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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2008 - Part 1
April 2008 - part 2 <--- May 2008 - part 1 ---> May 2008 - part 2

May 14, 2008



Mick Taylor
Mick Taylor, Mitch Mitchell
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, May 5th 2008

This should have been a great evening. It’s a holiday, the first one of the year, and the weather has been fantastic. And who wouldn’t want to come out to see that great blues guitarist Mick Taylor play with a group of musicians including Terry Reid on guitar and vocals, the excellent harmonica player Sugar Blue (James Whiting), keyboard player Max Middleton, and drummers Collin Allan (Stone the Crows, Zoot Money, John Mayall etc.) and former Hendrix mainstay Mitch Mitchell? Starting with ‘Fed up with the blues’ and ‘Losing my faith’ from his second solo album things seemed promising enough. But as the gig continued Taylor became increasingly disaffected, and to be frank, apparently disinterested. From my ringside vantage point it appeared that the source of the irritation was Mitch Mitchell, who clearly doesn’t get out much, and whose drumming was, to use a non-technical term, “all over the place”. Having mouthed to Reid, “Get him off the fucking stage” (or so it seemed to me),

Taylor then left himself for an extended cigarette break, leaving his chum Terry to hold the stage. He did this with the verve of an ageing music hall trooper, singing with great gusto, but was clearly as perplexed with events as everyone else on the stage, except Mitchell, who kept on coming forward to take the microphone and tell us how happy he was to be there. Taylor eventually returned in a cloud of smoke and the band stumbled on for a few more numbers (with Mitch bashing away in happy oblivion to the friction he was causing), of which Bob Dylan’s ‘Blind Willie McTell’ hinted at what a great evening it could have been. We were then treated to an appalling encore (Ray Charles’ ‘What I’d say’), half way through which, after playing a simply awful solo, Taylor laid his guitar down on the stage (I had thought he was about to plant it on Mitchell’s head) and left.

I really don’t like writing a bad review, particularly of an artist I admire, but you have to tell it like it is. There’s just no excuse for this sort of thing. It’s unprofessional in the extreme, and quite honestly anyone who was there has got a right to feel that they were severely short-changed on the price of a ticket. - Nick Morgan (photograph by Kate)





Imperial 11 yo 1996/2008 'Lime Pair' (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 303 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: a very fresh and clean whisky, blending notes of clean grain and mashed potatoes with rather delicate notes of lemon pie and fresh butter. Simple put most pleasurable, a perfect summer malt as far as the nose is concerned. Mouth: sweet, clean and fruity, more on pears this time (butter pears) with just a slight zestiness. Pleasant oakiness coming through after a while, that spices up the whole. Finish: medium long, clean and fruity, with a little pepper. Comments: this one reminds me of some young Bladnochs or Rosebanks. For summertime indeed. SGP:631 – 85 points.
Imperial 17 yo 1990/2008 (53.1%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #359) Colour: pale gold. Nose: This is much oakier, almost plankish at first nosing. Develops more nicely, on interesting – albeit most unusual – notes of green olives, warm butter and vanilla. With water: the wood comes out even more, as well as something like lemongrass. Unusual indeed. Mouth (Neat): much, much nicer than at first nosing when neat. Rounded, slightly candied and orangey, with the oak giving the whole a good structure here. Gets very spicy (wood). With water: it’s at this stage that it got really better. Orange marmalade and quince jelly, baklavas, candy sugar... Very enjoyable now. Finish: long, sweet, candied, sligthly gingery. Comments: a very good Imperial once you went through the oak (using water). SGP:551 – 83 points.
Imperial 17 yo 1990/2007 (53.9%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #353) Colour: white wine. Nose: more austere and restrained, much less oaky than cask #359. Grains, ash and yellow wild flowers. The oak comes out after that. With water: not much changes, maybe a little more porridge. Mouth (neat): extremely close to cask #359, which is normal. Maybe a tad more lemony. With water: uber-clean now, very fruity (tinned pineapples). Good balance. Finish: long, clean and fruity, with notes of pear juice and peeling. Okay, whole pears. Comments: I like this one a little better than cask #359, for it’s cleaner and fruitier. Another perfect summer malt, but not for very hot days. SGP:642 – 84 points.
Imperial 25 yo 1982/2008 (53.4%, Signatory, cask #3715, refill sherry butt, 198 bottles) Colour: dark gold – pale amber. Nose: quite some sherry mingling with an elegant oakiness and again notes of warm butter. Hints of ham and sulphur. With water: again, it’s the wood that mostly comes out with water. Then caramel crème, vanilla custard and Seville oranges. Very nice. Mouth (neat): very sweet and very fruity, starting all on orange drops and grenadine as well as bubblegum and marshmallows. Again, good oakiness behind this exuberant sweetness. With water: something ‘lavenderish’ comes out now. Violet sweets. A little bizarre... Finish: medium long, on orange marmalade and lavender sweets. Comments: unusual change of profile with water. I like the nose better than the palate. SGP:441 – 80 points.

