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May 14, 2014


3 Longmorn

Longmorn in their twenties

More Longmorn, hopefully more fruity bliss…

Longmorn 21 yo 1992 (52.5%, Jack Wiebers, Great Ocean Liners, bourbon, cask #110994) Three stars It seems that for Mr Wiebers, whisky’s only an excuse for displaying nice pictures of ships these days… Of course I’m joking. Colour: pale gold. Nose: typical, between cider, earth and tinned fruits at first nosing, then more grass and ‘light’ herbs. That would be plain grass, then a little rhubarb and a little lime. Very fresh and zesty for Longmorn. With water: becomes much more typical, more Longmorn, with a western fruit salad. Apples, pears, plums and such… Mouth (neat): starts malty, rooty and gingery, not really fruity, with a bready/yeasty side and then oranges. Goes on with muesli and quite some white pepper from the oak. Sour dough, leather. More lemons after a few minutes, more fruits. With water: apples and chlorophyll. Finish: medium length. More apples, more greenness, more raw malt. Comments: a good one. SGP:551 - 81 points.

Longmorn 28 yo 1985/2014 (50.6%, Adelphi, cask #9907, 247 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: this time we’re having a rather milky and grassy one, with odd medicinal touches, antiseptic, bandages… Some camphor too, mint leaves… So it’s even more unusual than the previous one. Quite some vanilla too, some custard... With water: becomes even more custardy. Some beer, rather less medicinal notes, although hints of embrocations do remain. Bandages. Mouth (neat): starts spicy and rather eau-de-vie-ish, with rawish notes of distillation (not quite feints) and plums and apples. Goes on greener, leafier and, well, grassier. An unsexy Longmorn. With water: some earth coming through, also green oak. Finish: long, green, oaky. Comments: very good for sure, but another one that could have been fruitier. Yes, more ‘Longmorn’. SGP:451 - 82 points.

Longmorn 28 yo (53.8%, Jack Wiebers, Wiebers Brothers, 120 bottles, 2013) Four starsColour: full gold. Nose: ah this is very different again, this time there’s a mustiness, moss, mushrooms, some damp earth and sand, then cigars, grasses after the rain, then rhubarb and kiwis (yup, pretty green)… I quite love this! With water: relay lovely! More cigars, woods, incense, earth… Mouth (neat): it’s a really punchy one, with more depth than the others, more complexity, with cider apples, earth, drops of kirsch, cherries, some ale and a touch of pineapple (perhaps). With water: full Longmornness. Oranges, ale, Turkish delights, bergamots, apples and all that. Mints. Finish: long, fruity, firm, with a bitterish grassiness in the aftertaste. Comments: only the finish was slightly below par in my book. SGP:552 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Longmorn I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the sheer brilliance of Carla Bley again. Track: Two banana. Please visit her website and buy her music...

May 13, 2014


Tasting new and older Ardbeg

There’s always something happening at Master of Malt’s and they just came up with a funny new series of malts that have been finished in very small purpose-built sherry casks, including a strange 21yo Ardbeg at very low strength. Today we’ll try that one along with my favourite recent official Ardbeg (no, not the very strange new ‘futebol’ one – aaargh, even the butcher in my village is now trying to cash in on the World Cup, it’s said he’s currently testing some kind of Brazilian wursts), plus an older glory for good measure. All these Ardbegs should be very ‘different’…

Ardbeg 21 yo (40.1%, Master of Malts, Darkness!, Pedro Ximenez finish, 50cl, 2014)

Ardbeg 21 yo (40.1%, Master of Malts, Darkness!, Pedro Ximenez finish, 50cl, 2014) Four stars This baby has been finished for three months in a recoopered 50 litre PX cask, so it's more or less the 'recipe' that Murray MacDavid had used for their infamous bloodtubs quite some years ago, although a bloodtub rather contains around 35 litres. We're actually closer to an octave (around 45 litres). Colour: no darkness, it’s rather dark straw – or light gold. Nose: you know what, this rather smells like an excellent mezcal, not that we will complain. It’s not big, it’s even rather whispering, and it displays notes of damp earth, smoked tea, olive brine and then agave syrup, with only a few drops of pink grapefruits, perhaps. A little tarry barley does come through after a while, but the mezcaly side will never leave. Mouth: it’s sweet, not that light despite the low strength (but then again, the great older 10 used to be bottled at 40% vol.), always with touches of mezcal but this is rather sweeter and rounder. Drops of brine plus guava juice and one or two rum-soaked raisins. There’s a thinness after ten or fifteen seconds, that comes with green tea and a little Ardbeggian tar. Finish: rather short for Ardbeg, still briny and… mezcaly. Burnt raisins and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it’s a good thing that they didn’t add more PX (and wood), hence that this little bottling is a success, not obligatorily only for collectors. Very good. SGP:565 - 86 points.

Ardbeg 'Corryvreckan' (57.1%, OB, +/- 2012)

Ardbeg 'Corryvreckan' (57.1%, OB, +/- 2012) Five stars Or is it +/-2013? I really enjoyed the first Corryvreckan back in around 2008 (WF 90) and it's quite refreshing that Ardbeg have kept this bottling in their range, although I guess newer batches are now younger. Let's see... Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts crisp and pure, although rather less ‘Ardbeg’ then earlier botlings. In a way, this could be mistaken for Caol Ila, not a bad thing, obviously. That means we find apple peelings, seaweed, whiffs of garden bonfire, then a little antiseptic, camphor, grapefruit and plain seawater. Almost forgot our bellowed whelks ;-). With water: things keep improving. More smoke, ‘a working kiln’, smoked fish, hessian… and all that jazz. Mouth (neat): rich, punchy, more Ardbeg, with an oily mouth feel. Peat smokiness, lemons, grapefruits, touches of salt, bitter grass and just a little aniseed and liquorice wood. I find this pretty excellent. More vanilla and light honey after one minute or two. With water: it’s funny how it gets both smokier and sweeter. Smoked vanilla cream? Smoked maple syrup? Also a little ‘green’ coffee. Finish: long, salty, very smoky, with notes of cider apples this time. Comments: maybe the Ardbeggest current Ardbeg. Quality remains high. SGP:458 - 90 points.

Ardbeg 30 yo 1973/2003 (51.9%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 94 bottles)

Ardbeg 30 yo 1973/2003 (51.9%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 94 bottles) Five stars I've tried this little legend of a whisky when it came out but never wrote proper tasting notes. Time to put that straight! Colour: gold. Nose: yeah, a good occasion to spot the main differences between ‘new’ and ‘old’ Ardbeg. In fact, this one has more tar, oils, almonds, metals, hessian, old pipe, coal stove, resins, artisan cider and… our friends the wet dogs! (we all owe you one, dogs). Forgot to say, this nose is utterly stunning. So yeah, probably less ‘clean & crisp’ than newer distillations, and fatter & oilier as well. With water: forget, no need. Mouth: aweowaweow! Okay I’ll tell how you could make you own. Take an empty bucket, add two litres of artisan apple juice (not sweetened commercial junk). Add a fistful of sea salt. Go squeeze five pink grapefruits, pour. Take six big puros from Cuba, undo, throw the loose leaves into your brew. Buy a pack of liquorice mints, throw in. Find an old Norton or Ducati in the streets, drain the engine oil off, pour into bucket. Go buy a dozen big fat oysters, eat one, throw the remainder into bucket. Steal three flasks of mercurochrome, add to the mix. Add tiger balm. Find an old bicycle, take one inner tube (rear or front, doesn’t matter), cut into thin slices, add to mix. Find one kilo of smoked almonds, crush, add. Add one olive, stir, strain, pour into your glass, enjoy. De nada. Finish: endless and fabulous. Comments: I had this one at 95 but those were the old days and great Ardbegs were easy to find. Today it’s going to be… SGP:467 - 96 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Ardbeg I've tasted so far



Block Today: SOUL BLUES. Performer: W.C. Clark. Track: Snatching It Back. Please visit his website and buy his music...

May 12, 2014


Grouped fire reloaded, three Glen Keith

Three Glen Keith

Glen Keith is a kind of other Littlemill, not that the whiskies are very similar, but both ‘brands’ have never quite impressed us when they used to be bottled by their official owners, it’s the indies that are now pushing them and showing us how great these malts could be. 

