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Whisky Tasting


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Petits billets d'humeur
(in French)



Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2006 - Part 2
June 2006 - part 1 <--- June 2006 - part 2 ---> July 2006 - part 1

June 30, 2006

Glenrothes 1972/2004 (43%, OB) Colour: gold-amber. Nose: starts on lots of honey and caramel, dried fruits, with lots of freshness. Some spices as well (juniper). Notes of tangerines, mirabelle plums jam, apricots… Not tired in anyway and very elegant. Mouth: again, quite fresh and fruity, slightly caramelly. Lots of honey and lots of elegance. Goes on with a little white pepper and hints of mint. Grows more and more peppery (also nutmeg) and honeyed with time with also roasted nuts. The finish isn’t too long and funnily salty and vanilled. In short it’s all pleasure, elegance and drinkability. 90 points.
Glenrothes 30 yo (50.2%, OB, 1134 bottles, 2004) Colour: straw. Nose: starts very flowery and fragrant with hints of lavender and orange flower water. Goes on with herbal teas (thyme, mint flavoured tea) and quite some liquorice. Spearmint. Really fragrant and enjoyable. Mouth: powerful and fruity but also rather tannic, oaky. Lots of pineapple, dried oranges, liquorice, lactones… The finish is long and oaky. An interesting contrast between a very perfumy nose (nothing offending here) and a nicely tannic palate. 86 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: The New Pornographers do The slow decent into alcoholism.mp3. Worrying? Not really, it’s just good pop-rock. Please buy these guys’ music…


June 29, 2006

PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez
Clynelish 12 yo (70° proof, G&M, brown and orange label, late 70's - early 80’s) Probably on of the first bottlings by Gordon & MacPhail. Colour straw. Nose: starts quite fruitier than the earlier 12 yo Clynelishes, with less wax and oil. Apricot pie, guava, pink grapefruit… And then a nice minerality and oiliness as expected. Classy stuff as expected. Mouth: very typical, very waxy, on orange skins and marzipan, with a nice, discreet peatiness. Gets then quite mustardy, spicy and salty… Quite some body at such low strength and bottle age. The finish is rather long, full, orangey and spicy… Excellent whisky, lacking maybe just the older ones’ ‘rectitude’. 89 points.
Clynelish 12 yo 1984/1997 (43%, Signatory, cask #3089) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts on lots of lemon liqueur, almond milk and marzipan, kumquats… Develops on linseed oil, getting rather mineral. Quite some orange zest. A very interesting, rather sharp and elegant nose. Mouth: sweet, rather almondy but getting also a little cardboardy… Gets then quite oily, mineral again, then quite grassy… Quite some lemon then, then pear (like in a newmake)… Closer and closer to new make in fact. Finish: quite long and waxy as it should be. In short, an interesting, prototypical Clynelish. I like it (of course). 86 poiints.
Clynelish 12 yo (50%, DL OMC, mini) Colour: white wine. Nose: rather hot, very spirity and mashy, as close to new make as it can be. Raw, mashy, on porridge, plain yoghurt, mashed potatoes, cider apples… Not too impressive I’m afraid. Mouth: this is better, starting on pineapple juice, sugared yoghurt, wax… gets then quite grassy, with also notes of green pears. Not fully matured, maybe… Notes of apple and walnut skin, getting finally very almondy. Long, spirity, lemony finish… Maybe not a winner, this time… 78 points.
Clynelish 1989 (58%, James MacArthur, circa 20001) Colour: straw. Nose: powerful, starting on freshly mown lawn and porridge, muesli, sour cream… Something musty and cardboardy. Quite close to the barley, with also notes of coffee. Gooseberries. Mouth: ample and full, starting on bubble gum and marshmallows, apple juice, grapefruits… Quite estery. Then we have quite some vanilla fudge, Werther’s Originals, caramel crème… Hints of fresh strawberries… Nice and easily drinkable at 58% - or is it me? The finish is long, sweet, on pineapple drops and marshwmallows again… The sweeter side of Clynelish. Good. 81 points.
What's rather unusual with Clynelish's stills?
A - They are still direct-fired
B - They are the tallest in Scotland
C - The old Brora stills are among them (wash #1 and spirit #2)
D - The manager lives in spirit still #3
E - The spirit stills are larger than the wash stills


MUSICBLUES - Highly recommended listening - We're in 1928, yet the sound is incredibly good: Mississippi John Hurt does the very sad Stack O Lee Blues.mp3. Sad but so good...


