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Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild
2002-20
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Hi, you're in the Archives, March 2024 - Part 2
 
 

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

 

March 31, 2024


Whiskyfun

A fresh little troupe of great cognacs
and armagnacs for Easter

It's delightful to see the new bottlers of French brandies expand, or at least offer an increasing array of versions. Let's go vertical and cheerfully mix the Charentes and the Gascony!

(A very interesting wee page about the differences between cognac and armagnac at Château Arton)

 

 

ABK6 12 yo 'Batch N°1' (42.6%, OB, Aged Collection, 1594 bottles)

ABK6 12 yo 'Batch N°1' (42.6%, OB, Aged Collection, 1594 bottles) Three stars and a half
Single estate but bizarrely, they do not mention any 'cru' on the main label. Technically, they could call it an XO. Colour: gold. Nose: a lovely floral and honeyed freshness, with very ripe pear, vineyard peach, early morning dandelion flowers, followed by a touch of caramel and toffee. A slight grilled note that works very well. Palate: a bit less defined than on the nose, more herbal, with a light note of grape stalks and toasted wood, then grilled nuts and dried raisins. It gradually improves, returning to ripe peach and honey, with maple syrup becoming increasingly pronounced. Finish: medium in length, with a very slightly medicinal edge that's not at all unpleasant. We're not quite at Laphroaig levels, are we... A hint of liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: it's a bit pricey (100 euros) but it's a small batch. Truly good.
SGP:561 - 83 points.

Domaine du Péré 15 yo 2007/2023 (51%, Alabat, Bas-armagnac, cask #122, 250 bottles)

Domaine du Péré 15 yo 2007/2023 (51%, Alabat, Bas-armagnac, cask #122, 250 bottles) Four stars
100% baco and bottled by Alabat, another member of the new wave of French indie bottlers (lovely bottles, lovely modern arty labels, lovely contents). Colour: amber. Nose: It starts with a bit of glue and varnish, akin to a fine bourbon, then moves on to cider apple and green pear, before leaning more towards stewed fruits and roasted nuts, with a hint of molasses. With water: a few notes of rubber (which we love when it's in these proportions) and damp earth, in addition to everything else. Mouth (neat): It begins much softer and more wine-like, with a hint of pineau and even rancio, followed by that famous bourbon taste, with Demerara sugar and vanilla. It's quite unusual. With water: still in that sweet, slightly overcooked register. It makes one think of a natural sweet wine. Very alluring, without any harshness (S., that would be the last thing needed). Finish: medium length, on brown sugar and dried raisins. Lovely slightly burnt cakes as its signature, and even a tiny hint of herbaceous salinity. Comments: very, very good, both sweet and a tad rustic. We'll have some older ones by Alabat next time.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Aurian 40 yo 1983/2023 (48.6%, Maltbarn, Armagnac)

Aurian 40 yo 1983/2023 (48.6%, Maltbarn, Armagnac) Five stars
Maltbarn always has these splendid labels (and distillates)… Colour: full gold. Nose: there's varnish, calvados, green apple, a hint of rubber, very roasted almonds, even a sour note (white wine from the region, Côtes de Gascogne, sometimes you can count your vertebrae as you drink it, that's quite handy). I adore this nose. With water: similar but with more varnish and a fresh paint scent. Mouth (neat): superb, very taut, green, sour, spirited, with citrus and green apples. An old armagnac that awakens you, it's perfect. With water: the same. A sublime rustic and rural side, we're not in Rue du Faubourg St Honoré. Finish: long and refreshing. A bit of grapefruit in the aftertaste. Comments: as the saying goes, happiness is in the meadow.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Vallein Tercinier 48 yo 1975/2023 (52.1%, Silver Seal, Fins bois, cask #235, 295 bottles)

Vallein Tercinier 48 yo 1975/2023 (52.1%, Silver Seal, Fins bois, cask #235, 295 bottles) Four stars and a half
In theory, nothing should go wrong here… It's good to keep using 'racket' bottles, Silver Seal! Colour: bronze. Maybe some studs or patches? Remember the green Springbank from Cadenhead... Nose: there's mead, apple juice, green oak honeydew, greengage plums, a hint of menthol, garden soil, notes of old wine, even yellow wine... It's hard not to be influenced by the colour. With water: little change. Notes of pine needles and inevitably Italian bitters. Mouth (neat): it's really different, very rustic, with bark, apple peels, citrus (grapefruit), very pronounced cinnamon... With water: it gets back on the straight path but remains focused on the bitters, amaro, even gentian. Finish: very long, lemony and bitter. Cynar, Fernet-Branca... Comments: no joke, it's not surprising that an Italian chose this cask. It's very distinctive and spectacular, just not entirely kosher (but S., who cares!).
SGP:571 - 89 points.

Garreau 48 yo 1974/2024 (51.2%, Old Master Spirits, Bas-armagnac, 152 bottles)

Garreau 48 yo 1974/2024 (51.2%, Old Master Spirits, Bas-armagnac, 152 bottles) Five stars
Fully matured in Garreau's wet cellar. By the way, why is it marked as 48 years old and not 49 or 50? Because the vintage refers to the year of the harvest, while the ageing count only starts at the time of filling (in Cognac it officially starts on the 1st of April following the harvest). Got it? Colour: amber. Nose: yes, well it's wonderful. Aged pear brandy, lilies and lily of the valley, pine honey, peach liqueur, kirsch, pomegranate, prickly pear… Oh, it's beautiful, somewhat halfway between an armagnac and a cognac on the nose, in my humble opinion. With water: and there we go, mentholated herbs including, well, mint. It's bright. Mouth (neat): decidedly more rustic on the palate. Green fruits, apple peel, a bit of varnish and almonds, kirsch, a dab of glue, toasted sesame… With water: the fruits make a strong comeback, but the kirsch and bitter almond aspect remains, lurking in the dark (what?). Bitter oranges also come to the fore, which we love. Finish: rather long and 'restored'. Plenty of almond paste, white currants, blackcurrant jam, then an artisanal kirsch once again in the aftertaste. Comments: as they say around here, "it speaks volumes".
SGP:661 - 91 points.

Château de Gaube 50 yo 1972/2023 (44.4%, Decadent Drinks, Notable Age Statements, Bas-armagnac)

Château de Gaube 50 yo 1972/2023 (44.4%, Decadent Drinks, Notable Age Statements, Bas-armagnac) Five stars
Nobody writes it the same. Bas-Armagnac, Bas-armagnac, bas-armagnac, Bas Armagnac, bas armagnac… So very typically French. And what if that had absolutely no importance? Colour: amber. Nose: wood glue, peach, apricots, wax polish, a minimal touch of coconut, a bit of camphor, a hint of menthol, and then increasingly honeyed notes (heather) and plums of all kinds, all perfectly ripe. A few dried figs, too. Mouth: this time it does not wane, the wood impact is very reasonable (not pine wood), and all the fruits sing their hearts out, whether fresh, tinned, or in jam form. Especially the mirabelle plums and apricots. No hesitation here. Finish: very long, with indeed slight resinous touches, but also lovely jams and always a bit of honey, heather and pine mixed together. That makes for a heck of a family honey! It's amusing, there's a very slight soapy edge right at the end – that's perfect, it leaves your palate as clean as a new penny. Comments: superb selection.
SGP:661 - 91 points.

Mauxion 'L45' (60%, OB for Wu Dram Clan, Paradis Series 3, Petite Champagne, 240 bottles, 2023)

Mauxion 'L45' (60%, OB for Wu Dram Clan, Paradis Series 3, Petite Champagne, 240 bottles, 2023) Five stars
It's quite enigmatic; they speak of maturation in a very humid, semi-buried cellar that would help preserve the alcohol strength, while in Scotland, the opposite happens — the colder and damper the cellar, the more the 'angels' take their share. We'll try to clarify all that, but for now, let's focus on the liquid... Colour: amber. Nose: I was expecting a mixed martial arts fighter, but on the contrary, it's all sweetness and kindness, with nougat, praline, milk chocolate, almond milk, biscuits, caramel cream, marshmallow... And it's very beautiful. Are we sure about the 60% vol? We shall see on the palate... With water: the apricots come out, blood oranges, a bit of lemon balm, sweet liquorice, the proverbial peaches, a hint of mocha... It's of great elegance. Mouth (neat): yes, it's very strong. It has a very spicy and herbaceous side, but I doubt it will stay that way. With water: a great fruity freshness while it's also slightly herbaceous. Old Bénédictine, apricot liqueur, verbena, mirabelle plum liqueur, some sultanas, a bit of earth, three mushrooms, an old English cigarette, a small piece of sandalwood, jasmine tea, a bit of cinnamon of course but a very moderate pepper... Finish: long, smooth, firm nonetheless, not tired in the least. For a 1945! Comments: it reminds me a little of the very old malts by G&M that were also bottled at a surprisingly high strength (Livet, Mortlach etc.). Anyway, it's a very peaceful Cognac. Much needed. And magnificent, of course, but don't taste it if you don't have water available. For example, in the middle of the Sahara or the Mojave desert (now that's clever, S.).
SGP:651 - 92 points.

(Thank you Fuji)

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

 

WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

March 2024

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Port Ellen 44 yo 1978/2023 'Gemini Original Cask' (54.9%, OB, European oak butts, 274 bottles, 2024) - WF 95

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Glenfarclas 1973/2003 (59.6%, The Gillies Club, Australia, cask #7988) - WF 93

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
None (sadly)

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Famille Cabanne 'Lot 19.10' (44.9%, The Whisky Jury, Grande Champagne, cask #7, 109 bottles, 2023) - WF 94

Serge's thumbs up this month:
Kimchangsoo 'Quarter Cask' (53.%, OB, South Korea, 312 bottles, 2023) - WF 88

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Mangkorn Thong (35%, OB, SangSom Co., Ltd., Thailand, blended spirit, +/-2005) - WF 35
 

March 30, 2024


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland

 

 

Once more unto the Highland Park!

 

 

I don't know why, but Highland Park seems to be the distillery which accumulates most swiftly and significantly upon my sample shelf. Indeed, this is yet another of a number of 'mega sessions' I've done with this Orcadian on Whiskyfun over the years. I would hypothesise that it is partly due to the fact there are many 'secret' Orkney Malts around these days amongst the indys. And also to the fact that I am known to be fond of it and, as such, good whisky pals tend to send me samples of bottles they open. None of which is cause for anything except joy in my view, but it does mean that we occasionally need to grapple with the slightly daunting task of depleting the sample pile. Today is one such occasion! Angus  

 

It also has the other effect of increasing the tally of HP notes on WF quite significantly. Which I suppose is also no bad thing. After all, Highland Park is officially on Whiskyfun's 'Axis of Minerality' (tm). I would also go as far as to say it is also on the Axis of Wax and what I have just this second decided to term the 'Bog of Peat'. All that is to say: we love Highland Park!  

 

Let's start in a very obvious place, before tying ourselves in the usual knots about ABV vs age vs vintage vs bottling era vs sherry vs refill etc… 

 

 

Highland Park 12 yo 'Viking Honour' (OB, 40%, -/+ 2023)

Highland Park 12 yo 'Viking Honour' (OB, 40%, -/+ 2023)
I can't recall the last time I properly wrote notes for the Highland Park 12yo, but it's a dram I'll happily order, and usually enjoy, in a pub. Colour: pale gold. Nose: feels like the balance of peat and coastal elements and heather honey has been well struck. These elements are all well accompanied by some slightly sweetened breakfast cereals, a few ales and breads, and then a little putty. Mouth: the ABV lets it down a bit, leaving a feeling of flatness up front, but the actual flavours of soft, heather peat smoke, along with some richer shilling ales, honey on brown toast and a little sweetened black tea are all very classical and lovely. Finish: short-medium in length, a little drier, rootier and more herbal, all nicely familiar. Comments: I can see why this goes down so easily in the pub! It just struggles in these more 'analytical' situations, which I'm sure is almost entirely down to the miserly bottling strength. 

SGP: 462 - 83 points. 

 

 

Let's remain at 40%… 

 

 

Highland Park 18 yo 1987/2005 (40%, El Vino, sherry)

Highland Park 18 yo 1987/2005 (40%, El Vino, sherry)
El Vino originally quite a famous wine bar on Fleet Street in London. It imported wines, including sherry in casks, and subsequently filled those casks with whiskies it would later bottle itself. A practice which was common amongst such old school wine merchants and importers in the UK; Averys being another good example. Colour: gold. Nose: you do indeed get a lovely, easy and rather old school sherry profile. Here the lower ABV probably helps a little as it's allowing all these golden sultanas, soft dark fruits and quince to rise to the surface. Also rather a lot of honey and a few suggestions of flower nectars. Simple and very attractive. Mouth: funny, this tastes like a much older OB bottling from around the mid-70s that would display quite a bit of OBE (old bottle effect), so there's these dusty, metallic and slightly cardboardy impressions already - would something from 2005 already begin to show these characteristics? What a terrifying thought! Anyway, it's nice enough, but it feels a tad flat and here you really see how a few degrees more alcohol would come to the rescue. Finish: short, on soft teas, some mead, a little camphor and breakfast cereals. Comments: tricky, the nose was lovely, but the palate kind of fell apart a little bit. Now, perhaps it was my sample…?

