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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2017 - Part 1


May 2017 - part 2 <--- June 2017 - part 1 ---> June 2017 - part 2


June 14, 2017


A transitional Japanese session,
from hell to heaven

The Japanese years are more or less over at WF Towers. No more exquisite and well-aged Yoichis, Hakushus, Miyagikyos or Yamazakis (there are only a few rather demotivating NASs around), while the prices for Karuizawa or Hanyu have got insane, and the very talented new cats are still a bit young (the very promising Chichibu). Oh and yes, there's Mars! Sure there are some nice blends, but those are just that, nice blends, and remember it’s legal for producers to blend in whisky from Scotland or elsewhere, which I find weird and, well, culturally quite un-Japanese. But that rather sad state of Japanese affairs won’t stop us, let’s have a few new(ish) whiskies from the land of the rising sun today, and see if the tiger has still got a few teeth…

Suntory ‘Kakushiro White Label’ (40%, OB, Japanese blended whisky, +/-2016)

Suntory ‘Kakushiro White Label’ (40%, OB, Japanese blended whisky, +/-2016) The prices for this humble thing are insane, I’ve seen most bottles at between 70€ and 100€ in Europe. Is it a Toyota for the price of a Bentley? Let’s see… And frankly, the bottle itself… Colour: pale gold. Nose: nada, niente, nichts. Well, almost. Some grains, some burnt wood, some burnt caramel, a touch of coconut, and some cold tea. Mouth: a wee bit better but frankly, while the arrival was rather okayish (yeasty fruits, bananas), the whole is soon to get drying and flat. Cardboard, old pepper, perhaps touches of cranberries. Finish: short, drying, cardboardy. Comments: a poor thing, and possibly the worst quality/price ratio in Europe. I guess, well I hope this very modest whisky is much cheaper in Japan and in the rest of Asia. Between us, I wouldn’t export this little low-shelf blend. SGP:231 - 62 points.

Togouchi ‘Kiwami’ (40%, OB, Japanese blend, +/-2016)

Togouchi ‘Kiwami’ (40%, OB, Japanese blend, +/-2016) Two stars Some NAS Japanese blend (that, according to many sources, mainly if not totally contains some whiskies from other countries and even Scotland, don’t ask), what’s to be feared? A newish one by Chugoku-jozo, packaged as if it was the Emperor’s very own blend. And priced like if it was the servants’, which is better. Half the price of the rather lowly Suntory. Colour: white wine. Good news, no caramel. Nose: it’s very young, very shy, very undemanding. Crushed barley, ink, hints of green bananas, touches of sand, a bit of tinned pineapple. Not un-nice, just extremely soft. Mouth: not bad, not bad, there is some action. Pepper, a little salt, bitter leaves and teas, vanilla, malt, popcorn, lemon. Very mild, with a thin mouth feel. Finish: short, with some green tea, perhaps, and a little lemon. Comments: this is actually pretty okay. And the very Kanji-y bottle is nice, no one will guess this is actually not Japanese whisky. SGP:331 - 70 points.

Akashi ‘Meïsei’ (40%, OB, Japanese blend, White Oak, +/-2016)

Akashi ‘Meïsei’ (40%, OB, Japanese blend, White Oak, +/-2016) This blend by sake makers Eigashima. Not sure it’s integrally Japanese, could be. By the way, the good people at White Oak are claiming that they were the first Japanese whisky distillery. Price is similar to that of the Togouchi. Colour: pale gold. Nose: in the style of the Suntory, just a little more fragrant. Oak, burnt oak, cardboard, bread. I have to say I liked White Oak’s malts much better. Well, so far. This blend is very shy. Mouth: it’s oaky and okay. Vanilla, sour apples, tinned pineapples, oak, flour, a little caramel, malt… That’s pretty all, but it’s kind of decent. Reminds me a bit of Vat69 or Passport. Finish: short, rather drying, cardboardy. Young blends never fare too well in their finishes, in my experience. Their weaker spot. Comments: probably not one to sip. What’s sure is that the Scots are doing better for half the price. SGP:341 - 65 points.

Mars Maltage ‘Cosmo’ (43%, OB, Japanese blended malt, +/-2016)

Mars Maltage ‘Cosmo’ (43%, OB, Japanese blended malt, +/-2016) Two stars and a half Much better hopes this time, although the price for this NAS blended malt is totally loco (100€ at some places!) What’s more, this is not even pure Mars/Komagate, it’s a blend with Scottish malts. That you would be allowed to call ‘Japanese whisky’ something that’s blended with whiskies from other countries, possibly in high proportions, is just mad and can’t help build customer trust, in my opinion. Now Mars is a very good signature, so… Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes, now we’re starting to talk. Good malt, apple crumble, flowers (lilies, buttercups, linden), some toasted bread and pastries, williams pears, banana juice… In the background, something slightly metallic (old kettle) that adds what we would call some dimension. Mouth: yes, it’s good, even very good. Good oranges, pepper, pink grapefruits, pomegranates, with some linseed oil and a wee chalkiness. I guess we can say ‘wee’ since there’s some Scottish whisky inside. Finish: medium, well balanced, fruity, with touches of spearmint, cedar wood, and cinnamon. Comments: probably not a good deal, but it’s some very good blend. It’s just that you can buy two bottles of age-stated Springbank for the same price. SGP:541 - 79 points.

Yes, ouch. But let’s call on somebody for help…

Hibiki 17 yo (43%, OB, Suntory, Japanese blend, +/-2016)

Hibiki 17 yo (43%, OB, Suntory, Japanese blend, +/-2016) Four stars and a half This one’s a sure bet! Well, it should be a sure bet. And let’s assume it’s fully Japanese – although if there’s some Bowmore inside, we won’t complain too loudly. Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes. Fresh fruits everywhere, both tropical and ‘western’. Mirabelles and mangos, plus some lovely touches of seaweed, orange cake, honeysuckle, elderflowers, and honeycomb. I’m finding this nose even nicer, and certainly fresher than before (circa 2005-2010) Mouth: well it does feel Scottish – not saying there is some Scottish malt inside, I have no clues and no information whatsoever on that very topic. But these pink bananas, this coastal side, these mangos, these passion fruits, these nectarines, these fresh figs… Yum yum. Finish: medium, fresh, fruity, with good structure and something plainly and totally more-ish. So, it’s dangerous. Comments: sadly, I think they discontinued this version, while a few greedy retailers that still have stocks are trying to kill the cows (that’s you an me). 300€? They have no shame. Anyway, whether it was the last lot or not, those recent Hibikis 17 were tremendous blends (up ten points within ten years!) SGP:641 - 89 points.

It seems that we’re starting to perk up, so let’s go on!...

Mars Shinshu ‘Komagate’ 2012/2016 (58.8%, OB, 60th Anniversary of La Maison du Whisky, American white oak puncheon, cask #1555)

Mars Shinshu ‘Komagate’ 2012/2016 (58.8%, OB, 60th Anniversary of La Maison du Whisky, American white oak puncheon, cask #1555) Four stars Their baby ‘revival’ had been excellent three years ago (WF 85). Colour: gold. Nose: so awesomely bubblegumy and marshmallowy! We’ve just opened a 2.5kg pack of assorted Haribos, while licking some candy floss and drinking some very young good-château white Pessac-Léognan. Believe me. With water: yay, aniseed, Thai basil, coriander… Mouth (neat): extremely fruity and bonbony. Extreme in that sense, but spectacular. Cassis, kiwis, tangerines… With water: yay again. Crème de cassis, lemon drops, fennel, aniseed, tangerines… A very lovely combination. Finish: medium, very fruity, always with this very ‘Thai’ (whatever that means) feeling as far as spices are concerned. Comments: what I really like here is that this distillery’s got its own style, and does not only rely on good oak/wine (and related tricks). And there wasn’t much vanilla, I guess they did some special charring inside the puncheons. SGP:731 - 87 points.

Have we reached serenity and harmony yet?...

Chichibu 6 yo 2010/2016 (59.7%, Blackadder, PX finish, cask #2630, 311 bottles)

Chichibu 6 yo 2010/2016 (59.7%, Blackadder, PX finish, cask #2630, 311 bottles) Four stars Blackadder are in all the right moves. Now, a PX finish, that usually scares me, let’s see… (a PX or a Port finish scare me as much as a tuned Opel/Vauxhall Astra diesel with neon lights and 20” rims). Colour: deep orange gold. Nose: bourbon. Sawdust, pencil shavings, vanilla, coconut balls, caraway, rye, and lavender syrup. Frankly, I’d have said bourbon. Excellent bourbon. No obvious Pedro that I can feel, better like that. With water: a carpenter’s workshop, a cooperage, a modern palletised warehouse… See what I mean. Now, I do enjoy the coconut + vanilla + oranges combo. Mouth (neat): totally high-impact, this is a flame-thrower. Cough, cough, I’ve known spirits at 70% vol. that were smoooother. OMG. With water: good, we tamed the beast. Rounded, creamy, sweet, bourbony, very Americanoaky (what?)… And there, perhaps, one raisin from the PX thing. And orange zests. Finish: medium, spicier. Candied ginger and curaçao. Comments: what a rollercoaster! Make sure you’ve got at least 3 bottles of water on the side. Spectacular young boosted malt from the masters at Chichibu. SGP:631 - 85 points.

While we’re at it, and this will be the end of this unlikely Japanese session…

Chichibu 2011/2016 (61.3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, Hanyu hogshead, cask #1401, 264 bottles)

Chichibu 2011/2016 (61.3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, Hanyu hogshead, cask #1401, 264 bottles) Five stars I know very well who’s on the label, it’s just that the name escapes me. It’s someone working at La Maison du Whisky… It will come back to me... Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a peater this time. And I’d swear we’re at Ardbeg’s. Tar, eucalyptus, smoked fish, seaweed, bicycle inner tubes, fresh almonds, rubberwood… With water: rubber up. And it’s tremendous rubber. We’re not talking sulphur, of course. Mouth (neat): splendid young peated malt, with admirable notes of smoked almonds and sharp lemons (Corsican lemons), as well as some soft brine and… hold on, Jamaican rum? It’s true that this baby’s got something of Hampden Estate. Could you get more ‘world’? With water: impeccable blade-y spirit. Salty peat smoke and ashy lemons, plus something medicinal. Tincture of iodine, perhaps. Finish: long, comety (here comes the king of stupid barbarisms), and blade-y. Salted smoked almonds and lemons. Gritty/green aftertaste. Comments: pristine young peated whisky. Plus, we found a 90-er, which hasn’t been too easy to do today. Thank you Ichiro-san, as far as contemporary whisky’s concerned, you seem to be Japan. SGP:367 - 90 points.

Phew… Not an easy session, I tell you…

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



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June 13, 2017


Little Ardbegs

We need to try one or three Ardbegs every once in a while, just to celebrate the name’s glorious past. And after all, this is Whiskyfun. I sincerely hope the distillery will soon make a much-celebrated and deservedly trumpeted comeback! We’re talking whisky, not marketing, of course… So, let’s see what we have in the queue…

Ar7 (56.3%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, bourbon, 2016)

Ar7 (56.3%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, bourbon, 2016) Three stars and a half Now that Master of Malts have added age statements to their Boutique-y whiskies, I’m wondering if TWE/Specialty Drinks will do the same with their Elements series. That wouldn’t be such a bad idea if you ask me… Even on PX finishes – since apparently, this ‘beg was finished in PX. Just a Friday afternoon idea or a brainwave? Let’s see… Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s not rare that PX + peat create heavy notes of burnt tyres and burning fir wood. That’s exactly what’s happening here. And hot brake pads, engine oil, burning pinecones, pencil shavings… With water: some meat coming out. Steak, parsley, béarnaise, soy sauce, a pinhead of natto (nothing to do with Donald J.)… This is very heavy. Mouth (neat): creamy, rich, very salty, and totally mentholated. Thin mints, mint sauce (how very English), ginger, artichokes, oak extracts, pepper, more pepper, even more pepper… With water: still a bit pachydermic, oaky, extractive, but there are fresher notes of pomegranates appearing. But pomegranates in Ardbeg? Finish: long, oaky, heavy, spicy, and rather cigary. Comments: it’s an extreme Ardbeg and you sure won’t handle it with kid’s gloves. Very good, but not my favourite style. Perhaps keep a bottle in the cupboard for, say thirty years?… SGP:477 - 83 points.

