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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2009 - Part 2

May 2009 - part 1 <--- May 2009 - part 2 ---> June 2009 - part 1


May 30, 2009



These two single casks are the only two that were ever filled in toasted oak. It was a kind of an experiment...

Ardbeg 1998/2009 (54%, OB, Cask #1189, Feis Ile 2009, 252 Bts, Toasted Oak) Nose: Driftwood, cigar boxes, leather, chocolate, java cake, a touch of menthol, coffee and polished oak, ahorn syrup, after-eight, Ricola bonbons, very different from any Ardbeg you have tried before, the toasted oak has been working heavily here. Palate: Liquorice, bitter chocolate, coffee beans, Colombian extra dark coffee, caffeine, Cohiba cigar smoke, dry. Finish: Long lingering with sweet wood, chocolate-coffee finish. Balance/complexity: Good and very different from any Ardbeg you have tried before. This would be a perfect Ardbeg-Cigar malt, but you have to like 'm dry in this case.
Points LWS members: James 89, Dirk 90, Geert 90, Luc 89, Billy 90. Average 90/100.
Ardbeg 1998/2009 (54.7%, OB, Cask #1190, Feis Ile 2009, 282 Bts, Toasted Oak) Nose: Orange zest and cedar wood shavings, orangettes, crystallised oranges, duck à l'orange, Peking duck..... ok you got the picture, clearly loads of oranges in this one ;-). Palate: Oranges with bitter chocolate, a touch of fine salt, very velvety and round with Indian spices, wood tannins and new oak taste. Finish: Short and light, perhaps more elegant but no robustness here. Balance/complexity: Elegant but clearly lacks the ooomphhh.
Points LWS members: James 87, Dirk 88, Geert 88, Luc 86, Billy 88. Average 87/100.
And a little extra... the Single Cask #772, the one that sold out in a record holding time ;-)

Ardbeg 1992/2008 (55.7%, OB, Cask #772, 184 Bts.) Nose: Rising bread dough, a little touch of chardonnay, some melting plastic, apples, cinnamon, a nice underlying layer of wet stones, fresh leather, lime and menthol topped with fine smoke. Good depth. Palate: Fresh start of peat with a nice underlying sweet lime, oily texture and apples, cold coffee and dry oak notes. Finish: Medium length, citrus, minerals, quite dry and salty now. Balance/complexity: Nose is very ok but the palate is dry and lacks complexity.
Points LWS members: James 84, Dirk 85, Geert 86, Luc 84, Billy 85. Average 85/100.
Ardbeg 1992

Ardbeg sure are proud of their success with this cask... ->

(but the ABV is wrong on this document, isn't it? Ha, tricky numbers!... :-)

An also...
Bunnahabhain Feis Ile

Bunnahabhain 'Moine' NAS (58.4%, OB for Feis Isle 2009, 642 Bts, Bottled 29/04/09)......for a mere 99£ (they are crazy......) Nose: Yeasty, malty, fresh bread, new make, nailpolish thinner, grassy, a touch of walnuts, liquorice, very ordinary nose. This is almost like newmake in your glass....pffff. Taste: Sweet peat, pure and neat liquorice, sourish breadyeast, a little 'reflux'. Finish: Sweet-liquorice and new make..... Balance/complexity: More a gimmick then a real whisky. I'm sure they have much better stuff in their warehouses....
Points LWS: James 67, Dirk 69, Geert 72, Luc 72, Billly 68. Average 70/100.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Ron Sexsmith
Title: Raindrops In My Coffee
From: Destination Unknown (2005)
Please buy Ron Sexmith's music.

Ron Sexsmith

May 29, 2009

The LWS boys are at it once again and this time they sub-hired our friend Angus MacRaild who wrote the tasting notes for the Bowmore Feis Ile.
Bowmore 9yo 1999/2009 (57.1%, OB, Feis Isle 2009, 900 Bts., Sherry/ Bourbon/ Wine Cask) Colour: Burnished copper. Nose: Immediately more southern islay style: seaweed, old kreelrets, a little creosote, some tarry ropes. Opens into more fruit character, kumquats, plum jam, lychee then baked custard tart. There is a faint whiff at the back of the modern style Bowmore perfume. A real salivity begins to come through after a while. With water it is much more expressive, all on hessian and damp sack cloth, fresh peat smoke and curiously some very fresh berry fruit and a little citrus rind. After a few moments it becoms a little tropical in almost an old style Bowmore tribute act.
Angus shows us his notes for the Bowmore Feis Ile, all written on some... ah, err, official Ardbeg paper...
Palate: The palate when neat is too sharp with alcohol. The peat and wine cask character dominate. There are flavours of ongions, stewed fruits and spices left too long in a hot pan, the peat is intense but sharp and short. It needs water. With water the palate is full of baked apples and custard with modern Bowmore characteristics beginning to come through, some parma violets (paked bears suddenly !!?), rooty, soily peat and more of this wine cask berry fruit flavour. Finish: Medium to long with rich spices, some grand black pepper and a little oilyness to the peat, however a little sharp still. Comment: A very boldy Bowmore, quite complex if you give it time and a big departure from the modern style. If only it wasn't so sharp.
Angus 89. Points from LWS members: Geert 88, Luc 87, Dirk 87, James 88, Billy 86. Average 88/100.
Bowmore samples
The crazy Belgians also managed to try four samples from some very old Bowmore casks and to describe them using their very own and very idiosynchratic language (onomatopoeias included). ‘Whauh, what a tasting that was!’ (their words.)
Work In Progress Bowmore 1967 Nose: You get an immediate blast of exotic fruits, ripe pine-apple beignets, fresh baked pastries, creamed sugared baked mango from the oven with a lovely underlying touch of white pepper which adds that extra freshness. Palate: Lovely intense exotic taste of overripe pineapple and overcooked mango, some kumquats, fresh pastries, soo satisfying and warm on the palate, velvety, pure pleasure. Finish: Long.... very long. Balance/complexity: super dram.
Points LWS members: Geert 92, Dirk 93, James 93, Luc 93, Billy 94. Average 93/100.
WIP Bowmore 1966 Nose: Peardrops, apricots, raisins, all so fine and delicately melted together, super exotic basket full of fruits is the best to describe this "fruity monster". Add a little nougat underneath and you have this divine expression. Damn this is good stuff....... Palate: Orange zest, exotic mango taste, like the best mango juice served on a Caribean beach, with some apples and a little caramel topping..... whauh. Finish: How long can a finish be...... you get every fruit back now, one by one..... Balance/complexity: Simply divine.
Points LWS members: Geert 97, Dirk 96, James 96, Luc 97, Billy 96. Average 96/100.
WIP Bowmore 1965 Nose: More oak in this nose, of the nice one, oaky toffee, fudge notes emerge mixed with lactose and coconut with a touch of green bananas and coffee cake. Lovely but in a whole different way. Palate: Toffee, oaky, coconut, a slightly bitter zesty note, grapefruit, orange zest, lovely. Finish: Good and long with a dry ending and more oak. Balance/complexity: Very good with nice oaky notes and a lovely touch of toffee and coconut
Points LWS members: Geert 92, Dirk 93, James 94, Luc 92, Billy 93. Average 93/100.
WIP Bowmore 1961 Nose: Whauh....... whauh...... here you get a little of everything. You get some speculoos, maple syrup, oranges, a touch of salt, exotic mango with cinnamon, this is like all varieties of the jelly beans together. This is pure pleasure....... Palate: First you get sweet exotic fruits followed with all kind of Indian spices with a divine layer of oak and again a lovely touch of salt and maritime influences. Again.... I'm speechless..... Finish: Yeah... a finish until Timbuktu..... soo long...... Balance/complexity: no further comments... God must have laid his hand on this cask.....
Points LWS members: Geert 98, Dirk 99, James 100, Luc 100, Billy 100. Average 99/100.
Whisky and jazz

