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Whisky Tasting


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Petits billets d'humeur
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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2006 - Part 1
May 2006 - part 2 <--- June 2006 - part 1 ---> June 2006 - part 2

June 14, 2006

Port Ellen 26 yo 1979/2005 (53%, Old Bothwell, cask #3198) A neww bottler I had never heard of before. Colour: straw. Nose: very clean, very natural but not wham-bam. It really resembles a Caol Ila at first nosing, with something quite citrusy, almondy and even grassy. Whiffs of wood smoke, garden bonfire, burning straw… It develops on oily and mineral notes (flints, lamp oil), getting then quite maritime and buttery at the same time. Also apple juice. Sharp, a little austere and not overly demonstrative but quite classy. Something that reminds me of the 1978 Rare Malts (the 20 yo rather than the 22).
Mouth: starts much sweeter than expected but also waxier, with lots of herbs (parsley, fresh spinach), almond milk and then something slightly sweet and perfumy (orange water, violet sweets). And of course quite a lot of peat. It gets then rather woody, even tannic, with lactones, apple and grape skins, lemon seeds… Speaking of which, it does get very lemony after a moment, but this palate is less austere than the nose, and certainly easier. The finish is long, smoky and lemony, with just the right dose of pepper. Another good one, no questions a bout that. 90 points.
Port Ellen 1979/1998 (61,1%, G&M, cask series, casks #7238-7239) Colour: straw - gold. Nose: this one is really different, much more buttery at first nosing. Lots of green apples and candle wax but otherwise it’s a little closed. Water needed, probably… Yes, that works, we do have the expected tarry notes now, new tyres, tarmac, linseed oil… Also something quite farmy (hay) and mineral (wet chalk), plus quite some pu-erh tea, Belgian beer, pencil lead, motor oil… Just great, a Port Ellen with lots of Portellenity (what?) Mouth (neat): yawn, what a beast! Lots of lemon, lots of oranges and lots of peat but water is needed again! Oh yes, that works beautifully, with lots of dried oranges and cough sweets plus again that great Portellenity (will you stop that!), with lots of mineral ‘stuff’ (not that I eat stones too often), fir honeydew, propolis, salty liquorice… Quite some spices too, black pepper, cloves, maybe a little mustard… And again lots of lemon and grapefruit. And the finish is long, mostly on peat, pepper and lemon marmalade… Just excellent, with lots of oomph (even when diluted to roughly 45%). 92 points.
Left, Johnnie Walker Black Label 1969 – ‘The scotch for the father who scrimped and saved all his life so you wouldn’t have to.’ Bang!
Right, Johnnie Walker Black Label 1993 – ‘Thank Dad for being more proud than angry.’ Powerful hint at childhood memories... For American kids, at least.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: I'm not too much into folklore but I think this young Gaelic singer from Asynt is bl**dy excellent! Not just wood sawing, if you ask me. Please listen to James Graham singing Mo bhò dhubh mhòr/Puirt (just add .mp3 when you've dowloaded it) and then buy his CD!


June 13, 2006

Caol Ila 12 yo (46%, Craigellachie Hotel, circa 2005) Colour: white wine. Nose: quite punchy at first nosing, very typical, starting on peat smoke, sea air, iodine and a little coal smoke. Perhaps peatier than other versions. Goes on with freshly cut apples, pears and something slightly floral in the background (hints of violets). A nice minerality as well. Rather simple but flawless and enjoyable. As close to ‘the distillery’ as possible. Mouth: sweet and nervous, starting on acidulous fruits (limes, green gooseberries, green plums) and fresh sorrel, rhubarb… Very ‘funny’. Gets then nicely smoky but even more citrusy at the same time, with always a nice freshnes. Something of a sauvignon… Funny, really funny. The finish is rather long, lemony (juice and zest) and slightly smoky… A good one. Simple but good and… er, funny. 84 points.
Caol Ila 1993/2005 (46%, Murray McDavid, sherry cask) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is different, fruitier and less sharp, more on apple juice at first nosing (plus peat smoke of course). Develops on rather bold notes of sulphur, diesel oil, paraffin, stones, with whiffs of hot praline, caramel and barbeque herbs. Notes of fino and toasted cake. Probably more interesting but also a little les clean… Mouth: more sherry now, with notes of rubber, wax, praline, sultanas blending with more or less the same king of ‘citrusness’ as in the ‘Craig’ but also a little salt. Really playful, even if the finish isn’t too long. But the spirit really dominates the sherry now. Maybe trhat’s good news. Anyway, another good one, even if the sherry and the spirit sort of stay apart and don’t really create ‘a third dimension’. I can’t wait to taste the new Caol Ila official ‘Distiller’s Edition’ which we should be able to taste on Islay later on this month. 84 points for this one too.
Caol Ila 15 yo 1991/2006 (56%, Dewar Rattray, cask #742, 318 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: a little less expressive than both the ‘Craig’ and the Murmac versions, and also less smoky and peaty. We do have kind of waxiness but the dominant aromas are more on fresh almonds, marzipan, turpentine, even a little varnish… More peat and pepper after a few minutes, as well as hints of strawberries and melon, even olive oil. Quite some personality. Mouth: sweeter and bolder, thanks to the higher ABV but the difference isn’t that huge. Again we have all these citrusy flavours that play with your tongue plus quite some fresh pineapple and a little guava… It’s also spicier, with hints of horseradish… The peat isn’t overwhelming here but the whole is very compact, very satisfying… More peppery as well. Maybe it’s a little closer to a South shore malt. The finish is long this time, lemony and peppery… A very good one, no doubt. 86 points.
Top, left, Johnnie Walker Black Label 1971 – ‘It will make your father proud to know you can afford it.’ Extremely effective, beautiful picture, highly emotional. This ad is a classic, one of my favourites.
Top, right, Johnnie Walker Red Label 1974 – ‘Dear Dad… Once I was the twinkle in your eye. For the next 22 years I was the hole in your pocket. Now that I’m earning my own bed and board… I hope this bottle of Johnnie Walker Red makes me the twinkle in your eye again. Your son, Andy.’ Another excellent Johnnie Walker ad. You can borrow the body for your own use, it should be a hit with your dad! And was it Michael Caine?
Bottom, left, Chivas Regal 1977 – ‘He taught you to appreciate the finer things in life. Make him glad he did.’ More or less the same trick but drier.
Bottom, right, Chivas Regal 2006 (in Chinese) – ‘Chivas Regal 18 year old Scotch Whisky is a world famous Scotch whisky brand. Representing Experience, Inspiration and Patience. That’s why, when Chivas decided to create a new style of Scotch, they insisted that the product had to match with the Brand’s prestigious image. How can I give this to my dad as a gift if it was not a prestigious brand? But how much should we drink? Just a few sips would be good enough.’ Err, imagine this one running in Europe or in the US! And the baby, he could swallow the cap!!! A slippery slope…


