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Whisky Tasting


Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild




Hi, you're in the Archives, June 2023 - Part 1

May 2023 - part 2 <--- June 2023 - part 1 ---> June 2023 - part 2


June 14, 2023


Some blends

We try to do this at least a few times a year, even if more and more single malts that are 'blends' on paper are also creeping out, which makes it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff (have to find a better expression). We make every effort to tell them apart, but it is not always easy and sometimes it is even impossible, as some high-end proper blends do actually shelter minuscule quantities of grain whisky.




Johnnie Walker 'Bourbon & Rye Finish' (40%, OB, Blenders' Batch No.2, +/-2021)

Johnnie Walker 'Bourbon & Rye Finish' (40%, OB, Blenders' Batch No.2, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
They say there's more than 200 different whiskies inside, and that the end result was finished for 6 months in rye whisky. What they wouldn't tell is whether it was pure rye, or if it was what they call 'a rye' in America. Colour: gold. Nose: it is clearly 'American' – and it is nice. Typical barrel spices, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, plus the expected vanillaness, peanut butter, fudge, sawdust… Mouth: really sweet, kind of grain-forward, as if the barrels had added even more grain that there already was in the blend. Popcorn, fruit candies, light nougat, sweet maize, a little tangerine liqueur, a little sweet varnish of some sorts… But it is extremely light, if not weak, and that's the low A.B.V., which doesn't do it justice and would, in the end, hint at Haig Club. Finish: short, but with pleasant notes of pineapple. Comments: frustrating because of the strength. Did those distinguished blenders decide on the bottling strength themselves? Because the heart is very right.
SGP:730 - 77 points.

White Heather 21 yo (48%, OB, blended Scotch, +/-2022)

White Heather 21 yo (48%, OB, blended Scotch, +/-2022) Four stars and a half
They say two things on the label, first that it is made with 'an exceptional degree of craft and care', which I'm ready to believe after its excellent little brother the 15 that we tried a few months ago, and second, that it is 'as rare as white heather'. Well, it may be rare in Scotland, but next time they're in France, we'll show them a lot of that 'Erica heather'. Which, by the way, lets the bees make one of the best honeys, in my opinion. Anyway… Colour: full gold. Nose: a little burnt wood and cake at first, then old rancio and garden peat, pipe tobacco, camphor with clove syrup, oloroso, old walnuts, orange bitters, furniture polish… It's the 'darker', old-school style, as we sometimes say. The opposite of the Johnnie Walker. Mouth: there must be some old casks in there, I'm finding a lot of 'old' chocolate, mentholy woods, indeed old oloroso, bitter resins, black tobacco (Gauloise)… They really managed to make us feel some oldness, but it never feels tired. Berries-and-chocolate bars then. Finish: long and fruitier. Chocolate filled with fruit liqueurs, Jaffa cakes in the aftertaste. Comments: is there even any grain whisky in there? Or perhaps some 30-40yo Invergordon ex-sherry? One of the best blends around these days, in my opinion.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

Delos (49%, Compass Box, blended Scotch, 5,520 bottles, 2023)

Delos (49%, Compass Box, blended Scotch, 5,520 bottles, 2023) Four stars
I am not sure I'm getting it. I've seen a price of 340€ for this NAS and a wonderful story about 'extinct blends', so I immediately thought about Coleburn, Glenlochy (some Glenlochy soon on WF!), Lochside, Glenesk, Garnheath… Right, not obligatorily about Brora or Port Ellen! But no, apparently, it's Glen Elgin, Miltonduff, Imperial (granted, Imperial is down) and Cameronbridge – the largest grain distillery… So there must be another secret… Colour: straw. Nose: really nice, malty, bready, with apples and pears, acacia blossom, honeysuckle… Plus cassis buds and berries. A little fresh wood too, it may have been rejuvenated. Mouth: absolutely, it's very nice, full of orchard fruits, apples, peaches, apricots, plus once again some fresh oak spices, nutmeg perhaps… It does feel like a middle-aged Glen Elgin indeed, we know those are good. Plums. Finish: medium, a tad more on sweet bananas, banana cream… That's fresh oak. Good sweet citrus in the aftertaste. Comments: I'm really slow, I still don't quite get it (I mean, given the price). And I'm surprised they have added neither Clynelish, nor Laphroaig, so no actual top-dresser. But yeah, it's very good and very natural.
SGP:641 - 85 points.

Ultramarine (51%, Compass Box, blended Scotch, 5,530 bottles, 2022

Ultramarine (51%, Compass Box, blended Scotch, 5,530 bottles, 2022) Four stars
Caol Ila, Glendullan, Ord, Miltonduff, Speyburn and two grains, plus a label by Salvador Dali (more or less). Even more pricey but lovely. After all, we don't taste price tags. Colour: light gold. Nose: Caol Ila and the rest. Cough medicine, sea spray, oysters, ashes, cider apples, menthol, fruit peel (which is very Glendullan in my book), seaweed… With water: dried flowers, patchouli, bidis… Om?… … Mouth (neat): indeed, Caol Ila and the rest, but I like this combo. Mint-forward, plus eucalyptus, otherwise limoncello (here we go again) and the usual oysters. With water: more citrus, liqueurs, a little peppermint… Finish: medium, fresh, extremely well balanced, with a saltier aftertaste. Comments: lovely. It reminds me of the good old times of home blending, when we were sharing recipes. Like 50% Macallan 10, 30% HP 12, 10% Lagavulin 16 and 5% Ardbeg 10 plus 5% water to bind it all together. Stir, don't shake, and voilà. But that practice went out of fashion…

SGP:553 - 87 points.

Turntable 'Track #1' (46%, OB, blended Scotch, 2023)

Turntable 'Track #1' (46%, OB, blended Scotch, 2023) Four stars
Also named Joy. Discovery. Invention. (a song by Biffy Clyro, a band I ddin't know of, probably a matter of generation). And a new company, hurray! And more smart moves around blends, in true Compass Box fashion (you don't need to distil to make whisky), with quite a bit of fun. And music. Remember we started this lousy 'blog' with whisky and music… Well, the original idea was whisky, music and motorbikes. That was way before some suckers invented SEO. Colour: light gold. Nose: fine, malty, fruity, with some good 'regular' malt whiskies, apples, pears, plums, brioche and all that. Not quite LedZep or Miles, rather, say Sir Paul. Mouth: some knack, with good creaminess (new oak?) and this mango/lemon/beeswax combo, leading to vanilla and liquorice allsorts. Just impeccable and modern. Finish: rather long, sweet, with liqueurs and fruit jelly. Comments: just smart and very good, and the price is good here. I'm reminded of Jon, Mark & Robbo's venture, but they've been much too early.

SGP:641 - 85 points.

Turntable 'Track #2' (46%, OB, blended Scotch, 2023)

Turntable 'Track #2' (46%, OB, blended Scotch, 2023) Four stars
A.k.a. Firestarter (The Prodigy). Caol Ila at the helm this time again, apparently. Colour: light gold. Nose: you do feel some 'wood works' this time again, as well as indeed, some coastal/smoky CaolIlaness. Now the fresh wood/branches remain a little bit in the way. Spearmint, ashes, old chimney, bark… What you really don't feel is the grain part. Mouth: thick, creamy, certainly excellent but this is something else, a next step, forged by wood treatments. Strictly nothing against that, as long as they don't use heat and high-pressurising, but yeah, this is the next era. Finish: long, very creamy, on vanilla and bananas. Comments: reminiscent of the great works by James Eadie, Fable Whisky, Bimber, M&H, Kavalan and several other new makers who've embraced modern wood technology with talent. Dr Jim Swan's heirs.  

SGP:654 - 85 points.

Turntable 'Track #3' (46%, OB, blended Scotch, 2023)

Turntable 'Track #3' (46%, OB, blended Scotch, 2023) Four stars
This one's called 'Purple Haze', let's just hope it won't lead us straight to manic depression, as I just told a good friend while we were chatting about purple asparagus vs. white ones. Indeed, no sense at all. Colour: deep gold. Nose: easily my favourite, and not just because of Jimi Hendrix. Metal polish, old engine oil, game (old grouse – nothing personal), walnut wine, bay leaves, cigarettes, compost, old pinot noir… Mouth: bingo. Cassis, raspberries, more pinot noir, touch of liquorice, cherry liqueur, garnacha/grenache… In theory, this should never work. In realty, it's… well, rocking. Some leafy wood in the background, which is normal. Finish: long. More cherries, etc. The expected peppers in the aftertaste. Comments: I haven't checked the distilleries they've been using, but I doubt that's very important. I should hate this. Hope no zin has been used, and no Bourgogne casks harmed (I mean, STRised).

SGP:661 - 87 points.

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


June 13, 2023


WF's Little Duos, today Scapa IB vs. OB!

I concede that we may have attributed several 'Secret Orkneys' to Highland Park when they were actually Scapa, especially the ones that were milder and gentler. But how could we have known? In any case, the two malts we are going to taste today are indeed Scapa, it's even written on the labels. Overall, I find that Scapa has become, let's say, unusual lately; it's a shame because G&M had some superb ones, for example... Speaking of G&M...




Scapa 17 yo 2005/2022 (55.3%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice for Kirsch Import, 1st fill bourbon, cask #486, 196 bottles)

Scapa 17 yo 2005/2022 (55.3%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice for Kirsch Import, 1st fill bourbon, cask #486, 196 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: White wine. Nose: By Jove, it seems we may have indeed attributed some secret Scapa to HP, as this is equally earthy and mineral, lemony, taut, waxy, and complex like the famous malt of Edrington's. There are even these admirable notes of heather honey, perhaps even white heather. Heather is fascinating, and heather honey even more so. With water: Ultra-precise, with heather, sweet woodruff, and limestone. Palate (undiluted): It's a bit more aggressive on the palate than on the nose, but it's rare to find lemon and limestone paired like this, except in the Aligotés from Domaine de Villaine. But we are far from Burgundy! Excellently taut, while still being enveloped by vanilla, honeysuckle, and a hint of coconut. With water: It really is a wine-malt. More honeyed notes this time. Finish: Medium-length, with citrus liqueurs and once again, limestone notes. A touch of pink rhubarb. Comments: It's very surprising, very beautiful, of great purity while being smooth. Perhaps with white asparagus? Well, let's not start playing the game of food and whisky pairings, we would never finish...

SGP: 551 - 88 points.

Scapa 19 yo 2003/2022 (56.7%, OB, exclusive to The Whisky Exchange)

Scapa 19 yo 2003/2022 (56.7%, OB, exclusive to The Whisky Exchange) Four stars and a half
As I may have suggested, these official Scapas have become scarce and sought-after, I believe we have to thank TWE, and perhaps Pernod for this one. Colour: Pale gold. Nose: What on earth is this smoke? Fir wood in a fireplace beyond the Arctic Circle? And then there's fennel, rhubarb, green banana, star anise, fresh agave, sandalwood, Armenian paper... It's all really unique, fresh, aromatic, delicate... And then these notes of Starkrimson apple and lime. What is this? With water: The smoke has disappeared, but there's still a hint of soot. The rest revolves around fresh apple. Palate (undiluted): Like G&M, a bit fresher, less honeyed, and slightly lighter. It's very beautiful. With water: More meadow honey and tender caramel. A bit of wood emerges, but no problem. Finish: Medium-length, with fudge and tea. Just tea. Comments: We want more Scapa! And while we're at it, let's rebuild a Stromness distillery!
SGP: 551 - 88 points.

Once again, it's impossible to differentiate between the two versions, although the G&M has maintained a minuscule lead throughout. It seems that both have been selected with exceptional care. Not by an AI, nor even simply by scrolling through a MS-Excel spreadsheet while drinking a cup of milk tea and smoking a... uh, a Benson & Hedges Classic Gold. Well, well.

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


June 12, 2023


WF's Little Duos, today Talisker NAS

All this because several friends have told me that Diageo have used my name without asking me, while making a mistake with one letter, writing 'Talisker Surge' instead of 'Talisker Serge'. Naturally, I've hired the best lawyers in New York and we are about to sue them in court, but In a pretty Cosmo-Kramer kind of move, I now say send me a miniature of Talisker 10 years old every year for life, and we'll be square. Or you'll face the consequences of your most misleading actions… The new Talisker x Parley is perhaps more interesting...




Talisker 'Surge' (45.8%, OB, 2022)

Talisker 'Surge' (45.8%, OB, 2022) Three stars and a half
NAS, but 100% bourbon! Although that would be a finishing in bourbon, so I suppose refill hoggies + bourbon. That's the USP here, It seems, certainly not the name (S., you won't get away with this!) Colour: gold. Nose: barbecue, bacon, vanilla, sardines, mint, orange zests, clams, chives, almond paste, fresh baguette, vanilla, liquorice allsorts, jellybeans. The re-racking feels, for it made Talisker sweeter and fruitier on the nose, in a Laphroaig-Select or Ardbeg-An-Oa kind of way. Very, very easy Talisker, more a canoe than a three-master but this is very pleasant. Mouth: indeed, it's probably a little too easy, sweet and juvenile for the mighty Talisker, but naturally, it will 'go down without a frown', as they say in all pubs in Scotland. Some ashes, a little pepper and a little salt(iness), otherwise apple juice, vanilla fudge, williams pears and papayas. That's the bourbon. Finish: medium, sweet, easy. Preserved peaches, some easy Szechuan pepper, some pears, some wine gums. Comments: the easiest side of Talisker. I'm not totally sure I understand the pricing policy, but it's true that this is 2023.
SGP:633 - 84 points.
UPDATE: it did indeed experience a 100% full-term maturation in ex-bourbon casks.

Talisker 'x Parley Wilder Seas' (48.6%, OB, 2023)

Talisker 'x Parley Wilder Seas' (48.6%, OB, 2023) Four stars and a half
This one was finished in cognac casks (XO, baby) while the bottle itself is said to be much more carbon-savvy than usual. One of the goals here, shared with 'Parley', is to 'rewild more than 100 million square metres of ocean forest'. It all feels a little 'Nestlé' to me, but that's absolutely not bad news. As for why cognac, maybe that's because the Cognac region is kind of stretching along the ocean… No? Colour: gold. Nose: a moment please, but this is lovely! I would suppose they've got great casks from Moët-Hennessy. I believe the balance is exactly right, not cognacqy, still Talisker, with some lapsang souchong tea sweetened with honey, plus some lemon juice and those yellow peaches that can make young XOs so fragrant and lively. Awesome touches of softer tar and some menthol. Honestly, it reminds me of some much older, wonderfully polished  expressions of Talisker. Mouth: but who did the blending? Smoke and citrus and Szechuan pepper and peaches and lemon and oysters (from the Cognac region, Marennes Oléron of course). Exactly right. Finish: only the finish is a wee tad sweet(ish), for unknown reasons. Let's say three sultanas per litre. The rest is Talisker, including the right amount of pepper. Comments: Diageo give £3 per bottle to the oceans (long story short). Let's all buy a palette and we'll sleep easy and peacefully, with a much deserved feeling of accomplishment. Seriously and more prosaically, it's a great tipple. Adidas x Parley sneakers are good too.
SGP:554 - 89 points.

