(Current entries)

Facebook Twitter Logo

Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2016 - Part 1



February 2016 - part 2 <--- March 2016 - part 1 ---> March 2016 - part 2


March 14, 2016


Independent Auchentoshan

We’re currently seeing more Auchentoshan at the indies, which is cool because they tend to have them rather more ‘natural’, and with rather less ‘vanilla and wine’ than the owners. Which is, by the way, a trend we’re noticing elsewhere as well (HP, Bowmore, Laphroaig…), as if the officials just couldn’t leave their whiskies alone.

Auchentoshan 1998/2015 ‘Fruit Burst’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 307 bottles)

Auchentoshan 1998/2015 ‘Fruit Burst’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, barrel, 307 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: light rum and limoncello, plus just a faint soapy touch in the background. Then rather the expected bonbons and marshmallows, before it starts to become rather grassier and a bit sharper. Mouth: I know some girls who keep playing with vodka, that is to say adding various ‘stuff’ to it to flavour it. Bubblegum, sweets, god knows what else… It’s a bit the feeling I’m having just now, some ethanol flavoured with candies. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s maybe not totally ‘malt whisky’. Is that only the triple distillation? Finish: a little short, and grassier again. This little soapiness is there as well, especially in the aftertaste. Comments: good not great, I’d say. And probably a little un-Wemyss in that sense. SGP:551 - 78 points.

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2016 (45.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 192 bottles)

Auchentoshan 23 yo 1992/2016 (45.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 192 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: there’s a little more varnish, and even nail polish remover in this one, but that would go away, as (almost) usual. Then we have rather more grapefruits, this limoncello again, and a most pleasant mineral side, always welcome at WF Towers. Limestone, these sorts of things. Mouth: it is a little unusual, with this leather, patchouli, and perhaps pomegranate juice. There’s a note that’s a little weird, but I tend to like it. Chlorophyll-and-mint chewing-gum? Mild pu-erh? Overripe pears? Orange blossom water? Pretty singular, thus interesting, thus good. Yes, my world is simple. Finish: a little short, with once again some unusual notes. It’s a fruit that’s not very common in western countries, hard to in down. What could it be?... Oh, perhaps loquat? Yes, loquat! Comments: some good fun to be had with this rather unusual one. Seriously, it’s very good. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Auchentoshan 1992/2015 (50.7%, Sansibar for S Spirit Shop, bourbon, 119 bottles)

Auchentoshan 1992/2015 (50.7%, Sansibar for S Spirit Shop, bourbon, 119 bottles) Four stars The samurai on the label seems to have digestive problems, if I may. Colour: straw. Nose: almost a copy of the Cadenhead, with only a notch less varnish at first nosing, and a little more moss and fresh walnuts. Which I enjoy just as much as mineral notes. With water: vanilla, moss, all-vitamin juice… Mouth (neat): more classic Auchentoshan this time. All citrus fruits of the creation, plus half an overripe apple and half a banana. A touch of smoked tea behind that, which makes it less of a fruit bomb. Excellent. Quite a lot of mossy and grassy limejuice. With water: truly excellent! Sweet lime juice and a touch of honey. Finish: same. Medium long. Comments: did I say this was excellent? Between 86 and 87, but yesterday has been a good day at WF Towers, so… SGP:541 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Auchentoshan I've tasted so far


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Charlie Rouse. Track: Little Chico. Please buy his music...

March 13, 2016


Dark rums on Sunday (oh sugar!)

Not my favourite category, as dark rums are usually heavily coloured and possibly further 'fiddled with' with various additives, sugar syrup, glycerine, and only God knows what else. But some good surprises could happen.

Arcane 12 yo 'Extraroma' (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2015)

Arcane 12 yo 'Extraroma' (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2015) Two starsThis baby's wonderfully and lavishly packaged, but it's actually not very expensive at around 30€. It's been aged in a solera, which suggests it's actually much younger than 12. It's made out of cane juice, not molasses. Colour: amber - but it moves like oil. Nose: smells very sweet, with plenty of banana liqueur and sweet cumin syrup, then rather ginger liqueur. Nice, I think but not quite 'rum'. Linie aquavit. Mouth: very sweet. Toplexil and more banana liqueur, then rather high-honey gingerbread, and indeed ginger liqueur. Really not rum, rather a kind of liqueur indeed, but it's not an unpleasant liqueur. I'm sure my dear grandma would have loved it - but she would have consumed it as a 'canard', that is to say poured onto sugar cubes. Finish: short and sweet. More very sweet ginger and more bananas. Comments: more or less in the same category as Kraken or Don Papa. Or Grand-Marnier ;-). Not badly made at all, but it's the opposite of a proper malternative, I'd say. SGP:830 - 70 points.

Botran 'Solera 1893' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2015)

Botran 'Solera 1893' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2015) Two stars Another scary solera-aged rum, but at least they haven't added a fake age statement. I hope no one believes there's some 1893 inside, even one drop. Colour: dark amber. Nose: starts with plenty of coffee and dark chocolate, and even a little wood smoke, reminding me of Cuba's best Santiagos. That's nice. Gets then more molassy, with some pipe tobacco as well, cedar wood, and a touch of burnt cake. So far, so nice, I don't find any 'distorted sweetness' so far. Mouth: it is sweeter than expected, sadly, but I feel we're below the limits of 'cloying sucrosity'. Pineapple syrup, plenty of vanilla, raisins, fudge and toffee, and touches of orange zest that keep it kind of straight. But don't expect any freshness from this style... Finish: medium, first more honeyed, then more caramelly, oaky, and toasted. Bananas flambéed and more oak in the aftertaste. Comments: fair sweet/oaky rum. Largely above its colleague Zacapa in my opinion. SGP:730 - 72 points.

While we're at it...

Botran '18' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2015)

Botran '18' (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2015) Two stars This is not 18 yo rum, they're using the same trick as Zacapa, it's actually 'Solera 18' (18 in big letters, solera in very small ones - but of course). And of course most websites and online retailers advertise it as a 18 yo. It's not us, it's them, your honour! Boo, but it could be good. Colour: dark amber. Nose: a drier, less aromatic, and even more chocolaty start, with plenty of dark toffee, some charcoal, then some praline. Drier and nicer. Mouth: same profile as the 'solera', with just a little more dryness, oak, caramel, and coffee. Especially the oak's very noticeable. Finish: medium, on liqueur-filled chocolate and, perhaps burnt pecan pie. Comments: maybe a little less sweet than the 'solera'. Pretty fine, should you like this style. SGP:640 - 72 points.


