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Whisky Tasting





Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2016 - Part 1



April 2016 - part 2 <--- May 2016 - part 1 ---> May 2016 - part 2


May 13, 2016


Three indie Glen Elgin

Another distillery we’re not seeing very often. And yet, we’ve tried some sumptuous Glen Elgins in the past…

Glen Elgin 17 yo 1995/2013 (46%, Milroy's of Soho, hogshead, cask #1669, 348 bottles)

Glen Elgin 17 yo 1995/2013 (46%, Milroy's of Soho, hogshead, cask #1669, 348 bottles) Two stars and a half It’s not that we’re seeing Milroy’s much either, these days… Colour: straw. Nose: very malty, almost bready, with, yeah, some bread and touches of cardboard and beeswax. Behind that, some acidic fruits (green apples) and drops of plum eau-de-vie. A little sugarcane as well, a touch of paraffin. Mouth: in keeping with the nose, with first more sweet bread and malt, then some honeyed raisins, with a grassy background. A wee touch of wood smoke, perhaps. Finish: medium, malty, with some bitter green oak and oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: very fair and honest malt whisky from an excellent distillery. SGP:351 - 79 points.

Glen Elgin 23 yo 1990/2014 (49.2%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon, cask #7870, 189 bottles)

Glen Elgin 23 yo 1990/2014 (49.2%, Signatory Vintage, bourbon, cask #7870, 189 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: same kind of profile, even more austere, grassier, with interesting hints of polished copper, old coins, old tin boxes, all that. Some hand cream as well, fresh almonds, a little shoe polish, and the thing that saves them all, lemon juice! In the background, a wee bourbonness, that is to say vanilla and coconut. Works well. Mouth (neat): very good! It reminds me of that thick big punchy blend called White Horse, which is not surprise since Glen Elgin always was at its core (you’re right, together with Lagavulin). Oily mouthfeel, grassy and herbal development, then waxy grapefruits and some almond oil. Very, very little vanilla and coconut, all for the better, Jasper. Finish: long, malty, with broken branches – so very fresh wood – and more oily goodness. Comments: perfect. Sure there’s no obvious and dominant aromas, no big peat, no sherry, no big fruitiness, and no vanilla crème, but as far as texture and balance are concerned, it rocks. SGP:451 - 88 points.

Glen Elgin 24 yo 1989/2014 (52.4%, Mackillop's Choice, 240 bottles)

Glen Elgin 24 yo 1989/2014 (52.4%, Mackillop's Choice, 240 bottles) Four stars The rather discreet Mackillop’s have bottled some of the best indie whiskies under their very, err, pleasantly unnoticeable label. Colour: gold. Nose: in the style of the Signatory, only a tad rounder and waxier, with less metallic and polishy notes. So rather beeswax and stewed fruits, plus some honey and, once again, a little hand cream. With water: the beeswax became flowers, which sometimes happens once you’ve added good water. It gets pretty nectary. Mouth (neat): same differences, it’s got more western fruits, apples, peaches, even pears… And peelings, more beeswax, pollen… Perhaps is it a little narrower than the excellent Signatory? With water: narrower but beautifully fruity. Apple pie covered with honey and custard. Tea time! Finish: medium, honeyed, fruity. Strawberry jam in the aftertaste/retro-olfaction. Comments: all very good once again. The thickish distillate shines through, I liked the Signatory’s greener style just a notch better. SGP:541 - 87 points.

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



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May 12, 2016


Little duets, Longrow vs. Longrow

Longrow! The double-distilled peated Springbank, of which they fill less than 100 casks a year according to one of their back labels. Why they don’t make more of it remains a mystery, because except a few very sulphury ones that had been filled into wacky sherry wood, I’ve never come across one that hasn’t been close to stellar. Let’s have two of them…

Longrow 18 yo (46%, OB, 2014)

Longrow 18 yo (46%, OB, 2014) Five stars I know, I know, I’m late to the party, but we’ve got limited tasting capacity. By the way, the last 18 I’ve tasted, a 2011 expression, had fetched 92 in my book, so our expectations are high… Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes. Silver cutlery, old coins, tin boxes, linseed oil, chalk, this very peculiar waxy smokiness that’s so very Longrow, and an odd fruit, which I never managed to pin down, although I know it does exist. What’s this unusual fruit that one can find in Longrow? Any clues? Some pinesap as well, old herbal liqueur from Mitteleuropa, mothballs (which is very Longrow indeed)… Mouth: it is oh-so-good! Lemongrass, linseed oil, mint, green tea, smoked fish, soft green curry, citronella, a little natural vanilla… Although when I’m reading my older notes, it seems that this newer expression is a little less wood-driven, which is just, well, cool. Everything’s perfect. Finish: quite long, a tad oakier now, with a lingering gingery touch and this feeling of having just eaten carbon paper, ink, and cigar ashes. Comments: whisky with character, attitude, self-respect, and individuality. The opposite of these modern one-note whiskies. SGP:454 - 92 points.

So, another Longrow… A young 1987, how does that sound?

