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Hi, you're in the Archives, July 2022 - Part 2

       
 

July 2022 - part 1 <--- July 2022 - part 2 ---> August 2022 - part 1

 

July 31, 2022


Whiskyfun

  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!

Whiskyfun 20 ans

 

 

The 20th Anniversary Sessions,
today 20 cognacs, as a quasi-verticale

Cognac is the seminal 'international' aged spirit. It's been Scotch whisky's inspiration from the start and even the Scots (hey Richard!) tell you how Scotch whisky managed to fill the gaps left by ailing cognac, beaten by phylloxera vastatrix in the late 19th century.

Sure armagnac is said to have been there before cognac, but armagnac has always been smaller and I believe the French have always drunk it all, until pretty recently. What's more, smaller cognac producers and growers /merchants are slowly winning the hearts of the spirit enthusiasts who are not quite interested in any of the major brands that have always been a little too much into 'lifestyle', a trend that some Scottish brands are not immune to either, including a few well-known Distilleries that will tell you about just anything including wood of course, but also travel, sports cars, arts or music; just not about their distillates.


No to chance!
Or when innovation and experimentation weren't
the talk of the town at all (French magazine ad, 1982)

Having said that, it's not that we wouldn't want to try any of the Big Four's cognacs, it's just that no one's ever thought it would be a good idea to send any to Château WF. Mind you, we've tried hundreds of cognacs, and only two Hennessy for example, while Hennessy literally IS cognac, with more than 50 million bottles sold yearly and probably around 30% of the sales altogether, if not more (having said that, Johnnie Walker churn out 120-130 million bottles a year). So, perhaps a Hennessy to kick this off…

 

Hennessy 'V.S.O.P. Fine Champagne' (40%, OB, +/-1990)

Hennessy 'V.S.O.P. Fine Champagne' (40%, OB, +/-1990) Two stars
Fine Champagne means that this is a blend of Grande and Petite Champagne. Colour: amber (obvious obscuration). Nose: nicely fruity at first, with pineapples and, first and foremost, truckloads of raisins. It wouldn't really leave raisin territories, having said that, but it does that very well. Provided you enjoy raisins, naturally. Also a little soft liquorice and butterscotch. Oh well, this is very pleasant, just 'simple'. Mouth: loses steam on the palate, with too much sweetness, too many raisins and a caramelly side. A little sawdust too, with a bitterish side. Clearly reminiscent of many an entry-level blended Scotch. Finish: not too short but indeed, bitterish. Comments: the nose gave me hope. Also the fact that it was an older bottle. Better luck next time?
SGP:730 - 72 points.

Enough playing around…

Marancheville A45 (42.8%, L'Essentiel, Grande Champagne, 175 bottles)

Marancheville A45 (42.8%, L'Essentiel, Grande Champagne, 175 bottles) Four stars and a half
A vatting of three small casks of 60l each, made out of old staves, so do not expect anything bombastically oaky as they do north of Hadrian's wall. The house usually sell their fillings to some large cognac house and only keep a tiny proportion for their own fillings. Let's see if we need to thank them. Colour: pure gold. Nose: magnificent ripe fruits, first peaches, then mirabelles, quinces, oranges and guavas. Then moist pipe tobacco, a little sandalwood, honeycomb, then only tiny traces of liquorice and aniseed. An even tinier hint of fish oil. Freshness and maturity here are both impressive. Mouth: rather tighter on the palate, firm, with roasted, almost burnt notes (black tobacco, burnt almonds on some cake), then toffee and, finally, a fruity and jammy development, half on citrus, half on yellow western fruits. Yellow peaches, apricots, plums, pears… Finish: rather long, this time with some mocha, cinnamon and tobacco. Comments: approaching perfection already. The oakiness was well controlled, small casks are always tricky and you wouldn't want them to 'flavour' your spirit. Just ask Octave (wink).
SGP:641 - 88 points.

On to a house that's been pleasing us for decades already and that's been rather seminal to us (hallo Dieter, danke schön noch ein mal!)

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot n°82' (44.2%, OB, for Whizita / Flickenschild, Grande Champagne, 2022)

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot n°82' (44.2%, OB, for Whizita / Flickenschild, Grande Champagne, 2022) Five stars
Looks like Sebastian from Wu Dram Clan has been instrumental here. The name Lot n°82 may suggest that Kim Wilde was on when this was distilled. All right, and Madonna, as you like. Colour: deep gold. Nose: treacherous drop, too aromatic, too attractive, with way too many mangos and ripe peaches inside. You're almost nosing a Bellini made with Salon 1990 and the most olympic peaches. It is exactly ex-tra-or-di-na-ry on the nose, too beautiful, too close to a great Yquem or any other top-five Sauternes or Barsac. Not making this up. Mouth: it's extraordinary indeed that Vallein Tercinier would manage to keep this very singular style, bottling after bottling, full of tropical fruits and aromatic herbs, blood oranges, lavender and clover honeys, sémillon (that Yquem thing), tangerine liqueur, citron liqueur… What's also extraordinary is that despite all these sweet fruitinesses, it would never come close to becoming even remotely cloying. Finish: medium, extraordinarily fruity, jammy and fresh. Nice fudge and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: game, how many times have I used the word 'extraordinary'? Now, almost always the same flaw with these bottles, they're prone to 'unwanted evaporation' if you're not careful enough. I know you see what I mean.

SGP:751 - 91 points.

Petite Champagne Lot 84 (56.6%, J. Grosperrin for Malternative Belgium & Asta Morris, Les Bons-Vivants, 263 bottles, 2022)

Petite Champagne Lot 84 (56.6%, J. Grosperrin for Malternative Belgium & Asta Morris, Les Bons-Vivants, 263 bottles, 2022) Five stars
Some Belgian collaboration between two great little companies. Shouldn't we ask that they ship their new expressions to us twice? Colour: amber. Nose: less luscious than the Vallein, but that may be the higher strength. It is also rather more floral, more fragrant than fruity, with some vetiver and ylang-ylang, jasmine, then just buckets of tangerine and blood orange juices. With water: honeysuckle and orange blossom, plus oriental pastries, Turkish delights, baklavas… Mouth (neat): probably the best ages, around 35 to 40 years. Some peppery and mentholy spices starting to appear here, but we're still extremely far from 'oakiness'. Stewed fruits, tobacco, coffee, marmalade… With water: a slightly grassier cognac, perhaps a notch more on fruit peel. Finish: a tad more classic than the Vallein – that is to say with rather more raisins. Comments: as William Cower once said, 'variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour'. Lovely old cognac, with a superb, albeit tiny rustic side.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Fins Bois 28 yo 'Heritage N.90 + N.92' (57.7%, Grosperrin for Cognac Sponge, 210 bottles, 2022)

Fins Bois 28 yo 'Héritage N.90 + N.92' (57.7%, Grosperrin for Cognac Sponge, 210 bottles, 2022) Five stars
The large houses are not quite into these old 'bois' because when they're in a blend, you lose the magic appellation 'champagne'. Silly. Colour: redder amber. Nose: someone's stolen a lorryload of quinces, distilled the whole lot, and let it mature in good quality oak for a long time. What really strikes me here is that we would be pretty close to malt whisky. Some cedar wood and artisan cider are topping all that. With water: Maggi and miso! Certainly some savoury notes, mushrooms, pack of English cigarettes… Mouth (neat): I don't like to use the word 'rustic' too often but this surely is rustic, we're pretty far from the champagnes and more on stalk, leaves and stems than on ripping tropical fruits and honeys. Almonds, kirsch, plum spirit… With water: more of all that. Stays pretty grassy. Finish: same. Some liquorice wood. Comments: it doesn't surprise me one bit that some authentic Scottish boy would have selected, and even vatted this. Great drier variation that the French, probably, wouldn't have dared doing. The French!
SGP:561 - 90 points.

More high power…

Bache Gabrielsen 'American Oak' (64.1%, OB, cognac, 2021)

Bache Gabrielsen 'American Oak' (64.1%, OB, cognac, 2021) Two stars and a half
Oh, no! American oak from Tennessee in our cognac! Possibly another sacrilege, let's see (our guns are on the tasting table)… Colour: light gold. Nose: excuse me? Vanilla, sawdust, banana skin, cinnamon rolls. Feels like a recent Glen Scotia, carved in oak, to tell you the truth. The jury's still out, vacationing in the high mountains... With water: sawdust and vanilla, plus ginger and cinnamon cookies. I believe we could live without this. Mouth (neat): hi-rye bourbon, really. With water: how shall we call this, maltgnac? Cognsky? Cognacsky? Nah, the latter sounds too Putinian. Finish: long. Comments: to be totally honest, this is a rather fine effort and anyone not into brandy may rather enjoy this modern oaky variant. But not sure the fine folks in Jarnac, Cognac or Saintes would approve, some may be spinning in their graves…

SGP:461 - 78 points.

Pierre Vallet 1978 (48%, OB, Grande Champagne, cask #820, +/-2022)

Pierre Vallet 1978 (48%, OB, Grande Champagne, cask #820, +/-2022) Four stars
From Jarnac indeed. Never tried any 'Pierre Vallet' but that doesn't mean a thing. The house uses English wordings on their labels, which may mean that they're mainly for export (non chill filtered,  cask, limited edition, cellar master, malted barley… no wait, not malted barley). We're curious… Colour: amber. Nose: very classic, with some chocolate, cappuccino, tiny metallic touches (copper coins), pinecones, peonies and pansies, tamarind jam, black turon, then more and more bitter chocolate… Mouth: very classic cognac indeed, starting with some rather big oak 'à l'ancienne' (may I speak French?), pinewood, going on with some propolis, black tea, coffee, bitter wood… I'm sure some would say we're rather in armagnac country. Finish: long, bitter, mentholy, piney. Marmalade and menthol in the aftertaste, plus a little bacon. Comments: moving, if a little out of fashion. One of the traditional styles, I would say. I remember my old uncles used to quaff these as digestifs, while smoking Dutch cigars.

SGP:471 - 85 points.

Come on, we had said this session was to celebrate WF's 20th (malternative) Anniversary! Quick, the probable antithesis…

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot 68' (46.3%, OB for Kirsch Import, Fins Bois, +/-2022)

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot 68' (46.3%, OB for Kirsch Import, Fins Bois, +/-2022) Four stars and a half
We haven't found any pictures for this one, so we had to select one ourselves. Come on, 1968! Colour: full gold. Nose: not funny. Quince jelly, custard, mirabelle jam, croissants au beurre, pack of Dunhill's and acacia honey. This combo should be streng forbidden, it's too easy, too nice, too unquestionable. Mouth: it may be starting to come out of the 'natural age range' on the palate, showing faint signs of (oaky) age here and there; on the other hand the mirabelles, peaches and raisins are still having enough stamina to fight back. Finish: this is where the battle is fought, between the spirit and the woods. The bitterish and peppery piney notes in the aftertaste are announcing that the war will soon be over. In a way, it's a moving moment. Comments: caught just in time. Very wonderful nose, palate excellent but 'in transit', shall we say.

SGP:461 - 88 points.

Older cognacs aren't always easy. It's sometimes excruciating to try some very old drops that have lost it to wood, while they should have been transferred them to demijohns long ago. Remember, aging is a gaussian curve, not a stairway to heaven (yea right, bravo, S.!)

Grande Champagne Héritage N.72 (50.2%, Cognac Sponge, 180 bottles, 2022)

Grande Champagne Héritage N.72 (50.2%, Cognac Sponge, 180 bottles, 2022) Four stars and a half
Colour: deep gold. Nose: not extremely expressive but quietly elegant, with some brioche (Marie-Antoinette's) and once again, some quince jelly and eau-de-vie (and liqueur, and jam, and syrup…) With water: more brioche, biscuits, old champagnes (the sparkling wine), raisins and dried jujubes, sunflower oil, fresh croissants… Mouth (neat): earth, leaves, compost, cigars, umami… In short, some tighter cognac, not for the clubs or the cercles (which are the French version of the English clubs, and where they drink less and talk more). With water: yeah, we unearthed the elegant fruitiness, neither pears not pineapples, rather small dried berries and fruits. Finish: medium, elegant, not unlike an old Glenmorangie that's not been dumped (read murdered) into new or virgin oak. Comments: I liked the Sponge's multivintage Fins Bois a little better, but this is still high-echelon, albeit a little rural spongey cognac.
SGP:461 - 88 points.

Down to the rock and roll years…

Prunier 'Lot 61' (53%, OB for Wine4You, selected by The Purist, Fins Bois)

Maison Prunier 'Lot 61' (53%, OB for Wine4You, selected by The Purist, Fins Bois) Five stars
Colour: very deep amber. Nose: thick Corinthian raisins and molasses at first, also chestnut honey, also English brown sauce, also Tennessee BBQ sauce, also Bulldog and just 'average smoky gravy'. I would suppose you got the picture. With water: fresher and rather all on chestnuts in all their guises. Roasted, puréed, liqueured (is that a word, S.?) and in a wonderful chutney that Chefs would serve with some proper Alsatian goose foie gras. One of the last times we're using foie gras as a descriptor, as it'll soon be banned in hygienist Europe. Europe knows nothing about birds. Mouth (neat): exceptional varnishy and salty teas, tannic cigars (some pleonasm, really) and thick, almost desiccated honey. With water: fantastic that such and old cognac would actually get sweeter when reduced, instead of a tannin bomb. Finish: medium, with lovely teas, menthols and piney things. Essences, liqueurs, oils, vegetal earths… Comments: any old spirit are about this very fragile balance. They're sports and the taster ought to be attentive, fair and humble.

SGP:561 - 90 points.

Hermitage 1948 (44.4%, OB, Grande Champagne)

Hermitage 1948 (44.4%, OB, Grande Champagne) Four stars
Pure ugni blanc, bottled around or before 2018 (obviously, as it was awarded a Gold Outstanding Award at the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2018. That's right.) A brand related to Michel Forgeron's, according to our home sleuths – they keep saying good seed makes a good crop. Colour: red amber. Nose: a warmer style, on compotes and jams, especially strawberry and tamarind  jams. Some stewed apples, cinnamon and damson tarte, old red Bourgogne (we could name many). Between a 1976 and a 1978 vintage, shall we say. Nice black chocolate too. Mouth: not quite Carl Lewis in Los Angeles 1984, but it's still full of jammy charms, compotes, ganaches and soft fruitcakes. Finish: medium, on teas, rosehip, hawthorn and all that. Whispering aftertaste, with some resins and walnuts. Comments: it's saying goodbye. Goodbye, Hermitage 1948!
SGP:451 - 87 points.

Prunier 'Lot 56' (52.8%, OB, Petite Champagne, Wine4You, The Purist, Alter Ego, 320 bottles, 2021)

Prunier 'Lot 56' (52.8%, OB, Petite Champagne, Wine4You, The Purist, Alter Ego, 320 bottles, 2021) Five stars
1956, that's the year of The New Miles Davis Quintet. Presto, 10 more points, including 5 for Coltrane. Colour: very deep gold. Nose: who's distilled a bag of panettones and kougelhopfs? And who's added hectolitres of fine Alsatian gewurztraminer, full of rose petals and litchis? With water: and scones and muffins? I man, blueberry muffins? Mouth (neat): marc de gewurztraminer, and one of the best! (which would be the ones we distil ourselves, naturally). Stunning floral fruitiness, plus flowers and spices. Something composed by great noses, such as the ones they used to have at Whyte and… Chanel. With water: old style perfumes and wholegrain breads, Austrian-style, which would include spicier poppy seeds and caraway. Finish: medium, very complex, with many older flavours. Europa in your glass. Spicy and drier aftertaste, but we've decided, pretty undemocratically, that we wouldn't care. Comments: I hope this is the kind of drop that neither Trump nor Putin would enjoy. Not one case to save the other.

SGP:562 - 91 points.

A break with a brandy!

Brandy 50 anos (40.4%, Perez Barquero and Corman-Collins, Montilla, 1008 bottles)

Brandy 50 anos (40.4%, Perez Barquero and Corman-Collins, Montilla, 1008 bottles) Five stars
So an old un-solera-ed brandy from Montilla (so PX, not palomino), and a vatting of two of the four remaining casks they were having at Perez Barquero's.  We need to thank our friend Hubert Corman here, while remembering that we hate the Belgians because they're always smarter and faster than ourselves the French with anything related to, let's put it simply, 'drinks'.  Colour: mahogany. Nose: butterscotch and butter caramel, you would believe this is amontillado, not brandy. Simple, millimetric, evident and philosophically dry and.. buttery indeed. Mouth: another dimension, it is brandy just like those old cognacs, but they've got strictly nothing to do together. More butter cream, butter cake, pecan cream, peanut butter, black turon, doughs, sour cherries, sour cream, proper mozzarella (I know)… and pine liqueur, and the driest dry chocolatey drink, and some oak extracts… What's definitely sure is that this is as dry and sour as possible. Finish: long, amontillado-y, sour, with walnuts and rancid butter. Comments: okay, this is old amontillado, it's just that it would have gone to eleven. Intellectual and challenging, not an easy drink. Foucault would have loved this. Vive la Belgique et l'Espagne.

SGP:362 - 90 points.