Glen Keith 1995/2013 (56%, The Pearls of Scotland, cask #171224, 276 bottles) Four starsColour: white wine. Nose: starts with a fruity grassiness that involves apples, pears, melons as well as whiffs of newly mown lawn and a few fresh walnuts. Gets then relatively mineral, with wet rocks and a little chalk. No big fruitbomb so far. With water: a fruitbomb once water’s been added. Jellies and pies, fruit salad, fresh mint… Mouth (neat): burst with apples and cherries, eaux-de-vies, plum spirit, as well as a rather bitter grassiness this time. Liquorice wood. A little raw when unreduced. So, with water: still rather ‘nervous’, but gentler indeed. Pink grapefruits, apples… Finish: long, clean, zesty, rather more citrusy than the average Glen Keith. Touches of honeydew. Comments: all very good, as expected. Great malt whisky au naturel. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Glen Keith 22 yo 1992/2014 (49.3%, Sansibar, 136 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: styles are very similar but this one’s has got louder fruits, so to speak. Melons, apples, gooseberries, apricots, plums… all that on grass and just touches of aniseed and maybe fennel. Menthol. Also same hints of wet chalk as in the 1995. Mouth: very fruity, very orchardy, with a layer of vanilla and grated coconut. Ripe gooseberries and apples, some grass again and again, skins and peelings (grapefruits are coming through) and then more and more liquorice. Good body, with a very pleasant tartness. Finish: long, grassier, greener. Green tea, touches of new oak. Comments: another big, ample yet ‘nervous’ Glen Keith. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Glen Keith 21 yo 1992/2013 (51.4%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon barrel, 177 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: this time it’s a very fruity one that rather starts with some bubblegum and jellybeans, then we have more or less the same fruits as in the others, only both fresh and tinned. Pears, melons, peaches… There’s rather less grass this time, although there are notes of tree bark and broken branches. With water: there are more fruits than in Glen MacFruit! Also dill, liquorice, caraway, verbena… Mouth (neat): more or less the same as the Sansibar now, maybe just a notch fruitier again and less zesty. A little more tropical, perhaps. With water: perfect! Pina colada and margarita, 50/50, plus vanilla of course. Really perfect in its own fruity style. Finish: long, with again hints of grass and oak spices that keep it all straight and balanced. Perfect ‘nervousness’. Comments: terrific fruity malt whisky, clean, fresh, both sippable and quaffable. SGP:651 - 88 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glen Keith I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Sunny Jain. Track: a very lovely Ye Mera Khuda. (Nic Felder on guitar and some stunning vocals). Please visit his website and buy his music...

May 11, 2014


Young Americans - Part Trois

Nothing is impossible to a willing heart, they say, that’s why we’ll try to do the equivalent of Evel Knievel (RIP) jumping over the Grand Canyon, that is to say bringing together two E.H. Taylor, two Four Roses and two Blanton’s, all small batches or single barrels at rather high strengths. Are we ready? Oh and instead of trying to build a triple-double fight, we’ll just sort them up by ascending strength.

Blanton's Original 'Single Barrel' (46.50%, OB, bourbon, barrel #202, 2013)

Blanton's Original 'Single Barrel' (46.50%, OB, bourbon, barrel #202, 2013) Three stars Blanton’s made by Buffalo Trace. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a rather aromatic bourbon, and a rather complex one at that. Starts with notes of some kind of cinnamon, oranges and tea cake, before it becomes more honeyed and floral, while never displaying any over-oakiness or ‘dumb’ vanilla/syrups. I find touches of sugar cane, some precious wood (rosewood, sandalwood), chamomile and honeysuckle, then more mead and even more oranges. Orange blossom water comes more and more to the front. Mouth: it’s a fruity one, but it’s not exactly sweet. I find a lot of apples in all their forms, as cider, as calvados, as juice, as pie… And then a spicy ryeness as well as touches of cranberry juice. Geranium jelly, cardamom… The oak’s louder than I had expected, and makes it a little drying. Finish: quite, long, rather smooth for a few seconds, but it’s the spicy oak that speaks in the aftertaste. Cloves, pepper, ginger… Comments: loved the nose, found the palate a little simpler, but it’s high-quality bourbon for sure. SGP:561 - 80 points.

Colonel E.H. Taylor 'Small Batch' (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2014)

Colonel E.H. Taylor 'Small Batch' (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2014) Two stars and a half This is another brand by Buffalo Trace, apparently. Colour: full gold. Nose: there are similarities at first nosing, but then it gets all oakier, drier, less aromatic, with more sawdust, dried coconut, varnish, grated cinnamon (a lot) and bags of vanillin. A more bourbony bourbon, if I may, there’s rather less happening in this one. Mouth: it’s a spicier and oakier version of the Blanton’s again. Tannins, cardamom, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg… What’s quite striking is that there’s little sweetness, whether syrups, jams or simply fudge or toffee to balance all that oak. A little grenadine and oranges, perhaps, a feeling of Campari... And bitter oranges. Finish: it’s rather unusual that a whisky gets less tannic at this point, but it’s what happens with this EH Taylor. The oranges come out, together with ripe redcurrants. Comments: I’m sure it’s great, but it’s a little too oaky and spicy for me. SGP:371 - 78 points.

Colonel E.H. Taylor 'Single Barrel' (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2014)

Colonel E.H. Taylor 'Single Barrel' (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2014) Two stars Let’s see if this single cask is a little more approachable than the small batch… Colour: full gold. Nose: extremely close to the Small Batch, with maybe a little more fudge and toffee. The oak’s just as loud. Let’s see whether the palate diverges or not… Mouth: once again, we’re extremely close. Maybe a little more earth? More wet wood? The spices never stops growing, there’s really a lot of pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg… A little cardboard too, perhaps, and almost no fruity notes to come to the rescue. Finish: long, with a little maple syrup lingering but other than that, spices, oak and spices are leading the pack. Nice notes of mocha and chocolate in the aftertaste, that’s better (but that’s also the oak talking)  Comments: it’s not my style, but it’s probably ‘good stuff’. Let’s go for a conservative score – please take it with a handful of salt, as usual. SGP:271 - 75 points.

Four Roses 'Small Batch 2013' (51.4%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 12468 bottles)

Four Roses 'Small Batch 2013' (51.4%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 12468 bottles) Four stars and a half What's written on the back of the bottle is quite cryptic, you need to be Sku or Adam or Cowdery to understand all this: 'OBSV 18 years - OBSK 13 years - OESK 13 years'. What's more, this bottling commemorates Four Roses' 125th anniversary. Colour: pale amber. Nose: aaah! More aromatic again, but not quite like the Blanton’s. I find something both oriental and tropical, with a whole plate of pastries (baklavas, makrouts, angel hair and such), which leads to rosewater, orange blossom and almonds, which in turn leads to… holidays! Ach, no, wait… There’s also some cinchona, tequila, bitter oranges, honeydew, a moderate vanillaness, and just traces of sawdust. With water: more burnt oak, it’s like visiting a cooperage, but all that remains elegant and refined. I like, especialy because there are also notes of dried porcinis and earth. One cigar, perhaps (not Cuban this time, obviously). Mouth (neat): excellent! As always with bourbon, the heavy oak can surprise a Scotch enthusiast, but what’s on top of it is lovely. Soft spices (sweet curry, spicy chutney), one or two violet drops (not Parma violets, mind you), notes of aniseed and caraway… All good, and there isn’t much vanilla, hurray! With water: the tannins do not come to the front, so water works. Makes it more… drinkable, and brings out liquorice. Finish: rather long, with a grassiness. Toffee. The aftertaste is a little bitter. Comments: very high quality bourbon. I was prepared to go as high as 90, but the finish and the aftertaste were a notch too bitter and oaky for me. SGP:461 - 88 points.

Four Roses 'Small Batch 2012' (55.7%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 4062 bottles)

Four Roses 'Small Batch 2012' (55.7%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 4062 bottles) Four stars This time the Da Vinci code reads OBSV-17 years - OBSV 11 years - OBSK 12 years - OESK 12 years. Well, what I understood is that this is 11 years old bourbon. Colour: pale amber. Nose: this one’s oakier, and we’re rather more in the style of the E.H. Taylors. Rather more discreet as well, and as austere as bourbon can be (so not very austere, agreed). I guess water is needed. With water: the 2012 and the 2013 converge. This one’s maybe a little drier again, less aromatic, less floral. Mouth (neat): we’re close to the 2013, obviously, this one’s just a little punchier – yes, higher strength - and a notch more oaky. Drying spices, white pepper and all that. With water: same feeling. Finish: same. Comments: so yes, I liked the 2013 better. None will turn me into a pure bourbon aficionado, but we were probably at the top of modern bourbonity (excuse me?) Unless the other Blanton’s… SGP:361 - 86 points.

