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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2009 - Part 2

June 2009 - part 1 <--- June 2009 - part 2---> July 2009 - part 1


June 30, 2009

Glenlivet Glenlivet 25 yo 'XXV' (43%, OB, 2009) A version that was finished in Oloroso. Ha, finishings... Its wooden box is a tribute to Transformers, isn’t it? Colour: deep amber/orange. Nose: starts right on sherry, rather vinous I must say. Blackcurrant jam, strawberry jam, empty wine barrel, ‘at a winemaker’s during the harvest’ and so on. These winey notes do get mellower and better integrated after a few minutes, the whole getting more honeyed and maybe a tad meaty (ham), roasted and nutty. Raisins. A little old school. Mouth: fresher than expected, rather fruity (oranges) but gets then rather drying (cinnamon). A tad plankish I must say. Other than that we have notes of raisins, a little caramel, a few citrusy notes (pink grapefruits, or maybe regular ones)… It’s not a full-bodied whisky but I wouldn’t say it’s weak.
Finish: medium long, on orange juice and oak, especially at the signature, still quite drying. Comments: pretty pretty good (as Larry David would say) but frankly, there are many better IBs out there in my humble opinion… SGP:531 - 84 points.
Sapin Glenlivet 38 yo 1970/2009 (48.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #2004) I didn't find this one on the Web yet, maybe it's already a 39yo. It was bottled on april 28. Colour: full gold. Nose: another world and an ode to natural, non-finished whiskies especially after the XXV. Fantastic whiffs of honey and wild flowers on top of a little quince, apricot and maybe just hints of tinned lychees. Superbly balanced, certainly not tired and as fresh as, well, some freshly extracted honey. Discreet whiffs of cigar box. Mouth: as you know, these oldies can be overly woody but this one isn’t, even if it does display rather big notes of pine resin and fir buds liqueur (liqueur de sapin, see picture) and even chlorophyll chewing gum. Very nice spices (ginger and cinnamon, liquorice wood), a little vanilla, light honey… The oak grows bigger, the whole getting a tad drying. Still very good. Finish: long, a little minty, oaky. Comments: another very good one but I’d say it had to be bottled. It probably wouldn’t have made for a very good 40 – but what do I know? SGP:551 - 88 points.
Glenlivet Glenlivet 1975/2008 (51.5%, Scott's Selection) Colour: deep gold. Nose: this one displays more oak influence on the nose than the 1970 despite the fact that it’s a little younger. More vanilla and musky tones, whiffs of Shalimar, ginger and marzipan, butterscotch, orange cake, honey… A complex and extremely well balanced Glenlivet. With water: a little more resin, menthol, wine-poached pears and marshmallows. Much less straight oak. Mouth (neat): big, thick, and less woody than the 1970 this time. Lots of crystallised fruits (pears, oranges, guavas), lemon drops and butter pears. With water: vibrant, fruity and almondy. Not much evolution actually, it just got a little smoother and ‘easier’. Finish: long, a tad more peppery/oaky. More malt and more coffee too. Very ripe kiwis and oranges. Comments: just excellent. Does not need water but swims well. SGP:551 - 89 points.
Glenlivet Glenlivet 14 yo 1994/2009 (61.0%, Adelphi, cask ##61416, 560 bottles) You really need your spectacles to be able to read the details on the label, Adelphi isn’t for ageing whisky lovers (or only for ageing whisky lovers who won’t give a…) Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts amazingly quiet, a tad shy, with a few oaky and orangey notes flying around. Hints of old white wine, sauce hollandaise, maybe a little sourish. With water: opens up but gets rather winey (cassis buds tea) and unexpectedly earthy/rooty. Notes of cranberry juice. A little dusty. Maybe lacks a little polishing, that is to say a few more years. Mouth (neat): too powerful. Orange drops and bitter tea (over-infused). With water: that did not work too well, it got too gingery and a tad ‘chemical’ (cheap fruit drops). Finish: long, more on strawberry drops. A little cardboardy too. Comments: maybe not in the tradition of Adelphi’s usually great bottlings. SGP:531 - 78 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Artist: Canadian singer/songwriter Andre Ethier
Title: Polynesian beach
From: Born on blue fog (2007)
Please buy Andre Ethier's music.

Andre Ethier

June 29, 2009

Caol Ila
Caol Ila 10 yo 1993/2003 (46%, High Spirits for Antica Trattoria a Sandro al Navile, cask #9942, 377 bottles) Sandro Montanari in Bologna is one of the ‘big five’ Italian collectors (Begnoni, Casari, d’Ambrosio, Montanari, Zagatti, all together owning probably much, much more than 100,000 bottles). Sandro owns an excellent trattoria in Bologna and has his own bottlings from time to time. This Caol Ila is one of them. Colour: pale straw. Nose: typical middle-aged Caol Ila, extremely clean, coastal and lemony with mineral whiffs. That is to say oysters, lemon juice and cold ashes. Need I say more? Mouth: as good as it gets, with quite some salt, peat, kippers, buttered toffee and lemon. Perfect strength and perfect profile, the whole being extremely full and satisfying. Very discreet touches of lavender (sweets). Finish: long, a tad earthier as often, very clean, with quite some salt in the aftertaste.
Sandro Montanari
Comments: the epitome of a perfect young Caol Ila. Perfect balance wood/spirit, already at its peak when it was bottled. SGP:357 – 87 points (and thanks, Sandro and Max!)
Caol Ila 13 yo (46%, Duthies, +/- 2009) Colour: white wine. Nose: less clean and certainly more porridgy/beer-ish than the 1993. More wet paper, vegetables, wool and ginger, getting quite cardboardy. Not one of the best Caol Ilas I’ve ever tried - so far. Mouth: better than on the nose but the sweetish notes (grenadine, strawberry syrup) do not go well with Caol Ila in my opinion, they kind of fight the ‘peatiness’ (in every sense of the word). A bitter/sour/sweet Caol Ila. Finish: rather long, with the salt kicking in. Nicer than at the attack. Comments: perfectly satisfactory but there are other Caol Ilas (to say the least – just saw that I tried more than 220 different ones so far). Anyway, I liked the other bottlings in this new series much better. SGP:446 - 78 points.
Caol Ila 13 yo 1995/2008 (59.8%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, cask #10046, bourbon wood) The labels quotes Robbie Burns: 'An honest bottle and a good friend'. Colour: white wine. Nose: powerful and closer in style to the Duthies than to the High Spirits. More vanilla and wet papers. Kelp. Very powerful, water is needed. With water: the whiffs of kelp divide into myriads of other coastal notes but we shan’t list all the seaweeds and seashells we could find in the Oxford Dictionary, shall we? Extremely maritime. Mouth (neat): very sweet, pearish, salty and earthy, but let’s not take any more chances, this is very powerful indeed. With water: now we have one of these flinty, lemony, zesty Caol Ilas that always remind us of some Alsatian Rieslings (but are there other Rieslings?) Very kippery too (which the Riesling aren’t). Finish: long, clean, straightforward. Caol Ila. Comments: very good but water is absolutely de rigueur. SGP:356 - 86 points.
Caol Ila 1998/2009 (60.9%, Malts of Scotland, cask #12374, 226 bottles) All bottlings by this new bottler that I could try so far have been excellent. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a different style, with more oak influence. More vanilla and more coffee plus the rather wonderful coastal/peaty notes. A little musk. Once again, this is extremely potent so water is obligatory. With water: oh no, but this is wonderful! Amazing how it reminds me of older version of Caol Ila, including pre-1970. Cough syrup, coal, quince, clams, juniper, dill, leather polish, linseed oil, tar, fudge, gentian… Well, we’re sort of closer to Lagavulin than to CI here. What did ‘they’ do to this cask? Mouth (neat): strong but very creamy and oily, with a very big and sweet spiciness. Korma? A lot of coconut too, sign of a first fill cask. With water: what is this? Caol Ila 1998, really? There must be a trick somewhere. Finish: as long as winter in Lapland, on a superb combination of pine syrup, peat, pepper, salt and crystallised oranges. Comments: an exceptional cask, let’s only hope there are many of the same quality queuing in the Scottish bottling halls. SGP:547 - 91 points.
Caol Ila 12 yo (63.5%, James MacArthur, Old Cream Label w. Golden Letters, 75cl, +/- 1986) The picture shows the 17yo that was issued at the same time. Colour: white wine. Nose: peated cologne! This is un-nosable at bottling strength, and according to some friends, I’m no sissy. With water: a profile that’s pretty close to the Duthies’ that is to say a Caol Ila that’s rather on wet wool, stones, paper and porridge. Not my favourite kind. Mouth (neat): a panzer division. With water: much, much (much, much, much) better. Classic peat, salt, clams, smoked salmon, vanilla crème and tar liqueur. Finish: same, for a very long time. Comments: this one doesn’t match the legendary early sherried versions by James McArthur (including the ones under the London Scottish banner) but I must say once you’ve given a lot of water to it, and provided you also give it much of your precious time, it gets rather, well, rewarding. SGP:347 - 81 points.
PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK on holidays in St Tropez

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Artist: the good Dr Feelgood once again
Title: She does it right (live)
Please buy Dr Feelfood's music, they did/do it right too.

Dr Feelgood

June 28, 2009

Bert Jansch

by Nick Morgan
The Jazz Café, Camden Town, London, June 8th 2009

This special show, a prelude to a Jansch tour of North America, has been promoted by Mojo Magazine in the run-up to the unveiling of their 2009 Honours List. In a few days’ time, Jansch, a former prize winner, will be handing out the best Live Act award to the Fleet Foxes.

Tonight he’s struggling to remember that the other reason for the gig is the imminent re-release of three long unavailable albums from the 1970s: LA Turnaround (produced by Mike Nesmith, and apparently a failed attempt to launch Jansch into the mainstream); Santa Barbara Honeymoon and A Rare Conundrum. Introducing ‘One for Jo’ he stumbles at “This one’s from …”, finally adding “…Santa Barbara Honeymoon ... or maybe it's from LA Turnaround ... it was one of those, and it came out about 10 years ago…” Later he plays “another song from one of those albums …”. Fortunately, with only one or two exceptions, he has no difficulty remembering the songs, as he performs a selection that spans his career. And it’s good to see that he’s sufficiently confident in his new material to not worry about disposing of some of his most memorable songs early in the set, almost as warm- ups, rather than saving them for the end. Not many artists would get away easily with starting a performance with songs as strong as ‘Strolling down the highway’, ‘My Donald’, Blackwaterside’ (which as I recall came with a gentle yet pointed mention of Jimmy Page, who famously appropriated much of it), ‘Running from home’ and the lovely ‘Morning brings peace of mind’. Jansch performs them with a seeming nonchalance that’s at odds with the intensity of both his guitar work and his voice, perhaps not quite as strong as it might be, but as haunting as ever, as the I-pod in my head often reminds me.

