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Whisky Tasting

 

Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild
2002-20
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Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2024 - Part 1
 
 

February 2024 - part 2 <--- March 2024 - part 1 ---> March 2024 - part 2

 

March 14, 2024


Whiskyfun

WF's Little Duos, today two perpetual Glenfiddich

There's this rather recent series at Glenfiddich, the 'Perpetual Collection', with some bottles featuring age statements and others not. It appears to be a concept quite similar to the 'faux solera' systems (this isn't a value judgment), with unique 'VAT' numbers for each batch. Well, we only have two from this series on the tasting table, not exactly something to show off about...

("A great whisky doesn't encourage overconsumption". Magazine advert for Glenfiddich Pure Malt Scotch Whisky, France, 1982. I believe it is one of the earliest press ads with the general theme 'drink better, drink less'.)

Glenfiddich

 

 

Glenfiddich 'Perpetual Collection Vat 02 Rich & Dark' (43%, OB, 2022)

Glenfiddich 'Perpetual Collection Vat 02 Rich & Dark' (43%, OB, 2022) Three stars
Colour: gold. Nose: typical muscovado-y nose, with also toffee apples, a box of English chocolates, the expected walnut cake and a whiff of lavender. Nice post-prandial nose (right, a little digestif). Mouth: I find this good, malty, with some caramel, cherry cake or clafoutis, cinnamon roll, coffee-toffee, then apple compote and perhaps even a drop of calva. Finish: medium, more on chocolate, candied cherry and black raisin. Some caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: it's nice, consistent, pleasant, beautifully malty; a whisky that no one would refuse when it comes to digestifs, not even your friends who are die-hard whisky enthusiasts – unless they know here you hide the Brora.
SGP:541 - 82 points.

Glenfiddich 15 yo 'Perpetual Collection Vat 03' (50.2%, OB, 2022)

Glenfiddich 15 yo 'Perpetual Collection Vat 03' (50.2%, OB, 2022) Three stars and a half
Does it replace the 'Solera Vat No 3' from a few years back? There's new oak, bourbon and European oak sherry inside. Colour: gold. Nose: feels bourbony at first, with even a little putty and light varnish, as well as marzipan, before it would become all a matter of apples (and a few pears), something that I've always found epitomically Glenfiddichian. Fresh, stewed, a juice, as compote, even as jam, even as eau-de-vie (some varietals do work, others remain bland). With water: the largest bag of ripe and overripe apples ever, plus a little maraschino and marzipan. Mouth (neat): really sweet. Apple compote with some honey and a cinnamon/nutmeg spice combo. Feels a touch fizzy, like good cider. No problems. With water: water brings a soapiness onto the palate (saponification), a soapiness that takes its time before it would leave us alone. The good news is that after around ten minutes, we're left with more wonderful apples and rather notes of Turkish delights. Finish: long, on apples, marzipan and amaretti. And perhaps an ultra-tiny soapiness remaining in a corner (nope, haven't changed water). Pears in the aftertaste, which makes it even more Glenfiddichian. Comments: very good cuvée but be careful with water.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

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

 

March 13, 2024


Whiskyfun

Some Glenfarclas for the end of winter

Glenfarclas

Wintry magazine ad, mid-2000s.

 

For I've always felt that Glenfarclas was a winter malt, but we agree, that hardly makes sense. Let's instead move straight to practical work, beginning with a small trio introduced in Taiwan a few years ago which was supposed to highlight the differences brought by age, specifically one more year each time. Which, we agree, isn't much at all.

 

Glenfarclas 15 yo 'Trio Selection – Red' (46.3%, OB, 1800 bottles, Taiwan, sherry cask, 2016)

Glenfarclas 13 yo 'Trio Selection – Red' (46.3%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, 1800 bottles, 2016) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: It's a curiously malty sherry with notes of Ovaltine, chicory coffee, dark beer, followed by the expected roasted nuts, but also a thin slice of tarte tatin, and finally hints of bitter almonds, toffee, and slightly burnt caramel. Even a few whiffs of burnt tyre. All of this is not bad at all, this dark beer side without the intervention of dark beer is amusing. There is also more ripe pear after a few minutes. Mouth: I like it, this time it starts directly with the pears, a few green nuts, quite a few bitter almonds, chocolate not any less bitter... In fact, it then becomes increasingly dry and undoubtedly a bit tannic, but we stay within reasonable limits. Finish: long, a bit bitter and woody, even mentholated. Comments: in fact, it's a bit rough, a bit as if they had taken it out of the casks a bit too early for a single purpose... let's say an educational one. It's true that between education and marketing, there's sometimes not much more than a cigarette paper, as they say.
SGP:361 - 84 points.

Glenfarclas 13 yo 'Trio Selection – Blue' (46.3%, OB, Taiwan, sherry cask, 1800 bottles, 2016)

Glenfarclas 14 yo 'Trio Selection – Blue' (46.3%, OB, 1800 bottles, Taiwan, sherry cask, 2016) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: It is much more polished than the 'Green', with a nod to cakes and brioche, indeed tarte tatin, a roasted aspect again but better integrated, nougat, dried grapes, kougelhopf with its obligatory toasted almonds... It reminds me a bit, if I'm not mistaken, of the very good 25-year-old from the regular range (though it has been a good five years since we last tasted it). A few notes of chicken broth, which is very nice. Mouth: curiously fruitier than the 13, also fuller once more, with cakes, hazelnuts and roasted peanuts, caramel, then marmalade and, once again, a few menthol hints. A return of the Ovaltine follows. Finish: rather long, slightly bitter without excess, with pear and peach skins in the aftertaste, as well as black pepper. Comments: let's be honest, I don't think a single additional year of ageing in a similar cask can make such a difference by itself. Even humans don't change that much in a single year, do they?
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Glenfarclas 14 yo 'Trio Selection – Green' (46.3%, OB, 1800 bottles, Taiwan, sherry cask, 2016)

Glenfarclas 15 yo 'Trio Selection – Green' (46.3%, OB, 1800 bottles, Taiwan, sherry cask, 2016) Four stars
Colour: dark gold. Nose: this time there's a greater presence of fermentation notes, cake batter, chestnut purée, very fresh panettone, a tiny bit of old wood, banana cake, walnut wine, and just a hint of camphor... It's quite beautiful and the strength is just perfect, it's powerful but not at all spirity. And above all, it's very much 'Glenfarclas'. Mouth: a drier style again, with black tea, dark tobacco, freshly ground black pepper, coffee beans, very dark chocolate, then liquorice wood and a few waxy notes. Shoe polish (indeed, we've accidentally eaten some in the army, it was even quite a popular joke among the troops). Finish: long, spicier, with cumin, black pepper and clove. Dark chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: Very good dark chocolate, but my favourite remains the 14-year-old.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Let's taste some of the older ones, if you agree…

Glenfarclas 1995/2023 (49.2%, OB, Family Casks for Royal Mile Whiskies, sherry hogshead, cask #2296, 288 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1995/2023 (49.2%, OB, Family Casks for Royal Mile Whiskies, sherry hogshead, cask #2296, 288 bottles) Five stars
Colour: full gold. Nose: a rapid development but very characteristic of Glenfarclas, let me explain. Alright, there's a mineral, basalt-like aspect, almost a bit sulphurous (no worries, we're not talking about cabbage soup here), then cooked fruits of all kinds, apricots, damsons, dried grapes of course, and finally everything more towards molasses, strong-flavoured honey, Middle-Eastern fig wine, pipe tobacco, citrus maceration… Mouth: similar, it's a three-stage malt, first leather and tobacco, then candied or jammy fruits (figs continue to play a major role), and finally chestnut honey and maple syrup. One would swear they've also added a few pitchers of old Demerara rum, maybe to make it a Navy Whisky (S., yeah right…) Finish: long, perfect, spicy, and of course very 'sherry', with lots of nuts and again that mineral side that suggests sulphur but isn't. An asset within this context. Comments: a marvellous cask, absolutely classic. Who is the king of Speyside at the moment? That's up for debate...
SGP:562 - 90 points.

Let's finish with an old Australian Glenfarclas...

Glenfarclas 1973/2003 (59.6%, The Gillies Club, Australia, cask #7988)

Glenfarclas 1973/2003 (59.6%, The Gillies Club, Australia, cask #7988) Five stars
The Gillies Club is one of the oldest clubs for slightly fanatical whisky enthusiasts (like you and me, right?) in the world. In fact, our Australian friend and Malt Maniac Craig has always spoken highly of it. So, this is a Glenfarclas that comes straight from Down Under. Colour: gold. Nose: it really resembles one of those old official Glenfarclas bottles with the square shape from the 1970s, which says a lot. There's a lot more chalk, beeswax and other waxes, honeys, great sweet wines (especially German but also Alsatian of course – who said they are similar, who?) and white flowers. Even at such a degree, there is a lot of sweetness. With water: it's the chalk, white flowers, and honey that stand out. This time it's a bit like a superb old white Graves, a bit in the style of Laville/Mission. Please, take a bow. Mouth (neat): magnificent! The same comments apply regarding those old official square bottles. Meads and honeys, small aromatic herbs, flowers, candied citrus fruits, old herbal liqueurs… All of this is quite sublime, even at close to 60% ABV. Perhaps has it lost a few watts since 2003? No complaints, it's a marvellous 'old-school' GF. With water: there it is, it reminds me a bit of the 21 years for Giaccone, especially the versions at a higher degree. Absolute splendours. Finish: long, dazzlingly clear, with superior citrus. Very amusing hints of ham in the aftertaste, but that may be the start of an OBE. Comments: well, how do we go about emigrating to Downunda foreva? I may ask my mates.
SGP:561 - 93 points.

Thanks to The Antelope for having helped us with the age statements in Chinese that we were having wrong.

(Thank you, Deni!)

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

 

March 12, 2024


Whiskyfun

WF's Little Duos, today Isle of Jura
OB vs. IB

Another name we try to taste as often as we can, even if it's only during short sessions like the one we're about to have. On this note, I'd like to point out that the wines of the Jura region in France are only getting better, and if a few years ago it was just a handful of star winemakers propelling the entire region, today the leap in quality seems to be widespread, at least among the true winemakers, from the north to the south of the region. When it comes to chardonnay, the haughty Burgundy should better watch out! But let's return to the Isle of Jura in Scotland…


Jura's typical sense of humour, 2000s (WF Archive)

 

 

Jura 'Islanders Expression No2' (40%, OB, 2023)

Jura 'Islanders Expression No2' (40%, OB, 2023) Three stars
Alas, only 40%, NAS and tampered with (I mean finished) in a pale ale cask. We're still waiting for an Irn Bru cask finish! In short, the pedigree doesn't inspire much hope, but you never know, especially since the label is pretty. And we do love the place where this baby is distilled... Colour: gold. Nose: well it's not bad at all, it's quite round, pastry-like, and especially with a variety of oils, notably sesame oil and peanut oil. And even, pushing things a little bit, touches of sweet olive oil made with very ripe olives. Some mini-notes of burlap and mustard to remind us that this is a Jura. Mouth: it gets a bit worse but it's still not bad, a bit flavoured indeed, slightly chocolatey, certainly malty enough, becoming more and more 'Jura'. Leather, mustard, salt, bitter oranges. The low strength works quite well, it seems to bring freshness. Finish: medium length, still a bit salty. Some wood and chocolate in the aftertaste, with a very slightly smoky side. Comments: it's frankly rather well done, even if the concept is frightening at the start. As long as they also keep making the 21-year-old, I'm happy.
SGP:552 - 81 points.

Jura 14 yo 2008/2022 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL15584, 319 bottles)

Jura 14 yo 2008/2022 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL15584, 319 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: this is proof that Jura can also be pure and pretty crystalline, this time almost entirely on granny smith apples for at least twenty seconds, before more fermentative notes appear, then pepper, then mustard, a bit of curry and ginger, then orange peels, then tobacco and leather, then some... ale. It was well worth organising this little session, huh. Mouth: this time it's pure Jura right away. In no particular order, there's mustard and pepper, lime and apple, leather and foliage, yeast and beer, candied oranges, a simultaneously earthy and salty side, maybe a few discreet exotic fruits... Finish: the same combination, with a nice length. It ends on white peach with amusing hints of tequila and 'funky' rum. Comments: what is admirable here is that this is a pure expression of Jura as the distillers themselves don't quite offer (it seems to me). And this is why we love the indies.
SGP:562 - 85 points.

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

 

March 11, 2024


Whiskyfun

Bunch of five Glenlivet

First, an apéritif…

 

"THE" PURE. Perhaps one of the most minimalist magazine adverts ever done by a Scotch brand. France, circa 1980.

Glenlivet

 

 

Glenlivet 18 yo 'Batch Reserve' (40%, OB, +/-2023)

Glenlivet 18 yo 'Batch Reserve' (40%, OB, +/-2023) Three stars
What does 'batch reserve' mean? And why a 18 at only 40%? Last time we tried the 18, that was in 2014 (WF 83). So ten years after, with thoughts to Alvin Lee… Colour: gold. Nose: as expected, leafy and cakey. Then bay leaves, apple peel, ginger, cinnamon, roasted nuts, bitter oranges, rather strong ale and a wee glass of ginger tonic. My older notes seem to suggest that earlier batches of this 18 were less oak-driven and rather fruitier and rounder. Mouth: very malty, pretty sherried, very leafy, a tad bitter(ish), as if there was some European oak involved. I'll say it again, minimal strengths do not cope too well with heavier oak extractions, in my humbler experience, even 43% works much better. Some roasted chestnuts, some green tea, zests, more bay leaf, a little maraschino, allspice, ginger and cinnamon, then more nutmeg… Finish: medium, rather nicer, with more honey and maple syrup, even if the aftertaste is pretty oak-spicy and drying again. Cocoa powder. Comments: I find it curiously dry, but it's a fine drop, naturally. They should add some Longmorn, neither seen nor known.
SGP:351 - 82 points.