Blanton's 'Straight From The Barrel' (65.85%, OB, bourbon, barrel #68, 2012)

Blanton's 'Straight From The Barrel' (65.85%, OB, bourbon, barrel #68, 2012) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: it’s well in the style of the first Blanton, with a huge aromatic side and a feeling of rum, but it’s very powerful and will burn you nostrils as sure as FZ was the best. With water: this is very different from all the others. Very herbal, with a lot of hay, some sandalwood, ideas of a ‘clean cow stable’, even hints of ‘old horse saddle’, cigars, sour wine, cider apples… This came unexpected, really. Behind all that, damp wood and coconut liqueur. Mouth (neat): more or less kirsch with spices and some triple-sec, but it’s all very strong. Aqua please… With water: remains huge, spicy and fruity. Not fresh fruits, rather fermented ones, then a little lavender (drops), quite a lot of cumin, juniper, gin, fennel, liquorice… A very spicy cocktail, with a huge presence. Finish: extremely long even when heavily diluted, gingery, very spicy but, unexpectedly, not on cinnamon/white pepper at all. European oak? That would be impossible, wouldn’t it? Comments: ‘big funny spicy stuff’, we’ll leave it at that. I liked it really a lot but wouldn’t quaff litres of this, it’s rather tiring spirit. SGP:462 - 85 points.

Phew, that was not an easy session (but heartfelt thanks, Steve!)



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Little Buster And The Soul Brothers. Track: Engines And Wings. Please buy Little Buster's music...

May 9, 2014


Young Americans - Part Deux

We’ll choose bigger stuff this time, and hopefully our scores will be higher than 80. Let’s see…

Evan Williams 2003 'Single Barrel'  (43.3%, OB, USA, bourbon, +/-2013)

Evan Williams 2003 'Single Barrel'  (43.3%, OB, USA, bourbon, +/-2013) Three stars This one by Heaven Hill isn’t very expensive for a 10 years old. Colour: full gold. Nose: traditional bourbon, that is to say full of vanilla, syrups (maple and corn, as usual) and milk chocolate, as well as some mild honey and pollen. It’s only in the background that one will find more spices, including touches of rye and ginger. A little sawdust and pencil shavings too, but nothing ‘too much’. Mouth: ultra-classic good quality bourbon, not too oaky, not too sweet, not too syrupy, with some stewed tropical fruits (bananas), then rather a lot of mead and sour apples. Then half a lavender bonbon, ripe gooseberries, maybe peaches and a drop of pepper liqueur, unless that’s rather ginger. I enjoy the fact that it’s not just a bed of… vanilla. Finish: rather long considering the strength, quite nervous, with some rye and some caraway. More chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: I’ve seen that this baby’s much more expensive in Europe, but I think it’s worth it. Good tempo. SGP:441 - 82 points.

Bowman Brothers 'Small Batch' (45%, OB, USA, Virginia straight bourbon, +/-2014)

Bowman Brothers 'Small Batch' (45%, OB, USA, Virginia straight bourbon, +/-2014) Two stars This baby was distilled three times in copper stills, apparently it’s redistilled Buffalo Trace bourbon, or quite possibly new make spirit. Colour: deep gold. Nose: starts a little wishy-washy, with then quite some oak and grains, caramel, ginger and white pepper. I wouldn’t say there’s much happening, but there’s also a little grass and sour apples. Mouth: it’s having trouble after the Evan Williams, but I like the palate rather better than the nose despite some roughish oak and a sourness that does not work too well in my opinion. Cider and mead, cinnamon, then more honey and maple syrup, overripe apples… Finish: of medium length, with even more overripe apples and cinnamon. Comments: I find this rather okay, but we’re a good ten points below the Evan Williams in my little book. SGP:341 - 72 points.

And now, let’s fly from Virginia to Arkansas!

Rock Town 'Arkansas Young Bourbon Whiskey' (46%, OB, USA, +/-2014)

Rock Town 'Arkansas Young Bourbon Whiskey' (46%, OB, USA, +/-2014) Three stars and a half From Arkansas’ first legal distillery since prohibition, located in Little Rock. Reminds me of a band that I used to like when I was a teenager, Black Oak Arkansas. It seems that they’re still around and I’ll add their music to this post, please see and listen below... Colour: deep gold. Nose: reeks of American oak, as expected. It’s not unpleasant, it’s just young and, well, plain oak liqueur. You know, sawdust, pencil shavings, coffee, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, hints of mashed celeriac, porridge, bread, earth and leaves… I have to say I quite enjoy this because beyond the oak, you can feel the grains, they aren’t hidden. Mouth: yeah, sure it’s very oaky, but again, I enjoy these bready notes, the liquorice, even the tarry side (also charcoal? Cigar ashes?) and all the spices. Some kind of very spicy gingerbread. Finish: quite long, sweeter, spicier, on mulled wine and Christmas spice cake (christstollen). Comments: very encouraging, I find this excellent for it’s probable (very) young age. Well done, Arkansas! SGP:451 - 83 points.

And now, off to Illinois…

FEW 'Single Malt' (46.50%, USA, +/-2014)

FEW 'Single Malt' (46.50%, USA, +/-2014) Four stars The FEW craft distillery is located in Evanston, Illinois (which reminds me of Frank Zappa’s Illinois Enema Bandit this time, don’t ask!) and they would distil just anything, as they’re making various gins, bourbon, grappa, rye and malt. It’s the malt that we’ll have today… Colour: gold. Nose: the style is very similar to that of the Rock Town at first nosing, only a little milder and with very, very funny notes of cooked ‘forgotten vegetables’ such as parnsnips and Jerusalem artichokes, and then tinned sardines and anchovies. I’m not making this up! Along all that, some wholemeal bread again, juniper, caraway, cumin, cinnamon… So lots of fun again, and a style that’s rather breadier, drier and grassier than that of the one from Arkansas. Mouth: I-love-this. Serious. There’s more breads than at a breakfast in Vienna or Munich, it’s actually intensely bready and spicy, while the mouth feel is just perfect. Goes on with a few tiny fruits (dried apricots?) and then some peppered chocolate like the Spaniards make. Mexican mole sauce. Finish: long, spicy, very cerealy, very excellent. Comments: a huge surprise. THIS is proof that whisky does not need to be old to be excellent. Doesn’t prove the opposite either, all right. SGP:352 - 86 points.

Rather than ‘regular’ bourbon, maybe we should try another American malt to call this a session. And why not fly back to California?

St. George 'Lot 13' (43%, OB, USA, California, Single Malt Whiskey, +/-2014)

St. George 'Lot 13' (43%, OB, USA, California, Single Malt Whiskey, +/-2014) Three stars I remember we had tasted Lot 3 back in 2009, and although it was young and eau-de-vie-ish, I had already enjoyed it (WF 79). This one is a vatting of various ages, from 4 to 13 years. Colour: straw. Nose: oh, pears, roses and litchis! I’ve never nosed a whisky that was this close to gewürztraminer, even the marc de gewürztraminer we’re distilling ourselves with friends is less gewurztraminery than this. What’s also really striking is that contrarily to most other American whiskeys or whiskies, the oak does not sing the lead here, you don’t even feel it. The freshness is impressive, and the fact that it’s so pure and clean just as well. Now, it’s also a little light, curious about the palate… Mouth: we’re now midway between a bready/oaky/spicy malt with clear notes of beer, and that fruitiness that would add mandarins to the litchis and to the pears. That loses you a bit, we’re navigating between a whisky and an eau-de-vie (or a grappa), but I guess that’s the whole point. Fun stuff again, and I like it. Finish: of medium length, with more oak spices, which is normal. Nutmeg, cinnamon… Comments: seen from here in Europe, well, I tend to like the ‘cowboys’ such as the FEW or the Rock Town a little better than this slightly hybrid spirit, but no doubt it’s great whisky as well. SGP:631 - 81 points.

That was part deux, for part trois we’ll try to taste some more… ‘normal’ bourbon. We’ll see what we can find, sty tuned…



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the Deep Blue Organ Trio. Track: Jesus Children of America. Please visit their website and buy their music...

