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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2010 - Part 2

May 2010 - part 1 <--- May 2010 - part 2 ---> June 2010 - part 1


May 31, 2010

Tasting two official Lagavulin plus three undisclosed Islayers

Lagavulin 15
Lagavulin 15 yo (45%, OB, for Montenegro Italy, ceramic, +/-1980) Five stars This one to the health of our friend Stefan's little son. Ceramic bottles can be hit or miss, depending on them being airtight or not, but old Caol Ilas (golden jug) or Lagavulins are said to be usually in perfect shape. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: bang-bang! Most probably as punchy as it was thirty years ago, very peaty and smoky, dry, beautifully austere (drier than more recent official Lagavulins), with a lot of peat smoke, tarry rope, bitter herbs, Barbour grease and brand new tyres. Loads of shoe polish as well, a little burnt caramel, cut flowers (not quite vase water), apple peelings… Austere indeed and much less fruity, medicinal or coastal than its well-known neighbours, even if there is a little camphor coming through after a while (evolving peat). Also hints of passion fruits after fifteen minutes, and then metal polish (OBE) and olive oil after thirty minutes. Mouth: holy featherless crow! Perfect combination of many resinous notes (putty, pine resin, natural rubber) with a fine liquoricy/tarry smokiness and many crystallised or dried fruits, such as kumquats, oranges or lemons. Gets then very salty (maybe this one was matured on Islay?) and more kippery than the usual Lagavulin (but can Lagavulin be usual?) Exceptional whisky. Finish: long, magnificently fruity and resinous (kumquats again). Comments: simply superb, on par with the old Laphroaigs but better than the old Ardbegs from the same era in my opinion. Only a small lack of complexity will prevent me from going up to 95. SGP:467 - 94 points.
Lagavulin 14 yo 1993/2007 (56.5%, OB, cask #4893, Feis Isle 2007) Four stars and a half I already tried this baby several times but never took any serious tasting notes. Now's the time. Colour: white wine. Nose: it is, indeed, much fruitier than the old 15, much more on peated apple juice or something like that. A little candy sugar, eucalyptus, cough syrup, sea air, crystallised fruits, hints of antiseptic, oysters… We aren’t too far from the ‘regular’ 12s. With water: gets unexpectedly simpler, but not any less great. Peated apple and pear juice, anyone? Mouth (neat): straight fresh peat, sweet and fruity. Apples and a little chilli, pepper and quite some peat smoke. With water: perfect balance between the peat and the fruits. Kilned fruit salad? Finish: rather long, on smoked pears and peaches. Comments: typical fruity middle-aged Lagavulin in my opinion, kind of a contact copy of the old 15. Exactly my definition of a 89 points malt, no less, but no more. SGP:637 - 89 points.
Lg1 (56.8%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2009) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: so close to the Lagavulin 1993! Almost identical, maybe just a tad rootier and earthier. Maybe also a little more mint. With water: now it gets more tarry and more rubbery (pleasantly so). Hints of ripe mangos in the background. Mouth (neat): a rather sweeter and fruitier Islayer this time, with some cherry juice, gooseberries and maybe redcurrants on top of the expected big peatiness. Fruity peat! Some gentian eau de vie too, the whole getting rootier and earthier over time (which I worship!) With water: in the same vein. Finish: long, more candied, with an earthiness and quite some tea in the aftertaste. Some liquorice and a little aniseed too – and some smoked tea Comments: same high quality as the Lagavulin that we just had. This whiskies are excellent but they may need quite some years of further ageing (like 5?) to get to 90+. SGP:547 - 89 points.
Classic of Islay (57.9%, Jack Wiebers, cask #1275, 2009) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: once again, we’re close, this one being a tad rounder and more candied than the Lg1, with also a little more stewed fruits (apricots). Grows bigger after a while, with some tobacco (blond) and quite some smoked tea. More aromatic than the Lg1 for sure but also less zesty. With water: it’s the grassiness that comes out, together with quite some aniseed (or rather celery and maybe fennel). Mouth (neat): again, a creamier version of the Lg1. Very similar, maybe a little more bubblegum, pear and vanilla. Very, very punchy whisky, probably quite young. With water: same as the Lg1 now. Finish: same. Comments: same. SGP:547 - 89 points.
Lagan Mill 18 yo 1991/2009 (59.5%, Coopers Choice, butt, cask #0006) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: his one is different, much more on cardboard and paraffin, without any fruitiness or even coastal notes at first nosing. Some sea air after a while, though, but it remains unusually shy for this distillery. Also a little fresh butter and almonds. With water: extremely herbal now. Cork? Big notes of black olives, extremely unusual indeed. Mouth (neat): works much better than on the nose when naked, with many more fruits, more citrusy and certainly super-zesty. Concentrated limejuice? Gets even a little acrid (savagnin wine). Not that I hate that, mind you, quite the opposite. With water: nah, this is too bizarre. I haven’t got anything against pickles, cucumbers or capers but maybe not in my whisky. Finish: long, dry, peppery, with some green chillies in the aftertaste. Comments: very interesting, what a strange dram! I don’t quite know what happened, it’s really strange and very different from any other whisky from that distillery (unless it’s from a completely different distillery, who knows!) One may use this to season a salad. SGP:176 - 81 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Lagavulin that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a nice and sweet little version of the famous Jitterbug Waltz by Melissa Stylianou. Well done! Please buy Melissa Stylianou's music.


May 29, 2010


Breaking news:
Our reporters on Islay have left the festival before the end and went to Oban instead

Tell me about reporters! Maybe they didn’t want to be caught in some kind of £220 trap? (May 30 update - no trap, it was finally £125!) Anyway, the good news is that they could try the new Oban ‘distillery only’ instead…



Oban NAS 2010 (55.2%, OB Only available at the distillery, 8999 bottles) Four stars and a half From 16 to 19 years old casks. Nose: Hay, bitter grapefruit, woodspice. Toast with orange zest marmalade. Caramel. Lovely nose. Palate: Creamy mouthfeel. Fruit. Pineapple. Indian spices in the finish. Some woodsmoke and cream. Comments: A real fine dram! Billy 88, Dirk 88, Geert 87, Luc 89 (average 88 points).

May 28, 2010

Tasting four Clynelish plus one



Clynelish 14 yo 1992/2007 (46%, Cadenhead, bourbon wood, 324 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: maybe a tad spirity at first nosing but gets then very fruity (garden fruits, apples, pears, gooseberries), with also quite some milk and boiled cereals. A little butter and a little vanilla. Not very Clynelish in my opinion, lacking wax. Mouth: more or less the same profile as on the nose. Lots of fresh fruits and even something sugary (bubblegum). Peaches. Finish: rather long, with a little salt left on your tongue. Comments: no doubt it’s good whisky but it lacks more Chlynelishness (whatever) in my opinion. SGP:531 - 78 points.

Clynelish 14 yo 1995/2010 (46%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: rather a flinty/waxy kind of Clynelish, with quite some linseed oil, graphite and hints of wet limestone plus notes of rubbed orange skin and green apples in the background. Touches of oatcakes. Very clean, very ‘evident’. One for Clynelish lovers ;-). Mouth: excellent and oh so highly drinkable. All the trademark Clynelish notes are here, maybe in a simpler form than with older bottlings but it’s all pretty perfect. Grapefruits, pepper, wax and chlorophyll, lemon… Well you know Clynelish, don’t you? Finish: rather long, clean, flinty and zesty. Comments: perfect young Clynelish, not too far from the 14yo OB in some aspects. SGP:453 - 87 points.

Clynelish 14 yo 1995/2010 (53%, The Whisky Agency, House Malt, bourbon hogshead, 170 bottles) Four stars and a half Another version of the same cask as above, only at a higher strength. Colour: white wine (a wee tad darker than the Nectar). Nose: interestingly, the profile is rather different. Easier on the waxy/oily notes and more on fresh fruits. Grapefruits, gooseberries, papayas… Let’s try to bring it down to +/-46% now. With water: interesting that it’s not quite the same as the Nectar yet, because of these grassy/farmy notes that do usually emerge when you reduce a whisky. Let’s wait… After 15 minutes: oaky, they do converge but this one keeps a kind of extra-wildness (cut grass). Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the Nectar but once again, this one is a tad louder on the fruits and kind of zestier. With water: same whisky as the Nectar now. Finish: ditto. Comments: I’ll give this one more point but it’s all symbolic. Both are great. SGP:462 - 88 points.

Clynelish 16 yo 1993/2010 (56.8%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 315 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: somewhere between the two 1995s when undiluted. Rocks, oils, wax and lemon. Hints of bitter herbs, cactus? With water: same profile plus touches of fresh pineapples and pears. Maybe something burnt in the background (or is it melted tarmac?) Mouth (neat): it’s now a little oilier and a tad more resinous but other than that we’re close to the Whisky Agency. With water: we are indeed. Finish: long, maybe a little more on smoked tea than the others. Comments: excellent once again but warning, I usually love Clynelish (not kidding). SGP:362 - 87 points.


And also Clynelish 37 yo (46%, The Whisky Exchange, 10th Anniversary, 2009) Five stars Any Old Clynelish enthusiast will love this very Ainslie-alike label but let's remember that the old 5 and 12 weren't (quite) from the same distillery. Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh yes. Not only the label hints at Old Clynelish, also the nose does. Supreme orangey waxiness with an admirable self-restraint (it’s no straight-in-your-face fruity Clynelish). Honeycomb, dried papayas, touches of fruity olive oil, very ripe oranges, wax polish, hints of ginger tonic, hints of bananas and even a little rum, white cherries…In the background: rocks and linseed oil. It’s all superb.

