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Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2017 - Part 2


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


June 30, 2017


Some totally mad very young Ardmore

As it says, these won’t be, well, regular Ardmores…

Ardmore 3 yo 2013/2017 (55.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 17012, 345 bottles)

Ardmore 3 yo 2013/2017 (55.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 17012, 345 bottles) Three stars That is right, 3 (three) year old. The question may be ‘why?’ Reducing time-to-market? Cashing in faster? Or was this baby mature already, by some miracle? I’m sure they had good reasons, let’s try to find out… Colour: deep gold. Nose: it totally feels ‘American’, whatever that means. High extraction, new or rejuvenated wood, menthol, pumpernickel, cumin, liquorice, gingerbread, gherkin juice, black olives… I would have said Westland or perhaps Balcones. Or there, Rock Town. It’s just not very ‘Scotch whisky’. With water: smoked brine all the way and everywhere. Mouth (neat): caramel, oak and malt extracts, a dollop of tar liqueur, pinesap, concentrated lapsang, liquorice, more liquorice, and more smoke… Definitely not Scotch, but more than intriguing. Did they use some kind of secret accelerator? You cannot not think of Lost Spirits at some point. With water: more caramel from the oak, heavy gingerbread, then very salty brine, tapenade, and various salty/sour concoctions. Finish: long – well, almost everlasting – and very salty. Comments: give this blind to your friends and ask them which country it came from. After all, perhaps is it the future of Scotch? (and he scratches his head)… SGP:376 - 80 points.

Ardmore 10 yo 2002/2012 (58.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill sherry butt, #66.36, Milano Salami and a Tropical Fruit Kebab, 702 bottles)

Ardmore 10 yo 2002/2012 (58.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, refill sherry butt, #66.36, Milano Salami and a Tropical Fruit Kebab, 702 bottles) Two stars and a half A tropical fruit kebab? That’s very intriguing, isn’t it… Colour: deep red amber. Nose: no, wait, this is rum! Demerara rum… Is this Sunday? Roasted chestnuts, dried bananas, raisins, Marmite, molasses, wood smoke, cornflakes, bacon… This is really very special and unusual. With water: Provence herbs and an old toolbox. Burning fir wood, carbolinium… Mouth (neat): there are obvious similarities with the SMOS, but this one’s even more extreme, totally smoked (in a way), extremely barbecue-y, and massively concentrated. More fir liqueur, molasses, dark toffee, creosote, and brine. I remember some old young sherried Ardbeg that were a bit like this, but never this bold. With water: water kills it a bit, making it super-drying. Quaffing salted walnut stain or something like that. Finish: ueber-long, almost interminable. And that may be a problem… Comments: funny, intriguing, worth tasting, singular, unusual… And a little too tiring for me. Some gangster, that’s what I think. SGP:366 - 77 points.

Ardmore 2003/2010 (46%, L’Esprit, bourbon, cask #6487)

Ardmore 2003/2010 (46%, L’Esprit, bourbon, cask #6487) Three stars and a half Picture of the CS version. L’Esprit are having stupendous rums, just saying. But this is whisky, let’s see what gives… Colour: white wine. Nose: this is young Ardmore au naturel. Peach syrup, a mild smokiness, some baker’s yeast, fresh baguette, a little soot, a little hay, a little brioche. Frankly, this is very nice, but the youth feels. Mouth: very good, and the youth feels a little less, probably thanks to the peat. Smoked tea, salted water, light brine, fresh white bread, and almost no fruitiness this time. Where are our beloved peaches? Finish: medium and really very sooty/salty. Comments: I had tried the CS version of the same cask a few years back. I may be dreaming, but it seems that reduction made it much saltier. Which, in truth, gave it a Haitian Clairin side. Had the CS at 83, this none will go a notch higher. SGP:466 - 84 points

Good, we’ve got many more very young Ardmores, but frankly, they can get tiring. One more and we’ll put an end to this young madness. Okay?

Ardmore ‘Heavily Peated’ (46%, The Cooper’s Choice, cask #884, 480 bottles, +/-2016)

Ardmore ‘Heavily Peated’ (46%, The Cooper’s Choice, cask #884, 480 bottles, +/-2016) Two stars What’s the trick here? No age statement? No vintage? So is this just another 3 yo? Hope we’re not seeing a pattern here… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: very young indeed. Brine, leaven, porridge, baker’s yeast, damp earth, and apples. Oh and peaches, remember this is Ardmore. I don’t seem to find this to be ‘heavily peated’ so far, but let’s see… Mouth: yeah, it’s quite good very young peaty malt from a good cask; it’s just narrow, yeasty, porridge-y, and ‘elementary’, I’d say. These apples won’t save it. Finish: medium, rough, smoky, salty. Some vanilla and caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: not for me. I’m not against some crazy bombs such as the MoS or even the SMWS (when in a good mood) but this is taking matters a little too far. Barley eau-de-vie needs maturation, it’s neither rum nor mezcal. Right, barley is neither sugarcane nor agave. Now, this is still a good spirit from a ‘neutral’ point of view… SGP:446 - 75 points.

I’m flat dead now ;-)

(Thank you Tom)

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



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June 29, 2017


Three old high flyers, or a battle of Caol Ila

The problems whisky bloggers have! This one, for example, deciding on which distillery will be the first to reach the 500-mark. We’re not talking scores ;-) we’re talking numbers of different expressions tasted. These days it seems that Caol Ila’s having the inside track (483) and to be honest, I can’t see Bowmore (435), Laphroaig (384) or Highland Park (379) overtaking it. So I don’t think we’re showing favouritism today, are we?

Caol Ila 33 yo 1983/2017 (50.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 198 bottles)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1983/2017 (50.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 198 bottles) Five stars In my experience, old CIs are usually stunning, but also in my experience, they do not stand the tiniest flaws that may run them off the road. But granted, that happens very rarely… Colour: straw. Nose: I see, a chalky/mezcaly one. Smoke, brine, crushed limestone, olives, vanilla… There are rumours that CAD are preparing some kind of metanoiacal world spirit that would shelter peaters, mezcals, gentians, and Jamaican high-ester rums. Can we wait? With water: gets CI-gentler, but there are oysters (Loch Gruinart, naturally) and funny whiffs of an old jacket that you would have worn while taking care of the BBQ. Whatever. Also something that’s very CI, green apples. Mouth (neat): forgot to mention iodine and peppered lemon. All the rest stands. With water: stays big and salty. More olives, brine, and the obligatory kippers (of the cake – S., please behave!) Finish: long, but it keeps this very moderate lightness that’s inherent to Caol Ila. Oh and the olives never gave up. Comments: excellent, as expected (but accidents can happen). Water is not mandatory here, you can save up. SGP:366 - 91 points.

Caol Ila 33 yo (52.6%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, refill sherry, 482 bottles, 2017)

Caol Ila 33 yo (52.6%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, refill sherry, 482 bottles, 2017) Five stars Not too sure this one’s got a vintage statement, I couldn’t find any. What’s sure is that if it’s only a little close to the stupendous Port Ellen Kinship, we’re in for a treat. Colour: gold-amber. Nose: to tell you the truth I think not all peaters, whether young or old, tango well with sherry, but in this case, some obvious balance has been found. We’re navigating around lit cigars and cedar wood, leather oil, fried bacon (I know, I know, cholesterol), dried kelp on a beach, plasticine, and the tiniest amount of new leatherette. Some camphor too. Love camphor. With water: always love it when metal polish comes out. More cigars. Mouth (neat): an oily texture, and first some kind of smoked Seville oranges with cloves and caraway, then walnut wine, roasted pecans, some very salty bacon, then rather lapsang souchong and wee bits of black tobacco, untipped Gauloise style. Bitter chocolate. Feels ‘darker’ than it is. With water: careful, water can make it really very dry, but at around 45%, it sings loud and clear, with rather more walnuts, grass, and spices. Nutmeg, for example. Finish: long, greatly bitter and dry, with more tobacco mingled with liquorice wood. A feeling of walnut stain, perhaps. Comments: very dry-oloroso-y. Nothing against that. Now you can’t quite compare it with the Cadenhead, as styles are almost opposite. Although quality would be equivalent in my book. SGP:366 - 91 points.

Caol Ila 34 yo 1981/2016 (59%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill hogshead, cask #5316)

Caol Ila 34 yo 1981/2016 (59%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill hogshead, cask #5316) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: more American oak interaction, which the colour already suggested. Wee touches of grated coconut at very first nosing, then a rather monolithic (not in the bad sense of the word) development, on peat smoke, camphor, and… wait wait wait, many small herbs are coming out and even blossoming, this is ravishing. Wee mints, chives, coriander, some eucalyptus, myrtle… A whole scrub somewhere near the Mediterranean. With water: gets almost delicate, with some soft mint and some liquorice, plus touches of cellulosic varnish. Mouth (neat): the highest impact, and that’s not only the higher strength. Straight lemony peat, lemon curd, salted mint water, and ‘ideas’ of tropical fruits, most probably from the oak. It was a very good hoggie. With water: more lemon, and some brine, and of course some smoke, some oysters, some pepper… As often at G&M’s, the whisky’s got very cloudy once reduced. As if they hadn’t used any filters at all. Finish: long, rather massive. A little more oak than in the others – more active indeed. Comments: totally brilliant again. Perhaps a notch less complex than the others, but do we really need complexity in all our drams? SGP:457 - 90 points.

You/we should have bought these 30+yo Caol Ilas when they were much cheaper. Fact.

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



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June 28, 2017


Finally, a new Convalmore

You couldn’t imagine how happy I am. I still had a few old Convalmores in WF’s sample library, and was waiting for some new bottlings to arrive so that I could build a proper line-up and taste those. In fact, I’d been waiting for that since Diageo’s superb 36yo Special Release in 2013… But nada, no new Convalmore ever reached my doorstep within those four years, and I even started to think that it was it, Convalmore had definitely become a name of the past. Until, just a few weeks ago, W.M. Cadenhead decided to celebrate their 175th Anniversary. And there was a Convalmore!...

Convalmore-Glenlivet 40 yo 1977/2017 (56.8%, Cadenhead, 175th anniversary, butt, 522 bottles)

Convalmore-Glenlivet 40 yo 1977/2017 (56.8%, Cadenhead, 175th anniversary, butt, 522 bottles) Five stars So one of Cadenhead’s 175th bottlings (while we aren’t even done with the 150th at WF Towers!) that comes together with some old Caol Ila, Banff, Caperdonich, Rosebank or even Ardbeg. What would we do without Cadenhead these days? Colour: pale gold. Nose: these very awesome and very fresh notes of herbal teas, citrus, and fresh green ok (that’s not quite oaky). Ripe kiwis and lime flower tea, lemon pie and chamomile, hints of buttered popcorn, mint and chives, grape pips oil, a touch of fresh basil, a little camphor, and a hint of fennel. It’s this herbal freshness that’s really impressive, I guess that butt was ‘very refill’. We shan’t complain. With water: goes towards a little more tropicalness – always a good sign – with rather unripe mangos and bananas. Some nutmeg and white peaches in the back. Mouth (neat): amazingly powerful given its age, herbally sharp (or sharply herbal) and even kind of spiky, with all herbal drinks of the creation, coated with some lemon cream and a wee feeling of pine wood. Lemongrass, peppermint, green plums, green pepper, lime… Indeed, it’s all green. With water: swims perfectly well. Lovely herbs-citrus game, always fresh, complex, with lime zests in the background. Would you call some 40 yo malt whisky ‘a thirst-quenching dram’? Finish: long, well-chiselled, always very herbal, but without any excessive green tannicity. Rather some kind of lemon-centre-filled chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: gives you faith in today’s whisky scene. So when’s the next Convalmore coming? SGP:571 - 91 points.

