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Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild



Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2020 - Part 2


May 2020 - part 1 <--- May 2020 - part 2 ---> June 2020 - part 1


May 31, 2020


Ten aged tequilas on a Sunday

That’s’ agave spirit from Mexico (wow, you’ve outdone yourself this time again, S.!)

Berrueco ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Berrueco ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, +/-2019) Four stars
A reposado is a tequila that’s only spent a few months of wood. Indeed, it’s not unlike a finishing, you couldn’t call this ‘maturation’. This one stayed in some ‘heavily charred American oak barrels’, so let’s say it was bourbonised, while the packaging is very ‘too much’, never a good sign in my book. But let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: ah no, not at all, I get no excessive vanillin or coconut, rather a lovely fresh agaveness, with some lemon, aniseed, dill and fennel, lovage, touches of coriander and the smartest notes of liquorice. Love this nose very much, in fact. Mouth: very good, with moderate vanilla, and rather these wee cologne-y notes that one would find in many a tequila, then dill, lemon, aniseed and coriander once again. Perhaps is it a wee tad too sweet, but we’re fine. Finish: medium, fresh, clean, not oaked. The expected lavender and violet in the aftertaste, bergamots too. Comments: the nose was quite sublime, the palate pretty good, and my fears evaporated. Too bad they haven’t gone to 43% vol.
SGP:471 - 85 points.

While we’re at it, let’s try the Anejo version…

Berrueco ‘Anejo’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Berrueco ‘Anejo’ (40%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars
SO ore time in wood, let’s hope that was not for the worse. Colour: gold. Nose: no no no no no no no no. Oak, branches, vanilla, cardboard, grass, asparagus peel. The tequila’s almost blocked, you’ll have to wait until a few lemony and herbal touches manage to make it through the sweet oak. Very nice after around… 20 minutes. Mouth: it’s okay, I like them better with less oak, but I agree this was well made, with nice oranges, nice lavender, nice lemons, and nice aniseed. Pastis aged in oak? Finish: medium, with a little sweetness again. Big liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: I don’t think I’ve got the joven (or silver, or whatever they call it) in the boxes, but there, high-class distillates need no oak as such. Casks for sure, oak no thanks (going a little far here but there).
SGP:561 - 80 points.

Ocho 3 yo 2008/2012-2016 ‘Extra Anejo’ (53.2%, OB, Las Altena, single barrel, for La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary)

Ocho 3 yo 2008/2012-2016 ‘Extra Anejo’ (53.2%, OB, Las Altena, single barrel, for La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary) Four stars
Ocho have got a high reputation, similar to that of the best artisan mezcals. Colour: white wine. Nose: pure smoked gherkins and cucumbers, then scoria and green liquorice. Wee ideas of natto, then geranium and violet flowers as well as ‘a fresh pack of assorted bonbons’. With water: all grasses and peelings, very subtle. Mouth (neat): very complex spirit, beyond the usual soapiness – or rather perfume-iness. Lime and lemons, gherkins indeed, olive brine… What’s great is that they’ve done their best to avoid any excessive oak, using some re-re-refill wood here. The Scots should take notice if you ask me. With water: gherkins, green olives, natural vanilla, lime, green liquorice, and these touches of geranium again. Geraniol? Finish: excellent, getting perhaps a tad ‘jumbled over’ towards the aftertaste. Comments: I’m wondering if agave doesn’t just need purity and tranquillity. Anyway, great, great tequila.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Jose Cuervo ‘Traditicional Reposado’ (38%, OB, +/-2017)

Jose Cuervo ‘Tradicional Reposado’ (38%, OB, +/-2017)
100% agave from the largest brand. Do they really run out of agaves these days in Mexico? Colour: white wine. Nose: not much to be nosed here. A little ethanol, wood alcohol, and no good agave-iness, which I find very surprising. I’ve always liked the brand’s ‘Reserva de la Familia’ but this is very poor so far, almost empty. Mouth: better than on the nose – not too difficult – but still lacking definition and becoming oddly ‘burnt’. Very disappointing, sure it’s pure blue agave, but it does taste like a very cheap supermarket mixto. Finish: short and cardboardy. Cheap gin. The aftertaste is notch nicer thanks to some lemons showing up. Comments: no, it’s pretty poor tequila. How disappointing, the #1 tequila brand in the world!
SGP:241 - 40 points.

I’ll get over it, I promise… Having said that I haven’t got much more tequila in the sample library, let’s see… Talisker, Tamdhu, Tamnavulin, Teaninich… there, Tequila! Sadly not 7 Leguas in the box, that’s the only brand you need…

XQ ‘reposado’ (40%, OB, +/-2017)

XQ ‘reposado’ (40%, OB, +/-2017) Two stars
The people who’ve designed this bottle must have smoked the carpet. What’s more, according to the excellent folks at Master of Malt, it was aged in ‘three types of cask - American ex-bourbon, French Limousin and Mexican Encino wood’. That’s a lot of wood for just a quick reposado, no? Colour: white wine. Nose: fine, rather in the style of the great Berrueco reposado, that is to say bright and fresh, on lemons, aniseed, gherkins and olives. Everything good this far – and please let’s stop talking about the crazy bottle. Mouth: probably not as well-defined, perhaps a tad dirty and ethanoly, losing steam as we speak, woosh, what happened? Finish: notes of cheap limoncello. 3.50€ a bottle in the large shops at any border. Comments: nice nose, cheapo palate. Looks like it’s not easy to produce good tequila.
SGP:351 - 72 points.

Crikey, that one had started well…

Herencia de Plata ‘Anejo’ (38%, OB, +/-2019)

Herencia de Plata ‘Anejo’ (38%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
Tried an earlier batch back in 2013, it was very okay (WF 78). 100% agave. Colour: white wine. Nose: strawberry jam, caramel cream and molasses over Moutai and sochu, does that make any sense? What I don’t quite find here is… agave. In truth it’s the most un-agave-y one so far. Notes of old Madeira. Mouth: the oak’s caramel had taken over here, this could have been other spirits, rums, brandies, bourbons… Having said that it’s pretty good spirit, I’m sure you could almost make a Mexican Manhattan out of it, but we all know someone who wouldn’t be too happy about that idea. Finish: medium, with really a lot of butterscotch and caramel cream. Comments: a different style that lost all contacts with the original distillate. Not bad at all having said that, I do confirm my little score from a few years ago.
SGP:431 - 78 points.

Sierra Milenario ‘Extra Anejo’ (41.5%, OB, +/-2016)

Sierra Milenario ‘Extra Anejo’ (41.5%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half
100% agave once again, and a packaging that even the maddest Chinese emperors would have found a little too ‘show-off’. A Christmas bottle, as we say (at Christmas people just buy the bottle, not the content). Colour: gold. Nose: fine! Plastics, black olives, caramel, wood smoke, lapsang souchong, cigars, earth, and a little agave indeed. Whiffs of rose petals and hand-cream. Estée Lauder ;-). Mouth: wait wait wait, this is something else. Vanilla, custard, caramel and fudge, shortbread, butterscotch, biscuits. Touch of salt, but that wouldn’t make it agave-y enough. Finish: medium, cake-y. More fudge. Comments: looks like the extra-anejo treatment erased any agave-iness. We’re left with some very good whisk… I mean, spirit, but heart and soul are gone.
SGP:531 - 78 points.

Blue Hour ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Blue Hour ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
All the money in the bottle, not much left for the content I suppose. Also called ‘La Hora Azul’, which is pretty poetic I have to say. And jazzy. This baby is to be found just anywhere, apparently; perhaps just not in Jalisco. Colour: white wine. Nose: nice-ish, fresh, with hints of green apples, then lime, gherkins and aniseed. Very light, but clean, well-carved, and only moderately perfume-y (vetiver). Mouth: its good, not too extreme, without excessive vanilla, but it tends to go towards overripe apples, hence loses contact with the agave-y core. We need olives, aniseed and gherkins! Finish: a tad drier, which is nice. Lemongrass. Comments: rather good. Ish. Not sure I’ll remember this one tomorrow when I wake up.
SGP:531 - 79 points.

I think we’re in trouble, are we not?... Pfff…

Tres Josés ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Tres Josés ‘Reposado’ (40%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars
100% blue agave (azul) and a bottle that’s a little less ugly, thank you mucho! I don’t know who those three Josés are, and indeed I could try to find out, but there, as long as José Cuervo is not involved, I am fine. Is he? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s OK, there is some vanilla but not too much, while the agave kind of feels as long as you’re paying attention. It is a light nose, that’s for sure. Wee whiff of tangerines, geranium, and small pink olives. Forgot their name, I am sorry. Mouth: ah, there, we’re talking. Fresh lime, olives, lemongrass, asparagus, and a moderate vanilla that did not kill everything yet. Grapefruits and a little green pepper, that’s all nice. Finish: medium and fresh. Wee olives and a wee vanilla. Comments: a good fresh tequila reposado, where oak didn’t kill the agaves yet.
SGP:451 - 81 points.

More proof that oak is any spirit’s best friend, and its worst enemy. Good, we’ve had many oaked tequilas already, but I believe we’ve still got one free slot. Perhaps another very large brand? This could be done super-fast, do not worry…

Sauza ‘Reposado’ (38%, OB, +/-2016)

Sauza ‘Reposado’ (38%, OB, +/-2016)
Thirty-eight percent alc/vol., not a good sign. Blue agaves, that’s better. ‘Aged in American white oak barrels for four months’, that suggests total ecstasy, better get ready… Colour: white wine. Nose: hello? There’s no one in there. H.e.l.l.o.? H-e-l-l-o? H.EL.L.O? Ah, some wood alcohol. Very poor. Mouth: ugly, dirty, burnt, empty. Finish: nasty but short. Phew. Comments: terrifyingly bad and weak. Must be a conspiracy. China, Venezuela, Cuba, maybe the French, maybe Prince Charles, who knows? This poor thing had clearly been made in a Wuhan lab to eradicate any ability to taste anything within our free world. Better believe me, I would give myself an A+ on this. Anyway, phew, we have triumphed over evil like nobody has seen before this time.
SGP:241 - 10 points.

