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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2013 - Part 2

June 2013 - part 1 <--- June 2013 - part 2 ---> July 2013 - part 1


June 28, 2013


Two closed Scotch grains

There are quite a few closed grain distilleries in Scotland, Carsebridge, Cambus, Dumbarton, Garnheath... Not to mention the very rare Caledonian, closed in 1988, and one that was closed in 2010 if I'm not mistaken, Port Dundas. We'll have those two today, both at an easy 46% vol...

Port Dundas 1991/2011 (46%, Whisky & Rhum, L'Esprit, Hogshead, cask #15676, 302 bottles)

Port Dundas 1991/2011 (46%, Whisky & Rhum, L'Esprit, Hogshead, cask #15676, 302 bottles) Two stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: very typical youngish grain, starting with a little varnish and bubblegum before rather massive notes of coconut and vanilla kick in. It's not impossible that this was a first fill cask as owners Diageo used to like to 'season' their new casks with grain before pouring some precious malt whisky into them. The vanilla never stops getting bigger, together with more warm sawdust. Mouth: sweet candies on peppery and gingery oak. Schweppes and cardboard, more pepper, cardamom, sour wood... Not quite my style I'm afraid. Orange sweets. Finish: short and less peppery than expected, less extractive. Comments: certainly not a bad one, it's just a style that doesn't click at WF Towers. I like the nose better than the palate. SGP:660 - 75 points.

Caledonian 21 yo 1963/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, white dumpy)

Caledonian 21 yo 1963/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, white dumpy) Four stars I've only had Caledonian once. Yup this one is one of the rare 'white dumpies' by Cadenhead's. Colour: dark amber. Nose: this is completely different, as expected. It's from a sherry cask and it's not 'grainy' at all, we're actually much closer to rum here. So big raisins, pipe tobacco, sugar cane, sandalwood and then more chocolate and café latte. Also touches, just touches of beef stock and maybe parsley and mint. Surely mint. And marrow? It's a great nose, complex and unusual, without the maltiness that's usually to be found in... malts. Yes, even in sherry monsters. Mouth: now it's REALLY rum. Dry spices, raisins, coconut liqueur, tobacco, big cloves and some kind of mead. Bitter almonds. And bags of candy sugar. Good body. Finish: long and even spicier. Mulled wine, cloves, liquorice wood. Comments: an intriguing old grain. You can actually feel that the distillate is thinner than malt or rum behind the loudish oak, and that makes it even more interesting. A true rarity. SGP:561 - 86 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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June 27, 2013


Insane tasting, Old Ballechin
vs. Old Clynelish. In blends...

I'm afraid most very old single malts around - say early XXth century and before - are big, fat, stinky fakes, so the only way of trying some very old malt, especially from long gone distilleries, is to taste the blends that used to contain them as main constituents. That's how we could have an idea of Malt Mill two or three years ago, and how we'll now have a go at Old Ballechin and (very) Old Clynelish... Feeling a bit like the grandson of the good old Professor George Sainsbury just now...

Old Ballechin
Old Ballechin Distillery today

Strath-Tay (OB, blend, Geo Loyd Alison, early 20th century)

Strath-Tay (OB, blend, Geo Loyd Alison, early 20th century) Five stars So the base malt for this ultra-rare old blend was the output of the original Ballechin Distillery in Strathtay (1810-1927). As you probably know, the name's now used by Edradour for their peaty version. Colour: dark gold. Nose: holy featherless crow! This is as complex as an old Montrachet, and the malt content is most probably very high, if not actually 100%. So what do we have? Say an assortment of various honeys for starters, including fir and such (sappy ones, honeydews), combined with various oils. Almond, argan, sunflower, olive... Your pick. It's this greasiness that's striking, this kind of elegant fatness, and what's even funnier is this touch of capsicum that arises. Frankly, this nose is magnificently elegant, and I swear I'm not influenced by the 'pedigree' of this rare whisky. It's quite sooty too, and even slightly smoky (brown coal, I'd say).

Mouth: bingo! First, it's not tired in any way. And second, it displays a superb combination of spicy herbs and sappy honeys again. It's probably a little less complex than on the nose, but that's utterly normal. Bitter oranges, cough syrup, arak, brine, fudge, marmalade, figs, touches of aniseed, chestnut honey, smoked sesame oil... Wowowow! Finish: this is the most surprising part, the finish is long and very 'focused', with absolutely no 'dispersal of flavours' as is often the case with whisky in my opinion (another difference with great wine). Stunning earthy and smoky aftertaste. Comments: very high malt content for sure. Further comments would be... supererogatory. And I won't even mention the fracas of time! SGP:464 - 93 points.

Ainslie's Royal Edinburgh (OB, blend, Ainslie, Baillie & Co, +/-1920)

Ainslie's Royal Edinburgh (OB, blend, Ainslie, Baillie & Co, +/-1920) Five stars The short-lived Ainslie, Baillie & Co mentioned on the label were founded in 1913 and liquidated in 1921, so it's quite easy to put a rough date on this marvellous bottling that's most probably and most luckily full of Old Clynelish. Remember Clynelish used to be the most expensive and the most sought after malt whisky at the time! Colour: full gold. Nose: yaah! Once again, the grain is undetectable, and this could well be single malt whisky. It's more nervous than the Strath-Tay, fresher and certainly more coastal (sea breeze), a little rougher and less polished too. It does echo today's Clynelish in a way, but that's more linseed oil than plain wax. There is some peat, some tinned fish (sardines?), some iron or silver (old cutlery) and maybe just hints of caramel. Goes on for a long time, with some notes of old garage (motor oil, petrol, old tools) and then some camphor, tiger balm and such. Totally amazing development.

