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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2008 - Part 1
May 2008 - part 2 <--- June 2008 - part 1 ---> June 2008 - part 2

June 14, 2008

WHO ARE YOU? (Who, who, who, who?)

It’s been exactly one year since we installed google’s wonderful free statistics tool on Whiskyfun and since we don’t sell any ad space or anything else on this humble little website, we thought the best would be to share our figures with you, dear reader. Because after all, they would otherwise be totally useless!

So, on the left you’ll find the 25 first ‘visiting’ countries, out of 177 in total. By the way, #177 are the Turks and Caicos Islands with, err, one single visit. Hope you enjoyed it, lad ;-). Maybe it is to be noted that the emerging countries such as India (#27 with 935 visits), Brazil (#32 with 733 visits) and China (#37 with 520 visits) aren’t so high yet, but it’s also true that Whiskyfun seems to attract hardcore malt freaks rather than the average Chivas or Johnnie Red/Black drinker. By the way, there were exactly 153,470 AUV (Absolute Unique Visitors) within one year. What else? Ah, yes, the highest day has been April 1st, 2008, with 1,687 visits (no joke), and the weakest one May 3, 2008, with only 228 visists (but I seem to remember that our server was down for the largest part of that day.)

As for the distilleries, and since we have pages that index all tasting notes per distillery, here are the ten most visited ones: Ardbeg (20,166), Laphroaig (16,158), Port Ellen (14,724), Macallan (14,387), Bowmore (14,147), Caol Ila (12,628), Lagavulin (12,132), Talisker (11,883), Springbank (11,492) and Bruichladdich (11,401). The last one is Ben Wyvis with only 36 visits. A bunch of peat heads, I tell you…
And finally, let’s talk about global figures: the number of visits per month has risen by exactly +73.40% within on year. Since quite lazily, we didn’t change one iota to WF’s “concept” (yup, how bold a word), that may mean that the global interest in malt whisky is growing bigger and bigger these days - not sure it’s good news to us aficionados, that is… It also certainly means that our dear readers really do enjoy Nick's 'trashy, ill-informed, opinionated and (I hope) quite funny concert reviews' (his own words) as much as we do!

June 13, 2008



Clynelish 19 yo 1983/2002 (43%, Jack Wieber’s Scottish Castles, cask #2560, 108 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: ha-ha, this is as flinty, waxy and mineral as Clynelish can get – almost mineral in fact. Diesel oil, linseed oil, fusel oil, graphite, paraffin, pencil eraser, seashells and wet stones. Need I say more? One for Clynelish lovers – not the old fruity ones this time. Luv’ it. Mouth: far from being weakish at 43%! Maybe just a tad too dry and drying, but other than that it’s a salty, waxy, mineral and slightly resinous dram. Typically Clynelish. Finish: medium long, with added pepper. Comments: too bad this one is a little drying on the palate, because the rest is quite superb. For aficionados. SGP:263 – 85 points.
Clynelish 1983/2002 (47%, Samaroli, cask #2685, 306 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: of the same high-class breed as the JWWW, only at a higher strength and with maybe more ‘wildness’ (hare, kelp) and a slight fruitiness (grapefruit). I adore this, it’s one of the recent Clynelishes that’s closest to the ‘old’ Clynelishes that were distilled in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. Mouth: oh yes. Crystallised grapefruit, pepper, wax, clams, salicornia, ginger… and more peppery wax (or waxy pepper.) Finish: long, zesty and mineral. And waxy of course. Comments: this is why we love Clynelish, and not only the 'old old' ones or the 'old new' ones. Archetypical. SGP:364 – 91 points. Clynelish
Clynelish Clynelish 1983/2006 (53.1%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #1351) Colour: pale gold. Nose: more of the same, maybe a tad sharper and flintier. Also a little more peat it seems. Let’s see what happens with a little water: ho-ho-ho, it’s even more splendid! Extreme zestiness, hints of patchouli, more seashells, green tobacco, pu-erh tea, sticky rice, wet wool, wet gravel… Mouth (neat): very, very close to the Samaroli, only a tad harsher when neat. With water: astonishingly good. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade… Finish: same as the Samaroli’s. Comments: another brilliant Clynelish, it seems that 1983 was a pretty good year up there… SGP:364 – 92 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: the versatile Olu Dara's music recently really grew on me... I especially like a tune called Rain shower.mp3 - despite the very rainy early June we had over here! (it's on his excellent CD 'In The World From Natchez To New York'.) Please buy Olu Dara's music!

Olu Dara

June 12, 2008

Blair Athol



Blair Athol 12 yo (43%, Flora & Fauna, +/-2005) Colour: amber. Nose: starts very nutty and caramelly, with a big maltiness and hints of liquorice, developing more on notes of sherry, Seville oranges and a little peat, leather and tobacco. Rather concentrated and oily on the nose, despite the slightly ‘blendish’ character. Pleasant for sure. Mouth: the attack is even more sherried, not exactly bold but certainly satisfying. Classic fruitcake, coffee-schnapps, liquorice and orange liqueur, with hints of cherry stem tea in the background and maybe just faint hints of rubber and walnuts. An assertive dram, half-sweet, half-dry. Finish: medium long, very balanced, with an added spiciness (spices for mulled wine, cloves, Chinese anise and cinnamon.) Comments: perfect balance and profile at 43%, excellent cask selection I think. SGP:443 – 85 points.
Blair Athol 12 yo 1965/1977 (80° Proof, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label, 75cl) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is completely different from the FF, much more austere and brutal at the same time. Ultra-sharp, without any sweetness or nuttiness. Cut grass, lemon zests, metal, wet paper… Then we have some very nice whiffs of rubbed mint leaves, fresh almonds, putty, linseed oil… No ‘compromises’ here, which may be unexpected from Blair Athol’s usual light profile (now, the FF wasn’t light, for sure). Mouth: sweeter and a tad rounder than on the nose, and curiously much closer to the FF albeit more nervous and sharper again. Bunches of candied citrus fruits (your pick), pine resin (cough syrup), mint, white pepper, ginger… Not too complex but vivid and very nervous, with superb hints of peat coming through after a moment. A perfect complement to this one’s ‘resinous mintiness’. Finish: very long, even more focused on pine resin, with also even more peat and lemon. Comments: 12 years in a cask + 30 years in a bottle + a perfect screwcap = a perfect combo it seems, and probably a nightmare for all bean counters up there in Scotland. SGP:553 – 91 points.
Blair Athol 12 yo 1995 (59.2%, Douglas of Drumlanrig) In case you don’t know, these Douglasses are by Douglas Laing. Colour: gold. Nose: oh, but this is rum! Seriously, this smells just like rum, with notes of bananas flambéed, candy sugar, maple syrup and then pure ale. Extremely unusual – was this a rum cask? No mention of that on the label. With water: gets hugely vegetal – sugarcane? Mouth (neat): honest, it’s rum! With water: almost as ‘rummy’… With a little more liquorice. More fruits as well, but fruits that you seldom get in whisky. Japanese red bean paste (azuki) and extremely ripe bananas. Stroh? Finish: more Stroh. Comments: is Blair Athol such a chameleon malt? I’m sorry, I’m lost here, but this gives me the opportunity to urge you to buy Dave Broom’s fantabulous book ‘Rum’ (publisher Mitchell Beazley). I’m not into rum at all but I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which may say long about its utter quality. Back to the whisky: if you like rum you may like this 1995 much more than I did. SGP:720 – 75 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: sure the music sounds much, much too 'house lounge' to our ears but Gothenburg's sweet Elsa Hedberg sure can sing a tune, as you may check by listenting to her Open the door.mp3. Please buy Elsa Hedberg's music!