 SGP: 551 - 78 points. 

 

 

Who can we turn to to help banish these 40% blues? Ah, of course… 

 

 

An Orkney Distillery 9 yo 2012/2022 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, two hogsheads, 733 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 9 yo 2012/2022 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, two hogsheads, 733 bottles)
If Mark has been 'nosing in pale blue', as the label tells us, can we expect a coastal Orkney profile? Let's hope so… Colour: white wine. Nose: hay, cider apples, lemon juice, sheep wool and beach pebbles. A profile that immediately makes you smile. Vividly on pure distillate and indeed  'purity' itself (what?). But also with a wee waxy side as well which gives the impression of body. With water: gets wonderfully chalky and mineral, with a lot of fresh linens, sandalwood, more pebbles and crushed aspirin. Mouth: superb! Waxy, salty, honeyed, softly peaty, herbal and, indeed, coastal! This perfect balance between distillate character and rounding sweetness. In fact, along with these more rugged coastal elements, you do get a nicely sense of the barley and raw ingredients. With water: gets more waxy, more oily and generally 'fatter' in the mouth. Also the peat goes up a notch too. Finish: long, lemony, gently waxy, slightly sooty and with a naturally 'dirty' peat note in the aftertaste. Comments: these bottlings are dead certs for leaving in a cupboard for 20-30 years to mellow - given time this one will sail easily past the 90 mark. Wonderfully pure and charismatic young HP! And also, it's a small batch of two casks, which I always tend to prefer over single casks.
 SGP: 463 - 88 points. 

 

 

An Orkney Distillery 11 yo 2012/2023 'Reserve Casks' (48%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts of Scotland', oloroso sherry butt)

An Orkney Distillery 11 yo 2012/2023 'Reserve Casks' (48%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts of Scotland', oloroso sherry butt)
Colour: bright mahogany. Nose: creamy, sweet and coconut-drive modern sherry cask profile, but excellently so, in that you don't detect excessive oak influence up front. I'm not too sure about how much HP comes through either, but the overall profile is excellent and extremely easy and inviting. Mouth: the sherry and oak are a little more balanced here, with some exotic hardwood resins and wood spices, along with acacia, cinnamon and liquorice root. It's also quite herbal with punchy notes of herbal cocktail bitters and aged Fernet Branca. Going towards coal syrup, menthol tobacco and ointments. Given time it's also getting saltier and nuttier too, which I find excellent and very traditional 'Oloroso'. Finish: medium, lightly spicy, back on liquorice root, bark, cedar wood cigar boxes and bitter cocoa. Comments: probably more a demonstration of a very well sourced / selected sherry cask, than particularly of Highland Park. But overall an excellent sherried dram at a perfect ABV. 

SGP: 462 - 88 points. 

 

 

Secret Orkney 14 yo (54.1%, Dram Mor, finished in ex-Bruichladdich Chateau d'Yquem barrique, 305 bottles)

Secret Orkney 14 yo (54.1%, Dram Mor, finished in ex-Bruichladdich Chateau d'Yquem barrique, 305 bottles, 2022)
So, HP finished in an old Chateau d'Yquem cask which, in between, matured some mid-peated Bruichladdich. I'm sure Serge would have something to say about 'in cask blending'… Colour: white wine. Nose: chalks, plasticine and very delicate honeys up front, more towards this mineral and coastal side I would say. Evolves nicely with some crisp peat smoke, which certainly smells more Orkney than Islay to me, and then also a little waxiness. With water: some canvass and hessian notes, more mineral notes and a touch of aniseed. Mouth: what I like here is that, had the label just said 'hogshead' I wouldn't have blinked, however, the knowledge about that finish has you sort of looking for cracks so to speak. Lots of very typical pebbles, minerals, soft waxes and little drying peat smoke and an impression of smoked olive oil too. With water: on funky cider apples, hessian, more olive oil and dry, sooty peat notes. Finish: medium, peppery, fully coastal and nicely drying now. Comments: no idea what this finish contributed, but the net effect is a very easy and typical modern, distillate forward HP in my view.

SGP: 452 - 87 points. 

 

 

Orkney 15 yo 2007/2022 (59.7%, North Star, oloroso hogshead, 328 bottles)

Orkney 15 yo 2007/2022 (59.7%, North Star, oloroso hogshead, 328 bottles)
Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: creamy and gingery sherry, in fact noses rather like some pretty good cream sherry. Goes on with this rather lovely leafy and mulchy side, undergrowth, pipe tobacco, cigar humidor and walnuts. A few sweeter impressions such as heather honey and sweet stout as well. Very good. With water: leafy, earthy, nutty and gently salty with these slightly old school leathery aspects. Mouth: a little sharper and less rounded than the neat nose suggested, a rather powerful and rugged profile up front, with much more saltiness, gamey notes, natural tar, embrocations, graphite oil and camphor. A big personality! With water: cooking oils, camphor, fir wood, a drop of creme de menthe and some salted liquorice. Big, big whisky! Finish: long, getting wonderfully dry now, on game salami, unlit cigars, walnut oil and camphor once again. Comments: was this a 1st fill or refill sherry hoggie? Feels like the latter to me, in the very best sense that it shows sherry and HP distillate in very nice balance. That said, this is a big hefty bruiser of a dram! One to reach for if you are seeking an intellectual tussle with your whisky. 
SGP: 363 - 89 points. 

 

 

Orkney 16 yo 2006/2022 (64.3%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #15DRU17/A65, refill sherry butt, 661 bottles)

Orkney 16 yo 2006/2022 (64.3%, Signatory Vintage for The Whisky Exchange, cask #15DRU17/A65, refill sherry butt, 661 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: beery, honeyed and slightly lemony, but also a tad terrifying due to the monolithic ABV. Also some nice impressions of bitter orange marmalade and unlit cigars. Also a wee hint of cough medicine too. But the general impression is that this needs water… with water: golden syrup, cured ham, black truffle, muscovado sugar and aged mead. Mouth: not as beastly as I feared, but still rather hot and obfuscated by the high alcohol. Narrows on honey on sourdough, ales and cured meats. Let's go for water… with water: still rather hot and boisterous, on paprika, smoky bacon, soy sauce and cured gravadlax with wee notes of dill, aniseed and an increasingly drying salinity. Quite difficult to be honest. Finish: long, peppery, salty, on squid ink, more soy sauce, more salty notes and more wee gamey and leathery touches. Comments: A brute! I know this kind of profile has many fans, but I find it a tad too tough and gruelling for my liking. Technically very good whisky in some regards, but I feel it would have benefited from a reduced bottling strength. 
SGP: 372 - 84 points. 

 

 

Secret Orkney 17 yo 2004/2022 (49.4%, Whisky Nerds, cask #13, butt, 248 bottles)

Secret Orkney 17 yo 2004/2022 (49.4%, Whisky Nerds, cask #13, butt, 248 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: now we're talking! Beautifully concentrated honeyed and salty profile that shows real maturity! Waxes, delicate peaty notes, little coastal inflections, mineral oil, sandalwood and hessian. Everything I am total sucker for in Highland Park essentially. Mouth: soft, heathery, lightly honeyed, very delicately peaty and perfectly saline and drying. There's also a gentle touch of dry, peppery waxiness. Everything is here and in its place and rather gentle, yet the overall distillery character remains vivid and strong. Goes on with some herbal teas and medicinal roots and herbs. Finish: long, on crystallised honey and aged mead with some more peppery waxy notes and very delicate threads of peat. Comments: rather like what I imagine a proper strength version of the 18yo to be in my head. Nuff said! 

SGP: 462 - 90 points. 

 

 

Highland Park 19 yo 2001/2021 (52.5%, OB, cask #2587, refill hogshead, 251 bottles)

Highland Park 19 yo 2001/2021 (52.5%, OB, cask #2587, refill hogshead, 251 bottles)
I think it's great that Edrington would release mid-aged, official hoggies of Highland Park. But this is another example of an official company expecting auction prices for modern distillate. Now, while I am one of the first to celebrate how great modern HP can be, it is not up with the 1960s, and frankly, the price of this bottling comes from a place of serious corporate delusion of you ask me. Now, as ever, while we comment on such prices occasionally, it is the whiskies themselves for which we record notes and scores… Colour: deep gold. Nose: a gorgeous mix of crystallised honeys, fruits and tiny medicinal and peaty notes. Medicinal roots such as gentian, wormwood and aged herbal liqueurs. Then cough mixtures and tiger balm. Superb beautifully detailed. With water: pristinely saline, along with pure heather honey, smoked beer, camphor and resinous fir wood. Mouth: I'd be amazed if this wasn't a refill sherry hogshead, this is really on leathery and earthy refill sherry notes, loads of salinity, salted almonds, cured game meats, smoked paprika and dried herbs. The best Serrano ham with a glass of pristinely salty Amontillado. I also find a rising pepperiness, and hints of English mustard powder and smoked teas, it all adds to this sense of building complexity. With water: maintains cruising altitude, and this sense of leathery, salty, refill sherry goodness! Finish: long, terrifically pure, vibrant, salty, gamey, slightly tarry and peppery. Comments: I am left with a similar feeling after trying that silly Bunnahabhain 1990 for TWE at 2k a bottle: frustration. Anyway, this is exactly what you'd hope for from an OB single cask: bags of distillery character, perfect maturity and a rather particular slant on the house style, in this case a super salty, refill sherry profile that is just awesome. I still think it is damagingly expensive though. 
SGP: 363 - 91 points. 

 

 

An Orkney Distillery 22 yo 2000/2023 (52.7%, The Whisky Exchange, Whisky Show 2023, cask #41, refill hogshead, 328 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 22 yo 2000/2023 (52.7%, The Whisky Exchange, Whisky Show 2023, cask #41, refill hogshead, 328 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: pure, slightly salted heather honey, we have indeed 'struck' Orkney. Goes on with soft waxes, dried mint, a touch of eucalyptus, mineral oils, sandalwood and gorse flower. Also these familiar wee medicinal and herbal touches come through in time as well. Beautiful! With water: brilliant, a superbly cohesive singular and wonderfully honeyed profile, fill of waxes, fir woods, wee coastal notes and gentle peat notes. Mouth: superbly creamy and oily upon arrival. Thick waxes, olive oil, ointments, lanolin, camphor and wee sweeter, more playful hints of coconut, citrus curds and back to heather honey again. There's also a deeper, baseline of dry, herbal peat smoke which is just brilliant! With water: this wonderful tension between salty/coastal impressions, those brighter citrus notes again, waxes and soft, herbal and drying peat smoke. Brilliant, mature HP. Finish: long, drying, getting earthier, richer and more peppery and powerful in the aftertaste. Comments: hard not to laugh when thinking about this one against the OB, which was of pretty much the same quality in my view. Anyway, a great cask and a perfect example of contemporary Highland Park at its best. 
SGP: 463 - 91 points. 

 

 

Secret Orkney 22 yo 1999/2021 (52.0%, The Taste Of Whisky, cask #15, 60 bottles)

Secret Orkney 22 yo 1999/2021 (52.0%, The Taste Of Whisky, cask #15, 60 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: very similar feeling to the TWE 2000, only this is perhaps even more focused on the honey side of things. Beeswax, pollens, nectars and golden syrup in salty porridge. Similar feelings to be honest. With water: a touch of greenery with a light grassy and crushed nettle note, but then bags more sheep wool, coastal pebbles, chalk, waxes, mineral oils and camphor. Mouth: outstanding arrival! All on rich honeyed notes, soft herbal peat smoke, waxes, pollens, ales and sandalwood. Similar concentrative style and profile, and same levels of quality. With water: same variations on a theme: honey, wax, herbs, soft peat and seashore! Finish: long, perfectly drying, salty, honeyed and waxy. Comments: hard to fault these late 90s / early 00s batches. 

SGP: 462 - 91 points. 

