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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2011 - Part 1

April 2011 - part 2 <--- May 2011 - part 1 ---> May 2011 - part 2


May 13, 2011

Background picture: the Knight von Hattstein, commander of the city of Limburg/Lahn, Germany, in the 14th Century. The man seems to have had manners.

May 12, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#61: one Czech whisky

This should be quick, most of these unlikely ‘eastern’ whiskies that I could try so far have been utter crap. An this is no opinion this time, it’s a fact. By the way, Printer’s is made by Stock Pizen near the city of Nepomuk, where they seem to use wood chips to malt the barley. I think it’s the same provenance as Hammer Head’s.

Printers 6

Printer's 6 yo (40%, OB, Stock, blend, Czech Republic, +/-2009) Colour: straw. Nose: raw wood alcohol, ink, cardboard and charcoal. It’s not repulsive, provided you’re not against wood alcohol, ink, cardboard and charcoal, it’s just void of any remotely pleasant aromas. Mouth: this is better, these grenadiny notes aren’t bad, and so are the vanilla and the notes of caramel and light honey. It’s even a nice surprise, but it’s to be wondered if it’s all 100% natural. Some banana liqueur as well, corn syrup, barley sugar… Frankly, it’s drinkable. Finish: shortish and, guess what, not cardboardy. Surprise-surprise. Comments: as I sometimes write, I’ve tasted worse. I think it’s an honest product and it even tastes like whisky. Now, maybe you shouldn’t rush out and buy a case… If you can find any! SGP:330 - 65 points.

19 to go...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: this is so sweet, so sweet... Robin Eubanks (Kevin's brother) playing CP-Time (from 1994's 'Mental Images') with just hums and some kind of woodblocks. Very sweet and very beautiful. Please buy Robin Eubanks' music. Robin Eubanks

May 11, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#58-60: three Swiss whiskies

Yes, we’re in tiny Switzerland today. We’ll go to Appenzell, in the northeast, then to Biel in western Switzerland and then to Argau in the northwest.


Santis Malt (40%, OB, Switzerland, beer casks, +/-2010) Three starsMade at the Brauerei Löcher. I already tried some of these ‘Santis' whiskies, straight from Appenzell. A beer cask at cask strength was something! (WF 85). Colour: gold. Nose: once again, this works. It's no big whisky and it's not packed with otherworldly aromas but the profile is right, there are no off notes whatsoever and these touches of beer (rather ale-type) and caramel work well. In fact, it does smell a bit like Werther's Originals (you don't know Werther's? Nothing to do with Goethe, they're just succulent hard toffees). Touches of shoe polish. Mouth: very unusual, but quite good. Kummel liqueur, goldwasser (a specialty from Gdansk), artichoke liqueur... And a good sweetness. Creamy mouth feel. Indian spice mix (the one they give you after your meal at a restaurant). This doesn't taste like whisky, but this tastes right in my view. Finish: medium long, slightly sooty and smoky. A little salmiak. Comments: a bit of an UFW (unidentified flying whisky) but it's fun to try and very pleasant. SGP:462 - 80 points.

The Löcher brewery in Appenzell.



Lakeland 3 yo 2006/2009 (42%, OB, Switzerland, oloroso sherry) Two stars and a half Lakeland? This is a first at Whiskyfun Towers. It’s made at Spezialitätenbrennerei Zürcher. Colour: gold. Nose: not a lot happening I must say. Some vanilla, ripe apples, notes of roasted peanuts (those grow then bigger), a little leaven, charcoal... Now, it's all nicely clean. Everything is quite clean in Switzerland anyway! Mouth: hey, this isn't bad at all! Nice notes of earth and roots (isn't this my beloved gentian?), bitter oranges, apples, touches of ginger, cinchona, liquorice wood... Nice mouth feel, quite oily yet fresh. Good body. Finish: quite long, clean, a tad jammier. Marmalade and ripe bananas in the aftertaste. Comments: another excellent surprise. No high-flyer and no heavy hitter but this is perfectly enjoyable at just three years of age. Good wood too. SGP:541 - 78 points.


Castle One 2005/2010 'Edition Käser' (68%, OB, Switzerland, new Bordeaux cask cask #455) Two stars Let's be honest, the people at Käser's have the best intentions and are truly great minds but their whiskies are... I mean, some of the ones I could already try were... pretty unlikely. Colour: full gold. Nose: this is extremely strange. Huge sulphur, cardboard, yeast (baby puke, ahem), burnt 'stuff' (wheat flour? Polenta?), strange spice mix... Or rather space mix, really, this one may get you really high. With water: well, if you like the countryside, you may enjoy this, for it smells just like a farmyard. Plus barley and baker's yeast. Mouth (neat): the very high alcohol makes it sort of inoffensive, which may well take the biscuit at almost 70% ABV. Other than that, it's a very bitter thing. Concentrated, I'd say. With water: right, this is better. There's been quite some oak extraction going on, giving the whole a very gingery profile. Muscovado sugar, white pepper, nutmeg (wheelbarrows), burnt caramel... It's not terrifying at this point, just too... well, extractive. Finish: long but bitter and tannic. Is Jägermeister Swiss??? Comments: the good thing with these babies is that they're really fun to try. I've got some other stuff by Käser on my shelves and I did put my nose into the bottles, it seems that they're much nicer and easier. We'll have them next time. We already had a ‘Terroir’ that was much more to my liking. SGP:571 - 70 points (for the eccentricity.)

Next time we're heading east. Strange whisky countries, I tell you... 20 to go, stay tuned!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the haunting voice of Mali's Mamani Keita in the superb song called Nani. Beware, it's highly addictive! Please buy Mamani Keita's music...

Mamani Keita

May 10, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#55-57: three Mackmyra from Sweden

We gently flew over Scotland and went straight to Sweden to have a few Mackmyra today. I know it’s controversial whisky but I must say I enjoyed most recent batches (while the first ones were, ah-hum, sometimes a bit bizarre).


Mackmyra are building a new distillery (right). Quite a departure from the old one's romantic side (left)...

Mackmyra Bruks

Mackmyra 'Brukswhisky' (41.4%, OB, Art #MB 001, Bottled +/- 2010) Three stars and a half This is supposed to represent the lighter, gentler - and cheaper - side of Mackmyra. So no brute I guess... Colour: white wine. Nose: fresh, light and fruity indeed, not unlike a 'natural' young Speysider but with more fragrant notes. Citron? Touches of roses as well, maybe just hints of lavender (very nice here) and then some barley sugar, vanilla and ripe juicy apples (goldens). Very fresh and clean, very easy going. Mouth: very sweet but also spicier than on the nose, with quite some crystallised ginger and touches of caraway as well as spicy herbs. Reminiscent of some artisan gin in a certain way. It's all good in my opinion. Good body, no drop anywhere. Finish: medium long, with an unexpected salty tang and a clean, slightly ginny aftertaste (juniper and liquorice). Comments: this works well. I think we're really between fresh malt whisky and gin (Bristol gin?), especially on the palate. SGP:451 - 83 points.

Mackmyra 2008

Mackmyra '1st Edition' Batch 2008-03 (46.1%, OB, Art #ME 001) Three stars and a half This one was matured in both first fill bourbon and virgin Swedish oak. Batch 2008-02 was to my liking (WF 83). Colour: straw. Nose: it's more or less the same brew as the 'Bruks', only with a little more oomph and possibly more nutty and slightly yeasty notes. Same ripe apples, same vanilla... Maybe a little more pears and gooseberries... A nice and fresh one yet again. Funny whiffs of wood smoke coming through after a while, as well as just a little soft mustard - or is that juniper? Mouth: once again, the style is similar to the Bruks', only bigger and, maybe more bitter and 'green'. Chlorophyll, white pepper, ginger... In the background: vanilla and apples. Touches of cumin. Finish: long, sweet and bitter. Ah yes, it reminds me of some 'red' bitters that the Italians make. I like this quite a lot. Comments: singular and very good. Mackmyra keeps improving unless you need a Scotchness in your whisky. Indeed, this is far from Scotch. SGP:361 - 84 points.

Mackmyra Special

Mackmyra 'Special 04' (53%, OB, Art #MS 004, double dip bourbon, bottled summer 2010) Four stars Why double dip, you may ask? Because this baby was first matured in regular bourbon casks and then reracked into small 30-litre casks, ala Laphroaig Quarter Cask. I had the Special 02 at 83 points and the Special 03 at 84. Shall we climb higher? Colour: straw. Nose: no more wee yeasty notes in this one, it's the sweet oak that does the talking at first nosing. Bags of vanilla and barley sugar but it all remains under control so far. With water: becomes more mineral. Chalk, limestone... The slight yeastiness that we had in the other ones makes it through as well now. More cut grass as well. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, much sweeter and fruitier than its two siblings. Pears, apples, vanilla, barley sugar... The idiosyncratic (okayyy) bitterness is there but it needs time to come through the vanilla. Quite some pepper, cardamom, cumin... With water: we' re very close to the 1st Edition now, only a little sweeter and more vanilled. Bourbon wood indeed. Finish: long, similar to the previous one. Very nice bitterness. Great touches of aniseed in the aftertaste. Comments: I find this excellent. I think it's amazing how Mackmyra improved since the first bottlings. Bravo! SGP:561 - 86 points.

23 to go, were shall we go next time? We'll see, stay tuned...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: what to listent after these Macmyras? Why not the great Charlie Parker blowing some Swedish Schnapps? The sound is excellent as this was recorded around 1950. Please buy the genius' music!

Charlie Parker

Bonus Preview: six newish 1990 Laphroaig

Will this be boring? I mean, there's plenty of 'phroaigs around these days and many are similar, which sometimes makes such a tasting session a tad... yawn ... zzz... But hey, this is 1990 and most 1990s I could try so far have been pretty brilliant so let's not deny a good thing and behave like a spoilt child!