Let's move on…

Prunier 'Lot 40' (55%, OB, Wine4You, Grande Champagne, 168 bottles, 2021)

Prunier 'Lot 40' (55%, OB, Wine4You, Grande Champagne, 168 bottles, 2021) Five stars
1940 in France was a bit like 2022 in Ukraine. Colour: red amber. Nose: it's got the varnishy side of many an old bourbon, then plums, damsons, zwetchkes and quetsches. All things that will save the world. Let's not forget sloe and other schnaps and schnapsli. My god, 55% vol. at 80 years of age! With water: love this rural style. Plums, hay, Gauloises and old woods. Mouth (neat): sublime, for many reasons. Sure it's got its fair share of teaish and embrocatory (what?) tannins and teas, but it's still vigorous and even fruity. Marmalade, morello cherries, plums in chocolate, marzipan, Mozartkugeln, prunes… Bags and bags of prunes, really. With water: in 1940, Cognac was still within the so-called 'free zone'. A spirit full of dreams and expectations. Imagine the people who were distilling this, probably in the open, with a mobile still set, while the news was getting scarier by the minute. Finish: lovely. Comments: is there, or are there working distilleries in Ukraine? Could we talk?

SGP:561 - 91 points.

Mauxion 'Lot 31' (43.5%, OB, Borderies, +/-2022)

Mauxion 'Lot 31' (43.5%, OB, Borderies, +/-2022) Five stars
This is, you may have guessed it, most probably a 1931. It's spent all his time in wood and stems from the tiny region of the Borderies (so the borders). What's sure is that this is indeed older than the oldest Scotch whisky ever bottled. Colour: full yellow gold. Nose: the freshness is amazing, and I wouldn't have expected to find guavas and papayas first in such an old glory. Then honeycomb, honeysuckle, mullein syrup, elderflower syrup, a few raisins, a rather sublime menthol, some nougat… I'm finding this nose truly exceptional. Ninety years in wood! Also a drop of parfait amour, or violet liqueur. Mouth: some voodoo at play, for sure. A sumptuous tarte tatin, only with several fruits beneath instead of just apples. Once again some flowers, violets, mullein… as syrups. Crumbs of ginger cookie, sultanas, a hint of ripe banana, bits of scone and muffin, and a wonderfully liquoricy signature. I'm so glad that the old oak kept its distance, I would guess it was first filled in Napoléon's time. Finish: and the freshness remains, and so do the flowers and raisins. Terrific finish. Comments: miraculous. I'm sure what I'm going to add will be stupid, but you would almost believe this was filled and kept at and by Gordon & MacPhail's. I had warned you, something stupid. *** buying signal *** (no we don't do that, but in this case, we couldn't not do it).

SGP:651 - 93 points.

It's all going fine with our 20th Anniversary, is it not!

Grosperrin A29 (47.8%, L'Essentiel, Fins Bois, 152 bottles, +/-2022)

Grosperrin A29 (47.8%, L'Essentiel, Fins Bois, 152 bottles, +/-2022) Four stars and a half
A single cask from Matha Le Goulet. I had first thought this could be a 1929 but on second thought, after having seen the price (164€) I believe it's safe to say that it's younger and shouldn't quite belong here. Maybe a '92? But 'once poured'… Colour: deep gold. Nose: pleasures all around, with fresh fruits, a fruit salad really, and a few crushed mint leaves 'like in a mojito'. Add some honey and a drop of maple syrup, and you're up for a fantastic breakfast (they'll close this website for good one day, but we'll fight to the death!) Mouth: tops, rather grassier, with an unusual earthiness, then rather walnut skins, liquorice wood, mints, then stewed fruits plus jams. We're talking oranges, peaches and apricots, which are not uncommon in good cognac. Finish: medium, fresh, with some liquid liquorice over the same stewed oranges, peaches and apricots. Comments: wonderful, with some real presence and yet it would go down effortlessly.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Let's get back to the older ones… After all we were supposed to be in 1929…

Hermitage 1923 (43%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2020)

Hermitage 1923 (43%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2020) Four stars and a half
Our dear friends the Scots would surely sell a similar vintage for exactly one hundred times the price of this cognac (£1,200). Colour: dark gold. Nose: it's gone into another dimension, all made out of precious leathers, tobaccos, hardwoods and balms. Add pinecones and roasted pecans and Brazil nuts, perhaps even peanuts, but no fresh or even preserved fruits whatsoever this time. Not a problem at all on the nose, but let's check the palate with caution… Mouth: it might be a little fragile and a little on cinnamon sticks and melba toasts at first. Not sure the strength is 'natural' or if it had been brought down, but a little more wattage would have been welcome for sure. Having said that, if you give it time (and who wouldn't give some time to a 1923 cognac?) you'll find wee mentholated bits of peaches and a small glass of old Sauternes. Finish: pretty medium, grassier, not drying. A tiny bit of plasticine in the aftertaste. Comments: a charming fragility.

SGP:541 - 89 points.

Mauxion 'Lot 14' (41.2%, OB, Wine4You, Borderies, +/-2022)

Mauxion 'Lot 14' (41.2%, OB, Wine4You, Borderies, +/-2022) Five stars
A 1914, straight from the wood, so more than one hundred years old. You read that right. Most probably made by women or just old guys, as most men had been sent to war already (the war started on July 28). Very moving drop… We just hope the guys who managed to survive the war could have a wee sip of this one when back home, from the cask, when it was still very young. Let's clink our glasses, brothers, after all we've only got 106 years and a few months lying between us.  Colour: gold. The utter wonders of proper refill wood. In most cases, new wood is an aberration. Nose: you ought to believe in miracles. Williams pears (pears!) and peaches, some quince and barley syrups, some adorable whiffs of dried rose petals, patchouli while we're at it, old-style perfume (we used to quote Joy de Patou), and some lady's night cream. I swear I'm not quoting those because we had said this may have been made by women. Honestly. Mouth: pears again, and even apples, you'd believe this was a very old calvados Domfrontais. And a great one at that. Fantastic peaches, old white wine (old viognier, Château-Grillet…) with even a muscaty side and really some fantastic raisins of all sorts and origins. Forgot to mention peach syrup. Fantastic. Finish: not too long, but adorable, absolutely not oaky, rather on old meads, honeys, apple brandy indeed… Comments: many old cognacs have been transferred to demijohns, so say a 1922 is in general not really 100 years old, as only time in oak casks counts. But this is different, as it's spent all its life in wood. I'm not even sure I've ever tried another '100'. Probably, but I'm really not sure…

SGP:541 - 91 points.

Exceptional, that 1914! Really glad I could try it to celebrate WF's 20th. But this is not over, because you're only 20 once, are you not…

La Roseraie 'Lot 11' (40.2%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 44 bottles, 2021)

La Roseraie 'Lot 11' (40.2%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 44 bottles, 2021) Five stars
This from the Héritage de René Rivière, in Saint-Sulpice. We had tried a stunning 'Circa 1913' back in 2020 (WF 91) while a 'Before 1925' had been even more to our liking (WF 92). This 1911 was transferred to a demijohn in 1983, which means that it's technically a 71 or a 72 years old. Oh and remember that it's in 1911 that Roald Amundsen has been the first human being to ever reach the South Pole (unless someone tells us that was actually the Vikings too, ha-ha). Colour: deep gold. Nose: all softness, all on apricot cake, Danishes (the Vikings again!), preserved mirabelles and pears, acacia honey, tinned peaches, soft syrups, almond milk… Mouth: a little more fragile after the miraculous 1914, perhaps a tad more teaish, relatively more on peach skins than on flesh, but let's not start to split hairs, it remained incredibly fresh and even refreshing. Awesome notes of high-end apple juice and even cider. Finish: not even short or shortish, it's still got watts and would keep in your glass for at least one hour. Preserved peaches in the aftertaste. Comments: what's incredibly striking is that 'cognac' hasn't changed much over a century, while Scotch malt whisky really has. Was it for the better? This is not the time to discuss these issues all over again… what's more, this is a cognac session.
SGP:551 - 90 points.

You may have, or have not, noticed that many bottlings that we've tried today had been imported to Belgium. I believe the Belgians are the #1 French brandy specialists in the world, way above the French themselves (the French prefer Cardhu and Monkey Shoulder, don't ask).. Good, I believe we have room for a very last one… So let's make it to the 19th century!

Marquis de Montdidier 1897/1977 (40%, OB, Fine de Bourgogne, 150cl)

Marquis de Montdidier 1897/1977 (40%, OB, Fine de Bourgogne, 150cl) Three stars and a half
An old fine and not a marc, so distilled wine just like cognac, made in Nuits-St-Georges in Burgundy. Let's not expect anything as well-polished and civilised as the old cognacs we just had, but you just never know. I believe this was a large outturn, most in magnums but magnums were hardly sufficient to the very motivated French drinkers of the mid-1970s. Having said that, you may have noticed that provided it was still in wood when this was bottled, it is a +/-80 years old fine. Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, not exactly cognac, this has more 'fiddlings' inside, aniseed, fennel, liquorice, verbena, grapey notes, even pastis and, once again, calvados. It's a kind of melting pot, slightly liqueury on the nose, not unpleasant at all, but it would rather remind me of, say Armenian brandies than of proper cognac. Very curious about the palate… Mouth: charming, but with some caramel, wee molasses, some notes of grittier marc indeed, a faint feeling of sugar syrup, perhaps small berries (elder, sorb, holly…)… Charming indeed, but slightly flabby. Not all spirits could handle these 40% vol. with grace and responsiveness. Finish: short, sweet, with a grapiness that's not unpleasant. Comments: do not get me wrong, there is some fun to be had with this very old spirit that was distilled while the first horseless cab/taxi companies were being founded in London or Paris. Did you know they were all using electric cars?

SGP:451 - 83 points.

See you, happy Sunday, stay tuned for more celebratory sessions...

 

July 30, 2022


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
The 20th Anniversary Sessions, today two new cats from Japan

 

A very quick wee tasting, but one that perhaps underscores some of the things I wrote in my mini-essay for our 20th Anniversary post the other day. Namely about whisky being more global, increasingly better at younger ages these days and often made by very talented, independent people.

 

 

 

 

 

Shizuoka 3 yo 2017/2021 (50.4%, OB for Club Qing, cask #2017-119, 31 bottles)

Shizuoka 3 yo 2017/2021 (50.4%, OB for Club Qing, cask #2017-119, 31 bottles)
I'm late to the party but it seems everyone is already whispering about Shizuoka… Colour: gold. Nose: I'm not sure to what extent there's hot climate involved here, but it's mad to think this is only 3 years old. Hugely syrupy, concentrated and resinous with many impressions of fir woods, delicate embrocations, precious oils, sandalwood, coconut and this perfectly balanced and highly aromatic spiciness. 'Scented' is a word that springs to mind. It's also very immediately a whisky that is about distillate, not just good wood. With water: pine needles, fir resins, polished exotic hardwood, chai tea and various crystallised exotic fruits. Wonderfully aromatic and detailed. Mouth: jasmine flowers, putty, lime leaf, waxed sandalwood, mineral oils, camphor and various kinds of embrocation and vapour rubs. Strays into herbal liqueur territory with this sweet, herbaceous quality. With water: terrific development, becomes much fatter, wider and more oils, waxes, exotic spices, dried orange peel and camphor. Even a little earthy and showing wee notes of petrichor and salted almonds. Finish: good length, a little buttery, more camphor, more of these soft wood spice and pot pourri impressions. Comments: I had it at 89 but water tipped it over the 90 line. Just beautifully sculpted distillate. But only 31 bottles? Booo!
SGP: 562 - 90 points.

 

 

Chichibu 'London Edition 2021' (51.5%, OB, bourbon barrels, 1859 bottles)

Chichibu 'London Edition 2021' (51.5%, OB, bourbon barrels, 1859 bottles)
I know, Chichibu isn't exactly a new kid on the block anymore, in fact I'd say it has become a more established name by now. But it's still a name that always feels like good news to me. This one is a vatting of 7 barrels, all aged over 5 years, four of which previously held peated whisky - not sure whether that was peated Chichibu or something else. Colour: pale gold. Nose: the peat sings straight away here with sweet, crisp, gently salty peat smoke. Lots of linens, chalk, cereals, putty and touches of linseed oil and even some impressions of smoked artichoke in olive oil. Personality in abundance once again. With water: drier and smokier, a slightly floral accented smoke that also invokes bonfire embers, scrunched newspapers in a coal hearth and pine wood. Mouth: again this sweet and salty peaty smoke, in the mouth it's also creamy and rather fatty with a dairy aspect about it. Smoked olive oil, dried capers, a few drops of lemon juice and notes of bandages and iodine. Really quite impressively peaty. With water: more subtle now, there's sandalwood, hessian, dried citrus fruits and more impressions of camphor and smoked olive oil. Very rounded and mouth filling. Finish: long, gently smoky, still pretty peaty and with this lovely, bright salinity and citrus note in the aftertaste. Comments: another very smart composition, the peat influence has been very deftly integrated I would say. Great overall balance and particularly good texture in the mouth.
SGP: 465 - 90 points.

 

 

 

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

 

July 29, 2022


Whiskyfun

 

 

The 20th Anniversary Celebratory Sessions, today Brora

It was unimaginable not to taste some Broras to celebrate this wee website's 20th anniversary. Without Brora, it's not impossible that Whiskyfun wouldn't even have existed, as it started as a few pages about the famous small Distillery in Sutherland. We've tried many Broras along and over the years but there are still some that we haven't written any tasting notes for. I find it also funny that WF would turn 20 exactly in the year when Brora Distillery would have started 'burning' again. No?  

Brora

 

 

Brora 1972/1994 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Brora 1972/1994 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Five stars
Bottled under the 'old brown map label', or whatever we used to call these back then. All the other 1972s by G&M have been fantastic, despite the meagre ABVs. I also remember my first visit in Elgin, when some Director (no names) opened the company bar and said 'please have whatever you like'. All releases of these Broras were there and… I still feel shame. By the way, current standings, 72/92: 92/100, 72/93: 93/100, 72/94: let's see, 72/95: 95/100, 72/96: 90/100, 72/97: 91/100. Colour: gold. Nose: your majesty! It's sumptuously dry whisky, terrifically mineral and earthy, with as much coal as peat, camphor, yuzus, Barbour grease, fresh oil paint and putty, old tools and whatnot. In fact, it's incredibly pure and yet fat and wide, with that waxy side that was also to be found in neighbours Clynelish (I was about to write daughter of Brora). Mouth: the body and the strength are very impressive, after almost thirty years in glass at only 40% vol. Some kind of miracle has happened here, but we're also reminded of 'many' old high-malt-content blends that used to share a part of this wonderful profile. Stunning smoke, minerals, metals, earths and small citrus, cough syrups and assorted liquids that do much good to you. Moves on towards sweeter bouillons, possibly something Japanese. And menthol, umami, miso… Well it is just endless. I'm just wondering why G&M have never bottled a Brora within their 'CASK' range back then. Finish: incredibly long, and even more magnificent and complex. What we always called 'doing the peacock's tail', with myriads of waxy, salty, mineral and citrusy notes invading the entirety of your body while we just give up and abandon ourselves. Comments: this indefatigable whisky is a friend. In the old days, we would have quoted actresses, but that's become totally out of fashion, and very rightly so. Immense. A great riesling ;-).

SGP:565 - 95 points.

Brora 32 yo 1970/2002 (58.4%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 297 bottles)

Brora 32 yo 1970/2002 (58.4%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 297 bottles) Five stars
These 1970s are very rare, as the old Clynelish Distillery had only started functioning again around one year earlier. I have to confess I do not quite remember this one, even if I've already tried it – and did not take any notes (boo!) Let's simply add that Douglas Laing and not the Distillers, as well as compadres Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory Vintage, have been totally instrumental in the building of the legend of Brora. Without those three, I'm not sure we would still be talking about Brora in 2022… (and to a lesser extent, Blackadder, the SMWS, Ian MacLeod or Cadenhead). Colour: light gold. Nose: we're diving into a bucket of pitch and almond oil, with many crushed zests and menthol cigarettes thrown in (but who would do that). Behind that, quite some metal polish and fresh paint, some hay, beeswax, toolbox and coins, a little copper and a little leather cream. Incredible complexity and yet oneness. Everything was there already. With water: strictly no changes. Mouth (neat): full body and stamina, perfect voltage, bags of crystallised and dried citrus, some leather and tobacco, a little pine resin, and probably a need for a little water. It is almost a little brutal! With water: water is both further opening it and making it a little narrower. I agree, that's strange. Citrons and bergamots, even more tight citrus, a 'greener' peat and a medicinal side. Finish: long and both fat and citrusy. Very candied aftertaste, with also mushrooms, pepper and a little black nougat. Comments: they had tried to replicate Lagavulin in the very early days, and it is said that their top noses couldn't differentiate them. I don't think these batches were of '1972' level yet, but they were getting there for sure. Love it, naturally.
SGP:566 - 92 points.

