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Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2014 - Part 2

May 2014 - part 1 <--- May 2014 - part 2 ---> June 2014 - part 1


May 30, 2014


Glendronach for golfers plus two compadres

You may know that Donald Trump owns a golf resort near Aberdeen and that, incidentally, he isn’t too happy (which makes a lot of people happy) because he just lost a legal action against a windfarm being built near his resort. No, no jokes about hot air! Anyway, two years ago Mr Trump selected one cask of Glendronach to be sold at his resort, let’s try today if you please…

Glendronach 26 yo 1985/2012 'Trump' (53.3%, OB for Trump Golf Links, Pedro Ximenez, cask #1036, 504 bottles)

Glendronach 26 yo 1985/2012 'Trump' (53.3%, OB for Trump Golf Links, Pedro Ximenez, cask #1036, 504 bottles) Three stars and a half That’s right, cough, Donald Trump. Cough. It seems that he did not select the cask himself, as he does not drink. Cough. Colour: amber. Nose: there are wee touches of sulphur and mashed turnips at very first sniffs, quite some struck matches too, but it tends to become more and more ‘all right’, with the expected leather, tobacco, chocolate, raisins and beef jerky. With water: more cigars, and assorted (used) matches. Quite some humus too, musty old cellar, saltpetre… Mouth (neat): well, I have to say I quite like this palate, which is rather unusual. No PX sweetness, rather some game, Spanish ham, bitter oranges, earthy liqueurs, tar, pu-erh tea… But there’s also a strange sourness. Eglantine tea, perhaps? With water: same, not much changes. Finish: rather long, earthy, gamy, leafy, leathery. Comments: very fine, but Donald J. Trump can do better. Well, not too sure ‘bout dat... Anyway, several of these Pedro Ximenez casks are unusually un-sweet in my opinion. SGP:462 - 84 points.

Glendronach 18 yo 1996/2014 (54.1%, OB for The Nectar, Madeira hogsheads, cask #4767)

Glendronach 18 yo 1996/2014 (54.1%, OB for The Nectar, Madeira hogsheads, cask #4767) Four stars As always with new Glendronach, not too sure whether this has been fully matured in Madeira or simply finished. What’s sure is that Madeira isn’t very ‘usual’. Colour: gold. Nose: another world, straighter, sharper, more mineral and more herbal. There are walnuts, sweet mustard, some sour cream, maybe touches of wine vinegar (it’s a little acetic I have to say), then more cigars again, leather, old wood, mushrooms… This is very interesting, I’m really curious about the palate. With water: becomes rather leafy, with also touches of patchouli, then more and more fresh rhubarb. Mouth (neat): this really works. Less leathery and mustardy than expected, and rather more candied, as if this was a rum finish rather than Madeira. So sugar cane, crystallised oranges, a grassiness in the background, some liquorice… I like. With water: same, all good. And the sweet mustard is back, together with a little nutmeg. Finish: long, on tobacco and brown sugar. Bitterish aftertaste. Comments: a very nice, rather unusual combo. Not only for mustard freaks ;-). SGP:461 - 86 points.

How about a sister cask?

Glendronach 18 yo 1996/2014 (55.3%, OB for The Dram Brothers, Madeira hogsheads, cask #4766)

Glendronach 18 yo 1996/2014 (55.3%, OB for The Dram Brothers, Madeira hogsheads, cask #4766) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: we’re obviously very close, but this is more mineral, rather cleaner and grassier, without the slightly acetic/sour notes. Or rather much less of them. On the other hand, there are more walnuts, rocks, dead leaves, green cigars… With water: same, it’s fresher, with also whiffs of fresh mint and other, well, fresh herbs. A clean babe. Mouth (neat): once again, this one’s straighter, and I even find more oranges, kumquats… The oak’s a little bigger too, with some cinnamon, a lot of nutmeg and quite a lot of cardamom. With water: excellent leather, leaf, tobacco and grapefruits. These citrus fruits really lift it. Finish: rather long, unexpectedly zesty. Clean lemony leather, I’d say. Comments: my favourite sister ;-). SGP:551 - 88 points.

(with thanks to Martin)

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



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May 29, 2014


Tasting another three Ardbeg

Holy featherless crow! Every day that God makes I get questions about the latest Ardbeg ‘Bossa Nova’ (that’s the name, right?) So again, no, I haven’t got it and no, I haven’t tried it and no, I have no plans to try it in the near future. And no, I don’t feel the slightest need to taste it. Having said that, if you really need more tasting notes for Ardbeg…

Ardbeg 10 yo (70 Proof, OB, black label/white writing, bottled +/-1974)

Ardbeg 10 yo (70 Proof, OB, black label/white lettering, bottled +/-1974) Five stars A nice aperitif, isn’t it! It’s one of the rarest official Ardbegs (I mean, truly rare), bottled forty years ago. You know, direct firing, own maltings and all that jazz… Colour: straw. Nose: pah-pah-pah-pah, this is old Ardbeg. Frankly, it’s got absolutely nothing to do with modern-days Ardbeg, it’s much fatter spirit, with much more pitch, old tools, hessian, gravel, tarry ropes, ‘old fisherman’s boat’, then bitter almonds, linseed oil, old garage, leatherette, new tyres, fresh walnuts, mezcal, light brine, seawater. And there are fruits as well, although I wouldn’t call this a fruity whisky, with grapefruits, banana skin, mandarins… It’s the kind of fruitiness that’s only to be found in the very old Islayers (esp. Laphroaig, Bowmore and Ardbeg). It’s also an ode to young age – and maybe bottle ageing -, the official Ardbeg 1965 that was distilled around the same years is much weaker if I remember well. Mouth: I do not believe this was bottled at 70 proof, i.e. 40% vol., that’s impossible. Indeed the arrival is sumptuous, immediate, and even big. No, really. Having said that the juice’s now rather less complex than on the nose – the opposite would have been impossible anyway – and rather saltier/brinier than expected. Sardines covered with lemon juice, brine and olive oil. Add a little leather, tar and rubber, then crystallised lemons. Wonderful. Finish: all right, it’s not the longest ever, but this sappy saltiness is just perfect. The tar lingers in the aftertaste. Comments: same very high level as the ‘white label/red lettering’ that used to be bottled just before this one if I’m not mistaken. It’s true that that one was bottled at 80 proof. Goodness! We’re so far from some contemporary Glen Monsantos…SGP:366 - 95 points.

Ardbeg 20 yo 1993/2013 (57.2%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #1751, 249 bottles)

Ardbeg 20 yo 1993/2013 (57.2%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #1751, 249 bottles) Four stars Colour: dark straw. Nose: you might think that it’s unfair to try this one after the old Ten, but what could I do? This one’s almost 50% more powerful! What’s sure is that it’s narrower spirit, we’re not wandering along beaches and old quays this time, it’s actually a sweeter, slightly more medicinal but much less coastal/tarry spirit. It’s easier as well, and perhaps more boring. Oops! With water: water works greatly, and does heal you. Bandages, embrocations, antiseptic, balms… It got more medicinal than the most medicinal Laphroaig. Mouth (neat): big stuff for sure, a little mono-dimensional, perhaps, but it does deliver in its simplicity. Smoked fruits and fish, a little fudge, quite a lot of lemon juice and then more brine. With water: lemon juice with honey, salt and ashes. Finish: quite long, with more honey and fruit syrups. A bitter and ashy smokiness in the aftertaste. Fresh walnuts. Comments: certainly very, very good, but I don’t think there’s much magic in this powerful one, even less so when it’s tasted along the fabulous old official 10 (I know, I know). SGP:557 - 87 points.

Ar4 (58.1%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2014, 50cl)

Ar4 (58.1%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2014, 50cl) Five stars Another, brand new batch from this very secretive series by the good folks at The Whisky Exchange. I haven’t tried Ar3 but Ar1 and Ar2 have been much to my liking (WF 90 for the latter). Colour: gold. Nose: a little too powerful for me, the high alcohol is masking the aromas. I seem to detect fruit skins, having said that. With water: a kind of coastal farminess, I’d say. Hay and seaweed, mud and seashells, mushrooms and old tarry ropes, smokes… I wouldn’t say it’s very complex whisky, but what it does it does with perfection and ease. Mouth (neat): it’s huge, rather creamy and oily, earthy… and very, very strong. I can tell you it’s great, but water is more than needed if you want to come up with better descriptors (S., you sissy!) With water: we’re close to the 1993, it’s just that this one has (even) more stamina, more raw power, and an extra-leafiness that adds a little, say dimension? The mouth feel is also fatter and oilier. You’re almost sipping smoked argan oil. Finish: very long, always very fat and oily, salty, briney, grassy… Not unlike smoked oysters with a little bread and a lot of butter. Comments: a non-whisky friend who tried a young Ardbeg for the first time the other day called it ‘pachydermic’. Well, this baby’s a little pachydermic as well, but that’s part of its undeniable charm. SGP:358 - 90 points.