Diplomatico 'Ambassador' (47%, OB, Venezuela, +/-2015) A prestige bottling by a brand that makes many whisky (and rum) enthusiasts either laugh or cringe. Sadly, it's been finished in PX, but that's probably not the worst way of adding 'sweet additives' to a spirit. I like the improved strength, having said that. Colour: dark red amber. Nose: what's this? It's pure honey and molasses! Sadly not at the price of pure honey and molasses. If you wait a bit longer, there are pleasant notes of milk chocolate and tinned litchis that are coming through. Some Nutella too, sadly. Mouth: ouch. An oak-coated sugar bomb. Corn syrup galore! I just cannot swallow more than two drops of this sickly sweet thing. Ambassadors should stick with Ferrero Rocher if you ask me. Finish: medium, ultra-sweet, with a little orange liqueur, which is nicer. Cranberry juice. Comments: bwah bwah bwah. Feels like if 10% pure sugar was added, and the 47% vol. feel like 25%. I almost like the much, much cheaper 'Reserva' better. And Coca-Cola. SGP:810 - 55 points.

Rhum J.M 2005/2015 'Armagnac Cask Finish

Rhum J.M 2005/2015 'Armagnac Cask Finish' (41.5%, OB, Martinique, cask #04 10 163, 470 bottles) Three stars It's a little depressing to see a name as prestigious as J.M doing a finishing on their rhums (this time they used casks from Tariquet, a very large operation in Armagnac.) This finishing made them lose the Appellation Contrôlée, but in truth, the result could be very good - which would definitely cure my very temporary depression. Colour: dark amber, but it's the first one that doesn't move like if it was oil. Nose: very aromatic, and indeed there is something brandy-like. 'Dry' raisins, for example. There's also quite some oak, cedar wood, and sandal wood, and then more and more eucalyptus and mint. Maybe not very 'rhum agricole', but I won't deny that balance has been found. Tends to become bourbony over time. Mouth: same feeling. This is very good, and perfectly fresh and mentholated, but beyond that there are huge notes of pineapples and coconut oil, which is a little surprising. Finish: medium, very fruity (more pineapples). Tarte tatin in the aftertaste. Comments: pretty 'meta'. Rum plus brandy plus bourbon. A funny thing, very likable, but I'm much more into their 'pure' vintages, such as the latest 2001 (WF 89). SGP:651 - 80 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Kenny Brown. Track: I'm Ruined. Please buy his music...

March 11, 2016


Tasting new Lagavulin 8 and indie NAS

There’s this new official 8 yo that’s been bottled to celebrate the Distillery’s 200th anniversary, but while we’re having it on the tasting desk, I’m wondering which opponent we should select. The wisest choice would probably be the popular 16 yo, but we’ve tried it again very recently, and we can’t taste it again each and every week, can we (of course you could, says the little devil on my shoulder). Why not a ‘probably very young’ indie quasi-Lagavulin? How does that sound?

Laggan Mill (46%, Cooper's Choice, refill butt, cask #310547, 870 bottles)

Laggan Mill (46%, Cooper's Choice, refill butt, cask #310547, 870 bottles, 2015) Three stars and a half Isn’t it funny that while the distillery’s owners went for an age statement instead of going NAS with the new ‘bicentenary’, some indies are now doing just the opposite? And it’s always a little weird to have a cask number, and no age or vintage. But anyway, is this well a Lagavulin? Let’s see if we can find some organoleptical clues… Colour: very pale white wine. So, very young indeed. Nose: well, last time this butt has seen sherry, that wasn’t in this century IMHO. Which isn’t obligatorily bad news. This baby’s quite strident, sharp, and very coastal, with plenty of sea spray, kelp, iodine and oysters, then a little wet wool, damp newspapers, and the faintest whiffs of crushed mint leaves. Perhaps a little bone-dry sauvignon blanc? Perhaps… Mouth: ah yes! Starts with this trademark sweet fruitiness (pear bonbons) and probably other sweet parts that aren’t quite to be found in older L*******ns (tinned peaches, for example, ala Ardmore), and goes on with what we could call ‘sweet peat’. It’s not impossible that the sherry butt still had something to say. Gets then bitterer, more herbal, and very ashy. Eating grass (during a rugby game ;-)). Finish: long, grassy, and quite bitter, but there’s a syrupy/sweet side that remains there, and that’s a little less to my liking. Loses points. Bitter almonds in the aftertaste – many of them. Comments: some sweet twists and turns, possibly because of the cask, but other than that, this one fights you. Perhaps not always plainly coherent? A handful of points have been lost during the finish. SGP:467 - 84 points.

Lagavulin 8 yo (48%, OB, 200th Anniversary, 2016)

Lagavulin 8 yo (48%, OB, 200th Anniversary, 2016) Five stars I think it’s very smart that whilst the whisky’s quite young, they have decided to disclose its age, and to go ‘transparent’. That’s true modern luxury if you ask me (relation plus story plus DETAILS), while other, ach, erm, brands are issuing innumerable new NAS bottlings with only stories these days, and are really starting to blur their image and reputation (which are tomorrow’s sales, remember). As always, my humble opinion, and after all, we’re here for the whisky. So… Colour: white wine. Nose: precision, that’s the first word that springs to mind. Bandages, cane juice, hay, and marzipan, then seaweed, oysters, and diesel oil, then ink, mezcal, grist, and wet wool. Plus one blueberry. Mouth: this is where it kills the IB. This is much better chiselled, purer, better focused, much more distillate-driven, and sharp. And it’s very ashy, sooty, smoky, you’d almost believe you just ate the ashtray. It surprises me a bit that they didn’t decide on a rounder and sweeter style, but for obvious reasons, I won’t complain. Love this style! It’s actually very dry. Also fresh walnuts. Salted fresh walnuts. Strength and body are perfect. Finish: long and austere, on pretty much the same flavours, but drops of orange juice are playing it a little sexier in the aftertaste. Perhaps a little ginger tonic? Comments: it’s really the words purity and precision that rule here, there’s no make-up, no Botox, no dye, and no silicone. Some pure, totally crystalline Lagavulinity (what?) that makes you want to take the next flight(s) to Islay and to go kiss the Distillery Manager on both cheeks. Huge quality/age ratio. Happy 200th, Lagavulin! SGP:358 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Lagavulin I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Lars Moller. Track: Footprints. Please visit his website and buy his music...

March 10, 2016


Eight anonymous peaters

Most NAS! But it’s well known that heavy peat can erase – or rather mask - most imperfections of youth, so…

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill, batch 3’ (40%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, +/-2015)

Dun Naomhaig Water ‘Edition Maltmill, batch 3’ (40%, Reifferscheid, Romantic Rhine Collection, bourbon and sherry, 180 bottles, +/-2015) Four stars and a half The previous batches have been much to my liking. Everything suggests this is either Lagavulin or Malt Mill. Right, Lagavulin. Colour: gold. Nose: very kilny and beachy, with some carbon paper and kelp burning in the background, a little chlorine (public swimming pool), and this particular sweetness that’s very Lagavulin. Between cranberries and oranges. Perhaps a few copper coins. Mouth: powerful spirits can take 40% vol., and this is just another example. Starts a little acrid (bitter cocoa powder), and gets then extremely ashy, salty, and quite ‘PE-tarry’. Some oranges again. Finish: long, ashy, woody/grassy (sucking liquorice wood), with a very briny aftertaste. Bitter almonds. Comments: there’s some youth to this, and I find it very excellent. Like being on Islay. SGP:457 - 88 points.

