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Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2012 - Part 2

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


March 30, 2012


World whiskies, tasting three odd ones from the colonies (not ours)

3 ships

Three Ships 5 yo 'Premium Select' (43%, OB, blend, South Africa, +/-2012) Three stars and a half Surprisingly, this African whisky won the Best Blended Award at the World Whisky Awards 2012. I was a judge again this year and tried it twice, unknowingly as it was all blind of course, and scored it 8.2 (82) and then 8.3 (83) - maybe I was then in a better mood ;-)). Time to try it again and to come up with due notes… Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a peaty one, and I mean as peaty as, say Talisker. Quite some fresh oak as well, vanilla, brine, tar, sea breeze… Becomes grassier after a while, as often. Probably high malt content. Mouth: excellent, bold, earthy, peaty arrival, quite salty and liquoricy too. A bit of drying oak as well but I do like the ginger, pepper and sweet celeriac. Finish: medium long, quite earthy and pretty smoky. Comments: well I like it a lot indeed and 83 points are well deserved. Having said that, I just checked the distillers’ website and this is what I could read: “Three Ships 5 Year Old Premium Select whisky is an artful blend of specifically selected South African and Scotch grain and malt whiskies.” What’s Scotch, the grains or the whiskies? And in which proportions? Bah, who cares, it’s all pretty excellent, even if probably not totally African… Just like some famous Japanese blends are or used to be. SGP:455 - 83 points.


Wiser’s 18 yo (40%, OB, blend, Canada, +/-2012) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: is it normal to find a lot of maple syrup in a Canadian? What’s sure is that this is very smooth, honeyed, with notes of pencil shavings and banana cream and, - must be me – hints of Irish pure pot still. That translates into a little humus and dead leaves here, without being musty. The oak also gives it a fairly chocolaty profile after a while (milk chocolate). It’s all rather delicate I must say, maybe even a tad fragile. Mouth: it all happens at first sips because the whole is pretty short. I get quite some bananas and vanilla, a little Grand-Marnier or Cointreau, a little spearmint, all that on a bed of butterscotch and ‘natural’ caramel (i.e. burnt sugar). Even nougat, candied peanuts. There’s also a little cinnamon, caraway seeds and hints of curcuma. Finish: pretty short, I believe this should be bottled at higher strength. Comments: sweet, spicy and very subtle. Again, I’m sure 3 or 5 extra-degrees would work, because the base is quite brilliant. Just for that I liked the excellent Wiser’s Legacy better (WF 87) SGP:551 - around 83 points.


Bernheim Original Straight Wheat Whiskey (45%, OB, USA, +/-2012) Two starsColour: amber/orangey. Nose: sweet and liqueurish at first nosing, with a lot of honey and maple syrup plus touches of litchis and bananas flambéed. Some white chocolate as well and then that green earthiness that can come from new oak. Some cloves and star anise in the background. A feeling of vanilla liqueur but I think it’s pleasant. Mouth: very unusual, both very sweet and very spicy. A lot of ginger liqueur, peppermint, rosehip tea and then bags and bags of apple peelings from the oak. Hugely extractive and, to a Scotch drinker, quite unbalanced but it’s a style. Finish: long, with all the drying spices from the wood in the front. Comments: I’m not used to this kind of spirit and frankly, its not my cup of whisky, much too extractive and ‘teabaggy’. Now, in its own style, it’s probably very well made. SGP:770 – around 75 points.

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Hindi Zahra

March 29, 2012


Two big official Glenfiddich


Glenfiddich 15 yo (58.9%, OB, bottled by hand at the distillery, spring 2006) Three stars This was only available at the distillery and was a blend of bourbon and sherry casks, the whole being finished in new oak. Colour: gold. Nose: not very Glenfiddich, rather bigger in fact, reminding me of the old 15 CS. There are whiffs of pencil shavings and new plank from the virgin oak but nothing too big, while it remains unusually mineral for a while, before some classic notes of stewed apples and Belgian beer start to rise after a few minutes. Hard to say if I like it or not thus far. With water: more corn syrup, more vanilla. As modern as Kraftwerk ;-). Mouth (neat): the new oak speaks out even more. Heavy vanilla and maple syrup, you almost need as spoon to get it out of your glass. So ultra-modern, I’d say, hugely extractive and hyper-sweet, it’s almost liqueur. My palate sort of likes this but my brain doesn’t. Politics! With water: vanilla liqueur with touches of ginger and honey. Atholl Brose. Finish: long, with the oak’s spices being more in control. Comments: well made modern malt whisky with a huge sweet oakiness. Maybe we could call this American Oak Liqueur, although AOL is probably not such a good acronym anymore. SGP:731 - 80 points.


Glenfiddich 40 yo (44.3%, OB, 2011) Five stars It's the newish 40, the one that just scooped the Best Speyside Whisky award at the World Whisky Awards 2012. I was a judge again this year and I think I liked it a lot (not too sure, it was all blind!) Price is only 2,000 Euros, so you can get it for just a little more than a song ;-). Colour: deep amber. Nose: yes this is complex and very elegant, we’re well in the same family as the best old cognacs here – it’s probably the same people who buy/drink both anyway. Old polished wood, dried figs, roasted chestnuts, cough lozenges, dates, then more herbal notes, chartreuse, vetiver, parsley… gets a tad more winey then, with touches of old Port and a very nice rancio. I told you, cognac… Mouth: more polished wood, tobacco, cough lozenges and dates. Really big bodied in fact, with the oak really working as a seasoning agent and never becoming drying. Fruitcake and then more and more liquorice. Frankly, it’s great whisky despite the heavy price tag ;-). Finish: impressively long, rather dry, more on chocolate, ganache and more wine and spices. Old amontillado. More liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: yes it’s very great whisky and I find it surprisingly big and rich for Glenfiddich. It’s just a notch too expensive… SGP:562 - 91 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: old chums Eric Burdon and Brian Auger, both in great form, plus a bunch of slingers doing a frenzied We gotta get out of this place live. That was on their double album Access All Areas - one of these live albums that really sound like a live album -, please buy it!


March 28, 2012


More on yesterday's 5th
International Whisky Day
(for the last time, I promise)

World Whisky Day

Unsurprisingly, yesterday’s post about the International Whisky Day stirred up quite a few comments. In truth, I believe the fact that someone just decided to launch and trademark a commercial venture that’s based on a practice that already existed five years ago and (barely) survived ever since is rather okayish because after all, this is a difficult world and the youngsters out there have to make a niche for themselves, while the good people who had launched the original idea back in 2008 (in real life in 2009 in Groningen) never really tried to make it commercial anyway.

It had all remained very low-key, perhaps because the originators and their mates used to think that making anything commercial out of Michael Jackson’s name would be the ultimate faux-pas, especially since they were friends of his.

What’s a little more unpleasant is the fact that the friendly copycats just keep claiming to a first everywhere and that they didn’t know of the original International Whisky Day when they had launched their own business. Yeah, that’s why, I guess, they also registered InternationalWhiskyDay.com on June 20, 2011 (with due redirection of course), after having registered their own URL only one week before ;-). 

And come on, when you plan to start a supposedly innovative business, you first do a bit of googling, don’t you? (“International Whisky Day” returns no less than 6,040 answers on Google at time of writing.)

New invention, The Cheese StringTM
So a bit of hijacking but after all, it’s all pretty harmless, just a tad noisy, discourteous and clumsy - yet probably not too bad for the people, brands and companies that are desperately seeking more light these days, either digital or real. To hell with ethics and truth, bring out the coupons and freebies! Bah, to paraphrase Musset, the thing is to be drunk, whoever made the brew - and remember this is only booze.
So maybe we should simply move on (while acknowledging the little pirates' unbelievable tenacity and 'social' skills, they sure are no lazybones!)...

PS: I'd add that we just cannot be against the new organisers' very noble goals, as stated on Whisky Magazine's website and at several other places on the Web: "It was always the organisers' intention that any monies which might remain after the event would be donated to charity. The charity selected for this would be “Parkinsons UK” (the Events Assistant has been contacted) since it has strong links with the memory of Michael Jackson." Bravo, wunderbar, kudos, congrats!!!


Fulfilling a pressing need of malternatives

Well, according to the twitter box, it seems that the whole world was drinking Jack Daniel’s with Coke yesterday, while quibbling over that missing ‘e’ in ‘whisky’. I have to say that put me right off tasting any whisky today, so let’s rather have a little cognac if you don’t mind… While hoping it’s not World Cognac Day today – or rather La Journée Mondiale du Cognac ;-).


Martell VSOP (40%, OB, +/-2011) Two stars A heavy seller! And no it's not that red. Colour: dark amber. Nose: starts very grapey, with also a lot of sultanas and other kinds of raisins as well as a little wood smoke and quite some tasted bread and brioche. There’s also quite some vanilla, probably from the oak. Smooth, rounded and pretty expressive, a very fine, very easy nose. Let’s only hope the palate will be on par…  Mouth: first surprisingly herbal and earthy, then rather more on caramel and bananas flambéed, the whole really losing steam after just twenty seconds. It’s not bad at all, just much less appealing than on the nose in my opinion. Finish: rather short, slightly burnt, with a little orange liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: the nose was surprisingly nice, the palate was more, well, okayish. SGP:550 - around 75 points.


