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Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2020 - Part 1


February 2020 - part 2 <--- March 2020 - part 1 ---> March 2020 - part 2


March 12, 2020


American whiskies for troubled times

It was about time we did this before President Duck makes it illegal to taste American whisky in the EU. By the way at WF we now have tariffs on American whisky, so please note that you’ll have to pay 0.5€ per tasting note you read. No worries, we take Paypal, Visa, Mastercard, and more generally, friendship.

1776 (46%, OB, James. E. Pepper, Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 2019)

1776 (92proof/46%, OB, James. E. Pepper, Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 2019) Three stars
We had already tried this and… nope, wait, that was a 1792. What a strange way of naming your whiskies! Colour: gold. Nose: extremely soft, on vanilla pods, shortbread, popcorn and pancake syrup, plus wee touches of geranium flowers, not unseen in bourbon. Really simple, yet pleasant. I can’t see who could be against this. Mouth: good, on lavender and geranium, some rye (some say there isn’t any rye in there, but I’m finding rye), oranges, cake, syrup… Tend to get a tad too sweet and thin for me, but that’s nothing. Finish: medium, a little caramelly and honeyed. Liquorice. Comments: good and very easy, rounded and yet not dull, despite a certain lack of character. These bourbons are not Springbank, as you may have noticed yourself.
SGP:631 - 81 points.

A non-sequitur perhaps…

Heaven Hill 23 yo 1996/2020 (54.5%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, barrel, 132 bottles)

Heaven Hill 23 yo 1996/2020 (54.5%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, barrel, 132 bottles) Four stars
I had thought the 175th Anniversary was pretty good. Colour: amber. Nose: buttered popcorn, fudge, old rum (Cuban style), then these typical small floral touches (lavender, violets, geranium), then quite some fresh paint and resins. The whole remains easy and rather soft, it would never shout nor scream. Neither would we. With water: gingerbread and heather honey all over the place. Mouth (neat): liquid Jaffa cake, plus orgeat and almonds, barley water, and certainly a good few drops of cologne (lavender scented). But this ain’t Bowmore 1985 either. Rose-flavoured Turkish delights, litchis, gewurztraminer... With water: lovely, it gets drier, more herbal, rootier as well… Chicory, celeriac, turmeric… That’s nice! Finish: rather long, spicy, slightly tannic (which I like in those contexts), ending on roasted chestnuts and blood oranges, plus some kind of curry. Comments: just tops. I’m still not a huge fan of bourbon, but I have to say that this baby’s a brilliant conversationalist. Nice meeting you, Mr. Hill.
SGP:541 - 87 points.

Since were in Campbeltown, Tennessee…

Tennessee Whisky 16 yo 2003/2019 (48.9%, Cadenhead, bourbon, Small Batch, 282 bottles)

Tennessee Whisky 16 yo 2003/2019 (48.9%, Cadenhead, bourbon, Small Batch, 282 bottles) Four stars
Good, let’s be an a****le for a minute. They state ‘bourbon’ as the wood type, but can it be bourbon since they’re only allowed to fill new oak? Can some bourbon (including Tennessee) be ex-bourbon? Good, stupid moment over… Oh and yes this is Dickel. Colour: amber. Nose: almost luxurious, extremely soft and caramelly, full of popcorn and gingerbread, maize syrup, Cointreau, praline and nougat, then dried coconut, which might be a tad excessive. Mouth: very easy and soft, sweet, on coconut balls, vanilla, preserved apricots, candyfloss and white chocolate. Tends to go towards café latte too. Drops of Cointreau once again, sweet rye bread, then cocoa powder. Finish: rather long, pleasantly dry. Some marmalade and a touch of lavender and caraway in the aftertaste. Comments: very good too. Rather fascinating to be able to compare these babies, thank you Cadenhead! Am I getting American?
SGP:551 - 86 points.
PS: looks like once a barrel's left the US, you could indeed do whatever you like with it, including finish it in Port (!) while keeping naming it Bourbon or even Kentucky straight Bourbon, as for example Angel's Envy just did. Thanks Steve U.

He who can do one can do two, said a wise man…

Tennessee Whisky 16 yo 2003/2019 (49.8%, Cadenhead, bourbon, World Whiskies, 216 bottles)

Tennessee Whisky 16 yo 2003/2019 (49.8%, Cadenhead, bourbon, World Whiskies, 216 bottles) Four stars
Colour: amber. Nose: seriously, they’re very close. Perhaps a little more caramel and fudge in this one? Millionaire shortbread? Consequently, it’s also missing a small part of that lovely nougat. Because we were talking proper artisanal nougat mind you, made with proper ingredients! Not the junk you would find at <insert name of supermarket here>. Mouth: similar and superb. These ones are growing on you, be careful or we’ll all start to sing some Presley. Finish: sameish. Coffee. Comments: in truth, this one may have been a tiny-wee-tad superior.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Oh and since we were in Campbel… I mean, in Tennessee…

Jack Daniel’s ‘Red Dog Saloon’ (43%, OB, 2017)

Jack Daniel’s ‘Red Dog Saloon’ (43%, OB, 2017) Three stars
I don’t know what I was doing with this thing, but there, let’s try it. Sure it came with a story, but do we really need it here? Oh and if this one sinks to the bottom, please rather blame our friends at Cadenhead. Colour: gold. Nose: beets, carrot cake and pumpkin pie, with a little butterscotch and corn syrup. I do not dislike this nose, at all. Love the carrots. Mouth: it sure does make the most of the situation, with good rooty pies, geranium, Jerusalem artichokes, roasted chicory, peanut butter, and some syrups. Some grenadine, cranberry juice too, that’s not the best side. Tends to become both more bitter and more sweetish. Finish: medium, rather on bubblegum. Woops! Comments: it was all very fine until it got rather too sweet for me. But there, it’s probably one of the best Jacks I’ve ever tried. A notch more complex than the 1776.
SGP:631 - 82 points.

Back to Heaven (Hill)…

Heaven Hill 9 yo 2009/2018 (50.3%, The Whisky Mercenary)

Heaven Hill 9 yo 2009/2018 (50.3%, The Whisky Mercenary) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: we’re more on straight vanilla, custard, sponge cake, grain whisky, then café latte. With water: madeleines, sponge cake, brioche and biscuit. Should go well with champagne… Mouth (neat): creamier and spicier than expected, much more on rye bread, blood oranges, and Thai chives. A tad harsh, but works. With water: no arguments, this is rather simpler indeed, rounder, narrower, but well balanced. An earthy side coming out after a few minutes. Chicory again? Finish: medium, easy, latte-y (oh, S., you kill us). Do not add too much water, it tends to break. Coffee in the aftertaste, plus violet sweets (anis). Comments: excellent, just not ueber-complex. But hey, it’s only nine.
SGP:441 - 84 points.

A bro, perhaps?

Heaven Hill 9 yo 2009/2019 (50.6%, Liquor Library, Australia)

Heaven Hill 9 yo 2009/2019 (50.6%, Liquor Library, Australia) Three stars and a half
This one from Downunda, naturally. Colour: gold. Nose: seriously, it is the same whisky. I’m not saying it is exactly the same, but any differences are infinitesimal and probably only in the taster’s mind. Perhaps a tad more vanilla-ed? Perhaps not? It’s all beyond human detection threshold anyway. Wait, more oranges? Mouth: a carbon copy of the Mercenary. Finish: ditto. Comments: excellent once again.
SGP:441 - 84 points.

Do we have room for more? Say a rye and a Sazerac?

Ragtime Rye (45.2%, OB, New York Distilling Company, American Straight Whiskey, +/-2019)

Ragtime Rye (45.2%, OB, New York Distilling Company, American Straight Whiskey, +/-2019) Four stars
This is Brooklyn, baby! Colour: deep gold. Nose: frankly, I was afraid this young baby would suffer a lot after the HHs, but not so, it stands up to them, with nice polishes, shoe polish, pistachios, puréed chestnuts, pumpernickel, and several flowers, including the expected geraniums and honeysuckle. It is rather rounded and easy, even if those polishes do add some extra dimension for sure. I do not quite know why, but this nose makes me think of Lou Reed. Some kind of Brooklyn effect? Wayne Wang anyone? Mouth: feels older than just 3, perfectly balanced, moderately spicy, and pleasantly herbal and salty. Bouillons and custard getting along rather nicely. Finish: long, this time with Schweppes Lemon, ginseng, and Thai basil. I’m sure this one will cure the virus. Comments: loved the finish, it’s not often that young whiskies finish this well. Not surprised, but…
SGP:462 - 85 points.

