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Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2011 - Part 1

February 2011 - part 2 <--- March 2011 - part 1 ---> March 2011 - part 2


March 14, 2011



The Japanese sessions, tasting three very extractive Yoichi by Nikka With all the great and incredibly courageous people of Japan in our thoughts.

Yoichi 20 yo 1989 'Vintage' (55%, OB, +/-2009) Four stars This one was vatted from three different kinds of casks (re-charred, virgin, sherry). Colour: full gold. Nose: easy going, fruity and sweet nose at first sniffs, with a faint sourness in the background (cider, wheat beer) that also hint at fino sherry or dry oloroso. A little humus and smoke as well. Quite some tobacco as well. Enjoyable but relatively simple so far, which is surprising. Will water work? With water: some peat smoke comes out and there’s more apple notes, compote, pie… More ginger from the virgin oak as well. Mouth (neat): much more potent than on the nose when neat, full-bodied, with the spices to the front and some glazed fruits in the background. Some heavy extraction must have happened here. Cinnamon, pepper, curry, stewed bananas and apricots, quinces… Sounds like an Indian dish, doesn’t it! With water: same feelings plus a certain bitterness. Herbs, chlorophyll, strong mint, grass… It seems that some tannins woke up. Finish: very long, sharp now, peppery and peaty… Horseradish in the aftertaste. Comments: a strange beast that kind of ‘decomposed’, as if all casks played their parts one after the other. Having said that, it’s very good whisky in my opinion. SGP:465 - 87 points.

Yoichi 1991/2009 'Single Cask' (58%, OB, cask #129374) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: not really more complex than the 1989 at first nosing but more ‘focused’, flinty and oaky, with some tobacco and beeswax as well as hints of bacon and leather and some polished wood (humidor). Very nice so far. With water: quite superb now, clean, ‘freshly’ smoky, with touches of soot and smoked green tea. Beautiful nose! Mouth (neat): rich, extremely oily, very spicy (extractive again), with huge notes of cloves and juniper berries on top of some sweet rich orange marmalade. Once again, a very ‘extractive’ Nikka, which isn’t obligatorily ‘too much’ when the oak is first class. Some curry as well, cardamom… With water: still heavy, with touches of lime but also even more cloves. You have to like cloves to enjoy this, I imagine… Finish: very long, spicy, peppery, pleasantly bitter (Seville oranges, kumquats). And some cloves in the aftertaste. Comments: do you like cloves? SGP:565 - 88 points.

Yoichi 20 yo 1989/2009 (62%, OB for Whisky Live Tokyo 2010) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: huge oak influence in this one, hinting at very fresh or even virgin oak. Big notes of nutmeg and crystallised ginger, some turpentine and varnish and then even more nutmeg as well as some curry. A bit monodimensional at this point but it’s really spectacular. What a spiciness! Also quite some peat smoke. With water: oh, the peat killed all its opponents! Well, almost… It’s almost a middle-aged Laphroaig now, this is funny and came unexpected. Even the spices don’t have much to say anymore. Mouth (neat): huge sweetness from the alcohol plus all the flavours that we already got in the nose sort of jumbled behind it. This is packed with flavours but it’s simply too strong to be properly analysed in my opinion. So, with water: once again, the peat got much louder but this time it didn’t manage to kill the spices. Some chlorophyll and mustard, pepper, bergamots… Finish: very long, peaty, peppery, with some curry and ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: a beast, this is no romantic whisky but… I like it. SGP:467 - 90 points.

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Chie Ayado
  SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Keep learning

In whisky, ignorance may be bliss while knowledge isn't always power but I believe there are too many half truths and plain myths that are peddled in various corners of the Web, while most distinguished members of the industry are sometimes reluctant to give us true whisky information – or they’ll hide it behind so much codswallop that it’ll be plainly undetectable ;-). That’s why I found The Balvenie’s new set of lavishly produced educational videos most welcome, even if I couldn’t watch them all yet.

As you'll probably already have seen at other digital places, it’s called The Balvenie Whisky Academy and you’ll probably learn quite a few things. They’ll even give you a bottle of 50yo as a reward when you’ll have watched them all and hence will have sort of graduated from the Academy. Well, not too sure about the last part… Anyway, global brand ambassador Sam Simmons aka Dr. Whisky is behind the venture, which is a guarantee of quality in my opinion.


Go have a look at The Balvenie Whisky Academy – you can also watch a nice exclusive highlight with MM’s own Charlie MacLean on YouTube. What stroke me was that they don't only talk about their own brands, which is an interesting and most positive 'global' move that we already noticed at Diageo's or Whyte & Mackay's recently.


March 13, 2011




The Japanese sessions, tasting three Miyagikyo

I’ve decided we would taste only Japanese whiskies for the whole week, as a tribute to all the very courageous people of Japan that have suffered so much from the earthquakes and tsunami. Today we’ll start with three Miyagikyo that come from Sendai, where things have been the worst in all Japan. At time of writing and acccording to Chris @Nonjatta, there is conflicting news regarding the way the distillery and its people were affected. We can only hope they're all okay! 8:51 update: according to Dave, some Nikka spoke person confirmed that Miyagikyo distillery and staff were all okay. Great news!

