(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2012 - Part 2

June 2012 - part 1 <--- June 2012 - part 2 ---> July 2012 - part 1


June 29, 2012


More Clynelish is never enough

Sorry about the crappy James-Bond-esque headline but yeah, let’s have more Clynelish today but let’s start with a nice aperitif, an old blend by Ainslie & Heilbron who used two operate Clynelish under SMD/Diageo. There’s most probably Clynelish inside, but not ‘new’ Clynelish…

Kings Legend

King's Legend (43%, OB, Ainslie & Heilbron, Di Chiano, 1970s) Four stars and a half Bottled around the mid-1970s and brought to Italy by old Clynelish’s importers, M. Di Chiano, so this baby should contain a good deal of old, pre-Brora Clynelish. Colour: full gold. Nose: superb start on orange marmalade and clay/metal, but it’s soon to become quite dry and a tad too metallic and spirity. OBE gone a little too far? There’s also quite some coal smoke, paraffin and then curious notes of smoked ham mixed with porridge and soot. Oh and a lot of shoe polish. Yes, I know… Mouth: ha-ha, this is better. Wonderfully dry and even acrid (the kind I like), sooty, ashy, with indeed a lot of old Clynelish inside. Goes on with some quince jelly, a little grapefruit, touches of agave and then more ashes and pepper. Peppery ashes, I’d say. Finish: long, kind of peaty and always quite ashy. The grass is back in the aftertaste. Comments: the nose was a tad unlikely at times, which often happens with very old ‘smoky Highlands style’ blends, but the palate is just fab. Big blended Scotch whisky! Oh, and I loved to feel old Clynelish roaring in the background, you just cannot miss it. SGP:462 - 88 points (and many thanks, Morten!)


Clynelish 1995/2011 'Dancing Stag' (46%, Robert Graham, hogshead, cask #8658, 461 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not the ‘average’ Clynelish – but Clynelish is never average, is it – with some rather sour and winey notes at first nosing, porridge, ale, leaven… The expected fruity/waxy tones aren’t quite there, but it does become nicely buttery (fresh butter), with some vanilla as well, then fresh mint, lemon and pine needles, a little charcoal… In short, it’s an unusual one so far, I’m curious about the palate… Mouth: more typical, starting with big lemons and grapefruits plus touches of violet drops and quite some grass. It’s appropriately zesty, nervous, with less honey/beeswax and more lemon than other middle-aged Clynelishes. A little liquorice, more orange drops… All good. Finish: quite long, with more wax showing up and always quite some grapefruits and lemons. Nice clean aftertaste, quite mineral and slightly salty and peppery. Comments: it’s one of these Clynelishes that hint a bit at Pulteney in my opinion – it’s true that we’re in the neighbourhood. SGP:452 - 85 points.


Clynelish 14 yo 1997/2012 (56.8%, Single Cask Collection, refill sherry hogshead, cask #6892, 301 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: the fino-ish sherry isn’t big and we rather have a typical, very austere, waxy/grassy and pretty smoky Clynelish at first sniffs. Cut grass, lamp oil, graphite, candle wax, dry cider, hay, fern… It’s a profile I like but it’s no sexy whisky. Well, maybe I like it because it’s not very sexy, after all… With water: more raw barley, which is wonderful. Cigar box, maybe a little hazelnut oil… Mouth (neat): oily, quite huge and powerful, with a rather strong bitter/orangey sherry that’s quite uncommon in Clynelish. Campari? Bitter liqueurs? It’s really powerful, so water would be welcome… With water: doesn’t change much, it just gets more sippable. Bitter oranges, Corinthian raisins, touches of maraschino, more Campari (while we’re in Italy, err…) Also a slight fizziness, not uncommon in Clynelish. Lemon squash. Finish: long, on the same notes. Maybe very faint cologny and kirschy touches – possibly from the sherry - but that’s no problem in this context. Comments: another very good, oomphy Clynelish. Well done Östereich! SGP:462 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Clynelish I've tasted so far

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the stunning Ethiopian singer Aster Aweke sings Sew Mehone (from the album Sikuar). I think it's hard to resist! Please buy Aster Aweke's music, thanks...


June 28, 2012


Independent Ardbeg, ups and downs

Time to down a few young Ardbegs from the early 1990s that have been sitting on my shelves for quite some time…


Ardbeg 1990/2001 (58%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask for Alambic Classique, 264 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: what can I say? It’s young unaltered Ardbeg from the early 1990s in all its pure, zesty, smoky glory, and the first thing I enjoy a lot here is the absence of any modern sweetish vanilla notes. Crystalline, very peaty, ashy, moderately briny and more medicinal than the average Laphroaig – but weren’t the good people from Laphroaig operating Ardbeg at the time? Oh, do I detect a little coconut now? I must be dreaming… With water: I was dreaming. Pure, clean, crystalline young Ardbeg. Lovable. Mouth (neat): absolutely perfect, ultra-zesty, oily, lemony, salty, very smoky, very ‘Ardbeg’. Pure unadulterated young peaty spirit, what’s not to love in this little monster? With water: simply perfect and perfectly simple. Ahem. Finish: long, ultra-clean. Comments: essentially Ardbeg – we’d love it if all young (yeah, or NAS) Ardbegs were like this one. Very, very classy, fabulous work by Douglas Laing and Alambic Classique. SGP:457 - 90 points.