Elsa Hedberg

June 11, 2008

The Emirates Stadium, Highbury, London, May 31st 2008
We’ve come to North London’s home of football to see the Boss. And how fitting it is that the fantastic new Emirates Stadium, rising into the sky like some huge intergalactic behemoth, should play host to such a brilliant and lauded personality. Rarely has anyone excelled so greatly in his or her chosen field, rarely has anyone imposed his sense of the beauty in his art so formidably. Here’s a man who could fill this imposing stadium to the rafters every Saturday afternoon of the year. In fact he does. But sadly Alsatian football genius Arsene Wenger (a former Mulhouse United player unless I’m mistaken, Serge) isn’t at home, but it’s a lovely late Spring evening so we’re more than happy to make do with that other Boss, Bruce Springsteen, and his reformed E Street Band, minus of course the very recently deceased Danny Federici. Arsenal
Springsteen’s two nights at the Emirates are the first concerts at the Stadium since it opened two years ago (“We’re gonna test the foundations” he promised the audience on the evening before). It’s packed. We’re standing on the ground (well not quite, as the hallowed turf is protected by robust flooring). There’s a smaller enclosure in front of us that’s clearly housing the Springsteen Maniacs (they’ve got green armbands, we’ve got orange). Some of them look as though it’s a rare unaccompanied outing. But they’re going to get their money’s worth .
Emirates gig , the setlist
(from official website)
Many of them recognise each other from other gigs, other years, and as the guys just in front of us point out, they’re sporting an interesting range of veteran Springsteen merchandise (“Look dad, there’s a flag from the ’88 tour”). These aren’t the Maniacs, just the mildly obsessive. The two boys behind us have just been to Manchester (an inferior venue called Old Trafford), were here last night, and will be at Cardiff in a few days’ time. Then they’re spreading their wings to continental Europe. With eagle-eyes for detail they take me through the set lists of the previous nights and share their expectations and hopes for tonight (“as long as there isn’t any of that Pete Seeger crap. That was just shite”). That was encouraging as I’d left the black notebook at home, but then I was introduced to a veritable Max Cady, who had Springsteen set lists for concerts he’d attended tattooed all over his body, just like Robert De Niro in the remake of Cape Fear. Scary stuff indeed.
Now I have to confess that I’m not a big Springsteen fan - I mean I admire him for what he does, but in my mind it’s somewhat repetitive in both subject matter (one disenchanted and under-achieving blue-collar no-hoper after another can wear you down a bit, as can all those waitresses who do – or sometimes don’t – the car rides, the highways, the dingy suburban streets, the garages, the whistling trains etc. etc. etc.), and musical structure. Tonight, as Bruce and the band crash through 24 songs (four less than last night – we’ve been short-changed), and play against a strict curfew, the tunes run into each other, Springsteen counting them in before the chords of the previous song have finished, and it becomes really hard to know when one starts and another finishes. But that’s not the point – it’s the show that counts, and it is quite extraordinary. I don’t know how he makes it seem so intimate. His moments sitting on the edge of the stage or perched on a stool singing to the Maniacs as they gaze in adoration, some gently stroking his shoes or legs, others just desperate to get a touch as if it would cure some malignant ailment, are beamed onto huge screens, sucking even the people in the furthest seats (I think they’re almost in Seven Sisters Road) into the closeness of it all. And when he does this (he spends a lot of the night down there) there’s no security – there has to be somewhere but it’s not the ear-pierced monkeys who stride alongside the Stones as their mini-stage pushes into the audience). All his gestures – to the crowd or deliberately to the cameras are inclusive – you certainly leave knowing who you’ve spent the night with. I’m sure he goes through the same routine every night, but it works, because it’s here, tonight, now.
Of course there’s a downside to these big screens, particularly if you’re as close to them as we are. Thirty years or more of rock and roll ravages doesn’t look too good on guitarist and sometime Soprano Little Stevie Van Zandt for example (‘Little’? Which bit of little is that?). But it doesn’t stop him from playing. Saxophonist Clarence Clemens barely makes it on the screen. And the petite Nils Logfren doesn’t look so hot blown up to ten times his normal size, but his guitar playing is sensational, including a solo to die for on ‘Because the Night’. Bruce is just irrepressible, from opener ‘Out in the street’ to the end (by which time, I admit we were heading for Arsenal station to avoid the post-match mayhem). Jeans, shirt, waist-coat, suspiciously dark hair and enough energy to play ninety minutes in the Premiership, he barely stopped.
Springsteen He takes time out to collect written requests from the Maniacs – including a nice one for ‘Downbound Train’, which read ‘No job, no girl, Downbound Train’, which he gently placed against his mike-stand before playing the tune. He spoke for a while about the departed Federici before playing ‘Sandy’, and declared his closely-attuned sense of social justice and injustice, before ‘The promised land’, but for the most part it was high-energy performance of the finest calibre, even down to his cross-stage knee slide (ouch!).
As we rode the train home, we found that we’d left the relative safety of the Maniacs and the obsessives (and the tattooed man) for a rowdy festival of drinking on the London Underground, marking Mayor Johnson’s first edict, which outlaws alcohol on the public transport system. Good-humoured in intent, it had clearly reached the stage where alcohol had overtaken good sense, and I almost missed the cocoon of our new friends and Bruceland, a surrogate world to lost souls and the rootless. It’s a nice place to visit but just make sure you buy a return ticket. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Thank you, Nick. As for our fellow compatriot Arsène (we’ve always been wondering if Arsenal hired him because of his first name – aren’t alliterations cool? I mean, Arsène+Arsenal), yes, he’s been playing with the FCM (Football Club Mulhouse – not quite United) but he’s been more successful with the Racing Club Strasbourg, winning the French premier league championship in 1979. - S.
Bruce Springsteen's MySpace page
Nils Logfren's MySpace page


