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

June 30, 2008


ULU, London
June 18th 2008



What is it about black and bouncers, Serge? I mean take my pal the six-foot-six retired bouncer, who, ‘though I’m sure he has never bounced anyone in his life, always, but always, wears black. And whether it’s ‘sophisticated’ club or disco, we’re all used to black tie, or faux black Armani suit-attired, bull-necked giants standing arms folded with barely-suppressed menace by the door. But the stakes have been raised recently by the black paramilitary look, of which I have seen no better exponent than, well, we’ll just call him Mad Ivan the Terrible, to spare his blushes, at the ULU.

He’s standing at the left-hand side of the stage, patrolling the stage-door and overlooking the crowd at the front. Black-clad, knee-length boots, leather gloves, he’s got some sort of waistcoat on that seems to have every sort of combat device imaginable – cuffs, teargas, taser, first-aid kit, stun-grenades, i-Pod, Captain Rock cigars, RPGs, AWACs attached: you name it – he’s got it. He’s glowering over the crowd, trying to spot cameras, but spends must of his time gesticulating wildly to an unknown person at the back of the hall, sort of in time to the music. Maybe it’s the new dance craze. Do the Bouncer anyone?
His mission is to guard Black Kids, the new pop sensation from the USofA, (Jackonsville, Florida, to be precise) who are so hot, with a debut album, Partie Traumatic, produced by British guitar ace Bernard Butler (“the musical genius behind Suede” or so I read somewhere) and a Glastonbury appearance this weekend, that they’re almost going into meltdown. However, before they get a chance there’s (from New Zealand) Collapsing Cities (whom we missed due to Chinese Chow, not a band, but our dinner) and Cut Off Your Hands, who are also preparing an album with the help of Mr Butler. Cut Off Your Hands, nice boys who look as though they all must have gone to the same public school, hit the stage at a pace and volume that suggests that they’re determined to blow the much-hyped headliners off stage, and they almost do. Singer Nick Johnston manages to fall, punk-style, into the crowd within a few seconds and ends the first number singing from the top of the speaker stacks. Waving madly, Ivan responds by handing out Army surplus earplugs to all and sundry; I find that despite the pain, I’m tapping my feet in a ‘quite pleasant really’ sort of the way by the time they leave the stage.
Our ears still buzzing, Black Kids arrive. Apparently much of their appeal is how they look – which is little, large, black, white and unforgivingly young, with all-eyes and pouting Ali Youngblood and Dawn Watley on keyboards and vocals on the right, Kevin Snow on drums at the back, Owen Holmes on bass to the left, and in centre stage, all Hendrix hair Reggie Youngblood on guitar and vocals. It’s really a 2008 version of the Cure meets the Archies, both in appearance and sound. Very artfully put together and well performed, but with about as much substance as a cartoon character. But the kids love it, particularly at the front of the stage where the moon-eyed girls drooling over Cut off Your Hands have been replaced by a reeling gang of frenetic bodies – all boys, beer and acne – whose cavorting during ‘Hurricane Jane’ drives Ivan into a state of apoplexy.
Black Kids
Black Kids
As they try and throw each other onto the stage he charges through the door, knocks Youngblood to the side mid-song and captures the centre of the stage, baying at the audience, hands on hips, neck muscles bulging, head turning like a plasticine Hulk about to burst. But it all settles down and eventually, Bernard B. (wearing an impossibly tight pair of jeans) takes the stage to join them on his nice guitar for some of their catchier tunes of the night. When we leave they’re encoring with something that sounds remarkably like Orange Juice’s ‘Rip it up’, but as I’m not an intellectual property lawyer I’d better comment no further. Good fun if you like to dance, but as my old Mum famously said of the Internet, “I’ll give it twelve months …”. Wrong on that score I have to admit, but on this one she might just have been right. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Cut Off Your Hands on MySpace
Black Kids on MySpace


Bunnahabhain 1997/2007 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland) Colour: straw. Nose: quite a presence, starting on a mix of peated barley (just like when you’re visiting a malting plant), porridge, coal smoke, fresh putty and diesel oil (just faint whiffs). A pleasant fruitiness hides behind these peaty smells (pears). Hints of pencil lead, then dill and aniseed. Very fresh and balanced – if not hugely complex. Smokier than the official ‘Toiteach’ by any means. Mouth: very, very snarfable even if one may have preferred two or three extra-percents alcohol (this is very smooth.) Peat and lemon peel, hints of smoked fish, malt, faint notes of ginger beer… Again, some nice fruits in background (more ripe gooseberries here.) Grows bigger, with a better body over time, which is rather unusual. Really picks up steam. Finish: rather long, on rawer peat and oatcakes. Comments: very good, easily defeats the Toiteach. Should also be excellent in a chilled glass. SGP:327 - 85 points.
Bunnahabhain 10 yo 1997/2008 (58.9%, Signatory, cask #5354, 576 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: much more sherry here, which mingles with the peaty freshness quite well. Putty, caramel, marzipan, coal and hints of soft paprika, then quite some mint just like in the Jean Boyer. Hints of eucalyptus. Very, very pleasant I must say. Wet wool. With water: it’s the peat that stands out now, the sherry being totally dominated. It got much earthier, almost rooty, leafy… Gentian roots, chives, huge smokiness (both coal and peat), sheep, wet dog, diesel oil… A very wild little beast on the nose. Mouth (neat): hugely powerful, really invading! Ouch! We’re no sissies but, well, let’s add a little water right away (burns your throat a bit.) With water: sweeter and a tad rounder than on the nose, very compact, with a perfect dried fruits/peat combo. Peated caramel fudge??? Peated pear spirit? By the way, shouldn’t we be able to peat ‘anything’, not just cereals? Great young peat monster anyway. Finish: long, compact, balanced, all on peat, pepper and dried pears. Comments: wham-bam but perfectly balanced. A miracle? SGP:447 – 88 points.

June 27, 2008

The Carling Academy Islington, Islington, London, June 14th 2008

You may be surprised, Serge, that we’re back so soon at a venue that I only recently described as a shithole after our unfortunate experience there trying to watch Sparks. And you’d be no more surprised than I, as we were supposed to be at Islington’s charming and delightful Union Chapel just up the road, rather than in this soulless concrete box.