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


June 11, 2023


  A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!



This is another rum Sunday at WF HQ

Distillerie Carrère - Montebello, Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe (Montebello)

We'll taste them as they come out of the boxes and try to make them as diverse as possible, because if I listened to myself, I would only try my favourite styles and names.



Koloa 'Kaua'i Gold' (40%, OB, Hawaii, +/-2022)

Koloa 'Kaua'i Gold' (40%, OB, Hawaii, +/-2022)
They say this one is distilled from 'pure cane sugar', so it should be very light, let's see. Colour: straw. Nose: very light indeed, slightly grassy, with whiffs of hay, straw, and Mum's vanilla sugar. Very very very very soft… Mouth: not much, a little more grass, a touch of liquorice, a little burnt sugar, but it's totally a whisperer, with a little ethanol  having the final say. Finish: short, not totally unpleasant, but I believe it's the lightest rum I've tried this year, so far. Or wasn't it the very humble Bacardi 'Anejo Cuatro'? Pure white sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: extremely light and not too bad, so harmless, but was it even aged in oak? Or in any other kind of wood? Was it even aged at all?

SGP:420 - 60 points.

Kasama 7 yo (40%, OB, Philippines, +/-2022)

Kasama 7 yo (40%, OB, Philippines, +/-2022)
I brought this one back from Poland, it's bottled by Polmos in small batches. Hope they don't make this one as some make Don Papa. Colour: gold. Nose: more pineapple than in pineapples! This is made in a lab, it is not proper rum. Vanilla extracts, glycol, pineapples… It is, in truth, extremely reminiscent of the cheapest Don Papa. Mouth: this pineapple liqueur is probably not too bad if you pour it over tons of crushed ice, and add bits of fresh pineapple, a straw and a paper umbrella. And 'Pais Tropical' on the stereo. Finish: none, just sugar syrup. Comments: it is not a bad drink, not at all, it is just not rum. The problem doesn't lie in the bottle, it's the fact that they call it 'Small Batch Rum Aged 7 Years'. Of course I've brought back much better stuff from Poland.
SGP:810 - 50 points.

Proper rum please…

Clément 2020/2023 'Canne Bleue Vieux' (42%, OB, Martinique, 20th Anniversary, agricole)

Clément 2020/2023 'Canne Bleue Vieux' (42%, OB, Martinique, 20th Anniversary, agricole) Three stars and a half
It's a 3 years old, so I suppose it was bottled this year as the vintage is 2020. It's 100% blue cane from various locations/terroirs. It should be particularly earthy… Colour: full gold. Nose: rye and pencil shavings! Then cedarwood indeed, vanilla (no artificial extracts this time) and rather a lot of sweet liquorice and aniseed, plus a little marmalade, hessian, dunnage... Very pleasant, somewhat 'oriental', with whiffs of incense. Mouth: I believe this cedarwood is a tad loud and would have deserved a higher strength so that it wouldn't become tea-ish, but the rest is most amiable, with this spicy earth, notes of bok choy, rye bread indeed, caraway and marmalade. Finish: earthier yet, a tiny tad cardboardy (the 42%) but pleasingly spicy indeed. A little chestnut honey and lavender in the aftertaste (sweets). Comments: could we have these at 50% vol., as the whites are?
SGP:562 - 84 points.

Foursquare 11 yo 2010/2022 (59.3%, The Colours of Rum, Barbados, No.17, bourbon, 264 bottles)

Foursquare 11 yo 2010/2022 (59.3%, The Colours of Rum, Barbados, No.17, bourbon, 264 bottles) Four stars and a half
Aged for 5 years in the tropics and probably the usual self-blend of column and pot rums. Now I do vividly and fondly remember the 'pure pot' Foursquare I could try last year. I'm sure there will be more. Colour: gold. Nose: always this orangey lightness that's so seductive, these Jaffa cakes, marmalade, actually even more orange juice (freshly squeezed), orange blossom… Aren't oranges stealing the show here? But rum with Vitamin C, who would complain? With water: light earthiness, putty, marzipan, touch of linoleum perhaps… Mouth (neat): not the first time that I'm finding an agricole side to a Foursquare. Orange cake, cane honey, maple syrup, rosehip tea, these touches of varnish and lemon juice that we always enjoy… With water: stays the same, gets just easier – not that it was difficult before. Finish: medium, on orange blossom madeleines and scones, and indeed orange juice. Soft aftertaste. Comments: particularly excellent at just 11. Now since years in the tropics are tripled, that would actually be (3*5)+6 = 21 years. I liked this one better than No.18.

SGP: 641- 89 points.

We feel a desire for more FS (is that bad, doctor?) …

Foursquare 14 yo 2008/2023 (57.1%, The Roots, Barbados, cask #1, 271 bottles)

Foursquare 14 yo 2008/2023 (57.1%, The Roots, Barbados, cask #1, 271 bottles) Four stars and a half
8 years in the tropics and 6 continental this time, so (8*3) +6=30 years. Right. Colour: gold. Nose: subtle but extremely cakey. Five O'clock tea, with English tea, scones, muffins, religieuses, macaroons, shortbreads and millionaire fudge. Plus fresh butter, marmalade and apricot jam. With water: I believe they never change hugely hen watered down. Let's say there is a little hay  and crushed canes coming out. Mouth (neat): super-moist orange cake, giga-panettone from this morning, and touches of varnish and liquorice, plus coriander. With water: herbal teas. It needs water but water is not needed, see what I mean? Finish: medium, probably a little rounder yet than the 2010. Earthier aftertaste, with some caraway too. Comments: we could spend a whole night – and two litres of each – to try to decide on my favourite. That wouldn't be reasonable.

SGP:641 - 89 points.

Something rarer…

Montebello 23 yo 1998/2022 (43.3%, The Colours of Rum, Guadeloupe, No.1, 155 bottles)

Montebello 23 yo 1998/2022 (43.3%, The Colours of Rum, Guadeloupe, No.1, 155 bottles) Four stars
I never quite managed to make myself a religion about Montebello, as we say here. Last time it was all very 1975… But the indies would usually help. In rum too, the indies are extremely important. Colour: straw. Nose: so charmingly weird! Elderberries everywhere, sorb, chequers, St. Germain… Now was it worth the hassle to harvest, distil and age cane juice to come up some elderberry/flower eau-de-vie and liqueur? Only half-joking…  Mouth: same feelings, it's all about elder. How bizarre… Some acacia gum too, zucchini flower fritter, then blood orange… Even if the ABV would suggest otherwise, I would suppose it was entirely aged on location, on Basseterre. Finish: medium, exactly on, I insist, elderflower liqueur. Comments: what's good is that apparently, Elderflower liqueur had dethroned Aperol in Spritzes. Make some Montebello Spritz? Ideas ideas…
SGP:660 - 85 points.

Good, a powerful Jamaican bearing the same age/vintage, and we are done.

Monymusk 23 yo 1998/2022 'AHJ' (59.4%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, barrel, 181 bottles)

Monymusk 23 yo 1998/2022 'AHJ' (59.4%, Rest & Be Thankful, Jamaica, barrel, 181 bottles) Four stars
These labels are really nice, they should make T-shirts. Never heard of the 'AHJ' marque, possibly a broker's. What I know is that 'AH' means low esters at Monymusk. Colour: straw. Nose: it's like peat on the Kildalton coast, or the 'nose of Jaune' in some parts of Jura, it's never totally absent. What I mean is that this baby is still rather estery, with olives (right, those small pink ones), brine, nail polish and rotting pineapples. With water: rubber bands and lemon zests.  Mouth (neat): low marque, that's right. A lot of lemon juice, brine, varnish, lemongrass, coriander… But indeed it is not a monster Jamaican at all. With water: right, but its lovely, salty, briny, with excellent citrus, tangerine and citron liqueur, overripe bananas, cigarettes, and the smallest drop of varnish ever. Finish: medium, very good, with a touch of salty petrol and some pineapple in the aftertaste. Comments: charming, refined. In the olden days, some would have added 'a smidgen feminine', regretablly.
SGP:552 - 87 points.

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


June 10, 2023





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Some wonderful old Glen Grant for Mattias
Today's tasting is for Mattias Johannesson, who very sadly passed away from cancer this week. As is so often the case in these circumstances, he was far too young and we are left contemplating the all too common cruelties and injustices to be found in life.


I only met Mattias a few times, but he was a very kind, warm, humble and gentle man. The kind of person who's qualities were immediate and outwardly apparent. He made much of the arrangements on my last trip to Sweden, just last year, where I did a tasting for his whisky club and we were able to spend some time together. I recall very fondly the time I spent chatting to him in his home and meeting his wonderful family. He loved whisky and he was a longstanding reader and supporter of Whiskyfun. I would simply like to extend my deepest condolences to his family and to dedicate today's tasting of some beautiful old Glen Grants to Mattias and to his quiet but great strength of character and humour.



Glen Grant 22 yo 2000/2022 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #1, 1st fill sherry butt finish, 686 bottles)

Glen Grant 22 yo 2000/2022 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #1, 1st fill sherry butt finish, 686 bottles)
We wouldn't ordinarily commence a tasting quite so high in strength, age, or sherry influence, but this is going to be a session mostly dominated by old gems, so this feels like the appropriate aperitif. Colour: deep amber. Nose: highly polished and rather precise on things like chocolate coated Brazil nuts, pot pourri, sultanas and some rather posh fruit jams. I also find a few nicely scented hardwoods in the background. With water: figs and gravy! Cranberry gravy I would add. But yes, this kind of jams and gamey / savoury stock fusion vibe is quite clear now. Mouth: the modernity feels more apparent here with these slightly grippier tannins up front, but also nicely drying cocoa and dark chocolate vibes, sawn rosewood, treacle and salted dark chocolate. Still some dried flower petal impressions in there too. With water: goes more in the earthy direction I find, with some nice notes of slightly tannic teas, bergamot and raisins. I suspect the finishing was a good length of time as the sherry feels very well integrated. Finish: medium, on salted almonds, marzipan, jams and ultra-classic dry sherry characteristics. Comments: probably more about the thrills of clever double maturation than about Glen Grant, but it's still a pretty top notch modern sherry bomb.
SGP: 561 - 87 points.



Glen Grant 10 yo (70 proof, OB, 1960s)

Glen Grant 10 yo (70 proof, OB, 1960s)
Cork cap and cube bottle in a charmingly old school tartan box. One I opened early this year, just because it's important to always have a few old Glen Grants open on your shelf… Colour: pale gold. Nose: gah! Mushroom powders, toolboxes full of hessian rags, bone marrow, herb tea, shoe polish and wax mashed up with old dried out honey. Add in some ointments and gentle medicines too. Mouth: you wouldn't believe this was 70 proof! Waxes, leathers, dried honeys, dried herbs, old Drambuie from the 1950s, herbal cough syrups, cheng pi orange peels and old dried out fruit liqueurs. Many tertiary flavours too, that feel like they come from old sherry wood, salty things, dried fruits, wee earthy and rooty notes. Wonderful! Finish: medium, perfectly dry, slightly sappy, medicinal and with nicely herbal touches. Comments: I keep saying I am going to stop writing notes for these bottlings, but perhaps I really am this time. Dreadful whisky, etc etc…
SGP: 472 - 91 points.



Glen Grant 10 yo (80 proof, Andrew Collie & Co Ltd, circa 1960)

Glen Grant 10 yo (80 proof, Andrew Collie & Co Ltd, circa 1960)
Glass code is NB5 A3 UGB with many encircling wee dots - so, circa 1960 I'd say. Andrew Collie being one of seemingly many old Aberdonian merchants to bottle their own Glen Grant under license. Colour: bright straw. Nose: much like the OB, but only fatter, more sinewed, even drier and really quite 'broad shouldered'. A style that's long gone really, apart from the odd Springbank or Ben Nevis here or there I would say. A whisky that is dominated and driven almost entirely by distillate power and charisma! In this case that charisma is really entirely about waxes, oils, minerals, animal fats and medicines! Mouth: stunning! A pure, intense waxiness, layered with mineral oils, mineral salts, tiny leathery notes, savoury stocks and herbal embrocations. Leaves your teeth feeling greasy! Finish: long, stunningly dry, almost salty and tense, more fats, minerals, grassy olive oil and putty. Beautifully and subtly medicinal too. Comments: it's not only old Glen Grant that display's this profile, but there's a sheen of pure class about this distillate from this era that is irrefutable. A glorious old gem that sends pretty much all modern 10 year olds back to the stillroom!
SGP: 372 - 93 points.



Glen Grant 5 yo (104 proof, Campbell Hope & King, 1950s)

Glen Grant 5 yo (104 proof, Campbell Hope & King, 1950s)
We're getting into even older glass, this one is code A4 R10 UGB with many more even smaller dots encircling. So I believe it should be safe to assume this would be early 1950s distillate. I can also tell you that, according to the small price sticker still adhered to the shoulder of this bottle, it originally cost 8 shillings (*). Colour: the palest of white wines - almost new make. Nose: similarities and differences. This shared sense of fatness, greasiness, oiliness and mineral oils. But there's even more trebly fruit here, barely extract, pineapple, touches of passion fruit, lime and lemon. A feeling of a new make that is really, truly a barley eau de vie in the very precise sense of that imaginary category. I should add: stunning! Some gorgeous tertiary aromas of dried mint, lanolin, chalk and elderflower. With water: (First of all the viscimetry is immense, these old malts are so much about texture!) white fruits, minerals, chalk, limestone, brittle waxes and dried herbs like thyme and sage. Also some light impressions of animal furs. Mouth: stunning purity and power! Grass, brake pads, olive oil, eucalyptus, dried herbs, dried mango chunks and exotic fruit teas. Also, quite frankly, big, flabby, oily new make vibes once again, but really in the greatest sense of that characteristic. Hugely mineral and also impressively citric too. With water: softer, bringing more of the oils and waxes to the fore, becoming more broad in its texture and engaging the whole mouth. Some sweeter and toastier cereal notes, lanolin again, more cooking oils and more greasy vibes. Finish: long, superbly mineral, drying, lemony, herbaceous and full of verbena, lime skin, putty, cough medicines and waxes. Comments: let's be honest, you really have to be into this style of almost ideologically distillate driven spirit to love this - thankfully, that's exactly me and so I just adore it. If you gave me this blind and told me it had spent its life in a clay amphora on the Moon a gazillion miles from the nearest cask stave, I would have said "Which crater?". Probably not 'technically' as dazzling as the previous 10yo, but this is still a masterclass in truly great distillate.
SGP: 362 - 92 points.