May 8, 2014


Young Americans – Part Un

Aaaaaaaall night, she wants the young Americans, young Americans, young Americans, she wants the young Americans. Aaaaaaaall right, she wants… Okay, okay, let’s have a few…

Seagram's Seven Crown (40%, OB, American blend, +/-2014)

Seagram's Seven Crown (40%, OB, American blend, +/-2014) This baby used to be a huge seller in the old days (Wikipedia tells us that the brand sold thirty-two million cases in 1970 – while Johnnie Walker sells twenty million cases today). Not too sure about what’s inside, have said that, but it’s meant to be ‘a blend of distinctive character’. Colour: bronze-ish amber. Nose: I find roasted nuts, dry caramel, corn syrup and some kind of rawish alcohol, but it’s not unpleasant, just pretty bland. Mouth: weak and caramely, with virtually no body but no foul tastes either. Touches of roasted nuts and corn syrup again, a little cake, some alcohol… I find this acceptable. Finish: none, which means that there’s no bitterness either. That’s the whole point, I guess. Comments: I could drink this when there’s nothing else around and let’s be honest, it’s probably not meant to be drunken straight. Very average, so… SGP:220 – 50 points.

Early Times (40%, OB, Kentucky whisky, +/-2013)

Early Times (40%, OB, Kentucky whisky, +/-2013) A Brown-Forman brand that's exported as 'bourbon', but sold as 'Kentucky whisky' in the US. Yes, not whiskey with an 'e'. Love this line on the label, 'a taste worth the wait'. Let's not wait any further... Colour: gold. Nose: more happening than in the Seagram’s, with more freshness, yellow flowers, vanilla and maple syrup, then a little chocolate. After twenty seconds, it’s the vanillin that stands out, or rather vanilla sugar. Mouth: light and soft, sweet, rather oaky, probably a little light but not off-putting. Oak and vanilla, touches of sour apples… but all that tends to fade away, leaving only a little bubblegum and two or three tannins. Finish: very short, with touches of cinnamon and ginger. Comments: a very light bourbon-style whisky that calls for ice. I haven’t found many flaws. SGP330 - 65 points.

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel (47%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2013)

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel (47%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2013) Two stars I don’t quite know why owners Brown-Forman call this ‘whiskey’ while their Early Times is ‘whisky’. Is it only a tomatoe-tomatoh case? I don’t quite know either why this is bottled at 47% while other Single Barrels are bottled at 45% vol. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s sweet oak juice at first nosing, then pure maple syrup and warm praline, with just touches of mint that give it some kind of freshness. It’s very simple, and it’s pleasantly harmless. The relatively high alcohol does not feel at all. Mouth: very syrupy, very sweet, with some wood spices in the background. I find strawberry drops, a lot of vanilla, some burnt wood and, of course, maple and corn syrups. It’s the oak that wins eventually, with some drying cinnamon and black tea. Finish: rather short, not too oaky, but you feel the tannins. The syrups are gone, more or less. Comments: I find this baby rather say correct. Not too sure whether other casks will be different or almost identical. SGP:430 - 73 points.

Jack Daniel's 'Master Distiller Series No.1' (43%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2013)

Jack Daniel's 'Master Distiller Series No.1' (43%, OB, Tennessee whiskey, +/-2013) Three stars A limited bottling that pays tribute to Mr Jack Daniel himself. Not the most innovative idea ever if you ask me, but there. And it’s a 1l bottle. Colour: full gold. Nose: a lighter version of the Single Barrel, that’s pretty all. So it’s nice, rounded, soft, easy, with some vanilla, apricot and peach jam, and maple syrup once again. Actually, I find this very sexily gentle, in a way. Mouth: I think I like this better than the SB, for this No.1 is fruitier and more lively. Nice notes of very ripe kiwis and oranges, peaches again, then the oak’s tannins but it all remains soft and rounded. What I also enjoy is the fact that it’s not a ‘vanilla+maple’ bomb. Finish: of medium length, always fruity and soft, with an aftertaste that resist the tannins. Comments: easy and well made. It won’t repulse anyone in my opinion. SGP:530 - 80 points.

St. George 'Breaking & Entering Bourbon' (43%, OB, USA, bourbon, +/-2014)

St. George 'Breaking & Entering Bourbon' (43%, OB, USA, bourbon, +/-2014) Three stars This is sourced bourbon, ‘stolen’ (their words) and blended by St George’s proprietors in Aladema, California. Colour: gold. Nose: a little shier than the last JD, rather less fruity and more on soft spices, cakes, vanilla, pies… For example, I find notes of plum pie with quite a lot of cinnamon, white chocolate, then a little menthol, eucalyptus and camphor, which gives it a funny medicinal side. I also find touches of rye but I guess there isn’t any, is there? Mouth: a notch rawer than the JD, with more tannins and something leafy/tea-ish, but the mouthfeel is pleasant. Touches of rye again, geranium jelly, blood oranges, maybe bay leaves and juniper (just hints)… It’s rather complex, and I like the fact that it isn’t too sweet. Finish: rather long, spicy, with more juniper and caraway in the aftertaste, but it all remains sweet. Comments: I find this very nice. Less ‘easily quaffable’ than the JD, but maybe more interesting. Let’s go for the same score. SGP:441 - 80 points.



Block Today: SOUL BLUES. Performer: Janiva Magness. Track: Slipped, tripped and fell in love. Please visit her website and buy her music...

May 7, 2014


And yet another bag of blends

This time we’ll have them completely at random, for even more fun. Fun for me, that is, so I'll still try to select good ones...

Malcolm III Canmore (55.5%, Mr. Whisky, Queens & Kings, blended malt, 48 bottles)

Malcolm III Canmore (55.5%, Mr. Whisky, Queens & Kings, blended malt, 48 bottles) Four stars Who said ‘small batch’? It seems that artisan blending is having a bright future… Malcolm III ruled Scotland from 1058 to 1093. Canmore means ‘big head’, apparently. Reminds of one or three writers… Colour: gold. Nose: it is a rather earthy, grassy and fruity combo. Say a little Clynelish blended with a few fresh Speysiders, if that rights a bell. Touches of smoke. With water: grass and raw barley come out, as often. Very clean, very ‘Sancerre’ if you’re a wine lover. Mouth (neat): the smoke’s much more apparent, and comes with lemons and green apples. This is quite implacable. With water: perfect. Probably not many different malts, or malts that are quite similar. Some brine and more lemon. Finish: long, zesty, oomphy, very clean. Comments: very Compass-Boxy, which says a lot. Very well done, Mr. Whisky! SGP:355 - 86 points.

The worst scenario ever as far as building line-ups is concerned, I shouldn’t have started with a rather heavy peater. Oh well, let’s just wait a bit…
Zzzz zzz zzz
Good, we’re ready.

Hankey Bannister 12 yo 'Regency' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2103)

Hankey Bannister 12 yo 'Regency' (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013) Three stars and a half We’ve only tried an old NAS and the superb 40yo so far (WF 90). Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh, this is quite lovely! Not big of course, even a little weak, but I really enjoy these fresh hazelnuts, the bitter oranges, the citrons, the whiffs of old pre-iPad library, the praline… A shame that it’s so light, because what’s in there is much to my liking. I even find a slice of smoked salmon. Mouth: no, really, it’s high-quality blend. Excellent mouth feel at 10% vol, very good marmalade and Cointreau, honey, orange blossom water, Turkish pastries, raisins aplenty, cappuccino, maple syrup… An amazing body, you would think this one was bottled at 46% vol. Finish: long, jammy, with sweet spices in the aftertaste. Honey-rich gingerbread. Comments: a big, thick, very honeyed composition. Very well made in my opinion, and quite a surprise. SGP:541 - 83 points.

The Antiquary 21 yo (43%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2103)

The Antiquary 21 yo (43%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013) Four stars This is a blend by the Tomatin people, so we may have to expect a very fruity profile. I’ve already tried an earlier bottling of this baby a few years ago, and quite loved it (WF 85). Colour: gold. Nose: exactly. It’s a very fruity one, without the usual malty/nutty side that is to be found in many a high-end blend, and a very Tomatinesque one indeed (excuse me?) Bananas, oranges, mangos, apples, a faint metallic side, overripe kiwis… Mouth: it is an excellent blend, very fruity, very fresh, complex and, to tell you the truth, ridden with old Tomatin. The malt really stands out. Oranges, overripe apples, papayas, tinned pineapples, a touch of rhubarb… All that with a perfect body. Finish: long, very fruity. Immensely fruity. Comments: the blue bottle is very unlikely, you may have to hide it if you do not want your friends to laugh at you. Oh well, use a decanter! The juice is absolutely excellent, I find it even better than before. SGP:652 - 87 points.

