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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2006 - Part 1
April 2006 - part 2 <--- May 2006 - part 1 ---> May 2006 - part 2

May 14, 2006


Cardhu/Cardow 13 yo 1987/2000 (56.9%, Cadenheads) Colour: white wine. Nose: starts quite fresh but with lots of power, a few notes of rubber and butter, with something rather feinty in the background. Develops on bold notes of gooseberries and green apples, always fresh butter, pear juice… Not really top-notch I think, with lots of mashed potatoes and porridge. After a few minutes, it got even more on fresh apple juice and ginger ale, which is an improvement here.

Mouth: the attack is nervous, extremely fruity and grainy, mixing notes of sugared apple juice and cornflakes. Powerful but lacking personality. Gets then quite bitter (apple and grape seeds) while staying quite sugarish. The finish is long, again very sugary, with lemon sweets and some tannins. In short, a whisky that’s not totally unpleasant but that hasn’t got lots to tell us. 77 points.
Cardhu 25 yo 1974/1999 (56%, Signatory, Millenium Edition, sherry butt #3612, 498 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: the sherry is well here, obviously, but there’s quite some sulphur and rubber as well (rubber bands). Gets sort of dirty, with whiffs of washing rags, cheap bottled orange juice, vase water, getting then quite vinous (stale old wine). Not too pleasant on the nose, I’d say… It gets more and more vinous after a few minutes. Mouth: this seems to be better, yet quite rubbery again. Very sweet, with bold notes of orange liqueur (Grand-Marnier and such) and caramel. Something rather salty, probably from the cask. Gets then really vinous and peppery at the same time. Old rancio, cloves… This palate is probably much cleaner than the nose. The finish is long but still quite rubbery, sort of a blend of rubber, orange marmalade and fortified wine (Rivesaltes). In a whole, again not one of the greatest whiskies but it’s certainly more enjoyable and ‘talkative’ than the Cadenhead’s. 80 points (but some friends liked this one much better than I did).


MUSIC – Recommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical with the young American countertenor Jay Carter singing Marc-Antoine Charpentier's elevation O vere, O bone.mp3 beautifuly. Please go to Jay Carter's concerts!


May 13, 2006

Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, May 10th 2006
To be honest I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen John Martyn. I know I first saw him in the early 1970s at college (I say ‘know’, because ‘remember’ is not a word one would associate with Martyn concerts of that era), and last saw him at the Jazz Café in London about five years ago, in between I can’t quite recall (though I do know there was one wonderful night under the Edinburgh stars when he played at the Castle Esplanade). Over the years his gigs have been increasingly frustrating occasions - always leaving me with the sense that Martyn is someone who almost throws his considerable talents away in favour of ‘banter’ and buffoonery. Of course the legendary drinking (and the rest) must have something to do with this, but I can’t really imagine that he can ever be quite as drunk as he sometimes likes to appear, given that he always makes a pretty decent fist of playing his guitar. And what’s more surprising is that there always seem to be a fair number in the audience who’ve only come to see this nonsense - like the sort of tasteless voyeurs who take pleasure in watching Shane McGowan down a bottle of vodka and then stumble blindly around the stage (I saw it and left). You almost wonder if performers like these are victims of their audience rather than victims of themselves.
You may know that Martyn recently had his right leg amputated above the knee, and it’s been a long time since he lost his svelte youthful good looks (when we got home I had to dig out the Old Grey Whistle Test DVDs just to check how youthful and good looking he was back in the seventies). To be honest he looks a bit of a mess. He’s got a good band with him, keyboards, bass (outstanding), drums, clarinet and saxophone, which is just as well. His guitar is hidden for a lot of the night, and when he does break out it’s for the most part quite conventional stuff, rarely reaching the heights of which he was nice so capable.
And if you don’t know Martyn’s work then of course you have to listen to Solid Air to understand what I’m on about. But don’t get me wrong - I also thought the relatively recent Church with no Bell was pretty good too - so I’m not just living in a rosy and nostalgic past. I suppose this must be what they call ‘after dinner jazz’. Every song has a long introduction, and long middle, and a long ending, and it’s the band doing most of the work. I really felt that Martyn was struggling at times with his guitar, and seemed to have (understandable) difficulty with his pedals, the key to his wizardry. Of course he sang - but his increasingly slurred, drawling growly voice has long since become a grotesque self parody, no more evident than in the crooned version of ‘Never let me go’ that he ends the set with. And of course we get the ‘Cockney John’ and ‘Glasgow John’ stuff in between songs - with a recurring and tedious joke about a man who killed his mother. To be frank it’s almost impossible to decipher his words and affected or not, he sounds like the sort of drunk that you hope never gets into your carriage on a train.
It’s a disheartening affair, and I can’t help thinking that it’s a genius that’s simply wasted away over the years. The audience seemed to love it, ‘though I’m not sure if they’re applauding the John they’ve just seen or the John they remember. But it’s hard to turn your back on someone whose work can still give so much pleasure and inspiration. So I guess that’s partly why we’ll be seeing him again (under the stars somewhere in Oxfordshire) later in the summer. Let’s hope it’s better, much better. - Nick Morgan (photohraphs by Kate)
Thank you Nick, but Shane McGowan drinks vodka??? The Pogues' Shane McGowan???... Let's get over it with my own favourite John Martyn piece (not that he's very famous in France): yes, Solid air.mp3. Agreed, pure bliss... His singing reminds me of Michel Jonasz in a certain way, for instance in Doucement.mp3...
Old Pulteney 1989/2005 (46%, Signatory for La Maison du Whisky, cask #12177, 50cl) Colour: straw. Nose: a fresh and floral start, with lots of power. Buttercups, nectar, roses… Also notes of strawberries, pears and quite some caramel. Gets quite maritime (indeed), on sea air… Goes on with fresh butter, vanilla crème, gooseberries, fruit liqueurs, hay and maybe a little beer, even gin and soap. Also distant whiffs of wood smoke. Interesting, a malt that’s quite ‘different’.
Mouth: a sweet and salty attack, almost like cooked fruits topped with caramel and salt. An unusual sensation. Develops on very ripe pineapples and melons, butterscotch, herbal teas (linden tea), smoked tea, with a rather long and very salty finish, slightly bitter. Extremely close to the official 17yo, just a tad discreeter. 85 points.
Old Pulteney 15 yo 1982 (61.1%, OB, Millennium) Colour: full gold. Nose: rather similar, just more powerful. Probably a little more on caramel, liquorice and praline, though, but otherwise we’re in the same league. With water: it gets waxier and smokier, quite buttery. Coal smoke, bread crust. The maritime side gets also more obvious. Interesting again, lots of personality Mouth (neat): rather explosive. Extremely sweet and caramelly but with lots of backbone from both the alcohol and the cask, it seems. But again, water is needed… Extremely close to the 1989 now, it’s almost the same whisky, with again more liquorice and maybe just a little more body (it got very similar to the official 17 yo in fact). A good, flawless malt with lots of personality (err… didn’t I already write that?) 86 points.