The reason for the last-minute change is a mystery (perhaps), but my anger was palpable when I learned via e-mail that the chance to see Gnarls Barkley play a stripped-down and ‘intimate’ gig at the Chapel had been snatched from me. But once my fury had abated, I began to put in place a plan honed with military precision to ensure that, unlike our last visit to the Islington Academy, we would be standing somewhere vaguely pleasant with a clear view of the stage. So, accompanied by a six-foot-six ex-bouncer I hired for the night and his feisty companion, we set off North for an early supper, a leading place in the queue and standing places at the front of the upstairs balcony. Mission accomplished, and it’s only about seven o’clock - but it’s an early gig that will be followed by Club de Fromage. And there’s a more than engaging opening session from the Shortwave Set, who seem to be as surprised as we are to be there so early, but nonetheless persevere with their chirpy little electronica-fuelled ditties.
Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton (L) and Cee-Lo Green, aka Thomas Callaway (R)
They are here, I have no doubt, because their new album Replica Sun Machine was produced (or over-produced according to some) by celebrity producer of the moment, no, not Mark Ronson, but Danger Mouse, aka Brian Burton. He who, when not making records for the likes of Gorillaz, The Good the Bad and the Queen, The Black Keys and Beck (or pissing off EMI as he did when he produced The Grey Album, an unofficial remix of the Beatles’ classic White Album) is one half of chart-topping sensation Gnarls Barkley. The other, significantly larger, half is rapper and vocalist Cee-Lo Green, aka Thomas Callaway. So just to be clear, and particularly for the benefit of the Bouncer (“I’ve been looking up Miles Barclay on the internet and can’t find out anything about him”), Gnarls is a band, not a bloke. And of course, a band that took the world by storm with their first single ‘Crazy’, which technophiles might like to recall was the first single to reach number one in the UK charts as a result of downloads only. The album from which it came, St Elsewhere, was also a massive hit. Now, strangely for artistes of such repute, they seem to be suffering from second album syndrome. ‘Crazy’ was so bouncy and compelling that probably few took time to listen to the dark sentiments that really drove it along. In addition, the pair’s on-stage personae, defined by wacky-themed costumes (sometimes based on old movies), have tended to suggest a light-heartedness that is far from evident in their songs (that’s not to say they don’t have a lot of humour in them, but it’s of a pretty adult nature). Thus, being grown-up music, grown-up lyrics and frankly quite gloomy, is possibly why The Odd Couple has stalled a little, and possibly why the pair are in London to play a few ‘intimate’ sets for their “biggest fans” with band member, multi-instrumentalist and occasional Butthole Surfer Josh Klinghoffer, “to reveal the essence of the songs”.
Gnarls Barkley
Well, the Islington Academy may be small, but it’s not what I’d call intimate. And what we have on stage is a full band decked out like college kids: drums; percussion; bass; two guitarists (one is the energetic Mr Klinghoffer, who also plays keyboards); Mr Mouse on Hammond organ with the addition of some neat electronic effects, and of course, the imposing Cee-Lo. They hit the stage like an express train, with ‘Charity Case’ and ‘Surprise’ from the new album, both very powerful, built on top of a sixties-sounding rhythm - I was strongly reminded of older Tommy James and the Shondells stuff like ‘Mony mony’. It’s very carefully packaged and put together (as you would expect), right down to the sound of the children’s xylophone, and at the heart of things, Mr Mouse’s Hammond, which as the Photographer put it, was artfully weaving everything together. Mr Mouse was so busy at his keyboard that we barely got a glimpse of him, but Cee-Lo was a more-than-adequate front man. For all the menace in his lyrics and (some might think) his appearance, he captivated the audience with his commanding voice (at its best when pushed into a blues or gospel vein, as on the first encore ‘Save my soul’). He’s absolutely engrossed in the moment when singing, but apart from the fact that he obviously bought the watch with the extra diamonds, there’s nothing ostentatious here. Between songs, in what little time there is, he exhibits the irresistible charm of a naughty schoolboy.
Cee-Lo Green It’s played out at a breathless pace: fifteen songs in an hour, each around three minutes long. They end with a rousing version of ‘Smiley Faces’, again driven by a classic sixties bass line (think ‘You can’t hurry love’ by the Supremes, backed by the Funk Brothers). Altogether a great set, the highlight of which was a slowed-down, almost gospel version of ‘Transformer’ when Cee-Lo’s voice was simply stunning. The Photographer loved it, the Bouncer’s feisty companion loved it, I loved it, but the Bouncer insisted “that they weren’t quite there”, in his estimation.
And even if the Carling Academy isn’t the best venue in the world, from our vantage point we were as close to the band as you could ever wish to be, and it’s got to be a lot better than the sort of stadia that Gnarls Barkley normally occupy. Second album syndrome? On this showing not a bit of it, although it’s just possible that they might have outgrown the mass audience who made ‘Crazy’ such a massive hit. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Listen: Gnarls Barkley's MySpace page

(warning, maltoporn ahead)

Longmorn 33 yo 1973/2007 (49.4%, Duncan Taylor, cask #8913, 192 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: first we get whiffs of linseed oil and wax, then even hints of olive oil, and then it progressively shifts towards rounder and fruitier aromas, such as quinces (very obvious), figs, dried apricots and even lychees (with also hints of old roses). All that is coated with hints of wood smoke and something slightly mineral (wet limestone). Also a little mint and verbena. Rather magnificent, with a balance and a complexity that are close to perfection. And how elegant! Mouth: starts marvellously soft (honey) but gets then really nervous and vibrant, with a very wide assortment of fruits. Oranges, apricots, dried bananas, dried guavas… gets more honeyed and a little waxy after that (mid-almondy, mid-waxy in fact). Also excellent notes of lemon zest that give it a superb bitterness that really balances the huge fruitiness. A work of art if you ask me. Finish: rather long, with the spices entering the equation now (ginger, nutmeg). Comments: very great, less ‘luscious’ than other old Longmorns, and maybe a tad (even) more assertive. Now, it’s true that old Longmorns seldom miss their targets… SGP:643 – 92 points.
Longmorn 1973/2007 (54.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask, First Fill Sherry Butt, cask #3649) Colour: mahogany. Nose: holy crow! The same figs/quince/smoke notes as in the Duncan Taylor but with an added layer of the driest and most wonderful kind of sherry. Chocolate, macchiato and prunes. Even more smoke than in the Duncan Taylor after a while. Also a wonderful tar (and strong black liquorice), and finally mint and hints of eucalyptus, that make it a little medicinal (embrocations). Wowie! Mouth: this is an immense whisky, no doubt, even if it’s huge concentration may put off a few newbies. Where to start? The jams (strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants)? The spices (cardamom)? Herbs (coriander and dill)? Dried fruits (prunes)? Chewing tobacco? Salmiak? Old orange liqueur? Else? A headache, I tell you. Fantastic mouth feel provided you’re not afraid of, well, concentration. Where some malts taste a bit, err, bombastic, Longmorn always stays high-class. Rolex vs Patek if you see what I mean. Finish: very long, on various fruit liqueurs. Old Port. Comments: another wonder. G&M already had several wonderful old Longmorns and this one does perpetuate the tradition indeed. SGP:654 – 93 points.

