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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2019 - Part 1


May 2019 - part 2 <--- June 2019 - part 1 ---> June 2019 - part 2



June 13, 2019


Bastard peaters, part zwei

Simply because we had more, and because the weather is very cold at time of writing (in the middle of June)… 

Islay Malt 10 yo 2008/2019 (58.7%, Liquid Treasures, 10th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 171 bottles)

Islay Malt 10 yo 2008/2019 (58.7%, Liquid Treasures, 10th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, 171 bottles) Four stars
Doesn’t the bottle look like a Firestone calendar, circa 1955? Colour: white wine. Nose: really raw, ridden with smoky porridge, raw wool, the exhaust fumes f a Lamborghini that really should go to the garage, a box of rubber bands and some burnt grass. Really very raw. With water: more on the leafy and grassy side of maltiness. Also carbon paper, new magazines… And no fruitiness whatsoever. Mouth (neat): much sweeter at first (marshmallows) but the smoke gets massive again, pungent, extremely tarry and a tad rubbery again. With water: I think we managed to tame it since notes of pink grapefruits and pomelos do emerge, but the background remains pungent and extremely peaty. Quite a beast! Finish: rather long, with touches of iodine and mercurochrome. Would heal anything. Comments: huge, raw, and rustic.
SGP:278 - 86 points.

Secret Islay Distillery 21 yo 1998/2019 (50.6%, The Whisky Agency, butt)

Secret Islay Distillery 21 yo 1998/2019 (50.6%, The Whisky Agency, butt) Four stars
We might have to expect to encounter a huge pile of new tyres… Colour: amber. Nose: ah well, this might not be for everyone, since it’s totally extreme and full of used matches, green walnut liqueur, Fernet-Branca (artichokes) and hot brake pads. The thing is, some supposedly lovely oranges are seemingly lurking somewhere in the background, as well as a box of old cigars. Let’s see… With water: a lot of black pepper coming out, as well as miso and other glutamate-y things. Mouth (neat): feels like a well composed cocktail, really. It’s also as if someone had tried to smoke some Cointreau, or marmalade, or better yet, some fig arrack. With water: not easy, as the leathery parts do come out now. A lot of old walnuts too, with this very specific sour bitterness. Finish: long, a tad saltier, pretty Laphroaiggy. It’s true that some parts remind me of the famed ’74 LMdW. Comments: a sherry monster, a very heavy one, probably for aficionados only. But there are quite a few of them out there…
SGP:467 - 86 points.

Quick, some holidays…

Smoking Islay (60.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask #BA2013/452, 325 bottles, 2013)

Smoking Islay (60.5%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask #BA2013/452, 325 bottles, 2013) Four stars and a half
This little NAS from a series with a good reputation. Because we needed a cleaner one to rinse our mouth out, you see. Colour: white wine. Nose: essential, blade-y and zesty coastal pear. Balance is absolutely perfect, with green apples, lemons, seaweed, oysters and quite a lot of soot. Love this perfect cleanness. With water: antiseptic! Mouth (neat): absolutely perfect. Lemons, lime, ashes, green apples, clams, fresh walnuts. A bull’s eye. With water: there were many more of these lovely clean ones back then, hope they’ll come back. Excellent, with the expected fresh almonds. Finish: long, smoky, lemony, and yet relatively soft. Clean. Comments: only older ones could be better, I would say. Perfect drop from five years ago.
SGP:457 - 89 points.

Port Askaig 25 yo (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, for North America, 3000 bottles, 2019)

Port Askaig 25 yo (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, for North America, 3000 bottles, 2019) Five stars
It’s not exactly this label, which used to mention ‘Port Askaig Harbour’, the new one for America rather has ‘Port Askaig Islay’. Let’s try the latter… Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s not huge, and rather on charcoal and graphite, with some delicate coastal notes, beach herbs, wool, old jacket, sea breeze, a nice wee oyster, and whiffs of freshly shredded celeriac and cabbage. Delicate, elegant, subtle, it’s like looking in a mirror (a little tired, S.?) Mouth (neat): naturally. Sauvignon, lemon juice, charcoal ash, oysters, tincture of iodine, then more shredded celeriac as well as a little angelica, and perhaps one drop of yellow chartreuse (per glass). Finish: medium, with this trademark feeling of peated lemons, green apples, then tobacco ashes. Comments: just extremely good, with this faint lightness that’s so engaging in this famous – and supposedly lighter - make.
SGP:456 - 90 points.

There's also this new one...

Port Askaig 28 yo (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, for North America, 3000 bottles, 2019

Port Askaig 28 yo (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, for North America, 3000 bottles, 2019) Five stars
Will this one be softer? What’s 3 years anyway? Colour: white wine. Nose: well, it is a little more camphory and mentholy, so probably a little more tertiary, with some pine nuts, greengages, these notes of smoked salmon and other fatter fish, smoked hake, touches of pickled onions and capers perhaps, then a fruitier side with pink grapefruits, then whiffs of rainwater… Mouth: ah yes, transmuting peat, with already more tropical fruits (mangos, maracujas) while the rawer, straighter smokiness is still there. Other than that, it’s all wonderful, perfectly balanced, with touches of caraway and star anise leading to a rising gingerbready feeling. This one’s really very interesting, it’s not a 25 anymore, while it’s not a 30 yet. In short, somewhere in between, and that is pretty lovely. Finish: medium, rather soft, with a saltier, brinier ending. Oyster juice! Comments: the 25 and the 28 are actually very different, but please don’t ask me to choose.
SGP:555 - 90 points.

Oh well, while we are at it…

Port Askaig 45 yo (40.8%, Elixir Distillers, for the USA, 51 bottles, 2019)

Port Askaig 45 yo (40.8%, Elixir Distillers, for the USA, 51 bottles, 2019) Five stars
Well, there was a 45 yo at the very same strength back in 2014, not too sure whether this is the same juice or not. Maybe it is. Colour: full gold. Nose: right, this is one of those magnificent old Bunnahabhains! How many of them have we tried straight from the casks back then, in the company of dear John MacLellan? All roasted nuts covered with eucalyptus essence and Vicks Vaporub at first, then rich plums, light limoncello, and certainly some passion fruits. Soft and complex, with also more and more fir honeydew. Impeccably fresh. Mouth: you feel the age a little more (mentholated molecules from the wood, possibly terpens, turpentine and stuff), but the freshness remains there, with some orange-flavoured praline, tangerine liqueur, heather honey, and assorted dried fruits although it would never quite get raisiny. Finish: unexpectedly long, with the same orange-y fruitiness and touches of cardamom and cinnamon. Crystalised angelica and more yellow chartreuse in the aftertaste, and rather less oak than in the ‘bottling of 2014’. Which, I agree, is a little strange. Comments: it is, indeed, a little chartreuse-y. If it is the same juice as that of 2014, it may have improved a little bit, as if it could breathe a little further.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

June 12, 2019


Bastard peaters

All we know is that they’re smoky, and in some cases that they stem from the Hebridean Isle of Islay. Rings a bell? But first, an unlikely apéritif, if you don'gt mind...

Highland Region 8 yo ‘Peated Port Finish’ (50.6%, Chinese Zodiac, +/-2016)

Highland Region 8 yo ‘Peated Port Finish’ (50.6%, Chinese Zodiac, +/-2016)
A peated Port finish? What the **** is that? This sounds a little unlikely, but unlikeliness can be an asset. Right. Colour: gold. Nose: wax, tarry ropes, gunpowder and struck matches, blackcurrant buds, graphite, plastics, smoked fish, fuel oil… With water: smoked cream cheese (hey Suzy) and smoked clams. Mouth (neat): Port and peat, mustard and coffee, strawberries and miso, oysters and marmalade. Delete as appropriate. With water: I’m afraid not, no one would dare smoking strawberries. Finish: quite long, and perhaps a little painful at times. Comments: they had some great whiskies within this friendly little series, but I’m not sure this is one of them. No Port and peat, please! BTW, smoky Tomatin? Ballantruan?
SGP:635 - 65 points.

