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Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2017 - Part 1


June 2017 - part 2 <--- July 2017 - part 1 ---> July 2017 - part 2


July 14, 2017


Knockando for la Bastille

Some catching up to do. J&B’s Knockando, just like Cardhu, is a big seller here in France, and today is Bastille Day (tah-da-tah-da-taaaah-taaaah-taaaah-taaaah-taaaah-tah-da..,) and the distillery’s lovely. There.

Knockando 12 yo 2003 (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Knockando 12 yo 2003 (43%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars There’s also a 2004, but we’ll try that one later. Colour: pale gold. Nose: some chocolaty maltiness and a rather dry, coffee-ish and roasted/toasted development. Nescafé. The older 12s used to be much fruitier, if I remember well, it seems that they pushed the malty/chocolaty aspects in recent years. Mouth: well, not quite. This is a brioche stuffed with raisins and bits of candied orange zests, while notes of Cointreau and cherries are adding a relative thickness. Very creamy mouth feel. Finish: medium and rather more on oranges, always with this chocolaty background. One cannot not think of Dalmore. Comments: very good, easy, fairly rich, and, in my opinion, in progress. Love the oranges in it. SGP:541 – 82 points.

Knockando 18 yo 1996 ‘Slow Matured’ (43%, OB, +/-2015)

Knockando 18 yo 1996 ‘Slow Matured’ (43%, OB, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Not always a fan of earlier versions that used to be a little weak(ish) in my book. Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s rather on tobacco, autumn leaves, coffee, and black tea. You got it, it’s rather dry and leafy. A handful of walnuts and pecans. Mouth: it’s a little farmier than the 12, rather less obvious and easy, maltier, and oakier. Quite a lot of bitter chocolate inside, coffee, Ovaltine, and this wee cardboard that I had already found in earlier expressions. Finish: medium, with more cinnamon and burnt brownies. Nice oranges in the signature. Comments: very fair, and even good, but the fruitier 12 is having the upper hand in my opinion. SGP:451 - 79 points.

Just for the sake of comparison…

Knockando 18 yo 1995 ‘Slow Matured’ (43%, OB, +/-2014)

Knockando 18 yo 1995 ‘Slow Matured’ (43%, OB, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s got a little more sherry, and a little more rubber as well. It’s grassier, and yeastier. I had thought they would have kept all these very consistent throughout the vintages, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s even a little smoke in this one, where does that come from? Ex-Lagavulin casks? Mouth: indeed this one’s bigger, more vegetal, slightly peaty indeed, grassy, and rather on green oranges this time (rather than regular ones). Some dry cake in the background, cinnamon, bitter caramel… Finish: rather long, and rather nicer. Oloroso, ashes, roasted malt, coffee. Once again, more oranges in the signature. Comments: in fact both vintages were quite different, but overall quality was similar, even if this 1995 was drier. SGP:451 - 79 points.

Knockando 21 yo 1994 ‘Master Reserve’ (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Knockando 21 yo 1994 ‘Master Reserve’ (43%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: this baby’s earthier than the others, more herbal, more tea-ish, and rather shier. I’m finding a little rubber, burnt toast, and wee whiffs of leatherette. A very dry nose, with no fruits whatsoever. The antithesis of the rather lovely 12 yo. Mouth: we’re rather close to the 18/1995, with this black tea, the bitter oranges, the cinnamon, the chocolate, the coffee… But there’s something charming to this dryness, something rather ‘old world’. Buckingham, if you like. Finish: medium, nutty and coffeeish. Same feeling of Nescafé as in the 12. Cocoa in the aftertaste. Comments: nah, it’s very good malt whisky, it’s just a little quiet. SGP:451 - 80 points.

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



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July 13, 2017


Banff vs neighbour

Good, there’s a newish Banff by Cadenhead everyone’s talking about, but most sadly, and I have to repent openly, I haven’t got any other Banff that would have made for a proper sparring partner. So, wait until we find another Banff? Or try to find a well-aged baby from the nearest distillery, that is to say from Macduff? Not a difficult choice…


Banff 40 yo 1976/2017 (51.2%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary, hogshead, 192 bottles) Five stars Yeah, and? Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a well-known fact that Banff is growing on you. It was never an obvious dram, and apart from some Rare Malts, there’s never been any OBs if I’m not mistaken. Plus, people rather remember that the distillery was destroyed several times, both by fires and by the Luftwaffe. Now this one’s full of Banffness, with two opposite sides that manage to meet on your nose, metal polishes and engines oils on the one side, and mangos on the other side. Are you following me? There’s also some fern, then mosses, humus, mushrooms, and a kind of medicinal chalk – or rather some kind of embrocations. I’d rather say that it’s an intellectual dram. With water: manure-y herbs! We’re in the countryside. Mouth (neat): this is massively fruity, while the oak’s shooting spices as if there was no tomorrow. Green curry, turmeric, white pepper, ginger… That creates a whirlwind of flavours that sometimes meet, and sometimes don’t, which leads to a funny, and pretty lovely feeling of having several whiskies at the same time. No dissonances though, it just works, I couldn’t tell you why or how. With water: huge! Same feeling of free whisky as in free jazz, with nothing quite in sync, and yet it’s a whole. Herbs, grasses, green tea… The oak sure is having its say. Finish: long. Comments: harmolodics in whisky? This is un-scorable, and some good folks might hate it – while others will just love it. The Ornette of whisky. Still, let’s try to score it (with humility and restraint)… SGP:472 - 92 points.

So, an old Macduff… rumble rumble… Let's make it another one that celebrated an anniversary...

Macduff 31 yo 1972/2003 (45%, Samaroli, 35th Anniversary)

Macduff 31 yo 1972/2003 (45%, Samaroli, 35th Anniversary) Two stars and a half It’s funny that Samaroli would have called this a ‘special old liqueur unblended malt’. Knowing history, you know… Colour: pale gold. Nose: how the mind works! I’m finding a Banffy side to this Macduff… With a touch of mustard, some stewed fruits, a sour spiciness (mulled white wine), and certainly notes of old dry sherry. Old olorosos or amontillados, for example, I remember a splendid super old (I mean late 19th) Barbadillo that had these obvious rancioty notes as well. Leather, cigars… Mouth: all on oranges, with a sour side, leaven, sour dough, porridge… I have to say I’m finding this one a little unlikely on the palate. A wee bit of rancid butter, some leather, dry Madeira… Really not the easiest dram ever, this was probably more a message than whisky. But what was the message? Finish: medium, a little sour. Sour apples, yoghurt, ink. Comments: the nose was extremely fine, but I had trouble with the palate. It’s so sad that Silvano’s left us, I would have loved to be able to discuss this whisky with the maestro. Isn’t life all about missed opportunities? SGP:351 - 78 points.

(Hugs, Diego)

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

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



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July 12, 2017


Another little bag of Highland Park

We said we’d have more Highland Park and I’ll stick to my word. Let’s see what we have and do that in no particular order. If you don’t mind.

Highland Park 21 yo (47.5%, OB, +/-2015)

Highland Park 21 yo (47.5%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars and a half This is well the most recent 21 that had been reissued at a proper strength. Sadly and unless I’m mistaken, this expression is no more. An earlier 21 at 40% had been very good but a little weak (WF 86) while the previous version at 47.5% (circa 2007) had more power (WF 88). Colour: gold. Nose: rather wonderful, aromatic, orange-y, blossomy, and appropriately honeyed. Some hay, the faintest smoke, a wonderful slightly mentholated sherriness, a touch of fudge, and above everything, quite some tobacco. Entering a cigar shop where they’re pouring Assam tea. Also a lovely beeswax. Doesn’t quite feel like 47.5%, though, it’s a tad milder than that. Mouth: perfect creamy honey and soft spices, you’d think this some much earlier HP (early 1960s). Baked apples, oranges, dried apples, then it’s black tea galore, earl grey, quite some cinnamon, a feeling of cedar wood, cloves, more cinnamon… There’s some old oak at play here but we’re extremely far from any dull plankiness. Pu-erh tea. Finish: rather long, a notch bitter in a good way, then more and more honeyed with a layer of strong black honey. The oak’s back in the aftertaste, also black raisins. Good news, some say black raisins purify your blood, is that true? Comments: a rather tense HP, while indeed, some sides remind me of older official bottlings, such as the dumpies with black round ‘LP’ labels. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Highland Park 18 yo (56.4%, OB, Distillery Exclusive, American oak butt, cask #2865, 606 bottles, 2016)

Highland Park 18 yo (56.4%, OB, Distillery Exclusive, American oak butt, cask #2865, 606 bottles, 2016) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: perfect creamy vanilla and honey, with some fresh orange juice on top of that and a few bits of fresh mint. That’s a perfect combination, not utterly complex, but the balance is flabbergasting. Indeed, vanilla, honey, oranges, mint. I repeat… With water: rather things from a forest, moss, fern, pine needles, humus, mushrooms… All that complements vanilla, honey, oranges and mint to perfection. Mouth (neat): indeed, this is perfect, although it would just be a combination of four elements, namely vanilla, honey, oranges, mint. Exactly the same as on the nose when neat, plus a few oak spices, cinnamon, cloves, star anise… With water: same with just touches of green oak, which translates into green tea. So, green tannins. Finish: rather long and grassier, although the three musketeers are still kicking around. Those would be vanilla, honey, oranges and mint. A touch of wood smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: extremely good but you had or will have to fly to Orkney to get this sexy baby. SGP:652 - 89 points.