June 26, 2008


Caol Ila
Caol Ila 1989/2004 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland) From a recoopered hogshead. Colour: white wine. Nose: not ‘hugely big’ but ultra-clean, smoky, peaty and mineral. Wet stones, wet wool, oysters, iodine, fusel oil and fresh walnuts. That’s pretty all but it’s already more than enough. Very straightforward. Mouth: unexpected oomph at 43%! Peat, oysters (really, it tastes like peppered oysters), liquorice… Very enjoyable hints of fudge and even café latte, vanilla crème… Not very obvious but well here. Finish: rather long, saltier but also less ‘coastal’. Dates? Maraschino. Comments: very good, reminding me of the official 18yo in a certain way. Half wild, half civilised. SGP:446 - 87 points.
Caol Ila 1984/2007 (54.1%, Scott’s Selection) Colour: full gold. Nose: fantastic at first nosing and quite unusual. Beautiful mix or freshly baked orange cake with peat and fresh almonds. Gets very complex after that, on earl grey tea, putty, argan oil (make that olive), gunflint, figs… Then camphor and eucalyptus, beeswax, orange blossom… What an amazing nose! Not quite a surprise, but still… Much more complex than the Caol Ila 1984/2006 (53.5%, Scott's Selection) we had last year. Mouth: what a big whisky! Very unusual for sure, starting on something resinous and metallic at the same time (works here), then milk chocolate and mint, kumquats, quinces (lots)… The peat is very big! Cough medicine, ginger, cardamom… Even hints of sweet mustard – and a lot of pepper. Perfect and doesn’t need water at all. Finish: ultra-long, compact, peaty and orangey. Somewhat simpler than before and maybe a tad bitter in the aftertaste, but no big deal. Comments: big, big and excellent. SGP:537 – 89 points.
Caol Ila 26 yo 1982/2008 (56.3%, Alambic Classique, cask #8416, 139 bottles) From a bourbon cask. Colour: straw. Nose: this one is a sharper and more austere one, almost Calvinistic when compared with the 1989 and 1984. Freshly cut green apple and straight peat smoke, gaining complexity after a few seconds but staying always beautifully sharp. Walnut skin, fresh queen scallops, linseed oil, lamp oil, ink, hay, shoe polish (preferably black – kidding.) Hints of fresh lemon juice. Quite superb – another ‘rieslingesque’ Caol Ila. With water: even more ‘rieslingesque’. Peated lemon juice than ran over granite for centuries – or something like that. Spitzenklasse. Mouth (neat): huuuge attack, with more wood influence. Heavily infused green tea (say, rolling clouds), liquorice sticks, apple peelings, walnuts, fresh almonds… Frankly grassier and wilder than the two previous ones when naked (hope my wife doesn’t read Whiskyfun). With water: I wouldn’t say water made it any smoother or rounder. More pepper, that’s all. Finish: long, sharp, peaty, peppery and earthy. Comments: a big Caol Ila that may well overshadow many Islayers from the south shore. SGP:357 – 90 points.
Caol Ila 26 yo 1982/2008 (61.3%, The Whisky Trader, Germany, cask #2723, 142 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: just the same as the ‘Alambic’. Hard to find any differences. Maybe just a slightly bigger fruitiness, but that may come from the higher ABV. All that is good news of course. Please read above. With water: oh, now it diverges from the ‘Alambic’. More almondy and oily, somewhat rounder and a little more ‘candied’. Butterscotch and lemon pie. Certainly not less beautiful! Mouth (neat): yet again, it’s almost the same whisky as the ‘Alambic’. Maybe a tad rounder (no, it’s certainly not round whisky.) With water: no, it isn’t any rounder. Very similar indeed. Finish: same. Comments: same. SGP:357 – 90 points.
Caol Ila 19 yo 1981/2000 (62.6%, The Bottlers, cask #519, refill sherry butt) Colour: full gold. Nose: quite exceptional! It’s got the same kind of ‘purity’ as the two 1982’s but with an added roundness from the sherry, although that doesn’t quite make it any ‘rounder’, quite the contrary (is that understandable?) Superb notes of verbena, almonds, metal (copper – but of course), seashells marzipan… Granted, it’s a bit hot at 62+%... So, with water: exceptional. Call the anti-maltoporn squad asap, will you? Reminds me of some 1967 Ardbegs and Laphroaigs – and this is no joke. Mouth (neat): superb. In spite of the very high ABV, we’re catching glimpses of butter pears, mint flavoured tea (Moroccan of course), eucalyptus sweets, and liquorice/lemon sweets. And Chartreuse (Tarragone, of course). With water: stunning. All kinds of resins, teas, rare liqueurs and spices. Finish: as long as a Fidel Castro speech. Comments: you’ll need to spend quite some time with this one but that’ll really be worth it. The Bottlers (aka Raeburn Fine Wines of Edinburgh) sure know how to select a cask – too bad there are so few in the market. A shame if you ask me (hint, hint). SGP:357 - 93 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: probably one of the most beautiful living jazz voices, and certainly one the most original (which may be a pleonasm actually) Andy Bey sings River Man.mp3 (from his CD 'Shades Of Bey'.) Luv'it. Please buy Andy Bey's records.

Andy Bey

June 25, 2008

Highland Park


Highland Park 15 yo 1990/2006 (53.6%, OB for Beltramo's, cask #10146, USA Bottling, 75cl) Colour: deep amber. Nose: a bit rough and brutal at first nosing, with loads of strawberry jam, litres of kirsch and a little rubber. Gets then a tad rounder and softer, with pleasant honeyed and almondy notes (marzipan, putty.) slight dustiness. Whiffs of newspaper ink. With water: the rubbery notes do come out even more, but also very pleasant vegetal (chlorophyll, parsley – a lot) and smoky touches. The rubber gets much shier after a while, which is great. Give this one time! Mouth (neat): really nervous and very much influenced by both the sherry and the oak itself. Huge spiciness (a lot of black pepper), orange marmalade, dried figs, strong honey (chestnut and the likes), liquorice and again something slightly rubbery. With water: very good now, even if still a bit rough around the edges. Orange zests, strawberry jam and still something a little rubbery. Finish: long, but on the same notes. Comments: a HP we like but there are ones that we like much better. Maybe it’s the rubber. Now, the nose is quite beautiful after addition of a few drops of water. SGP:463 – 84 points.
Highland Park 16 yo 1990/2006 (58.7%, OB for Maxxium, cask #5831, 1272 bottles, 35cl) Colour: amber. Nose: almost the same whisky as the 15yo, just a tad more powerful, thanks to the higher ABV. With water: now we’re talking. Orange blossom, mushrooms, old books, fresh mint, heather honey, leather, almonds… Quite superb on the nose but really needs water. Mouth (neat): really hot at full strength albeit somewhat rounder and more candied than the 15yo. Less pepper, less rubber, more fruits (oranges), less winey notes. With water: more of the same. Not much changes, just more drinkable – which may be the whole point. Finish: long, orangey and peppery. Comments: very, very good, full-bodied, middle-aged Highland Park. SGP:563 – 88 points.
Highland Park 12 yo 1995/2007 (60.6%, OB for Oddbins, cask #1555) Colour: amber. Nose: powerful again and a little less on the ‘strawberry’ side at first sniffs. A little varnish as well. The strawberries really jump out of the glass at the development, as well as very big notes of grenadine (and something like cranberry juice.) Unusual but I quite like this, even if this one smells a bit like if they had done a ‘secret’ finishing on it (which, most probably, isn’t the case.) With water: certainly more peat here. Got also more organic. Roasted nuts, pollen, various honeys… And always these funny notes of pomegranates. Mouth (neat): once again, this one is fresher and better balanced than both 1990’s, despite it’s almost inhumane strength (right, Serge, don’t make a fool of yourself, please!) Very punchy but pretty lovely, orangey, gingery and spicy (quite some Chinese anise, pepper). With water: more of the same, with added citrusy notes (even icing sugar, fructose). Very lively! Finish: long, nervous, fresh yet very ‘full’, with more peat at the aftertaste. Comments: A lovely dram, as they say. SGP:644 – 89 points (and thanks for this session, K.)



MUSIC – Recommended listening: neo-Brazilian artiste Arto Lindsay (he's American actually) does his rather famous piece Anima animale.mp3. A rather wonderful blend of Caetano Veloso-style tunes with noisism. Well, sort of. Please buy Arto Lindsay's music.