Always a tricky decision about how to place these high octane old youngsters amongst softer old oldsters. But I believe we have a pathway through…



Glen Grant-Glenlivet 16 yo 1963/1979 (80 proof, Cadenhead Dumpy)

Glen Grant-Glenlivet 16 yo 1963/1979 (80 proof, Cadenhead Dumpy)
Should we expect waxes, metal polish and soot…? Colour: deep orangey amber. Nose: no, actually this is a sherried one and this is going rather deeply into old Demerara rum with big notes of fudge, camphor, raisins and cedar wood cigar boxes. Requires a little time to awaken I think, but with time it really does begin to pick up more of these classically earthy, salty and rancio sherry notes of old. Also perhaps some resinous fir and hardwood notes. Mouth: the ABV clearly does some heavy lifting here as there's a wonderful thickness in the mouth, feelings of walnut liqueur, salted liquorice, truffle oil and strong black tea with these nicely nippy tannins. It's also slightly gingery, on ginger liqueur with dried exotic fruit chunks in the background. Finish: medium, nicely salty, drying and onto tobacco leaf, more liquorice, more walnuts and some top notch espresso! Comments: not uber complex, but a big and pretty perfect old school sherried Glen Grant that manages to juggle all those salty, sweet, bitter and drying components with aplomb.
SGP: 471 - 90 points.



Glen Grant 27 yo (70 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, early 1970s)

Glen Grant 27 yo (70 proof, Gordon & MacPhail, early 1970s)
From that rather charming old thistle stencilled glass series that would likely make it an early 1970s bottling. Colour: gold. Nose: extremely typical of these old G&M malts from this 30s/40s/early 50s era, or perhaps, just as typical of the sherry casks G&M were filling in those days. Which is to say, riddled with coconut, exotic fruits, delicate threads of peat smoke and fusion of gentle sweetness and rancio that is completely alluring. Various subtle aromas of shoe and metal polishes, a hint of bouillon, some medicinal herbs and things like camphor and wormwood. Gorgeous and exactly as hoped/anticipated. Mouth: similarly very immediate and very typical. Same feeling of super old school American oak ex-transport sherry cask with these sweeter coconut notes, many dried exotic fruits, tropical fruit teas, herbal cough syrup, distant rumours of dry peat smoke and hints of things like white truffle, aged mead and classical camphor and hessian notes. Finish: a tad short, but still wonderfully exotic, coconutty, medicinal, honeyed and with plenty soft waxy notes. Comments: runs out of steam ever so slightly towards the end (G&M with their 70 proof!) but it's still glorious and rather embarrassingly pleasurable old whisky to scoff if you have an entire bottle at your disposal.
SGP: 652 - 89 points.



Glen Grant 27 yo (40%, Prime Malt, Carlton Import USA, 1980s)

Glen Grant 27 yo (40%, Prime Malt, Carlton Import USA, 1980s)
This rather obscure old Prime Malt series more famously sheltered some legendary Laphroaig batches, the Glen Grants are less well known though. Colour: ruby / amber. Nose: exquisitely fruity old sherry. All riddled with figs, walnut oil, camphor, concentrated red fruit jams - I want to say 'sultana curds' something which doesn't exist but I feel should. Underneath that a similar but more subdued feeling of American oak-derived coconut. The fusion of those styles and overall concentration is rather aromatically glorious I have to say. Mouth: same feeling of the G&M but with added heavier sherry influence, in a way that adds greater weight and complexity with more salinity, more bitter almond and walnut notes, tannic black teas, roots, bitter herbs, cough medicines and background layers of dried exotic fruits. A whisky that is really cosplaying as a stunning, ancient Grande Champagne cognac. If I were to have a very large dram of this poured for me in a cognac snifter glass, I don't believe I could find it within myself to complain. Finish: medium, but stunningly herbal, perfectly bitter, again on walnuts, rancio, unlit cigars, pipe tobacco, bitter salted chocolate and very subtle hints of tarragon and dried mint in the aftertaste. Comments:  I would say this hyper-easy, very fruity and yet also rather dry and elegantly salty style of sherry is my favourite. I also wonder how much of this character is driven by sitting in glass for many years after being reduced for bottling? Like the G&M, I could guzzle litres of this outrageous juice.
SGP: 462 - 92 points.



Glen Grant 25 yo 1953 (86 US proof, Stuart MacNair & Co Ltd, John Gross Import USA)

Glen Grant 25 yo 1953 (86 US proof, Stuart MacNair & Co Ltd, John Gross Import USA)
The previous bottling was imported by Carlton Imports in Baltimore, as was this one by John Gross, also in Baltimore and also the agent for Laphroaig for a while. Oh to visit a Baltimore spirit merchant in the 1980s! Colour: deep gold. Nose: far less sherried, so also a little more complex and elusive in some ways. Many earthier and waxier tones up front, more sooty notes, metal polish - could be impersonating an old Cadenhead dumpy in some lights - dried out old honeys, camphor, dried mint, old throat lozenges and tiger balm. A wonderful style and profile, but one that requires a tad more focus and concentration! These rather complex honeyed notes become increasingly fascinating and start to incorporate dried out old flowers and their pollens along with salted mead and more camphor. Mouth: yes! Amazing what 43% can do! Wonderful fatness and waxiness is draped in layers across this same very honeyed profile. Also yellow fruits, mirabelle, quince, jasmine flower, mango and wee notes of exotic fruit teas. A perfect balance of sweetness and dryness, with medicinal notes encroaching from underneath adding to the overall complexity, which is really impressive. Finish: long, salty, honeyed, waxy, perfectly herbaceous, fruity and yet also with these drier and greasier notes that make you think of the old Andrew Collie 10yo we had earlier. Comments: my friend Iain and I opened this bottle late one night and it felt a tad underwhelming at the time when freshly opened. But this has turned out to be a deeply compelling and remarkably complex old Glen Grant that demands - and commands - your focus and concentration. It's always worth giving these old bottles time once opened.
SGP: 562 - 93 points.



Big thanks to Aaron, Jason, Iain and the good folk at the San Francisco Whisky Club!



But most of all, here's to Mattias and to his family.



(*) £8.38 in today's money

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


June 9, 2023


Another short trip across Europe
(France, England, Norway)

Since we've got a 'famous French engineer' who's just advised all citizens to only do four trips by plane within their entire life because of global warming, and as I believe I've already done a few hundreds, we'll indeed remain in Europe this time, since we could take the train (although our train workers here are almost always on strike – life is easy, isn't it). Anyway, as usual, we'll kick this off from France, figurativel.

Norwegian lutefisk (Adam_d)



Kornog 6 yo 2016/2023 (60%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, France, refill PX butt, 668 bottles)

Kornog 6 yo 2016/2023 (60%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, France, refill PX butt, 668 bottles) Four stars and a half
Brittany's Kornog is the peated version of Glann ar Mor. Naturally, the best Kornog ever was the Sponge's 15 yo bottled for the 18 years 4 months and 7 days of Whiskyfun.com (yeah right, but of course, no shame) but this one could come close. Colour: straw. Nose: this time again, the most important word here is 'refill'. This is very coastal, with a lot of sea air, oysters, bits of tyres after the start of a grand prix (cheers Jean), surely some mercurochrome, smoked almonds, and rather some mushrooms and undergrowth at the sherry department. No boisterous leathery raisins, hurray. With water: exceptional porridge (with nips of whisky inside), deep chalk, some smoky muesli (can you smoke muesli?) and loads and loads of raw wool. We're almost at House of Bruar, in the tweed section. Mouth (neat): I wouldn't even have mentioned PX. Very peppery start, with a very leafy smokiness (burnt bay leaves?) and some horseradish. It's really strong, perhaps too strong when unreduced. With water: super good, citric, deeply earthy, and extremely coastal. The pepper got gentler. Finish: long, rather saltier, with some tar, lemon and wasabi. Nice combo, please pass the sushi. The aftertaste is saltier yet. Comments: is Kornog the best French whisky, together with Hautes-Glaces perhaps? Nah we hadn't scored ours, that would have been inelegant.

SGP:466 - 89 points.

Having said that, there is another pioneering Breton whisky and that's Warenghem's Armorik. Let's have some…

Armorik 2016/2022 (61.2%, Spirit Paradise, France, peated, refill sherry, cask #3328)

Armorik 2016/2022 (61.2%, Spirit Paradise, France, peated, refill sherry, cask #3328) Four stars
This one by our talented friend Philippe. I would recommend you visit the distillery next time you're in Bretagne, it's gotten large, well-organised and welcoming. Colour: straw. Nose: it's clearer, cleaner, more lemony, but even at this high strength, you do feel that the peat was not just a patch, while it is at several distilleries-that-never- did-peat-and-suddenly-started-doing-some. Same smoked almonds, with a touch of acetone. With water: it's very fresh, simple in the very best sense of that word, with clean smoked apples, lemons, fresh walnuts, fresh almonds, grapefruits… And rather a lot of seaweed. We're even about to mention Breton langoustines and lobsters. They have great lobsters in the north of Brittany.  Mouth (neat): excellent! I know they don't like it when you quote a Scottish distillery, but this reminds me of young Ca… Oh no I won't. Very zesty, not fat, clear… Hints of white unaged cider. With water: more purity, green apples, cider apples, granny smith, and certainly rather a lot of ashes. The famous endangered expression 'licking an ashtray'. Finish: medium, blade-y, tight and tart. Very green apples, fresh walnut skins… The usual saltiness in the aftertaste. Comments: a pure peater in its own right, really not far, as far as quality is concerned, from the fatter and deeper Kornog.

SGP:456 - 87 points.

While we're in Brittany, let's cross the Channel…

Filey Bay 'Double Oak #2' (46%, OB, England, bourbon and virgin oak, 2,000 bottles)

Filey Bay 'Double Oak #2' (46%, OB, England, bourbon and virgin oak, 2,000 bottles) Four stars
Just love the official tasting note, "Toasted Oak - Cream Soda - Fruit Gums - Hot Cross Buns". Brainwave. Colour: gold. Nose: agreed, cream soda and fruit gums, but also coconut water, touches of turmeric and ginseng powders, fresh-sawn tree branches, baking soda, cassata, marshmallows, crema catalana, brown sugar… Mouth: certainly sweet, even very sweet, very bonbony, but there is some structure beyond the banana foam and Red Bull ™. Croissants aux amandes, halva, peanut butter, nougat, vanilla cake… Touches of melissa and verbena keeping it straight and tight. Finish: medium, fruity, lively, this time with toffee apples and poppy + lavender sweets. Comments: I'm afraid I never had the chance to stumble upon any 'hot cross buns'. How about some Alsatian easter lammalas?

SGP:641 - 86 points.

Cotswolds '20 rue d'Anjou' (60.8%, La Maison du Whisky, casks #585,608,632,1160, 480 bottles, 2020)

Cotswolds '20 rue d'Anjou' (60.8%, La Maison du Whisky, casks #585,608,632,1160, 480 bottles, 2020) Four stars
I agree I should have tried this one earlier. It' a blend of 2nd fill bourbon, PX, oloroso and virgin oak. Colour: deep gold. Nose: strong, varnishy, grassy, tough. I'm sure that's the high strength. With water: it was the high strength. It got expectedly gentler, with those mangos and bananas that come with virgin oak, these moist golden sultanas that come with PX, these walnuts that oloroso can display, and the smarter complexity that's attached to refill. Mouth (neat): sweet and craft, with some varnish and glue, grass extracts, curry, mint and mustard, harsh cinnamon mints… This is some hidden advertisement for Evian or Highland Spring, is it not? With water: just sweeter, easier, with coconut balls, pineapples, bananas and oranges. Finish: medium, sweet, led by sweet virgin oak. Comments: another one that's just excellent, if a little more difficult to handle.

SGP:651 - 85 points.

Amazing what they do all over the world. Only twenty years ago, you were happy when a whisky 'from the rest of the world' could be swallowed without flinching and without making holes in your underpants (as we used to say rather gracefully). But good, let's swim to… why not Norway?

Vardberg 'Born' (60%, OB, Norway, release #1, 300 bottles, 2023)

Vardberg 'Born' (48%, OB, Norway, release #1, 300 bottles, 2023) Four stars
This brand new one from 2 ex-bourbon and 3 ex-sherry butts. The name of the lovely distillery is, repeat after me, Berentsens Brygghus (totally love it). It's located on the south-west coast of Norway. I think this is their first release, and find it extra-cool that they would have bottled a first release at some rather frightening 60% A.B.V. Colour: light gold. Nose: roasted almonds, Schorle, old quinces and rather massive notes of white nougat. Touches of muscovado, burnt demerara sugar, perhaps… And a dab of metal polish. Interesting and even nice, but at 60% it's probably all distorted anyway. With water: swims towards vanilla fudge, Mars bars, millionaire shortbread, these sorts of things. Mouth (neat): caramel, more nougat, brown ale, macchiato… A little Starbucksy this far. With water: white chocolate, maple syrup, Kinder Bueno… Finish: long, chocolaty. Comments: I think this one will awaken our inner child. Rather fascinating. We'll see, in the future, if this is truly Berentsens Brygghus's house-style, which would be both smart and very good.

SGP:551 - 85 points
I first thought it was the version at 60%.

Myken 4 yo 'Pinkernell's Limburg Edition no.2' (65.4%, OB, Norway, bourbon cask, 2023)

Myken 4 yo 'Pinkernell's Limburg Edition no.2' (65.4%, OB, Norway, bourbon cask, 2023) Four stars
We know they're crazy up there. Last time, they made us drink deuterium oxide, this time they're trying to kill us a second time with a very lethal strength of 65%+. What's next? A lutefisk finish? Colour: light gold. Nose: don't even consider nosing this without water. Perhaps barbecued fudge wrapped with hay? With water: fresh root vegetables, celeriac, turnips, kohlrabi, a little ink, peppermint and… hold on, smoked fish? Did they, indeed, throw fish into it? Not that we shall complain, there's fish in old Bowmore and Lagavulin too (I mean, notes of fish). Mouth (neat): this is almost civilised, with wood essences and earths, plus a porridgey and salty side, but the high ethanol quickly catches up with you. With water: there, yes, finally, we tamed it, this is lovely. Salty, spicy, with notes of hardwood, plus juniper, clove and caraway, as well as a little Chinese fish sauce (I'm sure they make that too up there near the arctic circle), pine oil, peppercorns, some pink grapefruit too… Finish: good, long, salty and citrusy. Citrus is running the whisky world, as we all know. Comments: sure it is a little young, but high-end mezcal is young too (self-dialectic, that's the lousiest form of writing, S.) Good, I think we're ready for the lutefisk finish.