Ardbeg 18 yo 1998/2016 (56.6%, Signatory Vintage, Straight From The Cask, bourbon barrel, cask #1776, 280 bottles)

Ardbeg 18 yo 1998/2016 (56.6%, Signatory Vintage, Straight From The Cask, bourbon barrel, cask #1776, 280 bottles) Three stars and a half Always loved this little series by SV. And with a bourbon barrel, we’re pretty much seeking redemption (after the, cough, PX). Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, it seems that we’ve bartered heavy PX for heavy vanilla and orange liqueur. The thing is that we like vanilla and orange liqueur much better than that stuffy thing called PX (sure there are some great old ones, but those aren’t the ones that are used to finish whisky, mind you). So, vanilla cake and oysters (I know) plus orange liqueur and smoked salmon. It’s not very complex, and the spirit’s even a little simplistic, but the combo works. With water: a little leather and a handful of dried kelp, that’s pretty all. Not the best swimmer on the island. Mouth (neat): we’re close to the recent OBs. Bubblegum, vanilla, and a slightly binary peat/pepper combo. No transmutations seem to have occurred in the cask yet, this is still totally secondary (as opposed to tertiary, see what I mean). Pepper. With water: fruits come out. Citrons, pears, tangerines. Still narrow. Finish: rather long, a little mojito-y. Lime in the aftertaste. Comments: very good and a little simple. Have I used the word binary? Oh and was the purifier on or off, on June 18, 1998? SGP:557 - 84 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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June 12, 2017


More funny Scottish malts, randomly

Stuff with no names, but with ages and/or vintages, as they come, so rather illogically. Blends, singles, blended malts, stuff…

Chinese Zodiac 6 yo ‘Year of the Pig’ (49.5%, Just-Whisky, Speyside, Chinese Zodiac, sherry cask)

Chinese Zodiac 6 yo ‘Year of the Pig’ (49.5%, Just-Whisky, Speyside, Chinese Zodiac, sherry cask) Four stars and a half Some unknown Scotch single malt from Germany. A micro-bottling, rather for fun indeed, or so it seems. Colour: gold. Nose: all is well and all is right in this malty, medium-bodied (so it seems) malt whisky that’s got just the right amount of sherry, and that cannot not make me think of that family-owned distillery in Ballindalloch. Amber beer, roasted nuts, chestnut purée, some rancio, some cigars, some oranges, some quality. Mouth: super-good. Strawberry jam, marmalade, golden raisins, malted barley, a pinhead of Marmite, and some marmalade again. Nice peppery and slightly clove-y background. Finish: long, spicier. Pepper, nutmeg, puréed chestnuts, bitter oranges, white pepper. Comments: certainly not one bottling ‘for the pigs’! I find this old-style sherried Speysider very good, this session starts well. SGP:561 - 88 points.

Speyside 41 yo 1975/2016 (46.9%, Antique Lions of Spirits, Fino sherry, 230 bottles)

Speyside 41 yo 1975/2016 (46.9%, Antique Lions of Spirits, Fino sherry, 230 bottles) Four stars and a half Ah these lovely Moony bottlings… Colour: pale gold. Nose: there, there are flowers, there are fresh fruits, and there’s a complexity that just cannot be found in young whiskies. Astounding soft oils (sunflower), slightly smoked grapefruits, cider apples, ripe gooseberries, blackberries, three cherries, and a drop of old Chartreuse. Well, we knew these casks were just wonderful, so no surprise here, sadly. Sob sob sob…  Mouth: hey? It’s a little bizarre this time, excellent for sure, but there’s a wee soapiness that comes a little unexpected. The good news is that that would go away, slowly yet surely. Grapefruits, lemon skin oil, walnut oil, green tea… Finish: medium, a tad green, perhaps. Comments: an utterly stunning nose, one of the greatest this year, and a palate that’s a notch more, well, ‘unlikely’ in my opinion. Now these are the cheapest whiskies, you just nose them, no need to drink them. In short, they’re eternal. SGP:471 (palate) - 88 points.

Ordha 21 yo ‘Rare Cask Reserves’ (47.4%, OB, William Grant, blended Scotch, batch #WS 01/04, 4900 bottles, 2015)

Ordha 21 yo ‘Rare Cask Reserves’ (47.4%, OB, William Grant, blended Scotch, batch #WS 01/04, 4900 bottles, 2015) one star and a half Right, a blend, for the Netherlands, apparently. Those fine people know their whisky, so, high hopes here… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not the most expressive whisky ever, but it does the job. Croissants and brioche, apple pie, roasted hazelnuts, custard, English breakfast tea… It’s not unlike some very mild bourbon. Excuse me? Yup, without the coconut. Mouth: good for sure. A touch of varnish, then drops of smoked tea and light tea… Wait, the problem is that is nosedives, and there’s almost no middle, as if the grain (Girvan?) had taken over. That’s rather frustrating, because the fruitiness ‘behind’ is quite complex and even interesting. But the body’s weak. Finish: no way. Short, alcoholic and thin. Wood alcohol in the aftertaste. Comments: I’ll never understand this series. Must be me. Obviously me. SGP:440 - 68 points.

Glenalmond ‘Everyday’ (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, blended malt, +/-2017)

Glenalmond ‘Everyday’ (40%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, blended malt, +/-2017) Two stars This by the makers of the excellent Coopers’ Choice range, and we know good seed makes a good crop. Oh and I absolutely adore the name! Everyday rather than ‘rare’ or whatever, kudos! Colour: gold. Nose: in the style of the much dearer Ordha, just a touch more ‘rough’. Apples, maple syrup, roasted nuts, toasted oak, malt. Very blendy, but nicely so. Mouth: well, it buries the previous blend. Nice malty, orange-y, slightly woody, and slightly caramely/coffee-ish style. Nothing to write home about, but everyday, anytime. Finish: medium, a little bitter and ‘burnt’ this time, not the best part. Loses many points now, because this finish ain’t too nice. Comments: seriously, it’s a fine average blend, more or less of Johnnie Red quality, we’ve just seen worse. SGP:351 – 72 points.

Anchor Bay ’82 Points’ (40%, Lombard, Speyside, blended malt, +/-2016)

Anchor Bay ’82 Points’ (40%, Lombard, Speyside, blended malt, +/-2016) Two stars and a halfI’m serious, the points are already there on the label, in big figures! But they come from the ‘Beverage Testing Institute’, so… Well, let’s check that, while being glad to see something newish from Lombard’s. Colour: straw. Nose: nice, vanilla-ed, barley-y, croissanty (ah-hem, S.), clean, nutty style. Milk chocolate and café latte from anybody else than Starshucks. Mouth: well well well, this is quite nice, malty, mildly syrupy, nutty, well rounded, with apple crumble and orange cake. Good body at 40% vol. almost a miracle. Seriously, this is good. Finish: medium, malty, clean, with more baked apples and a little maple syrup and honey. Comments: well, 82’s a little too high for me, but we aren’t too far away. Some rather solid blended malt. SGP:451 - 79 points.

It seems that we’re recovering…

Paragon (51.4%, Maltbarn, blended malt, sherry, 204 bottles, 2017)

Paragon (51.4%, Maltbarn, blended malt, sherry, 204 bottles, 2017) Four stars and a half This is meant to be ‘Very Old’. Well, we do trust the excellent people at Maltbarn’s at WF Towers. Colour: amber. Nose: yeah, metal polish, old walnuts, cigars, grandma’s tin boxes, pu-erh tea… This is immediately ten times more complex, and complexity in whisky ought to be cherished and preserved. With water: hazelnut oil and artisan chocolate. Nougat. Mouth (neat): marmalade, tobacco, cinchona, liquorice, pinesap, myrtle, caraway. What’s not to enjoy? With water: perfect. Marmalade, tobacco, ginger liqueur, walnut wine, and… have I already mentioned tobacco? Finish: rather long, grassy, rather smoky, and pretty earthy. Salted marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: not only a paragon, also a paragon of virtue (now that was too easy, S.) SGP:453 - 88 points.

William Cadenhead 12 yo ‘Batch 3’ (46%, Cadenhead, blend, +/-2017)

William Cadenhead 12 yo ‘Batch 3’ (46%, Cadenhead, blend, +/-2017) Three stars Yeah that’s where they pour all the Ardbegs and Lagavulins that no one wants (I’ve heard). And Port Dundas of course. Colour: gold. Nose: it sure works, with soft oils, pastries, apples, nuts, calf leather, and soft dried fruits. It seems that this baby’s rather smoother and easier than last year’s 12 yo. I don’t seem to be able to find the Ardbegness in it, that is, but who cares? Mouth: there’s a little rubber, and a little over-brewed tea, then rather some leather, crushed nuts, and some green oranges. Its not an easy blend that you would quaff while talking European politics with some old friends, I’d even say it’s a little challenging, with this rubbery side… But I believe I like it rather better than last year’s offering. Or am I getting softer? Finish: medium, earthy, nutty, slightly tarry/smoky/salty. Comments: seriously, this 12 got better, and I can’t wait for Batch 4. SGP:352 - 82 points.

Do we have room for more? Wait, I’ve got an idea, let’s put an end to this madness with a peaty note…

Big Peat ‘Special Edition For My German Pals At Finest Spirits In Munich 2014’ (50%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 108 bottles)

Big Peat ‘Special Edition For My German Pals At Finest Spirits In Munich 2014’ (50%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 108 bottles) Four stars So much for brand control! Seriously, this is fun, well done Douglas Laing (and anyone involved). As usual, this Big Peat contains 95% Port Ellen, the remainder from all other distilleries on Islay. Hey, I might be joking. Colour: the whitest white wine. Nose: we’re navigating between an old hospital (in an Italian soft horror movie) and some kind of oyster bed. This is all immaculate, totally spirit-driven, just wondering about those spirits. Crabs and kelp and fresh almonds, that’s rather CI, but who knows? Mouth: immaculate indeed. Fresh paint, putty, lemon, salt, oysters, tequila (aye, aye). Finish: long, clean, very smoky. Just the aftertaste is a tad too bitter(ish). Maybe… Comments: I don’t know whether this was a joke or not, but if it was, it was a fine one. Excellent, the vatting wiped out all the imperfections. SGP:357 - 87 points.

Agreed, let’s call this a tasting session…

(Und gracias, Günter)

More tasting notes Check the index of all undisclosed or blended whiskies
I've tasted so far



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June 11, 2017


Malternatives the quest goes on

So that would be more rum, always more rum, and at total random once again. Well…

German or Swiss ad for Coruba, circa 1960. 'Helps heating/warming up' >>>

Coruba ‘N.P.U.’ (74%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2017)

Coruba ‘N.P.U.’ (74%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2017) Three starsSome Jamaican blend, popular in Middle-Europa, and bottled for nightclub fighters, apparently. Let’s see if some high-esters are to be found amongst the high degrees… I have to say the Coruba 25 had been excellent (WF 86) but of course, this is much younger… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: yes sir! Big, raw, congeneric, very cane-y and very olive-y. Fermenting bananas, UHU glue, ether… But boy it’s strong! With water: well, it’s fine, but it’s lost a large part of its character. Tropical rainwater. Mouth (neat): burns your throat as sure as 1+1=2. Insane, even as the tiniest amounts enter your mouth… Do you know Stroh? Quick, water… With water: no, even more water. With more water: good, Jamaican for sure, water did not kill it as much as it did on the nose. Brine, tar, varnish, rotting exotic fruits, liquorice, bitter leaves, salt, lemon… Finish: Comments: NPU means Non Plus Ultra. Not too sure about that, but it’s, indeed, once of the most extreme spirits out there, and I’ve heard Caribbean Airlines are using this when they run out of kerosene. But I like it, even if I like Worthy Park’s ‘Rum Bar’ better. SGP:472 - 80 points.

Caroni 16 yo ‘Ancient Mariner’ (54%, Trinidad, +/-2012)

Caroni 16 yo ‘Ancient Mariner’ (54%, Trinidad, +/-2012) Four stars Indeed, Caroni, bottled by a Scottish company, apparently. Well I would have written ‘Caroni’ in bolder letters on the label, but that’s just me. Anyway, let’s see whether this is light or heavy Caroni… Colour: deep gold. Nose: strange, something may have happened. Some finishing or something, or the use of some ex-Inchmurrin casks, or even some clear peaters… In fact, it’s a great nose, it’s just not extremely ‘Caroni’, and it’s not totally ‘rum’ either. There’s quite some oak, bananas, and boxes and boxes of cigars. Intriguing… With water: lovely, camphor, menthol, eucalyptus, plasticine, cedar wood… Mouth (neat): excellent. Dry, not sugary at all, with a lot of cedar wood and even more liquorice, then kumquats and some kind of tarry smoke again. Like it a lot, even if it’s a little ‘un-Caroni’. Now, we all know Caronis vary. With water: a mentholy and extremely liquoricy oakiness is coming out, all for our good (provided you enjoy liquorice as much as I do). Finish: long, on liquorice, dried bananas, and tobacco. Comments: some characterful spirit, quite different from the other Caronis. SGP:363 - 87 points.

Darsa 9 yo 2007/2013 (43%, Compagnie des Indes, cask #GOS13, 371 bottles)

Darsa 9 yo 2007/2013 (43%, Compagnie des Indes, Guatemala, cask #GOS13, 371 bottles) Three stars and a half To tell you the truth, the name ‘Guatemala’ is extremely scary, and Darsa – or rather D.A.R.S.A. – is actually the plant where they make the much sugared, solera-ed and marketed Z. and B. (you know what they are, don’t you). So yeah, scared, but it’s also a bottling by Compagnie des Indes, which should mean that there’s something special here. Un-tampered-with Zacapa, anyone? Colour: gold. Nose: a soft, rather rounded, not dull, just very moderately aromatic rum. Panettone, orange blossom honey, cane syrup, fresh brioche, lime juice, tinned peaches… In truth, it’s fairly complex, and most interesting. Mouth: good! Soft citrus, fresh nuts, papayas, vanilla, more cane syrup, lilies, gentle cinnamon cake… The softness is wonderful, I think. Finish: this is where it loses it a bit, it’s becoming a little thin, without many clear and defined flavours. Sugar cane? Comments: why murder this very lovely rum (when in its natural state)? Very well done, Compagnie des Indes! SGP:640 - 83 points.

Cadenhead's Classic Rum (50%, Cadenhead, blend, +/-2017)

Cadenhead's Classic Rum (50%, Cadenhead, blend, +/-2017) Three stars and a half Rum from the Caribbean, blended by some Campbeltowners. What could go wrong? Colour: amber. Nose: goes into many directions, which screams ‘I’m a blend!’ indeed. Sugar cane, hints of copper, vegetal earth, liquorice, tobacco, some banana cake, one olive, and one drop of brake fluid for good measure. Not particularly ‘high-esters’, but it’s got something to say. Mouth: all pretty good, once again it’s slightly indefinite, but all the liquorice is growing on you, while notes of pipe tobacco, dried figs and bananas, and plain molasses are completing the picture. A touch of tar as well, Jamaican style. Finish: quite long, rather rounded, and pretty more-ish. Lovely oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: perfect rum to sip without thinking too much about it. Alternatively, you could use it to replace all the junk rums around that usually go into cocktails. Fake premium and such… SGP:542 - 83 points.

Worthy Park 12 yo 2005/2017 (53.4%, Liquid Treasures and The Whisky Mercenary, 226 bottles)

Worthy Park 12 yo 2005/2017 (53.4%, Liquid Treasures and The Whisky Mercenary, Jamaica, 226 bottles) Five stars This had to happen, whisky people are going bananas these days when any Jamaican rum is in sight (I mean Worthy Park and Hampden). Who could blame them (us)? Colour: gold. Nose: ah, a relatively mild one. There is brine, tar, olives and natural rubber, but there are also soft spices, caraway, curry, even sweet mustard… May I ask, ex-whisky cask again? With water: humus! Love humus! Mouth (neat): oh this is excellent! Starts very medicinal, with some mercurochrome, a lot of tiger balm, cloves, camphor, thyme… And gets then rounder, with some spicy marmalade, Szechuan pepper, and certainly quite some dried bananas. A feeling of peat in the background, but I may be dreaming. With water: shall we call this ‘a Port Ellen of Jamaica?’ It’s this soft tarry side that’s impressive. Please call the anti-rumporn brigade asap! Finish: Comments: a big, yet softer Worthy Park, really very complex. I’d love to be able to try this after thirty years of bottle ageing. Highly recommended, this one makes you travel to Jamaica… and Islay. SGP:453 - 91 points.

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



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June 10, 2017





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
SMWS Ardmore:
Old And New
Ardmore is such a funny distillery. There are many excellent bottlings if you dig around but still it remains steadfastly unloved by the wider whisky nerdsphere. It’s a curious one considering the fact it is probably one of mainland Scotland’s more characterful distillates.


Ardmore 12 yo 2003/2016 (61.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #66.88, ‘Smoky, spiky sangria’, exclusive to Queen Street, 204 bottles) Ardmore 12 yo 2003/2016 (61.4%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #66.88, ‘Smoky, spiky sangria’, exclusive to Queen Street, 204 bottles) Colour: Pale gold. Nose: Definitely smoky and curiously milky as well. Little notes of tequila reposado and clay alongside some nice farmyard earthiness, soot, olive oil, wax and a deft green fruitiness. There ain’t too many distillates like Ardmore still around it has to be said. With water: more coal, clay, earth and soot - a real coal hearth of a dram. Some interesting spicy notes including ground red peppercorns and chilli. Mouth: Cactus! More smoked agave, zingy mezcal notes, spice, bitters and some nice olive oil notes which add an odd but pleasingly almost slimy texture to the palate. Develops with notes of leavened bread, brown ale and other various autolytic yeasty notes. With water: More farmyard qualities emerge, damp straw, smoked grains and something like a good German rauchbier. Finish: Long and oily with more wax, soot and notes of graphite and something slightly muddy/earthy - little glimmers of fruit poking through. Comments: It’s a good, solid Ardmore that shows this is still a distillery with real character in the distillate. Not the best Ardmore ever but very far from boring and certainly entertaining. Would be a lot of fun poured blind. SGP: 366 - 85 points.   


Ardmore 20 yo 1985/2005 (54.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #66.16, ‘A bountiful dram’)

Ardmore 20 yo 1985/2005 (54.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #66.16, ‘A bountiful dram’) Colour: Young Sauternes. Nose: A log shed, next to a coal shed, with a peat fire in the next garden. It’s quite amazing how Ardmore can combine the aromas of peat and farmyard in a totally idiosyncratic way which is different to Brora or old Glen Garioch. Gets down and dirty with coal embers, soot, wood ash, bonfire smoke, BBQ sauce and some earthy and waxy notes. A proper Highland malt whisky in the traditional sense. Some little touches of heather, honey and ale, perhaps a McEwan’s 80 shilling (it’s a beer Serge, you’d love it, I’ll bring you a keg for D Day this year). With time becomes a little fruitier and more herbal with notes of lychee, gorse, sage and a tart gooseberry note. With water: more sage, rosemary, BBQ smoke, sack cloth and some nice citrus and slightly mineral notes. Mouth: The peatiness in this is surprisingly pronounced, on a par with say a mid-aged Talisker. More earthiness, farmyard notes, a stable and barn rolled into one with some fruity notes of tangerine and Earl Grey tea. A big oiliness, olive oil and motor oil mixed with some natural tar liqueur and dried herbs. With water: a perfect balance of lemon oils and skins, cow sheds (not that I eat many right enough), a delicate ashiness and some nice white stone fruits all wrapped up in a gentle peatiness. Finish: Long, sooty, waxy and delicately phenolic with a lingering farminess. Comments: Why on earth do more people not like Ardmore? Actually, who cares. Part of the distillery’s charm is its utter unsexiness and old school oddball nature. This was a great one. SGP: 466 - 90 points.





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June 9, 2017


Little tasting, two indie Glen Garioch

It seems that the well-known easternmost Scottish distillery is gathering more attention again in recent times. Let’s have two newish ones, one very young indie to check the style of the current distillate, and one older indie that’s very pale as well…

Glen Garioch 6 yo 2010/2016 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #11083)

Glen Garioch 6 yo 2010/2016 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #11083) Two stars and a half Douglas Laing are having many ultra-young malts in this series these days… Colour: very white wine. Nose: almost new make indeed. Bursting with pears and porridge, kirsch, plum eau-de-vie, green apples, no peat that I can get, rather a distant minerality, around limestone. A little weissen beer as well. Very, very young… Mouth: starts quite spicy, and indeed I seem to find a little ‘sour’ peat this time, and a wee feeling of ashes. Other than that, we’re finding crushed barley, pears, apples, barley syrup, and more beer. It’s a rather characterful distillate, I have to say, but of course we ain’t in 1965 or 1971. Finish: medium, sweet and porridge-y. A little green pepper, and more pears and apples. Celeriac in the aftertaste. Comments: malt whisky isn’t mezcal, and neither is it rum (hey, Einstein!) so it needs aging, but when the distillate’s got some personality, which is rather the case here, it can be fairly good even at a very young age. Worth trying, and I don’t think it’s very expensive. SGP:441 - 78 points.

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1994/2016 (55%, Abbey Whisky, The Rare Casks, release 6, refill hogshead)

Glen Garioch 21 yo 1994/2016 (55%, Abbey Whisky, The Rare Casks, release 6, refill hogshead) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: typical late-period Gen Garioch, with bold notes of roots, gentian, chalk, clay, autumn leaves, and ultra-sharp lemons. Also almond and sesame oils. Very appealing if you enjoy your whiskies straight and rather austere. With water: wet chalk and plaster, always something that I enjoy. Very mineral, not unlike the best Pouillys. Mouth (neat): ah yes, I remember these batches. Same high minerality and rootiness, something medicinal (Band-aid), some aniseed, rosemary, a drop of antique mouthwash (cloves, juniper) and always this rooty, chalky side. Excellent, it’s always interesting to notice how Bowmore and Glen Garioch upped their games again in the 1990s, after the naughty 1980s. With water: even more roots. This one’s about to sing the blues… Finish: rather long, with a perfect mineral and grassy bitterness. Comments: it’s got something of the driest Clynelishes, without the wax. Must be the east coast… SGP:462 - 88 points.

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



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June 8, 2017


Glenallachie OB vs. Glenallachie IB

As I just wrote, because after the lovely old 12 years old from the 1980s, there is an official Glenallachie again! (not taking a few very small batches by Chivas here and there into account).

Glenallachie ‘Distillery Edition’ (40%, OB, 2017)

Glenallachie ‘Distillery Edition’ (40%, OB, 2017) Three stars Yes lasses and lads, there’s a new official Glenallachie! It’s just a little hard to understand why, while the name’s virtually unknown and the capacity quite huge (around 3mio LPA), Pernod-Ricard have decided to go NAS. Colour: gold. Nose: well it’s not un-nice. A little pils beer, sour apples, pears, a touch of vanilla, some barley, some raw malt, a little lemon… Balance has been found, but there aren’t many asperities. Mouth: it’s really good, it’s just simple and kind of elementary. Now I like it better than its sibling Glenlivet Founders Reserve, it’s got a better texture, and I do enjoy these notes of lemon curd and tarte tatin. Or tarte au citron. Finish: medium, nicely malty and lemony. Really, it’s good. Comments: indeed it’s good. A perfect example of an 80-point whisky in my book. So yeah, it’s good, certainly and surely. SGP:441 - 80 points.

Glenallachie 21 yo 1995/2017 (58.7%, Hunter Laing, First Editions, refill hogshead, cask # 13309, 242 bottles)

Glenallachie 21 yo 1995/2017 (58.7%, Hunter Laing, First Editions, refill hogshead, cask # 13309, 242 bottles) Three stars There had been a 1995 OMC a few years ago, but that one was a little too immature in my opinion (WF 75). So five or six years later… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s still raw, with notes of high-column rum, lemon peel, green apples, and raw artisan kirsch. This baby may well need water… Well I need water. So, with water: sweet beer and oak-matured cider. Of quality. Mouth (neat): indeed, raw malt whisky, with ‘new-make fruits’ everywhere, and this kirschy side again. Lemon liqueur, grass, pink grapefruits, aniseed. With water: improves mucho. Lemon pie, meringue (on that pie), hawthorn tea, green plums… Finish: medium, on apples, lemons, and green gooseberries. Comments: these are never ‘immediate’, and I’d say the taster needs to give them all his attention… Or you’ll never really notice them, let alone remember them. That’s what I tried to do. SGP:541 - 82 points.

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



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June 7, 2017


Mysterious and wacky Glenturret

We’ve got quite a bag of Glenturret to try, but the malt’s not always easy to assess, so I think we’ll do this slowly, and only have three of them today.

Glenturret 16 yo ‘Fly’s 16 Masters Edition’ (44%, OB, 1740 bottles, 2016)

Glenturret 16 yo ‘Fly’s 16 Masters Edition’ (44%, OB, 1740 bottles, 2016) Four stars Well I tried to understand the story behind this baby, but it’s so fuzzy on their website that I gave up. What’s more, you can buy a bottle for £95, but if you’re a member of their customer club, you have ‘the exclusive opportunity to purchase bottles with the following special numbers for £130 each: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 5, 8, 16, 18, 21 and 240’. Well, using drugs and alcohol at the same time is never a good idea. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not one of those wacky old Glenturrets, and I find this much cleaner, rounder, and easier. Malt, tobacco, overripe apples, ale, and just a wee touch of wet chalk, a fragment of the past. Mouth: this is good citrusy malt, with a rather nice pie/lemon combo, lemon curd, crystallised oranges, and a wee earthy/tobacco side that keeps it rather characterful. Very pleasant minerality. Finish: medium, lemony, candied, always with this mineral, almost leathery side in the back. Schweppes (which is very Glenturret) and bitter oranges. Comments: the marketing is weird, but the whisky’s pretty awesome. Now can I have bottle #1247 for no extra cost? SGP:462 - 86 points.

Glenturret 28 yo 1987/2016 (44%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 162 bottles)

Glenturret 28 yo 1987/2016 (44%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 162 bottles) Two stars Colour: white wine. Nose: there, this Glenturretness of old. Rusted iron, chalk and plaster, yogurt (I’m not mentioning baby puke on purpose), manure, fresh concrete, brine, beer… I’m sure you got the picture. Now we’ve all had some older Glenturrets that have been even more extreme, haven’t we. Mouth: this is difficult. On the one side, it’s wacky again, some would even say slightly flawed, and on the other side, it’s malt whisky unlike any other, with this strange mixture made out of mead, cardboard, yogurt, porridge, chalk, and retsina. Finish: same, for a rather long time. Lemon-scented wax and litres of mead. Comments: these whiskies are extremely hard to score. Kudos to Cadenhead for having bottled a Glenturret that was extremely Glenturrety, as if they were the industry’s most trustworthy archivists, in a way. On the other hand… My this was some bizarre malt! SGP:362 - 75 points (don’t bother, only for the record).

Glenturret 28 yo 1987/2016 (45.9%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask # DL11199, 171 bottles)

Glenturret 28 yo 1987/2016 (45.9%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask # DL11199, 171 bottles) Two stars and a half Please fasten your seatbelts… Colour: straw. Nose: what’s good is that it’s much better polished than the CAD, what’s less good is that it’s lost a part of its wacky individuality. Blue-green tea, lemons and chalk, clay and grapefruits, and in the background, a blend of brake fluid and liquid paraffin. Indeed, it’s still got something unusual… Mouth: no, it’s well a Glenturret. Orange peel dipped into candle wax, very citric white beer, porridge, damp plaster, plasticine, and even plain plastic. Oh and yogurt. Finish: rather long, with some candied lemon that saves it. Comments: I don’t know, I really don’t know. I wouldn’t say it’s feinty old whisky, but it sure is… Old-Glenturrety on the palate. SGP:462 - 77 points (don’t bother, only for the record).

Well, I know we’ve said only three, but I need to double-check something… Perhaps was it the 1987 vintage?

Glenturret 29 yo 1986/2016 (50.2%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon hogshead, cask #299, 201 bottles)

Glenturret 29 yo 1986/2016 (50.2%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon hogshead, cask #299, 201 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: more cask influence, which translates into a richer and rounder style, with some kind of smoked tobacco cake (I said tobacco – I know that would be poisonous), some marmalade, hints of yellow curry or even masala, walnuts, touches of manure… In short, the bizarre distillate’s been domesticated here. It’s almost as this was ex-refill sherry. With water: the chalky, slightly manure-y side comes out, but that’s all very moderate here. Mouth (neat): ah yes! This one’s kind of civilised, wonderfully lemony and orange-y, with many grassy spices and, well, herbs. Fennel, caraway… And even a blend of Campari and Aperol. I’m serious. With water: all very good, slightly leathery as it should be, with touches of ‘natural’ sulphur and more Aperol. No, drop the prosecco, we don’t drink that at WF Towers. Finish: long, on marmalades. Sweet and spicy bitters in the aftertaste. Comments: glad to have found this one! SGP:562 - 87 points.

So, maybe was it the 1987 vintage after all. That may have been Janet Jackson’s fault. Or Kenny G’s.

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



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June 6, 2017


12 Blair Athol you must try now.
No.10 will shock you!

Don’t bother with that stoopid headline; I’m just following some smart advice from our good friend Arun P. Experiments that we shall never repeat, you see. So as I may have written before, it happens that some names or distilleries remain almost nowhere to be seen for years, except for a few officials, and quite suddenly, there are dozens and dozens of new ones around. That’s what’s happening these days with Blair Athol, and it was about time we reacted. But first, the usual apéritif…

Blair Athol (46%, OB, Highland Malt, +/-1970)

Blair Athol (46%, OB, Highland Malt, +/-1970) Four stars So this is the older ‘Highland Malt’ version by Atholl Distilleries Ltd. Indeed, Atholl. And indeed, NAS. Colour: gold. Nose: typical old-style, sooty, gravelly, rather mentholated malt whisky, very dry, getting even ultra-grassy. Which, we agree, doesn’t sound very ‘old Blair Athol’. Cut cactus, fresh bark, leaves, Chinese Gunpowder green tea, touches of soy sauce, parsley, bouillons… It feels quite fat, and indeed bouillony, but remains very dry all along. Mouth: dry and fat indeed, not unlike some thicker manzanilla or something. Bags of walnuts for sure, orange peel, leaves and teas, some plasticine, some kind of graphite oil, and a growing saltiness, totally unexpected. All the 46 degrees are well there, it’s quite heavy and strong. Finish: long, even saltier, with a feeling of having quaffed some salty vegetable bouillon. Comments: some old 8s or 12s have been sexier, fruitier, and easier. This is the brother that took holy orders. SGP:362 - 87 points.

Sixty years later (like)…

Blair Athol 5 yo 2010/2016 (46%, Càrn Mor, sherry butt, 810 bottles)

Blair Athol 5 yo 2010/2016 (46%, Càrn Mor, sherry butt, 810 bottles) Two stars That’s right, 810 bottles from a single butt. Could you make younger than this? Without any sherry, probably not… Colour: pale straw, clearly refill. Nose: and he who thought the old NAS was dry! This one’s even drier, very chalky, with damp oatcakes, first rain, whiffs of musty old cellar, and just as much green tea as in the old OB. Mouth: rather harsh, with more maltiness, peppery cakes, bitter herbs, walnut peelings, yogurt, more and more green tea… It’s really becoming very peppery, in fact. Green pepper. You need to wait for a long time before touches of oranges make an appearance. Finish: long, green, grassy, peppery. Comments: not my business of course, but I think this was bottled too early. Like, ten years. SGP:361 - 75 points.

Unless just one more year…

Blair Athol 6 yo 2010/2016 (46%, Càrn Mor, sherry butt, 750 bottles)

Blair Athol 6 yo 2010/2016 (46%, Càrn Mor, sherry butt, 750 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: ah, the 5 was just a rough work for this one, it seems. Rounder, with nice touches of biscuits, cakes, vanilla, raisons, malt… There’s also a wee touch of rubber, and in the background, the same kind of grassy/chalky display as in the 5. But it’s much nicer, and easier to approach for sure. Mouth: indeed, this worked out much better. Peppery oranges from the start, spicy cake, raisin cake, custard, a little marmalade… There’s quite a lot of green pepper too but that’s all rather under control. Finish: long, grassier again. Grass, green pepper and orange juice, how detox is that? Comments: seven points within one year, or even a few months. Well done! SGP:451 - 82 points.

Blair Athol 8 yo 2008/2017 (46%, James Eadie, first fill and refill bourbon, casks #307749+307750+310064, 1092 bottles)

Blair Athol 8 yo 2008/2017 (46%, James Eadie, first fill and refill bourbon, casks #307749+307750+310064, 1092 bottles) Four stars This one’s much older. Quite. Colour: white wine. Nose: one of the many cases when bourbon’s superior to sherry. This one’s tenser, cleaner, better forged, more ‘immediate’, and certainly maltier. Apple crumble, butterscotch, honey cake, millionaire shortbread… All very fine things. Mouth: goody good easy sweet maltiness, quite in the style of the OBs, with a lovely sourness (more apples) and an orange blossom/mead combination that works very well. Finish: medium, clean, very nicely malty, with rather more citrus in the aftertaste. Comments: it reminds me of the official NAS that they used to have at the distillery. Perfect ‘Midlands’ style – yep I know that’s controversial. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Blair Athol 19 yo 1997/2016 (54.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 498 bottles)

Blair Athol 19 yo 1997/2016 (54.5%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 498 bottles) Four stars and a half I know, Cadenhead again. With Cadenhead, I enjoy even the ones I do not like, go figure (so, talking about that cheque…) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts citric and crystalline, this is almost, yeah, crystal. Or lemon juice. Gooseberries and green plums, grass juice, grapefruits, then a spoonful of mashed potatoes, and a wee feeling of Timut pepper. Perhaps Thai basil – yep that would be Ocimum basilicum thyrsiflora, but don’t quote me. With water: a splendid muddy and chalky side comes out. Viva Nature! Mouth (neat): totally millimetric and crystalline again. Lemony lace. Some kind of Thai sauce indeed, with touches of chillies, some basil again, coriander, lemongrass… With water: superb. Mint and lemon, peppermint, maple syrup (it’s getting sweeter indeed)… Finish: medium, a tad sweetish (I was ready to go to 90!) It’s not quite the sweetness, it’s the contrast that’s a tad shocking. Oh well… Comments: right, it’s relatively simple, despite it being a vatting of casks, but that’s some perfect simplicity. One of the nicest BAs out there. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Blair Athol 21 yo 1995/2016 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #11355, 204 bottles)

Blair Athol 21 yo 1995/2016 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #11355, 204 bottles) Four stars This is sherry, according to the robe of this little BA. Colour: amber. Nose: rather perfect! Cake straight from the oven (panettone), pastries, toasted brioche, roasted nuts, burnt raisins… All that works in perfect sync, it’s well a whole. With water: gets tarter and brighter. Not a bad thing. Mouth (neat): indeed, the opposite of Cadenhead’s 1997. Rich, jammy, totally on the spiciest gingerbread, with drizzles of maple syrup and a good Texas-size bowl of caramelised buttered popcorn. With water: more citrus, and a little more lightness. Yet, there’s a lot of toffee and fudge in the background. Finish: long, very fudge-y. A funny, slightly twisted feeling of bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s super good. I enjoyed the 1997’s brightness a little better, but that’s only a matter of personal taste. Yup, as always. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Blair Athol 21 yo 1995/2016 (56.8%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry puncheon, cask #12853, 592 bottles)

Blair Athol 21 yo 1995/2016 (56.8%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry puncheon, cask #12853, 592 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: a kind of synthesis of all the previous ones. It’s rather cake-y and fudge-y indeed, but it’s also got a bright, almost zesty side. And yet there are pastries and brioche, honey, sugar-coated peanuts, raisins, a touch of raw malt… With water: malty cakes, brownies… Mouth (neat): same comments, a synthesis, although it’s rather marmalade that’s playing first saxophone. There, Jaffa cakes! And these kinds of Jaffa cakes that have got apricot jam instead of orange. In the back, a peppery greenness that keeps it fresh and even kind of challenging. With water: swims very well. Peppery marmalade and cloves. Finish: long and slightly thick(ish). Nothing to complain about, quite the opposite. Comments: some expression is springing to mind, ‘liquid kugelhopf’. Scusi, liquid panettone. SGP:651 - 87 points.

Blair Athol 1991/2015 ‘Nuts about Pears!’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 312 bottles)

Blair Athol 1991/2015 ‘Nuts about Pears!’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 312 bottles) Four stars This shouldn’t disappoint… 2014’s version easily fetched 87 in my little book. Apparently, there should be pears and nuts. Colour: pale gold. Nose: back to the style of the Cadenhead’s, just rounder, more pastry-like, and less tart and, say, vivacious. More Jaffa cakes, marmalade, dried fruits mix, fresh brioche, orange juice… I’m just having a little trouble finding much pears. Must be me. Mouth: perfect! Great balance between the citrusness and the rounder, better polished cake-iness. Lemon curd, drops of mead, lemon blossom honey, Dakatine, green earl grey, a wee touch of bourbonness (well a barrel), malt… You just can’t question this. Finish: medium, and rather fruitier. Dried tropical fruits, perhaps guavas, also very ripe plums, a feeling of mirabelle eau-de-vie… (we’ve got the best!) Comments: unquestionably unquestionable. Oh well, fatigue makes itself felt… SGP:641 - 87 points.

Good, let’s take a break. It’s not difficult to taste a lot of Bowmore, or Laphroaig, or Springbank, because styles and vintages vary. In the case of shier distillates with fewer variations, such as Blair Athol, a large verticale is more difficult to do. Well, it’s more tiring for sure. So, yeah, a short break, and then we'll see if we find (even) better ones. Ah, suspense suspense… (that was lame, S.!)

Good, we’re back with more Blair Athol for those among you that aren’t dead yet (I really need that Glenfiddich Food and Drink Award! Well, on second thought, perhaps not…)

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2016 (50.7%, Sansibar, 203 bottles)

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2016 (50.7%, Sansibar, 203 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: certainly very ‘Blair Athol’, that is to say breakfasty and malty. I’d mention muesli, brioche, a spoonful of porridge, vanilla, kugelhopf… And just not Champagne, we aren’t in Vienna after all. With water: gets very floral. A forest of lilies, and a pile of big fat golden sultanas. Mouth (neat): excellent, malty, orange-y, rich yet ‘nervous’, full of sweet bread, liquid caramel, milk chocolate, and roasted pecans and macadamias. In the background, the faintest hints of the best of quasi-neighbours Edradour. You know, this singular leatherness. With water: just beautiful. The whisky kind of deconstructs and reassembles itself on your tongue, which is a funny and rather thrilling feeling. Yes I’m fine. Finish: medium, fresh, and yet cake-y and malty. Mullein flower syrup in the aftertaste. Perhaps elderflowers. Comments: the epitome of this style. SGP:551 - 90 points.

Blair Athol 1988/2016 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, refill sherry butt, cask #1842, 620 bottles)

Blair Athol 1988/2016 (46%, Van Wees, The Ultimate, refill sherry butt, cask #1842, 620 bottles) Two stars and a half Love these people, they were there, preaching the gospel, when the market was bearish. While many others, well, you see what I mean… Colour: gold. Nose: right, there is some sulphur, let’s wait… zzz… zzz… Not quite, but all these used matches do please many a whisky enthusiast. It’s just that if you’re not into that, you may move on to the next BA… So, struck matches, exhaust, roasted nuts, truffles, then marmalade, apple toffee, and zests. Mouth: unusual. Gunpowder mixed with grapefruit juice and barley syrup. Smoked tea in the background (smoked tea in Blair Athol?) Finish: medium, smoky. Burnt caramel and more used matches and ashes. Comments: that very controversial style. To discuss on social media? SGP:362 - 78 points.

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2016 (49.6%, Maltbarn, bourbon)

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2016 (49.6%, Maltbarn, bourbon) Five stars Maltbarn, another seal of quality. Colour: straw. Nose: what, rye? No, that was just a passing feeling, this is all full of fresh barley, ripe apples, oranges, golden plums, and one of our favourite fruits in whisky, tangerines! Not much else to say, this is pretty perfect and the age is perfect too. Mouth: indeed, a perfect citrusy arrival, bags of tangerines, touches of lemongrass, a pinch of ginger, a drizzle of lemon oil, and quite some bliss. Very well done. Finish: medium, very fresh, zesty, not light… well, both oily and tense. Like the best white wines. Once again, elderflower syrup in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s juts the inherent simplicity that’ll prevent me from going to 90 or 91. Oh no, let’s drop any simpering airs, this Blair Athol is just excellent. SGP:651 - 90 points.

So our very last one...

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.2%, Antique Lions Of Spirit, 262 bottles)

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.2%, Antique Lions Of Spirits, 262 bottles) Five stars Probably from the same parcel of casks. What could go wrong? Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, we could almost copy-and-paste from the above. This one has just a little more oomph, and perhaps a little more chalk. And stuff. With water: a feeling of spritz. The nicest spritz in the world. And since some very smart Italians are involved in the Antique Lions Of Spirit venture, sorry guys, we need no prosecco, this Blair Athol will fit just nice. Seriously, there are nice notes of tinned peaches too. Mouth (neat): indeed, same profile, word for word, with just a little more oomph, kick, and power. Perhaps is it a tad more cake-y? With water: immaculate development. More brightness, freshness, fruits, and even touches of fruity hops. Very very good. Finish: medium, fresh, fruity, malty. All about balance and malty naturalness. Comments: once again the 90-border was reached. I’m not sure modern Blair Athol can make it to above 90, though. All the 1988s have been great, having said that – unless a little too ‘sulphury’. Roger. SGP:541 - 90 points.

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: R.L. Burnside. Track: It's bad you know. Please buy his music...

June 5, 2017


Upon special request, two Liechtensteiners (and bonus)

Yes, upon a special request on Facebook, mind you! Tasting on demand, if you like. Those would be two Telsers, actually. The first ‘Telsington’ from quite some years ago, which came with some ultra-high score by you-know-whom with a panama, had been rather terrible in my opinion (WF 64), while a more recent one, a Telser Rye bottled in 2014, had been of rather international class already (WF 78). Great progress in Liechtenstein…

Telser ‘X+1 Pinot Noir’ (52.9%, OB, Liechtenstein, +/-2016)

Telser ‘X+1 Pinot Noir’ (52.9%, OB, Liechtenstein, +/-2016) Three starsThis is single malt. Colour: apricot, not pink! Nose: oh! Frankly, its not often that I enjoy whisky and red wine, but in this case, I do. There’s an obvious breadiness, which I always enjoy, but it rather feels like fruit-filled bread. Apricots again, mirabelles… I know those should rather be red berries, but no, we’re rather around pinot gris than pinot noir. Better like that! In any case, a great nose, which reminds me of some Westlands. Just touches of gunpowder and pencil shavings, nothing too serious. Cinnamon rolls. With water: lovely soft yet spicy pastries. Mouth (neat): big spicy whisky, quite thick, even a little frightening at first, but it stabilises and unfolds on spicy breads and pastries, fig rolls, mirabelle jam, and some kind of spicy pumpernickel. You could have this for breakfast (at the weekends). With water: passes the water test with flying colours, gets just a wee tad green/bitterish. Finish: long, on more spicy pastries. And indeed, in the back of the aftertaste, perhaps a little pinot noir. Comments: so well done, Liechtenstein! Nothing’s more thrilling than seeing such progress (after having tasted quite a few unlikely pinot-noired whiskies from elsewhere in Mitteleuropa). SGP:562 - 82 points.

Gasp, my bad, the next one isn’t whisky, it’s rum!

Telser ‘Chardonnay 17’ (49%, OB, Liechtenstein, +/-2016)

Telser ‘Chardonnay 17’ (49%, OB, Liechtenstein, +/-2016) Three stars and a half So this is Jamaican rum, matured or probably finished in a barrel from the Fürst (Prince) of Liechtenstein Winery. Colour: gold. Nose: yeah, of course. Very good soft yet rather high-congeneric Jamaican, with olives filled with plum paste (I imagine), very little varnish/UHU glue, and a very pleasant combination of ripe bananas and pineapples. Very ripe bananas, in truth. Mouth: ell done once again. There’s a sweetness that’s rather unusual, but one can feel that that’s not added sugar. It’s somewhat like of someone had added yellow plums and peaches to some muck or something. It’s really good, a Jamaican with a gentler side. Finish: long, a notch saltier. Marmalade and green olives. Comments: very well done once again. Not sure the original distillate wasn’t even better, but this is faultless and perfectly Liechtensteined. Ha. SGP:642 - 84 points.

I know we said two Liechtensteiners, but since we took this step…

Guglhof 2012 ‘TauernRogg’ (42%, OB, Austria, Sauternes, cask #91, +/-2016)

Guglhof 2012 ‘TauernRogg’ (42%, OB, Austria, Sauternes, cask #91, +/-2016) Three stars This is single malt according to the label, but Rogg(en) means rye in German, doesn’t it? So probably malted rye, like Glann ar Mor have done in Brittany. This baby come from Salzburg’s region, let’s see if it’s Mozartian (you can do better S.) Colour: gold. Nose: with very young whiskies, nothing can beat a good rye, I think. This one’s pretty perfect, fresh, immensely bready and cerealy, with lovely notes of lemon balm and fresh apricots, most probably from the Sauternes. No over-wine-iness here, they’ve kept control. Oh and no sulphur whatsoever, while I’ve come across many a sulphured ex-Sauternes cask in the past. They all learn. Mouth: so very funny! It first reminds me of a German violet-infused beer (seriously), and goes then towards cranberry juice, grenadine, prickly pear, lemon drops, and rather less bred than in the nose. Clearly Sauternes, but just as Telser did, they kept control of this little beast that could easily have gone over the top. Finish: a tad short, but clean, and slightly muscaty. Mr. Semillon, I presume. Comments: impressive. Frankly, these Swiss/Austrian whiskies were undrinkable ten years ago, acceptable five years ago, and they’ve now gotten excellent, even if they need the help of some prestigious wine casks. Well, some of them. SGP:641 - 82 points.

Oh and since we’re having  funny (and good) eastern wineskies…

Prohibition (41%, OB, France, single malt, vin jaune cask, +/-2013?)

Prohibition (41%, OB, France, single malt, vin jaune cask, +/-2013?) This is touchy, as the distillery, called Brûlerie du Revermont, is located in the Jura region, east of France. So technically, we’ve got a very large production on the tiny isle of Jura, Scotland, and a tiny production in the very large region of Jura, France. Ooh my head. As you know vin jaune is a fabulous white savagnin that’s kept under veil (flor) for at least six years and a few months. It’s not too far from fino sherry, but never fortified, while fino (or manzanilla) is always fortified. And they don’t do soleras in Jura. Colour: gold. Nose: there’s the vin jaune’s sourness, and its walnuts, and even touches of crushed mustard seeds, over a fine malty layer. Notes of chutney. Fine. Mouth: nah, this is a little difficult, gritty, rough, with probably too many walnuts. It’s not unlike some very rough marc du Jura, and the vin jaune kind of fights a rather fragile distillate. Finish: long, grassy, coarse. Bitter walnuts and again, some mustard. Comments: I fully understand the interest of a totally ‘localised’ whisky, and I’m sure they’re very nice people, but I’m finding this too unbalanced. Things seem to clash, while some friends know that I totally adore vin jaune. Neat. SGP:271 - 45 points.

We have to do something. Let’s try to be logical, since the Austrians did some great things with Sauternes, and since the problem with the Jura was probably the bone-dry vin jaune cask, why not try another Jura that matured in a sweet wine cask?

Prohibition (41%, OB, France, single malt, vin de paille cask, +/-2013?)

Prohibition (41%, OB, France, single malt, vin de paille cask, +/-2013?) So, Jura’s vin de paille, aka straw wine. They actually harvest very clean, un-botrytised grapes, and let them dry out on some kinds of racks before pressing (they were using straw in the past, hence the name). All vins de paille are very sweet, and some are just superb. They’re usually quite expensive, and always come in small bottles, a bit like Tokaj Eszensias. Anyway… Colour: deep gold. Nose: ho-ho-ho! This noses like vin de paille indeed. It’s ridden with litchis, rose petals (bags and bags and bags), and big fat golden raisins. So it’s extremely aromatic, extravagant, and rather ooh-ah. Funny and nice, let’s only hope it won’t be too sweet on the palate… Mouth: it is, indeed, a little too sweet, but frankly, you’re almost in a pastry shop in Istanbul. Turkish delights, rose liqueur, orange blossom water. Bizarrely oakier in the background, we’re almost having artichokes. Finish: medium, not exactly balanced, but it kind of works despite the growing sourness (artisan cider). Comments: fun stuff, a little un-whisky. Way above the vin jaune for sure, but it won’t win the Nobel Prize of whisky either. SGP:631 - 65 points.

Done, we’re done. Figuratively, of course.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Hot Tuna. Track: Bowlegged Woman. Please visit their website and buy their music...

June 4, 2017


More rum at random

Really at random this time. Let’s try not to follow any path… And this is for London!

Rivière du Mât ‘Opus 5’ (43%, OB, La Réunion, agricole, +/-2016)

Rivière du Mât ‘Opus 5’ (43%, OB, La Réunion, agricole, +/-2016) Two stars and a half Rivière du Mât is an old distillery on the French island of La Réunion, not too far from Madagascar. Colour: amber. Nose: noses sweet and syrupy. Crushed overripe fruits, mangos, papayas, raisins, then more spices, such as cloves and black pepper. Also grapes and lilies, with a certain floral side, but I’m finding it relatively quiet. Marc de gewürztraminer, litchis… Mouth: fair, on coffee and ‘old’ jams at first, then cedar wood and touches of incense. Musk, more and more sultanas, and yet it’s never quite sweet or sugary. A touch of rose jelly, perhaps. Finish: rather short, and very raisiny. We’ve had some young armagnacs that were a little like this. No bad news me thinks. Comments: it may need a little more gnak, and the raisins may be a little too loud (did they add any?), but it’s a very fine rum, for sure. The agricole side remains relatively discreet. SGP:640 - 78 points.

Diplomatico 2001 ‘Single Vintage’ (43%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2014)

Diplomatico 2001 ‘Single Vintage’ (43%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2014) It was finished in sherry casks. I thought the 2002 was quite terrible (WF 60), but you never know… What’s sure is that it flows and moves like honey. Ahem… Colour: deep gold. Nose: curiously shy at first sniffs, rather columny as some rum friends say, and actually pretty nice. Sandalwood, incense, and unexpected whiffs of smoked ham and bresaola. Barbecue. Redemption? Mouth: no no no no no no… Sweetened junk, cheap liqueurs, sugar syrup, maple syrup, perhaps a touch of tobacco, coffee liqueur… Finish: short, and sweet and spiced. This is not rum, it’s spiced/arranged ethanol. Wind sold for the price of typhoon, as they say. Comments: talking about liqueurs, we’ve tasted (even) worse… The packaging is lovely, but it’s a Bentley with the engine of a Trabant. SGP:810 - 50 points.

Mombacho 19 yo (43%, OB, Nicaragua, +/-2015)

Mombacho 19 yo (43%, OB, Nicaragua, +/-2015) one star and a half Matured in ‘specially bourbon barrel’ (why not?) and ‘finished in armagnac wood’. But nineteen years, really? Colour: coffee. Nose: yeah, are you listening? I said coffee. Perfect colour-nose combination. Ha. Coffee or coffee-flavoured chocolate, and I’m even finding hints of Ovaltine, which leads us to some kind of wood-smokiness. I rather like this nose. Mouth: ah. Some say this was ‘voted best rum in the world in 2008’. Not too sure, really, this has got new plastic and really a lot of burnt bread. What’s nicer is how notes of Christmas cake are coming out, together with notes of South-American molasses honey. Which, granted, isn’t quite honey as no bee was ever involved in the making of this… thing. Finish: short, burnt, coffeeish. Comments: frankly, this isn’t too bad, and it’s much less ‘commercial’ than the very ugly Diplomatico 2001. It’s just not a very ‘malternative’ style. SGP:630 - 68 points.

Whisper (40%, OB, Antigua, +/-2016)

Whisper (40%, OB, Antigua, +/-2016) Nah, that would be Antigua and Barbuda. It seems that this is very ‘branded’, whatever that means, but I think the bottle is quite lovely. Colour: straw (well done, hurray, kudos!) Nose: it’s very shy, but it noses ‘honest’. We’re navigating around Bacardi and Havana Club, and I’m afraid we haven’t got much else to say, except that the name was well chosen, most surely. Mouth: wouldn’t this be Bacardi under another livery? Touches of grass, butter, and a little vanilla. Very very shy and calling for crushed ice, lemon, and mint. Finish: almost none. A little banana. Comments: humble, shy, and whispering indeed. I’m not sure I’ll remember this one tomorrow morning, but it went down well. Honest very light rum. SGP:330 - 65 points.

What a session, what a session… But let’s go see some serious bottler and distillery!

Barbancourt 2004/2016 (66.2%, L’Esprit, Haiti, cask #BB86, 100 bottles)

Barbancourt 2004/2016 (66.2%, L’Esprit, Haiti, cask #BB86, 100 bottles) Four stars Mad stuff, this. Let’s take this opportunity to pay homage to owner of Barbancourt Thierry Gardère, who passed away a few weeks ago. R.I.P. Colour: straw. Nose: whatever the stills and the methods, there’s something idiosyncratic in any Barbancourt, something that’s typically ‘smoky agricole’ in my opinion. For example, in this case, whiffs of burning pinecones and quite a lot of humus, earth, and mushrooms, plus tropical fruits. Wait, didn’t we just nose some rum at 66.2% vol.? With water: a rather wonderful grassy sugarcane and touches of burnt butter. A little camphor too. Mouth (neat): super good, very punchy of course, but ‘close to the sugarcane’, which is the whole point I suppose. But yeah, it burns you. With water: delicate, complex, quite floral, with notes of hay and various herbal teas on top of the cane-y flavours. Finish: medium, a notch fruitier, with the usual tinned pineapples and, hey, one green olive! Comments: classy. Today’s clear winner, but that was to be expected. SGP:451 - 87 points.

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



Block Today: CUBAN. Performer: Cuba's Alfredo Chocolate Armenteros. Track: Trompeta en Montuno. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 3, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild

A Wee Vertical 

I had intended to make it to Islay this year but, alas, life and work did not allow it. So, in lieu of that, I thought a wee Laphroaig session as a nod to Islay and all the friends and merriment there that I'm unable to join in with (Serge, I hope you have your tiny violin playing right now!) 


Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, -/+ 2016)

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, -/+ 2016) Still a benchmark whisky in my book and always a fun one to follow. Colour: Gold. Nose: Ash, antiseptic, vanilla, soot, a seashore in the sunshine and a whole hospital full of medical tinctures. It's emblematic, modern Laphroaig and unmistakably so. This distillery comes in for a bit of a kicking for quite a few of its bottlings these days (sometimes rightly so in my view) but the fact this is still such an aromatically distinctive whisky is to be commended. Goes on with some graphite oil, tar, bonfire smoke and various kippery notes. Further wispy and simmering notes of iodine and TCP. Mouth: A big, lumbering wave of drunken peat (you remember Drunken Peat right Serge?), feels straight away drier than some other batches of the 10 in recent times; a little more saline and vibrant coastal qualities. There is a rather rich sweetness to it overall but it doesn't feel 'driven' by the wood. A little sharper, some more lemon juice; the American oak is there but we're not quite at sawdust levels. The only trouble is the strength lets it down, 40% really starts to feel 'old fashioned' in the worst sense these days. More coastal notes of shellfish - whelks, langoustine - and a nice touch of slightly earthy phenolics. Finish: The warmth is brief, but the peat and the medicine kind of settle in for a long, ashy fade. Comments: This is still textbook Islay whisky in my view. A stalwart dram you can safely order in pretty much any pub. My only - and constant - great frustration is the 40% abv. I would cheerfully pay an extra £10 per bottle and have it at 46%. But then, as has so often been pointed out and probably for good reason, I am not in charge. (yet...) SGP: 448 - 84 points. 



Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Spirit Import, Italy, -/+ 1990)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Spirit Import, Italy, -/+ 1990) There are a number of variations of this era/presentation for different countries and importers. Almost always they're great so high expectations here... Colour: Gold (at least caramel never changes). Nose: It's a world apart and yet with charming similarities at the same time. You have this profusion of coastal freshness and a greener, more organic kind of peat but also more fruits: passion fruit, a little papaya and some greengages. Goes on with some citrons, lemon wax, mercurochrome and other very pure medicinal notes. It just feels bigger, more complex and yet still quite unequivocally Laphroaig. Some more seashore and shellfish notes, peat embers and some more re-surgent tropical notes. Mouth: What a difference those extra 3 degrees of alcohol make! It's bigger, fatter, oilier and 'wider' in a sense. Peat oils, a slightly more delicate medicinal profile, still a little iodine and TCP and of course more overt, fleshy fruitiness of the tropical and green kinds. Tar, oysters, a little more citrus, smoked grains and then more raw peat oils. Finish: Longer and more entertaining than the current 10, more fruits and peat tangling themselves around each other. Comments: It's amazing the different a little extra strength can make to a whisky. Of course, there is probably the whole issue of refill wood and a slightly more laid back production regime in the mid-late 1970s at work here as well. Beautiful old Laphroaig from a kind of transitionary period for the distillery where you get a great mix of its more traditional fruity style and the more peat-forward modern style which was emerging at the time. SGP: 537 - 91 points.



Laphroaig 7 yo (54.5%, OB for Dr Jekyll's Pub, PX Sherry Hogshead, 300 bottles, 2012)

Laphroaig 7 yo (54.5%, OB for Dr Jekyll's Pub, PX Sherry Hogshead, 300 bottles, 2012) A curious official bottling for Dr Jekyll's Pub in Oslo. Quite how a pub manages to get their own official single cask of Laphroaig I'm not sure, probably something to do with having an oil fund. Anyway, lets try Dr Jekyll and see if we encounter Mr Hyde along the way... Colour: Amber. Nose: A peat fire, scorched earth, burning leaves and then... raisins! Some dark fruit from the sherry arises quite pleasantly. Develops further with notes of ginger bread, mead, peat oils, resin, camphor and digestive biscuits in a dunnage warehouse. It definitely wears its 7 years very lightly this one, the richness from the sherry gives a sense of extra maturity I have to say. Perhaps a little ground black pepper and salted pork (one for Lord Of The Rings fans there). With water: some nice notes of black olives and dried mushrooms now with a resinous smokiness. The sherry is at least pretty clean I have to say. Mouth: The youth has returned and I hear some Mr Hyde foot steps around the corner, a big combination of raw peat and sticky sweetness from the PX. Toffee, bread and butter pudding, coal hearths, aspirin, gravel and more wet earthy notes. Perhaps some damp sack cloth and hessian. It's quite a bruiser this one. With water: a little green fruit, some notes of various teas and olive oil. Perhaps a little pink grapefruit and a really nice nervous saltiness. More black olives and some notes of preserved lemon. Water really works on the palate I think. Finish: quite long but a bit haphazard and unbalanced, some slightly cloying PX notes towards the end. Comments: It's a good young Islay whisky, suitable for hurricanes and bartering with in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. However, it is quite demanding and I'm not sure that - as with many modern Islay whiskies it seems - the extremes of sherry and peat really tango that well together. SGP: 539 - 82 points. 



Laphroaig 21 yo (51.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #29.111, PX sherry finish, 'Jazzy Jousting Hastlitude', 228 bottles)

Laphroaig 21 yo (51.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #29.111, PX sherry finish, 'Jazzy Jousting Hastlitude', 228 bottles) I'm going to just come right out and say it: I really do wish the SMWS wouldn't finish their whiskies. I don't think it really suits their great philosophy of celebrating the concept of the 'single' cask. Anyway, enough grandstanding, this is one of three bottlings specially done for 2017's Islay Festival. Colour: Gold. Nose: Hmmm, begrudgingly lovely! A gentle carpet of peat overlaid with dry leaves, mushrooms, spices and some moss and damp earth. A smouldering forest. Goes on with a little soot, some candle wax and lemon oils. Continues more towards dunnage, stables and camphor with some background notes of iodine and seawater. A nice teetering balance between farmyard and seashore characteristics. The sherry feels very 'controlled' (I'm disappointed to say). With water: becomes surprisingly fruity, even a little tropical. Some toasted cereals, muesli, dates. All rather annoyingly lovely. Mouth: The sherry comes across as a little more jammy here, some curious notes of Tizer and mead along with a nice hint of salted almonds and marzipan. There's a nice, lean oily texture in the mouth with notes of green tea, lemon rind and tar liqueur. With water: soft peats, green fruits, citrus, tar, oil, you get the idea... Finish: long and lemony with some earthiness and soot from the sherry. Drying and surprisingly mineral towards the end. Comments: Yes, the SMWS should really stop finishing their whiskies, this is clearly not working! I was going to 90 but the Tizer threw me off... SGP: 458 - 89 points.   



An old glory for the road...



Laphroaig 35 yo 1976 (43.4%, Scotia Royale, refill sherry cask, 211 bottles, +/-2011)

Laphroaig 35 yo 1976 (43.4%, Scotia Royale, refill sherry cask, 211 bottles, +/-2011) This was effectively bottled by the Loch Lomond group and sports one of their classic 'I wish I'd been at the meeting' kind of labels. Colour: Gold (I know, this hasn't been the most imaginative session when it comes to colours). Nose: A whiff of sea air and then an cavalcade of tropical fruits. In fact this one could almost be a 1968 Bowmore of similar age. Just baskets of fresh and tinned fruits with just a lick of peat smoke running throughout. Goes on with greengages, ripe melons, wet pebbles, white pepper, bandages - the list could go on quite some time. Perhaps a little tea tree oil which nods to the wood, although it doesn't feel at all woody on the nose - quite the opposite in fact. The kind of fruity intensity that just doesn't exist in whisky any more. Mouth: A little wood spice, but its precise and clean, a little sourdough yeasty note and some demarara sugar. But overall its like a fruit varnish has coated your tongue. Perhaps the strength feels a tad weakish but its not tired, just a bit misty eyed. Some pineapple, sap, lemon oil, dried herbs and even some notes of rancio as well. Starts to resemble some of these old G&M pre-war glories on the palate. Finish: alas, it's not the longest but the tropical aspects echo beautifully. Comments: This bottled ten yeas earlier would probably have been somewhere around 93-95 material. As it is, this is still glorious old Laphroaig, an emotional and increasingly scarce style of whisky. SGP: 635 - 91 points. 





Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Abdullah Ibrahim. Track: Gwidza. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 2, 2017


A little session, more Aultmore

Young and older one, from that Scottish distillery that’s making a graceful comeback these days…

Aultmore 10 yo 2006/2017 (58.7%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon, 282 bottles)

Aultmore 10 yo 2006/2017 (58.7%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon, 282 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: raw barley eau-de-vie, kirsch, plum spirit, then yeah, barley, vanilla and apples. Where have I put my hipflask? With water: leaves, aniseed, cut grass, hay, apple peelings, and a funny feeling of mentholy mushrooms. Plainly and totally barley-y. Mouth (neat): kicks and screams (screams malted barley!) Vanilla cream, apple compote, ripe greengages, more plum spirit. With water: bread, vanilla, seeds (pine, sunflower), with an earthy bitterness in the background. Finish: long, with more of that pleasant bitterness. Comments: a good, very wild young malt, good to show your friends what, well, malt is. Now, my hipflask… SGP:451 - 82 points.

Aultmore 23 yo 1992/2016 (51.1%, Lady Of The Glen, bourbon barrel, cask #3499)

Aultmore 23 yo 1992/2016 (51.1%, Lady Of The Glen, bourbon barrel, cask #3499) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: starts with quite a lot varnish and freshly sawn oak – which ain’t an unpleasant feeling mind you – and would rather go on with some kind of earthy plums and bags of fern and perhaps dill, as well as beetroots. With water: fresh barley, vanilla, brioche. A winning trio. The grassy/earthy side went away. Mouth (neat): good and creamy, rather young, starting with pears and lemons, as well as pineapples. Then a little coconut oil, grapefruits, and a greener grassiness. Dare I quote kumquats as well? The barrel feels, as if some re-racking had taken place. With water: really good, simple, pleasurable, rather on mirabelles this time. Finish: medium, sweet and malty. Comments: some resemblance with youngish Balvenie. Really good. SGP:551 - 84 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Bobby Watson. Track: Wilkes' BBQ. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 1, 2017


What’s the best among
these eleven Mortlach?

Ooh I so hate those kinds of headlines, I really do. And I won’t do it again, I promise… What’s sure is that we’ll have, indeed, a rather large bag of Mortlach, some young and some old, some fruity and some meaty. And shan’t we do that at random again, for more fun? With compliments of the wee witchie…

Mortlach 12 yo 2005/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL 11595, 329 bottles)

Mortlach 12 yo 2005/2017 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL 11595, 329 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: fruity. Cherries and gooseberries, with a little powdered chalk and perhaps just a touch of gunpowder thrown over. Whiffs of iodine over all that, but those are related to the chalkiness (and perhaps to the natural sulphur). A dollop of hand cream. Mouth: this is rather fat! Oily mouth feel, with cranberry syrup and tinned peaches (with a lot of syrup) plus some strong green tea and always this chalky/sulphury touch that many people like in Mortlach’s distillate. And this one’s pretty naked, so there’s quite a lot of that. Finish: long, grassier. Some cardamom in the aftertaste. Comments: very good young Mortlach in its most natural state. Not only for whisky blenders… SGP:561 - 82 points.

Mortlach 1998/2016 ‘Ginger Glazed Gammon’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 306 bottles)

Mortlach 1998/2016 ‘Ginger Glazed Gammon’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 306 bottles) Four stars These can be excellent… Colour: straw. Nose: this one’s much nuttier, and it’s got this ‘good’ sulphur and chalk, plasticine, sour dough, fresh baguette, linseed oil, even touches of graphite… Doesn’t sound like a Speysider, does it? Mouth: we’re going towards Springbank, really. A big fat mineral and oily arrival, bitter oranges, a pinhead of chilli, then grapefruit peel and green kiwis (I know all kiwis are green, but these ones are extra-green). Finish: long, a tad porridge-y, and a little less fruity than other similarly aged Mortlachs. Comments: rather an austere one, with all of Mortlach’s usual potency. SGP:451 - 85 points.

Mortlach 1996/2015 (46%, Scyfion, Odesskoe Chernoe Cask Finish, Ukraine, 330 bottles)

Mortlach 1996/2015 (46%, Scyfion, Odesskoe Chernoe Cask Finish, Ukraine, 330 bottles) Three starsAnother funny finish in Ukrainian wine wood. I have to say the ones I could already try had been excellent. Colour: gold. Nose: I don’t know what Odesskoe Chernoe is, as all I could find was in Cyrillic, but this is interesting, rather dry, apricoty, slightly resinous/sappy, with chestnut purée and hints of used gunpowder, plus a wee buttery side. Whiffs of fresh concrete, and perhaps the tiniest hints of asparagus. Mouth: all in line, concrete-y, asparagussy (!) and rather nutty, with some oranges in the background. A little gritty, with a greenish tannicity. Finish: long, peppery, curry-like, with some kind of chutney behind that. Comments: I think I liked the other Scyfions I could try better (Linkwood, Mannochmore), but this is fine for sure, just a little more unbalanced. Mortlach is a distillate to handle with care, I’d say. SGP:362 - 80 points.

Mortlach 21 yo 1994/2015 (50.4%, Murray McDavid, Mission Gold, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #2)

Mortlach 21 yo 1994/2015 (50.4%, Murray McDavid, Mission Gold, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #2) Two stars MMcD really seem to have gotten more active again… Colour: gold. Nose: ah, this one’s really sulphury. Used matches, cooking cabbage, truffles, gas, all that. And behind that, a rather blank, almost neutral spirit. Lemon-scented soap? Quick, water… With water: much better! Leather, tobacco, fruit peel, green bananas… Mouth (neat): not quite. Fanta, Schweppes, orange peel, lavender, pepper liqueur (yup that exists, in case you’re wondering)… With water: a little better. The Fanta got more natural, but there’s this sourness. Finish: medium, bitterish. What’s much nicer is this bag of sherries in the aftertaste, where do those come from? A matter of weird molecules, I suppose. Comments: doesn’t taste at all like a fresh barrel. Mildly perplexed (there are currently some much, much better MMcDs in my opinion!) SGP:361 - 74 points.

Mortlach 21 yo 1994/ (52.1%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles)

Mortlach 21 yo 1994/ (52.1%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 210 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: very interesting, its got a similar sulphuriness, but the cleaner side of it puts it in a better box. Funny hints of williams pears, rubbed orange peel, candle wax, sulphur indeed, natural soap, gravel… All that sounds unlikely, but this time the balance is right. In short, it’s very Mortlachy. With water: raw malt, chalk, and dare I say, ‘vase water’. Huge saponification as well… Now we haven’t got much time, let’s move on and not wait until that settles down… Mouth (neat): there is a wee bit of soap again, but the grapefruit fights it and defeats it. Almost a Netflix malt! (and now for something new…) With water: balance is back. Waxy lemons and some chalky green tea. Finish: medium, malty, with some bread dough and some pepper. Comments: well, not the easiest whisky ever either, but it’s better balanced than the Murray (McDavid). SGP:361 - 80 points.

I have to say I’m a bit surprised. Cadenhead, the floor is still yours…

Mortlach 27 yo 1988/2016 (52.6%, Cadenhead, Sherry Wood, 498 bottles)

Mortlach 27 yo 1988/2016 (52.6%, Cadenhead, Sherry Wood, 498 bottles) Two stars Colour: gold. Nose: lol! Huge sulphur, this smells almost like a Napoleon cannon that just fired. A large box of used matches, the exhaust of an E-Type, many roasted nuts, Paris’ périphérique (ring) on a Friday evening… And yet there’s some charm to this. I don’t know, this is not a flaw, it’s a feature. See what I mean? With water: poo-ah! (in French we say pouah!) A working tyre factory. Mouth (neat): not as extreme, but you’re still feeling like you’re eating a piece of tyre with some orange sauce. Big leather, lemony ginger, green pepper sauce, walnuts, burned rubber, black truffles… With water: notes of high-ester rum. Serious. That’s nice! Finish: long. Balzac’s Human Comedy is long too. Comments: for all the Marquis de Sade in us, some literary whisky. Sulphury whisky in a sulphury cask, dunno what to think. Automatic scoring engaged. SGP:273 - 75 points.

Cadenhead, the floor is still yours…

Mortlach 28 yo 1987/2016 (55.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 198 bottles)

Mortlach 28 yo 1987/2016 (55.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 198 bottles) Five stars I guess this one will be more kosher. Or orthodox. Or catholic. Colour: gold. Nose: in the style of the very nice Wemyss, only with more of these grassy/herbal notes that I enjoy a lot. Capers and olives, damp chalk, concrete, bitter oranges, linseed oil, and a really funny touch of earthy banana (fallen on the ground). Very Mortlachian. With water: class! Lemon barley chalk. Mouth (neat): superb! Creamy yet tart tropical fruit liqueur, grapefruits, spearmint, touches of ginger, aniseed, wormwood in the background (yep even a feeling of absinthe)… All is well and all is good now. With water: have I already written ‘superb’? Fab citrus and perfect light wax, plus these mineral touches. Adopted. Finish: long, perfectly well chiselled, lemony, waxy, mineral… Comments: I love contrasts, don’t you? SGP:562 - 90 points.

Cadenhead, we need confirmation!

Mortlach 30 yo 1987/2017 (48.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead)

Mortlach 30 yo 1987/2017 (48.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead) Four stars and a half In theory, nothing could go wrong… Colour: pale gold. Nose: and nothing does, although this one’s rather more demanding. More buttery/herbal notes (there’s a nice company in France, called Bordier, that flavours real butter with seaweed – a hit!)… More sour dough as well, crushed leaves, lemon peel, paraffin, then natural rubber… Perhaps is it the most Mortlachian of them all, as far as the distillate’s concerned. With water: mud, earth, clay! Mouth (neat): it’s so doggone funny! It’s yet another style, and frankly, kudos to Cadenhead for giving us so many variations, all interesting, many unusual, and all worth buying (even when my scores are low, because remember, that’s all only a matter of individual taste). I’m so glad I could try these three (four?) extremely different Mortlachs in a row! Excuse me? Flavours? Rather mineral/citric. With water: perfect, rather more mentholy. Bay leaves somewhere in the back. Finish: rather long, with fresh oak spices. Notes of dry ale. Comments: more precision in the AC, more complexity in this one. I’m rather in a precision mood these days. SGP:362 - 89 points.

Such a distillate! We just couldn’t stop here… Let’s check some older ones if you please, because you ain’t seen nothing yet (where are BTO?)

Mortlach 23 yo 1972 (59.4%, OB, Rare Malts, B291, +/-1995)

Mortlach 23 yo 1972 (59.4%, OB, Rare Malts, B291, +/-1995) Five stars There had been different batches or even single casks (some early RMs were single casks indeed) of this black baby, identified by a cryptic code, in this case B291. Oh don’t we all so miss the Rare Malts (when whisky was all about elegance and content)? Colour: gold. Nose: stop it. This is immense, as perfect as a Patek Philippe Grande Complication, and yet extremely concise. Now you see, it’s a 1972, and in 1972, all planets aligned to perfection over Scotland. Sunflower oil, compote, graphite, plasticine, paraffin, soft sulphur, citrons… You might start to think about calling the Anti-maltoporn Brigade. Just saying… With water: astounding, it reacts to water even better than pastis. Superb beeswax. Mouth (neat): terrific, as Cosmo Kramer used to say. Lemony, mineral, medicinal, oily, yet sharply herbal… And this fatness, this is no empty malt whisky! As they say, it’s superlative. By Jove, 1972… With water: bang, the waxes are back. You may call that brigade NOW. Finish: I so like it that this wee sulphury side is still there. Comments: Diageo, now that retro’s gotten so ‘today’, why not restart the Rare Malts series? Take our money and do it! SGP:462 - 93 points.

Mortlach 1954/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail)

Mortlach 1954/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail) Five stars G&M have kind of relaunched these bottlings under the ‘the wood makes the whisky’ banner. Well, so far these whiskies have proven that they’re rather the distillates AND the bottler that make the whisky. Both excellent. Love G&M anyway, they could launch a new ‘the underback makes the whisky’ campaign and we would still follow them… Haha… Colour: deep amber. Nose: indeed, this is very G&M, it’s not (only) about the wood. Smoking beedies, puréed chestnuts, pine needles, a box of puros, soft ham, acorns, fir smoke, dried kelp on a beach, burnt caramel, garden peat… Need I add more to tell you how brilliant this nose is? (no frankly, if it were all about the wood, where are the Speyburns and the Glenkinchies of similar quality?) Mouth: the exact antithesis of the Rare Malts. Old herbal liqueurs, cocoa, more pine-y things, mocha, tarry liquorice, overbaked brownies, prunes, old armagnac, a drop of pastis, burnt wood… Okay, okay, there is some wood, but still… And does the distillate shine through? Yes it does, with these chestnutty notes, the very faint sulphur, the very discreet meatiness (the tiniest bit of Spanish ham), the oranges… Finish: sadly, yes. On chocolate and hundreds of tinier flavours. Old oloroso in the aftertaste. Comments: you made the whisky. Emphasis on ‘you’. SGP:472 - 92 points.

Ah control… Now I swear to sweet Vishnu that the next one will be the last one, it just won’t be just any Mortlach. Cross my heart!

Mortlach 39 yo (86° proof, George Strachan, 26 2/3 fl oz., +/-1970)

Mortlach 39 yo (86° proof, George Strachan, 26 2/3 fl oz., +/-1970) Five stars 1930s distillation, most certainly. Pre-war, for sure, although it’s well known that Mortlach was one of the three or four distilleries that kept producing during the Second World War. Maybe is this war distillate? Peat fired? As for Strachan’s whiskies, we’ve tried a few, all were great. Why no one’s taking up the gauntlet, I don’t know. Colour: deep amber. Nose: sit down, relax, we’ve got plenty of time. Mind you, this wee baby’s spent almost 40 years in wood, and more than 40 years in its bottle. In truth, it’s poetic. This is what’s missing from most contemporary bottlings, poetry. I’ll mention thin mints, chestnut cake, tropical humus, burning pinecones and needles, carbon (paper, remember?), roasting cocoa pods, coffee beans (robusta, no one likes them, but I do), charcoal, cigars, dried beef, soy sauce… Now all that isn’t big, it’s even whispering, it’s a ballad, not a symphony. Mouth: this is what often happens with these old glories, the palate is a bit ‘below’ the nose. It’s till great though, but it’s more or less a simpler combination of cocoa, coffee, roasted peanuts, black tea, ham, and dried mint. Not quite umami-esque this time, but yeah, it’s still great old whisky. Chocolaty ham, that’s very ‘Mortlach and sherry’. Finish: medium, very chocolaty, with a few gamey notes in the aftertaste. Say wild boar stew. Comments: whether they already had the small still working in pre-war times, I couldn’t tell you, but there, on our behalf, I’m sending compliments to our friend Wee Witchie! SGP: - 91 points.

(Thanks a lot mucho, KC)

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


Whiskyfun fav of the month

May 2017

Favourite recent bottling:
North British 55 yo 1961/2017 (55.1%, Hunter Laing, The Sovereign, cask # 13328, 144 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Miltonhaugh 28 yo 1966 (63.5%, The Whisky Connoisseur, cask #3154, +/-1994) - WF 96

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Bruichladdich 10 yo ‘The Laddie Ten Second Edition’ (50%, OB, 18000 bottles, +/-2016) - WF 87

Favourite malternative:
West Indies Dark Rum 1948/1991 (49%, Samaroli, 800 bottles)- WF 95



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: John Coltrane. Track: Big Nick. Please visit his website and buy his music...

May 2017 - part 2 <--- June 2017 - part 1 ---> June 2017 - part 2



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ardmore 20 yo 1985/2005 (54.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #66.16, ‘A bountiful dram’) (Angus)

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.2%, Antique Lions Of Spirits, 262 bottles)

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2016 (49.6%, Maltbarn, bourbon)

Blair Athol 28 yo 1988/2016 (50.7%, Sansibar, 203 bottles)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Spirit Import, Italy, -/+ 1990) (Angus)

Laphroaig 35 yo 1976 (43.4%, Scotia Royale, refill sherry cask, 211 bottles, +/-2011) (Angus)

Mortlach 28 yo 1987/2016 (55.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 198 bottles)

Mortlach 39 yo (86° proof, George Strachan, 26 2/3 fl oz., +/-1970)

Mortlach 1954/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail)

Mortlach 23 yo 1972 (59.4%, OB, Rare Malts, B291, +/-1995)

Chichibu 2011/2016 (61.3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, Hanyu hogshead, cask #1401, 264 bottles)

Worthy Park 12 yo 2005/2017 (53.4%, Liquid Treasures and The Whisky Mercenary, Jamaica, 226 bottles)