Glenlivet 14 yo 1996/2011 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt, cask #105516, 526 bottles)

Glenlivet 14 yo 1996/2011 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage, Sherry Butt, cask #105516, 526 bottles) Four stars and a half
From the old stocks. SigV have always had some awesome sherried Glenlivets. Seriously, together with G&M, they've done the largest part of the job towards us enthusiasts. Colour: dark amber. Nose: twenty Mars bars macerated in fresh malt whisky (per glass), plus Corinth raisins and drops of Maggi, some lovage, umami, hoisin… With water: more toffee. Mouth (neat): terrific chocolaty sherry, plus tonnes of raisins, hectolitres of maple sirup and one dried fig. With water: caramel, toffee and chocolate all over the place. Finish: same for a long time. An earthier and spicier touch in the aftertaste. Comments: call this a sherry monster if you want.
SGP:661 - 88 points.

Glenlivet 17 yo 2006/2023 (60.8%, Signatory Vintage for LMDW, Ne Vibrations, first fill oloroso sherry butt, cask # 900811, 593 bottles)

Glenlivet 17 yo 2006/2023 (60.8%, Signatory Vintage for LMDW, New Vibrations, first fill oloroso sherry butt, cask # 900811, 593 bottles) Five stars
Colour: dark gold. Nose: much more chocolate and, yes, Mars bars than you would expect given its colour. We're extremely close to its older brother, but it is true that it's a tried and tested recipe that they're quite right to perpetuate decade after decade. Christmas cake, dried figs, a deluge of currants, a few rose petals, pipe tobacco, toffee, red fruit ganaches, dates, aged Armagnac... It's a well-oiled machine. With water: roasted nuts, mild tobacco, it's absolutely perfect. A bit of parsley. Mouth (neat): ultra-classic, absolutely excellent, with a wee bit of old Glenfarclas (excuse me), orange marmalade, toffee, butterscotch, abundant chocolate but never cloying... What I mean to say is that some sherry monsters can be a bit overwhelming, which is not at all the case here. With water: the citrus rises to the surface, it's always a welcome phenomenon. Finish: indeed the finale is a bit fruitier, almost lighter. Although one cannot really speak of lightness. Comments: just a perfect harmony with the sherry, perfect mastery. Personally, I would cellar it for a few more years to nudge it towards 91 or 92 points.
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Secret Speyside Distillery 30 yo 1991/2022 (51.8%, Sansibar, bourbon hogshead, 291 bottles)

Secret Speyside Distillery 30 yo 1991/2022 (51.8%, Sansibar, bourbon hogshead, 291 bottles) Four stars and a half
Everything is kept under wraps here, but there's a splendid, colourful illustration of the Glenlivet Distillery on the front label. I don't think that's a coincidence. Colour: straw. Nose: you can smell the old wood, but in a charming way, with a hint of aged chardonnay that's just ever so slightly tired, a bit of coconut, vanilla, humus, moss, a very faintly acetic aspect... With water: there's even toasted bread, then mirabelle jam and chamomile softened with dandelion honey. That's very good (I've just tried it, you see). Mouth (neat): very beautiful, quite rustic nonetheless for Glenlivet, with that renewed sense of coconut, vanilla and old chardonnay. All of this is really charming, I insist. With water: the same. Honeys, herbal teas, yellow fruits, and always a bit of old wood. White pepper too. Finish: medium length, smooth, now more on mead's side. Oh, and dandelion honey. Comments: it's very, very beautiful, wonderfully well-worn, while it was a tough act to follow after the sherry monsters. And then there's that charming side…
SGP:551 – 88 points.

One for the road…

Secret Speyside Distillery 1987/2021 (47.2%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, for Charles Hoffer Switzerland, hogshead, cask #9983, 227 bottles)

Secret Speyside Distillery 1987/2021 (47.2%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, for Charles Hoffer Switzerland, hogshead, cask #9983, 227 bottles) Four stars and a half
We're absolutely not saying that this is some 33/34 years old Glenlivet. Right. Colour: light gold. Nose: it's very honeyed, indeed we're all in on very ripe apple and honey (acacia as well as wildflower), pollen, soft wax, an old pack of Camels a tiny bit of polish, then the apples come back. A small slice of tarte tatin and a bit of quince jelly. Mouth: that old-cask side that we'd already found in the Sansibar, those herbal teas, those overripe fruits (apples, plums), flower syrup (mullein, woodruff), white wine... And lemon that's getting everyone's approval in all circumstances. Finish: quite long, more citric, lemony, surprisingly tight for its age. Always a bit of old wood in the aftertaste, but that's absolutely not a problem. Comments: we're really close to the 1991. It's not often you find such tension in an old Glen***** (oh that's clever, S.)
SGP:551 - 88 points.

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

 

March 10, 2024


Whiskyfun

Another verticale of carefully selected cognacs, thinking of them

Saintes

Flood in Saintes (Le Parisien)

Floods are part of the rhythm of the river Charente. Since 1700, it has exceeded 4 metres at the main bridge in Saintes (think Grosperrin) 151 times. This includes three occasions this winter, with peaks of 5.42 metres on 13 November 2023, 6.08 metres on 17 December 2023, and right this week, 5.54 metres on Wednesday, 6 March! Fortunately, they have courage and a great deal of panache! We had the pleasure of sampling some extraordinary cognacs last Sunday and so, even though we had planned on tasting rums today (and there are many exceptional rums as well), we prefer to savour a few more hidden gem cognacs to keep the momentum going. And to start with one or more aperitifs (which often turn out to be much more than that)...

 

ABK6 'XXO' (42%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2023)

ABK6 'XXO' (42%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2023) Four stars
XXO or 'extra extra old' is a relatively new category that addresses, since 2018, cognacs aged for a minimum of 14 years. Hennessy had been using it before but it was having no binding value back then, it was just a 'brand'. This one is own-estate, top-of-range cognac so I suppose it's also sheltering much older juices. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it would start with some rather delicate encaustic, cherry stem tea, beeswax, roasted nut, while it's then rather geared towards honeys and very soft spices. Our favourite honey, chestnut, is sitting right there in the middle, together with a handful of sultanas. Lovely, pretty delicate and yet rather all-purpose nose. It's an expensive bottle (450€).

Mouth: some old oak that feels, some stewed peaches and oranges, old sweet wine that got drier over the decades, then touches of liquorice, lavender and jasmine tea, fruit peel (peach) as well as a feeling of cedarwood and orange zests. Nice but I thought the nose was nicer yet. Finish: medium to short, a little tea-ish and oaky, with some cinnamon and a little pickled ginger. More cedarwood, a drying aftertaste. Comments: Very good, but as often is the case, it probably would have been better – and less woody – at a slightly higher strength. A very lovely cognac, just a bit (a lot) pricey.
SGP:361 - 85 points.

Rémi Landier 'Napoléon' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2023)

Rémi Landier 'Napoléon' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2023) Four stars
A fins-bois-driven blend of nine years of age by an excellent house. They've also blended new French oak and refill. Colour: deep gold. Nose: some rather awesome tropicalness, with mangos roasted in honey, certainly some proper maple syrup, then dandelions and other flowers of the season full of nectar (meant to help all bees kickstart their colonies). Some violets too. This roastedness is absolutely lovely, I had already tried this expression fifteen years ago, I believe this very one lies in a higher league. Mouth: more classic sweet raisins, maple syrup again, other syrups… I find it really very sweet but that works. Liquorice allsorts, nougat and just 5 kilograms of prairie honey. Finish: medium, still very sweet. Bags of raisins and jars of pineapple jam in the aftertaste. Comments: liked the palate, loved the nose. Just a tad, well, sweet for me.
SGP:741 - 85 points.

Let's now go down the ladder of time, as we like to do… Alas, it's becoming increasingly difficult to do with whisky.

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Heritage N. 10 – N. 11' (49.6%, Cognac Sponge, Grande Champagne, 120 bottles, 2023)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Heritage N. 10 – N. 11' (49.6%, Cognac Sponge, Grande Champagne, 120 bottles, 2023) Five stars
100% folle blanche, distilled by Monsieur Jean Pasquet himself. Colour: dark gold. Nose: linden herbal tea and yuzu at first nosing, which is awesome indeed, then some kind of herbal caramel (no less dazzling) and sesame oil, black nougat, orange blossom water and just 'soil'. I'd add that you do feel that it is folle blanche. More honeys of various kinds chiming in then, all bright and uplifting. Mouth: an impressive citrusy arrival, then our buddies the quinces and mirabelles, then some kind of lemon pie sprinkled with chartreuse. Linden tea is back too. In Alsace we would say it is very 'süffig', which means that you'd better keep your bottles under lock and key. Finish: rather long, with wee notes of fir honey on top of all the rest. Comments: the best malt whiskies are sometimes as good, or even better when they're young, think Springbank or Ardbeg. Only one question remains then, is this Pasquet an Ardbeg of cognac, or is it a Springbank? Right, let me remind you that I keep tasting spirits from the POV of a whisky enthusiast… Brilliant young cognac.
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Estève 33 yo 'Lot 89' (57.4%, Maltbarn, Petite Champagne, 120 bottles, 2023)

Estève 33 yo 'Lot 89' (57.4%, Maltbarn, Petite Champagne, 120 bottles, 2023) Four stars
From a family estate of 50ha, located in Celles in the Charente-Maritime. I think it is the first time I'm trying an Estève. Colour: amber. Nose: it's rather a jammy cognac, shock-full of ripe and preserved plums and apricots, eaux-de-vie and liqueurs, with lovely touches of marzipan and pistachio syrup in the background. With water: moss and fern are taking over. Verbena, aniseed, fennel, crushed pine needles… Mouth (neat): some small piney tension at first, with rather a lot of deep-steeped black tea then, but oranges and tangerines are coming to the rescue. Water remains deeply needed. With water: the wood still feels but citrus is balancing it all, bringing a feeling of green chartreuse aged in oak for many years. Which, we agree, doesn't really exist. Ever tried chartreuse Orange? Finish: rather long, not that piney, rounder than expected. Triple sec and fir bud liqueur. Comments: extremely good and possibly bottled -at just the right moment.
SGP:571 - 86 points.

Petite Champagne 'Lot 82' (44%, The Scottish Brothers, 2022)

Petite Champagne 'Lot 82' (44%, The Scottish Brothers, 2022) Five stars
A bottle stemming from a property in Archiac in the Charente-Maritime. They wouldn't tell about the estate, there seems to be several of them down there. This is a Belgian bottling, which is enough for us, ha. Colour: amber with copper tones. Nose: more classic cognac, more stewed, with more very ripe peaches, milk chocolate, tamarind, juicy prunes, whiff of incense, some cherry liqueur, maraschino, and a lovely fresher rancio. Old cognac as in the books, I would say. Mouth: fantastic juicy, pruney, raisiny cognac. Bags and bags of sultanas, certainly a feeling of very old pineau des Charentes, then damson jam and some rosehip tea. Excellent. Finish: pretty long, at times you would believe this is sweet muscat (Beaumes de Venise-like). Formidable. Comments: this one too is very süffig, be careful.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Towards the seventies…

Daniel Bouju 'Lot 79' (51.8%, Malternative Belgium for The Nectar, Grande Champagne, 300 bottles)

Daniel Bouju 'Lot 79' (51.8%, Malternative Belgium for The Nectar, Grande Champagne, 300 bottles) Four stars and a half
I've tried Boujus that have been pretty extractive, let's see… Colour: very dark amber. Nose: bags of roasted nuts, caramel and toffee, liquorice, resins (gentler ones), some meatiness, as in some deep-sherried malt whisky, plus prunes and chocolate sauce. It seems like we could almost sneak this little one into a blind tasting of Glenfarclas. With water: funny saponification occurring, then back to extreme jams and compotes, in the style of some very old sweet malagas and sherries. Touch of lovage, Marmite, Maggi… Mouth (neat): pretty much in the style of the 82, just heavier yet, very fruity, extremely jammy. All raisins you could find in a Turkish shop, plus all millionaire shortbread you'll find in bonnie Scotland. And that's a lot. With water: no heavy tannins, we're happy. Having said that it got really sweet and thickish, it's no ethereal cognac for sure. Finish: long, thick, heavy, rich, sweet. Comments: 1979? Well this could be a Ramone of the cognac world.
SGP:641 - 89 points.