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



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May 28, 2014


A quartet of youngish Caperdonich

Not that I’m particularly proud of that headline. Now that the ones from the early 1970s are gone gone gone – or so it seems – it’s younger outputs of the closed Caperdonich that are to be tasted. We’ll start with a little aperitif, as we like to do.

Caperdonich 5 yo (40%, OB, Giovinetti, Italy, +/-1972)

Caperdonich 5 yo (40%, OB, Giovinetti, Italy, +/-1972) Four stars This bottle isn’t uncommon but there used to be very few official Caperdonichs. Let’s see if it’s in the same vein as that of the 5yo Glen Grants from the same era. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s very different from the G Grants, it’s much greasier and more mineral, so rather more ‘old Highlands’, with a little peat smoke and certainly a medicinal side that would involve balms and syrups (cough). Also walnut skins. But then again, that could be old bottle effect… Mouth: fat and oily, and light at the same time. There’s a saltiness, grapefruits, smoked herbs, tobacco and more grapefruits, then something slightly metallic and muddy, if I may. OBE again? A little sweet cider too. Finish: rather short but more citrusy, cleaner, fresher. Comments: this baby dates from the times when whisky had to be ‘light’ and ‘pale’. I think they somewhat failed ;-). Maybe that’s why there used to be so few official Caperdonichs. SGP:452 - 85 points.

Caperdonich 18 yo 1995/2014 (48%, Chieftain's, sherry hogshead, cask #95054/95057, 1016 bottles)

Caperdonich 18 yo 1995/2014 (48%, Chieftain's, sherry hogshead, cask #95054/95057, 1016 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a much lighter and fruitier version of Caperdonich, without the lauded honeyed notes that used to be found in the 1970s, but I have to say I enjoy these unexpected notes of agaves, rosemary, walnut wine and sweet mustard. Other than that, we have an apple pie and a little Virginia tobacco. Touches of mustard. I quite like. Mouth: this works! It’s both oily and citrusy, a profile that always works on my palate. Lemons, tonic water and honey, in appropriate proportions, then some peat coming through, a pinch of chilli powder and a little orange squash. The whole is very lively. Finish: quite long a pretty mustardy and peppery, not unlike some Banffs used to be. Some peat lingering. Comments: I’m not 100% sure whether it’s straight peat or if it’s just the spicy side that hints at peat, but I think this is a lovely ‘strong’ Caperdonich. SGP:462 - 85 points.

Caperdonich 22 yo 1991/2013 (49.7%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 299 bottles)

Caperdonich 22 yo 1991/2013 (49.7%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 299 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s funny that we would be much closer to the old Five than to the 1995. It’s relatively sooty for starters, although it tends to become fruitier over time, with this well-known feeling of ‘having just opened a large pack of marshmallows’. Also a little praline and white chocolate. Mouth: perfect zesty and even very lemony arrival, perfect zing, perfect oomph, well all this is unexpectedly clean, tense and chiselled. In the background, drops of pineapple liqueur. Very stylish and pretty, well, uncluttered. Finish: long, ultra-clean, although we’re on the sweeter side. Comments: if you like them zesty and ultra-clean… SGP:541 - 88 points.

Caperdonich 14 yo 1998/2012 (46%, Coopers Choice, heavily peated, hogshead, 360 bottles)

Caperdonich 14 yo 1998/2012 (46%, Coopers Choice, heavily peated, hogshead, 360 bottles) Three stars From these notorious heavily peated batches. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: wah! The peat smoke is huge, actually we’ve only got peat smoke here. Smells just like a working kiln. Peated barley, peat smoke, smoked barley, peated barley and peated smoke. Wait, that doesn’t make any sense… Mouth: more like it! There’s some lemon this time, a little aniseed and dill, a feeling of smoked limoncello, or even smoked pineapple liqueur, raw peated malt… It’s all remaining rather monodimensional, but if you lile peat… Finish: rather long, ashy, a little sweeter this time. Comments: it’s certainly very good peated whisky, but I feel there’s one dimension missing. Whether coastal, or medicinal, or earthy/muddy, or farmy… In short, one of the simplest peaters I could recently taste, but I still like it. SGP437 - 80 points.

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



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May 27, 2014


A pair of old Linkwood

The excellent Samaroli people are pushing the design of their new bottles to the loveliest, those are now representing exactly the opposite of what’s done over there in Scotland. Not saying Scottish bottle design is lousy, of course, it’s just a little more… Say bling? But will this Linkwood’s verbiage match its plumage? Let’s see…

Linkwood 30 yo 1983/2013 'Over the Border' (46%, Samaroli, cask #5709)

Linkwood 30 yo 1983/2013 'Over the Border' (46%, Samaroli, cask #5709) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: pure! It’s the kind of lovely nose you may get from an x-fill cask, provided you’ve given it enough time. The whisky’s become very complex, void of any big/bold (read dominant) aromas, on many soft fruits and many flowers and herbs. I find whiffs of old roses that I could find in other old Linkwoods in the past, a little patchouli, hay, chamomile, cider apples, fresh mint, wormwood, maybe fennel, some very soft vanilla, wee touches of old style perfume (Jean Patou-style), then more complex teas, white needles, wulongs and such. Brilliant, but it needs you attention. Mouth: as delicate as an old chenin from Loire, really. Some pineapple but not too much, some light honey, tangerines, a soft spiciness, then more herbs around chives and parsley (perhaps), not-too-ripe gooseberries and plums, lemon curd… It’s all a little more immediate than on the nose, but it remains subtle. Finish: longer than expected, and more citrusy than expected. Loses just a little stamina here. Comments: very lovely, a tad feminine, perhaps, although I’m sure women wouldn’t agree. The finish was a little less thrilling, hence a slightly lower score. SGP:541 - 89 points.

Linkwood 36 yo 1973/2010 (49.9%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles)

Linkwood 36 yo 1973/2010 (49.9%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 228 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a bigger Linkwood, maybe a notch less complex and a tad more immediate, sexier, fruitier, more aromatic, more honeyed. We’re well in line with other fruity wonders that were distilled around 1972, especially Caperdonichs and Clynelishes, although this is lighter than Clynelish. Lovely notes of pinesap as well. I cannot see who wouldn’t fall in love with this nose. Mouth: I find very discreet touches of soap in the arrival, but after that all becomes better and better, with citrons, oranges, orange blossom water, cakes, more lemon, crystallised tangerines… and all that. An impressive freshness at 36 years of age. Finish: not very long, but rather citrusy. Marmalade. Comments: different old Linkwoods, but a very similar quality, that is to say a very high one. SGP:651 - 88 points.

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



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May 26, 2014


Tasting three new Imperial

Imperial, another name that’s pretty much revived now that the original distillery’s been destroyed. There’ve been some great ones in the last couple of years.

Imperial 18 yo 1995/2014 (51.9%, Signatory Vintage, hogsheads, casks #50143+50144, 573 bottles)

Imperial 18 yo 1995/2014 (51.9%, Signatory Vintage, hogsheads, casks #50143+50144, 573 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: of this is rather unusual, with a fino-ish character at first nosing, with even notes of bone dry manzanilla, vin jaune, walnuts, mustard, leaves and earth… There’s also an even more unusual smokiness that really hints at artisan mezcal. I’m dead serious! It’s only after a good three minutes that more sweet garden fruits as well as some vanilla are coming through, making this baby a little more, say regular. With water: becomes musty and kind of acetic, which is fun. Wine vinegar – well, drops. And I wouldn’t quote gym socks, but… But all that tends to go away, which is cool. Some things happening in this Imperial. Mouth (neat): it’s funny how the mustardy side remained there, while many more zesty and even acidic fruits are lifting it. Grapefruits, rhubarb, kiwis… This is fun! With water: drier, earthier. And much less fruity. Finish: good length. Lemons, wax and drops of seawater. Comments: a very active whisky, with lots of character. Tells you stories, even dirty ones. SGP:552 - 88 points.

Imperial 17 yo 1995/2013 (55%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Whisky.com.tw, cask #50347)

Imperial 17 yo 1995/2013 (55%, Berry Bros & Rudd for Whisky.com.tw, cask #50347) Four stars From more or less the same stock as that of Signatory, according to the cask numbers. Colour: white wine. Nose: less aromatic oak and herbs, more straight fruits, porridge and a combination of aniseed and mint. Some custard too, warm croissants… So yes, it’s rather more ‘usual’ so far. With water: becomes sootier, unlike the above sister casks. Slightly dirty (old basement). Mouth (neat): almost the same citric explosion as in the Signatory, but this time the cask seems to be more talkative, which is a little strange given the lighter colour. You know, colours… There’s also quite some lime mixed with strong green tea and white pepper. With water: same as above. Cactus juice, vegetables, earth. Fun stuff. Finish: medium length. Rather sooty/earthy/mustardy. Comments: another excellent one in my book. Utterly un-modern. SGP:452 - 87 points.