An Islay Distillery 9 yo 2007/2018 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon barrel and sherry hogshead, 330 bottles)

An Islay Distillery 9 yo 2007/2018 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon barrel and sherry hogshead, 330 bottles) Three stars
Many friends, except the ones at Lagavulin and parent companies (quite unsurprisingly), would tell you this is Lagavulin. Colour: gold. Nose: phoo! Embrocations and walnut wine, plus young Pomerol and soot, then rather red cabbage (don’t get me wrong, it is not cabbage-y t.i.t.s. sulphury), and cigar tobacco, plus scoria and something basaltic. Charcoal. With water: works. A sauna on Islay, with essential oils and peat burning in a corner. Mouth (neat): a dilemma. On the one side it’s got this magnificent fattish smokiness, on the other side it’s also got some sour fruits that do not tango to perfection with this kind of make. No sweetness in my peater, we should make T-shirts with that on them. And what, cherry liqueur? With water: not too sure. More ideas of cherries… Finish: long, a tad dissonant. Smoked cherries, pipe tobacco, some crazy bachelor’s jam, and a wee feeling of rubber and sulphur. Comments: not an easy one for sure. Sure Lagavulin takes sherry well (remember the first 21?) but you need high-precision to achieve, well, precision. Or you may get what we sometimes call, in the wine world, a jellyfish, meaning stuff that goes off in almost any direction. Burt it’s good whisky, of course!
SGP:556 - 82 points.

Port Askaig 10 yo (55.85%, Elixir Distillers, 10th Anniversary, 10,000 bottles, 2019)

Port Askaig 10 yo (55.85%, Elixir Distillers, 10th Anniversary, 10,000 bottles, 2019) Four stars and a half
Ten thousand bottles, not bad! Love the strength too, I mean, who needs sub-decimals? But that’s good fun… (and that is related to the coordinates of the distillery, apparently). Colour: white wine. Nose: just a blade-y, clean, coastal, millimetric (apologies, U.K. and U.S.) smoky and lemony malt whisky from where that does good, as we say in French. Oysters. With water: yep. Raw wool, beach sand, seaweed, ashes, clams… Mouth (neat): just perfect. Mercurochrome, sardines and anchovies, crab meat, lemon, sunflower oil (and indeed it’s quite fat), plus touches of fresh butter with bits of seaweed inside (check Mr. Bordier’s butter). With water: textbook Caol Ila, fresh and coastal, well-balanced, with touches of pink grapefruits on top of the usual lemons. Finish: rather long but light and refreshing, which is eminently dangerous, naturally. Comments: dangerous stuff, goes down too well; where could we fill a complaint?
SGP:456 – 88.7546535 points (yep we too can do small decimals).

Isle of Islay 10 yo 2007/2018 (57.1%, Creative Whisky Co. for The Whisky Barrel, refill hogshead, cask #200703, 285 bottles)

Isle of Islay 10 yo 2007/2018 (57.1%, Creative Whisky Co. for The Whisky Barrel, refill hogshead, cask #200703, 285 bottles) Five stars
This one too was said to stem from L*g*v*l*n. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: perfect, simple, even narrow, and yet perfect, with a branche-y peatiness, balms, roots, and fresh almonds. No more, no less at this point. With water: sharp, perfect, ultra-clean. Some raw wool as usual. Mouth (neat): utterly perfect, albeit extremely simple. Some kind of suprematist malt whisky, this is almost Malevich’s white on white. Kind of. Or peat, almonds and lemons on peat, almonds and lemons. With water: and it borrowed Caol Ila’s trademark oysters, it’s just that these are fatter. Or aren’t they scallops? Yeah, smoked scallop sashimi. Finish: not too long, but so marvellously clean and refreshing. Comments: pure Islay, pure joy. And no island scheming and plotting here (friends, peace!)
SGP:457 - 90 points.

June 11, 2019


Mixed bags

Even more stuff of the world de la muerte

I have to say I do enjoy these freewheeling sessions more and more, while becoming even more Disraelian than before – he who said, I always quote him, that he used to ‘love bad whisky, because one gets so bored with good whisky’. Okay, he rather said that about wine.

Mekhong (35%, OB, Bangyukhan, Thai spirit, +/-2018)

Mekhong (35%, OB, Bangyukhan, Thai spirit, +/-2018)
If I’m not mistaken, this star of the stars used to be described as whisky, then as rum, and now simply as a ‘spirit drink’. Well, we’ll keep classifying it as ‘Thai whisky’ if you don’t mind, as so many other spirits aren’t what they say on the labels anyway (rum that isn’t rum, Japanese whisky that isn’t Japanese, distilleries that don’t distillate, sherry that isn’t sherry, ages that are utter lies, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera). Colour: gold. Nose: it’s nice, feels like you’re vacationing in Phuket. Earth, pumpkin and carrot juice, wet magazines, old leather, parsley and watercress, fermenting rice, rotting greengages and a little suntan lotion. Not, I made that up (not the greengages). I insist, I do enjoy this nose. Mouth: oh well, we’ve known rums… Sure it’s too sweet, and sure it’s flat(tish), but I wouldn’t say it’s foul. Molasses, cheap fruit liqueurs, various herbs (and pine tar), fake honey, caraway… Read my lips, this is not too bad! But I think they improved the recipe, when I last tried Mekhong around fifteen years ago, it was putrid swill. Finish: very short. Right, not obligatorily a bad thing. Nescafé and sugar. Comments: seriously, it has become pretty okay, and not the laughing stock of all spirits anymore! Although it would call for a few ice cubes…
SGP:630 - 60 points.

Taketsuru ‘Pure Malt’ (43%, OB, Japan, blended malt, +/-2018)

Taketsuru ‘Pure Malt’ (43%, OB, Japan, blended malt, +/-2018) Four stars
What’s inside, I don’t know, do you? They are mentioning Miyagikyo as one of the components but that is all. It hasn’t got any age statement and it’s pretty expensive for a NAS blended malt, but there, it could be good (let’s hope there’s a lot of Ben Nevis inside!) Colour: gold. Nose: would I swear it reeks of Ben Nevis? Maybe not, but there are obvious echoes, with this meaty side, these dry oils and minerals, this almost plastic-like paraffin, these whiffs of fresh plaster, and these hints of fish oils. Nikka describe Miyagikyo as ‘soft and fruity’. Well, this is neither soft, nor fruity. And we shall not complain. Mouth: totally. Very good, mentholated, with a green smoke, some pine wood, candle wax, limestone, white pepper, grapefruit, plasticine, drops of limoncello… It’s excellent! Finish: rather long, very waxy, citrusy, and mineral. Comments: extremely good, if perhaps a little too young. And worth every penny. Phew!
SGP:452 - 87 points.

Glen Breton 14 yo 'Rare' (43%, OB, Canada, single malt, +/-2018)

Glen Breton 14 yo 'Rare' (43%, OB, Canada, single malt, +/-2018)
I never had much luck with Glen Breton, maybe this time? Colour: straw. Nose: aw, new Nikes. Then porridge and carbon paper, new electronics, last week’s vase water, pipe ashes, truckloads of plasticine, bicycle inner tube, milk, breadcrumbs, Tesla batteries (we must keep up with the times, my friend)… As they say, the jury’s still out and we've lost contact! Mouth: horribly soapy! No thanks, this is flawed (but it won many awards, naturally). Finish: forget. Comments: no, the sample was perfect, the whisky wasn’t tainted later on. I wouldn’t have released these casks. Good, I’m sure I’ll just adore the next Glen Breton/Glenora I’ll find!
SGP:232 - 49 points.

