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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2014 - Part 2

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


June 30, 2014


Three Japanese beasts with stories

What’s more, all three will come from the same ‘family’, in a way. I have to say I don’t quite know how to sort them, for they’re probably very different, so let’s just go… alphabetical. I know, that doesn’t make much sense…

Chichibu 2010/2014 (62.4%, OB for Silver Seal, Japan, bourbon barrel, cask #659, 239 bottles)

Chichibu 2010/2014 (62.4%, OB for Silver Seal, Japan, bourbon barrel, cask #659, 239 bottles) Three stars I know quite a few guys in Europe have been looking for this baby, but indeed it’s a Japan exclusive, so you have to source it from there, I’m afraid. Colour: pale gold. Nose: incredibly approachable at such a high strength, and even if the new oak feels a bit (vanilla and fresh sawdust), these whiffs of freshly squeezed oranges are just lovely and bring much freshness. I also find some lemongrass and very clear notes of lime-blossom. With water: pure, unadulterated acacia honey! Mouth (neat): fierce and young, but great, or rather great, but young. Pear drops, tinned pineapple, loads of sweet creamy vanilla, acacia honey, then more lemongrass and coconut. This could make for a great sauce to pour onto grilled chicken, Thai style. With water: an Irishness comes out, quite bizarrely, as well as notes of IPA beer, hops, chlorophyll… The oak has been very active, in a good way. Finish: long, grassier, with some fresh oak. Comments: a very young dram that’s powered by some great oak trees. Not exactly my preferred style, but I am rather impressed. SGP:461 - 82 points.

Hanyu 2000/2010 'The Final Vintage' (59%, OB, Ichiro's Malt, puncheon, cask #6093, 349 bottles)

Hanyu 2000/2010 'The Final Vintage' (59%, OB, Ichiro's Malt, puncheon, cask #6093, 349 bottles) Three stars and a half Indeed, 2000 was Hanyu’s last vintage. Colour: gold. Nose: hold on, there are many similarities! Indeed we’re well in the same family, this one’s another clean and fresh whisky, with again some oranges and huge whiffs of blossom. Orange blossom indeed, then rather honeysuckle. In the background, a little leather and tobacco. Really lovely. With water: a meaty, almost truffle-y side comes out. Also cigarette tobacco. Mouth (neat): huge, spicy and herbal, very ‘Japanese’ in the sense that you feel incense, cedar wood, even powdered green tea, then cough drops, menthol and lastly, roasted chestnuts. I’m not saying roasted chestnuts are very Japanese… With water: same, more or less. Added touches of coconut and pineapples, perhaps. Finish: long, and quite ‘tropical’. Oak-aged pina colada? Comments: a very talkative malt, rather unusual and hard to rate. Not too sure about my score, so… Please just don’t read it. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Karuizawa 13 yo 1999/2013 (57.7%, OB, Noh, for K&L USA, sherry butt, cask #869, 510 bottles)

Karuizawa 13 yo 1999/2013 (57.7%, OB, Noh, for K&L USA, sherry butt, cask #869, 510 bottles) Four starsOnce again, one of the very last vintages. I’ve heard this baby’s the first Karuizawa ever imported into the good old US of A. Colour: golden bronze. Nose: at first it’s like nosing Spanish cured ham. I’d swear you can even smell the bellotas (acorns), and I also get touches of rubber, as often in Karuizawa, although those tend to vanish after just one minute or even less. After one minute, it’s a bed of walnuts, candy sugar, pipe tobacco, Maggi and one of these pretty acidic coffees they have in Africa. Had a Burundian just yesterday that was smelling like this. Also a little cane sugar? A little gunpowder too, even after ten minutes. With water: the exhaust pipes of a Kawazaki H2. Ah, two-stroke engines! Behind that, a lot of liquorice. Mouth (neat): thick, a little acrid, takes your tongue hostage for a while. Very concentrated, with some black tea, walnut wine, salted liquorice, then more and more wood spices. Cinnamon mints? In the background, lively notes of raspberry drops. With water: was this aged in orange wood? Thuja? Pine? Mizunara? Eucalyptus? (that’ll do, S.) Finish: long, very focussed on chocolate, menthol and liquorice. After Eights. Comments: I’d describe this heavy dram as ‘perfectly imperfect’. Or very baroque. SGP:562 - 87 points.

(with heartfelt thanks to Max and Tim)

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


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June 29, 2014


The Sunday Quest for Malternatives,
today Calvados

I have very, very little experience with calvados. I’ve tried a few very good ones but many have also been too ‘apple-y’ for my taste, with this very particular grittiness. Let’s see what will happen, knowing that this will be a two, or even three-part session.

Château du Breuil 'Fine Calvados' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d’Auge, 2014)

Château du Breuil 'Fine Calvados' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d’Auge, 2014) A famous single domaine Calavdos, aged for around two years in oak. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very clean, fruity, slightly grassy. You’re really smelling a large bag of cider apples, with little oak or assorted oaky aromas. Hurray, no vanilla! Mouth: creamy mouth feel and a rather grassy profile, with not much sweetness. Apples and peelings, with touches of honey. A rather simple spirit, I’m not a huge fan I have to say. Finish: medium length. Grassy apples and just touches of white pepper. Comments: I find this baby difficult on the palate. As rough as many young calvados can be in my experience. SGP:270 - 65 points.

Père Magloire 'X.O.' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013)

Père Magloire 'X.O.' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013) one star and a half Père Magloire is a very large brand in France, these Calvados are the most commonly found in supermarkets. The X.O. isn’t the cheapest though, there are also a V.S. and a V.S.O.P. Colour: gold. Nose: very sweet, smooth and fruity. By design, it’s a very easy one, with mainly notes of overripe and ripe apples plus a little vanilla, caramel and toasted brioche. Very easy, very gentle. Mouth: rather sweet arrival, then more oaky bitterness. It’s rather tannic, even if the body is a little thin. A lot of grassy grass (!) with a palate that’s very different from the nose, which was much rounder. Finish: medium length. Grass, apple peeling, ginger. Comments: I’m not a fan of this one either. You really have to like this grittiness! SGP:370 - 67 points.

Château du Breuil 'Réserve des Seigneurs X.O.' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013)

Château du Breuil 'Réserve des Seigneurs X.O.' (40%, OB, Calvados, Pays d'Auge, +/-2013) Three stars This one is 20 years old, so things may have gotten smoother. Colour: deep gold. Nose: more profound, wider, richer and creamier than the others. What’s great is when you don’t find only apples, but also oranges, for example. Or peaches, touches of tobacco and earth, hay, a little toffee… I really like this rather complex nose. Mouth: much better than the others. Starts a little liqueury, fat, with some candy sugar, overripe apples (as always), some honey… And then finer notes of tangerines and flower nectar (mullein), a little caramel… The whole remains quite fleshy, we’re well in Calvados. Finish: long, rather spicier. Ginger and pepper, a little cinnamon. Comments: Calvados is a much bigger spirit than, say malt whisky, which makes that 40% vol. tastes more or less like 45%. I like this one and am declaring it ‘malternative’. SGP:561 - 80 points.

