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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2007 - Part 1
April 2007 - part 2 <--- May 2007 - part 1 ---> May 2007 - part 2

May 13, 2007

Dailuaine Dailuaine 1975/2002 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Colour: amber. Nose: smooth but not weak, starting on quite some caramel, light honey and orange marmalade. Then it’s the oak and the vanilla, hot baguette, orange cake, oriental pastries (baklavas), hints of apricot pie and white pepper, wax polish… Also wild flowers and fresh walnuts… Rather expressive and nicely balanced, with something a little antique (old furniture). Mouth: good attack, no weakness at all, very orangey and quite candied. Notes of earl grey tea, vanilla fudge, very ripe apricots and watermelons… Nice, discrete oakiness. Gets slightly cardboardy towards the end but that’s not disturbing at all. Nice clean finish, medium long, on candy sugar and crystallised oranges, with also a nice nuttiness. ‘Nice’ is the word. Harmless and very drinkable. 85 points.
Dailuaine 31 yo 1975/2006 (55%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve, sherry cask #4374, 197 bottles) Colour: deep amber – mahogany. Nose: classical sherry, starting coffee-ish and chocolaty, quite dry in fact. Notes of old books and rooibos tea as well as a little soy sauce, getting then a little more vinous (it ‘ranciotes’) but still quite dry (walnut burs). Little fruitiness. With water: no major changes except for a little mint coming through and maybe hints of peat. What’s more, the whisky got completely opaque. Rooibos
Mouth (neat): much sweeter at the attack, hyper-concentrated, with lots of brown sugar and cloves. It’s quite tannic in fact, getting drier and drier with time, very chocolaty and certainly more vinous than on the nose (lots of blackcurrant jelly, cherry stalks tea, highly reduced wine sauce…) Very drinkable without water but let’s still see what happens with a few drops: it does get less dry and more orangey and honeyed indeed, as well as spicier. Lots of cloves again but also a little pepper and soft paprika. Bigger notes of raisins as well but then the tannins strike back. Finish: long, on raisins, bitter chocolate and coffee – probably the nicest part in fact. A very compact finish. Maybe not the best sherry monster ever but certainly a good, thick one. 85 points.

May 11, 2007

TASTING – ONE 1992 BEN NEVIS (okay, make that two – what’s the plural again?)
Ben Nevis Ben Nevis 14 yo 1992/2007 (55.8%, Signatory, 1st Fill Sherry Butt, cask #2301, 733 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: starts very powerful, strong, heady and vinous in a very nice way. It’s got something that reminds me of ‘blanche’, which is unaged armagnac. No need to tell you that I like this. Very nice kirschy notes, cooked strawberries, baklavas… A little sulphur but it’s prompt to disappear. Develops a little more classically, on caramel, honey sauce, coffee and sultanas as well as a little soy sauce as often with fresh sherry and hints of unlit Havana cigar. Funny hints of iodine and chicory. Rather restless, this one.
Mouth: oily, thick and a little rubbery at the start but soon to get much cleaner although still very bold and a little wham-bam. We have kirsch again, strawberry liqueur, muscat eau-de-vie, orange marmalade, ginger… Then it’s a little cardamom, coriander, soft curry, ripe quetsches (purple plums we have here)… It’s also slightly resinous, liquoricy and salty… Restless indeed. Finish: quite long, rounded, candied and jammy (these purple plums again). Lots happening here, all this is very satisfying even if a little rough and ready. 88 points.
Ben Nevis 11 yo 1992/2003 (59.6%, Blackadder, cask #687) Colour: white wine – straw. Nose: a punchy as the Signatory but much more ‘neutral’ and ‘natural’. Extremely grainy, porridgy, milky and vanilled, with just something perfumy in the background, like often with Ben Nevis. Very simple but maybe water will make it ‘wider’: no, that doesn’t work, it’s even more mashy and grainy with also notes of ginger tonic and stale beer. And things don’t get any better with time. Mouth (neat): very sweet and oily, fruity (pineapples and pears) and immensely grainy but too hot to be sipped just like that. With water: sugared porridge. Finish: medium long, still very grainy. Really too simple and lacking ageing I think. 68 points.

May 10, 2007

Bowmore 15


Bowmore 15 yo 1991/2006 (56.5%, Dewar Rattray Cask Collection) Colour: gold – amber. Nose: very powerful and much peatier than usual, with nice candied sherry tones and an enjoyable sharpness. Truly coastal (fisherman’s nets) and very smoky. Huge plate of oysters with kind of caramel sauce? It gets then more animal and meaty, with hints of game, soy sauce, then shoe polish, wet dog…

Truly superb but a tad too powerful for me, let’s try it with water: ho-ho, now we have superb notes of beeswax, old pu-erh tea (and you may know what I think of old pu-erh teas), tiger balm, leather (brand new high-end car), unlit pipe tobacco… Fab! Mouth (neat): amazingly creamy and silky yet very punchy. Extremely oily mouth feel. Beautiful peat, crystallized oranges, vanilla-flavoured toffee, quince jelly, white pepper, butter caramel, white nougat, orange liqueurs (pick your brand), violet sweets, strawberry jam… Fantastically rich, sweet and peaty. Not unlike, let’s say a peaty orange liqueur. I love this. No need of water on the palate, let’s go directly to the palate which is long, yet incredibly compact, candied, smoky and delicately spicy. Top notch Bowmore, hugely satisfying. 92 points.
Bowmore 16 yo 1990/2007 (58.4%, Whisky-Doris) Colour: white wine – straw. Nose: ah, this is the ‘natural’ counterpart of the 1991. Clean, sharp, a little less peaty and a tad more spirity, more lemony but then just as coastal, with again these oysters but with lemon juice this time. Nice whiffs of smoke and coal oven as well as fresh almonds. Now, it is very strong, so water, please! Right, now we have whiffs of diesel oil (old fisherman’s boat?), kelp, ‘the harbour late in the afternoon after a hot day’ (will you stop this, Serge?), clean wet dog, linseed oil… Beautiful, really. As close to ‘coastality’ as a whisky can get. Mouth (neat): again we’re very close to the 1991 but just without sherry. The result is lemonier, sharper, more ‘nervous’ but still extremely compact, peaty and maybe even more maritime now (clams with lemon). Pleasant notes of icing sugar, grapefruit sweets and marzipan. With water (although it’s very drinkable when neat): okay, maybe less development here, except for lots of salt covering your tongue now. Finish: long, peaty, more resinous now, almondy and salty. And very clean. Extremely satisfying and very typical of Bowmore’s improvement since the early 1990’s (methinks). Congrats for having selected this. 90 points.