… and a new one for good measure…

Brora 1981/2021 (44.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima Third Release, American Oak hogshead and European Oak Sherry butt, 393 bottles, 2022)

Brora 1981/2021 (44.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima Third Release, American Oak hogshead and European Oak Sherry butt, 393 bottles, 2022) Five stars
The owners say this is the last 1981. If they have zillions of 1972s on the side, I not sure that's a big deal, according to most other 1981s I could try. Oh well, I know what I'm trying to say. Colour: gold. Nose: not so fast, S., this sure isn't a 1972, but it's full of charms and subtleties, such as wee vegetal oils, then small citrus and tropical fruits that some very famous old peaters from Islay's south shore could be jealous of. I'm especially thinking of 1960s 'L', or even 'B' on Loch Indaal. Mangos, passion fruits, grapefruits, petroly riesling, shoe polish, putty, plasticine… All that is simply working a treat on the nose – and like a charm indeed. Mouth: sweet Vishnu, this may be the nicest 1981 I've tried. Wonderful nutty Turkish delights, full of pistachios, a feeling of putty again, smoked marzipan, bitterer fruits then, oils again and again (sesame), and even a little butterscotch that could make me believe that some kind or smart re-racking was done with this one. Not too sure. Finish: medium, this time with mints and smoky old herbal liqueurs. Lovely citrusy signature, on bergamots and kumquats. Like. Also a little demerara sugar. Comments: this side of Brora was extremely charming too, even if these vintages have always lived in the shadows of the mighty 1972s. Let's treat them right.
SGP:563 - 92 points.

A last one just for fun. Many moons ago, I had done some kind of 'masterclass' (oh well, just a tasting session, I'm neither Pablo Casals nor Miles Davis mind you) in London, around the idea of comparing Clynelish with Brora (as far as I can recall, it's getting hazy). What I remember is that Diageo had provided me with some bottle-sized samples of very sherried 1972 from their warehouses, which have been duly tasted during that 'masterclass', naturally. But I had kept a very wee sample and I would say today is a good day to down it quick, straight, dry, and easy.

Brora 1972 (cask sample, sherry, drawn circa 2010?)
Colour: look at this colour! This is almost coffee. Nose: in the style of the Brorageddon and, to a lesser extent, to The Whisky Shop's own 1972. If that rings a bell… Incredible mix of walnut stain, crème de menthe, pipe tobacco and just liquid tar and liquorice. Rarely has thick sherry tangoed this well with heavy peat. Mouth: very concoctiony, thick, piney and mentholy, rather full of absinth, chartreuse and crazy coffees. Finish: extremely long, heavy and massive. Comments: I think I've tried all officials and I would say they never bottled this one, at least not as a single cask. Do they still have it?
SGP: 376

(photograph Jon Beach)

(Thank you Derek, KC and Nick!)

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

 

July 28, 2022


Whiskyfun

 

 

Today, Whiskyfun is twenty and if you allow us, we shall try to celebrate with a little panache!
Angus has kindly written the main notes for these celebratory malt whiskies and I'll be content with adding some newer impressions of mine, while remembering that I've already tried these, sometimes several times. Having said that, old bottles may diverge a wee bit from each other over the years, contexts may change as well, and frankly, I'll always prefer to try a brilliant malt for the umpteenth time, rather than tackle a brand new expression of Passport, William Lawson's, or any pumped-up and truly uninspiring new NAS from Speyside or elsewhere that's already met with three, four or five different oaks over its very short life span. See what I mean?
Anyway, happy 20th Anniversary to little Whiskyfun, these celebrations will last for a good few days but in the meantime, here's what we've chosen to taste on this very day, with the extremely helpful assistance of our excellent friends Aaron and Jon in Hong Kong. Angus has also written a very thought-provoking piece about how whisky has changed (or not) over those 20 years, you'll find it after these tasting notes. Please note that other such wee articles may get posted in the coming days or even weeks, we may have things to say, we'll see.

Onto the whiskies now…

 

 

Tasting Eight Sherried Legends
for Whiskyfun's 20th Anniversary,
with thanks to Aaron & Jon in Hong Kong

 

 

 

Sherried Legend #1

 

 

Macallan 15 yo 1947 (80 proof, Campbell Hope & King, Rinaldi import, sherry, long cap)

Macallan 15 yo 1947 (80 proof, Campbell Hope & King, Rinaldi import, sherry, long cap)
There is also a version with a shorter 'securo' capsule, although how different the whiskies are I couldn't tell you having never tasting them head to head. Needless to say this and the 1946 are held in extremely high esteem and for very good reason. These post-war batches were famously more peaty than later vintages. And then there's also the legend about Campbell Hope & King's bottlings being superior to Gordon & MacPhail's due to the fact they would add aged Cognac to their bottlings when vatting. I couldn't tell you if that was true, but it was certainly a practice that used to be common on Cognac where they would add some very old rhums for sweetness and colour.

 

 

So it's not inconceivable, and it's certainly a nice story, but personally I think the quality of this series is more due to the fact they were bottled at 15yo and 80 proof. Colour: gold. Nose: extremely herbaceous and on the kind of peat that feels subdivided into many various roots, earths, smoked teas and organic aspects. Add to this some totally stunning and remarkably fresh exotic fruit qualities and you really have lift off. Behind this also crystallised and preserved fruits of all kinds, many more teas of the fruit and herbal varieties and things like very old Fins Bois Cognac and yellow Chartreuse. Mouth: superbly herbal and syrupy, but also very full of waxes, metal polishes, wee sooty notes, tiny inflections of OBE and a gorgeously medicinal, cough syrup flavour. Extremely concentrated, further notes of coconut, sweet dessert wines and medical embrocations. A rather peppery and increasingly loud peat flavour also begins to come through. Really displays impressive power and freshness still. Finish: long, peppery, peaty, rooty, lightly sappy and still very herbal and full of various fruit and herbal liqueur impressions. Comments: these bottling have perhaps become a little forgotten about, but they still have remarkable power and quality and its unsurprising they have had such a big influence over many whisky lovers. The balance of peat, fruit and earthy complexity in this one is just stunning - could be an old Talisker or Highland Park in many ways.
SGP: 665 - 94 points. 
(Angus)

 

 

 

Serge: I first tried the 1947 in 2004 and scored it 96/100. It is one of those whiskies that you remember, even after err, eighteen years, but I'm now finding my early note particularly poor. I hadn't even recorded the bottler at that time (G&M or CH&K?) and couldn't have cared less about the kind of closure, long neck, short cap, securo, straight neck, bulky neck, cork stopper et al.. But things were to change after only a few months of 'blogging'… Having said that, these whiskies weren't really rare back then and trying them was not quite 'an event'. Just booze… Colour: gold. Nose: coal and peat smoke, meaty fats, gentian, chartreuse and camphor, hundreds of old liqueurs, some long forgotten, and a magic savoury and waxy side that reminds me of an old restaurant in China, way, way before WF was started.  Mouth: don't stand when trying this, please sit down. Extraordinary notes of mint and all things related to said plant, French and Spanish chartreuses, root liqueurs, bouillons, smoked meats and fish, pine liqueurs… Finish: more of those stunning liqueurs. Comments: it was said that they were firing their stills using peat instead of fuel during and right after the war, because fuel was in short supply (and warships did not run on peat). Not sure that was true, having said, and if it was, whether were they still doing that in 1947.

 

 

 

 

Sherried Legend #2

 

 

Tormore 16 yo 1966 (57%, Samaroli, sherry wood)

Tormore 16 yo 1966 (57%, Samaroli, sherry wood)
This one was part of Samaroli's very first series, along with the Laphroaig 1967, undoubtedly one of the greatest whiskies every bottled. Needless to say, this Tormore carries an extremely high reputation… Colour: deep brownish amber. Nose: a deep, mighty and robust sherry profile. Highly focussed on damp earths, tobaccos, walnut liqueur, dark chocolate, elegant game meats and espresso. But really it is a whisky about focus, control and power - the way the familiar flavours are concentrated and delivered is the most impressive aspect. These are whiskies which kind of dominate the taster and take charge of the directions - all you can do is follow along.

 

 

Probably why Serge calls them 'Movie malts'. Now it becomes amazingly savoury, earthy and umami, on mole sauce and Maggi, in time also some dried exotic fruit notes in the background too. With water: really perfectly fresh and balanced now. Dried exotic fruits alongside raisins and sultanas. I also find things like incense and pot pourri with some spiced marmalades. Outstanding elegance and complexity but also power. Mouth: very darkly fruity, dried out dark fruits, preserved prunes in Armagnac, the best black coffee and bitter dark chocolate with sea salt. In fact this salinity is quite a key aspect which I hadn't noticed in this whisky before, makes me think quite directly of the greatest VORS olorosos. With water: goes up another level now. Umami, many shades of fruit, earth, immensely beautiful rancio, dried herbal qualities and all the above flavours but here there's an elevated sense of cohesion and beauty which is kind of breath-taking. Finish: incredibly long, mentholated, on all the above flavours but remaining entirely about cohesion, control and complexity to the very end - whenever that may be… Comments: so fascinating to try this side by side with the Longmorn, when the Longmorn arrives at its place it settles. This one just keeps sailing into the stratosphere and becoming more and more elegant, complex and fascinating. Each time you return there is something new to discover, an effortless masterpiece.
SGP: 672 - 95 points.
  (Angus)

 

 

 

Serge: it is to wonder if this very bottling hasn't been a little instrumental in Sukhinder Singh and his skilled gang's decision to buy up Tormore Distillery from Pernod Ricard, just a few weeks ago. Right, I'm not saying it was the only reason… Having said that, I only wrote a proper note for it in 2009, but I remember it had brought me to my knees. Colour: mahogany. Nose: starts with the most precious coffee and the most precious chocolate, plus a feeling of 500 years old oloroso. Moves then towards fatty meats and bouillons, plus myriads of other such aromas. This is a much expurgated note but in truth, you could spend your night with this dram, rather than binge-watching Netflix. Mouth: you can't make them more savoury and rancio-y. As Angus said, it must have been seating next to the greatest armagnacs, and perhaps cognacs, at the school of booze. Finish: almost eternal. Comments: this kind of 'sherry' is nowhere to be seen anymore. All these bespoke 'seasoned' casks of today simply do not compare.

 

 

 

 

Sherried Legend #3

 

 

Longmorn-Glenlivet 1974/1985 (60.8%, Samaroli, sherry, 600 bottles)

Longmorn-Glenlivet 1974/1985 (60.8%, Samaroli, sherry, 600 bottles)
1974 seems to be one of the very last years where Longmorn would display an almost obscene exotic fruitiness, this is another that holds a strong reputation. Although, last time Serge recorded notes for these pages, he found water to be pretty essential, let's see… Colour: deep amber. Nose:  amazing how interesting it is to try this adjacent to the Tormore. This is immediately more tropical up front, dried exotic fruits, tropical jams and teas. But then there's many similarities to the Tormore: black miso, umami, damp cellar earths and leather tobacco pouches. Once again it's really about delivery, poise, power, concentration and control.

 

 

The positive attributes of these old Samaroli beasts are all very shared I believe. in time even more fruits come: pomegranate, blood orange, star fruit, guava - mesmerically fruity! With water: really stunningly exotic and amazingly vibrant, it really does sing with water! There's also little game meat and hessian notes fading in and out. Mouth: maybe not as immediately immense as the Tormore, instead really softly earthy, stunningly fruity - dark fruits as well as tropical - and also showing similar vibes of umami paste, chocolate sauce and even salted treacle. With water: same story of exuberant fruity flavours of preserved exotic and dark fruits along with roots, herbs, game meats, treacle and herbal wines. Immense length and concentration and power. Finish: long, perfectly on bitter herbs, fir wood resins, camphor, natural tar extracts and preserved dark fruits. Becomes even a little medicinal now. Totally stunning and almost monolithic. Comments: a totally stunning whisky, but in the end it kind of finds its place and stays there, even becoming a tad monolithic and tiring, despite its obvious brilliance.
SGP: 662 - 93 points
  (Angus)

 

 

 

Serge: first tried in 2005, Samaroli again. I remember, in the heyday of the Malt Maniacs and of Excel sheets, I used to keep a ranking of all bottlers, including simply 'OB' (the OB category was sitting somewhere near the end of the second tier). Two bottlers used to reign supreme, the tiny The Bottlers (Raeburn Fine Wines) and… Samaroli indeed. Having said that, you cannot taste Longmorn without thinking of Gordon & MacPhail. Colour: coffee. Nose: ooh the Longmorn jams and chocolates! Liqueur-filled chocolate, ganaches, insane deserts, blackberry jam, blueberry tarte (watch your blue teeth), tamarind and mango jams… As Angus said, it is the most exuberant this far, and I'm happy to report, empirically, that wasps prefer this one. Mouth: it's an easier one. Longmorn's never been difficult. Many jams again, a touch of incense, and the thickest, most extravagant Jamminess. Finish: same, plus once again some old wine brandies (watch this page on Sunday!) Comments: superb but perhaps not the utter craze, possibly because there were many other great Longmorns.

 

 

 

 

Sherried Legend #4

 

 

Springbank 12yo (100 proof / 57.1%, OB for Samaroli, early 1980s, 2400 bottles)

Springbank 12yo (100 proof / 57.1%, OB for Samaroli, early 1980s, 2400 bottles)
Serge and I have both tried this legend on several occasions, and Serge has recorded notes for these pages twice now. So, we'll try to keep this brief and to the point. Suffice to say, this is an important and hugely influential bottling that has been responsible for detonating the minds of countless whisky people in the decades since it was bottled. Colour: amber. Nose: what always strikes me about this whisky is that where other legendary bottlings (like the Tormore above) need time in the glass to get to their nirvana point, this one just always seems to arrive fully formed. A devastating mix of all manner of fruits, waxes, intricately detailed peat and almost any stunning flavour group you could care to mention.

 

 

That's really the struggle with this whisky, it's impossible to write a tasting note without penning something of similar length to the Epic of Gilgamesh. There is almost too much going on, you hardly know where to begin. With water: kaleidoscopic and once again leaves you feeling a little breathless to keep up with everything that is going on. Enough said! Mouth: a whisky where every part of its production, maturation and bottling went right for it. Its challenges are also its assets because so many different attributes - sweet flavours, dry flavours, fruit flavours, sherry flavours - are all dialled up so high and yet they fuse and balance together so perfectly. The only part that isn't 'big' is the peat, but even then it is certainly present and plays incredible tricks in how it interacts with the other parts of this whisky. Hypnotic and bewildering. With water: I find it juicer, fruitier, more playful and globally more luscious. But the same characteristics and qualities as described above remain firmly in place. Hard to believe the power and endless evolution of this whisky. Finish: huge, immensely long and really it's the power that's so striking, the aftertaste seems to get more powerful over time rather than fading. Very few whiskies I ever tried seem to possess this kind of power and trickery. Comments: my feelings and score remain unchanged for this remarkable whisky. Each time I taste it I discover something new about it. SGP:
662 - 97 points. 
  (Angus)

 

 

 

Serge: I must have already written the equivalent (quantity-wise, not quality-wise) of Crime and Punishment about this very Springbank. I first tried it in 2004, I remember that was in Zürich with good friends, and couldn't score it less than 98/100. I know it is not an easy whisky, in the sense that if you do not give it at least two hours of your precious time, you may well miss the point completely, and even go like 85 points, no wait 87, no wait 89, no wait 91, no wait… 98. Never rush legends! Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts a little rustic, almost closed, and then starts to take off like an albatross, slowly, even a little clumsily, then rises to the sun. Other than that, I fully agree with what Angus just wrote. Ever been to the main market in Barcelona? All what's there is also in this whisky (minus the pickpockets). Mouth: some kind of precious five-storey liqueur. Dried fruits, teas, herbs, honeys, spices. Just like at that market. Finish: perhaps the most spectacular side of it, it is just endless and goes in cycles, almost never reaching the end. You'll always find something you hadn't noticed before, which will make you go for another sip, etc. Careful with this kind of perpetual motion, the proper procedures being 1. Pour a glass 2. Store the bottle 100m away 3. Nose and drink. Comments: please always follow the procedures.

 

 

 

 

Sherried Legend #5

 

 

Springbank 24 yo 1966/1990 (58.1%, OB, Local Barley, cask #443, sherry)

Springbank 24 yo 1966/1990 (58.1%, OB, Local Barley, cask #443, sherry)
One of the first three official Local Barley bottlings, a series that's also of huge influence and importance to malt whisky culture. Although, I'd argue that these perhaps flew under the radar a little in comparison to the Samaroli, perhaps because they aren't quite as immediate and 'obvious' as that great 12 yo. These sherry beasts need quite a bit of time and air to reveal themselves in my experience… Colour: mahogany. Nose: almost the opposite of the Samaroli in the sense that there is a feeling of tension, as though this whisky is holding onto so much of itself. Yet, each time you come back to the nose there's something new.