May 12, 2006


Hammersmith Apollo, London, May 8th 2006

It’s what should be a quiet Monday night in sleepy old Hammersmith town, but the Boss is back and the place is buzzing, ticket touts on the Underground platforms, bellowing hucksters selling blurred posters and soiled t-shirts, and long lost friends meeting in barely articulate embraces of tears. “Shit man, I haven’t seen you here since 1975, I mean shit man, that gig man, he was The Boss ….” In case you don’t know Bruce Springsteen owes the old Hammersmith Odeon (“I guess they changed the name since I was last here”) a great deal – it was here that he burst on the British public’s consciousness in what has become, without exaggeration, one of the legendary London rock and roll nights. “This is a special place for me. A lot of my ghosts are here…”. You can buy the recently released CD and see what all the fuss was about. I might have to, as I was more or less a Springsteen refusnik for many years, and it’s only probably over the last ten that I’ve paid much attention to his work, and his back catalogue. But having recently seen the phrase ‘once in a lifetime chance’ take on a new significance the opportunity to see him can’t be turned down easily. We’re upstairs in the 18 bob seats, and as you might expect we’re packed in like sardines with Real Fans all around us. In fact they’re a little European Community of fans many of whom have travelled a long way to be here. And paid a lot of money (I’m told that e-bay has been humming). At first the incessant booing is a surprise – then I realise it’s a low soulful “Boooooocce” which echoes round the auditorium as the impatient audience wait for the gig to start. When it does start these guys know all the words (I do hate people singing at gigs) and needless to say start singing them far too soon, encouraged by the fellow with the guitar in the middle of the stage. And they know the hand movements – during ‘My city of ruins’ (a nice song from The Rising) it begins to look like a revivalist meeting (“with these hands I pray my lord” goes the refrain); disciples in supplication at the altar of the great one.
I have to say that a seventeen piece band is a bit of a sight these days, almost (I said almost) worth the price of admission. The stage is elegantly draped with velvet curtains, chandeliers too, I guess to recreate an old bar-room feel. Four brass players, bass, banjo (he was just great – keeping the band ticking all night long), two fiddles, keyboards and accordion, two guitars (three if you count the current Mrs Bruce who played too, and, ahem, sang), drums, three vocalists and a pedal steel guitar too. And for all its apparent simplicity the band have been perfectly choreographed, taking turns at the front of the stage – always moving around, everyone knowing exactly who’s where. And the middle is a big and boisterous Bruce, obviously having the time of his life. It’s true – he’s a consummate showman (show-off says The Photographer, who can’t take the Whiskyfun camera out of her cowboy boot for fear of being thrown out) who works the audience to perfection in the course of an artfully constructed set. He fills the stage (and it’s pretty full already) arms waving theatrically, conducting his orchestra, making occasional shimmies along the front of the stage and throwing the odd rock and roll pose. He also takes time to show us that he’s serious Bruce too, that he’s done his homework about the songs (“I went and read about this song in a book”) and that he has strong views (angry Bruce) on recent events in the USA, comparing the displacement of people from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina to the dustbowl migrations. For what it’s worth, on the basis of my wholly inadequate research, around a million people were forced to leave the Big Easy last September (and I don’t think too many have managed to go back) as opposed to 400,000 who left Oklahoma and surrounding areas in the mid 1930s. Who’s surprised he’s angry?
The evening is a celebration of the life and works of Pete Seeger, as is Springsteen’s new album, The Seeger Sessions. Strangely the album has only one original Seeger composition on it, ‘though I’m sure Pete might have played some of the other great American traditional tunes it features. Its release has provoked considerable comment that Springsteen has lurched to the left; the concert was even reviewed on BBC’s Radio Four because of this, and featured on a religious programme discussing the spiritual power of the song. But really, ‘though I don’t for a moment doubt Bruce’s sincerity on the issue of New Orleans or senseless war there isn’t a great deal that’s revolutionary or threatening about these songs or about the evening. Actually I always thought that many of Seeger’s songs (yes Serge, we had to learn them in Primary School, along with the wonderful ‘Shenandoah’) were a little too nice, prim and proper turtle necked jumper protest songs, with a holier than thou middle class feel, and more than a dash of crass sentimentality (if you don’t believe me then go and listen to ‘Where have all the flowers gone’ – ugh!). I’m not dissing Pete here, or his contribution to ‘the cause’, just suggesting that for the most part his songs haven’t really got the substance or joie de vivre to stand the test of time. And even though we don’t get much of Pete tonight I have to say most of the songs that we do get that make me feel as if I’m back in that school classroom – but this time I’m having a great time, with a rollicking seventeen piece backing band rather than a tuneless piano. How good is that?
Set list? Well almost all of the Seeger Sessions tune (strangely he didn’t play ‘Froggy went a courting’ which was an incongruous moment that I was most looking forward to) – of which highlights for me were Dan Tucker (“Here’s a 140 year old Bob Dylan song”), Mrs McGrath (with its strong anti-war theme one of the few real ‘protest’ songs of the night), ‘Erie Canal’ and ‘Jacob’s ladder’ (additional lyrics by Pete Seeger).
There was a fantastic version of ‘How can a poor man stand such times and live’ (a song originally recorded by Blind Alfred Reed in the wake of the Wall Street Crash, and later covered by Ry Cooder) with a verse added by Springsteen on Katrina and New Orleans, and a rather strange combination of ‘Cadillac ranch’ and ‘Mystery train’. It got pretty raucous towards the end with ‘Open all night’ and ‘Pay me my money down’ (which to be frank felt as if it went on for about ten minutes too long), and then an encore including ‘My City of Ruins’, ‘Buffalo Girls’ (not the Malcolm Maclaren version) and finally a restrained and nicely structured version of ‘When the saints go marching in’ – back of course to the forgotten plight of the Big Easy again. The band were glorious – a gumbo of folkabillybluesoulgospelrock. Bruce was tireless.
Even so – as a non Real Fan it did all get a bit repetitive towards the end. But that’s probably churlish. I’ve rarely seen a packed theatre enjoying itself so much – even I think surprising the maestro with their enthusiastic participation and response. Roll on next time. If I can re-mortgage the house then I’ll be there. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Thanks a lot Nick. The Boss, Conscience, Respect... Live!
Imperial 12 yo 1994/2006 (46% Whisky Galore) Colour: white wine, almost wine. Nose: quite violent despite the not too high alcohol level, starting quite spirity, with a few notes of lavender and geranium, and then fruits like very ripe apples an pears. Notes of boxed pineapples. Quite close to a new make, with also mineral notes, gin, ginger ale… Maybe something slightly smoky. Not too bad, even if the whole is quite rough. Ah, yes, also notes of fresh strawberries and some bold cider apple juice after a few minutes.
Mouth: softer, quite sweet and rounded, with quite some tannins. Bitter oranges, lemon zest, getting then frankly bitter (quite nicely) and rather oaky despite its nose’s ‘fresh’ profile. Gets even quite peppery. Yes, a mixture of apple juice and pepper. The finish is rather long but not too ‘enveloping’, getting a little drying and even peppery, with also quite some cocoa powder. In short, the nose was fresh and youthful but the palate is a little hard - quite a nice Imperial anyway. 80 point.
Imperial 1981/2004 (64.6%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #1218, 303 bottles)
A high strength Imperial by Bill and Maggie Miller. Colour: deep amber. Nose: quite explosive thanks to the high ABV but not much more so than the Whisky Galore, quite unexpectedly. The sherry is very present right from the start, with quite some rubber, toasted bread, crystallized oranges and marmalade. Very rich and aromatic but you have to take care not to dip your nose too deep into your glass at such strength, it would burn your nostrils. Develops on flowery notes, probably from the wine (peonies) as well as blackcurrant leaves, praline crème and cappuccino. A nice toffee as well, plus a few spicy notes (mulled wine)… Let’s try it with a little water now… It gets more complex indeed, with both something forest (fern, moss) and something meaty/saucy (soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, wine sauce, game)… An excellent sherried whisky, gaining great balance at roughly 45%. Mouth (neat): quite spectacular but note overpowering, curiously. Starts on orange juice and young white Port, quite some pepper again, spices… Right, it gets really too strong now. Water needed! Yes, it’s much easier to drink now, creamy and rounded, with lots of apricot pie, nougat, praline, strong honey (chestnut). A very, very good surprise with quite some personality, even if there’s a little rubber subsisting. The finish is long, quite ‘invading’, with always these rubbery notes, oak, lactones and just good ‘sherry’… In a nutshell: a pretty excellent, muscular Imperial! 90 points (it would have gained one or two more points with a little less rubber – and thanks, Konstantin).

May 11, 2006

, Purcell Rooms, South Bank Centre, London, 7th May 2006
Serge and I have recently been having a little spat about asparagus. You know, that lovely gloriously green and highly seasonal vegetable that grows mostly in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Norfolkshire, which we eat by the plateful at this time of year, lightly boiled and with lashings of salted butter. Serge tells me they grow it in France too, but it’s an anaemic slug-like colour, overcooked and eaten with some fancy sauce from Holland (note from the editor: more about that in my comments below!). I’m about as clear as to how we’re going to resolve this impasse as I am how to start this review. Not only did Marc Ribot and his band spend most of the evening subverting the notion of the song (apparently they’re now called ‘pieces’), they also subverted the notion of concert (yes, I know they started at 7.45 and finished about two hours later, but that was almost as close to form as it got), and in the process subverted the shape of my review. But here goes …
Even if you don’t know it you’ll be familiar with Ribot. He’s the fantastic guitarist behind many of Tom Wait’s best albums, particularly those of recent years. You may, as a consequence, have come across his wonderful album Y Los Cubanos Postizos, a tribute to the Cuban guitarist Arsenio Rodriguez. Now had you bought tickets for this gig on the basis of this then you would have made a big mistake. For Ribot’s day job is ace New York free-jazz guitar maestro, a huge admirer of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler (this it had to be said, confused me somewhat – an album as a tribute to one of Britain’s great philosophers? But there you go…), and a man at the vanguard of pushing the guitar (and associated instruments) as far as it can go. He’s uncomfortable with the description ‘avant garde’ (he claims he would play dance music all the time if he could), but it certainly seemed like a fair way to describe the evening (no dance music).

Marc Ribot
And he was certainly playing to a painfully highbrow heavy duty muso audience, all carefully eyeing each other up as they weighed their relative musical expertise and knowledge in case there was a showdown at the end of the night. The ones that stayed that is. There was a steady trickle of folks heading to the door during the first half hour or so, and I’m still convinced that the guy who attempted to climb onto the stage waving his arms was trying to shut them up (the photographer thought he was trying to conduct).
The band is Ceramic Dog, or as we would say in Glasgow, Wally Dug. Ribot seems to think this is the “ultimate kitsch object”, but I’d certainly be careful saying that in Glasgow. It’s also a “free/punk/funk/experimental/psychedelic/post electronica collective” featuring Ribot on guitar, Shazad Ismailly on bass, and Chess Smith on drums and percussion. “Sonically dense” was a description I read somewhere. No shit! Some of it is so dense it’s like fighting your way through a jungle. But it’s worth the struggle. The evening is both exhausting and exhilarating. It begins in fairly harmonious style, very repetitive melodies (played I think, not tape loops) almost in a Bill Frisell style, with delicate and carefully crafted percussion from Smith and soft low bass from Ismailly. From that we went to ‘Hatred and filth’ (yes, this one was introduced and had a title), which, according to my detailed notes, was ‘like Ghost riders in the Sky on acid – all fractured and frenetic’. I also noted the Black Sabbath moment (the night was full of musical jokes of one sort or another) and wondered if it wasn’t all a little more conventional than we might imagine, a thought that has stayed with me, despite the ‘avant garde’ tag. From what I could gather we had ‘a piece’ about intellectuals (it sounded as though that was what was being chanted), a bosanova ‘Todo el mundo es kitsch’ (with a witty Rolling Stones joke), a spoken song ‘When we were young and we were freaks’, another heavy rocker ‘Erotic auto’, peppered with snatches of ‘Born to be wild’ and other motoring tunes, and a ‘protest piece’, ’99 and a half won’t do’, during which Ribot expressed his considerable frustration at both George Bush and that nice Tony Blair’s role in the Iraq war. Ribot obviously takes these sort of issues very seriously (have a look at this interesting website) but to be frank his political interventions in terms of shouting, half-singing, and chanting didn’t really get much beyond a schoolboy level of discourse – best to let the guitar do the talking Marc.
And what a guitar – Ribot’s playing is inspired – delicate, destructive, deconstructed and deeply imaginative. Ismailly plays bass, keyboards, percussion (various) and an empty water dispenser. He’s intense, crouched over his instruments, and yet periodically surprisingly humorous – perhaps it’s the bottle of J&B that he takes occasional pulls from as the night goes on. He shares the J&B with drummer Smith, whose painstaking attention to detail is totally absorbing – even when he’s changing the batteries in one of his gizmos – when he lets rip he’s all elbows and flying hands. The band are as tight as a knot, and they’re obviously having fun.
So after a return to the stage for two ‘pieces’ as encore (not really that subversive after all) we left the hall reeling, hardly aware that we’d been in there for two hours, so engrossing was the music. But I did have to ask, ‘what’s the big idea?’. For all the thought that had obviously gone into the music, and the rather prosaic chants and occasional lyrics, I’m dammed if I could really see anything that was really cogent leaping out at me.
So I was forced to conclude that they did it simply because they could, which in truth was good enough for me. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate, asparagii by Nick and Serge)
Many thanks Nick! But now that you threw your gauntlet regarding these asparagii, let’s make a few things clear. Wiki tells us that you used to call them ‘sparrow grass’ in Great Britain, but that John Walker (who?) stated in 1791 that "Sparrow-grass is so general that asparagus has an air of stiffness and pedantry." (and did you know that if you ever dream of asparagus, it signifies 'prosperous surroundings and obedience from servants and children'?) Err… Good, in any case, it’s true that we do like them white better than green over here, even if white sparrow grass… err, sorry, asparagus is more expensive, because you need to deny the plants light while they are being grown. That’s a costly method, as you have to add earth quite often, so that the growing sparr… asparagus never sees light. They aren’t ‘anaemic’, they are just chlorophyll-less, which makes them probably less bitter and subtler… but dearer indeed. And just like with whisky, dearer means better, doesn’t it? The best in the world, ‘of course’, comes from a village north of Alsace, named Hoerdt, where they grow a superb crossbreed of the Argenteuil and Erfurt varieties. But okay, let’s not start an asparagus war just now, so, back to Ribot, who’s a favourite of mine. I think he’s a genuine innovator indeed, and there aren’t that many guitarists who managed to go much further than Jimi Hendrix did (except Peter Frampton - LOL). Maybe Marc Ducret and Noel Akchote but otherwise, Ribot is the thing indeed, in my humble opinion. And not only because he played a stupendous ‘Black Trombone’ on the famous tribute CD ‘Great Jewish Music, Serge Gainsbourg’ led by John Zorn (such a good record!)… Or because of his work with the Lounge Lizards... Well, I could go on for hours but that would be boring and probably embarrassing, so let’s have a little music instead... Like this interesting live solo version of C.C. rider.mp3 (the adventurous rock and roll side) or This.mp3 (sorry, I don't have the song's name, but it's the easier, Latino side indeed, with Los Cubanos) or Truth is marching in.mp3 (the free jazz side, from his fab 2005 CD 'Spiritual Unity', where there are also two pieces composed by the great Albert Ayler, who was a philosopher in a certain way, please read the quote on his tribute website.) Now, to our distinguished readers: don't worry, we'll go back to easier music from tomorrow on...