 

 

An Orkney Distillery 22 yo 1999/2022 (52.6%, Nanyang Whisky 'The Peninsula Collection', cask #8, hogshead, 280 bottles)

An Orkney Distillery 22 yo 1999/2022 (52.6%, Nanyang Whisky 'The Peninsula Collection', cask #8, hogshead, 280 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: this one comes across as perhaps a little sharper and more youthful. More towards coastal notes, some green and citrus fruits, white coastal flowers with their pollens and then more familiar waxy and honeyed notes in the background. With water: crystallised citrus fruits, mint tea and a few herbal ointments. Mouth: excellent arrival, fresh and coastal, with peppery bite, lemon rind, white flowers, cereals and waxes. Feels generally a bit younger, sharper and fresher overall. With water: this slightly wilder, earthier and more vegetal side comes through, along with a slightly more assertive salinity. Good tension and power. Finish: long, waxy, oily and getting back into more typical territory now. Lovely oily and waxy aftertaste. Comments: also excellent, just a notch beneath the other two in my view. 

SGP: 462 - 89 points. 

 

 

Highland Park 24 yo 1986/2020 (46%, Mo Òr Collection, cask #2275, bourbon hogshead, 300 bottles)

Highland Park 24 yo 1986/2020 (46%, Mo Òr Collection, cask #2275, bourbon hogshead, 300 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: gorgeous and markedly, fascinatingly different. Much more on crushed seashells, white stone fruits, pure waxes and medicines. With a much fatter and deeper profile of peat. Going back towards what I'd generally characterise as 'older style' HP. I find the nose really wonderful. Mouth: same feeling as on the nose, bright, sharp citrus fruits, along with crystallised honey, thick, drying and gentle peat smoke that sits beneath everything and this overall sense of a dry, earthy, rooty and coastal profile. There's also a more brittle style of waxy flavour and things like plasticine, mineral oil, more crushed seashells and dried herbs. Finish: good length, rather bone dry, salty and showing almost a white wine sort of profile in terms of tautness, dryness and structure. Comments: were the 1980s superior to the 1970s for Highland Park? Potentially quite a hot take, please discuss. Also, I feel like this humble wee bottling might have been a tad overlooked at the time, perhaps 46% does mean bottlings can get a bit 'lost' too easily? Anyway, if this one crosses your path, I think it is well worth your time, it's a beautiful, pure old school HP with an enchanting fragility about it.

SGP: 363 - 90 points.

 

 

And now, a strategic break, if you don't mind. Before the finale, which we will start with a sort of 'second aperitif', just to re-calibrate everything a little. And also because I want to.  

 

 

Highland Park 12 yo (43%, OB, 1 litre for duty free, 1980s) 

Highland Park 12 yo (43%, OB, 1 litre for duty free, 1980s) 
A bottle I opened for my wedding last May, where it featured as part of a 'complimentary whisky bar'. Later this year we hope to put up a plaque to honour the survivors… Colour: pale amber. Nose: lovely old school sherry, all about this leafy, mulchy and earthy profile that makes you immediately think of cigar humidors, cedar wood and authentic sherry bodega funk! This one continues with sultanas, some impressions of very old Armagnac, and then some wonderful rooty and gamey notes that stray more towards medicines and dry peat. Mouth: terrific mixture of dry, herbal, old school peat, soft dark fruits, pipe and cigar tobacco and then waxes, putty, herbal teas and liquorice. Kind of simple in some ways, but gorgeous and utterly lethal! Finish: long, getting salty, herbal and showing this terrific combination of resinous sherry and dry peat. Comments: It's to be wondered if larger format bottles also work well for whisky as they do for wine in terms of long term storage? Anyway, thank God there was a magnum of Springbank at the bar to take the heat off this bonnie wee beauty! 

SGP: 563 - 91 points.

 

 

Highland Park 1970/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Centenary Reserve') 

Highland Park 1970/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail 'Centenary Reserve') 
Colour: amber. Nose: old school indeed, and in fact, rather old fashioned too, with this sense of dusty, dry and mineral sherry that shows some engine oil, some soot and big impressions of hessian cloth and old copper kettles. Add to that a few dollops of marmalade and subdued honey. Mouth: this phrase 'old fashioned' comes back again, in that this is soft, quite sweet and on pretty syrupy notes of golden syrup, flower nectars, elderflower cordial, sweetened black coffee and older Armagnac that has been sweetened. Also some dark Navy rums. There's also camphor and milk chocolate in the background. Finish: medium, sappy, sweet, herbal and with cough medicines and milky cocoa. Comments: a funny one, looks like Serge gave this one WF78 way back in 2005, and I have to say, I can see why, it has this feeling of sweetness that sits alongside the much older school aspects a little uneasily. That being said, I think it'd err on the side of generosity and go for… 

SGP: 541 - 80 points. 

 

 

Highland Park 21 yo 1959/1980 (43%, OB 'green dumpy') 

Highland Park 21 yo 1959/1980 (43%, OB 'green dumpy') 
As we might say in Scotland, this one is 'well kent'… Colour: amber. Nose: another galaxy! A totally devastating and singular mix of ancient sherry, the deepest, darkest, rootiest, most organic and herbal Orcadian peat aroma, and then stunningly concentrated dark fruits, salinity, pecans and pickled walnuts, rancio and ancient balsamic. The thing you cannot get past is that it just hits you as one, entirely singular, utterly perfect and spellbinding profile. Impossible to spot the joins. Mouth: oh dear. Censored I'm afraid. We've immediately been forced to summon the anti-maltoporn brigade. But perhaps worth stating that it's precisely the profile of the nose on the palate, and once again the experience is of being immediately dominating by this incredible, singular profile. I'd only add that, with a meagre 43% ABV, this whisky is able to do more and deliver more by way of power, precision and enthralment than any number of cask strength drams. Finish: extremely long, stunningly herbal, darkly fruity and just hypnotically peaty. Comments: whisky that sort of breaks you brain. For me, 1950s Highland Park is up there with 1960s Bowmore, 1960s Laphroaig etc. One of the unique and great all time flavour experiences in whisky.  

SGP: 665 - 95 points. 

 

 

Thank you very much, Carsten!

 

 

 

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

 

March 29, 2024


Whiskyfun

Sailing the seas again
Another whirlwind tour of the whisky world, nose to the wind and without the slightest fear. We will see that there are things, or rather there were things, quite dangerous, back when the Scots ruled the whisky world unchallenged. But things are really starting to change. As usual, we'll start with a little French one, there are so many of them! Because nowadays, everybody here is distilling 'whisky', except for the railway workers, who are far too busy being on strike at time of writing, as usual. But let's move on...

 

 

Armorik 21 yo 2002/2023 (59.9%, OB, France, oloroso, cask #3268, vente solidaire, Whisky Live Paris 2023, 1 2-l demijohn)

Armorik 21 yo 2002/2023 (59.9%, OB, France, oloroso, cask #3268, vente solidaire, Whisky Live Paris 2023, 1 2-l demijohn) Four stars
The oldest French whisky ever bottled, sold in October last year for the GoodPlanet Foundation charity. Here we have a tasting purely for glory, since there was only one demijohn available. Colour: very dark amber. Nose: salted butter caramel and pipe tobacco take the lead at first, then we find chocolate and a 'traditional old armagnac' side with some mushrooms. It's really powerful, water will be a welcome addition. With water: it remains earthy, very dry, somewhat like a very old sweet wine that has fully metabolised its sugars. Burnt caramel and damp earth. Mouth (neat): a lot of dark chocolate, green nuts, a massive peppery hit, plenty of chili, brown tobacco (Gauloise)... In short, it's quite serious. With water: now it relaxes a bit, there are bitter oranges, cloves, bitters, very old nuts... Finish: long but still woody, bitter (not excessively so) and heavily marked by brown tobacco and very black tea. Comments: the woodiness and the ultra-dry sherry are very pronounced, but in the end, it's primarily a magnificent collector's bottle.
SGP:372 - between 85 and 87 points.

Right, brace yourselves, I had promised you something strange, hadn't I?

Mangkorn Thong (35%, OB, SangSom Co., Ltd., Thailand, blended spirit, +/-2005)

Mangkorn Thong (35%, OB, SangSom Co., Ltd., Thailand, blended spirit, +/-2005)
It's made from rice and molasses, so technically, it should be some kind of whisky. Actually, it is advertised as the 'No.1 Thai whiskey'. Please note that this is an older bottle, and then wish me luck. Adios, world! Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's rather some kind of very light absinth. Or pastis. Or ouzo. Or raki. I can't find anything that would remind of whisky, but we do know that in some parts of this lovely planet, the word 'whisky' is used very loosely. Mouth: yeah, light aniseed, caramel, vanilla and a little orange liqueur. Add coriander seeds and you're nearing some kind of Thai chartreuse blended with Thai pastis. It is not undrinkable. Let's see if it gets cloudy when water's added… With water: it does not, at all! Finish: short, with aniseed and vanilla. Comments: I don't think it's totally lethal, after all. It probably belongs on a lot of crushed ice, with a slice of lime, in Phuket or Pattaya. It could be much worse, I'll categorize it with the whiskies, but I don't think we can truly call this a 'whisky'.
SGP:650 - 35 points.

Even stranger, is that possible?

Tovuz 13 yo 'Caucasus Original Whisky' (40%, OB, Azerbaijan, +/-2015)

Tovuz 13 yo 'Caucasus Original Whisky' (40%, OB, Azerbaijan, +/-2015)
The brand was founded in 1989 and is made by Naigs Co Tovuz-Baltiya ltd. To be honest, it's hard to know what to say about the country, let's just spare a thought for one of the most wonderful jazz pianists and singers, the delightful Azeri princess Aziza Mustapha Zadeh. Or for the great singer Alim Qasimov (listen to 'A Trace of Grace' with Michel Godard, it's on YouTube.) By the way, we had already tasted a Tovuz 10 years a few years back. So-so (WF 50), but maybe is this 13-year-old vastly superior? Colour: tawny amber. Nose: packed with caramel and molasses, with a few notes of very ripe plums, but nothing that really suggests anything to do with barley, corn, wheat, millet, rye, rice... (okay, we get it, S.) Mouth: not bad, herbaceous, curiously fresh (wormwood, verbena, mint) but really not 'whisky' as you and I understand it. Liquorice, caramel, but not too sweet. Alright, we've seen worse (starting just about five minutes ago). Finish: not very long but really on caramel and woody flavoured raki. We'll survive. Comments: frankly, it's not too bad at all, pretty much average for spirits worldwide (so, WF 50 since remember we use a real 100 points scale). Well, we're going to listen to some Aziza Mustapha Zadeh to cheer ourselves up. Let me recommend one of her latest albums, 'Generations'. De nada.
SGP:660 - 50 points.

To Switzerland…

Johnett 2013/2023 (55.5%, OB, Etter Soehne AG, Switzerland, ex-merlot, cask #49, 417 bottles)

Johnett 2013/2023 (55.5%, OB, Etter Soehne AG, Switzerland, ex-merlot, cask #49, 417 bottles) Four stars
I believe the house Etter do make some excellent osbtlers too (eaux-de-vie). They are located in Zug, where the water is pure and the taxes very low (why am I mentioning this?) Now, let me issue a merlot alert! Colour: gold. No pink, no red. Nose: grenadine should be a no-no, but in this case, when there's also cake, praline, peonies, stewed cherries and a little orange blossom, it's rather not. Let's say we're fine this far. With water: touches of sweet chilli. Mouth (neat): akin to the red-wine-and-spice-boosted whiskies many are making in the world these days (especially in Australia, Israel, India, Taiwan, or in England). The idea remains frightening, but let's not deny that they now make them much better than they used to. Burnt raspberry muffins, cherry clafoutis, Schweppes Orange, caraway and clove, bitters, Campari… Finish: long, spicier yet, pretty boisterous. Comments: rather a new category, we shall call it 'Dr Swan's', if you don't mind.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Did we not mention Australia? And red wine?

Starward 5 yo 2017/2023 (55.8%, OB for LMDW, Australia, Australian tawny finish, cask #14914, 258 bottles)

Starward 5 yo 2017/2023 (55.8%, OB for LMDW, Australia, Australian tawny finish, cask #14914, 258 bottles) Four stars
Three years in Australian red wine, then two years in Australian tawny Port-like wine, what could go wrong? I hear you say 'just ev'rything', but not so sure, let's see… Colour: copper. Ouch. Nose: loads of burnt cakes and cookies, some charcoal, burnt fruits, slate… Water is necessary but that was to be expected. With water: do you believe in miracles? Dough, crushed bananas, beers, cherry wine, touch of grappa… Mouth (neat): insane 'red' sweetness and loco spiciness. Extreme extraction and avalanches of cloves, this is absolutely not for the fainthearted. With water: so much better! Still very spicy, herbal, bitter, but also fruitier, with our beloved cherries doing more than their share. Red apricots, dates, crazy guavas… More cinnamon too, which is very normal. Finish: long. Big spices, oak, oranges… Cocoa in the aftertaste. Comments: it's a little excessive, and that's an understatement, but on the other hand, can you do any better with a 5 yo juice?
SGP:661 - 85 points.