Bernard Butler, Beth Orton, Bert Jansch
But as Jozzer rightly pointed out, you can have too much of a good thing, and what really makes this evening work is the presence of guests Paul Wassif, who joins on guitar at the end of the first set, and Bernard Butler and Beth Orton who play and sing with him for the end of the second. Orton’s vocals in particular add another dimension to Jansch’s songs which his flat and droning voice (much though I like it) simply can’t achieve. She sings beautifully on ‘Katie Cruel’ and ‘Watch the stars’ from 2006’s Black Swan. Butler is another musician who can add complex and wonderfully complimentary layers and textures to Jansch’s guitar and vocals, which he does on ‘Fresh as a sweet Sunday morning’, ‘It don’t bother me’, ‘Blues run the game’ and ‘Carnival’, the latter two both compositions by the late Jackson C Frank. Of particular note for guitarists is the delicacy and effectiveness with which Butler uses his Bigsby vibrato arm, at the touch of a little finger.
Not that the guitarists in the Jazz Café were paying too much attention to Butler. They were about five deep at the front of the stage, arms crossed to a man, staring intently at Jansch’s fret board, trying no doubt to commit every piece of fingering to memory. They reminded me of something I’d seen before, but I just can’t think what. And whilst Jansch must be well-used to performing in this sort of fishbowl by now, I have to say their rather humourless fanaticism paid poor tribute to this first class show. After all, music (if I dare to suggest, like single malt Scotch whisky) is all about enjoyment, and particularly the thrill of the moment. I’m just glad that I was upstairs, where apart from the two unaccountably sleeping Americans, the fun was flowing as freely as you like. – Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Bert Jansch on MySpace
Young Peated
I don’t know if there’s one single distillery in Scotland that doesn’t make peated batches these days. Okay, this is far-fetched, the large conglomerates that own many distilleries do not need to do that, but the smaller ones seem to. Anyway, these three peated malts where distilled at distilleries that usually do unpeated.
Caperdonich 10 yo 1998/2008 'Peated' (47.2%, Alambic Classique, decanter, 299 bottles) Like several ex-Seagram distilleries, Caperdonich used to make some peated batches since the 1970s. Colour: white wine, almost white. Nose: the first feeling we had was ‘Laphroaig newmake!’ The peat is rather medicinal in this one, with quite some antiseptic and tincture of iodine but little coastal notes if any. Other than that we have pears, cut apples, leaves, just a little tar and finally quite a lot of eucalyptus (Vicks). Very pleasant, very peaty and already very balanced. Mouth: sweet smoke! Or smoked apple juice plus a little salt, getting then half-kippery, half-bacony (I’m sorry, I just saw that bacony was also the Laotian word for bitch – not kidding.) Something a tad chalky/earthy. Finish: long, clean and very sweet. Smoked bubblegum. Comments: good young peated whisky, big sweetness. SGP:527 - 81 points.
Ballantruan 2001/2008 (60.4%, Jack Wieber, The Cross Hill, 316 bottles) As you may know, Ballantruan used to be another name for Tomintoul's peated batches. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s the kind of rubbery peat that we get, as well as whiffs of burnt tyres, burning plastic and lemonade. Hard. With water: gets even dirtier. Smoked cheese, dust, lemon squash and aspirin tablets. A huge smokiness awakes after a good ten minutes, though, quite spectacular. You like smoke, you like this. Also whiffs of brand new sneakers (rubber, glue and all that). Mouth (neat): much better than on the nose when neat, cleaner and fruitier. Smoked kiwis? Gets very ashy and kind of drying after a while. With water: now it’s frankly good, with an unusual and interesting strawberry drops/ashy peat combo. Unusual indeed. Finish: rather long, maybe a tad narrow. Bitter aftertaste (walnut skin). Comments: this one is a strange beast. I didn’t like the nose too much (‘unusual’ isn’t enough) but it’s true that the palate really had its moments. SGP:348 - 78 points.
Bunnahabhain 2005/2009 (62.1%, Jean Boyer for Whisky-Distilleries Forum, cask #175) 'Moine taste' states the label, and ‘moine’ means peat in Gaelic. With all these new whiskies bearing strange names, we’ll all soon be fluent in Gaelic. An endangered language? Come on! Colour: as white as water. Nose: reminding me the Caperdonich but it’s too powerful to be nosed ‘like that’. Quite some smoke emerging, though… With water: very unusual ultra-leafy and very metallic peatiness (aluminium pan, stove), then pine resin and needles. Lots! The notes of pears, signs of youth, remain discreet in the background. Mouth (neat): the cleanest of them all, with a very nice earthy/rooty profile showing up just before the high alcohol floods everything. With water: gentler of course, clean, young, with some butter pears, gentian spirit (always a good sign!), a little smoked fish and the same notes of pine resin/cough drops as on the nose, albeit toned down. Finish: long, on Williams pears, cold ashes and fir tree buds liqueur like some crazy Alsatian make when nobody’s watching. Comments: a very young shot but a very good shot, for peat freaks exclusively. And interesting! SGP:427 - 84 points.