Good, let’s see what we have still got in the Convalmore box…

Convalmore 32 yo 1975/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old, refill sherry hogshead)

Convalmore 32 yo 1975/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Rare Old, refill sherry hogshead) Four stars and a half G&M have bottled other Convalmores after this one. Actually, they may still have some casks… Colour: straw. Nose: we’re close, very close, this one’s just lighter, a notch rounder, and rather more floral. Pot pourri, broom, hay, lemon blossom honey, then one banana and a surprising combination of reseda, incense, and wallflower. Some very nice man’s eau-de-toilette from the 1970s… Complex and subtle. Mouth: a similar herbal and grassy arrival, fresh and perfectly ‘green’, and a curious feeling of grassy rum (reminds me of some Brazilian Epris that we tried the other day). The rather cider apples, green barley, lime, and a touch of roots (turnips, beets). Decent mouth feel. Finish: surprisingly long, fresh, ‘green’, herbal, and extremely well balanced. Green bananas in the aftertaste. Comments: this freshness makes it dangerously drinkable. Very high quality again, as expected, but isn’t it great that G&M started to bottle these lovely series at 46% later on? SGP:461 - 89 points.

Convalmore 30 yo 1975/2006 (46%, Dun Bheagan, hogshead, cask #3758, 264 bottles)

Convalmore 30 yo 1975/2006 (46%, Dun Bheagan, hogshead, cask #3758, 264 bottles) Four stars and a half This one by Ian McLeod. Colour: pale gold. Nose: an overall profile that’s similar again, but this one’s rather got more cedar wood, more hay and more tobacco, before it would become more herbal again, quite in the style of Cadenhead’s 1977. Pot pourri, walnuts, new leather, some artisan cider, apple peelings, burning grass, more hay, farmyard, then vanilla and bananas (hints) that make it rounder and softer… Mouth: how very good yet again! Notes of coffee and bitter chocolate at first, which suggests that this cask was more active than the others, then a perfect combination of apple peel, dry cider, tobacco, cedar wood, and some kind of lemony cinnamon, just a tad drying, perhaps. Finish: medium, with a little spearmint and rhubarb. Liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps a notch less full of charms than the G&M, but it is a great old Convalmore for sure. And the age is perfect. SGP:551 - 88 points.

While we’re at it, we could try a sister cask…

Convalmore 28 yo 1975/2004 (46%, Dun Bheagan, hogshead, cask #3757, 264 bottles)

Convalmore 28 yo 1975/2004 (46%, Dun Bheagan, hogshead, cask #3757, 264 bottles) Four stars and a half Bizarrely, this one’s both younger and darker. Not that that never happens, mind you. Colour: gold. Nose: well, this one’s a little more fermentary, with notes of leaven and fresh dough, farmyard, then cut flowers from last week (vase water, not obligatorily un-nice mind you), lemon twists, many grasses and herbs again, fresh walnuts, and quite suddenly, a lot of limoncello. Very entertaining, even if it went into more unlikely territories (which was what we used to think of Convalmore in the past, actually). Mouth: oh, very very good! It’s rootier and earthier, with some gentian and even some peat, as if they had reused an old Islay cask. Tree bark, grass, a touch of cardamom, tobacco, lemon, more grass… Me quiero this for sure. Finish: rather long, the limoncello being back, together with grapefruits and those kiwis that we already found in the Cadenhead. Or was that the G&M? Comments: I think I like this 28 a little better than the 30. More proof that age doesn’t matter if you ask me (you’re beyond hope, S.) SGP:462 - 89 points.

What else have we got…

Convalmore 1975/2006 (46.1%, Scott's Selection)

Convalmore 1975/2006 (46.1%, Scott's Selection) Four stars Not seen much by Scott’s Selection in recent months, have you? Colour: straw. Nose: this is even more citric and grassy than the others. Take a large glass, pour the juice of one lemon and one lime, add a little grass juice, green tea, a drop of barley sugar, a few crushed mint leaves, and one Alka-Seltzer. There, you’re know having a good idea… Who said mojito? Mouth: really very sharp, more mineral this time, with a feeling of engine oil, chalk, green lemons rather than lime, green apples, and some kind of bitter root. Not quite gentian but we’re close. Finish: quite long, sharp, austere, with a lovely lemony signature in the aftertaste. Comments: another excellent one, very stylish and, I have to say, rather uncommercial. The aspirin tablets were provided. SGP:361 - 87 points.

Convalmore 1975/2004 (49.3%, Scott's Selection)

Convalmore 1975/2004 (49.3%, Scott's Selection) Four stars and a half Most probably a sister cask, bottled a little earlier, and perhaps an even sharper Convalmore, let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: my, this baby makes the previous one round and soft by comparison. Almost pure lemon juice, with a little fresh mint and the faintest iodine thrown in for good measure. A little chalk as well, and perhaps hints of dill, or even rubbed lovage. Mouth: delicious! This is almost old Chartreuse, mind you, minus the sweetness. Aniseed, spearmint, liquorice, verbena, lemon zests… All that is very fresh, very herbal, and I have to say I’m rather a fan of this long forgotten style. Finish: wonderful chalky and Chartreuse-y profile, with more lemon again in the aftertaste. Comments: these Convalmores were all superbly grassy and herbal. I cannot think of any current distillery that’s still making this style of malt whisky. SGP:361 - 89 points.

I just hope we’ll manage to do another serious Convalmore session… Sometime in the future… We’ll see…

(Mille mercis, Ivar, Paul & Greg!)

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



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June 27, 2017


Port Ellen, two of them

This wouldn’t be Whiskyfun without a few PEs every once in a while (a strictly personal opinion). First things first, the apéritif…

Port Ellen 21 yo 1976/1998 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)

Port Ellen 21 yo 1976/1998 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection) Five stars We had a similar PE by W&M at cask strength not so long ago, and it’s been utterly brilliant (WF 93). Just saying. Colour: white wine. Nose: there. An old boat’s diesel engine, coal tar, bicycle inner tubes, freshly broken limestone, flints, hessian, paraffin and plasticine, old mouldy/musty wine cellar, then some fresher notes of seawater and oysters… Nutshell, this is a true, full-blown PE. Port Ellen was great at 20/22. Mouth: magnificently lemony, chalky, and iodine-y. There’s much less tar this time, rather wild amounts of grapefruits and lemons, blended with seawater and crushed kippers. A touch of almond paste to round it off, and a wee hint of wasabi to boot. Bwilliant. Finish: long, extremely concise and precise, lemony, very smoky, not too salty this time, with more tar again in the aftertaste. A very Port-Elleny aftertaste. Comments: old Douglas Laing had many of these. At around 20, these PEs just rocked. I like this baby just as much as the W&M’s 1976 that was bottled at 57.3%. SGP:357 - 93 points.

Port Ellen 34 yo 1982/2017 (61.7%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, bourbon cask, 545 bottles)

Port Ellen 34 yo 1982/2017 (61.7%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, bourbon cask, 545 bottles) Five stars This baby from Hunter Laing’s new series that celebrates the beginning of the works at their new distillery on Islay, Ardnahoe. There’re also a Caol Ila, an Ardbeg, a Bowmore, a Bunnahabhain and a Laphroaig. We’ll try those as well, but I thought starting with the PE would carry more panache (any excuses, really). Oh and if they came up with 545 bottles from bourbon wood, it must be a small vatting rather than a single cask. Colour: pale gold. Nose: fruits rather than tar! That’s not unusual with the 1982s, they were often relatively light for PE, while most 1983s got fatter and tarrier again. Now don’t get me wrong, this still has more tar and plasticine than 99% of all other Scottish malts. Great notes of kelp, new floated wood, and perhaps mustard. With water: oh wet dogs (we owe you bags of croquettes, dogs) and muddy waters on Islay. Mouth (neat): totally tireless PE. This baby’s perfectly fresh, even youthful, showcasing an exceptional combination of sultanas (really), dried dates (really), seawater, tar liqueur, rhubarb juice, and massive amounts of green salted liquorice. These casks will never die, they could keep them until the year 2100. With water: careful, don’t drown it. What’s striking again is the fruitiness, you’ve got blood oranges coming out, guavas, pomegranates, cranberries… It’s possible that what happens with old Laphroaig after 25 years is happening with old PE after 35 years. Peat smoke’s transmutation, you know… Finish: long, still fruity and fresh. Granted, this is not Tomatin, but seriously, it’s, well, very fruity. And that’s lovely. Comments: extraordinary whisky, both when neat and when reduced, you can’t make much better on this little planet. Now I’m sure it’s very expensive – haven’t checked the price though. In the thousands, I guess. SGP:656 - 94 points.

(Merci beaucoup Tom)

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



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June 26, 2017


Two great young Speysiders that are totally not for beginners

No, seriously, any beginners could enjoy, say Ardbeg 10 or Lagavulin 16, but this, perhaps not. Both very young single casks Benromach, both ex-first fill bourbon at very high strength. Where have I put my tasting helmet again?…

Benromach 2008/2016 (56.3%, OB, La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary, bourbon, cask #192, 248 bottles)

Benromach 2008/2016 (56.3%, OB, La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary, bourbon, cask #192, 248 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: very sharp, grassy, mineral, sooty, with some mustard, some dust, fresh walnuts… In truth you’re almost nosing vin jaune or manzanilla, just at a much higher strength. With water: mud, ashes, and a little manure. Reminds me of one very horse stable… Also touches of citron. Mouth (neat): huuuge, salty, mustardy, smoky, and very ashy. Only the bourbon wood’s vanilla made it a tad rounder. Very punchy whisky, and pretty much the style that I enjoy most (you know, Brora/Longrow… And Clynelish/Springbank to have a consistent story). No signs of excessive youth. With water: even more salt. Drinking olive brine straight from the can. Finish: long and saltier yet! Salted walnuts dipped into mustard, plus one cranberry. Comments: it seems that Benromach have gone even more extreme. Whisky that goes to eleven, Nigel. SGP:275 - 89 points.