Longrow 8 yo 1987/1995 (57.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Longrow 8 yo 1987/1995 (57.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars and a half As usual, and as stated on the label, the bottlers are confident this was matured in an oak cask. Because we all know that could have been ebony or rosewood ;-). But let’s be serious, we’ve already tasted some stunning 1987s, especially some by Samaroli, Moon, or Signatory. Colour: Sancerre. I mean, pale white wine. Nose: between rocket fuel, nail polish remover, and lamp oil. Now what’s good is that these aggressive varnishy notes tend to go away, as almost always, leaving room for some rather immaculate smoked apples and pears. Well not sure anyone’s ever tried to smoke apples and pears, but I’m sure this is what would occur. Plus raw smoked barley (kiln) and smoky porridge. Ah, nature! With water: old towels in an abandoned hotel room somewhere in Campbeltown. I-am-not-making-this-up. Mouth (neat): hits you behind your ears, with plenty of citric apples (cider apples) and a raw, very mineral smoke. And then the saltiness kicks in, while the whole is getting smokier by the second. Pristine, immaculate young peater, with a growing minerality. Minerality is not something all peaters possess. With water: gets gentler, almost rounder, with some apple pie and drops of this ‘thing’ they serve you on pancakes for breakfast in the UK. No, no, it’s not maple syrup, it’s some kind of sweet concoction. Perhaps maize/corn syrup? In this context, it’s good. Finish: yeah, lemon! Lemon enhances and lifts just any malt whisky. Wonderful green zestiness. Comments: still a little rough around the edges, despite the twenty years of bottle aging (my god, twenty years already!) but the spirit is first class. SGP:464 - 88 points.

(Und vielen Dank, Angus)

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



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May 11, 2016


An understated new 50 years old

I’m asking you, who could throw a new Glen Mhor 1965 (one nine six five) into the market just like that, as if it was just another shirt by Urban Outfitters? You’re right, Signatory Vintage. True class indeed. But first, a little apéritif from the very same house…

Millburn 16 yo 1979/1993 (60.1%, Signatory Vintage, butt, cask #1102, 308 bottles)

Millburn 16 yo 1979/1993 (60.1%, Signatory Vintage, butt, cask #1102, 308 bottles) Five stars I agree, an apéritif at 60% vol. is a strange idea, but you see, I had thought it would be best to have one from the three long closed Inverness distilleries. Which were… Hey, can you name them?... Colour: straw. Nose: some kind of citric minerality, if you see what I mean. Aspirin tablets, fizzy lemon juices, fresh concrete, old clothes, gravel after the rain, yoghurt, the sharpest muscadets, chalk… In short, a style that’s nowhere to be seen anymore. Give this to anyone used to modern NAS Glenmo (for example), and they’d tell you it’s not Scotch whisky. I mean, this Millburn. With water: more of the same, plus bandages and, perhaps, brake fluid. Mouth (neat): pure lemon juice aged in stoneware and infused with chalk and clay. A knife! With water: glorious minerality and citrusness. I’m not sure I had previously noticed that Millburn could be this lemony. I’m sure it cuts the thinnest paper sheet, as Uma Thurman would have said in Kill Bill: Vol. 1. Finish: long, totally lemony, mineral, and, well, blade-y. Comments: perhaps for well-trained samurais only. No, it’s really great. SGP:471 - 90 points. Which leads us to…

Glen Mhor 50 yo 1965/2016 (47.1%, Signatory Vintage, 88 months oloroso finish, cask #3934, 353 bottles)

Glen Mhor 50 yo 1965/2016 (47.1%, Signatory Vintage, 88 months oloroso finish, cask #3934, 353 bottles) Five stars A fifty-years-old Glen Mhor! And they didn’t even put it into a Lalique-Baccarat-Daum-Whatever decanter with golden angels and hand-carved silver stags heads! How classy and understated is that? Now, they did a finishing on it, which may suggest that it had been a little lazy before those 88 last months… Let’s see… Colour: deep amber. Nose: if you’re into old cars and/or motorbikes, this is whisky for you. An old can of Veedol forgotten in an old garage, next to a Velocette and a Norton (like it, Ralfy?) There are also walnuts from the oloroso, as well as roasted chestnuts, then plenty of earth (an old dunnage warehouse), drops of soy sauce, most certainly umami, and a superb beef bouillon enhanced with bone marrow and wee bits of black truffles. After five minutes, some menthol and some Vicks Vaporub arising. This would cure any cold. Mouth: it’s a little shaky, with these ‘funny’ notes of cumin and aniseed, but there’s also a complexity that’s hard to find in younger whiskies. Many spices, many oils, many meat bits, many terpenic/mentholy touches, and quite a few mushrooms, covered with some kind of chocolate sauce (mole) and little pieces of black tobacco. As if Gauloise had ever made some menthol cigarettes – which, to my knowledge, never happened. Finish: long, with touches of paraffin and other waxes. The bouillon is back in the aftertaste, and it’s quite salty, at that. Comments: respect, that the first word I could think of. Mind you, a 50 yo Glen Mhor! My score will be deferential. SGP:472 - 90 points.

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

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



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May 10, 2016


Tobermory or not Tobermory

A stupid, very stupid Shakespearian headline. Apologies. Now a few Tobermories from the Isle of Mull can't do any harm, even if they're currently a little overshadowed by their peated brother, Ledaig. Besides, we've hardly ever seriously tasted 30 of them. In almost 14 years of Whiskyfun! So let's see what we can find... And perhaps have them by ascending strength.

Tobermory 20 yo 1995/2015 (48%, Claxton's, hogshead, cask # 1501-652, 279 bottles)

Tobermory 20 yo 1995/2015 (48%, Claxton's, hogshead, cask # 1501-652, 279 bottles) Four stars By a new independent bottler from York, England. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: totally and plainly Tobermory, with some baker's yeast, fresh bread, damp raw wool, mashed turnip and celeriac, ale... All that is nicely coated with some custard and touches of bacon, which may suggest a refill sherry hogshead, but I may well be wrong. In any case, we're as close to distillery character as possible, yet it's not feinty at all. Not saying Tobermory is feinty! In other words, very nice nose. Mouth: one of the best Tobermories I could try. All qualities, without any flaws. Peppery bread, lemon juice, tons of malt, some smoky porridge, drops of limoncello... But it's the maltiness that's most impressive. Finish: medium, rounder, with some maple syrup. Malt and lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: this starts very well. I'm always procrastinating with the 'T malts' (anything after Talisker) but that's obviously stupid. SGP:452 - 87 points.

