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Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2016 - Part 2



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


June 30, 2016


A little bag of Glenfarclas

There are many, we'll have a few totally at random today, for more fun. No verticale, no horizontale, no ascending strength, no nothing, just pure inspiration, with the help of WF's mousers. Plain and pure anarchy - so perhaps a little French indeed.

Glenfarclas 1991/2014 'Family Casks' (53.8%, OB, for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, sherry, cask #5691)

Glenfarclas 1991/2014 'Family Casks' (53.8%, OB, for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, sherry, cask #5691) Five stars Colour: office coffee. Nose: classic chocolaty and prune-y sherried Glenfarclas, with quite a lot of cloves and cinnamon from the oak in the background. Then pure roasted cocoa and pencil shavings, infused in walnut wine. Classic indeed, with an oak that was pretty active. With water: blind, you could think this is single-estate armagnac. Terrific dry earthy chocolate and even more prunes than before. Mouth (neat): absolutely excellent, big old-style sherry monster, full of chocolate and mint (thin mints), more prunes, crème de cassis, big black raisins, Christmas cake, plus once again these spices from the oak, around cloves and caraway. And coffee, and chocolate. With water: gets fresher, which is always great. Seville oranges, crystallised ginger, perhaps a little amaretto, some cinnamon and nutmeg from the oak... Truly excellent. Finish: long, rich, coating... Almost everlasting, in fact. Cinnamon and bitter oranges. Comments: this starts well. An old style that not many distilleries keep making, quite sadly. Too costly? No, of course not, I'm not looking at The Macallan. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Glenfarclas 2001/2014 ‘Family Casks’ (60.2%, OB for TSMC, cask #3922, 574 bottles)

Glenfarclas 2001/2014 ‘Family Casks’ (60.2%, OB for TSMC, cask #3922, 574 bottles) Four stars This one was for Taiwan, and scored high silver at the Malt Maniacs Awards that year. Colour: light coffee. Right, office coffee. Nose: this one's a little rounder, more fudge-y, with more cappuccino, Bailey's (I know, I know), butterscotch, chocolate cake (brownies), coffee... And once again I'm finding quite some pencil shavings. Less brandy-like, less armagnacqy. With water: wee touches of gunpowder and stewed Jerusalem artichokes. Hay, earth... Mouth (neat): it's one of these heavily sherried whiskies that feel a little bourbony because of the very active oak. Ginger, pepper, orange zests, even vanilla cake... But above all that, there are bags of raisins. With water: coffee-schnapps! Hoppla! Finish: quite long, with some Kahlua and some a feeling of Spanish brandy. From Jerez, no need to say. Spicier aftertaste. Comments: I thought the 1991 was a little more complex and a little more 'classic', but this 2001 is excellent too. SGP:561 - 86 points.

Glenfarclas 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-2014)

Glenfarclas 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-2014) Three stars Ah, this should be much lighter, let's be careful. I haven't formally tasted the popular 12 since almost ten years. Colour: gold. Nose: I find it very fresh and fragrant, full of oranges, but very, very lightly sherried. Some sweet bread, a little fennel, nosing Cointreau or other orange liqueurs... In truth I had forgotten that the 12 was not a sherry monster at all (unlike say genuine Macallans, or the newish Glendronachs). Mouth: sweet, round, extremely orangey, with a speculoos + ginger + white pepper combo in the background. I'm even finding touches of pineapples. Also liquorice allsorts, toasted bread... Finish: medium, with oranges, malt, and more liquorice allsorts. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: quite rich and easy at the same time. Does the job, for sure. SGP:541 - 82 points.

Glenfarclas 1986/2007 'Family Cask' (56.5%, OB, cask #3434, 521 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1986/2007 'Family Cask' (56.5%, OB, cask #3434, 521 bottles) Four stars and a half Oh, one of the early Family Casks! Colour: full gold. Nose: ah, cakes, croissants, Danish pastries, butterscotch, orange blossom, shortbread, baklavas, café latte... With water: superb fresh maltiness. Brioche topped with honey, bread leaven, fresh bretzels... This, I really enjoy. Mouth (neat): excellent. Peppery oranges, heather honey, treacle, more orange blossom water, maple syrup, tangerines... I'm finding this extremely good, fresh, yet rich... And I love this feeling of grassy raisins - which, in theory, doesn't exist, I agree. With water: it's funny and great that it would get this citrusy, fresh, 'nervous'... Finish: medium long, even more honeyed, orangey, fresh... Comments: it hasn't got the high impact and wow factor of the distillery's classic sherry monsters, but I do find it excellent. A fresher variation. SGP:641 - 88 points.

Please kittens, find some indies!...

Glenfarclas 17 yo (52.2%, Jack Wiebers, 17 Hippies, cask #9184, 90 bottles)

Glenfarclas 17 yo (52.2%, Jack Wiebers, 17 Hippies, cask #9184, 90 bottles, +/-2015) Five stars It's really unusual that some independent bottlers would disclose the name of this make... While we all know undisclosed indie GF simply abound. Colour: white wine (rather Chardonnay ;-)) Nose: do not tell me this is not Balvenie! It is totally Balvenie-ish, with acacia honey, apricots, ripe mirabelles, quince, vanilla... Very mysterious, to say the least. With water: perfect. Warm croissants around 6am, more mirabelles, even more mirabelles, and some quince jelly. Mouth (neat): no, serious, Balvenie. Peaches coated with honey sauce, custard aplenty, more ripe mirabelle (including mirabelle cake, mirabelle jam, mirabelle tarte, mirabelle sweets like they make in Lorraine, mirabelle eau-de-vie... In short anything mirabelle!)... May we have a chat with the fellow who did stencil this cask? With water: swims extremely well. Becomes citrusy, in the most splendid manner. Finish: medium, fresh, perfect, ultra-balanced. Mirabelles and apricots. Comments: early 197Os Balvenie. Brilliant whisky. Yeah I know you've got papers, invoices, and certificates, and even the barrel head, but this just cannot not be Balvenie. Not very Glenfarclas to say the least. SGP:641 - 90 points.

UPDATE: oh my, I did not properly read the label, it was actually a Glentauchers! I decided to leave it like that rather than scrap this note, for more ‘truthness’ as French politician Segolène R. would say. But indeed, my bad, it was Glentauchers 17 yo (52.2%, Jack Wiebers, 17 Hippies, cask #9184, 90 bottles, +/-2015).

Perhaps a last one for the digital road... And let's make it prestigious!

Glenfarclas 26 yo 1970/1997 (56.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.77)

Glenfarclas 26 yo 1970/1997 (56.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.77) Five stars Yes, #1 at the SMWS is Glenfarclas, everybody should know that (calm down, S.) Colour: deep amber. Nose: nosing a new box of Cuban cigars (say a cabinet of 8-9-8), some old high-class Sauternes, some rosewater, perhaps some late-harvest gewurz, the most wonderful sultanas, and - always perhaps - some genuine Tokaji Eszencia. No rubbish for tourists! With water: totally amazing honeyed and 'quince-y' notes. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade - long time no see! Mouth (neat): sweet Karl Marx! (what?) Exceptional wood, and all dried fruits of the Creation. Litchis, pears, bananas, dates, apricots, raisins, figs... It is amazing whisky. Also love the toasted brioche in it. With water: utterly splendid, a work of art. I got very beehive-y, with pollen beeswax, honey, royal jelly... no, not royal jelly. Finish: long, very raisiny, perhaps just a tad too tannic towards the aftertaste. Loses one fat point, there! Comments: thank you Mister Angus, #1 indeed. I was going to go for 94, but it's going to be only... SGP:652 - 93 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Pepper Adams. Track: Urban Dreams. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 29, 2016


Some funky Irish

… As a tribute to the Irish football team and to their supporters who managed to make everyone in France just love them. I’m almost sorry the French team defeated them – no small feat – they are truly great people. Very well done, Ireland!

The Pogues Whiskey (40%, OB, blended Irish, +/-2015)

The Pogues Whiskey (40%, OB, blended Irish, +/-2015) Three stars Never quite been a fan of the band, but the idea of an own whiskey was quite a brainwave. Isn’t it more coherent than doing this with a footballer that doesn’t quite drink? Apparently, this is made by West Cork Distillers in Skibbereen. Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh funny indeed! It’s not the typical sweet and lightish Irish blend, I rather find it sooty and even smoky at first, before more traditional notes of iron (old tin box) and overripe apples take control. Mouth: yeah, really, it’s a fine blend, rather fat and well textured, with a kind of hoppy side and more of that sooty, slightly acrid thing. Wondering if there isn’t some peated Cooley inside. Would that be impossible?… Finish: quite long, smoky and metallic, even a little earthy. Perhaps gooseberries in the background. Comments: I have to say this is a very good surprise. I had feared it would be some kind of stunt, but no… SGP:454 - 82 points.

Speaking of West Cork…

West Cork Original (40%, OB, blended Irish, +/-2016)

West Cork Original (40%, OB, blended Irish, +/-2016) Two stars Only 25% malt whiskey in this blend, apparently. Not too sure whether it’s sourced whiskey or not, but with a name like that, we might expect some pure pot still character, let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: totally lighter than the Pogue’s, less deep, with a slightly buttery start and a development on apple peelings, overripe apples, barley, and a wee ethanoly side. Are we entitled to use the word ‘wee’ when assessing Irish whisky? Mouth: it’s fine indeed, but a little unpolished and, indeed, spirity. Pear eau-de-vie and kirsch, a little vanilla, a metallic touch, and something Jamesonian. We’re talking entry-level Jameson. Finish: a little short and simple. Comments: not too sure about this one. Not bad at all, but not very inspiring. Might be me. SGP:331 - 71 points.

The Dublin Liberties ‘Oak Devil’ (46%, OB, blended Irish, +/-2016)

The Dublin Liberties ‘Oak Devil’ (46%, OB, blended Irish, +/-2016) Two stars With the current boom of Irish whiskey, no wonder we’re seeing more and more new ‘brands’ from here and from there. Colour: gold. Nose: fatter again, rounder, sweeter, with more custard and fruit salad. Pears, bananas, perhaps whiffs of sea spray, then papayas and guavas that remind me of Redbreast and assorted Midletonian outputs. Very nice mildly fruity nose. Mouth: good punch, but it’s a little rawer and rougher again, a little spirity, with williams pears and plum eaux-de-vies. I had high hopes after the nose, but I’m finding the palate a little uninspired (and uninspiring). Perhaps too young. Finish: medium, spirity, even a little varnishy. Comments: rather frustrating – especially when someone’s talking about liberties. Their football team is much better. SGP:441 - 73 points.