Otard VSOP (40%, OB, +/-2011) Three stars A famous tear-shaped bottle. But is it a fine drop?... Colour: amber. Of course, the big brands are all very ‘amber’. Ahem… Nose: very different from the Martell, rather less expressive but probably more complex. Quite some orange cake, maybe a little ham, tar, rancio, leather, and then more whiffs of lit cigar and maybe just wee touches of soap. More character and less smoothness so far… Mouth: now we’re talking! Starts earthy, gingery, very firm despite the low strength, with notes of Williams pears and mango. There’s also a curious feeling of peat (ex-Islay cask? Nah, I believe that by law, they’re not allowed to use any other wood than either new or refill cognac. Something to do as well in Scotland? Hmmm, we’d lose our beloved sherry monsters!) Also touches of ripe watermelon and then more grapiness. Finish: medium long, rather creamy and honeyed this time. Cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s an interesting one, I believe it should please many malt drinkers. SGP:462 - around 82 points.


Ragnaud-Sabourin ‘Alliance N°20’ (43%, OB, +/-2011) Four stars This is a Grande Champagne… Colour: gold. Much less caramel. Nose: another world! Much more complex than the two VSOPs, much more floral and honeyed and much closer to whisky (there really is something of Highland Park). Quite some liquorice, soft spices, vanilla crème, tangerines, peaches, raisins, crème brulée, touches of Sauternes, a little mint liqueur… Great nose! Mouth: and it goes on, really whisky-esque now, with even something malty on top of the many jams, herbs and spices. Kumquats, Turkish delights, tangerines, then more cinnamon and cloves, mushrooms, cinchona… And obvious yet delicate rancio as well, proof that there were some older distillates thrown into the vatting tank. Finish: medium long, fresh, more on bitter oranges and marmalade than before. Then ginger and cinnamon. Comments: all much to my liking, and the extra-3% did wonders. SGP:551 - around 86 points.


Pitaud 'Extra' (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2011) Three stars This baby is said to be 50 years old on average. Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re much closer to the grapes now, it’s even a tad Armagnacky I must say. There’s also something of a well-aged calvados, the whole being certainly rougher and much more ‘artisanal’ than the three first ones, despite a much older age. Having said that, it becomes more and more complex after a few minutes, on humus and moss, herbs (dill, very vivid), a little pinewood smoke and touches of mango chutney. Very complex, very well made, even if it takes its time – but don’t all great old spirits deserve our time? Mouth: the same happens on the palate, it starts rough and ‘artisanal’ and curiously calavadosy (je suis désolé), with even quite some apple skin and maybe grape pips. The problem is that it does not become really smoother or more approachable over time, remaining kind of rough and grassy. Un-commercial for sure, which some may applaud, but not easy enough for a non-connoisseur such as yours truly. Finish: medium long, grassy, grapey. Bags of fresh walnuts in the aftertaste. Comments: not an easy one, although the nose was quite brilliant. SGP:361 - around 82 points.

Tomorrow, back to whisky (hopefully).

MUSIC - Recommended listening: from one of the greatest jazz albums ever, Charlie Haden's The Ballad of the Fallen (1982, with Carla Bley, Don Cherry and many other jazz greats), this is The introduction to the people/ the people united will never be defeated. Please buy Charlie Haden and Carla Bley's musics.


March 27, 2012


Today is the 5th
International Whisky Day


Like we do every year since 2008 at WF and elsewhere, let’s simply raise our glasses to pay tribute to the great Michael-Jackson-in-the-Sky since it's his birthday today. Please, please, let’s also keep this wee yearly celebration free of mercantilism and of any lousy stunts by self-promoters. I'm sorry but I don’t think Michael did deserve any kind of parasitical (okay, discourteous) ventures, especially not by the loud ones who are everywhere all the time anyway. Santé, angel Michael!...

Michael Jackson


One single dram for Michael Jackson

No extravaganza today, no silly verticale, no new wonders, rather one single dram that the Great Man himself enjoyed a lot. It's from one of his favourite distilleries, if not his favourite. “The Rolls Royce of Single malts”, he used to say, and he had adored this particular bottling when he tried it at our good friend Ulf’s huge Macallan verticale in 2002, as Ulf himself tells us on the tribute page that we built on WF when Michael died in 2007. So, Michael, these third-rate tasting notes are for you…

Macallan 1946

Macallan 15 yo 1946 (80°proof UK, OB, R Kemp, Campbell Hope & King, +/-1961) Five stars It’s said that the Macallans from the immediate post-war period were peatier because coal was too rare and expensive, so they were using much more peat than before – and later. And as you may know, Macallan were still malting on site at the time. Colour: full gold. Nose: childhood memories… Grandma’s jam cupboard, uncle Ernst’ cigar humidor, grandpa’s little fine herb garden, my other uncle’s old car… And ‘natural’ motor oil, fruitcake, whiffs of lamp oil, old books market, hints of yellow chartreuse, beeswax, linseed oil, old turpentine, earl grey tea… It’s all extremely complex, not really bold and rather drier than other old expressions but indeed, the complexity is completely amazing. There’s also some wonderful rancio like in a very old cognac of first quality – or the greatest old sherries for that matter.

Mouth: oh my! It’s still incredibly big, with indeed an unusual smokiness (many old Macallans were quite smoky but not that much) and then an extremely long development on tarry cough lozenges, roasted chestnuts, chocolate, blackberry jam, quinces, a little leather, toffee and then many herbal teas and liqueurs. I knew this was going to be stunning but you never know, an accident can happen ;-). Finish: extremely long, herbal, tarry and jammy, amazingly firm, with even a little salt in the aftertaste. No, quite some salt! A feeling of perfectly integrated amontillado also in the aftertaste, together with more orange liqueur and something slightly medicinal (camphor, eucalyptus). Comments: yeah, if only I had only one tenth of MJ's writing skills... SGP:664 – 94 points.
(heartfelt thanks, Emmanuel!)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: because MJ used to love jazz, and even if John Coltrane's last works were not the easiest, I hope you're game for some adventurous jazz today. This is Jupiter (that was on Trane's last album - I think, Interstellar Space, with only Rashied Ali on drums). Please buy John Coltrane's music.


March 26, 2012


An orgasmic Bowmore verticale. Yes, exaggerating again…

It’s certainly not the first Bowmore verticale, and maybe not the last one we’ll do on this lousy whisky website… We’ll try to have ten of them.


Bowmore 10 yo 2000/2011 (58.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask for LMDW, sherry butt, cask ref #7071, 516 bottles) Two stars and a half If La Maison have selected this young baby, something must have happened (in their glasses). Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a little difficult to get much more than straight peat and leather here, probably because of the high strength. A lot of liquorice and seaweed but that’s pretty all so far. With water: a heavier leather, liquorice wood and suitcases of dried meat. Beef jerky. Also black olives and walnuts (fino, flor). It’s not an easy one! Mouth (neat): wham! Heavy orange liqueur and mango, leather, caraway seeds (very loud) and anchovies. That’s all for now. With water: the leather is back, green pepper, juniper berries, more liquorice… Not an easy one indeed. It remains very tarry. Finish: long, leathery, maybe a tad frayed, so to speak. The spices are talking but the rest is a tad blurred. Comments: a strange bottling. LMDW’s wizards must have had an intellectual moment when they selected this. A Sartrian bottling? SGP:465 - 79 points.


Bowmore 14 yo 1997/2012 (51.8%, Whisky-Fässle, Duck Edition, bourbon hogshead) Five stars Who’s a duck? ;-) Colour: straw. Nose: the cleanest, the purest kind of young Bowmore. It’s all simple, but it’s all great. Sea air, lemon, oysters and just touches of grey pepper and lemon grass. With water: as usual, Bowmore’s farmy side comes out with water. Farmyard, hay… Mouth (neat): wonderful sweet peat. Smoky tangerines and passion fruits, with something that reminds me of the 1960s at Bowmore. We’ll see if we can try some 1960s Bowmore a little later… Also some brine, delicately so. With water: perfect. Grapefruit juice with a little salt. Manzanilla! Finish: long, clean, pure, wilder. Organic peat (yeah I know). Comments: wonderfully chiselled, without any of the estery/violety notes that could be found in earlier distillation. Warning, this baby’s extremely moreish. SGP:456 - 90 points.