Let's double-check all that…

Daniel Bouju 'D74-84 – A39-49' (52.6%, Edition Dully, Grande Champagne, Batch 4)

Daniel Bouju 'D74-84 – A39-49' (52.6%, Edition Dully, Grande Champagne, Batch 4) Five stars
Ugni blanc and a name that makes you feel like you're playing a game of battleships. Seriously, it's a blend of 1974-1984 vintages, aged for from 39 to 49 years. Colour: mahogany. Nose: we're very close, this one has just a little more coffee liqueur, menthol, fir liqueur, even varnish, otherwise it's the same display of prunes, chocolate and rich honeys and even molasses. With water: deep coffee, ristretto, hoisin sauce, plus black Assam and very old rancio. The coffeeness remains perfect. Mouth (neat): some extreme black chocolate while, to be honest, you'd also believe it's sheltering some very old sherried Longmorn. Or Glenfarclas indeed. With water: it's a little sweeter and rounder, with many more raisins. Finish: long and very chocolaty and coffeeish. Zwetschke jam in the aftertaste. Comments: amazing, perhaps just a tad less bright and a notch heavier than the previous batch, which I just adored (WF 91). But we're not having both on the table for due comparison.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Peyrot 'V.68 A.55' (44.4%, Old Master Spirits, Grande Champagne, 141 bottles)

Peyrot 'V.68 A.55' (44.4%, Old Master Spirits, Grande Champagne, 141 bottles) Five stars
A bottling organized by and for Australia. It's pure ugni blanc a.k.a. Trebbiano a.k.a. Saint-Emilion (didn't know that, thanks Deni). Nothing to do with Ausone or Cheval Blanc though (merlot, cabernets). Anyway, own-estate cognac in Mainxe-Gondeville, estate called Domaine des Bergeronnettes (those are wee birds), distilled by the grandmother in 1968, still in the family, all is well, it seems to tick all the boxes… Colour: amber. Nose: herbs, tertiary aromas, old wines, parsley and chives, tobacco, olive oil, cigars, fermenting mangos and pears, pistachio oil, blood orange, a little shoe polish and plasticine… well this is extremely complex and it would keep changing for hours. Fantastic notes of chen-pi emerging too. Trying to keep this short and sweet. Mouth: awe, this is truly something special, with fruits that aren't that common in cognac, in my meagre experience. Such as prickly pears, cranberries, pomegranates, even lychees… Plus just sweet apples. Pure, rather dangerous easiness. Finish: rather long, rather on sweet 'buttery' pears. Am I dreaming or are there also ripe kiwis? Comments: I find it rather touching that this wee baby has almost travelled around the world only to come back to be savoured in France. It's all amusing, and it's an utterly excellent drop.
SGP:641 - 91 points.

Petite Champagne 'N°67 Héritage' (40.7%, Jean Grosperrin, Lot #1115, 190 litres)

Petite Champagne 'N°67 Héritage' (40.7%, Jean Grosperrin, Lot #1115, 190 litres) Five stars
You really need to see the bottle to be able to read the awesome stories that are added to the front labels. For example, this cask has aged peacefully for 37 years at the distiller's in the region of Archiac, before being moved to Grosperrin's famous chai. It also says that this is 'delicate'. Colour: deep gold. Nose: I think I enjoy slightly grassier cognacs more and more, in this very case you'd find woodruff, pansies too, hay, mullein flowers, then just ripe apples and pears. And many herbal teas, especially proper chamomile (that's right, the other manzanilla). A touch of white chocolate too. Mouth: the low strength don't feel and there are entrancing notes of tangerines and bergamot juices. That's properly amazing, Tiny touches of aromatic white wines, viognier, manseng… Which is used to make white Jurançon wine, which hasn't got anything to do with Jurançon blanc, which is a secondary grape that's rather used to make… cognac or armagnac. Isn't everything a little complicated in France? There are vine peaches too. Finish: unexpectedly long, bright and fruity, indeed on peach juice and, probably, white Jurançon (the wine, not the grape). Ooh my poor head… Comments: awesome. Another very süffig one that needs to be locked up.
SGP:641 - 90 points.

Please note that the word 'süffig' doesn't exactly mean 'drinkable'. Drinkable means that you could drink rather a lot of said spirit, while süffig means that you will. Last one please…

Tiffon 'Lot 45' (49.2%, Swell de Spirits, Field Trip, Petite Champagne, 60 bottles, 2023)

Tiffon 'Lot 45' (49.2%, Swell de Spirits, Field Trip, Petite Champagne, 60 bottles, 2023) Five stars
This incredible immediate post-war Tiffon was resting in a demijohn when it was selected and bottled under this amazing slightly arty label. Mind you, a 1945! Colour: red amber. Nose: you'll first find gentler wallflowers and stewed peaches, before it would move towards many kinds of nuts, especially macadamia, plus something exotic, possibly ylang-ylang, Sicilian mandarins (the ones they use to make high-end perfume), a little charcoal, vetiver, fresh capers, delicate honeys, a few wild mushrooms… But when was it demijohnned? It could well be around 50 years of age. Mouth: incredible, you do feel exactly why they decided to transfer it from wood to glass, as you do notice a little tannicity in the back of the background, certainly an asset at the time, and possibly a problem five years later. Well, maybe, I may be overthinking here but I find this fascinating. Peaches in syrup, apricots, small berries, pink peppers, tangerines, plums, all-slower honey, glazed chestnuts, blood oranges… Finish: medium, still bright (thanks to the demijohn), with the usual peach-driven fruitiness that the best old cognacs have. Tangerines and hops/Timut pepper in the aftertaste, plus this oakiness on the horizon. Comments: a fascinating Tiffon on several accounts, and certainly a tribute to the Cellar Master who took the decision. Hope he's still with us.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Oh, there's also this little 1972 that has just come in...

Maxime Trijol 50 yo 1972/2023 (47.3%, Journal des Kirsch, Kirsch Import, Petite Champagne, Edition Nr 5, 162 bottles)

Maxime Trijol 50 yo 1972/2023 (47.3%, Journal des Kirsch, Kirsch Import, Petite Champagne, Edition Nr 5, 162 bottles) Five stars
Out this week, I believe. Previous editions of the Kirsch Journals have been exceptional, and the Trijol house enjoys a flawless reputation, so one wouldn't expect anything to go wrong. However, note that we have never tasted a Trijol as aged as this one. Colour: amber with a hint of bronze. Nose: well, we have before us a large packet of dried figs. These dried figs, which are never exactly the same within a single packet, display a myriad of aromas themselves, such as raisins, praline, maple syrup, marzipan-stuffed dates, various honeys, or even wax polish and old leather. Some very ripe apricot and some tropical fruit complete the set. It's quite masterful and, especially, exceedingly cheerful, even vernal, which is fortunate. Mouth: it's very different, much more on old calvados, brown tobacco, resinous and oak woods, ground coffee, powdered cinnamon, very dark tea (indeed, black Assam), cloves, liquorice, menthol... In short, the wood is much more present than on the nose, but it's a 'traditional' woodiness in very old cognacs, a woodiness one could almost call 'of antique quality', if you see what I mean. In essence, it's not so much about apricots anymore but it's still a great cognac. Finish: long, with a rather obvious tannicity but that's certainly not a flaw in this particular context. Very dark chocolate in the aftertaste (80% cocoa or more). Comments: absolutely excellent, but perhaps not an old cognac to take to the beach. Forget about the cheerful and spring-like side that we found on the nose.
SGP:471 - 90 points.

So, many cognacs of the highest quality again, but it's true that we continue to favour the somewhat "boutique" bottlers and makers. Because they are the best, it's undeniable. Small remains beautiful.

See you soon for more old cognacs.

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

 

March 8, 2024


Whiskyfun

The Arranic Wars, fourth battle and last

Arran

 

 

Arran 10 yo (46%, OB, sherry and bourbon, +/-2017)

Arran 10 yo (46%, OB, sherry and bourbon, +/-2017) Three stars and a half
Indeed, it's still the old label. Let's admit it, the new one is more elegant. Colour: gold. Nose: it's nice, it's simple, it's all about brioche, barley and bread dough. There's not much to add, perhaps some pear poached in sweet wine. Mouth: it's more rustic, but it's good. There's more depth to it than in the big-name Speysiders of the same age, I find, but it's further away from the coastal ones (BN, HP, Cl, OP...). In short, it's in between the two. Finish: medium length, with coffee coming from the cask charring (I presume). Comments: a neat little malt. Of course, it's better with the new label (S., nonsense!)
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Arran 18 yo (46%, OB, sherry and bourbon, +/-2017)

Arran 18 yo (46%, OB, sherry and bourbon, +/-2017) Four stars
We'll do this very quickly; we've already tasted the 18 many times. It was a bit disappointing in 2020 (WF 84) but now we're going back to an older distillate, for good reason naturally. Colour: gold. Nose: there are lovely notes of beeswax and pollen, fresh bread, very ripe apples, fougasse, panettone, gazelle horns, fresh walnuts... Mouth: I adore chicory and even Nescafé, believe it or not. There's plenty of that here, as well as roasted malt and cereals of all kinds, maple syrup, slightly burnt cake... Bring me some champagne and we'll have breakfast! Finish: medium length but very pretty, with malt and honey. Nothing to complain about. Comments: definitely better than the more recent versions, one might say... despite the label. Right.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Arran 14 yo 2006/2020 (53.5%, OB, LMDW, Sherry Hogshead, cask #08/800485, 275 bottles)

Arran 14 yo 2006/2020 (53.5%, OB, LMDW, Sherry Hogshead, cask #08/800485, 275 bottles) Four stars
LMDW have really offered a lot of Arrans in recent years, and it's hard to fault them for it. Colour: amber with copper tones. Nose: a somewhat rustic sherry, it seems, herbaceous, with fruit skins, nuts, grape must, even lees... We're definitely going to need some water. With water: bursts of peony! But it remains earthy. Mouth (neat): it's very pleasant on the palate, sweet, fruity, reminiscent of a young rancio. Pepper, overripe apples, very ripe peaches, equally ripe damsons, honey, pink grapefruit... With water: it becomes more honeyed and even more focused on fresh, even green, nuts. The famous Italian nocino. Finish: long, still oscillating between the fruity and the more herbaceous notes. Comments: it's good, not much to add, not sure we're going to remember this very good little Arran ex-sherry all our life, are we?
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Arran 12 yo 2006/2019 (53.6%, Single Malt Whisky Shop Zammel, sherry hogshead, cask #2006/800463, 315 bottles)

Arran 12 yo 2006/2019 (53.6%, OB for Single Malt Whisky Shop Zammel, sherry hogshead, cask #2006/800463, 315 bottles) Four stars
Our Belgian friends at it once more, it seems. Colour: gold. Nose: lovely cakes, toasted nuts of all kinds, sesame paste, peanut butter (I love that), pecan pie... All is going well so far. With water: a bit more on bread dough, pastry dough, Christmas cake, dried figs... Mouth (neat): very good, balanced between toasted nuts and pure sherry notes, just a bit winey. Blood oranges and sultanas. With water: syrupy peaches emerge, otherwise we stay in the same realm. Finish: quite long, a tad more undefined. Frankly, with thousands and thousands of sherry-treated casks filled, it's not obvious to extract something dazzlingly substantial every time, as the philosophers would say. Comments: but naturally, it's very good.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Inevitably, at this point, one asks this perhaps seminal question: does a single cask necessarily have to offer something distinctive? Please send your answers on a postcard (remember, print is back).

Arran 21 yo 2001/2023 (55.3%, OB for Whisky in Leiden, bourbon, cask #2001/061, 145 bottles)

Arran 21 yo 2001/2023 (55.3%, OB for Whisky in Leiden, bourbon, cask #2001/061, 145 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: classic fresh barley-y malt, with some custard, shortbread, oatcakes, butterscotch, pear cake, acacia honey, white nougat… With water: nougat prevails, along with various halvas from Turkey and elsewhere. Peanuts, almonds... It's all just sinful. Mouth (neat): soft, very good, very smooth, sweet, with cider and perry notes, accompanied by very pretty honeyed and malty notes. With water: it becomes a bit closed off, more herbaceous, a bit terpenic. Not its best phase. Finish: long but indeed, herbaceous and not very approachable. A pity. Comments: this baby doesn't seem to like water too much, it's like a kitten. At cask strength, it's a magnificent whisky, just a little too powerful. Water or not water, a cruel dilemma, as they say.
SGP:461 - 84 points.

Isle of Arran 20 yo 1998/2018 (51.4%, Caora, sherry hogshead, Caora N°5, cask #849, 120 bottles)

Isle of Arran 20 yo 1998/2018 (51.4%, Caora, sherry hogshead, Caora N°5, cask #849, 120 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: entirely on candy sugar, manuka honey, maple syrup, and 'just slightly burnt' cakes. There's nothing here to dismiss. With water: brilliant, maple syrup, from a small farm, Quebec, organic and all that. I know some who make pancakes in the morning just as an excuse to have maple syrup (guilty as charged). Mouth (neat): it's pure maple syrup, really! That's great because at WF we love maple syrup, especially on foie gras—there, a suggestion. With water: has this ex-sherry Arran been finished in a maple syrup cask? Come on, it's just us here, tell us the truth... Finish: I can sense a Quebecois accent coming through... Comments: it's true, you have to be fond of maple syrup., tabernak.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Arran 25 yo 1996/2021 (49%, Thompson Bros., sherry hogshead, 192 bottles)

Arran 25 yo 1996/2021 (49%, Thompson Bros., sherry hogshead, 192 bottles) Four stars
What a wonderful label! Colour: bronze gold. Nose: ex-Jamaican rum cask? I know they say sherry hogshead… But lemons, gherkins, diesel oil, nail polish remover, olives.. don't tell me this belongs to Arran! With water: some gentler, earthier, maltier notes. Stout and cakes. Perhaps no rum cask, after all. Mouth (neat): awesome, big, punchy, peppery, earthy, smoky, terpenic in some way… With water: back to earthy/dusty flavours. Finish: medium, earthy. Autumn leaves, salty seaweed… Comments: tough to handle and perhaps to enjoy, please do not add any waterz – and you'll be better than fine.
SGP:361 - 85 points.