And a last one, because four Calvados in a row is quite enough:

Louis de Lauriston 1963 (42%, OB, Calvados Domfrontais, +/-2013)

Louis de Lauriston 1963 (42%, OB, Calvados Domfrontais, +/-2013) Three stars and a half If I remember well, the Domfrontais have a higher proportion of pears. Yes Calvados isn’t only about apples! This brand gathers several smaller producers, so it’s not a ‘single still’. Colour: bronze amber. Nose: another world. This is much more complex, starting with flowers (orange blossom, honeysuckle) and orange cake, and developing on apple crumble, with small touches of camphor, menthol and cedar wood. A rather perfect old calvados that hasn’t lost all of the appellation roughness, which would have been a flaw (maybe). I also find hints of apple vinegar, which is normal I guess. Mouth: this has power, and it’s got youth and roughness as well. Not as mellow and smooth as I had expected, with some gritty/sour apples and green pears, then rounder notes, with some cedar wood again, cigars, a little artisan maple syrup and notes of dark toffee and roasted chestnuts. Lots happening in this restless oldie. Finish: long, rather grassy, with also roasted coffee beans and a spicy oak (cinnamon). A little burnt caramel. Comments: of coruse you have to like apples (and pears) but if you do, you’ll enjoy this vibrant oldie. SGP:461 - 84 points.



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June 27, 2014


The Quest for Malternatives,
today French vieille prune

There’s an aged spirit that’s a little old-fashioned in France, and probably not very famous anywhere else, it’s the ‘vieille prune’, which means ‘old plum’. It’s obviously plums, usually akin to zwetschkes, that are distilled and then aged in oak casks. The best variety is called ‘prune d’Ente’. Vieille prune is a specialty from the southwest of France, around Périgord, but we make some in Alsace as well. Let’s have a small bunch and check if they could make for worthy malternatives…

Eau-de-vie de Vieille Prune (40%, OB, G. Miclo, France, Alsace, +/-2013)

Eau-de-vie de Vieille Prune (40%, OB, G. Miclo, France, Alsace, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Miclo in Lapoutroie, Alsace, do distill many fruit, the Alsatian way, that is to say that they're mainly looking for a pure expression of the fruits. Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, it’s rather pure plum eau-de-vie, without much wood influence, which is probably just as good. Reeks of plums actually, with touches of mirabelle as well, oranges and then lovely notes of almonds that come from the fruits’ stones. You’re always looking for this when you distil plums, putting the stones away is usually a mistake. Mouth: it’s a big spirit and believe me, we aren’t far from some malt whiskies. Starts with some honey and mint-flavoured tea, goes on with a lot of orange liqueur Cointreau-style, a little vanilla, and then a large plum pie with touches of cinnamon. I do also feel a little sugar in the background, maybe that part was added prior to bottling to make the whole smoother. No too sure. Finish: long, on plum jam, with a little mint and green oak. Comments: it’s quite close to some whiskies, it’s even got something Pulteneyian, if I may. I really like it, but the sugariness will prevent me from reaching the 80-mark. SGP:661 - 78 points.

Vieille Eau-de-Vie de Prune (42%, OB, Gélas, France, Gers, +/-2012)

Vieille Eau-de-Vie de Prune (42%, OB, Gélas, France, Gers, +/-2012) Two stars The house Gélas in Vic-Fezensac is famous for their lovely armagnacs. Colour: white wine. Nose: this is very heavy, you can smell it even when you’re in the next room, and it’s also much less smooth and rounded than the Alsatian. That means that it’s also more complex, with totally unexpected notes of salted anchovies and brine on top of the ‘pure’ plums and almonds. Very funny and very unusual indeed, I’m very curious about the palate… Mouth: the stones are playing first fiddles indeed, the flesh is keeping quiet in the background. Very unusual indeed, with a big saltiness, olives, bitter almonds, maybe touches of coriander? Fun stuff, but it’s no easy spirit. Finish: very long, salty, slightly bitter, quite grassy. Comments: I know people are usually expecting a taste of prune in these Vieilles Prunes. Ha! There’s more prune in armagnac if you ask me. SGP:471 - 75 points.

Vieille Eau-de-Vie de Prune d'Ente (46%, OB, La Salamandre, France, Périgord, +/-2010)

Vieille Eau-de-Vie de Prune d'Ente (46%, OB, La Salamandre, France, Périgord, +/-2010) Two starsThis one's made in the city of Sarlat, which is famous for its stunning 'pommes sarladaises' that are roasted potatoes with garlic and parsley. Superb with grilled foie gras or duck confit! Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s the most discreet at first nosing, which may come for the higher alcohol. A little more oak and vanilla as well, so it probably spent more time in oak – which the colour already suggested. Other than that, it’s a relatively dry and grassy plum, with faint touches of rubber that are related to those famous almondy notes. Mouth: very heavy stuff, it’s immense spirit, very rich this time and much more complex than what you’d expect from fruit eau-de-vie. It’s very floral (kind of heady if you will), there’s a lot of rosewater, one or three tinned litchis, then figs and dates, grass, a little liquorice and small touches of rubber again. Non-lethal (I hope) prussic acid? Finish: very long, with more green plums, olives, almonds and a rather drying and slightly resinous aftertaste. Comments: a beast, the kind that mousquetaires used to quaff before a battle. No, I’ve made that up, mousquetaires used to down armagnac. SGP:571 - 76 points.

These Vieilles Prunes are interesting spirits and are truly characterful, but their very ‘artisan’ style make them a little difficult and maybe not quite ‘malternative’. The Alsatian by Miclo is the easiest – and my favourite.