June 27, 2009

CONCERT REVIEW by Luca Chichizola

San Siro Stadium
18th June 2009



Depeche Mode
Goooood eeeeevening, Milan!!!!! Wow, these words (although highly unoriginal) still bring shivers down my spine whenever I hear them screamed by Dave Gahan, the charismatic frontman of Depeche Mode
Being a Devoted, a follower of the cult of Depeche Mode, means that all their album releases (almost every 4-5 years) are an event: the frenzy when the album is released (and this time it was even higher, since it came in a very special and luxurious boxset with every kind of goodies inside), the eager collecting of all the singles in all the possible formats (hell, I am even collecting the vinyl versions even if I no longer have easy access to a turntable!), the T-shirts, and of course the concerts. In 2006 I had been to Manchester in occasion of the “Touring the Angel” tour, and it was a fantastic evening. How could I miss this time? Yeah, I know, I haven’t written very kind words about their new album “Sounds of the Universe”, and I still stand on every word I have written: I like the new effort from my idols from Basildon quite a bit less than all of their previous records. Sure, it is pleasant, elegant, polished and competent enough (apart from a couple of truly bad songs) and it has some really charming moments, but after two months still something fails to click inside me. Probably it has something to do with me being “old fashioned”, or more probably with me enjoying (and empathizing a lot with) the good old dark side of Depeche Mode, the “pain and suffering in various tempos”, their fascinating, twisted, perverted and corrupt soul. And, as a consequence, I couldn’t help but being a little upset by their new, lighter, (slightly) more optimistic and “conventional” style (though it’s still striking how unique they are even in this latest album).
So last November, even before we had had a chance to hear some of the new material, my friend Alessandro (great lover of Talisker and Arbeg) and I had bought our tickets for one of the two Italian dates of the “Tour of the Universe”: Milan, Meazza/San Siro Stadium, June 18th. Yes, Depeche Mode playing at the “Scala of Football” (that’s soccer, for you uneducated Yanks) could be nothing but a MASSIVE event. Anyway, as the days neared to the night of the gig, some dark omen was cast upon us. At the beginning of May, the tour was stopped because of health problems for Dave Gahan: as it turned out, the doctors accidentally found a malignant cancer in his bladder and had to remove it surgically. It’s weird how life is: for years you lead a self-destructive life-style, on a steady diet of heroin, as if you couldn’t care less if you would ever reach old age… and then an angel saves you on the brink of death. You sober up, you get wiser, you actually start loving life again. You build a family, you have a child. You sing every night with the passion of an 18 years old, you publish two solo albums (one of them honestly quite good), and you actually start being a hell of a creative input for the band in which you have simply been a frontman for years. You find new enthusiasm in life, you clearly LOVE every minute of what you are doing. And then… you find a malignant cancer in your body, as if God was there to remind you of the times when you didn’t care a shit about this life that you’re loving so much now, and that all this new life could suddenly have an end. Yeah, it may sound spooky (or corny, depending on how much you love or hate Depeche Mode) but it’s EXACTLY the same theme that the band had covered in 1984 with their chilling song “Blasphemous Rumours”. Luckily for us, but most of all for Dave (we actually love the guy like a brother, and would like to meet him once in our life and shake his hand, give him a hug and simply say to him “thank you for leading us through so many years with your voice”), all turned out well and the cancer was removed… so you can imagine the joy of seeing him back on stage, full of renewed energy just a few days after his operation.
We arrived in Milan in the mid-afternoon, a hot and humid day of the worst kind you can experience in Northern Italy. So hot that we were sweating like fountains even when standing still.
Luckily, San Siro stadium is covered for the largest part of it, so once inside we were at least slightly better than we had been outside during our quest for the nicest T-shirts at the various stands (why do the unofficial ones have always to be more attractive, not to mention cheaper, than the official ones? Damn!). The sight inside the stadium was impressive: it was still partly empty, but slowly filling up and already giving us a taste of how crowded it would get. Luca
As it turned out later, the audience that night was of approximately 70000 people… and you can imagine how loud and cheerful such a large gathering of people can be. Yep, and that’s where my two biggest complaints for the gig come. First, there were TOO many people. But not only too many, actually many more than the venue could take: at the beginning of the concert, it was immediately clear that (since “the grabbing hands grab all they can”) the promoters of the event had sold many more tickets than the number of available seats.
The result? People not knowing where to go, stomping the feet of those who had secured a (rightfully paid for) seating place and gathering around like a flock of sheep obstructing the view from the seated places. Of course we solved this by standing too, but paying a bonus for a seating place and then having to stand is a bit of a fraud. Second problem, of which we already got a hint of it during the performance of the support band: the wolume was abso-fucking-lutely low. San Siro
I like to listen to my music loud enough to have punch but not too loud, so I hate rock concerts where my guts are shaking and where I wish I had brought some heavy-duty ear plugs (of the kind we use at the engine test benches) with me. So, a reasonable volume is fine with me: if I want to go deaf and enjoy the experience of 120 dB I’ll go to the Caselle airfield and ask for a permission to go on the airstrip when the Eurofighter is taking off (after all, I have worked for the military and I still have connections). But this wasn’t the case of this gig: the volume was so low that sometimes it was hard to understand what song had started playing, and overall all the songs lacked the needed punch, not to mention that the subtleties in arrangements were lost under the cheering and singing-a-long of the 70000 Devoted mentioned above.
It turns out that this unusual restraint was due to a recent decree of the over-eager mayor of Milan, Mrs. Letizia Moratti: well, a heartfelt f**k you to Mrs. Moratti, who from the mummified look of her face has obviously never been to a rock concert. And, while we are at it, f**k her brother too (big oil tycoon and owner of the nauseating Inter football club – sorry, Alessandro). Anyway, over with the bad stuff, because the evening was magical…   Letizia
The concert started, as in previous gigs from the tour, with three songs from the new album: “In chains” (its long intro so perfectly suited for building anticipation into the show), the rousing “Wrong” and the fine “Hole to feed”. Good songs, among the best ones from “Sounds of the Universe”, but just an appetizer for what was yet to come… yes, because we were then treated to a lovely and energetic version of “Walking in my shoes” (with the extended and rawer bassy intro that is now customary after the Devotional Tour and the “Grungy Gonads” remix of the song), the classy and ultra-cool “It’s no good”, the usually punchy live version of 1986’s “A question of time” (because you may not know that since 1993 Depeche Mode have been employing a live drummer on stage, which accounts for “rockier” and rawer alternate takes of their all-electronic album songs: and Mr. Christian Eigner sure is an exciting live drummer!), and a sparkling and heart moving rendition of “Precious” (a song which anyone who has children and knows the personal story of Martin Gore will find absolutely touching). Personally, I was overwhelmed by the following song, one of their absolute darkest and most nihilistic: “Fly on the windscreen”, unrelentless, gritty and mean, and it was the first time I heard it played live in person. Sure, the “Devotional” version from the early ‘90s was still grittier, jerkier and meaner, but I’m not complaining. Then, as it is usual for Depeche Mode concerts, the pace slowed a little: Mr. Gahan took a break, and it was time for Mr. Gore to sing two of his songs personally.
If you know your DM, you know that since the early ‘80s Martin Gore writes the songs and Gahan sings them except for a few (although this changed in the last two albums, where Gahan asked to include some of his compositional and writing efforts too for a change, and at times with very good results). It’s not that Martin Gore, in addition to being a great writer, hasn’t got a nice voice and so prefers Dave to sing in his place. On the contrary, Martin has a beautiful voice, probably even more skilled and emotional than Dave’s. Get yourself a copy of “Counterfeit 2” (where Martin covers songs from Nick Cave, David Bowie, Kurt Weill, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Lou Reed and others) and you’ll hear what I mean. Or the “demos” disc in the “Sounds of the Universe” boxset, where many of the classic DM songs are performed by their own author. The truth is that he has a more delicate quality in his chords, while many songs actually call for Gahan’s operatic and menacing baritone. So Martin, being a very unselfish and humble guy, prefers his friend Dave to sing them. Anyway, no Depeche Mode concert can exist without at least two songs sung by Martin himself, and usually it’s one of the most intimate moments of the gig also thanks to the sparse acoustic piano and guitar arrangement (very different from the one in the albums). This time, Martin chose the new song “Little soul” and his classic workhorse “Home”, one of the most beautiful and haunting songs ever on the theme of the beauty and comfort of death(!). Great stuff, although personally I had enjoyed even more what he had done in the previous tour, when he dug out from the archives some extremely old and moving songs like “It doesn’t matter”, “Shake the disease” and “Leave in silence”.
After this break, Dave was on stage again. Nice to see him on good health: we were a bit worried because he usually is very dynamic, and we didn’t want him to stress his stamina too much after the operation. OK, he was a little more static than usual, but he didn’t spare any of his microphone stand twirling antics: let’s just hope that he will still be fine on the long run, because in his place I would have called it quits for a while and got six months’ rest… But luckily Dave is made of stronger stuff than I am, and actually we noticed that Dave’s voice was even better than usual in spite of everything. Yes, during the whole show he managed an incredible control of his voice, and an unexpectedly extended vocal range: sometimes in the past (either in Manchester or in live recordings) he could sound a little nasal and “stretched” in some passages during the performance, but this time he truly topped himself from start to finish.
Depeche Mode
The next song was Dave’s own “Come back”, in a version which is hands down the best I have ever heard: rocky and lively, not as noisy as the album mix and not as wimpy as the demo. Great stuff! Another pleasant surprise was “Peace”, a song which I had found a bit cheesy on the album and which sounded pleasantly majestical in such a big stadium. The rest of the show was completely dedicated to some of the legendary old hits: the brooding “In your room”, the arena-stomper “I feel you”, the moody and energetic “Policy of truth”, the now-classic live version “Enjoy the silence” (with an always different guitar solo from Martin), and of course “Never let me down again”: a song which is always played live and as such might seem a little abused… but you should have seen the waving of hands from the crowd in San Siro… massive!
It was then time for the encores. First the ominous “Stripped”, then the wicked and tongue-in-cheek S/M hymn “Master and servant”, then another song I had never heard played live in spite of being one of their classics from the ‘80s: “Strangelove”. To end the show, a usually fine rendition of “Personal Jesus” (though I preferred the extended final guitar soloing from “Touring the Angel”), and then a choice of song which was just as great as “Goodnight lovers” had been three years ago: “Waiting for the night”, in a specially sparse and delicate acoustic arrangement with Martin and Dave under the spotlight in front of the stage’s catwalk. And then, moving as usual, a big hug between the two… friends for a life, band companions for a life… and in a blink, two wonderful hours had passed.
It was a pleasure to see Depeche Mode live once again, and especially being there to shout all of our gratitude to the band at the top of our lungs. It was nice to see our old friends on stage, and give them our support once again. Little did we know that on the next day Depeche Mode, stunned by the incredible success of their Italian gigs, would announce two more dates… including one in my hometown of Torino on November 26th 2009. Oh, well, I guess we’ll have to attend there too (if we still manage to find the tickets, since they went away like hot cakes in a matter of minutes)… and it will be a pleasure because (apart from the organization issues) the show was great.
Maybe next time we’ll also manage to see something of keyboard player Andrew Fletcher… because at San Siro we were in a lateral position and we could only guess he was there! Tour of the Universe
Special thanks, for the wonderful company and friendship, to the two lovely young Devotees we’ve met in San Siro at the gig, Licia and Teresa. Can’t wait to see you soon again at the next DM concert!
As usual, our recommendation: please buy Depeche Mode’s music! All concerts from the “Tour of the Universe” are available in official recordings of the highest quality here. - Luca Chichizola

June 26, 2009

by Nick Morgan
The Barbican, London
May 27th 2009

Ralph Stanley is within a cat’s whisker of being the same age as my dear old Mum, and let me tell you that she would find it pretty difficult to stay on her feet for an hour and a half, let alone sing and play the banjo, too. Dr Stanley is one of the United States’ most enduring country music performers, but you should understand that although his show is tinged with Nashville shtick, his music (“what we call old-time mountain-style bluegrass”) couldn’t be further removed from the mass-produced radio-centric pap that one normally associates with the genre.

Ralph Stanley
True, some of it is cast in Country’s unique maudlin style, such as “It’s springtime and the robin built a nest on daddy’s grave”, but at its best, the music and in particular, Dr Stanley’s singing, comes from another time and another place. Not that his voice tonight is on top form, as he frequently reminds us with very genuine apologies. This is not simply down to his age, given that no-one (surely not even Mick Jagger?) can expect to have the voice of a man in his prime at the age of 82. No, sir! Dr Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys are in London hot-foot from the 39th Annual Memorial Weekend Bluegrass Festival, held at the Hills of Home Park in Virginia (“now you make sure you call by and make a visit to us there next year”), where they performed for three consecutive nights (I note that even Fairport Convention haven’t yet got that indulgent at their Cropredy Festival). Not surprisingly, the strain is telling. And just to make things worse, the band have lost their regular bass player since son Ralph Stanley II wasn’t able to make the trip, while grandson and mandolin prodigy Nathan Stanley was left at home, having lost his passport.
Steve Sparkman
The exceptionally talented Kentuckian Steve Sparkman
But the Clinch Mountain Boys have been around for over fifty years and take such things in their stride. Originally formed by Ralph and older brother Carter (who died from chronic alcoholism in 1966), the band, along with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, were responsible for creating and popularising the bluegrass style of music. They were noted for vocal style and harmonies heavily influenced by their membership of the Primitive Baptist Universalist Church, a group found predominantly in the Appalachians and which incorporated a minor-key ‘mountain’ style of singing into its services. So it’s when Dr Stanley hits these striking notes that he has the audience in his hand. The current line-up boasts Virginian James A Shelton on vocals and guitar, North Carolinian Dewey Brown on fiddle and vocals, and the exceptionally talented Kentuckian Steve Sparkman on banjo. Dr Stanley, of course, is famed for his unique claw-hammer style of banjo picking, learnt from his mother. Sadly, his playing days are almost over and, to be honest, we might have been better off without the one effort he made. But the way in which the band carefully shepherded Dr Stanley through the show, all taking their turn at vocals and solos, was admirable.
Stanley’s reputation with a new and international audience, many unfamiliar with bluegrass, was established through of a telephone conversation with T Bone Burnett, who at the time was musical director for the Cohen Brothers on their Odyssean film ‘O Brother Where Art Thou? As a result, not only were many of the songs used on the bestselling soundtrack based on Stanley Brothers arrangements, but Dr Stanley himself delivered the memorable ‘Oh death’. Listen, and you’ll immediately appreciate that most unusual style of singing. Hence, the song is one of the highlights of the evening, along with ‘Man of constant sorrow’, a hit for the brothers back in 1950.