Tobermory 20 yo 1994/2015 (53.5%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #98, 274 bottles)

Tobermory 20 yo 1994/2015 (53.5%, Gleann Mor, A Rare Find, cask #98, 274 bottles) Two stars and a halfWhether a twenty years old Tobermory is a rare find remains debatable, but after all, only quality counts. Colour: gold. Nose: we're very close, this has just a little more vanilla, it seems, and perhaps more maple syrup. Other than that, same ballpark - at a higher strength. And no bacon. With water: more austere. Ink, carbon paper, scoria, concrete, stout, baker's yeast... Nutshell, what one would expect from Tobermory. Mouth (neat): much more difficult than the Claxton's this time, bitterer, yeastier, dirtier... But it's not void of any charms. With water: a little better, thanks to this lemon that's coming out. Peppered lemon-flavoured yoghurt, or something like that. Finish: long, creamier, and a little cleaner. Cider and pepper. Comments: good, but it hasn't got the 1995's clarity and sexiness. Certainly rawer. SGP:362 - 79 points.

Tobermory 20 yo 1995/2015 (54.7%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #1076, 250 bottles)

Tobermory 20 yo 1995/2015 (54.7%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon, cask #1076, 250 bottles) Four stars Back to 1995, aren't we curious? Colour: white wine. Nose: could it be a vintage thing? This one's cleaner and better balanced again, with some malt for sure but very little 'dirty yeast', in a style that's very similar to that of the first 1995. Sunflower oil, vanilla, brioche, wool, mashed potatoes... I guess what's really important with this profile is balance, and balance seems to have been achieved. With water: croissants ;-). Mouth (neat): excellent, zesty yet rounded (thanks to the bourbon wood), with a perfect earthiness underneath, and these rather delicate yeasty and malty notes from the distillate. Not to forget its coastalness (peppered oysters). With water: goody good, just a little less polished than the first 1995. Seriously, a vintage thing? Finish: rather long, earthier, more peppery. Hints of tequila in the aftertaste (we'll soon do a massive tequila tasting, by the way). Comments: all very good. Good work on Tobermory by some indies these days. SGP:452 - 86 points.

Seriously, is it a vintage issue? Let's have another 1994 and try to find out...

Tobermory 21 yo 1994/2015 (55.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #660881, 265 bottles)

Tobermory 21 yo 1994/2015 (55.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #660881, 265 bottles) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: ha-ha, same feeling of ink and carbon paper, plus some menthol essence and perhaps a little ham and charcoal. And of course some yeast, perhaps even dollops of that dreadful thing from the UK called Marmite. Malt for barbeque? With water: German weissbeer and plenty of baker's yeast. Mouth (neat): right between the others. Neither 1994 nor 1995. Perhaps 1994.5? Seriously, I find it a little austere and dry, and we're fairly close to 'eating the barbeque from the bottom'. With water: frankly better, but it remains 'globally yeasty'. If you like bread or pastry when they're not totally cooked, so rather 'pale', this is for you. Finish: medium, with more pepper and, hurray, more lemon. Comments: probably more a matter of parcels of casks than a vintage issue, but I definitely like the 1995s better. Now, this one isn’t bad. At all. SGP:352 - 82 points.

Not an easy session, but let's have a last one, and let's try to find some rocket fuel, just for fun...

Tobermory 8 yo 2001/2010 (60.9%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon)

Tobermory 8 yo 2001/2010 (60.9%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon) Four stars An older bottling, but just for fun... Colour: white wine. Nose: oh sugar, it's a Ledaig that's been labelled as Tobermory! My bad... So lapsang souchong and ashes. There, we're done. With water: smoked wool, garden bonfire under the rain (it was lit before the rain started, naturally), and smoked tea with some yak butter. Don't the Tibetan monks drink that? Mouth (neat): tears you apart. Cough, cough... Almonds and tar? Would make a young Port Ellen taste like Glenkinchie. With water: oh, but its great! We tamed the beast, it seems. Lemon, seawater, smoked tea, cigar ashes... All that is very good. Finish: long, well-chiselled, pure, and, there, crystalline. Comments: a surprisingly  flawless young peat bomb. Which reminds me that we've got many new Ledaigs to taste, so stay tuned. SGP:458 - 86 points.

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



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May 9, 2016


New Dark Cove vs. Caol Ila vs. Port Ellen

The general release of Ardbeg Dark Cove is in, but rather than select other supposedly-young Ardbegs as sparring partners – and let’s be honest, there aren’t many ‘disclosed’ new ones around – we’ll choose some other young peaters, to try to have a better grasp of contemporary ‘Beg in the general Islayian scheme. Game?