Imperial 23 yo 1990/2014 (55.7%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, bourbon, cask #1360161, 354 bottles)

Imperial 23 yo 1990/2014 (55.7%, Jack Wiebers, Old Train Line, bourbon, cask #1360161, 354 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: this time it’s rather the wood’s chocolaty side that’s talking first, then we have notes of tapioca, one or three dried mushrooms (porcinis), some tobacco and cinnamon and just touches of tar and liquorice. Then a little yeasty beer, so ale and even drops of stout. It’s a big one! With water: love this. Old vin jaune! Mouth (neat): oh lovely. Rich yet nervous, candied, citrusy, with these notes of tobacco again, lemon liqueur, almond oil, mint lozenges… and a lot of liquorice. Very concentrated. With water: once again, it becomes drier, even a little acrid, but I like that. Powdered porcinis and leather. Finish: quite long and extremely manzanilla-ish, with this saltiness, the walnuts, apple peelings… Comments: I’m really very fond of this very dry style. SGP:352 - 89 points.

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



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May 25, 2014


The Sunday quest for malternatives,
more rums at random

Today we’re pursuing our quest for malternatives within the rums and rhums and rons. What I’ve learnt so far is that the very sweets rums that often contain the added equivalent of 10 to 20 sugar cubes per litre of spirit are absolutely not to my liking. Let’s hope we won’t find too many of them today…

XM 12 yo 'Special' (40%, OB, Guyana, +/-2013)

XM 12 yo 'Special' (40%, OB, Guyana, +/-2013) Two stars This is a brand by Demerara Distillers, so probably akin to El Dorado. Let's hope it's not too sweet... Colour: amber. Nose: light and relatively floral and vegetal, which, I find, is good news. Orange blossom, banana skin, then a little liquorice and more and more toffee and coffee. Gets bigger, rounder, more aromatic. Not unpleasant, rather easy but not dull. Mouth: no, I find this too sweet and liqueury, on coffee liqueur and molasses, but there are touches of olive-y and tarry Demerara in the background, as well as a little pepper and cloves. More chocolate sauce after a few seconds. Finish: pretty long but rather too much on coffee liqueur. Tia Maria. Comments: I find this rather okay of you like sweet rum, because there isn’t only a massive sweetness. Not really my kind, though. Malternative? I say no. SGP:741 - around 76 points.

Puntacana 'XOX 50 Anniversario' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Puntacana 'XOX 50 Anniversario' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013) Two stars This rather expensive one (around 70 €) was partly matured in Port wood from the house Graham's. Colour: full amber. Nose: smells sweet and syrupy, but it’s kind of fresh at the same time. Rather richer than the XM, with bananas flambéed, Cointreau and bags of raisins as well as some caramel and molasses. In short, ultra-classic sweetish rum. Mouth: rather thick, very liqueury, very syrupy, almost sticky. And yet, I find it relatively good, despite the fact that it’s very molassy. Some maple syrup, more Cointreau, a little burnt caramel and liquorice… But it calls for ice because of all this sugar that sticks to your tongue. Finish: rather short, sugary, caramely. Comments: I find it okay but once again, it’s not my style. Malternative? Nope. SGP:720 - around 75 points.

Gosling's Family Reserve (40%, OB, Bermuda, +/-2013)

Gosling's Family Reserve (40%, OB, Bermuda, +/-2013) Three stars A pretty premium version of Gosling’s (+/-55 €). I did find Gosling’s Gold rather okay (WF 75) and the very strong Black Seal at 75.5% vol. very… excessive (WF 65). Colour: reddish coffee. Nose: starts pleasantly dry, with a lot of roasted coffee beans and then touches of earth and even a little hessian, clay, wood smoke... And mint. Even whiffs of camphor. All that is good news, it seems that this is complex rum, probably rather old. Mouth: interesting. A little weak, perhaps, but there really is a lot of coffee, dark chocolate, some black tea, and then a herbal side that’s really pleasant. Mint, eucalyptus syrup, resins… There’s also more and more tar, and it reminds me of the tar liqueurs we tried a few weeks ago. Finish: long, a little oaky, dry despite the syrupy/herbal side (Bénédictine). Comments: it’s not quite my style again but it’s complex and intriguing. Malternative? Almost. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Centenario 20 yo 'Fundacion XX' (40%, OB, Costa Rica, +/-2013)

Centenario 20 yo 'Fundacion XX' (40%, OB, Costa Rica, +/-2013) Two stars The 12 yo 'Gran Legado' was really too sweet for me (WF 70). This older one is relatively expensive (+/-70 €). Colour: amber. Nose: suffers a lot after the Gosling, smells like pure corn syrup at first nosing, sugar syrup, molasses, hints of rose and litchi liqueurs… The notes of pure sugar never go away, that’s embarrassing. Mouth: oh my! It’s extremely sugary indeed, thick, syrupy… Some burnt caramel, a little chocolate, nicer notes of heavy honey, raisins… In the background, more dry tannins (ground coffee beans). Finish: rather short, but drier, which is nicer in my book. Comments: very sweet, not my thing at all, but I guess lovers of sweet rum will enjoy it. Same score as the 12. Malternative? No no no. SGP:830 - 70 points.

Coruba 25 yo (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013)

Coruba 25 yo (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013) Four stars It seems that his baby is bottled by a Swiss company and although prices vary a lot, you ca easily find it for around 80 €. I really enjoyed many Jamaicans, so we’re expecting ‘something’ now. Colour: gold (hurray!) Nose: oh yes this is something else. Grassier, much more complex than all the others, with olives, capers, even green peppercorns, then molasses and tar, tapenade (olive purée), a very pleasant mustiness, and even notes of hops. I like it quite a lot. Mouth: ah yes, I had feared this would be more ‘commercial’, it’s not. Very ‘Jamaica’, very ‘dunder’, with this superb dirtiness, olives, tar, stout, coffee, prunes, liquorice… All is superb, only the low strength makes it a notch flat after twenty seconds in your mouth. Finish: not too long but now we find brine and even plain salt. Lovely. Comments: this, at cask strength! My! It’s very ‘Hampden’. Malternative? Sure! SGP:462 - around 86 points.

While we were speaking of Hampden Distillery…

Hampden 20 yo 1993/2013 (50%, Silver Seal, Jamaica, 295 bottles)

Hampden 20 yo 1993/2013 (50%, Silver Seal, Jamaica, 295 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark straw (hurray again!) Nose: e.x.c.e.p.t.i.o.n.a.l. An amazing blend of Demerara sugar (I know we’re in Jamaica) with black and green olives, their brine, tar, pitch, seawater and leather. Also a little damp earth, gravel, plain mud… When muddiness is an asset! Mouth: amazing, maybe a notch less earthy/grassy than other Hampdens, hence a little more sugary/syrupy, but everything is absolutely perfect, with a mixture of salty/tarry elements with overripe fruits of all kinds, bananas, mangos, even pears… Plus, the strength is perfect. Love this. Finish: very long, salty, with more liquorice, and even smoked fish. Jamaican kippers and anchovies? Comments: a glorious Jamaican, exactly my preferred kind of rum. Malternative? You bet! SGP:562 - 90 points.

Which rum could ‘climb over’ such a Hampden? Caroni, the best grassy Demerara and maybe some Bellevue and Bielle in Guadeloupe. Well, that’s my opinion. Let’s try Bellevue…

Bellevue 1998/2013 (45%, Samaroli, Guadeloupe, cask #28.1, 198 bottles)

Bellevue 1998/2013 (45%, Samaroli, Guadeloupe, cask #28.1, 198 bottles) Four stars We’ve already seen quite a few fine Bellevues since two or three years. Colour: deep gold. Nose: we’re actually half-way between a heavy Jamaican and a typical rhum agricole from the French isles. In truth there’s a bit of both worlds, with some brine, olives, tarmac and smoke, and on the other side, cane juice, tiaré flowers (monoï), and very ripe pineapples and bananas. It’s very complex and surprisingly delicate. Mouth: no, Bellevue is big stuff and this one’s no exception. Perfect ‘agricole’ style, tarry, slightly perfumy (touches of lavender – but no soap), grassy and, above all, not sugary. Quite some menthol too. Finish: rather long, with more liquorice, as often. Salmiak. Comments: a gentler, more civilised, less wham-bam version of the Hampden. I like it almost as much. Malternative? Yes! SGP:651 - 87 points.

