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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2019 - Part 1


June 2019 - part 2 <--- July 2019 - part 1 ---> July 2019 - part 2



July 12, 2019


Three Oban including that Gothic one

There aren’t many occasions to taste Oban, especially not new ones. The indies, including Cadenhead, haven’t released any since ages, while the owners only do the occasional Special Release and some Distillers Editions from time to time. And that NAS, what is it again, Cloudy Bay? Ah, no, Little Bay. And there was that Gothic Game of Thrones Edition. But first, an older 14 as the aperitif…

Oban 14 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2005)

Oban 14 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2005) Two stars and a half
Shall we find marmalade and leather, with that trademark wee saltiness?... Colour: gold. Nose: certainly more coastal than I remembered, more on dried kelp, paraffin, some kind of grassy polish, and a lot of raw wax and plasticine, almost bordering soap at times. There’s also something metallic, old copper kettle, grandma’s old silver cutlery, as well as chestnut burr, autumn leaves… It’s really dry. Mouth: salty indeed, dry, with quite a lot leather and tobacco, as well as even more paraffin. Oban’s a pretty touristy distillery, but the whisky isn’t, that’s for sure. Notes of both old and fresh walnuts. I think recent releases were in a higher league, I really enjoyed Oban 14 last time I tried it, in 2016 (WF 88), but this one from ten years before was more difficult, I think. Finish: rather long, a little too sooty and metallic. Almost no fruits. Comments: a rather austere Oban 14, with this peculiar soapiness that one won’t find in any newer bottling, as it appears. Whisky wasn’t always better before.
SGP:362 - 79 points.

Oban 2001/2016 'Distiller's Edition' (43%, OB, Montilla fino finish, batch OD 165.FB)

Oban 2001/2016 'Distiller's Edition' (43%, OB, Montilla fino finish, batch OD 165.FB) Four stars
 Fino’s very dry, so let’s see if that made this little Oban extra-dry! Many websites advertise it as a ‘sherry finish’ but it was Montilla, not Jerez. But it’s true that those appellations are very close… By the way, I thought the 1999 was very good (WF 86). Colour: gold. Nose: indeed it really works. Really a lot of walnuts, which I love, old books, some oranges at the fruit department, leafy teas, dried kelp, a touch of cigar smoke, a pile of old magazines, dried pears… It all works in synch, very nice. Mouth: Oban DE really isn’t too different from the regular 14, it’s just saltier, tenser, with a little mustard, bags of walnuts, coffee beans, and some very dry ale. All things that I rather enjoy. Finish: rather long, dry, pretty ashy. Cardboardy in a good way. Drops of brine in the aftertaste. Comments: I’ll keep it at a solid 86. Also, I like it that they did not push the oak.
SGP:362 - 86 points.

And now, a bloodbath. I mean, the GOT Edition…           

Oban Bay Reserve ‘Game Of Thrones The Night’s Watch’ (43%, OB, 2018)

Oban Bay Reserve ‘Game Of Thrones The Night’s Watch’ (43%, OB, 2018) Four stars
Game Of Thrones, remember? This one’s NAS, just like Little Bay. Colour: dark gold. Nose: it is more modern, with more oak, ginger, and nutmeg, but I wouldn’t call it ‘pencil-shaving-y’. Whiffs of tapioca, but also marmalade, tangerine skin, caraway and cloves, even juniper, then more ripe pears and apples, as well as plums and muscovado sugar. It’s all well-composed, you can feel a good blender’s been working on this. Mouth: a good surprise, this is relatively fat and creamy, yet salty, with some iodine, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon, plus the usual marmalade. Bitter oranges. Tends to become a little drying, having said that, quite tannic, as some over-infused black tea. Not a bad feeling. Finish: medium, with more bread dough, more natural malt, these ashes and this smoke (cigarettes), as well as this seaweed. Comments: they could have used those fino casks here too, this one being just a tad sweeter. I don’t think it deserved those jeers from the whisky ‘community’.
SGP:462 - 85 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Oban we've tasted so far


July 10, 2019


Knock knock, who’s there?
A few undisclosed malts, either blended or single. Session three.

Today, some peaters!

The Ileach (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, +/-2018)

The Ileach (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, +/-2018) Four stars
The Vintage Malt Whisky Company have been famous for their Lagavulins, many bottled undercover. A matter of old contracts, you see, but we should beware of hurried generalizations… Now when I last tried The Ileach, back in 2006, I had thought it was pretty good (WF 82). It is a single malt from Islay, and I have to say the shape of the bottle is rather Diageoan these days. Colour: gold. Nose: wonderful, on hay, herbal tea and peat at first, then soft brine and whiffs of moss and fresh mushrooms plus a little cigarette tobacco (Camel) and marzipan. It’s globally pretty delicate and complex, and it seems that the low strength works very well here. Mouth: excellent, mildly sherried (small raisins, walnut liqueur, dried figs) with quite a lot of heather honey too, some salty and mentholy liquorice, and really, notes of Lagavulin 16. Which does not obligatorily mean that it is Lagavulin, naturally. And certainly not 16 years old. Finish: medium, even more mentholy and more on herbal teas. A very salty aftertaste and touches of tar. Comments: haven’t they improved something here? A very excellent Islayer, certainly worth the 30 to 35€ it’ll cost you. BFYB!
SGP:457 - 87 points.

Flaming Feast (46%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, batch 2018/04, 6000 bottles, 2019)

Flaming Feast (46%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, batch 2018/04, 6000 bottles, 2019) Four stars
A blend of two smoky malts, one from the Eastern Highlands (what could that be? Some smokier Clynelish?) and one from the Inner Hebrides. Colour: white wine. Nose: well, did they hire John Glaser? It really is a mildly smoky, pretty mineral and waxy malt, with some coating vanilla and quite a lot of heather honey, as well as three or four sultanas (per bottle). Imagine you would have told me this was a single malt, I would have said Highland Park. Mouth: really good, very well composed, smoky but relatively soft and honeyed again, with a rather leafy waxiness and a few pickled fruits. There’s also a growing saltiness in there. Finish: rather long, smokier, waxier, with touches of propolis beyond the honey (Calluna). Comments: really, a smokier Highland Park or something, but comparison is not always reason. A very good blended malt by Wemyss once again.
SGP:554 - 85 points.

While we’re here…

Peat Chimney ‘Batch Strength’ (57%, Wemyss Malts, batch #2, 9000 bottles, +/-2019)

Peat Chimney ‘Batch Strength’ (57%, Wemyss Malts, batch #2, 9000 bottles, +/-2019) Four stars
I had thought batch #1 was a littler sweet, yet really good (WF 82). Colour: white wine. Nose: there’s a lot of vanilla, as if they had used quite some recharred or rejuvenated American oak here. On the other hand, that’s a perfect receptacle for all the iodine and seawater mixed with some mercurochrome that’s coming out, all that with a strong feeling of Laphroaig, although some lighter and fruitier Caol-Ilaian notes to emerge too. Apples. With water: damp fabric and a little plastic and soap, which is perfectly normal. Islay pastures and smoked oatcakes. Mouth (neat): perfectly Islayan, very smoky and peppery, with some limoncello (sweet oak vanilla plus lemon) and a fat creaminess that really reminds me of Laphroaig Cask Strength. With water: much saltier. We’re almost drinking seawater, mind you. Finish: long, drier, salty. A feeling of smoky margarita. Comments: they seem to have improved the recipe, which was the case with The Hive too, I think. Kudos!
SGP:557 - 86 points.