Milk & Honey ‘New Make’ (40%, OB, Israel, +/-2018)

Milk & Honey ‘New Make’ (40%, OB, Israel, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
I had thought their ‘Triple Cask’ wasn’t too convincing because of the heavy woods and wines they had used, which did not let the distillate do any conversation. Luckily, they’ve also issued some new make (with a different cut or not, I couldn’t tell you), so let’s let the naked truth come out! Love their cow that’s got bee strips by the way – milk and honey, got it? Colour: white. Nose: yes, there, gentle and easy, this is some very fine eau-de-vie de barley, well done. Elegant pears and pineapples, a touch of earth, ideas of angelica, wormwood, verbena, perhaps even genepy… Do they have snowy mountains in Israel? Mouth: very good, with notes of IPA, pears but not ‘bursting’ pears like in other new makes, touches of fructose, cherries, sweet barley, bonbons… I really like this new make. Finish: medium, very fresh, fruity (cherries, pears)… Comments: excellent new make, you could quaff this as highballs. Now, new makes are hard to score, but let’s say a good three stars and a half.

While we’re having new makes…

Isle of Raasay ‘Unpeated New Make’ (OB, sample, distilled 24/4/19)

Isle of Raasay ‘Unpeated New Make’ (OB, sample, distilled 24/4/19) Three stars and a half
Hot from the stills! I don’t think they’ve bottled any, but I’m extremely glad to be able to try this… But not sure about the strength, perhaps around 70% vol.? Let’s be careful… By the way, this was concerto barley and it was a 118 hour fermentation. Any other details you’d need? May we proceed then?... Colour: white (well, not totally white, as any proper new make). Nose: bam! Amazing, with the usual pears and cherries ‘of course’, but also notes of turnips and Jerusalem artichokes, regular artichokes, baker’s yeast, Swiss cheese, a drop of sheep milk, raw wool, paper pulp… This is really very complex. Let’s try to bring it down to a similar strength as that of the M&H… With water: just the same, except that it gets even wilder, a tad more composty, with more wool as well. Mouth (neat): did I mention cherries? This is ‘ageing’ new make, it was not tailored to please impatient drinkers (IMHO). It’s rather full of oils, greases, yeasts, fermenting fruits, ales… That’s all what one would call ‘potential’. And it’s not 70% vol., rather around 50, I guess it’s been reduced. With water: perfect, you feel the barley. They could bottle this if they wanted to. Finish: long, never to sweet. Peaches, as in Ardmore (say). Comments: almost liquid bread, this is impressive and full of skilled precursors. Well, I know what I’m trying to say.

Oh, no…


Chase ‘Islay Whisky Cask’ (46%, OB, cask aged vodka, England, +/-2018)

Chase ‘Islay Whisky Cask’ (46%, OB, cask aged vodka, England, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
I know, vodka, this may be the lowest we've sunk so far. But it’s been aged in ex-Laphroaig wood, mind you! Well, rather flavoured, shall we say, let’s see… Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: when you’re holding a glass of Laphroaig 10 within three feet of your nose. See what I mean? It’s actually rather nice, even elegant, surely coastal, but really rather whispering. Some kind of homeopathic Laphroaig, shall we say. Mouth: ha, not bad at all! It’s akin to some milder gentian, perhaps, and it’s even got more substance than the very poor Laphroaig Select. A feeling of smoked pears. Smoked pears and gentian, that’s a thing. Finish: rather long, on the same flavours plus a little brine. Comments: naturally, one main question arises, have they rinsed/flushed the cask(s)? And as vodka makers, after all, do they have to? A fine effort, this one too you could quaff as highball.
SGP:524 - 78 points.

Kingsbarns ‘Dream to Dram’ (46%, OB, 2019)

Kingsbarns ‘Dream to Dram’ (46%, OB, 2019) Three stars and a half
This has become proper single malt Scotch whisky, mind you! We had tried their new make and some of their 2 yo ‘spirit drink’ and were rather impressed with their fatness, but this is something else. Whisky! And a Lowlander, at that! Colour: straw. Nose: melons and custard are dance masters here, while some brioche and biscuits would come second. It is less ‘big’ than I had thought, as if they had wanted to keep it kind of light. Rather feminine, as one would have said in the 20th century.  Some very nice porridge and focaccia in the middle distance, then a little muscovado sugar. Mouth: at the fair. Butter cream, candyfloss, toffee apple, marshmallows, and a little vanillin and caramel from oak charring (I suppose). We remain in bready territories, but there’s a growing butterscotch in the background. There’s something playful to this new baby! Finish: rather long, the pears being back in action, while the butterscotch remains in the aftertaste. The melons are back as well. Comments: would we say it’s clearly a Lowlander? Perhaps, yes, as it’s more playful than others. On the other hand, it’s not exactly ‘light’ malt whisky. And it’s smart, while feeling ‘handcrafted’, whatever that means. Very well done.
SGP:631 - 84 points.

Where are we? That’s right, in Scotland. Perhaps a very last one, and quickly (we always fail at being quick anyway)?

Smögen 7 yo 2011/2019 (62.2%, OB, Sweden, bourbon barrel, cask #57/2011, 327 bottles)

Smögen 7 yo 2011/2019 (62.2%, OB, Sweden, bourbon barrel, cask #57/2011, 327 bottles) Five stars
We had an impressive 8 yo ‘Sauternes’ the other day (WF 90, very high) so let’s try a more regular, more natural bourbon, but this one’s a peater. Colour: white wine. Nose: smoked lace. It’s incredibly soft at this insane strength, with distant whiffs of menswear store (tweed!), fields, barnyard, farm, just one drop of horse sweat, and a wee glass of caraway spirit. Really, it whispers, it’s not a brute at all. With water: drier, earthier. Hay, pipe tobacco, old leathers, but never without a kind of cleanness. Mouth (neat): there, here’s the brute. Crushed pine needles, thyme, rapeseed oil, cod oil, then lemons and caraway again. Juniper too, and a lot of smoke, rather of the greener kind. Of course smokes, just like dreams, come in colours. With water: yess, there, this is impeccable. Citrus, papayas, lemons, mild syrups, kiwis, smoke, and this very specific mangoness (what?) that sometimes comes with peat. Think proper Laphroaig. Finish: long, with fresh almonds, lemons… Comments: I’m starting to wonder if Smögen couldn’t be Europe’s Chichibu, in a way. <insert koto music here>. Rather very impressive.
SGP:457 - 90 points.

See you.


June 8, 2019


A few more rums,
still looking for malternatives

Kind of live from Provence today and first, an aperitif, that is to say a glass of Bandol blanc or a proper pastis. I’m joking, it’s going to be a wee rum…

Dom. Republic 13 yo 2003/2017 (46%, Compagnie des Indes, blend, Dominican Republic, cask #RDM1, 346 bottles)

Dom. Republic 13 yo 2003/2017 (46%, Compagnie des Indes, blend, Dominican Republic, cask #RDM1, 346 bottles) Three stars
Indeed this is a blend of (possibly two) different Dominicans, but it is a single cask. I have to say I’m very glad to try this baby from a good house, as in general and as far as ‘official’ or ‘merchant’s’ rums are concerned, those from the DomRep are deeply sugared rotguts and actually cheapo liqueurs or ‘spiced’ rums. As I said, in general. Colour: gold. Nose: ah, fine! It’s got some kind of softer Cuban touch, notes of cane juice, oranges, a wee sugary earthiness, marshmallows, and just a drop of some most welcome petrol. It’s as if there was a small proportion of pot-still. Mouth: a little hot and with no sugar! Rather more oranges and sugarcane, some earthy vegetables (perhaps beets), then bonbons, liquorice allsorts, touches of molasses and corn syrup, perhaps even honey… It’s all fine and seemingly very natural, even if it’s also a little spirity. Finish: medium, on marmalade and orange skin. Bonbons in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps not an absolute high-flyer, but it’s way, way better, and more natural than the island’s usual heavily branded output. You know, heroes of some forgotten revolucion and all that jazz. I mean, salsa. Fine.
SGP:551 - 82 points

While we’re in good Compagnie… (pff, S.!)

