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Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild

 

 

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June 2024 - part 1 <--- June 2024 - part 2 ---> Current entries

 

June 30, 2024


Whiskyfun

Rums are back on Whiskyfun

We're falling far behind, but what can we do? Let's start with our traditional little aperitif, while avoiding, as much as possible, C12H22O11. That's sucrose, white sugar, also known as β-D-fructofuranosyl-(2↔1)-α-D-glucopyranoside according to the esteemed French Chemical Society. Or beta-D-Fructofuranosyl alpha-D-glucopyranoside. It's all rather cute, isn't it?


Sada Williams (The Barbados Olympic Association)

 

 

Rhum Boel Guilly (40%, Rhum Traditionnel des Îles Françaises d’Outre-Mer, +/-1990)

Rhum Boel Guilly (40%, Rhum Traditionnel des Îles Françaises d’Outre-Mer, +/-1990) Two stars
The brand still exists, you’ll find it at Carrefour for around €7 a 50cl bottle. That’s right, seven euros. This wouldn’t be possible with whisky, but with rum, you might evn be in for a pleasant surprise. Colour: full gold. Nose: much better than many more expensive rums, quite akin to the traditional non-agricole rums from Le Galion in Martinique. Crème brûlée, liquorice, a touch of tar and petrol, brown sugar, very ripe pineapple, and cane juice… But let’s not kid ourselves, the devil still lurks on the palate. Mouth: well, it’s not too bad, just a tad light and overly caramelised. Cane juice and molasses persist, along with cooked tropical fruits (pineapple)... It would certainly suit light cocktails or cooking. Finish: not much to speak of, as anticipated, save for some notes of liquorice allsorts. Comments: I’m tempted to buy half a pallet and redistill the lot, just for a laugh at the year’s end. It rather does the job.
SGP: 330 - 75 points.

Whistler ‘Master Solera’ (46%, OB, South Africa, +/-2022)

Whistler ‘Master Solera’ (46%, OB, South Africa, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
A rum distilled from molasses in a pot still, complemented by a column still, and aged through a solera system comprising seven different casks, including white wine, red wine, whisky, cognac, and port... The 46% ABV is rather reassuring. Colour: light gold. Nose: in spirit, it’s not too far from Boel Guilly, just a bit more potent with a touch more citrus and spice. The wines aren’t very discernible, thankfully. Hints of stewed rhubarb. Mouth: similar sentiments, it’s pleasant, quite fresh, perhaps not terribly precise but with so many different casks, that’s not unexpected. A bit of lemon, cinnamon, liquorice, dried meat, but it fades rather quickly. Finish: not very long but the citrus and brown sugar do come through. Comments: pleasant enough, but I don’t think it’s quite up to the level of South Africa’s Mhoba.
SGP:530 - 77 points.

Speaking of which…

Mhoba ‘Umbila’ (59.7%, OB, South Africa, LMDW New Vibrations Collection, bourbon, cask #WR5, 251 bottles, 2023)

Mhoba ‘Umbila’ (59.7%, OB, South Africa, LMDW New Vibrations Collection, bourbon, cask #WR5, 251 bottles, 2023) Four stars and a half
This is single estate rum. We’ve already tasted some excellent Mhobas. Umbila means maize in the local language, which likely refers to the bourbon cask, an ex-Woodford Reserve, rather than the distillate itself. Colour: gold. Nose: immediately petrol-like, with high esters, Brazilian wood (amburana, isn’t it?) and a Finnish sauna vibe, or rather the essential oils you might use there. Also lemon, tiny touches of rubber, and wafts of eucalyptus to clear your sinuses, should that be necessary. With water: pickles and tiny lemons in vinegar and salt. Don’t forget the petrol station and oils. Mouth (neat): quite heavy, quite Jamaican, salty, petrol-like, acetic, with carbon, brine, capers, and salmiak (Finnish, perhaps?). With water: and now it gives a nod to not-too-heavy Caroni. Lime, pickles, varnish, acetone, etc. Finish: long, curiously refreshing. A rather sweet-salty aftertaste, like prickly pickle or a dry martini with an olive. Comments: I really like this version of Mhoba.
SGP:463 – 88 points.

While we’re in the southern hemisphere…

Beenleigh 15 yo 2007/2023 (65.2%, Silver Seal, Australia, cask #173, 259 bottles)

Beenleigh 15 yo 2007/2023 (65.2%, Silver Seal, Australia, cask #173, 259 bottles) Four stars and a half
Remember, Beenleigh is a very old brand and distillery. This will be the oldest Beenleigh we’ve ever tasted. And at this alcohol strength, we’ll be careful… Colour: full gold. Nose: very pretty, slightly agricole in style, with tropical flowers (ylang-ylang) and green banana, but let’s not take any risks. With water: it leans more towards mocha, sugar cane, nougat, and roasted pistachios... Mouth (neat): a kind of blend of agricole and English molasses rum, but once again, at this strength, we won’t delve too deeply into it before adding… With water: perfect. Very fruity liquorice, blackberry jam, fudge, sesame oil, sugar cane, and orange liqueur… All in all, it’s a much gentler and kinder rum than it initially seemed. Finish: medium length, liquorice, touches of wood varnish, and truly an agricole side. Comments: the Mhoba had much more punch, but I really like this deceptively aggressive side of Beenleigh. A gentle monster, rather superb.
SGP:641 - 88 points.

Foursquare 16 yo 2006/2023 ‘Flag Series’ (60.3%, LMDW, Barbados, cask #FS06FV16)

Foursquare 16 yo 2006/2023 ‘Flag Series’ (60.3%, LMDW, Barbados, cask #FS06FV16) Five stars
It doesn’t say Foursquare, but with a cask number starting with ‘FS’, it’s not hard to guess what it is. We always dream of finding an FS pure pot still, don’t we... Colour: dark gold. Nose: why do all these rum makers target our noses so much? I understand water is becoming a precious commodity on this planet, but still... That said, we get flowers, zucchini blossoms, acacia, beeswax, a bit of paraffin, and a green plant soil note... But quickly, with water: rounder, more on orange cake, fresh madeleines, mandarins (big time) ... Mouth (neat): it’s still very good, even at 60% ABV. We find a floral maceration note with touches of varnish and glue, followed by small citrus fruits, kaffir lime, yuzu, kumquats, bergamots, limes, calamansi, Buddha’s hand (S., we’re good, we know them). With water: extremely citrusy, with just a bit of cane syrup and rock sugar to round it out. Finish: quite long, zesty, but also round and pastry-like, with that self-blend pot still + column still character really coming through. Comments: this flag is really very pretty. And since the Olympics are approaching, let’s cheer on the wonderful Barbadian sprinter Sada Williams. May she stay away from Foursquare until then!
SGP:651 - 90 points.

We're not afraid of anything anymore...

TDL 2005/2023 (62.5%, Swell de Spirits, for Salon du Rhum de Spa, Trinidad, #2 On Tour)

TDL 2005/2023 (62.5%, Swell de Spirits, for Salon du Rhum de Spa, Trinidad, #2 On Tour) Four stars and a half
You know, TDL, Trinidad Distillers Limited, the makers of Angostura. This is truly the rum that has surprised us the most in the past year or two. Didn’t I already say that last time? Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s not the explosion of exotic fruits, the Caribbean Bushmills we were expecting. Instead, there are curious smoky notes, soot, and UHU glue... To be honest, you feel there could be tonnes of mangoes, but the alcohol seems to block it all. Let’s see, with water: yes, here we go, the ‘not too ripe’ mangoes and blood oranges are here, but there’s still a faint hint of overripe banana, glue, and metal polish. Mouth (neat): this time, the exotic fruits are in full splendour, but there’s also a spicy, peppery note, and again a bit of that chemical (glue) aspect. Let’s see… With water: still that unusual balance. Orange and mango peels, melon rind, varnish, green beans (yes), soot, and even, brace yourselves, saline peat. Was it an ex-Scotch malt cask? Finish: long, sharp, very saline but also with plenty of ripe fruits. Mango jam doughnuts. Fruit peels in the aftertaste. Comments: a bit cross-genre, but on reflection, we love that too, even if it’s not a clear ultra-fruity profile this time.
SGP:652 - 89 points.

Listen, we're going to do something crazy, just for the cause...

Angostura ‘1919’ (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2023)

Angostura ‘1919’ (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2023) Two stars and a half
We last tasted this in 2018, and it was a bit weak (WF 78), but just to put the TDL into perspective, for our common cause... Apparently, they’ve tweaked the recipe a bit. Generally, that means more heavily charred American oak, and thus more vanilla. Colour: pale gold. Nose: quite pleasant, but very light. Indeed, there’s vanilla, sliced apples, bananas, and toast. Mouth: really not too bad, a bit herbal while being sweet and vanilla-forward, but it really lacks power. However, there are nice touches of fresh fruits, bananas, guavas, a bit of honey… Finish: a bit short, but on herbal teas, liquorice… Comments: nothing like its cousin the TDL, let’s be clear, but it’s quite decent. They should try a version at 45 or 50 or 55%.
SGP:530 - 79 points.

We'll finish with two old Jamaicans. We'll have more rums next Sunday, even though we have plenty of mezcals to taste. And a large selection of old genevers, promised for at least two years. I'm ashamed... So, we had agreed on two old Jamaicans, two 40-year-olds, is that alright with you?

Long Pond 40 yo 1983/2024 (51.6%, Distilia & Robert Bauer, The Sins, Avarice, Jamaica, cask #1134, 203 bottles)

Long Pond 40 yo 1983/2024 (51.6%, Distilia & Robert Bauer, The Sins, Avarice, Jamaica, cask #1134, 203 bottles) Five stars
... We eagerly anticipate ‘lust’ in this series (ha) ... Colour: gold. Nose: I was saying the other day, with regard to Brora and Port Ellen, that these styles of spirits, when housed in moderate and intelligent casks, seem just indestructible, eternal, becoming just a tad more complex year after year, without ever losing their DNA or nearing their end. A bit like a horizon that recedes as you advance. Black olives, a couple of drops of diesel oil, anchovies, varnish, turpentine, fir wood ashes, a hint of new plastic, newly unboxed electronic gadgets (think a new iPhone), lemon... With water: magnificent tar, tarmac, new tyres, and a slight Port Ellen touch. But of course. Mouth (neat): simply eternal. Lemon juice, liquorice, tar, varnish, olives, cane syrup. With water: superb precision. Lemon, ashes, tar, olive oil. Finish: perhaps not immensely long but with a coastal, hyper-salty side that reminds one of oysters and whelks. And of course, brined olives. Comments: the very moderate price for a Jamaican of this age would indeed suit a somewhat frugal enthusiast. Well played. The juice is simply magnificent. I suggest adding water only with great moderation.
SGP:563 - 92 points.

Clarendon 40 yo 1984/2024 ‘MMW’ (57.2%, Planteray, Jamaica, 317 bottles)

Clarendon 40 yo 1984/2024 ‘MMW’ (57.2%, Planteray, Jamaica, 317 bottles) Five stars
Planteray is the new name for Plantation, while the ‘MMW’ mark from Monymusk/Clarendon indicates an ester content between 200 and 300 grams per HLPA. Though not the highest, similar to ppm phenols in whiskies, I’ve never found a linear correlation between these figures and the final result in the glass, especially in a forty-year-old spirit. It seems to saturate beyond a certain level, and 200/300 is already quite high in my opinion. I’ve tasted some from 1984 in the past, some of which turned bitter, others not, whereas Monymusk 1977 and 1979 from Moon Import held up well. However, they were bottled at ages of 10 and 20 years. In any case, the Clarendon 1984/2020 ‘Plantation Extreme’ was excellent (WF 90), but it was bottled at… 74.8%. Colour: reddish mahogany. Nose: we’re in convergence with old armagnacs or sherried malt whiskies, with plenty of cooked peaches, wormwood, dark earth, a basaltic touch, prunes, dried apricots, morels, black cherries, liquorice, pine needles, old herbal liqueurs (Arquebuse, Bénédictine), and bear’s garlic. Over the years, the aromas have multiplied fractally. With water: morels and black garlic, rich broth, and prunes. Are we sure this isn’t old Ténarèze? (I jest). Mouth (neat): frankly, it’s reminiscent of very old Glenlivet or Macallan, with marked tannicity (samovar, very black tea, pipe tobacco, coffee grounds) and many resinous notes, pine, bud liqueur, massive menthol, raw liquorice. We’re probably at a crossroads here; water could either make it pop (extreme black tea) or relax it. Let’s see… With water: it’s a win. Mint tea, soft varnish, coffee and dark chocolate, thyme liqueur, cigar, cedarwood, terpenes, menthol… It flirts with the edge at times but always finds a lighter note to bring it back on track. Finish: long, really on black tea and Turkish mint tea, and lots of liquorice, salted or not. Bitter chocolate and black pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: a slightly perilous endeavour for the taster, who must stay attentive throughout the sampling of this very old and very, very dry rum. It’s somewhat reminiscent of that famous Italian cigar, the Toscano dear to Clint Eastwood.
SGP:373 - 90 points.