Finlaggan ‘Eilean Mor’ (46%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, single malt, +/-2015)

Finlaggan ‘Eilean Mor’ (46%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, single malt, +/-2015) Four stars The famous Finlaggan NAS has been repackaged – and prices have been raised, naturally. It’s well known that Finlaggan used to be Lagavulin, but is it still that? Colour: straw. Nose: we’re very close to the Dun Naomwhatever, but this one’s a tad gentler, with more cut apples and fresh almonds, plus a wee medicinal side (mercurochrome). It wouldn’t surprise me if someone said this is Caol Ila. Mouth: it does roar and bite, but it’s soon to calm down. Apples, tangerines, grapefruits, salted butter, and a relatively light smoke. A little agave syrup, a little lemon. Finish: medium, clean, mildly ashy and tarry, with a feeling of margarita in the aftertaste. A margarita made with a great mezcal! Comments: all good, all good. Rather less fat than Lagavulin, I’d say, but I could be wrong, of course. SGP:456 - 85 points.

Peatside 6 yo 2009/2015 (46%, Chapter 7, blended malt, Port finish, cask #5511, 429 bottles)

Peatside 6 yo 2009/2015 (46%, Chapter 7, blended malt, Port finish, cask #5511, 429 bottles) Three stars I’ll say it, some of the worst disasters I’ve been given to taste have been peated whiskies finished in Port. Which, to me, sounds like coffee with mustard. But that’s me… Colour: salmony. Nose: LOL. Smoked rosehip tea or something. Swiss cheese, cardamom, pepperoni, leatherette, ratatouille, red pepper… I mean, LOL! Mouth: terra incognita, quite. Rose jelly plus liquid smoke and crunchy peanut butter, plus a large bag of blackcurrant buds and leaves. Pink grapefruits. What’s funny is that it tends to improve over time – perhaps once you got used to it. Finish: quite long, all on pink pepper. Perhaps a little garlic as well, and certainly raspberry jelly. Comments: totally and utterly funny. It’s not technically flawed, at all, it’s just, let’s say, deviant. I know quite a few friends who’d worship it, so, yeah, to each his own. I’ll keep my score fair because of that. Oh, and LOL! SGP:665 - 80 points.

Peat Reek 'Islay Malt Whisky' (46%, Blackadder, hogshead, cask #PR2015-3, 452 bottles, 2015)

Peat Reek 'Islay Malt Whisky' (46%, Blackadder, hogshead, cask #PR2015-3, 452 bottles, 2015) Four stars These are always good. Colour: white wine. Nose: pure, crystalline, rather light smoke, with some oysters, some lemon, and some lapsang souchong. No literature needed. Mouth: very Caol-Ila-esque, clean, elegant, slightly salty, smoky, ashy, with green apples and yellow lemons (not the other way ‘round) plus more oysters. When simplicity is an asset. Perfect drinking strength, your bottle will go down like if it’s the Lauberhorn. Finish: medium, perfectly simple and clean. Lemon, salt, ashes, and perhaps a little rhubarb. Comments: ironclad. SGP:446 - 86 points.

Finlaggan ‘Cask Strength’ (58%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, single malt, +/-2015)

Finlaggan ‘Cask Strength’ (58%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, single malt, +/-2015) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: simple pleasures. Cut golden delicious, a new pack of lapsang souchong, some seawater, punto basta. Perhaps Kools. With water: nice, barley water, almond oil, marzipan, fish oil, leatherette… Mouth (neat): the simplest, the cleanest, and the fruitiest expression of a peated Islayer. Bubblegum and, well, peat. With water: lemon, seawater, oysters, candy sugar. A sucrosity. Finish: medium, rather sweet. Sweet apples? Liquorice allsorts. A lot of lime in the aftertaste. Comments: I think I liked the Eilean Mor a little better. SGP:556 - 84 points.

Rock Oyster ‘Cask Strength’ (57.4%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2015)

Rock Oyster ‘Cask Strength’ (57.4%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, 2015) Three stars and a half More mad retro labels ala San Pellegrino. Isn’t whisky design having a stammer these days? I have to say I had enjoyed the ‘regular’ Rock Oyster a lot last year (WF 87). Colour: white wine. Nose: hyper-crystalline, totally minimal, and almost Japanese, if you see what I mean. I haven’t found this much iodine in a whisky since a long time. With water: a baby whisky. More liquorice allsorts. Mouth (neat): this is probably extremely young. Could you smoke liquorice allsorts, marshmallows, and limoncello? It is some smoked limoncello indeed, only at cask strength. Some kirsch too. With water: sweet, sweet, sweet. Strawberries and smoke (which gives me ideas for the coming summer…) Tinned peaches. Finish: medium, almost short. All the fruits are coming out, from pears to peaches. Young sauvignon blanc. Comments: I think I liked the one at 46.8% better. I find this CS excellent, but perhaps a little too young and fruity. SGP:645 - 83 points.

Peat (59.3%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, blended malt, 2016)

Peat (59.3%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, blended malt, 2016) Four stars and a halfDo not tell me no one had ever called such an effort ‘Peat’ before! What a brainwave! Must have been a Friday, around 7pm… ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: possibly less of an infanticide. I mean, it does not feel ultra-young – but young, for sure. Crisp peat and lemon and ‘a working kiln’ and, wait, some church incenses. In London! Cigar ashes. Does what it says on the tin, so far. With water: hospitals and smokehouses. Mouth (neat): perfect. It is ‘one’ – I know, whisky and philosophy – and it’s here (same comments). More Dasein than Sein. Oh forget, this is some mega-smoky, almost pleasantly brutal peated whisky. Green apples, smoked salmon, lemon oil, ashes. With water: more fruits. Grapefruits. Finish: long, sharp, well chiselled, millimetric, almost surgical. Comments: it reminded me of those 3-cylindre Kawazakis, circa 1972. Great, dangerous stuff. SGP:567 - 89 points.

Perhaps a last one…

The Ileach ‘Cask Strength’ (58.5%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, Taiwan, single cask, cask #VMW 002, 330 bottles, +/-2015)

The Ileach ‘Cask Strength’ (58.5%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, Taiwan, single cask, cask #VMW 002, 330 bottles, +/-2015) Five stars An interesting single malt by the ‘Finlaggan people’. Could this be Lag… ach, err… in…? Colour: gold. Nose: could be. Some sweet peat, oranges, kumquats (whatever my distinguished Dutch friends say when they’re not busy with their motorhomes), some slightly rubbery tar (a Lagavulin marker, that), and some ink. New magazines. With water: oh yes, gets dry, gravelly, with notes of new wellies, carbon, saltpetre, soot… Mouth (neat): brilliant! Some rounded, jammy and tarry peat, with some ‘good’ rubber again, a drop of tincture of iodine, perhaps a bit of dried pear, and simply an exquisite smoky fruitiness. With water: careful, one drop too many will kill it. Otherwise, great, sappy, greatly rubbery, with bitter oranges, smoke, salted seashell, perhaps a drop of Jaeger… Finish: long, very salty, almondy and rubbery. Or when rubber’s totally an asset. Comments: no-name-no-age, but quality’s extremely high. In some rare cases, age is nothing, it's the bloodlines that tell. SGP:467 - 90 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Donny McCaslin. Track: Praia Grande. Please visit his website and buy his music...