 

 

It starts on chocolate for me, but you inhale at these threads and they unravel as earths, roots, smoke, 100 year old Armagnac, dried mint and eucalyptus. It's rather frightening as you feel this is another one which will just drag you in all directions for hours. With quite a bit of breathing time it's now beautifully on eucalyptus, fir wood liqueurs, herbal liqueurs, hardwood resins and exotic teas. Also a powerful and almost salt-tinged rancio. I don't think it's as good as the Samaroli, but this is still quite an astonishing dram. With water: really explodes in astonishing fashion now. Huge richness of menthol herbs, umami and exotic wood spices. Teas, dried exotic fruits and walnut wine. Once again we go back to this characteristic of power and concentration and the way this whisky delivers what are essentially familiar flavours and aromas. It really becomes astoundingly complex now, you could list many tiny aromas for hours. Mouth: wonderfully massive and enveloping texture, aged cheng pi orange peels, waxes, resinous fir wood, cloves and mineral oils. An astonishing fusion of aged teas, herbs, roots and mentholated tobaccos once again. With water: it changes again. Takes on new dimensions of flavour. Bitter herbs, green and citrus fruits, becomes fresher and juicer but also at the same time earthier, more medicinal, darker and displaying a rather beautiful bitterness of herbs, tar, pepper and earth. Finish: actually similar feelings to the Samaroli here, this is huge whisky. Extremely long, intense power, structure and stunning delivery of all these flavours that remain and echo long into the aftertaste. Comments: The gap between this one and the Samaroli started out rather wide but narrowed considerably. I still prefer the Samaroli, but this is a remarkable whisky and deserving of its mighty reputation.
SGP: 672 - 95 points. 
  (Angus)

 

 

 

Serge: first – and last – tried in 2009. These are the bottles we all regret we haven't bought more of, just because they were 'already a little bit expensive' as they were coming out. Mind you, they used to gather dust in the shops because of that. We were fools. Colour: coffee. Nose: another movie-malt, but this time a part of that comes from proper aging, whilst the others were actually 'young' malts, further refined in glass, as Silvano Samaroli would have said. Incredible combination of raisins and other dried fruits, black olives, chestnut honey, polishes, smoky earths, and as Angus suggested, old rancio. I knew a general store in Freiburg, Germany, where they were having these and other West Highland Malts in the back of the shelves and strictly no one was buying them. But that was before blogs, forums and other evil. Mouth: it's rather full of liquorice and resins at first, then indeed, menthol tobacco and salty bouillons and even teas. Pu-Ehr tea. Mesmerizingly firm. Finish: long and really earthy, with many cigars. Comments: this is almost like enjoying some cigars without a puff. It should be covered by social security.

 

 

 

 

Sherried Legend #6

 

 

Karuizawa 1967/2009 (58.4%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 10th anniversary, cask #6426)

Karuizawa 1967/2009 (58.4%, OB for The Whisky Exchange 10th anniversary, cask #6426)
A shared bottling between TWE and LMDW, commonly lauded as one of, if not the greatest Karuizawa ever bottled… Colour: deep amber. Nose: what really strikes me is that this is like nosing the most stunning, long aged Armagnac you can imagine. Layers and layers of dried herbs, incense, roots and medicinal ointments. A profile which speaks of hotter climate maturation but it the most sublime way. With some time there's also coconut, mead, plum wine and even some very distant trails of the most elegant peat smoke. One of these whiskies that keeps going and going, endless resins, wood spices, crystallised fruits and delicate medicinal aspects.

 

 

Now leaf mulch, damp cellar earths and wild mushrooms. With water: sweeter and more mentholated, fruit liqueurs and syrups which give this feeling of elevated concentration and texture. Mouth: as with so many of these legendary whiskies, the word cohesion is what I often come back to. This feels like a cohesive whole, there's endless tiny flavours popping out, but it feels like a beautiful and singular spirit when you taste it. With water: becomes more powerful now, water seems to draw out more overt and punchy flavours of black pepper, pu erh tea, wormwood and camphor. Many complex medicinal and herbal flavours with mint, eucalyptus and tea tree oil. Finish: another one that's wonderfully long, resinous, herbal and back on exotic wood spices, incense, paprika and cedar wood. Quite exquisite! Comments: what I love most are these flavours of incense and medicines and the way it makes you think of very old Armagnacs, which in turn makes you think of some tropically aged rums. Another great whisky that reminds me of all the shared DNA in the great spirits of the world.
SGP: 563 - 94 points.
  (Angus)

 

 

 

Serge: another one that I've tried several times, first as it came out, in 2009.  We've had some extraordinary Japanese whiskies with the Malt Maniacs earlier, especially that Yamazaki 1984 sherry that had literally killed us all and caught Top Gold at our awards. I'd like to add that there's a gentleman who's been totally instrumental to the rise of Japanese Whisky in Europe, that's our friend Bert Vuik, who first let me try some proper Karuizawa from some small bottles (20 or 25cl) that were only available at the Distillery. The other Karuizawas that you could find in Japan, at that time, were nearly crap and for scrap. Anyway, this 1967 was and remains sublime, with some very high and yet totally well-integrated cask extraction. Wonderful jams, dried fruits, ashes and oils and waxes going towards hevea. I find it even more Japanese than before; it's really captured the spirit of the country. To sip while listening to Sakamoto's best, but indeed, as Angus wrote, it also echoes the other greatest aged spirits of the world.  And what a wonderful length!

 

 

 

 

Sherried Legend #7

 

 

Glen Garioch 1971 (59.6%, Samaroli, 2280 bottles, sherry)

Glen Garioch 1971 (59.6%, Samaroli, 2280 bottles, sherry)
Another early Samaroli masterpiece of huge importance to whisky culture. Always worth remembering that this is only around 8 years old, that it is as much about the peat as the sherry, and that Samaroli himself would say in later years that bottlings such as this one were not as good when bottled as they would later become. After all, he was an early advocate of bottle ageing. Another total glory that I tried a few times but didn't record formal notes for. Colour: amber. Nose: old style peat and old style sherry in perfect fusion. Only here it is this very specific profile that is both syrupy and slightly drying. Extremely medicinal and full of roots, wormwood, natural tar and underlying notes of camphor and hessian.

 

 

It's also outstandingly umami and salty. Huge power, but also amazing poise and control. It's still a total mindfuck to think that this is under 10 years old. Quite a few allusions to Brora in some ways too with this rustic farmyard peat. With water: bigger and broader, astonishingly. Rather more focussed on gentian, tar, earth and raw, immense, dry peat. Almost knocking the sherry into second place now. Mouth: massive! The Bowmore is probably more complex and slightly more subtle, despite also being a beast, but this is just a total leviathan! Astonishing power and immensity of peat flavour, peat you can figuratively chew. Dark, unctuous, hugely on savoury, umami and salty sherry with litres of natural tar, medicines and sooty peat embers. Totally kills you in the most brilliant way. With water: same story as on the nose. Intensely peaty, peppery, tarry and earthy with more of these massive salty and savoury umami flavours. Quite astonishing! Finish: massive, extremely long, hugely on dry tarry peat, salted liquorice, farmyard, black pepper and camphor. Although the sherry is still perfectly present and integrated. Comments: the first time I tasted this was in Sukhinder's office at the old TWE HQ in London, it was one of several drams over the years which fundamentally changed my understanding of what whisky could taste like. I've tasted probably thousands of whiskies since then, but I can safely say its power and immensity haven't dimmed in the slightest. If anything, it's the reverse, a total masterpiece and a whisky for the ages.
SGP: 578 - 96 points.
  (Angus)

 

 

 

Serge: Angus already said all I wanted to say about this one. I remember I had discussed it with Sig. Samaroli and indeed, he said it was rough and even not that great when he had bottled it. But indeed, he was counting on bottle ageing and it's true that after I first duly tried this baby, back in July 2004 (WF 96, already) eighteen more years have passed and I'd happily add one point (hurray!) It is an extraordinary smoky Glen Garioch, totally in the same league as that of the grandest grand Islays, except that whilst most Islays do 'lose' a little chunk of their smokiness over the decades, this 'Glen Geerie' did not. It remained a true and utter peat bomb! As for the rest, you would almost believe Michelangelo himself chiselled it in his workshop. Amazing nose, spectacular palate that could remind you of the greatest sherried Lagavulin, except that this GG is even bigger. Eternal finish.

Discussing bottle aging with the Master himself, one night in Ostende,
Belgium (photograph Marcel van Gils - glad you took that one Marcel)

 

 

 

 

Sherried Legend #8

 

 

Bowmore 'Largiemeanoch' 12 yo 1967/1979 (54.2%, Howgate Wine Co, casks #2655/6/7, sherry)

Bowmore 'Largiemeanoch' 12 yo 1967/1979 (54.2%, Howgate Wine Co, casks #2655/6/7, sherry)
One that Serge and I have both recorded notes for on WF already. So, once again, I'll try to keep this on the shorter and sweeter side of things. But what's for sure is I'm not going to pass up the chance to try what is probably THE Black Bowmore! That is, until someone cracks open one of those elusive Gillie's bottlings for Australia… Colour: reddish mahogany. Nose: what I just love about trying this next to the Glen Garioch is to see the similarities, which is this profound fusion of sherry and peat so that they become one thing rather than two separate flavour groups.

 

 

Also this same feeling of concentration, syrups, tar and umami. But the difference is that there's a far more clear and vivid layer of tropical fruits. I would say this is also a little more deeply earthy and complex, but only just. In time there's an utterly mesmeric array of medicines, cola and root beer syrups, then back towards exotic fruits. Just astonishing! With water: all the above but add in resinous hardwoods, herbal extracts, more medicines and yet more exotic fruits in all kinds of form. Mouth: peat and sherry in perfect singular fusion, but add to that also these frankly outrageous exotic fruits. Three major flavour forces into one single, perfectly cohesive whisky. With water: more of the same, except more mentholic, sweeter, more peppery, more warming, perhaps more precisely on dry, earthy peat smoke and even more focused on sweet tar extracts. Things that shouldn't make sense but mange to inhabit the same space. What can you say about this whisky, it's an utter masterpiece. Finish: insanely long and almost outrageously exotic and fruity despite also being still very dominated by the sherry. Comments: monumental, poetically beautiful and moving whisky. Shares the same power as the Glen Garioch in its ability to forever alter your perceptions about what whisky is capable of as a drink and what quality truly means.
SGP: 677 - 97 points.
  (Angus)

 

 

 

Serge: not much to add to Angus's very precise description. We first stumbled upon this wee bottle in Bologna, at Giuseppe Begnoni's Whisky Paradise, during one of our whisky exploration trips . Nobody actually noticed it, except one of the master sleuths of whisky that was with us, Mister Luc T. from Belgium. Frankly, who would touch such a bottle without knowing what it actually is? At that time we had also tried all Black Bowmores that were already out, also all the official 1964s, the various Feschio & Frassa… But this Largiemeanoch was reigning supreme and as a friend recently suggested, you had to pull out a 'Bouquet' to find 'something it could talk to'. Anyway, I'm extremely glad to taste it again for WF's 20th, what an utter delight, so fresh, so eminently 'tropical', and indeed what a 'whole' instead of an accumulation of aromas and flavours. In a way, you could write a tasting note for it like this: Nose: Largiemeanoch 1967. Mouth: Largiemeanoch 1967. Finish: Largiemeanoch 1967. Comments: Largiemeanoch 1967. Post-scriptum: rumour had it that Cadenhead had done this bottling.

And now, as the sherry on the cake, that very thought-provoking piece by Angus I had promised... To read dram-in-hand (or Champagne if this is breakfast time for you)...

 

 

 

Angus MacRaild Angus  
Tasting backwards, looking forwards
Tastings like that are a rarity these days, only possible due to the extreme generosity of good friends and fellow whisky lovers. These kinds of bottlings belong far more to the early days of Whiskyfun and will likely feature less and less in the future. Indeed, the future belongs far more to newer distilleries and whiskies from many countries, not just Scotland.

 

For me, this 'globalisation' of whisky is one of the greatest emergent trends, and as a Scot I feel it only strengthens Scotland in forcing it to rise to the challenge. You only have to see how many more tasting sessions are devoted on WF to other countries these days to get a sense of this expansion. Although, I would argue, these kinds of legendary old bottlings are still of huge importance in the whisky psyche. They cast a very long shadow in the whisky hive mind.

 

 

When Whiskyfun started in 2002, twenty years would have seemed like relatively little in whisky compared to what it would seem like in the memory or lived experience of a human. Human lives always moved fast in comparison to whisky. One of the biggest changes in the whisky world since Whiskyfun started is the drive to make whisky faster - to achieve with new whiskies in five, or even three years, what most whiskies used to need the best part of a decade to express. Of course everything is faster paced these days, but this sense of acceleration in whisky is quite exciting and when looked at in the span of Whiskyfun's twenty years appears a pretty good measurement of just how much the drink, its culture and production have changed. 

 

 

We don't have to agree with everything about how whisky has changed, and indeed there's no shortage of totally stupid, vulgar stunts, NFTs, laughably stupid five figure bottlings on plinths, cruel dialogue and bullshit to criticise these days. But I do believe that there are many positive people, trends and products all over the world in whisky that give us cause for celebration as we look ahead.

 

 

There is a view that there's too many distilleries these days and a tendency to eye-roll at the announcement of a new one - 'not another new distillery' - especially in Scotland.

 

 

I used to adopt this view myself on occasion, but many of the new distilleries are not the same as the larger, more established names. Even if they're getting through their initial years with fillings, cask sales and gin, these are clearly projects which have resulted from, and respond to in a variety of ways, the boom in single malt - and that's global, not just in Scotland. I believe what's happening in whisky is pretty much what happened in beer and wine: a movement based more around deliberate, qualitative production, driven by individuals and small groups rather than larger corporate imperatives.

KIlchoman
Kilchoman Distillery being built, 2005
 

 

It's just that everything in whisky costs more and takes longer. If Scotch Whisky becomes a little more like European wine then I believe that's a good thing, it'll just require new names and greater variety to get there. But a rising and expanding culture and market should support many of these smaller endeavours. 

 

 

This is something that has been driven by a variety of new names and money, but latterly increasingly by geeky enthusiasts making conscious and deliberate decisions that try to balance commercial necessity with quality. Indeed, I'd argue they are increasingly the same thing. Much of this movement has been influenced and driven by whisky culture that very explicitly tasted, celebrated and analysed the kinds of whiskies in today's session. The greatest whiskies of the past were tasted with bewilderment and that bewilderment morphed into inspiration and motivation. Who could taste that Glen Garioch 1971 and no be baffled by the fact it is only around 8-9 years old? That bafflement has long been at the core of what drives whisky enthusiasm, but I would argue that it is increasingly behind new wave whisky making too.  

 

 

Of course, given the effort, expense and time everyone is undertaking to realise these achievements, it's understandable that whisky is moving faster than ever. People want to see the fruits of their labour and the way to do that is to align whisky's pace more closely with its producers working lifespans. Thus far a lot of this has been achieved with clever, rather modern use of wood. But I suspect the next phase will be many more younger whiskies emerging that derive their quality from wood and distillate in greater balance. 

 

 

Whiskyfun remains, at its core, the personal tasting diary of Serge Valentin. I would argue though, that it is also a little bit of a mirror for whisky culture more generally. You can see what is being made, bottled, released and discussed reflected in the almost daily tasting sessions that Serge somehow has the time to write. If this wee website makes it to forty, there will be all manner of things to talk about, but I believe what you'll see reflected is this new whisky frontier: faster, more diverse, more global and with a generally upward trend on quality. Hopefully we will have seen many new distillates and bottlings released in the intervening years breaking past that 91/92 point barrier. That is the threshold across which, in my view, whisky really begins to possess, and express, soul. It'll take time, but maybe not as much time as it once would have.

 

 

Today's session was really a celebration of some of the greatest whiskies of the past. They are always emotional, humbling and instructive to taste. I increasingly try to look to the future in what I do professionally with whisky these days, and with what I write about it. But I think we should never lose sight or understanding of what the past has given us: benchmarks of quality and beauty that are there to be discussed, celebrated and serve as nourishment for inspiration in the future. - Angus

 

 

 

More later, stay tuned...

 

 

July 26, 2022


Whiskyfun

World sessions, yet another one
Starting this from France, as usual. I mean, rather from Alsace…

 

 

Les Uberach Franchis 2009/2021 'II' (46%, OB, France, cask #161/2, 227 bottles)

Les Uberach Franchis 2009/2021 'II' (46%, OB, France, cask #161/2, 227 bottles) Three stars
A very funny whisky from Uberach, so Distillerie Bertrand. Lovely place like nowhere else, with a very singular atmosphere and brilliant people. I mean, I do mean all that, even M. le Maire is a good and friendly character. And where else would they play Zappa doing LedZep in the warehouse? I am not making this up! Colour: full gold. Nose: nutty wine, gunpowder, roasted chestnuts, PX, moist pipe tobacco, pudding and fruitcake. Mouth: not semantically perfect, even a tad wobbly, but this is a perfect 'old bachelor's jam'. Onion chutney, raisins and rum, cassata, more pipe tobacco, more PX, touch of Texas barbecue sauce (poor Texas)… Finish: rather long, always with a little gunpowder, otherwise raisins and sticky wines. Comments: I love slightly bizarre whiskies, for they're never boring, and I'm not liking this only because it's slightly bizarre. Well, I know what I'm trying to say.

SGP:751 - 82 points.

A rabbit's jump to neighbours Germany…

Fading Hill 2012-2013/2021 'Rye' (45%, OB, Germany, Birkenhof Master Edition, +/-2022)

Fading Hill 2012-2013/2021 'Rye' (45%, OB, Germany, Birkenhof Master Edition, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
This from the Brennerei Birkenhof not too far from Koblenz, where they make many different spirits, as almost everyone's doing in Middle-Europa. And so, rye as well… Colour: deep gold. Nose: and they make rye well, apparently. Spicy bread, violet sweets, caraway and fennel seeds, caramel, butterscotch, then kirschwasser and thyme liqueur. I swear thyme liqueur does exist. Mouth: starts well, spicy and, indeed, very bready and rye-y, but it's like if the oak would then take over, with a dominant pepper. Still above the waterline, I would say. Finish: medium, with some lovely sides (lavender, violets, caraway) and this specific wee soapiness hat many rye whiskies do display, in my opinion. Comments: frankly, I find it really good, I would just like this even better without the plankish side.

SGP:561 - 77 points.

