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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2014 - Part 1

May 2014 - part 2 <--- June 2014 - part 1 ---> June 2014 - part 2


June 13, 2014


Lagavulin Feis and sixteen and maltmill

Rumour has it that the Lagavulin was the best of this year’s Feis Ile bottlings. Sadly, WF had no reporter on the island in 2014 but that little Lagavulin reached our doorstep, so let’s try it along one more famous sibling… plus a very strange one as well.

Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2013)

Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2013) Five stars Or maybe 2014, not too sure. In these days of NAS frenzy, it’s quite a miracle that the, arr, err, ‘entry-level’ Lagavulin remains a 16 years old, so certainly not a ‘junior’ as Pete & Jack would say. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it feels a bit like home, I mean, this style is instantly recognizable, with bitter oranges hidden in a scuba diving suit, this tar, these walnuts, these whiffs of old hessian lying on a pier, fisherman’s boat, Moroccan fish souk (that’s a bit exaggerated)… It feels a little gentler than before, perhaps, but it remains ‘home’. It’s the whisky I always choose when they’ve only got a few malts in bars or restaurants – provided they have this one of course. Mouth: same, home. As with exactly all ‘regular’ official bottlings, some people claim that the level has dropped, but I’ve always heard that about absolutely ALL official whiskies. Sometimes it’s true, but sometimes it’s not. I don’t think it is in this case, only 1980s and 1990s bottlings used to be bigger and fatter indeed, but I did not notice much changes since the very early 2000s. Tarry overripe apples, liquorice, brine, seashells, walnuts, touches of rubber, bitter oranges, black olives. Finish: rather long, salty, rubbery, tarry, slightly waxy and marginally honeyed. Touches of eucalyptus tea in the aftertaste. Comments: I would be interested in being able to try the 16’s vatting at cask strength. Just saying. SGP:357 - 90 points.

Before we try the Feis, let’s have a very funny one if you please… Well, I find it funny.

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill’ (40%, Reifferscheidt, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, 2013)

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill’ (40%, Reifferscheidt, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, 2013) Five stars This bottling is a kind of joke. Of course it’s not Malt Mill, it just displays a ‘Malzmühle’ (malt mill) on the label. It seems that Dun Naomhaig is the Gaelic name for Dunyvaig – well, I had thought Dunyvaig was already pretty Gaelic for a name. As you know, Dunyvaig Castle is located on the shore of Lagavulin Bay. Don’t we have enough clues as for the origin of this little juice? Let’s try it… Colour: gold. Nose: huge similarities with the official 16. Maybe a little more smoked fish and a little more overripe apples? Or maybe not, indeed it’s pretty much the same whisky. Mouth: indeed, we’re extremely close. This one has a little more ‘ham’, as we say, despite the lower strength, and maybe a little more citrus, but other than that, it’s the same. Maybe a little less rubber and tar? Finish: same. Comments: well well well, it was fun indeed. Stands the low strength like a champ. SGP:357 - 90 points.

Lagavulin 1995/2014 ‘Feis Ile’ (54.7%, OB, European sherry oak butts, 3,500 bottles)

Lagavulin 1995/2014 ‘Feis Ile’ (54.7%, OB, European sherry oak butts, 3,500 bottles) Five stars £99 for an almost 20 yo Lagavulin, I find this extremely fair and very classy. Lagavulin truly is a classy brand… oops, distillery. I really enjoy the fact that they never compromise and never play it the ‘Miley-Cyrus-way’, or make these false innovations that just everybody does these days. A gentleman’s whisky, really. Colour: full gold. Nose: I was a little afraid it would be a fatty sherry monster, while it’s not at all. The sherry’s only another ‘spice’, all the rest is textbook coastal Islayness, and guess what – and I swear I’m not making this up – it does nose a bit like the 16 years old at cask strength. Same notes of rubber bands (or, indeed, wet-suit), oranges, walnuts, seashells, tar, pink grapefruits, almonds, a little tobacco and smoked tea… What’s more obvious than in the 16 is this massive iodine that mingles perfectly well with the grapefruits. Brilliant. With water: hurray, I managed to recreate the 16 all by myself! Mouth (neat): exceptional. Sharp, ultra-chiselled, even more ‘precise’ than, for example, the 12 yo CS, very flinty, ultra-lemony, masterfully peaty and briny… I’m truly impressed, the expression ‘sharp like a blade’ must have been invented for this one, although there is a smoothness as well that makes it relatively approachable. Don’t tell your visitors. With water: perfect. Swims like the son of Mark Spitz and Shirley Babashoff. No I don’t think they’ve ever been together, I’m just trying to sound smart despite the Lagavulinian assaults. Finish: sadly, yes. Comments: I think Lagavulin/Diageo have understood since quite some time now that it’s best to offer the pilgrims who fly/drive/swim to Islay for the festival the best they have, for the fairest price they can. And f***k bloody eBay. That’s very smart, and very fair. No we won’t talk about some of the other brand… oops, distilleries up there. A stunning bottle of Islay magic (and if it’s really Pinkie who did this, well we’ll call him Pinkie The Great from now on.) SGP:458 - 94 points.

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


BONUS - Brazilian rum to celebrate the World Cup

I almost never do this, tasting only one spirit in solo, but I’ve checked my library and couldn’t find more than one single spirit from Brazil to celebrate the World Cup – agreed, not too sure there’s anything to celebrate anyway. In truth I had more, such as cachaças and such, but I’m afraid those samples had gotten too old. For the sake of completeness, I’ve tasted this baby before the Lagavulins.

Brazilian Rum 13 yo (46%, Cadenhead's, Green Label, +/-2013)

Brazilian Rum 13 yo (46%, Cadenhead's, Green Label, +/-2013) Three stars and a half I don’t know rum well enough to be able to hazard a guess as for the distillery this little baby came from. Colour: white wine. Nose: this is interesting, it smells more or less like a readymade caïpirinha, with first notes of sour lime and lemon, then a funny cocktail of various herbs such as dill and chives. A lot of aniseed too, fennel and all that, as well as a little vanilla and oranges. Very fresh, far from these fatty sugary rums that are often to be found in South-America. Mouth: same feeling, there’s a bitter sourness that works well, some lime, green apples, touches of ginger, hints of grapefruits, a touch of salt and, what’s more, a little agave. We’re actually rather closer to tequila than to rum, with this briny side. Finish: long, this time with much more pepper, lemon zests, more ginger… Comments: a rather sharp, spicy and dry rum that works well. It should take ice very well, but I won’t try that. Well done, Brazil (and Cadenhead’s!) it’s a goal. SGP362 - 83 points.

PS: ouch, I hadn't watched the opening game yet when wirting the above, maybe I should have tried to find some Croatian spirit instead. And now I remember why I do not like football/soccer too much...



Block Today: BRAZILIAN. Performer: Ney Matogrosso. Track: Ando meio desligado. Please buy his music...

June 12, 2014


The Short Sessions,
two heavy micro-Benrinnes

Micro because they’re from micro-batches of just a handful of bottles. A recent trend, it seems…

Benrinnes 14 yo (57.80%, Lady Of The Glen, 2013)

Benrinnes 14 yo (57.80%, Lady Of The Glen, 2013) Three stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: it is coffee-Schnapps(li), and there’s a little gunpowder too. Kirsch and struck matches in Italian ristretto. Also some chocolate. Not a bag mix, it’s just very segmenting, as some say. More raisins after five minutes, while the gunpowder’s vanished in the air (or, as often, has been filtered out by your olfactory equipment. With water: woosh, all gunpowder’s really gone now. We’re left with lovely notes of chocolaty raisins – or raisiny chocolate, as you like. No, wait the gunpowder’s back after five more minutes. A gun that was just used. Mouth (neat): very rich, slightly smoky, full of orange liqueur and pretty honeyed, this could be date arrak at high strength! A little monolithic but it’s a pleasant style. With water: notes of waxy cardboard, which are related to that gunpowder. No embarrassment whatsoever in this context. Finish: long, rich, with smoky oranges. And what’s in the aftertaste? That’s right, gunpowder. Comments: a little quarrelsome, and quite spectacular. Good recipe, I think. SGP:552 - 84 points.

Benrinnes 13 yo (53.3%, Master of Malt, Darkness series, PX finish, 2014)

Benrinnes 13 yo (53.3%, Master of Malt, Darkness series, PX finish, 2014) Four stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: this is something else. It’s even bigger, but it’s much better balanced, rounded, hugely raisiny, with an obvious bourbony side (new US oak), pencil shavings and eucalyptus syrup. It’s an unusual style in Scotchland, we’re kind of halfway between the US and the British isles. Could that be the Azores? With water: some tar coming out, earth, pitch, peat (I mean raw peat straight from the garden centre, not smoke). No over-sweetness from the Pedro, that’s cool. Mouth (neat): Buffalo Trace! No, seriously, it’s got the punch, the sweetness, the roundness and the spicy side of many a rich bourbon. I even find touches of rye, mind you. With water: must be the oak, because we’re still in Kentucky, in a way. Even Benrinnes, which is a fat spirit, hasn’t a lot to say. Like the notes of walnuts and roasted chestnuts. Finish: long, dry. Black tea Russian style and assorted pipe tobacco. Comments: a lot of fun in this big fat baby. SGP:462 - 87 points.

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



Block Today: FUNK. Performer: The Heavy Brothers . Track: Space Room. Please visit their website and buy their music...