Scarabus (46%, Hunter Laing, Islay Single Malt, 2019)

Scarabus (46%, Hunter Laing, Islay Single Malt, 2019) Three stars and a half
Another new undisclosed NAS with a dapper neo-Victorian design, this time by Hunter Laing. If I remember well, Scarabus was an old distillery on Islay that was closed over two centuries ago, but it seems that no one knows where it was located. Today there is a Scarabus farm that’s located north-east of Bridgend. If they’re referring to that place, the nearest working distillery is clearly Bowmore, but if Scarabus Distillery was located further east, that is to say closer to Finlaggan, that would rather be Caol Ila, which is very close to Hunter Laing’s new Ardnahoe Distillery. All this is very mysterious… Colour: gold. Nose: soft, creamy, light, with quite a lot of vanilla, pencil shavings, peach syrup, some caraway and ginger, marzipan, and rather not a lot of coastal notes. Some pretty active oak should have been in use here. Mouth: some unusual wood may rather have been in use here, actually, such as ex-rum casks. No? What’s sure is that it’s not extremely ‘Islayan’, rather softer, with esters that in my meagre experience, you would seldom find in malt whisky. It’s really different, and rather intriguing. I do like it, but I believe it would have more knack at a much higher strength such as 55% vol., without becoming a scary Scarabus (very well done, S.!) Finish: rather long, creamy, and unusually sweet and fruity. Bananas? Comments: a new flavour, I guess we’ll need a little time to get accustomed to it, but it sure works. PS: I may well be dreaming with regard to this rum thing…
SGP:645 - 83 points.

Sound of Islay 2008/2018 (59.6%, The Taste of Whisky, bourbon)

Sound of Islay 2008/2018 (59.6%, The Taste of Whisky, bourbon) Four stars and a half
This new one by some friendly new wee Polish bottlers is said to be Caol Ila. Because the sound of Islay is not “gulp!”, mind you (although…), it’s the name of the sea inlet that separates Jura from Islay. But of course, you knew that… Colour: white wine. Nose: pristine, dry, ashy, with litres of lime juice and seawater, creosote, charcoal, soot, and fresh almonds. With water: gets kilny. An old tweed jacket forgotten in a kiln, plus some new wellies and a little tarry rubber. Right, wellies. Mouth (neat): sharp, precise, it would cut you into halves. Smoked lemon juice, seawater, gherkin brine, even green olives. It’s not the first time that I’m noticing that Caol Ila’s distillate got pretty sharper and peatier in recent years. Am I not right? With water: and saltier yet! Seawater, oysters, kelp, lemon… Only the langoustines are missing. Finish: long, on pretty much the same flavours. A lot of brine in the aftertaste. Comments: I really think they upped their game at Caol Ila. Forget about the ‘gentle peater’ from the old days.
SGP:467 - 88 points.

Callisto VII 2011/2019 ‘95° P.7.1’ 1846.4”’ (60.1%, Scotch Universe, first fill ruby Port wine barrique)

Callisto VII 2011/2019 ‘95° P.7.1’ 1846.4”’ (60.1%, Scotch Universe, first fill ruby Port wine barrique) Three stars
Ouch! Is there really a thing such as ‘a ruby Port wine barrique’? Do ruby Ports ever see any oak? But who cares, Port and peat usually create tricky animals anyway. Oh and this is Caol Ila – or what’s left of it ;-). Colour: tomato and cognac. Serious. Nose: oh well, it doesn’t bite, but it’s a little indefinite. Peonies and soot, cassis, sour peaches and apples, pink pepper… On the other hand, it’s much less dissonant than I had thought (well, feared). With water (with caution): pipe tobacco, lots of it. Borkum Riff’s Cherry Cavendish. Mouth (neat): smoky syrups! Strawberries, cassis, cherries… What’s really very cool is that that barrique wasn’t too active, and that may have saved it and prevented it from getting way too sour and spicy. He or she who hasn’t tasted those infamous ‘Portified’ Port Ellens from twenty years ago cannot quite understand what I’m meaning here. They used to be lethal! Some Laphroaigs too, but this little Caol Ila isn’t, despite the ‘tomato sauce’ colour. With water: we’re safe, hurray! Cherry liqueur, snuff and charcoal. Finish: long, big, on red berries, bell pepper and a caraway-y smokiness. Comments: really not just a LOL whisky. A bit trans, but vive la difference!
SGP:656 - 82 points.

A last one, perhaps…

Stoisha 4 yo 2014/2019 (60.3%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, hogshead, cask #10590, 290 bottles)

Stoisha 4 yo 2014/2019 (60.3%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, hogshead, cask #10590, 290 bottles) Four stars
Welcome to the new whisky world! Some ultra-young malt aged in some hyper-active decharred-recharred wood, at least they would tell us about all that, and not just do a sneaky NAS with a fancy name, a hipster-made design, and an unlikely story straight from Wikipedia, like almost everyone else is doing. There. Oh and this is peated Bunnahabhain. Colour: gold. Nose: akin to those supercharged official NAS Laphroaigs, that is to say clean, rounded, full of vanilla and orange syrup, sweetly spicy and mildly medicinal beyond that. With water: vanillin, syrups, custard, a pack of smoked almonds. Mouth (neat): of course it’s good. Hate it that I like it. Limoncello, manzana, camphory smoke, lapsang souchong, white pepper, some nutmeg, a drop of yellow Chartreuse. With water: same. These modern whiskies usually don’t change much with reduction. Finish: rather long, on smoky marmalade and more custard. Comments: a bit ‘lab’ but very good, not whore-ish, now we’ve seen vodkas and gins that were older. No, really, very good, let’s remain honest. But f***k the f***k, four years old!
SGP:556 - 86 points.

July 9, 2019


Knock knock, who’s there?
A few undisclosed malts, either blended or single. Session two.

Cause we had more of those bastards.

Elderly Elvis Tilting (WHAT?) 25 yo (51.2%, Dramfool, Spirit of Speyside 2019, bourbon, 109 bottles)

Elderly Elvis Tilting (WHAT?) 25 yo (51.2%, Dramfool, Spirit of Speyside 2019, bourbon, 109 bottles) Four stars and a half
Sure I can take a joke. I suppose the name’s an anagram? It’s neither Macallan nor Ardbeg then… Or something by Jim McEwan, as he sure is an ‘Elderly Elvis’ (no offence, Jim). Colour: pale gold. Nose: barley fields, vanilla, sugar eggs, Golden Grahams, liquorice allsorts, candyfloss,  marshmallows, all that. With water: love this softer rectitude! Mouth (neat): the 25 years do not feel, but those are the wonders of a lazy cask that let the distillate unfold. Wonderful notes of pink grapefruits, mead, and un-oaked cool-climate chardonnay. But do cool climates still exist? Anchorage? Nuuk? With water: perfect, minimal and yet very fulfilling, with simply more barley goodness. Finish: long, fruitier. A touch of mango. Comments: not quite complex enough to fetch 90 within the WF scale, but we’re pretty close. By the way, forget about water, it does not need any.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Granville 22 yo 1996/2019 (51.9%, Maltbarn, sherry cask, 177 bottles)

Granville 22 yo 1996/2019 (51.9%, Maltbarn, sherry cask, 177 bottles) Four stars
Well, some say this is Clynelish, which would suggest the owners may start to try to control the brand name. Listen, if the indies cannot call their Clynelishes Clynelish anymore, I turn to gin! Oh the utter horror, sweet Vishnu, what have I just written?! Now Granville is also the name of a wee town in Normandy, but they haven’t got any distillery, so I suppose we could remove that option as a possibility. Colour: full gold. Nose: hey hey, this is no ‘obvious’ Clynelish, but it’s to be said that the dry sherry’s big enough to offset a large part of any distillery character. Yep, even Clynelish’s. Cigars, hay, biofuel, and there, beeswax, more cigars, miso, steamed Chinese dumplings, soy sauce… Well the Clynelish part isn’t obvious, but at least there is no clash. Because Clynelish and sherry often clash. With water: lovely but frankly and to be honest, Clynelish is hard to recognise. And yet I know this is Clynelish, since the very engaging bottler told me so! Mouth (neat): very good, and rather more Clynelish than on the nose, although things remain not exactly obvious. Dry sherry, walnuts, white pepper, ginger… With water: yeah, there, more marmalade-y waxes, ginger liqueur, Turkish raki… Finish: long, spicy, and even more ‘Turkish’, whatever that means. Comments: it was probably a lighter kind of, Clynelish. Of course this couldn’t have been Auchentoshan or Glenfiddich, but again, I would say no Clynelish markers managed to get their heads above water here. But it’s a damn fine whisky!
SGP:552 - 86 points.