Dewar's 18 yo (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2103)

Dewar's 18 yo (40%, OB, Scotch blend, +/-2013) Two stars and a half This baby's meant to have been 'double aged'. This kind of codswallop may mean just anything, but in this case it means that the final vatting has been further married in wood. Isn’t that how you should always proceed? Colour: gold. Nose: pleasant, but it’s struggling a lot after the much fruitier Antiquary. We’re more on milk chocolate, apple pie, burnt praline and roasted nuts (very obvious), then raisins and marzipan. Quite some burnt wood and wood smoke. Mouth: I find this very good, a little in the middle-of-the-road, perhaps, with honey, chocolate, overripe apples, roasted buts, oak, marmalade… So yeah, good but more commercial than the others, with nothing standing out, while the whole stays pleasant. In short, it’s really ‘a blendy blend’. Finish: medium long. Malt, praline, honey, nuts, apple pie… Comments: prototypical very good quality blend. Very drinkable, very easy, very… Forgot what I wanted to say. Ah, yes, maybe a little forgettable? SGP:441 - 79 points.

And another one at random… eenie meenie miney mo… oh sugar, this wasn’t planned, it’ll be…

Old Rarity (75°proof, OB, Bulloch & Lade, +/-1945)

Old Rarity (75°proof, OB, Bulloch & Lade, +/-1945) Five stars Old Rarity used to be Caol Ila’s blend. This bottle is stunning, and meant to be ‘a grand old liqueur Scotch Whisky’ according to the label. It was bottled ‘by appointment to H.M. King George VI’. Colour: deep gold. Nose: obvious OBE and obvious greatness. A lot of ‘evolved’ peat, that is to say a combination of engine oil with metal polish and old turpentine. Also some tar, some Barbour grease, shoe polish, old cigars in a long-forgotten box, Maggi, old books, camphor… At the fruit department, not much left, except some overripe bananas. Not even sure… A little wet paint, perhaps. Mouth: could have been wrecked, but it’s fabulous. The mouth feel is amazing, so thick, syrupy, even heavy… How is that possible? Some kind of smoked banana juice (and banana juice can be very thick indeed), cough syrup, liquid honeydew, a drop of tar liqueur, old rum, liquorice… Even the distillery’s coastal side remains very obvious. Oh yeah, this is probably almost 100% Caol Ila. Oysters, whelks, clams and all that. Stunning blend, one of the best I’ve ever had, so please call the anti-maltoporn brigade, thank you. Finish: amazingly long, with an incredible body, oily and syrupy, extraordinarily fruity (mangos now!), with a spectacularly resinous aftertaste. Comments: this is a session killer. After this kind of whisky have passed, the followers pass away. Amazing bottle, with a peatiness that remained very vivid. What an utter and complete glory! SGP:465 - 94 points.

Ite Missa est (With hugs to Geert).

More tasting notes Check the index of all blends I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Roy Lee Johnson. Track: When a Guitar Plays the Blues. Please buy his music...

May 6, 2014


Another Mortlach verticale,
for the glory of it

Yeah yeah. I know, we’ve already had a lot of Mortlach lately, but there’s more, much more. Let’s try to build a nice wee verticale, starting with a light old aperitif as we often do…

Mortlach 12 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, +/-1980)

Mortlach 12 yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, +/-1980) Three stars and a halfA well-known, easily ‘findable’ old bottling of Mortlach. Colour: gold. Nose: starts on a meat pie with custard and honey and rather goes on with orange cake, smoked tea, leather, menthol, cigars and more and more ham. Mortlach’s trademark big meatiness and ‘mineral’ sulphur are in full swing here, and this nose is simply wonderful. Mouth: rather wackier, with a little cardboard and strange notes of ‘chemical’ mint (After Eights), but other wise there’s some lovely cake and honey-glazed biscuits. Caramel. Finish: rather long, with some ‘dark’ oak and tea, then more and more parsley and even tarragon. Fun! Comments: incredible body at just 40% vol. As often with these old bottlings, the nose beats the palate fair and square. Lost a lot of points because of the ‘chemical’ mint. SGP:452 - 83 points.

Mortlach 17 yo 1996/2014 (54.6%, Tasting Fellows, barrel, 294 bottles)

Mortlach 17 yo 1996/2014 (54.6%, Tasting Fellows, barrel, 294 bottles) Four stars Colour: light gold. Nose: this one’s got a brighter, fruitier, lighter style, but the fatty meatiness is lingering in the background. Some sweet barley, some vanilla, some grass, hints of cut cactus, then more apples and pears. With water: more of all that plus sweet sunflower oil, but in a way it gets lighter and easier. Mouth (neat): sweet, malty and rather citrusy, all that one a thick layer of vanilla and honey sauce. Bitter oranges, orange drops, pear drops, notes of hops (IPA). Good body. With water: excellent, firm, fruity and malty. Oranges and sweet malt, apple pie, light honey… Very clean and easy for Mortlach. Finish: good length, on pear juice (poiré, so pear cider) and orange cake. Comments: this baby lets the distillate sing. Dangerously drinkable! SGP:551 - 85 points.

Mortlach 18 yo 1996/2014 (51.2%, Sansibar, bourbon, 188 bottles)

Mortlach 18 yo 1996/2014 (51.2%, Sansibar, bourbon, 188 bottles) Four stars Colour: light gold. Nose: this one’s unusual! Starts smoky and tarry, we’re almost nosing lapsang souchong or heavily smoked salmon. And then, gradually, we’re getting closer and closer to the previous one, although this one remains, say, pretty mezcaly. Whiffs of menthol too, it’s really funny! With water: wooosh, all smoky notes went away. Hey?! Mouth (neat): wow! Starts punchy and bizarrely phenolic, with hints of mint and smoked fish again, before it goes back to base, so to speak. Apples, mead, light honey, malt, ale… With water: same phenomenon as with the nose, the smoke went away and leaves us with light honey, apple compote, sweet beer and notes of oranges. Not that we’d complain, it’s all beautiful. Finish: long, clean, sweet, malty and rather honeyed. Apple pies, apple pies and apple pies. Comments: fun Mortlach. What had the bourbon cask previously contained? SGP:553 - 87 points.

Mortlach 1995/2014 (55.8%, Riegger's Selection for Whiskyschiff Luzern, cask #3420, 150 bottles)

Mortlach 1995/2014 (55.8%, Riegger's Selection for Whiskyschiff Luzern, cask #3420, 150 bottles) Four stars The Whiskyschiff (whisky ship) in Lucerne is a great wee festival! It’s not that they ship whisky, it all happens on boats. Colour: light gold. Nose: extremely similar to the first 1996, maybe just a notch fatter and rounder, so more Mortlachy, in a way. Superior quality! With water: same. Cigarette tobacco, oils, pear and apple pies, ale, malt. Mouth (neat): really rich, very malty, with some ale again, bitter oranges, tobacco and liquorice… There’s a slight bitterness (leather) but all remains very fine. Heavy beer. With water: becomes rounder, sweeter and relatively easier. Touches of tar in the background. Finish: long, malty, with some mead and notes of mulled white wine. Comments: so a marginally fatter version of the 1996 by the Tasting Fellows. Same high quality in my opinion, so same score. Yes we’re very single-minded. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Mortlach 23 yo 1990/2013 (46%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection, first filled sherry butt)

Mortlach 23 yo 1990/2013 (46%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection, first filled sherry butt) Colour: gold with bronze hues. Nose: I’m not overly sensitive to the slightest amount of sulphur, and I even find some sulphury profiles really lovely, but this one is just too much on struck matches, I’m sorry. Add to that notes of cooked asparagus, cabbage and leek, and there, you have it. Mouth: works better, but it’s strange. Burnt caramel and overcooked fruits and pie, burnt raisins, something bizarrely mineral and gingery (Schweppes?) In short, not my cup of malt at all. Finish: rather long and relatively nicer, on orange cake. Comments: these things happen with sherry butts. Also a matter of personal limits, I guess. SGP:372 - 49 points.

Mortlach 24 yo 1989/2013 (57.9%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 192 bottles)

Mortlach 24 yo 1989/2013 (57.9%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 192 bottles) Four stars Colour: light gold. Nose: praline this time! It reeks of warm praline at first nosing, milk chocolate, custard, with some pear as well, as well as the Mortlachy meat (steak) and a handful of jelly beans, a combo that may sound bizarre but that isn’t. With water: calms down, becomes fruitier and grassier, with a little earth as well. Apples and sweet barley. Like this a lot now. Mouth (neat): big stuff! Starts a little astringent, malty and fruity, with some grapefruits mixed with eucalyptus syrup and drops of chartreuse. Very unusual, but it works. Bites you, just a little. With water: becomes even more herbaceous, which works very well. Mint, eucalyptus, lime and lemon… Excellent. Finish: long, rather zesty, ‘green’ in a great way. Comments: do not forget to try this restless Mortlach with water! SGP:461 - 87 points.