Mouth: a sin, with just the right amount of sweet spices. A giant fruit salad with a little paprika and ginger. Or some orange salad with a honey and olive oil sauce. Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: medium long, clean, a tad grassier and more tannic in the aftertaste but that’s more than normal. Comments: another winning 1972 Clynelish at drinking strength, maybe a little less spectacular than others but maybe also more elegant. But let me issue a warning: pour small drams to your friends or this bottle will become as empty as Paris Hilton in a flash. SGP:641 - 92 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Clynelish that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Could Bruce Campbell be a Malt Maniac?
This is funny. Some of us whisky enthusiasts tend to make fun out of some brands and distilleries (WF’s The GlenWonka is an example but there are others, such as Auchenbowie) and it seems that a bunch of Diageo brands just took the same route, only in the opposite direction.

They're using a fictional whisky connoisseur named Bruce Campbell who’s touring Scotland and trying to launch his own whiskies.  Very well produced and often funny (and at times spot on), one may only wonder why a genuine whisky enthusiast would bother with Bell’s or J&B ;-). You may watch the whole bunch of videos on Bruce Campbell's Scotland from home website. I must say Bruce Campbell also reminds me a bit of Jim MacEwan's very funny Gunther (but just as Bruce, does Gunther really exist?)

Bruce Campbell

MUSIC - Recommended listening: absolute genius and WF favourite Hermeto Pascoal and gruppo doing the most wonderful Mixing Pot ever. You should really buy more essential music by Hermeto Pascoal!

Hermeto Pascoal

May 27, 2010


Exclusive - Our reporters on Islay try the Kilchoman for Feis Ile

Kilchoman 2007/2010 (62.2%, OB for Feis Isle 2010, Bourbon, Cask 11307, 258 Bts.) Four stars and a half Nose: Lemon porridge. Citrus. Seashell. Wet rock. Freshly grown seasalt. Wet hay. Lots of minerals. Granite. Flint. Oily lambwool. Palate: Tastes oily waxy. Lemonskin. Preserved lemon. Chalky. Finish: Finishes gentle. Smooth. Round & clean. Coastal. Farmy. Old style. Comments: Very good ! Patrick 89, Dirk 88, Geert 89, Angus 87, Luc 89 (average 88 points)

Exclusive - From our reporters on Islay

Our dedicated reporters were unable to try the 25yo Bowmore Feis Isle 100 bts version while the other special Bowmore was only the standard 'Tempest 10yo' with one or two insignificant cosmetic additions. That's why they decided to taste two other versions instead - that they had to bring to Islay themselves. These are Angus' notes.



Bowmore 25yo. OB. 70cl. 1969/1994. 43% Five stars
Colour: Amber/bronze
Nose: Big BIG tropical fruit straight away, classic 60s Bowmore with a beautiful fragile flintiness in the background. Very clean and flawless nose, the fruit just keeps coming. Maybe this is a lack of complexity but the fruit is so bright and pure you can’t help marvel at it. After a while there is the faintest whiff of something perfumy that you might associate with the altogether different 80s style, but its so delicate and well integrated it really works with the fruit.

Palate: On the palate it is surprisingly big for 43%. Lots of well rounded notes espresso, walnut oil, gentle peat smoke, cocoa and again a little bit of that 80s violet/perfume character. Its almost like a flashforward Bowmore but its so subtle that, as with on the nose, it doesn’t detract at all. Still very tropical and clean.
Finish: The intensity disappears very rapidly but there is a beautiful lingering green tea and wispy smoke character that really hangs around. 93/100

Bowmore sestante

Bowmore 31yo. 1958/1989 for Sestante. 75cl. 43% Five stars
Colour: A well aged Tokaj.
Nose: There is clearly a big sherry influence here. The tropical characters have been subdued and controlled a little but it is beautifully balanced. A little more stewed fruits, resinous, pipe tobacco, old library books, very gentle and well integrated. The sherry is perfectly poised here. Quite a bit chunkier and oilier than the OB but without its flash and playfulness, maybe a little more austere and reserved.

Palate: Big and mouth-coating, the sherry remains perfectly balanced with the distillery character. Some lighter lemony saline flavours begin to come through, quite demanding this one, needs time and patience. Dark chocolate and more oily peat towards the swallow.
Finish: The tropical fruit that has been hiding all along really unfolds in the finish, still doing a bit of a barn dance with the more resinous sherry fruit characters. Very flawless and very balanced. The finish is not the longest but it is spectacular. 93/100 Different from the OB but every bit as good.

Comments: A pair of stunning Bowmores, both very different but also similar in so many ways. Hard to decide between them, I loved the hint of perfume that was floating about in the 25yo but the Sestante is so grand, a great privilege to try a Bowmore form the 50s.


Our reporters, who were certainly in a jolly good mood but maybe not in a technical one (or maybe were they trying to remain vertical at all costs?) also came up with these breaking news.



May 26, 2010

This just in from one of our correspondents on Islay

Bowmore Scoops Feis Honour!
By Boeuf Links

Isn’t it strange how sometimes the most unexpected thing can come to dominate a week that in theory is a celebration of the world’s greatest whisky island?   But make no mistake about it, the most talked about thing at this year’s Feis Ile hasn’t been the exorbitant prices and variable quality of so-called special Festival Bottlings, or the grotesque venality of some of the buyers and sellers thereof, or for that matter the late-night (or should it be early morning?) croquet match that allegedly took place somewhere on the Rhinns at the weekend.  No.  The subject that has dominated, even more than speculation about the colour of Richard Paterson’s pocket handkerchief at Jura on Thursday, has been sausages.

Look at it this way.  What sort of message were Diageo trying to put out by having none present at Lagavulin on Saturday?  Conspiracy theories abounded.  Could it be, speculated one typically well-informed and highly knowledgeable speculator, that Diageo was using all its sausage resources to fuel the appetite of the monster at Speyside’s Glen Mordor?  That was a thought that gained even more credence at Caol Ila on Monday when it was claimed the sausages “had run out” by lunchtime.  Sharp-eyed observers might have argued that the real reason was the little guy at Caol Ila who continually joined the queue and tried to buy another one, but that’s another story. 


At Bruichladdich on Sunday the usual porkies abounded.  Jim MacEwan got his out on the table, complained that Diageo and Pernod Ricard had much bigger ones, but then tried to claim that having lots of small ones was really a lot better.  Not Jim, if they're anything like Sainsbury’s cocktail sausages.

At Laphroaig, it’s rumoured, there’s only going to be a Quarter Sausage, and that for four times the cost of a whole one.  Bunnahabhain? Well they ain’t got no sausages, and not much else either, simple as that.  The boys at Kilchoman had some that they borrowed from that nice lady in the shop at Bridgend, but left them on the grill to burn when they were watching Ross County in the Cup Final.  And Ardbeg, according to the soothsayers, will be launching a very special Isbeanag (very young, very diminutive, very pricy, and slightly Gallic) at the end of the week.

But amidst all this porcine madness one producer stands out, virtuous, true, the consumers’ friend.  Stand up Bowmore.  Stand up Bowmore’s multi award-winning, and world-famous, never limited, and never over priced Islay masterpiece.  Stand up Bowmore’s William McFarlane’s of Shore Street, acknowledged by the illustrious Scottish Craft Butchers, and Scottish Meat Traders Association, as one of the finest purveyors of meat products in the Hebrides.  Stand up, for your humble, but always special Feis pork sausage, of which one illustrious Malt Maniac was heard to say, “Hey Luc, this tastes like a pretty good pork sausage.  93 points.  And good value too”. 


This wonderfully textured and tasty banger, with an astonishingly high %mbv and not a trace of ftp, surely deserves the highest accolade that the Feis Ile can offer.  For those of you left on Islay it’s something you should go in search of.  For those that are not, then maybe you should start saving up and try Ebay now; you just might be lucky.


May 25, 2010

Port Ellen

Exclusive - Our reporters on Islay try the Nine Official Releases of Port Ellen (they are clearly spoiled, aren't they!)

Angus reports:

This amazing Port Ellen tasting was organised for the benefit of Marie-Curie Cancer care. Heartfelt thanks to John and Dick of the great Fiddler’s Whisky Bar in Loch Ness for organising such a wonderful experience.