Benromach 2008/2017 (60.1%, OB, Whiskybase, bourbon, cask #372, 215 bottles)

Benromach 2008/2017 (60.1%, OB, Whiskybase, bourbon, cask #372, 215 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: this one’s softer and rounder, but it’s no soft and round whisky. I have to say the LMDW was really extreme. I’d say this Whiskybase is grassier, more on leaves, broken branches, and with a little menthol this time. Other than that, same chalky/dusty style. Also a fresh box of green tea (gunpowder style). With water: gets drier again, and goes toward the LMDW. Same very demanding kind of profile. Mouth (neat): cough, cough… Salted mercurochrome and high-power crème de menthe. Quick… With water: superb! Lemon, olives, ashes, smoked salmon, and once again, a lot of salt. Oh and mustard. Finish: extremely long. A feeling of… margarita. Perhaps the best margarita ever. Comments: total high class, very characterful whisky. Just, perhaps not for beginners indeed. Perhaps they should slap a warning sticker or something onto the bottles. SGP:375 - 90 points.

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



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June 25, 2017


A few Armagnacs,
looking for malternatives

Armagnac’s not very far from Cognac, as everybody very well knows, but beyond variations as far as production means and materials are concerned (grapes, stills), Armagnac’s also usually ‘craftier’ and more ‘artisan’. When compared to 99% of the whiskies, Armagnac is actually ten times ‘craftier’. For example, many Armgnac makers are growing their own grapes and maturing their spirits on location. In a nutshell, whisky distilleries are just that, distilleries, while Armagnac houses often grow, distil, and age everything on location. Let's see which Armagnacs we’ll find today… Oh by the way, remember VS (formerly ***) means that the youngest spirit is at least 2 yo, VSOP means 4 yo, XO means 6 yo, and HO (hors d’âge) means 10 yo.

An interesting French mid-1975s advert for Armagnac that explains one of the main differences from the much more successful Cognacs at that time, soil as a part of terroir (left, limestone in Cognac/Charentes, right siliceous clay in Armagnac/Gascogne). Of course the winemakers had to look very ‘rustic’!

Janneau VSOP (40%, OB, Armagnac, blend, +/-2016)

Janneau VSOP (40%, OB, Armagnac, blend, +/-2016) Two stars and a half This one’s called ‘Grand Armagnac’ but I’m not sure that means anything. Just words, just like rare and old elsewhere. Jeanneau is one of, if not the largest house and is widely exported. They’re also known for using double (batch) distillations, and not only Armagnac’s typical small columns. Colour: deep gold. Nose: this starts well. Typical prunes and raisins, with a little fudge and ripe peaches and mirabelles. It’s fruity in a lovely way, easy, rounded, and pretty fresh. Tends to become very jammy, which is all nice. Mouth: a little grittier, perhaps a notch tannic, with apple peelings, raw cider, and some kind of raw and dry raisins and green plums. Some oak feels in the back. Finish: rather short and a little grassy and gritty. Comments: some would say that Armagnac ought to be ‘gritty’, but while very good, I’m finding this VSOP a little rough. Very good quality nonetheless, and let’s remember it’s young Armagnac. SGP:461 - 78 points.

Comte de Lauvia ‘Réserve’ (40%, OB, Armagnac, blend, +/-2016)

Comte de Lauvia ‘Réserve’ (40%, OB, Armagnac, blend, +/-2016) Two stars These are ‘éleveurs’, so rather growers, or shall we say nurturers. I don’t think they distil themselves, but they buy new fillings (not ready Armgnacs). Also, remember that in Armagnac and Cognac, you first use the freshest wood, and then the older wood. So you do not ‘re-rack’ or ‘finish’ your spirits, quite the opposite. As for the word ‘réserve’ here, it means… nothing. Colour: gold. Nose: the Jeanneau was much more expressive and aromatic, this one’s shy, rather grassy, branche-y, and leafy. Stems and grape stalks. Oh yeah, before I forget, in Armagnac you first make wine, which you then distil. You don’t distil grapes (that would make marc). Mouth: this time it’s this baby that’s fruitier, although it does remain a little rough. Peaches, plums, green apples, ad touches of williams pears. No prunes no coffee this time either, those are rather to be found in older, or more commercial ‘supermarket’ Armagnacs. Finish: quite short and closer to the grapes. A few raisins. Comments: similar quality, I just thought the Jeanneau had a little more ‘precision’. SGP:451 - 76 points.

Marquis de Montesquiou ‘Extra Old’ (40%, OB, Armagnac, blend, +/-2016)

Marquis de Montesquiou ‘Extra Old’ (40%, OB, Armagnac, blend, +/-2016) Advertised as a ‘more than 10 years old’ on the brand’s website, but I can’t see why they call it Extra Old instead of Hors d’Age then. A bit over-packaged and said to be ‘a must for the preparation of your modern cocktails’, which sounds very self-depreciating to my uneducated ears. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s rather old-style Armagnac, without the rather vibrant fruitiness that both the Jeanneau and the Lauvia were having. Caramel, prunes, café latte, more caramel, raisins, and something that rather bends towards cognac. Mouth: starts a little sweet and syrupy, gets then fruity (peach syrup), but remains pretty simple. Was something added? Not a fan of this slightly weak and sweetish style, I have to say. We’re far from any malternative spirit. Finish: short yet a little thick, sugary, syrupy… A wee feeling of pineau des Charentes. Comments: fair and, of course, most drinkable. But to the malt enthusiast, it’s really too flabby. And sweet. SGP:630 - 65 points.

Since Jeanneau’s having the lead, let’s try an older Jeanneau…

Jeanneau 18 yo (43%, OB, Armagnac, single distillery, +/-2016)

Jeanneau 18 yo (43%, OB, Armagnac, single distillery, +/-2016) Three stars This baby was integrally double-distilled in one set of stills. It’s 100% ugni blanc. Oh and it’s got a nice age statement instead of some very woolly name. Like Grand Prestige Of The Mousquetaires Du Roy. Whatever… Colour: deep gold. Nose: another category for sure. Lovely tropical fruits (papayas covered with honey and nectars) plus ripe peaches and fresh liquorice, then a little custard, tobacco, and sandalwood. Lovely freshness. Mouth: it’s still got young Armagnac’s grittiness, but that’s totally an asset here. Liquorice, black chocolate, orange blossom water, baklavas, more tinned peaches, and quite curiously, a spoonful of smoked tea. Finish: this is where it loses points, it’s a tad too grassy and drying. Lack a little, shall we say vibrancy? A wee touch of sugar, don’t know where that’s coming from. Comments: not perfect but I think it’s very good, very solid middle-aged Armagnac. And hey, it comes with an age statement (in general, and just like in Scotland, NAS-ers always try to make you believe that their make is older than it actually is). SGP:551 - 80 points.

Jean Cavé 1986/2017 (48.6%, Old Brothers, cask #B3)

Jean Cavé 1986/2017 (48.6%, Old Brothers, cask #B3) Four stars Jean Cavé are having a lot of old and even very old Armagnac, but most sadly, most are bottled at some rather depressing and sometimes murderous 40% vol. Not the case at all with the little independent bottling we’re having today, thank God! By the way, Old Brothers are some brand new and very passionate young French independent bottlers, keep an eye on them! Colour: deep gold. Nose: right, one further step toward the top. Starts with ripe nectarines, chestnut honey, tinned pineapples, and the obligatory golden raisins, and goes on with soft spices, around cinnamon and sweet Szechuan pepper, plus touches of roots, celeriac, gentian… Always great signs. Mouth: excellent, big, starting mentholy and rooty, getting then much fruitier (always peaches, nectarines, pink grapefruits, guavas), and then spicier, which is to be expected from some thirty year old spirit. Nutmeg and cinnamon from the oak, also strong black tea (again, from the oak), cracked pepper, and cloves. Finish: as always, a grittier finish. Strong tea, brown tobacco, tea tannins, bitter chocolate… A funny touch of tequila in the aftertaste. Comments: very well selected, Old Brothers! By the way they have a whisky and a cognac too, soon on WF for our most distinguished and well-educated readership’s enjoyement (did it occur to you that this is the 21th century, S.?). SGP:561 - 87 points.

We might have room for a sixth Armagnac… And since we’ve been at Jeanneau’s…

Jeanneau 50 ans (75°proof, OB, Armagnac, bottled 1960s)

Jeanneau 50 ans (75°proof, OB, Armagnac, bottled 1960s) Five stars Some old ‘Grande Fine Armagnac’, which is a tautology since all Armagnacs are ‘fines’ and more or less ‘grand’ according to international marketeers, most probably distilled before or during WWI, possibly not from pre-phylloxeric vines, and yet almost certainly full of folle blanche. And bottled for the UK. Colour: rich amber. Nose: very old Macallan, there. Prunes, pipe tobacco, sultanas, parsley, beef stock, oranges, old white Burgundy, roasted hazelnuts, tar, pinewood smoke, mint cordial, mead, traditional Chinese plum sauce, umeshu… Yeah, there. Luminous. Mouth: profound, yet perhaps a tad less complex than on the nose. Oranges check, mint check, raisins check, plum jam check, chestnut honey check… What’s missing a bit is the herbal/meaty side that was well in the nose. Finish: long, with a little chocolate, raisins, and notes of arrack. The aftertaste is a tad grassier and tea-ish. Comments: catch these bottles if you can find them, they’re as good if not better than some of the very old Macs and will cost you a tenth or even a twentieth of the price. But let’s not talk about money, since that is so vulgar… There might be a little ‘home syrup’ inside, which was to old brandies what paxarette was to Macallan. SGP:651 - 90 points.

More Armagnacs soon on WF!

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



Block Today: FRENCH BLUES with your Armagnac. Performer: Jean-Marie-Ecay. Track: Atlantic Blues. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 24, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Ben Nevis Three Ways
Ben Nevis: what's to say about it except that it remains one of Scotland's more distinctive and characterful makes, still resolutely 'Highland' in style. Now, not every bottling is a high scorer, but it's a whisky that is hardly ever boring and always entertaining. And, of course, there are many great ones as well. Lets see what we find today...


Ben Nevis 'McDonald's Traditional' (46%, OB, 185 years anniversary, 2012) Ben Nevis 'McDonald's Traditional' (46%, OB, 185 years anniversary, 2012) Now, I know there are already notes for this one on Whiskyfun, but there also some different batches in my experience so let’s just say this counts as a separate batch. Colour: Light amber. Nose: Dusty and a little sooty at first. Notes of clay, earth and drying phenolics from the peated component used with the aim of 'replicating' an older style of Ben Nevis. Quite a pleasant nose, leafy with pipe tobacco some light wood ash and something like greengages and chlorophyll. There is a slight raisiny, botrytis aroma arising after a while as well - quite a pleasing sherry quality overall. Some pears baked in Cognac and a little camphor and gentle waxiness. Mouth: Tar, resin, mild, ashy peat notes and more light green fruitiness. A little green pepper, some cereal notes and more raisiny sweetness that balances out nicely with the smokiness. More leafy and earthy notes and then some sort of banana aspect which is quite a 'Ben Nevisy' thing if you ask me. Finish: Good length, perhaps not too long but still with a nicely balanced mix of cereal, raisins, tobacco and a little oily peatiness. Comments: I think this whole thing about 'replicating' older styles of whiskies is generally rather nonsensical and technically impossible. However, I do think this bottle harks back to something a bit 'old school' and that they did a very good job on the composition. I find it highly quaffable in the way that a good and not too complex session whisky should be. I also think its a fine example of a good NAS bottling, I don't think it was too expensive upon release. SGP: 445 - 85 points.  