Mouth: oh nooooh! Incredible power, saltiness, peatiness, smokiness, brininess, Inverness (diving to new lows, Serge). Seriously, this is brinier and more coastal than any modern Islay, including 'that one'. Crushed olives (tapenade), anchovies, then cough syrup, lemon liqueur, very old chenin (that's wine), hundreds of herbs, oysters, even sea urchins - serious! Leaves you speechless. Maybe better like that. Finish: like seawater. Enough said. Comments: please don't rush out and buy just any old Royal Edinburgh. Post-WWII versions were much, and I mean much less qualitative. Unless you love burnt beef and overcooked coffee, that is. I won't go to 95 points because I think I have detected a very tiny cardboardy side in the end of the end of the aftertaste. SGP:365 - 94 points.

(with deep thanks to Phil, Simon and Wayne)

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



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June 26, 2013


Tasting single island Cognac and
a bonus that's also kind of Scottish

These days both Cognac and Scotch are widely popular, albeit not in the same countries (I think Cognac is bigger than Scotch in China, for example), and both categories are starting to overlap quite a bit, as was already the case in the past on various occasions. More and more Scotches are going the Cognac way (glitzy decanters, no age statement, glamorous names – well…) while some Cognacs are going the Scotch way, that is to say use ‘regular’ bottles and do single casks, or use ‘coastal’ references, allusions to special warehouses, wood, maturation…


We’ll have a few good examples today with Camus’ Ile de Ré Cognacs that have been distilled from single grapes (ugni blanc) coming from the westernmost part of Cognac, that is to say the rather posh island of Ré. Both distillation and maturation took place on the island as well, so it should be all about ‘terroir’, much more so than with malt whisky in any case. Let’s also remember two main constraints in Cognac: the wood cannot have previously contained anything but Cognac, while the grapes have to come from the appellation area, contrarily to grains or even barley used for Scotch, that can come from anywhere in the world.

Camus ‘Ile de Ré’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2013)

Camus ‘Ile de Ré’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2013) Three starsThe entry-level version, so most probably the youngest. Colour: gold. Nose: what strikes first is the fact that we’re somewhere between both worlds here, there are allusions to malt whisky in the sense that it’s rather less grapey than other Cognacs, and certainly less smooth and sweet. We have blend of sultanas, honeydew, a little vanilla and then quite a lot of stewed peaches and apricots, a style that’s also to be found at several propriétaires in my experience. Good news! I also find a little putty and just wee – sorry, petites – touches of turpentine and green spices. The whole is relatively easy and certainly not in-your-face. Mouth: a little rougher this time, with a bigger grapey side (skins) and touches of marc. This baby should be quite young and I’m wondering if it wouldn’t go well with a few sacrilegious ice cubes. Orange zests and brown sugar, touches of new kirsch. Finish: relatively short but clean despite the notes of candy sugar that remain rather in the front. I also seem to find a little salt. Comments: a very nice nose and a pleasant palate. Again, I’ll try this one on ice when summer is here. SGP:550 - around 81/82 points.

Camus ‘Ile de Ré Double Matured’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2013)

Camus ‘Ile de Ré Double Matured’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2013) Three stars and a half This one was re-racked in specially toasted barrels. Colour: full gold. Nose: not wildly different from the previous one. There’s a little more oak – but it’s anything but oaky – and a little more vanilla and chocolate, and maybe rather less putty. Rather pine sap, maybe? A little more honey too, more raisins, and indeed something slightly coastal, ala Bruichladdich if we’re talking Scotch. And cranberries? More spices after a while, cardamom and ginger from some relatively active oak. Mouth: much richer than the previous Ile de Ré, but not really oakier even if there is a little cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Mead, apricot jam, gingerbread and touches of sugar cane or rhum agricole. Good body, rather light but not weak. The dried fruits (raisins first) come more to the front over time. Finish: not very long but clean, with more chocolate and more honey. Slightly bourbony. A lighter saltiness than in the first one. Comments: I’d love to try this at 45 or 46% vol., the spirit should stand those strengths. SGP:650 - around 83/84 points.

Camus ‘Ile de Ré Cliffside Cellar’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2013)

Camus ‘Ile de Ré Cliffside Cellar’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2013) Four stars We cannot not think of Bowmore’s warehouse #1 here. It was matured in an old fortress called Le Fort de la Prée, ‘in the damp salt-laden air of the Atlantic, whose waves crash just metres from the cellar’, says the deep blue box. Haha, rings a bell, doesn’t it. Colour: full gold. Nose: this IS more coastal, it’s actually quite amazing because I don’t know of any unpeated Scotch that smells so, well, maritime. Iodine and seashells, then beach sand, all that over a rather delicate combination of soft honey, stewed garden fruits, oranges, tangerines and vanilla. An impressive freshness in this one. Shall we find salt on the palate? Let’s see… Mouth: indeed, there is a little salt, also oranges, honey, angelica and touches of menthol but other than that, it’s the dried fruits that speak out. Bags and bags of raisins and then rather Seville oranges.  Sweet but not dull. Finish: short to medium, with a little more spices. Liquorice, a little ginger. Comments: the coastal side shines through in the nose, a little less so on your palate. A very fine Cognac nonetheless, more polished than the previous ones and probably older. SGP:641 - around 85 points.

Bonus: something very different, much older Cognac – probably early landed - bottled by some Scotch merchants. Some kind of overlapping again! This should make for just the opposite of the three Ile de Ré.