Arto Lindsay

June 24, 2008

Port Ellen


Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (51.1%, Alambic Classique, cask/ref #71032, 120 bottles) From a bourbon cask. Colour: pale straw. Nose: this one starts very, very zesty, lemony, with the smoke beneath. Goes on with porridgy and slightly yoghurty notes (lemon flavoured yoghurt), icing sugar, Riesling and wet stones (maybe even chalk and ‘pleasant plastic’). Salpetre. Very ‘natural’, with little wood influence it seems. Also a little liquorice and mint as well as slightly animal notes (faint whiffs of ‘clean’ hutch.) More peat smoke comes through after a while. Mouth: sweet and just as zesty as on the nose at first sips. The peat is big. Good ‘austerity’ but we do get more fruit after that (tangerines) as well as lemon peel and a little brown sugar. Keeps developing with more pepper on top of the now rather huge ‘peaty/lemony’ notes. Very, very good, everything getting more and more amplified. Really punchy but perfectly drinkable. Finish: long, still punchy, lemony, peaty… Maybe a tad rounder now, though. Pleasant notes of orange drops. Comments: a very good Port Ellen that’s punchy but rather approachable, thanks to its fruitiness. Quite perfect for anybody who never tried Port Ellen before (and of course for all other peat lovers). SGP:647 - 88 points.
Port Ellen 24 yo 1982/2007 (51.1%, Bladnoch Forum, cask #2462, 156 bottles) This one from a butt. Colour: pale straw. Nose: a rather similar profile, without any obvious sherry. A tad more expressive, though, with what seems to be a slightly bigger ‘farminess’ (more notes of hutch ;-)). Also added hints of kippers – well, maybe. Otherwise we’re really in the same family and the different kind of cask didn’t seem to change much to the spirit. Mouth: again, it’s a very, very similar whisky, even if there seems to be a little extra-quick here. Splitting hairs, really. Finish: same comments. Maybe just a tad punchier and a tad grassier (with a little less fruits – or, say less tangerines and more grapefruits). Comments: let’s not even try to decide between both. The sherry butt almost didn’t change one iota of this one. SGP:647 – 88 points.
Port Ellen 1981/2008 ‘Feis Ile 2008’ (54.7%, OB, cask #1301) This one is already legendary. Sold for a very fair price (£99.something) but in very limited quantities, it provoked quite a queue when it was sold at Caol Ila Distillery on the morning of may 26th and of course a few vampires were quick to put it on eBay, where it was soon to fetch something like £700. Better than petrol. There's even 'a gentleman' in Bowmore who's currently asking for £800+ a bottle. Ah, the charming Ileachs, soooo romantic, aren't they! Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is different. More polished, rounder at first nosing, even if the notes of smoked fish are well here. Vanilla custard. Develops on unusual floral notes (dandelions, flower nectar), then whiffs of brown coal, pu-erh tea, matches, hints of dry white wine again, a little more liquorice… More notes of kippers as well, maybe even sardines. Hints of fresh almonds and gingerbread. This one gets more and more complex, and rather wilder too over time. Very interesting development from ‘almost smoothness’ to ‘wild coastal peatiness’. Mouth: once again, it starts quite smoothly (well, considering it’s Port Ellen), on orange marmalade and lapsang souchong (smoked tea), but it really becomes a hard-hitter after that, with quite a lot of peat, lemon peel (and squash), orange peel, coriander, brown sugar again… The grassiness gets bigger too (interesting notes of sorrel mingling with the lemon) but there are also quite some ‘candied’ notes (crème brûlée, caramel custard, even rum.) A big dram that started smoothly but grows wilder and wilder. Tricky, in a certain way. Finish: very long, but quite interestingly, it sort of softens (hints of pineapple drops and honey – honey in Port Ellen!) whilst keeping its beautiful profile. Comments: another punchy but most approachable Port Ellen. Certainly more complex and more multifaceted than the ‘average’ Port Ellen (albeit less austere/sharpish), provided you give it a little time. If you’ve got one bottle of this, please don’t bull, open it, it’s really worth it. SGP:637 - 91 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: from what was probably one the best jazz records ever, here's the very famous Stolen moments.mp3 (with nobody else than Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard and Bill Evans) by saxophonist and arranger extraordinaire Oliver Nelson. Please buy Oliver Nelson's music.

Oliver Nelson

June 21, 2008



North British 15 yo 1991/2007 (53.6%, Signatory, cask #259476, 659 bottles) This one was fully matured in a Californian sherry cask (wazzat?) Colour: gold. Nose: frankly, this smells like wood matured vodka, or maybe Zubrovska. It’s not that it’s bad, quite the contrary, but it does not resemble whisky. Maybe hints of sultanas. Let’s see what happens after the addition of a few drops of water… Oh, it really changed, as it got a lot more vegetal and ‘tertiary’, with unusual notes of lovage and parsley, hay, cured ham, beef bouillon… I guess it’s the ‘Californian sherry’ that comes out. Dare I say ‘pemmican’? Very unusual and very interesting in any case. Mouth (neat): it’s completely different and extremely coffeeish. Kalhua at ‘cask strength’ this time? Coffee-schnapps. With water: doesn’t change as much as on the nose, still on coffee liqueur but also on prunes and plum pudding. Finish: long, fruity and coffeeish again – and in a very nice way. Comments: I feared this was just raw grain spirit at first nosing but then it never stopped improving and getting more complex and assertive. Worth trying, and not only if you’re into grain whisky. SGP:450 – 86 points.
Carsebridge 29 yo 1979/2008 (56%, Duncan Taylor, cask #33032) These Carsebridges by Duncan Taylor are always good. Colour: gold. Nose: very close to the North British, maybe just a tad fruitier at first nosing, but then it gets rather more complex, very vanilled and ‘coconutty’, with extremely nice whiffs of carpenter’s workshop. Quite superb as a single grain, with a lot of freshness. Archetypical. With water: more of the same, which is good news. Warm oak sawdust plus subtle hints of moss and wet leaves. Gets even smoky after a moment (pine wood smoke). And minty. Mouth (neat): Malibu at ‘cask strength’! Immense notes of coconut indeed… If you like that, you’ll love this. With water: very classy and classic old grain whisky matured in a perfect cask. Vanilla, coconut, apricot jam, a little ginger, a little strawberry jam… Finish: long, clean, fruity and… coconutty. Comments: again, I’m not into grain too much but I’ll admit that this is very, very good spirit. SGP:550 – 89 points.
Port Dundas 10 yo (59.6%, Cadenhead, 276 bottles, bottled 1998) From a bourbon hogshead. Funny that this one was bottled in the ‘World Whiskies’ series. Colour: white wine. Nose: I’m sorry, but this is undiluted vodka. With water: regular vodka with a little wood and a little grass. Very simple. Mouth (neat): alcohol, plain apple spirit (not cider spirit, that is to say Calvados and the likes, eh). Not unpleasant but really simple. With water: ditto, with even more raw alcohol. Finish: medium long. Comments: the world deserves better whisky. SGP:210 – 65 points.
North of Scotland 1964/2008 (44.9%, Scott’s Selection) This is a bit of mystery, as some people (including the German importer of this range) claim that North of Scotland was still distilling malt in column stills in 1964, whilst some Maniacal sources say that the distillery stopped distilling malt and switched to grain as early as 196X. A third source says that they were still using malt and grain alternatively. Well, I tend to believe Maniacal sources, but let’s see whether this is grainy or not… Colour: gold. Nose: well, there’s the usual oaky/vanilled character of grain whisky but there’s something else indeed, that’s more or less in the same aromatic category as the diluted North British (lovage, parsley, sage, maybe mother-of-thyme...), only less clean and less, well, ‘defined’. Hints of redcurrant jam, bubblegum and ripe strawberries. Frankly, it does smell like grain whisky, and maybe not one of the best, even if the oak is in no way overwhelming despite the 44 years… Now, after quite some breathing, there are also rather beautiful notes of thuja wood, pine resin and caramel. Water not needed. Mouth: ha-ha, now we’re talking! Still not malty but the ‘bubblegummy’ notes got really spectacular. Add to that notes of Turkish delights, marshmallows, butter and baklavas and you get… right, a cake ;-). Seriously, this is very demonstrative and rather unlike anything I tried up to now. Arrak, raki (or ouzo – aniseed liqueur.) Big sweetness and something rather decadent. Finish: long, more and more on date liqueur, with also a little pinch of salt. And coconuts. Comments: hard to say whether this is malt or grain… I’d vote for grain. SGP:730 – 84 points.
Nikka 12 yo ‘Single Coffey Malt’ (55%, OB, 3027 bottles) This is genuine malt for sure, only distilled in column stills like grain whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: well, I’m not impressed, this one seems to be much closer to grain than to malt actually, which stresses the stills’ importance over the raw material. Plum spirit, vanilla and maybe something unusually perfumy (rosewater). Orange blossom. With water: it’s the wood that came out. A little methanol, wood alcohol. Mouth (neat): very spirity (pear spirit) and very sweet. Bourbon. With water: a little better, resembling a medium-range grain whisky and maybe also some Irishes. Vanilla, dried bananas, coconut liqueur and oak (nutmeg). Finish: medium long, very linear. Comments: rather pleasant on the palate when diluted but otherwise slightly disappointing I think. Now, it’s only an experiment I think, so let’s not complain, especially since many other malt aficionados seem to adore it. SGP:620 – 77 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: there's whisky and music and there's wine and music... And gospel. Please have a try at the wonderful Andy Sheppard and Steve Lodder playing a soul-infused piece called Chablis.mp3 (from 'Moving Image)... With a glass of Grenouilles in your hand, of course (no, not frogs.) And then please buy these wonderful musicians' music.