SGP:561 - 86 points.

Hold on, we've got some room for a last one, let's swim back to England…

Wire Works 'Small Batch' (47.7%, OB, England, lightly peated, STR & bourbon, 4,251 bottles) Four stars
Another first at Château Whiskyfun, whisky from White Peak Distillery, which is located, as I understand it, in an old wire and cable plant in Derbyshire, England. Colour: gold. Nose: didn't we just mention mezcal? You could say mezcal reposado, or tequila for that matter, which we just treasure (I mean, good mezcal). You may add bananas, clover honey, woodruff, elderflowers and kumbawa (not kumbaya!) The light peat does feel but it's really subtle, as if some ex-peater wood was in use. Tiny whiffs of citrusy cologne, or lemon-favoured gin. Honestly, this is beautiful. Mouth: smart. Not too sure about what they've been STRising, possibly sweet wine barrels, but this banana + honey + apricot + light coastal smoke combination is hard to resist. Probably a little sweet, but you undoubtedly need sweetness when a whisky is this young. Because I don't think this is old. The strength is extremely smart too, it's potent enough while you don't need a quantic-computer-driven pipette to get to the ideal strength, which is always very difficult to do when you're on your own. Unless you are a street vlogger and don't really care, naturally. Finish: medium, sweet, easy, jammy, honeyed, faultless. Smoky cappuccino in the aftertaste. Comments: the whisky world is changing and it is a thrill to see it change. They almost created what Glenmorangie 18 years old should be, and I am neither pushing things, nor joking. Lazy arrogance never worked on the long run. Oh, and the bottles are beautiful, once they're empty you get a lovely bud vase.
SGP:643 - 87 points.

I think we'll do more of these three-country tastings in the future.

(Thank you, Klaus and Olav)


June 8, 2023


We're still in Campbeltown,
just for one more day

Well, remotely, sadly. We've had some probable undisclosed Glen Scotia right yesterday, but today will be the official day. In the olden times you could find a lot of Glen Scotia bottled under supermarket own brands.

Glen Scotia

You know, those cheaper ones that are always voted 'Best Whisky In The World' according to smart PR agencies who know that you should never, ever mention the categories. But today Glen Scotia's regained some lustre, partly thanks, in my opinion, to some rather smart re-racking campaigns, it's just like at cousins Loch Lomond. We'll also see if we can find some older ones…
Glen Scotia Distillery (Glen Scotia)



Glen Scotia 12 yo 'Seasonal Release 2022' (53.3%, OB, finished in amontillado, 14,000 bottles)

Glen Scotia 12 yo 'Seasonal Release 2022' (53.3%, OB, finished in amontillado, 14,000 bottles) Four stars
First fill bourbon then amontillado, wood works indeed, let's see. Colour: golden. Nose: old vin jaune, amontillado indeed, mustard, tarragon and shallots (right, sauce béarnaise - quite) plus damp cellar, old barrels, marmalade, smoked paprika (I have to say I love smoked paprika)… We're somewhere in Andalusia indeed, having apéritif sheltered under a parasol. Indeed, not exactly in Campbeltown, so much for 'a sense of the place'. But it's very nice. With water: more bone-dry sherry-like wine, with touches of aniseed and mint. Touch of sulphur (or leek soup). Mouth (neat): very well boosted, you just need to enjoy heavy dry sherry (or similarly dry whites from the south of Spain). Walnuts, pepper, mustard, plus a lot of toasted oak, nutmeg, cinnamon... With water: add enough water and you'll come up with a glass of Tio Pepe. Saltiness coming out, seawater… Finish: long, on similar notes. Comments: mixed feelings. I adore dry sherry and I love to be transported to Andalusia by the way of a sip of whisky. On the other hand, there's not much Campbeltownness left. Of course that exists. Oh well, let's open our minds, I find it very good, please pass the olives and the jabugo.

SGP:372 - 85 points.

This should be similar…

Glen Scotia 2012/2020 (55.6%, OB for Independentspirit.de, oloroso finish, cash #19-657-7, 240 bottles)

Glen Scotia 2012/2020 (55.6%, OB for Independentspirit.de, oloroso finish, cash #19-657-7, 240 bottles) Three stars and a half
The previous official livery. They've changed several times; I think the current one is fine (but not my business). Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, this is similar, just a little hotter, more spirity, a little leafier… It's also true that it's 50% younger. Greener walnuts, sauvignon blanc (nettle, capsicum, tomato leaves, celery) and mashed turnips, plus the expected mustard. And behind all that, touches of mangos – possibly from bourbon! Hurray! With water: saponification occurring, let's wait…. Good, it got much earthier, with musty old cellars and old barrels again. Mouth: tropical fruits upfront, or rather some jams made thereof, plus pepper and mustard, Thai basil, coriander and cardamom… That's the sherry wood for sure. With water:  more citrus, as well as green walnuts and always these mustardy touches. Feels 'oloroso' indeed, but it does not feel 'solera'. One-cask oloroso, as they make vin jaune? Some kind of 'anada'? Finish: same. Comments: you totally get the fact that this one is kind of the same whisky, only younger.

SGP:372 - 84 points.

Can we have just bourbon, please?

Glen Scotia 2009/2019 (57.2%, OB for Acla da Fans, 1st fill bourbon, cash #171, 128 bottles)

Glen Scotia 2009/2019 (57.2%, OB for Acla da Fans, 1st fill bourbon, cash #171, 128 bottles) Three stars and a half
This one for Switzerland. Colour: full gold. Nose: these batches were Springbanky, really, medicinal, mineral, sooty, paraffiny… Imagine some seawater blended with ointments and cough medicine, plus lamp oil and, well, toothpaste. Chalk. Really, Springbank. With water: loses a bit of focus when watered down. Grassy damp chalk or something. Mouth (neat): sure you do feel the 'crafty' oak, with some guava, green pepper, capsicum… But these violet sweets (nothing to do with Bowmore here) and all this doughy, sooty development keep nodding to the mighty neighbour. With water: more spicy sweetness from the barrel, bananas, guavas... I'm even getting some rye bread. Finish: rather long, with a few jelly babies and some orange soda. Hey perhaps even irn Bru! Comments: Springbank on the nose, rather some Irish on the palate. Bah it's all the same neighbourhood anyway. Much more sweetness than in the 'sherries'.

SGP:641 - 84 points.

Campbeltown 7 yo 2014/2022 (54.5%, The Coopers Choice, Banyuls cask finish, cask #125, 372 bottles)

Campbeltown 7 yo 2014/2022 (54.5%, The Coopers Choice, Banyuls cask finish, cask #125, 372 bottles) Four stars
Some blended malt on paper. Right, this should be Glen Scotia, as I doubt anyone, perhaps even the owners, would have dumped Springbank into ex-Banyuls wood, really. Let's say Banyuls is one of the PXs of France, very roughly, except that you can have them white, rosé or red. I believe this was red (don't get me wrong, some are stupendous). Colour: apricot. Nose: game, grouse, cranberries, gunpowder, cabbage, hoisin sauce, paraffin, basalt… And that works. Amazing. With water: ripe peaches (en regalia, ha!) Mouth (neat): what a funny concoction. Hate the idea, rather love the results. Better than the other way 'round, I suppose. So jams in abundance, leaves, and peppers of all kinds. With water: indeed, peaches and raisins and very fruity hops. Finish: long, leafy, peachy, pepper. Comments: it's all good fun, really. Totally unlikely for sure, but I'd call it a goodwill whisky. I'm sure it would take a few ice cubes too, as Banyuls do. To hell with rules!
SGP:661 - 86 points.

Didn't we mention older Scotias? Just ask, this is Whiskyfun!

Glen Scotia 12 yo 1979 (59.8%, James McArthur, +/-1992)

Glen Scotia 12 yo 1979 (59.8%, James McArthur, +/-1992) Three stars
Right, this is a miniature, not even sure they ever bottled it as a 70/75cl bottle. Hate it that this name has seemingly disappeared but remember James McArthur is the only company that's ever bottled a Malt Mill single malt. And some of the very best Port Ellen an Caol Ila 'sherry'! Cheers Arthur (and cheers Peter H.!) Colour: straw, but gosh, there's a dead wee spider inside! (why do you feel the need to add 'dead', S.?) Nose: porridge, mashes, plastics, mud, sour cream, horseradish, mustard… Let's call it mister Austere. With water: I'm getting zests and castor oil. I agree that's unusual. Mouth (neat): someone's smoked bitter oranges back in 1979, it seems. Some Mozart Kugeln, caramel, marzipan… With water: more bitter oranges, but not much development other than that. Finish: rather long, quite peppery. Comments: certainly very charming, but I would suppose current day bottlers would have dumped this cask into PX in no time. You're right, or into ruby Port, zinfandel, Bordeaux, tequila, marsala… Oh, and they would have filtered it out so that no (dead) spider could have made into your tasting glass.
SGP:451 - 81 points.

Indeed, malt whisky the old way – I don't say the better way: take any cask, disgorge, bottle. But let's have another older Glen Scotia…

Glen Scotia 8 yo (80° proof UK, OB, +/-1960)

Glen Scotia 8 yo (80° proof UK, OB, +/-1960) Five stars
So, 46% vol., from the A. Gilies times and said to be the best Glen Scotia ever bottled and one of the best whiskies to have ever originated from the Wee Toon.  Colour: deep gold. Nose: not THAT impressive at first, similar to many older Scotch whiskies including famous blends, but give it time and it'll start to unleash myriads of dried fruits (all of them, really, no need to list them) and then this kind of waxy, slightly smoky coastalness that's also pretty popular north of Inverness. Yeah I know that's the other side. The smoke from a Craven 'A' and a glass of middle-aged Meursault, then zillions of tertiary, and perhaps even quaternary aromas (what's that, S.?) Roasted nuts, honeys, whatever…Mouth: it's like visiting both the Louvre and the British Museum, a real catalogue of aromas. Smoky, salty, waxy figs, shall we say in summary, or we'll still be sitting here in about ten hours; I would suppose you've got other things to do on your end. Finish: medium, more towards meats and sauces shall we say. Same comments, we could build a whole list but we shan't. Comments: now I understand why Angus went for a score of 94 out of 100 five years ago. But I think he's been a little conservative, this is pure bottled philosophy. Where did they put the recipe? The Distillery has changed hands so many times, I hope they haven't lost it.
SGP:652 - 95 points.

I also wanted to have a handful of Hazelburn but I believe we'd better not. Death seat effect guaranteed. See you.

(KC, you rock)


June 7, 2023


Our own tiny Campbeltown Festival

To think that I've been there in flesh... Three days before the Festival. Good timing, S.! BTW, I always get the feeling, whenever a Distillery forbids the use of its name by any other party and by any means, that the owners are not too proud of the makes that they have been selling to brokers, blenders or else, or even swapped, whether those were 'single' or 'teaspooned/blended' on paper. Weird feeling…  Now we could see that differently, it could also be a way of selling their casks for cheaper, which should make them more affordable for the final consumer. Because that's what's happening, no?



Springbank 11 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, bourbon, 2023)

Springbank 11 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, bourbon, 2023) Four stars
I've been told this was a vatting of seven casks. The price was very friendly I think… Colour: straw. Nose: typical, with some chalk, mud, paraffin and porridge, even whiffs of new plastics (we'll find another descriptor once plastic's been totally eradicated). The muddy side never stops growing then, with also whiffs of dunnage, humus, mosses, rainwater, Brussels sprouts, sea salt… Mouth: fruitier for sure, rather in the style of the 10 that I love so much, although this (not so) indie version would be a little gentler, easier, with grapefruits and apples, mead, dough, linseed oil… and indeed the trademark paraffin. 46% vol. always works. Finish: medium, a tad grittier perhaps, always with some paraffin and mineral oils (not the ones we would tend to drink). A little limoncello in the aftertaste – did you ever spot all those lemon trees in Campbeltown? Comments: very good drop, even if I always prefer the superlative official 10.

SGP:452 - 86 points.

Since we're at Cadenhead's… By the way, I've seen their new all-white lab/tasting room on location two weeks ago, I found it impressive!

Springbank 14 yo 2007/2022 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles)

Springbank 14 yo 2007/2022 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles) Five stars
This should be perfect, with no sherry or Port in the way. Let's let the pure dirty distillate speak! Colour: straw. Nose: they must be hiding their lemon trees from the public, because I'm finding even more limoncello here, lemon oil, squeezed grapefruit skin, then these vast amounts of leather polish, metal polish, paraffin, soot… And naturally, porridge. With water: gets amazingly doughy, bready, fermentary, gristy, yeasty… In a way, this baby will remind us about the raw ingredients they use to make malt whisky (no, that's not PX). Mouth (neat): granted, when I write 'dirty', I'm not meaning 'not clean', at all. More lemon oil, ashes, bandages, soot, white mezcal, pine tar (lozenges and liqueur) and a few razor blades that, together with their chums the peppers, would literally cut you into halves. In a way, you could say it is the 11 Original on steroids. With water: pretty exceptional. Exactly my favourite style. Great that they would have bottled it within one of Cadenhead's most popular ranges. Finish: long, perfect, very waxy, mineral, lemony, with a touch of honey in the aftertaste. Oh and limoncello. Comments: grand, pure, dirty Springbank (I insist). Same score as that of the latest batch of official 10 I could taste.

SGP:462 - 91 points.

Springbank 11 yo 'Local Barley' (55.1%, OB, 15,000 bottles, 2022)

Springbank 11 yo 'Local Barley' (55.1%, OB, 15,000 bottles, 2022) Five stars
Bottled in December last year. I find it very smart that they would keep using the old livery (while it's not the oldest for the LBs). This one was distilled from Belgravia barley from Glencraigs Farm, right on the road to Campbeltown. Colour: white wine. Nose: something else, really, this is almost a blend of mezcal, aquavit and genever, even if seawater and pure lemon juice would then chime in. In the end, it is pure oyster juice, with some tabasco and Worcester sauce, plus a good glass of zero-dosage champagne. With water: once again, more mud, rainwater and porridge, with a touch of curry this time, poppadums, Mouth (neat): but where does this mezcal stem from? More bone-dry champagne too, more aquavit, more oyster water, more lemon and lime juices. It's also fat and oily, and certainly not as 'dirty' as your usual Springbanks (which, granted, I love too). With water: some curry again, aniseed, capsicum, bell pepper… I would suppose that's the oak, not the Belgravia barley. It's different, vive la difference, I like it. Finish: long, with salty lemons ruing it all and much more smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: I just tried 2017's 11 yo Local Barley again, I find this newer expression of an eleven largely superior, but I wouldn't say it's better, stricto sensu, than the astounding 2007 from Cadenhead's.
SGP:563 - 91 points.