Please, the artillery!

Irish Single Malt 1991/2015 (48.5%, Whisky-Doris, Nose Art, bourbon barrel, cask #8533, 161 bottles)

Irish Single Malt 1991/2015 (48.5%, Whisky-Doris, Nose Art, bourbon barrel, cask #8533, 161 bottles) Four stars and a half Also!... (that was German). Colour: gold. Nose: now we’re talking. It’s one of these ultra-fruity Irish that would make a 1976 Benriach nose like if it was Absolut (pushing things a bit now, ha-ha). Pure mango and papaya juice, both fresh and canned. It’s not that it’s complex, but it’s so totally spectacular! Mouth: exceptional creamy, fruity, camphory, eucalyptussy, mentholy, and even ‘greatly dusty’ (I know what I’m trying to say), with an unexpected meaty side. Dried beef, perhaps (Grisons meat), or bresaola? Really strange, but greatly strange. Finish: medium to long, herbal in a great manner, with some rosehip tea that you would have over-boiled. Or something like that. Too much oak, but that’s not too much here. Again, I know what I’m trying to say. Comments: very funny, very good, very unusual. Exactly what you need when you’re trying a lot of whiskies and are sometimes a little blasé, as Archie Shepp would say. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Irish Single Malt 1991/2016 (49.5%, The Whisky Agency, Perfect Dram, bourbon barrel, 152 bottles)

Irish Single Malt 1991/2016 (49.5%, The Whisky Agency, Perfect Dram, bourbon barrel, 152 bottles) Four stars and a half Perhaps am I a little late to the party – again. Colour: light gold. Nose: same ballpark, obviously. Same herbal teas and tropical fruits, mangos, bananas, papayas… Honeysuckle, these small white pineapples they have in Cuba… And a little barley sugar. Mouth: very  close to the Doris, perhaps a little fruitier and ‘simpler’ – not in a bad way – and more citrusy. Once again it’s a tropical extravaganza, some kind of readymade oak-aged cocktail, with a woody structure that kind of whispers ‘do not keep me any longer in oak, please, do not… Indeed, the oak starts to feel (green tobacco and tea) but ‘we’re all right’. Finish: long, and frankly oaky. The good news is that it’s fine oak, with quite a lot of green pepper. Comments: which one did I like best? Like I sometimes say, ‘both’. But yeah, the oak starts to feel… (or it would have been 90 guaranteed). SGP:561 - 89 points.

Once again, thank you Ireland for a great show in France!

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Didier Lockwood. Track: The Kid. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 28, 2016


More Bowmore vertically

Once again, some Bowmores as they come. It's not that I have decided to de-structure our little sessions, but sometimes, you need more freedom and less, well, less rigidity. Even if technically speaking, it's not always a good idea not to follow the vintages, or the ages, or the strengths... But as long as we manage to avoid the terrible 1980s, I'm sure we'll be fine... No, wait, we might do a verticale instead, let's see...

Bowmore 2003 (52.4%, Jack Wiebers, Wanted, PInki + Brain, 293 bottles, +/-2015)

Bowmore 2003 (52.4%, Jack Wiebers, Wanted, PInki + Brain, 293 bottles, +/-2015) Four stars and a half A funny series that pillories a few 'excessive' whisky people. Including your truly, a few years ago. As I said, fun. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: starts with a lot of custard and plain vanilla, which is surprising (and very 'OB'). And a lorryload of butterscotch. The colour did not make me expect this! But what's behind is most pleasant, with this light smoky brininess, all this kelp, these oysters... Oysters in custard? Strange idea, but I'm sure some media-friendly chef has already tried it. With water: seawater, hessian, olive brine. A little one-dimensional, but simplicity can be perfect. Mouth (neat): perfect, honest. Makes me think of the official Tempest. Pure sweet lemony peat, very simple, but very perfect. Chiselled, as I sometimes say. With water: indeed. Excellent, crystalline, lemony and salty smokiness. Finish: quite long, with much unexpected notes of Tequila joven. Serious! Comments: elementary young Bowmore. Nothing to be thrown away. Loved the Tequila in the aftertaste. SGP:457 - 88 points.

Bowmore 1996/2015 'Coastal Confection' (54.7%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 269 bottles)

Bowmore 1996/2015 'Coastal Confection' (54.7%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 269 bottles) Five starsLet's be careful, these wee bottles - often excellent - are usually released at 46% vol., but this baby's at cask strength. Tricky tricky! Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh butter, flints, lemon syrup, brine, seawater, damp hessian, beach sand on Islay after the rain - right, beach sand on Islay - and wet old tweed jacket. This would deserve a whole page in Country Life. With water: oh smoked porridge and seaweed! Raw wool! Mouth (neat): how very excellent! Some crystalline lemony peat, pure, amazingly refreshing... Should we talk wine again, I'd say one of the best dry Jurançons. I totally love this style (while wondering why the owners don't quite have them - too busy with wood, perhaps?) With water: gets dry and more austere, which I find fantastic. But lemon always, brine always, and kippers always. Not the kippers of the quaich, though. Finish: pretty long, ultra-lemony, and salty. Around capers, gherkins, and olives. Comments: great vintages, great Bowmores. Very stylish. SGP:466 - 90 points.

Bowmore 15 yo 2001/2016 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 264 bottles)

Bowmore 15 yo 2001/2016 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 264 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: once again, I'm noticing that recent Bowmores have found their tropical fruits again. Not quite the 1960s yet, but we're getting there (as long as they don't bury the magnificent distillate under tons of vulgar oak). Long story short, superb briny, smoky, mango-ed and maracuja-ed nose. With water: a walk on the beach, in the northern hemisphere. Wild oysters in the pockets. Mouth (neat): amazing, first class, Botticelli-esque distillate. Love its austerity - not quite Kirkegaard, but we're getting there. With water: perfection made whisky. Lemon juice, sorrel, smoked salmon, grapefruits, ashes, soot... Finish: quite long, much ashier, a little drying. Unsweetened over-infused lapsang souchong. Or something like that. Comments: careful with water. Otherwise, just great. SGP:466 - 90 points.

All right, it's good to mention the older distillates, but it's even better to taste them...

Bowmore 1976/1985 (64.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, sherry, #3.4)

Bowmore 1976/1985 (64.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, sherry, #3.4) Five stars Yup, the honourable SMWS's fourth Bowmore. Colour: full gold. Nose: ah. It's unusual. I'm finding old iron (pans), some lovage (that's the dry sherry), plenty of earth, mosses, fresh peat, concrete, antiseptic, lemon juice concentrate, chalk, bandages... Isn't it amazing that it wouldn't be totally closed at this super-high strength? With water: a walk in a northern forest. Pine needles, mushrooms, lichen, fern, embrocations, band-aid... Mouth (neat): stunning. Camphory and walnutty seawater, plus black pepper. With water: superlative salty and smoky sharpness. Green walnuts (fino?), salt, kippers, rocket salad, a touch of mustard, whelks, razor clams... How coastal is this? Finish: endless, ultra-salty and coastal, more medicinal than the most medicinal 'phroaig, and stupendously gherkiny. Didn't we just invent yet another word? The aftertaste is more herbal, dry, bitter... Comments: amazingly sharp and concise. Totally high-class, while not all mid-to-late 1970s Bowmores were great. SGP:367 - 93 points.

A last one, perhaps. An older vintage, and a very old age...

Bowmore 41 yo 1974/2016 (50.4%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #9007, 108 bottles)

Bowmore 41 yo 1974/2016 (50.4%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #9007, 108 bottles) Four stars A new 40yo+ Bowmore, how rare is that? Granted, 1974 isn't 1966, but... let's see...  Colour: gold. Nose: this is so elegant, shy, whispering, delicate... Some crème au beurre, peach wine, ripe papayas... Actually, it's all papayas and papayas. Perhaps rather tinned papayas? Plus fruit peelings, a delicate white small-grain muscat, more white peaches... With water: green tannins, teas, hay, herbs, lemongrass... That's the oak, in fact, but it works. Mouth (neat): sure it hasn't got the vibrancy of some younger mid-1970s Bowmores, and indeed it got a little drying (artisan cider), but it's still alive. Especially love its herbal side, between plain grass and, perhaps, asparagus. With water: swims well. Spearmint and medicinal herbs. Green grapefruits, tiger balm (rather a feeling thereof)...  Finish: medium, mid-grassy, half-fruity. Kiwi peel, perhaps. Not a lot of peat smoke left, but we weren't expecting a peat monster, were we? Comments: History in a bottle. Not sure this distillate was made to stand many years in wood, but the end result is still very enjoyable. Shy, yet enjoyable. SGP:454 - 86 points.

(And thank you Angus!)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Rosario Giuliani. Track: London by night. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 27, 2016


A jazzy Lagavulin trio

I’m sure you’ve heard that Lagavulin Distillery is 200 this year. In my book, Lagavulin is a true grand cru, while many others are trying to act like if they were grands crus, when they are actually just marketers (Diageo, hope the cheque is in the mail!) Anyway, there’s a new 25 years old, which we shall try today, that already made quite some ink flow because of its hefty price. £800 a bottle. That’s a little steep, even if that has become rather less after Little Britain’s Brexit. But we don’t taste price tags, do we, we taste whiskies, and as they say, politics and whisky only go together after a few drams, so… First, the sparring partners!