by Hans Offringa

Whiskyfun’s loyal readers know that I’m rather passionate about whisky and just as passionate about jazz, so no wonder Hans Offringa’s new opus about both subjects caught my attention as soon as the word about the project was out. To be honest, I’ve been talking about whisky with many musicians in the past and I already published quite a bunch of ‘whisky and music interviews’ on Whiskyfun (more to come!), so I knew that trying to blend both worlds was a rather easy idea (proof: we’re doing it :-)), but also a very tricky task.

Why? Because several musicians had already told me many times that alcohol, especially whisky (or should I say Jack Daniel’s?) had actually been a nightmare to them, either because they were/had been hooked on it or because they had lost many musician friends because of it. So, was Hans’ new book going to be a long, sad and haunting story about loss of inspiration, addiction, degradation, misery, illness and death? Remember Charlie Parker, remember Billie Holiday?
Well, I’m most happy to report that the answer is a big ‘not at all’. Actually, it’s exactly the contrary and Whisky & Jazz is a very happy book, full of knowledge and full of passion. It does not tell you the long story of the love/hate relationship between so many jazzsters and booze (or very sporadically - dear Chet Baker!), but rather tells you a lot about a selection of famous whiskies, about a selection of famous jazz musicians (all old legends), and finally, the best part in our opinion, about how the latter combine with the former to create a supreme form of joy which consists in sipping a great malt while listening to a fitting slice of jazz. I shall not give you any precise examples but while you’re waiting for your own copy of the book to drop into your mailbox, you may start to wonder which piece by Miles Davis will go well with Bruichladdich 15yo, or which expression by Springbank matches Charlie Parker’s Ornithology best. What’ sure is the name of the guardian angel of this superb book: Michael Jackson, whisky and jazz lover (and friend of Hans) par excellence. And there are many beautiful photographs of whisky places and musicians, many never published before! In short, if you love both jazz and whisky, you'll love this coffee table book whilst if you love only one of these two topics, be sure that you'll soon start to love the other one too.
Whisky & Jazz – Hans Offringa – Evening Post Publishing Company (check your favourite whisky or book retailers!)

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: the Alvin Fielder Trio
Title: A mon frère (to my brother)
From: A Measure of Vision, 2007
Please buy Alvin Fiedler's music.

Alvin Fielder

May 28, 2009



Bowmore 10 yo 1998/2009 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 351 bottles) From a refill hogshead. Colour: white wine. Nose: a very ashy and mineral Bowmore that smells almost like a coal stove – or an ashtray full of cigars. In that sense it reminds me of the Octomore and Supernova. Only hints of porridge, cut grass and fresh walnuts beyond this immense smoky ashiness. No fruitiness whatsoever. With water: we’re in the same ballpark, with only a little more fruit (apples), soaked grains and whiffs of ‘farmyard after the rain’ as usual, but the smokiness is still huge. Mouth (neat): extremely zesty and lemony before the huge smokiness starts to unfold. Lapsang souchong tea, strong salted liquorice… This is very simple and very huge, and possibly peatier than for instance a young Ardbeg. With water: even drier, even smokier. Finish: long, grassy and, you guessed it, very smoky. Comments: in the ‘peat monster’ category, no doubt. It’s not impossible that Bowmore became the smokiest Islay around the late 1990s (not taking some vanity distillations by others into account.) SGP:158 - 85 points.
Bowmore 10 yo 1998 (52.7%, Exclusive Casks, cask #800034) Finished in a fresh American oak barrel and bearing the new shiny metal label. Colour: gold. Nose: interesting, this one smells exactly like the DL, only with an added layer of spices such as cardamom, pepper and paprika plus faint hints of genuine Balsamic vinegar (from Modena of course). But it’s another one that’s immensely smoky and ashy, and quite grassy too. With water: more of that plus whiffs of menthol and eucalyptus from the wood. Works well. Mouth (neat): exactly the same phenomenon happens on the palate: we have the same very big ashy smokiness as in the DL plus these rather oriental spices as well as touches of gentian, probably from the wood. Works well indeed! With water: the easy-easy tastes of new oak (ginger and so on) became maybe less elegant now. This one doesn’t swim too well ‘on the palate’. Finish: long, more vanilled, gingery, with quite some lemon and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe it was a good idea to try to add some extra-complexity to this baby. It worked pretty well. SGP:367 - 86 points.
Bowmore 8 yo (43%, OB, Sherriff's, pear shape, 1960s) A very rare early official Bowmore, courtesy our Luxemburgian friend Guy S. Please note that according to his owner, the bottle was leaking a bit. Colour: white wine. Nose: Jesus! Sure this one whispers a little low at first nosing, but what a marvellous combination of pink grapefruits, passion fruits and mangos! Then we have notes of fresh butter from the farm (not the poor super-pasteurised supermarket stuff) and a very delicate ashiness that, indeed, can be related to the youngsters’. Exceptional whiffs of lemon liqueur too, oysters, clams, wet wool, dairy cream… What a magnificent nose, extremely complex and very delicate… Very classy spirit! Mouth: okay, maybe it’s a tad less expressive here in the attack but the general profile is absolutely beautiful, starting right on medicinal notes (cough drops and such) and on this fascinating mix of peat and tropical fruits that’s only to be found in (some) old Bowmores. Picks up steam, with fresh almonds, green tea and all things maritime, including salt (of course), then something like peated lemons cooked in seawater (gulp!)… It’s amazing how lively this one is! A leaking bottle? Are you 100% sure, Guy? Finish: not long of course but marvellously clean, a little more almondy, with the peat glimmering on your palate together with a little lemon marmalade. Not unlike one of the very best old Rieslings in style. Comments: what can I say, except that it’s too bad that this 'Botticelli in glass' will cost you quite a few thousand Euros, should you plan to acquire one. Oh, and beware, there are some fakes around! SGP:555 (a perfect balance, is it not!) - 96 points. (And heartfelt thanks, Guy, but a leaking bottle? Maybe it’s been leaking only for five minutes?)
Bon appetit FROM OUR LWS REPORTERS ON ISLAY Yesterday, we the Lindores boys discovered a great restaurant on Islay. Just driving a little further past Port Charlotte on the camping site you find this new place called "Bon Appétit at Port Mòr". The cook, a Frenchie by the name of François Bernier, is cooking there already for quite some time now. We discovered it only yesterday and had a great 3-course dinner for a mere £23. A great fresh seafood start with langoustines, crab and Lagavulin scallops followed with a great stew of venison and we finished with a chocolate fondant with cream and a good cup of coffee. Great food, fab view.... now the only thing he still has to take care of is getting an alcohol serving license... Highly recommended. Next time you are on Islay call him on 01496 850 442.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Mum’s favourite (is that because of his uber-velvety sound?), The Don Byas Quartet
Title: What do you want with my heart (1944)
Please buy Don Byas' music.