MUSIC – Recommended listening: blending sitar-like slide guitar (or is it sitar?), blues, country-rock, harmonica, entrancing choirs and songwriting skills, Harry Manx, who was born on the Isle of Man, does Don't take his name away.mp3. Very good, if you ask me... 'Mysticssippi' flavor indeed. Please buy his music and go to his concerts!


June 12, 2006

Ardbeg 28 yo 1967/1995 (53.7%, Signatory, cask #575, pale oloroso) Colour: gold. Nose: very expressive, to say the least. Starts extremely resinous, with lots of camphor, eucalyptus, bandages, getting then more and more medicinal. Then we have the marzipan, almond milk, and then all the sea 'stuff': fisherman's nest, shells, oysters... All that is finally rather delicate, not brutal at all. Really brilliant! Keeps developing on orgeat syrup, marzipan, whiffs of turpentine and even tar, dried seaweed... Natural mastic? Heck, let's say it: 'wow!' Mouth: an extraordinary attack, powerful, extremely thick and coating, on peat, rubber and bitter oranges. Hugely concentrated! Lots of mastic sweets, beeswax, cough syrup, quite some herbs (mostly chervil but also a little dill), getting then quite lemony but always resinous... So playful after all these years! The finish is long, waxy, almondy and peaty, with just traces of wine. A perfect match! 95 points.
Ardbeg 29 yo 1967/1996 (52.3%, Signatory, cask #576, pale oloroso) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is a little more closed, shy, but also directly maritime with lots of sea air, kelp, hints of lobsters... It's also more mineral, almost chalky, with notes of lamp petrol... It does get very smoky after a few minutes but it's still far from being as oomphy as cask #575. Gets then a little vegetal, even grassy and slightly woody, waxy, with quite some paraffin. Excellent but a good two steps behind its sibling. Mouth: again it's a tad simpler but curiously more nervous, rather lemony right from the start. Less different than on the nose. Probably a little bitterer, also more on grapefruit and liquorice... Let's say it's more a 'mainstream' old Ardbeg if that exists. It's also rather spicy, with notes of nutmeg and cardamom... And always these bold citrusy notes (now tangerines). Again a long finish, more lemony and 'simply' peaty than cask #575... 91 points.
Ardbeg 28 yo 1967/1995 (53.2%, Signatory, cask #574, dark oloroso) Colour: deep amber - brownish. Nose: the sherry is much more demonstrative now, the whole starting on notes of toasted bread and balsamic vinegar, prunes and chestnut honey... It gets much more complex after a while, with notes of hot breadcrumb, cooked red cabbage... And then something quite resinous, fir honeydew, camphor, embrocations... It's very smoky at that... And then we have all sorts of herbal teas (rosehip, hawthorn), then very old Bourgogne red wine, then parsley, then empty barrels (clean ones of course), then hints of lovage, then..., then... then... This nose is totally stunning. Mouth: extremely playful and dry at the same time, with lots of oloroso but also a full basket of citrus fruits again (oranges, lemons, grapefruits...) as well as lots of medicinal notes: cough syrup, iodine... also liquorice sweets, tar liqueur, bitter chocolate... Again just fabulous. The finish is very long again, very satisfying, rich, bold, peaty and chocolaty... Near perfection, even if it's a rather extreme whisky. 96 points.
Ardbeg 30 yo 1967/1997 (52.2%, Signatory, cask #1138, dark oloroso) Colour: full amber. Nose: this one is more on chocolate and raisins at first nosing, probably simpler than the divine cask #574... But that doesn't mean it gave up... It does get more complex with time, actually. Smoky, toasted... It makes me think of a peated rum if that could exist. Also old rancio, faint whiffs of rubber (bicycle inner tube), hot bread... And we have also the raw, natural malted barley, with also whiffs of wet dog, pu-erh tea... Probably a little fresh mint... This one is just a tad less complex than the other dark oloroso and maybe a tad winier. Mouth: again, this one is a bit oomphier than cask #574 but maybe also a trifle simpler, more classical. Quite some rum now, Corinth raisins, chocolate, cappuccino, toffee as well as something quite medicinal again but the whole is a little less elegant. Yet, we do have these citrusy notes again but also a little more rubber, toasted bread etc. Maybe it's in this one that the sherry is the most obvious, not saying it overwhelms the spirit, that is. The finish is long again, quite lemony but also rather dry, with a nice 'vinosity' and kind of a sourness like in balsamic vinegar. Also notes of pine liqueur... Another fabulous one, no doubt. 93 points.