Laphroaig 20

Laphroaig 20 yo 'Double Cask' (46.6%, OB for Paris Duty Free, Aelia, 750 bottles, 2010) Five stars No vintage stated on this one so I could only guess that it could have been a 1990. It was matured for 18 years in hogsheads and then in quarter casks for the last two years. Colour: straw. Nose: starts with a bit of sour wood and lemon juice but then it's the usual Laphroaigness, and a kippery/briny Laphroaigness at that. Anchovies, iodine (huge), damp chalk, soot, more brine, more lemon juice, more kippers... And more lime and gherkins. And big, fat, fresh oysters. Just a tiny bit of sawdust in the background. Fabulous news that this baby does not display big notes of vanilla despite the 'treatment'. Mouth: awww... The problem is that it's very drinkable at this strength, despite the rather huge saltiness. Excellent, all on olive 'juice' (I like that), anchovies again, smoked fish, a little cider, oysters again (just any breed)... Not much medicinal notes and the peatiness is, say 'controlled'. Very good. Finish: long and extremely briny and salty. Comments: whichever the wood technology that's inside, this is brilliant whisky provided you like these kinds of ueber-briny profiles that only Bowmore can also display. I do. SGP:266 - 92 points.

Laphroaig Signatory

Laphroaig 19 yo 1990/2009 (52.9%, Signatory, bourbon barrel, cask #70, 190 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: this one surprisingly rounder than the OB, with a little more fresh butter and vanilla cream as well as more minerals, and it's much more medicinal too, with also more apple peelings and walnut skin. On the other hand, it's rather less coastal, with less oysters and brine but such notes there are. Great anyway, just more a classic than the OB (which takes the biscuit ;-)). Mouth: a very punchy, peat-packed Laphroaig, ashy and medicinal, with fresh apples and lemon in the background. And a lot of salt once again. Finish: long, wild, salty and cidery. Comments: a sharp, slightly monolithic but oh so great Laphroaig. Signatory really had a fab series with all these brilliant 1990s and 1991s. SGP:377- 91 points.


Laphroaig 20 yo 1990/2010 (52.8%, The Perfect Dram, joint bottling with the Daily Dram, bourbon hogshead, 225 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: one step further towards roundness, although this is no round whisky of course. Having said that, it changes direction after a few seconds and starts to resemble the OB more and more, with these very briny and coastal notes. Less sour/lemony notes, though. Great ultra-clean Laphroaig in fact. Also a little metal polish. Mouth: once again, there's a little more fruits in the attack, maybe touches of mangos, but then it's an avalanche of briny, salty and lemony notes. Really potent! Maybe smoked almonds. Finish: very long and salty, just like the others. Comments: what to say? SGP:377 - 91 points.


Laphroaig 20 yo 1990/2011 (56.3%, The Perfect Dram, joint bottling with Bresser & Timmer, bourbon hogshead, 237 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is shier, with a little more cardboard and vanilla at first nosing. But then, once again, it becomes briny and coastal, probably a little more 'narrow' than the others, sharper, grassier, a little more on green apples (and green olives). The less expressive of them all so far, but the cleanliness is most enjoyable. It's also the smokiest. Mouth: this time it's a little sweeter, more on lemon drops than the others, but after two or three seconds it's the same salty whirlwind that happens. Maybe a wee tad less extreme than its bro. Maybe... Finish: very long, a wee tad more on lime this time. Very nervous in the aftertaste. White tequila, salt and lemon. Comments: the nuances are too small to make me go for a different score. Great whisky, full stop. SGP:477 - 91 points.

Laphroaig MoS

Laphroaig 1990/2011 (52.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #2229, 178 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: almost the same whisky as the '52.8%' by The Perfect Dram, only with a little more vanilla and even hints of brioche and orange cake. But other than that, it's the same kind of brilliant nose. After a few minutes: more custard, apricots... Maybe the casks was a little fresher or more active. Maybe also faint whiffs of yeast or leaven. Oh, and wet dogs ! (I'm extremely sorry, dogs.) Mouth: big brine, big orange zests, big peat, big salt, big smoked fish... And this feeling of pils beer that's sometimes to be found in Laphroaig and other malts ('good' yeastiness). Finish: long, briny, slightly sweet (lemon marmalade and barley sugar). Coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: hell, this is worth 91 again in my book! Me, bored? Not at all (serious!) SGP:377- 91 points.


Laphroaig 20 yo 1990/2011 (47.3%, Whisky-Doris, hogshead, cask #10873, 225 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is somewhere inbetween all the other ones. A tad softer, probably rather more buttery/butyric as well, but also even more whiffs of wet dogs (one day I'll be in trouble...), wet clothes, maybe a little more camphor and just as many olives and as much brine as with the OB. It's actually a tad more dirty-ish than the others but that's probably an asset here. Great nose. Mouth: very close to the OB. Easy to drink yet very salty. Maybe a little more resinous notes but we're really into ultra-details now. Finish: long, very salty and very ashy. Touches of almond oil and grapefruits. Maybe even tangerines. Comments: same quality as the others, that is to say a very high one. But warning, at 47%, it goes down like Bode Miller. Dangerous! SGP:467 - 91 points.

I know what you're thinking just now: 'but why does the bugger keep tasting all these Laphroaigs if they're more or less all the same?' The answer is easy: because I like them a lot. Brilliant stuff and I cannot not hope that after twenty or thirty years in glass, they'll also display the amazing complexity that's to be found in the old 10s and quite a few others. Remember, phenols can be unstable... for the better!

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

May 9, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#50-54: five older Irish

After the NAS, the 12s with their nice surprises and the new Single Pot Still that were brilliant, let’s have a bunch of older Irish today if you don’t mind. But why would you?

Jameson 18

Jameson 18 yo (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2010) Three stars In my opinion, the 12yo was already a huge improvement on the rather feeble NAS so my expectations are high here. Colour: gold. Nose: frankly, I don't think there's a huge difference with the 12, both being very similar on the nose as far as global profiles are concerned. Having said that, the 18 has more oak and rather more vanilla, with also a little more floral and muscaty notes. Musk? A little butter cream as well, vanilla... I'm wondering if I do not like the 12's freshness a little better... Mouth: the 12 and the 18 are even closer to each other on the palate. Maybe just a slightly oilier mouth feel and a few more spices as well as a slightly bigger tannicity but other than that, they're almost the same whiskies. Quite good. Ripe apples and gooseberries, a little tobacco... Finish: medium long, very 'Irish' and quite 'Redbreast', if you see what I mean. Comments: all very good in my view but again, the 12 did it just as much for me. Same scores would be fair but I’ll give an extra point to the 18, just because it’s older. Just kidding, I’ll give it because it’s a tad more complex. SGP:441 - 80 points.

Kilbeggan 18

Kilbeggan 18 yo (40%, OB, decanter bottle, Bottled +/- 2010) Three stars The no-age-statement version was okayish, let’s try the 18. Colour: full gold. Nose: this one is rather less emphatic than the Jameson, but again, the styles are very similar. Loads of overripe apples, whiffs of sandalwood, cedar, vanilla, then these slightly muscaty notes again, dried bananas... It's a nice, pleasantly aromatic whiskey with very nice notes of ripe fruits. Just a little mint in the background. Mouth: once again, we aren't far from the Jameson. This one is maybe a little sappier, maybe slightly bigger this one, with very pleasant notes of green tea and dried mint. A tea in the Sahara? Too bad the middle is a tad light, a slightly bigger body would have been better. Finish: short to medium, clean, grassier. Notes of quince jelly and touches of marmalade, with a little liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: no big whisky but just like the Jameson 18, it's all very sippable. Perfect in summer, probably... SGP:441 - 81 points.

Greenore 18

Greenore 18yo 'Small Batch' (46%, OB, 4000Bts, Bottled +/- 2010) Two stars and a half As you know, this is grain whisky. I've never felt comfortable with these grains' huge sweetness but maybe this one will be more to my liking... Just to give you an idea, I have the 15 at 74 points and the 8 at 70. Colour: straw. Nose: starts slowly, less aromatic than the blends and with more obvious 'soft' oak, that is to say mainly vanilla here. Also hints of cappuccino, butter cream (a delightful cake we call Paris-Brest over here) and just a little dried coconut. No wham-bam watch-my-fruits grain whiskey, this is relatively more complex than the younger Greenores in my opinion. Also nice touches of polished wood. Humidor. Mouth: nice attack, not far from the blends, only fruitier and rather more vanilled. Some marshmallows, touches of coriander, angelica, bananas, sweet corn... In short, this works pretty well. Good spiciness from the oak. Finish: fairly long, with more spices, more liquorice and touches of oranges. Comments: nice stuff, very quaffable, but I’m not too much into this style (now, other MMs love it, especially in Belgium). SGP:640 - 79 points.

Bushmills 21

Bushmills 21 yo (40%, OB, Madeira finish, +/-2010) Three stars and a half I've tried this one several times already and always liked it despite Bushmills’ slightly 'excessive' sweetness in my book. As usual, a matter of taste... Let's check this recent batch... Colour: full gold. Nose: Bushmills is no dry whisky but after the Greenore, it does smell rather dry. Let's wait a little longer... Good, we're on. What's quite striking in this one is the rich fruitiness (all fruits being stewed here). Litchis, roses, overripe melons, touches of raspberry jam, strawberries... Also a little putty and almond oil. Very nice nose but it's with the palate that things may get worse – or not. Mouth: all sweetness, this is more a blend of jams than whisky. Apricots, roses again, grape jelly, litchis, pineapple liqueur... The body is a tad thin because of the low ABV while the single casks that could be found here and there in the past used to show that Bushmills takes high strength very well. Anyway, a nice, easy palate. Finish: slightly short, with a little more leather and soft spices (sweet curry?) Comments: some easy but not too easy Irish malt. Goes down nice and quick, as they say at the pub. Seriously, I like it. SGP:641 – 83 points.

Famous advert for Bushmills, 1970, USA. Don't we all like the Janis Joplin glasses?


Connemara 1992

Connemara 1992/2008 'Single Cask' (46%, OB, cask #4332) Three stars This will be, of course, completely different as Connemara is peated whiskey. Colour: straw. Nose: ah, the 'famous' slightly buttery peatiness! It's very dry, especially after the Bushmills and Greenore, very grassy, rather sooty and, indeed, rather buttery as well. Reminds me of some butter mixed with seaweed that's very popular in French cuisine these days (Monsieur Bordier's butters). Also fumes (a little). Globally austere - pleasantly so. Mouth: this works quite well. Cooley's relatively 'naked' fruitiness (gooseberries, pears and such) needs time to mingle with the peat in my experience (unless you make it all up with heavy bourbon or sherry) but that's starting to happen here, at sixteen years of age. Cider apples, soft pepper, seaweed again, peppermint, grapefruits... It's all pretty good if not brilliant. No water needed here. Finish: long, smokier and grassier. Rather nice aftertaste on kumquats and pepper. Comments: fairly good stuff, one of these Connemaras that are approaching the peated Ileachs in my opinion, although this has more ‘young’ fruits. Having said that, some 1992s at cask strength have been up there with the ‘begs, ‘vulins and ‘phroaigs. SGP:545 - 80 points.