May 30, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
More mixed duos
Always an enjoyable and fun way to try whiskies in my view. Let’s kick off with an old vs new head to head…


Longmorn-Glenlivet 10 yo ‘Straight Malt’ (???%, OB ‘Hill Thompson & Co Ltd’, -/+1970)

Longmorn-Glenlivet 10 yo ‘Straight Malt’ (OB, Hill Thompson & Co Ltd, -/+1970)
The ABV isn’t stated here, but usually when the strength is blocked out in black ink like on this example, it means it was a smaller batch deviation from the standard 70 proof (40%). So, most likely 43% for export I would guess. But let’s try it… Colour: white wine. Nose: beautiful! Pure barley eau de vie. A harmonious blend of citrons, waxed lemon peels, mineral salts, putty, dried herbs, ink, old, dried out herbal liqueurs and things like oily bike chains, hessian cloth and medical vapour rubs. Rather raw and powerful in some ways, but luminously aromatic and elegant. Pure old style distillate. Mouth: definitely 43%! Wonderfully sharp, powerful and direct. Peppery waxiness, pink grapefruit juice, chopped tarragon drizzled with petrol and olive oil cut with briny pickling juices. Remains hyper clear, bright and fresh; no OBE to be found. Something like salty limoncello with freshly malted barley, sourdough starter and pure lemon juice. Brilliantly sharp, it’s almost like a slap in the face. Finish: long, citric and full of salinity, a lean and nervous flintiness and wee notes of soot, chopped herbs, balsamic onions and mineral oil. Comments: Almost industrial or mechanical in some ways, but then these were effectively big, dirty Victorian factories churning out these sublime distillates during the 1950s and 1960s. I’ve tired quite a number of these old Hill Thompson bottlings - there are many variants - and they never disappoint. Absolutely what Serge calls ‘old highland style’ malt whisky. And thrillingly lively and sharp.
SGP: 453 - 91 points.



Longmorn 10 yo (48.3%, That Boutique-y Whisky Co ‘Batch 3’, 1793 bottles)

Longmorn 10 yo (48.3%, That Boutique-y Whisky Co ‘Batch 3’, 1793 bottles)
This may be a death seat after the old OB… Colour: white wine. Nose: so different. Sweet barley, a light, almost playful cereal profile and all these very fresh grassy and buttery notes. Some lemon bonbons and hints of vinaigrette. I find it very pure, easy and classically modern. A far cry from the tsunami of character in the old OB, but this is still very easy and pleasurable. Mouth: creamy texture on arrival with some vanilla sponge, pineapple jelly and white pepper. Feels lighter in the mouth than the OB, even at 48.3%! Some pastry, dried herbs and orange Fanta. Rather sweet and still pretty cereal. Finish: medium, with some spicy warmth, more sweet vanilla custard and wee hints of raspberry and white chocolate. Comments: It’s perfectly fine, clean and quaffable. But it certainly struggles a bit after the 10 yo. Another fun comparison for anyone who still thinks Scotch whisky did not utterly change in character since the early 1970s.
SGP: 631 - 83 points.



Glenmorangie 27 yo 1991/2019 (55.9%, OB, Rare Cask for 10th Anniversary Loza Dzentelmenow, Poland, oloroso cask finish, 230 bottles)

Glenmorangie 27 yo 1991/2019 (55.9%, OB, Rare Cask for 10th Anniversary Loza Dzentelmenow, Poland, oloroso cask finish, 230 bottles)
We rarely get to try Glenmorangie at this kind of age, which is a great shame as, in my wee opinion, it’s a distillate which really sings with a few years behind it. What’s also cool is that this is really more of a double maturation than a finish, having been 15 years in bourbon then 12 years in oloroso. Colour: deep gold. Nose: sweet orange wines, aged sauternes and glazed pastries, brioche and a few darker breads such as rye. There’s also this wonderfully herbal, eucalyptus aroma, mint julep, acacia honey and rosewater. Aromatically complex and wonderfully captivating. I love that it feels like it’s own thing, you wouldn’t necessarily peg this is just another good old Speysider if you had it blind. Further wee hints of juniper, hardwood resins and aged citrus peels - like the chen pi they have in China. With water: gets more tertiary, deeper and drier. Notes of heather ales, more spicy rye bread, dark grains, bitter chocolate, cigar boxes, fruity muesli and treacle pudding. Mouth: you feel the wood with all these warming spices but it is well matched by this wonderfully layered and textural sweetness. Big, gloopy spoonfuls of fruit jellies, tinned fruit syrups, sweetened herbal cough syrups, chamomile tea and fig jam. You also have some strawberry flavoured pipe tobacco, quince, mint tea, moist earthiness and some boozy dark fruit cake. Feels like they captured this one really at peak maturity. Balance, texture, complexity and flavour: everything is in its place. With water: more exotically spicy now with five spice, cloves, more eucalyptus, lemongrass, bay leaf, aniseed and herbal cough medicines. Finish: long, nicely bitter, herbal, mentholated, tobacco, chocolate, many wee spices and more of these mixed dark and crystallised fruits. Comments: Glenmorangie, where have you been all my life Goddammit! Dear Professor Jill Bumsd… sorry, I mean Dear Dr Bill Lumsden, please can we have more stuff like this for us civilians. Hugs, Angus. Seriously, this is very worth trying if it every crosses your path. I love that it still feels very ‘Glenmorangie’, and I really think this is the smartest kind of juggling with different casks - the kind where patience is the key.
SGP: 662 - 91 points.



Secret Highland 34 yo 1985/2019 (47%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead)

Secret Highland 34 yo 1985/2019 (47%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead)
There are whispers abound that this parcel of stock is from a certain northern highland distillery that may or may not employ somewhere between 15 and 17 male workers from a nearby town. The trouble is, who really has experience with mid-80s, 34+ yo examples of this distillery to say what it should taste like? There’s a few of these casks floating about at the moment, no doubt more will soon begin to emerge in bottled form. Colour: deep gold. Nose: It can of course be the mind playing tricks, but this doesn’t feel like just another Speysider / modern highlander. It has something rather charismatic and gently old school about it. A rather dry, leathery and slightly dusty beeswax and furniture polish note, gentle waxes, soots, roots and herbs. Ink, fennel seed, caraway, hessian, olive oil, boot polish, dried mint - very tertiary, earthy, elegantly drying and complex. Mouth: wonderfully rich and biscuity in the mouth. Layered, cakey sweetness with cafe latte, milk bottle sweets, cough medicines, old green Chartreuse and mineral oils. There’s a nice stodginess to the texture as well, the flavours and light and playful, but you get the sense you could stand a spoon upright in a large glass of it. Finish: good length, lemon cough drops, hessian, candied peel, wintergreen, eucalyptus, sweetened medicines and some soft, savoury spiciness. Comments: Your guess is as good as mine. But I would hazard that this very well could be from ‘that’ distillery. It’s singular but rather unlike anything else from that era that I can think of. I would also add that it’s a very good and charismatic wee drop.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.



Ardmore 9yo 2009/2019 (53.4%, Archives ‘The Fishes of Samoa’, cask #706473, refill barrel, 234 bottles)

Ardmore 9yo 2009/2019 (53.4%, Archives ‘The Fishes of Samoa’, cask #706473, refill barrel, 234 bottles)
Seriously, Whiskybase dudes, when are we getting ‘The Sheep of Perthshire’, or ‘The Herons of Strachur’, or how about ‘The Fish & Chip vans of Drumnadrochit’? Those ideas you can have for free, but others will cost you! Colour: pale straw. Nose: really quite sharp, peaty, medicinal and powerful. But then, what can you expect from an Ardmore matured in an ex-Laphroaig barrel (as most of this 09 parcel is)? It just has this extra layer of very specific Ardmore farminess. Although it’s a style that could also lead your mind down the A83 to Glen Scotia. Petrol, sheep wool, chalk, aspirin dissolved in fizzy water, muddy brine and perhaps even some kind of lightly burn dung (what do you mean you’ve never tried it?!) With water: water really works a trick here. Much more settled and gentle now. A more harmonious balance between seashore, hospital and farmyard. Lightly chalky, lemony, medical, peaty and lots of ink, crushed seashells and bandages. Mouth: peppery, rubbery smoke, engine oil, charcoal and some rather industrial antiseptic, brine and camphor. More sheep wool, but also bits of sheep along with it now. Smoky mutton ramen with iodine and old school cough medicines. With water: once again water works a treat. It just lifts everything nicely and cleans it up a notch. Still a bit more farmy, gamey and muddy on the palate but also thickly textured and with a punchy salinity keeping everything fresh. Finish: long with a rather deep smokiness, tarry, kippery, some olive oil, brine and a very slight vegetal note. Comments: I would say water is obligatory here. But there’s a lot of fun and pleasure to be had if you have a little patience. Although, I feel these parcels of Ardmore could arguably be labelled as ‘blended malt’ given the wallop of Laphroaig that seems to inhabit them.
SGP: 375 - 86 points.



Ardmore 10 yo 2010/2020 (55.6%, Thompson Brothers, refill barrel, 253 bottles)

Ardmore 10 yo 2010/2020 (55.6%, Thompson Brothers, refill barrel, 253 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: a much breezier and more naturally ‘Ardmore’ style, which leads me to suspect this is not an ex-Laphroaig cask. A much softer, more mineral peatiness with these gentle wafts of crisp smoke, crushed seashells, diluted petrol, freshly laundered fabrics and warm milled grist. Also quite a bit of ink, cough medicine and a few dried herbs. With water: dusty, a bit more coal smoke and chimney grime, some dusty malt bins and damp cereals. Mouth: immediately close to the raw ingredients with lots of fresh, lightly smoked malt, buttery toast, yeasty sourdough starter, lemon juice and crushed aspirin. Slightly sharp, citric acidity, white pepper and some hints of waxed canvass. With water: sooty, lightly vegetal, earthy, medicinal and with a little more pure, peaty oomph. Finish: long with a peculiar leathery smoke, antiseptic, medicines, chalk, seawater, ink and lemon oil. Comments: There’s no doubt that this is impeccable, charismatic distillate. I just think it’s a tad young is all really. These casks in another five years should really start to sing.
SGP: 363 - 85 points.