June 11, 2014


The Short Sessions, two naked Fettercairn

AKA Old Fettercairn, but these ones are pretty young. Fettercairn can be a rather strange spirit in my experience…

Fettercairn 8 yo 2005/2014 (46%, Preston's)

Fettercairn 8 yo 2005/2014 (46%, Preston's) Three stars A good occasion to try to assess the distillate itself, without much wood influence. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: I had thought this would be dirty-ish, but it’s not. It’s rather an oily, fatty Highlander with linseed and cooking oil (sunflower), then plenty of barley, barley and barley. And overripe apples. Extremely simple, but very pleasant. Mouth: it’s good! Well, maybe not exactly good, but it’s got much character and where else would you find grated orange skins mixed with engine oil and ink? So unusual! Very oily mouth feel. Finish: long, a little bitter, but these notes of orangeade work well. Comments: it’s really great to be able to try such a ‘different’ spirit, and for that I’ll happily give it... SGP:462 - 80 points.

Fettercairn 16 yo 1997/2013 (51.5%, Chester Whisky & Liqueur, bourbon hogshead, 144 bottles)

Fettercairn 16 yo 1997/2013 (51.5%, Chester Whisky & Liqueur, bourbon hogshead, 144 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: there, the strangeness is appearing. I find whiffs of rotting oranges (not quite rotten yet) and a lot of straight sulphur, un-burnt. Some wet chalk and clay too, aspirin tablets, then touches of Parma violets or other violet sweets (Toulouse’s), then simply a large bag of sweets of all kinds. Very unusual, very idiosyncratic as they say. With water: vase water, bandages, mud and no more sweets. Ha! A lot of grated nutmeg too. Mouth (neat): fun stuff! Starts with lime juice, goes on with artichokes, ends up with pineapple sweets. Or you blend some icing sugar with grape seed oil. Something earthy in the background, rather around chalk again in fact. Very strange, but it’s pleasant just because it’s so different. With water: even stranger. Antiseptic, aspirin, oranges, unripe cherries and more chalk. Finish: long, very strange. I find even more unripe fruits, cherries, plums… Which makes the aftertaste green and bitter. Comments: a pedagogical malt, I’d say. Nowhere else, nowhere else… And it’s fun again! SGP:361 - 78 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: young saxophonist Sarah Manning. Track: Michel Legrand's The windmills of your mind. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 10, 2014


I can’t resist Clynelish

Except for a few vintages, especially around the late 1970s, I think Clynelish has always been brilliant. It’s like a ‘grand cru’ in my book, it’s instantly recognisable and will never let you down. It’s like a great vineyard, and just like wine, I believe Clynelish means civilisation. Okay, that may be a notch far-fetched ;-). Anyway, we’ll start with a nice little aperitif again…

Clynelish 1983/1996 ‘Vintage’ (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Co. For VA.MA Italy)

Clynelish 1983/1996 ‘Vintage’ (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Co. For VA.MA Italy) Five stars A very rare bottle that I had not seen before, in almost the same livery as the famous Finlaggans/Lagavulins from the same era. 1983 was a fab vintage at Clynelish. Colour: white wine. Nose: apples, soot and waxes explode into your nose, this is amazing. A beekeeper opening a hive while burning hessian to create a lot of cold smoke (to calm the bees). Also limestone, burning charcoal, kumquats and quinces. The low strength just doesn’t feel, such is this spirit’s bigness. Mouth: astounding, we’re in peated territories, there is a Broraness to this. I find quite some salt, lemons, tangerines, plenty of waxes, touches of brine, a few oysters, even a feeling of seaweed… It’s a very coastal Clynelish! Just the middle is a notch weaker, probably because of the low strength. Finish: a decent length length, though, always briny, with more lemon and seawater, and rather less wax at this point. Comments: this at 50% vol. would be a pure legend. Loses points because of the relative weakness of the palate. SGP:553 - 90 points.

Now, let’s have a few from the mid to late 1990s…

Clynelish 17 yo 1997/2014 (52.5%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon)

Clynelish 17 yo 1997/2014 (52.5%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: the bourbon wood’s rather loud at first nosing, with quite a lot of vanilla and toffee plus a little wood smoke. That may mask a bit distillery character, let’s see what happens with water. With water: there is an Ardmoreness now, which is very fine, but it would rather be an Ardmore all on tinned peaches and apricots. Mouth (neat): I do not know if it’s the oak again, but I rather find a lot of garden fruits, and not much wax and Clynelishness. Apple liqueur, cherry liqueurs, vanilla… Also bags of gooseberries. I love gooseberries, but I wouldn’t eat tons of them. Certainly very good, but not very Clynelish. With water: even sweeter. Fruit juice, fruit salad. Finish: medium length. Tinned fruits. Comments: it’s good, no doubt, but had I tried it blind, I’d have said it could have been Glenmorangie. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Clynelish 17 yo 1996/2014 (54%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon hogshead, cask #88008)

Clynelish 17 yo 1996/2014 (54%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon hogshead, cask #88008) Four stars Colour: dark straw. Nose: another country, another galaxy. This, is Clynelish. Much more power, more waxes, more soot, even more ashes, more earth… Hurray! With water: perfect. Some mint and camphor come out, which is even more perfect. Mouth (neat): it’s as fruity as the 1997 by the same excellent bottler, but they’re rather lemons and tangerines, with a perfect zestiness and this ‘chiselled’ side that I enjoy so much in Clynelish. Impeccable, this one. With water: some salt coming out, herbs, herbal teas, liquorice… Finish: long, slightly salty, piny. Comments: all good. Very Clynelish. SGP:553 - 87 points.

Clynelish 1997/2013 (54.5%, Malts of Scotland, warehouse dram No.2, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13058, 185 bottles)

Clynelish 1997/2013 (54.5%, Malts of Scotland, warehouse dram No.2, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13058, 185 bottles) Four stars and a half I’m not always a huge fan of sherried Clynelish, but let’s see what gives… Colour: dark gold. Nose: cancel that, this is a great nose, because it’s no lumpy sherry. I wouldn’t say Clynelish’s character still stands out, but I find these notes of mustardy walnuts rather superb. Love the coffee as well. With water: pastis and chestnuts!  Mouth (neat): gosh, it works again! Plenty of bitter oranges with touches of chillies and pepper, then walnuts again. Or rather walnut wine. Right, fino. With water:  ah, there, the spirit… Waxy oranges and honeydew on a slightly too caramelised walnut cake. Or something like that. Finish: long, with notes of rancio, old cognac style. Comments: they have it good in the warehouse! Having said that, I’m sure ten years of bottle ageing will make it even better, and further polish the corners. SGP:462 - 89 points.

Clynelish 18 yo 1995/2013 (55.4%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #10168, 263 bottles)

Clynelish 18 yo 1995/2013 (55.4%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #10168, 263 bottles) Three stars and a half I’ve never tasted a Clynelish by Duncan Taylor before! No, that does not obligatorily mean it’s their first Clynelish… Colour: white wine. Nose: crystal clear fruits, gooseberries, white currants, lemons and apples, without much wax and sooty things. Nice, but in a way, this could be Bladnoch. Could be the high strength… With water: same. It’s a very estery one, and the wax is hardly noticeable. Mouth (neat): it’s really a very fruity one, but this huge feeling of sauvignon blanc is pleasant. I’m serious, we could be quaffing cold-distilled white Bordeaux. With water: same, but there’s more oiliness. Not quite wax, though… Finish: medium length. Very fruity, apples, even pears, plums… Comments: had they cleaned the receiver? Nah, good stuff anyway, just a tad too fruity and ‘Speyside-y’ for Clynelish. Only an opinion, as always. SGP:641 - 84 points.

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2013 (57.4%, Milano Whisky Festival, cask #6889, 120 bottles)

Clynelish 16 yo 1997/2013 (57.4%, Milano Whisky Festival, cask #6889, 120 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: ah yes. Wax, oil, citrons, clay, beach sand and soot. With water: wool and wet dogs come out (dogs, we’re as sorry as ever). Mouth (neat): ah yes, sharp, on earth, roots, lemon, brine, wax, grapefruits, smoked fish and pepper. Really a big one, not unlike a blend of the finest Taliskers and mezcals. With water: superlative. Reminds me of the best 1983s. Swims extremely well. Finish: endless, sharp, chiselled, tense, perfect. Comments: ha, the Italians! Excuse me, the Lombards! SGP:553 - 92 points.

Good, I think all what’s missing is a little digestif, and we’re done… I mean, a total beast!

Clynelish 11 yo 1989/2000 (60.8%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, USA) Two stars and a half I’m sorry, no picture for this one, but we all know Blackadder’s labels, don’t we? Colour: white wine. Nose: really aggressive, sharp, ultra-grassy and seemingly very mineral. Burns your nostrils if you try too hard to detect more aromas. So, with water: austere for sure, even after a long wait. Okay, fifteen minutes. Barley water with a layer of chalk and grass juice. Mouth (neat): bang! Probably not for everyone – hate to write that – but beautifully lemony and, well, ultra-sharp. It’s a blade. A feeling of aspirin, which quite a few Clynslishes may display in my experience. Like it better than on the nose. With water: becomes even more aspiriny, if I may. What do you do with whiuskies at 60%+ that don’t swim too well? Finish: long, sharp, very grassy. Comments: you can always find nice sides to just anything, and I certainly do here, but I usually take aspirin after a few drams too many, not in the whiskies. One of the harder ones. SGP:471 - 79 points.

(With thanks to Giorgio and gang, Lothar and Tom B.)

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Shemekia Copeland. Track: It's my own tears. Please visit her website and buy her music...