Inverleven 29 yo 1978/2008 (45.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #1878) It’s now well known that Inverleven’s equipment has been bought by the Bruichladdich team and will be used at the new Port Charlotte distillery (picture: pieces arriving at Bruichladdich, courtesy Bruichladdich’s website.)
Colour: straw. Nose: as fresh and citrusy as a 30yo malt… can’t get. No traces of excessive woodiness at all, rather a big and complex zestiness: lemon pie, lemon balm, then wet stones and chalk, kiwi juice, then whiffs of raw wool, aniseed, oysters and other seashells, hints of wet dog (hi again, dogs), garden bonfire… An excellent surprise. Superb complexity, yet a perfect ‘compactness’. Let’s only hope the palate will match this beautiful nose. Mouth: indeed, this is a beautiful old Lowlander, even if it’s just a little less zesty than on the nose here. Lemon with a little salt, lemon crème and, err, lemon pie. Goes on with more spices (Chinese – or star – anise, a little cardamom), a slight toffeeness, and then notes of coconut and dried ginger. Extremely good. Finish: rather long, a tad drier now, with hints of oak coming through. Comments: Inverleven should never be forgotten when we’re talking about Lowlanders! Top notch and very ‘idiosyncratic’, highly recommended (but beware it’s drinkability.) SGP:642 – 90 points.
Dumbarton (Inverleven Stills) 18 yo 1987/2006 (57.9%, Cadenhead, 276 bottles) From a bourbon hogshead. Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh, this reminds me of an Auchentoshan by Signatory that I had the other day, as it really smells like good old grain whisky, with a lot of vanilla and coconut and then café latte (litres – Kramer won’t be too happy) and pollen. It gets then more citrusy, with a very pleasant zing. Quite some spices as well (nutmeg to the front). Great freshness again but it’s still rounder and less zesty than its older sibling. A very nice Lowlander anyway, not overpowering at all at 58% ABV. Yet, with water: like often, there’s a bigger and persistent grassiness arising now. A great mojito? Inverleven
Mouth (neat): much closer to the 1978 but certainly more ‘wham-bam’ and more ‘focused’. A lot of coconut and grapefruit plus pepper, almost a tropical cocktail at cask strength actually. Also strawberries with ginger… Very, very demonstrative. With water: something more oriental now, Turkish delights and bubblegum. Rosewater? Also more of the expected notes of lemon. Finish: excellent, long, still very playful, with more wood and more spices (same notes of cardamom as in the 1978. Comments: again, an excellent surprise, even if the fruitiness may sometimes be a little ‘too much’ on the palate. Great stills you have, Laddie gang, hope you’ll fire them up soon! SGP:731 – 88 points.

June 10, 2008


Strathisla 21 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, +/- 1985) Colour: gold. Nose: not the expected ‘sherried creaminess’, rather something flinty, dry and resinous at first nosing, just before some big floral notes arrive (pollen, nectar, yellow flowers). Strawberry jam. Goes on with hints of furniture polish and wax and then goes back to something very pleasantly mineral (wet limestone). A fresh and excellent old Strathisla on the nose despite the 40% ABV. Mouth: sure, it’s no monster but the mouth feel is excellent – no weakness. Starts on peppered strawberries, vanilla fudge, getting then spicier and drier (white pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg)… A little liquorice as well, burnt cake… Gets drier and drier, that is, but never cardboardy. Bitter caramel and un-sugared black tea. Finish: maybe a tad shortish but balanced and pleasantly dry (coffee). Comments: interesting evolution, from sweetness (strawberries) to dryness (un-sugared coffee). SGP:431 – 86 points.
Strathisla 40 yo 1967/2008 (47.6%, The Whisky Agency, 60 bottles) Colour: old. Nose: amazing how this one is close to the G&M in style, with rather big waxy, mineral and grassy (and minty) notes besides the yellow flowers and pollen. Also hints of old leather, cigarette tobacco and eucalyptus, with the oakiness growing a little bolder after that. We get even more eucalyptus after a moment, as well as a little camphor and marzipan. This one is complex and pretty ‘sculptural’ – that is to say excellent. Let’s see whether the palate will match the nose… Mouth: starts on quite a lot of oak but an excellent one, mingling perfectly with notes of cough medicine, eucalyptus, resin, soft spices, apricots… Perfect tannins and perfect balance. Finish: the oak really takes the lead but as it’s very good oak, we won’t complain. Mentholated aftertaste. Comments: an excellent example of a big oakiness that’s extremely pleasant, which doesn’t happen that often. Deserves one or two extra-points just for that. SGP:461 – 91 points.
Strathisla 40 yo 1967/2008 (48.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #2716, 160 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: extremely close to the TWA, just a tad drier and oakier. Please read above. Mouth: ditto. Finish: ditto. Comments: sister casks, obviously. This one is maybe even oakier, actually. SGP:461 – 91 points (but warning, this one is for oak lovers only!)
Strathisla 1955/2003 (59.2%, Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection, cask #407, 148 bottles) Colour: dark mahogany. Nose: full sherry this time, and with flying colours at that. Absolutely not overpowering despite the stunningly high strength – at almost 50 years of age, imagine! Prunes and old rancio, vin jaune (flor, old walnut), old precious wood, thuja, balsamic vinegar, pine resin and high-end soy sauce. High class, but the alcohol starts to attack your nostrils after a while, so let’s add water. With water: truly outta this world now, as it got extremely complex, with loads of added aromas such as old leather, incense, butter crème, cigar box and prunes to name but a few. An extraordinary olfactory voyage. Mouth (neat): how thick and concentrated! A true maelstrom of wood extracts, all things resinous and minty, red and black fruits and tannins (grape pips). Not too far from the best Armagnacs, but it’s bit hot so let’s add water straight away. With water: best of news, it’s the fruitiness that comes out now (strawberries, blackcurrants, blueberry pie) whilst the rest remains in place. Finish: okay, maybe the tannins are a bit ‘too much’ at this stage (cherry stems tea, orange peel) but at 50 years, no wonder. Comments: brilliant very old sherry monster despite the heavy tannins. SGP:572 – 91 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: they were really fun! It's in 1987 that the English spoof superband Bad News issued their cover of Queen's Bohemian Rapsody.mp3. Please don't listen to it at work, you may well burst into laughter. And please buy Bad News' music...

Bad News

June 9, 2008


Islington Academy
Islington, London
May 18th 2008

Do you remember Sparks, Serge? You know, the two weird brothers from LA, Ron and Russell Mael. Ron’s the funny one with the weird stare and the Adolph Hitler moustache who does all the piano playing, and Russell’s the can’t-keep-still high- pitched singer.