Highland Park 'Dark Origins' (46.8%, OB, +/-2016)

Highland Park 'Dark Origins' (46.8%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars Loved the very first rendering of this newish sherry-oriented NAS back in 2014 (WF 88). Colour: amber. Nose: some lovely copper (old kettle) and raisins at first nosing, then rather roasted nuts, plus a spoonful of English mint sauce, then hints of mocha and chocolate. Oranges manage to make it through as well after just one minute. Indeed, a very lovely nose, well as I remembered it. Mouth: really super-excellent, the sherry being quite sweet but it’s no dull PX-y-sherry-like feeling. Honey sauce, triple-sec, strong black tea (from the oak) and, really, Christmas cake. Loads of cloves and juniper. Finish: long, ‘black’ indeed, with as much smoke as in many young official Highland Parks. Aren’t they trying to Ardbegise HP, just a bit? Anyway, this is super-good. Comments: loved the liquid while hating the fact that it’s NAS. Which we never take into account when coming up with a score, naturally. SGP:552 - 87 points.

Highland Park 1992/2016 (51.4%, Sansibar, S Spirit Shop, Chinese Mask, bourbon, 263 bottles)

Highland Park 1992/2016 (51.4%, Sansibar, S Spirit Shop, Chinese Mask, bourbon, 263 bottles) Five stars This one may be pure and crystalline, let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: it is pure and crystalline. A very wee touch of coconut from the oak (right, not quite crystalline) and then a superb zesty (mint, lime), mineral (limestone, chalk), waxy (linseed, paraffin) and citrusy (bitter oranges) development. Pure HP. With water: gets chalkier, with is always welcome at WF towers. Fresh concrete. Mouth (neat): everything you’d expect from these batches. Passion fruits plus honey and beeswax, with tarter kiwis and rhubarb in the back. A perfect Clynelishy wax/lemon combo over all that. With water: tiny herbs and green citrus. Parsley, sage, lime, grapefruits… Finish: long, ultra-clean, zesty and mineral. Grassier aftertaste. Comments: the coconut was very temporary, most happily, it’s an immaculately natural HP. My favourite style. SGP:562 - 90 points.

Shouldn’t we also try one or two oldies?

Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1983 (46%, R.W. Duthie for Broadwell Vintners ltd.)

Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1983 (46%, R.W. Duthie for Broadwell Vintners ltd.) Five stars An old bespoke/private bottling by Cadenhead, I can’t wee what could go wrong. Couldn’t find much data about those Broadwell Vintners who used to be Spirit merchants in Moreton-in-Marsh, according to the label. Colour: pale gold. Nose: typical old HP, quite in the style of the stunning official ‘John Goodwin’, or of the 40yos. First superb waxy notes, from beeswax to church candles, then many slightly overripe fruits, apples, plums, pears, even bananas… It’s globally very ‘beehive-y’, which is a style that I just cherish. Cake à l’orange, cut flowers, tangerines, papayas, leaves… It just keeps developing over time. Mouth: it got a little sootier, there’s also a little plasticine and the faintest touch of rose-scented soap, but other than that, this is totally brilliant, with minty fruits, cranberries, prickly pears, pomegranates, blood oranges… In short, a marvellous fruit salad, with mint and honey thrown in. Finish: medium, ultra-clean (the wee soapy notes are gone), and rather more citrusy. More blood oranges. Comments: an amazing old whisky that may have benefited from all those years in glass. Now go find another bottle… SGP:651 - 91 points.

And a last one for the road…

Highland Park 12 yo (80° proof, W. Cadenhead, early 1960s)

Highland Park 12 yo (80° proof, W. Cadenhead, early 1960s) Five stars Well W. Cadenhead of Aberdeen and not W.M. Cadenhead. Probably distilled just after WWII, and possibly quite peated since fuel (and coal) were still in short supply. No need to tell you that these old black labels – tall bottles have become extremely rare. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: sweet Vishnu, indeed this is very smoky, and distinctly sooty! There is some coal and graphite, scoria, plaster, clay, there are kippers as well, there’s a touch of lime, and I’m also finding seaweed and oysters. As far as fruits are concerned, perhaps one slice of green apple in addition to lime? Indeed this baby’s quite ‘green’. Mouth: it’s less smoky this time, but totally northern Highlands, sharp, sooty, extremely mineral, and quite herbal at that. So it’s not a very easy old HP, it’s even got spikes and bumps, but the way it challenges you is most admirable. Gets then much more lemony and peppery, which not any less challenging. Green pepper, salt, a feeling of ‘the driest margarita’. Finish: long, very mineral and very waxy. This well-known feeling of drinking liquid plasticine. Salt, pepper, ginger tonic and lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: a winemaker’s whisky. Sharp as a knife, as they say, despite those fifty years or more in the bottle. Totally a fan of this well-chiselled style. SGP:662 - 92 points.

(Merci beaucoup Emmanuel)

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



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July 11, 2017


Four Highland Park

There are some new Highland Parks around, and we’ll try one of them, but first, an apéritif…

Highland Park 15 yo (40%, OB, 2016)

Highland Park 15 yo (40%, OB, 2016) Three stars The 15 had been discontinued a while ago, but it made a come back last year. The strength may be a bit low though, let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: I find it rather dry and certainly smoky, even ashy, with some grass, a wee touch of new rubber band, then a little custard as well as a handful of roasted raisins. A little hay as well, sourdough… But all that isn’t very big, I find it a notch fragile despite the smokiness, but let’s see what happens on the palate… Mouth: starts rather grassy and even a tad bitter, while the smoke’s well there, before the expected honeyed development is starting to take place. Some toasted bread, a little pepper, some raw malt, some bitter oranges… The spirit ‘sounds’ quite big, but the low strength makes it partly fragile. Finish: a tad short, rather on roasted raisins and a smoky grassiness. More Seville oranges in the aftertaste, as well as a little aniseed. Comments: globally dry and slightly rustic. Good, of course, but as we always say, more oomph would have been welcome. SGP:362 - 82 points.

Highland Park ‘Valkyrie’ (45.9%, OB, 2017)

Highland Park ‘Valkyrie’ (45.9%, OB, 2017) Three stars and a half A new NAS version of Highland Park that comes with boosted packaging and yet more Nordic stories and legends. Let’s see if this baby’s as Wagnerian as its name suggests. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts with curry-like spices and especially nutmeg and cinnamon, while a smoky coastalness appears from the back. That is very nice, I think. There’s a mentholy side as well, as well as quite some bitter oranges and a feeling of brine. All nice, and the spices do not dominate, which is cool. Mouth: it’s big, salty, spicy, and indeed smoky. I find the wood a touch loud (sour spices, ginger) but other than that, the notes of toffee, marmalade, and raisins are making it rather rounder and, well, sexier. Good body, the strength is perfect. Finish: long, with bitter herbs and a touch of honeydew. Green liquorice, ginger. The aftertaste has got quite some oak spices. Comments: it’s a big, slightly body-builder Highland Park. Very good, of course. SGP:463 - 84 points.

Highland Park 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016)

Highland Park 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars An old favourite, haven’t try the 18 since a good six years though. Loved it in 2011 (WF 88). Colour: pale gold. Nose: so typically HP! There’s that heather honey that wasn’t quite to be found in the 15 and Valkyrie, more roundness, more dried fruits (figs, dates, pears, raisins) and earth rather than smoke. Orange blossom, dandelions, honeysuckle, and some nice whiffs of humus and garden peat. In short his baby’s more refined, and perhaps more civilised. Not quite Viking stuff this time, if you like. Mouth: indeed, a different world. Superb dried fruits mingled with some herbal syrup (Chartreuse, genepy, eucalyptus) and the expected honey, with a feeling of charred wood in the background. Rather a gentleman’s HP, if you will. Finish: medium, a tad rougher and grassier, but still quite wonderful. Ah our good old HP 18!… Comments: a little less fan of the finish, but Highland Park 18 years old remains a classy classic. SGP:552 - 87 points.

Perhaps a little indie? Let’s see what we can find…

Highland Park 24 yo 1992/2016 ‘Flowing Feature’ (45%, Selezione Silvano Samaroli, cask # 1252)

Highland Park 24 yo 1992/2016 ‘Flowing Feature’ (45%, Selezione Silvano Samaroli, cask # 1252) Four stars and a half From the great Silvano’s very last selection. Remember, this posthumous series had nothing to do with the Samaroli ‘brand’, since Silvano had sold his company quite a few years before. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a naked and natural HP, with much fewer oak tones, and more minerality and fresh orchard fruits. Some fresh marzipan as well, apples, greengages, a little sunflower oil, and funny whiffs of ripe Provence melons (the orange ones). Impeccable profile. Mouth: very good, and rather more on dry citrus this time. Peppered grapefruit juice, bitter marmalade, a drop of seawater, and then more and more freshly ground pepper. It’s firm, a tad austere, and beautiful. Finish: a long spicy finish, but those aren’t quite oak spices. There are also dried guavas and papayas, which gives this baby an exotic side. Comments: extremely good, as expected. Cheers Silvano, up there in the skies! SGP:552 - 88 points.

More, many more HPs on WF soon.

(Merci Francesco)

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



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July 10, 2017


Loch Lomond and Inchmurrin,
oddness and fun

As you may know, Loch Lomond is a very versatile distillery fitted with several kinds of stills that the owners can combine in one way or another, to produce various makes. That’s why you’ll find several names such as Loch Lomond itself, or Inchmurrin, Croftengea, Inchmoan, Inchfad, Rosdhu, and perhaps a few others, their names escape me. Loch Lomond had remained a workhorse for years, but the new owners seem to be willing to ‘push’ it these days. Some new prices seem to be a little extreme though, Loch Lomond isn’t quite Lagavulin yet… Anyway, let’s have a few today…

Loch Lomond 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016)

Loch Lomond 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016) one star and a half The ‘regular’ make. I had tried the NAS ‘Signature’ last year, and wasn’t quite convinced (WF 68). Colour: gold. Nose: it’s light, there’s some vanilla, there’s a little sawdust, and there are ripe apples. Then porridge, ale, and a little wood dust. Mouth: better than expected, yet a little sour and, above all, very oak/planky. Apples, pears, sawdust, porridge. I find the woody sourness troubling and a little unpleasant. Finish: medium, rather more on overripe apples. Lager beer in the aftertaste, with a feinty side. Comments: this humble baby clearly reminds me of the old and ‘funny’ blue label NAS. Not totally a fan, I have to say, but I know that other expressions are more to my liking. SGP:351 - 69 points.

