(Current entries)

Facebook Twitter Logo

Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2018 - Part 2


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


June 30, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Vs Springbank
Yes, I know, I know. One of the most stupid and pointless tasting sessions ever. But, this is Whiskyfun after all, and at least it will be fun. Probably.
We’ll go, theoretically at any rate, from light to heavy in both instances.


Glenlossie-Glenlivet (70 proof, Army and Navy Stores, UK, 1950s, cork top) Glenlossie-Glenlivet (70 proof, Army and Navy Stores, UK, 1950s, cork top)
One of several rare and unusual old malts bottled for the Army and Navy Stores back in ye day. There’s also a 6 year old version for the US under this same livery which Serge scored 90. Colour: Amber. Nose: it’s one of these beautifully antique aromas, that is to say fragile old hardwoods, elegant, rancio-scented sherry, many herbs, old assorted spice jars, jasmine, sack cloth and earthen floors. The epitome of old school sherry casks, supple, mineral, darkly fruity and with wee touches of mocha, espresso, waxes and bitter chocolate. Mouth: prunes! You can also add to that similar exclamations of dates, figs and sultanas. Some pomegranate molasses, walnut liqueur and roast game meats and a good slug of mineral oil. Finish: Not the longest but then that’s to be expected at 70 proof. It still kicks though, there’s a pleasing mixture of spices, dry earth, candied peels and dried herbs. Comments: this at 46% or cask strength would be a total dream. However, dream is all we can do, alas... (I’m sorry, what a stupid comment!)
SGP: 662 - 89 points.


Glenlossie  23 yo 1992/2013 (46%, Berry Brothers, hogshead, cask #3473) Glenlossie  23 yo 1992/2013 (46%, Berry Brothers, hogshead, cask #3473)
Colour: white wine. Nose: lots of ripe pears, greengages, some cut grass, fresh gooseberry, green tea and a general leafy / forest note akin to wet ferns and trodden bracken. Continues with a touch of green wood, some very light vanilla panna cotta and plenty of cereals and damp grains. One of these pleasingly easy, fruity and well-balanced Speyside profiles. Mouth: straw, hay, mirabelle eau de vie, lychee syrup, dandelion and barley husks. More interesting and perhaps a little more lively and challenging than the nose suggested, although more dusty and note as immediately fresh and fruity. Goes on with lime oil, pecan pie and a little sweet flapjack. Finish: good length, honey sweetness, lemon barley water, sweetened oatmeal and shortbread. Comments: good, honest, fruity and well balanced malt whisky. The kind you can just mindlessly quaff with an ice cube in summer. Or by the fire in winter I suppose.
SGP: 531 - 85 points.


Glenlossie 18 yo 1992/2011 (56.1%, Dewar Rattray, cask #3411, bourbon, 244 bottles) Glenlossie 18 yo 1992/2011 (56.1%, A.D. Rattray, cask #3411, bourbon, 244 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: minty chalk, or, chalky mints. Touches of aspirin, ink, blotting paper and dry hay. Surprisingly austere, given the pedigree of most early 1990s Glenlossies. With time there emerges a few citrons and wee slices of lemon peel; perhaps a hint of agave nectar as well. With water: even after dilution it remains somewhat tight and closed off. Notes of vase water, a watercress pepperiness and a distant throat sweet. Mouth: more like it! Big delivery, all on honey, nectarines,  sweet plum wine, brown sugar and a touch of sesame oil. Various toasted seeds, crisp cereals and a little barley wine. With water: softens out with notes of shortbread, victoria sponge, lemon curd and some orange juice. Finish: Medium, gets a little more drying and returns to this slightly more brittle, arid style akin to the nose. Comments: One of these curious and slightly tricky whiskies that’s almost totally about the palate. One to pour into a tumbler and sip away out without too much engagement I’d say.
SGP: 441 - 80 points.


Glenlossie 23 yo 1993/2017 (56.8%, Cadenhead Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 216 bottles) Glenlossie 23 yo 1993/2017 (56.8%, Cadenhead Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 216 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: we’re several levels above the Rattray bottling I’m pleased to report. This one is really full of slightly overripe fruits, both green and exotic. Lots of Cantaloupe melon, fermenting honey, wine cellar must, sunflower oil and a sooty fire hearth. Some dried lavender, pressed wild flowers and a hint of potpourri. Really fragrant and rather beautiful. With water: gets slightly chalky now with lots of waxed lemon skins, some salted caramel and a glass of top quality dry cider. Mouth: silky in texture and full of dried citrus and exotic fruits, polished hardwoods, nutmeg, wood spices, very subtle waxiness, dried mint leaf and a turmeric-esque earthiness. With water: nectar, pollen, yellow flowers, dry cereals, buttered toast and chamomile tea. Some jasmine as well. Finish: Good length, with a crisp and dry earthiness keeping things alive and fresh. Nutty and biscuity notes in the aftertaste. Comments: Excellent, and superbly quaffable mid-aged Glenlossie from Cadenhead.
SGP: 641 - 89 points.


Glenlossie 12 yo (65.8%, James MacArthur’s, bottled 1980s, cask #8230) Glenlossie 12 yo (65.8%, James MacArthur’s, bottled 1980s, cask #8230)
This one was bottled both in 75cl and 5cl formats, it’s the miniature that I’m writing notes from today. Given the strength you’ll have to excuse me while I strap myself in... Colour: amber. Nose: it’s not no doubt but there’s also some rather fascinating notes of paprika, vegetable stock, damp leaves, pipe tobacco and umami paste. Rather savoury and prickly. There’s a lean but pervasive earthiness as well, along with some dried mushroom powder and salted dark chocolate. I suspect some sort of decent refill sherry cask was at work here. With water: softer, earthier, leafier, more chocolatey and more notes of soot and espresso. A little strong black tea as well. Mouth: comparatively rather sippable at full strength. Lots of flints, gun oil, metal polish, soot, some blood orange and a dusting of expensive cocoa powder. With water: the polished aspects get a little louder which is pretty gratifying, along with a leafy kind of waxiness and plenty black pepper, liquorice and a touch of menthol and eucalyptus resin. Finish: Long, powerful, earthy, peppery, spicy, savoury and with some potent notes of fruity chilli and horseradish. Comments: It’s all very good, but it probably could have done with another couple of decades maturation. No doubt from these DCL stocks filled into cask without reduction in the 1970s.
SGP: 472 - 87 points.


And now, to Campbeltown... As we’re doing ‘light to heavy’ then we’ll be starting with the older ones for a change.  


Springbank 5 yo (43%, OB for Italy, late 1960s) Springbank 5 yo (43%, OB for Italy, late 1960s)
This darker vatting is rather rare these days I think. Colour: Amber. Nose: close your eyes and you’re almost in a bodega in Jerez. Or, at least in a bar nearby nosing some VORS Oloroso. This is a pure and heady mix of dates, fig jam, damp earthen floors, old wine cellars, vintage burgundies, raspberry compote, Nutella, coal scuttles, salted liquorice and old walnut wine. Intoxicatingly salty, lean, coastal, mineral-flecked sherry. Mouth: arrives softly but the sherry rises with pin-sharp purity and you get a big hit of bitter, salted chocolate, crushed almonds, pancetta, wild mushrooms, a touch of ointment, some sea air and many soft earthy and leafy notes. There’s also black olive bread, a touch of caramelised brown sugar and more very old pinot noir character. Finish: Good length, superbly crisp, earthy, saline and nutty sherry again. A few extra degrees of alcohol would probably have propelled it into the stratosphere, but we’re splitting hairs. Comments: To think, 5 years old! But, this being Springbank, at that time, they were probably making up the numbers by dumping a couple of casks of 30 year old in the vat. Magnificent old sherried whisky.
SGP: 572 - 92 points.


Let’s try a few 12s now...  


Springbank 12 yo (46%, OB, tall bottle ‘red thistle’, 1990s) Springbank 12 yo (46%, OB, tall bottle ‘red thistle’, 1990s)
There are a number of variations, in batch and colour, in this livery. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: I love Springbank when it gets properly naked like this. It begins with all kinds of waxy citrus peels, raw barley, cooling wort, grist - really the innards of a working distillery held in a glass - and faint glimmer of earthy peat smoke in the background. There are also wet beach pebbles, ink, clay, lemon barley water and a hint of ointment. A tad quiet overall but beautifully pure. Mouth: rather dry and chiselled, a young riesling springs to mind. Lots of olive oil, some preserved lemons, a scraping of butter on white toast, watercress, chalk and limestone. A tad peppery as well. Finish: Good length, lightly ashy, citric and with a rather brittle and flinty minerality. Comments: Serge scored this one - or a sibling batch - 87 all the way back in 2007, I can’t find any reason to disagree with that score. Interestingly, I think the contemporary bottlings of the 10 year old are superior to this by a fair few points.
SGP: 362 - 87 points.


Springbank 12 yo (46%, OB, tall bottle ‘green thistle’, dark vatting, 1990s) Springbank 12 yo (46%, OB for Japan, green thistle, dark vatting, 1990s)
Another version of this tall bottle ‘thistle’ label done for Japan that’s very scarce. Colour: Bronze. Nose: A big, beefy and earthy sherry. Lots of cured meats, walnut wine, damp cellar floors, old balsamic and rancio. Also I find many dark fruits such as sultanas, date paste, stewed prunes and dried cranberries. Rather beautiful and close in style to the legendary 100 proof bottlings. With time it becomes greener and more tropical with these wee notes of dried mango, green banana and papaya Mouth: pure Springbank now! Smoked fruit jellies, tar liqueur, fishing nets, game, soot, walnut liqueur, delicate antiseptic and bandages. These dark fruits also remain with more notes of raisin and fruit loaf. The meatiness and delicate peatiness continues apace and the sherry remains ever-present but never dominating. Finish: Long, earthy and slightly drying with bitter chocolate and some mineral aspects. Comments: Something of a masterclass in composition, poise, controlled power and elegance. It’s also textbook Springbank and far, far too dangerous.
SGP: 663 - 93 points.


Springbank 12 yo (46%, OB, tall bottle ‘green thistle’, dark vatting, 1990s) Springbank 12 yo (46%, OB, tall bottle ‘green thistle’, dark vatting, 1990s)
Another dark one, most likely for the UK. Colour: deep amber. Nose: This one is less immediately meaty and instead veers more towards prune juice, figs and pure earthen floored dunnage warehouse. Lots of hessian sack cloth, fruit loaf, Guinness cake, walnut liqueur and ancient balsamico. Shares a very definite DNA with the Japan version but there are tpeatiness sits quietly underneath everything. Mouth: feels a little drier, earthier and maybe a tad thinner on the palate than the Japan bottling. Lots of hessian, camphor, salted liquorice, red liquorice, blackcurrant jam, cassis, a touch of tar liqueur, some cooked ham, quince. It’s a big, blustery, drying and rather powerfully earthy sherry. A nice saline edge keeps everything pretty fresh. Finish: Long, still very earthy but getting more meahese wee subtle differences. Continues with many dried herbs, maraschino cherry, coal dust and chopped dates. A leathery, rather leafy ty now, some burned raisins, caraway and cured meats. Comments: It’s still terrific whisky, and every inch a big sherried Springbank, it’s just that it struggles a bit in the shadow of that Japanese behemoth.
SGP: 573 - 91 points.


Springbank 25 yo 1974 (46%, OB, Frank McHardy 40 years in Distilling, 610 bottles) Springbank 25 yo 1974 (46%, OB, Frank McHardy 40 years in Distilling, 610 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: Rather syrupy with ripe melon and salted almond notes. Some golden syrup, caramelised brown sugar, lanolin, bandages, ointment and a profile that generally moves more towards soft coastal characteristics and medicine. In time a leathery and more mushroomy side emerges; notes of mineral oil, butter biscuit, herbal flatbread and olive oil. I like it but there’s a sort of ‘opaqueness’ about it - which is something I’ve found in other 74 Springbanks. Mouth: lots of cooked grains in olive oil, some peppered mackerel, white flowers, beach pebbles, soot, light ointment and a slight vegetal side that suggest artichokes and white asparagus. In time there’s these slightly more acidic notes and hints of sack cloth, aspirin and lime juice. Finish: Long and on burnt seaweed, black olives, medicine, a little dry oatmeal and salted butter. Comments: This has been a little bit of a divisive bottling over the years and I can see why. In parts it is quite extreme but at the same time the ‘Springbankness’ of it is often rather elusive. Still, I think it’s good whisky, just a tad unlikely.
SGP: 372 - 89 points.


And back to the future to finish...  


Springbank 12 yo (56.3%, OB Cask Strength, 2018, 18/0001)

Springbank 12 yo (56.3%, OB Cask Strength, 2018, 18/0001)
Colour: gold. Nose: Wow, kaffir lime, coconut, soot, embrocations, salted peanuts, some grizzly peat, smoky bacon, some kind of rather tropical-edged saison beer and smoked mussels. Goes on with chalk, preserved lemons, waxes, salted liquorice and anchovy paste. With water: some kind of smoky muesli. Notes of warm grist, lamp oil, sack cloth and a few green apple peelings and some good quality pear cider (perry). Mouth: immensely oily and fatty, all on diesel fumes, boiler smoke, tar liqueur, beach pebbles, kelp, rope, fishing nets, various ointments and a lick of antiseptic. Also aspirin, chalk and squid ink. With water: more coconut, toasted this time and with lots of antiseptic, light medicine, some roasted game meats, lanolin, bay leaf, lemon thyme and a little green banana. Finish: Long, medical, coastal, oily, slightly fishy in a good way, black pepper, more liquorice and a little briny note. Comments: Always an essential bottling in my view. And, after such a run of drams, I think it’s safe to say that while Springbank was always putting out totally stunning whiskies, its base distillate really improved since the early 1990s.
SGP: 473 - 91 points.



Thanks and hugs to Enrico, Jeroen, Emmanuel, Hans and Dirk.  



June 29, 2018


Ben Nevis is on, part three
(and last, I promise)

We’ll have some older ones today, but first, what’s left of the recent indie frenzy… (quickly!)

Ben Nevis 20 yo 1996/2016 (51.9%, Sansibar, 212 bottles)

Ben Nevis 20 yo 1996/2016 (51.9%, Sansibar, 212 bottles) Four stars
This should be very good. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a slightly rubbery vanilla, some tar, concrete, chalk, and rather less lemon than elsewhere. Elderberry flowers. Didn’t we say we’d do this fast? With water: new tyres in a tyre shop. Mouth (neat): one of the fruity Ben Nevis. Melon, vanilla, Bushmills, pears. Not too mineral this time, and even the usual chalkiness is kind of missing. With water: same, with hints of honey. Finish: medium, rather fresh, with notes of yeast and fresh bread. Comments: a curious Ben Nevis. The nose was very tarry/rubbery, whilst the palate was much fruitier. Very good nonetheless, all these casks were very good to excellent.
SGP: 452- 85 points.

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1998/2016 (54%, Claxton’s, hogsheads, casks #1608-1552, 234 bottles)

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1998/2016 (54%, Claxton’s, hogsheads, casks #1608-1552, 234 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: pale gold. Nose: a slightly warmer Ben Nevis, with a little honey and some roasted pecans, while it would rather unfold on notes that are usually associated with… Highland Park. Heather honey and all that. Wonderful earthiness. With water: wet wool, tobacco, clay., mocha. Mouth (neat): rich, coastal, a tad flinty – but this is Ben Nevis, isn’t it. Bitter chocolate, dry honey – as far as honey can be dry – and once again, this chalky side. Some marmalade too. With water: careful, it’s not a lover of water, gets very dry and lettuce-y if you add too much. If you do not, you’ll get some sweet tobacco and roasted peanuts. Finish: medium, rather ‘roasted’. Some bitter oranges, marmalade, touches of cured ham… Comments: another excellent one, it’s just a little less ‘clear’ than others. Was it sherry-doped wood?
SGP:452 - 83 points.