The Hive ‘Batch Strength’ (55.5%, Wemyss Malts, batch #2, 9000 bottles, +/-2019)

The Hive ‘Batch Strength’ (55.5%, Wemyss Malts, batch #2, 9000 bottles, +/-2019) Four stars
What is ‘batch strength’? Probably another expression that’s supposed to make up for the loss of any age statements… (S., that’s too cynical!) I remember batch #1 was a little difficult (WF 78). Colour: straw. Nose: a blend of lemon and apple juices, say 20/80. Add some notes of tequila joven (white) and a spoonful of proper yogurt and there, you captured it. No hives in sight this far. With water: there, a little beeswax indeed. Some Clynelish involved? Mouth (neat): this is good! Raw sweet barley, orange juice, lemon zests, drops of Aperol (with apologies to the world) and a wee glass of ginger tonic. It’s rather vibrant, as they say at fitness centres. With water: you bet, this is excellent! Mandarins, manuka honey, beeswax and mead, pollen… They really nailed it this time. Finish: long and clean. Fig jam and honeydew. Comments: sadly, I haven’t got batch #1 up my sleeves anymore, I would have loved to compare them. I could buy a case of batch #2 for when I retire. Like, around 2049.
SGP:552 - 87 points.

Naturally, this was coming…

Spice King ‘Batch Strength’ (58%, Wemyss Malts, batch #2, 9000 bottles, +/-2019)

Spice King ‘Batch Strength’ (58%, Wemyss Malts, batch #2, 9000 bottles, +/-2019) Three stars
Thought batch #1 was good back in 2006 (WF 83), and rather smoky. Colour: white wine. Nose: yeah, it’s pretty Ardmore-y. Peaches and coal smoke, muscovado sugar, metal polish, lemon squash, burnt bread, ham, charcoal… It’s not a consensual profile, for sure. With water: that old jacket that you’ve forgotten near the fireplace. Mouth (neat): more Ardmore than Ardmore, really, but don't bet on that, you'd lose. Lemonade, preserved peaches, charcoal, smoked tea… With water: it’s very good, but I’m having trouble assessing it. Too sweet for a proper peater, too peaty for a proper Highlander, and a little too superficial, I mean, lacking depth. And yet, it’s very good malt whisky. Oh there, let’s move on…  Finish: medium, on something like smoked lemons. Which no one has ever dared doing, I would suppose. I agree we’re getting nowhere here… Molasses honey in the aftertaste. Comments: this one lost me, but it’s very  good. Hello, anybody on the ground?
SGP:554 - 81 points.

One more, but no more… Eenie meenie… Oh, noooooooooh!

As we get it (66.1%, Ian McLeod, Highland, +/-2018)

As we get it (66.1%, Ian McLeod, Highland, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
Assassins! Colour: full gold. Nose: is it me or is it almost gentle and easily noseable? And do we not detect some perfect cake-y and nutty sherry as well as a good deal of metallic walnuts? Metallic walnuts, doesn’t that sound like the title of an old LP by the Flamin’ Groovies? Or perhaps by the band Gong? Next to their Flying Teapot? I agree we’re really getting too spacey now… With water: wonderful tobacco-y and metallic sherry, with loads of nuts (pecans, macadamia) and simply some old oloroso. As well as, perhaps, those very old chardonnays or rieslings that got oxidised and that most people would consequently not touch. Wrong! Mouth (neat): too strong and too good. With water: I have no ideas why these cheapo bottlings are constantly wonderful, since the swinging 1960s. What’s the idea behind that? Are they manipulating us? Is there some hidden message? A secret cult or a sect? The Saudis? The Mossad? A kind of statement? Or just some fun? (my preferred option, no need to say). Finish: yep. Glazed chestnuts. Comments: massive doses of pleasure with these very understated single malts. They never fail us and for that, I say let’s bow our heads in thanks.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Great, but I shall ask you, should I really gon on tasting all these bastard vatted or undisclosed single malts, espcially the NASses? Am I not wasting my time? Your time? Not too sure…


July 8, 2019


Knock knock, who’s there?
A few undisclosed malts, either blended or single

Today we’ll try to do them unpeated. There are more around, all bottlers trying not to rely on brand names that they cannot control, or on sources that may go dry… Can we blame them?

Blooming Gorse (46%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, batch 2018/03, 6900 bottles, 2019)

Blooming Gorse (46%, Wemyss Malts, blended malt, batch 2018/03, 6900 bottles, 2019) Three stars and a half
This is ‘a light and delicate Highland malt’, probably from a small number of distilleries. Brand new! Colour: white wine. Nose: fruity hops, beer, sourdough,  muesli, crushed bananas, pears, then rather greener fruits, greengages, gooseberries, more muesli, a drop of lemon juice, and a very moderate, but clear vanillaness. Strictly no one could be against this very easy, yet totally not dull profile. Mouth: in keeping, with more ale, bananas, green pears, more muesli yet, custard, sponge cake, a little limoncello, a few drops of gin and tonic (if you must), more gooseberries and greengages… Finish: rather long and a little spicier. Ginger and cardamom seeds, I would say. A little green woodiness. Comments: fine and all-natural. I like it that they haven’t taken the sherry-seasoning route.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Overaged Malt Whisky (43%, Michel Couvreur, blended malt, +/-2018)

Overaged Malt Whisky (43%, Michel Couvreur, blended malt, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
I remember the early-to-mid 1990s, I did go to a Couvreur tasting in Strasbourg, where their rep told us that whisky was all about wood. It was the first time I was hearing that; I hated the idea right away. But a lot of water (and sawdust) has gone under the bridge since back then… By the way, I suppose ‘overaged’ means pretty young, with some whiskies you always need to translate those things, don’t you. Colour: deep gold. Nose: well, it’s pretty nice, sherried yet balanced, with a good sultanas/malt combo, just a touch of struck match, some lighter pipe tobacco, and loud and clear notes of dried dates. With a marzipan filling! Nice nose, really, I cannot not think of some young Macallans from that period. You know, the 1990s. Also a little menthol and a little ham. A good surprise. Mouth: really old style, starting with some leather and some tobacco, and going on with a sooty sherry, some dry sultanas, and drops of Guinness plus orange squash. No problems with the lower strength. Finish: medium, cleaner than expected, with some herbal teas, cherry stems, more tobacco… Comments: I tend to like the brighter style of the Blooming Gorse even better, but yeah, this little Couvreur was really nice.
SGP:561 - 83 points.