Loch Lomond 16 yo 2001/2017 (56.5%, OB, The Whisky Shop exclusive, Limousin oak, cask # 16/329-2, 384 bottles)

Loch Lomond 16 yo 2001/2017 (56.5%, OB, The Whisky Shop exclusive, Limousin oak, cask # 16/329-2, 384 bottles) Three stars This is French oak, we may expect some spices… Colour: gold. Nose: this is another world, this is much bigger, fatter, and indeed, spicy. I’ve rarely encountered this much curry, caraway, juniper, ginger, and above all, nutmeg in my Scotch whiskies. Some wee craft distillers in the US are having this style as well though, usually from those very small barrels that they’re using. Tends to become very bready (damp oatcakes) and never loses its spices. A funny one for sure. With water: same. What’s good is that water doesn’t make it even oakier. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, and extremely spicy. This is almost ginger liqueur, and I’m also finding aquavit and simply gin. Pink pepper liqueur as well, do you know that? With water: the malt comes out, and it would come with welcome bitter oranges. Finish: long, bready, spicy. A little syrup in the aftertaste. Comments: some oak infusion at times, but the end result is interesting. New oak on eleven, and possibly a brand new kind of whisky. Very hard to score… SGP:372 - 80 points.

So there’s also Inchmurrin by Loch Lomond… Should we expect some tropical fruits this time?

Inchmurrin 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016)

Inchmurrin 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half The older Inchmurrin 12, circa 2005, was a rather difficult whisky in my opinion (WF 60). Colour: gold. Nose: it does feel a little botoxed as well (I mean, oaked) but it’s also fruitier, and more floral than the Loch Lomond. Dried apples, fudge, icing sugar or syrup, tinned pears, and whiffs of honeysuckle. Pleasant nose. Mouth: now we’re talking! It’s just as ‘different’ as the Loch Lomonds, and you have to like sweets and candies to enjoy this, but I’m not against these violets (as sweets), raspberry drops, zests, lemon-flavoured fudge… In the background, some oak spices, cinnamon and nutmeg first. It seems that much re-racking has taken place in recent years at Loch Lomond (my guess). Finish: rather short, but pleasantly fruity and candy-like. Not too much oak in the rather bready aftertaste. Comments: I’m finding this baby pretty good. Huge progress since the earlier official versions of Inchmurrin. SGP:641 - 78 points.

Loch Lomond (Inchmurrin) 19 yo 1996/2016 (49.5%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 318 bottles)

Loch Lomond (Inchmurrin) 19 yo 1996/2016 (49.5%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 318 bottles) Three stars Don’t they have just every name at Cadenhead’s? Colour: white wine. Nose: LOL! What is this? Parmesan cheese, dairy cream, carbon paper, smoked porridge, and even more Parmesan cheese. Chinese takeaway. I guess ‘unlikely’ would be a good word in this context, let’s see if we find Parmeggiano on the palate as well… Mouth: no Parmesan cheese, rather prickly lemons and grapefruit drops, Schweppes Lemon, ginger tonic, and bags of lemongrass. Really very funny, and a rather good one at that – on the palate, that is. Finish: medium, and this is almost un-sweet limoncello. Limoncello and Parmesan? Sounds like holidays, doesn’t it. Comments: an unidentified flying whisky as Cadenhead sometimes have (say 10% of their production). Not always pristine, often interesting, always funny (we’re talking about those 10%). I’d almost recommend this one, mind you. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Inchmurrin 22 yo 1993/2016 (58.5%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask # 2851, 218 bottles)

Inchmurrin 22 yo 1993/2016 (58.5%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask # 2851, 218 bottles) Three stars I’ve had some good Inchmurrins by Signatory. Colour: pale gold. Nose: pineapples and vanilla this time, this is almost ‘arranged’ rum. Arranged with pineapple, that is. Then vanilla and a soft oakiness, some cake, some roasted nuts, and some cinnamon. Custard. All fine and ‘normal’ this time. With water: lemon-iced biscuits and a small bag of pistachios. Mouth (neat): real good! Spritzy lemons, grapefruits, oranges, cinnamon cake, peppered brioche. With water: doesn’t change one iota. Finish: long, always on lemons and oranges, with more cinnamony oak in the aftertaste. A little coconut as well. Comments: perfectly good, cleaner than others, and just very quaffable. It’s got something refreshing. SGP:641 - 82 points.

A real old one, and we’re done…

Inchmurrin 32 yo 1984/2017 (46.5%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask # 13362, 101 bottles)

Inchmurrin 32 yo 1984/2017 (46.5%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask # 13362, 101 bottles) Three stars and a half Quite possibly the older Inchmurrin I’ve ever tried. Or wasn’t there a Murray McDavid? Ah no, that one was an Old Rosdhu… Colour: pale gold. Nose: butter cream, custard, coco balls, pina colada, tined peaches and apricots, and a little gingerbread. All that is soft and fruity, and certainly tropical. One could use it instead of Havana Club, I’d say. Mouth: totally in keeping with the nose, this is almost like oak-aged pina colada. Pineapples, coconut, vanilla, the reddest gooseberries… And most certainly a good deal of lactones. It’s good, it’s fresh, it’s light, and yet it’s got some depth. Finish: medium, on cinnamon and wholegrain bread. That’s the cask speaking out. Comments: a very fruity and relatively light old Inchmurrin that doesn’t quite taste its age. Totally American-oak, and my favourite today. Right, perhaps not the greatest achievement ever. SGP:631 - 84 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Eric Alexander. Track: Pursuance. Please visit his website and buy his music...

July 9, 2017


Cognac up to the heavens

We’ve had a few very good Armagnacs in the previous weeks, so today it’s going to be Cognac again. In other words, pot stills after small columns…

Courvoisier ‘V.S.O.P. Le Voyage de Napoléon’ (40%, OB, Cognac, blend, +/-2016)

Courvoisier ‘V.S.O.P. Le Voyage de Napoléon’ (40%, OB, Cognac, blend, +/-2016) Three stars A fairly new line by large house Courvoisier, that includes a VS, a VSOP, and a XO. The name of Napoléon was used, but I don’t think this is a ‘Napoléon’ (traditionally between VSOP and XO). VSOP means at least compte 4, so the younger distillate in the blend must be at least 4 years old. Colour: full gold. Nose: a fine fruity blend, easy, fresh, with peaches and golden raisins, as well as touches of warm brioche and a wee earthiness. Really fresh and uncomplicated. Mouth: once again, it’s rather fruitier, with apricots and quinces at first, then raisins as almost always, ripe peaches, and a little caramel, but I wouldn’t dare calling it ‘caramelly’, because it’s not. So, a fine fresh Cognac indeed, extremely easy to quaff. Finish: not very long, but clean. Touches of cedar wood and orange liqueur. Comments: not that I’m surprised, but this blend goes down extremely well. Nah, I am surprised. SGP:641 - 80 points.

Jean Fillioux (43%, OB, for Van Wees, Holland, Grande Champagne, single cask, cask #85, 504 bottles)

Jean Fillioux (43%, OB, for Holland, Grande Champagne, single cask, cask #85, 504 bottles) Four stars I believe all Cognacs by Jean Fillioux come from their own estate, La Pouyade. Now it’s always a little bizarre to know about the cask number but not about the age or vintage. Never mind… Colour: deep gold. Nose: a little more restrained than the Courvoisier, and almost austere so perhaps a wee tad less ‘commercial’. Rather quinces and ripe apples this time, then perhaps yellow melons, and certainly acacia honey… Opens up, but never gets extravagant. Better like that, perhaps. Mouth: indeed this is much more ‘artisan’ than the Courvoisier, grittier, leafier, with a fuller body, some burnt raisins, rather honeydew this time (fir), and a little liquoricy oak. I am liking this pretty much. Finish: long, with some apple skins, which gives it a very wee Calvadossy side. Very very wee. Comments: very convincing. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Paul Giraud ‘Exotic 4.3’ (40.3%, Old Brothers, Cognac Grande Champagne, cask #444, chai humide, 528 bottles, 2017)

Paul Giraud ‘Exotic 4.3’ (40.3%, Old Brothers, Cognac Grande Champagne, cask #444, chai humide, 528 bottles, 2017) Five stars We already had an excellent Armagnac that had been selected by this new French independent bottler. With Cognac you always feel the need to find clues about the vintages or ages, in this case there’s this cryptic name, ‘Exotic 4.3’. 1943? 43 years old? I’m afraid this will remain a secret… Colour: gold. Nose: hold on, this is superb! Extraordinary fresh fruits and tiny herbs, exactly the combo that I like best. Peaches, verbena, quinces, pineapples, wormwood, mullein flowers, ripe bananas, papayas, mangos… An avalanche of fresh fruits, mainly tropical ones, but without one single ounce of vulgarity. Brilliant. Mouth: yes, perfect. Probably old, with an astounding complexity, many ripe apples, oranges, nectarines, quince jelly, touches of muscat grape, pineapples again, a touch of cinnamon, some fresh mint from the oak, a hint of eucalyptus syrup… Some peppermint as well, the oak feels a bit, but it never, ever gets drying. Impeccable. Finish: medium, clean, fresh, with a little lime that makes it… a little too moreish, so rather dangerous. You may have to fit a lock on your decanter. The aftertaste is a tad oaky (so I can’t go to 91) but that’s just fine. Comments: I’m not surprised, this is totally perfect and eminently malternative-y. Kudos Old Brothers! SGP:751 - 90 points.