Lagavulin ‘Jazz Festival 2015’ (55.4%, OB, 2015)

Lagavulin ‘Jazz Festival 2015’ (55.4%, OB, 2015) Five stars No vintage or age that I can spot this time, jazz is timeless. Matured in both American and European ‘bodega’ oak casks. Bodega doesn’t obligatorily mean ‘Spanish’, in case you’re wondering. They have bagpipes in Spain, why couldn’t they have bodegas in Scotland? Colour: white wine, which comes as a surprise. Nose: it is a very bright, clean, punchy young Lagavulin, rather in the style of the popular 12yo CS. Seawater, lime, lemon, hessian, cigar smoke, seaweed, oysters, whelks, razor clams, cockles, mussels, langoustines… I’m joking! With water: damp raw wool and Islay mud. Mouth (neat): exceptionally clean, crisp, lemony and smoky malt, one hundred percent spirit-driven as far as I can tell, pristine, salty, kippery… So, a blade. As often, it’s just a notch sweeter and fatter than its colleagues from the south shore, and we aren’t against that. With water: salt up, tar up, fish down. A little more austere now. Finish: long, with a perfect tarriness, and no sweetness whatsoever this time. Comments: there was more sherry in earlier ‘Jazz’ Lagavulins. Now, I’m a sucker for both styles. SGP:458 - 91 points.

Lagavulin 18 yo (49.5%, OB, Bicentenary Edition, Feis Ile 2016, 6000 bottles)

Lagavulin 18 yo (49.5%, OB, Bicentenary Edition, Feis Ile 2016, 6000 bottles) Five stars Matured in refill hogsheads and European oak bodega sherry butts. Our friend Angus already tried it for WF while on the island, now it is our turn. I shall not re-read Angus’ tasting note, to avoid any form of influence. Colour: gold. Nose: aww… Verbena? Yellow chartreuse? Citron liqueur? It’s very complex, much less ‘in your face’ than other newish bottlings, with a wine quality to it, Montrachet style. Limestone, flints, new fabric, carbon paper (not sure that rings a bell to the younger part of our distinguished audience), barnyard, smoked salmon, homemade custard… Then rather whelks-and-brown-bread-and-butter, this raw wool that I’m often finding in Lagavulin… And some fresh mint! I’m surprised. Positively surprised. Mouth: oh get out of here! Brilliant citrusy, mentholated, smoky, and coastal style, with something that reminds me of a very old Lagavulin NAS spring cap that we opened around ten years ago in Belgium. Gets then more peppery, grassy, gritty, and wild. Finish: extremely long, peppery and smoky, the beauty turned into a beast. A lot of green tea and lime in the aftertaste. And more green pepper in the after-aftertaste! Comments: brilliant. For the new 25, it’s going to be very hard, but as Corneille said, “À vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire.” Right, “To win without risk is to triumph without glory” … SGP:467 - 92 points.

Lagavulin 25 yo (55%, OB, Bicentenary, 8000 bottles, 2016)Lagavulin 25 yo (55%, OB, Bicentenary, 8000 bottles, 2016)

Lagavulin 25 yo (natural cask strength, OB, Bicentenary, 8000 bottles, 2016) Five stars Strength to be confirmed. Diageo’s motto is ‘Celebrating life, every day, everywhere’ and that comes at a price. But what’s the price of life? (so, Diageo, where’s that cheque?) Colour: deep gold. Nose: bang. In the style of the first 21 yo, just a little brighter, and a little less fat and sherried. First the greatest pu-erh tea (best wild tree on the best mountain, guarded by soldiers and all that) plus cigar ashes and smoke, then all things found in an old abandoned cellar (rusty pieces of iron, plaster, dust, saltpetre, soot…), then ‘a walk on a beach’ (with a wet dog, I’m sorry, dogs), then several smaller aromas, from beef jerky to cured ham, via crystallised oranges and just ‘brand new leather jacket straight from Pakistan’. Right, or Ventimiglia. And a barbecue. With water: goes towards precious woods, humidor, old Jag, fireplace, Barbour grease, porridge-and-mind, bandages… Mouth (neat): I totally hate it that it would be so good. Feels a little younger than 25, though (perhaps 18 or 20?), but the fat brightness, or the zesty richness are impressive. It’s really great that it would walk on this thin line, just when you think it’s fattish it starts to become lemony, and when you think it’s sharp and angular it starts to shoot fat tarry oranges. And tobacco and leather. Bugger! With water: happy memories of the very first 16 yo, the first Classic Malt. A brainwave. Moroccan mint tea, cider vinegar, ashes, peppermint… It’s hard to detect what comes from the wood(s), but I especially love these notes of bitter oranges mixed with coriander and cardamom. Wood or spirit? Both? Finish: long, and unexpectedly grassy. Very grassy, and leathery, and leafy. The signature is pretty ‘austere’, but the lemon in the aftertaste just lifts it again. Comments: the Feis or this? This or the Feis? Shall we start to use half or quarter points? (Note to self, yeah, do that, how smart would that be!) Oh well, it’s going to be a tie. A Connors vs. McEnroe situation, really. SGP:567 - 92 points.

So, next, a very old (like 35) Lagavulin Bicentenary, totally ex-refill wood, no re-racking involved, and no ‘bodega’ stuff either. 95+, guaranteed. Only a dream? But don’t we detect some kind of pattern? 8 yo – 18 yo – 25 yo…

(With big thanks to Pieter)

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Gege Telesforo. Track: Schipani's refrigerator (with deep and funny lyrics and musical quotes!) Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 26, 2016


More rums, still looking for malternatives

It’s often that while I’m aiming for a freewheeling, totally randomised session, I fail miserably and actually taste similar boozes, one spirit leading to a similar spirit. Maybe am I too French, too Cartesian. But this time, I’ll resist my Frenchness and try to act like an unpredictable English citizen…  By jove!

La Bourdonnais 5 yo (43%, Bristol Spirits, Mauritius, rhum agricole, 2015)

La Bourdonnais 5 yo (43%, Bristol Spirits, Mauritius, rhum agricole, 2015) Two stars and a half French style rhum agricole from l’Île Maurice. The distillery’s also called ‘Rhumerie des Mascareignes’. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a rather warm and hot rum, with lovely liquorice and, perhaps kirsch. Notes of prunes, toasted pastries, French toast, kugelhopf… Mouth: rather sweet, but with a grassy background, quite hot again. A little harsh. Same feeling of kirsch and leather, orange zests, even marc de Bourgogne… This rustic rawness is rather pleasant. Finish: medium, with a touch more muscovado sugar, caraway, and ginger. Cinnamon mints. Comments: other rums from Mauritius I could try have been much sweeter and rounder. This, in a way, is more ‘honest’. SGP:461 - 77 points.

Nicaragua 1999/2014 (45%, Samaroli, casks #1, 19, 23, 440 bottles, +/-2015)

Nicaragua 1999/2014 (45%, Samaroli, casks #1, 19, 23, 440 bottles, +/-2015) Two stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh but a little ethanoly. Leaves, grass, a little nail polish… I don’t think there’s much happening, this is most probably high-column (or multiple-column) rum. Yeah, ala Flor de Cana. Mouth: same feeling. Eaux de vie, apple juice, grass, leaves, leather… And that’s pretty all. Finish: rather short, but this time I’m finding oranges and lemons, which is better. Comments: some pretty simple rum, we’ve tasted many much better rums (and whiskies) by the very distinguished Samaroli. SGP:341 - 70 points.

Virgin Gorda (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Virgin Gorda (40%, OB, blend, +/-2015) Three stars The name refers to the Virgin islands, but it’s actually a blend of rums from Trinidad, Barbados, and Jamaica. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s not that it’s huge, but the Jamaican part does power it up. I really like this blend of orange juice with a rather cane-y, petroly Jamaicanness. A zesty blend, appropriately light but not characterless. Mouth: a little less entrancing this time, and the 40% vol. are not quite enough, but it’s fresh, nicely zesty, with a mentholated grassiness that just works well. Finish: short to medium, fresh, zesty, cane-y.  Comments: very well composed by ‘The Poshmakers’. You just cannot make that up, that’s their name. London, baby.  SGP:452 - 80 points.

Santa Teresa ‘Claro’ (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2015)

Santa Teresa ‘Claro’ (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2015) Two stars Hope it’s not claro que no. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: funny! Geraniums, lovage (or Maggi), smoked ham and fish, grass, fermenting hay, crushed sugar cane, grenadine, Fanta… I had feared this would be boneless, but not at all. Mouth: let’s not dream, what was in the nose is nowhere to be seen on the palate. Grassy, vegetal, a little spirity, sugary and ethanoly… Now there are also pleasant notes of juniper and lemon, but those remain in the background. Finish: short, spirity, a little uncertain. Comments: probably for cocktails only, but the nose had something, for sure. SGP:331 - 73 points.

Epris 16 yo 1999/2016 (42%, Compagnie des Indes, Brazil, cask #BR48, 252 bottles)

Epris 16 yo 1999/2016 (42%, Compagnie des Indes, Brazil, cask #BR48, 252 bottles) Three stars and a half Epris is a very large distillery that makes rum for Bacardi. It’s column rum, not cachaça! (BTW, some cachaças soon on WF). But let’s not jump to conclusions… Colour: pale gold. Nose: fun fun fun! I’ve never found this much aniseed, fennel, dill, wormwood, or any other ‘pastissy’ aromas in any rum. Add lime and coriander, and you’ve got something really unique. Mouth: really unusual. Some kind of earthy aniseed plus lime combination, very fresh and clean, then more peaches and melons, while the sugar canes keep it, well, rum-my. Finish: quite long, on pretty much the same flavours, plus, maybe, some white cherries. Or maraschino. A funny tequilaness in the aftertaste. Comments: very funny indeed, and good. What’s more, it takes ice like a champ. Really worth trying. SGP:451 - 83 points.

Guatemalan Rum 8 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Green Label, +/-2016)

Guatemalan Rum 8 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Green Label, +/-2016) Two stars A new batch. Perhaps an un-fiddled-with Zacapa? Or a Botran? Colour: gold. Nose: it’ typically South-American, so ultra-sweet and rounded, but it’s not stuffy, although it is very molassy. Raisins, maple syrup, honey, cane syrup, all that… But it’s balanced! Mouth: I find this quite good! Oranges, honey, and cane syrup are leading the pack, while tangerines and sugar syrup (wee Easter eggs, if you like) are playing second fiddles. Not much body, though, but ‘it goes down well’. Finish: short and sugary, but the sweet oranges save it. Comments: I think this is the best you can do with the very humble Guatemalan molasses-based thin rums. SGP:530 - 75 points.

Cadenhead may deserve another chance…

South Pacific Distillery 12 yo 2003/2015 (60.7%, Cadenhead, Fiji, 2015)

South Pacific Distillery 12 yo 2003/2015 (60.7%, Cadenhead, Fiji, 2015) Four stars and a half Pot still rum from Fiji! Sounds unlikely, but all for the better… Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh, it reminds me an ‘Indonesian’ rum by Compagnie des Indes. Super-phenolic, tarry, dundery (read Jamaican) style, smoky, ‘tooly’, lapsang-souchongy (that’ll do, S.), metallic rum. I think I like this mucho. With water: we’re going toward these two newish Thai rums, Chalong and Issan. No bad news. Perfect zesty and smoky, both light and deep style. Mouth (neat): exceptional. Fiji? Those fine people aren’t only good at rugby, it seems. Superb liquorice and tar and orange combo, both bright and deep, fresh and fat. With water: and it swims well. Oily, on smoked oranges and tarry tangerines. Finish: perhaps a notch less impressive, but long and limy. Tends to lose focus, with an odd grassiness, but we just don’t care. Comments: very impressed. Fiji, you say? SGP:463 - 88 points.

We found a winner, session over.

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



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June 24, 2016


A few Glen Moray

The independents have more Glen Moray these days, which makes the whisky aficionados talk more about that overlooked distillery. All power to them! I mean, to the indies!

Glen Moray 27 yo 1988/2015 (46.5%, Acla da Fans and The Whisky Agency, hogshead)

Glen Moray 27 yo 1988/2015 (46.5%, Acla da Fans and The Whisky Agency, hogshead) Three stars and a half A Swiss-German bottling, unless that's the other way 'round. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a clean, relatively harmless nose that involves soft oils (sunflower) and white fruits (apples, pears), as well as a touch of lemon and then barley water and plain green malt. All that works well, it's just a tad 'neutral'. Neutral, but flawless. Perhaps something slightly sour/acetic? Perhaps not. Mouth: same feeling. Excellently neutral, or neutrally excellent. Not writing that because the bottler is Swiss, not at all! (I'm dead serious!) Lemon cake, Japanese pastries (tea cake), a little green apple, some raw barley. Feels younger than 27, but indeed it's good. I mean, I find it good. Finish: medium, a tad more citrusy, as often. Macha tea and lemon juice, a little candy sugar. Comments: yeah, it's really very good, it reminds me of the OBs. It's just a little... neutral (and he insists!) SGP:451 - 84 points.

Glen Moray 25 yo 1990/2015 (57%, Chapter 7, bourbon hogshead, cask #5241, 218 bottles)

Glen Moray 25 yo 1990/2015 (57%, Chapter 7, bourbon hogshead, cask #5241, 218 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: same territories, but this is even rounder. White chocolate, Weetabix, sweet chenin blanc, apples, peaches, barley. There. With water: same, with just the obligatory wee earthiness that comes out once water's been added. Mouth (neat): creamy, really very easy, and certainly very good. This would 'fill' an old prestige blend to perfection. Apple pie, acacia honey, roasted nuts, vanilla and coconut cake... And no flaws whatsoever. I'd call this style 'central', if not 'neutral'. With water: plenty of sweet malty goodness. In a way, it's malt whisky that hasn't got anything, and yet it's totally 'full'. Ach, not sure all that's understandable. Yeah, central, perhaps. Finish: medium, cake-y, sweet, easy. A fruit salad with some cake and a glass of Vouvray moelleux. Comments: shall we call this a perfect 4 o'clock malt? SGP:551 - 86 points.

Speaking of sweet Vouvray...

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 23 yo 1992/2016 (52%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Sauternes, 2016)

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 23 yo 1992/2016 (52%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Sauternes, 2016) Four stars Sorry no picture yet. Another brand new Cadenhead, this time ex-Sauternes. Probably a few years. I have to say that while I'm not into red wine finishings (not kiddin'), Sauternes usually works quite well. Better than Tokaji if you ask me, and I'll always remember one of the first ones, the Glenmorangie 1981 Sauternes Finish from 2002. Yeah, Nectar D'Or isn't too bad either. Oh and of course, Pride 1981, that one's excellent. It seems that for a Sauternes finishing to work, a fairly neutral malt whisky works best. Because Laphroaig + Sauternes, for example, aarrrgh... But back to this Glen Moray... Colour: gold. Nose: superb. Ripe apricots, honey, and touches of parsley. Hate to enjoy a wine finishing so much. Quick... With water: I'd swear I'm finding a little botrytis. More honey and roasted pecans for sure. Mouth (neat): there is a little cardboard, and perhaps even sop in the background, which may come from the wood - it cannot be the gentle Glen Moray. But other than that, all is more than fine. Apricot pie covered with honey and maple syrup. Two sultanas. With water: halt, stop, vorsicht, it doesn't like water! On the palate, at least. In a way, that's just like Sauternes. Gets too leafy. Finish: long, spicier. Perhaps French oak if it's a genuine Sauternes cask  - and it most probably was. Comments: super good, as long as you don't start to fiddle with water. But at 52% vol. water is not mandatory anyway. SGP:651 - 87 points.

And now, drum roll...

Glen Moray 'Peated Spirit' (60.6%, OB, batch 1, 20cl, +/-2016)

Glen Moray 'Peated Spirit' (60.6%, OB, batch 1, 20cl, +/-2016) Not quite whisky yet. It's true that since the peated Islayer were doing so well, many distilleries from the mainland have started producing their own peaters, more or less like a few had already done in the early 1970s (Tobermory/Ledaig, Springbank/Longrow, Clynelish/Brora although that's not quite the same distillery) and later on (Jura, AnCnoc, Benriach, Bunnahabhain, Bruichladdich...) No we're not talking about the lazy ones who'd just re-rack their regular make into ex-peater casks, like G. and M. have done. But enough ramblings, let's try this baby-baby... Colour: gold (very active wood, it seems). Nose: indeed, it's some kind of un-coastal peater, with some soot, some ashes, some olives and some lemon. We are in peated Benriach territories, more or less. There's a sweetness (tinned pears). With water: nice fresh young almondy smoke. Fruit stones. Mouth (neat): marzipan, glue, pear juice. And 60% vol. With water: rather on the sweet side, as often with quasi-new make. Sweetened apple juice and smoked, well, stuff. Fruits? Finish: medium, fruity and smoky. Maraschino. Comments: not one that's trying to mimic the big Islays. But are the Scots the only ones to sell their experiments? Shouldn't these trials be given for free to loyal customers? SGP:627 - (unnecessary) points.

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



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June 23, 2016



Glenkinchie’s one the two main remaining Lowlanders. While Auchentoshan’s usually more on fruits (and now ridden with vanilla or wine, quite often), Glenkinchie’s rather more barleyish. There are others, newer distilleries, but the prices are a bit heavy at this point, so, pass… They’re not needed, are they? As for Bladnoch, not too sure about what’s happening in Wigtown these days.

Glenkinchie 12 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2015)

Glenkinchie 12 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2015) Three stars One that drinks well, and that shouldn’t make us scratch our heads. Colour: pale gold. Nose: good barley juice with overripe apples and wee touches of patchouli and pot-pourri. Some malted barley, cornflakes, fruity loops, and a good tarte tatin. Mouth: starts malty and fruity (ripe apples, oranges), with good citrusness (not too sure about that word). I finding rather fruitier than earlier batches, but I may be wrong. A little more mineral as well, thus rather more complex. Finish: not short! Golden barley, more cornflakes, and a little orange. Comments: more than just an ueber-blend, as it used to be, while it still was a tenner. I’m positively surprised. SGP:451 - 81 points.

The older ten? Let’s check that one…

Glenkinchie 10 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2005)

Glenkinchie 10 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2005) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed, it’s rougher, more spirity, more ‘simply fruity’, with more cut apples and pears, as well as hints of varnish. It reminds me more of some soulless young grain whisky, although it’s better than that. Oh well… Mouth: no, it’s quite good, the fruits are brighter, and the vanilla-ed and brioche-y side is rather lower. It’s actually fresher, more youthful and easy, but also a little less complex. In short, rather thinner. Finish: short, a little lemony and cidery. Lemon sweets and green tea. Comments: it was a good dram, well in the spirit of the Lowlands. But then again, it’s neither Lagavulin nor Talisker. SGP:441 - 79 points.

A shame that there aren’t any IBs. Unless, in Campbeltown-where-there’s-more-sun-in-the-souls-than-in-the-sky…

Glenkinchie 28 yo 1987/2016 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles)

Glenkinchie 28 yo 1987/2016 (53.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles) Four stars Independent Glenkinchies have become as rare as something sensible said by Donald T. or Boris J., kings of hairstyle. Yeah it’s that bad. Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah, this is very Lowland. Varnish, nail polish, rubbed eucalyptus leaves, wheelbarrows of gooseberries and greengages (not all well-ripen), rhubarb… In short his baby’s 28, but it could as well have been 18 or even 8. With water: grass, grass, and grass. Mouth (neat): isn’t it funny that we’re rather in old Auchentoshan territories now? Vanilla and coconut, then oils and peach jelly, then marzipan and shortbread, then marshmallows. Indeed, very Auchentoshan. With water: leaves, buds, and stems coming out. Herbal teas, green tea, green oranges… So it shakes your backbone a bit, but that’s not an unpleasant feeling. Finish: medium, green. More gooseberries and rhubarb. A touch of eucalyptus in the aftertaste. Forgot to mention lime and lemon. Comments: a rather funny old-young malt! A style apart, really worth trying (because it’s very good!) SGP:551 - 85 points.

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



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June 22, 2016


A few Glengoyne

Many Glengoynes on the tasting table, so let’s try to be sensible. And perhaps start with a very young one that should be totally spirit-driven…

Glengoyne 7 yo 2007/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10566)

Glengoyne 7 yo 2007/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10566) Two stars Could this be an infanticide, as some used to say quite some years ago? It’s true that better a 7 than an NAS! Colour: extremely pale white wine. Nose: we’re close to new make, young Kirschenwasser, unripe gooseberries, pears, grass, apple peelings… It’s interesting, especially the absence of any phenolic touches (Glengoyne’s totally un-peated), but it’s almost not aged spirit. Mouth: sweet and rounded, clean, all on ripe apples and pears. One of the simplest forms of malt whisky, younger than that is plain barley. Very few fermentary notes, though. Finish: medium, more barleyish. Pear juice with crushed barley inside. Comments: maybe the limits of the concept. I’d rather imagine this kind of baby within some kind of tasting class, but as some bottled malt whisky? No sure. SGP:530 - 72 points.

And he insists…

Glengoyne 7 yo 2007/2014 (46%, Hepburn’s Choice, 407 bottles)

Glengoyne 7 yo 2007/2014 (46%, Hepburn’s Choice, 407 bottles) Two stars Probably in the same family ;-). Colour: same, just a wee notch darker, which is still very pale. Nose: a tad rounder, with ‘ideas’ of vanilla and honey, and a little more porridge. As a consequence, I’m finding rather less pears and apples – let alone kirsch – which may suggest that this a little less immature. Mouth: extremely similar. Nah, undistinguishable. Maybe a tad more barleyish, with a little more coffee and vanilla, as if the cask had been a little more active. Indeed, stuff for masterclasses. Finish: notes of gooseberries and rhubarb. Perhaps grapefruits. Comments: I liked it a little bit better, but I wouldn’t make it my desert island dram. SGP:540 - 74 points.

Good, those were better than a kick in the teeth, but I think we’re ready for some serious Glengoyne…

Glengoyne 13 yo 2000/2014 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #1073)

Glengoyne 13 yo 2000/2014 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #1073) Two stars Yes I’m behind with my Glengoynes… Colour: gold. Nose: sherry. Shortbread, praline, milk chocolate, café latte, panettone, raisins, and whiffs of used matches. You may call that sulphur, but we’re way below the limits. Mouth: very good. To be honest I wasn’t sure about the nose, but all these roasted nuts and these toasted breads and pastries are excellent. Brioche, French toast, speculoos… Too bad there’s also a gingery oaky feeling in the background, with a little too much caraway and cloves. Finish: medium, spicier. Mulled wine spices, cloves, French oak, ginger, eating pencil shavings… Comments: some great sides, and two or three asperities that I didn’t like too much. Especially the sulphur and the pencil shavings. SGP:551 - 76 points.

Glengoyne 12 yo 2001/2013 (46%, Sansibar, sherry, 216 bottles)

Glengoyne 12 yo 2001/2013 (46%, Sansibar, sherry, 216 bottles) Three stars In theory, Glengoyne loves sherry! Colour: gold. Not first fill. Nose: it’s a leathery kind of sherry, with walnuts and bicycle inner tubes. This style has fans, not only within the Tour de France crowd. Engine oil, leatherette, tobacco… Very dry style! Mouth: not 100% sure. Walnut cake and rubber bands, cracked pepper, walnut wine, artichokes, ginger ale… It’s this kind of ultra-dry sherry that’s totally great in sherry, but that may dry-up malt whisky, at times. Unless you’re a member of the Keepers of the Walnuts, of course. Finish: rather long, leafy and leathery, dry, a little bitter. Jägermeister and Unicum, 50/50. Comments: in fact I like it, but I find it very ‘segmenting’. Or un-consensual, if you will. SGP:371 - 80 points.

Glengoyne 1997/2013 (54.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #MoS 13020, 211 bottles)

Glengoyne 1997/2013 (54.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #MoS 13020, 211 bottles) Two stars Colour: gold. Nose: there’s something with bicycle tyres these days. I know this ought to be bourbon, but I do find sulphur, and even whiffs of town gas. MoS had many great Glengoynes, so maybe it’s just a lame duck? Let’s give it time… zzz zzz zzz… No, nothing. Eh? With water: no. Plastic bag and saltpetre. Bourbon, really? Mouth (neat): better – not quite an achievement – but I do find a little rubber, beyond the ginger and the bitterish oak. What saves it is the orangey side. Great blood oranges. With water: okay. Ginger, bitter oranges, grass, ginger, pepper. Finish: medium, bitterish, grassy, a little rubbery. Comments: it’s bizarre, this is rather un-Malts of Scotland. Average, in my opinion, MoS had around 250,000 better Glengoynes (always in my opinion). SGP:361 - 74 points.

I agree, we may need the official cavalry…

Glengoyne 10 yo 2000/2011 (59.8%, OB, sherry butt, cask #1181, 621 bottles)

Glengoyne 10 yo 2000/2011 (59.8%, OB, sherry butt, cask #1181, 621 bottles) Four stars Colour: coffee. Nose: ah yes! Raw, pungent, with some heavy chocolaty sherry and bags of pencil shavings. This baby doesn’t go in for subtleties, and it’s even one of these sherried whiskies that are actually closer to heavy bourbon (oak galore), but it’s so spectacular that you just cannot be against it. With water: oak, at a carpenter’s, raw cocoa, and hints of mud, all for the better. Mouth (neat): huge, extremely rich, and quite curiously, rather balanced. Bitter oranges, marmalade, Corinth raisins, and ginger liqueur. That the distillate had anything to say is questionable, but the cask was terrific. With water: swims like a champ. Ginger and orange liqueur plus chocolate and praline. Finish: long, a tad peppery, gingery… Comments: an excellent cask. Again, not sure the spirit was important, but only the results count. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Glengoyne 15 yo 1989/2004 (55.8%, OB for Corman-Collins, Belgium, cask #1219, 264 bottles)

Glengoyne 15 yo 1989/2004 (55.8%, OB for Corman-Collins, Belgium, cask #1219, 264 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: yeah. Old armagnac, prunes, raisins, earth, liquorice, precious woods, soy sauce, pipe tobacco… There’s nothing not to like. Superb (yes we’re keeping this short). With water: saltpetre, brake pads, concrete, pencil lead, old magazines and books… I’m stunned. Mouth (neat): amazingly rich, armagnacqy, prune-y, raisiny, chocolaty, old-style, extremely old-Speyside-y… It doesn’t get much better than this, if you ask me. With water: tinier herbal notes, the usual walnuts, paraffin, plasticine, French beans, Jerusalem artichokes, Jamaican rum… What’s the trick? Finish: endless, rich, and yet dry and straight… Exceptional leathery and tobacco-ish notes. Comments: to think that I needed twelve years before I tried this magnificent sherried Glengoyne! I may rebrand this website ‘whiskysnail.com’. SGP:472 - 92 points.

A last one, let’s make it an old one…

Glengoyne 1967/1992 (43%, OB, Christmas day, 2500 bottles) Four stars and a half Yes I know, we should have published this on Christmas day since it was distilled on Dec 25, 1967, but we just needed an old Glengoyne to call this a proper tasting session. I know you understand. Colour: gold. Nose: let’s wait… It whispers and it speaks low, so after the sherry bombs, you have to be careful. Yeah, there, it’s waking up, with aromatic herbs such as verbena, fennel, or wormwood, as well as a little ‘artisan’ custard, vanilla cream (what we used to call crème anglaise before the Brexit issues – oh the ravages of consanguinity!), poppy seeds, liquorice wood… In truth it’s a little fragile, and even shy, but one can feel that there’s a lot of complexity. Mouth: ho-ho-ho, it’s a beehive-y old one, with various very old white wines (old Montrachet, if you will) and the subtlest form of honeyness (RU sure that’s English?) Some kind of old mead, perhaps, artisan apple juice, quince juice… It’s just that the oak – and it’s only around 25 years of age – tends to get in the way. Yeah, 43% vol., that may have been the problem.   Finish: perhaps a little short and too tea-ish. The 43% vol. again. Comments: well, if you bottle old whiskies at 43% vol., you need totally superior casks. That’s why Macallan got so lousy these days, and tenfold overpriced. Just and opinion of course… But yeah, I know, this is Glengoyne. SGP:451 - 88 points.

(With thanks to Hubert, Phil, and Simon)

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



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June 21, 2016


New NAS Benriach

Ding ding ding, there is some new official Benriach! We’ll try to find some indies too, as usual…

Benriach 1997/2014 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead)

Benriach 1997/2014 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead) Three stars and a half This for number crunchers, this baby was bottled on March 20, 2014. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a rather lovely, all-natural malty Speysider, with good custard, good overripe fruits, good hay, and good early grey tea. In other words, malt whisky as nature intended. Well, not too sure about that part. Mouth: shortbread, orange juice, barley water, a touch of oak, with some white pepper and nutmeg, and perhaps cornflakes. A style that’s perhaps a little more ‘midlands’ than ‘Speyside’, going towards, say Aberfeldy. Finish: medium, a little more honeyed, but the background remains a little peppery. Malty aftertaste, with a creamy vanilla. Comments: I find this really good, and pretty average in the best sense of that word. Also reminds of some contemporary Glenlivets. SGP:451 - 83 points.

Benriach ‘Peated Quarter Casks’ (46%, OB, 2016)

Benriach ‘Peated Quarter Casks’ (46%, OB, 2016) Three stars and a half A brand new bottling. NAS, peat, and smaller casks. Something ‘Laphroaiggy’ here, but let’s see. Oh, by the way, a quarter cask does not contain the quarter of a regular hogshead, it’s rather around half a hogshead, which is a little confusing. Colour: white wine. Nose: a hay-y, light, slightly chalky peatiness, almost the opposite of a coastal/medicinal one. A little soot, concrete, certainly quite some ink (flipping through a brand new book), and perhaps drops of brake fluid. Perhaps even castor oil. Mouth: the quarter casks are much more noticeable on the palate. Oily texture, some vanilla and a ‘peachiness’ ala Ardmore, melon liqueur while we’re at it, lemon blossom honey, maple syrup… It’s really thick, but the whisky itself is relatively light. Good lemon, perhaps some kind of earthy limoncello… I find this very good, to tell you the truth, despite the slightly unlikely pedigree. You know, small casks, no age, all that… Finish: medium but clean, ‘crafted’, and even ‘designed’, but its been done very well. Comments: totally modern Scotch malt whisky. Troubling, but very good. SGP:555 - 84 points.

While we’re at it…

Benriach ‘Cask Strength’ (57.2%, OB, Batch 1, 2016)

Benriach ‘Cask Strength’ (57.2%, OB, Batch 1, 2016) Four starsThis baby came out a little earlier this year. No age but more power, do we have a good trade? Colour: gold. Nose: classic young natural Benriach. Fruit Loops, Weetabix, dried bananas, custard, a little damp oak (old barrels in a remote corner of an old wine cellar), and bags of marshmallows. Toffee apple. With water: lovely damp hay, barnyard, more cereals, cornflakes with honey, apple compote… Mouth (neat): I’m afraid this is extremely good. Simple, but extremely good. Starts like some good young bourbon (vanilla, oranges, sweet ginger) and goes on with tinned tropical fruits (mangos), tinned pears, coconut, sweet curry powder, and orange zests. The oak starts to feel after one minute (green sawdust) but that’s not quite a problem. With water: apple crumble. Gotta like apple crumble. Finish: quite long, and rather zestier, with more citrus that ‘lifts’ it. Comments: no denying, it’s perfectly made modern (probably) young malt whisky. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Perhaps an older one from the library, and we’re done…

Benriach 18 yo 1990/2008 (56.5%, Riegger's Selection, bourbon, cask #100127)

Benriach 18 yo 1990/2008 (56.5%, Riegger's Selection, bourbon, cask #100127) Four stars It seems that the same cask has been bottled twice, as a 18 and as a 22. This is the earlier version. Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely orchardy! Apples, greengages, mirabelles, drops of barley water, sweet fresh almonds and hazelnuts, then crushed bananas, dandelions and other very nectary flowers… It’s a style that sits somewhere between the older ‘tropical’ Benriachs and the contemporary, more mainstream-yet-excellent ones. See above. With water: crème au beurre and custard over compote and white cherry liqueur. Mouth (neat): super good. Notes of sweet white wine from French sud-ouest (around Monbazillac) and sweet apples (goldens), then rather gooseberries and Spanish white melons. All that is very fresh and fruity. Really super good. With water: indeed. Hints of sweets, Haribo bears and crocodiles… Finish: quite long, on liquid sweets. Or these wee Easter eggs that we used to get when we were kids. Comments: the landing was perhaps a wee tad sugary, but it remained a very, very lovely Benriach. SGP:651 - 86 points.

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



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June 20, 2016


Littlemill and rare bonus

It seems that the Littlemill craze is almost over, as if the new owners had bought back every cask. We’ll have two more today, and then a rare bonus…

Littlemill 1998/2015 (54.2%, The Pearls of Scotland, cask #130, 195 bottles)

Littlemill 1988/2015 (54.2%, The Pearls of Scotland, cask #130, 195 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: typically tropical, with papayas and mangos everywhere, then pink grapefruits, with a layer of vanilla and acacia honey. That’s all folks, and that’s a lot. Extremely idiosyncratic. With water: it’s the barley that would rather come to the front of the stage, which is normal. This is malt whisky, after all. Also maize bread and popcorn? Mouth (neat): it is fruit syrup! Bananas, mangos, passion fruits, honey, agave syrup… Some kind of multi-vitamin fruit juice, I’m sure this is excellent for our health. With water: perfect, a little grass and green tea, just to put it straighter. Finish: medium, fruitier than fruits. A wee rooty touch in the aftertaste. Comments: so, did anyone finally find out about the way they were doing this at Littlemill? Excellent, perhaps just a notch over-fruity (what? Can that be?) SGP:741 - 89 points.

Littlemill 21 yo 1992/2013 (53%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection, sherry butt)

Littlemill 21 yo 1992/2013 (53%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection, sherry butt) Four stars In my opinion, Hart Bros often had ‘deviant’ casks, meaning different ones, as if they liked to select the unusual. Colour: dark gold. Nose: and yes this is unusual, as you’d almost think it’s rum for a while. I’d even say Cuban rum, in the style of their Santiagos (their best). Molasses and raisins, praline, roasted cashews, then rather dried flowers, roses, pot-pourri… It’s very interesting, but we’re far from the 1998, and that cannot only be the sherry. Let’s dig deeper… With water: perhaps something a little metallic? Not sure it swims extremely well. Mouth (neat): ah, no, wait, this is well a Littlemillian Littlemill, it was the sherry that was playing tricks on us. Oranges, both regular and bitter ones, walnuts (sherry), honey, lemon, maracuja… I find this excellent. For once, I like the palate rather better than the nose. With water: very good indeed, and complex. Tobaccos and teas plus oranges and grapefruits. Everything is to like. Finish: medium, brighter and fresher, and more tropical, around more oranges and other citrus fruits. One walnut. Comments: the Pearls was so purely Littlemill that the sherry in the Hart may have misled us at first. SGP:551 - 86 points.

So, that bonus… Since there are fewer new Littlemills around, let’s try an even rarer Lowlander!

Rare Ayrshire (Ladyburn) 40 yo 1975/2015 (47.1%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #3421, 166 bottles)

Rare Ayrshire (Ladyburn) 40 yo 1975/2015 (47.1%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon barrel, cask #3421, 166 bottles) Four stars and a half No it doesn’t say Ladyburn on the label, but we all know it is. Signatory had quite a few 1974s and 1975s, some quite superb, some others a little weaker (in my humble opinion). Let’s check this newer one. Mind you, 40 years for a Lowlander, that’s a ripe old age! Colour: gold. Nose: good, it is one of the better ones. And in truth, you could think it’s Littlemill, because of this avalanche of fresh and ‘light’ tropical fruits, starting with not-too-ripe mangos, and going on with lemons, ‘pale’ papayas, and then rather bonbons and jellies. It’s not that it’s marshmallowy (at 40!) but quite. In the background, rather a little patchouli, wulong tea, longans, even a wee feeling of mei-kwei-lu… How exotic is that?  Mouth: I think it’s one of, if not the best Ladyburn I’ve ever tasted. Granted, I tried more Highland Parks or Laphroaigs, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a Ladyburn that was this fruity and fresh. Apples and grapefruits, mangos, white pineapples… And the oak never gets in the way, even if you start to feel it (tea tannins). I’m also finding a discreet Irishness, hard to describe. Finish: medium, amazingly fruity and fresh, with some honeysuckle and probably elderberries in the aftertaste. Perhaps drops of grenadine. Comments: I think they chose the cask that they wanted to bring to 40 very well. Not saying there aren’t others, of course. SGP:651 - 89 points.

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



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June 19, 2016


White rums at low strengths

Hell and putrefaction, summer’s not here yet at time of writing! And yet, we’re around mid-June. Only one solution then, which is called white rum! Because some naked rums are aromatic enough to stand on their feet without the addition of any oak. I said ‘some’ ;-). Let’s check that…

Tricorne (43%, Compagnie des Indes, blended rum, 2016)

Tricorne (43%, Compagnie des Indes, blended rum, 2016) Three stars It's no secret that I’m a fan of what these good people have started doing two or three years ago. Spirit-led spirits, that’s smart! In this case, they’ve blended vesou-based rum (possibly agricole), molasses rum, and Batavia arrack, which is some kind of cane juice-based rum from Indonesia. No they don’t distil lettuce. Colour: white. Nose: raw and cane-y, rustic, grassy, fermentary, a little phenolic and mineral, with touches of pickled capers and oranges staring to rot. Pleasantly unpolished, I’d say. Mouth: rather fruitier and sweeter, easier than expected, with more fermenting fruits, chiefly pineapples and bananas, then perhaps these oranges again. Good briny, olive-y background, very natural. Finish: medium, balanced, cane-y. Lovely salty aftertaste, with some grapefruit as well. Comments: just very good, very loyal white rum with true character. Probably great in cocktails. SGP:452 - 82 points.

Issan (40%, OB, Thailand, agricole, +/-2015)

Issan (40%, OB, Thailand, agricole, +/-2015) Three stars Pure agricole rhum, not unlike Chalong Bay, from a new Thai distillery. Nothing to do, as far as I know, with Château d’Issan in Bordeaux. Colour: white. Nose: nice! Quite warm and earthy, with excellent vegetables and grasses (Brussels sprout? Artichoke?) then quite some pitch, coal tar, and perhaps a little burnt wood. Mouth: very interesting indeed, and quite ‘terroiting’ as some would say. Gherkins and samphires, some sweets, some kind of grassy smokiness, lemon, ‘ideas’ of oysters, perhaps… A nice earthiness as well. Finish: medium, smoky/salty, with a rather tarry aftertaste. Comments: we would have preferred a higher strength, but it seems that the Thai law just forbids anything above 40% vol. You couldn’t make A’bunadh in Thailand! Anyway, this Issan’s already very good, I think. Good and profound character. SGP:442 - 82 points.

Diplomatico ‘Blanco Reserve’ (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2015)

Diplomatico ‘Blanco Reserve’ (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2015) This one’s aged for a few years – probably not many – and then filtered so that any colour goes away. In theory, it could be very pale yellow, let’s check that… Colour: no, it’s totally white. Nose: much less aromatic, very shy in fact, a little ethanoly, well in the style of the high-column white Cubans. Perhaps touches of vanilla, grated coconut, and cut grass. Seemingly pretty harmless… Mouth: a little lemon, a little liquorice, and a feeling of raw eau-de-vie. Some coconut again, and some raw medicinal alcohol. What’s quite nice is that they don’t seem to have added tons of sugar to it. Finish: short and shy. A touch of fudge and some saccharin this time. Comments: not one to sip, and the others would make for better mojitos. What to do with this humble white rum? SGP:320 - 40 points.

Flor de Caña 4 yo ‘Extra Dry’ (40%, OB, Nicaragua, +/-2015)

Flor de Caña 4 yo ‘Extra Dry’ (40%, OB, Nicaragua, +/-2015) Another one that’s aged and then filtered. Hope we’ll find better luck… Colour: white. Nose: I’m not finding it very ‘seco’, and that’s an understatement. Sugar syrup and tinned pineapples, bubblegums, marshmallows, bonbons, a drop of lemonade (what did you expect?) and a little cut grass. Rather less ethanoly than the Diplomatico, but still not quite my style, so far. Mouth: a little coconut for a start, some cut grass again, and a rather undefined development. Fruit peelings, perhaps, and perhaps a little grapefruit. Finish: shortish, light, sweetish. Comments: more cocktail fodder, I’d say. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose. Other than that, I find it pretty bland – and yes, I know some rum freaks just love it. SGP:430 - 50 points.

It seems that immediate measures have to be taken. And why not go from one extreme to the other, just for… fun?

Worthy Park 'Rum Bar' (65%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2016)

Worthy Park 'Rum Bar' (65%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2016) Four stars and a halfIt’s got to be done! Colour: white. Nose: sweet Jesus! Pure sugar cane and fermenting hay, chalk, diesel oil, antiseptic, Brussels sprouts once again, lime, engine oil… With water: a perfect earthy cane-iness, plus whiffs of new leatherette, brand new sneakers, carbon paper, sorrel soup, lime... I cannot see what’s not to like a lot. Mouth (neat): the sweetness is a little surprising, but that might be the high strength. Other than that, we have a wonderful tarry, salty, olive-y profile. Drinking a blend of turpentine, olive oil, and limejuice, perhaps. I imagine. Ha-ha. With water: no, it’s quite sweet indeed, but what’s in the back holds it tight. Tarred lemons, do some good people produce that? Finish: long, perfect. Brine, lemons, tar, olives… Comments: now we know why Usain Bolt is so fast. Reminds me of Rum Nation’s wonderful version from two years ago. SGP:473 - 88 points.

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



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June 17, 2016


Stuff from the world

As it says, given that ‘the world’ is anywhere except Scotland, Ireland, Amerikka, Japan, and Canada.

Pfanner 2011 ‘Redwood Whisky’ (43%, OB, Austria, single malt, 1,800 bottles, +/-2015)

Pfanner 2011 ‘Redwood Whisky’ (43%, OB, Austria, single malt, 1,800 bottles, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Pfanner in Austria’s Vorarlberg have gained a good reputation within not many years. This baby was matured in red wine casks, possibly Austrian red wine. They make very good red wine in Austria! Colour: amber/apricot. Nose: starts slightly buttery, but it’s soon to present a rather lovely combination of cinnamon cake, red berries, pumpernickel, and caramel cream. All that gives it a rather Christmassy profile, especially since it tends to nose more and more like some Christstollen. Or yeah, cinnamon cake. Mouth: a little unusual, but once again, the spicy arrival mingled with the red berries and all this cinnamon works pretty well. Raspberry fudge, touches of cloves and nutmeg, and only the faintest traces of oak ‘as such’. Good body, with a pleasant creaminess. Finish: medium, on some kind of spicy butterscotch. Some moist all-grain bread in the aftertaste, as well as cinnamon mints. Comments: red wine and whisky’s always a scary combination, and I haven’t come across many that worked in my book. This one does, even if it’s obviously young. SGP:461 - 78 points.

Oh well, while we’re in Austria…

Waldviertler ‘Rye Malt’ (41%, OB, Haider, Austria, +/-2015)

Waldviertler ‘Rye Malt’ (41%, OB, Haider, Austria, +/-2015) Two stars and a halfMalted rye, this could be good. Colour: gold. Nose: sweet, fruity and bready, that’s what it is. Lavender flowers, bitter oranges, pumpernickel, gingerbread, orange cake, honeysuckle tea, gewürztraminer juice (grape juice, not the wine)… All nice and soft, without any obvious oakiness – which may be seen at other makers of very young ‘new’ whiskies. Mouth: drier, with more oak (a feeling of sawdust), but we’re below the limits. The distillate is pleasant, fruity and rye-spicy, bready, with some wholegrain bread and other seeds. Poppy, mashed acorn squash, a touch of banana, and perhaps a little violet jelly. Finish: rather long, and rather spicy. Ginger and pepper, with good ryeness. Porridge. The aftertaste is particularly nice, with some citron liqueur. Comments: perhaps a little more power? It doesn’t quite feel like 100% rye, but the rye content is high. Well above average for sure. SGP:452 - 79 points.

Flóki (47%, OB, Iceland, spirit drink, +/-2016)

Flóki (47%, OB, Iceland, spirit drink, +/-2016) Two stars and a half Not 3 years old yet. Everybody’s starting to make whisky these days on this planet! What’s probably quite difficult to do is to find a singular voice, as more or less everything has been done, and as localness may only appeal to… locals. Oh and this is 100% Icelandic malt. Colour: gold. Nose: yes sir! Smoked sawdust, charcoal, pinewood, tobacco, fresh vanilla, ‘new stuff from Ikea’s’… I know that sounds very mundane, but it’s not. And yes I know Ikea is Swedish. I’m positively surprised, this is no oak decoction at all. They have a good cellar master! Björk? Mouth: bravo! Mentholated, pine-y, eucalyptussy, and in fact pretty Scandinavian, I could imagine sipping this in some sauna or something. It’s probably totally wood-driven, but the mentholy freshness just works. Finish: medium, on oranges, mint, oak, and fir. An unexpected saltiness in the aftertaste, as if they had added, well, salt. Comments: this young spirit did capture some kind of localness, which I find very cool. Not something easy to do – yeah, even in Scotland. SGP:352 - 78 points.

While we’re in Scandinavia…

Smögen 2012/2015 ‘Jubilee’ (60%, OB, Sweden, 222 bottles)

Smögen 2012/2015 ‘Jubilee’ (60%, OB, Sweden, 222 bottles) Three stars Wow, a jubilee, already! Colour: amber (already!). Nose: bacon and barbecued sardines plus some kind of smoked raisins and some seashells. A mossy vanilla. The oak’s been chosen with great care, that’s for sure. With water: that’s the problem with many modern super-young malts, water makes them over-oaky (or carpentery, ha-ha). Which is exactly what is not happening here. Damp old tweed jacket, honeydew, burning fir wood, Ricola sweets, oysters (yessss!)… Mouth (neat): huuuge. Smoked lemon? Lemon grass and whelks? Peppermint and ginger tea? With water: the oak feels a little more now, with a bitterish/tannic background and a fairly aggressive pepper. Not this baby’s best profile, I’d say. Finish: unfolds on oak spices. Rather medium than long. Comments: it’s complicated. Superb young whisky but I’m not sure it stands water on the palate (tell me about a Viking!) Oh well, let’s drink it at 60% vol. (out of the skulls of our enemies)! There was a 2011 that I liked better last year. SGP:375 - 82 points.

I’ll tell you, these Smögens at full strength just kill you. We have room for one more world whisky but after this one, we’ll call this a tasting session!

Paul John 6 yo (54.7%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, batch 2, 173 bottles, 50cl)

Paul John 6 yo (54.7%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, batch 2, 173 bottles, 50cl) Two stars Good, we don’t taste price tags, but let’s say it, €127.65 for one 50cl bottle of 6yo Indian whisky might be just a tad excessive (what they call laughable on whisky forums or Facebook). Let’s not forget that the price of malting barley lies around €250 a ton (that’s 1,000 kilos), very roughly, and that you need less than ONE kilo of barley to come up with ONE bottle of MATURE malt whisky. Unless this is the Koh-i-Noor of whisky, of course… Colour: full gold. Nose: but of course this is great, and that’s the main problem. These people are alchemists, they manage to turn the lousiest grains into the most splendid of spirits. Banana cream, vanilla fudge, orange cake, barley water… Oh I so hate them! With water: classic creamy Indian malt. Sweet, rounded, and moderately exotic. Papayas. Mouth (neat): splendid arrival, despite a very discreet clothes-y/mushroomy touch that sings a bit out of tune. The problem is that it gets then very bitter and drying. What some call ‘planky’. With water: no, it’s not that bad, but the oak really feels. Too much. Orange liqueur matured in (heated) American oak. Twice. Finish: medium, even oakier. Finishing the teapot whilst it got cold. Comments: a big no, in fact. In fact I find this disappointingly over-oaked, beyond the very nice zesty nose and arrival. But I’m sure that’s only me – I swear it’s not the insane price! Honest! SGP:371 - 72 points.

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



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June 16, 2016


Benromach, the beast and the beauty

A name that’s recently gained much respect in whisky chatting circles. Deservedly. We’ll try their latest expressions, one that’s scary (to me) and one that’s as attractive as… wait, say goose foie gras stuffed with black winter truffles.

Benromach 2007/2016 ‘Sassicaia Wood Finish’ (45%, OB, 3500 bottles)

Benromach 2007/2016 ‘Sassicaia Wood Finish’ (45%, OB, 3500 bottles) Two stars I’ll have to say this first, I’m not a fan – at all - of Sassicaia or other so-called ‘Supertuscans’ that uninspiredly try to mimic Bordeaux, while I absolutely love the Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, and many other totally superb Italian grape varieties. Seriously, why make Bordeaux blends when you have Sangiovese? Reminds me of that very stupid wine journo in the movie ‘Mondovino’… But yeah, another chestnut, let’s rather try this little Supertuscanspeyside… Colour: apricot. Nose: it’s with great joy and relief that I’m noticing that the red wine hasn’t taken over, and that despite these wee touches of raspberries and blood oranges, the bold distillate managed to keep afloat. Ginger, porridge, chalk, and this greasy Springbankness that I’m noticing more and more in young(ish) Benromach. Mouth: a little bizarre this time, sweet and sour, with a lot of ginger and more raspberries, heavy caraway, more blood oranges, more bitter ginger, pepper, a little salt, then redcurrant jelly… A rather unusual combo, not quite my cup of malt I have to say. Finish: rather long, leafier, even more gingery, with blackcurrant leaves – and perhaps buds – and always this feeling of orange zests. Funny notes of butterscotch in the aftertaste. Comments: totally not my preferred style. In truth I don’t know what to add, except that I’m happy that the ‘traditional’ Benromachs (5, 10, 15…) are so much greater these days. Grand cru material in my book, but probably not this one. SGP:552 - 75 points.

Benromach 41 yo 1974/2016 (49.1%, OB, sherry butt, cask #1583, 452 bottles)

Benromach 41 yo 1974/2016 (49.1%, OB, sherry butt, cask #1583, 452 bottles) Five stars A brand new single cask bottling, following the similarly packaged 35 yo that I just adored in February this year (WF 91). Colour: deep gold. Nose: Mozart after Mariah Carey. Yeah I know I should leave her alone. What I find terrific is that there are two parts that mingled extremely well together. First, a very ‘beehive-y’ side that’s akin to what could be found in old Caperdonichs, for example, which I just cherish (beeswax, ripe peaches, honeys, pollen, old Sauternes, sultanas…) and second, a firmer, more coastal and mineral side, which involves flints, beach sand, a tiny tarry rope, and wee bits of camphor. Plus a little leather and cedar wood. The whole’s perfectly synchronised. Mouth: exceptionally good, with a tamed, slightly gingery oakiness that complements a wonderful citrusy profile, with tangerines, one slice of pink banana (oh forget), plenty of lime, and a growing saltiness. In fact, it gets extremely limy. Also a little curry and wasabi, ginger, slightly prickly pepper (all fine), and this feeling of chewing green tea leaves. That’s the oak, and that’s surprisingly pleasant in this context. Finish: medium, sharp and tense, almost angular, on lime, ginger, and green tea. Rather un-butt at this point, if I may. Very lemony aftertaste. Comments: I wasn’t expecting this much zestiness from an old sherry butt. That was impressive. Sure the oak feels on the palate, but it’s of the better kind. Or was it orangewood? SGP:562 - 92 points.

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



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June 15, 2016


Various American whiskies

Or whiskeys, as you like, as both words do work. Seen from Europe, the whole scene has been shaken by all those stories about ‘fake craft’, hidden sourced whiskies (however good), and made-up family heritages. Grandpa’s recipes found in an old drawer and all that, you know… But on the other hand, we could also taste quite a bunch of excellent fairly new truly craft Americans, so let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Oh and we won’t check online if each of these Americans are ‘authentic’ or not, that would be too boring.

Early Times ‘Old Reserve’ (40%, OB, Kentucky bourbon, +/-2016)

Early Times ‘Old Reserve’ (40%, OB, Kentucky bourbon, +/-2016) Two stars This baby by Brown Forman is very cheap in France, around 16 or 17€. But then again, we only get 70cl ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: reeks of sweet oak and vanilla, with a sweetness from maize. It reminds me of these bottles of Canadian Club that my dad used to bring back when he was travelling, fifty years ago. Extremely smooth and light. Mouth: a bit raw, extremely sweet, with more vanilla and perhaps sweet cider. A feeling of sawdust in the aftertaste. Ripe gooseberries, hay wine. Finish: short, sweet and sweetly oaky. Corn syrup and molasses. A touch of cinnamon cake. Comments: no whisky is easier than this. No depth, no asperities – and consequently, no real flaws. Mundane. SGP:430 - 70 points.

Jim Beam ‘Kentucky Dram’ (40%, OB, blended world whisky, +/-2016)

Jim Beam ‘Kentucky Dram’ (40%, OB, blended world whisky, +/-2016) Two stars This is an unlikely blend of Kentucky straight bourbon with Ardmore, so peated Scotch malt. Let’s see if we can guess the proportions… Ah, innovation in whisky! Colour: gold. Nose: it’s bourbon-led, but I have to say I quite like this nose, I find it fresh and although quite simple, this touch of light smoke does work. Besides, I’ve always thought there were some interesting experiments to be done blending various spirits from the world. Mouth: a little less convincing now, the oak’s a little too loud for me, with this syrupy, corn-y (not corny) side and all this sawdust that coats the light peat. I’d have added a little more Ardmore (or Laphroaig? Bowmore?) and since this is no bourbon anyway, I’d have used more refill wood to lower the slightly sleazy sweetness. Finish: medium, rather disjointed in my opinion, as if both spirits were trying to… divorce? Comments: not uninteresting at all, I’d say. I quite liked the nose. SGP:441 - 72 points.

Old Overholt ‘Straight Rye’ (40%, OB, +/-2016)

Old Overholt ‘Straight Rye’ (40%, OB, +/-2016) Two starsAnother one that used to carry an age statement, and that’s lost it if I’m not mistaken. I think this is made by (or for) Beam as well. Colour: gold. Nose: very very light, the rye doesn’t speak loud. But the oak’s not too talkative either, so all this remains rather elegant, soft, and easy. Pleasant whiffs of wholegrain bread, a touch of lavender and juniper, plus perhaps a little caraway. Mouth: rather fragrant and spicy, with more juniper and caraway, but the oak’s a little rough and too obvious. Like the coffee notes, though, as well as the spicy fudge. Also a little honey, ginger, mint tea… Finish: short, a little earthier. Planks in the aftertaste. Comments: slightly above average in my book, the average being 75. Don’t shoot, Robert Parker and Michael Jackson started it all! SGP:531 - 76 points.

Bib & Tucker 6 yo (46%, OB, bourbon, +/-2015)

Bib & Tucker 6 yo (46%, OB, bourbon, +/-2015) Two stars and a half My goodness, some extensive work done on the packaging! This comes from Tennessee, but the juice is probably sourced. Not too sure, but there’s an old Indian saying that goes like ‘when white man busy with packaging, he not busy with distilling’. Colour: dark gold. Nose: custard, vanilla cream, more custard, more vanilla cream. And drops of orange juice plus a little hay. My god this is vanilla-ed! Mouth: undoubtedly good. Very soft, perhaps relying on the higher strength, with much vanilla, pastries (especially butter croissants), and then more oak spices, as well as plain sawdust. Finish: medium, a little monolithic, on vanilla and sawdust. A touch of sweet juniper in the aftertaste. Comments: I find this good but very simple. SGP:530 - 78 points.

Sonoma County ‘West of Kentucky Bourbon No.1’ (47.8%, OB, +/-2016)

Sonoma County ‘West of Kentucky Bourbon No.1’ (47.8%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars I think there’s quite some rye in this. I’ll always remember the first time I came across a wee ‘barber’s’ bottle by 1512 Spirits (their former name, I think) while near Opus One in the Napa Valley. But that’s another story… Colour: deep gold. Nose: ah, now we’re talking. A lot of spicy oak, ginger, poppy seeds, sesame oil, wholegrain bread, roasted chestnuts, wood smoke… So it’s extremely bready, and that’s always something I like. Even when it’s very wood-driven! (yes, Serge speaking). Mouth: totally kills the Bib & Tucker, even if this one’s much rougher, perhaps even flawed in a way, but it’s got what really counts, personality and character. All that despite the oak that is, I have to say, really too drying. Also like the feeling of peach skin. Finish: long, certainly sawdusty, but the bread behind keeps it afloat. Comments: I don’t think its technically perfect, and it’s probably too young and too oaky, but yeah, that personality thing… SGP:461 - 82 points.

Westland 24 mo (46%, OB, single malt, heavy char new American oak, 6822 bottles, June 2014)

Westland 24 mo (46%, OB, single malt, heavy char new American oak, 6822 bottles, June 2014) Four stars and a half That’s right, two years. All Westlands I could try so far have been wonderful. I won’t tell you about the mash bill, it’s a little complicated. This is whiskey for geeks! Colour: full gold. Nose: amazing. I get the best blue mountain coffee (and I’m not making this up, honest), roasted nuts, the blackest chocolate, and a very unusual smokiness. Perhaps a working Italian coffee machine? Behind that, some delicate touches of wild flowers (daffodils?) and gentian. Mouth: impeccable. I hate it that some two-years-old whiskey can be this good. Same feeling of roasted coffee beans, satay sauce, roasted malt, dark toffee… And yeah, I swear to Vishnu, blue mountain coffee. Finish: long, extremely chocolaty. Chocolate liqueur and, yep, blue mountain coffee. Serious! Comments: amazing Westland, I liked this larger batch better than their ‘cask 50’ that was heavily charred as well. I’m so glad I’ve got several others yet to taste! No, honest, blue mountain coffee! SGP:352 - 88 points.

A last one please… (they’re about to broadcast a lost episode of Inspektor Derrick on French TV, you know…)

Heaven Hill 19 yo (57.7%, Cadenhead, 150 bottles, 2016)

Heaven Hill 19 yo (57.7%, Cadenhead, 150 bottles, 2016) Three starsAs always, this is ‘matured in an oak cask’, which is frankly reassuring, given the current price of ebony. Seriously, some nineteen years old Heaven Hill! Colour: orange amber. Nose: back to traditional bourbon, with loads of coconut and vanilla. And more coconut and vanilla. Did I mention coconut and vanilla? And Nutella? And corn syrup? With water: planks and chocolate. Mouth (neat): a few wee varnishy touches, then plenty of jelly babies and assorted confectionary, then peanut butter and fudge plus molasses. As they say in fashion design, it’s a style. With water: sweet oak, vanilla, fudge, cinnamon, nutmeg, grated ginger… Finish: medium, with some drying oak. Over-infused black tea and aspartame. Comments: it may be rare, and sought after, and even historical, or pre-fire, genuine-Bardstown-stuff, whatever… I just think it’s a wee bit flat(tish), slightly one-dimensional, and rather oak-led spirit. Having said that, we’re still way above average, don’t get me wrong, we’re just missing the soul that was in the Sonoma or in the Westland. SGP:451 - 82 points.

Many more American whiskeys very soon on Whiskeyfun ;-).

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



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



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Benromach 41 yo 1974/2016 (49.1%, OB, sherry butt, cask #1583, 452 bottles)

Bowmore 1996/2015 'Coastal Confection' (54.7%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 269 bottles)

Bowmore 15 yo 2001/2016 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 264 bottles)

Bowmore 1976/1985 (64.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, sherry, #3.4)

Glenfarclas 1991/2014 'Family Casks' (53.8%, OB, for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, sherry, cask #5691)

Glenfarclas 26 yo 1970/1997 (56.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.77)

Glengoyne 15 yo 1989/2004 (55.8%, OB for Corman-Collins, Belgium, cask #1219, 264 bottles)

Glentauchers 17 yo (52.2%, Jack Wiebers, 17 Hippies, cask #9184, 90 bottles, +/-2015)

Lagavulin ‘Jazz Festival 2015’ (55.4%, OB, 2015)

Lagavulin 18 yo (49.5%, OB, Bicentenary Edition, Feis Ile 2016, 6000 bottles)

Lagavulin 25 yo (natural cask strength, OB, Bicentenary, 8000 bottles, 2016)