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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2018 - Part 1


May 2018 - part 2 <--- June 2018 - part 1 ---> June 2018 - part 2


June 14, 2018


A short Strathmill verticale

Strathmill, another name that we weren’t seeing very often at the indies, but now that bluer chips have gotten harder to find, those smaller names are coming to the front of the stage (and perhaps will the current blue chips have become obscure in twenty years time?)

Strathmill 13 yo 2004/2018 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill bourbon barrels, 990 bottles)

Strathmill 13 yo 2004/2018 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill bourbon barrels, 990 bottles) Three stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: grassy and yeasty, this is truly distilled malted barley. Whiffs of gravel, damp chalk, touches of artichoke and cooked asparagus, lawn, green apples, cider… In short, malt whisky without compromise (I mean, vanilla). Mouth: much sweeter and fruitier at first, but the grassy components keep running the show. Grass, peelings, apples, perhaps celeriac, banana skin, grapefruit skin… And always this chalky side. Finish: rather long, with hints of ale this time, beyond all the cider. Funny salty touch in the aftertaste. Comments: a tad unsexy, but totally loyal and ‘as Nature intended’. Now, is Man part of Nature? (oh come on!)
SGP:361 - 82 points.

Strathmill 22 yo 1995/2018 (50.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, refill Port hogshead, 252 bottles)

Strathmill 22 yo 1995/2018 (50.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, refill Port hogshead, 252 bottles) Three stars and a half
This baby was transferred into refill Port wood in 2005, so this is double maturation, really. Colour: straw. Nose: the grassy side is well here again, the chalk, the fruit skins, also some aniseed this time, Corinthian raisins, dates… You do feel the Port wine, but that’s pretty pleasant this time, it imparts a feeling of… Spanish brandy? With water: a tiny touch of lavender soap, but also a rather wonderful liquorice. High-liquorice pastis? Mouth (neat): really good, not too Haribo-y, even if you do feel the Port’s sweetness. Rather raisins again than raspberries and whatnot. Good. With water: good. Blood oranges, goji berries… And malt whisky! Finish: medium, a tad cake-y. Blueberry muffins? There… Comments: really fine, doesn’t feel doctored at all, but remember, this is proper double maturation, not a quick finishing.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Strathmill 24 yo 1993/2017 (50.3%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 354 bottles)

Strathmill 24 yo 1993/2017 (50.3%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 354 bottles) Four stars
This one from two hogsheads this time. Colour: straw. Nose: we’re much closer to the G&M this time, unsurprisingly, with this grassy side, but there’s more custard, dried apricots, melons, also fern and moss… The extra ageing has brought depth and complexity, but of course it’s no extravagant Speysider. With water: moss up! Stirling work (geee, S.!) Mouth (neat): sweets! Melon drops, tangerine, quite a lot of lime and lemon… You’d think this is distilled Chenin blanc. Very different this time. Also chlorophyll. With water: same profile. Should you enjoy your malt a tad citric, this is for you. Finish: long, very zesty, as if you just had a wee glass of limejuice. Comments: a surprise, really. Worth hunting down…
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Strathmill 21 yo 1990/2012 (54.1%, James MacArthur, bourbon wood, cask #101112)

Strathmill 21 yo 1990/2012 (54.1%, James MacArthur, bourbon wood, cask #101112) Three stars and a half
We’re revisiting this one, thanks to a friend. Didn’t like it much a few years back (WF 64) but a lot of water has gone under the bridge since 2013. Colour: straw. Nose: yeah it’s very naked, all rather on sweetened porridge, apple juice, then chalk and clay. What I’m not finding this time is the plastic that was in the one I had tried, so maybe was it cap contamination. Always be extremely careful when using any plastic caps with your samples. Mouth: ah yes it’s fine, clear, fruity, melony and even a little orange-y. Very nice notes of papayas in the background, otherwise bread, brioche and, yes, panettone again. Finish: medium, rather more citrusy. Tangerines and such. Comments: indeed. Ah, plastic and high proofs, always be very careful indeed. No problems when the ‘glue-y’ notes have become obvious, but when they just start to appear, that can trick you. Anyway…
SGP:541 - 84 points.

(Thank you Samuel, you’re the man!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Strathmill we've tasted so far


June 13, 2018


Brackla Madness 1926-2011

Brackla a.k.a. Royal Brackla is not a malt we’re very well acquainted with, for unknown reasons. Mind you, we haven’t even tried 40 of them over more than fifteen years! But all things come to him who waits, as Methuselah used to say… So, at random for more fun, and with many pre-Dewar’s spirits…

Royal Brackla 25 yo (46%, Art of Whisky, fino sherry butt, +/-2009)

Royal Brackla 25 yo (46%, Art of Whisky, fino sherry butt, +/-2009) Three stars and a half
A fino butt, that’s interesting. These bottlings used to be done for The Whisky Trail. Colour: pale gold. Nose: barley at first, then porridge mixed with custard, then overripe apples, sweet beers, and poiré (or pear cider). This baby’s very ‘natural’, close to the raw materials, without any make-up. No I can’t find anything fino-ish so far… Mouth: very good arrival, and indeed there might be traces of sweet mustard, before the expected overripe apples and pears start to rule the show. All natural malt whisky, rather uncomplicated, rather very good. Finish: medium, malty, with more pears and apples, porridge, and a little white pepper in the aftertaste. And, perhaps and indeed, some walnuts from the fino. Comments: average in the very best sense of that word.
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Royal Brackla 4 yo 2011/2015 (52.5%, Duncan Taylor, The Octaves, cask #939429)

Royal Brackla 4 yo 2011/2015 (52.5%, Duncan Taylor, The Octaves, cask #939429) Three stars
Should we call this an infanticide? Perhaps not… Colour: gold. Nose: oak at work here. Ginger, caraway, cinnamon, spicy breads, a pinhead of chilli mayonnaise, various cakes and breads… Any distillery character, you’re asking? What are you talking about? With water: no. Grenadine bonbons and cherry drops, Fanta (a clear no)… No water should be added to this. Mouth (neat): toasted bread, foccacia, gingerbread, speculoos… My problem is that I’m finding this quite good, even if the cask(s) has been doing 99% of the job here. With water: rather works this time. Custard, Swedish bread, Wasabröd, speculoos, rye, even buckwheat crepes… It’s all about oak, but that worked. Finish: medium, extremely bready. Comments: did they manage to turn some proper ‘industrial’ malt whisky into a crafty little thing? I say yes. Hate the idea of the octaves, but I’ve got to face the facts, I rather like this bready thing.
SGP:452 - 81 points.

Royal Brackla 14 yo 2001/2016 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 768 bottles)

Royal Brackla 14 yo 2001/2016 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 768 bottles) Three stars
Why a 2001 Brackla would be strictly limited, I couldn’t possibly know, but Carn Mor are having a good deal of young or youngish malt whiskies ex-re-re-re-refill wood. Which shouldn’t be a problem… Colour: white wine. Nose: nature-driven young barleyish malt whisky, without any traces of oak (or wine for that matter), and rather all on lager, muesli, apples, and pears. Mouth: indeed, all-natural barley-driven whisky, with some barley syrup, ripe apples, and a feeling of cassata. Elementary malt whisky. Finish: medium, very barley-y. Comments: well-aged barley eau-de-vie. Not too sure about any distillery character, though, but is ‘good’. For barley lovers.
SGP:541 - 80 points.

Do not ask me about Brackla’s main profile, or about any idiosyncrasies, because I just couldn’t tell you. But we could try a little harder…

Royal Brackla 18 yo 1997/2016 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 402 bottles)

Royal Brackla 18 yo 1997/2016 (54.4%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 402 bottles) Two stars and a half
Sure I’m late. Colour: white wine. Nose: liquorice allsorts diluted in Absolut, then guignolet and Mandarine Impériale, then Irn Bru. With water: there’s a nice fresh forest development (right, mushrooms), as well as some fresh marzipan from your local confectioner’s. Alternatively, you could find Mozart Kugelns. Mouth (neat): it’s good, with melons, peaches, and indeed liquorice allsorts. But very sweet. Good for Mark & Spencer’s. With water: too sweet and fruity for me, it’s becoming a little cloying. Finish: same. Comments: rather too sweet and syrupy for me, and we’re not talking about the mouth feel. How could anyone extract this much sweetness from barley?
SGP:731 - 77 points.

Royal Brackla 18 yo 1998/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill barrel, cask #13429, 244 bottles)

Royal Brackla 18 yo 1998/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill barrel, cask #13429, 244 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: whiffs of glue at first, then raw kirsch and crushed olives. Rather unusual, I’ll give you that. With water: smoked mortadella, cold cuts, vase water… Indeed, what’s happening? Mouth (neat): this olive-iness remains, plus notes of hessian, tobacco-y smoke, pumpkin oil, pistachios… The cask’s previous content was a peater, obviously. With water: wobbly and yet good. But smoked melons, how unlikely is that? Finish: medium, very sweet/fruity on the one side, smoky/ashy on the other side. Comments: intriguing, as proper whisky writers would say. Something’s not totally right, but on the other hand, this is Brackla.
SGP:552 - 78 points.