Distillerie Charpentier 30 yo (55.3%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 252 bottles, 2017)

Distillerie Charpentier 30 yo (55.3%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 252 bottles, 2017) Five stars This is a scandal! Cadenhead should not be allowed to sell 30 years old Cognac – and what’s more, at cask strength – for £75 a bottle. I think I’ll write to Macron, he will do something. Even worse, last year’s Charpentier 30 was spectacular (WF 91). Colour: deep gold. Nose: yeah, I’ll start petitioning. Praline, quinces, dandelions, broom, mirabelles, sultanas, rum… This is unbearable. With water: yeah! Parsley, lovage, soy sauce… but all that con gusto and restraint. Mouth (neat): hate it that I like it so much. Ice wine, pressed apples (a thing they make in the Loire valley, they press apples so that they get very thin, and let them dry – it’s called pommes pressées), halva, fudge… My, this is good! And totally malternative-y! And too cheap! (I think we got you, S.) With water: it’s a malt beater, honestly. Finish: yes, long, and again, rather on dried apples, iced apple wine like they make in Canada (by the way, happy 150th anniversary, Canada!)… Raisins. Comments: despicably good. Hate it because of the price. Hey why not a magnum while you’re at it, Cadenhead? SGP:651 - 92 points.

We’re climbing up the ladder, aren’t we?...

Distillerie Charpentier 50 yo (56.0%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 250 bottles, 2017)

Distillerie Charpentier 50 yo (56.0%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 250 bottles, 2017) Four stars and a half Please say a price… That’s right, £135. I think I’ll write to Theresa and Nicola too, this madness has to stop. Imagine this would be cheap cereal spirit from a country in the north, a 50 yo would cost you, say more than £15,000! Like, say, some official HP or Bowmore 50… Something isn’t right here. And no, that’s not only a matter of crystal, sterling silver, or obscure Scottish designers and craftsmen… But rant over, let’s move on… Colour: deep gold. Nose: quite similar on the nose, and perhaps even a little shier. But boy these melons and these quinces… And these ripe plums, and this flower nectar, and this beeswax… And this mentholy, thuja-like oak… With water: no soy sauce this time, rather tar, engine oil, old garage… All those marvellous things. Mouth (neat): it serves them right, I tend to like the 30 a little better, it was rather brighter and had less oak. But other than that, this is perfect, all on plums, mirabelles, ripe greengages… And there are oranges too, which keep it tight and fighting. With water: not quite, water brings the tannins to the front. It’s still absolutely superb, but it tends to lose focus (which the 30 had mucho). Finish: long, with a little caramel, stewed peaches and plums… Comments: Extremely good, it’s just that the 30… you know… SGP:561 - 89 points.

Joking aside, those lovely Old Brothers and Cadenheads just gave me an idea. Let’s go back further in time…

Grande Champagne ‘Lot N°18.48’ (40.8%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, Cognac, 72 bottles)

Grande Champagne ‘Lot N°18.48’ (40.8%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, Cognac, 72 bottles) Five stars The French connection in full swing here, this baby comes from a family demijohn that used to lie in a forgotten ‘chai’ in Vaulx-Rouillac and that used to shelter 50 litres of 1848 Cognac. No ideas when it was transferred from wood to the demijohn, but bottling was done in 2015. No need to add that this is proper pre-phylloxeric Grande Champagne! Colour: deep gold. Nose: perhaps 40 years old? 35? It’s flabbergasting old Cognac, showcasing all plums of the creation, all yellow nectar-ridden flowers, some wonderful notes of warm praline and milk chocolate, and funny touches of butterscotch. It’s totally alive, there’s even a little youth to it, and very little rancio or meaty/herbal notes…

There are pears as well, which remind me of some very old Domfrontais. To think that this was distilled during the third French revolution (more or less, that revolution was short), when the king Louis-Philippe had to abdicate! (first revolution was 1789, second was 1830). Mouth: sweet Mary and Joseph, this one’s rustic on the palate. Feels even younger than just 35 or 40 this time, it’s a little gritty and tea-ish, with some tobacco and sour fruits (sour apples and pears), plus bags of prunes. This is unpolished, raw 1848 Cognac, but the pleasure is immense. As they say, you feel the fracas of time.

Finish: rather long and this time, the raisins are leading the charge. I’m also feeling a little dried coconut, mind you, coconut from the mid-19th century! Comments: imagine this baby was distilled one hundred and seventy years ago… Way before Tesla, Donald Trump, the iPhone, and Facebook… It makes a person's head spin… SGP:561 - 90 points (including some emotional ones).

We’ll rather taste some young modern ones next time we’re trying Cognac, I promise…

(Merci beaucoup Emmanuel)

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



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July 8, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Three Craigellachie
+ A Bonus
As you may or may not know Serge, this weekend is Dramboree in Scotland where I'll be galavanting and dramming with many good friends. Part of this year's festival involves a wee trip to visit some of Speyside's most eminent distilleries. Of course not mentioning any Speybur...err...names. So, with this in mind, lets have a few Craigellachies as I feel its pretty emblematic of the region in both name and style. First up: the SMWS...


Craigellachie 25 yo 1990 (52.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #44.73 ‘Long live the difference', fefill hogshead, 312 bottles) Craigellachie 25 yo 1990 (52.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #44.73 ‘Long live the difference', fefill hogshead, 312 bottles) Colour: Oaky Chardonnay. Nose: Wow! Someone has accidentally bottled Clynelish as a Craigellachie (not the sort of thing that is impossible at the SMWS). A whole beehive of waxes, some coastal sea greens, stone fruits, lychee, earth, more waxes, dried mushrooms and dried herbs with a drizzle of lemon oil. What a beautiful nose, totally unexpected. With water: crisper and more saline now with a sharper lemon juice note and some additional herbal complexities such as bay leaf and lightly smoked tea, Early Grey perhaps. Also some mineral touches such as graphite and wet pebbles. Mouth: Huge texture. Full of all kinds of oils and waxes with big notes of freshly baked brown bread, sourdough, a little grinding of sea salt and some really gentle little medicinal and phenolic touches. Hugely old style! Goes on with aged mead, a little coal hearth, hessian, more mushrooms, squid ink and dried parsley. With water: S.U.P.E.R.B! The whole thing just feels bigger, fatter, waxier, oilier, more punchy and on the whole even more complex. Just loads of tiny touches of waxes, herbs, bitters, minerals and various fruits. Finish: Long with a luxurious and silky waxiness. A really grassy olive oil and more hessian and sack cloth notes follow on a long fade. Wondrous stuff! Comments: Well, that was unexpected! Probably one of, if not the, best Craigellachies I’ve ever tasted. Blind I wouldn't be surprised if you’d have said an 82 or 83 Clynelish. SGP: 664 - 92 points.  


Over to Cadenheads. Although, they've got their work cut out...



Craigellachie 16 yo 1980/1996 (59.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 16 yo 1980/1996 (59.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Colour: White wine (a young Riesling this time). Nose: A new car parked in the sun on a hot day. Plasticine and something a little chemically, floor cleaner perhaps but a 'fruit scented' variety. Develops along more pleasant lines after a minute or two with lots of fresh lemon skins, barley sugar and crushed herbs. There is a kind of swimming pool 'chlorine' note dancing around in the back as well. It sort of dances between natural and unnatural rather entertainingly this one. Like Donald Trump but without the looming spectre of nuclear obliteration. With water: the swimming pool just got bigger and we find ourselves at the deep end! But thankfully someone has seen fit to bring along some watercress, buttercream and a little natural yoghurt (although I suspect the pool attendant will be pissed off!). Mouth: Few! This is hot stuff. And again rather odd with notes of cheap shoe polish (try and eat the expensive stuff if you can, makes a good substitute for Foie Gras Serge), plastic and then some herbs again; chives, sage and sorrel this time. Peppery as well and quite acrid with some burning wood notes. With water: the chemical side seems to have been fairly well eradicated by water. Some floral notes such as lilies and a rather pure grassiness. There is a tiny waxy streak that alludes to the SMWS as well, but, in all honesty, we're pretty far away from that level of quality I have to say. Also rather porridgy with time. Finish: Relatively long but again quite acrid, austere, drying and a little chemical again. Some enjoyable mineraltiy and citrus/cereal notes as well. Comments: A rather frustrating dram with a sort of weird duality to its character. Should come in useful in a post-apocalyptic wasteland though as fuel/barter juice/antiseptic etc... Or with ice. SGP: 342 - 73 points.



Craigellachie 16 yo 1980/1997 (60.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Craigellachie-Glenlivet 16 yo 1980/1997 (60.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Hopes are not particularly high after the last one... Colour: White wine (How about Grüner Veltliner?) . Nose: Hey, actually this is pretty pleasant despite the strength. Wild gorse, fresh gooseberry, cut grass, a little vanilla and even some dark fruits such as fresh blueberries and red-currants which I find unusual in this type of whisky. Develops some green fruitiness and a lovely cinnamon and pastry streak. There’s also coal dust, some lemon zest and a little camphor with time. With water: apple pie and custard. And also notes of rhubarb and custard sweeties that you get here in the UK (don’t think the French have gotten that far in culinary terms yet Serge). Also plenty fresh notes of grasses and cereals and herbs still kicking about. Mouth: Cereals, pastry, more cinnamon, apricot jam, greengages, damsons. This is quite sweet but in a rather natural and charming way and there’s no hint of these weird chemical notes that seemed to somewhat hobble the previous one. Nice herbal notes of sage and parsley with pink peppercorns, furniture wax and a slight, gravelly mineral quality. With water: a little more buttery, herbal and drying with water. Develops a slight saline note and a more obscure fruitiness. Finish: Good length, nicely balanced between the sweet and dry aspects. A touch of green malt and something mineral like clay perhaps. Comments: I suspect the difference between these two Cadenhead Craigellachies is pretty much entirely down to one of them being in far better cask. Or one in an inferior cask? Debate... SGP: 551 - 80 points.