Cognac 1878 (Matthew Gloag, relabelled and sold in 1996 by Christie’s)

Cognac 1878 (Matthew Gloag, relabelled and sold in 1996 by Christie’s) Three stars and a half Most probably pre-phylloxeric and all distilled from folle blanche. Colour: bronze amber. Nose: indeed, exactly the opposite. Much more aromatic, with more rancio, many dried fruits, some sugar cane, various honeys, white chocolate, milk chocolate (Lindt’s creamiest), bags of raisins, old sweet wine (starting with an Y), then more damp earth, humus, moss, fern, pipe tobacco, Chartreuse… That was expected from such an old Cognac. Incredibly fresh and totally tireless, I guess it was first bottled at around 30 years of age, from good refill wood. Just wild guesses… Mouth: the oak’s much, much louder than in the Ile de Ré, there’s more vanilla and, above all, a lot of coconut, which comes unexpected. To be honest, the palate isn’t this old baby’s best side. Quite some sour wood as well… I’m actually wondering if this isn’t the oldest bottled pina colada ever? Some caramel arising after that. Finish: rather long but quite drying, esp. after the Ile de Ré. And always quite a lot of coconut, mingled with dry herbs. Vetiver? Comments: a stunning nose and a rather unlikely, woody palate. A story that’s not unusual, both in Cognac and in Scotland… But what a moving old spirit! SGP:560 - around 83 points.

(merci beaucoup Patrick)



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June 25, 2013


Even more Bowmore

It’s such good news that the indies, whether big or small, keep issuing new Bowmores every month that God makes! Even better news, they usually stay clear of unlikely finishings...

Bowmore 2002/2013 (57.1%, Svenska Eldvatten, bourbon hogshead, cask #85456)

Bowmore 2002/2013 (57.1%, Svenska Eldvatten, bourbon hogshead, cask #85456) Three stars and a half I have to say these friendly Swedes have impressed me so far, they seem to know how to select a cask of whisky! Colour: white wine. Nose: yah! Implacable spirit, extremely straightforward and kind of minimal, which may well be an asset here. Sharp, chiselled, narrow… Isn’t this smoked seawater? With water: some new oak coming though. Paprika-ish. Mouth (neat): there’s a little new oak coming through again this time, with some ginger/speculoos and curry that are very obvious right from the start. European oak??? I must be mistaken, that’s impossible for obvious reasons… With water: better, although the gingery side remains. Finish: quite long, briny, lemony, salty… It’s only in the aftertaste that the ginger returns. Comments: great Bowmore, no doubt, it’s just that the oak is a little loud at times. Or maybe it’s me (who’s being loud, yeah yeah…) SGP:457 - 84 points.

Bowmore 1999/2013 (56.5%, Signatory Vintage for Le Gus’t, France, barrel, cask #800293, 236 bottles)

Bowmore 1999/2013 (56.5%, Signatory Vintage for Le Gus’t, France, barrel, cask #800293, 236 bottles) Five stars This one was bottled for a very friendly and very cool French whisky shop in Manosque, north of Marseille. Go there! Colour: white wine. Nose: smoother and rounder than the Swede, but certainly neither smooth nor round, if you see what I mean. More aromas come though after a few seconds, especially tobacco, mushrooms and apple peelings. It’s less briny and ‘seawatery’ than the 2002. With water: same, more or less, but I think it was even nicer without water. Mouth (neat): ah f****g yes, this is perfect, unavoidable naked spirit (calm down, S.!). Everything is perfectly chiselled, lemons, brine, kippers, smoke, liquorice… Very stylish. With water: yes, it’s perfect. Nothing to add. Finish: I said it’s perfect. And I adore these earthy touches in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s not easy to find a ‘balanced cask’ when the whisky’s still pretty young (The Whisky Agency in Germany are very good at that), but this time it’s a success. Bien joué, felicitations, this is Bowmore! SGP:446 - 90 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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June 24, 2013


More Clynelish or a short waxy verticale

I’ve visited Clynelish Distillery again with some good friends a few week ago, and I’m not sure about what I like best there, the whisky or the people who make it. Keeping that existential dilemma in mind, let’s go for a short waxy (maybe) extravaganza… Because I think not all Clynelishes were waxy in the 1990s…

Clynelish 14 yo 1998/2012 (53.9%, Whisky-Doris)

Clynelish 14 yo 1998/2012 (53.9%, Whisky-Doris) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: paraffin, beeswax and apple juice at first nosing, with a wee salty touch flying over all that, then more lemon, seawater and brine. A very fresh nose, maybe even more coastal than other Clynelishes. With water: it’s the wax that comes out, together with hints of wet wool. Remains very fresh. Mouth (neat): zesty, a little eau-de-vie-ish in a good way, fruity, young… It’s not the most Clynelish of all Clynelishes, especially since the wax is relatively shy, but this feeling of fizzy pineapple and grapefruit juice is pleasant. A summery Clynelish? With water: indeed, it’s all fruits. Orange fizz. Earthier aftertaste. Finish: quite long, with touches of chlorophyll this time and the expected waxy signature. Zests. Comments: simply good good good. Unpeated coastality (ahem). SGP:552 - 85 points.

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2013 (52.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library)

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2013 (52.1%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: this baby’s more fragrant than the 1998, there are whiffs of peonies, fresh butter, meadow flowers… It’s rather more feminine, in a way, with always an impressive freshness but rather less waxy notes than in the 1998. Did I mention big juicy apples? And starkrimson pears? And mint? With water: same, all that became even more vivid. Lovely nose. Mouth (neat): perfect young Clynelish, exactly between a fresh fruitiness and this waxy, greasy and pretty phenolic side. A little olive oil, apple juice and grapefruits. A grassy side too. With water: Williams pears! That’s funny. Finish: long and, depending on the amount of water you added, either waxy or all on pears. In both cases, there’s a little salt and lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: two Clynelishes in one, how cool is that? SGP:562 - 87 points.