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2018 (52.9%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 210 bottles)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2018 (52.9%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 210 bottles) Five stars
This one’s pretty new. Kind of. Colour: straw. Nose: ultra-classic chalky start, then fudge, light toffee, chicory, porcini mushrooms, Virginia cigarette, chicken bouillon, chestnut honey, botrytis, pine needles, humus… Well this nose is simply exceptional. With water: indeed it is. Old white Bourgogne, and I mean really old. Montrachet quality. Mouth (neat): sweet Vishnu! Citrons and melons blended with the chalkiest honeys ever and a wide assortment of soft spices, aniseed, coriander… Utterly love this. With water: boy oh boy oh boy oh boy. Chestnut purée, chestnut honey, old Sauternes, mocha, Ovaltine, caramel… All that with this chalky Bennevissy structure. Fantastic. Finish: long, amazingly good. Lemon blossom honey and… superlative stuff. Maggi and Marmite  in the aftertaste. Comments: pffffff, Cadenhead. Ha, ha and I mean, ha. Go get this one if you can find it. Exceptional whisky, quite Springbanky, no wonder Cadenhead would have selected it..
SGP:562 - 92 points.

Good good good, enough young or middle-aged ones, let’s try to find some older Ben Nevis…

Ben Nevis 43 yo 1970/2014-2018 (44.7%, Acla Selection, bourbon hogshead, 35cl)

Ben Nevis 43 yo 1970/2014-2018 (44.7%, Acla Selection, bourbon hogshead, 35cl) Five stars
An older bottling that our Swiss friends from Acla da Fans have just relabelled this year. Funny layout, very ‘Grindelwald 1950’. Colour: gold. Nose: selbstverständlich. I would like to take this opportunity to say something about Colin Ross, who’s been Ben Nevis’s manager for so many years. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone in the whisky industry who’s been as honest and knowledgeable as Colin, and as immune to corporate BS. A fantastic man who’s still flying Scotch whisky’s flag higher than anyone, the opposite of all the wind machines we all know only too well. So, this nose, well, it’s full of almonds, fresh marzipan, camphor, angelica, woodruff, and fresh cane juice plus mango juice. Rather superb. Mouth: exceptionally fresh, full of tropical fruits and saps and resins and stuff. Almond milk, avocado juice, blood oranges, cardamom, hops. Finish: medium, and only mildly oaky, which is a wee miracle. Mango juice. Comments: extremely good, if not utterly stellar. Very well done, Acla!
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Good, perhaps another 1970, and we’ll be done. No more Ben Nevis tomorrow, this is it. Cross my heart etc.

Ben Nevis 44 yo 1970/2015 (44.4%, Finest Whisky, bourbon, cask #6, 120 bottles)

Ben Nevis 44 yo 1970/2015 (44.4%, Finest Whisky, bourbon, cask #6, 120 bottles) Four stars and a half
This was a Geburtstagsedition, you understand. Colour: gold. Nose: similar, no need to say, but a tad more restrained, perhaps a little more on fresh putty, almonds, Play-doh, dandelions, elderberry flowers, honeysuckle, old chardonnay (real chardonnay, not stoopid oak bombs)… What’s sure is that these old Ben Nevisses were rather lighter and less mineral than what they’ve distilled from the early 1990s on. Mouth: mango and maracuja juices in disguise. Someone’s added drops of rhum agricole, a few sultanas, and a good deal of Christmassy spices, from star anise to clove and cinnamon. Finish: medium, a tad tannic this time, which was to be expected. Old teapot, curry powder, pad Thai, satay, bitter oranges. All the oak speaking out. Comments: had this one above the Acla at first, then it was a tie on the palate, and then the slightly fresher finish of the Acla won it. But we’re splitting hairs once again, aren’t we…
SGP:561 - 89 points.

No more Ben Nevis until the start of the school year, I promise. Or until the reopening of parliament.

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


June 28, 2018


Ben Nevis is on, part two

Rummage rummage rummage…

Ben Nevis 11 yo 2005/2016 (60%, Le Gus’t, first fill bourbon, cask #159, 217 bottles)

Ben Nevis 11 yo 2005/2016 (60%, Le Gus’t, first fill bourbon, cask #159, 217 bottles) Three stars
Colour: pale gold. Nose: holy featherless crow, this is something different! There’s a heavy, ultra-coastal and mega-medicinal peatiness that I don’t think I’ve ever found in Ben Nevis. Seawater, lemon juice, and plain peat smoke, and something of a young Laphroaig. Intriguing… With water: Ben Nevis trademark chalky-verging-on-rubber side comes out. More plasticine. Mouth (neat): pah pah pah… This is huge, very smoky indeed, very zesty, and you would be forgiven for thinking it’s a slightly rougher Ledaig. Then bags and bags of sweets, from youth. With water: what some sometimes call ‘sweet peat’. This time, we’re closer to peaty Speysiders (peated Benriach, AnCnoc…) than to Islay. More sweets. Finish: long, making you wonder if you could peat-smoke sweets. Comments: excellent, just a tad rough, with a fruity sweetness that’s perhaps still a bit too high at eleven years of age.
SGP:656 - 82 points.

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1998/2016 (50.9%, The Whisky Agency and Three Rivers Tokyo)

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1998/2016 (50.9%, The Whisky Agency and Three Rivers Tokyo) Four stars and a half
There are more birds on whisky labels than in our gardens these days. Save the birds! Colour: white wine. Nose: instant ‘good’ sulphur, flints, struck matches, porridge, tyres, sourdough, tarmac… Perhaps the most extreme this far. With water:  same, plus hessian, that old tweed jacket that’s seen many rains (and beers)… Mouth (neat): great, two whiskies in one. It’s a good surprise to find these huge lemony notes after having experienced a very tarry nose. With water: classic Ben Nevis, with the usual clay, chalk, lemon, plasticine, grapefruits… Finish: long, pretty rich, and yet tense and refreshing. Comments: excellent, very idiosyncratic, as they say when they don’t know what to say.
SGP:552 - 89 points.

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1996/2015 (51%, The Whisky Mercenary for Malt Mates)

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1996/2015 (51%, The Whisky Mercenary for Malt Mates) Four stars and a half
Malt Mates? That could mean that either the Malt Maniacs (but I should know) or Ralfy were involved. Anyway, alliterations kill, don’t they! … Colour: white wine. Nose: perhaps the fruitiest this far. Indeed Ben Nevis can get quite tropical, but we hadn’t encountered any mangos or passion fruits before (I mean, within this session). So, mangos and passion fruits, plus grapefruits and the usual chalkiness. All clear. With water: more or less the same, but it would be rather more mineral than fruity once reduced. Mouth (neat): indeed, it’s very fruity, as if it had had its eyes on Ireland rather than on Campbeltown. Very good, mangos, etc. With water: same. Wait, some mis-stencilled Redbreast? Could that be? Finish: medium, still fruity, with a wee salty touch, as in some margaritas (I’ve heard that’s controversial). Comments: another super-good one, one that’s a wee tad easier than others. Ben Bushmills?
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1997/2016 (51.9%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon)

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1997/2016 (51.9%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: classic, yet perhaps the waxier of them all this far. Vanilla, candlewax, citrons, chalk, oysters, menthol, pine resin, lemon juice… Well, this is pretty perfect. With water: fresh concrete and lime juice, what’s nicer in the nose of any malt whisky? Hints of raw wool. Mouth (neat): extremely precise, perfect. Riesling, shoe polish, lemon juice, chalk, white pepper, sesame… With water: really excellent, fresh, mildly brine-y, with some ashes in the aftertaste. Finish: long, a tad spicier. White pepper. Comments: another very excellent Ben Nevis, and a true liquid treasure indeed.
SGP:452 - 88 points.

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1996/2014 (50.8%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead)

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1996/2014 (50.8%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s smokier again. Smoked bread, chalk, a little ink, bicycle inner tube (works with cars and motorcycles too), Woolite… With water: gets much more ‘wooly’. New magazines, papers, new pullover… Mouth (neat): ah, a tropical one again on the palate. Passion fruits, chalk, grapefruits, pink bananas… This one’s really perfect! With water: our beloved multi-vitamin fruit juice, plus some crushed chalk. Very excellent. Finish: medium, perfect, between mangos and chalk. Pink grapefruits in the aftertaste. Comments: sehr gut. I mean, extremely good. I know, I took my time…
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Ben Nevis 20 yo 1996/2017 (52.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland and La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt, cask #1531)

Ben Nevis 20 yo 1996/2017 (52.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland and La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt, cask #1531) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: there was another one that was having notes of rum, can’t remember which one, but this has also hints of oak-aged Williams pear eau-de-vie (only a few makers do that), other than that it’s a meatier, wilder Ben Nevis, but that may be the cask. Tobacco and strawberries, that’s not very common. With water: more classic, on earth, clay, flints, dough, hessian… Pears are gone for good once water’s been added. Mouth (neat): another very Bushmills-y one, but it’s really got a lot of strawberries, especially strawberry yoghurt as they make them in the UK. Really, try some UK yoghurt and some French yoghurt side by side, it’s not the same thing at all. But yeah, digressing again… With water: fruits and limestone, plus rosehip tea. First time we’re finding rosehip in these BNs. Finish: medium, rather more on various herbal teas. Some raisins coming through (UR late boys). The aftertaste is a tad rougher and more indefinite (loses one point, there!) Comments: a restless Ben Nevis that hyperreacts to even half a drop of Vittel (or any other proper waters). Really fun, and really very good.
SGP:542 - 88 points.

All right, I had thought we’d manage to try them all, but as I said right yesterday, Ben Nevis can be a little tiring when you try to have many of them in a row. So, tomorrow’s another day…

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


June 27, 2018


Ben Nevis is on

Ben Nevis is one of those names that have gained much more traction within the last five or ten years, thanks to a characterful distillate and, perhaps, to some more moderate marketing. Let’s have a rather large bag, from various periods…

Ben Nevis 4 yo 2012/2017 (45%, Whisky and Rhum, Golden Barley, hogshead, cask #2044, 2018)

Ben Nevis 4 yo 2012/2017 (45%, Whisky and Rhum, Golden Barley, hogshead, cask #2044, 2018) Three stars and a half
We know others, especially most if not all distillery owners, would have released this baby as a NAS whisky. So, kudos! Colour: almost white. Nose: this would only work with distinctive distillates, and probably not with, say some average Speysiders. Sweet bread, dough, crushed bananas, then pears and cherries, then barley water, whiffs of asparagus, paraffin, plus some kind of spicy yoghurt sauce, Turkish-style. Pleasant presence. Mouth: a rather bitter and firm arrival, on green pepper and lime juice, then some drying ashes and a feeling of ground cinnamon, before more lemon kicks in, with a funny mojito-y side (which would involve mint leaves, naturally). Finish: medium, fresh, rather herbal and peppery. The lemon and the pears are back in the aftertaste, and would come with a salty touch. Comments: a natural fresh youngster that I really enjoy. Nice to be so close to the distillate.
SGP:362 - 83 points.

Ben Nevis 10 yo 1996/2007 (46%, OB, single cask, 700 bottles)

Ben Nevis 10 yo 1996/2007 (46%, OB, single cask, 700 bottles) Five stars
Some bottles that have been kept at the distillery for years before they released them last year or the year before. Colour: straw. Nose: better polished, obviously, more mineral, flinty, chalky… So in a way, more ‘Ben Nevis’, with also more grapefruit and old hessian. Seaside air. Perfect nose! Mouth: it’s really powerful, extremely zesty, tense, flinty, almost sharp… More chalk and lemon, a little shoe polish, riesling, clay, plasticine, soot… Really wonderful and unlike any other malt whisky – and if there was one that would be Springbank (and affiliated makes), naturally. Finish: long, impeccably lemony and mineral. Exceptional spirit. Comments: I have the current official 10 at 89 points, and like this impressive young single cask even better!
SGP:452 - 90 points.

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1997/2016 (48.6%, Maltbarn)

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1997/2016 (48.6%, Maltbarn) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: same ballpark, with maybe a little more putty, plasticine, bicycle inner tube, fresh bread, a little fudge… After all, we’re more or less somewhere between the 2012 and the 1996. Mouth: excellent! Lemon sweets, crystallised angelica, chalk, grapefruits, green pepper, a touch of Japanese seaweed (nori, right?) and perhaps one tiny mussel, then this very peculiar sootiness… All good. Finish: rather long, very chalky/ashy, but once again, the lemon’s back in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s not often that I’m finding official bottlings better than their independent counterparts, but that’s what’s happening so far. Oh, of course that means nothing, and indeed this 1997 is just superb as well…
SGP:452 - 88 points.

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2017 (49.8%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill butt, cask #11767, 583 bottles)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2017 (49.8%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill butt, cask #11767, 583 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: similar, naturally, but this time the refill sherry butt seems to have imparted added notes of… rum. I’m thinking of Guyana’s Enmore. Other than that, we have this plasticine-y, chalky, almost rubbery style that works so well. With water: back to pure Bennevisness. Mouth (neat): perfect. Lemon, flints, riesling, chalk, putty, a touch of iodine, and basta. With water: same. Perhaps a few greener notes, perhaps a little more rubber, tonic water, cinchona, chicory… Finish: rather long, a tad bitter now. Comments: superb, only the finish was a little less immaculate.
SGP:462 - 86 points.

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1999/2018 (51.7%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask#18-1901, 278 bottles)

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1999/2018 (51.7%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask#18-1901, 278 bottles) Four stars and a half
Given this colour, this may have been a recharred hoggie. Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is something else, for we’re finding many more walnuts this time, old metal polish, camphor, mocha, sodium glutamate, raw chocolate, cigars… All this combines perfectly well with Ben Nevis’s potent style, so all is great. With water: hessian and damp plaster and concrete. Very basementy (ha-ha). Mouth (neat): lemons and grapefruits are having the upper hand this time. Then we have green pepper, chalk as usual, coriander, walnuts, tobacco, cocoa powder… With water: water tends to make it drier, but some blood oranges have arrived at the fruit department. Some mint too. Finish: rather long, with more cinnamon, black tea, dry walnut cordial… Comments: a variation, I would say. Those are usually to be seen at the owners, having said that. Very good if a tad challenging at time.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Ben Nevis being a rather heavy spirit, it’s not that easy to have many in a row. So, let’s call this a session and see if we find more of them tomorrow (of course we will).

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


June 26, 2018


A little bag of high-class Glenlivet,
part two

We knew this was coming.... And first, a new aperitif!

Glenlivet 15 yo (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label, +/-1975)

Glenlivet 15 yo (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed label, +/-1975) Four stars and a half
A famous livery that’s always charmed us all. The whiskies ain’t bad either. Colour: golden amber. Nose: something a wee tad metallic at first (old tin box, old kettle), then many walnuts, old boxes of pipe tobacco, and chocolates. More classic than this couldn’t possibly exist. With water: more towards cocoa powder and earth. Wandering throughout a warehouse in Jerez, very near the oloroso soleras. Mouth (neat): massive whisky, starting right on chocolate and oranges (and Jaffa cakes), going on with many roasted nuts (peanuts and pecans first), and getting then rather meatier and almost umami-esque. Malt extracts, Maggi, black pepper… With water: very good, even meatier, with notes of salty bouillon and bone marrow. Finish: long, perfectly dry, which is, erm, perfect. Comments: in my experience not all batches were perfect, but this one nearly was. Unless it’s bottle aging that worked its magic.
SGP:362 - 89 points.

