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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2010 - Part 1

May 2010 - part 2 <--- June 2010 - part 1 ---> June 2010 - part 2


June 14, 2010

Macallan sherry

Tasting two new old-school sherried Macallans: yes they can!

Macallan 13 yo 1995/2009 'Easter Elchies' (52.8%, OB, sherry hogshead, distillery only, cask #14016) Five stars This bottle is sporting a very Usher-esque green stripe. Colour: mahogany. Nose: starts big, somewhat in the style of the old 10yo Full Proof (circa 1985) that’s always been a winner, only with a little more mocha and small red fruits (raspberries and such). There’s also an obvious rubber that was less, err, obvious in the older Macs. Other than that, it’s Christmas cake galore. With water: yeah, that worked greatly. Many fine herbs and spices, whiffs of putty and shoe polish, notes of genuine balsamic vinegar – not the supermarket junk - growing bigger and bigger, less rubber… Great! Mouth (neat): thick and rich, playful, more demonstrative than on the nose, fruitier and, well, better in my opinion. Many jams and dried fruits, raspberry jelly and chocolate, prunes (truckloads, really)… It isn’t really complex but the balance is quite perfect.


With water: once again, it got more complex despite the slightly embarrassing notes of new oak (easy ginger and vanilla) that do come through a bit. Finish: long, curiously maltier, with some cloves in the aftertaste. Comments: old-style Macallan. I’ll spare you any further (stupid) comments on the distillery’s global change of style in the recent years, this exception is great. SGP:652 - 90 points.

Macallan 13 yo 1996/2010 (57.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #24.108, refill sherry butt) Four stars and a half Nicknamed 'Ferrari Screech'. Why not! Colour: full gold. Nose: a fairly similar attack on the nose, with the same rubbery notes as well as a little tar, but this one is easier on the fruitcake and harder on marmalade and quinces. Nice notes of marzipan and leather (the Ferrari’s seats, I guess) coming through after a while. With water: same kind of development as with the OB. Please re-read above ;-). Mouth (neat): exactly the same comments as for the nose, there are many similarities with the OB but this one is easier on the sherry hence a tad more playful. Very oily, with some bitter oranges, marzipan again, something between pine resin and rubber (just hints), some liquorice… Still a big, thick Macallan. With water: excellent. Spices, pepper, many dried fruits, touches of sweet mustard, blackcurrants… Finish: long, slightly resinous, coating, with some marzipan and marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent. Not as ‘classically Macallan’ as the OB but almost as excellent. SGP:552 - 89 points.
BTW, I just tried a ‘vatting’ of both, it’s amazing how close it was to the old 10yo Full Proof that I used as a benchmark.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Macallan that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: all I can say is wow! when listening to the fabulous David Murray and the Gwo Ka Masters playing The Devil Tried to Kill Me (that's on the eponymous CD - Sista Kee is on vocals). Isn't Miles' spirit flying around? Please, please buy David Murray's music!

David Murray

June 13, 2010

Glenugie 1966

Tasting two old Glenugie for Sunday

Glenugie 15 yo 1966 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, old brown label) Two stars Colour: gold. Nose: sure it’s no big whisky at 40% and after thirty years in glass but the combination of fresh tropical fruits with shoe polish and iron works beautifully, epitomical Old Bottle Effect in motion. Pineapples and passion fruits, old books, metal polish, grapefruits, honey, Barbour grease, milk chocolate, green tea… All that is complex and much thrilling to follow despite the low strength. Maybe a little more a wine than a spirit in a certain way, let’s see… Mouth: right, it’s pretty tired, cardboardy, chalky and dry. The fruits are still glowing in the distant background but they’re more echoes of fruits, so to speak. Finish: gains power again (just a bit) but it’s still a shadow of its (probable) former self. Comments: I guess we’re ten years too late and that the twistcap was a bit loose – but I haven’t seen the original bottle so not too sure about that. Please take my score with even more salt than usual – but what a nose! SGP (nose only):651 - 75 points.

Glenugie 12 yo 1980/1992 (59.8%, Cadenhead, small white label) Five stars Colour: coffee. Nose: wah! Toffee and coffee, coffee and toffee. And plum jam, and chocolate. Not much else so far but the combo is perfect. Oh, and a lot of very, very old balsamic vinegar. And flints. With water: yah! Exceptional notes of precious leather, pipe tobacco, molasses, ‘brand new snickers’ (rubber), jamon iberico (right, any high-end cured ham)… Fantastic sherry. Some may think it’s a tad too ‘sulphury’, I think it isn’t. Mouth (neat): wow! Rich, punchy, meaty, chocolaty, ‘plummy’, flinty, tarry, smoky… Heavily concentrated, the sherry is perfect. Also big notes of Seville oranges and a heaviness that hints at some dark rums, but without any cloying notes. Elegantly Demerara-ish, I’d say (will you cut the crap one day, S.?) With water: fabulously resinous, putty-ish, cinchona-ish fruitiness. A long forgotten bottle of herbs liqueur. Old Armagnac. Praline. Finish: extremely long and rich but clean, getting appropriately drier in the aftertaste (no ‘heavy tongue effect’). Comments: another sherried marvel by Cadenhead’s. I’m not the only one who thinks that Glenugie was a stupendous spirit and this sherry cask was just another proof. Reminds me of the 1967s by Sestante, which says long. SGP:662 - 94 points. (Dank u wel, Bert V.)