To the UK…

Oxford Rye (40%, OB, England, 2021)

Oxford Rye (40%, OB, England, 2021) Four stars
Liked other expressions, this sounds weaker according to the strength, but you never know… After all, they are 'supporting biodiversity through sustainable farming' and who could ever be against that, except Agent Orange and Agent Yellow? (in high danger while we speak) Colour: gold. Nose: pure breadiness, brown toasts, crêpes and galettes, touches of juniper, shortbread, poppy seed bread, and fine cologne… Mouth: frankly, this is very good, on spicy oranges, caraway, spicy breads, agave sweets… Finish: same, for a rather long time, a surprisingly long time. Excellently citrusy and spicy. Comments: I'm surprised, I wasn't expecting this. And feels like 46%. I had stumbled upon these Oxford ryes at the Whisky Show London last year. They make it good and well.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

Let's fly to India and try more Amrut…

Amrut 2015/2021 'Ex-Madeira Peated' (60%, OB, for Kirsch Import, India, cask #4711, 200 bottles)

Amrut 2015/2021 'Ex-Madeira Peated' (60%, OB, for Kirsch Import, India, cask #4711, 200 bottles) Three stars
An 'ex-Madeira peated', does that make any sense, unless you would have used some casks that had previously contained some of the island's wonderful agricole rums before? (ideas ideas). Oh and cask #4711, really? Some cologne to be expected then? Colour: salmony. Quite. Nose: a morning at Ikea's and brake fluid, plus smoked bacon and wood dust, cocoa powder... No  No.4711 Echt Kölnischwasser that I can find at this point (there was more in the ryes). With water: relatively nicer, despite the touches of phosphorus. Mouth (neat): better than on the nose, but still uncertain and 'creative'. Grapefruits, smoked. Kind of, but remember, 60% vol. With water: leather, kumquats, walnut wine… Finish: rather long, a tad metallic and 'electric'. Silver spoon and aluminium foil. Leather in the aftertaste. Comments: not immensely sure. Totally love Amrut, but aren't they doing strictly all kinds of spirits/wine combinations you could ever think of? Nah, love them.
SGP:462 - 82 points.

Hey, to Canada?

Commodore 'ODD Society' (46%, OB, Canada, 2021)

Commodore 'ODD Society' (46%, OB, Canada, 2021) Three stars and a half
Pure BC single malt distilled right in Vancouver, while according to some website that's as lousy as this one, 'This single malt is unyieldingly confident and proudly declares: welcome to the New World'. Thank you, Commodore. Colour: gold. Nose: right, warm brioche, biscuits, custard, barley syrup, touches of rhubarb and granny smith. Some nice maltiness too. So not really of Shostakovich-complexity, but it is a coherent whole, for sure. Mouth: all these whiskies they're making around and along the West-coast of Canada are pretty fine, and this is no exception, even if some sawdust would do a large part of the job. Cake, toasts, also bergamots and spicier citrus, custard, cinnamon rolls, ginger cookies… It's rather oak-forward, but it's all under control. Finish: medium, rounder and yet pretty spicy. Comments: not exactly a Brora 1972 or a Springbank 1966, but indeed, as we're pretty 'Old World' and since we're 'welcome to the New World', we'll state that we're finding this one 'rather very nice'.

SGP:551 - 83 points.

As usual with these wandering sessions, five is a deal. Ciao.

 

July 25, 2022


Whiskyfun

Strathisla and Milton
by Gordon & MacPhail

Slowly getting into the spirit of this wee website's 20th Anniversary, which will happen on Thursday.

It is incredible what Gordon & MacPhail are still having as far as old casks are concerned. Remember, it's their fillings, they tend not to buy ready-made whiskies, they fill their own woods. Also, as Michael Jackson once wrote, 'they kept malts alive after the industry turned its attention almost entirely to blends.'

We sometimes believe they're a rather old-fashioned company, but in truth, these days, what's truly old-fashioned is short-term, quick bucks, b******t marketing and aimless brand-creating/building/pumping-up, which are all facets of the very same coin: trying to make quick money instead of creating value. You could argue that that comes from the fact that G&M are a family business, where the fathers, mothers grandfathers and grandmothers are thinking about the next generations whenever they have a decision to make.

GM

I believe you would be right, I'm in that position too (not with Whiskyfun, mind you) and I don't think you could actually do business more dynamically than that.

Good, after that two-penny introduction (I'm asking for your forgiveness), let's have a look at what we have on the tasting table today: a Milton 1949.

Milton, also sometimes Milltown, is the older name for Strathisla Distillery, which was christened 'Strathisla' only in 1951. So, anything distilled and filled before 1951 would have been from 'Milton' or 'Milltown', even if the name of the make had been Strathisla long before. So, I find it cool and charming, if perhaps a little coquettish, that G&M would have named this new 1949 'Milton Distillery', instead of Strathisla.

Side note: we've tried quite a few old Strathislas by G&M before (either under their own labels or under the distillers'). In my opinion, the various pre-war ones were not quite on par with the Macallans or Glen Grants, not to mention the Linkwoods, Mortlachs or Glenlivets, but the 1948-1961/1981 for Diana and Charles was excellent while another 1949, bottled in 2006, had been rather superb too. It is not impossible that Strathisla needed a few more watts than just 40% or 43%, both strengths that other distilleries would have easily dealt with, especially Glen Grant and Macallan. By the way, the various 100° proof expressions of Strathisla, especially the 15 yo, had often ranked very high on little WF.
(Interesting advert in London's Guide to Leading Hotels (circa 1880). Note the use of the wording 'whiskey')

But enough lousy literature, let's try the new wonder (the price is only that of a new Tesla Model Y, after all). But first a wee sparring partner that we've found at G&M's too, for the sake of consistency.

 

Strathisla 13 yo 2008/2021 (57.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice for Van Wees 100th Anniversary, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #17603109, 334 bottles)

Strathisla 13 yo 2008/2021 (57.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice for Van Wees 100th Anniversary, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #17603109, 334 bottles) Four stars
We've noticed, while visiting 'seasoning' bodegas in Jerez, that G&M keep asking for bungs in the staves and not in the tops. Still no palletisation, apparently, hurray. Colour: full gold. Nose: old barrique, rubber, coconut, walnut wine, balsamico, vanilla… It's still a little rough when unreduced, but let's see… With water: a little ginger and leather at first, then more cakes, honeys, raisins, some meatiness, dried beef, jerky, a good few drops of old wine vinegar from Jerez… Mouth (neat): much better on the palate when unreduced, here on roasted nuts of all kinds, plus toffee and what we call 'Carambar'. Roasted pecans, peanuts, demerara sugar, raisins, Mars bars and Twixes… Rather creamy and syrupy mouth feel, almost like honey. By the way, there are also notes of chestnut honey. With water: sweet beers, meads, caramel… Finish: long and pretty spicy. These first fill hogsheads are very 'first fill' indeed, they would have harboured seasoning sherry for only one or two years before they're filled with whisky. Ginger, chocolate and pumpernickel in the aftertaste. Comments: big boy. Perhaps a bottle to cellar for twenty years? We would see if it ever reaches the high level of some of G&M's 15s 100 proof.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Milton Distillery 72 yo 1949/2022 (48.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry puncheon, cask #383, 180 bottles)

Milton Distillery 72 yo 1949/2022 (48.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry puncheon, cask #383, 180 bottles) Five stars
Always an utter joy to taste some whisky that's (much) older than you. A puncheon typically shelters approx. 500 litres while this one comes with an outturn of 125 litres, which suggests that exactly ¾ of the content has gone to many generations of angels. Unless the Directors have kept some in demijohns for their own needs, which is exactly what I would have done myself (right, right). Anyway, let's try the oldest whisky from 'the oldest working Distillery in the Highlands' (1786), although the fine people at Glenturret may disagree here. Colour: pure gold. Nose: once again, this was to be expected. The nose is magnificent, incredibly fresh, and rather on many herbs and teas, complemented with a little beeswax and shoe polish, as well as wee pink bananas at the market. There is also a rather profound minerality that I was not expecting in this context. As for those herbs and teas, we'll mention the usual chamomile, mint leaves, woodruff and then whiffs of elderflowers. There is also a little natural vanilla, sesame oil and grated zests, but those would remain in the background. All in all, I wouldn't have said 'first fill sherry' this far and we're pretty far from 'brother Longmorn' of similar ages in that respect, but maybe was it a fino or a manzanilla? Or one of those amontillado-y finos from Montilla that they're making out of PX rather than palomino? We've just tried a magnificent old bottle of that at Château Whiskyfun. Mouth: always the same stress with these very old whiskies, will they have become too oaky? In truth it is oaky indeed, but as I have noticed in the past with other very old ones from G&M's, that oakiness got converted into lovely piney notes, propolis, banana skins, essential oils, thyme, nutmeg, peppery cinnamon… There is an awesome fruity-ish bitterness too, and as expected, many things mentholy. Cough syrups, creams and cordials, and certainly some high-cuvée of Chartreuse. The monks are always right, as long as they behave. Nutshell: fantastic piney/mentholy freshness. Finish: oh, some raisins and a touch of marmalade! All the rest remains on fresh mint and related molecules. Comments: what's difficult indeed here is to forget about the house's old Glen Grants, Longmorns or even Glenlivets while trying this Strathisla that, stylistically, does not play in exactly the same yard, as we say. But it rather does as far as overall quality's concerned.

SGP:571 - 92 points.

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

 

July 24, 2022


Whiskyfun

Rums of the world this time again

Various rums today, which is easier and funnier to do than single-distillery or even single-country sessions. Next time we'll have old cognacs, and the next Sunday probably a large flight of Coronas. I mean, of Caronis. In the meantime…


The Flying Fijians, Fiji's national rugby team.

 

Clairin Le Rocher 2020 (47.2%, OB, La Maison & Velier, Haiti, +/-2021)

Clairin Le Rocher 2020 (47.2%, OB, La Maison & Velier, Haiti, +/-2021) Four stars
Some white rum from Haiti, well a clairin that was distilled from cane syrup rather than fresh cane juice, in pot stills. It is advertised as having been bottled at 'still strength', which would suggest, at 47.2%, that the second run has been very, very long and that the make should shelter many heavier congeners. Let's see… Colour: white. Nose: first a lot of medicinal alcohol, artisanal vodka (I used to know a Russian dentist who tended to make these kinds out of his 'professional stuff') with something burnt, some varnishes, then the expected olives and rotting bananas, plus a lot of fermenting cane juice, with a greasy side. Very aguardiente-ish, we're talking under-the-counter Cuban aguardiente. Mouth: quite bizarrely, it is not the wild kind of clairin I was expecting because of that 'still strength' mention, it's rather one that's full of liquorice allsorts and agave syrup rather than cane. Very intriguing, going then towards a lemon + olive combination, with even a feeling of those dry martinis that some English gentlemen seem to cherish. Finish: long and saltier, with a wee smokiness and always these lemons and olives. I just cannot not think of some mezcals. Comments: I was a little hesitant at first, but it unfolded rather beautifully. This, many ice cubes and 40°C in the shade. There is also a feeling of ready-made Ti'punch, perhaps.

SGP:661 - 86 points.

That one called for more clairin…

Clairin Sonson 2020 (51.1%, OB, La Maison & Velier, Haiti, +/-2021)

Clairin Sonson 2020 (51.1%, OB, La Maison & Velier, Haiti, +/-2021) Three stars
This one two was batch-distilled from cane syrup. Colour: white. Nose: fruitier yet and even more varnishy, with rather high esters and a very rotting-banana-y side. Pattex! With water: gets more acetic. Juniper, white vinegar, bits of tarragon… Mouth (neat): clearly gentler than the Rocher and rather reminiscent of caraway-led aquavits. Limoncello, caraway, varnish. With water: gets sweeter yet, almost liqueury. It reminds me of a drink… let me check WF's archive… There, kummel! Finish: same-ish, plus citronade. Comments: really good but I believe the Rocher was in a higher league. Vaval, Sajous and Casimir too, I would add.

SGP:661 – 82 points.

Since we were in Haiti… By the way, heard something of Barbancourt lately? Hope they're doing okay…

Haiti 2004/2018 (63.1%, LMDW, Transcontinental Rum Line for &Fine Spirits)

Haiti 2004/2018 (63.1%, LMDW, Transcontinental Rum Line for &Fine Spirits) Three stars and a half
Aged for less than one year in the tropics, and more than thirteen years in Europe. Wondering if the UK still counts as 'Europe' in that respect. Right, this is said to be some indie Barbancourt, but was it still pure pot still or ex-column? Or a mix of both? Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely pungent, would destroy your nose when sniffed at above 15°C. Tyre patch glue. With water: less glue and nail polish, more syrup, butterscotch, nougat, oriental pastries, baklavas… Mouth (neat): varnish, fruit juices and bonbons. And a lot of ethanol. Rather in the style of some unreduced Panamanians, Guatemalans or Nicaraguans, with that thinner body. With water: I would wager this is the best you could do within this lighter style. Drops of pastis, so basically, liquorice and aniseed, fennel… Finish: medium, rather fresh, a tad sugary and syrupy, still. Orange juice, aniseed and caraway in the aftertaste. Comments: absolutely not my preferred style, but as I said, possibly the best you could do within that style (which is not my favourite, eh).

SGP:640 - 84 points.

Let's move to… right, since we mentioned it, Panama…

Malecon 18 yo 1998 'Rare Proof' (51.7%, OB, Panama, +/-2017)

Malecon 18 yo 1998 'Rare Proof' (51.7%, OB, Panama, +/-2017) Two stars
Right, Malecon is not quite a friend of the house WF, Angus and yours truly have always found them weak and void of any smidgen of interest. But our soul is pure and our quest unachieved, so… As for why 51.7% would be a 'rare proof', I have no idea. Colour: full gold. Nose: Fanta and marmalade, citron liqueur and, indeed, triple-sec and limoncello. We do spot a pattern… With water: falls flat. Cheap milk chocolate perhaps. Mouth (neat): no no no. Cane syrup, Frappuccino, cheaper orange liqueur, caramel and airport fudge. With water: perhaps a notch better, but sugary. Marshmallows and sugar eggs. Finish: short, thin, sweet. Comments: probably not the utter catastrophe that we were fearing, but did they really need eighteen years to produce this simplistic little sweet rum? I would say only the Malecon 25 yo 'Reserva Imperial' was frankly more to my liking (WF 78).

SGP:730 - 70 points.

In truth it is a style that they make ten times better in Barbados…

W.I.R.D. 2000/2022 (47.8%, Plantation, Extreme Series, Barbados, 924 bottles)

W.I.R.D. 2000/2022 (47.8%, Plantation, Extreme Series, Barbados, 924 bottles) Five stars
Ex-pot still and certified without 'dosage'. Aged for 5 years in the tropics, then 16 years in continental Europe, including 2 years in Ferrand's cognac casks. Still wondering why they would do that, but there. Colour: light gold. Nose: fresh, with whiffs of aniseed, liquorice, absinth, seawater, broken branches, clams, wakame, paraffin, old tin-box, oysters… (all that in no particular order, as you may have noticed). And no cognac. Mouth: it's got this quasi-phenolic, deeper and fatter style that's a little uncommon in Barbados (according to my very meagre experience). Shoe polish, salmiak, salt (right, it triggers a saltiness), and even a wee feeling of peat smoke. Also, it's not often that I would find this many oysters in some rum. Excellent. Finish: rather long, salty, this time with a handful of olives and a touch of the blackest and most bitter chocolate. Comments: we do no politics, we're content with tasting what reaches our tulip glasses. What's not reaching them is of very little interest to us. Rather brilliant W.I.R.D., this.

SGP:463 - 90 points.

Not surprised, that's Plantation's top range. Anyway, kudos  and let's now try to find something that, in theory, could 'climb over' that little W.I.R.D… Perhaps this?

Enmore 29 yo 1991/2021 (51.2%, Nobilis Rum, Selected by Rum Exchange, cask #NR10, 191 bottles)

Enmore 29 yo 1991/2021 (51.2%, Nobilis Rum, Selected by Rum Exchange, cask #NR10, 191 bottles) Four stars and a half
From the single wooden Versailles still when it was still at Enmore, before being moved to Diamond, with a cask bearing the marque 'KFM' (which does not mean Kentucky Fried Molasses, mind you – ooh that was smart, S.) Colour: brownish amber. Nose: tons of fresh putty, teak oil, Barbour grease, pine resins, tar liqueur, pine-cone smoke, burning incense and lemon marmalade. More or less. With water: abundant tobaccos, cigars, cigarettes and pipes. Also pu-her tea and walnut stain. Mouth (neat): pure pine and oak syrup, extremely extractive, totally tannic, and yet rather appealing if you're not afraid of losing your tongue to the enemy. Right, I have to say the jury's still out. With water: very often, water would kill tannic spirits and make them just drying and flat. That's not what's happening here, as we've further moved towards thin mints and thyme tea. Finish: long, and perhaps a notch too tannic and piney indeed. I love this, but I couldn't possibly go as high as 90+. Comments: hugely extractive rum, perhaps not quite for the faint-hearted. Not exactly Bacardi Light at 37.5% vol.
SGP:472 – 88 points.

Why not Fiji as the last country we visit today?

South Pacific Distillery 16 yo 2001/2018 (57.4%, The Rum Cask, Fiji).

South Pacific Distillery 16 yo 2001/2018 (57.4%, The Rum Cask, Fiji) Five stars
Molasses in pot stills. Many have been excellent already. Plus, Fiji is a rugby country, just like Scotland. Oh, and France. Colour: gold. Nose: South Pacific has got this Worthy-Parkish side that we've often found rather exciting. Petrol, acetone, olives, carbon, engine oil, chalk, acidic fruits (right, lemons and star fruits), charcoal, roots… With water: salsify, eggplant and gentian, no? Mouth (neat): absolutely excellent, if a bit sharp, very zesty, with carbon, coffee dregs, the greenest green apples, turmeric, liquorice, salted water, Maggi… With water:  wham, case closed. Sublime salted fruits, chutneys, seafood, roots and tobaccos. Finish: long, on exactly the same flavours. Comments: not many folks know of this because Fiji is not in the Caribbean, but I say it is time the world would take notice. Unless the costs of transport keep skyrocketing, and boozes get more regional again… Now if I ever spot any Alsatian rums, I get out three shotguns and a rifle.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

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

 

July 23, 2022


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Angus  
A second stack
of Caol Ila
At the time of writing it looks like there are around 736 Caol Ila notes on Whiskyfun, more than any other distillery by some distance. While a search for Caol Ila on Whiskybase returns 4996 entries. What's more, the indies keep releasing them at pace. So, all in all, good news for people who like to drink Caol Ila. Probably more daunting for dedicated collectors though…

 

Caol Ila 16 yo 1998/2015 (46%, High Spirits 'Life is a circus')

Caol Ila 16 yo 1998/2015 (46%, High Spirits 'Life is a circus')
Colour: white wine. Nose: Caol Ila can be monstrous at cask strength, but when reduced seems able to calm down a lot more than some other Islays. This is all on gentle notes of seawater, bandages, wet rock, sheep wool and medical embrocations. Very pure, very classical and extremely easy and elegant. A rather bright and gentle peaty aroma sat in the middle of everything. Mouth: the peat flavour is a bit bigger and more assertive here, in fact maybe scratch what I just said about 'calming down' - this is a big of a chunky dram to be honest. Lemon juice, olive oil, more wet rocks and beach pebble vibes, nicely mineral in fact, and with a little weight and peppery warmth in the mouth. Finish: good length with quite a thick smokiness without being too ashy, plenty of lemon juice and wee hints of putty and iodine. Comments: goes for a very quick costume change between the nose and the palate, but the net result is fun and very satisfying. Another Caol Ila you could just quaff without thinking.

SGP: 456 - 85 points.

 

 

Caol Ila 11 yo 2010/2022 (58.2%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry butt, cask #316662, 558 bottles)
Caol Ila 11 yo 2010/2022 (58.2%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry butt, cask #316662, 558 bottles)
Colour: amber. Nose: a rather heavy, tarry smoke, with lots of hessian, dunnage, smoked paprika, coal dust and spiced teas. Feels rather heavy and a little brutal in some ways, but it's a brute with undeniable charms. With water: sooty bandages, peat embers, graphite oil and anchovy paste. A little calmer now but still hefty stuff. Mouth: piles in straight away with oily kippers, tarred rope, iodine, lemon juice, creosoted fence wood and camphor. A sharp saltiness that makes you think of black olive tapenade and the saltiest Dutch liquorice, with also a few chilli-infused game meats lurking in there. A beast! With water: all on tar extracts, burnt herbs, salted caramel, miso butter, camphor, pickled gherkins and a glimmer of salt-preserved fish. Sooty, sweet and herbal! Finish: long, tarry, salty, peppery and with more umami, bouillon and squid ink. Comments: excellent, but you have to enjoy being slapped about a bit… so very likely a 'mood' whisky.

SGP: 566 - 87 points.
 

 

Caol Ila 13 yo 2008/2021 (52.7%, The Single Cask, cask #303649A, refill oloroso quarter cask finish, 60 bottles)
Caol Ila 13 yo 2008/2021 (52.7%, The Single Cask, cask #303649A, refill oloroso quarter cask finish, 60 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: on the lighter side after that Signatory beast, but still pretty focused on carpeting, earthy smokiness, salted almonds, bacon crisps, seaweed and camphor. The sherry is pretty salty and gamey, showing integration in a way which doesn't suggest a finishing, which I like. With water: tar, pickling juices, hessian and more seawater now. Generally saltier and more coastal and oily. Mouth: a little more jammy and sweet, you feel the activity of the smaller cask a little more directly here. But the concentration and syrupy texture are lovely, as are these feelings of salted liquorice, liquid smoke, sweet peat and smoked lemon juice. With water: same feeling of elevated salinity, more game meat flavours, paprika, tar extracts and eucalyptus. Finish: long, tarry, sweetly smoky, nicely concentrated peat flavours, black pepper. Comments: top notch Caol Ila with a very clever and well-integrated finishing that adds roundness and just at the right level of sweetness to the peat. I'm a fan, but, alas, only 60 bottles!

SGP: 566 - 88 points.
 

 

Caol Ila 13 yo 2007/2021 (55.6%, The Whisky Exchange, cask #320247, hogshead, 242 bottles)
Caol Ila 13 yo 2007/2021 (55.6%, The Whisky Exchange, cask #320247, hogshead, 242 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: we're back on purity. Seawater, rock pools, lemon juice, capers. Sitting somewhere between a freshly made bowl of ceviche and a particularly zingy salsa verde. Hard to argue with this profile. With water: still rather salty, but ashier now too, with some limoncello adding a touch more sweetness. Mouth: citric and in particular wonderfully limey and fresh. Tart citrus acidity, flint smoke, mineral salts, seawater, pink grapefruit and soft, smoky wood ashes. With water: lemons, mineral salts, light tarry notes, putty and some wee sooty touches. Finish: rather long, smoky, sooty, tarry and salty. Once again a little lemony sweetness. Comments: very good, but probably very similar to several thousand other hogsheads of 2007 Caol Ila.

SGP: 456 - 85 points.
 

 

Caol Ila 14 yo 2005/2019 'Spiritual home exclusive - 4th release' (57.1%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseur's Choice', refill sherry hogshead, 239 bottles)
Caol Ila 14 yo 2005/2019 'Spiritual home exclusive - 4th release' (57.1%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseur's Choice', refill sherry hogshead, 239 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather carbolic and tarry, on embrocations and salty liquorice with TCP, bandages and ink. I also get wee notes of salt-cured fish and salted caramel adding a wee impression of sweetness. It all feels nicely balanced and rounded, they work well these refill sherry hoggies, I think. With water: a slightly heavier tarry profile now, angelica root, smoked sea salt, briny kippers and anchovy paste. Coastal stuff with tar, essentially. Mouth: rich and rounded, sweet peat smoke, tar extracts, mineral salts, leather, camphor and putty. Pretty big and blustery stuff, but with some classier, earthier and sweeter elements courtesy of the sherry influence. With water: a little oilier, more on camphor, waxy hessian, bonfire embers and coal smoke. Still rather peppery and peaty! Finish: long, full of sweet peat smoke, bandages, seawater, black olive bread and smoked dark ales. Comments: this seems to be quite a lovely parcel of stock from G&M. I raises two questions in my mind. What were these sherry hoggies filled with previously? And have they kept some to age further? I hope so.

SGP: 566 - 89 points.
 

 

Caol Ila 15 yo 'Online Tasting Week' (54.6%, Cadenhead 'Warehouse Tasting', bourbon hogshead, 2021)
Caol Ila 15 yo 'Online Tasting Week' (54.6%, Cadenhead 'Warehouse Tasting', bourbon hogshead, 2021)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: we're back to ashes, minerals, chalk and this rather nice impression of fruity bath salts. Also dried seaweed, umami seasonings, MSG powder and heather flowers. Simultaneously rather saline and powerfully coastal, but also nicely aromatic and showing a fair bit of complexity. With water: lemon juice, pink grapefruit, green olive, seawater and capers with some crushed parsley. Mouth: lovely arrival! All on smoked honeys, sweet, lightly tarry and peppery peat smoke, herbal teas, preserved lemons, pickled gherkin and soft medicinal embrocations. It's both a lighter style Caol Ila, and one that displays a little more charisma than just ash and seawater. With water: lovely texture that feels like sipping smoked olive oil mixed with fresh lemon juice. You can also add ink, TCP, smoked mint, eucalyptus oils and a wee note of hessian. Finish: long, nicely salty, again on lemon juice, pickled green things (olives, capers etc) and mineral salts. Comments: a gorgeous wee Caol Ila. Wonderful flavours, strong complexity and personality and a very satisfying texture on the palate. I just wonder why they didn't state a vintage? Was it a combination of multiple vintages vatted in preceding years?

SGP: 456 - 90 points. 
 

 

Caol Ila 19 yo 2001/2021 (57.6%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseur's Choice' for The Whisky Exchange, cask #308900, 1st fill barrel, 192 bottles)
Caol Ila 19 yo 2001/2021 (57.6%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Connoisseur's Choice' for The Whisky Exchange, cask #308900, 1st fill barrel, 192 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: feels like Caol Ila captured at a tipping point of age where it sits between its ashier, smokier and more chiselled younger self, and before it morphs into its more serene older variant on smoked teas, medicines and citrus fruits. This expresses aspects of both personalities with also some very fragrant peat smoke and sweeter tones from the barrel as well. Also shoe polish, mineral oils, smoked olive oils, gorse flower and old style sweet shilling ales. With water: perhaps a little more mentholated but otherwise still quite focused on the cask and a generally sweeter profile. Mouth: the cask is rather assertive here, with an up-front impression of sweet peat smoke, vanilla and tar extracts. All very concentrated, syrupy and with all the saltier aspects loaded at the back. With water: there's plenty to enjoy, I just find the wood becomes a little too assertive here now, feels like it masks some of the more interesting aspects of the distillate at this age from a hoggie for example. Finish: medium, rather tarry, herbal, syrupy sweet peat and a little vanilla. Comments: there's lots to enjoy here but I feel the result of the rather active 1st fill barrel is a little too much simplicity and sweetness for me.

SGP: 555 - 84 points.
 

 

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2017 (53.6%, Cadenhead 'Single Cask', bourbon hogshead, 156 bottles)
Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2017 (53.6%, Cadenhead 'Single Cask', bourbon hogshead, 156 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: a familiar and deeply comforting profile. All on soft, curling peat smoke, smoked sea salt, olive oil and green tea with lemon. Bath salts, lapsing souchong, myrtle, wintergreen and this fragrant and delicate waxiness. I just adore these batches. With water: salted heather honey, sandalwood, cough syrups and herbal cigarette smoke. Gorgeous and wonderfully well structured. Mouth: you almost wouldn't believe it's 35yo, there's so much coastal freshness and emphatic oiliness. Notes of embrocations, natural tar and concentrated, syrupy peat flavours with various classical citrus and green fruit impressions. At times it makes you think of similarly aged OB Port Ellens. With water: still very coastal and with more salted honeys, medicinal herbs, smoked teas and camphor. Finish: long, on crisp peat smoke, gentle notes of seawater, pickling brine, preserved lemons and natural tar resin. Amazingly powerful and fresh for 35yo. Comments: these batches from 1979-82 are just unstoppable I think. Another terrific example.

SGP: 465 - 91 points.
 

 

Caol Ila 22 yo 1974/1997 (56.7%, Signatory Vintage, cask #12465, 396 bottles)
Caol Ila 22 yo 1974/1997 (56.7%, Signatory Vintage, cask #12465, 396 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: there's clear familiarity with the 1982 but these 74s have extra power in the form of this almost gelatinous peat aroma, petrol, wet kelp and tarred rope. More muscular, more medicinal and globally a feeling of greater thickness and more power. Many gorgeous subtle aromas beneath all that as well, impressions of crushed seashells and beach pebbles, ink, green peppercorns in brine. With water: more herbal and mentholated now, going towards dried herbs, eucalyptus, tiger balm and smoked heather beers. Mouth: superbly salty, coastal, sharp and full of oily peat flavours, raw lemon juice, sheep wool oils and camphor. Also things like putty, brined olives and more tarry rope vibes. Massive and totally brilliant whisky! With water: brilliant with water now! Perfectly fat, oily, tarry and peppery peat smoke flavour with seawater, lemon juice, TCP olive brines. Finish: long, still on wonderfully fat peat smoke vibes, smoked sea salt, petrol and powerful coastal impressions. Comments: another level up once again. These 1974s really take a bit of beating! I love the way they so effortlessly fuse huge power with complexity.

SGP: 467 - 92 points.
 

 

Caol Ila 16 yo 1969/1985 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, sherry)
Caol Ila 16 yo 1969/1985 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, sherry)
Only 40%, but these batches from G&M have lofty reputations… Colour: light amber. Nose: going from post-reconstruction Caol Ila to the original distillery, with all its worm tubs, direct coal firing and floor maltings etc, is one of the most mind-tripping gear shifts in whisky I would wager. This is another world entirely. Wonderfully salty, leathery and gently tarry old style sherry with deeply herbal, drying and complex peat smoke. Ancient tar and herbal liqueurs, boot polish, walnut oils and aged cigars. Stunning combination of fruits, tars, herbs, embrocations, peat and sherry! Mouth: ever at 40% the peat is immediate and massive. Big, chewy, wonderfully drying, earthy, herbal and deeply 'organic' - I would say this is the definition of older style peat flavour that tended only to arrive in malt whisky via distillery floor maltings. I also find various smoked herbs, iodine drops, ancient herbal liqueurs such as Benedictine and yellow Chartreuse. Also even an impression of aged Drambuie with these wonderfully resinous salted honey and camphor notes. The kind of whisky that you could go on dissecting for ages, you dare not imagine what it must have been like at cask strength! Finish: surprisingly long, thanks in no small way to this gorgeous and massive peat flavour. Black pepper, smoked fish, dried tarragon and smoky, salty walnut-imbued rancio. Comments: stellar, totally old style Islay single malt that just oozes poetic beauty and utter class in way that modern examples hardly ever do. Tastes even older in style than the 60s in my view, reminds me of some 1930s distilled Laphroaig or old Highland Park official bottling from the 1940s with this profile of peat. Which is why I tend to be of the opinion that you could say pre-1974 Caol Ila is a 'closed distillery' - if you see what I mean?

SGP: 566 - 94 points.
 

 

 

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

 

July 21, 2022


Whiskyfun

A bag of Dufftown

Dufftown means Bell's, while Bell's means… Well, the paradigm seems to have changed quite a wee bit since Diageo have launched their phase two of Their Singleton operations (after Their first Singletons of Auchroisk, in the 1990s)

(Magazine ad, mid-1950s. We're still using the very same tasting techniques at WF)



Bells

 

 

The Singleton of Dufftown 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2021)

The Singleton of Dufftown 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2021) Three stars
It says 'Luscious Nectar' on the label. I say with a statement like that, it'd better deliver, given that the first Singletons, back in 2012, didn't quite convince this humble taster (WF 75, but the livery was very different – so what?) I would add that I've not yet really understood much about that kind of umbrella-brand named The Singleton. Colour: gold. Nose: very malty, and pretty grassy. Between a pint of Guinness and some apple peel, with a touch of rubber too, quite possibly from some sherry wood. Rather dry. Mouth: to be honest I do not remember that older expression of The Singleton of Dufftown 12, but it seems that they've improved the make, making it cakey, malty, rather kind of 'big' despite the lower strength, with some echoes of sherried Mortlach. Finish: rather long, dry, with more coffee, Nescafé, chicory coffee... Comments: coffee, who would be against that. Strictly nothing to do with earlier batches.

SGP:362 - 82 points.

Perhaps a clean young one now, to get a better grasp of the distillate?

Dufftown 7 yo 2009/2016 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, bourbon barrel, 660 bottles)

Dufftown 7 yo 2009/2016 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, bourbon barrel, 660 bottles) Three stars
This for the record. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's a little grassy, gristy, fermentary, with some sourdough, fresh sesame and lager. Or there, pilsner, and apple juice. Not much to add, but this is pleasant. Mouth: as cakey and malty as the OB, so indeed that's part of the make, with once again a feeling of 'Mortlach'. No wonder, just have a look at a map… Finish: rather long and pretty good, fattish, oily, malty. Barley water and coffee once more. A smokier aftertaste, reminding us that in the old days, people would always claim that 'Scotch was smoky'. This one is. Comments: one of those Speysiders that can feel sherried even when they're not.
SGP:362 - 82 points.

Another go at nature…

Dufftown 12 yo 2008/2020 (58.8%, Golden Cask, bourbon barrel, cask #CM262)

Dufftown 12 yo 2008/2020 (58.8%, Golden Cask, bourbon barrel, cask #CM262) Three stars and a half
This by the House of MacDuff.  Some good young natural malts. Colour: white wine. Nose: same, just hotter because of the hotter strength. Coffee and miso, sounds strange but it's not unpleasant. With water: fermenting malt, miso indeed, crepes and pancakes, a wee metallic touch (old tin box)… Mouth (neat): very good! Peach syrup, malt, stewed rhubarb and angelica. All that is working extremely well. With water: pure, plain, exquisite natural maltiness. You cannot not consider that they've got m.i.l.l.i.o.n.s. of such casks lying up there in Scotland, but that should give us faith in the future. Right, other than that and by definition, it is not exactly an extraordinary malt whisky, but it's very good. Finish: long, on cakes, malt, beers and… hold on, fresh strawberries! Comments: less smokiness this time; a very good 'average' malt.
SGP:551 - 83 points.