March 8, 2016


Springbank’s new Local Barley
and compadres

So, the new Local Barley. Huge success as soon as the news was out, and it’s probably more than time to taste it. But the main question remains ‘which sparring partners?’. An older Local Barley would make sense, but I’m not sure that would be too fair. Let’s rather try to find a classic Springbank, possibly more ‘moderate’, and of similar age. Such as this one, perhaps…

Springbank 1978 (46%, OB, +/-1992)

Springbank 1978 (46%, OB, +/-1992) Four stars and a half There were different 1978s, such as the ‘house and tree label’, but this is well the classic ‘black label’ (some poets rather coined it ‘yellow thistle label’). Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a rather austere one, pretty acrid, mineral, and grassy, without any sherriness – not to mention raisins or dried fruits. I’m finding quite a lot of shoe polish and old metal (second-hand spare parts, perhaps), which gives this Springbank a rather Longrowy feeling. Some fresh walnuts as well, as well as a little plasticine. Mouth: more sweetness, rather around grapefruits, with an acidic side and always a lot of plasticine, paraffin, stone, bone dry riesling, and then a saltiness and plenty of grass. Austere, getting ashy and even saltier. Finish: quite long, with some zests, salt, chalk, and more paraffin. A rather smoky aftertaste. Comments: they weren’t filling pricey great casks at that time, but the end result is that the spirit remained kind of naked and ‘natural’. Which I enjoy! SGP:362 - 89 points.

Springbank 16 yo 1999/2016 ‘Local Barley’ (54.3%, OB, 9000 bottles)

Springbank 16 yo 1999/2016 ‘Local Barley’ (54.3%, OB, 9000 bottles) Five stars All the barley came from one single farm in Kintyre, and was floor-malted on location at Springbank. The casks were kept and disgorged/bottled on location as well. Some will say that this is genuine ‘single malt’, while so many are totally international ‘operations’ and carry almost nothing truly ‘local’. Colour: pale gold. Nose: same family, and that’s very obvious on the nose, even if this one has a bit of varnish, possibly from the higher strength. Similar metallic/mineral profile, with perhaps a little more grapefruit and lemon, but the soot and ashes are well there. The shoe polish as well. With water: takes water extremely well. In other words, more quality shoe polish ;-). Mouth (neat): this is really very good, and totally up my alley. Sharp, sooty, very zesty, slightly pungent, with a perfect minerality and a grassy side that reminds me a bit of that Spanish white wine that can be very good (and sometimes awful, to be honest), verdejo. With water: oh yes it swims well. Perfect lemon, soot, paraffin (the good side of paraffin), ashes… What it’s not quite got, and which was in the 1978, is salt. Finish: long, lemony, grassy, and sooty. In other words, perfect. A medicinal side in the aftertaste (iodine, antiseptic). Comments: I was hoping this wood be great, and I’m not disappointed. Old school and just perfect. SGP:462 - 91 points.

Excuse me? Yes, I agree this wasn’t a proper session, with only two whiskies. Oh well, let’s have a last one, one that may be rather wackier…

Springbank 12 yo 2003/2015 (58.3%, OB, Port Pipe Matured, 696 bottles)

Springbank 12 yo 2003/2015 (58.3%, OB, Port Pipe Matured, 696 bottles) Two stars and a half As you may have noticed, the combination of coastal whiskies with Port have always scared me, but since this is a full maturation, things might have worked better, let’s see… Colour: gold (not awfully pink!) Nose: strangeness and uncertainties. Bitter oranges and shoe polish, chocolate, cranberries, copper coins, floorcloth, cracked pepper, gunpowder… Strange… With water: leather, horse saddle, green pepper, dried porcinis, smoked cheese… Mouth (neat): works for a few seconds, but becomes bizarrely peppery. Some kind of Burmese spice mix plus stewed strawberries and raspberries. It’s not totally terrible, but I find it a little dissonant and disjointed. With water: rather better, thanks to many bitter oranges, but this peppery background is really bizarre. Some kind of lemon contentrate. Finish: long, leathery. English lemon marmalade, an acquired taste. Comments: it’s got its charms, but it’s all a little bizarre and unlikely. In a way, it’s a bit like the stunning Cathy Berberian singing the Beatles, remember? It’s on Youtube, if you really must… Bah, this slightly freaky SB was going to be killed by both the 1978 and the new Local Barley anyway, I think . SGP:452 - 78 points.

It's not impossible that we shouldn’t have done that one… ;-)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Springbank I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Johnny Sansone. Track: Once It Gets Started. Please visit his website and buy his music...

March 7, 2016


Kingsbarns vs. Wolfburn

In other words, the South vs. the North of Scotland. Now, one of these is only new make, while the other one is proper whisky. Not the same categories, obviously, so no genuine fight today. In any case, we won't score the new make.

Kingsbarn 'Spirit Drink' (63.5%, OB, 2015)

Kingsbarns 'Spirit Drink' (63.5%, OB, 2015) This is pure new make from the Lowlands. The tiny Kingsbarsn Distillery uses only barley from Fife, where they're located, and produces as little as 24 barrels a week. They started mashing in 2015, so their first 'whisky' won't come out before 2018. They're owned by Wemyss. Colour: white. Nose: well, it is new make, but rather of the light, fruity style, although there are notes of grass and peach peelings as well. As usual in unpeated new make, pears are playing first fiddles. With water: a little more damp earth, as usual when water's added. Other than that, there are really many pears. Mouth (neat): really very fruity! It reminds me a bit of Aberlour's new make, with plenty of pears and juicy plums, then rather nectarines and a little kirsch. It's pretty drinkable, even at this high 'cask filling strength'. With water: reminds me of the williams pear eau-de-vie that I'm sometimes making in my garden, with good friends. Finish: pears, lemons, and touches of kiwis. That's nice. Comments: it seems that they're playing it rather clean and 'un-congeneric'. This should mature rather fast as it may not need much filtering. I find it quite good like that. SGP:630 - (pointless) points.