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June 25, 2014


A go at a few Canadians

Canadian Whisky
I’ve not tried many Canadian whiskies so far, and actually, if you really want to check a lot of brilliant - and educated - tasting notes for Canadian whiskies, you’d better leave and go to Davin’s superb website. Now, if you already read it every day, here’s my humble take on assorted Canadians…! Yes, including the chaff…
Canadian Mist (40%, OB, Canadian blend, +/-2014) Two stars A large brand by Brown-Forman that's made in Ontario. It is, apparently, aged in temperature-controlled facilities. Colour: orangey gold. Nose: hello? Cardboard, tapioca, dust and sawdust at first nosing, but this is probably no nosing whisky. Notes of toasted oak as well, drops of orange syrup and a few roasted nuts and cornflakes. All this is very evanescent! Mouth: there’s more happening, but it’s all very sweet, with a little café latte, vanilla, sweet oak and barley water. Typically ‘well made’, that is to say not offensive and not mindboggling, like many a very heavy seller. It is certainly very drinkable, just uninteresting. Finish: rather short, with a little more burnt oak and café latte. Coconut. Comments: to be honest, I had thought this would be worse. It goes down well, despite a feeling of ‘flavouring’ and ‘sweetening’. Maybe a little ‘technological’. SGP:530 - 74 points.
R&R Reserve (40%, OB, Canadian blend, +/-2014) Two stars Nope, that’s not Rolls Royce, R&R stands for Rich and Rare. The brand is now owned by Sazerac, who distil, mature and then import the juice from Canada and bottle it in Kentucky. Ooh my head! The ‘Reserve’ is already a premium version, there is a cheaper R&R called just that, R&R. Colour: full gold. Nose: it is even more silent that Canadian Mist, but on the other hand, it is better polished, with touches of praline, mocha, white chocolate and vanilla. There’s also a little rye, but it’s all pretty shy. Mouth: same feeling again, it may go down too well. Having said that, there’s a little more body, an added spiciness, maybe more vanilla and certainly more fruits, especially redcurrants and oranges. Another harmless, but not bland Canadian blend. Finish: good length, with more spices. Comments: I think there’s more happening in his one after the Canadian Mist, but we’re still in easy-easy fields. SGP:541 - 76 points.
Crown Royal 'Black' (45%, OB, Canadian blend, +/-2014) one star and a half It seems that this baby is the Loch Dhu of Canadian whisky. Colour: no, I was exaggerating, it’s only ‘dark amber’. Nose: starts very fragrant and spicy, really like an herbal liqueur. You cannot not think of Jaegermeister. I also find notes of thick black rum, English style, and even thick Russian brandy, Campari or other bitter drinks, then some mint, liquorice and camphor. How did they do that? So it’s not very ‘whisky’, but there’s something spectacular in this nose. Mouth: once again we’re not much in whisky’ territories. A blend of brandy, crème de menthe and caramelised South-American rum, with a thick layer of tar and liquorice. Add a few drops of Kalhua and there, you have it. Finish: long, mentholated, liquoricy. There is something spectacular. Comments: the enginee… I mean, the distillers have come up with a funny drink, certainly quite effecti… I mean pleasant. It’s just not very ‘whisky’, but it certainly beats Loch Dhu hands down. SGP:660 - 69 points.
Good, I think we ought to try to find some more serious Canadians…
Lot No.40 ‘2012 Edition’ (43%, OB, Canadian rye) Four stars I had tried earlier versions, and found them rather characterful – and not very ‘Canadian’. I’ve also already tried this one blind, and scored it 80. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s extremely floral at first nosing, and honeyed. Honey-filled milk chocolate and maple syrup, then more and more rye character, although the whole remains rounded and easy. No brutal rye, that’s for sure. Also ‘a pastry shop early in the morning’. That’s right, croissants au beurre! Mouth: ah this is lovely, as it starts with a perfect balance between rye/liquorice, and on the other side, vanilla, white chocolate, toffee and praline. Works very well, and there’s even a pleasant oiliness, probably from active US wood. Like quaffing sunflower oil! The sweetness is perfectly balanced, which makes the whole…err, balanced. Finish: quite long and, bizarrely, more complex. Many tiny spices and herbs, juniper, caraway, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, poppy seeds (that’ll do, S.!) Comments: really enjoyed it, even better than earlier batches. Granted, the oak’s a little too loud for my taste, which often happens with North-American whiskies in my book, but other than that, it does deliver! Oh, and it remains drinkable. SGP:561 - 85 points.
Wiser’s 18 yo (40%, OB, Canadian blend, +/-2014) Two stars and a half From a brand new bottle, but it could have been bottled last year. It’s not the first time I try this version of Wiser’s. Good stuff. Colour: gold. Nose: I think it’s having troubles when tasted along with Lot No.40, it is a little too shy. There’s also a little too much oak, sawdust, vanillin and all that, without a serious backbone. Maybe that’s only the low strength? Having said that, if you wait long enough, you’ll find delicate notes of parsley and coriander, plus overripe apples and cedar wood. So its elegant and even interesting, but honestly, it’s a little too weak. 43, 45 or 46% vol. would have done the trick, I think. Mouth: funny notes of sweet rum, which happens with Canadians, then more sweet oak. Very sweet oak. I mean vanilla fudge, toffee, millionaire shortbread and all that. Also plum pie and apple pie covered with plenty of cinnamon. Sadly, the body remains a little thin and I always feel that when there’s quite some wood, low strengths just don’t work because they’ll make it stand out even more. Finish: curiously long, but very sweet and even molassy. Also cinnamon mints and syrup. Comments: I know this baby’s got an excellent reputation (not only in Canada, haha), but I don’t know, it doesn’t click too well with me. Oh, just listen to others! SGP:640 - 79 points.



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June 24, 2014


A few Glenlivet down to the war

Glenlivet is often gentle, but there are exceptions. Let’s try to find a few…

Glenlivet 18 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2014)

Glenlivet 18 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2014) Three stars and a half The 18 yo is one of the core-range malts that I like to follow, just like you follow your favourite châteaux in Bordeaux, vintage after vintage. Colour: gold. Nose: I always find notes of ‘superior blend’ in the official Glenlivets at low strength. They aren’t hugely malty, they are very gentle, they are extremely civilised, and they are very ‘easy’. Stewed apples, a little honey, roasted nuts, chocolate, a little cedar wood, whiffs of flowers (peonies), wee touches of sour wood… Mouth: starts very caramely and fudgy, with then cornflakes, honey sauce, raisins, a little liquorice, orange zests, maple syrup… All that isn’t big, but I’d still call it ‘full’. The exact definition of an all-rounder in my book. Finish: a little short, rather on liquorice and burnt cake. Comments: really easy and undemanding, and certainly very well made. All beginners will like it. Haven’t I already called it a perfect ‘after-Chivas’? SGP:541 - 83 points.

Glenlivet 16 yo 'Nadurra' (53%, OB, batch #0911P, 2011)

Glenlivet 16 yo 'Nadurra' (53%, OB, batch #0911P, 2011) Four stars I have to confess I’ve been neglecting my Nadurras, even this one’s already from an old batch. Pfff… Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s much rawer, grassier and less rounded than the 18, and tells you a completely different story. There are many more cut apples, much more ale and hops (IPA) and much more fresh wood. Broken branches and all that. In the background, funny touches of pineapples. With water: gorgeous barley notes plus ripe apples. Perfect in its style. Mouth (neat): lovable. I’m not far from thinking it remains the best… oops, sorry mum, I mean my favourite current Glenlivet. Oranges, apples, light honey, mints, walnuts, strawberry drops, bananas, mangos… A perfect freshness. They have some recipe! With water: yes, perfect. Apples, cider, vanilla, earl grey, a little pepper, green bananas… Finish: quite long but much more dry and drying. Green tea, white pepper. Comments: Nadurra remains excellent, only the aftertaste is a notch too tannic for my taste. Maybe the oak shouting ‘hey, I’m there!’ SGP:551 - 87 points.

Glenlivet 16 yo 1997/2013 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, sherry butt, cask #123546, 742 bottles)

Glenlivet 16 yo 1997/2013 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, sherry butt, cask #123546, 742 bottles) Five stars Funny cask #, almost 123456! Not that that matters much, I agree… Colour: reddish amber. Nose: gunpowder and blood oranges at first nosing. Absolutely no straight sulphury notes, just ‘gunpowder’. Then chocolate, Spanish ham, black raisins, soot, cigars, blackcurrants, menthol and figs. Superb old style oloroso! Mouth: utterly delicious, nervous, Christmassy, with many dried fruits and a touch of liquorice and smoke. Dark chocolate, black raisins, dried figs, prunes, more liquorice… It’s one of these sherried malts that hint at old Armagnac. I love it. Finish: long, more on bitter oranges and pepper. Honeydew and mint in the aftertaste. Comments: there are true gems in this very fairly priced range, and this is one of them in my opinion. No oohs and aahs, just brilliant sherried malt whisky. R.e.c.o.m.m.e.n.d.e.d. SGP:652 - 90 points.

How about a few older Glenlivets?...

Glenlivet 32 yo 1978/2010 (52,9%, The Whisky Fair and Three Rivers Tokyo, bourbon hogshead, 250 bottles)

Glenlivet 32 yo 1978/2010 (52,9%, The Whisky Fair and Three Rivers Tokyo, bourbon hogshead, 250 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: as delicate as old unsherried Glenlivets can be. A walk through an orchard late in August, really, with sunbathed apples, pears and apricots. Behind them, light touches of earth and leather, plus grass, fresh almonds and walnut skins. No big whisky, but it is pretty elegant. With water: becomes a little farmier, with the earthy side getting more obvious. Mouth (neat): starts on the same fruity notes, maybe with more skins and stems this time, as well as one or two tropical fruits such as grapefruits and mangos. Sweet barley. Creamy mouth feel. With water: a little mint, grass, bark… Finish: medium length. Unexpected touches of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: absolutely excellent, but in my book it lacks character, although water works quite well. Ah, character… SGP:551 - 85 points.