June 9, 2014


Two new ‘T’ malts

In the old days, all malts starting with ‘T’ bar one (Talisker) used to be seen as a little difficult, or ‘meh’. That was, of course, plain stupid, and many Tormores or Tomatins have proven us wrong.  Not to mention several other distilleries… Anyway, lets have two new ‘T’ malts!

Tobermory 19 yo 1994/2014 (55.8%, Single Malts of Scotland, sherry, cask #5174, 279 bottles)

Tobermory 19 yo 1994/2014 (55.8%, Single Malts of Scotland, sherry, cask #5174, 279 bottles) Three stars Ledaig is stealing the show these days, but I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of the unpeated versions… Colour: full gold. Nose: starts with nice sulphury tones, and I’m not meaning eggs or cabbage, rather matches, leather and gunpowder. Then fruitcake, dried figs, chocolate, toasted raisins and dark toffee. A typical dirty/meaty touch in the background, which is not unpleasant at all. With water: walnut cake all over the place, some vanilla, and no more ‘deviant’ notes. Mouth (neat): very rich, very creamy, roasted and toasty, with a lot of coffee and strong honey, then plum cake and cloves/ginger. Christmas, already? Also a greenness. Right, chlorophyll. With water: water makes it softer and adds bitter oranges. Wakens cardamom too. Finish: long, rounded, honeyed and sherried. Mustard in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s rather leafy/leathery/nutty kind of sherry, with a thick body. Pretty much to my liking, even if this isn’t exactly my preferred style. SGP:462 - 82 points.

Tormore 18 yo 1995/2014 (49.8%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #20092, 288 bottles)

Tormore 18 yo 1995/2014 (49.8%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #20092, 288 bottles) Three starsColour: dark straw. Nose: interesting, very interesting. I mean, really interesting, I’m not using ‘interesting’ as a substitute for ‘bad’, here, not at all. In fact, it’s one of the most meadowy (!) malts I’ve nosed, with a combination of grasses, flowers and tiny herbs, all that coated with a layer of vanilla cream. Dandelions, buttercups, plain grass, wild thyme, ramsons, then a few roots, maybe apples… It’s very elegant whisky, a bit shy but pleasantly so. Mouth: an unexpected saltiness at first sip, hinting at… say sardines?, then a lot of grass and fruit skins. Apples, walnuts and all that. Becomes very green, with a feeling of ‘eating Japanese mocha tea by the spoon’, before more very acid grapefruits and lime join in the dancing. All that is coated with a little honey but the tartness would never leave. Finish: long, sharp, green, limy. Comments: an unusual zesty and sharp Tormore. SGP:361 - 81 points.

Good, let’s try to find a much older ‘T’ as the digestif. Is this whiskyfun or what?

Tomatin 1977/1998 (56%, Moon Import, Horae Solaris, 820 bottles)

Tomatin 1977/1998 (56%, Moon Import, Horae Solaris, 820 bottles) Four stars and a half “Le Bonheur, c’est l’heure de boire”. In other words, “Happiness comes when it’s time to drink”. Not too sure about that, but I remember Moon’s and Samaroli’s bottlings used to be ‘the’ dream bottles at the time… Colour: dark gold. Nose: this explains why these were dream bottles. It’s full of Italian eleganzia, with nothing standing out and just myriads of complex resinous, fruity and even phenolic notes. Phenols in Tomatin! So imagine Barbour grease associated with mangos, butter cream with menthol cigarettes, passion fruits with old books, and lemongrass with ink and limestone. Yes, that works! With water: nope, water doesn’t work, it makes it flat and too cardboardy/tea-ish. A bad swimmer, I’m afraid. Mouth (neat): exceptional. An avalanche of tropical fruits (passion, mangos, tangerines…) but also very fine notes of aniseed, dill, chives, ink, sage, coriander… Really superb, with a great oily mouth feel. With water: this time water works, even if it gets strangely medicinal. Oils from the wood coming out, such as eucalyptus oil, some pinesap. The good news is that the fantastico tropical notes have remained there. Finish: long, zesty, limy. All good, even with water. Comments: I was ready to go to 90+ until water wrecked the nose. In any case, a very lovely bottle! SGP:651 - 89 points.


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Marcus Strickland. Track: Amen. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 8, 2014


The Sunday quest for malternatives, more rum and rhum

We’re not done with our little tour of rumdom, far from that…

El Dorado 8 yo (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013)

El Dorado 8 yo (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013) Two stars and a half The 3 yo (WF 70), the 12 yo (WF 78), the 15 yo (WF 78) and the 21 yo (WF 76) did not quite convince me because there’s  way too much added sugar inside. Let’s see if this little 8 will work better… Colour: deep gold. Nose: ah, it’s the first El Dorado that, in my opinion, is of similar style as the famous indie Demeraras (Velier and else). Great news! So it is a combination of prunes with tar, brine and liquorice, then raisins and banana skins. Classic, I like so far. Mouth: yeah well, there sure is some sugar, but the oiliness and the notes of brine do balance that and make it rather grassy instead of cloyingly sweet. I also enjoy the notes of oranges. Finish: quite long but sadly, a little too sweet at this point. Plenty of candy sugar. Comments: I think it’s my favourite El Dorado, but the sugar in the aftertaste is embarrassing. But then again, only a matter of taste and opinions. Is it a worthy malternative? Almost. SGP:731 - 79 points.

Appleton Estate ‘V/X’ (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2014)

Appleton Estate ‘V/X’ (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2014) Three stars It’s the entry-level version of Appleton Estate, probably very young, and possibly characterful. I didn’t care much for the very ‘flavoured’ 21. Colour: gold. Nose: same feeling as with the El Dorado, it’s less sweet, more natural, and straighter than its older bros. I find the well-known Jamaican aromas, that is to say oils, black olives, tar, earth and then more molasses and maple syrup. Hampden’s little cousin, I’d say. Mouth: starts bizarrely oaky, but not too sweet. Then we have sugared tea and liquorice allsorts, burnt bread, cane sugar, and marmalade. Good body at 40%. Finish: rather long, with touches of salted liquorice. Comments: I like this one, even if it’s pretty simple. Malternative? Quite! SGP641 - 80 points (that’s 20 points above the thickish 21yo !).

English Harbour 10 yo 'Reserve' (40%, OB, Antigua, +/-2013)

English Harbour 10 yo 'Reserve' (40%, OB, Antigua, +/-2013) Two stars and a half I did enjoy some parts of the 5 yo English Harbour but the core was, once again, too molassy for me (WF 73). Colour: deep gold. Nose: I have to admit this is a very pleasant nose, all on fudge, brioche, candy sugar and vanilla, then tea and marmalade. A few raisins as well, but little molassy schmalz. A little wood smoke as well, this baby’s the equivalent of some malt whisky double matured in first fill or virgin oak. Mouth: very syrupy and quite tannic. Some active oak feels, while the base spirit isn’t huge. A lot of vanilla, maple syrup, butterscotch, mocha and just touches of overripe bananas. After that, more soft spices, around white pepper and a little nutmeg. Finish: medium length, sweet but clean. Candy sugar. A leathery touch in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s thick but its not too sweet, I guess that’s the sweet oak. I find this baby nicely drinkable and quite uncomplicated. Malternative? Not far… SGP:730 - 78 points.

Rhum J.M ‘V.S.O.P’ (43%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013)

Rhum J.M ‘V.S.O.P’ (43%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013) Four stars A well-known rhum agricole of high reputation. The simple ‘Vieux’ (granted, it was at 50% vol.) has already been much to my liking (WF 85). This VSOP was matured for around four years, so it’s young (as you know, old means young with any spirits). Colour: deep gold. Nose: huge, and I really mean huge oranges at first nosing. As marmalade, as syrup, as liqueur… It is spectacularly aromatic, and gets then more and more floral. Lilies, orange blossom… And mandarins, tangerines, touches of coffee roasting… I like this a lot, let’s only hope the palate will match the nose. Mouth: exactly the same feeling, this is like sipping orange liqueur, without the sugariness. Candied mandarins, then cinnamon and cloves, touches of ginger, hints of aniseed… Finish: long and, good news in this context, oakier. The spices come to the front, with more cinnamon, liquorice wood… Comments: I like this one really a lot, you just have to like oranges and spices. Great malternative. SGP:551 - 86 points.

That called for more J.M…

Rhum J.M ‘X.O’ (45%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013)

Rhum J.M ‘X.O’ (45%, OB, Martinique, +/-2013) Three stars and a half This one’s been ageing for 6 years in Martinique, so yeah, extra old is still quite young. Colour: deep gold. Nose: immense, ultra-aromatic, and yet elegant and kind of ‘controlled’. I find notes of rye and juniper at first nosing, bags and bags of other botanicals (savory, fennel seeds, wormwood) and then more rounded vanilla-ed oak, as well as orange marmalade rather than syrups and liqueur like in the V.S.O.P. Also a little lemon grass. It’s a truly superb nose! Mouth: thick and creamy, with yet again a straight extension of the nose. That means a lot of spices and botanicals again, a feeling of aged gin (perhaps) and more and more caraway. A very particular style, with the spicy oak doing most of the talking, all that with balance. Having said that, I think I liked the V.S.O.P’s fruitiness a little better. Finish: long and very spicy. Ginger, aniseed, cumin… Comments: a spice monster. Good malternative. SGP:571 - 83 points.

Why not try a vintage version?