May 9, 2007








Aberlour-Glenlivet 12 yo (40%, OB, 'pure malt', square bottle, 1970's) Colour: gold. Nose: superbly honeyed and fragrant, starting on notes of old roses, sandalwood, incense, old leather and moist cigar box plus acacia honey and pollen. Superb, extremely elegant. The possible sherry is very discrete – or maybe it vanished. Develops on camphor and eucalyptus as well as crushed fresh peppermint leaves, getting then more classically caramelly and vanilled but also with quite some coal smoke and hints of old sweet white wine (Sauternes and such) as well as plum jam. Top notch – and such strong smokiness is quite unusual. Mouth: alas, it’s much weaker now, faded, slightly cardboardy and tea-ish. Too bad because one can feel it used to be great once, but the mouth feel is really thin, there’s almost no body. As often, the finish is a little oomphier though, mostly on almonds and vanilla. But what a nose! 80 points.
Aberlour 12 yo 1994/2007 (46%, Duncan Taylor NC2) NC2 stands for Non Coloured and Non Chillfiltered. Colour: white wine – straw. Nose: it’s funny because there’s a little smoke again but the rest is much grainier, milky, vanilled and cereally. And then we have these roses again, just even stronger here. It’ gets frankly perfumy after a moment (quality cologne) and also rather lemony. Also notes of freshly cut apples. Quite peculiar. Mouth: sweet and rather simple at the attack but we have a good mouth feel this time. Apple juice, vanilla crème, orange drops, hints of muesli, white chocolate, a little white pepper and a little ginger… All that is rather drinkable. Finish: not too long but nicely gingery, with also notes of dried pears. Good malt without the fuss. 83 points.

May 8, 2007

Young Springbanks



Springbank 6 yo 1997/2003 (45%, Stills of Scotland, Hogshead #182) Colour: white wine – almost white in fact. Nose: spirity, yeasty and very grassy as well as quite milky. Soaked barley, newly cut grass, lemon zest, wet cardboard, porridge… As young and immature as it can get but sort of pleasant, without any dull fruitiness usually associated with such youngsters (pears, pineapples and all that). Tequila-like. Mouth: an extremely lemony attack, developing on citrus skin, pepper and faint hints of mustard with also a little salt. Ah, simple life… Finish: medium long, still very lemony and nicely bitter. Good spirit. 78 points.
Springbank 11 yo 1989/2000 (45%, Signatory, Stills of Scotland, cask #105) Colour: white wine. Nose: more of the same but a little toned down, although it’s even more on grains, porridge, mashed potatoes… A little vanilla coming through now, but the cask wasn’t too active it seems. It’s younger brother was probably more interesting in its flying youth. Mouth: very close to the 6yo but also more unbalanced, with these rather weird notes of rotten oranges and aspirin that one can find in many recent expressions from the distillery. Chemical. Finish: rather long, lemony, cardboardy and with hints of cologne. Certainly not undrinkable but below par – I like the 6yo much better (which may also prove that Spirngbank’s more recent distillates are cleaner and better again (in my opinion). 68 points.
Springbank 10 yo 1996 (51.5%, Exclusive Malts, cask #589, 374 bottles, 2007) David Stirk has changed his label and abandoned the flashy Scottish flag. Smart move methinks. Colour: amber. Nose: completely different, much more on sherry and caramel. Still something very yeasty in the background (lots of yoghurt), but other than that it’s all on praline, vanilla-flavoured toffee, honey, nougat… Not too complex but nicely balanced and much pleasant, with also a slight meatiness. Mouth: lots of sherry at the attack, oranges, caramel, milk chocolate, roasted nuts… But also something a little ‘dirty’, sour and a little too drying, like old cocoa or old white pepper. That’s the only bad side of this malt but the rest is pretty enjoyable, even interesting. Finish: rather long, orangey, nutty and, again, just a tad drying. A playful young sherried Springbank that I like. 82 points.

May 6, 2007









The Speyside 10yo (40%, OB, circa 2005) Colour: gold. Nose: rather balanced but not bold, with a little bit of this (yellow flowers), a little bit of that (vanilla) and a little bit of grain. Hints of lilac and light honey. That’s pretty all. Mouth: sweet, grainy, caramelly and vanilled. A little weak I must say, not much happening on the palate. Quite close to some blends. Finish: not too short but grainy and caramelly. No flaws as such but this one is probably not for malt drinkers… 70 points.
The Speyside 12yo (40%, OB, circa 2006) Colour: gold. Nose: very similar, with just a little bit more of everything. Which still doesn’t make much but it’s pleasant if harmless. Maybe faint whiffs of mint leaves. Mouth: again, more body than the 10 but the profile is just the same. It’s even closer than on the nose actually. Finish: same comment. Both should be perfect on ice. 71 points.
The Speyside 15yo 1991/2007 (53.7%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon, 190 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: there’s more happening, obviously, and it’s not only the strength. It’s a little less grainy than the OBs and showcases more wood influence, with notes of coffee, toasted bread, ripe strawberries and then butter and vanilla. Quite clean I must say but it still isn’t expressive malt. Mouth: rather thick and oily but very sweet, almost sugarish, starting on notes of orange drops and apple compote. Quite some spices as well (white pepper), pineapple sweets, plums… That’s all. Ah, no, also a little chamomile tea. Finish: longer than the OBs’ but still a little indefinite and sort of neutral. Again, no flaws but no real thrill, although we should say thank you to the Whisky Fair for having brought this variant to the market as there were very few until now (I only knew a Hart Bros and a Scott’s). 74 points.