I know I said ‘duos’, but this seems like an obvious point to do this next one...



Ardmore 21 yo 1998/2020 (50.9%, Thompson Brothers / The Whisky Agency, 162 bottles)

Ardmore 21 yo 1998/2020 (50.9%, Thompson Brothers / The Whisky Agency, 162 bottles)
Love the label for this one. Colour: straw. Nose: quite a striking first aroma of fabric softener, dried herbs, lemon rind and citronella wax. Also some very gentle notes of freshly baked breads, pollen, chamomile tea, wildflowers and some slightly coastal-accented greenery such as myrtle and gorse bush. In time it becomes more clearly coastal with a rather crisp saltiness, plain dry cereals and heather flowers. Calm, subtle and very charming; you can use at least one of those words to describe Dornoch Castle I would say. With water: drier, chalkier, leaner, more towards fabrics, linens, crushed green leaves, trampled greenery, moss and earthy potting sheds. Mouth: wonderfully herbal upon arrival, lots of crushed nettles, dried mint, thyme, gorse and also things like gooseberry acidity - it’s almost a sauvignon blanc - more lemon peel, chalk and hibiscus. These herbal qualities become rather medical as well with cough sweet notes. Wee mineral touches, hessian, paraffin, sheep wool, vitamin tablets in soda water, aspirin, ink and an almost effervescent, ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ sweetness. With water: a more concentrated herbal quality. Mineral salts, lemon jelly, aspirin again - there’s a really thready, deft medical quality running through this one. Some soft notes of sandalwood and dried thyme. Finish: long and again very gentle and cohesive. In that it’s hard to pull it apart into separate components. It feels very together as a whisky. Lots of herbs, medicines, roots, soot, chalk, minerals and an almost threadbare peat all folded in on each other. Comments: What I love here is the overall sense of softness, charm and effortless complexity that really makes you work to seek out its core characteristics. Although, it never feels like work, this is an extremely pleasurable whisky that demands some quiet attention.
SGP: 463 - 90 points. 



Let’s finish with something along a similar peat level, theoretically in any case. You never know with this old series of bottlings…



Glen Garioch 8 yo (43%, OB, Gasperoni Alberto import Italy, 1970s)

Glen Garioch 8 yo (43%, OB, Gasperoni Alberto import Italy, 1970s)
Colour: gold. Nose: can you smoke vegetables? This really is like a big mash up of scorched bonfire earth, distant peat embers, the gloopiest, most syrupy of old school, herbal cough medicines and parsnips roasted in honey. Really another world entirely. There’s also plasters, ointments, old herbal liqueurs, muddy sheep wool and a wee gallon of camphor. Malt whisky for Aberdeenshire farmers that somehow found itself in Italy. Mouth: extremely fat, syrupy and herbal. Sooty, muddy peat, black olives mashed in their own pickling juices, herbal toothpaste, mysterious old ointments, tractor engine grease and various medical embrocations. Wild, bonkers and, quite frankly, brilliant! Finish: long, drying, getting increasingly peaty, peppery, greasy, fatty, smoked bacon lardons, herbal jelly, smoked jasmine tea, putty, anthracite, tar and gentian. Comments: Sheer, utter, brilliant madness. Now, having said that, there does feel like some kind of OBE witchcraft has occurred while in bottle, but I would place this firmly in the category of ‘great OBE’. Which is to say the basic flavours of peat and barely have broken down and meandered off in various tertiary and tangential ways creating a fascinating look at the undercarriage of this distillate. It’s well known that some of these old official Glen Garioch dumpy bottlings can be utter soap bombs, but when you get a good one like this… what a joyous treat!
SGP: 465 - 91 points.



Glen Garioch 18 yo 1974/1992 (54.9%, Cadenhead 150th Anniversary)

Glen Garioch 18 yo 1974/1992 (54.9%, Cadenhead 150th Anniversary)
Glen Garioch was peated up until 1975, so theoretically this should be within that peaty timeline. However, I don’t think I ever tried any other 1974s, so let’s find out… Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed, this is raw, greasy, grassy, almost rubbery, peat smoke! There’s almost a nod towards Port Ellen with this kind of grubby, fatty, bloated peatiness. Smouldering anthracite embers, natural tar, kippers drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil, muddy sheep wool, caraway eau de vie, camphor, cod live oil and pure seawater. Brilliant and extremely brutal and powerful. With water: pure and extremely sharp. All on lemon juice, smoked malt, plain peat smoke, seawater, petrol and some fusion of muddy brine and bike chain grease. Mouth: monolithic peatiness. Sharp, pure, petrolic, mineral, saline and almost drenched in malt vinegar. Really close in style to some of the various 1975s by Samaroli I would say. Creosote, kerosene, pure tar, roof pitch, fisherman’s wellies and bitter herbal extracts. With water: wow! Really evolves with water to become wider, fatter and deeper. Terrifically thick and greasy in the mouth. Slathered in grungy peat, dirty martini juices, green olives in brine, tar, iodine, herbal toothpaste and carbolic wash. Finish: long, deeply tarry, saline, medical, peaty and superbly farmy. Comments: Not really a surprise, but seeing as this is pretty much the only 1974 Glen Garioch out there, it’s extremely satisfying to tick it off the list and also rather comforting to know that it sings in the same key as its 1975 siblings. It’s certainly closer to them than to the 1973s I could try.
SGP: 477 - 93 points.



Thanks to Harrison and Serge





May 29, 2020


Four 2007 Glen Spey finished in wine

Yep, pretty specific. We’ve had some good Glen Spey in the past (is that all you have to say, S.?)

Glen Spey 11 yo 2007/2019 (60.5%, Whiskyecke, 1st fill amarone finish, batch #2, 136 bottles)

Glen Spey 11 yo 2007/2019 (60.5%, Whiskyecke, 1st fill amarone finish, batch #2, 136 bottles) Four stars
Whiskyecke means ‘whisky corner’ in Italian (yeah and? They do speak German in northern Italy!) while amarone is a very thick and heavy red wine. Italian too, ha. Now, Glen Spey is not a characterful malt, so I find such a finishing much less pointless than if it had been Laphroaig or Clynelish. Colour: rosé wine. Nose: rosé wine. I’m serious. Some rather heavy rosé as they make in southern Rhône, like in Drôme or Ardèche. Raspberries, blood oranges, pressed grapes, drops of Campari… With water: even more rosé wine! Notes of fresh and preserved peaches and just a tiny rubbery touch – no complains. Mouth (neat): it’s fun, not bad at all, you’d almost believe this is some strongly fortified wine. Pepper, more blood oranges and raspberries, touches of fudge, Froot Loops, marshmallows… Red wine and malt never clash here, we could almost call this a peaceful finish (would you mind playing a little sitar?) With water: pepper up, blood oranges remain, stewed peaches as well. Cloves. Finish: long, with some stewed red berries again. Peppered jam. Comments: a good surprise, I’d already put my gun down right after my first sniffings.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Glen Spey 12 yo 2007/2020 (59.7%, James Eadie for Germany, Marsala finish, cask #805425, 312 bottles)

Glen Spey 12 yo 2007/2020 (59.7%, James Eadie for Germany, Marsala finish, cask #805425, 312 bottles) Three stars
This one was finished for 12 (label) months in ‘first fill European oak Marsala hogsheads’. So say 9 months ;-). And so once again, Italian wine for Germany – the labels are not wide enough to write Trockenbeerenauslese anyway, while people don’t all know what TBA is. Colour: rosé wine again, which suggests it was red Marsala. They make all kinds of fortified wines labelled ‘Marsala’ over there in Sicily. Nose: rather a little hotter than the Amarone, a little harsher, more brutal, and leafier. Water is needed. With water: it lost its pink colour and got rather more on yellow plums. Which is obviously nice. Mouth (neat): very close to the Whiskyecke this time. Same pepper, pink grapefruits and blood oranges, and red berries with a little fudge and brioche. With water: it keeps quite a lot of pepper, both green and black. A little harsh. Finish: long, peppery. Grape seeds and skins. Comments: pretty pretty good but rougher and tougher. Hipflask-ready, I would say.
SGP:561 - 82 points.

Glen Spey 12 yo 2007/2020 (60%, James Eadie, palo cortado finish, 303 bottles)

Glen Spey 12 yo 2007/2020 (60%, James Eadie, palo cortado finish, 303 bottles) Four stars
This is almost double-maturing as this baby could sleep and bathe in palo cortado for no less than 22 months. Could be wonderful. Colour: gold. Nose: fino-y, with some coal smoke, walnuts, mustard, yeasts and paraffin. But once again, water is more than needed. With water: damp earth, mushroom, dunnage warehouse, pu-ehr tea, and indeed some dry sherry, around palo cortado indeed, or fino, or amontillado. Lovely nose, pretty Andalusian in a way. Mouth (neat): yep. Donuts and sponge cake, Jaffa cake, walnut cake (that’s a lot of cake, S.), butterscotch and shortbread, plus touches of cardamom and coriander seeds, which makes it a little bitterer. With water: it keeps hitting you a wee bit, but maybe shouldn’t I quaff it as if it was palo cortado. Even when reduced, ha. Finish: long, on leaves and walnut wine. Very very ‘dry sherry’, which I crave. Comments: a booty-shaking malt if you love proper dry sherry as much as this humble taster does.
SGP:462 - 87 points.

All right, Amarone’s very good, Marsala’s good, Palo Cortado’s excellent… something’s missing. You’re right, gasp… PX!