Ardbeg ‘Dark Cove’ (46.5%, OB, general release, 2016)

Ardbeg ‘Dark Cove’ (46.5%, OB, general release, 2016) Four starsI had enjoyed the committee release quite a lot back in March (WF 88). Let’s see if around 9 less degrees will make a difference. Colour: gold. Nose: there is a feeling of new American oak, with this vanilla, but we’re below the limits. I remember I had tried the two components of the popular Ten a while back at the distillery, one was ex-refill bourbon, the other ex-first fill. We’re closer to the latter here, and once again, I do not get much sherry, let alone ‘dark’ sherry. A little crème brulée, perhaps, and then whiffs of ginger and nutmeg from the wood, before more coastal and – of course – smoky notes start to rise to your nostrils. Triple-sec as well. And bandages. Feels a little sweet, pleasantly so. Mouth: indeed, it is a little sweet, with a citrusy blast at first, then some ginger and plenty of ashes, then a touch of salty tar. Perhaps a little rubbery ginger (or gingery rubber) before it gets even saltier. It’s not the most complex Ardbeg ever, this is no 1960s or 1970s distillate, but as they say in mail order, it does deliver. Finish: long and rather more nutmeggy/gingery. Typical young Ardbeg aftertaste, as if you had just chewed a rubber band. Comments: it feels young and sometimes a little rough, but we haven’t got anything against young whisky. SGP:467 - 86 points.

So, other young Islays? How about a gentler one, and then a beastlier one, both at roughly the same strengths and ages? Is that coherent enough for you?

Caol Ila 7 yo 2008/2016 (46%, Càrn Mòr, Strictly Limited, hogshead, 760 bottles)

Caol Ila 7 yo 2008/2016 (46%, Càrn Mòr, Strictly Limited, hogshead, 760 bottles) Four stars and a half I am not, no need to say this, suggesting Ardbeg Dark Cove is seven years of age. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: huge differences. This has much less wood (and vanilla, coconut, ginger, and tutti quanti), and many more fruits, starting with some big and bold notes of freshly cut pears. Bags of them. It’s only after two or three minutes that the coastalness and the light smoke come out, both quite gracefully I have to say. Perhaps a little chlorine as well, iodine, fresh oysters… It’s lovely, but perhaps a little immature, as I also get a little varnish and acetone. Just wee whiffs. Mouth: excellent, bright, fresh, ‘nervous’, tart, salty, smoky… In fact, I find it extremely salty, even saltier than the saltiest batches of Bowmore (when they used to roll the barrels in the loch from the distillery to the puffers – pure hearsay, of course). We’re almost in white mezcal territories here. Once again, immaturity has its upsides. Finish: long, sharp like a blade, and rather immaculate. Less citrus than usual. Comments: some aspects reminded me of the new Lagavulin 8. Excellent! I also find this young CI peatier than usual. Indeed, a blade. SGP:368 - 88 points.

It’s going to be tough to find a punchier young peat monster at 46% vol., but you see, we’ve got good friends…

Port Ellen 10 yo 1981/1992 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection)

Port Ellen 10 yo 1981/1992 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection) Five stars As you probably know, this used to be Cadenhead’s budget series. But quality could be high, and nevertheless, it’s always a thrill to be able to taste young PE. A thrill that’s getting rarer by the year, while the older casks now tend to become less, say ‘bright’. Colour: white wine. Nose: well, what it’s got is this superb almondy/tarry profile that’s so very Port Ellen. We’re talking fresh almonds and apple peel, plus linseed oil and plasticine. How very PE indeed. The peat doesn’t sing high yet, but these hints of long-forgotten oils and washes are simply impressive. It’s what the Ardbeg Dark Cove may become after… 25 years of bottle aging ;-). Mouth: a perfect, well-chiselled, tarry peatiness, with some smoked salmon and bags of various ashes (wood, coal, peat) before more and more green pepper starts to make it really bigger. And acrid, in a good way. Perhaps ideas of fish oils as well, this is clearly coastal. What’s also sure is that it’s less easy and ‘immediate’ than both the Ardbeg and the Caol Ila, and that it tends to become even saltier than the latter. What a beast, and what a distillate. And no, while we’re at it, they have not obligatorily closed PE because it was ‘less good’ than Lagavulin and Caol Ila, contrarily to what some ‘smarter’ people will tell you. There were other issues, such as a lower efficiency, or not enough expandability, or environmental matters… Finish: long and perfect. Strongly smoked salmon and cigar ashes. Comments: many very young PEs were bottled at 40% or 43%, such as Signatory’s (and they were great). This one packs more punch, and should you want to try it, you may drive to Fiddler’s in Drumnadrochit and bring a case of Speyburn with you. Some magic may happen… Oh and something else, I believe these versions at 46% were rather better than the ones at cask strength (you know, 65% vol. and such). A budget series, he said. SGP:268 - 92 points.

PS: what would be totally great would be that Ardbeg issued some purely ex-refill young babies from time to time. But maybe that’s only my own obsession…

(And gracias again, Jon!)



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May 8, 2016


Six Islayrnatives from Trinidad

Sometimes nicknamed ‘the Ardbeg of rum’, the closed Caroni Distillery in Trinidad was maybe rather the Port Ellen of rum. Now, let’s not forget that unlike Port Ellen Distillery, they were also making some lighter style rum at Caroni, not just high-ester phenolic bombs. Let’s have a few, by ascending strengths…

Caroni 1999 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2016)

Caroni 1999 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2016) Four stars Mezan seem to favour spirit-driven rums, and we just cannot be against that, despite the very low strengths they also seem to favour. Colour: white wine. Nose: lovely. I often use that word, but this one really is lovely, with this subtle combination of engine oil and tar, dandelions, and cane juice. It whispers a little low, but it’s all delicacies and elegances. Very pure. Mouth: it’s Caroni’s lighter style, rather on lemon this time, only touches of salt, liquorice, and tar, and then more cane juice, which gives it a wee agricole side. Very good, one to sip while, ach, not noticing. Finish: medium, a little brinier and more olive-y. In other words, more Caroni. Comments: excellent, as expected. Once again, they bottled a very ‘pure’ rum, with a beautiful nakedness. We’ll have another vintage next… SGP:452 - 85 points.