Clynelish 17 yo 1995/2013 (58%, Cadenhead, sherry, 540 bottles)

Clynelish 17 yo 1995/2013 (58%, Cadenhead, sherry, 540 bottles) Three stars and a half There’s another version from the very same cask, only a few dozen bottles bottled for the elusive Broracademy, with a very strange label ;-). Colour: pale gold. Nose: the sherry makes this one more buttery and kind of sour, not in a bad way. Dairy cream and overripe apples, a wee tarriness (nope that wouldn’t be rubber) and then lemon squash. Or grapefruit-flavoured Schweppes?  With water: beer and cider, I’d say. Not a prototypical Clynelish, that’s for sure. Also walnuts, probably from the sherry.

Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the 1997 on the palate, with less sourish sherry impact and more zesty lemons and grapefruits. And wax. And a little salt. With water: indeed, adios sherry, hello wax, lemons, salt and apples. Finish: long, just a notch buttery. Sour and overripe apples, a little leather and salt in the aftertaste. Add two sliced of tinned pineapples. Comments: once again, all pretty good, even if Clynelish need no wine generally speaking. In my humble opinion… SGP:541 - 84 points.

Clynelish 19 yo 1993/2012 (53.5%, Silver Seal, cask #7556, 322 bottles)

Clynelish 19 yo 1993/2012 (53.5%, Silver Seal, cask #7556, 322 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: I think modern Clynelish needs time to lose its roughish – sometimes a little too estery - edges and to reach grandeur, that is to say the 90 mark. It seems that this one could make it, as it’s subtler than the others, with more almonds, beeswax, olive oil, seawater, mushrooms, cigars, brine… In short, a Clynelish that’s both more ‘Islay’ and more ‘Clynelish’, in a way. With water: bingo! Some tropical fruits start to appear, the cigars remain, the seawater as well, the wax too… All good. Mouth (neat): quite perfect, very assertive, leafy in a good way, acrid in a good way, lemony in a good way… The others still had a slightly vulgar fruitiness from their youth, while this one’s fully mature in my opinion. Perfecto! With water: indeed. Excellently balanced, between citrus fruits, other zesty tropical fruits, salty elements and this oily-waxy je-ne-sais-quoi. Finish: same, even if it’s not the longest Clynelish I’ve ever met. Lemon juice and brine in the aftertaste. Comments: minimal wood influence, perfect age, brilliant spirit, that’s why I’m into whisky. SGP:452 - 90 points.

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



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June 21, 2013


Tasting two rhums Bellevue from Guadeloupe

Because we still have a tropical climate over Alsace at time of writing. After the French Martinique, we’ll fly to sister island (and best enemy) Gualedoupe. There are quite a few indie Bellevues around these days...

Bellevue 15 yo 1998/2013 (46.8%, Sansibar, Guadeloupe)

Bellevue 15 yo 1998/2013 (46.8%, Sansibar, Guadeloupe) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s a bigger, fatter style than other agricoles and in a way, we’re rather closer to heavy rums such as Caroni or some of the Demeraras. It’s actually the tarry side that’s quite spectacular, these green olives, the liquorice, the motor oil, the burnt bread, then the oranges… I like this! Mouth (neat): terrific rum, the pineapples are fantastic, and so are the mint, the eucalyptus, the liquorice… It’s not spirit, it’s a sin. More and more oranges after a while, which gives it more lightness. A few grassy notes too, all fine. Finish: long and fruitier. Citrusy notes lift the whole and make it… more-ish. Aaaargh! Comments: the fact that it’s whisky bottlers that made me discover Bellevue a while back takes the biscuit (and yup I’m still French). And the story goes on, thanks to Sansibar/The Whisky Agency… Danke schoen! SGP:651 - around 87 points.

Bellevue 14 yo 1998/2013 (54.4%, The Rum Cask, agricole, Guadeloupe, cask #84)

Bellevue 14 yo 1998/2013 (54.4%, The Rum Cask, Guadeloupe, cask #84) Four stars Colour: mahogany. Nose: even further toward phenolic, tarry and spicy notes, with also herbs such as parsley, lovage, soy sauce, then more rotting fruits (that’s great in this context), oranges, raisins… A big beast, this baby. With water: whah! Tar, tar and tar, then new rubber boots and strawberry jam. Lots happening here… Mouth (neat): we’re not far from the Sansibar despite the much darker colour, but on the other hand, the high strength makes it a little hard to enjoy, more so than with strong whisky in my opinion. Strong rum tends to become too hot quite quickly in my opinion. So, with water: we tamed it! Sweeter, rounder, fruitier and easier. Sugar cane, sour apples, bananas… Finish: long, big, kind of invading. Like Caroni or, say Albion, it hijacks your palate! Comments: very same high quality as the Sansibar. That one was a little more elegant and sexy, this one is more beastly… And both are much to my liking. Perfect malternatives. SGP:661 - around 87 points. (PS, in my opinion, rum needs at least a ‘1’ as the P in the SGP, or it’s too sweet and lumpy. Ah, forget about that…)

Update: it seems that those were rather traditional rums, not agricole ones. Bellevue seem to make agricole in summer and traditional in winter. Thank you Sven.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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June 20, 2013


Three newish rhums agricoles from Martinique

Because we have a tropical climate over Alsace at time of writing. Remember rhum agricole is distilled from pure cane juice instead of molasses, which are used most of the time anywhere else and even on the French islands (then it's called rhum traditionnel). And no I’m still no rum connoisseur…

Depaz 'Rhum Vieux' (45%, OB, agricole, Martinique, +/-2013)

Depaz 'Rhum Vieux' (45%, OB, agricole, Martinique, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Vieux means quite young as far as rhums are concerned. Just like 'old' in Scotland ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: gentle and rather fragrant, without being too extravagant. However, the notes of fresh bananas are very vivid and come together with a little coconut (but not too much), raisins, a little chocolate and touches of vanilla fudge. The notes of sugar cane stand out as well, it’s all rather complex for an entry-level golden rhum. Not just for mixing, it seems… Mouth: good attack, not too sweet and not too ‘dirty-ish’ like cheap rhums can be. So no excessive honeyness, rather some fudge again, bananas, pineapples and coconuts, with just the faintest notes of burnt wood. Easy but not cloying. Finish: a little short but balanced, fruity, with a little more honeydew this time. The bananas are back in the aftertaste, including their skins. Comments: surprisingly sippable while I had thought this baby would be for cocktails only. SGP:650 - around 78 points.