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glenugie that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: ah, the spacy sound of the early 1970s... This is Frenchman - and Gainsbourg compadre - Alain Goraguer playing La Femme (from the OST of La Planete Sauvage - Avatar, anyone?). Please buy Alain Goraguer's music.

Planete Sauvage

June 11, 2010


Tasting two new indie Imperial

Imperial 11 yo 1998/2010 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: starts un toasted bread and roasted nuts, just before it gets more floral and fruity. Apple juice, dandelions, pear juice and a little liquorice over the whole. Interesting whiffs of lavender (nothing perfumy here). Mouth: easy, sweet, a tad sugary (barley sugar, cane or maple syrup), getting then rather grassier. Fresh walnuts and apple peelings. Then more white pepper and wee bubblegummy notes. Finish: medium long, on peppered cane syrup and light honey, with some liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: nothing too special, it’s a sweet and easy young Imperial, with a pleasant personality. To quaff with friends while playing belote. SGP:441 - 80 points.

Imperial 1989/2010 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #178) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: fresh at first nosing, obviously more mature than the 1998, rather more on vanilla custard, old roses, green coffee beans and lemons. Goes on with more cut grass and a little leather grease. Nice! Mouth: much zestier than the 1998, with an interesting profile combining limes, green tea and unaged cachaça (or tequila, or rum…). Some green teas as well, hints of bitter herbs, rocket salad, a pinch of salt, peppermint…Nice.  Finish: medium long, rather soft, herbal, slightly resinous. And some white rum again. Some salt remaining on your tongue and lips. Comments: very good, balanced Imperial, with an unusual saltiness. SGP:351 - 84 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Imperial that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more Fela Anikulapo Kuti today with a frienzed Zombie. Please buy the great man's (and his offspring's) music


June 10, 2010

Tasting two Byzantine old indie Mortlach

I must confess I never quite understood how Mortlach worked despite countless attempts by true experts and industry luminaries at explaining to me the very unusual 2.5 times distilling process (called byzantine, precisely), which is quite different from Springbank's and Benrinnes' own '2.5 times' processes if I’m not mistaken. Okay, as one of the stills is called the 'little witch' (or wee witchie), let's simply call that 'pure magic' - as you can see, I'm extremely far from being a whisky expert!

Unusual (and unlikely) Byzantine mosaic showing the Empress Theodora holding a decanter of Mortlach (found in Elgin). Oh well, we just couldn’t resist. >>>


Mortlach 22 yo 1957/1979 (45.7%, Cadenhead for Samaroli, white label, 360 bottles) Four stars There used to be a version by Cadenhead under the famous black label but this one may be a little different. Colour: gold. Nose: starts on perfect OBE, also with these superb notes tropical fruits that only come with old age most of the time. Mangos, papayas, pineapples, all that coated with a tarry and waxy smokiness and quite some shoe polish plus faint metallic notes. Develops more on smoked ham and hints of dried beef, which often happens with Mortlach. Gets finally beautifully resinous and camphory, all that remaining nicely under the limits. Also a little toasted bread and walnuts/putty. Very, very nice and complex nose.

Mouth: maybe a little less entrancing now, despite the rich mouth feel. Notes of burnt herbs, peppermint, burnt bread crust, then more ripe plums and orange marmalade and quite some black pepper. Improves with more breathing but remains a tad tannic and unusually peppery. Finish: long, peppery, metallic, quite tannic. Strong black tea, cinnamon, cloves. Comments: great nose and a palate that’s maybe a tad below par considering this one’s CV. SGP:372 - 86 points.