Caroni 1996 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2016)

Caroni 1996 (40%, Mezan, Trinidad, +/-2016) Three stars More oak influence in this one, according to the colour… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a rather grassier and drier Caroni, with indeed more oak, grass, fruit peel, as well as a little cigarette tobacco and perhaps cedar wood. It’s less bright and pristine than the 1999. Mouth: you’d really think you’re having a French agricole. Sugar cane, nuts, wood spices, touches of soft mustard, walnuts… It’s certainly excellent, but I really liked the 1999’s crystal-clean style better. Not sure I’d have recognised Caroni, had I tried this baby blind. Finish: once again, it gets a little saltier. Black olives instead of green ones. Comments: nah, it’s very good, no doubt. It’s just less, say singular. SGP:452 - 82 points.

Caroni 18 yo 1997 (51.9%, Sansibar, cask #861, 288 bottles, +/-2016)

Caroni 18 yo 1997 (51.9%, Sansibar, cask #861, 288 bottles, +/-2016) Four stars and a half More whisky people doing rum. They usually do that well. Colour: full gold. Nose: a wild one! Old leather jacket, Barbour grease, cigars, humidors, patchouli, hay, diesel oil, capers, Seville oranges, eucalyptus and myrtle… Everything’s quite wonderful, I have to say. With water: more old leather jackets covered with old waxes and oils, barnyard, pot-pourri, menthol… What a nose! Mouth (neat): it’s amazing how Ardbeggian this is indeed. And we’re talking 1970s Ardbeg, such as the few fino casks they had. Walnut wine, brine, oysters, smoked fish, hessian, tar, grapefruits… All that is coated with some spicy oak notes, more towards lemongrass and pickled ginger. A treat. With water: gets softer this time, with more oranges, and a wee bourbony side. Sweet cinnamon drops. Finish: long, but curiously narrower, and less expensive (pleonasm, S.) Perhaps a tad too oaky? Comments: I’m being too picky, this one’s excellent. SGP:462 - 88 points.

Caroni 18 yo 1997 (53.3%, Sansibar, cask #104, 266 bottles, +/-2016)

Caroni 18 yo 1997 (53.3%, Sansibar, cask #104, 266 bottles, +/-2016) Four stars and a half A sister cask. Colour: full gold. Nose: same-ish territories. Perhaps a little more oranges? And marmalade? And Triple-sec? I know, that’s all kind of the same thing. With water: get’s more vegetal and pine-y than its sibling, with a little more moss as well. Green apples. Just as lovely. Mouth (neat): same, very Ardbeggian, with this fat tarriness and, once again, rather more bitter oranges. The oak’s a tad louder too, with a little more pepper. Pepper and sultanas. With water: a little more sultanas this time, with a sweeter edge. Finish: long, mentholy and raisiny. Lemongrass. Once again the oak really starts to roar. Comments: not enough differences to come up with a different score. Great rum once again, you just mustn’t be afraid of a little oak. SGP:562 - 88 points.

Caroni 17 yo 1997/2015 (52.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #883, 263 bottles)

Caroni 17 yo 1997/2015 (52.3%, Duncan Taylor, cask #883, 263 bottles) Four stars and a half Another sister cask, obviously. Colour: full gold. Nose: once again, same high territories. Perhaps a little more tar and even natural rubber? It is a little Port-Ellenish, in that sense. More Barbour grease and other things that our ancestors used to cover their leather garments with. With water: mint and grasses and tar. Mouth (neat): same. Perhaps a notch more citrusy? The feeling of salty black liquorice is huge. A few jelly babies in the background, orange-flavoured ones first. With water: we’re closer to cask #104, despite the numbers. This sweeter edge. Finish: very same-ish. Comments: same score once again. There are even less differences than in two songs by Coldplay. SGP:562 - 88 points.

Perhaps is it time for the last one. Let’s make it another 17 yo…

Caroni 17 yo 1998/2015 ‘Extra Strong’ (55%, Velier, Trinidad)

Caroni 17 yo 1998/2015 ‘Extra Strong’ (55%, Velier, Trinidad) Five stars Velier and boss Luca Gargano are the good people that brought Caroni to everyone’s attention. Their 12 has been a favourite at home. Colour: gold/amber. Nose: soft, and more pastry-like than the others. We’re talking praline and milk chocolate, then plantains, ganaches, and crème brulée. The phenolic/tarry/earthy notes are there, but subdued and working just as some wee seasoning. With water: mint leaves, Kools, pu-ehr tea, a real top three. Mouth (neat): superb. I know it’s molasses, but once again, there’s an agricole style that works beautifully. Touches of salt and lemon on a bed of orange cake covered with peach and maracuja syrups. There’s even a little honey. The lemon really lifts it. With water: goes towards herbal teas. When that happens with whisky, it’s great news, why would that be any different with rum? Lemon blossom, chamomile, dog rose… Finish: rather long, perfect, orangey, fresh. The oak never gets in your way. Comments: it’s aged in the tropics, you know. 70% angel’s share, but the flying buggers left the best 30% for us. SGP:652 - 90 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Majid Khaliq. Track: Expectation. Please visit his website and buy his music...

