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Petits billets d'humeur
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Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2007 - Part 1
February 2007 - part 2 <--- March 2007 - part 1 ---> March 2007 - part 2

March 14, 2007

Laphroaig 1970 Alambic’s Special Islay (Laphroaig) 13 yo 1993/2006 (57.3%, Alambic Classique, 358 bottles) Alambic Classique is a famous German importer. Colour: gold. Nose: starts on peat smoke and iodine (what else!?) as well as soaked barley, wet hay, oysters plate, kelp, flints and a little humus. Nothing else but nothing more, a flawless and classic relatively young Laphroaig, probably slightly above standards. The other day, a friend told me that “once you’ve tasted one of these young Laphroaigs (or Coal Ilas), you’ve tasted them all.” Not ‘quite’, I think.
Mouth: a fairly simple but perfect attack on peat, apple skin and lemon zests. Quite some marzipan and smoked tea, a little salt, nori (that Japanese seaweed they use to make makis), grains… Again, simple but flawless. Finish: ditto (and very long, at that). Another excellent young Laphroaig – quite special indeed. Maybe after 20 years in its bottle it'll resemble the one that's below... 86 points.
Laphroaig 1970/1986 (54%, Duthie's for Samaroli, 75cl, 720 bottles) A legendary bottling. Colour: full gold. Nose: excuse me, but ‘wow!’. Totally grand at first nosing, with a stunning mix of fresh oranges and olive oil plus a touch of honeydew and a first part of development on all citrus fruits on earth (tangerines first). Then it’s the smoke (peat, but also beech wood), then a fantastic minerality (flints, wet limestone), then it’s back to the fruits, more like mangos and papayas this time, then the smoke again… And finally all these coastal and medicinal elements such as seaweed, iodine, camphor and all that jazz. And lots of fresh almond milk. An absolute stunner indeed and, I believe, an excellent example of perfect bottle ageing (everything is fantastically mingled and I doubt it was like that when it was bottled). Mouth: how fabulous, this blend of citrus, wax and peat! It’s smooth and delicate yet full bodied, extremely satisfying on the palate, with again tons of fruits (mangos right away now, lemon, quince, citrons…), fruity olive oil again, my beloved argan oil, mastic flavoured sweets, earl grey tea… Okay, beware maltoporn, let’s stop this right now but what’s sure is that this is another absolute masterpiece by Signore Silvano Samaroli. 95 points (and thanks, Olivier)
MUSICRecommended listening: in 2004 Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart (hardly artists deserving wider recognition, I know) have produced and sung part of the soundtrack to the remake of the 60's hit flick Alfie, with Jude Law. Here's Jack the lad.mp3. Please... Stewart Jagger

March 13, 2007

by Nick Morgan

Bush Hall, London
4th March 2007

I can’t imagine it’s easy living permanently in the shadow of your father. Nor can it be much fun being regularly upstaged by your mother. But if you’re the son of the most famous Beatle and the woman that Britain (still) most loves to hate (or is that the estranged wife of Sir Macca, Heather Mills McCartney?) then there’s simply no point running for cover – there isn’t any.