Bimber 'Peated' (59.4%, OB, England, Germany edition, PX cask, cask #458, 283 bottles, 2023)

Bimber 'Peated' (59.4%, OB, England, Germany edition, PX cask, cask #458, 283 bottles, 2023) Four stars
Peat and PX, that's a tricky combination in our meagre experience. Not unlike coffee and mustard, but let's see… Colour: amber. Nose: good fun, with some fresh concrete, fermenting plums, scoria, basalt, bitter oranges, spent engine oil, black raisins… This is intriguing but it does hold pretty tight this far. With water: many stuck matches and the blackest chocolates. Mouth (neat): another miraculous one. Good, there's too much pepper, too much dried mushroom powder (porcini), too many deep-dried prunes, too many crazy smoked sausages, too much harissa, too many merguez (not joking)… But in a way it works, despite its black-metal aspect. With water: ha-ha, it got gentler. Struck matches again, also more German smoked sausage, well this is bordering curry wurst. Finish: long, rather on paprika and oranges, but the aftertaste is pretty smoky indeed. Bay leaves, then some very lovely oranges of different kinds. Comments: excellent.
SGP:564 - 86 points.

That's three extreme cask-driven malts already. We can't wait to try these when they get old enough to stand on their two legs without needing these well-made, yet sometimes very slightly stuffy heavy casks. Please a last one, from Korea…

Kimchangsoo 'Quarter Cask' (53.%, OB, South Korea, 312 bottles, 2023)

Kimchangsoo 'Quarter Cask' (53.%, OB, South Korea, 312 bottles, 2023) Four stars and a half
We've already tried some very dazzling Kimchangsoos. It's a tiny distillery, the only one in Korea I believe, but they really know what they're doing. Proof, this is from proper Golden Promise barley (think authentic Macallan) and a blend of ex-first fill oloroso and ex-first fill PX. Colour: bright amber. Nose: it starts with some rather subtle touches of incense and cedarwood, plus various vegetables, including parsnips and French beans. Which is a little unusual, we agree. Some damp earth, a little camphor, some kind of grease, teas… I believe a little water will do it much good. With water: no straight peat and yet there is some Ardbegness. Perhaps these burnt Pirellis? Mouth (neat): sweet Vishnu, how good is this!? It is just extremely potent, you would believe it was bottled at 73% vol. instead of 53. Huge pepper load. With water: oh so distinctive. Artichoke, charcoal, capers, bitter oranges, green peppercorns, eggplant, more parsnips… Finish: long, a tad austere, which is very pleasant. No one wants sticky, cloying, vulgar finishes. Comments: that's the thing, it's a deep spirit, which means that even if the cask was pretty active, the distillate had enough structure and stamina to counterbalance its effect. How do you say 'extremely good' in Korean?
SGP:462 - 88 points.

(Thanks, Christian)

 

 

WF Fact

  400 grains!

We've just filed the note for our 400th Scottish grain whisky. Never would we have imagined reaching this milestone; twenty-five years ago, the market was offering little beyond Cameron Brig, viewed merely as a novelty, and William Grant's Black Barrel, which was met with considerable skepticism. Let's not forget the exceedingly rare grain whiskies from Ben Nevis and Lochside, also novelties, especially those offered by James MacArthur. However, since then, the chance to use the enchanting term "single", and more reasonably priced cask purchases have altered the playing field. It must be said that some grains are quite impressive, particularly most aged Invergordons and, generally, the very old grains from other distilleries, including long-gone ones such as Garnheath. But in my own view, the younger ones are better suited to cleaning windshields or featuring in very light cocktails 'on the beach'. Beware also of the few bottlers, fortunately not many, who attempt to sell single grain at single malt prices.

 

March 28, 2024


Whiskyfun

A couple of indie Octomore

There really aren't many independent Octomores, as I don't think they've sold many fillings, while PCs do abound. At any rate, we've only got two on the desk today.

The humble author between the Jagger and Richards of
malt whisky, Paris, 2002. (WF Archive)

 

 

Octomore 12 yo 2010/2023 (55.6%, A Few Barrels Company, Uniqueness of The Cask collection, bourbon barrel, cask #4524, 229 bottles)

Octomore 12 yo 2010/2023 (55.6%, A Few Barrels Company, Uniqueness of The Cask collection, bourbon barrel, cask #4524, 229 bottles) Four stars and a half
From some excellent wee Swiss bottler in Lausanne. We've already tried some excellent Wardhead of theirs, for example, they seem to rather like the uncommon. Just like us! Colour: white wine. Nose: pure crystalline peat smoke. Visiting a kiln after having toured a paint factory and had apéritif with one or three glasses of some very tight manzanilla, accompanied by a good hundred large and juicy green olives. Nice feeling. With water: porridge and raw wool, a very typical development. Also, even more olives and mezcal, which is quite spectacular. A tiny hint of chlorine, which definitely doesn't come from my water, I assure you. Mouth (neat): starts quite sharp, but then develops into sour apples and candied lemons to the most beautiful effect. The peat also blends with the varnish and the turpentine, all the while remaining tight and precise like a Swiss cuckoo clock. With water: a few sweeter touches, perhaps from the cask, especially a bit of coconut and orange blossom honey. Finish: long, a tad saltier, but it remains distinctly Octomore in style, quite different from the other major peated whiskies of the island, especially those from the south coast. A hint of Williams pear in the aftertaste. Comments: it's downright excellent, both fierce and tender.
SGP:567 - 89 points.

Octomore 10 yo 2013/2024 (62.4%, Dramfool's, Jim McEwan Signature Collection 8.3, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1871, 224 bottles)

Octomore 10 yo 2013/2024 (62.4%, Dramfool's Jim McEwan Signature Collection 8.3, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1871, 224 bottles) Five stars
107ppm phenols here, so not the smokedmost Octomore ever. They regularly release new Bruichladdichs, Port Charlottes and Octomores within this series. Colour: straw. Nose: the beginning is much more marked by the cask here, with a strong presence of vanilla and shortbread, as well as a lot of marzipan, which isn't unusual for some peated whiskies aged in active wood. I think it will take quite a bit of water to rebalance all this, but at 62% ABV, that's normal.

With water: it gets much closer to the 2010, but still with an added roundness. Olives emerge, a few notes of slightly wild pinot noir (where does that come from?), followed by fresh mastic, carbolineum, the infamous tarry ropes... Mouth (neat): huge and very marked by curry and pepper, in addition to the peat. Don't even think about tasting this beast without water. With water: some strong lemony, salty, and oily power. The woodiness has been overcome; it's the massively peated distillate that speaks. A lot of ash, a bit of chili and, always, curry. Segments of pink grapefruit roasted in butter and pine honey. Yum. Finish: long but not eternal, quite sweet in the end. Camphor and eucalyptus at the very end, with menthol cigarettes (is it still okay to mention that?). Comments: quite a journey. If you don't have good water (not too hard, not too soft), forget it. Otherwise…
SGP:657 - 90 points.

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

 

March 27, 2024


Whiskyfun

  Happy International Whisk(e)y Day!

Today is International Whisky Day, the original international day of whisky that started right here on Whiskyfun in 2008, following the suggestion of the famous Dutch whisky writer Hans Offringa, who was the first to come up with the idea. Each year, International Whisky Day pays tribute, on his birthday, to the great whisky writer Michael Jackson, who sadly passed away in 2007.

To celebrate this grand day, we wanted to choose one, and only one, whisky that was emblematic of the era of Michael Jackson, known as Emdjay. It's one of the very rare occasions where WF tastes only one whisky, we mere tardigrades who don't even come close to the greatness of 'Emdjay'.

Coleburn 1972/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, old map label) Five stars
One of the many distilleries closed by the predecessors of Diageo in the early 1980s, but not one of the most renowned, even though obsessive enthusiasts have always held it in high regard for its very particular fruity character. At WF, we have only tasted 25 Coleburns to date, and I doubt we'll ever reach 30. Michael Jackson was not a huge fan of Coleburn, as he wrote about the Rare Malts 21 yo at 59.4% that this 'valedictory Rare Malts vintage was as enjoyable as any Coleburn to have been bottled in recent decades.' Before rating it 73/100. He could be tough! Generally, we taste some of his favourite old Macallans to pay tribute to Michael Jackson but for once, we are probably going to dare to contradict him, 30 years later (S., you fool!). Colour: gold. Nose: probably one of the best of this series, if we exclude Brora, Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Port Ellen and a few others. Whiffs of dandelion flowers early in the morning before the bees arrive, ham, a lot of beeswax, a bit of 'added' caramel, mead, old white Burgundy, hints of vanilla fudge, a tiny bit of canned pineapple, some typical metallic notes (old copper)... But by no means can the low alcohol degree be felt on the nose, even after nearly thirty years in the bottle at 40% vol. Mouth: wonderful. Smoky, metallic, resinous, tarry, almost in the territory of an old Coal Ila G&M (before the reconstruction). We continue with an apple tarte covered with vanilla and salted butter caramel ice cream, then onto lapsang souchong, bone marrow broth, and old fino from Jerez. It's splendid like a Van Gogh compared to a Jeff Koons. No, we will not tell you which are the 'Jeff Koons' of the current malt distilleries. Finish: of medium length, certainly, but with a sweet-salty side now unfindable in Scotland. Perhaps it is that which we should seek to rediscover. Comments: we understand why Coleburn was long associated with 'old' Clynelish before the war. A true marvel, cheers to Michael Jackson and Happy International Whisky Day 2024!
SGP:451 - 92 points.

Let's also take a moment to remember another Coleburn from 1972, the 47-year-old released by G&M in 2020 at... 62.4%. It was a true splendour (WF 93), but there won't be many more Coleburns. Except perhaps for new whiskies under the banner of ACEO/Murray McDavid, the current owners of the brand and buildings.

Today, let's raise a glass to Michael Jackson and please help fight Parkinson's Disease!

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

 

March 26, 2024


Whiskyfun

Secret Smokes, Part Two

Because of course we were having more. Secret malts are on the rise while disclosed distilleries are seriously down, apart from Teaninich, Mannochmore, Glenburgie and Miltonduff. Agreed, and a few others, but all of this is becoming a bit tedious, it must be said, and it's not the fault of the independents.

Peat
Signed Islay Peat for heating, 2006 (WF/MM Archive)

 

 

Islay Single Malt 2013/2022 (53,0%, Or Sileis, bourbon hogshead, cask #WG771, 200 bottles)

Islay Single Malt 2013/2022 (53,0%, Or Sileis, bourbon hogshead, cask #WG771, 200 bottles) Five stars
Cats always bring us luck! Colour: pale white wine. Nose: tarmac, burnt rubber, tar, seaweed, sea water, liniments, and of course, plenty of smoke. With water: hints of new make spirit, some quite pungent smoke, new rubber boots, and merbromin solution. Mouth (neat): a lot of peat, alongside green apple juice, brine, two olives, and tar. With water: it becomes fruitier, more lemony, while the beautiful peat smoke remains. Finish: long, starting off slightly oily, then becoming increasingly firm. Green apple, lemon, brine, and very smoky fish. Not one thing to discard. Comments: a splendid young Islay. One might think it comes from the south-east, but the one from the very north of the east, in its peated form, often manages to imitate it. So it's hard to say for certain.
SGP:657 - 90 points.

Islay Trilogy III 21 yo 2001/2022 (49.7%, Murray McDavid, Mission Gold, blended malt, PX sherry hogshead finish, 170 bottles)

Islay Trilogy III 21 yo 2001/2022 (49.7%, Murray McDavid, Mission Gold, blended malt, PX sherry hogshead finish, 170 bottles) Four stars and a half
A vatting of Ardbeg, Bowmore and Laphroaig that reminds me of an earlier Trilogy by MMcD, their thrilling 1967/2006 that was sheltering Bowie, Laddie and Bunny, all 1967s (WF 92 back then). Colour: reddish amber. Nose: It starts with a chocolatey note and the dried fruits of the PX, while the peat ascends as if emulating the albatross from Victor Hugo's verse, slowly and almost clumsily. The balance gradually shifts and then becomes significantly smokier, and we're talking about quite distinct types of smoke: cigar, peat, wood, even heavy fuel oil... It just needs time. It's impossible to say which one of the three distilleries prevails over the other two. Mouth: excellent for a mere PX finish. There's some sweet Chinese sauce for dim sum (sadly, I can't recall the names), followed by bitter oranges with tobacco, chocolate, ginger, and horseradish, and finally a thick, powerful, and salty peat intermingled with candied lemon. Finish: long, robust, and full-bodied, very well-balanced even if the PX is somewhat disconcerting. Comments: It truly needs time to be appreciated. Would this blend have been better without the PX finish? Not so sure (yep, Serge speaking)...
SGP:666 - 89 points.

Blimey, we're too high for the start of a session, once again.

