)

Glenglassaugh ‘Octaves Peated’ (44%, OB, 2016) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: could one use a mix of curry powder and antiseptic to smoke malted barley? Odd question, I know, but I do get quite some curry and quite some antiseptic, which is a combination that’s not as, well, as odd as you would think. Then we find more bandages and lemon juice, which is all fine. It’s actually got something slightly Laphroaiggy, not a bad benchmark for sure. Mouth: it’s not that I’m a peat head (I can hear you!), but the young distillate offered more resistance to the octaves, and the oak’s grassy/gingery side seems to be better integrated. Nice notes of lemongrass too, but the medicinal side has been lost on the palate. After all, Glenglassaugh’s not quite a coastal distillery, is it (I know some industry people are claiming that the whole of Scotland is coastal, which should imply that the place where you mature your whiskies does not matter. A long debate, not for here and not for now…) Finish: rather long, balanced, zesty/grassy and smoky. More ginger and pepper again in the aftertaste, that’s the octaves. Comments: a solid effort. SGP:456 - 80 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Sun Ra. Track: Sleeping Beauty. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 28, 2016


Nine St Magdalene for WF's 14th Anniversary

Good folks, distinguished whisky lovers and dear friends from all over the world, little Whiskyfun is 14 today, and after 14 years, it seems that you still put up with me and my modest scribblings! I'm chuffed...
In theory, I should write a kind of statement, or a rant about the state of whisky, about the NAS issues, about the rampaging yield-oriented industrialisation of our favourite drink, or about the will to try to premiumise just any very average distilled grains, or about PR in disguise that is infecting all corners of the whisky web and of our magazines and even books… Or, on the contrary, a laudatory piece about these distillates that are getting better and better, or about the excellent new craft whiskies (and fake craft as well), about the makers that stay true to their values, or about Clynelish, Springbank, Tomatin, Benromach, Westland, Wolfburn, Lagavulin, Cadenhead, Signatory, G&M, and others that are slowly becoming the actual guardians of malt whisky, while a large part of the industry is getting a little too obsessed with building brands rather than products, in my humble opinion…

But after all, Whiskyfun is just a tasting diary, it’s not quite a ‘blog’ that keeps reviving old chestnuts. Well, I’m certainly trying not to, so perhaps should I rather taste a bunch of whiskies, as usual, also to celebrate the fact that the figures for this lousy low-tech website are up around 20% these days, something that I had only seen in the early years… Which makes me think, given that I haven’t changed one iota to this thing called Whiskyfun (yeah or Whisky Fun, never managed to make up my mind), and given that the whisky market has been flat at best for two or three years now, why would both our number of visits and our number of visitors rise so fast these days? I can see only one explanation, which is that people are seeking more and more information before they make a purchase, and that they’re looking more and more for independent voices and opinions. An independence that you can ‘feel’, not an independence that’s just stated without any proofs. You know, propaganda.

In fact we’ve got some quite extraordinary whisky at hand (believe me), but that one will make for our 12,000th tasting note, a little later in August or September. I can’t tell you what it is yet, but please be sure that it’s going to rock! In the meantime, let’s rather have a bunch of… Say, St Magdalenes? Would that do for a rather low-key 14th anniversary? Let’s see what we have and how far we’ll manage to go. We’ll kick this off with a few 1982s, some at super-high strength, and then try to go ‘vertically’, if God lets us live… given our little apéritif, ahem…


Linlithgow 9 yo 1982/1992 (62.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 150th Anniversary)

Linlithgow 9 yo 1982/1992 (62.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 150th Anniversary) Four stars Yes, a nine-years-old St Magdalene. Oh boy do we love these super-young ‘old’ Cadenheads, especially the Port Ellens and the Linlithgows/St Magdalenes, even if those were not for the faint-hearted… Colour: white wine. Nose: raw artisan mezcal, really. Very citric, chalky, and smoky, as in a great cocktail that would contain, well, lime, chalk, and liquid smoke. And a lot of alcohol, of course. Tends to get then super-grassy and leafy, but that’s beautiful. With water: some fusel oil at first, then rather plasticine, raw wool (visiting Islay’s Woollen Mill after a few drams), and a very natural soapiness. Rubbed cow cockle or something. Wonderfully austere and un-sexy – and un-commercial. Mouth (neat): amazingly lemony, super-blade-y, with a very leafy sootiness (wouldn’t that rather be a sooty leafiness?) and some alcohol that just burns. The heads of some raw Kirschenwasser. Careful with that glass, Eugene… With water: ah, civilisation. Soft lemon squash with a little honey and always quite some ashes and sooty things. Clay and kiwis, perhaps. Finish: very long, lemony, mineral, and ‘woollen’. Definitely one for the countryside. Sadly, the aftertaste is a little bitter, which makes it lose points. Chewing leaves. Comments: a very educational whisky and, I think, the youngest St Magdalene I’ve ever tried. Only the finish was a little difficult. SGP:372 - 87 points.

As far as high strengths go, you’ve seen nothing yet… Let’s have more 1982s, from 23 to 28 years old…

Linlithgow 23 yo 1982/2006 (61.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #2204, 282 bottles)

Linlithgow 23 yo 1982/2006 (61.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #2204, 282 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: very chalky and very leafy, rather in the style of the famous 23 years old Rare Malts. There’s some crushed limestone, some fresh concrete, a little antiseptic, some chalk, gravel… And raw wool again. I’m sure this very austere – and mineral – baby desperately needs water. So, with water: superb! Lime, cactus juice, kiwis, rhubarb, chalk, that old tweed jacket after a walk in the rain… And perhaps even the mud you’ve got under your boots. Mouth (neat): perfect! Lemon, lime, chalk, and mezcal once again. Super-sharp, super-blade-y, and wonderfully zesty, not unlike the sharpest white Sancerres. Sure it cuts you in halves, but that’s one of its assets. Also love the wee saltiness, rather unexpected. With water: just perfect, a tad rounder and sweeter but that’s for a good cause. Limoncello, green apples, ashes… Finish: long, very precise, sharp, ultra-clean… Did they distil some Sancerre? Watch the sulfites! Comments: doesn’t this celebratory session start well? SGP:472 - 91 points.

Linlithgow 25 yo 1982/2007 (63.4%, Silver Seal, cask #789, 601 bottles)

Linlithgow 25 yo 1982/2007 (63.4%, Silver Seal, cask #789, 601 bottles) Four stars and a half It’s funny that while Silver Seal did an excellent 27 yo 1982 two years later and called it St Magdalene, they had named this 25 yo Linlithgow only two years earlier. Or was that what was on the papers? Not that it matters much, I agree… Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a rather rounder and softer version, although ‘soft’ may not be the right term given this super-high voltage. I guess the cask had been a little more active, as I’m getting some vanilla cake, for example, as well as touches of maple syrup. But other than that, it’s well a very zesty, mineral, and sometimes a little medicinal Linlithgow. A little mercurochrome drizzled onto chalk, lemons, leaves… And mezcal, caramba. With water: and here comes the damp wool. That old jacket, you know… Mouth (neat): another one that’s totally lemony, but that would rather be lemon cake or tarte this time, because of this added softness from the cask. Very excellent nonetheless. With water: beautiful, zesty, lemon-curdy, leafy, grassy… Plus one raisin. Finish: long, but just like the youngster that we had first, it tends to become a little bitter, remind us that St Magdalene was never an easy-going Lowlander. Grass juice and raw grappa. A little coconut in the aftertaste. Coconut, really? Comments: super-totally excellent, but the DT was actually cleaner and had a better, say definition. SGP:462 - 89 points.

Linlithgow 26 yo 1982/2009 (61.2%, Signatory Vintage, wine treated butt, cask #2200, 225 bottles)

Linlithgow 26 yo 1982/2009 (61.2%, Signatory Vintage, wine treated butt, cask #2200, 225 bottles) Five stars It was very honest to state on the label that the cask was ‘wine treated’. Nobody tells you that anymore, while many still do it (as far as I know). Colour: pale gold. Nose: no wine treatment that I can detect, rather a lovely woolly, chalky and citrusy start, then some soot and a few ashes, perhaps a little brown coal, plenty of grass, and this feeling of ‘old pharmacy’. Sancerre or sauvignon blanc are included in the pharmacy, which should be mandatory. With water: the wilderness. Dry lemony riesling and that old jacket from the country house again. A little Vicks for your cold. A cold in July in the northern hemisphere! Mouth (neat): how very good! This time there’s more herbalness, around chartreuse, and perhaps a few drops of Dutch jenever. A little acrid, perhaps, but that’s all fine. More asperities, as they sometimes say in mountaineering. With water: gets soft, fruity, candied, sappy, with some honeydew, or pine drops… But it still roars. Takes a lot of water. Finish: very long. The chartreuse is back, and so is the limoncello. Almonds. Comments: another excellent one. So, wine treated they said… was that riesling from Turckheim’s Brand? Because remember that “Zu Turckheim im Brand wächst der beste Wein im Land.” That’s debatable, I agree. SGP:461 - 90 points.

Linlithgow 28 yo 1982/2011 (57.3%, MacKillop’s Choice, cask #2206)

Linlithgow 28 yo 1982/2011 (57.3%, MacKillop’s Choice, cask #2206) Five stars A sister cask, obviously. Many of these 1982s were coming from the same parcel. I remember World of Whiskies in Heathrow had many interesting MacKillops, but now they almost only have hyper-marketed official NAS stuff. Not worth flying anymore. Colour: straw. Nose: same whisky, aroma for aroma and word for word. Well, almost, this one’s just a notch chalkier. And just as great. With water: muddy, earthy, woolly, medicinal, with some eucalyptus… That’s all what I like. Mouth (neat): indeed, almost the same whisky, but this one’s kind of fuller and brighter at the same time, more immediate, and more pleasing, in a way. Wonderful crystallised citrus, pass the Sancerre!  With water: the medicinal side is coming out again. Perfect lemon liqueur, crème de menthe, and, wait, shiitake? Finish: long, rather rounded for a St Magdalene, citrusy and mentholy, with some malt in the background. Comments: I would be curious to know which kind of yeast they used to use at St Magdalene. Brilliant bottle. Boo, World of Whiskies! SGP:461 - 91 points.

Goody good, how many 1982s did we try? Five? Time to dive into earlier vintages… Starting with the well known 1975s…

St Magdalene 1975/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, for Brookline Liquor Mart, USA, cask #21, 270 bottles)

St Magdalene 1975/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, for Brookline Liquor Mart, USA, cask #21, 270 bottles) Five stars For a shop in Boston. Our American friends know their St Magdalene too. Colour: gold. Nose: very different from all 1982s, much rounder, better civilised, and perhaps more complex. There’s much more honey, for example, old Sauternes, sultanas, mint tea, tobacco, potpourri and patchouli, dried parsley, eucalyptus… This will become a dilemma, Emma, between this one’s more classic, rounder, easier profile and the 1982s’ sharper brutality. Mouth: I’m finding what was in all Rare Malts, that is to say a very complex herbalness. Granted, the Rare Malts needed a lot of water, while this one may be enjoyed just ‘like that’. Love the herbal nuts, the tobacco, the grassy kind of liquorice, the sweet mustard, and all these overripe apples and pears. Almost feels like some excellent calva at times. Yep that would be Calvados. Finish: medium, very herbal and mentholy, with some chocolate from the oak (I’m sure). Thin mints and marmalade? Comments: another very great drop, more lush than the 1982s, easier, but still quite anti-commercial, whatever that means. One of the most drinkable St Magdas. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Linlithgow 22 yo 1975/1998 (51.7%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, cask #96/3/01, 335 bottles)

Linlithgow 22 yo 1975/1998 (51.7%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, cask #96/3/01, 335 bottles) Five stars Quite possibly Signatory’s most prestigious series. They used to come with a miniature and a piece of the cask, which was probably very expensive to make. Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re going more towards the 1982s again, with an austere profile, very leafy this time, then with some moss, mushrooms, fern, and all things in a northern forest. Even pine needles. Some sap as well, lamp oil, candle wax, these bits of concrete that did abound in the 1982s, and some clay. A great sourness as well, around, well, sour apples. With water: it’s to be said that the wood was perfect. Celery, apple peelings, more moss, more things from that forest… Mouth (neat): oh this is brilliant! It really is like that legendary Rare Malt, starting a little jumbled and kind of orderless, before all is falling into places, herbs, resins and saps, dry fruits (cider apples), our dear mushrooms, waxes, citrons and lemons… I’m finding this splendid, certainly less immediate than the G&M, but perhaps (even) more complex. With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! I’m just wondering, if you let lemon rinds and honey marinate in good whisky, would you get some kind of supra-limoncello? Have to try that one day… Finish: not the longest, but this candied citrusness is just lovable. Those things from that forest too. Comments: very hard to beat. SGP:452 - 92 points.

And now some holidays, with a lighter one…

St Magdalene 1980/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Centenary Reserve)

St Magdalene 1980/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Centenary Reserve) Four stars and a half I know, only 40% vol., a thing from the past, but we’ll take our time and do it gently… Oh and it’s got a twist cap. Not that that matters much… Colour: straw. Nose: oh this is very different. Fish brine, metal polish, fuel smoke, lager beer, green tea, with a little plasticine yet again… It’s obviously much softer than the others, but it’s also very elegant and refined. Also love these whiffs of artisan sunflower oil… Mouth: super good, complex, full despite the strength, rather oily, with many smoked or roasted nuts and seeds. Sesame, for example, or gourd seeds. Normally, as a whisky blogger, I should write ‘I’d kill to be able to try this at cask strength’. But I won’t… oops. Finish: perhaps a little short, but the lemons are coming to the rescue. Pine-y aftertaste, which is obviously good as long as it’s not excessive. Comments: I just noticed that we had this 1980 after the 1975s, while this was supposed to be a verticale. What a mess at WF Towers! SGP:351 - 89 points.

Perhaps is it time to put an end to these celebrations. Unless we’ve got something from the 1960s, so that we could claim that we’ve covered three decades of St Magdalene/Linlithgow. Hold on, I may have a little something…

St Magdalene (Linlithgow) 30 yo 1964/1994 (48.5%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

St Magdalene (Linlithgow) 30 yo 1964/1994 (48.5%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Five stars Ah the small cream label… There was genuine rocket fuel in this series, but we were always very close to the distillate. Not talking about the sherry monsters, of course, those used to be closer to… Jerez de la Frontera. Colour: pale gold. Nose: wow. Triple wow. It’s really time to call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Imagine an old chalet somewhere in the mountains. There’s a fireplace, the furniture was just polished in the morning, and someone brings you your afternoon tea, while someone else is smoking his/her pipe near the window. And into your tea, you’re pouring fir honey and drizzles of lemon. Pure bliss, until someone wants to play Scrabble. Mouth: I’m not saying there isn’t any oak, but it’s very mentholy and gingery oak, which works pretty well this time. Actually, this baby’s full of Christmas flavours – so much for July – which I hadn’t expected, given the pale colour. Apple crumble, fresh gingerbread, mulled wine juniper, cloves and oranges… It’s also rather smokier than other St Magdalenes, with an even oilier mouth feel at that. And it’s clearly getting medicinal, in a brilliant way. Cough drops? Finish: long and, this time, totally fresh and coherent, while others did lose a few pints at this stage. Lemon marmalade, spices, cough syrup… It’s wintery indeed. Comments: between 92 and 93, but halves are for bigheaded sissies, aren’t they. Oh who cares, this is a rare old bottle… SGP:462 - 92 points.

Ite session est. We’ll try to do something more spectacular next year for Whiskyfun’s 15th anniversary (again, if the god of uisge beatha lets us live), but in the meantime, watch our 12,000th whisky, soon in these humble pages! No I won’t tell you what it is, no need to insist. But it’s something I always wanted to try, at any costs…

(Merci Dennis, Nicolas, Tobias and Tomas)

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Medeski Martin and Wood. Track: Queen Bee. Please visit their website and buy their music...

July 27, 2016


Little trios, today Benrinnes

A fat, sometimes meaty spirit from Speyside! Not much else to say, let’s try to find three interesting (right, great) ones… For example, this new one by TWE’s The Single Malts of Scotland…

Benrinnes 24 yo 1991/2016 (52.6%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #090508, 287 bottles)

Benrinnes 24 yo 1991/2016 (52.6%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #090508, 287 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: starts appropriately meaty and sulphury, which are desired and desirable aromas in this context. Then there’s a little chalk and fresh concrete, then lemon zests, and then a very interesting medicinal side, close to chalk and sulphur. Some kind of ointment, or a secret balm… That makes it really coastal, quite surprisingly. With water: very viscimetric ;-). Bags of chalk and lemons! I’d have sworn this was a coastal malt, and should you have said it was Pulteney, I wouldn’t have been surprised. Mouth (neat): love it. Chalky, mineral, lemony, with some paraffin and several oils. Grape pips, perhaps. And perhaps angelica, stewed rhubarb… With water: excellentissimo. Lime and lemon on a bed of rocks, clay, and a wee bit of vanilla fudge. Finish: quite long, very fresh, on candied lemons and assorted flavours. Comments: the meaty side was quick to disappear. My goodness, it’s perfect whisky, if you like them bright! SGP:642 - 90 points.

An older vintage please, let’s see… Oh this!

Benrinnes 17 yo 1985/2003 (60.2%, The Bottlers, refill sherry butt, cask #1852)

Benrinnes 17 yo 1985/2003 (60.2%, The Bottlers, refill sherry butt, cask #1852) Five stars I’ve heard The Bottlers were at it again, which is great news if that’s not only rumours. I can’t wait, but in the meantime… Colour: deep amber. Nose: oh! Old rusty tin box, a box of used matches, a collection of old rifles, some soy sauce, some beef stock, some natural beef jerky, and some roasted chestnuts. Totally and plainly oloroso-ish. With water: becomes vin-jaune-y (yeah yeah), with more walnuts than on a walnut tree. Some sulphur/basalt in the background. Mouth (neat): huuuuge. Rich honey, tobacco, Cointreau, raisins, Grisons meat, meat bouillons, bone marrow, walnut wine, crème de menthe, limoncello, Chartreuse… You see the picture. With water: and there, it unfolds on dried fruits, raisins, figs, dried pears… Finish: long, rich, coating, as if you’d have just quaffed a large glass of old Rivesaltes. Comments: I just cannot understand why I only gave 87 points to this around twelve years ago – while I didn’t write any proper tasting note (boo). It’s glorious old-style sherried whisky with a lot of oomph. SGP:552 - 91 points.

Perhaps an even older one, and we’re done…

Benrinnes 30 yo 1984/2015 (56.6%, Silver Seal, cask #2268, 480 bottles)

Benrinnes 30 yo 1984/2015 (56.6%, Silver Seal, cask #2268, 480 bottles) Five stars There’s a beautiful elephant on the label, let’s hope the whisky won’t be too pachydermic (lame, S.). Colour: white wine (eh?) Nose: rather in the style of the 23 yo, which the pale colour already suggested. Chalk, lemon, ‘good’ sulphur, clay, bandages, citrons, hints of eucalyptus, lamp petroleum, glycerine… Totally spirit-driven after all these years, that’s the… hey, that’s the spirit! With water: whisky chalkiness at its best. Mouth (neat): Mr Silver Seal, its not funny to bottle some old Clynelish under another name! Seriously, this is quite different, since there are all these sulphury/petroly notes that are not to be found in Clynelish (while Clynelish has got much more straight wax), but the ‘spirits’ are the same. Ha, spirit! Lovely notes of lemon oil, sesame oil, quinces… It’s perfect whisky, seriously, only good refill wood and a long ageing may give you this. Dazzling. With water: p.e.r.f.e.c.t.i.o.n. Finish: as I just said. Comments: I hadn’t imagined this baby would even beat the The Bottlers – in my book. SGP:651 - 92 points.