Glenlivet (Minmore) 27yo 1973/2000 (47.2%, Cadenhead's Chairman’s Stock, sherrywood, 246 bottles)

Glenlivet (Minmore) 27yo 1973/2000 (47.2%, Cadenhead's Chairman’s Stock, sherrywood, 246 bottles) Three stars and a half Minmore is the place where the distillery’s located. I have to say I don’t quite know why Cadenheads always used to add ‘Minmore’ to Glenlivet. Colour: gold. Nose: this time there are whiffs of sulphur (cooked cabbage) as well as notes of new leather, bitter almonds and new magazine (right, ink), but the fruits are quick to come out, with a combination of oranges and tangerines, especially zests and marmalade. Becomes brighter and brighter. More hay as well. A little undecided, I would say. Mouth: very nice arrival, all on overripe apples and candied fruits, but no flavours do really stand out, which is rather unusual. It’s one of these rare malts that are ‘very good’, while being a little bland, in a way. Finish: long, grassier. Comments: a rather strange bottling. Again, I really liked it, but I just couldn’t tell you why. Maybe I’m tired. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Another try at this great series…

Glenlivet (Minmore) 30 yo 1976/2006 (57.1%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, sherry butt, 432 bottles)

Glenlivet (Minmore) 30 yo 1976/2006 (57.1%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, sherry butt, 432 bottles) Three stars and a half … I still don’t know why they add ‘Minmore’… Colour: gold. Nose: smoke! Smoke in Glenlivet! Granted, that’s no Ardbeggian smoke, and it’s not even peaty, but these notes of wood smoke, campfire, or even lit cigars are very pleasant. Other than that, it’s rather not a fruity one, as I rather find grass, leaves, branches and earth. Interesting! With water:  funny metallic touches come out. Coins, old tin box… Even less fruity. Mouth (neat): this time it’s rather liquorice and lavender drops that strike first, before more jams and marshmallows take over. Add a little pepper. With water: no, the grass wins and the fruits bow out. Finish: of medium length, with some chlorophyll. Comments: certainly good again, but there’s something that’s missing in this Minmores, in my opinion. SGP:451 - 84 points.

Come on, Cadenhead!...

Glenlivet 25 yo 1964/1989 (53.4%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, 18.75cl)

Glenlivet 25 yo 1964/1989 (53.4%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, 18.75cl) Three stars and a half These tiny bottles were lovely, absolutely not my business but why not make them again? Colour: mahogany. Nose: kind of closed, or rather all on chocolate, which is what might happen with many old sherry monsters. Okay, maybe fruit ganache, blackcurrants and menthol… With water: cocoa powder, dust, ground coffee, gravel, fresh concrete… Wouldn’t you define this as ‘austere’? The driest kind of sherry, and yet I did not find any walnuts. Mouth (neat): coffee-schnapps. And the schnapps would rather be cassis eau-de-vie. It’s very leafy sherry, very green and grassy. With water: cocoa here and cocoa there, plus, again, drops of crème de cassis (from Dijon, naturally). Finish: quite long, dry, and, you got it, chocolaty. Some mint too, so that could be After Eights. Comments: it’s a very interesting style, but you wouldn’t quaff a bucket. The sherry’s a little too dry. SGP:361 - 84 points.

Hell and damnation, we just cannot leave it at that.

Glenlivet 1943 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1975)

Glenlivet 1943 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1975) Four stars As you may know, very few distilleries were still working during world war two. There used to be Mortlach, Macallan and Glenlivet, plus maybe one or two others, but I’m not even sure there were more of them, barley being in such short supply. What’s sure is that wartime malt whisky is much scarcer than pre-war malt whisky (1930s). Colour: amber. Nose: indeed, this is a different story. Sure it is lighter, but it’s also got these lovely notes of old books, old attic, dried porcinis, cigarettes, old wardrobe… Indeed, everything smells ‘old’, and you really have to like that, but it’s a very complex old whisky. I’d add walnuts and mustard, which leads to fino sherry, and a little camphor and mint, which leads to cough syrup. It’s a little fragile, but it’s Time that’s talking. Mouth: no it’s not dead, and it’s not even tired! Having said that the profile is unusual, starting with a lot of speculoos, gingerbread and almond milk. After that, we find more overripe apples with a little cinnamon, as well as quite a lot of marzipan. Or rather salted marzipan, should that exist. It’s solid, it is alive, and its not tired at all. Amazing! Finish: it does become a little tired now, with a finish that’s a little weak, cardboardy and tea-ish, but the marzipan in the background keeps roaring. Apologies, that would be salted marzipan. Something a little dry, metallic and muddy in the aftertaste. Warfare? Comments: I don’t feel too comfortable with scoring these very old malts that rather belong to a museum, but let’s keep a cool head and only rate ‘the liquid’, which is what I always try to do anyway (yeah yeah). SGP:362 - 87 points.

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



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June 23, 2014


The Quest for Malternatives, tequila reposados, the sequel

Last time, the Gran Centenario was so impressive that I had decided to cut a long session short. Time to have another short flight, and we’ll be done…

Hornitos 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

Hornitos 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Two stars and a half A brand by the large house Sauza. It’s 100% blue agave. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: it’s a rather perfumy one, with whiffs of old cologne and then more grass, agave, light lemon and violets. A little lavender too. It’s actually very clean, rather light, and pretty pure. Not unpleasant, I have to say. Mouth: it’s light (much, much lighter than the Gran Centenario) but it’s crystal-clean, relatively sweet (limoncello) and quite mellow. There are touches of brine, smoke, salt, lemon, olives, juniper and all that, it’s just that the whole remains light. Finish: sort, a little earthier. Ginger and gentian. Comments: it’s good, I’m sure, it’s just pretty light. Good quality. SGP:342 - 78 points.

El Jimador 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

El Jimador 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Two starsI quite enjoyed the anejo by El Jimado last year (WF 75). This is 100% agave, the brand being owned by Brown-Forman. Oh, and by the way, this Jimador is not Jim MacEwan. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: a different style, much more on citrus and simply limoncello, and without much earthy/smoky aromas. Grand-Marnier, ginger liqueur, touches of almonds and cumin. It’s a rather light nose, but again it’s clean. Mouth: it’s a slightly soapy and cologne-y style, not quite my favourite. Green oranges, apples, almonds, a little pepper and mustard, maybe hints of pineapples… Also sour apples, even cider. I’m sure it’s good, but it’s not my favourite style. Finish: rather short and much, much saltier. That’s fun! Sadly, the aftertaste is a little soapy again – a ‘tequila’ soapiness, that is. Comments: I like the fact that there’s less sweetish oak than in the anejo, but I’m not too fond of the soapy/cologne-y side. SGP:461 - 73 points.

Herencia Mexicana 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

Herencia Mexicana 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Three stars and a half Pure agave again. On the label it’s said to be ‘Artisanal, por tradicion’, and of course it’s more expensive than others. Say around €60 while most other pure agaves cost around €25-30. Colour: white wine. Nose: ah yes! It’s like a great mezcal by Del Maguey or Real Minero (or others), that is to say that’s packed with briney and smoky smells, a lot of earth, cigar smoke, green olives, ultra-zesty white wine, touches of petrol, limestone… This could be another winner, let’s see what happens on the palate… Mouth: a little less emphatic, maybe because of these notes of cooked apricots, vanilla and caramel that may come from the oak. So it’s much smoother than expected, but what’s behind this smoothness remains absolutely terrific. Salty lemon juice, earth, roots, grass smoke, olives and all that… I think I ought to try the joven version one day. Finish: not too short, briny, more on oranges than on lemons, so relatively smooth. A lot of ripe peaches as well. Comments: maybe a tad too civilised, but the spirit is of very high quality. Pfff, vanilla… SGP:541 - 83 points.