They came to the UK in 1973 and blew everyone away with their, er, weirdness, scoring a huge hit with ‘This town ain’t big enough for the both of us’ from their third album, Kimono My House. It was one of those albums that everyone had when I was at college. Why I even went to see them play it in Lancaster. Boy, they were weird. And then almost as soon as they appeared, they disappeared, back to the States to relative obscurity (by which I mean they had a hit record in France) and a dramatic change in musical style incorporating what was then called ‘Disco’ and electronic – all frankly quite weird.
And it was probably only a few years ago that they came back to my attention seriously when the press started talking about their 2002 album Lil’ Beethoven (according to their website a “genre-defying opus”), which was followed by a number of one-off appearances in London, and the equally well-received Hello Young Lovers (“quite simply an extraordinary masterpiece” says their website). Now, in a gesture of genre defying weirdness Ron and Russell have decided to perform all their albums live in London over a period of twenty-one nights, finishing with the premiere of their new release, Exotic Creatures of the Deep (“Should it be possible for two people to be so fresh, so vital, so unpredictable and so incomparably individual?” says you-know-what). Sparks
That’s right, twenty-one albums in twenty-one nights. How weird is that? If you do the math (the brothers did on their website) it comes out as over 250 songs, or 4,825,237 notes. And as the brothers said themselves, “Only Sparks would dare to take on this challenge, this mammoth undertaking, this melodious epic, this ground-breaking concept, this celebration of musical greatness past and present.” Weirdness epitomised.
Actually it’s not weird at all. The 21-night series has been a huge PR coup for the brothers Mael, who for the past month have hardly been off the pages of the broadsheet press, off both popular and ‘highbrow’ radio shows, or off the culture programmes on the box in the corner. And as the gigs are being streamed live, they have a world-wide audience. They’ve certainly sold out the Academy tonight, and I would think will be taking a fair revenue from these gigs, in addition to the anticipated boost in sales for their new album. All very clever and very calculated. Why, even Ron’s wacky appearance was apparently conceived as a way of capturing the attention of television cameras.
Shame to relate that they’ve chosen to perform the first twenty albums at the Carling Academy Islington, a small rectangular and soulless concrete box in the middle of a newish shopping development bordering posh, middle class Islington and tough gangland Islington. When it was first opened Eurythmic Dave Stewart had promised it would be a revival of the famous Soho Marquee Club, but that lasted barely four months before it closed, eventually reopening under the tutelage of the brewery-sponsored Carling Academy chain. We did hear Jim White perform an almost studio- perfect rendition of Drill a Hole in that Substrate there, so there’s nothing particularly wrong with the sound. But then it was only about two-thirds full at the very most.
Russel Mael
Tonight it’s about one hundred and twenty per cent full. It’s night number three, and it’s Kimono My House. We’re tightly packed like suffocating sardines in a claustrophobic hot and jostling crowd. It’s not fun, and it’s slightly frightening. Next to me is apparently one of Islington’s famous rock stars (I haven’t got a clue who he is, but with long hair, too many pounds and a Yorkshire accent I suspect a heavy metal bass guitarist). He’s drinking iced vodka by the half pint and regaling wide-eyed civilians (who appear to be buying most of the vodka) with tales of touring in LA, whilst evading his wife’s calls on his mobile ‘phone.
There are Sparks fans of all ages, sizes, genders and trans-genders in this increasingly unpleasant place, which is becoming reminiscent of the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta.
After what seems like interminable trash from a DJ whose only applause was earned when he put on his jacket to end his set, the brothers take the stage.
From a distance, their appearance has changed little since my last encounter with them in 1973. But it’s really hard to say as I can barely see a thing (which means the diminutive Photographer might just as well be witnessing a soccer match for all she knows). Occasionally I manage to get glimpse of Ron, and whenever I do he’s staring straight at me with a disapproving glower, just like one of those old paintings in a horror B-movie. Sparks
His brother is jumping energetically round the stage and working hard to make his high notes. Their band, none of whom could have been born when the record was released, are surprisingly loud and heavy (with initially, a very over-bearing bass, as vodka rock star and I agreed). And as they break into the first track, ‘This house’ many of the crowd start exhibiting dervish-like tendencies, which only adds to the unpleasantness of the experience. We last seven songs, all very well executed, before fighting our way out to the cool air of a London spring night. Inside, Sparks went on to finish the album and play as a special track (one is promised as an encore for each night) ‘Barbecutie’, the B-side of ‘This House’. And I couldn’t help thinking, as we drove back west, that I’d heard enough to convince me that Sparks really were very, very clever, but like English footballer Martin Peters, were probably ten years or more ahead of their time. And perhaps victims of their own ‘weirdness’ too, with punters failing to see the real substance in their work through the novelty. So a worthy time then for twenty-one nights of reassessment. It’s just a shame that they chose such a shithole poor venue to perform in. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Nick)
Listen: Sparks' MySpace page


Auchentoshan 9 yo 1999/2008 (46%, Duncan Taylor, Whisky Galore) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one starts fresh and a little estery (pears and tinned pineapples), with also notes of liquorice and burnt caramel. Toasts. Slips more towards aniseed-flavoured vanilla crème, custard, muesli and crushed bananas after a while but with a constant freshness.
Okay, let’s say it: it’s rather a summer malt. Mouth: hyper-fruity, to the point where it tastes almost like pineapple liqueur. Not much wood influence here and a very clean, albeit simple profile. Also kirsch. Finish: more of the same for a rather long time. Comments: one to drink in a chilled snifter like some do with fruit eau-de-vie, or a bottle to put straight into the freezer? Mucho pleasure in any case… SGP:620 – 80 points.
Auchentoshan 24 yo 1984/2008 (58.4%, Signatory, cask #263, 178 bottles) From a bourbon barrel. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is very spirity at very first sniffs but the oak is soon to play the major part here, with whiffs of warm sawdust and quite some vanillin on top of the usual fruity notes (pears and pineapples again). Shifts towards a more coffee-ish profile after a moment, and gets finally quite grassy (white tequila, freshly cut grass.) Probably more austere than the usual Auchentoshan but let’s see what happens with water. With water: the general profile doesn’t change much, except for a little more grass and more aniseed/celery and liquorice. Mouth (neat): starts quite thick but fruity like an old grain whisky, if you see what I mean. Coconut, banana and vanilla, with the oak giving it a good backbone. Something Irish as well. Gets then more bubblegummy, with hints of marshmallows. Now, it’s very powerful whisky so let’s add water again. With water: it got a little more complex but still a bit rough around the edges. Alsatian pear spirit running from the still (yeah I know) plus salty touches. Finish: medium long but back to coconut spirit. Comments: again, this could be mistaken for grain whisky. The effects of triple distillation I guess. SGP:641 – 82 points.

Somebody owning a car named 'jazz' bearing such a wonderful license plate (while waiting for the ferry to Islay) must have impeccable tastes altogether. If it's you, please email us a picture of your car's rear and you'll win a free, extremely rare bottle of whisky! (thanks, Kate)

June 10 update - Owners found! Congrats Rainer and Sabine...