One of the main events at Dramboree this year is the 'Speyburn Picnic'. No doubt involving a combination of Salmon, Jon Beach and a not inconsiderable quantity of puns. Who knows, we may even drink some Speyburn as well. Anyway, in honour of what will undoubtedly be the whisky event of the decade lets try a Speyburn (or two)...  


Speyburn-Glenlivet 19 yo 1975/1995 (59.9%, Cadenhead

Speyburn-Glenlivet 19 yo 1975/1995 (59.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Some men just want to watch the world (spey)burn! Colour: White wine (again! Let's go with Pouilly-Fumé this time.) Nose: Mmmmm, pure, unadulterated, classical, unmistakeable Speyburn. You have this kind of middle of the road quality which no other distillery can come close to. It's more in the centre than Macron. Having said that, it is also very '1990's Cadenhead' in style. This kind of austere, no nonsense, refill wood derived, distillate driven character which I am quite a sucker for. Quite buttery, some herbs, some lemon, some mint, a little mineral touch, maybe some vanilla. Whisky to switch off your mind to a little. Having said that, there are some very nice notes of pollen and crushed thistles emerging. Maybe this Salmon leaps after all! With water: now there is a nice mix of green and white fruits, wildflowers and more herbal notes. Some ripe pear, maybe a little melon. Perhaps even a whisker of a phenol lingering in the depths - a stray smoked salmon perhaps...? Mouth: Quite a soft arrival with lots of notes of muesli (the vegetarian Speyburn drinkers breakfast), oatcakes, some vanilla cream, some dates and maybe a little rosewater. Distinct notes of malt whisky. With water: clean, fruity, gently sweet, quite fresh, a little grassy, a little malty, perhaps some assorted pastry and a some marzipan. Almost Joycean in the way it masters the unremarkable - the Ulysses of Rothes! Finish: Impressive distance - like the leap of a particularly dedicated Salmon. Some very nice notes of tangerine and olive oil also emerge. Comments: Nothing fishy about this one! If there's salmon here they're circling below the surface. SGP: 442 - 81 points.



Some men aren't looking for anything logical...some men just want to watch the world (spey)burn...!  


Speyburn 15 yo 1975/1991 (63.1%, Cadenhead, Dumpy) Speyburn 15 yo 1975/1991 (63.1%, Cadenhead, Dumpy) In the words of Nils Bohlin: "Better strap yourselves in!"... Colour: Gold (but for the sake of consistency on this post lets say Riesling Brand SGN 2006). Nose: This is a little different it has to be said, some very nice notes of shoe polish, earl grey tea, mint julep, tarragon, even a certain farmyard note which is more 'highland' in character (perhaps its a salmon farm). Some notes of stable and bailed hay, some mango, green peppercorn, olive oil. This is quite an elegant and complex nose. Goes on with notes of tea tree oil and wormwood. With water: more farmy now, with notes of silage, hay and a nice earthiness. Quite umami in style with water, almost like some Maggi seasoning was added. Mustard powder, orange liqueur and aged chartreuse all make an appearance as well. Mouth: Thick and syrupy on delivery. Big notes of polish, various oils, a little tar, some aged mead, green and tropical fruit syrups and camphor. Various shades of pepper, aged hardwoods, lanolin, tool sheds (not that I taste many mind you) and more slightly tropical notes such as guava and melon. With water: pretty soft now. Full of soot, some medical gentian root notes, more wormwood, anise, aged sauternes and some honey. Really quite delicious. Finish: Medium to long with a lovely syrupy fruitiness and the peppery notes still nibbling away. Comments: It should be noted that this bottle had a pretty low filling level when opened and, as often with these high-octane old malts that loose their levels and get cracked years later, I suspect it massively benefited from the glacial pace of oxidisation over that time period. Nevertheless, this is a genuinely delicious, well balanced, characterful and complex old Speyburn - I know, outrageous! SGP: 533 - 90 points.  


That'll do I think.  


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

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


July 7, 2017


Inchgower rather vertically

Well this is going to be a rather short verticale, but we’ll have both some ultra-young ones and some old or very old ones. Let’s see what happens…

Inchgower 7 yo 2009/2016 (46%, Clan Denny, cask # 11191)

Inchgower 7 yo 2009/2016 (46%, Clan Denny, cask # 11191) Two stars So a very young one under one of Douglas Laing’s sub-labels. If they bottled it when so young, there must be something special… Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: it is a little rough, spirity, and new-make-y I have to say. Some pear eau-de-vie, some cut grass, spent lees, some leaven and yogurt… All signs of youth. As close to new BPS (British Plain Spirit) as malt whisky can get. Interesting… Mouth: total barley eau-de-vie. A bit prickly, with some beer, more grass, a touch of ginger, and bitter leaves and herbs. Touches of gooseberries in the background. Finish: medium, bitterish. Eating grass. Comments: these are hard to score. Good for documenting malt whisky throughout its maturation – and that would be step #1. Okay, #2. SGP:261 - 70 points.

Only one more year, but first fill wood please!...

Inchgower 8 yo (46%, James Eadie, first fill bourbon, cask #806342, 328 bottles)

Inchgower 8 yo (46%, James Eadie, first fill bourbon, cask #806342, 328 bottles) Two stars and a half We had a very good Blair Athol by James Eadie the other day. Colour: pale gold. Nose: what a difference good wood makes (when you’re not counting on age)… Very nice grassy notes, fern, moss, then ‘restrained flowers’, green melons, cherry stems, a few roots (beet? Turnips?) The green melons tend to take the lead, which is just fine. They come with some custard. Mouth: a fatter, better coated version of the Clan Denny, with more vanilla and indeed, more melons. Otherwise it’s rather grassy. Finish: medium, with a little green oak. Quite some green oak, in fact. Comments: still not quite a very sexy young Inchgower (are there very sexy young Inchgowers?) but we’re making good progress… SGP:361 - 78 points.

Inchgower 24 yo 1990/2015 (51.4%, Maltbarn, bourbon)

Inchgower 24 yo 1990/2015 (51.4%, Maltbarn, bourbon) Three stars Colour: white wine, interestingly pale. Nose: still not a rounded and well-polished one, despite it’s decent age. There are marshmallows and tart sweets and bonbons, but they’re coated with some distinct oak and some curious half-smoky green tea, rather unusual. Also the feeling of nosing an empty raw clay teapot. It’s all a tad narrow. With water: a little more fruits, cut grass after a shower… It really is a little unusual. Mouth (neat): really very unusual, in fact. Lemons and very green apples, some green oak, bay leaves, green liquorice, drops of absinthe… Well everything’s a little green here. With water: rhubarb. All is green indeed. Finish: long, tense and narrow. Earthy roots in the aftertaste. Comments: interesting and challenging, and rather un-Maltbarn. And green. Someone may have wanted to say something. SGP:361 - 80 points.

Inchgower 37 yo 1966/2003 (50.8%, Adelphi, sherry butt, cask #3616, 48 bottles)

Inchgower 37 yo 1966/2003 (50.8%, Adelphi, sherry butt, cask #3616, 48 bottles) Three stars A rare old bottle of old Inchgower, for the record only. Colour: gold. Nose: not a heavy sherry monster (I seem to recall Aldephi had some ultra-sherried Inchgowers), and rather a thick and heavy bourbonness. It’s not the first time we’re coming across a butt that’s very bourbony, but let’s remember most sherry casks were made out of American oak. So we have a lot of coconut, vanilla cake, maple syrup, toasted bread, and then sappy oils, eucalyptus, camphor… Nice almond paste, nice honeydew too. With water: more oaky oils. Terpene, menthol… Mouth (neat): super-rich, sweetly oaky, biting, almost taking your tongue hostage as some say. Some very heavy oak in action here, but the feeling isn’t unpleasant and, again, reminds me of some really old bourbons. Say, old Willett. With water: everything that used to leach out of the wood is there. So this is extremely oaky, but in a way the combo works. It’s a miracle that it didn’t get ultra-drying. Finish: long and rather bitter. Those things from the oak… Comments: a rather extreme one, as you may have guessed given that apparently, approx 40 litres was all what was remaining in the butt. For lovers of powerful sensations only. SGP:371 - 82 points.

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



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July 6, 2017


More whiskies without a face

With nods to Billy Idol and Georges Franju. You know them, undisclosed malts, blended ones, funny names, strange stories, brands… Did I just write ‘brands’? There are more and more of them, but as I said last time, many are very good.

Lismore 21 yo ‘The Legend’ (43%, Lismore, Speyside, single malt, +/-2016)

Lismore 21 yo ‘The Legend’ (43%, Lismore, Speyside, single malt, +/-2016) Three stars Some budget malt that’s got a good reputation. Not too sure about the ‘The Legend’ claim, though. This baby usually came with a year of bottling, but it seems that the bottlers have dropped that bit. Colour: gold. Nose: a bright fruitiness and, well, just a large fruit salad, with some light ‘breakfast-quality’ honey spread all over it. Red apples, fresh pineapples, maple syrup, vanilla. Classic and undisputable, I’d say. Mouth: a little more, say wobbly, less concise and fruity, with notes of ale and yeasty cake. Pear tarte, perhaps, dates, big raisins, sponge cake, malt... Finish: medium long, rather honeyed, with a few grassy elements and a certain Glenlivetness. Not saying this is Glenlivet, of course. Comments: average in the best sense of that word. Easily sippable, fresh, fruity, malty… Oh, the 12 yo was good too. SGP:541 - 80 points.