Glen Spey 11 yo 2007/2019 (58.9%, James Eadie, PX sherry finish, cask #805410, 288 bottles)

Glen Spey 11 yo 2007/2019 (58.9%, James Eadie, PX sherry finish, cask #805410, 288 bottles) Three stars
Please be careful, many whisky lovers believe that PX = sherry. Not at all, PX is a grape and they make cheaper (yet) PX wines in other regions than in sherry/Jerez. So, always check if it says ‘PX sherry’, as it is the case here, and not just ‘PX’, which could well not be the real deal. Colour: mahogany. Nose: oh well, it’s very okay, with deep-fried Mars bars, mushrooms, bouillon, a touch of soap, some graphite oil… And no raisins. Where are the raisins? With water: lovage and parsley plus miso and soy sauce, that’s a good combo. May we see the papers of that PX cask? Mouth (neat): thick, sweet, rich, peppery. Very extreme, I’m sure this would work as a dim-sum sauce having said that. With water: raisins, caraway, ginger, curry and pepper. Soft paprika, chilli (we have Espelette here in France). It was a rather spicy cask. Finish: long, and even spicier. Indeed, dim-sum or Thai chicken or something. Loads of pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: it was a boosted cask or something. Rather the palo cortado please…
SGP:361 - 80 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Spey malts we've tasted so far


May 28, 2020


Three little Glen Moray 2007

I know, but the indies are carrying the flame higher these days. Yet we’ll try to do this little session quick and fastly, believe me… Especially given that strictly all indies have been having some 2007 Glen Moray lately.

Glen Moray 11 yo 2007/2019 (51.1%, Which, Nymphs of Whisky, hogshead, cask #5640, 261 bottles)

Glen Moray 11 yo 2007/2019 (51.1%, Which, Nymphs of Whisky, hogshead, cask #5640, 261 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: a little harsh but pleasantly so, with rocks and concrete, bitter grasses, croissants (croissants should never be sweet!) moss and fern, peach skin, carbon paper (remember?)… No easy baby this far, but this is a good sign… With water: all perfect, simple yet perfect. Bread, white and yellow fruits (peaches), damp chalk, grass and dewdrops on a good spring morning. Mouth (neat): really very good, hipflasky (we’ve had it with your two-pence barbarisms, man), grassy and yet sweet, rather on granny smith, barley eau-de-vie, touches of chalk… With water: the best part. Fresh almonds, apples, plums… And a little cinnamon and maize flour. Finish: rather long, barley-y, very well balanced. Preserved plums in the aftertaste. Comments: Glen Moray’s becoming one of the better Speysiders these days, and probably less of a simple budget malt. Thanks to… the indies!
SGP:461 - 86 points.

Glen Moray 10 yo 2007/2017 ‘Ichigo Ichie’ (56%, Mizunara Hong Kong, first fill bourbon)

Glen Moray 10 yo 2007/2017 ‘Ichigo Ichie’ (56%, Mizunara Hong Kong, first fill bourbon) Four stars and a half
A very lovely label here. Please note that Mizunara is the name of the bottler, not that of the oak that’s been used.  Colour: white wine. Nose: unsurprisingly, this is extremely similar, perhaps a tad chalkier and doughier, would I say. Even more bread and proper croissants. With water: awesome, citric, bready, chalky, and very much on barley. Nosing a handful of grist while quaffing pot ale. Mouth (neat): excellent, fatter than the Which this time, with wee sappy tones, a faint feeling of grass smoke, olive and rapeseed oils, lemons, chalk, wormwood and aniseed… Excellent! With water: immaculate, flawless, with just a wee smoky side that does not quite confirm that ‘first fill bourbon’ thing. I doubt it’s ‘totally pure’ Glen Moray – so perhaps second fill ex-peater barrel instead, but there, it’s very excellent so who cares? Finish: very good, even impressive with this coastal, spicy, lemony and smoky profile. Comments: yeah, who cares. Unless, wait, they did some peat at Glen Moray back in 2007. Did they? Can’t remember, but it’s true that many Speysiders were doing small peated batches at that time. As usual, all have always the very same ‘exclusive brainwaves’ at the very same time. After all they all have innovation at the very heart of their DNA, as we all know ;-).
SGP:454 - 88 points.

Imagine twenty years ago, the very idea of tasting a 10 yo Glen Moray and, what’s more, writing a note about it would have simply scared us away. Like, excuse me but there’s a lost episode of Inspektor Derrick on TV…

Glen Moray 2007/2017 (61.7%, L’Esprit, bourbon, cask #5719, 194 bottles)

Glen Moray 2007/2017 (61.7%, L’Esprit, bourbon, cask #5719, 194 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: the punchiest and the grassiest of them all. Crushed grass and cactus, chalk and concrete, touch of lemon, bread… Well, this could be first-class too. With water: rather! A tad yeasty, some mandarin, those croissants (ça suffit !) and always these chalky touches. Mouth (neat): raw, extremely gristy, barley-y, with a little lemon liqueur and varnish – that’s the high strength. With water: all cleared, all good. Spicy beer, bread, marmalade, liquorice, and slightly dirty chalkiness, which could be seen as an asset. Bring your hipflask… Finish: long, green, spicy, earthier than the others. Green chartreuse and gentian, I couldn’t quite be against that. Comments: very ‘Esprit’ indeed. Well done.
SGP:451 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Moray malts we've tasted so far


May 27, 2020


Another mixed bag of Bastard malts

Let me kindly remind you that in Malt Maniac language, a bastard malt (or whisky) is a whisky of unknown origins, in general because someone thought it was smarter to hide those origins. Not the bottlers mind you, rather the people who own the plants where someone’s pushed the right button one good Monday morning.  

Taraansay 12 yo 2007/2020 (59.5%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon barrel, cask #4, blended Scotch, 249 bottles)

Taraansay 12 yo 2007/2020 (59.5%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon barrel, cask #4, blended Scotch, 249 bottles) Three stars
How could a blended Scotch stem from one single cask, unless it had been blended along the path and further ‘marriaged’ for a few years? This one’s also called ‘From Miles Away’, I suppose that’s a reference to Miles Davis? Having said, the label’s beautiful. Colour: white wine. Nose: varnish, popcorn and candyfloss plus vanilla and a little coconut, there is well some grain in there. With water: light, with a little soot. Mouth (neat): a feeling of Cuban rum and smoked maize, not unpleasant, just unusual. With water: some minerals and a little apple juice, with a touch of smoke. Finish: medium, a little grassier. Comments: perhaps not a bitches’ brew (ha-ha) but still a very fair drop that would defeat most commercial blends. I feel I should add that the price is extremely fair.
SGP:442 - 80 points.

Secret Highland Malt 19 yo 2000/2020 (55.6%, Liquid Treasures, joint bottling with the Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, cask #1442, 325 bottles)

Secret Highland Malt 19 yo 2000/2020 (55.6%, Liquid Treasures, joint bottling with the Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, cask #1442, 325 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: raw, grassy, chalky, with bags of green apples and wee whiffs of beeswax, that’s everything we like. With water: green tobacco, bitters, fresh pumpernickel, gingerbread, ale, malt, hops. Nothing to throw. Mouth (neat): excellent, waxy, super-grassy, rather wonderfully bitter and austere. This one kicks you in your teeth, and people are asking for more! With water: s-u-p-e-r-b. Rich, ale-y, with some malt extract, molasses, bitter beers and more pumpernickel. High class, never was such a pale whisky this thick and heavy. Good trick! Finish: long, oily, waxy, bitter, leafy, bready… Lovely tobacco in the aftertaste. Comments: were I the distiller here, I would be proud that some dedicated IB would display my little distillery on such a lovely bottle, instead of a slightly depressing name such as ‘Secret xxx’. No?
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Uisge Teine 15 yo 2004/2019 (56.4%, Svenska Eldvatten, blended malt, bourbon barrel, cask #SE105, 207 bottles)

Uisge Teine 15 yo 2004/2019 (56.4%, Svenska Eldvatten, blended malt, bourbon barrel, cask #SE105, 207 bottles) Four stars and a half
Really blended or just teaspooned on the papers? Colour: straw. Nose: a light grassy, vegetal smokiness, then clearly peat, a drop of mercurochrome, a drop of cherry juice, and these notes of strawberry yoghurt that you may sometimes smell around some malting plants. With water:  bitter herbs, liquorice wood, moss and fern, fennel, aniseed… Mouth (neat): good fresh peat and notes of cranberries and oranges, plus a little clove essence. Mouthwash. This one grows on you. With water: excellent mentholated smoke, anise, lemon, brine, bitter oranges… Completely different, but this one still reminds me of the silly ‘home vattings’ we used to do a long time ago. Like 90% Ardbeg, 10% Macallan. Finish: really very good, long, resinous, smoky, with a very small raisiny side towards the aftertaste. Comments: extremely good, well done Mr. Teine!
SGP:367 - 88 points.

Anecdote 24 yo ‘Small Batch’ (47.9%, Chapter 7, blended malt, bourbon hogsheads, 424 bottles, 2020)

Anecdote 24 yo ‘Small Batch’ (47.9%, Chapter 7, blended malt, bourbon hogsheads, 424 bottles, 2020) Four stars and a half
Two hogsheads blended together. The question is, were these hoggies coming from different distilleries? Or are they similar and just ‘teaspooned’? Colour: straw. Nose: oh, engine oil, grease, concrete, sourdough, used brake pads, then some very lovely hints of flowery and citrusy riesling, all pretty subtle over there in the back of the background. Also our old tweed jacket that’s seen many rains and tempests, and a wee smokiness of the medicinal kind. I find it really subtle, and yet firm. A touch of radish too. Mouth: excellent, starting with a bit of old-school soap (no problems, that used to be common) and bread dough, quite a lot of paraffin, then a beautiful and always old-school development on salty and mineral things, some grapefruit, soot, something ashy, and just good old peat. Perhaps a bit of suet too, climbing wax, a wee bit of rollmops… Finish: long, salty, greasy, lemony. Very good, with a Taliskery side. Comments: the glories of very small batches. I have to say I’m a fan of these tiny waxy/soapy notes.
SGP:364 - 88 points.