Ardbeg 11 yo 1990/2001 (57.1%, High Spirits, 263 bottles) Two stars This baby was bottled for Italy. Probably G&M stock. Colour: full gold. Nose: superb! Ten years in glass seem to have smoothened it a bit, but these medicinal notes that we already had in the DL are still there, in a rounder way so to speak. Cough syrup and fresh walnuts, smoke, new tyres, tar, mercurochrome… With water (while it got almost opaque): more barbecue, charcoal, tar and then kelp and various seashells. Maybe our beloved whelks? ;-) Mouth (neat): big powa but the whole is much les clean and straight than the DL for Alambic, it’s probably a little too bitter and with slightly unpleasant touches of burnt plastic and glue. Uh-oh, something must have gone wrong. With water: a little bitter but it’s still bitterish and oddly lemony (cheap soda). Strange, really strange… Finish: long but it’s some kind of smoked and peppered Fanta now. Comments: water wreaked havoc on this very strange, quite chemical baby. The nose was nice enough to grant it a reasonable mark, because the palate, the palate, err... SGP:377 - 72 points.


Ardbeg 15 yo 1991/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, rum finish, 312 bottles) Two stars Douglas Laing did finish several Ardbegs – and not only Ardbegs – in rum casks at the time, to many whisky lovers’ incredulity. Colour: straw. Nose: very different. Very nice but less precise than the others, with whiffs of old motor oil, ‘dad’s garage’ (I’m sure you see what I mean), green oranges (Hermès have got a perfume that’s named Eau d’Orange Verte and that smells a bit like this) and a kind of metallic smoke. A little butter too, green tea cake… Again, it’s unusual. With water: gets paraffiny. Scotch tape. Mouth (neat): very strange. Again something plastic-like, bitterish, kind of chemical… Another accident? With water: ermnlblmnrbrf… Some good Ardbeg with a layer of… yeast? Plastic? Leatherette? Really on/off, sometimes it’s pretty good and sometimes it’s really awful. Finish: quite long, with notes of tinned sardines on top of these strange chemical notes. Comments: no luck! This is quite bizarre because I had quite a few of these rum-finished Ardbegs by DL and while none was utterly stellar in my book, some were really good. After the High Spirits, really, no luck! SGP:376 - 74 points.


Ardbeg 18 yo 1993/2011 (56.9%, Murray McDavid, Mission, bourbon, 245 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: great! It’s a more polished, rounder version after the 1990 DL for Alambic, but it’s of very similar quality. Smoky fresh butter and riesling, mercurochrome, exhaust pipes, green curry and green gooseberries. Sounds unlikely? It’s not. With water: no changes, which is good news. Maybe a little more freshly peated barley, like in a kiln. Mouth (neat): perfect, just perfect. Smoke and limejuice – or is it the other way ‘round? Add to that oysters, the flintiest Sancerre and black pepper plus chillies and you get the picture. Lovably hot hot hot, hotter than in the nose in any case. With water: blossoming! Only one thing, careful with water, these peat monsters can become soapy if you add too much water in one go. Remember, always drop by drop! Finish: very long, sharp, lemony, with smoke, ashes, chilli and salted anchovies in the aftertaste. It’s slightly fizzy too. Comments: great selection work by MMcD – but I think they always loved Ardbeg. Greatly extreme. SGP:468 - 91 points.
(with thanks to Ho-cheng, Konstantin and Patrick)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Ardbeg I've tasted so far

MUSIC - Recommended listening: we're in 1991 and Sonny Sharrock's guitar flies very high in Who Does She Hope to Be? It's on 'Ask the Ages', with Pharoah Sanders, Charnett Moffett and Elvin Jones). Please buy Sonny Sharrock's music!


June 27, 2012


Tasting Ladyburn again. Hurray!

Cool a newish Ladyburn! Yeah well, the problem is that I haven't got any other untasted Ladyburn on my shelves, so I'll have to find another sparring-partner.  Maybe another Lowlander, what do you think? Something really contrasting to make it funnier, like an old official Rosebank?… The old 8 @40%? That should make for a nice apéririf indeed, especially since the weather is quite hot these days…


Rosebank 8 yo (40%, OB, Distillers Agency, unblended, +/-1980) Two stars and a half Some of the old OBs were brilliant, but some weren't in my experience. This baby was the youngest and the lightest of them all, let's see… Colour: full gold. Nose: light and easy, starting on vanilla rather than lemon and other citrus fruits, with also touches of dried fruits (dates) and a little smoked tea. Also earl grey. Keeps improving after a few seconds, with more fruits, maybe maracuja, as well as a light smokiness. Charcoal. Also touches of paraffin, motor oil and linseed oil but that might be Old Bottle Effect. Mouth: sure it's no big whisky but it's unexpectedly oily - it's almost like when you eat a spoonful of olive oil (which is good for our health I think). Having said that, what happens next isn't quite entrancing, it all gets weakish, quite cardboardy and even a little bitter. Stale tea. Finish: short, dry, slightly bitter. The oiliness remains on your palate for a long time though - a lonely oiliness. Comments: some parts are very pleasant - Rosebank could be quite impressive - but I think this particular expression lacked oomph and the trademark zestiness that we all like so much. SGP:252 - 77 points.


Rare Ayrshire 36 yo 1974/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, #4, bourbon barrel, 261 bottles) Four stars Yes 'Rare Ayrshire' is Ladyburn, that old distillery that stopped distilling just one year later, in 1975. Mind you, this is only the seventh Ladyburn I try and I doubt we'll ever make it to ten. Colour: straw/light gold. Nose: bigger and, quite curiously, fresher and even kind of younger than the old Rosebank. Bubblegum, marshmallows, vanilla from the oak (re-racked?),and then more tinned fruits, pineapples, maybe even litchis… Becomes a tad dusty (sawdust) after a while but t never loses its freshness. Also a little menthol and coconut oil. Mouth: it's a game between the very fresh and Jell-O-like fruits and the oak's spices, very American. Tangerine drops, green tea, hawthorn tea, cinnamon, crystallised ginger, capsicum, vanilla, strawberry drops… I think the closest we can get to this style is Auchentoshan, but Auchentoshan is rather less bubblegummy. BTW, I could try a brand new official Auchentoshan that was quite brilliant, maybe the best I could try since the famed official 1965/1966s. It's not out yet but get ready! ;-) Finish: quite long, clean, vanilled and fruity. A candy shop! Comments: indeed, a candy shop. The 36 years don't show and this is a true piece of history. Maybe one of the very last occasions to try Ladyburn… sob… And a lovely whisky it is! SGP:630 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Rosebank and Ladyburn I've tasted so far

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the late Hubert Sumlin plays the Dead shrimp blues (with Peter Green). Short and sweet, isn't it. Please buy Hubert Sumlin's music...