June 8, 2008

Glen Spey


Glen Spey 15 yo 1992/2007 (53%, James MacArthur, bourbon, cask #927175) It’s not that often that we can try Glen Spey... Colour: straw. Nose: powerful and very spirity I must say. Also very mashy, with big notes of something like vanilla flavoured yoghurt and sour cream. Add to that honey, beer... Not too much character but it seems that it was a rather good barrel. With water: gets more cardboardy and grassy, whilst vanilla disappeared.
Mouth (neat): sweeter and rounder than on the nose, with a little aniseed and banana sweets. Vanilla. Quite good but again, not much personality. Liquorice. With water: much nicer, with quite some candied fruits as well as dried pears. Finish: long, with more marzipan now. Comments: not bad at all but again, little personality. Middle of the road Speysider. SGP:241 – 79 points.
Glen Spey 28 yo 1977/2005 (58.9%, The Whisky Chamber, cask #245, 287 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: very powerful but quite curiously, it’s rounder than the 1992 despite a big oakiness. Walnut skin. Also very vegetal, growing grassier by the minute. With water: even more oak but it’s enjoyable. Whiffs of carpenter’s workshop and a little aniseed like we had on the 1992’s palate. Shoe polish. Rather complex! Mouth (neat): big, rich and creamy attack. Mucho pineapple liqueur, pina colada (yes), coconut, vanilla fudge... Certainly more complex than it’s younger bro. With water: even more on honey, oranges and vanilla fudge, with also notes of chlorophyll. Something ‘green’ indeed. Finish: long and a little almondy like the 1992. Comments: good whisky. SGP:331 – 83 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: right, let's issue a warning, we're just taking up a bet here. Indeed, a good friend said that we'd never put some Michel Delpech on Whiskyfun (we're way too elitist, he said.) Pffff! Here's Que Marianne était jolie.mp3 (from the very early 1970's I think.) You may even buy Michel Delpech's music, he's still around and doing very well...


June 6, 2008



The whisky part of the Whiskyfun crew didn’t make it to Islay this year (we were in Marrakesh instead, actually – not quite the right direction - did you know that Moroccan wines keep improving?) but fellow Malt Maniac Thomas Lipka kindly handed his tasting notes over to us and here they are, short, but efficient! Over to you, Tom… - S.

Bruichladdich ‘X4+1’ To be honest with you, this still seems like a joke to me. Nothing against testing/tasting new make and 1yo whisky babies to experience the development of a whisky but to bottle them at that price and as a festival bottling... ridiculous. And by reading Jim McEwan's official tasting notes you'd get the impression that you'd get the Legacy I or so! However, in all fairness, I have to say that this is a promising SPIRIT (not whisky) and I'm looking forward to the first real bottlings. Still, at this point there's no reason to drink barely matured new make, which is what it still tastes like. No rating.
Ardbeg ‘Corryvreckan’ and ‘Renaissance’ I was quite surprised about the Corryvreckan as I did not expect that much from it. What special could it be with no age statement and all... Mickey Head told us that it's made up from partly 12yo first fill bourbon casks and partly from relatively short matured fresh French oak casks - an I really loved the result. The profile is close to the mellower versions of the early 70s Ardbegs than to the other newer Ardbegs we've had in the last few years. It even showed some beautiful cowstable in the end. I actually scored it at 90 points on my scale. Maybe it was the contrast in style but I wasn't that excited about the Renaissance. More powerful, smoky and spicy with hints of liquorice this bottling was kindly greeted by the majority of the participants of the masterclass we attended. A solid 85 points in my book, however clearly beaten by the Corryvreckan. Definitely a matter of preferences in this case.
Lagavulin ‘Vintage 1993’ 15yo THE festival winner IMHO and this sentiment was shared by my four friends I was with on Islay, even those who usually aren't Laga aficionados. All the great traits that make up Lagavulin, a complex nose, wonderfully balanced with a creamy mouth feeling and a very long finish. Take a bottle, climb Dunyvaig Castle with a few friends, really take your time with this one as it develops beautifully, add just a few drops of water so it gets smoother still and be at peace with yourself. Amazing stuff and a great deal at 60 GBP. Preliminary score: 93 points.
Bowmore 8yo Clean, good young FWP free Bowmore as we are getting used to again the last few years. I'm actually quite fond of that style ever since I had the masterclass at the distillery back in 2005. This one is no exception, however some of my friends complained about some overly sweet notes and even sticky mouth feel (from the Limousin casks?). I didn't find them over the top, however. I scored it at 85 points, but at 80 GBP way it was overpriced for an 8yo.
Laphroaig ‘Cairdeas’ Solid Laphroaig, not dissimilar in style from last year's festival bottling as far as I could tell from the small sample they poured us at the distillery but not just as good. Nice sweetness to go with the peat and smoke but not that much development. Still a bargain at shortly above 40 GBP. 86 points.
Bunnahabhain 21yo Vintage 1986 What an uproar before the festival about the price. 219 GBP - are they crazy or what? As far as I've heard even John MacLellan wasn't amused at all and supposedly convinced the bean counters to lower the price to 197 GBP during the festival. I still had the feeling that the Bunnahabhain staff was somewhat ashamed about the developments. Maybe that's why they had an open bottle under the table which they pured from once you've asked about it... The whisky itself was quite good, a classical Bunna, a little bit shy and fragile, yet full of nice fruity and sherry aromas. Nothing REALLY special for the money they are charging, however. 87 points.
And last but not least.... Jura’s Series of 4 "Elements", 4 elements, 4 whiskies (Earth, Air, Fire, Water). With the 'Earth' being the only heavily peated, the three other were yet all quite different from each other in character and actually more interesting as the Earth was more or less a good 'Islay' whisky. However, all three showed some off-noted (some soapiness in the finish, unpleasant mustiness in the nose etc.) which brought them all up to one level in regard to the scores (Earth 86 points, Air 86 points, Fire 85 points, Water, 84 points) And again, don't even mention the price for the package, leather suitcase or not. - Thomas Lipka, MM

MUSIC – Recommended listening: we haven't been to Brazil since a long time, so let's listen to one of this country's greatest mult-instrumentists, Egberto Gismonti. This time he's playing his stunning Baiao malandro.mp3 (from his 1987 album Alma). Please buy Mr Gismonti's music.