Chieftain’s Speyside 1997/2015 (57.6%, Ian MacLeod, for Taiwan, first fill sherry butt, cask #5242, 628 bottles)

Chieftain’s Speyside 1997/2015 (57.6%, Ian MacLeod, for Taiwan, first fill sherry butt, cask #5242, 628 bottles) Four stars My god all Scottish bottlers are very busy in Asia these days! Colour: red mahogany. Nose: cedar wood and cigars, then dried beef (jerky) and prunes and big black raisins. Whiffs of truffles and cocoa powder, Spanish ham, oranges… So far, so big, and so nice. The meatiness is a tad unusual. With water: walnut stain and burnt pine cones. A touch of sulphur, rather an asset here. Mouth (neat): rich, chestnutty, caramely, and very marmalade-y. Once again, some salted, rather meaty flavours, mole sauce, thick rancio… It’s got an air of Benrinnes, or perhaps Mortlach. Unless that’s Dailuaine or Pittyvaich. Well I doubt it’s Pittyvaich. With water: thick, orange-y, slightly chalky, with some pumpernickel and other ultra-rich wholegrain breads. Hoppla. Finish: long. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this much chestnut honey. Tannic chocolaty aftertaste. Comments: in general, you’d think these undisclosed babies are Glenf******es. And yet, this one is thicker. Mysterious… SGP:462 - 86 points.

Speyside 21 yo 1994/2015 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency, Vive la Vie, for China, sherry butt, cask #166956, 110 bottles)

Speyside 21 yo 1994/2015 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency, Vive la Vie, for China, sherry butt, cask #166956, 110 bottles) Four stars That’s right, a bottling for the People’s Republic of China. Love the country, been there many times. I know, who cares. Colour: deep gold. Nose: I have to say it’s got a little sulphur (used matches, gun) but that suits it well. Chestnuts and chocolate, walnuts, cigars, menthol, cured ham… I’m sure you know that song. With water: truffles and eggs coming out - that’s the sulphur speaking – which doesn’t bother me one little bit... Mouth (neat): very good, punchy, on bitter oranges and spicy honey sauce. Some pepper for sure, more cigars, chocolate… With water: gets even more chocolaty and ‘dark’. The sulphur keeps singing out. Still not bothered. Finish: long, dry and drying, on cigars and cocoa powder. Comments: totally mole. Where’s the chicken? SGP:361 - 86 points.

House Malt 25 yo 1990/2016 (54.2%, Wilson & Morgan, single Islay malt, sherry wood, cask #55)

House Malt 25 yo 1990/2016 (54.2%, Wilson & Morgan, single Islay malt, sherry wood, cask #55) Four stars Let’s see what this can be. Ardbeg? Joking. Colour: dark amber. Nose: no peat, and rather a Bunnahabhainy profile. Plenty of dry nuts (walnuts, macadamia), some oloroso with flying, err, walnuts, a vegetal earthiness, more leather than in Hollywood (you’ll have to explain that one S.) and roasted coffee and chocolate beans. It’s dark and it’s dry – and I enjoy this. With water: barbecued ham. And that’s not the neighbours. Mouth (neat): lo-ve-ly! It’s unusually spicy, with really a lot of caraway, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom seeds et al., and goes then towards total aniseed-ness. A rare development, not sure I’ve ever met this style in my humble tastings. With water: some lovely sour touches, raw primitivo (saying that because the distinguished bottlers are Italian), and, watch this, maraschino! (and he’s proud of that one…) Finish: long and totally chocolaty. Chocolate from Chocolate’s, as we used to say in the 2000s. Comments: you just ate 500g of ultra-raw black chocolate. Congrats. SGP:272 - 86 points.

Black Snake ‘VAT No.11 First Venom’ (59.5%, Blackadder, for Taiwan, oloroso, single malt, 433 bottles, 2016)

Black Snake ‘VAT No.11 First Venom’ (59.5%, Blackadder, for Taiwan, oloroso, single malt, 433 bottles, 2016) Two stars and a half A single malt but not a single cask. As for the name, I find it rather, well, snaking. But it’s the liquid that counts! Colour: gold. Nose: the power of small batches. Candle wax and dried apricots, green honey (fir, honeydew), leather and curry spices, and a rather nutmeggy oak. With water: heavily malted beer. Mouth (neat): oh, eaux-de-vie! Peppered kirsch, cumin spirit, speculoos, juniper berries, artisan oak-aged gin (who isn’t making gin these days, except the cleaning lady?) and just green curry powder. A little venomous indeed. With water:  always the oak’s spices leading the path. Not a total fan of this spicy style. Finish: long, dry, a bit bitter, biting. Green liquorice. Comments: another Black Adder quote for your enjoyment, ‘Give the likes of Baldrick the vote and we'll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning and dung for dinner...’ Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.. SGP:371 - 79 points.

See you tomorrow.

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



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July 5, 2017


Funny labels from Scotland

More vatted, undisclosed, un-named, bastard, or simply branded whiskies from Caledonia-up-there. Well, anything, as long as no one really knows about the distilleries… And we’ll kick this off with an old apéritif…

Highland Malt 5 yo ‘Manx Millennium Viking Voyage’ (70° proof, Cockburn & Co., 1979)

Highland Malt 5 yo ‘Manx Millennium Viking Voyage’ (70° proof, Cockburn & Co., 1979) Two stars A celebratory young whisky of unknown origins, most certainly (and hopefully) not ManX whisky! This with cheers to our friend and vlogger extraordinaire Ralfy. Colour: white wine. Nose: sour fruit juice, no? It’s relatively nice old-style ‘Highlands’ whisky, with gravel and soot, but these rotting fruits and these notes of baby p*k* don’t quite work. But other sides are nicer… Mouth: it’s rather kind of good, typical vanity bottling, dry, a tad gritty, with oddish notes of tinned pineapples and a little cardboardy oak. It’s totally and plainly drinkable, but I wouldn’t say it’s totally enjoyable. Now I’m sure Ragnar Lodrok would have enjoyed having it in the skull of one of his numerous enemies. Finish: short, drying, cardboardy. Comments: frankly, it’s not bad at all, it’s just a little disjointed and it’s lacking power and definition. But I’m really glad I could try it. SGP:341 - 72 points.

Timorous Beastie 18 yo (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2017)

Timorous Beastie 18 yo (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2017) Four stars Love love love the funny label (my cats love it too). This baby’s said to be a vatting of Blair Athol, Dalmore, and Glen Garioch. Which rather makes sense, doesn’t it. Colour: straw. Nose: malty, I’d say. That was the easy part, then I’m finding orchard fruits, apples and plums, then breads, then oatcakes, then crème brulée. We remain close to the barley and even to the ground, which is just fine. Mouth: really good, as good as a middle-aged ‘natural’ vatting of shy-ish malts can be. Bread, brioche, malt, more oats, sour apples, and touches of oranges. That may be Dalmore. The body’s good. Finish: medium, very malty, barleyish, and natural. Beer in the aftertaste. Comments: totally natural malt whisky, integrally malt-forward, with nothing in the way (peat, sherry, oak, wine, whatever). The 21 yo had more asperities, but that’s normal, this one’s only 18. Vive la nature! SGP:551 - 86 points.

While we’re having DL’s latest funny ones…

Scallywag 13 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2017)

Scallywag 13 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2017) Four stars My cats don’t like this one as much as they like the Beastie, I’m wondering why. According to the very good folks at LMDW, this baby contains Macallan and Mortach, which suggests a fatter style. What’s sure is that it’s 100% Speyside. Colour: gold. Nose: there’s a meaty/sulphury side to it, which, indeed, suggests Mortlach. Used matches, burnt walnuts, brown cake, tobacco, assorted roasted nuts, roasted raisins, artisan chocolate, dry oloroso… and back to walnuts. Mouth: excellent. Who’s doing the blending at DL’s? This has power, its got loads of gingerbread, Christstolle, anis Bredele, dried bananas.. It’s actually very christmassy, in truth I would have launched this very fine baby nearer to Christmas. But agreed, not my business… Finish: long, flinty, sherried, nutty. Comments: seriously, there’s an A’bunadh-y side to this baby. The blender’s a very skilful blender, no doubt about that. So, who is he or she? SGP:461 - 86 points.

Rock Oyster 18 yo (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2017)

Rock Oyster 18 yo (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2017) Four stars and a half Totally love it that DL would have understood that age statements were very important. Kudos! This baby harbours whiskies from Arran, Orkney, and Jura. So, which one on Orkney? ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: oh get out of here, success again. They captured the Atlantic (what what what?) and anything that comes with it, seaweed, burning floated wood (right, beach bonfire), hessian, old tarry ropes, samphires… There are hints of cough syrup as well, some menthol for sure, and yeah, sea breeze. Fantastic nose, so who’s the blender? Mouth: peat! Lemon! Brine! Seaweed! And green apples, sauvignon blanc, soot, coal ashes… Between us, it’s not quite possible that there wouldn’t be any Islayer inside. Really, only Arran, Orkney and Jura? Extremely good. Finish: long, on smoked herbs and green pepper, with a lemony signature. Comments: didn’t quite find the oysters. False advertising, this is a scandal! The whisky’s quite brilliant, though. So, who’s doing the blending? SGP:466 - 89 points.

Oh we’ve had some great ones, so that’s enough for today, see you tomorrow.

(With thanks to Matthew)

More tasting notes Check the index of all blended or undislcosed malts I've tasted so far



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July 4, 2017


The mandatory two new Ardbeg

Every month a new Ardbeg session on Whiskyfun, do we have a deal? You'll see that apparently, not all is lost...