Having reached the 32nd Arran, I think we'll stop there. Arran is a fabulous whisky, one we absolutely adore, but it may not have a distinct enough personality to dominate and leave its mark on strictly all types of casks. To be honest, this is the case for four out of five malt whiskies, if not more, especially in Speyside. Unless they use more refill wood and let the distillate and time work their magic, which, granted, doesn't seem to be the main trend these days. But then again, bravo to Arran. Oh, and let's keep watching cousin Lagg…

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

 

March 7, 2024


Whiskyfun

Much more Arran (third part)

Arran

 

 

Arran 14 yo 1996/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #96/868, 475 bottles)

Arran 14 yo 1996/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #96/868, 475 bottles) Three stars
Example photograph. An extraordinary series that was offered about fifteen years ago, featuring whiskies from nearly all malt distilleries, with hardly any exceptions. We had tasted many, and here is one of the last editions we had yet to try until now. It's an opportunity to taste a young Arran from the early days of the distillery. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it's quite lovely, very natural. Almost entirely on wet chalk, then on porridge and cider apple. It is rare to find so much chalk in a whisky. Mouth: similar but a bit wilder, herbaceous, fermentative, almost a bit challenging. A mineral taste that slightly reminds one of the 'taste of glass'. Finish: long, a bit sharp, still very chalky. Lemon liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: a very pretty nose, but it's slightly spoiled on the palate. We shall assign a balanced score.
SGP:361 - 80 points.

Come on, let's quickly get rid of the next one...

Arran 'Machrie Moor Eighth Edition' (46%, OB, 18,300 bottles, 2017)

Arran 'Machrie Moor Eighth Edition' (46%, OB, 18,300 bottles, 2017) Two stars and a half
The cask strength version was rather disappointing last time (WF 78). Obviously young as they first distilled this variant in 2010. Colour: white wine. Nose: apple juice and chimney smoke somewhat disjointed. It's not too bad, it's just of a biblical simplicity. And yet, it is probably not a malt to be religiously savoured (well done, S.!). Mouth: a chalky aspect, concentrated lemon juice, a lot of cigarette or cigar ash, green apple, grey pepper. Finish: quite long, but harsh again, with a smoke that is quite light at this stage, but rather herbaceous. Comments: maybe slightly better than the cask strength version, but quite largely non-essential.
SGP:356 - 79 points.

Arran 10 yo 2011/2021 (55.1%, Thompson Bros. For Isihara Family, 1st fill oloroso sherry hogshead, 334 bottles)

Arran 10 yo 2011/2021 (55.1%, Thompson Bros. For Isihara Family, 1st fill oloroso sherry hogshead, 334 bottles) Four stars
Colour: dark gold. Nose: pretty unusual, starting with some cedarwood, humidor, pine smoke, then dried parsley and barbecued herbs, especially rosemary, then the expected walnuts from the sherry. Some dried meat. With water: more pine wood, thuja, spruce… Mouth (neat): very rich, with even more cedarwood, heavy zests, horseradish, bitter walnuts… With water: it's tough not to think of some Japanness. Umami, miso, radishes, even more cedar… Finish: really long, resinous in a good way. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: high-action wood-drive, Arran that almost feels like some new-wave American malt. Which, naturally, we enjoy.
SGP:472 - 87 points.

Arran 21 yo 1996/2018 (52%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill barrel, cask #DL 12357, 544 bottles)

Arran 21 yo 1996/2018 (52%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill barrel, cask #DL 12357, 544 bottles) Four stars
544 bottles, that was probably more like two barrels. Colour: straw. Nose: we're finding this pine-resin quality again, plus fir honey, a little plasticine, then lemon curd and a little basil. Gresini. With water: vodka over lemon sherbet. Really. Mouth (neat): creamy, limoncello-y, with some green peppercorns too. Something Thai with that basil. With water: more zests, some earthiness, something of Bladnoch. Finish: long but a tad less high-def. Doughs and breads chiming in. Limoncello again in the aftertaste. Comments: clean, citrusy, fresh, a little 'Lowland'. Nothing wrong with that.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Arran 24 yo 1996/2021 (49.5%, OB, exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, cask #752)

Arran 24 yo 1996/2021 (49.5%, OB, exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, cask #752) Four stars and a half
Colour: copper amber. Nose: we're on an old cream sherry, in the style of a ceremoniously served VORS (Very Old Rare Sherry). Delightful chocolate, raspberry liqueur, pumpernickel, also a Malaga wine rather than Jerez, strong and powerful honeys (fir, chestnut), prunes… All of this operates smoothly. Mouth: I find it far superior to its sibling from the same year (53.4%), more elegant despite an exuberant side, and especially without any gunpowder. Red fruit tart covered in chocolate, cherries in brandy, orange cordial… Finish: long and remaining curiously balanced and even fresh, despite the very dominant cask. Lovely grey and black peppers. Comments: I find it excellent, even if it doesn't indulge in too much finesse.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Arran 25 yo 1996/2022 (51,5%, OB for LMDW, Antipodes, sherry hogshead, cask #1996/892, 240 bottles)

Arran 25 yo 1996/2022 (51,5%, OB for LMDW, Antipodes, sherry hogshead, cask #1996/892, 240 bottles) Four stars
Colour: copper amber. Nose: much more chocolate and rather less fruitiness in this one. Brownie, walnut liqueur, roasted chestnuts, chocolate truffles… With water:  more meat sauce, gravies, a little lovage, a little beeswax too. It stays balanced. Mouth (neat: rounder and a little fruitier, jammier for sure, at time you would believe this is folle blanche from armagnac. Prunes, Corinth currants, a little caraway, roasted sesame seeds, stewed peaches and damson plums… With water: gets a tad gritty and green, leafier, with mint leaves, bay leaf, grape skins… Still very good. Finish: rather long, with more tannicity, teas, fruit peel, black Assam (but of course). Walnut wine in the aftertaste. Comments: another high-quality Arran, a bit more astringent than the previous one.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Isle of Arran 1996/2017 (53.8%, Malts of Scotland, MOS Warehouseshop, refill sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 17043 172 bottles)

Isle of Arran 1996/2017 (53.8%, Malts of Scotland, MOS Warehouseshop, refill sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 17043 172 bottles) Four stars and a half
Hope they'll be in Limburg! Colour: straw. Nose: cakes, doughs and, above all, roasted nuts of all kinds. This will be quick. With water: focaccia, lemon oils, lemongrass, fresh baguette or, there, pizza dough. Mouth (neat): excellent, dry raisins, marmalade, pistachio syrup, Szechuan pepper, pineapples… With water: more ashes, it's as if the little hogshead had previously sheltered a peater. No? Whatever happened, that worked. Finish: medium, nuttier. Some lapsang souchong and, indeed, a little peat. I'm sure they were not doing peat yet, back in 1996. Comments: intriguing and excellent.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

BtoB. Remember, that's back to bourbon…

Arran 20 yo 2001/2021 (55.5%, OB for Billy's Whisky Barrel and Oldies & Goldies, Belgium, bourbon, cask #2001/010, 147 bottles)

Arran 20 yo 2001/2021 (55.5%, OB for Billy's Whisky Barrel and Oldies & Goldies, Belgium, bourbon, cask #2001/010, 147 bottles) Five stars
You may have noticed that on most of the official Arran bottles, there's braille with raised dots (S., that's how braille works), an idea that no doubt comes from what Chapoutier has been doing in the Rhône valley for many years. Except I think that Arran whiskies are better, and a little less pretentious, than Chapoutier's wines. This with a thought for Valentino Zagatti. Colour: straw. Nose: nothing to say, except that it's a perfect bourbon cask. Banana, baguette, vanilla, lemon, and mango. With water: more bread dough and lemon cake. Mouth (neat): splendid barley sugar and limoncello. It's simple and it's beautiful, it's like Pink Floyd. With water: little precious liqueurs come to the fore, all remaining astonishingly easy. Finish: long, creamy, and lemony. Comments: one wonders to what extent these ultra-drinkable single casks should come with a warning on the bottle. Something like "always replace the cap on the bottle after use". Wonderful little Arran.
SGP:641 - 90 points.

Isle of Arran 20 yo 1996/2017 (51.4%, Caora, bourbon hogshead, Caora N°2, cask #916, 239 bottles)

Isle of Arran 20 yo 1996/2017 (51.4%, Caora, bourbon hogshead, Caora N°2, cask #916, 239 bottles) Four stars and a half
The Caora labels can't really be called 'baroque', can they? Colour: straw. Nose: it's far more austere, without actually being austere (I understand what I mean), leaning more towards fresh or dried herbs, hay, barley, wheat bran... We quite like that as well. With water: a nice freshness reminiscent of Rosebank. Mouth (neat): there's a greater presence of citrus on the palate, approaching the 2001 by the Flying Belgians (S., usually it's the Dutchmen that are flying). With water: ah, also very good, but without the immaculate and evident side of the Belgian Arran. Finish: long, between green pepper, apple peel, and lemon liqueur. Comments: nothing to criticise, it's very, very good.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

I believe there's going to be a fourth Arran day, apparently the stocks are bottomless...

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

 

March 6, 2024


Whiskyfun

The Arran Works
Part 2

I realise that we were having a vast quantity of Arran in our stocks "to be tasted as soon as possible". We shall try to catch up... Fortunately, it's an excellent malt, so we should be able to manage.

Arran

 

 

Arran 22 yo 1996/2018 (49.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, UK, refill sherry hogshead, cask #18/023, 283 bottles)

Arran 22 yo 1996/2018 (49.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, UK, refill sherry hogshead, cask #18/023, 283 bottles) Four stars and a half
This is well a cask strength bottling. Colour: gold. Nose: remember G&M buy new make and do their own fillings, which shows here as it's more on secondary aromas than the 1996s we tried yesterday, so more on fruit wines, liqueurs, walnuts, fig cake, roasted sesame, tobacco, back nougat, sweet stout and… strawberry cream and yoghurt. But this is ex-refill sherry indeed. Mouth: was it really refill sherry? It feels like first fill, really, with tonnes of walnuts and pecans, nocino, heavy marzipan, chocolate, cigars, more fig cake, pear cake, Christmas pudding, marmalade, an earthy side… Finish: long, rich, more on allspice and crazy fruitcakes. Fig jam. Comments: it's absolutely awesome, but I don't believe for a second that it's a refill. Let's make a bet, if I lose I owe them a beer, and if I win they owe me one of their Brora 1972. That's a fair deal, isn't it?
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Arran 'Barrel Reserve' (43%, OB, +/-2020)

Arran 'Barrel Reserve' (43%, OB, +/-2020) Two stars and a half
Oops I agree we should have had this modest little NAS as an apéritif, but didn't we say 'randomly'? Colour: straw. Nose: barley syrup, brioche, crushed banana, Golden Grahams, popcorn, shortbread, overripe apples. That's all fine, but we know where the devil lives, don't we… Mouth: typical NAS. Same as Glenlivet's, Glenfiddich's, Macallan's and several others. A little rustic, gritty, indetermined, with some vanilla, touch of lemon, apples… There's certainly no need to attempt writing a fifty-page poem about it, that's for sure. Finish: medium, sweeter, barley-y. Comments: entry-level Arran. No age gives it away, as always. And the price, which is very cheap (29.95€ in the Netherlands).
SGP:441 - 79 points.

Arran 17 yo 2002/2020 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, barrel, 185 bottles)

Arran 17 yo 2002/2020 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, barrel, 185 bottles) Four stars and a half
Angus liked this one a lot when it came out (WF 87). I for one am late as ever. Colour: straw. Nose: mango and peach juices, blended together, plus funny vegetables such as Brussels sprouts (sorry Carsten, but I like Brussels sprouts) and salsify. The thing is that it works. Some fermentary notes, fresh wine, wash, also bananas and ripe plums. Intriguing and lovely nose. Mouth: classic coffee-schnapps, with indeed some light coffee and notes of apricot/marillen eau-de-vie, almonds, guavas spirit…  Has anyone ever been mad enough to try distilling guavas, by the way? Finish: rather long, this time with a salty touch. A bit more rustic at this point – but you could claim that Brussels sprouts ARE rustic. Comments: I didn't mention them but you could also find several other whacky eaux-de-vie, small berries, roots (turnips, celeriac, gentian)… As I said, it's an intriguing (high-level) Arran.
SGP:652 - 88 points.