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

 

June 29, 2024


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland


Four Balblair 

One of the names that always seems to gather praise and goodwill here at Whiskyfun. Thanks in large part to some persistently characterful and charming distillate, many great bottlings over the years, an extremely bonnie distillery and, most importantly, lovely people that always make you feel very welcome whenever you visit. It may not be the most exciting or most cult name in whisky, but it’s rather impossible to come up with too many quibbles about Balblair. 
Angus  

 

Balblair 7 yo ‘Batch 1’ (49.9%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, bottled 2019, 1305 bottles)

Balblair 7 yo ‘Batch 1’ (49.9%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, bottled 2019, 1305 bottles)
Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: pure barley eau de vie, as we often say on these pages. Also, unarguably close to new make, but Balblair is such a charming and pretty distillate that it holds up. Lots of lemon barley water, cut grass, gooseberry, soda bread and putty. Summer whisky! Mouth: definitely rather new-makey, and perhaps less convincing than on the nose here, really getting grassy, austerely spiritous and in the direction of underripe cider apple and petrol. Finish: medium, sharp, very citric, grassy and almost with acidity. Comments: a whisky that’s really more for mixing into a highball perhaps, but it reveals Balblair’s undercarriage rather nicely. 
SGP: 441 - 80 points. 

 

 

Balblair 2005/2021 (48.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, cask #213, 180 bottles)

Balblair 2005/2021 (48.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, cask #213, 180 bottles)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: very classical modern Balblair, all on green and orchard fruits, with some lemon curd, IPA, a few white flowers and also a nicely honeyed note that makes me think of mead. With time it really begins to focus on baked apples and custard. Mouth: a little drier, rawer and more peppery than expected, but otherwise everything is in its place. Same green fruits, some dried banana, some muesli, grapefruit and gooseberry. A whisky that’s rather full of things that make you think of breakfast. Also cereal notes - ha, the power of suggestion. Finish: medium, peppery and slightly sappy with some pithy citrus notes and bergamot. Comments: what I’m curious to know is did they reduce this to 48.5%? Or is that cask strength? I prefer the nose, but overall it’s a very honest, easy and fruity Balblair. 
SGP: 551 - 86 points. 

 

 

Balblair 23 yo 1998/2021 (50.5%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Connoisseur’s Choice’, cask #1075, 1st fill barrel, 170 bottles)

Balblair 23 yo 1998/2021 (50.5%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Connoisseur’s Choice’, cask #1075, 1st fill barrel, 170 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: mead, guava, dried mango and olive oil mixed with honey. Very direct, immediate and highly pleasurable, if somewhat compact in its profile. Continues with a little gorse flower and some subtle waxy notes. With water: really focussed on various honeys, especially of the flower and heather varieties. More mead, waxes and impressions of white balsamic and mint tea. Mouth: excellent arrival, waxes and shoe polish up front, with many such things as old leather, camphor, tinned peaches, dried flowers and crystallised exotic fruits. Also cedar, coconut shavings, unlit cigars and dried tarragon. Definitely showing more complexity on the nose, but still retaining this core mature fruity character. With water: fir sap, spun brown sugar, herbal bitters and wee notes of cough medicines and further impressions of boot polish and waxes. Finish: good length, full of dried pollens and crystallised old honeys, plus some aged sweet Riesling for good measure. Comments: you could be forgiven for thinking it’s both older than its stated age and distilled in a previous decade. Love this very focussed, rather mature style that remains largely about honey and dried fruits. A few notches more complexity would have propelled it past the 90 mark, but I’m being extremely stingy really, it’s an excellent dram. 
SGP: 651 - 89 points. 

 

 

Balblair 27 yo 1993 (60.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #70.42 ‘Elegant, Dark and Stormy’, refill bourbon barrel, 180 bottles)

Balblair 27 yo 1993 (60.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society #70.42 ‘Elegant, Dark and Stormy’, refill bourbon barrel, 180 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: crisp but also greenly fruity with chlorophyll, gooseberry and sharp green apple. A little broader and more powerful in profile than the 98 at first I would say. Beneath that there’s wee hints of custard made with sauternes, lime, lemon curd and vanilla shortbread. The fruit notes keep coming, which I find extremely ‘Balblair’. With water: lemon powder and freshly baked pastries! Indeed, it becomes generally more citrus-driven and waxy with some nice wee coastal inflections in the background. Mouth: superbly syrupy in texture up front, more pure dessert wine and honey impressions, then sweet cereals, tropical fruity IPA beers, heather honey and camphor. Big, fruity East Highland malt whisky! With water: wonderful texture now! Full of honey, sweet wines, camphor, olive oil, muesli and caramelised oatmeal. Still retaining this very generous, very ‘Balblair’ green and yellow fruitiness. Finish: good length, some mineral oil, some sandalwood, lightly sappy green fruitiness, hessian and lanolin. Comments: a great cask where the wood is light enough that the Balblair fruitiness has really been concentrated over the years and the power behind it really makes it kick! Terrific fun, top quality and great selection. 
SGP: 652 - 90 points.

 

 

 

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

 

June 28, 2024


Whiskyfun

Time

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Glendronach CS-NAS

It's been a long time since we've done this, at least in this format, but it's still one of our favourites. I'd like to remind you that even though the result often gives the impression that "whisky was better in the past," that's not always the case. We must remember that in the old days, single malts were much rarer, and those that were available had been selected from a wide range of casks, often representing the cream of the crop. This is very different from the current era where, often, everything is offered as single malt and therefore rather "seasoned," "finished," or "reracked" before bottling, rather than being patiently selected from the inventory. In short, you cannot expect a distillery that sells 50% of its production or even 100% as single malt to offer the same quality as when it only offered 1 or 2%. Of course, there are other reasons, but now is not the time to go into them, we don't have all day (come on!)

Angus
Angus measuring the exact ABV of his old
Glendronach, which had been obscured on the
label, using his trusty Anton Paar alcoholmeter.

 

 

Glendronach ‘Cask Strength’ (58.2%, OB, Batch 12, 2023)

Glendronach ‘Cask Strength’ (58.2%, OB, Batch 12, 2023) Three stars and a half
Batch 11 of this little NAS, boosted with PX and oloroso, was rather good in my view (WF 85). That said, given the state of the market, we seem to be heading towards the end of NAS altogether, if you ask me, with age statements becoming important again... Colour: deep gold. Nose: the sherry is more discreet in this batch, it seems, making everything more elegant, fresh, and fruity, with a lot of preserved apricots and peaches cooked in wine. The black nougat returns in the background, alongside toffee and millionaire shortbread, as well as black tea, like English breakfast. Yes, I know. With water: fully on black tea and equally dark chocolate. Mouth (neat): it seems young, with a much more pronounced sherry thrown over pears and apples. Coffee liqueur, chocolate, brownies, malt extracts, orange liqueur, a bit of woody curry, green walnuts… With water: the water awakens the pepper and amplifies the curry. Overall, the oak is much more upfront. Finish: long but with even more black pepper, as well as juniper and cloves. Comments: it's very good but lacks a bit of harmony for me, the casks are very much at the forefront.
SGP:561 - 83 points.

Glendronach (56.02% analysed, OB, A Perfect Self Whisky, 1940s)

Glendronach (56.02% analysed proof, OB, A Perfect Self Whisky, 1940s) Five stars
A very interesting old Glendronach, naturally 'Most Suitable For Medicinal Purposes'. The traditional ABV of 75° proof was masked, indicating this version was offered at a higher strength, though not specified on the label. Perhaps to save on printing costs. Angus used his Anton Paar electronic hydrometer to determine the exact degree. Colour: gold. Nose: the class of old natural Glendronach, all in delicacy, with plaster, limestone, apples of all sorts, greengages, gooseberries, rhubarb, and a very light touch of peat... In short, a garden from another time, like our grandfathers used to cultivate. With water: little change, except for the appearance of that famous old tweed jacket rinsed by a downpour. A Highland downpour, naturally. Mouth (neat): magnificent, peaty, rather saline, very mineral, with that sooty side found in many malts from that era. It’s all complemented by lemon zest that puts your vertebrae back in place, if you know what I mean. Medicinal purposes indeed. With water: it could be Rosebank! Perfect citrus, slight salinity, clay, and a touch of liquorice. Just perfect. Finish: long, with spices joining the dance but in all elegance. Peppers, notably. Aftertaste again on citrus (grapefruit) and that mineral side. Comments: a perfect old Glendronach, not overwhelmed by loads of sherry. If we’re not going higher than 91, it’s just because I found the nose very slightly behind the sumptuous palate. But what a beauty, this 'self whisky' unearthed by our mate Angus.
SGP:652 - 92 points.

Bonus: You can watch Angus doing the whisky strength test live right here!

Hmm, I hear you, the game might have been a bit unbalanced. So, what do you think of this one to round this off?

Glendronach 25 yo 1993/2018 (59.3%, OB for The Whisky Barrel, sherry butt, cask #658, 557 bottles)

Glendronach 25 yo 1993/2018 (59.3%, OB for The Whisky Barrel, sherry butt, cask #658, 557 bottles) Four stars and a half
I can't quite explain why I hadn't sampled this gem distilled in 1993 before, given its vintage’s reputation and the selector's acclaim. Better late than never, I suppose. Colour: reddish copper. Nose: deeply rooted in sultanas, very ripe damsons, prunes soaked in Armagnac, and a rich wine sauce, akin to grand veneur. One can hardly imagine a more opulent whisky, suggesting a fervent and enthusiastic reracking took place. With water: jammier, with strawberry jam, old fortified red wine, and even muscatel. A hint of wet gravel in the background adds a touch of freshness. Mouth (neat): Nescafé with raisins, crushed pepper, and cloves. More or less. There's a slightly suffocating aspect, but that's the fate of many true sherry monsters. With water: as often, it shifts towards the realm of traditional old Armagnacs (quite different from those we whisky enthusiasts are used to). Loads of raisins, prunes, and of course old cream sherry, not just the kind for elderly English ladies (ha!). Finish: long, very rich, very thick, leaning more towards coffee. Comments: we jest a bit, but truthfully, we're big fans of these famous Glendronach 1993s, which have almost upended the market for heavily sherry-prepped casks. Stronger than paxarette!
SGP: 741 - 89 points.

(Thank you Angus)

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

 

June 27, 2024


Whiskyfun

A few Brora to celebrate the
Distillery's first whisky in 38 years

Brora

June 20, 2024, a very sunny day at Brora
I had planned to call this session 'New Brora vs. Old Brora' or 'Brora: new vs. original', but after a fantastic visit to the site last week, I realised that these headlines wouldn't have made sense, as there is only one Brora, which had merely been dormant for around forty years or so.

In any case, for a vaguely experienced and perhaps slightly fetishistic whisky enthusiast, nothing could surpass moments like those I experienced last week, somewhere between Inverness and Wick on the north-east coast of Scotland. For the first time, I had the chance to discover the Brora distillery in operation and indeed taste its very first new whisky, as the first batch has just reached the minimum age of 3 years to be considered whisky, as you surely know. Indeed, I was tempted to privately call it 'New Brora' but no, after tasting, it's clearly 'Brora', I insist.

I had certainly visited the distillery several times in the past – unfortunately, I had never ventured beyond Inverness on my early trips to Scotland, when the distillery was still active – but each time, the only things moving actively were a few pigeons that would wander into the still house. Not to mention the movements of casks in the warehouses and a few very rare private tastings held in the filling station, the latter frozen in time since Brora closed on 17 March 1983.

Filling store
Kept intact in Brora's filling store in 2006, the last cask
ever filled. You will have noted that it was stencilled "Clynelish". However, I am unable to confirm that it was indeed a Brora;

perhaps it was some new make of Clynelish that had
been filled into it. Or maybe it wasn't the actual last cask
to be filled. Mystery is also part of Scotch whisky, let’s hope
that never changes!

Many thanks again to the team from Clynelish (and Diageo) for taking care of it with grace and diligence back then; the last time was in 2013. The first time, I believe, was in 2006. And now, 2024!

Brora

May 25, 2006, a younger Brora enthusiast and almost as much sun over Brora
 

In fact, what is truly fascinating after the announcement of Brora’s relaunch (and that of Port Ellen) in 2017, and Brora’s first runs in May 2021, is discovering how little has changed on site. Or rather, it has, but it’s hardly noticeable. It’s a bit like if the Bugatti factory in Molsheim were still making the 1927 Type 35, the epitome of a sports car, using tools from the era, barely re-sharpened. The opposite of the new Port Ellen, which rather produces Chirons or Tourbillons even if they have replicated the old stills, see what I mean.

I even amused myself by simultaneously bringing a glass of ‘new’ 3-year-old and a glass of 39-year-old to my nose and realised they were remarkably similar, despite the huge age difference; but it’s well known that Brora has always taken its time, and that very few hyperactive casks were used, similar to Port Ellen. I believe this is the main reason for the incredible longevity of these two malts, which at 50 years old, can seem like 25 (which is good news, let’s be clear!). An actress’s dream.