Wolfburn (46%, OB, 2016)

Wolfburn (46%, OB, 2016) Four stars The very first official whisky by Thurso's Wolfburn Distillery! Some trustworthy sources say they've bottled no less than 62.000 bottles of this new baby, that'll be out a little later this month. It's a 3 years old, obviously. We already tried a 20 month old last year, and found it good. Colour: white wine. Nose: Very fresh, with white asparagus and green apples (not the other way 'round), then a welcome touch of ink, 'new magazine', a smidgen of curry and caraway, and damp chalk. That's all very nice, it seems that there's some texture. That was the case with the 20 mo, but that one was ex-Islay cask. No roughness in this genuine whisky. Mouth: there's an unexpected smokiness in the arrival, some branches and grass, a touch of blond tobacco, a little pepper, traces of soot, and again, maybe, some sweet white asparagus (which I simply adore). At the fruit department, rather plums than pears. Ripe greengages, I'd say. Very nice texture, slightly oily. Finish: medium, fresh, with fresh almonds and more greengages. Rather pink grapefruits in the aftertaste. Comments: thank you Alexander aus Aarau in der Schweiz! I find this little baby extremely good, and am so pleased that they didn't decide to bury it under various heavy oaks and wines. The natural ones will win! Worth a very high score in my book, despite its very young age. SGP:551 - 85 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Jack Bruce. Track: HCKKH Blues. Please visit his website and buy his music...

March 6, 2016


Rums from the Caribbean

I know, a hugely wide category, but let’s go sail the seven seas. Well, make some coasting, around a few islands and shores…

Kill Devil (40%, Hunter Laing, Caribbean blended rum, +/-2016)

Kill Devil (40%, Hunter Laing, Caribbean blended rum, +/-2016) Three stars and a half Hunter Laing are into rum! In theory, ‘Caribbean’ would include Guyana/Demerara, although that would be on the continent. In general, I’ve noticed that whisky people bottle good or great rum. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s rather English-style, with phenolic Jamaican-like notes, some brine, rotting fruits (which is good), olives, salted liquorice (yes you nose the saltiness), and some cane juice. Certainly quite cane-y! Mouth: all pretty good. A tarry arrival, then some salt, olive brine, sugar cane, some lemon juice, a perfect sourness, and a very moderate sucrosity. Touches of pineapples and bananas – after all, this is rum. Good body at just 40% vol. even if 43 or 45% would have worked better in my opinion. Finish: medium, all on salted liquorice. And one black olive. Comments: I find this excellent. A very ‘Jamaican’ blend. SGP:552 - 84 points.

Westerhall 14 yo 1998 (45%, Alambic Classique, Grenada, +/-2012)

Westerhall 14 yo 1998 (45%, Alambic Classique, Grenada, +/-2012) Three stars We’ve already tried some great ones from this little series by and for Germany. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a bit more agricole, I’d say, with more pure cane juice, and candy sugar, and a minimal petroly side but it’s there. There are also interesting medicinal notes, certainly some iodine, and probably some fermenting hay. Mouth: starts easy, but gets then pleasantly ‘dirty’, and certainly unusual. Would you crush sardines and drizzle with strawberry liqueur? There’s also an earthy side, but then again, there’s also bonbony side (yup) that turns straight into the opposite direction. Fun stuff. Finish: medium, earthy, with a sweeter background. Redcurrant jelly? Comments: intriguing and interesting. We’re a bit between two worlds. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Barbados 2001 (42%, Plantation, +/-2015)

Barbados 2001 (42%, Plantation, +/-2015) Some Barbadian blended rum that was finished for three years in some of Ferrand’s cognac casks. Was that necessary? Colour: gold. Nose: light, almost delicate, rather on the sweeter side, apparently, but much shier than the Westerhall, let alone Hunter Laing’s power blend. Banana liqueur, perhaps? Mouth: very sweet – Plantation’s rums are always sweet in my experience – and a little syrupy. Liqueurs, pineapples, maple syrup, caramel, honey… Finish: short and sugary. Comments: no luck with Plantation. They have an excellent reputation, but I just cannot stand all the sugar they always add to their rums – from a whisky drinker’s POV, of course. I’m sure it’s not them, it’s me! SGP:720 - 60 points.

Cubaney 18 yo 'XO' (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015)

Cubaney 18 yo 'XO' (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2015) Two stars Yes, they called it Cubaney, and it’s indeed an old Cuban brand, but this rum is not from Cuba anymore. It’s made by former expats in the DomRep. Let’s hope it won’t be as sweetish as most rums from there. Colour: amber. Nose: I’m afraid it does nose sweet. Molasses, maple syrup, pineapple syrup, some caramel, and some fudge. Bananas flambéed. It’s absolutely not unpleasant, quite the opposite, it’s just not great news wrt the palate. Unless I’m wrong, which happens more often than never. Mouth: well, it’s certainly sweet, and probably sweetened up, but in a way it’s pretty pleasant. Plenty of liqueurs plus some sugarcane syrup. Bananas, pineapples, guavas… There’s also some white chocolate, a regressive flavour that’s immensely sexy. Like Nutella ;-). Finish: short – that’s the 38% - and probably a little sticky, because of all this sugar. Comments: given that this is my least favourite style of rum, this Cubaney did pretty well. SGP:730 - 72 points.

Admiral Rodney (40%, OB, St. Lucia, +/-2015)

Admiral Rodney (40%, OB, St. Lucia, +/-2015) Two stars Quite curiously, this rum that bears the name of yet another British admiral that defeated the French fleet (they had thousands, apparently) seems to be relatively popular in France. Colour: amber. Nose: this one’s more perfumy than the others, and that works. Vetiver, green oranges Hermes-style, a little musk… But it tends to become liqueury, and should you nose it blind, you would think it’s some kind of special cuvee of Grand-Marnier at times. But there’s also some very nice chocolate, as well as more and more roasted nuts. Yet another sugar bomb? Let’s see… Mouth: you could think it is for one second, but no, it becomes appropriately dry (well, dryish) and rather molassy, while this very pleasant perfumy style remains there in the background. Rose jelly, some vanilla, some honey sauce, sweet oak, then more jelly babies, and liquorice allsorts. Drops of sweet white wine. Finish: medium, perhaps a little oaky. Comments: we’re between two worlds. It’s not exactly dry, but it’s not sweet either. I find it good, this little admiral. SGP:630 - 75 points.

While we’re in St. Lucia, let’s have a last one…

Chairman's Reserve (40%, OB, St. Lucia, +/-2015)

Chairman's Reserve (40%, OB, St. Lucia, +/-2015) Two stars and a half Another one by St. Lucia Distillers. I believe it’s cheaper than the Admiral, so probably younger – but as we can see in the whisky world, there are no rules anymore. No, just saw that it is 5 years old, while I think the Admiral was around 12.  Colour: gold. Nose: like it better! It’s more phenolic (kind of), less sweet, with more sugar cane, and drops of diesel oil, maybe pitch, and certainly some tarry rubber. Perhaps more ‘natural’. Mouth: oh yes, much more to my liking. Fish, oils, tars, rotting fruits, green bananas… In short, rum! And what I enjoy most is that you do not feel any added sugar. If there is any, that’s in very tiny quantities. Finish: a little short, but dry and leafy, which is nice in my book. Comments: tends to nosedive on the palate because of the strength, but other than that, this is very fine natural rum. Not quite the same quality as their very good ‘1931s’, but I find it, well, very honest. SGP:541 - 79 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Guitar Shorty. Track: Texas Women. Please visit his website and buy his music...

March 4, 2016


Blair Athol ex-light sherry

Not much to add, really. Except that I may go visit the distillery again around early May this year. So I’ll go to Edradour too, but why would you care, let’s move on…

Blair Athol 18 yo 1995/2014 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, cask ref #DL10457, 681 bottles)

Blair Athol 18 yo 1995/2014 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, sherry butt, cask ref #DL10457, 681 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: rather refill, as the sherry influence is rather small, with hints of walnuts and just a handful of raisins. Other than that, I’m rather finding ripe apples, which isn’t uncommon in Blair Athol (and, agreed, elsewhere!) and a wee flintiness combined with some paraffin and plasticine. A touch of grassy leather too. Not a very fruity one, for sure. Mouth: good power, and more fruits this time. Apples again, especially green ones, or cider apples, plus a tart lemon, then rather buttered fudge and cakes. Shall I mention croissants? Tends to become a tad bitterly spicy. Green pepper, lemon and cinnamon mints… Finish: rather long, a little sharp, but some fudge coats the whole. Comments: a tad dichotomous, perhaps, between the sharp spicy greenness and this fudge. Not a lot of sherriness, but sure it’s worth it… SGP:461 - 83 points.

Would this one be more sherried?...

Blair Athol 26 yo 1989//2015 (48.9%, Cadenhead, sherry cask, 222 bottles)

Blair Athol 26 yo 1989//2015 (48.9%, Cadenhead, sherry cask, 222 bottles) Four stars and a half This one was double-matured, so transferred to sherry seven years prior to bottling. Colour: deep gold. Nose: and that worked. Patchouli, pot-pourri (that hasn’t got anything ‘pourri’, which means rotten in French), a lot of pipe tobacco, a touch of mint, cherries, roasted pecans, old Bourgogne with their hints of understory, precious wood, Danish pastry… I’m finding this nose perfect, and very complex (this is become boring, Cadenhead!…) Mouth: we’re a notch closer to the DL, with this flinty, grassy side, but more dates and figs are making it rounder and a tad easier. Notes of old Madeira, then rather caraway and even sweet English mustard. Hints of old Fino sherry (long solera), and leather. Since we’re almost in Jerez, that would be horse saddles, naturally. Finish: rather long, with Seville oranges this time (but of course!) Perhaps a touch of bubblegum in the aftertaste. Comments: crikey! Another excellent one, although I liked the nose a little better. SGP:561 - 88 points.

Let’s try to find an old naked one… Perhaps this:

Blair Athol 1976/2004 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, cask #7310)

Blair Athol 1976/2004 (45%, Samaroli, sherry wood, cask #7310) Four stars Ah, I had thought this wasn’t ex-sherry, because of the pale colour. My bad. I like Sig. Samaroli’s comments on the label, ‘Refined inside the bottle since this date’ (refers to the year of bottling). Mr. Samaroli, just like me, believes in bottle ageing! Colour: straw. Nose: very different, more austere, more mineral, with some camphor and some green apples, plus a rather lovely honeyness. Beeswax, pollen… Whiffs of ‘a new cigar box’. I remember I had tried this baby around when it was bottled, and indeed it may have improved after ten years of ageing in glass. BTW, the glass is very dark, so pretty much UV-proof in my opinion. Mouth: fun stuff, with a lot of limestone and a lot of lemon, plus a medicinal side that I wasn’t expecting from Blair Athol. Even iodine, also, well, I’d call it a little ‘bandage-y’. Finish: medium, rather on lemon zests, and more limestone. A little paraffin as well. Bitter walnuts in the aftertaste, perhaps from the sherry. Comments: an ode to bottle ageing. Twenty more years and it’ll reach 90 points in my book (stay tuned). SGP:452 - 85 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Blair Athol I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Taumbu International Ensemble. Track: Merci Bon Dieu. Please buy their music...

March 3, 2016


Talisker now and Talisker 50 years ago

Just what I wrote ;-).

Talisker 10 yo (45.8%, OB, 2015)

Talisker 10 yo (45.8%, OB, 2015) Five stars If there’s one whisky that I always follow, year after year, it’s Talisker 10 (and Lagavulin 16). Utterly loved the ones bottled in 2014, as if all these new NAS had lifted any pressure from the 10 – the best casks going into that one. Just a wild theory, of course… Colour: gold. Nose: perfect. Pure, clean, very coastal, smoky… I find engine oil, tiger balm, shoe polish, oysters, touches of green chartreuse, bandages, muscle balm (at the gym)… Everything’s just perfect. Mouth: a desert island whisky (but do they do them as double-magnums?) I find this one a tad rounder and more vanilla-ed than previous batches, though, but the peppery smoke keeps roaring. Some salt too. Finish: long, slightly acrid as it should be, salty, peppery, and a little petroly. That, I like even more. A wee camphory side yet again. Comments: always a benchmark. Rather smokier than older batches (from, say 10 years ago). SGP:367 - 90 points.

And 50 years ago, you may wonder? Let’s see…

Talisker (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, UK, 26 2/3 fl. ozs., +/-1970)

Talisker (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, UK, 26 2/3 fl. ozs., +/-1970) Five stars Really an old one, the proprietors being quoted as ‘Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries Ltd.’ And look at this colour! Colour: amber/chestnut. Nose: much rounder, smoother, with more ‘sweet’ sherry, raisins, figs… Then rather more citrus and lemony herbs. Lemongrass, lemon ginger, perhaps a little dill… All that is fine, but then we’re having beef stock and parsley, soy sauce (a drop), old copper coins, and then these oysters again, with a drop of vinegar. Tends to get earthier (moist garden peat). With water: leather, tobacco, brine, and whelks ;-). Mouth (neat): oh my this is strong, it makes me cough. The good news is that it’s also one of the best cough syrups. Bitter herbs (remember Unicum?) and eucalyptus, plus some menthol oil, all that coated with crushed sultanas and honeydew. Or something like that. With water: a thicker texture, and just a perfect old sherried peater, full of tobacco, walnuts, liquorice, marmalade, and black raisins. What it hasn’t quite got from the more modern ones is the saltiness. Finish: long, rather medicinal again. Grapefruit juice with some camphor and eucalyptus. Zestier and cleaner than expected, with a lot of citrus. Comments: as I remembered other batches of this 100 proof. There’s some rawness, and a roundness as well. Typical – and perfect – old high-octane NAS. SGP:565 - 92 points.

I can hear you complaining, what’s the point in comparing a regular 10 at lower strength with an old one at 100° proof? You’re right, let’s fix that…

Talisker '57° North' (57%, OB, +/-2009)

Talisker '57° North' (57%, OB, +/-2009) Four stars Sadly, I haven’t got a more recent batch at hand, but there, this one was bottled forty years after the G&M, at the very same strength. It’s from one of the very first batches of the ‘North’. They changed the label after a few years, not sure why. Probably some global rebranding. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re obviously closer to the recent 10, but with more roundness, and probably a little more vanilla. Fresher than the old one, zestier, a notch more mineral, and more coastal. There’s less sherry, obviously, but more paraffin. I don’t find this nose huge. With water: indeed, its very nice and fresh and all that, but perhaps a tad simple. What’s sure is that I like the 10 better, at a similar strength. Mouth (neat): feels young, lemony, peaty, slightly salty and grassy, perhaps a little monolithic? There’s a little fresh oak. With water: a rather gentler and simpler 10. Finish: rather long, a notch more earthy/oaky. Comments: really to my liking, but the 10 anytime, I find it more complex. SGP:456 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Talisker I've tasted so far


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Dr. John. Track: Mack the Knife. Please visit his website and buy his music...

March 2, 2016


Highland Park, the sequel to the sequel

Because three sessions are better than just two, given Highland Park’s importance, and the results of the two previous sessions. But I promise there won’t be a fourth HP session this week.

Highland Park 20 yo 1995/2015 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for The Whisky Mercenary, refill hogshead, cask #1485, 325 bottles)

Highland Park 20 yo 1995/2015 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for The Whisky Mercenary, refill hogshead, cask #1485, 325 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: starts bone dry, grassy and barleyish, with an obvious lemony side. It’s only after a good thirty seconds that rounder and sweeter fruity notes come through, such as ripe gooseberries. Quite some acacia honey too, which makes it pleasantly nectary. With water: even grassier and chalkier. Touches of hay and porridge. Mouth: sharpish, starting zesty and grassy, just like on the nose, with lemons and cider apples everywhere, and a slightly acrid smokiness that goes well with this context. It’s also quite ashy and mineral. With water: it’s the coastal saltiness that comes out, together with even more smoke, you’d almost believe we’re on Skye. Finish: long, salty, ashy, smoky. The barley’s returning in the aftertaste, and it would come with touches of bitter oranges. Comments: probably one of the smokiest and driest HPs I could try. Some kind of bespoke batches? I find it very good, if really unusual. SGP:363 - 87 points.

While we’re at G&M’s…

Highland Park 19 yo 1970/1989 (52.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl)

Highland Park 19 yo 1970/1989 (52.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl) Five stars How many glorious HPs under this unassuming label? I’m not sure I ever tried one that’s been even marginally disappointing. Colour: gold. Nose: funny, this noses exactly like a 40yo Alsatian riesling that would have become a tad ‘Madeirised’. Soft mustard, walnut wine, old books, retsina, chocolate, perhaps grapefruits, wet gravel, humus, wee whiffs of black truffle, something slightly sour (some kind of cheese, perhaps)… As we often say, the jury’s still out, hasn’t it gone off? With water: oh no, this is pure, peaty, earthy, and leafy HP. Absolutely adore the touches of camphor. Mouth (neat): oh no no no. I mean, yes yes yes. It is an extremely big beast, extremely punchy, almost aggressive, and very dry and ashy. More mushrooms, cocoa, bitter herbs, some tobacco, walnuts… This baby really hits you behind your ears, and yet, the strength not that high! A little un-HP so far. With water: as often, you have to add the right amount of water, that is to say enough to make it easier, but too much or it’ll get cardboardy. Anyway, we managed, and got a wonderful citrusy, earthy, and rather smoky combination. Some marmalade too. Finish: very long, rather on green tea this time, with a waxy side and more bitter oranges. Comments: this one was hard to tame, but then it’s very rewarding. A bit like Coltrane’s last records, if I may. SGP:453 - 92 points.

Good, after two very dry ones, let’s try to find a rounder HP and we’ll be done.

Highland Park 1996/2014 (56.8%, Malts of Scotland, for Rome Whisky Festival, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 15004, 245 bottles)

Highland Park 1996/2014 (56.8%, Malts of Scotland, for Rome Whisky Festival, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 15004, 245 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s more bourbony, for sure, with much more vanilla and maple syrup than in the others, but there are also lovely floral notes (dandelions), plus quinces and perhaps williams pears. It seems that this is a rounder one, but let’s see… With water: not at all. Grass, earth, mint, hay… Mouth (neat): starts rounded and even honeyed, but a grassy cavalry is soon to arrive. Bitter herbs, eating grass (when you’re playing rugby – or if you’re Christiano Ronaldo), green pepper… This is getting really pungent and fierce, quick, water… With water: again one that we tamed, but more oaky tones came out. Walnut skins, strong black tea… Finish: rather long but quite ‘sawdusty’. Comments: this baby’s got two sides. One’s quite perfect, but the other one’s a little too drying/oaky for my taste. SGP:361 - 80 points.

(And merci Jean-Michel)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Highland Park I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: the Eddie Martin Band. Track: Selfish Guy. Please visit their website and buy their music...

March 1, 2016


Highland Park, the sequel

Remember that a fabulous old 15 for the Orkney Hotel had broken our momentum last time, so we’ll have to do a part 2 today, higgledy-piggledy. Not that we shall complain, of course. We’ll (re)start this with a wee apéritif of moderate strength…

Highland Park 19 yo 1989/2009 (46%, Scoma, sherry cask)

Highland Park 19 yo 1989/2009 (46%, Scoma, sherry cask) Three stars and a half Scoma/Glenscoma have rather been pioneers in Germany, haven’t they. Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather low-key, a little herbal, a little citrusy, a little mineral, a little farmy. I’m finding it slightly indistinctive, with a moderate sherriness, but the spirit’s characterful enough to make it worth our sniffs. Mouth: no wait, there wasn’t a lot happening on the nose, but the palate’s quite different, with a lemony/mineral arrival and a development on piny honey and sweet lemon marmalade. That’s good. Perfect texture, ala Highland Park. There are even touches of tinned pineapples that are working very well. Finish: medium, rather on honeydew and more lemon. Comments: maybe a bit average, but average in the better sense of that word. One to sip while watching the best of Inspektor Derrick. SGP:452 - 84 points.

Highland Park 14 yo 1996/2010 (46%, Silver Seal, 345 bottles)

Highland Park 14 yo 1996/2010 (46%, Silver Seal, 345 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: same ballpark. Perhaps a wee tad rounder and smokier at the same time? Tends to become a little leafier as well. But patience-patience, these drams tend to become more talkative on your palate, in my experience, unless they are very sherried, which this one isn’t. Mouth: indeed. This is great, flinty, smoky, waxy, very ‘old Highlands’, slightly rough, tense, almost angular… Green apples, cough syrup, green pepper, black pepper, citrons… It is extremely Highland-Parky on the palate, more so than many contemporary officials if you ask me (but yet again, who am I?) Finish: long, citrusy, herbal, a tad medicinal. Lime in the aftertaste. Comments: once again, not quite a nosing whisky – which makes it lose points – but on your palate, it does deliver impeccably. SGP:462 - 85 points.