And so we said a Sazerac, and basta cosi…

Sazerac 18 yo ‘Summer 2018’ (45%, OB, Kentucky straight rye whiskey)

Sazerac 18 yo ‘Summer 2018’ (45%, OB, Kentucky straight rye whiskey) Four stars
Let’s be honest, I’ve always found these very expensive Sazeracs pretty disappointing. Really, no comprendo mucho about anything by Buffalo Trace. Around 24 barrels, apparently. Colour: dark amber. Nose: strawberries dipped into liquid caramel, violet and lavender liqueurs, buckwheat, parfait amour, softer liquorice,  damp garden peat or black earth, heavy raisins (Smyrna)… It’s actually very jammy and almost fruitcake-y (which should only work around Christmas). Mouth: I must be in a good mood, I’m finding this good, fruity, easy, lively, seductive, full of blackberry jam, earthy teas, prunes, raisins, dried dates, gingerbread… For once I’m not missing out on this famous baby. Raki, Korean prune wine, dried longans, aged Baiju… Now indeed, should you buy and blend all these descriptors, you would come up (more or less) with the same juice, for one tenth of the price or even less. But you’d need to experiment a lot… Finish: long, sweet, very liqueury, very good. Comments: let’s say it, this was a very good surprise. BTAC finally growing on me after all these years?
SGP:641 - 86 points.

Stay safe.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all American whiskies we've tasted so far


March 11, 2020


A battle of two old unicorns at 45%

It’s a bit sad that we’ll have more and more trouble doing proper Glen Mhor or Glenury (or Glen Albyn, Glenlochy etc.) tasting sessions, at least with only expressions that we haven’t tried yet. Which means that we may have to gather singletons more and more often, as we’re about to do today. Glen Mhor vs. Glenury Royal, I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there, little choice… But hold on, at least both share almost the same vintage! And were bottled at the very same strength, so I say this is still a sound comparison!

Glen Mhor 1969 (45%, Campbell & Clark, cask #1407/1409, 2265 bottles)

Glen Mhor 1969 (45%, Campbell & Clark, cask #1407/1409, 2265 bottles) Four stars
I’m not too sure when this was bottled, it’s most certainly more ‘modern’ than it looks. Mid to late 1990s, I would say. What’s more, it’s a 70cl bottle. As for Glen Mhor (closed 1983), beyond the fact that it’s Valentino Zagatti’s favourite tipple, all I’ll say is that some surprises may now occur... Colour: gold. Nose: artisanal muesli, burning bread, soot, ink, exhaust, pine cones, damp dunnage warehouse, raw wool, cured ham, cachaça, cardboard, fino, walnuts, Maggi sauce, glutamate, miso, pipe tobacco, barbecued mussels, dry Madeira… All that is a tad incoherent, I’m not sure any contemporary distillers would dare make this kind, but it’s got something eminently charming beyond the many WTF moments (apologies, carried away). Mouth: a tad better focused, but barks and wood chips tend to do whatever they want, while bitter oranges and a bizarre sootiness start to dominate this extremely old-school malt whisky. More burnt chips, cardboard, tobacco, leather, graphite oil… This baby really plays by its own rules. Finish: rather long, dry and bitter, but some nicer orange peel and burnt caramel are ruling the aftertaste. Touches of cardboard too. Comments: really a strange brew, as Clapton would have said, but it’s charming. Antiquated and charming.
SGP:272 - 85 points.

And now the Glenury!

Glenury Royal 50 yo 1968/2018 (45%, OB, Casks of Distinction, hogshead, cask #8709, 192 bottles)

Glenury Royal 50 yo 1968/2018 (45%, OB, Casks of Distinction, hogshead, cask #8709, 192 bottles) Four stars and a half
Very smartly, Diageo have added to the label that Glenury (closed 1985) was ‘The only distillery ever allowed to use the suffix royal’. It’s true that in the case of Lochnagar, it was rather a prefix, not a suffix. Well played! Now vorsicht, Diageo also had a 1968 bottled at 36yo that was pretty flabbergasting (WF92 when I tried it in 2005), so will the 50 years have taken their toll here?...  Colour: full gold. Nose: this is so much neater than the Glen Mhor, tidier, and almost as complex, even if some slightly worrying notes of pine resin are emerging (not always good news w.r.t. the palate, but we’ll see.) Old books and papers, old furniture, all the polish that’s needed for maintenance, orange peel, fabric, broken branches, green bananas, putty and oil paint, moshi, bean curd, then some surprising candyfloss and toffee apple. Welcome to the fair! Mouth: when old oak gets rather sappy and herbal instead of teaish and tannic, that works in my book, even if the fruitiness got pretty discreet after all those years. Or say rather on peelings, stems and pips than on flesh and juices. Quite some herbal teas too (hawthorn, thyme, rooibos, perhaps hibiscus…) and once again this feeling of green bananas, or banana skin. But here, the tannicity hasn’t won the war here, hurray and bravo! Finish: many very old malts tend to become a little mentholy and resinous at this point, which is happening indeed, but without excess. Especially the aftertaste remains rather fresh, which will grant this old baby a very good score in my humble little book. Comments: another little miracle here. Distinctive indeed.
SGP:361 - 89 points.

March 10, 2020


Sherried Ben Nevis on the table

Naturally. And once again, this to the good health of Colin Ross. Let’s see what we have today…

Ben Nevis 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019)

Ben Nevis 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019) Four stars and a half
I’m trying to follow BN10 often. That is to say every month. I’m joking… Having said that the prices have now gotten a little high (75-80€) so it’s no B-F-Y-B anymore, I’m afraid. Now, I’m sure this juice can pull much higher prices yet when bottled as Japanese whisky! Colour: pale gold. Nose: yes, green walnuts, mustard and bitter oranges, plus a little leather and quite some soot, liquorice lozenges and mercurochrome. Mouth: absolutely terrific, salty, sooty, with some leather and some unusual kind of salted lemon curd or something. Plus chalk, walnut wine, raw chocolate, bergamots… Indeed, terrific whisky, at a prefect strength. I’m surprised you cannot find it more often at restaurants, I’m sure it would go well with food. Finish: long, perfect, on salted walnuts and lemons. Perhaps a touch of soap in the aftertaste, not unseen in Ben Nevis. No problems, that’s natural soap. Comments: good as always. Careful with the prices though, if I may. No good prices, no goodwill.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2019 (53.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland for Kensington Wine Market, butt, cask #1659, 440 bottles)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2019 (53.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland for Kensington Wine Market, butt, cask #1659, 440 bottles) Four stars and a half
You may want to remember that this is ‘Kensington road’ in Calgary, Canada, and not the Royal Borough of Kensington in the West End of central London. Colour: gold. Nose: extremely varnishy and even glue-ish at first nosing, with a lot of tyre sticker glue at first, then rather jerez vinegar, new sneakers (expensive Nikes for poor people), and only then apple pies and amaretti/marzipan. Disconcerting to say the least, but this style may, sometimes, be full of promises. With water: the best use of water indeed. Mustard, walnuts, salt, black raisins. A combo that always works. Mouth (neat): huge, this time rather on kirsch and other stone fruit spirits, apricotine, acids (prussic?) then orange wine and some plywood, perhaps. Well, this is unusual indeed. With water: once again water sets the record straight. This is plain and pure Ben Nevis now, with even wee touches of lavender sweets and liquorice drops. Finish: long, with raisins, wonderfully salty and liquoricy. Comments: two drinks really need water, Pastis/ouzo, and this little Ben Nevis that likes to play with the taster. I would say water is just obligatory here, but good fun!
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1996/2019 (52.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #1479, 405 bottles)

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1996/2019 (52.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #1479, 405 bottles) Five stars
This one too by Elixir. Hold on, an elixir, isn’t that something that’s supposed to cure any disease? Would this one work with ‘the virus’? In truth I washed my hands using a sherry monster at 60% vol. the other day (not this Ben Nevis) and people in the train started to look at me as if I was Henry Charles Bukowski’s own son. Colour: gold. Nose: extremely similar. Perhaps a little more on all things cherries, and a little less on funny glues. With water: cherry cake, raisin roll, pancake syrup, and just a wee glass of amontillado. Mouth (neat): brilliant, just brilliant. Walnuts, grapefruits, fino, leaves, maraschino. With water: pre-WWII orange cordials and other heavy concoctions made when liquors were still supposed to cure us indeed. Finish: long, thick and yet very elegant, splendidly orange-y. Marmalade over some walnut cake with a good glass of amontillado on the side. Yes, pretty much heaven. Comments: liked both sister casks a lot. Let’s say this one’s more civilised and a tad less challenging. Better for your guests who wouldn’t be hardcore whisky buffs (but do we have any such friends?) Rather sublime whisky. Go go go.
SGP:452 - 90 points.

Back to the older officials, perhaps?