And Caroni, he said…

Caroni 20 yo 1992/2012 (55%, Velier, Trinidad, 14 barrels, 3977 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 1992/2012 (55%, Velier, Trinidad, 14 barrels, 3977 bottles) Four stars I’ve tried a few other 1992s by Velier, loved them all. Colour: dark amber. Nose: a rather civilised Caroni, less phenolic than others, relatively rounder, with touches of oak, ylang-ylang, vanilla, gingerbread, speculoos and oriental pastries. With water: oh lovely! Not that it got any more phenolic or tarry, but I find verbena and wormwood, spearmint, roses, a little mango juice… Mouth (neat): ah yes, the phenolic side is back. Bags of strong liquorice, bee’s propolis, ultra-strong chocolate (90%), espresso and wood tannins. With water: the tannins grow, but that’s surprisingly pleasant… Finish: very long, all on salted liquorice. Comments: this one was funnily dichotomical when unreduced. Great stuff anyway – as expected. Malternative? Yes! SGP:572 - 87 points.

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



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May 23, 2014


A superb old Tomintoul and compadres

There’s an old official Tomintoul that’s relatively recent, a 1977 that should be good. Let’s try it, and then we may add one or two independent versions for good measure. But first, a little aperitif…

Tomintoul 11 yo 2001/2013 (53.9%, Whisky Spirits, Whisky Seasons)

Tomintoul 11 yo 2001/2013 (53.9%, Whisky Spirits, Whisky Seasons) Three stars and a half The colour’s very light, this youngster should display much distillery character. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: it’s more or less new make, but I’m more and more fond of these genuine notes of malted barley, sour dough, porridge, lemons and apples while so many brands are betting on heavy American oak and its corollaries coconut and vanilla these days. So, like as Zuck would say, even if there’s nothing to write home about. With water: a clean farmyard, hay, grains, a pile of apples… Mouth (neat): as a youthful Middle-Scot, it’s perfect. Cherries, apples, drops of plum spirit, ale, oranges… What’s not like? And it’s got a nice body – a little hot I have to say. With water: more sweet barley goodness. Finish: not very long, but clean, sweet, fruity and barleyish. Comments: are cherries one of Tomintoul’s markers? Or was it just the yeast? Anyway, this is what I call a loyal and honest malt whisky. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Tomintoul 1977/2013 (54.9%, OB, sherry, cask #3691, 312 bottles)

Tomintoul 1977/2013 (54.9%, OB, sherry, cask #3691, 312 bottles) Five stars There was an official 1976 a few years ago that wasn’t too great because of a very low strength. This should be different… Colour: amber. Nose: oh! This baby starts very humidory (pfff…), with a lot of cedar wood, cigars, cocoa powder, touches of cloves, walnuts, cinnamon… It’s a superb oakiness – oak can be great when it’s perfect. The notes of unlit cigars never stops growing, which is even more perfect. Great! With water: swims like a champ. Grows more complex, even fuller, with touches of Cointreau, banana skin, more cigars, various cakes, gingerbread and such. Balance is perfect. There’s something that makes me think of the great Glenglassaughs 1972 that recently came out. Mouth (neat): thick, oily and very spicy, hinting at great quality European oak. Some ginger, cloves again, nutmeg, cardamom, all that around cigars again, dried fruits (but it isn’t fruitcake)y as such), some kind of very sweet curry… I really find this superb. Walnut wine, black tea, chestnut honey… and other beautifully tannic things. With water: once again, it takes water very well, with the lovely sweet spices stepping to the front. Finish: a medium length, with spicy cakes, cinnamon rolls and orange liqueurs. Also a little toffee. Works very well. Comments: a very, very great sherry cask, for a bigger whisky than other old Tomintouls I could taste. SGP:561 - 91 points.

Tomintoul 43 yo 1969/2012 (42.7%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon hogshead)

Tomintoul 43 yo 1969/2012 (42.7%, The Whisky Cask, bourbon hogshead) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this is obviously more fragile, with more overripe fruits and light honey than in the OB, and maybe more aromatic herbs as well. Actually, it’s quite fit for its age, and I like these notes of peaches, peppermint, apricots, pollen, mint-flavoured tea Moroccan-style. There’s even touches of oriental pastries! Now, in my experience, these old Tomintouls can be a little weaker on our palates, let’s see… Mouth: indeed, this oldie’s really more fragile now, although it’s not overoaky. I find herbal teas such as chamomile, more apple juice, a little cinnamon, maybe ripe melons (just a thin slice), plums… But all that whispers a bit. Nice oranges, though. Also pineapples. In fact, I like it, it just needs time as it’s no instant hitter. Finish: a little short, but it’s clean and rather more honeyed. Comments: a light, but finally not too tired very old Tomintoul. Some would call it ‘contemplative’. SGP:641 - 87 points.

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



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May 22, 2014


Tasting new Lochside and obscure guests

Well, I had thought we’d never see a new Lochside again, so WF’s Lochside compartment has been completely emptied quite some weeks ago. And just a few days ago, in Limburg, bingo, a new Lochside by Malts of Scotland! The problem is that we haven’t got any worthy sparring partner left, not even a Lochside blend. What should we do? Because we need to compare our drams, as you may know… Oh, but maybe I’ve got an idea, using an old name from Lochside’s immediate neighbourhood. A distillery that we haven’t seen as a ‘new’ expression since ages and ages: North Port! But first, the new Lochside…

Lochside 32 yo 1982/2014 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, cask #MoS 14019, 39 halves)

Lochside 32 yo 1982/2014 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, cask #MoS 14019, 39 halves) Five stars Thirty-nine halves, that’s really micro. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s un-Lochside in my opinion. Nothing serious but we’re not experiencing a fruity explosion, an invasion of passion fruits or a burst of tangerines. It’s rather burnt grass that comes through, rubber bands, pencil shavings, ultra-strong kirsch… It seems that this baby’s locked, so what shall we do? Wait for a few hours or just add water right away? Oh well, I do seem to detect a very zesty fruitiness deep inside, let’s add water. With water: that worked. Pink grapefruits, passion fruits, mangos and lemons, that’s Lochside… Maybe half a cooked asparagus. Mouth (neat): oh no! I mean, yes! The nose was closed when unreduced, but the palate is wide open. And here goes, oranges, passion fruits, mangos, pink grapefruits, guavas (very vivid), all that with a little vanilla fudge and lemon curd, as well as lemon grass and coriander. There is a little oak as well, but it keeps very quiet. Thank you. With water: more of all that. A fruit salad, with a little hawthorn tea in the background. No oak at all anymore. Finish: long, ultra-zesty and tropical. Comments: a bit different from the wonderful and well-known 1981s. I think it’s the first time I’ve tried – or even seen – a 1982 Lochside. Super great stuff anyway, even if the taster has to do a bit of work. Ha, pipettes! SGP:741 (with water) - 91 points.

North Port Brechin 26 yo 1975/2001 (55.6%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, cask #2960, 211 bottles)

North Port Brechin 26 yo 1975/2001 (55.6%, Signatory Vintage, Silent Stills, cask #2960, 211 bottles) Three stars Yes North Port used to be called North Port Brechin or North Port (Brechin). Or sometimes North Port-Brechin. Nobody’s talking about North Port anymore, let’s put that straight! Colour: straw. Nose: old Highlands, of the burnt-wood kind. Was that a regional style? Some burning grass again, gravel and dust, soot, coal, damp clothes and raw wool, aspirin tablets, old cellar, fresh concrete… Also rainwater, then more burnt grass and leaves… So a very austere nose, nowhere else to be found these days. This is not tasting, it’s whisky archaelogy. With water: harder. Cardboard and grass, no fruitiness at all. Mouth (neat): indeed, archaeology. I do not know of any active distillery, whether in Scotland or in Outer Mongolia, that’s producing something even remotely akin to this. It’s acrid and ultra-lemony at the same time, sometimes bitter, grassy, with also vegetables (artichokes?), more lemon, lime, citrons… Big big stuff, uncompromising as some used to say. How many uncompromising distilleries are still working in Scotland? With water: cardboard and lemon, a funny combination. Finish: rather long, but the cardboard wins the fight. Comments: un-boringly weird. It’s been hard not to use the word ‘umami’. SGP:462 - 82 points.

Are you game for more North Port?

North Port (Brechin) 14yo 1974/1989 'Very Rare' (43%, Sestante Import, 75cl)

North Port (Brechin) 14yo 1974/1989 'Very Rare' (43%, Sestante Import, 75cl) Five stars Let’s be careful because of the lower strength. I hadn’t planned to try these other North Ports. I’ve already tasted the CS version of this baby, which was bottled at a whopping 66.1% vol. Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s civilised. It’s got honey, it’s got overripe apples, it’s got orange cake and it’s got only touches of sooty/smoky minerality. Also plums, around ripe greengages, and a very discreet rubber mixed with a little green tea and maybe cherry leaf tea. After five minutes, more and more tobacco is coming through, which is more than perfect. Just rolled Habano. In truth, it is an impressive nose, very complex. Mouth: this is absolutely excellent. Very complex, with cigars again, all kinds of nuts including roasted pecan, honeydew, a drop of lemon liqueur, squeezed oranges, a little tar, chocolate, cough lozenges, angelica… And the body’s just perfect, full and even thickish, with a surprisingly oily mouthfeel. Forgot to mention a few oils, especially argan. Top class. Finish: very long, fat, oily, slightly smoky, herbal, hinting at the grandest old herbal liqueurs. Comments: it’s actually not a surprise, most seasoned connoisseurs know this bottle very well. But there, another utter glory from the past! SGP:462 - 92 points.