Sean Lennon
Sean Ono Lennon has just released his second album Friendly Fire (prompted by the break-up of his four-year relationship with Bijou Phillips – daughter, if you didn’t know, of the Mamas and Papas’ John Phillips), a pleasant enough piece of work, ‘though by no means as remarkable as some of the music press reviews would suggest. However its reception was mainly muted, and the fact that he’s in the middle of a punishing tour of the world – deliberately choosing small lesser-known clubs and halls rather than headlining venues has largely passed the press by. His mother however has just been lionised for her new album Yes I’m a Witch – a highly acclaimed (“a compelling argument for righting a historical wrong” said the Guardian, reflecting on some of the more harsh judgements of her musical talent) collection of remixes and cover versions of her earlier works. A second album, Open Your Box, a collection of dance remixes, is due out next month and no doubt will take up a similarly large amount of press space. But Sean seems a nice enough sort of guy and he doesn’t appear to let any of it get on top of him.
In fact if anything he’s just too nice. Long haired, bearded, thick set (actually he’s rather plump) with heavy round spectacles, he’s nicely turned out in jacket and tie (as are the rest of his band). It’s all a bit foppish, and he looks something like a seventies throwback. He “loves us all”, tells us ‘we’re all beautiful’ and is “very thrilled to be in London” – “yeah, my dad was English … and he was a musician too” -it’s in danger of being a bit too dippy-hippy. All of this in a rather fey and possibly irritating Californianese infused accent (which is strange when he sings with a slightly nasal tone as if he sort of comes from somewhere in the North of England). But he’s fighting back against niceness – “Hey, like some magazine said I was like in a poll of the most disappointing rock and roll children – well I say …” (pause for dramatic effect) “… suck my dick!”. He stares at the crowd defiantly a bit like a five year old who’s said ‘poo’ in front of his granny. And of course what he doesn’t tell us that he came tenth in a poll that was topped by his sometimes estranged half-brother Julian. Later we get an unnecessarily expletive infused account of his attempts to book the Bush Hall “Like I said I’m it’s fucking Sean man and they said, well you can’t fucking play here, and I said well fucking fuck you …” But the best rock and roll moment of the night was when he walked onto the cramped stage for the encore holding a lit cigarette. “It’s no smoking Sean” called out one of the devotees at the front. Within seconds it’s guiltily stubbed out on the floor. Rock on!
Sean Yuka
Yuka and Sean (any resemblence is purely coincidential...)
The evening begins with the complex and intense Italian band Joujoux D’antan; “I just love these guys and their music” said Lennon as he joined them with keyboard player Yuka Honda at the end of their set. The pretty Bush Hall is Sunday evening half-empty and I keep on expecting it to fill up, but it never really does even though the gig is posted as ‘sold out’. Maybe it’s fire regulations, but there’s no crowd of disappointed ticket seekers and touts outside. Yuka Honda, by the way, was a fellow member with Lennon of Cibo Matto, and (along with Beach Boy bonkers Brian Wilson) the inspiration for his first album Into the Sun, which she also produced. She was his ‘long-time live-in girlfriend’, is (as her name would suggest) Japanese, and though of indeterminate age is probably almost old enough to be his mother.
No comment. She holds together a very tight band (sadly mostly anonymous) – but they’re all clearly there to support Lennon – they’re all watching his every move, accommodating his whims and fancies.
The songs are all from Friendly Fire with the exception of a new composition ‘Smoke and mirrors’. I could be wrong but it seemed that even the most devoted fan winced at the start of this such was its similarity to ‘Because’ (or was it ‘I want you’?) from the Beatles Abbey Road. Anyway, we also had ‘Mystery juice’ from his 1998 solo debut Into the Sun (“the first decent song I wrote”) as the second encore. I’m afraid that it goes without saying that most of the songs have a late-sixties Beatles feel about them – not that there’s anything wrong with that – some bands have made a living out of it. It’s not helped that Lennon is most like his father when he addresses the microphone to sing – the resemblance at that point is uncanny. As I said – all nice enough tunes, but all pretty one paced, even if they are rocked up for the evening. Lennon plays acoustic guitar to start and then takes up a Stratocaster for ‘Falling out of love’. The sound was already being pumped up during the previous (and nice) ‘Friendly fire’, but it got far too loud towards the end. ‘Would I be the one’, a Marc Bolan song, which finishes the main set is long and noisy with an over-long, unpersuasive and totally self-indulgent guitar solo from Lennon to finish. Even his guitarist look rather pained.
There was an odd mixture in the crowd. Some loquacious Scotsmen who were veterans of his Glasgow gig in November were lovingly loud and amusing (“No Sean, I’ll suck your dick”) – earnest young Japanese took digital photographs and videos, a few adoring girls stood at the front adoring. But, like the guitar solo, like the rock-and roll posing, and like the album and its hugely expensive DVD bonus disc (full of frankly juvenile and over-produced video accompaniments to each of the songs) the evening was at best unpersuasive. But all I can suggest is that you buy his album and make your own mind up. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate) Sean Lennon
Thank you, Nick. Sean Lennon just went on the offensive in France as well, and it seems that quite a few 18 years old girls have been conquered, including at home – and there’s no ‘progenism’ involved as most barely know who was John Lennon (a shame). Music: Dead meat.mp3 (it's on 'friendly fire').
Springbank 14 Springbank 14 yo 1979/1993 (46%, OB, France) Colour: gold-amber. Nose: rather hot at first nosing, with an obvious sherry but also quite some caramel and hints of iron, mint and parsley. A little soy sauce. Rather rougher than expected, wilder… Gets rather vinous after five or six minutes, with notes of strawberry jam and liqueur, blackcurrant jelly, also ham and leather, shoe polish. Kind of a slight ‘dirtiness’.
Gets even more minty and herbal after fifteen minutes. This one really improved after three or four months of breathing in the opened bottle. Also something animal (game). Mouth: a bold attack, jammy, caramelly, orangey… Develops on Bailey’s and fruit liqueurs (it’s quite sweet), ripe pineapples, dried bananas, coconut liqueur (you know which brand)… Gets almost thick, not exactly cloying but…, let’s say invading. Quite some bitter chocolate, getting a bit drying. Still quite rough. Finish: rather long, now frankly on liqueur-filled chocolate and hot praline. A strong Springbank with lots of sherry, for amateurs of the genre – probably hard to find, that is. 89 points.
Springbank 28 yo 1969/1998 (52.3%, Signatory, cask #2382, 490 bottles, sherry) Colour: gold-amber. Nose: a little more discreet for a start but otherwise it’s pretty much the same kind of Springbank (although they aren’t alike as two peas). Lots of sherry, wax polish, fruit jam, blackcurrant, funny hints of cooked peas or mashed chestnuts. Even wilder than the 14 yo in fact, but that may come from the higher strength. Gets quite peaty after a while, smoky and farmy (whiffs of horse stable). Another rather rough and beastly Springbank. Hints of coal and whiffs of camphor, massage oil developing after fifteen minutes. Slightly more complex than the 1979. Mouth: really thick, bold and rich at the attack, mostly on orange marmalade and Grand-Marnier, with something smoky. The sherry itself takes a larger control after that, with more raisins, cooked strawberries and chocolate. Also quite some salt and parsley, even cardamom. Truly concentrated, almost fat, but just like the 1979, it’s no salon whisky. Long, excellent finish, sweet and still very rich, with a little fructose that plays with the back of your mouth. Maybe not pure magic but a very, very good (excellent, actually) old sherried Springbank. 91 points (and thanks, Pierre.)