But it took a childhood memory from this elderly gentleman to capture my imagination entirely, when he and the band sang an ‘a cappella’ version of ‘Amazing Grace’, calling each line of the song just as he heard them called for the congregation as a boy in his ‘No -hellers’ church with his mother. Apparently, it’s called ‘lining out’, where a leader not only calls or chants the words, but also sets the tune and tempo, and which I learn is “an outgrowth of seventeenth-century psalmody of the British Isles and the American colonies and of early eighteenth-century hymnody”. Whatever its origins, it was a moment worth the price of the ticket. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Listen: Ralph Stanley on MySpace

Ralph Stanley


Many Glenrothes are superb but we’re still looking for one that will dethrone the flavourtastic official 1980 single cask from a few years ago. The distillery is about to launch what I’d call a ‘Chinese trilogy’, a 1978, a 1988 and a 1998 for the Chinese market. As you many know, ‘8’ is a lucky number in China. We don’t have the 1978 – yet – but let’s not wait and try the 1988 and the 1998 if you please.
Glenrothes 1998/2009 (43%, OB, Asia) Colour: gold. Nose: classic Glenrothes! No excessive youth but a very pleasant liveliness, starting on typical ‘yellow’ flowers (dandelions and buttercups), light honey (acacia for instance) and some almondy/nutty notes that we don’t find in older versions. Goes on with notes of Sauternes wine (quite some ripe apricot) and a lot of butterscotch, vanillas and cappuccino and finally just a little wood smoke and an extra ‘youth’ kick between fresh big oranges and ripe strawberries. It actually noses more like a 15yo than like a 10/11yo Glenrothes and in that sense reminds me of a 1985/1997 that I enjoyed mucho at the time. Mouth: starts a bit shy and narrow but that doesn’t last for long. Quite some honey and marmalade, other ‘orangey stuff’, ripe apples, toasted bread, lemon marmalade then cinnamon and nutmeg from the wood. Candy sugar. Rather medium-bodied and rather easy-sipping. Finish: not very long but clean, mainly on honey and a little vanilla fudge. Comments: the nose was much to my liking, the palate as well but just a little more oomph would have been welcome. Maybe a perfect whisky to quaff with food? SGP:421 - 84 points.
Glenrothes 1988/2009 (43%, OB, Asia) Colour: deep gold. Nose: ha-ha, very well picked because it really noses like ‘the 1998 with ten more years’. It’s exactly in the same ‘cluster’ but there are many more ‘interstitial’ aromas between the main notes (please read above again ;-). Some leather, hints of eucalyptus and maybe even mint liqueur, quite some chestnut purée, a little more wood smoke (including whiffs of pine), hay, rich plum jam, a touch of liquorice and only faint whiffs of fresh oak. And toasted brioche. And marzipan. And marmalade. And croissants (Serge, this is no breakfast!) A rich and complex nose. Mouth: now it really differs from the 1998, being bigger and, most of all, longer and ‘wider’. More crystallised ginger for a start, then more honey, ripe fruits and marmalade and finally a much bigger spiciness involving pepper, cloves, a little cumin and juniper. Slight grassiness in the back. Definitely bigger than the 1998. Finish: once again, longer than the 1998 and fuller, rich, with some Demerara sugar remaining on your tongue for a long time. Comments: an excellent, rather nervous version of Glenrothes. And entertaining. SGP:552 - 88 points.
And also Glenrothes 'John Ramsay Legacy' (46.7%, OB, 1400 bottles, 2009) John Ramsay, master distiller at Glenrothes, just retired (or is about to retire) and selected two casks to celebrate with panache. These two casks – probably butts according to the size of the batch – have been vatted together. Colour: gold, a tad lighter than the 1988. Nose: very interesting! Interesting as a whisky and interesting because John Ramsay selected it, as it’s rather different from the ‘usual’ official Glenrothes. Indeed, it’s rather more powerful (not just the strength) and kind of wilder, with more obvious oak and marzipan for a start, followed with quite some heather and other herbs and flowers. In a certain sense, we’re rather in the direction of a Highland Park 25yo here. Other ‘smaller’ notes: liquorice, roots, horse dung (just very tiny notes), gentian eau-de-vie and a wee ‘peatiness’. Mouth: we’re closer to the 1988, only with even more oomph and a big body. The spices attack first (pepper and ginger), then more herbal notes (thyme, liquorice wood), then quite some aniseed and cardamom… It’s only after that spicy/herbal cavalry that Glenrothes’ typical mellow/creamy notes emerge, with some custard, marmalade, honey and nougat. Finish: long, still nervous, mostly on roasted/honeyed nuts. Comments: definitely not one of these round and mellow Glenrothes that one may sip in an English gentleman’s club. I’ve often noticed that master distillers tend to prefer whiskies that are as close as possible to the original spirit. I say well done, even if this one is in no way an easy ‘just-drink-don’t-ask’ malt whisky. If you’re not into easy aromas and flavours, watch this one! (sorry, no ideas as for its price, maybe expensive.) SGP:462 - 91 points. Now, the 1980 cask #17563 is still my my fav (WF93). (thanks, Yves!)
July 1 update: too fast again, we just got the details from the distillers' regarding the John Ramsay bottling: "John has identified a parcel of second fill American oak sherry casks from 1973 to 1987 which have now been married together and very gradually reduced in strength but not chill-filtered." "The Glenrothes John Ramsay will be available starting September at Berry Bros & Rudd and other specialist retailers at £700 per bottle."

June 25, 2009

Glen Scotia


Our latest Glen Scotia tasting session was quite catastrophic but let’s not give up and work with a will!

Glen Scotia 15 yo 1992/2007 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, ref 4080, 707 bottles) Colour: dark gold. Nose: very heavy coffee and rubber/sulphur here, and then whiffs of fresh mint and eucalyptus plus quite some milk chocolate. Other than that it’s a tad indefinite, lacking freshness. With water: more whiffs of sulphur, old books and asparagus cooking water. Saved by rather pleasant notes of orange marmalade and then a nice evolution towards soot and saltpetre. Mouth (neat): coffee-schnapps, if you see what I mean, with an added layer of cinnamon and nutmeg. The whole is quite dusty and cardboardy, and not to our liking. With water: once again, it improved a bit, with a little salt and notes of oysters. Finish: rather long, leathery, nuttier. Comments: a very dry and strange whisky that’s sometimes a tad repulsive and sometimes pretty interesting. Some people might say it’s full of flaws – technically speaking. Water is obligatory. SGP:242 - 74 points.
Glen Scotia 16 yo 1992 (52.1%, Exclusive Malts, sherry, cask #302, 282 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: sulphury but less so than the DL. Quite some dust, cocoa powder, old papers, flour, wet chalk or clay… A little hard, without any fruitiness. With water: gets frankly winey now. Old Bourgogne that went off the road, horse dung. Mouth (neat): not too bad at the attack, spirity and ‘eau-de-vie-ish’, with quite some kirsch and liqueur-filled chocolate. Seville oranges, tonic water, even juniper or plain gin. With water: more of the same, a tad flourish. Finish: medium long, similar to the DL. Comments: another weird Glen Scotia that has its moments. ‘Interesting’ is the word here in our view. SGP:242 – 77 points.
Glen Scotia 9 yo 1999/2008 (59.5%, Cadenhead's Bond Reserve, red wine hogshead, 310 bottles) Red wine hogshead? Are casks previously used for finishing reworked as hogsheads? Colour: ripe apricots. Nose: what is this? Stale sangria, rotten oranges and yoghurt, that’s all we get. Unlike any other malt we could try, and we tried a few. Extremely strange… With water: gin, bitter tonic. Not unpleasant at this point, but not quite recognisable as malt whisky. Mouth (neat): extremely thick and tasting more like Dutch genever than like whisky. A tad cloying? You said it… With water: more genever and even less whisky. Finish: long but totally strange and weird. Comments: odd, that’s all we can say. Wondering if the Adams family wasn’t drinking (some of) these Glen Scotias… SGP:441 - 67 points.
Brora After these 'strange' Glen Scotias, my reward: Brora 20 yo 1975/1996 (59.1%, Rare Malts, 75cl) Colour: straw. Nose: starts like a civilised brute, on whiffs of peat smoke and horse manure on top of hints of white fruits (cider apples) and shoe polish. Goes on with notes of old pu-erh tea that are very typical, a little paraffin and linseed oil, old leather, motor grease, a full plate of oysters (including lemon)… With water: gets extremely mineral and flinty. Also lemon skin and fresh walnuts. Beautifully austere if we may say so. Mouth (neat): fabulous start, less directly peaty than earlier Broras (1972 and so on) and a tad more vanilled/candied, but the balance is rather perfect. Some green tea and bitter liqueurs, getting then much grassier. The peat slowly disappears. With water: more fresh walnuts and some salt coming through. Quite some wax too, bitter herbal teas (peach leaves, cassis buds). Finish: long, austere, grassier, with just traces of peat and a little orange zest. Comments: these 1975s aren’t as majestic as earlier Broras, and certainly less peaty but they are beautiful old-school Highlanders. A style that doesn’t really exist anymore. SGP:264 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Artist: a bit of French flower power with Gérard Palaprat
Title: the George Harrison inspired (or so it seemed) Fais-moi un signe (1971).
Please buy Gérard Palaprat's music.