Glenlivet 20 yo 1995/2016 (58.9%, Signatory Vintage, for Taiwan, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #166948, 548 bottles)

Glenlivet 20 yo 1995/2016 (58.9%, Signatory Vintage, for Taiwan, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #166948, 548 bottles) Four stars and a half
Oh well, didn’t we have a sister cask just tomorrow? Perhaps should we have tried both together, my bad. Colour: amber. Nose: classic middle)aged sherried Genlivet from Signatory’s racing team. Perfect sherry with a wee Armagnacness, good meats, moderate (and pleasant in this context) sulphuriness, cigars, roasted argan seeds, parsley, bouillon again, English brown sauce (with apologies to our friends in Scotland)… With water: lovely notes of caraway and perhaps even ginger, very different from the ‘vulgar’ ones that you could find in many ‘oak-doped’ youngsters. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, all on Seville oranges, bitter chocolate, a touch of kid’s toothpaste (or Toplexil, or kid’s cough syrup), Cointreau, cloves, cumin liqueur… Exactly as expected. Very good. With water: liqueur-filled chocolate and Szechuan pepper. Finish: same for quite a long time. Comments: excellent, and not that different from the old G&M, just a notch sweeter and spicier.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Glenlivet 34 yo 1979/2014 (49.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Lung Family, cask #19560)

Glenlivet 34 yo 1979/2014 (49.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Lung Family, cask #19560) Four stars
Comes with an interesting very pale colour at nearly 35 years of age. Colour: white wine (really). Nose: very fresh, very orchardy, and very easy. Apples, pears, gooseberries, melons, a wee touch of mint, a hint of fresh coriander, a drop of barley water, perhaps a thimble of sesame oil, another one of orange juice, and yet another one of pineapple juice… Mouth: it’s just that the spirit was possibly a tad too delicate to stand the extra-age, even if the cask was probably quite shy. You feel some slightly dusty and ginger oak, sawdust, tea… What’s better is that all the rest is very nice, fresh, fruity as in a fruit salad, and as I wrote hereabove, orchardy. Finish: medium, rather mentholy, and that’s the oak. Pinesap, spearmint, tonic water and ginger in the aftertaste… Comments: a tad fragile, I would say, but still on the better side of the fence.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Glenlivet 36 yo 1981/2018 (47.6%, Signatory Vintage, The Whisky Exchange, sherry butt, cask #12, 702 bottles)

Glenlivet 36 yo 1981/2018 (47.6%, Signatory Vintage, The Whisky Exchange, sherry butt, cask #12, 702 bottles) Four stars and a half
This brand new baby (that’s the reason why we’ve added a second part to this session, actually) was ‘hand picked’ by our friends at the Whisky Exchange. I’d wager you could ‘hand pick’ from a spreadsheet too, but doing some cask crawling in Edradour’s warehouses may well bring you more fun. Colour: amber. Nose: there is a touch of cumin, caraway, or long-forgotten East German kraüterlikör at first nosing, but chestnut purée, prunes, milk chocolate, cinnamon rolls, dates and blackcurrants are soon to take over.  Some pipe tobacco too, Scottish oxtail soup, Marmi… not! Mouth: rather sweeter, and even a tad zesty, with some tangerine marmalade, perhaps, figs, tobacco, a mild pepperiness, and more chocolate after a short while. Once again old Armagnac isn’t far away. Finish: long, spicier, and that would be oak spices, naturally. Cloves, pepper, cinnamon, a wee bit of salted liquorice, nutmeg, more cinnamon… Comments: excellent! I guess you could say it’s got a wee tad ‘oaky’, but everything remained perfect. There are even echoes of Korean prune wine ( the correct name escapes me).
SGP:561 - 89 points.

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


June 25, 2018


A little bag of high-class Glenlivet

Long time no Glenlivet on WF, which, I agree,  is just unacceptable. Let’s react sensibly… yet at random!

Glenlivet 18 yo 1997/2016 (49.4%, OB, Distillery Reserve, casks #107411-14, 92965-66, 516 bottles)

Glenlivet 18 yo 1997/2016 (49.4%, OB, Distillery Reserve, casks #107411-14, 92965-66, 516 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one from the very discreet yet official ‘Distillery Reserve’ collection from Chivas Brothers’. We’ve had some very good ones in the past. Colour: white wine. Nose: totally on sweet barley and a large fruit salad, plus drops of light acacia honey. It’s the kind of fresh combo that works particularly well, thanks to these notes of fresh bananas, apples, perhaps mangos, honey as we said, and then biscuits. Ultra-classic. Mouth: really very good, with a little more vanilla this time, but always this soft, seductive honey, as well as the aforementioned preserved fruits. Rather love this. Finish: medium, superbly honeyed. Perfect chalkier signature, with a drop of absinth. Comments: Glenlivet au naturel, a fantastic distillate from some fantastic not-too-active-and-yet-active casks. More of this please!
SGP:641 - 89 points.

Glenlivet 20 yo 1995/2016 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage, for Taiwan, 1st fill sherry butt, cask # 166956, 564 bottles)

Glenlivet 20 yo 1995/2016 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage, for Taiwan, 1st fill sherry butt, cask # 166956, 564 bottles) Five stars
We’ve already tried many very good sherried ‘livets by SV. Colour: full gold. Nose: typical, a tad wobbly at first, with some paraffin, two struck matches and even a touch of soap (Cadum!), but that’s before many roasted nuts, chocolate, raisins and even a pack of Mars bars show up. Very nice whiffs of mocha as well. With water: leather and Cuban tobacco, that was to be expected. Mouth (neat): fantastic. Walnut wine, oloroso, black pepper, bitter chocolate, retsina, bitter oranges, black tea, umami and miso, chestnut honey… But boy is this thick! With water: great. Oranges, leather, Cointreau, honeydew, mead, and indeed and once again, that strange thing our friends the Scots seem to have a real love affair with, tah-da… Mars bars! Finish: long, thick honeyed, excellent. Oranges winning it, always the best outcome with these kinds of profiles – in my book, at least. Comments: they sure do them well – and I guess quite a few friends over there in Taiwan have done some blind tasting sessions with this kind of ‘livet and some sherried Kavalans. So, which one won?
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Glenlivet 11 yo 2006/2017 (63.5%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Barrel, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #900552, 316 bottles)

Glenlivet 11 yo 2006/2017 (63.5%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Barrel, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #900552, 316 bottles) Five stars
What, 63.5% vol.? Assassination attempt on a humble whisky blogger, that’ll cost them a lot of money! And I love it that they’ve put this into the Un-Chillfiltered Collection – not sure there’s any merits here… Colour: amber. Nose: very, and I mean very similar, just a tad bigger, without being un-nose-able. With water: earth! Mother earth! Fantastic development, and those Cubans should be mentioned again. I mean, cigars. Mouth (neat): excellent, just really huge. But just excellent. Love this, it’s malt whisky as we’ve always known it, and older Macallans couldn’t and shouldn’t not get mentioned at this point. Marmalade, raisins, chocolate, and barrows of walnuts, fresh and old. With water: impeccable, fresher, orange-y, extremely good. Finish: same. Earthy, honeyed, tobacco-y orange marmalade. Comments: when you think of all the older bottlings that have ‘built’ malt’s reputation, especially in Italy, you cannot escape the fact that they were all more or less… like this.
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Glenlivet 1973/1984 (61%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #2.2)

Glenlivet 1973/1984 (61%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #2.2) Four stars and a half
Indeed one of the very early SMWSs. Colour: amber. Nose: wonderful arrival full of honey and raisins, cakes, figs, prunes, and then rather mushrooms, also with a little camphor. You cannot not think of some older Armagnac. With water: more spices, especially cloves. Mouth (neat): rather massive and mentholy, with loads of liquorice as well as Zante currants and Mars bars (not deep fried this time). With water: some nice marmalade and a little fudge, with a rounder profile altogether. Finish: long, earthier, with a rather peppery aftertaste that came unexpected. Comments: very good, but it needs water to get appropriately civilised on your palate.
SGP:461 – 88 points.

Glenlivet 1950-1994/2017 ‘solera’ (48.3%, Thompson Bros)

Glenlivet 1950-1994/2017 ‘solera’ (48.3%, Thompson Bros) Five stars
So a cask of 1950 topped-up (rather than solera-ed, but why argue) until 1994, then disgorged into flagons, then bottled in proper, well, bottles by the rather spirited Thompson Bros of Dornoch fame last year. Colour: gold. Nose: why is it that distillates from the 1950s and 1960s were much more ‘tropical’ than anything distilled from the 1970s on? In this case, imagine some kind of papaya and mango juice, to which some mad professor would have added camphor, mint, sap, brine (yes), peat (yes), and a good glass of old Sauternes. A perfect nose, incredibly fragrant and fresh. Now the question is, did the original owner top-up the cask only with Glenlivet, or did he add just any malt whisky, like… 1960s Laphroaig? Mouth: really, could this be 100% Glenlivet? Not sure anyone could find out, and should care for that matter, but there’s a coastal side to this, a smokiness, and a hugely complex phenolic combination that just isn’t 100% Glenlivet. But it's brilliant whisky, and there’s even a wee clay-y side that have stemmed from the flagons, whether those had been appropriately glazed or not. Finish: medium, but fantastically tropical, honeyed, fresh, and sappy/smoky. Comments: sometimes you love it when some dram remains partly mysterious. To hell with computers and barcodes! (that was very impressive, S.)
SGP:662 - 92 points.

No other ‘livet would climb over that one, so I’d say ite session est.

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


June 24, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
An education at Grosperrin   
You can cram a lot into two days it turns out. With good friends I’ve just had an eye opening experience in Cognac where I was able to taste some remarkable examples of this tightly regulated, often underrated spirit. Including everything from ancient samples from the depths of the early 19th century, to recent big name bottlings which seek to chase - rather sadly in my view - this perceived market for American oak doped spirits.


It’s been quite a brain-cramming couple of days. For example, I never knew that prior to the prevalence of Boisé or sugar the common additive to Cognac was Rhum Agricole. Indeed, we tasted some stunning examples of old Rhums from the 19th century and some, admittedly less stunning but undeniably fascinating, Cognacs from the same era which had been sweetened with Rhum.  


Warehouse at Grosperrin


We had a terrific and illuminating visit at Martell at one end of the spectrum, but undoubtedly the most educational experience was spending time at Grosperrin with owner Gilhem Grosperrin. So, rather than a totally cluttered post of notes for all manner of Cognacs old, new and weird, I thought a vertical of some of Grosperrin’s bottlings would be in order. What was most useful was the way we could begin to unpick the ‘voice’ of the terroir from the various crus that compose the Cognac region. When you bottle largely unfiltered, un-sweetened single cask Cognacs at higher, or  natural, strengths the identity of the terroir, and the spirit itself, becomes thrillingly clear and vibrant.  


Fins Bois 2006/2018 (43.9%, Jean Grosperrin, organic) Fins Bois 2006/2018 (43.9%, Jean Grosperrin, organic)
100% folle blanche from a single cask. Colour: Gold. Nose: Ripe pears baked in calvados, caramelised brown sugar and orange peel. Rather resinous but simultaneously pretty fresh and getting more herbal and liqueurish in the glass with air and time. Keeps evolving; now moving more towards a delicate earthiness and nectar like sweetness. Mouth: here you feel the liveliness of youth but there are still the resins, honeys and sweet fruit syrups over more autolytic bready notes which characterised the nose. A nibble of wood spice and a bit of orange liqueur. Finish: Good length, rather on nervous crystallised fruits, lemon peel, wet leaves and sunflower oil. Comments: Excellent young Cognac, treads a neat line between fruits, spices and more resinous, oily aspects. Bottled at a perfect strength as well.
SGP: 541 - 86 points.


Fins Bois 1993/2017 (46.4%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Fins Bois 1993/2017 (46.4%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
100% Ugni Blanc and aged in a humid cellar - a process which helps most Cognacs to show better at younger ages. Colour: Deep gold. Nose: superbly honeyed, full of ripe mirabelle, damsons, yellow flowers, nectar, pollen and even a wee hint of pink lemonade. Some elegant soft earthiness, a little white pepper and some dried tarragon. There’s a sense of fragility to this one and overall it feels older than it is I’d say. Mouth: runny honey, black pepper, lemon oil and more notes of mirabelle - in pristine eau de vie form this time. A little darjeeling tea and  some orange bitters. Finish: long, gently earthy and full of subtle notes of toasted seeds and freshly baked brown bread. Comments: There was more youthfulness in the mouth than on the nose, but with an overall sense of elegance and freshness in the right places.
SGP:551 - 87 points.


Fins Bois 1983/2016 (48.5%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Fins Bois 1983/2016 (48.5%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
This one was aged in a dry cellar, a process which takes more time to gain maturity and complexity but you gain more of these qualities when they eventually arrive. Colour: bright gold. Nose: Much more brightly polished on the nose. Still many yellow flowers, pollens and nectars but also varnished hardwoods and old furniture. Some more unusual scents of face creams, talcum powder and then precious hardwood shavings, warm rosewood and sultanas. Continues with meads, aged Sauternes and sweet muscat. Rather concentrated and quite beautiful I think. Mouth: We’re moving into these wonderfully supple tobacco territories that Cognac begins to develop with age (although if you ask any serious Cognac people they would say this was still considered young). Buttered brioche, a touch of soot, some earthen floor and more notes of aged mead and assorted citrus oils. Finish: Medium in length and with a sweet, stewed dark fruit quality in the aftertaste. Comments: We’re beginning to fly pretty high with these older single casks. Cognac really sings at higher strengths and without any excessive sugar dosing or filtration I think.
SGP: 561 - 89 points.


Petite Champagne 1982/2017 (46.3%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Petite Champagne 1982/2017 (46.3%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Colour: Gold. Nose: What’s remarkable is that after the first three you start to get a sense of the DNA of the Fins Bois cru - all one honeys, resinous fruits and a rather silky earthiness. So, it’s quite remarkable how jarring it is to move to Petite Champagne; this is really lighter, leaner and more subtle. There’s this leafy and slightly minty edge with a touch of crushed aspirin about it which almost suggests an austere aspect. Toasted sunflower seeds, some pollen and a little mineral oil. Although, with time there is a faintly waxy edge emerging. Elegant but also slightly elusive. Mouth: Arrival is slightly tart and rather crisp - on ripe gooseberry, lime oil, soot, a little hessian sackcloth and some muesli. Pressed wildflowers, sunflower oil, grapefruit peel and some rather sharp lemon curd. Finish: Good length, all on burnt toast, demerara sugar, wet leaf and a resurgent mineral quality. Comments: A different style, perhaps a little more straight and uncompromising. For some palates probably more challenging, although I find it has plenty of charm.
SGP: 351 - 85 points.


Petite Champagne 1974/2016 (47.8%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)

Petite Champagne 1974/2016 (47.8%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Let’s further explore Petite Champagne if that’s ok... Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Pow! If you distilled some honey and blended in a box of freshly baked croissant then added a few fistfuls of sultans and lightly burned currants you’d be approaching this rather dense and lovely aroma. There’s also a slightly funky earthy quality that alludes to leathery and annimalistic qualities. Many stewed dark fruits, soot and lots of full-bodied cigars and rancio. Mouth: Pear tart tatin, more stewed dark fruits such as figs and dates, a hint of motor oil, some walnut skins and a touch of herb liqueur. Wonderful, syrupy density and punch. Continues with notes of marc de gewurz and lychee. Finish: Long and resinous with a lean earthiness and some candied nuts and citrus peels. Comments: As we say in Scotland: Braw! It seems that Petite Champagne, like is Grande sibling, needs plenty time in the cask to really blossom.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.



Petite Champagne 1973/2016 (60.3%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Petite Champagne 1973/2016 (60.3%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Serge already wrote notes for the reduced strength (48.5%) version of this one, let’s see how it behaves at natural cask strength... Colour: pale amber. Nose: We are in real malternative country here. You could almost think there was some malt distillate in the depths. There’s a savoury quality, pumpernickel bread, toasted seeds, trail mix, polished hardwood, furniture wax, nutmeg and ginger biscuits. With time to open it begins to reveal a more classical fruity side - lots of mirabelle, a little ripe melon and some baked green apples. A really wonderful complexity at play here, with many tertiary earthy and rancio qualities. A hint of some old dessert wine as well. Mouth: big, punchy, hugely polished, all on boot and furniture polish, tiger balm and tangerine peel. Lots of caramelised brown sugar, lamp oil, earthen floor and coal dust. Touches of sandalwood, poire williams and lime jelly. Finish: Long, superbly resinous, nervously spicy and beautifully crisp and drying. Comments: A total powerhouse, about as far away from standard, sweetened commercial Cognacs - even older ones - as it’s possible to get. Oh, and terrific as well.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.


Grande Champagne 1972/2013 (55.4%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Grande Champagne 1972/2013 (55.4%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
On to some Grande Champagne now, often thought of as the kind of ‘top’ cru of Cognac, although most producers/brokers will dismiss this as a myth. It’s often considered dull at younger ages and in need of significant age before it really starts to sing. Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Leathery and earthy which seems to be pretty textbook for Grande Champagne. Lots of waxes, balms, rancio, a little milk chocolate, vapour rub and a touch of natural tar liqueur. Feels rather dense on the nose, which I quite like. Mouth: a big bag of leaf mulch, sultanas, dates, pipe tobacco, rancio and sooty earth. Quite lemony and melony as well with more ripe mirabelle, dried raspberries and guava emerging in time. Finish: Long, bready, oily and with a spicy, leathery quality that verges even on lightly meaty at times. Comments: Great, high flying Cognac. Maybe not quite as stellar as the 73 Petite Champagne but, for a heavier, slightly simpler style, it’s pretty exemplary.
SGP: 461 - 88 points.