March 12, 2007

Bowmore 1980
Bowmore 24 yo 1980/2005 (51.4%, Signatory for Vinothek St. Stephan Vienna, cask #8056, 208 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: an extremely nice sharpness at first nosing, typically Bowmore, with a rather beautiful smoke, lots of iodine and discreet hints of violets. Develops on ‘the distillery’, with a little mash, peated malt, lapsang souchong tea, oysters, other kinds of seashells (sorry I’m no expert), ashes… Also hints of fresh apple juice and quite some freshly squeezed lemons… Perfect ‘rather recent’ Bowmore, as pure as one can get. Little wood influence. Mouth: excellently peaty and maritime, much closer to Islay’s south shore malts. Crystal-clean peat, pepper, salt and lemon. That’s all but that’s a lot, considering the perfect balance. Long, very peaty finish. Not complex but just perfect. 90 points.
Bowmore 19 yo 1987/2007 (52.1%, Duncan Taylor, cask #18052, 263 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: a little rounder, more buttery and fruity, much less nicely sharp as the 1980. More on apple juice, pepper, geranium, grenadine, maybe raspberry jam… Gets fruitier and fruitier, less peaty, smoky and maritime than the 1980 and certainly smoother and rounder. No ‘wrong’ notes, that is, just a very different profile, more on flowers and fruits. The distillation regime is clearly different, you can really feel that they diminished the smokiness and peatiness in favour of these ‘sweetish’ notes. Mouth: yes, this is clearly something different. Again we have these heavy notes of raspberry jam, grenadine, rose-flavoured Turkish delight, violet sweets… There’s quite some peat and pepper of course but the ‘fruits and flowers’ are almost violent. The whole is as exuberant as a gewürztraminer. Despite the ‘different’ profile balance is achieved and especially the finish has a nice mix of peat and fruits. I don’t like this profile too much but this far from being flawed, quite the contrary. I’m sure many Bowmore freaks will love this prototypical Bowmore from the 1980’s. One to put into your reference library. 83 points.
Bowmore 1982/2006 (54.7%, Taste Still Selection, cask #85027, 207 bottles) Back to the early 1980’s… Colour: straw. Nose: quite sharper again at first nosing but more vegetal than peaty or fruity. Notes of newly mown lawn, developing on green apple, gooseberry, lemon zest or even lime. Markedly acidic and woody (green wood). A few drops of water give it notes of orange soda and soluble aspirin, with also hints of grenadine. Mouth (neat): an even more lemony attack, a little acrid, with a slightly chemical note that’s quite typical of some Bowmores from that time. Grape pips, bitter almonds, grapefruit, violet flavoured sweets… With water: gets a little rounder but it’s still very lemony. The tannins are also more present (long infused green tea). Finish: quite long, still very lemony and a little acrid (and green). A version of Bowmore that’s lightly peated but rather sharp and quite acid like some white wines (some muscadets). Very dry in any case, for lovers of the genre. 78 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: delicate and refined (and whispering), he's James Yorkston and he's singing The year of the leopard.mp3 with Jenny Casino. Please buy James Yorkston's music. James Yorkston

March 11, 2007


Glendullan 34 yo 1966/2003 (46.8%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 217 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: very expressive, starting on full banana-mode with a superb oakiness and lots of vanilla, angelica and a slight smokiness. Like often with the best very old Speysiders we get also whiffs of forest, mushrooms, pine needles… Gets even oakier with time but never 'plankish'.

Mouth: rich, 'wide' and oily, with even more oak but still a great one and lots of fresh mint and various herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary, dill, chives…) Green bananas. Long finish, lemony, minty and peppery (the oak's white pepper). Just excellent - good news that many aficionados focused on the Ardbeg and Brora from these first Platinum series, this great Glendullan is still available (I think). 91 points.
Glendullan-Glenlivet 25 yo 1965/1991 (51.1%, Cadenhead’s Authenctic Collection) Not that it will change anything to the state of the world, but this one shouldn’t be mistaken for the ‘1990’ version, black label, bottled at same strength. Colour: pale gold. Nose: sprirty and grassy but in a very nice way, with also lots of paraffin, ‘new’ cardboard and something meaty (cured ham). Something raw but also something ‘authentic’, whatever that means. Much less fruity than the Platinum. More and more oak (freshly sawn plank) but that’s more than okay (aren’t you fed up with my cheap alliterations?). Hints of fresh butter and vanilla crème and something slightly metallic, even lamp petrol. A little old bottle effect sarting to appear. Mouth: bold, invading, rather sharp. Much more fruits but again these tannins that gently bite your tongue. Other than that it’s very but still nicely grassy (reminds me of cactus juice), getting then quite liquoricy and peppery. Lots of oomph. Hints of mint. Finish: rather long, tannic and grassy again… A Glendullan that’s not ‘d*ll’ in any way. Excellently… err, authentic. 87 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical with The Cambridge Singers and John Rutter singing Gabriel Fauré's famous Cantique de Jean Racine.mp3. Please, please... Cambridge Singers

March 10, 2007

North British


North British 28 yo 1978/2006 (51.6%, Duncan Taylor, cask #239966, 119 bottles) North British Distillery have a modest yet nice little website there . Colour: white wine. Nose: spirity and sort of malty for a grain whisky. Typical notes of varnish at first nosing, a little cologne, developing on quite some coconut and notes of muesli. Also a little nougat as well as green tea. As often, grain whiskies with little wood influence are aromatically a bit shy and this one is no exception.

Mouth: extremely sweet, much richer than on the nose. Hyper-bubblegummy, with also strawberry sweets, marshmallows, canned lychees… Also more woodiness and quite some soft spices (ginger and a little cinnamon). It’s good grain whisky but it’s quite simple. Not comparable to those superb older grains by Duncan Taylor (like the Invergordons). Finish: not exceptionally long but sweet and balanced, even slightly nutty. Pretty drinkable! 80 points.
North British 21 yo 1979/2000 (57.8%, Cadenhead’s, 228 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: very, very similar, just more spirity and with a little more wood influence (more vanilla and even more coconut). Kind of an ueber-Malibu? Mouth: punchier and woodier than the 1978, with more oomph and more complexity. The huge coconut notes dominate the whole for a while, then we have tea tannins, very ripe butter pears, vanilla crème… Gets a little drying… Finish: longer than the 1978’s but a little less clean and smooth and slightly rough. And you really have to like coconuts! 78 points.
Eva Ayllon MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's go Peruvian today with Eva Ayllon and her Saca la mano y saca los pies.mp3. Much better than the dreadful Condor that passed. Please buy Eva Allyon's music!