Advertisers have always been struggling with the fact that many people only buy whisky as Christmas presents and hence have tried to suggest whisky may be presented at many other occasions around the year. This 1978 ad for Chivas Regal (left) is a good example of an ad trying to catch several birds with one stone while suggesting several ‘undated’ occasions, i.e. occasions that can happen any day (birthdays, various thank-you etc.)

Now, there’s also the famous Father’s Day in June (it’ll happen on June 19th this year here in France – hint, hint) and most ads addressing that very topic are quite interesting because they often try to handle transactional analysis tricks, either knowingly or unknwoingly. In other words: ‘give you father our whisky and he’ll be proud of you – at last!’ We’ll post a few interesting examples with the coming days, starting with…
Left, Dewar’s 1974 – ‘On Father’s Day, think well of the man who always thinks of you. When the thought is genuine the Scotch should be too.’ Easy and rather direct but effective.
Middle, Johnnie Walker Red Label 1977 – ‘Would Crown Prince Joseph of Austria have given his father a mini-van? Your father should expect only the very best from his heir. Give him the Scotch that will more than meet his expectations: Johnnie Walker Black Label. It takes twelve long years to create just one bottle of this great Scotch. It has every right to be expensive.’ Right but twelve years for one single bottle? That should make it even more expensive than that golden carriage!
Right, Seagram’s Crown Royal 1983 – ‘Remind your father he didn’t raise a cheap-skate. Crown Royal about $14. Cheap skate not included.’ Same resort here but with more humour that should sweeten the feeling of guilt.


MUSICRecommended listening: new cat from England Lilly Allen sings Smile (it's on the page). Easy but brilliant, brilliant but easy ska-ish music. Please buy her album as soon as it's out!


June 11, 2006


Tullibardine 1988 (46%, OB) Colour: straw. Nose: rather inexpressive at first nosing, with just grains, vanilla and hints of stones. But let’s be fair and give it a little time… zzz… zzz… zzz… Right, it gets even more mineral and slightly metallic but that’s all. I’m sorry but it’s an anti-aromatic malt.

Mouth: quite sweet now, almost sugarish, on sugared cereals and a little ginger, white pepper and vanilla. That’s a little better. It doesn’t lack body but it’s very, very simple. What else? Err… Nothing, sir, except ‘spirit’. The finish is rather long though, sugary and maybe a little almondy. Well, I guess you can’t always have your malts doing the peacock’s tail. 68 points.
Tullibardine 1987/2005 (46%, Helen Arthur, remade hogshead, 350 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: not extravagant but more expressive than the OB, with grains again but also quite some paraffin, diesel oil, fresh almonds… Hints of hazelnut oil, wet stones, chalk… Also some flowers (not aromatic ones, rather tulips and so on). An unusual profile generally speaking, close to marzipan. Not unpleasant at all, although it gets very vegetal after a moment. Mouth: the differences are quite similar. More wax, oil, minerality and kind of a smokiness (smoked salmon) plus quite some almond milk. Hints of Turkish delights and lavender sweets, with something Bowmore-ish (not all Bowmores). The finish is rather long, oily and frankly almondy… The whole isn’t extraordinarily good but certainly interesting. Quite similar to the old official 10 yo (with the green twistcap). 78 points.


MUSICRecommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical (well, contemporary) with the excellent Analog Art Ensemble doing We speak Etruscan.mp3 composed by Boston's Lee Hyla. Agreed, that's maybe not just for any ears but there's a lot happening in there... Please go these guys' concerts! (also found Earl Brown's Octet for eight loudspeakers.mp3 on their excellent website)


June 10, 2006

Fettercairn 13 yo 1980/1994 (43%, Signatory, cask #2001-2002, 750 bottles) Colour: amber – bronze. Nose: quite vibrant, starting on old rancio, bitter oranges and chestnut honey. Whiffs of peat, quite some liquorice, all kinds of nuts coated with caramel, rum, Smyrna raisins… And finally lots of small, very ripe fruits such as strawberries or raspberries. Hints of parsley and chervil, even fresh mint. Very complex!
Mouth: sweet, coating, with quite some roasted nuts, burnt cake, toasted bread and lots of bitter chocolate. Raisins again, rum, and then blueberry pie… Really excellent, even if the palate is a little less complex. A slight smokiness. The finish isn’t too long but balanced and very ‘full’. Truckloads of pleasure with this Old Fettercain. 90 points.
Fettercairn 14 yo 1980/1994 (43%, Signatory, cask #2003-2004, 680 bottles) Colour: amber – bronze again. Nose: a little more closed and less sweet and fruity. More rubbery as well, with also something a little mineral. Whiffs of pepper and cloves, also a little meatier (notes of ham). Less demonstrative and more discreet, but almost as complex. Mouth: closer to the 13 yo now but maybe more compact and surprisingly sweeter. Quite some herbs (oregano), switching to chocolate again and getting then quite peppery. That’s funny, it’s oomphier than the 13 yo actually. Quite some rubber, hints of thyme, prunes with armagnac, and a rather long, peppery and chocolaty finish. Another excellent surprise, 90 points.


MUSIC – JAZZ - Heavily recommended listening: classy, very classy, Stéphane Grappelli (violin) and Michel Petruccianni (piano) do These foolish things.mp3 (on Flamingo, recorded 1995). Stéphanne passed away in 1997, Michel in 1999... we miss them both a lot! Please buy all their records...


June 9, 2006

Longrow 'Manzanilla Wood' (46%, OB, for the shareholders, 60 bottles, Xmas 2005) This is a full-maturing, not a finish. Colour: gold. Nose: starts quite aromatic, on obvious notes of ‘jaune’ (or fino), fresh walnuts, toasted bread, caramel and bitter oranges. Gets quite meaty (mostly on ham), peaty, almondy… The blend of a peaty malt with the manzanilla produces also something quite resinous (pine needles, mastic) but also something slightly ‘chemical’ (marshmallows, bubblegum). Good and interesting.
Mouth: sweet, toasty, winey and salty, with an unusual character (lots of manzanilla). Quite some butter caramel and liquorice, dried bananas and coconuts, salmiak, kippers… Very, very interesting, with a also a little apple vinegar and soy sauce… And the finish is rather long, compact, very salty and liquoricy. Lucky shareholders! 89 points.
Longrow 9 yo 1992/2001 (57.2%, Cadenhead, 354 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: punchy but quite austere, starting on peat, iodine, sea air and lots of mineral notes (chalk, limestone), with again something faintly chemical (Fanta, Schweppes). Really sharp, with a few fruity notes such as not too ripe gooseberries and green apples, getting also quite lemony, buttery and a little liquoricy and then quite grassy (newly cut grass, bracken…) Rather complex! Mouth: we’re more in known territories now, with lots of peat and pepper (something Taliskerish indeed), apple juice, cider… It isn’t too complex but nicely compact and ‘coherent’. Quite some liquorice, herbs (parsley, even chive), a little vanilla… Again, simple but very good, with a very long finish on liquorice and salt. Yes, salmiak. A good Longrow with lots of oomph, even, if it hasn’t got most of its ancestors’ complexity (from 1973 to 1987). 89 points.
And also Longrow 1993/2003 (46%, OB) A nice peat but also lots of caramel and quite some cooked strawberries on the nose, while the palate is maybe a tad weakish. Not too bad but the whole is a bit limp and sweetish. Not too bad but arlier versions had much more backbone. 80 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: do you know Carrie Catherine? Try Biggest mistake.mp3 (ah, the ooh's!) and you'll understand why you should. And it's not only the voice and the organ! Please buy Carrie Catherine's music! (via live tout artists)


June 8, 2006

Bowmore 18 yo 1971 (40%, Sestante) Colour: pure amber. Nose: oh, it’s fabulous! Starts on a blend of caramel (Werther’s) and sea breeze, very expressive and not tired at all. There is something sulphury but those notes are rather pleasant - not disturbing, in any case.
It really smells like honeyed oysters (does that exist? Maybe!), with also great notes of earl grey tea, very old Sauternes wine (yes, like an Yquem)… Keeps developing on notes of other wines that are made out of concentrated grapes (straw wine, Aszu Tokaji)… And always these superb coastal notes that balance the whole (but there isn’t any peaty sensation I should add). It gets then even more concentrated, with lots of sultanas… Just superb and the sulphury notes have now vanished. Mouth: oh, very sweet, probably a little fragile at the attack but starting on very old high-end sweet wine again (no list, that would be oenopornography). The smoky notes are quite discrete… Quite some chocolate and mocha, Oriental pastries… Gets then spectacularly spicy, on white pepper, cloves, even a little paprika and quite some cinnamon. What’s surprising is that it’s gaining power after a few seconds… And we have also lots of ripe blackcurrants, raspberries and even blueberries (watch your teeth). Really exceptional, I must say. Probably more aerial than the OB’s from the same era, yet showing quite some oomph… The finish is very long, at that, perfectly balanced, on candied fruits, spices and old sweet wines (again). I think it deserves no less than 93 points (and it’s a 40% whisky!)
Bowmore 13 yo 1992/2005 (46%, McGibbons’ Provenance, Winter distillation, cask #1786) Colour: straw – white wine. Nose: ho-ho, it makes think of the famous 1993 by Berry Bros that was so rightly successful. Starts on a blend of lemon juice and paraffin. There is some peat but little, just enough to give the whole structure. Goes on on cornflakes, cereals, getting then very maritime, with sea air, kelp and oysters… Oysters with lemon juice, this time! This Bowmore is rather simple in fact but extremely clean and fresh, very enjoyable if one doesn’t seek complexity at any cost. Mouth: sweeter and more delicate than expected, starting on fresh notes of lemons and pepper, with something farmy (wet hay). But it’s very lively… Peatier as well, rather simple but so perfectly balanced. The lemony notes grow then stronger, with also notes of white currants, and the finish is long and quite powerful now, on pepper and white fruits. A fairly recent Bowmore that confirms that the distillery made much better whisky again (my opinion) from the early 1990’s on. Again, it’s simple but very excellent! 89 points (lacks just a little extra-complexity to make it to 90+ in my books).
Bowmore 1989/2003 (57.3%, James MacArthur, cask #1966) Colour: white wine. Nose: relatively close to the McGibbons’ but even simpler, mashier and rather less maritime at first nosing. It’s really on porridge at the start, with also notes of salted butter caramel and vanilla crème. Also nice notes of lemon flavoured caramel and something farmier. This is also a nice Bowmore, even if it’s less impressive and demonstrative than the McGibbons. Mouth: oh, we do have some of the McGibbons’ flavours in this one but also some rather disturbing notes of perfume and soap that I didn’t get on the nose. Too bad, the rest is really nice but… err… And the finish is long but really on lavender and getting soapier and soapier… Well, maybe it’s not totally flawed - and the nose was pretty nice – but I’m sorry, it’s hard to give this one more than 70 points.


MUSIC – JAZZ - Heavily recommended listening: the soulful English sax player Andy Sheppard (another favourite , I discovered him with Carla Bley) playing live with Kuljit Bhamra.mp3. The sound isn't too good but it gives you a good example of Sheppard's excellent playing and sense of improvisation. Please buy his music!