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire & Sherry & Cask Strength 10 yo 'Batch 3' (56.4%, Master of Malt, Islay Single Malt, 1st fill oloroso sherry octave, 1233 bottles, 2022)

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire & Sherry & Cask Strength 10 yo 'Batch 3' (56.4%, Master of Malt, Islay Single Malt, 1st fill oloroso sherry octave, 1233 bottles, 2022) Three stars and a half
I've heard people say that there's no need to specify sherry + oloroso since oloroso is a sherry. Not at all, junior, oloroso is made in several places, not just in Jerez. Colour: copper gold. Nose: It's funny, the octaves haven't overly influenced the malt but it's still quite dense, with prunes and Corinthian raisins slightly obstructing a more delicate peat than it seems. Water should help. With water: yes, it's better, finer at +/-45% vol. Nice tobacco notes, as often with the oloroso + peat combo. Mouth (neat): very powerful, very full-bodied, very spicy, almost a bit overwhelming. Quite woody, as you'd expect with octaves. With twenty litres of water: the return to civilization, with Indonesian spices, green tea, cumin, and especially a good deal of salinity, seawater, brine... Finish: long, not as peaty as one might think, chocolaty and spicy. Let's say chocolate and olives, a magical combination if you find one that has been well-balanced by a top pastry chef. Comments: very good, quite intriguing, just a bit, let's say tiring. A rascal.
SGP:565 - 84 points.

Secret Islay Distillery 15 yo 2007/2023 (52.3%, Acla Selection, Classic Serie, sherry hogshead, cask #4832)

Secret Islay Distillery 15 yo 2007/2023 (52.3%, Acla Selection, Classic Serie, sherry hogshead, cask #4832) Three stars
This one for Switzerland. I'm just thinking, has anyone ever tried to add a wee glass of peated Islay to a Swiss fondue, instead of kirsch? Colour: gold. Nose: a feeling of used matches at first, perhaps just the sherry + peat combo, a little gas and cabbage – but not too much -  then orange zests, raisins, leather, cigars, pinewood smoke… With water: ashes, truffles. Gets much drier. No hard-boiled eggs. Mouth (neat): rich, spicy, sweet, a tad over-the-top for me. Big ginger and turmeric. With water: oranges, eggplants and peanut butter. I know. Finish: medium, earthier and more mineral. Limestone, gunflints, matches, old walnuts, peat. Comments: not bad at all, but here's one that I find slightly less convincing, following a magnificent series of new Aclas. It's the barrel's fault, isn't it?
SGP:375 - 80 points.

Port Askaig 17 yo (50.5%, Elixir Distillers, 2023 edition, American oak, 9000 bottles)

Port Askaig 17 yo (50.5%, Elixir Distillers, 2023 edition, American oak, 9000 bottles) Four stars and a half
I never tried any 17, but 16, 18 and 19 have all been excellent in my book. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: It's delicate, narrow (in the best sense of the word), and ultra-precise, with notes of fresh almonds, peat smoke, lapsang souchong, oysters, and fresh paint. Let's do this quickly… With water: hints of mastic and kelp. Mouth (neat): actually, there's just nothing to critique, it's perfect. Lemons, peat, seaweed, oysters, shellfish, fresh tar, sea water… With water: and it loves water. Finish: long, lively, lemony, smoky, and salty. Impeccable. Comments: sharply defined and, therefore, very crisp. Which makes it dangerous, between us… Here's another bottle that should probably have a warning label about this very topic.
SGP:466 - 89 points.

Since we're on the subject...

Port Askaig 'Cask Strength' (59.4%, Elixir Distillers, small batch #01, 2023)

Port Askaig 'Cask Strength' (59.4%, Elixir Distillers, small batch #01, 2023) Four stars
Are all NAS necessarily underwhiskies? That's up for debate... In any case, if the age isn't known here, we know it's ¼ toasted bourbon (rejuvenated barrels, I suppose) and ¾ American oak (just regular hogsheads, I suppose). Colour: pale white wine. Nose: honestly, it's very fine, with notes of nail polish, lime, ginger tonic, sourdough, wheat beer, plaster, porridge, and some rather elegant and discreet peat With water: very subtle hints of anise and hops. Mouth (neat): sweet yet tart, very citrusy, but with a slightly fatty woodiness. I think it's close to the official CI Cask Strength, but it's been a while since I've tasted the latter. Do they still make it? With water: nice, but there's always a somewhat thick and fatty aspect to the wood. Finish: long, oily in the mouth. In theory, it's the fresh wood that should do that. Comments: very good, I just have a clear preference for the rather marvellous 17-year-old.
SGP:656 - 85 points.

Smoky Scot 8 yo (54.6%, Murray McDavid, single malt, for Germany, oloroso cask finish, 2022)

Smoky Scot 8 yo (54.6%, Murray McDavid, single malt, for Germany, oloroso cask finish, 2022) Four stars
This one for Germany. So for us as well, as WF HQ is so close to the border. Colour: pale gold. Nose: gentle classic peat, fresh apples, seaweed, coal, then fresh wood, bananas, walnuts and cherry stalk tea. With water: virgin wool and Islay mud after some heavy shower (so, anytime). Mouth (neat): nothing to complain about, at all, even if it's maybe more a whisky for your hipflask (the one with the skull, bones, and Harley-Davidson logo). Touch of varnish, raw peat, bitter zests, green peppercorns, plain black pepper playing with your most delicate lips. With water:  very good, very 'that one opposite the Paps'. Finish: pretty long, ultra-classic. One can say that the oloroso behaved this time. Comments: and lemons, green apples, oysters, etc.
SGP:566 - 85 points.

Yeah, if there's one word that characterises Scotch whisky in recent years, it's 'finish'. I find it a bit disheartening because it suggests that the distillates aren't good enough to stand on their own two legs anymore, but that's just me... Second, NAS, and third, absurd prices. Thankfully, not everywhere...
Right, one last one...

Secret Islay 14 yo 2008/2023 (54.4%, Whisky Nerds, refill sherry hogshead, cask #13C, 172 bottles)

Secret Islay 14 yo 2008/2023 (54.4%, Whisky Nerds, refill sherry hogshead, cask #13C, 172 bottles) Four stars and a half
The label is utterly smart, but we'll say no more. Colour: gold. Nose: this feeling of smoked apple juice, this charcoal, cigar ashes, clams, fresh almonds, smoked oysters, toothpaste, chlorophyl, seaweed… With water: fresh paint, seawater, carbolineum, samphires, old Islay (correct). Mouth (neat): instant limey pleasures, softer smoke, almonds, wakame, oysters and Tabasco… With water: so epitomically pure CI! Finish: medium, with a welcome kind of softer delicate lightness. See what I mean. Saltier, more coastal aftertaste, with perhaps some small flat oysters. Not much to eat but they are the best, IMHO. Comments: love this very elegant and indeed pretty nerdy one.
SGP:456 - 89 points.

We've still got quite a few 30 yo+ secret Islays (so, Laphies) but we'll have them later. See you. No, wait, you're right, we could have at least one. Eenie…

Secret Islay 31 yo 1990/2022 (51.9%, Archives, Fishes of Samoa, refill hogshead, cask #4404337, 257 bottles)

Secret Islay 31 yo 1990/2022 (51.9%, Archives, Fishes of Samoa, refill hogshead, cask #4404337, 257 bottles) Five stars
I get the impression that these esteemed Dutch bottlers have done more for the renown of the Samoa islands, or at least for their multicoloured fish, than the Encyclopædia Britannica. Some say all these are Laphroaigs and we have no personal tasting note to prove, or even suggest, otherwise. The only minor difficulty is that they are generally better than the official releases, a situation not uncommon in Scotland. Diplomatically, this is thus a somewhat tricky situation... Colour: pale gold. Nose: less wood, more character from the distillate, this is really the usual case when comparing IBs to OBs, across all distilleries. Magnificent chalky notes, aged champagnes, mandarins, virgin wool, pistachio and olive oils, and especially an integrally, uh, integrated peat. There's no more peat as just peat. With water: sublime old herbal teas, old fabrics, old wood... A sort of antique shop. Mouth (neat): exquisite, pure, with notes of citrus, chalk, and ripe olives (somewhere between green and black ones). With water: be careful, not too much water! All peated whiskies, especially the old ones, must be diluted carefully as they can suddenly 'snap' or let's say 'detach'. In my opinion... Finish: not too long but absolutely perfect. Lemon, mint, light smoke and lots more. Comments: yes, of course... I often say it but if I were the Laphroaig distillery, I would be extremely proud to have such a bottle bear my name. But indeed, I keep rambling on...
SGP:465 - 91 points.

(Merci, Mike)

 

March 25, 2024


Whiskyfun

First class malt whiskies of the world

Let's take another short journey through some of the whisky world's newer nations, if you're up for it. Once again, we'll start from France to keep the carbon footprint in mind, even if it's only virtual in our case. And we'll focus on the top stuff; we're not always gluttons for punishment.

MaltAge's squad in Switzerland's Canton de Genêve (MaltAge)

Maltage

 

 

Scarlett 2019/2023 (51.9%, Version Française by LMDW, for Whisky Live Paris 2023, 249 bottles)

Scarlett 2019/2023 (51.9%, Version Française by LMDW, for Whisky Live Paris 2023, 249 bottles) Four stars
Ex new oak, a single malt distilled in French Jura from Scarlett Spring barley, a variety developed in Germany for malting and brewing. Probably distilled at Bruno Mangin's Rouget de Lisle Distillery, although it wouldn't say. Colour: gold. Nose: a lot of chocolate, stout, Guinness, then very small touches of beef broth as well as a good espresso. You have the feeling that the malt was deep roasted, but I doubt that was the case. With water: fruitier and a little more herbal, around apple peelings shall we say. Tiny metallic touches (old copper). Mouth (neat): this time it's chocolate, pepper and a rather loud ginger/raisins combination. Touches of leather and bay leaves. With water: its best phase, with more liveliness and even more malty chocolate yet. Switzerland is close, they may have smuggled in a lot of Ovaltine/Ovomaltine and let it all macerate in the mash. Many stranger things have happened at the Swiss-French border, just think proper absinth, ha. But shh… Finish: medium, really very malty and chocolaty. Comments: this one really grows on you. I first thought '80' but we end-up at…
SGP:361 - 85 points.

Did we not mention Switzerland?

Macardo 'Chapter II' (54%, OB, Switzerland, The Life Cycle of a Cask, finished in Port, 980 bottles, 2022)

Macardo 'Chapter II' (54%, OB, Switzerland, The Life Cycle of a Cask, finished in Port, 980 bottles, 2022) Four stars
Not sure the Chapter II of The Life Cycle of a Cask is to finish it in Port – I think it's tawny - but after all only the result counts. The distillery is located in Thurgau, in a lovely location just south of Lake Constance. Colour: rosy amber. Nose: It completely reminds me of those chocolate bars that used to contain sultanas, roasted hazelnuts, honey, rum, and bits of dried red berries. It's actually quite nostalgic but it works really well. It's also very much like a Christmas cake. With water: here come cinnamon, mulled wine (indeed Christmas-y), and a hint of star anise... And lots of raisins courtesy of the Port wine. Mouth (neat): heavy, thick, and rich. The same spectrum of flavours as on the nose, plus enormous amounts of dried goji berries. With water: same, plus the usual orange marmalade and sweet pepper. A bit of paprika. Finish: medium, round, smooth, and with a bit more clove. Comments: It reminds me of some of the pretty wild and adorably excessive new Australian whiskies. In any case, I find this young Macardo excellent.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Let's stay in Switzerland...

MaltAge 2019/2023 (51.5%, OB, Switzerland, vin jaune, sherry and bourbon)

MaltAge 2019/2023 (51.5%, OB, Switzerland, vin jaune, sherry and bourbon) Four stars
A brand new malt, 100% from Geneva. The barley is grown and malted in Geneva while naturally, the rest of the process is done in the Canton, the Distillery being located in Gy. They use a small pot with a short copper column while the cask bill consists in ex- marc de vin jaune, sherry and bourbon bloodtubs. Phew, hope I haven't forgotten anything. Colour: gold. Nose: Nice! The distillate is quite pure, I suspect there's a lot of copper contact during distillation, but there are also fermentative notes that might come from that yellow wine. Green pear as well. With water: mirabelle plums and a few green nuts come through. Mouth (neat): it's good, lively, fruitier yet still fermentative, which I quite like. There are notes of wheat beer, Japanese bean paste, fermenting cherries (for making kirsch), followed by a bit of fudge that rounds everything off. With water: not much change, perhaps a bit of rather sweet white vermouth. Finish: a bit of wood and vanilla come through, but in a very elegant way. Orange juice in the aftertaste. Comments: yes, this Genevan craft whisky is very good, in a style that's quite different from that of the rather massive Thurgovian.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

There are more and more excellent Swiss whiskies; we'll be tasting even more of them soon, that's a promise. But for now...