  Fins Bois 1968/2018 (55.3%, Jean Grosperrin, two casks)
No image of this one yet I’m afraid as the bottles are yet to be labelled, but, I’m sure you can imagine. It should be available in 2-3 months time. Colour: Amber. A beehive! Really a pure cavalcade of delicate waxes, polished hardwoods, honeycomb, runny honey, aged meads, nectars, pollens, old Glen Grant, 1972 Caperdonich, etc... pure aromatic harmony. Continues with a generous lump of quince jelly, chamomile, bergamot, tropical fruit syrups and jellies, magnificently textured and densely packed with fruit aromas. Really, given blind you could mistake this for a pristine 40 year old Glen Grant or similar. Mouth: Magnificent! Wood oils, boot polish, cola syrup, mead, mint jelly, lime oil, soot, rancio, prune juice... one of these profiles that just keeps on giving and developing and throwing up all manner of wee flavours. In time it becomes slightly mushroomy and moves back towards earthiness and a kind of peppery honey profile. Finish: Long, hugely resinous, honeyed, rancio, earthy and spicy. Comments: We’re hitting our stride now. Totally fantastic old Cognac that really demolishes many old malt whiskies.
SGP: 651 - 92 points.


  Fins Bois 1958/2017 (41.1%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Colour: Amber. Nose: Freshly baked breads, liquorice, coconut, candied citrus peels, ointment, damp earth and straw. Unsurprisingly rather delicate, mushroomy, earthy and with more than a little rancio and soft dark fruit jams. Mouth: a creamy earthiness, more jams - damson, gooseberry, strawberry - golden syrup and some umami and black olive notes. Rather dry and full of aged tobacco, old riesling and dried wildflowers. Finish: Surprisingly good length with hints of eucalyptus resins, dried sage, runny honey and blood orange. Comments: Short and sweet - well, apart from the dry bits (oh, shut up Angus). But again we’re flying pretty high. As Emmanuel points out, this is the perfect cigar accompaniment. I really love it, a perfectly balanced old Cognac.
SGP: 551 - 90 points.


  Grande Champagne 1933/2018 (46%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Another new bottling that should be available in the coming months. Colour: Amber. Nose: the earthiness of Grande Champagne but tamed beautifully by a cavalcade of subtle dark, crytallised and stewed fruits. Lots of fig, prune, date, sultana, lemon rind and orange oil. Some top quality wood aged Grappa, cough syrups, aged muscat and lemon jelly. A wonderfully fragrant, complex and gently exotic nose. A wee slug of very old Chartreuse Jaune and a little sunflower oil. Mouth: Exotic hardwoods, mahogany shavings, lemon and lime jellies, old Cote Rôtie, walnut oil and cherry flavoured medicine. A savoury and wonderfully silky rancio, some black pepper, black olives, dried mixed herbs and a little shaving of white truffle on asparagus. Finish: Thrillingly long and full of runny honey, hardwood resins, rancio, bitter chocolate, green pepper and maraschino. Comments: It’s easy to forget, when you get into your stride with tasting these kinds of old Cognacs, that you are tasting a spirit that has sat in cask for 85 years and has come out the other side vibrant, totally alive, complex and beguilingly beautiful. The price of this one, we are reliably informed, is to be just shy of €500 a bottle. What do you suppose the first 80 year old Macallan will cost in 2020? Or indeed any Scottish whisky of similar age? You can’t help but feel the world of spirits is a tad lopsided...
SGP: 641 - 93 points.


Merci beaucoup Emmanuel and Hitomi  



June 23, 2018




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Single Malts:
three by three
Another trio of threes this week. There seems to be a tidal wave of Highland Park, and to a  slightly lesser degree Bunnahabhain courtesy of the indys (and Edrington I suppose) lately. So we’ll try three of each in an effort to stay on top of things. And we’ll warm up to that with a wee hat trick of Linkwood.


Linkwood 24 yo 1992/2017 (40.8%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, hogshead, cask #14442, 55 bottles) Linkwood 24 yo 1992/2017 (40.8%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, hogshead, cask #14442, 55 bottles)
Colour: Pale gold. Nose: Ooh, a lovely mix of tinned peaches, custard creams, hessian sackcloth, some waxy cereals, barley water and some overripe green fruits. There is a slight oxidative sense which tends to come with casks like this which have dropped so close to under strength. Some nice leafy notes after a while along with some runny honey, chive butter and wax lemon rind. Mouth: here you feel the softness but its still got plenty of charm, fruits, soft waxes, spices, quince, pine resin, some satsuma peel, blood orange and  a little lanolin. Highly quaffable, as they say. Finish: a tad short, as you might expect, but with some lovely lingering notes of unlit cigars, cough syrups and even a hint of rancio. Very lovely. Comments: A relatively simple Linkwood but one that’s eminently drinkable and full of pretty delicious flavours. A good thing they caught this one in time.
SGP: 551 - 87 points.


Linkwood 26 yo 1983/2010 (53.1%, Braunstein for DFDS Seaways 150th Anniversary) Linkwood 26 yo 1983/2010 (53.1%, Braunstein for DFDS Seaways 150th Anniversary)
It seems that there are occasionally some interesting bottlings to be found if you’re traversing the oceans between Newcastle and Amsterdam. Mind you, this was bottled back in 2010, late doesn’t even cover it... Colour: gold. Nose: butter biscuits, honeyed porridge, sunflowers, crayons, acrylic paints, muesli, plain almonds and some crushed digestives. A little milky English breakfast tea as well. Rather elegant and lovely. Plenty of fresh garden fruits - gooseberries, apples, rhubarb, yellow plums. With water: pollen and a vase of mixed flowers, geraniums in a warm greenhouse etc... the gooseberries are back and someone has made them into jam. Mouth: buttery again but more towards cereals now, an easy, well textured delivery. Lots of green apples, freshly poured cider, a touch of soot, some crushed nettles, a little natural vanilla, cornflakes and ginger bread. A hot cross bun dusted with cinnamon. With water: a light camphory side emerges, along with sandalwood, oatmeal, flapjack and lemon barley water. Some orange and lemon peel makes up the fruity side of things. Finish: Medium length and full barley, vanilla sugar, a little orange oil and more biscuits - ginger nuts and rich teas this time. Comments: All very lovely. Ideal for sipping in your cabin while avoiding the stag dos/hen dos/exchange students.
SGP: 541 - 86 points.


Linkwood-Glenlivet 18 yo 1978/1996 (54.6%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection)
Colour: White wine. Nose: We’re in rather different, more typically Cadenhead ‘austere’ territory here. Lots of gravel, chalk, candy floss, nectar, a little beeswax, some very light sootiness, lanolin, cornflour, play dough. The sort of whisky that could easily have found its way into a Rare Malts release. Rather tough and straight laced, if undeniably pure and clean. With water: more gravel, damp soil, hawthorn, some mint leaf, sourdough, crushed aspirin. It’s a bit tough really. Mouth: soft earths, wild mushrooms, dried sage, tarragon, sautéed shallots, stuffing. Morels, oatmeal and chicken stock. All rather unusual and savoury. With water: a few white fruits, a peach stone or two, almond milk, more aspirin, crushed oatcakes, a sprig of rosemary and further chalky notes. Finish: Medium in length with some notes of white baguette, concrete, a little sack cloth and more austere, flinty aspects.  Comments: A tough one. It’s not dirty or obviously flawed, it’s just rather austere, unsexy and unlikely. I’d say ‘intellectual’, but I’m not sure how much there is to discuss here either.
SGP: 351 - 76 points.


On to the Bunnas...  


Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (43.2%, Dornoch Distillery, 208 bottles) Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (43.2%, Thompson Bros, Dornoch Distillery, 208 bottles)
Colour: White wine. Nose: Lots of ripe banana, custard, lemon blossom, oatcakes, honey and a little sea air. Perfect, pristine, mid-aged Bunnahabhain. Gets a little greener with time, more towards garden fruits, ripe apples, a little kiwi and some lime jelly. Even a tiny hint of wax. Mouth: Pure runny honey, porridge oats, peanuts, salted cashews, a drop of mint cordial and lots of lemon oils and balms. A little soft but devastatingly quaffable at this strength. Finish: A tad short perhaps but still wonderfully malty and honeyed. Comments: Quick and easy. There is a sense that perhaps the whisky is over the hill a little at this age and strength but it remains unequivocally Bunnahabhain and superbly easy and drinkable. The palate just lacked a little oomph to make it all the way up to 90 in my book.
SGP: 541 - 88 points.


Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (45.1%, Berry Brothers, hogshead, cask #6087)
Bunnahabhain 28 yo 1989/2018 (45.1%, Berry Brothers, hogshead, cask #6087)
Colour: straw. Nose: superb freshness at first and a strikingly chiselled, mineral and honeyed profile - you could be nosing a perfectly-aged Loire Chenin. Really quite different from the Dornoch bottling. Wee hints of chalk, camphor, capers, lemon oil and fruits in the form of ripe melon and guava. Lime cheesecake, aspirin and a sooty old coal hearth. What’s not to love... Mouth: feels younger with this big, boisterous arrival on salted peanuts, lemon rind, beach pebbles, tangerine peel and smoky minerality. Some notes of crayfish, oysters and cooked clams gives a nice fishy aspect while there’s also some herbal notes such as dill and dried tarragon. Closer to the Dornoch bottling than on the nose overall but with more oomph. Finish: medium-long with some dry mead, heather ale and wood spice. A little nibble of sandalwood and bonfire smoke. More salted peanuts in the aftertaste; something I find very ‘Bunna-esque’. Comments: I wonder if this came from a cask that previously held a peated whisky? There seems to be some sort of inferred smokiness under the skin of this one. Funny how it really diverged quite a bit from the Dornoch bottling. I hope there are still more of these old Bunna stocks kicking around with the bottlers and brokers. I think most are totally excellent.
SGP: 562 - 89 points.


And now, into the time warp...



Bunnahabhain 39 yo 1960/1999 (43.4%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, sherry, 208 bottles)
Bunnahabhain 39 yo 1960/1999 (43.4%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, sherry, 208 bottles)
Bunnahabhain stopped peating in 1963 so this should be pretty interesting... Colour: Deep amber. Nose: The sherry is dominant at first. Lots of cured meats, cooked ham, salty old Oloroso, walnut wine, damp earthen floor cellars, roasted chestnuts and strong mint tea. There is peat in there but it’s slight and delicate after all this time with the sherry. Gets more and more complex with time displaying aromas of rosehip, natural tar, strawberry wine, bitter mint chocolates and a little fragrant lavender (but not in a 1980s Bowmore way I should add). Even a touch of coal smoke and burning heather arise with patience. Mouth:  very dense syrupy sherry but it’s just about held in check by the earthiness and these ancient, residual peat qualities. I suspect this one was pretty heavily peated when it was young. Notes of coal tar soap, lanolin, maraschino and some rather ancient Cognacs and Rums. There is also a rather splendid sweetness running through it like botrytis, raisins and pomegranate molasses. Finish: Long and lingering with earth, chocolate, dunnage, distant medicine and herbal peat oils. Comments: A real pleasure to taste this one, I’ve always wanted to try it and it doesn’t disappoint. You really feel that there was some peat in there a long time ago and here we are, just catching the echoes of what it has to say. Liquid history indeed. Now, to try the sister cask bottling... one day.
SGP: 553 - 92 points.


Onwards! To Orkney...  


Unnamed Orkney 13 yo 2005/2018 (56.2%, Signatory for Flanders’ Finest Cask Selection, hogshead, 342 bottles)
Unnamed Orkney 13 yo 2005/2018 (56.2%, Signatory for Flanders’ Finest Cask Selection, hogshead, 342 bottles)
Colour: Pale gold. Nose: It’s one of these HPs that treads a wonderful tightrope between smoky minerality, barley sweetness and seashore freshness. A wonderfully pure expression of the distillery character. I find lots of burning hay, heather ale, preserved lemon and a kind of dry waxiness. Everything’s rather excellent I must say. With water: takes on an earthier quality with gauze, heather smoke and dried herbs. Mouth: Pow! Beautiful, mineral, gently herbal Orcadian peat. Bonfire ash, sandalwood smoke, lemon skins, wax, a little hessian cloth. Wonderfully pure, unadulterated Highland Park! Continues with many beach pebbles, chalk and white flowers. With water: a smoky bacon edge. Then more lemony aspects, white stone fruits, lychee, rose petals and eventually some rather punchy sootiness. Finish: Long, waxy, coastal and with lots of lingering soft heathery peats. Comments: I just love these very pure, unfussy HPs that many indys are coming out with right now. Not all are stellar but some, like this one, are just stellar. Goes to show just how amazing Highland Park’s distillate still is when un-tampered with.
SGP: 563 - 90 points.


Orkney Islands 18 yo 1999/2018 (52.7%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, cask #30) Orkney Islands 18 yo 1999/2018 (52.7%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, cask #30)
Colour: Straw. Nose: A little closed and rather chalky at first. Lots of flints, pebbles, limestone, paint and other mineral-leaning qualities. With a few minutes to open up it develops along a rather fresh and coastal line. Hints of seawater, a very light waxiness, olive oil and a suggestion of old inkwells and carbon paper. A more subtle HP overall but one that still displays a healthy sense of ‘Orkneyness’. Get’s more lemony and very subtly peaty with further time in the glass. With water: still feels quite soft. More towards white flowers, grass, sea air and gravel. Mouth: a surprisingly oily and dense arrival. Some waxed lemons, a wee slug of brine, mussels in white wine, parsley, anchovy, black olive and a few spoonfuls of mineral oil. Various white fish and peppered mackerel as well. With water: various types of soot, earth, some fruity chilli pepper, tiger balm and a little limoncello. Finish: good length. All on soft ashes, tree bark, green peppercorns in brine and some freshly poured heather ale. Comments: Another excellent, totally naked Highland Park (probably). Perhaps a tad too simplistic.
SGP: 452 - 87 points.


As with the Bunna, let’s try an older one. Just for fun.  


Highland Park 8 yo half bottle (100 proof, G&M, mid-1970s) Highland Park 8 yo half bottle (100 proof, G&M, mid-1970s)
This one came with a price tag of £4,06p on the capsule. I’m not sure the auction house I bought it from noticed... Colour: Gold. Nose: a pristine mix of seawater, kerosine, paraffin, herbal ointments and soft, earthy peats. Highland Park in other words I suppose. You might also add some ink, carbon paper, warm croissant, apricot jam and heather honey. Totally beautiful, old school HP! With water: many dried herbs now along with black olives, capers and a good slug of brine. Mouth: Extremely medical on the palate, lots of mercurochrome, iodine tablets, zinc, various ointments, tea tree oil, wood resins, herbal peat smoke and a little natural tar extract. A very dense, oily and almost sticky style. Almost possesses the tarry and ropey texture of some old Ardbegs. With water: a leafier style of smokiness emerges with water along with some citrons, lemon wax and salty beach pebbles. Superb! Finish: Long, lemony, with light wood ashes, soft peats, herbs, heather ale, soot, minerals and wax. Comments: Not sure how many variants or batches there were of these old 100 proof HPs by G&M, but I’ve yet to find a dud. This one was wonderful and the very definition of a whisky that recalls its place of origin.
SGP: 563 - 92 points.



June 22, 2018


Some mad North Port (Brechin!)

Possibly one of the most useless sessions this year, but I never thought I’d be able to build another proper North Port line-up, since it’s one of the old closed distilleries that almost everyone’s forgotten about. Some anti-Port Ellen or Brora, in a way, but we’ll only have four of them on the tasting table, and no new one, unfortunately. I know, that’s weak…

North Port-Brechin 1970/1990 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

North Port-Brechin 1970/1990 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Three stars and a half
Could be grassy, very grassy… Colour: gold. Nose: well, it’s really light, and it’s relatively mushroomy and musty. Last night’s freshly squeezed apples, old magazines, and a feeling of rainwater in an old bucket in the garden. Shall we call it ‘charming and a little outmoded’? Mouth: same kinds of flavours, with dried porcinis, Caesar’s mushroom powder (my dear wife just found some of that for me – love it), cider, and a camphory maltiness that’s really pleasant. This is almost like tasting some very old white Burgundy. No, not obligatorily a Montrachet, a little Chablis will do. Finish: a little short, as expected, but rather delicate. Comments: or perhaps a really old Meursault?
SGP:351 - 84 points.