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1984/2010 (54%, OB, bourbon + sherry, casks #3008-3046, crystal decanter)

Ben Nevis 25 yo 1984/2010 (54%, OB, bourbon + sherry, casks #3008-3046, crystal decanter) Two stars and a half
This baby used to come with two wee tumblers. These sets are always wonderful, think Dalmore or Macallan, but the problem is that people would store them lying, which is absolutely no good. A bit stupid, really, unless no one’s intending to drink them. Psst, there’s Colorex inside the bottles anyway… But not in this case! Colour: amber. Nose: this is clearly Ben Nevis, with a lot of tobacco and walnuts, then orange liqueur and crushed chalk. Some lovely floral notes too, rose petals, orange blossom… With water: chalk, carbon paper, concrete (where they still using their concrete washbacks in 1984?) and the proprietary green walnuts. Mouth (neat): oh so funny! It’s really Ben Nevis from when Ben Nevis was at its craziest, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were still throwing dead animals into the mash tuns when this was distilled (are you really wondering if I was joking?) Eating pipe tobacco while drinking some kind of soapy liqueurs. I think BN upped their game since 1984 ;-). With water: a little better, but the soapiness would keep coming back. Not too sure, really… Finish: no. Dry, bitter, leafy, soapy and rubbery. There. And bell pepper. Comments: look, what would you expect from a crystal decanter? Who would still bottle supposedly great whiskies in suicidal crystal decanters today? You say… … … ?
SGP:361 - 78 points.

One more, just for the road…

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1998/2019 (55.4%, Hidden Spirits, sherry, cask #BN9819, 279 bottles)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1998/2019 (55.4%, Hidden Spirits, sherry, cask #BN9819, 279 bottles) Five stars
Do the 1998s match the 1996s? Let’s see… Colour: deep gold. Nose: meats this time, soy sauce, jamon iberico, glutamate, bouillons, a little leather and some tobacco, then damp plaster and drops of Thai sauce. Look, I know there are probably thousands of different Thai sauces, but there, the red ones that you would pour over any stewed crab claw. What’s the name again? With water: perfect dry nose, or when the cask and the distillate did complement each other to perfection. Blue Mountain coffee, crude cocoa, old walnuts (no one in particular, lol), palo cortado, whiffs of exhaust fumes, umami sauce..; Could be that BN and dry oxidative sherry would just tango to perfection when the proportions are right. Mouth (neat): simply further fortified oloroso. Or distilled oloroso? I shall try to do that one day, as sherry’s become so cheap (which is totally unjust and would make you lose faith in the drinking mankind). With water: the rarest chocolates, the best coffees, and some just perfect salty, umami-y brown sauces. Finish: long and much saltier, with a bit of Ben Nevis’s trademark ‘soft’ dirtiness. So not just vanilla-ed ethanol. Monosodium glutamate. Comments: the saltiness keeps growing even after the aftertaste. I would happily tell you more about this dram but both the wee bottle and the glass are now empty. *** carried away ***
SGP:462 - 91 points.

I’m starting to wonder if within the magical line (HP, Clynelish, Ben Nevis, Springbank), Ben Nevis isn’t the one that takes sherry the best. Pure speculation. To think that people keep buying junk from Wish or Kickstarter or Amazon or Facebook rather than those magical (if harder to find) vintages of Ben Nevis, it makes you feel so hopeless… sob…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Ben Nevis we've tasted so far


March 9, 2020


A few little Littlemills

Since Angus had quite a few Littlemills on Saturday, let's have three more. It’s good that the IBs would keep Littemill’s flame alive, while the (relatively) new owners are just doing crazy stunts with the oldest malt distillery in Scotland. Yeah even if it’s now burnt and gone.

Littlemill 29 yo 1989/2019 (49.3%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead)

Littlemill 29 yo 1989/2019 (49.3%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead) Four stars and a half
Who is she on the label? She may need to go see an optician! Colour: straw. Nose: you see, it’s a matter of mangos and maracuja, a combination that’s just irresistible. Add  a few drops of fresh orange juice, whiffs of humidor (cedar wood and cigars), some orgeat, fresh hazelnuts, apricots and peaches… And there, light! To think that older official Littlemills were so bad… were they keeping the best casks for a brighter future? Mouth: but yes, this is very good, fruity as hell, tropical, almondy, sappy, with some bananas, limes, papayas, guavas, some acacia honey, lavender honey (no tastes of lavender, no worries)… Tis is extremely good. Finish: a tad les coherent, a tad sour, a tad too, yes, sour. Sour fruits. Comments: in fifty years, our descendants will be talking about a ‘mysterious Littlemill miracle’. We should keep a few samples for them.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Littlemill 27 yo 1992/2019 (49.8%, Cadenhead, Closed Distillery, bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles)

Littlemill 27 yo 1992/2019 (49.8%, Cadenhead, Closed Distillery, bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles) Five stars
I didn’t know our friends in Campbeltown were still using this label. Good for them! The back label reminds us that Littlemill was founded in 1772. Imagine, 1772, that was even before Jim Murray! (kss-kss) Colour: straw. Nose: immaculate, tense, with notes of sunflower oil, green bananas, mezcal, oysters, green apples, and lemon. Not quite what I was expecting, but I just love this. Mouth: woo-hoo! Some razorblade-y lemons, more oysters, green bananas, green apples, touch of mint, seaweed, the greenest green melons, tangerines, passion fruits…  Finish: burst into tiny herbal flavours. Genepy, wormwood, sorb, holy, woodruff… And first and foremost, gentian! Comments: not a style that’s easy to describe, and not all Littlemills are like this (far from that), but I have to say I’m an utter fan, even if this drop is a little too cerebral for me at times.
SGP:661 - 91 points.

Littlemill 28 yo 1990/2019 (50.7%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles)

Littlemill 28 yo 1990/2019 (50.7%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 282 bottles) Four stars and a half
What could happen here? Colour: pale gold. Nose: I would say it’s a little harsher than the 1992, perhaps a little more ethanoly, with some great notes of sauvignon and riesling, but still a bit silent, shy, closed… So, with water: it’s hard to get the right amount of water. Almond milk? Apple juice? Mouth (neat): touches of varnish, mango eau-de-vie (bad idea, do not distil mangos), then green cider, lemon juice… Wooh this one seems to need calm and quietness – and water! With water: there, we caught it, it was about time. Papayas and guavas, apple juice, greengages, walnut skins,  banana skins… Finish: long, a tad drying. More fruit skins and peelings. Comments: what a wrestler! It would just play with you, and I am not even sure I’m having the upper hand at this point. This one’s humbling.
SGP: 561- 88 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Littlemill we've tasted so far


March 8, 2020


Another little bag of easy Cognacs

Bigger names this time – but not obligatorily lesser Cognacs mind you, even if some of these tend to fly straight to Ibiza.

Bisquit ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2017)

Bisquit ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2017)
Stuff that good people usually buy in travel retail, which is not obligatorily the darkest dungeon of spirit retail mind you. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: oh! Gorse and acacia honey, plus pineapples and ripe mirabelle plums all over the place. It is extremely fruity, easy, youthful, liqueury and, I have to say, pleasant. Some great whiffs of verbena and fennel too, which is even nicer. Highly surprised, I am. Mouth: nah, there, it seems that it's been sweetened-up, with unexpected notes of litchi syrup, pineapples, and liqueur de mirabelle. That’s clearly too much, too sweet, almost cloying. Finish: short, sweet, liqueury. Comments: that’s the thing with entry-level Cognacs, they add too much make-up and that feels. Cognac for grand-mothers or Moldavian girlfriends, I would say. Love Moldavia, having said that. Too bad, the nose was pleasant.
SGP:730 - 65 points.

Courvoisier ‘Emperor’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018)

Courvoisier ‘Emperor’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018) one star and a half
Seriously, who would still name a bottling ‘Emperor’? I’ve heard this stems from Bokassa’s own stocks and… I am joking. Mind you, this is that rare that the price would lie around 65€ a bottle. Oh, yeah, of course that emperor would be old Napo. Colour: suspiciously dark amber. Nose: once again, the nose is very fine, aromatic, fresh, fruity, even exotic, with pineapples, melons and mangos, as well as sultanas and bananas, and even a touch of smoke. All that works a treat, it’s a beautiful nose that would scream ‘drink a lot of me!’ But then again, only the palate will tell… Mouth: hold on, it is not that sweet – it is sweet, but not cloying. Having said that, it just wouldn’t deliver, staying on raisins and banana skin. Little action despite a little mint and liquorice making it through. Tends to lose steam like a Tesla after 250km, I would say. The arrival was okay, though. Finish: short, thin, drier. Comments: I doubt Bonaparte would have enjoyed this very average (and rather doped-up) little Cognac.
SGP:640 - 69 points.