Kinglake 'American Werewolf in Paris' (56%, OB, Australia, 2023)

Kinglake 'American Werewolf in Paris' (56%, OB, Australia, 2023) Four stars and a half
Aged for 17 months in American oak then for 17 months in some Australian Tawny Port-like cask. So, that's a little less than three years if my math is good. We've tried some excellent young Kinglake from Southern Australia before (they're not far from Melbourne). As for that American werewolf, I have no ideas who that could be. Colour: deep gold. Nose: the chocolateness that we found in the Scarlett is back, the Ovaltine too, the Port is much drier than in the Marcardo – no raisins - while black olives ae starting to come through, which we love of course. Do they do bacterial? Barley vinegar? Awesome nose. With water: gets a little earthier, which happens very commonly. Mouth (neat): thicker, with more sweet Port and more spicy oak too. Pink peppers, bay leaves, perhaps one black olive again and certainly the juice from one small lemon. Some molasses. With water: excellent, sesame nougat, maple syrup, orange liqueur, honey (we won't mention manuka) and the faintest touch of candied ginger. Finish: pretty long, on some kind of spicy and honeyed chocolate. Comments: it's excellent and also quite unusual, which earns it extra points in my book. Not to mention the olives. A very nice distillate, quite thick, you can feel it through the casks.
SGP:652 - 88 points.

Since we're down there…

Morris of Rutherglen 'Smoked Muscat Barrels' (48.5%, OB, Australia, +/-2023)

Morris of Rutherglen 'Smoked Muscat Barrels' (48.5%, OB, Australia, +/-2023) Three stars and a half
Smoked muscat? The end is near! Seriously, no need to say that I'm extremely curious here and now… BTW they seem to have gathered more medals than a Russian vice-admiral. Apparently, they actually 'smoked' the barrels here by 'pushing the boundaries of experimenting with the barrel-charring process'. Oh and they're located in the north-east of the province of Victoria. Let us proceed… Colour: deep gold. Nose: pinewood, sauna oils, charcoal indeed, barbecued fruit brochettes, new wellingtons, bicycle inner tube, natural tar liqueur (pine tar)… There is some tarry/rubbery smokiness indeed, which works on the nose, but let's check the palate. Mouth: weird but extremely interesting. Pineapples, fumes, rubber, muscat indeed, curries, garam masala, cloves (sweetened Kretek cigarettes)… A pile of funny savours. Finish: the finish is a little more difficult, the burnt rubber winning it. Comments: they must have burnt something else than just gas or wood when they charred their woods. Peat? Old rubber boots? Seriously, it's a very crazy whisky. Great fun but I'm not sure I'd buy the double-magnum.
SGP:463 - 83 points.

All right, let's have one of the godfathers of Australian whisky and then call this a tasting session. Remember the Great Outback whisky? A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since...

Hellyers Road 6 yo 2016/2023 'Peated' (70.1%, OB, Australia, LMDW, cask #16315.10)

Hellyers Road 6 yo 2016/2023 'Peated' (70.1%, OB, Australia, LMDW, cask #16315.10) Four stars and a half
We're in Tasmania. The potency of this bottle is probably lethal. My lawyer is clued in (but since he's nearly always on a long weekend from Thursday evening to Tuesday morning, no one's actually at risk). Colour: white wine. Nose: honestly, not much going on, only matchsticks, pine needles, antifreeze, carbon paper... Well, that must be the 70%. And then they taunt us with their extra .1%! With water: do you know which other whiskies from around the world this peated Hellyers Road reminds me of? The Swedish Smögen and the French Kornog. It has the same pristine depth, or the same deep purity, depending on how you look at it. Superb lemon, sweet smoke, seaweed... Mouth (neat): peach liqueur, peat, lemon cream, black pepper, ethanol. Let's not overdo it... With water: this time it brings to mind Japan, especially Chichibu in its 'pure' expressions. Finish: long. Comments: be careful, these little ones are tricky to dilute and they can 'snap' quite quickly, that is, lose their taut side even at high strengths such as, say, 55% vol. These very high bottling strengths can be a double-edged sword; in fact, they should recommend an ideal dilution on the labels, shouldn't they? Surely they don't expect us to drink this amazing stuff at 70.01%?
SGP:556 - 89 points.
 

March 24, 2024


Whiskyfun

  A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!
 

Only hi-flying French brandies

Danis

At Domaine de Danis in the Gers (Domaine de Danis)

 

We had quite a busy end to last year and a start to 2024 filled with cognac and armagnac tastings, and I must willingly admit that my appreciation for them is growing, perhaps it's my Frenchness shining through a bit. Regardless, today, we felt compelled to sample a few more before dedicating the coming Sundays increasingly to rum, which are becoming ever so prevalent. While the most prominent names in malt whisky, at least among our dear independent friends, are fading away gradually, under the names of their original distilleries. As the saying goes, "You snooze, you lose," so horns up, let's first have an aperitif, please! Always with a thought for our friend Diego, the one who sent us, for instance, the complete Erté collection from Courvoisier to try. What a star!

 

Prunier 'VSOP' (40%, OB, +/-2023)

Prunier 'VSOP' (40%, OB, +/-2023) Four stars
We've sampled a good number of old Pruniers but I don't recall this little VSOP. It's a blend of fins bois and petite champagne. Colour: gold. Nose: It's unusual to find, in a young cognac, such a variety of plums. Large juicy prunes and also ripe mirabelles, followed by those peaches that are almost always present in good cognacs that are pushing the distillate. In short, a very pretty nose, quite jammy, in the best sense of the word. I also detect a very slight musky note. Mouth: extremely fruity, exuberant, still focused on those rather incredible plums. Just a touch of cedarwood, light tobacco, and meadow honey. It's not overly complex but it's very expressive. The low alcohol content is not noticeable. Finish: of medium length, still very fruity. Again a little musky note and quite a few sultanas in the aftertaste. Also a bit of anise, wormwood, and liquorice. Yes, indeed, absinthe. Comments: I find it to be an excellent young cognac that could also bridge to great liqueurs at the end of a meal. And I would have guessed 45% ABV.
SGP:741 - 87 points.

Domaine de Jouatmanou 34 yo 1989/2023 (41.5%, ROW Spirits, bas-armagnac, fût #43, 571 bottles)

Domaine de Jouatmanou 34 yo 1989/2023 (41.5%, ROW Spirits, bas-armagnac, fût #43, 571 bottles) Five stars
The lady on the label looks like my youngest daughter, seriously. Jouatmanou is located in Le Frêche in the Landes and is owned by the Lacave family. This a blend of folle blanche and baco. We might have more from Le Frêche today, timing permit. Colour: full gold. Nose: awesome start with a little petrol, even a touch of smoke, then a little varnish, encaustic and even a tiny touch of acetone, before more civilised aromas would start to come through, sultanas, peaches indeed, surely some butterscotch and some fudge... All that gives this one a wee 'trans-category' feel that we find pretty perfect. Say 85% perfect armagnac, 10% very old grain whisky, 9% old bourbon, and 1% peated Islay. But who-the-hell would do that? Mouth: brilliant and 100% armagnac this time, with this sophisticated rawness, a little varnish again, some beeswax, polishes, peaches, raisins, dried apricots, mead, and wait, 5% old calvados. Here we go again, I feel we'll need to apologize. Finish: long, more on honey and deep-brewed earl grey tea. No, we won't mention any other spirits. Or perhaps a little sloe eau-e-vie? Comments: so, I apologise.

SGP:562 - 90 points.

Vallein Tercinier 53 yo 1967/2021 (47%, OB for Gourmet Pool, grande champagne, 235 bottles)

Vallein Tercinier 53 yo 1967/2021 (47%, Gourmet Pool, grande champagne, 235 bottles) Five stars
The summer of love. This one too should tick all the boxes. Colour: Deep dark gold. Nose: typical. Sauternes, mangos, papayas, crushed bananas, honeysuckle, wisteria, orange blossom, vine peaches. Mouth: total, obvious house style. Rather sweet Jurançon than Sauternes, (manseng), peaches and mangos, guavas, some all-flower honey, touch of maple syrup and green oak honeydew, black tea, hint of varnish, apricot jam, then more spices, cinnamon, cedarwood… Finish: long, more roasted (peanuts), but always with a dazzling freshness. More cracked pepper and clove in the aftertaste.  Comments: these VTs are all incredibly fresh and lively. At no point do they falter in the slightest, to the extent that when tasting them, one completely forgets their age and vintage.
SGP:651 - 91 points.

Back to l'armagnac…

Domaine Del Cassou 35 yo 1987/2022 (48.6%, L'Encantada, bas-armagnac, cask #010, 490 bottles)

Domaine Del Cassou 35 yo 1987/2022 (48.6%, L'Encantada, bas-armagnac, cask #010, 490 bottles) Four stars and a half
From Arthez-d'Armagnac and 100% baco, some just post-phylloxera. I mean, probably from the first clones. Colour: bright amber. Nose: more varnish again, putty, fresh paint, roasted almonds and peanuts, plus cakes of all kinds, especially scones, then well-roasted chestnuts. Some ultra-ripe melon in the background, not too good to eat anymore but the noses can be absolutely flabbergasting, as is the case here. Mouth: a rather raw juice, roasted, with some pancake sauce, caramel, fresh-dried raisins… but it gets gradually fresher and fruitier, which I find uncommon. Greengages, gewurz berries stolen from the vines (oops), some ripe lychees too. Finish: long, roasted, you'd almost believe there was some botrytis (which the makers would hate, I suppose). Earthier aftertaste, with a little incense perhaps, or sandalwood. Comments: well, we keep flying extremely high, but that was to be expected from l'Encantada.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Castarède 38 yo 1986/2024 (53.4%, Grape of the Art, Ténarèze, 246 bottles)

Castarède 38 yo 1986/2024 (53.4%, Grape of the Art, Ténarèze, 246 bottles) Four stars and a half
They have some awesome folle blanche at Castarède, which is a very traditional and pretty ancient Armagnac house, but this is a blend of ugni blanc and colombard. As for the youngsters at Grape of the Art, they already showed us that they know how to select a cask of 'gnac (the secret being, I've heard, not to get flat drunk before agreeing with the owners on which cask you'll purchase). Colour: deep gold. Nose: another rather roasted/fudgey one, with some vanilla and a touch of coconut, a pack of Mars bars, some cappuccino and macchiato, maple syrup, millionaire shortbread, honey… With water: lovely whiffs of fresh putty, marzipan, and barley syrup. Yes. Mouth (neat): just extremely good, rich yet a little tense, with once more some coconut, vanilla and maple syrup. An armagnac that's rather a little closer to malt whisky indeed, but remember it is a Ténarèze. With water: please add just one drop or some tannicity would spring out. Very good herbal teas, muscovado, tiny touches of fresh rubber, peach skins… Finish: long, rather grassier. Apple peel, grape pips. Comments: very big boy, extremely good, but be careful with water, or just do not add any.
SGP:661 - 88 points.

Right, they were all superlative this far.

Domaine de Danis 1986/2023 (48%, OB, armagnac, pièce, cask #11)

Domaine de Danis 1986/2023 (48%, OB, armagnac, pièce, cask #11) Four stars
100% folle blanche, straight out of Castelnau d'Armagnac. A pièce shelters around 400 litres of spirit. They're located in Ténarèze but the soil is that of some typical Bas-armagnac, which is why they prefer not to write 'Ténarèze' on their labels, which we find very honest. Colour: deep gold. Nose: clearly more rustic, with more earths and leaves, mushrooms, roots, grasses, stewed peaches and pears, fermenting fruits, even a little beer… That's all rather intriguing, we agree. With water: whiffs of camphor and eucalyptus, plus last year's apples resting in the cellar. Mouth (neat): su-perb! All ripe fruits sprinkled with honey and caramel sauce, plus a little mocha. Another sin. With water: same feeling of civilised rusticity, shall we say. I cannot not think of 'pommes tapées', which is something they make in the Loire valley, where they hit apples several times to let them dry. The apples end up being as flat as a flatearther's brain – but much better. It is a very old recipe. Finish: long, rather a little dry and herbal, both elegant and rustic indeed. Comments: water was unnecessary, my bad. Superb armagnac, nonetheless.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Domaine de Danis 1978/2022 (46%, OB, armagnac, #T6)

Domaine de Danis 1978/2022 (46%, OB, armagnac, #T6) Four stars and a half
Baco and ugni blanc. The estate started to only grow folle blanche in 1982. Colour: deep gold. Nose: really mostly on herbal teas, rosehip, rooibos too, peach leaf tea – you could also make liqueur out of peach leaves, also a few buds and small berries, old pine wood, old furniture in the attic, hives… Mouth: rather like it, with the stewed peaches, honeys, waxes, pears and apples, notes of chardonnay kept in pretty active oak, banana skins… Classic raisins are chiming in too. Finish: rather long, rather grassier, but never drying. The oak is kept at bay. Comments: I'm sure I should like the lovely folle blanche even better, but we're rebels and so we do prefer this baco-ugni by a tiny-wee margin. Greater and even greater.
SGP:561 - 88 points.