Clarendon 11 yo 2007/2018 (55%, Compagnie des Indes, Jamaica, 261 bottles)

Clarendon 11 yo 2007/2018 (55%, Compagnie des Indes, Jamaica, 261 bottles) Four stars
Remember Clarendon is Monymusk. I mean, Monymusk is made at Clarendon, where they mainly produce for Captain Morgan. Not sure about the marque here, could be very low esters or pretty high (500 g/hl). Colour: white wine. Nose: rather high esters. Carbon paper, charcoal, brake fluid, new wellies, sweeter olives… With water: new sneakers from their box. Mouth (neat): very good, very unusual. Some heavy pine resin (reminds me of some very artisanal cachaça here), a lot of tarry liquorice, these petroly notes, then ink and plastic, bitter lemons… It is less brine-y, less olive-y, and perhaps less ‘funky’ than other Jamaicans such as Hampden or Worthy Park. Perhaps a little dirtier too. With water: same, plus more grass, tarry herbs, burnt marmalade, tarry liquorice… It really is ‘different’. Finish: rather long, a little bitter, with some welcome lime in the aftertaste. Comments: fun rum, fun to follow, fun to drink.
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2019 (58.8%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Guadeloupe, 245 bottles)

Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2019 (58.8%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Guadeloupe, 245 bottles) Five stars
I need to find something bad to say about this series. Right, not too sure about the colours of the label, I mean, greenish beige and crushed cassis? Does that work? What would Martha Stewart say? (Says the guy who’s got a website that’s yellow and orange)… As for the juices, I’m afraid we’re always impressed, but it’s also true that they often select ‘sure bets’ (Hampden, Bellevue, Foursquare, Diamond…) Good, let’s tackle the rum know… Colour: amber. Nose: wait, didn’t we try this last week? Ah no, that was a sister cask or something. Brilliant. This seems to be a tad lighter, less petroly, but just as superbly mentholy and liquoricy. Perfect earthiness, also perfect paraffin and tarry varnish… This is really on that winning ‘BB line’ (Bielle – Bellevue). Best of Guadeloupe. With water: gets sublime, with fresh pineapples and mangos on top of everything, plus whiffs of ‘unpacking a new TV set’. Works with computers too. Mouth (neat): just a perfect, firmer and more liquoricy agricole, akin to some of those brilliant Martiniquais by Neisson as far as styles are concerned. Tense, rich, earthy, tarry and fruity, it’s got the best on all axis. With water: takes water extremely well. Lime, liquorice, sea salt. Finish: long, a tad grassier, which always works, at this point. Comments: the guy or the girl who could clearly decide between this one and its sister cask from last week is a genius.
SGP:452 - 91 points

Let’s sail to Trinidad now…

Caroni 21 yo 1998/2019 (64.1%, The Duchess, Trinidad, cask #20, 245 bottles)

Caroni 21 yo 1998/2019 (64.1%, The Duchess, Trinidad, cask #20, 245 bottles) Four stars and a half
Some lonely souls are claiming that there’s no good Caroni left. I don’t think that’s exactly right… Colour: amber. Nose: oh, metal polish in abundance and some sour, umami-y, savoury notes of ready-made miso soup, plus some tobacco and notes of walnut shell and pine cones. Some old kelp too, Spanish ham, bone marrow… It is a whole meal! With water: must be me losing all senses, but this reminds me of the old, pre-Glenmo Ardbeg 10. Soot, coal, tarry ropes and stuff…  Mouth (neat): big, punchy, earthy, very tarry and almost rubbery. Which works here. Could someone try to smoke porcinis please? And then report back to WF’s Research Committee? With water: yeah, there, lime and seawater. Finish: long and bitter, on artichokes and Brussels sprouts. What works in whisky or rum would never work in a soup… right… Comments: a big boy, with this very specific kind of rubber that’s very Caroni in my book. Now I would have called this The Warlord rather than The Duchess (I’m not sure anyone wants to hear your opinion on these matters, S.)
SGP:363 - 89 points

Good, that Bellevue by HL/WB was very impressive, let’s have more…

Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2018 (Valinch & Mallet, Marie-Galante, cask #182001-R, 153 bottles)

Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2018 (Valinch & Mallet, Marie-Galante, cask #182001-R, 153 bottles) Five stars
These are complicated issues. This Bellevue is sometimes attributed to Guadeloupe, and indeed it stems from Guadeloupe (see hereabove), and sometimes to Marie-Galante, and indeed it stems from Marie-Galante too. It’s just that the small island of Marie-Galante, where Bielle and Père Labat are located as well, is administratively part of Guadeloupe. Capice? Oh wait, to make things even clearer (as mud), there’s also a distillerie Bellevue on Guadeloupe itself (Damoiseau), and yet another one where they make Reimonenq. So actually, and unless the bottler would specify that the rum comes from Marie-Galante, you would not know from which distillery it stems from when they simply write ‘Bellevue, Guadeloupe’. Phew… Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a very soft, almost fresh and easy one. There’s a little praline, milk chocolate, walnut cake, banana cake, then pure cane juice, softer liquorice, and just wee whiffs of our beloved bicycle inner tubes. Right, tarry rubber. With water: terrific, complex, aromatic, fresh, floral, with some stunning liquorice and tobacco. Love this nose. Mouth (neat): oh this is very good! To think that Bellevue is the largest distillery in Guadeloupe (hence on Marie-Galante). This is an absolute cracker, it’s perfect rum, with an amazing balance, firm and soft, brutal and subtle, fruity and kind-of phenolic… I am very impressed, once again. With water: oh these touches of menthol and eucalyptus! Finish: long, earthier. Comments: a very perfect agricole, probably from the same perfect parcel of perfect casks as that of the perfect Kill Devil. And they all love water as much as I love the word ‘perfect’.
SGP:552 - 91 points

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


June 7, 2019


Glencraig vs. Kinclaith by Signatory,
the craziest duo ever?

Quite. But thank you Signatory Vintage!

Glencraig 42 yo 1976/2018 (42%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #4283, 176 bottles)

Glencraig 42 yo 1976/2018 (42%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #4283, 176 bottles) Four stars and a half
Good, Clencraig was made at Glenburgie between 1956 and 1981, using some Lomond still. It used to be Glenburgie’s Mosstowie, if you like, but I think they were making Glencraig in much smaller quantities. No need to tell you that Glencraig has become extremely rare, so this is yet another crazy coup by SigV. Colour: gold. Nose: ooh, love this. Mangos and, most of all, crazy guavas. Add good retsina (not the ones for tourists), halva, pistachios, heather honey, pink bananas, then rather flowers, lillies, orange blossom, rose petals, wallflowers, woodruff… It is all very subtle and complex, and yet not shy at all. And the barrel was first-grade. Mouth: first all things from a proper beehive, then more soft wood/tea spices. So, beeswax, all-flower honey, pollen and mead, and then rather balsa wood, soft cinnamon, marzipan and Szechuan pepper. The freshness is impressive, even if the oak’s about to take over. Just about. Finish: medium, complex, on some kind of wonderful fresh fruitcake covered with the subtlest spices. Apples and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: in truth it was a tad fragile and uncertain here and there, but the enjoyment remains massive. The nose was just otherworldly.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

No, no new Kinclaith in sight, but there is this older one from ten years ago…

Kinclaith 40 yo 1969/2009 (47.3%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #301445, 217 bottles)

Kinclaith 40 yo 1969/2009 (47.3%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, cask #301445, 217 bottles) Four stars
One of the rarest Lowlanders ever. Kinclaith used to be sheltered within the Strathclyde complex, and has only been working between 1957 and 1975. In a way, it is the same story as that of Ladyburn at Girvan or Glenflagler at Moffat/Garnheath. Naturally, this is single malt whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: well, this is a little odd, if I may. New plastics (when you order some cheap junk from Wish), turnips, moist cigars, Marmite, morels, Swiss cheese, manzanilla, artichokes… But it tends to become rounder and straighter, and more on chocolate cake, walnut cake, and porcini cream. Utterly love porcini cream, don’t you? Mouth: a little weird. Pine wood, mint cordial, loads of cardamom and cloves, black Chinese mushrooms, prune liqueur, sloe, then dried parsley, raw cocoa and coffee… It’s all very dry and pretty unusual. Some charcoal as well, eating your cigar (which is not the point, as you probably know)… The hogshead may have been rebuilt using older wood that may have sheltered some bone-dry amontillado, way before 1969. Just a theory out of the blue, my friend. Finish: medium, rather better focused, with the traditional Seville oranges and more walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s a little embarrassing to judge such a rare old malt. I mean, who am I? Will I ever try another Kinclaith that I haven’t tried yet? Existential questions…
SGP:462 - 87 points.

(Mucho mercis, Andrew and Angus!)


June 6, 2019


Independent Americans
(A wee tribute to the liberators of 1944)

With all those non-producing distillers in America, we could consider a large part of the OBs as actually being ‘independent bottlers’ indeed. I remember there used to be talks about bourbons being allowed to use refill wood, quite some years ago. It doesn’t seem that that ever occurred, as far as I know, or are they still talking? That would be earth-shattering indeed! Burt let’s not speculate and rather try a few indies, let’s see what we have. But first, a little aperitif…

Jazz Club ‘V.I.P. Boogie Woogie’ (50.5%, Kentucky Bourbon, 1980s?)

Jazz Club ‘V.I.P. Boogie Woogie’ (50.5%, Kentucky Bourbon, 1980s?) Four stars
A very mysterious bottle found in Limburg that gathers two of my main passions, whisky and jazz. There’s no further data on the front or back labels, while I do seem to recognise Fats Waller. Fats passed away in 1943 but I highly doubt this whisky would be this old, especially since the label displays the strength using both European (50.5%) and American (101 proof) standards. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very nice! Popcorn, corn syrup, vanilla, a metallic touch, some oak, touches of chicken soup, some fudge… So we’re rather on the meatier side at this point, and less on straight oak (as modern bourbons can be). With water: some menthol and some old papers. Mouth (neat): very good, starting on bonbons, orange drops and violet sweets, and rather going on with orange squash, many cakes, custard, praline, and some cinnamon and nutmeg. Also poppy seeds, perhaps. With water: excellent indeed, rather fresh, and rather on the same flavours. Oranges. Finish: pretty long, with more liquorice this time, as well as touches of aniseed. Comments: ‘When I'm taking sips, from your tasty lips, the honey fairly drips…’ Honeysuckle Rose!
SGP:550 - 86 points.

Fine Old Tennessee Whiskey 4 yo 2011/2016 (52.9%, Shinanoya Japan, cask #214, 217 bottles)

Fine Old Tennessee Whiskey 4 yo 2011/2016 (52.9%, Shinanoya Japan, cask #214, 217 bottles) Three stars and a half
This is George Dickel, most certainly. It’s matured in the USA and bottled in Scotland. There’s a mention of Chichibu on the label (Chichibu whisk(e)y Matsuri) but I don’t know what that means. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s very soft and rather all on vanilla and fudge, as expected. More popcorn than in the jazzy one, more shortbread, and more butterscotch. How very Scottish indeed! With water: a little drier and earthier, not an uncommon change. Hints of cured ham, or bacon. Mouth (neat): good fresh young bourbon, rather on orange juice, cranberries, then more butterscotch, candyfloss, orange cake… It’s pretty simple but it does deliver. With water: a littler cakier. Blood oranges, cinnamon drops, violets again. Touches of buckwheat, perhaps. No, I know. Finish: medium and, as usual, rather oakier. Soft sawdust. Comments: simple, very good, square, pleasant. Some US whisky being bottled in Scotland for some Japanese bar and importers, well, makes sense. After all, there was no real detour made. Well…
SGP:540 - 84 points.

Wait, we’ve got an even younger one…

Tennessee Bourbon 3 yo 2016/2019 (61.1%, Maltbarn, 166 bottles)

Tennessee Bourbon 3 yo 2016/2019 (61.1%, Maltbarn, 166 bottles) Three stars and a half
Love it when they add that it was matured in a bourbon cask. George Dickel again, I’m sure. Couldn’t be Jack, could it? Colour: gold. Nose: rather more spirity and brutal, but that could be either the high strength or the young age. Or both. I get a lot of cinnamon cake but it burns a bit. So, with water: a little malted barley! Bizarre, did you say bizarre? In a sense this could as well be some young high-bourbonised Speysider, we’ve seen Aultmores or Graigs that were a bit like this. Mouth (neat): syrupy, strong, rather liqueury. Herbal liqueur and Grand-Marnier – at cask strength. A touch of yellow chartreuse also. With water: very good, more on cakes, cinnamon, shortbread, marmalade, sweet bread… Some orange blossom water too. Finish: medium, simpler, but good and cake-y, with these violets in the background. Comments: young, but check!
SGP:440 - 84 points.

Images of Bardstown (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, Kentucky straight bourbon, 279 bottles, +/-2015)

Images of Bardstown (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, Kentucky straight bourbon, 279 bottles, +/-2015) Four stars
This is said to be Heaven Hill. Colour: gold. Nose: rather some varnish this time, a lot of vanilla indeed, corn syrup, mashed sweet potatoes, wee whiffs of mint leaves, geranium flowers… This is ultra-classic. With water: some garden peat that would go well with the geraniums. I really enjoy this nose. Mouth (neat): good, earthy, a tad spicy (Indian spice mix with caraway and aniseed), otherwise full of vanilla, oranges, and biscuits. I like this. With water: very good, I think (but I’m no bourbon expert, naturally). Good mentholy praline, or nougat… Finish: medium, with this very nice earthiness. Lavender, violets, bitter oranges… (nothing to do with that famous Islayer). Comments: I would have bought a bottle when it was available. Great style.
SGP:560 - 86 points.

A last indie…

New York Distilling Company 2 yo ‘Batch 2’ (50%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, rye, 481 bottles, +/-2018)

New York Distilling Company 2 yo ‘Batch 2’ (50%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, rye, 481 bottles, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
This baby from Brooklyn! I tried to visit last year but they weren’t taking any visitors and I did not want to insist, so I turned tail. Another time. Yes I know I should have called, but they were supposed to be open and I did not want to beg for any special treatments. Now, was this really finished in an applejack cask? Why? Colour: gold. Nose: I do not get much calvados or applejack, and that’s great news if you ask me. I’m rather finding butterscotch, sweet ale, some cinnamon and ginger cake, some light pipe tobacco (we used to have ‘Amsterdamer’), and more and more caraway liqueur. Shall we call it ‘a little aquavity’? With water: gentle. Apple crumble, poppy seeds, sweet pepper, caraway again, a drop of ouzo. Mouth (neat): a little sweet, and really on ginger ale and sweet cider this time. A lot of pepper and some unexpected notes of pineapples. A tad rustic, perhaps. With water: takes water very well. Despite the sweetness that’s a little too much for me, this breadier, peppery side just clicks. Reminds me of our Germanic Christmas cakes, Stolle and stuff. Finish: long. Cider and spices. Comments: very cool baby rye. I’d love to try some purer, drier ones one day, but I’m sure that’ll happen eventually. Very well done.
SGP:660 - 83 points.  