June 7, 2006

THE TIGER LILLIES Soho Theatre, London, June 3rd 2006

“You’re not lawyers are you?” asks a concerned Adrian Huge, who only five minutes earlier had propelled much of what passes for his drum kit onto the lap of the Photographer. I shrugged. “And what were you writing in that little black book?”. “Just stuff”. “That’s it”, said Martyn Jacques, still in his make-up and speaking a sort of Dickensian mockney, “he’s a lawyer alright”.

We’re leaving the Soho Theatre after a late night show by the inimitable Tiger Lillies (who are very kindly signing a disc for Serge), described by one writer as an “anarchic Brechtian blues trio”. Like many people my awareness of the Tiger Lillies began through their association with the award winning musical (‘junk opera’) Shockheaded Peter, which I must have first seen seven or eight years ago. This horror tinged black comedy, based on the German children’s stories (or perhaps more properly cautionary tales) The Struwwelpeter, will be best remembered by anyone who has seen it for the bizarre falsetto singing of accordion player Martyn Jacques (who wrote all the songs) supported by drummer Huge, and bassist Adrian Stout.
Now there isn’t much that hasn’t been said about Jacques, who tonight with pierrot make up and pigtail, permanent scowl (except when he laughs), strangely shuffling gait looks like a cross between a string less puppet and a matelot doll. So I’m not going to try and add any more. Instead I’ll share the contents of my little black book, which I think will tell you everything you need to know.    
Reviewer to barman: “I say barman, may we take a bottle of your finest claret into the theatre?”. Barman to Reviewer: “Yes, but only in a glass”. Pints of wine. Camera battery flat! Drum kit – rubber chickens, children’s toys. Songs. ‘Dribble down your chin’. ‘I’m a swine’. ‘Masturbating Jimmy’ (no need for any further explanation there). ‘Maria’ (prostitution, rape, anal sex, murder, dismemberment, necrophilia and vampirism). ‘Freakshow’. ‘Piss on your grave’ (biblical mass murder and grave pissing). ‘I killed my mother’ (he killed his mother etc. – audience silent at end). ‘Sheep’ (not sure if this is the right title – it’s about sheep shagging. Clockwork sheep on piano). ‘One further morning’ (? title – drowning, mournful. Stout is playing saw, Huge using hacksaw blade for drumstick). ‘My tin shack’ (seven days of drug taking and mystical experiences in a tin shack). ‘I’d kick a little baby’ (Huge playing drums with baby’s head, Jacques playing nice ‘National Steel’ ukulele). ‘Murder is easy’. ‘Bumhole’ (how did they manage to get the Rainbow Warrior into a song about bumholes???). ‘ABC’. ‘Snip snip’ (“that great long legged scissor man” – ace!). ‘I’m terrible’. ‘I’m banging in the nails’ (Crucifixion song, Huge destroying drum kit with plastic hammers, drum kit lands on front-row Photographer and Reviewer).
Need I say any more? Of course like certain whiskies we could mention it’s a love it or hate it sort of thing. We love it. Oh and by the way, I’m not a lawyer, but my sister is. - Nick Morgan (support by Kate)
Editor to reviewer: thank you. Interesting. Have to listen to collaboration with Kronos Quartet. Music by the Tiger Lillies: Russians.mp3 (from The Brothel to the Cemetery). Signed CD much awaited. Thank you. Over.
Scapa 1989 (43%, Natural Color, 2002) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather fresh and clean, although quite spirity… Starts on tinned pineapples and pears, heather… Develops on lemon juice and something both slightly smoky and maritime (sea air, iodine), a little vanilla and light honey… Grapefruits, orange fizz… Quite friendly and nicely focused. Flawless, in any case. Mouth: sweet and very coherent with the nose, with again these notes of grapefruits and pineapples but no more ‘coastality’, alas. Apple juice, lemon cookies, butter caramel, cereals… Not overly interesting but flawless again, with a rather short but balanced finish on cake and lemon. It’s good, no doubt 80 points.
Scapa 1993/2005 (46%, M&H Cask Selection, bourbon, 330 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: very similar ‘of course’, a tad more on vanilla and caramel and maybe a little less fresh… Less lemony and more on gooseberries and strawberries, and also spicier and woodier (quite some pepper and ginger). Hints of lavender and violets, as well as heather again. Maybe a little less ‘easy’. Mouth: more nervous than the ‘NC’, and also sharper now. I liked its sibling’s nose a little better but this is much, much better on the palate. Lots of vivacity, on starting on lemon and grapefruit juice, fructose, fruit Jell-o, bubblegum… Notes of nougat and praline, candied angelica, Sevilla oranges… Good, very good if not too complex. A little liquorice as well, orange marmalade… And the finish is rather long this time, compact, on pineapple, grapefruit and candy sugar as well as a little salt. Good-good! 86 points.

June 6, 2006

RODDY FRAME Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, June 2nd, 2006

It’s a warm Friday night in London, and the Bush is strangely only half full. The restive audience chat their way through support Martha Tilston’s set, and become even noisier during the interval. With a single microphone stand up front and in the middle it looks like a big old stage, and I’m beginning to wonder how anyone can really fill it just by themselves, let alone command the attention of this increasingly boisterous bunch. I shouldn’t have worried. From the moment Roddy Frame walks on stage he has the audience in the palm of his hand – at times the quiet is astonishing (during a very hushed lull between songs a fan shouts out, earning the rebuke “Look man, can’t you just enjoy the silence, it’s beautiful man”). Frame calms down a fight at the front of the crowd, takes a love poem from an outstretched hand, begins to read it, begins to critique it (“one blue would have been enough man”) and then refuses to finish it – “just buy her something expensive man”. He tells a wonderful joke about nut roasts, and a familiar apocryphal Glaswegian story about knife wounds.