Braes of Glenlivet 15 yo 1979/1995 (43%, Signatory, casks #16042-43)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: quite some sherry but also unusual notes of varnish and parsley. Develops on dried oranges and bread crust, milk chocolate, getting then very herbal (dill, chive, coriander…) Very interesting. Also something slightly metallic, motor oil…

Mouth: not too bold but not weak, sort of strange, starting on overripe oranges but also lots of paraffin. Notes of cod oil (err…), cardboard, clay… Gets then very herbal again (dried parsley, thyme). I’m wondering whether there isn’t quite some peat in there. Unusual notes of green curry, Madeira, and retsina… That’s right, it’s quite resinous. The finish isn’t too long but balanced and satisfying, on peppered strawberries… Interesting, really interesting – I can’t remember having had that much parsley in a malt before. 84 points.
Braeval 9 yo (46%, DL Premier Label, 422 bottles, circa 2005) Colour: gold. Nose, fresher and more perfumy but with again quite some sherry. A little vinous, in fact, with notes of cooked strawberries, wine poached pears. A little rubbery as well. Fruitcake, gravy… Less ‘unusual’ than the Signatory – and also less expressive – but rather enjoyable. Mouth: much more classical, with a slight sourness from the sherry. Goes on with honey and caramel, fruitcake, cooked fruits (strawberries, jams), getting bolder and more coating by the minute. Nice notes of milk chocolate and praline, dried apricots, figs, dates, prunes… It’s good! The finish is rather long, nicely balanced again, fruity and a little spicy (cinnamon). A very good young Braes again, technically better than the Signatory but also less ‘different’. Same rating: 84 points.

May 10, 2006

Talisker 25 yo 1952/1977 (70° proof, G&M, Queen's Silver Jubilee) Colour: pale gold. Nose: lots of wildness considering both its age and its ABV. Great hints of passion fruits (raw, not ‘processed’ like in many other old malts), then something oily (linseed oil, petrol) and slightly metallic, and then the ‘maritime cavalry’. Oysters, seaweed… Very complex!
Gets quite resinous after a moment (pine needles, rubber bands, camphor), with also whiffs of dairy cream, vegetable soup, asparagus… Very subtle. Hints of old bottle effect (slightly metallic here). Mouth: not too powerful but not weak in any way. Starts on liquorice and gentian liqueur (Suze), ripe cider apples, marzipan and cough sweets… A little pepper, hints of caramel, old dry white wine (old vin jaune)… Keeps developing on herbal teas (camomile, lemon balm, orange tree) as well as bitter oranges and mastic flavoured Turkish delights. Hints of olive oil. The finish isn’t too long, obviously, but still satisfying, with kind of a waxiness ala old Clynelish. An excellent old malt, lacking just a little oomph but after 25 years in some casks plus 30 years in a bottle, that’s easily excusable. 91 points (thanks, Regensburg!)
Talisker 25 yo (57.2%, OB, 2005) I always liked the 20yo’s better (than both the 2001 and 2004 versions of the 25yo, roughly 92 points vs. 88), so let’s see whether that will change now. Colour: gold. Nose: punchy and powerful, with some big, bold rubbery notes at first nosing, that are soon to vanish, leaving place for a blend of cooked butter, sea water, oak sawdust and apple juice – as well as butter croissants (excuse my Frenchness). It gets then more frankly maritime as well as quite orangey and even flowery (hints of peony and iris), and keeps then improving for hours. Well, minutes… More peat (rather subtle), more ‘farminess’, quite some quince jelly and marzipan, herbs (chervil and bay leaf)… And always these bold buttery notes. A punchy but domesticated Talisker. Mouth: a little sweeter than expected but very assertive, peaty, liquoricy and salty. Something pleasantly sweet and sour on top of that (white wine sauce and also a little rubber again) but it’s a little less complex than on the nose just now. Salty butter caramel… Gets quite dry after that and expectedly very peppery but it’s quite far from being a ‘monstrous’ Talisker. Hints of curry, chilli sauce, thyme… And always quite some liquorice. The finish is long, quite enveloping, salty and slightly caramelly… And, of course, peppery. Well, it’s an excellent whisky, no doubt. Maybe a good two points above the earlier 25yo’s in my books, so let’s say 90 points.


Boston’s Dann Russo is leading a band called ‘The Whisky’, which was already enough to draw our attention. But then we listened to his music – his EP ‘Dann Russo’ is very good and there’s also a ‘Live at The C Note’ CD - and found out that this ‘whisky’ is a very good one, authentic and natural (that is to say acoustic), powerful (that is to say full of passion and energy) and also complex (catchy yet intelligent, folksy yet modern, melodic yet profound…) That was more than enough to make us decide to interview the talented singer – songwriter…

Whiskyfun: Dann, tell us a little more about what you do, music-wise.
Dann Russo: We are the prophets of acoustic rock and soul, taking our harmony-driven violin-playin blues rock to the people in exchange for shouting and singing like a revival meeting. I must also say, the name The Whisky came from a few of us sitting around one night drinking...umm...whisky...and we were thinking of a name. We weren't going to be "Dann Russo and the band" so we bounced around a few names and it just happened to be that the violin player, drummer, guitar player, and I had a glass of whisky in our hand (all different kinds) and someone said "how about The Whisky?" and it stuck.
WF: Which other musicians are you playing with?
Dann: The current lineup - Dann Russo (vocals, guitar), Christian Kolarz (violin), Brendan Russo (bass, vocals), Frank Colagiovanni (drums), John Russo (keyboards, vocals), Gary Ames (guitar, vocals); former special guests include Zak Ward (guitar), Roberto Conte (vocals, guitar), Andrew Vanette (drums), Ian Boyle (drums), Mark Fornatale (guitar).
WF: Which are your other favourite artistes?
Dann: My personal favorites are Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, U2, Melissa Etheridge, Counting Crows, The Black Crowes, Bon Jovi, country music, hip-hop, and about a million others.
WF: Which are your current projects?
Dann: Currently we're playing in and around Boston and New York, and I do both solo shows and band shows. We're also working on our first full-length album, entitled "Fortunes, Forecasts & Lucky Charms" which should be out in August.
WF: When did you start enjoying whisk(e)y?
Dann: Whisky...mmmm...When I was teething (yes when I was barely one year old), my father called the pediatrician. He asked if there was anything he could do to stop the pain -- my parents had not been sleeping for the last couple of nights. The pediatrician asked "what kind of whisky do you have in the house" my father replied "Johnny Walker Black" The doctor said "good. pour two shots -- dip your finger in one and rub it on his gums" my father asked "what's the rest for" the doctor said "for you -- the kid'll never sleep better!" and that's a true story. Ever since then I have had a taste. When all the other college kids were getting wasted on cheap beer, I used my money wisely on Johnny Walker and Junior year was introduced to Maker's Mark... yum...
WF: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Dann: Other than the Johnny Walker story, my most memorable was playing The Paradise in Boston (the first place U2 played in America). All of us were psyched beyond belief and we all gathered backstage for a celebratory glass of Maker's Mark on ice and then ran on stage and rocked out like we had never rocked out before.
WF: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Dann: Johnny Walker Black, Maker's Mark, Jameson (in tea), Jim Beam (it's actually my secret ingredient in my chili), and for special occasions, Oban.
WF: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Dann: How can someone not like whisky?
WF: Music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Dann: Girls SHOULD play guitars. Nothing makes a girl more attractive than knowing how to play guitar -- whether it's lead or rhythm. In fact, some of the best guitar players I know are girls. And of course girls should drink whisky. makes their kisses taste that much better.
WF: I once heard an eminent whisky professional say that he tasted whisky in colours. Do you taste whisky in music?
Dann: When I write music, a lot of the time I see the song as a painting -- what colors should be used to highlight certain parts of the song, what it would look like if it were on a canvas, and I guess by extension of that I see songs as different beverages -- some songs are wine songs, some are beer songs, some are definitely whisky songs.
WF: If your favourite whisky was a piece of music what would it be, if it was a musical instrument what would it be?
Dann: It would be either Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue or Guns and Roses' Sweet Child of Mine. I know these sound like they could not be any more different, but they are the two most (in my mind) perfectly arranged, taste of everything, subtle and not, in one song, wrapped around a memorable, amazing "riff". If my favorite whisky was an instrument it would be a guitar or violin played brilliantly.
WF: Everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Dann: Jack Daniels is an ok rock and roll whisky. Not my fav. Maybe there's something about it coming from Tennessee, like Nashville and Sun Studios where Elvis got his start. Who knows. If Elvis recorded in Lexington, Kentucky, maybe Maker's Mark would be the rock and roll whisky. The wax on the bottle top is much cooler than just a square bottle anyway.
WF: And if it was Scotch, can you think of which brand? What would be the Scotch equivalent of rappers drinking Cristal?
Dann: The Scotch Cristal would be Oban or Johnny Walker Blue.