Oh and while we’re at it…

Pappy Van Winkle 20 yo ‘Family Reserve’ (45.2%, OB, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, +/-2018)

Pappy Van Winkle 20 yo ‘Family Reserve’ (45.2%, OB, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
Good, we are not going to make a fuss about this one. It’s not from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery anymore, it’s made at Buffalo Trace instead, apparently. Gotta love the bourbon bloggers. Having said that, I really enjoyed the last or second-last Stitzel-Weller Pappy 20 (2012, WF 89). Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a very fruity one, we’re not that far from some, say Benriach. Plums, guavas, gooseberries, plus a lot of custard and crème au beurre, as well as a rather lovely earthiness. The most Scottish of all bourbons I could try (but granted, I haven’t tried tens of thousands of them). I’m even thinking of some brighter cognacs, imagine. Pistachio paste. Mouth: very good, a tad on apples and calvados at first (almost more so than the Brooklyn rye), then rather on teas and crushed almonds and walnuts. I’m finding less fruitiness on the palate, but there are melons and peaches. What I really enjoy here is how it’s not just vanilla, coconut and ginger/cinnamon cake. Finish: a pile of sponge cake covered with preserved apricots and vanilla-ed whipped cream. Or some kind of puff pastry filled with custard and peach cubes. Whatever. Comments: excellent and surprisingly fresh. Too bad every Tom, Dick and Harry are trying to flip these.
SGP:650 - 88 points.

And now, Pappy 23… I am joking. See ya. I mean, you.

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


June 4, 2019


A fairly small bag of blends

‘Without the blends, there wouldn’t be any malts’, do rather many industry people claim. We should go back in time and ask some 19th century distillers what they think, don’t you agree? But indeed, not all blends are underwhiskies, as we could notice on several occasions. Hope we’ll find a few more exceptions today…

Grant’s Cask Editions ‘Ale Cask Finish’ (40%, OB, William Grant, Cask Edition, blend, +/-2018)

Grant’s Cask Editions ‘Ale Cask Finish’ (40%, OB, William Grant, Cask Edition, blend, +/-2018) Two stars
It’s an Edinburghian brewery that’s been asked to season bourbon casks with some of their ales; a lot of work, hope that was worth it… Sounds a bit like seasoning Bolognese sauce in tomato casks, no? Colour: straw. Nose: extremely dry. Leaves, sawdust, cardboard, apple peel, burnt caramel and dry malt. Hope the palate will be a little sexier… Mouth: you feel the beer a little more, perhaps. Bitters, ales indeed, notes of bitter apples, malty beer, a touch of caramel… It’s not too bad, I would say, one could say it’s the equivalent to a blend with a slightly higher malt content. Finish: medium, bittersweet. Comments: some readymade half-and-half, in other words. What I like is that you don’t quite feel the grain, so this blend could be a kind of philosopher’s stone.
SGP:341 - 72 points.

Grant’s Cask Editions ‘Sherry Cask Finish’ (40%, OB, William Grant, Cask Edition, blend, +/-2016)

Grant’s Cask Editions ‘Sherry Cask Finish’ (40%, OB, William Grant, Cask Edition, blend, +/-2016) one star and a half
Looks like they’ve changed the packaging several times and then discontinued this bottling (it’s been replaced with an 8yo, apparently). An NAS blend finished in some casks seasoned with ‘sherry’, sounds a bit like an Eurovision song, no? Colour: straw. At least it’s not been drowned in caramel. Nose: not un-nice. Supermarket raspberry-and-apple juice (95% apple), some old sour wood, as much ale as in the ale cask finish, and perhaps a few drop of Kriek (allez!) What’s nicer are these whiffs of rose petals. Mouth: the problem is that you feel those rose petals on the palate too, and that they would translate into cheaper Turkish delights, or grenadine syrup. That’s okay, but perhaps not my cup of malt. Finish: medium, sweet and sour, with more grenadine. Comments: what Kriek is to Gueuze (allez!)
SGP:431 - 68 points.

Naturally, they all do finishes…

Johnnie Walker ‘Blender’s Batch Rum Cask Finish’ (40.8%, OB, blend, +/-2017)

Johnnie Walker ‘Blender’s Batch Rum Cask Finish’ (40.8%, OB, blend, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
All right I’ll say it, I hope Diageo haven’t used any ex-Zacapa wood here, although I suppose Zacapa’s only loudly sugared after the casks have been disgorged, and not at birth like they do at, I believe, El Dorado/Diamond (bwah). Lovely old-school label by the way, and smart bottling strength. Colour: straw. Have the prices of spirit caramel really skyrocketed in recent years? (was that remark necessary, S.?) Nose: well, a good step above the not-too-lousy Grants. A medicinal touch, a little pine resin, some fresh butter and some stewed white asparagus, some freshly broken branches, and probably some fresh cane juice. Or rather pressed sugarcane, not just the juice. Nice nose, I’m positively impressed. But as always… Mouth: not, it’s good, but you really feel the rum, as if they had actually done a vatting. The thing is, that rather worked. Nice oranges, a touch of ginger, demerara sugar, even a thin slice of banana… Now the cardboard and the bitter sawdust that’s often to be found in those NAS blends remains there in the background, but it’s all improved, I would say. Finish: medium, with a hint of molasses and more candy sugar. Comments: I think they did this one well.
SGP:541 - 79 points.

While we’re at J.W.’s…

Johnnie Walker 18 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2018)

Johnnie Walker 18 yo (40%, OB, blend, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
A fairly deluxe 18 yo blend should not be bottled at 40% if you ask me, isn’t that a tad stingy? Having said that, I had much enjoyed the previous ‘Platinum’ bottling (WF 84). Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes, this is very nice, I think it’s got a higher malt content, as well as some top-class distilleries (Glen Elgin, I’ve heard). Rather lovely notes of soft herbs, mint leaves, garden earth, geranium flowers, beeswax, then something oriental, caraway, aniseed, star anise, orange blossom water, honey… Rather top-class indeed, but I knew this would happen. Hope the penny-pinching 40% won’t wreck it on our palates… Mouth: excellent blend, no quibbles. Sure it would be much more convincing at 45, or even 43% vol., but the components were big enough so that it wouldn’t be watery. Some smokiness, earth, a little tobacco, wax, quite some tea, the usual marmalade, and just a touch of cardboard, most blends’ signature. Finish: medium, not short. A tad salty, with some aspects that remind me of Johnnie Walker Black Label. Comments: an excellent blend, I think. I would even drink it (gee-ee-ee…)
SGP:551 - 84 points.

No Name N°2 (48.9% Compass Box, blended malt, 8,802 bottles, 2019)

No Name N°2 (48.9% Compass Box, blended malt, 8,802 bottles, 2019) Four stars and a half
Hold on, N°2, isn’t that a name? And isn’t ‘no name’ a name as well? Love these wee paradoxes, they’re always fun. It’s like that story about some Iranian politicians who never knew how to write, in their new constitution, that it was henceforth forbidden to write the word ‘wine’. Anyway, this new baby should be rather peaty… Colour: white wine. Nose: new wellies, new tyres, new Ford, then ice wine, fresh walnuts and paraffin, then more fresh walnuts, mashed potatoes and honeysuckle. It is pretty complex, and not that peaty! Mouth: smart. Starts very dry, ashy, tarry and almost new-plastic-like again, but gets then progressively fruitier, almost bonbony. Melon sweets, Jell-O, wine gums… All that while a grassier, more peppery peat keeps singing in the back. This baby’s almost like a big band, with a roaring rhythm section and the soloists taking their turns one after the other. Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance, Clark Terry… Indeed, the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Finish: long and more coastal. Seawater, lemons, oysters, waxes. Comments: it is clearly coastal, and really very excellent. The packaging is superb, the price a little less so. But this is 2019, is it not.
SGP:566 - 88 points.

Good, a brute-y blend and we’re done for now…

Light, Creamy, Smoky Creation 10 yo 2007/2018 (60.5%, Cadenhead, blend)

Light, Creamy, Smoky Creation 10 yo 2007/2018 (60.5%, Cadenhead, blend) Four stars
A blend of Kilkerran, Longrow, and Invergordon. I for one wouldn’t have added Invergordon unless it’s at least 45 years of age, but there, not my business ;-). Oh and hey, blending Kilkerran (triple distilled) and Longrow (double distilled), doesn’t that create… Springbank (two times and a half distilled)? Let us check that… Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresh butter, sweet maize, candle wax, tree bark, mashed potatoes… Well, Longrow does not have the upper hand this far, but that may be the very high, almost murderous strength. So with water: some fresh herbs, young peater, beach sand, kelp, engine oil, plasticine… It’s a funny, slightly uncertain blend, I would have called it ‘The Wanderer’. I roam around, around, around... Mouth (neat): “c’est du brutal”, that’s what the good folks in Monsieur Gangster would have said. You understand, don’t you? Some buttered popcorn, quite a lot sugar, some rooty notes… Not an easy one to catch, you do feel that they haven’t spent six months in the lab to come up with this rather rough composition. With water: ah, there, finally! Grassy peat, lime, rhubarb, sorrel juice, rapeseed oil, wax, chalk… The goal is reached (and adios, Invergordon). Finish: long, with the grain having come back, but it is still fine. Comments: a twinkling grain whisky, that’s funny. The malts did their jobs.
SGP:564 - 86 points.

We may have other funny mashups blends in the coming days.


June 3, 2019


Sweet little duos
Today two 1973 Glen Keith

Well, that would be one Craigduff and one Glen Keith. It’s always been a little unclear whether Craigduff was made by Chivas Bros. at Strathisla or at Glen Keith. Many websites are still mentioning Strathisla, but old workers (as well as the good people at Signatory) have confirmed that was rather Glen Keith. What’s sure is that those experimental peated batches have become extremely rare. Iain Henderson, who was at the helm at that time, used to tell that they had tried to use peated water that they had brought in tankers from some western islands. Can’t remember which one, sadly. Let’s check, once more, if that worked out…

Craigduff 45 yo 1973/2018 (45.4%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #2518, 575 bottles)

Craigduff 45 yo 1973/2018 (45.4%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #2518, 575 bottles) Five stars
What a coup once again! Colour: full gold. Nose: nada peat, niente, nichts, rien, nothing. On the contrary, we’re facing an exceptional fruity combination, shock full of mango jam, banana compote, overripe apples of all kinds, and various honeys. Then custard and maple syrup, Jaffa cakes (very obvious, and growing), Danish pastries, and a wee glass of Yquem 1988 (pushing things a bit, I must confess). Sultanas in homemade vanilla custard. Very lovely nose, very elegant. And I’m afraid it reminds me a bit of some old Strathislas, which does not mean anything at this point. No smoke. Mouth: I could convince myself that I’m finding a little peat, although that would be a ‘transmuted’ smokiness, rather towards herbal teas than the usual passion fruits. Notes of Turkish delights, light chutneys, mirabelles, then really a lot of acacia honey. What’s really amazing is how fresh it remained, after forty-five years in wood.  Never listen to those false noses who claim that malt always goes into a decline after 30 (or 35, or 40, or 45) years in wood! There’s also a touch of camphor, or eucalyptus pastilles, which may well come from the wood. From the peat? Doubt it. Finish: medium, and rather superb, very honeyed again, with notes of lime-blossom tea. Indeed, Yquem 1988 (cut that, please). Comments: and yet another 30th anniversary bottling by SigV that’s nothing short of impressive. Could we now have a 31st Anniversary series?
SGP:651 - 91 points.

Right, did we say Glen Keith 1973 or Strathisla 1973? Just joking…

Glen Keith-Glenlivet 43 yo 1973/2017 (43.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, 156 bottles)

Glen Keith-Glenlivet 43 yo 1973/2017 (43.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, 156 bottles) Five stars
Strange that I haven’t tried this one yet… Perhaps did I feel there was a Craigduff 1973 coming… Colour: pale gold. Nose: similar, no question about that. There’s even more ‘peat’ in  this than in the Craigduff, as it’s even pretty medicinal, with tinctures and balms, as well as these stunning jams and syrups that were already in the ‘bastard’. The honeyness is striking too here, and the ripe mirabelles, and the sultanas, the old sweet wine (Carole Bouquet’s Pantelleria – and why not?), and this wonderful fresh herbal mix. Parsley, lovage, dill, basil, coriander… It is an exceptional nose. Also yellow flowers, wallflowers, broom, lime flowers… Mouth: it is where the Craigduff takes the lead, as this Glen Keith is a tad too oaky now, with some drying green tannicity. Strong green tea. All the rest is perfect, with ripe mirabelles again, custard, bananas, honey, these touches of menthol and camphor that come with age, some pear pie… Finish: medium, more on honey again, with this lemony aftertaste that just always works, with just any spirits. Comments: it was actually less tannic on the palate, that was just the arrival. High class old Glen Keith.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Main differences? The Craigduff was a little more mentholy and honeyed. Could that have been because of the ‘peat’?

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


June 2, 2019


Big guns. I mean, rums.

Let’s drop the customary apéritif if you don’t mind… Or rather have an apéritif that would be bigger than the usual light-hearted ones…

Monny Musk 6 yo 1996/2002 (46%, Liquid Gold, Caribbean Reserve, Jamaica)

Monny Musk 6 yo 1996/2002 (46%, Liquid Gold, Caribbean Reserve, Jamaica) Three stars and a half
A little indie from before the indie rum bottlers started to bloom like dandelions in my garden. And before they started to care about the actual names of the distilleries (indeed, this ought to be Monymusk). Colour: whiter than white wine. Nose: it is a high-ester Monymusk, and a lovely one at that, rather on some kind of ashy, almost smoky olive brine, then steamed asparagus and Chinese dumplings, as well as the aforementioned dandelions. Wonderful freshness here. Mouth: a sugariness at first, as well as a few burnt notes that may have come from both young age and a lazy cask that did not filter out anything, but the briny and smoky notes are back, together with touches of rotting bananas and some bitterer herbs. Liquorice wood. Finish:  kind rather long, always a tad bitter, with some paraffin oil. A saltier aftertaste. Comments: not perfect and a little rough around the edges, I think, but I always enjoy these kinds of profiles.
SGP:462 - 84 points.

Diamond/Versailles 15 yo (59.2%, Kinghaven, Guyana, 2019)

Diamond/Versailles 15 yo (59.2%, Kinghaven, Guyana, 2019) Four stars
After a rather brilliant Foursquare, here’s another rum by our friends at Smögen in Sweden. And quite logically (really?) they did a fairly Zlatanian finishing in Swedish oak on it. It’s from the Versailles wooden pot still at Diamond. Colour: straw. Nose: loads of custard and fresh croissants, then mirabelle jam, with just a touch of caramelized oak and this slightly bourbony side from the Swedish oak. With water: a lot of shoe polish and church candles, with just a wee pile of fresh sawdust (from Ikea’s, naturally). Mouth (neat): very nice construction, not too unbalanced, not too bourbony, just very strong. Sweet spices. With water: great work on the oak (yes, Serge writing this), with some caraway, wax, soft ginger, vanilla, one small green olive, and a little salty grapefruit juice. Finish: rather long, the oak being a little louder now, especially the aftertaste is a tad tannic for me. Comments: an excellent Demerara nonetheless. In any case, I prefer more oak than more sugar in my rum!
SGP:462 - 86 points.

Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2019 (58.6%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Guadeloupe, 243 bottles)

Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2019 (58.6%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Guadeloupe, 243 bottles) Five stars
Bellevue is not extremely well-known outside rum’s chatting classes, but it sure is a Grand Cru. Top five, very hard to beat! Colour: dark amber. Nose: oh! Coffee, black olives, Cuban cigars, caraway, spearmint, camphor, teak oil, bananas flambéed, graphite oil, brake fluid, bicycle inner tubes, leatherette, new LPs, latex… It is an amazing rum, incredibly complex, even at almost 60% vol. With water: the best of all rum worlds, really. The estery side of the pot-still Jamaicans, the drier complexity of the agricoles, and the phenolic one of the… well we’ll see that later… Mouth (neat): incredibly rich, oily, camphory and mentholy, and yet all on dried fruits, dates, black raisins, pepper… Looks like this is another winner indeed, unless it wouldn’t swim well on our palates, let’s check that…  With water: best of agricole. Marmalade, aniseed, olives, ashes, oils, gingery spice mix, bananas and pineapples, dried fruits, tobacco, mint and liquorice… Finish: same for a long time. Comments: flipside, as I sometimes say, this was hardly a surprise. Brilliant rum, very complex. Loves water too.
SGP:452 - 91 points.

Caroni 21 yo 1998/2019 (55.8%, Valinch & Mallet, Trinidad, cask #19-2101R)

Caroni 21 yo 1998/2019 (55.8%, Valinch & Mallet, Trinidad, cask #19-2101R) Four stars and a half
This wee blotting to celebrate Valinch & Mallet’s 3rd Anniversary. Yeah, clear proof that one can go far without having lived long. Yet. Colour: very deep gold. Nose: very unusual. A large cup of smoking pu-erh tea, some cigarette smoke (menthol cigarettes), some eucalyptus wood, the wee-est whiffs of incense paper, and touches of some kind of artisanal smoky soap. Don’t they have such things on Islay? Do they have that in Trinidad & Tobago too? With water: fresh-sawn pinewood, eucalyptus, and more smoky/earthy pu-her tea. Rubbed banana leaves, perhaps. Mouth (neat): a rather powerful camphory woodiness at first, then really a lot of liquorice and pine resins. A drop of walnut stain (like). With water: I had feared it would have gotten woodier, which would have been excessive then, but the opposite happened. Earl grey, banana skin, café latte… Finish: medium, not the heaviest Caroni ever, but it does deliver till the end of the end. Walnut cake. Comments: totally excellent, and it managed to survive after one of those stunning Bellevues. Because make no mistake, in general and in my book, Bellevue’s in a whole different league than Caroni.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

That one was good, so perhaps another one by Valinch and Mallet?

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1998/2018 (59.2%, Valinch & Mallet, Guyana, cask #19-2001R, 221 bottles)

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1998/2018 (59.2%, Valinch & Mallet, Guyana, cask #19-2001R, 221 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one from the Port Mourant still. If I remember well, that wooden still was first moved from Port Morant to Uitvlugt, and only then from Uitvlugt to Diamond. Correct? Colour: deep gold. Nose: don’t hold your breath, this is as brilliant as expected. This is why those issues about ‘tropical aging’ are so controversial, many rums that matured in Scotland or Holland are actually way better than their ‘tropical’ counterparts, and anything by DDL or El Dorado goes to prove that. Remember, wood’s any aged spirit best friend, and worst enemy at the same time. Not to mention the sugary concoctions that many makers are adding to their own stocks, and that the Europeans would never use (right, unless we’re talking about a certain French company that’s totally lost its mind). So yeah, this Uitvlugt is superb. With water: Crayolas, plasticine, shoe polish, balsa wood, green gunpowder tea and a touch of oyster plant.  Love oyster plant. Mouth (neat): sublime, with this ‘good soap’ that’s often to be found in these rums – bordering paraffin – and really a lot of tarry, smoky wax, camphor, and perhaps green chartreuse. This is phat rum. With water: same profile, same kind of pleasant waxy soapiness. It takes water very well. Finish: long, saltier, rather herbal and tarry. Very salty aftertaste, with lemons doing a late check-in. Comments: one of those pretty extreme, very waxy and almost plastic-like Port Mourants. Perhaps not for Zacapa fans.
SGP:353 - 89 points.

(Merci Lucero)

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


June 1, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Two Invergordon
After the barrage of Campbeltown and Islay, let’s return to Earth with some humble grain whiskies from Invergordon. People often say to me: “Angus, why do you hate grain whisky so much?” To which I usually say: “Because I’m an evil snob out to spoil everyone’s fun! Now sod off!” And then I wake up.


Anyway, let’s try these Invergordons...



Invergordon 31 yo 1987/2019 (63.2%, North Star, barrel, 190 bottles)

Invergordon 31 yo 1987/2019 (63.2%, North Star, barrel, 190 bottles)
63.2%? Death to nasal cavities! Colour: straw. Nose: it’s actually rather easy all things considered it’s just that there’s not much in there beyond the usual grain suspects such as acetone, gym socks, plastic, foam banana, pencil shavings, hot vinyl and dust. What’s considered old for malt is often still rather young for grain I find. Some freshly laundered cloth and a scatter of cereals. With water: extremely dusty now. Some funny notes of cheesecloth, raw green pepper, sap and various cooking oils. Mouth: gah! Molten prit stick glue, varnish, burnt sugar, more plastic, acetone, sour cardboard. I’m sorry North Star, I love what you do but I am not a fan of this. With water: dilution improves things slightly but this is still far too acrid, harsh, spiritous and weaving this curious line between too bitter and too sweet. Finish: surprisingly long, but still full of this hot plastic quality. Burnt marshmallow, cardboard, damp grains. Comments: This is precisely the kind of grain whisky I really don’t like I’m afraid. I know quite a few friends who enjoy grain whiskies and argue that they do in fact have distillate character. If that’s the case then I feel that, in most instances, it’s a type of character that needs time and/or active wood. Give me one of North Star’s many excellent malts or blends over this any day.
SGP: 430 - 68 points.     



Invergordon 44 yo 1973/2018 (52.3%, Mancarella, bourbon barrel, 106 bottles)

Invergordon 44 yo 1973/2018 (52.3%, Mancarella, bourbon barrel, 106 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: richer and far more elegant, we’re some distance from the 87. This is all on gingerbread, nutmeg, cinnamon dusted buns, various freshly baked pastries, vanilla custard, orange oils and hints of youthful Calvados. I’ve tried quite a few of these early 70s Invergordons now and they’re often very good I think, same story with this one so far. With water: lots of baked apples, ginger in syrup, tinned pineapple, cloves and more generous helpings of expensive custard. Mouth: a rum in disguise. Lots of bananas baked in brown sugar, esters, dunder notes, briny olive oil (which feels very strange in a grain whisky) brake fluid, plasticine and even wee touches of medicine and bandages. There’s also a big sweetness from sugar syrup, bonbons, Golden Grahams cereal and cheap dessert wines. With water: still rather rummy and gingery. But now also add some green tea, lemon infused oils, carbon paper, fruit salad syrups and a lick of camphor. Finish: medium and quite sweet. Lots of fruity syrups, ointments, soft spice notes and more baked banana and breakfast cereals. Comments: Top notch rum! Seriously, these ester qualities are quite striking. Another very good old Invergordon.
SGP: 641 - 88 points.




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

May 2019 - part 2 <--- June 2019 - part 1 ---> June 2019 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Craigduff 45 yo 1973/2018 (45.4%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #2518, 575 bottles)

Glen Keith-Glenlivet 43 yo 1973/2017 (43.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, 156 bottles)

Isle of Islay 10 yo 2007/2018 (57.1%, Creative Whisky Co. for The Whisky Barrel, refill hogshead, cask #200703, 285 bottles)

Port Askaig 25 yo (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, for North America, 3000 bottles, 2019)

Port Askaig 28 yo (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, for North America, 3000 bottles, 2019)

Port Askaig 45 yo (40.8%, Elixir Distillers, for the USA, 51 bottles, 2019)

Smögen 7 yo 2011/2019 (62.2%, OB, Sweden, bourbon barrel, cask #57/2011, 327 bottles)

Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2019 (58.6%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Guadeloupe, 243 bottles)

Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2019 (58.8%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil for The Whisky Barrel, Guadeloupe, 245 bottles)

Bellevue 20 yo 1998/2018 (Valinch & Mallet, Marie-Galante, cask #182001-R, 153 bottles)