Yes we want more North Port…

North Port (Brechin) 1977/2001 (57%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 294 bottles)

North Port (Brechin) 1977/2001 (57%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 294 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: ah. We’re obviously closer to the Silent Stills version, with grasses, vegetables and herbs coming through at first nosing, then a little porridge, raw wool, soaked barley, coal smoke, a little cardboard, gravel, chalk… So it’s as unsexy as malt whisky can be, but water could do the trick (not that I do not enjoy unsexiness in my whisky). Cider apples. With water: gets rounder, but a little duller as well. Apple juice, syrups… Mouth (neat): the opposite of the nose when unreduced. Rounder, fruitier, even honeyed, and even a little bubblegumy at times, in short much more approachable. There’s even banana jelly. Having said that, the herbs and grasses keep roaring in the background. This is a Highlander! With water: becomes a little unlikely, with a dirtiness that’s not very clean (how clever, S.!) Porridge, dust and old papers. Finish: not the longest. Grass, supermarket apple juice (you know, 75g of added sugar per litre), but also nice honey and agave syrup. Comments: it is unlikely at times, but it’s got a soul. A soul that so many new Scotches have lost. Oh forget about that… SGP:551 – 83 points.

Let’s have a very last one before nostalgia really starts to strike us…

North Port 1980/2004 (58%, Scott's Selection)

North Port 1980/2004 (58%, Scott's Selection) Two starsColour: straw. Nose: this one’s very mineral, eminently austere, totally unsexy and… very malty. Also some paraffin, some grass, waxed papers, zests, rocks, soot, coal, newspapers of the day, more grass, concentrated lemon juice… There’s even a strange feeling of raw meat, I’d say beef carpaccio (with lemon and olive oil). Not an easy one for sure. With water: a meadow, sheep, mashed potatoes, dough, porridge… Organic, in a way. Mouth (neat): yeah well, it’s pure sweet and grassy malted barley, without any idiosyncrasies (what?) Some lemon as well. I’m sure water will work… With water: I was partially wrong. Water makes it softer and rounder, and even brings out grapefruits and a little honey, but there aren’t any other asperities, as marketers would say. Finish: medium length, on malt whisky (no kidding?!) Comments: average malt whisky of more than acceptable quality, but without any distinctive flavours. In short, this one was rather boring. SGP:441 - 75 points.

That’s enough, session over.

(with heartfelt thanks to the one and only Bert V.)



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May 21, 2014


A trio of brand new indie Dalmore

Always a thrill to be able to try Dalmore’s usually magnificent spirit au naturel, without too much cabernety and/or Byassian (not Don, Gonzalez) influence. Without caramel too.

Dalmore 17 yo 1996/2014 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL10206, 139 bottles)

Dalmore 17 yo 1996/2014 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL10206, 139 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine (yeah!) Nose: well, this could have been distilled yesterday. Okay, five years ago. A blend of apple juice, barley water, pear juice, ale and one or two squeezed oranges, with just a little custard to tie everything up. There’s also a little waxy rubber, unless that would rather be rubbery wax, but that’s all an asset in this youthful context. A little fudge arising as well after five minutes. Werther’s. Mouth: oh lovely! It’s a tight and dense Dalmore, fruity and waxy, with plenty of marmalade, marzipan, barley syrup, a drop of sunflower oil… Is that all the stills’ flat tops? Perfect body. Finish: quite long, on marmalade and a little gingerbread. Comments: a muscular naked Dalmore (ahem). SGP:552 – 87 points.

Dalmore 17 yo 1996/2014 (53.5%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, sherry finish)

Dalmore 17 yo 1996/2014 (53.5%, Single Cask Collection, bourbon hogshead, sherry finish) Four stars and a halfColour: straw. Nose: a bigger, slightly less bearish and rather more waxy version. It’s a little more complex as well, with herbs and grasses, fruit peelings and zests, teas… While as expected with Dalmore, oranges are playing first trumpets. With water: perfect. The DL minus the fudge. Mouth (neat): it’s the same whisky as the DL’s, just stronger, which doesn’t make much difference since it’s a big phat spirit. What’s not to love? With water: one word, fullness. Oh and oranges. Finish: same, for a long time. Comments: I think the sherry finish was hardly noticeable. We won’t complain at WF Towers. Anyway, further proof that Dalmore can be a true Highlander, rather than a ‘Speysider de salon’. Just try making sense of that. SGP:552 - 88 points.

Dalmore 37 yo 1976/2014 (46.2%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, butt, 150 bottles)

Dalmore 37 yo 1976/2014 (46.2%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, butt, 150 bottles) Four stars and a half Launching a 36 yo Dalmore au naturel for a fair price is quite a coup methinks. Unless the whisky’s tired… Let’s see. Colour: straw (hurray!) Nose: it’s one of those very rare whiskies that are full of oak and yet pretty magnificent, just because the oak decomposed into myriads of oils and saps. I find thuja wood, cedar wood, then ‘an old Jaguar’s dashboard’ (oh forget), cigars and their old well-taken-care-of humidor, mint liqueur, incense, and then what’s we’re all expecting from Dalmore – yes I insist – oranges. This baby reminds me of the superb old 20 by Duncan Macbeth, no less. Now, the palate may well be terribly flat and dry after such a nose, let’s check it… Mouth: slightly mixed feelings at first sips, because of the coconut and molasses that come out (coconuts always hints at bourbon to be). So tastes a bit of ‘reracking’ at first, but things tend to improve mucho when the oranges come out, the oriental pastries, the butterscotch, the spearmint, the lemon curd… It’s less ‘fat’ than the 1996s, but of course it’s no light Dalmore. Finish: unexpectedly clean and citrusy. Rather long, at that. Comments: rather different, whatever that means. Truly excellent, but maybe a notch ‘pushed’. Always a matter of taste, of course. SGP:551 - 89 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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May 20, 2014


Laphroaig, from one extreme to the other

Always a favourite, but recent NAS bottlings at 40% vol. have not impressed me too much. On the other hand, some indies keep issuing clean versions at cask strength that are often very… impressive.

Laphroaig 'Select' (40%, OB, 2014)

Laphroaig 'Select' (40%, OB, 2014) Two stars No age statement, 40% vol… everything’s a bit scary here. What’s more, the story is totally driven by wood types, as the recipe, according to the distillery’s website, seems to involve at time of writing ‘Olorosso (SIC) sherry butts, straight American white oak (non-filled with bourbon), PX seasoned hogs heads, Quarter Casks and finally of course First Filled Bourbon Casks.’ Who wrote that? Colour: pale gold. Nose: tea, oak and spearmint. Sawdust. This is totally un-Laphroaig I’m afraid, the coastal/medicinal/smoky side is there but it’s just whispering. Mouth: a little more to my liking but the global feeling is the same. Teas, mint, oak, nutmeg, cardamom… Having said that, the body’s rather bigger than expected, but the whole remains sweet and way too civilised for Laphroaig. In fact, it's flat. Finish: short (for Laphroaig), herbal. Spearmint tea, oak, coconut, vanilla. Comments: not an ugly juice but the sweet oak really feels, while the distillery’s character is, well, submerged. How coastal is that? I’m very disappointed, because I love Laphroaig, otherwise I wouldn’t care. A poor little thing, the kind that could make me want to quit whisky. Even the name ‘Select’ hints at East Berlin, circa 1970. SGP:535 - 70 points.

Laphroaig 15 yo 1998/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chilfiltered Collection, refill sherry butt, cask #700384, 797 bottles)

Laphroaig 15 yo 1998/2014 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chilfiltered Collection, refill sherry butt, cask #700384, 797 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts with a little gunpowder and used matches, goes on with a perfect sooty style. Old stove, coal, burnt fruits, then tar and diesel oil, Chinese sundried fish (no, really), old wine cellar, dried kelp, touches of mercaptan that smell ‘nice’ in this context, new leatherette… So it’s all very imperfect, and yet so much nicer than the official ‘Select’ – partly because it’s got stories to tell us. Mouth: same feeling. Totally imperfect, totally engaging. There are these sulphury notes again, some liquorice that’s ‘too much’, some burnt raisins that are ‘too much’, some dried fish that are ‘too much’, a leathery side that’s really ‘too much’… And yet the whole is almost perfect. Finish: many smoked and salted almonds are coming out. Comments: pernicious and perverse. Maybe that’s why I find it so… ah, erm, sexy? (please do not get me wrong!) Now, I guess the owners of the distillery could not bottle this kind. Actually, it’s probably flawed – technically speaking. SGP:357 - 87 points.