Miyagikyo 1988/2008 (50%, OB) Three stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: superb nose, very ‘creamy’ at first nosing, with bags of vanilla and plum pies as well as quite some honey and pollen. There’s also a peatiness, much pleasant, like in some peaty blends. Whiffs of soot as well, graphite oil and linseed oil, also red berries. Quite perfect! With water: maybe touches of rubber but other than that we’re almost on Islay here. Not that the peat is big but there’s a ‘coastal feeling’. Also spicy notes, curry… Mouth (neat): sweet, rounded and very spicy, with wood extracts (a few tannins) to the front and a creamy vanilla in the background. The peatiness is a tad more discreet than in the nose but there’s also a little bubblegum and blackcurrant sweets, maybe from some sherry maturing. Some pepper too. With water: the peat comes much more to the front but it becomes also a tad too grassy and looses its sweetness. Too bad. Finish: long and very pleasant when neat but quite acrid with water. Comments: this one should be drunk neat in my opinion but other than that, I think it’s a very fine malt. SGP:464 - 83 points.

Miyagikyo 1990/2009 'Single Cask' (61%, OB, cask #36385) Four stars Colour: amber with orange hues. Nose: we’re really in the same style as with the 1988, with a slightly louder vanilla as well as even more soot, smoke and oils. Also more whiffs of incense and sandalwood and maybe a little tar. Warm sawdust. With water: nice development again, more on the spicy side this time. Whiffs of old wine cellar then cardamom and a little sweet mustard. Before you ask, not wasabi. Mouth (neat): very big, very punchy, with yet again quite some wood extracts, pepper, smoked tea (tarry lapsang souchong) and something slightly green. Green tannins, apple peelings. Very good but I think the oak is a tad loud here. Other than that, a lot of vanilla and plum jams as well as a little corn syrup. With water: as often, water brought out even more oak and more spices (loudish cardamom and curry) but the sweetness remains, which makes that the whole works pretty well. Finish: long, balanced but very spicy. Quite some ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: modern-style, very extractive malt whisky. Very well made. SGP:553 - 87 points.

Miyagikyo 1991/2010 'Single Cask' (62%, OB for LMDW, cask #116921) Five stars Colour: almost red! Nose: the most explosive, the most expressive of them three, with more spices and much more marzipan, putty and sandalwood than in the other ones. Also quite some oranges and yet again some linseed oil. Also great notes of eucalyptus, cough syrup… A bit of varnish as well but that may disappear with water. With water: ah yes! Jams, red berries, raspberries, nutmeg, thuja wood, cedar wood… A lot happening in this one. I’d hate it if this was taken as a joke because of the events, but I’ll say it as it is: it takes water extremely well. Also quite some sugar cane, old rum… Mouth (neat): bang! It’s a bit hard because of the strength but I get the same kind of development as in the 1988, that is to say a rich, very creamy fruity profile and a discreet peatiness that arises together with some ‘funny’ bubblegummy notes. Something slightly grapey? With water: perfect! Again, a lot of oak but also a lot of soft spices and fruits, which means a perfect balance here. It’s heavy but it’s balanced! Finish: long, creamy, sweet, luscious and sexy, with peaty and peppery afterglows. Comments: excellent modern-style malt whisky, perfectly mastered in my opinion. It got high silver at the MM Awards – no wonder. SGP:554 - 90 points.

Chris @Nonjatta is trying to monitor the situation at Miyagikyo. We all think of them.

JAPAN'S MUSIC - Recommended listening: warning, geniuses ahead! Granted, the beginning of Lost in the rain by Otomo Yoshihide and his New Jazz Orchestra may not be for every ears but the complete piece is utterly stunning in my opinion. It may also capture the beautiful country's current feelings... Seriously, geniuses. Please buy their complete works ten times.

Otomo Yoshihide

March 11, 2011

Fiona GM
Fiona Urquhart presents the new 70yo

Tasting it
and another one

As I’m sure the whole planet now knows, there’s a new Glenlivet 70yo that was officially launched on Tuesday in Edinburgh. I never do any press trips but this time I was there and imagine I do not even feel the need to apologise (but am I not, just by writing this? Err…) After all, it’s G&M and we all have the utmost respect for G&M. Again, I wouldn’t have made this short trip to Edinburgh, had it been the launching of a brand new 12yo Trockenbeerenauslese Finish by The Jolly Old Bottlers but this is Gordon & MacPhail.

They really commend huge respect and today’s whisky world would be totally different without them. They always had incredible whiskies under their own banners and were also behind hundreds of other legendary bottlings such as Sestante’s, Giaccone’s or Intertrade’s, to name but a few.  In fact, they may well have directly or indirectly issued one half or even two thirds (we’ll make some stats one day!) of all the truly legendary malt whiskies from the past.

What’s more, they don’t abuse this heavily congested digital world with constant nonsense and never beef up just any very minor event, which are tactics that seem to have become de rigueur at several other places.  In short, I think they incarnate this maxim by Serge Gainsbourg that I like so much: “Intuition isn’t knowing what to do, it is knowing what not to do.”


  Of course, £13,000 is the price of a small car. Of course these shiny bottlings are sometimes attention grabbers. But on the other hand, G&M also had and still have many old Glen Grants, Strathislas, Linkwoods or Mortlachs that are very fairly priced. Just one example: a recent Glen Grant 60yo 1950 that’s very moderately priced at… £315. 
Anyway, I could already try the 70yo Glenlivet at the slightly posh yet extremely pleasant launch event but it wasn’t quite possible to take proper notes in my opinion so let’s try it again now, in WF’s usual – and much quieter - environment. We’ll compare it with a brand new 1954 that’s been launched on the same day.

Glenlivet 1954/2010 (50.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #2736) Five stars This bottling is part of a new series of Glenlivets that gathers casks from each decade from the 1950s to the 1990s. Colour: deep amber. Nose: starts with this typical fruity freshness that’s often to be found in these old Glenlivets in my opinion, that is to says hints of ripe bananas and then quite some melon, orange zests and maybe fresh blood oranges. The wood is absolutely not dominant here but there are very pleasant whiffs of humus and then a little camphor and eucalyptus. A discreet smokiness as well (fir cones fire). Putty. Other than that, there’s also a little sugarcane, or ‘ideas of some very old rum’. It’s complex and relatively delicate despite its strength. With a few drops of water:  the sherry comes out, with more raisins and dried fruits. Mint, camphor and eucalyptus got bigger too and the whole is superb. Mouth (neat): much more power and rather more oak in the attack, together with some ample notes of orange zests and mango chutney. What’s very nice here is that the fruitiness is lively enough to make up for the slight oakiness, which creates a feeling of ‘bitter oranges and tonic water’ that’s most enjoyable. There’s also a little smoke and notes of liquorice and green pepper. With water: same changes as on the nose, more raisins, more mint and more liquorice. Finish: long, more herbal I’d say. Smokier as well. Comments: a very excellent old sherried Glenlivet with all its expected attributes. SGP:662 – 91 points.

Glenlivet 70 yo 1940/2010 (45.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Generations, sherry butt, cask #339, 100 bottles) Five stars From a transport sherry cask that was, as was customary and contrarily to what many people think, made out of American oak and not Spanish or even European oak. Colour: full gold. Nose: wow. The 70yo Mortlach from last year was already amazing on the nose and this one is in the same league, even if it’s more ethereal so to speak, more on fresh citrus fruits, pine sap and a whole fruit salad (I won’t list all the fruits I know of but papayas, both fresh and tinned, are obvious to me here). Then there’s a rather short mentholated passage, with also a little verbena and even wormwood.


We go on with notes of ‘a cake shop early in the morning’ (may I suggest croissants?) and then we get a little smoke, maybe more between coal smoke and soot although this was probably peated originally. What’s quite amazing is that it keeps unfolding for a long time, at times smelling of a beehive in summer and at times more of oiled teak and putty. What’s also really striking here is that there aren’t any really ‘oaky’ notes, or maybe they all went completely tertiary during all these years. Someone may have invented the word ‘elegance’ for this 70yo Glenlivet. Now, things may become worse, or rather less brilliant on the palate… Mouth: medium bodied. The attack is globally fruity, and even if it’s completely different from the 1954’s, that fruitiness compensates for the oakiness that’s well here this time (cinnamon, tea). But as some taster would have said, oak’s not a problem when there isn’t only oak. So, what do we get? Some pollen, beeswax, touches of peppermint, crystallised oranges, dates, kumquats (light), marzipan and then a combination of cinnamon and mint/liquorice. There’s also a slightly earthy smokiness, maybe some kind of mushrooms? Porcinis? It’s an unusual dimension in malt whisky in my opinion but maybe that comes only after 70 years of ageing ;-)… Finish: probably not the longest ever but it’s rather fruitier again, mainly on oranges, while there’s no actual tannicity in the aftertaste, which might well be a miracle. Comments: how do you score a 70 years old malt whisky? Its astounding freshness and complexity on the nose alone was worth 90 points in my book, provided the palate was not going to be completely dry or tannic. It was not. SGP:551 - 91 points (this is only a purely organoleptical indication, I’m not sure anyone can score a 70yo whisky like if it was a 30, 40 or even 50yo.)

PS: check G&M's new website, they have some unusually informative bits of information about wartime distilling and so on, not often to be seen at other places...

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: in 1985 the great Léo Ferré and his friend Jean-Roger Caussimon have been responsible for one of the best French albums ever: Les Loubards. Nuits d'absence was my favourite song. Please buy Léo Ferré's music...

Leo Ferre

March 10, 2011


Having fun with a bunch of Mortlach


Another distillery that I’ve been neglecting in the last months, let’s put that straight.

Mortlach 8 yo 1998/2006 (60.7%, C&S Dram Collection, bourbon barrel #9914) Four starsStarting a session with such a powerhouse is always tricky, let’s be careful and not burn our nostrils. Colour: white wine. Nose: an interesting very young and very ‘raw’ Mortlach, probably quite close to newmake. Yet, the fruitiness is very pleasant, with some cherries and plums, then a little coconut and marshmallows and then a distinct smokiness (wood smoke). A little muesli as well but less than expected and absolutely no yeasty/feinty notes. It’s all very un-complex but this freshness is most enjoyable. With water: a perfect young fruity Speysider, extremely clean, extremely fresh. Nice notes of fresh pineapple. Mouth (neat): extremely lively, fruity, ‘sharp’, with a lot of lemon fizz. Very clean and very fresh. With water: and extreme fresh fruitiness! Lemon, peaches, plums, cherries… Finish: long and as fruity as before, with only touches of green tea in the aftertaste. Comments: when immaturity becomes an asset. This freshness is most pleasant and this baby would  make for a perfect summer malt (why not with a little ice?) SGP:741 – 85 points.

Mortlach 12 yo 1993/2005 (46%, mortlach.de, sherry butt, cask #5213) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: this more mature and probably more complex, with this slight ‘dirtiness’ that’s sometimes to be found in Mortlach. Yes, it’s an asset here. Quite some cider, fresh butter, custard, then a little bacon and bay leaves… It’s also very slightly beefy, which is a Mortlach characteristic in my book. The sherry is quite discreet, imparting a few rubbery touches. Or does that come from the spirit? Mouth: same comments as above, it’s the 1998 with more cask influence, including more spices, pepper, even a little horseradish. Little obvious sherry notes but a little honey and fresh walnuts. Also a slight ‘greasiness’, a faint ashy character. Also oranges. All good. Finish: medium long, clean, between spices and fruits. Lemon and pepper. Comments: as I wrote, all good. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Mortlach 20 yo 1990/2010 (56,5%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, Sherry wood, cask # 4412) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: quite like the 1993 but with more cask influence. More vanilla, more soft spices (touches of cardamom and nutmeg) and also more rubbery notes. Black truffles. Big notes of crystallised oranges arising after a few minutes as well as more ham. Flor/yellow wine. With water: a whole bag of brand new rubber bands covered with walnut liqueur (yeah, yeah). It’s spectacular and unexpectedly pleasant (especially because it’s so unusual). Mouth (neat): rich and creamy, with this ‘fino’ character to the front, combined with lemons and oranges. Walnuts, lime juice, leathery notes, a little rubber again (remember when we were chewing rubber bands at school? Ah, you didn’t do that!) With water: in the same vein, with more pepper and quite some ginger coming to the front. Finish: long, all on walnuts and bitter oranges and lemons. Comments: an interesting Mortlach, anything but consensual (the MMs’ scores for this baby went from 70 to 92 at the MM Awards 2010). SGP:561 - 87 points.

Mortlach 25 yo 1975/2000 (58%, Signatory, cask #6258, 198 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: this is immediately more complex than all three, creamier, smoother, more ‘mingled’… Starts beautifully on smoked almonds, whiffs of thuja wood, smoked tea (lapsang souchong), all that on a bed of ripe plums, jams and honeydew. Some toasted oak and nutmeg behind all that. It’s a wonderful combination. With water: becomes a tad younger and simpler, with more garden fruits. It’s as if a few drops of water erased most of this baby’s complexity. Strange! Mouth (neat): probably a little less entrancing than on the nose when neat, mainly because of some bitter and very peppery tannins, but other than that it’s still high-level Mortlach. Mustard on bacon and marmalade, tell me about a breakfast. With water: hehe, it’s exactly the opposite of what happened to the nose that happens to the palate. This is now much more to my liking, on lemon zests, smoked tea, grapefruits… The bitter tannins have been dissolved! Finish: quite long, maybe a little resinous now, which can’t be bad. Comments: a Mortlach that’s fun to follow. SGP:552 - 89 points.

Mortlach 20 yo (43%, Sestante, +/-1980) Four stars and a half Late 1950s distillation, most probably. Colour: amber. Nose: starts all on smoked ham, soot, dried beef and shoe polish, with a bit of walnut liqueur in the background yet again. It’s quite amazing how this oldie stands the course after the high-power younger Mortlachs. Develops on cedar wood and maybe a little church incense (raw, unscented), tobacco and lastly, the trademark beefy notes. Beef jerky? Oh, and touches of ripe gooseberries and even sultanas that add a nice fruitiness to the whole. Mouth: starts amusingly resinous and sooty, very dry, with a very oily texture. Bitter oranges, not too sweet cough syrup, some kind of old style herb liqueur and quite some ash (old Caol Ila). Too bad it’s also a tad dusty and cardboardy, otherwise we would have been above 90 points here. Finish: rather short, sadly. Citrons and smoked tea. Comments: ‘a blast from the past’, as they say. I like it better than other old Mortlachs by Sestante/G&M at low strength, despite its wee weakness on the palate. SGP:453 - 88 points.
(With thanks to Billy, Markus and Tomislav).

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness


Glenlivet 70

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

The new Glenlivet 70yo G&M

WF was at the launching ceremony of Gordon & MacPhail’s new Glenlivet 70 years old in Edinburgh this week. It was some event! Expect our tasting notes soon, as usual we’ll compare it with some other old Glenlivet.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: it's always interesting when a jazz vocalist has a go at straight ahead blues. This is Lemme Blues (around 1973) by Mark Murphy. Please buy Mark Murphy's music.

Mark Murphy

March 8, 2011


Extreme tasting, four German Port Charlotte

Port Charlotte

Port Charlotte 9 yo (54.9%, Reiffersheid, sherry blood tub #887, 40 bottles, 2011) Five stars Ho-ho, I had thought all these blood tubs had been bottled. The ones I could taste so far have been organoleptical miracles but technical nightmares, as many were said to be leaking, which is why Bruichladdich stopped selling them a while back. Some were also saying that they wouldn’t age for very long so I’m even more curious here… Colour: amber. Nose: I haven’t got any of the younger blood tubs at hand so it’s hard to make comparisons but this one seems to be quite dry, rather less emphatic and quite leathery and flinty. No game or old balsamic vinegar this time, rather pencil lead, gunpowder and motor oil plus a layer of marzipan and eucalyptus oil. Also a little charcoal, shoe polish, seashells, beach sand… I think it’s beautiful but let’s add water. With water: superb! Garden bonfire, many smokes, minerals, soot (coal stove), Barbour grease, old walnuts… And balsamic vinegar. Mouth (neat): really intense, thick, heavily ‘infused’, somewhat in the style of some heavy rums – although it’s not really rummy. The oak extracts tend to dominate but bizarrely, all that is most pleasing. Flints, capsicum, artichokes, peppermint… Quite spectacular, with a peatiness that seems to be at the cask’s disposal. With water: a liquoricy invasion. Do you like liquorice as much as I do? Finish: extremely long but not cloying, which could have happened. Well, which should have happened. Another miracle. Artichoke liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: yeah, yeah, one of those PC blood tubs. SGP:377 - 93 points.