And while we’re with Silver Seal…

Highland Park 23 yo 1991/2015 (51.5%, Silver Seal, cask #8090, 240 bottles)

Highland Park 23 yo 1991/2015 (51.5%, Silver Seal, cask #8090, 240 bottles) Five stars With superb cheetahs on the label. Aren’t those  big cats cheetahs? Colour: straw. Nose: pah-pah-pah… Dill, lime, chartreuse, wet chalk, wormwood, verbena, honeydew… This is perfect, extremely fresh, profound at the same time, perfectly constructed… And I find this kind of earthy vanilla just mesmerising. Well, almost. With water: gets coastal. Have your lifejackets ready. Mouth (neat): exceptional. Everything’s perfect. Starts smooth and even ‘stupidly’ tropical (mangos, passion fruits), and then never stops developing with everything HP, chiefly mineral/mentholated honey, then many tiny herbs – won’t list them, no worries – and waxes. With water: a class act. Some kind of mixed tropical fruit juice, but with body and structure. Funny how this one swims. Finish: medium, and extremely fruity. Benriach or Tomatin, come out of this body! Comments: an HP that’s a little tropical at times. Totally sexy and yet not too populist. Oh well, I know what I’m trying to say. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Highland Park 25 yo 1990/2015 (50.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 426 bottles)

Highland Park 25 yo 1990/2015 (50.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 426 bottles) Five stars It seems that this baby sold out in a flash. More or less. They’ve vatted two bourbon hogsheads. In my meagre experience, vattings of two or three carefully chosen casks will always pull a better result than a single cask. Well, perhaps not profits-wise… Colour: white wine (ah, third-fill or more!) Nose: the Silver Seal. This will be short. Just a little more angular and ‘fresh’, and a little more herbal. The spirit is luminous. With water: perfect. You’re holding a fistful of Orkney barley in your hands, and just nosing the stuff. Mouth (neat): my stuff indeed. Sharp, waxy, citrusy, herbal, very much focused, well-chiselled, slightly smoky… And there’s this bitterness that keeps it a little ‘intellectual’ (oh come on!) With water: wine. A sauvignon blanc by the Dagueneaus (whether father or son). Finish: sadly. Funny wee touches of sage and basil. Comments: you know, when you ask the Cadenhead folks about how they select their casks and sometimes vat them, they usually answer ‘we do nothing, they’re just there’. It’s like these old Jimi Hendrix interviews, you know, ‘I just play my guitar’. No flannel, that’s so refreshing! As refreshing as this super-great wee HP… SGP:462 - 91 points (P.S., why don’t the owners/distillers have these? Even with the name of some kind of imaginary Norse celebrity, they would be hitsl P.P.S. there are notes of burnt agave and natural rubber arising after twenty minutes, that’s unusual!)

This is getting ballistic again, I’m afraid. But let’s go on, our heads held high…

Highland Park 1990/2015 (55.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, refill hogshead, cask #5101, 244 bottles)

Highland Park 1990/2015 (55.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, refill hogshead, cask #5101, 244 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: you bet! A little more closed, perhaps, more austerely mineral, but that’s probably the higher strength. Lime juice, and rather Muscadet than Pouilly-Fumé, perhaps. Did you know there were super-great Muscadets out there? With water: chalk, wool, all that. Perhaps a tad narrower then the CAD. That’s single cask vs. small batch issues, I’m sure. I mean, genuine small batch, we’re not talking about 15,000-bottle-small-batches of course. Mouth (neat): a blade. Perfect sharp mineral lemon, with even a fizziness that reminds me of some bone-dry ultra-brut champagnes (this is not winefun.com, S.! Please hold your horses!) With water: it loves water, provided you do not drown it. Lemon curd, more chalk, rhubarb juice… Finish: quite long, very sharp, precise… A great Muscadet indeed. Or maybe check Thierry Michon’s whites (S., please!) Comments: zest and zing. What a distillate. The Cadenhead was just a tad more, say entertaining, while this one was cleaner and sharper. SGP:452 - 90 points.

Time to have a last one. Perhaps an older bottle again? Oh, I’ve got this…

Highland Park 18 yo 1978/1996 (57.6%, The Bottlers, cask #3476)

Highland Park 18 yo 1978/1996 (57.6%, The Bottlers, cask #3476) Five stars All right. I may have said that before, but when I started whiskyfun (I should have broken a leg on that very day) this little bottler was reigning supreme on my list. Every bottling a benchmark, as someone else is saying these days. But most sadly, they stopped doing their own bottlings, for reasons I ignore, and the new generations of whisky lovers just don’t know about The Bottlers. Long story short, tasting one of their whiskies always sends positive shivers down my spine. Colour: straw. Nose: we’re approaching rum territories, and that would rather be Jamaica, with a fatness – and yet an elegance – that’s just thrilling. Olives, clay, lemon, brine, and all that. Now it’s also very strong, so let’s be cautious… With water: makes you miaow. Intensely mineral, waxy, lemony, ‘natural’ (raw wool, barley)… Well, it’s just stupendously barleyish. Mouth (neat): impossible. So perfect, so immensely mineral and medicinal, so amazingly herbal and lemony… That’s you’d better call the anti-maltoporn brigade. NOW. With water: take some old cough medicine. Take limestone, crush, mix. Add the juice of one lemon, perhaps a little tea and tobacco, something smoked, a little aniseed and fennel, a drizzle of grapefruit juice, and one small green olive. Picholines are my favourites. Stir… Finish: very long, admirably chiselled, and very Jimi-Hendrixian. In other words, perfect. Comments: simply grand cru stuff. Indeed, every bottle a benchmark… I just hope the good people at The Bottlers/Raeburn Fine Wines in Edinburgh are reading this. Why did you stop? SGP:562 - 93 points.

Ite HP Missa est.
(Merci encore, Nicolas!)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Highland Park I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Diane Schuur with BB King. Track: I can't stop loving you Please visit her website and buy her music...

February 2016 - part 2 <--- March 2016 - part 1 ---> March 2016 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Highland Park 19 yo 1970/1989 (52.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl)

Highland Park 18 yo 1978/1996 (57.6%, The Bottlers, cask #3476)

Highland Park 23 yo 1991/2015 (51.5%, Silver Seal, cask #8090, 240 bottles)

Highland Park 25 yo 1990/2015 (50.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 426 bottles)

Highland Park 1990/2015 (55.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, refill hogshead, cask #5101, 244 bottles)

Lagavulin 8 yo (48%, OB, 200th Anniversary, 2016)

Springbank 16 yo 1999/2016 ‘Local Barley’ (54.3%, OB, 9000 bottles)

Talisker 10 yo (45.8%, OB, 2015)

Talisker (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, UK, 26 2/3 fl. ozs., +/-1970)

The Ileach ‘Cask Strength’ (58.5%, Vintage Malt Whisky Company, Taiwan, single cask, cask #VMW 002, 330 bottles, +/-2015)