Classic Islay (44.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd, blended malt, +/-2018)

Classic Islay (44.2%, Berry Bros & Rudd, blended malt, +/-2018) Four stars
I can’t see what could go wrong here. Colour: a whiter shade of pale (aarf). Nose: fresh, peaty, very coastal, gristy (youth) and pretty tarry and on diesel oil. I would imagine ¾ young CI and ¼ young Laphroaig would be a bit like this. No bad names. Mouth: just very good, more on brine, gherkins and olives, roots, pure mezcal and a little mercurochrome. Excellent briny ashes. Finish: long, crystalline, peaty, salty. Salty smoked almonds in the aftertaste. Comments: classic Islay, I’m not so sure. Not all young Islays are this good if you ask me. Impeccable blended malt, where are the oysters?
SGP:367 - 87 points.

Red Snake (58%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, first fill bourbon and Guyana rum, cask #redneck 08, 259 bottles, 2017)

Red Snake (58%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, first fill bourbon and Guyana rum, cask #redneck 08, 259 bottles, 2017) Four stars and a half
This one is a single malt but in a way, if the rum’s loud, it’s still kind of blended, no? Colour: straw. Nose: rum. With water: sea breeze, olives, pink grapefruit, muddy sands, damp fabric, diesel oil. Pretty brilliant and b****y smart. Mouth (neat): rum. With water: extremely good, in my opinion. It’s blended ‘spirit’, both rum and whisky, with marvellous notes of engine oil, tarry ropes, grapefruits, rotting tropical fruits, seawater, and mercurochrome. Finish: long and very salty. Passion fruits. Comments: many have dreamed of making such ‘world of spirits’ blend, Blackadder succeeded. Now, is this whisky? Shhh… Big fan of this, hope they’ve racked a few hectos into proper refill wood and will bottle them around 2040. I would suggest the name ‘Boring Old French Snake’.
SGP:556 - 89 points.

We’re always in good company at Blackadder’s…

Black Snake ‘VAT No.4 Third Venom’ (60.3%, Blackadder, single malt, 426 bottles, 2017)

Black Snake ‘VAT No.4 Third Venom’ (60.3%, Blackadder, single malt, 426 bottles, 2017) Three stars
I’m not sure I’m getting all the jokes and suggestions related to snakes and adders here, neither do I quite understand how the range’s organised, but let’s not be too cartesian, and rather try to assess this with an open heart... Still, why use the word ‘VAT’ when it’s a single malt from a single cask? Or is it not? Colour: straw. Nose: muddy, gristy, on porridge and cardboard. Good, that’s sorted, let’s add water. With water: really very raw, you would well imagine this is the kind of juice that the people at the distilleries were drinking. Perhaps straight from their copperdogs. Mouth (neat): raw barley eau-de-vie. We’ve known some Miltonduffs… With water: a bit more civilised. Barely. Porridge, grist, bread dough, flour, grass, greengages… Finish: same. Grassy and gristy. Comments: in rum, they would call this ‘whisky for pirates’. Very funny, but, well, as they say in French rugby, ‘very challenging’.
SGP:451 - 80 points.

We need civilisation and gentleness before we call this a tasting session…

Speyside 46 yo 1973/2019 (49.7%, Maltbarn, sherry, 68 bottles)

Speyside 46 yo 1973/2019 (49.7%, Maltbarn, sherry, 68 bottles) Five stars
What’s a little boring with these old (almost) anonymous Speysiders is that we know they’re superb drops. In truth we could write the tasting note without even having one single drop, but indeed that would be stupid. Rather do that with NAS Macallan ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: preserved pineapple, acacia honey, beeswax, golden sultanas, putty, fresh marzipan, dandelions, gorse, figs, apricots, Sauternes, touches of linoleum, more putty, and a hint of oil paint. Mozartian. Mouth: oh get out of here. All things from a hive, some rare embrocations, various old paints and varnishes from your grandpa's grandpa's grandpa's grandpa's time, and really a lot of beeswax and pinewood. Forgot to mention pink grapefruits. Finish: long, sappy, yet fresh. Fab. Lovely bitterness in the aftertaste, perhaps a touch of chlorophyll. And coconut? Comments: the label’s wonderful, the whisky too, and so is the world (say night-night, S.)
SGP: 6561- 92 points.

The boxes and shelves are still full of bastard malts, some from quite a long time ago. So I suppose we’ll have to do many more bastard sessions, unless the friendly Dutc… I mean, Scottish distillers return to reason… Yeah I know, noo jist haud on.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all blended or undisclosed malts we've tasted so far


May 26, 2020


Port Ellen, old 10 twice and new 40 once
(With a nod to Feis Ile)

As they say, you now need a special occasion to have some Port Ellen, as they’re becoming increasingly rare. Having said that, the fact that there’s a new Port Ellen always makes for one of those special occasions; what’s more, it’s one of the oldest ever bottled. Now, to find an interesting sparring partner… Another 1979 would be the obvious choice, I agree, but I believe we could do better. How about, since the new 40 is also about being different from the usual ‘distillery character’, checking that very distillery character by first trying one or two very young Port Ellens?

Port Ellen 10 yo (58.4%, Signatory Vintage, Natural High Strength, 1994)

Port Ellen 10 yo (58.4%, Signatory Vintage, Natural High Strength, 1994) Five stars
A pretty rare bottle and, in theory, a 1983 since it was 10 when it was bottled, in 1994, while 1984s cannot exist. Are you following me? I’ve always enjoyed the super-young Port Ellens, most from Signatory (Scottish Wildlife, Corsini and such) or from Cadenhead. For they always showcase this rocket-fuel-based side that we like so much… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: fresh mown lawn, kerosene indeed, tincture of iodine, chalk and plaster, new tyres (how very PE indeed), charcoal and ashes, one green olive, asparagus shavings, coal tar, and the tiniest grapefruit in the creation. There’s this ‘obvious’ side to these young PEs, you feel like you could just write ‘of course’. With water: old coal bags (hessian), coal dust, almond cream, clams, green apples, damp wool, and just a touch of ripe apple. Something ripe in a young PE, how’s that possible? Mouth (neat): extremely punchy, acerbic and acidic, first with the greenest apples there ever was, then lemons and grey pepper, horseradish, tons of ashes, and, well, just the feeling of having eaten the ashtray after a very long night playing poker (maybe because you lost - whatever). Limoncello and old natural tar liqueur. Bang! With water: absolutely excellent, still a little brutal and demanding, on home-smoked salmon, more coal, more bits of tyre, more tire, and some very dry ashes. That ashtray, for example. Finish: very long, very dry and ashy. Lemons and a drop of orgeat syrup in the aftertaste, that’s a better civilised signature. Comments: huge smoke and a lot of tar in this very pure young Port Ellen. This should be the style they’re about to re-create at the ‘new’ Port Ellen Distillery. Can we wait?
SGP:368 - 92 points.

Wait, just to make sure we’re really having a good grasp of PE’s character…

Port Ellen 10 yo 1981/1992 (64%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 150th Anniversary, for Preiss Import California)

Port Ellen 10 yo 1981/1992 (64%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 150th Anniversary, for Preiss Import California) Four stars
This is pretty rare too. Not all of those 1981s were perfect if I remember well, let’s make sure… Colour: white wine. Nose: it is, indeed, very different, more on sour fruits and vegetables, with some yoghurt it seems. I wrote ‘it seems’ because of the quasi-lethal strength in this case. I say let’s take steps… With water: fully on ink, coal smoke, fumes, new plastics (or new iPhone straight from the box – works with Samsung too, and maybe even with Huawei) and Provence herbs. Thyme, rosemary, yoghurt sauce (like they have with kebab in Turkey, it’s excellent)… Now there’s also some dirt, scoria, more plaster… The jury’s still out. Mouth (neat): God it’s hot! Something like bubblegum infused in a mix of varnish and cologne. Water is obligatory (they would close this website down if I was to go on). With water: a soapy side, some huge lemons too, smoked lemons should that exist, cigar ashes, some cardboard… Mixed feelings here. Finish: very long and very peppery. Bone-dry ashiness in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly not an easy fellow, it’s lacking the Signatory’s purity and supreme ‘blade-iness’, I would say.
SGP:268 - 86 points.

I think we’re ready for the new 40…

Port Ellen 40 yo 1979/2020 ‘9 Rogue Casks’ (50.9%, OB, Untold Stories, 1380 bottles)

Port Ellen 40 yo 1979/2020 ‘9 Rogue Casks’ (50.9%, OB, Untold Stories, 1380 bottles) Five stars
This brand new, very smartly packaged and self-restrained bottle of Port Ellen stems from four American oak hogsheads and five European oak butts that were deemed as ‘holding unusual flavour characteristics that stood out from the typical Port Ellen distillery character’. Said to be of a lighter, more delicate style of Port Ellen, let’s check that. Well it cannot be any less delicate than the last 10 anyway… Colour: gold. Nose: yeah well, same conclusion as last time we had a +/-40yo PE, they age just beautifully, gaining much elegance and, in this very case, a rather superb and subtle medicinal and piny side. Actually, fresh almonds are first up, so are very fresh walnuts and perhaps brazils, then camphory ointments, some vivid notes of bergamots (which I would die for), then a little natural rubber and tar - after all this is PE - and the subtlest very old pu-ehr tea around the tenth water. Yep. With water, precisely: indeed, it gets subtle, almost whispering, rather on old embrocations, old linseed oil at a painter’s, with an unexpected touch of preserved peach or apricot, almost as a wink. A little raw wool too, and something that I’ve found in quite a few old PEs if I remember well, Woolite! And citron zests. Mouth (neat): lighter? Were they meaning this is like if you would lick your old Zippo? It’s certainly not a light whisky, it’s rather some kind of peppered grapefruit juice blended with liquid smoke in which you would have let cedar wood, bitter almonds and bits of kippers infuse for a good two weeks. There’s clearly some oak but it would come with some mint and lime peel, which just always works. With water: some pine resin and a little black tobacco from the oak, otherwise some chocolate, oranges, pepper, black tea, and more and more cinnamon. Indeed that’s the oak, but everything remained under control, you would never say this is oaky whisky. Finish: medium to long, rather on smoked tea, more cinnamon, marzipan, cocoa and notes of putty. Comments: superb old Port Ellen that rather managed to keep the oak at bay, even if I wouldn’t try to bring these casks to the ripe old age of 45. Better rebuilld the place and restart distilling ;-).
SGP:466 - 91 points.