Please another twelve…

Dufftown-Glenlivet 12 yo 2007/2020 (53.6%, Cadenhead, Rum Cask, Caribbean rum barrel, 258 bottles)

Dufftown-Glenlivet 12 yo 2007/2020 (53.6%, Cadenhead, Rum Cask, Caribbean rum barrel, 258 bottles) Two stars
This baby's spent two years, from 2018 to 2020, in a rum cask. We've known some English sailors who've done just the same (we're joking - barely). Perhaps even a Prime Minister. Colour: white wine. Nose: a little uncertain, grassy and a tad glue-ey, with some grassy/fermentary notes that are a tad extreme in their grassy-fermentariness. See what I mean, I'm sure. Not totally sure the rum tangoes well with the malt here. With water: it's okay, it's okay. Mouth (neat): fine, maltier, rather a little hot. Rubbery bananas. With water: the rubber's back. Some dissonances. Finish: medium, with a touch of salt. A malty grassiness and assorted grassy malts. Right. Comments: for the record. A little whisky that may not make it to Bonhams' around the year 2030. Please remind me, what was it?

SGP:361 - 76 points.

Dufftown 13 yo 2008/2021 (57.6%, Artful Dodger, bourbon barrel, cask #700203)

Dufftown 13 yo 2008/2021 (57.6%, Artful Dodger, bourbon barrel, cask #700203) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: crushes the bizarre Cadenhead, with what's called brioche, biscuit, sponge-cake and IPA (pick your brand, they all make IPA at breweries all over the world).  Some ripe bananas too. With water: clean, pure maltiness. If you like malt whisky and do not need any flavourings (peat, wine, oak) you should like this. Mouth (neat): yes, good, natural, a little hot, fruity, malty, coffeeish… With water: bingo, apple juice, even young calvados, dry beers, doughs, bakers' yeast… Finish: long, dry and all-natural, with a signature on lemons and apples, which is one of the best known to whisky people. Comments: again, probably one in several millions, but this is exactly why we're into malt whisky.
SGP: 451- 84 points.

Dufftown 14 yo 2008/2022 (59.5%, North Star Spirits, refill hogshead, 241 bottles)

Dufftown 14 yo 2008/2022 (59.5%, North Star Spirits, refill hogshead, 241 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: more acids, tight white wines, pizza dough, fermentary white beers, sourdough, ferments… Ooh this I usually like. With water: old floor-clothes and yeasts and wool and damp plaster. Some kind of very fermentary broth, plus fresh focaccia, with bits of olives inside. That's almost pornographic in my book. Mouth (neat): hurray, massive beers, sour juices, salsify (but yes), parsnips, black nougat, demerara sugar, lemons… With water: triple-hurray, but this is the worst stage, for it is getting a tad dirty, with notes of stale beers. We were going too high anyway. Finish: long, tight, a little adverse to water, and perhaps a little intellectual. And a little smoky. Comments: no, it's really very good, malty to its core and extremely natural and yeasty… Impressive, as long as you like them very malty, as we do. Or this would be williams-pears.com.

SGP:452 - 88 points.

Time to have a last one, perhaps…

Dufftown 11 yo 2008/2019 (48%, Milano Whisky Festival, finished in a Diamond Rum cask, 326 bottles)

Dufftown 11 yo 2008/2019 (48%, Milano Whisky Festival, finished in a Diamond Rum cask, 326 bottles) Three stars and a half
This one spent twenty months in an ex-Demerara rum cask. Agreed, that sounds a little unlikely, but as we always say, our Italian friends would tend to give extra-care to anything they put into their mouths. Including those magic mushrooms on the label. Let's see… Colour: white wine. Nose: once again, it is one of those bready, brioche-y, malty ones. Warm focaccia, naturally, and little rum that we can detect. With water: no Diamonds in sight, rather fresh breads of all kinds. Claro. Mouth (neat): just very good, malty, slightly smoky, with fresh fruits (lime this time, also cider apples) and just doughs. Dough, dough, dough and a little chlorophyl, grass… With water: this tight yet light smokiness that could remind some of 'light peat', plus grasses. Very dry. Finish: medium, very grassy, but with nice notes of apple, pear and quince juices, plus dry waxes in the aftertaste. Comments: I think we've found a little smoky Mortlachness this time again.

SGP:352 - 84 points.

I think we've had our 'towns, so see you.

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

 

July 20, 2022


Whiskyfun

Couldn't we do a few Irish?

Long-time no Irish on WF. Let's try to find some kind of logic, or maybe not… So start with one and follow any path…

(Picture, at Midleton with some good friends, rather a long time ago)



Midleton

 

 

Redbreast 12 yo (40%, OB, Irish, single pot still, +/-2018)

Redbreast 12 yo (40%, OB, Irish, single pot still, +/-2018) Four stars
Some kind of benchmark to start with, if you will. Colour: gold. Nose: we used to find this rather bigger than others, but by today's standards, it's become light whisky. Having said that, it's still very seductive, pretty complex, with these teas and softer waxes, butter cream, banana skins, honeys… We've tried a more recent batch just in March this year, but this very one seems to be more complex, almost assertive, and very 'pure pot still'. Mouth: rooty, especially with celeriac and chicory coffee. Not sure I've ever noticed this, OBE already? Also big notes of shredded carrot. Really, while I love shredded carrots (I'm the President for Life of the Shredded Carrots Appreciation Society (S.C.A.S). Also heather honey and beeswax. Well, this batch was particularly wonderful – sorry, haven't got any laser code. Finish: medium, awesome, on teas and… carrot juice. Comments: fantastic batch indeed, even the 40% don't feel.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

So, some kind of logic, we said…

Green Spot (40%, OB, Irish, single pot still, +/-2018)

Green Spot (40%, OB, Irish, single pot still, +/-2018) Four stars
Another Midleton from around the same period of time. I have to confess I'm rather less familiar with these coloured 'Spots'. There's a Green Spot finished in Saint-Julien (Léoville Barton) but luckily, this is not that one, it's the normal Green Spot. Phew! Colour: straw. Nose: similar style, but this is a little fresher, a little more on broken branches and, perhaps, pipe tobacco. A few added sour notes, French beans, tinned bamboo shoots and palm hearts… Mouth: same family indeed, but once again this is a tad more 'whacky', less 'obvious', more on grasses and vegetables, also a little more fermentary (miso), then oily, sesame oil, sunflower, stewed peaches and apricots… That's pretty 'pot still' indeed. Finish: rather long despite the strength, with a faint metallic touch, otherwise stewed fruits. Quince 'tajine'. Comments: I liked the Redbreast a little better but once again, it was a particularly successful batch.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

So, some kind of logic, we said…

Midleton 'Very Rare Release 1985' (40%, OB, blend, Ireland)

Midleton 'Very Rare Release 1985' (40%, OB, blend, Ireland) Three stars
The very first Midleton Very Rare ever, released in the year 1985, courtesy of Pernod Ricard. In general, distillers would send you their new stuff, which is totally normal, but this time they shipped a true wee verticale of their earlier expressions (including their new Very Rare, naturally). That goes to show that they're not afraid of any comparisons with their earlier makes, which is not always the case elsewhere. Well, Châteaux in Bordeaux would do that too. There, I said it, let us proceed… Colour: light gold. Nose: it's always been a light whiskey, and this is not exception. The grain doesn't shine through, which is good, but it's really light, rather on bananas and light breakfast teas, plus the softest honeys and cakes. I'm not sure it's a 'nosing whiskey', but after all, nosing your whisky is a fairly recent thing. Previously, you would have just gulped it down. Mouth: very soft, whispering, with notes of banana cake once more, soft teas, then hold on, carrots, a little gingerbread, the softest toffees, Frappuccino (apologies) and cappuccino. The wee earthiness is very pleasant. Finish: short to medium, on strictly the same flavours. Comments: the 2022 would just crush this fine and lightish oldie, proof that 'whiskey was not always better in the old days'. That may have been the whole point.

SGP:641 - 80 points.

Some kind of logic, we said…

Tomàsin 5 yo 2016 (49%, W.D. O'Connell, Irish, single pot still, cask #144104, 350 bottles, +/-2021)

Tomàsin 5 yo 2016 (49%, W.D. O'Connell, Irish, single pot still, cask #144104, 350 bottles, +/-2021) Four stars
It says 'peat cask', so perhaps more in-cask blending, let's be careful… This was distilled at the Great Northern Distillery in Dundalk. Colour: white wine. Nose: asparagus, fresh bark, sunflower oil, salsify, peanut butter, whiffs of lady's night cream and suntan lotion, shea butter… Well, the peat is very discreet. Mouth: there it is. It's fine, it's more or less of HP-levels, or say between light Ardmore and HP. Other than that, and even if this is pretty perfect, I would have preferred to find a similar profile after that nose that I really enjoyed. Roots, smoke, charcoal, grapefruit… No, it's really good and the peat is gaining traction. No, it's really really good. No, it's excellent, the smokiness being pretty tidal (I know what I'm trying to say). Finish: sometimes you just don't want to know about how they make their whiskies, it's like wurst. Oh hell, it's excellent. Comments: as I said, while it feels rather ten than five.
SGP:554 - 87 points.

Hinch 12 yo 'Amarone Cask Finish' (46%, OB, blended Irish, +/-2022)

Hinch 12 yo 'Amarone Cask Finish' (46%, OB, blended Irish, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
A blend of sourced grain and malt (well, that's the definition of a blend indeed), finished for two years in that thickish (sometimes brilliant) Italian red wine that's great with steaks and urban pizza, but maybe not in our whiskies. Colour: between straw and blush. Nose: grass, leaves, tomato leaves, charcoal, cactus, eggplant… No aromatic bomb for sure, even that amarone remained extraordinarily quiet. Was it first fill?  Mouth: as they say in Hollywood, this goes down nicely. Pleasant grenadine, poppy syrup, pear cake, moist cookies and macaroons, blood oranges… No quibbles, this is rather pleasant. Finish: medium, maltier. I don't think there's tons of grain whisky. Comments: its main asset is that it wouldn't be exactly 'amarone-y'. Good drop.
SGP:551 - 79 points.

Since we're doing crazy (and sometimes unnecessary) finishes…

Glendalough 'French Oak Calvados XO Finish' (42%, OB, Irish, +/-2021)

Glendalough 'French Oak Calvados XO Finish' (42%, OB, Irish, +/-2021) Four stars
I would suppose this is their own whiskey; I'm only wondering if they're not also making Irish applejack over there, hence generate some ex-Irish applejack (or apple brandy) casks? Because between Irish whiskey and French calvados, there sure is a whole world…  BTW, XO means 'old' in whisky terminology, so 'rather young'. Colour: gold. Nose: oh, baked apples, covered with maple syrup, caramel and honey, with a lot of vanilla fudge in ambush. Love this, but once again we'd want to rather not know how they made it. Just love this. Mouth: it's a crossbreed between whiskey and apples. It is not exactly whiskey anymore, but they did this particularly well. Love this meta-spirit full of stewed and baked apples, melted butter, proper caramel and caramelised popcorn. Perfect strength. Finish: medium, rather on sweet artisan cider from Brittany (I'm over there as we speak, by the way). Comments: success. We've had, for example, some ex-calvados Caol Ila by a famous house in Elgin that had been much less convincing, but that was a very long time ago.
SGP:641 - 86 points.

Yeah, the whisky world is full of marketing-generated antonyms. Rare means common, old means young, collectable means better drink it, finished means flavoured, etcetera. But let's go on… Since we were doing finishings…

Dingle 8 yo 2014/2022 'PX Single Cask' (59.7%, OB, Kirsch Import, 312 bottles)

Dingle 8 yo 2014/2022 'PX Single Cask' (59.7%, OB, Kirsch Import, 312 bottles) Four stars and a half
It is triple-distilled and it seems that it was not finished in PX, rather fully matured. I have the impression that Kirsch are really into un-boring sprits, first and foremost, rather than into classic old makes. You know, Macallan, Dalmore, 'livet  usw. Colour: full gold. Nose: yeah sure, banana cake, gingerbread, old balsamic vinegar, then huge notes of brown ale and tamarind jam. Fermenting figs, or fig wine too. With water: fig wine, really. To be sipped on the shore of the… Bosphorus. Mouth (neat): it is extremely strong, with some black raisins that would make it falsely approachable. Careful, it is not, it'll burn you. With water: there, more fig wine, fruitcake, raisin rolls, dried litchis and rambutans, Chinese almond jelly, and really a lot of figs. The thing is, I'm rather a fig addict. Finish: long, same, figs, Bosphorus, Turkish delights, maamoul (cookies filled with dates), baklava… Comments: some pretty oriental Irish whiskey selected by a German company; contrarily to popular belief, the world goes well. Great use of PX, for once.
SGP:751 - 88 points.

Since we're doing funny Irish (and since we still need some kind of logic…)

Currach 'Atlantic Wakame Seaweed Cask' (57.2%, OB, wakame seaweed charred cask, for Belgium and The Netherlands, cask #286, 2021)

Currach 'Atlantic Wakame Seaweed Cask' (57.2%, OB, wakame seaweed charred cask, for Belgium and The Netherlands, cask #286, 2021) Four stars
Right, as if Belgium and The Netherlands would need even more seaweed than they already have. Joking aside, we loved other 'seaweedy' expressions by these unconventional whisky people. It's true that all we need is fun, beyond love, no? Nah, peace is #1. Colour: gold. Nose: but yes, charcoal and lit cigars, whelks, new plywood from Ikea's, pistachio oil (very vivid), green bananas and, well, many unidentified green things. New cloths too. With water: fresh-sawn pinewood and Woolite. Mouth (neat): they're all extraordinary, really. This one's rather medicinal, perhaps a little 'too much' at times, with a rubbery bitterness that really sits near the utter limits of Whiskydom. Could be that this one went too far, it's that weird that you cannot even really describe it using common vocabulary. Whisky by and for aliens?  With water: not too sure. Sour creams, chlorophyl, moshi, broad beans, salt… This is terra incognita, really. Finish: long, very medicinal, sour, olive-y, with 'ideas' of Jamaican rum. Comments: I don't know, I really don't know. Well, what I know is that this is not boring at all. Reminds me of the Edgar-Broughton band. Go figure…

SGP:383 - 85 points.

Quickly, and I mean very quickly…

Currach 'Atlantic Kombu Seaweed Cask' (58.4%, OB, for Belgium and The Netherlands, 260 bottles, 2021)

Currach 'Atlantic Kombu Seaweed Cask' (58.4%, OB, for Belgium and The Netherlands, 260 bottles, 2021) Four stars
I'm lost, I don't know what this really is, while there are more pressing issues around, there. What we're actually waiting for is a 'Shrimp Croquette Cask', please do that. Colour: rich gold. Nose: less seaweed influence, more gingerbread, honey cakes, cigarette tobacco… With water: indeed, it is less extreme than the 'wakame'. Plywood, new cheap furniture, glues and varnishes, also rye bread and pumpernickel. That part is nicer for sure. Mouth (neat): huge, massive, flinty, rubbery, roasted… With water: back to breads and tobaccos. Molasses in the background. Finish: long, thickish, with a lot of gingerbread and a saltier aftertaste. Comments: this time the treatment has been a little subtler, but it is still a crazy heavyish concoction. It's just that I believe they've found something, it's not impossible that you could use 'new' seaweed instead of 'old' peat. We'll just need to talk a little bit about nitrosamines… In any case, with whisky and whiskey, which is exactly the same thing (vloggers!) much more fun should be around the corner. By the way, really love this unapologetic little monster.
SGP:473 - 87 points.

Good, perhaps some very newly classic make before we call this a tasting session…

Cooley 11 yo 1992/2019 (53.4%, Cadenhead's Open Day Big Tasting, barrel)

Cooley 11 yo 1992/2019 (53.4%, Cadenhead's Open Day Big Tasting, barrel) Two stars
Afterglows of Cadenhead's big tastings and a rather liberal view on mathematics. Should we even trust the A.B.V. mention here? Seriously, only time spent in Ireland counts, so as this cask was moved to Scotland quite some years ago, the time count was interrupted early. Colour: light gold. Nose: this really has Meursault, mercurochrome  and bandages. Hints of new plastics too (dolphins won't thank us). With water: too far towards plastics and acetic, bacterial fermentations. Mouth (neat): weirdo briney smoke, tinned olives from Peru, bitter and salty gums. Tough, really tough. With water: nope, really. Smoked pear, no thanks. Finish: long, burnt, rather difficult, with some muddy smokiness and a saltier aftertaste. Comments: I know many friends juts loved this one and almost built a statue to it, but I for one am finding it just too, say muddy and uncertain.
SGP:363 - 75 points.

Shall we call this a proper Irish session? Ten, that's a good number.

(Merci KC!)

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

 

July 19, 2022


Whiskyfun

Four excellent Aultmore

Yet another little name I like to try. And I think it's about time we open this older indie glory… (Photograph Andrew Wood)

 

 

Aultmore 15 yo 1992/2007 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Small Batch, bourbon barrels)

Aultmore 15 yo 1992/2007 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Small Batch, bourbon barrels) Four stars and a half
From three casks. One of the early TSMOS done by Mr Sukhinder and his gang of skilled whisky slingers. They've also had an excellent 1990/2007 (WF 86). Colour: white wine. Nose: Aultmore has got a floral side and that really shows here. All humble yellow flowers, dandelions and buttercups first, then a little sunflower oil and skins and peels, especially asparagus. All that coated with liquid nougat and custard. Mouth: absolutely excellent, epitomically malty and cakey. Shortbread and butterscotch, brioche, croissants, sesame oil and a tiny touch of paraffin. Finish: medium, cakey. Maple syrup and pancake sauce in the aftertaste, as well as a little muscovado sugar and café latte. Comments: one of those whiskies that feel like some perfect liquid cake. Mind you, we've been waiting for 15 years before we decided to have a go at it. I tell you, the patience of a monk.