All right, let’s pull the older ones if you don’t mind…

Mortlach 36 yo 1976/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, lincensed bottling)

Mortlach 36 yo 1976/2012 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, lincensed bottling) Four stars and a half G&M have always been Mortlach specialists and they’ve issued some stunning old ones. Remember the 70 years old? Colour: gold. Nose: not big but complex, very complex. Cigar-complex, I’d say, it’s like nosing a brand new box of Partagas Lusitanias (my references are now outdated, I’ve stopped smoking cigars quite a while ago). Leather, tobacco, cedar wood, aniseed, liquorice, smoked ham, blood oranges, French marigold… Gets drier over time though, with some wood and black tea. Mouth: movingly old-skool, I’d say. A delicately oaky base (chocolate and black tea) with some apples, oranges, chamomile tea, orange blossom, pastries and tobacco again. It’s not big, but it delivers despite its slight drying side. Finish: a little short, with some unexpected notes of ripe strawberries, but the miracle is that it did not get any oakier. So, no drying finish, hurray! Comments: these lovely whiskies can be a little frustrating because of their low strengths, and this one was a little frustrating indeed, but I think quality remains very, very high. Old-fashioned, moi? SGP:441 - 88 points.

And a very last one, because we need one from the 60s, don’t we…

Mortlach 32 yo 1962/1994 (42.8%, Cadenhead, Original Collection)

Mortlach 32 yo 1962/1994 (42.8%, Cadenhead, Original Collection) Four stars and a half As usual with Cadenhead, we’re extremely happy to learn that it was an ‘oak cask’. You never know, could have been sequoia or baobab. Not to mention chestnut of course (not joking here). Colour: gold. Nose: there’s some magic in these old whiskies, magic that’s not easily found in the newer bottlings if you ask me. Magic, in my book, means that you first get a ‘whole’ picture, not just a collection of aromas. And magic goes on when the spirit unfolds and keeps changing for a long time. As I already wrote on numerous occasions, a movie-malt vs a picture-malt. In this case, I’d quote an evolving resinous side (almonds, pinesap, chartreuse, pitch, motor oil) and many soft spices and essential oils such as pine again, benzoin, almond oil… Also wax polish, old wine, rancio for sure, Japanese seaweed, crushed nuts (or halva)… Really, it’s a movie, it’s not easy to describe. Mouth: all right, it’s a little drying and too oaky. Okay, done that, but then, there are lovely notes of citrons, cough syrup (it’s certainly quite medicinal), old liqueurs, drops of the tar liqueurs we had the other day (remember?), then cinnamon, mint lozenges, liquorice, bergamots (earl grey tea), a little lemongrass, a touch of metal, a mushroomy side, some cocoa powder… But really, it’s a global feeling, not just a collection of descriptors. Finish: short and drying, not this baby’s best side, definitely. Comments: imperfect – thus no 90-material – but this old baby tells you many stories. Moving, in several senses of the word. SGP:372 - 89 points.

I’m afraid we found no 90+ today, but we were close! (thanks Angus and Tom!)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Mortlach I've tasted so far



Block Today: FOLK JAZZ. Performer: Erik Friedlander. Track: Low Country Cupola. Please visit his website and buy his music...

May 5, 2014


Three unclassifiable Scottish malts

And fun ones at that, well hopefully. Organic, teaspooned, nameless… But not everything at the same time. Phew… And we'll even have an Alsatian bonus!

Loch Lomond 12 yo 2000 (46%, Dà Mhile, organic single malt, +/-2013)

Loch Lomond 12 yo 2000 (46%, Dà Mhile, organic single malt, +/-2013) Two stars This company also issued a very young organic Springbank quite some years ago, in 1999. I had quite enjoyed the idea and the spirit (WF 80), but Loch Lomond isn’t Springbank, is it? Colour: dark gold. Nose: typical Loch Lomond at first nosing, that is to say porridgy and a little sour/mashy. As yeasty as some ale, but I wouldn’t say it’s feinty whisky. Also metallic touches, but it remains a very barleyish malt, which I quite enjoy. Also custard. The whole is pretty expressive and, indeed ‘natural’, but I doubt that’s the organic side. Or is it? Mouth: rather raw, relatively salty, with flavours of distillation, plum spirit, some vanilla, a little fudge and a little liquorice. Gets rather grassy after a few seconds, and slightly prickly, with also a faint soapiness. Finish: rather long, raw and a little new-maky. Some bitter oak. Comments: no bad juice at all, but I think it’s all rather rough and gritty. Ah, nature! SGP:351 - 75 points.

Burnside 24 yo 1989/2014 (51.7%, Whiskybase, barrel, cask #12452, 207 bottles)

Burnside 24 yo 1989/2014 (51.7%, Whiskybase, barrel, cask #12452, 207 bottles) Four stars This baby was bottled to celebrate Whiskybase’s 50,000th whisky on record. As you know, Burnside is officially teaspooned Balvenie, so legally blended malt. There are rather more new Burnsides than Balvenies these days, by the way… Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes, it’s one of these bright ones, ridden with yellow flowers, apricots, ripe plums and honey, while it gets then rather tarter, on gooseberries and even kiwis, while a layer of butterscotch and fudge that keep it gentle. With water: more flowers, soft new grass, and a little marzipan. Mouth (neat): you cannot be more Balvenie than this. A gigantic apricot pie (please call the Guinness Book). With water: acacia honey, quince jelly, liquorice rolls and plums aplenty. And apricots. Finish: medium length. It’s a little grassier at this stage. Herbs bonbons in the aftertaste, probably from the oak. Comments: I find the ones that are not fully ‘Balvenie’ a little boring, but this one’s pretty perfect in my opinion. SGP:551 - 86 points.

The Nameless One 18 yo 1995/2014 (46.8%, The Whisky Mercenary, Speyside single malt sherry)

The Nameless One 18 yo 1995/2014 (46.8%, The Whisky Mercenary, Speyside single malt sherry) Four stars No, not all unnamed single malts from Speyside are Glenfarclas! Or that would be too easy, as a bottler, you’d just source the cheapest way-below-the-line Speysider, not publish the name et voilà, everybody would think it’s Glenfarclas. Having said that, I’m not saying this one isn’t, I just don’t know. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts with some very peculiar whiffs of tar and pitch plus an apple pie and cherries in eau-de-vie. It’s rather big spirit. Goes on with whiffs of peonies, tinned pineapples and just traces of heavy rum, Caroni-style. Cool! Mouth: rich and rather fat, starting on cherries again, cider apples, guava juice and… well, cherries again. Develops with a more ‘usual’ profile, with raisins and overripe apples, but the cherries I never lost. I love my cherries! Finish: good length, clean, with a little more grass, oak, malt and liquorice, as almost always. And always these lovely cherries. Comments: this baby’s rather ‘different’, in an intriguing and lovely way. But of course, if you don’t like cherries… SGP:651 - 87 points.

And now the Alsatian bonus, hoppla...

Biersky (44.4%, OB, France, Bertrand/Uberach, magnum, 2013)

Biersky (44.4%, OB, France, Bertrand/Uberach, magnum, 2013) Three stars There’s a strange, but interesting idea behind this new spirit, blending Alsatian beer eau-de-vie and Alsatian malt whisky. Colour: straw. Nose: very interesting, it reminds me of Polugar, that excellent potstill vodka. Plenty of barley, malt, porridge and mashed potatoes, which makes it very ‘natural’. We’ve rarely been closer to the cereals, and it’s absolutely not new-maky. Mouth: very nice again! Liquorice drops with a little black pepper, brioche, grass and white pepper at first sipping, before it gets a little more drying. Apple peelings, green tea… Bites you a bit, but it’s not an unpleasant thing. Finish: long, clean, grassy. Maybe a notch bitter and tannic, especially towards the aftertaste, but it all remains very fine. Banana skin. Comments: nice trick! We’re far from the ‘craft’ new-oak-doped baby whiskies, this feels fully natural and unfiddled with. There should be some hops, but I couldn’t quite find it. Must be me. SGP:361 - 81 points.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Lil' Ed Williams and the Blues Imperials. Track: a foot-stomping Icicles in my meatloaf. Please buy Lil' Ed's music...