All right, mixed feelings here but some of all these these Irish have really been to my liking. Especially the Power’s 12 and 12yo John's Lane were almost revelations. My favourite has been the brand new Midleton Barry Crockett, don't miss it! Anyway, time to move on to the East. Scotland? Are you kidding? 26 to go, stay tuned!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the first time I had a go at Daniel Knox's music I couldn't avoid thinking of a darker Neil Hannon (the singing is amazingly similar) and sometimes of Richard Hawley and then it just kept growing on me. Truly haunting music, as What have they done to you now will show you (it's on 'Disaster'), so please buy Daniel Knox's music and attend his gigs, he'll be touring the UK, Ireland and the US in May (many thanks Jonathan).

Daniel Knox

May 8, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#46-49: four 12yo Irish

The NAS versions haven’t been very convincing in my opinion, but you have to start somewhere, haven’t you. Let’s see whether these little twelves will be more convincing or not…

Tullamore 12

Tullamore Dew 12 yo (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2010) Two stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: this is so much nicer than the humble no-age-statement version! And nicer than the 10yo too, I must say. Nicer mineral notes, more fresh herbs (chives? Tarragon?), mint for sure, maybe a little mineral water (many have relatively expressive noses if you use a good glass)… In short, a pleasant nose. Ah, yes, all that on a bed of ripe apples and barley. Mouth: sweet, easy, not far from some older NAS versions. I’ve got some very, very old bottles of Tullamore, I’ll crack one open soon and check the differences. Anyway, a faint smokiness in this new one, barley sugar, maple syrup, roasted hazelnuts, cornflakes, apple compote and very sweet cider. It’s good. Finish: not long but pleasantly honeyed. Mocha. Comments: soooo much more to my liking than the NAS version! Especially the palate is very nice in my view. SGP:430 - 78 points.

Jameson 12

Jameson 12 yo (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2010) Two stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: the NAS was really, say absent and this one is much more expressive, but it does display quite some caramel, cornflakes, honey sauce… It’s a tad cardboardy and musty as well but on the other hand, these notes of mushroom are very nice. Hints of earl grey tea as well, coffee… Yes, nothing to write home about but it’s a pleasant nose. Mouth: more or less the same palate as the Tullamore’s, with maybe even more oomph. A little more mint as well. Finish: medium long, rather rich. Peppermint and apples. Comments: hugely more to my liking than the very humble NAS Jameson. We’re very, very close to he 80-mark. What’s the price of this again? SGP:441 - 79 points.

Advert for Jameson's, 1974. Controversial, already (nobody agrees on these kinds of claim - or were they only playing with the 'e'?...)


Powers 12

Powers 12 yo (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2010) Three stars Colour: Straw. Nose: same gap as with the NAS versions, this Power’s is more expressive than the Jameson. More fruits, bananas (hinting at Bushmills), some rum, pineapples, mead, tea, then more oat and muesli, grass, parsley, apples… Complex stuff! I like this… Mouth: let’s be short, this isn’t far from the Jameson, only a tad more citrusy and oomphy. A tad more leathery as well. Very good. Great surprise. Finish: fairly long, complex. Dried and tinned fruits, mint, pepper and coriander. Comments: frankly, this is a great surprise. Beats many Scottish blends in my book. Big body at just 40% vol. SGP:441 - 82 points.

Connemara 12

Connemara 12yo (40%, OB, peated, +/- 2008) Two stars Colour: white wine. Nose: tobacco smoke all over the place here, soot, anti-rust primer… Becomes more medicinal after a while (bandages, mercurochrome, tiger balm…) A rather strange beast, very different from the Islayers while earlier versions were more ‘classical’. Big leather too here. Mouth: very dry, very medicinal, sooty and grassy. Many green vegetables as well, artichokes… Inky as well, slightly feinty, a tad acidic… This peated version is having a hard time after the surprisingly good unpeated Power’s 12. Sometimes peat just don’t suffice. Finish: medium long, smoky, ashy and a little brinier now. Notes of hard cheese. Pepper. Comments: some aspects are very nice while some other aspects are just whacky. Between us, a cheesy/salty finish is unusual in whisky. SGP:255 - 75 points.


BONUS: two new Single Pot Still Whiskeys from Midleton

While I was already done with my ‘Irish tastings’ (there will be more in the coming days) I flew to Cork to discover Midleton’s new Single Pot Still whiskeys that were just launched on Thursday. As you may already know, it’s the new ‘appellation’ for what was formerly known as ‘pure pot still whiskey’. I’ve heard the main reason for this move was some kind of US regulations that seem not to like the word ‘pure’ anymore.  Same in Europe by the way, you cannot write for example ‘pure honey’ anymore because honey must be pure. If it’s not pure, it can’t be called honey anyway so the word pure is now seen as misleading. Don’t we all love pure bureaucracy?
I could taste several new ‘SPS’ while in Cork and all ranged from very interesting to quite excellent. Here are the two newest bottlings, while more will be introduced later this year (such as, I’ve heard, an older Redbreast – maybe…)

May 5, a bunch of Malt Maniacs at Midleton
(Mark, Dave, Martine, Charlie and unknwon fan)

Powers john lane

Powers 12 yo ‘John’s Lane Release’ (46%, OB, Irish single pot still, 2011) Four stars This new baby will be sold more or less at the price of Redbreast 12. It’s made out of the pot still content of Powers 12 (which is a blend) with ‘ few tweakings’. John’s Lane was the address of the old Power’s Distillery in Dublin and while this new boittling doesn’t claim to be an exact recreation, it is supposed to ‘provide a glimpse’ of its style. Colour: gold. Nose: rather rich and fruity, well in the style of the regular Powers 12 but with a richer creaminess. Fruit salad, bananas (not heady notes at all here), then a little more metal and touches of motor oil as often in these pot still whiskeys in my experience. Becomes a little drier then, but there would also be added notes of tinned pineapples at the same time. Mouth: good power, it's even rather hot at the attack - sort of. Quite some fruit eaux-de-vie, oranges, touches of ginger, a little barley sugar, some pepper... And yet again these slightly metallic/oily notes that are pretty enjoyable and very typical. So, typical Powers with a little more oomph. Finish: rather long, even more on oranges and tangerines. Comments: most certainly one of the most robust Irish I've tried so far. SGP:651 – 85 points.


Midleton ‘Barry Crockett Legacy’ (46%, OB, Irish single pot still, around 2,500 bottles, 2011) Four stars and a half This is the pot still component of Midleton Very Rare ‘with tweakings’. Legendary master distiller Barry Crockett did the selection of the casks (15 to 25 years old). Colour: gold. Nose: this one really bursts with tropical fruits, both fresh and tinned at first nosing. Becomes grassier after a few seconds, with quite some fresh almonds and again these oily, slightly metallic touches. After a few seconds, more fresh pineapple and hints of mangos (not excessively ripe ones). Globally, this is rather fruitier yet a tad subtler than the Powers. Also a little coffee and butterscotch. Mouth: smooth, rounder, very creamy, starting on jams and chutneys with, quite curiously, Indian spices, caraway, cumin... Rich, malty, very fruity. Ginger. The casks that were used were all first fill bourbon plus only one part virgin oak, probably one ore two casks. Long finish on more ginger and honey as well as maple syrup and oranges. Comments: it’s very ‘modern’, very oak driven as they say themselves at Midleton, whereas Powers is more ‘distillate driven’. Anyway, this Midleton is much to my liking, especially since it abandoned the relative ‘lightness’ that most Irish used to display in my shortish experience thus far. SGP:741 – 88 points.

More globally, a few wild ideas I had while in Cork:

Irish Distillers seem to be willing to push ‘heavier’ whiskeys now that they sold Bushmills to Diageo two or four years ago, while there are rumours that Cooley and their malts are in the process of being sold ‘in a certain way’ to another big player (maybe William Grant, who are already behind Tullamore Dew – but rumours are only rumours of course). In that context, it makes sense that single pot still whiskeys would be used as flagship ‘heritage’ Irish whiskeys by specialists Irish Distillers-Pernod Ricard, ‘against’ the malts that are being made elsewhere in Ireland and that many may still see as only ‘Scotch-like whiskies’.

The new or newly designed single post still whiskeys that I could taste, either  readily bottled versions (Redbreast 12, Green Spot, Powers John’s Lane, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy) or cask samples (fully matured in Madeira, virgin oak or refill sherry) were all rather potent whiskies, all quite ‘contemporary’ in their styles and displaying fairly active yet rather complex wood influence that should please most Scotch aficionados. As a friend said, they are now whiskies that you can comment on while chatting with chaps, not only whiskies that you’re sipping while chatting about just anything else (or something like that).  In short, more ‘whiskies to taste’ than ‘whiskies to quaff’. Yes, whiskies for us.

I’ve been very surprised to see many high ranking Irish Distillers execs being involved in the one-day launching event, not just ‘brand ambassadors’ and ‘nearly retired masters of just anything’, if you see what I mean. Even the very engaging CEO Alex Ricard was involved, gave speeches and chatted and shared drinks with the thirstiest whisky writers (isn’t that a pleonasm?)

Another huge surprise was that they managed to bring out truly ‘artisan’ or ‘crafted’ whiskies out of the gigantic distillery that’s Midleton, with its cathedral stills. In my opinion, that’s another proof that with whisky, the equation small = craft = beautiful while big = industrial = ugly is pure codswallop, as many big Scotch operations already showed us. Now, the opposites are just as untrue, of course, both notions being simply unrelated in my view. Ha, the Internet’s modern myths…

Ger Buckley
If you ever visit Midleton, the main man to talk to is cooper Ger Buckley (photo). It was a thrill to be seated next to him during the official dinner, he knows a lot and the way he talks about his work (art?) and his tools borders Greek philosophy. Real people!