Corzo 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

Corzo 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Two stars and a half I find the bottle absolutely superb, even if you may mistake it for your preferred eau de toilette. It’s another expensive tequila, 100% agave from the Highlands and triple distilled. Super-premium, of course. Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s extremely light, almost silent. Minimalism can be great, but maybe not in our spirits. It’s having a lot of trouble after the very expressive Herencia Mexicana. Hello? Somebody in there? Oh yes, there, in the background, wee notes of tropical fruits, such as mangos. Mouth: there’s a little more happening, and we’re not far from the Herencia Mexicana this time. Smooth, fruity, with only touches of brine, earth and smoke. Having said that, It’s very clean and perfectly chiselled. Touches of new oak (coconut, vanilla), also thyme and rosemary. Finish: a little short and a little soapy. Not the best part. Having said that, there are nice lemons and grapefruits in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s a light and clean one. Very good, but not quite a thrill. The bottle’s lovely, though. SGP:441 – 78 points.

The new malternatives we've found:
Gran Centenario 'Reposado' SGP:352 - 88 points.
Herencia Mexicana 'Reposado' SGP:541 - 83 points.


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback in St Tropez



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June 22, 2014


The Sunday Quest for Malternatives, tequila reposado

It seems that tequila (and mezcal) do not obligatorily age gracefully in oak. I know some friends who are tequila freaks and who would never choose an ‘anejo’ over a reposado (aged for a few months) or a joven (not aged in oak). I’ve almost only tasted anejos so far, thinking that ‘if oak does good to whisky, it must do good to agave spirits’. I may have been wrong – again – but let’s double-check all that, with a few reposados.

XXX 'Gold' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

XXX 'Gold' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Two stars A tequila that I brought back from the US. I had thought it was a reposado because of it’s yellowish colour, but in fact it’s a ‘gold’, which means either that it saw oak for a very short period of time, or that it was coloured with caramel. It’s a cheap one, probably not made out of 100% agave. What they call ‘a mixto’. Colour: white wine. Nose: a lot of raw alcohol at first nosing, notes of sugar syrup too, then finer touches. Grenadine, touches of earth, lavender, juniper and all that. It’s light, probably not a ‘nosing tequila’. Mouth: rather better, its smooth, slightly syrupy again, with notes of grapefruits and caramel. Little brine or smoke this time, it’s really a smoooooth one. Finish: a little short but rather clean, on juniper and bitter oranges. Sugary aftertaste. Comments: probably for mixing, but there’s nothing really wrong in this XXX. No extreme tequila!  SGP:541 - 70 points.

Zapopan 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

Zapopan 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Another US import, the price is around $10 a whole bottle! It’s a mixto, not 100% agave. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: there was a feeling of earthy tequila in the XXX, this time it’s rather strange whiffs of warm marzipan, maraschino and kirsch that rise to your nostrils. Very little tequilaness that I can get, this is pretty strange. Mouth: same feeling, I find cherries and almonds, then sweetened orange juice. No I do not drink it as a Sunrise. These notes of candied cherries are a little disturbing I have to say. I mean, if you’re looking for ‘tequila’. Finish: short, sugary and liqueury. Cherries again… Comments: again, not a bad spirit, but it’s simply not what I’m expecting from a tequila. Little character and a huge smoothness. SGP:630 - 55 points.

Familia Camarena 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

Familia Camarena 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Two stars and a half This should be different, its from the highlands of Jalisco, it’s 100% blue agave and its distilled in pot stills. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: ah, this is something else. We’re closer to artisan mezcal, and even if there are a few burnt notes at very first sniffs, it’s really developing on brine, gherkins, olives, hay smoke, capers, wine vinegar and earth. There’s something happening in this one! Mouth: less entrancing and rather smoother than expected, but it’s still a lovely salty, earthy and smoky tequila, with also some lime and olives. Becomes a tad bitter after a few seconds, but I guess you can’t have it both ways. Finish: rather long, grassier, with some pepper and drops of red Thai sauce. Comments: too bad the palate was a little too bitter, it started well. SGP:461 - 77 points.

Gran Centenario 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

Gran Centenario 'Reposado' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)Four stars and a half The anejo by Gran Centenario had made quite an impression on me! Let’s see of the reposado matches it. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh well oh well. It’s Duke Ellington’s Orchestra after Justin Bieber. Superb alignment of many botanicals including juniper, caraway, cumin and ginger, then lime and lemon, oranges, tonic water, bitters, seawater… It’s an utterly superb spirit! Mouth: big presence, with the same herbs and spices, plus more earth, pepper, lime and grapefruit, roots, salt, olives (black and green), drops of honeydew and myrtle liqueur… Great body, perfect oomph. Love it. Finish: long, herbal, lemony, smoky, perfect. Comments: I think I’ve found my favourite brand of tequila, maybe with Arette. Matches the anejo, and easily. But remember, we’re talking from some whisky anoraks’ point of view. SGP:352 - 88 points.

I think we’ll stop here, better not add other reposados after the Gran Centenario. Stay tuned for ‘reposados, the sequel!’



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June 20, 2014


The Short Sessions, two Glencadam

Glencadam isn’t a bran… sorry, a distillery we’re hearing very often about, but I’ve tasted a few great ones in the past. Time to try two more…

Glencadam 1990/2009 (46%, Montgomerie's, Rare Select, cask #996)

Glencadam 1990/2009 (46%, Montgomerie's, Rare Select, cask #996) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it is a very fruity, very typical young Speysider, probably void of much distillery character but pleasantly balanced and rather fresh, with apple juice – as almost often – a little acacia honey, a little barley water, some pears, maybe a little pineapple… Then rather more character, with some emerging wax and touches of warm grass and hay. Mouth: perfectly in line with the nose, only a little more citrusy, as well as grassier, even slightly acrid after a few seconds. Green tea with lemon. Also notes of raw eau-de-vie, like artisan kirsch, which might be less pleasant. Finish: medium length. Grassy, kirschy, a little bitter towards the aftertaste. Comments: the palate hasn’t got the nose’s cleanliness, but it’s a fine dram globally. SGP:551 – 78 points.

Glencadam 22 yo 1991/2014 (55.3%, Abbey Whisky, The Rare Casks, 96 bottles)

Glencadam 22 yo 1991/2014 (55.3%, Abbey Whisky, The Rare Casks, 96 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: bigger of course, with more vanilla and mashed potatoes, dough, honeydew, barley, then pears and apples again as well as touches of mandarins and a few tropical fruits. A lot of barley water again, just like in the 1990. With water: more wet clothes, wool, mushrooms, fresh mint, dill, soaked barley… All that works well, there’s more ‘dimension’. Mouth (neat): more bubblegum, jelly beans and marshmallows than in the 1990, more fresh fruits as well, and rather les grassy/rawish elements. All that leads to a finer dram in my book. With water: more orange zests, with touches of what’s akin to soap but that isn’t soapy (I know what I’m trying to say!) and a kind of almondy/mentholated side that works very well. Some character! Finish: medium length. Oranges! Comments: a rather fatter one – although it’s no fat whisky - much to my liking. SGP:552 - 85 points.