Thank you very much, Dann!
A few links of interest:
Dan Russo and The Whisky's official website
Dan Russo's myspace page


May 9, 2006

The Borderline, London, 6th May 2006
We really should go to the Borderline more often. Although the décor may be somewhat lacking (if Quentin Tarantino ever wanted to dream up the Mexican restaurant from hell this would be it. Wait, hang on a minute …) it’s a small friendly dive with an always interesting schedule of gigs, combining new and old British talent with lesser known touring bands who might find it hard to find a venue elsewhere. It’s not full tonight, but it’s busy, a mixed audience, a good few of whom I clock as regular 100 Clubbers.
The Inmates: Bill Hurley (left) and Peter Gunn (right)
Having miserably failed to find the names of the first two bands – one a nice young R&B outfit with a good harmonica player, the other a VERY LOUD thrash punk meets Black Sabbath thing – I can assure you that the main attraction were veteran London rockers the Inmates. Formed at the tail end of punk in 1977 they remain famous (to me at least) for their fantastic single ‘Dirty water’ (originally recorded by the Standells) which turned out to be a hit both here and across the pond. I still have my copy somewhere, but you can find it on the Inmate’s myspace page. The band were also very popular in France, famously performing a huge gig in Paris in 1987 organised by the newspaper Liberation to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the release of Sergeant Pepper – the ‘legendary’ resulting album, Meet the Beatles: Live in Paris has recently been re-released, as has the classic Fast Forward, which, unless I’m much mistaken, makes up the majority of the set.
There’s nothing slick about the Inmates; their trademark is raw sound and raw energy, and they’ve retained this (more or less) over thirty years. By and large they’ve aged pretty well too, although the cameras can’t lie about front man Bill Hurley’s burly beer belly and flowing grey locks. But forget that – his voice is remarkable, with a huge range that he puts to good, if sometimes theatrical, effect. The rhythm section is tight, and lead guitarist Peter Gunn (apparently he left the band for a while but is now back in the fold, as we were emotionally told by Pete himself) is in fine rocking shape.
That’s all – they were great fun, played like demons for an hour, and then came back to play ‘Dirty Water’ as an encore. Perfect Saturday night whiskyfun. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Many thanks Nick, that was a short and sweet review indeed. And yes, the Inmates were/are hot in France, they have even an interesting French fans' website. I just listened to the good music on their myspace page, as you suggested, and I couldn't help thinking of an old fav, the Flamin' Groovies. 



Bladnoch 16 yo 1980/1997 (43%, Dun Eideann, cask #89/531/34) Colour: straw. Nose: rather expressive, starting on rather ‘regular’ mashy and grainy notes (mashed potatoes etc.) but soon to get very fruity, typically Bladnoch. Lots of tangerine and lemon juice, tinned pineapple, pink grapefruit (sweeter than the yellow ones)… Also notes of flint stones… Simple but enjoyable, very ‘estival’. Mouth: very sweet and not too bold, getting frankly citrusy after a few seconds. Sugared lemon juice, orange marmalade… Id does grow bolder, with also quite some praline and fresh pear, maybe a little caramel… Again, all that is simple and undemanding but pleasant, especially the medium long and fresh finish on lemon sweets… It’s almost Summer! 83 points.
Bladnoch 16 yo 1988/2004 (56.4%, MacMalt, sherry, 60 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: starts much hotter, and it’s not only because of the higher alcohol. Again these mashy notes (soaked grain, mashed potatoes, even beer) and also a little coffee. It gets then similarly fruity, maybe more on green apples at first, and then on lemon and orange juice. A little grassier as well… Anyway, really nice again. Mouth: powerful but fresh, much, much grassier now, and, should I say ‘of course’ very, very lemony. Lime juice? Something rather perfumy in the background (lavender sweets?) and a certain bitterness arising after a moment... The finish is longer than the Dun Eideann’s but quite bitterer… Tequila? Anyway, it’s a good one again, no doubt. 83 points.
Bladnoch 21 yo 1965 (46%, Moncreiffe for Meregalli) Colour: gold. Nose: much more complex, and also woodier at first nosing. Starts on vanilla and lemon fudge, lemon caramel, crystallised quince and develops on citrons and kumquats, with also some bold notes of lemon balm. Just as citrusy as its more recent siblings but much more ‘candied’ and with a bolder oaky structure. Notes of cigar box and incense. Great! Mouth: sweeter and much less raw than the youngsters, yet not extremely complex. Lots of orange and lemon marmalades, apricot jam, orange dunce… And then we have the oak and all its spices (mostly cinnamon but also quite some pepper). Notes of tea. The finish isn’t too long but quite orangey, tannic and peppery (bitter oranges), maybe a little drying… Very enjoyable anyway - and less ‘summery’. 87 points.

May 8, 2006

by Nick

Cabot Hall, Canary Wharf, London, 4th May 2006

God damn! It’s hot, humid and sticky. In the Big Easy it’s 28 degrees. But we’re not in Bourbon Street, we’re in Canary Wharf, London’s city within a city, its monument to mendacity, where it’s just as hot. And as if summer has arrived at a stroke all the City Boys and their City Girls have spilled out onto the walkways, lagers in hand, blindly blocking the path of pedestrians as they excitedly talk about the deals and doings of the day. Inside Cabot Hall, surely one of London’s weirdest venues (a couple of years ago The Photographer saw the Alabama 3 here – now how weird is that?) the burly security guards are bristling, arms crossed in that most aggressive British fashion, over their beefy chests. I imagine they spend most of their day somewhere underground, far beneath these towering buildings, guarding piles of gold, no – loads of money, no - it must be discs of digital transactions of re-mortgaged futures, or whatever the latest worthless thing is that some genius has managed to turn into millions. Anyway, they’re with us now, and they’re not taking shit from no-one.

On stage as support we have the pretty (well, pretty predictable to be honest) Catherine Feeney, another of those American singers with a ‘little girl lost’ voice and a sort of vaguely folky west coastish sort of sound. Her songs, as she tells us, “are all about relationships”. The Photographer, who at the moment could permanently eat a horse – snorts with derision; “for god’s sake”, she says, “why doesn’t someone sing about sausages instead”. An extreme view – but I know what she means. Anyway Catherine loves the UK so much that she’s moved to Norfolk, and she has a band of tractor-boys to prove it. And she has a new album, Hurricane Glass, on its way out in June – so you can make your own mind up.
We’re sitting down at tables, “nightclub style”, but it feels like we’re at a wedding reception – one of those when you don’t really know who’s getting married or why you’ve been invited. We’re waiting to see the good Dr John and his band, the Lower 911, named after a district of New Orleans, which was incidentally one of those worst hit by last year’s Hurricane Katrina. You may remember that we last saw the Doctor playing solo, and featuring his then new album, N’Awlinz Dis Dat or D’udda, which they liked so much in your France Serge, that it was given an Académie Charles Cros 57ème Palmarès award, which apparently is very good. Since then he’s recorded a just released album Mercernary, a tribute to the works of Johnny Mercer (and not too well received by the critics it should be said, but you can download a free track from Mercernary here, and a rapidly recorded fundraiser for various New Orleans charities, Sippiana Hericane. The Doctor chooses to live in New York these days, but his band and entourage are all New Orleaners and flood survivors, and the Mercernary album was recorded there. So it’s hardly any surprise that there’s even more of a New Orleans theme – both celebratory and defiant - to this evening than would normally be the case at one of his gigs.
The band are as hot as the weather, in fact hotter. Drummer Herman Ernest III (who gives us a short master class in New Orleans drumming techniques later in the evening) and bassist David Barard have played together for about twenty years, and have a huge list of notable collaborations in addition to their work with the Doctor – guitarist John Fohl joined the band a few years ago. But they’re tight versatile and funky, and by way of setting out their stall pull off a superb Meters pastiche in the middle of ‘Iko iko’. And they can sing like a church choir (from New Orleans that is, not New Cross). With them we get a bit less of the Doctor’s hugely complex piano playing than we did when he was solo – but he’s also playing a wonderfully battered Hammond B3, so it’s swings and roundabouts really. The Doctor walks onto the stage, cane in hand, like a tripped out old aged pensioner; by his standards he’s in garrulous form, and even treats us to some of his (fairly restrained) ‘voodoo dancing’; you’d be embarrassed if it was your grandfather, but coming from the Doctor it’s sinister, funky and fun.
The set is a very mixed bag drawn from an extensive repertoire including Creole Moon’s ‘One 2am too many’, ‘It don’t mean a thing’, ‘Sweet home New Orleans’ (from Sippinia Hericane), ‘Iko iko’, from Mercernary ‘Save the bones for Henry Jones’ (“at last a song about food”, said The Photographer), ‘Renegade’, ‘Now that you’ve got me’, ‘Right place, wrong time’, ‘When the Saints’, and for an encore a medley (or perhaps I should say gumbo) of New Orleans favourites. By that time the wedding party had really warmed up, the front of the stage was filled with dancing kids (much to the bewilderment of the Doctor) and the security guards had largely given up, so The Photographer went to work. And, at least for a few minutes, you might have thought that the free-spirit of New Orleans had managed to permeate the thick walls of this fortress of ill-gained fortunes. Then the Doctor slowly tripped off stage, the lights went up, the security guards regained their composure and we trooped out into the crowds of still drinking City types, buoyed by the warmth of the musical heart-beat of a city that could benefit enormously from a fraction of the obscene bonuses these braying bankers pay themselves. But hey, that’s the way of the world. You could do worse than buy the Doctor’s Sippinia Hericane, or maybe make a donation to the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate The Photographer)
Merci beaucoup Nick. It's true that Dr. John is quite hot here, maybe thanks to old Louisiana and France matters. You know, that King Louis who was from the Bourbon dynasty and then good old Napoleon who sold Louisiana to the Americans... Dusty history indeed... But this is better, it's the Doctor doing the famous Right place wrong time.mp3. Vrehmohn tress bonn, n'eh-t-il pah?