Let’s try an official again…

Laphroaig 10 yo 'Original Cask Strength' (57.2%, OB,batch 005, Feb. 2013)

Laphroaig 10 yo 'Original Cask Strength' (57.2%, OB,batch 005, Feb. 2013) Four starsAll whisky lovers love the 10 CS since the stunning first batches in their 1l bottles. You know, the ‘green stripe’ from the mid 1990s. Colour: gold. Nose: sure it’s got a modern Laphroaig style, with more US oak and less straight Laphroaigness, but one can still find good doses of antiseptic, kippers, seaweed, apple skins, fresh walnuts, coal smoke, iron and seawater. All is not lost! With water: a bit of sweet oak, but also smoked salmon, marzipan, peated barley, mercurochrome, a little tar, hessian, old fisherman’s boat and all that… In short, Laphroaig. Mouth (neat): a tidal wave of peat, myrtle and pepper, coated with honey, vanilla and brine. Works! With water: probably sweeter than earlier batches, and without the impressive tropical fruits that used to haunt them – but balance is kept. It gets also brinier. Finish: good length. Sweet peat, as they say, brine, kippers. Comments: the 10 CS is probably not the heavy hitter it used to be anymore, and it sure got sweeter and easier, but it’s still a lovely dram. Erm, not too sure loveliness is what we’re expecting from dear old Laphroaig. Anyway, time to look for pre-2010, if not pre-2000 batches, methinks. SGP:546 - 85 points.

Back to Signatory…

Laphroaig 16 yo 1997/2013 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for Vinothek Massen, Luxemburg, refill sherry hogshead, cask #3369, 292 bottles)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1997/2013 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for for Vinothek Massen & De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden, Luxemburg, refill sherry hogshead, cask #3369, 292 bottles) Five stars Luxemburg, tiny country, big connoisseurs! Colour: pale gold. Nose: there is just a discreet touch of gunpowder at very first sniffing, but much, much less than in the very rock and roll 1998 UCF. Also broken branches, menthol, bandages, sea air, oysters, camphor, even touches of passion fruits. Home! With water: oh! A walk on the beach, not obligatorily on Islay. Mouth (neat): immediate, obvious, definitive Laphroaigness, without the slightest notes of junk oak. Lemons, brine, seawater, seashells, eucalyptus syrup, smoke, liquorice, tinned sardines… So yeah, what we all like. With water: Luxemburg, go to hell! Finish: perfect, clean, salty, lemony, seashore-y, mildly medicinal. Comments: aaah. Just noticed that I hadn’t tried many 1997s so far. What seems to be dead sure is that the indies, especially Signatory, are having the upper hand these days, as far as Laphroaig’s concerned. SGP:357 - 91 points.

Laphroaig 22 yo 1991/2014 (49.8, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 168 bottles)

Laphroaig 22 yo 1991/2014 (49.8, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 168 bottles) Five stars The 1990 and 1991 vintages have been excellent in my experience, but maybe they’ve lost their edge with age (well done, S.) Colour: white wine. Nose: similar, but seemingly softer, sweeter and rounder. Fruitier as well, I even find tinned pineapples. Having said that, the briny side starts to roar after a few seconds, and comes with notes of fresh almonds, branches, seashells (that’s right, whelks) and just whiffs of carbon paper. Remember carbon paper? Also whiffs of menthol cigarettes. Kools! Mouth: perfect. A blade. Peat smoke, anchovies, lemons, almonds, cough syrup and more lemon. I had thought this would be rounder and softer at 22. Finish: very long, with some pepper entering the dance. Also notes of vin jaune, which is even more perfect. Comments: it’s absolutely impossible to tell whether this one’s better than the 1998, or conversely. Another Senna-Prost situation. SGP:457 - 91 points.

All right, we might need some kind of conclusion, and we could stay at Cadenhead’s. How about this?...

Laphroaig 16 yo 1967/1983 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1967/1983 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Four stars and a half We just cannot not think of the stunning 15 yo 1967 ‘sherrywood’ by the very same bottlers (WF 95), especially since this 1967 is quite dark as well, although it does not say ‘sherry’. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s one of these ‘wine-whiskies’. I’m not suggesting there’s wine inside, not at all, but it’s one of these whiskies that are as complex as an old Grand Cru from a great vintage. Sure I could try to build a list, but that would be pointless. There’s also the kind of old rancio that’s to be found in great old cognacs, there’s some olive oil, there’s some old balsamic vinegar, there are cigars, old Pu-erh tea, ‘opening an old wardrobe in grandma’s attic after fifty years’, old books, Al Capone’s pistol (c’mon!)… Maybe even drops of Worcester sauce. The only little downside is that it’s a little shy or fragile. Right, shy-ish. The palate will tell… Mouth: okay, it’s very good, but maybe not totally excellent. The peat is almost gone, and it’s unexpectedly round and jammy. I even find strawberry and raspberry jams, and yet it’s no Beaujolais Nouveau, is it? Having said that, the peat manages to come through after a few seconds, but the jammy side remains there. A little too sweet, I’d say. There’s also a cardboardy side. Finish: pretty long, but there’s always this jam. Strawberry jam with black pepper and a little dark honey. Comments: an utterly stunning nose and a palate that’s a little less convincing, because of the sweetness. Sweetness was already the enemy back in the roaring sixties! SGP:555 - 88 points.

(with hugs and thanks to Marcel)

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



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May 19, 2014


Quick verticales, today Dufftown

Back from Limburg, it was great to bump into many friends again. Hugs to all. Today let’s have a few older Dufftowns that were bottled a few years ago. This time, and because we'd like to remain quick and concise, we’ll add water only when the whisky is asking for it.

Dufftown 12 yo 1999/2011 (56.7%, Mick and Tom's Bluebird Selection, hogshead, cask #13084, 304 bottles) Three stars and a halfColour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s fully naked spirit, and yet it’s not too eau-de-vie-ish, although there are traces of kirsch. Some porridge, some muesli, a few rocks, cherries… All very naked indeed and pretty barleyish. So not a brilliant nose but that’s pretty normal I, this context, the palate should do all the talking, let’s see… Mouth: plain and pure fresh garden fruits plus a few jellybabies (orange flavoured) and a lot of barley sugar. Good body. Finish: quite long, very clean, fresh and fruity. Comments: malt whisky au naturel. If you like them young, fresh and fruity, this is for you. Some bottlers would have done a finishing on this, that would have been a mistake in my opinion. SGP:641 - 83 points.

Dufftown 25 yo 1984/2009 (58.1%, Signatory for Waldhaus am See, cask #81, 546 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s a very rich, rather flinty and gamy kind of sherry. Bags of bitter oranges, some tobacco, ham, then a few struck matches, coal stove, some grass and quite a lot of chocolate. Mouth: heavy sherry and fruit stones, which imparts a small soapiness. It’s actually rather bitter almonds, perhaps. Goes on with molasses, ham in honey sauce, Campari, marzipan and… More Campari. A beast, a beast! Finish: long and even more on oranges. Campari-Cointreau, are you allowed to mix both? Comments: a very heavy beast, not easy to tame. I enjoy this wild side, but I would say the whole is the epitome of balance. SGP:451 - 83 points.
Dufftown 29 yo 1982/2011 (53.7%, Riverstown, hogshead, cask #18648, 212 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a naked, malty, very natural one again, so more or less the 1999 with more age and a little more vanilla. Muesli and garden fruits, ripe apples, then.. wait, after just two minutes, some rather beautiful touches of mangos start to rise… That’s a great surprise! I wouldn’t say it’s tropical malt whisky, but it’s got a tropical side indeed. Mouth: there, the mangos are here again, together with drops of thick tinned guava juice. That’s a little fleeting in a way, the rest is more ‘mundane’, with apples, grass, barley, vanilla… But I find the whole very good. Finish: long, a notch dry and grassy. And oh joy, the guavas are back in the aftertaste! Comments: quite a surprise, I’m finding some parts of what was to be found in the utterly brilliant old 8 or 10yo OBs from the 1960s and 1970s. Cool! SGP:541 - 87 points.
Let’s have another 1982…
Dufftown 1982/2010 (54.9%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #18582) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: very very close to the Blackadder/Riverstown, this is obviously a close sister cask. Maybe a notch grassier, drier and less fruity. Less mango for sure. Mouth: we’re even closer. Maybe a little more citrusy, that’s all. Like it just as much. Finish: same. Comments: indeed, like it just as much, even if it’s a notch less ‘tropical’. SGP:541 - 87 points.
Dufftown 30 yo 1978 (46%, The Maltman, +/-2009) Four stars Watch out! These vintages can be completely wrecked and foul in my experience. Forewarned is forearmed… Colour: dark gold. Nose: ah? No, not foul, quite the contrary. I find these thick tropical fruits again, mangos, papayas and guavas, plus a rather elegant woodiness, around cedar wood, humidor, tobacco… Also a little earth and humus, which is much to my liking. Mouth: it is a notch whackier than the 1982s, with maybe a few more touches of scented soap, but that integrates well into the rest, which consists in oranges and light honeys. Finish: of medium length, on gingerbread, orange zests and a little white pepper. Comments: another very fine one, even if it’s less immediately pleasing as both 1982s. SGP:541 - 85 points.
A last one for today…
Dufftown 30yo 1977/2007 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Ref #3516, 303 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: less fruits and more honeyed and pastry-like scents, with certainly quite a lot of butter cream and custard, then plenty of overripe apples and pears. Also fudge, raisins and maybe whiffs of sea air. Where do those come from? Mouth: same profile, with maybe more bitter oranges, zests, just a touch of paraffin, then honey, fudge, raisins and sweet malt. Not much standing out, but that creates a feeling of fullness and coherence that’s very satisfying. Finish: quite long, rather more on citrus, with more spices in the aftertaste. Lemon, mint, pepper. Comments: an interesting bottle because of the fact that it’s sitting right in the middle of all malt whiskies, if you see what I mean. Absolutely nothing remarkable, and yet this fullness and compactness are very engaging. Very good ‘stuff’. SGP:551 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: SOUL FUNK. Performer: Ronnie Laws. Track: a killing Always There. Please buy Ronnie Laws' music...