May 4, 2014


Sunday malternatives, rums at random

We’ll be extra-careful with these rums because we’ll have them more or less at random, which means that a light Cuban may follow a heavy Trinidadian. Oh well, we’ll simply take our time…

Caroni 1999/2014 (61%, The Rum Swedes, Trinidad, bourbon barrel)

Caroni 1999/2014 (61%, The Rum Swedes, Trinidad, bourbon barrel) Four stars and a half The crazy guys at Svenska Eldvatten found another Caroni at (high) cask strength. Boy I hate them! Colour: light gold. Nose: well, it’s perhaps not the heaviest Caroni ever, and maybe these touches of pencil shavings from the bourbon cask are a little superfluous, but all the rest is superb. Diesel oil, green olives, fresh tarmac, sugar cane, light brine, ‘new car’. With water: impeccable! A trip on a fisherman’s old boat. Tar, oil, fish, brine. Four aces and no seasickness. Mouth (neat): perfection. No more plebeian bourbon wood, rather an instant Caroniness, with tar again, salmiak, olive oil, some kind of drier limoncello, an obvious smokiness and just one caper. Actually, you would think this is a cocktail made by the world’s #1 bartender. With water: please call the antirumoporn brigade. No, don’t, I find it a touch too sweet and cologne-y now. Finish: long, nicer when unreduced – but then again, it’s 61% vol… Comments: some parts were stunning, some others a notch less so (for my taste). Loved it though, globally. SGP:652 - 88 points.

Rhum Rhum 'Liberation 2012' (59.8%, Velier, Marie-Galante, 2012)

Rhum Rhum 'Liberation 2012' (59.8%, Velier, Marie-Galante, 2012) Four stars We’ve already tried the reduced version back in January, and found it great at just five years of age (WF 87). Will this full proof version be even more to our liking? These rhums are made at Bielle distillery on Marie-Galante (near Guadeloupe), so the pedigree is just impeccable. Colour: full amber with red hues. Nose: very exotic! Starts on tea, plenty of tea, such as a blend of very old pu-erh with the greatest black Assam. Sounds unlikely? It’s not, believe me. Goes on with honeysuckle, a lot of hay – more hay than in Claude Monet’s best, then peonies and chocolate, touches of raspberry jam and lastly, a lot of verbena. Very unusual, very beautiful. Does all this really come from sugar canes? With water: the oak stands out, with cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger and white pepper. Mouth (neat): the oak’s maybe a tad loud for me indeed, and there’s really a lot of gingerbread and speculoos in the arrival, but it unfolds on more sugar cane, olive brine, lemon juice and green bananas, which works very well. With water: the best part. Lemon juice and olive oil. Finish: long and not too oaky. Perfect spices, though, and a feeling of tinned sardines and orange juice. Serious! Comments: lovely, but I may have enjoyed the reduced version even better. SGP:462 – 86 points.

Bodega Pedro Oliver 12 yo (53.8%, Single Cask Collection, Dominican Republic, solera)

Bodega Pedro Oliver 12 yo (53.8%, Single Cask Collection, Dominican Republic, solera) one star and a half This could be thick and sweetish rum, let’s see. Colour: dark gold. Nose: nothing to do with the Caroni or the Bielle, this is sweeter, rounder and fruitier, more ‘rum’, in a way, with overripe bananas, liquorice and a lot of candy sugar and molasses. Now there is a grassier side, pancake batter, then touches of brine and, indeed, olives. Hurray! With water: it’s the grassy side that comes out, all for the better. Mouth (neat): very sweet, but not exactly cloying. Could have been worse. Sugar, maple syrup, honey, cane sugar, even a little agave syrup, liquorice allsorts, caramel, Grand-Marnier… I’m surprised I quite enjoy this, because it’s not my preferred style at all. With water: too sweet now. Finish: medium length, very sweet, almost sugary. Comments: probably great, it’s simply not my preferred kind of rum. Too sugary and liqueury for me, but it sure had its moments, and I know some rum lovers will, well, love it. SGP:830 - 69 points.

Bodega Pedro Oliver 15 yo (51.9%, Single Cask Collection, Dominican Republic, solera) one star and a half Colour: amber. Nose: there’s rather more oak than in the 12, but also more oils and grassy notes. Curiously, we’re closer to the sugar cane, to the olives and to the hay. Some smoke too. More my kind. With water: some oak coming through, vanilla, cinnamon cake… Mouth (neat): awww, this is very sweet again, liqueury, sugary… Again, I’m sure it’s good, it’s just not my thing. With water: pure oak-aged honey and Cointreau. Hyper-sweet. Finish: medium length. Maple syrup and oak. Comments: I just couldn’t tell you about which I liked best. Again and again, they’re most probably great rums, but they just aren’t malternatives, as I have just discussed with a bunch of skilled Parisian mixologists. It’s not rum for whisky people, it’s rum for rum people. SGP:830 - 69 points.

Panama 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.4%, Riegger’s Selection, 320 bottles)

Panama 10 yo 2003/2013 (54.4%, Riegger’s Selection, 320 bottles) Two stars Wait, Panama, shouldn’t this be sickly sweet again? Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: ah? No, it’s not very dry, but it’s not ‘fat and syrupy’ either, it seems. It’s relatively discreet, rather on hay and oranges, with some maple syrup and touches of crème de menthe. A little curaçao too. With water: gentle, balanced, clean, with nice notes of sugar cane. Mouth (neat): quite big, rather on coconut and oranges at first sips, with some fudge and some gingery oak. Something bittersweet after that, as well as welcomed notes of lime that make it more ‘unsweet’. This lemony side really saves it in my opinion. With water: simple and easy. Sweet but not too sweet. Finish: rather short but balanced. Always quite some sugarcane. Comments: honest and easy rum of good quality in my opinion. Typical 75 points. SGP:630 - 75 points.

While we’re in Panama…

Malecon 25 yo 'Reserva Imperial' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013)

Malecon 25 yo 'Reserva Imperial' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013) Two stars and a half The 12 and the 21 years old did not convince me at all, but maybe this 25 will be more to my liking. Colour: dark amber. Nose: hello? There isn’t much happening in there, although I seem to detect some pleasant notes of walnut wine and brownies. There’s also quite some vanilla, some chocolate, some roasted nuts and drops of orange liqueur. Also herbal teas such as honeysuckle and hawthorn. Light, pretty elegant in fact, whispering… A little feminine, perhaps (apologies to all ladies and girls). Mouth: decent! I had feared a cloying start, it’s rather a light one, not bigger than that of some wine, with an earthy side that I quite enjoy and then herbs, honeys and soft spices. Once again, it’s rather a liqueur than a spirit, but I must say I could sip this when there’s no good whisky around. Very cake-y. Finish: short, pleasantly herbal, with some roasted nuts and quite some tea. Tannins. ‘Ideas’ of ouzo or pastis, which is funny. Comments: by far my favourite Malecon so far. The tannins do it good, I think, they prevent it from being sugary. SGP:550 - 78 points.

And back to the French isles...

La Favorite

La Favorite ‘La Privilège’ (40%, OB, Martinique, rhum agricole, hors d’âge) Four stars The little distillery La Favorite makes only 2500 bottles of this very old rhum agricole per year. It’s a vatting of rare rhums aged 30 to 35 years. Colour: mahogany. Nose: rather hot at first nosing, which is surprising, but also very elegant and complex, delicately grassy as a true agricole should be. Also whiffs of pencil shavings, a little butterscotch and quite a lot of dark chocolate. High-end, definitely, relatively dry and kind of anti-Zacapa. Mouth: really punchy for both its age and its strength, more rustic on the palate, yet stylish. Sugar cane, bitter oranges, grass and herbs, hay, with quite a lot of cane juice left after all these years. We’re extremely far from the rather cloying commercial rums that can be found for the same price (around 200€). Finish: long, perfectly balanced, on melon skin and sugar cane, with a lingering grassiness and even an earthy side, always welcome. Comments: fully authentic, without excessive vanilla or coconut. I like it a lot. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Bielle ‘La Tour de l’Or’ (56.6%, Chantal Comte, rhum agricole, Marie Galante, 1400 bottles, +/-2010)

Bielle ‘La Tour de l’Or’ (56.6%, Chantal Comte, Marie Galante, rhum agricole, 1400 bottles, +/-2010) Three stars Chantal Comte is a small French indie bottler of rum. Sadly, there’s a lot of BS on the back label, but no indication of either age or vintage. But Bielle is good, and this is a cask strength version, aged at the distillery. Colour: amber. Nose: starts rather grassy, also with some banana flambéed and quite some vanilla. Touches of black olives, as often in good agricoles, then boisé, braised chicory and a very pleasant floral side, with jasmine, broom, and a little jaegertee. Hoppla! Mouth: rather nervous, and quite hot. Banana skin, candy sugar, then a lot of liquorice and candy sugar. Also some tar, which makes the whole a little fat. Liquid caramel. Finish: quite a lot of aniseed this time, overripe pears, ginger liqueur and tapenade (olive paste). The liquorice is really huge. Comments: I used to have a bad image of Chantal Comte’s rums (too much trumpeting) but I have to say this little NAS-no-vintage Bielle was much to my liking. SGP:662 - 82 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Rum I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ (well not quite). Performer: the violinist Jerald Daemyon. Track: Kool and the Gang's very hot Summer Madness. Please buy his music...