MUSIC Recommended listening: it's Sunday, we go classical with the fabulous Anna Netrebko again, this time singing the Arioso No1.mp3 from Tchaikovsky's Iolanta. Please buy Anna Netrebko's records and go see her on stage.

Anna Netrebko

May 5, 2007


The Astoria, London, April 27th 2007

We’ve just demolished a delicious plate of crispy fried eel and the table’s being cleared. “Where you go tonight” asks our waiter, “Show, maybe drinking?”. “Concert, Johnny Winter”. “Who?” he replies, faced etched with puzzlement – then he relaxes, “Ah yes, isn’t he some country and western guy?”.

In the Astoria on the stairs there’s a punter on the ‘phone: “No, I told you last time he was fucking shite. He was so shite I said I’d never go and see him again. It was fucking awful. I don’t know. Yes I know I said I’d never go and see him again, but well, you know ….” The omens aren’t good. And upstairs with the old folks in the Pickle Factory (actually it’s old folks downstairs too) there’s a prescient atmosphere, but I can tell that the toothless soothsayers around us (some have brought their sandwiches to sooth on with their warm canned beer) are only foretelling doom. Me – I’m just surprised to be here. I had honestly thought Johnny Winter was dead.

And for the benefit of our charming waiter at the Fung Shing let me remind you that in his day Johnny Winter was the king of hot-shot blues-rock guitarists. Plucked from obscurity by the magazine Rolling Stone ("Imagine a 130-pound cross-eyed albino bluesman with long fleecy hair playing some of the gutsiest blues guitar you have ever heard.") his striking features and equally striking guitar style were a constant features of the early seventies music scene. Plagued by ill-health since childhood, Winter’s response was to plunge himself into drug and alcohol addiction from which he returned in the late seventies to produce Muddy Waters’ final three albums, including the outstanding Hard Again. Johnny
Since then he’s turned himself increasingly to the blues, and although his fame has somewhat diminished, he has continued to tour and record – 21 albums in all, several of which, including the 2004 offering, I’m a Bluesman, have been Grammy nominated.
Johnny Winter
Opening is Scott Mckeon and his band, playing Hendrix-tinged pedal-fuelled (to be accurate a Blues Power Fuzz, an 808 Tubescreamer, a Roger Mayer Octavia, a Voodoo Vibe Jr, a Line 6 DL4 and not forgetting a Fulltone Clyde Wah) blues – he was also warm up man for Joe Bonamassa. But despite the polite reception he gets the audience is only here to see one man. It’s a Friday night – the Pickle Factory goes GAYE at 11.00 pm so we don’t have to wait long for Winter’s band to take the stage. Guitarist Paul Nelson, drummer and occasional vocalist Wayne June and bassist Scott Spray run through a noisy rhythm and blues piece before Winter is helped up onto the stage. He’s accompanied to his chair, walking with a deep stoop like a seriously old man – he’s cadaverous – his arms skin and bone. Once in his chair he crouches painfully over his lightweight Erlewine Lazer and it’s clear that while the mind seems willing the body ain’t.
Johnny Winter
His playing is very stiff and slow – and strangely guitarist Nelson has left the stage. I always imagined in situations like this it’s the guitarist’s job to cover for his boss – but he only returns for the final number, leaving Winter’s frailties cruelly exposed. There are odd flashes of real class – notably in the first solo on ‘Blackjack Blues’ (attributed by some to Bob Dylan but thought to be a Ray Charles original) for the most part his playing is a shadow of the past. That’s not to say it doesn’t get better as the night goes on but it’s always careful and restrained. He’s also lost his voice – ‘though he does sing on a number of songs and occasionally rises to the moment – such as encore ‘Highway 61’. It’s a desultory affair – almost painful to watch at times - with the crowd I think just relieved that he makes it through each song. In the end he plays for about 75 minutes (an unduly long portion of which is taken up by a very indifferent ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ during which Wayne June narrates the story of Johnny and Muddy, as if we didn’t know), finishing on slide and his famous Gibson Firebird. Then his assistant and band carefully help him to the back of the stage and down the steep stairs to his dressing room.
You can’t help wondering why artistes put themselves through this sort of thing – can it really just be for the money? Or is there something about the adrenalin rush of being on stage that they simply can’t give up? Either way my advice to Mr Winter would be to rest on your laurels, embrace your great past, and stay at home. By the way, in case you’re wondering, Johnny does have a brother called Edgar, who he still teams up with occasionally, and who unlike his brother is in pretty good shape. We saw him a couple of years ago – as a result he’s a Whiskyfun Music Award Winner – and if he turns up in your town I’d happily suggest you go along for some fun. It’s a shame I can’t say the same about his brother. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

Edgar Johnny Winter
Edgar (left) and Johnny Winter, 1976

Many thanks, Nick. So the Texan guitar slinger isn’t who he used to be anymore… This is sad news indeed but I guess we can always try to keep our spirits up with one of his earlier live renditions of Red house.mp3... - S.