Mortlach 70

Mortlach 70 yo 1938/2008 (46.10%, Gordon & MacPhail, 1st fill sherry hogshead, decanter, issued 2010) Four stars and a half There are/were 54 70cl and 162 20cl decanters in the market. It's said to be the oldest malt whisky ever bottled and although I tried hard to think of an older one, I couldn't find any so the claim is most probably justified (but I'd bet that Dalmore will retaliate in the not so distant future). I already had quite a few old Mortlachs by G&M, especially the 1936s were fab (one of them that was bottled in 1972 for Pinerolo was fantabulous) and the 1938s and 1939s bottled at 50 years old were of extremely high quality as well (WF 91). So, is this 70 yo only an über-PR-ised vanity bottling or a true gem? Let’s see… Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts straight on ‘old wood’, as if you entered a cabinetmaker’s workshop, and stays there for a few seconds, just before this venerable malt starts to unfold on old turpentine, camphor, mint liqueur, old Chartreuse, almond oil and putty. Goes on with some plum jam, beeswax, Morello cherries (or rather the jam made thereof) and finally just faint whiffs of cinnamon and cedar wood. Tired? Not at all, sir, pretty much alive and certainly not fragile in any way. Very impressive. Oh, and also a little warm rhubarb pie.

Mouth: exactly the same happens on the palate, it all starts on wood, walnuts and tea but gets then rather fruitier, with several dried ones (figs and apricots are obvious, dates a little less). Once again, there’s something waxy and resinous, the whole getting finally rather dry, with quite some bitter herbs (Underberg). Also hints of cider apples (sour ones). The oakiness is finally much more obvious on the palate than on the nose in my opinion, as often with very old whiskies. Finish: rather long, with a bigger bitter waxiness and quite some liquorice wood. Comments: honestly, this is certainly oaky on the palate, but not quite over-oaky. The nose is stellar. The whole is much more than just a vanity bottling for tycoons who would keep the 20cl version in their Bentley’s glove compartment. SGP:472 - 88 points (let’s remain 'organoleptic'!) (with heartfelt thanks and 1000 bises to Martine and to her zealous mule Olivier).

More distillery data Our tastings: all Mortlach that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: aah, Pearl Bailey... Tired... With Louis Bellson's orchestra... In 1947... Aaahhh... Please buy... Ahhh...

Peral Bailey

June 9, 2010


Tasting two Glenlossie

Glenlossie 1975/2010 (49.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #5950) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: a very elegant, seemingly complex but not extremely aromatic Glenlossie at first nosing. It’s rather malty and orangey, with also notes of vanilla and these typical leafy notes of tea and fresh walnuts that can come form the oak. There are also notes of damp papers, hay, newspapers (a little ink) and strong bitter liquorice. Farmyard. With water: rather superb, ultra-typical refill sherry-alike profile. Leather, oranges and many herbs. Mouth (neat): excellent, full, creamy, starting on herbs and orange marmalade (and liqueurs) and developing more on liquorice and smoked tea (lapsang souchong). Very, very good. Also roasted nuts and a little coffee. With water: perfect! Marzipan and Seville oranges plus hints of cloves and cardamom. Finish: rather long, on exactly the same aromas. Some liquorice wood in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m not sure Glenlossie has a remarkable personality but what’s sure is that this one is superbly average, in a certain sense. It came from an excellent cask. SGP:452 - 90 points.

Glenlossie 24 yo 1984/2009 (59.1%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #2536, 549 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: punchy, more austere than the 1975, with quite some gunpowder and flints, then dry leaves and grass just like in the 1975. Green cigars, liquorice wood, hints of asparagus and Brussel sprouts… Sulphur? Maybe just a little. With water: still a tad roughish, even at +/-45% and after quite some breathing but it’s a most enjoyable kind of roughness, herbal, farmy and farmy. Some flinty sulphur remains there (cooked asparagus but no plain cabbage, if you see what I mean). New leather. Mouth (neat): an even punchier version of the 1975, maybe a tad prickly at very first sips (lime, ginger and pepper) but very full, with a sweeter and fruitier sherry than on the nose. Notes of Campari and Schweppes. Right, Campari-tonic. With water: orange galore now. And tonic water. A fizziness for sure. Finish: rather long, still fizzy (Fanta?), with more herbs, ginger and bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: if you dig Campari and (bitter) orangey sherry, this one is for you. I do like it. SGP:461 - 84 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glenlossie that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: frankly, most westernised Budhist music is usually over-produced junk but I quite liked a record made by the Budhist monks from the Sakya Tashi Ling monastery (that's in, err, Spain). This track is called Blessings (what else?). Please buy these monks' music.


June 8, 2010


Tasting two Broras

Brora 1982/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, refill sherry butt) Four stars More Brora, great! The early 1970s seem to be exhausted but not the early 1980s. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one seems to be sharper and flintier than earlier 1982 CCs, which is surprising. More ‘Brora’ than expected, with a grassy, farmy and rather mineral kind of peatiness and a ‘marineness’ that hints a bit at Talisker. Wet rocks, seaweed, lemon, wet wool… Gets then more rounded, with some vanilla and, another surprise, hints of fresh pineapples. Pineapples in Brora! And hawthorns and rosehips. Mouth: sweet, not big, starting right on the same unusual flowery notes (Turkish delights, oriental pastries). A little vanilla too, some cardboard, tea, flour (or rather tapioca)… The peatiness is very moderate but it is peaty. Goes on with more citrus fruits and a little peppermint. Finish: medium long, now more on lemon balm. Very little detectable sherry influence if any. Comments: I’m wondering if these casks shouldn’t have been issued at cask strength… Yeah I know, I should mind my own business. SGP:553 - 85 points.