Port Charlotte 2001/2010 (60.6%, Malts of Scotland, Whisky Fair Limburg 2010, zinfandel barrel, cask #969, 212 bottles) Four stars and a half A zinfandel barrel, isn’t that a tad unlikely? Colour: straw. Nose: no zin. At least no zin that I can smell. Rather a lot of almond oil and the same whiffs of ‘the beach’ as in the Reifferscheid, that is to say shells, sand and seaweed. The peatiness isn’t too big but these whiffs of eucalyptus are there again. A rather self-restrained and elegant PC so far. Some brine. With water: bang, motor oil! Plus petrol and damp clay. Now, it’s not a very expressive PC but the profile is quite perfect. BTW, where’s the zin? Later: more linseed oil. Mouth (neat): it’s a very sweet peat monster now, with even some candy sugar and hints of marshmallows. Something of a rum yet again (rhum agricole) and a moderate peatiness. Some lemon. With water: just as sweet, with a fizzy character. Lemon squash, pepper liqueur, smoked tea and a little brine. Finish: long, clean, lemony and peaty. Clean, fresh  aftertaste. Comments: where’s the zin? Seriously, this is all good. Goes down like a treat. Wait, wasn’t that white zin? SGP:567 - 88 points.

Port Charlotte 2002/2010 (61.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #77, 218 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: even more crystal-clean than the 2001, maybe a little more ‘narrow’ but also a little more ‘south shore’, with something medicinal (antiseptic, mercurochrome), very fresh. Also a little linseed oil, then turpentine. With water: exactly, more ‘south shore’. Wet dogs, wool, seaweed, fisherman’s boat, bandages, soot, tar… And seawater. Mouth: big, sweet and earthy attack, rather more in the style of another famous neighbouring distillery. Goes on briney and lemony. The mouth feel is perfect, very creamy (barrel). With water: classical sweet young peaty Islayer. Maybe less ‘PC’ than the others but quite perfect. Finish: long, sweet (almost a little sugary). Lemon marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: simple pleasures from the Isle of Islay. Nothing mindboggling in my opinion but it’s all good. After all, it’s very young. SGP:557 - 86 points.

Port Charlotte 2002/2010 (64.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #1172, 306 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: this one is rather more feinty and slightly butyric than the others but at almost 65% vol, not much comes through anyway. A little brine, pickles, olives, lemon juice… But quick, water: this is funny, there are whiffs of burnt plastic now but those go away, leaving room for a rather more porridgy profile, with even hints of leaven and sweet beer. Slate powder, then sweet ginger. It seems that this cask was the most active, but it’s not really a first class cask in my opinion. Mouth (neat): I had thought this would be unswallowable; it isn’t – or is it me? Oily, very sweet, slightly gingery, a little Campari-ish, getting then ashier. Cinchona, grapefruits, pine sap. With water: very nice now, more complex than cask #77, probably grassier and drier but also saltier and brinier. More extreme. Finish: long, very briny. Not quite pickle juice but… maybe… anchovies? Comments: an entertaining one, with some parts that are maybe a tad, say ‘freelancing’ and others that are beautifully classical. In short, very good stuff. SGP:457 - 89 points.

The supervatting of all 4 at full strength: yeah! (was that worth it, S.?) Anyway we made it, didn’t we. Such sessions gathering several young high-octane Islayers are always tricky because the peat usually wipes off many nuances – should there be any. I think those sessions are the most difficult to do (I didn’t write boring).

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Laïka Fatien is most probably the best recent new voice in female vocal jazz. Here's proof: Throw it away. Don't! That was on her 'Look at me now' album. Please buy Laïka Fatien's music.

Laika Fatien

March 7, 2011



Tasting two contrasting Tomatin

Isn’t it amazing how Tomatin comes to the front of the whisky scene these days? It’s most probably the indies’ work, even if some old officials weren’t bad at all (while several new ones are very good in my opinion). My favourite Tomatin so far was a stellar 1965 by Jack Wiebers, in their Cross Hill series (WF 93).

Tomatin 13 yo 1996/2010 (50%, Chieftain's, Domina wine finish, cask #91582, 327 bottles) Two stars and a half The funnily christened wine that’s been used here is a Franconian wine – and this bottling was done for Germany, selbstverstandlich. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s the cask that does all the talking here at very first nosing, not that it’s particularly winey but there is some oak (cinnamon, a faint dustiness) and whiffs of roses. It’s only a after a few minutes that the spirit’s estery profile comes through, with some bananas and mangos as well as touches of white chocolate and pencil shavings. With water: hints of Swiss cheese and curry sauce. A little bizarre I must say. Mouth (neat): the finishing is a little more obvious now as the cask has imparted quite some spicy notes from ‘fresh’ oak (ginger, green curry, green tea). Also a little rubber. With water: some salt coming through as well as more ginger. The cask was probably first fill. Finish: long, slightly bitter, very gingery. Comments: it’s a pretty okay Tomatin in my opinion but the Domina dominates some parts. Agreed, that was too easy. SGP:461 - 78 points.