Glen Moray 1992/2002 (43%, Dun Eideann, cask #16, 500 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: quite powerful despite its low alcohol (well, it’s always a hit when I tell my non-whisky friends that 43% is ‘low’). Extremely grainy, developing on freshly cut apples and pears, with also nice flowery notes of lily of the valley and lilac and finally faint whiffs of newly cut grass, dill and aniseed. Not much else but the whole is enjoyable. Another summer dram, very close to some good new make. Mouth: a very grassy start, with something like grilled herbs and quite some rubber. Frankly feinty now, grainy, with quite some apple juice and tea but that’s all, folks. The finish isn’t too long, at that, spirity and a little indefinite. The Nose was really pleasant but the mouth doesn’t quite deliver, lacking flavours. 78 points.
Glen Moray 10 yo (70° proof, OB, late 1970’s) Colour: white wine. Nose: much, much fruitier than the Dun Eideann. Lots of orange juice, apricots, fresh pineapple, plums and strawberries... A whole basket! It gets then a little mineral (flinty) and also quite flowery (flowers from the fields such as buttercups and dandelions). Extremely fresh despite all these years in glass – a very nice surprise. Pure pleasure! Mouth: yes, it’s more complex, sweeter and rounder than the Dun Eideann, even if less thrilling than the nose. Lots of oranges and caramel, praline, fudge, nougat but also something slightly bitter. Nothing disturbing but the whole is a little simple, developing mostly on the ‘usual’ apple pie topped with caramel. Gets then a little weak but the finish is rather enjoyable, with something liquoricy. But it’s a good old ‘mundane’ OB altogether, and the nose was quite an experience. 84 points.
Glen Moray 1960 (43%, OB, 1990’s) Colour: full gold. Nose: rather expressive, starting right on vanilla and oak, not unlike some recent ‘plain wood’ Glenmorangies, with also quite some freshly baked bread (the crust) and getting then very fruity again. It’s full of youth, with all these apricoty notes. Develops on ripe melon, mirabelle plums, oriental pastries (orange flower water), Turkish delights box and gets then quite honeyed, and finally quite resinous (wax polish, hints of eucalyptus, pine needles), always with a very elegant oaky structure. Classy stuff! Mouth: maybe it lacks a little oomph now but it’s very creamy and oily, with both lots of dried fruits (figs, dates, sultanas) and again these resinous notes: cough sweets, propolis, eucalyptus honey… And then we have the spices (cinnamon, cloves, white pepper) as well as Turkish delights and quince jelly, the whole being so nicely blended. The finish is medium long but satisfying, mostly on vanilla, tea, praline and honey… Too bad it was not bottled at 45% or more, but again, it’s complex, classy whisky. As we say here, ‘pure pleasure’ – and no sign of tiredness whatsoever. 91 points.

May 7, 2006

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Arran 1996/2005 'Vintage Collection' (46%, OB, 6000 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: rather fresh, starting on freshly cut apple and dried roses, with also a little rubber. It gets then frankly mashy and grainy, with quite some porridge, mashed potatoes, cooked rice… Quite grassy as well. Rather straightforward, not very aromatic. Mouth: sweet and somewhat spirity but nicely balanced, with quite some apple again but also cereals, cornflakes, hints of toffee… Pineapple juice, nougat… Enjoyable. Medium long finish on cake and orange liqueur… Not a monster but it’s rather flawless, I’d say. Easily drinkable. 79 points.

Arran 10 yo (46%, OB, 2006) Colour: straw. Nose: rather cleaner but also a tad less expressive, starting more on vanilla, praline and fudge but developing on more or less the same kinds of grainy, mashy aromas. Quite some breadcrumb, beer… Gets then quite flowery (lily from the valley, buttercups). Also notes of hot praline and honey. I like it better even if it hasn’t got such a bold personality. Mouth: very similar now but a little creamier, with more dried fruits, jam, vanilla crème, cake… Apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream and a little caramel. Certainly rounder than its younger sibling, maybe more polished. Really pleasant. 80 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening - It's Sunday, we go classical. We like old whiskies at Whiskyfun, and we like old music too. So, today we'll have an excellent 1915 recording of Alma Gluck singing Edward Horsman's The bird of the wilderness.mp3. Isn't it beautiful? Alma Gluck is said to have been the first artist ever to have a million selling record in the history of recorded music!

May 6, 2006

Laphroaig 1988/2005 'Coilltean' (45%, Samaroli, fino sherry Puncheon, 582 bottles) This kind of cask is very rarely seen at Laphroaig’s. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very elegant and subtle at first nosing, it’s not a wham-bam Islayer, it seems. Starts on some delicate notes of apple and almond pie, mastic, smoked tea (lapsang souchong), marzipan… The trademark medicinal notes are well here but kind of subdued.
Goes on with clams, fresh peeled walnuts, hints of diesel oil, paraffin, a little cider and notes of ripe peaches in the background… A bel esprit Laphroaig? The fino works very well here, no doubt. Mouth: the fino character is now very obvious, with lots of walnut skins, cider apples, chlorophyll, strong tea… What we call ‘le goût de jaune’ (a taste of yellow – yellow wine being close to fino sherry). Notes of breadcrumb, spearmint, liquorice… Certainly wilder than on the nose. Camomile tea? Of course, all that is very smoky… Ah, wild things! And the finish is very persistent, very ‘yellow’… Unusual and very special. I loved it (did Mr. Samaroli select fino casks specifically? We also had a fab Glen Garioch 'fino' recently) 91 points.
Laphroaig 13 yo 1993/2006 (56.9%, Signatory, cask #3472, 186 bottles) Signatory bottled lots of Laphroaigs 1992 and 1993 recently. Colour: straw. Nose: much closer to a typical young Laphroaig. Certainly rougher, with the usual soaked barley, iodine, seaweed, ginger tonic and smoke one can often find in most young indie Laphroaigs. Gets very medicinal, with quite some ether, bandages, mercurochrome… A wild and beastly one. If you like that, you’ll like it. Mouth: again, classically Laphroaig, and really flawless here. Liquorice, smoked tea, salt (lots), all sorts of herbs… Maybe it’s not too complex but it’s ‘a style’. No need to say the finish is very long, almost impregnating and quite salty. Now, it’s also true that the independents have a hard time coming up with bottlings that would only match the stunning official 10 yo Cask Strength… Anyway, 86 points for this very good ‘alternative’.


MUSIC – JAZZ - Heavily recommended listening: innovative minimalist power drummer Leon Parker does All my life.mp3 (from his 1994 CD Above and below). An interesting take with the drums doing almost all the work (okay, and the sax, and okay, the mantra-like vocals). Raw and pretty excellent! Please buy Leon Parker's music!


May 5, 2006

Glenglassaugh 12 yo (43%, OB, early 1990's) Colour: gold. Nose: very fresh and rather clean, starting on lots of natural orange juice and vanilla crème. I must say I like it a lot! Extremely fruity, with also lots of melon, tinned pineapples, pear juice, bananas… Hints of cornflakes and praline, camomile tea, lime-blossom tea… It’s rather simple but very, very enjoyable.
Mouth: the attack is very caramelly, on cornflakes again, with a rather thin body, alas. A little roasted peanuts, apricot and plum jams, earl grey tea,.. Not much else. Yet, the finish is longer and much bolder than the attack, leaving a bold taste of caramel and cappuccino and also quite some salt. Rather good, a little old-fashioned. Something that reminds me of some old Chivas Regal. 78 points.
Glenglassaugh 38 yo 1967/2006 (59.3%, Signatory, cask #98/635, 109 bottles) This one should be another kind of beast. Almost 60% at almost 40yo, imagine! Was the cask Gore-texed? Colour: pale gold. Nose: a little less expressive at first nosing but quite curiously, not overpowering. More complex as well, taking off on some very nice citrusy notes mixed with something resinous and minty. Very coherent! Lots of lemon balm, spearmint, grapefruit and tangerine, peaches… But other than that it stays a little closed, let’s add a few drops of water… Oh yes, that works. It gets more elegant, always very citrusy but I get some bold notes of pu-erh tea now, humus, wild mushrooms, fennel, maybe even oysters (where’s Glenglassaugh again?) Very, very nice and totally anti-tired (eh?) at such old age. Mouth (neat): easily drinkable at such high strength, starting on lots of candied lemon and orange zests, lemon fudge, cinchona… Quite some tannins in the background but nothing unbearable. It does get a little burning after a moment, though… With water: sweeter but not really more complex. Lots of nice citrusy and waxy notes, lemon caramel, with a rather long and, once again, rather salty finish. 38yo, really! 87 points.


MUSIC – Recommended listening: French singer Elsa sings the superb and tender chanson Le bal perdu.mp3 in duo with its creator, the great Bourvil. Of course this has been recorded 'in studio', as Bourvil died before Elsa was even born. (picture: Bourvil at the right with Louis de Funès in the hilarious movie 'Le Corniaud')