Tamdhu 34yo 1969/2004 (40.2%, Duncan Taylor, cask #7314) Colour: straw. Nose: as fresh and fruity as a 34 years old malt can be, which already happened several times with old Tamdhus. Starts on lots of gooseberries, apples (golden delicious), mangos, oranges, bananas and pears, getting then unusually smoky (wood smoke) and quite gingery, with also notes of cinchona. Really starts to smell like ginger tonic after a moment, or orange soda for that matter. Then we have hints of mint and lemon balm, freshly sawn oak, hints of horseradish… It’s rather complex and quite entertaining, with an amazing freshness. Keeps developing for a long time, switching to chamomile and mint tea after a moment – and loads of fresh peppermint. Mouth: excellent attack, full bodied, vibrant, very fruity and delicately spicy. Litres of orange juice and banana juice plus nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves from the wood, with a little saltiness, a little liquorice, strongly sugared mint flavoured tea like they make in north Africa, white pepper… Sure there’s tannins but they are of the silky kind. A little less complex on the palate than on the nose, as often with these old casks. Finish: very long (at 40.2%!), even saltier than before, liquoricy, slightly resinous now. Excellent old Tamdhu, not tired in any way. 90 points.
Tamdhu-Glenlivet 29yo (43%, Moon 'The Cars', 176 bottles, early 1990’s) No vintage on this series. Colour: straw. Nose: roughly the same profile here but the whole is more discrete, less wham-bam than the Duncan Taylor. We have a little smoke again, orange and apple juice, fresh oak, fresh ginger… Gets a little grassier than the 1969 after a while, with also quite some apple skin and almond milk. A shy variation – but an elegant one, with more and more vanilla, that is. Mouth: more body now but also more wood. Starts ‘nicely’ cardboardy, with also notes of wheat flour, tea, liquorice roots… Then a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg as well as white pepper, with the tannins starting to bite your tongue a bit. Very dry. Finish: even longer than the Duncan Taylor’s but drier and more tannic – just below the limits I’d say. A little salt again. Another good one but you have to like oak. 85 points.
Tamdhu 11yo 1994/2006 (61%, Signatory, cask #1995) Colour: amber (it’s a sherry cask). Nose: quite spirity and rather sherried as expected, starting quite meaty (barbecue, ham) and rubbery. Quite dry actually, smoky, fresh ground coffee, burnt wood… Lots of vanilla and caramel as well, but let’s try it with water now: there’s a little sulphur now but it’s temporary. Gets a little farmier (wet hay) but also even meatier. Proteins, anyone? Mouth (neat): powerful of course, dry, as coffeeish and caramelly (bitter caramel) as on the nose, quite rubbery again, with quite some coca powder, but it’s getting hot. At 61%, no wonder, so let’s try it with water again: it got sweeter now, with notes of strawberry jam (from the sherry) and a little orange marmalade. Quite some fudge as well, vanilla flavoured toffee… All that is still slightly rough but already balanced. Finish: long, very toffeeish now, salty and liquoricy like many young sherried whiskies. A good youngster that sort of reminds me the excellent old 10yo OB’s except that this one’s a little rougher – and it’s not only the alcohol. 85 points.