Port Ellen 1st release. 79/01. 56.2% Four stars and a half
N: Clean, sweet, maritime and citrus.
P: Rich peat oils, saltiness, a little bitterness, soft heather and lemon rind.
F: Sweet and a little short.
Angus: 89 Geert: 87 Patrick: 89 Luc: 88 Dirk: 87 Billy: 86 (average 88)
2nd Release. 78/02. 59.35% (very precise) Four stars
N: Oily hessian, dunnage warehouse, fish nets, creosote, some tarryness. Quite a lot of typical coastal characters.
P: Very oily and clean, big citrus fruit notes. Good development but with a little astringency. After a while some petroleum character comes through, lots of gasoline and paraffin, very expressive.
F: Longer this time, buttery and some sweetness now. Still lots of citrus but leaves quite an acidic aftertaste.
Angus: 87 Geert: 86 Luc: 86 Patrick: 88 Dirk: 84 Billy: 87 (average 86)
3rd Release. 79/03. 57.3%. Five stars
N: First a little dirty but soon develops lots of old engine oil, kelpie and mineral character. A very precise profile, very pure, lots of black tea, lime juice, more minerals and flints. Finally some fruit, white stone fruits and flowers.
P: Classic PE, oily, maritime, lapsang suchong, seaweed, salt, kippers, minerals, fruit. Very fresh and invigorating.
F: Long, oily and salty. Great Port Ellen, balanced, complex and very clean.
Angus: 90 Dirk: 89 Patrick: 90 Luc: 91 Geert: 91 Billy: 89 (average 90)
4th Release. 78/04. 56.2% Four stars
N: Quite fresh, zingy and fruity. Good expressiveness. Some smokiness in this one with good minerality, very dry.
P: Farmy, some dirtiness, quite astringent and ashy with a lemony sooty combo. Quite bit unexpected and out of sync with the nose
F: Has a medium length finish but it feels a little empty, very drying. Not as good as 3.
Dirk: 84 Angus: 84 Luc: 86 Patrick: 87 Geert: 87 Billy 89 (average 86)
5th Release. 79/05. 57.4% Four stars
N: Fresh citrus fruit, a touch of tropical fruit this time, lychee, lots of coastal notes but overall not too complicated.
P: Very peppery and a little burning. Again very oily with more citrus and even some resinous character, sultanas. After a while there is something vegetal, its quite alcoholic really, probably needs water.
F: Decent length but a little bitter, quite medicinal and herbaceous.
Angus: 85 Patrick: 87 Geert: 86 Dirk: 84 Luc: 87 Billy: 87 (average 86)
6th Release. 78/06. 54.2% Five stars
N: Another very clean, pristine profile. Very saline and mineraly. Starts to develop some fruit after a few minutes. Very nice.
P: Some cereal and waxiness in this one, more big oiliness and citrus fruit. Not overcomplicated but some very precise and beautifully pronounced flavours.
F: Long, lemony, clean and mouthwatering. No flaws and very drinkable.
Angus: 90 Geert: 90 Patrick: 91 Dirk: 90 Luc: 92 Billy: 90 (average 90)
7th Release. 79/07. 53.8% Five stars
N: Quite a lot of fruit this time, maybe some maltiness and even a little vanilla. Some old, oily, minerally, citrus, seashore aromas bubbling underneath.
P: Very soft, deft phenols and subtle fruitiness. Big rich oily peat. Not so dry and salty this one, the age is starting to show. Incredibly drinkable. Very well integrated and very harmonious.  
F: Long, lingering, peaty finish with a waxy preserved lemon tang. This one is easily our favourite so far.
Patrick: 93 Luc: 94 Geert 94 Angus: 91 Dirk: 92 Billy: 93 (average 93)
8th Release. 78/08. 55.3%. Three stars and a half
N: A little sour, green apples, minerals, quite carbolic and dry, not much else happening.
P: Quite sharp, very peppery again, burning. Not very complicated.
F: More sharpness, quite big but tempered by some pleasant fruitiness.
Angus: 84 Patrick: 85 Geert: 83 Luc: 83 Dirk: 86 Billy: 85 (average 84)
9th Release. 79/09. 57.7% Five stars
N: Super clean, mineraly and coastal. Hits of fruit underneath the age, maybe even a little cocoa dust. Waxy, old leather chairs, damp hessian, beautiful gentle seashore, wet pebble beach character.
P: Very big waxy lemon flavours, thumping big dollops of peat oil, some Moroccan spice notes and quite some tarryness.
F: Long, seaweedy and heathery. A really beautiful, old fashioned and unsexy Port Ellen. (my favourite of the night although some of us preferred 7)
Geert: 93 Luc: 92 Dirk: 91 Patrick: 92 Angus: 93 Billy: 93 (average 92)
And now…. The Super Port Ellen !!! Five stars A vatting of all nine releases.
N: Flints, minerals, seashore, heather, some white fruit. Seems to combine the best of all.
P: Big oiliness but gentle. Has some of the oily phenolic character of the older editions at the front but then a sudden big saltiness at the back.
F: Powerfull! Long, spicy, salty and dry. Seems to be very well integrated after a marrying process of only 3 minutes.
Angus: 90 Patrick: 90 Luc: 90 Dirk: 90 Geert: 90 Billy: 90 (average 90)
Comments: So what have we learned? Our favourite of the whole range is the 3rd, 7th and 9th editions. The 1st edition is not as good in our opinion as everyone seems to say. And it is possible to become ‘Port Ellened’ out. Time for a pint! - Angus

Port Ellen
Port Ellen
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Caol Ila

Exclusive - Our reporters on Islay try the Caol Ila for Feis Ile

Caol Ila 1999/2010 (61.9%, OB, Feis Ile 2010, cask #305646)
Five stars Nose: Coconut. Nutmeg. Cooked pineapple. Tary pinewood and the maritime kicks in. Oysterjuice and nice peat. Dry. Palate: Fat and oily taste. Olive tapenade and dry. Warming zilty salty finish with a oily texture. Finish: Medium long dry salty finish. Comment: Great exression with lovely fruity nose. Add a few drops of water and you have an exotic caol ila. Patrick 90, Dirk 91, Geert 90, Luc 90 (average 90 points)


Right, our boys on Islay can't just be the only ones tasting some great Caol Ilas today, can they? Let's have a few as well if you please

Marvel at these big fat babies and then please Scroll down ..
(Photo by another WF reporter on Islay)

Caol Ila stills


Two natural, two finished and two high-voltage young Caol Ila

Caol Ila
Caol Ila 13 yo 1996/2010 (43%, Dun Bheagan, hoghsead, cask #14610, 351 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: everything Caol Ila stands for, not too far from the official 12. Brine, seashells, seaweed, fresh almonds, ashes and a moderate albeit very nice clean smokiness plus just hints of antiseptic. Mouth: good attack, even more on brine and smoked fish than on the nose. Liquorice and kippers. Develops more on salted marzipan, should that exist (I’m sure it does). Finish: surprisingly long, salty and slitghtly rooty and resinous. Comments: big body at just 43%. It’s a good young Caol Ila. SGP:247 - 84 points.
Caol Ila 13 yo 1995/2009 (46%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #10036, 855 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: more on vanilla and barley sugar than the Dun Bheagan, caramel cream, sweet herbs (borage)… It’s only after a few minutes that more coastal notes emerge but it never gets as maritime and smoky as the DB. Some seaweed, though, and a pleasant rootiness. Damp earth. Some paraffin and even plastic too. Mouth: it’s a rather liquoricy Caol Ila, with a punchy attack, developing on as much salt and peat as the 1996. Hints of orangeade. Finish: long, peaty and peppery. Bigger than the usual Caol Ila at 46%. Comments: much more expressive on the palate than on the nose. Another good Cao Ila anyway. SGP:357 - 83 points.
Caol ila 10 yo 1999/2010 (46%, Dun Bheagan, Pomerol wine finish, cask #90671+73, 1184 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: gold/apricoty. Nose: it’s more the French oak’s spiciness that comes through than the wine, with quite some ginger, soft curry, sweet mustard and cardamom. The spirit hasn’t got lots to say here, even if there’s a pleasant smokiness (coal smoke). Hints of stewed peaches. It’s far from being unpleasant but I’m not sure Caol Ila needs this. Mouth: strange. Tannins, strong tea, cherry stem tea, pepper, peat, grape skin… Finish: long, in the same vein. Some rubber. Comments: Peat and red table wine? Well, many have failed in my opinion… This one is far from the worst. SGP:366 - 77 points.
Caol Ila 12 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Chieftain's, German Oak Finish, cask #90691) Four starsColour: gold. Nose: more elegant than the Pomerol, closer to the distillery’s style. Garden bonfire, vanilla, a little parsley and other herbs… More fresh butter and overripe apples after that. Bandages, embrocation, camphor… Mouth: very good, balanced, creamy, perfectly peaty, earthy, rooty, lemony, salty, peppery, with just a thin layer of vanilla and candy sugar. Finish: long, creamy and peaty. Comments: it seems that the German oak brought an additional creaminess to this one. Works very well. SGP:456 - 86 points.
Caol Ila 1997/2009 'Manager's Choice' (58.0%, OB, cask #14185, 366 bottles) Five stars Ex-Bodega sherry European oak. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s less expressive than the versions at 46% but that’s normal at 58%. It seems that it’s rather leafier and rounder at the same time, with notes of orange blossom water, fresh butter and sandalwood. Not too sure, it’s rather closed so far. With water: paradise. Reminds me of some 1968s and 1969s. Exceptional herbal and ‘preciously’ medicinal notes. Mouth (neat): wowie! Superb and very unusual, starting with many many herbs and spices coated with a mixture of orange juice and vanilla crème. Big liquorice and aniseed. Grapefruit and lime. Absolutely excellent, this was a great cask (I mean, is a great cask, I hope they reused it!) With water: the gardens of Babylon, a GTO, a great Traviata, a PP à repetition or a 1978 Chapelle by Jaboulet. Your pick. Finish: not that long but perfectly mineral now, calmed down, with a dry and clean aftertaste (fresh almonds) that’ll leave your palate as clean as a baby’s. Comments: most commentators have been insisting on the Manager’s Choices’ excessive pricing (guilty as charged) but this wonderful baby IS worth its heavy price tag in my opinion. But twelve years old, really? SGP:357 - 94 points.
Caol Ila 10 yo 1999/2009 (64.9%, Jean Boyer for Nantes Whisky Club, France) Four starsOkay, I’m afraid this one will have a hard time after the stupendous MC. It got the last slot because of its strength… Well, maybe it should rather have been antepenultimate dram. Colour: white wine. Nose: wah! Mercurochrome, brown sugar and green apple juice. Almost 65%, imagine. With water: okay, it’s a very nice one, fresh and young, more on apples than all the previous ones. Notes of tarmac, tyres and smoked tea, with something that reminds me of a young Port Ellen. Interesting! Mouth: it’s too strong to be tried like that. Burns everything unless you do the ‘spraying’ trick though your lips. But then you’ll burn your lips. With water: hey, excellent! Not complicated but perfectly sharp, mineral, lemony and very rooty (gentian galore). Medium peatiness. Finish: long, more on peppered grapefruit and lime juice. Or something like that. Comments: very good young monster, even zestier than the usual Caol Ila, but please don’t try it without water, should you find a bottle. SGP:456 - 86 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Caol Ila that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: an excellent suggestion by MM's Nabil, a tribute to the great Hank Jones who sadly passed away last week. I've got many Hank Jones records and chose Comin' Home Baby (from the CD 'Favors') where Hank Jones displayed his immense sense of swing (as you know, it ain't worth a thing if it...). Please buy Hank Jones' music.

Hank Jones

May 24, 2010


Tasting two 1960 Strathisla and one 1970

Strathisla 1960/2008 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail) Three stars 1960 is ‘my’ vintage. Not saying it should be any good just because of that! I already tried quite a few 1960s by G&M, they usually were very good but maybe a tad heavy for this taster. Colour: amber. Nose: this baby starts almost exactly like an old Sauternes, that is to say much on apricots, sultanas and quinces, and gets then drier and more herbal and leathery. Hints of wine vinegar (no balsamico here), a little parsley, cigar box, ham, a slight spriziness, cut flowers, green tea… The oak imposes its presence but the whole remains elegant and balanced this time. Beautiful notes of driedn figs arising over time. Mouth (neat): right, it’s probably too heavy on the oak now, starting on big, drying tannins and a lot of green tea that tend to dominate the notes of orange marmalade and figs. Too bad. Finish: rather long but much drying. Over-infused earl grey tea, almost too bitter despite the nice sultanas in the aftertaste. Comments: a rather splendid nose but the oak took too much of its share on the palate in my opinion. SGP:471 - 80 points.

Strathisla 49yo 1960/2010 (53.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Fair, book of kells label) Five stars I find it extremely classy to bottle this at 49yo instead of waiting a few more months and bottle it at 50yo. Exactly what several wham-bam-watch-my-silly-decanter brands would not do. Colour: full gold. Nose: a firmer version of the previous one, with a higher minerality and more herbs as well on top of the expected notes of quinces, sultanas, dates, dried apricots and acacia honey. Whiffs of spearmint and eucalyptus, honeydew, almond oil and ‘old English library’ (wax polish and old papers). As great and complex as it can get so far. With water: we’re more on many herbal teas now, as well as on whiffs of warm damp earth (say, earth after a sudden but short summer rain). Mouth (neat): sure there’s some oak but less than in the 60/08 and the rest of this baby is big enough to stand it. Beautiful menthol, camphor, pine resin, apricots, liquorice and tar. An impressive, imposing dram. With water: wonderful! It got less oaky and rather fruitier, typically old Strathisla. Hints of raspberries and blackcurrants. Finish: long and very ‘wide’, just before a tamed oakiness comes back. And mint. Comments: absolutely excellent. Maybe not as totally great as some recent Longmorn or Clynelish in the same Book of Kells series, but absolutely excellent. SGP:561 - 92 points.

And also Strathisla 40 yo 1970/2010 (52.7%, Alambic Classique, sherry, cask #10421, 149 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: I had thought this baby would be having a hard time after the 1930s but that’s not the case at all. Now, what’s also very surprising is these very unusual and huge notes of melon liqueur. Wait, no, it is virtually plain melon liqueur! I’m not joking. With water: it’s the expected dried fruits that emerge now. We all know them, raisins, figs, dates, kumquats… And a little mint and liquorice as often. Mouth (neat): amazing, after melon liqueur, now it’s cough syrup galore. That is to say that we have a lot of liquorice and pine resin plus maybe traces of overripe strawberries. Or rather strawberry jam. Is this really whisky? With water: perfect resinous and mentholated fruitiness. Cough syrup indeed. Finish: long, with hints of aniseed and liquorice. Could this be antique pastis? Ouzo? Raki? Comments: an unusual old Strathisla and a spectacular one. The cask had lots to tell us! SGP:561 - 91 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Strathisla that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



MUSIC - Recommended listening: a special dedicace to all our friends who are attending the Islay Festival these days: Andy Stewart singing the wonderful Road to the isles. Please buy Andy Stewart's music.

Andy Stewart

May 23, 2010


Exclusive - Our reporters on Islay try the Bruichladdich for Feis Ile

Bruichladdich 2004/2010 'Islay Barley' (57.5%, OB, Laddie Festival, Kentra Farm, fresh sherry butt, 1060 bottles)
Two stars and a half Nose: Burnt pecan nuts. Wood. Sweet pastry. Acidic. Burnt alcohol. Burnt demrrara sugar. Sweet red fruit but sharp. Mouth: Sweet red currant. Wood. Sweet concentrated Milka chocolate. Sharp and tannic. Medium cloying finish. Comment: Very caramelly burnt Laddie. Good if you like this style. Patrick 76, Angus 73, Geert 78, Dirk 80, Luc 79
(average 77 points).

UPDATE: having seen various comments on these scores, let me remind you that they are no 'official' WF scores and that I'll most poibably try this baby myseff sooner or later and come up with an 'official score'. Ha, scores, why did we start this madness in the first place? - Serge


Exclusive - Another new Lagavulin discovered by our reporters on Islay

Lagavulin NAS 2010 (52.5%, OB Only available at the distillery, 6000 bottles)
Five stars Nose: Cedarwood, waxy, tar and fishnets, crispy with a little alcohol prickle, pungent, stewed fruits (peaches), molasses from the PX casks, cigarsmoke & white chocolate. Taste : Round and sweet peat, very mellow, old tobacco, smoked tea, tastes quite old, typical good combination of peat and sherry. Finish: Medium long, spicy and with a nice salty ending. Balance/complexity : A real Lagavulin cigar malt. Dirk 89, Geert 90, Luc 90, Angus 89, Paula Arthur (Edinburgh whisky blog) - she does not score but likes it, Patrick 90 (average 90 points).

May 22, 2010

Busy Lagavulin this morning

Exclusive - This just in from our WF reporters on Islay
It’s Feis Ile time again and just like last year, I couldn’t make it to the wonderful island. The good news is that we have our own reporters again over there: the Lindores Boys aka the crazy Belgians. The first piece of news is already in, with their first tasting notes (I fully trust these guys’ tastes and scores!)…

Lagavulin 1994/2010 (52.7%, OB for Feis Isle 2010, European Oak ex-Sherry Cask, 528 bottles) Five stars Hand selected from the Port Ellen Warehouses. Nose: Sweet iodine toffee chocolaty and a little fudge with a touch of fisherman's rope and dried fruits. Gets more maritime and salty over time. Very complex. Taste: Lovely coating mouth feel of salty toffee and peat with a touch of porridge and sweet cereals and a nice orange zest bitterness. Finish: Long finish that gets nicely salty and with a great bitter edge supporting the aromas. Balance/Complexity: Again a great single cask bottling for a more than fair price. Points: Dirk 91, Geert 92, Luc 92 (average 92 points).
PS: it seems that this wee Laga is already available at WhiskySamples.



St Paul’s Church, Brentford, somewhere near London, April 30th 2010

There’s no doubting the fact that Brentford is a strange place.  It’s almost like an island, bound to the north by the main western arterials leading out of London and to the south, by the meandering River Thames, where narrow channels hide houseboats and long forgotten wharves. 


To the west, the Grand Union Canal sets out on its journey northwards to Birmingham; its starting point, Brentford Locks, now a focus for substantial yet soulless residential developments which are mirrored by the ghastly Great West Quarter by the M4 motorway.  Somehow in all of this is Brentford town, which has a football club and a busy thoroughfare of a high street containing, amongst other things, the renowned Brentford Tandoori restaurant.  It’s only a few stops on the bus from leafy Chiswick yet it shares nothing of the former’s bucolic atmosphere.  That said, it’s not short of history: as an Anglo-Saxon settlement, 'Bregentforda', it pre-dated the formation of London.  It was the site of several bloody battles, the earliest being between Edmund Ironside and Cnut the Great in 1016, the last when Brentford FC hosted Millwall in the FA Cup a couple of years ago.  Jozzer, who was something more than an eyewitness at the latter said there were a good few Great Cnuts sorted out that day too.  And, as any internet site will tell you, it’s not short of celebrities.  Pocahontas lived here, en route for a Neil Young song,  as did the novelist and poet Percy Bysshe (rhymes with, well, I think you can guess) Shelley, and US President John Quincy Adams, trapped on the Heathrow corridor by a volcanic ash cloud that took over two years to disperse.  And no list of great and historic residents of Brentford will fail to name singer and songwriter Nick Lowe, and his manager, former pugilist and co-founder of Stiff records, the legendary and rarely-seen Jake Riviera.  Lowe, I read somewhere, has two houses in Brentford, one where he lives with his wife and son, another where he hangs out with his mates and smokes. And at one time, he used to rent a room at the Turk’s Head pub in nearby Richmond, where he wrote many of the songs on his great albums of the late nineties and early noughties.

Strangely we’re in a church, it’s packed to the rafters, and the bar is doing the sort of business that might well precede the end of the world.  There are some hefty bouncers on the door, but inside, the stewards, identified by luminous cycling arm-bands, have the serene smile of the saved and hand-knitted jumpers to match.  Their spiritual fellow-travellers make up a good share of the audience, along with a smattering of Brentford locals who obviously rarely travel further east for entertainment than the nearby Waterman’s Arts Centre.  Then there are Lowe, Riviera and their mates, and a gang of ageing west London musos, none of whom were ever quite memorable enough to put a name to.  

Nick Lowe

One of them is stupid enough to pour a pint of red wine over Jozzer’s cowboy boots (marginally better, he said, “than the Millwall hot leg treatment”).  It’s only the fact that we’re in a House of God that saved him from getting his lights punched out, what with Jozzer being so excitable due to all the E-numbers he’d consumed in his Chicken Tabar (“boneless pieces of chicken marinated in fresh spice, herbs with ginger, coriander, a handful of green chillis and fresh masala sauce”) back at the you-know-where.  Mark Lamarr is standing right in front of me (it’s only on these occasions that you realise just how tall people are), although he leaves early, I’ve no doubt having secured a last-minute cancellation at the Brentford Tandoori.  And on the stage should be Nick Lowe, but for the moment it’s our ‘hostess’ and organiser of this charity event (“I’m here playing for nothing”, said Lowe later, “and you don’t need to be Vince Cable to know that that is a bad thing”), Helen Martin.  Ms Martin performed, read the announcements, and managed the raffle.  You can read her own review of her own performance here. Very ‘Nuts in May’ I say.

Riviera eventually ushers his boy to the stage; “I’m here two minutes from my own bed; that’s what I call going on the road”.  At first unaccompanied, and then with string bass (Matt Radford) and the impeccable drumming and delicate backing vocals of Bobby Irwin (aka ‘Robert Traherne’), Lowe delivered the sort of set that any Lowe fan would dream of, in a characteristically relaxed country-rock style.  His acoustic guitar playing couldn’t be any different from his urgent bass work: it’s so laid-back as to be almost louche.  And it may be the case that like many guitarists, he only really knows about a dozen chords, but he certainly puts them to great effect, as this format, with very spare arrangements, shows.  Interestingly, you’d be hard pressed to know whether ‘Cruel to be kind’ was written before or after ‘Shaking on the hill’, or ‘I trained her to love me’.  That’s not because there’s a Lowe formula (although he certainly addresses fairly recurrent themes in his songs), it’s just that the songs sound as if they belong to each other, the structures equally mature (or I suppose, if you must, equally juvenile).  Lowe’s voice couldn’t be better (perhaps it’s the church?):  he’s note perfect from start to finish.  It’s a well-judged set, hence his 1983 single ‘Raging eyes’ came half-way through, just in time to encourage the chattering women behind us to dance rather than chatter (or were they reciting psalms?) , thereby avoiding a potentially nasty confrontation with the Photographer.  It was followed nicely by ‘Cruel to be kind’, ‘The kind of man’ (which screams for a Johnny Cash cover), the wonderful ‘Soulful wind’ and ‘Without love’ (which Cash did record).

Nick Lowe

The set finished with a perfectly-timed ‘I knew the bride’, which provoked more dancing, although certainly not of the type that the Devil would recognise.  And after what seemed like time enough to smoke a quick fag or two, Lowe returned to sing ‘I wrote the book’, and of course, ‘(What’s so funny ‘bout) peace love and understanding’, the Curtis Stigers version of which, as Lowe once told us at a previous gig, “meant that I never had to work again”.

It was, as I think they are called, a perfect cameo performance.  And all in a good cause, too.  So if you happen to be in Brentford at lunchtime, why not pop into the Open House Cafe at St Paul’s Church (assuming the Brentford Tandoori is fully booked, as it usually is) for some “food for the body, and food for the soul”? Of course, if you’re at home, or simply not hungry, why not put on a Nick Lowe record instead?  Equally soulful, equally satisfying. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

Listen: Nick Lowe on myspace


The last el cheapo sessions – another sequel: two Scotches vs. two Canadians
El cheapo
This time with two true Scotches and two Canadians, all very cheap. I know what you’re starting to think: “Can’t he taste whiskies that are both very cheap AND very good?” I’m trying my best, maybe we’ll find some one day. Maybe today? Let’s see…
James Dowell (40%, OB, blended Scotch, Casino, +/-2010) Price for this NAS version: 9.93 Euros a 70cl bottle) Colour: full gold (of course). Nose: typical blended Scotch of average quality. Not bad, not nice, boring, grainy, a tad cardboardy, faintly malty, mildly fruity (apples) and a little dusty. You really have to scratch you head to come up with more descriptors… I tried, I couldn’t. Mouth: easy, relatively malty, coffeeish, nutty, with a rather pleasant attack but no middle. Notes of molasses. Finish: short but rather clean. No foul notes. Comments: makes you yawn from boredom but it’s technically okayish, I guess. Wait, did I just have whisky? SGP:331 - 60 points.
William Peel (40%, OB, blended Scotch, Marie Brizard, +/-2010)  This one is very popular in France and heavily marketed. Oddly enough, every bottle is numbered ‘to prevent from copies’. Who would copy a 10.11 Euros bottle? Colour: orange gold. Nose: same whisky as the James Dowell. Maybe just a tad fruitier (traces of oranges) and more toasty. But yet again I’m bored, as Iggy used to sing. Gets a tad sour (cider apples, old butter). Mouth: once again, more or less the same brew as the James Dowell. A little more caramel, maybe more malt and maybe more oak. A little more oomph as well. A little sugary (sugarcane sugar). Finish: medium long, too sugary now. Corn syrup. Comments: not as bad as I had expected. A little more spiciness and smokiness would make it more entertaining. SGP:430 - 66 points.
Sam Barton 5 yo (40%, OB, Canada, +/-2010) This one is ‘appreciated by many connoisseurs’ (price: 9.30 Euros a 70cl bottle) Colour: gold. Nose: much more happening than in the Scotches. There’s this bigger oakiness, with more vanilla as well, and hints of rye and various fruits. Juicy fruit, pear liqueur, a little bubblegum, strawberry sweets. Quite nice I must say. A little soot as well? Rather nice indeed. Mouth: creamy and sweet, with quite some oak right in the attack, getting then a little too richly sweet and bitter at the same time. Halfway between a whisky and a liqueur as far as the sweetness and the mouth feel are concerned. Notes of oranges. Finish: shortish, sweet, a little caramelly. Notes of orange liqueur and oak. Comments: it’s quite pleasant despite its heavy sweetness – but it’s not sickly sweet. SGP:630 - 62 points.
Canadian Tippers 5 yo (40%, OB, Canada, +/-2010) Funnily enough, this one is ‘appreciated by many connoisseurs’ as well (price: 9.89 Euros a 70cl bottle) Colour: gold. Nose: the style is more or less the same as the Sam Barton’s but it’s rather less expressive and maybe a little more on coffee and toasted oak. Same relatively good quality on the nose. Mouth: less thick and sweet than the Sam Barton, more bitter as well, with more oak and plain tannins. Maybe a tad plankish, in fact. Notes of lemon zests, corn syrup. Another one that isn’t unpleasant. Hints of sweet ginger (crystallised). Finish: medium long, hesitating between the sweetness and the oak’s dryness. Comments: reminds me of Canadian Club. Pretty okayish, hard to tell you more. SGP:440 – 65 points.
Right, none of these cheapos was bad whisky, but boring they were. To tell you the truth, tasting plain and pure rotguts is funnier and certainly less boring, I’ll see what I can do for the our next el cheapo session ;-). Or maybe I’d better drop this stupid idea despite popular demand. Okay, no more stupid el cheapo sessions for at least six months… Or rather sixty years.

May 20, 2010

The CSS sessions – Four Craigellachie
Craigellachie 12 yo 1996/2009 (45%, Exclusive Malts, cask #7287, 327 bottles) Two stars and a halfColour: pale gold. Nose: fresh, slightly flinty and quite grainy. Hay, porridge, dried herbs and a little mint. Hints of fresh oranges. Not overly expressive but nice, balanced. More pears after a while. Mouth: fresh and fruity with a big wood influence (ginger and cinnamon) on top of notes of pineapple and pear sweets. Was some new oak involved? Gets then more peppery. Finish: long, between pineapples and ginger. Comments: a good dram, the oakiness being a tad surprising on the palate. SGP:451 - 79 points.
Craigellachie 15 yo 1993/2009 (58%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 44.41, 'Bountiful fruits - one of your 5 a day') Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: a more vanilled and bourbonny version. White chocolate and tea, dairy cream, quite some new oak but it’s not plankish. Oranges. With water: quite some coconut and more vanilla now. Hay as well, roots, even turnips. Mouth (neat): big fruits this time but also a prickliness from the oak? Mustard on a fruit salad? A little bizarre… With water: the sweet oak is even more obvious. Finish: long, on oak and oranges. Comments: it’s good but I’m not too much into these modern bourbonny notes. Now, some friends liked this one much better than I do. SGP:641 - 78 points.
Craigellachie 1994/2010 (59.1%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for Slainte Whiskyclub, Sweden, cask #7324, 251 bottles) Four stars From a refill sherry hogshead. Colour: full gold. Nose: quite some sherry. Balsamico and coffee, very old Muscat wine, leather, gunpowder, shoe polish and black pepper. With water: gets completely cloudy! Other than that doesn’t change much. Hints of dry white wine. Mouth (neat): ultra-punchy and ultra-sweet, very citrusy. Limoncello and gin-fizz. With water: same plus a little mint and other citrus fruits. Finish: long, half-herbal half-lemony. A saltiness in the aftertaste. Comments: a very good and most entertaining Craig’. Now, the fact that it gets milky and even almost opaque with water is a tad scary ;-). SGP:542 - 86 points.
Craigellachie 25 yo 1984/2009 (53.7%, The Perfect Dram & The Nectar, bourbon hogshead, 256 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: more complex than the others, starting on earl grey tea and seaweed, very fresh and quite unusual. Goes on with a little vanilla, kumquat, thyme and quite some lime-blossom tea. Beautiful. With water: superbly herbal, kind of antique. ‘Old’ mint cordial. Mouth (neat): smooth and creamy, all on old-style lemon and herbal liqueurs. Chartreuse, Grand-Marnier, melissa, sweet liquorice… Again, unusual but great. With water: same flavours, all top notch. Finish: long, slightly resinous, fruity, liquoricy. Comments: totally delicious, reminds me of some old high-end liqueur. The bottlers are very good at selecting unusual but superb casks. SGP:651 - 91 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Craigellachie that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Let's get catchier from now on (if you please)
You know, when you own a blog or a website you often get spam from so called ‘SEO consultants’ who are trying to sell you their cheapo pieces of advise for a few bucks.

Fair enough, but last time one of those small businesses wrote to me that I should enhance the way I write my headlines and make them catchier to 'optimise' Whiskyfun’s traffic. I don’t know if optimising should really mean ‘more’ traffic but I decided to give it a go. That’s why from now on, I’ll change all new headlines this way:
Instead of ‘Tasting six 1990 Macallans’ I’ll write ‘What the Distillers will Never tell You about the 1990 Vintage at Macallan’s’.
Instead of ‘Tasting five young Islayers’, I’ll write ‘Can Young Islayers be Hazardous to your Health?’.
Instead of ‘Tasting four very old Mortlachs’, I’ll write ‘What The Scots do not Want You to Know about Mortlach’
When I Chose this Whisky they all Laughed, but When I Started to Nose it…
The Tasting Session that Almost Killed Me!
Is This Ardbeg's True Secret?
Was This Brora Really Made at Brora's?
What Everybody Ought to Know About This Laphroaig.
Tasting Whiskies Made by The Sexiest Master Blender Ever.
Tasting Glenfiddich with Paris Hilton : Guess Who Won?
Tasting The Campbeltowner That Cures Arthritis.
After Tasting This Particular Lagavulin, my Teeth Became Whiter.
Lottery: How I Won £7,325,458 by Tasting This Dalmore (Works!)
Malt Whisky: Will Kazakhstan Defeat Scotland Again!
Why This Whisky Should be Much More Expensive than It Actually Is.
Okay, that’s enough I guess. So, RU game? I hope NOT!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: some very good gypsy jazz with Django fanatics the Olivarez Trio doing Double whiskey (of course). Pleas buy the Olivarez Trio's music, thanks!

Rick Olivarez

May 19, 2010

The CSS sessions – Six young peaty Bunnahabhain
Bunnahabhain 12 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Dun Bheagan, hoghseads, casks #5396/5399, 1079 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: simple, medium-peated, barley-ish and porridgy young Bunny ‘Moine’. Notes of sour cream and a faint soapiness. Mouth: clean fresh, uncomplicated, sweetly peated so to speak. Smoked apple and pear juice? Finish: long, sweet and peaty, with some butter and a little lemon. Comments: it’s good but the big sweetness doesn’t fit the peat too well in my opinion, just like in the official Toiteach. Lacks a ‘middle’. SGP:625 – 78 points.
Bunnahabhain 12 yo 1997/2009 (46%, Whiskyforyou.it, 150 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: vanilla and huge notes of cappuccino (really huge!) on top of a mild peatiness plus vanilla and a little coconut. Great, very unusual nose. Some cheese after a while (Parmesan, obviously). Mouth: excellent, rooty, leafy, earthy, mentholated, peaty, slightly salty. Much lower sweetness than in the Dun B. Finish: long, on gentian liqueur and pepper. Comments: simply excellent. Forza! SGP:456 - 88 points.
Bunnahabhain 1997 (52.3%, Jack Wiebers, Prenzlow Collection, peat sherry, 120 bottles, +/-2009) Four stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: a leathery and very organic sherriness that combines well with the peat and creates notes of cough syrup and metal polish. Quite some coal too. Roasted chestnuts, coffee, a little ham. With water: great, Harley pipes, toolbox and beef jerky. Mouth (neat): strong, creamy, herbal and spicy. Hints of Parma violets with ‘aspects of the old Bowmore Darkest’ but I like this one better. With water: flintier, ashier, smokier. Finish: long and ashy, peppery. Comments: not quite an ashtray but… I like it a lot. SGP:357 - 88 points.
Bunnahabhain 12 yo 1997 (52.3%, Jack Wiebers, Auld Distillers, sherry hogshead, 256 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: this one is supposed to be the same as the Prenzlow but I do detect a little more raisins and a little game that I don’t find in the latter. Must be me! With water: once again it’s not quite the same. A little more bitter oranges? Mouth (neat): now it’s exactly the same as the Prenzlow. With water: ditto. Finish: ditto. Comments: I don’t know where the tiny differences on the nose did come from. SGP:357 – 88 points.
Bunnahabhain 1997/2010 (54.1%, Romantic Rhine Collection, sherry octave, cask #382440, 70 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: very close to the JWWW, just a tad drier and leafier. With water: same plus some smoked bacon, bean and bacon soup, a little ginger… Mouth (neat): big power, with much more spices from the oak. Ginger and cardamom – and big time – on peat and Seville orange. With water: there is some new oak but a little less now. Finish: long, more tannic, gingery, greenish. Comments: very nice gingery retro-olfaction on this very ‘modern’ one. Some newish oak must have been involved here. SGP:456 - 84 points.
Bunnahabhain 2000/2010 (59%, Whisky-Doris, sherry butt) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: same style as the previous ones, with maybe a slightly rounder and more chocolaty sherry. Prunes. With water: ha, now there’s some coconut and hints of sweet wine such as Banyuls. Rounder than the 1997s. Mouth (neat): strong, big, peaty, raisiny and rather more tarry than the 1997s. Heavy liquorice. With water: sweeter, easier. Smoked coconut cakes (we should try that one day) and apple pie. Finish: long, spicier. Clove and nutmeg on vanilla crème. Comments: very good sweet peat monster.SGP:556 - 86 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Bunnahabhain that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Are colours useless?
Some friends keep asking me why I always write about the colours of the whiskies I try, whilst colours have sometimes nothing to do with tastes, as we all very well know. So, are colours irrelevant? In fact, they are very useful for double-checking the identity of a whisky.

For instance, the colours of some whiskies, such as, say an Ardbeg 1967 by Signatory or an old Springbank 12 100°proof, can tell you which version it is, shouldn’t you have some cask numbers at hand. While I’m at it, here’s the simple colour scale I’m using most of the time: white, pale white wine, white wine, pale straw, straw, pale gold, gold, deep gold, pale amber, amber, deep amber, mahogany, coffee, black. Sometimes hues are added, like blush, salmony, apricoty, reddish (all usually wine finishings), greenish, copper, bronze… Needless to say, colours don’t count when I score a whisky. Well, they shouldn’t ;-).

The young Ardbeg had a white wine colour,
the old Lagavulin was deep amber. Which is what? (Orangey or sometimes frankly carroty hues may suggest... caramel colouring!)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a very psychedelic Captain Beefheart does his famous and 'seminal' Electricity (from his first album Safe as Milk, 1967, with his Magic Band). Please buy Captain Beefheart's music and paintings/books!


May 18, 2010

Talisker Chave

Introducing Malternative Wines

I remember when I started whiskyfun quite some years ago, I used to post notes about wine from time to time as I’m into wine as much as I am into whisky. During a very recent trip to Jura, my excellent friend and WF reader Christophe told me that I should do that again… Well, why not but I know that not so many whisky lovers are into wine as well, despite all these wine finishings that abound in the market since quite some years now. Some are, of course, but many are more into beer (which I’m not) so I’ve been thinking hard about a specific angle and finally came up with this idea: writing about wines that, in my view, are relatively close to malt whisky ‘in a certain sense’, mostly aroma and flavour-wise.

For example, big fat Chambertins or Pomerols may hint at some ‘sherry monsters’ (and so may sherry, of course). Or mineral Rieslings or Pouillys may hint at some Islanders. And so may Vin Jaune from Jura in my opinion, so why not kick off this new little series with this unusual albeit exceptional kind of wine? I hope to be able to post such wee pieces every month or so, so don’t worry, this humble little website won’t become winefun.com anytime soon. Oh, and we’ll try to keep it short and simple and certainly won’t aim at hardcore wine freaks who ‘already know everything’. So, let’s go if you please…

Wine Malternatives:
Vin Jaune!

Maybe you already happened to read the descriptor ‘a taste of yellow’, or ‘vin jaune’ (literally yellow wine) in my wee tasting notes. Maybe it’s time to tell you a little more about these wines, since I feel they can be very close aroma-wise to malt whisky, especially to some islanders or northern Highlanders.

In fact, yellow wines are produced in the French Jura region (nope, nothing to do with Isle of Jura) and can be rather close to fino sherry in style. The process is very unusual, they use only savagnin (aka traminer) and must age it in barrels (pièces) for more than six years under a natural yeasty veil (similar to flor in Jerez) before the wine can be called ‘vin jaune’. That’s why the vintage that’s currently available is 2003, which has just been bottled. No cask toping is allowed, and the angels’ share is bigger than whisky’s (+/-30% within 6 years with vin jaune), especially since vin jaune must be aged in dry and relatively hot cellars or the veil won’t quite ‘work’. An official committee will taste all the wines just before bottling and if the profile isn’t perfect, the cuvée will lose the appellation ‘vin jaune’ (imagine that with Scotch malt whisky!)
Ageing Château-Chalon (Domaine Berthet-Bondet)
Vin jaune ages perfectly well once bottled, it’s said that 200 or 300 years old vins jaunes are usually fascinating. The prices of a good recent bottle of vin jaune range from 28 to 45 Euros for 62cl (official size of the bottle called ‘clavelin’). Four sub-regions of Jura can produce vin jaune: from north to south, Arbois (usually the boldest), Château-Chalon (usually the most elegant), L’Etoile (usually the most mineral), the rest of the region using the generic appellation ‘Côtes du Jura’ (various styles). All vins jaunes are very dry white wines and although it’s hard to resist opening them as soon as you get them, experts say that they need thirty years to be ‘ready’. Also, it’s always better to open your bottle one or two days before tasting, these wonderful ‘neo-oxidative’ wines aren’t fragile at all anyway. Now that you know almost everything, as for their aromas and flavours, well, maybe it’s best to try a few of them. You’ll notice that many descriptors are very close to malt whisky’s… (please note that these are abbreviated notes, all wines having being tasted on location in Jura).
Tasting 12 vins jaunes

Côte du Jura Domaine Badoz 2003 Three stars Nose: a little shy, on overripe apples. Mouth: rather fruitier than the usual vin jaune, with notes of liquorice allsorts. Golden delicious apples. Finish: rather long, a little more acidic. Comments: no stunner but fairly good for a 2003 in my opinion.
L’Etoile Vin Jaune Domaine de Montbourgeau 2003 Four stars Nose: nice whiffs of fern and moss plus a little damp chalk. A little tar as well, cut hay. Very nice minerality, in that sense very ‘L’Etoile’. Mouth: elegant, classic green walnut. Mineral. Green apple and a little aniseed. Finish: medium long, a little rounder and liquoricy. Hints of wormwood in the aftertaste. Comments: quite an achievement for 2003.
Comté cheese (another whisky descriptor that I sometimes use) goes very well with vin jaune.

L’Etoile Vin Jaune Domaine de Montbourgeau 2000 Four stars and a half Montbourgeau is a favourite in the house, we've visited the domaine several times since the late 80s. Nose: starts on butter cream, pastries, then a little putty, gentian roots and green walnuts. Slightly earthy. Mushrooms, Chartreuse (herbs). Very complex. Mouth: a little fatter, faint woodiness. Meursaults a bit if you see what I mean. Toasts, brioche, angelica. Finish: medium longue, more on herbs now. Sorrel, mint. Comments: rather less ‘yellow’ than Arbois or Château-Chalon but excellent. Expectedly ampler than the 2003.

Château-Chalon Marie et Denis Chevassu Granges Bernard 1998 Five stars I didn't know this producer until the excellent owner and sommelier of restaurant Château Mont-Joly in Dole let me try it. It is to be noted that all Château-Chalon are vins jaunes. Any wine that's no genuine vin jaune cannot be called Château-Chalon. Nose: starts very chocolaty and gets then mineral. Clay. Faint whiffs of leather, small wild flowers. Very faint dustiness. Mouth: rather ample and punchy for Château-Chalon, with notes of lemon pie, fresh walnuts and grapefruits. Hints of fino sherry. Perfect balance. Finish: long and ‘chiselled’. Green gooseberries and a little salted butter fudge in the retro. Also hints of lime and green apple. Comments: a great surprise, I didn’t know this domaine.
Chateau Chalon
The beautiful village of Château-Chalon
Château-Chalon Marie et Denis Chevassu Granges Bernard 1999 Five stars Nose: more on wax than the 1998, shoe polish, linoleum. A tad more austere. Mouth: ultra-classic on green apple and green walnuts. A little honeycomb. Gets then a tad hotter than the 1998 but it’s still beautifully classic. Finish: long, a little oilier. Butter cream. Comments: global quality is similar to the 1998’s.
Château-Chalon Berthet-Bondet 2002 Five stars Great domaine in the beautiful village of Château-Chalon. Extremely elegant wine, balanced yet rich and complex. Superb development (sorry, very short notes!)
Château-Chalon Jean-Claude Credoz 2002 Two stars and a half Nose: quite some butter, slightly lactic. A little caramel, fern and hints of pine needles. Shy, even after quite some breathing. Mouth: nice notes of green apples but lacks oomph and resembles more a ‘simple’ savagnin (under veil). Finish: medium long, more on walnuts but still weakish. Comments: improves after two hours of breathing but not much.
Arbois Vin Jaune Jacques Tissot 2002 Five stars Nose: lots of green walnuts, with a little dust (not unpleasant). Whiffs of petrol, graphite and a little camphor. Mouth: nervous, empyreumatic, slightly resinous, with also a little liquorice. Surprisingly medicinal. Finish: long, back on more usual walnuts and tar. Earthy aftertaste. Comments: very firm and powerful, kind of ‘Islay’. Beautiful dryness. Puffeney
Arbois Vin Jaune Frédéric Lornet 2000 Two stars and a half Nose: starts rather dusty and buttery, then old furniture and wax polish. Lacks vividness. Mouth: better, oily mouth feel, overripe apples and a touch of salt. Pleasant bitterness (cider apple). Gets a tad vulgar after breathing. Finish: cleaner, more on lime, but gets a tad sourish. Comments: a little ‘unconstructed’ and lacking ‘good’ sharpness.
Arbois Vin Jaune Maurice Chassot 1985 Four stars Nose: classic, not ‘old’ in any way, fresh, on a little fresh butter. Maybe a little discreet. Mouth: balanced and rather elegant even if not hugely complex. Classic. Finish: medium long, balanced. Comments: good quality.
Arbois Vin Jaune Jacques Puffeney 2001 Four stars and a half Nose: less ‘big’ than other Arbois Vins Jaunes, extremely elegant. Green apples, walnuts, mint and lemon. Mouth: perfect, zesty and nervous. Perfect ‘greenness’ from the savagnin. Comments: top notch – and Mr Puffeney is so cool!
Arbois Vin Jaune Jacques Puffeney 2000 Five stars More lemony and even greener and wonderfully sharper. Superb.
Bonus: a few other, cheaper but excellent Jura wines that also display ‘a taste of yellow’ even if they aren’t legally ‘vins jaunes’ and sometimes not even savagnin: Melon à queue rouge Puffeney 2005 (stunning), Savagnin Puffeney 2004, L’Etoile Cuvée Spéciale Domaine de Montbourgeau 2004 or 2005 (unusual chardonnay under veil), Côtes du Jura Jean Macle 2004 (savagnin/chardonnay). By the way Macle's Château-Chalons are always great but this time we didn't go there - for a change. BTW, if you want to know more about Jura wines you should go to our friend Wink Lorch's excellent Wine Travel Guides.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: fed up with the prices of some recent so-called uberpremium whiskies or with any other cheapo marketing stunts? Okay, let's all sing the Mantra of Great Compassion (in Chinese: Dabei Zhou). Warning, this is a large file but it'll make all your anger slowly vanish, guaranteed. If it didn't, play it again, over and over and over...


May 17, 2010

by Nick Morgan
Village Underground, Shoreditch, London, April 28th 2010

Who says music and whisky don’t go together?  Certainly not the clever marketing guys from that bastion of the drinks business establishment, Berry Brothers & Rudd, who last year established an unlikely coalition between Cutty Sark and the “hard ragga-jungle rhythms, indo-dub bass-lines, searing sitar-inspired guitars and traditional sounds” of Asian Dub Foundation

Asian Dub Foundation

That, I have to say, takes a lot of balls from all parties concerned.   Cutty, as its advocates know it, is one of those orphan brands of  blended Scotch with a great heritage (for a brand born of prohibition, the image of the Cutty Sark clipper made a particularly compelling consumer proposition), good product but a declining franchise (that’s marketing speak for ‘dying old men’) in old markets like the US.   Elsewhere, it faces fierce competition from bigger and better-funded brands in markets such as Spain, which are anyway suffering hugely as a result of current economic conditions, and a high cost of entry in the glittering prizes of India and China.  Back in the UK, its brand equity must be similar to Lembit Opik’s.  Things haven’t gone too well for ADF of  late either, their highly politicised (strangely, I couldn’t find the word ‘political’ in any of the Cutty Sark press releases) and culturally diverse take on punk having become somewhat unfashionable, although along with similarly ‘committed’ bands such as the Levellers, they have soldiered on by delivering epic live performances (and might, of course, be about to find that  their day has returned under changed political conditions).   So I’m sure the offer of financial backing to write and record a new album, free from any interference from your sponsors, was almost irresistible.  For Cutty Sark, there is a clear commercial benefit from the musical collaborations involved in the album, notably (and coincidentally, I don’t doubt) with Spanish band Ojos de Brujo, which might help them mark out some clear ground from their competitors in Spain. The marketing guys have tried to tie this both into the brand’s “ethos of ‘creative blending’” (eh?), and the history of the Cutty Sark itself, “the journeys of the clipper … offered a broad roadmap for the selection of creative influences and guest artists working on the project”, but I put that down as baloney too.   In the UK, Cutty’s association with ADF might also bring them to the attention of a new demographic, free from the prejudices that so many younger consumers here have about blended Scotch.  So perhaps this project should be described as a marriage of convenience born of circumstance (which reminds me of something topical, but I just can’t think what …).  However, its destiny now lies in the hands of Cutty’s new owners, the Edrington Group, who have taken a nine-month collaboration to the stage of execution with a series of planned live performances of which this is the first.   And lest there be any doubt, your Reviewer and Photographer attended as guests of the sponsors.


So we’re at a ‘secret’ gig at an appropriately funky venue in Shoreditch at the heart of old London.  It’s Village Underground, a Victorian warehouse (at one time or other a coal store, music hall, theatre and car park) built under the Broad Street rail viaduct, atop of which sit salvaged London Underground carriages that have been converted into studios.  The entrance is through a sequence of claustrophobic vaulted areas, but the performance space is a vast high chamber, with a stage sufficiently large to accommodate both the ADF and their numerous guests.  The set is fast, powerful and uncompromising, featuring a selection of songs from the forthcoming album, The History of Now, closing with ‘Fortress Europe’ from their 2003 album Enemy of the Enemy.  The latest songs reflect a concern with the changing nature of the new global economy and society, “universal themes of dislocation, technological liberation and enslavement” said guitarist Steve Chandra Savale.  So the song titles say it all, ‘Urgency frequency’, ‘London to Shanghai’, ‘Future proof’ and ‘In another life’. There is of course a basic formula to the ADF sound; at its heart the mesmerising tabla and dhol of Prithpal Rajput , Yuval Gubay’s drums and the pounding bass of Martin Savale (who on ‘Future proof’ makes me fear for the stability of the venue’s nineteenth century brick work). 

Overlay on this the soaring guitar of Steve ‘Chandrasonic’ Savale, the vocals of Al Rumjen and electronics of Sanjay Tailor and you have it.  But what really brought this performance to life were the contributions of the collaborators, like Nathan ‘Flutebox’ Lee, vocalist MC Ed Skrein, Chi 2 with a wailing mixture of traditional Chinese and electric violins, the dynamic yet joyful drumming of the Ministry of Dhol,  the percussion of Maxwell Wright from Ojos de Brujo and the fantastic (astonishing?) vocals of Shahla Karkouti, a last-minute stand-in for Marina "la Canillas".  The energy and enjoyment emanating from the stage as collaborators came and went was quite infectious and endowed the ear-numbing performance with a very special feel.


The History of Now is scheduled for release in June, and I seriously wonder how it can quite capture the sense of such a formidable live set.  So the recommendation would have to be, should you get a chance, try to see ADF with some or all of these outstanding performers.  I can assure you it would certainly be worth the price of the ticket. – Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Listen: Asian Dub Foundation on myspace - Ojos de Brujo on myspace


Tasting four Ardbegs distilled in the 90s
Maximum Peat 11 yo 1997/2009 (49.9%, Spirit & Cask Range, Germany, cask #5450, 348 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: nervous and very typical, huge peat and charcoal smoke and a little tar on top of notes of ripe apples and pears, then brine, seashells and a little lemon. Nothing more but nothing less. With water: gets a tad ‘younger’. Read more pears. Mouth (neat): straight young fruity and peaty Ardbeg, with some pears and apples and a lot of liquorice and earthy gentian spirit. Youngish and clean. With water: funny notes of roasted peanuts! Finish: long, round, malty, nutty… In short, less ‘Ardbeg’ but still very nice. A saltiness. Comments: uncomplicated, simply very, very good. SGP:547 - 85 points.
Ardbeg 18 yo 1991/2009 (50%, whiskyforyou.it, 120 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: just as ‘Ardbeg’ as the Max Peat but rounder and more on vanilla. The rest is very similar, peat smoke, tar, apples and anything marine. The whole is superb, without anything ‘excessively modern’ (read bourbonny). With water: yeah! Wet dog (how much do we owe you, dogs?), oysters, kelp, hessian, tar, fisherman’s boat… High class. Mouth (neat): excellent! Perfect combination of peat, salty stuff (okay, brine), peat, liquorice, sweet candies (liquorice alsorts) and cough syrup. We aren’t too far from some older versions of  Ardbeg, with hints at ‘the 1970s’. With water: fab! Enough said. Finish: long, briny, peaty, earthy, tarry… Comments: a classic Ardbeg, very old-style. Too bad our Italian friends have (had) only 120 bottles of this heavy hitter. SGP:448 - 93 points.
Ardbeg 15 yo 1994/2010 (55.7%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 273 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: big vanilla this time, big fruits as well. Some café latte, caramel, vanilla crème, toffee, cappuccino and marzipan on top of a relatively mild peatiness. Some aspects remind me of the recent official 1998 single casks. A little mint and liquorice. With water: a little more spirity, brisk. Mouth (neat): punchy, very peaty but also quite sweet at the attack, with a little icing sugar, fructose, lemon juice… Gets then grassier and even a little bitter, rooty, earthy. Liquorice wood. With water: more a classic Ardbeg now, peatier, drier, tarrier… As if water killed the fruits. Finish: long, peaty, earthy, salty. Comments: very good middle-aged Ardbeg. It went from ‘relatively rounded’ to ‘classically monstrous’ with water. SGP:367 - 87 points.
Ardbeg 15 yo 1994/2010 (56%, Cadenhead, bourbon hogshead, 268 bottles) Three stars Colour: pale white wine. Nose: same big notes of coffee and toasts (tell me about a breakfast), vanilla and liquorice. Maybe a little more fruits (apples, even strawberries) and plum jam but other than that we’re close to the ‘273’. With water: that doesn’t work this time, it got a little plastic-like and oddly waxy. Nothing too bad mind you, it’s just that the ‘273’ was now much nicer at this stage in y opinion. Mouth (neat): huge, very close to the ‘273’. Maybe a wee bit less earthy and wee bit more on fresh fruits. Cider apples. Extremely nervous. With water: sharp like a blade, clean, fresh… But there are some surprisng notes of bubblegum. Less mature than the ‘273’. Finish: long, a little spirity now. Fruit eau-de-vie with some salt. Comments: less mature than the ‘273’, the cask was probably less active, which the lighter colour may confirm. SGP:557 - 82 points.

And also Ardbeg ‘Supernova SN2010’ (60.1%, OB, 2010) Five stars This sequel will be available on May 31. Colour: white wine. Nose: punchy and rather spirity at first nosing, peaty of course but not quite extreme – so far. Very big notes of plum spirit (or other stone fruit eau-de-vie), lime juice, icing sugar, cut grass… It’s very austerely grassy in fact, with also something unusually mineral (aspirin tablets). Antiseptic, tincture of iodine. Quite some soot, graphite and linseed oil too. Whiffs of zesty savagnin wine (made ‘under veil’ like they do in Jura). With water: gets a little smoother and rounder. Fresh almonds, oysters and leather. Oh, and ashes. No ashtray, though… Also hints of eucalyptus and pine resin.

Mouth (neat): very strong, extremely limony (acidic), grassy, tarry and liquoricy. Some salt as well and a little almond oil and black pepper. Very, very zesty and concentrated at the same time. With water: it became rather smoother and fruitier. Lemon jelly, lemon marmalade, touches of grapefruit and pineapple and a faint prickliness (peppered lemon juice). Finish: long, with returning ash and tar and much less fruits now. Liquorice wood. Very dry and very clean aftertaste (bitter chocolate (80+%), coffee bean, ash, pepper). Comments: I think it’s maybe a tad fruitier (lemon), grassier and rounder – but it’s no round whisky at all - than earlier Supernovas but otherwise it’s very similar, that is to say very, very good. No need to split hairs and come up with a different score if you ask me. SGP:369 – 90 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all Ardbeg that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

May 16, 2010


A diplomatic session – two Irish

I’ve already got a lot of flak because I’m supposed to favour Scotch over Irish whisky jut because of their origins. I think that’s a little unjust! First, I could try very little aged Irish, most available Irish being young or very young, which is obviously a handicap when you think 85-90 points.

Second, many Irish are very sweet and rather light bodied in my opinion and I’m not too much into very sweet whiskies, be them Irish or Kazak. It’s got nothing to do with them being Irish, it’s just a style that I do not always like so much. Having said that, that style seems to be very successful in various other circles, which is absolutely great. Remember that what I think isn’t the gospel, it’s just one single guy’s personal taste and opinion. Now, I just checked the MM Monitor and could come up with a list of exactly 26 Irish that I scored between 85 and 90 points. Not too bad. And these four Irish were granted 90 points in the past: Bushmills 1984/1996 (57%, OB for Celtic Whisk(e)y, Sherry, C#11758) - Connemara NAS 'Cask Strength' (57.9%, OB, Peated single malt, +/-2007) - Redbreast 12yo (40%, OB, John Jameson, 750ml, 1970’s) - Cooley 14yo (58.7%, Cadenhead's, 222 Bts., 2006).

Anyway, I felt I had to try to change what some of our most distinguished readers were feeling about these issues and just quickly nosed a good twenty-five yet untasted Irish samples to select two of them that seemed to be of very high quality… So yes, this is going to be kind of a diplomatic session ;-).


Tyrconnell 1992/2009 'Ambassador's Choice' (51%, OB) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: starts punchy, grassy and rather smoky. Hay, cut apples, garden bonfire, farmyard after the rain and a little muesli. Goes on with just wee hints of dried coconut and vanilla but also touches of aniseed and whiffs of sea air as well as a faint but very pleasant mouldiness (old books) that adds complexity to the whole. No excessive sweetness this time ;-). With water: beautiful notes of eucalyptus and camphor as well as a little menthol. Granny smith apples and distant whiffs of ‘clean’ cow stable. It’s got something more costal – and Scottish! (don’t shoot!)

Mouth (neat): starts a little fruitier than on the nose, with also a little coffee. Pear drops, grass juice, green tea and these touches of aniseed yet again. Or is it rather dill? No bubblegum, no marshamallows. With water: a little more toasted bread and vanilla. Green tea. Finish: rather long, grassy, firm, ending with a little coffee, just as it started. Comments: a full-bodied Irish with good complexity and certainly no weakness. Much enjoyable! SGP:362 – 87 points.

Cape Gooseberries

<- Cape gooseberries

Cooley 1993/2008 (56.3%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, cask #1278) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one’s rather more estery at first nosing, with also a little varnish but no acetone-ish notes. It’s also much more on lime and grass for a while, just before the same slightly coconutty notes as in the Tyrconnell do emerge. Peaches. With water: becomes rather grassier, more austere, with a little more liquorice. A little fresh butter and a little porridge.

Mouth (neat): big fruitiness this time but with an oily mouth feel. White tequila with a dash of Malibu, liquorice and green tea. Good power but it isn’t aggressive at all. With water: really resembles the Tyrconnell now, with maybe just a little more fruits (Cape gooseberries). Finish: long, grassy, very clean. Comments: another excellent one in my opinion. There’s no reason why I would score it lower – or higher than the Tyrconnell. SGP:461 – 87 points.

There. Oh and because I may have written about ‘whisky’ and not ‘whiskey’, let me remind you that even if, mainly for business concentration reasons, it’s become customary to talk about Irish whiskey with an E in recent times, many famous Irish brands and distillers have been using the wording whisky without an E in the past. Brands such as Dunville’s, Cowan’s, Boyd’s, Coleraine or Mitchell’s to name but a few... (Our friend MM’s Davin would explain all those ‘whisky and language’ issues much better than yours truly).



MUSIC - Recommended listening: so-called 'jazz-rock' at its best with Stanley Clarke and Flora Purim's Light as a feather. That was on Return to Forever's famous eponymous 1972 album. Please all these luminaries' fantastic music!

Flora Purim

May 2010 - part 1 <--- May 2010 - part 2 ---> June 2010 - part 1

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



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

Ardbeg ‘Supernova SN2010’ (60.1%, OB, 2010)

Ardbeg 18 yo 1991/2009 (50%, whiskyforyou.it, 120 bottles)

Caol Ila 1997/2009 'Manager's Choice' (58.0%, OB, cask #14185, 366 bottles)

Clynelish 37 yo (46%, The Whisky Exchange, 10th Anniversary, 2009)

Craigellachie 25 yo 1984/2009 (53.7%, The Perfect Dram & The Nectar, bourbon hogshead, 256 bottles)

Lagavulin 15 yo (45%, OB, for Montenegro Italy, ceramic, +/-1980)

Strathisla 40 yo 1970/2010 (52.7%, Alambic Classique, sherry, cask #10421, 149 bottles)

Strathisla 49yo 1960/2010 (53.2%, Gordon & MacPhail for The Whisky Fair, book of kells label)