Vega 28 yo 1990/2019 (46.7%, North Star Spirits, blended malt, Bourbon Hogshead and PX sherry, 800 bottles)

Vega 28 yo 1990/2019 (46.7%, North Star Spirits, blended malt, Bourbon Hogshead and PX sherry, 800 bottles) Four stars
These guys also run an Aston Martin dealership in Glasgow, did you know that? Colour: gold. Nose: typical PX seasoning, with this leafy side that mingles with bags of raisins of all kinds, then cherry juice, cherry pie, and what we call battelman cake over here (nothing to do with Donald T., mind you). Guignolet (nothing to do with Donald T. either). Mouth: much spicier now. Speculoos, fresh gingerbread, caraway liqueur, cardamom, perhaps some sourer marmalade, and a wee feeling of cherry gin (heaven forbid!) I find it very good, firm, with good spiciness that would hint at some gunpowder, without being exactly gunpowder. Finish: rather long, on some peppered marmalade and more raisins. Comments: the PX kind of behaved here, all for the better. It’s got the edge this far.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Dalaruan (43%, Lost Distillery Company, Classic Selection, blended malt, +/-2018)

Dalaruan (43%, Lost Distillery Company, Classic Selection, blended malt, +/-2018) Four stars
This series was very controversial when they first came out, but rather than run with the wolves (not that the wolves are always wrong, mind you) I had decided to try a few before forming an opinion. And they were good, including an upmarket version of ‘Dalaruan’ at 46% vol. (WF 87!) Now I agree, even if the whiskies are good, the spiel is a little fishy. I mean, you wouldn’t buy a Volkswagen Passat and rebadge it Hispano-Suiza, would you! Having said that, who knows about Dalaruan Distillery? Colour: gold. Nose: that’s the thing, these whiskies are good and nice. In this case, we’re having some old-school sooty/waxy notes, a bit of metal polish, some grassy peat, and some kind of tarry apple juice. Old school indeed. Mouth: very good, I’m afraid. Solid body, earth, chalk, grapefruits, more grassy peat, more grapefruits, sour cherries,  white beer, grass… It really is some old-style malt whisky. Not sure I’ll ever try some genuine Dalaruan, not even sure it would be this good as most Campbeltowners did not have a huge reputation before the closures. Oh well, indeed, it’s very good juice, well done. Finish: rather long, sooty, earthy, bready. Comments: at least they’ve fulfilled their commitments, it was clearly not just a stunt.
SGP:464 - 85 points.

Secret Speyside 24 yo 1994/2019 (49.3%, The Finest Malts, City Landmarks, bourbon barrel, cask #1408895)

Secret Speyside 24 yo 1994/2019 (49.3%, The Finest Malts, City Landmarks, bourbon barrel, cask #1408895) Four stars
No no no, not all ‘secret Speysiders’ are Glenfarclas! But many are… Colour: pale gold. Nose: good age, good freshness, very pleasant fruitiness. Some all-vitamin fruit juice kept in some fresh American oak, with just wee touches of coconut that are hardly noticeable. Better like that. Custard, pink bananas, papayas, a little liquorice, mirabelles… It’s all fine, fine, fine. Mouth: very good. Starts with a touch of soapy rubber, but that almost goes away, and it does. Unfolds with bananas, papayas, white currants, and several kinds of apples and plums that would hint at Balvenie – but it’s most probably not Balvenie, neither is it Burnside (or it would be a blended malt, not a single). Finish: medium, with a little white chocolate, tea, and more bananas. Don’t get me wrong, not bananas as in some rums. Comments: a malt that’s perfectly all right, if not totally extrovert. In other words, it’s doing its work and it does it very well.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Highland Single Malt 22 yo 1996/2018 (52.3%, Whisky-Doris, Nose Art, refill sherry hogshead, 329 bottles)

Highland Single Malt 22 yo 1996/2018 (52.3%, Whisky-Doris, Nose Art, refill sherry hogshead, 329 bottles) Four stars
Ah, those saucy labels… Colour: gold. Nose: what more does the people want? Custard, cakes, dried fruits, mirabelles and peaches, Weetabix, dried apricots, beeswax, acacia honey… Indeed, what more does the people want? Games? With water: ah yes, some wax and some cigarettes! I haven’t touched a cigarette since Clinton (Bill, not George), but I still love nosing a freshly opened pack, whenever a friend has got one. Mouth (neat): I always preferred refill sherry over first fill, unless that first fill was perfect, which is seldom the case these days. Anyway, soft sultanas and small dried figs (from Turkey), hazelnut oil, peanut syrup (all the rage at Alsatian mixologists’ these days), and marmalade. Just works. With water: yep, some wee herbs and essential oils, eucalyptus, rosemary, that’s another dimension. All good. Finish: medium, still fresh, without any vulgar sherryness from hastily seasoned casks. Let us avoid those! Comments: maybe not the greatest pyramid of Egypt, but we’re flying really high this time. I know what I’m trying to say.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Actually, I’m not sure I’ll remember any of those, but they were good, no doubt. Even if that famous ‘sense of the place’ was missing…


July 7, 2019



A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!


Rums from the stash

Let’s see what we have! And kickstart this with a wee aperitif…

St Nicholas Abbey 5 yo (40%, OB, Barbados, +/-2018)

St Nicholas Abbey 5 yo (40%, OB, Barbados, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
I thought both the 10 and the 15 yo were really good last time I tried them, around 2014. Only their bottles are a bit, well, QVC-y. If I may. Colour: straw. Nose: a pretty perfect distillate, captured at a young age, when it wasn’t tainted with wood yet. That’s the thing, local ageing is romantically and historically cool and sound, of course, but maturation in cooler climates brings more subtlety and complexity since you can push them further and benefit from longer ageing. Time is time and one year is one year. So, olive and sunflower oils, cane juice, candle wax, fermenting peaches, liquorice wood, a touch of masala, a drop of pastis, and wee notes of miso. Miso’s always welcome, in any spirits. Mouth: the liquorice and the pastis got even bigger, while some woody notes would creep in, not the greatest feeling. A touch of plain sugar too, not sure where that came from. Other than that, we’re having a little caraway and a feeling of aquavit. Caraway indeed. Finish: medium, a tad sweet and sour. Comments: I enjoyed the nose rather a lot, but the palate was a tad vulgar, if I may. Still way above average!
SGP:651 - 78 points.

Since we’re in Barbados…

Foursquare 14 yo ‘Hereditas’ (56%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Barbados, 2019)

Foursquare 14 yo ‘Hereditas’ (56%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Barbados, 2019) Four stars and a half
A single blend, that is to say a blend of column and pot-distilled rums from the same facilities. Yeah, like those Ben Nevis or Lochside blends from times gone by. I think they were doing that at Moffat as well, and probably elsewhere, but when you compose a blend, I suppose you would rather have a larger palette of choices at hand. In theory… Colour: amber. Nose: well, we’re not far from the best molasses-based ‘industrial’ rhums from Guadeloupe or Martinique, such as those well-aged ‘European’ Bellevues that are so great. Praline, walnut cakes, some menthol, honeysuckle, chamomile, liquorice, lime tree blossom, marmalade, butterscotch, oak essence, cracked pepper… So far, so perfect. With water: precious sawdusts, new dashboard in a new Rolls-Royce (hope they’re not going all lousy carbon), new cabinet, pipe tobacco, cigars, chocolate. Mouth (neat): it’s a bit on the heavy/woody side, but the fact is, it remains balanced if not too refreshing. Some cinnamon cake, aniseed, heavy caramel, Dutch liquorice, dried figs and dates, clove cookies (does that even exist?), and a wee saltiness that always works. Oh and black olives. With water: heavy oak seldomly works this well. Terpenes, liquorice, caramel, thin mints, olive oil chocolates (yep that does exist, check L’Espérantine de Marseille)… Finish: long, thick, pleasantly bitter and oaky. Comments: just excellent. To think that it’s only a blend! Right, a single blend…
SGP:562 - 89 points.