May 2, 2014


Tasting Brackla almost thirty years apart

It seems that there’s a little more indie Brackla around, but I may be dreaming. In my experience, Brackla’s always interesting and sometimes very estery, especially when it’s young. We won’t have very young ones today, but we may still find ‘naked’ esters, let’s see…

Royal Brackla 16 yo 1997/2014 (56.8%, Adelphi, cask #5564, 268 bottles)

Royal Brackla 16 yo 1997/2014 (56.8%, Adelphi, cask #5564, 268 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: bingo. Litres of eaux-de-vies, especially plums and kirsch, then a raw grassiness and quite some wet chalk and limestone. Also cider apples and touches of baker’s yeast, as well as a little mint. Raw and very naked indeed – so far. With water (the viscimetry is huge!): some oak comes through, a little cardboard, a little earth, mashed potatoes and… not much eau-de-vie anymore. It’s very dry stuff. Mouth (neat): again, plain fruit eaux-de-vie, barley water and grass. Very raw and almost new-maky when unreduced, this is a powerful beast. Maybe touches of bitter oranges as well, even artichokes and green tea tannins. This one bites you and will even take your tongue hostage. With water: same, more or les, just a little smoother and more citrusy. Finish: quite long, a little indistinct, kind of yeasty and always very grassy and leafy. Comments: pure, very austere barley eau-de-vie. Maybe not for the modern drinker? SGP:372 - 79 points.

Royal Brackla 1993/2012 (46%, Montgomerie's, Rare Select, cask #6798)

Royal Brackla 1993/2012 (46%, Montgomerie's, Rare Select, cask #6798) Three stars This one may be easier. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, it’s more or less the same profile, plus touches of varnish and even glue. Having said that, there’s a lot of almond milk and barley water, which I find nice. Earthy, sawdusty and rough and eau-de-vie-ish. Yes we’re still not afraid of any barbarisms. Mouth: ah, I like this better now, the earthiness grew and there are nice notes of roots, gentian, a little humus, all that above a good layer of bitter almonds and green tea. Some white pepper from the oak, cider apples, stems and leaves… And grass. Finish: rather long, peppery and grassy, with touches of chilli in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that’s not very easy, but I do enjoy earthy and rooty whiskies. SGP:361 - 81 points.

Royal Brackla 1976/2006 (59.4%, MacKillop’s Choice, cask #6923)

Royal Brackla 1976/2006 (59.4%, MacKillop’s Choice, cask #6923) Three stars and a half This one could be another grassy monster, but maybe age smoothened it up… Colour: white wine. Nose: oh my, another grassy monster, this time with some tar and rubber instead of glue and varnish. The almonds are back as well, and so is the chalk and the menthol. It’s very straight, pleasantly austere this time, and extremely barleyish. With water: it’s become no less austere, but rather beautifully medicinal. Aspirin and antiseptic, eucalyptus syrup, and then touches of agaves. And some menthol again. Mouth (neat): huge, almost prickly, very lemony this time and massively estery (jellybeans, chewing gum). Plenty of pepper too. Not easy to quaff like that, water is obligatory. With water: a little sweeter, almondy, slightly bitter. The jellybeans have gone. Finish: long, much more on green tea again. A little lemongrass. Comments: I don’t quite know where the medicinal side came from. Maybe an ex-peater cask? That worked, in any case. SGP:462 - 83 points.

Royal Brackla 40 yo 1964/2004 (45.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, 94 bottles)

Royal Brackla 40 yo 1964/2004 (45.9%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, 94 bottles) Four stars I haven’t tried many very old Bracklas, so I’m very curious now. Colour: amber. Nose: wonderful! There’s some varnish again (cellulosic), then old walnuts, overripe apples, polished wood, cigars, old palo cortado and plenty of marmalade. This baby evokes ‘a walk in an old dunnage warehouse’ and it’s all very brilliant, with a wonderful wee mustiness. Mouth: sure the oak’s a little loud and bitter, but there are stunning tropical fruits underneath. I detect mangos, papayas for sure (rather tinned papaya juice), then some barley sugar and touches of sugarcane, before more cinnamon and nutmeg from the oak start to take control. Maybe also passion fruit ice cream? It’s all quite dual, on the one hand it’s rather too oaky, but on the other hand the fruitiness is fabulous. Good mouth feel, good body. Finish: that’s where the wood really takes over – and kills the fruits. That’s nasty! Peppery and very cinnamony aftertaste. Comments: the balance is fragile, but there are stunning fruity afterglows. SGP:561 - 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Royal Brackla I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Lonnie Brooks. Track: Don't take advantage of me . Please visit his website and buy his music...

May 1, 2014


The little sessions, two 1997 Aultmore

This could be interesting, as we’ll first have a ‘full bourbon’ Aultmore, and then one that was finished in fresh American oak. That may underline the effects of new oak… Or not, let’s see…

Aultmore 14 yo 1997/2012 (54.8%, James MacArthur, bourbon wood, cask #3592)

Aultmore 14 yo 1997/2012 (54.8%, James MacArthur, bourbon wood, cask #3592) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a very ‘regular’ barleyish Speysider, with plenty of apple juice, pears, vanilla, orange juice and touches of varnish and bubblegum. Ultraclassic naked youngish Speyside malt whisky. I you like that style, you’ll like this. With water: becomes very fresh and very orchardy. Apple and quince juice! Nothing unusual, but it’s all nice. Mouth (neat): exactly the same as on the nose when neat, bubblegum, pears, pineapples, apples, oranges and vanilla, with a little white pepper and cinnamon, then maple syrup. Sweet and easy, although the oak’s white pepper tends to become a little too big for my taste. With water: barley water and apple juice with a dash of white pepper and maybe hints of dessert grapes. Finish: medium length. Same flavours, with an oak that gets a little louder again towards the aftertaste (cinnamon). Comments: I find this very, very enjoyable, but I might not remember it tomorrow. Ha. SGP:541 - 82 points.

Aultmore 16 yo 1997/2013 (53.5%, Exclusive Casks, fresh American oak finish, 298 bottles)

Aultmore 16 yo 1997/2013 (53.5%, Exclusive Casks, fresh American oak finish, 298 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: it is, indeed, a better polished and rounder version, although there aren’t that many differences. Pears and pineapples, sweet barley, acacia honey, vanilla, hazelnuts, marshmallows and what seems to be a little fresh sawdust, but that part stays relatively elegant. Very easy nose. With water: same whisky as above this time, all on garden fruits. It seems that the oak got tamed. Mouth (neat): this time the oak really feels, and makes this baby a little bitter, gingery and acrid. A lot of cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg. After a few minutes, things rather improve, with more fruits, especially oranges. With water: works better with water, the fruits come out more and the oak’s acridness is backing away. Finish: medium length. Sweet barley , apples and sawdust again, with some capsicum in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s always a little hard not to take a whisky’s pedigree into account when tasting it, in this case you ought to feel new oak. I did. SGP:561 - 79 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Aultmore I've tasted so far


Whiskyfun fav of the month

April 2014

Favourite recent bottling:
Glendronach 20 yo 1992/2013 (51.8%, OB, Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1159, 220 bottles) - WF 92

Favourite older bottling:
Clynelish 1972 (61.5%, Cadenhead for Oddbins, cask #5643, early 1990s) - WF 92

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Moidart 10 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Scotch blended malt, +/-2013)  - WF 87



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April 2014 - part 2 <--- May 2014 - part 1 ---> Current entries



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Ardbeg 'Corryvreckan' (57.1%, OB, +/- 2012)

Ardbeg 30 yo 1973/2003 (51.9%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 94 bottles)

Old Rarity (75°proof, OB, Bulloch & Lade, +/-1945)