May 4, 2007

Clynelish 13yo 1990/2004 (46%, Signatory UCF, cask #12737) Colour: straw. Nose: fresh, fruity an playful at first sniffs, with a typical waxiness (something like orange-scented candles here) as well as newly cut apples and a little pear juice. We have quite some wood smoke after that, lemon… gets frankly maritime after a moment, with whiffs of very fresh oysters. Otherwise it’s quite ashy and stony. Very clean and very pure. Mouth: very sweet and very fruity, a little more indefinite this time. Closer to fruit spirit (plum eau-de-vie) and grain, with just a little vanilla and hints of spices from the wood, as well as a little ginger. Not bad at all but maybe a tad too ‘neutral’. Finish: rather long, still very fruity (pears). Good whisky but the markers are a little absent on the palate whilst the nose was crystal clean. 82 points (up, I had it at 78 points before).
Clynelish Clynelish 13yo 1990/2004 (46%, Murray McDavid, refill sherry, MM0402) Colour: straw. Nose: a little hotter, a little more spirity, but otherwise quite similar, with maybe even more smoke (matchsticks) but the sherry isn’t too clean after that and gives the whole a little too much vinosity. Quite some cooked strawberries and hints of kirsch. Still quite nice but maybe it lacks the Signatory’s cleanliness. Also a little yeastier. Mouth: now there’s more happening than in the Signatory. It’s hugely kirschy, really resembling fruit spirit now, with little wood influence but quite some strawberry liqueur along the kirsch, triple-sec or other kinds of orange liqueurs… Very faint notes of rubber. Finish: a tad longer than the Signatory’s, also spicier and even a little tannic, pleasantly so… But we’re in the same category regarding my global feelings: 82 points.
Clynelish 17yo 1990/2007 (46%, Alambic Classique, cask #51135) Colour: dark gold. Nose: smokier, peatier, with more body and less fruitiness at first nosing. Also more buttery, vanilled, waxy (here we go) and apricoty, with a very pleasant oakiness in the background and a little honey (and hints of heather). That’s right, this could as well be Highland Park. Rather classy nose. Mouth: it’s the sherry that strikes first – a dry one – with notes of prunes and wine sauce. Gets then more on chocolate, vanilla toffee, white pepper, getting rather drying after a moment. Quite some tannins that sort of confine the middle nd even the finish, which isn’t too long but slightly cardboardy, with quite some bitter chocolate again. This one kept dwindling from the great first sniffs till the end of the finish… Bizarre! 79 points. Clynelish
Clynelish 16yo 1990/2006 (56%, Whisky Galore Gold for Aalborg Whisky Club, 614 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: this is different again, and it’s not only thanks to the higher ABV. Starts mainly on waxed paper but then we have a lot of olive oil, praline, bitter chocolate and humus. A rather beautiful dryness altogether, the whole being much more organic than all three we had before. It’s also a bit rougher and less ‘urban’ (eh?), with its hints of (nice) manure and even horse dung. Mouth: an oily mouth feel and punchy but not too powerful attack, fruity, phenolic and slightly vinous (pleasantly so). The spices are quick to strike with quite some ginger, a little nutmeg, cloves… hen we have that olive oil again, oranges, honey, something slightly resinous… Quite some tannins again but they’re much more bearable than in the ‘Alambic’. Very ripe strawberries. Finish: long, maybe a little ‘dirty’ (in the sense that it’s not really clean (good one Serge) and linear but rather fruity, oily, sugary (icing sugar) and phenolic at the same time, with hints of rubber again. But a very good Clynelish from –and for - the countryside. 86 points. (thanks, Al)
Clynelish 15yo 1990 (58%, Blackadder Raw Cask, cask #3954) Colour: straw. Nose: this is even rougher but there’s no sherry at all (although it does come from a sherry butt!) and very little cask influence I must say. Just plain fruit juice, a rather pleasant cocktail of apples, strawberries, tangerines and bananas. Gets then a little more organic, farmy (faint peatiness), waxy indeed, with also notes of linseed oil. Something funnily meaty after that (sausages?) and finally a little fresh oak, caramel and vanilla. Mouth: we’re closer to the ‘Aarlborg’ now, going into many directions, fruit, eau-de-vies, chocolate, pepper, tannins… But it’s even rougher and maybe over the top for that matter. Finish: rather long, very fruity but kind of indefinite (it’s fruity but it’s hard to pick with which fruit). Truly from the countryside! 80 points.
Clynelish Clynelish 1990/2004 (58%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #MM1238, 168 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: even cleaner but also less talkative, more on wet stones, that wax, cider apples, pilsner beer, ashes, lit matchsticks… Then we have apple skin, fresh walnuts, oak, grains, maybe a little porridge… Hints of ginger as well, vanilla. Maybe a little shy but… wait, now it gets much more orangey, more gingery, with a little cinchona… Campari-orange, anyone? Mouth: excellent ueber-fruity attack, completely different from what the nose suggested. Litres of orange liqueur, apple liqueur (Spanish manzana verda), all that with that waxiness again, a little ginger tonic, then lots of black pepper, even horseradish, gentian spirit… Very assertive, a Clynelish for big boys. Finish: certainly the longest, orangey and peppery, with also a little kiwi… In short, a big and excellent Clynelish. 87 points.
To be honest, I used to fear this one would be a fake. Sure I saw the label in Ainslie’s label book in Scotland, so there used to be such an official bottling, but how come could all full bottles I ever saw be in Italy? This bottling was done in the very late 60’s for a famous hotel in Brora, so imagining that a bunch of Italian tourists would have snaffled all those in Sutherland forty years ago sounded very unlikely. What’s more, the label in Ainslie’s book and the ones on these ‘Italian’ bottles aren’t quite the same (see pictures). Yet, the fact that some crazy (and trustworthy) exhibitors had an opened bottle at the Whisky Fair Limburg and were serving drams of it was great news, although one could have poured just anything into that opened bottle beforehand. So, of course I took a sample, let’s try it now…
Clynelish Clynelish
Left, the 'Italian' version that was poured at the Whisky Fair Limburg. Above, only label in Ainslie's label's book (Diageo Archives). Can you spot the differences? (colours are irrelevent here, just a matter of different cameras).
Clynelish 14yo ‘Royal marine Hotel’ (92°proof, OB, late 1960’s) Colour: full gold. Nose: yesssss, it must be Old Clynelish. Peaty like a Laphroaig from the 60’s, starting on old walnuts, metal polish and leather as well as cigar box, it gets then more resinous and mineral at the same time. Notes of gunflints, fir honeydew, unlit Havana cigar, fern… Extremely complex. Then it’s all on orange marmalade, then even more on unlit cigars (amazing), then fully on parsley and lovage, then it’s rather coffee beans, Smyrna raisins and caramel, then, then, then… (censored by the anti-maltoporn brigade)… Mouth: excellent attack, vibrant, nutty, bitter and peaty like no other distillery. A lot of bitter orange peel, smoked tea, bitter caramel, toasted bread… Granted, it’s probably not as magnificent as on the nose and less multidimensional but it’s still very excellent. And still quite malty and almost hot after all these years. OBE is more obvious on the palate than on the nose, that is. Gets cleaner after a little breathing, more definite, more resinous as well. Mastic? Argan oil? Interesting notes of gin-orange, chlorophyll chewing-gum… Dry martini? Okay, this isn’t James Bond so let’s switch to the finish, which is amazingly long for an old bottle, resinous, a little bitter like some German herb liqueurs (no names) and finally curiously meaty (grilled beef). Wow, this one was entertaining, to say the least. The palate was one class below the nose but the whole is truly beautiful whisky. Had a forger made this one up, he’d have been the stupidest forger in the world. 93 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: Duke Ellington & His Orchestra play a gem composed by the duke's son, Mercer, in 1941. It's called, er... Blue Serge.mp3. Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas. Duke