June 28, 2006

Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London
June 24th 2006
Apparently some people will do anything they can to stay at home watching football on the TV, even if it means enduring moments like English soccer pundit Mark Lawrenson horribly abusing the work of the great Nick Lowe – “Well John, look at Beckham, he doesn’t know if it’s New York or New Year”. Ouch! I’m the opposite. I’ll do anything to avoid it – even if it means eating Pizza, on this occasion an ‘American hot’, which I don’t think came from America, and which certainly wasn’t very hot. But the music, the real temptation that saw us walking the soccer-fan saturated streets of Soho, was (on second thoughts if you do have to watch international soccer on television, then go to Soho’s Bar Italia to see the Azzurri –it doesn’t get any hotter).
Not that we could entirely escape the great game even in the mellow smoke filled Pizza Express Jazz Club – star turn Andy Sheppard lost his band at the start of the set (“we’ll play these while we’re waiting for the rhythm section to get back from watching the football in the pub”), and someone had even laid in a little competitive footballing treat in the men’s lavatories for those blokes who’d been dragged out under protest.
Sheppard is widely regarded as one of the most celebrated British saxophonists and composer (‘though Serge, I note that he chose to hone his skills in your wonderful Paris) with an unrivalled pedigree of both solo work and collaborations with artistes such as Gil Evans and Carla Bley – actually if you bother to look at his biography you’ll see that the list is almost endless. I saw in some of the pieces I read preparing for this that some critics deem him too easy, too accessible, not sufficiently complex to deserve real jazz credibility. Well I say, “why make things too difficult if they don’t need to be”. Sheppard’s playing is melodic and tuneful (so he prefers his major keys to his minors), deeply soulful, wonderfully structured, not without wit, and certainly complex and challenging enough for his audience tonight.
It’s not a bad thing that he’s joined by guitarist John Parricelli, a veteran of 80’s band Loose Tubes (whose name I seem to recall), who is everything to the guitar that Sheppard is to the saxophone. To be honest I had some reasonable expectation of how good Sheppard might be, but not of how accomplished Parricelli was.

Andy Sheppard
and John Parricelli
The two began with three pieces from the 2003 album PS – the first two, ‘Reveries’ and ‘Glencarron’ (which if it isn’t a cheap own label malt whisky, certainly should be) were quite folk like, with Parricelli on acoustic guitar (though being helped out by a few of his numerous pedals and boxes). The third, ‘Les Mains d’Alice’ brought on the electric guitar which Parricelli played for the rest of the evening, and a thrilling chorus effect that he frequently used during the set. With the rest of the band back from the boozer – Dudley Phillips on bass and Nic France on drums – (both longstanding collaborators with Sheppard and veterans of the London jazz scene, who can be found playing on Phillip’s thought-provokingly titled album, Life Without Trousers) they run into the first of a number of standards (I couldn’t help thinking they all sounded a bit like ‘Luck be my lady’, but to be honest I’m not as up on my jazz as I should be).
Sheppard and Parricelli improvised fluently and swapped solos all night, and whilst there was one sudden moment of ‘free form’ (even the waiters looked alarmed) we were never far away from deeply rhythmical and melodic grooves, with odd echoes of Wayne Shorter, Bill Frisell, and even, I swear, the Allman Brothers on the penultimate ‘Scream’. However the high point of the evening had to be Sheppard’s soprano solo in the second half, as he ran through scales and half scales with the speed and accuracy of one of Parricelli’s loop boxes. It went on so long that it had the feel of showboating, but in the taxi home my son explained that this was a virtuoso display of what brass players know as continuous or circular breathing. And the evening ended almost back where we started – “we’re going to leave you with a folk song – something for you to chew on”.
Well of course I was still chewing on my pizza, but I’d enjoyed the music so much I’d hardly noticed. Musicianship of the highest quality. And whilst I know Serge has his own favourites I would urge you to go out and buy Sheppard and Parricelli’s wonderful PS, and check out the tour dates on Sheppard’s website, he’s worth going to see no matter what you have to eat. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate and Nick)
Merci Nick, it’s true that Andy Sheppard is one of Whiskyfun’s favourite jazzmen, especially since I first listened to ‘Songs with legs’, a fabulous CD he recorded in 1994 with Carla Bley (interesting website by the way) and her husband Steve Swallow. But how can Andy Sheppard be too easy? As for your great ‘urinal’ picture, well, some seem to think that football is more something like an anal game but that British variation is interesting indeed. I’m sure most psychosociologists must have lots of fun with the world cup!… Today’s music: Andy Sheppard with Joanna McGregor doing Up above my head.mp3. Easy, eh!
Ben Nevis 12 yo (40%, Glenkeir Treasures, The Whisky Shop) Colour: pale amber. Nose: on caramel and vanilla plus apricot pie. Develops on nectar and light breakfast honey, green tea, getting then grassier (lettuce). A nice nose, quite expressive. Notes of mashed potatoes after a moment. Mouth: simpler and rather tannic, I guess a higher alcohol level would have helped to stand the tannins. Quite some white pepper, a little apple juice… Not too bad but the palate is its weaker part. Medium long finish, getting caramelly and a little drying. £30 for 50cl of this one, mmm… 77 points.
Ben Nevis 13 yo 1990/2004 (61.6%, OB, Portwood finish, 800 bottles) This one’s been finished for 12 months in some Port bodega butts, not pipes. Colour: pink gold. Nose: starts on huge notes of strawberry jam and keeps smelling juts like strawberry and raspberry wines (the ones they make in Germany). With water: gets more vegetal, on fern, moss, fresh strawberries. Quite nice I must say. Mouth: powerful, rounded, creamy with a little salt. Quite some caramel, raspberry ganache, huge notes of raspberry eau de vie and liqueur. With water: smoother and more balanced but still very fruity. The finish is long, maybe a little hot even with water, with a lot of raspberry again and hints of salt and rubber. 86 points because I love raspberries ;-).