(Merci encore, Nicolas)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: John Coltrane. Track: Chim Chim Cheree. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 26, 2016


Little duets, today Ledaig 36 years apart

There are young Ledaigs at many indies’, and believe me, the latters are almost all right (only a few feinty duds), as Ledaig’s the new Ardbeg, in my humble opinion. Which doesn’t mean that Ardbeg’s the old Ledaig, eh! Let’s choose one almost at random…

Ledaig 7 yo 2008/2016 (60.3%, Signatory Vintage for Le Gus’t, France, first fill bourbon, cask #700751, 312 bottles)

Ledaig 7 yo 2008/2016 (60.3%, Signatory Vintage for Le Gus’t, first fill bourbon, cask #700751, 312 bottles) Four stars and a half Bottled for good and passionate people in the south of France, in Manosque, where they’re experts in pastis – and in whisky. Colour: straw. Nose: it reminds me of the first ‘new’ Ten by Ardbeg indeed. Remember, ‘introducing 10 years old’… A tarry sootiness, hessian, tarry ropes, seaweed, oysters... With water: ‘nosing’ a pile of new magazines at any airport or train station. Lovely notes of soot and metal polish too. Mouth (neat): excellent. Some almondy and lemony smoke, ultra-zesty, clean, Sancerre-y (oh come on), and almondy. It reminds me of that kind of almond-scented glue we had at school in the 1960s. Indeed, that sort of dates us, doesn’t it. With water: perfect. Lemon, almonds, smoked fish, salt, and more lemon. Finish: perfectly chiselled, impeccable, fat yet lively and bright… Comments: totally Ardbeggian indeed. Of course there are (minor) differences… SGP:358 - 89 points.

But we need an older one now, one from the legendary vintages… Perhaps this baby?...

Ledaig 24 yo 1972/1997 (49.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #42.8)

Ledaig 24 yo 1972/1997 (49.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #42.8) Five stars THE vintage, not unlike at many other distilleries. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s funny that we’re finding this soot/almonds combination again, and while this is rather more complex, I wouldn’t say it’s in an entirely different league, although the expected tropical fruits, ala old Laphroaig this time, do make a difference. Perfect maracuja and mangos, at times you’d think you’re nosing one of those stunning old Laphroaig 10s. The whole remains pretty subtle, very elegant, and kind of ‘whispering’. Sometimes it’s bad manners to speak loudly, even if you’re some legendary old malt whisky. Mouth: ooooh… aaaaah… but this is glorious! Astounding smoke/tropics combo, seen in older Laphroaigs indeed. Lemons and passion fruits plus oysters and kippers, and all that sings in unison, it’s not just a compilation of lovely flavours. You may want to call the anti-maltoporn brigade before it’s too late… Finish: medium to long, ashier and sootier, with a little chlorophyll, bitter green tea, and lime while we’re going green. Comments: it’s one of the mysteries of malt whisky, why did the best peaters from the 1960s and early 1970s go very ‘tropical’ after a few years? What was the trick, which was the yeast, were there special aromatic precursors? Another intriguing case of quasi-esoteric malty transmutation… SGP:656 - 93 points.

We’ll have many more Ledaigs in the near future. And I mean many…

(With thanks to Carsten)

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Dave Liebman. Track: Joy-selflessness. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 25, 2016


Newish Travel Retail Dalmore

Dalmore have launched a new travel retail-exclusive range called ‘Fortuna Meritas Collection’. And why not? They’re all NAS, in true travel retail fashion, so they had to come up with historical stories and tributes. Coz, without an age, you need a story! Having said that, we’ve seen news about them two years ago already, not too sure when they were actually launched. But first, our usual apéritif, let’s make it the regular 15 yo, which I haven’t tried for many years.

Dalmore 15 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Dalmore 15 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars and a halfI found it super-good back in 2015 (WF 85). Colour: gold/amber. Nose: typical oranges, malt, butterscotch, warm apple pie, raisins, early grey, liquorice… And then there’s a second page, with more cedar wood, tobacco, toasted bread, and marmalade. Very traditional, sherried and ‘caramelised’, our old uncles will love it. Mouth: it’s not as ‘polished’ as I had expected, and rather more cerealy and bready. Croissants covered with marmalade and cherry jam. And raisins, naturally. Only the weakish strength is a wee problem, and makes it a little thin and slightly papery at times. On the other hand, this feeling of Mars bar and café latte is very pleasant. Finish: medium and appropriately grassier and more chocolaty. The marmalade is back in the aftertaste and would come with a touch of salt. Comments: a lovely dram for lovely chocolate and malt lovers. Probably full sherry. SGP:441 - 84 points.

Dalmore ‘Valour’ (40%, OB, Fortuna Meritas Collection, +/-2016)

Dalmore ‘Valour’ (40%, OB, Fortuna Meritas Collection, +/-2016) Two stars and a half We’ve tried a ‘Valour’ back in early 2013, not too sure it was the same. This one was finished in American oak, oloroso, and Port. Not successively, I imagine. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a much lighter, and rougher version of the 15. Styles aren’t dissimilar, but this feels like having lumpfish eggs after caviar. Cardboard, English chocolate, and bitter caramel. Mouth: this is better, a little more vibrant and rather citrusy – those Dalmore-y oranges again – with a jammy background. Guignolet, sweet bread, green tea… Then bitter chocolate and prunes. This one is for your breakfast. Finish: medium, rather dry, and rather better. Pleasant malty aftertaste, with a Christmassy side. Comments: the 15 nearly killed it on the nose, but it was a tie on the palate. SGP:351 - 79 points.

Dalmore ‘Regalis’ (40%, OB, Fortuna Meritas Collection, +/-2016)

Dalmore ‘Regalis’ (40%, OB, Fortuna Meritas Collection, +/-2016) Three stars and a half An amoroso sherry finish this time. Amoroso is some kind of sweet sherry that some used to call ‘sweet oloroso’ or ‘dulce’ if I’m not mistaken. Rather out of fashion. Colour: pale amber. Nose: nice! (yes, demonstrating utter accuracy in tasting). More towards old tobaccos and herbal teas, almonds or amaretti, walnut wine, and, bizarrely, vin jaune. IN other words, a finishing in a sweet wine cask that got drier than its counterparts from dry wine casks. A master blender moves in mysterious ways… (that one for Richard!) Mouth: I find this really good. The Valour with more depth and complexity, as well as, perhaps, more freshness. Honeydew, fresh hazelnuts, fresh pecans, even macadamias… And I especially like the faint earthiness. Eating raw mushrooms. Finish: shortish, sadly, but that’s only the minimal strength. Chocolate and café latte. Comments: I’ll say again what any lazy blogger will say, bring a CS version of this! Very good juice. SGP:451 - 84 points.

Dalmore ‘Luceo’ (40%, OB, Fortuna Meritas Collection, +/-2016)

Dalmore ‘Luceo’ (40%, OB, Fortuna Meritas Collection, +/-2016) Three stars Finished in Apostoles casks, Apostoles being a kind of old Palo Cortado from the house Gonzales Byass, while a palo cortado is a fino that became an oloroso because the flor (veil) disappeared of broke. Colour: amber. Nose: the most winey so far. Moist black Christmas cake, fresh brownies from the oven, prunes in armagnac, some kind of earthy balsamico cream, and then simply ‘a very old wine cellar’.  You may add a few squares of black chocolate and a capful of dry Marsala. And a few rose petals. Mouth: explosively sherried, not without reminding me of those old Gran Reservas by Macallan (which I did not like a lot, but they became highly collectable for no reasonable reasons, as my grandpa used to say). Pressed black raisins, black nougat, Austrian plums in chocolate (check Kastner’s Rumbapflaumen, a favourite in the house since we found an official exporter - thanks K.), and simply brandy. Spanish brandy. Finish: medium, thick, rich. Prunes, chocolate, and armagnac. No, prunes in armagnac. The aftertaste is a little gritty/green, though… Comments: more Andalusian than Scottish if you ask me. Very good for sure, but the Regalis was more for me. SGP:541 - 82 points.