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

North Port 23 yo 1971/1995 (54.7%, OB, Rare Malts) Four stars
Ah, how we regret the very classy Rare Malts! Colour: light gold. Nose: a little hard to reach, even austere. Some kind of sooty grass, what remains of a beach bonfire the next morning (not including the empty bottles), whiffs of an old flower bouquet, then rather citrus that’s starting to rot. Just starting. Oh and some white wine again. With water: damp cardboard and old books. Forgotten aromas… Mouth (neat): very good, if rather austere again. Earthy herbs, lemon, roots, tangerines, ashes, and just a pinch of icing sugar to make it, well, a little easier. With water: more fruits (apples) but the sooty/earthy grassiness remains there. Finish: rather long and rather sweeter and maltier. Pot ale. Comments: very un-commercial, I would say, but not quite as challenging as other early Rare Malts. That Glendullan…
SGP:461 - 86 points.

North Port 24 yo 1975/2000 (61.1%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry, cask #2094, 620 bottles)

North Port 24 yo 1975/2000 (61.1%, Signatory Vintage, refill sherry, cask #2094, 620 bottles) Two stars
I really don’t remember this one, but better get ready… Colour: white wine. Nose: this is Cuban aguardiente straight from the still, really. A very grassy sugarcane-iness, then rounder hints of raisins and, well, rum. Bizarre bizarre, how bizarre is this? (Louis Jouvet, come out of this body!) Behind that, old grasses, moss, humus, mushrooms. With water: a bizarre (yes) tarry side, new tyres, bicycle inner tube, brand new Tesla (I’m joking)… Mouth (neat): cough cough! A brutal yet very lemony and grassy arrival, and it would just go on like that for ages. Ages… With water: don’t, just don’t. Leatherette. Finish: rather long, grassy, with fruit peelings, cold green tea… Comments: not an easy one. Rather for the Einsteins of malt whisky?
SGP:561 - 76 points.

North Port 23 yo 1976/2000 (61.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #74.5)

North Port 23 yo 1976/2000 (61.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #74.5) Three stars and a half
This one was named ‘Amazonian forest floor after a Dolly Parton gig’ – I’m joking, they were giving no names to their bottlings, whether silly or not, around the year 2000. Colour: gold. Nose: niiice! Sure it’s as grassy and austere as the others, and indeed it’s both musty and sooty, but it’s got an intriguing depth. Notes of sauvignon blanc, asparagus, turnips, celeriac, lemon, chives, wild leek… With water: damp newspapers, muddy waters (a matter of mojo), mashed potatoes… Mouth (neat): smashes you with its lemons and hits you with earthy vegetables, while rounder and sweeter touches of barley syrup keep it approachable. With water: goody good, gets more citrusy while getting also a little rounder and even a tad syrupy. Some earthy syrups, I would say, saps… Finish: lemons and apple peel, for a rather long time. Rooty aftertaste – the turnips are back, Baldrick! Some unexpected notes of toasted bread and shortbread are there too. Comments: challenging at times, but it’s got this old-school uncertainty that got so deliciously out of fashion. Ha-ha.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Stay tuned for the next North Port (Brechin) session… in a few years.

(Thanks to Greg, Helen, Konstantin, Paul)

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


June 21, 2018


Funny funky Tullibardine

I know, that should rather be funny Valentine, but who would say Tullibardine’s not a ‘funny’ malt whisky? Or at least an adventurous one? Oh let’s have a little fun… And several 1993s – it seems that someone’s recently sold many casks of 1993 to some good indies…

Tullibardine 24 yo 1993/2018 (43.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch bourbon hogshead, 444 bottles)

Tullibardine 24 yo 1993/2018 (43.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch bourbon hogshead, 444 bottles) Four stars
In theory, that would be two hoggies. Pass the yack butter please! Colour: white wine. Nose: I have to say you get accustomed to Tullibardine, to these notes of carbon paper, of English vanilla yoghurt (with all the stuff they add), of engine oil, of custard, of new sneakers… Now this one’s rather gentler than others, it’s almost civilised, I would say. Mouth: very good, and pretty ‘craft’. Porridge, pumpernickel, leaven, turmeric, beetroots, agave syrup (indeed it’s getting pretty sweet), then ginger and ginseng, which ought to come from the wood. The thing is, I’d have said this is 5 years old, should I have tried it blind. Finish: medium, very bready, pretty fermentary/yeasty, and quite spicy. Ginger again. Comments: really odd, if you remember that this is some 24 years old Scottish single malt, but just imagine this is some 3 years old German whisky, and presto, a very high score! Ha, tasting dynamics… What’s sure is that Tullibardine’s back big time, but also that that’s almost 100% thanks to the indies (and probably one particular broker).
SGP:451 - 85 points.

Tullibardine 24 yo 1993/2017 (48.7%, Maltbarn, bourbon)

Tullibardine 24 yo 1993/2017 (48.7%, Maltbarn, bourbon) Four stars
Same territories, I suppose… Colour: white wine. Nose: same territories indeed. Perhaps a little more spicy bread? Wholegrain stuff from the Black Forrest or from the Carpathians? Barnyard? Porridge for sure, grist, oatcakes, and stuff… Mouth: oh, this time it’s a notch fruitier, and a wee tad less bready than the Cad. Other than that, they’re still the Rolling Stones. Finish: rather long, spicier. A lot of nutmeg, and quite a lot of cinnamon. Comments: same ballpark, coming up with a different score would be very superfluous… and, let’s say it, pretentious. But once again, the indies are pushing the name in the direction towards the top. As for the owners, and not unlike many of their colleagues, they should just forget about those unnecessary finishings that do handicap their brand. In my own opinion, as always.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Just to make sure…

Tullibardine 24 yo 1993/2018 (52%, Claxton’s, hogshead, 273 bottles)

Tullibardine 24 yo 1993/2018 (52%, Claxton’s, hogshead, 273 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: of course it’s very similar, what did you expect? Now it’s also got a tenser, more herbal side, which we could almost call ‘mezcally’. I’m even finding lovage and Maggi (wouldn’t that be wheat proteins?) With water: same as the others. Tapioca, bread, porridge, oatcakes… Mouth (neat): same as the others, just bigger, and perhaps a tad dirtier, but what would Tully be without a certain amount of dirtiness? But please note that we haven’t been mentioning gym socks or baby vomit for ages when tasting Tullibardine, and no I won’t regret that. With water: same as the others again. Finish: same. Perhaps a salty touch that wasn’t in the others? Some drying sawdust too, but shh!, that’s just between us. Comments: very good, but maybe will this sawdust in the finish cost this one a lot of points. Say one.
SGP:451 - 84 points.

All right, let’s have one official. But a rare older one…

Tullibardine 21 yo 1970 (45%, OB, +/-1991)

Tullibardine 21 yo 1970 (45%, OB, +/-1991) Three stars
That’s right, this baby isn’t easy to find, but it could be that the whisky’s totally insane and integrally off-the-tracks, let’s see…  Now who’s seen this bottling before? Answer on postcard please… Colour: gold. Nose: what-is-this? The good news is that it’s totally surreal, and different from any other malt whisky known to civilised people much as you and me. Well, you for sure. Old fir liqueurs, angelica, beetroot, green bananas, plantain, some sweeter vegetables (sweet potatoes? Marrow?), then some resins, cellulosic varnish, then more earth, which is just very nice… Well, nutshell, this is intriguingly seductive (oh, S.!) Mouth: what? Another world, between Unicum, Jägermeister and English gravy, with a dollop of chestnut purée and a smidgen of mead. I cannot think of any other Scotch whisky that would be even remotely akin to this one. It’s even excellent, but it would totally lose any contemporary taster. What is this!? Finish: medium, and extremely sappy. Unrecognisable very old wines, and surely pre-war fir liqueurs. Comments: it’s fantastic to be able to try this, for it’s so different, but frankly, it’s almost impossible to score it. A tomato amongst apples.
SGP:551 - 82 points (like).

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


June 20, 2018


A very extreme Benrinnes session

Let’s remember that until the year of 2007, Benrinnes used to be kind of triple-distilled. And yet, upon my miserable experience, Benrinnes is much fatter than, say Auchentoshan (another triple-distilled malt).

Benrinnes 2001/2014 ‘Rhubarb Royale’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 425 bottles)

Benrinnes 2001/2014 ‘Rhubarb Royale’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 425 bottles) Three stars
As it happens, I just adore and cherish rhubarb. So, high hopes there… Colour: white wine. Nose: starts rather sulphury and chalky, gets then a tad fruitier, rather on apples and pears, then, indeed, perhaps kiwis and rhubarb. Acidic fruits. Quite a lot of apple compote too, and always this chalkiness. Mouth: fruitier, very malty, and very flinty indeed. Grass, clay, plasticine, chalk, green apples, then bitter chocolate and ground coffee. Gets really dry. Finish: rather long, grassy, bitter, chalky, with a spoonful of miso in the aftertaste. Also lovage. Comments: not the easiest malt ever, I’d even say it’s pretty austere, although quite characterful. Big chalk.
SGP:362 - 81 points.

Perhaps another one by Wemyss?

Benrinnes 1997/2017 ‘A Liquorice Potion’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 265 bottles)

Benrinnes 1997/2017 ‘A Liquorice Potion’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 265 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this older one’s brighter and fruitier, easier, and frankly nicer. Sulphur was toned down a lot, while we’re finding nice notes of tropical fruits. Mangos, bananas, and passion fruits, then green pears, cherries, melons, and some chalk again, but much less than in the 2001. Mouth: very good, once again easier, quite deep, with an oily side, some green melons, grapefruits, bananas, and wee bit of plasticine (which, I think, is related to sulphur with this very peculiar style). Finish: long, with more pepper, chilli, sweet mustard, and… do you know Ricola? Comments: this one went down easier. It really is a very oily and mineral spirit.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Benrinnes 1997/2017 (46%, Scyfion Choice, Artania cask finish, 226 bottles)

Benrinnes 1997/2017 (46%, Scyfion Choice, Artania cask finish, 226 bottles) Four stars
This one by some friendly Ukrainian independent bottlers who like to use local wine casks to finish their whiskies. It’s to be said that we already tried some very good ones, however unlikely those finishings were. In this case it’s Artania, some kind of red ‘Bordeaux blend’, apparently. Colour: light gold. Nose: no straight red wine that I can get, and that’s just fantastic, rather a typical Benrinnes style similar to that of the 1997 by Wemyss. Granted, I do find wee touches of blackcurrant buds and, perhaps, wine sauce (sauce chasseur – hunter’s sauce) but that’s all fine. Something toffee-ed too. Mouth: success! Sure the arrival may have got a little too much ‘purple crocodiles gummies’ at first, but there’s a very pleasant feeling of ganache, liqueur-filled chocolate, and liquorice cake. Balance is achieved and this is no winey monster, at all. Our Ukrainian friends made it right, apparently. Finish: rather long, and a wee bit earthy, which is very nice. Blackberries, mulberries, cassis, coffee, chocolate… Comments: very well done! Ukraine, 85 points… Right, this is not a song contest.
SGP:661 - 85 points.

Benrinnes 20 yo 1997/2018 (54%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 408 bottles)

Benrinnes 20 yo 1997/2018 (54%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 408 bottles) Four stars
This one from three bourbon hogsheads. Wait, only 400 bottles from three hoggies? Some evaporation may have taken place, usually not a bad sign mind you… Colour: straw. Nose: typical chalky/fruity start, but rather with preserved peaches this time, even preserved pears. That’s a pleasant combination. Gets then a little barley-y and honeyed, with even notes of sugarcane syrup. With water: fresh, and indeed rather chalky. Wet plaster? Mouth (neat): really very fruity, and less mineral this time. Banana and apple skins, grapefruits, then an earthier side, as well as notes of dark pipe tobacco. Eating a bit of tobacco from an untipped Gauloise (that brings back some memories…) With water: same savoury side as in the first Wemyss. Drops of Maggi sauce, perhaps. Other than that, it’s all fruits. Finish: long, on pretty much the same kinds of notes. Which is nice. Comments: it really is a characterful distillate. This bottling also shows the superiority of really small small batches over many single casks. Very good, I think.
SGP:562 - 87 points.

Benrinnes 1997/2016 (50.3%, Beacon Spirits)

Benrinnes 1997/2016 (50.3%, Beacon Spirits) Four stars
Yes, another 1997. And why not? Colour: straw. Nose: pretty much in the style of the Cadenhead, with, perhaps, just an added wee touch of raw barley. Other than that, both whiskies are extremely similar. Which is good, of course. With water: same, very similar if not identical. May I sing you a song?... Mouth (neat): same comment. Perhaps a little more citrus in this one?... No, really, it’s almost the same whisky. With water: so, imagine there’s no heaven, it's easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky… Finish: imagine all the people, living for today... Ah-ah-ah-ha-ha... Comments: you may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one…
SGP:562 – 87 points.

Some younger one, why not…

Benrinnes 10 yo 2006/2017 (58.3%, Adelphi, cask #357, 187 bottles)

Benrinnes 10 yo 2006/2017 (58.3%, Adelphi, cask #357, 187 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one should… rock. Colour: white wine. Nose: acetone, varnish, pears, pineapples, grapefruits, cherries. So indeed, youth. With water: wort, ale, plantains, marshmallows, Morello cherries. Not as odd as it sounds. Mouth (neat): really very fat, and really very excellent. It’s almost hoppy, reminding me of the most extreme Californian IPAs, and indeed, an impeccable fresh yet fat fruitiness. How many vitamins in there? With water: perfect young characterful spirit. It’s always great when you try some spirit that’s not just ‘like all the others’. This is very impressive, really. Finish: long, almondy and waxy, and wax in any finish always means it’s proper malt whisky, not just If you see what I mean… Comments: well done, Adelphi, I guess it wasn’t an easy move to launch a 10 yo, pretty unheard-of Benrinnes. Ben what, again?
SGP:562 - 88 points.

So, 2006… Could that be a star vintage? Let’s double-check that…

Benrinnes 10 yo 2006/2017 (49.1%, North Star Spirits, PX sherry finish, 294 bottles)

Benrinnes 10 yo 2006/2017 (49.1%, North Star Spirits, PX sherry finish, 294 bottles) Three stars and a half
Ouch, a PX finish. Tuner whiskies, as I sometimes say – while being wrong more often than never. But still, PX, to me that’s like a raccoon tail on a car’s rear-view mirror. Sort of… Colour: gold. Nose: okay, the finishing was rather moderate, well-mannered, and self-conscious. Which means that we’re very close to the Adelphi, just a little less ‘pure’, less mineral, and more sultana-y, obviously. But it’s not a PX bomb. Mouth: okay, I surrender. The raisins feel a lot, and indeed you cannot not get the PX and perhaps even moscatel, but this is far from an utter disaster (as seen and experienced elsewhere – of course no names). I guess you’ve heard of the lovely actress Carole Bouquet, so have you ever tried her wine that she makes on the Pantelleria island in Sicily? It’s very similar… Finish: long, thicker, sweet, not sickly so. Phew. Comments: a miracle, PX kind of worked here. Even if, naturally, I prefer my whiskies au naturel (I know, I just tend to ramble)…
SGP:751 - 84 points.

Perhaps some uber-finishing for good measure?

Benrinnes 15 yo ‘Darkness!’ (52.9%, Master of Malts, +/-2015)

Benrinnes 15 yo ‘Darkness!’ (52.9%, Master of Malts, +/-2015) Four stars
This one was boosted using small oloroso-seasoned casks. So it’s a kind of kitchen stunt, I would say. Oh why not, we need more fun in our lives, don’t we! Colour: coffee. Nose: walnut wine, rubber, new tyres, earth, dried porcinis, truffles, dark toffee. There, you get the idea. With water: butterscotch, roasted brazil nuts, and pipe tobacco. Mouth (neat): we’re between brandy de Jerez, Demerara rum, and malt whisky. And it’s good, just pretty extreme. In a way, it’s some kind of much-much-much improved Loch Dhu. Yep. With water: chocolate and coffee up. Reminiscent of Macallan’s first Gran Reservas, but perhaps a little better. Malaga raisins, chocolate liqueur and Kahlua. I hope you get the picture! Finish: very long, and extremely chocolaty. We’re actually rather closer to Macallan’s older Macallan 10 yo 'Cask Strength'. By the way, did you see their impressive new distillery? Hope they’ll manage to make traditional Mac again up there! Without paxarette, naturally… Comments: well done MoM, well done.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

I have to say it’s a good idea to use fat spirits such as Mortlach or Benrinnes to do those, say, ‘experiments’. But let us move on, this is not over…

Benrinnes 20 yo 1995/2016 (51.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #9057, 281 bottles)

Benrinnes 20 yo 1995/2016 (51.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #9057, 281 bottles) Five stars
Colour: straw. Nose: woo-hoo! Celeriac, lovage, turnips, carrots, all that stewed in some honey sauce. Fantastic – unusual, but fantastic. With water: many tiny herbs and wild flowers, that’s superb. Woodruff, elderberry flowers, zucchini flowers, holly eau-de-vie, checkerberry… You couldn’t imagine how much I love all those little things… Mouth (neat): really fantastic. A few gummy notes that aren’t absolutely stunning at first, but what happens next is almost perfect. Plasticine, linseed oil, ‘good’ rubber, apple skin, gooseberries and rhubarb… Really a wonderful fully textured spirit – or, if you like, the exact opposite of grain whisky, if you see what I mean. With water: yep. Maltier. Finish: long, on bitter almonds and more edible waxes. Comments: too bad we’re a little late with this baby (but that’s the story of my life as a ‘whisky blogger’. Gee, whisky bloggers…)… Great whisky!
SGP:562 - 90 points.