May 16, 2014


Three very funny Glen Moray

Glen Moray

Glen Moray isn’t big malt whisky, but there’s been some great bottlings in the past. Never underestimate any distillery, I say! Let’s have three very different ones today, in fact I don’t think three malts from the very same distillery could ever be more dissimilar…

Glen Moray 11 yo 1989/2001 (57.6%, Signatory Vintage, sherry butt, cask #4673, 638 bottles) Two stars Colour: full gold. Nose: starts rather rubbery and even sulphury, with little fruitiness except bitter oranges. Struck matches, coal, broccoli… Oh well. The good news is that all that tends to fade away and even if those smells never completely disappear, the musty oranges do grow bigger, together with some butterscotch, walnuts and ‘nice’ leather (old motorcycle jacket). As they say, it’s a style. With water: don’t I like this now? Grapefruits, camphor and raisins stuffed into a bicycle’s inner tube. This is fun! Mouth (neat): bizarre… Some orange squash, bitter herbs, plenty of old bitter walnuts, leather, tobacco… It’s not easy! There’s a lot of ginger too. With water: chewing a cigar. Finish: long, herbal, kind of rubbery and mentholated. Comments: a weird-and-fun young Glen Moray from a slightly reckless sherry cask. SGP:371 - 74 points.

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 21 yo 1992/2014 (55.4%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, 216 bottles) Two stars This baby came from a claret cask, so red Bordeaux. Always a bit scary… To me, at least. Colour: straw. No pinkness! Nose: a little in the middle of nowhere at first nosing. No merlot, no cabernet, rather a few sweet bonbons and marshmallows thrown into barley syrup with a little crushed chalk and maybe aspirin tablets. A little mint and star anise as well. Pretty unusual, in fact. With water: cake. Orange cake, sponge cake, any cake. Plus aspirin tablets and chalk. Mouth (neat): it’s fine, rather citrusy, with some porridge and mashed potatoes and turnips, then touches of oranges and, maybe, capsicum plus blackcurrant buds and leaves. Is that the Bordeaux speaking out? With water: remains leafy. Chlorophyll, tea, oak, more leaves. Finish: long, with more pepper and nutmeg. Comments: a little acrid. This baby’s got an appealing funny side, but it’s not really my preferred style. Honest ex-Bordeaux whisky. SGP:461 - 76 points.

Glen Moray 39 yo 1971/2011 (46%, Mo Or Collection, cask #5, 429 bottles) Five stars This collection was truly a great idea, I miss it! Imagine they had issued whiskies from absolutely all Scottish distilleries, a real tour de force when many small bottlers keeps issuing more or less the same distilleries. Colour: full gold. Nose: the word fruitbomb must have been invented for this baby. We’re having an amazing range of tropical fruits, from maracuja to mangos and from mandarins to papayas. Add to that a few honeys and a spoonful of olive oil, and you’re having… A Bowmore 1966. I’m not joking. Mouth: astounding creamy tropicalfruitiness. Pineapples, mangos, tangerines, guavas, plus a little custard, light acacia honey, then a few herbal teas such as honeysuckle and hawthorn. Perfect body, with an oakiness that’s there but never really noticeable as such. Brilliant at almost 40 years of age. Finish: maybe not very long, and maybe a little green and oaky this time, but nothing abnormal. Cardamom. Comments: only the finish was a little below par. Pretty great stuff! SGP:651 - 90 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ ROCK. Performer: Gong. Track: this is how one can feel after a long day on Islay, it's called The Isle of Everywhere. Please buy Gong's music...

May 15, 2014


Glen Grant completely at random

Like we sometimes like doing, we’ll select these Glen Grants completely at random, one after the other. It’s trickier, but it’s funnier. Let’s see how far we’ll manage to go. So, eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Oh, no!...

Glen Grant 35 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 26 2/3 fl.ozs., +/-1970)

Glen Grant 35 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 26 2/3 fl.ozs., +/-1970) Five stars Crikey, this should be 1930s distillation. Both the worst, and the best way to start a session… Colour: gold. Nose: phoohh… This is honeyed perfection. Beeswax, pollen, honey, dandelions and buttercups, overripe apples, whiffs of incense and sandalwood, then old books and ‘grandma’s attic’. Akin to the greatest old cognacs, I’d say. Mouth: and what a body at this strength! Starts on a perfect combination of crystallised oranges, marzipan, and old-style crème de menthe, goes on with all things honeyed and biscuity, and then we have some old sweet wine, apricot jam, liquorice and a little tobacco. It’s just so perfect, and yet so very approachable and even easy. These are the bottles one should look for at auctions, if you ask me. Best B-F-Y-B ever. Finish: all right, it’s a little too short, but clean, honeyed, and even delicately waxy. Zesty apples in the aftertaste, which is oh-so perfect. Comments: no, of course you should better search for contemporary so-called ‘limited’ bottlings at auctions. These old GGs aren’t worth it. SGP:551 - 92 points.

Okay, eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Cool, this one should be more of the ‘starter’ kind…

Glen Grant 17 yo 1993/2010 'Le Bonheur' (46%, Moon Import, 30th Anniversary)

Glen Grant 17 yo 1993/2010 'Le Bonheur' (46%, Moon Import, 30th Anniversary) Four stars Moon Import used to be very popular, but we don’t see many of them anymore, do we? Colour: white wine. Nose: almost exactly like some recent OBs, such as the ‘Five Decades’, all on sweet barley, cake, apples and pears, then hazelnuts and light honey. A little beeswax too, but this is very light malt whisky, a very specific style that used to be in high demand… forty years ago. But I like it. Mouth: exactly, same style, light but not thin at all, on apple juice, sweets, acacia honey, tinned fruits (pineapples) and barley sugar. This freshness and this lightness are very enjoyable, you could call this style ‘anti-Brora’ or ‘anti-Ardbeg’. It takes all sorts to make a world! Finish: a little short, clean, rather all on overripe apples. Comments:  perfect sweetness and lightness. But Vorsicht, this stuff is too drinkable. SGP:541 - 85 points.

Good, eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Ooh, this is another rather old bottle… And cask strength this time.

Glen Grant 24 yo 1972/1996 (54.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #691, 290 bottles)

Glen Grant 24 yo 1972/1996 (54.3%, Signatory Vintage, cask #691, 290 bottles) Two stars Colour: amber. Nose: whoops, something is wrong here, I get plastic and other chemical notes. Disinfectant? The main problem is that what’s behind that seems to be rather superb, around jams, honeys and liqueurs. Let’s try water… With water: blow, trumpets, that worked! Beautiful honeyed notes, oriental tobacco, a little musk perhaps, potpourri, a little humus, orange blossom… Don’t we all love water? Mouth (neat): bwaah, these chemical notes are back. Eating soap, raw orange peel and your favourite lady’s moisturizer. She won’t be happy. With water: that didn’t work this time, I’m sorry. Finish: long and ‘plasticky’. Comments: I don’t know what happens. I’ve just checked some good compadres’ much older tasting notes, they didn’t seem to like this baby too much either. But the nose, once diluted, was lovely! SGP:572 - 72 points.

Right, eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Ah, this should be good…

Glen Grant 20 yo 1992/2013 (54.1%, Maltbarn, sherry butt)

Glen Grant 20 yo 1992/2013 (54.1%, Maltbarn, sherry butt) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: same whisky, word-for-word, as the Moon Import 1993. No differences whatsoever despite the different strengths, and I’m trying hard. Let’s move on… Mouth: same, it’s exactly the same whisky, just a little stronger. That’s good news of course, it’s a lovely light spirit of high quality. Okay, maybe there’s also cherries here? Finish: same, just the same. Comments: same-ish. One extra-point for the extra-strength ;-). What’s sure is that the sherry butt has been very, say unassuming. SGP:541 - 86 points.

And eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Oh, this is a darker one:

Glen Grant 31 yo 1972/2004 (51%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: beautiful, loaded with stewed fruits and jams. Cherry liqueur, ganaches, then strawberry jelly, honey, tamarind and a very faint meatiness that really complements the whole. Around Spanish ham. With water: some great whiffs of unlit menthol cigarettes are arising. Goes perfectly well with the rest. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy and very jammy and syrupy, without ever becoming heavy. Hints of sangria, Port, orange liqueur, then mead and sweet herbal liqueur (with caraway). This works very well. With water: indeed, although water is unnecessary. Little changes. Finish: rather long, luscious, jammy and mentholated. Feels a bit like a great old Banyuls. Comments: a complex jam in a bottle. A very sexy old Glen Grant. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Let’s go on, eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Oh, a 1992 again! Will it match the Maltbarn’s? Let’s see…

Glen Grant 1992/2014 (52.6%, Signatory Vintage for Le Gus't, France, hogshead, cask #55415, 274 bottles)

Glen Grant 1992/2014 (52.6%, Signatory Vintage for Le Gus't, France, hogshead, cask #55415, 274 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh this is lovely. There’s the expected apples, barley, light honey and other fresh and sweet things, but there’s also a wonderful smoky earthiness that’s not very ‘Glen Grant’, but that’s superb nonetheless. Carefully rinsed out ex-peater wood? With water: antiseptic and eucalyptus are coming through. Very intriguing. Mouth (neat): the peat is even bigger, and even less ‘Glen Grant’, but it rather works like a spice. Not too sure the cask had been carefully rinsed out, after all… Ha! That even gives this baby something medicinal, which is even less ‘Glen Grant'. Also grapefruits and maybe passion fruits. Not very ‘Glen Grant’ either. With water: reminds me of an ‘unpeated’ (so rather lightly peated) Caol Ilas. Finish: long, smoky, medicinal, all that on a bed of sweet apples. Comments: wait, did Glen Grant make some peaty batches back in 1992? What’s sure is that this juice is both intriguing and pretty excellent. SGP:543 - 87 points.

It’s always a little hard to follow a peater, even a light one, but there, eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Oh great, an old one again:

Glen Grant 1963/1978 (75° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, 75.7cl)

Glen Grant 1963/1978 (75° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, 75.7cl) Five stars Colour: reddish amber. Nose: we’re in old wine and old cognac territories now. Seriously, this is cognac, and not just the average juice. Wonderful peach juice, meat and soy sauces, smoked beef (all right, that would be rancio), then touches of cassis and redcurrant liqueurs, more meat, even more meat, and then just a large T-bone steak with a little bilberry sauce. On top of all that, some tar and rubber (bicycle inner tube) and a large pack of cough lozenges. This is amazingly unusual for malt whisky. Mouth: would you please call the anti-maltoporn brigade before it’s too late? It’s just as unusual now, with quite a lot of Chinese sour prune sauce, maybe a drop of marmite (argh… not!), some mint, cough syrup and… well, all that jazz. Extremely rancioty again, old-cognac-style. Yes you may call that ‘umami’. Finish: long, meaty, jammy, tarry… I even find notes of sake, as well as that Chinese prune sauce again. Comments: probably not a style that would please everyone, but I for one find it stunning. Just not extremely well balanced, but who cares? SGP:462 - 92 points.

Yeah, just go climb over such a beast! But nothing is impossible for a willing heart, so, eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Right, this could work indeed:

Glen Grant 30 yo 1976/2006 (49.4%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, Taiwan, sherry, 308 bottles)

Glen Grant 30 yo 1976/2006 (49.4%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, Taiwan, sherry, 308 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: we’re very close to the 1972 by Hart Bros, with the same kind of jammy, ganache-y profile, but there’s also a slight flintiness that goes extremely well here. No matches whatsoever, in case you’re wondering. Also some leather, mushrooms, cigar tobacco, not-too-sweet orange liqueur, a little toffee… The whole remains quite fresh, which is all lovely. A great nose. Mouth: pretty perfect. Orange jam and liqueur, touches of ginger, a little fudge and caramel (artisan Mars bar – I know that doesn’t exist – or millionaire shortbread), pink grapefruit… The mouth feel is perfect. Finish: rather long, zesty and rich at the same time, with touches of fresh tea wulong-style. Does that come from the oak? Comments: another great one. It’s not that I’m running out of adjectives, but yeah, it’s just great. SGP:551 - 89 points.

More… eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Oh, I haven’t seen anything by this bottler since ages!

Glen Grant 1970/2003 (55.3%, Celtic Legend, sherry butt, cask 1031)

Glen Grant 1970/2003 (55.3%, Celtic Legend, sherry butt, cask 1031) Two stars The company’s named Liquid Gold Enterprises. Sounds like something from… Shanghai or Hong-Kong. Nothing wrong of course. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a strangely mushroomy one, with a rather unlikely mustiness and, well, simply big notes of fresh mushrooms. What will water do to it? With water: more mushrooms! A whole field. Mouth (neat): indeed its curious. Honey and mushrooms, have you ever seen that in whisky? I mean, together? With water: a bizarre kind of sweet and sour sauce, one that would go well with… mushrooms. Seriously, there are also nice notes of figs and raisins, as well as a little honey. Finish: not too long, sweet and sour again. I guess we could use it on dim-sums. Comments: I think it’s a very funny one. Between Shanghai and dim-sums, there, it’s definitely got something Chinese. And God knows I adore China. SGP:461 - 75 points.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Oh, a finishing…

Glen Grant 20 yo 1992/2013 (48.3%, The Coopers Choice, Port wood finish, cask #9047, 450 bottles)

Glen Grant 20 yo 1992/2013 (48.3%, The Coopers Choice, Port wood finish, cask #9047, 450 bottles) Colour: suspiciously pink. Nose: quite nice, but the Port really stands out, and frankly, I prefer to have my Port on the side. Having said that, these notes of earth and cassis are not repulsive. Mouth: no, they clash, the cask was too ‘expressive’ and the whisky too light. In my opinion, that combo creates many false tastes. I’m all for innovation and difference but frankly, blackcurrant-flavoured mustard and toasted brioche do not go well together. And that was only one example ;-). Finish: medium length. Jellies, jams and grasses. Comments: I hate to sound like a wet blanket – and not my biz anyway -, but this ‘experiment’ should never have been bottled. SGP:741 - 65 points.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe… Ermnlmn…

Glen Grant 8 yo (70° proof, OB, square bottle, 75.7cl, +/-1970)

Glen Grant 8 yo (70° proof, OB, square bottle, 75.7cl, +/-1970) one star and a half These ones used to be bottled by a company named ‘Hall & Bramley’ in Glasgow. This is fifties or early sixties distillation. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a sooty and waxy profile, fatter than many others, earthier and dustier as well, with some clay, chalk, copper and raw wool. Little fruits so far, and certainly an ‘old’ profile. A tad unsexy I have to say, especially because there are also vegetables, say between asparagus and broccoli. Mouth: this is nicer, sweeter, rounder, maltier… But it remains extremely sooty and even ashy, so dry and drying, a little astringent, smoky… All that on baked apples and some sweet bread. The body is all right but frankly, this is not very pleasant whisky – even if you intellectualise it, which is often the way out. Finish: shot and dry, not too pleasant. Comments: interesting, that’s all. Not much pleasure to be had, I’m afraid. SGP:232 - 68 points.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe… No, that’s enough. Session over, thank you.

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



Block Today: SOUL. Performer: Sheba Potts Wright. Track: Get Behind Me . Please buy her music...

May 2014 - part 1 <--- May 2014 - part 2 ---> June 2014 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Ar4 (58.1%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2014, 50cl)

Ardbeg 10 yo (70 Proof, OB, black label/white lettering, bottled +/-1974)

Glen Grant 1963/1978 (75° proof, Berry Bros & Rudd, 75.7cl)

Glen Grant 35 yo (70° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling, 26 2/3 fl.ozs., +/-1970)

Glen Grant 31 yo 1972/2004 (51%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection)

Glen Moray 39 yo 1971/2011 (46%, Mo Or Collection, cask #5, 429 bottles)

Hampden 20 yo 1993/2013 (50%, Silver Seal, Jamaica, 295 bottles)

Laphroaig 22 yo 1991/2014 (49.8, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 168 bottles)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1997/2013 (55.4%, Signatory Vintage for for Vinothek Massen & De Tongerse Whiskyvrienden, Luxemburg, refill sherry hogshead, cask #3369, 292 bottles)

Lochside 32 yo 1982/2014 (55.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, cask #MoS 14019, 39 halves)

North Port (Brechin) 14yo 1974/1989 'Very Rare' (43%, Sestante Import, 75cl)

Tomintoul 1977/2013 (54.9%, OB, sherry, cask #3691, 312 bottles)