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Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2016 - Part 1



May 2016 - part 2 <--- June 2016 - part 1 ---> June 2016 - part 2


June 14, 2016


Trio for Glenlochy 1980 by Signatory

There aren’t many Western Highlanders left in Scotland. Ben Nevis, Oban… And some newer distilleries. No, not Loch Ewe ;-). Glenlochy was a stellar one but sadly, it was closed in the mid 1980s, together with so many others. It’s great that Signatory still have quite some 1980s, and managed to bottle three casks in 2015 alone. Let’s simply have all three, if you don’t mind!

Glenlochy 34 yo 1980/2015 (46.5%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #2822, 98 bottles)

Glenlochy 34 yo 1980/2015 (46.5%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #2822, 98 bottles) Five stars Ninety-eight bottles, how ‘micro’ is this? Colour: gold. Nose: just superb. High-class vanilla pods (did you know vanilla pods grow on orchids?), with tropical fruits and minty touches. The combination is just perfect, no aromas are singing louder than the others. Papayas ‘on location’ (not in Western supermarkets), small pink bananas, a touch of eucalyptus, homemade custard, wee whiffs of thuja wood, as well as a little church incense (no fancy scents)…  Mouth: it can happen that a lot of wood does not become a problem, and this is the case here. Sure there’s something drying and gritty, but that mingles so well with all this mint, peach skin, dry bananas, pollen, or papayas, that this rather symphonic old Glenlochy has become one of the most elegant whiskies I could try this year. Finish: medium, with some nutmeg, dried breadcrumbs (the oak speaking out), and rather green bananas this time. Perhaps even wacky ripe guavas. Comments: provided you’re not afraid of a little oak, this is a Glenlochy anybody should try to try. Yeah I know, 98 bottles…) SGP:471 - 90 points.

Glenlochy 35 yo 1980/2015 (48.0%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #3231, 71 bottles)

Glenlochy 35 yo 1980/2015 (48.0%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #3231, 71 bottles) Five starsA sister cask, and an even smaller outturn. Colour: gold. Nose: a little easier on the oak, and more fruity and floral, ala old Balblair. Tangerines this time, williams pears, orange blossom honey, and once again these touches of fresh mint, just rubbed right between your hands. I find this lively freshness impressive given the age. Mouth: oh goodness, this is honey blended with limoncello and lemongrass water. Yellow peaches, again these ‘un-commercial bananas’, and indeed a little more oak again, in the style of the previous cask, with some menthol and pinesap. The whole plays in perfect sync, so more The Beatles than the New York Dolls. Finish: medium, fresh, mentholated, and with more oranges and mandarins. Leaves your palate as fresh as a baby’s. Some Fernet Branca. Comments: yeah I know, 71 bottles… SGP:571 - 91 points.

Glenlochy 35 yo 1980/2015 (51.1%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #3232, 218 bottles)

Glenlochy 35 yo 1980/2015 (51.1%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #3232, 218 bottles) Five stars A bigger one this time, filled a few seconds after the previous cask. Not sure they would have imagined that 35 years later, some overenthusiastic whisky, err, enthusiast would clumsily try to compare both hogsheads. Colour: pale gold. Nose: certainly grassier, but that may be the higher strength. Mown lawn, crushed leaves, even hints of bay leaves, then menthol again and again, its buddy eucalyptus, and perhaps cherry stems and peach leaves, both make for some excellent herbal teas by the way. With water: some adorable farmy and barleyish whiffs. Mouth (neat): very citrusy, almost citric! Lemon drops, limoncello, melissa leaf extract… I find this totally perfect, and I remember some super-old Bladnochs that used to be like this. You’re right, some Rosebanks too. With water: more of all that, perfect. Finish: medium to long, super-zesty and clean, with a complexity that only age – not oak – can bring to malt whisky. Yeah, rambling on… Comments: totally superlative citrusy whisky. The lighter ones had more ‘obvious’ oak, this one’s truly perfect. SGP:561 - 93 points.

Yes, what a trio!

(Thank you Andrew and Angus)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Kamasi Washington. Track: The Magnificent 7. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 13, 2016


More undisclosed Speyside

They are invading our shelves, these undisclosed Speysiders. Sometimes Glenfarclasses, sometimes not, sometimes stellar, sometimes not, sometimes single malts, sometimes not… What are they, exactly? Do they really have something in common? Let’s have a few, totally at random, as they come. Because when there’s not much provenance, we need fun!

Scallywag (46%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2016)

Scallywag (46%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2016) Three stars A newer batch. DL’s website (liked the old one better! More character!) states that this is a blend of Mortlach, Macallan, and Glenrothes ‘amongst others’. Colour: pale gold. Nose: malt, malt, and malt. Plus Mars bars, cereals, tarte tatin, orange and vanilla cream, orange cake, and drops of earl grey tea. A little liquorice wood makes it firmer. Mouth: very malty and toffee-ish, well in the style of many official Glenrothes, with also some chocolate and dried figs. Tends to become a notch drying (black tea). Finish: rather long, malty, toffee-ish. Marmalade-filled chocolate and more black tea. Comments: indeed, very Speyside. Now it beats many entry-level NAS official Speysiders (welcome to blendoland), including the aforementioned brands. Which ain’t too hard to do indeed. SGP:441 - 81 points.

Since there’s also a newer CS version, let’s have it as well…

Scallywag ‘Cask Strength N°2’ (54.1%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 4800 bottles, 2016)

Scallywag ‘Cask Strength N°2’ (54.1%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 4800 bottles, 2016) Four stars I have to say batch 1 was excellent (WF 85). Colour: gold. Nose: same malty, fudge-y whisky, only stronger. With water: malt everywhere. Love malt! Mouth (neat): totally excellent, powerful and full, rich, nutty, toasty, roasted, chocolaty, fudgy… This is pure cask strength cappuccino – or there, tiramisu. With water: oranges and gentian come out. The gentian sure came unexpected, but that’s all for the better. Finish: long, malty, orange-y, toffee-ish. In fact, it’s the regular Scallywag when reduced, more or less. Comments: of course we all always smell a rat when there isn’t any age statement, but I think this one works as nicely as batch #1. Very good. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Speyside 1992/2015 (48.7%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #7376, 290 bottles)

Speyside 1992/2015 (48.7%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #7376, 290 bottles) Three stars and a half A single malt from Dufftown, according to the excellent and very talented bottlers. Good, only seven choices, piece of cake ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: some pure fresh malty fruitiness ex-lazy wood. Now with whisky wood, laziness can be an asset if you ask me, while hyper-activity sure is a flaw, with all due respect to many a modern ‘wood technologist’. Golden barley, overripe apples, overripe gooseberries, apple crumble… Mouth: really good. Not stellar, but really good. It’s got the fruity freshness of an ex-bourbon Aberlour, with a feeling of fruit bowl drizzled with lemon and honey sauce. What it hasn’t quite got is depth, but I don’t know of many contemporary Scottish malts that are really deep. Finish: medium, barleyish, cerealy, sweet, and malty. Comments: probably not one we’ll remember forever, but it’s just irreproachable. Hey, it’s malt whisky! SGP:441 - 83 points.

Dear Whisky-Doris have another new one, let’s try it…

Speyside 1977/2015 (47%, Whisky-Doris, dark sherry, cask #25, 577 bottles)

Speyside 1977/2015 (47%, Whisky-Doris, dark sherry, cask #25, 577 bottles) Four stars and a half This pedigree reeks of Glen… class. Only a very wild guess of course. Colour: amber. Nose: does Speyside need sherry? Discuss… What’s sure is that this mineral, chalky, leathery, cherry-ridden, flinty, Corinth-raisiny (tsk tsk tsk, S.!) profile just clicks. Artichokes, black tobacco (Gauloises bien sûr), dried beef meat, Grisons-style… Or is that bresaola? After ten minutes, we’re in an old wine cellar in the midst of Burgundy. Pass the persillé! (google is your friend even if they are the worst tax evaders ever!) Mouth: absolutely excellent, chocolaty and leathery, dry, tobacco-ish, leafy, herbal, deep… we’re almost crunching (or sucking on) thin mints. Finish: rather long, with more Seville oranges and oak spices – but we’re way below the limits as far as oak spices are concerned. More bitter cloves in the aftertaste, which got a little drying now. Comments: a dry sherry monster – and an ‘almost-90’. SGP:461 - 89 points.

While we’re having older ones…

Speyside 43 yo 1973/2016 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, sherry butt, 324 bottles)

Speyside 43 yo 1973/2016 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, sherry butt, 324 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: we’ll keep this short. Beehive, pollen, nectar, beeswax, overripe apples, artisan cider, IPA, fruity hops, dried longans and jujubes... Great. I had warned you, short. Mouth: sweet and spicy oak, sweet curry, aniseed, honey, beeswax, mint honey, cider apples, cinnamon cake and mints, nutmeg. Really short – not this whisky, mind you. Finish: long. Wonderful oak spices, more cinnamon, more mint, some cloves. Guinness and other dark beers in the aftertaste. Comments: totally and plainly excellent, or when oaken old whisky managed to remain balanced and deep, thanks to some perfect oaky spices. I know, that was short. SGP:461 - 90 points.

That was good and enough. We’ll have many other ‘Speysides’ soon.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Von Freeman. Track: Footprints. Please buy his music...

June 12, 2016


More rhum de France

Looking for more malternatives in the French Caribbean, that is to say for good and genuine rhum agricole. Remember that’s distilled cane juice and not molasses.

Karukera ‘Rhum Vieux Réserve Spéciale’ (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2015)

Karukera ‘Rhum Vieux Réserve Spéciale’ (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2015) Three starsThe simpler 'Rhum Vieux' by Karukera/Longueteau that we tried two or three weeks ago had been pretty excellent (WF 84). Colour: amber. Nose: superb! Rich, phenolic, extremely liquoricy, with bags of cane juice, some tar, even a little coal tar, then our beloved olives, and both green and black, and lastly, touches of rotting bananas. Not rotten bananas, eh! Perfect nose, this starts well, let's just hope the palate won't be a little stuffy... Mouth: perhaps it is, just a bit, there's a sweetness that's rather unusual in rhums from the French West Indies. Other than that, there's really a lot of liquorice, a touch of salt, and always our black olives. A little concentrated maple syrup, which makes it a little thick(ish) indeed. Finish: long, and oakier, a little gritty and tannic. Bitter caramel, cloves, oranges... Comments: excellent, in fact, it's just that I liked the fresher Rhum Vieux a little better. Freshness is important! SGP:751 - 82 points.

Karukera 'Millésime 1999' (45%, OB, Guadeloupe, 7000 bottles, +/-2014)

Karukera 'Millésime 1999' (45%, OB, Guadeloupe, 7000 bottles, +/-2014) Two stars and a half While we're having Karukera... Colour: amber. Nose: more vegetal and grassy, straighter, less luscious, perhaps a bit more oaky as well (there is some rather active American oak, somewhere)... I get whiffs of stewed artichokes, for example, or even Brussels sprouts. But other than that, it's very cane-y, which we can't dislike, can we? Also a little mint, and a large bag of coffee beans. Mouth: oily body, and a dry, mentholated arrival, with some resins and oils from the oak. Pine wood. Huge cinnamon as well as nutmeg and cloves, bitter apples, black tea, tannins, crunching coffee beans... It's really very tannic, as tannic as some 50 years old malt whisky (while knowing that not all 50 yo Scotches are tannic, of course). Finish: long, bitter, drying, and even more tannic. Almost as if we had quaffed walnut stain. Quite. Comments: a style I'm not too fond of, the oak's rather too dominant for me. But the distillate is first class, so we won't be too harsh... SGP:371 - 78 points.

We may need another go at Karukera. At this point, the cheaper, the better!

Karukera 'Millésime 1997 Brut de Fût' (46.3%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2013)

Karukera 'Millésime 1997 Brut de Fût' (46.3%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2013) Three stars Brut de fût means cask strength, you guessed it. This baby aged in small bourbon barrels, let's hope those haven't been too active. Colour: amber. Nose: even less fragrant and fresh than the 1999, and even more on oak and coffee. A lot of chocolate as well, some cane juice - thank you, God - and some very black tobacco, maduro-style. What I do prefer is this earthiness in the background, the black tapenade, the very grassy liquorice... Let's only hope those aromas will win it on the palate! Mouth: there is some kind of balance, with a cane juice and orange combination that manages to fight the heavyish oakiness and to protect the freshness, so to speak. Tinned pineapples with some salt and mint, this must exist as a cocktail, somewhere (with rum, of course). Still a bit tiring, but it surely is way above average. Finish: long, with the same obvious tannins as in the 1999, but also more fruits (oranges and pineapples) that keep it kind of fresh. Comments: I still prefer the Reserve Spéciale and the simple Rhum Vieux, but as I said, it's high quality rhum agricole. Just the oak was too busy for me. SGP:471 - 80 points.

Damoiseau 10 yo 2001/2011 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole)

Damoiseau 10 yo 2001/2011 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole) Two stars and a half Very expensive given its age (80 to 100€) which may explain why it's still available just everywhere. It's also ex-first fill bourbon, pretty bad news if you ask me, but you never know... Colour: gold. Nose: fine and light, much lighter and rounder than the Karukeras. A few tropical fruits, both fresh and tinned ones (pineapples again, bananas) and a pleasant floral side (lys?) In truth it's a nice, easy nose, certainly not dull. Little vulgar vanillin so far, good news. Mouth: indeed, it's light, and the American oak feels a bit, but on the other hand, this joyous fruitiness remains, yeah, pleasant. Liquorice allsorts, bananas, more pineapples, a slice of orange cake. A little sawdust in the background, alas. Finish: medium, a little more caramelised. Custard, fudge, orange zests. Comments: a very easy agricole. Good but not unforgettable - and why does all this American oak have to go to eleven? I had liked their 8 yo 'Cuvée du Millénaire' rather better (WF 80). SGP:631 - 77 points.

Another chance, with a heavy hitter...

Damoiseau 'Millésime 1989' (58.4%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2010)

Damoiseau 'Millésime 1989' (58.4%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2010) Two stars and a halfAnother one that's still easily obtainable. It's cask strength and even single cask, it seems. Colour: amber. Nose: really smooth for a Guadeloupean, and once again, it's rather only sweet oak that you get. So not much spirit character, I'm afraid. Hints of roses, perhaps? A little fudge. With water: coffee, lactones, a touch of ink, leaves, pot-pourri... Mouth (neat): powerful, perhaps a little indefinite. Sweet apple and banana compote, oranges, vanilla, ginger... With water: good, for sure, but a little in-the-middle-of-the-road. The Karukeras had much more character. Finish: medium, a little leafy. Vanilla, oranges, oak, liquorice... Comments: not sure there's much to be said. Damoiseau are a big player, they're not quite into craft, boutique rum, it seems. In that sense, they're more blendernatives than malternatives, if I may. Just a personal opinion! SGP:541 - 78 points.

We've got other Damoiseaus (Damoiseaux?) but let's rather have a Séverin, since this has become a Guadeloupean session... And since their XO won our latest all-Guadeloupe session (WF 88, no less)...

Domaine de Séverin 2005/2013 'Finition Bordeaux' (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole)

Domaine de Séverin 2005/2013 'Finition Bordeaux' (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole) Four stars Red Bordeaux and rhum? Ouch, let's hope that'll have worked better than with malt whisky. Lousy 'innovation' if you ask me... Colour: dark gold. Nose: oh no, that worked! My bad! Anis bredala (aniseed biscuits), vanilla ice cream, banana milkshake, cassis jam, cane juice, salted liquorice, caraway, aquavit, garden peat (no smoke), compost, rich black loam... How 'world' is this? Mouth: a little more unlikely, but the heavy liquorice saves it. Liquorice would save any spirit, if you ask me, they should use that to colour spirits, instead of caramel (yeah, should that be allowed). Blackberry jam, cinnamon cake, more liquorice... Liquorice from Bordeaux? Do they make liquorice in Bordeaux? Finish: medium, more candied and jammy. Cassis syrup, liquid liquorice, banana cream, and salt. Quite some cocktail, isn't it. Ideas of pencil shavings in the aftertaste, that was superfluous. Comments: I quite hate it that I rather liked it, as some well-educated pre-Brexit English would say. Anyway, great work again by Séverin. Unlikely, but great. SGP:651 - 85 points.

C'est tout pour aujourd'hui !

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



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June 10, 2016


Little duets, today Aultmore vs. Aultmore

I think Bacardi/Dewar’s managed to put Aultmore back on the malty map with their new official bottlings, all quite to my liking. But it’s rather some wee indies that we’ll have today…

Aultmore 16 yo 1999 (52.7%, Jack Wiebers, Great Ocean Liners, cask #304296, 120 bottles, +/-2016)

Aultmore 16 yo 1999 (52.7%, Jack Wiebers, Great Ocean Liners, cask #304296, 120 bottles, +/-2016) Three starsColour: straw. Nose: barley, shortbread, brioche, apple pie, hay. I repeat, barley, shortbread, brioche, apple pie, hay. With water: a pile of old magazines, and more of the rest. Mouth (neat): malt, vanilla, apples, hints of sour coconut oil, shortbread, bottled orange juice. Minute Maid-like, but much better then Minute Maid! A little lemon. With water: it’s funny how it gains body and texture. Plasticine, candle wax, dry cider, grass… Finish: long and unexpectedly grassy. Maltier aftertaste. Which is actually good. Comments: less ‘gentle’ than I had expected. It fights. SGP:451 - 80 points.

Lets try a much older one…

Aultmore 36 yo 1974/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #3740, 264 bottles)

Aultmore 36 yo 1974/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #3740, 264 bottles) Two starsWhat an amazing collection this was! Right too soon? They also had a 1982 that was rather brilliant (WF 88). Colour: gold. Nose: wonderful, delicate, compact and plentiful at the same time… Starts with some eucalyptus an crème de menthe, then various old herbal liqueurs from the eastern block (the ones that hipster mixologists now buy for big money), and unfolds on bananas, oils, and waxes. A very lovely combination, with this polished complexity that only time can bring to malt whisky. Mouth: sure there’s a little oak, and perhaps a little too much beer… Well, there is too much beer and oak, ouch… It’s even getting flattish and kind of stale. No, the seal was perfect, the level was tops, and the whisky was bright! Cider from last night, fizzy things, cold black tea… I’m sure you’ve already experienced that. Pass. Finish: medium, not very pleasant. Some white pepper and traces of cheese. Reminds me of an old Moon Import from a similar vintage that was just as flattish. Comments: this what can happen with old whiskies. A stunning nose, and a totally disappointing palate. But let’s not be too harsh, because of the nose… SGP:551 - 75 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Charles Lloyd. Track: Masters of War. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 9, 2016


More Clynelish, he said

High esteem and high hopes. Clynelish never fails to amaze me. But first, prego, an apéritivo, por favor! (sounding like a lost Easyjet tourist now, I know…)

Clynelish 5 yo (43%, OB, Di Chiano, Italy, +/-1970)

Clynelish 5 yo (43%, OB, Di Chiano, Italy, +/-1970) Five stars We’ve already written a tasting note for a UK version around ten years ago (WF 91) but it’s the first time we’re formally tasting this Italian bottling. Not that I’ve never tried it before ;-). Oh and yes, of course, this is ‘Old’ Clynelish, so pre-Brora Brora, so to speak. Colour: gold. Nose: one of the sootiest malts ever. We’re in an old basement, full of old pieces of iron, coal, tools, rusty nails and screws. There’s also grandpa’s old motorcycle, old books and magazines, old iPhones (I’m joking), last year’s advent wreath, a pile of old records, and yeah, quite a lot of soot, saltpetre, and coal dust. And all that is stunning. Mouth: excellently Clynelish. Umami, salty chicken bouillon, crystallised oranges and citrons, this feeling of soot yet again, linseed oil and candle wax, and then a touch of Tabasco or any soft chilli sauce. Perhaps Espelette chillies? Surprisingly salty, and unsurprisingly fat and waxy. Big mouth feel. Finish: long and even saltier, almost as if you had downed a glass of seawater. Smoky, slightly acrid aftertaste. Quite. Comments: only flipside, this is no surprise. Majestic spirit, totally grand cru. Some great 1960s distillate, these little 5s being just as great as the 12s in my opinion. SGP:362 - 93 points.

Thirty-five years forward… In the immediate vicinity of Old Clynelish...

Clynelish 1997/2015 ‘The Highland Mariner’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 341 bottles)

Clynelish 1997/2015 ‘The Highland Mariner’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 341 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it’s always great to check the differences between an old, possibly ‘worm-coiled’ malt and a contemporary counterpart. Remember Clynelish’s stills are replicas of Brora’s. In this case, there’s all this fruity wax that’s a little louder than in the old 5, and much less mineral and phenolic notes. Kumquats and citrons, a little moss, sea spray (for that mariner), and a good deal of coal smoke. Mouth: the filliation remains obvious, although once again, this is brighter, rather easier, and fruitier. Citrons, grapefruits, a touch of salt, a piece of smoked fish, and quite some lemon. Textbook 1997 Clynelish at an easy strength. Finish: good length, more herbal, otherwise very Clynelishy, that is to say waxy. Apples. Comments: as good as it gets. SGP:462 - 88 points.

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (55%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead)

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (55%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead) Five stars This one is called the Charlie Edition, and I doubt that’s Charlie Sheen or Charlie Watts. Colour: white wine. Nose: well Clynelish of course, but this one’s rather grassier, more austere, with more branches, leaves, then ‘chemical’ lemon juice powder (nothing bad!) and green plums. Very tight, it seems. With water: moss, porridge, soot, peelings… It’s all beautifully austere. Mouth (neat): excellent, salty and waxy with some lemon and a touch of paraffin, as well as this very grassy side that already was in the nose. A little custard, probably from the oak. With water: perfect now. Liquid wax, bitter oranges, lemon drops, a touch of honey and limoncello… We’re more in the style of the early 1980s vintages, I’d say. Finish: long and very waxy. Crunching lemon-scented candles. Comments: a little less ‘easy’ than the Wemyss, more demanding, and rather closer to the old 5, in a way. Up there with the very best, congrats Charlie. SGP:462 - 90 points.

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (56.1%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #6942, 80 bottles)

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (56.1%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #6942, 80 bottles) Five stars Only a micro-bottling but a nice fish on the label. Colour: white wine. Nose: probably not the same cask, but the juice is almost the same as that of the Liquid Treasure (never was a name so carefully chosen). Perhaps is this one a tad chalkier. With water: superlative mossy and sooty nose. Mouth (neat): yeah, more or less the same. Perhaps a little more vanilla this time, and one more touch of aniseed. Now it’s no pastis, as they used to say in old French movies. With water: exceptional, waxy tangerines and oranges, pink grapefruits, a touch of mint and liquorice… Really my kind of doobage (so to speak, eh!) Finish: quite long, totally perfect. A sweeter side, with some orange blossom honey. Comments: the best distillate in Scotland. Fact! By the way, Diageo, you have a new girl at the visitor centre (well, that wee room), a young blond one. Just wanted to say that she’s perfect! Please keep her! SGP:562 - 91 points.

A 1996 for a change…

Clynelish 18 yo 1996/2015 (56.1%, The First Editions, Author’s Series, refill hogshead, cask #HL11170, 243 bottles)

Clynelish 18 yo 1996/2015 (56.1%, The First Editions, Author’s Series, refill hogshead, cask #HL11170, 243 bottles) Five stars With Edgar Allan Poe on the label. It’s him or Robert Burns. Colour: white wine. Nose: very close, once again. Perhaps a little more menthol, bark, grass… And perhaps drops of artisan Kirschenwasser, but that may be the high strength. With water: the greatest smoky porridge ever. No more Kirschenwasser, having said that – better for breakfast, you’re right. Mouth (neat): oh lovely! Very zesty, lemony, greatly fermentary this time (this feeling of leaven, baker’s yeast), and otherwise totally Clynelishy. Total sharp, blade-y fun. With water: traces of tropical fruits emerge. Maracuja-like. And citrons, waxy lemons, all that. Finish: pretty long, maltier, waxy, citrusy, brilliant. Comments: Clynelish, incomparable distillate. The more I taste it, the more I adore it. Is it serious, doctor? SGP:462 - 90 points.

A wee rest with a lighter one…

Clynelish 17 yo 1997/2015 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, casks #4624-4625, 607 bottles)

Clynelish 17 yo 1997/2015 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, casks #4624-4625, 607 bottles) Five stars Several great Clynelishes in this moderately priced series already. If you don’t always need bulls… I mean elaborate packaging by posh agencies (coke is expensive, you know), check it more often! Colour: white wine. Nose: the way it stands the course after the CS versions is pretty impressive. Smoky porridge, overripe green apples, paraffin, plasticine, seawater… Shall we call it ‘a leatherette-y Clynelish’? Mouth: but how good is this? Everything’s perfect, and it’s even got something from the countryside, like damp jumpers, or grandpa’s old tweed jacket – from when Harris Tweed was proper Harris Tweed. Love the saltiness too. Finish: quite long, salty, more meaty and herbal. What a bouillon! Comments: what’s good with this moderate strength is that you don’t need to toy with pipettes (right Ralfy, or coffee spoons). B-F-Y-B, many thanks Fabien. SGP:452 - 90 points.

These Clynelishes are boringly good, aren’t they. But we stop at nothing…

Clynelish 17 yo 1997/2014 (55.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #4050)

Clynelish 17 yo 1997/2014 (55.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #4050) Three stars BB&R is another house that already got some excellent Clynelishes. Bah, anyway, all 1997s are pretty great… Colour: white wine. Nose: ah, it’s a fruitier one, with peaches, with less rocks and herbs and waxy/smoky things. Feels a little un-1997 – and rather more +/-1990, that is to say softer – but let’s discuss the issue further once water’s been added. With water: closed! Not the greatest swimmer in Sutherland, this one, maybe should it spend a few days at the (rather boring) Royal Marine Hotel. Yawn… Mouth (neat): indeed, it’s rather a fruitier one, with more roughish and sweetish notes, and less sharp Clynelishness. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good, but the others were more convincing as far as pure Clynelishness is concerned. Splitting hairs now, but that’s our very duty. With water: good not great, as they say. Sweet fruit syrups, and little wax, let alone smoke. Finish: same. Rounded and polished preserved sweetness. Comments: surprised. It’s good, but it’s rather un-Clynelish. And yet, the vintage… Another malty mystery? SGP:541 - 81 points.

I will not leave it here, for sure…

Clynelish 1998/2014 (58%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, sherry, casks # 17064-17065)

Clynelish 1998/2014 (58%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, sherry, casks # 17064-17065) Four stars Ooh Clynelish + sherry, the danger zone! Colour: gold. phew! Nose: that very chocolaty and fudge-y sherry can offset the character of even the boldest malts is no secret, and that’s more or less the case here. Fudge, Mars bar, Ovaltine, butterscotch, café latte… You see… With water: as often with G&M, it turns very cloudy, which suggests minimal filtration. Leather, autumn leaves, cigars. Mouth (neat): the sherry treatment makes this little Clynelish almost Highland-Parky, serious. I find this extremely good, just not very idiosyncratic. Rhubarb-jam-filled chocolate. With water: excellent, we’ve just lost distillery character. I’m not the best at detecting distilleries, and sorry if I sound very immodest, but I think I know my Clynelish, and this could come from several other distilleries. But yeah, it’s excellent, so as they say at Donald Trump’s, who cares? Marmalade and zesty fruits. Finish: rather long, with a touch of sulphur – good in this context – and leather. Comments: very good, one of the better sherried Clynelishes. Not talking about the superb sherried ‘Old’ Clynelishes of course (Sestante, Cadenhead, Signatory, all those). SGP:452 - 85 points.

Ite tasting session est. More Clynelish soon… (with thanks to Fabien)

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



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June 8, 2016


Three joyful Tomatins. Perhaps four.
Or five. Or six.

Tomatin are part of the pro-age-statement and pro-transparency brigade. I have the utmost respect for them. Product first, then marketing, and not the other way ’round, you see – which doesn’t mean no marketing of course. Or you’d better get your handkerchiefs out… (if you ask me – but yeah, who am I?) Let’s kick this off with a little apéritif…

Tomatin 5 yo (75° proof, OB, early 1960s)

Tomatin 5 yo (75° proof, OB, early 1960s) Three stars and a half A rare old bottle bearing a very high reputation – this might be a ‘killing’ apéritif! Colour: gold. Nose: starts acrid, pine-y, and pretty smoky. Burning fir wood, perhaps. Whiffs of camphor, embrocations, tiger balm (Kramer, who told you to put the balm on?), flint stone, old cigarette lighter, crème de menthe, fresh concrete, rubbed leaves… And then quite a lot of caraway and juniper. Surprisingly herbal and rather un-fruity for Tomatin.  Mouth: same very punchy, acrid, pungent style, with some ginger, stones, ink, liquorice wood, chlorophyll, leather, bitter curry paste, pepper, and always a lot of juniper. Big very herbal body. As far as fruits go, perhaps a little ‘green’ grapefruit? Finish: long and bitter. A little Campari, more juniper, ginger roots… One drop of orange juice as the signature. Comments: probably a little unbalanced by today’s standards, this old young Tomatin is extremely vegetal and bitter. But as an example of this long forgotten style, it’s great. SGP:382 - 84 points.

Tomatin 1997/2014 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice)

Tomatin 1997/2014 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: total easy fruitiness. Ripe apples, honey, maple syrup, a little custard, drops of banana cream, and touches of honeysuckle and chamomile teas. This baby’s got something ‘Irish pure pot still’ at times, on the nose. Shall we call it Redbreasty? Mouth: extremely easy, extremely good. Malt, fruits, and grass, plus a little fudge and custard. Banana sweets, lemon drops, barley syrup, light ‘breakfast’ honey… Very good, but beware its extreme drinkability. Finish: medium, fruity, easy. I can’t see who wouldn’t like this. Comments: full easy fruity pleasures. Now they should add a warning to the label, it’s too easy. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Tomatin 21 yo 1994/2016 (48%, Claxton’s, hogshead, casks #1503-11247, 230 bottles)

Tomatin 21 yo 1994/2016 (48%, Claxton’s, hogshead, casks #1503-11247, 230 bottles) Four stars We already had an excellent Tobermory by this new house. Colour: white wine/straw. Nose: the G&M with a little more power and a little more earthy touches. I love it, it makes me think of the best Sancerres or Pouilly-Fumés out there, even if it tends to become a little rounder after two minutes. Honey and maple syrup, but only wee drops. Perfect leafy earthiness. Is this autumn already? Mouth: same feelings. A grassy Sancerre, with grapefruits, cut grass, green plums, and only the smallest hint of honey. Also green bananas, one of Tomatin’s markers in my book. Finish: medium, with the grass supporting the zesty fruits, plus more of that leafy and peppery earthiness in the aftertaste. Comments: some immaculate zesty/grassy Tomatin. Oh and they should add that warning too. SGP:561 - 87 points.

Tomatin 2001/2016 (56.1%, OB for Cadenhead’s Switzerland, 7th anniversary, finished four years in PX, cask #34876)

Tomatin 2001/2016 (56.1%, OB for Cadenhead’s Switzerland, 7th anniversary, finished four years in PX, cask #34876) Four stars and a half That’s right, an OB for a Cadenhead’s shop, which goes to show that not everyone in the whisky industry is narrow-minded and, well, ultra-defensive these days. I find the idea of this bottling very joyful and refreshing, but let’s check the content… Which, BTW, is more double-maturation than just a simple aromat… I mean, a simple finishing. Colour: gold. Nose: ultra-smart. Blending caramelised walnut purée (that would be the sherry, whether PX or palomino) with Tomatin’s immaculate fruitiness could not not work, could it? Walnut cake with crystallised oranges and speculoos. Truly ‘world’! With water: a little ‘good sulphur’, saltpetre, musty old wine cellar, cigarette tobacco… All that is lovely. Mouth (neat): absolutely excellent. I’m usually suspicious of any quick-and-easy PX finishings, but again, this isn’t exactly a finishing. And I’m a sucker for anything reeking of walnuts (as nuts, liqueur, wine, syrup, cake, and even intravenously – I’m joking). With water: takes water very well. Walnuts, pu-erh tea, cigars, and a little thyme, perhaps. Finish: medium, with some walnuts and leather. Very leafy aftertaste, with even a little mustard. Comments: very smartly selected, Cadenhead Switzerland! And a total brainwave, this official independent bottling, so kudos to Tomatin too! SGP:461 - 89 points.

Tomatin 1990/2015 (54.4%, OB, distillery exclusive, bourbon, cask #16366)

Tomatin 1990/2015 (54.4%, OB, distillery exclusive, bourbon, cask #16366) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it’s got this grassiness as well at first sniffs, but the expected topical and orchard fruits are soon to take over, with plantain bananas, guavas, and greengages plus pears. Some kind of mentholy lemon adds even more freshness, while the oak adds just wee touches of vanilla and coconut. Very wee ones! With water: the usual feeling of fruit salad with drizzles of acacia honey and barley syrup. Pretty perfect, this. Mouth (neat): an extravagantly and tropically fruity arrival, on guavas again, passion fruits, lemons, and grapefruits. All that is sharp and ultra-zesty, without much compromise as they say on Kildalton’s coastline. Did they add grapefruits to their mash? With water: more of all that, with a feeling of dry sémillon (or dry white from Sauternes). Finish: medium, all on grapefruits and lemons. Comments: not quite the exuberant kind of tropical fruitiness as could be found in earlier vintages (say 1976), but it’s, well, just great, and superbly clean. Excellent. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Tomatin 1988/2016 ‘Cù Bòcan’ (51.5%, OB, peated, 2200 bottles)

Tomatin 1988/2016 ‘Cù Bòcan’ (51.5%, OB, peated, 2200 bottles) Four stars Honestly, not too sure about the packaging, but at least it’s funny. Could it have been borrowed from an old LP sleeve? From one by a minor American hard-prog band, circa 1976? Anyway, this baby was matured in sherry casks that had previously sheltered some heavily peated Islay whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: this is much more ‘Tomatin’ than ‘Islay’, and we shan’t complain. Now there is a smoky coastalness, for sure, but that more or less punctuates the distillery’s zesty fruitiness, rather than completely change it. I have to say I find it extremely pleasant and fresh, and much nicer than the original Cù Bòcan. With water: muddy barley, hay, porridge, and grass. Mouth (neat): the peat feels more, and actually, this is peated whisky. The sherry’s very light. Smoked salmon and kippers, green apples, grapefruits, not too ripe papayas, pink grapefruits, a touch of mint. All rather very fine. With water: the zesty distillate is having the upper hand this time. Grapefruits and apples. Finish: long, zesty, citrusy, with some very moderate peat. Comments: it’s funny how the peat comes and goes, especially once you’ve added water. Another excellent Tomatin, although I enjoyed the ‘natural’ ones rather better. SGP:563 - 86 points.

(Thank you Angus, Jon, and Peter)

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



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June 7, 2016


Cragganmore 12 and more

Cragganmore is a well-respected malt within Diageo’s large portfolio, even if malt aficionados seldom chat about it, probably because there are so few expressions around. What’s sure is that I know a few Diageo people who are listing Cragganmore as their #1 (after Malt Mill, ha-ha).

Cragganmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2015)

Cragganmore 12 yo (40%, OB, +/- 2015) Three stars It was about time we tried the rather popular 12 years old again. The latest batch we tasted was a… +/-2008! (WF 80). Colour: gold. I’ve seen darker batches in the past. Nose: it’s true that it’s very lovely, with this blend of yellow wild flowers, pollen, oranges, and light fudge. There’s something both firm and aerial to this, while it tends to become more fragrant after five minutes, towards litchis and wild roses. Noses almost like some very nice gewurz’. Mouth: a little bigger despite the low strength, with rather more burnt cake, roasted nuts, and plain malt. Pecan pie, chocolate cake, something a little vegetal (cassis buds?), plus a wee raw eau-de-vie-ish side in the background. Finish: medium, rather on coffee-schnapps and Ovaltine. Comments: I liked the nose rather better. An understatement. Same score as last time in my book. SGP:441 - 80 points.

Cragganmore 12 yo 2004/2016 (54.6%, The Whisky Agency and Acla Da Fans, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles)

Cragganmore 12 yo 2004/2016 (54.6%, The Whisky Agency and Acla Da Fans, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles) Three stars and a half High hopes! Colour: white wine, so this should be very natural. Nose: fruits everywhere! Very orchardy (plums, gooseberries, ripe pears, peaches) with some farmy touches in the back, as well as just a little varnish and jelly babies. Very youthful, and extremely ‘natural Speyside’. With water: at the farm. Barley, malt, hay, and drops of engine oil. Mouth (neat): plain fruit creams and liqueurs – and babies and beans and crocodiles and sticks. Same flavours, pears, white cherries, peaches… Now there’s also a very firm, rather grassy backbone. With water: good, rather more citrusy, while the bitterish grassy structure remains. Eating leaves, or rocket salad. Finish: rather long, with a touch of fresh mint on top of all these grasses and leaves. A wee rootiness, perhaps. Comments: rather raw despite the fruitiness. Really not a soft and mellow one. Very good nonetheless. SGP:561 - 83 points.

Cragganmore 16 yo 1997/2014 (58.1%, The Warehouse Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #1507, 295 bottles)

Cragganmore 16 yo 1997/2014 (58.1%, The Warehouse Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #1507, 295 bottles) Three stars and a half In theory, an older one should have gotten smooooother. Colour: straw. Nose: nah, raw varnish and pears on a lot of cut grass and various leaves. This is rather extreme, and very austere when un-reduced. With water: farmyardy. There’s also quite some chalk, which I enjoy. Hay, chalk, wheat, barley… And some rain water. Mouth: same style as the 2004, and this 1997 doesn’t quite feel any more mature or polished. Prickly leafiness and some bitter fruits. Peelings, leaves… With water: the fruits are coming out. Pears, apples, oranges, grapefruits… Finish: quite long, still a bit austere. Apple peelings. What’s very nice is that it’s got an aftertaste that resembles that of some top-notch sauvignon blanc. Comments: it needs water, and your time. One for lovers of bone-dry white wines. SGP:561 - 84 points.

What would be ideal would be to try a very old Crag’ now. Rare as a snowbird in hell, but is this Whiskyfun or what?...

Cragganmore 1969/1990 ‘Private Stock’ (43%, Ballindalloch Castle, 75cl)

Cragganmore 1969/1990 ‘Private Stock’ (43%, Ballindalloch Castle, 75cl) Five stars Some bottlers have been using the name ‘Ballindalloch’ for Glenfarclas, but actually, Cragganmore is closer to the castle if I’m not mistaken. What’s sure is that this IS Cragganmore. Colour: gold. Nose: and yet again, some 1960s distillate that makes most recent malts nose and taste like oak-flavoured vodka. Yeah I know, vastly exaggerating again, but the complexity in this is nowhere to be found in any contemporary malt whiskies. Oils, metal polish, old coins, moss, mushrooms, malt, orange liqueur, honeydew, pine needles, leather polish, fern, damp earth, bitter oranges, tobacco, teas… Mouth: amazing. Smoky, oily, very herbal, very earthy, quite sappy, gamey, resinous, chartreuse-y, peppery, gingery… The body’s just amazing given the strength. Finish: relentlessly long, phenolic, bitter, and even dominant. Comments: full-bodied complex malts at 43% could be bigger than ‘binary’ contemporary ones at 46 or even 50% vol., and this is just another luminous example. Who did break the mould, who? SGP:353 - 91 points. UPDATE: it was at 51% vol.!

(And thanks, Phil and Simon at Dornoch-Castle-Up-There!)

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



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June 6, 2016


Blends reloaded

Blends used to leave us cold (yes I know there are some stunning ones, but there are many more stunning malts if you ask me). But since some very skilled malt people now issue more blends as well, and do it well, we’re just following the trend and the flow. But let’s start with some old popular large-volume ones, as the aperitifs…

Té Bheag Nan Eilean (40%, Praban Na Linne, blend, +/-2015)

Té Bheag Nan Eilean (40%, Praban Na Linne, blend, +/-2015) Two stars and a half A whisky that’s been quite successful in France since 15 years or so, since it’s been positioned as a ‘Gaelic whisky’. Said to be 8 to 10 years old. The company’s Poit Dhubh malt is perhaps more famous, and I remember an older 21 that was stellar. Colour: gold. Nose: good smoky maltiness, but I find the whole dry and unsexy. Some cardboard, perhaps. Let’s move on… Mouth: this is better. Some peat and lemon, some brine, some malt, some smoke… It’s a little wishy-washy, like some Islay Mists NAS could be, but it’s perfectly potable. Finish: not much, but on the other hand, there are lovely hints of leafy peat smoke, like in some Caol Ilas. Comments: one of the rare real peaty blends. A shame that it’s rather on the weaker side. SGP:344 - 77 points.

Grand Macnish (43%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Grand Macnish (43%, OB, blend, +/-2015) Two stars Everyone knows the Grand Macnish, but I do not know many friends who’ve actually dared tasting it. Now a famous whisky writer tried it, awarded it 89 points, and wrote that it’s ‘For those who prefer their whisky with character, eccentricity and attitude rather than water.’ That’s totally me! (kiddin’). Colour: pale gold. Nose: not bad, since there isn’t much happening. Perhaps nuts, perhaps toasted bread, perhaps fudge, perhaps pie and tarts. That’s many perhapses. Mouth: frankly, it’s okay. Sweet, light, cake-y, undemanding but rather oily, with more texture than flavour, I’d say. It’s fresh, and it’s rather ‘fresh refill Speyside’. A mildly good surprise. Finish: short, with a little butter and a little honey. Comments: forget about the nose, but I found the palate rather flawless. I could drink this humble blend that’s certainly not worse than some new NAS malts (no, no names). And much cheaper. SGP:441 - 75 points.

Blend No 888 (40%, House of Macduff, blend, +/-2015)

Blend No 888 (40%, House of Macduff, blend, +/-2015) one star and a half This by the same people who are doing the ‘Golden Cask’ malt line. As you may have guessed, the name and the packaging are meant to appeal to our most distinguished Chinese friends. Colour: gold. Nose: nada, niente, nichts, rien, really not much. Wood, perhaps porridge, perhaps maize syrup. Now there’s a wee leafy side in the background, that’s not too bad. Mouth: another one that’s not too bad on your palate, even if there’s a dirty-ish earthiness that’s a little disturbing. No, wait, it goes astray, with some raw alcohol and a feeling of cheap fruit liqueur. On the other hand, there’s a little good malt. Finish: short, dispensable. Calls for water – to flush it away. Comments: in truth there are some ‘good’ sides, akin to those of Johnnie Walker Red, but there are also a few flaws. Perhaps for cocktails. SGP:431 - 68 points.

Dewar's 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2016)

Dewar's 12 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2016) Three stars I think this packaging that is surfing the wave of retro is relatively new. They all start to do that, imagine new wave becomes all the rage again in two years time! But let’s see if this baby is not a waste of good Aberfeldy or Aultmore. Colour: gold. Nose: first malty, then slightly sharp and narrow, with hints of smoke and grapefruits. Not a nosing whisky, but there is ‘something’. More than in the Grand Macnish or in the 888 for sure. Mouth: ah, now we’re talking! I find this very good, surprisingly good, with good fruits, good smoke, and good malty parts. Now that Bacardi have got a nice malty portfolio, I think they could enhance their entry-level blends. Nice oranges, honey, Danish pastries, orange drops… And the body’s quite perfect. Finish: medium, a tad oriental, with baklavas and makrouts. And Turkish delights! Comments: a real good surprise, this could become my house blend (should I drink blends). And it called for the next one… SGP:541 - 80 points.

Dewar's 15 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2016)

Dewar's 15 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2016) Three stars These blends have also strange names. The 12 was ‘the Ancestor’ (an old Dewar moniker), while this 15 is ‘the Monarch’. More retro than that, you die. When our descendents will find these bottles in our old cupboards, they’ll think they were bottled around 1930. Colour: pale gold. Nose: perhaps not very different, just rounder, with more vanilla and biscuits. A little more floral as well, also with apple peel, which is nice. Noses like a good IPA. Hoppy whisky, that’s funny. Mouth: same league as the 12, same profile, same brightness, same maltiness. And almost the same whisky, just a tad fatter and oilier. Very good. Finish: rather long this time, feeling like 43-44% vol.,  which is always a great sign. The malts have taken command. Touches of herbal liqueurs, caraway, wormwood… Comments: real great work. It is blended Scotch for malt drinkers, I’d say. SGP:551 - 82 points.

Some older blend please…

Catto’s 25 yo (40%, OB, blend, decanter, 2,400 bottles, +/-2011)

Catto’s 25 yo (40%, OB, blend, decanter, 2,400 bottles, +/-2011) Four stars Another old brand. I opened an old bottle with a spring cap the other day, it’s brilliant. This one was bottled to celebrate the brand’s 150th anniversary. Colour: gold. Nose: blends are usually more for your palate than for your nose, but I have to say that this one’s delicate and elegant, and unusual at that. I get thuja wood, smoked herbs, charcoal, fresh almonds, cashews, then dried coconut and, perhaps, this wonderful sauce that our friends the Indians cook, korma. Some action! In a blend! Mouth: excellent. Smoky, earthy, phenolic, tertiary, only the low strength is a frustrating handicap. Smoked leaves and grass, cider apples, tobacco, coffee beans, honey, malt… One question, is Highland Park one of the base malts in here? Answer on a postcard please. Finish: this is where the low strength gets even more frustrating. It’s like hearing a great jazz gig from the outside, while the night is sold out. Booo! Comments: not quite murder, but we’re close. In a way, this is like Ardbeg 30 Very Old, a kind of whisky-ish genocide. Superb juice impaired by humans (what what what?) SGP:552 - 85 points.

More power, bitte!

Blended Whisky No. 1 35 yo (46.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, blend, batch 3, 1,428 bottles, 2016)

Blended Whisky No. 1 35 yo (46.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, blend, batch 3, 1,428 bottles, 2016) Five stars The smart and engaging people at Master of Malts are now going AS with this series, which I find very smart. One batch won one of Whisky Magazine’s World Whiskies Awards, but since I’ve left the jury this year after a good eight or ten years (yeah, phew), I think I’ve never tried it. No, no need to contact me again, no time to lose, thank you mucho. Colour: amber. Nose: rum. Hints of flowers (dandelions and peonies), honeys, fruit ganache, and bizarrely, a little OBE. You know, these metallic mushrooms and mosses… After two minutes, you’re in a bodega in Jerez. Cheaper than an Easyjet flight and less tiresome. You’ve even got free speedy boarding. Mouth: amazing. Chocolate mints, salty liquorice, millionaire shortbread, old cognac, and a pre-war bottle of Grand-Marnier. Certainly a little rancioty (apologies). The strength is absolutely perfect. Finish: long and firmer, with some honey and leather, and maple syrup in the aftertaste. I mean, real maple syrup (hint to hotel owners who do pancakes). Comments: it’s like foie gras, I do not wanna know how they make this. There are some unpolished edges, but that’s for the (even) better. SGP:562 - 91 points.

Good, time for a last one. And why not go NAS? (I’m pleading for leniency!)

The Circus (49%, Compass Box, blend, 2016)

The Circus (49%, Compass Box, blend, 2016) Three starsThe composition is so complicated, involving some kind of married casks plus malt from Benrinnes. What seems to be sure is that it’s all sherry. As for the label, well, it looks like some circa 1910 Prussian chromolithography. And why not! Colour: gold. Nose: don’t we all know that CB have discovered the secret behind any great blend? Which is, you guessed it, to keep the grain content to the strict minimum? Unless you’ve got some 1960s ex-sherry Invergordon at hand, of course. Sponge cake and caramel, panettone, Mars bar, butterscotch, a spoonful of muesli. No bomb so far, but its more than fine. Mouth: hold on, I do detect grain matured in first fill wood. I may be dreaming, but that imparts a rounder profile, more chocolaty, more on Nutella (yeah, go, shoot), more on tiramisu, and more on café latte. Not totally my thing, but I know friends who’d kill for this style. De Gustibus et Coloribus non est disputandum… Finish: medium, round, vanilla-ed and pastry-like, with a little more malt in the aftertaste. Ovaltine readymade drink, you know, you just add hot water, and you get some kind of warming beverage. Nescafé. Comments: very very (and I mean very) good, just not quite my style. After all, the grain content may have been high, I was probably plain wrong again. Totally love what CB do, but I tend to like their stellar Clynelish/Islay-led compositions even better. Yeah, de Gustibus etc. indeed… SGP:631 - 82 points.

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



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June 5, 2016


Looking for malter-natives in Guyana

Let’s have more rum from the Demerara region of Guyana, including Georgetown the capital city and its well-known distillery Diamond. Some officials, some independents… We’ll see what we can fin.

Demerara Solera N°14 (40%, Rum Nation, Guyana, 2012)

Demerara Solera N°14 (40%, Rum Nation, Guyana, 2012) Two starsWe’ve tried an earlier release of this baby six or seven years ago, and found it very sweet. Let’s see… Colour: deep amber. Nose: rich, honeyed, marmalade-y, with molasses and Demerara sugar. A very rounded rum, but it’s got a few some esters and other deeper notes in the background. Mouth: very sweet, with some coffee, Nutella, praline, milk chocolate, maple syrup, bananas flambéed… Good mouth feel though, not too thick. Finish: medium, sweet, with some Kahlua and raisins in the aftertaste. Cassata, tiramisu… No wonder the excellent bottlers are Italian ;-). Comments: amongst the very sweet rums, it’s probably one of the deeper ones. So not my preferred style at all (please take that into account with my scores), but I’m sure lovers of sweeter rums will enjoy it. Still beats many a Dominican sugar bomb! SGP:820 - 72 points.

Plantation Guyana 2005 (45%, Plantation, +/-2015)

Plantation Guyana 2005 (45%, Plantation, +/-2015) Two stars I usually find Plantation’s rums too sweetened up for my taste, but quite strangely, I had liked their Guyana 1988 a while back (WF 84). Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: indeed it feels drier, more phenolic than the Rum Nation, so I guess it’s rather pot still rum this time. Nice notes of tar, wood polish, and I even find drops of engine oil, beyond the many whiffs of overripe bananas. Mouth: too bad they added so much sugar, this time it feels, with a syrupy mouth feel and a syrupy taste. Pineapple liqueur, jams, jelly beans… But the Demeraraness remains easily noticeable, with some liquorice and some tar again. Also tobacco, and Korean plum wine. Exactly. Finish: short, sugary, a little caramelised, with touches of raisins and molasses honey (what they often call honey in South America, while it’s totally molasses-based. No bees involved in the process). Comments: still very okay, but this time the sugar was much more noticeable. SGP:731 - 75 points.

XM 15 yo 'Supreme' (40%, OB, Guyana, +/-2015)

XM 15 yo 'Supreme' (40%, OB, Guyana, +/-2015) Two stars and a half XM is a Guyanan brand owned by Banks. I had found their 12 very okay but too sweet yet again (WF 76) and their 10 a little brighter (WF 78). Colour: dark gold. Nose: banana jelly, sugar cane (hurray), touches of metal (tin box), and then rather ‘good pina colada’, with some coconut. Touches of camphor and menthol, which is nice. In truth it’s a rather complex and fairly fresh nose, it’s just a little too light for me. Mouth: very sweet, but there’s some ‘stuff’ behind that. Earl grey tea, lemongrass, praline, walnut wine, pecan pie… And always this metallic feeling in the background, rather nice. Only the body’s a little thin. Finish: short, but relatively fresh, with more herbal teas, angelica, touches of oranges… Comments: high quality rum, for sure. More power, less sweetness, and we would be thrilled. Sort of. SGP:641 - 78 points.

Pusser's 15 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Pusser's 15 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015) Two starsA classic ‘navy’ brand that blends rums from Guyana and Trinidad (and possibly other places, no one seems to agree on the Interweb). What could go wrong, apart from excessive (added) sugariness? Colour: full gold. Nose: ‘nice’, as they say. Well, it’s rum, and good rum at that. Molasses and sugar cane, stewed oranges, chocolate, roasted peanuts, corn syrup, and a leafy/tobacco-ish side in the background, which adds dimension. Mouth: another very sweet one, not much luck today. You really feel the sugar, beyond the marmalade, the pineapple syrup, the Malibu and the Cointreau. In fact, it’s ultra-sweet. Finish: medium, sweet, a little cloying. Comments: way too syrupy for me, but the core seems to be nice, with a pleasant fruitiness. They should try to make a ‘natural’ version. Yeah, ‘rum’, and not liqueur. SGP:731 - 70 points.

Good, I’m sure we already downed the equivalent of one can of Coca-Cola. Let’s get serious!

Versailles 2003 (40%, Mezan, Guyana, +/-2015)

Versailles 2003 (40%, Mezan, Guyana, +/-2015) Four stars and a half Distilled at Diamond using the ex-Versailles single wooden pot still. No, nothing to do with Louis the 14th. Samaroli have had a stunning Versailles a few years ago (1990, WF 90), so deep hopes at WF Towers. Colour: white wine. Nose: white wine indeed. A crisp, saline, mineral style that borders that of a crisp, saline, mineral riesling from around Hunawihr/Riquewihr. Fresh walnuts and green apples on top of that, plus some coal tar and pitch. Mezan keep amazing me with their 100% distillate-driven selections. Mouth: perfect. Not one of the most phenolic or dundery rums, but the leafy/grassy side is just magnificent, extremely elegant and complex. Asparagus (white!), olives, tar, ink, ashes… It just tends to become a little drying, perhaps. Finish: rather long and very ashy. Comments: this at 50% vol.! I know that’s a boring mantra, but it’s true. Anyway, another truly excellent Mezan. SGP:362 - 88 points.

So he asked for more power!

El Dorado Versailles 2002/2015 (63%, OB, Guyana, Rare Collection, bourbon barrels)

El Dorado Versailles 2002/2015 (63%, OB, Guyana, Rare Collection, bourbon barrels) Five stars The newish OB! Entirely aged in Guyana, where they have very greedy angels. The volumes go down fast, while the strengths remain high or even go up. Colour: gold. Nose: it seems that it’s a little simpler than the Mezan, but that’s probably the super-high strength. What I seem to find in the background is a bag of vegetables and herbs, such as capers (which is a flower, isn’t it?), and plenty of wood varnish, with an acetone-y side. Let’s dig deeper… With water: as expected, this is more wood-driven than the Ultra-clean Mezan, with a BTAC side (yup) and plenty of tarmac, tarry wood (restored old boat, teak oil), and just ideas of ‘brand new sneakers’. Mouth (neat): huge. Distilled vin jaune, mint essence, artichoke, concentrated walnut oil… All that is spectacular and, I have to say, wonderful. Huge distillate. With water: very extremely good. Please call the anti-rumporn brigade! Finish: very long, big and yet elegant and ‘well-chiselled’, always with a lot of tar (and other tar-like elements, pitch and such). Droplets of lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: like, I mean love it much more than the Port Mourant in the same series. Ça c’est un alcool, monseigneur, as they would have said at Versailles (the castle). SGP:473 - 90 points.

Oh well, we could as well try their newish Enmore…

El Dorado Enmore 1993/2015 (56.5%, OB, Guyana, Rare Collection, bourbon barrels)

El Dorado Enmore 1993/2015 (56.5%, OB, Guyana, Rare Collection, bourbon barrels) Three stars The problem is that DDL have been too optimistic with their prices, as it seems. I had thought these new OBs would sell like Mars bars in Scotland, but the hefty prices (a disease called scotchitus severis) seem to have discouraged most rum lovers, and the bottles remain available from just everywhere on this planet. After all, they’re afraid of nothing, them who just launched a $500,000 50 yo rum. Now that's Guyanan dollars, and that's a 50 yo look-alike - you know, nasty 'anniversary' bottlings that suggest a 'faked' age and all that, some Scots do it as well. Colour: deep gold. Nose: much gentler, easier, without the phenolic base, and with more ‘average’ rum aromas, such as tropical fruits, papayas, pineapples… It’s really lovely, and at times you’re thinking about rhum agricole from Martinique, but there’s also a little too much sweet oak, in the modern Scotch style. Let’s see… With water: wood spices, unsweetened tea, vanilla… Mouth (neat): a bourbon of rum, clearly. Or a light spirit in some very active American oak. Vanilla, maple syrup, orange liqueur, a touch of ginger liqueur… With water: once again we’re between rum and bourbon. It’s fine, and I do enjoy these notes of artisan maple syrup, it’s just that the Versailles kills it. Finish: medium, sweet, bourbony. Vanilla and pineapples. Comments: don’t get me wrong, it’s excellent rum, but the traditional Demeraraness (excuse me?) is a little absent. A strong light rum. SGP:541 - 81 points.

A last one please, and let’s make in another Enmore…

Enmore 32 yo 1971/2003 ‘XPD’ (61.8%, Cadenhead, Cask Strength, Guyana)

Enmore 32 yo 1971/2003 ‘XPD’ (61.8%, Cadenhead, Cask Strength, Guyana) Five stars We’re entering collectable territories now. So ex-wooden Coffey still again, in theory from the original distillery, as the still was only moved to Diamond in 1993. Partially aged in the UK, my dear. Colour: coffee. Nose: bang! Walnut stain, wood varnish, cedar wood, pencil shavings, and… Jamon Iberico. And oloroso, by the way, but I may be dreaming. Needs water. With water: mega funny. Twenty effervescent aspirin tablets in one glass, grandpa’s mouthwash (do you know Eau de Botot?), a carpenter’s workshop, Indian ink, gloss paint… And also beef stock,  beef jerky, Grisons meat… And more and more mint essence. Mouth (neat): a huge concoction, super-extractive, varnishy, mentholy, medicinal… But quite curiously, there’s some kind of balance to this. A miracle? With water: one of the greatest oak-driven spirits out there, and I wouldn’t claim there are many of them. Liquorice, varnish, walnut wine, cloves, caraway… And pastis, aniseed, absinth… And god knows what else. Finish: very long, as if you’d just eaten the wardrobe. Quite. Comments: a spirit you’ll remember forever. In fact, it was a monster. SGP:482 - 92 points.

You know, when you’ve had some rich dinner, and when you’ve had Sauternes, or Port with the cheese and desert, you sometimes feel like you’d need a glass of Champagne to clean everything up. That’s how we feel just now, so please, Champagne…

Diamond 10 yo 2005/2015 (46%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, 310 bottles)

Diamond 10 yo 2005/2015 (46%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, 310 bottles) Five stars This from El Dorado’s home distillery, but I’m sure it’ll be much less sugary/sweet than the house’s official offerings. And much less coloured. Colour: white wine (rather cabsauv than chard). Nose: which stills were used, I don’t know, but I find this very Versailles-y. Leaves, grasses, and tars, that’s what I get. And rubber tree, fresh almonds, new leatherette, those new sneakers, a little seawater, a je-ne-sais-quoi (if it’s well Versailles, better speak French) that screams ‘old medicine’, more rubber… Pretty a-commercial, which is great. Mouth: fantastic. Perfect balance between heavy tar and fresh tropical fruits, with some supreme elegance. No, really. Chlorophyll, mint, dried bananas, sugar cane, salted liquorice, earth (earthy rums are the best!), roots… I find this exceptional, more or less Springbank-alike. Finish: long, on the same flavours, plus a welcome citrusy signature that lifts it to the angels (come on). Comments: a surprise. I’ve now tried a few of Hunter Laing’s new rums, and I have to say I’m totally impressed. The strength is perfect (46%). Totally and plainly malternative rum, a Lagavulin of Guyana. Kind of. SGP:364 - 91 points.

What a session! Okay, a very last one…

Uitvlugt 17 yo 1998 (52%, Sansibar, Guyana, cask #45, 237 bottles)

Uitvlugt 17 yo 1998 (52%, Sansibar, Guyana, cask #45, 237 bottles) Three stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: a lighter style, less ‘heavy’ (no kiddin’), sweeter, and much more sugary, without being sugary, if that makes any sense. It’s rather what’s in the background that’s more interesting, such as moss, herbs, fern, lichen… But globally, it’s rather sugary, candy-like rum. With water: gets a little medicinal. Chalk and aspirin, plus mown lawn. Mouth (neat): good, sweet and citrusy, with a fairly thin body (after the Versailles and Diamond!) Candy sugar, orange sweets and drops, and once again these herbs that remind me of that Swiss specialty called Ricola. Pronounce Ricolllllllllllla (you may add ‘hoppla!’) With water: more on sugar cane, with a little lemon and orange. Finish: medium, easy, light. Comments: the lighter side of Demerara this time. Perhaps is it time to call this a tasting session. SGP:551 - 81 points.

(With thanks to Francesco, Luca, Cyril, and gang)

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



Block Today: JAZZ (dark!). Performer: Matthew Shipp. Track: Nebula Theory. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 3, 2016


Little duets, today Glenfiddich

Now that they’ve lost their #1 position to Glenlivet, I think we’ll start to try more Glenfiddich. I know, not very smart, is it.

Glenfiddich 18 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Glenfiddich 18 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015) Two stars and a half It got quite expensive in recent years, perhaps is that one of the reasons of the aforementioned event. Colour: gold. Nose: very light and shy, with distant whiffs of almonds, cake, and the usual overripe apples. Touches of raisins, oriental pastries (rosewater), a little toasted bread, rosehip tea… So it’s light indeed, but rather elegant and subtle. Mouth: light again, but I wouldn’t call it weak. Mars bar, orange juice, Ovaltine, croissants, chocolate… Sadly, the light strength makes it lose steam on your palate, which is frustrating. On the other hand, that may make you drink more (what a cunning plan, milord!) Finish: very short, toasty, with some biscuits and some chocolate. Comments: such a low strength, when your distillate is light in the first place, is really becoming a problem. A good, but thin 18 years old. SGP:331 - 79 points.

Let’s find more power…

Glenfiddich 'Highland Still Master's Crock' (101 proof, OB, stone flagon, 75cl, +/-1985)

Glenfiddich 'Highland Still Master's Crock' (101 proof, OB, stone flagon, 75cl, +/-1985) Three stars and a half Whisky lovers usually don’t care much for these decanters, since you just cannot be sure that the levels are OK (unless you always carry some small scales and know the usual weight of each decanter by heart). Unless you know how to interpret the ‘glug-glugs’ when you shake them. Colour: straw. Nose: it reminds me of the very good 15 yo cask strength from around ten years ago. Sharp lemon and apple juice, barley, gooseberries, rhubarb… I do enjoy this fruity and zesty freshness. With water: gets more mineral.

Mouth (neat): feels more like 50 than 57% vol., so that’s probably 101 US proof. There’s a gritty earthiness that’s not very Glenfiddich, and a bitterness as well, but that works, even if the whole’s pretty austere. Raw leaves and peels. Some lemon in the background, plus green, very tart cider apples. With water: very good now. Barley syrup, tinned peaches, fruit salad, honey… It swims well! Finish: medium, rather crisp and ‘fruit-salady’. Honeyed aftertaste, with a touch of earth – was that the flagon? Comments: goody good. Beats the new 18 hands down, and that’s not only because of the higher strength. SGP:551 - 83 points.

(And thanks Tom!)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Tom Harrell. Track: Blue 'N' Boogie. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 2, 2016


Little duets, today Glen Esk
vs. a mystery malt (and repeat)

A newish Glen Esk, that’s quite an event! The problem is that my Glen Esk pigeon hole in the sample library is desperately empty – and yes I’ve checked both Glenesk and Hillside – so we’ll have to find another sparring partner. We’ll see what we can put our hands on…

Glen Esk 30 yo 1984/2015 (51%, The Cooper's Choice, refill butt, cask #3884, 300 bottles)

Glen Esk 30 yo 1984/2015 (51%, The Cooper's Choice, refill butt, cask #3884, 300 bottles) Four stars and a half Glen Esk is becoming rarer by the minute (in the midst of the general indifference of most whisky lovers). Colour: straw. Nose: as grassy and full of oils as it gets. Fruit peels (apples, walnuts, almonds) and paraffin, linseed oil, cut grass… It’s really austere, but I’m sure it used to bring depth and body to just any old blend. Also some grapefruit and, perhaps ideas of traces of hints of roses. With water: chalk, clay, concrete, plaster… All great! Mouth (neat): but this is very good! It’s got the fatness of those old distilleries (don’t believe the good people who tell you that they closed these distilleries because they weren’t the best ones, they usually closed them because they weren’t the most efficient!) Grass, wax, lemon, chalk, citrons… It’s the purity that’s most impressive here, and one cannot not think of the best rieslings (Alsatian, of course). With water: it just loves water. Gets maltier, with softer citrusy tones. Mandarins, perhaps. Finish: medium, concise and precise, on lemon, grass, and wax. Comments: Glen Esk was largely used in VAT 69, but was only bottled as an OB for Italy if I remember well (still got a bottle). It was shut down in 1985, and I had to wait until 2016 to find my favourite expression ever. This very one. Yeah, I’ve only tasted a dozen anyway. SGP:361 - 88 points.

So, a proper sparring partner. Let’s have a look at a good whisky map, such as the Van den Heuvels’… What were Glen Esk’s neighbours? Okay, Lochside, Glencadam… Hey, yes, North Port! Let’s have an old North Port! I know, it’s even more obscure than Glen Esk… All the more reason to have one…

North Port Brechin 23 yo 1971/1995 (54.7%, OB, Rare Malts)

North Port Brechin 23 yo 1971/1995 (54.7%, OB, Rare Malts) Four stars One of the earliest bottlings in United Distillers’ sadly missed Rare Malts range. A pre-branding-gone-mad series that had more class than anything that’s been done since back then in the whisky world, if you ask me. Sob sob sob… Diageo, can we have them back? Colour: gold. Nose: well well well… It’s quite austere as well. There are hints of old forgotten things, such as new leatherette and Bakelite, plus whiffs of fresh paint, hay, cut green apples, and all things waxy. And ideas of a brand new supermarket plastic pouch, before those got verboten (on our shores, at least). Remember when we used to blow into them to open them? With water: a stereo set, circa 1975. Nosing a brand new amplifier. Mouth (neat): gentler and fruitier. What I get first is an anise-like profile, so aniseed but also fennel, dill, caraway… Then a very waxy fruitiness. Waxed apples, for example. I know, more supermarket stuff. And grass. With water: malty and citrusy, always with this waxy background. Lemon-scented candles and litres of green tea. Finish: quite long, on wax, lemon, and grass. Not that that came unexpected. Comments: a little difficult at times, let’s not get too sentimental. By the way, North Port (Brechin) closed for good in 1983 and was demolished in 1994. Ironically, there’s now a supermarket up there. I told you, plastic bags. SGP:461 - 85 points.

Hold on! Just when I was done with this little session, both a new Glen Esk and a new North Port came in! How serendipitous is that? Oh well, let’s have them, and make it a kind of double duet. Excuse me? Yes, a quartet, if you like…

Glen Esk 31 yo 1984/2016 (49.5%, The Cooper's Choice, for Limburg Whisky Fair, bourbon, cask #4677, 240 bottles)

Glen Esk 31 yo 1984/2016 (49.5%, The Cooper's Choice, for Limburg Whisky Fair, bourbon, cask #4677, 240 bottles) Four stars and a half Bourbon instead of refill butt this time. Colour: white wine (after 31 years!) Nose: this one noses almost like a Lowlander, and a beautiful one. It’s all ripe apples, freshly mown lawn, barley, and candle wax, then mashed potatoes and ‘visiting a working distillery’. Mash tun, porridge… Mouth: fab natural maltiness. Always a thrill. Barley, sweet apples, muesli, light honey, Weetabix, kougelhopf (Kugelhopf if you’re German) and drops of agave syrup. There’s an elegance and a complexity that only time can bring to whisky (who said I’m waffling on?) Hints of homemade limoncello add some vivacity. Finish: medium, clean, zesty and waxy. So, quite wonderful. Comments: blimey, I had thought I had found my favourite Glen Esk ever just a few days ago, and there’s already a new one! SGP:451 - 89 points.

North Port (Brechin) 38 yo 1977/2015 (48.4%, Cadenhead, single cask, bourbon hogshead, 174 bottles)

North Port (Brechin) 38 yo 1977/2015 (48.4%, Cadenhead, single cask, bourbon hogshead, 174 bottles) Five stars They had a 1977/2001 in the Authentic Collection that was a little, well, this and that. But this is a different cask and a difference age. Colour: straw. Nose: ripe orchard fruits in beeswax and acacia honey. That’s all and that’s a lot. Perhaps wet clothes, perhaps damp chalk, perhaps un-dried green tealeaves. Mouth: ah. It’s got the beauty of a late-period Picasso, that is to say a beauty not everybody would agree on. Say aspirin tablets, Vitamin-C tablets, cut grass, grapefruit juice, plasticine, paraffin, and green tea. It’s actually some kind of riesling but rather from Mosel than from Alsace, or even from Rheingau. They don’t hold a candle to the Alsatians, but… I’m joking, they make terrific rieslings too, up there. Long story short, I love this North Port. There. Excuse me, it’s North Port (Brechin). Finish: medium, with more lemon. Very zesty. Comments: not my favourite North Port ever (there, Cadenhead)… wait, that one was a Cadenhead too, it’s the stunning 64/79 black dumpy. Oh well, I’m throwing in the towel. SGP:551 - 91 points.

(with thanks to Angus)

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

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Art Ensemble of Chicago. Track: Zombie. Please visit their website and buy their music...

June 1, 2016


A quartet of Old Strathisla by G&M

G&M are undisputedly the kings of old Strathisla, while Chivas don't seem to be willing to 'push' the brand... sorry, the distillery too much these days. So, expect a majority of G&M bottlings... Oh well, let's do it 100% G&M.

Strathisla 40yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling, +/-2011)

Strathisla 40yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling, +/-2011) Four stars A non-vintage 40 years old bottled around 2000 was quite fantastic (WF 90). Not too sure if this is multi-vintage or not, to tell you the truth. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this starts well, very well. Superlative golden raisins and kougelhopf plus fudge and toffee (a whole pack) for a start, then a progressive shift towards pine needles, pinesap, menthol, cough syrup and assorted elements. It can happen that these kinds of developments in very old whisky become a little off-putting, but that's certainly not the case here, quite the opposite. Unless you just hate cough syrup! Mouth: sure the oak bites a bit, with a very gingery and peppery arrival plus something drying, around strong black tea... But when the liquorice kicks in, together with many burnt dried fruits (the kougelhopf had been forgotten in the oven), everything gets better. Heavy pinesap, though. Finish: long, bitter, with many old walnuts and more strong tea. Tannic aftertaste. Comments: the oak starts to feel on the palate, while the nose remained wonderful. Still a very excellent old Strathisla. SGP:471 - 86 points.


Strathisla 1970/2011 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling) Five stars Colour: mahogany. Nose: bigger and thicker than the 40, with more prunes, old armagnac, Christmas cake, peonies, tamarind jam, prune sauce, then rather caraway, cumin, cloves, citronella, spearmint, damp garden peat, touches of almond oil... All that works in perfect sync. Wonderful and ultra-classic, same level as the 40 so far. Which means that it's the palate that'll tell us more... Mouth: really huge, with less sappy oak, and many more fresh and dried fruits. Especially the oranges make it very elegant and vibrant. Toffee, raisins, heather honey, milk chocolate, then some dill, aniseed, and verbena... And some coffee. Perfect. Finish: long, rich, spicy, with a little more menthol this time. Muscovado sugar for sure. Comments: pretty amazing, with great balance and freshness given the age and the amount of oak and sherry. SGP:561 - 91 points.

Strathisla 1967/2015 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling)

Strathisla 1967/2015 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling) Five stars This baby's relatively new. Colour: dark amber, so paler than the 1970. Nose: a little more menthol again, which rather puts it in the 40 yo's ballpark, but there are also stunning whiffs of cedar wood, wild cigars (I mean fresh Cubans), earthy pu-ehr tea, a touch of bacon, Chinese fermented plum sauce, eucalyptus (a lot), camphor, Vick's, hessian, old cellar... All that. Fantastically profound. Mouth: a wee prickly side for a start (Schweppes) and that's the oak talking, but before two seconds, we're drinking a liquid fruitcake sprinkled with crème de menthe and fir tar liqueur. Extremely good, perfectly balanced, rich and yet elegant, totally old-school... A beauty! Finish: medium, fresh, with a little lemongrass and then more marmalade, Seville oranges... More mint again in the aftertaste. Comments: perfect sherry, perfect wood, perfect Strathisla. Remember G&M 'mature and bottle' these whiskies, as stated on the label, they don't just buy ready casks. This 1967 was just a notch lighter than the 1970. SGP:561 - 92 points.

A last one, an old young one...

Strathisla 15 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling, +/- 1970)

Strathisla 15 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling, +/- 1970) Five stars Yes we needed an antique bottle. This is 1950s distillation, and it's sheltered in G&M's famous slikscreened bottle. Colour: dark amber. Nose: different, rounder, and much more fudge-y. Cappuccino, mocha, Mars bar, caramel, Werther's Originals (or any butterscotch), praline, a large box of assorted chocolates by Lindt... With water: a U-turn! Metal polish, earth, bicycle inner tube, Barbour jacket, fresh concrete... Lots of fun. Mouth (neat): huge stuff, 'wider' than expected, with stunning oranges and drops of ginger ale and limoncello. I wasn't expecting this kind of tart zestiness. With water: amazing. Some kind of high-end caramel cake, plenty of milk chocolate, and truckloads of raisins, from muscat to classic sultanas. And the oranges are still there. Finish: long, perfect. Cointreau-filled chocolate and quite some toffee. Comments: just excellent. Bottles to buy at auctions if you ask me, they usually go for fair prices. SGP:551 - 90 points.

And quickly, a paler variant while we're at it...

Strathisla 15 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, +/- 1980)

Strathisla 15 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, +/- 1980) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: much less sherry in this one, and rather more phenolic, earthy notes. In truth I find it even more amazing. Linseed oil, graphite, hay, old leather, tobacco, a little smoked ham, drops of diesel oil... Juts superb. With water: pah-pah-pah... You'd think you're in the northern Highlands. That's right, just north of the charming little town of Brora. Wet chalk, plasticine, wet wool, engine oil... Typical old Strathisla, much more 'old Highlands' than 'modern Speyside'. Impressed. Mouth (neat): stunning mentholated, liqueury arrival, ridden with caraway, peppermint, verbena, liquorice, camphor... The freshness is flabbergasting. With water: totally superlative. Amazing mentholy profile, with an avalanche of herbs and tiny dried fruits. Finish: long, minty, liquoricy, herbal, perfect, just perfect. Comments: totally 'grand cru' quality. It's true that the 'darker' old bottlings of Strathislas are more famous, but please watch the lightly coloured ones. Stunning distillate and stunning work by G&M. SGP:462 - 93 points.


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


Whiskyfun fav of the month

May 2016

Favourite recent bottling:
Caol Ila 31 yo 1984/2015 (54%, Malt Barn, bourbon, 68 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Yamazaki ‘Age Unknown’ (43%, OB, 1989) - WF 94

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Clan Denny Islay (46.5%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2015) - WF 90

Favourite malternative:
Caroni 17 yo 1998/2015 ‘Extra Strong’ (55%, Velier, Trinidad) - WF 90



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: William Parker. Track: Buddha's Joy. Please visit his website and buy his music...

May 2016 - part 2 <--- June 2016 - part 1 ---> June 2016 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Blended Whisky No. 1 35 yo (46.5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, blend, batch 3, 1,428 bottles, 2016)

Clynelish 5 yo (43%, OB, Di Chiano, Italy, +/-1970)

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (55%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead)

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2015 (56.1%, Archives, bourbon hogshead, cask #6942, 80 bottles)

Clynelish 18 yo 1996/2015 (56.1%, The First Editions, Author’s Series, refill hogshead, cask #HL11170, 243 bottles)

Clynelish 17 yo 1997/2015 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, casks #4624-4625, 607 bottles)

Cragganmore 1969/1990 ‘Private Stock’ (43%, Ballindalloch Castle, 75cl)

Glenlochy 34 yo 1980/2015 (46.5%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #2822, 98 bottles)

Glenlochy 35 yo 1980/2015 (48.0%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #3231, 71 bottles)

Glenlochy 35 yo 1980/2015 (51.1%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #3232, 218 bottles)

North Port (Brechin) 38 yo 1977/2015 (48.4%, Cadenhead, single cask, bourbon hogshead, 174 bottles)

Speyside 43 yo 1973/2016 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, sherry butt, 324 bottles)

Strathisla 15 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling, +/- 1970)

Strathisla 15 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, +/- 1980)

Strathisla 1970/2011 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling)

Strathisla 1967/2015 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail Licensed Bottling)

Diamond 10 yo 2005/2015 (46%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, 310 bottles)

El Dorado Versailles 2002/2015 (63%, OB, Guyana, Rare Collection, bourbon barrels)

Enmore 32 yo 1971/2003 ‘XPD’ (61.8%, Cadenhead, Cask Strength, Guyana)