No more big brands, thank you. Let’s try a (slightly) smaller one…

Gautier ‘G. by Gautier’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018)

Gautier ‘G. by Gautier’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018) Two stars
At 40% vol., it just cannot be great Cognac, capisce? Plus, looks like this is a simple VS, so very young. Oh and there’s the extremely Ibiza-y glitz packaging. No comments, but I’m thinking a lot… I know itI hurts your eyes to look at, apologies. Colour: gold. Nose: well, the nose is nice, with pears, peaches, melons, touches of mint, a little honey, some fig wine, and a faint earthy touch, almost tequila-y. Certainly not a bad nose, but remember Cognac people are good at building pleasant noses. Palates are a whole different story… Mouth: well, no, this remains kind of pleasant. What’s good is that they don’t seem to have sugared it up a lot, and that it would remain pleasantly ‘cognac’, that is to say rather on raisins, melons, peaches and figs. Now, it’s very simple cognac, that’s for sure. As Penelope Cruz would have said, what did you expect? Finish: not much, and sweet this time. Comments: not good, but not as much a nightmare as I had though when I first saw the bottle. What would Beyoncé say?
SGP:640 - 72 points.

Perhaps rather try a VSOP by Gautier?...

Gautier ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018)

Gautier ‘VSOP’ (40%, OB, Cognac, +/-2018) Two stars
Another funky packaging by Maison Gautier, what’s sure is that it rises from the ranks. Colour: amber. Nose: pears stewed in sweet wine and caramel, sultanas, white chocolate, and some praline. Nice, just hope no sugar will be in sight on the palate… Mouth: it is a little bit sweet and ‘too easy’, but it’s otherwise kind of fine. Spanish apple liqueur, melon liqueur, sweet cider, mead… No, forget, it is too sweet. Finish: medium, sugary. Some Get 27 in the aftertaste – that’s some kind of mint liqueur for aging womanizers (a.k.a. agents orange). Comments: frankly, no, this is too sweet. I suppose they’ve pushed it all to the max, that is to say to 4° obscuration. But then again, there’s boisé too that you’ve got to take into account within those 4°. Not toooooo bad, but very forgettable cognac.
SGP:740 - 73 points.

Frankly, we’re completely out of order. Unless, a rarer one by a large brand…

Martell 1971 ‘Millésimes’ (43%, OB, Cognac, +/-2019)

Martell 1971/2014 ‘Millésimes’ (43%, OB, for DFS, Cognac) Three stars and a half
I think this one was done for China (or Taiwan?), looks like the dynamics that we’re seeing with Scotch are happening with Cognac too. You know, Casks of Distinction and ‘stuff’. Having said that, the bottle is absolutely stunning. BTW, check the old Martells ‘Cordon Bleu’ with spring caps, those simply rock. Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh! Meursault, old pu-her, very old Domfrontais calvados (old Lemorton anyone?), just poiré (pear cider), broken branches, green melons, rhubarb, white peaches, greengages… It I all extremely subtle, complex, elegant, and actually very self-restrained. Just the opposite of all other cognacs that we’ve tried today. Mouth: we’re right between an old cognac and an old Domfrontais indeed. Right, in case you don’t know, Domfrontais are Calvados which would shelter many more pears than elsewhere. Some even say that some Domfrontais are actually hundred percent pears, without one single apple. Anyway this old Martell remains extremely elegant, subtle, perhaps a tad oaky at times, and rather with a lot of fruit peelings. Now it tends to become dry and perhaps too grassy, and kind of thin. Oh well, let’s just quaff it quick. Finish: medium, really a lot on calvados, and perhaps a little on marc de Bourgogne rather than on fine (cognac is a fine. Yep.). I know that was probably not the idea, but there, that’s what I think. Sourer aftertaste. Comments: perhaps not a cognac that was cut to hold such a long distance, but there’s still a lot of pleasure to be had with this old calva… I mean, cognac.
SGP:461 - 83 points.

Not the easiest session today. Oh well…

(Thank you mucho, Chang!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Cognac we've tasted so far


March 7, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Six Littlemill Plus Aperitif
Things have gone pretty quiet on the Littlemill front. Remember there was a big parcel of casks that got consumed in an indy bottler feeding frenzy a few years ago? Every so often a cask from those parcels still drops out of the bonded ether, but things have moved on, via a large bundle of similarly exotic old Irish single malts, and now by way of a totally stellar parcel of 1996 Ben Nevis.


It seems like the next big parcel may well be 2000 ‘unnameable’ Clynelish, but the fullness of time will tell. For now, let’s revisit some of those lovely Littlemill from not so long ago and see if we can spot some tropical fruits amongst the grass. But first, a wee aperitif that I’m told may well be Littlemill, or ‘mostly’ Littlemill.



Lord Waterloo 8 yo ‘pure malt’ (40%, -/+ 1992)

Lord Waterloo 8 yo ‘pure malt’ (40%, -/+ 1992)
Not huge expectations here I have to admit. Colour: gold. Nose: pure old ‘pure’ malt, so to speak. Bags of plain cereals, porridge, mashed potato, grass, paper mâché, white mushrooms and some more unusual whiffs of ink and metal polish. A very old fashioned style of whisky, although not necessarily ‘old style’. It’s also perfectly harmless and rather easy. Mouth: impressive all things considered. More polish, cereals, ink, canvass, grass, green herbs, milky tea and hints of oily rags and vase water. Totally simple and a tad flabby towards the end but otherwise fine. Finish: medium, slightly oily, grassy, orangey and with things like digestive biscuit and porridge. Comments: things could have been much worse. The grassy aspect could well be some mid-80s Littlemill at work. Although, I’m not really sure you’d distinguish this too much from literally dozens of other cheap vatted malt brands which were rather ubiquitous in the 80s and 90s.
SGP: 431 - 74 points.



Note from the editor: Waterloo? But that'll teach you, mon cher!



Littlemill 21 yo 1991/2012 (48.9%, Exclusive Malts, cask #557, refill hogshead, 275 bottles)

Littlemill 21 yo 1991/2012 (48.9%, Exclusive Malts, cask #557, refill hogshead, 275 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a grassy one. A style that I think of as more classically ‘Littlemill’ than these fruitier ones. Trampled ferns, grass, parsley, crushed cactus, grave, concrete and aspirin. Unusual and nodding towards very old style pure pot still Irish Whiskey in some ways – not unlike the way the more exuberant Littlemills of this era are often reminiscent of the more tropical Bushmills from similar vintages. Anyway, this one goes on with cooked cereals, mashed potato and rapeseed oil. It’s a very particular and singular style I would say and this is a pretty good, vivid and clean example of that style. Mouth: same profile but there’s more of these cooked grains, buttered brown toast and a touch of cardboard. Some bitter lemon, quinine, limoncello with soda water and vitamin tablets. Not quite austere but a rather singular and perhaps difficult style. Finish: medium, very cereal, mashy, lightly vegetal and drying with some peppery notes. Comments: Blind you could really say some funny old Irish Whiskey. I find this fascinating and intellectually very fun, but it’s a rather demanding style.
SGP: 431 – 83 points.



Littlemill 20yo 1990/2010 (56.2%, Exclusive Malts ‘First Cask’, cask #726, barrel, 225 bottles)

Littlemill 20yo 1990/2010 (56.2%, Exclusive Malts ‘First Cask’, cask #726, barrel, 225 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: between two styles. Grassy and lean but also more citrussy and more mineral. Notes of green apple, tart gooseberry and a slightly bright acidity – could almost be some kind of pure and razor-sharp Loire sauvignon. With water: lemon zest, fizzy orange water, hyper-clean cereals and butter muddled with freshly chopped green herbs. Mouth: lime, chalk, mineral oil, caraway and some light barley sugars. Cereals, sunflower oil and lemon bonbons. Just the lightest touches of sweetness keeping things fresh. Otherwise this is pure, dry, pin sharp and rather beautifully chiselled Lowland whisky. With water: more playful, more buoyantly fruity and more vibrant. Swims exceptionally well! Finish: good length, rather a lot of toasted seeds, trail mix and more toasty and grassy cereals. Comments: things get a little easier here and the overall profile is more balanced and complex, and water is pretty essential here. Although, this is still a rather challenging style if you ask me.
SGP: 441 – 85 points.



Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (55.2%, Creative Whisky Company ‘Tony Koehl’ series, cask #36, 176 bottles)

Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (55.2%, Creative Whisky Company ‘Tony Koehl’ series, cask #36, 176 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: again this cereal and grassy style (getting a tad tiring I must confess) but here it feels more buttery and altogether richer and fuller. Lots of cooking oils, some camphor, some oily rags, bicycle chains – indeed the whole is getting a tad more ‘mechanical’. Toasted cereals, mash water and crushed oatcakes. With water: lovely! We’re starting to get more richness, more fresh breads and pastries, more yeasty qualities and a generally more ‘autolytic’ profile. Sunflower oil and touches of white mushroom and mulchy earth. Good complexity! Mouth: grassy, citrussy, cereal, oily and nicely fat in terms of texture and mouthfeel. Some tea tree oils, eucalyptus notes and light menthol tobacco suggestions. Very good! With water: more oils, grass, cereals and freshly chopped herbs, but also some cough medicine, herbal teas, miso, bracken, oatcakes and plain porridge. Finish: long, oily, some rye bread spice, lightly earthy, sooty, mineral and things like boot polish, white pepper and watercress. Comments: It seems like this particular style of Littlemill generally benefits a lot from a little water. The added richness of this one really helps to balance the more ‘grumpy’ aspects of this grassy and oily profile.
SGP: 451 – 87 points.



Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2014 (51.9%, Exclusive Malts, cask #439, 172 bottles)

Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2014 (51.9%, Exclusive Malts, cask #439, 172 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: amazing the difference in style. This is far more open, opulent and generously fruity. More immediate, luscious and rich. Bread pudding, sultanas, leaf mulch, dried exotic fruits, malt extract and dried wildflowers. Excellent! With water: some very fresh bready and cereal tones. Rapeseed oil, metal polish, meadow flowers and toasted pistachios. Mouth: beautifully poised, balanced and full of nervous, resinous sherry, earthy spices, plum sauce, red fruit jams and hints of olive oil cake, camphor and lime cordial. Really superb, the sherry adds a beautifully intricate layer of flavour while integrating perfectly with the distillate. With water: cola syrup, raspberry jam, boozy fruit cake, banana liqueur, herbal teas – generally richer, sweeter and more of these gooey textural qualities. Finish: long, bready, spicy, rich, darkly fruity and showing a very slight meaty quality. Comments: Really excellent Littlemill, amazing how different this is to the 1990s vintages. Rich, complex, beautifully balanced and continually evolving. Hugely enjoyable whisky that manages to be both challenging and highly pleasurable at the same time.
SGP: 651 – 91 points.



Littlemill 24 yo 1988/2012 (54.2%, The Whiskyman, 159 bottles)

Littlemill 24 yo 1988/2012 (54.2%, The Whiskyman, 159 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is a funny mix of styles. The grassiness and the exotic fruits collide in a way which, given blind, you would almost say was grappa. Grassy waxes, coins, metal polish, steel wool, a rather polished cereal core and wee flashes of banana, mango, kiwi and lime. There’s also some rather gentle herbal tones in the background too. Very lovely! With water: still showing this wonderfully nervous and direct grassy quality but also sherbet lemons, chalk, lime pith and bags of ripe grapefruit. Mouth: superbly fruity and luscious on arrival.  Big, fat, syrupy and swollen fruitiness (pretty sure I could easily convert many of my tasting notes to erotic literature), close to the Exclusive Malts 1988 but without the sherry, instead you get this total focus on fruits and sweetness - which is very beautiful. More grappa, orange bitters, orange juice, kumquat, bitter marmalade - quite a lot of orange coloured flavours all of a sudden. With water: develops wonderfully with wee threads of honey, crystallised exotic and citrus fruits, mead and thicker notes of camphor and hessian. Finish: long, lemony, exotic, rather oily and returning full circle to some pretty taut and punchy grassy notes. Comments: Another side of the same coin. 1988 seems to be the vintage for Littlemill. What a terrific selection, we miss you Dominiek!
SGP: 741 - 91 points.



Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2014 (54.9%, Exclusive Malts for K&L Wines, cask #8, 298 bottles)

Littlemill 25 yo 1988/2014 (54.9%, Exclusive Malts for K&L Wines, cask #8, 298 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: we’re back in sauvignon-esque territories with these clear notes of gooseberry, fabric softener, cider apple, fresh cereals, milled oats, porridge with honey, lemon barley water and some rather chalky and jumbled mineral notes. Pebbles, gravel, flints and ink. However, the overall character is more generous and opulent that those rather extremely 1990s vintages. This is easier and falls just the right side of fruity. Although, it’s by no means a fruit bomb. With water: gets much drier and far more cereal. Lots of crushed oatcakes, canvass, aspirin, chalk, sandalwood, snapped twigs and ‘warm greenhouse’. Mouth: nicely honeyed and syrupy at first. Barley sugars, malt extract, butter biscuits, shortbread, fresh croissant, fruity muesli and freshly chopped herbs. Still quite a few notes of sunflower and rapeseed oil – a kind of halfway house between the fruity and grassy styles of Littlemill. With water: again, leaner, drier, simpler and more cereal. Although, it remains nicely oily in texture and with a pleasing bready quality. Finish: long, lightly honeyed, very bready, biscuity and with rather a lot of oatmeal, plain flapjack and pithy citrus peel. Comments: it’s another slightly austere one, but there’s just enough fruity and bready balance to provide sufficiently pleasurable counterpoint to those more ‘intellectual’ aspects.
SGP: 451 – 88 points.



Many thanks to David, Serge and Dirk.





March 6, 2020


Rectified mashes and stuff

Indeed, grain whisky. I’ve heard they even distil celeriac, beet, rutabaga and now English tourists (last I heard, whole coaches have been missing for months). For a little more fun, we’ll do this randomly. Forget verticales!

Carsebridge 43 yo 1974/2018 (43.6%, Eldvatten, cask #SE096, 90 bottles)

Carsebridge 43 yo 1974/2018 (43.6%, Eldvatten, cask #SE096, 90 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: god. Nose: there is some maize, vanilla and coconut, but there isn’t only maize, vanilla and coconut. Notes of bonbons, little Easter eggs, marshmallows, coconut balls, toffee apple, sweet cider, then geranium flowers… This is not Clynelish, but it’s rather pleasant and not totally silent! Mouth: very good. It’s thin spirit, like any grain, but it’s aromatically apt, and even pretty complex, with various sweet nuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, these marshmallows again, notes of parfait amour and curaçao, poppy sweets, sugarcane syrup (very obvious), other syrups… It’s getting sweeter an sweeter, but never exactly sugary, quite miraculously. Finish: medium, thin as always, sweet, wit some caramelised popcorn of some sort. Comments: for some grain whisky, it’s excellent. Grain enthusiasts would love this, too bad there were so few bottles.
SGP:730 - 84 points.

Invergordon 46 yo 1972/2019 (49.3%, The Whisky Blues, barrel, cask #28, 230 bottles)

Invergordon 46 yo 1972/2019 (49.3%, The Whisky Blues, barrel, cask #28, 230 bottles) Three stars
Very old Invergordon not filled in sherry, that’s interesting… And I love blues with whisky, as long as it's not Muddy Waters (ooh that's smart, S.!) Colour: gold. Nose: once again, it’s not a cologne-y one, neither is it just empty, but it’s rather full of varnish and sweet liqueurs, then banana wine and coconut water. A little earth too, milk chocolate, praline, toffee, café latte… We’re almost at Starbucks’ but no worries, we shall survive. Mouth: good, coffee-ish (Tia-Maria), latte-ish, varnishy, then a little woodier. Some sour touches. Coconuts. Finish: medium. Cherry wine, chocolate, sour apples, ales, coconut water… Comments: rather fine! These grains are all pretty thin, but after all, nowhere is it written that Scotch out to be fat and thick!
SGP:640 - 82 points.

Strathclyde 30 yo 1989/2019 (52.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 162 bottles)

Strathclyde 30 yo 1989/2019 (52.1%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 162 bottles) Four stars
This baby was finished for around one year in fresh oloroso and, according to the colour, did suck out litres of that oloroso. Colour: coffee. Nose: rum and copper, plus furniture polish and rather PX than oloroso. I mean, proper old PX. Pipe tobacco, prune juice… With water: lovable! Old bourbon, pine liqueur, tobacco, Demerara, juniper, caraway… Mouth (neat): love this! It’s totally wacko, as herbal as Jägermeister, full of walnut wine (cask strength nocino), and almost as smoky as Ardbeg with the rectifier off (or out of order). With water: clap clap clap. Finish: very long and rather on liquorice and menthol this time. And tar. Comments: what this is not is ‘authentic’, but no one should or will care, it’s very funny and well made, intriguing, and interesting. And fun (you’re rambling again, S.) A crazy concoction – oh and careful with water though, it’s not a very good swimmer.
SGP:571 - 87 points.

Cameronbridge 25 yo (57.6%, Whic, sherry, 503 bottles, 2019)

Cameronbridge 25 yo (57.6%, Whic, sherry, 503 bottles, 2019) Two stars and a half
Isn’t it Mr and Mrs Macron on the label? Colour: dark amber. Nose: leather and gunpowder at first, then struck matches and sour cherries (and cherry stems and leaves). Could be that water would be needed… With water: crude chocolate and, well, more chocolate. Always with a few struck matches here and there. Mouth (neat): a bit brutal. Coffee-kirsch, slivovitz, arrak, fig wine, chicory coffee… At least it makes you travel. With water: sweeter. Cherry liqueur, chicory, chocolate, chestnut purée… Finish: pretty long, a tad leathery and coffeeish. Strawberry drops. Dry aftertaste (strong black tea). Comments: a good drop for sure, but I find it a little jumbled and unfocused. But after all, it’s only grain whisky. Peace.
SGP:561 - 78 points.