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



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June 19, 2014


The Short Sessions,
two really old Glen Grant

After some very old Karuizawa or Glenfarclas, Wealth Solutions have recently issued a very old Glen Grant 1948 by Gordon & MacPhail. I had first thought I’d select another old Glen Grant by G&M as a worthy opponent, but the ones I have at hand were all bottled at around 40% vol., which is a bit lowish in this context. So I decided to rather choose this one…

Glen Grant 25 yo (86° Proof, George Strachan Ltd, +/-1975)

Glen Grant 25 yo (86° Proof, George Strachan Ltd, +/-1975) Four stars It’s not old, but it was distilled a long time ago. Remember the UK started to use ABVs on January 1st, 1980, so any strength in 'proof spirit' should suggest a pre-1980 bottling. 86° UK proof should mean 86/1.75 = +/-49.1%. This baby may have been distilled in the late 1940s. Colour: white wine. Nose: it is an unusually grassy, mineral and metallic Glen Grant, with some OBE in full swing. That means that we’ll also find some earth, soot, gravel and all that, as well as touches of ‘old camphor’. Old tools, engine oil, linseed oil, waxed fabric, Barbour grease… And all that! Very un-Glen Grant, I’d say. Mouth: unusual again, with a kind of metallic mix of pepper and iron in the arrival, with then more citrus and ‘old oils’. Some earth again, lemongrass, funny wasabi or horseradish, touches of cigarette ashes… It’s pretty big, rather ‘nervous’, evolving towards yellow grapefruits and other sharpy citrus. Oily mouth feel, good power. Finish: long, a little acrid and pungent, but with lovely grapefruits again in the aftertaste. Comments: bigger and sharper than most old Glen Grants I could taste. A little austere in fact, but I really liked it. SGP:362 - 87 points.

Glen Grant 66 yo 1948/2014 (46.6%, Gordon & MacPhail for Wealth Solutions, first fill sherry butt, cask #1369, 160 bottles)

Glen Grant 66 yo 1948/2014 (46.6%, Gordon & MacPhail for Wealth Solutions, first fill sherry butt, cask #1369, 160 bottles) Five stars We’re close to the record 70 years old that G&M have recently come up with (Mortlach and Glenlivet). The only 1948 Glen Grant I have tried until now had been blended with some 1961 in a ‘Royal Marriage’ bottling (Charles and Diana). Colour: full gold. Nose: the opposite of the Strachan, with much more roundness and a pretty beehive-y profile, which isn’t unusual in old Glen Grants. Beeswax, honey, pollen, old wood. What’s really striking is this ‘Indian’ side, with some cashew sauce, soft curry sauce, coriander, lemon basil… Also touches of coconut oil, which may suggest the butt was made out of American oak. The ‘Indian’ side is really fascinating, and very unusual (and wonderful.) Mouth: keyword is oaky balance. You feel the oak but you wouldn’t ask for less of it, which is a funny feeling. White pepper, quite a lot of eucalyptus, black Assam, white pepper, cinnamon, stewed peaches, honey sauce, chewing tobacco (as far as I can remember, I may have tried that thrice), then a little Greek retsina wine, certainly a little Chartreuse and lastly, notes of liquorice wood. It’s not often that ‘obvious’ oak tastes this good. A matter of balance indeed… Finish: rather long, a tad gritty now, with notes of chlorophyll and mint. Cough lozenges and cinnamon mints, then bitter oranges and pomegranates. Comments: a wonderful experience, unless you’re firmly against ‘obvious oak’. Loved the mentholated side – and hey, it’s more and more difficult to find whisky that’s older than this humble taster. SGP:471 - 91 points.

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



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June 18, 2014


The Short Sessions, two opposite Dufftown

The Singleton of Dufftown 'Sunray' (40%, OB, 2014)

The Singleton of Dufftown 'Sunray' (40%, OB, 2014) Two stars and a half NAS, entirely aged in American oak casks and more expensive than the 12. Welcome to the modern whisky world – but let’s try to remain fair. Colour: gold. Nose: toasted oak and light honey, raisins and overripe apples. Hints of stout and ale, perhaps. Then more honey. It’s nice, of course it’s nice, it just leaves you a little cold. But blend drinkers will like it, it’s certainly a well-made ‘access category’ malt whisky. Mouth: its honey and apple juice. Very sweet, extremely easy, malty, with a little praline, apple pie and several kinds of pastries. Bits of oranges as well. I’m afraid it’s rather good, if not very interesting. Finish: a little short but rounded, malty, with some vanilla, some malt and some honey. Comments: it’s not got the old Dufftowns’ very specific fruitiness, but I find it better than the 12. More body, a better presence… Certainly a good choice after the 12 yo blends. SGP:541 - 78 points.

Dufftown 30 yo 1984/2014 (50.8%, Malts of Scotland, cask # MoS 1414, 124 bottles)

Dufftown 30 yo 1984/2014 (50.8%, Malts of Scotland, cask # MoS 1414, 124 bottles) Three stars and a half Let’s see if its really ‘the opposite’. Colour: pale gold. Nose: reeks of sweet oak at first nosing, with a lot of honeydew, coconut, vanilla and cinnamon rolls, while notes of beer are singing in the background. Which, indeed, reminds us of the Sunray. Becomes slightly acetic after a few minutes. Cider vinegar, this should go away with a little water... With water: indeed, that aspect went away, leaving more room for notes of tinned peaches and acacia honey. Phew! Mouth (neat): very strange. Bourbon and herbal liqueurs! The oak’s really big, but it works just like spices and does not dry up your tongue. With water: it’s still got notes of rye, sweet herbs and spices, pomegranates and blood oranges. A little ginger liqueur too, bitters... Finish: medium. A little pepper plus blood oranges. Comments: not a gentle Dufftown. The cask had much to tell. SGP:451 - 84 points.

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



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June 17, 2014


Caol Ila eight times part two

Caol Ila ages gracefully, and thanks to Iwannapremiumisetoo, the Polynesian god of whisky, old Caol Ila is not too hard to find, often at a relatively fair price. Let’s try a few of them, all pretty recent…

Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2013 (46%, Whisky for you, cask #1460)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2013 (46%, Whisky for you, cask #1460) Five stars It’s not the youngest but, it’s the lightest, so we’re having it first. Colour: dark straw. Nose: proof! Graceful indeed, much more complex than the restless youngsters that we tried yesterday, with waxes, oils, zests, almonds, seaweed, oysters, anchovies, sardines, overripe apples, ink, greasy grasses, engine oil, hessian and almonds. And if you’re nosing deeply, you’re transported to a meadow on the southeast shore of Islay. That would be the Oa, wouldn’t it. Mouth: pretty perfect. There’s maybe a very small kind of chemical touch in the very first drops (Fanta-like), but then it’s a perfect old Caol Ila, still vibrant (as they say – you can’t write tasting notes if you don’t use vibrant from time to time), with some salt, olive brine, lemon, smoked salmon, lapsang souchong and this very particular grassiness that’s to be found in… old Caol Ila. Some kind of cactus? Finish: quite long, mainly on smoked salmon, then lemon. Love it. Comments: who could be against this? Only the arrival on the palate is a notch unlikely in my opinion, otherwise I would have gone over… SGP:466 - 90 points.

Caol Ila 29 yo 1984/2013 (54.7%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #2758, 225 bottles)

Caol Ila 29 yo 1984/2013 (54.7%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #2758, 225 bottles) Five stars Warning, sherry! Colour: pale gold (phew). Nose: and yet the sherry feels, but it’s rather a fino-ish kind of sherry, with plenty of walnuts and a lot, and mean really a lot, of tobacco. Both cigarettes and Cuban cigars. Wonderful whiffs of sunbathed stones on a Greek island (excuse me?), some earth, some camphor, old clothes in an old wardrobe, old books, then even more cigars… This is truly spectacular, but I’ve already seen such noses that led to a wrecked palate, so vorsicht! With water:  it’s not the first time that I’ve thought that Caol Ila could be more medicinal than Laphroaig. Mouth (neat): immense, huge, massive, and yet very elegant. The resins and saps are coming out, which is just perfect. With water: a little more fruits and sweetness to bring civilisation to this oldish beast. A good load of salt too. Finish: long and extremely salty. Really very salty, was some manzanilla involved? Comments: tells you many stories. The kind of bottle to buy these days. SGP:556 - 92 points.