If a certain Madeira-matured single pot still Irish whiskey ever comes out (they wouldn’t tell, but I think I’ve spotted a few winks here and there) and whatever the brand name, don’t miss it. Hmm, I’m wondering if I won’t set up a petition ;-)…

Right, now I guess I should say something negative, so let’s do it. The only thing I didn’t like too much (beyond the rain) was that they would comment on the whiskeys and give you readymade tasting notes while letting you taste the new babies. I prefer to be able to taste them without any suggestions, that’s why I covered the official notes with my lousy iPad and just didn’t listen to the yet-very-knowledgeable-and-oh-so-engaging David Quinn while tasting the whiskeys (and doing that in reverse order to make sure I wasn’t influenced). I think what works best, even if that means more time, is to let the audience taste the whiskies in silence - dead silence not de rigueur! - for a few minutes and only then talk about them. But, hey, nitpicking again.


All right, already some excellent surprises with the Irish I could taste so far and it’s not over, as we’ll have some older ones next time. Unless Irish whisky doesn’t age well?... We’ll see… 31 to go, stay tuned.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: it's always great to listen to some jazz trio music where both the drummer and the bassist are having real fun. It's certainly the case in Richie Beirach's rather unusual (for Beirach) piece called Tokyo (from the CD 'Methuselah', 1975). Frank Tusa is on bass, Jeff Williamson drums. Please buy Richie Beirach's music!


May 7, 2011


CeeLo Green

by Nick Morgan
Cee Lo Green
Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, March 29th 2011

Under normal circumstances I would struggle to imagine what I had in common with ‘larger than life’ Cee Lo Green.  This remarkable singer, who, following his triumphs with Mighty Mouse and Gnarls Barkley, last year produced The Ladykiller, a simply wonderful soul album whose vocal style and arrangements hark back to what we all like to imagine was the Golden Age of the late sixties and early seventies.  I simply don’t have the voice, song-writing skills or the jewellery. 

What I have got is a stinking head-cold, sinusitis to boot and  bad enough to mean that it’s only the rare opportunity to see someone of Green’s talents that have got me up from my sick-bed.  Cee Lo has a cold too, as his people seem to have been quick to point out to reviewers of his earlier UK shows.  Perhaps not as bad as mine (that’s retrospective self-pity for you but it was my birthday as well) but it has an evident effect upon his voice and might also account for the relative brevity of the show.

Ebony Bone
Ebony Bone

My condition certainly didn’t put me in a benign mood for the support acts.  I found Maverick Sabre’s hopelessly affected vocals hopelessly affected; seeing him subsequently on TV hasn’t done anything to reduce my sense of irritation or change my mind.  In case you don’t know, he is really called Michael Stafford, was born in Hackney of Irish heritage and, despite his Caribbean inflection (should that be infliction?), is very white.  I was also frankly bewildered by, but slightly more favourably inclined towards, Ebony Bone’s brilliantly bonkers set, with high energy percussion, frantic dancing and headache-piercing vocals. 

Mr Green finally took the stage at around 9.30, the impatient audience (did I mention that the Empire was packed?) immediately setting its frustrations aside and letting its love ring out for Cee Lo.  It’s lucky they were in a forgiving mood, for sadly his vocals were not up to full strength. Beginning with ‘The Ladykiller’ and ‘Bright Lights’, a few things were quickly evident.  His band were very loud, and more hard-edged rock and roll than soul.  Not to say they weren’t good: the bass player in particular could have walked into the Ramones, but they weren’t quite the best foil for someone who was struggling to find full voice.  And, as a rocking four-piece (I am, by the way, obliged to say that they were women dressed in painfully tight outfits) it was left to inadequate keyboards and computers to provide the backing arrangements and vocals, which sounded frankly tinny.  In fact the Empire’s sound system wasn’t at its best, and as the engineers tried to help out the vocals with every trick they could (often too much echo), the sound quality went somewhat awry.


CeeLo Green

All that being said, Mr Green has a wonderfully powerful and joyous stage presence, and an obviously irrepressible enthusiasm for his songs and indeed, for his audience.  He performed a selection from The Ladykiller album, ending in a predictably climactic ‘Fuck you’ (here at last were lyrics that the whole audience could deliver with a practised professionalism), threw in a few Gnarls songs (‘Smiley faces’, ‘Gone daddy gone’ and ‘Crazy’) and finished with an odd reprise of Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect day’, all to an increasingly frenzied acclaim.  And I’m not sure that anyone felt particularly cheated when he left the stage after only an hour.  As far as I was concerned it meant that I could get back to my bed, and the very serious business of feeling sorry for myself. – Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Listen to CeeLo Green on myspace


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#41-45: five NAS Irish, four blends and one malt

Time to try a bunch of lower-shelf Irish today. Maybe we'll then have some older ones...

Tullamore Dew

Tullamore Dew (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2011) Two stars New owners William Grant seem to be pushing this brand that’s quite popular in France, where we spell it ‘tout l’amour doux’ (all sweet love). So sweet… Colour: white wine. Nose: not my kind, I’m afraid. I remember the ‘old’ Tout l’amour was a very sweet and fruity fresh whisky but this seems to be much grainier and dustier. Very little happening, some alcohol, grass, whiffs of damp clay… And just a little coconut and vanilla. Mouth: very light, sugary, with notes of marshmallows and pear drops. Touches of orange marmalade and a little cinchona (Campari). That’s pretty all but this palate is relatively pleasant. Finish: not much. Jellybeans. Comments: light, undemanding and ‘downable’ in my opinion. Not much nose but an easy, pleasant palate. SGP:320 - 70 points.


According to this new advert, Tullamore Dew is the 'World's N°2 and fastest growing Irish whiskey brand'.


Kilbeggan (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2011) Two stars Colour: straw. Nose: much more happening in this one! More shoe polish, iron (old tools), gooseberries, grass… Whiffs of fern, hay, a little mint. It’s probably not grandioso but it’s two good steps above the very humble Tullamore Dew on the nose. Mouth: exactly the same feeling. More body, maybe a little more ‘beerness’. Cider apples and something faintly metallic. Marshmallows and pineapple liqueur. Finish: not long, a little more bitter than the Tullamore. Comments: a pleasant entry-level Irish with something happening. SGP:430 - 76 points. (I had it at 69 at the MMA but now I think that was a tad extreme - albeit blind).


Jameson (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2011) one star and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: ahem, is there anybody? Extremely discreet and neutral, which, in a sense, means flawless. Very close to the Tullamore. Hints of apples, a little grass, a little butter, distant hints of pears… Mouth: very little. Alcohol, ripe apples, barley sugar and apple peelings. It’s a little hard to find more descriptors here… Maybe something a little cardboardy? Finish: medium long, on sour fruits and a little caramel. Touches of pepper. Green tea in the aftertaste. Comments: no bad whiskey for sure, but this may not be for us hardcore malt freaks. Well, certainly not. SGP:330 - 67 points.

Advert for Jameson's, 1965, United States. Strange teaser...



Powers ‘Gold Label’ (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2011) Two stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes, much more happening once again, this isn’t too far from the Kilbeggan. A tad less sooty/metallic and a little more on apple compote and bananas. Nice fresh nose, I must say, nice personality. Mouth: it’s very interesting to compare this with the Jameson, because the Power’s succeeds everywhere the Jameson failed in my book. More body, more roundness, a cleaner fruitiness (without being dull), less bitterness… It’s very pleasant ‘cheap’ blend in my opinion. Finish: medium long, with a little more spices and ripe fruits. Dried pears. Comments: good stuff! I seems that the recipe didn’t change that much since the 1960s and 1970s (I tried some old Power’s Gold, they were really good.) This new one reminds me of Redbreast 12 in a certain way. SGP:441 - 79 points.


Tyrconnel (40%, OB, Irish malt, +/- 2011) Two stars This is ‘pure pot still’ single malt by Cooley, who revived an old Irish trademark quite a while back. I had thought Irish ‘pure pot still’ was a blend of malted and unmalted barley that was distilled in pot stills but I guess fully malted barley works as well. By the way, the old ‘pure pot still’ appellation just became ‘single pot still’, which may mean that Tyrconnell is now a ‘single malt single pot still whiskey’. Maybe that’s a tad too long? Colour: white wine. Nose: malty and much bigger than the blends, more porridgy as well, as well as a tad varnishy/estery. Pineapple drops, muesli, oatflakes… A farminess as well (hutch). Maybe a little feinty? Too young? Mouth: simple, sweet and very porridgy. Barley soup, barley sugar, tinned pears. We’re extremely close to the raw materials here. Finish: shortish and a little greener. Cider apples, compote. Comments: barley all over the place here. Little oak influence that I can detect. SGP:440 - 75 points.

All right, those were the ‘bottom shelf’ Irish, we’ll try to have some older (and supposedly better) ones next time, including two brand new Single Pot Still whiskeys that I could taste while in Cork on Thursday… 35 to go, stay tuned.


May 6, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#39-40: two Welsh whiskies

I think Penderyn is in good progress. I’ve never been a fan of the early ‘Madeira’ versions but a sherry version that was bottled in 2008 was much more to my liking (WF 80). Let’s try these two newish bottlings…


Penderyn 'Aur Gymru' Peated (46%, OB, Wales, +/- 2010) Two stars and a halfColour: pale white wine. Nose: very young, chalky, grainy and sooty, with notes of… say a mixture of fresh-cut grass, pineapples and yoghurt. The smoke is rather shy – it’s soon to vanish in any case. Also whiffs of plastic (new car, pouch…) and then a bigger fruitiness. More pineapple drops, lemon juice powder. I think this may be a little too young. Mouth: more or less the same feeling as on the nose. The smoke and the youngish fruitiness don’t mingle too well here, I have a feeling of smoked fruit juice (grapefruits and apples). Strange, I’d say, but not uninteresting. Finish: medium long, a little nicer now. Quite some nutmeg and cinchona, angelica roots, liquorice wood… Comments: I think not everything that’s peated is brilliant. This strange baby has something of bison herb vodka, but it’s got some nice sides (the very unusual kind of grassiness). SGP:554 - 77 points.


Penderyn 'Rich Madeira Limited Edition' (58.9%, OB, Wales, cask #26-1, 217 bottles, +/- 2010) Four stars and a halfA hugely controversial bottling, with blind scores ranging from 65 to 90 points at the MM Awards 2010. Colour: deep amber. Nose: I think I never nosed a whisky that was reeking so much of chocolate. It’s quite amazing in that sense and if you like chocolate, you’ll love this. Behind the chocolate: blackberry jam, minerals (basalt?), peonies and fresh asparagus (NOT cooked ones). Spectacular. With water: swims like a champ! Red berries, blood oranges, garden bonfire, rocks, touches of leather… And a feeling of ‘high-end sangria’. Frankly, it’s a great nose. Mouth (neat): the ‘mixture’ worked perfectly well! Nice combination of peat, strawberries, pomegranates, white chocolate and pepper, with quite some Seville oranges in the background. Tonic water. Very, very nice combo. With water: excellent development, grassier and spicier, with touches of tequila and a bitterness that hints at Madeira indeed. Very unusual and very good. Finish: long, a tad saltier now, grassier, more peppery, with some lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: this is anything but consensual malt whisky. Off the beaten tracks, as they say. I like it a lot, congrats Penderyn (and I’ve heard/read that they have other great casks). SGP:566 - 88 points.

Next time we'll try something that isn't very far from Wales... 40 to go, that's halfway, Stay tuned!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more soulful music by WF favourite Abdullah Ibrahim. It's live, it's called Anthem for the new nation (it was South-Africa of course) and it's just irresistible. Please buy all of Abdullah Ibrahim's music...

Abdullah Ibrahim

May 5, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#35-38: four Spanish whiskies

After Canada, the USA, Brazil and Africa we’ve crossed the Mediterranean and are now in Spain, in Segovia to be precise, where they make the famous DYC whiskies (a brand now owned by Beam Global). DYC stands for Destilerías Y Crianza and we all remember that the company used to own the sadly missed Lochside Distillery in Scotland. It’s a little unclear whether DYC are still adding Scotch whisky to their own blends, as was their practice when they were owning Lochside, but let’s try a few now… Oh, by the way, I think Spain is still the #3 export market for Scotch in volume, after my compatriots who still down 130 Mio bottles per year and the USA (around 100 Mio if I’m not mistaken).


DYC 'Fine Blend' (40%, OB, Spain, blend, +/-2010) Two stars I’ve read this one is meant to be used in cocktails. Nobody seems to drink it straight... Colour: white wine. Nose: very shy, fairly grassy and somewhat mineral, with the expected notes of muesli and porridge, but it’s not yeasty/feinty at all. Hints of overripe apples as well, a little burnt wood… A little bland I must say but we’ve nosed worse. Mouth: sweet, fruity, easy and certainly not unquaffable! Well made for sure, without any bitterness that we can find in several Scottish blends (no caramel here?) Touches of apples juice, grains, barley sugar… Pleasant, ultra-light whisky. Finish: well, not much finish. Comments: sure it’s no total winner but I’d happily sip this on ice when the temperatures are rising. Totally undemanding, which is sometimes refreshing. SGP:230 - 70 points.


DYC 8 yo 'Special Blend' (40%, OB, Spain, blend, +/-2010) Two stars Colour: straw. Nose: a little more expressive than the NAS but the style is similar. More minerality (limestone) and touches of lemon. Something slightly metallic and cardboardy as well. Not artificially rounded at all. Mouth: it’s the ‘Fine Blend’ with more punch, more body, a bigger oiliness… But it remains a light whisky. Nice, easy fruity notes (apples, touches of pineapple). A little vanilla. Finish: short but clean. Barley sugar and orange syrup. Comments: a very good surprise. Forget about what I wrote about the ‘entry-level’ version, it’s this one that I’d happily sip on ice whenever the temperatures are rising. SGP:430 - 75 points.

A fantastic and very funny old advert for a previous version of DYC's 8 year old. "After 8 years of nurturing, it's very hard to part from it."

DYC ad


DYC 'Pure Malt' (40%, OB, Spain, +/-2010) Two stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: this one is more aromatic than the blends, obviously, and also more buttery. Notes of cornflakes, vanilla, white chocolate and then touches of strawberry sweets. Chupa Chups? ;-) Develops on more new-oaky notes, a little ginger, nutmeg and cardamom. Nice notes of fern as well. Not unpleasant at all, I’d say, and rather complex… Mouth: it’s funny how one can detect this malt in the 8yo blend. This isn’t very different. Fresh, easy, fruity (apples, pineapples again), slightly honeyed, only with more spices this time. Touches of cinnamon and white pepper. Quite some vanilla as well. Finish: medium long, more citrusy, with an aftertaste on lemongrass lemonade and pepper. Maybe a little bitter… Comments: another one that’s well made. I had thought this would be nothing to write home about but I was wrong. Almost 80 material in my book. SGP:441 - 79 points.


DYC '50th Aniversario' (40%, OB, Spain, single malt, 2000 bottles, 2009) Three stars I’ve heard that this one was distilled in 1979 but I'm not sure at all. Other sources mention roughly ten years of ageing. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is different as it starts much more citrusy. Orange drops, tangerines, then these slightly buttery notes again, hints of fern yet again, something very remotely tequila-ish and then quite some vanilla and soft ginger that suggest the use of American oak. It’s all very fresh and, I must say, very pleasant. Single malt for hot climates indeed.

Mouth: really in the style of the Pure Malt but it’s got a bigger punch and more oiliness, probably thanks to the use of fresher American oak. Yet, it’s no vanilla bomb at all, rather a fruits and spices affair. Pink grapefruits, ginger, nutmeg, apples, gooseberries, white pepper… Touches of honey as well, vanilla… It’s all rather sweet and easy but with good body and a firmness from the spices. It’s good. Finish: medium long, on the same notes. Comments: this would easily compete (or even defeat) with many easy/soft Scottish malts, such as Glenmorangie 10 and several others, but sadly, I don’t think they used any old Lochside casks here ;-). Anyway, felicitaciones for this! SGP:441 - 81 points.

All four were very interesting whiskies because they show that some southern countries are more into pale, light and fresh whiskies that should go better with hot climates than, say, your average sherried 1972 Ardbeg at cask strength. Anyway, let’s move on, but shall we stay in Europe or not? We’ll see, stay tuned, 42 to go… (and gracias, Franco!)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: they sound like nobody, MMW aka Medeski, Martin & Wood! Let's listen to their Church of Logic (from their album Combustication) and then buy their very, err, different music. I like it a lot.

Medeski Martin Wood

May 4, 2011



Alabama 3 Acoustic

Dingwalls, Camden Town, London, March 17th 2011

The acoustic tendency of the Alabama 3 have released a new album: There will be peace in the valley …when we get the keys to the mansion on the hill.  It features the usual suspects being Larry Love, guitarist Rock Freebase and harmonica player Nick Reynolds, with Devlin Love on vocals. 


Adding a pleasing tenderness and rich texture to the band’s sounds are string players Gill Morley and Ellen Blair.  The eleven songs (with lyrics mostly by Larry Love, although Devlin contributes ‘Miss Martell’s Lament’ and ‘The Ballad of Mr Daniels’) cover the usual gamut of the Alabama 3’s spectrum, from cod-revivalist religion through politics and protest to profound pacifism.   Trains, train tracks, whorehouses, whiskey, the devil, pestilence, Seasonal Affective Disorder and even property developers appear in due order.   Drug-laden innuendo and references abound; there is some artful borrowing (“Blood on the tracks, tracks of my tears, from the dark side of the spoon, to those golden brown deals …”), and some impossible rhyming (“Wanna spray paint the city with situationist graffiti”).  The result is a tidy piece of work.  And the band, minus Ms Love (who is replaced by Aurora Dawn on vocals), and plus one fiddler, are playing at a surprisingly full Dingwalls, Camden Town’s famous music venue.  But not before a pared-down ‘acoustic’ version of the Woodentops, fronted by a mesmerising (and frankly slightly intimidating) Rolo McGinty, play a memorable set, and encourage vast numbers of quids to be donated to the Red Cross for their relief work in Japan.  Good stuff.

Whilst no-one can deny that the sharp, black, Johnny Cash-suited presence of Larry Love provides the chemistry for the show, it would be wrong to ignore the huge contribution of guitarist Rock Freebase, whose astonishingly percussive open-tuned guitar, with or without slide, is the engine room for the band.  Essential lubricating oil issues from Reynolds’ tasteful harmonica playing and Storm’s powerful vocals.  And as on the album, the ‘string section’ provides an added dimension to what can otherwise at times sound like a one-trick pony. 

But it is all about Mr Love, whose gravelly vocals only seem to get better with time.  His expletive-laden meanderings covered a characteristically wide range of subjects (including, perhaps not as surprising as it seemed at first) rugby football and refereeing (which also crops up in the lyrics of new song ‘Muleskinner blues’), reflections on the fucking roll and roll fucking industry, the Woodentops, and the late Smiley Culture.  You may or may not know that this largely unsung British reggae pioneer, whose records such as ‘Cockney translation’ and ‘Police officer’ paved the way for the work of grime artists like Dizzee Rascal, died in what are still unexplained circumstances following a police raid on his home just two days before this gig.  Love dedicated the show to him.

A3 Love
Larry Love,
Alabama 3

Starting with ‘That’s the way love is’ and ‘Rush’, the set moved seamlessly between new material and crowd pleasers such as ‘Up above my head’, ‘Speed of the sound of loneliness’, ‘Let the cage bird sing’, ‘U don’t dans to techno’, and of course ‘Johnny Cash’.  By this time the audience, fuelled by jugs of pink wine and pints of lager, were in, so far as their largely advancing years allowed, a dancing frenzy, conjuring up the image of a geriatric jook-joint secreted amongst the large villas in the leafy streets of middle-class Camden.  Even Mr Love seemed to show his age as he cautiously tried to stand on his chair during ‘Johnny Cash’. 

Listening to the set, and subsequently the album (which you can only buy at gigs or on-line) I began to wonder if I didn’t  prefer, for its joyous simplicity, genuine roots feel  and irresistible rhythms, this acoustic incarnation of the Alabamas to their full, and full-on, electric band.  Led from the front by Mr Love with a brilliantly-judged (or accidental) mixture of outlaw aggression, outsider politics and artful humour, these acoustic gigs simply never disappoint, and their simplicity is a reminder of what live music should be all about. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Listen to Alabama 3 on myspace


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#32-34: three African whiskies

So we crossed the Atlantic and are now in Africa... The Three Ships are well-known in Europe but there's also a surprise...

Three Ships

Three Ships 5 yo (43%, OB, South-African blend, +/-2010) This one was launched in 1991 already, says the official website. I’ve tried one of these 5 back in 2005 and quite hated it because of its heavy burnt notes (WF 39) but some people say the newer batches are much better. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: hey, this is not too bad! Maybe it’s a little indistinct with these notes of grains, nuts, malts and cardboard but it’s pretty noseable. There’s also a little smoke, maybe a little soot, touches of apples… Shyish, I’d say. Mouth: more oomph, more punch than what the nose suggested. A lot of custard and apples, touches of cinnamon (this grows bigger, there’s some oak!), gooseberries… Finish: medium long, a little drying because of the oak. Sort of tannic. White pepper. Comments: certainly not 39-points material. I’d happily quaff this as a mixer while listening to Abdullah Ibrahim. SGP:231 - 70 points.

Three Ships BB

Three Ships ‘Bourbon Cask Finish’ (43%, OB, South-African blend, +/-2010) A three-year-old blend that’s been made at the James Sedgwick Distillery and then finished for six months in first fill bourbon casks. Of course, it’s ‘premium whisky’. Sounds very modern, doesn’t it. Colour: pale gold. Nose: vanilla and fresh sawdust. What did we expect? Frankly, once again it’s not unpleasant but I wouldn’t say it’s anything special. Having said that, there aren’t any flaws, which is an achievement. Mouth: the expected thickish body of first fill bourbon maturation, with a lot of vanilla, corn syrup, touches of ginger and gooseberries and apples. Maybe hints of ripe bananas and coconut. Finish: medium long, sweet. Notes of tinned pineapples. White pepper. Comments: some Canadians tasted like this, despite the rye. Simple, very modern and certainly well made. SGP:631 - 75 points.


Afripac Whisky (40%?, OB, Gambia?) Too bad there’s very little literature about this shady brand on the Internet… I don’t really know where and how it’s made. Colour: orangey. Nose: typical of many cheap whiskies that one can find on the lower shelves in some supermarkets and not only in Africa, that is to say not really offensive or disgusting on the nose but ridden with burnt wood and cardboard. This one has also a little rancid butter and touches of liquorice. Roasted chestnuts. Much less a disaster than expected, I must say. So far. We’ve nosed worse. Mouth: again, we’ve tasted worse, and this has the advantage of lacking any sorts of attack and of being extremely short. Raw alcohol infused with oak chips and maybe some sort of honey. Burnt toasts and cloves, cheap strawberry liqueur. Finish: none. Comments: provided this isn’t poisonous (if WF isn’t updated before Monday, you’ll know it was), I’d say it’s kind of potable. Not the utter horror I was afraid it would be. SGP:120 - 19 points (thanks for this worthy experience, Morten, Arve and Ragnhild)

I agree, chosing Africa was no sure bet but the Three Ships show great progress in my opinion. Anyway, where shall we go next time? Stay tuned! (I don't know myself, to tell you the truth.) 46 to go...


May 3, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#31: one Brazilian Whisky

They make whisky in many unlikely countries but I had never heard of a Brazilian whisky. Mind you, the Union Distillery has been distilling whisky for decades (as well as cachaça, obviously!) Let’s try one…

Union CLub

Union Club '60' (38%, OB, Union Distillery, Brazil, +/-2011) Three stars This is single malt made near the Uruguayan border. ‘60’ relates to the fact that the distillery celebrated its 60th anniversary two years ago. The low strength may surprise many punters but let’s remember that 37.5 or 38% weren’t unusual in Scotland in the old days, and that lower strengths are often welcome under hotter climates. Colour: straw. Nose: frankly, it’s a good surprise. Pretty much in the style of a middle-of-the-road (chirpy chirpy cheep cheep) young Speysider such as Cardhu or Knockando, with nice notes of nuts, malted barley, overripe apples and a little fresh butter. It’s also mildly smoky (wood). No youthful bubblegum. In other words, well made and nicely mature. And it’s no weak whisky either despite the low strength.

Mouth: fruitier now, with a good attack on fudge, touches of coffee and strawberries. Tarte tatin, butterscotch, vanilla… What’s quite impressive is that it doesn’t really drop, I had expected a weak middle but it’s not really the case here. A pleasant nuttiness as well. Finish: not long of course but clean, rather toasty. Roasted peanuts. Comments: no ‘tropical style’ whisky at all (you know, Vietnam, Thailand and such), this could have been made in Scotland. I’ll give it one ore two more points because of the excellent surprise. SGP:441 - 80 points.


The stills at the Union Distillery

PS: I’ve also tried a cask sample of a peated 2yo by Union Distillery. It was really amazing with a perfect combination of pears and straight peat smoke, well in the clean style of, say the peated Bunnahabhains when they were very young. One to watch when it’ll be available! Our friend Stijn will soon import these babies into Europe, you may check his page on Facebook.

49 whiskies to go on our '80' mission. I think after Canada, the US and Brazil, we may change continents... So, go west or east? Stay tuned... (and thanks, Stijn)


Now, I had promised that we wouldn't only focus on foreign whiskies, so time to put my words into action...

Previews: ten recent old malts, only high flyers

Bunnahabhain 1970

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1970/2010 (40.5%, Malts of Scotland, 40th anniversary, bourbon hogshead, cask #4066, 299 bottles) Five stars These low strengths can be scary… Colour: pale gold. Nose: exquisitely delicate and elegant, starting with whiffs of high-end Habano (lit this time) and scented oils. Monoï? A little coconut, almond oil, vanilla pods, tarte tatin, honeydew… Some would say it’s a little feminine, which is a compliment, obviously. This wee smokiness is really superb… Mouth: okay, normally, we should have found quite some drying oak at these age and strength but it’s not the case at all here. Starts like a fantastic Pina Colada, with touches of coconut and pineapples (the best old grains can have that too) and unfolds on many fruits including blood oranges, papayas, melons, passion fruits and juicy red apples. Yellow ones too. Finish: surprisingly long and surprisingly un-oaky, even in the aftertaste. Comments: glorious freshness and elegance. Happy birthday! Oh, and I find it’s a Bunny that hints more at Bruichladdich (1970, anyone?) SGP:541 - around 92 points.

Glenlivet 1963

Glenlivet 47 yo 1963/2010 (40.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, Decades, casks 1723-1726, 223 bottles) Four stars and a half Part of the series that was launched alongside the famous 40yo-1970. Colour: pale gold (very pale for its age). Nose: oh, another extremely elegant and complex one it seems. It’s a little more on ripe apples, early grey tea, putty, marzipan, delicate touches of turpentine and linseed oil, even oil paint (a painter’s workshop, really), the freshly revarnished dashboard of Kate and Wills’ old Rolls-Royce (excuse me but the wedding has traumatised many of us)… All that’s rather whispering but oh so elegant… Mouth: the fact that this is neither dry nor oaky is a miracle. Ripe apples again, marzipan, old style orange liqueur, many soft spices, maybe touches of very ripe kiwis… it’s even a tad marshmallowy, at 47 years of age! Also beautiful notes of smoked, or rather roasted tea like the Japanese make. Again, all that is delicate and as soft as a feather. Finish: maybe a little short, which is pretty normal here. Some light orange liqueur remaining in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s an unusual old whisky because of the fact that it’s so soft and light yet not tired at all. A wee miracle… SGP:341 - 89 points.

Bunnahabhain Monnier

Bunnahabhain 1968 (43.8%, Jack Wiebers for Monnier, Tempelritter, refill sherry, 180 bottles, +/-2011) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: more or less the same style as the MoS’ at first nosing but a development that’s more straight on both ripe and dried fruits. Figs, bananas, prunes, papayas, apples… Quite some honey as well, a little wood smoke, touches of nutmeg… Another one that’s quite splendid. Mouth: an explosive fruitiness! This is a fruit salad, really, with the oranges and grapefruits to the front and mangos and butter pears just behind them. The mouth feel is perfect. Finish: long, still on all these fruits, with touches of mint, pine sap and various ‘spicy herbs’. White pepper too but not too much. Comments: to think that this baby is more than 40 years old! The fresh fruitiness is amazing, although I find it just a tad less complex than the MoS. Splitting hairs, again! SGP:651 - 91 points.

Bunnahabhain perfect dram

Bunnahabhain 36 yo 1975/2011 (56.8%, The Perfect Dram, oloroso butt, 394 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber with red hues. Nose: sumptuous coffeeish sherry, extremely ‘oloroso’ (in other words, this one really does what it says on the tin). Goes on with more coffee, bags of figs, wheelbarrows of prunes, tankers of orange liqueur and whiffs of wood smoke and tar (or ‘good’ rubber, as opposed to, err, ‘bad’ rubber.) Mouth: same as on the nose, with the citrus more to the front and rather less coffee. A tad sweeter but nervous. Chestnut honey and touches of mint. Finish: long, more on wood spices but not drying. Maybe a little more vinous at this point. Comments: top notch, textbook ‘big’ yet balanced oloroso. SGP:661 - around 91 points.

Caperdonich 38

Caperdonich 38 yo 1972/2011 (53.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #7460, 160 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts on a big whiff of oak (carpenter’s workshop) and develops more on the extravagant ‘flowery fruitiness’ that’s often to be found in these 1972 Caperdonichs. Wundershoen. Mouth: same feeling, a peppery oakiness at first sips, maybe a tad biting, and then a long display of citrus fruits, honey and great plum spirit. Finish: long, with a green but very pleasant oakiness. Mustard in the aftertaste. Comments: this very particular moment when the oak’s about to take control while the fruits haven’t quite vanished yet. Brilliant whisky within that specific style, I can’t wait to oppose it to a bunch of other Caperdonichs. SGP:571 – around 92 points.

Caperdonich 38

Caperdonich 38 yo 1972/2011 (58.4%, The Perfect Dram, sherry hogshead, 145 bottles) Five stars I couldn’t wait indeed. Colour: full gold. Nose: is this legal? Are they allowed to sell this to us mere mortals? Only one word springs to my feeble mind: beehive. Mouth: totally explosive. An avalanche of dried and juicy ripe fruits and all the honeys of the creation. Enough said. Finish: endless, with only the slightest oaky grip that might be this baby’s only flaw. I had to find one, I guess. Oh, and how it takes (maybe even needs) water! Comments: very big and marvellous. To think that they just destroyed the distillery. SGP:661 - around 93 points.

Banff 34

Banff 34 yo 1976/2010 (53.8%, Cadenhead) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: perfect! Unusually smoky and without these mustardy/mineral notes that can be found in Banff – sometimes. Superb fruitiness, a tad resinous/sappy, kumquats, fresh almonds, Seville oranges and then a little liquorice. The oakiness is just perfect here, with a little sweet vanilla (pods, no artificial vanilla). Mouth: the oak is louder but the peppery and mustardy tones are most beautiful. It’s also extremely mentholated, which is very unusual (high oak extraction that’s more to be found in old rums in my shortish experience.) Not dry at all, though, because of all the oranges that play the fruity part. A lot of marzipan too. Very interesting whisky, as Banff often was. Finish: long, drier, maybe even a tad drying now. Comments: another great one if you’re not afraid of oak (especially in the finish). SGP:561 – around 90 points.

Glenfarclas 175

Glenfarclas '175 Anniversary' (43%, OB, 2011) Four stars and a half A multi-vintage version – which always makes me think of multi-vitamin juices. How our mind works! It’s not old whisky on average but some old casks have been thrown into the vat. Colour: full gold. Nose: the old ones have the lead here, very clearly. There’s this faint smokiness that some old Glenfarclas had and then a rather perfect combination of waxy/honeyed notes with several dried fruits such as orange zests, figs and our little kumquats. The profile is fresh and lively, with no pachydermic sherry. Rather a little mint (fresh crushed leaves). Mouth: excellent and, to my surprise, a tad in the style of some older Glenfarclas from the ‘Grant Bonding’ era, which cannot be bad news. Some cinnamon, orange marmalade, dark chocolate (dry) and then touches of orange blossom water. Good body at 43% vol. Finish: not very long but clean, maybe a tad kirschy in the aftertaste (the younger casks speaking?) Hints of dry oak. Comments: half dry, half fruity. Maybe a few sharpish edges but overall quality’s very high. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Blairfindy 45

Blairfindy 45 yo 1964 (53.4%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Presentation Edition, Speyside, Sherry Butt cask ref 4713, 424 bottles, +/- 2010) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: wow, espresso galore and cartloads of prunes, dark chocolate and gunpowder. Archetypical old Glen******* (Glen’s enough, isn’t it?) from a great butt but maybe it’s not for our friends who don’t like gunpowder, which may explain why this baby collected many 92+ at the MM Awards 2010 but also a few 82+ ‘only’. It won very high silver, though… Mouth: textbook sherry monster. Chocolate, raspberry liqueur and jam, prunes, dates, kumquats, marmalade, coffee and touches of almond oil. Big body but it’s anything but cloying. Finish: long, all on coffee and dark chocolate. Comments: a classic. SGP:662 - 92 points.

Glen Grant 1969

Glen Grant 40 yo 1969/2009 (44.3%, Signatory, Cask Strength Collection, Sherry Hog, cask#2016, 188 bottles) Four stars and a half I think I’m late with this baby. Colour: dark amber. Nose: another superb nose, fruitier than the other sherry monsters, rather lighter in style (that’s not only the lower ABV). Strawberry jam, blackberries, cherry liqueur (guignolet, Heering and such) and touches of leather. Also dates and figs ‘as usual’. Very fresh for a 40yo malt. Mouth: starts with faint touches of rubber but goes on mainly on juicy ripe cherries that give it a kind of Chambertiness (wot wot wot?) Jams, jellies and other, err, jammy things. Maybe something a tad bitter in the background (rubber again?) Finish: rather long, with the greenness/bitterness a little more to the front. Comments: extremely good. This would easily be 90+ material in my book without the wee ‘green’ bitterness. I’m sure that wouldn’t disturb many drinkers. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Okay, ten, maybe that’s enough for today but we’ll have more very recent oldies in the coming days if you don’t mind…

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I sometimes use 'argan oil' as a descriptor for some whiskies, so why not listen to this highly rhythmic slice of music by the crazy Brazilian percusionist Cyro Baptista called... Argan (and it's on his CD 'Banquet of the Spirits'!). Please buy Cyro Baptista's music.

Cyro Baptista

May 2, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
: and yet another flight of American whiskies

Let's attack the monsters today... As you know, in Kentucky, the alcohol content of the whiskies sometimes goes up with age because of the dry and hot climate...

Bookers 7

Booker's 7 yo (63.2%, OB, Jim Beam, bourbon, small batch, +/-2008) Three stars and a half Not sure when this was bottled. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a rather elegant nose, not that hot at such high strength. Quite some vanilla of course but also green bananas, some sawdust, apple peelings… Some marzipan as well and quite some hay. Little ‘maple syrup’ this time. With water: it’s the oak that comes out. At the carpenter’s, brand new furniture, cigar box… Now, it’s perfect oak… Mouth (neat): rich and very fruity and varnishy. Loads of bubblegum plus a greenness. Tannins? Sour fruits, rhubarb, green apples… Certainly not a thick, round one. Liquorice. With water: classic bourbon now. Sweet oak all over the place, maple syrup, lemon and ginger. Bitter oranges. Quite simple but good stuff. Finish: long, more on liquorice. Comments: huge oakiness in this one, it’s almost an oak decoction. Nicer than it sounds, though… SGP:461 - 84 points.

Booker's 7 yo (63.35%, OB, Jim Beam, bourbon, small batch, +/-2009?) Four starsNot sure when this was bottled either. Colour: deep gold. Nose: frankly, at such strength, I do not manage to detect any differences with the previous one. With water: they’re different now. This is pretty fruitier, with more coconut and bananas (yet, it’s not rum!) and rather less oak. More honey too. Mouth (neat): once again, little variations. Maybe a little more liquorice than in the ’63.2%’? It’s also a wee tad less ‘green’ but that maybe my imagination. Curry. Wait, some huge liquorice now! With water: sama as the ’63.2%’ at this point – almost. Bags of liquorice allsorts. Finish: long, very liquoricy. Its almost salmiak – without the salt. Comments: these whiskies are obviously similar but this one is a tad rounder and more mellow – although mellow really is the wrong word here. Okay, one extra-point. SGP:561 – 85 points.

We’ll have two indies now, indies being very rare with bourbons although it seems that many American brands are selling bourbons that they didn’t actually distil themselves, which does make them independent bottlers in a certain ‘Scottish’ way, doesn’t it. Or blenders?

Heavin Hill

Heaven Hill 14 yo 'America' (56.9%, Cadenhead, bourbon, 102 bottles, 2006) Three stars I already tried two or three Heaven Hills by Cadenhead’s and  they’ve been very good. Colour: full gold. Nose: superb! Much grassier than most ‘OBs’, with much more sappy and earthy tones. And, above all, there’re these notes of flor (‘nez de jaune’) that I really sherrish. Was these finished in some fino cask? Truckloads of fresh walnuts, vin jaune from Jura, newly opened box of Habanos… Really superb. Hope water won’t kill that. With water: oh, noooooh… It did. Well, not totally but it became extremely dry too sooty and cardboardy. It’s also metallic… Mouth (neat): powerful and a little acrid. Varnish, green tea (very strong), rocks… It’s a bit bitter just now, hard to enjoy. Grape pips. Water is needed… With water: Even more of the same. Finish: long, bitter, herbal and tea-ish. Comments: what a fantastic nose without water… But otherwise it’s a tad too grassy/dry for me. Deserves 80 points for the nose alone. SGP:271 - 80 points.

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill 15 yo 'America' (64.2%, Cadenhead, bourbon, 144 bottles, 2002) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is quite superb as well but completely different, much more on dried fruits, quinces, figs, dates, coffee… Now, it does become a little ‘fino-ish’ after a while, quite grassy as well… But the high alcohol takes control after that and kind of blocks the whole. With water: this is really funny, water worked very well here, letting a lot of camphor, eucalyptus and mint come through. Cider apples as well. Mouth (neat): really strong! Many unexpected notes, especially medicinal ones. Some cardamom as well, pepper, nutmeg (huge). It’s too hard for me, let’s add water. With water: once again, that works, even if water brought these bubblegummy notes that aren’t always very… elegant. Great body, many spices. A little butter. Finish: long, balanced, both grassy and fruity (and spicy). Comments: it’s kind of the opposite of the 14yo. Swims very well. SGP:461 - 86 points.

Okay, maybe it’s time to bring the Staggs onto the table! We’ll have three of them… Our American friends keep raving about them and it’s true that I really liked the only one I could try so far, the 2009, despite its hugely extractive profile (can whisky be ‘too much?’) I’ve also noticed that in America, these bottles coming out every year are like royal marriages in Europe, big events!

George T. Stagg

George T. Stagg (65.9%, OB, Buffalo Trace, Bourbon, bottled 2006) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts like a tangerine liqueur, or even Cointreau (with more power, no need to say). There’s also a lot of vanilla and just a faint grassiness (fresh asparagus – not cooked ones!) and that’s it. Maybe a little coconut. Water may be mandatory here. With water: ah yes, that works, even if it’s a tad heavy on the woody side. Smoked tea, leather, dried meat, a lot of espresso coffee, bitter chocolate (yes something unexpectedly sherry-ish), tobacco… Mouth (neat): yay, this is strong. Heavy orange notes, zests, litres of coffee (that sometimes happen with high strengths), some liquorice, beef bouillon… Lots happening here, it’s just a tad indistinct because of the alcohol. So, with water: rich, jammy, slightly gingery, not complicated. Bitter oranges. Finish: long, with the oak more to the front. Slightly chalky. Some peppermint in the aftertaste. Comments: very good stuff but I had thought it would be a notch more complex with water. The tannicity in the finish is a little too big too for my taste. SGP:641 - 86 points.

George T. Stagg (70.6%, OB, Buffalo Trace, Bourbon, bottled Fall 2005) Four stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: not far from the 2006 but this one seems to be a tad more on plums, and less on tangerine liqueur. Huge sweetness, though. Also very nice notes of verbena and lemon grass after a while, late harvest pinot gris… (well, when you got used to the strength.) With water: an avalanche of herbal notes as well as some ‘clean’ manure and maybe even a little hors dung. Settles down after, say ten minutes, becoming fruitier and also a tad sootier and more metallic. Charcoal. Mouth (neat): this is really strong, any drop is a cluster bomb. With water: rather richer and fruitier than the 2006 but not really more complex. Same notes of bitter oranges, with quite some cinnamon from the wood. Finish: same as the 2006’s. Comments: marginally more to my liking because of the more ‘tertiary’ nose. Excellent stuff anyway but you have to like oak. SGP:651 - 87 points.

  George T Stagg
George T. Stagg, founder of the distillery that was to become Buffalo Trace. I think he was bearing a resemblance to the excellent John Hansell, wasn't he! ;-)

George T. Stagg (68.8%, OB, Buffalo Trace, Bourbon, bottled 2002)Three stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: is this jam? Even sweeter and fruitier than the others, maybe a little fresher as well. A fruit salad. Both seem fruitier than the 2009, that had more tobacco, meat and leather, although this one does display such notes after a few minutes. With water: my favourite! More complex, more polished, more elegant. Camphor and lemon, a little musk, vetiver (big), sugarcane, mint leaves, hawthorn… Superb. Mouth (neat): the oak is louder here. More spices, earth… But gosh, it’s strong! With water: we’re closer to both the 2005 and the 2006 but I’m afraid water makes it a little too cardboardy for my taste. How do you handle a whisky at +/-70% vol. when it doesn’t take water too well? I’m asking you! Finish: long, rather dry. Some mint but also a huge tannicity. Tea and cardboard. Comments: what a shame, I really loved the nose but the palate didn’t quite work for me because of its immense oakiness. But really, what a nose! SGP:471 - 84 points.

Conclusion: if you add the Canadian to the Americans,I think we just had 30 North American whiskies. My favourites have been Kentucky Crown 16 yo (WF 90), Thomas H. Handy 2010 (WF 89), Sazerac Rye 18 yo 1983/2001 (WF 89) and Kentucky Vintage (WF 88). But friends, this time we’re done with the Americans, I promise. You may have noticed that I’ve sorted them more or less by ascending alcohol content, so please be sure that I won’t find any other bourbon or rye that’s above 70.6% on my shelves. So, next time we’re heading south… South? Yes and it’ll be whisky, not rum! 50 to go, stay tuned…
(with heartfelt thanks to Allan, Angus, Antoine, Carsten, Ho-cheng, Konstantin, Tom and Olivier for all these wonderful American whiskies.)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: just some straightahead yet excellent bop by the late Jackie McLean. It's called Condition Blue and that was on Mr. McLean's Capuchin Swing album (1960). Please buy Jackie McLean's music!

Jackie McLean

May 1, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
19-23: yet another flight of American whiskies

I told you, I'm feeling quite comfortable among all these bourbons and other American whiskies so why not have another five before heading south (yes, south)? I’ve chosen only whiskies bearing ABVs between 50% and 60% this time…

Rowan's Creek

Rowan's Creek (50.05%, OB, bourbon, batch #01-20, +/-2007) Another one from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers in Bardstown. Colour: full gold. Nose: no wham-bam nose at full strength, it’s relatively discreet. I get mostly figs and vanilla. With water: pretty much the same. Some oak, coal, a little mint… No big nose. Mouth (neat): punchy and quite unusual, more mentholated and piny than expected. Excellent mouth feel, not calling for water. Lemon drops. It’s more nervous and lively than most other bourbons in my opinion, and very appealing – and dangerously drinkable. With water: very good, balanced, fruity but not overly sweet, sappy… A fruit salad with a little honey and olive oil. Excellent. Finish: medium long, clean, fruity, less oaky/extractive than others. Comments: the nose was a tad shy but the palate was much to my liking. Too bad it’s so drinkable (i.e. dangerous)… SGP:541 - 85 points.

Fighting Cock

Fighting Cock 6 yo (51.5%, OB, +/-2008) Made by Heaven Hill. 'Fighting Cock appeals to both male Gen X-ers and serious Bourbon lovers alike' says a website. Awright. Colour: full gold (why do all US whiskies display the same colour, more or less? Because of new oak?) Nose: maybe this is because I’m no Gen X-er but this is too sourish and dirty-ish so far. Stale cider, sawdust and cardboard. With water: nah… Mouth (neat): nah, it’s just very strong and rawish whisky, although I like it better than on the nose now. Orange marmalade and kirsch, with some ginger and vanilla from the oak. Cloves and a little cumin as well. And touches of lemon as well. With water: it’s okay now. Honey, mint and vanilla plus a little ginger. Finish: quite long and gingery/citrusy. Comments: it’s not a disaster, but are Gen X-ers supposed to like cheap whisky? SGP:542 - 66 points.

This is an in-store poster for Fighting Cock. Would be a hit in France, remember the rooster is our national emblem.

Fighting Cock ad

Kentucky Crown 16 yo (53.5%, OB, Bourbon, Willett, +/-1990?) Sorry, I couldn’t find any picture of this rare one so if you do have one, please email it to me, thanks! Colour: amber (just to prove me wrong, aaargh). Nose: slightly harsh at very first nosing but I like these notes of roasted chestnuts and toasted bread quite a lot. Some heavy honey too (chestnut again). With water: becomes gamy, in the style of some old sherried Scotch. Beef jerky, prunes… Also whiffs of clay and chalk, loses steam a bit. Mouth (neat): thick and rich, reminding me of these fantabulous old Willett single cask (vintage 1984). Maybe they’re the same whiskies? Orange zests, tonic, cinchona, lemon grass, touches of smoke, pipe tobacco, liquorice… Wow wow wow. I guess our American friends have already scoured the whole country in search of this marvellous old baby… Indeed, it’s exceptional whisky and it beats the Staggs and Sazes in my book. With water: indeed, even if I like it a little better without water. Water made it a little drying/cardboardy, just a little. Finish: long, more sappy and resinous. Some mint, liquorice, pine resin… Comments: it’s got a few very minor flaws that will prevent me from going over 90, but what a marvellous whisky! Can you still buy this? SGP:653 - 90 points.

Update: got a picture of the label, thank you! It seems that Kentucky Crown 16yo was actually made at the old Willett distillery. What's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh!

Kentucky Crown 16

Baker's 7

Baker's 7 yo (53.5%, OB, Jim Beam, bourbon, Sour Mash Small Batch, +/-2008) Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is quite dry, with big notes of pencil shavings and hints of some stewed fruits. Some chocolate too, toasted bread, fresh walnuts… With water: it became more open, also with more herbs. Chives? A little aniseed as well, and the usual maple syrup from ‘burnt’ new oak. A very nice nose now. Mouth (neat): starts on oranges but it’s soon to become highly extractive, with bags of ginger and cloves. You have to like that! Heavy dry caramel too, tar, a smokiness… Some oak there is! With water: same, even if it became a tad rounder and liqueurish. Finish: long, spicier. Comments: it’s excellent bourbon but it’s a little too heavy on the palate for this sissy of a taster. Maybe a tad lumpish. SGP:561 - 80 points.

Noah's Mill

Noah's Mill 15 yo (57.15%, OB, bourbon, +/-2007) Another one from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers in Bardstown. Colour: deep gold. Nose: the most expressive of them all so far, and the most complex. Pencil shavings again but also dates, tobacco, prunes, fir wood, eucalyptus… I had thought this would be close to the Rowan’s Creek, but it’s not. With water: oh, water killed it! Well, not entirely but it became much drier and cardboardy. Did they change my Vittel? (*) Mouth (neat): yeah, it’s great but this time, it doesn’t quite hold a candle to the Kentucky Crown. Lemon and orange marmalades, muscovado sugar, liquorice, touches of eucalyptus drops, maybe hints of rhubarb… or rather sorrel? Too bad the oak’s also slightly rawish in the background (tannic tea). With water: smoothens it and scratches the straight oakiness, while it brings out more spices such as cloves and nutmeg. Finish: quite long, on dried fruits. Dry tea in the aftertaste, as often. Comments: some parts are superb, some other parts are less superb. Also, it’s not the greatest swimmer in Kentucky ;-), but it’s still very excellent bourbon in my view. SGP:562 - 87 points.


(*) Ah yes, water. I seldom talk about water but just like with tea or coffee, the water you’re using to ‘reduce’ your whisky when tasting is extremely important. We did an experiment for Whisky Magazine five or six years ago, using different waters with different whiskies and the differences were huge. My favourite is Vittel (not too hard, not too soft) but I’m not sure Vittel is available everywhere. Nope, Perrier doesn’t work. Tap water can be fine but chlorine is an absolute killer. In my experience and if you have no choices, hard water works better than soft water, contrarily to popular belief. I think soft water can make your dram taste kind of metallic (just like ii does with tea or, worse, coffee).  
Anyway, are we done with the Americans now? We’ve had quite a few stunners already, but maybe there’s more out there? You never know… Stay tuned (as they say)… 57 to go...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: French king of jazz accordion Richard Galliano plays Dum Dum Dum (from his CD 'New Musette', 1991), with some great guitar by Philip Catherine. Please buy Richard Galliano's music.

Richard Galliano

April 2011 - part 2 <--- May 2011 - part 1 ---> May 2011 - part 2

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



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

Banff 34 yo 1976/2010 (53.8%, Cadenhead)

Blairfindy 45 yo 1964 (53.4%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Presentation Edition, Speyside, Sherry Butt cask ref 4713, 424 bottles, +/- 2010)

Bunnahabhain 1968 (43.8%, Jack Wiebers for Monnier, Tempelritter, refill sherry, 180 bottles, +/-2011)

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1970/2010 (40.5%, Malts of Scotland, 40th anniversary, bourbon hogshead, cask #4066, 299 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 36 yo 1975/2011 (56.8%, The Perfect Dram, oloroso butt, 394 bottles)

Caperdonich 38 yo 1972/2011 (53.6%, Duncan Taylor, Rarest of the Rare, cask #7460, 160 bottles)

Caperdonich 38 yo 1972/2011 (58.4%, The Perfect Dram, sherry hogshead, 145 bottles)

Kentucky Crown 16 yo (53.5%, OB, Bourbon, Willett, +/-1990?)

Laphroaig 19 yo 1990/2009 (52.9%, Signatory, bourbon barrel, cask #70, 190 bottles)

Laphroaig 20 yo 1990/2011 (47.3%, Whisky-Doris, hogshead, cask #10873, 225 bottles)

Laphroaig 1990/2011 (52.6%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #2229, 178 bottles)

Laphroaig 20 yo 1990/2011 (56.3%, The Perfect Dram, joint bottling with Bresser & Timmer, bourbon hogshead, 237 bottles)

Laphroaig 20 yo 1990/2010 (52.8%, The Perfect Dram, joint bottling with the Daily Dram, bourbon hogshead, 225 bottles)

Laphroaig 20 yo 'Double Cask' (46.6%, OB for Paris Duty Free, Aelia, 750 bottles, 2010)