Dalmore ‘Dominium’ (43%, OB, Fortuna Meritas Collection, +/-2016)

Dalmore ‘Dominium’ (43%, OB, Fortuna Meritas Collection, +/-2016) Four stars Oh, 43% vol., hallelujah! This one was finished in Matusalem sherry, which is to Dalmore what Connolly leather was to Rolls-Royce. Colour: gold/bronze. Nose: the driest, the most leathery, the most walnutty, and the woodiest of them all. New humidor, curry powder, cocoa powder, sweet mustard, old walnuts, these sorts of things. We’re almost nosing some old oloroso, there’s even a kind of wood/coal smokiness, very peculiar. No, not struck matches, rather flints, old rifles… Mouth: well, it reminds me a bit of neighbours Glenmorangie’s first sherry finishings, that was quite a long time ago. Toffee, coffee, Corinth raisins, and more chocolate than in a Swiss bank. Some heavy black tea as well, Russian style, which gives it a tannic-like feeling. Finish: medium to long and rather spicier. Cloves, caraway, gingerbread, and perhaps sweeter drops of PX. Bizarrely, the aftertaste is rather sweeter and almost liqueury, Zacapa-style, but I like this Dalmore much, much better. And the after-aftertaste is grassier/leafier again. Comments: the biggest one, and that’s not only the higher strength. SGP:561 - 85 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Don Cherry. Track: Pettiford Bridge. Please buy his music...

July 24, 2016


Finding malternatives

More rum but let’s be serious today, and avoid any lousy sugar bombs like the plague. Only ‘natural’ rum, no glycerine, no cooked stuff, no unlikely extracts, no faked ages, no made-up stories, and no old-brands-de-la-muerte that nobody’s ever heard of.

Trois Rivières 2001/2014 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, cask #L169)

Trois Rivières 2001/2014 (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, cask #L169) Three stars Trois Rivières is a huge plantation in the south of La Martinique. It was once owned by Fouquet, one of the main ministers of Louis XIV. This is one of the rare official single casks. Oh and remember, agricole means it’s distilled cane juice, not molasses. Colour: gold. Nose: very Martiniquan, starting with tinned pineapples and fresh liquorice, and developing on a bit of oak vanilla and, above all, really a lot of fresh cane juice. Also oriental pastries, honeysuckle, chamomile and just a little yellow curry powder. Mouth: rather powerful, almost hot, and really extremely liquoricy and spicy. The oak feels a little too much for me, but other than that, I find it very fine. Cinnamon cake. Finish: long, oaky, spicy, with some ginger, nutmeg, and cloves from the oak. Comments: very good, for sure, but you have to like oak. Feels ‘modern’, as modern whiskies do. SGP:451 - 80 points.

Rhum J.M ‘Cuvée 1845’ (42%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015)

Rhum J.M ‘Cuvée 1845’ (42%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015) Four stars and a half We’re in the north of La Martinique this time, and this is a ‘prestige’ decanter. All rhums inside are more than 10 years and were matured in older casks. Hurray, no excessive vanilla and spices to be expected this time! Unless… Colour: deep gold. Nose: this one’s very floral, pleasantly metallic (old copper kettle), and delicately fruity. Rather overripe fruits, crushed mangos, bruised bananas… Also a little incense, sandalwood, cigarette tobacco, a touch of menthol… This is right up my alley! Mouth: really special, and totally in keeping with the nose, since there are exactly the same flavours and aromas. Chamomile tea, overripe bananas and mangos, a wee metallic touch, some tobacco, a faint dustiness that’s anything but embarrassing, and perhaps a touch of rose jelly. Yes, or Turkish delights. Finish: medium, a tad spicier. Cinnamon and orange blossom water. Comments: sadly no surprise, I knew this was going to be excellent. A perfect malternative! SGP:562 - 88 points.

St Lucia 14 yo 2000/2015 Rum (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, St Lucia)

St Lucia 14 yo 2000/2015 Rum (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, St Lucia) Four stars and a half Some high esters to be expected this time… Colour: pale gold. Nose: indeed, you’re putting your head into an old fuel stove, or even above the engine of an old English car (includes leaking engine oil, brake fluid, and petrol). Add fermenting fruits, some tar, some liquorice, and really plenty of hay. I like this a lot, but that was this session’s whole point, wasn’t it. Mouth: really super good, tarry, sardine-y, salty, with more salty liquorice, coal tar, cigar ashes, black olives… It’s the salty side that’s really noticeable, there’s less of that in the Jamaicans that, other than that, share more or less the same style. Finish: long, on rotting fruits, salted liquorice, and tarry ashes. Comments: my style. Very well selected, BB&R. SGP:452 - 89 points.

Speaking of La Jamaïque…

Monymusk 12 yo 2003/2015 (Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Jamaica, 292 bottles)

Monymusk 12 yo 2003/2015 (46%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Jamaica, 292 bottles) Five stars Please fasten your seatbelts. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s very interesting to nose this after the St Lucia. This Monymusk is rather less tarry, and rather more citric, but other than that, styles are very similar indeed. Same feeling of old engine oil, Bakelite, liquorice, fermenting fruits, bicycle inner tube… But on top of that, there’s a drizzle of lemon juice. Or is that grapefruit? Or even orange? That’s very lovely, I assure you. Mouth: oh yes, very very good. What’s really superb, once again, is how the tarry Jamaicanness blends well with all this citrus, and make this baby feel like some light heavy rum, if that makes any sense. Half a green olive, some lime, grapefruit peel, and plenty of heavy and tarry liquorice. Finish: long, strong, yet kind of zesty and fresh. Great cask. Comments: great job by Hunter Laing. I find this new range really awesome, and even the price is kind of fair (approx 60€ for this one). SGP:452 - 90 points.

I told you, real malternative rums…

Uitvlugt 18 yo 1997/2016 (45%, Compagnie des Indes, Guyana, cask #MGA4, 637 bottles)

Uitvlugt 18 yo 1997/2016 (45%, Compagnie des Indes, Guyana, cask #MGA4, 637 bottles) Five stars A Demerara from the famous old four-column Savalle still. I think I’ve already written about what I think of la Compagnie des Indes – and of Uitvlugt. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s really fascinating to notice the parentage between the St Lucian, the Jamaican, and this Guyanese. Same tarry start, same kind of liquorice, same olives and other briny things, and same old English engine. Now, this time it’s the coastal side that’s a little more noticeable, anchovies in brine, old leather grease, dried kelp… In a way, it’s the most ‘Islayian’ of them all. Mouth: to be honest, had I tried this baby blind, I’d have said ‘Jamaica’. And no, this is not the first time I’m trying Uitvlugt. Perfect salty liquorice, anchovies, olives, and a kind of salty smoke. Totally lovable, but please be careful, at this approachable strength, it goes down a little too well. Finish: long, salty, tarry, rubbery in a good way, and always pretty coastal. Smoked oysters? Comments: would kill many high-peaters from that famous island west of Kennacraig. Besides, I found it more phenolic than other Uitvlugts. SGP:352 - 91 points.