Bowmore 14 yo 1997/2011 (56.6%, A.D. Rattray for Shinanoya, Japan, sherry, cask #900016, 276 bottles) Five stars Let’s see what the crazy Japanese have come up with… Colour: straw. Nose: the sherry is discreet and the whole is just as discreet but extremely elegant. Stunning and subtle whiffs of old eucalyptus liqueur, natural turpentine, graphite oil and linseed, although it slowly takes off, gradually becoming more ‘straight Bowmore’, that is to say briny, lemony and smoky. Also superb notes of pink grapefruits. With water: a tad more narrow and mineral this time. Rocks, hay, blood oranges, rabbit hutch. Mouth (neat): perfect, very perfect. Peated grapefruits and something funnily prickly and fizzy, lemon squash, Schweppes, citrons… Ultra-zesty, it’s almost hyper-cool climate Riesling. With water: pretty magnificent. Champagne. Finish: long, very clean, just as zesty. Probably even more on the lemony side. Comments: fab, just fab. Crystal-clean yet complex youngish Bowmore. SGP:555 - 91 points.


Bowmore 16 yo 1995/2011 (54%, Silver Seal) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: this baby seems to have some sherry. There’s a leathery side, some pipe tobacco, fir cone fire, overripe apples, walnuts… The coastal side is more subdued than usual but there are also beautiful notes of bitter oranges and Demerara sugar. A little game as well. All very nice so far… With water: more coastal notes. Whelks? ;-) Mouth (neat): blimey, it’s another great one. Perfect lemon and orange zests, some fizzy touches, limoncello (no wonder, the bottler is Italian ;-), a little bitter tobacco, leather, herbal liqueur… It’s all very interesting, this herbal and liqueurish kind of peatiness. With water: I’m afraid this is another perfect middle-aged Bowmore. Smoke, tar and bitter oranges. Finish: maybe not the longest but this blend of tobacco, peat and oranges is perfect. Comments: these years are hard to beat now that they come to age. Especially when the wood was top notch. SGP:565 - 91 points.


Bowmore 18 yo 1993/2011 (61.6%, The Whisky Exchange, Masterpieces, 195 bottles) Five stars As a Frenchman, I cannot not be pleased with the fact that some bottlers in the UK would use Cognac bottles for their whiskies, but as they say, never mind the bottle, let's just drink it! Colour: gold. Nose: this baby starts both smoky (rather coal, soot) and fruity, with all the mangos, oranges, passion fruits and guavas that you’d rather expect from a 1966. A little leather and lime-blossom tea in the background. With water: warning, water kind of kills the fruitiness and rather lets grassy and farmy notes take the lead. Only a little grapefruit remains there, and that just lasts. Mouth (neat): very intense, salty and smoky right from the start, with bags of lemons, wheelbarrows of grapefruits and truckloads of tangerines. Powerful of course but bizarrely, not unquaffable at 61.6%. With water: utterly citrusy and extremely drinkable. Pure fruit juice, did they also add vitamins? Finish: long, sexy, ultra-citrusy. Comments: a great, great white Sancerre – I mean, Bowmore. Well done, London. SGP:656 - 91 points.


Bowmore 15 yo 1991/2006 'The Blacksmith's Bottling' (57.7%, Queen of the Moorlands, Rare Cask, 199 bottles) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a tobacco-like smokiness this time. Havana cigars, overripe oranges (almost rotting but that’s good in this context), hay, thuja wood, new leather… Quite spectacular. With water: gets more mineral instead of farmy. Mouth (neat): creamy, rich, earthy, rooty, citrusy, very peaty and very beautiful. Great spicy notes on top of kumquats and grapefruits. A little Bénédictine as well (google is your friend), tar liqueur… A big dram, with great oomph, style and balance. With water: perfect! Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: very long, on oranges, ginger, peat, pepper, brine and many other things. Clean and pure aftertaste despite the huge complexity. Comments: perfection. After twenty years in glass, this will be legendary. SGP:556 - 92 points.


Distillery No 4, Release No 3 1989/2006 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail Secret Stills, sherry hogsheads #7042-7043-7045-7056, 1300 bottles) Four stars Yes that was Bowmore. G&M have stopped making that ‘undisclosed’ series, haven’t they? Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a smoother, rounder kind of Bowmore, with less tart fruits and rather more coastal notes. That would include oysters, seaweed, kelp and our good old friends, the fisherman’s nets. A bit of smoked ham and fish as well. Nice nose! Mouth: excellent body and a lot of brine and other salty things at first sips, with much less fruits than in the other ones but there is some orange indeed. Kippers, some dry sherry (fino), walnuts, cider apples, lemon… And more salt. Another manzanilla-malt? Finish: long, with more pepper and paprika playing the first parts. Contrarily to what usually happens, there’s rather less salt in the finish. Dry, smoky aftertaste. Smoked tea. Touches of lavender sweets and Parma violets that hint at the earlier 1980s. Comments: a drier, less sexy Bowmore. I’m not trying to say it’s difficult whisky! SGP:356 – 86 points.

Good, we could go on with other Bowmores from the 1980s but I just do not feel like it. It’s not my favourite decade (it’s funny, Bowmore is just like jazz or even rock music, I think they weren’t in great shape in the 1980s). But we could still have a few Bowies today… All right, let’s jump to the early 1970s then!


Bowmore 14 yo 1971 (57.7%, Sestante, white label, +/-1985) Two stars and a half I think this one’s quite rare… Colour: apricot/amber. Nose: it’s a fruity and flinty kind of sherry. Smells young, with a lot of fruit eau-de-vie, kirsch, then gunflints, grass, gooseberries, raspberry spirit, plums… Well, it seems that more than 25 years in glass did not smoothen it, although the peat smoke got very discreet. With water: more dried fruits, figs, kumquats, with quite some liquorice in the background. It got also a little more medicinal (camphor) but the pat’s still missing. In action? Mouth (neat): powwwa. Loud alcohol, litres of fruit spirit and just touches of tropical fruits. A sourness as well (sea water). With water: smoother of course but still a little violent. A tad dirty-ish as well, stale Guinness, tobacco… Finish: long but a tad too bitter and tarry. Comments: disappointing, especially when knowing all the other great 1974s by Sestante. Now, who cares? This is an old bottle and maybe three of them are surviving in the entire world. For the record. SGP:274 - 77 points.


Bowmore 18 yo 1971 (57.3%, Sestante, crest label, +/-1989) Five stars There’s been several versions of this baby. I absolutely adored the one that was bottled at 57.1% (WF 94). Colour: rich amber. Nose: sherry+Bowmore at full swing. Can one peat sultanas? A lot of old rancio, soot, leather, beeswax, old liqueurs, balsamic vinegar and plain oloroso sherry. Quite some soy sauce as well, wok sauce, other extreme-oriental sauces… ;-). It’s not very peaty so far. With water: wahahah… Could be the greatest very old rums or cognacs… It got intensely floral in fact, which came unexpected. Peonies and lilies. Mouth (neat): flabbergasting! Ultra-rich, intense, thick, heavy… Some kind of blend of all high-end liqueurs known to man. Ginger, oranges, strawberries, tar… Add to that some beef stock and pipe juice (I mean, heavy pipe tobacco), the strongest herbal liqueurs, more tar… Incredibly rich and, I must say, on the verge of becoming cloying. With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade again! Avalanchesque! Finish: long and greatly elegant this time, on fresh fruits. The peat is roaring in the background and just wouldn’t leave you alone. Comments: a devilish bottling that takes no prisoners. The power of a dozen howitzers. SGP:666 - 94 points.

Let’s make a foray into the 1960s now and we’re done for today!


Bowmore 32 yo 1969/2002 (41.20%, Duncan Taylor, Peerless, cask #6087, 234 bottles) Four stars and a half Aren’t we expecting a fruity extravaganza now?! Colour: full gold. Nose: well, it is very fruity but delicately so. Not as much of a fruit bomb as the 1966-1968s. Very nice whiffs of orange soup with olive oil and honey, fresh almonds, kippers (already!), then hints of retsina (let’s support Greece!) and other resinous things, fresh putty, anchovy paste, ideas of yellow chartreuse, a little soot, grapefruits… It’s all rather mellow, very complex, elegant and absolutely not wham-bam-check-my-maracuja. You see what I mean. Mouth: as light as a feather at first sips, akin to some complex blend of herbal teas and old wines. Very old dry muscat, maybe even gewürztraminer (once the rosy notes have vanished), then some tobacco, citrons, lemon grass and just the right amounnt of cinnamon and white pepper. Sadly, it becomes slightly drying and tea-ish after that and loses steam. Finish: relatively short and a tad cardboardy, although the aftertaste remains clean and half-fruity, half-spicy. Quite salty too. Comments: maybe it’s evaporation that took its toll. Some parts are brilliant, others a little tired. Still wonderful whisky, of course. SGP:654 - 88 points.