Ben Nevis 16 yo 1977/1993 (60.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Ben Nevis 16 yo 1977/1993 (60.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Colour: Gold. Nose: Pretty closed and tight at first nosing. Some sunflower oil and wild flowers. Maybe some cereals and notes of concrete. Develops with some white stone fruits and more floral notes then goes on with some light waxiness and more assorted oils. Very pleasant actually and surprisingly notable, it's just a bit slow at full strength. Maybe some wee touches of aged dry Gewurztraminer. With water: more floral with notes of pollen and lilies, a little cured meats, some honey. Also quite mineral, globally not a textbook Ben Nevis but very pleasant. Mouth: A little hot but nicely buttery with some dried herbs, a little cornflour, more various oils such as light olive oil and rapeseed oil. Goes on with notes of quince, more aged Gewurz, assorted drying spices and a nice, savoury bready / yeasty note. Perhaps some long aged Champagne. With water: buttered toast, brioche, more dried spices, star anise and more drying mineral notes. Quite austere really but pleasingly direct and taught in its structure. Finish: Quite long on minerals, pebbles, a little chalk and more notes of pollen, some beeswax and a little green fruitiness. Comments: It's a bit of a challenging one this. Quite austere and difficult, pretty much the epitome of unsexy and un-modern whisky. However, that's not to say it isn't good or that I don't like it, it's just more an in an 'intellectual' dram that makes demands of you. SGP: 263 - 83 points.



Ben Nevis 32 yo 1972/2004 (52.3%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, hogshead, cask #616) Ben Nevis 32 yo 1972/2004 (52.3%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, hogshead, cask #616) Colour: Amber. Nose: Beautifully dry and earthy at first with dried mushrooms and umami paste. Evidently a sherry hogshead as it goes on with notes of figs, plum sauce and a lovely, resinous camphor quality. Little notes of wild strawberry and various fruit syrups and liqueurs. Perhaps some treacle and toffee sponge (again I should know). With water: Softer and wider with an unexpected heathery note, not dissimilar to a heather ale like Fraoch (by Williams Brothers if you want to seek it out). More oriental notes such as chilli ricecrackers in balance with some aged balsamico and more earth. Mouth: Hugely resinous and alive with all kinds of dark and stewed fruits. Beautifully clean and nervous sherry profile with tar, rancio and a wonderfully syrupy, plum sauce flavour towards the back of the palate. Very earthy and full of all kinds of exotic hardwood notes. Becomes more drying and very spicy with notes of black tea and five spice. Also a little mentholated with time, rather like an over-brewed mint tea. Really rather wonderful. With water: Darjeeling tea, more plum sauce (you could dip a whole crispy duck in this stuff) and more leafy and earthy notes. The fruitiness remains constant and well balanced. Finish: Long! Beautifully resinous and nervous sherry with a delicate flintiness emerging and more gently drying notes of rancio and even a little natural tar. Comments:  Well, I'm not particularly surprised by this one, quite a few of these old OB single casks have been very good. But this one was really great, my kind of sherry: fruity, well balanced and very drinkable. SGP: 523 - 91 points.  


Thank you Marcel and Dirk.  




Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Mark Selby. Track: Trouble wants. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 23, 2017


A’bunadh against Sauternes

I just cannot and couldn’t taste all batches of A’bunadh, but I like to try a few of them, say every three or four batches. Today it’s going to be batch #57, knowing that A’bunadh is the perfect excuse for all NAS-goers. You know, NAS can’t be bad since A’bunadh (used to be Uigeadail) is good. Right…

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #57 (60.7%, OB, 2016)

Aberlour 'A'bunadh' batch #57 (60.7%, OB, 2016) Four stars and a half From oloroso butts, naturally. Colour: amber. Nose: dry. Pencil shavings and walnuts, chocolate, cinnamon, toffee. I don’t think I’ve ever found this many pencil shavings in A’bunadh. With water: more oak! Bitter chocolate, sawdust, vanilla, Crayola, black tea… Mouth (neat): rich, strong, very orange-y, and very bizarrely, very, very bourbony. Say Pappy-ish. Some black cherries, marmalade, cinnamon cake, black chocolate, figs, Armagnac, all that. With water: heavy oak extraction indeed, but quite magically, that worked greatly. Feels very technological, but that’s technology we enjoy (I know I sound like an old Sony ad). Finish: long, on some spicy cake, chocolate, nutmeg (nutmeg is everywhere), and all kinds of raisins. Modern Armagnac, cloves, and ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: this is totally cask-driven, and yet, this is pretty perfect. You just have to like oak. Hurray for A’bunadh! SGP:461 - 88 points.

Aberlour-Glenlivet 19 yo 1995/2014 (52.6%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Sauternes finish, 264 bottles)

Aberlour-Glenlivet 19 yo 1995/2014 (52.6%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Sauternes finish, 264 bottles) What what what, Sauternes? Colour: golden. Nose: wait. Bicycle inner tube, new Renault, engine oil, carbon paper, hard-boiled eggs, rhubarb peel… How strange is this? You would expect some apricoty extravaganza, and what you get is some hyper-rubbery grassiness. Shall I use the S-word? With water: brake pads after a well-fought race. Mouth (neat): starts relatively well, and gets then sour and eau-de-vie-ish. Loses you. Cranberry sweets, lavender ice cream, Szechuan pepper, tomatoes… With water: no. More tomatoes, muddy stuff... Finish: quite long, sour and bitter, twisted, rubbery… Comments: why? This might be Cadenhead’s secret garden, bottling great classics must be boring at times, so they sometimes fire total oddities, just for fun. Archie Shepp playing The Rubettes or something like that. SGP:362 - 65 points (oh it's just a funny one woth trying, don't always bother with scores).

(Yet, thanks Tomislav!)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Art Zoyd. Track: Simulacres. Please visit their website and buy their music...

June 22, 2017


A very strange Lowland session starting with a 12 yo Ladyburn

As I think I’ve told you the other day, we’ve got a new old young Ladyburn aboard. As rare as a Bigfoot sighting! Let’s try it with much respect and sense of History (kind of) and then see if we find one or two proper sparring partners… Or more.

Ladyburn 12 yo 1966/1979 (45.7GL, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Ladyburn 12 yo 1966/1979 (45.7GL, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Four stars Believe me or not, I’ve never tried any really young genuine malt from William Grant’s short-lived Ladyburn distillery (1966-1975). Old ones? Oh yeah. And by the way, you may have noticed that this baby comes from Ladyburn’s very first runs. Colour: full gold. Nose: what, botrytis? I’m not joking at all, this noses like some very old Alsatian Pinot Gris Late Harvest that’s digested its sugars. Serious. Also a little shoe polish, quince jelly (PG again), touches of fresh clay, and then some caraway and aniseed. Indeed, a very unusual nose, but I’m all for it, even if you never quite know about what comes from the distillate, and what comes from bottle aging. Mouth: typical shoe and metal polish from these old dumpies. Dry, leathery, even a tad salty, with unsweetened herbal teas and a curious ashy side. No smoke though, and no Lowlandy sweet fruits either. Finish: rather long, dry, with a little pepper and dust. And oranges in the aftertaste! Comments: the old guard remembers that dear Michael Jackson used to smash Ladyburn. Well, I’m not sure he had tried this lovely young one. Quite super! SGP:352 - 85 points.

So, we haven’t got any other un-tasted Ladyburn in the library, so let’s find something else of a similar age that would make sense…

Rosebank 12 yo (43%, OB, Flora and Fauna, +/-1995)

Rosebank 12 yo (43%, OB, Flora and Fauna, +/-1995) Four stars I’ve tried older 12s (such as the Zenith) but never this famous F&F – although I’ve tried the hard-hitting CS version. Colour: white wine. Nose: lighter and fruitier than the Ladyburn, feeling younger, with peaches and melons at first, then rather sweet barley and light international ‘breakfast honey’. A touch of bread dough as well, and a handful of Haribo bears. No huge citrusy burst like in other young Rosebanks, though. Mouth: it’s really very peachy, it’s got more power than you would think, and indeed I’m finding more citrus. Tangerine bonbons, perhaps. Then the usual acacia honey and wee touches of rose jelly. Traces of hay as well. Finish: medium, not short. More sweets, bonbons, and fruit drops, with a nice grassy/hay-y structure. Comments: more ‘Lowlands’ than the Ladyburn. Quality’s equivalent, I’d say. SGP:641 - 85 points.

Another 12 yo? No problems…

Glenkinchie 2004/2016 ‘Distillers Edition’ (43%, OB, G/289-7-D)

Glenkinchie 2004/2016 ‘Distillers Edition’ (43%, OB, G/289-7-D) Three stars This is the Classic Malt that’s finished in Amontillado. Colour: gold. Nose: the wine dominates the light distillates. First raisins, then walnut wine and some kind of floral concoction. Chamomile? Some ripe plums too, whiffs of moist cigars (very amontillado indeed) and then rather a little mint and leather. Intriguing, I would say. Mouth: bacon, ashes, wood smoke, and indeed ‘chewing your cigar’. Is this Glenkinchie indeed? I’m finding it rather bolder, and more, well, intriguing than previous batches. Bags of walnuts, and more tobacco. And this feeling of wood smoke that can be found in some bone-dry sherries indeed. I like. Finish: long, grassy, dry, vegetal. Have I mentioned walnuts? Peppery aftertaste. Comments: really an odd Glenkinchie, but I’m finding it attractive. Did Diageo improve the recipe? SGP:352 - 82 points.

Hell and putrefaction, I haven’t gotten any 12 years old Auchentoshan at hand. So, perhaps an older one and we’re done with the Lowlands.

Auchentoshan 24 yo 1990/2014 (51.5%, The Duchess, Shieldmaiden Ylva, bourbon)

Auchentoshan 24 yo 1990/2014 (51.5%, The Duchess, Shieldmaiden Ylva, bourbon) Four stars This baby has been selected by our friend Luc Timmermans, so in theory, it should resemble a Glenfarclas. I wrote ‘in theory’… Colour: white wine. Nose: no fruity burst, rather an oily and grassy start, with some green tea and cigars (gotcha Luc), then rather tinned fruits, from guavas to peaches. Rather a textured Auchentoshan, without any excessive vanilla-ed oak. With water: floral! Rose petals and, well, gewürztraminer. Rather Luc indeed. Mouth (neat): it’s one of those Auchentoshans that have got an Irish side, with passion fruits and mentholated bananas (?!) at first, then more grassy teas and leaves and peelings. All that rather works in sync, I have to say. With water: a grassier Bushmills of some sort. Finish: medium, fruity and leafy. Don’t I find kiwis now? Comments: an excellent good, clean, and yet complex old Auchentoshan. And above everything, there’s little vanilla! SGP:551 - 87 points.