March 9, 2007

Glen Grant 1965


Glen Grant 33 yo 1965/1998 ‘As we get it’ (56.9%, Private Bottling, Big Market Berlin, dark oloroso) After the fab 1964 we had yesterday, time for some 1965’s. This one’s very rare and was bottled for the 33 years of Berlin’s shop Big Market.

Colour: mahogany. Nose: big bold sherry as expected but a rather dry one, starting mainly on bitter chocolate and developing on rather heavy winey notes (blackcurrants and peonies)? Gets more and more ‘cooked’ (strawberries) as well as a little sourish. Also lots of rum-soaked sultanas, toasted bread and orange liqueur, finishing on eucalyptus, mint and dried mushrooms (like boletus). Very, very classical. Mouth: ouch! Houston we have a problem… Now it’s hyper-mega woody, extremely dry and drying, pungent, biting… More tannins than anything else but maybe water will make it bearable, let’s try… (while the nose reveals lots of sulphur)… Oh, it got almost killed! Less tannic (but they got just diluted) but weirdly orangey (Fanta?) and cordboardy… Not a swimmer, for sure. The finish is marginally better, with quite some ginger but also flour – and the drying tannins are back. Below par, this old Glen Grant, but the nose was more orthodox. 74 points.

Glen Grant 40 yo 1965/2006 (56.8%, Signatory, cask #5543, 283 bottles) Will this one match the fantastic new 42 yo 1964? Colour: very deep amber with red hues. Nose: this is a little sharper and wilder, less polished and more exuberant. The vinosity is more complex, with blackcurrants and peonies again but also blackberry jelly, apple compote and cherry jam. Then it’s the usual Seville oranges, raisins, old rum, a little shoe polish, toasts… It’s also smokier than the 33 years old, maybe even a little flinty. We have less mint and eucalyptus, that is, but it keeps developing for a long time, more on both milk and bitter chocolate, praline, and faint hints of balsamic vinegar. Slightly sulphury as well. At the end it’s rather dryer than the 33yo, whereas it started ‘sweeter’. Mouth: much sweeter and rounder than the 33 yo (that wasn’t hard to achieve) but still a bit harsh at the attack. You can almost chew it! Powerful, tannic (even peppery), hugely concentrated… But also beautifully fruity, with lots of prunes, dates, blackcurrant liqueur, bilberry pie (that makes your teeth blue), nougat. Notes of varnish (not that I sip varnish every day), a little salt… Let’s try to add water to this one too (while it got very animal on the nose – almost civet-cat!)… Right, it’s smoother and more disciplined now (nice ripe strawberries) but the tannins are more present here… Anyway, it’s an excellent old sherry monster. Finish: sweet and spicy, balanced, with lots of fruit jams and a very mentholated signature. In short, maybe not the 1964’s magic but still a very good old Glen Grant. But beware the sherry, it’s really big. 90 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening (not, actually): Polysics doing Married to a Frenchman.mp3. They sound like Cherry Vanilla at Max's Kansas Cityt, vintage 1976... Of course I chose this tune for its name, but why not buy Polysics' music? (hum).

March 8, 2007

Glen Grant


Glen Grant 1959-1960/1986 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Marriage of Andrew and Fergie) After the version for Charles and Diana, that I didn’t quite like (the Glenburgie was much better), here’s the version for HRH Prince Andrew and Miss Sarah Ferguson. Yes, old Glen Grants do not bring good luck to the Royal family, it seems.

Colour: gold with bronze hues. Nose: oh, but this is superb! A hugely fruity start with lots of mangos, passion fruits and tangerines and then quite some freshly crushed mint leaves and great notes of camphor. What’s more, it’s almost as complex as an old Glen Garioch, with quite some smoke, coffee flavoured toffee, hints of sea breeze, parsley, lovage and chives… Also something tarry, the whole getting more and more phenolic. Mastic, kumquats, wax, bicycle inner tube… And more and more smoke – and more and more parsley and even soy sauce. What a great surprise! Amazing complexity. Mouth: it’s not exactly bold but this attack is anything but weak, smooth, excellently caramelised and on hot praline, rum and all sorts of dried and crystallised fruits (marzipan-filled dates, figs, bananas, coconut…) We have also brioche, sultanas, something slightly muscaty, chocolate-coated pears, candied apricot halves like they make in Provence (right, right…), and also lots of honey and fir honeydew. Just superb and perfectly balanced. Only one problem, though: it’s really too drinkable, almost like the best liqueur. Finish: not too long but still beautifully candied, with something delicately phenolic and salty. A royal masterpiece (this time!) 93 points.

Glen Grant 42 yo 1964/2006 (52.8%, Signatory, cask #2632, 255 bottles) Colour: dark amber - brownish. Nose: now we’ve just entered an antique shop! First we have big, bold notes of cellulose varnish, beeswax, eucalyptus and camphor plus the lady-dealer’s perfume (Chanel, preferably)… It’s really big whisky! Then these extravagant notes calm down and let some subtler ones go through, such as Seville oranges, Smyrna raisins and ripe bananas (just any), dried figs, dates, caramel liqueur, praline, apricot pie… And then we have the fab sherry itself – more like a very old Banyuls actually. It keeps developing on “coffee-schnapps”, bigaroon cherries, blackcurrant liqueur… Something of a big bold old Chambertin from a first class winemaker’s. A rather fabulous old sherried Glen Grant that will make us regret that so many of its siblings have been reduced to 40 or 43% in the past. Oh, did I mention the notes of well-hung game and balsamic vinegar? Mouth: get this: it’s even better on the palate than on the nose. Extremely firm, compact, without one single ounce of tannins - or ‘cardboardiness’ for that matter. Majestically candied, mentholated, caramelized and spicy (like a great fruitcake with cloves, chinese anise and cinnamon). Also all sorts of jams (all, really) and armagnac-soaked prunes… Plus what may well be peat, liquorice, and tar liqueur (I swear, I had some once! It was made in France until fifty years ago). What’s incredible is that it’s never too heavy, not to mention cloying. Finish: very long, very coherent, without one single goose note. (end of maltoporn). An extraordinary old Glen Grant. 94 points. (we’ll have some 1965s soon)
MUSIC – Recommended listening: isn't it time for some Natalie Merchant again? Like, let's say Kind and generous.mp3... Natalie Merchant still rules supreme, please buy her music. Natalie Merchant