Cambus 42 yo 1976/2019 (57.6%, The Perfect Fifth, bourbon, cask #05916, 138 bottles)

Cambus 42 yo 1976/2019 (57.6%, The Perfect Fifth, bourbon, cask #05916, 138 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: coconut balls and white chocolate, honeysuckle and lime blossom, orange blossom, coffee, caraway, old geenever (sp?), and really litres of ginger liqueur. Some action in this old grain, hurray and bravo! (hold your pony, S.) With water: very lovely caraway and old Chartreuse. Tarragone anyone? Mouth (neat): oh, excellent! Really excellent! Stunning citrus and tiny spices, around tangerines, tiny cumins, pad Thai.. Are we sure this is Cambus? (like if that was of any importance…) With water: fab roots and spices. Gentian, ginger, ginseng, turmeric… This one will cure you (and defeat the current coronavirus, I’m sure). Finish: medium or almost short, but perfect, eggy, rooty, nutty… Comments: didn’t they make malt at Cambus, at some point? Okay, I know, there’s malt in any grain whisky…
SGP:451 - 89 points.

Invergordon 43 yo 1973/2017 (50.5%, The Whisky Fair, refill hogshead, 180 bottles)

Invergordon 43 yo 1973/2017 (50.5%, The Whisky Fair, refill hogshead, 180 bottles) Three stars
No sherry in this old Invergordon either… Colour: gold. Nose: sour coco again. Not’ing against that, but there… zzz zzz zzz… With water:  vanilla and coconut… Some Irish blend, just four times younger (and twenty times cheaper, I imagine). Mouth (neat): Malibu and Bailey’s, fudge, custard, orange cream, Jaffa cakes… Nah, this is pleasant. Chicken to lions, but there (wha-a-at?) With water: sweetish white wine. Viognier? Finish: viognier. The best are great, the others are lousy. Hey, one man’s opinion. Comments: we’re losing steam, as it appears. All these thin and sweetish whiskies tend to be a little boring, but this one was very good, no doubt. Just, yawn, a little boring and too sweet.
SGP:640 - 81 points.

Will anything beat the Cambus (really, Cambus?) Let’ be logical about this, and have more Cambus…

Cambus 26 yo 1993/2019 (55.4%, James Eadie, sherry, cask #48094, 617 bottles)

Cambus 26 yo 1993/2019 (55.4%, James Eadie, sherry, cask #48094, 617 bottles) Four stars and a half
There, sherry from a good maker’s… Colour: dark amber. Nose: of course. Walnuts, coffee, cured ham, chocolate, Mars bar, pipe tobacco. Probably the sherry doing all the work, but that works pretty brilliantly. The whisky’s providing the… ach, ethanol. With water: lovely cocoa, hot chocolate, tobacco, oloroso… In truth this nose got wonderful. To think that I’m using Evian instead of Vittel today! Mouth (neat): creamy, earthy, meaty, chocolaty, coffeeish, very good despite the thinness (can’t do anything against that). With water: what did they do at James Eadie’s? What’s the trick? A SECRET? Wonderful chocolates, ganaches, truffles, some cognac as well, rancio… Hey is this legal? Has this baby been STRised? Kavalanised? Finish: long, Cognacqy, with touches of toffee and chicory. Comments: mazeltov! But this can’t be just ‘a 26 yo Cambus’, this is a notorious sign of witchcraft afoot, my friend…
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Good, maybe another Cambus, and we shall be done with grains. Until, say the month of May. Yes, of 2020.

Cambus 30 yo 1988/2019 (46.1%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 300 bottles)

Cambus 30 yo 1988/2019 (46.1%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 300 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: coffee liqueurs and small sugar eggs, roasted carrots, chicory, violet sweets… That’s the thing with grains, they will let any tiny aroma from the cask (or time) come out unhindered, since they have virtually no firepower. One could call them aroma sponges, actually. There, yes, it is liquid tiramisu! Mouth: oh good! Coffee, malt (yep), latte, barley syrups (this maltiness is troubling indeed), dark beers (Westvleteren 12, anyone?), some kind of sweeter soy sauce perhaps… Finish: long, saltier (great news!) and wonderfully meaty. Some kind of lighter meat broth, marrow bouillon. I’m even finding notes of Swiss cheese, which tales the biscuit! (I’m not feeling too well, S….) Only the aftertaste is a tad cloying, a little too sweet and sour. Toffee too. Comments:
SGP:650 - 86 points.

Right, could be that we’ve gone way too high with these silent spirits, but isn’t today International Generosity Day? Plus, I've survived a fast train crash (well, derailing at 270kph) right yesterday, so there... ;-)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all grains we've tasted so far


March 5, 2020


The new Ardbeg!

And I mean a properly aged, un-fiddled with independent version that comes without a single Guronsan-fuelled story, without any unlikely name, and with just no branding at all. And no odd wine treatment. But first, a little aperitif if you don’t mind…

Ardbeg 1975/1999 (43%, OB)

Ardbeg 1975/1999 (43%, OB) Five stars
The owners have issued many 1975s, both general releases such as this one and single casks – almost all legendary. The general releases had been issued from 1998 to 2001. For the record, 1998 = WF90, 2000 = WF91 and 2001 = WF86 (but that was a very long time ago). I never wrote any proper notes for the rotation 1999, so now’s the time; after all this ‘blogger’ is only twenty years late… Colour: gold. Nose: this is why we all jumped on Ardbeg after it had been relaunched by Glenmorangie plc. This is way tarrier than any contemporary offerings, much more medicinal, and much less on ooh-ha peat smoke. Embrocations, camphor, bandages, tarry ropes, new wellies, seashells, heavy fuel, tarmac, seawater, iodine, creosote… This is a seminal nose, the kind that converted many to peat (and indeed to Ardbeg). You wouldn’t imagine the kind of impact these have had at that time! Mouth: sweet Mary and Joseph, this is some travel through time. Sure the old single casks, including those by the indies, remain extraordinarily impressive, but this larger - I almost wrote humbler - batch is just a perfect example of what Ardbeg was, and just goes to show how much it has changed. I’m not saying it declined, not at all, but God did it change! Oyster, pipe tobacco, cracked pepper, grapefruits, tar and even rubber, toothpaste, lemon and grapefruit juice, and this fatness that remained there despite heavy reduction. Some Ardbeg of Grand Cru quality. Finish: long, wonderfully tarry and rubbery, with some iodine and just salt in the aftertaste. It’s just a shame that they didn’t go for 46% with these wonderful batches – but yeah, 43 is better than the Very Old’s 40 (or the 17’s). Comments: it’s always a thrill to try this style that’s now vanished in Islay’s mist. And it’s so cool that they weren’t yet obsessed with fresh quercus.
SGP:457 - 92 points.

And so the new ‘natural’ Ardbeg…

Ardbeg 26 yo 1993/2020 (53.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles)

Ardbeg 26 yo 1993/2020 (53.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles) Five stars
Love it that Cadenhead would have used the relatively low-key Authentic Collection livery here, that’s so smart! Now, not all 1993s have been otherworldly in my book – after all, didn’t owners Allied only let the distillery run for a few weeks every year at that time, under in-house rivals Laphroaig’s supervision? Colour: straw. Nose: much, much, and I mean much lighter in style than the 1975, much more ‘purified’, fruitier, with even traces of rum here and there, and pineapples… Having said that, seawater tends to come to the front, and make this much more coastal, if not tarry. With water: gets drier, muddier (good news), with notes of stable and burning hay. Mouth (neat): hold on, this is really great too, just different! Sharper, more a razorblade than a bowl of pitch as was the 1975 if you like, more mineral and grassy, certainly peatier (as far as pure peat goes), and more on roots, celeriac… I’m most pleased with this baby, it was a hard task to come after the ultra-classic 1975. With water: absolutely lovely, and now surprisingly close to the 1975, just a little less fat and ‘typical’. Salt, bitter herbs, chalk, kippers, fresh walnuts, and this wonderful manzanilla-y feel that I’ll always crave. Finish: long, with traces of custard beyond the sharp, almost biting herbal bitterness. Always enjoy that too. Only the aftertaste is a tad less precise, but we’re splitting hairs again. Comments: no need.
SGP:467 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Ardbeg we've tasted so far


March 4, 2020


Mixed bags

A new little bag of stuff

Blended or not, but always undisclosed as far as original distilleries go. There’s more and more of those around, it doesn’t look like the Scots are thinking very local these days. Swimming against the flow yet again?

Crabbie 8 yo (46%, Single malt, Highland, +/-2019)

Crabbie 8 yo (46%, Single malt, Highland, +/-2019) Three stars and a half
My gut tells me that this is Glenfarclas. John Crabbie was a rather well-known brand in the old days. Colour: gold. Nose: very fresh and malty. This feeling of wandering throughout some barley fields while quaffing cider and eating ripe bananas, but who wuld do that? Indeed, very nice, very fresh, very pleasant, and yet not light ) and not quite fat either. Shall we call it well-balanced? Mouth: simply very good malt whisky with good punch, barley, IPA, overripe apples, oranges, a touch of toasted oak, perhaps a few nuts, and a little bread dough, and fresh brioche to boot. Finish: rather long, with a little more butterscotch, pineapple sweets, and custard. Comments: very good young little Speysider with good body and not wooden sorcery (no STR or similar tricks).
SGP:451 - 84 points.