Rhum J.M 10 yo 2001 (46.6%, OB, Martinique, +/-2012)

Rhum J.M 10 yo 2001 (46.6%, OB, Martinique, +/-2012) Four stars and a half The distillers issue a new vintage every year, and all are bottled at cask strength. Remember, the angels are much greedier in both wet and hot climates. Colour: deep gold. Nose: we’re closer to the V.S.O.P than to the X.O, and that’s fab news. In fact, this is the perfect balance between ripe fruits (oranges first, then bananas and guavas), aromatic herbs (caraway, wormwood, rosemary) and spices (white pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg). I almost forgot to mention roses and lilies. Masterful! Mouth: the oak feels a bit and is a tad drying at very first sips, but then it just unfolds like a show by the Ziegfeld Follies. Many tropical fruits, herbs, spices… Listing them all would need too much time. Finish: very long, a little more on vanilla and jams. Lovely spicy and fruity aftertaste, with also a lot of liquorice. Comments: I think this is exceptional rhum agricole. Remember, adding sugar to rhum agricole is streng verboten by law. Perfect malternative. SGP:661 - 89 points.

All right, while we’re at it, let’s have a few more agricoles, by the indies this time…

Gardel 10 yo (46%, The Alchemist, rhum agricole, Guadeloupe, +/-2013?)

Gardel 10 yo (46%, The Alchemist, rhum agricole, Guadeloupe, +/-2013?) Three stars and a half Gardel is a large sugar factory in Guadeloupe. I’m not too sure whether the adjoining distillery is still working or not, as always sources vary. Erm, and I’m not too sure it’s rhum agricole either, so distilled cane juice, I’d guess it’s rather ‘rhum traditionnel’, so made from molasses. But let’s try this baby… Colour: deep gold. Nose: this could be agricole, it does smell a bit like agricole, with these olivy/briny and grassy notes, but it’s soon to become shier, with vanilla and a little clay. What’s sure is that it’s much less ‘emphatic’ than the J.Ms. Mouth: ah, no, this is pretty excellent! Starts with tarte tatin and kugelhopf with raisins (hoppla), and goes on with many tropical fruits, including pineapples and bananas, but without becoming sickly sweet. Having said that, it’s a little thinner on the palate than other agricoles. Not too sure… Finish: a little short, with more candy sugar. Comments: this baby was dangerously drinkable. So agricole or traditionnel? The jury’s still out… It’s a good malternative. SGP: 741- 84 points.

Good, let’s stay in Guadeloupe and try to make the last one a big one…

Bellevue 14 yo 1998 'Flamme d'Or' (45%, Alambic Classique, Guadeloupe, +/-1013)

Bellevue 14 yo 1998 'Flamme d'Or' (45%, Alambic Classique, Guadeloupe, +/-1013) Three stars and a half All the Bellevues I could taste have been of the highest order (I mean, have been matching my taste). Colour: gold. Nose: maybe there’s a little too much vanilla and sawdust at very first nosing, but after that Bellevue’s petroly and olivy profile starts to show, and there isn’t any way back. Tapenade and passion fruit jam, touches of tinned litchis, hessian, musty cellar, clay, and artisan chocolate. Like. Mouth: same display, starts a little sweetly oaky and gets then more briny, tarry, liquoricy and fruity as well. Much to my liking, even if I could try some bigger Bellevues recently. Maybe a little too much honey for Bellevue, but I’m splitting hairs again. Finish: medium length, much more candied. Burnt sugar. Comments: I find it a little thinner and sweeter than other 1998s, but it remains a great rhum, no doubt about that. SGP:631 - 83 points.

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



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June 6, 2014


D-Day Special, four more American whiskeys and bourbons

Breaker 5 yo (45%, Bourbon, 8 casks, +/-2013) Three stars A new brand of sourced bourbon by a small ‘distillery’ in Santa Barbara, Calfornia. It’s said that the spirit comes from Indiana. Colour: full gold. Nose: starts honeyed, with wheelbarrows of vanilla and maple syrup, then we have notes of bananas, marshmallows and butterscotch, as well as touches of oranges and lavender (flowers). No bomb but yeah, it’s nice. Mouth: very sweet and very perfumy, with good body and this sweet spiciness that’s so ‘bourbon’. Oranges, violet sweets, gooseberries, vanilla, caramel, then more cinnamon and caraway. Does what it says on the tin, I think it’s quality young bourbon. Finish: not very long, but with good balance between orange liqueur and spicy/herbal touches. Violet sweets again. Comments: it’s what I call ‘a very good average’ and I like the fact that its not too sweet. That means 80 points, there. SGP:631 - 80 points.
Stanahan's Colorado Whisky (47%, OB, American whiskey, bacth #112, +/-2013) Four stars This one’s gained an excellent reputation since quite some years. Colour: gold. Nose: easy, fragrant, sweet and rounded, with maple syrup and vanilla, then toasted oak with a little smoke. Wood smoke, obviously. It’s really fragrant, not complicated, and surprisingly gentle. In fact, I find this extremely nice. Mouth: sweet, creamy, a tad liqueury but really very pleasant. Blood oranges, pink grapefruits… You’d sip this without even noticing, but it’s absolutely not bland, quite the contrary. Nice spicy notes, then candied oranges and touches of grenadine. Gooseberry syrup. Finish: of medium length, with more vanilla and maple syrup. The toasted oak feels a bit. Comments: I had first tried this baby blind for some famous awards and gave it no less than 86 points. It’s uncomplicated but I find it really ‘very, very good’. No need to change my score. SGP:740 - 86 points.
Pappy Van Winkle 15 yo 'Family Reserve' (53.5%, OB, bourbon, +/-2013) Four stars As you probably know, this very wheated baby from Buffalo Trace has got a huge reputation, many say this is the best Papy. Colour: amber. Nose: what’s striking first is a bunch of lit cigars and cigarettes, so a lot of tobacco with whiffs of smoke (well done). I also find a lot of warm hay, before more sweet things do emerge, around burnt vanilla cake and an armful of dandelions. Also quite some earth, I find this much less sweetish than expected. With water: the earth stands out. Notes of clay and chalk, also some cardboard. Mouth (neat): very heavy this time, rather mannish and monolithic, with grass and bubblegum and a rather gritty oak. It’s also very extractive, with some bitter pinesap and some eucalyptus. Sweeter notes in the background, around pineapple drops. With water: all estery flavours come out. Grenadine, pears, gooseberries, jellybeans… It’s another whiskey! Finish: long, rather thick, with eucalyptus in the front and touches of olives. Could have been Jamaican rum at some point. Comments: I think it needs time and concentration, or you may miss a large part of its undeniable charms. Now, it’s not quite my style, and I think global quality is similar to that of the Stanahan. Yup! SGP:551 - 86 points.
Good, let’s have a last ‘monster’…
Thomas H Handy 'Sazerac Rye Whiskey' (64.2%, OB, American rye, 2013) Five stars Another rather expensive baby by Buffalo Trace (around 150€). I remember I had rather adored the 2010 (WF 89). Colour: amber. Nose: oooh! This is different, in a way, it’s rounder and easier than the Pappy, but that feeling may come from the very high strength that may round everything off. What I do get is litres of the finest orange liqueurs. Other than that… well let’s not try too hard. With water: plenty of tinier notes coming out, cloths, earth, pu-erh tea, mushrooms, tar, liquorice, hessian, and then caraway, juniper and cumin from the rye. Perfect. Mouth (neat): I find this pretty perfect, even at almost 65% vol. Don’t tell my mum! Once again, there’s buckets of orange liqueurs,  triple-sec, curaçao, Grand-Marnier, Mandarine Impériale… All right, that’s all pretty much the same thing. Anyway, it’s liquid orange blossom honey when unreduced. With water: not as wide as on the nose when reduced, but the oranges got fresher and the spices so underline all that with mucho gusto. Caraway again, cinnamon, cloves… Finish: long, with a little more caramel and bags of other, tinier flavours. Comments: this is what I like in these high-end ryes, it’s not just the oak talking, the spirit has its say! Brilliant, I think. SGP:662 - 91 points.

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



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June 5, 2014


Yet another bag of blended Scotch

I like to taste a few blends from time to time, trying to find gems. It’s not always easy, because the blenders cannot quite select only the finest casks while issuing huge batches of thousands or millions of cases, but I won’t deny some are pleasant drams. What's more, after almost 10,000 tasting notes we'll publish some scribblings about a recent...

Johnnie Walker ‘Red Label’ (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2014)

Johnnie Walker ‘Red Label’ (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2014) Two starsThe #1 Scotch in the world, from a brand new bottle. Colour: full gold. Nose: starts a little muddy and cardboardy, without much roundness or sweetness, before touches of oranges and roasted peanuts start to emerge, together with a very distant smokiness. It’s light and rather inoffensive, and certainly not unpleasant. I also find hints of dandelions. Mouth: I have to say I’m surprised, this is very drinkable, not flattish and certainly not all on wood alcohol mike some other cheap blends can be. So a pleasant honeyed arrival, with peanuts again, a little smoke and a little grass, but it tends to nosedive avec five seconds, losing steam and boldness. Finish: short but clean, on oranges and biscuits. Grassier and maltier aftertaste. Comments: I had expected more ‘burnt’ things. A relatively good surprise despite the lightness, I think it’s certainly drinkable without Coke, orange juice or tonic water. To think that they make millions and millions of cases of this! SGP:331 - 74 points.

Loch Elcho (40%, Wemyss, Scotch blend, 2014)

Loch Elcho (40%, Wemyss, Scotch blend, 2014) Two stars This is the NAS version, I’ve tried a 15 yo that was quite to my liking two years ago (WF 82). There’s 40% malt content. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very blendy, with notes of burnt cake, grain, whiffs of sawdust, pencil shavings and corn syrup. A little rounder than Johnnie Red, and a notch more aromatic as well, but it remains a very light blend. Mouth: more robust than Johnnie Walker Red, with more smoke and grasses, a more pronounced maltiness as well as touches of salt. I also find a little gingerbread (or speculoos) and a little custard. Finish: of medium length, a little more burnt and peppery. Some drying oak in the aftertaste, and more pepper. Comments: another honest blend, a wee notch more to my liking than JWR because it’s a little fuller. SGP:341 - 75 points.