Fijian Rum 11 yo 2003/2015 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd)

Fijian Rum 11 yo 2003/2015 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd) Four stars In theory, some rum from Fiji would have nothing to do within such a session, except that we recently tried some by Cadenhead (South Pacific) and that we thought it was quite splendid. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s rather less focussed than the previous ones, so a little more disjointed (kind of) but once again it’s some heavy-style rum, with an obvious tarry side and some kind of metallic brine. Say some seawater that you would have kept for one week in a copper pot. I like it because it’s got what many modern boozes are lacking, character and individuality. Mouth: nah, it’s great. Most probably from South Pacific Distillery. Salty and metallic fruits, passion fruits, mangos, liquorice, seawater, olives, sucking old coins, oranges… It’s this feeling of tarry oranges that’s so great. Finish: rather long, tarry, salty, tropical. Perhaps a little hashish in the aftertaste, with this sappy side. Perhaps… Comments: ah, Fiji! We only knew about their rugby team, now we know about their excellent rum. SGP:452 - 87 points.

Perhaps a last one, and since we were talking about Cadenhead, and since we haven’t been on La Guadeloupe yet today…

Bellevue 17 yo 1998/2015 'GMBV' (54.3%, Cadenhead, cask strength)

Bellevue 17 yo 1998/2015 'GMBV' (54.3%, Cadenhead, cask strength) Three stars and a half I’ve seen on a friendly and well-reputed website (an online retailer in the UK) that this baby ‘ought to make quite an impression in cocktails and would also be rather enjoyable served over ice.’ What? The effects of the Brexit, already? Colour: deep gold. Nose: probably the firmest and the most phenolic of all agricoles (cane juice/vesou distillate) but this time, we’re rather finding a lot of bubblegum and jelly babies. A pack of strawberry bonbons and some light office coffee. Perhaps is that the higher strength? With water: ah wait, it changes a lot! Patchouli, Cuban cigars, fresh walnuts, caraway… This is almost a U-turn. Mouth (neat): unexpectedly sweetish and bonbony indeed when neat. Syrups, sweets, maple syrup… I find it rather un-Bellevue when unreduced. With water: yes, indeed, it needs water to display all its agricoleness, even if that comes with a faint soapy/rubbery side. Bitter oranges, peppermint gum, chlorophyll… Finish: long, more herbal. Verbena, mint… Comments: pretty restless, this baby keeps changing. In a way, its greatly un-commercial, but it may lack that unstoppable immediacy that some of the others had. Like it a lot, though. SGP:462 - 83 points.

Seven rums, and six and a half proper malternatives, I’m happy.

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



Block Today: LATIN JAZZ (for rum!). Performer: The Bobby Matos Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble. Track: Highway One. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 22, 2016


Butts, no ifs at Blair Athol

What? Anyway, apéritif first…

Blair Athol 8 yo (40%, OB, +/-1987)

Blair Athol 8 yo (40%, OB, +/-1987) Three stars A bottle roughly from when Blair Athol joined the Classic Malts, which did not last very long. That was when Diageo’s predecessors had bought owners Arthur Bell & Sons. Funnily enough, this one did say both ‘Single Malt’ and ‘Pure Malt’ on the label. Colour: gold. Nose: certainly old style, and more or less midway between the distillery’s previous ‘fat fruity’ style and their more contemporary ‘lighter malty’ side. A little dust, a feeling of copper and tin, certainly some kind of camphor (tiger balm?) and then rather freshly squeezed oranges and apples. A little unusual but there may be some OBE at play. Parsley. Mouth: malty and stouty (?) arrival, with a lot of toasted oak and bread, then rather cashews and peanuts. A very dry maltiness, with even a little soy sauce and walnuts. Dry sherry. Finish: medium, extremely malty, as if you had just quaffed some lukewarm Guinness. Comments: good but not as splendid as earlier official Blair Athols, especially as the black labels at 46% vol. SGP:451 - 80 points.

Blair Athol 20 yo 1995/2015 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry butt, cask #2537, 597 bottles)

Blair Athol 20 yo 1995/2015 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry butt, cask #2537, 597 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: this is funny, there are similar metallic touches at first nosing, especially copper (nosing a cold still, haha), then rather lovely kinds of mentholated oranges. The sherry’s very obvious, as this baby does nose like, well, sherry. Walnuts, touches of mustard, green apples, all that. With water: bread crumbs, toasts, drops of Guinness indeed, and a chalkiness. Mouth (neat): once again we’re not far from the old OB, but of course this packs more punch, with some peppered walnuts and almonds plus a large bag of Seville oranges. Nice bitter feel, with some Fernet Branca or something. With water: good malty development, with also a little mint sauce or something, well, English. I’m sorry, Scotland. Finish: rather long, just as dry as the OB. Roasted malt, bitter oranges, leather, a bit of gingerbread. Comments: just good, just good. Nice dry sherry. SGP:461 - 83 points.

Blair Athol 27 yo 1988/2016 (55.7%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #6845, 565 bottles)

Blair Athol 27 yo 1988/2016 (55.7%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #6845, 565 bottles) Four stars I like these coloured labels that they also use for La Maison du Whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: perhaps a few used matches at first nosing, but those do go away and quickly. After that, it starts to resemble the 1995, with some dry sherry, walnuts and all that, but a fruitier side then appears, with dates and raisins, fruitcake, and a je ne sais quoi that makes me think of… artisan cognac. Also toasted croissants, while I’m in France. With water: oh, green tomatoes and autumn leaves! Changes a lot once reduced. Mouth (net): excellent, even if it’s a tad rustic at times. Bitter oranges, white pepper, pipe tobacco, triple-sec, old rancio, perhaps one Turkish delight, orange zests… All that works in sync. With water: still a notch rustic, leafy and leathery, but the dried fruits – dates first – just lift it. A wee glass of marc de gewürztraminer may have been thrown into that butt. Finish: rather long, with good balance between the leather and leaves, and the dried fruits. Comments: much to my liking, but if this was a refill cask, they mustn’t have kept the first whisky for very long in wood. SGP:561 - 86 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Archie Shepp. Track: Revolution. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 21, 2016


Little duets, today Tamdhu

Ah Tamdhu, whoever has tried the 1966 by Samaroli knows how great Tamdhu can be. And 1967, you may ask? Exactly, we’ll try one today, but first, a younger buddy…

Tamdhu 24 yo 1991/2016 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 486 bottles)