May 7, 2016

Whiskyfun fav of the month

April 2016

Favourite recent bottling:
Springbank 12 yo 'Cask Strength' (54.1%, OB, batch #12, 2016) - WF 90

Favourite older bottling:
Rosebank 28 yo 1965/1993 (53.4%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #2498, 180 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Glenrothes 8 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, The MacPhail's Collection, +/-2015) - WF 87

Favourite malternative:
Foursquare 2 yo 2013/2015 (64%, Habitation Velier, Barbados) - WF 89

May 2, 2016


Wacky vatt... I mean, blended malts

There are more and more of them. Some disclose what's inside, but many don't. They need a lot of branding, and perhaps a few stories, or they'll remain 'cheap humble bastards'. Sure you can claim that your blenders are the modern Leonardos (not Di Caprio), and that they actually do 'create' something, but frankly, all that is a little 'pushed' and I know many friends who remain a little, say unconvinced. And yet, some of these bastard malts are very good. Let's try a few, at random - there are so many of them these days! Oh, almost forgot to say, at WF Towers, we do not consider the teaspooned blended malts (Burnside, Westport, Williamson and others) as actual blended malts, they're just single malts in disguise. So we'll avoid them today...

Older than Old (46.5%, Eiling Lim, blended malt, 2015)

Older than Old (46.5%, Eiling Lim, blended malt, 2015) Four stars and a half This wee batch contains Highland and Speyside malt whiskies. It’s all pretty secret, so, shhh… Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s coherent, and it’s very pleasant, midway between a sherry monster and a fresh fruit bomb. And that works. Raisins, white Port, pastries, a little pinesap (some old wood in there), perhaps a little leather (new shoes just out of their box), and a little muscovado sugar. And there, a little rum. I’m amazed by the fact that its not dissonant at all, they may have done  some marriage for a few weeks or months. Mouth: just excellent. It’s got something of Glen Garioch, mind you, especially this distant saltiness and a mild smoke, before more praline and soft Swiss chocolate join in the dancing. A touch of ginger liqueur, perhaps. Perfect strength and body. Finish: quite long, well rounded, but with good spikes and bumps. It’s not one of these old vatted malts to sip in a Chesterfield armchair while listening to Purcell. Oh forget about that. Comments: real good, but on the other hand, they may have used real good components. SGP:552 - 89 points.

A session that starts well!

Rìgh Seumas II 8 yo 2007/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 1298 bottles)

Rìgh Seumas II 8 yo 2007/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 1298 bottles) Four stars Righ Seumas II? Wasn’t that one of the guys in the early episodes of Game of Thrones? It’s interesting that MMcD would tell us what’s inside, that is to say Auchentoshan, Arran, Bruichladdich, Old Rhosdhu, and Tobermory. What a wacky combo indeed, but they wouldn’t  tell us about the proportions. As long as that’s not 90% Rhosdhu, I’m fine. Colour: white wine with a funny hue of… orange wine (if you never tried orange wine – it’s for French bobos - please… don’t.) Nose: we’re having breakfast. I don’t think I’ve found this much porridge in one whisky before. And muesli, smoked tea, white bread… That does give it a feeling of ‘craft’ as can be encountered in a few American or European new craft whiskies. And I’m totally not against that. Mouth: but this is very good! Sure there’s a leafy bitterness, and sure it’s probably not for everyone (if you like Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, please move it along), but this way of being totally ‘on cereals’ is lovely. Very well done. Finish: quite long, with grapefruits and spices such as caraway and poppy seeds. They just couldn’t go with the flow. Sadly, the aftertaste is a little bitter and drying. Loses a few points. Comments: I was’t expecting much, and I was wrong (who said ‘again’, who?) SGP:461 - 86 points.

Bowmore & Craigellachie (46%, Douglas Laing, Double Barrel, +/-2016)

Bowmore & Craigellachie (46%, Douglas Laing, Double Barrel, +/-2016) No age, so probably young to very young. Colour: gold. Nose: oh my, they reinvented FWP. Unless there’s some 1980s Bowmore inside, which I doubt. Lavender soap, myrtle liqueur, brake fluid, smoked fish, juniper berries, broom… It sure is unlike any other malt whisky! It’s not that Bowmore and Craigellachie clash, they just create a new dimension, never seen before. In a way, it’s like going on holidays in Moldova. Mouth: better, or at least a little more normal. I didn’t say civilised. Having said that the soapy tones are still there. Some mad recipe made by someone who’d have smoked herrings using blackcurrant and lavender wood and leaves. I’ve heard they do that in Moldova (I’m joking! And as a matter of fact, I’m planning a visit to Moldova). Finish: quite long and rather unlikely. Sure you get used to these flavours, and should you quaff two litres, you’ll find it all great. But still… Comments: as they say in Iceland, totally no comprendo. SGP:575 - 65 points.

Let’s look for some redemption malt…

Ardbeg & Craigellachie (46%, Douglas Laing, Double Barrel, +/-2016)

Ardbeg & Craigellachie (46%, Douglas Laing, Double Barrel, +/-2016) Four stars and a half I find it admirable to dump a cask of Ardbeg – however young - into a vatting, while you could probably sell it as a single for double the price. Unless, unless… Colour: white wine. Nose: much more mainstream, classic, easy, and frankly pleasant. The vatting added a layer of fresh fruits to Ardbeg’s raw smoke, but frankly, it’s the latter that’s catching all the light. I’m not even sure someone would notice that ‘something else’ was added to Ardbeg, even if, now that we know it, it’s a tad lighter than the usual Ardbeg. Mouth: very good, very Ardbeg Ten. Smoke, brine, lemon, a little tar, a little liquorice… I guess we should be able to taste both casks individually to check how they worked together, but this is very ‘Ardbeg’. And a very good Ardbeg. Finish: long, precise, very Ardbeggian. Comments: aaaah! In fact, this may have worked as if they had matured some Ardbeg in some very active sweet American oak. Excellent. And proof that it wasn’t the Craig’ in the previous one ;-). SGP:456 - 89 points.