Caol Ila 29 yo 1984/2013 (55.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 564 bottles)

Caol Ila 29 yo 1984/2013 (55.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 564 bottles) Five stars You may have noticed that this is another 1984. I couldn’t tell you if it’s ex-sherry again, as the excellent people at Cadenhead’s keep using a very laconic ‘matured in oak’ on their labels. I’m sure it’s becoming a funny gimmick, isn’t it. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one’s a notch rounder, and maybe a tad more buttery too, slightly more herbal (love these whiffs of warm hay in August), with a little more mash and beer, a little more ‘farmyard’ too, more earth for sure, but other than that, it’s globally very similar. The joys of ‘close comparison’. With water: same, more or less. Mouth (neat): finding better new bottlings for less than 500€ a skittle is becoming difficult these days. This is excellent, lemony, herbal, very ‘nervous’, with some mint, aniseed, dill, coriander, lime and lemon, salt, lemongrass, limestone, pepper, coriander, smoky liquorice… It tastes a little younger than 30 I have to say. Oh that’s right, it’s only 29. With water: do not add too much water, it may become a little flabby. Finish: long and more kippery than before. Sharpy lemon. Comments: superb, although it tastes a little younger than ‘old’ Caol Ila. Between both worlds. SGP:466 - 91 points.

Caol Ila 38 yo 1976/2014 (47.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14020, 125 halves)

Caol Ila 38 yo 1976/2014 (47.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14020, 125 halves) Four stars and a half It’s always freaking when, as a (relatively) old malt enthusiast, you notice that a vintage that used to be related to a fifteen years old now leads to a f*****g thirty-eight-years-old. How is this possible? Have the bottlers done their math well? Colour: dark straw (yay!) Nose: it’s what we used to find in Caol Ila from the 1960s, G&M bottlings and such, that is to say more fatty/fishy and oily/tarry notes, rather than a sharper lemony/mineral profile. So it’s certainly a fatter style, obviously more ‘old-skool’, but I’m also surprised to find a few more modern touches, around vanilla and, dare I say, coconut. Just touches, just touches… There’s also more and more pitch and Barbour grease, which is definitely ‘old-skool’. Great old white wine. Say Montrachet? Mouth: good, forget about anything related to tiredness, this baby must have seen some relatively active oak in recent years. Indeed I find touches of ginger and nutmeg, which is a little unusual in very old whiskies. On the other hand, there’s also an avalanche of lemons and grapefruits, then pepper and mustard, then salty fish and heavy liquorice. It’s truly big whisky, almost beastly. Finish: extremely long, peppery, lemony and salty. Comments: superb old Caol Ila, but it lost me at times. The power and even the ‘youth’ are a bit odd considering the thirty-eight years. Certainly great, but very mysterious... SGP:366 - 89 points.

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



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June 16, 2014


Caol Ila eight times part one

First, four young ones. We’ll have four older ones tomorrow. But the first one won’t be the youngest among the youngsters, it’ll be the lightest…

Caol Ila 12 yo 2001/2014 (43%, Chieftain's, hogshead, casks #309965-309966, 911 bottles)

Caol Ila 12 yo 2001/2014 (43%, Chieftain's, hogshead, casks #309965-309966, 911 bottles) Three stars A young and lightish Caol Ila that’s priced at… arrh, err… 84€. Who buys a young independent Caol Ila at 43% vol. – however good - for 84€ these days? The price for the very good 12yo OB at 43% vol.  is 45€, for crying out loud! Colour: white wine. Nose: ultra-clean, narrow, mineral, flinty, with just wee whiffs of iodine and seaweed. Light smoke. Pleasant… Mouth: sweeter, still simple and rather light, salty and mildly peaty, with a discreet wax and a little lemon juice. A bit thin. Finish: medium length. It’s the coastal brininess that does the work. Candy sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it’s very good because Caol Ila’s always very good. Other than that, well, there’s plenty out there… SGP:446 - 82 points (let’s remain fair!)

Cl6 (61.2%, Speciality Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2014)

Cl6 (61.2%, Speciality Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2014)Four stars … in this lovely ‘chemical’ bottle. Speaking of chemicals, 61.2% vol. could suggest it’s rocket fuel, let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: highly grassy and mineral, it’s almost pulverised limestone mixed with green tea, lemon juice and coal. It’s all a little silent, but that was to be expected at this strength. With water: it got very, very dry, extremely ashy, with only whiffs of farmyard, raw wool and soaked grains behind that. Perhaps a few fresh almonds and one or two goldens (the apples.) Mouth (neat): powerful, extremely narrow and sharp, this is almost pure lime juice. The worst part is the fact that I enjoy this style. With water: becomes only a notch smoother, but the lime remains there. And then we have the mandatory iodine, brine and pepper. Finish: long, ashy, smoky, slightly inky and peppery. Comments: don’t look for much complexity, but it really does the job. SGP:357 - 86 points.

Caol Ila 2000/2014 ‘Feis Ile’ (55.5%, OB, refill American oak hogsheads, 1,500 bottles)

Caol Ila 2000/2014 ‘Feis Ile’ (55.5%, OB, refill American oak hogsheads, 1,500 bottles) Four stars I’ve often wondered what would have been the commercial fate of Caol Ila, had Lagavulin not existed. Or if it had been chosen as a ‘Classic Malt’ instead of Lagavulin… I agree, those a really an anorak’s questions. Colour: straw. Nose: oh my, I had thought the CI6 was sharp, well this is even sharper, even more mineral and even more ‘pleasantly narrow’. Love the whiffs of damp earth and fennel in the background, though… And do I not detect gentian and wormwood? With water: the sweeter side comes out. Apples, a little marzipan, sweet barley, then raw wool and farmyard…  Mouth (neat): similar to the CI6. Plenty of lime juice, roots, bitter tea, pepper… I also seem to find touches of coconut, most probably from the American wood. No quite pina colada though, this is not ********. With water: same changes again, although once again, this one’s a notch earthier. Lime, salt… Finish: long, clean, lemony, a tad fruitier than the CI6. Marzipan. The coconut is back in the aftertaste. Comments: same ballpark, although the freshish oak’s more apparent here. SGP:457 - 86 points.

Caol Ila 13 yo 2000/2014 (54.9%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14018, 245 bottles)

Caol Ila 13 yo 2000/2014 (54.9%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 14018, 245 bottles) Four stars Malts of Scotland have recently issued quite a few new Caol Ilas, young and old. Colour: white wine. Nose: this little baby’s rather more on iodine, antiseptic, seawater… I also find touches of kirsch, which is a sign of youth in my book. With water: exactly the same developments yet again, more soaked barley, sweet grains, wool, farmyard… Mouth (neat): Finish: same style, obviously. Once again, this one’s maybe a notch more medicinal, with even more iodine as well, sharp lemon… With water: a little smoother and ashier at the same time. Comments: trying several very similar whiskies as we just did can be a chore at times, because they are so similar, precisely, but I do not know of a better way of exercising your nose and palate. But why am I telling you this? SGP:357 - 86 points.

Okay, enough with the youngsters, tomorrow we’ll have four much older Caol Ilas! I hope we’ll find more nuances…

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



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June 15, 2014


The quest for malternatives, another go at tequila anejo

Not much luck last time we tried a few tequilas, they were all rather flat and without much get-up-and-go, so to speak. Maybe we’ll have more luck today… Especially since I’ve read what some tequila bloggers have written, that should help. So this is a kind of guided session…

Jose Cuervo 'Reserva de la Familia 2012' (38%, OB, tequila, añejo)

Jose Cuervo 'Reserva de la Familia 2012' (38%, OB, tequila, añejo) Four stars I really liked the last Reserva de la Familia I tried, that was the 2007 version. It’s aged for 5 years and the packaging’s always very lovely. Colour: gold. Nose: simply another world after the weak ones we had the other day. Sure there’s much more oak but it’s all about spices, sandal wood, humidor, aniseed, cloves, cinnamon… It’s not very agave-y, and maybe the 2007 was actually nicer in that respect, but it’s a lovely product, with also quinces and, above all, kumquats, bitter oranges and bergamots. Let’s only hope the palate won’t be totally… flaaaaaat. Mouth: sure three or five extra-degrees would have been welcome, but this works well, it’s a very earthy and spicy tequila, with seemingly some older tequila poured in, notes of green apples, cooked ones as well, one or two violet sweets, aniseed, sweet caraway liqueur, some chocolate and praline, tobacco… The only problem is that it loses steam after twenty seconds. Bottling at 38% vol. should be verboten if you ask me. Finish: surprisingly long, sweet and spicy at the same time, with a very pleasant salty aftertaste. Comments: 43 or 45% vol., please. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Calle 23 'Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Calle 23 'Añejo' (38%, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: a very straight, smoky, mineral and briny nose, a style that’s rather akin to that of the best mezcals, only much lighter. Olives, capers, a little tobacco, earth, then touches of vanilla ands maple syrup from the oak. Nice clean nose. Mouth: good body this time, with a pleasant bitterness (green tea) and a sweet kind of brine as well as a little grapefruit. It’s all quite fresh, and I even detect touches of petrol and tar. Also apple juice. Good balance. Finish: a little short, maybe, but its clean side does make up for that. A feeling of smoked apple juice. Comments: I find this one very good. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Gran Centenario 'Añejo' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

Gran Centenario 'Añejo' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Four stars 100% agave, always a good sign, or rather a necessary condition. I bought this one in the US. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s ‘mildly’ anejo, because it’s as fresh as a reposado, or even a joven. It is extremely aromatic, lemony, with superb notes of oranges and pink grapefruits, then tonic water, juniper, ginger… I really dig this nose, it’s freshness incarnate. Mouth: oh perfect! Great strength, great oily mouth feel, with real agavy notes and plenty of smoky brine, then melons and avocado juice. Also a superb earthiness. Finish: quite long, earthy, lemony, rooty… And a lovely salty aftertaste. Comments: great, reminds me of the greatest mezcals. We’re far from the commercial j.u.n.k. that’s to be found in our European supermarkets. Impeccable spirit. SGP:452 - 87 points.

Dos Manos ' Añejo' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

Dos Manos ' Añejo' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s completely different. Less fruity and fresh than the Centenario, but much smokier and earthier, mescal-style. Huge notes of roots, clay and even gentian (Suze), but there are flabbier notes of preserved pineapple that come out after a few minutes. Loses steam a bit, but this smokiness remains. Interesting… Mouth: not quite, it’s having a hard time after the superb Centenario. Muddy, waterish, dirty-ish, indefinite… One that’s probably meant to be drown into unlikely sodas. Strange chemical smokiness. Finish: rather long and quite gingery. Comments: it’s got an artisan side, maybe that was the whole point. SGP:351 - 65 points.

Milagro ' Añejo' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014)

Milagro ' Añejo' (40%, OB, tequila, +/-2014) Four stars A brand by William Grant, according to the back label. Not too sure there’s a relation to the eponymous movie, but it’s 100% agave again. Colour: white wine. The Mexican use much less caramel than the Scots! Nose: great again, it’s a toned-down version of Centenario, with the same very fresh and very clean notes of earth, agave and lemon, just a little less… trumpeting. Juniper, ginger, gentian, cut cucumber… All is very well! Mouth: quite great! It’s another I brought back from the US of A, and it appears that our friends the Americans are simply drinking the best tequilas - and that’s why we’re getting the chaff. Big grapefruits, a little pepper and ginger, a lot of salt – really a lot -  and notes of green olives. Now there’s also a bitterish smokiness that makes it less ‘sexy’ than the Centenario. Finish: very long and really bitter. Tabasco and wasabi. Not the best part! Comments: I like the bigness, but as a beginner, I tend to enjoy the Centenario’s obviousness a little better. Still, it’s a great grassy one. SGP:362 - 85 points.

Don Fulano 5 yo ‘Imperial Añejo’ (OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Don Fulano 5 yo ‘Imperial Añejo’ (OB, tequila, +/-2013) Two stars It's technically an Extra-anejo but since they're displaying the age (5 years) they can only call it anejo. Strange regulations! Colour: pale gold. Nose: the oak’s sweetness really feels after the ‘young’ anejos, this has much more vanilla, ice creams, custards, honeys, cakes, biscuits, caramel… The agave got really turned down, I find little olives, brine, smoke or earth. Exactly what I’m looking for in tequila and mezcal. Notes of Bailey’s (yes, aargh). Now, it’s pleasant, just not very agave-y. Mouth: very rounded, sweet, smooth… I’m not 100% sure tequila and older age work very well together, oak could certainly be an enemy, just like with Scotch whisky. It kills the idiosyncrasies, as Socrates would have said (ooh, S.!…) Finish: a little short, caramely, with ‘echoes’ of great-tequila-ness. Earth, brine, smoke, olives, lemon… Comments: I’m starting to wonder if tequila isn’t better when very young. To think that I needed dozens of tequilas to find out about that! SGP:541 - 74 points.

A last one for ‘the good mouth’, as we say over here…

Case Noble 'Añejo Single Barrel' (40, OB, tequila, +/-2013)

Case Noble 'Añejo Single Barrel' (40, OB, tequila, +/-2013) Three stars and a half This one’s got a huuuuuuge reputation. Should be the crème de la crème, as they say in Edinburgh. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s got the smoothness that was to be found in the Don Fulano 5, but the agave’s not dead. I find olive brine, even gherkins, tapenade, more tapenade, even more tapenade… The olives manage to tame the oak, and no stupid vanilla is playing the killjoy here. So a great nose, only a little too shy… Mouth: perfect! I mean, almost, its still a little, kind of, I mean weak, and sure there is a little vanilla and maple syrup that do not quite fit this fierce distillate, but other than that, the olive-y, briny, slightly smoky and relatively earthy distillate does manage to shine through. Finish: surprisingly long, peppery, lemony and olive-y. The vanilla’s been defeated. Comments: borderline too sweet, smooth and rounded for my taste, but quality’s undeniably very high. SGP:451 - 84 points.



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



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Caol Ila 30 yo 1983/2013 (46%, Whisky for you, cask #1460)

Caol Ila 29 yo 1984/2013 (54.7%, Signatory for The Whisky Exchange, refill sherry, cask #2758, 225 bottles)

Caol Ila 29 yo 1984/2013 (55.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 564 bottles)

Glen Grant 66 yo 1948/2014 (46.6%, Gordon & MacPhail for Wealth Solutions, first fill sherry butt, cask #1369, 160 bottles)

Glenlivet 16 yo 1997/2013 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, sherry butt, cask #123546, 742 bottles)