Tamdhu 24 yo 1991/2016 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 486 bottles) Four starsColour: white wine. Nose: Tamdhu is super-classy distillate. It’s got this slight waxiness, it’s got these fruits that could be quite tropical in the olden days, but that got more ‘western’ in recent years, like almost everywhere else (but why that, I wonder? See Benriach, Tomatin, or Bowmore…) and it’s got almond milk, which could make you think of soap, while it isn’t quite soap. With water: plain natural malt and apples. Elementary. Mouth (neat): average in the best sense of that word. Apples, lemons, grass, malted barley, and a touch of honey, with a wee bit of shortbread. Greengages. Like this ‘nervousness’. With water: guest a little more honeyed, rounder, more candied. Mirabelle tarte. Finish: medium, extremely natural. Sweet beer and mead, fifty-fifty. Comments: it’s funny that many Speysiders were making this kind of natural malty whisky in the early 1990s. Longmorn, Glen Keith, or this… Probably blending stock, and certainly flawless. Very good. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Tamdhu 33 yo 1967/2000 (48.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #8.27)

Tamdhu 33 yo 1967/2000 (48.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #8.27) Five stars We’ve got quite a few old SMWS yet to try, we’ll simply distil them in the coming months. Of course I’m speaking figuratively! Colour: gold. Nose: oh! The 1960s in full glory and with flying colours!  Depressingly extraordinary, fruity and mentholy with a grassy backbone and an honeyed coating… And an avalanche of ‘things’, crème de menthe, raisins, figs, quinces, apricots, pollen, pipe tobacco, amaretti, candied citron, earth, wax, moss… Oh well, it’s just got everything. Why oh why have they broken the mould? Mouth: the whiskies that are both smooth and firm are the best if you ask me. Starts with quite a lot of chestnut purée, goes on with honeys and waxes, keeps singing with old sweet wines and herbal liqueurs (fir tar liqueur, the most hygienic of all according to old adverts), and starts to dance with many teas and herbs, from verbena to wormwood. The best absinth ever. Finish: long, superbly honeyed, with an oakiness that’s both obvious and perfectly integrated. Now, the aftertaste is a little a little too oaky/peppery indeed, which makes it lose one point. There! Comments: like listening to an old 45rpm by the Rolling Stones. There are scratches, but it’s good. SGP:561 - 92 points.

(And merci Jean-Michel)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: more fab stuff by Henry Threadgill. Track: Between orchids, lilies, blind eyes and cricket. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 20, 2016


Blend, grain and malt by Loch Lomond

Ah Loch Lomond, Captain Haddock's favourite brand! It's a mysterious distillery that’s just been bought by some new owners last year or in 2014. I have to say we’ve always sort of liked their very humble Loch Lomonds, Old Rhosdhus, or any other funny brand/combinations of stills and mashes, such as Inchmoan, Inchfad, Inchmurrin and a few others. Not that they weren’t quite whacky at times, but the prices have always been fair, if not cheap. Now what the new owners seem to have done first was to raise those prices. Question, may you premiumise even bottom-shelf spirits? Let’s see…

"This is enough... thanks!..."

Loch Lomond ‘Signature’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Loch Lomond ‘Signature’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015) one star and a half I guess if you use the name of a distillery on a blend, all constituents have to come from that very distillery, which suggests that this is a revamped version of Loch Lomond’s ‘Single Blend’ that we tried last year (WF 72). This new one has seen some ‘olorosso’ casks according to the official website. Ha! Colour: gold. Nose: intrinsically spirity, with a little vanilla, overripe apples, toasted oak, and some kind of smoked ale. Very lightly smoked. Some cut grass too. Mouth: malty and sweet at first, then grassier and a little feinty, perhaps. It remains me of some brands that you see quite a lot in Africa, such as Passport. A little dusty and thin. Finish: short, and not very pleasant. Oak dust, beer, and green tea. Bitterish and sourish aftertaste. Comments: not really convinced it’s worth 30€, which is more than the price of Johnnie Black, while the latter sure is better. SGP:351 - 68 points.

Loch Lomond 12 yo 2000/2012 ‘Dà Mhile’ (46%, OB, organic single grain, +/-2016)

Loch Lomond 12 yo 2000/2012 ‘Dà Mhile’ (46%, OB, organic single grain, +/-2016) We had tried the older version of the same batch last year, a 15 yo (WF 50, whoofff). Colour: white wine. Nose: acetone, varnish, almond glue, apple jelly for kids, vanilla. The last part is not unpleasant. Mouth: hyper-bubblegums and mega-coconuts on a raw spirit. Very thin body, everything is peripheral on your palate. A feeling of oak-doped vodka. Finish: short, oakier, more vanilla-ed. Not the worst part, I have to say. It’s even kind of pleasant, now that you got used to the massive coconut. Strawberry-flavoured candy floss. Comments: no show frog but it seems that I liked this 12 better than the recent 15. SGP:520 - 60 points.

Loch Lomond 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars Still in the ‘older’ packaging that used to look so very Nicholas II… This is the single malt. Colour: gold. Nose: muesli, cereals, dandelions, honey, toasted brioche, sweet ale, apple crumble, vanilla cake… This is totally not unpleasant this time. I like these whiffs of warm barley in the background, and the absence of any dirty/dusty parts. Mouth: indeed, I find this good! Perhaps not the most coherent malt ever, but I do enjoy these speculoos, the gingerbread, even the bready side (pumpernickel), and the obligatory overripe apples. Tends to become a little caramelly, but that’s fine. Butterscotch. Finish: medium, on sweet ale and more roasted malt and peanuts. Comments: I would say it is a surprise, but it… well, it is a good) surprise. In the style of Cardhu, or perhaps Glenlivet. Better than earlier batches. SGP:441 - 80 points.

Loch Lomond 18 yo 1996/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, single grain, bourbon, casks #42929, 42970, 42980, 850 bottles)

Loch Lomond 18 yo 1996/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, single grain, bourbon, casks #42929, 42970, 42980, 850 bottles) I remember Murray McDavid had a stunning old Old Rhosdhu around ten years ago (Mission series, it was a 1979, WF 88) but that was a malt, while this is ‘only’ a grain. Caution… Colour: straw. Nose: nada, niente, nichts, nothing, rien. Almost. Raw alcohol, wood smoke, charcoal (working barbecue)… But many grains are not nosing whiskies anyway, so, perhaps, on our palates… Mouth: there’s a little more happening. Cheap bourbon, alcohol, vanillin, a little fudge… Finish: short, still bourbony – I don’t mean first-class bourbon. Comments: very dispensable, I think. Ethanol with a little sweet wood. I have to say I’m surprised, I had really enjoyed MMcD’s recent offerings – I mean, the ones I could try. Even the Dà Mhile 12 was a little more to my liking. SGP:320 - 55 points.

And now, another… I’m joking. But we’ll have some better Inchmurrins soon.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Sonny Sharrock. Track: All my trials. Please buy his music...

July 19, 2016


Little duets, Dailuaine twenty years later

Shouldn’t we expect some meat, some leather, some ‘good’ sulphur, and a certain fatness?