Gerard Palaprat

June 24, 2009

Leonoor van Gils


We meet Iain Henderson in a lunch room in St.Andrews. The retired Laphroaig manager and his wife Carole live a few miles off St. Andrews and he agreed to do an interview for Whiskyfun.com. Iain shows up in a green “Laphroaig” embroidered sweater. Despite the fact he worked at more than 10 distilleries during his active career, Laphroaig still is the love of his whisky life. No wonder his nick name is “Mr. Laphroaig”. Last time we met Iain was at the launch of “The Legend” in November 2007 and I still bother him with questions about Laphroaig’s past, which he always faithfully answers. Serge prepared some questions, but when Iain starts telling it’s difficult to keep up with him. He is cheerful and is looking well.
Born in Edinburgh, after a career at sea with the Merchant Navy, Iain (72) started working as an engineer in the whisky industry at Bunnahabhain in the 1960’s. It’s where he met the legendary Bessie Williamson.
“At Bunnahabhain we stored barley for Laphroaig, who were smoking out mice that were causing problems. I was sent over to Laphroaig by the manager with a barley sample and there was this older woman, old enough to be my mother. We had tea and discussed matters. At one point she humorously said: “Mr. Henderson, we can discuss everything but my love life.” It was strange to run the place later myself.
I have worked at more than 10 distilleries during my career. As an engineer at Bunnahabhain, as manager at Bladnoch, Ardbeg, Longmorn, Allt-A-Bhainne, Benriach, Glenlivet, Glen Grant, Strathisla and Laphroaig. I started working at Laphroaig in 1989. After my retirement there in 2002 I worked with Andrew Symington at Edradour and afterwards helped setting up English distillery St. George in Norfolk."
Iain Henderson Bladnoch
Manager at Bladnoch in 1986
WF: What is your best memory of your career and what your worst?
The best memory of my career is the satisfaction in doing a good job. As a distillery manager you can only leave the distillery in a better condition than when you started the job. I like to believe I was easy going. I liked pushing people into passion for their work, distilling, making whisky. Also the creation of the “Friends of Laphroaig”, this was a personal thing to me. I got the idea from English journalist, Alistair Cooke, who did a radio slot called “Letter from America” and worked it out with Jeremy Weatherhead, Allied’s brand ambassador. We started sending “Friends” quarterly newsletters called “Letter from Islay” (with apology to Alistair Cooke..) and a video to 37.000 “Friends” for Christmas 1995, which was all very expensive of course. Today is much easier with the internet. At the time I wrote the newsletters myself, while today it’s being done by email by their advertising agency.
My retirement from Laphroaig is my worst memory. On Friday I was manager and on Monday I was out…This really was hard for me. It was Allied’s company rule to retire at 65.
WF: Why was Laphroaig more special to you than other distilleries?
Laphroaig was and is very special to me. There is something magic about the place. Leaving is not my favorite hobby. I still have strong feelings for Islay. My grandson lives on Islay and presented HRH’s wife Camilla flowers during last year’s visit. I employed present manager John Campbell who was a fisher man at the time. Laphroaig wasn’t doing well when I started working there and Allied bluntly told Jeremy Weatherhead and myself that if sales could not be increased from 20.000 cases, they would sell the distillery and the brand. From an annual sale in 1989 of 20.000 cases (180.000 liters), we stepped up to 130.000 cases (1.170.000 liters) in 2002. We had to stop selling to some independent bottlers like G&M, because we needed the whisky ourselves.
Iain Laphroaig
Starting at Laphroaig
WF: Did you enjoy your work with Edradour and St.George?
When I became 65 I had to leave Laphroaig and I was fortunate enough to be offered the manager’s job at Edradour which was a hands on working position and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Andrew Symington who had recently bought the distillery offered me the opportunity in Tokyo where I spent my 65th birthday as the guest of Suntory. I lost count of the number of farewell dinners and lunches that were arranged by them and I feel  immensely honored that all the different parts of the Suntory organization took the trouble to do so.
Edradour distillery was for many years the smallest distillery in Scotland but had been run as a full size one, so there was a bit of stock and an established brand to build on. It really is a working museum and I like to think that in the time I was there I contributed in some small way to the furtherance of the brand. I also got the opportunity to make a peated malt away from Islay. This proved a theory of mine that it is possible by using heavily peated malt that you can equal what is made on the whisky isle, albeit retaining some of the Highland character.
At Edradour we also used a variety of casks both as finishes and to fill with new spirit, something I as a traditionalist was skeptical about but when you sample a 21 year old with the final 2 years in a port wine cask, it is something else and I became a total convert. Whisky enthusiasts were asking what was new and could they try it, so a lot of this trend was market led if you like. There will some interesting whiskies to come from Edradour in the next few years, I wonder how the whisky in the Tokaji Hungarian wine casks turned out. It was superb at 2 years but then it was not whisky at that stage.
For one reason or another I left Edradour to go to Norfolk to be involved in the building, commissioning and running a small malt distillery in the village of East Harling. It was a father and son exercise, with James Nelstrop as the enthusiast and the son Andrew as the builder. The distillery is the same size as Edradour, bit all contained in a one designer building with a very distinct pagoda. The distillery is in a stunning setting beside the river Thet with willow trees as a backdrop. The distillery was built as a kit in Scotland and was transported down and assembled in 12 weeks and we made our first whisky in November 2006. The water is really hard in Norfolk but then so is the water at Glenmorangie.The new spirit in my opinion is like a well balanced Speyside and the peated version is very similar to Laphroaig, but you have to remember that the phenol malt specification is the same as Ardbeg. It will be interesting to see how it matures in bourbon casks and other fillings that have been filled into sherry and burgundy wood. You can see what it’s like by logging on to englishwhisky.co.uk, it’s well worth a look.
Iain at Laphroaig
WF: What’s your favorite tipple?
There are three. Bladnoch, 17 y.o. distillery bottle from a sherry cask. Laphroaig Quarter Cask from warehouse nr.7 and the 15 year old Longmorn from Gordon and MacPhail. Longmorn makes great whisky. My eldest son Euan is an operator there. More distilleries make excellent peated whiskies now and my guess is that Islay whiskies will lose some of its edge.
WF: Which are the main secrets that a distiller uses to make the best possible whisky?
The  main secrets that a distiller will use to make the best possible spirit at a particular distillery are to use the best materials that are available, namely the best malted barley, fresh yeast and of course the water which needs to be clean and from a tried and proven source. A lot has been written about how the water is that makes a good whisky. The story about water is somewhat of a myth, that it has to be spring water and soft at that, when this is not true . What is probably true is that different waters give different whiskies and I know from experience that most water sources change over a year as the water table alters and the chemical composition will therefore change. An example of this is where Glenmorangie, arguably one of the best malt whiskies around, is made with hard water compared to, say, the soft water of Islay. I remember well that companies buying new spirit for blending would spread their fillings over a distillation year to cover the minor variations that took place in the quality over the piece.
A distiller would also be checking to see that his plant was clean and free from infection since this will affect his new spirit quality and the matured whisky and reduce the yield, etc i.e., the amount made. Quality should not be comprised but sometimes in the quest for yield it is. The operation of the distillery is the next thing that is important, right from the milling operation through mashing to fermentation and to the final distillation where a good distiller will assess the final production on a daily basis. You have to remember that with 24 hour operation the distiller or manager is not there when much of the production takes place .
The final thing that is vitally important is the cask and a distiller would like to use the best possible wood that he can afford when you consider that at least 60% of the flavor will be coming from the fabric of the timber and what has been cask previously.
WF: What’s your opinion on modern managers?
Over the last 40 years the role of the traditional distillery manager has changed, possibly due to changes in the working practices of different companies, changes in attitude to work of a modern generation and the levels of responsibility. EU legislation generated new positions like safety officers and all the accreditations of standards transferred a lot of responsibility away from local control and company 's understanding of responsibility did not always agree with the health and safety executive. This had the effect of downgrading the manager’s position especially with the larger organizations. Plant automations also had the  effect of reducing the number of operatives required and the new generation of managers were given charge to oversee several units with a reduction in the feeling they would have for a particular brand.
The changes in the  H.M. Customs and Excise regulations also had an effect where the security aspect was passed to the company and if anything was lost for whatever the reason they just sent you an invoice for the duty and it was pay up or else… When I came into the industry many years ago, your relationship with the C & E could be quite confrontational so the changes that came about by their withdrawal were a bit of fresh air.
Iain Prince Charles
June 1994 with his wife Carole meeting Prince Charles
WF: What should a modern distillery manager be? A good distiller or a good PR person?
I know several good distillers who feel out of place in a P.R. situation and that maybe the fault of any company. It depends on what a company expects of its managers. There was a time when the old DCL company did not expect their managers to speak on any subject outside their remit but today its different where they get media type training where it is required.
WF: What do you think of speeding up maturation and wood finishes?
That’s evolution. If you are a traditionalist, it’s nothing. If you are an adventurer, it’s fine. It’s customers demand. People want new things. There used to be a school of thought who believed that maturing whisky had to be in a temperate zone but I 'm not so sure about this now with global warming or whatever you want to call it. I prefer to think of it as evolution.
WF: Do you think the drinkers tastes are changing these days?
I believe that drinking tastes are changing all the time and this includes whisky in all its definitions. Fifty or sixty years ago malt whisky drinkers were older people who had graduated through to malts from blends partly because of price in those days and also the habit of adding other things like lemonade to malts was deemed to be sacrilege.
This scenario is now changed, witness the age of whisky enthusiasts at whisky conventions around the world. The public is very fickle and constantly looking for new  flavors and is intrigued by the products of the small distilleries like Kilchoman on Islay. (Photograph: Paris Festival 2002, with unknown whisky lover.)
Iain Serge
WF: Do you think you could make a specific kind of whisky anywhere?
When I was in England setting up St. George’s Distillery, I discovered it was possible to make excellent whisky there. Making whisky is not an exact science. A distillery is what it is and not what you would like it to be. With care I believe you can make good whisky anywhere.
WF: In my opinion there was a change in Laphroaig’s taste in the mid 1980-ties.
During the 1980’s Laphroaig lowered the level of phenols in the malt specifications. At one time Laphroaig even used unpeated malt. This was in the 1930’s when a fire had destroyed part of the maltings. Actually it was former Laphroaig manager Denis Nicol who scientifically researched phenols in water and whisky for the first time.
WF: Do you think the current whisky boom will last?
Current? It’s a 40 years boom now. I see no reason why it should end. Maybe we see a minor decline in sales in Europe and some distilleries have to cut back production to five days. Countries like China and India are making up for that. There is certainly not an ocean of whisky in the warehouses over Scotland.
WF: Did you enjoy Feis Ile?
Feis Ile is a big success. We had the festival already in my time. You see the same people returning every year and I hope I made my contribution to have people enjoy their stay on Islay.
WF: What do you think of today’s prices?
Whisky is made to be drunk and enjoyed, not used as a commodity, an investment. Who opens up a bottle of over 500GBP? If you can’t buy your malt, life isn’t worth living!

When we step outside the restaurant, we are still chatting. We ask him if he would like to write some future contributions for Whiskyfun.com and he agrees. He knows the website and the infamous Malt Maniacs. We say goodbye and he walks away in his green Laphroaig sweater. The real Legend of Laphroaig...

- Marcel and Leonoor van Gils (Copyright: Still Publishing/ Whiskyfun.com 2009)

Check Marcel's fabulous website Laphroaigcollector.com

Leonoor and Ian
St. Andrews, May 2009, Leonoor checks the list of all distilleries where Iain has worked.