We could have two more and then go on next week, no?

Tiffon 'Lot 75' (44.7%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, Private bottling for The Antelope and Kanpaikai, 2023)

Tiffon 'Lot 75' (44.7%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, Private bottling for The Antelope and Kanpaikai, 2023) Five stars
Colour: amber. Nose: It's quintessentially classic, with praline, fruit crumbles, various honeys, damp earth, dark nougat, chocolate, and hints of geranium flowers, tomato bud and leaf (their good side)... It's really quite beautiful. Mouth: the woodiness is more pronounced, and that's to be expected. Notes of fir and pine, liquorice, gentian (hurrah), followed by the usual stewed fruits and familiar honeys. Also, candied oranges. The balance is absolutely perfect here. Finish: quite long, honeyed and with a liquorice twist. Remarkable signature notes of very ripe apples. Comments: I'm not quite sure what to say, all this is just... perfect.
SGP:651 - 91 points.

Domaine de Baraillon 1967/2021 (42%, OB, bas-armagnac)

Domaine de Baraillon 1967/2021 (42%, OB, bas-armagnac) Five stars
Glad to have Baraillon on the tasting desk again. Colour: dark amber. Nose: I'm sure Jimi H. was playing while they were distilling this. Abundant fruit compotes, wafts of peonies, ultra-ripe red peaches, morel mushrooms, intriguing notes of sangria – yet without the winy aspect, right – as well as an old pinot noir from around Nuits-St-Georges – again, without the vinous side. Mouth: this time it's totally old-school, with a present yet incredibly well-mannered woodiness, that same pinot noir, blood oranges, ratafia, prunes, aged dried grapes rehydrated in brandy, ripe damsons, cinnamon, then dark chocolate and very old rum (the Navy rum type)... All of this is extremely entertaining and divinely good, I find. And emotionally old-school, indeed. Finish: of medium length and similar character. Comments: Baraillon, still unbelievably profound.
 SGP:661 - 92 points.

Next time we'll have several older ones, including perhaps a V-duo of 1945s and quite a few older ones, nearer to WWI. Au revoir, cheers Diego.

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

 

March 23, 2024


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Diego  

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland


Three Glen Grant for Diego

We received some extremely sad and shocking news this week, that we lost Diego Sandrin, a great man and a great friend of Whiskyfun too.

 

 

It is always hard to know what to say in such circumstances, and without wishing to eulogise too much, I would simply say he was a remarkable and extremely talented man. I believe all that knew him would agree upon his generosity. He was someone who always had time for people and prioritised his sense of humour and his sense of fun before what he considered more boring things such as business. He was a person in who's company you always, and very quickly, found yourself laughing.

 

 

He was loyal and enthusiastically supportive as a friend, especially to younger people such as myself, and to Phil and Simon Thompson, with our respective distillery projects which he happily and generously backed. He was also very clearly a complete whisky geek in the truest sense, as evidenced in his remarkable collection and stash of bottles, but also in his eagerness and willingness to open bottles and to taste and share whisky. He persisted with this in the face of silly prices and silly people with his absolutely typical coolness and generosity. Without Diego and his generosity, it is true to say there would be many great drams missing from my tasting experience, and the archives of Whiskyfun would be undoubtedly less populated with notes for fascinating rarities and discoveries.

 

 

The fact that he would create very cool private bottlings by mixing old bottles and samples together, or his notoriously great 'finished Laphroaig' private bottlings (WF93 no less!). Always illustrated the kind of 'precisely no shits given', 'life is about having fun' attitude that he exuded in all that he did.

 

 

His great achievements were really in music though, he was a successful, professional musician and songwriter, which is where he made his mark on this world most profoundly. My fondest memories of Diego are from visiting him in Italy and discussing music and guitar playing every bit as much as we talked whisky.

 

 

He touched many, many lives in our community and he was one of those rare people that everyone seemed to love and have time for. For me, and for a lot of our friends, I know that memories of great trips we took together such as the Islay Odyssey and the Pre-War Whisky Tour are some of the most cherished experiences and memories of our whisky lives. Made that bit more poignant by losing one of the people who was so integral to making these such special adventures. A man that stands in Bowmore visitor centre, belting out Italian opera with a glass of (independently bottled) 1966 Bowmore in one hand is truly the sort of person we all need more of in our lives.

 

 

Our thoughts are with his family, and especially with his young children. And we'll dedicate these few humble notes for some glorious old Glen Grants to his memory.

 

 

Here's to you Diego!

 

 

Glen Grant 1965/2004 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)
Colour: amber. Nose: a simply gorgeous combinations of nectars, pollens, precious honeys, waxes and soft, detailed earthiness. Fig jam, prunes in Armagnac, sumptuous leathery aromas and feelings of old library books, linseed oil and hessian. The kind of whisky that demands a frankly outrageous measure in a Cognac snifter glass. Mouth: soft, abundant and supply fruitiness. Dark sticky fruits, golden sultanas, moist Guinness cake, treacle, lamp oil and old sweet madeira. Then those lovely honey and mead notes return, along with greener fruits and flower nectars. Sumptuous, gorgeous and completely deadly! Finish: long, rancioed, liquorice, salted caramel and dark chocolate and then more layers of tobaccos, mint, treacle and dark fruits. Comments: almost embarrassingly delicious, a mere 91 points in technical terms but the kind of juice you could guzzle until the stars go out. Old Glen Grants seem to nail this style more often than any other whisky I believe - it's why I just adore them so much.
SGP: 651 - 91 points.

 

 

Glen Grant 20 yo 'Director's Reserve' (75 proof, OB, Giovinetti Import, 1970s)
Colour: gold. Nose: the densest, most superb honey aroma. Pure honeycomb, coconut, acacia, wormwood, ancient yellow Chartreuse and resinous fir and hardwoods. What I adore about these old official/G&M Glen Grants from this era is how they deliver what is in some ways a rather singular profile, but that profile is just utter beauty and poetry in a glass. You could also mention waxes, medical tinctures, citrons and crystallised exotic fruits. Mouth: perfection! Glorious soft threads of dry, herbal peat, interwoven with any number of preserved and crystallised green and exotic fruits you care to mention. Also some marrow, mechanical oils and wee tarry aspects adding body and power. There's also metallic notes, bouillon stock and a more pure and punchy waxiness coming through now. Finish: long, wonderfully resinous, honeyed, herbal, waxy and becoming mentholated and showing wee notes of dried flowers and yellow fruits. Comments: as I have said before, old Glen Grants always were, and remain, steadfastly terrible. That is all.
SGP: 000 -30 points. (ok, ok… 562 - 92 points, whatever!)

 

 

BIG-Diego.jpg

Glen Grant 67 yo 1955/2022 (49.8%, Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection for LMDW, Collection Antipodes, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #839, 100 bottles) 
Colour: deep brownish amber. Nose: stunningly deep and superbly earthy. Riddled with these wonderful mulchy and mushroomy notes that lead into umami seasonings such as Maggi along with sultana, fig and prune on the fruitier side of things. Add to that these damp and deep layers of camphor, tobacco leaf, cigar humidor and musty wine cellar funk. One of these hypnotic old sherried whiskies where the sherry seems to have somehow managed to remain fresh and there's enough fruitiness and complexity in the nose to keep everything balanced. Mouth: pure walnut wine laced with ancient cigars, pipe tobacco, the bitterest and most gorgeous dark chocolate with tiny inflections of sea salt and pure umami. A whisky where the sherry influence has run so deep you cannot help but start to wonder about Amontillado? Oloroso? etc. Then the usual tars, resinous herbal and medicinal aspects and bitter dried mint notes. It's certainly old and certainly has taken up the tannin of the wood but it remains wonderfully alive and these peppery, medicinal qualities that really make you think of some old G&M Taliskers are utterly sublime. Finish: impeccably tarry, rustic, earthy and long. Layered with tobaccos, typically glorious old rancio and balsamic, and also some dark honeys, herbal tinctures, aniseed, fennel and salted liquorice. Remains alive and still showing a glorious balance of bitter herbs, umami, earths and preserved dark fruits right to the end - whenever that may arrive… Comments: priced and boxed up as a rich person's plaything, which is extremely sad because it's actually a rather spellbinding and hauntingly brilliant liquid. An astonishing flavour that only time and the greatest distillate and oak ingredients can yield.

SGP: 562 - 92 points.

 

 

 

 

Diego, my brother

What to say about Diego, an entire book wouldn't be enough, but I want to tell you something about him as I knew him in these 20 years of beautiful friendship. The most important thing was the constant laughter about everything, not just whisky, like the football rivalry between Juventus and Milan (I jokingly gave the kids a Milan football shirt so he could get angry every time he saw it). I don't think I've ever seen him really angry in all these years, and the time spent with him flew by too fast.
As you may know, we bought many whisky collections together and never, and I mean never, had discussions about how to divide them. We invented a method which consisted of dividing them into more or less equal blocks and drawing lots with a BIC lighter.
I remember him as a devourer of sweets and biscuits, and I recall during a car journey (I believe it was to go to D Day) we stopped at a bar and he then bought a pack of 50 Kinder chocolates, and after two hours of travel, I asked for one and he said... there are only 5 left hahaha he had eaten 45 in 2 hours.
A generous, humble, and extremely intelligent person who I miss at every moment and I can't stop thinking about him, and every time I open my phone, I hope to see a message from him on WhatsApp with the laugh of the day.
There are many other things to say, but I am very sad and cannot find the words to express myself. However, I want to share what Diego loved. Diego cherished his family, friends, football, whisky, and collecting. He also had a profound passion for dogs and contributed by being part of an association "SALVAUNCANE" where they have rescued and treated over 1000 dogs. Therefore, I propose in his honour, for those who wish, to make a donation to them: Paypal clodine.nuvola@gmail.com with the note "In Diego's memory".

Massimo 'Max' Righi

 

Diego

Diego is an incredible person. Indeed, I cannot speak of him in the past tense, even though that will inevitably happen one day. He's someone who invades you without you realising it, in the sense that when he's gone, you notice he was actually a part of you. It's a peculiar feeling. A sort of positive Alien, I suppose. That must be what friendship is.

But it's true that Diego has countless facets, as they say in marketing. He's larger than life. First, he's Italian. The French adore the Italians (but please don't tell them, they'll just mock us again). Then, he's a real trendsetter, it seems. For instance, I've always seen him wearing beanies, well before all the hipsters on this planet started copying him. And I've known Diego for nearly twenty years, I believe it was Massimo who introduced us. Additionally, he's an exceptional musician. He came to play his hits for us at my wife's and my hundredth birthday (combined, of course). The audience loved him and I was very proud. I had just lost my father that week and he had greatly lifted my spirits! He also came to our annual D-Day here at WF Towerz. His work in music, after a punk period, including with Elvis's daughter and under his own name, is well-known, but did you know he had also started producing rather experimental jazz records? Anyway, he has very funny anecdotes from his American showbiz days to tell. And I've listened to demos of his new album, sublime. With real strings! I hope it will be released soon. I also recently discovered that we share a passion for a late Italian musician called Lucio Battisti – I recommend 'Amarsi un po'. You're welcome. And then the jokes we all sent each other at the beginning of Covid, remember? Diego's were the funniest, without a doubt. Even his recent sponsorship of a junior football team in Africa with an Ugandan coach, who turned out to be Nigerian and ran off with the cash, made me laugh a lot (but less than him). And of course, whisky and spirits in general. His wonderful collection. And the day he sent me a sample of Macallan 50 years 1928 to see what I thought of it. Could I also taste the Adami, please? After all, he's Italian, Valerio Adami... Or take, for example, the ultra-rare Port Ellen twelve years Samaroli, it was Diego who introduced it to me. Port Ellen, indeed... Incidentally, but just as a fun fact, I remember that after the big merger, many were calling the new entity, 'Diageo', by the name of 'Diego'. It's crazy. Anyway, see you next time, Diego, are you coming to Limburg this year? At any rate, I hope you'll come to our D-Day!

By the way, this week, in the night sky above Port Ellen, under an absolutely clear sky, I saw a shooting star.

 

 

March 22, 2024


Whiskyfun

Diego!

This week, as I was spending unforgettable moments at Port Ellen for the restart of the distillery, a piece of Whiskyfun has gone to the heavens with Diego Sandrin. I'm still at a loss for words. We shall publish something tomorrow with Angus.
- Serge
(Diego at Port Ellen during our Islay Odyssey, February 2015.)