Tomatin 34 yo 1976/2010 (51%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, sherry butt) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s one of these fresh and fruity old Tomatins! Not as much a fruitbomb as some 1960s distillation but still, it’s very fruity. Passion fruits, guavas, mangos, green bananas, kiwis, then more herbal tones (verbena, spearmint, dill, fennel) and then some soft spicy touches, caraway and juniper berries among others. And some funny and unexpected hints of oysters. Am I dreaming? With water: same, not much changes. Mouth (neat): tons of jams, hectolitres of fruit syrups (and fresh fruit juices) and myriads of tiny spicy notes. Quality is very high here as there’s not one single sign of overageing. We’re somewhere between a 1972 Clynelish and a 1981 Lochside. Okay, okay, tangerines, passion fruits, mangos, lemons, vanilla, coconut (just a little…), cinnamon… With water: again, same despite an oakiness that’s just a tiny-wee tad louder (for the record). Finish: medium long, very fruity, very clean, tropical… Comments: a textbook old Tomatin, exactly the style that pushed the distillery to the front of the stage within maniacal circles. It’s also a bit of a miracle as, according to my experience, the big yet delicate fruitiness tends to get killed as soon as there’s a little too much oak in these old Tomatins. Which isn’t the case here, obviously. SGP:751 - 92 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: even more heavy 'rudimentary' old school blues with CeDell Davis and Give me that Look. Please buy CeDell Davis' music.

Cedell Davis

March 6, 2011


Tasting the new Glendronach by the Highlander Inn


Glendronach 25 yo 1985/2010 (52.9%, Highlander Inn, cask #1038, 316 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: very aromatic but not fat, starting with quite some chocolate and cherry cordial, becoming then more herbal and delicately mentholated. Also whiffs of damp earth, humus and moss, then ripe greengages and Mirabelle eau-de-vie. Something very pleasantly old style. With water: flintier, notes of wet gravel. Also a little leather and quite some honey. Unexpected floral notes as well (lilies). Takes water extremely well. Mouth (neat): punchy, rich, coating but not lumpy, very coherent with the nose. The cherries are back, as well as some roasted nuts, maple syrup and fruit eau-de-vie. Good mouth feel, not thick at all despite the sherried profile. With water: earthier and more leathery as well while we have more honey and plum jam in the background. Again, very coherent with the nose. Finish: long, with an excellent balance between the rich fruitiness and the earthy tones. Quinces and green tea in the aftertaste. Comments: a great bottling, with all of what’s expected from a sherried Glendronach plus some grassy and mineral notes that keep it lively and rather fresh. Un-heavy sherry! SGP:461 - 89 points.
PS: After the very great Michael Jackson, Hideo Yamaoka and John Hansell, this poor taster had the privilege of being asked to write those tasting notes for the bottle’s back label. A nice tradition at the Highlander Inn ("the epicentre of the Malt Whisky Universe") - and an excellent Glendronach.!

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: this is simply beautiful. Singer/fiddler Sarah Watkins (think Nickel Creek) singing All this time. Please buy Sarah Watkins' music.

Sarah Watkins

March 4, 2011


Highland Park

Tasting two indie 1986 Highland Park

Highland Park 1986/2010 (51.8%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: typical ‘indie’ HP at first nosing, without the sherry tones that are almost always to be found in the officials but also with more ‘raw’ punch. That translates into grassier notes, more flints and more smoke as well as hints of pine needles and hay. Other than that, there’s a lot of apples and gooseberries and probably several other garden fruits. Also faint whiffs of ashes and soot. With water: it’s getting more ‘old Highlands’, with more wax, more flints, more smoke and more resinous notes. Clynelishian, so to speak. Can we be against that? Mouth (neat): crisp and fruity attack, combining grass and fresh, somewhat acidic fruits such as kiwis and grapefruits and also pineapples. It’s really playful, zesty, with the wax and the flints only in the background this time. Very good body and a most enjoyable freshness. Some cardamom and touches of green curry in the spice section as well as the faintest touches of rubber (bands). With water: same waxy development as on the nose. This is superior ‘naked’ Highland Park! And I love this citrusy tones (tangerines, citrons). Finish: maybe not the longest but there’s a little salt coming through now, making it more coastal. Obviously. A faint bitterness in the aftertaste, slightly rubbery. Comments: if you don’t add water to this kind of baby at some point, you’ll miss half of its appeal. Very high quality indie unsherried HP, only the contrasting aftertaste will prevent me from going to 90 or more. SGP:463 - 89 points.

Highland Park 24 yo 1986/2010 (52%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon cask) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: of course, the overall profile is very, very close to the Nectar’s but apart from that, this is maybe a wee tad rounder, with a little more vanilla from the American oak. Maybe! With water: hard to say because I’d have to add exactly the same amount of water to this one to be able to tell if they’re really the same whiskies (I mean, very close ones), which is hard to do without a high-end professional pipette. No, I’m not that mad. Mouth (neat): almost undistinguishable from the Nectar’s. Maybe a little more green oak? Green pepper? Hard to say… With water: same. Maybe a little more pepper. Finish: same, maybe a little more pepper. Same faintly rubbery notes in the aftertaste. Comments: same, obviously. Either shared or contiguous casks in my opinion. SGP:463 - 89 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: reminiscence of a very different era with Aphrodite's Child's apocalyptic Loud, Loud, Loud (that was on 1971's very strange '666' album). Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Please buy Aphrodite's Child music.


March 3, 2011



Tasting two recent official Longrow

Longrow 14 yo (46%, OB, +/- 2010) Five stars A fairly recent vatting of sherry and bourbon casks. Colour: straw. Nose: a huge and very typical both buttery and sooty profile at first nosing, with many sour notes that will please all lovers of, well, sourness. Cider apples, dry cider, baby vomit (let me insist, not a Hell’s Angel’s), yoghurt, lemon juice, brine, pickles, ‘the old coal stove’, hessian, oysters… It’s probably one of the most extreme recent Longrows I’ve had. Not extreme in its power but extreme in its profile. Oh, and packs of wet dogs (I’m sorry, dogs). After 15 minutes: mead all over the place, amazing! Mouth: beautiful attack, peaty, medicinal, sweeter and rounder than on the nose, with some crystallised tangerines, kumquats, green tea, soot, ashes, brine and, well, more ashes. Cigar tobacco. Beautiful indeed. Finish: long, briny and smoky. Smoked anchovies? Elvers? Comments: I hate to write this but it’s probably no malt whisky for beginners. What strikes me as well is how close this is to some very old blends that I tried recently. Old Mull, Mackie’s, Teacher’s, all distilled before WWII… Could Springbank be the only truly traditional distillery remaining in activity? I won’t go above 90 because this is no ‘instant pleasure’ and because I wouldn’t want beginners to buy this and then, well, wonder if I smoked the carpet. Coz again, it’s extreme. SGP:366 - 90 points.