Conclusion: Bowmore is rising fast-fast-fast since a few years. The whacky vintages are completely over and anything distilled since twenty years is hyper-first-top-notch-grand-cru-my-dear in my opinion. And best of all, there’s plenty around!
(with thanks to Angus, Bert, Hiroyuki, Jens, Tim and, Tomislav)


BONUS: this just in…
Bowmore 1995 ‘Maltmen’s Selection’ (54.6%, OB, casks #1551-52-53-59-60 +/-2009) Five stars Another one that’s horribly expensive (£125 for a 13yo malt!) but maybe it’s horribly good as well… Let’s see… Colour: dark amber. Nose: extremely different. Very extractive, with many spices that even manage to tame the smokiness, but it’s true that it all works extremely well, the fight creating a kind of third dimension, very chocolaty and quite gamey. In short, it smells a bit like the best pipe tobaccos (I remember a heavy one from my pipe days that was called Balkan Sobranie). With water: more game and various herbs. Well-hung pheasant marinated in chartreuse with a little chocolate thrown in for good measure ;-). Mouth (neat): very big, very unusual, very good. The peat took the lead this time, together with many rich dried fruits, Seville oranges, crystallised angelica, prunes, bergamots, violet sweets (yes that’s great) and tar/salmiak. Greatly pervasive, I’d say. With water: fab. Smoky mint-flavoured liquorice. Finish: very long. Some briny and coastal notes now – it was about time! Some lemon and tangerines too. Comments: a very heavy, very liqueury sherried Bowmore. Fireworks on your palate! I love it despite – or maybe because – its monstrousness. Well done, maltmen – or whomever composed this extreme baby. SGP:565 - 92 points. PS: at time of writing, the official tasting notes still mention ‘smoked oak chips’. I wouldn’t have written that ;-).

MUSIC - Recommended listening: good sax, good Hammond, and it wasn't recorded in 1965... it's Robert Aaron and his Trouble Man (from 2010's CD Heavenly Sweetness). Great retro sound! Please buy Robert Aaron's music...


March 25, 2012


Tasting two funky Tullibardine (euphemism or pleonasm?)


Tullibardine 1989/2011 'Rum'n'Raisins' (46%, Wemyss, hogshead, 299 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: very spirity and very estery at first sniffs, with a good deal of rubber too. Young kirsch, grass, bitter herbs (and dill, genepy), leaves (peach leaves, even cherry stems) and damp earth, then something sourer, dairy cream. And then more roots, gentian, celeriac, turmeric, ‘bitter’ leather… A difficult nose in my opinion, but maybe the palate will be revelation… Mouth: unusual but cleaner than on the nose. Earthy and spicy attack, there’s quite some turmeric again, nutmeg, white pepper, then cider apples and touches of peaches. Maybe it’s the earthiness that suggested rum – white rum, that is. Jelly beans. Finish: rather long, with more garden fruits. White pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s pretty close to the raw materials. Not an easy one in my opinion but Tullibardine’s never very easy in my own experience. SGP:462 - 78 points.


Tullibardine 44 yo 1965/2011 (48.8%, Mo Or Collection, oloroso sherry butt, 197 bottles) Four stars and a half I remember an official 1965 that was quite difficult… Colour: amber. Nose: unusual, very unusual. No feinty notes this time, rather jars of orange marmalade and raisins, with that earthiness that we already had in the 1989 roaring in the background. Gentian. Develops on all things finely woody, that is to say cigar box, sandalwood, freshly sawn oak, with whiffs of roses and lilies of the valley in the background. Maybe even litchis and lastly, quite some bubblegum and Turkish delights. Bubblegum in a 44yo malt??? Yes and that works ;-). Mouth: interesting and, if I may say so, funny, because the bubblegum didn’t leave, nor did the Turkish delights or the raisins. Yet, it does not taste young – may we call this style a yold whisky? ;-) Goes on with orange liqueur, touches of Jaegermeister (from the old wood, probably), more bubblegum, cranberry juice, nutmeg and then bags of bitter chocolate and cinnamon. Finish: long, with the bitter herbs and cinnamon more in the front but… the bubblegum remains in the aftertaste (together with the Jaegermeister). Comments: funny and funky, very demonstrative. The oak became a tad drying (Jaeger) but it’s spectacular old malt. Certainly not flawless but one of the best Tullies I’ve tasted in my opinion. SGP:771 - 88 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Spring is here, time to listen to Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia playing their Spring Song (some kind of prog choro, really). Please buy Barbara Thompson's music!

Barbara Thompson

March 23, 2012


Two indie Cragganmore

I think Cragganmore is a classy spirit that behaves very well under ‘unsherried climates’. One day I’ll do an unsherried  Aberlour vs. Cragganmore tasting, but not today…


Cragganmore 25 yo 1986/2012 (54.6%, Duncan Taylor, Dimensions, cask #1488, 237 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it’s one of those smooth, fruity, easy, honeyed Cragganmores (well, Speysiders). Stewed apples and pears, a few mint leaves, maybe touches of overripe bananas and coconut, herbal teas (chamomile, very vivid), vanilla and then more fresh oak including a little eucalyptus. All is well. With water: more of the same. No changes, it’s only a little rounder. Cool. Mouth (neat): excellent! Delicious ripe garden fruits plus a few herbs, spices and oranges. Ginger and cinnamon (not of the drying kind). Oily mouth feel. Some active oak must have been involved here. With water: wonderful ‘western’ fruits. Perfect. Finish: medium long, clean, fresh, fruity. Comments: that famous walk in an orchard in early September under northern ‘septentrional’ climates. Not very complicated and extremely good. SGP:641 - 89 points.


Cragganmore 1989/2010 (53.5%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #2880) Four stars and a half BBR had an excellent 1997 three years ago! Colour: pale gold. Nose: interestingly, this is much more austere, mineral, even flinty, grassy, leafy… Not only it’s younger than the 1986 but the oak was much less active too. Which does not mean that it’s less interesting. In short, a flinty, very natural Speysider. With water: profound viscimetry ;-). More earthy tones, as often. Hay and Williams pears. Mouth (neat): we’re much closer to the 1989 on the palate. Classy spirit, with a complex, wide fruitiness and notes of honeydew that go very well. Perfect fresh oak, grass, touches of white rum and tequila and an unexpected saltiness? The nose left me a little cold but this palate is great. With water: really perfect. Finish: medium long, fruity, fresh… Cragganmore. Comments: excellent again. State of the art relatively ‘naked’ middle-aged Speysider. SGP:541 - 88 points.

Pete and Jack real pioneers?
After having suggested using cling film around barrels quite some years ago to prevent heavy losses of alcohol (while some distillers have experimented with that indeed!), another evidence may show that the whisky industry's following the two buggers' crazy ideas quite closely.

Indeed, yesterday at the World Whisky Conference, Ralph Erenzo from Tuthilltown Distillery in NY announced that they are now playing very loud deeply resonating Rap music in their warehouses; a way of agitating or rousing the spirit to accelerate maturation - while Pete & Jack had kind of suggested that method seven years ago already. Now, Haendel is no rap, agreed ;-)...

PETE McPEAT AND JACK WASHBACK - September 16, 2005
PS: it is to be wondered if we won't soon see 'Stairway-to-heaven aged whiskey', or 'Hendrix Scotch', or... err, Pogues-matured Irish ;-) For the very young oddities out there, they could use Justin Bieber I guess, and maybe the Iglesiases for anything sherry-matured.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: most probably one of the best 'Cuban jazz fusion' albums ever, and one of the most famous: Dizzy and Machito's Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods (1975). This is the last track, called Exuberante. Indeed (although it's from my old CD, before it was all remastered). Please buy Dizzy Gillespie and Machito's music...


March 22, 2012


Tasting Longmorn with 2s


Longmorn 18 yo 1992/2010 (46%, Coopers Choice, refill butt, cask #8460) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this baby really reminds me of the official 16, with this very classic fruity/mineral character that’s to be found in middle-aged Longmorns (before they often become true fruit bombs). Lots of granny smith apples, white peaches, limestone, sweet bread (or even orange blossom-flavoured brioche) and touches of sweet yeast. Gueuze! Nice nose, very natural, a bit self-restrained. Mouth: easy, sweet, fruitier, fresh, jammy, clean… Apple compote and ripe melons with a dash of pepper and just touches of chlorophyll in the background. Very creamy mouth feel, thick as a liqueur. Finish: long, on exactly the same flavours. A little more pepper in the aftertaste, as usual, and that feeling of Belgian Gueuze beer again. Comments: excellent and absolutely flawless. And the barley’s still talking! Very well selected, Coopers’ Choice. SGP:651 - 87 points.


Longmorn 18 yo 1992/2011 (59.6%, Signatory, hogshead, cask #53810, 271 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: most interestingly – and logically – this baby’s very close to the 1992 but it’s lost the yeasty side and has gained more sweet roundness, vanilla and overripe fruits. It’s all aromatic and very clean, without being a fruit bomb – yet? With water: a brilliant kind of mustiness, some soot, mushrooms, moss, raw wool… Very interesting and totally unexpected. Mouth (neat): ultra-rich and thick, just as fruity as before but with a big earthiness and obvious notes of peat smoke. Did this baby come from an ex-Islay cask? Excellent notes of Lapsang Souchong tea, salmiak, something kippery as well (in Longmorn, imagine!) and even something like samphires. A spectacular beast. With water: more of the same, coated with some wonderful pear jam. Finish: very long, with a stunning balance between everything fruity and anything phenolic. Comments: what was that? I’ve never tried such a Longmorn – if memory serves – but it’s true that former owners Seagram used to experiment a lot. Can this be a peated Longmorn? What’s sure is that it’s very brilliant whisky and let’s remember that Signatory already had some very unusual ex-Seagram whiskies (Glenisla and such). Well done again! SGP:564 - 90 points.