Egberto Gismonti

June 5, 2008




Bowmore 9 yo 1998/2008 (46%, The Whisky Agency, 90 bottles) Refill sherry. Colour: straw. Nose: a rather discrete, but very elegant Bowmore, starting on a straight mix of grains and smoke, needing a little time to develop it seems. Starts to take off only after a few minutes, passing by notes of ‘wet newspaper’ and getting then to the expected ‘coastality’ (yup, we’re masters at stupid barbarisms.) Wet limestone and kelp, with very light notes of summer comté cheese (absolutely lovable.) Doesn’t stop getting more elegant. Pencil lead and almonds. Mouth: it’s not the first time that I say that I love the current young Bowmores and this is just another proof of their high quality. Uber-martime, salty, smoky, peaty… One to sprinkle over smoked salmon! Extremely straightforward (but not complex at all – do we really always need complexity?) Also notes of fresh almonds and a little grapefruit. Finish: medium to long, a little more mineral now. Comments: perfect and at a perfect drinking strength. One to sip while playing chess or backgammon wit a good friend (better prepare two bottles.) SGP:336 – 86 points.
Bowmore 9 yo 1998/2008 (58.1%, Villa Konthor Limburg, Germany) Colour: white wine. I had thought this one would be the CS version of the same cask as the TWA’s but that’s impossible, as this one is much lighter in colour. Nose: much more spirity ‘of course’, slightly lactic/acidic at first nosing, but getting then superbly smoky and mineral. Used matches, burnt gunpowder… What’s strange is that it gets then very ‘fishy’ (kippers). Freshly opened box of sardines? Iodine, seashells. With water: gets more medicinal (antiseptic, iodine) but certainly not less ‘fishy’. Sardines indeed (did you know that there are very little sardines in Europe this year?) Mouth (neat): a burst of peat, smokiness, salt and lemon. Much cleaner at the attack than at first nosing. Any peat lover will like this ultra-zesty Bowmore, but beware the strength. With water: classic, ultra-clean young spirit. Salt, peat, smoke and candied lemons. Finish: more salt. Comments: classic and absolutely flawless. Very close to the Whisky Agency version when reduced. SGP:337 – 88 points.
Bowmore 9 yo 1998/2007 (62.3%, Dewar Rattray, cask #800037, 629 bottles) From a sherry cask. Colour: gold. Nose: the sherry is very obvious at first nosing but the whole is too powerful to be properly assessed (but the big notes of gunpowder are great.) With water: more gunflints, cabbage, phosphorus and our beloved wet dogs as well as unusual whiffs of rosemary (unusual in Bowmore, that is.) Mouth (neat): amazingly ‘swallowable’ at such high strength but quite anaesthetic I’m afraid. More flinty and zesty than the Villa Konthor. With water: pretty much the same high-grade stuff as the Whisky Agency. Maybe a tad rounder and a tad saltier at the same time. Finish: long, salty, maritime… Comments: my advice is “buy the best current young Bowmores and forget them in a dark, damp cellar for forty year.” Was that useful or what? No need to say that I’m a sucker for these young Bowmores from the end of the 1990’s. SGP:337 – 88 points.
And also Bowmore 15 yo ‘Glasgow Garden Festival’ (40%, OB, ceramic, 1988) Nose: passion fruits, grapefruits and a very light peatiness, rather typical of the early 1970’s. Hints of white chocolate – very nice nose. Mouth: excellent attack on ‘peated grapefruits’ but gets then much drier and austere. Also a bit dusty and peppery. Comments: thinnish development on the palate but the rest was rather great. Don't we know that ceramics usually don't keep too well? SGP:525 – 85 points. Bowmore

MUSIC – Recommended listening: did you know the supremely elegant pianist George Wallington? Have a try at his Morning dew.mp3 while sipping a very old Speysider (your pick), we're sure you'll love it - even if you're not into jazz.And then please buy his records...

George Wallington

June 4, 2008

An Cnoc


An Cnoc 1994/2008 (46%, OB) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts as malty as, err, malt can get. Also a lot of chicory, toffee, toasts, pollen, strong honey (chestnut) and café latte, with something slightly wild coming through at the development. Black tea, fermenting hay and pipe tobacco and finally whiffs of wood smoke.
Very nice overall profile, it seems that this vintage expression gets bigger year after year. Not exactly the round, slightly middle-of-the-road malt An Cnoc used to be in our opinion. Best of news! Mouth: a very creamy, almost thick mouth feel, all on malt, caramel and baked pears. Quite some honey as well, roasted nuts, vanilla… Maybe a tad less ‘interesting’ than on the nose but it’s still most enjoyable. Finish: medium long, honeyed and nutty, with hints of liquorice. Comments: one to pour your friends who aren’t into whisky but who are true friends. Good, easy stuff. SGP:531 – 84 points.
An Cnoc 16 yo (46%, OB, bourbon barrels, 2008) Colour: straw. Nose: this one is rather fruitier and less malty/caramelly than the 1994. Notes of pears and apples, mint-flavoured tea, then straight strawberry sweets and orange liqueur and finally a little honey and camomile tea. Maybe not the most complex malt ever but the whole is fruity, fresh, clean and balanced. Mouth: once again, this one starts fruitier than the 1994 but certainly not ‘weaker’. More light honey as well, pear syrup, maple syrup, faint hints of orange blossom water, oriental pastries… A little caramel as well but less than in the 1994. Finish: a tad longer than the 1994’s but getting closer to that one in style. Honey-coated nuts and a slight roughness in the aftertaste (tannins?) Comments: very good again but marginally less ‘satisfying’ than the 1994 in our opinion. SGP:521 – 83 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's sweet, it's fresh, it's quite frenchy, some say it's for girls... it's Albin de la Simone and his J'ai changé.mp3 (that was on his 2005 album 'Je vais changer'). It won't make you scratch your head, that is... But (so) please buy Albin de la Simone's music.