(Merci mille fois Greg, Paul, Peter) 



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Duke Ellington. Track: as they say in whisky, Things ain't what they used to be. Please visit his website and buy his music...

June 21, 2017


Knock, knock, who's there?

AnCnoc aka Knockdhu! AnCnoc have been firing dozens (I may exaggerate) of new NAS in recent times, all with unlikely names. Mind you, without ages, you need to be very creative and Wikipedia’s not always of sufficient help. Let’s have a few, at random of course, since without any age statements, we can’t build any verticale. Wait, why not do that alphabetically? I know, very stupid…

AnCnoc ‘Black Hill Reserve’ (46%, OB, +/-2016)

AnCnoc ‘Black Hill Reserve’ (46%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half The name of a local hill. We’ve never seen that before, have we. Colour: white wine. Nose: malty, slightly chalky, moderately vanilla-ed, and faintly beery. A little cider, a little porridge. Mouth: good creamy vanilla and apple compote, pears, and tinned fruits. Peaches spring to mind. A touch of honey. Finish: medium, sweet, rather syrupy (some active oak in use), on barley syrup and, once again, tinned peaches. Comments: a fair dram, rounded and easy. No one could be against this, it’s just not very entrancing. More or less what they already did at Pulteney. SGP:441 - 78 points.

AnCnoc ‘Blas’ (54%, OB, +/-2015)

AnCnoc ‘Blas’ (54%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars Well, this packaging was lovely! And this ‘embodies the spirit of a Modern Tradition’, a remark that deeply perplexes me. Friday afternoon marketing again? Blas means taste. Okkkay. Colour: gold. Nose: same half-nutty, half-fruity style, rather pleasantly MOTR, with nice pastries and nice dried fruits, nice beers, nice cakes, and of course some nice malt. With water: a very wee sulphury side, ala Mortlach. Mouth (neat): good and nice. Oranges, light toffee, butterscotch, roasted nuts, maple syrup. Faultless. Oh and nice. With water: nice indeed. Golden Grahams, maple syrup, praline, popcorn, raisins, and a little rum. Finish: medium, creamy, malty, sweet. Oranges in the aftertaste, as well as a little sawdust. Fresh American barrels? Comments: really nice. N.i.c.e. SGP:541 - 81 points.

AnCnoc ‘Peatlands’ (46%, OB, +/-2016)

AnCnoc ‘Peatlands’ (46%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars At least we know what a peatland is. I have to say other peaters by AnCnoc have been rather pleasant, they do that well. This is ‘a regional exclusive available in Eastern & Western Europe and Scandinavia.’ Colour: white wine (iridescent amber, says the brand’s website, lol). Nose: a clean peatiness, not quite coastal, and more or less akin to what they’re doing at Benriach. Apples, ashes, wood smoke, cinnamon. Mouth: good sweet easy young peat, with lemons and pears. The body’s a tad thin, but that adds gentleness. Nice introduction to peat, perhaps for beginners. Finish: shortish, lemony, clean. Comments: very well made. It’s simple and probably quite young, but as a ‘drink’, it’s convincing. A proper tequila-beater. SGP:445 - 80 points.

AnCnoc ‘Peter Arkle Luggage Edition’ (46%, OB, +/-2016)

AnCnoc ‘Peter Arkle Luggage Edition’ (46%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half But who is Peter Arkle? This is obviously stuff for travel retail, given the name. Bad karma. Seriously, AnCnoc deserve loud applause for their ‘46%-no-chillfiltering’ policy. Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather fatter and thicker Black Hill. It’s just as nice, but there’s a little more going on. Hints of earthy bananas, honeydew, apple compote. Mouth: easy, but not dull at all, malty, with apples, cinnamon, white pepper, vanilla, and grated coconut. The newish oak gives it a very wee plankish side, but nothing to worry about. Crystallised oranges in the background. Finish: medium, candied, perhaps a tad sugary. Sweet ale. Comments: good, just, perhaps, a wee tad boring, which might be a little embarrassing given that this is a 1l bottle. SGP:541 - 79 points.

AnCnoc ‘Stack’ (46%, OB, +/-2016)

AnCnoc ‘Stack’ (46%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars No, that’s neither Steak nor Starck. A stack is where they keep the pieces of peat before it gets dry. This baby was peated to 20ppm, which is rather civilised. Colour: white wine. Nose: a stricter, less rounded peater after the nice(ish) Peatlands. Smoky lemons, ashes, coal, smoked trout… Good engineering. Mouth: indeed, this is good, sweet and smoky, ashy, lemony, with pears that suggest some youthness. I mean, youth. Finish: medium, a tad sweeter. Limoncello. Ashy aftertaste. Comments: very young peat in active American oak, I’d say. Nothing to complain about, but there was more action in a discarded Inspektor Derrick episode. SGP:545 - 81 points.

Good, five NAS, that’s more than enough, and we’re both almost falling asleep, I’m sure.

AnCnoc 24 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016)

AnCnoc 24 yo (46%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars and a half Ah, an age statement! Glory and light! Colour: gold (the website says ‘vintage amber’ but I’ve never seen any amber that wasn’t very vintage, like 25mio years old). Nose: immediate complexity, this baby sends all NAS back to the whisky school. Perfect leafy, tobacco-ish start, then bitter oranges and walnut wine, then plasticine-y herbs and saps. There’s a lot of plasticine, actually, and I know some say that’s a flaw, but personally, I’m a sucker for plasticine in whisky. Mouth: starts a little bourbony, as if some re-racking in fresh oak had taken place, but it unfolds quite brilliantly, on smoky resins, beedies, teas, bitter oranges, leather, and leaves. The style is dry, which I find very nice. Finish: long, leafy, with more citrus this time, which goes well with the sawdust in the aftertaste. Some wood technology at work, I suppose (Campari, baby!) Comments: a whole different league, and more proof that Knockdhu’s a great distillery. SGP:462 - 89 points.

In theory, we should call this a proper tasting session. But there’re these annoying people at Cadenhead’s… It’s going to be tough though, the official 24 was quite perfect…

Knockdhu 10 yo (56.2%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, for the USA, 2017) Two stars Probably a 2006, but we did not find any more information yet. It’s kind of new, you know. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: sunflower oil, natural rubber, Haribo crocodiles, banana-ed porridge. Right… With water: elementary, rather un-Cadenhead, with more gummi bears and perhaps hints of almond oil. Mouth (neat): I did not know that Haribo had bough AnCnoc, but I know some girlz do let some strawberry candies macerate in vodka. Or marshmallows. Let’s call this vodka-Red Bull, if you like, a hit in the neighbourhood around the years 2005/2006. Finish: yep. Comments: shall we call this a whisky of mass destruction? Me not comprendo mucho, me tired, me need a rest, thank you greatly. SGP:631 - 72 points (like).

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Carla Bley. Track: Song of the eternal waiting of Canute. Please visit her website and buy her music...

June 20, 2017


Tasting the cream of the Isle of Skye

Bingo, that would be Talisker. Let’s see what we have, and try those more or less at random. Well, rather less at random if you don’t mind…

Talisker 'Dark Storm' (45.8%, OB, +/-2016)

Talisker 'Dark Storm' (45.8%, OB, +/-2016) Three stars and a half Liked this baby when it first came out, although the 10 always reigned supreme in my book. Colour: gold. Nose: it does nose young, but not immature. It’s big Talisker, rather emphatic and even slightly ‘in your face’, with nice notes of fermenting leaves and fruits, dried kelp (more dried kelp than on an inaccessible beach), a very grassy/leafy smokiness, and not that many pencil shavings, while earliest version had more of that. Notes of bitter marmalade. Mouth: seriously, this is super good, if a tad cloying. They seem to have pushed the ashes and the drying parts, and lowered the fruits. Tends to become a little bitter, on Fernet Branca, various artichoke liqueurs, ginger, heavy cinnamon… The wood sure has a lot to say here. Finish: long, drying, very smoky and extremely spicy. Some oak in the aftertaste. Comments: a comedian that goes a little overboard, but it’s still one of my favourite young Taliskers. Like ‘Storm’ better, though – and of course the 10. SGP:267 - 83 points.

Perhaps another OB…

Talisker 2006/2016 'Distillers Edition' (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5SE)

Talisker 2006/2016 'Distillers Edition' (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5SE) Four starsAs usual, this one was finished in Amoroso wood, so flavoured with sweetish sherry. Kind of. This one I’m not following every year. Colour: gold. Nose: perhaps I should? Very nice whiffs of oysters and fresh kelp, then gherkin brine and cigarette smoke. Hints of cucumber, autumn leaves, and fresh mushrooms. I don’t seem to find any raisins this time, not bad news if you ask me. Mouth: I’ll say it, I’m finding this baby very good. Much more refined and elegant than the trumpeting Dark Storm, and again, not over-raisined (like, say all those unlikely PX finishes from other makers’ that are invading our shelves). So, good, with mild pepper, a little walnut liqueur, a little soot, wax, seaweed, brine, and liquorice. Finish: medium, salty, and slightly cake-y. Comments: after all those years, they know how to make finishes that work and that do not become unbalanced (and, as they say on Facebook, a little ‘WTF?’). SGP:455 - 86 points.

Let’s go indie now…

Talisker 6 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, Premier Barrel, 324 bottles, 2015)

Talisker 6 yo (46%, Douglas Laing, Premier Barrel, 324 bottles, 2015) Three stars The Laings seem to own quite some ultra-young naked Talisker, which we’re finding both at Douglas’ and at Hunter’s these days. Colour: as white as water, almost. Nose: super young, raw, mezcaly, very briny, on seaweed, smoked pears (should anyone smoke pears somewhere), black olives, shoe polish, and graphite. As simple and square as something by The Bauhaus. Mouth: you cannot not think of mezcal, serious. Olives by the lorryload, ashes, green pepper, grapefruit, and more pepper. Talisker pepper, if you see what I mean. A load of green, grassy smoke. Finish: long, bitter, almost acrid, very ashy. More green pepper, more olives, more smoke. Comments: not some easy whisky, not at all, and one can see that this was originally designed as a component in blends. SGP:357 - 82 points.