March 7, 2007

Bunnahabhain 1966







Bunnahabhain 37 yo 1966/2004 (40.1%, MMcD Celtic Heartlands, 276 bottles) From an oloroso sherry butt and with fantastic hyperbolical tasting notes by Master Jim (“for sherry matured single malt lovers this is your Armageddon – total decadence – you will never see its likes again”). Excellent! Colour: full amber. Nose: soft but expressive at first nosing, starting right on acacia honey, figs, oak and soft sherry (loads of sultanas). Much fresher than expected and less ‘simply fruity’. Develops on the same beautiful fruitiness (also dates and dried bananas) mixed with liquid caramel, praline and milk chocolate and hints of wood smoke that grow bolder with time. Notes of roast chestnuts and rosehip tea, with a faint peatiness in the background and just hints of nutmeg and white pepper. Not really bold but not tired either – great balance and lots of pleasure. Mouth: not too bold at the attack but certainly not thin, without any of the assaulting tannins that we could find in some other very old whiskies that were around 40% ABV. Starts mainly on slightly burnt caramel, bread crust and candy sugar, with quite some sherry but not that much. Goes on with a little brioche, rum, very ripe bananas… The middle is perhaps slightly weakish but nothing to be ashamed of considering this one’s pedigree. Never gets drying but certainly spicier towards the finish (quite some nutmeg), the latter being richer again, quite long (the rather silky tannins are now in front of the stage) and even a little salty. But no peat on the palate. In short, another great old Bunnahabhain that’s still got all of its teeth. 90 points (and thanks, Pierre).
Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1966/2006 (40%, Duncan Taylor, cask #4878, 193 bottles) Duncan Taylor already had some excellent 1966 Bunnahabhain matured in white Port casks but I believe this one isn’t. And yes, it’s cask strength (barely) whisky. Colour: straw (very pale for a 40 yo malt). Nose: completely different! Even fresher and much more on a waxy and mineral line a la old Clynelish. We have a lot of fresh butter and quite some freshly cut grass, green tea (reminds me of rolling clouds) and then a whole basket of fresh fruits like pineapples, mangos (not bold mango notes like in other old stunners), bananas (oak), white peaches and melon. We have also the same kind of faint peatiness as in the 37yo, with also hints of metal (aluminium pan) and then it’s back to the fruits, more on tangerines, pink grapefruits and gooseberries this time. It’s amazing that it smells more like a malt that aged in a bottle than in a cask – I mean, for a part of its life. What a superb freshness! Mouth: bolder, more powerful than the 37 yo and certainly rougher and wilder, with more tannins upfront as well as more spices (white pepper and nutmeg as usual). We also have the same kind of grassiness as on the nose, with a lot of green tea again, something like cooked celeriac, apple skin, chervil, even bay leaves… Sure there’s a lot of oak but it’s truly a beautiful one. Good news because it probably does most of the job here (quite some green bananas as well as fresh coconut). Gets sweeter after a moment, though, with a little vanilla crème, something like sweet corn, liquorice… Finish: long, still oaky and kind of green as well as very spicy (lots of white pepper i.e. tannins) but I feel this is a rare example of an old malt where strong oakiness brought structure and kind of balance. And pleasure! 92 points.
Cecil Taylor MUSIC – JAZZ - Recommended listening: l remember a whisky friend saying that I'd never post about Cecil Taylor on WF. He was wrong, here's I love Paris.mp3 (of course). I know, this is the easy Cecil Taylor, but please buy his volcanic music.

March 6, 2007

Glen Keith 1993/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice) Colour: pale straw. Nose: at first nosing it's rather grainy and porridgy but in a quite nice way, with lots of freshness and 'naturality'. Interesting notes of very fresh butter cream and hints of gooseberries as well as butter pears. Goes on with oaky tones (quite some lactones), tapioca, porridge and mashed potatoes... Also whiffs of 'fresh' sawdust and powdered vanilla. Not much personality actually but a nice profile, even if it's maybe a little too neutral.
Mouth: pretty much in line with the nose. Sweet, oaky, vanilled and 'simply' fruity (apples and pears). Muesli and dried papayas, white pepper, earl grey tea, white pepper, a little cardboard and flour.... . Goes on with more spices (hints of nutmeg, soft paprika, cloves). Quite some salt(iness) as well. . Finish: rather long, sweet and oaky, getting slightly drying and 'mat', with notes of liquorice stick. A good malt, with a very clean distillation and a nice oakiness. Not thrilling but very drinkable. 80 points.
Glen Keith 1971/2006 (51.8%, Jack Wieber’s Cross Hill, 371 bottles) Colour: full amber. Nose: starts on full 'old Sauternes' mode, with tons of sultanas, very ripe strawberries, dried flowers (pot-pourri), whiffs of patchouli and oak. Very demonstrative like most of these old sherried Glen Keiths. Goes on with a little smoke, burnt bread, 100% cocoa chocolate and whiffs of torrefaction. The smokiness gets bolder by the minute, with also roasted nuts, old rum, crystallised oranges, lemon fudge. Slight meatiness (oxtail, chicken bouillon with fresh parsley and chives. Lots happening, another old Glen Keith that's close to perfection (I think the guy who was responsible for selecting these great casks deserves no less than the Victoria Cross - I hope he's still alive!). Mouth: very special! The attack is superbly spicy and fruity, powerful, assertive, invading. Very oriental, with lots of curry, pepper, cardamom, caramel, crystallised oranges, mangosteen, rosewater... Also Tabasco? Chilli sauce? A lot of clove, juniper berries, unlit Havana cigar (well chewed), prunes, caraway... Impressive and very entertaining despite the oak that gets a little dominating a moment. The finish is long, hugely spicy and fruity like some Thai dishes (kind of a spicy red sauce spring to mind). Just excellent and truly playful. 92 points.


MUSICRecommended listening: simply Django Reinhardt and his Daphné.mp3 (with the Hot Club de France and compadre Stéphane Grappelli). Probably still the best.


March 5, 2007

Ardbeg 1975/2006 (54.2%, OB, sherry butt, cask #1375, 522 bottles) I think this was a bottling for Christmas 2006. It’s still available on Ardbeg’s website but you’ll have to pay out £399 to get a bottle… Well, maybe that’s why it’s still available, the sky is not the limit, it seems. Colour: amber. Nose: really full and assertive, very ‘old Ardbeg’, with huge camphor and iodine notes but also quite some caramel, vanilla fudge, milk chocolate and smoked tea as well as something like bilberry jam. Alas, it gets then a little cardboardy, almost dusty, together with notes of green fruits (greengages, not too ripe gooseberries or papayas). Really looses stamina after a few minutes, which is unusual with these 1972-1976 Ardbegs. What’s more, the sherry is rather discrete, it brings just a slight sourness to the bouquet – but if you like to nose camphor, this one’s for you (although camphor may be less expensive). Ardbeg 1975
Mouth: again it’s quite unusual, starting boldly on bubblegum and liquorice allsorts mixed with chocolate, peat, prunes and quite some fructose (or lemon drops or icing sugar). Goes on with cough syrup, over-infused green tea, pepper, mustard, raspberry jam… Gets even spicier with time, with quite some nutmeg and cloves… Finish: very long, this time on pineapple jelly, pepper and chocolate, with a huge sweetness. Well, this one is a very good Ardbeg but it’s very far from being in the same league as most of its brothers from the same year, including the delicious fino for Feis Ile 2006. I think it’s a little too thick and Falstaffian for a 1975 Ardbeg. 87 points, still. (and thanks, Pat)
Ardbeg 18yo 1975 (43%, Signatory, decanter, casks #2464-67)

Ardbeg 18 yo 1975 (43%, Signatory, decanter, casks #2464-67) Colour: straw. Nose: quite discreet at first nosing, with faint hints of slightly rancid butter and old nuts, but it gets quickly quite nicer. Rather soft and lemony, maritime but discreetly so. Something bizarrely metallic in the background… But the rest is excellent, with the usual coastal notes (shells and seaweed), notes of lemon balm and spearmint, oysters, whiffs of diesel oil, cider… It’s lightly peaty, that is – maybe it’s the decanter that provokes a quicker fading?

Mouth: the attack is rather weird I must say, with a strange mixture of salt, cardboard, tea, turpentine, pepper and smokiness, with quite some rotting oranges as well. Something lavenderish and soapy like in some versions of a certain other distillery. Not bad but lacking ‘cleanliness’ and complexity. The finish is ok, that is, once everything mingles into something quite nicely peaty and peppery… 77 points.
Ardbeg 1975/1990 (57%, Duthie for Samaroli, Flowers, 480 bottles) Already had this one but it didn’t convince me, so this is second try. Colour: straw. Nose: extremely mashy and farmy, porridgy, almost cheesy… Very organic, to say the least. Goes on of peppered yoghurt (wazzat?), all kinds of herbs, then bunches of various spices such as black pepper and green curry, and of course wet dog. One of the wildest and most organic Ardbegs I could taste. Mouth: sweeter but very peppery, yeasty, hugely spicy and kind of ‘natural’. Lots of porridge again, soaked grains, oatcake, smoked trout, rollmops, green pepper… The peat is rather huge and very, very farmy just like on the nose. Not maritime at all. Ardbeg 1975/1990 (57%, Duthie for Samaroli, Flowers, 480 bottles)
The finish is very long, just as peaty, peppery and porridgy, the whole being maybe a little ‘youngish’. I’m on the side of the people who think that Ardbeg needs time to get truly great (and God knows it does when it’s fully mature!) 87 points, still, much higher than when I first had it (never published those notes).
Ardbeg 13yo 1975/1988 (54.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, sherry wood) Ardbeg 13 yo 1975/1988 (54.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, sherry wood) Colour: amber. Nose: starts on a super sherry and a peatiness that’s les farmy and more maritime now. A rather fabulous sharpness, with notes of wet stones, flints, furs (not game nor meat), black pepper, cloves… Exceptionally sharp in fact, powerful, ‘direct’, very dry and pure. Austere but very classy despite its young age (yeah, I know). Exactly my cup of malt. Goes on with the sherry, black toffee, dry oloroso… Superbly dry and elegant. Mouth: first it’s a little sweeter and candied but then the great sharpness and peat are back. Goes on with a little maple syrup, pepper, balsamic vinegar, orange marmalade, tar… really thick, almost fat yet sharp and elegant. A fabulous mix of a great sherry and a typical south shore Islayer, classic top-shelf stuff. Finish: long, invading, mainly on peppered chocolate. Wow, I’d have loved to try this one with ten more years of ageing! Anyway, no less than 92 points here.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: ready for some early psychedelia? Let's have The Soft Machine then, with Why are we sleeping.mp3 (typical preoccupation at the time) recorded in 1968, Kevin Ayers being the singer. Please buy Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge's music... (and Daevid Allen's while you are at it). Soft Machine