Bally 2000 (43%, OB, agricole, Martinique, +/-2013)

Bally 2000 (43%, OB, agricole, Martinique, +/-2013) Two stars and a halfColour: full gold. Nose: very different from the Depaz despite the obvious similarities (sugar cane, bananas…) In fact it’s both the flowery and the spicy sides that are much bigger, there’s a lot of ginger, nutmeg and cloves in there. Also bags and bags of caraway seeds, all that is quite spectacular and unusual. More tinned pineapples after a few minutes, as well as roses and litchis. Something of gewürztraminer? Mouth: indeed it’s fruitier and sweeter than the Depaz, a bit more ha-ha ha-ha (sexy!) but also maybe a little more commercial, whatever that means. Litchis, bananas, pineapples and rather less spices than in the nose. Sweet and kind of lush. Finish: medium, fruity, a little more ‘stewed’. Comments: same vgood quality as the Depaz but the styles are very different. SGP:740 - around 78 points.

Neisson 2005/2012 (45.8%, OB for Velier and La Maison du Whisky, agricole, Martinique)

Neisson 2005/2012 (45.8%, OB for Velier and La Maison du Whisky, agricole, Martinique) Three stars We’re having the Neisson after the Bally despite it’s younger age because the ABV is higher, and because it’s a single cask. Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is warmer, grassier, kind of hotter, much more on coffee and bitter chocolate, as well as tar, black olives and liquorice rolls. All black! Some parts hint more at the Demeraras, and even at aged tequila. It’s the most complex and the most singular of them all. Mouth: bigger and rougher than the others, certainly more complex as well, with eau-de-vies, spices and woods. Sandalwood, liquorice, honeydew, two or three drops of cough syrup, then more icing sugar and even hints of kiwis that make it lighter after a while, even zesty. Other than that, we have the expected bananas, coconut and pineapple. Finish: quite long, fruitier. The fact that the fresh fruits win in the end proves that it’s still young spirit in my experience. Comments: indeed, it’s maybe a tad young and rough but it’s more complex than the previous ones, more racy in a way. SGP:551 - around 82 points.

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



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June 19, 2013


A little tour of the indie Lowlands

It's hot, it's summer, it's Lowlands time! But instead of lining up several bottlings from the same distillery, we'll rather do a little tour of the region today, which could be enlightening. Some names are becoming rarer, such as St. Magdalene, so it was more than time to do this. Now, it's not easy to quench one's thirst with cask strength whiskies, so let's have a lighter apéritif for starters. We'll then have a bigger Rosebank as the 'broom wagon'.

Rosebank 1984/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old map label)

Rosebank 1984/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old map label) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: pretty simple and ultra-fresh, that is to say fittingly summery. Oranges in all their forms including squash and sweets, some apple juice and just the faintest hints of oak. Maybe also strawberries, even a little fresh mint… Mouth: light but zesty, very easy, very fruity. It’s fruit juice with just a little vanilla. Oranges, green apples, a little vanilla fudge… All easy, all good. Should take ice like a Viking (what?). Finish: short but clean. Traces of salt, which I’ve already encountered in Rosebank, and a little bubblegum in the aftertaste. Comments: you could just sing Vamos A La Playa (ho-ho ho-ho-ho…) Simple pleasures. SGP:531 - 83 points.

Bladnoch 22 yo 1990/2012 (50.3%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead)

Bladnoch 22 yo 1990/2012 (50.3%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: typical combination of fresh apple juice, grapefruits, vanilla and just a little porridge and yeast. A kind of rounder all-vitamin juice, pleasant. More overripe apples and more porridge after ten minutes. Mouth: sweet and sugary, halfway between citrus fruits and sweet or jell-os made out of them (or out their typical molecules ;-)). The lemony part tends to grow bigger, after just one or two minutes, in true Bladnochian fashion. Finish: quite long, zesty, with something oily. Lemon syrup without water. A little cane sugar in the aftertaste and again this feeling of bonbon. Maybe a saltiness too. Comments: we’re really close to sweets and drops – for adults of course. A malt unlike any others, and for that it’s recommended. SGP:641 - 85 points.

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (52.4%, Maltbarn, bourbon)

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (52.4%, Maltbarn, bourbon) Four stars and a half These are all very good, so why spend time tasting them? For the pleasure, my friend... Colour: straw. Nose: it’s quite amazing how this baby’s close to the Rosebank in style, it’s almost a clone (clones are very fashionable these days, aren’t they?) So again, a wild bunch of citrus fruits, tangerines, oranges, lemons… and maybe also kiwis and a little rhubarb. Touches of vanilla and a little café latte to round this off. White chocolate. With water: water makes it louder and brings added notes of bubblegum. High-end bubblegum. Mouth (neat): perfect, full, creamy, very fruity, a perfect example of this style. Tangerines, kiwis and such. Not much to add, but this is much to my liking. With water: excellent, a whole citrus-driven fruit salad. Finish: medium length, on more or less the same notes, with a lemony signature. Right, rather lime. Comments: I think these batches are unbeatable if you’re into zestiness in whisky. SGP:641 - 89 points.