Lodder Sheppard

June 19, 2008

Clynelish Clynelish 16 yo 1983/2000 (43%, Cooper’s Choice) Colour: straw. Nose: very fresh, seaweedy and waxy. Huge notes of paraffin and linseed oil but also something a little too porridgy and even plastic-like developing after a moment. Lemon fizz, wet limestone, ink, wet newspaper… Loses its freshness and gets then more and more grassy. Argan oil (which is great) but also fermenting hay, which isn’t too great here. Lacks definition – this time. Mouth: certainly better now, the plastic notes having vanished, leaving room for quite some salt, olive oil and sweetened porridge. Pleasant spiciness (paprika), a little horseradish, even canned pickles… And finally a little lemon. Not the greatest but it’s rather interesting – unusual at least. Finish: medium long but simpler again. Salted lemon juice? Tequila? Mustard? Comments: an unusual Clynelish, probably a little less to my liking than most of its siblings. SGP:262 – 78 points.
Clynelish 15 yo 1993/2008 (57.8%, Alambic Classique, cask #7539, 120 bottles) Gosh, whiskies from 1993 are already 15yo – time flies! Colour: straw. Nose: this one is much wilder and more austere at the same time. Ultra-big waxy notes again but also cactus juice, almond milk, green tea, fresh butter, pine needles, a little peat… Little fruits here, if any (maybe a little lemon that gives it a slight sourness). Quite zesty in fact but maybe not as ‘ultra-focused’ as other versions. Maybe water will help… With water: it’s the wax and the wet stones that really stands out now. Greatest of news! Also something slightly resinous, and our beloved wet dogs? Clynelsih
Mouth (neat): extremely rich, oily, thick and coating, almost too hot actually. Chilli liqueur? Pepper liqueur? Brutal and hard to swallow I must say, almost burning. Fizzy. A peppermonster? With water: amazing how water works here. Not that we really managed to tame it – it’s still a bit uncivilised - but it really got more classic. A lot of wax, chlorophyll, not-to-sweet olive oil, rocket salad, bitter almonds, honeydew… One of the grassiest whiskies I tried recently. Finish: long, austere and dry. And grassy. Comments: great Clynelish for Clynelish lovers but don’t even consider sipping it without water. Jansenistic. SGP:173 – 87 points.
Clynelish 1982/1995 (64.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 26.4) Colour: gold. Nose: ouch! Very butyric and very cardboardy, truly plactic-like this time, despite the rather pleasant notes of seawater and fresh almonds in the background. Highly unusual in fact, but let’s not take chances with our nostrils at 64+% and add water straight away. With water: completely changes directions, getting much more on candy sugar, rum, cigar box and even patchouli. Too bad there’s an added soapiness in the background. Very, very ‘different’. Mouth (neat – yeah, I made out my will): well, I must say it’s sort of ingestible! Sweet, waxy and lemony like many Clynelishes, with hints of salt. Now, the alcohol does mask the rest indeed. With water: it works but the result is a bit curious, what appears to be sherry indeed not mingling too well with the spirit. Something like heavily peppered wine-poached pears or something like that. It got also very, very mustardy now. Finish: long, a bit cleaner and better focused now, with huge citrusy notes at the “end”. Comments: well, this one isn’t easy! ‘A variant of a variant’ – interesting but not essential. SGP:352 – 80 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: she's been one of our favs for a long time, yes, German organist extraordinaire Barbara Dennerlein. Today she's playing Fly away.mp3 con mucho gusto (from her album Take Off!) How many almbums by Barbara Dennerlein do you already own? Please buy more...


June 18, 2008


The Astoria, London, June 6th 2008

A seriously long queue snakes around the side of the old Pickle Factory (aka London’s doomed Astoria Theatre) into leafy yet carbon monoxide-filled Soho Square. We’ve been waiting for a long time. Since the twenty-second of December, to be precise, when this gig should have taken place.

Inexplicably cancelled, then rescheduled, this gig is a belated launch of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s new (er, 2007) album, Pour l’Amour des Chiens. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to regard a ‘new’ Bonzos album with some degree of trepidation – in fact, I left it on the shelf for a very long time before plucking up the courage to play it. Truth be told, it’s not bad at all. It probably has the stamp of pianist, singer and songwriter Neil Innes’ solo work stamped on it a little hard but is none the worse for that. Like Innes, there’s a lot of the ‘grumpy old man’ in evidence but thinking about it, the Bonzos were probably always grumpy old men before their time. And there are some genuinely funny moments. But of course, no one has queued for six months to listen to new songs – it’s the old stuff that everyone’s expecting (praying for?) as this unlikely mixture of septuagenarians and sextuagenarians continue their unlikely revival, which began here at the Astoria back in January 2006. And as fate would have it, I’m in almost the same seat surrounded by the most unlikely bunch of grey balding oldsters, young stylish things-about-town, dads and daughters, mothers and sons, you name it – they’re here.
In case you’ve forgotten, this version of the Bonzos is comprised of survivors of various incarnations of the band from the sixties and early seventies: Neil Innes (piano, vocals, guitar); Roger Ruskin Spear (saxophone, trumpet, trouser press, robots); Rodney Slater (saxophones, clarinet, washboard); Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell (vocals, saw, banjo, ukulele); Sam Spoons (er…spoons, drums and flower pots); “Legs” Larry Smith (as himself) and Bob Kerr (trumpets and teapot). In addition, comedians Adrian Edmondson and Phill Jupitus - the latter for only one song late on after he’d performed in a play round the corner - but both now members of the band, apparently. Behind them is musical director Mickey Simmonds, who, along with his bass player and drummer, somehow manages to keep things going in the face of even the greatest adversity. Pretty prime contender is Roger Ruskin Spears - messing up the cues and interrupting from the very first song, he rampages through the two halves of the set in an anarcho-syndicalist world of his own, talking away to himself and the audience, much to the obvious annoyance of Innes, who by comparison almost seems like an obsessive-compulsive. It’s a wonderful spectator sport.
The Bonzos have chosen to be sponsored by a fictitious retail chain - Fiasco – a considered choice as they stumble through songs old and new, and jokes, mostly old. Highlights from the established cannon were the classic ‘Jazz, delicious hot, disgusting cold’, played with a robustly tuneless gusto, Edmondson singing ‘I’m Bored’, ‘Hippocratic oaths’ and ‘My pink half of the drainpipe’, a wonderful ‘Trouser press’ and Jupitus’ encore, ‘Canyons of your mind’. Of the new songs, ‘Hawkeye the Gnu’ (it’s a Scottish thing), ‘Beautiful people’, ‘Stadium love’ and Sam Spoons’ ‘Tiptoe through the tulips’ (with percussive flowerpots) all stood up well. Bohay-Nowell, who should know better for a man of his age, performed show-stealing party pieces ‘Falling in love again’ and ‘Andrew’s engine’, and “Legs” Larry Smith told a joke about flowers on the piano and tulips on the organ, which I promised not to mention. Ah yes – and the robots were fully functional, as was the trouser press.
It’s really just a wonderful few hours of chaotic innocent nonsense, humour largely from another age that still has a deep resonance with those of us who were brought up on it, and obviously those of us who weren’t (the two rather cool twenty-something boys next to us were almost wetting themselves in a most uncool way by the end of the show). And really, as you can see, the pictures tell the story just as well as I can. Except for the fact that, as I write, the old buggers have just announced another tour for nine nights in November, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m just off to buy some tickets... - Nick Morgan


Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1976/2008 (40.7% Villa Konthor, Limburg, Germany) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts fresh and briny, with whiffs of sea air and something like kiwis and not too ripe bananas. It’s also rather lemony… Quite unusual and much more ‘nervous’ than expected. Goes on with even more lemon (zests) and then notes of fresh mint and dill. Very slight dustiness (flour, old books.) No obvious woodiness that I can smell but there’s also something faintly porridgy. Mouth: as soft and rather silky attack on ripe bananas (not drops etc) and vanilla crème, with also a little liquorice (sticks) mixed with mint. Falls a bit at the middle, getting also a little kirschy, but remains very pleasant and soft. Silky tannins coat the whole and give it a good structure. Finish: medium long, very balanced, getting pleasantly spicy (white pepper and cinnamon) with a rather oaky aftertaste. Comments: a rather harmless – and maybe not really characterful - but very drinkable old Bunnahabhain. SGP:341 – 86 points.
Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1967/2002 (40,5%, Hart Bros. Finest Collection, 378 bottles) Colour: deep gold. Nose: a very big fruitiness here, with notes of tangerines and mangos, and even a little passion fruit that reminds us of some of its cousins from the shore of the Loch Indaal. Also a little orange honey for a while, and then litres of fresh orange juice. Very pleasant hints of roasted nuts and toasted bread complement the whole. A beautiful nose for sure, even if it doesn’t quite speak ‘Bunnahabhain’. Slight dustiness just like in the 1976. Mouth: in the keeping with the nose, which is great news. Oranges, marmalade, mango chutney, honeydew and quince jelly. Quite superb I must say. Shifts towards bigger oakiness and spiciness (cinnamon, ginger and cloves) after a few seconds in the mouth but the excellent fruity notes do remain, which makes the whole very compact and precise. Very excellent, even if it gets a little tired and dry at a certain point. Finish: not too long, alas, and much drier now (orange peel, grape skin). Comments: a beautiful oldie to sip straight ahead before the wood can have its say! SGP:741 – 89 points (for the wonderful fruitiness.)
Bunnahabhain 37 yo 1968/2006 (42.1%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #7010, 350 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one is frankly different, less fruity and more candied, honeyed and vanilled. Granted, there are some very nice notes of dried pears and figs and even a slight ‘coastality’ but other than that it’s rather a rounder and softer kind of old Bunnahabhain, with also a little more oak and marzipan (almonds) than in its colleagues. Maybe faint hints of kelp. Mouth: starts all on green bananas and oak and stays there for a long time, before more complex aromas manage to come through. We have nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, camomile tea, pepper… All thing woody, probably, but it’s not drying wood at all. Finish: rather almondy now, just like on the palate. Medium long. Comments: a little more of a nosing whisky but it’s still far from being tired I think. SGP:541 – 87 points.

June 17, 2008

Glen Garioch

(sponsored by Bert, Pat and Konstantin)

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1965 (43%, OB, light vatting) It’s certainly not the first time we try this one but since we always adored it, let’s try it again, this time H2H with a darker version. Colour: straw. Nose: what a beautiful sharpness and what a beautiful minerality! Extremely elegant, zesty, flinty, waxy and mineral, with a profile that really resembles some Clynelishes’ (not all). Say, the best 1983’s for example. The peat takes off only after a few minutes, together with wood ashes, coal oven and hints of mint and eucalyptus. Ah, yes, and a little grapefruit. Truly grand! Mouth: sweet but very nervous, with quite some peat, bitter oranges, liquorice and mint. Cough medicine. OBE staring to show off. Gets a little more peppery and citrusy (more oranges, tangerines, lemons.) A tad less complex than on the nose but still pretty stunning. Finish: amazingly long at 43% ABV and after all these years in its bottle, even if it’s a bit ‘narrower’ at this point. Comments: we had this wonder at 93 before and won’t change that. SGP:565 – 93 points.
Glen Garioch 21 yo 1965 (43%, OB, dark vatting) Colour: amber. Nose: this is just as stunning. All what’s in the lighter version, only toned down and mingled with chocolate, macchiato, prunes and, well, cognac, the whole creating a bigger feeling of ‘smokiness’. They invented the word ‘complex’ for this. Mouth: same thing. Even bigger than the ‘light’ version, with more peat, more coffee, more chocolate, more eucalyptus, more spices… More, more more. Finish: as long as a June day. Comments: a stunning old Glen Garioch. The sherry didn’t really add to the complexity on the nose but really did so on the palate. SGP:666 (is that dark enough, K.?) – 94 points.
Glen Garioch 1971/1997 (43%, Samaroli, cask #1239, 300 bottles) Not to be mistaken for the extraordinary Glen Garioch 1971 (59.6%, Samaroli, 2280 bottles, sherry, 75cl), nor for the fantastic 1971 for Oddbins. Colour: gold. Nose: this is very different, much more organic. Less peat but maelstroms of wet leaves, all kinds of teas, resins, mint, oils (notably olive)… Then something magnificently beefy (angus? ;-)), animal (hare belly – I insist, not Halle Berry!)… Also fresh putty, old books, almonds, pistachios… And loads of tobacco (newly opened Camel pack). Fantastic, as expected. Mouth: slightly less nervous than both 1963’s at the attack, maybe just a tad shier, but then develops on rather superb notes of resin (all kinds), chlorophyll chewing-gum, peat, bitter oranges, cinchona/Campari… Picks up steam constantly. Finish: quite shorter than the very long 1963’s and maybe a tad more mono-dimensional (resin/grass/peat/pepper) but still beautiful. Comments: let’s not split hair, this one is another fantastic Glen Garioch. SGP:254 – 91 points.
Glen Garioch 32 yo 1967/1999 (56.1%, The Bottlers, cask #664) We already tried this but never wrote any proper tasting notes. Colour: gold. Nose: more closed, more austere and even more waxy/mineral than all the other ones. Some peat but not too much. Quite some grapefruit as well, but also some slightly disturbing notes of ‘chemical’ orange juice (Fanta). Growing fizziness. Moss and fern. With water: it’s the herbal notes that stand out now, together with even more resin, fern, moss, pine needles etc. The ‘fizziness’ disappeared. Mouth (neat): punchy, compact, bittersweet and gingery. Hints of icing sugar on peppered bitter orange marmalade (well.) Grows more resinous and herbal after a while, as well as hugely spicy (pepper ahead). Quite some ginger as well, and more peat than on the nose. It hasn’t got its bros’ complexity, far from that, but it’s still very, very good whisky. With water: oh, now it’s the peat that grew bolder, together with the pepper and other spices. Improves! Finish: rather long, maybe just a tad bitterer. Comments: very good, even if not quite in the same league as the OB’s and the Samaroli. An excellent example of a heavily peated Glen Garioch in any case. Almost made it to 90 in my book. SGP:265 - 89 points.
Glen Garioch
McLelland’s Highland 1979/1991 (55%, OB for Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #540, Glen Garioch) A 1975 in the same series was fab (93) so we have high expectations here. Colour: straw. Nose: this is really different from all the other ones, as if it didn’t come from the same distillery at all. A little ‘duller’, so to speak, much more porridgy and ‘simply’ fruity (apples and pears). It’s rather fresh and pure, even sort of ‘crystalline’ but nowhere near its older bros. Also hints of old roses and grenadine syrup. Mouth: same profile here. Big fruitiness (tangerines, apples, pears) and something slightly bitterly grassy as well (apple peeling, walnut skin). Big waxy notes as well but Glen Garioch’s ‘previous’ personality is lost. Finish: long, fruity, somewhat kirschy. Comments: Glen Garioch clearly became a different whisky after 1975 – and changed again around 1985 I believe. This is excellent whisky for sure but maybe not why we’re into Glen Garioch. SGP:621 – 85 points.
Glen Garioch 29 yo 1968 (57.2%, OB, Hogshead #625) Colour: dark amber. Nose: ultra-big but also hyper-subtle sherry here. First we have figs and dates (truckloads), then superb tarry, rubbery, liquoricy and smoky notes (bicycle inner tube), then strawberry and quince jam, then plain prunes dipped in milk chocolate, then balsamic vinegar and cured ham (Parma)… In short, fab again, and I don’t even feel like I should add any water despite the high strength. Mouth: please call the anti-maltoporn squad. This is immense and, to tell you the truth, even a bit scary ;-). Finish: sorry, we haven’t got enough time. Comments: none. Except that this is probably the best cask of the large series of 1968’s that they issued around 1997 in my book (maybe together with cask #7). SGP:567 – 95 points.
Highland 15 yo 1973/1988 (60.5%, Slim Cowell’s personal selection III, Glen Garioch) A 1975 was marvellous - more about Slim Cowell here. Colour: dark gold. Nose: oh, this is different again! Uber-organic, I’d say. Starts on ‘rubbery’ peat (if you see what I mean) but gets then fruitier (grapefruits, passion), with big notes of coal smoke and caramel in the background. Develops more on orange marmalade and then patchouli, wet tobacco (pipe), orange juice and leather. Truly excellent, just a tad ‘below’ the 1963-1971’s. With water: it got much wilder and more organic – yet! ‘Natural’ porridge, ‘good’ yeast, bread, dead leaves, Havana cigars, old leather, old hessian… How complex! Mouth (neat): thick and oily but also as nervous as a youngster. More directly appealing than on the nose, extremely compact. Crystallised oranges mixed with cough syrup (don’t tell your doctor), peat and pepper. Superb punchy profile. With water: gets more complex once again, but this time more towards gentian spirit (hi, Juergen), salt and liquorice. Finish: long and in the same beautiful vein. Comments: frankly, all these pre-1976 GG’s are all wonderful whiskies but alas, they will all pass the snarf test with flying colours! What’s the snarf test, you may ask? Well, the answer is in Glenn’s Blather Bar on Facebook’s MM&F group. SGP:465 – 91 points.
Glen Garioch And also Glen Garioch 19 yo 1989/2008 (54.8%, Alambic Classique, cask #8430, 120 bottles) Yes, it’s very hard to follow old stunners like the ones we just had but I’m sure this one has the guts. Colour: pale gold. Nose: the attack on the nose is much more medicinal here (eucalyptus, antiseptic) for a short while and gets then more rounded and sweet (butterscotch, vanilla fudge), with clear hints of nutmeg in the background. Goes on on fresh strawberries, sweet apples (golden delicious) and finally whiffs of sea air. Very, very likeable. Mouth: very fruity attack (pineapples and pears), with quite some body. Switches then directly towards spices (mainly white pepper and ginger) and stays on these flavours until the finish. Finish: long and exactly on the same flavours. Comments: one of the fruitiest Glen Gariochs I could try. Pears and pineapples galore! SGP:732 – 86 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: very swet, very cool, even if she hasn't got a 'true' jazz voice... She's Beverley Staunton and she's doing the standard Lush Life.mp3 (from her 2001 CD 'Here's To You'.) Please buy Beverley Staunton's music!