Arran 23 yo 'Drumadoon Point' (49.5%, OB, The Explorers Series, sherry puncheon, 9000 bottles, 2021)

Arran 23 yo 'Drumadoon Point' (49.5%, OB, The Explorers Series, sherry puncheon, 9000 bottles, 2021) Four stars and a half
Was this one about explorers or was it about golf? Colour: full gold. Nose: it's full of butterscotch, white chocolate, acacia honey, moderately high-ranked Sauternes and orange cake. One of the easiest noses we've stumbled upon these weeks. Mouth: all gentleness, with honey and scones, pistachio and pecan syrups, halva, Jaffa cakes, a spoonful of pineapple chutney, a few raisins… Its reminding me of a very old Malaga wine I've tried pretty recently. And of nusswasser, as my German-speaking grandma Marie used to say (and make). It's true that Marie was born German, became French, became German again, then became French again, all that without ever leaving her little house here in Alsace. So, nusswasser it is! Finish: rather long, with some triple-sec adding to the nusswasser. Cappuccino and mocha as the signatures. Comments: I still have Marie's walnut tree; just imagine what it has witnessed over time. This was a great Arran too.
SGP:661 - 88 points.

Arran 24 yo 1996/2021 (53.4%, OB, exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, 273 bottles)

Arran 24 yo 1996/2021 (53.4%, OB, exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, 273 bottles) Three stars and a half
Angus liked this one too as it came out (WF 88). He's faster than me, but he's much younger. Anyway, apparently, no one ever knew about the kind of cask they've been using here, which I find very funny. Colour: come on, it's almost copper red. Nose: peonies first (Port?) then patchouli and cherry stems. A lot of mud too, not obligatorily a bad thing. With water: leather, ginger and allspice. Horse saddle. The cask stealing the show… Mouth (neat): a bit thick, almost cloying, too sweet and spicy in my book. As if someone had decided to make some pumpernickel liqueur. Some gunpowder and some muesli too, how decadent! With water: what a concoction. Leaves, cassis, buds… Finish: rather long, very leafy. Some strawberry jam, a little sulphur. Comments: not quite my thing, but it's true that there is the pressure from all the excellent Arrans that we have already tasted since the beginning of this maddish series. Including some brilliant ones for TWE!
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Shall we try a 1997?

Isle of Arran 24 yo 1997/2022 (51.6%, Vintage Bottlers, single sherry cask, 235 bottles)

Isle of Arran 24 yo 1997/2022 (51.6%, Vintage Bottlers, single sherry cask, 235 bottles) Five stars
Colour: opaque bronze/green/brown. Nose: a patched cask? Nails inside? Never mind, we've tried utter glories that were even uglier than this in your glass. This time we're finding chocolates and prunes, ganaches, some armagnac, indeed walnut cake, chocolate and marzipan (Mozart kugeln, love them), old PX, old copper, metal polish… At times you would believe this is old Dalmore. With water: majestic prunes and big black Turkish raisins (Smyrna/Izmir). Mouth (neat): very good, chocolaty and, well, Dalmore-y. I told you. Even the marmalade is there, as well as the old VORS from Jerez. With water: even better, it's an excellent swimmer. Touches of 'good' sulphur, tobacco, ashes, bitter chocolate, a touch of saffron, orange liqueur... Finish: same for a rather long time. Touch of mint as the signature. Comments: I sincerely doubt that anyone has intentionally tried to copy Dalmore here, but I find the end result truly excellent.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

BtoB? Back to bourbon?...

Arran 10 yo 2012/2023 (59.7%, OB, LMDW, New Vibrations, first fill bourbon, cask #2012/2270)

Arran 10 yo 2012/2023 (59.7%, OB, LMDW, New Vibrations, first fill bourbon, cask #2012/2270) Four stars
Every time I read the name that LMDW have chosen for their latest series, I can't help but think of the Beach Boys. It's surely done on purpose. Colour: light gold. Nose: immaculate distillate from some immaculate wood, nothing is overpowering; it's ultra-precise, with notes of apple, banana, fresh croissant, wildflower honey, and barley malt (coz you can malt other grains, even rice mind you). With water: Fruit Loops and dandelions. Mouth (neat): very sweet and ultra-fruity, it's almost as if we would have gulped down a family pack of crocodiles from the house Haribo. With water: syrups, sodas, juices and bonbons. It's ultra-sweet, you could almost call it Glen Haribo indeed. Hope I won' get a letter from the mighty SWA. Finish: rather long, very sweet. Comments: it's very good but quite basic, which isn't a fault at all in this context. I don't think it could be made any sweeter without adding any actual sugar, that said. It's not rum.
SGP:641 - 85 points.

Let's have another little peater and then call this a session…

Arran 8 yo 2011/2020 (54%, OB, LMDW French Connections, first-fill bourbon, cask #11/1844, 207 bottles)

Arran 8 yo 2011/2020 (54%, OB, LMDW French Connections, first-fill bourbon, cask #11/1844, 207 bottles) Three stars
In other words, some Machrie Moor. We remember well from fifteen or twenty years ago, when everyone in Scotchland wanted to make their own Ardbeg. In truth there is no wow in peat itself, as peat, but we already said that. Colour: light gold. Nose: nice enough. Fresh peat, apples, perhaps an oyster, but nothing wildly inspiring. Lagg anytime. With water: fair smoke and ashes. Mouth (neat): it's good, sweet, with some limoncello and some ashes. A little eucalyptus syrup. With water: and grapefruits. Finish: medium, citrusy, smoky, simple. Comments: Lagg anytime indeed. They don't do Pinot Noir in Bordeaux, and they don't do Cabernet in Burgundy. See what I mean?
SGP:545 - 80 points.

Oh while we're at it, in a kind of masochistic way…

Arran 'Machrie Moor Fourth Edition' (58.1%, OB, 10,800 bottles, 2017)

Arran 'Machrie Moor Fourth Edition' (58.1%, OB, 10,800 bottles, 2017) Two stars and a half
So, a miserable peated NAS from a few years ago. Seriously, even the bottle was ugly, to give nightmares to children. Colour: white wine. Nose: not that ugly after all, with some wine vinegar, beach bonfire, rainwater, flints and chalk… It's pretty okay, actually. With water: doughs and ashes. Nothing highly motivating to be honest. Mouth (neat): sweet, good, smoky, salty, elementary. With water: not too bad, just extraordinarily simple. Smoked apples. Finish: same. Eating cigarette stubs. Comments: 8-bit peated whisky. More than okay, just extremely uninspiring. But they may have an Ardbeg with Lagg…
SGP:356 - 78 points.

We'll be back – trying to avoid the deadliest peaters!

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

 

March 5, 2024


Whiskyfun

The Arran Works Part 1

We'll do this randomly. We know Arran have used many different woods over the years, so random should be funnier, you never know what you'll stumble upon… Perhaps even Champagne, as some friend reminded us on Facebook (that's right, Facebook).

Arran

Remember Arran's first vintage was 1995, which did not prevent our Maniacal friend Ho-cheng from finding a 1982 in a Taiwanese shop, back in the early 2000s. Some fakes are funnier than others.

 

 

Arran 1996/2021 (43%, Jean Boyer, Gifted Stills, hogshead, 600 bottles)

Arran 1996/2021 (43%, Jean Boyer, Gifted Stills, hogshead, 600 bottles) Four stars and a half
Nice outturn for a single hogshead of this nice ripe age, even at 43% ABV. This is a bottling from and for France. Thinking of Jean Marie. Colour: white wine. Nose: you cannot be more on cornflakes, ripe apples, very ripe pears, shortbread, popcorn, fresh croissants, grist and oranges. A little chalk too. Totally impeccable, no false note, no unnecessary wood or wine in the way. Mouth: so good! I'm even sure it's better at 43 than it would have been at higher strengths. Notes of apples and pears again, dough, then crayons and touches of cedar shavings. There's also a very pleasant small salty touch, plus preserved peaches. Even a touch of fresh armagnac – I'm sure they haven't used armagnac but after all, Jean Boyer are located in the Landes (although not, I believe, in the armagnac-part of the Landes). Finish: surprisingly long, with some honey and citrus. Awesome notes of thyme honey in the aftertaste. Comments: little bottlings, big whiskies! This starts well, it's been a perfect apéritif…
SGP:561 - 88 points.

Lochranza 27 yo 1996/2023 'Maria Stuart Countess of Arran' (50.7%, The Stillman's De, hogshead, cask #96/1121, 258 bottles)

Lochranza 27 yo 1996/2023 'Maria Stuart Countess of Arran' (50.7%, The Stillman's De, hogshead, cask #96/1121, 258 bottles) Five stars
If this is not an Arran, I'm Alice Cooper. Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh. I remember, in the early days, almost everyone was going like 'but why didn't Arran go full-peat?' We're now realizing that that would have been a mistake. It is a very complex nose, full of 'good flaws', with some brown ale, caramelized beer sauce, muscovado, butter cream, pine wood, apple juice and vinegar, green walnut liqueur, curry, then praline and butterscotch, millionaire shortbread, toffee apples, black nougat… It really glitters. With water: leafier. More green walnuts, stalk, roasted pumpkin seed, a little paraffin as well… Mouth (neat): much more compact, with loads of chocolaty and nutty oloroso. Or was it amontillado? Could be… Walnut cake, satay sauce, curries, more brown ale, some kind of salty toffee… What's funny is that the colour wouldn't have suggested this could have been sherry. With water: excellent. Salty cakes, crazy zakouski, salted and smoked almonds, mentholated tobacco, Marlboro Green (last smoked one around the year 1995 but I remember the taste)… Finish: long. Mustard, salt, ashes, walnuts, coffee, curry… And toffee in the aftertaste. Comments: just wondering if they hadn't borrowed a cask from a neighbouring distillery. Like, just over Kintyre and Gigha, further west towards a famous shoreline…
SGP:563 - 90 points.

Good, we're too high and too fast already. Arran!

Arran 27 yo 1995/2023 (49.8%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, sherry hogshead, cask #95/347, 293 bottles)

Arran 27 yo 1995/2023 (49.8%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, sherry hogshead, cask #95/347, 293 bottles) Four stars and a half
This is one of the oldest Arrans there ever was, beyond that funny fake 1982 in Taiwan. By the way, I remember that at the time, we said that finding a fake was an excellent sign for the future of Arran; coz who would bother making fakes of a brand with no value? Colour: gold/pale bronze. Nose: it's become 'older whisky', with herbal liqueurs and old walnuts, mead, old white wines (chardonnays), old beeswax (when it's become very dark yellow), then malt and Belgian trappiste beers, fermenting plums and certainly some meaty proteins, bouillons, marrow quenelles (we love those in Alsace, we put them into our, well, bouillons). A truly complex nose, curious about the palate. Mouth: more rich sweet beers and old chardonnay, plus loads and loads of chocolate, Mars bars (deep-fried, naturally), millionaire shortbread, then Seville oranges, touches of pinewood, turmeric and ginger from the wood, dried figs and prunes, more mead yet… It's pretty luscious but there's also a kind of firmness, almost smoky/coastal. Finish: long, a tad more bitter in a good way, with apple peel, walnuts, more ginger and turmeric, and bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: not the slightest sign of fatigue in this old Arran from the very first period, perhaps a bit firmer than the vintages that followed, but that could be an effect of the sherry cask.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

We remain very high…

Arran 23 yo 1996/2019 (51.1%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 121 bottles)

Arran 23 yo 1996/2019 (51.1%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 121 bottles) Five stars
Indeed, we remain in the very early years of the distillery. Colour: straw. Nose: on grasses and passion fruits this time, grapefruits, fruit peel, lettuce juice, one tiny slice of a small banana, some citrusy hops, white beer… Minimal oak impact this time, we like this. With water: barley, grist, chalk and dough showing up. Mouth (neat): oh excellent! Orange blossom honey, Juicy Fruit, more passion fruit, more grapefruit… You would say a very good new-world sauvignon blanc. With water: juts more of that tropicalness. Isn't it true that they have palm trees on Arran? We hope that the Gulf Stream will hold up. Finish: not that long but sublimely citrusy. Even more passion fruits and some Timut pepper. Comments: did anyone ever try to distil and mature some high-hops IPA? This is what could happen…
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Too high, we're too high… Can't we find a useless finishing in red wines of some sorts?... Oh, no…

Arran 25 yo 1996/2021 (51%, Whisky-Doris, Art Nouveau series, hogshead, 235 bottes)

Arran 25 yo 1996/2021 (51%, Whisky-Doris, Art Nouveau series, hogshead, 235 bottes) Five stars
And a simple hogshead at that, life is unfair. We love this bottle very mucha (warning, sentence contains a stupid joke). Colour: white wine. Nose: basically, it is the same whisky as the Maltbarn – both are German anyway – only a little more piney, terpenic, with a little less dough. Levels are very similar, both very high. With water: crushed slate, crushed chalk, fresh concrete, oyster shells, maracuja, pink grapefruit. Mouth (neat): so close. Admirable lemons, grapefruits and passion fruits. More sauvignon blanc but also some riesling. With water: I think I'm feeling some vitamins. C-vitamin tablets. Finish: rather long, tenser, grassier. Grape pips, stalk, zests. Comments: never taste these when you're thirsty. We understand each other, don't we?
SGP:651 - 90 points.

We're too high…

Arran 20 yo 1996/2017 (50.3%, Claxton's, refill hogshead, cask #1713-1214, 291 bottles)

Arran 20 yo 1996/2017 (50.3%, Claxton's, refill hogshead, cask #1713-1214, 291 bottles) Four stars and a half
We've had a 1996 from Claxton's that was ex-sherry puncheon, it was excellent (WF 89) three years ago. Colour: white wine. Nose: we certainly find a profile that's very similar to the previous ones, shared between citrus, exotic fruits, and dough/barley. Lemon sprinkled over chalk and limestone. With water: a tiny vestige of menthol and crushed leaves of various sorts. Some peach skin, perhaps. Mouth: a little pepper upfront, otherwise the expected lemony and grassy cavalry. With water: awesome fresh fruits, citrus, peaches, chalk… Finish: pretty long, rather on that distilled IPA beer we were mentioning without even knowing if that existed. Comments: it's almost a bit of a waste to taste such similar and equally fine whiskies one after the other as we are doing today. I almost feel the need to offer Whiskyfun's apologies to the distinguished bottlers (we owe you a pint of IPA).
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Sweet Vishnu, we're still too high, let's find a youngster…

Arran 10 yo 2011/2022 (55.2%, OB for LMDW, Antipodes, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #2011/1871, 224 bottles)

Arran 10 yo 2011/2022 (55.2%, OB for LMDW, Antipodes, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #2011/1871, 224 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: there you go, this is a peater. It's always a bit tricky when bottlings contain peated versions of malts that are not usually so; the taster must be very careful. In any case, we should pay close attention to the labels (S., this applies to you as well). So, this has a very grassy, pretty acrid smoke, I'm not sure I'm an utter fan. A feeling of deep-smoked apples and pears, which I find a little bizarre… But water may well sort things out. With water: garden bonfire, barbecued eggplants… Mouth (neat): to be honest, I don't think distilleries should do both peated and unpeated, this reminds me a bit of peated Tomintoul, Benriach, Knockdhu or else, even Bunnahabhain. Exceptions at Springbank and Bruichladdich, you are right. Oh and at Tobermory…  Anyway, you see what I mean and let's remember that they've now built Lagg (excellent drop). With water: sweet peat (is made of this – S.!) Finish: long, smoky, sweet. Peach, smoke, syrup, pepper. Comments: don't get me wrong, it is an excellent drop, and these smoked peaches are even having an Ardmore-y side, but are these necessary? After all, we're never drinking peat, we're drinking Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore… And it's really sweet.
SGP:655 - 84 points.

See you very soon for more Arran…

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

 

March 4, 2024


Whiskyfun

Quite a few recent Bruichladdich
on the tasting desk

Passing by Bruichladdich, May 2007 (WF Archive)

 

 

It's time to taste some Bruichladdich. We'll be on Islay soon but I fear we won't have time to visit the Rhinns to see what's new there. That'll be for next time; after all, friends don't need to meet up to stay friends. Let's see what we have on the desk today…

 

Bruichladdich 18 yo (50%, OB, 2024)

Bruichladdich 18 yo (50%, OB, 2024) Four stars
This is the new one with the funny box and the hefty price (190€). Well, at least it's a conversation starter, which is already something. They mention terroir on the label, but I'm not sure all the barley comes from Islay; if it doesn't, that's a very liberal use of the term 'terroir' that they're employing. Anyway, marketers around the world are trying to invent new meanings for this word right now. In summary, they all claim that "terroir is what we do at home." Yes, of course... Colour: gold. Nose: it's quite deep but not ultra-expressive, a bit earthy and chalky, malty, more on a bread dough side, with hints of carbon powder, then more honey. It undoubtedly needs water. With water: beeswax comes out, fruit wines (the eternal peaches and melons), fresh raisin rolls... Mouth (neat): now this is very good, it starts with ripe fruits around peaches and oranges, with an immediate liquorice side. Also that fruit salad side that we so love in Bruichladdich. There's also a bit of wine but nothing too serious. With water: it's well-structured, fruity, with some citrus pastries. It seems younger than it is. Finish: medium length. Melons, guavas, sweet pepper, and always a few drops of indeterminate wine and a bit of wood/tea. Comments: it's not a very maritime Laddie, and the eighteen years don't really feel, but the quality is undoubtedly there. Be careful when you open the odd box, hold the bottle from the bottom (I almost got caught).
SGP:641 - 86 points.

Bruichladdich 15 yo (50.3%, Grand Drams, first fill sherry hogshead, #GD01, 280 bottles, 2023)

Bruichladdich 15 yo (50.3%, Grand Drams, first fill sherry hogshead, #GD01, 280 bottles, 2023) Four stars
Colour: amber. Nose: Sherry takes centre stage, amidst walnut cake and toasted notes, even basaltic ones. Black tea, a touch of menthol, roasted almonds, pine sap, butterscotch... I'm not sure the original distillate has much to say in this story, but on the other hand, it was a superb cask. With water: notes of fresh cement, slightly sulphurous. Brake dust. Nothing to complain about, I quite like it when it stays in these very moderate proportions, you could almost believe it came from the distillate (but it's not Mortlach). Mouth (neat): a nutty flavour, lots of nuts, mustard sauce, bitter almonds, green pepper, even a sulphurous side indeed (again, no problem at all)... With water: goodbye sulphurous side, we're left with citrus and more nuts. Finish: long, almost entirely on nuts, roasted almonds, pecans... Comments: the 'mineral' aspect works very well in this context. It's all indeed a matter of proportions.
SGP:562 - 86 points.

Bruichladdich 16 yo 2006/2023 'Rock'Ndaal 02.1' (50%, OB, Feis Ile 2023, bourbon and Sauternes, 2,500 bottles)

Bruichladdich 16 yo 2006/2023 'Rock'Ndaal 02.1' (50%, OB, Feis Ile 2023, bourbon and Sauternes, 2,500 bottles) Four stars
You cannot separate modern Bruichladdichs (since 2001) from the world of wine; it truly remains their motif. In my opinion, even though many are superb, it's not clear what the message is behind all this, between 'our distillate needs wine', 'we love wine and we add it whenever we can', or 'this is how we distinguish ourselves', or even 'we have access to the best wine casks, so we make the most of it'... Who knows! Now many have started copying Bruichladdich... Colour: gold. Nose: well yes, it works. Sauternes always works well if the casks haven't been tampered with. Mirabelles, peaches, quince, honey, nougat, praline, roasted peanuts, apricots... With water: little change. Biscotti morbidi al limone, limoncello... This little Laddie does have a furiously Italian side. Mouth (neat): it's really good, we shouldn't deny ourselves any such pleasures. Blood oranges, mirabelles, lemon liqueur, lemon balm water... The freshness is perfect. Ban ice cubes or your bottle will empty at breakneck speed. With water: it's a sin. The bourbon barrels and the Sauternes get along like thieves at a fair. Finish: just the same. Comments: well, it's very sweet, but it's very good. It was about time we tasted this baby.
SGP:751 - 87 points.

Bruichladdich 18 yo (61.5%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, cask #HL20201, 245 bottles, 2023)

Bruichladdich 18 yo (61.5%, Hunter Laing, The Kinship, cask #HL20201, 245 bottles, 2023) Four stars and a half
The alcohol level seems incredibly high, but if I'm not mistaken, Bruichladdich doesn't dilute its distillates before casking. In any case, they weren't immediately after the takeover. Colour: amber. Nose: incredible. Walnut wine fortified with chartreuse, beeswax, even a bit of acetone and wood varnish, eucalyptus leaves and a brand new box of Cuban cigars. Does that work for you? With water: a marvel, the best of Pappy Van Winkle. Sublime nose, not very complex but... sublime. Mouth (neat): quite monstrous, it's like a decoction of thyme and fresh walnut husks. In short, it's no joke. With water: one bows down. Incredible varnish, rubber, nuts, bitter oranges, tobacco, and mastic. It remains just a bit brutal. Finish: more bitter orange, Italian bitters, eggplant, artichoke, candied sugar... Comments: a Laddie that keeps slapping you around like this is a bit vexing but in the end, you let it happen. We have our leader for the moment...
SGP:572 - 89 points.

But we want melons!

Bruichladdich 15 yo 2005/2021 (59.5%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon barrel, 146 bottles)

Bruichladdich 15 yo 2005/2021 (59.5%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon barrel, 146 bottles) Five stars
So, the Laddie as nature intended. Colour: gold. Nose: you don't say! Lemons, grapefruits, melons of all kinds, Haribo sweets, sauvignon blanc, cactus, grasses, seaweed, wine vinegar, yoghurt, muesli… Man do we enjoy this brightness. With water: same plus woold and limestone. Superlative. Mouth (neat): chemical lemonness, which is actually a compliment. Third world sodas (the best, really, they contain much less sugar), tight lemon juice, lemonade, grasses, cactus again, agave juice… Sends shivers down your spine, as they say. With water: but what a distillate. Finish: same, just a tad rounder. That's better, this blade would have seriously ended up cutting us into halves, as we say. Comments: simply epic limey perfection, the best casks they were filling back then, in my humble opinion. Reminds me of a few young Rosebanks of old.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Officials, the floor is yours again…

Bruichladdich 24 yo 'Black Art Edition 11.1' (44.2%, OB, 2023)

Bruichladdich 24 yo 'Black Art Edition 11.1' (44.2%, OB, 2023) Three stars and a half
So still pre-reopening juice (so Invergordon-Jim Beam Brands). Utterly love the blurb on the 'label' (well, the stencil), no stoopid AI could have ever written that true piece of post-modern literature. Colour: amber. Nose: it's on quince jelly, juicy sultanas, pinecones, a little talc, fond de taint, pollens, pink pepper and oregano, caraway, something syrah-y, pizza oil (I know that's not very romantic), tomato sauce, sage… An unusual construction that rather loses you, but it's full of (unlikely) charms. Mouth: I find this arrival weirdly spicy and woody. A lot of wood spices (oak, pine, fir), heavy spices, cumin and clove, lees, stalk… I know it's me but this is not my kind of concoction, not on the palate, even if brighter notes of oranges would then try to balance it all. Weird drink. Finish: long, bitter, sour and leafy. Almost some artisanal Italian bitter. Comments: I've always had troubles with the Black Arts. In the first place, I've never quite understood the idea behind them, but knowing that it's a highly successful line, I'll simply tip my hat to them and bow modestly before this modern art of doing bizarre mixtures.
SGP:461 - 84 points.

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

 

March 3, 2024


Whiskyfun

A Grande Champagne 19.10
and Twelve Aperitifs

Vendanges

Harvest float at the Fête des Reines in Cognac, 1910 (Geneanet)

 

I believe it's the first time we're having cognac this year; now indeed this is only the beginning of the year. Let's see what we've gathered, starting with easy apéritifs…

Camus 'VSOP Elegance' (40%, OB, +/-2021)

Camus 'VSOP Elegance' (40%, OB, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
We've tried various inceptions of this expression before, bearing other labels, but it's the first time I'm noticing the scary wording 'Delicate Oak Finish' on the label. Is that related to light toasting a.k.a. chauffe Française? (French toasting). These VSOPs by Camus usually gather good scores at WF (around WF 82). Colour: deep gold/amber. Nose: nicely vinous at first, with touches of Sauternes and chardonnay, moving towards the usual preserved peaches and juicy sultanas. Whiffs of liquorice and violets, then triple-sec. It is fragrant and fresh, pretty appealing. Mouth: a tad caramelly, a little oaky, with rather a lot of roasted sesame and pine nuts plus cocoa powder. Less fruity/easy than expected even if nicer touches of mandarin liqueur do manage to come though eventually. Finish: rather short and dry. The oak feels, not too sure that's that famous 'chauffe française'. Ground coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: still very good but this time again, a lower strength such as 40% doesn't quite stand a heavier woodiness, same with malt whisky. Earlier expressions had been more to my liking.
SGP:451 - 79 points.

ABK6 'VSOP' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2024)

ABK6 'VSOP' (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2024) Three stars
This ABK6/Abécassis cognac does stem from their very own and very vast vineyards in Grande Champagne, more than 160 hectares all planted with ugni blanc – a.k.a. trebbiano blanco if you like. Colour: gold. Nose: whiffs of copper and cherry stem tea at first, a combo that I always find most pleasant, then berries, blueberries, sorb, ripe gooseberries, then a little tobacco and a hint of balsamico and mustard, beyond the expected raisins. A rather singular nose – always like to find copper in any spirits (coins, pans, kettles, wire…) Mouth: sweeter and more rounded but with a thinnish mouthfeel because of the light strength. I think the BNIC should make 43%% the mandatory minimum strength, if that's within their powers. Now you'll find some very nice touches of tarte tatin and caramelized hazelnut brittle (feuilleté), plus more black tea than usual. Pleasant notes of orange blossom water, some cinnamon and a little ginger. Finish: a little short, a little drying. More black tea. Comments: I always have the impression that the lower the bottling strength, the more pronounced the woody notes are, especially when there is a lot of oak initially. This is less the case with much less marked spirits, or with clear ones. In any case, for me, spirits with a heavy oak influence should be bottled at at least 43%, if not 46% abv. But that's just a personal opinion, of course...
SGP:531 - 81 points.