Albin de la Simone

June 3, 2008


Port Ellen
Port Ellen 19 yo 1977 (43%, Hart Bros) Colour: straw. Nose: fresh, peaty and flinty but probably not very complex. Porridge and warm milk, wet wood and pepper sauce. Quite austere but still rather expressive at just 43%. Lemon juice and dill, maybe even mint. Mouth: a little too cardboardy at the attack but the saltiness is pleasant. Peat, nutmeg, dry cinnamon and white pepper. Not as bold as it sounds! ;-) Finish: medium long, peaty but a little indefinite. Comments: I think this one is a rather weak version of Port Ellen. The nose was nicer than the palate. SGP:134 - 78 points.
Port Ellen 1983/2006 (46%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland) Colour: deep gold. Nose: this one is one of these flinty and ‘sulphury’ sherried Port Ellens it seems. Not H2S at all, that is, rather gunpowder and used matches, phosphorus… Very pleasant notes of orange marmalade behind all that, bitter chocolate, white pepper, saltpetre, orangeade (good Fanta)… rather beautiful in its own genre, a style that is only to be found in Port Ellen I think. Mouth: starts creamy and fudgy/orangey, with less flint and ‘good sulphur’ than on the nose. Good body. Grows very spicy after that (mainly cloves and cardamom). Not a very big middle but gets bigger again towards the finish (oyster water.) Finish: medium long, on ‘peated Seville oranges’, toffee and seawater. Comments: not a monster but one of the most drinkable sherried Port Ellens I ever tried. Sip, don’t collect! SGP:346 – 88 points.
Port Ellen 1980/2006 (54.2%, Whisky Freunde Essenheim, cask #2562, 144 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: starts rather Laphroaigish (antiseptic, peat) but it’s soon to get rather lactic, porridgy and cardboardy. Slightly stale lemon juice. Not unpleasant at all but not my cup of malt as far as the nose is concerned. Mouth: much, much better than on the nose. Maybe a tad simple but as big, punchy, lemony and peaty as PE can get. Peated grapefruit juice. Finish: long, in the same vein. Not too far from some of the official Annual Releases on the palate. Comments: too bad the nose was a bit so-so. SGP:247 – 81 points.
Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (58.2%, Dewar Rattray for Jack Wieber for Monnier, cask #2643, 60 bottles) A cascade of bottlers; UK -> Germany -> Switzerland, isn’t that funny? Colour: deep amber. Nose: starts less expressively than the colour suggested, and rather straighter/sharper. Gets then very meaty, beefy (grilled steak). Balsamico, ham, prunes… Encapsulates the peat in a certain way. Same notes of burnt matches and gunpowder as in the Jean Boyer, also notes of cassis jelly and leather (horse saddle). With water: it got even meatier and wilder! ‘Hare belly’ as we say in the wine world (not Hare Krishna), freshly opened box of 8-9-8’s (make that Lusitanias), leather… Just superb now. Mouth (neat): excellent attack, blending big peat and big sherry, with a coating fruitiness this time. Apricot jam, cherry jam and liqueur, green tea… This is big, big whisky. Touches of rubber (rubber band). With water: the rubber vanished but the rest got even more beautiful. Peated prunes (who’s gonna try to make that?) Finish: as long as an US invasion - but very perfect. Comments: only 60 bottles? Life is unjust. SGP:457 – 91 points.
Port Ellen 24 yo 1983/2008 (58.6%, The Whisky Agency, 240 bottles) From a refill sherry cask. Colour: full gold. Nose: this is more chocolaty and pleasantly coffeeish at first nosing. ‘Peated orange marmalade over a baked pheasant’ (well...) Goes on with leather, cigar tobacco and maybe hints of dill. With water: more of the same, which is excellent news. Mouth (neat): ah yes, now we’re talking. Punchy PE, better balanced than all the former ones, even if there’s quite some rubber again. Also the fruitiest one (cherry jam, cassis, even ripe gooseberries.) Big spices in the background and also a lot of pepper. Very, very big, not for the faint-hearted as they say. With water: it got almost perfect now. Peated, spicy orange marmalade. Impressive cleanliness for a sherry-matured whisky. Finish: long and superb. Totally satisfying. Comments: impressive selection by our German friends (hope their Mannschaft will be less good in a few weeks.) SGP:558 - 91 points.
Caol Ila Port Ellen
BONUS - And no, we won’t try the Port Ellen ‘Feis Isle 2008’ yet, but here’s a nice picture of many friends lining up at Caol Ila Distillery - just like the stills line up in the background - early in the morning of May 26, trying to get a bottle of it… RU on the picture?


MUSIC – Recommended listening: the good Eddy Mitchell aka Mr Moine does his C'est la vie, mon chéri.mp3 live at the Casino de Paris. Yes we have great old rock and rollers too in France! Please buy Eddy Mitchell's music.

Eddy Mitchell

June 2, 2008



Cardiff The Cardiff International Arena, Cardiff
May 8th 2008

We’ve taken a train on Mr Brunel’s railway to come to Cardiff, the very heart of the Principality, and of course, of the land of my fathers, or at least some of them. It’s a handsome city - half heritage, half building site, dominated by its castle and a stone’s throw away from the Millennium Stadium, home at the moment to the best national Rugby Union team in Europe (‘though sadly, not the world). And so it should be for a warrior race for whom sport has substituted the ancient art of war. So the finely- honed and fearsome physiques of the male savage are now dedicated to the twin temples of rugby and soccer – and when we arrived the capital was in the grips of football mania as the eponymous Cardiff City was about to head for Wembley (bad luck boys). And at a time when the world’s headlines are dominated by unimaginable natural disasters, by doom-laden predictions of economic implosion, by deep-seated fears of drought, flooding and all-purpose ecological meltdown, and by the money- grabbing antics of a certain ex-prime minister’s wife, it’s good to know that the local newspaper really goes after the story that counts for the Cardiff man (or woman) in the streets.

We’re here to join Robert Plant on the latest leg of his musical journey, but not before we’ve dined in style in the company of one of my many ‘cousins’. Then it’s off to the Cardiff International Arena, a sort of charmless modern multi-purpose structure in the middle of what appears to be the biggest building site in the world outside of Beijing (more shops apparently – hooray!). The place is blessed with wonderful acoustics – or so it seems, as the sound is very good. And the very friendly and orderly crowd (some of whom have tethered their sheep neatly outside) listen with an eagerness and attentiveness that one rarely experiences in the Metropolis.
Indeed towards the end of the show it almost feels as if we could be in a chapel, which is fitting for such a God-fearing country, but for a couple of guys who are clearly brainless on Brains and persistently attempt to ‘dance’ under the noses of a flock of disapproving stewards.
If you don’t know, Plant has deserted his adventures in the East and instead turned his attention west, to Americana and a delve into the Great American Song Book, in the company of singer and fiddle player Alison Krauss, perhaps best known among non-Nashville aficionados for her singing in the Cohen Brothers’ Homeric classic ‘Oh Brother where are thou?’. The album they released, Raising Sand, was probably one of the best of last year, but it’s a ‘grower’ that needs to be given a little time to release its full power and complexity. At its heart is guitarist and producer T Bone Burnett (who was also the musical director for ‘Oh Brother’) and a group of astonishing musicians, most of whom are here tonight, including Burnett, drummer Jay Bellerose (with a quite unique style), and acoustic bass player Dennis Crouch. They’re joined on fiddle, banjo and guitar by Stuart Duncan. Sadly, Marc Ribot, an unusual choice for a country album, isn’t on stage, but he’s replaced by Nashville guitar legend Buddy Miller. The band are simply sensational.
I had puzzled how Plant would make one album into a show. The device was that in addition to performing almost all of Raising Sand, he gave a lot of room to Krauss for her own work, and T Bone piled in with a couple of numbers of his own. Then, of course, there was the banjo-fuelled rendition of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Black Dog’, (the audience responding to Plant’s “Oh yeah, oh yeah” in a carefully-constructed six-part harmony) and later, the charming ‘Battle of Evermore’, with Kraus adeptly taking Sandy Denny’s original vocal part. But with one exception, the highlights were the wonderfully-chosen songs from Raising Sand – with Plant’s unusually delicate and sensitive vocals pairing perfectly with Krauss’s soaring harmonies and the tremolo-tinged guitars of Burnett and Miller. Plant Krauss
It’s almost as if Krauss is Plant’s long-lost brother Phil or Don, and it’s quite fitting that they ended the show with the Everly Brothers’ ‘Gone gone gone’. They had started with the playful ‘Rich Woman’, the album’s opener, Krauss sang excellently on ‘Let your loss be your lesson’ , ‘Sister Rosetta goes before us’ and the absolutely haunting ‘Trampled rose’ (when you could have heard a pin drop). Plant hammed up ‘Fortune Teller’ in a way that only he could, but was hugely powerful in his delivery of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Nothin’, a no-holds-barred performance by the whole band. And together they harmonised beautifully on Plant and Page’s most Everlyesque composition, ‘Please read the letter’. As you can tell from the adjectives, Serge, it was a very special show indeed, but the moment of the evening was when Krauss, with Plant, Miller and Duncan on backing vocals, sang an ‘a cappella’ version of ‘Valley to pray’, which, thinking about it, could almost be an alternative Welsh national anthem.
Dining in style in Cardiff
They say that Plant turned down zillions of dollars for a Led Zeppelin reunion this year in order to tour with Krauss. I can only admire his steadfastness and resolve – he’s made a brilliant album and the live performance is even better. What next, I wonder, from this travelling minstrel who also demonstrated an uncanny mastery of the native tongue. Fel i mewn ateb Ddeuda , " ddiolch 'ch Rhobert , achos an agos 'n arddun berfformiad "? - Nick Morgan (Cardiff photographs by Kate and Nick's iPhone)
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss MySpace page
T Bone Burnett MySpace page