There’s also a 12…

Crabbie 12 yo (43%, Single malt, Highland, +/-2019)

Crabbie 12 yo (43%, Single malt, Highland, +/-2019) Four stars
Some lightly peated islander. John Crabbie’s ghost whispered in my ear that this could well be Highland Park. Some fresh unsherried (or lightly sherried) HP? We’re all game, aren’t we! Colour: gold. Nose: nah, there, this is impeccable despite the lower strength (why not 46 this time?) with this slightly briny start, then the minerals, chalk, lemon, riesling, seawater, and cider apples. Lovely freshness once again, and a grand cru distillate doing its job without being burdened by unnecessary wines or active woods. Mouth: indeed it’s rather peatier than your average HP. Rather Talisker-peated, if I may. Brine, lemons, chalk and green pepper, plus just a touch of leather and a wee grassy bitterness. Walnut skin. It’s certainly not thin at 43% vol. Finish: pretty long, with more green pepper, peat, and flints. Comments: this baby was surprisingly peaty, and unsurprisingly good.
SGP:364 - 86 points.

Campbeltown Blended Malt 5 yo 2014/2019 (49.1%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead and PX, 378 bottles)

Campbeltown Blended Malt 5 yo 2014/2019 (49.1%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead and PX, 378 bottles) Three stars
Pff, a little tiring. Is this a single that’s a blended on paper? A true blended? Is a vatting of, say Longrow and Springbank a blended or a single? Does that mean that there must be some Glengyle inside? Or could you call any single ‘blended’ if you wanted to?  And what’s the gender of angels? And by the way, chicken or egg?... Colour: gold. Nose: bubblegum, liquorice allsorts, rose jelly, Turkish delights, and the largest panettone our Italian friends have ever baked. Rosewater and grenadine or pomegranate juice. Need I say more? Mouth: LOL, and I mean no, ROTFALOL. There is some briny/peaty stuff in the back, but the rest is some kind of earthy fruit syrup, one that I had never encountered before in the whisky world. Some lemon curd, prickly pears, cranberry juice, Haribo’s best, more Turkish delights, Parfait Amour and curaçao, blackberry jam, plus some kind of fruity leather in the background. I know fruity leather’s pretty uncommon. Finish: very long, very sweet, very fruity. Did someone pour some Transylvanian gewurztraminer into the cask? Comments: some good fun to be had here, despite, or maybe because of the madness. But it’s good that Scottish regions have no tasting committees that would grant approvals. I mean, LOL!
SGP:751 - 82 points.

Secret Orkney 2007/2019 (60.9%, Or Sileis, Wanted, hogshead, cask #1, 324 bottles)

Secret Orkney 2007/2019 (60.9%, Or Sileis, Wanted, hogshead, cask #1, 324 bottles) Four stars and a half
LOL, did you see the label? Looks like our friends in Taiwan are beating HP at their own game. This, is some fearsome Viking! And the horns aren’t on the inside this time ;-)… Colour: straw. Nose: immaculate mineral and citrusy Highlandparkness, with just the right amount of wax and a little terpene. We know these batches, don’t we. With water: seawater, roots, olives, wakame, lemon and clay. Mouth (neat): cut cactus, lime, zests, cracked pepper and really a lot of ethanol. With water: sleeker but there is a little greenness. Rocket salad (rucola), grass… Other than that, it’s the usual bed of salt, paraffin, lemon, green apple and chalk. I have no complaints. Finish: long and really pretty salty. Licking pebbles on the Mediterranean coast (and why not?) Pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: less peaty than the Crabbie 12, but still pretty peaty.
SGP:362 - 88 points.

Secret Speyside 28 yo 1990/2019 (40.1%, Asta Morris, cask #AM136, 125 bottles)

Secret Speyside 28 yo 1990/2019 (40.1%, Asta Morris, cask #AM136, 125 bottles) Five stars
Seen the strength? That was tight! Colour: straw. Nose: fresh fruits aplenty and some fresh teas. Silver needles (shouldn’t those arrive around April in Europe?) Very delicate, perhaps a tad fragile but that’s actually an asset. Reminds me of some high-end and rather high-polish Japanese sake (Junmai ginjo) with a few very delicate fermentary notes. Not one to enjoy while listening to doom metal! Mouth: totally in keeping with the nose. Dear Mr. Bottler, are we sure this isn’t sake? I mean, great sake? Pretty amazing unfolding on white peaches, that’s really great. A few salty touches as well, which is not very ‘Speyside’ in my book, but who cares? The body’s is perfect, it would never feel weak or else despite the strength, but we all know that 40% natural and 40% reduced aren’t exactly the same thing. Finish: not short, and pretty bright. I just can’t get sake out of my head! Comments: rather sublime, complex, and delicate. I’m hesitating between 90 and 91 but since the bottler is a very friendly Belgian, err, friend, it’s going to be… 
SGP:451 - 91 points (please ship those shrimp croquettes as soon as possible!)

The Final Drop 46 yo 1971 (49.2%, Murray McDavid, Aficionado Series, 1 bottle)

The Final Drop 46 yo 1971 (49.2%, Murray McDavid, Aficionado Series, 1 bottle) Four stars
I believe this is actually a Port Dundas, so a single grain. It is the smallest kind of batch anyone could do, since they issued only one bottle! Sure we’d have preferred a Stromness, but a Port Dundas will do… What’s more, the value here is zilch, since the only bottle there ever was has been opened. Picture: another whisky in this mysterious series. Colour: bronze amber. Nose: it is not totally obvious that this would be grain whisky, could as well be some old Cuban rum. But it is rather lovely, with marrow knödels, chocolate, bouillons, a touch of pipe tobacco, hints of ham, perhaps some kind of old coconut wine, amontillado, a very wee soapy side perhaps, some fig wine… Mouth: some very old bourbon blended with some great old Spanish-style rum (there are some) and a pretty intriguing fresh fruitiness, between tangerines and coconuts indeed. Finish: medium and a tad thin, as always with grain whiskies, even when very old, but this marrow-and-oranges combination just works. A little grey pepper in the aftertaste, plus some slightly sour coconut milk. Comments: a rather useless note, for the record. I’m glad almost no one will be able to contradict me this time ;-).
SGP:550 - 86 points.

Anon. 30 yo 1988/2019 ‘Batch 3’ (46.6%, Abbey Whisky, Speyside, 153 bottles)

Anon. 30 yo 1988/2019 ‘Batch 3’ (46.6%, Abbey Whisky, Speyside, 153 bottles) Five stars
Colour: gold. Nose: nice freshness, with some rhubarb and kiwi, a few metallic touches, notes of green apples, lime zest, then rather fudge and shortbread, toasted brown bread, tarte tatin, and a few notes of wild carrots, fennel and aniseed. Perhaps even wormwood, absinth, and verbena. It’s the freshness that I find really impressive here. Mouth: very much to my liking, almost youthful, and pretty citrusy. Corsican citrons? Tangerines for sure. In the background, many tiny herbal notes, more verbena, fennel seeds, wormwood, Wulong tea, all that coated with some toasted bread, biscuits, and oak. An yet it is not exactly oaky. Finish: long, beautifully herbal, with drops of amontillado, chocolate liqueur, liquorice and sour apples. Lovely, really. Very nice bitter touches in the aftertaste (bitters, fino). Comments: it’s a rather big distillate. The age is perfect too
SGP:451 - 90 points.

(Thank you Lau)


March 3, 2020


A little battle of 1966 Bs

Two rare little 1966s from Speyside starting with a B, how does that sound? Maybe not too clever but you see, both were to be found at the Whisky Show Old & Rare in London, a reason as good as any I would say. Great show by the way. Oh and indeed, 1966 is a particularly legendary vintage more or less anywhere from John O’Groats to Carlisle!

Balvenie 30 yo 1966/1997 ‘Vintage Cask’ (45.5%, OB, USA, cask #1896, 204 bottles, 75cl)

Balvenie 30 yo 1966/1997 ‘Vintage Cask’ (45.5%, OB, USA, cask #1896, 204 bottles, 75cl) Five stars
Colour: rather deep gold. Nose: epitomically Balvenie, so rather all on tarte tatin, mirabelle jam and dried apricots at first nosing, then more on tiny tertiary aromas such as camphor and eucalyptus, then pinesap and some kind of earthy tea, perhaps not quite pu-her but getting there. But we’re not done with this complex little bomb since more floral notes tend to come to the front after a good three minutes, rather around orange blossom and a tiny pot-pourri. And then, back on tarte tatin, but perhaps a tarte tatin made with apricots rather than apples. Mouth: rather fantastic, still hitting – but 30 isn’t very old, is it -, warming, starting rather on fudge-y notes, then rushing towards those baked apricots sprinkled with honey and maple syrup. All kinds of pies and pastries, really, especially Danishes (which, some friends told me, have nothing to do with Denmark – really?) So, a wonderful Balvenie from a great vintage and in the prime of life. Finish: rather long, mainly on fudge, maple syrup and honeydew. Pecan praline. Comments: almost liquid cake. Some wonderful, gorgeous, stunning liquid cake from the ‘good old days’!
SGP:641 - 91 points.