Diamond 20 yo 1998/2019 (50.8%, The Duchess, Armagnac finish, Guyana, cask #27)

Diamond 20 yo 1998/2019 (50.8%, The Duchess, Armagnac finish, Guyana, cask #27) Three stars
This baby from the Wooden Coffey still, a.k.a. Enmore if I’m not mistaken. It spent eight years in ex-Armagnac wood, for the better or… the worse, let’s see (with mucho caution). Colour: gold. Nose: possibly the lightest kind of Demerara/Diamond rum. Orange blossom, white chocolate, cranberry juice, perhaps a drop of green walnut liqueur, more orange blossom, and an Armagnacness that I cannot quite detect with much certainty. Perhaps this fistful of golden sultanas? With water: lighter yet but in a way, nicer. I enjoy hay in my spirits, while there’s quite a lot of hay in there. Notes of PIneau, or Rivesaltes, or Muscat de Lunel. Whatever. Mouth (neat): rather light, with a little scented soap at first – nothing bad – and this feeling of crunching a church candle. Then rather orange jam and Jaffa cakes. With water: rather similar. Finish: medium, still similar. Comments: I’m not too sure, honest. They say grape and grain don’t work, not sure grape and cane work any better. Some very good sides though, but we were flying so much higher with The Duchess’ latest Caroni 1998, for example!
SGP:641 - 80 points.

Time for Hampden…

Hampden 11 yo 2007/2019 (63.2%, Hunter Laing Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 321 bottles)

Hampden 11 yo 2007/2019 (63.2%, Hunter Laing Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 321 bottles) Five stars
I so hate all these people! For they’ve totally rocked my score scale for rums with their latest offerings, especially with their Bellevues and Hampdens. All utter swill and plain rotguts, b*s*a*d*! Hate, hate, hate, only hate, If they only knew how I hate them! Colour: the worst white wine in the creation. Nose: get lost! It’s ugly, seemingly poisonous, totally asynchronous, the devil’s work indeed. Don’t buy a bottle, they should pay you! Forgot to mention Outer-Mongolian supermarket olives, freshly cut polystyrene and goat’s dung. With water: the worst possible use of water. Otherwise, earthy sour brine. Mouth (neat): who wouldn’t just hate all this plastic, these olives (black and green) from the year before last year, this smoky beer that even a pro-Brexit English pub wouldn’t dare pouring you, and all this rubber and tar? Seriously, it is seriously extreme, I’m not joking here. Aren’t we touching some limits? With water: it is extreme indeed, very grassy and dry, sharp, extremely sour, totally on brine and concentrated lime juice. It is also a little mezcaly. Finish: very long, hauntingly long. Tar, plastic, olives, lime, paraffin, creosote. Nasty and very bad. Comments: gotta be serious, I would say we’re touching some limits indeed here. I love it, but I’m wondering if I’m not loving it just because it’s extreme. Just as I love the most extreme Sancerres or Alsatian Rieslings. How serious is it, doc?
SGP:273 - 90 points.

Booze masochists of the world, unite!...

Hampden 11 yo 2007/2019 (63.5%, Hunter Laing Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 339 bottles)

Hampden 11 yo 2007/2019 (63.5%, Hunter Laing Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 339 bottles) Five stars
We’ll do this one quickly, I promise. These 63.5% are illegal anyway, aren’t they. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: same(ish). Brine and stuff, just a wee tad fresher. Perhaps. Some deadly rotten pineapples too. With water: I have no ideas. We’re extremely  close to the other cask, while I wouldn’t want to split too many hairs here. To be honest, these extreme Hampdens can get a little tiring. Still love them, though. Mouth (neat): whack! This is even more extreme and would make some 10yo Port Ellen at full strength taste like diluted litchi juice. With water: holy drunken featherless crow, billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles! There are plastic-smoked salted olives all over the place here. Finish: eternal, and that’s the main problem here. Wrecks both your brain and your digestive system. Comments: bacterial fermentations, they say. Well, I’ve heard quite a few tourists are missing each and every year. Now one good thing about Hampden, when it hits you, you feel no pain (Bob Marley – sort of.)
SGP:273 - 90 points.

Good night/day.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


July 6, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Because, as we all know, the paronomasia is the supreme form of humour. Ok, ok, I’m very sorry.


There seems to be quite a lot of Ardmore about these days, including some with a bit of age to them. You’ll not hear me complain about that. But it’s interesting how, even today, it remains a malt that no one really knows what to do with. Despite often being very good, it never garnered much of a following. Even among the geekier malt circles where people often discuss how much they like Ardmore and how it’s funny it never got more popular. As long as it keeps these various new bottlings at a sensible and ‘drinkable’ price, and as long as the distillery and its very lovely people continue to make an excellent distillate then that’s all fine by me. Let’s have four of them today and go backwards by vintage as usual.



Ardmore 20 yo 1998/2019 (55.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society,  #66.143 ‘Steam trains and puffers’, refill hogshead, 237 bottles)

Ardmore 20 yo 1998/2019 (55.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society,  #66.143 ‘Steam trains and puffers’, refill hogshead, 237 bottles)
The SMWS seems to have quite a hefty stock of Ardmore these days. Something I’m sure the more ‘keyboard centric’ elements of the membership will be only too happy to complain about... Colour: white wine. Nose: this very familiar lemony sootiness that characterises many Ardmores. Lots of bandages, clay, fermenting hay, chalk, aspirin, pebbles and light medical embrocations. Some kind of yeasty peat underneath as well. Very good! With water: more directly towards cereals, plain toast, salty butter and hints of bouillon and mushroom now. Some dried herbs and sandalwood. Mouth: smoked olive oil, lemon rind, some rather fat cereal notes, sunflower oil, mirabelle eau de vie and bitter marmalade. Also caraway, fennel seed, paprika, white pepper and hessian. Always this soft, pervasive phenolic aspect as well. And still rather chalky and medical with this crushed aspirin edge. I really like this style. With water: perfect balance between farmy qualities, medicine, mineral smokiness and citrus/soot now. Lots of interlocking flavours and a slightly meaty texture as well. Finish: long, medical, sooty, lemony, yeasty, mineral and with this nice flinty smoke and phenolic edge. Comments: Ardmore, when it’s on form, can be really characterful malt whisky - one of the few real ‘individuals’ left in Speyside. This is certainly a good example of that. Classy, mature and very pleasurable malt whisky. I was toying with 90 but we’ll err on the side of caution.
SGP: 463 - 89 points.



Ardmore 21 yo 1997/2019 (51.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #66.146 ‘Sensational sweet smoky noble rot’, refill hogshead, 244 bottles)

Ardmore 21 yo 1997/2019 (51.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #66.146 ‘Sensational sweet smoky noble rot’, refill hogshead, 244 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: indeed, this one is more honeyed and sweet than the 98. After reading the title it’s hard not to thing of things like botrytis and some young sauternes. This Ardmore sootiness is still present in the background though, along with limoncello, gin and tonic sorbet, sweet cereal bars, golden syrup, caramelised oatmeal and glazed pastries. Some candid citrus peel as well. With water: pine cones, some watermelon, more honey and starting to develop more towards this classical chalky and aspirin-flecked medicinal side. Mouth: more directly sooty at first, salted mead, runny honey, ointments, camphor, creme brulée, sweet children’s medicine, hessian, waxes and mint tea. Some diluted pastis and hints of old herbal liqueurs. With water: drier, more on coal dust, smoky cereals, soot, ointments, bitter herbal extracts, salted peanuts and lime pith. Very good! Finish: long, syrupy, oily, sweet, lots of cereals, mead and light medical and phenolic notes. Comments: It’s a sweeter side of Ardmore but we’re still up at the same levels of quality and quaffability. I really think these Ardmores are great and overlooked whiskies.
SGP: 662 - 89 points.