Altogether he’s engaged and engaging, and when, right at the end of the show he says “I’ve had a lovely time playing for you” you know it’s true. You almost felt you could have been sitting at home with Roddy on the sofa playing and chatting while his pal the wonderful Edwyn Collins (who was sitting not far from us) retuned all his guitars into unplayable tunings (another funny story).
And all that despite the fact that Frame is un peu pissed off. He knows why the place isn’t full – we all do. “Who’d have thought the two laziest, most shiftless poets in Scotland would end up playing in London on the same night” he complains. He’s talking about Paul Buchanan, who with what’s left of Blue Nile is playing at the Barbican as he speaks. Now it’s true that between 1983 and 2006 Frame, as Aztec Camera or solo has only produced nine albums, but that compares poorly to Blue Nile’s four albums over a similar period. Moreover, whilst Frame is a relatively regular visitor to the Capital’s stages Buchanan and the band tour only rarely and are guaranteed to sell out. In fact I cursed myself having bought tickets for Frame when I later saw that Buchanan was going to be in town, and even more so when I saw the five star reviews he picked up for the three nights they played in Glasgow. But I should have had a little more faith in Roddy.
Born in that monument to Scotland’s post-war planning frenzy, East Kilbride, young Roddy was something of a prodigy, and was only nineteen when Aztec Camera registered their first hit with ‘Oblivious’. Initially stable mates with Collin’s Orange Juice, Aztec Camera were at the forefront of a marvellous mini-renaissance in Scottish rock and roll. While the band lasted through ‘till 1996 it had for many years been nothing more than a showcase for Frame’s song writing skills, with a restless throughput of musicians. Since then he’s been a ‘solo’ performer, receiving rave reviews for his ‘solo’ acoustic album Surf (2002) and deservedly for the recently released Western Skies.
And tonight he’s performing a set of songs largely from this later period but with a fair helping of older material – particularly most of the Camera’s hit tunes from the 1983 album High Land, Hard Rain. Now in case you don’t know you shouldn’t expect anything earth shattering in Frame’s subject matter – his songs are largely about love, unrequited love, lost love, guilty love, the pleasures of love, the pains of love and, err… more love. But he twists this well trodden path round with wonderfully constructed lyrics, never too clever or contrived, but perfectly crafted, with the help, I observe, of a great deal of well chosen weather and sea related imagery.
Frame has three lovely acoustic guitars (one a monster of a twelve stringer) whose sound is fantastic. He moves easily between finger picking and plectrum styles, with hints of flamenco thrown in for good measure. He stalks around the stage, full of energy, covering as much ground as a five piece band and his voice is almost perfect (listen to his singing on Surf or Western Skies – it’s as good as that). Kicking off with ‘The sea is wide’ from his first solo effort ‘North Star’, we get ‘Small World’, ‘Black Lucia’. ‘Dry land’ and then “two songs that didn’t make it onto the Surf album, but I think they’re better than anything that did”, ‘Your smile can’t stop the hands of time’ and ‘Crossing Newbury Street’. A little later we get a handful of tunes from the new album, ‘Rock God’ (“I started writing this song when I was watching a television programme about Marc Bolan”), ‘Western Skies’ and ‘Worlds in Worlds’, and then the truly memorable ‘How men are’.
The tempo rises as he moves into hit mode with songs like ‘Oblivious’ and ‘Somewhere in my heart’ as his first encore, but he finishes with two from North Star, ‘Hymn to Grace’ and ‘Reason for Living’. The audience don’t want him to go, but after 22 songs and an hour and a half of heavy duty guitar playing I think the guy deserves a rest.
This was a truly impressive show with everything that you could have wanted. And afterwards I began to think, how would you score it? To be sure there’s the immediate sense of pleasure, the visceral feeling that only live music can give you, there’s a bit of emotion, pathos and laughter, a few thought provoking lyrics. And that might get you up to an immediate score in the high eighties. But that’s not really a true reflection of the impact of the evening. There’s only a week and an Islay Whisky Festival between them, but I’m still thinking about Josh Rouse’s great gig at the Bush as if I’ve only just left. And of course if I care to I can easily conjure up the sense of awe that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds generated at Brixton Academy or for that matter can put myself in a seat in Birmingham Town Hall watching Family back in the 1970s. So there’s another criterion to think of – the gigs that give something that never leaves you. And I think you can tell at the time which ones they are – like Roddy Frame tonight. And you know, you simply can’t give enough points to that, or put a value on it. But I know it’s worth a lot more than a fifteen quid ticket. Thanks Roddy. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thank you so much, Nick. I'll have to dig deeper about Mr. Frame! For the moment we have two very nice songs by him: Crossing Newbury Street.mp3 and Your smile has stopped.mp3, both found of the excellent fans website killermontreet.com.
Bowmore 37 yo 1968/2006 (40.5%, Ducan Taylor, cask #3822, 145 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes, this one is on full passion fruit and tangerine mode. It really smells like fruit juice, developing on something waxy (rubbed lemon skin, lamp oil) and also gin fizz. It’s also quite buttery but the wood is very discreet despite its old age. Just faint whiffs of ginger and vanilla… It becomes very grapefruity after a moment. The whole isn’t too complex but very, very enjoyable if you like acidulous fruits.
Mouth: phew, what a relief… It’s not woody or tired in any way, quite on the contrary. We do have all the fruits again (citrus fruits, tropical fruits, the whole shebang) and a fine tannic structure that keeps the whole quite vibrant. It then focuses on fresh pineapples with a little caramel and ginger… Yummie, as our Belgian friends would say. The finish isn’t too long, naturally, but compact and focused on fruits, with just a little pepper arising now. Anyway, an archetypical 1968 Bowmore in all simplicity. Not complex but almost perfect. 91 points.
Bowmore 31 yo 1968/1999 (44%, Signatory Millenium Edition, cask #5820, 252 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: more or less the same profile here but it’s a tad less demonstrative and maybe a little more mineral. More on lemons than on oranges, which makes it a little more austere and maybe rigid. Also whiffs of the farm (hay etc.), apple peels, the whole being a little more complex than the Ducan Taylor. But it’s also less of a fruitbomb! Mouth: a little closer to the DT now, and maybe a little more complex. Granted, we do have the citrusy/tropical cavalry but also some interesting waxy, almost resinous notes, almond milk, orange zests, lemon marmalade… Funny hints of tequila (not because of the lemon), dried ginger, curacao… Very good, and the finish is longer, bolder and waxier… In short, another excellent 1968 Bowmore. 92 points.