June 27, 2006

Glenmorangie 1993/2005 ‘Truffle Oak’ (60.5%, OB, 886 bottles) I believe truffle oak is just another name for the common European oak, quercus robur, so this has nothing to do with truffles. It’s just like if you’d call sturgeon ‘caviar fish’ ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: quite hot this time, surely oaky but also very spicy. Hints of plank, freshly sawn wood, white pepper and ginger… Something wild, getting bizarrely meaty. Mouth: bold, powerful, extremely oaky and sweet with notes of rubber and what could be varnish. Notes of ripe bananas and rum, high-strength bourbon… Really rough but gets smoother and more civilized with time. The finish is long, very salty and quite rubbery. Does all this salt come from the new oak? The Burr oak was better balanced I think. 81 points.
Glenmorangie 1988/2003 ‘Madeira’ (56.6%, OB, cask #3078, 856 bottles) This one’s been fully matured in Madeira wood, not finished. Colour: deep gold. Nose: rather spirity and not too fragrant at first nosing. Notes of sultanas, vanilla, cinnamon, also quite some bitter chocolate and mint. Notes of wet cardboard and, curiously, iodine. Bread crust. Rather simple but unusual and enjoyable. Mouth: nervous, very sweet and very oaky. Malty, with lots of candy sugar and pepper, getting slightly salty and metallic. Quite some chestnut honey, at that. Flavourful, with a long, salty finish with lots of spices, prunes, cinnamon and vanilla sticks. Maybe a tad too extravagant for my tastes but certainly well made. 85 points.
MUSICJAZZ - and soul - Hugely recommended listening - Yeah, more Rachelle Ferrell, with I can explain.mp3 (it's on Individuality). Please listen to it till the end, isn't she's totally brilliant? (who said orgasmic?) You must buy her music, do you hear me?

June 26, 2006

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, 2006) Colour: gold. Nose: not too expressive and slightly cardboardy, with quite some orange juice, hints of lemon zest, lemonade, ginger tonic… But not much peat nor smoke, I’m afraid. Quite ashy and medicinal (bandages, embrocations)… Hints of seawater. Nice and balanced but not the ‘no compromise’ style we used to know. Mouth: rather sweet, gently peaty this time and rather fruity (very, very ripe kiwis and pineapples). Salted water, notes of sour cream… Rather salty at that, but there’s a strange offbeat note in the background (these almost rotten fruits). Quite short finish, salty, with hints of cooked spinach and a little ginger… Maybe not the glorious Laphroaig we used to know but it’s still rather good whisky. 81 points.
Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, ‘unblended’, Johnstone with an ‘e’, 1980’s) Colour: gold. Nose: more caramelly and much fruitier, with tons of passion fruit and guava, pink grapefruit and also vanilla crème… The peat is also wilder although not ‘explosive’. The ‘unblended’ as we used to know it. Mouth: very fruity, on coffee and all these tropical fruits plus a little toasted bread and quite some salt. Rather brilliant I must say, even if the older versions were even better in my opinion. Well, not just in my opinion ;-). 91 points.
Laphroaig 10 yo (45%, OB, Buckingham Wile Imports NYC, early 1990’s?) An unusual version at 45%. Colour: gold. Nose: much more closed, on bitter chocolate and coffee beans, before we get lots of ‘citricness’, lemon juice, notes of old barrels (clean ones), mustiness and whiffs of camphor and sea breeze, oysters again… Not too expressive but typical. Mouth: bold and powerful, peaty and waxy with also rennet apples, quince, caramel crème, lemon marmalade, kumquats… Long finish, rather bold, coating, with a waxy, peppery and orangey aftertaste. Not quite as good as the unblended but it’s excellent stuff nevertheless. 89 points.
Laphroaig 13 yo 1988/2001 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 2109) Colour: pale straw. Nose: clean and pure at first nosing, filling the whole room with peat smells. Gets then very citrusy, on lemon juice, limes as well as iodine, bandages, disinfectant… Very medicinal. Quite some tar as well. Very classic, flawless. Mouth: not too bold but again very smoky, tarry and slightly salty. Gets hotter in your mouth and saltier as well, developing on liquorice, crystallized lemon zests, salted liquorice… An excellent one, no doubt, even if it isn’t monstrously complex. The finish is rather long and very salty, earthy and liquoricy. Classic. 87 points.
Laphroaig 16 yo 1988/2004 (46%, Signatory unchillfiltered, cask #3614) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts rather less clean and much mashier, with quite some porridge, mashed potatoes, notes of burnt cake… Then slightly rotten fruits (garbage truck says Davin, I guess they have clean ones in Ottawa) as well as hints of wet dog and maybe a little ginger tonic, aspirin… Nicer than you may think while reading this, in fact. Mouth: quite cleaner now but not too expressive. Maybe a little soft. Porridge, cereals, beer, pepper, orange juice… A little salt again and a finish that isn’t too long and quite mellow for a Laphroaig. Quite drinkable but it’s probably no race horse. 82 points.
From 1906 to 2006, Laphroaig's output has increased by a factor of just...
A - It has diminished, actually
B - 1 - it's just the same, son
C - 10
D - 100
E - I'm bad at maths
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on vacation in Saint-Tropez


MUSICJAZZ - Highly recommended listening - another Whiskyfun favourite, Rachelle Ferrell doing Bye bye blackbird.mp3 in her very own, energetic way. Just great! Please buy her records (although the 'smooth or FM jazz' ones aren't as good I think) and go to her gigs! (photo Bill King)