Tiffon 1995/2023 'Le Vigilant' (40.86%, Malternative Belgium, Grande Champagne, 480 bottles)

Tiffon 1995/2023 'Le Vigilant' (40.86%, Malternative Belgium, Grande Champagne, 480 bottles) Five stars
We've already tried some superb Tiffon/Braastad (same house) in the past, so we have very little doubt here and now… Colour: full gold. Nose: insane and very complex fruits. Crazy lichees and peaches in syrup a first, then gentler oranges and grapefruits, morello cherries, apricots, all coated with maple syrup and manuka honey. Sound about right, right? In the end you would believe you were nosing some old Sauternes from a great château (I'd swear it was Sigalas) or even a crazy old sweet Jurançon. Why not the much missed Joliette! Mouth: a little mocha and chocolate running the show for a few seconds, then the same fruity sequence that we had found on the nose, word for word, up to that manuka honey and these old sweet wines. You may just add a few notes of quince jelly, and maybe mirabelle jam, and maybe crème brûlée. Finish: the coffee is back, together with some fruity ganache. High-end cappuccino – should that exist – in the aftertaste. Not a single ounce of bitterness or oak or boisé or whatever. Comments: it's the cognac that controls everything; the taster has absolutely nothing to do. I love the little hint of coffee in the finish. 'Stupid' quality/price ratio, beats all whiskies in that respect (125€).
SGP:541 - 91 points.

ABK6 16 yo 'Batch N°1' (43.2%, OB, Aged Collection, +/-2023)

ABK6 16 yo 'Batch N°1' (43.2%, OB, Aged Collection, +/-2023) Three stars and a half
Form 2 casks and bottled at a proper strength this time, if I may. It seems that this is a blend of petite champagne and fins bois, so probably not own-estate. Colour: full gold. Nose: it's a little tough after the flabbergasting Tiffon but this time some mentholated touches and whiffs of freshly mown lawn are adding another dimension to this otherwise rather discreet and shyish cognac. Very, very delicate. Mouth: a little more oomph on the palate, some nice tropical fruits, raisins, triple-sec and honeys, figs, a little cinnamon, green tea… It all whispers a little bit but it's really nice and pleasant. Finish: medium, a little sweeter, a tad more liqueury. Allspice and a little oak in the aftertaste. Comments: quite excellent. Perhaps not enough to sway the whisky enthusiasts from their Macallan or Lagavulin, but it does its job as a fine aged cognac rather perfectly. No frustration related to low ABVs this time.
SGP:551 - 83 points.

Fins Bois 1989 'Lot N° 865' (48.4%, Jean Grosperrin, 364 litres, +/-2024)

Fins Bois 1989 'Lot N° 865' (48.4%, Jean Grosperrin, 364 litres, +/-2024) Five stars
This one from a small property in Brie-sous-Matha, a very small village near Saint-Jean-d'Angély. Colour: full gold. Nose: very pretty, with notes of toasted bread, sap, pine, hints of wood glue, then very ripe apples, the eternal peaches, fig leaves, almonds, marzipan... There's a rustic quality that I find very alluring, it's somewhat the opposite of the 16-year-old we've just tasted. Mouth: there's a nice tension, a very slight 'Calvados' or simply old apple side to it, pine sap again, a few hints of olive oil, saffron, white peaches... I get the impression that it is very 'fins bois', even though I am far from being able to identify the crus as the professionals would (including Mr. Grosperrin, of course). Finish: herbaceous notes of the finest kind, some amusing hints of a fino or a manzanilla, a bit of mustard and curry, followed by a return to the white peach. Honey too, and even a malty touch mind you.  Comments: a particular style, very appealing, both rustic and delicate. I adore this little creature from the depths of the countryside.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Jean Fillioux 'Lot 92' (46%, Through The Grapevine, exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, Grande Champagne, 2023)

Jean Fillioux 'Lot 92' (46%, Through The Grapevine, exclusive to The Whisky Exchange, Grande Champagne, 2023) Four stars
Only good names involved here. Colour: amber. Nose: a very precise style, characterised by maple syrup and currants at the start, followed by black nougat and Grenache from the Rhône valley, with a jammy and even stewed aspect. This kind of heavyish profile works very well on the nose; it might be more challenging on the palate, but we're not saying we shall obligatorily find it there... Mouth: Indeed a bit rich but not heavy-handed; on the contrary, there are very lovely notes of mango and blood oranges, beyond the dried figs, dried apricots, and kumquats. Still, perhaps a touch of Grenache, let's say Rayas, (just for a laugh). Finish: quite long, more chocolatey, with lots of prunes and, frankly, a bit of an Armagnac edge. Maybe not... Comments: a different style, perhaps more jammy but no less excellent.
SGP:641 - 87 points.

Laurichesse 'Le Fût de Mon Père' (47.6%, OB for Malternative Belgium, Grande Champagne, cask #212, 165 bottles, 2023)

Laurichesse 'Le Fût de Mon Père' (47.6%, OB for Malternative Belgium, Grande Champagne, cask #212, 165 bottles, 2023) Five stars
Apparently, this one was distilled in the mid-1970s but records seem to be a little imprecise (or missing, ha). Having said, that, we've tried two other 1975 Laurichesse by MB, both dazzling, so it's not impossible that this would stem from the same lot. Pure speculations… Colour: amber. Nose: broad, featuring homemade coffee liqueur, toasted brioche, mocha, black nougat, blackberry jam, tomato jam… To be honest, I find this absolutely perfect. I also adore the hints of pine needles; it's superb. Mouth: impressive. Pine and fir notes might be considered flaws in some cases, but here they add an additional freshness, which could be described as forest-like. Fir honey, liquorice, coffee, bitter oranges, tobacco, currants… Finish: the finish is slightly less convincing due to the pine notes that have become somewhat predominant, but it remains absolutely excellent. Peach jam and chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: we'll say, 'almost 91'.
SGP:571 - 90 points.

Lhéraud 'Lot 78/23' (52.2%, Le Gus't, Petite Champagne, cask #126, 184 bottles, 2023)

Lhéraud 'Lot 78/23' (52.2%, Le Gus't, Petite Champagne, cask #126, 184 bottles, 2023) Five stars
Pure ugni blanc from Lhéraud. I remember we've tried an excellent 1967 from Grape of the Art last year (WF 90). Colour: full gold. Nose: another one that's completely different, this time we're much closer to malt whisky, as this is full of butterscotch, varnish, pecan pie, toffee, very old balsamic vinegar… Sorcery? With water: no, water unleashes the raisins, fruit stems, sweet wine, liquorice, moss, mushrooms… Mouth (neat): back to Cognac for good, with sultanas, peach syrup, fondant, even Pineau des Charentes, orange liqueur, raisins… With water: good one, the maltiness is back, with more butterscotch, sweet ale, fudge, ripe mangos, vanilla, honey, chicory coffee… Finish: long and much more tropical, honeyed, toasted, cake-y… Caramel cream and macchiato in the aftertaste. Comments: this baby plays hide-and-seek with you. Level is extremely high, you'd almost believe its high-class Macallan at time. I'm serious!.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Mauxion Sélection 1967/2023 (52.3%, OB for Germany, Bons Bois)

Mauxion Sélection 1967/2023 (52.3%, OB for Germany, Bons Bois) Four stars
Colour: rich amber. Nose: there might be a bit too much wood at present, with an air of a furniture shop, wood glue, carpenter's workshop… Varnish, chocolate, pepper, toffee, pinecones… Water should mix things up a bit. With water: more on ferns, damp earth, mushrooms, thuja wood, spruce… Mouth (neat): the old wood is very present but it works well with stewed fruits such as peaches and pears. A lot of bitter chocolate, then pine resin and two or three bits of brown tobacco that give a little pinch to the tongue. With water: we remain in the same territories, mentholated and resinous. Finish: very long, spicy, mentholated, woody, resinous. Peaches come to the rescue in the aftertaste. Comments: a very old, deeply infused cognac, earthy, marked by wood but in a very lovely way. For connoisseurs and amateurs of this style, it's somewhat like an old cognac from an antique dealer. Except that it cannot be restored, one must love it for what it is, with its charming flaws.
SGP:371 - 86 points.

Vallein Tercinier 'Héritage N.62' (45.2%, Cognac Sponge, Grande Champagne)

Vallein Tercinier 'Héritage N.62' (45.2%, Cognac Sponge, Grande Champagne) Four stars
Colour: dark amber. Nose: there's pine resin and there are After Eights, but it's globally lighter than the Mauxion, more on chartreuse, verbena and gentian, with amaretti, almond liqueur, a hint of Parma ham, a few sultanas from an old forgotten twentieth-century packet, ferns, roots… Also, some pretty notes of black radish. Mouth: this time again, the tannins of the wood express themselves first, then give way to menthol and pine bud liqueur, to paraffin, to very green olive oil, to bitter almonds, to green walnut liqueur… Finish: grapefruit brings freshness but the overall theme stays on pine resin, with green tannins. Peach skin and apricots in the aftertaste. Comments: at the pinnacle of this style, heavily marked by the casks. These old cognacs remind me of the Rolling Stones' last concerts; not quite the golden years anymore, but we forgive them everything, they are great. This cognac is great.
SGP:471 - 87 points.

There is also a new young Sponge Grande Champagne Heritage No. 10 – No. 11 which is quite superb, alas it arrived too late to take part in this session. We will have it next time.

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Lot 57-62' (49.9%, Ws Spirits Collection, Grande Champagne, Germany, 2023)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Lot 57-62' (49.9%, Ws Spirits Collection, Grande Champagne, Germany, 2023) Four stars and a half
A blend of all vintages from 1957 up to 1962, so pretty much a rock and roll cognac. Colour: amber. Nose: dried mushrooms and various oils, I would say, plus beeswax and pollen. Encaustic, much dried raisins, lanoline, potting soil, kefir and kombucha, carrots, white nougat, pack of toffee… It's a rather grand nose. Mouth: you'd almost believe it's needing water, it's a punchy baby despite its old age. I told you, it's rock and roll. So, with water: wonderful earthiness, chestnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, tangerines, dried tangerine skin (chen-pi), bergamots, honeys… Finish: medium, rather on orange liqueur and maple syrup. No old oak, no pine resins, just more pepper and clove in the aftertaste. Comments: indeed, you never quite know whether these old cognacs have been demijohnned (or paradised) at some point or not. This one has stayed as fresh as a daisy, or nearly so.
SGP: - 89 points.

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot n° 65' (54.4%, OB, for Wealth Solutions, 2015)

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot n° 65' (54.4%, OB, for Wealth Solutions, 2015) Five stars
Here is a review of a Lot 65 that I had yet to taste, believe it or not. The first 1965 VT I tasted, quite some years ago, made me realise that cognac could be better than the best of the best malt whiskies. Quite the statement. Colour: golden amber. Nose: but yes, I remember. Sauteed ceps with Noilly Prat sauce, quality mead (of which there is not much), pistachio nougat, apricots roasted with vanilla and deglazed in Sauternes, and many other things. It's a spirit for the Greek or Roman gods; after all, they are the same, aren't they? With water: resins come to the fore, mastic, marzipan, oil paint, and more simply, apple. Mouth (neat): I do not think I have ever tasted a cognac I preferred. An incredible blend of chestnut honey, mango, exquisite chocolate, and no less precious tobacco. Ready… 1, 2, 3, and we bow! With water: once again, the resins are prominent but never overpowering, even if there is a hint of chlorophyll, bitter almonds, various peppers, a few touches of rubber... But fresh oranges are on patrol and put everything back on the right track, it remains a fruity old cognac. Finish: long, focused, with citrus, nutmeg, and honey. Comments: by Zeus! Even on a palate slightly fatigued by a good number of cognacs already tasted today (but that's a piece of cake when the quality is there), this 1965 remains radiant. For the good of the planet, we should make all the dictators of the world drink it.
SGP:661 - 94 points.

Come on, one last one, a pacifist cognac...

Famille Cabanne 'Lot 19.10' (44.9%, The Whisky Jury, Grande Champagne, cask #7, 109 bottles, 2023)

Famille Cabanne 'Lot 19.10' (44.9%, The Whisky Jury, Grande Champagne, cask #7, 109 bottles, 2023) Five stars
Friends, here is a 1910 straight from the cask, hence a cognac of at least 112 years of age. Frankly, and I promise I'm going to calm down, I'm ashamed to know that for the price of this distilled splendour made before the first World War (€850), you can only buy two or three bottles of a Speyside NAS whose story would make even the most depressed Belarusian art student or an old French actress who's no longer offered roles, laugh out loud. Meh. Colour: mahogany with coppery highlights. Nose: we are plunged into another dimension, space-time has become elastic, we can almost hear the clatter of arms, and we smell cordite, mud, then peony, blood oranges, sour cherries, pinot noir, morels and horns of plenty, wood, old ham hung in the attic, truffle and foie gras sauce, tomato... It's a truly transcendental experience. Mouth: enough to make you believe in miracles. It's even a bit brutal, rough, perhaps a bit too young, to be honest. And I'm not even joking. As for the flavours and molecules, after noting a commendable fullness and an absence of fatigue, I would list the following, in no particular order: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, Cuban tobacco, aubergine and artichoke, raspberry and blackcurrant liqueur, old Burgundy from the Côte de Nuits, Italian coffee, ground black pepper, cardamom, real truffle oil (not the chemical stuff), medlar and tamarind, hints of tar liqueur and salty liquorice, ashes, dried beef... have we already mentioned that old pinot noir from Burgundy? Finish: good length, full of flavours, not all easy to describe. All of this has gone on for far too long anyway. Comments: the real miracle is that one of the oldest spirits in the world, perhaps even the oldest if we really only consider the time spent in wood, which is the only valid way (listen up, novice online merchants), I was saying that the true miracle is that one of the oldest spirits in the world is also one of the best. That is, at least, my opinion. Incredible job by the Whisky Jury, top-of-the-world, they could almost become annoying, those guys. Of course not.
SGP:662 - 94 points.