The chimney at Brora is still there, technically useless apart from perhaps to birds, but a testament to the glorious past of "Old Clynelish." It has been reinforced and protected by a special coating, making it shine just a bit more than before. It’s lovely! Numerous walls have been rebuilt, stones reshaped, an old Porteus mill reinstalled, the two splendid open-air worm tubs are in place, the mash tun and the washbacks are identical to the old ones (with a bit more safety, it seems), and the two original stills have been carefully restored by Abercrombie (nothing to do with Abercrombie & Fitch, you philistine!), with their very thick bases still from the days when the stills were direct-fired, before being converted to indirect heating in... 1961.

At the open-air wormtubs, almost on the roof (2024)
 

I love that they preserved the greyish and sometimes blackened walls, rather than going ‘all white’ like almost everywhere else. At Brora, it really feels like being back in the 1960s or 1970s; all that’s missing is an old Radiola playing The Beatles best-of in the corner, the Red then the Blue. As for the charming stillman diligently watching the cut, I must admit I was just a bit surprised that he wasn’t wearing flared trousers, platform boots, or Eric-Clapton-like sideburns. In truth I struggled to manoeuvre the spirit safe handle when I was kindly offered to do so, as I was as emotional as a teenager meeting Taylor Swift backstage. Honestly...

In any case, I’ll say it again, Brora is indeed a distillery that has been restored with tact, rather than reconstructed and reinterpreted in a contemporary style. This is the major difference from the 'new' Port Ellen with its innovative and experimental approach. At Brora, it’s about recreating whisky as it was made in its prime, and that's it. In my humble opinion, when you've achieved perfection, it's imperative to stop innovating. But nowadays, doing nothing in itself is an innovation. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. And remember, not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire. Well, you know what I mean. And if 115-hour fermentations in wooden washbacks are required, then that’s what we’ll do. That said, there have been some environmental improvements, but they haven’t impacted the whisky. For example, the use of biomass for the boiler or cooling the water in the worm tubs with a so-called 'adiabatic' thermodynamic system. Brora has become carbon-neutral, but that’s about it.

Midnight at Brora, June 20th 2024
 

So, what’s the result? Brora is producing or will produce three main styles, as the distillery did from 1969 to 1983 based on blender demands and specs, though the periods might be a bit more compressed now. I could be wrong. In any case, it’s primarily the almost unpeated style of the 1980s that has been made since the restart in 2021, but from spring 2024, a more peated 1970s style is in the works, although it’s not yet the heaviest peater, the one that the board had judged, blind, to be indistinguishable from Lagavulin’s at the very end of the 1960s. But as in the past, all malted barleys come from Glen Ord Maltings, though of course, not from the old Saladin box system, which was completely replaced in 1983 (!) by the drums first installed in the late 1960s.

First casks filled at Brora after the reopening
 

Today, it’s the current moderately peated new-make, 'in the spirit of Talisker,' that we are going to taste. I find it quite incredible and spent half my time – very weakly, I confess, knowing the outcome in advance – trying to persuade Andy Flatt, the host there, that this new-make should be sold as is. I find it as brilliant as a great white rum from Jamaica or Guadeloupe. But let's move on, the owners’ policy is to release nothing before it reaches ‘double digit’ age. As the old saying goes, "no ten, no deal." So, in the future we will likely avoid STR casks, ex-ruby Port, Hungarian virgin oak, uninhibited PX, ‘double-double’ maturation (yes, that happens elsewhere) or whimsical mizunara. Noblesse oblige, Brora oblige.

So, what are we tasting today? I suggest some young Brora from the past to put things into perspective, some of today's Brora since that's what we're here for, and some recent older Broras to round it all off. How does that sound? But first, a little aperitif...

Ainslie’s Royal Edinburgh (no ABV, OB, blend, Choice Scotch Whisky, twist cap, UK, 1960s)

Ainslie’s Royal Edinburgh (no ABV, OB, blend, Choice Scotch Whisky, twist cap, brown glass, UK, 1960s) Five stars
There have been many versions of Royal Edinburgh, some excellent, others more challenging, especially the darker ones which are likely burdened with an excess of caramel, rendering them somewhat bitter. However, this one is clear and gloriously golden… likely with a hefty dose of Old Clynelish within. Colour: gold. Nose: very typical, marked by suet, damp earth, fresh cement, mushrooms, and ham fat, followed by very bright citrus notes. Grapefruit, lime, sea spinach… Mouth: magnificent, both oily and mineral smoke, then an abundance of lemon zest. Extremely vibrant, nervy, with a slight petrolic and salty edge. It's like drinking North Sea oil – not that I've ever tried. In any case, it's magnificent and seems to be at least 80° proof rather than 70, though there’s no indication of ABV on the label. Finish: impressively long, mineral, with ashes and lemon. The aftertaste is saltier and peppery, very slightly vinegary. Comments: very impressive. It feels like the grain casks hadn’t arrived in time for the vatting of this little gem, possibly the best blend from Ainslie & Heilbron I’ve ever tasted. But again, be careful, other Royal Edinburgh black labels are far less exciting.
SGP:473 - 91 points.

Well, there you go, we're already too high up. Wrong aperitif.

Brora 25 yo 1977/2002 (56.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.12, ‘Honey porridge peat and iodine’, 258 bottles)

Brora 25 yo 1977/2002 (56.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.12, ‘Honey porridge peat and iodine’, 258 bottles) Five stars
Bottled at a time when the names of SMWS bottlings were more precise but far less creative. Colour: pale gold. Nose: the lineage is so evident! I could copy the note for Old Edinburgh word for word, it's the same whisky. The same sublime minerality, those notes of dried fatty meats (think Iberian bellota ham), fresh plaster, and raw wool giving you the sensation of entering one of the countless tourist shops in Inverness, those very green and taut citrus fruits, motor oil, oysters, fresh pepper... With water: and here comes the porridge and new tweed. A few discreet touches of heather honey. Mouth (neat): unbelievable citrus that truly reminds you of the ‘new’ Clynelish of that era. Little peat, but that oily minerality is just superb while there is a feeling of biting into a church candle, as we used to do as kids to annoy the parish priest. With water: this time it's softer than the blend, almost sweet in comparison, but of course, it's not a sweet whisky. Superb petrol, citrons, touches of myrtle, clams, salted liquorice, a few drops of seawater... Finish: long, extremely fresh, salty, maritime, with a return of little pickled lemons in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe Old Edinburgh was truly pure Clynelish. We often used to end our notes on a Brora by lamenting that this style is no longer produced anywhere, more or less. We can finally consider those conclusions null and void.
SGP:564 - 93 points.

A very young Brora please…

Brora 14 yo 1982/1997 (58%, Preiss Imports for D&M Wine and Liquor San Francisco, USA)

Brora 14 yo 1982/1997 (58%, Preiss Imports for D&M Wine and Liquor San Francisco, USA) Four stars and a half
One of the rarest Broras, perhaps the rarest, at least on this side of the Atlantic. Distributed by D&M in California to the members of the Single Malt Connoisseur’s Club, there are probably very few bottles left, which won’t surprise anyone familiar with the dedication to their duties of our dear Californian friends. Grazie mille, David S., and to Alan R. the very devoted mule! Colour: straw. Nose: it's somewhat reminiscent of the Cadenhead 1982s of similar ages, one might imagine the source is identical. Very chalky and with a fermentative edge, clearly still a young whisky from a rather inactive cask. There are hints of leather, mustard, autumn leaves, and fino sherry (although it’s probably not there in flesh), a touch of coal too, but very little peat, which is typical of the vintage. On the other hand, it's much more mineral and less fruity than the Clynelish of those years, though the wax is still very present. With water: porridge, wet chalk, an old tweed jacket after a walk in the rain, fruity olive oil (made with matured olives), etc. Mouth (neat): now this is approaching Clynelish, with candied citrus and beeswax, but there's also a slightly ‘dirty’ side that we always love. Coal dust, old ashes… With water: remains close to ‘new’ Clynelish. Lemon, ashes, chalks, muesli, wax. Finish: rather long, with a lightly salted and liquorice-tinged limoncello. Green pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps some of the least impressive Brora batches, at least in my humble opinion, but this cask was undoubtedly among the best of the lot. I’ll add one or two points for esteem, which I strictly never do, but given the rarity of the beast…
SGP:562 - 89 points.

Brora 3 yo 2021/2024 (cask sample, refill wood, cask #6)

Brora 3 yo 2021/2024 (cask sample, refill wood, cask #6) Five stars
One of the very first casks of 'new' Brora to have officially become Scotch whisky. It was the sixth cask ever filled, and it appears that it is the favourite of the Brora team among those very first casks. This is the ‘gentlest’ version of Brora, certainly not a so-called 'peated' malt. It is very moving to taste such a whisky; I’ll just try not to drown my Mac’s keyboard in torrents of tears (of joy, of course). It would be slightly exaggerated to say that I had been waiting for this moment for more than twenty years, but, well, yes, a little bit.

Colour: white wine. Nose: well, this whisky is unavailable, so here’s the recipe if you want to produce a litre of the same thing. Take 50cl of old 5-year-old Clynelish with the cream label and add 10cl of yellow grapefruit juice, 10cl of green clay, 5cl of white mezcal, 10cl of ‘petrol’ style Riesling, 10cl of manzanilla, 5cl of Woolite, 1 teaspoon of powdered activated charcoal, and the water of 1 not-too-fat oyster. Stir, don’t shake. Mouth: it’s different at first, more on pink grapefruit and williams pear, all on a bed of herbs and green tea. But the waxy side, with paraffin and cold ashes, comes to the forefront soon after. There’s also the inherent redcurrant syrup, and apple and pear spirit, found in most very young Scotch malts, including those from Speyside, but that should blend into the whole eventually. The nose is more ‘mature’ than the palate, but that’s normal. Finish: long, more fermentary, more ‘beer’, more ‘new-make’, but that’s also normal at three years for a malt that hasn’t been ‘boosted’ or ‘doctored’ with a hyper-active cask. Comments: I don’t know if Diageo will appreciate what I’m going to write, but to me, with these very first batches, they’ve recreated ‘Old’ Clynelish from the 1950s-1960s slightly more than a lightly or unpeated 1980s style Brora. Will I be banned from the distillery for life? Remember, we have official 5-year-old Clynelish to compare, whereas it seems there’s no 5-year-old Brora, except perhaps in the sample libraries of the owners. But let’s stop quibbling, it’s a remarkable whisky and in any case, the lineage is incredibly evident. They’ve clearly nailed it.
SGP:642 - (no score) points.

Brora-May-June-2024-Medium-Peaty-3-weeks-old-unaged-new-make

Two wildcats in their brass cage
(Brora's spirit safe in action)
Brora May/June 2024 ‘Medium Peaty’ (3 weeks old unaged new make) Five stars
This is the very first batch ever of the ‘medium peaty’ Brora (our words), which they’ve produced using malted barley peated to 15ppm. This may seem low, especially these days when many are increasing their phenol levels, but we have often noted that there is only a weak correlation between the ppm on malted barley and the nose and palate sensation in the whisky. Let's say that in terms of ppm, this is somewhat between Highland Park and Talisker. Colour: water.

Nose: boom. I’m almost ashamed, but I love this nose, which is full of green and black olives, acetone, smoked ham, agave, roasted pears, with that very slight ammonia note that I always enjoy (when it’s not excessive). Puffs of charcoal and an old full ashtray, then anchovies in brine. Blind, I might not even have said it was ‘simple’ new-make. With water: fresh bread, ashes, brine and that wild yet gently rustic side (young apple spirit) that is so typically ‘Brora’. Mouth (neat): formidable, the nose even amplified, with a lot more ashes and just plain peat. But it’s harsh, brutal, it needs water. With water: now it becomes quite magical. I know it’s not fashionable to get enthusiastic about a new-make in Whiskydom, but I love these very smoky olives and meats. And naturally, that slightly ‘dirty’, ‘farmyard’ side. Finish: similar profile, with the return of smoked meat in the aftertaste and a slight ‘dunder’ note that we adore. Comments: I’ve said enough.
SGP: 655 - (no score) points.

Moving on to the recent old ones...

Brora 39 yo 1982 ‘Hidden Beneath’ (49.8%, OB, Distillery Collection, American oak hogshead, cask #582, 2021)

  Brora 39 yo 1982 ‘Hidden Beneath’ (49.8%, OB, Distillery Collection, American oak hogshead, cask #582, 2021) Five stars
A distillery exclusive that we haven’t formally tried yet. Colour: gold. Nose: the ‘Clynelish’ side of this vintage of Brora emerges even more as the whisky ages, giving the impression we have a Clynelish 1972 in our glass, rather than a 1982. Quite confusing, but certainly good news. We find abundant beeswax, old apples, honeysuckle, poached vineyard peaches, candied citrons, and various types of honey, reminiscent of white clover and linden. This is complemented by a hint of high-quality green tea and a subtle note of coconut milk. Simply sublime on the nose, like a… Clynelish 1972. Think one of those stratospheric Rare Malts, for example. Mouth: the same sensations, although here the whisky is a bit more tense, more lemony, with a now more prominent oak adding an herbal touch, or indeed, well-steeped green tea. Regardless, the honeys, citrus, and wax continue to carry the ensemble with class, towards a lemon meringue pie drizzled with a bit of green oaktree honeydew. Finish: medium in length but always delightful and Clynelish-like. Beeswax, candied citrus, flower jellies, and a tiny salty note in the aftertaste. Comments: a Brora full of softness, without peat, of great elegance, far from the slightly wild character of the more iconic vintages of the early Brora vintages. But you'll need to visit the distillery to obtain it (what an excuse!) if there are any left, as the new Distillery Exclusive is about to arrive...
SGP:551 - 92 points.