If there's one 'kind of recent' vintage that's gathered a fairly huge reputation, it's well 1996.

Springbank 26 yo 1996/2023 (53.5%, Whisky Sponge, Special Edition, 1st fill sherry butt, 365 bottles)

Springbank 26 yo 1996/2023 (53.5%, Whisky Sponge, Special Edition, 1st fill sherry butt, 365 bottles) Five stars
The Sponge decided to bottle this one in a cognac bottle, with old-style light-green glass, wax on the neck and all that. Is there a hidden message? Having said that, The Bottlers did something similar, Gordon Wright too if I remember well, with his Alchemist range. Hold on, Springbank, Mr. Wright… Don't we see clearly now? (what a mish-mash, S.!) Colour: walnut stain, almost. Nose: walnut stain indeed, metal polish, old copper kettle, beef jerky, molasses, truffles and morels, Maggi, old oloroso, walnut wine, straight ristretto, raw cocoa, plus in the background, quite some vegetal tar and even more meat, smoked ham… I cannot not think of a certain Italian gentleman… With water: awesomely vegetal and meaty. Beef broths, mushrooms, marrow, walnuts of course, dry gravy, more raw chocolate, snuff tobacco… Mouth (neat): very rich, dry, extractive, salty, meaty, with even more Maggi, some cracked pepper, porcini powder, dry coffee and chocolate extracts, pipe tobacco, old triple-sec… It is reminiscent of the darkest sherried Springbanks, especially the dark 12s such as Sig. Samaroli's famous one. Just give it around twenty extra-years in your cellar… With water: it takes water very gracefully. We're finding some very old dry rancio, also a little more sweetness (marmalade, black raisins that went completely dry, Vinsanto…), otherwise some stupendous coffee. But it needs water and rather a lot of your time if you want to get to the bottom of it. No, we shan't call it 'A Netflix Springbank', but I'm sure you get the picture. Finish: long, with some menthol and pine resin chiming in. Artichokes and truffles in the aftertaste. Comments: they should sell this one with a bottle of Highland Spring or Gleneagles. Or why not water from Campbeltown. Never forget to add water to these; if you do it'll become Santana doing Soul Sacrifice at Tanglewood. Or, indeed, a first cousin of Samaroli's famous 12 (more or less).

SGP:472 - 93 points.

Good, I've always wanted to give another try at this one, which I had found pretty disastrous when it came out, in 2005 (WF 75)…

Springbank 15 yo 1989/2005 (60.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.57, 'A Dram for Any Season')

Springbank 15 yo 1989/2005 (60.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.57, 'A Dram for Any Season') Two stars and a half
Not Springbank's best years for sure, and we won't even mention those very sulphury wine casks, Tokaji and all that. Brrr, the memory alone sends shivers down my spine… Colour: white wine. Nose: it's not that terrible, but there's really a lot of engine oil, shoe polish and flinty sulphur. Some ham fat too, gravel, feints, mashed turnips… With water: mud, wash water… Well well well… Mouth (neat): loads of plastics and waxes, plus some Fanta, stevia, plaster… Not as terrible as I remembered, but all this plastic is excessive. With water: odd vegetables and more plaster. Asparagus, eggplant, artichoke… Finish: medium, with even more plastics and 'chemical' waxes and fats. The aftertaste is nicer, on grapefruits. A little lavender too. Comments: actually, I think we've been a tad too harsh, back in 2005, but it could also be that it improved a little bit within those eighteen years in glass. Having said, that, it keeps reminding me of what had happened to Bowmore at that time. French lady perfume and all that.

SGP:462 - 78 points.

Two blends now…

Campbeltown Blended Malt 2016/2022 (57.2%, Claxton's, Or Sileis & Drunk Choice, bourbon barrel, cask #101, 280 bottles)

Campbeltown Blended Malt 2016/2022 (57.2%, Claxton's, Or Sileis & Drunk Choice, bourbon barrel, cask #101, 280 bottles) Three stars and a half
Let's see if we find some Springbankness. Could be Glen Scotia and/or Glengyle too. Colour: white wine. Nose: no obvious answer. Some parts would say 'yes' (the waxy and mineral side, this soot, the gristy profile) but others would suggest otherwise (the wine gums, the papayas). Let's try harder… With water: not exactly Springbank. It's very nice, but while I haven't tried much very young Springbank, this is a little less deep. Mouth (neat): ultra-zesty arrival, plus paraffin and soot. Good hotness. Some grass and tropical fruits that would suggest modern Scotia. With water: the sweetness and the relative lightness would indeed suggest Scotia, unless it would be Hazelburn, but I deeply doubt it. Tough job, my job (which isn't even a job). Finish: lighter, sweeter, definitely rather un-Springbank. Haribo bears. Comments: I vote for Scotia. If I'm wrong, which could very well happen, I owe you a beer. Very good young fruity drop with some depth. It's true that Glen Scotia have hugely improved their make recently.
SGP: 641 - 84 points.

Campbeltown Blended Malt 9 yo 2014/2023 (56.8%, Watt Whisky, Jamaican Rum finish, 272 bottles)

Campbeltown Blended Malt 9 yo 2014/2023 (56.8%, Watt Whisky, Jamaican Rum finish, 272 bottles) Four stars
They've done a 20-months finishing in Jamaican rum. Let's hope it was Hampden, but we would be fine with WP or any other make. No wait, I just saw it was Clarendon/Monymusk, which is just as perfect. Let's check this wee trans-blend…  Colour: white wine. Nose: metallic mud, clay, smoked gherkins, scoria, basalt, sour ale, a drop of shampoo, roasted pistachios and pine nuts, plaster… Isn't it funny that the rum would have added more Campbeltownness, I was about to write more Longrowness, to this wee blend? With water: more shampoo - strictly nothing against that – then breads and doughs. It is well malt whisky at its core.  Mouth (neat): I think the Clarendon has nearly taken over at this stage and I shan't complain. Excellent lemonness, seawater, olives, samphire brine, oysters, flinty smoke… With water: brainwave. On paper, I'm not fond of the idea, as I believe most Jamaican rums, even when in small quantities, would crush any malt whisky (even Loch Dhu 10) that they would encounter. In reality, when you get the cursor at the right place, which they seem to have done here, it gets all enhanced. This reminds me of Bruichladdich/Mark Reynier's old term, 'Aceing'. We'll soon need whisky linguists. Finish: long, salty, olive-y, smoky. Lemon and grapefruit in the aftertaste. Comments: don't coastal Scotch malts and some Island rums share common traits? Who's going to make a, let's say an Ardbden? A Worthyphroaig? A Lagamusk? A Bowmouth? (That'll do, S., I think we got the idea).
SGP:463 - 87 points.

This is slowly becoming a remote (and late) Campbeltown Festival, no? But that wasn't the idea, let's simply and quickly add a wee Kilkerran from Glengyle and call this a tasting session.

Kilkerran 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2021)

Kilkerran 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2021) Three stars and a half
Dominantly bourbon. I agree we should have tried this one earlier. Colour: light gold. Nose: the casks feel a little bit, with a little turmeric and nutmeg over butter and mashed potatoes. Some green pepper, cider apples, very dry brioche dough… I am not immediately convinced. Whiffs of hand cream and leather polish. Mouth: less in the shadow of Springbank on the palate than it was on the nose (IMHO) but this lemony, buttery curry remains a tad bizarre. Some sour wood, peppered lemon marmalade, ras-el-hanout, allspice, more butter… It does remain oak-forward all along. Finish: medium, rather on green smoke and more green spices. Green caraway, ginger, globally bittersweet. Poppy seeds, curry, caraway. Nicer citrusy notes in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, naturally, but this is a mild disappointment because of these oak spices that would tend to run the show. Feels a bit like the 3-yo output of a very young craft distillery.

SGP:562 - 84 points.

June 6, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


Feis Ile Special, today Jura

Because during the festival, Jura belongs to Islay. It used to, at least, not too sure that's still on… But let's see what we have, as we've been tasting a lot of Jura within the last months…

(Advert for Jura's Open Day, 2002. I seem to remember we were there. Some now say that's more like 6,000 to 7,000 deer, stags and hinds




Jura 'Rum Cask Finish' (40%, OB, +/-2023)

Jura 'Rum Cask Finish' (40%, OB, +/-2023) Three stars
They all do that these days, rum, red wine, ruby Port and whatnot, it's as if they're all losing trust in their original, natural malt whiskies. What's happening? So here's a new job idea: psychoanalyst for Scottish distillers. Colour: gold. Nose: in fact it's nicely round, unoffensive, pretty gently malty, with little Juraness and rather some maple syrup and indeed some sweet rum, a touch of pineapple liqueur, vanillin, apple liqueur, three sultanas and a little coconut water. Pleasant, but not much Distillery character left – but I suppose that was the idea in the first place. Mouth: exactly as it was on the nose, sweet, mellow, with touches of vanilla, apricots, pineapples, coconut and bananas. Almost some readymade pina colada. Finish: rather short, but fresh and pleasant. More coconut, papaya… Comments: possibly malt whisky for good folks who do not enjoy malt whisky. I'm absolutely not against this.
SGP:641 - 80 points.

And there, of course, the now obligatory…

Jura 'Red Wine Cask Finish' (40%, OB, +/-2023)

Jura 'Red Wine Cask Finish' (40%, OB, +/-2023) Two stars
It's all becoming a little depressing, is it not, doctor? … Colour: darker gold. Nose: a little toffee, raisins, rather PX, panettone, and almost no red berries that I could detect. This one too is not unpleasant. As we used to say, it'll probably go down like Franz Klammer. Mouth: there, some strawberry and raspberry jams, plus more raisins and a grassier side in the background. In my experience, rum would tend to mingle with the whisky, whereas red wine would rather fight it. Not my favourite Jura ever, that's for sure. Finish: short and leafier. Rooibos tea in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it's pretty okay, but forgettable. Forget what?
SGP:651 - 76 points.

No ruby Port, I think we'll rather need the indies…

Jura 15 yo 2006/2022 (55.7%, The Stillman's Friendship Bottling, bourbon, 168 bottles)

Jura 15 yo 2006/2022 (55.7%, The Stillman's Friendship Bottling, bourbon, 168 bottles) Four stars and a half
Direkt aus der Schweiz! But it is not stemming from the Swiss part of the Jura mountains, mind you, it is well malt whisky from the Jura distillery on the Isle of Jura. Colour: white wine. Nose: there, proper Jura, with some porridge, soot, leather, buttercream, a touch of mustard, a hint of curry, turnips again, and then various beers, weissbeer, ales, gueuze… And marmalade! With water: some sweeter paprika sauce, some kind of fruitier goulash, and many wildflowers, woodruff, mullein, gorse… That's very lovely. Mouth (neat): sweeter and more citrusy, but also pretty peppery, always a little sooty and leathery, rather full of zests, oatcakes, leaves (bay leaf) and, well, Jura. Jura ought to be a wee bit dirty(ish) or it is not totally Jura in our book. It's like sister distillery Fettercairn in that respect. With water: a little mustardy, which is epitomically Jura-y. Also some sour cherries, perhaps swede… Finish: rather long, getting drier, spicier, with even touches of pine resin beyond some obvious peppers. That's very Jura too. Sweeter citrus in the aftertaste. Comments: totally love this slightly cerebral whisky but between us, I perfectly understand why the owners would not try to churn out millions of bottles of this core style.

SGP:462 - 88 points.

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


June 5, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


Crazy single cask Kilchoman adlib

Imagine I almost forgot Kilchoman! It's true that we haven't tasted many Kilchomans lately, so we'll try to make it right… There's plenty, including many different finishings, so let's stay alert. And to make amend, we'll have fifteen of them within just one session; will that be enough?

Martine and Anthony, Kilchoman, 2006 (WF Archive)



Kilchoman 8 yo 2012/2021 'Tequila Finish' (53.4%, OB, The Whisky Exchange, 247 bottles)

Kilchoman 8 yo 2012/2021 'Tequila Finish' (53.4%, OB, The Whisky Exchange, 247 bottles) Three stars
A tequila finish, really? As in 'tequila'? Why not add a worm? (which is not exactly a worm, I know…) Colour: white wine. Nose: not too sure the tequila is noticeable, not even sure I could tell, I've probably tried less than fifty tequilas in my whole life. Indeed, there's a clear rooty side, carrots, celeriac, some very clean earth, broken branches, and a rather peppery smoke. With water: some kind of suet, turnips..; And it is pretty clean. Angelica, gentian… Mouth (neat): more carrots, fennel seeds, indeed tequila (or mezcal, I'm more familiar with mezcal), with touches of olives, wasabi, lime zests… With water: sameish, plus a small soapy touch that would remind us of some… gins. Finish: medium, smoky, fresh, rooty, earthy. Anise-like roots in the aftertaste. Comments: let's keep an open mind. It's certainly a good trans-category spirit. Welcome to whisky 3.0.

SGP:466 - 81 points.

Kilchoman 11 yo 2010/2022 '100% Islay Bourbon Matured' (52.5%, OB, LMDW, Antipodes, 220 bottles)

Kilchoman 11 yo 2010/2022 '100% Islay Bourbon Matured' (52.5%, OB, LMDW, Antipodes, 220 bottles) Five stars
I doubt any wood could beat a good barrel. Colour: white wine. Nose: goodness gracious, does this work! Fried butter at first, then mentholated bananas, curries, mint tea… With water: it was a great barrel and you cannot not think of Dr Swan. Mouth (neat): superb, maybe my favourite Kilchoman of all times, with abundant pineapples and grapefruits on top of a wonderful rubbery smokiness, plus many mints, spearmint, peppermint... With water: sweet curry, more natural rubber, some mangos, some cigarette tobacco (Mum's Kools). Finish: rather long, fantastically herbal, mentholy, rubbery and tropical. Gentian in the aftertaste. Hurray. Comments: extremely impressive, if a tad 'whisky 3.0' too. Great wee barrel… Devilish, more of this please, Anthony.
SGP:666 - 90 points.