Laphroaig 1990/2007 (46%, Montgomerie’s, cask #M586) Colour: pale straw. Nose: starts with a straight burst of peat smoke and develops on the trademark medicinal notes (antiseptic, iodine) as well as whiffs of ‘the sea’, asparagus and wet wool. Archetypical – more than the officials actually. Very little fruitiness here. Mouth: a salty and liquoricy attack, with a medium smokiness but quite some peat. Clean and pure development, not far from the regular 10yo but with more zing and a slightly bigger peatiness. Lemon and peppered apple compote. Finish: rather long, ‘simply’ on peat, lemon and pepper, which is more than enough. Comments: maybe not the most stunning Laphroaig ever but balance and character are perfect. Very sippable. SGP:247 – 86 points.
Laphroaig 16 yo 1987/2004 (52.6%, Helmsdale Bar, Japan) Colour: full gold. Nose: more a mix of coffee and peat. Big but subtler and less straightforward than the Montgomerie’s – probably a sherry hogshead (even if the label only states ‘hogshead’.) A lot of orange marmalade on top of the peaty and medicinal notes. Also milk chocolate… and then we’re back to ‘a coffee shop’. Mouth: creamy, sweet, peppery and gingery at first sipping, with the fruits chiming in after that (lots of bitter oranges and candied lemons.) Hints of cardamom and Moroccan all-purpose spice mix (for lazy cooks, they say.) Half sweet, half peaty. Finish: long, on peated ginger and orange marmalade. Comments: maybe the spirit’s big character and the cask’s relative sweetness don’t mix at 100% here, but the end result is still of high quality. Slightly ‘divergent’ on the palate in our opinion. SGP:436 - 85 points.
Laphroaig 11 yo 1994/2005 (52.9%, Hart Bros) Colour: white wine. Nose: less peaty and much more on vanilla crème, yoghurt and beer. Smoked vanilla-flavoured yoghurt? Lacks something in a certain way, even if it does improve over time. Orange and grapefruit salad, used matches. Mouth: sweet and lemony attack, rounder than expected, sort of closer to a young Ardbeg than to a Laphroaig. Ripe apples with a little pepper. Improves after a while, the peat managing to overwhelm the sweetness. Still a bit simple. Finish: medium long, slitghly sugary. Comments: obviously good but maybe a tad dull. There are many better ‘phroaigs around. SGP:425 – 80 points.
Laphroaig 17 yo 1979/1996 (53.5%, Glenscoma) Colour: straw. Nose: this one is much more lemony, almost sour (in a nice way.) Chocolate-dipped candied lemon zests. Unusual notes of passion fruits and mangos ala old Bowmore (granted, ala old Laphroaig.) Superb smokiness (peat but also coal.) Top notch but you have to like lemony/acidulated notes in your Laphroaig. Mouth: wowie, this one reminds us of much older official versions. Beautifully citrusy and ‘tropical’ (pick your fruit), with the spices and the peat forming the most enjoyable showcase. Let’s not elaborate too much if you please. Finish: long and superb. Comments: well, the most beautiful whiskies can hide behind the ugliest labels (I know, a matter of taste!) A gem. SGP:546 – 92 points.
Laphroaig ‘Cairdeas’ (55%, OB, 2008) ‘Created to celebrate their friends worldwide’. Well, in that case, I’d have given the bottles for free ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: starts sort of shier than all the other ones, drier, less aromatic and curiously less ‘Laphroaig’. More vanillin, white chocolate and orange marmalade. Faint dustiness, wet newspaper, seawater… Nice nose but not a big development. Gets more almondy and liquoricy over time, though. Mouth: compact, sweet and peaty, somewhat like a mix of the regular 10yo with the Quarter Cask (hints of bourbon). Notes of rum. Round, soft spices (yellow curry), white pepper, liquorice and hints of dried ginger. Maybe a tad too ‘rounded’ and undemanding. Finish: rather long but gets much drier at this point, as if there was some new oak involved. Comments: good Laphroaig, maybe a little rounder and more ‘rummy’ than most other official versions. Sort of aromatised? Again, it’s good but I wouldn’t swap one bottle of 10yo CS for two bottles of this ‘friendly’ version… SGP:437 – 83 points.
Tidy Laphroaig
BONUS - Here’s an exclusive picture by our friend Marcel van Gils (Undisputed Master of Laphroaig): the Laphroaig crew tidying the place up a bit for HRH Prince Charles' visit that’ll happen right on Wednesday this week. There is white and there is whiter white (sunglasses de rigueur).

May 2008 - part 2 <--- June 2008 - part 1 ---> June 2008 - part 2

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



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

Blair Athol 12 yo 1965/1977 (80° Proof, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label, 75cl)

Clynelish 1983/2002 (47%, Samaroli, cask #2685, 306 bottles)

Clynelish 1983/2006 (53.1%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #1351)

Inverleven 29 yo 1978/2008 (45.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #1878)

Laphroaig 17 yo 1979/1996 (53.5%, Glenscoma)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (58.2%, Dewar Rattray for Jack Wieber for Monnier, cask #2643, 60 bottles)

Port Ellen 24 yo 1983/2008 (58.6%, The Whisky Agency, 240 bottles)

Strathisla 40 yo 1967/2008 (47.6%, The Whisky Agency, 60 bottles)

Strathisla 40 yo 1967/2008 (48.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #2716, 160 bottles)

Strathisla 1955/2003 (59.2%, Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection, cask #407, 148 bottles)