Dalmore 18 yo 1990/2009 (56.7%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #7329, 298 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather punchy as expected, with a lot of vanilla and plain oak. Toasted brioche, a little nutmeg, custard, vanilla fudge, apple peeling… Little notes of oranges. With water: more oak and the trademark orangey notes that do grow bigger indeed. I think this is classy spirit and I believe the owners of the distillery should launch singles cask bottlings at cask strength (with stag heads bearing larger antlers than usual!) Mouth (neat): sweet, round and creamy, almost thick and ‘spoonable’, with many spices soon to kick in (pepper, ginger) and a slight fizziness (lemonade, orangeade). It’s got the thickness and oiliness of some CS bourbons but it’s perfectly balanced malt. Slight bitterness arising (orange skin, walnut skin). With water: really full, nuttier and fruitier, going on with quite some marzipan and maybe hints of maraschino. Finish: long, rich, ‘wide’, extremely satisfying. Very long orangey afterglows. Comments: you have to take your time with this one, it really unfolds minute after minute. A big dram and, like I said, very classy. The good Dalmores need no heavy sherry (but sherry works well on them). SGP:561 - 89 points.
Dalmore 1986/2008 (57.6%, McKillop's Choice, cask #3096) Colour: pale gold. Nose: a very similar profile without water. More straight notes of cut apples do emerge after a few second and maybe, indeed, touches of fresh orange juice. With water: it’s very different from the 1990 now. Rawer and farmier, with whiffs of wet hay but also more wood (wet sawdust), nutmeg and coconut milk. And then big notes of café latte. Mouth (neat): once again, a very oily whisky but this time it’s really the oak that does all the talking, to the point where it’s almost as ‘coconutty’ as some old grains. And a lot of vanilla, ginger and pepper. Was this one matured or re-racked in new oak? With water: same comments, this one really tastes ‘modern’, very ‘Nadurra/Astar’ if you see what I mean. Finish: long, with pretty notes of oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: once again, a very good Dalmore, but with maybe a little too much sweetness from the oak. SGP:651 - 86 points.
Dalmore 1963/1985 (46% Cadenhead, dumpy black label) Colour: full gold. Nose: quite amazingly, we’re really in the same category as the 1990 and 1986, with just different potentiometer set-ups. Vanilla -2, oranges +3, apples -1, straight oak -2. This one is incredibly fresh! Also very interesting hints of hops flowers and faint whiffs of cider vinegar, then also leather, mild cigar and green tea, that is to say almost back to plain oak. Oh, and hints of mangos and passion fruits as well. Very little Old Bottle Effect if any this time. Development after fifteen minutes: green tea galore! (I mean very high-end Chinese green tea). Mouth: ha-ha, now we’re talking! Fantastic attack (worth 93 alone) on tangerines and orange skin, mullein flower syrup (yeah I know that’s very esoteric, I’m sorry) and nougat, with hints of ginger liqueur and maybe a little cardamom. The middle isn’t as majestic but still great, maybe a tad more caramelised. Something like peppered mandarin liqueur? Finish: very long, with more spices (mostly cloves and pepper) and a funny return on fresh fruits (kiwis?) Comments: as good as it gets and still quite a beast after 24 years in its bottle. Maybe 25 more years will tame it? SGP:642 - 92 points. (and thank you mucho, Bjarne!)

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Artist: can we have enough Fela Anikulapo
Title: Roforofo Fight
From: Roforofo Fight/Fela Singles
Please buy Fela's music.


June 23, 2009


The Royal Festival Hall, London, May 26th 2009

I make no apologies for returning to see Christy Moore and writing yet another overwhelmingly positive review of his show. Moore is simply a performer beyond compare, with a power and passion to match the Patti Smiths, Neil Youngs or Nick Caves. He’s in the space from the moment he hits the first chords of ‘The ballad of wandering Aengus’ (if you don’t know, it’s a poem by W. B. Yeats) to the last crash of a rollicking high speed ‘Lisdoonvarna’.

Christy Moore
He talks to himself, sings the lines of the next song quietly to get the rhythm right in his head almost before he finishes the previous one, and chides and encourages accompanist Declan Sinnott like a jockey would a horse: “Come on Deccy, that’s right Deccy, steady there now, Deccy”. There may be a set list, or a loose assembly of rehearsed songs, but Moore seems to pluck them from the air, a chord or two being the most Sinnott has to choose the right guitar and start playing. “Hup, hup, come on now, Deccy!”. And as he sings, you sense he feels the fury, shares the pain, lives the injustice of the victims of tyranny, prejudice, religious hypocrisy, racism and political oppression who inhabit so many of the songs. He’s an angry man, and at times you feel glad you’re not any closer. Even the absurdly funny songs, like ‘Casey’, about the controversial former Bishop of Galway, Eamon Casey, as famous for refusing to meet Ronald Reagan as a protest against his policies in Nicaragua as he was for the sexual indiscretions that saw him leave the church, somehow have an edge of menace in Moore’s hands.
Declan Sinnott (L) and Christy Moore (R)
Moore’s no slouch when it comes to writing songs himself, but as this evening shows, he’s at his best interpreting the work of others, and he certainly has an eye, or should I say an ear, for a song that might shine from the Christy Moore treatment. So if you look at the material from his new album, Listen, there’s only one solo composition on there, and a couple of collaborations. Of these he performs a cracker from Dublin composer Wally Page, ‘Duffy’s cut’, about the mysterious deaths of a group of Irish railway labourers in Philadelphia in the early nineteenth century, and the very lovely ‘Gortatagort’ (“John Spillane wrote this about his mother’s home, but it’s about everyone’s home”). There’s also the title track of the album, Hank Wedell’s ‘Listen’, Donagh Long’s ‘China waltz’, and the very moving ‘Does this train stop on Merseyside’, written by Ian Prowse. Some of these have been in Moore’s repertoire for some time, and they were joined by a host (at least twenty-five songs I counted) of other older favourites, like brother Luka Bloom’s ‘City of Chicago’, Moore’s own ‘Viva la quinta brigada’, Page’s ‘Smoke and strong whiskey’, Jimmy MacCarthy’s ‘Rode in’ and ‘Missing you’, and Moore’s powerful interpretations of Dylan’s ‘The lonesome death of Hattie Carroll’, and Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Magdalen launderies’. There was even room for Ewan McColl’s wistful London love-song ‘Sweet Thames flow softly’.
From an almost perfect performance two moments in particular stood out. The first was Moore’s incredibly delicate version of ‘Beeswing’ (which earned that highest of Irish compliments - “Fair play to the man, fair play to Richard Thompson”). The second, Moore’s unaccompanied ‘The well below the valley’. “I started off with a guitar playing songs by Bill Haley” said Moore, “and then I saw the Clancy Brothers and started singing that stuff. But it was when I heard John Riley sing this song that my career changed”. Using a bodhran (that most abused of musical instruments) to set up the rhythm, Moore sang this darkest of songs (incest, rape, child murder and damnation) to a perfectly still, silent and sold-out Royal Festival Hall. Simply sublime. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate) Christy Moore
Listen and watch: Christy Moore and Declan Sinnott doing No time for love


Bunnahabhain 1976/2009 (52%, Malts of Scotland, Germany, sherry butt, cask #6388, 275 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s funny how this one will instantly remind you of… Bunnahabhain. Don’t giggle, it’s not always the case with independent bottlings! Superb whiffs of honey, yellow flowers, banana skin (Bunnahabhain’s Irishness), marzipan and then these notes of vanilla and ginger (and a little coconut) that would rather remind us of an ex-bourbon cask. The sherry is rather discreet. With water: more of all that plus hints of earl grey tea and quince jelly. Mouth (neat): smooth, rich and creamy, typically Bunny once again, with quite some vanilla, honey, coconut and banana crème (but it’s much less sickly sweet as it may sound!) Once again, no sherry, rather bourbon notes. Chestnut purée. With water: all honey, with also notes of marmalade. Pretty delicious. Finish: medium long but round, clean, fruity, honeyed and… very Bunnahabhain. Comments: I didn’t get the sherry at all, it was probably a refill but. Excellent whisky anyway, it seems that this new bottler selected mostly great casks in his first series. Well done! SGP:541 - 89 points.
Bunnahabhain 16 yo 1979/1995 (56%, Glenscoma, Germany) Scoma is a well-known German retailer. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a rather heavier and punchier version, very grassy and quite spirity, not unlike some other 1979s that I could try in the past. It hasn’t got the distillery’s usually delicate honey notes. Whiffs of raw kirsch. With water: gets sulphury. Pass. Mouth (neat): a little better than on the nose when naked, the oak making it smoother and rounder, but there are also odd notes of cooked vegetables (French beans? Brussels sprout?) and something a little rubbery. Not a clean version for sure. With water: better now, smoother, fruitier and more honey but there’s quite some rubber in the background. Finish: long, a tad wobbly between oranges/honey and bitter rubber. Comments: I don’t like this too much although it’s far from being undrinkable. Bah, it’s an old bottling anyway. SGP:371 - 78 points.

June 22, 2009

Glen Grant


We’re usually all game for all the sumptuous old sherried Glen Grants but the young ‘naked’ ones aren’t very popular within anorakal circles. Let’s see if that should change…
Glen Grant 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2008) Colour: straw. Nose: this one bursts with huge notes of pear eau-de-vie! Truly fruitful but close to new make in a certain way, without all the roughness that’s usually associated with that state. Also notes of fresh strawberries and even cherries. The grainy/malty notes are well here as well but the general profile is still very fruity. Maybe faint hints of bubblegum vodka (you know, when you let bubblegum dissolve in vodka)… Mouth: as malty and ‘simply’ fruity as single malt whisky can get. Apple juice, chicory, brownie and plain pears. Simple but good and flawless. Finish: medium long, with a slight smokiness and a little liquorice. Comments: it is simple but it is good in my view. A very honest malt whisky. SGP:541 - 80 points.
Glen Grant 13 yo (46%, Duthies, +/- 2009) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is much, much rougher and kind of lactic. Butter, soaked grains, porridge, vanilla, burnt cake, grass… Almost no fruitiness. Reminds me of some old official 5yos, not a sexy Glen Grant for sure. Just a few kirschy notes coming through after a long time. Mouth: we’re much closer to the OB than on the nose. Apples, pears, malt, cake, liquorice and something slightly spritzy. Good balance. Finish: rather long, maybe a tad sourer (cider apples). Comments: perfectly drinkable, hard to say anything else (who said better like that, who?) SGP:441 - 78 points.
Glen Grant 1992/2008 'Cellar Reserve' (46%, OB) Colour: straw. Nose: the fruits are back! Even more pears than in the official 10, to the point where it smells almost like pure Poire Williams. Then we have a little wood smoke, even hints of bacon, and finally some beautiful whiffs of chamomile and lime teas. No, wait, there are also whiffs of barnyard after the rain… Like sipping some pear spirit in a farm; back to nature! Mouth: pretty much the same, a lot of pear (and the spirit made thereof), a little salt, something kippery that you wouldn’t expect in Glen Grant and notes of bitter herbs liqueur (starting with J…). Full-bodied and with quite some character. Finish: the longest of the three. Pear pie with salted liquorice. Comments: once again, a very ‘natural’ malt whisky with an excellent body. The pear on the nose is spectacular and it’s not the kind of dull pearish notes that one may find in immature whiskies. SGP:541 - 84 points.
Valentine DETROIT: from car making to vodka making? Anyway, I like the way Valentine's vodka does its advertising, it's very tongue in cheek. They even got some presidential recommendation ;-). I'll try to get one or three bottles here in France, having one's name (almost) on a spirit label being very classy - and everybody needs some vodka in the bar anyway.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Artist: the great Roger Chapman
Title: Hang on to a dream
From: his first solo album Chappo (1979)
Please buy Roger Chapman's music (and read Nick's latest review).