March 4, 2007

Convalmore Convalmore 15 yo 1983/1998 (43%, Dun Bheagan Collection) Colour: gold. Nose: lots of presence! A bit grainy and cereally at first but then it gets quite minty, with notes of mint-flavoured tea, smoked tea and also used good quality oak barrel. Nice maturity. Also quite some liquorice, gentian roots, hints of peat, parsley, chicken soup… Lots happening. Maybe a tad soapy as well but the cask was very good, obviously, probably refill sherry.
Mouth: maybe a tad too soft at the attack but the development is most enjoyable. Lots of caramel and roasted nuts s well as metallic hints, very old style. Nice peatiness and quite some salt, probably from the cask. Goes on with nougat, liquorice, getting then a little minty. Nice sherry and a slight OBE (faint mustiness and that metallic taste). The finish is quite long despite the law ABV, with lots of caramel, cooked butter and liquorice. A pretty excellent old Highlands style malt supported by a great sherry cask, even if probably only refill. I even had it at 91 points for a while but further tasting brought it down to 89 points. (thanks to the Whisky-distilleries forum)
Convalmore 28 yo 1975/2004 (44.9%, Dun Bheagan, cask #3756, 252 bottles) Colour: straw (much paler than the 15yo). Nose: much sharper and more austere than its younger brother and very grassy. Hints of paraffin. Also a nice sourness from the cask, hints of yoghurt, green tea, crushed leaves and walnut skin… Not very sexy but not flawed either, and rather elegant. Mouth: that ‘old style’ is here again, with more waxiness this time, smoked tea, hints of peat, mint-flavoured nougat like they sometimes make in Montélimar, France. Goes on with quite some salt, candied oranges, pepper, then some rather bold notes of apples, tea, a little cinnamon. Very very good again and much more demonstrative than on the nose. Finish: long, salty, peppery, candied and lemony, with a balance that’s still quite perfect. Another very good Convalmore by Dun Bheagan / Ian McLeod, too bad the nose was a tad too calm. Funny that we had quite some excellent Convalmores recently (the 28 yo OB is great) - a late comeback? 87 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical with Russia's totally amazing Anna Netrebko singing an excerpt of Prokoviev's War and Peace.mp3 (third tableau) at the Met in 2002. She's absolutely stunning, you should for instance buy the DVD of the controversial (but utterly brilliant) 'Salzburg Traviata' (Carlo Rizzi, Deutsche Gramophon), it just blew me away. Netrebko

March 3, 2007

Islay Mist Islay Mist 8 yo (43%, OB for Bonfanti, blend, early 1970’s) Islay Mist used to be a blend by the owners of Laphroaig and the versions of the latter for Bonfanti are legendary, so we have high expectations. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re on Islay right away, with Laphroaig well at the centre. Seaweed, iodine, fisherman’s net, apple juice… Hints of bitter beer. There’s the grain as well but it’s just here to complement the whole. Nice notes of violets and lilac, butter caramel, chamomile… Obvious OBE (hints of iron). Gets even smokier with time, with also hints of ham.
Mouth: it’s extremely punchy for a whisky at 43%, strong, peaty and caramelly, with quite some apricot syrup but also pepper, cloves, a little toffee… Creamy mouth feel. It seems that there were quite some sherry casks in the vatting. More and more quince jam and caramel with pepper… Incredibly thick. Finish: very long, peaty and jammy, extremely satisfying, with a, even peatier aftertaste. A blend that used to be much punchier than many malts we know. 87 points on my ‘maltoscale’.
Islay Mist 17 yo (43%, OB, Mac Duff International, 1990’s) Mac Duff (nothing to do with the distillery) have bought Islay Mist in the 1990’s and although it does still contain Laphroaig, it is believed that there’s more of other malts nowadays. Colour: gold. Nose: indeed, this is much less peaty and smoky than the old 8yo, rounder and smoother, but it’s not less nice, with Laphroaig still very present in the background – and coming to the front after a while. Nice mint and camphor and again these notes of violets. Not the 8yo’s zing but it’s, err… ‘nice’. Mouth: too bad, now we have some cardboardy and badly waxy notes as well as something a little soapy (lavender?) It is to be wondered if there isn’t certain batches from a certain Islay distillery in there… The peat is bolder than on the nose, that is, and there’s also lots of pepper but the whole lacks balance. Finish: long, sweet, less cardboardy and soapy now but strangely bitter and rubbery. Also a little coconut. Bitter caramel? Really too bad, I quite liked the nose. 68 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: do you remember the years when it was impossible to escape from this song? This time it's 'the' Dwight Yoakam, ex Mr. Sharon Stone who's doing I want you to want me.mp3 (and no it's not one of the cheapest tricks - but yes the end is strange). Please buy his music... Yoakam

March 2, 2007



Lochside 42 yo 1963 (44.1%, DL Clan Denny, grain, cask ref HH2239, 2006) Hunter Hamilton (Douglas Laing) has bottled several casks of this Lochside single grain, one of them (at 45.2%) doing wonders at the MM Awards 2006. This is another cask. Lochside had both pot stills and a continuous one for grain until 1970.