May 3, 2007

Balblair 1997 Balblair 1997 (43%, OB, 2007) Here’s Balblair’s brand new bulky bottle. Traditionalists don’t like it but I do – proof that I’m no old dusty blasé sipper. Yeah! Colour: plain gold. Nose: rather light, fresh, clean, slightly malty and mashy with hints of fresh pears, apples and pineapples and just a little mint. Simple and pleasant – one of the first vodskies? (or whiskas, err…) Mouth: a sweet, rounded and spicy attack, with quite some oak, vanilla, ginger and sultanas. Nice mouth feel, a little oily. Gets then quite peppery and even more gingery. Goes on on apricots and a little aniseed. Finish: medium long, sweet and fruity, with touches of vanilla. Typical crafted American oak maturing. It won’t make you scratch your head but it’s very drinkable and totally flawless. 80 points.
Balblair 16yo 1990/2006 (58.5%, Cadenhead, 174 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: much less sweet and much oakier at first sniffs, with notes of beer (lager), cinnamon and lavender. Rather uninteresting so far, but maybe water will make it more appealing… Right, there’s a little more apple skin and fresh walnuts but that’s all. Mouth (neat): punchy, sweet, oaky and gingery but that’s all, folks. With water: same, just rounder and maybe a tad more vanilled. Finish: not too long, spirity and vanilled. No flaws (except extreme simplicity) but devoid of interest. Typical 75 points malt in my books.
 Balblair 10
Balblair 1964/1999 (40%, Gordon& MacPhail, screw cap) Colour: amber. Nose: more oomph than expected, starting on caramel and lots of orange marmalade, with also whiffs of smoke. Gets then a little yeasty, beer-ish, grainy… Almost sharp at 40% and at 35yo, which is surprising of course. Lacks maybe a little more definition. Caramelized peanuts, Grand-Marnier, hints of soy sauce and lovage, parsley. Gets better with time but also more sherried and vinous, even minty like often with these old malts. Mouth: a rather punchy attack, coffeeish and raisiny but alas, it sort of falls down after that and the middle is rather weak, leaving only the ‘sheriness’ on your palate. Quite some caramel but that’s pretty all. Finish: short, with only caramel and a little liquorice. Too bad, I’m sure this one was excellent before it got reduced. Now, it will please all our friends who think that whisly is usually too strong. 78 points.
Balblair 27yo 1974/2001 ‘Highland Selection’ (46%, OB, cask #2254, 241 bottles) There’s been another version of the 27yo with 550 bottles and no cask #. Colour: full amber with red hues. Nose: a rather superb start on an elegant sherry and ‘improved’ coffee (that means with a little schnapps in it). Not too far from an old rum, with lots of raisins (Smyrna rather than sultanas), bananas flambéed, coconut milk… We have the same notes of soy sauce as in the 1964, also balsamico. Hints of smoke… Really beautiful. Mouth: yes, it’s beautiful sherry, although maybe not as complex as on the nose. Thick, creamy mouth feel, with the same caramel and liquorice as in the 1964 but lots of other ‘stuff’, mostly the usual marmalade, raisins, rum, very ripe bananas, chocolate and coffee. State of the art sherry indeed. Finish: long, fruity (fruitcake) and caramelly, with also notes of Turkish delights. A very, very good sherry monster. 90 points.
Balblair 1975 (46.2%, Jack Wieber’s Prenzlow Collection) Colour: gold. Nose: certainly closer to the distillery’s character, with a ‘fresher’ fruitiness and all kinds of fresh herbs. Parsley, chives, a little mint… Then it’s the bananas, freshly sawn oak, nutmeg, tea… Quite some wood but the whole is balanced. Notes of vanilla fudge, custard, then mint, liquorice and aniseed… Mouth: great fruity attack (butter pears) but the wood is a little dominant now. Quite some tannins, a little sourness, apple skin, walnut skin… Gingery, peppery (white pepper), also quite some cardamom. Finish: medium long, now frankly drying but still quite fruity (bananas). Nutshell: it’s not going downhill but it’s really on the verge of getting overly oaky on the palate, but the nose was almost perfect. 83 points.
Balblair 10yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, late 1970’s) This is the ‘pure highland malt’ version. Colour: pale amber. Nose: where straight on coffee, mint and meat here, the style being closer to a traditional highlander. The sherry starts to shine through after a moment, the whole getting nicely vinous (clean wine barrel – when you put your nose over the bung). Also espresso coffee, barbecue, bread crust, hints of cardamom… Great nose. Mouth: nicely hot and very coffeeish, probably wilder than on the nose. Lots of salted liquorice, rum, hints of bubble gum, strawberry sweets, maybe even Jell-O… Really playful. Goes on with ripe pineapple, hints of lemon balm, lemon sweets… Excellent at just 10yo, this old Balblair! Or maybe it was older, actually (it does taste older than 10yo I must say). A good old classy G&M. 90 points.
MUSIC Recommended listening (excellent experimental electronica): Dorine Muraille aka Julien Locquet plays Bbraallen.mp3 (it's on his almum 'Mani'). Atmospheric, in a certain way. Please buy his music if you can find it. Dorine Muraille

May 2, 2007

MALT MANIACS NEWSFLASH by Johannes van den Heuvel


Hip, hip, hurray... Malt Maniacs #103 is now on-line, together with the first few issues of our 'revisionist' archive, covering the years 1997, 1998 and 1999. We kick things off with two brand new glassware tests by Lawrence and Craig. For a long time the Big Glassware Test from Klaus Everding was the only proper article on the topic in Malt Maniacs.