Would you like some older vintages? Your wish is my command…

Benrinnes 19 yo 1981/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry cask, 242 bottles)

Benrinnes 19 yo 1981/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry cask, 242 bottles) Five stars
Unless I’m mistaken, this one’s got a reputation, mind you. Colour: deep amber. Nose: oh wow indeed. Mango chutney, cured ham, prunes, quince jelly, cigars, palo cortado, more ham. Very impressive, really. With water: amazing. Akin to those extremely old sherries they would still pour you if you’re being very kind and obliging. Such as XIXth century palo cortados… Mouth (neat): sublime liqueury arrival, on very old chartreuse and many balsamic drinks, while it would go on with cigars, pipe tobaccos, and the most precious black teas. That was some sherry cask, not sure we’ve seen such high quality in recent times (now how they were making those, I wouldn’t dare trying to know…) With water: the best walnuts of earth. This reminds us that proper sherry shouldn’t be sweet. Finish: long, extremely walnutty and cigary. Comments: we all know Douglas Laing were having some utter gems. Ardbegs, for example… and this. Amazing sherried Benrinnes – indeed just like Mortlach, Benrinnes takes good sherry extremely well.
SGP:462 - 92 points.

Where are we? Perhaps try to find other old ones? It seems that I’m in a Benrinnes mood today… But let’s try to find a natural one…

Benrinnes 1979/2000 (57.6%, Scott’s Selection)

Benrinnes 1979/2000 (57.6%, Scott’s Selection) Three stars
Scott’s Selection, but where are they? Colour: straw. Nose: back to the naked style. Chalk, apple peelings, barley, and just one drop of maple syrup, then an unexpected and growing medicinal side, around tincture of iodine and bandages. Which is extremely nice, you could almost believe this is old Laphroaig – partly. With water: well, there are notes of new plastic now. Not as convinced as before… Mouth (neat): chalk and bandages, plus menthol and camphor. Sounds good, but it’s not that easy this time, there’s also a lot of pepper that’s making this baby a tad difficult. Wild, raw, totally un-commercial malt whisky. With water: bitter herbs, resinous stuff, waxy things, oily juices… Finish: long, with more pepper this time. A lot of pepper. Comments: it’s more a fight than a dance. Old style whisky for romantics – no one’s issuing this kind anymore. Mind you, this is the Netflix era.
SGP:362 - 80 points.

Good, we’ve got a lot of other Benrinnes to try, while we haven’t got any other Benrinnes session planned before, say Xmas? So let’s have a few more…

Benrinnes 20 yo 1997/2018 (46%, Signatory Vintage for World of Whisky by Waldhaus, cask #9425, 301 bottles)

Benrinnes 20 yo 1997/2018 (46%, Signatory Vintage for World of Whisky by Waldhaus, cask #9425, 301 bottles) Three stars
Yep this is a bottling for Switzerland. Should be easy… Colour: white wine. Nose: it is easy. Lemon juice, apples juice, kiwis, chalk, plasticine, white bread, no straight sulphur. Mouth: the kind of whisky you could quaff while watching… say the World Cup. Are my neighbours the Swiss on? I hope so! Chalk indeed, limestone, green vegetables, rocket salad, artichokes, malted barley… Actually, it’s not such an easy whisky, with all this greenness. It’s getting almost agave-y, mind you. Finish: long, extremely green. Cucumber, eggplant, apple peelings, more artichokes. That is all kind of sulphury, and that’s well one of the distillate’s main markers. Comments: another fighter that wouldn’t give in so easily, despite the 46% vol.
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Good, a very, and I mean very last Benrinnes. This has been going on for too long.

Benrinnes 17 yo 1997/2016 (57.6%, Vive La Vie, bourbon, cask #815, 194 bottles)

Benrinnes 17 yo 1997/2016 (57.6%, Vive La Vie, bourbon, cask #815, 194 bottles) Four stars
This is a Taiwanese IB. Like it that they like the French language. Colour: straw. Nose: same usual sulphury spirit. Chalk, fusel oil, linseed oil, graphite, bitter cocoa, mocha coffee, and in the background, rather white peaches and green pears, plus vegetables. Turnips again, perhaps, Jerusalem artichokes… With water: mud and textile and raw wool and barley and overripe apples. Mouth (neat): oh very good! Green fruits and calcareous rocks and sands. Very pure style, perfect if you really want to understand Benrinnes. Imagine a blend of all-natural Clynelish, Mortlach, Benromach and Springbank – that would be the half – plus another half made out of any pretty austere Speysider, say Glendullan or Glen Spey. Well, more or less. With water: a tad lighter and fruitier. Apples. Finish: long, a tad more lemony, and partly acetic – some would say a little ‘bacterial’. Which is good in my book. Comments: these are no easy whiskies, but they’ve got some soul.
SGP:362 - 85 points.

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


June 19, 2018


Wee fights, today Glenfiddich

A quick, easy session, with one OB and one IB. That’s right, an independent Glenfiddich.

Glenfiddich ‘The Original’ (40%, OB, 2017)

Glenfiddich ‘The Original’ (40%, OB, 2017) Two stars and a half
Most sadly, I haven’t got any ‘original’ Original at hand, that is to say the ‘Straight Malt’ bottling from the early 1960s, but last time I assessed that one, in 2007, I had thought it was brilliant (WF 91). The hot air machine keeps claiming that that one was ‘the world's first single malt’, but we’ve all seen approx. 100,000 examples of earlier single malts by other makers – and yes, for many foreign markets. Oh well. Anyway, it had been bottled at 43%, whilst this quasi-replica has been reduced to the limit. A bit cheap if you ask me (and yet it’s expensive – and NAS). Colour: straw. Nose: porridge, oatcakes, chalk, malt, grass, cardboard, green oak, lager beer. Pretty unsexy so far, I would say. Mouth: good, malty, rather firmer than the current 12, with some pepper and some green tannins, plus a little marmalade, turmeric, and used tealeaves. Finish: medium, a tad tannic, tea-ish, with the trademark pears in the aftertaste. Comments: fair and good, just not exactly ‘original’. Fifteen points are missing here – but that happened almost everywhere within 40 or 50 years.
SGP:361 - 78 points.

Wardhead 21 yo 1997/2018 (55.5%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead)

Wardhead 21 yo 1997/2018 (55.5%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead) Four stars
As you know, some distilleries are hiring armies of Erasmus students (well, pre-Brexit students) who would carry teaspoons and cans of other malts, and who would pop each and every bung to add a spoonful of that other malt to each cask, so that no one could use the original name anymore, rather the name of a ‘blended malt’. In this case, Wardhead (which is Glenfiddich). Colour: straw. Nose: it’s brighter and fruitier, and rather more ‘Glenfiddich’ (which takes the biscuit, in all senses of that expression). So, biscuits, pear cake, green apples, cherries, green melon, a little ale, hops… It’s no ‘wide’ malt but it’s very clean. With water: gets chalky. Wet plaster, cut grass, bone-dry beer. Mouth (neat): classic fruity/grassy/ale-y profile. Green pepper, green apples, IPA, pears… With water: good! Touches of grapefruits this time, more green tea, bitter beer, green pepper, and rather more straight barley… Finish: medium, herbal, also gets very barley-y and orange-y towards the aftertaste, in a very nice way. Comments: very ‘straight’ this time, and punchier than the OB, even when reduced to 40% vol.
SGP:451 - 85 points.

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


June 18, 2018


A Jurassic session

Isn’t that headline self-explanatory? And we’ll do that in a random fashion, as the ‘J’ box is nearly full these days, and knowing that Jura can be relatively weird (but not as weird as Neymar's haircuts). So, eenie meenie…

Jura ‘Destiny’ (44%, OB, +/-2018)

Jura ‘Destiny’ (44%, OB, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
NAS not cool, 44% vol. cool. So, neutral feelings this far – although you know, Jennifer Rush... Colour: gold. Nose: typical Jura. Tobacco, chicken soup, leather, garden bonfire, curry, earth, dried beef. There is a minty smokiness underneath, which is nice. Mouth: ginger, pumpernickel, leather, pipe tobacco, prunes, marmalade, smoky curry. Feels like they’ve used some smallish casks, or newish oak, or any other modern trick. Some peated malt for sure – or some ex-peater wood, who knows. Finish: long, salty, brothy, meaty. Salted cloves. Comments: good stuff, even if it does feel a tad ‘crafty’, so more a cooper’s whisky, if you see what I mean.
SGP:363 - 79 points.

Jura ‘Superstition’ (43%, OB, +/-2017)

Jura ‘Superstition’ (43%, OB, +/-2017) Three stars
We’re following this expression, trying it every, say, three years. Liked it last time (WF 82). Colour: caramel gold. Nose: almost the same make as that of the Destiny (ta-dah-dah), just tenser and a little cleaner. Or less artificial, whatever that means. Nice sooty smoke and oranges. Mouth: indeed, it’s a brighter Destiny, in a way. I find it better defined, and a tad saltier, with less vulgar wood. Well wood’s always vulgar when you feel it, if you ask me. Finish: medium, fresher than the Destiny (ta-dah-dah – no, really, what a name). In short, better. Right, more to my liking. Comments: this, I could quaff, even if it’s NAS (so rather an unterwhisky in my book).
SGP:363 - 81 points.

Jura ‘Tastival 2017’ (51%, OB, Feis Isle, +/-2017)

Jura ‘Tastival 2017’ (51%, OB, Feis Isle, +/-2017) Two stars
You do not need to tell me I’m at least one year late, okay? You know how many new whiskies there are each and every week, don’t you? As for this packaging, looks like they hired Compass Box’s agency. It all comes in waves, you know… Oh and this has seen Port wood, so very bad news in my book, but you never know… Colour: apricot gold. Ouch. Nose: awkward and clumsy. Strawberries and malt beer. Pass. With water: nicer, much nicer. Earth, smoke, strong black tea. Some nicer aspects. Mouth (neat): no no no no no. Terrible fruit syrups. I’ve got nothing against strawberry liqueur, but not in my whisky. With water: again, water saves it, kind of – well those are the wonders of dilution. But this is still strawberry eau-de-vie, and believe me, strawberry eau-de-vie is one of the worst. That’s why almost no one ever makes any. Finish: medium, weird. Salted strawberries and tobacco, then salted fruits. And we all know that salted fruits will make you… yeah, as you say. Comments: don’t get me wrong, this is acceptable, but you just cannot help asking ‘why?’ Well, even the name, ‘Tastival’, I mean, really!? PS, 2014’s Tastival (LOL) was better in my book (WF 78).
SGP: 572- 72 points.

Good, let’s try to break out of the rut, with some ‘natural’ Jura from the indies’…

Jura 8 yo 2008/2016 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #11088)

Jura 8 yo 2008/2016 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #11088) Three stars and a half
Jura as Mother Nature (and Delmé-Evans) intended, I hope… Colour: almost white. Yay! Nose: ah, there. Sure it’s a tad rough and beery, and perhaps has it got too much yeasty stuff and stuff and things, but that works. There’s some sea air – which you won’t find in any doctored Juras – and there are wild whortleberries, fresh almonds, putty, and just small flat oysters, Brittany-style. Mouth: this will be controversial, and I know I’ll be persona non grata on Jura for good from now on, but I deeply believe that Jura’s part of those distilleries that just slaughter their makes with their very unlikely official bottlings. The problem here is that the natural make is more than superb, and this cheap wee thing by DL is just another proof of that. Great young whisky! Finish: long, peppery, earthy, very coastal. This has depth! Comments: the brand name ‘Provenance’ says it all, dedicated Ardbeggians will understand.
SGP:351 - 84 points.

Isle of Jura 2006/2016 (59.1%, Malts of Scotland, refill sherry butt, cask #16012, 678 bottles)

Isle of Jura 2006/2016 (59.1%, Malts of Scotland, refill sherry butt, cask #16012, 678 bottles) Two stars
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: rotting lemons, that’s what I’m getting. Fresh white bread, baker’s yeast, something vodka-ish, Williams pears, tutti-frutti eau-de-vie (oh rootie). With water: wop bop a loo bop a lop ba ba! Really, it’s very young. Mouth (neat): this is almost newmake. So pear eau-de-vie. With water: indeed. It’s not bad at all, mind you, but it may need (a pile of) crushed ice. Finish: short, harsh, newmake-y. Comments: not quite whisky yet, but on a lot of ice, it’ll work. Seriously, this is pretty immature whisky, while DL’s younger Provenance just slaughters it.
SGP:631 - 71 points.

Older Juras please…

Isle of Jura 22 yo ‘One For The Road’ (47%, OB, +/-2017)

Isle of Jura 22 yo ‘One For The Road’ (47%, OB, +/-2017)
Alert, alert, a Pinot Noir finish! The equivalent to a diesel Aston-Martin! So a very sad bottling, and what’s even sadder is that they’ve issued this to mark the retirement of Distillery Manager Willie Cochrane, who’s such a great guy! Seriously, no comprendo. Pinot Noir, mind you, the thing that will kill just any whisky! But let’s see, you never know… Colour: peachy gold. Nose: utter disaster at first - and this is even weirder than Laphroaig+Port, which says a lot - but indeed these preserved peaches do kind of work a bit later. Other than that, it smells of last year’s grouses and other dead animals, covered with strange jams. Raspberry and stuff. Mouth: better for sure, just too unlikely for me. Cigars in strawberry jam, or something… Netflix whisky, I shall say. Finish: no. I mean, you can’t escape it unless you immediately take two cans of Seven Up – which will further kill you. You see, there’s no way out. Comments: dear Willie Cochrane, I owe you a good dram of Brora – or of proper Jura – or even a bottle! But if I may, why did they do this to you?
SGP:551 - 65 points.

Redemption, please…

Jura 25 yo 1991/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask # HL13274, 168 bottles)

Jura 25 yo 1991/2017 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, cask # HL13274, 168 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: ah, Jura. A stone-y, coastal, slightly medicinal start, with some beach sand, then leaven and other very bready elements, and then more and more fermentary notes. Yoghurt, bananas, grass, apple peelings. With water: muddier, I would say. Mouth (neat): all rather good. A few burnt notes, barbecued fruits, coffee beans, and a kind of salty/malty soup – the kind that our dear English friends seem to enjoy. No I haven’t dared mentioning Marmite. With water: indeed, malt extracts, bread, burnt fruits, salt, and other Jura-y notes. Okay I’ll say It, Jura’s not the easiest malt whisky ever. Finish: harder. Dry and bitter. Comments: not an easy make. After all, good casks seasoned with acceptable ‘sherry’…
SGP: 361 - 77 points.

Let’s get to the bottom of this, for crying out loud!

Jura 25 yo 1991/2016 (50.2%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, cask #DL11067, 269 bottles)

Jura 25 yo 1991/2016 (50.2%, Douglas Laing, Xtra Old Particular, cask #DL11067, 269 bottles)
That this would be very similar wouldn’t surprise us, would it? Colour: pale straw. Nose: a tad tenser, sharper, crisper. Other than that, it’s the same whisky. With water: notes of office coffee (as seen on Netflix) and undercooked bread. Not too sure… Mouth (neat): some weird burnt and rotten notes. Not too sure either, and after all, who would barbecue together marshmallows and bacon? I mean, except bored wealthy existentialists? With water: tings get ugly. And soapy. In my book, soap is one of bad-Juras’ main markers. Finish: hard, really. Comments: oh my, dear Douglas Laing team – are there greater people on earth – are you totally sure? Would you swear under hypnosis? Now only he who never tries never fails, and it would become a little boring when dear DL would issue only stellar whiskies. On second thought, I'm sure they did this on purpose, how smart...
SGP:261 - 50 points.

This is getting bad, while I just love Jura’s palm trees. So let’s try to put an end to this with a little panache…

Jura 1975/2016 (51.7%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary, 784 bottles)

Jura 1975/2016 (51.7%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary, 784 bottles) Two stars
All right, this was matured in some ‘amoroso oloroso sherry butts’ (what?) and finished in a ‘tawny Port pipe’. Frankly, I totally love La Maison du Whisky, their people, their story, their smartness, and 99.99% of what they’re doing. But frankly, this rather st**ks. Colour: copper gold. Ha-ha. Nose: this is extremely troubling, frankly. It does smell very nice, it’s even got subtle notes ‘of sandalwood, incense, peach jelly, honeydew and old Sauternes’, but the single idea of some ‘tawny Port pipe finish’ is just, say unsettling. I mean, why would you finish (i.e. flavour) some 1975 Jura with the cheapest form of Port wine (and yes, I know that there are a few great tawnies)? Troubled indeed… With water: pipe tobacco, prune wine, and heather honey. But is that all natural? Mouth (neat): hate it that this would be very good. It is very good, I have to admit, although it would lose steam and become too tea-ish and tannic. With water: no, gets greenish, tannic, unpleasant. Finishes don’t quite swim, that is a rule! Finish: gets bitter and sour, pass. Williams pears in the aftertaste, that’s a little better. Comments: this disappointing baby hates the distance. I knew that would happen (really, I did, believe me…) Now I hope they’ve jailed the guy who decided to almost murder this 1975 Jura. Unless that was dear Richard P. of course. No, really, this is pure madness.
SGP:651 - 74 points.

Good, nine Juras, that’s more than enough. Ciao.

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


June 17, 2018


Why not a few white mezcals!

I believe whiskysexuals tend to overlook most 'white' spirits, whether those are made out of fruits, grains, cane, or other raw materials such as agaves. And yet, the best ones can be superb, and obviously fully distillate-driven. What’s better than a great distillate that needs no oak to be stellar, even if the best ones are usually aged for a few years in inert containers, usually stoneware or even glass?

Pescador de Suenos ‘Appendiz’ (38%, OB, Mezcal, +/-2017) Two stars
The lower strength is bad news indeed, but this make from San Juan del Rio area in Oaxaca has got a good reputation. It’s 100% Espadin agave, which is the most common variety and usually cultivated, not wild. Colour: white. Nose: you would believe it was bottled at 45% vol.! It is a very earthy and smoky mezcal that develops of green olives and pickled lemons while remaining wonderfully dry and, indeed, earthy. Top notch nose, this starts well. Mouth: perhaps a tad sweeter, and actually a little too sweet, which comes as a disappointment while the lower strength doesn’t quite manage to properly lift it. Lemon and kiwi liqueurs, a little earth, a little brine. Finish: short, sadly. Comments: great nose but the palate was a little weak and too sweet for me, which made it a little too tequila-y. Too bad.
SGP: 442- 74 points.

Delirio ‘Joven’ (42%, OB, Mezcal, +/-2017)

Delirio ‘Joven’ (42%, OB, Mezcal, +/-2017) Two stars
Espadin from Santiago Matatlan in Oaxaca. Sadly, it’s rather overpackaged, which is never very good news. Excuse me? Yes, except at Macallan, ha-ha. Colour: white. Nose: less smoky, more spirity, more on lemons and more on yeast, and more on strawberries. Indeed, strawberries, or strawberry yoghurt. Mouth: more oomph but a sweetness that’s here as well. Lacks definition and complexity, I find it rather too gentle for a proper mezcal. Fruit eau-de-vie, plums, tutti-frutti, kirsch… Nice saltiness though, but it took its time. Finish: shortish, a tad indefinite. I’m missing the agave-y notes! Comments: some rather simple mezcal, not bad but you won’t remember it. Except if you kept the empty bottle.
SGP:541 - 75 points.

Alipus ‘San Andrés’ (47%, OB, mezcal, +/-2017)

Alipus ‘San Andrés’ (47%, OB, mezcal, +/-2017) Four stars and a half
This line’s got a very good reputation. Colour: white. Nose: much craftier mezcal, with more earth, agave, capsicum, capers, olives, mushrooms, grass smoke, green pepper, carbon paper… All very nice! Mouth: absolutely excellent, vibrant, unusual, curiously Sprite-y (hate Sprite but not in this case), with some unexpected honey, rather around manuka and heather, then balsam, sandalwood, and some sweeter IPA. Perfect palate, really. Finish: long, more lemony – some would call it margarita-y, but only after a few glasses too many. The honeys are still there in the aftertaste. Comments: some great mezcal, on par with some great Scottish distillates, Springbank, Clynelish, Highland Park… Really!
SGP:653 - 88 points.

El Mero Cuchillero (48%, OB, mezcal, +/-2017)

El Mero Cuchillero (48%, OB, mezcal, +/-2017) Three stars
This one may cut us in halves. Ha. It’s a pretty expensive joven and the packaging’s as craft as it could be. Colour: white. Nose: rather less expressive than the wonderful San Andrés, and probably a little rawer, more spirity, varnishy… I’m finding sweeter grapefruits and only a milder, and rather sweeter kind of smokiness. Mouth: good, a tad soapy, with less depth. It’s difficult after the San Andrés, I know… A wee tad syrupy, perhaps, but don’t get me wrong, it’s still top-notch mezcal. Just not an Ardbeg of mezcal. Finish: medium, a tad earthier. Earthy limoncello. Brine in the aftertaste, which is all good. Comments: very good, indeed, but my, the San Andrés!
SGP:632 - 81 points.

Nucano ‘Tobala’ (44.2%, OB, mezcal, cask # NJT02-17, +/-2018)

Nucano ‘Tobala’ (44.2%, OB, mezcal, cask # NJT02-17, +/-2018) Four stars
This new artisanal mezcal stems from San Dionisio Ocotepec in Oaxaca and is distilled from smaller Tobala agaves, which aren’t as common as Espadin. It was matured in ‘dead’ oak, apparently – yay! Colour: white. Nose: you could believe you’re nosing seawater blended with lemon juice and smoked water, plus crushed anchovies and tapenade. A wonderful nose, really, much brine-ier than that of the Cuchilero. Mouth: it’s a drier, earthier mezcal for sure, with many olives, lime, kippers, and wild mushrooms. Perfecto. Finish: rather long, a notch sweeter. Peaches? Comments: sextremely good, as they used to say in Hollywood (what?).
SGP:652 - 86 points.

Nucano ‘Espadin’ (45%, OB, mezcal, +/-2018)

Nucano ‘Espadin’ (45%, OB, mezcal, +/-2018) Three stars
This one should be a little simpler. I agree I should have tried it before the Tobala. Colour: white. Nose: indeed, this is much simpler, a little spirity, a little soapy, without much depth. Not unnice at all, but the Tobala was vastly superior. Mouth: good, easy, with all the attributes of a proper mezcal joven. Touches of bananas, perhaps? Finish: medium, a tad saltier, which is really nice – just a bit late. Wait wait wait, there’s some gentian coming out now, other earthy distillates, celeriac, holly spirit (not holy spirit mind you)… Phew! Comments: it almost all happened in the finish. A funny feeling.
SGP:542 - 82 points.

Nucano ‘Cuishe’ (46.4%, OB, mezcal, +/-2018)

Nucano ‘Cuishe’ (46.4%, OB, mezcal, +/-2018) Four stars
Cuishe is a family of wild agaves that includes Barril, a variety that I’ve tried before and that was just stellar, if I remember well. Colour: white. Nose: it is an earthier one, we’re almost finding notes of stewed turnips. Also Jerusalem artichokes, zucchinis, mushrooms, and black olives. Burning cigar as well – not a Mexican cigar mind you. Mouth: another very good one, a tad better civilised than the Tobala. A tad sourer as well, perhaps more on sweeter chutneys if you like. Love the cologne-y background, while such flavours usually lead to utter disasters. Not the case here, at all. Finish: long, a tad more floral, and always soapy/perfume-y – in a great way! Comments: another mezcal that I could quaff while watching all episodes of La Casa de Papel – but indeed I’d need a whole bottle. Perhaps three.
SGP:552 - 86 points.

Did we say we’d have ten mezcals today? Looks like we didn’t, but we all need challenges, don’t we…

Nuestra Soledad ‘Ejutla 2014’ (41%, OB, mezcal, edition 05, +/-2017)

Nuestra Soledad ‘Ejutla 2014’ (41%, OB, mezcal, edition 05, +/-2017) Four stars
The problem with all these new ‘artisanal’ mezcals is that the bottles all look the same, as if they needed to look ‘very craft’, it’s almost kindergarten-design. Let’s blame everything on the Azteks! Colour: white. Nose: shier, but nice. Mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, more mashed potatoes, a little olive oil, and a touch of asparagus. Discrete hints of white peaches. Mouth: unusual, and very good, and pretty subtle. Smoked vegetables, couscous semolina, peaches, elderberry flowers, olive oil, Longrow. Really, Longrow. I think agave’s a much more complex material than barley, it’s quite fascinating to follow all these variations. That’s why I love mezcal. Finish: long, salty, seashelly (oh, not again, S.!) Comments: another superb mezcal joven. Only the 41% are a wee tad problematic – imagine this at 50%!
SGP:463 - 86 points.

Los Cuerudos ‘Reposado 2015’ (38%, OB, mezcal, +/-2015)

Los Cuerudos ‘Reposado 2015’ (38%, OB, mezcal, +/-2015)
Ouch, a reposado, and ouch, 38% vol. A reposado is a joven that’s been polluted with oak, I guess you knew that. Oh and is that Don Quixote on the label? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: ashes and burnt turnips, plus vanillin, yoghurt , dead mice and baker’s yeast. Not too sure, really not too sure… Mouth: ugly caramelly notes, smoked sour café latte… What is this? Even Cosmo Kramer would say it’s ugly! Finish: short, saltier. Comments: I think the base spirit was very okay, but the finishing part went awfy awry. Not something that never ever happens in Scotchland, mind you.
SGP:541 – 60 points.

Nucano ‘Reposado Espadin’ (40%, OB, mezcal, +/-2018)

Nucano ‘Reposado Espadin’ (40%, OB, mezcal, +/-2018) Three stars
Twelve months in oak, perhaps twelve months wasted, let’s see… (but given that the jovens were excellent, we’ve still got hope)… Colour: straw. Nose: fair, it’s a fair reposado. Some kind of young Caol Ila at times, with seawater, ashes, and apple juice. After all, didn’t Hugh Cornwell do Golden Brown with some mariachis? (oh, S., that’s a very obscure reference, you may need vacations… but psst, it’s on Youtube.) Mouth: it’s just that the oak’s vanilla-ed sweetness tends to clash with the distillate’s rather race-y profile. Other than that, it’s a very fine reposado – but who needs reposados? Finish: nice saltiness. Comments: perfectly fine, thanks to some self-restrained oak-flavouring. Once again it tended to improve during the finish.
SGP:462 - 80 points.

We said ten mezcals, I believe. Hasta la vista!


June 16, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Eight Assorted Glenrothes
...or should that be Glenrothi? Anyway, let’s try a wee bundle of them today. We’ll go backwards by vintage I think...


Glenrothes 9 yo 2007/2017 (64.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #30.94 ‘Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna’, sherry butt, 666 bottles)

Glenrothes 9 yo 2007/2017 (64.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #30.94 ‘Riding a duck bareback up Mount Etna’, sherry butt, 666 bottles)
The less said about the name of this one the better I think. What’s more I’m not sure having an aperitif at 64.5% is such a sane idea either. And as for the number of bottles... Colour: Light amber. Nose: Starts out on hot coals, dry earth and gravel. Surprisingly ‘noseable’ give the abv. There are some pleasing notes of cherry sweets and strawberry liqueur after a minute or so in the glass. Also a dollop of plum jam and some distant lavender. With water: bready and delicately yeasty as well. Lots of toasted seeds and pumpernickel bread. Also various dried herbs and a leathery aspect as well. Mouth: hot, jammy and spicy. Notes of plum wine, five spice and biltong. Let’s reach for the water... with water: oily - sunflower oil - sooty and with a softer and more elegant earthiness as well. Still rather punchy with a big black pepper note and some watercress. Finish: Long, a little bitter, rather peppery, earthy and with some olive oil. Comments: I found it pretty tough at first but water certainly helps smooth things out. Although, I wouldn’t say its ever truly an ‘easy’ dram. Still, a solid young sherried Glenrothes - not so devilish after all.
SGP: 561 - 83 points.



Glenrothes 19 yo 1997/2017 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-Chillfiltered Collection for the whisky club of Whisky.de, sherry butts, casks 9797 - 9801, 3750 bottles)

Glenrothes 19 yo 1997/2017 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-Chillfiltered Collection for the whisky club of Whisky.de, sherry butts, casks 9797 - 9801, 3750 bottles)
Colour: Deep amber. Nose: A beautiful combination of brown breads, damp earth, sack cloth, old dessert wine, mushroom powder, face cream, sultanas stewed in cognac and dunnage. All manner of dark fruits and red fruit jams all mingling together perfectly. A light sootiness pervades in the background. The word that springs to mind is ‘harmonious’. Mouth: Pristine, pure, perfect earthy, clean sherry. Wonderful notes of walnut wine, old pinot noir, honey glazed pork, wild strawberry, wild mint, bay leaf and a twist of black pepper. Some orange marmalade, cloves and a bit of coriander seed as well. Just marvellous. Finish: Long, slender and elegant. All on silky notes of raisins, moist Dundee cake, mineral oil and Pu Erh tea. Comments: Seriously, how many totally brilliant, bang for your buck whiskies have been smuggled out of Signatory’s warehouses under this label over the years? Beautiful, pristinely sherried Glenrothes captured at a perfect age.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.



Glenrothes 19 yo 1997/2016 (51.8%, The Whisky Agency for The Drunken Master and others, sherry butt, 300 bottles) Glenrothes 19 yo 1997/2016 (51.8%, The Whisky Agency for The Drunken Master and others, sherry butt, 300 bottles)
Colour: Mahogany. Nose: A deeply earthy and more than a little old school sherry profile. Lots of aged balsamic, old boal madeira, celeriac, black olive tapenade, fig jam, wild strawberries and dates. The usual concoction of dark fruits, damp earth and old wine cellars that I really can’t help but adore. Gets increasingly leafy and chocolatey with time, and you can eventually add to that some mint tea and old cognac as well. With water: much drier now. Lots of hessian, onion seed and brown toast. A continuing earthiness as well with more aged dry madeira aspects. Mouth: Maraschino, polished hard wood, dried cranberries and damp earth. Pretty thick and full of soft dark chocolate as well. There’s a leathery, meaty side as well - black peppered pastrami and cured mutton. With water: thicker, earthier and more jammy. Lots of raspberry and strawberry jams, some prune juice and more bitter chocolate. Very good. Finish: Long, earthy, drying and prickly with black pepper and unusual spicy notes like sumac and chimichurri. Comments: The unreduced nose was the best part about it for me, the tannins on the palate were just a tad too aggressive to let it past the 90 mark. But this is still superb, clean and muscular sherried malt whisky. Fans of sherry bombs will no doubt guzzle it like Indiana Jones finally getting the antidote.
SGP: 662 - 88 points.


Glenrothes 21 yo 1996/2018 (55.7%, Signatory Vintage for Flanders’ Finest Cask Selection, hogshead, cask #15123, 253 bottles) Glenrothes 21 yo 1996/2018 (55.7%, Signatory Vintage for Flanders’ Finest Cask Selection, hogshead, cask #15123, 253 bottles)
Colour: Light gold. Nose: Begins with plenty of fresh butter, Mediterranean vegetables grilled with olive oil, polished oak, pink peppercorns and a hint of real ale. Quite interesting. With water: takes on a eucalyptus/mentholated edge now. Syrupy and herbal with notes of retsina and hemp oil. Mouth: The oak bites a little more firmly on the palate with these notes of graphite and wood shavings at first but it quickly moves into more polished - almost slightly waxy territories. Some notes of green tea, pot pourri, white pepper, cinnamon bark and nutmeg. A little creme brulée sweetness as well. With water: prickly wood spice, tea tree oil, pine cones and a few pear drops. Finish: Quite long and spicy. Lots of prickly pepper, a slug of olive oil and more polished hardwood. Comments: At times this one comes across as a little bit of a tussle between the wood and the distillate, but despite a few jarring points, it never fails to be entertaining. Or tasty.
SGP: 451 - 87 points.


Glenrothes 22 yo 1990/2012 (53.8%, The Whisky Cask, sherry butt) Glenrothes 22 yo 1990/2012 (53.8%, The Whisky Cask, sherry butt)
Colour: Deep gold. Nose: This one is rather more leafy and beautifully honied. A different profile from the more assertive late 1990s ones. Lots of rubbed citrus peels, wee touches of camphor and hessian and notes such as poire williams eau de vie and tiger balm. I find it really quite beautiful actually. Continues with a little white pepper and gooseberry jam. With water: lime jelly, some more resinous, crystalised fruit notes and a very slight earthiness. Still extremely lovely. Mouth: Honey you say? Lots of honeycomb, posh mead, barley wine and damson jam. There’s even this waxy, pollen-esque side to it as well which I find curiously reminiscent of an older Caperdonich. Some lemon jam as well. With water: subtly waxy, earthy, honeyed and with a perfect mix of figs, sultanas and greener fruits. Finish: Medium-long and with a slightly nervous wood spice making its presence felt along with more lemon peel and damsons. Comments: I wasn’t really sure what to expect but this one was really a terrific surprise. One worth seeking out I’d say.
SGP: 651 - 89 points.


Glenrothes 25 yo 1987/2012 (53.4%, Reifferscheid Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry octave, cask #494572, 70 bottles) Glenrothes 25 yo 1987/2012 (53.4%, Reifferscheid Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry octave, cask #494572, 70 bottles)
No idea how long this has spent in the sherry octave. I’m often a little unsettled by such small casks, I feel they can often be something of a shock to an older whisky’s system. However, open minds... Colour: Light amber. Nose: Again we’re in rather honeyed territory, only this time with added shoe polish, herb butter and some pretty crisp, fresh cereals. Weetabix, cornflakes and some Cinnamon Graham’s (I used to adore them when I was... ah, actually I still adore them). There is a leafy quality and a green aspect about it as well, some ripe apples, gooseberry and pears poached in calvados. With water: really beautiful now, lots of lanolin, olive oil, mint, jam sponge cake and some top quality grappa. Mouth: superb! It’s really a similar profile to the 1990, with all this honey, subtle spice, elegant, supple earthiness, wee touches of hessian cloth and lamp oil. Glenrothes ay, who knew! I don’t really detect any kind of over or lopsided cask trickery. Given blind I’d never have even mentioned the word ‘octave’. Goes on with a little nutmeg and some wood spice. With water: herbal, resinous, touches of ointment and many crystallized fruits. Some star fruit and a little green banana. Finish: Long, oily, honeyed, lots of yellow flowers, pollen, citrus rind and a tiny nibble of pepper. Comments: Glenrothes is not a name I get particularly excited about, but if the owners have possessed stocks such as this and not shouted about them from the rooftops then shame on them. Why on earth wouldn’t you trumpet such lovely whiskies more loudly and proudly? Another great surprise that’s very much in line with the 1990. Same score but I was really agonizing about the 89/90 divide...
SGP: 651 - 89 points. 


Back to the SMWS...  


Glenrothes 35 yo 1980 (43.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #30.90 ‘Juicy fruit and perfumed sweetness’, refill hogshead, 156 bottles) Glenrothes 35 yo 1980 (43.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #30.90 ‘Juicy fruit and perfumed sweetness’, refill hogshead, 156 bottles)
The name on this one isn’t too ‘out there’ Serge, maybe the good folks at the SMWS changed their dealer? Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Toasted oak, furniture polish, camphor, crushed green peppercorns and some wonderfully buttery brioche. Goes on with a little mead, notes old slightly over-aged Sauternes and old Benedictine herbal liqueur. Quite some honey, quince paste and some bright little notes of green fruits. Gets a little fresher and more luscious with time. The kind of nose that only time in refill wood and a cool climate can deliver. Feels a little fragile but quite beautifully so; the fruitiness is both beguiling and nervous. Mouth: the oak is just a notch too loud I think but it is very clean. Lots of mulling spices, tea tree oil, bark, resin, perhaps some of those wee milk bottle sweeties and then a move towards more overt fruitiness with greengages and lemon rind. Lightly earthy as well with a little time and more of these lovely notes of quince and some fig jam. The woodiness retracts with time and more balance between fruit and spice emerges. Although there is always a slight spicy bite about it on the palate. Goes on with some gingerbread and notes of green tea. Finish: Quite good length for such a naturally low strength. Notes of banana bread, treacle and some more candied citrus peel. Comments: A bit of a tightrope walker this one, veers between wood, spice and fruit by the skin of its teeth. But overall it’s very drinkable and quite delicious. I think bottled a few years earlier with a notch more alcohol and it would have easily reached 90 or higher. It feels like it was caught on the way down.
SGP: 641 - 88 points.


And one special treat for the road...  


Glenrothes-Glenlivet 42 yo 1932/1974 (70 proof, OB) Glenrothes-Glenlivet 42 yo 1932/1974 (70 proof, OB)
A totally crazy old bottle that our good friend Emmanuel opened for the Whisky Show Old & Rare last year. Probably done for a private customer back in the day. Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Pure exotic hardwoods with quince paste and more ancient sweet wines than you can count. There’s stacks of pipe tobacco, unlit cigars and this wonderfully intense - almost syrupy - coconut aroma that seems so specific to these 1930s/40s, long matured single malts. There’s also the quietest, shiest, most resinous and elegant wee hint of peat. Mouth: About as rich and textural as malt whisky can be at 40% I think. Polished wood, bags of rancio, coconut milk, some ancient balsamico, some even more ancient yellow Chartreuse and all manner of complexities such as coal dust, more litres of ancient dessert wines and many dried herbs and waxes. Quite incredible. Finish: Medium in length and you start to feel the age and fragility. What a shame this wasn’t bottled at whatever its cask strength was. Even a few degrees would have propelled this into the stratosphere. Comments: Hard to score such a majestic old warhorse of a dram. The nose alone is pure poetry. The palate exceptional as well. It’s really just in the finish it falls down a wee bit. But of course we can forgive that in such a unique old whisky. A humbling window into past eras of production, materials and people in Scotch Whisky.
SGP: 672 - 92 points.


Many thanks Emmanuel and Dirk.  



June 15, 2018


Eleven nameless single peaters

Some distillers being rather stingier with the use of their brand names these days, we’re seeing more and more ‘undisclosed’ young Islayers, some said to be Lagavulin, other Ardbeg (the very same ones, incidentally). Now some bottlers also like to build their own brands rather than rely on uncertain future sourcing, which is understandable. So, let’s taste a few of those, and not try to play the guessing game (although we might not resist…)

Hamiltons Islay (40%, Hamilton’s single malt, +/-2017)

Hamiltons Islay (40%, Hamilton’s single malt, +/-2017) Three stars and a half
This is rather budget, so let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: well, this is pretty perfect. No flaws, a perfect smokiness, a lovely sour side (sourdough, bread), some ashes, some seaweed, oysters… What more can you ask for? Mouth: yes, excellent! My I could quaff this for hours watching Vikings… Peat, lemon, green apples, brine, iodine, a touch of earth… Finish: medium, briny and ashy, perfect. Comments: bang for your buck. Wait, is that Lewis Hamilton?
SGP:356 - 84 points.

Peat (45%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, single malt, bourbon barrels, +/-2018)

Peat (45%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, single malt, bourbon barrels, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
The latest bottling I believe. Previous editions have been blended malts, but this is well a single according to my sample's label (picture shows the very same label, just saying blended instead of single). Colour: white wine. Nose: a lighter colour but more oak influence, vanilla custard, then flint, grindstone in use, new tyres, smoked meat… This one’s rather different and there are funny echoes of Port Ellen (that tar). But it just cannot be Port Ellen! Mouth: another one that’s rather brilliant, and that rather reminds me of some Bunna Moines in some ways. A sweeter peat, as we used to say, and a little less coastal depth. In short, more apples and pears, less oysters and seaweed. Finish: long, with a wee feeling of smoked fruits. Comments: a little less refreshing than the little Hamiltons, but just as very good.
SGP:456 - 84 points.

Islay Malt 8 yo 2008/2016 (58.5%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon)

Islay Malt 8 yo 2008/2016 (58.5%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon) Four stars
We’ll do this one quick. Colour: white wine. Nose: a tad rubbery at first, but with green and black olives, and really a lot of brine, which we just love. There. Mouth: huge citrus in this one, grapefruits and lemons, peaty earth, smoky limoncello, really a lot of iodine, the whole remaining extremely blade-y all along. Finish: very long, lemon, smoky, salty. Comments: one of those very young peaters that cut you in halves. Why on earth do we enjoy these a lot?
SGP:567 - 86 points.

Williamson 6 yo 2011/2018 (59.6%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead)

Williamson 6 yo 2011/2018 (59.6%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon hogshead) Four stars
Good, Hamilton’s a F1 driver, and Roger Williamson was one too. Sadly, he was killed in Zandvoort in 1973. Other than that and as you very well know, Williamson’s the name of teaspooned Laphroaig, so it’s officially a blended malt. Now, technically… Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: very young, boisterous, burnt, rubbery, fruity. And that works. Someone’s been smoking pears! Mouth: Laphroaig comes out, with iodine, mercurochrome, and liquid ashes on eleven. Not that it’s quasi-newmake, but the youth does feel – and guess what, that’s not a problem at all. Finish: very long, with more lemon. Comments: we could almost call this ‘Laphroaig Blanco’. I think it is pretty fantastic, better little oak than too much oak, don’t you agree?  
SGP:457 - 87 points.

Islay Single Malt 8 yo 2008/2017 (58.3%, North Star Spirits, sherry octave finish)

Islay Single Malt 8 yo 2008/2017 (58.3%, North Star Spirits, sherry octave finish) Three stars
Sound the alarm, sherry octaves in sight!… Colour: white wine (ah?) Nose: a bit jumbled and rubbery, with also artichokes and burnt peach pie. Over-brewed lapsang souchong, smoked oysters and mussels, walnut wine. Not your average young peater, but don’t they say difference is the essence of life? Mouth: the octaves’ influence has been relatively moderate (a few burnt raisins) so this is still working. More lapsang souchong blended with cherry juice, perhaps. Blood oranges. Finish: long, cherry-ish again, with stems and leaves in the aftertaste.  And quite a lot of eucalyptus too. Comments: not quite my favourite, but the octaves didn’t manage to totally slaughter this fierce Islayer, so it’s still a ‘much like’.
SGP:566 - 80 points.

Islay 10 yo 2007/2018 (57.6%, North Star Spirits, finished in Bordeaux)

Islay 10 yo 2007/2018 (57.6%, North Star Spirits, finished in Bordeaux) Three stars
Totally love what North Star Spirits are doing, but last time someone tried to finish or age a peater in a Bordeaux/Claret barrique, there have been deaths and injuries. Come on, we can't joke around anymore? Colour: apricoty white wine, or yellowish blush. Nose: hard boiled eggs, smoked ham, new leatherette, soft chilli butter (do you know Espelette?), then classic seawater, shells, and hessian. And once again, a lot of lapsang souchong tea. Mouth: really bizarre, but not bad at all. Pomegranate and cranberry juices, peat smoke, pink grapefruits, gooseberries, pepper… Finish: long, the distillate winning in the end. Comments: I had thought this would be much worse, but someone smart seems to have monitored the operations very closely. A funny variant.
SGP:657 - 81 points.

Isle of Islay 8 yo 2008/2016 (52.8%, Sansibar, P. Van Vliet and J. Corte, 250 bottles)

Isle of Islay 8 yo 2008/2016 (52.8%, Sansibar, P. Van Vliet and J. Corte, 250 bottles) Four stars
A Dutch bottling this time (it’s not for Japan mind you!) Colour: white wine. Nose: nice touches of earth, roots, gentian, beetroot, then olive brine, seawater… It’s not a heavy peater this time, or so it seems, let’s see… Mouth: of course it is. Seawater and lemon juice, young pu-ehr tea, celeriac, kippers, lemons, our friends the whelks… Finish: long, peaty, lemony, totally classic. A drop of Buckfast wine, perhaps. Comments: as good as they get at this young age. No tricks played on it.
SGP:456 - 86 points.

Good, a few more…

Undisclosed Islay 6 yo (57.9%, Single Cask Nation, 2nd fill PX barrique, cask #613-4, 276 bottles, +/-2015)

Undisclosed Islay 6 yo (57.9%, Single Cask Nation, 2nd fill PX barrique, cask #613-4, 276 bottles, +/-2015) Four stars
I’ve never, ever heard of any PX barriques, I have to say. Coopers – or our excellent American friends – have been very creative here, I suppose… Colour: pale gold. Nose: bread, butter, some kind of sweet vinegar spread, speculoos, pinewood smoke, ginger, cinnamon pie… This has seen some very active cask to say the least, but to my amazement, the marriage seems to have been consummated. Mouth: forget about the barrique, this is rather a crystal-clean, zesty young Islayer of impeccable profile and style on your palate. Lemon, peat and oysters, it’s what the people want. Finish: indeed. Comments: I wasn’t 100% sure about the nose, but the palate was fantastic. So, a PX barrique, really!?
SGP:467 - 87 points.

Islay Malt 7 yo (59.2%, Cadenhead, +/-2016)

Islay Malt 7 yo (59.2%, Cadenhead, +/-2016) Four stars
What can I say? The label was really very blue. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: yes sir. A few burnt notes, some peated barley, a touch of tar, a pinch of cocoa powder… Mouth: raw pungent peaty lemony brine-y gherkiny citrusy acidic mineral peat. Finish: same for a long time, with an earthier aftertaste. And with iodine. Comments: a rough and tough and good young Islayer. Scotland’s mezcals.
SGP:467 - 86 points.

Islay Malt 9 yo (59.3%, Cadenhead, 2017)

Islay Malt 9 yo (59.3%, Cadenhead, 2017) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather buttery and cake-y smokiness that works very well, plus rhubarb juice, leaven, fresh baguette, and just a wee bit of natural tar. Nobody should ever complain. Mouth: huge, aggressive, and yet civilised, with a perfect salty smokiness plus cider apples, rhubarb indeed, citrons, and perhaps a wee bit of rollmops (smoked rolled herring in brine – well I think). Great rooty/earthy side. Finish: very long, the lemons winning it in the end. Always better. But the fish fight back in the aftertaste. Comments: quite a ride! Love this youngster, these are hard to beat, even with a posher label made on Madison Avenue.
SGP:467 - 88 points.

Images of Islay ‘Carraig Mhor Lighthouse’ (53.2, Malts of Scotland, 2014, 254 bottles)

Images of Islay ‘Carraig Mhor Lighthouse’ (53.2, Malts of Scotland, 2014, 254 bottles) Three stars
In theory, we should go check where this lighthouse’s located. In theory… Colour: almost white. Nose: a more mineral smoke, more burnt wood as well, seaweed, green pepper, then big ripe apples, prune sauce, new sneakers, bananas… This cannot be the south shore, can it. Mouth: wait, this has more body, more hospitaly notes, iodine, balms… But the apples may suggest it’s rather from the east shore. Didn’t we say we wouldn’t play that game? Finish: long, with touches of burnt herbs. Comments: feels really very young. That’s cool, because we’re very close to the distillate, but on the other hand…
SGP:466 - 80 points.

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



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2018 (52.9%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 210 bottles)

Ben Nevis 43 yo 1970/2014-2018 (44.7%, Acla Selection, bourbon hogshead, 35cl)

Ben Nevis 18 yo 1996/2014 (50.8%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead)

Ben Nevis 10 yo 1996/2007 (46%, OB, single cask, 700 bottles)

Benrinnes 20 yo 1995/2016 (51.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #9057, 281 bottles)

Benrinnes 19 yo 1981/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry cask, 242 bottles)

Glenlivet 20 yo 1995/2016 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage, for Taiwan, 1st fill sherry butt, cask # 166956, 564 bottles)

Glenlivet 11 yo 2006/2017 (63.5%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Barrel, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #900552, 316 bottles)

Glenlivet 1950-1994/2017 ‘solera’ (48.3%, Thompson Bros)