While we’re at DL’s and on Islay…

Clan Denny Islay (46.5%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2015)

Clan Denny Islay (46.5%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2015) Five stars What did they do to this label? Them who are usually so good at that? Friday night design? (noh, don’t fire the trainee!) But yeah, it’s the liquid that counts… And the latter gathers 7 Islay malts ‘including whisky from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila’. Mmm, there are two missing. Let’s not play the guessing game… Colour: gold. Nose: there are whiffs of rubber at first nosing but those are going away. What’s left is seawater, macha, smoked ultra-ripe apples, lapsang souchong (litres), plenty of smoked barley (visiting a working kiln), and ashes. As usual, the peaters are playing first trumpets. Mouth: I’m afraid it’s excellent! Complex, smoky, but not ‘stupidly smoky’, with some tobacco, old liqueurs, herbal teas aplenty, touches of wax and plasticine, ‘ideas’ of good Calvados (the one that contains more pears than apples)… No, really, this was composed with enormous gusto. Finish: perfect, earthy, gentiany, ashy, mezcaly… Comments: I hate it that we do not know about the age(s), but I have to bow down before this fantastic young composition. And it’s not even expensive. People often ask me what they should buy for cheap. Today, the answer is ‘this’. SGP:456 - 90 points.

What a disaster, all these NAS vatted malts that are gathering high scores… Shame on me! But perhaps will some very old vatted destroy them? Let’s call to MMcD for help…

Coinninch 20 yo 1995/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 250 bottles)

Coinninch 20 yo 1995/2015 (46%, Murray McDavid, blended malt, 250 bottles) Three stars and a half Oh what a name again! But why not, maybe is it better than Norse gods? What? You say Coinninch was a Norse god? There are eight different malts inside, from all Scottish regions. Colour: pale gold. Nose: gutted, they did it again. No peat this time – or very little – rather a wonderful, quite subtle waxy Highlandness, with some sea air, some linseed oil, some kelp, some green apples, some lemons, some… wait, some peat! It is actually rather peaty. How would I put it, remember the older Black Bottle? That’s more or less the style, but this one has got more profoundness and certainly more depth (tsk tsk, that’s the same, S.) I think they almost reconstructed Clynelish, no small feat. Mouth: super good, for sure. What bothers me a little more is this sweet and oily vanillaness that coats it and makes it a little slow after the wonderful nose. It’s lost a bit of oomph and zestiness, but there’s no denying, it’s very good. Oranges, vanilla, smoked fruits, and perhaps a little too much fudge (given the style). Finish: rather long, rather smokier (a peater seems to be willing to have the last word) and slightly salty. Which is good. Comments: I find it less interesting than the Rìgh Seumas, but it’s most certainly very good whisky. IN a way, and that’s only my opinion, there’s either not enough peat, or too much of it (oh S., would you mind your own business please!) SGP:553 - 83 points.

Very happy with this session. NAS, blended malts… With whisky, paradise can be so close to hell!



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May 1, 2016


A bunch of superb Jamaican malternatives

Whether Jamaica’s the Islay of rum remains debatable, there are certainly a few other contenders. But what the island certainly isn’t is ‘the Lowlands of rum’. Let’s expect some very congeneric, dundery flavours… And start with an old apéritif!

Black Joe Original Jamaica (40%, OB, Jamaica, Italy, 1980s)

Black Joe Original Jamaica (40%, OB, Jamaica, Italy, 1980s) Four starsA brand of unknown origin that was available in Italy, and still is, apparently. Colour: gold. Nose: a rather wild, pretty gasoline-y style, with whiffs of those old things that used to fill our childhood. New plastic toys, glue, plasticine, new LP (make that a double)… There’s a thin layer of banana jam and tinned pineapples, but little brine or smoke this time. A little tar, though. Mouth: typically and totally Jamaican, that is to say phenolic and tarry, with touches of salt and once again, some easier notes of pineapples and liquorice (allsorts). Perhaps drop of Maggi and… do you know Antésite? It’s some kind of liquorice extract that we used as a syrup, you could add only three drops to one litre of water. It was very popular in the 1970s. Finish: medium, now with olives! Love olives in my rum. Comments: rather great, if not totally stellar Jamaican rum. SGP:562 - 85 points.

Worthy Park ‘Gold’ (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2016)

Worthy Park ‘Gold’ (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2016) Four stars Doesn't it look like an American beer bottle? Ah we remember a white Worthy park by Rum ation that was, well, smashing, two year ago. Colour: pale gold. Nose: pure brine kept in vanilla-ed American oak. It’s a wonderful nose, with also green olives, black olives, all kinds of tinned fish, some ink, old papers, tar and liquorice, capers, and perhaps just hints of ylang-ylang. This floral/briny combination works particularly well on the nose. Mouth: it is a little rough and, well, unpolished, but that’s almost expected from such a profile. Raw cane sugar, more olives, salt, tarry things, tobacco… And indeed more liquorice. The rum is fat enough to perfectly stand the low strength, you juts don’t feel like ‘you deserved a little more’. Finish: long, always briny, tarry, and liquorice. And what do we have in the aftertaste? That’s right, olives. Comments: one of the ‘peaters’ of rum. In a way, this is the Ardbeg Ten of rum (the older bottle at 40% vol. ;-)). And it’s not expensive at all. SGP:363- 87 points.