June 16, 2008


by Nick Morgan
The Jazz Café
Camden Town, London
June 3rd 2008

No matter what happens to it (apparently someone recently tried to burn it down), and no matter how gentrified many of its streets have become, Camden Town remains a wonderfully seedy part of North London. So, prior to this gig I had a fifteen-minute wait, sheltering from the warm summer rain under scaffolding outside the iconic and always grubby Camden Town tube-station. There were a few of us there, usurping (much to their obvious annoyance) the pitches normally occupied by drug dealers, hustlers and their hangers-on. It was entertaining enough to watch them play out a street-scene imitation of Lou Reed’s ‘Dirty Boulevard’, but depressing to think that young people find themselves drawn into hopeless dead-end fantasies rather than fulfil the potential that lies inside them somewhere. Anyway, I discovered that with the wisdom that age and maturity brings, Jozzer and Trizza were somewhere nearby fulfilling themselves with the half-pints of wine that serve as regular measures in London bars these days, so with the Photographer in tow, headed off to the Jazz Café to meet them.
They have the dining thing worked out to perfection here – short and simple menu, good food, sure fire service and by and large, tables cleared before the main artist hits the stage.
Just as well on this occasion, as the hilarity generated by former Texas gubernatorial candidate, and (according to him) the State’s only Jewish cowboy, Kinky Friedman, and his compadres, Lebanese blue-grass guitarist Washington Ratso (“together we’re the best hope for peace the world has got”), and pianist Little Jewford (“he’s a Jew and he drives a Ford”), would have been enough to give any diner serious indigestion. Friedman is a polymath of extraordinary proportions – his lineage in country music goes back to his 1970’s band Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, who provoked admiration, angst and anger with provoking satirical songs such as ‘They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus any more’. Kinky
When (as might perhaps have been predicted) fame and fortune failed to come knocking on his door he reinvented himself as a crime-writer, and has a shelf-load of novels to his name. He fought the 2006 election for Governor of Texas as an unaffiliated libertarian candidate, coming fourth in the poll (out of five candidates), and may run again in 2010, ‘though he noted that “God probably couldn't have won as an independent”. He runs a cigar business, has his own range of salsas for sale, saves homeless animals, and still tours with his band. He is, as our American cousins sometimes say, ‘a piece of work’
It’s a gentle show. We get songs from the Texas Jewboys days, such as ‘We reserve the right to refuse service to you’, ‘Homo Erectus’ (which even managed to feature former Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta), ‘Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed’, ‘Waitret, please waitret’ (a satire on Texan accents, which includes the unrepeatable line, “Waitret, please Waitret, come sit on my fate”) and ‘Asshole from El Paso’, all full-on jaw-droppingly politically incorrect humour.
Kinky Friedman
Kinky Friedman
But it’s mixed with more tender songs such as ‘Rapid City South Dakota’, ‘Sold American’, ‘Farewell first lady of the air’ (a ballad about Amelia Earhart’s last flight’), the Carter Family classic ‘Rambling boy’, Woody Guthrie’s ‘Pretty Boy Floyd”, and the song that Johnny Cash made famous, ‘The ballad of Ira Hayes’. Then there’s ‘Ride ‘em Jew boy’, sung as a tribute to “the Hillbilly Dalai Lama” Willie Nelson, who recorded the song on Friedman’s 2007 album, ‘Why the hell not?’, a collection of classic Friedman compositions performed by artistes including, in addition to the Dalai Lama, the likes of Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yoakam.
Some of the songs are funny enough, but of course it’s Friedman’s shtick, the jokes, reminiscences and stories, and particularly his interaction with ‘idiot savant’ Jewford that provoke the laughter. Jewford has an exaggerated TV presenter’s voice that he uses partly as an echo, and partly as a one-man Greek chorus to Friedman’s comments and observations (“You’re welcome Kinky”). It’s anarchic and somewhat surreal, and as the evening wears on, painfully funny. Added to this, of course, are Friedman’s political tales about his failed campaign. Holding a pint of Guinness in one hand and a cigar in the other, he tells us about ‘Guinnessgate’, the incident during his campaign when he was spotted with an open can (a violation of the criminal code) of the black stuff in the back of a car during his campaign – his plea "I was drinking it ... but I did not swallow." He even reads an extract from his latest book, You Can Lead A Politician To Water But You Can't Make Him Think; Ten Commandments For Texas Politics, which like almost everything else is for sale at the end of the show (“I’ll sign anything but bad legislation”). And in a truly libertarian gesture, he scandalously steps to the back of the stage and lights his cigar, taking a few illicit puffs before letting it burn out. A committed man indeed.
Kinky Friedman and Little Jewford
I’ve no doubt he and the boys go through the same stuff each night, but if you haven’t heard it before it’s vastly entertaining. And even if you have it’s still a good show – I reckon more than half of the people in the very mixed audience have seen him before. The show ends with ‘Asshole from El Paso’ (“We don’t wipe our asses on Old Glory, God and Lone Star beer are things we trust. We keep our women virgins till they’re married, so hosin’ sheep is good enough for us”), after which the ‘encore’ is performed in one-on-one encounters with the very long queue of fans who wait to meet the Kinkster and get one of those promiscuous signatures. It simply goes without saying, should you get a chance, go and see this man perform. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Here's an old video of 'They Ain't Makin Jews Like Jesus Anymore'...
Old Grain


