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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2015 - Part 2



June 2015 - part 1 <--- June 2015 - part 2 ---> July 2015 - part 1


June 30, 2015


Young Americans four by four, part one

We’re on again with our unlikely tastings of bourbons and other American whiskies. I’m far from being as talented and knowledgeable as our blogging friends from across the ocean, but well, we’re trying hard. We’ll also include a few Canadians, since some whiskies from the good old US of A seem to be sourced from up there anyway. Especially some ryes, apparently… And why not start this with the Canadians, precisely?

Glen Breton 10 yo 'Rare' (43%, OB, Canada, single malt, +/-2015)

Glen Breton 10 yo 'Rare' (43%, OB, Canada, single malt, +/-2015) Two stars From Glenora Distillery in Nova Scotia, which managed to ruffle many feathers in Scotland a few years ago – and fatten quite a few lawyers. We tried this expression back in 2010 and found it pretty acceptable (WF 70). As usual with whisky, what’s ‘rare’ is rather common. Colour: straw. Nose: vanilla and American oak here and everywhere, plus some butterscotch and overripe apples. This isn’t unpleasant at all, it’s just a tiny-wee bit uninteresting. Mouth: creamy easy sweet vanilla-ed whisky with some sweet oak, some tea tannins, a touch of ale and perhaps a few tinned fruits in their syrups. And a little porridge and butter cream. Finish: short, sweet, beery. Raw oak in the aftertaste. Comments: I haven’t changed my mind. This is acceptable, but probably more for locals. SGP:430 - 70 points.

WhistlePig 10 yo (50%, OB, Canadian Rye, USA, +/-2015)

WhistlePig 10 yo (50%, OB, Canadian Rye, USA, +/-2015) Two stars This is complicated, it’s straight rye, which means that there’s at least 51% rye (so not 100%) and that its been aged for at least two years. It was sourced in Canada and further aged – for how long? – in Vermont. But it’s said to be 100% rye. Ooh my head! Yeah, it’s a brand. Colour: gold. Nose: clean, almost immaculate. Immaculately one-dimensional, I’d say. Vanilla, cranberry sweets, pineapples, a touch of caraway, a little cellulose (varnish). With water: the vanilla comes out, together with more bready notes – which is cool. Mouth (neat): same flavours. Pear and pineapple sweets, cranberries, vanilla, butterscotch. Very clean combination, but not a lot of depth. With water: sweet and rounded. Reminds of the bottles of Canadian Club that my Dad used to bring back from his trips forty years ago. Finish: short, oaky, vanilla-ed. Comments: I know many people love this, but I find this style a little too simple and a little flat when diluted. Doesn’t swim too well. But the obligatorily-retro packaging is very lovely! SGP:540 - 75 points.

Another go at WhistlePig…

WhistlePig 13 yo 'The Boss Hog' (61.1%, OB, Canadian Rye, USA, cask #42, 2014)

WhistlePig 13 yo 'The Boss Hog' (61.1%, OB, Canadian Rye, USA, cask #42, 2014) Two stars and a half Almost 250€ a bottle in Europe, the price for this is quite ridiculous, isn’t it. Now, Boss Hog is a great band and Jon Spencer always rocked! Colour: gold. Nose: oak, strong bourbon-style. Vanilla and dried grated coconut. I know this is 100% rye but I do not find much ryeness. Maybe that’s the high strength, so… With water: some kind of stronger pina colada. Simple and straightforward. Mouth (neat): ah, now we’re talking! Spicy fruity rye, bread and lavender, geranium jelly, cloves and caraway, aniseed and more caraway… Great impact, immediate pleasures, what a relief! With water: gets very bready. You just have to like bread. Finish: quite long, cerealy, with caraway. Comments: should expensive whisky be complex? What’s the price of complexity in whisky? Do people still crave for complexity in whisky? Discuss… SGP:650 - 79 points.

Good, we have room for one more. Maybe this legend?

Bush Pilot's 13 yo ‘Private Reserve’ (43%, OB, Canadian, cask #A-045, +/-2000?)

Bush Pilot's 13 yo ‘Private Reserve’ (43%, OB, Canadian, cask #A-045, +/-2000?) Two stars It’s very complicated, better read Davin’s excellent writings (link at the end). I think this is corn whisky. Colour: white wine. Nose: very sweet and mellow, with soft vanilla and barley syrup, sweet agave juice, vanilla cake and fudge, plus just a little grass. Shall we call this ‘undemanding’? I do enjoy these distant whiffs of wet concrete, or clay, though. Mouth: it’s fruit syrup. Tinned pears, for example, then rather marshmallows, with ideas of bubblegum and hints of Haribo’s finest. Some oranges coming through after a while, with a feeling of earl grey tea. Finish: a little short, but creamier. Some saccharin, aspartame, those things. Alsatian liqueur de Poire Williams. Comments: this baby’s first virtue was probably that it was early in the market as a ‘single’ Canadian bottling. It’s good, but the rather thin structure may not quite be for malt lovers. Bah, it’s a legend anyway. SGP:530 - 73 points. Davin’s great exegesis there

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



Block Today: BLUES ROCK. Performer: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Track: Can't stop. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 29, 2015


Little H2Hs, today Craigellachie

Make that two middle-aged sherried Craigellachies.

Craigellachie 2002/2014 'Dark Treacle Fondant' (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 804 bottles)

Craigellachie 2002/2014 'Dark Treacle Fondant' (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 804 bottles) Two stars and a half A young Craigellachie from a sherry butt, maybe is that akin to an older Macallan? Colour: gold. Nose: there is this slightly matchsticky feeling at first nosing, with some gunpowder and some flints, but as often, these notes tend to go away (or get filtered out by our olfactory bulbs), leaving room for oranges and chalk plus honey and raisins. Something rather steely/metallic as well. Mouth: same feeling, same kind of development, except that it’s the raisins that win it in the end. And they come with some coffee, walnuts, marmalade and ginger cookies. Good texture. Finish: rather long, gingery, spicy. Some kind of curry. Comments: less focussed and ‘chiselled’ than many bottlings by Wemyss. There’s a roughness – and some sulphur – but I’m not crusading against sulphur. SGP551 - 78 points.

Craigellachie 18 yo 1995/2014 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, 252 bottles)

Craigellachie 18 yo 1995/2014 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, 252 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: same-ish, but this one’s a notch fruitier and cleaner. Also a little more tea and leather. Chamomile, rosehip, hawthorn, cigarettes. Find the invader. Mouth: praline, crunchy peanut butter, crystallised oranges, raisins, drops of fig-based arak, raisins. The background is quite herbal, and that really saves it. It’s got something of those macha-tea ice creams that you can find in western Japanese restaurants. In truth I find this very good, it just needs time. Finish: rather long, and rather on teacake and oranges. Comments: I think this baby never stopped improving, from early nose to aftertaste. SGP:561 - 85 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Oliver Nelson. Track: I Remember Bird. Please visit the website and buy Oliver Nelson's music...

June 28, 2015


Sunday malternatives,
French Caribbean part 2

We’re going on with our rhums from the French Caribbean. Last time we ended our session with an excellent Saint James from Martinique, and today, that’ll be a strange ‘Scottish’ HSE…

HSE 2005/2013 (44%, OB, Martinique, Agricole, Highland finish)

HSE 2005/2013 (44%, OB, Martinique, Agricole, Highland finish) Four stars This odd baby was finished in Scottish Highlands malt whisky wood (which, in turn, may have been finished in Martiniquan rhum wood… I’m joking!) HSE stands for Habitation Saint Etienne, a very pushy brand these days. We haven’t got anything against that! Colour: full gold. Nose: rumsky? This baby has lost a part of its tropicalness, and at times, we’re almost closer to some sweet Speysider ala Balvenie or Benriach. Vanilla, plums, acacia honey, apricots, a touch of wood smoke… It’s a bit disconcerting, had I nosed this blind, I may have said ‘Speyside’! And it’s ‘nice’… Mouth: the sugarcane speaks out, and even if this a tad too rounded and ‘easy’, I have to say they did a marvellous job with this. Vanilla, oranges, honey, sweet oak, a touch of coriander, a tiny-wee-bit of half a tiny olive, a pinch of salt… This has been perfectly crafted. Would beat many a Scotch, especially because the distillate was obviously bigger and more ‘expressive’ than grains. Yup, even barley. Finish: rather long, with a saltiness that comes to the front. Love the herbal teas (including mint) and olives in the aftertaste. Comments: quite something. I had thought it would be an unlikely spirity nightmare, and just ‘an idea by some crazy marketing guy on cocaine’. Not at all, this is almost a new category. Take notice! SGP:562 - 86 points.

Now. NOW!...

HSE 2005/2013 (44%, OB, Martinique, Agricole, Islay finish)

HSE 2005/2013 (44%, OB, Martinique, Agricole, Islay finish) Four stars and a half Finished in Islay wood ‘from Ian McLeod’s’. It’s true that these cross-category spirits can be funny, but we all know that peat is a rather invasive thing that can destabilize the strongest distillate. Anybody having taken a blending course knows that. Unless, unless, this is not peater… Colour: gold. Nose: not a peater? You must be joking! But how they managed to keep this thing balanced is a mystery. Imagine ripe bananas eaten on a fisherman’s boat, somewhere between Islay and Ireland. Or Islay scallops flambéed with old rum. Or Loch Gruinart oysters seasoned with sugarcane juice. Or, indeed, wild thyme in brine and salty liquorice. Not feeling too well? You should, this works extremely well, because their master-of-I-don’t-know-what did it well. Loud applause. Mouth: I’m not extremely fond of this vanilla-ed arrival that shouts ‘Kentucky!’, but other than that, indeed, this is a new category. Not whisky, not quite rum, something that sits right between those two megastars… Really, the guy who made this must have been Led Zeppelin’s sound engineer in a former life. Finish: maybe a little too much candy sugar (splitting hairs again) and probably a little too much peat (say a 1:10 ratio, just a wild guess), but otherwise, I find this excellent. Adds freshness to a great rum. Sorry, rhum. Love the very salty aftertaste. Comments: you know what? Rhum finished in malt whisky seems to work better than malt whisky finished in rum. Maybe because a bigger distillate just cannot lose control. Whisky lovers, try this funny thing! SGP:454 - 88 points (yup, the peat’s really big, whether the cask was rinsed is another story – and we don’t care).

That was some start, I’m not sure we should go one with some ‘average’ rhum agricole… But I may have an idea…

Domaine de Courcelles 1972/2014 (47%, 'OB', Guadeloupe, Rumhouse Switzerland)

Domaine de Courcelles 1972/2014 (47%, 'OB', Guadeloupe, Rumhouse Switzerland) Five stars You may know about this story, a very old distillery, closed for good a long time ago, some stocks being bought by a private entity, some casks sold to other private entities… And several bottlings that pop out of nowhere every two years, at various strengths. We’ve already tried a few, and liked them all, more or less. But it’s old rhum, you never know… Oh and it’s traditional, not agricole. So from molasses. Colour: deep gold. Nose: ooh, aah! It is extremely aromatic, and reeks of a warm mirabelle pie covered with acacia honey and cinnamon. Are you hungry yet? I also find whiffs of old roses, grandma’s perfume, old fur coat, rose-flavoured Turkish delights and barley sugar. Yes, barley sugar. And perhaps roasted almonds. And cinnamon cake. It is fabulously aromatic, complex, and old-perfume-like. I also find some fudge (how mundane!) Mouth: picks it up with this cinnamon cake – and not just one thin slice – and goes on with other kinds of cakes, a drop of stone berry eau-de-vie (say sorb tree, whatever, it is an almondy spirit), a little bitter orange, a drop of ginger liqueur, and many very tiny herbal and spicy touches. Something Chinese, I’d say, between anise and prunes. Finish: quite long, never oaky, sweet, honeyed, cinamonny. Comments: it’s exceptional old rhum. The strength is perfect. The complexity is astounding. And it goes down so well… Michelangelo’s own booze (and after having quaffed a large measure, he did the Sistine Chapel). SGP:642 - 91 points.

Good, trying to find a better one is impossible. Let’s choose one at random… Eenie meenie…


J. Bally 6 ans 'Plantation Lajus du Carbet' (45%, OB, 75cl, +/-1960?) Four stars I’m sorry, the picture doesn’t quite fit, but that’s the idea. An old bottle of legendary plantation Bally, straight from Italy, with flying colours and extreme Italo-Frenchness. Colour: red amber. Nose: old bicycle inner tube, old tin boxes, stale tea, old papers, soldier’s gabardine… You got it, something may have gone wrong here. Having said that, there is a feeling of very old red Bourgogne that’s nothing but lovely. Lunch at your grand-grandma’s, around 1970 indeed. On a Sunday. Flies fly and old waxes shine out… Arr, excuse me. Mouth: you see, with old spirits, you sometimes have to intellectualise things, beyond flavours and bodies. Because even if this is a little flat (tish) and metallic, it’s still glowing, and refuses to die (you won’t get paid for this, S.) ‘Old wines’ is  the key expression, and even if some parts are unfolding like a butterfly leaving its chrysalis (okay, you’re fired, S.), it is frustrating. Like catching a Rolling Stone gig just after Brown Sugar (girls would say ‘Angie’). Oh whatever… Finish: surprise surprise, it really isn’t dead. And it’s got this OBE that is to be found in old bottles of whiskies, between metal and old waxy papers. Comments: yet another useless review, as nobody will ever find this bottle again. Well, you never know… but remember, always check the levels! SGP:352 - 85 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Sarah Vaughan. Track: from her extraordinary Brazilian albums, The Smiling Hour. Please buy her music...

June 26, 2015


A wee bunch of old Ben Nevis

Ah, old Ben Nevis… (yeah, like, that was some VERY useful comments, S.!)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1990 (60.4%, Jack Wiebers, cask #0218, 120 bottles)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1990 (60.4%, Jack Wiebers, cask #0218, 120 bottles) Three stars and a half Not that old, but very big! Let’s see if we can find dead mice ;-)… Colour: amber. Nose: chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, and café latte straight from Starbucks’. In the background, a little sweet game (with cranberry jam) and quite some tobacco, plus whiffs of pencil shavings. Nothing to complain about so far. With water: a lovely gamy style! Smoked ham, ham coated with honey sauce, prunes, then whiffs of gunflints, pipe tobacco, walnut wine… So a typical sherry monster indeed. Mouth (neat): thick and full of jams, especially cherry and marmalade, plus something like rose jelly – or Turkish delights – and Moroccan pastries. That would include quite a lot of orange blossom water, I imagine. Oak spices (ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon). With water: gets dry, but I also find lovely touches of blood oranges. Oak extracts, walnut stain (don’t drink), tobacco, dried parsley… The whole’s a little oxidative, in a good way. Finish: long, rather more on herbs, mint, more parsley, beef bouillon… Dry aftertaste. Comments: some gamy, tobacco-like sherry. Not an easy style, but it’s very, very fine if you like this style. SGP:361 - 84 points.

Ben Nevis 32 yo 1972/2004 (47.6%, OB for LMDW, hogshead, cask #600, 116 bottles)

Ben Nevis 32 yo 1972/2004 (47.6%, OB for LMDW, hogshead, cask #600, 116 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s one of these pretty ‘extravagant’ Ben Nevisses, with rose petals aplenty and a curious feeling of rhum agricole. Cointreau, litchi liqueur, juicy raisins, liquorice allsorts, prunes, fig cake, then a wee mineral side (chalk)… I often call this style ‘very old Sauternes’. You know, when they get blackish. You’ve even got the coffee from botrytis. Mouth: really excellent. Some mineral oak (I know) plus many dried fruits, liqueurs and candy-like touches. Old arrak, sultanas, pipe tobacco, bananas flambéed, ham, dried apricots, then a feeling of old bourbon (I remember some old Willets, for example), a touch of fruity rubber – should that exists – and then more chalky/mineral notes again. The whole’s very complex, for sure, it even loses you at times. Finish: liquorice everywhere, coffee and Cointreau in the aftertaste. Comments: a sherry hogshead, I imagine. Big yet complex stuff, perhaps a little leathery/rubbery at times? SGP:462 - 87 points.

Ben Nevis 43 yo 1970/2014 (44.7%, Berry Bros & Rudd, single blend, cask #3)

Ben Nevis 43 yo 1970/2014 (44.7%, Berry Bros & Rudd, single blend, cask #3) Three stars That’s right, a single blend. That means that both the malt and the grain were distilled at Ben Nevis, thanks to a Coffey still that owner Crazy Joseph Hobbs had added in the 1950s, like he did at Lochside. I suppose this baby was blended at birth, so prior to filling the cask. We won’t argue about the all-important question, ‘can a different set of stills bear the same distillery name?’ (pfff, seriously, S., who cares!) Colour: gold. Nose: wee whiffs of nail polish remover at very first sniffs, then a soft, complex and magnificently almondy fruity combination. Maraschino, stewed rhubarb, ripe kiwis and blood oranges. Makes it! Behind that, a delicate, blond-tobacco-like oakiness. Mouth: it’s funny to find some youthful grain in this, plus a feeling of Malibu (coconut) and orange cake. It seems that there’s more grain than malt, but I’m not sure. Caramelised beer, mead, honey, perhaps a little turnip purée (yeah really)… It’s really unusual, and very interesting. Finish: good length. A little beery, I’d say. A lot of green tea in the aftertaste. Comments: a blend that needed no Master Blender, that gives us a break ;-). I’m not a total fan, but this is an historical bottling, so, respect! SGP:451 - 80 points.

(and thank you Marlène and Jonny)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Eddy Louiss. Track: No More Beer. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 25, 2015


Benromach 15 plus 76

5, 10, 10 CS… Benromach have stunned the whisky community (is there such a thing as a whisky community?) with those recent spirit-driven, old-Highlands-style whiskies, and now there’s a 15. But will the steely/mineral profile stand additional ageing or not? Let’s see.

Benromach 15 yo (43%, OB, 2015)

Benromach 15 yo (43%, OB, 2015) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: good dust, you see what I mean? Shoe polish, old tin boxes, old books, waxed paper, pinesap, carbon paper… All that on a bed of paprika and white pepper, plus bitter oranges and whiffs of Worcester sauce. And Tabasco. Fun stuff, in a very dry style, I’m very curious about the palate. Won’t it be too dry? Mouth: no! Start with some peated leather (what?) and more of those bitter and sour sauces, as well as a feeling of, say ginger and tobacco, 50/50. It is a little odd in some way, but the singularities alone make this a worthy whisky. I find it delightfully un-commercial, and couldn’t find any traces of some dreadful vanillin and coconut. Finish: rather long, with some green pepper, perhaps, and some smoke. Very leathery and slightly metallic aftertaste. Comments: not a very easy style, and at times it made me think of contemporary Springbank and Longrow because of its idiosyncrasies. I may prefer the younger tens, but this baby’s very fine for sure. For true malt lovers (oh come on). SGP:362 - 86 points.

Benromach 1976/2012 (46%, OB, sherry cask)

Benromach 1976/2012 (46%, OB, sherry cask) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: hold on, this is quite superb! It’s a much fruitier and softer version of Benromach, with some soft tropicalness (bananas) and whiffs of crushed mint leaves, then a little bergamot and a delicate oakiness, between cigarette tobacco and herbal teas. The menthol tends to come to the front though, you have to like that. I certainly do, but that may suggest an overoaky palate, let’s see… Mouth: creamy/fruity ala Benriach, but what I had feared is happening, that is to say a growing liquoricy/mentholy oak slowly taking over. Banana skin. There are fresh tropical fruits as well (pineapples, guavas), and indeed a growing sherriness going towards walnuts and even salt ala manzanilla (old style, pasada), which might be a little segmenting, as they say in French marketing, but which may save it provided you like manzanilla. Finish: long, with more walnuts, some green coffee, more tobacco, and quite a lot of nutmeg. Salty aftertaste. Comments: a little disconcerting at times. The ‘manzanilla’ in it is fabulous, but the oak might be a notch drying. Very hard to score. Yup, t’s segmenting. SGP:461 - 85 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Sun Ra. Track: the beauty of this Sunrise is hard to beat. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 24, 2015


Three young Jura

Young Juras are usually characterful, even if sometimes a little unlikely. You say feinty?

Jura 10 yo 'Origin' (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Jura 10 yo 'Origin' (40%, OB, +/-2015) Three starsIt seems that it’s been four or five years since I last tried Jura 10. Colour: gold. Nose: starts rather leafy and leathery, as I remembered, with even a touch of cork that does not come from the cork. There’s also some grass smoke – a little – and notes of bitter oranges, malt as well as, maybe, a wee touch of soft mustard. Orange-and-walnuts-flavoured mustard. Mouth: walnuts and tobacco, with a small cardboardy side, a rather oily mouth feel, probably a little salt, and then something slightly bitter – or say inky. It’s a different whisky, that’s got something to say. Not ‘immediately sexy’, though. Finish: rather long, but the walnuts grew bigger (what?) and made it bitterer and rather drying. Comments: I like the character in this, and the, well, unsexiness. Not a compromising malt, but I think it would need more power. Like, 46% vol. SGP:462 - 82 points.

Jura 'Superstition' (43%, OB, +/-2015)

Jura 'Superstition' (43%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars This is the lightly peated version, not tasted since… what, 2009? I remember that at the time, there were quite a few super-young ultra-peated Jura single casks around, some stellar. Colour: dark ‘orange’ gold. Orange hues usually suggests caramel, in my experience. Nose: actually, the smokiness further stresses the walnut/salt/leather profile, and adds whiffs of exhaust fumes and carbon paper. It’s a dry style, and we’re pretty far from the initial porridge that we used to find in these versions. Nice touches of amontillado – so yeah, more walnuts. Mouth: rich, dry, smoky indeed. Always walnuts and leather, always bitter oranges, always ink and cardboard, and always a touch of salt. Quite curiously, I also find hints of Jamaican rum – which goes well with the palm trees in front of the distillery ;-). Never found the pool they put the dunder in, having said that. Finish: quite long, with a little brown sugar (indeed) and this light smokiness getting more mineral. Bitterer aftertaste (walnut wine). Comments: I think they’ve improved this one. SGP:464 - 82 points.

Oh no, I was dead sure I still had an old official 8 years old but I just do not manage to find it. Bah, another 8 at low strength might do…

Jura 8 yo 2006/2014 (41.4%, Douglas Laing, Single Minded) Three stars From DL’s newish budget line – although I’m sure those very good people wouldn’t agree with that denomination. Colour: very pale white wine. Should be spirit-driven ;-). Nose: all the traits we found in both officials are there, only even more obvious and untamed by wood. Acrid walnuts, clay, leaves, brine, a little diesel oil, ink, carbon paper, shoe polish… This is one big baby, certainly wilder and more ‘old islands’ than both the officials and the older independent versions. Interesting! Mouth: we’ve never been this close to white tequila (rather then Jamaican rum). I have to say I’ve never spotted the agaves on Jura either. Salty, smoky, briny, leafy… Almost a big fat Gruinart oyster sprinkled with the neighbouring Caol Ila, drops of Tabasco, and drops of lemon juice. Fun juice. Finish: long, very grassy, tequila-ish. For shots? (not foreshots, mind you – hold on…) Comments: let’s not rack our brains over these rather characterful babies. So, same score. SGP:363 - 82 points.

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



Block Today: AFRO FUNK. Performer: Kris Okotie. Track: Show me your backside. Please buy his music...

June 23, 2015


As much Octomore as we can

Octomore, extreme whisky by Bruichladdich. Let’s be even more extreme, let’s have this wee bunch totally at random.

Octomore 5 yo 'Comus 04.2' (61%, OB, 18000 bottles, 2012)

Octomore 5 yo 'Comus 04.2' (61%, OB, 18000 bottles, 2012) Four stars 167ppm, will that be enough? I think this one's been matured in some Sauternes casks. Will the apricot resist the peat? Colour: pale gold. Nose: I find it Laphroaiggy, which can’t be bad news. I do not know where these medicinal notes do come from – or was that the Sauternes’ botrytis? Other than that, it’s not exactly a smoke bomb, I even find it a little mellow and soft. Oh and the apricots are there. With water: new tyres replace the antiseptic. Wet paint, creosote, carbolinium… These sorts of things. Bye-bye Sauternes! Mouth (neat): huge, high-impact, citrusy smoke. What’s quite impressive is the freshness, and even if the wine’s flavours can feel a little odd at times, the whole works. A Turkish delights shop after a fire. With water: lapsang souchong favoured with orange blossom – so, so kind of earl grey. The peat is not overpowering. Finish: long, quite creamy, and rather fruity, as if the Sauternes hadn’t had its last word. Tinned peaches. Comments: I prefer the cleaner, more natural ones (such as last year’s Islay Barley), but this worked. SGP:558 - 85 points.

Another one at random…


Octomore 5 yo 'Edition: 06.2' (58.2%, OB, travel retail, 2014) Four stars 167ppm again, this time matured in ex-Cognac Limousin oak casks. Metanoical spirit, if you will. Colour: gold. Nose: more sour fruits in this one, that is to say apples, pears and such. Also greengages, perhaps. I find a little honey as well, but other than that, it’s got more iodine than its bro, less straight medicinal notes, and more raw barley, hay, farmyard, cereals and all that. With water: a working kiln, hessian, smoked clothes (after a night around a campfire), sultanas, figs. Mouth (neat): huge arrival, very smoky, salty, with touches of grapefruits and tangerines, then raisins. Probably from the cognac. I think the combination works. There’s also more spicy French oak than in the Sauternes, with a feeling of curried ginger. With water: same feelings, plus this one: eating a whole ashtray. Finish: long, rather lemony, peaty, barleyish. Comments: rather more to my liking than the already-lovely Sauternes, but I’m sure I’d have enjoyed it even more without the sultanas. SGP:558 - 87 points.

Undeniably great whiskies, but in a line-up, they can be a little tiring… Maybe one more will be enough.

Octomore 6 yo 2008/2014  (65.8%, Rest and be Thankful Whisky Co., bourbon, cask #B000005712, 227 bottles)

Octomore 6 yo 2008/2014  (65.8%, Rest and be Thankful Whisky Co., bourbon, cask #B000005712, 227 bottles) Five stars There are also ex-wine bottlings by the very same company, which I have, but I’d say ex-bourbon will do just now. Colour: light gold. Nose: ah. Straight creamy pure smoky oily lemony whisky. Sharp, whistle-clean, pure, chiselled. With water: manure, grains, porridge, grass smoke, garden bonfire, bread dough (baguette from thirty minutes ago). Mouth (neat): yah! I need my palate! With water: perfect. Huge smoke, fish oil, lime, mezcal. That’s right. Finish: very long, with some lemon, pickled gherkin, kippers, and then more and more lemony white mezcal (Minero and stuff – BTW, more mezcals soon on WF!) Comments: one of the blade-y ones. That is to say the ones that I prefer. SGP:459 - 90 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ (NU). Performer: Julien Lourau. Track: Conrod. Please buy his music...

June 19, 2015


Little H2Hs, today Dufftown

I mean, Singletons of D. Not sure they are whiskies for us – rather for the occasional travel retail crowd, but since they’re there, why not try them. After all, a Porsche is fast only because there is the Golf Diesel (excuse me?)

Singleton of Dufftown 'Spey Cascade' (40%, OB, +/2014)

Singleton of Dufftown 'Spey Cascade' (40%, OB, +/2014) Two stars I find the flat bottle lovely. Colour: gold. Nose: near-blend. Ripe apples, honey, Ovaltine, quinces, caramel, toffee, raisins, pears, café latte, pencil shavings. I’d have liked it better without the pencil shavings, but I don’t find this repulsive. Mouth: light, mainly on ripe fruits – and mainly on apples and pears. A touch of honey, triple-sec, raisins, cake, Mars bar, toffee, milk chocolate. Thin body, but I wouldn’t call it ‘weak’. Finish: rather short, on raisins and caramel. A touch of ginger and sawdust in the aftertaste. Comments: I’d say this is good malt for blend drinkers. After all, it is some kind of pre-Lagavulin. SGP:441 - 75 points.

Singleton of Dufftown 'Artisan' (40%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars This is the expensive NAS Dufftown. Colour: gold. Nose: a similar style, but this is better rounded, and rather more herbal. Warm butter, walnut cake, finger cakes, quite a lot of chamomile, whiffs of old chardonnay barrel, some rubbed leaves (fern?)… In truth I find this rather complex and subtle. Like. Mouth: it is good whisky. Herbal and slightly phenolic, with drops of smoked tea, then rather Seville oranges, raisins, honeydew, a touch of sandalwood, ripe greengages and mirabelles. So it’s easy and rather subtle at the same time. Not even the low strength is problematic. Finish: a little short, but delicately honeyed. Pencil shavings again in the aftertaste, but nothing to worry about (too much). Ovaltine and a little chlorophyll. Comments: I find it good and relaxing. Mucho quaffable. SGP:541 - 81 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: The Nick Brignola Sextet. Track: Marmaduke. with the great Pepper Adams. Please buy their music...

June 18, 2015


Isn't an A’bunadh verticale
actually horizontal?

Yet another stupid headline, hope it’ll win an award. Anyway, in an ideal world, any dedicated whisky blogger would follow each and every new rendition of the iconic A’bunadh. The problem is that there are so many new whiskies these days, that that would be impossible to do – and perhaps suspicious. Too little time, and, ach, err, too few cells in our liver. But we’ll still have a few today, and have them vertically at that, even if there’s no ages and no vintages on them, which means that any new one might be older than a previous version. As often, we’ll start this with an easy aperitif…

Aberlour 12 yo ‘Un-chillfiltered’ (48%, OB, +/-2014)

Aberlour 12 yo ‘Un-chillfiltered’ (48%, OB, +/-2014) Three stars and a half Liked it quite a lot last time in 2013. Like the strength as well, these good people do not try to sell us water for the price of old malt whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: one of the toastiest entry-level whiskies around, with a terrific combination involving warm brioche, oranges, toffee, malt and café latte (not Sturbacks’ – yeah they have written my name wrongly so many times on their stoopid cups, that I’ve decided to do the same.) Also pear jam, which is lovely, and black tea, cereals, maple syrup... Breakfast malt? Mouth: rich, creamy, potent, starting all on oranges and honey, raisins, sherry and coffee-schnapps. A touch of aniseed coming through then, a little raw barley and muesli, dried apricots, and then a little leathery/leafy oak, which brings a pleasant bitterness. Finish: long, very malty. Eau-de-vie-filled chocolate, perhaps. Comments: I find it very good. Like the chocolaty maltiness and the bitterish background. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Time for A’bunadh. Batches 47 to 50, would that work for you?

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #47 (60.7%, OB, 2014)

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #47 (60.7%, OB, 2014) Four stars and a half We had left A’bunadh at batch #45 (WF 87). Colour: amber. Nose: the usual whiffs of fresh varnish (almost glue) that are soon to go away, and then an oloroso-ed avalanche of dried fruits on a rather mineral backbone (limestone). Figs, raisins, dates, prunes, then vanilla fudge, toffee, butterscotch, brioche and  croissants, then pipe tobacco, and just wee whiffs of ‘old wine cellar’. You cannot be against all this. With water: perfect development. Cigars, soy sauce, humidor, earthy tea, old leather (horse saddle), hay… Yup, perfect. Mouth (neat): firstly kirsch and maraschino, with an almondy touch, then the very same dried fruits as in the nose, only a little rougher, like in a young eau-de-vie. That’s right, kirsch. Burns a bit, but nothing abnormal. I mean, unusual. With water:  a creamy honeyness, are rather less leathery/tertiary notes than in the nose when diluted. Rather more liquorice. Finish: long, balanced, on black fruitcake. Marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: A’bunadh remains a star. Sur we need no age statements when the whisky’s this good and when they actually do add a fair proportion of older whiskies to their vatting. SGP:561 – 89 points.

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #48 (59.7%, OB, 2014) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: less fruits, more grass, more stones. That makes it much less aromatic, more austere, and rather less ‘A’bunadh’ – as far as I can tell. What really comes out is artisan kirsch, as well as notes of cured ham. Some grassy tobacco too. With water: leather and ham! Old pipe tobacco! And few fruits, where are they? Mouth (neat): we’re closer to #47, with this big orangey sweet olorosoness (while oloroso should not be sweet!), and notes of orange eau-de-vie, which is very singular – and which you’ll remember forever once you’ve tried some. Indeed, like several tropical fruits, they do not taste like the fruits at all once distilled, which is always very surprising. Anyway… With water: the fruits arrive – it as about time. Gingery oranges and dates covered with cloves powder (apologies to all foodistas). Finish: long, spicy, relatively leathery. Comments: less immediate than #47. Isn’t it great that they do not try to issue ‘always the same whisky’? SGP:561 - 87 points.

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #49 (60.1%, OB, 2014)

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #49 (60.1%, OB, 2014) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: different again, but rather closer to #47 than #48, that is to say rather fruitier, with more raisins, dried figs, the ‘mountain climber’s fruit mix’, rich muesli… There’s always this wee flinty side in the background, and then a mix of corn syrup and maple syrup. No, no ideas as for the proportions. Also cloves and oranges. So yes, it’s pretty Christmassy again. With water: as usual, gets meaty, leathery. Ham and moist pipe tobacco. Maybe a little Marmite (I’m sorry). Mouth (neat): excellent, citrusy and peppery. Put a bag of raisins into your mixer. Add half a glass of Cointreau, some ginger, some cloves, some nutmeg, a small cup of ‘harsh’ coffee (the best robustas), and push the button. To your good health! With water: ah yes this works, with a minerality, some tobacco, ‘wild’ cigars, Seville oranges, nutmeg (very big), a touch of ginger liqueur (AKA the palate killer when neat)… Finish: long, rather thick – goes down like oil – and spicy/orangey. Comments: we aren’t far from batch #47, in fact. SGP:561 - 89 points.

With these kinds of series you obviously have to split hairs. Let’s do it once again, and we’ll be done.

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #50 (59.6%, OB, 2014)

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #50 (59.6%, OB, 2014) Four starsColour: amber. Nose: almost exactly the same nose as that of batch #48. Perhaps a little more mint and leather? Perhaps… With water: it seems to be a little more expressive than #48 once watered down (as usual, at around 45% vol. using my dear Vittel). Spicy figs and this je ne sais quoi that hints at Moroccan pastilla. Flying to Marrakesh tomorrow, I’ll tell you more about that when I’m back. Mouth (neat): almost the same as #48 again. Perhaps a little more earth and oak this time. With water: very, very close to #48 indeed. Almost as if they had split a larger batch. Finish: long, creamy, on raisins, praline, chocolate and spice cake. Not Moroccan space cake, mind you. Comments: you could call this baby batch #48.2. SGP:561 - 87 points.

No we won’t have batch #51, enough is enough. Not even sure it’s out yet, is it? As for these A’bunadhs, they remain very great whiskies, even if they don’t quite reach 90 in WF’s little book. Oh and they are very useful to the pro-NAS brigade. Like, NAS is great, see A’bunadh! (yeah, or Uigeadail). Reminds me of that old Australian story, I’ve seen one black cow, so all cows are black. Or something like that.

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



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June 17, 2015


Little H2Hs, today Glen Garioch

Let’s try to find two recent Glen Gariochs sharing ages and profiles…

Glen Garioch 24 yo 1991/2015 (51.9%, Liquid Treasures, 229 bottles)

Glen Garioch 24 yo 1991/2015 (51.9%, Liquid Treasures, 229 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: whether peated or not, Glen Garioch’s always an interesting spirit, and this is more proof. It’s got this mineral, lemony, and grassy style, with a good deal of wax. I also find some humus, moss, fern, broken branches… This baby seems to have texture – and substance. Shoe polish. With water: herb smoke, menthol, roots, grass, a touch of engine oil, graphite – it’s well a Glen Garioch. Mouth (neat): very solid arrival, on cider apples, lemon zests, not-too-ripe kiwis, green tea… It’s got an austere side, but it’s also greatly clean, steely, sharp… With water: excellent, grassy, waxy, lemony. This is the sharp old-Highlands style I enjoy. Finish: long, grassy, waxy… and all that. Comments: no need to write a novel, this is another excellent early-1990s Glen Garioch. SGP:462 - 87 points.

Glen Garioch 23 yo 1990/2014 (56.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #7939)

Glen Garioch 23 yo 1990/2014 (56.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #7939) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s even leafier! Tea, shoe polish, old toolbox, engine oil, resin, putty… And moss, fern, eucalyptus, ‘clean’ mud, polish… Perfect. With water: a muddy pine forest, some earthy cigars, some pu-erh tea. Love this nose. Mouth (neat): terrific. Earthy and smoky mezcal, green lemon, gentian eau-de-vie (the real one, made out of fermented roots – more about those soon on WF), limestone, some chalk… It’s a blade. With water: exceptional. Lemon juice, honey, teas, tobacco, roots, gentian… Finish: long and ‘sharp like a blade’. They could use it f**** Game of b**** Thrones. Comments: hurray. Were these notes short enough? SGP:462 - 90 points.

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



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June 16, 2015


Little H2Hs, today Glen Esk and guest

Glen Esk. Who still knows about Glen Esk AKA Hillside these days. I find it stunning that Blackadder managed to bottle one cask last year, but as I’m probably the baddest whisky blogger ever, I don’t even have another Glen Esk at hand to build a proper doublet. Bah, let’s find something else…

Glendullan 13 yo 2001/2014 (54.1%, Svenska Eldvatten, cask #SE043, 164 bottles)

Glendullan 13 yo 2001/2014 (54.1%, Svenska Eldvatten, cask #SE043, 164 bottles) Two stars Since this one came from a Bowmore hogshead, and given that Glendullan is not the biggest spirit in da world, we may well be about to taste Bowmore. Let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: chalk mixed with strawberry, kiwi and rhubarb juice. In the background, lemon, seawater and aspirin. Right. With water: Woolite. Mouth (neat): fun stuff. Some mineral Bowmoreness, some acrid green fruits (unripe gooseberries) and ‘chewing on a broken branch’. This is seriously unlikely. With water: better, but there’s a bitterness. Grass juice, burnt thyme – or something like that. Finish: long and very unlikely. Bitter/burnt/grassy. Comments: some kind of ‘no-limits’ whisky for some kind of Swedish death metal band members. I find it fun, but ‘only fun’. Well, as fun as Taylor Swift singing The Queen of the Night’s aria. SGP:363 - 75 points. But yeah, we came here for the Glen Esk…

Glen Esk 30 yo 1983/2014 (54.4%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, refill sherry butt, cask #4929, 328 bottles)

Glen Esk 30 yo 1983/2014 (54.4%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, refill sherry butt, cask #4929, 328 bottles) Four stars and a half AKA Glenesk AKA Hillside AKA the closed distillery that everybody’s forgotten about. It’s true that we’ve already tried some sister casks (Abe Rosenberg/Duncan Taylor stock) and that those have been… ach, err, strange. It’s to be noted that 1983 was the distillery’s antepenultimate year of distilling. Colour: dark gold. Nose: it’s a bit as if someone had finished some diesel oil in a sherry butt, and the funniest part is that this is not unpleasant at all. Quite the opposite! Humidor, tea box (where your mother’s always been keeping assorted kinds of herbal teas), old copper coins, shoe polish, hay… Plenty of hay and eucalyptus. With water: more hay and eucalyptus, plus orange zests. So, something pretty oriental. Mouth (neat): fat, very herbal, phenolic, grassy… Really a malt unlike any other. Bark, star anise, green tea, cough lozenges, tar, grapefruits. All lovely. With water: orange cordial, old cough syrups. Excellent. Finish: long, herbal, orangey and phenolic. A drop of yellow chartreuse. Comments: if you’re a serious malt aficionado, drop the big brands and buy this very bottle, if you can find it. That’s an order! Because, this may well be my favourite Glen Esk/Glenesk/Hillside ever – but I’ve barely tasted a dozen. Shame shame shame (shame on me). SGP:452 - 88 points.



Block Today: JAZZ FUSION. Performer: Kazumi Watanabe. Track: Rage In. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 15, 2015


Little H2Hs, today Balmenach

Balmenach sure  is good, honest malt whisky, but I’m not sure I could tell you much about its style. Well I’m sure I couldn’t.

Balmenach 14 yo 2001/2015 (51.9%, Liquid Treasures, refill sherry hogshead, 245 bottles)

Balmenach 14 yo 2001/2015 (51.9%, Liquid Treasures, refill sherry hogshead, 245 bottles) Three stars Liquid Treasures already had a young Balmenach a few years ago. Colour: white wine. Nose: some young, flinty, porridgy, slightly yoghurty young malt, with a layer of clay and, perhaps, wet fabric. Chalk and grass as well as a little linseed oil. Paraffin, plasticine. With water: more of the latter, and even more grass. Cut cactus? Mouth (neat): a fine, sweet, grassy and malty malt. Some lemon, some chalk again, sunflower seeds, a touch of liquorice and lemon… In the background, some strong beer, reminiscent of Brewdog’s crazy – and quite bitter - cold-distilled ones. With water: much better in my opinion, with the citrus that comes out, lemons, grapefruits, apples, a touch of rhubarb… Got to love water for what it can do to some malt whiskies. Finish: long, grassy, lemony, still a bit bitter. Campari? Comments: needs water, that’s all I can say. Liquid Treasures also have a new Glen Garioch that I found quite superb (soon on WF). SGP:361 - 82 points.

Balmenach 1977/1997 (57.9%, Glenscoma, anniversary bottling, cask #6715, 288 bottles)

Balmenach 1977/1997 (57.9%, Glenscoma, anniversary bottling, cask #6715, 288 bottles) Two stars Colour: white wine. Nose: chalk everywhere, plus aspirin tablets, clay, cardboard, carbon paper, and just touches of smoky malt in the background. Very austere, but this baby may well need water as well. With water: dust and cardboard. Mouth (neat): same league as the 2001. Grapefruits, plasticine, grass, a touch of tequila, some earl grey tea, then a lot of bottled lemon juice. Do you have Pulco in your country of residence? With water: this time it’s the cardboard that comes to the front. No good. Finish: long, acrid, plasticky (a bit), paraffiny. Comments: a rather difficult whisky, I think, but if you like austerity and grass... SGP:271 - 75 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Yokota Hiroyuki. Track: to pay tribute to the great Ornette Coleman who sadly died last week, Time Square. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 2015 - part 1 <--- June 2015 - part 2 ---> July 2015 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Domaine de Courcelles 1972/2014 (47%, 'OB', Guadeloupe, Rumhouse Switzerland)

Glen Garioch 23 yo 1990/2014 (56.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #7939)

Octomore 6 yo 2008/2014  (65.8%, Rest and be Thankful Whisky Co., bourbon, cask #B000005712, 227 bottles)