June 25, 2006

Glen Albyn 1973/1998 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoiseur's Choice) Colour: straw. Nose: starts rather weirdly (should I add as expected?) on vase water and rotting oranges but does improve after a moment, getting fruitier (cider apples) and more herbal (newly cut grass). Gets then quite grainy, buttery and mashy (mashed potatoes) but also quite woody, with lots of tannins, white pepper, tealeaves… Also hints of gin tonic and aspirin but the whole is interesting, getting fizzier and fizzier.
Mouth: much dustier and cardboardy now, with quite some cocoa, white pepper, flour… Add to that a little vanilla crème, fruit drops and a little cider and that’s it. The finish is rather short at that, a little drying and ‘sticky’… Too bad, the nose was nice enough to almost make me change my mind about Glen Albyn. 72 points.
Glen Albyn 10 yo (43%, OB, 1960’s) Colour: straw. Nose: lots of old bottle effect, this time on metal but it gets then much more playful, with lots of fresh pineapple, a little passion fruit, grapefruit, papayas… All that is quite subtle, not as expressive as in an old Lochside, Bowmore or Clynelish, for instance. Starts to resemble the G&M more and more then, with a little aspirin, grains, porridge… But it’s much less tannic. Something waxy and slightly peaty in the background. Mouth: lots of body, much fruitier and lively than the G&M, with lots of apple juice, orange juice and then spices (quite some clove). Develops on pineapples, fresh rhubarb and quite some spearmint, pepper, even a little cardamom. It’s good! The finish is quite long, quite fruity and spicy (that cardamom again)… A very interesting old Glen Albyn. The nose wasn’t especially better than the G&M’s but the palate was. 80 points.


MUSICRecommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical with the great late Elizabeth Parcell singing the recitatif Wir beten zu den Tempel an.mp3 (from the cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen BWV 51). Yes, she was great.


June 24, 2006

The Borderline, London, June 17th 2006
Left to right, Paul Lamb, Raul de Pedro Marinero, Ryan Lamb and Chad Strentz
I couldn’t help thinking that ‘the best blues band in Britain’ somehow deserved a little better. I mean I know it’s summer, it’s hot British barbecue bedlam time (“mmm…like those rare chicken ribs Dad…”), people are saving up for their holidays, there’s football on the TV every night and in about a week’s time Festival Frenzy grips London, with it appears just about every public space available in the City being used for day or evening events. But even so that’s no excuse for an audience of around twenty, miserably failing to make the Borderline look anything other than empty. Now when I first saw Paul Lamb and the King Snakes, in one of those forgotten and very dirty Edinburgh Masonic Halls that only comes to life for a few weeks each September, the place was buzzing. Everyone had come to see the blues band that had won more awards than any other blues band, the blues harmonica player who had won more awards than any other blues harmonica player, and the blues guitarist who’d won more awards than any other blues guitarist.

Jimmy Hill
Well it’s been a few years since the last plaudits rained down on the King Snakes. Paul Lamb is still fronting them up, playing his remarkably full sounding ‘urban’ or Chicago style of harp, switching deftly (and often mid-song) between harps and chromatic harmonicas. He’s still a great showman (‘though it does lack a bit of conviction in front of such a small audience), but I have to observe that age has not served him well, and the alarming resemblance that he now bears to former TV football pundit Jimmy Hill sits uneasily with his reputation as a bluester. Sadly Whitehill has gone – now that’s not to underrate the performance of lead guitarist Raul de Pedro Marinero, whose T Bone Walker style licks were worthy of any stage, or ‘guest’ guitarist Ryan Lamb (almost a flock then) who added a hard British Blues edge to the band when he joined them.
It’s just that Whitehill was pretty remarkable (you’d have to be a guitarist to understand, but just how he played like he did with such stubby fingers I shall never know) – I swear that when I saw him if you’d shut your eyes you might have thought it was Peter Green.
So in short the King Snakes seem to have lost a bit of edge over the years, and also gained a bit of a novelty act feel – not to be encouraged – don’t go there boys. But even with twenty of us in the Borderline they belted out a raucous set and did their best to act as Ambassadors for the Blues. And as I’m sure I’ve observed before, if it wasn’t for bands like them, where would the Blues be? - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank you Nick, I guess the blues needs sad, melancholy or bittersweet stories from time to time… But your Jimmy Hill?
He looks more like George Clooney actually, when compared to some of the fabulous television presenters we do have here during the world cup (left to right, Arsenal’s Arsène Wenger – he’s an Alsatian, Claude Leroy and Thierry Roland). Nice bunch, eh? As for Paul Lamb and the King Snakes, we could find good music, it’s More than alright.mp3, played live. PS: we love Arsène!


Glenburgie 5 yo (40%, OB, Soffiantino Genova, late 60’s) Colour: straw. Nose: very fresh, starting on something buttery and then lots of aniseed, Chartreuse, dill… All kinds of herbs, whiffs of coriander, chive and then vanilla crème. Ends up with apple juice and cider and faint whiffs of white pepper. A great nose.

Mouth: not weak at all, starting on cider apples and quite some wood, orange juice, cake, getting a little bitter, on walnut skins and hints of fino. Quite some fruit as well (yellow peaches, grapefruits) and something slightly metallic. It’s good! The finish isn’t too long, that is, a little tannic and drying (amazing at 5 yo ) but still quite balanced. A nice surprise. 84 points.
Glenburgie 10 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, circa 2004) Colour: amber. Nose: a really strange start on hard boiled eggs and cooked spinach, maybe even cabbage. Develops on rotting fruits (apples) and then furniture polish, metal, linseed oil, sour cream… Getting more balanced after a good fifteen minutes, with flowery notes (roses). Very unique, even strange but not obligatorily bad. A funny nose! Mouth: much more mainstream now, quite creamy and orangey, with notes of cake, light caramel and cereals, and maybe something slightly smoky. The whole is a little weak I must say but otherwise perfectly drinkable, with a rather short but nicely toasted finish. Well, that’s not enough to fetch more than 73 points in my books, the nose was quite… err… maybe ‘embarrassing’.

June 23, 2006


Glenallachie 12 yo 1992/2004 (43%, Signatory, cask #453) Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely fruity and raw, close to new make, with lots of pineapple and pear juice as well as golden delicious apples (sweet apples). It gets then sort of milky, with a little mashed potatoes, boiled cereals, whipped cream… Inoffensive and enjoyable.

Mouth: sweet and very grainy, on apple juice, a little caramel, vanilla crème and then a little lemon juice, fructose… A litlle acidulous but also very sugary. Quite some tannins after a moment, apple skins, getting sort of bitter but rather nicely so. The finish isn’t too long, mainly on grapefruit juice and tea. Well, we’ve had some Glenallachies that were much worse in the past! 78 points.
Glenallachie 1981/2004 (55.9%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #6000) Colour: full gold. Nose: bold, powerful, starting on lots of apricots and peaches, yellow plums… Gets then quite floral (lily of the valley, peonies) and finally rather woody (vanilla and lactones). Well, it isn’t too complex yet but maybe a few drops of water will make things improve. It gets a little farmier indeed, as often, with hints of smoke and pu-erh tea (mustiness), rosemary toasted bread, even mushrooms... Much, much more complex now. Pine needles, humus… Great. Mouth (neat): strong and liquoricy, almost on salmiak. Very salty. Quite some crystallised quince, kumquats, the whole getting even sweeter after a moment. Easily drinkable like that but let’s try it with water… Oh yes, again that works, with dried pears, spices, herbs, quince again, something rooty… Excellent, certainly the best Glenallachie I ever had. The finish is quite long, at that, maybe just a tad drying and tannic but otherwise it’s an excellent whisky. 87 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: who's hot in France these days? Well, yes, maybe you don't care but it's Philippe Katerine and his silghtly arty but infectious music. Try for instance Louxor j'adore.mp3... And then please buy his music.


June 22, 2006

PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on holiday in Saint-Tropez!
There will be more Pete and Jack in St-Tropez within the coming weeks...
Strathmill 1975/2003 (44%, Secret Treasures, cask #1890/92) Colour: gold. Nose: rather fragrant but quite weird at first nosing, with quite some rotten fruits (oranges) and lots of Alka-Seltzer, old milk, rancid butter… Also cooked ham, rotten game… And then a miracle happens, all those weird aromas vanish, leaving place for much nicer fruity notes (mostly cider apples and pears), beer, turnips and finally some extremely bold notes of hand rolling tobacco as well as a little milk chocolate. Funny and very interesting, this Strathmill.
Mouth: a rather bold mouthfeel, compact and sweet, with again quite some tobacco and dried fruits. No weird notes whatsoever this time. Quite some apple liqueur (Manzana and such), a little ginger, tannins but soft ones, grape skins, a little milk chocolate, herbal liqueur… Rather broad even if not exactly complex. The finish is medium long, mostly on fruit cake and dried ginger… Another good surprise, the best Strathmill I ever had (OK, my favourite). 83 points.
Strathmill 11 yo 1992 (64.2%, James MacArthur, circa 2004) Colour: straw. Nose: extremely hot and burning, with just spirit and apple plus what seems to be a little peat, pepper, coal smoke, stones and milk. But water needed! Well, that doesn’t quite work, it just gets much grassier, with maybe again these notes of tobacco (not as strong here) and a little celeriac. Nothing really special but it’s an okay malt. Mouth (neat): sweet but very spirity, mostly on pear spirit and maybe kirsch. With water: much sweeter, prickly, almost acidulous, with lots of lemon drops, notes of not too ripe strawberries and then quite some tannins. The finish is not too long but nicely sweet and ‘fruity’, generally speaking. Not bad at all, don’t expect to appreciate it without H2O… 78 points.


MUSICRecommended listening - Hey, it's summer! Let's have a little Bardot with Mon léopard et moi.mp3 or C'est une bossa nova.mp3, which does deal with whisky (yes!)... Both songs are from the 70's whereas La Madrague.mp3 is more classic 60's (indeed, St-Tropez and all that jazz)...


June 21, 2006

Strathisla 10 yo (43%, OB, Chivas, 1950’s) Colour: white wine, almost white. Nose: rather fresh and clean, extremely fruity, starting on fresh strawberries and ripe gooseberries and developing on ancient roses, lychees, whipped cream and tangerines. Impressively playful! Keeps developing, getting slightly farmy, with wet hay and even peat and then hints of rose flavoured Indian yoghurt (yes).
Mouth: so sweet and delicate, just like a lychee juice again, pomegranates, light pear juice. Hints of roasted peanuts and then huge strawberry notes again (and strawberry liqueur). It doesn’t develop any further in fact but the whole is amazingly fresh – the finish being rather short, that is, but also a little smoky. Good and interesting! 85 points.
Strathisla 35 yo 1967/2003 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail for Barmetro, cask #2063, 153 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: superbly sherried, with quite some varnish and wax polish at first nosing, and then oak, and then dried oranges, and then rubber, and then hints of wet stones, and then orange juice, then peonies… This is endless, even if the whole is not overly complex. A sherry monster that’s not clumsy or sweetish but rather sharp, with lots of wood influence. The waxiness grows bigger by the minute, with the rubber being always well here. Enjoyable notes of fresh strawberries, just like in its ancestor, also toffee and coffee fudge. Mouth: big, bold and extremely punchy, very nutty. Walnut and hazelnut liqueurs? Otherwise we have the usual rum, oranges, chestnut honey, toasted cake and chocolate. Let’s be quick: it’s a flawless and tireless old sherry monster with a rather long, nicely dry and minty finish. 90 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: some people don't like Celtic music because, they say, it doesn't swing (except after a few drams). These people just never had the opportunity to listen to David O'Rourke and Lewis Nash's Celtic Jazz Collective doing, for instance IsLinn (A Vision) - Old Bush/Kiss the Maid Behind the Barrel/Master Crowley.mp3. Strange but pleasant, don't you think? Please buy their music...


June 19, 2006

, Reprieve Benefit, The Globe Theatre, London, June 5th, 2006
I couldn’t help thinking that listening to Nick Yarris, standing on the stage of the Globe Theatre, talking about his 23 years in solitary confinement in a prison, was probably almost as moving as anything written by Shakespeare himself. Ok, I know that like Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of Reprieve, which works on behalf of people facing the death penalty all over the world, Nick spoke for a bit too long and was a bit repetitive, but that didn’t blunt his, or their, message.

Nick Yarris
And anyway, when you go to a charity gig you know that half the price of the ticket is for the chat. And of course for the comedy, which never seems far away from a good cause these days. So we enjoyed most of Stephen K Amos’ compere routine, all of Paul Hamilton’s witty poems (especially the one about the Salvation Army, ‘God’s terrorists’). The hugely talented Stewart Lee (he directed and co-wrote Jerry Springer: the Opera) also chose to focus on Jesus gags, but ended up in slightly surreal musings about the structure of jokes, whilst the rather conceited Mark Thomas, a sort of motor-mouthed Marxist Max Miller, chose to speak largely about himself – and very funny some of it was too.
Of course we’d come along mainly for the music, and the opportunity to enjoy it in these most incongruous surroundings, the wonderful replica of the Elizabethan theatre that staged many of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, built only a stone’s throw from its original site. And so had Whiskyfun favourite Ron Sexsmith, whom we spotted with some of his band members in the pit, and who was happy to discuss the merits of his fine new album, Time Being, and things Vancouver Island, with the Photographer during the interval.

The Photographer with Ron Sexsmith, Karine Polwart, Allison Moorer, Steve Earle
I could see that Ron, like us, was very taken with Scottish singer songwriter Karine Polwart, who came on stage to join David Knopfler and guitarist Harry Bogdanovs and sing her song ‘Sun’s comin’ over the hill’, quite a whisky soaked tragedy, the prolific Knopfler (yes, he’s the other Knopfler who co-founded Dire Straits) having happily performed a few songs of his own (‘Deptford Days’ and ‘The King of Ashes’). Finishing off the first half of the evening were the hugely infectious Proclaimers, loved by all I think, for simply being such great and genuine blokes. They stormed the audience with ‘Letter from America’, ‘I’m on my way’, ‘Scotland’s Story’ (a sort of Sunday Post history of immigration in Scotland), ‘Sunshine on Leith’ and “I’m gonna be (500 miles)”. Phew! The sun’s starting to go down, the moon’s rising, it’s getting bloody cold (how did the Elizabethans manage I wonder) and it’s time for a cup of tea.
Allison Moorer has just released a new album, Getting Somewhere. It’s her sixth, but I confess she was barely known to me before this evening. Believe me she has a voice to die for – it filled the cavernous open space of the Globe, and I bet you could probably have heard it over the river at St Paul’s. She sang ‘Farewell fairweather’, Soft place to fall’, ‘Getting somewhere’ and ‘Long time coming’. Hmm I thought, almost a lady Steve Earle. Do the research. She married Steve a year or so ago and he produced the new album. But her voice is fantastic – all her own work and well worth looking out for. And then we had Steve. By this time of course we were running late (de rigueur for these sort of gigs) and Steve wasn’t in any rush, but he managed seven songs and some chilling reflections on capital punishment (“I’ve witnessed an execution and I wish I hadn’t, but how can you refuse a man’s last request?”). He also invited us to return the following evening and join him for Titus Andronicus (“this is the only theatre in London where I know where the front door is; I mean I can’t tell you many times I’ve played at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, but I couldn’t tell you how to get in”).
He begins with the spoken ‘Warrior’ from the Revolution Starts Now, “This is the best time of the day—the dawn, the final cleansing breath unsullied yet by acrid fume or death’s cacophony ...”, which is probably about as Shakespearian as we get all night. “I’ve waited a long time to play that here”, he says. He follows with ‘Feel alright’, ‘My old Friend the blues’, ‘I am Kilrain of the 20th Maine’ and ‘Copperhead Road’ (on mandolin), ‘Coming around’ (with Allison Moorer) and finally, and appropriately, from the soundtrack of Dead Men Walking, ‘Ellis Unit One’, about a prison officer working in a death chamber.
And that was it. We’d put money in the buckets, laughed at the jokes, listened intently to the serious bits (I’m still trying to understand just what 23 years in solitary confinement feels like) and enjoyed some fun music and some thoughtful music, and ‘discovered’ Allison Moorer (please buy her music). And thankfully we’d run out of time, and the very nice volunteer stewards at the Globe (“I always wanted to work with Shakespeare”) were anxious to get home. So whilst the mike-stands were put in place for that big everyone on stage to sing that final song (help – not more Pete Seeger) moment the sound engineer’s finger across his throat, ‘though perhaps not the most well-chosen gesture of the night, told us that at least we’d been spared. Some aren’t so lucky. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Many thanks, Nick! Luckily, a fellow Malt Maniac had made me discover Allison Moorer a few years ago (that whisky stuff is just a cover, everybody knows we're much more into music actually). I especially loved her version of, err... 'Moonshiner'. What's more, she's put four great songs from her new album 'Getting Somewhere' on her myspace page. Cool! And Ron Sexsmith did the same with his own new CD 'Time being'... More music: Waterlily.mp3 by Karine Polwart (from Faultlines), yes, The Proclaimers' version of I’m gonna be (500 miles).mp3 and some good and heavy Steve Earle: Ashes to ashes.mp3 (live).