That article was published quite a few years ago and only covered a relatively limited number of glasses. Lawrence and Craig cover 18 and 16 different glasses, respectively. Furthermore, MM#103 is enriched further by an episode of 'Olivier's Travels', a book review by Davin, an article by Konstantin about the prohibition in the USA and an interview with Andy Watts from the James Sedgewick Distillery in South Africa. Malt Maniacs #103 is a nice and 'thick' issue too; just one webpage, but on an average computer you'll have to push 'Page Down' more than 30 times to get to the end. Around 30 pages may not seem like a lot compared to your average 'paper' magazine of 60 - 80 pages, but then again about half of those pages are advertising - and then you'd often STILL have to pay for the pleasure of reading it... Malt Maniacs is still free as a bird!
Highland Park 1968 Highland Park 26yo 1968 (43%, Hart Bros) Interesting early label for Hart Bros. Colour: amber. Nose: an extremely typical old Highland Park, roughly similar to the old OB’s. We have quite some smoke, toasted brioche, honey, resin, caramelised nuts, sultanas, apricot pie… All that is just a little toned down when compared with the old officials (that are rather on ‘11’ like The Spinal Tap’s amps, whilst this one is on ‘10’). Gets then meatier and even more resinous, organic, with lots of tobacco and a little shoe polish. The only slightly disturbing note is a little ginger tonic, but the whole is truly beautiful.
Mouth: maybe at tad weakish at very first sip but it gets more opulent after that – okay, not really opulent, let’s say the ‘second part of the attack’ is quite full, on tobacco again, grilled meat, roasted nuts and honey, getting then more vinous, tannic and drying. It’s no sherry monster at all, that is. Alas, the middle is a little more so-so, coffeeish and toasted but a little weak, whilst it takes off again at the finish, getting quite nicely bitter, roasted, but a little drying again. Stunning nose, good palate, it’s a well-known song when dealing with old whiskies. 89 points.
Highland Park 39yo 1968/2007 (41.8%, Duncan Taylor For The Nectar, Belgium, cask #3460, 183 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: ho-ho, but this is just as beautiful – maybe even more beautiful – yet completely different. It starts much more resinous, waxy and orangey (marmalade), with whiffs of fresh putty, cough syrup and even a little tar and rubber (bicycle inner tube). Then it starts to smell just like an orange cake that you just sliced, then it’s back to Vicks Vaporub, then tobacco, then fresh tropical fruits (bananas, passion, mangos), then old pu-erh tea, then old roses and Muscat wine... All that isn’t violent, rather subtle but very assertive with, good news, no excessive woodiness whatsoever. Extraordinary nose, but like with all these old casks, the true truth will lie on the palate… Let’s see… Mouth: just like the Hart’s, the attack is a little shy but certainly cleaner and fruitier… And just like the Hart, it does get livelier after a few seconds, although never bold. Subtly fruity (plantain, very ripe apples and pears), delicately spicy (nutmeg and cinnamon, white pepper), vanilled… It’s all slightly fragile but certainly not ‘broken’. There’s a little pipe tobacco in the background, notes of quince jelly, earl grey tea… The finish isn’t too long, as expected, but very elegant, still fresh, with a delicate oaky signature. In a nutshell, an old Highland Park that’s maybe a little diaphanous on the palate but that has got one of the most stunning noses I’ve encountered in the recent months. In other words, a HP by Chanel. 92 points.

MUSICRecommended listening: Karen Mantler is the daughter of the great Carla Bley and trumpetist Mike Mantler. Today she's singing a much beautiful How to.mp3 with David Garland (whom we already heard not so long ago). Please buy Karen Mantler's music - and David Garland's too while you're at it.