Here it is…

Brora 44 yo 1977 ‘Untold Depths’ (49.1%, OB, Distillery Collection, refill hogshead, cask #2637, 150 bottles, 2024)

  Brora 44 yo 1977 ‘Untold Depths’ (49.1%, OB, Distillery Collection, refill hogshead, cask #2637, 150 bottles, 2024) Five stars
Here then is the latest marvel from Brora, one of those bottles that should tide us over while we wait for the first ‘new’ Brora, theoretically due in the mid-2030s as an official bottling. But let’s be clear, this is just a personal estimate, not any official information, as I have none. BTW we really appreciate the fact that they continue to use the bottle shape they employed for the first official Brora after the Rare Malts (2002). Colour: gold. Once again, a pale colour suggesting the use of a well-mannered refill cask. Nose: take the 39-year-old and add some marine, chalky, and ashy elements. I'm glad I didn't score the 39-year-old too super-mega-highly, as it leaves me room for this one, which I find clearly more complex, lifted, racy, and simply ‘Brora’. One thinks of prestigious old vintage white wines (like the finest Graves/Pessac-Léognan) or great Sauvignon Blancs from the eastern Loire (Pouilly, Sancerre…) Clynelish is still present, along with fine green teas, ashes, precious apple, yuzu, oysters, eucalyptus, and camphor, but always in subtle touches. In short, this Brora has an Impressionist, almost ‘Renoir’ character on the nose. Mouth: think grand white Graves, add pink grapefruit, chalk and clay, a bit of white and green pepper, a small flat oyster, carpaccio of langoustines, and a very delicate, almost evanescent smokiness. Citrus and other exotic fruits arrive a bit later, with yuzu and other trendy small citrus currently favoured by chefs, then we return to the peppers, with an almost warming aspect. Finish: medium length, with a touch of coffee liqueur, probably from the cask, then that refreshing citrus and seafood character. And in the aftertaste, tah-dah… olives! That’ll earn it an extra point. Comments: age has no hold on Brora, I can’t recall ever tasting one that was even slightly tired. As I said, it’s a characteristic Brora shares with Port Ellen, in my humble opinion, possibly due to the use of second or even third-fill casks. A form of retrospective genius, one might say. Dazzling Brora.
SGP:652 - 95 points.

Now that the distillery has reopened and we've had the chance to taste the new baby Broras, I just need to find something to criticise, a new subject to complain about, as a proper old-school whisky blogger. So far, we haven't found anything, but we'll keep thinking about it. We could certainly argue that £10,000 for the new 44-year-old is quite a steep price, but a neighbouring distillery, a bit further south towards the Black Isle, offers its 40-year-old, not a single cask, for roughly the same price, while a well-known distillery in Speyside has its ‘large batch’ 40-year-old priced at more than double. So, we've failed for now, but we'll try to find something else (there weren't even any midges during our visit last week!).
Having said that, it is interesting to note that the two 1977s we had today were both marvellous. This is not strictly speaking a surprise, but I humbly admit that in the not too distant past, for us there were the 1972s and then the others. It seems that once again, we were rather mistaken.

(With resounding thanks to Angus, David (and Alan), Andy, and the very smart and very engaging team at B.)

 

 

WF Fact

  Old Clynelish in 1967

I am delighted to own the 1967 edition of 'The Whiskies of Scotland' by R.J.S. McDowall, published in the very year when the Clynelish Distillery, which would only be rechristened Brora two years later, was closed. The author was apparently unaware of this information at the time, but I just wanted to quote you a passage from this little book that so many seasoned enthusiasts love.
« Clynelish whisky is certainly the most fully flavoured whisky outside Islay and one is tempted to think that the peat mosses from which the peat is obtained used to grow seaweed. It is a little reminiscent of Laphroaig but less peaty. It is a man's whisky but not to everyone's taste. I find it fruity and delicious. It is now owned by The Distillers Company and it is bottled by Ainslie at 70° proof. A better bottling at 80° is available at the Royal Marine Hotel, Brora. »

I will just add that hundreds of enthusiasts, including myself, have already gone to check if there were any bottles left in the cellars at the Royal Marine Hotel in Brora over the past thirty years. The answer is "no." Cross my heart…

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

 

June 26, 2024


Whiskyfun

Two well-aged Cragganmore
and a surprise

There isn't much Cragganmore around, even though barrels sometimes appear among the Independents. Some were offered under the 'secret' name of Ballindalloch, often confused with Glenfarclas, which could also be called 'Ballindalloch' or 'a secret malt from Ballindalloch' and other such fun names, but Glenfarclas’s hidden name is actually rather Blairfindy.

Ballindalloch castle
Ballindalloch Castle (Cairngorms National Park)

However, all this was before the emergence of the new Ballindalloch Distillery! Are you following me? Never mind, because today we are going to taste two "genuine" old Cragganmore.

 

 

Cragganmore 38 yo 1985/2023 (45.3%, OB, Cask of Distinction for Wu Dram Clan and Hong Kong Whisky Fellows, refill American oak, cask #601269, 174 bottles)

Cragganmore 38 yo 1985/2023 (45.3%, OB, Cask of Distinction for Wu Dram Clan and Hong Kong Whisky Fellows, refill American oak, cask #601269, 174 bottles) Five stars
I remember that Cragganmore has always been the favourite malt of certain big shots at Diageo, but officially, a good level of neutrality had to be maintained, unless of course, you were assigned to the Distillery yourself. You wouldn’t want to upset the managers of all the other distilleries! Well, let’s move on… Colour: light gold. Nose: glory to refill casks! A myriad of garden and orchard fruits, all perfectly ripe with none overshadowing the others. In other words, no mango oh-la-la (though we do love mango, of course). First, there's an apple tarte barely sprinkled with powdered cinnamon, then pears poached in sweet white wine, followed by all sorts of plums, all perfectly ripe (I insist). A few madeleines and vanilla-scented canelés round off this little masterpiece of sweetness and simplicity. There are contexts, like this one, where simplicity is an undeniable asset. Mouth: very, very beautiful, somewhat more complex this time, with elderflower, for example. The wood expresses itself with tones of black tea and cinnamon, with hints of caraway and anise. It's rather pure and of great elegance. The mirabelle tarte comes next, reminiscent of a famous malt from Dufftown which we shall not name. This tarte is also sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon and drizzled with some wildflower honey. Much delicacy, then. Finish: medium length, more on oranges and pink grapefruits, as well as those little fruit candies you buy at petrol stations. The name escapes me, but I suppose you find very different ones depending on the country. Still orange and honey candies in the aftertaste, along with more cinnamon, but that’s the wood. Comments: a senior, complex and fresh, not tired in the slightest and of great elegance. Am I repeating myself a bit? Almost 92 but we decided, we too, to fight inflation (just kidding).
SGP: 651 - 91 points.

Cragganmore 37 yo 1986/2024 (52.9%, Whisky Sponge, Special Edition, 72 bottles)

Cragganmore 37 yo 1986/2024 (52.9%, Whisky Sponge, Special Edition, 72 bottles) Five stars
This baby got reracked twice after its 30th anniversary, first into 1st fill Port for 5 years, then into a refill barrel for the last 2 years or so. Looks like someone careful enough thought it was time to stop the Portuguese invasion – or the attack of the strawberries (so to speak). Colour: pure amber, no rosiness. Nose: alright, we’ve rather wandered towards very old bourbon here, which is a little surprising but actually great news. Awesome varnish and acetone, indeed a little raspberry eau-de-vie (wild raspberry, great stuff), then rather all things sherry and pastries, clafoutis, maraschino, plus some herbal liqueur, pretty Italian too, with a little menthol inside. Slight gaminess too. Exactly the opposite of the 1985, but it’s not ‘Porty’ at all. With water: immediate return to pure malt, cakes, scones, muffins, shortbread and all that. It's very amusing. A very light gamey note, still there. Grouse, of course, and cranberries too. Mouth (neat): very rich, with an initial arrival with what you usually find towards the finish, like mint, anise, pepper, and liquorice. The cherry remains very present, as does cedarwood. It really reminds me of the clafoutis and battelman from my Alsatian childhood, or the cherries in kirsch from my, er, late adolescence. With water: the mint stays, very black tea appears, and indeed some old red wine creeps in too, but more in the Burgundy style. Which goes very well with the cherries, I grant you. Finish: very long, on cherry stem and thyme teas, with a slight sour edge. A bit of mint and salty liquorice in the aftertaste, then a more vinous comet tail. Comments: an unusual but fantastic old Cragganmore, especially if you love red Burgundy as much as I do. Port? What Port? But the person who decided to rerack it into refill two years ago is a genius.
SGP:661 - 91 points.

It is much easier to distinguish between whiskies of identical or very similar styles as nuances pop out. Here, it's more like apples and oranges, if you know what I mean. So, between apples and cherries, who wins? Everyone.

As a bonus, since we were talking about it just ten minutes ago... With a shout-out to the excellent The Malt Room bar in Inverness.

Ballindalloch 2015/2024 (46%, OB, UK exclusive, 3,600 bottles)

Ballindalloch 2015/2024 (46%, OB, UK exclusive, 3,600 bottles) Four stars
I believe this is the first Ballindalloch we’ve sampled, aside from the various secret Glenfarclas or Cragganmore that had been labelled ‘Ballindalloch’ in the past. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a delightful pastry shop aroma, with ferments, baker’s yeast, chalk, sweet beers and ales, and a touch of light vanilla. No noticeable wood technology interfering, which is splendid. Perhaps a hint of cheesecake. Mouth: very natural, featuring a touch of white pepper, barley, and gooseberries. As Angus mentioned as we were tasting this one together, it’s not solely about bread, though we all love bread. Slightly rough around the edges, which is quite normal. Finish: rather long with a hint of grassiness. Comments: a pleasant surprise, and it would take water well, becoming more citrusy and fresher.
SGP:551 – 85 points.

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

 

June 25, 2024


Whiskyfun

WF's Little Duos, today Glenmo-rangie and secret indie sparring partner

Or the other way 'round. So no Westport today! I think we'll start with the independent one...

(Print ad, circa 2002. If finishings mean Peace on Earth, may we have more finishings please?)

Glenmorangie

 

 

Secret Highland 36 yo 1987/2023 (49.8%, Maltbarn, The 26, sherry cask)

Secret Highland 36 yo 1987/2023 (49.8%, Maltbarn, The 26, sherry cask) Four stars and a half
Let's be candid, the exact identity remains a bit of a riddle, though it's widely acknowledged that several of these 'Secret Highlands' from the 1987 vintage were indeed Glenmorangie. Nonetheless, we shall exercise caution and officially state that the origin of this malt whisky is a "secret." Yes, indeed, a secret... Aside from that, the '26' series was named as such by the owners of Maltbarn because it's their favourite number. A less silly reason than what we sometimes see elsewhere, isn't it? Oh, and there will be 26 expressions within this series. Colour: Gold. Nose: Classic aromas of shortbread and fresh brioche, intertwined with hints of crème anglaise. There are delicate notes of green tea, Wulong, and a touch of sourdough, complemented by nuances of white chocolate, rooibos, and chamomile. True to the character of these very narrow pot stills, reputed to be the tallest in Scotland. In short, a very charming old malt. Mouth: A generous dose of honey and nougat greets the palate, followed by breakfast tea, a variety of herbal infusions, and a hint of butterscotch. There are also notes of slightly sweet bread, reminiscent of those found in North Africa. Finish: Medium length, with pleasant fruitiness, honey, a touch of marmalade, and a few tea tannins. A trace of marzipan lingers in the aftertaste. Comments: Very lovely, though less fruity than, for instance, the official 1987 releases, which were offered at a much younger age.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Glenmorangie 25 yo 'Quarter Century' (43%, OB, +/-2014)

Glenmorangie 25 yo 'Quarter Century' (43%, OB, +/-2014) Five stars
Pleased to come across this superb 25-year-old which was offered between 2009 and 2015, if I remember correctly. It's always challenging to know exactly the different releases, how many there were, if it was the same vatting released in batches, etc. Colour: Gold. Nose: Certainly displays quite notable similarities. But it's gentler, more honeyed, leaning towards yellow flowers like dandelion, with a hint of subtle tobacco. There are also very ripe apricots, mirabelle plums, and quince, followed by a touch of old Meursault. However, I doubt they finished it in Meursault casks back in the day. A very elegant nose... Mouth: Smooth, very fruity, and jammy. The Meursault influence is present, along with a hint of Sauternes, reminding us that Glenmorangie did indeed use Sauternes cask finishes. Think Jaffa cakes, honey... Essentially, everything one would expect. Finish: Not short, despite the low alcohol strength. Comments: It has likely been said before that it's a pity to offer such a lovely dram at only 43% ABV, especially since Glenmorangie is not a very big distillate. Nonetheless, it remains delightful and exceedingly refined.
SGP: 641 - 90 points.

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

 

June 24, 2024


Whiskyfun

WF's Little Duos, today evil spicy Pulteneys

The next best thing after Clynelish when you sail up north. And I have the feeling that they've upped their game recently, with less straight American oak in the way. Unless I'm dreaming…

By the way, a little tip for our beginner friends: Pulteney or Fettercairn, for example, are the same malts/distilleries as Old Pulteney or Old Fettercairn. There isn't an old distillery and a new distillery, as can be the case with many brands that haven't changed their name, like Macallan or now Port Ellen. And it's the same for prefixes like 'Royal': Brackla is the same as Royal Brackla, and Lochnagar is the same as Royal Lochnagar. There isn't a monarchist version and a republican version. And we're not talking about old distilleries that used several names, like Glenesk/Hillside, or St. Magdalene/Linlithgow. And we're not even talking about trade names… But no, not at all, the world of Scotch whisky isn't complicated…

 

 

Pulteney 14 yo 2008/2022 (55.9%, Signatory Vintage, China, fresh sherry butt finish, cask #7, 666 bottles)

Pulteney 14 yo 2008/2022 (55.9%, Signatory Vintage, China, fresh sherry butt finish, cask #7, 666 bottles) Four stars
Six hundred and sixty-six bottles, this Pulteney must be devilish. There seem to be more and more independent bottlers in PRC, which is splendid. One might anticipate a finish in a top-tier baijiu cask one day. Or why not Moutai? Oh, you say that already exists? Colour: deep gold. Nose: it begins with hints of basalt, laterite, and gunpowder, but always in a gentle manner, never would we describe this as 'sulphuric'. Then come notes of walnut wine, toasted pecans, slate, a bit of miso, and maritime hints of salty air, with whiffs of rubber boots as well. With water: it turns very fermentary. Dough, mash, and then the walnuts return. Mouth (neat): powerful and very meaty and spicy, with lots of pepper tingling your tongue. It's amusing how one can find flavours from the country of import, here perhaps southern cuisine (sorry for being so vague). Chilli and fruit wine. With water: it softens, with sultanas coming through, but the heart remains spicy. Finish: long, peppery but also more fruity. The pepper and chilli continue to linger in the aftertaste. Comments: I don't know if it was intentional, but I think it would be brilliant if an importer selected cask that correspond to the gastronomic culture of their country. And we're not just talking about big sherry vs. no sherry and peat vs. no peat. Unusual and very nice!
SGP:573 - 87 points.

Alright, to verify our theory, we'll stay in the region (in the broadest sense)...

Old Pulteney 17 yo 2006/2023 (59.7%, The Spirits Hunter for HNWS Taiwan, hogshead, cask #84, 277 bottles)

Old Pulteney 17 yo 2006/2023 (59.7%, The Spirits Hunter for HNWS Taiwan, hogshead, cask #84, 277 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this is taut as a bow string, all about lemon and seawater. In this sense, it's very close to the OBs that have managed to shed the coating of sawdust, vanilla, and coconut that were coating some releases from a few years ago. In short, it's 100% my style. And I love those little notes of fresh mint and dill that tickle the nostrils. With water: chalk, clay, and crushed slate, plus oyster shells and lemon zest. A hint of wakame in the background. Mouth (neat): very fruity (lemon, green apple) and ultimately quite peppery as well; my theory might hold after all. Plenty of green pepper and salt, beyond the 'white wine for oysters' side. With water: still spicy. Let's say a dish of oysters and prawns with lemon and chilli. That must exist, right? Finish: very long, still on those same salty, peppery, spicy, and lemony flavours. Comments: chilli pepper that takes the place of peat, I love it.
SGP: 562 - 87 points.

When you come across several spirits like this, each displaying a pronounced bitter, acidic, or spicy note, it's essential to test yourself using a benchmark malt to check if it's not just the taster's palate that's temporarily -hopefully- altered. Many of us experienced this during Covid. Anyway, HP 12 reassures me that I'm fine in this regard, phew, it really was the Pulteney whiskies that were distinctly spicy.

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

 

June 23, 2024


Whiskyfun

More cognacs and Armagnacs

Then we'll switch back to rums next week. That said, there are quite a few Calvados, gins, and mezcals waiting, so we'll see... In any case, I think we've found the perfect aperitif.

Still
A mobile still, clean as a whistle, stationed in
Eauze to celebrate the 700th anniversary of
Armagnac in 2010 (Dépêche du Midi)

 

 

Domaine Mestépès 2021/2023 (59.4%, Swell de Spirits, Experimental Series, eau-de-vie de raisin)

Domaine Mestépès 2021/2023 (59.4%, Swell de Spirits, Experimental Series, eau-de-vie de raisin) Three stars
Right, in 'experimental' there is 'mental'. This is simply Armagnac that, I suppose, was deemed too young at the time of bottling to be called Armagnac, although it could have been legally. Mestépès is located in Cazaubon, near Eauze. Remember the first record of eau de vie dates back to 1310, when the Prior of Eauze extolled the virtues of the "Aygue Ardente" (ardent water). It's 100% Baco. Colour: white wine. Nose: there's apple, as they said in a famous French gangster film. A bit of liquorice and anise too, with touches of sourdough, but otherwise, it's a bit strong at this stage. With water: ginger, anise, grape stalk. Mouth (neat): oh, it tastes like pisco! Really, it's very aniseed, still on the grape, but it also brings to mind raki or Greek ouzo. It takes us on a journey without costing much, in the end. With water: it becomes fruitier, sweeter, almost Muscat-like, but the anise continues to dominate. Finish: long. Like pastis from Gers. Comments: it's really very nice but, like my friends who live in the area, I think I'll drink the rest over lots of ice when the weather is fine. But it's really good, just a bit disconcerting.
SGP: 660 - 80 points.

While we're at it...

SAB'S Burgundy Grapes 2022/2023 (43%, Brandy #TW1, Tennessee Cask Finish, 1200 bottles)

SAB'S Burgundy Grapes 2022/2023 (43%, Brandy #TW1, Tennessee Cask Finish, 1200 bottles) Four stars
Right, this is some kind of Marc de Bourgogne (a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) that's vapour distilled in Beaune by the rather eccentric SAB. It's aged for 6 months in Burgundy pièces and finished for an additional 4 months in what appears to be Dickel wood. Colour: gold. Nose: utterly charming marc, brimming with glue, cherry stones, marzipan, raw kirsch, pine needles, and fig leaves... It's just that it has no place whatsoever in a tasting of cognac and armagnac; it's a completely different beast. But that's my fault. Mouth: absolutely wild, spicy, and sharp, with citrus peels, masses of rich soil, rampant turmeric, Szechuan pepper, and flavours that defy description. In the words of the Talking Heads, "Qu'est-ce que c'est ?" Finish: long and earthy, just as any respectable marc should be. The very ground in your glass (but is it Burgundy or Tennessee?). Comments: I adore peculiar things, and this certainly delivers in the oddity department. Reminds me of my studies in Dijon...
SGP:461 - around 85 points.

More crazy stuff then…

Lascabanes 2019/2024 (71%, Le Passeur, Ténarèze, cask #4) Four stars
Full Ugni Blanc in Armagnac! And double distilled in a pot still. How do you think they reached 71%? One sole mission remains: survive this baby. Otherwise, see you on the other side. Colour: white wine. Nose: we're almost in Scotland here, and to be honest, I could have mistaken it for a Daftmill. A delightful mix of ripe apples, dandelion flowers, and varnish, yet it remains surprisingly gentle. Well, this high strength must be blocking some aromas, let's see… With water: it's lovely, with apples, gooseberries, wildflowers, green plums, grape skins, and eaux-de-vie of small berries (rowan, service tree, holly, sloe)… Quite delicate, actually. Mouth (neat): lemon, agave, lemon balm, and an overwhelming amount of ethanol. The folks at Le Passeur are a bit mad, and I feel I need a PhD in fluid dynamics to dilute this properly. Right, let's give it a go… With water: brings out spices, ginger, and zest. With more water, down to about 45%: honey, flowers, more earth… I think that's the right strength. Finish: long, spicy. Ginger and grapefruit peel, with syrup. Comments: extremely difficult to score, once again.
SGP:561 - around 85 points.

Pébérère 1973/2024 (49.9%, Le Passeur, Ténarèze, cask #215)

Pébérère 1973/2024 (49.9%, Le Passeur, Ténarèze, cask #215) Five stars
Ugni Blanc with a touch of Baco. This time, no fear of fainting. Colour: coppery gold. Nose: ah yes, acetone, kirsch-soaked cherries, aged balsamic vinegar, and even hints of grand-arôme, in the style of diesel oil mixed with black olives and carbon dust. Also, freshly sawn pine wood. Figs and oranges manage it all from the background. A magnificent nose, almost Jamaican in character. I did say 'almost'. Mouth: no doubt this time, despite the slightly acidic rusticity (which we love). It could almost be a Domfrontais, like 50% pear. Still plenty of varnish, sharp acidic notes, green apples, sour cherries, and those famous dried figs holding it all together. And always those touches reminiscent of wood glue. All the rustic charm of Armagnac, far from those that lean towards cognac. After all, this is indeed a Ténarèze. Finish: long, green, acidic, very kirschy. We adore this rusticity. Comments: one can easily imagine enjoying this Armagnac either in a leather club chair in front of a roaring fireplace, or directly from a flask in the middle of a walk through Gascony, under the rain. I'm quite a fan.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Allez, du cognac…

Mauxion 1967/2023 (52.3%, OB for Kirsch Import, Bons bois)

Mauxion 1967/2023 (52.3%, OB for Kirsch Import, Bons bois) Four stars and a half
1967, that's Hendrix, Page, Barrett, Townsend, Lennon, Miles, Jagger, Morrison, Joplin… (please stop that lousy boomer shtuff, S.). Colour: deep gold. Nose: let's be honest, we knew that Bois Fins, Bons, and Ordinaires existed because they are mentioned in books, but it's only recently that we can taste them pure, appreciating their freshness and relative simplicity. Lovely notes of grapefruit, lemon balm, damp earth, green apples, greengages, jujubes, service tree berries, and wild carrots… With water: lots of fresh garden fruits, just picked, and then some earth after the rain. Mouth (neat): very good, very fresh, vibrant, lemony, and earthy at the same time. It's a refreshing combination that works exceptionally well. With water: not sure adding water is necessary, it muddles things a bit. Finish: long, with a green tannic and slightly sour note, not unpleasant at all, especially as the earthy aspect we adore signs it off nicely. Comments: we understand why these 'bois' are usually 'fillers'. But that doesn't detract from their charm in the least.
SGP:561 - 89 points.
PS:
I first tried it in March (WF 86) but indeed liked it rather better today, in a slightly different context.

A 1967 Armagnac, perhaps?

Domaine de Lasgraves 1967/2018 (46%, OB, Le Frêche, Bas armagnac)

Domaine de Lasgraves 1967/2018 (46%, OB, Le Frêche, Bas armagnac) Five stars
As you may know, this one enjoys a stellar reputation. Colour: cherrywood. Nose: Right from the start, it's all about cherries and cedarwood, followed by figs, dates, mulled wine, aged Banyuls, oloroso sherry, dark nougat, wild garlic, caramel, game, thuja wood, and liquorice... This nose is completely bonkers; you could spend hours exploring it. Mouth: Forget it, we're venturing into old Springbank ex-sherry territory here. Black cherry, varnish, figs, walnut wine, hoisin sauce, teriyaki, amontillado sherry. Honestly, forget it. Finish: long, with a return to black cherry jam, reminiscent of the ones from Itxassou in the Basque Country. I swear it's worth a visit, and you can enjoy some Irouléguy wine at Arretxea while you're there. Comments: 1967 top of the pops. I mean, the pinnacle of Armagnac. You'd swear it was aged in sherry casks, though I believe that's impossible. Brilliant.
SGP: 562 - 92 points.