Glenkinchie 19 yo 1987/2007 (54.8%, Cadenhead’s, 234 bottles)

Glenkinchie 19 yo 1987/2007 (54.8%, Cadenhead’s, 234 bottles) Four stars Picture, a previous bottling. Indie Glenkinchies are rare! Colour: pale gold. Nose: a much grassier spirit this time, closer to the barley, to gunflints, to rocks… Much less expressive than the previous ones but this straightness is enjoyable. It’s just a shier spirit. With water: lemon-sprinkled porridge, whiffs of old books coming through, very slightly musty. Mouth (neat): indeed, this is rather barley-ish but very pleasantly so. There are more fruits as well this time, but instead of citrus it’s rather cherries, plums, peaches… In other words, another Lowlander that’s appropriately summery. With water: there, the citrus fruits come through now. A Glenkinchie that’s leaning toward both Rosebank and Littlemil, how does that sound? Finish: and once again, it’s the lemon that stands out. Medium length. Comments: this baby’s not without reminding me of the officials among the Annual Releases. Very good and, once again, appropriately summery. SGP:561 - 86 points.

St Magdalene 23 yo 1982/2006 (56%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection, USA)

St Magdalene 23 yo 1982/2006 (56%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection, USA) Four stars I've also accumulated a few St. Magdalenes at 60% vol.+ but we'll have those later on. Colour: straw. Nose: well in the style of St. Magda, that is to say much, much leafier and grassier than the other ones, much more austere, much more on humus, mushrooms, fern, hay, leather… Quite un-Lowlands, if I may say so, but extremely elegant. In the background, whiffs of old roses, eucalyptus and patchouli. Intriguing… With water: oh, it lost the leafiness and became both simpler and fruitier. Marshmallows? Also barley sugar… Nice but less thrilling with water. Mouth (neat): starts a little acrid and very earthy, which is unusual indeed. Gentian, turnips (not joking, Baldrick), lemon, mint and… sorrel? What’s sure is that it’s more lemony than on the nose. Good body. With water: more of all that. Also touches of cinchona, cranberries, blood oranges, pomegranates… After all, it’s a civilised St. Magdalene! Finish: quite long, clean, fruity, fresh and… summery. Comments: one of the most summery St. Magdalenes I could try. Now, I did choose this one on purpose ;-). SGP:461 - 87 points.

Auchentoshan 1991/2009 (59.3%, Malts of Scotland, cask #492, Chateau Montrose Finish, 301 bottles)

Auchentoshan 1991/2009 (59.3%, Malts of Scotland, cask #492, Chateau Montrose Finish, 301 bottles) Two stars Even if I'm a sucker for Malt of Scotland's usually brilliant whiskies, and if the distillery's own 'Bordeaux' bottlings were acceptable (around WF 79), I have to say this older offering by MoS has a very scary pedigree. And yes I love Montrose and Saint- Estèphe in general... Colour: gold. Nose: strange, but less strange than I had thought. Orange blossom and cassis, fennel (serious), parsley, then aspirin in water and a lot of orange squash. Okay, it is unlikely, but not quite un-nice so far. With water: a wee soapiness appears. Almond milk, sunflower oil, seeds… That was unexpected. Again, it’s not unpleasant. Mouth (neat): nah, that doesn’t work too well. I think the French oak makes it too spicy and gingery, and that Auchentoshan is too light and fruity a spirit to stand such treatment. With water: doesn’t swim, at all. Bitter spices. Finish: same. Woody. Comments: an excellent 1991 just bottled by Malts of Scotland in 2013 was on a totally different planet (WF 87) but it was a full bourbon version. Ha, Bordeaux and newish French oak in whisky, ça ne marche pas bien ! SGP:371 - 70 points.

Rosebank 1978/1991 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #25.4)

Rosebank 1978/1991 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #25.4) Five stars One of the very early Rosebanks by The Society. Colour: coffee! Nose: ah, old sherry on old style Rosebank, what’s not to like? Douglas Laing had some old sherried Rosebank ten years ago, and those were splendid. This one is in the same vein, with some wonderful notes of prunes, raisins and old Sauternes mingled with the spirit’s lemon and tangerines, plus quite some mint, camphor and liquorice. Kool cigarettes (unlit!) Superb… With water: s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! The complexity is astounding. Mouth (neat): unusual and majestic. It’s very powerful, ultra-zesty and yet kind of silky because of the sherry, with sultanas, old Chartreuse, orange liqueurs, a little earth, tobacco, liquorice… All that is wonderful and I especially like the fact that in no way the sherry masks the distillery’s character. With water: holy featherless crow! Exactly fabulous, this baby would solve the middle-east issues in no time. Finish: best of news, it’s very long. Comments: you know what’s really impressive with this little Rosebank? It’s the fact that it’s both rich and fresh, and that the distillery character remains there despite all this magnificent sherry. I’m in awe, respect to Mr. Hlil and gang. SGP:652 - 94 points.

PS: Yes, I know, Inverleven is missing. Nothing is perfect.
(with heartfelt thanks to Angus, Konstantin, Olivier and Tim)



Block Today: PROG ROCK. A few distinguihed readers seem to have discovered Christiane Legrand the other day, so I'm posting another fine example of her singing. Performer: Procol Harum. Track: Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) from Grand Hotel. Please visit the website and buy the music...

June 18, 2013


Comparing Ardbog

Yeah, time to try the new Ardbog - everyone's already tried it anyway, but some friends keep asking me what I think. As usual, comparison should be reason, so we'll first have two 1990s of similar age, so distilled pre-closure and one very young, hopefully uerbernatural 2000 that may help us better detect and describe the manzanilla's impact on the Ardbog.