Benriach 46 yo 1966/2012 ‘Vestige’ (44.1%, OB, hogshead, cask #2381, 62 bottles)

Benriach 46 yo 1966/2012 ‘Vestige’ (44.1%, OB, hogshead, cask #2381, 62 bottles) Five stars
In French, a vestige is not very positive a word, it’s almost synonymous with a ruin. Which, I’m sure, is exactly not what we’re having in our tasting glass just now… Colour: deep gold. Nose: there are similarities, especially the cake-y, honeyed side, but whilst we were having ripe and compotéed plums and apricots in the Balvenie, this time passion fruits and mangos have taken the lead, which is what most Benriachs distilled within the 1966-1976 decade used to showcase indeed. A total ‘tropical bomb’ and a style that was mainly to be found in Benriach indeed, and Lochside (and to a lesser extent in Bowmore and Laphroaig, as we all know). Hints of fruity hops too, and other floral touches as well, honeysuckle, orange blossom… Awesome! Mouth: there’s clearly more oak than in the younger Balvenie, all rather around herbs and teas, but we’re extremely far from any ueber-tannicity. Pink bananas, mangos, fruit peel, then quite bizarrely, notes of western orchard fruits, not too far from those that are to be found in the 1960s-1970s Balvenies indeed. Plums! Apricots! And papayas. Finish: medium, very very very fruity. All-vitamin fruit juice and drops of mead, touch of liquorice wood in the aftertaste. Comments: wondering if this wouldn’t cure COVID-19!
SGP:751 - 92 points.

(Thank you Jonny and thank you Mark at WhiskyBrother!)


March 2, 2020


Some Tormore

Great fruity whisky, Tormore. Never miss the old 10 white label if you can find it, esp. the one for Dreher in Italy. Anyway…

Tormore 24 years 1995/2019 (45.4%, Le Gus’t, butt, cask #LG272, 398 bottles)

Tormore 24 years 1995/2019 (45.4%, Le Gus’t, butt, cask #LG272, 398 bottles) Four stars and a half
Let’s check what these excellent wee French bottlers from Provence have found this time. Colour: pale gold. Nose: fruits everywhere indeed, especially oranges, plus a touch of mint, one of olive oil, and one of honey. Perfect combination, you could even try it live by assembling those ingredients in a large bowl. But careful, it's not easy to get the proportions right… Having this wee Tormore might be easier. Mouth: same feeling, with a burst of fresh fruits at first (oranges, mangos, pineapples), then this drop of honey, and various herbal teas that would add much complexity. Including mint tea. Finish: long, still extremely fruity, with something slightly Irish, perhaps. Northern Irish, if you see what I mean. Comments: one of these upper-echelon liquid fruit salads, a category that would include some Balblairs, some Lochsides, or some Bushmills indeed, to name but a few. A lovable drop.
SGP:641 - 89 points.

They’re having another one…

Tormore 24 years 1995/2019 (55.8%, Le Gus’t, butt, cask #20046, 71 bottles)

Tormore 24 years 1995/2019 (55.8%, Le Gus’t, butt, cask #20046, 71 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: this is clearly different, rather starting with notes of fresh paint, fresh putty, and orgeat syrup. Also fresh almonds, marzipan, some very fresh wood or broken branches, some damp paper… Well indeed this is very different. Let’s see if oak oils keep running the show once water’s ben added… With water: yeah pine needles, wood oils, teak, piano lacquer… In the back, perhaps some prickly pears, or some persimmons (which, granted, aren’t very aromatic anyway). Mouth (neat): no obtrusive paint of varnish this time, rather some wonderful fruity leaves, teas, oranges, tangerines… We’re much closer to the lighter sister here. With water: there, we got it, it’s not quite a fruit bomb, but it has got some very lovely notes of complex Chinese green tea (the name escapes me), also notes of Pinot Gris, Alsatian-style. Finish: pretty long, complex, with an unexpected hint of fresh liquorice and some greenish figs in the aftertaste. Comments: come on, what’s the name of that very famous high-end Chinese green tea again? Couldn’t you help me a wee bit?
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Tormore 30 yo 1988/2019 (48.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, hogshead, 162 bottles)

Tormore 30 yo 1988/2019 (48.4%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, hogshead, 162 bottles) Three stars and a half
Cheers Mark Watt! Hope we cross paths again very soon! Colour: pale gold. Nose: they say hogshead, but it noses like a barrel, with a load of vanilla cream, custard, vanilla fudge, then yellow melons and other lightly aromatic fruits. Stewed pears, poached apples, also rhubarb compote and kiwi jam, those sorts of things. Some cigarette tobacco in the background. Not a bomb, I would say. Mouth: it hasn’t quite got the brightness of the 1995s, and perhaps has it gotten a little woody (green oak), but all the rest is pretty fine, almondy, and pretty spicy, with some lighter green curry sauce, masala, peanut sauce (satay?)… Having said that the background’s a tad gritty and green, with fruit peelings and some over-infused green tea. Touchy. Finish: long, with many green tannins. Or, you’re right, rather a feeling of green tannings. Comments: very good, but approaching the border of over-woodiness in my book.
SGP:461 - 84 points.

Another go…

Tormore 30 yo 1988/2019 (47.9%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 462 bottles)

Tormore 30 yo 1988/2019 (47.9%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogshead, 462 bottles) Four stars
Colour: pale gold. Nose: same-ish. Perhaps a tad less fruity? Mouth: I like this one a tad better than the single cask this time. The powers of true small batches! Nice oranges, kiwis, grapefruits, riesling, sauvignon blanc, English champagne (laughing out loud and rolling on the floor here), notes of herbal teas, lime blossom, honeysuckle, indeed some green tannins, well-controlled ones this time… Finish: rather long, with lovely touches of pink grapefruits. Comments: a good example of wrecked maths, as with this bottling that involved 3 hoggies altogether, 1+1+1=4. Smart move by our friends. Recommended!
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Tormore 30 yo 1988/2019 (43.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, burbon hogshead, 132 bottles)

Tormore 30 yo 1988/2019 (43.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles) Four stars
132 bottles from a hoggie and a low strength, this one could be a little tired, let’s see… Colour: pale gold. Nose: same as the other AC, that is to say rather vanilla-ed, custardy, and just a tad light and branche-y. Mouth: hold on, this is fine, fresh, enticing, and despite a few green tannings here and there, still bright and pretty citrusy. Not-too-ripe mangos, pink grapefruits, maracuja… What we sometimes call ‘ship fruits’, that is to say fruits that are supposed to ripen while they’re transported. But this Tormore is pretty beautiful once you accept the green tannins. Finish: long, a tad sharp, citric and grassy. Lovely oils in the aftertaste. Walnut oil? Comments: I would clearly buy a bottle of this, it’s just that you’d better pour it drop by drop. Like 2cl in a huge fishbowl.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Tormore we've tasted so far


WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

February 2020

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Clynelish 36 yo (47.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, Director’s Cut, 2020) - WF93

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Clynelish 12 yo (56.9%, OB for Edward & Edward, white label, no rotation year) - WF96

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
None in Feb.

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Castarède 1974/2018 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)  - WF90

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Havana Club ‘Anejo Especial’ (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2005)   - WF50

February 2020 - part 2 <--- March 2020 - part 1 ---> March 2020 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ardbeg 1975/1999 (43%, OB)

Ardbeg 26 yo 1993/2020 (53.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles)

Balvenie 30 yo 1966/1997 ‘Vintage Cask’ (45.5%, OB, USA, cask #1896, 204 bottles, 75cl)

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1996/2019 (52.7%, The Single Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #1479, 405 bottles)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1998/2019 (55.4%, Hidden Spirits, sherry, cask #BN9819, 279 bottles)

Benriach 46 yo 1966/2012 ‘Vestige’ (44.1%, OB, hogshead, cask #2381, 62 bottles)

Littlemill 27 yo 1992/2019 (49.8%, Cadenhead, Closed Distillery, bourbon hogshead, 270 bottles)

Anon. 30 yo 1988/2019 ‘Batch 3’ (46.6%, Abbey Whisky, Speyside, 153 bottles)

Secret Speyside 28 yo 1990/2019 (40.1%, Asta Morris, cask #AM136, 125 bottles)