Colour: ‘vibrant’ gold. Nose: rather expressive, maybe a little less fruity than the ‘Awards’ version and more on praline, toasted oak and caramel-coated roasted hazelnuts. It’s also curiously a little meaty (ham) but other than that it’s not too far from a bourbon. Hints of violets and faint whiffs of smoke, probably from the wood. Then it does get fruiter, mostly on bananas and coconut. Not too exuberant but the balance is pretty perfect despite the heavy woodiness. Mouth: very sweet, full bodied and certainly not overly woody. Sure there’s lots of nice oak but also honey, pollen, ripe bananas, again these caramel-coated hazelnuts, crystallised oranges, guavas… Really playful. Quite some tannins arise after a moment but they never make the whole drying. Okay, quite some cinnamon and white pepper… Slightly rougher than expected after the middle. Finish: long considering it’s a grain whisky, caramelly, vanilled and oaky like some bourbons, with just a few tannins starting to stick to your tongue (not too ripe bananas, tea). In short, another excellent old grain whisky. 89 points.
Lochside 27 yo (60.5%, James MacArthur, grain, late 1980’s) This one was probably distilled in the very early 1960’s. Colour: gold. Nose: extremely spirity at first sniff, not too far from raw medicinal alcohol. Hints of almond milk, apple spirit, grass… Much less (good) oak than in the Clan Denny, although there is a little vanilla, as well as cologne. But water will probably make it more aromatic… With water (at roughly 45%): no, that didn’t work, it almost killed the whisky – or, at least, made it almost silent (something to try with Mariah Carey?) We have just a few coffeeish notes developing. Mouth (neat): nicer than on the nose when neat but very hot, with the tannins assaulting your tongue right away. Something like caramel-flavoured cask strength vodka. Water is obligatory here. So, with water: oh, it got extremely sweet, not unlike banana liqueur or parfait amour. The tannins got also stronger and rather drying. Lacks mellowness. Finish: long but frankly drying and to sugary despite the pleasant notes of violet sweets that come as the signature. 79 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: we're in 1994 and resurected reggea queen of Jamaica Dawn Penn sings her hit You don't love me (no, no, no).mp3. Who said 'laidback'? Please buy Dawn Penn's music and go se her live! Dawn Penn

March 1, 2007

Aberlour Aberlour 1994/2006 (45%, Samaroli ‘Coilltean’, cask #8418) The label states that this one was matured in new American, medium toasted oak cask. Colour: white wine. Nose: very fresh but extremely aromatic, although a little milky and yeasty. Huge notes of overripe apples, with an unusual sourness. Lots of aniseed, fennel… And we have the oak and, indeed a rather bold ‘toastiness’, caramel, vanilla custard… Also violets. Quite different from most Aberlours we know, including the ones that used to mature in bourbon wood. Almost as aromatic as a grappa! (I’ll spare you useless jokes about grappa/Italy – lucky you.)
Mouth: very sweet and hugely fruity (but simply so, mostly on apples and pears), with quite some tannins after that, pepper, cinnamon, vanilla. You can really get plain wood, almost like in some ‘new’ oaked Chardonnays. The whole is pretty simple. Finish: not too long, but vanilled and still quite oaky. Okay, not a total wood bomb but… 78 points.
Aberlour A’bunadh batch #13 (59.8%, OB, 2004) Colour: amber. Nose: hot, very caramelly and markedly vinous (lots of cooked blackcurrant, kirsch), a little sourish, getting even a little acetic after a while. With water: now it got much more on mint and liquorice, with also a little varnish and newly sawn wood. The sourness and vinosity got less dominating. It’s much nicer with water! Mouth (neat): bold and powerful but bearable. Lots of toffee but again this sourness. Not unpleasant I must say but it gets also a little rubbery and slightly drying. With water: better again, although the rubber’s still here. Also sweeter… But the tannins get really bold after a moment, and so does the pepper. Finish: rather long, toffeish, with still that faint rubbery notes. Still very good but certainly not the nicest batch of A’bunadh I could try in my opinion. 83 points.
Aberlour A’bunadh batch #16 (59.6%, OB, 2005) Colour: amber. Nose: just as hot and caramelly but much less vinous/sour. Cleaner, with more coffee, toffee, praline etc. Maybe less extravagant but the sherry’s better integrated. Kind of smokiness, faint hints of soy sauce, coal… More wood as well (nice tannins). With water: superb development, with even more oak (a great one) and a slight meatiness that gives it more complexity. Hints of violets like in the Samaroli. Mouth (neat): again it’s much better than batch #13. Maybe a little hotter but much cleaner, developing mostly on the trio coffee/toffee/raisins. Classic, I’d say. With water: develops on lots of nuts, caramel, a little vanilla fudge, cloves, rum… Perfect. Finish: long, better balanced than batch #13, nutty and caramelly. Very good this time! Incredible how different these two batches were. 88 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: new artiste from Austin, Texas Sparrow House aka Jared van Fleet sings this nice little ritornello called When I am gone.mp3. More than just a New Whisperer I think, please buy his music.

February 2007 - part 2 <--- March 2007 - part 1 ---> March 2007 - part 2

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Ardbeg 13 yo 1975/1988 (54.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for Intertrade, sherry wood)

Bowmore 24 yo 1980/2005 (51.4%, Signatory for Vinothek St. Stephan Vienna, cask #8056, 208 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 37 yo 1966/2004 (40.1%, MMcD Celtic Heartlands, 276 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1966/2006 (40%, Duncan Taylor, cask #4878, 193 bottles)

Glendullan 34 yo 1966/2003 (46.8%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 217 bottles)

Glen Grant 1959-1960/1986 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Marriage of Andrew and Fergie)

Glen Grant 40 yo 1965/2006 (56.8%, Signatory, cask #5543, 283 bottles)

Glen Grant 42 yo 1964/2006 (52.8%, Signatory, cask #2632, 255 bottles)

Glen Keith 1971/2006 (51.8%, Jack Wieber’s Cross Hill, 371 bottles)

Laphroaig 1970/1986 (54%, Duthie's for Samaroli, 75cl, 720 bottles)

Springbank 28 yo 1969/1998 (52.3%, Signatory, cask #2382, 490 bottles, sherry)