Ardbeg 1990/2001 (46%, Spirit of Scotland)

Ardbeg 1990/2001 (46%, Spirit of Scotland) Four stars A perfect aperitif at 46% vol. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: the 1990s usually hint at the 1970s at Ardbeg, only with less oily/greasy aromas in my opinion. This is no exception, although there’s a lot of soot and ashes at first nosing, before the whole becomes frankly coastal, with seaweed and iodine. At the fruit department, we’ve rather got fresh almonds, then lemon. Also a little fresh butter. A relatively light and fresh Ardbeg so far. Mouth: the salt strikes first, then we have a combination of lemon juice, smoked almonds and wee touches of plastic or maybe paraffin. That’s far from being unpleasant, having said that. Salted liquorice. Good body. Finish: long and extremely salty, it’s almost like drinking brine. Yeah, or eating tinned anchovies. Comments: it’s maybe not the most balanced Ardbeg ever and it lacks ageing, but it’s very ‘different’ from current offerings so very interesting. For Ardbeg exegetes only? SGP:366 - 85 points.

Ardbeg 11yo 1990/2001 (55%, Potstill, Austria)

Ardbeg 11yo 1990/2001 (55%, Potstill, Austria) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: less fresh coastal notes and less lemon, more motor oil and medicinal notes, such as tincture of iodine, mercurochrome, antiseptic… The smoke is more massive too, there’s also a little damp cardboard, coal, burnt fir cones, then more and more pine resin… And a large garden bonfire. Also apple peelings. With water: same, really. Okay, maybe more iodine, fumes… and some intriguing touches of cranberries and mangos arising. Mouth (neat): much more ‘classic’ than the G&M, that is to say sweeter, with the lemons and grapefruits in the front and the smoky stuff rather in the background. I mean smoked salmon, kippers and such. Much to my liking. With water: perfect, just perfect. Pepper, lemon, peated barley, green olives, kippers and basta. That isn’t much but balance is achieved. Finish: very long, brinier. Smoky/ashy aftertaste. Comments: a pretty perfect, very natural young Ardbeg. SGP:458 - 88 points.

Ardbeg 2000/2007 (62.6%, Daily Dram & The Whisky Fair)

Ardbeg 2000/2007 (62.6%, Daily Dram & The Whisky Fair) Four stars Colour: pale straw. Nose: a very different style, more estery, with more varnish as well, more earth, more roots, dead leaves, olives, brine… Having said that, it’s a little hard to assess because of the very high strength. With water: extreme dryness! Brine, fumes, burnt wood, coal, wet paint, cut grass, black olives, charcoal… Mouth (neat): this baby’s not that different from the Potstill anymore, it’s well the same kind of make, very zesty, with less smoke and, well, phenols than in older Ardbeg (1970s). But it’s very, cough, strong… With water: this is interesting, there are still quite some young fruits, signs of (relative) immaturity (pineapples and pears among others), but it’s already starting to become more complex, with a kind of green smoke, green olives, maybe capers… Finish: long, rough, salty. Samphires. Bitter aftertaste. Comments: rough and restless, very green, with a different kind of smokiness than in the old ones. It’s a greener smoke, in a way. An excellent, but very challenging youngster. SGP:378 - 87 points.

Ardbeg 'Ardbog' (52.1%, OB, 2013)

Ardbeg 'Ardbog' (52.1%, OB, 2013) Three stars and a half So a vatting of ten years old Ardbeg ex-bourbon (60%, I've heard) and ex-manzanilla sherry (I've heard 40%). Not sure it's cask strength, and not too sure the manzanilla wasn't simply a finishing. Remember manzanilla, which I love, is usually pretty extreme, bone dry sherry. Colour: gold. Nose: the very dry sherry is very obvious in this context, that is to say after the ‘X-fill’ versions that we just had. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been this loud, had I tried it ‘solo’. That translates into a combination of fresh walnuts, curry and probably curcuma, which is kind of funny, while the original distillate is a little shier. Having said that, the manzanilla makes it kind of more complex than the others, but also less ‘Ardbeg’. Whiffs of exhaust fumes and tar. With water: ginger liqueur, vanilla and sawdust. Some newish oak comes through. Mouth (neat): the difference is even more striking on the palate. There is some lemon, a sootiness, grapefruits, kippers and such but also these walnuts, this curry again, notes of bitterish liquorice wood, some raw tobacco and something I’m not too fond of because that screams ‘newish oak!’, ginger. With water: indeed, it’s some pretty active oak that does most of the talking. Ginger, curry and other spices. Finish: long, spicy, gingery. Cardamom powder, tannins, coffee beans, maybe hints of bacon. Comments: while the previous ones were distillate-driven, this is rather oak-driven in comparison, and it’s not only the manzanilla that talks. It’s very good whisky – of course – but I still prefer Ardbeg au naturel, if I may say so. SGP:366 - 84 points.

(With thanks to Konstantin and Marc)

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



Block Today: SOUL BLUES. Performer: Joey Gilmore. Track: Blues All Over You. Please buy Mr Gilmore's music...

June 17, 2013


Tasting three new Braeval aka Braes of Glenlivet

Braes/Braeval is a bit obscure and certainly not as fashionable as other names,  but it isn't Allt-A-Bhainne either. Oh well...

Braeval 18 yo 1994/2013 (49.7%, Liquid Library, bourbon barrel)

Braeval 18 yo 1994/2013 (49.7%, Liquid Library, bourbon barrel) Three stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: sweet, fruity, delicately malty and pleasantly mundane, if I may say so. A fruit salad (apples, peaches, oranges… all that ex-tin) with a little barley water, vanilla and maple syrup. A light but very clean profile, becoming quite bubblegumy after a few minutes. Mouth: clean, sweet and malty, with good body and just the same kind of fruitiness as in the nose. So a fruit salad again but no bubblegum this time. Finish: quite long, rather more on brown sugar and sweet barley syrup. Some caramel and fudge in the aftertaste. Comments: a very easy dram, right in the middle of Scotchmaltness. Goes down a treat, I’d say. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Braeval 18 yo 1994/2013 (52.5%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead, 120 bottles)

Braeval 18 yo 1994/2013 (52.5%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead, 120 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: a grassier, les aromatic variant. A little less fruits and bubblegum for a while but I must say both drops tend to converge after a few minutes. Probably close sister casks. Mouth: once again, we’re close to the Liquid Libray. A little more punch from the higher alcohol, maybe touches of pears this time while there’s rather less fudge… But we’re very close. Finish: rather long, very malty. A funny fizziness on your tongue. Comments: I tend to like the Liquid Library a notch better because it’s… kind of easier! SGP:541 - 82 points.