May 13, 2008




Brixton Academy, London
April 30th 2008
It’s the 30th April 2008, and thirty years ago to the day some of us now gathered here in a thinly-attended Brixton Academy marched through the streets of London with around 80,000 others to Victoria Park in Hackney to inaugurate the Rock Against Racism movement.
The famous Victoria Park gig (a Clash classic) was celebrated at the weekend by tens of thousands of people braving the rain to attend a Love Music Hate Racism Carnival, funded by (amongst other people) Morrissey, who generously stepped in at the last minute when a major sponsor pulled out. Good old Mozzer. You may recall RAR was inspired by a letter written to the New Musical Express and other papers complaining of Eric Clapton’s racist remarks made at a concert in Birmingham in 1976, ending with the famous postscript, “Who shot the Sheriff Eric? It sure as hell wasn’t you”. A second march was held in Manchester, with a concert headlined by the Buzzcocks and Graham Parker (sadly our coach dropped us off next to a too-tempting Boddington’s pub next to the now sadly defunct Strangeways Brewery, so we missed the walking but managed to get a cab to the gig). And the rest, as they say, is history. But tomorrow sees a nationwide election for local government in England and Wales, and a vote for the Mayor of London, so this celebration of the past is fused with thoughts for the future.
Tony Benn
Tony Benn
The political bit saw a variety of speakers brought to the microphone by MC Tom Robinson to preach, largely if not exclusively to the already converted (and highly committed) about the dangers of the extreme right. We heard various trades union leaders, and Red Saunders, the man who wrote that now famous letter. But pick of the pack was veteran campaigner, former Labour MP and Cabinet Minister, Tony Benn. He’s getting on a bit, and it’s perhaps not surprising that most of his remarks were framed in the context of his grandchildren and his hopes for their future and the world they would live in. But his eyesight must be failing him. Why else would he have ended his speech “I have faith in you, the younger generation, to make this world a better place to live in” when the average age of the audience was 47? The speeches came as the stage was being reset for each band (“I’m only on between two turns” said Benn) – as some of them went on for slightly longer than planned, the musical element of the evening was somewhat compressed.
It began with Thirst, a Brixton band championed by Robinson on his new music radio show, and signed by Ronnie Wood to his Wooden Records. It’s frenetic guitar-driven stuff, a bit noisy and badly mixed, but with bags of energy (as they used to say back in 1976). And they do sound interesting on disc, or rather digital. They were followed by the Levellers, who if you don’t know are a rather dated and crusty folk-roots punk rock band with a drizzle of political attitude – a bit like the Saw Doctors with a dash of Das Kapital, or an agit-prop Status Quo. And they’ve got the mad bloke with the kilt and didgeridoo. The name of course refers to the Levellers of the English Civil War, largely “the better class of person” who were campaigning for greater property and political rights for the middle-classes, but whose ‘radicalism’ was kidnapped during the twentieth century by a procession of left-wing historians, most notably Christopher Hill. But hang on, you knew all of that stuff, didn’t you? The music, very festival, very bouncy, and sadly a bit lost in a half-empty Brixton.
The Levellers
Walford Tyson
Walford Tyson
Misty in Roots date back to the mid seventies, one of the great pioneers of British reggae, along with ASWAD and Steel Pulse. They were strongly associated with the RAR movement and also closely linked to the Ruts. But whatever the band’s pedigree, reggae can be a bit pedestrian, particularly in a formal theatre setting. Not a bit of it with Misty in Roots, fronted by vocalist Walford Tyson, who managed to fill a very large stage, backed by very tight band and featuring some excellent and imaginative brass arrangements. Their songs were a mixture of African roots, like ‘Musi-O-Tunya’, inspired by an extensive stay the band made in Zimbabwe and Zambia, and pointed political comment, like ‘Cover up’, an indictment of institutional racism. It’s very, very, good stuff indeed. But they were brought to an end abruptly, as the stage was readied for the Alabama 3, political campaigners Non Plus Ultra. They began with ‘Mao Tse Tung’, vocals by D Wayne Love, and then singers Larry Love and Devlin Love took the stage for ‘All night long’ from the recent MOR album. Love (Larry) had problems with his microphone for the first four songs or so (almost half of the set), and the sound was something of a mess throughout. It couldn’t even be fully retrieved by the appearance of Mr Segs on bass. Moreover I have to observe that Mr Love (Larry), what with his new hair cut and all, looked as though he’d been overdoing it somewhat. If I was his mother I might be worried. And the set was clearly rushed as the band played against the clock. So sadly not the A3’s greatest moment. Not really their fault.
Alabama 3
Alabama 3
Nor perhaps was it Hope Not Hate’s. For the record, for all the sermonising, the following day the Labour Party was trounced in the elections, the extreme right British National Party gained a seat at the London Assembly (won in Patriot Billy Bragg’s parish) and Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone was ousted by Tory Boris Johnson. It just goes to show that unlike Moses you can’t always turn the tide. But we enjoyed the music – particularly the wonderful Misty in Roots. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
The Thirst MySpace page
The Levellers MySpace page
Alabama 3




Balvenie 12 yo 'Signature' (40%, OB, batch #001, 2008) A new limited release blending first fill bourbon, refill and sherry casks. Colour: full gold. Nose: rich, rounded, almost exuberant at first nosing, all on very ripe apricots, sultanas, bananas flambéed and vanilla custard and going on with the same aromas. The sherry is discrete, that is... Not very complicated but extremely appealing, even sexy. Perfect balance. Mouth: maybe just a tad weakish at the very beginning of the attack (the 40%...) but the whisky is very ‘substantial’ so no big deal here. Develops all on toffee (more sherry influence on the palate than on the nose), orange marmalade, bergamot (or earl grey tea), quince jelly and vanilla fudge. Very voluptuous but certainly not lumpish or cloying. Finish: a bit short, alas, but very clean and candied. Comments: well, I hope there’s a version at 43% as well out there. Excellent work by the blenders anyways, and a version that’s much more appealing than the roasted/toasted/finished young Balvenies I think. SGP:551 – 88 points.
Balvenie 31 yo 1973/2004 (49.7%, OB, cask #9214, 213 bottles) This older one from a first fill bourbon barrel. Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely typical of the bourbon Balvenies from the early 1970’s. Loads of ripe apricots and vanilla crème, ‘pale’ sultanas, high-end orange marmalade, quince jelly, then hints of wood smoke, pine resin, eucalyptus... All that is quite subtle and truly superb. Unusual meatiness (ham), hints of tinned pineapples, newly opened pack of butterscotch... And a perfect oak that gives the whole a superb backbone. Classic old Balvenie, true to its style. Mouth: exceptional creaminess – you almost need a spoon to get it out of your glass – and a perfect mix of dried bananas and pears, apricot pie, vanilla, figs, cough syrup and various spices (cloves ahead). And again, a perfect oak. Finish: long, with the oak taking control, as well as notes of cardamom and coriander. Rather big peppery aftertaste, with something pleasantly prickly. Comments: good good good. And classic. SGP:651 – 91 points.

May 12, 2008





Isle of Skye 13 yo 1992/2005 (55.3%, The Whisky Chamber, cask #3196, 312 bottles, 50cl) A small German bottler. Colour: white wine – straw. Nose: far from a peaty and peppery blast, rather someting porridgy, yoghurty and lemony, even if the peatiness does slowly arise after a while. Not much dimension, but water should help here. With water: well, water closed it down. Lemon-sprinkled porridge. Mouth (neat): this one starts much better on the palate than on the nose. Probably a tad simple but beautifully sharp and lemony, hyper-zesty and candied. Peated lemon pie? With water: rounder, creamier, candied, orangey and very, very drinkable. Simplicity at its best on the palate. Finish: rather long, more ‘Talisker’ now, with the pepper starting to strike once you’ve swallowed everything. Comments: huge contrast between a discrete nose and a rather demonstrative palate. Good anyway. SGP:246 – 86 points.
Talisker '57° North' (57%, OB, 2008, 1 litre) A recent version for duty free shops only, that one can find in several Internet shops as well, as often with ‘interesting’ new bottlings. Colour: full gold. Nose: it is a bigger whisky indeed, but it’s still no wham-bam Talisker at first nosing. The good news is that things keep improving after a good fifteen seconds, with kind of a lemony peatiness growing bigger and bigger. Little pepper, that is. With water: it got sharper and more lemony, mineral, flinty, peppery, with maybe just hints of seaweed (ah, advertising!) Mouth (neat): really thick, creamy, it makes me think of something like peppered lemon tree honey mixed with kumquats (sorry if you’re fed up with my crappy culinary analogies.) Directly enjoyable. With water: the pepper strikes earlier than in the 1992! Big, big peppery blast that almost kills all other flavours. Finish: long and, you guessed it, very peppery. Comments: a two-faced Talisker, rather rounded and relatively gentle when naked but almost monstrous when watered down. Two whiskies for the price of one, why would we complain? SGP:357 – 88 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening. Are ethics always other people's ethics? The free thinking Leo Ferré gives the answer in his famous Préface.mp3. Early slam? Please buy the great Léo's music and poetry. Leo Ferre

May 11, 2008


Shepherds Bush Empire, London, April 29th 2008
Edwyn Collins
Edwyn Collins is famous for a number of things: that voice, one of the most strangely soulful in British music; a sometime questionable taste in haircuts and knitwear (and I’m not sure about the mustard coloured shoes he’s sporting tonight); being at the forefront of the musical renaissance that sprung out of Glasgow in 1980 with Orange Juice and Postcard Records; his 1994 global hit single ‘A girl like you’; and the fact that in February 2005 he suffered two brain haemorrhages, underwent major surgery and emerged alive, but speechless and without the use of much of his right side. And thinking about it, he should also be famous for the fact that just over three years on he’s here on the stage at the Shepherds Bush Empire, playing with his band to a sadly only half-full house of very loving fans. If the rest have written him off then they’ve made a big mistake.
Since his illness, Collins has released a new album (that he’d just finished recording before his two strokes) and last year performed a handful of gigs in London. Now he’s back on a short UK tour. He’s worked hard to get back the power of speech, and the ability to sing. His voice still with that unique resonating bassano boom but when he speaks he’s slower and more deliberate than his former eloquent self. But he has a lot to say – telling us about the strokes, about learning to sing again, about trying to remember his songs – all of which is punctuated by an infectious deep laughter.
Edwyn Collyns
Dave Ruffy and Edwyn Collins
And when he does sing it’s the same Edwyn Collins voice, sometimes a little flat (but wasn’t he always?) and occasionally hesitant over some of the more complex lyrics. Apart from that it’s the real thing – no sympathy votes here at all, please. And behind him is a band that will not let him fail. Unless I’m mistaken, it includes Dave Ruffy (ex Ruts) on the drums, Andy Hackett (as well known for selling guitars as playing them) on guitar, Carwyn Ellis on bass, Sean Read on keyboards (both long-time Collins collaborators), and fronting the outfit Roddy Frame on electric and acoustic guitars and banjo. Frame and Collins are very close and old friends, but even so Frame excels himself in everything he does – I’ve rarely seen a guitarist play through a set like he does.
Roddy Frame Edwyn Collins
Roddy Frame and Edwyn Collins
The set begins with ‘Falling and laughing’, ‘Poor old soul’ and ‘What presence’, a trio of Orange Juice heavyweights, before turning to Collins’ solo work with songs from the new album, ‘Home again’, One is a lonely number’, ‘You’ll never know (my love)’ (with guest vocals from Luca Santucci), ‘One track mind’ with older tunes like ‘Make me feel again’ and ‘The Wheels of love’. We got, of course ‘Rip it up’, and the set ended with a rampant ‘A girl like you’ with a simply stunning Frame solo. The band promptly left the stage, leaving Collins with his audience. Slowly and deliberately, with the help of his wife, Grace, he made his way off to the right of the stage, pausing just once to look back. Of course there’s an encore, Collins with Frame on guitar singing a new composition, ‘Searching for the truth’, which could have had everyone in tears, and then with the band ‘Blue boy’ and finally ‘Don’t shilly shally’. But before that final song, the crowd are shouting and one voice catches Collin’s attention. He looks earnest, frustrated – “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry, but I don’t remember that song. It’s so difficult for me to remember …” It’s a painful narrative which earns a huge ovation, at the end of which Frame menacingly leans forward searching for the voice in the crowd – “That’ll teach you to ask for a song, you heartless bastard”.
But like everything else it’s good humoured, and what couldn’t be when Collins’ mischievous laughter drives the set on? So, alone on stage, he again makes that difficult walk, arm in arm with his wife, and again stops and turns to look back, almost quizzically, at the cheering crowd. That’s one rock and roll picture I’ll remember for ever. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Music: Edwyn Collins' MySpace page
Roddy Frame's MySpace page
Read also Nick's review of a Roddy Frame gig back in 2006




Macduff 17 yo 1990/2008 (57.8%, James MacArthur, sherry, cask #1418) Colour: white wine – straw. Nose: cheese galore! And yoghurt, muesli, porridge... Doesn’t quite smells like gym socks but... After all, some may like this kind of profile, but I’m afraid I don’t. With water: cooked cabbage and asparagus, then plain cheese again (Stilton?). Probably flawed. Mouth (neat): sugary and then twisted. No more cheese, rather ‘old porridge’ and grapefruits. Drinkable but barely... With water: okay-ish now, on orange drops. Finish: rather long, cleaner and sweeter. Oranges. Comments: bacteriologic? An exception within James MacArthur’s latest range, which we find globally very good. SGP:331 (no indices for cheesiness, sorry) – 55 points.
Macduff 34 yo 1974/2008 (59.4%, Villa Konthor Limburg) Colour: gold. Nose: much less expressive than the 1990 but that’s rather good news. Takes off slowly, on oranges and ginger tonic, grass, wet wood and vanilla, but water may be needed. So, with water: now we have hyper-heavy whiffs of fresh mint and lemon balm. Very nice! Mouth (neat): sweet, very nervous, extremely lemony, grassy and resinous. Lemon zests, lime, mint, sorrel... Then oak and pepper, cloves... Big zing at 34 years of age. With water: amazing how it got hugely drinkable now, on all sorts of herb liqueurs (Bénédictine, Chartreuse, Verveine) and even something that reminds me a of good mojito. Finish: rather long, clean, balanced, zesty. Comments: another oldie that needs water, but then it gets pretty beautiful. Unusual zestiness at 34 years old. SGP:451 – 86 points.
Macduff 38 yo 1967/2005 (50.8%, Jack Wieber, Old Train, cask #619, 204 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: this one comes from another world, full of oranges, milk chocolate, quinces, ripe mangos and even pomegranates. Then we have Havana smoke, wood smoke, dried mushrooms, old Parma ham, leather... Very complex yet ‘full’, rather entrancing. And the whiffs of old rancio and very old cognac are beautiful as well. An exceptional nose, let’s not take chances with water. Mouth: the most balanced of sherried whiskies, dry and flavourful at the same time. All things orangey first, then walnuts and cigar tobacco, morels (yummie), strong black tea... Gets then more citrusy (more oranges, lemons) and finally frankly fruity (ripe strawberries). Quite some oak ‘of course’ but it’s constantly an asset here. Finish: not too long and drier at this point (grape skin, old armagnac.) Comments: a tireless old Macduff with something ‘antique’ but also an excellent freshness. SGP:354 – 91 points.

May 10, 2008


Port ELlen Lagavulin
Right: Port Ellen 1981 'Feis Isle 2008':
the first-ever official single cask bottling,
25 years after the closure.
After Laphroaig who fired first with their 'Cairdeas' (which is already for sale on the distillery's website), it's Diageo who announces not one, but two 'Feis Isle Special' bottlings, namely a Lagavulin 1993 Single Cask like last year (picture, left), fairly priced at £59, and a first, a Port Ellen 1981, single cask as well, priced at £99.99. Hope they'll have 1 penny change at Caol Ila, where it'll be available in exclusivity on May 26 - (not at the Maltings.) There will be only +/- 200 bottles of the PE.




Tomatin 41 yo 1965/2006 (45.9%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #1904, 181 bottles) Another two fruitbombs? Let’s see... Colour: gold. Nose: well, it’s well creamy, soft and fruity as expected, albeit not quite exuberant. Quinces and oranges, kumquats, vanilla crème, bananas (not big bananas)... All that coated with subtle notes of nutmeg and a little cinnamon. Excellent freshness considering its age. Mouth: sweet and fruity attack, quite soft, on orange drops and tinned pineapples. The oak and its spicy cortege strikes second, making the whole rather drier. Strong tea and grape pips. Finish: rather long but maybe a tad too drying now. Quite some cloves. Comments: a very good old Tomatin, especially on the nose, but maybe it was better a few years ago. Maybe the spirit isn’t big enough to stand a rather active cask for so long. SGP:450 – 84 points.
Tomatin 42 yo 1965/2008 (52.1%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #20942, 211 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this cask is quite different, staring more austerely, on whiffs of fresh mint and apple juice, but growing bigger and bigger over time. Acacia honey, apricots, quinces, oranges, hints of bergamot... All that is very subtle, very elegant. Rather big notes of eucalyptus after a moment, that is, and pine resin. A very complex old Tomatin. Mouth: bolder and punchier than cask #1904, with a spirit that seems to better stand the rather big oakiness. Many fruits (please see above) and quite some spices. Excellent notes of ‘clean’ ginger as well. Finish: long and balanced, between the fruits and the oak. Comments: the palate is punchier and less complex than the nose but the overall quality is quite huge. Half a fruitbomb. SGP:540 – 89 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening. The wonderful and adventurous jazz pianist Marilyn Crispell plays Annette Peacock's Open, to love.mp3 with no less than Gary Peacock and Paul Motian, which is almost a seal of quality. Please buy Marilyn Crispell's music. Marilyn Crispell

May 9, 2008

Caol Ila




Caol Ila 1996/2008 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for LMdW, cask #16100) Colour: white wine. Nose: as fresh and clean as a young Caol Ila can get. Touches of dill and fresh butter, then mint and liquorice sticks, the whole coated with whiffs of sea air. Flawless but maybe not overly expressive. Mouth: starts all on gentian – which we love – and liquorice, truly earthy. The peat is big and so are the spices, pepper first. Little salt here, a Coal Ila from the land rather than from the sea on the palate. Also a little ashy. Very good anyway... Finish: pretty long, balanced, mid-punchy mid-civilised, back on dill and with a little salt now. Comments: of course it’s very good whisky. SGP:337 – 86 points. (and thank you, Olivier)
Caol Ila 17 yo 1991 (52.5%, Jack Wieber, Auld Distillers, 200 bottles, 2008) Colour: gold. Nose: this one is more buttery and vanilled at first nosing, but the overall profile isn’t too different. Maybe a tad more medicinal as well as a little smokier. Very medicinal, actually, as after a few minutes it really smells like a young Laphroaig. Great nose I must say. Also notes of unlit Havana cigar, quite wild. Mouth: this Caol Ila definitely doesn’t taste like Caol Ila. Wilder, rougher, very earthy and very grassy (rocket salad), with green tannins (a pleasure in this case) and notes of verjuice. It’s only after this, err, ‘green’ display that more typical notes do appear, such as salt, peat, pepper and a rather big smokiness. Finish: long, still very pleasantly ‘green’, with obvious tannins that add even more wildness to the whole. Comments: an unusually rough Caol Ila and a very interesting variant. SGP:157 – 88 points.
Caol Ila 23 yo 1984/2008 'Local AI' (57.2%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 198 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: a little more wood influence (read vanilla) here but other than that it’s really like the 1996, only with more ageing. Gets more complex after a few minutes, though, with more iodine and more dill, mint and aniseed. Or make that fennel. Very pleasant ashy notes as well, a little wet chalk... It’s only after ten good minutes that it really takes off, that is, getting very farmy and maritime at the same time, all that along some beautiful notes of marzipan and putty. This one needs time! With water: this is funny, now it got fully coastal. Sea air, shells, iodine, fisherman’s net and bikinis. Not bikinis. Mouth (neat): it’s like the official 18yo, only at cask strength. Enough said. With water: a middle-aged Caol Ila in its full glory. Almonds, clams, salt, peat, pepper and crystallised lemons. Totally classic. Finish: long, with more pepper and peat and less of the rest. Comments: another one that one shouldn’t try to assess too quickly, but then it really delivers. Beautiful. SGP:346 – 90 points.
And also Caol Ila 12 yo 1982/1994 (43%, Taverna degli Artisti for Bar Metro) A soft, mildly smoky and rather earthy Caol Ila with very good balance and very pleasant notes of Williams pears. Very, very drinkable. SGP:425 – 84 points. Caol Ila
MUSIC – Recommended listening. French pianist Martial Solal and violonist Didier Lockwood play a luminous Miss Copeland.mp3 (it's on the CD called 'Solal Lockwood'). Please buy these wonderful persons' music! Solal Lockwood

May 8, 2008





Longmorn 31 yo 1969/2001 (45.65%, Douglas Laing OMC, 210 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one isn’t one of these ‘usual’ old uber-fruity Longmorns it seems. Starts rather meaty (smoked ham, sausages) as well as quite herbal (jasmine tea, patchouli, dried parsley), displaying rather big – and unusual again – notes of clams and oysters. Even crabs. Also saffron and soft paprika... Thai whisky? Very, very impressive anyway, and unlike any other malt whisky I could nose up to now. Yes, even the dreadful Mekong whisky... Mouth: just a marvellous basket of all kinds of citrus fruits this time, at least at the attack. Oranges, lemons, tangerines, kumquats (you name them)... Then we have the oak and its spices, very ‘ethereal’ ones, plus a little coriander and pinches of salt. Amazing how nose and palate are different in this one, it’s almost like if we had two (beautiful) whiskies. Finish: long, all on orange and lemon marmalade plus salt. Comments: this old Longmorn is really fun – and two whiskies for the price of one! SGP:463 on the nose and 732 on the palate– 91 points.
Longmorn 1969/2000 (53.8%, Castle Collection, VA.MA., Italy) Colour: gold. Nose: hell, this is superb again! Starts much more on milk chocolate and crystallised oranges as well as a little mint but gets then very, very fruity, which is ‘normal’ now. Well. Exceptional notes of tropical fruits (papayas and mangos ahead), then the same kind of meatiness as in the DL, only milder. Then whiffs of old walnuts and orange juice, lemon balm, thuja wood, plum sauce... Truly wonderful. No water needed. Mouth: it’s almost like jam! Lemon marmalade, lemon honey, quince jelly, yellow plums, ripe apricots... And more honey and oranges. Also tobacco, white pepper, Szechuan pepper, cloves... Wonderful again. Finish: long, coating, candied, orangey and honeyed. Comments: another wonderful old Longmorn, globally more classic than the DL but not less good. SGP:743 – 91 points.
Longmorn 1969/2008 (54.6%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask for The Whisky Fair) This one caught a lot of attention at the latest Whisky Fair in Limburg. Colour: full gold. Nose: a little more discrete at first nosing, almost shy, which is unusual with old Longmorns. Takes off after a good two minutes, that is, slowly but continuously. First we have the same notes of lemon balm as in the ‘Castle’, then orangey notes that grow bigger and bigger, then mango, guavas, verbena, even a little muscat grape... All that is coated with wood smoke (or pine cones), mint and even a little eucalyptus, and the whole is probably less decadent than its siblings but just as beautiful on the nose. No water needed.
Longmorn TWF
Front and back label
(or the other way round?)
Mouth: it’s certainly not slow at the attack, rather punchy, orangey and spicy right at the first drops. A tad more ‘brutal’ than its bros at this stage but the general profile is very similar. A little more oak as well, but the rest is all on crystallised oranges, acacia honey, tangerines and kumquats. Let’s see what happens with a few drops of water: yes, that works, it got rounder, creamier, with added hints of ginger and salt. Finish: long, on the same kinds of note. Very salty tang in the aftertaste. Comments: this beauty benefits from a few drops of water on the palate, and then it gets really in the same league as its brothers. SGP:631 – 91 points.
Longmorn Longmorn 1969 (61.5%, G&M Cask, 75cl) Colour: full gold. Nose: tell me about a punchy one! Now, quite a few aromas do manage to come through, such as oranges, milk chocolate and wood smoke... But water is needed for sure here. With water: gets interestingly medicinal (aspirin, embrocations) but also a bit dusty and chalky. Some superb notes of fresh limes, that is. Mouth (neat): more sherry than in its bros it seems, but it’s also a little too harsh without water.
With water: ah yes, now it’s truly beautiful! All kinds of citrus fruits just like in the DL, then walnuts and pistachios, Chinese mushrooms and dark toffee. Wonderful indeed. Finish: long, displaying a blend of all aforementioned flavours. Comments: another one that really benefits from a few drops of water. No reason to rate it differently. SGP:543 – 91 points.
And also Longmorn-Glenlivet 1968/2003 (61.3%, Scott’s Selection, 750ml, US) A beautiful nose starting on ‘full mint mode’ as well as citrons and lemon balm, developing on verbena, pu-erh tea and then Parma ham. Stunning. Mouth: ditto. Very compact and nervous... Then we have passion fruit... The finish is very peppery and smoky. Amazing that this one doesn’t seem to need water at such high strength. SGP:743 – 92 points.

MUSIC – Recommended listening. Fast, very fast, it's Lonnie Brooks doing Got Lucky Last Night;mp3. Jerry Lee wouldn't disapprove, would he? Please buy Lonnie Brooks' music!

Lonnie Brooks

May 7, 2008

Port Ellen




Port Ellen 1982/2008 (46%, Berry Bros, casks #2030-2035) More new bottlings of that famous malt whisky of which all stocks were nearly exhausted ten years ago ;-), but we won’t complain, many are extremely good in our opinion... Hope this one will be as good as the stunning cask #2469 by the same bottler. Colour: white wine – pale straw. Nose: it seems that it’s one of these ultra-austere PE’s, all on wet stones, chalk, lime and even aspirin, with almost no fruitness whatsoever. It’s not very peaty either, rather porridgy and lemony. Not quite a Lowlander of course but I believe it wouldn’t be too easy to nail Islay’s south shore when tasting this one blind. Interesting notes of green curry and green pepper as well. More peat comes through after a while but it never quite gets ‘a peat monster’. Different. Mouth: starts amazingly lemony – almost pure lime juice – and peppery, with something a tad drying on your tongue. A little cardboard? More sweetness after that (apple compote) but again, no big peat here. More something of Talisker I think, which, of course, isn’t bad news. Finish: medium long, peppery and still a tad drying, chalky, ‘mat’. Comments: very good whisky but probably not in the same league as cask #2469 from last year. Sort of lacks ‘something’ I think. SGP:256 – 85 points.
Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (57.5%, Douglas Laing Platinum for PotStill Austria, cask #3478, 512 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: this one starts all on coffee and dark chocolate, with a slightly subdued peat once more but a very obvious smokiness. More wood smoke that is... Then a little orange liqueur, pepper, dried Chinese mushrooms (the large black ones), gunpowder, maybe a little rubber (but I wouldn’t say this is sulphury), prunes... Let’s see what happens with a little water: big notes of pencil shavings do arise, as well as a little shoe polish and pipe tobacco. A little drier. Mouth (neat): it’s truly one of these peat’n’sherry monsters, with a huge attack on caramel and pepper, maybe a tad cloying that is. Oily mouth feel. Goes on with a continuous fight between the thick sherry (orange liqueur, prunes, chocolate, blackcurrant jam) and the peaty and slightly bitter pepper. Hot, quite immense but maybe not too subtle... With water: drier, more on coffee, soy sauce, salty liquorice and balsamic vinegar. Finish: very long, with a balance that’s perfect now. Comments: nobody won the fight. This is a rather extreme – and sulphurless - sherried Port Ellen. SGP:367 – 90 points.
Port Ellen 28 yo 1979/2007 (53,6%, Norse Cask Selection, cask #QW1311, 277 bottles) Colour: pale straw. Nose: ah yes, now we’re really talking! Big, big smoke (coal and peat), with the kind of austerity we’re really fond of. Lemons, raw wool, wet limestone, a little mint, oysters, lemon tonic, ink, ashes and the rest of the gang... It suddenly explodes after a while, with big notes of fresh eucalyptus leaves, new oak and pear peelings. Not really sexy and maybe a tad ‘cerebral’, but truly beautiful. For Port Ellen exegetes? With water: a full plate of oysters, with lemon, seaweed and pepper and added notes of fresh almonds. Less herbal and maybe more typical. Mouth (neat): a little sweeter and rounder than on the nose and more resinous and herbal as well. Even bigger notes of eucalyptus, pine resin sweets, mint... And of course a lot of pepper and peat. Excellent! With water: it got more almondy but still quite resinous. And very peppery. Finish: rather interminable, with a peaty backburn and also a little salt. Comments: one of these sharp Port Ellens that we like so much, but that may put off lovers of sweet and rounded whiskies. You’ve been warned. SGP:158 – 92 points (and mange tak, Carsten-H.)


For a friend (I swear he's not yours truly) any of these two dumpy Clynelishes. Namely the 24yo 1965/1989 at 49.4% or the 20yo 1965/1985 at 46%... Or any other 'brown dumpy, black label' Clynelish you would own or know of.
You may contact us there, thank you!

Signed: the sheriff.

MUSIC – Recommended listening. Jazz: the graceful and badly missed Susannah McCorkle sings Love walked in.mp3 with just a bass. Delicious, isn't it? Please buy Susannah's music...


May 6, 2008

'CONCERT' REVIEW by Nick Morgan

Pere Ubu with Gagarin and the Brothers Quay, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, April 25th, 2008.
This isn’t a concert. It’s a play, of sorts. It’s a performance. At times it seems like a bloody fiasco. But it’s David Thomas and Pere Ubu, and you can therefore be sure of one thing, it won’t lack interest, provocation or humour. What we’re watching is the second of two performances of Mr Thomas’ adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s controversial play, Ubu Roi, renamed ‘Bring me the head of Ubu Roi’. First performed in 1896 the play provoked uproar from its opening lines, “Merdre, Merdre”, onwards.
It was confrontational, absurd, and deeply funny (three words which might well apply, one could think, to the work of Mr Thomas, an admirer of Jarry from his youth). The absinthe-drinking Jarry, of course, was also the founder of the Pataphysics movement, dedicated to “the science of imaginary solutions’, whose devotees (in addition to Mr Thomas) include such luminaries as Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt. It is, of course, a piece of nonsense, just like this evening.
Alfred Jarry
Alfred Jarry
The performance ‘stars’ Thomas as Pere Ubu, and former Communards vocalist and noted jazz-singer Sarah Jane Morris as Mere Ubu, The band, and guest artist Gagarin, perform the remainder of the roles with greater or lesser degrees of competence. The performance is sprinkled with a number of songs ‘in the Pere Ubu style’, whilst Gagarin provides a richly-textured aural backdrop, a counter to the visual environment created by the Brothers Quay.
As for the plot – well, I guess it’s about greed and avarice with not a shred of redemption in sight, an uncomfortable mirror to stand up against nineteenth, and for that matter, twenty-first century polite society.
The stage is bare – the band are squeezed in on the right hand side, and whilst not performing Thomas and Morris lounge on chairs on the left. Thomas introduces each scene with a short narrative of what is about to unfold – an afterthought following the first night (which in Thomas’ words was also ‘a bit of a shambles’) when it became apparent that no one knew what was going on. He’s getting more and more like that grumpy and lovable old uncle who comes to stay at Christmas, gets drunk and generally disgraces himself, and scandalises your parents. His narrative voice, half exasperated, half bored (“so many pieces of paper, so little time” he sighs as he struggles to find the right sheet) sounds like a cross between W C Fields and Sylvester the Cat – I half expected him to come out with "Sufferin’ succotash!".
David Thomas
David Thomas
As Ubu he’s a grotesque in his now trademark raincoat (where is the whippet I wonder?). As he takes his position centre stage he’s accompanied by electronic squelches, squeaks and farts. And as the evening progresses it becomes apparent that he’s very fussy about his farts, stepping out of character (or is he?) to berate his band when they forget the farts, or use the wrong ones – “I want the fucking long farts. I told you fuckers the long farts. Long farts!”. These rages, a stratagem for covering up flaws or glitches in the performance, become more frequent, despairing and entertaining as the evening goes on, and as the tightly-knit spectacle slowly unwinds. Towards the end Thomas falls into his chair – “ I told them we’d never get this fucking right and you know what, everyone hates a know-it-all when he’s fucking right”.
Intermission Together Thomas and Morris manage to turn the menacing, plotting, untrusting and murderous Ubus into a slightly more sinister version of Roald Dahl’s The Twits. They’re dark, but never too dark (although certainly too dark to take photographs). It’s almost like pantomime without the ghastly television ‘celebrities’, a sort of Carry On Pataphysics, with a slightly unnerving edge created by the visuals and soundtrack.
And believe me, for all the mistakes it’s thoroughly engaging and compelling. I’m not sure what the audience expected, and was surprised that so many left at the interval – it’s David Thomas, what on earth did they expect? Even some of those who made it back couldn’t stick it to the end, to Thomas’s final jibe, “I spit on your applause”. A shame. I’ve rarely left a theatre feeling quite as entertained. Merdre! - Nick Morgan (intermission photograph by Kate)
Thank you, Nick. Don't we all love David Thomas, Alfred Jarry, Pataphysics, Arrabal, Vian... And the rest? So let's pay homage to all these great persons with this brand new pataphysical picture by an unknown fan of the Gidouille. It's called "two bottles of the very same and very multidimensional single malt Scotch whisky missing one single flavour and the bloody opposite."
For our friends who may prefer music, there isn't any (of course) on Pere Ubu's MySpace page.




Glenglassaugh 30 yo 1975/2006 (45.6%, Douglas Laing OMC for Parkers Whisky, Ref. 2585, 206 bottles) Colour: white wine – pale gold. Nose: starts interestingly, on leaves smoke (garden bonfire), wax polish and soot and develops on vanilla crème, leather and dark tobacco or shag (Gauloises). Gets then more resinous, with hints of putty and turpentine. Also barbecue, burning charcoal and sausages. I like this profile quite a lot, hope the palate will be in the same vein. Mouth: big, ‘wide’, candied and orangey. A lot of orange marmalade, honey and pepper, with something slightly prickly (orange zests). Maybe not immensely complex but it’s flawless old whisky. Excellent spiciness. Finish: very long, like some peppered orange marmalade. Comments: very good whisky, more complex on the nose than on the palate. SGP:543 – 89 points.
Glenglassaugh 34 yo 1973/2008 (52%, Dewar Rattray, cask #3776, 136 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: very, err, ‘different’. Big whiffs of sour wood (moisture) and rancid butter, which isn’t as disgusting as it sounds, far from it. Also walnuts, flor... Gets straighter after a few minutes, more on oranges and marmalade but also horse sweat and wet dog (sorry again, dogs.) Funnily, the whole is entertaining and pleasant, provided you’re not only into clean whiskies. Mouth: it’s much closer to the DL now, very orangey and spicy, displaying a rather simple but flawless profile. Also honey, praline and caramel crème. Orange drops. Absolutely no overwoodiness. Finish: long, on caramelised oranges and honey coated hazelnuts. Comments: another one where the nose is much more complex than the palate. A great old whisky globally. SGP:553 – 88 points.

May 5 , 2008





Dalmore 12 yo (40%, OB, 2008) The proportion of sherry casks in this new ‘12’ just went up from 30% to 50%. Colour: dark gold. Nose: starts all on coffee, roasted nuts and blackcurrant jelly, with good oomph despite the 40% vol. It’s very malty as well, getting more and more chocolaty over time, with also a little smoke and the trademark notes of orange marmalade. So far, so good. Mouth: amazing how ‘nervous’ this one is despite the low ABV. All on orange liqueur and milk chocolate plus marmalade and spices (notes of Chinese anise and cloves). Finish: rather short but balanced. Grand-Marnier. Comments: not the most complex of all on the palate but I think it’s better than the former version of the 12 indeed. Good sippin’ whisky. SGP:531 – 83 points (up from 80).
Dalmore ‘Gran Reserva’ (40%, OB, 2008) This is the former ‘Cigar malt’ – it seems that smoking is less and less PC. 60% sherry and 40% bourbon. Colour: dark gold. Nose: rather less coffeeish and less malty than the 12 and much more on fruit jams, tamarind, tobacco (funny how our mind works), a little camphor, chocolate... getting then earthier, almost mushroomy. Richer and thicker than the twelve, also smokier. Maybe a tad ‘obvious’, or let’s say ‘pushy.’ Mouth: not big but creamy and pleasantly orangey. Good maltiness. Liquorice and tea. Lacks a little more texture. Caramel. Finish: medium long, better than ‘the end of the palate’, more on dark chocolate and malt. Also slightly salty/kirschy, which is ‘funny’ here. Comments: very good whisky but I liked the 12 a little better. The zing from a few extra-degrees – like, three – would be welcome. SGP:431 – 82 points.
Dalmore 15 yo (40%, OB, 2008) 100% matured in Mathusalem sherry casks. Colour: dark gold (just the same as its siblings – caramel?) Nose: we’re frankly on chocolate now, at least at first nosing. Gets then more ‘secondary’ and complex, with hints of patchouli, sandalwood, cigar box and rose jelly, then lemonade, ginger tonic and orange juice. Gets then more and more orangey, somewhat lighter, but more elegant than both the 12 and the GR, despite the higher proportion of sherry casks (which you don’t really feel here). Dalmore
Great notes of parsley come through after ten minutes. Mouth: excellent attack, soft but full, immediately subtler than the 12 and GR. Oranges, ginger, chocolate, hawthorn tea, chicory and liquorice. Too bad the middle is slightly weakish (the 40% again). Finish: medium long, maltier and more coffeish, with a slight smokiness. Comments: a very good Dalmore. Again, I hope there’s a version at 43% somewhere... SGP:431 – 85 points.
Dalmore ‘King Alexander III’ (40%, OB, 2008) A blend of 1/3 Haut-Marbuzet wine casks (in case you don’t know, Haut-Marbuzet is a very good cru bourgeois from St. Estèphe), 1/3 sherry and 1/3 bourbon. Colour: dark gold (yet exactly the same colour!) Nose: starts like a blend of all younger versions, with both a ‘chocolaty maltiness’ and a fresh ‘oranginess’ (my god!) Also more wood... A little ginger, pink grapefruits, ripe kiwis, vanilla custard, figs... It’s also very slightly lactic. A tad less clean than ‘the others’ and that may come from the Bordeaux wine casks. Now, we like the generally citrusy profile. Mouth: this is better, albeit a tad weakish again. You know, this ‘evanescent feeling of dissatisfaction’. It’s really a pity because the profile is rather perfect, more coherent and ‘mingled’ than on the nose. Oranges again, chocolate, cherries, blackcurrants, macadamia nuts, a little mint... Finish: drier and spicier, in a very nice way. Excellent wood extracts. Winey aftertaste, like if you just had a bottle of... say, Haut-Marbuzet (yeah, that was easy.) Comments: I don’t want to insist too much, but ‘this would certainly benefit from a few more percents of alcohol.’ SGP:441 – 84 points.
Dalmore And also Dalmore 17 yo 1990/2008 (46%, The Whisky Agency, 90 bottles) A new series by the guys behind Limburg’s Whisky Fair. Colour: gold. Nose: completely different from the officials, even if one can feel that it’s the same distillery. Wilder, more phenolic, waxier and more mineral. And much fresher. Notes of cut grass, and then the trademark orangey and chocolaty notes. Hints of peanut butter. Mouth: excellent attack, much more satisfying than the OB’s at this stage. Spicy chocolate, ginger and liquorice. Finish: long and gingery, with notes of candy sugar. Comments: less civilised than the OB’s but more satisfying in a sense. Yes we like wildness in our dram (wot?) SGP:642 – 87 points.

WHISKY BOOKS - This new book about Ardbeg looks very promising. It's called 'Ardbeg A Peaty Provenance' and ou can admire sample pages there.

While I'm at it, may I recommend you the excellent 'first refill edition' of Pär Caldenby's book 'Enjoying Malt Whisky?' It's very complete and easy - and fun - to read and if you had to own only one book about malt, you could well pick this one. It's available at various places, such as Royal Mile Whiskies or The Whisky Exchange.

MUSIC – Recommended listening. The very sweet actress Emmanuelle Seigner (remember Polanski's Frantic?) sings Sing sing.mp3 with the band Ultra Orange. Please buy Miss Seigner's music, the whole album is very good (even if she sometimes sounds like both Nico and Cherry Vanilla.) Oh, and the clip is here. Seigner

May 3 , 2008

WE ARE BACK! and firing on all cylinders. Thanks for having been patient, and thanks for all your very kind words in Limburg or elsewhere.

PS: we're still way behind with our emails - not sure we answered all that were sent to us in 2007, actually. Deepest apologies.

It's taken years to perfect but easy to use. Soak for an hour and then microwave - the self- fermenting pot-still potato will produce an egg-cup full of 58 proof spirit.
Neat eh?
St George





The Barbican
April 23rd 2008

It’s St George’s Day. You know, England’s own Patron Saint (well, not really our own, as he’s also Patron Saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Palestine, Portugal and Russia, and, amongst others, the city of Moscow). As far as anyone can tell he was Turkish, a warrior who converted to Christianity and was martyred for refusing to persecute his co-religionists. He had a tough time: “stretched out on the rack and ripped to shreds with flesh hooks, harnessed to machines that drew him apart, and then beaten, after which salt was poured into his wounds, which were rubbed with a haircloth … then pressed into a box pierced with nails, impaled on sharp stakes, plunged into boiling water … his head crushed by a hammer …”, and that was just the start. He died, legend has it, on 23rd April. He also of course, killed the dragon, and thus gained the reputation of a protector which lives on to this day. And at Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s request, England is bedecked in red and white flags, spontaneous street parties abound, Morris Dancers, Costermongers and Pearly Kings and Queens dance through the streets arm-in-arm like a nightmare scene from a Lionel Bart musical, and it’s Roast Beef and Cornish Pasties for lunch.

They’ve even joined in at Don Corleone’s, the little Mom and Pop pizza place which we patronise prior to our visits to the Barbican. The extra piquant Dragon’s Breath pizza is a revelation. It’s Shakespeare’s birthday too, the famous Baird of Stratford upon Avon, but I notice their special Big Willy Gugliagones aren’t moving too fast.

We’re out on the town in our red and white plastic bowler hats to celebrate St George with England’s own rocking patriot, the Baird of Barking, Billy Bragg, who’s been much concerned with Englishness over the past few years, having read a couple of books about it, and written one - The Progressive Patriot - of his own. You may recall that a lot of this is connected with Bill’s total misunderstanding of the causes, events and historiography of the English Revolution, and his willingness to ‘tokenise’ groups such as the Diggers and Levellers as icons for his particular brand of soft and sentimental socialism. But he’s not too concerned with that seventeenth century shtick tonight – his mission, he tells us, is to reclaim St George and the idea of Englishness from the clutches of right-wing extremists such as the British National Party, and to get the English to reassess nationalist politics in the light of the success of our neighbours in Scotland. “It’s all about having a sense of place” says Billy.
Billy Bragg   He begins the evening with Leon Rosselson’s ‘World turned upside down’, and then leads the audience in ‘Jerusalem’ (“You are so powerful” Bragg tells us) before being joined by the first of his guests. It’s the very talented, ‘though sadly giggly and gauche Rachel Unthank and the Winterset from Northumbria, who delight the audience with their singing and electric clog-dancing, and perform a charming and quite excellent cover of Robert Wyatt’s ‘Sea song’.“That’s really powerful” says Billy, as he joins them as special guest.
Tom Clarke follows, a Coventry patriot from The Enemy who appears to have watched too many Paul Weller videos, and sings a pretty ill-judged song (“I only wrote this yesterday”) about the distressing murder of Sophie Lancaster. “How powerful is that?” asks Billy, who joins him as special guest. And finally from the left of the field Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, a brother and sisters (with Mom on double bass and Dad playing acoustic guitar and having the time of his life) rockabilly, skiffle, rhythm and blues and swing combo from London’s Camden Town. They rush though about ten songs, changing instruments at bewildering speed (and not always playing them too well) and totally befuddle the audience when they play a Hawaiian tune. “What’s Honolulu got to do with England?” shouts a besandled and bearded Guardian-hugging folk traditionalist, giving Bragg a platform for what becomes an evening long diatribe on inclusiveness. We also get a useful lesson on the Hawaiian flag. “That’s just so powerful” says special-guest Bragg.
Billy Bragg
Bragg’s set is a mixture of some nicely played and sung tunes, some patronising tub-thumping (“Why does he always fucking preach to the converted?” asks a frustrated fan at the end, hands still clamped to his ears), and a long rant about the need for a British Bill of Rights. There’s a nice Dick Gaughan song, ‘ ‘Both sides between’, and some old favourites like ‘Sexuality’, and inevitably stuff from his 2002, England Half English album, including the title track, a reworking of ‘John Barleycorn’, and ‘Take down the Union Jack’, which borrows heavily from Rudyard Kipling. He also plays songs like ‘Keep the faith’ from his well received new album Mr Love and Justice. There’s the anti-war ‘Farm boy’ and Bragg’s reworking of ‘The hard times of old England’, and ‘Oh Freedom’. This is followed by ‘Old Clash fan fight song’ which leads Billy into a long reminiscence about the start of the Rock Against Racism movement thirty years ago, and its influence on his then formulating politics. It’s another unnecessary and self-focussed stream of consciousness; it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Bragg, for example, that anyone else might have attended that famous march through London on 30th April 1978 or seen the famous Clash gig that followed in Hackney’s Victoria Park. In this, as in many things, Billy is a tad myopic. He ends the set with ‘There is power in a union’. “Are there any teachers in tonight?” he asks. They’re striking the following day, putting over a million children out on the streets. That, as Billy might have said, is really powerful.
Finally he lets the audience sing ‘New England’, which they do, badly. We’re then asked to hold up our programmes to make a cross of St George for a photograph, and finally, and most bizarrely, encouraged to join all the artists in singing the American spiritual, ‘Swing low sweet chariot’, much brutalised of late by braying English rugby supporters. Confused? Well I was. And I’m not sure that Billy wasn’t too, as I was no clearer on what this thing called Englishness was or is, and I don’t think he was either. So we left it at that, and after a couple of pints of Fosters and Kronenbourg down the George and Dragon, headed for the St George Kebab and Sushi House for a carry-out chicken tikka with chop suey, which we washed down with some of Scotland’s famous midnight wine. Very patriotic, very powerful. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Billy Bragg's MySpace page
The Enemy's MySpace page
Bladnoch Bladnoch 15 yo (55%, OB, sherry butt #2617) Colour: gold. Nose: relatively discrete at very first sniffs, with hints of sherry and hints of lemon but not much else. Let’s give it time... Right, more lemon indeed (pure lemon juice) as well as cut grass, but this one may need water. So, with water: it got grassier and, quite curiously, more austere. Hints of clams and kelp – sprinkled with lemon. Lemon grass (not lemongrass). Improves over time, getting nicely mineral and even ashy.
Mouth (neat): ‘pure sherried lemon’. Powerful but maybe a tad monodimensional. Vanilla and lemon fudges. With water: wow, now it got excellent! Lemons of all kinds, crystallised, candied, squeezed, dried, barbecued – not! Finish: long, clean, lemony and candied. Comments: we think this one really needs time + water, but then it gets really superb. SGP:451 – 78 points (without water) and 87 points with water (yeah, really).
Bladnoch 6 yo (56.4%, OB, sherry matured, 20cl) We believe this is the first bottling of the new owners’ spirit. Colour: gold. Nose: one thousand times more expressive than the 15 at first nosing. Big notes of caramel crème, vanilla fudge, warm butter, ginger and soft curry that remind me of Glenmorangie’s experiments with new oak. Weird? Or is it me? The citrusy notes arise only after a few minutes, together with now obvious sherry notes. Gets more and more vinous I must say, let’s see what happens with water. With water (right!): more of the same. No changes whatsoever as far as the profile is concerned. Mouth (neat): exactly like it was on the nose when naked. Ginger, vanilla and caramel crème. With water: this time it got more complex, with the same fudgy/oaky/spicy notes again but also a slight ‘lemoniness’. Finish: long, compact, on the same notes again, plus a little salt. More lemon as well. Comments: we haven’t tried many very young Bladnochs from earlier distillations so it’s hard to make comparisons, but it seems that Bladnoch’s new spirit is quite different from what it used to be. Maybe less on the citrusy side, whilst it became a ‘bigger’ spirit. Less Lowlands, more Highlands? Now, this was obviously a very active cask, so let’s not draw conclusions too fast. SGP:440 – 82 points.

April 2008 - part 2 <--- May 2008 - part 1 ---> May 2008 - part 2

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



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

Balvenie 31 yo 1973/2004 (49.7%, OB, cask #9214, 213 bottles)

Caol Ila 23 yo 1984/2008 'Local AI' (57.2%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 198 bottles)

Longmorn-Glenlivet 1968/2003 (61.3%, Scott’s Selection, 750ml, US)

Longmorn 1969 (61.5%, G&M Cask, 75cl)

Longmorn 1969/2000 (53.8%, Castle Collection, VA.MA., Italy)

Longmorn 31 yo 1969/2001 (45.65%, Douglas Laing OMC, 210 bottles)

Longmorn 1969/2008 (54.6%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask for The Whisky Fair)

Macduff 38 yo 1967/2005 (50.8%, Jack Wieber, Old Train, cask #619, 204 bottles)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (57.5%, Douglas Laing Platinum for PotStill Austria, cask #3478, 512 bottles)

Port Ellen 28 yo 1979/2007 (53,6%, Norse Cask Selection, cask #QW1311, 277 bottles)