June 5, 2006


JOSH ROUSE Shepherds Bush Empire, London, May 25th 2006

I have to confess that I was dismayed to learn that Josh Rouse had released a football record. I know that we’re going to be inundated with soccer nonsense over the next month whilst a certain tournament mondial goes on in Germany, but Josh Rouse?

[Editor’s Note: open the following links at your own risks! ;-)] I’m not surprised by Sham 69’s ‘Hurry up England’ (‘though I’m dismayed that I can remember the original, with Jimmy Pursey’s thought provoking lyrics “Hurry up Harry we’re going down the pub”), or that Tony Christie has put together ‘Is this the way to the World Cup?’. I did think Whiskyfun favourite Wreckless Eric might have done better than release a World Cup version of ‘Whole wide world 4 England’ (ouch Eric). And I suppose we all could have predicted offerings like Stan Boardman’s ‘Aye aye ippy, the Germans bombed our chippy’, or the ToneDef Allstars’ (featuring among others ‘They think it’s all over’ Geoff Hurst) ‘Who do you think you are kidding Jurgen Klinsmann’. Yep – all part of a nation’s sporting shame. But Josh Rouse, whose last album Nashville was almost close to a masterpiece? And then I’d realised I’d misread the title, not Subbuteo, but Subtitulo. Phew! [Editor’s Note: culturally disorientated readers, confused by this longwinded and apparently meaningless joke, might wish to look here or here]
If you don’t know Nashville, written both as a homage and farewell to the city where Rouse had spent ten years honing his song writing skills, was one of the albums of 2005. Yes I know it’s poppy, but beneath that there’s huge depth, deeply personal lyrics, some great Brit-pop style guitar driven tunes, some wonderful lyrics (check out the Smiths tribute ‘Winter in the Hamptons’) and just a few touches of Nashville steel guitar. With its release, and a collapsed marriage behind him, Rouse set off for Spain, and it’s there where the new album was conceived and partially recorded. I guess you could say it’s more of the same, intimate, confessional, reflective – all that good old singer songwriter stuff. But it’s carried off with great aplomb – and it’s clear that even if he hasn’t written their World Cup song Rouse is very much at home in soccer mad Spain.
He’s equally at home on the stage of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. In fact from the moment he strides onto the stage (well, actually it takes off during his whistling solo half way through opener ‘Quiet town’) he owns the place. It really turns out to be a remarkable gig – full of confidence this guy fills the theatre; strong voice, great guitar playing, powerful harmonica, teasing rock and roll moves, the occasional amusing anecdote, a really personal touch (“turn up the lights, I want to see you all so I can tell my Mom you were here”) – he’s got the lot. He also has a fantastic band – drummer Marc Pisapia (who does a sturdy job as backing vocalist) and a very groove-driving bass player James Haggerty – together these two were the nucleus of the band on Nashville. The noise they make for a three piece is remarkable (and for the Bush very well balanced) – they even have a Crazy Horse moment during instrumental ‘La Costa Blanca’. And just to make up the set there is also an occasional string quartet lending support.
The Bush is packed. Audience mixed. The crowd are surprisingly raucous (“We love you Josh” growls some crafty cockney between each song, much to the singer’s amusement), passionate and enthusiastic. I think they even take Rouse and his band by surprise with their warmth and appreciation – but the band enjoy every minute of it. In return they give a set largely drawn form Subtitulo and Nashville. ‘Quiet Town’, ‘Giving it up’ and ‘It looks like love’ kicking off from the new album. Highlights of what follows are ‘Winter in the Hamptons’, ‘His Majesty rides’, ‘Wonderful’, ‘Summertime’, ‘Carolina’, ‘Streetlights’ and to finally finish ‘It’s the nighttime’. All compact songs perfectly executed. And at the end, after a short encore, he left the stage with a wave and the audience shrieking for more, amongst them the sceptical Photographer, whose doubts had faded during ‘Giving it up’ and who subsequently pronounced the evening “The eat my words gig of the year’. Sophisticated pop paradise with a twist of attitude, and all this for £15 – far less than the price of a World Cup ticket and more than twice the fun. Why watch football when you can buy Josh Rouse’s records, or even go and see him if you get the chance? - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Many thanks Nick! Ah yes, the World Cup! I could see, while in Scotland, that there's much more in the UK press than here in France, I guess that should say long about our respective teams' chances to win. I'm not even aware of any French song about it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist (alas). As for the excellent Josh Rouse, why not listen to Love Vibration.mp3 or Flair.mp3?
Port Charlotte 2001/2005 (61.4%, Gordon Homer, 39 bottles, bloodtub #R23) Colour: deep amber. Nose: very bold and expressive, starting on huge notes of pipe tobacco and horse sweat, then coffee and coal smoke plus bitter chocolate. Very unusual but very nice, I must say, incredibly mature at such young age. Gets then a little farmier, on hints of cow barn. Lots of shoe polish as well, Barbour grease, Rather amazing. Mouth: very rich, almost thick, on tons of beeswax, praline, bitter chocolate, chestnut honey… Then truckloads of salted liquorice, pipe tobacco again, dried oranges… Extremely concentrated but certainly not unbalanced. Amazing indeed, this one reminds me of some of the best sherried Port Ellens (rather than, for instance, Ardbegs). Gets even more tarry, spicy, concentrated after a moment… And the finish is very long, salty, caramelly and honeyed, with also plums. The peat is perfectly integrated and doesn’t stay apart from the sherry at all despite its young age. Gordon, you lucky b…. 94 points.
Bruichladdich 1990/2006 ‘Drambusters’ (56.9%, OB, valinch) This one is soft and very fruity on the trademark melon, strawberries and peaches plus kiwi and tangerines. Highly drinkable, offers lots of pleasure. 86 points.
Bruichladdich 1988/2006 ‘Mayor of Islay Peru’ (58.5%, OB, valinch, sherry)
More on cereals, caramel, praline, sherry… More oak as well and hints of spearmint. Another good one, salud! 85 points.
Bruichladdich 1989/2006 ‘Côtes du Rhinns’ (53%, OB, valinch) Finished in a Guigal Hermitage cask. Pink colour. Much more marked by the wine, a little sulphury, metallic and animal (the syrah). Raspberries. The palate is sweet, rubbery and a little hot, with lots of strawberries. 80 points.
Bruichladdich ‘125th anniversary’ (46.3%, OB, 1 bottle) Only one bottle of this one, presented to Duncan McGillivray. We could taste a sample on Bruichladdich’s open day. Colour: amber. Nose: lots of melon and coconut, peach skin, vanilla crème. Hints of ginger and cinnamon and quite some oak (freshly sawn oak) but it’s all well integrated. Mouth: apricots and melons again as well as all sorts of spices, ginger… Creamy and slightly salty. Develops on white pepper, caramel crème, acacia honey. A rather long finish, very full, on ginger, apricots and plum jam. An excellent Laddie, too bad there’s only one bottle. Psss, Duncan, if you ever open it, please drop me an email… ;-) 90 points.
Trilogy 1967/2006 (40.7%, Murray McDavid Mission) A vatting of 1968 Bowmore, 1968 Bruichladdich and 1966 Bunnahabhain to be launched sooner or later. Colour: amber-bronze. Nose: it seems that Bowmore shows off first, with lots of tropical fruits, passion, mangos, guavas… Then we have light caramel, heather honey, apricot, ripe melon (Bruichladdich?), oranges… Little oak or tannins… Brilliant but probably dangerously drinkable. Mouth: creamy but playful, very coherent with the knows. Not sure the Bowmore steals the show but there’s lots of passion fruits again as well as camomile, white wine (sweet chenin from the Loire), oranges, pink grapefruit… Extremely fruity! We have a little tannins now but they rather bring some structure than dryness. Superb. The finish isn’t too long but balanced, with aa little rum and ripe bananas. Well, that’s excellent! Probably not very powerful but so sippable and not tired at all. A flagship ‘blended malt’, for sure but beware, one could down a bottle just like that. 92 points.
Laphroaig 1994/2006 ‘Feis Ile 2006’ (56%, OB, 600 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: sharp, clean, powerful, maybe just a little closed at first nosing. Unusually floral (lily of the valley), quite grassy with not much peat at first nosing but lots of maritime elements (sea air, oysters, shells). Rather austere I’d say, with also some very nice notes of fern and moss. Mouth: powerful and much smokier now, almost hot. Lots of apple juice, hints of fructose, violet sweets, liquorice… Gets then as medicinal as one can get and nicely camphory. The finish is long, a little hot but balanced, on full peat and green apple mode with again quite some liquorice. In short, the whole is a tad rough but very good and ‘not compromising’ indeed. 90 points.