We finish with a cognac from my year (1985, of course)…

Peyrot 'V.60 A.63' (42.9%, Old Master Spirits, Australia, Grande champagne, 155 bottles)

Peyrot 'V.60 A.63' (42.9%, Old Master Spirits, Australia, Grande champagne, 155 bottles) Five stars
100% Ugni Blanc and so a 1960 of 63 years, which does ring a bell. We've already sampled quite a few marvels from Old Master Spirits, in fact several superb spirits that have made their way back from Australia, much like the renowned Glenlivet 1899 that we tasted with the BBC. It appears that the lengthy journey, back and forth, does them a world of good. And they say the ships now consume almost nothing (yes, really). Colour: copper amber. Nose: not that far from the Lasgraves, with stewed fruits, ultra-ripe cherries, jams, dark honey, and an abundance of prunes—no, ten tonnes of prunes—no, a hundred tonnes of prunes, you get the idea. In the background, old lady's perfumes (Patou), hints of rose petal, ylang-ylang, wisteria, jasmine... How elegant. Mouth: some might detest me for saying this, but I find a couple of similarities with the famous Yamazaki 1960, perhaps that old Corinth raisin note, or the cedar wood and incense. Besides, the prunes are back, now with honey and a touch of cane syrup. It becomes increasingly soft and round (like everything born in 1960, laughing out loud). Seriously, it's magnificent and, as they say, it rivals the legendary Lasgraves. Finish: not exceedingly long, but remember, only 43% (natural strength). More prunes, this time very slightly salted but quite spiced by the wood (pepper). Comments: there's always a slight tussle between the spirit and the wood in these very old spirits, but it's fascinating to follow. One still doesn't quite understand why a malt whisky of the same age (let's say, the yield of 3 kilos of barley after so many years, at 20 cents a kilo at current rates) would be worth so much more. And often, it's not nearly as good.
SGP:651 - 92 points.

While the big ones hire rappers and actresses, It is true that the communication and marketing budget of these small cognac and armagnac distillers is generally limited to a few friendly dinners per year, centred around a good Madiran, goose necks stuffed with foie gras, garlic sautéed mushrooms, and duck confit with Sarladaises potatoes. I say one can hardly blame them for that.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all cognac and armagnac we've tasted so far

 

June 19, 2024


Whiskyfun

As much Macduff as possible, Part 2

Let's go, we're going in strong, with monsters. Kind monsters, hopefully.

Monsters sent by Satan to assault St Anthony (Rétable d'Issenheim, 15212-1516, Musée Unterlinden Colmar)

Unterlinden

 

 

Macduff 11 yo 2012/2023 (64.5%, Dramfool, PX hogshead, cask #900262, 285 bottles)

Macduff 11 yo 2012/2023 (64.5%, Dramfool, PX hogshead, cask #900262, 285 bottles) Four stars
Have you seen the strength? Alas, our lawyer is back on the golf course. Colour: gold. Nose: certainly vinous at first but not unpleasantly so, quite the opposite. Notes of old casks, dried raisins, and an old wine cellar, then honey steps in, followed by dried fruits, figs, and fruitcakes. Surprisingly 'gentle' given the strength. With water: a pecan pie drizzled with maple syrup, with a few saline touches. Mouth (neat): it hits the palate quite firmly, it must be said. Milk chocolate and sultanas are present, but apart from that, it's hectolitres of raw tutti-frutti eau-de-vie straight from the stills assaulting you. I think specific warning labels should be mandatory in such cases, at least 'highly flammable'. Well, maybe not... With water: very good, softer, focusing on dried fruits, with spices around pepper and cinnamon. A hint of ginger cookie. Finish: long, more peppery. Comments: really pleasant, even if you might need to have read 'How to Reduce Your Cask Strength Whisky' in three volumes (Maclean & Broom).
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Macduff 12 yo 2008/2021 (53.2%, Mercury’s Selection, Or Sileis, Taiwan, bourbon barrel, cask #700538, 214 bottles)

Macduff 12 yo 2008/2021 (53.2%, Mercury’s Selection, Or Sileis, Taiwan, bourbon barrel, cask #700538, 214 bottles) Four stars
Colour: dark gold. Nose: I tend to favour this style, featuring ripe bananas, acacia honey, vanilla pods (a lot of vanilla pods), and very ripe mirabelles. With water: almost no change, except for a hint of English breakfast tea. Mouth (neat): very lovely fruitiness, mingled with grey pepper and beeswax. Quince jelly. With water: herbs and white nougat with pistachios, Earl Grey tea. Finish: medium length, gentle profile, with a touch of light earth and Paris mushrooms. Comments: a style I always associate with Balvenie ‘au naturel’. Don't dilute too much (refer to the aforementioned book).
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Attention, this book is a joke of ours, do not try to find it or to bother Charlie and Dave.

Macduff 10 yo 2008/2019 (60.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 2nd fill Bourbon barrel, #6.30, ‘A stealthy luncheon tipple’, 188 bottles)

Macduff 10 yo 2008/2019 (60.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 2nd fill Bourbon barrel, #6.30, ‘A stealthy luncheon tipple’, 188 bottles) Two stars and a half
No picture, but we tasked some AI with creating 'A stealthy luncheon tipple'. It was better in Queen Victoria's time, don't you think? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: rhubarb and apple juice, with a touch of barley syrup. I repeat, rhubarb and apple juice with barley syrup. With water: more barley syrup and a hint of lemonade. Mouth (neat): it's pleasant, quite alcoholic but also heavily leaning towards rose liqueur, Turkish delight, and those famous Haribo sweets we endlessly promote (where's the Merc? where is it?). With water: children's syrups, lemon, orange, strawberry, raspberry... Not bad, but we've outgrown it. Finish: medium length, with notes of pure saccharose, even aspartame. Is that allowed? Comments: we love refill casks, but here, we're close to stainless steel.
SGP:630 - 79 points.

Macduff 2008/2022 (53.1%, Liquid Art, 118 bottles)

Macduff 2008/2022 (53.1%, Liquid Art, 118 bottles) Four stars
Lovely label. Colour: straw. Nose: a delightful bourbon cask, with crushed banana and vanilla, as well as mango and papaya. Hard to top that. With water: beeswax. Mouth (neat): truly excellent, very tropical; more mango and banana, soft honey, a spoonful of pollen, mullein syrup, and a touch of caramelised popcorn. Pure indulgence, agreed. With water – theoretically, these profiles don’t change much: that’s right, just a hint of orange liqueur added. Finish: medium length, with oranges finally taking the lead. Comments: we could have almost rated it a bit higher. Let’s do it… Magnificent little honeyed ‘fruit bomb’.
SGP:641 - 87 points.

Macduff 10 yo 2011/2021 (67.7%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular for Or Sileis, Taiwan, refill butt, 660 bottles)

Macduff 10 yo 2011/2021 (67.7%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular for Or Sileis, Taiwan, refill butt, 660 bottles) Four stars
This one I really wanted to taste because the label made me laugh. The strength, a bit less so; we know ABVs can rise in certain parts of a warehouse, but this much? In ten years? Or has Macduff abandoned the 63.5% fill convention? Colour: pale gold. Nose: I wouldn’t say it’s verging on an assassination attempt, but it’s close. The worst part is, it’s a lovely nose, with pear and sweet herbs, honeysuckle, white clover… With water: vanilla, custard… Mouth (neat): Williams pear, grapefruit, and vanilla essence. Just a drop… With water: cream eggs, more Haribo’s stuff, Jell-O, little sugar Easter eggs… Finish: long, sweet, with candies and liqueurs. Wildflower honey in the aftertaste. Comments: so, friends, who is the lady on the label? Does she really exist?
SGP:641 - 85 points.

Macduff 14 yo 2003/2018 (60.3%, Fadandel, refill sherry butt, cask #900023, 542 bottles)

Macduff 14 yo 2003/2018 (60.3%, Fadandel, refill sherry butt, cask #900023, 542 bottles) Three stars and a half
It was high time I tasted this one. It seems everyone has a Macduff at near-lethal ABVs, don’t they? Colour: straw. Nose: quite odd, with notes of truffle, gas, cabbage, and leeks, layered over the fruits somehow. This might be from the sherry, but it could also be a storage issue on our end, though I doubt it. Also, amusing notes of rose perfume. With water: that famous old matchbox with half the matches used. Mouth (neat): really quite odd, but great fun. Artichokes cooked in sweet wine, or something like that. With water: the best part, with nuts, oranges, and cardamom joining in. Finish: long, more peppery. Comments: this isn’t a classic style, but we had a lot of fun. Roses with truffle, that’s bold.
SGP:661 - 83 points.

Macduff 15 yo 2007/2023 (59.5%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, refill hogshead, cask #HL 19903, 225 bottles)

Macduff 15 yo 2007/2023 (59.5%, Hunter Laing, The First Editions, refill hogshead, cask #HL 19903, 225 bottles) Four stars
Phew, we're under 60% ABV. Such consideration from Hunter Laing! A thousand thanks! Colour: pale white wine. Nose: vanilla, apples, pears, sunflower oil, biscuits, and sourdough bread. It's precise. With water: earthy touches, as often. A bit of paraffin oil, perhaps. Mouth (neat): perfect malt whisky with citrus and tart fruits (apples, etc.). Hints of pure barley sugar. Very simple and very good. With water: apple juice with honey. Hard to get simpler—and better. Finish: not immensely long, but with lovely freshness at this point. One could drink it! (of course...) Comments: we wish more of the big Speyside brands would offer bottlings au naturel like this (thinking of M., GF, GL, the other GF, B...)
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Macduff 10 yo 2011/2022 (52.5%, Jack Wiebers for Dead End Bar, sherry hogshead, 180 bottles)

Macduff 10 yo 2011/2022 (52.5%, Jack Wiebers for Dead End Bar, sherry hogshead, 180 bottles) Four stars
For a famous bar in Aschaffenburg, Germany. It's not that far from WF Towers, actually; I'll have to visit. Colour: pure gold. Nose: here comes the polish, grandma's old copper kettle, old copper coins, classy fino, a sack of old nuts in a hessian bag, and rain-soaked soil... All things we appreciate. With water: superb bitter oranges and hints of Jamaican rum. I don't think you could do much better with a 10-year-old Macduff, there you have it. Mouth (neat): excellent, it was a great cask! Nocino, bitter oranges, polish, a touch of tobacco... With water: a hint of 7-Up, perhaps, but the nuts and old sultanas quickly put things back in place. Finish: long, jammy, yet salty and spicy. Comments: I swear, it tastes like a coastal malt. And are we sure it's only 10 years old?
SGP:662 - 87 points.

Macduff 10 yo 2011/2021 (59.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #900003, 648 bottles)

Macduff 10 yo 2011/2021 (59.2%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #900003, 648 bottles) Three stars and a half
Indeed, we are still running quite behind, and yes, we are rather ashamed. Colour: amber. Nose: quite a similar style, with beer bitters, old walnuts, leather, even a hint of horse dung, cigars, raw chocolate... With water: it leans more towards slightly burnt cake, kougelhopf, burnt walnuts... I quite like this, although it’s hardly summery, to say the least. Mouth (neat): a lot of paraffin from the start, this time. Charcoal, ink, bitter oranges, green pepper... With water: the oranges make a comeback, but a rather intense paraffin doesn't want to relinquish its place. Mint pastilles and a tiny soapy note. Finish: the same. Rubber touches. Comments: make no mistake, this is excellent, it’s just a tad more 'punk' than the others. It’s London, baby.
SGP:562 - 83 points.

Macduff 10 yo 2011/2022 (56.2%, Brave New Spirits, Cask Noir, 1st fill PX hogshead, cask #900352, ‘The Thane of Fife’ 385 bottles)

Macduff 10 yo 2011/2022 (56.2%, Brave New Spirits, Cask Noir, 1st fill PX hogshead, cask #900352, ‘The Thane of Fife’ 385 bottles) Three stars and a half
Of course, I have absolutely nothing against quirky names, as long as there’s an age and/or vintage. Colour: dark gold. Nose: the touches of rubber, gunpowder, and gas are infinitesimal. It’s more about lovely dried raisins leading the dance here, with chocolate, toffee, toasted nuts, and root vegetables, like... black radishes, precisely. With water: a bit lactic for a moment (buttercream, yoghurt) then more on ales and oxidative sweet wines. Mouth (neat): very lovely caramel, fudge, orange cake, café latte, sweet paprika, currants, it’s a nice PX, not too overwhelming. With water: more tense, almost a bit saline. Finish: quite long and, as often, a bit more earthy. Comments: another very good young Macduff.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Macduff  2012/2022 (58.1%, Riegger’s Selection, Amarone finish, cask #900021, 179 bottles)

Macduff  2012/2022 (58.1%, Riegger’s Selection, Amarone finish, cask #900021, 179 bottles) Three stars
All these casks numbered 900XXX most likely come from the same source. That said, Amarone, you had to be daring. I've always wondered why Italian oenophiles hate Amarone so much, and truth be told, I myself have difficulty swallowing it. Except, perhaps, in whisky. (no)... Colour: somewhere between partridge eye and onion skin. That already gives a hint. Nose: exhaust fumes, cherry wine, rubber (new hose), and walnut cake. I must say, I adore walnut cake. With water: cherry juice, Kriek beer, clafoutis. Mouth (neat): no, seriously, it works. It’s no longer whisky, but as I hoped, it’s the best way for me to enjoy Amarone. Strawberries, raspberries, cherries, maraschino, carrot juice, pumpkin cake... With water: dough, sourdough, pralines... But it's the cherry that stays in control. Finish: long, on cherry jam. Comments: it hardly has anything Scottish left, this little Macduff, but it's still very nice and amusing. On a Hawaiian pizza, perhaps?
SGP:651 - 81 points.