Happy virtual Feis Ile everyone, and cheers to all the fine people at the distilleries and everywhere on Islay!

(Thank you Angus, thank you K.C.!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Port Ellen we've tasted so far


May 25, 2020



Rocking Swedes
I could almost copy-and-paste what I had written last time we tried a few Swedes, the country’s become a real whisky nation, with several real whisky distilleries. It’s true that after all, the North of Britain is not that far away… Let’s see what we have today.

High Coast ‘Älv’ (46%, OB, Sweden, +/-2020)

High Coast ‘Älv’ (46%, OB, Sweden, +/-2020) Three stars and a half
Not too sure whether the name’s a reference to Alf, probably not ;-). Actually, it means ‘river’. I thought their recent ‘Atmosfär’ was very good (WF 85). I believe no wine was harmed in the making of this whisky. Colour: white wine. Nose: all on soft breads, doughs, and vanilla, with a little mashed potato and perhaps turnip, as well as touches of nutmeg and cinnamon from the oak. I do enjoy young bready whiskies, I’m sure this would work very well with smoked salmon. Mouth: starts with a touch of paraffin bordering proper vegetal soap, then goes towards oak spices and indeed, spicy bread, with some juniper for sure. A wee feeling of oak-aged gin, but I find this much better than oak-aged gin. Finish: rather long, a tad raw and oaky, but it’s always cool when what you get is a spirit’s original ingredients and materials. Yeastier and breadier aftertaste. Comments: no treachery here. I hate it that I haven’t kept some Atmosfär for due comparison. On the other hand, we’ve got a new ‘Project’…
SGP:351 - 84 points.

High Coast ‘Project 63’ (63%, OB, Sweden, 2020)

High Coast ‘Project 63’ (63%, OB, Sweden, 2020) Four stars
Oh yeah, by the way, High Coast used to be called ‘Box’ only a few years back. So, what’s this Project 63? Well it was ‘distilled using malt with a peated level of 63ppm, aged for 63 months in 63 litre first fill bourbon casks, aged on the 63 parallel 63 decimetres above ground, and bottled at 63% vol. ABV’. And sold for 63 Euros a bottle. No, I think that last part’s a little optimistic. In short, it’s a modern peater. Colour: golden straw. Nose: mustardy smoke, that’s very nice, I think. Crushed mustard grains, grass smoke (bonfire), vanilla, literally bags of pink olives, and growing notes of farmyard, even a distant cow stable. With water: calms down, gets rounder, with rather more vanilla and chamomile, but the lovely pink olives are still there in the background. Are they growing olives in Sweden? Already? Mouth (neat): more lemons and olives, and of course smoke. A little difficult at this strength, but it seems that the small barrels (which, consequently, aren’t proper barrels, I agree) did not make it pure oak juice. With water: excellent! Even if the oak tends to become a wee tad loud(ish) for me. This grassy/olive-y smokiness works very well and, unless I’m wrong, is not to be seen just everywhere. Finish: long, oily… I’m even wondering if you couldn’t pour this one over a calzone. Comments: singular, yet not whacky, and very good. Am impressed. Hope they’ve distilled enough of this, and did fill some regular barrels too. See you around 2025 in that case.
SGP:467 - 87 points.

Mackmyra 11 yo 2007/2019 (48.2%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, barrel)

Mackmyra 11 yo 2007/2019 (48.2%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, barrel) Three stars
I find it quite remarkable that some bottler located in Campbeltown, Scotland, would release a Swedish whisky starting with ‘Mac’. That’s what we call having an open mind! Colour: straw. Nose: very dry, very much on porridge, yeast, Jerusalem artichokes, perhaps zucchinis, leaven, perhaps capers… Not much fruitiness to say the least, or perhaps cider apples? Mouth: capers are back, green apples indeed, capsicum, chalk, porridge, eating grist (we’ve all done that while visiting distilleries), a little café latte (the barrel I suppose), a little ginger, new white wine, white pepper and cinnamon… Everything falls into place after a while, while it remains a little simple. And yet enjoyable. Finish: medium, with a little more pepper, and touches of grapefruit peel. Comments: I find it good. Skol/cheers.
SGP:461 - 80 points.

Well, I suppose any proper whisky nation ought to have closed distilleries!... In this case Grythyttan Whisky in Lillkyrka, which was only active between 2010 and 2013. The casks had been salvaged by another distillery, Bergslagen, after Grythyttan had fallen into bankruptcy, until our friends at Svenska Eldvatten could finally bottle some of the full-size casks that existed, under the ‘Silent Swede’ name.

Silent Swede 2011/2018 ‘Ex-Brandy’ (60.7%, Svenska Eldvatten, 351 bottles)

Silent Swede 2011/2018 ‘Ex-Brandy’ (60.7%, Svenska Eldvatten, 351 bottles) Four stars
This is the only cask that was unpeated. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a kougelhopf, with proper roasted raisins (from the brandy?) and otherwise a lot of butterscotch, toasted brioche, and a wee petroly/metallic side. With water: many more roasted/toasted notes. Nuts, breads, pastries… Whiffs of gorse as well. Mouth (neat): pretty good! The high ethanol blocks it a wee bit but there are nice raisins and more butterscotch and panettone. Fudge with raisins inside. With water: really good, I think. Enter triple-sec, dried figs, fruitcake… Finish: medium, rather rounded, very raisiny but never too sweet. Comments: looks like they were doing it right!
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Silent Swede 2012/2018 ‘Ex-Champagne’ (59.9%, Svenska Eldvatten, barrique, 349 bottles)

Silent Swede 2012/2018 ‘Ex-Champagne’ (59.9%, Svenska Eldvatten, barrique, 349 bottles) Four stars
This one was lightly peated to 16ppm smoke. Champagne casks have really become uncommon in the whisky world (unless anonymized, but what’s the point then?) Colour: deep amber. Nose: highly extractive, as expected, so with even more butterscotch than in the ‘Brandy’, with some butter cream, touches of rubber (new wellies) probably from the peat, fudge again, and as expected, a whole teapot of lighter lapsang souchong. With water: oh hardwoods, eucalyptus, pu-ehr, natural rubber, capsicum, bîdee smoke… I find this extremely lovely! Mouth (neat): the oak feels a wee bit (shavings) but the fruity spiciness is pretty lovely. Red currants, touch of juniper, prickly pears, blood oranges… With water: excellent! What happened to them? There’s a lot of cake, but it just works. What a surprise. Finish: medium cake-y, perfect. Jaffa cake and there, some chardonnay (yeah I had to mention chardonnay in this context). Comments: wait, really, I wasn’t expecting much, and to tell you the truth, I had thought our friends at Svenska Eldvatten had bottled the lot only out of… well, national pride. How wrong was I (who said as usual, who?)
SGP:564 - 87 points.

Silent Swede 2011/2018 ‘Ex-Sauternes’ (61.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, barrique, 352 bottles)

Silent Swede 2011/2018 ‘Ex-Sauternes’ (61.2%, Svenska Eldvatten, barrique, 352 bottles) Four stars and a half
Peated to 16ppm this time again. I’ve noticed quite a few times already that our friends up there loved their Sauternes. Colour: deep gold. Nose: and it feels, with a large apricot tarte (ever tried tarte tatin made with apricots instead of apples? Please do!) and these touches of pinewood that spirits may get out of some French oak. Very nice nose once again. With water: a sin, really. Fresh brioche, quince jelly, mirabelle jam, a few wee oak spices that never get in the way… Now the smoke’s much less noticeable in this one. It’s not impossible that the Sauternes cask ‘digested’ it. Unless, these wee whiffs of menthol, perhaps… Mouth (neat): excellent! Notes of perfect MGP-style bourbon, quinces, apricots, mirabelles, and a muscaty sweetness that’s really loud and yet works very well. With water: can’t really tell, I drank it all. Really! Finish: long, perfectly balanced, rich and jammy. Stunning coffee notes in the aftertaste. Indeed I had kept three drops, I’m not fool. Comments: where are the stills? The people? I really love this drop, me no comprendo what could happen. I find it pretty reminiscent of Smögen, another perfect Swedish distilling operation.
SGP:653 - 88 points.

Silent Swede 2012/2018 ‘Virgin French Oak’ (61.9%, Svenska Eldvatten, 348 bottles)

Silent Swede 2012/2018 ‘Virgin French Oak’ (61.9%, Svenska Eldvatten, 348 bottles) Three stars
Virgin French oak? That cannot work, or did they high-char the cask? Once again, 16ppm peat smoke. Colour: full gold. Nose: this is the most discreet of them all (so far), could be that they managed to bourbonise French oak. Touches of mangos, bananas, vanilla, overripe apples, shortbread, and very few ‘spices’… Once again, lovely. With water: as expected, sawdust and plaster coming out. It’s still fine, but there. Mouth (neat): holy… err, water! This is perfect at just 6 or maybe even 5. Melon, plums… Now hold on, some spices tend to be willing to come to the front, typical French oak. Around green pepper I would say, that’s a little less engaging in my book. With water: fine, but not my favourite. The oak’s a little too loud for me, remember that the wines that are put into fresh French/European oak are much, much richer and thicker than any whisky. No it’s really not a matter of A.B.V. Finish: medium, fine, spicy. Some coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: a good drop for sure, it’s just that the others had been pretty perfect.
SGP:453 - 80 points.