This calls for more and as it seems that vintages ending with a 2 were great ones at Longmorn, let’s jump thirty years and have a little 1962 if you don’t mind…


Longmorn 27 yo 1962 (40%, Spirit of Scotland, +/-1989) Five stars Colour: rich amber. Nose: ah yes, it’s one of these stupendous old Longmorns by G&M. I could stop here and keep all this between this whisky and me, but this is some kind of blog, isn’t it? So this is a wonderful combination of all spices, all dried fruits, all palo cortados and all delicately smoky things known to man. That would include bacon, cigars, prunes, mushrooms, high-end perfumes and only God knows what else. Fantabulous at just 40%, but no great whisky needs high alcohol anyway, don’t you think? Mouth: same. I know that’s being lazy, I don’t care. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: incredibly long. The best balsamic vinegars, sakes and, say prunes liqueurs. Whatever. Comments: an ode to old whiskies, in the style of the very best old Sauternes – and I really mean the best (while 95% of the people drink them way too young – sob). BTW, please note that G&M used to propose relatively large vattings under various labels, usually for various countries/importers. So, I’d say that any +/-30yo 1962 Longmorn at 40% vol. by G&M is more than worth it!  SGP:552 - 93 points.

Good, it is quasi-impossible to climb over such a marvellous whisky but why not have a last one for the road, as they (used to) say. Another G&M and another relatively old one at lowish strength…


Longmorn 25 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, +/-1995) Five stars A classic bottling, probably not as big as the 1962 but you never know… Colour: full gold. Nose: less sherry, less extravagance and more downright Longmornness, I’d say. Wonderful fruity profile, with juicy pears smelled after they had just fallen onto the ground (from the tree, of course) and these touches of both milk and white chocolate that are sometimes to be found in well-aged Longmorns. Also whiffs of mint leaves (rubbed between your fingers). Mouth: another ode to 40% whiskies, it’s almost a miracle in fact. Stunning herbal notes, with some crisp, loud notes of lemongrass and coriander, which makes the whole taste a bit like some Thai dish. Not kidding. Finish: long, creamy, rich, nervous, always with a lot of lemon grass. Extraordinary freshness. Chocolate in the aftertaste – it’s almost lemon zests dipped in chocolate. Comments: let’s be honest, not all batches of the relatively mundane Longmorn 25 were stunning whiskies but this one was. I’m sorry, I haven’t got the batch codes. SGP:652 - 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: for you old funkateers out there ;-) and straight from Sweden, here's Janne Schaffer's very groovy Dr. Abraham, recorded in 1974. Please buy Janne Schaffer's music (despite the fact that he was also doing guitars for ABBA ;-))


March 21, 2012


Rare Old Glories, two Banff. They’re getting cult!

Ah, Banff and its famous notes of mustard… Not much new Banff these days… I think Diageo ought to release one one of these years, that would have quite some panache!


Banff 23 yo 1980/2004 (43%, Signatory, cask #2916, 306 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s so unlikely… New Renault (forget about that, any brand new car with a lot of plastic inside), plastic pouches, aspirin, leatherette and then indeed, mustard. Plain, shiny, spicy and very odorous mustard. Then  more chalk and clay, grass… Yeah, a polarising nose. Some whisky freaks will love it because it’s so different, but frankly, it’s quite… arh, err, unlikely. No I didn’t write ‘flawed’. Mouth: what a pull-up, so to speak! It’s perfect Banff now, all on sweet mustard and Greek retsina wine (and not the crap for tourists!) Pepper, tonic water, sweet ginger liqueur (it seems that Domaine de Canton is the trendy name these days – I like it but warning, it’ll leave your palate completely wrecked for at least two hours)… It’s still a little unlikely but it’s quite spectacular, especially at 43% vol.  Finish: medium long, falling apart a bit now, becoming quite cardboardy. Comments: to malt whisky what Ornette is to jazz. To be totally honest, I love Ornette but I would not quaff litres of this. Even if it’s Banff. SGP:262 - 78 points.


Banff 34 yo 1966/2000 (45.8%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry, 408 bottles) Three stars Colour: deep red mahogany. Scary… Nose: well, Banff has a lot to say but here it’s almost silent, or rather inaudible, because the sherry’s very loud. Having said that, it’s not a thickish, heavy-ish, lumpish kind of sherry, it’s rather a grapey, leathery and very old-balsamico-like one, which makes you think of many wines and other drinks, save whisky. Marsala, sherry indeed, Banyuls… Becomes more and more fino-ish, and after fifteen minutes, we almost have manzanilla. Banff, you say? Mouth: superb attack but it tends to become very dichotomic – I didn’t say harmolodic, fans of Ornette will understand. It makes me think of these raspberry-flavoured mustards, all that does not mingle too well and the whole becomes more and more dissonant. So yes, red fruits and mustard, you get the picture. Finish: medium long, a tad more coherent. Mulled wine? Comments: what a strange beast. It’s like if some apprentice sorcerer was allowed into the warehouse. Very, very funny whisky for sure, but… Well, at least it’s not boring – at all! But I insist, Diageo, we need a bottling-statement! SGP:532 - 81 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a little game today, guess who's singing in this sweet-sweet litle tune called Any way the wind blows that was recorded in 1963? Yup, the name starts with a Z. No, he's not Zucchero. Please buy his music...


March 20, 2012


A verticale of old Bunnahabhain
from 1986 to 1965

There are more and more old Bunnahabhains floating around, almost as many as young Laphroaigs in fact. Let’s try a few today, we’ll see how far we’ll go… Maybe to ten? And as usual, we’ll do that vertically and perhaps with a few oldies thrown in.


Bunnahabhain 24 yo 1986/2011 (50.9%, Exclusive Malts for Whisky.com.tw Taiwan, refill sherry butt, cask #1283, 561 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: starts on a rather wonderful combination of toasted bread, cigar humidor, patchouli and ‘good’ rubber boots. Goes on with more roots (celeriac?), walnuts, hay, even horse dung (yes it’s an asset!) and then several very nice spices. Soft paprika, turmeric… With such a nose, the palate could be completely off the track, or very interesting. Let’s see…  Mouth: no, it’s excellent. Bitter oranges, pepper, ginger, cinchona, chocolate, tobacco, liquorice… And a very creamy, almost liqueurish mouth feel. Finish: long, on orange liqueur-filled chocolate and candied ginger. Mentholated aftertaste. Jaegermeister and litres of it. Like that. Comments: great sherry treatment, sometimes playing around the limits but no pain, no gain ;-). Seriously, I like this a lot. SGP:652 - 88 points.


Bunnahabhain 31 yo 1980/2011 (46.3%, Whisky-Doris, bourbon hogshead, cask #13, 177 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: full gold. Nose: starts with a camphory fruitiness, something slightly medicinal (antiseptic) and whiffs of seaweed and oysters as well as a little raw wool. In other words, very ‘Islay’. Goes on with hessian, coal smoke and oranges, then eucalyptus. Great nose, very expressive yet complex and not very ‘Bunnahabhain’. No problems! Mouth: starts peppery and grassier than on the nose but gets much fruitier after a few seconds. Orange drops and cardamom, with a wee saltiness and a little green tea and tobacco. Also other tropical fruits, maybe a little mango chutney… Finish: long, a notch bitterer, capsicum, cloves and oranges. Smoky aftertaste. This from an ex-peated cask? Comments: excellent in my opinion, only some roughish edges will prevent it to make it to the 90 mark. Interesting peatiness. SGP: 553 - 89 points.


Bunnahabhain 1979/2001 (43.3%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask #13460, 207 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: very grassy and very porridgy, this one! It reminds me of several older indie Bunnahabhain that haven’t been too thrilling in my opinion, and that’s an understatement. I get quite some beer as well, fermenting grass, baker’s yeast… Well well well… Mouth: ha-ho, this is completely different! Nothing to do with the nose, this palate is all on juicy fruits, liqueurs and jams, with some liquorice and bubblegum for good measure. Nice touches of pineapple liqueur and honeydew. Finish: medium long, a tad more gingery. Cardamom and cranberries in the aftertaste – that works! Comments: it’s hard to score this one. The palate is worth around 90 in my book but the nose lies more around 78. So, say 85. SGP:641 - 85 points.


Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1976/2011 (48.8%, Villa Konthor, bourbon) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: unusually raw and spirity, very austere, on cut apples and peelings, lemon juice, a little porridge and then quite some grass. Not the easiest and smoothest Bunny! After a few minutes: becomes flinty and sauvignonesque. Mouth: amazingly young and very estery, the cask was probably almost silent. Gooseberries, tangerines, apples, barley water and touches of marzipan and white pepper. Gets grassier then, chlorophyll, green tea, liquorice… Finish: long, on those bitter notes (grass) and fresh walnuts. Pineapple drops in the aftertaste. Comments: spectacularly young Bunnahabhain. A nice bottling to play trick on your buddies, like “guess how old this is?” SGP:561 - 83 points.


Bunnahabhain 1976/2012 (56.3%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, cask # MoS 12005, 54 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: fresh and fruity, very much on overripe mangos and passion fruits, with a good dose of coconut oil and banana skins. In the background, some complex touches of cumin, juniper berries and maybe even turnips (right, Baldrick!) and beetroots. Becomes earthier and flintier after a while. Little changes with water – maybe more turnips ;-). Mouth: excellent, punchy, smoothly peppery and gingery, with both fresh and tinned fruits such as pineapples and apricots. Becomes grassier then, just like the Villa Konthor, and pleasantly herbal (roots, liquorice, gentian). With water: more orange marmalade and ginger, with more grass as well. Finish: medium long, with a little mint and chlorophyll. Gingery aftertaste. Comments: nice oomph in this one. SGP:551 - 86 points.


Bunnahabhain 31 yo 1976/2008 (51.9%, Murray McDavid Mission, oloroso sherry, 392 bottles) Three starsColour: amber. Nose: gunpowder and truck matches almost everywhere at first nosing, but no cooked eggs or asparagus water! Quite some leather too. As usual, all that calms down after just a few seconds (or your brain or olfactory bulb just filters it out), leaving room for some wonderful notes of old walnut liqueur, chocolate and Grand-Marnier style orange liqueur. Quite some sultanas and other raisins too…  Mouth: starts with that flinty, gunpowdery feeling again, somewhat chemical, sulphury and bitterish. Now, it’s not as bad as it sounds, far from that, thanks to the pretty wonderful notes of bitter oranges that are soon to take control. Also leather and cloves, maybe touches of Parma violets. Finish: long, on bitter oranges, with a feeling of fruit squash and juniper berries in the aftertaste. Comments: some parts are really great, some others a little less so in my opinion. The tricks and traps of sherry. SGP:561 - 80 points.


Bunnahabhain 36 yo 1973/2010 (50%, Liquid Sun, sherry hogshead) Four stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: once again there’s a slightly dirty and sour fruitiness, all fruits being overripe although it all works pretty well. Mangos, apples, coconut oil. Also hints of butter and then little mud (Islay mud of course) that’s not that different from the notes of beetroots and turnips that we had in the latest 1976. Mouth: nice compact attack, on gingery fruits. White pepper, kumquats, bitter oranges, lemon zests, green cardamom and then even more pepper and cinchona. Good feeling. Finish: long, with more mead this time. Ginger and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: I like this baby a good notch better than the 1976s. It’s big whisky. SGP:661 - 88 points.


Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968/2011 'Dram Together' (46.5%, The Whiskyman, 120 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: this baby seems to be cleaner, purer, straighter than the others, although it’s a bit shy at first nosing. The fruits are clean and fresh, not overripe at all, and they include cider apples, white peaches and greengages. Yes we’re pretty far from the tropics this time, even if there are a few bananas, then honey, leather, raisins, hazelnuts and pine sap. It’s very elegant, complex old Bunnahabhain. Something coastal after quite a few minutes (seaweed). Mouth: just a very clean, very straightforward and extremely fresh fruit salad. A miracle at such old age. Spice mix for mulled wine, then some manzanilla, with quite some salt. Finish: medium long, creamy, on liqueurs and a little mint. Salty and lemony aftertaste. Comments: this wonderful oldie remained as fresh as a newborn baby, yet it became very complex. Fascinating how the oak got integrated despite the spirit’s relative lightness. SGP:751 - 92 points.

Bunnahabhain 1966/2011 (41.4%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, cask #MoS 11020, 88 bottles) Four starsColour: full gold. Nose: a huge fruit salad, many fruits being very ripe, with quite some grated coconut spread all over. Well, in fact, it smells almost like some pina colada and I’m not joking. Oh, if you really need a list of all the fruits, I’d say pineapples, guavas, papayas, bananas and butter pears. And then even more coconut (Malibu), a little litchi and touches of maple syrup. Mouth: excellent attack, much in the same vein, all on fruits and touches of ginger, but it tends to drop after that and the middle isn’t big at all, equivalent to some sweet white wine’s. So kind of weak but still very pleasantly fruity. Having said that, if you just quaff it 3cl by 3cl, you’ll get more oomph ;-). Finish: short, with a little ginger and bananas. Comments: a superb nosing whisky. SGP:730 - 86 points.


Bunnahabhain 45 yo 1965/2011 (40.4%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 161 bottles) Five stars Not even 250€ for this oldie, imagine how much Dalmore or Glenfiddich (or Bunnahabhain for that matter) would ask for such an old glory… Colour: gold. Nose: honey! Ripe fruits! Nectar! Beeswax! Coconut! Tangerines! Cough syrup! Hessian! Spanish ham! Wet old tweet jacket! Now, it trends to fade away a bit, maybe it’s a little fragile. Let’s check the palate… Mouth: this is funny, it tastes like an old bottling, with some kind of OBE. Touches of metal, pleasant dust, something very faintly stale… But other than that, it’s got everything we were expecting, that is to say oranges, light honey, touches of mangos and passion fruits, hawthorn tea, honeycomb (the beekeeper’s chewing-gum). The dry and drying spices are kept at bay, with only touches of cinnamon and nutmeg. Finish: not long, of course, but clean, maybe a little tea-ish but without any bitterish greenness. Comments: quite miraculous. Sure it whispers a bit at times but quality’s high and it’s certainly not impotent old whisky (so to speak). SGP:441 - 90 points.

Ten, that’ll be enough for today. But more old Bunnahabhains are to come…

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some orgasmic, almost Zappa-esque post-bop by a pure genius, Mr Jackie Mclean. It's called Osyris Returns and it was on the fab LP 'Rhythm Of The Earth' (1992). Please buy Jackie Mclean's music!


March 19, 2012


Tasting three 1989 Clynelish plus a digestif


Clynelish 1989/2012 (The Perfect Dram) Five stars A brand new one, further data to come… If I find the time. What’s sure is that I just cannot wait to try these Clynelishes as soon as they reach my doorstep! Colour: straw. Nose: the oak’s roundness and vanillaness (?) are already quite loud but in a rather good way. Having said that, what’s striking in this expression is the way it develops on very coastal notes, brine, seaweed, oysters and lemon… As well as these whiffs of sauvignon, gooseberries, grapefruits… Another wine-malt, we cannot be against that, can we.

With water: smoked gooseberries. I guess you could do that with the right equipment… Or use liquid smoke? Mouth (neat): bang-bang, Clynelish at its best and at perfect age. All that is coated with some sweet vanilla and a little ginger liqueur, while some kind of grassy and mineral notes are roaring in the background. A feeling of peat as well, as if some practical joker had poured a good fifty litres of Caol Ila into this very hogshead to top it all up. Well, I’m happy to report that that worked ;-). With water: same. Wonderfully wonderful. Finish: quite long, earthy, seasidy (yup I’m the king of barbarisms) and, of course, waxy. Comments: what can I say? Fabelhaft. SGP:463 - 91 points. UPDATE: this baby was bottled at 49.7% vol. There are/were 227 bottles.


Clynelish 22 yo 1989/2012 (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hogshead, cask #MoS12012, 235 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re extremely close to the Perfect Dram, although this one is a tad less briny and rather waxier. In other words, a notch more ‘Clynelish’ and a tad less smoky. With water: more ginger and gentian, which is exactly what I like. Earth from the seaside. Mouth (neat): perfect again. Pepper, ginger and wax, then grapefruits, fresh coriander and lemon zests. Did I mention wax? With water: super great, only a few paraffiny tones (vs. downright waxy ones) may make it a tiny notch less stellar than the previous one. Nitpicking, you’re right, especially since that may come from just anything, like one more drop of water and such. Finish: long, salty, waxy, lemony and a little candied in the aftertaste (kumquats and ginger). Comments: very, very excellent – and that was to be expected. SGP:562 - 90 points.


Clynelish 1989/2002 (59.1%, James MacArthur, cask #1121 ) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: a different kind of beast, surely. Much more austere, mineral, closer to the barley and also much grassier. Just as many notes of grapefruits but much less vanilla. Well, just when you found a very dry one you find an even drier one! With water: becomes acetic and a little beery. That’s no good development I’m afraid… Leaven and baker’s yeast - and tons of it. Mouth (neat): big, powerful and earthier than its siblings. Less polished, more peppery, wilder and, to tell you the truth, more extreme than many Clynelishes I’ve known. Yes, personally. Is that only the youth? Becomes very, very spicy after a while (wasabi and not just a pinhead!) With water: recovers and becomes wonderfully lemony, although something too yeasty remains in the background. Finish: long, on ginger infused in lemon juice. You get the drift. Comments: much to my liking but it may lack a few extra-years, esp. after the more than  brilliant Germans. SGP:462 - 86 points.