 

March 20, 2024


Whiskyfun

Live from Islay, the first new Port Ellen and the two Geminis

Port Ellen

I will try to write a few lines that aren't too soporific, but it's truly difficult to resist the almost Andalusian weather on the one hand, and the visit to the newly rebuilt Port Ellen distillery with good friends on the other. I'll simply add, quite honestly, regarding the architecture and décor, that everything has been done with absolute tasteful certainty. I found myself plunged into the very fashionable 1960s; all that was missing were the Yardbirds! I love it. As for the equipment, let's just say there are two stills, replicas of the originals, plus two smaller 'experimental' stills, all leading to a capacity of 1.6 million litres of pure alcohol annually, which is roughly five times less than Coal Ila and, I believe, half the capacity of Lagavulin. The idea is clearly to produce haute-couture peated malt. Oh, and it's the first time I've seen what I call a 'column mill' (my own term, they are several mills stacked and operating in series). And the investment, it seems, was £185Mio. Incredible.

 

 

Port Ellen New Make first run (69.6%, OB, 2024)

Port Ellen New Make first run (69.6%, OB, 2024) Four stars and a half
Here is the spirit that made the residents of the surroundings say that Port Ellen was 'speaking again', a very charming, and even moving expression. It's a first batch moderately peated at 35ppm, while we've also had the opportunity to taste some other new makes that are much more peated. Let's do this quickly, it's only new make (yeah right). Colour: white. Nose: quite a pronounced fudge and shortbread aspect, which one would normally associate with barrel maturation. The scent of a new wool jumper is also very present, with a fruity touch more akin to blackcurrant than the more usual strawberry in peated new makes. Also, a lot of charcoal. With water: grilled almonds stand out, as does lapsang souchong tea; it really feels like you could drink it just like that. Mouth (neat): quite superb, very powerful of course, but with a lime twist and very marked ashes. With water: a kind of very smoky pear takes control. Finish: very long and distinctly saltier, even maritime. The loop is closed. Comments: will this spirit be closes in 25 years' time, to the incredible third annual release we tasted the night before at dinner? Frankly, tasting the first new make from such a distillery is moving. Beware, the phenols stick terribly to the glass; you will have to rinse it many times if you plan to use it immediately again.
SGP:648 - (no score) points.

Port Ellen 44 yo 1978/2023 'Gemini Remnant Cask' (53.6%, OB, Remnant cask finish, 274 bottles, 2024)

Port Ellen 44 yo 1978/2023 'Gemini Original Cask' (54.9%, OB, European oak butts, 274 bottles, 2024) Five stars
PortHere is the unfinished version of the Gemini twin-pack. I promise we won't talk about prices, it would be vulgar, wouldn't it, and that's just not like you! Colour: pure gold. Nose: there are no very obvious sherry traces, rather a kind of communion of aromas that we now find in all very old Port Ellens. Here it ranges from praline to putty, from shellfish (clams, whelks) to seaweed, and from tar to salty liquorice. It's just unstoppable. With water: the most sublime of putties, with fresh paint and just a bit of... apple juice. Mouth (neat): a magnificent mentholated and lemony arrival, with, I swear, notes that were indeed in the new new make, especially the lime. It then unfolds onto seaweed and eucalyptus. With water: yes, it's just masterful, not tired in the least, with a woodiness remaining under control. Finish: quite long, salty, more bitter, with a lot of green tea. Comments: we tasted it a bit quickly, but the trajectory is perfectly clear. Now we just have to wonder how many casks they have left, but of course, they will only answer when there are none left. Fair game.
SGP:566 - 95 points.

Port Ellen 44 yo 1978/2023 'Gemini Remnant Cask' (53.6%, OB, Remnant cask finish, 274 bottles, 2024)

Port Ellen 44 yo 1978/2023 'Gemini Remnant Cask' (53.6%, OB, Remnant cask finish, 274 bottles, 2024) Five stars
These remnant casks are barrels intended to house the tails of the bottling runs. Once full, they are emptied (it seems they discard the contents, I might have other ideas…) and are used again for the next run, and so on. It can be said that a remnant cask will have contained whiskies from all the periods of a distillery. It is told that the Port Ellen remnant cask was saved by Pinkie during the closure in 1983 and repatriated to Lagavulin. In short, he is the guilty party. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it seems that the remnant cask has been boosted (indeed it has been seasoned), there are many more woody notes, but also notes of leaves, tea, pinecones, nuts, dry sherry... All of this is quite intriguing, it's the first time I'm coming across a very old malt that's been finished like this. With water: the cask has clearly made the whisky younger. Green banana is found, and even some touches of porridge. Mouth (neat): again notes of fresh sweet wood, charring, eucalyptus, green banana, rather tight sherry, liquorice... This is clearly not your usual Port Ellen (if we may use the term usual) but this candied side and these touches of ginger work well. With water: touches of candied citron, orange blossom honey... Finish: long, while it becomes sweeter and sweeter. Very pretty candied oranges. Comments: perhaps we should have started with this one. Very excellent more 'innovative' whisky, but I believe in its natural state, we remain in a different league.
SGP:666 - 92 points.

We may come back to these two PEs, we'll see.

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

 

March 19, 2024


Whiskyfun

A few more Secret Smokes

A few Scottish blends or single malts from the last few months, supposed to be rather peaty, a bit of a tribute to their famous ancestors, Islay Mist and Black Bottle. We won't be tasting them today, as they've changed a lot since their heyday, especially Black Bottle. So let's see what we've got...

Peat
Peat at Glen Ord Maltings, 2006 (WF Archive)

 

 

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 yo (40%, Master of Malt, Islay Single Malt, +/-2022)

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 yo (40%, Master of Malt, Islay Single Malt, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
A ¼ of it has been finished in sherry. The name alone screams 'Master of Malt' or 'Atom Brands' or 'use of weird substances' or 'Friday-night-at-the-pub idea'. Colour: straw. Nose: It's clean and highly reminiscent of Caol Ila (as one might expect), giving off plenty of fresh apple and ash, a few seaweeds, and precisely three langoustines (neither two nor four), followed by a hint of sherry's walnut. No issue: the low strength is not noticeable on the nose. Mouth: It's pleasant, light without being weak, more rounded and briny than on the nose, just losing altitude after thirty seconds. It then lingers on ashes with a touch of lemon and green pepper. Finish: rather short, briny, with a fair amount of ash. A subtle sweet note in the finish, possibly from the sherry. Comments: I quite like it; it should make a lovely summer drink, or perhaps replace the gins in cocktails. It's just a tad brief. In fact, it also reminds me a bit of a younger Laphroaig from a batch that's lighter than usual.
SGP:556 - 84 points.

Peatside 6 yo 2015/2022 (50%, Murray McDavid, The Vatting, blended malt, Madeira + Ex Islay Cask finish, 1867 bottles)

Peatside 6 yo 2015/2022 (50%, Murray McDavid, The Vatting, blended malt, Madeira + Ex Islay Cask finish, 1867 bottles) Three stars
Not sure there's some peated distillate in there, could have been only a pretty wet or wetted ex-Islay cask (as, I believe, many are doing these days). Colour: straw. Nose: rather raw, a little musty and mustardy (S.!) with some burnt walnut cake, Madeira indeed, and a very light smokiness. Pretty pleasant so far. With water: hessian, virgin wool, porridge, plaster, grist, all things that we enjoy in our malt whiskies. Mouth (neat): much more 'sweet lemony peat', much more pepper and ginger too. I think you do feel that there are/were several parts. With water: feels much more like 'a peater from the continent'. A little gunpowder, leather, green peppercorns, mustard indeed.. which leads to Madeira. Finish: medium, on similar notes. Leathery aftertaste. Comments: seems that the Madeira managed to keep the upper hand. Fine unusual drop.
SGP:563 - 82 points.

Madeira?...

Kilnaughton 'Secret Islay' (48.5%, The Cooper's Choice, Madeira cask finish, cask #1154, 312 bottles, 2023)

Kilnaughton 'Secret Islay' (48.5%, The Cooper's Choice, Madeira cask finish, cask #1154, 312 bottles, 2023) Four stars
Kilnaughton Bay lies on the road to the Oa, so close to Port Ellen. Closest active distillery would be Laphroaig then, but let's remember Ardbeg have also got a slightly timid expression called 'An Oa'. So, this could well be Lagavulin (smile). Colour: gold with apricot hues. Nose: I would not be surprised. It's a 'sweeter' nose, there are a few strawberries (remember you can sometimes smell strawberries when Port Ellen Maltings are working a full steam), a rather earthy and tarry peat, surely some muesli loaded with a lot of fruits, especially peaches and melons, then a little turmeric and paprika. Sweeter goulash. Mouth: a genuine cocktail. Said Islay malt plus some orange cordial, a hint of sweet mustard, some gentler ginger and some of that turmeric. Finish: rather long, makes you think of some kind of smoked blood orange juice. The peat is back in full form in the aftertaste, together with a little menthol. Comments: I was not sure about that Madeira idea, but the end result is excellent. Some people knowing what they were doing.
SGP:656 - 87 points.

Port Askaig 8 yo (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, 2023)

Port Askaig 8 yo (45.8%, Elixir Distillers, 2023) Four stars
The latest batch of Port Askaig 8 yo. We rather loved 2017's (WF 86). Colour: white wine. Nose: pure fresh apple juice, ashes, seashells and very tiny bits of rubber (new rubber boots). Mouth: excellent sweeter peat, pink pepper, lemons, apples, oysters and just 'young peat smoke', which don't do much sense, we agree. Elementary in the best sense of that word. Finish: of good length, a little sweeter than expected, with hints of coconut that may imply or suggest the use of active American oak. Comments: as good as a young Islayer gets. Only the finish was a tad, say a tiny tad disconcerting.
SGP:655 - 85 points.

Elements of Islay 'Beach Bonfire' (54.5%, Elixir Distillers, blended Islay malt, 2023)

Elements of Islay 'Beach Bonfire' (54.5%, Elixir Distillers, blended Islay malt, 2023) Four stars
Cask bill here is new oak, refill bourbon and sherry casks. Lovely name for an Islay, we use that descriptor often. Colour: deep gold. Nose: you do feel the new oak, with some butterscotch and a bit of wood varnish, then indeed a beach bonfire burning both dried kelp and floated wood. Something medicinal too, saline (sea spray), and chalky. With water: damp tweed jacket (it's raining cats and dogs on Islay) and beach sand and pebbles at low tide. Mouth (neat): very salty arrival but citron liqueur and just limoncello are soon to join the dance. Some fudge and butterscotch again. Very good heat. With water: lemon juice, rhubarb, unripe kiwi, a bit of caramel, plus the expected walnut cake and wine from the sherry. Well, that ought to stem from the sherry. Finish: long, still pleasantly a little hot. Salted butter caramel, walnuts, a little salty and spicy peanut butter. Satay sauce (from the Taj Mahal restaurant in Bowmore, naturally). Comments: very fond of this multifaceted big boy too.
SGP:656 - 86 points.

Highland Peated Malt 19 yo 2004/2023 (55.5%, Milroy's Soho Selection, hogshead, cask #12)

Highland Peated Malt 19 yo 2004/2023 (55.5%, Milroy's Soho Selection, hogshead, cask #12) Four stars
The label wouldn't tell but on the website they say it is Ile of Jura – at time of writing. Milroy's are 60 years old this year, happy anniversary Milroy's! We remember that when we used to go to London in our early days, we used to go to Milroy's, The Vintage House and Berry Bros. before going anywhere else! (Buckingham, Tate, British Museum, Harrods – not Harrods). Colour: white wine. Nose: it is not a very Jura-y Jura, but let's remember that Jura has produced some astounding peaters in the past. I'm finding some crystalised citrus, rather some garden ashes (bonfire), some cigar ashes, then fresh cement, and a little lemon curd. I find it rather bright but indeed I wouldn't claim Jura is instantly recognisable. With water: the usual raw wool, clean mud, plaster and porridge. Oh and grist and a growing feeling of paraffin. Mouth (neat): really punchy, really salty and really leafy. Lots of lemon zests and bits of tart apples (the ones you wouldn't really eat). Cider apples. With water: this one too is really salty and more and more medicinal, with an 'ancient' side (old-school peater), a tiny bit of aniseed and menthol, and  indeed a little horseradish and mustard that do hint at Jura. But it could also be Glenturret (if they were doing peat in 2004, not too sure) or Tobermory/Ledaig. Let's believe the website (not this one mind you). Finish: long, fresh and leafy, with much less salinity than in the Islays, for example. No, there, some saltiness in the aftertaste. Comments: just and excellent variation, with indeed some old-school aspects.
SGP:565 - 87 points.

See you very soon for more.

 

March 18, 2024


Whiskyfun