Dailuaine-Glenlivet 11 yo 2004/2016 (46%, Cadenhead, sherry wood, Small Batch)

Dailuaine-Glenlivet 11 yo 2004/2016 (46%, Cadenhead, sherry wood, Small Batch) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it does have this typical leathery start (that comes with one struck match), as well as roasted chestnuts and Corinth raisins, which gives a rather warm feeling. I really enjoy the malty meatiness too, and that’s not Marmitte! Rather ham and mint, or something similar. Excellent balance, as often with small batches (vs. single casks). Mouth: excellent, firm, rich. Spicy cake, cloves, cumin, green peppercorn, marmalade, Japanese crackers (the ones that have quite some soy sauce around), a little coffee, some grass… A lot of action in this wee baby that’s very fairly priced. Finish: long, a little mustardy, perhaps. In France we have a recipe called palette à la diable, which is some ham cooked in a sweetish mustard sauce. Comments: an excellent price, some very good and ‘typical’ whisky, we don’t need more, do we. SGP:462 - 87 points.

And twenty years earlier…

Dailuaine 30 yo 1984/2015 (53.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill bourbon hogshead, #41.64, ‘Sharing, caring loving dram’, 210 bottles)

Dailuaine 30 yo 1984/2015 (53.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill bourbon hogshead, #41.64, ‘Sharing, caring loving dram’, 210 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s interesting to notice that what’s usually associated with some sherry (sulphur smells) may also be there in an ex-bourbon malt such as Dailuaine, or Mortlach, or a few other malts that are sulphury ‘by design’. Having said that this is fresher, fruitier, and more citrusy than the 2004. It’s even kind of green, with some rhubarb and kiwi. How green is that? A touch of meat too. Steak! With water: some chalk and saltpetre. Mouth (neat): very intriguing. Sulphury honey, does that ring a bell? And again, it is ‘good’ sulphur. Expresso coffee and lemon rind, an unusual combination. With water: good maltiness, sweeter grapefruits, orange blossom honey, and always a wee sulphury touch. Finish: medium, marmalade-y and rather gingery. Cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, just less ‘immediate’ than the 2004 – which, I agree, wasn’t very ‘immediate’ either. SGP:551 - 84 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Robin Eubanks. Track: Mental Images. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 18, 2016


New Tomatin 1971 and compadre

There, in the midst of summer, when everyone’s busy quaffing mojitos or rosé-pamplemousse, Tomatin are launching a new series. It’s called the ‘Warehouse 6 Collection’, and they just issued the first release, no less than a vintage 1971. We’ll try it today, but first a worthy sparring-partner. Sadly no other 1971 Tomatin at hand, so let’s have a younger sherried one by a good house…

Tomatin 1988/2014 (53.7%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14026, 265 bottles)

Tomatin 1988/2014 (53.7%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 14026, 265 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: Extravagantly fruity. I’ve not often found this many peaches, blood oranges, and ripe (but not overripe) gooseberries in any whisky. These fruits are very fresh, so you’d think you’re actually wondering throughout an orchard. Or perhaps even some vineyard, since I also find grapes. Big golden muscat. But not wine as such. With water: even more grapes, and vine peaches, in all logic. Only a small amount of malty beerness in the background. Mouth (neat): really very fruity, it’s almost a fruit salad, or rather some kind of barrel-aged fruit cocktail since there are some peppery spices as well. Strawberries and pepper work well together, according to Hollywood. With water: a greenish tannicity starts to interfere, but it comes with some sweets and syrups, so balance is maintained. Finish: quite long, fresh, we’ve almost quaffed a good glass of muscat d’Alsace. Better than rosé-pamplemousse, I’m telling you. Comments: this one was very ‘Tomatin’, which could not be bad news. SGP:751 - 86 points.

Tomatin 1971/2016 (45.8%, OB, Warehouse 6 Collection, oloroso sherry cask, cask #30041, 252 bottles)

Tomatin 1971/2016 (45.8%, OB, Warehouse 6 Collection, oloroso sherry cask, cask #30041, 252 bottles) Five stars There’s something very smart written in the leaflet, ‘With patience comes reward’. It’s not a cheap bottle but that’s only the price of a full week in a five-star resort in Moldova (£2,500) and they did put a lot of effort into the presentation. Actually, spending some time in Moldova is something I’ve always wanted to do. Colour: deep gold. Nose: we’re visiting a high-class bodega in Jerez. It’s not that it noses just like sherry, it noses like a, eh, a bodega, with some old oak, many wines resting, and perhaps a little saltpetre. And there are raisins, cigarette tobacco, quite a lot of milk chocolate, praline, dried figs, and a rather precious spicy combination, not easy to describe. A little wine sauce, perhaps. Beef Bourguignon or something. It’s all extremely complex. Whiffs of hessian (hessian around the bungs, of course). Mouth: it does start with quite some cinnamon and a feeling of cedar wood, but after all, this is +/-45 years old whisky, so the oak did have to feel a bit. What’s perfect is that the wine sauce is back, and it came with prunes, black chocolate, cassis, black cherries, and this lovely wine-y sourness. Burgundy indeed, this is almost some Chambertin. Did you know that Napoléon used to ask all his troops to present arms whenever they were passing near the Chambertin? Whether he was with them or not? Mad man… Finish: medium, and even more ‘Chambertin’. Fermenting raisins, marc... Leafier aftertaste - that’s the stems. Comments: excellent pinot-noiry old wine. Great wines and great whiskies, same battle! SGP:561 - 91 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ?. Performer: FZ. Track: Don't you ever wash that thing? Please buy his music...

July 15, 2016


No fun.

July 2016 - part 1 <--- July 2016 - part 2 ---> August 2016 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Benrinnes 24 yo 1991/2016 (52.6%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #090508, 287 bottles)

Benrinnes 17 yo 1985/2003 (60.2%, The Bottlers, refill sherry butt, cask #1852)

Benrinnes 30 yo 1984/2015 (56.6%, Silver Seal, cask #2268, 480 bottles)

Ledaig 24 yo 1972/1997 (49.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #42.8)

Linlithgow 23 yo 1982/2006 (61.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #2204, 282 bottles)

Linlithgow 26 yo 1982/2009 (61.2%, Signatory Vintage, wine treated butt, cask #2200, 225 bottles)

Linlithgow 28 yo 1982/2011 (57.3%, MacKillop’s Choice, cask #2206)

St Magdalene 1975/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, for Brookline Liquor Mart, USA, cask #21, 270 bottles)

Linlithgow 22 yo 1975/1998 (51.7%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, cask #96/3/01, 335 bottles)

St Magdalene (Linlithgow) 30 yo 1964/1994 (48.5%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Tamdhu 33 yo 1967/2000 (48.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #8.27)

Tomatin 1971/2016 (45.8%, OB, Warehouse 6 Collection, oloroso sherry cask, cask #30041, 252 bottles)

Monymusk 12 yo 2003/2015 (46%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Jamaica, 292 bottles)

Uitvlugt 18 yo 1997/2016 (45%, Compagnie des Indes, Guyana, cask #MGA4, 637 bottles)