Ardmore 21 yo 1979/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 648 bottles)

Ardmore 21 yo 1979/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 648 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: one thing that tends to be notable with Ardmore is that, unlike many distilleries, the distillate didn’t change too much between the 1970s and 2000s. How much of that is down to it’s late use of direct firing I couldn’t say. This one is not too far away from the 1998 with this very sooty, medical, cereal profile. Only this is slightly more direct, citrusy and austere with a more punchy and lean mineral edge. We’re more on waxes, hessian, mineral oils, clay and old workshops. I find it very good. With water: preserved lemons, smoked cornflakes, white flowers, wax, chalk, linseed oil. Top notch distillate and great purity. Mouth: camphor, hessian, olive oil, sooty phenolics, dusty malt bins, aspirin, pure old medicines and ointments. Even a touch of brine. Wonderful stuff. With water: citrus pith and smoked cereals with more of these soft medical embrocations encroaching. Really wonderful now. Sardines in olive oil, more camphor, hessian and chalky minerals. Finish: long, waxy, lemony, salty honey, mead, cooking oils and some sweet peat. Comments: A wee gem of an Ardmore. There’s more than a touch of the ‘Brora’ about this one...
SGP: 563 - 90 points.



Ardmore 20 yo 1968/1989 (58.4%, Dun Eideann, casks #5490 + 5491)

Ardmore 20 yo 1968/1989 (58.4%, Dun Eideann, casks #5490 + 5491)
An older bottle with an already hefty reputation... Colour: gold. Nose: ooft! This Ardmore sooty / lemony profile is there but it’s draped in a stunningly dense syrup of waxes, herbal liqueurs, precious hardwood resins, cough mixtures, medicines, umami cooking stocks and some kind of smoky truffle honey. Goes on with creme de menthe, cupboard spices, treacle and a waxiness that has an almost fudge-like consistency. You could stand a spoon in the glass I expect. With water: gets fresher with these notes of lemon, fabric, cereal, straw, earth, mushroom, wet leaves, tobacco, pine cones and petrichor. Mouth: just brilliant! Pure, old school, majestic, textural malt whisky. Mineral oils, waxes, hessian, camphor, soot, phenols, lemon rind, tar extract, herbal medicines, fennel seeds, mint tea, orange marmalade. Thrilling and deadly whisky! With water: the kind of whisky that only seems to get more textured and fat and swollen with water. Gloopy mineral oils, mechanical notes, thick phenolics, soot, hardwood resins, herbal extracts and wee hints of old sweet dessert wines. Finish: long, earthy, tarry, sooty, medical, peaty and with this big salty honey note throughout. Utterly brilliant. Comments: This really harkens back to the kind of peat and herbal profiles you could find in many pre-war malt whiskies. A stellar wee Ardmore that almost tastes like some kind of baffling old school 1950s Laphroaig, and yet, always remains its own thing. What a whisky!
SGP: 575 - 93 points.



Big thanks to KC and Dirk!




More tasting notesCheck the index of all Ardmore we've tasted so far


July 5, 2019


A Caol Ila spiel, part quatre

I promise this is the last part… And first, an aperitif (since it won’t be a new bottling)…

Caol Ila 33 yo 1980/2013 (58.1%, Hunter Laing, The Sovereign, bourbon hogshead, cask #HL 9976, 218 bottles)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1980/2013 (58.1%, Hunter Laing, The Sovereign, bourbon hogshead, cask #HL 9976, 218 bottles) Four stars
Love the tartan label, let us start a petition to force all distillers to reintroduce the tartan labels, rather than use all those rotten hipster designs that’ll be so passé next year already! Colour: gold. Nose: it does not feel extremely old, rather very bonbony but that may be the high strength. Fruit gums and jellies, quince paste, banana chutney, then rather pinesap, camphor, balms, and then bandages, hessian, forest mud, humus… With water: the bandages won it. The usual marzipan too. Mouth (neat): burst with fruits and the jams and bonbons made thereof. Cassis, pineapple, lemon, mangos, papayas… With water: more sea water, clams, brine, perhaps even gherkins, sucking fabric (when we were young)… Finish: medium, more mentholy. Some green pepper, salt, green smoke… Comments: very lovely old CI, but this baby changes a lot depending on the amount of water you add, and besides, I’m not sure it swims extremely well.
SGP:566 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 35 yo 1983/2018 (52.7%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, hogshead, cask #5290, 213 bottles)

Caol Ila 35 yo 1983/2018 (52.7%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, hogshead, cask #5290, 213 bottles) Five stars
What a series! I’m not sure we’re still having many yet-untasted ‘30ths’ in WF’s sample library, sadly, but what we could try this far has been constantly impressive. Not to mention the historical ones (Glencraig, Ayrshire and stuff) that have made many true enthusiasts drool. Right, perhaps not the twitterati and the ones that are constantly high on (hash)tags. Colour: gold. Nose: yeah there, hand cream, marzipan, paraffin, plasticine, church candles, limoncello, anchovy cream, strawberry yoghurt, old jacket, oysters, soot, and cold old pipe. Nice combination, no? With water: same-ish. Mouth (neat): pristinely impeccable. This one’s been carved by Michelangelo himself! Bits of oysters, lemon, olives, plasticine, sardines, samphire, grapefruit, marzipan, a drop of engine oil, a touch of rubber, some ink…. With water: none needed. Finish: not the longest ever but it is flawless, still pristine, of grand-cru quality. Just the aftertaste is a little peppery and fizzy, which is a little bizarre, but there. Schweppes. Comments: it really is the purity that is impressive here. No excessive cookery in sight, no lab work by mad whisky scientists, not quick aromatizing, just whisky, time, and a good hoggie. That’s unbeatable.
SGP:456 - 91 points.

Speaking of old hogsheads…

Caol Ila 34 yo 1984/2018 (57.6%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 162 bottles)

Caol Ila 34 yo 1984/2018 (57.6%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 162 bottles) Five stars
Indeed a strong contender, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: very similar style, this one’s just a tad rounder, and probably a little more mentholy (vs. paraffiny). There are also a little more topical notes (mangos and maracujas), and less fabrics and stuff. So a little less ‘deep’, and a little more ‘playful’. With water: melted wax, green almonds, a bowl of fresh Oostende shrimps, and a little cellar dust. Mouth (neat): harsh and bitter in the greatest way, biting, totally very green, and full of fresh putty and paint. A challenging old Caol Ila that could as well have been 10 years old – quite. In case you haven’t noticed, I love it. With water: this sweet saltiness that’s so very old Caol Ila. Some kippers, some fresh marzipan. Finish: medium, almondy, coastal, slightly putty-like, with a grassy aftertaste. Ideas of mercurochrome and crushed anchovies in the aftertaste. Comments: a big boy. Once again, careful with water, one drop too many could wreck it.
SGP:366 - 91 points.



Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2019 (59.8%, Juste Un Doigt, hogshead, cask #301637)

Caol Ila 11 yo 2008/2019 (59.8%, Juste Un Doigt, hogshead, cask #301637) Four stars and a half
A new wee French bottler! Juste Un Doigt means Just One Drop, but cough, cough… the name might also be referring to a scene from a cult French movie, ‘La Cité de la Peur’, in which a character asks a woman “Would you like a whisky?” and the girl answers “Just one finger – meaning just one drop in French” whilst the guy would then reply, “Wouldn’t you like a whisky first?” I know, I know, too much Frenchness at once, perhaps, but if you really must, the whole scene is there. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: ah fine, right between some fresh pear and lime juice, some fresh artisanal cachaça, and a fresh green coastal smokiness that’s very Caol Ila. Keyword: freshness. You may throw in a few cherries, fresh mushrooms, plus the obligatory oysters and the fumes from my neighbour’s old lawnmower. Still young yet not too young. With water: damp fabric, beach sand, kelp, used charcoal and small whelks (any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental). Classic. Mouth (neat): very bright, tense, mineral, ultra-vertical as they now say in wine. Crushed chalk and ashes in mercurochrome. With water: extremely typical, rather creamy, with touches of preserved apricots on top of the expected salty/charcoaly development. Finish: long, with more brine, lime, a feeling of linoleum, and those oysters again. Very salty aftertaste, almost tarry ala Port Ellen. Comments: can you beat a great distillate in some good old natural hogshead? Also, it was rather peatier than other CIs, or so it seemed. More than just a drop of this, please!
SGP:467 - 88 points.

(Gracias Lucero and Philippe)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far


July 4, 2019


A Caol Ila spiel, part trois

We’re going on, with pride (excuse me?)…

Caol Ila 15 yo 2003/2019 (55.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill barrel, cask #19/033, 210 bottles)

Caol Ila 15 yo 2003/2019 (55.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill barrel, cask #19/033, 210 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: there’s rather more vanilla in this one, more cinnamon cake, more ginger cake, more custard… Those are signs of a pretty active cask. I’m not saying it dominates the distillate, but you do have a feeling of ‘concoction’. Spicy combo, with the oysters, sea spray and smoky lemons rather in the background. With water: a little sawdust and a light natural soapiness. Supermarket custard. Mouth (neat): big spirit and a kind of Taliskerness, with loads of pepper and cinnamon (from the oak) leading the pack here. So it is not one of those blade-y and well chiseled CIs that we cherish, but we’re still flying high. Some burnt caramel, burnt ginger cake, eating bits of pipe tobacco… With water: water lets the lemon come out, and it would come together with some cardamom. Finish: long, zestier, but the oak spices are still the dance master. Comments: excellent, it’s just that I like my whiskies, including my Col Ilas, with a little less oak impact.
SGP:366 - 83 points.

CI12 2011/2019 (57.5%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, refill butts)

CI12 2011/2019 (57.5%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, refill butts) Four stars
Cl11 had been very ‘infused’ (WF 84) but this should be different… Colour: straw. Nose: yay, raw beachy stuff and bags of charcoal, also litres of sourdough and a good deal of raw white rhum agricole. I shall not complain. With water: smoky agricole, hessian, dough, damp ashes (when someone’s killed the barbecue)… Mouth (neat): huge, on many liquorice allsorts, lemon gums, fresh agave, and a lot of oyster juice. It may not be totally mature, but that’s a large part of its charms. With water: gets very creamy, more lemony, simple in a good way, perhaps a tad liqueury without being sweet as such. Liqueur de Caol Ila? Finish: rather long, clean, with more fruit gums and always these ashes. Comments: an excellent young beast from where the crabs are the best. I’m not sure they still pour any distillery waste into the Sound (probably not) but I remember the crabs that used to feed on that were just fantastic. Just like the Loch Indaal lobsters!
SGP:557 - 86 points.

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (59%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry, 282 bottles)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (59%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry, 282 bottles) Four stars and a half
This is refill, according to the colour. Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, it is the most citric of them all, perhaps the most precise, with exceptional clarity and freshness. Some kind of smoky cachaça this time. Lovely whiffs of grapefruits and hessian, coal ashes, and burnt pine wood. No raisins despite the sherry, we cheer… With water: hessian, dough, fresh baguette, rain-soaked fabric. Mouth (neat): this one’s millimetric indeed, extremely straight, on some ashes, grapefruit, green pepper and sea water combination. All that works a treat. With water: some excellent chenin blanc from the best parts of the Loire Valley. We’ve known some Savennières, for example… Finish: long, grassier, greener, bitterer, but all that in sound measures. Comments: this one’s rather a quaff-monster, so careful at almost 60% vol.!
SGP:456 - 88 points.

Caol Ila 29 yo 1990/2019 (48%, Whisky Nerds, refill oloroso, cask #13129, 192 bottles)

Caol Ila 28 yo 1990/2019 (48%, Whisky Nerds, refill oloroso, cask #13129, 192 bottles) Four stars and a half
Excuse me? Could a 1990 be 28 already? Are we sure? Wasn’t 1990 just yesterday, for crying out loud? Colour: gold. Nose: stating that Caol Ila ages gracefully is beating a dead horse. Quince jelly, pâte de lemon (I swear I’ve seen that in a shop window in Scotland), embrocations, hessian, kelp, kippers, mercurochrome, sea water, a wee drop of pastis, fresh almonds, tinned anchovies and sardines… Everything’s well in place! Mouth: takes off slowly but surely, with perhaps a little more soft green oak than expected, rather a lot of tobacco, some sour chutney, more and more salt, and a feeling of bouillon, perhaps. Mussels stewed in almond milk, did anyone try that yet? Some liquorice wood too. Finish: medium, really very maritime, with a discreet lactic side and some sour/bitter herbal teas. Comments: excellent, perhaps just a little more fragile and uncertain than other old CIs that are usually more assertive. Was it reduced?
SGP:465 - 88 points.

Good, we’ve kept two or three older ones for tomorrow…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far


July 3, 2019


A Caol Ila spiel, part deux

Because we’ve really got a lot of them.

Caol Ila 7 yo 2012/2019 (60%, Claxton’s, hogshead, 285 bottles)

Caol Ila 7 yo 2012/2019 (60%, Claxton’s, hogshead, 285 bottles) Three stars and a half
Drink this or gas up WF’s Harley… Okay, drink this… Colour: white wine. Nose: lemon skins, walnut shells, fresh almonds, plus a little acetone and varnish, but that may be the almost homicidal strength. With water: well, some varnish remains there, together with some fresh white dough and notes of new T-shirt. It really is super-young. Mouth (neat): some immaculate eau-de-vie-ish baby Caol Ila. It is not fully mature, but in a way, that’s an asset. Smoked pears can rock! With water: the pears are resisting and the whole remains pretty new-make-y. Nothing wrong with that as long as the make’s a good as Caol Ila’s, but we’re not quite in whisky territories here. Finish: long, with a little more vanilla. Smoked tea, fresh bitter almonds and custard. Comments: very good, but really very young. Perhaps as a high-ball prepared by an Islay geisha? (don’t shoot, just a figure of speach!)
SGP:547 - 83 points.

Caol Ila 2007/2019 (53.2%, The Finest Malts, City Landmarks, bourbon, cask #24)

Caol Ila 2007/2019 (53.2%, The Finest Malts, City Landmarks, bourbon, cask #24) Four stars and a half
This by some very cool new young bottlers. Like it that they would have used proper original photographs and not just plundered old illustrated encyclopedias (or 1950s soft porn magazines and comics ;-)). Colour: white wine. Nose: yes! A perfect young wooly/muddy CI, with the usual coastal side (opening the windows early in the morning, near the sea), plus some floral touches and a cup of cold lapsang souchong. A touch of fusel too, glycerin, hand cream… With water: we’re at a laundry, and that’s cool. Mouth (neat): excellent, pristine, smoky/salty upfront, with these lovely acidic notes, between lime and green apples. Not ‘just another young CI’. With water: it is unusual indeed. Lime, sorrel, cress, almond milk, oat, kippers, touches of prickly pears… It’s all pretty much in sync. Finish: medium, with this almondy sweetness that’s very CI in my book. Notes of blood oranges and a little Demerara sugar in the aftertaste, as well as a drop of mint cordial. Comments: super.
SGP:556 - 88 points.