May 4, 2006

TASTING – FIVE 1966 'HIDDEN' GLENFARCLAS (and almost a strike)
Nectar of the Gods (Glenfarclas) 38 yo 1966/2004 (42.3%, Whisky Magazine Editor’s Choice, cask #6461, 84 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: a beautiful (and friendly) attack on tinned pineapples with something waxy and even resinous in the background (propolis, fir tree honey). Very, very little sherry if any. Develops on all kinds of jams (mirabelle plums, apricots, quince – lots – blackcurrant) and quite some spices like the usual nutmeg and cinnamon. The oak is well here but blends into the whole like in an excellent ‘traditional’ wine (if you see what I mean). It goes on with quite some marzipan, almond milk or orgeat and whiffs of cellulosic varnish and dried morels. Mouth: a very oaky attack, but again it’s the kind of oak that’s very enjoyable. Not a ‘vanilla bomb’ at all. And then we have lots of sweet fruits, from melon to apricot and from gooseberries to plums, all that being topped with various spices such as the usual nutmeg and white pepper but also a little mustard. The finish is long, getting maybe a little drying now (strong tea). Anyway, an excellent, unusually unsherried (or so it seems) Glenfarclas. 91 points.
Speyside Selection N°1 (Glenfarclas) 1966/2005 (44.4%, Duncan Taylor Private Bottling, cask #3333, 228 bottles) Colour: straw – pale gold. Nose: this one is very different. Rather less exuberant but not less nice, more mineral and even waxier, with something that reminds me of some light-vatting old Clynelishes. Paraffin, car engine, turpentine… Gets even more resinous with time (pine needles, mastic). Lots of flowers as well (like buttercups or daisies) and hints of cooked vegetables (asparagus, even morels again – yummy) Probably a little more austere and sharper than the Whiskymag version, but maybe also a little more complex. Excellent. Mouth: the differences are more or less the same here. Less fruity and more on herbs (verbena, coriander, parsley) but with again lots of oak. It’s also a little hotter than the Whiskymag version. Goes on with more or less the same waxy and resinous notes than on the nose and, quite funnily, notes of mustard just like in its sibling. The finish is even longer and a little sharper, mainly on bergamot tea and pepper. Really complex and elegant, with again no traces of sherry. 91 points.
Glenfarclas 38 yo 1966/2005 (48.3%, SMWS 1.123) Colour: gold. Nose: ho-ho, it seems that we have kind of a blend of both previous versions here, except that it’s a little less aromatic. The aforementioned notes of fruit jams on one side and the waxy, resinous ones on the other side. Perhaps more vanilla as well, and again these nice notes of flowers from the fields (buttercups and such). Very nice but not exactly in the same league as its brothers. Mouth: that’s confirmed. Lots of oak, spices, yellow fruit jams but also a little less complexity. The tannins are also a little more ‘sticky’ but the finish is very enjoyable, creamy, fruity and peppery. A very nice dram, even if not totally top notch. Again, very little sherry if any. 89 points.
Ballindalloch (Glenfarclas) 1966/2006 (44.5%, JWWW Old Train Line, sherry cask #5639) Colour: coffee. Here come the sherry monsters, it seems! Nose: fab! (I said I won’t use the word ‘wow!’ anymore ;-)) Starts on some bold strawberry jam mixed with chocolate (or kind of ganache), lots of other kinds of red fruit jams (mostly berries) and other sorts of chocolate, orange liqueur, praline, excellent old rancio, high-end sherry, fresh strawberries… really superb, more aerial and less on rum, coffee and raisin than most sherry monsters. Not a monster at all, in fact. What a fabulous balance! Mouth: really full and rounded, but with still quite some nervousness despite the tannins that start to show off. Lots of toffee and coffee, a little mint, old red wine, herbs liqueur (Jägermeister – oops, sorry, brands aren’t cool either, are they?)… Something slightly rubbery, also coffee grounds, Turkish coffee… Maybe a little less exciting than the nose. The finish is long but leaves something a little rubbery and sour on the rear part of your tongue… But don’t get me wrong, it’s still a superb Glenfarclas! 91 points.
Old Speyside (Glenfarclas) 1966/2006 (45.6%, M&H Cask Selection, 270 bottles) Colour: coffee, just a bit lighter than the JW. Nose: ah yes, now we’re more on the usual (but not less enjoyable) rum, raisins, chocolate, praline, crystallised oranges, cooked strawberries and coffee. Very classical, very nice, with also quite some resinous and minty notes. It’s still quite fresh vibrant, not as ‘aerial’ and fruity as the JW but just as good. Perfect sherry matured whisky. Mouth: Hmmm, yes, I like this one better on the palate. More balanced and more complex, with tannins just as present but better integrated. Other than that it’s the classical series of toffee, coffee, rum, raisins, oranges, praline, chocolate, strawberry jam, old rancio, orange liqueurs etc. You get the picture, it’s a classical (yes) old sherry cask matured Glenfarclas. Lots of body, lots of oomph, no signs of tiredness. Perfect, even if not totally stunning – but you have to like oloroso. 92 points.
MUSIC – JAZZ - Very heavily recommended listening: when a great talent like marvelous pianist Jessica Williams (another Whiskyfun all-time favourite) pays tribute to Bill Evans, it gives Bill's beauty.mp3. And suddenly, the world's a better place... Please buy Jessica William's stupendous CD's and go to her concerts!

May 3, 2006

My first encounter with Alex Battles happened via a country song I found on the Web, called ‘You Broke My F*ck*ng Heart’. I liked it a lot and frankly, it’s not that Whiskyfun is a very rebellious website, but how could I have resisted the urge to interview a guy who’s behind a band called ‘The Whisky Rebellion’ anyway? (note: the Whiskey Rebellion was an uprising that happened at the very end of the 18th Century, when Appalachian settlers fought against a federal tax on liquor and distilled drinks).
In fact, Alex Battles lives in Brooklyn and besides performing with his aforementioned backing band - the exact nature or lineup of the band seem to change with the weather, did I read somewhere -, he’s also, according to brooklyncountry.com, ‘the twisted mastermind behind CasHank (an open acoustic jam of Hank and Johnny songs), Jugfest, The Johnny Cash Birthday Bash, and The Brooklyn Country Music Festival, and--along with Dock Oscar of Sweet William--is a co-organizer of The Brooklyn Winter Hoedown and, most recently, The NYC Opry’. Lots of whisky needed to fuel all this, I guess…
Whiskyfun: Alex, tell us a little more about what you do, music-wise.
Alex Battles: I write country songs for people who say they hate country music. Then I say “Do you like Johnny Cash?” and they always say yes. So then hopefully, I can get them to listen to my songs too.
WF: Which other musicians are you playing with?
Alex: The country music scene we’ve got here in Brooklyn is thriving, so I’ve got a heck of a great pool of musicians to choose from. Recurring members of my band include Dotty Moore on fiddle, Tommy Rhodes on guitar, Joe Choina and Nate Landau on bass, Gasper Bertoncelj and Jesse Bull on drums.
WF: Which are your other favourite artistes?
Alex: Ray Charles, Desmond Dekker, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Toots and the Maytalls, Frank Sinatra, Jay-Z, Louis Armstrong, Leona Naess, The White Stripes, Tom T. Hall, Frank Yankovic, Django Reinhardt, Jimmie Rodgers, Al Green, Biggie, Buck Owens, Over the Rhine, Norah Jones, James Brown, Muddy Waters, Mason Jennings (how many do I get?)
WF: As many as you want! Now, which are your current projects?
Alex: Right now, I’m focused on getting the 3rd Annual Brooklyn Country Music Festival locked and loaded. It’s usually in July, and hopefully it will be this year too. There’s also the monthly CasHank Hootenanny Jamboree, which is our open jam session dedicated to Cash, Hank, and any other country songs written before 1970 with four chords or fewer. In fact, that was last night, so my replies may be a little hung over.
I’m also working on a record right now. It’s home recorded and it’ll be self-released sometime this summer or fall.
WF: When did you start enjoying whisk(e)y? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Alex: The first time I had whiskey was in college. It was Scotch, of the Johnny Walker variety, I believe. I don’t remember the music I had on then. But I can tell you that the first song I ever wrote was about Jim Beam, while I was drinking it. I was sitting by myself with a pint bottle of Beam and I was reading the label. I noticed that it says “THIS WHISKEY IS FOUR YEARS OLD” on the label, so I thought that was kinda funny. Like what if Jim Beam bourbon really was a person (in school they call this anthropomorphizing things, I believe) who I knew. So I wrote this song called “Jim Beam.” Then I wrote a whole lot more songs, and a good percentage of them involve whiskey in some way.
WF: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Alex: When I first moved to New York City, my friend Jenny and I used to go to this place called Bar & Books. The waitresses there were real good-looking and they had a bunch of good whiskies I’d never heard of, so that was pretty impressive. I decided to try something called “Blanton’s” and it was like $12 for a glass of it, which was a lot of money back then. Heck it still is. So I decided I’d drink that Blanton’s real slow. When it first hit my mouth, I just let it sit there as long as I could, looking at the waitresses and inhaling the whiskey fumes and wearing a suit my mother had bought me and thinking “Damn, I really do live in New York City.”
WF: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Alex: For bourbon, it’s tough to beat Jim Beam, pricewise, pound for pound. Maker’s is also fine, and I’ve had a bunch of single malts that are also good. I’m also a fan of Georgia Moon, which is new whiskey made by the Shapiro’s in Kentucky. That’s some fine sipping stuff, but people call me an ingrate for liking it. I love Talisker when it comes to Scotch.
WF: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Alex: Only the ones that give me bad hangovers. Old Crow comes to mind.
WF: ‘If the river was whisky baby, and I was a diving duck’ is one of the most famous and well used whisky lyrics, from sea-shanties to blues and rock and roll. Do you have a favourite musical whisky reference?
Alex: The only one that pops into mind is one of my songs.
I wrote this song called “You Broke My…Heart” which has a line in it “you know I tried to kill myself with pills and Cutty Sark / Oh babe, you broke my…heart.” A friend of mine asked me if I really tried to kill myself with pills and Cutty Sark, and I said, dead serious, “No, it was Maker’s Mark, but that didn’t rhyme.” And of course, Maker’s Mark did rhyme, but I guess Cutty Sark is funnier.
WF: Ah, yes, that song! Excellent. Now, music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Alex: Whoever asked me this question hasn’t been in the East Village lately.
WF: Well, that’s right, I haven’t been to New York since ages! I really have to cross the Atlantic again soon... Now, if your favourite whisky was a piece of music what would it be?
Alex: Better Get Hit In Your Soul by Charles Mingus.
WF: Incredible how Mingus is popular among rock, blues or country musicians! Reminds me of that great Joni Mitchell LP where he's talking between the tracks - the name escapes me just now. Do you also have a favourite piece of music to drink whisky with, or better still, desert island dram, desert island disc?
Alex: Tom Waits – Small Change, Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours.
WF: Everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Alex: Jack is all about the label. There isn’t a scotch out there with a label like that. They could put cough syrup in a Jack Daniels bottle and it’d still sell, just like when they knocked down the proof on Jack and no one noticed but whisky fans and Modern Drunkard Magazine.
WF: And if it was Scotch, can you think of which brand? What would be the Scotch equivalent of rappers drinking Cristal?
Alex: When I think rock and roll drinks, I think of stuff I can drink fast. Maybe Dewars or Cutty, but don’t hold me to it. I’ve never had Cristal, but it seems like the scotch that philistines always order when they’re trying to impress people is Johnny Walker Blue Label.
WF: By the way, why did you name your band 'The Whisky Rebellion'?
Alex: Because we came up with a bunch of possible names for our band and had our fans vote and that was the one that won. Then the guitar player quit because he hated the name.

Thank you very much, Alex!
A few links of interest:
Alex Battles and The Whisky Rebellion's official website
A rough mix of Alex's new album about whiskey here (mp3). Comments by Alex: 'You folks are the first to hear it so I hope you like it ok. Eventually there will be a fiddle break on there, but I thought you might get a kick out of the tune'. We sure do! Thanks for that, Alex.
The Whisky Rebellion's myspace page
The Brooklyn Country Music website (where they are 'wearing their hats low and lazy since the Clinton era', they say)



Bowmore 15 yo ‘Mariner’ (43%, OB, circa 2000) It’s not that often that I taste 'mundane' OB’s (note to self: you boring snob!) so let’s use this one as a benchmark. Colour: deep gold. Nose: err… we do have these disturbing notes of lavender soap and perfumed candle wax here… Burning incense, rotten oranges… Err… Mouth: it’s a little better now, although ‘they’ are all well here. Lots of Schweppes as well. This is just a flawed whisky (it must have been the cork), no need to go any further. Rating: pointless (but I’ve had some much better Bowmore Mariners before!)

Bowmore 15 yo 1990/2005 (55.7%, Dewar Rattray, cask #260) Colour: straw. Nose: we’re on another planet. Sharp, austere, almost discrete but very elegant, with quite some peat, paraffin, brownies, fresh walnuts… Notes of wax polish, mastic, fresh almonds, smoked tea, seawater… Very, very enjoyable even if a little Calvinistic. Mouth: powerful and compact, with a very bitter start but it’s exactly the kind of bitterness I like (on candied lemons and marzipan etc.) Hints of horseradish, smoked tea, strong liquorice, ‘cooked’ coffee… Gets more and more liquoricy with time, with something like ‘light’ pipe juice (only pipe smokers or ex-pipe smokers will understand, the others can thank God), fruitcake… Lots of presence indeed. I like this kind of whisky that’s really off the beaten tracks. Hints of rose jam – or gewürztraminer. The finish is quite long, at that, on ‘smoky’ marzipan and orange marmalade… Good, very good. 89 points.
Bowmore 15 yo 1990 (58.70%, SMWS, 3.112, 144 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this one is quite different. It’s got some of the Mariner’s offbeat notes but also something like Alka-Seltzer and burnt milk. Rather weird, if you ask me. Lots of farmy notes as well (not the cleanest ones), horse sweat… But good news, all that settles down after a moment, leaving some rather nice notes of ‘clean’ farm this time (wet hay and such), pu-erh tea, mustard, roots… Rather interesting.
Mouth: sweet, peaty and rough, with a blast of smoke and lemon juice. Ha-ha, now we’re talking – provided you like your peat monster. Lots of smoked ‘stuff’, salted liquorice, maybe dried kelp – please note that I never ate dried kelp (who did?) but I imagine it would taste like this. Goes on with cereals, pepper, mustard and green curry… Really big! And the finish is quite long and very peppery, with also something like Indian chewing-gum (you know, that mix of seeds they give you after your meal in most Indian restaurants, I think they call it supari, see picture). In short, the nose was so-so but the palate was absolutely great. Alright, 86 points.

May 2, 2006


It’s no secret that we all like the blues at Whiskyfun, so I was very happy to be able to interview Paul Cummins, one of my favourite guitar heroes (there’s already been a few entries about him on this modest website – I loved his CD ‘Bluteus Maximus’). Paul lives in California, likes his Scotch and used to ride a BMW K1… Exactly the kind of combination that I would describe as ‘ideal’ (seen from here, of course…)

Whiskyfun: Hi Paul, nice picture, this one! Very 'blues', so to speak...
Paul Cummins: Well, it is a shot of me taken at B.B. King’s Club in Universal City, CA November 9th, 2005- when we (Midnight Blues Band) opened for Mr. B.B. King himself. I remember the moment. It was a very special one. I was doing a solo intro to “Sinner’s Prayer” with all of the house lights turned off except for the blue ones and one red one. Lots of mojo…

WF: So Paul, tell us briefly about what you do, music-wise.
Paul: Well, for the past two years, I’ve been playing guitar in Midnight Blues Band here in the Los Angeles area. Formally trained since age 9 through college, I also play woodwinds (saxophone mostly), keyboards, and some drums. I also write songs. I’ve had a little luck in that regard. Sold a couple to Sony/CBS a few years back.
WF: Which other musicians are you playing with?
Paul: I’ve been performing in bands since 1968. I’m quite happy with the guys I’m with and the music we’re making; but I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the chance to play with some people whose records I bought: Jimmy Vaughan (Stevie Ray Vaughan’s brother), Spencer Davis, Carmine Appice among them. I also did a 6 city mini-tour in 1997 as Chuck Berry’s sideman.
WF: Which are your other favourite artistes?
Paul: Wow. I’ll try to keep the list short. Of those who are alive today, I’d include B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Sonny Landreth, Debbie Davies, Ry Cooder, Otis Taylor, Johnny Winter, Ronnie Earl, Tab Benoit, and a few of the newly “arrived” like Tommy Castro and Joe Bonamassa. As a child of the 60’s, I really grew up on rock; but once I learned that many (if not most) of what I liked were actually covers of Blues songs written years before, my record collection’s complexion changed dramatically to accommodate Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Freddie King, Albert King, Paul Butterfield, T-Bone Walker, etc.
My biggest influences early on while just beginning to learn guitar were not the Blues masters though. They were mostly Blues/Rockers like Rory Gallagher, Peter Green, Johnny Winter, and Kim Simmons. My acoustic guitar hero? John Fahey.
WF: Which are your current projects?
Paul: Well, we are currently right in the middle of recording the first CD since I joined the band. It’ll be almost all original material; and we’re hoping to have it finished by fall of this year. We already have a distribution deal; and were very excited about getting the chance to record our take on the blues. We’re appearing at Southern California’s best venues at least a couple of times every month. We’ve shared the stage with B.B. King, Guitar Shorty, Rick Derringer, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, Tommy Castro, Eric Sardinas, Roy Rogers, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya, Robben Ford…
Our lead vocalist Danny Brown has been nominated for “Best Male Vocalist” by the Los Angeles Black Music Awards. The show’s coming up in June; and we’ve been asked to perform.
WF: When did you start enjoying whisk(e)y? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Paul: Ah yes. The whiskey. My father counselled me when I first became “of age” to stay clear of most alcohol; but if I were to drink, I should make my drink of choice Scotch- citing its more extensive distillation as a primary reason. It wasn’t long at all after that I was enjoying (in moderation).
WF: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Paul: That’s an easy one. For many years, I held down a “day job” managing a BMW dealership. One of our regular customers who bought a new car every year and I got to become quite good friends. I’d always make sure anything to do with cars in his- or his close friends’- life got handled quickly, smoothly, and painlessly (many times at no cost, and sometimes I’d take care of a situation personally and after hours or on a day off). He’d always offer to reciprocate; but I always told him it wasn’t necessary.
Once though, he insisted that I stay at his beautiful place in the marina at Redondo Beach while he was out of the country on a business trip. I was to look after the fish in his 4 salt water aquariums, keep his dog company, and otherwise make myself at home. That I should make full use of anything and everything there (including his Ferrari GTO if I felt the urge), entertain a guest (or guests) if I wished, was also part of his instructions.
While rummaging through a cabinet looking for an ice caddy, I discovered what appeared to be a bottle, gift wrapped with a card hanging on it bearing my name. Low and behold, under the wrappings was a Bowmore from the mid 60s. Incredible! I still get a bit of the old “chicken skin” up on my arms just thinking about that one.
WF: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Paul: Due to the budget restraints of an early semi-retirement, my favourites rarely make it to my palate. My day to day is Johnny Walker Black. Special occasions (which I will invent if I feel too long an interval has passed) call for Glenmorangie.
WF: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Paul: Well, actually yes there are more than a few. I don’t want to name names. Let’s just say most are big sellers here in the States. I’m not really a snob; but- well, wait a second…maybe I am…
WF: ‘If the river was whisky baby, and I was a diving duck’ is one of the most famous and well used whisky lyrics, from sea-shanties to blues and rock and roll. Do you have a favourite musical whisky reference?
Paul: …“I’d swim to the bottom, and drink my back up”. He he. I like that one too.
Well, as you know Serge, the blues is overflowing with whisky references. I’m particularly fond of a line from Rory Gallagher’s “Too Much Alcohol” (as ironic as it may be) “Well, whisky’ll make you drowsy, and gin can make you think, the common cold could kill ya, but a woman turned me to drink.”
WF: Music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Paul: Oh, YES! Absolutely yes on both counts. If you know of one that does both, you promise me you’ll send her my way. If I am to pay alimony, I’d rather it be to a guitar playin’, whisky sippin’ woman.
Thank you very much, Paul!
A few links of interest:
The Midnight Blues Band's official website (a new version should be up within about a month.)
Here's the only .mp3 available of the current line up of the Midnight Blues Band. Paul: It’s us jamming live in the studio as a sound check while the engineers were getting levels set after we had just arrived. No mixing, no mastering, no overdubs, nothing but raw tracks of a tune we were still writing: sort of a tip of the hat to “The Originator” Bo Diddley we call “I’ve Got a Woman”.
Paul's Lion Dogs
PS - I just checked that there are many pictures of Stratocasters on this page just now. A sign? Of what?
Brora 23 yo 1982/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 348 bottles) Colour: deep gold. Nose: very fresh and rather fruity at first nosing, with whiffs of olive oil and flowers from the fields. Enjoyable, no doubt, but as far of ‘Brora’ as you can imagine – closer to a Balvenie, in fact, or perhaps to a fresh oak matured Glenmorangie. Develops on apricots, vanilla crème, fresh butter, fudge, light caramel, light honey, plums… Not really ‘Brora’ but very nice, I must say.
Mouth: very sweet, creamy, with a most enjoyable blend of apricot jam and soft spices. Quite honeyed, at that, switching then to notes of mustard and pepper, old rum (not too dark), bananas flambéed… The finish is long, very satisfying, sweet and firm at the same time… In short, it’s not ‘Brora’ (right, Brora was protean anyway) but it’s flawless and very good. 87 points.
Brora 20 yo 1975/1995 (54.9%, Rare Malts) This 20 yo 1975 has been bottled at various strengths in 1995 and 1996. Colour: straw. Nose: this is so much sharper and firmer that it’s almost violent when compared to the OMC. Frankly peatier – although it’s got nothing to do with the 1972’s etc. -, more complex, with something mineral and both maritime and farmy. Sea air, wet hay, kelp, ‘clean’ cow stable, ‘clean’ wet dog… And then we do have the same fruity notes (apricots, peaches and such). Rather impressive, this intermediate Brora! I like it a lot. Mouth: really powerful but also very coherent, starting on just the perfect mix of peatiness, waxiness, fruitiness and ‘coastality’. Extremely compact and invading, with quite some bee propolis, apple seeds, a little cardamom and mustard again, white pepper… All that on apple pie and marzipan… Extremely assertive and really complex at the same time, with a long and almondy finish… Not in the same league as the 1970-1973 but an excellent surprise. 90 points (and thanks, Tom).
UPDATED! The Malt Maniacs Malt Monitor has been updated (more than 16,000 ratings, 6,000 different malts). It's (left column).