Hankey Bannister 'Original' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2014)

Hankey Bannister 'Original' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2014) Two stars and a half It is the entry-level Hankey, made by Inverhouse (Pulteney, AnCnoc, Balblair…) I have to say I’m a fan of the 40yo, but I’m not too sure this baby will be on par, let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: starts dry and malty, a little dusty, with some breadcrumb, cocoa and burnt cake. More hay and grass after a few seconds. Very blendy again, and it’s also got the same notes of sawdust as the previous ones. Mouth: rather oily, otherwise very blendy again, although there would be more fruits than in the JWR and Elcho. Stewed apples, orange cake, pear pie… That’s makes it a little ‘better’ in my book. I quite like it! Finish: medium length. Marmalade and a little pastis, then malt and candy sugar. Comments: a very solid cheap blend. As almost always with these young blends, it rather happens on the palate. We’re making good progress… SGP:441 - 78 points.

Jackson McCloud 'Premium Blended' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013)

Jackson McCloud 'Premium Blended' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013) Two stars and a half I had never heard of this brand before. It seems that Master of Malt are the only ones to have it. I’ve picked it because, you see, the label says ‘premium’… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s in the same ballpark as Johnnie Walker Red Label, the styles are very similar. Roasted nuts, oak, and a faint earthiness, then bread and cakes, then fresher herbal and grassy notes. Apple peelings, a little fennel, a little marzipan. Rather nice, in fact. Mouth: it’s more the Hankey Bannister now, with fruits, jams, oranges, a little cane syrup, maple syrup… Good body, oily mouth feel, another fine palate. Finish: a little short but clean, fruity and syrupy. Comments: not too sure it’s ‘premium’ but it’s balanced and pleasantly fruity. A smokiness in the aftertaste. Same overall quality as the Hankey Bannister, I’d say. SGP:441 - 78 points.

Cutty Sark 12 yo (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/- 2014)

Cutty Sark 12 yo (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/- 2014) Two stars and a half It seems that this baby’s recently been repackaged. I have to say I like the new packaging, but it’s what’s inside that counts. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s having a little trouble after the previous ones, with more sour notes (sour apples) and more raw oak, with a dusty side. On the other hand, there’s a rather complex fruitiness behind that, with even touches of mangos. Mangos always work in whisky! Also violets that I had already found in earlier expressions. Mouth: the oak feels, the attack is a bit tannic and drying (strong black tea) but once again, a complex fruitiness emerges after two seconds in your month, with marmalade, raisins and quince jelly. Love quince jelly. Quite some vanilla too. Finish: medium length. Honeyed and jammy. Comments: I think Cutty 12 improved a lot since four or five years. It’s got much more oomph than before, maybe thanks to more newish American oak. Feels like it. SGP:541 - 78 points.

Label 5 18 yo 'Extra Rare' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/- 2014)

Label 5 18 yo 'Extra Rare' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/- 2014) Two stars and a half Label 5 is a huge brand in France. It’s owned by La Martiniquaise, a pretty large company that also bought Glen Moray from Glenmorangie a few years ago. This Extra-Rare is a brand new expression, we had tried the former – and ‘regular’ – 18 yo a while back and well, it was more than okay in my book (WF 75). Colour: gold. They display the same colour anyway. Nose: it is lighter and drier than the Cutty, narrower, and spicier. I find touches of candied ginger, cedar wood, cinnamon and then apple pie. Roasted chestnuts. Mouth: different from the others, with more stewed fruits as well as obvious notes of rum. Did they reuse rhum barrels from Saint James, their distillery in Martinique? It’s a little thin but I enjoy this ‘diverging’ style, including the notes of banana wine. Fun stuff! Finish: short, fruity, tropical. Banana liqueur again. Comments: we’re somewhere between rum and whisky, which is fun! Too bad it’s all a little thin. SGP:631 - 77 points.

Good, we need one 80+ points. Let’s resort to an old favourite…

Hankey Bannister 40 yo (44.3%, OB, Scotch blend, 1480 decanters, 2013)

Hankey Bannister 40 yo (44.3%, OB, Scotch blend, 1480 decanters, 2013) Five stars I had an earlier bottling, at 43.3%, at no less than 90 points. According to the always-well-informed Whisky Exchange, this baby contains Speysiders from 1967 and 1970. Colour: deep gold. Nose: absolutely impressive. The Speysiders cannot come from Balblair, as Balblair’s not a Speysider, but it does have an old Balblair profile, reminiscent of the wonderful official 38 yo 1966 from a few years back (WF 92). A hotchpotch of stewed orchard fruits, flower nectar, honeys, Virginia tobacco, incense and roses, orange blossom, walnut wine, Corinthian raisins and juicy red peaches. Very fragrant, very fantastic. What a nose! Mouth: yes! It could have been a little too woody/tea-ish, but it’s not, at all. Old vintage Port, orange liqueurs, various honeys, sponge cake, Turkish delights, a little fudge, one or two tinned litchis, pomegranates, blood oranges, then mint and eucalyptus that lift it and make it fresher… Everything is perfect, I think the blender did a brilliant work on this combo.  Finish: maybe not very long, but the freshness remains impressive. Comments: some friends keep arguing that blends are as good as malts. That’s not my opinion, but in this case, I have to admit defeat. Very impressive, and probably less smoky than the previous 40 according to my old tasting notes. SGP:551 - 91 points.

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



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June 4, 2014


Yet another flight by Port Ellen Airlines

It seems that quite a few bottlers had kept some Port Ellen in their inventories, which doesn’t obligatorily mean that they’ve been speculating. Indeed, some are trying to issue jewels every year, and to do that you need to act like a squirrel with its hazelnuts or acorns. So we’ll have one or two new ones today, but first, let’s have a light aperitif. Mind you, we have manners!

Port Ellen 1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old map label)

Port Ellen 1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old map label) Five stars No neck label and so no age statement on this little baby, but I’d wager it was bottled around 1988. Colour: gold. Nose: what a superb and complex Port Ellen! It’s more or less a blend of seawater and eucalyptus/camphor embrocation, with three drops of tar liqueur and whiffs of coal, or rather drawing charcoal. All that isn’t big, but the aromas are very persistent. Having said that, after five minutes there are more notes of hessian as well as a bag of cider apples and quite some bacon, while the tar and coal smoke have almost vanished. Very elegant, something that’s not always associated with PE within whisky circles. Mouth: not much tar left, but the body’s impressive. It’s salty, I even find quite a lot of smoked salmon, then overripe apples and slightly stale lemon juice. It’s also quite camphory again, while the coastal side never stops growing. We’re almost quaffing seawater. Finish: long, and that’s the distillate, not the strength. Smoked salmon sprinkled with lemon juice plus a few black olives. Comments: it’s a very impressive distillate, both soft and potent. Whisky for lovers of great dry white wines! I just hope it won’t kill the followers… SGP:367 - 93 points.

Port Ellen 29 yo 1983/2012 (52%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 86 bottles)

Port Ellen 29 yo 1983/2012 (52%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 86 bottles) Five stars This baby’s been bottled two years ago but it’s just been launched. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the tar that strikes you first, also this feeling of bicycle inner tube, but just after that it becomes very medicinal, with buckets of mercurochrome and other antiseptics. I also find a lot of graphite oil, wet chalk, and then seashells and seaweed with a little lemon and diesel oil. Probably the most mineral of all heavy peaters from Islay, sharper and more ‘blady’ than the 1970. With water: gets pleasantly narrow, all on wet wool, hessian, mud (on Islay, of course) and fresh mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms, obviously. Mouth (neat): immediate, almost instantaneous. Wham-bam lemon, grapefruits, salt and smoked herrings. Impeccably focused and zesty. No need to add anything. With water: same, just more approachable. Perfect. Finish: long, salty, lemony, tarry… In short, very ‘PE’. Comments: very PE indeed. One of the great ‘ultra-clean’ ones, Old Bothwell style. SGP:367 - 92 points.

Port Ellen 30 yo 1982/2012 (51.8%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old and Rare, 154 bottles)

Port Ellen 30 yo 1982/2012 (51.8%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old and Rare, 154 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one’s much easier – as easy as PE can be – than the 1983, sweeter and rounder, certainly less tarry and smoky, less medicinal as well. In short, it’s much gentler. It’s also more coastal, with stronger seawater and seashells, then leather, sour apples and tobacco. In fact, it’s just as great, only… yeah, gentler. With water: becomes a tad acetic, with notes of old wood. A bit out of context? Mouth (neat): it’s very different from the 1983, and this time it’s much more powerful, with bitter herbs, green peppercorns, something that bites you, something acrid… So a very pungent PE, but it hasn’t got the big tar that used to hide in, say the old Rare Malts that used to be equally biting. With water: better, but it remains green and acrid. Chillis, wasabi, lemon skin… Finish: very long, a tad rounder and more civilised, but it remains a big beast. Curious notes of saccharin in the aftertaste. Comments: I like it a lot but, as they say, there are even better ones out there. Just my opinion. SGP:377 - 88 points.