I just fear that these last two cognacs might already have been the best we'll have tasted in 2024. And perhaps even in 2025, 2026, 2027… Well, we shall see. Stay tuned, see you soon.

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

 

March 1, 2024


Whiskyfun

Coconut Special
A bag of various grains

What we've learnt within the last twenty years is that grain whisky is not only, or at least not always a somewhat counterfeit whisky solely produced to dilute malt, lacking any soul or texture, devoid of intrinsic quality, and especially laden with vanillin and artificial coconut flavours encapsulated in nail polish. All right then… We'll still try to do this quick.

Coconut

North British 15 yo 2007/2022 (55.5%, Liquid Treasures, sherry butt)

North British 15 yo 2007/2022 (55.5%, Liquid Treasures, sherry butt) Three stars and a half
Of course, a good sherry cask can change everything. Love red ibises, by the way (S., it's a pink flamingo). Not too sure North British were doing 100% maize (plus malted barley, naturally) in 2007, as they used to do earlier. I know I should ask them… Colour: deep gold. Nose: a malty grain. Butterscotch, cappuccino, praline, walnut wine, touch of varnish and touch of balsamic vinegar, great bourbon… High-category this far. With water: some earthy touches, green walnuts, old teapot, patchouli, a little engine oil… This is rather awesome. Mouth (neat): sweetened coffee, coffee-schnapps, Tia Maria, chocolate and coffee drops… With water: some tobacco ice-cream and woodruff syrup. Black teas. Finish: medium, earthier, even a tad dirty for grain whisky, pleasantly so. Comments: some kind of blend of rum, malt and sherry. Where's the grain? Excellent.
SGP:651 - 84 points.

So much for 'counterfeit whiskies' (we're not in Islington times anymore, S.)

Cameronbridge 16 yo 2006/2023 (57.6%, Dh Global Spirits, Connoisseurs Dram, 1st fill amontillado, cask #377390, 400 bottles)

Cameronbridge 16 yo 2006/2023 (57.6%, Dh Global Spirits, Connoisseurs Dram, 1st fill amontillado, cask #377390, 400 bottles) Four stars
In the name of Alfonso X, King of Castile, León and all of Andalusia, this is 1st fill amontillado! Colour: gold. Nose: gentler, more on cakes, some distant saltiness (sea spray), some gentle walnut cake… could be that it would need some unlocking. With water: as great as amontillado would get, with loads of walnuts and mustard, flints, even some native sulphur (stone), crushed slate, tight leather and tobacco, chen-pi… Mouth (neat): walnuts, coffee, tobacco, mustard, bay leaves, bitter oranges… And quite a little ethanol. Right, with water: exquisite walnuts coasted with honey and mustard. Some raisins bringing some sweetness in the background, PX-style. Finish: rather long, on similar flavours of walnuts and sweet mustard. Mushroomy aftertaste. Comments: very amontillado-y but that was to be expected, no little grain whisky could have resisted it. Love amontillado.
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Amontillado? Wait…

Port Dundas 23 yo 2000/2023 (49.9%, James Eadie, amontillado finish, cask #366662)

Port Dundas 23 yo 2000/2023 (49.9%, James Eadie, amontillado finish, cask #366662) Three stars and a half
From the now-closed Port Dundas distillery, which had been the largest Scottish distillery at some point. Colour: gold. Nose: similar as far as aromas are concerned, but globally drier and leafier. More fermentary too, which imparts a malty side, otherwise mustard and walnuts are leading the pack. Mouth: it's on the palate that things happen, with indeed a lot of sweet mustard, turmeric, saffron, bitter oranges, cigarette tobacco, chen-pi again, cardamom… Grain whisky light whisky, yeah yeah. Finish: long, leafy, yet sweet. Say myrtle liqueur, oude genever and Cynar. Know Cynar? Comments: the Cameronbridge was both fuller and more complex, but this crazy Dundas was not one to be taken in by stories either. Viva amontillado!
SGP:462 - 83 points.

Since we're in the year 2000…

Port Dundas 23 yo 2000/2023 (54.7%, James Eadie, refill PX hogshead, cask #366663, 283 bottles)

Port Dundas 23 yo 2000/2023 (54.7%, James Eadie, refill PX hogshead, cask #366663, 283 bottles) Four stars
Colour: dark amber. Nose: metal polish to kick this off, old coins, old silverware, old copper kettle, then greases, Barbour grease, the expected walnuts, the no-less-expected mustard, juniper… But not 100% sure TBH. With water: awesome! Stunning sherry, even if it was only a finishing, give it a few minutes and presto, you're having langoustines and sherry on the banks of the Guadalquivir. Exquisite nose, believe me. Mouth (neat): prunes, raisins, heavy honey, molasses, Chinese cough syrup (Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, I'm a rationalist but the bl**dy thing works with me)… With water: wonderful. This can't be grain whisky. Finish: long and perfect. Some kind of od herbal liqueur from the very beginning of the 20th century, stuff drunk by Picasso, Man Ray, Satie and Picabia, to name but a few. Comments: I don't want to hear about how they actually made this. Remember that old saying about mortadella?
SGP:371 - 87 points.

Whatever happens to the whisky market in the coming years, let's make sure we support the small, passionate and valiant bottlers, rather than those who are just in it for the money, okay?

Dumbarton 22 yo 2000/2023 (55.5%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 204 bottles)

Dumbarton 22 yo 2000/2023 (55.5%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 204 bottles) Two stars
Dumbarton Distillery was ugly, almost as ugly as a FIAT Multipla or as a footballer's Audemars-Piguet in rosé gold. Colour: light gold. Nose: woosh, greengages, fresh butter, biscuits, nougat and meringue. With water: popcorn and bamboo shoots. Mouth (neat): probably not my favourite kind of whisky, but these fruit liqueurs and this coconutty oak seem to work. With water: sweet, easy, coconut balls, Spanish liqueurs, Mei-kwei-lu… Finish: same. Comments: right, maybe not my cup of single whisky but all the rest in the range is just utterly brilliant. Not too sure why no one ever blended away this modest wee cask. Wil they ever forgive me?
SGP:640 - 74 points.

Just to make sure…

Dumbarton 22 yo 2000/2023 (62.1%, Lady of the Glen, refill hogshead, cask #211903)

Dumbarton 22 yo 2000/2023 (62.1%, Lady of the Glen, refill hogshead, cask #211903) one star and a half
Colour: pale gold. Nose: same, ultra-basic, sweet, vanilla-ed, with some nail polish but that may be the very high strength. With water: no, it's almost like Bacardi white, that is to say empty, basically. Mouth (neat): some sugar, some ethanol, some varnish, some apple juice. A soldier's whisky, I would say, it even reminds me of Rommel's terrible whisky from WWII. With water: easier, so better, but that is all. Pure fodder or filler, as you like. Finish: short, empty. Anybody in there? Comments: love Lady of the Glen, fully and plainly, but let's be honest, these poor little 'whiskies' were probably never produced to be bottled as single casks.
SGP:630 – 69 points.

North British 32 yo 1991/2023 (50.1%, Watt Whisky, barrel, 102 bottles)

North British 32 yo 1991/2023 (50.1%, Watt Whisky, barrel, 102 bottles) Three stars
I'm almost sure this was maize at that time. Colour: light gold. Nose: sesame and sunflower oil, white chocolate, light acacia honey, nougat and croissants. Fine, but not too sure… With water: yep! Many subtle oils, more sesame, peanut and pistachio, baguette dough (or pizza dough, sorry Italian friends, that's basically the same), a touch of putty and linoleum, old copper coins (penny book)…  What's sure is that this one takes water extremely well, never forget to reduce them even when they were bottled at some seemingly civilised strengths, such as these 50.1%. Mouth (neat): pretty good, you would almost think young bourbon (but this is 32), with some chamomile tea and pancake sauce. Maple syrup for sure. With water: no changes but that's fine. Finish: shortish but clean, vanilla-ed, easy, with some white chocolate, cornflakes, barley syrup and popcorn. After all, this is grain whisky. Comments: quite great, let's remember that this is only grain whisky.
SGP:531 - 80 points.

All right, comparisons, always…

North British 31 yo 1991/2023 (44.9%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon barrel, cask #264528, 206 bottles)

North British 31 yo 1991/2023 (44.9%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon barrel, cask #264528, 206 bottles) Two stars and a half
We should manage to attend Limburg this year. Colour: light gold. Nose: same, light honey, apple juice, white chocolate, breads, peanut butter… Not many differences. Mouth: sweet grain whisky, with vanilla, coconuts, pear liqueur, sweet teas, rosehip, light tea, maple syrup… Finish: medium, sweet and sour. Comments: it's fine for sure but is it really necessary to release all these single grains? As we sometimes say, 'it is not Brora 1972'.
SGP:531 - 79 points.

I'm afraid grain fatigue is starting to strike us, so please a very last one. Next grain session in 2025.

North British 32 yo 1991/2023 (47.7%, DramCatcher, 1st fill barrel, cask #200319, 190 bottles)

North British 32 yo 1991/2023 (47.7%, DramCatcher, 1st fill barrel, cask #200319, 190 bottles) Three stars
It may be to be remembered that North British is a joint-venture between the brilliant world-level experts at Diageo and the utter international stars at Edrington. Colour: white wine (great news). Nose: the awesomeness of a lazy barrel, with almost no stupid coconut or vulgar vanilla, rather peaches and champagne, that is to say a proper Bellini. A few tinier herbs beyond that, wormwood, verbena, also quieter ones such as borage, pansies, fresh wisteria (they're too fast again this year in WF's garden)… Mouth: perhaps not a paragon of unwooded elegance on the palate, but indeed it works, despite the dreaded coconut which is coming to light. Finish: sweeter and not that short, not the best part. Comments: as always, oak is either whisky's best friend or its worst enemy. Rather best friend this time, for sure – on the nose at least. Palate was a little more difficult.
SGP:531 - 80 points.

Honestly, what we did today was too tough. Of course, you can intellectualize all you want, but as our friends on Facebook often say, in the end the question remains 'would I buy a bottle?' Today, the answer remains 'I'd rather send the money to Alexey Navalny's family.' Having said that, many friends love these grains, so always only a matter of individual taste!

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


February 2024 - part 2 <--- March 2024 - part 1 ---> March 2024 - part 2


 

 
   
 


Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Arran 20 yo 2001/2021 (55.5%, OB for Billy's Whisky Barrel and Oldies & Goldies, Belgium, bourbon, cask #2001/010, 147 bottles)

Arran 23 yo 1996/2019 (51.1%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 121 bottles)

Arran 25 yo 1996/2021 (51%, Whisky-Doris, Art Nouveau series, hogshead, 235 bottes)

Isle of Arran 24 yo 1997/2022 (51.6%, Vintage Bottlers, single sherry cask, 235 bottles)

Lochranza 27 yo 1996/2023 'Maria Stuart Countess of Arran' (50.7%, The Stillman's De, hogshead, cask #96/1121, 258 bottles)

Bruichladdich 15 yo 2005/2021 (59.5%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon barrel, 146 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1995/2023 (49.2%, OB, Family Casks for Royal Mile Whiskies, sherry hogshead, cask #2296, 288 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1973/2003 (59.6%, The Gillies Club, Australia, cask #7988)

Glenlivet 17 yo 2006/2023 (60.8%, Signatory Vintage for LMDW, New Vibrations, first fill oloroso sherry butt, cask # 900811, 593 bottles) 

Famille Cabanne 'Lot 19.10' (44.9%, The Whisky Jury, Grande Champagne, cask #7, 109 bottles, 2023)

Fins Bois 1989 'Lot N° 865' (48.4%, Jean Grosperrin, 364 litres, +/-2024)

Daniel Bouju 'D74-84 – A39-49' (52.6%, Edition Dully, Grande Champagne, Batch 4)

Peyrot 'V.68 A.55' (44.4%, Old Master Spirits, Grande Champagne, 141 bottles)

Jean-Luc Pasquet 'Heritage N. 10 – N. 11' (49.6%, Cognac Sponge, Grande Champagne, 120 bottles, 2023)

Petite Champagne 'N°67 Héritage' (40.7%, Jean Grosperrin, Lot #1115, 190 litres) 

Petite Champagne 'Lot 82' (44%, The Scottish Brothers, 2022) 

Laurichesse 'Le Fût de Mon Père' (47.6%, OB for Malternative Belgium, Grande Champagne, cask #212, 165 bottles, 2023)

Maxime Trijol 50 yo 1972/2023 (47.3%, Journal des Kirsch, Kirsch Import, Petite Champagne, Edition Nr 5, 162 bottles)

Lhéraud 'Lot 78/23' (52.2%, Le Gus't, Petite Champagne, cask #126, 184 bottles, 2023)

Tiffon 1995/2023 'Le Vigilant' (40.86%, Malternative Belgium, Grande Champagne, 480 bottles)

Tiffon 'Lot 45' (49.2%, Swell de Spirits, Field Trip, Petite Champagne, 60 bottles, 2023)

Vallein Tercinier 'Lot n° 65' (54.4%, OB, for Wealth Solutions, 2015)

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
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