SGP:551 - 88 points.

Aultmore 12 yo 2009/2021 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #303228, 297 bottles)

Aultmore 12 yo 2009/2021 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #303228, 297 bottles) Four stars
Let's say Van Wees are part of the European whisky aristocracy. They were already extremely well established when we started this very silly project named Whiskyfun. Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely similar if not identical, even if this was distilled a good 17 years later. Tell me about a consistent make! Custard, hay, fruit peel, dandelions, this tiny waxy side, asparagus, candlewax, crushed barley… This is just totally 'central' malt whisky. Mouth: even closer to the 1992, just a tad earthier and rootier. I you rather like the word 'malt' in 'malt whisky', this is the kind of bottle that you should enjoy. Croissants, cakes… Finish: medium, malty, cakey. This is where it's losing contact with the TSMOS, which was brighter and a little more complex. Comments: still a top-notch malt whisky, free of any STRification and other modern sleights of hand (which I often unashamedly enjoy, by the way) . Easy choice.

SGP:551 - 85 points.

Aultmore 12 yo 2010/2022 (63.5%, Roger's Whisky Co., bourbon, cask #21254, 335 bottles)

Aultmore 12 yo 2010/2022 (63.5%, Roger's Whisky Co., bourbon, cask #21254, 335 bottles) Four stars
I would suppose Aultmore are filling at 63.5%, just like 95% of the business. Which would suggest that this little Aultmore had not lost a single drop of ethanol during those 12 years of maturation. Colour: white wine. Nose: a little spirity and brutal, but I would suppose that's the high strength. Raw plum spirit running from the still (second run), granny smith, cut grass.. Water should bring civilisation. With water: some artichoke, pansies, grist, sourdough, bamboo shoots, cider apples…  we remain very, very, and I mean very close to Mother Nature. Mouth (neat): extremely eau-de-vie-ish, also very malty. Cappuccino at cask strength (should that exist). With water: there, it opens up, on IPAs and plum spirit, mirabelles, acidic coffees, orange bitter… Finish: rather long, eau-de-vie-ish, you could almost believe this was mirabelle spirit aged in wood. Which, I believe, no sane person would do. Comments: the feel of terra firma, the pulse of the Earth.

SGP:551 - 86 points.

Good, let's see if we can find an older one in the boxes… there…

Aultmore-Glenlivet 21 yo 1997/2018 (52.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 234 bottles)

Aultmore-Glenlivet 21 yo 1997/2018 (52.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 234 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: light gold. Nose: the age translates into roasted nuts and coffees. Not exactly one of Starbucks' terrible hazelnut-flavoured coffees, but there is a feeling of Nutella and then lighter stouts, roasted pecans, black nougat, black figs, a bag of caramelised popcorn… With water: some engine oil and paraffin popping out, rather unexpectedly. New rubber bands and oilcloth. Mouth (neat): I think I like this, despite a farmy roughness in the background (ferments). Bananas flambéed, demerara sugar, praline, toffee… What's not to like? With water: no, be careful, it swims like a depressed horseshoe. Finish: medium, sweeter, rough and lovely when neat, more uncertain when reduced. Peppery aftertaste. Not the best part, loses points here. Dura Lex, sed Lex. Comments: I don't know what happened to the palate after the arrival, I really don't know.

SGP:461 - 83 points.

That's four, so mission accomplished.

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

 

July 18, 2022


Whiskyfun

summer

Summer Duets
today wonderful
Allt-A-Bhainne

I've always loved trying Allt-A-Bhainne and Braeval, even if strictly no one else appears to care, not even very remotely. Not even the owners, and certainly not those tax-robbers at Google. Right, yes, I think I know how Google works. (photograph businessdesk)

Allt-A-Bhainne

 

 

Allt-A-Bhainne 23 yo 1997/2020 (52.4%, Whisky Nerds, barrel, cask #102589, 114 bottles)

Allt-A-Bhainne 23 yo 1997/2020 (52.4%, Whisky Nerds, barrel, cask #102589, 114 bottles) Four stars and a half
If the Nerds have chosen this cask, there must have been some reasons, and the price was certainly not amongst them. Colour: gold. Nose: oh yeah, perfect. Honeys, chalk, grist, maple syrup, sesame oil and earl grey. No long literature needed. With water: superb. Panettone (here we go again) and kumquats jam filling in some fresh génoise roll (I find génoise is a more elegant term for sponge cake). Mouth (neat): big and relatively fat, starting mineral and mentholy (old crème de menthe found in an old cabinet), with some raisins and dried jujubes and litchis, plus various other 'dry' dried fruits, such as pear slices and apricots. A little unusual, but wonderful. With water: wonderful, it reminds me of an old Glenfiddich of extremely high quality. Finish: medium, rounded, honeyed and raisiny, but always with a lot of elegance. Comments: the kind of bottling that could easily get unnoticed. I'm glad it reached Château WF's doorstep.

SGP:641 - 88 points.

Allt-A-Bhainne 25 yo 1995/2021 (58.9%, Asta Morris Heritage, refill bourbon, cask #AM141, 141 bottles)

Allt-A-Bhainne 25 yo 1995/2021 (58.9%, Asta Morris Heritage, refill bourbon, cask #AM141, 141 bottles) Four stars and a half
Same comments. Now the bottlers could have also chosen this cask because the whisky would go well with shrimp croquettes… Colour: gold. Nose: pretty similar, just a tad rounder, with added touches of old Sauternes. Wonderful honeys, touches of earth and chalk, bread, quince jelly, maple syrup, small cigars, sandalwood… A pretty perfect nose once more. With water: sponge cake! I mean, génoise! And cassata, nougat and praline. Mouth (neat): fantastic, with a feeling of old sherry (yes I've noticed it's bourbon) and some liquorice wood, gentian, turmeric and assorted biggish honeys. Heather first, as always! With water: swims extremely well. Honey with some minerality and citrusy spices. Another staple ingredient, Szechuan pepper. Finish: medium, rounded, rather more on a blond fruitcake. Comments: both Bhainnes are stunning, this one's just an extra-notch stunning. Now on second thought, I don't think it would go well with shrimp croquettes. Bah…

SGP:651 - 89 points.

(Thank you KC!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Allt-A-Bhainne we've tasted so far

 

July 17, 2022


Whiskyfun

  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!

 

More rather lethal Jamaicans

Good, we had planned to do many Jamaicans last time, but we ended up tasting only Worthy Park and Hampden. I agree, no mean decision but as this is public service (yeah right), we need to try a few other Jamaicans today. Ethics, you know, while we'll do that only because no one could force us to do so. See what I mean…

Jamaica

Only problem, all these rums have been bottled at strengths so high that they could tear you apart if you're not careful. But we're strong (or we would have died ages ago)… (Wonderful little map done by those artists at The Whisky Exchange)

 

 

Long Pond 23 yo 1998/2022 (59.6%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, American oak barrel, 188 bottles)

Long Pond 23 yo 1998/2022 (59.6%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, American oak barrel, 188 bottles) Five stars
107 gr esters/HLPA, that's pretty light. Not obligatorily a bad thing, in my book extreme Long Ponds can be a little challenging. Colour: straw. Nose: light? Say that again? This is pure earthy woods, eucalyptus, liquorice, gentian and celeriac, salsify… Nice and intriguing indeed, with probably 'the work of time'. With water: new sneakers and smoked rhubarb and cress. Brake fluid and diesel oil. Mouth (neat): whichever the esters, this is very tight, gherkiny, acetic, only slightly rubbery… And smoky, almost 'peaty'. With water: H2O works very well, making it loose and easy, more on cane juice and just bananas, plus mangos and old chardonnay. Finish: rather long, yet balanced and elegant. A salted and smoked fruit salad. Comments: holy featherless crow, we're too high already.
SGP:563 - 90 points.

Perhaps stay with Restful etc and drive to Clarendon/Monymusk…

Monymusk 21 yo 2000/2022 (62%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, American oak barrel, 144 bottles)

Monymusk 21 yo 2000/2022 (62%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, American oak barrel, 144 bottles) Five stars
258 gr esters/HLPA this time. My, this is getting as silly as the ppm race at Bruichladdich, is it not? Colour: white wine. Nose: Chinese general store circa 1980, old riesling, sage and tarragon, pineapple wine, moutai, dried rambutan, tons of old raisins… This Jamaican is furiously Chinese, really. With water: stunning notes of Woolite and a whole pile of fresh-ironed cotton sheets. Whatever, I'm sure you get the picture. Mouth (neat): rather a little extraordinary, to put it mildly. Countach-level amounts of petrol and some hottish Indian curry, plus indeed bags of raisins. With water: saltier, more coastal, more on black olive brine and just big fat oysters. Do they have and eat oysters in Jamaica? Never been there, but it's in the pipe. Finish: very long, there. Wine vinegar, ashes and tar. Comments: do grs ester/hlpa correspond to ppms peat? Answers via email, you've got thirty minutes.
SGP:464 - 90 points.

Blasted, they've got more…

Monymusk 23 yo 1998/2022 (62%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, American oak barrel, 179 bottles)

Monymusk 23 yo 1998/2022 (62%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, American oak barrel, 179 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: love this, there's branches, asparagus, salsify, parsnips, liquorice wood, turmeric and ginseng, in short a very lovely rooty earthiness. By the way, there are 232 gr esters/HLPA this time, which remains rather light and civilised. With water: paraffin, shoe polish, plasticine and, once again, Woolite and new sweaters by international brands, straight from the Champs-Elysées. Let's work beyond brands, if you agree (S., this is not the place!) Mouth (neat): saltier, rather more brutal, wilder than the 2000, with more gritty herbs, mints, earths… With water: no, this is equivalent. Salty lemon juice plus various herbs and grasses, oysters, clams… Not too sure about those clams (apologies, clams). Finish: long salty, awesome. We could quaff this with a seafood platter, chilled.  Comments: same ballpark, we will never do halves, quarters or decimals anyway. Swollen heads, no thanks.

SGP:463 - 90 points.

All right, Rest & Be Thankful, three 90s in a row, and I mean them. Wait, they have yet another one (this is getting a little tough…)

Monymusk 21 yo 2000/2022 (59.4%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, American oak barrel, 181 bottles)

Monymusk 21 yo 2000/2022 (59.4%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, American oak barrel, 181 bottles) Four stars
This time the ester count would be rather lower, with only 117 gr esters/HLPA. Colour: white wine. Nose: it is a little softer indeed, but it is still estery (let's not use that stupid word, funky) We're finding varnishes, putties, gums, notes of caramel, ultra-soft liquorice, fresh pinewood, a drop of mercurochrome… With water: cooling fluid and new sneakers, small sizes. I mean, the rubbers aren't that big this time. Mouth (neat): it's like peat, esters one day, esters always. What I mean is that even small amounts can decide on the overall profile, which, in this very case, would be pretty tarry. Pine needles too. With water: careful, this one does not swim too well. Old salty oils, pass. Finish: medium to long, very good, just not easy to pin down. Comments: very good, once more, it's just that the others were more assertive.
SGP:363 - 87 points.

Remember, Monymusk is Clarendon. It's not that we do not learn, it's that rum remains uncertain and that some main figures and characters are a little noisy, if I may. As they say, they wear Hawaiian shirts in their heads too.

Clarendon 1996/2022 (67%, The Colours of Rum, Wealth Solutions, cask #435094, 253 bottles)

Clarendon 1996/2022 (67%, The Colours of Rum, Wealth Solutions, cask #435094, 253 bottles) Four stars
You mean sixty-seven percent alcohol? May I call my lawyer? Colour: deep amber. Nose: the magic of European aging. While I fully understand the rationale behind 'keeping added value to location', in your glass, these old European ones are simply superior. Extraordinary ointments and embrocations, oils, precious woods, balsa.. and, right, sixty-seven percent. With water: varnishes. There isn't much you could do; it was a little extreme in the first place and will never quite become approachable. Mouth (neat): stop stop stop stop, this is way too strong, while we need our palate. Attempted murder on poor whisky blogger, this will cost you dearly, Mr Colour of Rum. With water: I think we got it right, by chance. Pencil shavings, kerosene, varnishes, tobacco, ultra-green green tea… It's just that water would make it even tighter, moe extreme, and dry. Dead end, no exit. Finish: very long, very extreme, totally dry and extremely huge. Comments: frankly, it was tough. Your brain would think it's great, but you heart (or belly) will preach patience and prudence. Seriously, it's a very tough and very dry drop.

SGP:372 – 86 points.

Perhaps more extremitie, so to speak (while I'm calling my lawyer, let's make a break)… Good, we're back.

Clarendon 26 yo 1995/2022 (65.7%, The Colours of Rum, Wealth Solutions, American oak, cask #433947, 260 bottles)

Clarendon 26 yo 1995/2022 (65.7%, The Colours of Rum, Wealth Solutions, American oak, cask #433947, 260 bottles) Five stars
What a colour! Colour: old cognac. Nose: it's got the colours of an old cognac and indeed, it would start with notes of old cognac, but let's remember that aged spirits would tend to converge anyway as long as they're aged in similar woods. Raisins and pine resin, fir needles, eucalyptus, roasted peaches… and a rather massive quantity of ethanol. Let's remain careful as ever… With water: essential oils (thyme, mint), some camphor, the yearly production of a Scandinavian liquorice factory, plus really, loads of pine and fir needles. I believe this was aged in the tropics. Mouth (neat): heavily concentrated, with heavy liquorice fighting resins, ristrettos and oils. Water please… With water: in fact I love heavy piney and liquoricy flavours. There's even a wee saltiness (but there's no salt in rum), as well as some stewed fruits (peaches again) that would bring a semblance of fruity lightness. Quite. Finish: Comments: heavy and certainly oaky, but a little less tough than the 1996, and better balanced would I say. A perfect example of some weighty oakiness being a brilliant asset, as good oak and these kinds of power rums can tango extremely well.

SGP:463 - 91 points.

New Yarmouth 1994/2022 (66.7%, Swell de Spirits, Flashback Series, cask #435058)

New Yarmouth 1994/2022 (66.7%, Swell de Spirits, Flashback Series, cask #435058) Four stars and a half
Looks like retro-futurism has inspired yet another excellent bottler. Talking about the label, not about the spirits. This appears to be mainly tropical ageing too. In fact, it spent 24 years in the tropics, then 3 years in Europe for a good rest. Now careful, these cousins of Appleton can be extremely, well, extreme and shelter up to 1600 grs ester/HLPA. Colour: honeyed amber. Poetic license, you know. Nose: no, it's not heavy at this point, rather cakey and with fudge and nougat, rather ala Appleton. You cannot not think of some good agricoles, but at 66.7%, we shan't pursue this topic before we've added water. With water: gentle and firm, certainly caney, very nice, certainly more chamber music than pure funk. Vivaldi rather than Funkadelic. Mouth (neat): indeed, it's not heavy New Yarmouth. Some nuts and burnt sugar, corn syrup, coconut, and even a feeling of bourbon but that may be the super-high strength. Nougat. With water: very good, in my book and according solely to my own taste, this is the best you could find within this style. Moist orange cake, tangerine sherbet… Finish: medium, light-style, fresh and dapper. Comments: don't get me wrong, this is no gossamer rum, if you see what I mean, but it is the easier side of Jamaica.

SGP:551 - 88 points.

Good, a little digestif and back to normal life. Let's find something 'segmenting'…

Jamaican Distillery 2019/2020 'Cuvée Daniel' (85.6%, L'Esprit, Great White Collection, still strength, 279 bottles)

Jamaican Distillery 2019/2020 'Cuvée Daniel' (85.6%, L'Esprit, Great White Collection, still strength, 279 bottles) Four stars and a half
Still strength indeed. I start to like to end our wee rum sessions with a white, I'll try to do that more often. Even when said white rum might be lethal and not covered by insurance. Colour: white as water. I remember, a few years back, we had distilled a few dozen litres of mirabelle and since I wasn't having enough bespoke empty bottles, as the yield had been surprisingly high, I had also filled a few empty bottles of mineral water. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, one of them eventually ended up on the work top in the kitchen. It's easy to guess what happened next… Nose: solvents, rotting bananas, olives, liquorice, pears, orange essence. Is it normal that I would be finding this very lovely? With water: these are very easy to reduce, ½ spirit and ½ water, swirl, and basta. Some fresher tropical fruits come through, as well as some rubber, waxes and tar, which would suggest this could be a useful Distillery starting with a W. Mouth (neat): you could take a few drops, you'd find more olives, varnish and a rather high quantity of esters. Cough, cough. With water: it's incredible how it got warm after reduction, first time I'm experiencing this well-known effect to this extent. Alcohol + water = heat. Other than that, indeed, could be a WP. I'm having their 'Rum Bar Overproof' on the side as we speak, and the parentage seems obvious, even if you cannot be 100% sure (and I'm no rum expert). Finish: long, sweet, olive-y. Comments: that's the main advantage of rum over whisky, you can have rum unaged and find it as brilliant as this one.

SGP:563 - 88 points.

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

 

July 15, 2022


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