Port Ellen 32 yo 1982/2014 (57.9%, Malts of Scotland, Diamonds, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14021, 145 bottles)

Port Ellen 32 yo 1982/2014 (57.9%, Malts of Scotland, Diamonds, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14021, 145 bottles) Five stars This one’s brand new. Colour: deep gold. Nose: oooh! Honey and beeswax in Port Ellen? Indeed, this old baby starts as rounded and luscious as, say a Caperdonich 1972 (if that rings a bell), and it’s only after five seconds that the briny, tarry and, above all, very mentholated and camphory side starts to show up. I have to say it ‘sounds’ a bit like an early 1970s Ardbeg after one minute, which is very spectacular. I also find wee touches of vanilla and earthy ginger, which, indeed, hints at rather active American oak. With water: it smells exactly like a great, old, carefully matured Cuban cigar. Mouth (neat): high-impact smoky grasses, lime, lemon juice, kippers and pepper. It’s absolutely huge – and forget about the roundness that we found in the nose. Woooh! With water: wee touches of oak (shavings), then lemon, brine, smoked fish, salted anchovies and all that. More pepper too, a faint feeling of Tabasco. Finish: very long, rather peppery. A lot of salty liquorice. Comments: I’m not sure it takes water perfectly well on the palate, but other than that, it’s just glorious. SGP:467 - 92 points.

Let’s have one or two older bottlings…

Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (58.1%, Bladnoch Forum, cask #2036, 638 bottles)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (58.1%, Bladnoch Forum, cask #2036, 638 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s got quite some fudge, butterscotch, then hessian and smoked fish. It’s another relatively gentle one, it seems. I also find touches of rubber rather than tar, then notes of old oak and drops of cider vinegar. It’s having a bit of a hard time after the great ones we’ve just tried, but it’s still very fine. With water: soaked smoked malted barley, ‘a kiln’, notes of cow stable and less rubber this time. Very ‘organic’. Mouth (neat): starts rather sweet, with lemon drops and maybe a little cooked rhubarb, then many more rocks and litres of seawater, as well as bitter apple skins and grapefruits. Great sharpness after the sweet arrival. With water: some cardboard comes through, more smoked grains, old oak…  Finish: long, slightly indefinite for Port Ellen. Can you smoke mud and old wood? Comments: it’s got a death seat, so I’ll try to remain fair with my score. Oh anyway, it’s very good whisky. SGP:357 - 86 points.

All right, a last one. And since we’ve started this little session with a 1970, why not have another one from the same vintage? And an utter beast this time? Warning, impact in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1…

Port Ellen 17 yo 1970/1987 (62.4%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, 243 bottles)

Port Ellen 17 yo 1970/1987 (62.4%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, 243 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: no, seriously, it’s not THAT strong, it’s just totally incredible. I hate to say this but it’s not whisky for beginners, because there are quite a few puzzling smells and little peat. Like, cauliflower. Or broccoli, abandoned garage, old copper coins, vase water, carbon paper (remember?), saltpetre, cooked asparagus, fresh mown lawn, big city rainwater, capers… and all that at 62% vol., imagine what will happen at around 45%! With water: imagine you’ve got a jacket made out of raw wool (Harris tweed, perhaps), and you’ve spent a whole night around a campfire on a beach, singing Dylan and Joan Baez with good friends. This is how your jacket will smell in the morning (provided you’ve got kippers in your pockets). Mouth (neat): lovely violence. Seriously, it’s hard, pungent, aggressive… I’m sure the excellent and very engaging Nadi Fiori was not wanting us to drink this neat when he selected this monster. So, with water: pressed kippers and smoked salmon with a drizzle of lemon butter juice. Finish: almost endless, lemony, salty… Oysters! Comments: very oystery, I would say. Spectacular, but maybe a little monolithic, and I’m not 100% sure I didn’t like the 1970 at 40% vol. even better. I think I did. SGP:257 - 93 points.

(With thanks and hugs to Diego, Lukas and Philip)

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



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June 3, 2014


A wild bunch of young ex-bourbon Bowmore

Newish and oldish bottlings of hopefully clean and crisp young Bowmores without too much aromatization (CROSS) oak and/or wine influence. We might gather notes that have neither been taken simultaneously, nor even in a row.

Bowmore 'Small Batch' (40%, OB, +/-2014)

Bowmore 'Small Batch' (40%, OB, +/-2014) Four stars Light and NAS. The distillers tell us that this baby's 'exclusively matured in first and second fill ex bourbon casks, then blissfully married together.' Blissfully? Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one really tells us that the sixties are back at Bowmore. I do not know when it was distilled, probably in the mid-2000s, but what’s really great news is that the tropical fruits are back, especially pink grapefruits and passion fruits, which works particularly well in combination with a very light peatiness (earlier years were smokier, in my experience) and a very clean coastal side (light brine, sea water). I find this perfectly crisp and... perfect. Mouth: we could always complain about the fact that 40% vol. isn’t quite enough, about the fact that it’s a little weak and even flabby, in a way, but other than that, it’s perfect again. Lovely passion fruits and mango juice, a little earth, notes of kippers, quite some smoke this time, and just a drop of sweeter things. Syrups. I really like this sweet-and-sour profile. Finish: not very long but brinier and saltier. Rather more lemony too. Comments: I love this young one. It’s very perfect spirit, only the strength is too low for me. SGP:455 - 87 points.

Bowmore 9 yo 2001/2010 (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram for Germany, bourbon)

Bowmore 9 yo 2001/2010 (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram for Germany, bourbon) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: this one may corroborate my theories, Bowmore was peatier and more austere in the very early 2000s – a style that I enjoy just as much. So this baby’s more mineral, a tad smokier, a little grassier and… just as coastal. Also a little sootier. Mouth: 46% is THE strength to go. Other than that, we’re close. Brine, lemon juice, apples… but little passion fruits or mangos. Again, it’s rather more austere and more mineral. Kippers. Finish: quite long and rather salty. Comments: love these 2001s. Having said that I might have found the OB small batch even better than this one, had it been bottled at 46% as well. SGP:357 - 88 points.

Bowmore 2001/2013 'Peat Smoked Herring' (46%, Wemyss Malts, 405 bottles)

Bowmore 2001/2013 'Peat Smoked Herring' (46%, Wemyss Malts, 405 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: OMG! As young whisky bloggers would say ;-). It’s a very dry, very mineral, very smoky, very briny Bowmore. And I also love this blend of lemon, lime and grapefruit juices. Enough said. Mouth: absolute perfection. There might exist hundreds of thousands of similar casks (well, I may be exaggerating a bit) up there in Scotland but that doesn’t make this any less perfect. It’s a perfect blade-y Bowmore. Finish: long, perfect. Smoked almonds, smoked tea, lemon, olive brine, kippers and just one drop of honey to make it a tad rounder. Comments: pure class, but I may have written that before wrt these vintages at Bowmore. SGP:467 - 90 points.

Bowmore 11 yo 2000/2011 (46%, Liquid Sun, bourbon barrel, 150 bottles)

Bowmore 11 yo 2000/2011 (46%, Liquid Sun, bourbon barrel, 150 bottles) Four stars and a half Liquid Sun is a sub-brand by The Whisky Agency. Always a good sign (hope the cheque’s in the mail – lol). Colour: white wine. Nose: these 2000s are already a notch rounder, less sharp and blade-y, a little more ‘imperfect’, with more soot, wet clothes and wool, gravel, hay… Also apple peelings, walnuts, branches… It’s actually more complex, but also less pleasantly ‘immediate’. The oak’s vanilla is also a little louder. Mouth: forget about all that, it’s excellent again, with a lot of salt plus a few herbs. Dill, mint, liquorice, maybe touches of Japanese seaweed? And lemon as well, of course. Finish: long, with something more medicinal and rooty at the same time. Comments: not too sure about the sunny side but it sure is liquid. Oh well, great stuff again. SGP:457 - 89 points.

Bowmore 12 yo 2002/2014 (53.2%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 348 bottles)

Bowmore 12 yo 2002/2014 (53.2%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 348 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: it’s rare to nose a peaty Islayer that’s this much on raw smoked malted barley. This baby just smells like a working kiln when undiluted, with only drops of gherkin brine in the background. Spectacularly minimal, I’d say. With water: same, no further developments. Mouth (neat): they may have invented the word ‘raw’ for this baby. Eating a whole ashtray after a long Ibiza night (wot?), plus two drops of seawater and one drop of lemon juice. With water: add three drops of pear juice. Finish: long, ashy and smoky. A little acrid, perhaps. Comments: extreme and very interesting. Have they further raised the ‘ppms’ at Bowmore in 2002? Some good people describe Bowmore as ‘lightly peated’. Not too sure… Not anymore, in any case. SGP:348 - 84 points.

Bowmore 12 yo 2001/2013 (58.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask #20063, 312 bottles)

Bowmore 12 yo 2001/2013 (58.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask #20063, 312 bottles) Five starsColour: white wine. Nose: this one is warmer, more vanilla-ed, kind of rounder, with some candy sugar and even a little honey on top of the brine and smoke. It’s much easier than the 2002. With water: perfect, sharpy, with beautiful notes of grapefruits. What a distillate! Mouth (neat): excellent! Mangos, passion fruits, salty smoke, kippers, tangerines… Really very really very good (eh?) With water: passion fruits, seawater, lemon juice, kippers, ashes. Perfect combo. Finish: long, zesty, ultra-clean, salty. Comments: more than just another young Bowmore. Prototypical, I would say. Very well selected, milord! SGP:557 - 91 points.

Good, these 2001s are stunning, and I think we could try to do something funny, which is to compare it to young Bowmore that was distilled… 50 years ago.