Macduff 9 yo 2012/2021 (57.7%, Asta Morris, ex-sherry, cask #AM 109, 220 bottles)

Macduff 9 yo 2012/2021 (57.7%, Asta Morris, ex-sherry, cask #AM 109, 220 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: pale gold. Nose: brioche dough and muesli, butterscotch, shortbread, plus sultanas and a touch of polish. With water: it’s fine. Fresh croissants and hints of new elastic bands. A slight meaty side. Mouth (neat): it's good, more on citrus, but the sherry’s rubbery note remains. With water: the same, with more bitter orange. The rubber makes it a bit drying. Finish: medium length. Bitter oranges, bitters, Fernet-Branca, always a bit of rubber. Comments: not bad at all, but honestly, these young versions heavily marked by wine aren’t really indispensable whiskies, all bottlers considered. We know, prices and all...
SGP:651 - 83 points.

Well, we’re digging ourselves in a bit. What a notion it was to start a whisky blog all those years ago! Between you and me, we could only extricate ourselves from this little mess by trying some older Macduffs... There were some sublime official releases, a long time ago indeed...

Macduff 26 yo 1992/2018 (64.1%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM 251, 226 bottles)

Macduff 26 yo 1992/2018 (64.1%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM 251, 226 bottles) Three stars and a half
But we're cursed! What’s this, 64% ABV at twenty-six years of age? Well, we remember a sublime old Caol Ila from The Golden Cask that we tasted recently. So, hope remains very much alive. Colour: gold. Nose: of course. Old copper, polishes, beeswax, old white wines, mead, vanilla cakes, pears poached in Sauternes, all at 64% ABV. Blimey. With water: the pear stays at the forefront. Simply Williams pear eau-de-vie. Mouth (neat): a bit crazy, chemical, acidic, herbaceous, improbable. I think it needs water, pronto. With water: it flounders a bit, between rubber and pear, then grapefruits, both juice and zest. Finish: very long, more herbaceous, and more on zests. The rubber is still there. Comments: that darn rubber is a bit of a mess.
SGP: 461 - 84 points.

We'll go back to the 1980s for our very last Macduff in a long time. Are we good?

Macduff 31 yo 1980/2012 (50%, Single Cask Collection, sherry hogshead, cask #6900, 191 bottles)

Macduff 31 yo 1980/2012 (50%, Single Cask Collection, sherry hogshead, cask #6900, 191 bottles) Five stars
A version from our friends in Austria. I hope they are well! Colour: golden. Nose: yes, that's it, the ingredient of time comes into play, making this much more complex, with little oils and waxes, overripe apples, pollen of all colours, plum and cherry stones, stewed peaches, very ripe bananas… You can do whatever you want, whether you're Diageo, Pernod, or anyone else, no white-collar worker will ever replace time. With water: superb almonds, pistachios, and macadamia nuts. Mouth (neat): absolutely beautiful, with almonds, orgeat, last year's apples, almonds again (I insist), honey, waxes… It doesn’t matter, it’s perfect. With water: a very old Meursault. I have a fondness for old Meursaults, alas they have become unaffordable. Finish: medium length but with a perfect honeyed and waxy balance. More herbal notes, even with a touch of tar liqueur. Comments: many philosophers, from the ancient Greeks onwards, have written about the importance of time. It's not going to be a few Scots on a binge who will question three thousand years of human history, just to make a bit more money (sorry, yes, I know I'm exaggerating, of course we still love you anyway...).
SGP:561 - 90 points.

I'll repeat it nonetheless: beyond the places and the people who inhabit them, the magic of whisky lies in time. Without time, whisky has no interest or value. When you see a crystal decanter worth £3,000 containing a NAS whisky, you weep, it is becoming so un-chic.

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

 

June 18, 2024


Whiskyfun

As much Macduff as possible

We've accumulated a lot of Macduff. It's time to taste a few. Remember, the official brand of Macduff Distillery is Deveron, or Glen Deveron, or The Deveron, well, you get the idea… It's complicated…

Gilbert O'Sullivan (Avro, Top of the Pops, 1974)

Sullivan

 

 

The Deveron 12 yo ‘Madeira Cask’ (40%, OB, +/-2022)

The Deveron 12 yo ‘Madeira Cask’ (40%, OB, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
Is there still a distillery in Scotland that knows how to market itself without relying on wine finishes? I find it increasingly concerning... That said, I do love this very retro packaging, it almost makes you want to play Gilbert O'Sullivan on your Dual stereo. Or perhaps Barry Ryan. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's lovely, pleasant, much like Gilbert O'Sullivan indeed. There's some mild beer, apple juice, fresh croissants, a tiny hint of mustard from the Madeira (I imagine), and a touch of damp earth... It's really gentle and agreeable, no complaints. Mouth: yes, it's good, malty, toasty, with ale, toasted chestnuts, chocolate, and white asparagus... It just lacks a bit of oomph, but Gilbert O'Sullivan was never a member of The Stooges (S., you'll need to stop these daft musical analogies, it's getting tiresome). Finish: of medium length, very nice, soft yet firm at the same time. Comments: Madeira, it must be said, often works well. Very nice edition, rather successful even at 40% ABV.
SGP: 541 - 83 points.

The Deveron 12 yo ‘Sherry Cask’ (40%, OB, +/-2022)

The Deveron 12 yo ‘Sherry Cask’ (40%, OB, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
This should be oloroso. I’ve just noticed that there are still many websites writing ‘olorosso’. I'm not quite sure what to make of that, especially since it's been ages since I’ve seen this misspelling on a bottle of Scotch whisky (though in the past, yes, certainly). Colour: amber. Nose: yes, this works too, always so well crafted, balanced, and somewhat inoffensive, with more sultanas this time, pecan pie, raisin rolls, and young rancio... Honestly, it’s a very lovely nose, truly. Mouth: I applaud with both hands, it’s, let’s say, on par with Glenfarclas or Macallan of the same age and range. Figs, tobacco, triple sec, raisin rolls, herbal teas, rooibos, grey pepper... Impeccable. Finish: a bit short but perfect in terms of flavours. Very nice touches of cherry liqueur. Comments: I know I’m repeating myself, but what a shame they didn’t reduce these fine juices to 43% instead of these miserable 40%. We’re not even mentioning 46%, which is becoming a mandatory attribute for brands that are meant to be even slightly ‘premium’.
SGP: 651 - 84 points.

Very impressed with these little Deveron ones, really. The rest will come completely by chance...

Macduff 1978/1994 (40%, James MacArthur, In Celebration of 500 years of Scotch Whisky)

Macduff 1978/1994 (40%, James MacArthur, In Celebration of 500 years of Scotch Whisky) Five stars
Alright, here I am getting a bit worked up. I've just seen that a bottle like this went for £40 at auction. It reminds me of my favourite French comedian, Coluche, who unfortunately passed away in a motorcycle accident thirty years ago. He used to say, 'You calculate the IQ of a crowd by dividing the IQ of the dumbest by the number of members.' I know JMcA is no longer with us, but it's important to remember they brought us some of the most wonderful malts in the world, like some Caol Ila and Port Ellen. Colour: gold. Nose: sublime. Pollen, beeswax, very ripe apples, honeys, old Sauternes, hay, chamomile, and a drop of old Moutai which alone would fetch the auction price of a pallet of this Macduff. Or nearly so. Mouth: always sublime, with notes of grapefruits and honey. Exactly that, grapefruit and honey. Finish: same sentiments, long, incredible. Waxes, paraffin, lemon, grapefruit, Riesling. Comments: thinking about you Arthur W., thinking about you too, Peter H.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Shall we dare to try some young Cadenhead in this context?

Macduff 13 yo 2006/2020 (46.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 222 bottles)

Macduff 13 yo 2006/2020 (46.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 222 bottles)
From the Covid-stricken winter of 2020. Can you believe some folks are already saying those were the good old days? Colour: pale gold. Nose: light and honeyed, with abundant stale apple juice and hay. It does give the impression of a ‘weak’ cask that's been losing its steam, or rather, its alcohol. Mouth: the same sensations. Finish: the same impressions linger. Comments: for the records.
SGP:441 - 65 points.

Macduff 2009/2022 (63.9%, Signatory Vintage, Kirsch Import, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #900347, 648 bottles)

Macduff 2009/2022 (63.9%, Signatory Vintage, Kirsch Import, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #900347, 648 bottles) Four stars
This one certainly hasn't been losing steam. Calling my lawyer as we speak. Well, he's not picking up, probably still on the golf course. Colour: full gold. Nose: these are light first fills in terms of aromas, but we're absolutely all in on wet chalk, very much in the albariza style. Also finding a box of Partagas cigars. Besides that, we're a bit puzzled by a whisky at 64% vol., you see. With water: patchouli, eucalyptus, rubber, and puncture repair glue. Mouth (neat): butterscotch, Swiss apricot brandy (apricotine) bursting with kernel notes, and very powerful peat (which has no place here, we agree)… I think it's a delightful mess at full strength. With water: back to butterscotch and kirsch, but my word, it's potent! I'm addressing Signatory's management directly—don’t we need special permission from Westminster or Holyrood to store such casks? Isn’t it classified as a WMD? Finish: nearly eternal. Butterscotch and Williams pear. Comments: very difficult to score. What a monster!
SGP:561 - 85 points.

Many distilleries say that drinkers can always dilute their full-strength whiskies to their taste. To me, that's kind of nonsense. Whisky is highly sensitive to dilution and to the way you go about it, as well as to the water you use. I think bottlers should put their necks on the line and offer their whiskies at the strength they believe is ideal. And, of course, carry out the dilution properly and not haphazardly. No saying many do, naturally...

Macduff 13 yo 2010 (61.8%, Tri Carragh, Rubino red Marsala Barrique finish, release 4, 210 bottles, +/-2024)

Macduff 13 yo 2010 (61.8%, Tri Carragh, Rubino red Marsala Barrique finish, release 4, 210 bottles, +/-2024) Three stars
Matured in wine barrique and reracked (a much better term than "finished", right) in red wine for 15 months. I suppose this wine, sorry, whisky will be all about red berries. Colour: pale gold. Not that red for red wine. Nose: apples, beer, fresh bread, herbal teas, and baker's yeast. I have nothing against red wine in my whisky as long as it's not noticeable. With water: more apples. Mouth (neat): it's good, nothing more to say, cherry stems, green apples, nuts, bell peppers, pepper... With water: quite pleasant. Sour cherries. Finish: long, more herbal. A sweet side. Comments: it's very okay. I’ll need to look into these 'Rubino red Marsala', as I'm not familiar, but that's one of the joys of modern whisky; it introduces you to rather unlikely or unknown wines.
SGP:551 - 81 points.

(S., if we could avoid the cheap wine barrels, that would be great, we can't stand them anymore...)

Macduff 12 yo 2011/2023 (56.9%, Liquid Treasures, Birds & Arts Series, bourbon barrel)

Macduff 12 yo 2011/2023 (56.9%, Liquid Treasures, Birds & Arts Series, bourbon barrel) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: but of course, it's so much more elegant, with honey and pollen, tarte tatin, and praline... With water: fresh brioche, crêpes suzette, maple syrup... Mouth (neat): ripe apples, pepper liqueur, mead... With water: very good, natural, honeyed, quite oily, with a lovely texture. Finish: of medium length, sweet, a bit lemony. Hints of ginger and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: not much to add, we much prefer this style.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

We'll see if there are any other Macduffs on the way. If we have a majority of wine casks in stock, we might postpone it, as we're rather a little fed up with these improbable in-cask blends.

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

 

June 17, 2024


Whiskyfun

More Mannochmore de la Muerte

If you knew how ashamed I am of this headline. It is often said that Mannochmore is a workhorse for Diageo's blends and is only very discreetly offered officially. Yet, it could have had its moment of glory during the era of the cult Loch Dhu, there was also the Rare Malt, and it seems to me that today, Mannochmore is still offered within the discreet Flora & Fauna series, as we will see. For it is with this F&F that we will begin our little session, if you don't mind...

Woodpecker
The woodpecker is the mascot of
Mannochmore within Diageo (oiseaux.net)

 

 

Mannochmore 12 yo (43%, OB, Flora & Fauna, +/-2023)

Mannochmore 12 yo (43%, OB, Flora & Fauna, +/-2023) Three stars and a half
Let us recall that Mannochmore was only established in the early 1970s, during the last wave of Scotch whisky expansion before the Whisky Loch (Exclusive WF Interactive estimation: production and stock twelve years prior minus current sales equals the level of the Whisky Loch). That's the sporty side of this business. We quite enjoyed a 2005 version of this F&F (WF 83), noting that the label has slightly evolved, with the woodpecker moving from the bottom to the top of the label. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's truly pure malt, featuring dough and porridge, accompanied by touches of ink, a hint of rubber (light sulphur), and orchard apples (for cider). It evolves towards muesli and damp clay. I quite like this very natural and unpretentious aspect - that's putting it mildly. Mouth: a lot of apple, green melon, barley syrup, and lime, then a bit of pepper and cinnamon. It remains simple but truly pleasant, entirely in its natural state. Finish: medium length, with the return of pepper, a very slight cardboard note in the aftertaste, while the green melon persists and asserts itself. Comments: it does the job very well, without fanfare.
SGP: 541 - 83 points.

Mannochmore 2010/2024 (48%, Wilson & Morgan, oloroso sherry finish, casks #12071-72)

Mannochmore 2010/2024 (48%, Wilson & Morgan, oloroso sherry finish, casks #12071-72) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: an abundance of fine shoe polish at first, chrome polish, slag, basalt, and Italian espresso coffee (which means better than elsewhere, doesn't it). It remains dry, with touches of leather, old book, and Italian car exhaust (the kind usually offered in red). Finally, there's some almond paste. I find this nose very Italian, don't ask me why, even though it's the oloroso that has done much of the job here. Mouth: very fine dry sherry, with a semi-peppery, semi-oxidative quality. The green walnuts are back, and since we're in Italy, I even find some amaro, Cynar, and a hint of triple-sec... French triple-sec, of course. No need to exaggerate. Finish: quite long, very balanced. One could easily enjoy this with a good espresso after a meal. There's rather a café latte note in the aftertaste. Just to remind you of the New York recipe for a latte: take a coffee and add $5.00. Comments: are all these 'Italian' sensations just the fruit of my imagination? How would one know? In any case, I greatly appreciate this finishing work on a little Mannochmore, it's very well done.
SGP: 462 - 87 points.

Mannochmore 12 yo 2012/2024 (51.5%, Whisky Dudes, cask #2315, 162 bottles)

Mannochmore 12 yo 2012/2024 (51.5%, Whisky Dudes, cask #2315, 162 bottles) Three stars and a half
From first a refill butt then a fresh PX barrique for around two years. So this one too should be all about sherry. Colour: gold. Nose: new wellies and scuba diving suit upfront, then quite an avalanche of green walnuts. Some meatiness too, Chinese instant noodles 'beef flavour', beef jerky, venison… This little Mannochmore could well provide our daily dose of protein. Protein is important, after all. With water: lovely notes of sesame and toasted pine nuts, polenta, apple peel… Mouth (neat): much fruitier, almost giving the impression that the oloroso is passing the baton to the PX, though a peppery sulphur note remains in the background. Note that these sulphur sensations are not always faults, quite the contrary, they are part of the profile of many distilleries, regardless of the casks. With water: the pepper returns to the forefront. Finish: long, with some bitter orange. Comments: a bit of a brawl in the glass. Lots of action in this Mannochmore, I really like it.
SGP: 562 - 84 points.

Mannochmore 14 yo 2008/2022 (58%, Finn Thomson, cask #02104, 302 bottles)

Mannochmore 14 yo 2008/2022 (58%, Finn Thomson, cask #02104, 302 bottles) Four stars
A similar arrangement, refill then a finishing in PX. Let's see if there's a Turbo Look effect (apologies, only old Porsche enthusiasts might get that). Colour: lighter gold. Nose: it's more discreet this time, leaning towards sunflower oil, white bread, cane sugar syrup (quite astonishing to find so much of it here), candied citrus, and muesli… Very nice nose. With water: absolutely beautiful! I must admit, I'm surprised, this is in the same league as the excellent W&M, in my opinion. Orange ice cream and sultanas, enjoyed by the Bosphorus (steady on, S.). Mouth (neat): the citrus is back, with just a bit of pepper. Well, quite a bit of pepper, and honey, even sugarcane honey. This is the most well-behaved PX dulce in the world. With water: absolutely excellent. Oranges, pepper, and honey. We must try this. Finish: long, with green pepper taking the lead. Very warming in the throat, it could replace a scarf in winter. Comments: honestly, I wasn't sure about the idea of tasting six Mannochmores in one go, but I am very pleasantly surprised so far.
SGP: 562 - 87 points.

Mannochmore 2011/2023 (59.6%, Spencer Collings, 50th anniversary, Muscat cask, cask #SC68)

Mannochmore 2011/2023 (59.6%, Spencer Collings, 50th anniversary, Muscat cask, cask #SC68) Four stars
No further info about that 'Muscat cask', which kind of muscat was it (there are dozens), and from which country? I suppose we are splitting hairs here (who said as usual?), so let's move on... Colour: full gold. Nose: this isn't a wildly aromatic, over-the-top muscat, but rather, we find apricot, mirabelles, panettone, and focaccia, with restrained Turkish delight, yellow flowers like broom, and meadow honey… So, everything is fine, madame la marquise (an old French song). With water: even more panettone. You know I'm the President of the Panettone Club of Alsace, right? Mouth (neat): very good, quite straight, fruity, with a somewhat vinous side but lively and fresh, still on those mirabelles and pink grapefruit. Furthermore, the honey continues to set the pace. With water: no change. Finish: fairly long, more herbaceous and a bit rooty, but that's normal. Peppery aftertaste, a sign of a very active cask and thus modernity. Comments: I could be wrong, but this doesn't seem like Andalusian moscatel. So, what is it then?
SGP: 651 - 86 points.

We'll finish with a review of this RM...

Mannochmore 22 yo 1974/1997 (60.1%, OB, Rare Malts)

Mannochmore 22 yo 1974/1997 (60.1%, OB, Rare Malts) Five stars
A profoundly charitable soul has passed on this Mannochmore to me because I have a raw score floating about on WF, meaning I must have tasted it around 2002 or earlier. The score was very low (WF 65), yet I recall absolutely nothing about it. Thus, in the spirit of our Grand Cultural Revision (?), we shall re-taste it and possibly update our official score. Does that sound agreeable? It's worth noting that the Rare Malts were likely, even more so than the Classic Malts, the Yardbirds of malt whisky. I would encourage the younger generation to acquire them at auctions, and not be deterred by slightly low levels, somewhat crinkled foils or capsules, or corks that now invariably snap. These whiskies are so robust and potent that they could withstand a century of exposure to air (I exaggerate, prepare replacement corks!). Colour: pale gold. Nose: I was wrong. I think I'll permanently delete the few unnoted scores still lurking on the woeful website you see before you. Panettone once again, orange blossom water, oriental pastries (we think fondly of Gaza), figs, chalk, and vanilla, with hints of ink and daily newspaper (not online, of course), orange cake... With water: I am thoroughly ashamed. Mouth (neat): I must have been completely inebriated back then, as I can't find any other explanation; spirits have long been the only psychotropic substances I used to indulge in (But it's been a long time since I became as sober as a camel). Beeswax, citron, lemon juice, a touch of agave (mezcal), chalk... How could I have been so off the mark at the time? With water: how delightful! Finish: very long, with wax and grapefruit. Absolutely flawless. Comments: quick, find an excuse... Okay, know that back then, many houses were sending supposedly sealed samples, not with Parafilm, but with Scotch tape or Chatterton. This occasionally still happens. When samples were filled to the brim, a bit of whisky could 'lick' the Scotch tape during transport, for instance, in flight or with temperature changes, say from 10 to 30°Celsius. Later, as conditions changed, these tiny amounts of alcohol could seep back into the bottle or remain trapped under the adhesive strip. In any case, this could completely ruin your spirit, making it bitter and 'chemical'. In the vast majority of instances, this was noticed, but of course, no one is perfect, and it might have been assumed these flaws were inherent to the spirit. This is possibly what happened with this RM over twenty years ago. Does that sound like a valid excuse?
SGP:651 - 90 points.

(Thanks a bunch, Lars!)

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

 

June 15, 2024


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland


Three Benromach 

I love Benromach, especially since Gordon & MacPhail fine-tuned the production process and turned it into an elder school, charismatic distillate. Mind you, wasn’t Benromach always one of the more ‘full bodied’ Speysiders? Sadly, I don’t taste too many these days, something I should really make more of an effort to rectify. 
Angus  

 

 

 

 

Benromach 10 yo 2010/2021 (58.4%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, cask #390, 1st fill barrel, 211 bottles)

Benromach 10 yo 2010/2021 (58.4%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, cask #390, 1st fill barrel, 211 bottles)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: creamy with a lot of linseed oil, bailed hay, straw, a very delicate thread of peat smoke and a few animal furs, fatty olive oil notes and herb butter. A wonderful sense of texture and a very clever, subtle use of peat I think. With water: still nicely oily, but takes on a medical edge with some tiger balm as well as some more direct, dried herbal notes. Also a nice touch of gorse flower and sandalwood. Mouth: a little sharp, rugged and peppery, more impressions of straw and hay, some sooty notes, roasted vegetables, fennel, pumpkinseed oil, graphite and clay. Mineral, oily, fatty and indeed: ‘full bodied’. With water: excellent mouthfeel now, all on waxes, lemon rinds, olive oil, wee sooty impressions, carbon paper and a few sweeter hints of breakfast cereals and camphor. Finish: medium, a little sappy with some green peppery notes, more dried herbs and more grassy olive oil notes. Comments: some kind of delicious no man’s land between modernity and old style. It’s a spirit very much about texture, which probably explains why I love it. 
SGP: 464 - 88 points. 

 

 

Benromach 11 yo 2008/2020 (56.9%, OB for UK market, cask #851, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 81 bottles)

Benromach 11 yo 2008/2020 (56.9%, OB for UK market, cask #851, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 81 bottles)
Only 81 bottles?! Did they bottle the whole cask? Colour: pale amber. Nose: oh! This is really close to some of the massive sherry casks that G&M seemed to use a lot from the mid-50s to the 1980s. Which is to say full of game meats, natural tars, long aged pinot noir, deeply earthy and mulchy notes, black pepper and gun oil. Really, a style you don’t expect to encounter in modern whiskies these days. Goes on with some love smoked teas, lots of camphor and hessian and things that bring to mind walnuts and balsamic. Love it! With water: really gets leathery and salty now, on game salami, umami seasonings, salted liquorice and hessian. Mouth: intensely earthy, mushroomy and full-on old pipe tobacco and cigar humidor, also extremely peppery in a way which really adds a lot of warmth to the experience. Leaf mulch, ink, Iberico ham, were hints of truffle and Maggi! With water: waxes, cigars, game meats, bitter dark chocolate with smoked sea salt and rather extreme herbal bitter and umami seasoning notes! Old artichoke liqueur and pickled walnuts! Finish: long, wonderfully peppery, gently tarry, a little pure peat smoke and more superbly gamey and leathery old sherry vibes. Comments: where did they get this sherry cask from? A small, humble, totally overlooked demonstration that you can still make ‘old style’ whisky, provided you make the correct distillate and put it in the right type of cask. I adore this wee bottling, but you have you enjoy this very particular and quite extreme sherry cask profile that is dominated by leathery and tobacco characteristics. 

SGP: 473 - 90 points.

 

 

Benromach 19 yo 2002/2022 (56.2%, OB for Kensington Wine Market, cask #875, 1st fill barrel, 196 bottles)

Benromach 19 yo 2002/2022 (56.2%, OB for Kensington Wine Market, cask #875, 1st fill barrel, 196 bottles)
Several casks from these early 2000s vintages have been pretty stellar recently, so we have reasonably high expectations here… Colour: gold. Nose: yup, a gorgeous and layered cocktail of waxes, green and yellow fruits, dessert wines, resinous fir woods and then stunning citrus liqueurs, crystallised citrus rinds and dried exotic fruits. It’s this same impression of texture that the other two have, but here it’s only magnified by age in the most gorgeous and impressive way. With water: gah! It’s getting even better, more pristine, more peaty, more saline and waxier. Starting to resemble some very old Longrow or Springbank almost. Also, some stunning notes of sandalwood, crushed sea shells and aspirin. Mouth: stunning mix of waxes, dry, salty peat smoke, herbal teas, ointments, camphor and mineral oils. Like a lot of these old school profiles, it makes you think of great, aged dry white wines. It also makes me think of some brilliant old Glenlochy funnily enough. Given time it also becomes a bit more honeyed. With water: amazing, a perfectly cohesive, singular profile. A stunning balance of waxes, dry peat smoke, camphor, medicines and a beautifully taut mineral profile. Finish: long, bone-dry, superbly mineral and waxy. Alighting more on Clynelish finally I’d say. Comments: I just realised I referenced several old legendary distillery styles in a single tasting note, which probably says everything you really need to know about this ‘modern’ whisky. I also got a bit carried away and gave the word ‘stunning’ a pretty generous airing.   What witchcraft was afoot at Benromach in 2002? 

SGP: 564 - 92 points.

 

 

 

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


June 2024 - part 1 <--- June 2024 - part 2 ---> Current entries


 

 
   
 


Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Brora 25 yo 1977/2002 (56.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #61.12, ‘Honey porridge peat and iodine’, 258 bottles)

Brora 39 yo 1982 ‘Hidden Beneath’ (49.8%, OB, Distillery Collection, American oak hogshead, cask #582, 2021)

Brora 44 yo 1977 ‘Untold Depths’ (49.1%, OB, Distillery Collection, refill hogshead, cask #2637, 1