Kilchoman 13 yo 2007/2021 'Bourbon Matured' (53.9%, OB, The Whisky Exchange, cask #197, 204 bottles)

Kilchoman 13 yo 2007/2021 'Bourbon Matured' (53.9%, OB, The Whisky Exchange, cask #197, 204 bottles) Three stars and a half
Made from barley peated to 50ppm. Colour: white wine. Nose: you don't quite feel those pretty Ardbeggian 50ppm, there's rather quite some coconut and citrus peel, toffee apples, limoncello, sweet oak, vanilla… With water: back to doughs, brioche, sponge cake, biscuits… But where are those ppms? Mouth (neat): curiously Haribo-y, full of jellies, babies, crocodiles, beans, bears… A feeling of aniseed liqueur flavoured with coconut and vanilla, plus just some young 'MGP' bourbon. With water: same feelings, even some cachaça, more limoncello too, St-Germain, elderflowers… Finish: medium, sweet and rounded, with more smoky wine gums. Comments: excellent drop, but you do feel the cask did the job, even if we know the distillate is first-class. A lot of sweetness, almost Japanese-style.

SGP:654 - 84 points.

How about some young sherry?

Kilchoman 2009/2014 (59.3%, OB, Distillery Shop, oloroso, cask #424, 680 bottles)

Kilchoman 2009/2014 'Sherry' (59.3%, OB, Distillery Shop, cask #424, 680 bottles) Three stars and a half
Indeed an older bottling. Colour: gold. Nose: oh good fun, some scoria, burnt wood, lapsang souchong, chocolate, aluminium cutlery, marrow, roasted nuts, metal polish, old banknotes… All directions indeed. With water: more metal polish, iron, old kettle, XIXth century stove, mutton meat, tajine… This sure isn't Glenmo 10, if you see what I mean. Mouth (neat): better focused than on the nose, more on peppered chocolate, hops, mint lozenges, mentholy chilli (I know)… Seriously, what's this? With water: gets more bouillony. Some touches of seawater, dried kelp, Chinese fish sauce… Finish: medium, more leathery, with some tobacco and meaty 'things'. That meat that Turks used to keep under their horse saddles. Yes, of course I've tried that (well, a recreation by some Turkish chef, it was excellent). Comments: it's punk whisky! Yeah go score this…
SGP:564 – 84 points.

Are we ready for this? Didn't we mention mezcal?...

Kilchoman 8 yo 2012/2021 'Mezcal Cask Finish' (52.8%, OB, The Whisky Exchange, cask #828, 223 bottles)

Kilchoman 8 yo 2012/2021 'Mezcal Finish' (52.8%, OB, The Whisky Exchange, cask #828, 223 bottles) Three stars and a half
Obviously ex-reposado or ex-anejo mezcal. It must be great fun to be located in one of the most remote parts of a remote Scottish island and to use casks from just anywhere in the world. Now, was it Clooney's mezcal? Colour: white wine. Nose: it's fine, it's not overly mezcaly (although I cherish mezcal), it's even soft like a soft Caol Ila. Touches of gherkins, perhaps, one green olive, some grass smoke (not that grass), perhaps leek… With water: more proper Islay, peat, smoke, lemons, seaweed… Where's the agave? Mouth (neat): very good! Lemons, gherkins, olives, smoked kippers, capers, seawater, Kools… I keep mentioning Kool because my dear mother used to smoke Kools. She's now switched to Stuyvesant and she is 88. Go figure… With water: very good, fatter, more on branches and roots. Finish: long, briny. Sour fruit, seaweed… Comments: I'm not hundred percent sure I found the mezcal, to be honest, but it is an excellent Scottish-Mexican drop. I like it much better than the 'tequila'. Next, sotol?

SGP:566 - 84 points.

Oh there, while we're trying crazy casks…

Kilchoman 5 yo 2017/2022 'Cognac Matured' (58.4%, OB, LMDW, Antipodes, cask #268, 400 bottles)

Kilchoman 5 yo 2017/2022 'Cognac Matured' (58.4%, OB, LMDW, Antipodes, cask #268, 400 bottles) Four stars
50ppm, once more. Let's see if once more, we won't 'feel' these ppms… By the way, LMDW would tell us that they've used Port Ellen Maltings barley and cognac wood from Ferrand's. With modern booze, everything is in everything. Colour: white wine. Nose: great. Cider vinegar, seawater, horseradish, olives, samphire brine, smoked water, pear juice… With water: very fresh, rather with ashes and cider apples, not unlike a young Caol Ila. Mouth (neat): lovely straight peater, no cognac in the way, just some added roundness (okay, a handful of raisins). With water: a little nougat and dried figs. Is that the cognac? Finish: medium long, this time with some marmalade and even a little honey. Say, heather. Comments: they needn't mention the cognac, I believe nobody would have noticed. Quite.

SGP:555 - 85 points.

Kilchoman 6 yo 2012/2018 (55.6%, OB, HNWS Taiwan, PX sherry finish, cask #626)

Kilchoman 6 yo 2012/2018 'PX Sherry Finish' (55.6%, OB, HNWS Taiwan, cask #626) Four stars
What's a finishing when a whisky is this young? Rather double maturation? Let's discuss that… No. Colour: gold. Nose: cigars and metal polish. Brake fluid, tarmac, burnt beans… With water: exhaust fumes, new rubber bands, juniper, capsicum, black olives… Mouth (neat): excellent. Smoked fudge, peppered marmalade, tobacco, curry, sweet chilli, masala… With water: bits of inner tube, rubber, salted lemon juice, walnut skins, new plastics… Finish: long, very phenolic and kind of chemical, tarry, salty… Rather a lot burnt rubber, I would say. Comments: it's a crazy one. I wouldn't down more than; say 2cl at a time, but it's got obvious charms. Hello, Taiwan!
SGP:467 - 85 points.

More Taiwan stuff…

Kilchoman 2015/2020 '100% Islay PX matured' (58.6%, OB, Taiwan Twin Lions Society and Or Sileis, cask #320, 330 bottles)

Kilchoman 2015/2020 '100% Islay PX Matured' (58.6%, OB, Taiwan Twin Lions Society and Or Sileis, cask #320, 330 bottles) Three stars and a half
Rather 20ppm this time. Which will never truly translate into the spirit anyway, those are just figures. Colour: full gold. Nose: porridge and toffee, some struck matches, Van Houten's chocolate, old kettle, gas and truffle… With water: roasted chestnuts, mud, humus, more truffles, crude chocolate/cocoa, fiberglass, metal polish… Mouth (neat): good, craft, oak-driven, curry-like, full of leather, marmalade and citrons. With water: aah, walnut cake and sweet paprika/turmeric sauce. Something of South-Indian cuisine, which I utterly love. By the way, there's a restaurant in Glasgow called Dakhin, which I would wholeheartedly recommend. Best South-Indian dishes I've ever tried, it's at 89 Candleriggs. Finish: long and a little loco. Green peppers, more turmeric, green smoke… Comments: probably totally unbalanced, but I suppose balance is not exactly what you're looking for in a young Kilchoman.
SGP:466 - 84 points.

We might need a barrel…

Kilchoman 9 yo 2012/2021 '100% Islay Bourbon Barrel' (55.3%, OB, LMDW Conquête, bourbon barrel, cask #17)

Kilchoman 9 yo 2012/2021 '100% Islay Bourbon Barrel' (55.3%, OB, LMDW Conquête, bourbon barrel, cask #17) Three stars and a half
I'll say it again, we all know you can't beat a bourbon, don't we. This is local Rockside barley, peated to 20ppm. Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh and a little rough, much pleasantly so, developing on branches, white roots, turnips and seawater. Oysters are in the neighbourhood. With water: fresh almonds and marzipan, which equals civilisation. Mouth (neat): very good, sweeter, rooty, simple, salty. A feeling of Tio Pepe, and yes I know this is ex-bourbon. With water: do not add too much water. Not a great swimmer, which is bizarre. A little bit wishy-washy, I would say. Finish: rather long, much saltier. Apples and a little coconut in the end. Comments: excellent, just a tad 'simple'. Could be that whackier casks work better with Kilchoman.
SGP:555 - 83 points.

A wee break now, we'll be back soon…

Kilchoman 10 yo 2011/2022 'Fresh Bourbon Barrel' (55.8%, OB, LMDW, Antipodes, cask #721, 240 bottles)

Kilchoman 10 yo 2011/2022 'Fresh Bourbon Barrel' (55.8%, OB, LMDW, Antipodes, cask #701, 240 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this one's as coastal as a young Laphroaig, with a little more lapsang souchong and soft roots (than in a young Laphroaig). Lemon zests, peppermint, a touch of citrusy gin perhaps… And even rose petals, which is not very Laphroaig, I agree. With water: plain ashes and coal smoke, plus chalk, marl and crushed slate. Mouth (neat): once again there is some Laphroaigness at first then some formidable floral tones, zests, aniseed, fennel dill, pink grapefruits.. With water: wonderful purity, zestiness, some IPA… Finish: medium, citrusy, with some Szechuan pepper, grapefruits and citrusy hops. That's right, IPA. That young Laphroaig is back in the aftertaste. Comments: we might need to be more careful, some of these young Secret Islays might be Kilchoman instead of Laphroaig, after all.

SGP:656 - 90 points.

Please more bourbon…

Kilchoman 13 yo 2007/2021 'Fresh Bourbon Barrel' (54.4%, OB, LMDW, Conquête, , cask #362)

Kilchoman 13 yo 2007/2021 'Fresh Bourbon Barrel' (54.4%, OB, LMDW, Conquête, cask #362) Four stars
50ppm once more, from Port Ellen. Now it is said that malt may already lose phenols on the lorry between PE Maltings and Lagavulin, so imagine what can happen between PE Maltings and Rockside Farm… Colour: straw. Nose: this one is less complex, less elegant, a little more brutal, smoky, peppery… Not sure any ppms have been lost during transport, after all. With water: much nicer, with almonds, sesame, yuzu, clams, wormwood… Mouth (neat): straight, smoky, rather tarry, with big lemons too, and many ashes, charcoal and else. With water: salt, pepper, radish, chalk, celeriac… Finish: rather long, still a tad rougher (rougher than the amazing 2011s for sure), getting saltier by the second. Very ashy, salty and rooty aftertaste. Comments: very good for sure, just a tad, well, rougher.
SGP:457 - 85 points.

Kilchoman 10 yo 2011/2021 '100% Islay' (57.3%, OB, LMDW, Conquête, oloroso butt, cask #144)

Kilchoman 10 yo 2011/2021 '100% Islay Oloroso Butt' (57.3%, OB, LMDW, Conquête, cask #144) Three stars and a half
20ppm. Colour: gold. Nose: elegant, on mango cake, beeswax, camphor, tiger balm, marmalade, soft pepper, pu-her tea, walnuts both fresh and old… With water: smoked tea, lady's cream, skin moisturiser, sesame oil, a touch of blackberry jelly… Mouth (neat): rather a little less 'elegant', more on raisins, grapefruit, soot… And walnuts too. Pipe tobacco, a little rubber... With water: some heather honey and dried meat, beef jerky, Grisons meat, some metallic touches here and there… Finish: medium, maltier, with some marmalade and smoky lemons. Perhaps not as 'clear' as the stunning ex-bourbons from the same vintage, but I agree that's also a matter of taste. Raspberry ganache and chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: very fine.
SGP:555 - 84 points.

Kilchoman 10 yo 2012/2023 (53.6%, OB, WCN 20th Anniversary, Marsala finish, cask #589)

Kilchoman 10 yo 2012/2023 'Marsala Finish' (53.6%, OB, WCN 20th Anniversary, cask #589) Four stars
WCN stands for Whisky Club Nantais. A bunch of very nice people! Colour: gold. Nose: it is a tad leathery at first, with walnuts too, various kinds of tobacco, cakes, curries, earth… In this one too there's something a little 'Indian', rather than Sicilian. I have to say I also enjoy this mint and oranges combo in the background. With water: more curry yet. Yellow curry. Mouth (neat): very similar on the palate, slightly leathery, curry-like indeed, peppery, with some paprika and a rather grassy smoke. Perhaps a few dates too. With water: raisins coming out, pepper, chillies… And more raisins. Finish: bittersweet, long, with raisins and baked apricots and mangos. Not too sure about those mangos. Comments: from Islay to Madras, and back. Good fun, even if this one's a tad unorthodox and marginally dissonant.
SGP:565 - 86 points.

An older one, please…

Kilchoman 14 yo 2006/2021 (54.5%, OB, LMDW, Conquête, oloroso hogshead, cask #318)

Kilchoman 14 yo 2006/2021 'Oloroso Hogshead' (54.5%, OB, LMDW, Conquête, cask #318) Four stars
50ppm this time again. Remember the Distillery started in 2005. Not too sure this is not some pre-fire Kilchoman. Colour: gold. Nose: it is a different style, more pungent, with more coal smoke, burnt papers, soot, roasted nuts, roasted chestnuts, ground coffee… And in the background, fried onions and parsley. With water: fumes, tyres, smoked ham, cigars… Mouth (neat): big dry and salty oloroso, pepper, walnuts again and again, a little mustard, a touch of varnish, coffee, amontillado-style… With water: metal polish, more and more walnuts, some soy sauce, Jäger, indeed oloroso, mustard… Finish: very long, very oloroso-y. Full-on walnuts and mustard. Comments: probably the driest of them all. Like it a lot.

SGP:366 - 87 points.

A last one, let's make it a bourbon…

Kilchoman 10yo 2007/2017 '20th Anniversary whisky.fr' (56.6%, OB, LMDW, bourbon barrel, cask #196, 221 bottles)

Kilchoman 10yo 2007/2017 'Bourbon Barrel 20th Anniversary whisky.fr' (56.6%, OB, LMDW, cask #196, 221 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: oh nice, some menthol upfront, some aniseed, reseda, then oysters and ashes. And seawater. With water: I would unashamedly mention Caol Ila this time, but of course it is Kilchoman, first and foremost. Class act. Mouth (neat): awesomely herbal, with this time again a little pastis, liquorice, aniseed indeed, spearmint, olives, then lime juice. I've tried this one when it came out, I'm dead sure it improved within those six years in glass. Superb freshness. With water: so good, so fresh, you would almost believe this is a great batch of Chartreuse jaune… from the Rhinns of Islay. Finish: long, extremely pure. Salty liquorice with lemon oil and peppermint. Comments: a signature bottling, as they say at Michelin *** restaurants. Probably the winner.
SGP:567 - 90 points.

So, what have we tried? Bourbon, cognac, marsala, mezcal, oloroso, pedro and tequila. Bourbon kind of won, but that was to be expected. Some others have been excellent too, but we still believe that Scotch malt whisky can do just fine without being excessively powdered and made-up, which wasn't quite the case today, anyway. Soon a similar sesssion with Arrans.