June 26, 2012


Tasting more blends


Cutty Sark (40%, OB, blend, +/- 2011) Two stars This is the 'basic' version. Colour: white wine. Probably no caramel added, or very little. Nose: it's a fresh and light kind of blend, with something that reminds me of J&B but this has more oomph. Gooseberries, greengages, apples and barley sugar. Becomes more spirity after a few minutes, with also whiffs of varnish and bubblegum. A fair nose, I'd say, slightly cardboardy. Mouth: light and a little sugary, toasted and roasted. Cane syrup and grass, then more roasted nuts and bread. Cornflakes. Finish: rather short, maltier, with even more cornflakes. Comments: a relatively light one, rather flawless. Should work well in a long drink, with a lot of fresh water. SGP:331 - 72 points.

Cutty Storm

Cutty Sark 'Storm' (40%, OB, blend, 2012) Three stars This new baby replaces Cutty Black, a mildly smoky version that I quite liked (WF 78). The proportion of malt should also be higher… Colour: pale gold. Nose: we're actually not far from the regular Cutty, it's just a notch rounder at first nosing. Having said that, this one keeps improving after a few seconds, becoming more complex. Overripe apples, plums, tinned 'rounded' tropical fruits (pineapples, papayas), a little fudge, heather honey and then a little almond oil and toasted brioche. Works very well. Mouth: sort of the opposite of the regular Cutty. Much bigger, more phenolic, slightly salty and quite spicy and peppery. A pleasant sourness (apples) and then more jams (melon, apricot). High quality blend. Finish: rather long, slightly coastal and smoky. Malty and peppery aftertaste. Comments: it's one of these big new blends that wander into malty territories. Nice power. SGP:452 - 82 points.

naked grouse

The Naked Grouse (40%, OB, blend, +/-2012) Four stars It seems that this one was matured in European oak (vs. American for Famous Grouse). Oh, and labels seem to be so last year these days, dear! Colour: gold. Nose: the biggest so far, the malty notes are even more in the front, and so is the oak. A lot, really a lot of vanillin, custard, warm sawdust, and then a little melon and peach. Also roasted pecans and then touches of camphor and liquorice. A little sherry as well, white Port… Very pleasant, aromatic, malty/honeyed nose. Mouth: oily, complex, wide, fruity, herbal… and excellent. Frankly, it's surprisingly good and I cannot not think of some very old versions of Famous Grouse. Notes of fino sherry, tobacco, prunes, leather and then the same kind of relatively 'obvious' oak as in the nose. Bags of white pepper. Finish: long, peppery, with a slightly oaky aftertaste. Comments: maybe the oak's a little loud but quality's high. I like it! SGP:462 - 85 points.


Dimple 15 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2012) Three stars The old Dimples 12yo (aka Pinch) could be fantastic in the 1960s and 1970s. I'm no big fan of the modern ones but this one is the 15yo, so maybe it's stellar… Colour: gold. Nose: more classic, honeyed, floral, smooth than the Naked Grouse. Typical dried fruits, figs, plums, orange cake, apple pie and in the background, faint whiffs of wood smoke and cinnamon. Also a little fresh butter. Mouth: sweet and light yet coating, very classic again, with a satisfying attack although it tends to become a little weaker after a few seconds. Hints of burnt toasts, wood, honey-coated peanuts… Finish: medium long, a notch greener (apple peelings). Walnut cake (or wine) and a little mint in the aftertaste.  Comments: it's a complex blend, smooth, pretty old-style.  A few more degrees would work well in my opinion. SGP:541 - 81 points.


Windsor 17 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2012) Two stars Windsor is now a Diageo brand, I believe it's exclusive to South Korea. The brand was created by Seagram fifteen years ago or so - not to be mistaken for Windsor Canadian. This 17yo has got 'a luminous glow on the label which can be seen in the dark'. For night clubs exclusively? Colour: deep gold. Nose: we've gone even deeper into 'blendish' territories,  the Dimple 15 was much maltier. So it's very discreet, with little aromas, maybe nuts and tea? A little metal as well (tin box) and… well, not much else. Maybe fresh walnuts… Mouth: more, much more happening on the palate, although it's all a tad jumbled, so to speak. I get a little orange juice, Kellog's honey pops, overripe apples, a little oak (shavings), orange cake, vanilla fudge… Really easy. Finish: medium long, rather honeyed, with a bitterer aftertaste (unsweetened tea). Comments: well, it's not a nosing whisky, but the palate is quite pleasant. SGP:541 - 76 points.

Windsor girls

Just like Ardbeg, Windsor are making good use of girlzzz

More tasting notes Check the index of all blends I've tasted so far


MUSIC - Recommended listening: bad days? Here's something soothing, Anoushka Shankar's Oceanic, Part 1. Feeling better? Go buy Anoushka Shankar and dad Ravi's musics.


June 25, 2012


Tasting five middle-aged sherried Bunnahabhain


Bunnahabhain 19 yo 1991/2011 (51.9%, Adelphi for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, refill sherry butt, cask #5458, 120 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: a chocolaty sherry at first nosing, somewhat winey but not excessively so. Say chocolate and coffee-schnapps, the schnapps part being rather kirsch. Goes on with more orange liqueurs and a little raspberry and strawberry (jam). Not a very 'wide' nose but it's pleasant.  Bailey's. With water: more of the same but it got more refined, more civilised. And more Bailey-ish - in a nice way! Mouth (neat): starts very spicy and fruity at the same time, like a heavily peppered and gingered fruitcake. It's quite unusual and slightly pungent , let's see what water will do… With water: that worked. Jams and spices but soft ones this time. Swims well. Finish: long, more on bitter oranges, with 'ideas' of Demerara rum in the aftertaste. Comments: it's a biggish Bunnahabhain. Medium polished, I'd say, but (and?) it really delivers. SGP:552 - 86 points.


Bunnahabhain 21 yo 1990/2012 (54.4%, The Whisky Barrel, Jubilee malt, cask #35) Four stars My first sample was corked, this is a new one. Colour: deep gold. Nose: no cork! Rather a flinty sherry, all on oranges and touches of artichokes (akin to sulphur but it's nice in this context in my opinion). Becomes more and more complex after a few seconds, with more leather and tobacco, soy sauce, balsamico (a lot), cured ham and just wee whiffs of old wine cellar. Very nice development. With water:  again, more of the same. Gamey cigar (a brand? your call.) Mouth (neat): once again, the sherry is heavy but it's a very fruity one, close to a wine's fruitiness. I mean oranges, blackcurrants, pineapples, grapefruits… In the background, quite some spices again. Cloves, cinnamon, mulled wine… With water: bags of jellybeans and litres of cranberry and pomegranate juices. Fun! Finish: gets a tad dry and cinnamony, with a little green oak in the aftertaste. Comments: this nice baby changes a lot with water. SGP:651 - 85 points.


Bunnahabhain 21 yo 1990/2012 (54.5%, The Whisky Barrel, Jubilee malt II, cask #3) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: much cleaner, somewhat simpler, more on barley and beer, in a nice way. I also get very nice touches of moss and mushrooms, leaves, maybe pine needles and then a very soft honeyness. In short, very 'natural' middle-aged Bunnahabhain. With water: sweetened porridge and apple pie, then fresh mint leaves. Mouth (neat): once again, a clean, rather nervous, fruity Bunnahabhain, with little straight wood influence. Cut apples, grass, grapefruits… Close to nature ;-). With water:  very good, with more earth, liquorice wood, blood oranges, acacia honey… Nothing beats nature (wot?) Finish: perfect, very clean, juicy, with a grassy fruitiness that's really likeable. Comments: this one's cleanliness and 'naturality' make it really stands out after the heavily sherried ones. Mee favourite so far, heavy sherry can be a tad tiring. BTW, this baby’s advertised as ‘matured in a single fresh sherry butt’ but it rather tastes like Xth fill. SGP:451 - 88 points.


Bunnahabhain 1991/2011 (54.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, first fill sherry butt, cask #5452) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: we're extremely close to 1991 Adelphi, it's the same style at first nosing. Having said that, it becomes more gamey and cigar-like after one or two minutes, that is to say closer to the 1990 by Whisky Barrel.  With water: more old cellar, humus… I like that. Mouth (neat): same comments, it's got this heavy sherriness and a very pleasant earthiness. With water: nice, quite fresh. Figs, tobacco and touches of liquorice and gentian. Finish: long, on more or less the same notes.  Some kind of earthy fruitcake? Comments: all good. SGP:551 - 86 points.


Bunnahabhain 1990/2012 (53.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #18) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: once again, same territories. Chocolate, jams, earth (again, slight sulphur), tobacco and a little feeling of 'new plastic', or rather brand new car - with leather seats, mind you. With water:  new tyres ;-). Seriously, there is something sulphury and tarry but it's really and asset in this context. Also a nice balsamico again. Mouth (neat): it's big and rich, not exactly refined, but it works. Arak, other oriental liqueurs and spirits, dried figs, ginger cake, limoncello… With water: cask strength orange marmalade ;-) and a few green spices. Certainly cardamom! Finish: quite long, coating, with more ginger. Greenish aftertaste, loses one or two points here (Jaegermeister or even Underberg). Comments: very good and certainly entertaining but again, some drinkers may find it a little tiring. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Okay, I like all these middle-aged sherried Bunnies - there are bunches and bunches around – and they do deserve high marks but I feel they aren't all fully 'integrated'. Not enough, in any case, to reach the 90-mark in my book. They might in ten years… In any case, with heavy sherry, more can be less sometimes.

More tasting notes Check the index of all bunnahabhain I've tasted so far

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a few jazzists extraordinaires are playing Bbb. They're Arthur Blythe, Lester Bowie, Malachi Favors and Amina Claud and it's on Bowie's album 'The 5th Power' (1978, Black Saint - all old Italian Black Saint albums by any musicians are worth a listen IMO). Please buy all these guys' music.

Lester Bowie

June 22, 2012


Tasting a few rare blends, some royal

Ye Monks

Ye Monks (40%, OB, Donald Fisher, +/-2012) A very funny one, that used to be available in ceramic jugs (named Ye Whisky of Ye Monks). This newer bottling is subtitled ‘A Curious Old Whisky’, which is quite curious in itself, isn’t it. Colour: full gold. Nose: starts with these whiffs of burnt wood and bread that are to be found in many young blends in my experience, but those go away and leave room for some very youngish malty notes, maybe not feinty but frankly mashy. Cardboard. Quite rough altogether, I guess it needs Coke or other mixers. Mouth: it’s more drinkable than expected but there’s this bitterish/toasted/caramelly profile that doesn’t work too well. Overcooked coffee and rotting oranges. Finish: short, a little sour, with a bitter aftertaste. Comments: maybe it’s curious, but it’s certainly not old. Dispensable, I’d say, not even sure it’s Coca-Colable. Johnnie Red sure is better! SGP:231 - 65 points.

Spey Royal

Spey Royal (40%, OB, Thailand, +/-2012) Two stars and a half An old brand that used to belong to Gilbey’s, owners of Glen Spey Distillery. This version is available in Thailand. ‘Extra-Rich’, says the label, let’s see… Colour: light gold. Nose: it’s not stellar but I like the royals better than the monks. Rather grassy, with some porridge, vanilla, touches of liquorice wood, more grass, more grass, even more grass… And caramel/toffee. In short, a grassy blend, not very aromatic but not unpleasant. A why not? blend so far. Mouth: indeed it’s better than the Ye Monks, much better! Smokier, fresher, cleaner, more vivid so to speak, I can see why some hot countries such as Thailand would enjoy this profile. Having said that, it’s not top shelf material either, as the background remains a tad too cardboardy and caramelly. A good blend nonetheless. Finish: a little short but there are some nice notes of apple juice and fresh malt. A little smoke in the aftertaste - no bitter aftertaste this time. Comments: delivers – and I think it should be good with a lot of water as well. Or in Bangkok? SGP:352 - 77 points.

Old ad for Spey Royal (1938). Maybe not the sexiest gentleman...



Royal Household

Royal Household (43%, OB, James Buchanan, Japan, +/-2012) Four stars and a half It’s a blend that was composed for the Royal Family only, and that was only to be found in Buckingham Palace and in other more or less royal places in the UK. Today, it’s exclusive to Japan. Colour: full gold. Nose: ho-ho, we’re on another planet. The malts shine through and they’re of high quality, rather ‘Highlands’, the whole being very ‘retro’ as it could well have been bottled 50 years ago – but it’s very recent. Wax, rocks, almonds, peat smoke, game, tobacco, smoked tea, earth, ‘good’ mushrooms, old white Bourgogne… It’s a huge surprise, to tell you the truth. Impressive nose for a NAS blend. Mouth: extremely impressive, this is some blend! They chose the best malts I think, rather big ones indeed, and, well, it just works. Smoky, waxy, slightly sappy, with bitter oranges, tangerines, a little salt, cloves… An unexpected complexity in this one! Finish: long and grassier, with a great bitterness (liquorice, salmiak). Some salt again in the aftertaste. Comments: one of Buchanan/Diageo’s best-kept secrets if you ask me, probably very high malt content. SGP:463 - 88 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all blends I've tasted so far

MUSIC - Recommended listening: could be WF favourite RL Burnside but he's Boo Boo Davis and he's playing Who stole the booty (from Drew Mississippi). Please buy Boo Boo Davis' music!

Boo Boo Davis

June 21, 2012


Tasting two contrasting Americans. That’s an understatement.

Yeah, let’s have a bit of fun today, with what’s probably the two extremes of American Whiskey: an old Calvert and a very special new one by Charbay that went off to great applause within friendly circles.

Ad for Calvert Extra, the very same whisky we'll try (1972) >>>

Let's try to answer that question 40 years later...

Calvert ad


Calvert ‘Extra’ (40%, OB, early 1970s) Nicknamed ‘the soft whiskey’, this baby contains a lot of neutral spirit and was always said to be ‘unassuming’. Not to be sipped neat, as the old label suggested, but let’s see if it’s that, err, unassuming indeed… Colour: gold. Nose: not big, obviously, and very ‘oily’ so to speak, not unlike some old Canadian. I mean linseed oil, paraffin, then more cereals and a little cardboard. Frankly, it won’t tell us much but I wouldn’t say it’s ugly. It’s just… unassuming. There is a little plastic though… Mouth: well, it’s not without reminding me of Der Falkner, that strange whisky they were making in Eastern Germany (DDR). Porridge and dust plus some kind of artificial orange liqueur – or Fanta? Stale apple juice and beer… Of well oh well… Finish: very short and that’s the good part. Sour aftertaste. Comments: it was fun, that’s all I can say, while paraphrasing Disraeli once again: I love bad whisky coz good whisky can be boring. This one wasn’t! SGP:230 - 35 points.


Charbay 12 yo 1999/2011 ‘E’ (69.1%, OB for Los Angeles Whiskey Society, barrel #1, 48 bottles) Five stars Some garage whiskey and probably (and as I said), exactly the opposite of the Calvert. Basically, it’s beer distilled in a Charentais still (cognac still) and matured in active wood. Unlikely? Let’s see… Colour: red amber. Nose: we’re between Belgian Kriek beer, rye, orange liqueur and strawberry wine like they make in some parts of Eastern Europe. So yes, it’s immensely fruity but it’s also perfectly balanced, not ‘whisky’ and very ‘whisky’ at the same time, if you see what I mean. Quite spectacular! More and more chocolate or rather ganache after ten minutes. With water: none of the above is killed and there’s even more freshness and fruitiness. Maybe hints of agave/tequila? Anyway, t’s wonderful. Mouth (neat): wham! The beer comes out but it hasn’t got any of the soapy or shakily fruity notes that distilled beer can display in my experience, especially when hops is involved. Many liqueurs, ginger, juniper, oranges, cherries, then more earl grey tea, raspberry jelly, blackcurrants… It’s really spectacular and pretty sippable at such high strength. Impressive. With water: swims like Mark Spitz, which is another miracle, even if the oak got a notch louder. Liquorice, After Eights, blackcurrant jelly, more juniper (hints of the best Dutch genevers). Finish: simply everlasting. Comments: only one question: can they do this again or was it simply a miracle? SGP:762 - 91 points.

(with heartfelt thanks to Ron – I’m sorry Ron – Steffen, Oliver and David)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Americans I've tasted so far

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a long, wonderful downtempo piece by famous drummer Leo Morris aka Idris Muhammad. It's called Loran's Dance and it's on 'Power Of Soul' (1974), with Randy Brecker and Groover Washington. Please buy Idris Muhammad's music.


June 20, 2012


Tasting more new Littlemill, all top notch


Littlemill 22 yo 1989/2011 (55.1%, Glen Fahrn Germany, cask #007, 310 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: starts citric and grassy, I’d add ‘as it should be’. Lime, cut grass and grapefruits… Then more almond oil and putty, turmeric, menthol, soot and a little linseed oil. All pretty perfect so far, very elegant and self-restrained, with a slightly phenolic side. With water: the soot comes out more, coal smoke, more putty, green bananas… Very, very nice for sure. Mouth (neat): very clean, zesty, grassy, lemony, very nervous and eminently rieslingesque. A very nice liquoricy bitterness as well, making it even sharper – in a nice way of course. With water: perfect. More fruits came out, tangerines, cranberries… Finish: medium long, ultra-clean, zesty, with more liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: another great Littlemill. To think that the distillery was so despised when it was active (and standing!) SGP:462 - 90 points.


Littlemill 22 yo 1989/2011 (55.4%, Whisky Box) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’re obviously close to cask #007, this is only a tad rounder, just a tad. Also more humus and ‘wet gravel’ coming through after a while, roots, gentian, broken branches… Anyway, it’s just as beautiful. Great variant. With water: less sooty notes in this one, rather more fresh fruits, bananas, apricots, vanilla, orgeat… It seems that the cask was a notch more active. More smoke after twenty minutes. Mouth (neat): perfect once again. Limoncello, chartreuse, riesling, grass juice and liquorice wood. Sharpy sharpy chip chip! (that’s smart, S.!) With water: even more perfect, its balance is quite amazing. Anti-sluggish malt whisky, I’d say. Finish: again, not the longest ever but everything’s well in place, especially the citrusy part. Comments: I seldom talk about prices but this baby’s at only 89€ at whiskybox.de, I think that's extremely fair! SGP:551 - 91 points.

And also, these just in:


Littlemill 20 yo 1991/2012 (49%, Whisky-Doris, cask #554, 132 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: starts nervous, green very citrusy, it’s almost grapefruit juice at first nosing. Becomes a tad rounder after that, with more watermelons, peaches, all that being pleasantly coated with vanilla and acacia honey. A nice greenness remains in the background and keeps it ‘nervous’ (green apples) while there’s even a little smoke, somewhat Ardmore-ish. Mouth: crisp and zesty attack but there’s also quite some vanilla and touches of not-too-ripe strawberries. Then more spices, cinnamon, white pepper… Classic zesty Littlemill, with just a faint sourness in the background (apples). Finish: long and even spicier now, with again a little smoke and ashes ala Ardmore. Comments: ex-Islay cask? Anyway, another top notch Littlemill. Where have they all been? SGP:562 - 88 points.


Littlemill 23 yo 1988/2012 (49.3%, Archives, third release, sherry cask) Five stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: a lot of sherry in this one and much les distillery character than in the 1991. Very nice whiffs of dried porcinis, tobacco, humidor, walnuts, dates and figs and quite some gunpowder (no ‘straight’ sulphur though)… After ten minutes: Havana cigar and bitter oranges as well as a little camphor. Quite brilliant I must say. Mouth: rich, creamy and… well, bloody excellent if you like dry sherry. Did they distil some manzanilla? It’s even a little salty but there’s also more distillery character than in the nose, with oranges, passion fruits and grapefruits as well as funny touches of cranberry juice. Did I mention tobacco? Finish: long, beautifully dry, with more spices and a little soy sauce and lovage in the aftertaste. Maggi? Comments: another one that’s hard to beat. These little Littlemills really were the best news within the recent years, let’s hope they have more. SGP:551 - 91 points.


Littlemill 23 yo 1988/2012 (52.4%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask) Five stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: same profile as the Archives, most probably a sister cask or even the same cask. Please read or re-read above… Well, if you try really hard you’ll get a little more kirsch in this one… Or maybe not. Mouth: yeah, same. Finish: same. Hard to beat, immensely playful and enjoyable. Comments: same-ish. SGP:551 - 91 points (same score, obviously).


More tasting notes Check the index of all Littlemill I've tasted so far

MUSIC - Recommended listening: after WF favourite Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, here's another Azeri jazz wonder: Amina Figarova. She's doing Come escape with me. Please buy her music!


June 19, 2012


Tasting high-range Johnnie Walker

Well, it seems that anything that's not 'Red' is pretty much high-range at Johnnie Walker's, but it's true that we rarely taste contemporary blends at WF so our experience is weak, very weak… Maybe it's time to improve all this. I've done a nice new vs. old vs. very old JW Red session a while ago but haven't published it yet. My bad! Anyway, let's have these newish wonders instead if you don't mind, Red can wait.

JW Black

Johnnie Walker 12 yo 'Black Label' (40%, OB, +/-2012) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it's nice, quite fat, slightly smoky, with distinct herbal notes in the background (coriander? Sorrel?) as well as a little aniseed on top of the expected toasted bread, orange marmalade and plain malt. Frankly, it's a very nice nose but it should all happen on the palate… or not. Let's see… Mouth: well, it's maybe not quite for a die-hard malt drinker, and the toasty/caramelly notes aren't quite up my alley, but other than that it's quite pleasant. There's a little smoked tea, liquorice, smoky ashes, maybe a little cardboard… It's not full-bodied but it isn't weak either. Good balance. Finish: shortish, and I guess that was to be expected. It's always in the finish that things go a little wrong with blends that aren't 'super-premium-deluxe' in my experience. Cardboard and black tea, with a dry aftertaste. Comments: globally, I'd say it's good whisky, with some complexity. One could fearlessly sip this neat! SGP:342 - 78 points (remember I use the same scale for malts and blends, so I'd say 78 is a pretty good mark for a heavy selling blend).

JW double black

Johnnie Walker 'Double Black' (40%, OB, +/-2012) Four stars This version is said to be peatier and to bear more 'modernity' (my words, err), that is to say a higher proportion of heavily charred oak. No age statement. Colour: full gold. Nose: we're approaching malty territories here.  It's rather less expressive than the Black, a notch more austere but also unexpectedly mineral, waxy and grassy - I could swear I get Clynelish. I also get some menthol and touches of humus. What's sure is that there's no extravagant vanilla-banananess (wot?), which is pretty good news. But then again, the palate will tell us more… Mouth: yes, yes and yes, this is for malt drinkers. Charred oak may have brought more fullness without, again, having made it syrupy, quite the opposite. It's also very smoky/peaty, nervous, with touches of coal and leather as well as a little mint and liquorice. Antiseptic (hints). Frankly, I like this quite a lot. Finish: surprisingly long, salty, smoky… A feeling of brine in the aftertaste. Comments: it's a surprise, I'd bet there's quite a lot of peated malt in there. A very intelligent version, I dare say - yes marketing can match taste. SGP:244 - 86 points.

JW Gold

Johnnie Walker 'Gold Label Reserve' (40%, OB, +/-2012) Three stars and a half It's new, it's brand new, the older Gold (18 yo) having disappeared from the shelves or so it seems. Mind you, I think I never had a go at that one… Colour: full gold. Nose: you know what? I like Double Black better at this point, maybe it's not any more complex but it's kind of straighter and cleaner. Right, and more mineral. The Gold has probably more sherry but that comes with more sourness (overripe apples) and more mead/ale.  I don't know, I like it less… Mouth: it's better on the palate, more nervous, more, well, mineral, with good spices from the oak, pepper, touches of curry, then more raisins and other dried fruits. More smoke as well. Finish: medium, drier, smokier, with more tea and some pepper that plays with the edges of your tongue. Peppery and gingery aftertaste, with also a saltiness. Comments: it's another blend that seems to bear more peat and pepper. It's less full than the Double Black in my opinion but the peatiness on the palate works very well. SGP:353 - 84 points.

JW Platinum

Johnnie Walker 18 yo 'Platinum Label' (40%, OB, +/-2012) Three stars and a half A different composition, said to be richer than the Gold. Some more or less official websites claim that it's (I quote) "targeted toward the increasingly sophisticated and progressive whisky consumer". Isn't that us, my friend? Colour: full gold. Nose: it is richer, fruitier, more demonstrative, with more pineapples, tinned pears and even marshmallows. To give you an idea, the Gold was more Highlands, this is more Speyside. Goes on with more dried fruits, sultanas, dried bananas, and then floral notes, roses, peonies… And a little leather and tobacco. It's quite complex in fact, fragrant… Mouth: well, there is some peat, there is some smoke and there are herbs, including bitter ones (light Jaeger). It's much less rounded and smooooth than what the nose suggested, and it's quite spicy too (pepper, ginger). Finish: medium, more towards earth and liquorice wood. Peppery aftertaste (very peppery). Comments: palate and nose are quite different. I'm having trouble deciding on which I like best, between the Gold and the Platinum. Let's go for the same score then! What's sure is that the Platinum is spicier. SGP:463 - 84 points.

And now something very special, one of Johnnie Walker's 'Director's Blends' that are issued every year in very small series, only for the company's board (and a few high-placed friends I suppose). It seems that the lucky directors get 6 bottles each - no need to tell you that I have already mailed my resumé but sadly, no news so far…

JW Directors

Johnnie Walker 'The Director's Blend 2011' (46%, OB, off-commerce) Three stars Each year bears a different style, whether smoky, spirit-driven, oak-driven, Lowland… 2011 was the year of the 'oak-driven' style, let's try it… Colour: gold. Nose: oak-driven indeed. Plasticine, vanilla, pencil shavings and touches of ginger, and then more of all that. Oops, forgot to mention coconut… Mouth: same, oak, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon (bags!), bitter oranges, touches of curry, more oak, cigarette tobacco,  more ginger… Well, it's exactly what it says, oak-driven. Finish: same, for a long time. Comments: in truth, it's a kind of experiment, and it's very different from all the previous Director's Blends that I could try as well.  Indeed this baby was poured by Master Blender -a true one- Jim Beveridge during the MM's 15th Anniversary celebrations, amongst other 'vintages'. Yes I smuggled a sample, but only one, I (try to) behave! Anyway, I think the previous ones were much better but it's all a matter of taste, of course.  What's sure is that this one was very 'un-Diageo', so to speak, as the company's bottlings seem to be rather distillate-driven in general. Next time, I'll rather try to smuggle a sample of 'smoky Highlands' style, it's lovely! SGP:551 - 80 points (but please note that other MMs scored this baby much higher).

Conclusion: all is well, my fav was one of the cheapest, namely JW Double Black. I hear you, there is some active oak involved and maybe the style is a notch flattering at times but you see, I'm no snob. Am I? By the way, Johnnie Walker had a record year in 2011, with 18mio cases sold, that is to say around 120 million bottles. Wow!

More tasting notes Check the index of all blends I've tasted so far

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Ian Segal's deep voice sings Let my love (from the CD 'Swagger'). Please buy Ian Segal's beautiful music, thanks.

Ian Segal

June 18, 2012


Tasting three Speysiders

Temperatures are extremely high in Alsace these days and I just cannoteasily taste whisky under these circumstances, but I could jot down a few notes while in Scotland with the MMs. Please take them with (even) more salt than usual…


Glenfarclas 1966/2011 (47.9%, OB for The Nth Universal Whisky Experience Las Vegas 2011, single cask) Four stars and a half This baby was bottled for, as their website says, ‘the world’s premier promoter of luxury, super-premium whisky enjoyment experiences’ last year. Oh well, if you don’t say those things yourself, nobody else will I guess. Nose: starts with a mild oakiness and notes of ale, then we have more apple pie and 'yellow' flowers, nectar… Good balance. Mouth: it's bigger now, certainly oilier, pleasantly tarty, with an oak that really starts to sing loud after a few seconds but never becomes too dominating. Quite some white pepper, in fact. Finish: the oak's loud but still below the limits. Ginger and then lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: this baby swims like a champ, it becomes creamier and sweeter while the oak gets better integrated. A nice oldie of the almost unsherried kind. SGP:461 - 88 points.


Glenlivet 17 yo 1994/2011 ‘Josie’ (54.5%, OB, cask #4014, 464 bottles) Four stars The name ‘Josie’ comes from the spring that provides water to Glenlivet Distillery. Nose: typically modern Glenlivet, starting with white chocolate and apple crumble while there's quite some cinnamon and a little sandalwood in the background. More and more chocolate after that as well as whiffs of coal smoke. Mouth: orchardy, I'd say. Apples, overripe pears, greengages and then more acidic fruits, oranges, green apples… Clean and appropriately fruity. Finish: long, with both more pepper and more tangerines and oranges. The aftertaste is very spicy. Comments: water makes the oak's spices come even more to the front. Nice dram anyway, rather oak-driven as they say, with a mild sherriness. SGP:551 - 85 points.


Balvenie 'Tun 1401' (50.4%, OB, batch #4, 2012) Five stars Composed from three sherry butts (1970, 1971 and 1973) and seven American oak barrels (1966, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980 and 1990). Nose: wonderful, with rich oranges, Cointreau or Grand-Marnier,  pipe tobacco and quince jelly. Then more flower nectar and ripe plums, typically Balvenie. Superb! Mouth: really sweet and rich, almost liqueurish. Honey, mead and mirabelle jam, with a light spiciness. Then more orange marmalade, bitter oranges… Perfect. Finish: long, rich, clean and fresh, all great. Comments: perfectly mastered blending by, I guess, Mister David Stewart. I love this style of Balvenie and believe #4 is even better than batches #1 and 2.  I’m sorry, I never tried #3. SGP:651 - 90 points.
(With thanks to Darren at The Whisky Shop Edinburgh)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: sure the music's a tad too... fluffy, but what a voice! She's Brazil's Nana Caymmi and she's singing a sweet, very sweet Doce Castigo (from 'Celebridade Nacional'). Please buy Nana Caymmi's music, thanks.


June 16, 2012



All the MMs are back from our 15th Anniversary celebrations in Scotland with dazzles in our eyes. But what did we do over there? Well, many pretty fabulous things I must say, not just group photos ;-), one of the highlights having been...


Tasting (and visiting) Roseisle
So yes we visited Roseisle Distillery with the Malt Maniacs this week and rather than a ‘Glen Mordor’ feeling, I sometimes had the impression we were wandering on or rather inside a 14-cylindres Lamborghini engine (I know, no 14-cylindres engine at Lamborghini’s but you get the drift I suppose).

What’s sure is that it’s actually much more traditional in essence than what one could think, and that it’s absolutely not a distillery ‘that could replicate any other distillery’. In fact, they basically have only been distilling one kind of spirit since it was inaugurated, an engaging light and clean Speyside-type malt that we could try as new make. It was fruity (apples, pears, peaches), with a very pleasant barleyness and touches of cane sugar and maple syrup. Very little sulphur (remember sulphur is common in new makes, especially the ‘big’ ones). So probably not a dresser, rather a fairly perfect base malt. I’d add that Roseisle’s capacity is big, but not any bigger than Glenfiddich’s or Glenlivet’s, for example. The feeling of hugeness comes from the buildings, because the Lambo engine was, indeed, fitted in a very large and very modern bodywork. That can be a tad shocking when you’re used to those Victorian or Harold-Wilsonian distilleries that abound all over Scotland, but I don’t think we could blame the owners for not having tried to build a ‘replica’ distillery for whisky tourists. What’s also quite impressive is the environmental side of the whole thing, it’s probably the most sustainable way of distilling since much, much less oil is burned at Roseisle than in a… traditional Victorian distillery, while the carbon footprint of a litre of new make may well be the lowest in Scotland. Can we be against that, I ask?

So, when remembering some early comments that I could read or hear when Roseisle was unveiled three years ago, I just cannot not think of that Chinese proverb: ‘When the sage points at the moon, all that the idiot sees is the finger.’ But after all, that’s not so surprising because indeed, the finger is huge and not very… err, romantic. But I agree, enough with crappy analogies, next step: tasting some mature or pre-mature Roseisle single malt! (picture: manager Gordon Winton - source: The Guardian)

Roseisle Distillery. -->
Err, not, this is actually a Lamborghini Gallardo SLE/Edo.

June 2012 - part 1 <--- June 2012 - part 2 ---> July 2012 - part 1

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



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

Ardbeg 1990/2001 (58%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask for Alambic Classique, 264 bottles)

Ardbeg 18 yo 1993/2011 (56.9%, Murray McDavid, Mission, bourbon, 245 bottles)

Balvenie 'Tun 1401' (50.4%, OB, batch #4, 2012)

Charbay 12 yo 1999/2011 ‘E’ (69.1%, OB for Los Angeles Whiskey Society, barrel #1, 48 bottles)

Littlemill 22 yo 1989/2011 (55.1%, Glen Fahrn Germany, cask #007, 310 bottles)

Littlemill 22 yo 1989/2011 (55.4%, Whisky Box)

Littlemill 23 yo 1988/2012 (49.3%, Archives, third release, sherry cask)

Littlemill 23 yo 1988/2012 (52.4%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask)