(Current entries)

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2011 - Part 2

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


May 31, 2011


Tasting a very new and a rather old official Glenfiddich


I first saw the new lavishly packaged Glenfiddich 19yo at Edinburgh airport in March. Really, a beautiful packaging – I even bought a bottle - but the finer prints are confusing. It’s not the fact that they talk so much about the discovery of the island of Madeira (after all, you cannot keep talking about Scotland all the time, can you, and story telling is en vogue), but for example, on the front label, it says ‘matured in oak casks previously used to age fine Madeira wine’ while a silkscreened line says ‘Madeira cask finish’. Same on the box. So, full maturing or finishing? Or do both notions start to mingle anyway in Scotland? But enough nitpicking, let’s try it. For good measure, we’ll oppose it to an old ‘fiddich from more than 20 years ago…

Glenfiddich 19 yo 'Age of Discovery' (40%, OB, Madeira, 2011) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: hey, but this is nice! Aromatic but not extravagantly so, rather rich, slightly vinous but with good balance, rather less dry than other Madeira-ed whiskies that I could try until today and a little more towards sherry (PX or cream). Sultanas, a little strawberry jam, marmalade, figs, then a little more tea (earl grey) and just touches of humus/mushrooms… All that on a bed of vanilla that I’d rather have expected from bourbon wood. Or was it first fill American oak Madeira wood? Anyway, a nice, rather rich nose, very nicely composed and a bit ‘un-Glenfiddich’ because of the richness. Ha, variety! Mouth: well, the attack is quite superb but there’s almost no middle. Maybe we’re not used to 40% vol. anymore? It had started on beautiful notes of candied oranges, mulled wine and touches of cloves and cinnamon, but it really nosedived after fifteen seconds, leaving only a thin sweetish gingery coating and a little fudge. A one-song gig (but the song’s great). Finish: obviously short, with only a few sweet and spicy touches (crystallised ginger). Comments: we need a version at 45 or 46% of this. The base is simply superb in my opinion, but the spirit’s a little too light to support the treatment. Again, just my opinion. SGP:552 - 85 points (because it’s quite splendid, just weakish!).

Glenfiddich 'Centenary 1887-1987' (43%, OB, 12,000 bottles, 1986) Two stars To celebrate Glenfiddich’s centenary while being 25 years late, that’s not what I’d call being in sync – but then again, the Internet didn’t exist back then, let alone these sneaky/pesky whisky blogs. Colour: straw. Nose: this is a whisky unlike any other, I think I’ve seldom nosed something that was so delicately herbal (despite the big notes of Williams pears in the background). In fact, it’s a combination of verbena, wormwood, coriander, aniseed and maybe plain grass with pears and muesli. There’s also a lot of hay (on a hot summer day, no need to say). This could be great whisky… Mouth: even more unusual. Starts very cardboardy, ultra-dry, maybe even a tad flat, but contrarily to the 19yo, it takes off a bit after a few seconds. Mind you, it never becomes a winner but once again, some unexpected notes of herbs do emerge. In fact, it’s like an old-style herbal liqueur. I believe that comes from bottle ageing - partly. Too bad it’s soon to become flat and dull again. Finish: very short. Woosh. Comments: that happens sometimes with these old bottles. You can ‘intellectualise’ the nose ad libitum but the palate will always tell you the naked truth. SGP:241 - 70 points.

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a very recent discovery at WF Towers, two Indian friends named Lavanya and Subbalakshmi (they may be sisters actually) playing the saxophone like nobody else. Let's listen to Janani Janani (it's on their CD 'Melodious Waves') and then buy all of the girls' music!


May 30, 2011



Tasting three Lochside 1981

After all these ‘foreign’ whiskies, time to fly back to bonnie Scotland today. Many new Scotches have piled up and I’ll probably need a lot of time to taste them all! Today it’s going to be three new ’81 Lochside. Citrus ahead?

Lochside 1981/2011 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #808) Four stars and a half I remember a 1981 by BBR that was bottled in 2004 and that was truly excellent (WF 90). Colour: gold. Nose: quite a lot of oak in this one at first nosing, but Lochside’s distinctive tangerines and grapefruits are well there, lurking in the background. Pencil shavings and tangerines, a funny combination that does work quite well. The good news is that as often, the oakiness diminishes (or our olfactory bulb starts to filter it out), and in this case it leaves room for more citrusy notes and jasmine. Maybe also touches of curry, allspices… Mouth: big fruits, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons (right, I won’t quote all citrus fruit) as well as the sweets and marmalades made thereof, plus touches of ginger and white pepper. Yet, it’s no real fruit bomb. I’d say almost. Probably not hugely complex but the profile is perfect. Finish: medium long, more on lemon zests and just a tiny salty touch. Ginger. Strange return on vanilla in the aftertaste. Comments: after nosing, I was afraid this baby would be too oaky on the palate but that isn’t the case at all. But warning, it’s another very drinkable one. These bottles should come with padlocks. SGP:651 - 89 points.

Lochside 29 yo 1981 (50.7%, Jack Wiebers, Auld Distillers Collection, 85 bottles, +/-2011) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: interestingly, this one is both similar and different from the BBR, not only because of the higher strength. Once again, the citrusy notes don’t play in solo here, as there’re also some pleasant whiffs of wet gravels at first nosing and then more grassy notes and even a little mustard or horseradish. And once again citrus wins in the end. With water: yeah, pure, crystal-clean Lochsideness now. The citrusy fighter squadron. Mouth (neat): a creamier, thicker, more candied and spicier version of Lochside. It’s probably a little less fresh than others but it’s also fuller, kind of more satisfying. A big 1981 Lochside that hints at the 1960s in a certain way (1966, anyone?) More topical fruits, mangos, passion fruits, oranges as well… Oh well, I’m sure you see what I mean. Honey as well, ginger… With water: a citrusy sin, a true fruit bomb. Finish: long and just as citrusy. More grapefruits than oranges now. Comments: I love these whiskies that display 100% of the distillery’s character. The only nightmare here is the outturn. 85 bottles? Crikey, where’s the rest? SGP:741 - 91 points.

Lochside 29 yo 1981/2010 (55.5%, Whiskybox.de, sherry butt, cask #962, 140 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: this is really different this time, as it’s really the oak that plays the first part, together with a kind of fino-ish character (walnuts) from the sherry. Very little Lochsideness thus far, but that may come after reduction… (although Lochside does start to shine through after five minutes or ten.) With water: well, it’s the cask that talks again, but the good news is that’s it’s a great sherry cask, well between dried mushrooms, walnuts and Seville oranges, with a faint flintiness behind all that. Lovage or Maggi. Not ‘100% Lochside’ – especially after the state-of-the-art JWWW, but ‘100% nice.’ Mouth (neat): ho-ho, this is an interesting start, right between the sherry’s richness and Lochside’s citrusness. It’s a tad unusual but it’s fun to witness the meeting of some candied Seville oranges from the wood with some fresh blood oranges from the distillate. Creamy mouth feel. With water: starts with a few unexpected gingery and almost metallic notes but develops on orange marmalade. Tons. A little toasted bread as well. Finish: very long, gingery and much more peppery now. Comments: a different ‘proposition’, with much more cask influence, but I do like ginger so... SGP:551 - 89 points.

PS: in Limburg, a friend saw me chat and laugh with Jack Wiebers owner Lars-Goran and was really surprised because of the ‘Dead Mouse Eater’ episode. It seems that he had expected us to draw our guns but he had forgotten that whisky is (or should be) all about fun, jokes, sharing, humour, second (or tenth) degree, understanding and camaraderie! Or it’s not whisky, it’s simply booze... Like this other bottler (sorry, no names) who gave me a wee sample while telling me this: ‘now that I’ve sold my very last bottle, you may taste it’. That was really good fun as well ;-).

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

MUSIC - Recommended listening: this is not the usual WF stuff but I thought it was joyful and nicely played. We need easy dancy ultra-poppy stuff sometimes. It's Thao with The Get Down Stay Down and they do When we swam (from Know Better Learn Faster). Please buy Theo's music, thanks.


May 29, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#80: end of the journey, we're back home

What do most explorers and travellers do after a very long and very tiring journey? That’s right, they go back home to heal their wounds and find comfort. That’s what I’m doing today with the last whisky in this long series around the world: a French single malt from Brittany. It’s going to be a brand new Kornog single cask, Kornog being the peated version of Glann ar Mor, the beautiful little distillery that lies near Tréguier in the Côtes d’Armor.

Owner Jean Donnay doing some quality control


Kornog ‘Sant Ivy 2011’ (57.8%, OB, Glann ar Mor, Brittany, first fill bourbon, 249 bottles) Four stars and a half Sant Ivy or Saint Yves is the patron saint of Brittany. He was born around 1250 in Kermartin, a place that isn’t far from the Glann ar Mor Distillery. Let’s check if we can find any holiness in this baby… Colour: straw. Nose: what’s really striking here is the perfect balance between the peat and the fruitiness, a style that’s not to be found in Scotland in my opinion, especially since this Kornog is also completely void of any obvious yeasty/feinty/porridgy notes so far. In short, it’s mature.

There’re also whiffs of sea breeze, iodine… Also a little spearmint, eucalyptus, touches of coffee, maybe a little cinchona. As far as the fruits are concerned, they’re rather peaches (like in some Ardmores)… All that is very fresh. With water: more maritime notes, seaweed, wet rocks, tonic water… The fruitiness is more discreet. Some beautiful musky tones in the background, quite unusual. Beautiful indeed. Mouth (neat): good, punchy but silky attack, fruitier than on the nose, with a few marshmallowy notes swimming around. Pear drops, liquorice wood, almond oil and vanilla, then more sooty and smoky elements. Lapsang souchong and liquorice in the background. With water: wait, the marshmallows almost disappeared – not quite - while the coastal peatiness grew bigger. Kippers… Finish: long, yet a tad sweet (tinned pineapples) but the peaty and maritime aftertaste is wonderful. Comments: excellent, on par with malts starting with L or A and seven or eight years older (apart from the remaining touches of marshmallows that may need one or two extra-years to vanish completely). SGP:746 – 88 points.


So, it seems that we did it... 80 whiskies from all over the world since April 26, that is to say whiskies from Canada, the USA, Brazil, Gambia, South-Africa, Spain, Wales, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Germany, India, Taiwan, Australia and France. That’s eighteen countries and what we’ve learnt (but didn’t we know that already?) is that they make excellent whisky in many countries. Some make whisky that you could easily mark as Scotch when tasting them blind, while some others produce something really different, whether on purpose or because they just don’t have the choice (the stills, the stills…)

Quite a few were really superb, such as some American bourbons, some new Irish, a few Taiwanese or the recent Kornog, but if I had to choose one and only one whisky to put on a pedestal, that would be the Solan No.1 from India. Only 77 points but also only… 1 Euro a bottle. That’s what we could call premiumising… the customer!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Canada's Sean Booth does Fuel, with a RL Burnside feeling that can do no harm. Please buy Sean Booth's music.

Sean Booth

May 28, 2011

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

McGullible And Dreich, the new GlenWonka?
My friend, if you're not afraid of dying from laughter, go read McGullible And Dreich's latest press release. Of course, any resemblance to a certain very ridiculous diamond decanter is purely coincidental. Well done, Angus, you killed us all.


May 27, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#77-79: three Tasmanian whiskies

Today we’re in Tasmania, Australia! We decided to skip Japan as we already had many wonderful Japanese whiskies a few weeks ago, and went for some Lark instead. The little Lark distillery makes many different spirits, as many ‘local’ distilleries do, such as schnapps, liqueurs, rum, gin, vodka and apple brandy.


So, technically, it’s no whisky distillery but I’ve already had some excellent Lark whisky in the past, such as cask #LD31 (WF 84). Let’s try three other expressions…


Lark 'Distiller's Selection' NAS (46%, OB, +/- 2009) Three stars Colour: orange amber. Nose: nice nose, a bit oak-driven and closer to bourbon than to Scotch in style. Hints of pencil shavings and roasted flour, a faint farminess (clean cow stable, damp earth), some marzipan, clay or chalk, charcoal and then a little mead and honeydew. All that is surprisingly complex. Mouth: this is different… Very different! Not really ‘whisky’, rather some kind of oak-aged herbal liqueur, Chartreuse, verbena… Very oily mouth feel. Then notes of cranberry juice, something like tamarind (?), bitter oranges, spearmint, coriander… What a strange decoction! The fact is that all this is very pleasant… Just not ‘whisky’. Finish: long, half-herbal, half-fruity. A lot of liquorice and peppermint in the aftertaste. Comments: a very strange beast, with a bourbonny nose and a liqueurish palate. Quite to my surprise, I really liked this. SGP:761 - 80 points.


Lark 'Single Cask' (58%, OB, Australian Port quarter cask #LD80, 2009) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: another very nice nose, very clean, rounder this time, without the red berries notes that one may expect from Port wood. Is the ‘average’ Australian Port a white wine? There’s this earthiness yet again, roots, leaves, humus… Some light honey as well, coffee, toasted bread... Nice indeed. With water: more dried flowers, grapefruit, oranges, cloves, cinnamon… And that earthiness again. Roots. All very nice I must say. Mouth (neat): this one hasn’t got all of the other one’s unusual notes but it does taste herbal and very spicy indeed. Orange liqueur and bitter herbs. Campari? With water: more spices from the wood including some very big gingery notes (candied ginger). Finish: long, spicy and earthy. Always quite some ginger. Comments: a very good oak driven whisky, rather more classic then the version at 46% vol. SGP:661 - 82 points.


Lark 'Single Cask' (58%, OB, cask #LD93, 2009) Three starsColour: full gold. Nose: oh wow, this is really beautiful! Rounder and richer than the others, fruitier as well, jammier and spicier… In short, fuller but without any obvious fresh-oakish modern notes. Some tinned pineapples, maybe touches of litchis, the same earthiness as in the others, hints of muesli, dairy cream (maybe it is very faintly feinty but no problems here, at all.) With water: clean grapefruits and pepper as well as a little porridge. A lot of vanilla custard as well. Mouth (neat): very rich and very sweet, big on vanilla, oranges and maple syrup. Some new oak in there? Works well but it’s simpler than on the nose when neat. With water: a dustiness comes through but other than that it’s all clean, spicy and gingery. Finish: long, with touches of mustard now. Maybe a tad drying… Comments: loses points with water. I liked cask LD80 a tad better (have to try Australian Port one day)… SGP:561 - 81 points.

Only one whisky to go! We flew all around planet Earth, from Canada to Australia via South-America, Africa, Europe and Asia. Wondering what the very last whisky in this series will be? Stay tuned…

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more straight ahead Delta blues today with Louisiana Red and Sweet Blood Call. Great, isn't it! Please buy Luisiana Red's music.

Louisiana Red

May 26, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#72-76: five Kavalan from Taiwan

After Amrut, the Taiwanese King Car distillery and their brand Kavalan have been the other big surprise within the last years, as just like India, Taiwan and its neighbouring countries rather used to propose us some, hem, very weird spirits until very recently, such as the mega-terrible Noble Whisky (WF 3) and Morandy (WF 17) that we tasted two years ago. Nightmares! But Kavalan is something else for sure and just like Amrut, it seems to benefit from the hot climate that speeds up ageing, or at least a large part of the ageing process (by a ratio of 3 or even 4 in my opinion)… Let’s try a few today...

Palletised warehouse at King Car Distillery >>>


Kavalan 40

Kavalan (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010) Two stars I believe this is the regaular kavalan offering. Colour: gold. Nose: an aromatic start, all on fruits and vanilla. Mostly papayas and guavas plus touches of honey and pollen. Extremely well balanced but pretty simple and easy-ish. Too perfect? It does hint at some much, much  older Speysiders (Caperdonich or Benriach, for example) but the profile is obviously narrower here. Mouth: very sweet but much less clean than on the nose. Vanilla, herbal teas, ginger and various green spices, touches of dates and quite some caramel. Slight sourness. Finish: short, on toasted cake and cane syrup. Sweetish aftertaste, a bit cloying. Comments: the nose is quite spectacular but the palate isn’t on par in my opinion. A fairly good dram globally. SGP:540 - 75 points.


Kavalan 'Solist' (58.8%, OB, bourbon, cask #B070604047, 198 bottles, +/- 2010) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: some strong oaky tones (fresh sawdust and vanilla) and then small touches of bananas somewhat ala Bushmills. A little coconut as well. With water: brings out more pepper and nutmeg as well as youngish notes of pears. Oatmeal. Mouth (neat): big, sweet, with some strawberries and beer (sweet lager). Roasted marshmallows? Some green tea in the background, white pepper… With water: becomes fruity and easy. Fruit salad. This palate would have matched the ‘40%’’s nose better. Finish: medium long, sweet and fruity. Funny how it reminds me of some Irish pure pot still now. Comments: it’s obviously young but the oak’s already sort of heavy. Let’s hope they filled refill wood as well for the future… Having said that, it’s very appealing whisky. SGP:640 - 82 points.


Kavalan 'Solist' (58.2%, OB, sherry, cask #S060703018, 569 bottles, +/- 2010) Five stars This baby won very high silver at the MM Awards 2010. Colour: coffee. Nose: well, this is simply some very classy, heavily sherried malt that could be anywhere between 15 and 30 years of age. Dates, prunes, figs and raspberry jelly plus milk chocolate and only the slightest touches of old balsamic vinegar. A little tar as well. With water: quite superb. A controlled mustiness comes through as well as earthy notes. Surprisingly complex. How old is this, again? Mouth (neat): a rich, creamy yet very lively attack on mulled wine, strawberry jam (litres), blackcurrants and raisins. Goes on more on bitter chocolate and cloves as well as quite some cinnamon. Resembles some Alsatian (or German) Christmas cake – well call that Beerawecka. With water: pepper and ginger come through, together with more fresh fruits. Ripe mangos? Finish: long, clean yet very rich, with the spices coming more to the front. Comments: frankly, this is brilliant. I had it at 88 but I’ll add two more points. Wondering whether the Scots shouldn’t ship their full sherry casks to Taiwan for quicker ageing ;-). SGP:751 - 90 points.


Kavalan 'Solist' (58.4%, OB, sherry, cask#S060703012, 608 bottles, +/-2009) Two stars and a half This one didn’t impress me at all at the MMA 2009 but most of my distinguished yet maniacal colleagues loved it. Time to have another go at it… Colour: dark amber. Nose: much, much less fruity than the ’58.2’, much drier, much more on walnut husk and Corinthian raisins as well as coffee and bitter chocolate. Only small touches of figs in the background. With water: became much meatier. Also leather grease… Mouth (neat): yeah, now I remember why I did not like this one too much. It’s got some weirdly flinty and even metallic notes that do not go so well with the sherry in my book, but it’s probably me. With water: indeed. This metallic effect is a tad strange (silver fork effect). Having said that, the rest is all right. Finish: long, even more metallic. Comments: a strange cask but I guess some tasters may not notice these metallic notes. Not a matter of skills of course, a matter of sensitivity to some flavours (just like with sulphur). SGP:451 – 78 points (up three points).

Kavalan 599

Kavalan 'Solist' (58.5%, OB, sherry, cask #S060626040, 599 bottles, +/- 2010) Four starsAnother one that won silver at the MMA 2010. Colour: dark amber with red hues. Nose: in the style of the ’58.2’, only a little less expressive. Hints of polished wood and eucalyptus, then dried mushrooms. Our beloved morels? With water: this time it got rather fruitier and rounder. It’s funny how these sherry casks behave very differently after reduction. Mouth (neat): the creamiest and the richest of them all, it’s almost Demerara rum – serious. Big spices, big jams! A lot of cardamom, cloves, juniper and cumin, all that on top of blackberries, raisins and prunes. Bay leaves. With water: between an old rum and an old Glenfarclas. Finish: long, on the same notes plus a little coffee. Touches of violet sweets.  Some curry in the aftertaste. Comments: another very excellent one that didn’t need many years of ageing. The cask must have been top-notch! SGP:651 - 87 points.

By the way, Kavalan are on all fronts as this commercial for their highballs (whisky and soda or cola) will show us... Let's get high! (ahem)


That was far from our beloved sherry monsters, wasn't it. Anyway, time to fly to another country. Only four to go, stay tuned...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: one of the most entrancing renditions of the standard Darn that dream ever in my opinion. It's Von Freeman (father of Chico) and he was playing it live in Berlin when he was 80, you'll find it on the 'Vonski Speaks' album (2009). Please, please buy Von Freeman's music...

Von Freeman

May 25, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#69-71: three more Amrut by Blackadder

So we’ll try more Amrut today, but only bottlings by Blackadder if you don’t mind. They already bottled quite some Amruts in the past, with good success it seems… This time we’ll first have two ‘natural’ Amruts and then one finished version.

Amrut 277

Amrut NAS (62.3%, Blackadder, cask Ref BA4/2009, 277 bottles, 2009) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: really punchy and with only notes of vanilla and plum jam. Not that I’ve got anything against vanilla and plum jam, mind you, but it just wouldn’t become any more complex without water. With water: no much development. Maybe a little more mint and grass. Mouth (neat): powerful and even a little aggressive, very spirity and grassy, with only hints of the usual vanilla and ripe plums. With water: much more fruits, bananas, tinned pears, plum jam... Still simple but more enjoyable. Finish: rather long, very white-oakisk. Vanilla and maple syrup. Comments: it’s perfectly good but a little too simple in my opinion. The kind of whisky that you can quaff without even noticing it – which is dangerous ;-). SGP:541 - 78 points.


Amrut NAS (62%, Blackadder, cask Ref BA6/2009, 254 bottles, 2009) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: ah, yes, it’s a peated one. What’s quite striking is that it’s not ‘simple peat’ as some Speyside distilleries sometimes make (simple when they’re young), this time it’s a combination of soot, fumes, leather and dried flowers. There’s also something slightly meaty (beef jerky, bacon). Works very well so far, even at 62% vol. Patchouli? With water: gets more briny. More mint as well, fresh walnuts... Mouth (neat): ah yes, this is excellent. Not complex of course but the peat and the sweetness work very well together. Some very nice bitter grassy notes, something slightly tequila-ish, ashes, liquorice… Then more kiwis and sweet apples. Peat makes wonders. With water: excellent! Sweet and peaty at the same time, perfectly balanced. Finish: long, with a little more grassy notes now. Green tea. Comments: the exact definition of a perfect 85 points whisky in my book. Only more complexity would lift it towards 87 or 88 points. SGP:546 - 85 points.

Amrut Bowmore

Amrut NAS 'Bowmore Finish' (62%, Blackadder SC, cask Ref BA 10/2010, 288 bottles, 2010) Three stars and a half Yes a Bowmore finishing is an odd idea. I guess anytime you’re using some refill wood from another distillery, the end result could be called a finishing under those conditions. Could for instance Diageo bottle some Glenkinchie Lagavulin finish? Ideas ideas? Colour: pale gold. Nose: I wouldn’t say Bowmore is detectable as such, but what’s sure is that there are some unusual flinty, mineral and slightly seaweedy notes here. And a little smoke indeed. A little fresh butter in the background. This nose works well in my opinion. With water: doesn’t change, but it didn’t have to. Mouth (neat): this time it’s more on roots, earth, gentian, liquorice wood and green apples. Most pleasant, even at such high strength. The peat isn’t big, but it’s there. With water: we’re going more towards the previous one, with a peatiness that’s rather bigger. Finish: long, clean, peaty, slightly salty. Comments: did the peat come all from the Bowmore cask or was this whisky slightly peaty in the first place? It’s good stuff. SGP:353 - 83 points.

9 to go, stay tuned...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: there's definitely something between whisky and music! Do you know the very engaging Italian whisky collector Giovanni Giuliani? Did you know he's also a great guitarist? He recorded an excellent LP quite a few years ago, called 'sssl... bboni!!', on which was this splendid little Brazilian piece called Cavaquinho (composed by Ernesto de Nazareth).


May 24, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#67-68: two Amrut from India

All right, after the good Solan and the hopelessly strange Sikkim, time to tackle some serious Indian malt whiskies today with Amrut. I remember well the first Amrut that I could try back in 2005. It was a no-age-statement version bottled at 40% vol. and it was already a pretty nice surprise (WF 75), although recent bottlings have been way, way above that first attempt. Today, Amrut’s reputation is on par with the best Scotch, thanks to the excellent whiskies and to the indefatigable and very smart brand ambassador Ashok Chokalingam. Mind you, Amrut’s even got some serious blogging fans ! Anyway, let’s try two of them…


Amrut 2003/2009 (46%, Milroy's, cask# 08/08/30-1, 210 bottles) Two stars and a half The label states 'aged ?! years'. That’s funny. I have to confess I wasn’t impressed with this bottling when we tried it at the MMA 2009, while some colleagues rated it very highly. Ha, blind tasting! Colour: pale gold. Nose: now I remember why I wasn’t fond of this one, the vanilla and sawdust combination was a bit too obvious for my taste while the distillate didn’t give off enough fruitiness to make up for that (apart from some pleasant strawberry-like notes). It’s also a tad too porridgy/yoghurty for this taster. Mouth: sweet and spicy attack, on tinned pineapples, pepper and cardamom. The pepper bites a bit I must say, and once again the fruitiness is maybe a tad too low. Some barley sugar and hints of plum spirit. Lacks a bit of polishing in my opinion but the oak’s already quite loud, so I guess more time wouldn’t have worked. Finish: medium long, a little grassy. The oak is very present in the aftertaste. Comments: good stuff, no doubt, but I’ve had quite a few Amruts that were on another (higher) planet. SGP:461 - 78 points.

Amrut Crombe

Amrut 2004/2009 (52%, OB for Huis Crombé Kortrijk, Bourbon, cask #2930, 221 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s more or less the Milroy’s, only with more oomph, even more vanilla but also more honey and chutneys that give it a wider profile. Mangos? Very nice nose, already complex despite the young age and despite the oakiness. Mouth: very nice attack this time, sweet, fruity, as creamy as Amrut can be. Plum jam, apricots, vanilla custard and a little green cardamom.The oakiness gets then louder again but this time the distillate manages to stand up to it. Finish: rather long and spicier. Nutmeg and white pepper. Comments: rather simple very good malt whisky at barely five years of age. SGP:561 - 82 points.

12 whiskies of the world to go, stay tuned...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a great voice ala Leonard Cohen and some minimalist accompaniment by Bill Calahan and his 'band' Smog. It's called Say Valley Maker and it was on A River Ain't Too Much To Love (2005). Please buy Smog's music.


May 23, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#66: another Indian malt (supposedly)

Weren’t we feeling well in the Himalayas yesterday, with the surprisingly good Solan? Maybe we should stay there today, with another Indian single malt that’s called Sikkim, which is made in a town called Rangpo, in the northeast of India. Is it really malt whisky? Not sure, some sources claim that it’s actually a blend of malt whisky and ‘pure alcohol’ (whatever that means). The marketing blurb is even more mysterious: it is supposed to have ‘at its heart, the unmistakable flavour of a venerable single malt whisky’. At its heart? We already tried Sikkim several times in the past and it’s even be ‘a joke’ within Maniacal circles but I’ve just noticed that I’ve never published any proper tasting notes. Now’s the time…



Sikkim ‘Old Gold’ (40%, OB, ‘single malt’, bottled 2001) Colour: straw. Nose: a mix of raw wood alcohol (or is it barbecue lighter fluid?) with a little cologne and just ideas of vanilla, toasted bread and caramel. Also touches of strawberry liqueur for tourists, calk and newspaper ink (from the dirtiest tabloids). The good news is that all this is very light, that is to say pretty harmless. Now, ingesting this may become trickier… Let’s see… (please pray for me). Mouth: very, very strange. Rotting oranges? Stale spice mix? Cologne again? Oak chips infused in industrial alcohol? Seriously, this wouldn’t be totally undrinkable on a lot of ice but at room temperature, it’s quite repulsive.

Finish: almost none. Something bitter in the aftertaste (very old pepper?) Comments: this is definitely not malt whisky. I had it at 12 point until now but hey, let’s be more generous today, after all it’s very cheap in India (but European ‘Indian’ stores will sell it for much more money, sometimes in a Gurkha knife – not kidding). Solan No.1 was soooo much better. SGP:120 - 20 points.

Right, only 14 to go, stay tuned...



Tasting book

Bonus: 17 tasting notes from a forgotten notebook

A few oldish tasting notes that I just found in a forgotten notebook of mine. Some mundane, some rare, some unusual, some that were taken five years ago or more... Don’t expect much coherence and please take the scores with a grain of salt as most of these spirits weren't tasted at WF Towers and weren't 'compared'…

Strathmill 12 yo (43%, OB, Flora & Fauna, +/-2007) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: very, very malty, with cornflakes, honey and caramel. Nutty, chocolaty… A little bit between Knockando and Cardhu in style, with just a little more oomph. Mouth: very sweet, almost sugary. Creamy mouth feel. Corn syrup, a little pepper, cocoa… Very innocuous nut well made, without any major flaws. Finish: medium, round and sweet. The aftertaste is a little hotter and spirity. Comments: misses the 80-mark because of the aftertaste. SGP:531 – 79 points.

Ledaig 1990/2009 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: once again, the extra-3% alcohol that G&M added to this range a few years ago did wonders. A typical, slightly butyric and very sooty profile. Some butter that someone would have passed through exhaust fumes ;-). Also bitter oranges and new leather shoes as well as a little burnt wood. Also a little candy sugar, toasted brioche, smoked beef… A funny whacky/dusty profile. Mouth: much lighter now, with a better balance this time. A blend of kippers and Werther’s Originals. Unlikely? Naah… Goes on more on burnt coffee, becoming a little bitter. Finish: medium long, ashy, spicier. A lot of soot and ashes in the aftertaste. Comments: rather less briny than other Ledaigs but very sooty. A little too much? SGP:455 - 81 points.

Glenlivet 32 yo 1971/2003 (46%, Cooper’s Choice) Four stars and a half A rather wonderful sherry, a classic. Beautiful fudge, toffee and sultanas. Bags of coffee on the palate and a little Toasted brioche. No SGP noted, I must have tried this a loooong time ago. 89 points.

Harry’s Caol Ila 8 yo (43%, Ian McLeod for Paris’ Harry’s Bar, +/-2009)Three stars An easy going but certainly not bland young Caol Ila, pleasantly rounded and mildly peated. The problem is that it’s much too drinkable, which was probably the main purpose of the skilled barmen of the well-known bar when they selected this. To drink on their famous chiens chauds (hot dogs). 82 points.

Guillon ‘Champagne’ (43%, OB, Louvois, 1000 decanters, +/-2008) Two stars and a half This French single malt was aged in Champagne casks. Yes many Champagnes are made and then even spend some time in oak before they get ‘champagnised’ in their bottles. Louvois is located in the Champagne region. Nose: quite some bubblegum and dried apricots. Quite aromatic but a little unlikely. Palate: creamy, with even more apricots and butter fudge. A lot of pepper in the finish but the wood is ‘mastered’ here. I think this is better than earlier versions of Guillon. 78 points.

Balmenach 1973/1995 (43%, Dun Eideann, cask #9873) Three stars and a half Nose: starts a little soapy. Goes on with quite some fudge and malt (Ovaltine/Ovomaltine). Palate: nicer, nervous. An older Johnnie Walker Black. Caramelised Mirabelle pie and mullein syrup. Very nice palate. SGP:441 - 83 points.

Macallan 35 yo 1937 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Pinerolo, stenciled flowers, sherry wood, +/-1972) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts fresh and leafy, with notes of old humidor, roasted coffee beans, a little putty, old books… Then more and more coffee and bitter oranges. Old tea, old cigars… It’s superbly dry old Macallan. Mouth: more carameln the whole being a little bitter but not tired. Coffee, some salt, tea, hints of lavender sweets… Becomes a tad drying after that but not really ‘flat’. Quite malty. May lack fruitiness but there are notes of quinces. Finish: medium long, dry, roasted. Green tea and quite a smikiness in the aftertaste. A return on tangerines. Comments: no huge old Mac but it does improve with breathing, hence my 90 points. SGP:252 – 90 points.

Ardbeg 24 yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 713 bottles) Five stars Nose: very medicinal, smoky and coastal. A fisherman’s boat at five in the morning (I know, weird notes but I may have taken them at five in the morning as well). The fresh nuts and kilometers of bandages. Palate: similar plus crystallized lemons and quite some pepper. Sharp like a blade, as they say, and very tarry. Finish: long, all on lemon and tar. SGP:548 - 92 points.

Clynelish 12 yo 1995/2008 'Shiny Cell' (46%, The Nectar Daily Dram, 200 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: this is one of these very clean, very pure and rather fruity but not really waxy or phenolic Clynelishes. All on apple juice, muesli and bread, with maybe just faint whiffs of coal. Also hints of gooseberries and ultra-distant touches of cologne. Rather discreet altogether. Mouth: still very fruity but also a tad smokier than on the nose. Orange drops, acacia honey, canned fruits… The fruitiness is bigger than usual I think, a Clynelish that looks more towards Speyside. Finish: medium long, clean, fruity, with a few resinous/waxy notes. Comments: very good young malt but maybe not the Clynelishest Clynelish ever. SGP:631 – 81 points.

Clynelish 1995/2006 (59.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, refill sherry casks #5831-5832) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: despite the fact that this one comes from the same vintage it’s much smokier and waxy/oily than the Shiny Cell. Huge notes of apple peel, beeswax, fresh walnuts and lime juice, with whiffs of iodine. Ultra-Clynelish, I’d say. With water: fantastic! Wild, organic, extremely waxy, earthy, rooty, mushroomy, almost animal… truly exceptional! A whole beehive plus litres of motor oil and fresh mint. Orange blossom water, mix of spices for couscous (sorry, I can’t tell you more). Wowowow! Mouth (neat): rich, big, phenolic, waxy, sooty, lemony, grassy… And a little burning. Water needed! With water: holy crow! I think it’s time to issue a stunner alert. Finish: long and reminding me of the best Broras from the 1980s. Comments: for Clynelish lovers exclusively (yeah, yeah). Reminds us of a fab 1983/2002 by Samaroli, we could easily sip only this, hadn’t we started this stupid web site quite some years ago. SGP:543 - 91 points (and heartfelt thanks, Tomislav.)

Clynelish 1995/2008 (60.6%, The Whisky Agency, Refill sherry) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: somewhat between its two siblings, but closer to the G&M in style. Apple peel and beeswax, porridge, vanilla, fruit eau-de-vie. Less iodine and much less smoke, that is. With water (because it’s really explosive): it’s completely amazing how this got different from the G&M here. Almost like the Shiny Cell, it’s now rather a ‘fresh fruits monster’, with just hints of fermenting grass and mineral notes.  Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the G&M again but the fruitiness is still much bigger, and the waxiness more discreet. It’s also very hot whisky, so let’s add water again. With water: perfect now, round, fruity, clean, delicately waxy and resinous. Not extremely complex but profile and balance are perfect at roughly 45% vol. Finish: long, ultra-clean, on something like smoked resinous fruits. Lot of Seville oranges. Comments: Clynelishe’s distillate is one of the best in Scotland in our opinion, and this is another proof. SGP:641 - 87 points (up up up since last time I tried this one).

Aultmore 1974/1988 (50%, Samaroli, 20th anniversary) Four stars and a halfNose: apples, grains and fresh walnuts, then paraffin and bitter almonds. Nt hugely expressive. Mouth: much rounder at the attack, then lemon marmalade, ginger and pepper. A little cinnamon and a pleasant smokiness. Finish on barley sugar. SGP:452 – 88 points.

Glenury 32 yo 1968/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 258 bottles) Five stars Nose: typically Glenury, with a very idiosyncratic spiciness (mustard and coriander). Bitter oranges, grass, bitter almonds, paraffin. Gest grassier and grassier. Mouth: nervous, minty and peppery. Very ripe peaches, apple liqueur, violet liqueur (parfait amour), ripe strawberries and kiwis. Very ‘funny’ and entertaining. SGP:651 – 90 points.

Port Ellen 24 yo 1982/2004 (57.8%, Dewar Rattray for The Nectar, cask #2464, 168 bottles) Five stars Big whiffs of ashes on the nose, smoke, fresh strawberries (unusual – from the sherry?) and warm tarmac. Mouth: massive and more austere. Liquorice, smokiness, getting earthy (gentian). Ashy. Very clean, excellent. SGP:357 - 91 points.

Teaninich 20 yo 1957/1977 (80° proof, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Four stars and a half Nose: classic black dumpy. Wax, fresh walnuts, metal polish. Gets then meatier. Smoked sausages. Mouth: rounder, creamy. Oranges, pepper, nutmeg, gigerbread. More and more on ginger. Peppery finish, slightly drying, getting very grassy. Excellent altogether. A ‘tamed wildness’. SGP:472 – 88 points.

Talisker 18 yo (45,8%, OB, +/-2008) Five stars A nose that’s slightly more buttery than peaty, all that in a great way, then a development on leather and apple pie. Gets finally more coastal (iodine). The palate is oily, with a much bigger peatiness and notes of marzipan, liquorice, cough drops and a long and salty finish (oysters). Wonderful palate. 90 points. 


BONUS - and this is no joke:

A bottle of marc brandy into which an adder has been put so that it spitted its venom into the spirit while dying, and then globally ‘marinated’. Vipérine was famous for curing rheumatism but it’s forbidden to make it since 1979. A smart move if you ask me, even if the very rare spirit always was a way of distinguishing real men (those who dared to drink some) from sissies. Anyway, let’s be a real man now…

Vipérine au Marc de Bourgogne (+/-40%, artisanal, France, before 1979) Colour: very pale greenish yellow. Nose: the marc brandy is obvious, with some very earthy and grassy notes. There’s also quite some resin (pine but also putty-like notes), something like aniseed or pastis, then more greenness (white tequila) and some pepper. Not pleasant but not horrendous, globally very grassy. As for the snake, I’m well unable to tell you how venom or adder meat smells so let’s say it’s undistinguishable. Mouth: quite powerful, with notes of grapes from the marc, quite some dust, earth, a chalkiness, a little peppermint and various very grassy herbs. Quite bitter. Snakes are meant to taste like chicken according to some Asian friends but I don’t detect any chicken here. Venom? How would I know… Finish: long and very grassy, with maybe a faint meatiness but I’m sure that’s only autosuggestion. Comments: okay, this wasn’t such a terrible experience, especially since I now know that I’ll never ever suffer from rheumatism from now on. Hurray! SGP:080 – 20 points.
PS: the excellent people at Blackadder could replace the bits of oak in their ‘Raw Cask’ series with some wee adders, that would add quite a cachet to their bottlings, wouldn’t it!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the wonderful Congolese band Konono N°1 plays a piece that's hard to resist. It's called Kule Kule and you can find it on the CD 'Congotronics'. Please buy Konono N°1's music!


May 22, 2011


Tasting the new Bruichladdich at Feis Ile by Olivier


Olivier, our reporter on Islay, just tasted the two new Bruichladdichs. They seem to have it good over there...

Bruichladdich 1998/2011 ’18.06.98 Ancien Régime’ (46%, OB, Feis Ile, 2500 bottles) Four stars and a half Gold colour. Discreet bourbon cask influence. Toffee nose, elegant with nice fruit and vanilla. Great all rounder, medium length, it does go back to a style much lobed from this distillery: delicious round easy drinking with nice cask influence and no tannins. The end of an era. 88 points.


Bruichladdich 2001/2011 ’11.09.01 Renaissance’ (46% OB, Feis Ile, 2500 bottles) Five stars Gold colour. Glorious nose: fruity, vanilla, ginger bread, malted cereals, hint of smoke, spices. Complex and inviting. There is no hesitation here, the New Bruichladdich outperforms the old one. The palate is powerful yet finely balanced and long. Nice toffee cask influence but like the 1998 quite discreet. A real pleasure dram and, dare I say, a wonderful surprise because this is pure Bruichladdich with no extra additions. Quite addictive! Glorious tribute to the new Bruichladdich! 90 points after a few drams ;-).


Just in: Olivier's notes for the Laphroaig Feis Ile 2011

Laphroaig Cairdeas 'Ileach Edition' (50.5%, OB, Feis Isle 2011, Bourbon) Four stars Pale colour. Young fresh malted barley and organic peat nose. Feels very young and shows grassy, sea weed maritime nose. An 'in your face' style but nicely balanced. Round intense palate, on the opposite of the nose. It feels matured in smaller casks, but apparently this is only Bourbon classic casks. Very close to the 10yo cask strength in style, with perhaps less fruit flavor and intensity. An overall nice dram. Maybe a bit more age next time! 86 points



Blind tasting Saturday at our Süf Club: one ‘simple’ savagnin and six jaunes from Jura


While some are on Jura Scotland, we had some wines from Jura France. Left to right: Domaine de Montbourgeau L’Etoile Savagnin 1996, Pierre Overnoy Arbois Pupillin 1989 (I love it but it’s extremely, err, extreme), Rolet Arbois 1997, Berthet-Bondet Château-Chalon 2003 (youngish), Château d’Arlay Côtes du Jura 1990 (disappointing), same in 1991 (brilliant, it won the evening!), Fruitière de Pupillin 1976 (very good). Sometimes these vins jaunes really make us think of malt whisky… It is to be noted that they age under yeast veil without any topping up, pretty much like some sherries, but they don't get fortified with alcohol. The Overnoy spend around 15 years in the casks, which is more than most malt whiskies!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: if you're not ready for a long suite of sound collages you may pass for once... But if you're in an adventurous mood, you may have lots of fun listening to Robert Iolini's piece called Silent motion (from his CD 'Songs from Hurt'). Please buy Robert Iolini's music...

Robert Iolini

May 21, 2011


Tasting the new Lagavulin Feis Ile

Sorry to interrupt our 80 world whiskies ventures but our zealous reporter on Islay Olivier just sent us his tasting notes for the brand new lagavulin Feis Ile... Seems that it's a cracker!

Lagavulin Feis

Lagavulin 1998/2011 (51%, OB for Feis Isle 2011, refill butt, c#1715, 580bt, distilled 23/2/1998) Five stars The nose shows pure sharp pungent medicinal aromas. There is a sense of ripeness and maturity on the nose, which makes it quite different from the regular 12yo special release. The peat is actually very elegant: classic creosote, tar and charcoal. It takes some time to wake up and goes from good to great. Going back to the other Lagavulin expressions becomes difficult. The palate combines an aromatic character (figs, dried fruits, mint…) with a tannic wood peaty expression. Wonderful balance and length, it is also bottled at a very ‘drinkable’ strength. This is a pure complex style, maybe not as much of a ‘head turner’ as the distillery only release, but it shows the real essence of Lagavulin. Pity it got sold out after just 4 hours… 94 points

MUSIC - Recommended listening: you know the saying, the definition of a smart man is someone who can play the bagpipe... and who doesn't. I'd add: or who plays it like Matthew Welch! Please have a go at his stunning piece called Blues for Seraut (it's on his CD Luminosity) and then buy Matthew Welch's music.

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

Ralfy's 200th video
In these days when there are hopeless copycats popping up like mushrooms every minute on the Web, I've liked Ralfy's very different and very original video works right from the start two or three years ago. He's an excellent story teller and he always manages to make the tiniest issues thrilling. I'm sure even people who aren't into whisky at all would enjoy his witty vlogs, as do seasoned anoraks. May he go on for a long time! Please go watch Ralfy's videos, he's so much better than Vaynerchuk.


May 20, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#65: one 1 Euro Indian malt

So after Europe, we’re in India today. But we won’t have some Amrut yet, rather a whisky that’s called Solan that our excellent MM friend Krishna had brought to Alsace quite a while ago. It’s from the oldest distillery in India, Kasauli, that was founded in the Himalayas around 1828, and it’ll cost you less than one single Euro a half (375ml)! It’s also to be noted that this distillery is said to be the world’s highest distillery (1,800m).

Kasauli Distillery
(Photograph: Jaipal Singh Datta)


Solan ‘No.1’ (42.8%, OB, malt whisky, 375ml, +/-2007) Two stars and a half As the very vast majority of Indian whiskies are distilled from molasses and not grain, such a malt whisky (really?) at such a low price is something mindboggling, as is what’s written on the label: ‘specially selected malt blended to perfection’. Let’s check it… Colour: gold. Nose: this is rather nice, fresh and floral at first nosing, very clean. There’s also quite some malt (good news?), a little caramel and quite some orange liqueur. Nice nose, certainly not reeking of ‘random molasses’ and any other nasty stuff. Mouth: this is a very nice attack! Creamy, with some barley sugar, crystallised oranges and malt again. A little caramel once again and a wee salty touch. What’s sure is that this is way better than many ‘foreign’ attempts at making whisky – and twenty to thirty times cheaper. Finish: medium long, just a little sugary. Comments: an excellent surprise. This might well be the cheapest malt whisky I ever tried – and certainly not the worst. Many thanks, Krishna. SGP:331 – 77 points.

15 whiskies of the world to go, stay tuned!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Jeanne Moreau sings India song in 1974 (from the OST of Marguerite Duras' unforgettable movie that bears the same name). Please buy Jeanne Moreau's music.

Jeanne Moreau

BONUS: Tasting two of the rarest Lowlanders, both officials and both from 1973 (how useless is that?)

This is a little session I’ve been willing to do since quite some time now. Opposing two Ladyburns or Glen Flaglers is almost impossible to do since there are/were so little expressions (not to mention the ‘fake’ pure malts that aren’t singles), but tasting one of each is a little more doable indeed… The good news here is that both bear the same vintage and that both are officials. What’s the best… oops, my favourite? Let’s see…
Glen Flagler Glen Flagler 29 yo 1973/2003 (46%, OB, Inver House, 931 bottles) Four stars This baby was bottled at cask strength despite what the ABV suggests now that 46% became one of the norms (soon 50%?) Remember Glen Flagler was actually a set of pot stills that were located within the Moffat complex and that have been distilling only between 1965 and 1985. My fav Glen Flagler so far has been a 1970 by Signatory (WF 80). Colour: gold. Nose: hmm, it’s not with this one that we’ll learn more about the original distillate as the only things that I get at first nosing are oak, oak and oak. Well, at least for 15 seconds, and then there’s a rather fresh fruitiness, a combination of apples and gooseberries, and then more notes from the oak, rather coconut and vanilla this time. There’s also a little aniseed and maybe caraway… The whole being rather fresh but not extremely expressive.
Mouth: this could have been distilled yesterday, even the oak isn’t too big this time. Garden fruits (cider apples), barley sugar, a little liquorice wood… There’s also something slightly soapy but that’s bearable. Having said that, the oak really kicks in around the middle, the whole becoming dry and bitter. Let’s see what happens with water: much, much better! Herbal teas, mint, verbena, light tobacco, greengages… What a surprise! Finish: medium long, very nicely fruity (with water). Liquorice wood in the aftertaste. A bit leafy. Comments: a tricky one as it really benefits from reduction, while ‘modern’ drinkers tend not to add any water to whiskies that were bottled at, say below 50% vol. or even more. This one needs water. SGP:451 - 85 points (with water!)
Ladyburn Ladyburn 27 yo 1973/2000 (50.4%, OB, William Grant, cask #3221) Three stars and a half Ladyburn has a similar story as Glen Flagler’s (the stills were in the Girvan distillery), but they’ve been working only between 1966 and 1975. Yet, Ladyburn is a little less rare than Glen Flagler and can sometimes be found under the ‘Ayrshire’ label, as the owners wouldn’t allow any bottler to use the original brand name. William Grant did issue several casks of 1973 Ladyburn in the year 2000 but I could only try one of them so far. My favourite Ladyburn was a 1975/2005 by Wilson & Morgan, under the Ayrshire name (WF 87).
Colour: full gold. Nose: starts like a grassy bourbon or something like that. Bark, liquorice, fresh walnuts, notes of oat, porridge in the background… It’s much less fruity than the Glen Flagler. Becomes frankly plankish after a moment, on fresh sawdust, maybe pencil shavings… It’s only after a few minutes that notes of pineapple do emerge, maybe pears… But it remains very grassy and porridgy. Some mint. With water: more mint, much more mint, and more camphor and eucalyptus too. Very nice. Mouth: again, this bourbon feeling. Maple syrup and oak extracts, vanilla, ginger… It’s not unpleasant, not at all, it’s just a little devoid of interest. With water: not the same miracle (almost) as with the Glen Flagler but water works indeed. More sweet oak and more herbal tones. Dill? Mint? Also a little bubblegum. Maybe a little more soap too, too bad… Finish: long, dry and liquoricy. Comments: I like the Flagler better I must say but this is quite good. The taste of History. SGP:351 - 83 points.

BTW, the owners published an interesting picture of the Ladyburn stills a few days ago.


May 19, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#64: one German whisky

Oops, we were already in some Eastern European countries when I found this recent German malt whisky to try before we fly further East…


Black Forest 2006/2010 (43%, OB, Rothaus, Single Malt, Germany) This is made by the Rothaus Brewery in the Hochschwarzwald, which is very close to Alsace. Rothaus make some very good beer, especially the Tannenzaepfle that’s highly regarded or so it seems (I know zilch about beers, mind you). The ‘Black Forest’ (why not call it Schwarzwald, by the way?) is fully matured in ex-bourbon casks. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: I did distil some malt beer quite some years ago and the result did smell like this. Obvious notes of pears as well as a little kirsch and sugar cane syrup, then more slightly cardboardy notes as well as a little sawdust and grass. Undemanding, I’d say…

Mouth: even closer to distilled beer or hops eau-de-vie. Pears, apples, sugar and then a little more bitterish notes, possibly from the oak. Kirsch again? Tutti frutti (wop-bop-a-loo-mop alop-bam-boom)? Finish: medium long, sweet. Pear spirit. A little pepper. Comments: extremely eau-de-vie-ish, which isn’t obligatorily bad but we’re pretty far from ‘whisky’ here in my opinion. Iit’s not unpleasant spirit at all… and does not remind us of Black Forest cake either, to make things clear ;-). Another local whisky for locals? BTW, it’s a bit strange to read ‘since 1791’ on the label – I know it’s the brewery, but still… Ahem… SGP:720 - 65 points.


Old label for Rothaus' very good Tannen-zaepfle pils beer (1956)


16 whiskies of the world to try before our trip is completed, stay tuned...

MUSIC - Recommended listening: simply Hound Dog by Big Mama Thornton, a long time ago. Please...

Big Mama

May 18, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#63: one Hungarian whisky

So now we’re in Hungary. This baby is distilled by Pannon Drink & Millenium but the label doesn’t say whether it’s a blend or a malt or a grain… With a name such as flat country, I had thought it was some Belgian or Dutch whisky (no offence meant, guys). By the way, I wanted to check www.pannondrink.hu but google said that ‘visiting this web site may harm your computer!’ Aargh, let’s only hope Flat Country won’t harm my internal organs as well. Or maybe I’ll simply not swallow…

Flat Country

Flat Country (40%, OB, Hungary, +/-2005) Colour: white wine. Nose: hey, this is some surprise! It’s got a waxy and mustardy nose, not unlike a vatting of Clynelish and Banff or something like that. Well, that did last for a good thirty seconds, just before ‘the ugly cavalry’ arrived. You know them, cardboard, burnt wood, chalk, fermenting grass, cheap vanilla extracts, cheap lavender soap (or is that roses?) Now, the pleasant waxy notes remain there and keep the whole interesting. Still a good surprise but will that last? Mouth: this is another excellent surprise! Some big lemony notes, candies, marmalade, jellybeans… This works despite the ueber-fruitiness, and despite the development that, once again, sort of nosedives. Paper, flour, burnt cake… Having said that, the mouth feel is more than okay. Tastes a bit like a fruit liqueur. Finish: medium long, fruity at first, then more dry and a tad burnt, which often happens with cheap ‘foreign’ whiskies. And too bad the aftertaste is suddenly very soapy. Comments: yeah I know, my notes sound like this is almost a wonder at times. It’s not, not at all, it’s rather pretty cheap and mundane whisky, it’s just that I was expecting the very worse, which didn’t quite happen. Yes, poisoning. SGP:640 – 45 points.

Okay, I think we’ve had enough with the Eastern European whiskies, let’s move on much further towards the East next time… 17 to go, stay tuned!


Bonus previews: a bunch of recent 1990 Speysiders


Ardmore 21 yo 1990/2011 (46%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #30121, 298 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: burst with notes of fresh pears and peaches, then many fruit eaux-de-vie. Kirsch, raspberry, pears again… This is incredibly young. Also notes of kriek bieer (cherry flavoured), cider (litres of it)… Very little peat and/or smoke that I can get. Well, almost none.   Mouth: same profile, many fresh fruits (same, peaches, pears…) and a smokiness indeed this time, as well as a little salt that makes it a tad unusual (with the pears). A slightly unlikely combo in my opinion. Finish: long, on ashes, pears and salt. Comments: a youngish, rather restless Ardmore. Interesting profile but it’s no easy whisky in my opinion. SGP:543 – around 80 points.


Linkwood 17yo 1990/2008 (48%, Adelphi, cask #9734, 204 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: a very nice nose that does display these whiffs of roses that are sometimes to be found in Linkwood. There’s also quite some leather, putty and marzipan, small berries spirit (rowan tree, service tree) and touches of marmalade. Orange zest, blossom… No wham-bam nose but it’s delicately aromatic. Mouth: good fruitiness, oranges, bergamots… Touches of young fruity comté cheese (not cheesy at all – I know, I know), kiwis… Then more liquorice and vanilla from the wood as well as quite some white pepper. Vanilla fudge. Finish: long, more on pepper and oranges. Traces of smoke in the aftertaste (smoked tea). Comments: all good, and it takes water very well. SGP:441 - 86 points.

Glen Keith

Glen Keith 19 yo 1990/2009 (52.9%, Part des Anges, cask #13677, 230 bottles) Two stars and a halfColour: white wine. Nose: a rather aw one, sooty, chalky, very mineral… It’s very almondy as well. Putty, marzipan, pine sap… Also hay, farmyard… Unusually raw. Notes of green apples as well. Keeps changing. Mouth: big, sweeter. Pear drops and bubblegum plus pepper and cardamom. Lemon marmalade, coconut. Too bad there’s also quite some inked paper and a faint soapiness. Perfumy. Finish: rather long, on, say Turkish delights and cardamom. Comments: a strange dram. It didn’t really click with me but I know some friends who really liked it. SGP:551 - 77 points.


Aberlour 1990/2009 (54.5%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #16847, 167 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: instantly reminds me of A’bunadh, with bags of coffee and chocolate plus a little gunpowder. Unfolds more on dried fruits, figs, apples, whiffs of calvados (very obvious here) and then a slightly green spiciness. Liquorice wood, cardamom, a little coriander… Mouth: much sweeter now but again, in A’bunadh territories. Cooked strawberries and plums, a little fudge, prunes, milk chocolate, maybe a little cranberry juice… It’s also got this slight hotness that’s very ‘A’bunadh’ yet again. Becomes grassier after that. Cherry stems and leaves. Finish: long, greener in a good way and drier as well. Bitter chocolate. Comments: it’s in the attack on the palate that Aberlour’s typical fruitiness comes through but other than that, it’s pretty dry. Very good quality anyway. SGP:461 - around 85 points.


Mortlach 20 yo 1990/2011 (57.6%, Signatory, refill sherry butt,  cask #6070, 548 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s got these sulphury tones that aren’t really sulphur in Mortlach. Somewhere between rubber bands and green tea, nothing to do with eggy notes. Then quite some chocolate and prunes, kumquats (getting bigger and bigger), whiffs of chalk/dust and quite some sultanas as well. Beautiful notes of sultanas. Mouth: sultanas all over the place this time, as well as other kinds of raisins. Especially the big black ones (Smyrna or Corinth?) Also touches of orange marmalade and chocolate and just a dash of black pepper. Finish: long, more on bitter chocolate. Comments: the nose isn’t the easiest ever (typical sherried Mortlach in my experience) but the raisiny palate is flawless and superb. SGP:662 - around 87 points.


Glenfarclas 1990/2007 (58.9%, OB for 5th Anniversary Taiwan SMW tasting association, cask #9246, 209 bottles) Four stars and a half A bottling for our dear friend Ho-cheng’s club that surfaced rather recently. It gathered very consistent ‘blind’ scores at the MMA 2010 and easily fetched high silver. Colour: dark amber. Nose: an official sherry monster as only Glenfarclas and Glendronach still make these days (apart from the odd Macallan, Glengoyne and a few others). Prunes, chocolate, raisins and marmalade galore. No need to draw you a picture. Mouth: right between some old Demerara rum, Armagnac (it is a tad grapy) and prune liqueur, yet it’s not heavy. But rich it is, fruity, quite lively… And an excellent body. Cream sherry? Finish: long, sweet, more on oranges. Comments: I think it’s an easy sherry monster, thanks to the big sweetness. Excellently classic. SGP:751 - 88 points.


Clynelish 19yo 1990/2010 (57.1%, Riverstown, Sherry Butt, cask #3898, 257 bottles) Four stars I know Clynelish is no Speysider but I cannot resist a Clynelish. This one’s been extremely polarising at the MMA 2010, which often happens with Clynelish. A malt with some character! Colour: white wine. Nose: starts on the sweet side, with quite some barley sugar and light honey, apple juice and touches of vanilla flavoured yoghurt. No big fruitiness, very little wax, no smoke and no coastal notes. In short, rather un-Clynelish and rather sort of ‘Scapa’ in my opinion. Develops a little more on pears and fresh mint. Mouth: yeah! Frankly, the nose was rather disappointing but this palate is right up my alley. Crystallised grapefruit, wax, lemon marmalade, touches of salt, almond oil, something mineral, hints of ginger and pepper… Beautiful. Finish: same and for a long time. Comments: I just cannot go very high because of the uninspiring nose but what a Dagueneau-esque palate (don’t worry, only hardcore wine freaks would understand that.) But nose? Who needs a nose anyway? SGP:552 - 86 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the magical oud of John Berberian with his Rock East Ensemble playing a frenzied 3/8 + 5/8 = 8/8 (from their CD 'Middle Eastern Rock'). Quite amazing, isn't it! Please buy John Berberian's music, please...

John Berberian

May 17, 2011


80 whiskies

Around the World in 80 Whiskies
#62: one Polish whisky

After the Czech Republic, let’s go to Poland, with this rather well-known Dark Whisky by Polmos. What’s quite interesting is that there were two different labels for this one, one mentioning ‘blended Scotch whisky, distilled and matured in Scotland’ while the other one talks about ‘choice old whisky, distilled, blended and bottled in Poland’. We’ll have the latter if you don’t mind…

Dark Whisky

Dark Whisky (40%, OB, Polish blend, +/-2005) Colour: gold. This is not black, nothing to do with Loch Dhu. Nose: very, very typical of some lower shelf ‘whisky’, that is to say mostly on notes of toasted wood, cardboard, dry caramel. Aromatically challenged, I’d say, but that’s better than being weird or completely off beat. There just aren’t any beats. Mouth: ah, this is better! Sweeter, with touches of marshmallows and grenadine, a little apple liqueur (green apples, manzana verde liqueur) and something slightly chalky/ashy. Touches of cheapo chocolate (I’m sorry, no brand names) and honey, then a little wood and peanuts. Speaking of which… Finish: shortish and a little bitter. Ashy, slightly drying aftertaste. Comments: frankly, this rather okayish, no monstrosity. The very sweet notes may come from the cereals they used to make this, there’s almost no maltiness. Midstream when taking all kinds of whiskies known to man into consideration. Yes, 50 points. SGP:520 - 50 points.

18 to go...


Bonus: more recent high flying stuff


Littlemill 21 yo 1989/2011 (51,3%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry hogshead, 239 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: starts on a great combination of slightly austere mineral and grassy notes with more extravagant fruits such as tangerines and papayas. Goes on with more hay, ripe peaches, greengages and whiffs of fresh ink. A little more vanilla and marzipan after a while. Nice complexity. Mouth: a rich fresh fruitiness and notes of green spices and… grass as well as a little ‘green’ coffee from the sherry. There are raisins and prunes as well but they’re not big whereas the coffee grows bolder by the minute. Interesting combination of cofeeish and lemony notes, quite unusual. Finish: rather long, more toasted/roasted, with quite some Ovaltine in the aftertaste. Comments: an unusual Littlemill, thanks to the sherry. A variant to try. SGP:552 - 89 points.

Ledaig The Dram

Ledaig 9 yo 2001/2011 (50,5%, Whisky-Doris, The Dram, sherry butt, 212 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: ah, it’s one of these cases were ‘excessive’ youth can be an asset, since this roughness goes very well with the very medicinal and ultra-sooty notes of this Ledaig. Iodine galore, kippers, motor oil, farmyard, wet dogs (how much do we owe you, dogs?), aspirin tablets, graphite, pencil eraser… In short, young Ledaig at its wildest. Mouth: excellent lemony and very ashy peat, kippers again, tar, grapefruit liqueur, more tar, a bit of maple syrup, more tar… And a little liquorice. Big, clean and restless, without much sherry influence. Finish: long, briny, with only touches of sultanas and always a little lemon. Ashy aftertaste. Comments: frankly, this is excellent, with a great body and no flaws from an excessive youth. Don’t miss these young Ledaigs, they may become gloriously stellar after fifteen years of slow breathing in glass. SGP:457 - 88 points.

Ledaig Whisky Doris

Ledaig 9 yo 2001/2011 (60,6%, Whisky-Doris, sherry butt, 192 bottles) Four stars and a half From the same butt as the previous one, only unreduced. Colour: very pale gold. Nose: interestingly, it’s the lemony side that comes out first this time, as well as the sweet, sherry-ish notes of raisins. The kippers, farmyard and wet dogs stayed at home. So far. With water: closer to the reduced version of course but maybe a tad more on papers and chalk. Maybe… Mouth (neat): we’re closer to the reduced version but once again, there’s rather more lemons and less kippery notes. Touches of pineapple drops. With water: same as when reduced by the exquisite bottlers. I’m good at diluting, am I not? Finish: ditto. Comments: frankly, I like both versions just the same. Let’s not give points to pure alcohol if you agree… SGP:457 - 88 points.

Ardmore 1992

Ardmore 18 yo 1992/2011 (50.1%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon barrel, cask #4907) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s obviously one of these peaty and ashy Ardmores, yet the whole is less demonstrative and extravagant than the Ledaigs. On the other hand, the grassiness and the fruitiness that are on par with the peat are most beautiful, rounded, complex, with that sort of complex citrus that’s often to be found in ‘old young’ Laphroaigs. Also whiffs of bandages, walnut skin and grapefruit zest as well as this subtle tar that’s a little Old Ardbeg. Great, great nose. Mouth: perfect attack, at a perfect strength and with some duelling grapefruit and ashes/smoke. Then more pepper, a little ginger, lemon… Perfect sharp profile, quite Taliskerish this time. Simpler than the nose. Finish: long, with the pepper to the front and the lemony peatiness quite big in the aftertaste. Comments: I know I quoted three or for other distilleries in these notes and that that’s a tad too easy. Oh well… Great Ardmore anyway, recommended. The German bottlers keep stealing the show. SGP:456 - 90 points.

Laphroaig 15

Laphroaig 15 yo 1996/2011 (56.4%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, 254 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: typical modern times Laphroaig, very punchy, with quite some sweet notes at first nosing (apple compote, even white peaches) and then a development on peat smoke and iodine but with no obvious blast. It’s also to be noted that some of these fairly recent batches do display these touches of passion fruits that the oldie had, and it’s the case here. With water: the wet dogs are back (sorry dogs) together with a little cinchona and some chalkiness (wet). Mouth (neat): it’s really the fruitiness that strikes first here, with loads of grapefruit marmalade, and only then a relatively green peat and quite some ashes. Not complicated, but pretty perfect. With water: even less complicated, and even more perfect. Marmalade and peat. Finish: long, mid-peaty, mid-citrusy. Perfect profile. Comments: perfect and goes down a treat, as Cosmo Kramer would have said. I had some 1996s that were so-so but this one was quite fab. SGP:547 - 89 points.
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Whisky Fair Limburg report
It was great.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: hey, why not a little 'whisky' music today? This is Geordie Jack & Caledonia and they're playing Banks Of The Roses. It was on a promotional CD that was attached to a bottle of Glenfarclas in France, around ten years ago. Thank you, Glenfarclas! And please buy Geordie Jack's music...

Geordie Jack

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

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



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

Ardbeg 24 yo 1975/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 713 bottles)

Ardmore 18 yo 1992/2011 (50.1%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon barrel, cask #4907)

Clynelish 1995/2006 (59.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, refill sherry casks #5831-5832)

Glenury 32 yo 1968/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 258 bottles)

Kavalan 'Solist' (58.2%, OB, sherry, cask #S060703018, 569 bottles, +/- 2010)

Lochside 29 yo 1981 (50.7%, Jack Wiebers, Auld Distillers Collection, 85 bottles, +/-2011)

Macallan 35 yo 1937 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Pinerolo, stenciled flowers, sherry wood, +/-1972)

Port Ellen 24 yo 1982/2004 (57.8%, Dewar Rattray for The Nectar, cask #2464, 168 bottles)

Talisker 18 yo (45,8%, OB, +/-2008)