Good, there are two left, one ex-Virgin Swedish Oak and the other one ex-sherry, while I would like to keep one for our next ‘Swedish’ session. So which one should we try now? I can see we agree…

Silent Swede 2011/2019 ‘Ex-Sherry’ (55.7%, Svenska Eldvatten, cask #226, 412 bottles)

Silent Swede 2011/2019 ‘Ex-Sherry’ (55.7%, Svenska Eldvatten, cask #226, 412 bottles) Three stars and a half
After all, with malt whisky sherry is a compulsory exercise. As always, 16ppm smoke. Colour: full gold. Nose: orange cake and a soufflé straight from an oven. And then, tiny whiffs of roasted pecans, walnut cake, tiger balm (the peat), and some metal polish as we had already found in the ex-brandy. Impeccable. With water: no changes this time. Perhaps a little more breadiness, which always pleases me mucho. Mouth (neat): Mamma Mia (very subtle hint there), this is full of banana jam, mango chutney, papayas and guavas, and lapsang souchong. Brilliant. With water: some leafy dryness that’s perhaps not totally welcome, but hey at 55%, water’s not mandatory anyway. Finish: a wee tad plankish, perhaps, but we’re more than fine. Comments: good, the question is, are these casks a faithful representation of the distillery’s ‘average’ output, or were they selected because they’re the cream of the crop? Sadly, it’s too late anyway.
SGP:564 - 83 points.

But what a superb surprise altogether. Having said that I’m so disappointed I’ll never manage to say the name Grythyttan. Come on, to a Frenchman that’s even worse than Allt-A-Bhainne or Bruichladdich!

Last minute bonus – because we just couldn’t not have one…

Smögen 2014/2018 (58.8%, OB, Sweden, Hasse Peters, refill sherry, cask P131, 48 bottles)

Smögen 2014/2018 (58.8%, OB, Sweden, Hasse Peters, refill sherry, cask P131, 48 bottles) Four stars
A sherry quarter I suppose. There is a hint of justified hope floating in the air just now… Colour: full gold. Nose: some walnut cake and a touch of sweet mustard from the cask, something totally fino-ish, a little seawater, a drop of fresh paint, and clearly something Japanese, between miso and umami sauce. With water: carrot cake with some curry, walnuts, pecans and the tiniest coconut ever. No, there, Brazil nuts. Mouth (neat): powah maxima. Pepper, mustard, smoke, walnut stain, sriracha sauce. Wondering if you don’t need some kind of certificate or diploma from the Swedish State to be allowed to quaff this. More or less a parachute jump. With water: gets softer, as expected, and pretty spicy, almost as if this was European oak. Finish: long, with some white pepper and cinnamon, also nutmeg and bitter oranges. Sour liqueurs in the aftertaste, artichoke, bitters, beer reduction, and then a load of various peppers… Comments: a little extreme, but there, four years old. Can I have my certificate now?
SGP:472 - 87 points.

May 24, 2020


Crazy Cognacs for malt maniacs

French brandies seem to catch more attention from within whisky circles these days, let’s just hope that’ll still be the case post-Covid, and that lousy politicians will not start to promote national brandies instead just because they’re, well, ‘national’. Very bad and even undrinkable, but national, believe me! Aren’t we seeing that coming in too many fields? Indeed, in whisky too? Anyway, let’s see what we have on the table today…

André Renard ‘VSOP Fine Cognac’ (40%, OB, +/-2018)

André Renard ‘VSOP Fine Cognac’ (40%, OB, +/-2018) Two stars
This is ‘qualité rare’ you understand, and yet you find this bottle both on Amazon and… Alibaba! Having said that I thought the house’s XO was pretty good (WF 83).  Colour: deep amber, probably high obscuration. Nose: fine, peachy and melony at first, but some caramel and molasses are taking over after a short while. Some honey and sultanas too, that’s better news, and even touches of menthol and liquorice. Fine nose. Mouth: it's really okay at first, not as weak as I had thought given the low strength, but burnt sugar and molasses are showing too much. Very old-style Cognac, too tannic and caramelly for me. That’s why these kinds of bottle usually die in the back of your liquor cabinet (or where the TV set used to be located). Finish: medium, with too much burnt caramel and black tea for me. Comments: some aspects were very okay, especially the first nose, but it rather lost it then.
SGP:551 - 70 points.

Henri Geffard ‘Très Vieux Cognac’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2016)

Henri Geffard ‘Très Vieux Cognac’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2016) Three stars
A bottle I always wanted to open; mind you, this is actually 46 years old Grande Champagne form the family’s own estate in Segonzac. As almost always, it’s a pity that they keep bottling such old glories at 40% vol. Colour: dep gold. Nose: very ‘artisan’, a tad grassy and rough at first (calvados) but some rather lovely whiffs of heather and acacia honeys as well as some expected old rancio and black raisins tend to increase this baby’s elegance, while flowers are showing up too, especially gorse and dandelions. Overripe peaches too. That’s all most pleasant I have to say. Mouth: same feeling of gritty grassiness at first, perhaps a few teabags as well, then a lot of prunes and raisins, rancio, old oloroso, walnuts and tobacco (cigars). Sadly, it tends to become a little too tannic and drying. It’s so difficult to master these spirits over a long period of time if you haven’t got thousands of casks to choose from to do proper re-racking (meaning less wood, not more wood like elsewhere, eh)! Finish: medium, with more cigars, cedarwood, burnt raisins, black tea… Comments: really good, for sure, but a tad dry and tannic. Lacks brightness, I would say. Now, 73€ a 70cl bottle, does that speak?
SGP:461 - 80 points.

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac de Christian L.88’ (54.1%, OB, Petite Champagne, 303 bottles, 2019)

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac de Christian L.88’ (54.1%, OB, Petite Champagne, 303 bottles, 2019) Five stars
Obviously some vintage 1988 (don’t quote me here) so around 30 years old. This cognac was sourced at family Meslier in Châteauneuf-sur-Charente by the charming little house J-L Pasquet. I fondly remember their ‘Très Vieille Réserve’ from two or three years ago (WF 91). Colour: deep gold. Nose: pretty much the opposite of the two first ones, which means that we’re experiencing an avalanche of both fresh and preserved fruits, with some heather and manuka honeys to make it all a little rounder. Mirabelles, peaches, guavas, even pink bananas, apricots, touch of liquorice, drop of old Tokaji, figs, a funny feeling of botrytis (I’m sure that wouldn’t go through the stills anyway), and last but not least, rose petals. With water: it’s more difficult to reduce cognac than whisky, as I think I’ve noticed quite a few times already. So, please proceed drop by drop, until you meet stunning honeys, jams, and just all kinds of raisins there ever was. And more figs in this very case.  Mouth (neat): not the first time I’m noticing that some cognac at +/-55% feels rather stronger than malt whisky at the same strength. As if the richer flavours and oils would just add up to the alcohol. Prickly pears and peaches, heavy triple-sec, mead, touches of pinewood, heavy liquorice… Well it’s a fighter when neat. With water: peach peel, peach flesh, melon, honey, a little cracked pepper, more liquorice, and a little chocolate. Excellent but keep it above roughly 45%. Finish: long, spicier. Cinnamon, liquorice, pepper. Preserved peaches are back in the aftertaste, while there’s still a lot of cracked pepper. Comments: clearly cognac for malt drinkers. That’s us my friend.
SGP:651 - 90 points.

We have another vintage…

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac d’André L.73’ (51.4%, OB, Petite Champagne, 525 bottles, 2019)

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac d’André L.73’ (51.4%, OB, Petite Champagne, 525 bottles, 2019) Five stars
Forgot to say, these cognacs are part of a series called ‘L’esprit de famille’. This ought to be a 1973 (remember Slade?) that could be sourced with the help of Guilhem Grosperrin, a regular on this humble little website (I mean, Whiskyfun). One of those great people who’ll prevent many great casks from getting butchered in large ‘commercial’ batches. Yeah I know, everything’s commercial. Colour: deep gold. Nose: this is pure mango jam mixed with heather honey and just a drop of latte. I find this stunning. Perhaps a dollop of camphor ointment. With water: when old books, very old calvados, hessian, fig wine, good mead and top-notch Sauternes meet. And fruit peelings plus even a touch of beeswax. Excuse me, but ‘wow’. Mouth (neat): pineapple jam. That’s always a killer. Touches of pepper and cloves in the back. With water: once again it’s not easy to get the spirit-water combo perfect. Does ‘earthy sultanas and pink pepper (Timut-style)’ make any sense? Love how the pepper warms you up. Finish: long, extremely well balanced between these sultry and luxurious fruits and the more aggressive, minty and peppery spiciness. Kick, knack and oomph. Amazing tobacco and black tea in the aftertaste. Comments: the pepper keeps burning your lips for a few minutes, which makes for an unusual feeling. Love it – this is cognac that you need to earn, at a price that should make many marketeers over Hadrian’s Wall or in London-on-the-Thames consider occupational retraining. There.
SGP:661 - 92 points.

I know it’s gonna get difficult, but I’m sure some German friends would be ready for the challenge…

Petite Champagne 49 yo 1970/2020 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, barrel, 234 bottles)

Petite Champagne 49 yo 1970/2020 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, barrel, 234 bottles) Five stars
The Agency's Petite Champagne 1973 a.k.a. 'Johnny Depp's consolation tipple' had been stellar back in 2016. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s honey, and maple syrup, and apricot jam, and Alsatian mirabelle liqueur, and a proper daiquiri, and a touch of lighter pipe tobacco, and honeysuckle, and nosing a plate of cinnamon rolls early in the morning at your favourite patisserie… (I'm speaking from personal experience here) and some peach liqueur that some absent-minded liquorist would have matured in fresh American oak, and vanilla, and raisins... Mouth: oh the power and the freshness of it! Starts punchy and peppery, not unlike Pasquet’s 1973, gets then fruitier, jammier, and curiously grassy. The thing is, it all works extremely well. Peppered raisins and honey sauce with a little butterscotch and mirabelle jam. That’ pretty it. Finish: very long, grassier, with notes of pine sap and the tiniest bit of Dutch salted liquorice ever. Comments: superb, just a wee tad less complex than the 1973, in my humble opinion. Oh and I think I’ve just got a brainwave, why not launch The Cognac Agency?
SGP:651 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Cognacs we've tasted so far


May 23, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Laphroaigs for my Dad
Last year my Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and sadly he passed away this past Monday morning. There is so much to say about what happened in that space of time, and what has changed in these few days since. However, this isn’t the place and I don’t have room or time to do it - or him - justice here.