Don Byas

May 27, 2009



Our Lindores reporters on Islay who, according to some high placed sources, have been involved in flambéing Apple crumble puddings with Uigeadail in Ardbeg's Old Kiln, just tried two new Laphroaigs for Whiskyfun.

Laphroaig "Cairdeas" 12yo (57.5%, OB, Feis Isle 2009 and Friends of Laphroaig) Nose: Lots of citrus, grapefruit, sweet smoke, wood staves, fresh wood, resiny, pinewood. Adding a dash of water it really opens up and you get lovely notes of crème brûlée. Taste: Lemon grass, sweet smoke, some wood tannins and quite dry with a nice layer of lemon pie and a touch of pineapple. Finish : Smoky and dry. Balance/complexity: Great Laffie if you like 'm dry ;-).
Points LWS members: James 89, Dirk 88, Geert 89, Luc 88, Billy 89. Average 89/100.
And because this is brand new... the new Laphroaig 10yo ‘Cask Strength – Batch 001 FEB.09’ (57,8%, OB, 2009) Nose: Cross-berry, star fruit, beeswax, leather, furniture polish, the alcohol is quite powerful here, hard to nose thru, cigar boxes, bacon, kelp, charcoal, BBQ meat, iodine. Taste: Smoky, peppery, strong, seaweed. Finish: Smoky and warming long with a black pepper finish
Balance/complexity: Great dram and add plenty of water to release the "beast" ;-).
Points LWS members: James 86, Dirk 89, Geert 89, Luc 87, Billy 89. Average 88/100.
PS: whiskysamples already has these three malts available as samples.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Sweden’s Little Dragon
Title: Scribbled Paper
From: Little Dragon, 2007
Please buy the Little Dragon's music.

Little Dragon

May 26, 2009

Whiskyfun isn’t at the Islay Festival this year (still remembering the 2002 edition with that marvellous Ardbeg 1976 from the legendary 239x line… £69 at the time if I remember well… sob sob) but we have very skilled and enthusiastic reporters over there: the Lindores boys and their lider maximo Luc Timmermans (also of MM and whiskysamples fame). These crazy Belgians just sent us their first tasting notes and scores for three of this year’s Feis Ile bottlings…
Lagavulin Lagavulin 1995/2009 (54.4%, OB, Feis Isle 2009, Cask 4556) Nose: Orange marmalade, a whiff of smoke, meaty, smoked venison, cinnamon, bacon, fishermen's rope, resembles the old 12yo white horse white label (rotation 1979), very enjoyable. Mouth: Full and oily, quite sweet at the start, the sherry gives a beautiful spicy, almost fruitcake like structure and the smokiness kicks in beautifully, very sippable at 54,4%. Finish: Powerful, spicy, almost like wasabi, long and tongue sticking, lovely and a bit drying. Balance/complexity: Beautiful malt.... a good job done by Iain McArthur - this will be a stunner with some bottle aging. And adding some water really makes this beauty highly drink-able. What a great swimmer.
Points LWS members: James 90, Dirk 91, Geert 91, Luc 91, Billy (Lindores member to be): 90. Average 91/100.
Caol Ila Feis Ile

Caol Ila 1996/2009 (58%, OB for Feis Isle 2009, Cask 19313, European Oak) Nose: A bit of an a-typical Caol Ila nose, you get oily seaweed, kelp, toffee, lemon grass, oriental spices, coriander, a touch of acacia honey, driftwood, a nice whiff of smoke and sweaty notes, very good. Mouth: Crystalised oranges, butter scotch, toffee, good touch of smoke and nice salty maritime touch, great. Finish: Long and intense finish that brings back a lovely smoke touch mixed with nice peppery notes. Balance/complexity: Lovely dram, great choice of cask here. Points LWS members: James 90, Dirk 91, Geert 91, Luc 91, Billy 90. Average 91/100.

Bruichladdich Feis Ile Bruichladdich "Oirthir Gaidheal" 1993/2009 (53,6%, OB, Feis Isle 2009, Cask 13, 1000 Bts.) Nose: Starts very malty, grapefruit zest, a bit sweaty, warm Danish pastries, viennoiserie, yeast, green malt, fresh baked bread. Mouth: Malty sourish, quit thick and oily, bitter grapefruit, yeasty. Finish: A bit dry and very sour, with even a bit of vinegar (almost). Balance/complexity: the nose is challenging but the palate is quite sourish.
Points from LWS members: James 83, Dirk 80, Geert 82, Luc 81, Billy 82. Average 82/100.

PS: whiskysamples already has these three malts available as samples.


Whisky lovers often think that adding caramel to whisky to achieve colour consistency is recent practice, and that bottlers should go back to the old days, when whisky was ‘fully natural and unaltered’. That’s why I thought this back label from around 1933/1934 was interesting. As you can see, some ‘harmless colouring’ – most probably caramel - had been added to this King William IV. blend for the US. (the base malt used to be Glenury Royal).

Also interesting, the mention of the youngest whisky in the blend (here 1926), the cognac-inspired sub-brand name V.O.P. (the same kind of labelling was still used by Aberlour in the 1980s with their V.O.H.M., not to mention Balvenie’s tall ‘cognac bottle’ for their early Founder’s Reserve or their Armagnac-inspired flat ‘basquaise’ bottle for their ‘classic flag label’.) Also quite funny on the King William IV, this claim: ‘This is the same quality as the King William IV. Scotch Whisky sold in the U.S.A. before prohibition.’

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: The Sun Ra Quartet
Title: Absolutely stellar, wonderful and totally entrancing, Springtime and Summer Idyll
From: Other Voices, Other Blues, 1978
Please buy Sun Ra's music!

Sun Ra

May 25, 2009

Naked Wine Show  


If you’re into wine and use Twitter, you probably already know Susan Sterling’s Naked Wine Shows.

Nakes Whisky SHow Rough marketing tactics for tough times or simply a charming idea? Each to his own but aren’t we all wondering why no distillers ever transposed the idea to the Whisky world? Just between us, it’s not that whisky divas such as Jim McEwan, Richard Paterson, Mickey Heads, Bill Lumsden or even Dave Broom or Charlie MacLean aren’t sexy men (especially when they’re wearing their kilts) but what’s sure is that the expression ‘taking a whisky naked’ would suddenly make more sense, should some clever distillers hire the likes of Charlize Theron or Jennifer Connelly. Hint, hint…(@Ralfy, are you listening?)


Gleaming 27 yo 1973/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 318 bottles) ‘Gleaming’ is said to be Glenkinchie but of course this may be pure speculation (yeah, yeah). Colour: full gold. Nose: maybe that’s because we just had a wee Tomatin session, but this Gleaming really smells like an old Tomatin, with some obvious notes of melon and mango mixed with soft spices (and cedar wood) and a little apricot jam. Goes on with leather, wild flowers and nectar, whiffs of ancient roses and even a little litchi and muscat… I must say this is wonderful, pretty much in the same category as the excellent 20yo that the owners issued three years ago. With water: totally wonderful! More of the same but obviously mellower. A grand Glenkinchie. Mouth (neat): wow! Big attack, megafruity and superbly oaky and spicy, with a distinct smokiness and then a perfect lime/mint combination. Superb profile! With water: excellently jammy and never, never lumpish or too phat. The epitome of balance. Finish: long, on kumquats and nutmeg. Comments: the best Glenkinchie I ever had. Brilliant whisky. SGP:641 - 92 points.
Glenkinchie 1975/2009 (57.2%, Malts of Scotland, cask #2968, 174 bottles) From a sherry hogshead. Several indie 1975 Glenkinchies are to be found these days (A.D. Rattray, Jack Wieber…) but let’s rather try this one by a new German independent bottler named ‘Malts of Scotland’ (Err...) Colour: full gold. Nose: much, much drier than the 1973, and more grassy and kind of medicinal (whiffs of antiseptic). Marzipan and fresh walnuts, hints of camphor. Nice but hard to pin down when naked (Serge!) With water: ah yes, water works beautifully. Maybe it’s not quite as classy as the Gleaming but the citrusy notes combined with some beautiful hints of watermelon and passion fruits are perfect. Superb hints of fresh tobacco in the background (newly opened pack of Camels). Coriander, cardamom. Mouth (neat): we’re close to the Gleaming, and I must say this attack is to our liking. Very firm yet fruity (orange marmalade, mango chutney), with a very pleasant toastiness from the oak. Sure it’s a tad too hot but one can see that it’s high quality stuff, even at 57% vol. With water: ah yes, now we have the same kind of zing and fresh yet opulent fruitiness as in the 1973. Excellent. Finish: long, complex, fruity, jammy, spicy (cardamom). In short, excellent. Comments: were I to launch a brand new independent bottling company, I’d try to get top notch casks for my very first bottlings. It seems that that’s exactly what these fellows at the Malts of Scotland company did (better spend some time selecting great casks than trying to come up with a very clever range/company name, huh!) SGP:641 – 91 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Dave Liebman
Title: The Call
From: Drum Ode, 1975
Please buy Dave Liebman's music.

Dave Liebman

May 24, 2009

Glen Ord


Glen Ord 12 yo 1996/2008 'Long Red' (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram, 184 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: typical fruity young Speysider, exploding with gooseberries and ripe apples and with a distinctive Ordish smokiness in the background as well as a faint waxiness. It’s no uber-complex whisky but the profile is pretty perfect in its own genre. A little bubblegum. Very pleasant freshness. Mouth: in keeping with the nose but even fruitier and more bubblegummy. We aren’t far from plum eau-de-vie (zwetschke or quetsche), with again that slight smokiness and something faintly roasted (peanuts). Not a lot of cask influence here. Finish: medium long, clean and just as fruity, with just a little black pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: a fresh, fruitful malt whisky that should take ice well when the temperatures will rise. SGP:631 - 81 points.
Glen Ord 12 yo 1996/2008 (59%, The Whisky Cask) The bottler himself did the drawing of the stills on the label – that’s dedication! Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is obviously less exuberant than the version at 46%, but the aromas may well hide behind the very high abv. Rather spirity (kirsch) when undiluted. With water: a few soapy notes, which often happens when you just added water. Let’s wait a bit… Right, it got almost identical to the Long Red, so please read above… Mouth (neat): the high alcohol makes it even fruitier and more bubblegummy. Cherry brandy at cask strength? Rather spirity, let’s add water again. With water: even more identical to the Long Red. Finish: ditto. Comments: another Summer Speysider, but water is obligatory. SGP:631 – 81 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:
Bad, bad Whiskyfun, imagine we haven't posted anything about the great Karen Dalton since 2004! I tell you, a shame... Listen to Right, wrong or ready (1969 - no it isn't Billie Holiday) and then please buy Karen Dalton's music.

Karen Dalton

May 22, 2009

The Jazz Café, Camden Town, London, May 5th 2009

I won’t hear a word said against Roger Chapman, owner of one of the most distinctive voices in British rock and roll, former vocalist in Family (probably the greatest of all the Greatest British Rock Bands Not To Make It), and a cultured exponent of the English language. I hadn’t realised that ‘fuck’ originated in Scandinavia: the Norwegian ‘fukka’, meaning copulate, and possibly the Swedish ‘focka’, with the same meaning, found their way into English via the Scots (who as we all realise, know a fucking good thing when they see one). One of its first recorded written usages is in Sir David Lyndsay’s sixteenth-century comedic morality play Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaits, an attack on the Scottish establishment.

Whether Mr Chapman knows this (“Fuck off”) I know not (“Don’t be so fucking cheeky”), but he certainly uses the word (“Which fucker’s next, you fuckers?”) with the concentrated abandon of a naughty schoolboy (“I just don’t want to sing that fucking fucker tonight”) aided by his chums from Neverland, The Short List. Tonight they comprise regulars Stevie Simpson on guitars and fiddle, Ian Gibbons on keyboards, Gary Twigg on bass, John Lingwood on drums, and Helen Harding on backing vocals. On lead guitar, proudly demonstrating his Hughes and Kettner amplifier and pedal board is Geoff Whitehorn, more often to be found playing guitar with Procul Harum, amongst others (“I’ve got to go now to get the fucking bus home”). Which reminds me, for the longest-running legal dispute in the history of rock and roll, have a look here.
Roger Chapman Anyway, I won’t hear a word said against Roger Chapman, even if he is slowing down a bit on stage. No more microphone stand callisthenics or manic tambourine trashing, he’s now almost rooted to the spot, never too far from his music stand and the lyrics to his songs. Memory bad, eyesight good. And his moody menace (“Fuck off”) is somewhat tempered by all too apparent frailty of not just the memory: he even shivers when he pours a bottle of water over his head. But that’s not the point. Chapman is a key part of my personal rock and roll history (as I have explained before) and one of the reasons I’m still going to gigs is because of the profound impact he had on me all those years ago with Family, on the stage of Birmingham Town Hall, my first big gig outside of the Blues Attic at the Jolly Weavers. Watching him come onto stage and sing ‘Good news, bad news’ was like a huge electric shock from which I’ve never quite recovered.
Once seen, heard and felt, never fucking forgotten. And the voice, that rasping rhythm and blues vibrato, is still there, maybe not with quite the same range, but still with the ability to send an ice-cold shiver down your spine, notably when he sang a superb version of Dylan’s ‘Blind Willie McTell’.
Chapman has never rested on his laurels. He tours endlessly, mostly in continental Europe and in particular, Germany, and regularly records new material (his latest album, Hide Go Seek, is just out). So the majority of this gig’s material is drawn from the past ten years or so, rather than the past forty. Songs like ‘One more time’, ‘Kiss my soul’, ‘Sweet bird of youth’ and ‘Two pieces of silver’ all fit neatly into the R&B groove that Chapman has developed for himself over the years. There’s a great version of ‘He said, she said’, which morphs into ‘Sixteen tons’, and ‘Short list’ (“I’m going to sing this fucker because I’ve told you I don’t want to sing that other fucker”). And of course he ends with Family’s ‘Burlesque’ before returning for a messy ‘Weaver’s answer’ and a rip-roaring ‘Who pulled the night down’, from his first solo album, Chappo, which has stood the test of time very well, a bit like Roger, I suppose.

Sadly not currently in production, you can only buy it from dealers, from around £40 to £80. But I would urge some caution: Chapman has suffered greatly from the scourge of counterfeit or unlicensed CD sales (yep, it’s not just malt whisky and electric guitars that get faked), to the extent that you can download ‘Chappo’ from his website ‘for free’ (well, almost), which I urge you to do. And remember, I won’t hear a fucking word said against him. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

Listen: Roger Chapman on MySpace


TASTING – THREE FRENCH WHISKIES (with thanks to Antoine and Anthony)

Milin Guer (40%, OB, blended, Brittany, +/-2007) This Whisky Breton comes from the distillerie Menez Bré in Lannion, and not from Warenghem like the Whisky Breton that is or was sold by Carrefour supermarkets. Colour: straw. Nose: starts rather nicely, on quite some cereals, soaked grains and a little vanilla, with also hints of caramel. It’s fresh and clean, getting rather coastal after a while (whiffs of sea air). Faint hints of geranium. Keeps developing on various fruit liqueurs and syrups. Pleasant nose! Mouth: this works well and we’re closer to a decent young Speysider than to most Scottish blends. Dried pears, ginger, candy sugar, vanilla, liquorice and cornflakes (lots!) Also heavily sugared café latte. Good. Finish: shortish but clean, with a little oak, cinnamon and notes of vanilla-flavoured rum. Comments: a well made batch, certainly a blend of interest. SGP:330 - 74 points.
Eddu Grey Rock (40%, OB, blended, Brittany) From the Distillery des Menhirs in Plomelin. This one contains 30% buckwheat whisky. Colour: straw. Nose: much rawer and much more buttery/butyric than the Milin Guer. Rather huge notes of porridge, crushed bananas, cooked butter… Faint soapiness in the background. Much more presence than in the Milin Guer actually, but you have to like these very porridgy notes, although this one develops very nicely, on marzipan and gingerbread. Improves over time. Mouth: a very fruity and very ‘eau-de-vie-ish’ attack that leads us far away from anything Scottish. Litres of apple juice, orange squash, and tankers of pear liqueur. A little bitter wood too. Finish: rather long, still much on pear liqueur. Quite some cinnamon and vanilla and maybe a little salt. Comments: rather good in my view but this one is more for Brittany lovers than for Whisky lovers. Too fruity I think, that may also come from the buckwheat. SGP:520 - 70 points.
Hedgehog (45%, OB, Monsieur Balthazar distillery, Auvergne, France) This is 'Straight Whisky Bourbonnais.' Nothing to do with American Bourbon though, Bourbonnais is a small region in the centre of France. The distillery is located in the village of Hérisson, which means Hedgehog in French. Colour: amber/orange. Nose: this one displays the typical notes that come out of some eau-de-vie stills. Very fruity (ripe apples and oranges), with notes of cloves and Chinese anise, developing more on muesli and caramel/candy sugar. Lots of fruitcake coming through after a while, dried pears, tangerine liqueur (Mandarine Impériale). I must say this is pleasant, even if we’re far from Scotch once again. Mouth: hey, the attack is nice! All in keeping with the nose, that is to say very candied and gingery (speculoos galore!), with rather big notes of marmalade and then the kind of spice mix they use to make mulled wine (cloves, cinnamon, aniseed and the rest). The oak is rather big, and maybe the middle is a tad weaker than the attack, but it’s still very pleasant whisky. Finish: long and even spicier, with quite some pepper and a ‘sweet bitterness’ from the oak. I’d love to know which kinds of cask Monsieur Balthazar used for maturing this baby. Comments: a very good surprise. These whiskies are very rare and I never had the opportunity to try them. SGP:441 - 79 points.

May 21, 2009

Springbank 12


Springbank 12 yo 'Glens Extra' (70° proof, Robert Watson Aberdeen, black screw cap, 1960s) A very, very pale semi-official expression of Springbank. Colour: almost white. Nose: very interesting for it’s a very old Springbank displaying almost no cask influence. It’s all on paraffin, linseed oil and soot, getting then even waxier, with big notes of shoe polish and wet newspaper of the day (on a rainy Sunday morning ;-)). Goes on with hints of stone fruit spirit (plums and apricotine like the Swiss make – it’s forbidden in France because of the prussic acid that’s contained in the stones but it’s truly excellent). Gets also smokier over time (coal). Fresh almonds. Mouth: alas, this is a little weaker and more ‘simply’ fruity (pears, apples) than on the nose, but it’s no tired whisky at all. Again this slight waxiness and hints of violet sweets, the whole getting then maybe a tad cardboardy and mouldy. A lot of body, though. Finish: rather long and rather grassy now, with some peat and a little cumin. Comments: very good, and rather brilliant nose. Too bad the palate was a tad mundane (but little OBE)… SGP:352 - 84 points.
Springbank saxplayer Springbank 12 yo Premium Reserve 'Saxplayer' (46%, OB, Japan, 375ml, 1980s) A very rare Springbank that came in a… plastic saxophone! Alas, the saxophone wasn’t playable, otherwise I’d have bet that the good old Ornette Coleman would have tried to blow it. Colour: amber. Nose: a rather dry and mentholated Springbank at first nosing, with more smoke than in current Springbanks once again (coal). It gets then suddenly very leathery and beefy, with the fitting herbs (parsley, lovage, sage). Beef bouillon from Campbeltown?
There’s obviously a lot of very dry oloroso in there, and it’s quite magnificent (if not very musical). Gets even more ‘balsamic’ after a few minutes. Mouth: a rather unusual attack, half rawish, half polished. A tad winey (sherry, raspberry liqueur) but the wood is of high quality. Chinese sweet and sour sauce (the one they serve with the steamed dim sums), cherry liqueur (guignolet), a little chilli… Also quite some strawberry jam, which is a little unusual with Springbank. Anyway, it’s very good once again. Finish: long, jammy, coating, with some fruit liqueur lingering in the background and quite some spices. Cloves. Comments: once again, I liked the nose rather better than the palate but the whole is of high quality, even if not totally mind…blowing (what a crappy joke, S.!) SGP:551 - 89 points. (many thanks, Michiel!)
Springbank 12 yo '100 Proof US' (50%, OB, +/-1995, 'Double Dark', USA, +/-1995) Let’s quote the very excellent Dr. Entropy over at the no less excellent PLOWED Society: ‘This was a mixture of very old underproof Springbank (reportedly 30 - 35 yo between 39 - 43%) with 12 yo at cask strength (overproof). The myth here is that they did not use water to bring the 12 yo cask strength down to 100 proof - they used the underproofed older whisky to do this and I've heard that the resultant mixture varies but is generally around 40% 12 yo and 60% older whisky. This was a one-time experiment that will supposedly not be repeated. These come in a dark and double-dark (almost mahogany) version and are basically only available from collectors (…) Note: I have no references for this (that I know of) and this tale is completely word of mouth, mostly over drams, so this entire story could be a total myth...’ I’d simply add that there were also a UK version at 57% vol. (hence supposedly containing less old whisky – WF 94) and an European version at 50% vol. (WF 93), but I don’t know whether the latter was the same as the US version. Not to mention, of course, the legendary older Italian version for Samaroli (WF 98).
Colour: very dark amber/mahogany. Nose: oh wow! Immensely rich and amazingly complex right from the start, reminding me of the Saxplayer, only coated with much more fruits (all kinds, whether dried or as jams) and quite some chocolate. And the very same whiffs of coal smoke and beef stock plus these notes of high-end Cuban cigars, both unlit and lit (say a Robusto Extra by Trinidad – okay, forget about that.) With water: more of the same, really. Maybe an increased meatiness. Mouth (neat): absolutely phat-tastic, immensely concentrated and creamy but the most amazing thing is that it’s in no way heavy. Prunes, chocolate, very old sherry, old forgotten liqueurs (remember Parfait Amour?), pipe tobacco, jamon Iberico… And myriads of other aromas that I won’t list here and now (yes, all this porn would get even more boring). With water: it got a tad drier, I think water is not needed here, and maybe even to be avoided. Finish: long, does ‘the peacock’s tail’. Comments: good news, I’m speechless. SGP:662 - 95 points. (heartfelt thanks, Alan R.)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: but WARNING, either you play it VERY loud or you do not play it at all (we're watching!)...
Artist: Dr. Feelgood
Title: Milk & Alcohol
Please buy the good Doctors' music!

Dr Feelgood

May 20, 2009

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1980/2002 (42.3%, OB for LMdW, cask #5684, 156 bottles) Colour: full amber. Nose: ah yes, this one displays the class of some older Bunnahabhains, with these distinctive notes of roasted nuts (hazelnuts, also chestnuts) and high-end milk chocolate that mingle perfectly well with whiffs of sea breeze and polished leather. Goes on with hints of bacon, cured ham and then hints of praline and mocha… All that isn’t wham-bam, rather delicate, even if it gets then a tad beefier and herbal (parsley, chives). Really screams ‘old Bunny!’ Mouth: definitely old style, with a beautiful sherry that includes a little mint, liquorice, raisins and once again this meatiness that goes so well with Bunnahabhain’s rather delicate spirit. Keeps developing on roly-poly, strawberry jam, and then these leathery notes that are so enjoyable. Finish: medium long but impeccably dry (espresso coffee), nutty and slightly vinous/salty. Comments: it’s got something of the old ones from the 1960s but it’s a tad rawer. An excellent bottling anyway! SGP:451 - 90 points. (and thank you, Angus)
Bunnahabhain 'Darach Ùr' Batch No.1 (46.3%, OB, 2008) It seems that this bottling was fully matured in new oak barrels from the United States (but the border between full maturing and finishing can be quite fuzzy in some marketeers' blurb) so we’re expecting an explosion of vanilla. It’s a travel retail exclusive. Colour: full gold. Nose: the opposite of the 1980 as far as complexity is concerned, this one is straight and rather ‘full’ but certainly not too oaky/gingery. Starts on notes of banana skin and cut grass (make that hay), something like overripe apples (faint sourness), then hints of old rancio (unexpected in a new oak matured whisky) and butter and finally something like a vanilla sauce indeed. In any case, not one of these dreaded ‘new style vanilla bombs’. Alas, gets a little ‘plankish’ after fifteen minutes (sawdust). Mouth: well, I don’t think it works too well now. Big oaky notes, ginger, nutmeg and white pepper, with just hints of Bunnahabhain’s usual character. Too many spices from the wood for our taste. Finish: long but drying and chalky. Comments: not unpleasant at all but you have to like these big, modern oaky notes that more or less hide the distillery’s markers. As always, a matter of taste I guess, I'm sure many whisky lovers will, err, love this. We tried to add water, it got even oakier on the nose but nicely fruity on the palate – only very simple. Oh, and we really believe this was finished in new oak, not fully matured. SGP:431 - 78 points.
Bunnahabhain 16 yo (53.2%, OB, manzanilla finish, 3792 bottles, +/-2009) Finished for 4 years in Manzanilla. Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is much shier than its siblings, much more on fresh walnuts, apple pealing and leaves, with a faint mouldiness (empty barrels, wine cellar) and hints of tasted bread (faint smokiness). It’s not very expressive but water may help. With water: same aromas, no further development, maybe just a little more wood smoke. Mouldy. Mouth (neat): an unusual Bunnahabhain again, starting bigger than on the nose, on very big notes of fino sherry and kirsch and going on in the same style. Raspberry eau-de-vie, walnuts, green tea, oak (nutmeg and cinnamon), roasted nuts. With water: much more playful and lively, with more Seville oranges, tangerines and liquorice. Fresher. Finish: medium long, with the oak playing first part and just hints of salt. Even a little lemon. Comments: the nose was okayish, and so was the palate when undiluted, but the palate really took off with addition of water. Do not forget to add water to this one! SGP: - 84 points.
 With thanks to Geert

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Anna Nalick
Title: Catalyst
From: Catalyst (1995)
Please buy Anna Nalick's music.

Anna Nalick

May 19, 2009

Hammersmith Apollo, London
May 1st 2009

Have you heard of Walking with the Dinosaurs? It was originally a TV show, but now is a live ‘experience’.
You can see and hear these long-forgotten, heavy-framed and slow-moving creatures from the past, who defied evolution with their refusal to adapt to a changing world. Did you know that despite having huge skulls some had brains the size of a pea? Others had flexible jaws to allow them to feed non-stop in order to sustain their enormous bulk.
Their sense of smell was often acute, no doubt to allow them to pick up the foul scents and odours that mapped their own paths, and those of their fellow creatures. To the unprepared, their archaic, almost antique appearance was not only fearsome and terrifying, but also strangely melancholic, conjuring up as it did the vision of a dying race doomed to live on for ever only in the frail memories of mankind. But these things are so real, you feel you can simply reach out and touch them… Then I remembered I was sitting in the stalls of the Hammersmith Apollo (now sponsored, you’ll be pleased to know, by HMV) for a Gary Moore concert, and the dinosaurs were all around me, mostly, as it happens, wearing faded Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and Pink Floyd T-shirts. Some specimens were certainly more enterprising than others. It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone manage to get a bottle of spirits into the place: an increasingly animated couple who sat happily sipping (well, it’s London, so it must have been glugging) rum and coke all night. Gary Moore
It’s probably true to say that there are few bigger dinosaurs of rock than axeman Gary Moore, whose haircut and facial expressions both belong to a long-lost era. I first saw him back in the early 1970s with Skid Row, when he was being touted as the latest ‘fastest guitarist in the world’. Subsequently, he famously teamed up with Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy, and has made many guest appearances with numerous notable names, in addition to pursuing a successful solo career, albeit one with a fast-fading fan-base demographic, as the marketeers might say. However, most of them are sufficiently compos mentis to know exactly what it is they’ve come to hear, and Gary doesn’t disappoint. Indeed, the only surprise of the night is just how good Mr Moore was, from start to finish. This may be pretty one-dimensional stuff, but Gary, grimaces and all, delivers it perfectly. Gary Moore
With a clutch of guitars, including at least three Gibson Les Pauls (but sadly not the famous 1959 model that Moore bought from his one-time mentor Peter Green, and recently sold for a small fortune), a Telecaster and a Stratocaster, and a raft of pedals, Moore performed almost every trick in the blues-rock guitarist’s hand-book. It was an absolutely engrossing performance from a technical perspective, featuring songs from Moore’s new album, Bad for You Baby, such as Muddy Waters’ ‘Walking through the park’, and ‘Mojo boogie’, where Moore’s bottleneck playing revealed his only apparent weak spot. ‘I love you more than you’ll ever know’’, a very tasteful slow blues, displayed a mastery of the volume control to deliver a haunting solo, whilst ‘Have you heard’, from 2007’s Close as You Get featured stunning sustain and wonderfully controlled feedback; ‘perfect’ was what I wrote in the notebook.
So good old Gary is what I say. He didn’t have a lot to say for himself, let the guitars do all the talking really, delighted his audience by his showboating at the front of the stage, and predictably enough left his audience in raptures with an encore of ‘Parisian Walkways’. Not bad at all for a bunch of old dinosaurs. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Listen: Gary Moore and Phil Lynott play Parisienne Walkways live in 1987 (Youtube)

TASTING – TWO SHERRIED BRAEVAL (aka Braes of Glenlivet)

A lot of Braes were filled into sherry butts and we already had some wonderful ones by Cadenhead’s and Signatory. A few crappy ones too…

Braeval 13 yo 1995/2008 (46%, Dun Bheagan, Manzanilla sherry butt, cask #95654, 798 bottles) As you may know, Manzanilla is a dry, delicate and sometimes salty kind of fino sherry. Colour: straw. Nose: an interesting fight between a ‘simple fruitiness’ that’s often to be found in very young Speysiders and a ‘walnutty smokiness’. Both don’t seem to mingle too much but that doesn’t mean that this is unpleasant. Whiffs of warm cooked butter, toasts, hops and overripe apples. Mouth: what appears to be the Manzanilla’s influence really comes out now, with the same kind of grassy bitterness that one finds in old walnuts, notes of heavily caramelised beer (Guinness?), then orange marmalade and heavily sugared tea, and finally maybe ‘a saltiness’ but that may come only from my mind. Ha, autosuggestion! Sweeter and rounder than on the nose. Finish: medium long, on caramel and salt. Comments: good and easy whisky but rather complex and ‘different’. SGP:441 - 81 points.
Braeval 12 yo 1996/2009 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, sherry butt, 754 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: not much sherry, rather a lot of vanilla and tankerloads of caramel and light toffee in this one. Frankly, it smells almost like a Werther’s Original bonbon, or maybe caramel and vanilla flavoured Chupa Chups lollipops. Gets a tad smokier after that. Whisky for kids? Rather spectacular I must say despite a little sulphur. Mouth: starts a little prickly but assertive, candied, medium sherried, with quite some strawberry jam and even a little bubblegum. For kids indeed, in spite of some winey notes that linger in the background. Goes on with more caramel and notes of prunes as well as a pleasant spiciness (cloves and cinnamon, mulled wine). Finish: long but more caramelly again. Comments: a good sherried dram once again, fairy unusual. No chocolaty/raisiny notes. Fino sherry? SGP: - 83 points.

May 18, 2009

Laphroaig 1998


Laphroaig 11 yo 1998/2009 'Philo Raga' (57.5% The Nectar, Daily Dram) Colour: white wine. Nose: a very peaty, rather lemony and extremely ashy young Laphroaig, with these notes of cut apples beyond the surface. It’s also very medicinal, with whiffs of antiseptic and a little eucalyptus. More and more cold ashes, linseed oil and then hints of ‘nice rancid butter’ if you see what I mean. With water: ashier and grassier (fresh walnuts), and more kippery as well. Just faint hints of pear juice. Sharper and straighter than the young OBs but I haven’t tried the most recent batches of the official 10yo CS – have to do that soon! Mouth (neat): powerful but not aggressive, and rather fruitier than on the nose. Smoked apple liqueur? Kiwis? Some lemon for sure. The ashiness is big and even a tad drying – ever had some cigar ash in your mouth? (by mistake of course). With water: ultra-clean, a tad fruitier, with quite some liquorice, marzipan, white chocolate, lemon, salt… And straight ‘peat’ plus tar in the background. Finish: long, clean and zesty, peaty and smoky. Maybe just a tad drying/ashy. Comments: excellent Laphroaig, flawless, for lovers of this style. Extreme peat. SGP:259 - 89 points.
Laphroaig 10 yo 1998/2009 (57.5%, The Whisky Cask) Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s the same whisky as the Philo Raga, more or less (rather more than less). With water: ditto. Mouth (neat): once again, same whisky. With water: same. Finish: same. Comments: same. SGP:259 - 89 points (yup, same).
Laphroaig 1998/2008 (61.6%, Berry Bros and Rudd for La Maison du Whisky) Ah, this beautiful nostalgia label! Colour: straw. Nose: a rather shier version this time, maybe a tad more almondy and even sootier, but the very high strength may make that difference, so let’s add water right away. With water: less straightforward and rather more ‘untidy’ than the others, with a patchwork of smoked fish, smoked ham, roots, liquorice, iodine, farmyard after the rain, almond milk, pepper and even crème brûlée. Oh, and clams… Mouth (neat): very powerful indeed and certainly fruitier and sweeter than its sibling(s), with quite some strawberry jam and even hints of guavas, but that may come from the very high alcohol. With water: we’re rather closer to the others now but this one is still fruitier and less extreme in its peatiness. Quite some pepper and ginger. Finish: very long, bigger, spicier, even sort of biting, even when diluted. Comments: another beast for sure, maybe less medicinal than others. SGP:458 - 87 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Bill Laswell’s Sacred System
Title: Bati
From: Book Of Exit (Dub Chamber 4), 2002
Please buy Bill Laswell's music.

Bill Laswell

May 17, 2009



Fascadale Island Batch N° 1 (46%, Adelphi, 10 casks, 2009) Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather fresh but also quite porridgy and kind of yeasty islander that smells rather younger and less polished than its official counterpart. Mid-peated and also rather lemony, it develops on ‘a full plate of oysters’, with a typical combination of sourness (lemon, sea water), herbs and spices (a little pepper but less than expected.) Hints of leaven (sourdough). Typically a ‘nice’ whisky from Skye. Mouth: easy, young, peatier than on the nose and certainly much saltier than many versions. Other than that it’s simply good and fairly undemanding. Notes of lemon and strawberries. Finish: medium long, peaty, a little more vanilled and much less peppery than most of its siblings. Comments: not mindboggling, but good! SGP:455 - 82 points.
Undercover N°2 24 yo 1984/2008 (51.9%, The Nectar, 82 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: this is much, much richer and obviously more mature than the Fascadale, starting on rather beautiful notes of cappuccino and vanilla fudge, then old pu-erh tea and Havana tobacco, and then that smoky tea called lapsang souchong. The peat isn’t big but the spices are, and beautiful at that. Four-spices, ginger, caraway seeds, cardamom… It’s quite oriental. Also notes of cured ham (Italian) and just whiffs of stale seawater (no, not dead crab!) An unusual version of this famous malt it seems, I find the nose beautiful and very entertaining. Mouth: what is this? Don’t get me wrong, it’s truly excellent but so different from any other whiskies from ‘there’… Starts on grappa, and big time (or marc de gewürztraminer, or even rum) and stays on that big fruitiness for quite some time, before it sort of dives sharply into more expected flavours such as plain peat, pepper, salt, full grain bread (pumpernickel) and lemon marmalade. A little chocolate. This is spectacular whisky in my view. Finish: very long and ultra-peppery and peaty. Comments: very good and really unusual, hence really worth trying. Too bad there are only 82 bottles of this – I mean, 81. Very good stuff. SGP:366 - 88 points.


MUSIC - Recommended listening: the brand new album by the great Iggy Pop will be out later this month and it'll be called Préliminaires. We could put our hands on this rather beautiful rendition of Les Feuilles Mortes by the iguana's deep barytone voice but we'll take it off soon. Please buy the CD as soon as it's out!

Iggy Pop

May 15, 2009

Port Charlotte
There’s kind of a healthy competition amongst the private owners of sherry casks of Port Charlotte, the goal being, of course, to own/bottle the best. Sure it’s all a matter of taste but it seems that our friend Gordon (of spiritofislay.net fame) had the advantage until now, which was amazing since he fired his bloodtub R23 very early in 2005 (WF 94). Other small casks have been fab too, such as Gerald’s (R42, bottled 2006, WF 93). Let’s see if these new ones are as good… Or even better?
Port Charlotte 5 yo 2002/2008 (46%, Giorgio d'Ambrosio/Franco di Lillo, first fill sherry, 268 bottles - 2*134) A shared cask, two labels for the same whisky… We have a picture of both! Colour: amber. Nose: oh yes. Isn’t it amazing how Port Charlotte takes heavy sherry? I don’t know which kind of cask it was (too small for a butt unless it was shared with yet another owner – or maybe a vatting of several bloodtubs? A hoggie?) but this nose is truly beautiful, uniting the best of both worlds (peat and sherry) in just five years. All I’ll say is that this is very close to some old style Islayers (peat, smoke, fresh citrus fruits, dried fruits and myriads of other aromas, many very wild). Superb. Mouth (neat): excellent, very excellent. Once again, everything is integrated, from peat to chocolate and from fruit jellies to leathery notes, even if this puppy may actually be too rich and flavourful. In fact, that’s almost the limit! Finish: extremely long peaty and jammy. Faint rubber in the background. Comments: I don’t want to insist but sherry and Port Charlotte seem to go even better along than Siegfried and Roy – white tigers not included. SGP:557 - 92 points.
Port Charlotte 2001/2009 (56%, Alan Robinson, bloodtub #R37) This has been bottled but as the owner is American, it seems that the distillery is still awaiting approval for the label from the US government (that’s why we put a picture of the very engaging owner instead ;-)). Colour: very dark amber. Nose: a dry version, with much more wood than in the ‘Italian’, somewhat in the style of some very old bourbons, with these extraordinary whiffs of burnt oak, eucalyptus, mint and pine resin. The peat hides a bit behind these fabulous notes, let’s see what happens with a little water. With water: wow, there’s more of everything! Straight oak (‘nice’ pencil), coal, resin, heavy northern European liquorice, cough syrup, fruitcake (thousands), marmalade, apricots, mint… And god knows what else. This one will make me believe in fast whisky maturing! Almost… Mouth (neat): this will probably sound stupid but this baby makes me think of an old peated rye whiskey. Which, of course, does not exist. Or of these rare highly concentrated garage Bordeaux that fetch even higher prices (and praises) than the famous first growths. This is majestic stuff, absolute top notch, but if you prefer light and aerial malts, you may well not even think of taking one single drop of this syrup into your mouth. With water: exceptional. Finish: exceptional. Very funny notes of strawberry chew sticks. Comments: one of the most concentrated whiskies I ever tried. We’re clearly in the same league as some young sherried Ardbegs, Caol Ilas or Port Ellens that were bottled in the 1980s (sorry, no names). And no, I’m not exaggerating. SGP:558 - 94 points. (Gordon, I’m sorry, it’s a tie!)
Port Charlotte 2001/2009 (66.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead #829, 313 bottles) Another bottling by this new German independent bottler. Very high strength but let’s not forget that Bruichladdich fill their casks at a higher strength than usual (70% ABV instead of 63.5 elsewhere, if memory serves). Colour: full amber. Nose: as often, such high strength seems to sort of lock the whisky. What we get is a lot of chocolate and some straight wood and peat smoke but there must be much more. With (a lot of) water: it’s a drier version of Port Charlotte, maybe a tad more restrained than the others but extremely elegant, all on leather, motor oil, tarmac, game and ultra-mega-huge notes of unlit Habano. Love it. Mouth (neat): oh my! As hot and heavy as whisky can be. Quick, water: hell, it’s brilliant whisky once again and it’s very similar to Alan Robinson’s in style, maybe just a wee bit simpler. Please read above. Finish: same. Comments: same. These very sherried Port Charlottes are stunning, but maybe the owners who did not bottle theirs yet should not consider waiting much longer. They’re all very, very rich and concentrated and maybe they would become a little cloying after, say ten or twelve years, especially the small casks. SGP:457 - 91 points.
PS: I know these reviews and scores for such youngsters may sound exaggerated and far fetched but please trust us, these whiskies are brilliant and several very experienced whisky friends already agreed (some went even higher - so to speak).

MUSIC - Recommended listening
Artist: Coleman Hawkins Allstar
Title: Honeysuckle Rose (1937). I’ve got the original 78rpm of this and I sometimes play it on my old English wooden gramophone. Sounds great!
Please buy Coleman 'Bean' Hawkins' music...

Coleman Hawkins

May 2009 - part 1 <--- May 2009 - part 2 ---> June 2009 - part 1

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



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

Bowmore 8 yo (43%, OB, Sherriff's, pear shape, 1960s)

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1980/2002 (42.3%, OB for LMdW, cask #5684, 156 bottles)

Gleaming 27 yo 1973/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 318 bottles)

Glenkinchie 1975/2009 (57.2%, Malts of Scotland, cask #2968, 174 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2001/2009 (66.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead #829, 313 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2001/2009 (56%, Alan Robinson, bloodtub #R37)

Port Charlotte 5 yo 2002/2008 (46%, Giorgio d'Ambrosio/Franco di Lillo, first fill sherry, 268 bottles - 2*134)

Springbank 12 yo '100 Proof US' (50%, OB, +/-1995, 'Double Dark', USA, +/-1995)