May 2006 - part 2 <--- June 2006 - part 1 ---> June 2006 - part 2

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Ardbeg 28 yo 1967/1995 (53.7%, Signatory, cask #575, pale oloroso)

Ardbeg 29 yo 1967/1996 (52.3%, Signatory, cask #576, pale oloroso)

Ardbeg 28 yo 1967/1995 (53.2%, Signatory, cask #574, dark oloroso)

Ardbeg 30 yo 1967/1997 (52.2%, Signatory, cask #1138, dark oloroso)

Bowmore 18 yo 1971 (40%, Sestante)

Bowmore 31 yo 1968/1999 (44%, Signatory Millenium Edition, cask #5820, 252 bottles)

Bowmore 37 yo 1968/2006 (40.5%, Ducan Taylor, cask #3822, 145 bottles)

Bruichladdich ‘125th anniversary’ (46.3%, OB, 1 bottle)

Fettercairn 13 yo 1980/1994 (43%, Signatory, cask #2001-2002, 750 bottles)

Fettercairn 14 yo 1980/1994 (43%, Signatory, cask #2003-2004, 680 bottles)

Laphroaig 1994/2006 ‘Feis Ile 2006’ (56%, OB, 600 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2001/2005 (61.4%, Gordon Homer, 39 bottles, bloodtub #R23)

Port Ellen 1979/1998 (61,1%, G&M, cask series, casks #7238-7239)

Port Ellen 26 yo 1979/2005 (53%, Old Bothwell, cask #3198)

Trilogy 1967/2006 (40.7%, Murray McDavid Mission)