Excuse me? I hear you, we could have a little digestif now. Would a 1972 do?


Clynelish 31 yo 1972/2004 (57.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.33, 'friar's baslam and cigar boxes') Five stars Friar’s balsam? I didn’t know what that was so I checked the Web and found out that it’s a blend of Siam benzoin resin, balsam, balsam of Tolu, balsam of Peru, Cape aloe leaf latex, myrrh tears and angelica root. Good, either that friar or someone at the honourable Society must have smoked the carpet but we shan’t cast the first stone, shall we! Colour: gold. Nose: interestingly, we’re somewhere between the early 1970s’ fresh fruitiness and the early 1980s’ extreme waxiness here. That means something such as waxed bananas, papayas dipped in motor oil and smoked tangerines. Plus gravel and clay, then lager beer and seawater. With water: cigar boxes, exactly! Pre-Castro Henry Clays (that’s very smart, Serge.) And yes, indeed, something balsamic. Did you write that, Charlie? Mouth (neat): impeccable, very powerful and with exactly the same feeling of a crossbreed between, say 1972 and 1983 Clynelish. Nope, that’s not 1977 and six months ;-). In fact, it’s got something of some Broras but certainly not of ’72 Brora. With water: same. Between kumquats and pine sap. Finish: long, resinous, slightly meaty. Cough syrup. Comments: well, it’s not all neat and tidy but that’s precisely what makes it all quite stunning. No whisky, a whole story. Seriously, it was a fabulous bottling but you have to like this style. SGP:473 - 93 points.
(With thanks to Tomislav)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: warning, pure genius ahead. We're in 1972 and Hungary's late Gabor Szabo was playing some kind of wonderful psychedelic jazz. Listen to Thirteen - from Mizrab (1972) and then buy everything by Gabor Szabo. I told you, genius.


March 17, 2012


Tasting a few Irish for La Fheile Padraig

AKA St. Patrick’s Day (according to Wikipedia). That’s today. We’ll choose a few at random (almost) if you don’t mind, to keep this as varied as possible…


The Wild Geese 'Limited Edition Fourth Centennial' (43%, Irish blend, 2011) Two stars and a half A blend of malt and grain sourced from Cooley’s. Colour: straw. Nose: light and fresh, pretty elegant at first nosing, with that Irishness that combines overripe apples and pears with something pleasantly metallic (aluminium pan). Gooseberries, orange squash. Mouth: good attack, sweet but firm, with more apples (stewed and baked), probably more malty notes as well and then some sponge cake and orange juice. Soft spiciness, maybe a little clove, nutmeg… Good body at 43% vol. Finish: shortish but clean, maltier, with some Ovaltine and orange cake. Vanilla in the aftertaste. Comments: these babies are a tad short for a malt drinker but it’s all a pleasant dram. An undemanding aperitif, I’d say. SGP:530 - 78 points.


The Wild Geese 'Single Malt' (43%, Irish, 2011) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: more malt, obviously, with some porridge and bread, yeast, beer, then granny smith apples and whiffs of that brownish soda that the whole world knows only too well. Not that it’s unpleasant in this context, mind you. It’s all light and pretty clean and barley-ish. Becomes a little musty after a few minutes. Mouth: easy, sweet and very close to the barley. Barley sugar, orange cake and a little pepper, then more ripe greengages and other plums, a feeling of Guinness. Orange blossom water. Finish: short, with a little more (white) pepper. Comments: perfectly all right. I liked the blend a notch better. SGP:451 - 77 points.


Tullamore Dew 'Black' (43%, OB, Irish blend, 2011) Three stars and a half William Grant have launched this version last year. It’s said to contain more ex-oloroso pot still whisky than the regular Tullamore. Let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s more some fresh oak that comes out, vanillin, touches of ginger, a little paraffin and then oranges. It’s quite fragrant and pleasant, I have to say, but I do not detect any oloroso character. Must be me. Mouth: ah, this is good! Rather thick and creamy, with good body, with some maple syrup, orange liqueur, fudge and just a few spices including touches of chilli. Spicy oakiness. Some pure pot still character shining through, which is great (of course!) Finish: medium long, on sweet spices and stewed apples. Some ginger and even cardamom in the aftertaste. Comments: a great surprise, I think this is much, much (and much) better than the regular NAS Tullamore – although I struggled to find any obvious oloroso influence. SGP:541 - 84 points.


A Drop of the Irish (46%, Blackadder, Irish malt, cask #343, 2011, 314 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: starts very sooty and very much on shoe polish. Reminds me of the army ;-). Notes of old coal stove, plain coal, then a little paraffin, tyres, a handful of old coins, ginger tonic and then more Williams pears coming through. A fine and unusual nose. Mouth: much more unlikely now. There’s some peat and kippers but also a greasy/sooty feeling that creates some kind of unsteadiness. Ginger ale? Quite bizarre, this baby… Finish: quite long, with more, much more ginger and a peaty aftertaste. Comments: an unlikely and interesting whiskey. I liked the nose a lot but the palate was maybe a tad too whacky for my tastes. SGP:346 - 80 points (for the nose!)


Tyrconnell 10 yo 'Anima Negra Mallorcan Wine Cask Finish' (46%, OB, +/- 2010) Two stars and a half Yes, very unlikely, but it’s true that Anima Negra (aka AN) has got quite a reputation. It’s a red blend of indigenous grapes such as fogoneu and manto negre. Will that have killed the Irishness? Let’s see… Colour: apricot. Nose: not at all, it’s still Irish whisky, but indeed the light colour already suggested the wine’s influence would be kind of minimal. Yes, kind of because there are some heady notes of melons and litchis floating around, as well as quite some oranges and then a discreet mustiness (old cellar). Certainly not un-nice. Mouth: the oak’s taking now, seemingly European, with a louder gingerness than with American oak, probably more lactones, and then some kind of bitterish notes of cherry steams and peach leaves. Not this baby’s best moments. Finish: long but the oak’s ginger came even more to the front. Big capsicum. Comments: yes and no. Sometimes it’s fun, but this green oakiness does not go too well with the Irishness in my opinion. SGP:471 - 78 points.


Cooley 1999/2012 (Liquid Sun) Four stars and a halfYes I know, not much data but this is a brand new bottling and I couldn’t find any information yet, while I wanted to taste it for St. Pat’s. Colour: pale gold. Nose: blimey, this smells like Clynelish! Okay, not quite, but there’s this waxiness mingling with grapefruits, hay, citrons and a little polish, then a growing famyardiness (?) and some wild notes of raw wool and even cattle dung (in the greatest of ways). Watermelon. Brilliant nose methinks.

Mouth: hell, indeed! There’s still something a tad too bubblegummy for my taste but the rest is very superb, creamy, herbal and fruity (and waxy). Grapefruit marmalade, capers, ginger, cardamom, pepper, liquorice, smoke, green cigars (Indonesian)… Yippee! Finish: long, spicy, waxy and candied. Oh, and herbal. Comments: not that it’s a surprise, but this wild baby is much to my liking. The Irish via the true indie side – kind of uncompromising. SGP:555 (almost devilish) - 89 points.

Good, maybe we could have a last one for St. Patrick, why not another version of Blackadder’s funny Drop of the Irish? At cask strength this time.


A Drop of the Irish 14 yo 1996/2011 (58.2%, Blackadder, cask #543, 261 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: very much the same style as the Liquid Sun’s. A notch less mineral. With water: a walk through the meadows. Earth, ‘good’ dung, hay…  Mouth: same. Maybe a tad greener and more peppery. With water: more citrus and vanilla. Finish: very long. Comments: well, this is simply as superb as the 1999 by Liquid Sun and would defeat many young Islayers. Great work, (Cooley and) Blackadder! SGP:455 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a good slice of good old rock and roll with cult (i.e. forgotten, it's like whisky) band Atomic Rooster band (yes, baby) playing Devil's Answer live sometime in the early 1970s. Please buy Atomic Roosters' music.

Atomic Rooster

March 16, 2012


Tasting contrasting Glenturret. An understatement.


The very excellent people at Malts of Scotland have issued two new Glenturrets ‘from those years’, that is to say 1977 and 1980. In my experience, the make could be very whacky (albeit very entertaining!) and it’s only pretty recently that it became more, say pleasantly normal – no I didn’t write standard. So let’s have the two MoS today, and then maybe we’ll go on for a little while – vertically, as usual.