Royal Brackla 23 yo 1992/2016 (52.9%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, claret, 156 bottles)

Royal Brackla 23 yo 1992/2016 (52.9%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, claret, 156 bottles)
And now a claret cask, they’ve spared me no embarrassment today. Yes, claret a.k.a. Bordeaux casks are legal – but they shouldn’t be. What’s the E.U. doing? Colour: gold. Nose: fresh mushrooms, crushed cassis, porridge, tomato sauce, fresh plaster. Not too sure… With water: some would mention baby puke, some others would quote gym socks. Both would be a little excessive… Mouth (neat): strange, not bad as such. Crunching rubber boots while wolfing down crème de cassis and blueberry muffins. Loco malt whisky. With water: no. Finish: very difficult. Cassis, rubber and black pepper. Coconut in the aftertaste. Coconut! Comments: ouch, gulp, gasp…
SGP:471 - 60 points.

This is becoming tough. Aren’t we losing patience?... So a very last try at Brackla, but let’s do this proper and call in the heaviest cavalry. Is this whiskyfun or not?

Royal Brackla 60 yo 1926/1985 (40%, OB, James Buchanan, for Japan, 60 decanters)

Royal Brackla 60 yo 1926/1985 (40%, OB, James Buchanan, for Japan, 60 decanters) Five stars
This extremely rare bottling was done to celebrate both Emperor Hirohito's accession to the throne and queen Elizabeth's 60th Birthday. Now I agree, the figures don’t quite add up, some are even saying that this was actually a 1924, containing the same juice as the famous commemorative ‘regular’ 60 yo 1924. But does that really matter? It’s also to be noted that Buchanan’s did a few minis, and it’s actually one of those original minis that we’re having today, thanks to Emmanuel who’s just written the best book ever about collectable whiskies. But more about that stunning book later… Colour: amber. Nose: could have been early 19th century Cognac, really. Exceptionally honeyed and cigary, full of old Yquem and old mint cordials from the tsar’s own cellars (why not?), with a magnificent rancio and a growing balsamic side. Puréed chestnuts start to rule the show after five minutes, and they would come together with the most complex chocolates ever. May I suggest Michel Cluizel or Jacques Génin? Mouth: brilliant. Truffle oil, very old balsamico (akin to that 100 yo we had at Casari’s in Modena a good five years ago), the same mint cordials as on the nose (you know, the tsar’s), then many prunes, and more and more chocolates, mocha, black currants, drops of walnut wine, very old Côte-Rôtie, crunching your cigar, crunching mocha beans… Sure we’d have loved to be able to try this at 43 or 45% vol., but that’s not going to happen in this life. Finish: this is where it gets a little too dry, which was totally to be expected. No problems whatsoever. Superb natural chocolaty tones, akin to those of some 19th century armagnac. Raspberry-filled chocolates in the aftertaste. Comments: totally hate to have to score this, how do I dare? I mean, Hirohito and Liz the Second? And now this very humble handicapped mosquito of a second-grade republican whisky taster from Mittel-Elsass? But we’re afraid of nothing, are we?
SGP:561 - 92 points.

(Merci beaucoup Emmanuel)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Royal Brackla we've tasted so far


June 12, 2018


Wee fights, today Kilkerran 8
vs. Hazelburn 8

Upon special request… Agreed, some weird request… But are we going to start this with the Kilkerran? Or the Hazelburn? Perhaps the OB first…

Kilkerran 8 yo (55.7%, OB, 2017)

Kilkerran 8 yo (55.7%, OB, 2017) Five stars
Indeed it’s a scandal that I haven’t tried this wee Glengyle instantly, that is to say just when it came out. I owe you the humblest amends… Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s always quite striking that Kilkerran would be so close to Springbank, style-wise. Wet chalk, mud, soot, old tools, grandpa’s garage, fern, carbon, pine liqueur, chartreuse, tar… With water: amazing muddy, herbal sootiness. Leaven, new baguette, yeast, mushrooms… Mouth (neat): immaculately perfect young malt, one of the best they make beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Shoe polish, lime juice, green olives, earth, candlewax, a touch of yuzu… Oh go to hell, Kilkerran! With water: and stay there! Finish: long, getting more lemony, which just works in any finish. Comments: I know a friend who had thought he would get Kilkerran, while his dear wife had purchased a bottle of Kilbeggan instead. Last I checked, they’re not even divorced yet.
SGP:363 - 91 points.

Hazelburn 8 yo 2007/2016 (54%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 162 bottles)

Hazelburn 8 yo 2007/2016 (54%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 162 bottles) Three stars
Late again? Who’s late again, who? But agreed, anything from Springbank’s bottled by Cadenhead shouldn’t quite be called ‘an independent bottling’, but let’s not obsess over details, if you please… Colour: full gold. Nose: there, this is Serena vs. Venus, really. This Hazelburn being a tad lighter, more ‘grainy’ in a way, lighter despite a heavier wood, but also meatier, perhaps a tad more sulphury, and quite truffle-y. Notes of rotting fruits in the background. With water: lovage, Maggi, miso, umami! Mouth (neat): rather weird now. Bubblegum, coffee liqueur, Red Bull, praline, chicory, sweet onions, Ovaltine, honeydew… As we used to say when the Internet was still free, wazzat? Very savoury. With water: more chicory, pipe juice, bouillon, and last century coconut liqueur. Finish: long, leathery, savoury, umami-y. Comments: one of the first times when instead of having a classic bourbon maturation, you feel they’ve actually rather blended malt and bourbon – of course they have not. It is a weird(ish) feeling, and actually, some of the older official Karuizawas were a bit like this. Bizarre, thus rather interesting.
SGP:462 - 80 points.

June 11, 2018


Wee fights, today American whiskies

Right. And since the flavour of the month seems to be all about protectionism, trade wars, raising custom duties and subsequent retaliations, we might have to do the same, we’ll see…

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 yo ‘Batch 61’ (49.5%, OB, straight rye, USA, 2015)

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 yo ‘Batch 61’ (49.5%, OB, straight rye, USA, 2015)
Remember the appellation ‘straight rye’ in the US means that the mash bill contained at least 51% rye (and not 100%, as many people wrongly believe) and that it was aged in oak for at least 2 years. Having said that, I think Smooth Ambler are using mash bills that contain more than 90% rye. but anyway, this is only sourced whisky, not own production. Colour: full gold. Nose: all on broom, mullein flowers, custard, Jaffa cakes, gingerbread and then this particular spicy breadiness, with touches of lavender and violet. These ryes are always a wee tad soapy, but that’s an asset in this context, this is not 1980s Bowmore mind you. Mouth: really sweet and spicy, a little varnishy as often, with really a lot of caraway liqueur, cloves, Dutch jenever, pear eau-de-vie, and a wee mentholy side. The varnish makes it a little difficult. Finish: long, with some curious bittersweet notes. But it remains good. Comments: a tad uncivilised, perhaps, but I like it. Now, my normal score would be of 81 points for this very nice rye, but we’ve just – unilaterally and irrevocably - decided to slap 25% taxes on all our scores for American whiskies. So, 81 points/1.25% = 64.8 points. There.
SGP:461 - 64.8 points.

Maker’s Mark ‘Cask Strength’ (55.75%, OB, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, USA, batch #16-02, 2016)

Maker’s Mark ‘Cask Strength’ (55.75%, OB, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, USA, batch #16-02, 2016)
Not a huge fan of Maker’s Mark, but I haven’t tried many (whilst that may have been a consequence). Colour: full gold. Nose: caramel, custard, roasted pecans, maple syrup, nail polish remover, pears, popcorn and maize, and a slight earthy touch, pretty nice. Maker’s Mark is mainly made out of maize anyway (around 70% if I’m right). With water: suffers after the Smooth Ambler. Simpler, oakier, and exactly the opposite of Scotch malt whisky in my book. Mouth (neat): gooseberries, cranberries and redcurrants cooked with custard and sawdust. It’s got this bonbon side that I’m not too fond of, but that may be the high strength, let’s see… With water: no, sweets and bitter oak, that’s what I’m getting. I think I’ll pass, and things will get even worse because of our new TT policy (Tasting Taxes). Finish: medium, varnishy, perhaps a tad vulgar. Glucose. Comments: rather too sweet for me. 72 points/1.25% = 57.6 points.
SGP:630 - 57.6 points.

Wait, perhaps a last one?

Tennessee Bourbon 13 yo 2013/2017 (51.5%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Tennessee Bourbon 13 yo 2003/2017 (51.5%, The Whisky Mercenary) Three stars and a half
This is most probably one of those indie Dickels that have surfaced in recent months. Colour: dark gold. Nose: classic bourbon, smooth, all on sponge cake, pecan pie, maple syrup, white chocolate, and just hectolitres of good custard. Very nice hints of roasted peanuts in the background, perhaps even peanut butter. With water: Turkish delights, vanilla fudge, rye bread… Mouth (neat): this is liquid praline, to which both some concentrated orange juice and quite a spoonful of cinnamon have been added. Add a good slice of walnut cake for good measure. With water: gets rather fruitier and more honeyed. Don’t we find notes of preserved pineapples too? Finish: medium, on Jaffa cake and more roasted peanuts.  Comments: really good despite the relative thinness of the distillate. Now while this was well some American whisky, since the bottler’s European we’ve decided to grant tasting tax exemption, mind you. Dura Lex, Sed Lex.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Were we joking? Not too sure, I’ll have a think… PS: at time of writing we just learned that the EU Commission will be imposing a tariff on imports of American whisky indeed, in retaliation to president Trump’s decision to slap a 25% tax on imports on steel. And American oak, by t(he way? Ex-Bourbon wood? This is all a bit stupid...

More tasting notesCheck the index of all American whiskies we've tasted so far


June 10, 2018


Another little bag of rum

Remember, always from a malt lover’s point of view…

980 ‘Rum Agricola Benificiado’ (40%, OB, Madeira, +/-2017)

980 ‘Rum Agricola Benificiado’ (40%, OB, Madeira, +/-2017) Two stars
We’ve already tried a small bunch of excellent agricoles from the Portuguese island of Madeira. Remember, just like La Martinique, Madeira’s got a genuine controlled appellation ‘agricole’. This one’s said to be a 3yo and is produced by Faria e Filhos. Colour: brown amber. Nose: it’s rather unusual. Imagine a blend of pine sap, thick raisiny wine, some earthy tea, quite a lot of honey and molasses, and then a wide selection of aromatic/mentholy herbs, wormwood, genepy, aniseed, fennel… So I would say it’s rather akin to some kind of oak-aged chartreuse so far. Mouth: closer to rum, but still rather chartreuse-y. Menthol and cinnamon, sultanas, Seville oranges, marmalade, strong liquorice, peppermint… So it’s rather thick and heavy, but the mentholy side adds some freshness. Finish: rather long, herbaceous, liquoricy, and then very raisiny again. A lot of bitter chocolate and coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: interesting, as writer say whenever they do not quite know what to say. This time we’re pretty far from the French agricoles.
SGP:571 - 72 points.

Cotopaxi 14 yo ‘Cask Strength’ (60%, OB, Ecuador, single barrel, cask #064, +/-2017)

Cotopaxi 14 yo ‘Cask Strength’ (60%, OB, Ecuador, single barrel, cask #064, +/-2017) Two stars
I’ve only tried some Ecuadorian rum once, it was a 12 yo Cimborazo that was, just like most South-American rums, extremely sweet (WF 68). Colour: gold. Nose: a bit hot at this strength, moderately molasse-y, with some coffee liqueur, banana liqueur, a touch of toffee, and notes of caramelised pecan pie. All is going relatively well… With water: not quite, more ethanol’s coming out. Toasted oak and medicinal alcohol – but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Mouth (neat): punchy, rather fine, drier than expected, and yet rather molasse-y. Dry coffee… With water: rather fine indeed. Orange liqueur and cane juice, without any excessive sweetness. Bitter herbs. No mad doctors behind this wee baby, it seems… Finish: medium, smoother, rather fine. Some vanilla. Comments: I’m rather thinking aged Havana Club here. It’s some rather ‘fine average rum’, I would say.
SGP:451 - 70 points.

Perhaps go back to less adventurous rum countries… Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica, how does that sound?

Uitvlugt 18 yo 1998/2016 (46%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Demerara, 221 bottles)

Uitvlugt 18 yo 1998/2016 (46%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Demerara, 221 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s one of those moderately petroly Uitvlugts, it’s got a little mint and aniseed, then a little engine oil, whiffs of old copper kettle, and then more and more straight cane. Very fine, easy, and yet flavourful. Mouth: all fine, typical Uitvlugt, perhaps a notch bitterish, but otherwise appropriately olive-y, with touches of asparagus and artichoke, and always this little petroly side. Finish: rather long, very cane-y. Comments: really fine, an approachable Uitvlugt.
SGP:462 - 83 points.

T.D.L 15 yo 2003/2018 (44%, Compagnie des Indes, Trinidad, 364 bottles)

T.D.L 15 yo 2003/2018 (44%, Compagnie des Indes, Trinidad, 364 bottles) Four stars
So it’s Angostura’s Trinidad Distillers here, not Caroni. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s another easy rum, rather rounded but certainly not as doctored-up as most OBs, with a blend of fresh cane juice and the lightest honeys and syrups. Maple syrup. Also some lovely whiffs of ripe apricots and peaches – and indeed no high esters and no Caroniness whatsoever. A very elegant nose. Mouth: really very good, very fruity and yet very cane-y, rather on tinned peaches again, also papayas and guavas. Perfect civilised rum – wondering why you always have to go to the best IBs to find these lovely variants. Would defeat any ‘regular’ Angostura. Finish: medium, with a little more juicy sultanas this time. The peaches are still superb. Comments: we could down litres of this without noticing. Very high-profile softer Trinidadian rum.
SGP:640 - 87 points.

Since we’re doing acronymic rums…

W.P. 12 yo 2005/2017 (56.6%, The Rum Cask, Jamaica, cask #1)

W.P. 12 yo 2005/2017 (56.6%, The Rum Cask, Jamaica, cask #1) Four stars
I don’t think W.P. could stand for anything else but Worthy Park, what do you think? Colour: pale gold. Nose: you bet! Olives, brine, engine oil, seawater, hessian, tar, new tyres, a wee touch of mustard (typical acetic side), Ardbeg… No, really! With water: smoked wood and hessian. Roasted green tea (Japanese hojicha). Mouth (neat): oh so funny! Starts with some strawberry yoghurt – those notes you sometimes get around the Port Ellen Maltings – and gets then even more bonbony (it’s Red Bull, actually), strawberry gummies… There’s a particular molecule that seems to liking toying with us in there… But anyway, it’s getting more phenolic and estery over minutes, with brine, sauvignon blanc, lemon and lime, olives… But the strawberries just wouldn’t leave. With water: and they’re still there. Finish: rather long. Pickled and smoked black olives and strawberries? Have to try that one day. Comments: a bit odd, but very funny. Really liked it.
SGP:553 - 85 points.

Oh well, I suppose we’ve got room for a last one…

Hampden 10 yo 2007/2018 (64.1%, Hunter Laing for The Whisky Barrel, Kill Devil, Jamaica, 290 bottles)

Hampden 10 yo 2007/2018 (64.1%, Hunter Laing for The Whisky Barrel, Kill Devil, Jamaica, 290 bottles) Five stars
More crazy potstill rum, I suppose…  And did you notice the strength? Colour: white wine. Nose: hold on, this is very… Assertive. Fermenting things, brine, wine vinegar, lemon juice, acetone, even ammonia… Ach, erm, this is very extreme, to say the least! With water: same! A whole bottle of Vittel wouldn’t change a thing. Mouth (neat): hard, but not unquaffable when undiluted. You’ve just got the impression of downing all the juice from the largest jar of English gherkins ever. Including those gherkins. With water: once again, no changes. Perhaps more ashes? Grapefruit skin (the white stuff that’s underneath, actually), and this feeling of sipping a can of diesel oil. Finish: very long, saltier, very briny. Huge oliveness, huge concentrated limejuice. Comments: I’m not totally sure this was made to be drunk neat, to tell you the truth, what’s sure is that it’s loud enough to wake the dead. Or strip the fur off a honey badger, as they say. Score, why score? Okay, if we must…
SGP:273 - 90 points.

(Thank you again, Francesco)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


June 9, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
More Assorted Pairings
I quite enjoy these quick-fire sessions of various duos. You see the similarities/variations within a single distillery but it’s also a good reminder that there’s still often a lot of variation from distillery to distillery. Even in an era where there is more than a little homogenisation within the Scottish mainland distilleries. 


Ardmore 8 yo 2008/2017 (46%, Berry Brothers, bourbon barrel, cask #708604)
Ardmore 8 yo 2008/2017 (46%, Berry Brothers, bourbon barrel, cask #708604)
Colour: White wine. Nose: lightly ashy and briny. An embery kind of peat mingling with Ardmore’s trademark farmyness. This one was one of many Ardmores from these vintages matured in ex-Laphroaig barrels which explains why this alludes to a certain Laphroaiginess. Some lemony notes, lots of fresh barley, maybe a few chopped green herbs as well. Very nice. Mouth: We’re in very consistent territory: soft wood ashes, some minerals, a pure kind of farmyard quality and also lemon skins and pure peat. Some sheep wool, hessian and a little green pepper as well. Finish: Good length. Oily, some resins and herbal notes, drying peat smoke and a kippery edge as well. Comments: The Laphroaig cask really makes itself felt here. Blind you might even say it could be a lighter style Caol Ila. I’m not sure it’s totally typical of classical Ardmore, but it’s a lovely peated malt in its own right. I feel it benefited from a lower bottling strength as well. Good selection!
SGP: 465 - 87 points.


Ardmore 1992/2012 (46%, Wemyss ‘Mellow Mariner’, barrel, 213 bottles) Ardmore 1992/2012 (46%, Wemyss ‘Mellow Mariner’, barrel, 213 bottles)
Colour: Straw. Nose: Far more classical with these notes of fermenting hay, green apple peelings, gorse flowers and soft waxes. Although, it’s more a pre-mid 1990s style of Ardmore I feel, not sure they’re making this sort of style today still? Maybe time will tell... Lovely notes of soot, orange oil, grass and old tool boxes. Very ‘old highlands’. Mouth: soft, waxy peats with more farmy and earthy notes up front in the foreground. Some green tea, lemon balm, vapour rub and even a few tropical fruits as well such as pineapple chunks and mango syrup. Goes on more towards hessian, wax and white flowers, chalk and mineral notes. Finish: Long, earthy, resinous, mineral and with some lovely echoes of farmy peat. Comments: Conversely, I wonder if this one shouldn’t have been bottled at a higher strength? Anyway, it’s a superb Ardmore, I adore this very balanced, subtle style that mixes peat, farmyard, wax and fruit aspects so fluently. I was swithering around the 88 mark but the finish just nudged it a notch higher in my book...
SGP: 552 - 89 points.


Mannochmore 16 yo 1977/1994 (61.4%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection) Mannochmore 16 yo 1977/1994 (61.4%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: ouch! Hot gravel, new leather, burnt toast, plasticine, aspirin. Tough, hot and austere. A few drops of olive oil hinting at better things in the depths. Let’s not beat about the bush but rather add some water quickly... with water: it’s good news, there’s a nice lemon barley water streak emerging now. Some soot, a little watercress, more chalk, perhaps even a stray apple peeling or two. Mouth: perfectly clean malty malt whisky. Lots of cereals, sunflower oil, grass and a few stony notes. But there’s also some hints of plastic and even dung which is a little ‘wrong footing’. Something like sour spearmint and chemical vanilla as well. Tricky stuff. With water: better with water for sure. Some fresh sourdough bread, boiled lime sweets, coal dust, camphor, oatmeal and flapjack. Not shit, as we say in Leith; although there are multiple potential levels of ‘not shitness’. Finish: Medium length, some notes of hay, gravel and old biscuits. Comments: Mammothmore? A big tough dram. Not without it’s charms but probably one for your intellectual pals.
SGP: 351 - 77 points.


Let’s see what another couple of decades can do...



Mannochmore 37 yo 1977/2015 (49.4%, Cadenhead Single Cask, 210 bottles) 
Mannochmore 37 yo 1977/2015 (49.4%, Cadenhead Single Cask, 210 bottles)
Colour: Gold. Nose: Typically older, refill matured malt whisky with all these honeys, quinces, citrons and wildflowers. Although, there’s still something restrained about it and a slight sense of tiredness. Some nice bready notes, a little savoury pastry, parsley, sunflower oil and a curious chunk of cheese scone. I find it good but a little simple so far. Mouth: a lovely, highly silky textured malt. Lots of clove oil, hardwoods, spices, menthol, tea tree oil, mint jelly and a few drops of cannabis resin. More quince paste, some soot, barley sugar and an elegant but restrained waxiness. Finish: Good length, all on white pepper, mead and dried herbs. Comments: The nose was shy but the palate was really lovely. The total inversion of what normally happens with older malt whiskies. If these were indeed sibling casks then the extra years of maturation definitely had a positive effect.
SGP: 541 - 89 points.


Wolfburn 2014/2018 (57.1%, OB for Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar, bourbon barrel, cask #694, 292 bottles) Wolfburn 2014/2018 (57.1%, OB for Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar, bourbon barrel, cask #694, 292 bottles)
Colour: Pale straw. Nose: Bags of chalk, limestone, lemon zest, raw barley, sheep wool and plenty freshly bailed hay and assorted minerals. It’s very good, probably about as good as it’s possible to do at this kind of age without peat or anywhere else to hide. With water: some nutmeg, sunflower seeds, chives and straight vanilla. Mouth: There’s a sootiness and even a light waxiness which I find extremely appealing here. Some boiled apple sweeties, rhubarb and custard, clove rock, light hessian, green banana and more hay and chalk. With water: spiciness in the form of white pepper, some lilies, pollen, white fruits, more lime notes such as lime curd and a touch of ink. Finish: Good length, a nice balance of white fruits, spices, flinty mineral aspects and a residual barley sweetness. Comments: Very impressive and about as good as natural malt whisky can be at this sort of age I think. Wolfburn appears to be one to watch...
SGP: 441 - 85 points.


Wolfburn Peated 2014/2018 (57.1%, OB for Dornoch Castle Whisky Club, bourbon barrel, cask #807, 284 bottles) 
Wolfburn Peated 2014/2018 (57.1%, OB for Dornoch Castle Whisky Club, bourbon barrel, cask #807, 284 bottles)
According to the label this one was peated to 10ppm. Colour: pale straw. Nose: the peat is indeed discreet. Lots of coal dust, wood char and sooty chimneys. Aromas of lanolin, medical tinctures and a very light and slightly herbal fragrant peat smoke. Underneath you feel the usual lemon and raw barley aspects which seem common to most Wolfburns at this stage in its maturation. With water: still this very coal dusty profile, some smoky wort and a single preserved lemon. Mouth: Wow, the peat is much, much louder on the palate! Lots of hot, blade like, ashy peats. Lemon juice, oysters, farmyard and pure hessian. Surprisingly powerful given the discreet propensities of the nose. Some notes of kipper, dried sage and sea water and maybe a green olive or two. With water: becomes more farmyardy with water. Lots of dry earth and lapsang souchong. More kippers. Finish: Long with a deep, lingering smokiness. Still lots of peat ash, black olives and dried herbs. Comments: I cannot lie, I am impressed. This distillate from a refill cask at around 8-12 years of age should be something quite delicious.
SGP: 366 - 87 points.


Glenburgie 24 yo 1993/2017 (53%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, refill claret hogshead, 216 bottles) Glenburgie-Glenlivet 24 yo 1993/2017 (53%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, refill claret hogshead, 216 bottles)
Colour: Light gold. Nose: It’s good news! There is no sign of any red wine. Rather this is all  on grass, buttered pastries, barley sugar, orange oils and a touch of coconut. With water: no massive changes, perhaps a little more earth and a dried mushroom or two. Some creeping gamey notes as well. Mouth: pleasingly vibrant and herbal with a good, natural barley driven sweetness. Some hints of old sauternes and a little runny honey. Perhaps a chocolate lime or two as well. With water: dry cider, some mead, a little turmeric and some mustard powder as well as a suggestion of black pepper. Finish: good length with more barley sweetness, a few green fruits and some yellow wild flowers. Comments: In the words ‘refill claret hogshead’ I’m pleased to report that ‘refill’ has been the most relevant. Honest, very tasty, well-made, mid-aged malt whisky.
SGP: 441 - 84 points.


Glenburgie 13 yo 1978/1992 (59.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection) Glenburgie-Glenlivet 13 yo 1978/1992 (59.8%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)
Colour: White wine. Nose: More austere and punchy at first as expected. Lots of soot, gravel, a cheesecloth and wee touches of hessian, camphor and marzipan. With water: greener and more floral with these notes of wild flowers and pollen. There’s also a creeping waxiness emerging as well. Mouth: oddly creamy with a vegetal touch giving a curious note of creamed asparagus, which isn’t as unpleasant or strange as it probably sounds. White pepper, nutmeg, soot, olive oil, toasted pumpkin seeds and mustard powder. With water: at it’s best now I’d say. Thick in texture, clean, naturally sweet, deftly waxy and taking on a refreshing mineral edge. There’s also a more pronounced earthiness about it as well. Finish: Long and slightly acrid. Some drying notes of lemon peel, hay, dry earth and soot. Increasingly chalky. Comments: I think this one is technically probably better than the 93, although that one was perhaps easier, simpler and more ‘drinkable’. Whereas this one has an undeniable tough edge. But it’s in that toughness that its charms really lie I feel.
SGP: 351 - 86 points.


Longmorn 23 yo (48%, OB, 2017)
Longmorn 23 yo (48%, OB, 2017)
Released last year, this was another of Pernod’s attempts at the ‘Mortlachification’ of Longmorn. It came in a silly box with enough metal bits to keep Magneto busy for a week. Anyway... Colour: gold. Nose: Ripe pears, mirabelle, vanilla and a few gooseberries. It’s rather straightforward, decent, quite modern Speyside whisky. There’s a fruitiness that harks back to some older Longmorns but the wood is loudest here in this instance. You might also find some green pepper, some lemon peel and a slice of white bread. All perfectly fine. Mouth: Lots of white pepper, green fruits and fresh cereals. A few white and yellow flowers, a drop of mead, pollen, granny smith apples and sunflower oil. The higher strength is definitely an asset here and thankfully the wood is a little more restrained on the palate. Although it is still globally rather sweet and you still get this cocoanut / creme brulee aspect coming through rather notably. Continues with a little mustard powder and some custardy notes. Finish: Good length, all on orchard and green fruits with some citrus peel notes and more of this gloopy custardy quality. A little wood spice biting in the aftertaste. Comments: It’s a perfectly fine and supremely drinkable modern Speysider, I’m also pleased to report that there are some definite Longmorn-esque fruity qualities about it. However, it is still a silly bottling and was scoff-inducingly overpriced if you ask me.
SGP: 541 - 86 points.


Longmorn 15 yo (43%, OB, 1980s) Longmorn 15 yo (43%, OB, 1980s)
From a litre bottling most likely produced for duty free around the mid-late 1980s. Colour: gold (some things never change). Nose: another galaxy. Troughs of tropical and green fruits - papaya, mango, guava, melon, banana, star fruit, pineapple - you name it! A truly beautiful, luscious and classically ‘old Longmorn’ aroma. Goes on with notes of blood orange, crystallised lemon peel, a very light waxiness and some freshly bailed hay. Just superb! Mouth: Majestic fruitiness again. Pure, luscious, tropical, full of honey, freshly malted barley, toasted cereals, pumpkin seeds, olive oil and wee hint of chalk. Also some freshly baked breads of various varieties - a warm bakery. Finish: Long, earthy, tropical, faintly waxy and with more lemony and mineral aspects. More of these cereals and hay notes in the aftertaste. Comments: Stellar old Longmorn. Seriously, why don’t contemporary distillers try these bottlings and look to chase after this style of exuberant tropical fruitiness in their own makes? It’s a sorely missed character in whiskies all over the world today if you ask me. Which I know you’re not, so I’ll shut up now.
SGP: 761 - 91 points.



Whiskyfun fav of the month

May 2018

Favourite recent bottling:
Ar10 2001/2018 (52.4%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon barrels) - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Highland Park (98°proof, John Scott, pure malt, +/-1950) - WF 94

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Caol Ila 2006/2017 (59.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, first fill sherry butt, casks 306189, 306191, 306195) - WF 90

Favourite malternative:
Vallein Tercinier 27 yo ‘Lot 90’ (49.7%, Maltbarn, Grande Champagne, 2018) - WF 91

June 8, 2018


Wee fights, today Highland Park

The new ‘Light’ is out – hope it’s not light – so let’s have it, and then try to find a wee new IB…

Highland Park 17 yo ‘The Light’ (52.9%, OB, 28,000 bottles, 2018)

Highland Park 17 yo ‘The Light’ (52.9%, OB, 28,000 bottles, 2018) Five stars
We’ve had the darker (read more sherried) The Dark earlier in February and thought it was rather too oak-influenced. The Light is supposed to be more ‘zesty’, let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: exactly. Zestier, fresher, better chiselled, rather earthy, almost muddy in a good way, a tad sooty. Apples, pomelos, then more coastal whiffs, iodine, then ointments, mercurochrome, oysters… With water: rather perfect. Orkney mud, clay, toothpaste, wine yeasts, beer… Mouth (neat): excellent! Rather peaty, medicinal and coastal, with superb grapefruits, ginseng, more grapefruits, touches of rhubarb and kiwi, a little mint, eucalyptus drops, chlorophyll… This one’s right up my alley! With water: just excellent indeed, with lemons comings out. That always works a treat in my book. Finish: medium, very refreshing, with more chlorophyll, eucalyptus, and earthy elements. Like, mushrooms. Always a touch of peat smokiness in the aftertaste. Comments: totally classic HP without any botox or silicone. What a great distillate when it’s allowed to sing as a solo!
SGP:452 - 90 points.

Highland Park 21 yo 1996/2017 (52.7%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, Authors Series, refill hogshead, 230 bottles)

Highland Park 21 yo 1996/2017 (52.7%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, Authors Series, refill hogshead, 230 bottles) Five stars
French writer George Sand on the label, indeed, Chopin and Musset’s lover. I don’t think she ever tried Whisky – let alone Scotch – but she was a true epicurean, and was known for the extravagant quantities of Burgundy wine she was quaffing each and every day. Colour: straw. Nose: oh no, and this humble taster to find notes of chalky white Bourgogne now… Other than that, this is extremely close to The Light (getting spiritual now), with perhaps a little more minerality? All the rest is similar, really. So, perfect (please excuse me, getting a bit lazy here)… With water: ditto. And perhaps wet dogs (I think we already told you we were sorry, dogs). Mouth (neat): indeed. Perhaps both a tad wilder (yeastier) and more tropical (passion fruits). With water: pears! And ale, herbal cordials, stewed apples, mint, lemons, stewed rhubarb, chalk… And indeed, a few drops of good Meursault. Finish: rather long, ale-y and white-Bourgogne-y at the same time. All that because of George Sand… Comments: a perfect draw, really. What a wonderful distillate – a distillate that needs no crutches. I'm rambling, aren't I?
SGP:452 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Highland Park we've tasted so far


June 6, 2018


A mixed bag of uncertain whiskies

Summer’s around the corner, some people take things easier, and I thought we could try to experiment a bit with our line-ups and flights that are sometimes a little, say rigid. In other words, let’s just take what comes out of the boxes (just as they do in magazines), without any ideas of an order, or any coherence. Not that we’ll do that everyday, mind you, we’ll see…

Duggan’s Dew (86.8 US proof, OB, USA, blended Scotch, +/-2018)

Duggan’s Dew (86.8 US proof, OB, USA, blended Scotch, +/-2018)
Mind you, this is distilled and blended in Scotland, shipped in bulk, and bottled in the USA! ‘A deep grain foundational aroma with an overlying fruity scent’ say most online wine shops about this baby, let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: noses a little sweetened, almost sugary, but other than that it’s not horrendous, you’re even getting a maltiness and okay touches of barley, cake, and stewed apples. We’ve nosed worse, but the proof is usually on the palate with this cheap juices… Mouth: once again it feels a bit sugared up, and indeed we’re rather of sawdust, cardboard, then crème brulée and butterscotch. But again, it is not totally horrendous. Finish: short, rather grainy, with a sugary aftertaste and some pears. Comments: it is kind of fair-ish, I haven’t found any serious flaws, actually, but it does need ice.
SGP:531 - 59 points.

Môtô (42%, OB, whiskey, USA, batch #10, +/-2017)

Môtô (42%, OB, whiskey, USA, batch #10, +/-2017)
This is actually 3 months old glutinous rice whiskey, made in Brooklyn, NY! It looks like a friendly sort of spirit... Colour: straw. Nose: gouda, ale, sake, Swiss cheese, caraway, turmeric, ginseng powder… As you may see, we’re in unusual territories here, but I’m finding this kind of American shochu rather fun. Mouth: bizarre indeed, but some sides are pleasant. Doesn’t quite taste like whisky/whiskey, but this sweet fermentary side does show character. Pleasant touches of lime, lemongrass, sake indeed, Korean plum wine… Finish: medium, rather grassier. Sour dough, weizenbier… Comments: worth trying, really. I’m glad I did, this little Môtô goes beyond the ‘interesting’ category.
SGP:451 - 60 points.

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

Prohibition (41%, OB, France, single malt, macvin cask, +/-2013?) Three stars
This baby from the Brûlerie (a.k.a. distillery) du Revermont, in the French Jura. I think other expressions had been a little strange, but this one’s intriguing, as in case you don’t know, macvin is a blend of marc (grappa) and fresh grape juice (rather must), so not exactly wine.  Please note that this whisky was fully matured in the macvin casks, it’s not just a quick finishing. Colour: gold. Nose: I knew this would be nicer than both the Vin Jaune (WF 45) and the Vin de Paille (WF 65). Very nice notes of café latte, butterscotch, some kind of earthy fudge, black tea, espresso, whiffs of burnt cake, pecan pie… So far, so very nice (I should have tried this baby three years ago instead of waiting…) Mouth: it is good whisky! There are more beery/fermentary notes on the palate, but that works. I enjoy this café-Cointreau situation, that reminds me of my old uncles, forty years ago… But why am I telling you that? Finish: medium, a tad grape-y, in a good way. Some honey. The coffee is back in the aftertaste. Comments: very happy with this baby. Next time I’m in Jura I’ll buy a bottle!
SGP:541 - 80 points.

Distillerie des Bughes ‘Home Distillers Tradition’ (43%, OB, France, cask #1016W22, 2017)Distillerie des Bughes ‘Home Distillers Tradition’ (43%, OB, France, cask #1016W22, 2017)

Distillerie des Bughes ‘Home Distillers Tradition’ (43%, OB, France, cask #1016W22, 2017) Two stars
We’re in Auvergne this time, so right in the middle of France (Massif Central). They’ve used lightly peated non-GMO barley (when shall we start to seriously talk about GMO in whisky, by the way?) and matured this young baby in both French and sherry oak. Colour: straw. Nose: typically good young craft malt whisky, with some ale, ginger, speculoos, hints of hops, dairy cream and yoghurt, sour dough, baker’s yeast, leaven… You see. I do enjoy this style! Mouth: all fine. Frankly, I was a bit scared, but his works even if it’s a tad too oaky/planky. More ale, cider, gingerbread, cinnamon, nutmeg, used tealeaves, apple juice, moss, fern… Finish: medium, rather wood-dominated, but that was to be expected. Overripe apples, cinnamon. Comments: it is a good surprise, really. Now I don’t find any peat, I’m afraid. Perhaps a misunderstanding from my side.
SGP:352 - 70 points.

Rummage rummage…

Amrut ‘Raj Igala’ (40%, OB, India, +/-2018)

Amrut ‘Raj Igala’ (40%, OB, India, +/-2018) Four stars
This is a rather new ‘entry level’ Amrut as I understand it. The name means ‘king of eagles’, with no relations with Donald T., I’ve heard. Colour: gold. Nose: pretty niiiice. Soft mangos and guavas, vanilla, pineapple butterscotch, custard, fudge, a spoonful of maple syrup, molasses honey… It’s very well defined and built, fresh, fragrant, rather exotic as expected… So very well made and indeed, niiiice. Mouth: good American oak’s been in use here, and indeed it is a success. Vanilla, mangos, acacia honey, fruity IPA, and just a very discreet smokiness in the back of the background. Were some peated batches involved? Finish: medium, clean, tropical. Sweet oak and exotic fruits in perfect sync. Comments: it is very good and it is very smart. And they have their own style. And in this case, the 40% aren’t quite a problem.
SGP:641 - 85 points.

Nantou ‘Omar’ 2009/2016 (56.2%, OB, Taiwan, bourbon, cask #11090148, 213 bottles)

Nantou ‘Omar’ 2009/2016 (56.2%, OB, Taiwan, bourbon, cask #11090148, 213 bottles) Three stars and a half
TTL’s Nantou, it was a great surprise when they came out a few years ago! Now we haven’t tried many of them, yet. Colour: gold. Nose: creamy vanilla, cakes, ‘good’ sawdust, croissants au beurre… With water: entering a paletised warehouse. Coconut, vanilla, sawdust. That works here, mind you. Mouth (neat): excellent, all on vanilla and citrus, with a perfect freshness and yet a vanilla-ed, honeyed fatness that brings body and creaminess. Tangerine liqueur and a few oak spices (ginger, cinnamon, you know them don’t you). With water: very good, if not extremely complex. Rounded, creamy, and yet spicy. Spicy fruit bread. Finish: long, perhaps a notch too oaky now. Vanilla is cool, but it can get tiring. Comments: there’s not only Kavalan in Taiwan, as we found out a few years ago.
SGP:641 - 83 points.

Perhaps another one…

Nantou ‘Omar’ 2012/2016 (59.8%, OB, Taiwan, virgin oak, cask # 01120006, 220 bottles)

Nantou ‘Omar’ 2012/2016 (59.8%, OB, Taiwan, virgin oak, cask # 01120006, 220 bottles) Two stars
Ouch, virgin oak. Colour: deep gold. Nose: sweet planks, we’ve gone beyond any reasonable limits in my humble opinion. Butterscotch galore, custardy extravaganza, and the maddest baker there ever was. With water: beer and yeast plus sawdust. Mouth (neat): nah, of course it works, and indeed they made it with care (and probably passion and dedication), but the oak’s way too loud for me. It’s bottled sweet curry. With water: nah, I perfectly understand why some good folks would enjoy this, and indeed, there is some nice citrus, but the oaky structure really is ‘too much’ for me. It’s like in Bordeaux in the late 1990s-early 2000s. Mind you, oak is so passé these days… Finish: rather long, custardy, a tad stuffy. Planky. Bananas from Bananas’.  Comments: the execution is perfect, but the end result is simply way too ‘modern’, but indeed we’re sometimes seeing this happening in Scotland too these days.
SGP:651 - 75 points.

How many have we tried? You say only seven? Let’s try to find a last French whisky and ite session est.

Welche’s Whisky ‘Tourbé’ (46%, OB, G. Miclo, 2017)

Welche’s Whisky ‘Tourbé’ (46%, OB, France, Alsace, G. Miclo, 2017) Four stars
We’ve already tried one of their single casks and loved it. This is one of their regular expressions, given that the ‘Welches’ are the French-speaking Alsatians. A tiny minority in the otherwise very Germanic Alsace… But I’m part of them! Oh, and ‘tourbé’ means ‘peated’. By the way, Alsatian whiskies have got their own IGP, which states that they’re not allowed to add anything to their distillate, including caramel. So, Scotland, what do you say? Colour: gold. Nose: clean buttery peat – don’t expect a Port Ellen – and more croissants, plus cinnamon rolls and some vegetal earth. Garden humus, moss… Mouth: very good. More peat smoke, spices, grapefruits, a few small berries, gingerbread, bilberry jam, ginger cookies… Tends to go towards nutmeg, but I like nutmeg. Finish: rather long, with a feeling of smoked cranberries that actually works. Comments: they’ve got a very cool Canadian master distiller up there in Lapoutroie, so this is truly world, and yet it’s very Welche. You might think I’m biased, but I’m not, I swear on my most precious bottle of Brora.
SGP:554 - 85 points.

June 5, 2018


Two surprising (relatively) new Pulteney

We’re finding more Pulteney these days, aren’t we. Last time I was in Wick that was two years ago, I have to say the little town has got a very specific atmosphere, hard to describe. The distillery too, I have to say…

Pulteney 19 yo 1998/2018 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill bourbon barrel, 501 bottles)

Pulteney 19 yo 1998/2018 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, first fill bourbon barrel, 501 bottles) Four stars and a half
A vatting of two casks. G&M have had some very good ‘licensed’ Pulteneys in the past, but this is well a new CC. Colour: straw. Nose: mashed sweet potatoes, cider apples, plantain bananas, a coastal side that may just come from… self-suggestion, and notes of kiwis and gooseberries. Some liquorice wood for sure, as well as a growing herbal side. Not quite chartreuse yet, but you get the idea… Mouth: extremely good, in my opinion. You cannot not think of a well-prepared margarita, with this wee saltiness (obvious this time) blended with limejuice indeed. No, not tequila. Green melons, a little heather honey, and all in all, a rather oily mouth feel. Finish: medium, very clean, on pretty much the same flavours. Grapefruit juice, honey, a drop of brine, a wee bit of pineapple chutney… You could think it’s Bruichladdich at times. Comments: one of my favourite recent Pulteneys. In my humble experience, and unless that would have been a superb first fill sherry cask, Pulteney’s always better when coming from ‘restrained’ wood. Well, not only Pulteney…
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Right, let’s try to challenge that bold assumption…

Old Pulteney 2004/2018 (62.1%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, first fill sherry butt, cask #128, 612 bottles)

Old Pulteney 2004/2018 (62.1%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, first fill sherry butt, cask #128, 612 bottles) Five stars
Monster si or monster no? Let’s see… Colour: yellow copper. Nose: Scottish bourbon, with pretty high rye content, that’s what I feel. Or, say, this could have come from Westland’s, but of course that’s no bad news at all. Marmalade and gingerbread at first, then maraschino, Nuits-St-Georges,  cinnamon, Morello cherries, guignolet, Demerara rum, and just one cigar. Clearly ‘modern’ and probably kind of tuned, but frankly, that’s been made with utter care. In other words, I’m not fond of the idea, but I love the results (Dr. Freud, help me!) With water: the oak comes out. We’re at a carpenter’s on a Friday afternoon. A tad terpenic and pretty empyreumatic. Mouth (neat): extremely good. Pure gingerbread made out of 50% chestnut honey, with some ginger, molasses, caramelised pecans, and the sweetest pumpernickel. Not a kind of whisky you would have ever encountered just ten years ago, but indeed, I love it. Hate it that I love it. Okay, that’s my own problem. With water: swims greatly, which is pretty miraculous. Woodruff liqueur or syrup, try that if you can find some. Great in Champagne too. Finish: long, just a notch spicier. Cinnamon, nutmeg, liquorice, Szechuan pepper, all that. Comments: shatters my world a bit, I have to say… Not a bad feeling, actually, this could be the (good) future of malt whisky.
SGP:562 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Pulteney we've tasted so far


June 4, 2018


Octomore at play

No officials today, rather two indie Octomores. But first, as an apéritif, a quasi-Octomore…

Lochindaal 2007/2015 (58.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #MOS15002, 235 bottles)

Lochindaal 2007/2015 (58.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #MOS15002, 235 bottles) Two stars and a half
Lochindaal or Loch Indaal, this is indeed some Bruichladdich, as it says on the label, but I remember there’s been some indie Bowmore too bearing the name Lochindaal. Some have used the name for Port Charlotte too, while others have been using it for ‘intermediate’ peated Laddie, whilst the distillers themselves are using it for some heavily peated malt (50ppm in the malted barley) that sits between Port Charlotte and Octomore. Confused? Let’s have a dram… Colour: straw. Nose: starts with unexpected small berries, redcurrants, certainly cassis, but gets then very smoky, and we’re talking raw peated malt. It is very ‘kilny’, but not medicinal at all, and neither is it extremely coastal. So, raw peat, I would say. With water: hessian and soot. I find it a little simple, really. Mouth (neat): exactly the same feeling, many sweet berries and only then the huge smoke. Which, in truth, gives a feeling of smoked all-vitamin fruit juice – the kind that would give you strength. With water: a tad more citrusy, perhaps, but something doesn’t feel totally right to me here. Too fruity for a heavy peater. Finish: same feeling. Comments: very fine of course, but this fruitiness would just fight the smoke – or the other way ‘round.
SGP:636 - 78 points.

Bruichladdich 5 yo 2011/2017 (51.9%, The Whisky Agency and Acla Selection)

Bruichladdich 5 yo 2011/2017 (51.9%, The Whisky Agency and Acla Selection) Four stars and a half
As it says on the label, this was ‘made from heavily peated barley for their Octomore-type whisky’. Sounds loud and clear to me! Colour: white wine. Nose: I know I’m not the only one who often thinks that Port Charlotte is peatier than Octomore ‘in the glass’, and indeed this is not extravagantly smoky, but I do really enjoy these whiffs of gun oil, new rubber boots, and coal ashes. Pine cone smoke, fresh putty, Chinese general store in the 1980s (a very personal feeling)… With water: raw barley and a working kiln. Mouth (neat): very good, if rather simple. Heavily smoked williams pear eau-de-vie, one tiny tinned anchovie, some kippers. This one’s much more coastal than the Lochindaal, not sure that’s related to where the cask was stored, having said that. With water: really very good now. A fatter, almost salmony smokiness, plus some lemons. One tiny pineapple slice. Finish: long, really clean, zesty, really good. Comments: many official Octomores are heavily cask-influenced, so it’s great to be able to try one that’s fully natural. And very good. No mega-peat though.
SGP:457 - 88 points.

Oc5 2011/2018 (59.8%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon barrel)

Oc5 2011/2018 (59.8%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon barrel) Five stars
Here come those lovely wee Mendeleievian bottles again… Oc4 was superb (WF 91) and did kill the OBs in my book last year. I tell you, it was one crime of lese-majesty! Colour: straw. Nose: how could anyone have the strange idea of kilning some raw vanilla pods straight from Madagascar? That’s the general feeling here, and that works horrendously well. Add black olives, anchovie paste, and a wee touch of tarragon. I find this luminous, whatever that means in whisky. With water: swinging new boots! Mouth (neat): superb. Totally simple, even a little ‘dumb’ if I may say so, but it’s so perfectly chiselled that it would take you with it. Ashes, lemon juice, white Sancerre, bitter almonds. Resistance is futile. With water: takes water very well, it would just go down to the brinier floors. Finish: long, perfect, blade-y, pleasingly binary. Lemon and peat, lemon and peat, lemon and peat... Comments: this fights in the same category as the best white mezcals, clairins and grogues. Indeed, in those rare cases, age doesn’t matter much – but still, we’ll always like to know, thank you in advance.
SGP:467 - 91 points.

(Thank you Tom!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Octomore we've tasted so far


June 2, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Feis Ile: Notes from the hot tub
This week’s, sadly brief, excursion to Islay involved some pretty spectacular wild swimming and more than one dip in a hot tub - enough that it’s possible I spent a high proportion of my time there submerged in water. However, that didn’t prevent me from finding time to scribble down a few notes for assorted festival releases. Sadly the list is not complete but the sun was shining and the call of the water was just too alluring...


Ardbeg Grooves (51.6%, OB, 2018)

Ardbeg Grooves (51.6%, OB, 2018)
I know Serge has already penned some notes for this one but I feel it would be remiss not to include an Ardbeg in this selection of notes. Like almost every Ardbeg bottling these days, this is NAS and influenced by some curious concoction of various casks including some heavily charred wine casks. Colour: Gold. Nose: Tarry sawdust, smoked oats and marzipan. Lots of sweet peat, sea salt, lemon balm and syrupy smoke. You really feel the voice of the wood loud and clear in this one. A little browned butter, some chopped chives and something like wood-aged Mezcal. Clean and precise but the extractive qualities of the wood are something I struggle with. With water: more tarry and medicinal but also more sticky and sweet. Some nice saltiness as well. Mouth: Kippers, black pepper, smoked salmon, green peppercorns in brine, pencil shavings and graphite oil. Something like wood glue and white pepper as well. With water: some rubbery aspects, cooked grains, liquid smoke, paprika and more tar. Finish: Good length with an ashy smokiness and some brine and a starchy kind of peat. Comments: I find it perfectly acceptable modern, peated malt whisky. However, I have no idea why - from a drinking perspective - you would chose this over the far superior 10 year old. Unadulterated Ardbeg can be fantastic, I feel these kinds of bottlings are pretty lightweight and a bit of a disappointment.
SGP: 467 - 82 points.



Caol Ila 10 yo (58.2%, OB for Feis Ile 2018, refill American oak & rejuvenated European oak, 2500 bottles)

Caol Ila 10 yo (58.2%, OB for Feis Ile 2018, refill American oak & rejuvenated European oak, 2500 bottles)
Colour: Gold. Nose: Lots of citrus smoke, coal dust, whelks, shoreline, dried seaweed and a wee slug of olive oil. Gravelly and with a pleasing natural sweetness. Some tarry rope and old creel nets. Relatively simple and straightforward but unequivocally Caol Ila. With Water: lots of earthy smoke, coastal fug and oily sheep wool. A little bitter grapefruit and some salted almonds. Mouth: Hot, punchy and rather sharp and jaggy - a kind of flint smoke and spiky mineral profile. With time there are some grilled meats with burning herbs, olive oil, soot and plenty of natural tar resin. Very good. With water: smoky bacon and black olives with anchovy paste and lemon skins. You could make a good puttanesca with this. Finish: Long, sooty, sweet smoke and salted barley water. Very briny and ashy in the aftertaste. Comments: At first I thought it was a but too youngish and spiritous, but with time and a splash of water it becomes really rather lovely. Yet another excellent young Caol Ila. You could fill the sound of Jura with the stuff...
SGP: 478 - 87 points.



Laphroaig 8 yo (62.2%, SMWS 29.244 ‘Weaving wondrous dreams’, Feis Ile 2018, 222 bottles)

Laphroaig 8 yo (62.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #29.244 ‘Weaving wondrous dreams’, Feis Ile 2018, 222 bottles)
Let’s not forget, the indies are also contributing more than a few bespoke bottlings for the Feis Ile these days... Colour: straw. Nose: An ocean of mezcal, seawater, ointment, oysters, lemon juice, white pepper, ash and gentian eau de vie. A pure and unforgiving blade of a whisky. White hot peat, some nostril-flambeeing alcohol and a fair bit of gauze and antiseptic. With water: greener and more seaweedy. Lots of pine resin, a little grapefruit, some razor sharp lemon juice and lots of beach pebbles and crushed sea shells. Mouth: Mercurochrome, iodine, raw sheep wool, a whole coal hearth of soot, lemon rind, fresh shellfish and truffle salt. About as uncompromising as modern Islay whisky gets really. With water: syrupy, fat, glistening ointments, medicines, peat oils, tar liqueur and germoline. A total wrecking ball! Finish: Long, endlessly ashy, relentlessly peaty, lemony, sharp, blade-like and peppery - did I mention ashy? Comments: Phew! It’s unequivocally great distillate I’m happy to report, but it’s really a potent dram that won’t be for everyone. I can easily see why some would argue it’s too young, and it probably is to some extent. But it’s also a wonderful, pure and challenging brute of a dram. With a big slug of water and a large portion of fish and chips you could enjoy quite a bit of this as the sun goes down over Port Ellen harbour I’d say...
SGP: 489 - 87 points.



Bowmore 15 yo (52.5%, OB for Feis Ile 2018, Oloroso sherry matured, 3000 bottles)
Colour: Bronze. Nose: smoked blood oranges, black pepper, grapefruit infused antiseptic, raisins and a slightly herbal aspect. Goes on with increasingly menthol and eucalyptus aromas. More citrus peels and some earthen floor dunnagey notes. With water: lemon lozenges, cough syrups, bacon fries and some smoky grist. Mouth: Lots of clove studded orange peel, some dried dark fruits such as sultanas and dates and a little peppered mackerel. Perhaps a little too much bitterness? With water: very kippery now. Lots of smoked fish, black pepper, TCP and some cured meats with a slug of seawater. Finish: Good length, lots of smoky dried earth, some mixed herbs, hot smoked salmon and a little lime leaf. Comments: I liked the nose more than the palate. Globally I find it very good but I’m not sure the distillate and the sherry have entirely integrated. Water is certainly obligatory with this one.
SGP: 567 - 85 points.



Seeing as Bruichladdich are in the midst of a sort of relaunch/reinvigoration of Port Charlotte it seems like a good opportunity to do a few of them, starting with both this year’s festival releases.  


Port Charlotte 2001/2018 (55.9%, OB ‘The Heretic’ for Feis Ile 2018, 1300 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2001/2018 (55.9%, OB ‘The Heretic’ for Feis Ile 2018, 1300 bottles)
This one is a vatting of the last five casks from 2001, the first year of Port Charlotte’s distillation. That is, until someone ‘discovers’ / buys back some more (how cynical Angus!).  Apparently it includes some ex-wine casks and a rum cask and some bourbon. Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Earthy farmyards smothered in kelp. Lashings of motor oil, gravel, brine, salted cod and all manner of fresh shellfish. Some black olives blitzed into a tapenade with some fresh parsley and olive oil. It’s also pretty thuggishly medical as well. Notes of mercurochrome and gauze. I find it pretty excellent. With water: lots of smoked cereals now as well as some lighter herbal notes peeking through such as lemon thyme and rosemary. More medicine and eventually some Bruichladdich-esque green fruitiness such as green apple and melon. Mouth: Extremely sooty, oily and camphory. Masses of medicine sloshing all over the place, crisp cereals, freshly kilned malt. There is a definite wine-driven aspect on the neat palate which isn’t too much to my liking but it’s rather slight and generally gets swamped by diesel fumes, hessian, sea air, drying seaweed and some particularly ashy mineral aspects. With water: raw oysters, iodine, sheep wool, black pepper and sea water. Generally cleaner with water and that slight winey aspect has thankfully vanished into thin sea air. Finish: Long with lots of coal dust, peat embers, old oily rags and stacks of residual farmyard and coastal character. Comments: At times you feel the wine influence might threaten the balance or the distillery character but those fears proved unfounded. Thankfully this is a superb, clean, punchy and rather thrilling Port Charlotte. It’s great to see this distillate showing well at a more mature age and, like me, it is an eager swimmer.
SGP: 577 - 90 points.



Port Charlotte 2005/2018 12 yo (59.3%, OB Valinch for Feis Ile 2018, cask #2087, 2nd fill Oloroso sherry butt, 956 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2005/2018 12 yo (59.3%, OB Valinch for Feis Ile 2018, cask #2087, 2nd fill Oloroso sherry butt, 956 bottles)
Colour: Maple syrup. Nose: Very different. Hugely farmy and riddled with burnt toffee, burnt raisins, frying bacon, salted fish and toasted almonds. Engine oil, a gloopy kind of seawater aroma, drying kelp, black pepper and smoked paprika. With water: wet earth, a single match stick, biltong and some straightforward, intense peat oils. Mouth: Very dry and extremely punchy and thick. Salted liquorice, very old sherry, many toasted nuts, wet beach pebbles, smoked leather, peated ribena. Lashings of tar, rope, sweet medicine such as Calpol and kippers. A beast of a PC - the kind of stuff you could easily re-surface some of Islay’s roads with. With water: germoline mixed with tomato juice and orange squash (I’m sure that’s a cocktail somewhere on Islay this year), some dill, a little nutmeg and many salted nuts and smoked fish aspects. Still exceptionally meaty, fishy and farmy. Not to mention peaty! Finish: Hot ashes, liquorice, peated mead and preserved lemons. An earthy, leathery sherry note lingers in the aftertaste. Comments: It’s hard to know what to make of this one. Some people will be turned off totally whereas others will sway swiftly to its charms. One thing’s for certain: it’s a bit of a monster and lots of fun. Very ‘Bruichladdich’, I can see why they chose this cask for the Festival. It’s a tough one to score so, unlike Bruichladdich, let’s be boringly conservative...
SGP: 478 - 85 points.



It’s not a festival bottling but let’s try the new Port Charlotte 10yo as something of a wee bonus...  


Port Charlotte 10 yo (50%, OB, 2018)

Port Charlotte 10 yo (50%, OB, 2018)
This new official Port Charlotte 10 is matured in a mix of first and second fill bourbon casks and refill French oak wine casks. Colour: gold. Nose: Lemon infused ash with a pack of unlit herbal cigarettes, lemon oil and soot. Goes on with many coastal and shoreline aromas such as seaweed and sandalwood notes. You may also add coal smoke, lanolin, sweet peat smoke and a little dried mint leaf. With water: becomes more citrus now with lots of lime and lemon juice, a hint of guava and some rather elegant pebbley and flinty mineral qualities. Mouth: Another acrid, punchily saline and maritime Port Charlotte. Lots of background farmyard notes and smoked barley aspects. Peppered mackerel, smoked hay, antiseptic and a little sourdough starter. With water: extremely ashy, drying and peppery now. Moves towards barley and tar with time. Finish: Long, salty, lemony, lots of hay, smoked cereals and dry earth. Comments: Not quite the equal of the 2001 but for a standard, entry level official bottling this is impressive and I think very good. What I find terrific is how loyal to the distillery character this is, everything feels refreshingly honest and distillate forward which I love. I also think it’s a smart direction to take when so many contemporaries - especially elsewhere on Islay - are increasingly reliant on wood doctoring for their own bottlings. In short: pure, loyal, extremely drinkable and worthwhile.
SGP: 477 - 89 points.



And one for the road...  


Lagavulin 18 yo (53.9%, OB for Feis Ile 2018, 6000 bottles)
Lagavulin 18 yo (53.9%, OB for Feis Ile 2018, 6000 bottles)
Matured in a mix of refill hogsheads, rejuvenated hogsheads and ex-Bodega European oak butts - according to the label. Colour: Buttery chardonnay. Nose: some kind of salty leather with salted liquorice, seaweed and some pretty potent notes of germoline, floor cleaner and brake fluid. Feels quite powerful. Cured ham, brine, green olives and fresh lemon juice. An almost crystalline peat that gives it this blade like, precise and pure quality. With water: lime zest, crisp smoked cereals and some grassy olive oil. Mouth: crispy fish skin, peppered mackerel, smoked grist, more brine and lots of grilled oysters and seawater. Some salted almonds, tar resin and smoky bacon crisps. With water: hessian, squid ink, lemon throat lozenges and bonfire ash. Gets rather tarry and creosotey with notes of naphthalene after a while. Finish: Long, ashy, earthy, warming and with a big, lingering fug of boiler smoke, kippers and bonfire smoke. Comments: It’s not the best Lagavulin festival release but it’s still superb Islay whisky and a spot on Lagavulin. I find this one a little straightforward and pretty punchy but emphatic and satisfying all the same. Feels stronger than 53.9%. Works well with water.
SGP: 467 - 90 points.


May 2018 - part 2 <--- June 2018 - part 1 ---> June 2018 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Highland Park 17 yo ‘The Light’ (52.9%, OB, 28,000 bottles, 2018)

Highland Park 21 yo 1996/2017 (52.7%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, Authors Series, refill hogshead, 230 bottles)

Kilkerran 8 yo (55.7%, OB, 2017)

Oc5 2011/2018 (59.8%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, bourbon barrel)

Old Pulteney 2004/2018 (62.1%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, first fill sherry butt, cask #128, 612 bottles)

Royal Brackla 60 yo 1926/1985 (40%, OB, James Buchanan, for Japan, 60 decanters)

Hampden 10 yo 2007/2018 (64.1%, Hunter Laing for The Whisky Barrel, Kill Devil, Jamaica, 290 bottles)