Caol Ila 14 yo 2004/2018 (53.7%, Maltbarn, sherry cask)

Caol Ila 14 yo 2004/2018 (53.7%, Maltbarn, sherry cask) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: there’s less sherry in there than there is poetry in Donald T.’s mouth. Rather graphite, tarry ropes, hessian, fresh almonds, charcoal, paraffin, and acacia gum. Not your average middle-aged CI, but hold on, could this be the sherry speaking out? With water: I think not, for there are rather lovely herbal teas, a seafood platter, and a drop of Woolite. Mouth (neat): excellent sharp and pungent Caol Ila, with fantastic smoky lemons and the subtlest green teas of China. Love this greenness, with these herbs that are sometimes to be found in proper peaters, such as cress, spinach or sorrel. With water: yep yep yep (now that was useful, S.!) Finish: rather long, on candied citrus and touches of bitter herbal liqueurs. Unicum? A sweeter touch in the aftertaste, could that be the sherry? Comments: the most elusive sherry cask ever. Not sure we should file a complaint, what do you think?
SGP:456 - 89 points.

Caol Ila 10 yo 2008/2019 (53.5%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, 325 bottles)

Caol Ila 10 yo 2008/2019 (53.5%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, 325 bottles) Four stars
From their ‘Young Masters Collection’. Well, not too sure about that, last time I was at the distillery, looked like all workers were seasoned professionals… Except the ladies, naturally, as for reasons we cannot explain, the ladies seem to remain eternally young on Islay. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: brake fluid, oysters, almond milk, smoked fish, lemon juice, lime. With water: a tad more on porridge and stuff, barley, smoked bread, hints of pears… Mouth (neat): it really is some distillate, is it not. Bright, tense, blade-y, lemony, slightly earthier than others, all is good once again. With water: prototypical young Caol Ila. Salt, lemons, almonds, fish, seashells, ashes. Finish: rather long, rather briny. The pears strike back in the aftertaste. Comments: as excellent as expected, maybe just a wee tad young(ish). Isn’t time’s duty to eradicate any notes of pears in whisky? We should do a T-shirt saying ‘no pears in my whisky’. One day…
SGP:556 - 86 points.

I think we’ll try some rather older CIs tomorrow, or perhaps not, stay tuned…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far


WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

June 2019

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Port Ellen 39 yo 1978/2018 (50.9%, OB, Untold Stories series, 1500 bottles) - WF 92

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (52%, Old Bothwell for Jens Steinert) - WF 91

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Port Askaig 10 yo (55.85%, Elixir Distillers, 10th Anniversary, 10,000 bottles, 2019)  - WF 89

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2019 (58.8%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Guadeloupe, 245 bottles)  - WF 91

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Glen Breton 14 yo 'Rare' (43%, OB, Canada, single malt, +/-2018)  - WF 49

July 2, 2019


A Caol Ila spiel

That’s the thing with Caol Ila when you’re a humble ‘whisky blogger’, especially with baby Caol Ilas, never lower your guard or they will just invade your headquarters. Indeed, we have plenty of them… Again!

Caol Ila 7 yo 2011/2019 (55.9%, Asta Morris, sherry, cask #AM057, 245 bottles)

Caol Ila 7 yo 2011/2019 (55.9%, Asta Morris, sherry, cask #AM057, 245 bottles) Four stars and a half
Not too sure it was a good idea to kick this off with a sherried one, but there, here we are… Colour: deep gold. Nose: imagine a blend of pipe tobacco, tangerine liqueur, lapsang souchong tea, bitter chocolate, aquavit, and a little bag of cinnamon mints. It is both heavy and, by some miracle, well balanced. With water: goes towards lovage, soy sauce, umami and all that. Which, naturally, we enjoy a lot. Mouth (neat): very rich, warm, spicy and sweet. Some kind of bitter orange marmalade spiced-up with caraway and cloves and smoothened up with raisins and PX. Frightening at first but that works very well, I have to say. With water: it loves H2O, getting beautifully meaty and savoury. Raisins stewed in smoked beef stock, is that possible? Finish: long, rich, flawless. I know that’s a word that anyone would use just anytime, but in the case of a sherried peater, it really means something. Some leather in the aftertaste. Comments: as famous old Belgian rapper Pierre Corneille used to say, in souls nobly born, valour does not depend upon age.
SGP:656 - 88 points.

Let’s check another sherried one…

Cola Ali Too 10 yo 2008/2019 (57.5%, Dramfool, fresh oloroso hogshead, 175 bottles)

Cola Ali Too 10 yo 2008/2019 (57.5%, Dramfool, fresh oloroso hogshead, 175 bottles) Two stars and a half
No typo here, but with a name like that, I doubt it’s Bruichladdich, what do you say? Colour: gold. Nose: not too dissimilar, just a tad less on Kikkoman than the Asta Morris, and a little more one fresher elements from the sea, although that would rather be urchins than oysters. Also rather a lot of chocolate, tobacco, and even acidic coffee, as well as leather and cigars. It’s all in there. With water: earth, mud, moistened cigars, gamy poultry (no names ;-)), soups... Mouth (neat): a little odd, to be honest. Some sour fruits, a wee bit of Spanish ham, some leathery kind of oranges, and some lavender sweets. It has got a ’85 Bowmore side, really – remember the older ‘Darkest’? With water: are we dead sure this isn’t Bowmore 1985? But it’s getting cleaner and more orthodox over time, that’s good news. Finish: rather long, still a little game-y and violety. Comments: it’s odd and it’s entertaining. Caol Ila 2008 mimicking Bowmore 1985, how funny is that?
SGP:575 - 78 points.

Cola Ali Three 10 yo 2008/2019 (59.8%, Dramfool, bourbon, 129 bottles)

Cola Ali Three 10 yo 2008/2019 (59.8%, Dramfool, bourbon, 129 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this is Mozart after Mötley Crüe. A perfect clean and precise almondy/peaty start, then cider apples and limes, then ashes and some beach bonfire. With water: yep, perfect, appropriately muddy (so to speak), coastal, ashy… Mouth (neat): impeccable, rather a bit fruitier than other young CIs (but that would be citrus and only citrus), with excellent coastal notes, oysters as ever, kelp, and just a wee touch of varnish. With water: a tad rounder and more vanilla-ed, otherwise salty and citrusy. Excellent. Finish: rather long, clean and yet beautifully fat(tish), salty… Notes of fat fish, salmon… Comments: a nice wee bottle to keep for when Scotland will be independent and part of the EU again ;-).
SGP:456 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch) Four stars
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: flawless crystalline coastal lemony ashy smoke. There’s nothing not to like about this pristine baby. Mouth: wonderful, fruitier this time, with some candy floss, toffee apples, candied tangerines, then seafood and very young calvados. Something that just works and does not need any lengthy literature (literature, yeah right). Finish: medium, sweet, pristine, evident. Comments: a young Caol Ila that’s just a little sweeter than others, don’t ask me how and why that. Very good, naturally. So, who’s gonna bottle Caol Ila + Mezcal?
SGP:456 - 87 points.

Four’s a good number. We should have more tomorrow…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far


June 2019 - part 2 <--- July 2019 - part 1 ---> July 2019 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Caol Ila 35 yo 1983/2018 (52.7%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, hogshead, cask #5290, 213 bottles)

Caol Ila 34 yo 1984/2018 (57.6%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 162 bottles)

Hampden 11 yo 2007/2019 (63.2%, Hunter Laing Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 321 bottles)

Hampden 11 yo 2007/2019 (63.5%, Hunter Laing Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Jamaica, 339 bottles)