Braeval 23 yo 1989 (54.2%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, hogshead, cask #1074, +/-2013)

Braeval 23 yo 1989 (54.2%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, hogshead, cask #1074, +/-2013) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it's a more violent and, quite bizarrely, more spirity version. It's quite citric too. Aspirin tablets? Lemon squash... Let's see what water will do to it. With water:  it's almost a miracle, we now have a mildly smoky herbal liqueur. Spearmint, high-end wulong tea (or blue-green tea)... Beuatiful. Mouth (neat): an unusual one again. Starts with big notes of ale mixed with lemon liqueur, then we have more and more citrus fruits, some parts making me think of Rosebank or Littlemill. A lot of grass, it's a little acrid at this point. Chewing on green tealeaves? With water: not quite a miracle this time but water works indeed. Lemongrass and barley sugar. Finish: rather long, clean and lemony (with water). Comments: I think water is obligatory here but then... SGP:541 - 84 points.

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



Block Today: BLUES ROCK. Performer: T. Bone Burnett. Track: Every Time I Feel The Shift. Please visit his website and buy the music...

June 15, 2013


Tasting two summery Mortlach and a beast

There are quite some middle-aged Mortlach around and we won't complain. In my experience it's a pretty versatile spirit and it can even be summery. Indeed...

Mortlach 16 yo 1997/2013 (51%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead, 176 bottles)

Mortlach 16 yo 1997/2013 (51%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead, 176 bottles) Four starsColour: white wine. Nose: it’s a very clean, pretty un-Mortlach Mortlach if I may say so. The cask must have been quite lazy because we remain close to the barley, with added touches of nectar and dandelions as well as a little fresh rhubarb and gentian roots. The lightest side of Mortlach, without any oily/sulphury tones. It’s a great distillate. Mouth: wow! Wonderfully eau-de-vie-ish, without much wood and yet no immaturity either. Zwetchke and kirsch, I’d say, maybe one to sip with your espresso after a good lunch? Goes on with more barley sugar, corn syrup, light honey… All good stuff. Finish: rather long, clean, with now a little more grass. Absolutely not sweetish. Comments: it’s no big malt and no competition beast either, but it’s lovely to drink. A summery Mortlach? SGP:541 - 85 points.

Mortlach 1995/2013 (56.4%, Svenska Eldvatten, 257 bottles)

Mortlach 1995/2013 (56.4%, Svenska Eldvatten, 257 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: very nice, bigger and hotter than the 1997 and that’s not just the higher strength. Vanilla and humus, cider apples, wee touches of manure – very nice in this context – and cigarette tobacco. Say old Camels. A little maple syrup and acacia honey as well. Easy to nose without water. Mouth: excellent! Big, punchy, starting with more wood again, rather obvious notes of agave, some Grand-Marnier, angelica, maybe wee touches of fresh coriander plus spearmint, all that on a bed of green apples and barley sugar. Works very well. Finish: long, less easy/sexy than the 1997 but maybe more profound. Well, I know what I’m trying to say. Comments: Mortlach sure is a great malt when it’s only mildly sherried – yeah, or not sherried at all. And, of course, when it’s heavily and when sherried the sherry’s beautiful! SGP:551 - 86 points.

Mortlach 21 yo 1991/2012 (56.3%, Silver Seal, cask #4246, 542 bottles)

Mortlach 21 yo 1991/2012 (56.3%, Silver Seal, cask #4246, 542 bottles) Four stars So yeah, sherry... Colour: full amber. Nose: if you do not like gunpowder, struck matches or the smell of a brand new leather jacket, go your way! ;-). Anyway, what's quite splendid is what's behind that pretty extreme side, that is to say the pipe tobacco, the sultanas, the dried figs, the liquorice and all the fresh parsley. Sulphur? Yes, and not only sulphur from the cask. With water: saltpetre, leather, gunflints, clay... Mouth (neat): VERY chocolaty. Chocolate, kirsch and bitter oranges, always with this leathery side in the background (but close to the front). With water: chicken soup! Beef stock! And a few drops of lemon and orange juices... Finish: long, on the same notes. The aftertaste is a tad grapy. Comments: quite some whisky lovers are very fond of this style, but it's not to everybody's taste. An understatement. As far as I'm concerned, I like it a lot but I had to do some kind of intellectualisation. Oh, forget. SGP:562 - 85 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Michel and Christiane Legrand. Track: Rien de grave dans les aigus a spectacular and very funny gem recorded sometime in the 1960s. Please buy their music...

June 2013 - part 1 <--- June 2013 - part 2 ---> July 2013 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphab

Ainslie's Royal Edinburgh (OB, blend, Ainslie, Baillie & Co, +/-1920)

Bowmore 1999/2013 (56.5%, Signatory Vintage for Le Gus’t, France, barrel, cask #800293, 236 bottles)etical:

Clynelish 19 yo 1993/2012 (53.5%, Silver Seal, cask #7556, 322 bottles)

Rosebank 1978/1991 (58.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #25.4)

Strath-Tay (OB, blend, Geo Loyd Alison, early 20th century)