Glencraig 30 yo 1974/2004 (40.1%, Ducan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, cask #2928) Colour: white wine. Nose: quite perfumy at first nosing, with something milky but switching to both fresh apple juice and citrus fruits (tangerines, pink grapefruits), hints of sour cherries, gooseberries… Something slightly dirty in the background (old paper, stale ginger ale – nothing bad), also a little paraffin, aspirin…

Mouth: quite lively although not too powerful, of course. Lots of apple juice, tangerines, a little white pepper, getting spicier with time (Chinese anise – or star aniseed, juniper). A nice sweetness all along and no sign of over-woodiness, even if the whole isn’t really complex. A little pear juice, hints of peppermint… The finish is longer than expected, getting mintier and sort of chocolaty (After Eights) but also quite woody. Not just a curiosity, that’s for sure. 80 points.
Glencraig 19 yo 1981/2001 (59.5%, Cadenhead, 276 bottles) The only known sherried Glencraig. Colour: amber. Nose: powerful, starting on lots of rum and raisins (loads in fact), bananas flambéed, candy sugar, chocolate and praline, nougat… That’s already a lot but let’s add a few drop of water… It gets more herbal but also much smokier, with also toasted bread and always these great notes of sultanas. Excellent. Mouth (neat): very creamy, starting on huge notes of chestnut honey and all sorts of dried fruits (figs and dates, prunes, longans, bananas). Quite some coconut milk as well, old high-end rum… Pineapple liqueur… It’s not a whisky, it’s a desert! But let’s try it with water now (although it does not obligatorily need some.) It’s even creamier now, probably spicier but also slightly more tannic, with also a little lemonade, pepper vodka… And the finish is rather long and quite gingery. An excellent surprise indeed, ‘too bad they didn’t fill more sherry casks’ (yeah, yeah). 89 points.

June 18, 2006


Tomintoul-Glenlivet 18 yo 1967/1985 (40%, A.B.C. Dundalk, Ireland) I didn’t know the Irish did bottle Scotch whisky! Colour: gold. Nose: very fresh, flowery and grainy but quick to get somewhat dusty, with something offbeat (vase water? wood infusion?) Too bad because one can also get some nice citrusy notes and a rather enjoyable sourness. Well, sort of enjoyable. But the whole is quite weak.

Mouth: light, almost weak, with a little orange juice, cereals, light honey, tea and just a few tannins that prevent the whole from falling apart. Almost no middle, but the finish is a bit longer and bolder than expected, dry and grainy. Well… One for mixers? But it is drinkable. 65 points (we’ve seen worse).
Tomintoul 16 yo (43%, McNeill, 30 bottles, circa 2005) Colour: gold. Nose: much oomphier but not bold, starting on orange fizz and caramel. Notes of water, aspirin, tea, porridge, cereals, getting then more and more orangey. Notes of marmalade, tea… Rather simple and youthful, starting to smell almost like Fanta after a moment. One for big boys, that is… Mouth: rather sweet and rounded, very grainy, orangey and cereally again, with a few spices (cinnamon and ginger) and something quite sugarish. Rather short, grainy finish. Not too bad but really mundane and characterless. Much better than the ‘Irish’, that is. 75 points.
And remind sons and daughters which day Father’s Day is! Ah, praxis…
Left, Old Grand-Dad 1962 – ‘Give the Father’s Day Favorite – Remember Dad on June 17th – The Perfect Gift for the Head of Any Family.’ Good ol' American efficiency!…
Right, Chivas Regal 1984 – Cool reminder.


MUSICRecommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical (and a bit tragic) with the stupendous Cecilia Bartoli singing Vivaldi's Gelido in ogni vena.mp3 (from Farnace, opera in 3 acts, RV 711). Please go listen to la Baratoli and buy her records.