Roger Chapman

June 21, 2009



Mannochmore 16 yo 1992/2008 (53.8%, Exclusive Malts, cask #6600, 234 bottles) Mannochmore is famous for having given us Loch Dhu 10yo, the black whisky that’s supposed to be ‘the best whisky investment’ according to some ****ers on eBay. It’s also famous for their old Manager’s Dram 18yo, the whisky that was the closest ever to kerosene. And it was good! Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes, I remember the Manager’s Dram even more vividly now. Truckloads of cut grass, cut cactus (really), maybe agave, ginger tonic, damp clay and maybe tiny-wee whiffs of new plastic. I know that doesn’t sound too nice but it actually is. With water: perfect lemony/grassy whisky. Very classy. Hints of pine resin. Mouth (neat): excellent attack, sweet and fruity, with quite some cider apple (green apples will do), kiwis and lemons. More grass after that. Spectacularly assertive (man!) With water: once again, water worked perfectly. Beautiful clean but not simple whisky. Lemon pie. Finish: long, nervous, clean, perfect. Comments: great Mannochmore selected by David Stirk. Kudos. SGP:361 - 88 points.
Mannochmore 12 yo 1991/2004 (57.1%, Signatory, South African sherry butt #16590, 618 bottles) Signatory Vintage have been toying with several of these South African sherry butts around 2003/2004. I remember some Clynelish. Colour: pale gold. Nose: simply as austere as the 1992, only more powerful and even grassier with ‘of course’ a few candied and orangey notes from the sherry. Quite a beast, this one, exactly the opposite of the usual middle-aged sherried Speysider starting with an M. With water: ouch, that didn’t work too well, there’s some rancid butter and even old cheese coming out now. Gym socks. Mouth (neat): exactly the same style as the 1992, as if the sherry didn’t change anything to the profile. Actually, it’s even grassier when neat. Lemonade. With water: less a disaster than on the nose but it got kind of dirty again. Dust, paper, ginger tonic. Finish: long, cleaner. Lemon drops. Comments: quite good when neat but swims like an anvil. SGP:441 - 78 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Artist: a little bit of French chanson with Jeanne Moreau
Title: Les plaintes de la plaine
Please buy Jeanne's music and movies.

Jeanne Moreau

June 20, 2009



Dailuaine 14 yo 1971 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, CC, old brown label) Colour: full gold. Nose: nice, clean, malty and orangey but weakish and absent. Really falls apart after a moment, with nothing left but whiffs of cold tea. Please note that the bottle wasn’t damaged and the whisky brightly crystalline (stale whiskies often get slightly hazy). Mouth: not as weak as on the nose but simply malty, with hints of orange squash and, once again, a lot of cold tea. Not much pleasure in this one. Finish: rather short, drying, with still a little orange (drops) that prevent it from being frankly bad. Comments: there were many winners in this old series but this Dailuaine sure isn’t one of them. And no, no obvious signs of oxidation. SGP:230 - 66 points.

Dailuaine 20 yo 1985/2006 (53.3%, The Whisky Chamber, cask #0220/4566, 262 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: discreet at first nosing, with then a growing ‘muesliness’, huge notes of vanilla custard and whiffs of mown grass. More and more porridge and ager beer after that… With water: a little mint and a lot of old papers and soaked grains. Very mashy. Mouth (neat): punchy and sweet, on grains, newly cut apples and a little liquorice. That’s pretty all. With water: gets a tad fruitier (more apples, hints of cherries) and almost pleasant. More lemon as well. Finish: medium long and more lemony. Icing sugar. Comments: it took a long time for this one to become interesting, which is the case on the palate but water is needed. SGP:431 – 75 points. All right, this one wasn’t our most entrancing session ever… Maybe Dailuaine really needed a rather heavy sherry treatment.

A funny tribute to the famous movie Whisky Galore. Enjoy!

June 18, 2009

SPEED TASTING – EIGHT TORMORES (a rollercoaster, really)
Tormore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2007) The most recent version in its blue livery. I almost hated a batch that was bottled around 2004 (WF 59). Colour: pale gold. Nose: mashy, beerish, with notes of apple juice and a faint… feintiness. Soaked grains, butter, malt, caramel… Not much happening to say the least. Mouth: light, malty, starting on roasted nuts and toffee, developing on cappuccino, with also notes of pear spirit. Simple. Finish: medium long, malty. Comments: we’re more or less in blend territory here, which means that the best blends are much better than this in our book. SGP:331 - 72 points.
Tormore 10yo (43%, OB, mid-1990s) Colour: pale gold. Nose: more wax, linseed oil, wet paper and something slightly metallic as well as a little smoke. Other than that we aren’t far from the recent ‘blue label’. Beer and caramel. Mouth: similar to its bro, only a little bigger. A lot of caramel once again. Finish: medium. Malty/nutty. Comments: I like Johnnie Walker Black better. SGP:341 – 74 points.
Tormore 10 yo (43%, OB, Rossi Import, +/- 1980, 75cl) Same front label as the famous old version for Dreher but this one is more recent. Colour: full gold. Nose: simply another world. Much more marmalade, praline, wood smoke and even hints of tropical fruits. Yes, mangos. More oomph as well. Beautiful nose even if not the most complex ever. Mouth: round, rich, creamy, very orangey. Excellent body. Bergamot and quince. A little pepper, cloves, crystallised ginger. Really full bodied at 43%. Finish: much longer and fuller that the previous ones. Smokier too. Comments: excellent malt, even if it’s not quite in the same league as the ‘Dreher’. I’ll spare you ‘the good old days’. SGP:542 – 87 points.
Tormore 1996/2007 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) Colour: white wine. Nose: we aren’t too far from the 10 from the mid-1990s, only without the caramel notes. Clean beer, linseed oil, porridge and apple juice. Whiffs of roses. Not unpleasant. Mouth: it does have something of the ‘Rossi’ (body and slight smokiness). Apple juice, green tea, ale. Cake. Finish: medium long, Seville oranges in the aftertaste. Malt. Comments: A rather good dram, quite ‘natural’. SGP:341 - 78 points.
Tormore 1992/2007 (43%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #2258) Colour: white wine. Nose: same style as the G&M, only a little grassier and more mineral. A little more wax as well (paraffin actually, even a little soap.) Mouth: once again, pretty much the same whisky as the G&M. Maybe a tad rawer (more grass and green apples). A little cardboardy too. Finish: medium long, malty and grassy. Comments: yeah well, this isn’t bad but not much thrill. SGP:341 – 78 points.
Tormore 15 yo 1985/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, DL ref 893) Colour: gold. Nose: quite some sherry and a lot of sulphur at first nosing. Hard eggs and struck matches. Gets then a little nicer, with notes of mocha and praline as well as a little chocolate cake. Cooked cabbage. Mouth: the sulphur strikes! Truffles. Finish: rather long but the sulphur just wouldn’t leave. Comments: a little sulphur can be very nice, especially when it brings a kind of smokiness and notes of gunpowder, but here it’s clearly a flaw in my view. Maybe a cask that’s been heavily sulphurised (sulphur burning) and that hasn’t been properly rinsed prior to filling? SGP:253 - 65 points.
Tormore 21 yo 1988/2009 (51.9%, Alambic Classique, Bas-Armagnac finish, cask #9417, 206 bottles) Finished for 9 months. Bas-Armagnac is by far the largest part of the Armagnac region. The casks usually contain around 400 litres of Armagnac. Colour: deep gold. Nose: no sulphur this time, but an unexpected dryness that’s very pleasant. ‘Funny’ hints of prunes and plain ripe plums, then stout, greengages, fresh walnuts (huge!) and quite some grass. Unusual but very pleasant. Mouth: goody good! Starts on notes of apple pie and cider and develops more on very ripe kiwis and herbal sweet (Ricola – a least our Swiss friend should know.) Grapefruit. Finish: long, lively, a little citrusy which is not what we’d have expected from a brandy finishing. Comments: the Armagnac seems to have brought something different to the whisky but it’s hard to pin down. More freshness? Anyway, it’s very pleasant Tormore. Worked well. SGP:531 - 85 points.
Tormore 16 yo 1966 (57%, Samaroli, sherry wood) Colour: mahogany. Nose: holy cow! Absolutely tantalising old sherry, smelling like a 50/50 blend of the finest palo cortado with the rarest balsamico from Modena. The rest will stay between this whisky and me if you don’t mind ;-). Mouth: exceptional. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Dry sherry maturing at its ultimate best. Finish: alas. Comments: one of these legendary old wonders by signor Silvano Samaroli. A movie by Michelangelo Antonioni, a painting by Caravaggio... or better yet, a trumpet solo by Enrico Rava. SGP:272 – 95 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: The Real Tuesday Weld (the British band, not the actress. Strange name but very good music.
Title: Anything But Love
Please buy The Real Tuesday Weld's music.

Tusesday Weld

June 17, 2009



Caperdonich 16 yo 1972 (40%, The Prestonfield, cask #7130-7132, 1950 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: a true avalanche of sour tropical fruits coated with cold wood smoke. Loads of dried longans or lychees (and maybe even the liqueur made thereof by our Chinese friends), then bacon-coated prunes (and I’m not kidding), banana liqueur, liquorice, something such as roasted macadamia nuts, mocha, hot chocolate… This one is emphatically aromatic despite its low strength and the slight dirtiness (that sourness) makes it even more unusual and interesting. A funny Caperdonich. Mouth: it’s almost an old sweet wine! Fortified Sauternes? Not really big at the attack but full of dried apricots, very ripe plums, crystallised fruits and Turkish delights (the rose-flavoured ones, for example). Baklavas, while I’m at it. Too bad the middle is a tad thin. Finish: not the longest but it’s superbly candied and rounded, the figs having the edge. Comments: a malt that should be poured to wine lovers. There were almost 2000 bottles so this one should be quite easy to find. SGP:630 - 89 points.
Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2009 (54.4%, Whisky-Doris, cask #7425, 175 bottles) From a Bourbon Hogshead. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s one of these fruity old Caperdonichs once again but this one is rather cleaner and more classical than the Prestonfield. All on figs and dates, dried apricots, various honeys, macchiato and then notes of pear liqueur (not plain spirit). With water: as usual, farmy notes arise! Wet dog (sorry, dogs), wet sawdust… Then a little vanilla, a little rum, hints of cloves, beeswax, ‘old Jaguar’… Wonderful nose indeed. Mouth (neat): what a superb attack! All the fruits are there but there’s also an unexpected ‘resinous mintiness’ that makes it more complex and frankly special. Also a little camphor and a little liquorice. Figs infused in cough syrup? With water: exceptionally good. A dessert whisky. Finish: long and fruity, with the oak kicking in just to prevent it from becoming, say almost ‘decadent’. Comments: maybe not bottled sex (as a friend would say) but an excellent bottle on “110% pleasure’ mode. SGP:631 – 92 points.
Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2009 (54.8%, Ducan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask # 7422, 154 bottles) Colour: deep gold. Nose: extremely close to the Whisky-Doris. Maybe just a tiny-wee-tad sharper. Same profile, similar to almost all the wonderful 1970s and 1972s by Duncan Taylor and ‘affiliated’ independents. With water: maybe a little less complex than the Whisky-Doris but maybe also even fruitier. Imagine you open a new pack of dried figs… Mouth (neat): same comment, very close to the Whisky-Doris, only less minty and a tad rougher. The oak is a little more talkative but other than that it’s dates and figs galore. Right, and apricots. With water: seriously, this is excellent again, unless you hate figs, dates and apricots. Finish: very long, wonderfully balanced. Comments: another wonder. All these 74xx casks are of the highest grade. SGP:541 - 91 points.
Comment on these 1972 Caperdonichs from Duncan Taylor’s racing team (and sub-teams): I believe these old whiskies are the best bang-for-you-buck whiskies one could find these days. If you’re ready to drop the fancy plywood cases, fake leather and shinytastic crystal decanters, you should really buy six of these bottles for £100/120 Euros each instead of just one official yet dodgy old Speysider by a more famous name.
Caperdonich And also Caperdonich 16 yo 1972/1988 (40%, Dun Eideann, Germany, cask #7130-7132) You got it, this is the same whisky as the Prestonfield under another label. I was unaware of that when I tried this one, found more strawberry jam, and rated it one point lower, which is plain stupid, obviously. I have no shame! SGP:630 – 88 points (thanks, Christophe).