Glenturret 1980/2012 (42.5%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12008) Four stars Sorry, no picture yet. And only 42.8%? That’s even more intriguing… Colour: pale gold. Nose: yep, that’s Glenturret. This strange combination of fern and mud is quite striking, wet clothes, saltpetre, chalk… Becomes even flintier then, with whiffs of cigarette lighter. There’s also notes of oranges that are slowly starting to rot, moist plaster, a little plastic and soap… I know, all that sounds a little weird but I find it much better balanced than older offerings that I could taste in the past. After ten minutes, some whiffs of menthol and camphor come through, and then more ‘clean’ oranges. In short, no textbook malt whisky but I find it very pleasantly ‘different’. Mouth: cleaner, fresher and fruitier, without all those oddly mineral touches this time. Oranges, mangos and a little angelica, also honey and vanilla, before it starts to taste almost like some very strong mead. A bit of green oak in the background. Finish: fairly long, with a wee saltiness. Orange marmalade on brioche. Comments: a very good surprise, and that’s an understatement. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Glenturret 1977/2012 (47.4%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12007) Three stars and a halfColour: gold. Nose: this one is more aromatic, much fruiter than the 1980, with even touches of passion fruits and fresh oranges at first nosing. On the other hand, it’s soon to become dirtier, kind of acetic, with some beer, wine… What’s striking is that it wouldn’t stop changing, becoming floral after a few minutes (honeysuckle, lilies), then slightly feinty and milky, then rounder again and more on vanilla… Then we have a little burnt plastic… Once again, it’s a very anti-academic nose. Mouth: very, very strange. Very complex but totally unorthodox, with some herbal tea (rosehip?), burnt BBQ herbs (tarragon?), then that sourness again (lemon, sour cream), icing sugar, strong green tea, blackcurrant sweets, white tequila… And always something flinty in the background. Finish: long, on a combination of those sour herbs with fructose or icing sugar. Comments: this one went even more off the beaten tracks than the 1980 but it’s very, very far from being as disastrous as older bottlings of Glenturret in my opinion. In fact, it tastes like white wine at times ;-). SGP:462 - 84 points.

Good, time to go ‘backwards’. Let’s see what we have in WF’s yet-to-try sample library…


Glenturret 1976/1994 (56.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, for Japan, #16.11) Colour: straw. Nose: extremely austere, mineral and pretty soapy at first nosing. Motor oil and grapefruits all over the place. Sounds great – it’s not. With water:  baby vomit, damp cardboard and feints. Pass. Mouth (neat): quite awful. Most flavours that we had in MoS’ 1980 are there, it’s just that the whole is totally unbalanced this time. The plastic notes are loud and the soapiness is omnipresent. Only the citrusy touches are pleasant. With water: chemical! Finish: long, soapy, chemical and cardboardy. Comments: this pretty awful little baby makes both MoS even greater – by contrast. I don’t think our Japanese friends were deserving this rather horrendous swill back in 1994 ;-). SGP:262 - 35 points.


Glenturret 1975/1995 (51.6%, Signatory for the Quaich Society, cask #744, 166 bottles) This one was bottled for the University of Saint Andrews' tasting club. Let's see if it was academic enough… Colour: straw. Nose: same kind of brew as the 1976. Last week’s porridge, new sneakers (any brand, really) and saltpetre. Chemicals. Let’s not waste water. Mouth: soap, scouring powder and artificial lemon juice. Utterly ugly. To think that St. Andrews’ students had to drink this… Finish: sadly, it’s long. Very chemical. Comments: utter disaster, it’s got all flaws that could be found in malt whisky. My good friend Konstantin, who sent me this sample quite a while back, had written ‘Be careful!’ on the label. Well, Konstantin knows his whisky… SGP:271 - 5 points (see, we do need and use the whole 100-scale).

Yeah, we should stop now but nothing is impossible to a willing heart, so let’s have a last one and give a second chance to the honourable SMWS….


Glenturret 1969/1991 (53.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #16.6, 75cl) This baby from the good old times when the Society was still using screw caps. Colour: straw. Nose: well, this is nicer than both the 1976 and 1975, although the profile is in the same (whacky) vein. It’s kind of chemical but not overwhelmingly so, it’s dusty but not too much, and the notes of baby vomit are minimal. A lot of grapefruit, clay, ink (newspaper of the day)… A reasonable nose for an oldish Glenturret, I’d say. Mouth: well, it’s not very far from the 1975 as far as soap is concerned. In fact, it’s immensely soapy (I’ve almost got bubbles popping out of my mouth ;-)) but there are also fairly pleasant touches of oranges and grapefruits. Seriously, it’s almost unbearable but some aspects are okayish. Finish: long, more on lemon-scented soap. Comments: well, I like it a little better than the 1975 and 1976, but that’s no feat. SGP:371 - 45 points.

Conclusion: great, great selection by Malts of Scotland! ;-). Also, I’ve already noticed that Glenturret’s latest offerings were simply on another, much nicer planet. What a recovery!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: in the 1970s there was that stunning band called Gilgamesh. Only luminaries from the good old times when musicians were musicians (sorry if I sound like an old fart)... This is called Underwater Song and it was on Another Fine Tune You've Got Me Into (1978). Very 'late Canterbury'! Please buy Gilgamesh's music.


March 15, 2012


Tasting newish and oldish official Glenmorangie


Glenmorangie 18yo 'Extremely Rare' (43%, OB, +/- 2011) Three stars and a half Of course these bottles aren’t extremely rare but bah, we’re getting used to extreme hyperboles, aren’t we? Maybe that’s why they’re all getting more and more extreme, after all. Young will soon be old, but enough babbling, let’s try this baby. Colour: pale gold. Nose: easy, quite fragrant, honeyed and floral. It’s all on nectar in fact (dandelions of the day), with more oranges after that, orange blossom, maybe very ripe kiwis… As I said, light and easy. Mouth: indeed, very easy, light but not weak, on apple compote and light vanilla, Williams pears, papayas, honey and then a bigger maltiness as well as a little caramel and butterscotch. Very, very easy to drink. Touches of fresh oak in the background. Finish: medium long, on stewed apples and pears and a little cinnamon from the oak in the aftertaste. Maybe a wee saltiness. Comments: very Glenmorangie, I’d say. Very easy! SGP:551 – 83 points.


Glenmorangie 21 yo '150th Anniversary' (43% OB, white ceramic, +/-1993) Four stars and a half A rather famous bottling commemorating the distillery’s sesquicentennial anniversary. Glenmorangie was founded in 1843. Colour: full gold. Nose: the strength is lower, but this has more oomph than the 18, although the styles are very similar. It’s also more complex, summery, fruity, lightly honeyed, with many stewed and fresh fruits plus whiffs of crushed dill and coriander. Then oriental pastries, maybe touches of caraway seeds, more coriander, mead, hints of cigarette tobacco, a little mustiness (in a great way)… All in all, the freshness is quite impressive here. Mouth: once again, this is much, much bigger than the newer 18. Creamier and spicier in any case, although the general profile is all on juicy ripe fruits again. Apricot liqueur, touches of mint lozenges, bananas flambéed, liquorice, honeydew… And a much bigger saltiness than in the 18. Pretty impressive! Finish: long, with more bitterness, burnt herbs, liquorice… Really big for a Glenmorangie at 43% Comments: really a big Glenmorangie (yup I insist), even unusually roughish at times. Loses one or two points at the bitterish finish but otherwise, it’s brilliant whisky. SGP:562 - 89 points.
(With thanks to Jeroen)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: today, let's have something moody and mind-blowing for a change, with John Surman and his bass clarinet duetting with Jack DeJohnette. It's called Nestor's Saga and it's on the famous Amazing Adventures Of Simon Simon (ECM, 1981). Please buy John Surman's music...


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

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



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

Bowmore 14 yo 1997/2012 (51.8%, Whisky-Fässle, Duck Edition, bourbon hogshead)

Bowmore 1995 ‘Maltmen’s Selection’ (54.6%, OB, casks #1551-52-53-59-60 +/-2009)

Bowmore 14 yo 1997/2011 (56.6%, A.D. Rattray for Shinanoya, Japan, sherry, cask #900016, 276 bottles)

Bowmore 16 yo 1995/2011 (54%, Silver Seal)

Bowmore 15 yo 1991/2006 'The Blacksmith's Bottling' (57.7%, Queen of the Moorlands, Rare Cask, 199 bottles)

Bowmore 18 yo 1971 (57.3%, Sestante, crest label, +/-1989)

Bowmore 18 yo 1993/2011 (61.6%, The Whisky Exchange, Masterpieces, 195 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 45 yo 1965/2011 (40.4%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 161 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968/2011 'Dram Together' (46.5%, The Whiskyman, 120 bottles)

Clynelish 1989/2012 (49.7%, The Perfect Dram)

Clynelish 22 yo 1989/2012 (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Hogshead, cask #MoS12012, 235 bottles)

Clynelish 31 yo 1972/2004 (57.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.33, 'friar's baslam and cigar boxes')

Glenfiddich 40 yo (44.3%, OB, 2011)

Longmorn 18 yo 1992/2011 (59.6%, Signatory, hogshead, cask #53810, 271 bottles)

Longmorn 27 yo 1962 (40%, Spirit of Scotland, +/-1989)

Longmorn 25 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, +/-1995)

Macallan 15 yo 1946 (80°proof UK, OB, R Kemp, Campbell Hope & King, +/-1961)