Talisker 6 yo 2010/2016 (46%, Hepburn’s Choice, 368 bottles)

Talisker 6 yo 2010/2016 (46%, Hepburn’s Choice, 368 bottles) Three stars Colour: as white as water, almost. Nose: a slightly rounder and sweeter – or so it seems – cask. It’s also a tad muddier, more organic, more fermentary, and I don’t know why, it’s got a feeling of Kilchoman. Oh by the way, we’ll have to have a large bag of Kilchomans very soon. Quite a lot of iodine too in this baby Talisker. Mouth: I think this was a better cask. It’s got more fruits (not only pears!) and more, well, sugar. No, wait, sugar’s the enemy, isn’t it! Behind that, ashes, smoke, pepper. No, really, this sugar’s a little intrusive… Finish: long, sweeter indeed, but there’s this ashy greenness that’s getting rather drying… Comments: very good, but in truth, this baby may lack polishing (or years). Or, on an avalanche of crushed ice… SGP:556 - 81 points.

Talisker 7 yo 2008/2015 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, refill hogshead, cask #10973)

Talisker 7 yo 2008/2015 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, refill hogshead, cask #10973) Three stars and a half But how many casks did they get? Colour: as white as water, almost (the guy who invented copy-and-pasting deserves a free case of Brora 1972). Nose: ah! This is subtler, more on porcinis and other noble mushrooms, Caesar’s ones (pushing it a bit now, perhaps), then eucalyptus and thuja woods, green teas, pu-her, clay, whelks, and boiled ham. Sounds unlikely? It’s not! Mouth: perhaps the better youngster. Lovely very ashy notes, this sweetness that’s a little too, well, sweet (this is too young, just like the others), then rather caraway and perhaps one cinnamon mint. More and more pepper after that, this is well Talisker. Very young Talisker. Finish: long, with a sugary side, and then more leafy and salty notes. And ashes and smoke, naturally. Comments: very good, once again, but I think I’ve been a fool to try three infant Taliskers in a row. Frankly, the spirit’s totally great, but the whiskies were a little too young. Now I’ve known some at cask strength that have been greater. SGP:556 - 83 points.

Don’t we deserve a cure? Let’s try to find something young, yet old, yet young, yet old, yet…

Talisker 1972/1985 (61.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #14.2)

Talisker 1972/1985 (61.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #14.2) Four stars and a half So 12 or 13 years old, but distilled when yield was less of an issue. And bottled when the very honourable SMWS hadn’t felt the need of adding funny names yet. Colour: did you see the %ABV? Colour is straw. Nose: yeah well. It was more mineral and more medicinal, and less coastal and briny. It was more pristine, chiselled, iodine-y, and, well, perhaps narrow. Let’s dig deeper… With water: this old tweed jacket that’s seen many rains. And our friends the wet dogs (we’ll build a memorial to you, dogs). Hints of almonds. Mouth (neat): huge! Peppered lime, fresh oysters, waxed papers, samphires, and in the background, half a coconut ball and a quarter of a spoonful of custard. Fresh American oak, I presume. With water: careful with water, it doesn’t swim too well. So much for a coastal distillery! Gets sweeter, with notes of lemon and marzipan drizzle cake. Yup, whatever. Finish: long, better focused, on almonds, salted lemon juice, and brine. Comments: much less high-impact peatiness in these older ones, and a style that’s a little more, say hesitating. But is it great whisky? Yes it is! SGP:564 - 88 points.

Still a bit frustrated, let’s try another possible cure…

Talisker 30 yo 1953 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1983)

Talisker 30 yo 1953 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, +/-1983) Three stars and a half Heavy weaponry this time, despite the very moderate strength. Is this Whiskyfun or not? We’ve already tried a 24 yo 1953 for Pinerolo in Italy, and it had been great, if a little fragile (WF 90). But this 30, never, so let’s do it… Colour: gold. Nose: typically ‘Gordon’. Pinesap, incense, thuja wood, humidor, camphor, bandages, eucalyptus, old oil paint, turpentine, fir wood, myrtle, linoleum… Need I say more? It’s very resinous whisky on the nose, which is not always good news with regard to the palate. As they say in baseball (but I know nothin’ about baseball), hit or miss. Mouth: oh yes, it’s extremely sappy indeed. I’m not sure the original distillate has still got anything to say, in truth this is almost a drier form of genepy, or Bénédictine. Or Douglas fir liqueur. You cannot not think of retsina wine, concentrated honeydew, or old style Monk’s liqueurs. Shall I even mention Buckfast? Perhaps better not… What’s sure is that we’ve more or less left whisky territories. Finish: medium, on just the same flavours. More fir liqueur, cough syrup, very balsamic flavours… Comments: are we sure this was oak? And are we sure this was Talisker? Very hard to score. SGP:383 - 83 points.

(Hugs to Diego and Jon)

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



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June 19, 2017


Three Tomatin

Always a thrill to try Tomatin. Great lightness, great fruits, and no dull moments. Let’s do a very short verticale – three’s a verticale, am I not right?

Tomatin 14 yo 2002/2016 (46%, OB, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2,436 bottles)

Tomatin 14 yo 2002/2016 (46%, OB, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2,436 bottles) Two stars and a half Right, a finishing done in Cabernet Sauvignon. Caution might be requested. Colour: between gold and rosé gold. Say apricot. Nose: oh course they did it well, and of course it’s not a raspberry extravaganza, nor is it some blackcurrant-bud-zilla, but there are still strawberries and raspberries indeed, as well as sugary chocolates. Fruit ganaches. A little mutant perhaps, but balance has been found and there are no flaws that I can detect. Mouth: good, for sure. Blood oranges, more raspberries, juicy red peaches, and then wackier herbal teas, rosehip? Also some raspberry-flavoured butter cream, it makes me think of those extreme English cakes covered with icing sugar that come in all colours. In this case, that would be pink. Finish: medium, pleasant, with a little mint over the raspberries. Comments: fine, really. But of course I prefer Tomatin au naturel, and much so. SGP:641 - 79 points.

Tomatin 22 yo 1994/2017 (47.4%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, cask # 13275, 274 bottles)

Tomatin 22 yo 1994/2017 (47.4%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, cask # 13275, 274 bottles) Four stars and a half This baby should be more ‘natural’… Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes, a perfect meadowy (!) Tomatin, with buttercups, ripe apples, golden syrup, a wee slice of banana, and some sweet and rounded citrus. Totally Tomatin. Mouth: more citrus, with some kind of fat dry(ish) grapefruit liqueur, mandarins, crushed bananas, and a drop of barley syrup. This is clean, excellent, and totally drinkable – which can be a problem with Tomatin. They should do magnums. Finish: medium, on a fruit salad, and more citrus in the aftertaste. Includes the zests. Comments: really excellent, I love this brightness and all these fresh fruits. Some prototypical modern Tomatin. SGP:651 - 89 points.

We’re a little high already, aren’t we? I know, careful with double meanings… But let’s try to go even higher…

Tomatin 32 yo 1975/2008 (55.7%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, Old & Rare, bourbon)

Tomatin 32 yo 1975/2008 (55.7%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, Old & Rare, bourbon) Five stars From when old and rare whiskies were truly old and truly rare. See what I mean, I suppose. Colour: gold. Nose: so, this is the older style of Tomatin, the one that was more tropical. In this case, we’re finding dozens and dozens of tiny aromas, from ripe pink bananas to chamomile (extremely noticeable), through eucalyptus, rooibos tea, pine nuts, teak oil, and fresh bitter almonds. It’s a perfect composition, quite delicate, extremely elegant, and rather unusual. With water: gets very mentholy. Incense, also. Wormwood. Mouth (neat): very unusual indeed. Ex-Jamaican cask or something? Green bananas, olives, blood oranges, sandalwood, menthol cigarette (untipped, ha), a little rhubarb… In the background, some oaked lemon juice or something. Fun and great. With water: did they use pinewood? I’m also finding roasted sesame oil, and probably a little lime. Finish: rather long, fresh, lemony and mentholy. In truth, it tends to become some kind of oak-aged mojito. Mixologists in Paris would go… bananas. Comments: an unusual one, really. These ones are hard to score, since on the one hand, it’s fantastic whisky, while on the other hand, it’s rather deviant. Oh well, don’t be shy, S.! SGP:661 - 90 points.

(Thank you Morten!)

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



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June 18, 2017


Malternatives The quest is not over yet

More random stuff from rum countries. The rule is, 80 points or above, proper malternative. Below 80, proceed with caution, or mix.

French Negrita ad, mid-1980s, 'If (or when) you enjoy (or love) you dare'. >>>

Negrita ‘Top Series 2000-2006’ (38%, OB, Bardinet, France, blend, +/-2015)

Negrita ‘Top Series 2000-2006’ (38%, OB, Bardinet, France, blend, +/-2015) Two stars Only 24,200 bottles, lol. 38% vol., re-lol. Now it’s very cheap (approx 17€), while the packaging has been much taken care of. Negrita is the brand our mothers, grand-mothers, and grand-grand-mothers used to use for cooking. Now some say this is actually Spanish rum, made in Spain (perhaps the Canarias?) Colour: deep gold. Nose: not much, but that’s fine. Caramel, molasses, cakes, burnt sugar, and a feeling of Cointreau. Touches of toasted oak as well. Seriously, this is fair, there are no foul notes of anything. Mouth: no, really, it’s fair. It reminds me of many a South-American, but it hasn’t got those massive amounts of sugar. Mind you, this is not quite ‘premium’. Molasses, honey, burnt caramel, café latte, orange liqueur, praline, sweets… No, serious, it’s fair rum. I didn’t say fair trade, eh! Finish: short, a tad sweeter, but I wouldn’t call it ‘sugary’. Comments: defeats several heavily inelegant ‘premium’ brands. SGP:630 - 75 points.

Coloma 8 yo (40%, OB, Colombia, +/-2016)

Coloma 8 yo (40%, OB, Colombia, +/-2016) These kinds of ‘hey-look-at-me’ packagings are always bad signs, aren’t they. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t heard anything about this brand before. So, low expectations, but you never know… Colour: gold. Nose: the usual dry molasses, burnt caramel, then touches of plasticine and roasted almonds. Well, it’s rum, and it’s not repulsive. It’s just a tad un-complex – and that’s an understatement. Mouth: sweet and liqueury, in the style of those dreadful over-packaged Dominicans that are invading our shelves. Sugar, sweets, easter eggs, cheap liqueurs, burnt sawdust, molasses. Finish: short, gritty. Sawdust and cocoa, plus burnt sugar and Nescafé. Comments: at least they didn’t caramelise it too much, according to the colour. We’ve got a saying here in France, we call these ‘Don-Papa-ish rums’. Where’s my toothbrush? SGP:730 - 50 points.

El Dorado 5 yo (40%, OB, Guyana, +/-2016)

El Dorado 5 yo (40%, OB, Guyana, +/-2016) one star and a half We had the 3 (WF 70) and the 8 (WF 79) but this 5 is new to me. The question is always the same with official Demeraras, how much sugar did they add at birth or prior to bottling? If the answer is ‘none’, this could be brilliant. Otherwise… Colour: gold. Nose: coffee liqueur galore! Extremely bad sign, this might actually be a liqueur indeed, dressed up as a rum. Kahlua and Tia Maria, fifty-fifty. When things go like this on the nose, imagine the palate… Mouth: oh, no! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine liqueur, and I do love coffee, this is just not what I’m expecting from a rum. Coconut and coffee, plus bags of cane syrup. Touches of pineapple. Finish: cloyingly sweet and coffee-ish. Coffee beans in the aftertaste. Comments: as a liqueur, it’s pretty perfect, and would this be liqueurfun.com, I would happily give it a 85 or something. But this is meant to be rum… Now I wont be too harsh, I haven’t got anything against liqueurs… SGP:730 - 69 points.

Negrita’s in the lead! Mum will be proud… And while we’re at it…

Diplomatico 2000 'Single Vintage' (43%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2015)

Diplomatico 2000 'Single Vintage' (43%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2015) All Diplos I’ve tried have been utterly disastrous, ridden with sugar (the silicone of rum), and just cloyingly sweet and revolting. And I am choosing my words carefully. Even the Single Vintage 2002 has been sickly sweet (WF 60). Colour: amber, while it moves as if it were oil in your glass. Nose: El Dorado was ridden with coffee, this one’s ridden with caramel. The largest pack of toffee at Mark & Spencer’s. Or the factory where they make Mars bars. Mouth: ouch! Coffee, caramel, corn syrup, Kahlua again, molasses, burnt honey… In short, it’s a fine caramel liqueur, and you could pour it over some vanilla ice-cream and achieve excellent results, but frankly, there’s more sugar and caramel than in Coca-Cola. Finish: short, and very difficult. The sugar is getting extreme, and this is becoming a torture. Comments: so much for a vintage effect. Frankly, I haven’t got anything against ‘latino’ rons, but this is just sick. SGP:910 - 50 points.

Yuk! But hey, nothing is impossible for a willing heart…

Diplomatico ‘Mantuano’ (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2017)

Diplomatico ‘Mantuano’ (40%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2017) The brand’s latest NAS. Some say NAS rums from some countries are better like that since age statements are fake anyway. Ha .I don’t know what a mantuano is, and guess what, I won’t try to find out. Colour: amber. Nose: ah? Less sweetness, less sugary aromatics, and rather… not much. Roasted nuts, perhaps, chicory, some mad creation from Starbuck’s, some wood smoke, which is not un-nice, torrefaction… So far, so okay-y. Mouth: very sweet, I’m afraid, but rather in the direction of the El Dorado, so more on coffee than on caramel. It’s almost ‘good’ after the terrible 2000, mind you, but sadly there’s also a feeling of white sugar in the background. Or aspartame. Finish: short, sugary. Burnt sugar. A lot of sugar in the aftertaste, as if you had just crunched three sugar cubes. Comments: not rum for our friends with diabetes, that’s for sure. The fact that there’s no mention of all this sugar on the labels is beyond me. Yeah I know, they have the greatest lobbyists… SGP:820 – 55 points.

Didn’t we just have our worst session ever? I must have consumed 50g of sugar or more, serious. Okay, bye, I think I’ll have to be on the wagon…

Please remember that my assessment of any spirits is only a personal opinion and is done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast that usually prefers distillate-driven spirits, and dislikes anything doctored, aromatised, hybridised, or tampered with, thank you – and peace!

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



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June 17, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Random Very Old Blends
I recently bought a a collection of bottles which contained a number of very old blends, some of which had rather unfortunate filling levels so, out of curiosity, I cracked a few of the more sorry looking ones open to see what the situation was. Given age we are expecting a mixture of fragility and 'knackeredness'. But lets also see if we get some surprises...


Haig ‘Dimple’ (No strength stated, OB, Appointment to the King, spring cap, +/- 1940) Haig ‘Dimple’ (No strength stated, OB, Appointment to the King, spring cap, +/- 1940) Someone has helpfully written 1939 on the label of this one, which of course doesn't mean it was definitely bottled in 1939 but it makes sense with the glass, spring cap and rest of the labelling. Colour: Amber with a copper green tinge. Nose: This green tinge to the liquid is usually a sure fire sign of spring cap contamination on these old blends. However, nosing this one there is actually a rather lovely, delicate and quite dry peatiness. Soft, dusty phenols with linseed oil, a box of old rope, coins, a tool box, an apothecary... many of these typical old 'pre war' blend aromas. It's quite a 'fat' style signifying a much higher malt content of richer, old style whiskies which really dominate the grain components after many years. Now, the level wasn't too great on this one so there is also a slight sense of weakness about the nose as well.  


Mouth: More OBE on the palate and you can taste a certain influence from the spring cap but it isn't overtly metallic or vegetal. The peat really saves this one and in fact kind of sings for a short while. You can feel there was quite a remarkable dram in there at some point, it's just quite faded by now is all. Notes of soot, some olive oil, dried spices, perhaps a little tea. Finish: Unsurprisingly a little short but there is just a slight bite and more lingering drying peat notes. Comments: There is a sense of something beautiful on its way out here, this with a slightly higher filling level and a cork seal would probably be magnificent. Now, as it is, it's still a very enjoyable and emblematic old blend and a pleasant surprise. SGP: 236 - 78 points. 



Haig & Haig ‘Dimple’ (44%, OB, US Import, 1930s) Haig & Haig ‘Dimple’ (44%, OB, US Import, 1930s) The label on this one states 'The finest blended Scots whisky - Guaranteed pure barley malt'. Well, glad that's cleared that one up! Also, the bottle has a kind of pourer capsule which I've never seen before. Strange and fascinating. Also, it should be pointed out the level on this one really wasn't good at all so we're not expecting too much in the way of power... Colour: Gold. Nose: A beautiful, fragrant and herbal peat aroma, reminiscent of some super old Highland Parks. Shares quite a bit in common with the previous one with these notes of linseed oil, old tool boxes and motor oil. Goes on with a little camphor and very old Chartreuse. A surprisingly beguiling and elegant nose, although, once again, the low level makes itself felt in the absence of 'oomph'.  


Mouth: A little too weakish but there is still bite and potency in the flavours themselves. More of this beautifully dry peat quality. A characteristic of very old malt whisky production that really gives an impression of pure peat flavour. Some wood spice, chamomile, tea tree oil, natural tar, maybe some very old demerara rum and molasses. Gets more drying and beautifully medicinal with time. Finish: A surprisingly decent length, notes of wormwood, tar, wood sap and a little white pepper. Comments: I remember when we all used to sing the praises of spring caps as the greatest seals ever. While it's no doubt that they are one of the best closures for preserving filling level they don't always do a great job at preserving quality or character. This one is miles better, even with a lower filling level, just by virtue of being cleaner and less tainted. Beautiful, if fragile, ancient whisky. SGP: 346 - 88 points. 



Whyte & MacKay 21 yo (43%, OB, US import, 1960s)

Whyte & MacKay 21 yo (43%, OB, US import, 1960s) This one has the 'Federal Law' moulding in the back of the glass and a chunky stopper cork which means it should be bottled pre-1964. Never seen or tried such an old version of this livery. Later ones from the 1970s can be excellent, although, again the level wasn't great here... Colour: Amber. Nose: A forest! Walnut liqueur, aged Oloroso, all kinds of nuts, dried mushrooms, wet earth, sandalwood, black tea - a real cavalcade of aromas. Goes on with green olives, umami paste, caraway, sunflower oil, mustard seeds. A totally beautiful nose!



Mouth: A sleek and perfect balance of aged peat, dried fruits, trail mix (assorted nuts, seeds and dried berries) and a beautifully resinous and earthy dunnage quality. Becomes more pristinely spicy and peppery with a bit more time and throws up notes of orange peel, old fashioneds, cocktail bitters and liquorice. Finish: Surprisingly lengthy, full of soft waxes, shoe polish, aged mead, wild flowers and olive oil. Quite majestic really! Comments: Well, that was quick. And pretty damn delicious as well. A stunning old blend, with a higher filling level I suspect another bottle could easily surpass 90! SGP: 444 - 90 points. 



Let’s finish with something a bit more random, like a 1970s vat-err- blended malt... 



Glen Demsey ‘Very Old Pure Malt Scotch Whisky’ (43%, OB, +/- 1980) Glen Demsey ‘Very Old Pure Malt Scotch Whisky’ (43%, OB, +/- 1980) These bottlings can go either way in my opinion, but rarely stellar... Colour: Pale gold. Nose: Mashed potatoes eaten next to a hay loft. Lots of fresh cereals, butter, parsley, a little citrus, some vegetable oil, quite typical of these sorts of bottlings if you ask me. Perhaps a nice, gentle peat note emerging after a while along with some peppery aspects and a little green and white fruitiness. Becomes pleasantly fresher and more herbal with a little time in the glass. Mouth: A delivery all on boiled sweets, barley sugar, mead, fruit pastilles - very sugary this one but in a pleasing way. Icing sugar, sponge cake (I should know!), some mint choc chip ice cream and, eventually, some soft floral notes of wildflowers. More cereals, citrus and a leafy, grassy note develops with time, perhaps some notes of gorse and various herbal liqueurs. Finish: Medium length with little notes of saltpetre, camphor and tea. Comments: A perfectly quaffable and at times quite entertaining old pure malt. These kinds of bottlings are still pretty cheap at auctions and usually good fun in a tasting session with friends. And then afterwards you can just quaff them to death in highballs. Happy times. SGP: 642 - 80 points.   



June 16, 2017


Little sessions, today Mannochmore

Glenlossie’s close cousin, Mannochmore, is a relatively recent distillery (1971) and I wouldn’t say it’s much talked about within the chatting circles. Especially since everybody’s now forgotten about Loch Dhu 10…

Mannochmore 12 yo (43%, OB, Flora and Fauna, +/-2005)

Mannochmore 12 yo (43%, OB, Flora and Fauna, +/-2005) Three stars and a half Already tried this baby, but wrote very meagre tasting notes. Colour: white wine. Nose: there’s a chalky grassiness at first, then more lemons and green apples, as well as touches of Provence melons, which cannot not remind us of Bruichladdich. In fact, it’s becoming immensely melony, this is quite spectacular. In the background, just touches of linseed oil, and perhaps orange blossom water. But this melon! Mouth: well, there sure is a little melon again, but there are more pears and apples, and then bags of cereals, barley, almond paste, earl grey tea, and in the back, a little chalk and more linseed oil. Soft citrus, perhaps citron liqueur. Finish: medium, a tad spicier. Comments: this one from an old opened bottle, so it may have benefitted from breathing. And no, I don’t store my bottles near the melon stash. Wow, this melon! SGP:641 - 83 points.