June 16, 2006


Kinclaith 35 yo 1969/2004 (54%, Signatory, cask #301443, 217 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: punchy, grainy and very fruity, starting on apple juice but also fruit sweets (pineapple, orange etc.) Develops on mashy notes, cereals, mashed potatoes, butter but gets back to orange fizz, lemonade. Incredibly young at 35 yo ! And then we have a rather nice wood together with infused tea, green beans, even celeriac and faint hints of horse dung… a rather interesting nose, should I add ‘despite’ its rarity? And it keeps developing after a few minutes, with notes of aniseed, celery, turnips, even radish… Bell pepper? Very, very amusing.

Mouth: bold, powerful, sweet and very fruity attack, developing on bubblegum and marshmallows, orange juice, before the wood starts to take control with quite some lactones and a little vanilla. Hints of Turkish delights and sugared orange juice, sugared cereals… With a little water: hints of smoke and burnt cake but no further development. Long, oaky and peppery finish. 81 points. (and thanks, Heinz)
Kinclaith 35 yo 1969/2004 (52.8%, Duncan Taylor Rarest of rare, cask #301455, 207 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: sharper, more austere and more mineral, with little fruit at first nosing. Quite some aniseed and a little liquorice, the whole getting a little farmier and also sort of coastal, but the development seems to be shorter and much less funny ;-). Now, all that does improve after a little breathing, the whiskies getting closer after a good fifteen minutes. Hints of liquorice and then the vegetables again, even if it’s more discreet here. Mouth: a little rougher and bitterer, with lots of liquorice and tannins. Bitter oranges, apple skins, getting then really tannic and peppery. With a little water: gets a little fruitier but it’s still very tannic. Otherwise both whiskies are still very similar, I guess they were distilled on the very same day. And again a long, oaky finish, with maybe a little gentian. 80 points.


MUSIC – JAZZ (sort of) - Recommended listening: Oldies but goldies – 1969, Psych-jazz master Gabor Szabo does a Some velvet morning.mp3 (from Bacchanal) that mixes all sorts of genres. Early fusion? Crossover? Alas, Szabo died in 1982 but please buy his music!

GIVING EXTRA-VALUE (to super-dads?)
Indeed, a bottle of blended whisky may well not be enough, let’s add ‘extra-devices’!
Left, Seagram’s Crown Royal 1980 – ‘World’s Greatest Dad.’
Middle, Seagram’s Crown Royal 1980 – ‘The Royal Carriage. A Father’s Day gift for the King who has everything.’
Right, J&B 1994 – ‘The J&B Serving Bar. It will serve Dad long past Father’s Day.’

June 15, 2006

Tamnavulin 37 yo 1967/2005 (46.7%, Duncan Taylor, cask #1018) Colour: deep amber. Nose: starts on lots of freshness and lots of sherry, in all elegance. Quite some old rancio, mocha and Smyrna raisins as well as a little sulphur – nothing embarrassing here. Goes on with notes of old Madeira, dried oranges, toasted bread and brioche, Grand-Marnier… Very classical and very classy, very rounded but still quite vivacious. Gets finally quite resinous, with a little eucalyptus and pine needles.
Mouth: very sweet and creamy, starting almost minty like Get 27. And then all kinds of dried fruits (oranges, bananas, pears, figs) topped with chocolate. Gets then seriously spicy (white pepper, jalapenos, paprika) and honeyed at the same time… Really full-bodied, almost thick. Quite some apricot pie… The finish is very long, maybe a little tannic and drying now but also pleasantly orangey. A great Tamnavulin, and there aren’t that many out there. 90 points.
Tamnavulin 1988/1997 (58.9%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask series, casks #4706-4709) Colour: straw. Nose: punchy, closer to new make, starting on pear spirit and mashed potatoes. Completely different… Quite some orange zests, apples, hints of quinces and courgette flowers, cooked turnips, hints of aniseed… Very natural and sort of raw but deeply enjoyable. It doesn’t seem to need water but let’s try… Right, it gets a little fruitier but that’s all. Mouth: sweet and nervous attack, fruity but also oddly cardboardy, drying and dusty. A bit bizarre… Artificial vanilla crème? Quick, water… That works brilliantly now, with lots of sweets (pineapple, lemon drops, violets), hints of lavender crème, parfait amour liqueur, curaçao… Very enjoyable. The finish is long, maybe just a little too sugary but the whole is really pleasant. 86 points.
BEING GREEDY (pushing the quantities)
Why not try to sell twice the quantities? Coz the drawback of Father's Day is that there's only one Dad, hence only one bottle to be presented...
Left, Chivas Regal 1979 – ‘Father’s Day is also Grandfather’s Day.’ (buy two bottles)
Right, Chivas Regal 1985 – ‘To Dad.’ (buy a double bottle!)
MUSIC – Recommended listening: why not have a little Divine Comedy today? Like, for instance their famous Gin soaked boy.mp3. for a change... Please buy The Diven Comedy and Neil Hannon's music and go their shows, I've heard there's a new album in the pipeline...

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

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

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

Glenrothes 1972/2004 (43%, OB)

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, ‘unblended’, Johnstone with an ‘e’, 1980’s)

Strathisla 35 yo 1967/2003 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail for Barmetro, cask #2063, 153 bottles)

Tamnavulin 37 yo 1967/2005 (46.7%, Duncan Taylor, cask #1018)