Alloa 43 yo 1964/2008 (46.1%, Alambic Classique, cask #8312, 121 bottles) I believe Alloa is the other name of North of Scotland Distillery, that famous distillery that experimented with distilling malt in continuous stills. Please see also here. There’s been previous versions by Alambic Classique, Jack Wieber and Scott’s Selection.
Colour: full gold. Nose: fragrant wood (sandalwood, cedar) and vanilla are the first aromas to spring out. Then we have more oak (fresh sawdust), orange marmalade and quite some ginger and white pepper, together with hints of nutmeg and maybe faint whiffs of rosewater and very ripe strwberries. Little coconut this time, but a rather beautiful freshness at such old age. Mouth: plenty of body at the attack, with a pleasant sourness (muesli, cooked apricots) and then lots of spices (Chinese anise, cinnamon). Gets fruitier after that (pineapples, pears) as well as quite almondy (marzipan). Ganache. Finish: long, a prolonging the palate, with just a little more pepper. Comments: really excellent, tireless old grain whisky, somewhat different (fruitier and more vibrant) that most other very old grains. Maybe an old grain for people who… aren’t into old grains? SGP:640 - 88 points.
Port Dundas 30 yo 1973/2004 (59.3%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, mini) Not sure this one has ever been bottled in full bottles as a 30yo. Colour: amber. Nose: less plain oak and even more vanilla here. Chocolate, roasted nuts and dried figs. Sherry? It’s also a little more bubblegummy and ‘coconutty’ like many old grains, but let’s see what gives with a little water. With water: it gets much more varnishy, but in a nice way, and then rather vegetal (infused tealeaves) and finally very fragrant. Musk, amber, old roses… Espresso coffee (what else?) Superb complexity in this one, but water is needed. Mouth (neat): thick and rich, almost oily, starting more on soft curries this time, with bunches of spices from the wood. Heavy notes of clove, pepper and nutmeg and a big sweetness from the alcohol – or so it seems. Maybe a tad too burning, let’s add water now. With water: it got really excellent, first smooth and then sweet and spicy like a Thai dish. Indian korma, honey, milk chocolate. Kept its oiliness. Finish: only medium long but silky and mildly spicy. Comments: excellent and complex – very different but in the same league as the Alloa as far as ‘global quality’ is concerned. SGP:551- 88 points.

June 15, 2008

(useless tasting notes by a perpetual newbie)
Hudson Whiskey ‘Four Grain Bourbon’ (46%, OB, batch #3, 2007) Made in New York with corn, rye, wheat and malted barley. Colour: gold. Nose: oh well, we’re lost here – already! Notes of lemon-sprinkled porridge, paraffin, warm sawdust, cut grass, hay, orange juice and caramel… What’s sure is that it’s far from being unpleasant! Mouth: sweet and maybe a tad dusty at the same time at the attack but it gets rather pleasant after a few seconds. Juniper, cinchona, bay leaves and cloves – too bad the wood isn’t integrated too well (notes of flour, tapioca, cinnamon.) Other than that it’s rather interesting spirit, kind of an American Campari? Finish: medium long, even more on gin, ginger and cinchona. Comments: this isn’t too close to my usual tastes but I must say I liked ‘the spirit of it.’ SGP:350 – 75 points (conservatory).
Hudson Whiskey ‘Manhattan Rye’ (46%, OB, batch #3, 2007) Colour: gold amber. Nose: this is very fruity, sweet and bubblegummy at first nosing, gaining balance after that. Toffee and ginger tonic mixed with Haribo bears, then porridge and ‘pleasant baby puke’ (sourness). Rather mashy but enjoyable, partly because it’s so different. Whiffs of hot raw oak (having just been sawn.) Pleasant combo, no doubt, albeit a bit youngish. Mouth: I’m completely lost now, I think I never tried something like this. Something of its sibling (the notes of juniper) but also more oak and more pepper. Peppered cranberry juice mixed with ginger ale and Dutch jenever? Oh well, better not try too hard… Finish: medium long, on the same flavours. Comments: again, this isn’t within my usual paradigm (come on!) but I sort of liked it. Please don’t take my rating too seriously, I have little references. SGP:440 – 75 points (conservatory).
A.H. Hirsch 16 yo 1974 (45.8%, OB, bourbon, Mitchell’s Distillery) An old favourite but we never wrote any proper tasting notes. Colour: gold – orange. Nose: starts on rather immense notes of marzipan and fresh vanilla mixed with argan oil and fresh putty. Goes on with even more high-end vanilla and hints of rosewater and tinned lychees and finally bananas, coconuts and pineapples. All that is extremely enjoyable and perfectly balanced. Mouth: perfect attack, quite multidimensional. Oak, bananas, vanilla fudge and orange blossom water. Develops more on spices (cloves, cinnamon, caraway) and gets then maybe just a tad too woody (slight bitterness). Finish: long, better balanced again, with the wood fading away. Comments: perfect whisky, one of these bourbons that aren’t too far from the best SMSW’s. Classic. SGP:541 – 87 points.
Rittenhouse Rye 21 yo (50%, OB, Heaven Hill) Colour: gold – orange. Nose: extremely expressive, almost exuberant at first nosing, starting both on vanilla fudge and all kinds of herbs (big notes of cumin and curcuma, parsley, dill) as well as fresh varnish and mint. The development happens more on quince jelly, candied oranges and orange cake and the whole is absolutely excellent. Love the mint in there (Kools?) Mouth: not too far from the Hirsch but with more punch and more wood/tannins. A bit drying and even acrid, that is, so let’s see what gives with a little water: it got fruitier and pretty much in line with the nose. Mint, quince and liquorice. Excellent balance now. Finish: rather long, very clean, fresh and vanilled. Comments: ‘probably state of the art’. Again, I’m an anti-expert as far as US whiskeys are concerned (less than that, actually.) SGP:531 – 87 points. (Thanks Pierre)
Evan Williams 1989 (149.2 proof, OB, for Whisky Live Paris, cask #3865176) If I’m not mistaken, this was bottled at a whopping 74.6% ABV (as the proof scale in the United States is simply equal to twice the % alcohol by volume – is that useful or what?) Colour: amber – orangey. Nose: this is much drier and much more marked by the wood it seems, but the high alcohol may mask it. Vanilla. With water: wood, vanilla and rum (cane sugar, ultra-ripe bananas.) Far from being unpleasant but so much simpler than Scotch malt I think! Mouth (neat): it seems that it’s good whiskey indeed but it’s too damn hot for our fragile palate (call us sissies if you like)! So, with water: it got extremely sweet and extremely oaky. Not unlike a mix of melted bubblegum and sawdust. Right, I may exaggerate a bit. Finish: long, but sort of plankish. Comments: sorry, this is very far from my references so I won’t even try to score it. SGP:550.

MUSIC – Recommended listening: hey, why not a little disco today- but good disco (is that possible?) with Jean Carn and her very Philly-sounding Free Love.mp3. Not sure the tune is good, but the band sure is, even the violins! Please buy Jean Carn's music... (next disco tune on Whiskyfun: April 27, 2027)

Jean Carn

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

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



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

Caol Ila 19 yo 1981/2000 (62.6%, The Bottlers, cask #519, refill sherry butt)

Caol Ila 26 yo 1982/2008 (61.3%, The Whisky Trader, Germany, cask #2723, 142 bottles)

Caol Ila 26 yo 1982/2008 (56.3%, Alambic Classique, cask #8416, 139 bottles)

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1965 (43%, OB, light vatting)

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1965 (43%, OB, dark vatting)

Highland 15 yo 1973/1988 (60.5%, Slim Cowell’s personal selection III, Glen Garioch)

Glen Garioch 1971/1997 (43%, Samaroli, cask #1239, 300 bottles)

Glen Garioch 29 yo 1968 (57.2%, OB, Hogshead #625)

Longmorn 33 yo 1973/2007 (49.4%, Duncan Taylor, cask #8913, 192 bottles)

Longmorn 1973/2007 (54.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask, First Fill Sherry Butt, cask #3649)

Port Ellen 1981/2008 ‘Feis Ile 2008’ (54.7%, OB, cask #1301)