Mannochmore 28 yo 1988/2016 (46%, The Whisky Agency for La Maison du Whisky, hogshead, 225 bottles)

Mannochmore 28 yo 1988/2016 (46%, The Whisky Agency,, hogshead, 225 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s very fruity! No varnish this time, no nail polish, rather marshmallows aplenty and a rather perfect maltiness, plus green branches and leaves. It’s rather sharp, ‘nervous’, and kind of delicate at the same time. Wulong tea, kiwis, rhubarb… There’s an obvious parentage with the F&F, but this is rather deeper. Old age, I suppose… Mouth: very good, green-fruity, with more kiwis, more grapefruits, and indeed more rhubarb, greengages… It’s got a perfect acidic side, very refreshing, and you don’t even need to add ice. Perfect body. Finish: rather long, superbly acidic and green. And wait, in the aftertaste, some green melons! Comments: an uplifting Mannochmore, and quite bizarrely, the exact opposite of Loch Dhu. Do you know Loch Dhu? Do you know Rosebank? SGP:651 - 87 points.

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



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June 15, 2017


More things

Undisclosed single malts, vatted ones, blended whiskies, all those things that haven’t got any distillery names, and sometimes not even an age statement. And yet, some can be excellent, and there are more and more of them! No I’m not trying to make a point… Are you ready? And shall we do this randomly?

Johnnie Walker ‘Island Green’ (43%, OB, blended malt, travel retail, 2016)

Johnnie Walker ‘Island Green’ (43%, OB, blended malt, travel retail, 2016) Three stars and a half This baby’s supposed to be a more ‘islandish’ variation of Johnnie Walker Green Label, but it hasn’t got any age statement. So, not a 15. It’s aid to contain Caol Ila and Clynelish, having said that, not bad news. Colour: gold. Nose: Caol Ila drives this baby on the nose, with ashes, mud, raw barley, porridge, and indeed peat smoke. You smell a working malting plant, and seriously, we’re at Port Ellen Maltings. Why buy a ticket to Islay? Mouth: a bit more on the fruity and lighter side, but even if we all know that the peaters will dominate any blend, it looks like there’s at least 1/3 Caol Ila (or perhaps Talisker?) Very nice salty/smoky style, fresh, with some lemon, peated malt, and cider apples. It’s only after ten minutes that Glenkinchie’s peeping around the door and… I’m joking, Glenkinchie’s just a filler in this case. Finish: medium, smoky, rather soft, with only the lightest touch of vanilla and coconut (new or rejuvenated wood). Comments: I find it very good and at times, it’s sending echoes of old White Horse, just with a lighter body. SGP:445 - 84 points.

Old St Andrews 10 yo ‘Twilight’ (40%, Old St Andrews, blended malt, +/-2017)

Old St Andrews 10 yo ‘Twilight’ (40%, Old St Andrews, blended malt, +/-2017) Three stars and a half A bottled shaped as a golf ball - and Twilight? A hidden message? This unusual brand (and company) that piggybacks anything golf stems from Tomatin if I’m not mistaken, but things may have changed. Colour: straw. Nose: raw barley, porridge, oatcakes, overripe apples, pears, bread dough, and repeat. Probably a lot of young naked Speysider in here. Pretty nice nose. Mouth: it’s certainly good! Surprisingly good, I’d even add. Oranges, lemons, cereals, more porridge, muesli, apples, and the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg. Good body, good maltiness. Finish: medium, and pleasantly bready. Comments: the golf ball bottle really looks weird (don’t leave some drunken friends alone with golf clubs in your room), but the content is of high order. Very good well-aged barley eau-de-vie. SGP:441 - 83 points.

Chieftain’s Speyside 1973/2015 (57.4%, Ian MacLeod, Chieftain’s, single malt, cask #7992, sherry butt, 369 bottles)

Chieftain’s Speyside 1973/2015 (57.4%, Ian MacLeod, Chieftain’s, single malt, cask #7992, sherry butt, 369 bottles) Five stars Quite possibly another old cask from Ballindalloch, let’s see… Colour: red amber. Nose: raw, straight, dry raisiny oloroso at first, then an ever-growing honeyness, with beeswax and, yep, various honeys, as well as ripe apricots and papayas. Well in the beautiful style of the early 1970s (Glenlivet, Glen Grant, Glenfarclas)… With water: the raw barley comes out. Damp bread, earth, humus, garden peat… Some walnuts too. Mouth (neat): very rich and creamy, and in truth, very, and I mean extremely Cognacqy (Cognacky?) Honeyed peaches, golden syrup, ripe mirabelles, and a wee feeling of spicy European oak. Cloves, pepper, artichokes… With water: gets mentholy. Honeydew, fir liqueur, apricot jam… Finish: long, rich, with some camphor and some eucalyptus from the old cask. Comments: could wee come from Ballindalloch. Some impeccable old Speysider, very well done Ian MacLeod. SGP:561 - 91 points.

Golden Malt 1973/2014 (54.4%, Scottish Independent Distillers Co., for Taiwan, single malt, butt, cask #7989, 249 bottles)

Golden Malt 1973/2014 (54.4%, Scottish Independent Distillers Co., for Taiwan, single malt, butt, cask #7989, 249 bottles) Five stars According to the label, the Scottish Independent Distillers Co. was established in 1928. Well, never heard of them, have you? This old Speysider seems to be a sister cask of the previous one. Colour: red amber. Nose: more earth, humus, even manure, and even soy sauce in this one. Walnut wine and damp earth, dried porcinis, old oloroso, bitter chocolate, coffee beans, black tea. There. With water: walnut wine, café-Schnapps, black earth after a rain. Mouth (neat): old Macallan, flavour for flavour. Tense back teas and straight pencil lead, walnuts and pecans, chocolate and coffee, and only the tiniest dollop of marmalade. Wonderful dryness. With water: ah there, jams! Apricot and plums, plus marmalade and black cherry jam. Finish: long, dry, and extremely chocolaty. We’re talking really artisan chocolate, not Cadbury or Hershey’s. Comments: some heavy sherry monster for diehard chocolate enthusiasts. Very high-level again. SGP:462 - 90 points.

Glen Castle 20 yo 1996/2017 (54.1%, Glen Castle, Taiwan, Chairman’s Selection, Speyside single malt)

Glen Castle 20 yo 1996/2017 (54.1%, Glen Castle, Taiwan, Chairman’s Selection, Speyside single malt) Four starsThis is a sherry cask finish. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a rather light, walnutty sherry at first, then full-blown ripe apples and this very faint gassy/malty greasiness that rather screams Glenf*****. Not quite Glenfiddich. Chocolate truffles. With water: pure clean oranges and malted barley, fifty-fifty. Touches of farmyard, and very discreet hints of brewer’s yeast. Mouth (neat): a little hot, very malty, with oranges, bread, a touch of ginger, and a saucerful of muesli. With water: it loves water, and could easily swim from, say Aberdeen to Copenhagen. Perfect orange-y maltiness, and hints of hoppy beer. Yup, IPA. Finish: long, very malty, and clean. The usual pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it loves and needs water. SGP:451 - 87 points.

While we’re at it (and in Taiwan)…

Glen Castle 28 yo 1988/2017 (59%, Glen Castle, Taiwan, Chairman’s Selection, Speyside single malt)

Glen Castle 28 yo 1988/2017 (59%, Glen Castle, Taiwan, Chairman’s Selection, Speyside single malt) Five stars This one seems to have spent all its life in one single sherry cask. Colour: dark reddish amber. Nose: if this isn’t Glen*******, I’ll eat my hat and my cat. Walnut cake, baked raisins, prunes, one Mars bar, and a small cigarillo. Nothing to add. With water: perhaps a few pencil shavings, but other than that, you’re nosing a bag of fresh coffee straight from Ethiopia (and why not Ethiopia, I’m asking you?) Mouth (neat): love this monster of a cherry-laden sherry monster. Cherries are often to be found in sherried malts, but this one takes the (cherried) biscuit. Of course there are also raisins, some marmalade, cake, roasted nuts, and chocolate. But cherries are kings here. With water: woosh, the cherries are gone, leaving room for some perfect bitter oranges and chocolate-covered raisins. Raisins macerated in rum, naturally. Finish: long, chocolaty and coffeeish, but both raisins and morello cherries aren’t far away. Comments: extremely good, reminding me of many an Italian heavily sherried Speysider from the old days. Samaroli, Intertrade/Nadi Fiori… I’m sure you know what and whom I mean. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Shall we try to do a back flip?...

Chinese Zodiac 7 yo ‘Year of the Rat’ (58.1%, Just-Whisky, Highland, Chinese Zodiac, bourbon cask)

Chinese Zodiac 7 yo ‘Year of the Rat’ (58.1%, Just-Whisky, Highland, Chinese Zodiac, bourbon cask) Four starsThat’s good timing, since I’m Chinesely a rat. With just 14 bottles, this is a real micro-bottling. Diageo, aren’t you interested? Colour: straw. Nose: hard to pinpoint the distillery. There’s some Clynelish but it’s a bit too ‘offbeat’ for Clynelish. Could be Springbank but it’s a little light for Springbank. Could be Mortlach but Mortlach’s rather ranked as a Speysider. Could be Pulteney but Pulteney’s a little lighter. There are echoes of Macduff but Macduff’s rather a Speysider too. Too dry for Ben Nevis. Too ‘muddy’ for Highland Park… Not too sure, really. But it’s very nice! With water: perfect clean orange-y barley and apples. Mouth (neat): big clean fruits. I’ve met some cask strength Glenmorangie that wasn’t doped-up with oak that was rather like this. With water: oh very good! Clynelish from a rather un-waxy batch? Seriously, could be Ben Nevis too. Finish: long, on plums, cranberries, and white pepper. Comments: this one reeked of Scotland. I’d have chosen the Scottish Zodiac instead, you know, ale, lager, stout, Drambuie, malt whisky, Irn Bru… SGP:451 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: GIPSY JAZZ. Performer: Stochelo Rosenberg. Track: All the things you are. Please buy his music...

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



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Benromach 2008/2017 (60.1%, OB, Whiskybase, bourbon, cask #372, 215 bottles)

Chieftain’s Speyside 1973/2015 (57.4%, Ian MacLeod, Chieftain’s, single malt, cask #7992, sherry butt, 369 bottles)

Caol Ila 33 yo (52.6%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, refill sherry, 482 bottles, 2017)

Caol Ila 34 yo 1981/2016 (59%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, refill hogshead, cask #5316)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1983/2017 (50.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 198 bottles)

Convalmore-Glenlivet 40 yo 1977/2017 (56.8%, Cadenhead, 175th anniversary, butt, 522 bottles)

Glen Castle 28 yo 1988/2017 (59%, Glen Castle, Taiwan, Chairman’s Selection, Speyside single malt)

Golden Malt 1973/2014 (54.4%, Scottish Independent Distillers Co., for Taiwan, single malt, butt, cask #7989, 249 bottles)

Port Ellen 21 yo 1976/1998 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)

Port Ellen 34 yo 1982/2017 (61.7%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, bourbon cask, 545 bottles)

Tomatin 32 yo 1975/2008 (55.7%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, Old & Rare, bourbon)

Jeanneau 50 ans (75°proof, OB, Armagnac, bottled 1960s)