Longrow 10 yo 1999/2010 (57%, OB for Usquebaugh Society, cask #489, 258 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: interestingly, this one is easier than the 14, not because of its strength of course but because the wood has coated the spirit a little more, taming the fairly aggressive coastal and sooty/smoky character. It’s a little grassier as well, waxier, cleaner, probably a little more elegant… And more metallic. With water: oh, the mustard in this! Calms down after a few seconds, leaving more room for some waxy and even ashier and sootier notes. Wet rocks, well-finished oysters (not in table wine barrels, mind you) and damp earth, humus, well-aged pu-erh tea. Mouth (neat): starts a little shyish but then it’s all going tidal, if you see what I mean. Not complex, rather extremely compact, on ashes, bitter oranges, smoked tea and green olives (and their brine). Yes, not complex but wonderful. With water: same, with the smokiness more to the front. Finish: endless, flinty, grassy, briny and smoky. In short, Longrowish. Comments: my style. I could spend two (well, seven) evenings with a large glass of this in my hands. And only ten years old! Congrats to both Franck McHardy (does he have his statue now?) and the Usquebaugh Society, this one was great. SGP:366 - 92 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more slightly unusual but fantastically brilliant and young jazz today with Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth playing Silvertone (from the album 'Deluxe'). Please, please buy Chris Lightcap's music!

Chris Lightcap

March 2, 2011


A wee horizontale, tasting three Italian 1984 Macallan and one Scottish



Macallan 1989/2003 (45%, Samaroli, sherry puncheon, cask #8274, 798 bottles) Two stars and a half Seven hundred and ninety eight bottles from one single cask is a lot but let’s remember that sherry puncheons are huge and that this was reduced to 45% vol. Colour: pale gold (refill). Nose: a bit hard at first nosing, rawish and spirity, slightly too pungent even at 45% vol. Notes of artisanal kirsch, paraffin and bitter oranges, then more rubber, old wine barrel and cut grass. Pastis. Nicer than it sounds but still not that nice in my opinion… Mouth: it’s a little better than on the nose but still raw and slightly dirty and indefinite. Sangria? Same notes of kirsch, plum spirit, a little tar, chewing tobacco, rubber… A little shaky and muddy in my opinion, not quite Samaroli material. Finish: quite long but again, rather on kirsch and rubber. Comments: not bad stuff but a Macallan 1992 selected by Mr Samaroli and bottled around the same years as this 1989 was on a totally different planet in my opinion (WF 90). SGP:461 - 77 points.

Macallan 21 yo 1989/2010 (52%, Silver Seal, 227 bottles) Five stars Drawing old-style whisky labels is an art, isn’t it! Colour: full gold. Nose: struck matches strike first, so to speak, together with some leather and rubber, which makes it not too different from the Samaroli except that the kirschy notes are much less obvious. Sherry. More grass, more oak. Kind of unsexy so far but water may unleash more aromas. Hopefully! With water: earth! ;-) Mouth (neat): it’s a big, rich, earthy and medicinal kind of sherry, way nicer than on the nose when neat, tarry, rooty… Some gentian, chartreuse, maraschino (did Mr Mainardi add that? ;-)), a lot of liquorice, cough syrup, then crystallised lemons… Right, limoncello. A big yet nervous Macallan, much to my liking. With water: rich, fruitier, even earthier, with also these beautiful notes of oranges and toffee that we used to find in the old official Macallans. Finish: quite long, a tad grassier. Herbal liqueur again in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s maybe not a legendary old-style Macallan but quality is high. Having said that, I think all the previous Macallans by Silver Seal/Sestante have gone from very nice to great. SGP:552 - 90 points.

Macallan 20 yo 1989/2010 (52.1%, Cadenhead's, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 169 bottles) Three stars and a halfWe already had a sister of this one, bottled at 50.5%. It was very nice (WF 86). Colour: straw. Nose: no blast of vanilla here, rather a clean, grassy and delicately fruity profile, very contrasting with the two Italian sherried Macs. Mostly white garden fruits, apples, pears and white peaches, with whiffs of lilies of the valley and lilac. Nice clean profile but the whole’s a bit shyish. Let’s see what water will do to this baby. With water: oh, it closes up like a frightened oyster! It doesn’t like water at all (unlike oysters, yeah, yeah). Becomes oddly metallic. Mouth (neat): excellently earthy and citrusy, which is a profile that I like a lot. Quite some bitter herbs as well, cough syrup just as in the Silver Seal, peppermint, lemon, rosemary, a little candy sugar and in the end, just touches of aniseed. Playful yet clean and straight. With water: takes water better than on the nose but it’s still no Ian Thorpe. Gets extremely grassy and kind of prickly and metallic at the same time. Silver spoon? Finish: long and, when neat, clean and fresh. Comments: brilliant at times, but hates water. I think that’s a problem. SGP:361 - 84 points.