I will say though, that my Dad was the man who ignited in me my love of whisky. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of growing up in a home with a father who loved good alcohol for its flavour rather than its effects.



On occasion, I am asked about how I got into whisky and I always tell the story about how my Dad let me taste a sip of his Laphroaig when I was around five years old. It’s a neat and fun wee tale, but it is perhaps easy to miss the point that it was the man, rather than the whisky, that really inspired me and everything that I would go on to do with this wonderful drink. If you’ve ever enjoyed any of the work I do nowadays, it’s really my Dad you have to thank for that. He was the most incredible man and my absolute hero. I’ll miss him for the rest of my life. So, without any further ado, let’s just have a bundle of drams from his favourite distillery.



Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, miniature, -/+2015)

Laphroaig 10 yo (40%, OB, miniature, -/+2015)
Sadly, I don’t have a current 10yo to hand, however, I do have this wee mini which has been sitting around my flat for a few years now. I cannot remember for the life of me how I came to possess it but it’s probably from around 5 years ago. Colour: gold. Nose: seawater, hessian, dried seaweed, iodine, pure peat smoke, bonfire ashes and wee touches of ink, canvass and light herbal touches. Modern Laphroaig for sure, but it remains indomitably ‘Laphroaig!’ - probably why this distillery continues to hold such sway over many a mind. Mouth: as with the nose I would say it’s a drier and rather more saline batch. Sooty, briny, camphory and rather oily with lots of black pepper, iodine, dried seaweed, tar and rather punchy medicines. There’s also a rather emphatic smokiness that’s tinged with heather and kilned malt. Finish: medium but with a lot of plain peat smoke lingering, and a notch more wood sweetness. Comments: I would love to compare this to a bottling just off the shelf. But it still reeks of ‘Laphroaig 10’, perhaps why this remains so stubbornly a brilliant and unequivocal classic bottling. Having said that, it’s also an extremely changeable bottling from batch to batch, perhaps why we geeks cannot help but continue to love it. It remains, at the end of the day, fun. And what would whisky be without fun.
SGP: 467 - 86 points.



Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, US import Hiram Walker, late 1980s)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, US import Hiram Walker, late 1980s)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: there’s a definite ancestry to the mini, but we’re in another time really. The fruits come first - mango, pineapple, passion fruit - then the peat kind of eases itself from the glass slowly. Everything about this feels gentle, unhurried and easy going, which is whisky really translates into pleasure. There’s these wee touches of engine oil, sheep wool, coal smoke, natural tar, herbal cough medicines and iodine drops. In time it evolves a slightly more punchy grassy smokiness, which feels like a step in the direction of modernity and adds an extra layer of complexity. Mouth: beautiful arrival, all on smoked olive oil, natural tar, hessian, seawater and things like lemon rind, underripe green apples, mineral oil and bath salts. Hints of salted almonds, pastis and dried exotic fruit chunks. Finish: long, mineral, dryly smoky, gently herbal, peaty and getting very saline in the aftertaste. Comments: There’s never really been anything else quite like this flavour in Scotch Whisky. ‘Old Laphroaig’ can go alongside something like ‘garlic’ or ‘coffee’ in terms of singular distinctiveness I would argue. Anyway, it’s a great one as expected. I’m also very happy as it was from this very bottle that Dad and I last shared a Laphroaig 10.
SGP: 555 - 91 points.



Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Vinalda import for Portugal, -/+ 1980)

Laphroaig 10 yo (43%, OB, Vinalda import for Portugal, -/+ 1980)
A rather rare Portuguese import. Colour: gold. Nose: gah! We are deep in Bonfanti territory. Lashings of sheep wool, dried exotic fruits, leathery peat, cough medicines and wee tertiary hints of salty sherry - even rancio! Just exquisite. I’d also add that it feels rather more like a 60s style of distillate and indeed this could be a late 70s bottling so entirely possible. Earthy, herbal, leafy, briny and fruity. Stunningly complex and harmoniously balanced. Mouth: even at 43% the whisky feels huge. That sense of restrained, coiled power. Oily peat, boiler smoke, kiln air, natural tar, syrupy herbal cough medicines, iodine, dried mango, passion fruit sours, preserved lemons, citronella wax and gently smoked malt. Close to the raw ingredients while also managing to be otherworldly. A flavour and style that sits beyond obvious metrics of ‘maturity’ or ‘age’. Finish: immense, long, deeply oily, peaty and full of lingering, elegantly wispy peat smoke, dried seaweed, game meats, leather, herbal liqueur and things like bouillon and umami broths. Comments: Again, not entirely unexpected. But no matter how many of these very old 10s you try, it is almost impossible not to be flabbergasted anew every time.
SGP: 656 - 94 points.



Let’s jump forwards a little bit in era and power…



Laphroaig 17 yo 1999/2016 (58.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #29.190 ‘Divine dark temptation’, refill sherry butt, 582 bottles)

Laphroaig 17 yo 1999/2016 (58.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #29.190 ‘Divine dark temptation’, refill sherry butt, 582 bottles)
Colour: rosy gold. Nose: big, oily and freshly coastal at first. Crab sticks, smoky BBQ sauce, smoked mint, paprika, squid ink, tar, iodine, balsamic and seaweed in ramen broth. Gets increasingly tarry and medial with plenty hessian and black pepper. Powerful yet well composed and restrained. With water: gets much saltier and rather prickly. Lots of cured meats such as spicy salami. Also miso, soy sauce and anchovy butter. Mouth: a big spoonful of textually oily, greasy peat. Turf, burning heather, black olives in brine, tar, coal smoke, sandalwood, grilled oysters with garlic and herbal ointments. Also some wee hints of lavender and some kind of smoked honey. An excellent and very clean cask I’d say. With water: kippers, olive oil mixed with pure brine, lemon juice, wood ash and camphor. Syrupy in texture and almost like molten bacon fat. Finish: wonderfully long and full of grilling meats, shellfish, iodine, tar, coal smoke, peaty kiln air and fish sauce. Comments: I rather think these 1990s vintages of Laphroaig are still a wee bit overlooked. The character is certainly different from the old 80s official bottlings. But, between the pre-90s and post-2000 style I think it increasingly stands alone as its own decade with its own hallmarks. I’d also add that they seem to only be improving with age. This one was a terrific wee powerhouse of a dram.
SGP: 377 - 90 points.



Laphroaig 21 yo 1998/2019 (54.4%, The Whisky Exchange, cask #117, oloroso sherry finish, 322 bottles)

Laphroaig 21 yo 1998/2019 (54.4%, The Whisky Exchange, cask #117, oloroso sherry finish, 322 bottles)
This one was re-racked into an oloroso sherry cask in 2010, so really a double maturation rather than a finish I suppose. Colour: amber. Nose: fruits, game meats, leather, damp earthen wine cellars, leaf mulch and gentle wafts of hessian, natural tar and herbal teas. Unequivocally beautiful on the nose, nodding to the past in fact with these rather overt fruity qualities. Coal dust, lanolin, wee vegetal touches and things like bacon jam, black olives and very old Fernet Branca. With water: gets leaner, more salty and more nervous. All these quivering coastal touches, lemon peel, pebbles, sheep wool, aspirin, winter spices and more dense meaty aspects. Mouth: terrifically tarry, jammy and densely textural on arrival. Bags of expensive dark chocolate, fruity black coffee, pure hessian cloth, dunnage, prunes, aged armagnac, salty old oloroso sherry and things like mutton soup and praline. All manner of complexities pinging and popping here and there. Goes to show, re-racking can do wonders if you leave it long enough. With water: more of everything but it becomes wider, easier, more open and a little deeper with more notes of bitter chocolate, a heavier earthiness, more meats, coffee, herbal bitters and smoked chilli. Finish: superbly long, meaty, chocolatey and showing this rather peppery peat flavour. Bitter mint in the aftertaste with miso and soy sauce. Comments: To think, I tried this at the Old & Rare show but didn’t buy a bottle. I’m am, it would seem, an idiot. A total thrill ride of a Laphroaig that nods in more than a few ways to the past. Hats off to whoever at Elixir was responsible for this.
SGP: 566 - 92 points.



Laphroaig 28 yo 1989 (90 proof / 51.4%, Private bottling for Club Qing and friends)

Laphroaig 28 yo 1989 (90 proof / 51.4%, Private bottling for Club Qing and friends)
Colour: gold. Nose: we’re not a million miles away from the 1998 with this rather ethereal, encroaching fruitiness that meanders about the top of the glass. Salted mead, trampled dandelions, lemon peel, pineapple syrup and some rather more tertiary notes of carbon paper and old ink wells. In time it becomes more saline, gently tarry and showing more hessian and earth. In some ways it really follows a similar progression as the old 80s 10 year olds often do. With water: an impression of creaminess and a much more direct herbal quality, some coconutty gorse flower, mineral oil, bath salts and smoked sea salt. Really quite impressive complexity and elegance now. Mouth: initially much sweeter and oilier than the nose suggested, with more hessian, vegetables and biscuity richness up front. Some lovely notes of smoked cereals, stout beers, heather ales and malt extract. A lightly briny peaty flavour and an elegantly textural oiliness. Starts to really feel like a bigger version of a 1990s OB 10 year old - which is no bad thing! With water: superb now! Fruity, floral, salty, complex smokiness and lots of wee herbal inclusions. Also meaty aspects and a rather syrupy, fruity sweetness. Finish: long, gently peaty, soft smokiness, olive oil, gorse, coal tar soap, herbal teas, camphor and even a kind of sooty waxiness. Comments: What I love here is the feeling of constant evolution, every step feels connected and yet distinct in and of itself. There’s also a wonderfully elegant complexity and a strong sense of distillery identity. Highly pleasurable.
SGP: 656 - 91 points.



Now a break, then a bit further into the distant past…



Laphroaig 14 yo 1973/1987 (40%, Avery’s of Bristol)

Laphroaig 14 yo 1973/1987 (40%, