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February 2012 - part 2 <--- March 2012 - part 1 ---> March 2012 - part 2


March 14, 2012


Rare Old Glories, six Aultmore

Aultmore? Another name that’s slipped under our radar in recent years. It’s true, there aren’t many Aultmores around but we really had to do something about that. We’ll kick this off with a nice old official as an aperitif if you don’t mind…


Aultmore (40%, OB, Harvey & Co, 1970s, 75cl) Five stars A no-age-statement version. Colour: white wine. Nose: hello? There isn’t much happening, it’s almost a mix of apple juice and sugared water. Okay, there are some rather nice whiffs of dandelions and other ‘nectary’ flowers but other than that, it’s pretty silent spirit. Maybe pears?... Wait wait wait, now it’s coming, old engine grease, coriander, shoe polish, old cellar, metal (old tools), then a little eucalyptus, mint-flavoured tea, rocks… What a lazy b…. thank God I gave it a little time! Mouth: waaah, it really woke up now, and I don’t know of any modern whisky that would be so big at 40% vol. and after forty years in glass. Same beautiful metallic tones as in the nose, liquorice, many herbs, mint lozenges, real ale, traces of peat, pepper, ginger, then something coastal… Did they put Talisker into this bottle – by mistake? Finish: impressively long considering the ABV, and briny and peppery. Comments: Aultmore, you say? I’m impressed. SGP:354 - 90 points.
Let’s have another ‘light’ one before we start to tackle the heavies. Supposedly light…


Aultmore 15 yo 1990/2005 (43%, Dun Bheagan, sherry, cask #3640, 846 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: same feeling at first nosing, sugared water, apple juice and caramel, then more toffee and cappuccino. Malt. Noses like a (good) blend, to be honest. Nothing wrong about that, of course. Mouth: same feeling again, light coffee and a little orange liqueur, chocolate, toasts, brioche. Maybe a little Dalmore-ish, in a way… Good body at 43% vol. Finish: medium long, more on bitter oranges and a little ginger. Touches of capsicum in the aftertaste. Comments: what I’d call an all-rounder. Pretty flawless, one for your (silver) hipflask. SGP:441 - 83 points.


Aultmore 1976/1992 (45%, Bristol Brandy Company) Three stars I think it’s a shame that ‘Bristol’ wouldn’t do whiskies anymore these days, they had great bottlings. I already tasted this one back in 2004 but did not took proper notes. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re extremely close to the Dun Bheagan, with some caramel, malt, coffee and, well, more caramel. Also a little leather and bacon, all that from some sherry casks, probably. Faint whiffs of vase water as well, withered roses, Grand-Marnier… It’s a very nice nose but sometimes palates are a bit off after such noses. Let’s see. Mouth: the oak’s quite heavy here, there’s a feeling of tannins, a lot of tobacco, black tea, roasted chestnuts… Then more oranges again and the liqueurs made thereof (you know them), certainly curaçao, then something greenish and cardboardy (make that cardboard, erm)… It’s very nice, in fact, but the oak’s a tad loud for my taste. Finish: long, with rather notes of rum and candy sugar this time. Very rich. Comments: a style that’s not often to be seen –or rather tasted - these days. Maybe a little overwhelming. I had it at 80 eight years (from a different bottle) ago but today I’ll go as high as… SGP:462 - 81 points. Time to try the younger ones…


Aultmore 17 yo 1989/2006 (51%, High Spirits, cask #2423, 75cl) Three stars Colour: light amber. Nose: this is no Scotch, it’s bourbon. Starts with huge whiffs of fresh varnish, coconut and vanilla, and goes on with… just the same, although as usual, the varnishy notes got lighter. Also banana skin and toffee, then unexpected touches of red wine, slightly sour. Beaujolais? Frankly, I don’t know what to think… yet. With water: wine treated first fill bourbon? Would someone do that? Heady notes of fruit vinegar, even balsamico. Mouth (neat): this is much nicer now. Raspberry jelly, cherry (guignolet) and ‘strong’ figs (arrak). It’s powerful but not really ‘thick’ despite a loud cask. With water: falls back into line, with more dried fruits and Ovaltine. Finish: quite long, fruitier, jammy and candied. Comments: a funny one, a kind of pot-pourri of various influences, which gives it an entertaining dirtiness. In other words, a bit perverse. SGP:551 - 80 points. Good, I think we could have a last one… These Aultmores aren’t all easy-easy.


Aultmore 23 yo 1982/2005 (58.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #73.19, 'A full cream tea') Two stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: well, it’s one of those blandish malts. They have malt, cornflakes, corn syrup, a little putty, apple juice and that’s pretty all. Plain fodder for blends! With water: yeah, same, malt whisky. Mouth (neat): sure it’s not bad but it could be any malt from Speyside, from tired wood at that. I’m not against that of course, but I think there are at least two million similar casks sleeping over there. In short, uninteresting and totally against the ‘concept’ of single cask malt whisky in my opinion. With water: a little more vanilla, and barley sugar aplenty. Boring. Finish: yes there is one, but it’s totally uninteresting. Comments: I think they should bottle only casks that stand out, or just pass. It’s perfectly all right but what’s the point? This kind of bottling has a knack for making me angry ;-). SGP:331 - 75 points. Good, we cannot end a session like that, lost in blendoland. In fact, maybe we should ‘ask’ the owners what they have/had to say…


Aultmore 1983/1997 (58.8%, OB, Flora & Fauna Cask Strength) Four stars What a glorious series, that one! Colour: pale gold. Nose: hmm, I wouldn’t say we’re very far from the 1982, but this is somewhat cleaner and rather more mineral and herbal. In short, more complex. In fact, it’s got a part of the style of the old OB that we had as an aperitif, with something coastal, seashells, then soot, hessian, roots, marzipan, shoe polish… I’m wondering if Aultmore isn’t a whisky that needs quite some breathing. With water: yeah, and it needs water. More rocks, citrus, cinchona, ginger, agave and just the faintest whiffs of… err, gym socks. Maybe not, in fact. Mouth (neat): hey, this is big! Bang, very compact, earthy, with bags of cider apples and just three lemons ;-). It’s pretty chiselled, not very complex but what it does it does well. In fact, it’s close to the SMWS but in a way, it’s just the opposite. Isn’t that perfect whisky philosophy! With water: full, very satisfying, just on the border between orchard fruits and mineral/earthy territories. Finish: long and unexpectedly salty. Comments: I don’t think Aultmore has a style that’s very singular, to tell you the truth. When it’s flawless it’s ‘very good’, that’s all. It’s the case here. SGP:452 - 85 points.

(with thanks to Bert, Geert, Konstantin and Tobias)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: an utterly delicious little piece of jazz by the great, great Pete LaRoca called Bliss. Bliss indeed, and that was recorded in 1967. 1967 may well have been to modern jazz what 1972 was to Brora (???) and we all know many bands that have been heavily influenced by this. EST, anyone? Please buy Pete LaRoca's music, thanks.


March 13, 2012


More malternatives, tasting four Calvados, two Domfrontais and two Pays d’Auge

Remember Domfrontais always means a blend of pears and apples, sometimes 50/50, whilst Pays d’Auge is usually only apples, with sometimes just touches of pears. We’ll ‘blend’ both today and do that vertically…


Victor Gontier 1997 (40%, OB, Calvados Domfrontais, +/-2011) Four stars Gontier make some real artisan Domfrontais. Colour: gold. Nose: extremely aromatic, with the pears in the front and wonderful notes of artisan poiré (pear cider). Then Turkish delights, Haribo bears, bubblegum, liquorice allsorts and lastly, moss and fern after a heavy September rain ;-). Spectacularly fresh and aromatic. Don’t get me wrong, bubblegum does not suggest immaturity in this context, at all. Mouth: fresh, well on the fruits, very clean, with a saltiness and notes of fresh walnuts plus just a little grapefruit. Not extremely complex but very ‘chiselled’, which makes it dangerously quaffable, not only as a digestif. A calvados that left the ghetto! Finish: not too long but still very clean and easy. Comments: very, very dangerous, and much to my liking. I think this baby would even bear one ice cube later in summer… SGP:740 – 85-ish points.


Calvados Connexion 1991/2010 (46%, OB, Calvados Pays d'Auge, foudre #3 B2) Four stars A foudre is a very large cask that would be illegal in Scotland (too big!) Colour: dark gold. Nose: almost the opposite of the Gontier. Much more oak, spices and ‘whiskiness’ in this one, more herbs, cider (obviously), cinnamon, cloves, toffee, even malt, roasted nuts, toasted bread, touches of curry… In short, less fresh, clean and easy but just as pleasant on the nose. Mouth: funny how this is whisky-ish again, although the apples are well there of course. Excellent notes of apple compote with quite some liquorice, cloves and juniper berries as well as a little dark chocolate and tobacco. Finish: medium long, with a saltiness, jut like in the Gontier. Also kumquats and cardamom. Cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s rounder and with more oak influence. I like it just as much. SGP:551 - 85-ish points.


Christian Drouin 1986 (42%, OB, Calvados Pays d'Auge, matured in Rivesaltes casks, +/-2011) Three stars Drouin is an excellent name in Calvados, always recommended. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a more polished and even more complex version than the 1991, with more coffee, mocha, a little cedar wood and then much, much more natural vanilla (pods). It’s also the one that’s closest to raw apples, you can really smell the fruits. As for the Rivesaltes, I do not get it much, which is probably better. Maybe something very faintly muscaty in the background? Mouth: bigger than the 1991 in spite of a lower strength. It’s also rawer, kind of coarse, which happens with many calvados in my very short experience (which is why this is not calvadosfun.com). Apples, apples, apples and… cider and candy sugar. Maybe a little wine as well… Rivesaltes? Finish: medium long, still quite ‘farmy’, that is to say close to the apples (not the dreadful supermarket apples that look all the same of course). Comments: very good but I think I’ve had several Drouins that I liked even better, some having being stellar. Still very farmy and greenish after all these years. SGP:551 - 80-ish points.


Lemorton 1968 (40%, OB, Calvados Domfrontais, +/-2011) Four starsLemorton use a very high proportion of pears, sometimes up to 70%. We had an excellent 1926 Lemorton last year (WF 87-ish) Colour: amber. Nose: the pears’ extreme fruitiness does not show as much as in the Gontier 1997 but that’s probably normal. This baby has got quite some old oak, verging on high-end vinegar and old wine cellar (in Burgundy, very pinot noir…), notes of comté cheese (not to be mistaken for gym socks, eh!), sultanas, beeswax and leather, with also whiffs of sea water. It’s all very complex despite a faint shakiness at times. Mouth: a little dry and coarse at first sips, which may not appeal to all whisky lovers, but the complexity is quite amazing, with touches of old amontillado, apples of course, old vinegar, juniper berries, blood oranges, cloves… And it’s not thin at 40% - not big either of course. By the way, I’ve never seen calvados at cask strength. Finish: quite long, still a notch acetic but the complexity is… err, complex. Christmas cake. Comments: unlike the almost worthless and cheapo grains that are used for making our beloved whiskies, (cider) apples and pears are full of personality and character that keep showing big time in the distillates, even after 40 years or more. You simply have to like that, or forget about calvados ;-). SGP:550 - 85-ish points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: this is extremely funny, jazz- rock (so to speak) on steroids! They're the Elfferich Four from Holland - and of course there are only three - and they're playing Super-Swing Bonaparte. Bonaparte? Hell!. Anyway, after having laughed quite a bit, please buy all the music by the Elfferich Four!


March 12, 2012


Rare Old Glories, four plus one
Glenury Royal

Glenury Royal (or simply Glenury), closed for good in 1985, is another name that’s almost disappeared these days. I must say we’ve only ever tasted around twenty of them… But as we sometimes do now, let’s start this little session with a wee aperitif, the…


Glenury-Royal 12 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, +/-1980) Four stars Glenury was still doing its own malting until 1968, so maybe this is still from that period. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a grassy, greasy and pretty mineral style that’s not without reminding us of old Clynelish, which may be normal as the licenses for both distilleries used to belong to one and only owner. Soot, lemon, graphite oil, coal smoke, gravel, shoe polish, motor oil… In short, another one from the now almost extinct ‘old Highlands style’ that only Springbank are nurturing these days in my opinion. I mean nurturing with full knowledge of what they’re doing. Austere and pretty unsexy but very elegant. Mouth: lacks a little more power despite a very full and assertive profile, on roughly the same kinds of aromas as what we had in the nose. Sooty, smoky, mineral, oily and then a little cardboardy and dusty, which often happened with these series. Some pepper and mustard too. Finish: a tad short, with the bitterness and the dryness more in the front. Heavy green tea. Comments: totally unsexy, with very little fruits, flowers and other sweet/rounded things, and yet I like it quite a lot. Ah, the old days (cut the crap, S.) SGP:262 - 85 points.

As we like to do, let’s go vertical now ;-)…


Glenury Royal 23 yo 1984/2007 (49.3%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #3047, 279 bottles) Five stars We had cask #3046 a few years ago and I liked it a lot (WF 88). Colour: gold. Nose: simply a basket full of citrus fruits, mainly grapefruits but also oranges and lemons. Noses more and more like some dry white wine in fact, rather towards chenin blanc, with also a little mint and other herbs in the background. Fresh walnuts, apple peelings… Becomes a tad dirtier after a few minutes, though, with more soot and dust but it all goes very well with this profile, in fact. With water: more green, more on fruit skins and peelings. Zests, apples, nuts… Mouth (neat): again, many citrus fruits plus quite some vanilla and coffee. Breakfasty, in fact ;-). Where are the croissants? Great zestiness. With water: same, rounder, sweeter, fresher. Extremely to my liking. Finish: long, on the same notes. A little cardamom in the aftertaste. Comments: terrific whisky from the great old days. Not in the least bit Macdonaldised. SGP:562 – 90 points.


Glenury Royal 31 yo 1973/2005 (50.6%, Signatory, sherry hogshead, cask #6859, 211 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this time it’s the wood’s menthol and eucalyptus that come out first, before more straight coconut and vanilla start to sing. It’s rather smoother, rounder and fruitier than the others so far. Nice stuff. With water: even nicer! Many ‘dry’ fruits and oils, waxes, other sappy and resinous things… Great old style, complex. Mouth (neat): same feeling, it’s thick and rich without being heavy. White pepper and tinned pineapples, oranges and litchis, bitter oranges and more white pepper. Quite a lot of caraway seeds as well. Very potent. With water: wonderful. Touches of salt and curcuma, quite funny in this context. Finish: long, a little more candied, with the spiciness becoming more complex as well. More salt and caraway in the aftertaste. Also cloves and juniper, we’re almost at the dentist’s ;-). Comments: it’s all very appalling, the quicker these babies disappear from the market, the more I like them. I must be in the need of a good analyst (with a great bar). SGP:662 - 90 points.


Glenury Royal 23 yo 1971/1995 (61.3%, Rare Malts) Five stars I had written shortish tasting notes for this baby back in 2005 and had added ‘note to self: try this one again soon and write some more detailed tasting notes!’ After seven years, it was about time! Colour: dark gold. Nose: yahoooo! In true ‘Rare Malts’ spirit, this is a powerhouse that’ll burn anything that you’d stupidly put above your glass. Including your nose. With water:  we tamed it, we tamed it. Well-aged cigar, bitter oranges, polished woods, earth, wax polish, Grand-Marnier… All great things. Mouth (neat): knocks you down, as sure as 2+2=4. You can feel it’s great, very rich whisky but it’s just very, very strong when unreduced. With water: won-der-ful. Rich but not cloying, extremely jammy, spicy, waxy… Main notes: bitter oranges and cloves.  Top notch. Finish: long, greatly tart now, zesty, with some salt again. And cloves in the aftertaste. Comments: many Rare Malts were a little difficult in my experience, but they were also always interesting challenges, with something sort of intellectual. You always had to tame them, which made them kind of uncommercial, and that’s why they bear so much value today (esp. when you compare them with some more modern slightly ‘whore-ish’ whiskies). Do you follow me? SGP:463 - 92 points.


Glenury 33 yo 1968/2002 (48.8%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 165 bottles) Four stars and a half Yes, Douglas write just ‘Glenury’. Do they think it’s not royal whisky? Was ‘Royal’ just not stencilled and/or on the papers? Anyway, another 1968 by DL, an OMC bottled at 32 years of age and having yielded 258 bottles, was great (WF 90). Colour: amber. Nose: it’s probably a tad more tired than the others, with more old wood and unlikely spice mixes, but it’s still beautiful and rather complex. Chestnut purée, leather, old forgotten herbal liqueurs (our families always keep some for gloomy Sundays, don’t they), walnuts, old ham, then more cardboard, touches of (flatish) Guinness… In short, maybe it got a little wobbly but it’s still very pleasant. With water: more menthol comes out, camphor… The good side of old age (when you’re a whisky). Mouth (neat): ah! Heavy woodiness, with bags of spices, teas and herbs, but also a wonderful complexity, hinting at the greatest old cognacs. Much better than on the nose when neat. Liquorice and marmalade. With water: works. Spices in the front and there are many of them. Finish: medium long, with exactly the same cloviness (?) as in some previous ones. Comments: some parts were starting to go downhill while others remained utterly stunning. High quality anyway. SGP:462 - 89 points.

Gee, only high scores again today. I’ll spare you any jokes about royalty, but indeed, Glenury could be….

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a good chunk of bouncy country blues with Mr. Sonny Landreth. It's called Taylor's Rock and, well, please buy Sonny Landreth's music!


March 9, 2012


A collection of Caol Ila, ten by ten. Part 3

I think this will never stop!


Caol Ila 1996/2011 'Smokehouse' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 363 bottles) Four stars From Wemyss’ latest batch. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: yes! A crisp, uncomplicated but totally accomplished youngish Coal Ila from a shy cask that let the spirit do all the talking. As rieslingesque as it gets, with just the right amount of lemon juice, brine, ashes, soot and kippers. Mouth: exactly the same feeling. Crystal-clear Caol Ila, maybe a notch fruitier than others, with touches of cranberries and pomegranates (because of the silent wood?) and then brine, lemon and smoked fish (all breeds). Finish: medium long, very zesty and pure. Comments: uncomplicated distillate-driven pleasures. SGP:456 - 86 points.


Caol Ila 19 yo 1991/2011 (46%, Coopers Choice, cask #0923) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s one of the very briney and pretty medicinal ones. Oysters and soot, gherkin juice, kippers, lemons, mercurochrome and olives. Bags of olives. Mouth: excellent, big, pure, clean, very briney, greatly lemony and perfectly smoky. And dangerously drinkable! They should put a warning on these babies. Finish: long, kippery almost to the max, with sooty/ashy aftertaste. Comments: as good as it gets in my opinion. SGP:357 - 88 points.


Caol Ila 30 yo 1981/2011 (50.6%, Thosop for The Whiskyman, bourbon barrel, 153 bottles) Five stars Already many greats amongst the 1981s so let’s see what our Belgian friends have pulled out here… Colour: white wine. Nose: the wonders of lazy casks when the distillate is great! Sure this baby (well, not quite a baby anymore) does not really smell ‘30’ but it certainly got more complex and more subtle than its younger bros and sistas, although it kept that medicinal side that reminds us of another Islayer from the south shore… Let’s not mention the obligatory brine and all the rest and rather focus on the unusual notes, such as honeysuckle, angelica, fresh figs, menthol cigarettes (mum’s Kools), pink grapefruits, the faint whiffs of camphor… Well, this is a superb nose! Mouth: simply an extremely satisfying palate, with all things Caol Ila, maybe a little more brutal than on the nose, all on brine, seashells, lemon, ashes and that earthiness that can be so great. Top notch and globally bigger than expected. Finish: long, with the pepper kicking in. Cinchona. Comments: two malts in one, with a relatively civilised nose and a greatly raw and powerful palate. The peat is big! SGP:357 – 90 points.


Caol Ila 20 yo 1974/1995 (58.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 75cl) Five stars Time to have an older expression, one that was distilled just after the reopening/extension of the distillery. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a style that’s got more cider and raw ‘genuine’ apple juice, as well as more hydrocarbons, diesel oil, then hessian, fisherman’s nets, seaweed… In short, it’s rather more coastal than more recent distillates, but also a little less pure and crystal-clean, if you see what I mean. Which is nicest? Hard to say… Maybe water will help. With water: bang, camphor, and big time! The greatest cough syrup ever, makes you want to get sick… Mouth (neat): big creaminess and an immense citrusness, all being impressive. Lemon marmalade, mango chutney, olive oil, Campari and anchovies. In case you haven’t noticed, this is big, big whisky. With water: the more you add water, the bigger it gets. Pure magic – black magic in this case? Finish: extremely long, as if you had chewed a whole double corona. Lime and smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: a truly immense Caol Ila by Cadenhead’s. SGP:367 - 92 points. Well, that one made me want to try more 1974, such as this baby…


Caol Ila 22 yo 1974/1997 (56.7%, Signatory, cask #12465, 396 bottles) Five stars From the good old times when both Cadenhead and Signatory were writing ‘oak cask’ on their labels ;-) But yeah, this shouldn’t be bad… Colour: gold. Nose: oh my! A walk in a country priest’s garden after the rain. Chives, parsley, sage and ‘good’ lavender, then a burst of smoke verging on exhaust fumes, then kumquats, grapefruit liqueur and the smoke produced by ten Cohibas burning away in a very large ashtray. Bow to the ground, Supernova and Octomore! Mouth: big stuff, yet there’s some kind of elegance. Muhammad Ali? Salted lemon juice, smoked fish, seashells, apple peelings (bags and bags) and always that huge smokiness. Sucking ashes. Finish: interminable, with some eucalyptus in the aftertaste. Comments: by Zeus, that one was big! Was it fully legal? SGP:358 - 92 points. Crikey, I think we need more 1974…


Caol Ila 18 yo 1974/1993 (60.9%, Wilson & Morgan, cask #12493, 262 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: holy featherless crow, this is liquid smoke! It’s nothing like anything smoked, it’s you who are smoked (I’m sorry, really). Or your shirt after a whole night playing poker with die-hard cigar aficionados… With water: the grains come out, together with leaven, yeast, fresh baguette (euh, désolé) and porridge. So this was made from barley, after all! Mouth (neat): this perfect point where everything salty/citrusy balances everything smoky and sooty. Well, I must confess it’s all a bit brutal when unreduced so let’s add water once again… With water: becomes extremely citrusy. Pure smoked lime juice. Finish: very long, very limy, very smoky. Comments: well, this little baby was not particular about details and that is a gross understatement. SGP:358 - 88 points. Were all 1974s as smoky? Maybe we could try another one just to make sure, what do you think? Like a sister cask of the utterly brilliant Signatory that we had just a few minutes ago?...


Caol Ila 23 yo 1974/1998 (60.5%, Signatory, cask #12474, 338 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: plain olive oil, anchovies in salt and seawater. Brinier than this is plain impossible. And the smoke is just as immense, it’s an ashtray again. Old car engine, then marzipan and putty. Wham! With water: pure, unadulterated liquid smoke plus touches of barley and fresh ink. And putty. Mouth (neat): perfection. Incredible combination of salted fish, lemon juice, smoked oysters (I’ve heard you can’t smoke oysters, you have to use liquid smoke but the end result is worth it) and green curry. A powerhouse. With water: incredible how it became rounder and friendlier, without losing any flavours. So green olives, lemon, smoked fish and seashells. Finish: long, salty, perfect. Comments: glorious whisky after a bit of mellowing in glass. An ode to smoke. SGP:358 - 91 points.

Good, I think we’ve been carried away by these brilliant 1974s, my aim was rather to post about recent Caol Ilas! So time to put things straight again, with this little baby…


Caol Ila 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2011) Four stars and a half I liked the earlier batches very much (WF 88). Colour: gold. Nose: starts soft and complex, with notes of almond oil, linseed oil, soot and then citrus, a bit ala ‘old’ Coal Ila (pre-extension), which is a profile I already found in the first 25s. There’s also delicate floral notes, which is unusual (roses, old style perfume ala Jean Patou) and then more costal notes, such as ultra-fresh oysters. In short, a very delicate Caol Ila, very different from most other newish bottlings, especially by the indies. Mouth: maybe it’s a tad lightish at the attack (please note that this is a ‘first’ dram, so no influence of a bigger previous dram) but again, it’s complex whisky, rather more on brine and plain salt this time. There’s also quite some lemon and these notes of roots that I already found in earlier versions (ginseng powder). It’s a medium bodied CI, with excellent complexity. Liquorice wood. Finish: a tad short for Caol Ila but clean and very salty. Moderate peatiness. Comments: the light and elegant side of the famous Islayer. I think it’s a good example of a whisky that would please wine lovers who aren’t into whisky too much. SGP:355 - 88 points.


Caol Ila 30 yo 1981/2011 (59.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #11009, 117 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: rather rounded and seemingly sweet at first nosing, which is quite amazing at such high strength. Notes of marzipan, anchovies, old books, olives and the faintest ash and soot. A little cedar wood as well. This baby should change a lot once reduced… With water: indeed, there’s a lot of eucalyptus coming out now, camphor, spearmint… And our beloved oysters and clams. Indeed, whisky is food ;-). Mouth (neat): almost the exact opposite of the nose when neat. A very big grassy peat and quite some tar and liquorice, with a feeling of Jaegermeister and limoncello. Say fifty-fifty. With water: more of all that, this baby didn’t give up after all those years and the peat didn’t really become softer or ‘transmuted’. Finish: long, still very herbal, with a lemony and very ashy signature. Comments: very interesting and very, very good in my opinion. SGP:477 – 90 points.


Caol Ila 14 yo 1995/2010 (58.4%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, sherry, cask #10042) Four stars and a half James MacArthur had some utterly stunning sherried CIs in the past! Let’s check this newish one… Colour: gold. Nose: classic lightly sherried youngish Caol Ila, right between brine and ashes on one side, and crystallised oranges and kumquats on the other side. Well, both mingle very well, it’s real stereo ;-). With water: the sweet side almost disappears and there’s more straight peat smoke and a faint yeastiness, very pleasant in this context. Soaked raw barley. Mouth (neat): wonderful, zesty and earthy profile, with absolutely no supererogatory sugariness (wot?) Bags of gentian and sweet ginger, a feeling of marc de Bourgogne or even Jura and a sweet, very ashy and tarry peat. Lovely. With water: more of the same, maybe a little more barley sugar. Finish: long, sweeter than usual but that works wonderfully. Peated sugar cane? Comments: as I wrote, a lovely version with a perfect sherry influence. SGP:557 - 89 points.

Good, ten more CIs down. Luckily, Caol Ila is almost always from very good to excellent in my opinion, so keep them coming, I say!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: probably one of the most minimalist and thoughful renditions of Luiz Bonfa's Manha de Carnaval. He's Japanese p,ianist Masabumi Kikuchi and it's on his wonderful album 'After hours'. Please buy Masabumi Kikuchi's music.


March 8, 2012


Tasting more Littlemill

As I may have written before, it's quite amazing that there are so many excellent news Littlemills around while the old 8s, 12s or 17s were so, say humble. By the way, why not have the latest official 12 as a little aperitif today?


Littlemill 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2002) Two stars and a half In fact, these are very old yet unpublished notes of mine but they'll give you an idea of what we were thinking of Littlemill in the olden days. Colour: pale gold. Nose: quite fresh and relatively perfumy. Old rose, orange zests and quite some caramel. Hints of rum. Too bad there’s more and more dust and cardboard after a few minutes. Mouth: sweet and malty, relatively lively. Grains and Ovaltine, caramel, the whole becoming a little sluggish and, well, flattish. Finish: shortish, very caramelly and quite sugary. Comments: it’s okay. SGP: sorry I wasn’t using the SGP at time of writing - 78 points.


Littlemill 25 yo 1985/2011 (46%, Coopers Choice, cask #105) Three stars I don't think I've had any 1985 Littlemill before… Colour: white wine. Nose: interesting, it's the 'old style' Littlemill here, starting very grassy and even yeasty, with also whiffs of varnish and touches of acetone. Not the easiest so far, although there is a little lemon and grapefruit in the background. Also apple peelings, fresh walnuts, almonds, strawberry jelly… Maybe a little narrow in fact but perhaps the palate will be more spectacular? A little more vanilla, paraffin and green bananas after fifteen minutes. Mouth: indeed, it's old-style Littlemill, with quite a bitterness, a lot of grass, some pepper, even chilli, all that while the body remains kind of thinnish. Also apple juice. Finish: medium long, slightly bitter and always very grassy. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: I think this baby is true to the distillery and in that sense, it's a very worthy malt. As for plain and pure drinking pleasure, well, I wouldn't say it's top notch. Opinions! SGP:261 - 80 points.


Littlemill 1990/2010 (50.3%, Exclusive Malts for Whisky Live Taipei 2010, first fill bourbon, cask #717, 203 bottles) Three stars and a half This baby has been extremely polarising at the MM Awards 2010, with scores ranging from 65 to 88! So, no consensual whisky… Colour: straw. Nose: we aren't far from the nose of the Coopers Choice, with pretty much the same kind of grassy profile. Cut grass, apple peelings, fresh walnuts, freshly broken branches … and quite a lot of porridge, then marzipan. With water: more humus, which I like. Also ink (newspaper of the day). Mouth (neat): same comments but this has more citrus fruits, which just lifts the whole to another category. Citrons, lemon liqueur, then grass and liquorice again. Again, not an easy one but some aspects are quite great in my opinion. With water: became flatter, grassier and even a little cardboardy. Funny hints of salsify. Finish: medium long, with the same notes, more or less. More liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: I had it at 86 but it doesn't swim too well on the palate. Still an excellent one that tells you many stories. SGP:461 - 84 points.


Littlemill 20 yo 1990/2010 (53.6%, The Whisky Agency and Rhree Rivers, sherry butt, 399 bottles) Four stars This from a butt, so probably a very different Littlemill… Colour: deep amber. Nose: interesting how the grassiness combines well with a rather fino-ish character. This baby smells almost like a 50/50 mix of manzanilla and vin jaune from Jura, with a little liquorice wood thrown in for good measure and maybe whiffs of wood smoke. Much likeable but probably very segmenting, as they say. After fifteen minutes, we're sailing towards rhum agricole! With water: the oak comes out more, ala bourbon. Tell me about a cocktail! Mouth (neat): but it's rhum indeed! Not quite, of course, but the resemblance is quite amazing. Sugar cane, grass, walnuts, agave (right, that would rather be tequila), more walnuts, very spicy curry… With water: plain rum! Finish: indeed! Comments: a funny journey throughout many lands. SGP:462 - 86 points.


Littlemill 20 yo 1990/2010 (55.2%, The Whisky Cask, sherry) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: almost the same as the Whisky Agency, with just a little more straight alcohol and varnish, which is probably normal. Maybe a notch grassier as well - or maybe I'm dreaming. With water: same, same, same. Very, very bourbony. Mouth (neat): once again, we're extremely close to the TWA. Most probably a sister cask. Pleasantly (yeah!) acrid and grassy. With water: same. Notes of rye. Finish: same. Comments: same (S., you lazy b…) SGP:462 - 86 points.

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March 7, 2012


Malternatives: tasting even more rums en passant

We’ll simply have three Demeraras today.  


Enmore 1988/2008 (43%, Bristol Spirits, Demerara, American oak) Two stars You remember that story about all those different stills that were taken over and then moved to Diamond in Georgetown… Do you? Colour: gold. Nose: we close to the cane here, which is great. Wood influence is rather minimal so far, and we rather get various herbs and hints of fresh butter. Olives, even agave… It’s neither rich nor grand but I like this nakedness. Mouth: rather light but nice personality, dry, maybe a tad acidic and very herbal. A little sour too, sometimes we’re not far from white rum. Too bad it tends to fall apart after while, becoming kind of stale. That, is a little unpleasant. Finish: short, grassy, with only some candy sugar in the aftertaste. And maybe gherkins?... Comments: I guess you can’t have it all, nakedness and richness. This might be a little too naked… SGP:351 - around 75 points.


Classic Rum Versailles Still 18 yo 1984/2002 (46%, Bristol Spirits, Demerara, Port cask finished) Three stars Another still from the old Demerara distilleries… Please note that this was not distilled in the Château de Versailles ;-). The finishing in Port is a tad scary I must say… Colour: gold. Nose: triple hurray, little Port! As much as I love old Port, I hate Port in my spirits… Having said that, these whiffs of roses may well come from the Port… But other than that, it’s fairly discreet and elegant spirit, rather delicate, with some candy sugar and an obvious feeling of ‘light agricole’. Maybe slightly dusty as well… Mouth: unusual! Many tropical fruits (pineapples first, then bananas and oranges) on a bed of candy sugar, with a little pipe tobacco and an unexpected saltiness. And then more orange squash, Fanta… I wouldn’t say it’s all very clean but funny it is. Some burnt sugar and liquorice in the background. Finish: medium long, even more on liquorice now. Comments: no noticeable Port, hurray! The whole’s a tad shaky – especially the dustiness – but I think it’s very entertaining spirit. SGP:451 - around 80 points.


Very Old Demerara 1975/2010 (52%, Bristol Spirits, Demerara, 247 bottles) Five stars This single cask was mainly matured in the UK. No mention of a distillery so maybe a blend of various Demerara rums, not too sure. Oh, and it’s a miracle that our very British friends did not drink it all during those 35 years, coz they know what’s good! Colour: mahogany with red hues. Nose: yeepee yeah, now we’re talking! It’s got everything we’re expecting from a Demerara, that is to say heavy notes of raisins, liquorice, tar, pine sap, overripe bananas, coffee, even a little game (crocodiles? ;-)), humus, tobacco… Absolutely splendid stuff so far. Mouth: H.E.A.V.Y. stuff, magnificently concentrated, extractive and… rich. There’s everything in there, it’s almost a Jules Verne novel (taking place in South America of course). Oh, please call the anti-maltoporn brigade immediately! Finish: endless. A Fidel speech in the good old days. Mas especial! Comments: an un-stencilled cask of Port Mourant/Morant? Anyway, an irresistible, incredibly rich old Demerara, the kind that could make you quit whisky. No we’re not quite there yet, but well done, Bristol Spirits! SGP:752 - no guestimates, 92 big fat points.

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March 6, 2012


Tasting a bunch of odd ones

A few solitary ones, most rare or unusual – and, above all, un-pairable.


Speyside 16 yo 1994/2011 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #34, 385 bottles) Three stars Kudos to Mo Or for having issued this baby from the very discreet Speyside Distillery. We don’t see many of them around, do we? Colour: straw. Nose: well, this is quite nice. Very discreet indeed, light but delicately fruity and perfumy, with no yeasty/porridgy notes whatsoever. Whiffs of roses and litchis, melons, apples, strawberries and just touches of star anise and vanilla. To be honest, there isn’t a lot happening but there’s no single flaw either. Mouth: good vanilla and light ginger from the oak, then apple juice, touches of cherries and watermelons and a little grass. Light body but it isn’t exactly thin. Finish: not long (right, rather short) but clean and even more on apple and pear juice or compote. Comments: it’s a light dram that’s probably not the most thrilling ever but the absence of the tiniest flaws means that it deserves a good score in my book. Again, it’s a good idea to have bottled this. SGP:431 - 80 points.


Celtic Whisky 12 yo (40%, Celtic Spirit Co, Wales, +/-2005) A strange one, the company is Welsh but the whisky is Scottish. It just doesn’t say if it’s a single malt or a blended/vatted one. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s quite peaty, with also whiffs of turpentine and burnt grass, paraffin, linseed oil… The problem is that it’s pretty weak altogether, and goes on more towards damp papers, porridge, plain grass and dust. Mouth: a kind of earthy and smoky apple juice at first sips but it’s all so light that it’s soon to become kind of watery and oddly briny (old forgotten olives). After five minutes, it’s all become completely flat. Dead! Too bad, because there was some kind of Taliskerness that was pretty enjoyable at very first sips. Finish: almost none. Stale apple juice and old kippers ;-). Chalky aftertaste. Comments: the bottle was just opened and the level was good so it’s not a case of a whisky gone stale. I’ll still give it a reasonable score because some components must have been quite great, but otherwise, pass! SGP:233 - 65 points.


Inchmurrin 13 yo 1996/2010 (60.7%, Riverstown, Loch Lomond distillery, cask #69, 295 bottles) Three stars and a half As you probably know, Inchmurrin is one of the variants they make at Loch Lomond and I must say I’ve had some old ones that were much to my liking (1967 Part Nan Angelen and 1974 Cadenhead). Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a raw, flinty, grassy and waxy profile that’s totally unsexy (and the cask did nothing to help, it seems) but that screams old Highlands. Grass, cactus, clay, chalk, grape lees… Let’s see if water will help! With water: no sir, it’s just the same, even when down to 30% vol. Floor cloth. But the fact is that I quite like this, because of its unusualness. Mouth (neat): aargh… Some kind of lemon squash with some motor oil and polystyrene chips thrown in. Very, very bizarre and probably not easy to enjoy at this point; because of this fairly chemical side. With water:  more citrus fruits and gooseberries as well as a little bubblegum, and a little less chemicals. Barbecue herbs and more lemon. Finish: long and quite bitter. Burnt herbs. Citrus fruits and icing sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: a strange whisky, very interesting to taste despite the fact that it’s very whacky and probably unbalanced. I like this because to paraphrase Disraeli (whom I had quoted before, I’m sure): it’s not great technically, but one can get so bored with great whiskies! In short, worth trying but I’m sure many whisky lovers will hate it ;-). SGP:272 - 84 points.


Ootori 15 yo (40%, OB, blend, Japan, +/-2011) Two stars This is a blend by Mercian, so it may contain some Karuizawa. Colour: pale amber. Nose: starts a tad dusty and flinty, with some leather and this feeling of sandalwood and cedar wood that’s sometimes to be found in Japanese whiskies. It’s very, very light. Then a little malt and brioche, toasted bread, something slightly metallic and then a little hay. Very shy, I’d say. Mouth: a little more happening, with some soft spices, ginger, a little mango, other fruits (stewed this time), chutneys and just touches of smoke/charcoal. Remains extremely light. Finish: almost none, any wine is longer and I don’t think I’ml exaggerating. Comments: a shame that it’s so weak because the profile is very nice and seemingly very complex. Feels more like 15% vol. than 40% and yes, it’s from a newly opened bottle. How strange… SGP:231 - 72 points.


Frysk Hynder 2007/2011 (40%, OB, Holland, red wine cask, cask #133) Two stars and a half This Dutch single malt whisky comes from Frisia. Colour: gold/apricoty. Nose: it’s quite nice, it’s got something of Belgian Kriek beer. Grains, yeast, bread, raspberries, leaven, gravel, cherries… Certainly not unpleasant, even if the whole is probably a little too light so far. Mouth: well, this is surprisingly well made, balanced, with acceptable body at 40% vol. and a nice fruity profile. Toasted brioche with a little blackberry jam and cranberry juice. Very little taste of eau-de-vie, which is exactly what so many continental distilleries don’t get right in my opinion. And no notes of straight red wine, hurray! Finish: medium long with a pleasant grassiness building up. Blackcurrant and cherry leaves in the aftertaste. Comments: I’d love to be able to taste this at a higher strength. I understand that a newish distillery has to make good use of the few casks they have (hence bottle at 40% vol.) but I think this is good enough to bear 50%. At least! SGP:441 - 79 points.

All right, maybe one last strange one for today… Maybe such as the simplest Scotch ever, just for fun?


Blend (40%, Natural Color, France, +/-2010) That’s right, this baby’s called ‘Blend’. It was bottled for French wine chain Le Repaire de Bacchus and it’s no blended malt. Colour: almost as white as water. Nose: impaired. Wood alcohol and plain water plus the crappiest kirsch ever – the sort that granny used to bake Black Forest cake. Terrible, terrible nose. Mouth: awfully spirity and bland at the same time. Stale apple juice and the weakest peat ever (indeed it’s sort of peaty). Touches of lemon squash. Finish: not much and that’s good news if you ask me. Sugar. Comments: raw alcohol, pretty nasty stuff. I’m sure a bit of caramel would have improved it and mucho! BTW, using the word ‘color’ instead of 'colour’ says a lot about the blenders’ skills. Having said that, they had one or two great ones in this series, such as a 1967 Glenfarclas that was quite something. SGP:122 - 40 points. Good, I think we’ve had enough for today…

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March 5, 2012


Tasting more classic Glen Grant

Let's have a few old Glen Grants again today, starting with a nice wee aperitif that should be light and easy…


Glen Grant 21 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, +/-2010) Three stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: a nice old sherry style, no monster this time, rather something on sultanas, then leather and black tea. Also touches of oranges and cornflakes, dandelions, honey, a bit of liquorice and just a very faint dustiness. It's all rather light and even ethereal at times. Mouth: not too light, which is good news, with some gingerbread, nutmeg and white pepper at first sips, then more overripe apples and a slightly bitter caramel. It's quite malty too. Dark chocolate. Finish: quite short, even maltier, drier, with some dark chocolate, bitter oranges and pepper again in the aftertaste. Comments: rather drier and spicier than expected. Globally light but not weak. Very pleasant. SGP:342 - 83 points.


Glen Grant 36 yo 1975/2012 (46.6%, Archives, hogshead, cask #5476, 81 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's another relatively light one, but it's much more floral and honeyed than the 21, and fruitier as well. Also very ripe apples, pears and kiwis at first nosing, then even bananas, pineapples and mangos. It's no fruit bomb as such but but it's a rather sexy nose. More vanilla coming through after a while, a little tobacco, café latte… Mouth: creamy, even fruitier than on the nose but also quite gingery, with also some white pepper and nutmeg from the oak. Other than that, there are strawberry drops, orange drops and this pleasant feeling of tinned pineapples yet again. Finish: medium long, drier again, with the white pepper and cinnamon growing bigger. Apple peelings. Comments: just short of being magical in my opinion (because of an oak that's a tad loud on the palate), which means a solid 89 points in my book. SGP:551 - 89 points.


Glen Grant 39 yo 1972/2011 (48%, Whisky-Doris, sherry hogshead, cask #11395, 163 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: yeah! I mean, it's the beautiful jammy profile that so many people adore, quite in the style of the famed Caperdonichs from the same year. Bags of figs and dates, kumquats, apricot jam, honeydew, beeswax and ripe plums. Behind all that, wonderful touches of cigarette tobacco, prunes, tamarind and cappuccino. Brilliant nose, totally flawless. Mouth: the oak kicks in but it's never drying nor tannic, it rather brings a subtle spiciness (cardamom). Other than that, more bags of prunes, figs and jams plus kumquats and oranges. Pure pleasure. Finish: long, with a very, very strong taste of yellow chartreuse that's quite terrific. Wormwood, aniseed and all the rest. Comments: textbook old Glen Grant without a single flaw and that magical fruitiness that makes them so appealing. Well done Whisky-Doris! SGP:651 - 92 points.


Glen Grant 36 yo 1974/2011 (50.7%, Men O'Quaich, cask #411658, 71 bottles) Five starsAnother fairly 'micro' bottling by our Russian friends. 1974 should be a tad more difficult than the ueber-sexy 1972. Colour: gold. Nose: well, no big drop, hurray! A sweet oak roars in the background (mocha, fudge, putty, vanilla) but it's almost as fruity as the 1972, although it's all more towards dried fruits and fudge/toffee. Caramel (Werther's), hints of ripe bananas, a little pine sap, cornflakes, marzipan… Extremely pleasant and rather more complex than expected. Lots of pleasure again. Mouth: the oak's louder now, with some green tannins, strong tea and cocoa powder. The good news is that the roundness behind the oak is big enough, with plenty of figs and raisins as well as some menthol (cough lozenges), then more lemon drops. The oak is tamed, very good! Finish: long and spicier. Cardamom, cloves, fresh coriander and a little lemon juice. No excessive oak whatsoever at this stage, which is a miracle. Comments: lovely, absolutely lovely, it's quite funny how the spirit controls the oak here, it's a kind of hide and seek game that's much entertaining to watch. I mean, to taste. SGP:651 - 91 points.


Glen Grant 38 yo 1972/2010 (54.8%, Duncan Taylor, Octave, cask #446483) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: ah well, it's the same kind of wonderfully honeyed and fruity Glen Grant as Whisky-Doris' bottling and there's absolutely no excessive botox fresh oak. So mead, figs, sultanas, ripe bananas, beeswax, apricots… and all that jazz. Great. Mouth: once again, the oak is louder and spicier and one has to like white pepper and green tea but other than that, it all works well, with these citrusy touches that make these oldies so alive (and kicking!) Touches of mustard in the background. Finish: long, very spicy, with more lemon and a good deal of apple peelings and fresh walnuts. Comments: I think this one is a tad oakier on the palate. All extremely fine, it's just that there are even smoother and more gorgeous ones at DT's in my opinion. SGP:561 - 89 points.

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March 4, 2012


Tasting three An Cnoc

Every year, the relatively unobtrusive An Cnoc distillery issues a new vintage version, always around 12 years of age. I’m quite behind with them, I have yet to try all vintages after 1994 but let’s not procrastinate with the latest one, the 1998. Last in, first out! We’ll first have a little aperitif, then one of the latest batches of the 16yo, and then that 1998.


Knockdhu 11 yo 1974 (40%, G&M Connoisseurs Choice Old Brown Label, +/- 1985) Two stars As you most probably know, Knockdhu was the distillery’s former name. Colour: straw. Nose: very spirity and kind of dirty, with a lot of rubber at first nosing, just-distilled artisanal kirsch and Williams pears, feints and then quite some damp earth. Musty!  Mouth: kirsch again, slivovitz, barley sugar and once again something rubbery, although not as much as in the nose. Barley sugar, orgeat cordial syrup. Notes of plain sugar in a little water. Finish: medium long, strangely tarry. A much grassier aftertaste. Comments: not an easy one. The palate is very eau-de-vie-ish. SGP:541 - 72 points. Right, time to tackle the modern officials…

An Cnoc

An Cnoc 16 yo (46%, OB, +/- 2011) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: some parts are similar to the old 1974’s, especially the notes of kirsch, but it’s globally much, much cleaner. I like these touches of marzipan, fresh almonds, bergamots, soaked barley and pears. It’s all very ‘natural’! After 15 minutes: more marzipan and even marshmallows and coconut – that’s American oak talking. Mouth: a bigger personality than on the nose, with a rich attack, creamy, on fruit syrups and liqueurs and a lot, and I mean really a lot of barley water. Goes on with some light honey (acacia), sweet liquorice, baklavas, and just a little vanilla fudge. Good grassy/malty structure underneath. Finish: rather long, less smooth and rounded, with the grassy side coming more to the front. Apple peelings. Comments: the first words that come to my mind are ‘very loyal and honest’. This baby lets the barley do the talking. SGP:541 - 84 points.

An Cnoc

An Cnoc 1998/2012 (46%, OB) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: more aromatic than the 16 and also even closer to the raw materials. Barley sugar, porridge, oatcakes, leaven… Then more butterscotch, honey, malt, tea, vanilla and just a little grass and hay before it starts to gear more towards ripe apples and pears (with funny touches of calvados). Even more natural than the 16. Mouth: same feeling, it’s a kind of richer version of the 16. Same kinds of notes of fruit liqueurs, grass juice, raw malted barley, stewed pears (or rather poached?), marzipan, barley water, honey and maple syrup, fudge… And once again, the word that comes to my mind is ‘natural’. Good body. After 15 minutes: more on greengages and even strawberries. Finish: long, malty and grassy. Liquorice and kirsch again in the aftertaste. Fruit stone, coffee. Comments: same high quality as the 16. At times I was having the feeling I was tasting some refill Aberlour. SGP:541 – 84 points.

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March 2, 2012


Tasting young and older sherried Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain, whether old or young, sherried or not and peated or unpeated is all over indiebottlerland these days. Let’s simply sample a few sherried youngsters today…


Bunnahabhain 9 yo 2001/2011 (46%, Coopers Choice, sherry wood, cask #1269) Four starsColour: gold. Nose: maybe faint whiffs of volatile acidity (akin to wine vinegar) at very first sniffing but that goes way, leaving room for some rather gamy notes, civet, cured ham and then some unexpected mineral notes. Then overripe pears and apples, compote, ripe peaches… It’s a tad unusual but that’s an asset when you try quite a few whiskies. Right… Mouth: there’s a rather big peatiness now, which was relatively unnoticeable in the nose. Apple juice, marzipan, sweet pepper, paprika and then more and more dates, with some earth and roots in the background. Gentian and then more mint. A funny baby, this! Finish: quite long, becoming frankly herbal. Thyme and garlic tea. Comments: an unusual and very interesting moderately peated Bunny. SGP:554 - 85 points.


Bunnahabhain 9 yo 2001/2011 (58.1%, Signatory, Cask Strength Collection,1st fill sherry,  cask #1764, 583 bottles) Four stars Will this be relatively peaty again? Colour: gold. Nose: well, the peat is more obvious in this one, maybe because the sherry’s lighter in fact. Nice earthy tones, gentian again, dried pears and bananas, notes of mushrooms, then fudge and toffee… It’s all rather clean and fresh, which is nice. Yes. With water: becomes more mineral and rooty. A mix of wet earth and moss, with touches of dried apricots. Very nice nose. Mouth (neat): peated vanilla-flavoured toffee with touches of ginger and caraway. I know that doesn’t exist, but it should. Good body, creamy mouthfeel. With water: the peat became bigger, as well as notes of herbal spirits such as absinth and Bénédictine. The fruits are kept at bay now. Finish: long, mentholated, herbal and liquoricy. Melikes. Comments: ah, what some great cask can do top a youngish and shyish spirit! SGP:465 – 87 points.


Bunnahabhain 4 yo 2005/2010 (57.7%, Exclusive Malts, cask #28, 257 bottles) Four starsMy, this is young! Colour: Nose: well, it’s young but it’s very nice, very fresh, earthy, peaty, with a sherry that’s much, much more silent. Is there any sherry? Some peated apple juice with a few roots thrown in and traces of both medicinal and maritime ‘stuff’. To be honest, it does feel like some young Ardbeg at times. With water: sea, smoke and damp earth. Compact and of course not immensely complex, but this is a good example of a malt that just didn’t need time’s outrage. Ahem. Mouth (neat): once again, little sherry if any, rather a kind of candied peat that’s extremely likeable. Wonderful medicinal notes, throat lozenges (cough, cough), wormwood, touches of pear drops… Very superb despite the very young age, although I wouldn’t say it reeks of maturity. Well… With water: just perfect. Would beat many 12yos if you ask me. Sweet peat… Finish: long, maybe a little too one-dimensional now, but the cleanliness is rather impressive. Comments: oh how I hate to give a highish score to such a young baby! Yeah, just trying to be smart… ;-) But where’s the sherry, I ask you? SGP:346 - 87 points.


Bunnahabhain 21 yo 1990/2011 'Burns Malt' (54.8%, The Whisky Barrel, sherry butt, cask #51) Four stars and a half This one was bottled on December 31, 2011Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a rich, jammy kind of sherry, all on strawberry jam, fruitcake (do you know the Alsatian Bärawecka?), raspberry jelly, overripe Williams pears and figs aplenty. No gunpowder, no leather – well, maybe touches of leather indeed. With water: beautiful herbal notes arising, star anise, dill, celery, fennel… And just distant whiffs of hay and rich pipe tobacco. Mouth (neat): again, a rich, very jammy, very fruity sherry monster, on pretty much the same notes as in the nose plus a little salmiak. A Christmas cake in a glass, and it’s strong but not overpowering. With water: the liquorice comes out more, together with more tobacco and cough lozenges as well as notes of cloves. Finish: long, even more on ‘rich’ herbs. A feeling of Ricola, the famous Swiss herb drops. Comments: super and very Christmassy. Is that what we’d call some ‘jam-packed’ whisky? SGP:651 - 88 points.


Bunnahabhain 19 yo 1990/2009 (51.8%, A.D. Rattray, refill sherry hogshead, cask #970, 263 bottles) Two stars This baby will be the last one for today but many more young or youngish  Bunnies to come on WF! Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a clean, fresh and pretty coastal Bunnahabhain this time, rather on honey, malt and toasted brioche, not far from the officials in fact. Also some leather, tobacco and just a little incense and sandalwood. And fudge and shortbread. With water: hay bordering on manure now. Wild and, well, organic. Hard-boiled eggs. Mouth (neat): very nice attack but it’s soon to drop, with some cardboard and a feeling of stale stout. A shame because the rest is much appealing, although there’s also touches of lavender and violets that remind us of a neighbouring distillery when it wasn’t at its peak. No, not Caol Ila. With water: even more of that, with chemical and metallic touches. Pass. Finish: medium long, a notch nicer, with kumquats and a funny feeling of… sorrel? Comments: yeah well, it’s a strange one. What, sulphur? I think so… Probably a lame duck within AD Rattray’s usually wonderful range. SGP:372 - 70 points.

All right, I think we need another one… Maybe not ex-sherry…


Bunnahabhain 'Bn1' (55,6%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2011) Three stars and a half From this nice series by the Whisky Exchange gang… Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the raw materials that speak, barley, yeast, peat… And seawater. It’s all extremely compact, focussed and pretty uncomplicated. Something medicinal as well, rather towards mercurochrome and bandages? Ouch! With water: the obvious youth comes out more, with added hints of pears and fresh marzipan. Mouth (neat): big, sweet peat. Smoked lemons and kippers, with more and more ashes. A feeling of heavy smoked tea (lapsang), the one they call ‘tarry’. Indeed. With water: more sweetness, more lemons, and pears again. Always ashes in the background. Finish: rather long, with a little more salt and brine. More kippers. Comments: a big peat in this one, obviously very young or from flat dead wood (but dead wood lets the spirit shine through, doesn’t it?) SGP:357 - 84 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: upon special request, some little thing by the great Michel Petrucciani . It's called Romantic but not blue and I think it perfectly captured Michel's style (from the Solo LIve album). Please buy Michel Petrucciani's music!


March 1, 2012


Rare Old Glories

As you perhaps know, I’m keeping a rather large ‘rolling’ sample library that allows me to organise wee comparative tasting sessions whenever a new bottling is out. The problem is that I’ve accumulated many whiskies from rare or closed distilleries through the years and let’s be honest, it seems that many of those names are now almost, if not totally extinct. So, what’s the point of keeping a dozen Coleburns, for example? Shall we ever have the opportunity to compare them with new Coleburns? Probably not, that’s why we’ll launch a new series of pairings called… Rare Old Glories. Yup, being creative again. And as we were talking about Coleburn, let’s have Coleburn…

Rare Old Glories, two Coleburn


Coleburn 12 yo 1968/1980 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Four starsI found a 17yo 1968 in the same series quite excellent (WF 89). Colour: straw. Nose: ah, the old style! It’s like wandering in an old disused garage, with these notes of motor oil, iron, ashes, soot... There’s also a little porridge, leaven and milk, an then these earthy tones that are much akin to some old Pu-erh tea. Humus, dead leaves, tobacco smoke… There is some peat for sure in this totally un-modern and pretty wacky nose. Mouth: it’s the earthy side that comes out first, then rather wonderful notes of kumquats and tangerines, with a pleasant pepper in the background. Capsicum? Lemongrass, coriander, ginger and then even more pepper. A rounded chilli sauce, maybe. Finish: long, very spicy and pretty bitter. Herbal liqueur (almost the very bitter Underberg that they sell in miniatures). Comments: it’s a style and it’s a bit like Van Halen. We hated them in the 1970s but nostalgia is striking hard these days! SGP:363 - 85 points.


Coleburn 28 yo 1971/1999 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 198 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: we aren’t far from the 1968 but this is less expressive and more on milk and porridge at first nosing. Tapioca, oatcakes, then more soot and grass, green tea, fresh mushrooms... Also whiffs of chives and rosemary, wet gravel, fresh cement and then more and more cut grass. Austere, very austere… With water: more grass and a little custard. Clay. Mouth (neat): certainly creamier and fruitier than the 1968, with more lemon and orange zests on top of the very grassy and spicy profile. Capsicum again, juniper berries, grapefruits, earth, fresh mushrooms, peat… In truth, it’s quite a beast. With water: it got wonderful! Perfect earthy style, with just the right amount of pepper and smoke and many candied lemons and kumquats in the background. Finish: very long, on lemon zests, pepper and even a little wasabi. Comments: not quite a nosing whisky but the palate, the palate! SGP:473 - 88 points.


(With thanks to Lasse, Tobias and Dennis)

Whiskyfun fav of the month

February 2012

Favourite recent bottling:
Benriach 35 yo 1976/2011
(45.3%, OB for The Auld Alliance Singapore, hogshead, cask #3010, 196 bottles) - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Johnnie Walker Blue Label 'Baccarat'
(60.5%, OB, 200th anniversary, 2005) - WF 92

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:

Ardmore 19 yo 1992/2011
(49.3%, The Single Malts of Scotland, 207 bottles)  - WF 91

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the most joyous shambles, chaos and mess with the excellent John Betsch Society playing their Ode to Ethiopia. Brilliant stuff, brilliant drummer, please buy John Betsch's music...


February 2012 - part 2 <--- March 2012 - part 1 ---> March 2012 - part 2

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



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

Aultmore (40%, OB, Harvey & Co, 1970s, 75cl)

Caol Ila 20 yo 1974/1995 (58.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 75cl)

Caol Ila 22 yo 1974/1997 (56.7%, Signatory, cask #12465, 396 bottles)

Caol Ila 23 yo 1974/1998 (60.5%, Signatory, cask #12474, 338 bottles)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1981/2011 (50.6%, Thosop for The Whiskyman, bourbon barrel, 153 bottles)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1981/2011 (59.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #11009, 117 bottles)

Glen Grant 39 yo 1972/2011 (48%, Whisky-Doris, sherry hogshead, cask #11395, 163 bottles)

Glen Grant 36 yo 1974/2011 (50.7%, Men O'Quaich, cask #411658, 71 bottles)

Glenury Royal 23 yo 1984/2007 (49.3%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #3047, 279 bottles)

Glenury Royal 23 yo 1971/1995 (61.3%, Rare Malts)

Glenury Royal 31 yo 1973/2005 (50.6%, Signatory, sherry hogshead, cask #6859, 211 bottles)

Very Old Demerara 1975/2010 (52%, Bristol Spirits, Demerara, 247 bottles)