Bowmore 7 yo (43%, OB, Sherriff’s, Cogis Milano, +/-1970)

Bowmore 7 yo (43%, OB, Sherriff’s, Cogis Milano, +/-1970) Five stars I’ve tried this famous baby several times already, but my latest tasting notes are now ten years old, so maybe it’s time to rework all this. You see, it’s for the cause! We’ll take our time because of the low strength… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s really remarkable that there are many similarities with the 2001s, after many ‘diverging’ years. Sure there’s a little OBE in this one, and sure bottle ageing may have further improved it, but the core of the smokiness is similar. What’s different is the wideness of the fruitiness, which is more tropical in this oldie, and the metallic side here. Old coins, tin box… It’s also more medicinal, with bandages… There’s a little more creosote as well, hessian, coal… So it’s probably more complex, and rather less kippery, while displaying more oils and tars. In brief, it’s more tertiary. Mouth: could you smoke a Montrachet? Linseed oil, citrons, cod oil, metal, lemongrass, brine, smoked salmon, white pepper, grapefruits, minerals… What’s impressive is that it’s both very pure and very complex, even if the mouth feel isn’t very big. Probably the low strength. Finish: long, even saltier and even more lemony. A greasiness in the aftertaste. Comments: just between us, I doubt this baby was just 7 years old at time of bottling. Brilliant whisky that always scores between 93 and 95 depending on the bottles. SGP:556 - 93 points.

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



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June 2, 2014


A bunch of grab-them-while-you-can Littlemill

There are quite a few new Littlemills from the late 1980s or early 1990s around again. Another occasion not to complain! Today we’ll do a shortish verticale from 1992 to 1988. It’s a rather difficult kind of session, even when the whiskies are great, because the taster really has to ‘deep-nose’ them to find all the nuances.
Littlemill 21 yo 1992/2013 (49.9%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon hogshead) Four stars Colour: dark straw. Nose: it seems that this baby’s somewhere halfway between the very grassy and grainy Littlemills from the 1970s, and the fruitbombs from the late 1980s and early 1900s. That means that we’ve got quite a lot of grapefruits and mangos, but also a vivid grassiness, apple peelings, green tea… Another rather sauvignony one! Also quite some vanillin from the oak, so it’s oak-aged sauvignon Mouth: it’s the distillate that speaks out, and that’s great. Sharp and chiselled citrus, pink grapefruits, citronella, all that on some zesty green tea, fresh-wulong style. Perfect strength. Finish: of medium length, clean, crisp, pure and citrusy. Comments: this session starts well. SGP:551 - 87 points.
Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (47.8%, Archives and Pure Spirit, bourbon hogshead, 176 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark straw. Nose: this one’s straighter, zestier, with a nice zing (no white zin though) and plenty of lemon and guava juice, as well as wee touches of wood smoke. In short, this one is crisper than the 1992, even if it’s not quite ‘a blade’. Mouth: oh lovely! Its got all the citrus blah-blah and the green tea blah-blah, but it’s also got an earthiness and even notes of gentian eau-de-vie as well as some liquorice wood. This, I enjoy even more. Maybe even touches of salt. One grain per litre, no more. Sorry, not salt as such, rather a saltiness (an old whisky geek joke). Finish: of medium length, rather more on juicy and zesty tropical fruits. The earthiness lingers in the aftertaste. Comments: another great zesty Littlemill, not much else to say. SGP:651 - 89 points.
Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2013 (49.8%, Eiling Lim, 68 bottles) Five starsColour: gold. Nose: we’ve got the same(ish) notes of guava juice and citrus, the vanilla as well, but what’s quite remarkable here is that there are also various herbal teas, which adds a layer of aromas. Lemon grass, fennel, maybe a little thyme, dill… There’s also a little banana that comes out after fifteen seconds. Nice complexity, all these Littlemills are usually good but not all of them are this complex in my opinion. Mouth: multi-vitamin juice with white pepper and green apples. Guavas, papayas, grapefruits, plus the obligatory green tea and a good glass of Alsatian (of course) Riesling. Whisky for wine freaks. Finish: quite long, very sharp in a good way. And leaves your palate clean! Comments: pure Littlemillian zestiness – and bliss. SGP:651 - 90 points.
Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (51.7%, Jack Wiebers, bourbon, cask #1033, 144 bottles) Five starsColour: pale gold. Nose: it’s an even fruitier one, but we’re rather on sweets and marshmallows than on fresh fruits this time. The end result is just a lovely, having said that. Banana-flavoured jellybeans, pink grapefruits, maybe a little vanilla fudge, maybe touches of broken branches and moss. I also find whiffs of eucalyptus tea, which I really love. Now, it’s to be noted that second after second, we’re getting closer to the Eiling Lim, especially after the addition of three drops of water. Mouth: yes, it’s the same, just a notch bigger. Zesty tropical fruits extravaganza. Finish: long, sharp, chiselled, citrusy and a tad grassier now. Comments: unbeatable in its category – or you’d have to resort to a 1966 Bowmore, unless you’ve got some 1981 Lochside. Oh well… SGP:651 - 90 points.
Littlemill 24 yo 1989/2014 (53%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #42, 178 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: oh, no! Another gloriously zesty Littlemill, ridden with tropical fruits and, this time, slices of melon and quarters of peaches. Enough said. Mouth: this one’s rather more ‘focussed’ than the others, I mean narrower, and yet that could be seen as an asset in this context. Lemon and grapefruit drops. Finish: long, maybe a notch greenish this time, so rather grassier than the others. The riesling’s been pressed with its stalk. Comments: this one was very blade-y. It’s a style that’s more austere, less ‘immediate’ than other Littlemills, but I like it just as much, really. SGP:561 - 89 points.
Littlemill 24 yo 1989/2014 (48.7%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, refill hogshead, 199 bottles) Four stars and a half Yes this is a mistake, I should have tried this one before the 1989 by Archives because of the higher strength, my bad. Colour: white wine. Nose: very, very similar. Maybe a notch fruitier and more expressive. All kinds of grapefruits plus half a maracuja. Yes that’s passion fruits with a smarter name. Mouth: emphatically fruity and zesty. We shan’t list them all again, shall we? Having said that, I also think it’s one of the sharpest and grassier Litlemills I could try. Raw lemon peel? Notes of peach as well, as in some Ardmore. Finish: quite long, super green and ultra zesty. One of the best muscadets, perhaps – yes there’s some great muscadet. Comments: Littlemill really is one of the winiest drams. We’re talking about dry white wine, of course. SGP:571 - 89 points.
Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2014 (51.9%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #12, 134 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark straw. Nose: phew, white wine again, but this time it would rather be a chenin, maybe from Vouvray or Montlouis. All this is very spectacular, and of course there is a lot of grapefruits as well as minerals (wet limestone) and maybe touches of fennel/dill.  Mouth: starts with the very same fennel and dill, which gives it an odd, but superb pastisness. Or ouzoness (seems like you need holidays, S.) After that, grapefruits, lemons, green tea, grass… In short, the whole caboodle. Finish: long, grassy, sharp, with maybe a few green and sour tannins. Comments: I think I liked the 1989 by Archives a notch better, but we’re splitting hairs again, aren’t we? SGP:571 - 88 points.

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


Whiskyfun fav of the month

May 2014

Favourite recent bottling:
Tomintoul 1977/2013 (54.9%, OB, sherry, cask #3691, 312 bottles)  - WF 91

Favourite older bottling:
Ardbeg 30 yo 1973/2003 (51.9%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 94 bottles) - WF 96

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Laphroaig 22 yo 1991/2014 (49.8, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 168 bottles)  - WF 91



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June 1, 2014


The Sunday quest for malternatives,
a flight of great cognacs

We haven’t had any cognac yet in 2014, so it’s more than time to have a few, more or less at random. Shall we find more worthy malternatives? Let’s see…

Brillet ‘Réserve Extra’ (40%, OB, Petite Champagne, +/-2013)

Brillet ‘Réserve Extra’ (40%, OB, Petite Champagne, +/-2013) Three stars This one is around six years of age, and is a 'single cru', meaning it comes from only one vineyard. It's a cognac de propriétaire. Around 40 €. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s nicely aromatic and very raisiny, fresh, with notes of peaches, then a little menthol and camphor. Touches of grass as well, making it clean and balanced, without any fatness or excessive roundness. I also find oranges after one minute or two. Mouth: it’s a fruity one indeed, without any excessive caramel/honey, you name it. Tinned peaches, a drop of pineapple liqueur, juicy sultanas, oranges again… The body’s perfect, relatively light but without any weaknesses. Finish: medium length, with touches of oak and always this rather sexy fruitiness. Bits of tropical fruits. Comments: I think we’re well above most entry-level cognacs by the big houses (VS, VSOP). This session starts well! SGP:541 - 82 points.

Frapin 'Château de Fontpinot XO' (41%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2013)

Frapin 'Château de Fontpinot XO' (41%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2013) Three stars This is single estate and premier grand cru cognac by the famous and very well respected house of Frapin. Around 100 €. Colour: amber. Nose: styles are pretty similar, this one being just a little fatter and, as they say, more emphatic. A little rounder as well. Raisin cake, peach pie, plenty of flowers (dandelions, peonies) and a fine, pretty chiselled oakiness (gingerbread, vanilla, cloves). Small touches of earth as well. High quality nose for sure. Mouth: rich, more toffee-ed than the obviously younger Brillet, with bags of roasted raisins and nuts, a little tannic chestnut honey, then touches of pipe tobacco and raw oak. A little marmalade too. Good mouth feel, without any. Finish: of medium length, a little more tertiary, with a little rancio/umami (your pick) and a slightly drying aftertaste. Tannins. Comments: I tend to like the Brillet’s freshness a little better, but on the other hand, this one’s rather more complex. So, same score if you don’t mind. SGP:641 - 82 points.

Meukow XO (40%, OB, blended cognac, +/-2013)

Meukow XO (40%, OB, blended cognac, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Not too sure about the golden tiger on the bottle. Which country was it designed for? Yes, I know… Around 125 €. Colour: amber. Nose: certainly pleasant at first nosing, but it hasn’t got the Frapin’s ‘immediacy’, and is also rather more vinous and grassy. Lees, leaves… Having said that, it’s also more and more floral, with whiffs of lis and iris, even lilies of the valley. So, it’s a rather floral and grassy one, I would say. Mouth: the oak feels a bit in the arrival, with some chocolate and cinnamon, then rather prunes and raisins. Cake. Develops more on strawberry and plums jams, with the oak’s spices well present. Some mint. The cinnamon is very obvious. The mouth feel is a little thin. Finish: medium length, a bit grapey and tannic. There’s a little leather too. Comments: very fine, but its suffering after the lovely – and cheaper - Brillet and Frapin. SGP:451 - 78 points.

Ragnaud Sabourin 'Fontvielle Alliance No. 35' (43%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2013)

Ragnaud Sabourin 'Fontvielle Alliance No. 35' (43%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2013) Three stars A single estate cognac that blends ugni blanc and folle blanche. Premier cru of course, and XO. Around 100 €. Colour: amber. Nose: pretty much the style of the Frapin again, with an emphatic and very lively fruitiness. More oranges this time, then stewed peaches and mirabelles, a lot of orange blossom water, then a pretty delicate oakiness (rosewood, perhaps) and drops of maple syrup and honey on top of the obligatory sultanas. Sounds sexy? It is. Mouth: starts a little tannic and gritty, as well as slightly tea-ish, but what’s behind that is lovely, with the same kind of fruits. Having said that, I feel it does not quite match the Frapin on the palate. A little burnt sugar and raisins. Finish: slightly short. Oranges and nutmeg. Comments: bizarrely, it’s a little thinner despite the higher strength. Great cognac for sure, but as often, I’d have loved to be able to taste a version at a higher strength, if not cask strength. SGP:551 - 80 points.

And now, heavier hitters!...

Tiffon 'Grande Champagne' (43%, OB, +/-2010?)

Tiffon 'Grande Champagne' (43%, OB, +/-2010?) Four stars and a half A very ‘modest’ bottle but a very old cognac inside, some sources claim that it’s 75 years old, while others rather talk about 30 years. Not too sure, the web being the web… Anyway, let’s try it. Colour: deep amber. Nose: ooh! It’s a luscious, rather fragrant and extremely elegant one, starting with notes of high-end chocolate, honeydew, touches of camphor, then roses, ylang-ylang, then notes of well-taken-care-of old cigars, leather, cedar wood… Then some menthol arises, together with a little chartreuse and genepy… It noses old, but the freshness is really impressive. Mouth: it’s invading, in a good way. Very fruity and fresh, without all these caramely notes that younger and more commercial cognac can display. The rancio is obvious. Other than that, I find ripe greengages, raisins, a faint muscaty side, some cinnamon, some nutmeg, a touch of white pepper, more chocolate, honeydew again, ripe melons and apples… It’s all really excellent. Finish: maybe not very long, and a tad tannic now, but this menthol and the spiced oranges are really perfect. Honeyed aftertaste. It’s got an ‘old Macallan’ side. Comments: we’re bordering perfection, only the rather low strength, which imparts a slight weakness at some points, will prevent me from reaching the 90-mark. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Rémi Landier '40ème Anniversaire - Très Vieux Fins Bois' (45%, OB, Fins Bois, Lot No 73, 40 bottles, 2013)

Rémi Landier '40ème Anniversaire - Très Vieux Fins Bois' (45%, OB, Fins Bois, Lot No 73, 40 bottles, 2013) Five stars A very small batch of 'probably' 40 years old that may have been distilled in 1973 (lot numbers usually suggest vintages in cognac). Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s straighter, simpler (not in a bad way at all) and more immediate. Focussed, I’d say. Chocolate, marmalade, roses, a little vanilla, a touch of earth and humus, a little butterscotch and shortbread, sultanas… What’s really impressive in this nose, rather than the aromas, is the perfect balance. Mouth: hurray! The 45% vol. really work, this has more oomph than all the others. There are funny touches of calvados, a welcome oiliness, even a slight roughness here and there that give it a pleasant ‘artisan’ feeling (fruit peelings), maybe touches of smoke, then stewed peaches, chestnut honey, a little candy sugar, a touch of liquorice and one or two grains of salt. You may ad a slice of candied pineapple. Finish: long, fruitier and not oakier, which is the opposite of what usually happens. What’s the trick? Candy sugar, orange zests, gingered chocolate, mints. Great freshness. Comments: we’re really talking now. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Vallein Tercinier 'Conjugaison 49' (46%, OB, Grande Champagne, 2013)

Vallein Tercinier 'Conjugaison 49' (46%, OB, Grande Champagne, 2013) Five stars I still remember Vallein Tercinier's Lot No. 65 that really blew my mind last year (WF 95). This version of Conjugaison 49 – there were several - was bottled last year at cask strength, and is a blend of two vintages, 1949 and 1922 (the latter in smaller quantities). Colour: dark gold. Nose: another one that starts a bit like a very old calvados. You can feel it’s very old, because there’s more earth, more mushrooms, more humus than in all the others. Musty old wood, old wine barrels, a touch of metal (old tin box), asparagus soup… Then rather cigars, chutneys, peaches and apricots, a touch of clay, laterite after a heavy shower, hints of rhubarb pie… The complexity is totally amazing, even if this oldie’s less ‘immediate’ than the glorious Lot 65. Mouth: starts a little woody and drying, but that doesn’t last as a huge basket of tropical fruits is appearing. Guavas, papayas, grapes, oranges, even bananas… There’s also quite some cinnamon and cedar wood, cider apples (this calvados side again), allspices, tobacco… Finish: a tad drying, I have to say. Apple peelings, cinnamon… Comments: maybe it’s a tad too tannic at times, but the fruits manage to lift that, which is amazingly spectacular. Maybe not totally on par with the 1965, but the complexity is fantastic. Same score as the great Rémi Landier. SGP:661 - 90 points.

And a very last one…

Vallein Tercinier 'Grand Rue 34' (42%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2012)

Vallein Tercinier 'Grand Rue 34' (42%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2012) Five stars This little baby should have been distilled in 1934 (great vintage for wine!) and was almost 80 years old at time of bottling. It’s older than the oldest whiskies I’ve ever tried (G&M’s 70 yo Mortlach and Glenlivet). Cask strength again, of course. As for its price, it’s only around 650 €, which is insane when seen from Scotland. Colour: amber. Nose: you see, these good people bottle their spirits when they think they’re ready. This one was ready for sure, but believe me, there isn’t the slightest feeling of ‘too old’. It’s actually less oaky than the 49, it’s fresher, it’s fruitier, it’s more delicately herbal, and it’s simply a miracle in a bottle. Fab floral notes, superb tropical fruits, magnificent soft spices, everything’s there. I won’t list all aromas, but there’s one funny note that arises after a few minutes, a mix of cannabis and propolis. Not unlike walking in a park in San Francisco or in Amsterdam’s most touristy streets ;-). Don’t worry, that’s only small touches… Mouth: once again, it’s the oak that comes out first, and once again, the fruits are soon to balance that tannicity. Big notes of oranges and pink grapefruits, guavas, then menthol, pinesap and aniseed, a faint feeling of absinth, earl grey tea… Actually, it tastes more and more like first quality earl grey. Terrific. Finish: surprisingly long at just 42% vol., but then again, 42% at cask strength and 42% after reduction aren’t quite the same thing. Oranges and cinnamon, a little extra-dry manzanilla or Madeira, tiny touches of mustard in the aftertaste... Comments: one existential question, doesn’t cognac, and brandy in general, age better than whisky? I haven’t got the answer… SGP:651 - 93 points.

Phew, that was some epic session. Amost all cognacs we had today were worthy malternatives, but let’s be honest, I did not pick them totally at random ;-).

(With many thanks to Johnny and Michal)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Anthony Branker. Track: Dance like no one is watching. Please visit his website and buy his music...

May 2014 - part 2 <--- June 2014 - part 1 ---> June 2014 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Bowmore 7 yo (43%, OB, Sherriff’s, Cogis Milano, +/-1970)

Bowmore 2001/2013 'Peat Smoked Herring' (46%, Wemyss Malts, 405 bottles)

Bowmore 12 yo 2001/2013 (58.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask #20063, 312 bottles)

Hankey Bannister 40 yo (44.3%, OB, Scotch blend, 1480 decanters, 2013)

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (51.7%, Jack Wiebers, bourbon, cask #1033, 144 bottles)

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2013 (49.8%, Eiling Lim, 68 bottles)

Port Ellen 17 yo 1970/1987 (62.4%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, 243 bottles)

Port Ellen 1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old map label)

Port Ellen 32 yo 1982/2014 (57.9%, Malts of Scotland, Diamonds, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14021, 145 bottles)

Port Ellen 29 yo 1983/2012 (52%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 86 bottles)

Rémi Landier '40ème Anniversaire - Très Vieux Fins Bois' (45%, OB, Fins Bois, Lot No 73, 40 bottles, 2013)

Vallein Tercinier 'Grand Rue 34' (42%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2012)

Vallein Tercinier 'Conjugaison 49' (46%, OB, Grande Champagne, 2013)