Macallan 12 yo 1989/2002 (60.1%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, cask #8273, 678 bottles) Four stars Colour: orangey gold (strange colour). Nose: it’s the Silver Seal with ten less years and ten more degrees, simple as that. Same earthy tones, clay and even mud (clean mud, eh), with added notes of rum in the background. Seriously, I’m wondering if this wasn’t (secretly) finished in a rum cask. Same hints of maraschino as well. Am I not dreaming of Italy too much? With water: between an old wine cellar and some fresh mushrooms, with some rubber and shoe polish behind all that. Not the rubbery kind of rubber, if you see what I mean. Mouth (neat): ho-ho-ho, this is powerful! A blast of rum once again, bitter oranges, soft and black peppers, black cherries and these earthy tones that just wouldn’t go away. We won’t complain. Gets a tad too peppery after a moment, water may be needed again. With water: sweeter but also a little more rubbery. Bitter oranges? Finish: long, on oranges, leather, earth  and rubber. Comments: probably not totally flawless but quite spectacular. Maybe next time I’ll try it against both the Glenfarclas 105 and A’bunadh. Old, and the old Mac C/S. None for sissies ;-). SGP:462 - 87 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Theodore Joseph Horowitz aka Popa Chubby doing San Catri. Play loud, buy plenty, thanks mucho.

Popa Chubby

March 1, 2011



Tasting the two extremities of Ledaig

Today we’ll oppose a new young sherried Ledaig to one of these (possible) wonders that were distilled around 1972/1974, this time without any obvious sherry influence or so it seems. Let’s hope this will epically glorious.

Ledaig 1998/2010 (61.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #800025, 256 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: if you’re afraid of the faintest amounts of gunpowder, struck matches, leather and flints, you may pass on to the next tasting note ;-). In fact, this is one of these sometimes slightly unlikely but often fabulous sherried peat monsters, even if it does not go to eleven on both scales. Hessian galore, dried seaweed, old Barbour jacket, peat smoke, antiseptic, soot and Virginia tobacco. Nice combination, isn’t it? With water: max shoe polish, leather, tobacco and soy sauce, with many coastal notes in the background. Gunpowder as well. The aftermath of a great naval battle? Mouth (neat): powerful, as punchy as some sherried Port Ellens, I know you know what I mean. Quite brutal in fact, starting with a lot of lime, salt and leather and getting very tarry and ashy. Also some barley sugar in the attack. Some cough medicine too. Tarry brine, should that exist. With water: a little sweeter, with a lot of smoke, liquorice, marmalade and brine. Leather too, tobacco too. It became easier to drink, which isn’t always the case when you add water, mind you. Finish: long, more on bitter oranges and black pepper. A very pleasant fizziness in the aftertaste, which keeps it playful. Comments: the young independent sherried Ledaigs are usually quite perfect (remember the BBRs?) In my opinion, this one is no exception. I’m wondering why the owners do not launch such bottlings, they must have the casks! SGP:457 - 90 points.

Ledaig 21 yo (54.2%, James MacArthur, 500 years of Scotch whisky 1484-1994, +/-1994) Five stars I believe this one is quite rare, rarer than the 18s in any case. Sometimes to be found as minis but this comes from a ‘big’ bottle. Colour: gold. Nose: crystal cut peatiness that reminds me of the best Caol Ilas instead of some other old and often pleasantly ‘dirty’ Ledaigs. Loads of fresh walnuts, seaweed, fresh spearmint (stunning here) and only touches of ginger tonic. Some grapefruits too. Beautifully clean and zesty. More and more sea air. With water: s.u.p.e.r.b. resinous citrus fruits! Fabulous evolution, think early 1970s Ardbegs. Incredible. Amazing. Fantabulous! Mouth (neat): amazing attack, creamy, smooth yet assertive, superbly citrusy, with a great balance that even a Swiss watchmaker would deem perfect (careful, S.!). The peat is perfect as well, so are the lemons, the brine, the notes of fresh oysters and the hints of almond oil in the background. Ah, those years! With water: a magnificent avalanche of zesty spices, would you please call the anti-maltoporn brigade? Finish: very long, very clean, ashy, smoky and lemony. Comments: everything is perfect in this whisky, it’s such a shame that these bottles just cannot be found these days. The peatiness is huge. SGP:458 - 94 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more blues with the great Robert Belfour doing Black Mattie. How do you say it again? Ah, yes, seminal. Please buy Robert Belfour's music.


February 2011 - part 2 <--- March 2011 - part 1 ---> March 2011 - part 2

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



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

Glenlivet 1954/2010 (50.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, first fill sherry hogshead, cask #2736)

Glenlivet 70 yo 1940/2010 (45.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Generations, sherry butt, cask #339, 100 bottles)

Ledaig 1998/2010 (61.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #800025, 256 bottles)

Ledaig 21 yo (54.2%, James MacArthur, 500 years of Scotch whisky 1484-1994, +/-1994)

Longrow 10 yo 1999/2010 (57%, OB for Usquebaugh Society, cask #489, 258 bottles)

Longrow 14 yo (46%, OB, +/- 2010)

Macallan 21 yo 1989/2010 (52%, Silver Seal, 227 bottles)

Miyagikyo 1991/2010 'Single Cask' (62%, OB for LMDW, cask #116921)

Port Charlotte 9 yo (54.9%, Reiffersheid, sherry blood tub #887, 40 bottles, 2011)

Tomatin 34 yo 1976/2010 (51%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, sherry butt)

Yoichi 20 yo 1989/2009 (62%, OB for Whisky Live Tokyo 2010)