(Gracias Edouard, KC, Tony and many other friends)

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


June 4, 2023


Armagnac is back on the tasting table

And tomorrow we'll have more Islay whisky, as our little remote Feis Ile isn't totally over yet. I would add that there's a wonderful new Armagnac Festival that'll happen in Stuttgart, Germany  - where they also make Porsches, ha. It's called the German Armagnac Festival (I'm not even sure there is a French Armagnac Festival!) and it'll happen on Saturday, June 24.  I'll try to get there; it is not a long drive from Alsace – where we make Bugattis. Now, back to our drops, let's kick this off with 'un petit apéritif'…

German Armagnac Festival



Domaine Labiette Castille 'V.S.' (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2020)

Domaine Labiette Castille 'V.S.' (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2020) Three stars
We've only ever tried a couple of vintage Labiette Castille, ten years ago. They were good! The Domaine is located in Sorbets, in the Gers, and shares the same owners as Laubade, which can't be bad news. This is a V.S., so 3 to 5 years of age only, so at 40% vol. let's not expect a monster armagnac. As I said, un petit apéritif. Colour: gold. Nose: it's warming, with some honey and some raisins, touches of caramel, vanilla, a drop of coffee liqueur, mead, apricot liqueur, sweet PX… I would suppose it's been somewhat enhanced – legally, of course. Mouth: a little sweet, but good, a little more on roasted peanuts, plus honey and raisins once more. Good mouth feel, also a little liquorice coming out. Finish: medium, with a little caramel, otherwise stronger honey. Young rancio and a small salty touch in the aftertaste. Comments: really of sound and fair merchantable quality, as they used to say.
SGP:651 - 82 points.

Perhaps another apéro…

Château du Tariquet 8 yo (50.5%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, Folle Blanche, +/-2022)

Domaine Tariquet 8 yo (50.5%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, Folle Blanche, +/-2022) Four stars
A famous estate, their little white Côtes de Gascogne wine is/was extremely popular in Parisian bistros. You would have remembered the wine the next morning, but not obligatorily anything else. Colour: deep amber (natural colour). Nose: I would say you could almost call this 'bourbon brandy', as there's some varnish, vanilla, fruit peel, coconut balls, a little vanillin, a drop of petrol, even a feeling of rye… And pumpernickel! It's really different and should please any bourbon folks. Really. With water: some menthol, some liquorice, some cigarette tobacco. Mouth (neat): same bourbony side at first, with jellybeans, coconut and varnish, then just sweet black tea, indeed sweet breads, and rather a lot of toffee, corn syrup, nougat… With water: water makes it grapier on the palate, but no reason to complain, naturally. Finish: medium, full, firm, whisky-y. Lovely hints of aniseed and parsley in the aftertaste. Comments: rather gorgeous and oh-so-close to the world of whisky. God fun (while I'll remember everything tomorrow morning).
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Maison Aurian 2003/2023 (51.1%, Whic, Voyages Extraordinaires, Bas-Armagnac, 150 bottles)

Maison Aurian 2003/2023 (51.1%, Whic, Voyages Extraordinaires, Bas-Armagnac, 150 bottles) Four stars and a half
Lovely Jules-Verne-inspired label. We've tried several wonderful Aurians already. And of course, I've read many Jules Verne novels when I was a boy, as all French kids used to do, but they're all on Insta or TikTok these days, what did we miss? You say Ardbeg is on TikTok too?? Colour: gold. Nose: this one's subtler, more on various herbal teas, wormwood, star anise, woodruff, bitter oranges, pear peel, clay and earth… And gets then more floral yet, with some ylang-ylang, patchouli, rose petals… With water: water brings out the raisins, prunes, tobacco and earths, in short the Armagnacness. Mouth (neat): clearly on aniseed, genepy, Thai basil, with even touches of black garlic. A drop of rose liqueur, lychee syrup, muscat, gewurz.. That's all good fun. With water: this time aniseed keeps ruling this liquid. Turkish raki and, while we're at it, sweet nargileh smoke (rose again!) Finish: sameish, plus marmalade. Comments: one that makes you travel indeed. Excellent.
SGP:661 - 88 points.

Domaine d'Espérance 17 yo 'Petit Lot' (46%, LMDW, Version Française, Armagnac, 2022)

Domaine d'Espérance 17 yo 'Petit Lot' (46%, LMDW, Version Française, Armagnac, 2022) Four stars and a half
In French, 'petit lot' means 'small batch' but also, in moderate slang, 'cute girl'. No, this is strictky culture.  Domaine d'Espérance, 45ha, is located in Mauvezin d'Armagnac, in a region that's sometimes, and rather unofficially, called 'Grand-Bas-Armagnac'. Colour: deep gold. Nose: yeah! Parsley, chives, tarragon, liquorice, roasted pistachio, black raisins, sage, menthol cigarettes… Another one that's pretty singular, it is a beautiful nose. Mouth: extremely easy and good. Stunning liquoricy freshness, peaches, mint drops, light tobacco, cough lozenges, all that with a salty touch lingering… Superb! Finish: medium, with little further change, all good and fresh and lively. Perhaps ripe mangos? Comments: these 46% vol. make it extra-easy. Do they do double-magnums? By the way, Espérance means hope. It is a perfect name.

SGP:651 - 89 points.

Domaine de Charron 2000 (49.9%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, cask #116, +/-2022) Four stars
We're in the Landes this time, with a small producer that's always making great armagnacs, as we could already find out several times. No, they don't raise zebras at the Domaine. Colour: deep amber. Nose: more oak influence here, more caramel, toffee, fudge, cakes, vanilla, jams and jellies, lady's night cream, and… rhum agricole. I'd swear to St. Miles-Davis that this is close to some Neissons. Really. Mouth: how very unusual! Notes of truffles and asparagus at first, with some sour cream, retsina, very old Bourgogne wine (meaty, mushroomy), with a faint, intriguing rancidness, some pinewood, eggplant… It's probably a little deviant on the palate, but that's exactly what we enjoy in aged spirits. The worst thing that could happen to them is that 'wood technology' gone wild would make them all the same. Which is already happening in malt whisky, by the way. Finish: long, still a tad sulphury (kind of) and yet quite superb. Some pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: rather a fighting, rustickish (!) armagnac 'from behind the fags', as we say in French.

SGP:562 - 87 points.

Domaine de Charron 1988 (47.1%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, cask #20, +/-2022)

Domaine de Charron 1988 (47.1%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, cask #20, +/-2022) Four stars and a half
100% baco – the 2000 was 100% baco too. Wait, didn't those slightly weird touches on the palate come from the fact that it was baco? Baco is a crazy hybrid, close to the infamous American noah varietal… Let's see if we find that again in this older one… Colour: copper amber. Nose: varnish all over the place at first, even acetone, and I swear to St. John-Coltrane that I'm finding similarities to Neisson again. It gets then gentler, cakier, with some panettone and Stolle, and rather a lot of orange blossom and lavender honey (which does not smell like lavender). Mouth: but why do I keep thinking of Martinique? I may need vacations. Touches of sour oak, liquorice, guava jam, old sweet wine (Rivesaltes) and dry raisins. Hints of iron and copper too, rancio indeed, pousse-rapière… Do you know pousse-rapière? Finish: long, still dry, almost oxidative. Amontillado. Earthy aftertaste. Comments: Martinique, Jerez, Landes. Three regions in one spirit, how cool is that? In any case, this is characterful armagnac, as always with Charron.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Please another 1988…

Domaine de Danis 33 yo 1988/2023 (47.6%, Grape of the Art, Ténarèze, folle blanche, cask #34, 387 bottles)

Domaine de Danis 33 yo 1988/2023 (47.6%, Grape of the Art, Ténarèze, folle blanche, cask #34, 387 bottles) Five stars
This one matured in a wet cellar. And it is a Ténarèze, baby! Colour: gold. Nose: they say Ténarèze are rural, but I find this rather well-polished, easy, fresh, floral, pretty civilised, with dandelions, maize bread, mirabelle jam, quinces, meadow flowers, white clover honey, golden sultanas… And tiny whiffs of wood smoke. A Glenmorangie of armagnac, if you will. Mouth: great, lively, herbal and fruity, with herbs jellies (hay), apples, tiny pink bananas, more mirabelles, a drop of sorb spirit, quince jelly, citrons… Woodruff syrup in the background, and even touches of bear garlic. No, nothing to do with garlic. Finish: medium, fresh, with some blood oranges, more lighter honeys, a drop of elderberry liqueur (do we really need to mention that brand name once more?)… And just more quinces and mirabelles in the aftertaste. Comments: quaffability factor: huge! Which may make it a little dangerous. They should add a warning to the labels, don't you think? What's sure is that this is one of the gentlest pure Folle Blanches I've tried, but granted, I haven't tried zillions.

SGP:651 - 90 points.

Château de Hontambère 36 yo 1985/2022 (56.5%, Grape of the Art, Ténarèze, ugni blanc, cask #6, 350 bottles)

Château de Hontambère 36 yo 1985/2022 (56.5%, Grape of the Art, Ténarèze, ugni blanc, cask #6, 350 bottles) Four stars and a half
Aren't these labels absolutely stunning, with their mid-1960s Italian-pop-art feel? Let's add proper art to our bottles and drop any cheapo two-penny pseudo-Victorian designs! So many new bottles are hurting our eyes, are they not. But back to this interesting pure ugni-blanc from Ténarèze… Colour: full gold. Nose: noses sweeter, honeyed, a little liqueury perhaps, with 'a box of sultanas', small figs, dates, kougelhopf… It's not exactly earthshattering this far, but at 56.5%vol. after 36 years, that may be normal… With water: small herbs popping out, dill, basil, a little tar too, a lovely small rubber, honeysuckle, old chardonnay… What a breath-taking nose once you've added a little H2O! Best use of water, I say (apologies to the greens). Mouth (neat): woooh! A cognacqy avalanche of dried fruits and herbs, going tropical, ridden with honeys, mint, peaches and mangos. Some oak shavings too, caramel, varnish, but that may be the high strength, let's see. With water: back to mint, liquorice, earth, fruity varnishes, fermenting figs, eucalyptus… Finish:  very long, a tad rough now, a little oaky, but how many whiskies are already dead at 36? To be honest, this oakier finish makes it lose one point. Dura Lex, sed Lex (oh come on, S.!) Pepper, cinchona, raw roots… Comments: splendid, totally splendid. All you have to do is to have a next shot before the finish. Nah, drop that.

SGP:462 - 89 points.

Down to vintage 1975. That's when LedZep did Achilles Last Stand, no? Best LedZep ever, if you ask me. They just released the reference tape on YouTube by the way, boy oh boy…

Château Garreau 46 yo 1975/2022 (49.2%, Asta Maurice, Bas-Armagnac, cask #AMF007, 280 bottles)

Château Garreau 46 yo 1975/2022 (49.2%, Asta Maurice, Bas-Armagnac, cask #AMF007, 280 bottles) Four stars and a half
I think the price will make any Scottish marketeers laugh. They should not, they won't laugh much longer… (that was excessively grim, S.!) Colour: deep gold. Nose: classic beehive-y start, full of honey, then raisins, then flowers (peonies and gorse, for example) and pollen. Then chicory coffee, (just a wee cup) and a curious combination involving slightly heady flowers (roses) and meats, marrow, bouillons, lentils and ham… The thing is, this is brilliant, very complex, and superbly converging. What I mean is that we're getting close to the best old Speysides, especially Macallan and compadres. Remember, old spirits converge… (only the prices do not). Mouth: many flaws (too much oak, too much piney stuff, too much earthiness, too many spices, too much soapiness) but very bizarrely, the combination works, as if by magic. Message to self, just don't over-analyse these old ones. Finish: medium, awesomely sour, almost acetic and briney. Mead in the aftertaste. Comments: nose was easily 91, palate was more like 87.
SGP:371 - 89 points.

Danis has it, but there's a last one, from the same house, by another bottler that's close to our dear little Alsace… Remember, Alsatians are not Frenchmen, they are either Swiss people who never made it to Belgium, or the other way around.

Château Garreau 50 yo 1973/2023 (46.8%, C. Dully Selection for Sabir Sheikh's 50th Birthday, Bas-Armagnac)

Château Garreau 50 yo 1973/2023 (46.8%, C. Dully Selection for Sabir Sheikh's 50th Birthday, Bas-Armagnac) Four stars and a half
So a Swiss bottling… I'm afraid we do not know the excellent Mr. Sabir Sheikh, but our thoughts are with him on this special occasion. For he who loves old Armagnac can only be a good man. Colour: bright amber. Nose: classic, gentle, honeyed, nutty, floral, very cakey, with dried fruits aplenty and touches of beeswax. This is not some heavy armagnac for sure, but whiffs of resins and old ointments are adding mystery to this charming oldster. Mouth: it's starting to talk, getting more resinous at first, then with some bananas flambéed, some light fudge, maple syrup, green propolis (the black one is usually harder), figs starting to ferment… Finish: medium, herbal, with a little cardboard showing up, some teaishness, a little  piney tar… Comments: to be honest, this one is almost miraculous. So many spirits are almost dead when they reach this ripe old age, only some fab cognacs can make it in our book, as well as some malts by Gordon & MacPhail, for unknown reasons. Maybe Elgin's micro-climate? In any case, it's great news that this one hasn't gone down with all hands. Congratulations to anyone involved.

SGP:561 - 88 points.

See you in Stuttgart! (hope I'll make it)…

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


June 3, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Three Port Ellen
Serge requested I do something Islay themed for today's post. Well, any excuse for these three really…


Port Ellen 15 yo 1980/1996 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)

Port Ellen 15 yo 1980/1996 (46%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: beautifully soft peat smoke, citrussy, briny and with lovely notes of crushed seashells, beach flowers and sandalwood. Definitely the softer side of Port Ellen, but the aromatic subtly and freshness are gorgeous. With time I even find a little grilled asparagus and charred shellfish. Mouth: superb! Brine and citrus juices with pure peat smoke, peppered Mackerel, tar and oily kippers. This more 'dirty' side of Port Ellen's nature is emerging more clearly on the palate. Just brilliant! Finish: long, bright, nicely drying and salty, very coastal and with some pure peat ash notes. Comments: these young Port Ellens can be just brilliant, this one is no exception, and the ABV makes it utterly deadly juice!
SGP: 366 - 91 points.