Karen Mantler

May 1, 2007


Radio City Music Hall, New York, April 21st 2007
Move over King Kong – stand aside Empire State Building, for I have seen the eighth wonder of the world and it’s a few blocks away on Sixth, the Radio City Music Hall. And for all the times I’ve walked past its neon-drenched exterior I’ve never been in, and never anticipated just what a breathtakingly glorious monument to modern music it is.
This art deco masterpiece was opened in 1932, part of the Rockefeller Centre development, which I read (in a book!) “in its architecture stands as distinctly for New York as the Louvre stands for Paris”. But it’s the striking deco interior that would really blow you away. Designed by Donald Deskey (who was also responsible for, among other things, the Tide detergent logo and the original Crest toothpaste tube) it features a cavernous atrium and an auditorium that’s dominated by a spectacular proscenium arch. Oh yes – it’s also full of security guards and ‘no photography’ signs, so no pictures from us I’m afraid. But the best part is what we refer to back in London as ‘the bogs’. With very few exceptions London’s live music experience is accompanied by malodorous urinals with piss and beer-swimming floors. Not here – as Harry Connick Jr. rightly said, “This is New York. This is the Radio City Music Hall. This is high class”. We’ve got a Gentleman’s Lounge – a spotless period decorated 48 stall (plus cubicles – I didn’t get time to count) temple to the lost male art of passing water. The eighth wonder of the world indeed!
Young Harry Connick Jr. is on the road with his band promoting two new albums, Chanson du Vieux Carre, and Oh, My Nola, “an unprecedented musical cornucopia of songs inspired by and associated with the Crescent City” says Harry’s website. Harry is a native of New Orleans and has been in the fore of those musicians supporting efforts to rebuild the city and its musical heritage post Hurricane Katrina, so ‘proceeds’ from the CD sales will go to the New Orleans Habitat Musicians' Village with which Connick is heavily involved, along with his label-owner Branford Marsalis, brother of Wynton (who Harry tells us, is teaching his eleven year old daughter how to play the trumpet), and son of pianist Ellis, who along with pianist James Booker mentored the young Connick in music. Hary Connick
It’s all bit New Orleans incestuous. In case you didn’t know Connick is, not to understate matters, a hugely talented polymath of performing arts – he composes, he plays, he sings and he also acts. With such a sickening array of accomplishments it’s nice to note that he also exudes an easy and open personality, befitting of his birthplace.
He’s on stage with his big band – Connick on piano, with drummer, string-bass, three trumpets, three saxophones and three trombones – playing tunes mainly from the Nola album. It’s mostly a collection of standards like ‘Working in a coalmine’, ‘Bill Bailey’ Jambalaya’, ‘Hello Dolly’. ‘It had to be you’, ‘Down on Bourbon Street’, ‘If you go the New Orleans’, ‘Basin Street Blues’ along with songs such as Allen Toussaint’s ‘We can make it’. Many are set in artful but over-complex arrangements that frankly mystify many of the audience around us who seem to have a relatively short attention span – but they allow Connick to showcase his keyboard skills. Connick moves from his Steinway to an old upright (for a Mrs Mills style “Sunnyside of the Street’) and also a Hammond B3 – his singing is good, but it’s when he leaves the keyboards that he really turns on the vocal style.
The whole evening is a bit like a TV special (maybe to accommodate the short attention span folks) - there’s a great backdrop of New Orleans style cast-iron balconies and a couple of lit old-style lampposts. Two star guests – trumpeter Leroy Jones and trombonist Lucien Barbarin, with whom Harry fools around and also performs what I have subsequently learnt is called a “three fanny booty shake”. Drummer Arthur Latin performs a tour-de force solo with the sticks on the Steinway lid (ouch), lampposts and almost anything else he can hit. What else – oh yeah – Harry’s third trombonist proposes to his intended on stage, Harry introduces us to his wife and kids (whom he loves very dearly, I’m glad to say), and the little girls appear to dance on stage at the end of the show. Very TV special indeed.       Harry
But for all the schmaltz Harry Connick Jr. is simply charming. He adopts the persona of the naive southern boy in the dizzy-dazzling Big Apple (a bit odd as he’s just been on Broadway for several months in the Pyjama Game) and uses that as a platform to mercilessly rib metropolitan mores. This includes a very funny story about trying to buy a ‘beat-up piano’ from the City’s Steinway dealers. He is suitably self-depreciating (particularly about his shiny black shoes, which must be the shiniest I have ever seen) and also clearly having fun, as are the audience who lap it up.
Burger For his encore he tap dances on the Steinway (sans shoes) and shouts to his daughters “don’t do this at home girls, this is a rental piano, the one at home I paid for”. He leaves the stage to a standing ovation, and we leave for a burger (me via yet another pilgrimage to the Gentleman’s Lounge for a quick pass). A very satisfactory Saturday night show in the Big A – and even if you never go and see Mr Connick Jr. you should certainly buy his Nola album, as it’s supporting a very good cause. - Nick Morgan
Thanks a bunch, Nick. A little entertainment can’t do no harm and these artistes who spread jazz into a wider audience, like Diana Krall, even Norah Jones and yes, Harry Connick Jr.– but not Kenny G (will you stop bashing Kenny G one day, Serge?) – sure deserve thunderous applause. Now, purists may rather agree with Ahmad Jamal who, in his DVD ‘Live in Baalbeck 2003’ (which I watched right yesterday), says that ‘our music is designed to stimulate the thought process, we’re not entertainers, we’re artistes… In order to be an entertainer, you have to go to a circus. You have to have some background to absorb our music…’ Well, I’m no purist then. But enough two-cent musicology, let’s listen to Mr. Connick Jr. now, doing Jerome Kern's popular standard The way you look tonight.mp3. - S.
Glenrothes 1979 Glenrothes 1979/2004 (43%, OB) Approved in the sample room on 13.02.02. Lol. Colour: full gold – amber. Nose: superbly smooth and complex at first sniffs, very honeyed and extremely floral (roses). Starts developing on cooked apples with cinnamon and musk, then baklavas (orange blossom), speculoos, candy sugar… Then we have old sweet white wine (it’s slightly muscaty) and hints of celery as well as a little leather and tobacco. Very complex indeed but getting maybe a little evanescent… Just a whisper after a moment, but a great one.
Mouth: good attack, not weak nor even smoothish but simpler. Quite some toasted brioche, caramelized nuts, malt, chocolate and fruit jam (strawberry), honey… Gets a little dry after a moment but still quite elegant. Finish: not too long but nicely candied, fading away on light honey and vanilla-flavoured sponge cake. Great nose, good palate… Delicacy indeed. For an early digestif? 89 points (a little more oomph would have put it at 90 – easily).
Glenrothes 27yo 1979/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, red wine finished, 363 bottles) Red wine finished! Lol again. Colour: brownish with yellow hues. Nose: er, this is quite nice actually. It smells nicer than it sounds. Much less complex than the OB but bolder and more compact and, to tell you the truth, close to first fill sherry with quite some chocolate, coffee, rum and raisins. Quite some soy sauce and balsamic vinegar as well, liquorice, barbecue smoke. There isn’t much left of Glenrothes’ usual silkiness and daintiness but the general profile is pleasant. More and more ‘smoked liquorice’. Mouth: and you tell me this isn’t first fill sherry? Or do they make reds near Jerez? Indeed, this is a sherried as it can get – and a dry sherry at that. Huge chocolaty and coffeeish notes, raisins, armagnac-soaked prunes, old dark rum, liquorice, blackberry jam… Lacks a little fruitiness, that is, and all that is a bit heavy and maybe too concentrated. Especially the finish is a little thick, tannic and drying… But it’s certainly good sherry, even if Glenrothes as such is rather absent. But red wine? 87 points. By the way, I tried to mix both 50/50 and it worked quite nicely. Dare I say it was better than each of the components?
April 2007 - part 2 <--- May 2007 - part 1 ---> May 2007 - part 2

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



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

Balblair 10yo (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, late 1970’s)

Balblair 27yo 1974/2001 ‘Highland Selection’ (46%, OB, cask #2254, 241 bottles)

Bowmore 15yo 1991/2006 (56.5%, Dewar Rattray Cask Collection)

Bowmore 16yo 1990/2007 (58.4%, Whisky-Doris)

Clynelish 14yo ‘Royal marine Hotel’ (92°proof, OB, late 1960’s)

Highland Park 39yo 1968/2007 (41.8%, Duncan Taylor For The Nectar, Belgium, cask #3460, 183 bottles)

Tamdhu 34yo 1969/2004 (40.2%, Duncan Taylor, cask #7314)