Brora 28 yo 1981/2009 (57.4%, Douglas Laing, Old and Rare, sherry cask, 93 bottles) Five stars 1981 Broras can be hit or miss, let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: whoo, this is sharp and extremely dry and leafy! A lot of fresh walnuts, aspirin tablets, wet rocks, gunpowder, sulphur and marzipan, with also whiffs of bitter almonds and many other green and grassy notes. In the background: some coconut from the wood. With water: extreme grassiness. Agave juice, fresh mint, white tequila and a rather organic peatiness. Damp earth. Really spectacular – and no more coconut, thank heavens. Mouth (neat): ultra-leafy once again, concentrated, extremely herbal but not really tannic or drying. It’s big whisky but I’m not sure I’d have identified Brora, had I tried this blind. A lot of lemon too. With water: ah yes. Opens up like an oyster in the evening (what?) More peat, more lemon, more minerals, more grassy notes, more mint, some horseradish (and sorrel)… In short, excellent.  Finish: long, peatier, peppery, truly Brora now. Comments: a multi-phased very grassy Brora, not very easy but hugely rewarding when you start to play with water. Don’t rush it! Not for sissies, though ;-). SGP:375 - 91 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Brora that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



MUSIC - Recommended listening: Brasil's wonderful psychopop diva Gal Costa singing a rather solar Pontos de Luz (from her 1973 album India). Please buy Gal Costa's music.

Gal Costa

June 7, 2010

Tasting five rather young Highland Park

Highland Park 1995

Highland Park 14 yo 1995/2010 (46%, Whisky-Doris, The Dram, 120 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: very typical of the fairly recent make of Highland Park, clean, floral, with some coastal notes and many white or yellow garden fruits plus a flinty zestiness and only some mild grainy notes. Moderate vanilla. Mouth: easy, fruity but firmer than, say most Speysiders at similar age, with a rather grassy structure and a tiny-wee peatiness and saltiness. Good body. Finish: rather long, more on orange and lemon zests, with some green tea and pepper in the aftertaste. Oh, and a little peat. Comments: not much to say, I think it’s a good, moderately fruity youngish Highland Park. SGP:453 - 81 points.

Highland Park 14 yo 1995/2010 (55.8%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead) Four stars The cask strength version of the one we just had. Colour: straw. Nose: more closed at first nosing, as often, with a bigger grassiness and more flinty notes. Hints of clay. With water: profound viscimetry ;-)! Soon to get very cloudy. More mint, pine resin, eucalyptus, walnuts, grass… It doesn’t quite smell like the version at 46% I must say. I find it frankly nicer at similar ABV. Mouth (neat): same comments as for the nose, although I would say this version seems to be more complex. An oomphy, grassy, peaty and salty HP. With water: closer to the 46% version. Smoked pears and lemons? Finish: rather long, resinous and lemony, with as much green tea as in the ‘46’. Comments: I like this one much better – please call me ‘master reducer’! Whaff… SGP:362 - 86 points.
Highland Park 1997/2009 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive, sherry, cask #5821) Four stars This one is exclusive to G&M's shop in Elgin. It’s a new label, similar to the Glenburgie in the picture. Colour: amber. Nose: rich, winey sherry with quite some leather and gunpowder/struck matches as well as big notes of liquorice. A lot of parsley too, prune sauce, game… Maybe a faint soapiness. Huge notes of coffee liqueur after a while. With water: extreme coffee and old varnish, old Armagnac, balsamic… Quite beautiful. Mouth (neat): starts a little bitterish and rubbery, with a lot of liquorice and a little mint, then these biggish notes of coffee liqueur once again. Also quite some milk chocolate. Very rich! With water: same, plus some ham and many herbs. Salmiak. Finish: long, with the liquorice and the herbs to the front – and the back. Comments: wow, this was big! For sherry freaks. SGP:362 - 87 points.
Highland Park 12 yo (58.9%, OB for Maxxium NL, cask #974, 35cl) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: much less winey than the G&M but even more on leather and huge notes of bitter chocolate and even cocoa powder. Also hints of molasses, rich honey (chestnut), ham, onion sauce or jam, chutney… A wee chalkiness and quite some gunpowder again over this debauchery ;-). With water: more resin, putty, marzipan, custard, ‘new car interior’, pipe tobacco… Mouth (neat): this time it’s this one that’s more winey, more classically sherried, all on prunes and chocolate, with a good deal of herbs in the background. Mint, Jägermeister, pepper and blackcurrant jelly (and the tea made out of leaves or buds). A tannic feeling. With water: a tad more elegant than the G&M, more on fine herbs and several tertiary notes, around bitter almonds and Bénédictine. Finish: very long, with quite some pepper. Comments: different from the G&M, but of very similar quality – and for sherry freaks again. SGP:462 - 87 points.
Highland Park 13 yo 1995/2009 (57.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Refill Hogshead #4.132) Two stars Colour: straw. Nose: back on ‘natural’ HP, we’re extremely close to the Whisky-Doris at CS here, with maybe a bigger minerality and added notes of marshmallows and pears. The cask was less active. With water: nada, niente, nothing. Water killed it. Okay, some rooty notes, gentian-alike, but not much else. Mouth: (neat): this time this one is the grassiest of the two. Also a tad acrid, very green… Green pepper, hints of artichokes, chlorophyll… Not easy. With water: not bad, but a tad boring. Chalky. Liquorice wood, cardboard, grass. Finish: long, getting wrongly bitter. Comments: too austere and grassy for my taste, far from the best recent indie HPs. SGP:271 - 71 points.

HP  8

And also Highland Park 8 yo (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1975) Five stars Whooops, too late, now it’s in the glass and I just noticed it’s the 100°proof version, whilst I had planned to compare the new travelling vintages with an old HP at 70°proof (i.e. 40%). Comparing them won’t make any sense so please don’t consider this as a… comparison. Colour: amber/brown. Nose: big sherry, probably from true sherry casks (as opposed to sherry-seasoned casks, which seems to be the norm in the whisky industry since quite some years now.) Much more chocolate, coffee, Xmas cake, prunes, ham… It smells like a great old 100yo Armagnac at times. In the background: quite some fruits, dried pears, figs, more ham (cured) and finally notes of Havana cigar (unlit). Oh, also parsley and lovage as often in this old style whiskies. Very impressive. With water: tar, shoe polish, smoke, peat and game. Immense and almost overwhelming.

Mouth: big power! It’s almost liqueur, such is this one’s concentration. Dates, figs and mint at full strength. Also loads of pine resin, liquorice, peat… It’s so thick that one may drink it using a flat spoon - serious. Even chopsticks! With water: ‘a liquid symphony’. Finish: as a good friend of mine once wrote: ‘God’s got some thinking to do as this old beauty redefines eternity’. Comments: eight years old, that must be a misprint. Must be 38. Up there in the malty pantheon. SGP:463 - 94 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Highland Park that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: are you ready to melt? The sweet (Little) Jimmy Scott sings Prince's (and Sinead O'Connor's) mega hit Nothing Compares to You. You've been warned. Please buy Jimmy Scott's music.

Jimmy Scott

June 5, 2010


Tasting two Littlemill

Littlemill 13 yo 1990/2004 (43%, Signatory, cask #2976) Two stars I remember these little Littlemills were very cheap at the time. Colour: white wine. Nose: well, it’s one of those rather weird Littlemills that used to display excessively milky, yeasty and porridgy notes on top of something burnt (plastic?) Quite some cardboard and ‘chemical’ lemon juice too. Pass despite the very nice, cleaner notes of grapefruits that arise after quite some time. Mouth: once again, a somewhat ‘chemical’ start, on vitamin tablets, aspirin, lemonade and something cardboardy. Also a little candy sugar and lavender (sweets or ice cream). Marginally nicer than on the nose. Finish: rather long and more citrusy which is good news. Comments: not the most unpleasant Littlemill ever in my opinion but it’s no winner. Signatory already had better Littlemills in the past for sure. SGP:331 - 72 points.

Littlemill 19 yo 1990/2009 (57%, Sestante) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: some aspects remind me of the 13 yo (the lemony notes) but other than that it’s another dimension, much cleaner, beautifully sharp, with notes of tangerines, marzipan and putty. More Bladnoch than Littlemill so far, which can’t be bad news. With water: even more superb! Orange sorbet, cough syrup and honeydew. Mouth (neat): perfect half-flinty, half-lemony start, rich but extremely zesty and candied at the same time. Lemon marmalade and green apples plus a little ginger and white pepper. With water: wonderful citrusy palate, a huge surprise here. Something between a well-made mojito and a ti-punch. Finish: long, on exactly the same notes. Comments: a rather fantastic Littlemill that takes water perfectly well. Excellent selection by the Italians. SGP:541 - 91 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Littlemill that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: maybe the most elegant 'cool trumpeteer' ever (okay, okay, also Chet Baker), Art Farmer, playing A sleeping bee. Please buy Art Farmer's music.

Art Farmer

June 4, 2010


Tasting two Mannochmore

Mannochmore 1998/2009 'Manager's Choice' (59.1%, OB, cask #6582, 588 bottles) Four stars This one ex-Bodega sherry European oak. I have very fond memories of the monstrous Mannochmore ‘Manager’s Dram’ that was bottled at a whopping 66% alc/vol. Let’s see if this one is more civilised. Colour: gold. Nose: punchy start on fresh putty and gunpowder, coal, leather, fermenting hay, flor (dry yeasty smell) and maybe hints of cooked asparagus. Then more coffee and chocolate, with only a light green fruitiness (apple, not too ripe strawberries) that may scream for water. So, with water: indeed, more youth and more fruitiness. Pears, bubblegum, tinned peaches and apricots… The notes of fermenting hay and raw barley are still there in the background. Mouth (neat): much sweeter and fruitier than on the nose. Barley sugar and blackcurrant jam, then orange liqueur and a rather peppery background (peppered vodka, I think the Ukrainians call that gorilka). Rather creamy mouth feel. With water: more on apple pie. Finish: long, rather more complex, with added notes of cough syrup, liquorice and earl grey tea. Not too sweet orange liqueur. Comments: excellent young dram, probably close to the best you can do with a ten or eleven years old Speysider. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Mannochmore 1978/2000 (55.8%, Scott's Selection) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: much less aromatic than the 1998, simpler, directly grassy and only marginally honeyed. Hay, grass, apple peelings, colza, hints of damp cardboard, a little muesli. Globally very grassy. With water: the sweetness from active oak comes out, with some coconut and vanilla. Hints of guavas. Mouth (neat): very, very close to the MC now, just as creamy and sweet but with a more bourbonny profile indeed, involving vanilla and coconut yet again. Sweet ginger liqueur. The grassiness got much more discreet but water may waken it. With water: this is funny, it’s now almost the same whisky as the 1998, only with even more pepper. Finish: ditto. Comments: I tend to prefer the MC because of a more interesting nose but this one is a very good Mannochmore as well. SGP:551 – 84 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Mannochmore that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: it's quite hard to imagine that the seminal Avalon Blues by Mississippi John Hurt was recorded in 1928, isn't it! (from the legendary Okeh session). Please buy Mississippi John Hurt's music...

Mississippi John Hurt

June 3, 2010


The CSS sessions – a verticale of eight Balmenach spanning 40 years

Balmenach 9 yo 2000/2010 (46%, Duncan Taylor, NC2) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh, staring flinty, with whiffs of aniseed and dill. Then more fresh apples and gooseberries. Obviously young but the spirit is clean and enjoyable. Goes on with more liquorice and leaves as well as a little vanilla and liquorice allsorts. Mouth: sweet and easy, very fruity, a fruit salad coated with vanilla and just touches of ginger. Tinned peaches. Finish: medium long, with just traces of oak and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: typical well-made young Speysider. Don’t chill or you may down litres of this - inadvertently. SGP:531 – 83 points.
Balmenach 14yo (40%, The Inverarity Ancestral, sherry cask, +/-2006) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: rather dry and fino-ish, with notes of leaves, teabag and a little shoe polish. A little smoke as well, burning leaves and hay, walnuts, toasted oak. Pleasant profile. Develops on vin jaune, flor… Mouth: very good, with even more fino notes, yellow wine, walnuts, tea… Too bad the body’s a tad thinnish. Finish: shortish but the profile is very interestingly dry and, yes, fino-like. Comments: quite unusual, I like it mucho. SGP:262 - 85 points.
Balmenach 1991/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: not far from the 2000, only with a little more vanilla and oak. Very, very ‘balanced’. Faint dustiness, hints of iron and old books, flour. Mouth: easy, creamy, fruity and sweetly spicy. A little coffee, dark chocolate, tea, some lemon in the background. Finish: medium long, with that dry dustiness again. Pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: a good Balmenach. SGP:451 - 80 points.
Balmenach 21 yo 1984/2005 (57.8%, The Bottlers, cask #3056) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: very noseable considering the high strength, creamy and rather chocolaty. Café latte, vanilla crème, touches of ginger and coconut in the background. Lactones. The cask must have been rather active, good, ‘creamy’ oak extraction. Mouth: rich, thick, creamy, vanilled and fruity. Banana liqueur with grated ginger and pepper, crystallised pineapple… High concentration in this one. Finish: very long, on the same notes. White pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent, maybe kind of ‘modern’ (high-extraction oak) but much pleasant. SGP:551 - 89 points.
Balmenach 1979/2009 (56.3%, Berry Bros & Rudd) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: this one is much more on many herbs, fresh parsley, lovage, dill, then liquorice and roots, hay, oak, green tea (and pu-erh as well)… Quite superb I must say. Unlit Havana cigar and toffee. Mouth: almost as rich and coating as the 1984 now, with a very similar profile but more pepper and strong black tea. Peppered Malibu? Faint smokiness. Finish: long, spicy, slightly tannic. Comments: another excellent one. Good oak. SGP:462 - 88 points.
Balmenach 1975/2007 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, first fill sherry) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: wow! This is very complex, superbly mushroomy and herbal, with also whiffs of moss, a little camphor, bitter oranges, tamarind juice, old wooden furniture, honeycomb… Then same hints of parsley as in the BBR. Mouth: excellently fruity, lively, extremely quaffable. Orange liqueur, apple juice, vanilla fudge, multi-vitamin juice and zests plus just a little ginger. Finish: medium long, with more herbs and tea now. Comments: excellent but dangerously drinkable, even without ice ;-). SGP:551 - 89 points.
Balmenach 1971/1989 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice, Old Map label) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one is a tad more closed, dry and dusty at first nosing but all that improves with a little breathing, on more plum jam, oranges, tangerines and unexpected hints of passion fruits. Not spectacular but fresh and clean. Mouth: very fruity for a start, with exactly the same notes of multi-vitamin juice as in the 1971 but more liquorice and just hints of litchis and rosewater (or Turkish delights). Quite some oak as well but it’s all perfectly bearable and rather ‘polished’. Finish: medium long, more on fruit jam and tea. Too bad there’s something burnt in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s dangerously drinkable despite the bitter aftertaste. Better pour this glass into the spittoon asap… SGP:551 - 86 points.
Balmenach-Glenlivet 19yo 1961/1980 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label,75cl) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is unexpectedly close to the 1971, they’re almost the same whiskies (but it’s true that their ages are similar). Maybe a little more pine resin and putty in this one, kumquats… Same hints of passion fruits as in the 1971. Mouth: oily mouth feel, delicate profile, fruity, resinous, herbal, a tad Chartreuse-like, with also a lot of mint (Get). Quite some liquorice too, many spices, cinchona, bitter almonds, amarettis, lvender sweets…  Excellent. Finish: very long this time, with even more mint. Comments: the best of the bunch in my opinion, but you have to like mint. SGP:561 - 90 points.
With thanks to Bert V., Konstantin and Tomislav.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Balmenach that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Frank Morey sings Barflies, Dead Dreams and Rivers of Whiskey Lies (from his excellent CD Cold in Hand). Please buy Frank Morey's music!

Frank Morey

June 2, 2010

Laphroaig 20

Tasting three 1989 Laphroaig

Laphroaig 21 yo 1989/2010 (53.1%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 197 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: yeah! A rather expressive, superbly grassy and maybe more complex than usual Laphroaig, with more herbal notes than usual. I get olive oil, brine and even and capers at first nosing, just before it all gets more ‘traditional’, with some moderate medicinal and coastal notes and quite some hot ashes (charcoal, BBQ). Quite some apple peelings. Marzipan. Globally rather different from other Laphroaigs. Also hints of manure. With water:  it’s the mint that comes to the front, together with some unexpected notes of Demerara sugar. Bacon. Fab. Mouth (neat): perfect, just perfect. Very punchy, superbly citrusy and herbal, tarry, very smoky, briney, almondy… Great Laphroaig when undiluted, simply very classy, everything the name Laphroaig should stand for. I love the notes of salted tangerines (have to try that!) With water: more of the same. And salted cough syrup? Finish: very long, peppery, peaty, herbal. Comments: great. It hasn’t got too much of the fruitiness of some older Laphroaigs, which makes it maybe a little austere, but it is a great one. Only the finish is a tad less exciting. SGP:268 - 92 points.

Laphroaig 20 yo 1989/2009 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry hogshead, ref 5699, 286 bottles) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: seems closed and shy when compared with the 21yo, more on cocoa powder and flour, wet papers, a little nutmeg… The expected medicinal notes are well here but toned down, sort of muted. Now, one can feel that it should be great, water will probably help unleashing the beast. With water: doesn’t seem to swim too well, which is bizarre for a coastal malt (S., that was stupid and useless.) Became shy but there is a little mint once again. Mouth (neat): as punchy as the 21yo but globally less complex and ‘wide’, closer to the OBs in a certain way (which can’t be bad!) Lemon, seafood, green tea, eucalyptus sweets, pine resin sweets and just hints of overripe apples, with quite some pepper coming to the front after a moment. With water: works better than on the nose, with more marzipan, green apples and ashes. ‘Usual’. Finish: rather long, leafy and herbal. Very ashy and slightly salty aftertaste. Comments: excellent, but suffers a bit from the comparison with the great 21yo. SGP:358 - 87 points.

Laphroaig 20 yo 1989/2009 (57.1%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, for LMdW, sherry hogshead, ref 5220, 219 bottles) Five stars Yes, it was about time… Colour: pale amber. Nose: it’s a very dry sherry that talks first, with some smoked chocolate or something like that, some tar as well, a faint vinosity (new cabernet), something slightly acetic (quite nice actually) and then the whole shebang. Seashells, antiseptic and tutti quanti. With water: works well this time, with more leather and cigar box. Gunpowder. Mouth (neat): this one is probably a tad excessive but very beautifully so. Huge combination of dry grassy walnutty sherry with the spirit’s big smokiness and a lot of lemon. Balance is found even if I wouldn’t say this is a delicate dram – it’s exactly the contrary. Explosive. With water: as often, the big spirit almost killed the sherry influence, but not the wood’s. Bitter spices, chilli… Finish: long, salty, ashy, tarry, leathery and slightly chocolaty. Comments: no wonder this one gathered great scores and comments at the MM Awards 2009. SGP:367 - 90 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Laphroaig that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I know the Gong purists didn't all like the band's 'jazz-rock' era too much but I did, and not only because their drummer extraordinaire the late Pierre Moerlen was born in my town. Let's listen to 1975's Shamal and then buy all of Gong's music (whichever the era).

Pierre Moerlen

June 1, 2010


Fratricidal fight, Dailuaine Manager’s Choice vs. Manager’s Dram

Dailuaine 1997/2009 'Manager's Choice' (58.6%, OB, cask #8476, 564 bottles) Four stars Ex-Bodega sherry European oak. Colour: dark straw. Nose: powerful but not aggressive at first nosing, starting very flowery with notes of vanilla crème in the background. Some heather, meadow flowers and distinct notes of tangerine and light honey, then back on vanilla (quite fudgy) and custard. Rather heady after ten minutes (litchis and Muscat). With water: as often, gets rather more ‘green’ and herbal, with also a little leather, leaves, touches of sour cream or yoghurt and finally notes of warm toasted wood (or fresh sawdust). Mouth (neat): very sweet and very coherent with the nose, with more or les the same combination of vanilla with citrus fruits and a bit of cocoa. With water: becomes almost exuberant, very fruity and very sweet. Caramel, crystallised pineapples, brioche and vanilla cream. Very modern style, wood technology inside. Finish: long, just as creamy and sweet, with a lot of candy sugar. Herbs and dried ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, modern-style rather in the Nadurra/Astar style. SGP:651 - 85 points.

Dailuaine 17 yo 'The Manager's Dram' (59.9%, OB, Sherry, 2000) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: much, much more austere than the MC at first nosing, probably from some less active casks. It’s only after a while that the fragrant notes of tangerines and blood oranges do emerge, as well as a bigger grassiness than in the MC. Other than the different cask influences, the general profiles are actually very similar. With water: closed! Interesting that water made this one almost mute. Only some distant whiffs of oranges do remain as well as a little hay, even after twenty minutes of breathing. Mouth (neat): same scenario as on the nose, a citrusy profile but with less vanilla. With water: very much alive this time, less sweet and less vanilled than the MC and maybe a tad more complex. Various herbs, teas and spices. Thyme infusion and honey, a little pine resin (sweets), touches of bergamots, drops of orange liqueur (triple-sec or else)…  Finish: long, firm, with more spices now. Quite some nutmeg and ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s not unlike the MC, only with less ‘wood technology’. Maybe one more point but I’m splitting hairs. SGP:561 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Dailuaine that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



MUSIC - Recommended listening: dance music is often crap but not this. It's the Bobby Hughes Experience 'playing' the very triphoppy Sahara 72 (in 1999). Some seem to call this retroacid jazz. Why not? Please buy the Bobby Hughes Experience's music.

Bobby Hughes

May 2010 - part 2 <--- June 2010 - part 1 ---> June 2010 - part 2

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



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

Balmenach-Glenlivet 19yo 1961/1980 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label,75cl)

Brora 28 yo 1981/2009 (57.4%, Douglas Laing, Old and Rare, sherry cask, 93 bottles)

Glenlossie 1975/2010 (49.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #5950)

Glenugie 12 yo 1980/1992 (59.8%, Cadenhead, small white label)

Highland Park 8 yo (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1975)

Laphroaig 21 yo 1989/2010 (53.1%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 197 bottles)

Laphroaig 20 yo 1989/2009 (57.1%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, for LMdW, sherry hogshead, ref 5220, 219 bottles)

Littlemill 19 yo 1990/2009 (57%, Sestante)

Macallan 13 yo 1995/2009 'Easter Elchies' (52.8%, OB, sherry hogshead, distillery only, cask #14016)