Ardbeg 26 yo (49.7%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, bourbon cask, 209 bottles, 2017)

Ardbeg 26 yo (49.7%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, bourbon cask, 209 bottles, 2017) Five stars We’ve already tried the Port Ellen and the Caol Ila in this new series, and both were fantastic. This is very early 1990s Ardbeg, I wager, but there’s no vintage statement that I can find. Early 1990s are hit or miss vintages, as old Ardbeg aficionados tend to say… Colour: gold. Nose: there’s some sucrosity in this nose, preserved fruits, icing sugar, a touch of fresh plaster, some vanilla, and even a wee touch of pineapple. In short, this is not a wham-bam-peaty Ardbeg, it’s rather mellow and soft. So far. Purifier on, I guess (oh forget). Mouth: peated Haribos! Ashes and pineapple jelly, three black olives, two oysters, and more and more brine. Sweetened brine. There’s a little rubbery liquorice as well, a feeling of coal tar, and the usual lemons. As drops. I’m finding this very good, it’s quite complex, and it’s probably the best you can do outside the early-to-mid 1970s vintages. Now is it worth the higher than high prices? To be discussed… Finish: very long, always with these fruity drops, and always quite ashy. Barbecued marshmallows. A few aromatic herbs in the aftertaste, verbena, also green olives… I adore green olives, I could eat only green olives. Comments: so, was the purifier on or shunt? Yes that’s a seminal question! What’s sure is that this baby’s one of the fruitiest (in a good way) recent Ardbegs. Not that I’ve tried all of them, mind you. SGP:656 - 91 points.

Next, probably Laphroaig Kinship, I’ve heard many very good things about that one… Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Ardbeg 23 yo 1993/2017 (52.4%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary Tasting Session, bourbon hogshead)Ardbeg 23 yo 1993/2017 (52.4%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary Tasting Session, bourbon hogshead)

Ardbeg 23 yo 1993/2017 (52.4%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary Tasting Session, bourbon hogshead) Five stars Don’t look for this one, its was only available at Cadenhead’s Anniversary Tasting in Campbeltown earlier in May – or was it June. Colour: straw. Nose: this one’s much less fruity, and much more garage-y. In fact, it’s completely different. Fats and greases and oils, crushed almonds, Barbour grease, fish oil, hessian, sea spray, brake fluid, ink, seaweed. You see… With water: so very totally Ardbeggian! A feeling that I haven’t, well, felt for ages. Marzipan and diesel oil, lemon oil, whelks, carbolinium, creosote… Mouth (neat): powah! Mezcal, brine, lemon juice, ashes, petrol, pipe tar, bitter almonds, smoked oysters, gherkins… In short, this one was heavenly chiselled. The opposite of the (yet superb) Kinship, and certainly a feeling of the good old 1970s. With water: I think there was a problem with the stencil guy, this is 1973, not 1993. He may have been in love, or he had just listened to Garry Glitter’s latest 45rpm, or, yeah, he had just quaffed half a litre of new make, who knows… Finish: long, and in pure Ardbgeness. Amazing grassy smoke. Comments: perhaps was it rather Suzy Quattro’s latest single?… What’s sure is that this is one of my favourite 1973s. Stunning and invigorating. PS: was Iain Henderson doing the stencilling of the casks himself? SGP:368 - 94 points.

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



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July 3, 2017


More fun with Tomatin

Always a thrill to taste Tomatin, a malt that’s never too difficult, always pleasant, and sometimes just brilliant. That’s why we taste quite a lot of Tomatin at WF Towers…

Tomatin 18 yo (46%, OB, oloroso sherry casks, +/-2016)

Tomatin 18 yo (46%, OB, oloroso sherry casks, +/-2016) Four stars We last tried the 18 in 2009 (WF 85), this one comes in the new, fairly premiumised livery. Colour: gold. Nose: there sure is a little sherry (raisins and leather) but Tomatin’s emblematic fruitiness is well there, with ripe gooseberries, red apples, some nectar, and touches of mead. Hints of ale as well, malt, Belgian Kriek beer (cherries)… All is well in this nose. Mouth: solid arrival, a tad leathery again, with a little tobacco, then blood oranges, then rather dried figs and black raisins. A very nice honeyness coats the whole. Finish: medium, with a few acidic fruits (rhubarb, goosberries) that are cleansing your palate. A little burnt cake in the aftertaste. Comments: really very very good. It’s an easy dram, but it certainly isn’t simple. One could drink a lot of this. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Tomatin 38 yo 1976/2015 (46.7%, OB, oloroso sherry butt, decanter, cask #30132, 680 bottles)

Tomatin 38 yo 1976/2015 (46.7%, OB, oloroso sherry butt, decanter, cask #30132, 680 bottles) Four stars and a half1976, what could go wrong? In theory, those years were more ‘tropical’ as far as fruitiness and Tomatin were concerned, let’s see. Colour: gold. Nose: you could think it’s a Benriach 1976. A perfect  ueberfruity start, full of bananas and pineapples, as well as the anticipated mangos and passion fruits. Behind that, notes of peaches that remind us of some fresh old Cognacs, and the subtlest honeyed development. Many different honeys, actually. The sherry doesn’t show any sign of life, much better like that in this kind of case. If you ask me. Mouth: there is a little gritty oak (cocoa) but other than that, this is a maelstrom of pineapples, mangos, guavas, pomegranates, prickly pears, and more bananas. It’s very demonstrative, very sexy, and almost a little in-your-face. Lovable anyway, we’ve just had some subtler old Tomatins. Finish: medium, very banana-y. Some mead in the aftertaste, which was already to be found in the 18. Pepper in the aftertaste, that’s the oak. Comments: brilliant, almost 90-material in my book. It’s just a little, yeah, in-your-face. SGP:751 - 89 points.

Good, those were newish bottlings, let’s try to find some wee antiques… Perhaps another, younger 1976?

Tomatin 19 yo 1976/1996 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Tomatin 19 yo 1976/1996 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Five stars There used to be some brilliant rocket fuel in this ‘small cream label’ series… St Magdalene or Port Ellen 10/11/12 yo anyone? Colour: white wine. Nose: shall we say uebercitric? Crushed limestone diluted in lemon juice, plus touches of fresh leaven and porridge. After all, this is some cereal-based drink. With water: no changes. Or perhaps a little more menthol, but that’s not mental (what?) Mouth (neat): brilliant! Strong lemon liqueur, more chalk, touches of pineapple just like in the 38 yo, and some fennel and dill. Wonderfully zesty and ‘nervous’, but don’t expect much passion fruit or mango. With water: loves water. Perfect sauvignony development, white peaches, gooseberries, greengages, lemon… And chalk. Pouilly-Fumé made in Scotland. Finish: long and, this time rather more tropical. Banana liqueur and guavas, but without any dull sweetness. Comments: almost exceptional. Gotta love these x-fill casks that let the spirit do the talking. SGP:661 - 90 points.

Good, let’s have one that was bottled, not distilled, in 1976.

Tomatin 12 yo 1964 (99° UK proof, OB, first millionth gallon, cask #8552, 26 2/3 fl.oz., +/-1976)

Tomatin 12 yo 1964 (99° UK proof, OB, first millionth gallon, cask #8552, 26 2/3 fl.oz., +/-1976) Three stars An extremely rare official single cask of Tomatin, bottled to celebrate the first millionth gallon produced by a single distillery in one season. Ask Roseisle or Ailsa Bay what they think… BTW, 99 proof means 56.5%. Why they didn’t go to 100 proof, I don’t know. Colour: gold. Nose: different, very different. Starts with clear notes of bicycle inner tube and new scuba diving suit (so yeah, rubber, or perhaps even cork) and rather goes on with mead, sweet ale, and peanut cake. In truth there is something sulphury, but nothing rotten or eggy. With water: wait wait wait… cinnamon cake? Artichokes? It’s still rather rubbery, but that’s a different kind of rubber. Mouth (neat): really unusual. Coconut and pineapple at first, rum, touches of late harvest gewurz (litchis, roses), then even more coconut (balls) and touches of Timut pepper. Perhaps even wild strawberries. With water: there’s a wee meatiness ala old Mortlach, not often to be found at Tomatin’s. Seville oranges as well. Finish: long, rather on, well, rubbery oranges. Comments: right, this one’s very ‘different’, whatever that means. Say singular. Far from perfect in my book, but it’s got its charms, and mind you, one million LPAs in one single season. Remember, it was 1976. SGP:362 - 80 points.

(Thank you Phil and Simon von Dornoch)

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



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July 2, 2017


Davantage d’Armagnac !

We’ll try to go deeper into sub-regions today, Ténarèze, Bas-Armagnac and so on…

Laberdolive 12 yo ‘Terre-Bouc’ (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2016)

Laberdolive 12 yo ‘Terre-Bouc’ (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2016) Four stars From a well reputed house, and said to be hundred percent folle blanche. Most probably own-estate Armagnac, and from some very hard and compact clayey soil called ‘terre bouc’ (literally, he-goat earth). Terre-Bouc is not a location or a vineyard. Colour: dark gold. Nose: it’s rather rustic, in a very nice way, with notes of baked raisins and mineral/smoked caramel. Goes on with some brioche, linden flowers, orange blossom honey, and dried figs. All very fine! Mouth: really very good. 40% vol. isn’t much, but the spirit’s fat and big, really, with some kind of marmalade plus caramel sauce at first, then those figs, dried sliced bananas, some toasted bread, and more grassy elements in the back. Apple peel, green leaves… Finish: pretty long, appropriately rough and, yeah, rustic, with some orange zests in the aftertaste. Comments: some big young Armagnac, rather ‘black’ (as opposed to the floral and fruity ‘white’ ones – no, nothing to do with the spirits’ colours). SGP:561 - 85 points.