Jamaica 5 yo ‘Navy Strength’ (57%, La Compagnie des Indes, Jamaican blend, +/-2015)

Jamaica 5 yo ‘Navy Strength’ (57%, La Compagnie des Indes, Jamaican blend, +/-2015) Four stars A blend of three rums by this new French bottler (well, not that new anymore) that’s already garnered a huge reputation. Mind you, they only bottle pure rum, never sweetened or glycerined ‘junk’. And no fantasy ages. Colour: pale gold. Nose: yes! I don’t know how much ‘lighter’ rums there is inside this vatting, but the high-esters ones are leading the pack. Leatherette, tobacco, tar, liquorice, a little ink, then rather more chocolate and custard – moderately. Perhaps hints of pencil shavings. Some marriage time in active oak? With water: ah, a touch of coconut… Mouth (neat): really very good. It’s a fairly approachable Jamaican, despite the high strength, rather fruitier than the Worthy park. Perhaps blood oranges? But other than that, everything is there, olives, tar, smoke, salt… With water: we’re getting much closer to the Worthy park. Finish: long, well balanced, relatively easy, yet totally Jamaican. Comments: pour this to your friends who aren’t rum ‘experts’. And put Peter Tosh on the stereo. They’ll like it. SGP:462 - 86 points.

Plantation Jamaica 2001 (42%, Plantation, +/-2015)

Plantation Jamaica 2001 (42%, Plantation, +/-2015) Two stars They wrote ‘Jamaica Grand Cru’ on the label. That is, of course, imaginary, unless I missed something. Or perhaps did they mean ‘single distillery’? Colour: orangey gold. Nose: dry, a tad oaky, and plainly Jamaican. Same inky tar and brine than in the Worthy park, except that there’s also some chocolate, cakes, and several spices, such as cloves and nutmeg. The official Worthy park was brighter, but this 2001 is to my liking. Mouth: there’s some added sugar, which is a shame and a pity, but they seem to have exercised restraint this time, they did not totally kill this baby with the medicine. But the liqueury feeling is a little unpleasant. Thickish mouth feel, and more and more Cointreau or Grand-Marnier, the sugar is taking over after just two minutes. Finish: medium, sugary. Comments: did the distillate really need this medicine? Or does the market still have a very sweet tooth? I could understand why one would do this to a Dominican, or a Guatemalan, but to a Jamaican that seems to have been perfectly all right, according to its nose? SGP:731 - 70 points.

Back to unadulterated Worthy Park if you don’t mind…

Worthy Park 2005 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015)

Worthy Park 2005 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015) Four stars and a half More pure unsweetened port still rum! Sure the 40% vol. sound a little meagre, but with Worthy park, that may be enough. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a lighter style, it seems. Starts with peaches and custard, goes on with pears and apples, and gets then pretty floral, with dandelions and other yellow nectar-packed flowers. The whole’s very elegant and subtle, just not very ‘Jamaican’. But the Jamaicans don’t only produce congeneric monsters, do they? Mouth: excellent. The first one was an Ardbeg of rum, this one’s a Benriach or a Tomatin. Beautiful soft orchard fruits and several herbal teas, chamomile and compadres. A touch of honey and a touch of crème au beurre. I find it excellent, especially since a little tar is sticking its nose out after two minutes. And a little mint. Unexpected, but very very good. Finish: medium, soft, now a little grassy. I was about to write ‘malty’. Comments: plainly malternative. A very lovely bottle, all elegance and freshness. Some kind of high-class anti-Wedderburn? SGP:552 - 89 points.

Well done Mezan, let’s have another Jamaican Mezan…

Long Pond 2000 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015)

Long Pond 2000 (40%, Mezan, Jamaica, +/-2015) Four stars Long Pond is a closed distillery since 2011, not sure it could be restarted. What’s sure is that I’ll always remember Gordon & MacPhail’s stupendous 1941/1999! Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a little acetic after the stunning Worthy Park, and a little grassier, but I would call it ‘dundery’. We’re somewhere between both worlds, with indeed some olives and tar, but also a softer side, with fresh butter and golden delicious apples. There’s also more and more eucalyptus and mint, the whole remaining well-chiselled, as always with Mezan’s offerings. Perhaps a little dust/cardboard? Mouth: leaning to the tarry side, but moderately. Apple pie and cigar smoke and ashes, touches of mint again, a touch of tarry rubber, and ripe green apples. It’s very good, it’s just that the Worthy park was superior in my book. Hints of burnt wood, perhaps, which makes it a notch more, say muddly? A matter of contrast. Finish: medium, a tad bitterish. Green oak? Bicycle inner tube in the aftertaste. Remember? Comments: it’s very good, I think, it’s just that the Worthy Parks never quite gave it the floor. SGP:453 - 85 points.

Great Jamaicans! As long as the bottlers don’t alter them or ‘liqueurise’ them, they make for some of the most perfect malternatives out there. IMHO, as we used to say on usenet. Now it's perfectly fine to enjoy sweetened rums, of course, those are just not real malternatives. Remember, we're tasting rum from a whisky POV!

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



Block Today: JAZZ (I think so). Performer: Captain Beefheart. Track: Brickbats. Please visit his website and buy his music...

April 2016 - part 2 <--- May 2016 - part 1 ---> May 2016 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Clan Denny Islay (46.5%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2015)

Glen Mhor 50 yo 1965/2016 (47.1%, Signatory Vintage, 88 months oloroso finish, cask #3934, 353 bottles)

Longrow 18 yo (46%, OB, 2014)

Millburn 16 yo 1979/1993 (60.1%, Signatory Vintage, butt, cask #1102, 308 bottles)

Port Ellen 10 yo 1981/1992 (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection)

Caroni 17 yo 1998/2015 ‘Extra Strong’ (55%, Velier, Trinidad)