May 1, 2006

ULU, London, April 27th 2006
It’s almost a year to the day since we were last in the gymnasium-like, and exceptionally noisy (students must just have so much to chatter about) University of London Union. On that occasion, having witnessed the much inebriated Willie Mason, I was moved to comment at some length on the revival of the singer songwriter. Well music-lovers, the news is that they’re still hot – in fact we’ve got an interesting trio, young and old, at consecutive gigs in mid-May and early June.
But it’s interesting to reflect that amongst the Masons, the Jack Johnsons (does he really write songs deliberately to have them used in commercials?) and the Jamie Ts (Serge – he’s very hot, listen to ‘Salvador’ on his myspace page) there are a few, as we call them in football parlance, ‘special ones’. I mean the sons and daughters of the great and good, notably the hugely-hyped and horribly-affected Rufus Wainwright, his pretty and melodic sister Martha (offspring, if you didn’t know it, of Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle), and tonight’s pair, the rapidly up-and-coming Teddy Thompson, and his less well known sister Kamila, son and daughter of Richard and Linda Thompson.
And of course, the McGarrigle sisters collaborated with Richard and Linda, Richard produced a few of Loudon’s albums, Teddy has played with both his mum and dad, Richard plays on Teddy’s album, Kamila sings with Teddy, and her dad, and her mum, Martha sings with her Mum, and her brother, and her Dad, and Teddy often tours with her band, and her bassist Brad Albetta co-produced Teddy’s new album (and produced Martha’s), Kamila sings with Rufus and Martha for Teddy, and Teddy and Rufus dueted together for the soundtrack of Brokeback Mountain. Hmmm – all seems a bit incestuous then. But the really sickening thing is, on the basis of what I’ve heard on disc, and tonight’s showing, that these well connected kids (well actually they’re mostly in their thirties) are nauseatingly talented, and have more than enough by way of gifts to make it on their own, which is what, by and large, they seem to be doing.
Kamila kicks off - and we arrive half way through in a half-empty hall. What with the student chat chat chat, and her relatively poor microphone technique, it was hard to pick up the titles of the songs we heard, but they were very spare and very sad. I know she played ‘Cars’, which you can hear on her myspace page. Next up (yes, it’s a big value for money night Serge) are Sol Seppy, or I should say Sophie Michalitsianos and her band. Sophie is a much-acclaimed pianist, cellist and vocalist and sometime collaborator of Sparklehorse, whose recently released album, The Bells of 1 2, has received considerable praise from the British Press.
Tonight’s audience had obviously not read the cuttings (you can find them on the website) and had little patience for this Husky Rescue meets David Lynch meets Portishead ethereal sort of stuff, nicely played though it was. The students at the back just chatted and chatted and chatted and chatted, it was rather rude really, and after about five numbers this interesting outfit left the stage to a crescendo of, errr, chat. Too bad – I thought young people were brought up rather better than this these days. Not to say, of course, that the audience was entirely under twenty five. Far from it. Probably a half or more were well over thirty, and there were enough slapheads and greyhairs to suggest that some at least were here in the hope that they might catch a glimpse of the great RT himself, who slid onto the stage when Teddy last played in London a few months ago (in this, if nothing else, they were to be disappointed).
And I have to say that next to me (I should mention Serge, that I’ve rarely been so close to a stage in my life – partly to get away from the chatterboxes at the back, but also because I’d left the wonderful Whiskyfun camera at home and the Photographer’s stand-in was only going to work up front) were some distinctly over-aged North American ladies (one of whom managed to get her head in all the pictures), who it turned out, seemed to have Teddy on the sort of pedestal that Serge normally reserves for his beloved Brora – now how scary is that?
Now I’ll cut to the point (at last!). Teddy Thompson is the real business.
In fact he’s almost too good. You sort of wonder where that almost throw away accomplishment comes from (yeah yeah – I know – his Mum and Dad). Having had a rocky start with a lost album back in 2000 he sort of went to ground with family and friends, but with the release of an EP Blunderbuss in 2004, and then last year’s Separate Ways, he seems to be back with a very big bang. He’s smart sardonic and self-depreciating (as are many of his songs). And if you didn’t know better you might think he looked like a youthful Steve Winwood (hang on, I thought little Stevie W was always youthful?) and sounded like Lyle Lovett. If there’s any obvious familial influence it’s in the phrasing of some of his chord sequences – made more obvious on the album where Dad plays some outrageously Daddish style guitar. But tonight Steve Schiltz (normally front man for New York band Longwave) has the guitar in hand and he is frankly inspired and highly original, a foil and contrast to Thompson’s mostly downbeat, though sometimes humorous lyrics. Highlights are opener ‘Shine so bright’, ‘Altered state’ and ‘No way to be’, but it’s hard to find a weak number in the set. Kamila helps out on a new country inspired song, ‘Down low’, and appears for the first encore to sing (really beautifully, albeit at the second attempt) the Everly Brothers’ ‘Take a message to Mary’.
Otherwise we get a mixture of old and new material, ‘Things I do’, ‘I should get up’, ‘Turning the gun on myself’, ‘Everybody move it’ and ‘Separate ways’ among them. The band is really tight, Thompson’s voice is strong and apart from the ecstatic mouthings of the ladies to my left, he shuts the audience up at a stroke, and that was a triumph in itself.
So Serge we’re probably in the 90 point zone for this one. See for yourself by buying the album, and if Teddy and his band pass by your way then please go and see him too – he’s a performer worthy of the price of a ticket. - Nick Morgan  (concert photographs by Kate)
Well, many thanks, Nick, but ouch, my head! I mean, maybe it's a consequence of some kind of grape and grain mixing experiment we conducted last night, but I must say your folk-rock family Rubik's cube has been quite hard to solve... So, for our distinguished readers who may have had the same kind of problem, I built this little slightly unlikely solution. Please just roll your mouse over the word 'here!' (bottom, right)...
Did that work? Ah, you found out by yourself! Congrats... So you deserve a little music by Teddy Thompson: we have Thanks a lot.mp3 (from his 2000 album 'Teddy Thompson') and Psycho.mp3 (from 'Psycho: music from and inspired by the motion picture' recorded in 1998 by various artists including Teddy Thompson)
Glenesk 32 yo 1971/2003 (49.7%, Douglas Laing Platinum, 258 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: very fresh, starting as fruity as possible, on bold notes of apple juice. Extremely bold notes of apple juice, in fact! All the rest is sort of hidden behind those, and stays so for a long time. Then we have hints of vanilla, flowers (peonies, buttercups), light honey, dry white wine (Chardonnay)…
Maybe also a little flour, porridge… Quite one-dimensional considering its age, but lovers of apple juice should like this a lot. Mouth: a sweet attack but it’s also a little sharp and tannic, with lots of pepper and nutmeg. Notes of tea, ginger ale, maybe a little vanilla… It gets then extremely herbal (grass juice, spinach, cooked sorrel… Gets quite bitter, with a rather long but almost acrid finish and lots of pepper. This one is a bit hard for my fragile palate ;-). I tried with a little water but that didn’t improve it, it got even more tea-ish (unsugared strong tea). But the big apple juice on the nose was impressive. 75 points.
Glenesk 1975/2005 (55.3%, The Cross Hill, Jack Wieber's, 210 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one starts much more spirity, with very little fruit.. Notes of nail varnish remover, raw French beans… A bit hard, but then it improves, getting quite fragrant (a little incense, cedar wood, coconut milk), just before it switches to… Apple juice! Quite some lactones and tannins coming through as well, as well as ‘chemical’ orange juice (Fanta etc.) Rather difficult, I must say. Mouth: sweeter than the Platinum but just as sharp and bitterish. Lots of spices from the wood (nutmeg, pepper, cinnamon, cloves etc.), apple juice (here we go again)… A certain sourness from the wood… Not bad at all, in fact, more balanced than the Platinum and less grassy (although it does get a little vegetal after a moment). A little aggressive as well, let’s water it down a bit… (while the nose gets a little fresher and more flowery): no, that doesn’t work too well, bringing out only something quite feinty and mashy (mostly porridge and so on). The finish is quite long again, probably a little sweeter and less bitter than the Platinum. Not a winning Glenesk either, that is. For Glenesk collectors only? ;-) 78 points.

April 2006 - part 2 <--- May 2006 - part 1 ---> May 2006 - part 2

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

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

Ballindalloch (Glenfarclas) 1966/2006 (44.5%, JWWW Old Train Line, sherry cask #5639)

Brora 20 yo 1975/1995 (54.9%, Rare Malts)

Glen Moray 1960 (43%, OB, 1990’s)

Laphroaig 1988/2005 'Coilltean' (45%, Samaroli, fino sherry Puncheon, 582 bottles)

Nectar of the Gods (Glenfarclas) 38 yo 1966/2004 (42.3%, Whisky Magazine Editor’s Choice, cask #6461, 84 bottles)

Old Speyside (Glenfarclas) 1966/2006 (45.6%, M&H Cask Selection, 270 bottles)

Speyside Selection N°1 (Glenfarclas) 1966/2005 (44.4%, Duncan Taylor Private Bottling, cask #3333, 228 bottles)

Talisker 25 yo 1952/1977 (70° proof, G&M, Queen's Silver Jubilee)

Talisker 25 yo (57.2%, OB, 2005)