Domaine Lous Pibous 1994/2016 (53.7%, L'Encantada, Bas-Armagnac)

Domaine Lous Pibous 1994/2016 (53.7%, L'Encantada, Bas-Armagnac) Four stars L’Encantada are those very skilled independent Armagnac bottlers from the lovely little town of Vic-Fezensac in Gers. It is to be said that I’ve pretty much enjoyed all their previous bottlings, including those from Lous Pibous. Colour: rich amber. Nose: earthy caramel, coffee, botrytis (not from the grapes, no worries, I should have said ‘a feeling of botrytis’), peach jam and cake, wee rooty notes (gentian), caramelised pecans… This is pretty perfect. With water: incense, a touch of curry, and cedar wood. The cask speaking out. Mouth (neat): very warming and very spicy. Big oak extracts (cumin, cloves, menthol) and black raisins behind that. A lot of pipe tobacco too, caraway liqueur… Now these very extractive profiles don’t always swim well, let’s see… With water: we’re fine, battalions of oranges are saving the day. Phew. Finish: long and spicy. Chartreuse! Comments: absolutely excellent, it’s just that I enjoyed the younger and fresher Lous Pibous 2004 rather better last year. SGP:471 - 86 points.

Domaine de Charron 1989/2016 (46.8%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Domaine de Charron 1989/2016 (46.8%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Four stars and a half Another small estate house from the Landes that I enjoy a lot. This is 100% baco this time. Colour: amber. Nose: starts with wee touches of cellulosic varnish, and goes on with superb notes of precious green tea, fern and moss, banana skin, mint-flavoured tea, a little fresh butter, and a handful of mushrooms. A truly superb nose in this well-aged Armagnac that could teach a thing or two to many a single malt of similar age. Mouth: rougher than expected, a tad spirity and, yet again, varnishy at first sipping, but the peach/banana combo just unfolds and leads to orange marmalade, black pepper, and the traditional prunes. Finish: long, with more oak, so not too far from the Lous Pibous at this point. But it remains a little brighter. Peppery liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: terrific Armagnac of perfect age. Oh and always loved the zebra on the label. SGP:561 - 88 points.

Older ones please…

Darroze 54 yo 1962/2016 ‘Château de Gaube’ (43%, Darroze, Unique Collection, Bas-Armagnac)

Darroze 54 yo 1962/2016 ‘Château de Gaube’ (43%, Darroze, Unique Collection, Bas-Armagnac) Four stars and a half This is baco from a small estate in Perquie, in the Landes, where they use traditional column stills (but contrarily to very high and sometimes multiple columns that are used in other parts of the world and that produce 90 or 95% vol. quasi-neutral alcohol, these Armagnac stills usually don’t go over 55 to 58% vol. In this very case, that’s only 52% vol.) Colour: gold. This one hasn’t seen new oak for long, and was probably stored in large casks – which is better, as they’re also finding out in the wine world these days – yes digressing again.) Nose: very fresh, rather light, with notes of broom, a little old copper, then quince jelly on a small brioche, thyme honey, ripe pomegranate, and lastly, more blond tobacco and the smallest bit of leather. It is the freshness that’s very impressive here, this is time-driven, not wood-driven spirit. Mouth: rather delicate indeed, with an oak that was totally controlled, many herbal teas, rather dry fruits (apricots and quinces), some kind of plum-flavoured pipe tobacco (they do that with cherries, I guess you can do the same with plums!) and only the faintest amounts of oak oils and spices. Miraculous. Finish: medium, very fresh, rather more tertiary. Overripe apples, and Chinese spices and liqueurs. Comments: this at 50%! SGP:651 - 89 points.

Down one year please, and we’re done… Oh and please make it a Ténarèze!

Domaine d’Aurensan 1961 (41.7%, OB, Armagnac, Ténarèze, cask #64, 150 litres, +/-2016?)

Domaine d’Aurensan 1961 (41.7%, OB, Armagnac, Ténarèze, cask #64, 150 litres, +/-2016?) Four stars and a half Cask strength Ténérèze from a small estate (5ha) where they grow various grape varieties. Ténarèze is sometimes said to the fiercest of the three main regions, but just between us, I don’t think I could easily recognise them when trying them blind. Colour: brown amber. Nose: this one’s much more on chocolate, prunes, coffee, and even toffee, and should this be whisky, it would be a Glendronach or something. Crystallised oranges, black raisins (Smyrna), black Russian tea, more chocolate… Mouth: really rich, with more of those big black raisins, more prunes, black honey, some rancio, and even an oloroso-like character. Beyond this rather massive front, we’ve got many tiny herbs and spices, cloves, chicory, caraway, poppy seeds… This is really perfect. Finish: long, unexpectedly fresh and well-balanced (the maker’s art), rather on oranges, but with walnuts and cigars in the aftertaste. Comments: the Darroze was subtler and lighter, this one’s more potent, and ‘darker’. In my book, they are of very equivalent qualities. SGP:652 - 89 points.

Very happy about this little session. Drink old Armagnacs, they’ll make you speak French! Allez, à la prochaine…

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



Block Today: FRENCH JAZZ with your Armagnac. Performer: Charlier-Sourisse. Track: Improbable Afrobeat. Please visit their website and buy their music...

July 1, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
A brace of Balvenie
I cannot deny, I like Balvenie. I've noticed that quite of a few of the 1960s/70s examples I've tasted showed extremely well at younger ages (anything from 8 - 15 years) as well as maturing well to more stately ages. Not something that you can say about just any distillery. Lets try a couple of older, more obscure ones today. Sadly I don't have any more recent bottlings to hand to compare just now. I know, shame on me!


Balvenie 20 yo 1972 (46%, First Cask by Direct Wines, Cask #14734) Balvenie 20 yo 1972 (46%, First Cask by Direct Wines, Cask #14734, +/-1992) Direct Wines stock came from Signatory and this was one of the very first bottlings in this often overlooked series. Colour: Oaked chardonnay. Nose: A cornucopia of pollens, wildflowers, resins, fresh honeycomb and beeswax. Just the most beautiful nose that only time and simple wood can create. This feels like one of those whiskies that was just caught in the apex of its maturity. Goes on with greengages, gooseberry, mint julep, a little hessian and notes of aged muscat. A nose that positively 'glows' with freshness and complexity. Perhaps some candles scented with various spices, vanilla pods and a slightly olive oil grassiness. Mouth: More layered and textured notes of honey and a touch of wood spice on arrival. More pollen, lilies, orange rind, cocoa power, buttered white toast. There's a resinous streak as well with assorted cocktail bitters and cinnamon bark, then some light natural vanilla. Gets more fruity and herbal in time with notes of dried rosemary and ripe banana, citrus and wee lick of strawberry. Finish: Long. Full of subtle notes of sap, wax, honey, various green and occasionally tropical fruits and a little brown sugar stickiness. Some cloves as well perhaps. Glorious though! Comments: A great old bottle that has become quite scarce but is worth trying if you get the chance. Beautiful, complex and seductive whisky! SGP: 541 - 92 points.  


Balvenie 1976/1987 (60.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #40.1)

Balvenie 1976/1987 (60.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #40.1) No need to say this is a very early and pretty scarce SMWS bottling of Balvenie, a whisky they haven't bottled since - unless I'm mistaken - 1995. Anyway, quite excited for this one... Colour: White wine. Nose: It's strong and not a little closed at first nosing. However, you do feel a sense of common identity with the 1972. There is some pollen and green fruits and honey, but it is all wrapped up in a bigger waxiness and a more muscular and austere minerality. More slightly fermented notes of hay, sourdough and various cereals and fresh butter. Perhaps a little lemon rind with freshly chopped chives and ground white pepper. Quite a demanding nose this one. Lets bring out our stalwart pal - water:  becomes beautifully waxy and almost Clynelishesque with water. More cereals, more oils, more herbs, more farmyard notes. Citrus, orange blossom, perhaps even a few medical tinctures in the background. Quite a lovely development with water. Mouth: See, this is what I mean, these old younger Balvenies could be quite 'highland' in character. This one is much fatter, oilier and waxier with much more pronounced minerality. Some buttery notes as well along with touches of sage, blossom, saltiness and lemon oil. This is a big, muscular and potent dram. Again, water is probably needed... With water: interestingly the texture becomes almost wider, fatter and more salty with water. This could really be some sort of bastard Clynelish! White fruits, minerals, pebbles and again a tiny touch of something medical or peaty. Finish: Lengthy, fat, plenty of olive oil, grass, dried herbs and lemon rind. A tiny touch of fresh brown bread and some toasted sunflower seeds. Comments: Old Balvenie is terrible and you should definitely never buy it. That is all! SGP: 463 - 91 points.




Whiskyfun fav of the month

June 2017

Favourite recent bottling:
Port Ellen 34 yo 1982/2017 (61.7%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, bourbon cask, 545 bottles) - WF 94

Favourite older bottling:
Port Ellen 21 yo 1976/1998 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #57 (60.7%, OB, 2016) - WF 88

Favourite malternative:
Port Mourant 10 yo 2005/2016 (55%, Cave Guildive, Guyana) - WF 90

June 2017 - part 2 <--- July 2017 - part 1 ---> July 2017 - part 2



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ardbeg 26 yo (49.7%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, bourbon cask, 209 bottles, 2017)

Ardbeg 23 yo 1993/2017 (52.4%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary Tasting Session, bourbon hogshead)

Banff 40 yo 1976/2017 (51.2%, Cadenhead, 175th Anniversary, hogshead, 192 bottles)

Highland Park 12 yo (80° proof, W. Cadenhead, early 1960s)

Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1983 (46%, R.W. Duthie for Broadwell Vintners ltd.)

Highland Park 1992/2016 (51.4%, Sansibar, S Spirit Shop, Chinese Mask, bourbon, 263 bottles)

Tomatin 19 yo 1976/1996 (55.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Distillerie Charpentier 30 yo (55.3%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 252 bottles, 2017)

Grande Champagne ‘Lot N°18.48’ (40.8%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, Cognac, 72 bottles)