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Lewis and Clark
Title: Petrified Forest
Please buy Lewis and Clark's music.

Lewis Clarke

June 16, 2009

Rosebank 1991/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) From refill sherry and American casks. Colour: white wine. Nose: a Rosebank that’s rather less citrusy than usual and rather more grainy, simply fruity (apples) and cereally, somewhat in the Glenkinchie style. Whiffs of wet chalk. Some hints of grapefruits and bubblegum start to fly around after a while. Light and pleasant. Mouth: fresh and very fruity, much more citrusy now. Grapefruit sherbet and soft spices (quite some ginger). Green apples. Also something that reminds me of lavender ice cream (not the perfumy kind of lavender at all). Nice and playful. Finish: medium long, with unusual notes of plain sugar cubes. Comments: nice and easy Rosebank, a perfect summer malt as they say. SGP:530 - 82 points.
Rosebank 17 yo 1989/2006 (55.3%, MMD, "Mission Gold", Bourbon/Guigal Hermitage Cask, 950 bottles) This one was finished in white Hermitage casks. Superb wines, but next time we want some Chave or Jaboulet rather than Guigal for the Hermitages ;-). Colour: orange. Nose: oh my! The wine completely overpowers the whisky here, and the marsanne really speaks out, with deep notes of apricots, cooked butter and honey as well as some citrusy notes indeed but we’re much closer to blood oranges than to Rosebanky lemon or grapefruit. Quite some sulphur as well (lighter gas, struck matches.) With water: lemonade and ‘inside of a new car’. Mouth (neat): once again, the wine speaks out but the spirit has more to say than on the nose. It seems that the Hermitage’s (relatively) and Rosebank’s citrusy profiles combine well. Kind of a double-Rosebank if I may say so. This one tastes like lemon pie. With water: a bigger sweetness but also notes of mint-flavoured green tea. Finish: rather long, more on lemon drops. It seems that most of the wine influence has disappeared. Comments: a very interesting experience but I believe it’s best when you know the wine well. SGP:541 - 84 points.
Rosebank 27 yo 1976/2004 (56.7%, Signatory, cask #2702, 159 bottles) From a hogshead. Colour: pale gold. Nose: ha-ha! This is Rosebank in its full glory, with an avalanche of citrus fruits in all forms (crystallised, fresh, as jams, in pastries, liqueurs… and god knows what else) and a very Riesling-esque minerality. Flintstones, diesel oil, linseed oil, ink… Big, big yet sylphlike Rosebank – if that makes any sense. With water: much more of the same, with an added wildness (orange eau-de-vie, hard to find but Metté in Ribeauvillé makes or made some and it’s worth trying.) Brilliant nose. Mouth (neat): zing! Ueber-lemony, extremely zesty and much to my liking. A lemony powerhouse. With water: even more lemon, zests, green tea, lime, hints of rosemary and maybe mother-of-thyme. Not too sure about the latter… Finish: long and extremely zesty. Comments: archetypical Rosebank. Lacks just a little more complexity for my taste. SGP:640 - 89 points.
Rosebank 28 yo 1965/1993 (53.4%, Signatory, Dumpy, cask #2498, 250 bottles) I think I never tried such an old Rosebank. Colour: dark mahogany. Nose: this one immediately reminds me of a brilliant old 1973 by Douglas Laing. Fantastic sherry with a lot of old rancio, old leather, genuine aged balsamico and whiffs of old wine cellar and even old books (old library). Also a little blackcurrant, ham, hints of gunpowder and chestnut purée. I wouldn’t say Rosebank as such is ‘obvious’ here but who cares, this is fantastic. With water: totally glorious dry sherry. Fantabulous whiffs of precious leather. Parsley and lovage. Mouth (neat): oily, ultra-dry, bitter sherry galore. Triple-fortified manzanilla or something like that. What a ride, but we lost Rosebank!… With water: Rosebank isn’t back but the sherry’s perfect. Finish: long, majestic, nervous, dry. A great black tea. Comments: they don’t make such whiskies anymore. SGP:352 - 93 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: The Hidden Cameras
Title: Smells Like Happiness
Please buy The Hidden Cameras' music.

Hidden Cameras

June 15, 2009

by Nick Morgan
The 02 Academy Islington, London
May 26th 2009

It’s a sadly short review for the Handsome family, aka Brett and Rennie Sparks. Not that I blame them. Sure enough, Brett did seem to have over-indulged in the dreadful fizzy lager that masquerades as beer at so many London venues, but as we were assured from the stage, this was only to counteract his medication.

Handsome Family
As he suffers from regular bouts of illness due to bi-polar disorder this could well be heavy- duty stuff. But like I said, it wasn’t the beer that was the problem, nor the Handsome Family, whose set majored on their new album, Honey Moon, a collection of surprisingly gentle love songs to celebrate the Sparks’ twenty years of marriage. However, we did hear some darker material, being their murder ballad-fuelled Gothic take on alt.country, for which they are rightly celebrated. The narrative of the songs was helped along by lyricist Rennie Sparks’ off-the-wall dialogue with the audience (or was it with herself?), and occasionally with her husband, who writes the music. But it was good stuff, with only minor deviations into that dreadful, self-consciously ‘kooky’ territory occupied by many North American performers. And, as anyone who is familiar with his work will know, when Brett Sparks lets go with his hugely powerful, deep and mournful country voice, the effect was electric. And he produced some very nice twangy guitar riffs too. So I can’t fault any of this. Nor can I find anything but good to say for the two intriguing support acts: the spare and haunting Smoke Fairies, who delivered a perfect and very simple mix of English folk music and roots blues guitar and Liz Green. Green’s voice is an unlikely mixture of Lancashire’s Grace Kelly and Tennessee’s Bessie Smith; the effect, combined with lyrics with a very high misery content sung over simple blues/swing style guitar was compelling. As were her woodcut illustrations which accompanied each song.
So what’s the problem? Well, sad to say, it’s the venue: the concrete box that is the 02 Academy Islington. It has to be, at least in my opinion, one of the least music- friendly venues in the city, and as the Photographer will affirm, it certainly doesn’t offer much for the vertically challenged. There are really no decent sight lines, so unless you choose to endure the very front of the crowd there’s almost no hope of seeing a thing. Unless, of course, you can get a spot on the balcony, which for some reason (no doubt not enough profit likely to be generated from the bar) was closed. That leads you to stand towards the back, where a succession of six-foot-three and very wide boys block your vision like the moon occasionally does the sun, and where you endure non-stop chatter and noise from the bars echoing through the place more effectively than the music. Maybe it all seems different from the stage, but believe me, almost every experience I’ve had in this place has been a disaster. To be honest, had the Handsome Family not been on our list for so long, I wouldn’t even have booked tickets. So not for the first time, I’ve vowed never to return, although I have no doubt that we will. But my advice is simple. Do go and see the Handsome Family, and the Smoke Fairies, and Liz Green, but not at a dump like this. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate) Handsome Family
Listen: The Handsome Family on MySpace


Tamdhu 1988/2008 (47.9%, Jack Wieber, The Cross Hill, 266 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: a very ‘naked’ Speysider displaying notes of apple juice, custard, cut grass, cereals and not too ripe bananas. Little development, let’s try to add water… With water: a little mint and more porridge and other soaked grains. Very simple malt whisky. Mouth (neat): sweet, all on apples once again, with an extra-kick from the oak (vanilla) and then a huge grassiness once again. With water: same. Pear drops. Finish: medium long, in keeping with the rest. Comments: a little uninspiring. Enough said. SGP:331 - 78 points.
Tamdhu 1990/2008 (60.2%, Art of Whisky, The Nightcap, bourbon cask #10141) Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re more or less in the same cluster, only more spirity and kind of mineral (wet chalk). With water: a bigger minerality (wet rocks, clay), whiffs of wet fabric, apple, hints of yoghurt, white bread… Mouth (neat): once again, an extra-sweetness from the higher alcohol and even more grass than in the Jack Wieber, bordering on bitterness. With water: more oomph than in the Cross Hill, yet the profile is similar. Finish: rather long, simply fruity, with some grass in the aftertaste. Comments: not bad at all. SGP:341 - 79 points.

June 2009 - part 1 <--- June 2009 - part 2---> July 2009 - part 1

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

Brora 20 yo 1975/1996 (59.1%, Rare Malts, 75cl)

Caol Ila 1998/2009 (60.9%, Malts of Scotland, cask #12374, 226 bottles)

Dalmore 1963/1985 (46% Cadenhead, dumpy black label)

Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2009 (54.8%, Ducan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask # 7422, 154 bottles)

Caperdonich 36 yo 1972/2009 (54.4%, Whisky-Doris, cask #7425, 175 bottles)

Glenrothes 'John Ramsay Legacy' (46.7%, OB, 1400 bottles, 2009)

Rosebank 28 yo 1965/1993 (53.4%, Signatory, Dumpy, cask #2498, 250 bottles)

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