Port Ellen 10 yo (58.4%, Signatory Vintage, Natural High Strength, Bottling No.2, bottled 1994)

Port Ellen 10 yo (58.4%, Signatory Vintage, Natural High Strength, Bottling NO.2, bottled 1994)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: in some ways it is obviously similar, but everything is so much sharper and more brutalist with these heavy petrolic vapours, pin sharp seawater and peat notes. Rubber fishing boots, creel nets and raw tar. Ink, seashore dross, wet kelp and iodine! With water: coastal greenery! Grasses, scrubs, wet pebbles, sand dunes - you see what I mean? Lemon juice, ceviche and sandalwood. Mouth: outstanding arrival! Immense power, raw peat, chalk, iodine, black peppercorns pickled in brine and malt vinegar! Going towards mercurochrome, gherkins and pickling juices. There's also green and citric acidity, salted fish, gallons of seawater and bath salts. With water: deeper and fatter, taking on board things like burlap hessian sack, tarred rope, more iodine, sheep wool and camphor. Stupendously fat and pure Port Ellen grubby glory! Finish: very long, wonderfully salty, tarry and vividly on seawater and brined anchovies. Going towards some bone-dry Manzanilla! Comments: Modern Islay 10 year olds do not taste like this. Make of that comment what you will.
SGP: 368 - 92 points.



Port Ellen 1983/2009 (54.2%, House Of Macduff 'The Golden Cask' for Japan, cask #CM139, 301 bottles)

Port Ellen 1983/2009 (54.2%, House Of Macduff 'The Golden Cask' for Japan, cask #CM139, 301 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: obviously more rounded and tamed to a certain extent by age. But in place is a beautifully honeyed profile full of smoked and herbal teas, dried citrus rinds, aged mead and tar extracts. Many medicinal tinctures and ointments and this similar feel of peat subdividing into many tertiary earth and medicinal aspects, as you often find in similarly aged Caol Ila in my experience. With water: still pretty salty, dryly honeyed, picking up some vegetal and coal smoke notes now too. Mouth: superb fatness and juiciness in the mouth. More smoked orange peel and smoked teas. Putty, hessian, tar, iodine and witchhazel. Also very salty and umami things like soy sauce, squid ink and anchovy paste. In some aspects it becomes tougher as you, but then this is Port Ellen… With water: the texture is pretty fantastic now, very fat, oily and mouth-coating, lots of tar extracts, herbal wines, cocktail bitters and salted liquorice. Finish: long, superbly peaty, tarry, salty, herbal and honeyed. Comments: another top notch 1983 single cask that's hard to refute. Feels like a halfway house between Caol Ila and Lagavulin in some ways, which is no bad thing.
SGP: 467 - 91 points.



Thanks to Hideo!




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


June 2, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


Laphroaig Days, Part Deux

Sunset at Laphroaig, 2015 (WF Archive)


No words needed, just more upper-echelon randomness...



Williamson 11 yo 2011/2022 (59.8%, Whisky AGE, barrel, cask #425, 206 bottles)

Williamson 11 yo 2011/2022 (59.8%, Whisky AGE, barrel, cask #425, 206 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: straight, pure, ashy, smoky Laphroaig. No fuss, no distractions, a working barbecue in the distance, a few apples, a chimney and a kiln, both working as well. With water: same, coal smoke, peat smoke, fresh bark… Mouth (neat): massive, simple, very smoky and briny. Lemon zests, ashes, liquorice wood, seawater. Utter Laphroaig purity, no flannel. With water: same, straight to the point, which I find marvellous. Lemon yoghurt, seawater, oysters, loads of smoke and ashes. Finish: long, very smoky. Grapefruit in the aftertaste. Comments: it is not a very medicinal Williamson, but boy was it smoky!
SGP:568 - 88 points.

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, 'single Islay malt', UK, cork, 1l, +/-1987)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, 'single Islay malt', UK, cork, 1l, +/-1987) Five stars
Not the screwcap version. Most evidently, these 43% versions used to be much better than the ones at 40% vol. No, seriously. Colour: gold. Nose: these older tens! I'd call this one intermediate, between the flabbergasting earlier 'tropical' ones (mango galore and basta cosi) and the smokier, peatier ones that came later on. This nose remains exceptional in any case, stunningly secondary, on aromas that you could only qualify as 'old Laphroaig'. You won't find this in nature or anywhere else, and certainly not in Whiskydom. Mouth: oooh… Raisins, meat sauce, longans, goji, mango, dried pineapple, dried jujubes… O-M-G, as we used to say, indeed an ode to bottle aging (I'm sorry, Tom, Dick and Harry). This whisky was different when it was bottled, like it or not. Finish: pretty long, sublimely fruity. Comments: grandiose. Wasn't Laphroaig 10 the best 'entry-level' Scotch Malt Whisky ever made?
SGP:755 - 93 points.

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, unblended, Martini & Rossi, screwcap, +/-1980)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, 'unblended Islay malt', Roland Marken Import Bremen, Germany, screwcap, 75cl, rotation 1981) Five stars
ABV on additional back label, not on main. Poured freely at some poshy wedding in Scotland earlier this year. Well, Lucy and Angus's. I've heard no one complaining. Colour: gold. Nose: it is, indeed, a smokier version, with more briny smells, more creosote, more iodine, more old coal (old coal pit), more smoked fish as well, salmon, kippers, charcoal, grapefruits… In short, restless mangos haven't taken over yet, but that may occur later on. Like, around the year 2040. Mouth: no, cancel that, we're closer to the other one, with just as many raisins and goji berries, dried pineapples, angelica, pinot gris… Basically, it is the same extraordinary whisky. Finish: long, saltier, smokier, with even some olives. And winkles, naturally. Comments: it would be presumptuous to try to tell them apart. The other 10 was a little more 'mature', but all in all, both were stunning and, well, similar.

SGP:656 - 93 points.

Bessie Williamson 10 yo 2012/2022 (58.5%, Fadandel, 1st fill amontillado hogshead, cask #9, 294 bottles)

Bessie Williamson 10 yo 2012/2022 (58.5%, Fadandel, 1st fill amontillado hogshead, cask #9, 294 bottles) Four stars and a half
Laphroaig plus amontillado? Sounds about right! Naturally, this is some blended malt – I believe they blended it with thin Islay air. Colour: full gold. Nose: walnuts love smoke, smoke loves walnuts, that's the whole story here. You may add mustard, samphires, wakame, leather, cigarette tobacco, bay leaves, paprika… With water: perhaps a little leather now, new leather jacket, cherry stems… And amontillado. Lovely walnuts. Mouth (neat): creamy mouth feel, salty sherry, more and more walnuts, green lemons, horseradish, pea soup, loads of smoked ham and sausage… It is, indeed, one of the most sausage-y whiskies I've tried within the last months. With water: citrus coming out, especially those kumquats and bergamots that our Dutch friends love so much (sorry, a private joke). Also a lot of marmalade. Finish: long, potent, superbly bitter and, well, on kumquats. I know, I know… Saltier aftertaste. Comments: I'm afraid we'll never come down. Brilliant wee ultra-nutty dry Laphroaig.

SGP:467 - 88 points.

Laphroaig 25 yo 1997/2023 'Symington's Choice' (52.2%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon hogshead, cask #3372, 196 bottles)

Laphroaig 25 yo 1997/2023 'Symington's Choice' (52.2%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon hogshead, cask #3372, 196 bottles) Five stars
This one's very dark for an ex-BB malt, but as we used to say in math (and malt) class, there are more exceptions than rules. Colour: full gold with copper hues. Nose: charcoal at first, old fireplace, guns, then meats and dried fish. Beef jerky, soot, coal dust, waxed papers, cigars, Aperol Spritz (apologies), eucalyptus wood… I find it curiously thick and 'sherried' for a bourbon hogshead, but we shan't complain as this one too is 'vastly superior'. With water: this kind of nutty and salty style that's rather to be found in deep-sherried Laphroaigs. Cherry liqueur, kirschwasser… Seriously, loving this, but what happened? Mouth (neat): beautifully weird, with some 7-up, lemonade, even Schweppes, then seawater, oysters, tobacco, liquorice wood… It is certainly not your average ex-bourbon Laphroaig. With water: no, this cannot be. If this was indeed a 'simple' bourbon cask, I'll eat a whole family-size Hawaiian pizza from Domino's, but I'll need proof. Finish: long, extremely good, with black raisins and loads of smoke. Comments: am I losing my mind? Or is someone gently pulling my leg? Ex-bourbon, really?
SGP:567 - 90 points.

Houston, please bring us down!

Islay Distillery 30 yo 1990/2022 (51.3%, The Peninsula Collection by Nanyang Whisky & Rejo Beverages, cask #NYWLP01, 310 bottles)

Islay Distillery 30 yo 1990/2022 (51.3%, The Peninsula Collection by Nanyang Whisky & Rejo Beverages, cask #NYWLP01, 310 bottles) Five stars
Funny cask # there, and an age statement that might be slightly undervalued. More cocketry, I suppose. We're in Singapore this time, while last time I was in Singapore, there was only Johnnie Walker around. But that was in 1988. All right. Colour: gold. Nose: once more, these older batches are straighter, better chiselled in a way, saltier, more coastal, more 'Laphroaig'. Oysters, langoustines and crabs, kelp, lemon, a little tar and rubber, beach sand, leek and asparagus, rainwater, fresh almonds… With water: classic move towards chalk, mud, wool and porridge. Mouth (neat): totally huge, citric, acidic, lemony, pungent, peppery, with rather a lot of wasabi, tart apples, grapefruit, limoncello… At 30 years of age! With water: sweeter and rounder, with two sultanas and three dried goji berries. The background remains superbly salty and tart. Finish: long, pretty perfect, with some riesling and sauerkraut. No, really! Lemon and seawater in the aftertaste, nothing unusual. Comments: just extremely good, if not totally focused. But at 31, or 30, or 32 years or age, that's more than normal.

SGP:557 - 90 points.

Hold on, let's add three bonus undisclosed Lap….

Islay Single Malt 31 yo 1990/2021 (49.3%, Thompson Bros., two refill barrels, 464 bottles)

Islay Single Malt 31 yo 1990/2021 (49.3%, Thompson Bros., two refill barrels, 464 bottles) Five stars
What could go wrong here? This one is ticking strictly all the boxes, we even like seals. Colour: golden straw. Nose: only three-dimensional (medicinal, coastal, tropical fruit) but each would then get fractal and explode into myriads of tinier aromas, while keeping this feeling of focus and oneness. See what I mean? But let's only mention three main aromas just for the sake of it, let's say lip balm, let's say cockles, and let's say pink grapefruits. Plus, as we said, myriads of other smells and aromas. Beautiful, classic Laphroaig nose, the old tenners that we had last time aren't that far away… Mouth: indeed! Huge 'nervous' freshness, litres of lime juice, some Szechuan pepper, passion fruit, some moderate peat smoke, some coastal touches (anchovy brine, oysters), peat smoke and many putty-and-almond-like touches. Either you write a few lines, or you write a whole book about this one. I chose the easier option. Finish: perfect length, more ashy smoke, more coastalness, more lemons. Ginger tonic and, err, Campari in the aftertaste. Comments: hey, a high-end Laphroaig Spritz, ideas ideas, and why not?
SGP:656 - 92 points.

Secret Islay 31 yo 1990/2022 (51.9%, Archives, refill hogshead, cask #4404337, 257 bottles)

Secret Islay 31 yo 1990/2022 (51.9%, Archives, refill hogshead, cask #4404337, 257 bottles) Five stars
In theory… Colour: light gold… Nose: the Thompson was softer, this is a tad more brutal, peaty, medicinal, ashy… And just as superb. Tincture of iodine, ointments, engine oil, peppers, many kinds of camphor-led syrups and oils, then old ropes (those famous tarry ropes), hessian, chalk and gypsum, kelp… And of course oysters. Also the usual lapsang souchong. With water: more towards chalk, wool, fresh concrete, porridge, sourdough… Some elements of youth do remain, amazing. Mouth (neat): more tropical fruits this time, grapefruit, passion and mango, plus salty wines (manzanilla) and seawater, while it would then get fatter and oilier. With water: just more of all that, with some green walnuts, salt, lemon, grasses, white asparagus… Finish: long, and once again with a spritzy side, ginger tonic, cinchona… Salty aftertaste, say on peppered winkles. Comments: this one was more a classic, mineral, salty, old yet very vibrant Laphroaig. Quality's extremely high, as expected.
SGP:567 - 91 points.

Last one…

Unnamed Islay 30 yo 1991/2022 (51.4%, Wu Dram Clan, 3rd Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #2674, 237 bottles)

Unnamed Islay 30 yo 1991/2022 (51.4%, Wu Dram Clan, 3rd Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #2674, 237 bottles) Five stars
A bottle by Signatory Vintage for Kirsch Import for Wu Dram Clan… for us all. Colour: golden straw. Nose: it is fascinating to compare these old early 1990s Laphroaigs, as they're all so close and so different. This one's rather more on root vegetables at first, parsnips, celeriac, beets, then the expected salty coastalness, the usual medicinal side (bandages, ointments), whiffs of old books and magazines, ink, touch of liquorice, fennel… And not much fruitiness this far. Love it, still. With water: plaster and more bandages. Dis someone break a leg or an arm? Mouth (neat): it's the saltiest of them three, and consequently, the most coastal and briny. There's a fruity fatness too this time, touches of calvados perhaps, anchovies, eau-de-vie (sorb)… Great fun here, even if it is a tad unusual indeed. But it wouldn't make much sense if they were all identical after 30 years, would it. That's the whole point of single cask bottlings, if I'm not mistaken. With water: some passion fruit this time, but also pastis, which we already found today – or was it yesterday? Extremely good and not totally dissimilar to some old OBs. Like some 30s indeed… Finish: long, more medicinal once more, with a lemony and liquoricy signature. And let's not forget some oysters. Comments: these batches remind me of Knockando. Not stylistically, of course, but because the latter have some 'Slow Matured' expressions. Oh, forget about that. Great old Laphroaig for sure. No, we have no proper proof, but it is in the pudding. Excellent.
SGP:567 - 91 points.

Good, it was a superb Laphroaig session, but let's be honest, we took no chances and only tried 'proven ones'. No lousy OB NAS, for example…

(Thank you, Angus and KC)

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


WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

May 2023

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Ardbeg 26 yo 1996/2022 (52.8%, Gourmet Pool, bourbon barrel, cask #817) - WF 93

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Ardbeg 20 yo 1975/1995 (51.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) - WF 94

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Caol Ila 13 yo 2009/2023
(57.7%, Signatory Vintage, for Germany, bourbon hogshead, cask #322900, 284 bottles) - WF 89

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
HD 10 yo 2012/2023 (58.3%, The Roots, Jamaica, cask #25, 229 bottles) - WF 91

Serge's thumbs up this month:
Holyrood 2023 'Bub Project' (60%, OB, The Liquid Antiquarian Bub Project, new make, chevalier barley) - not scored

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Glen Breton 21 yo 'Rare' (43%, OB, Canada, +/-2021) - WF 69

June 1, 2023


  Many Islay, i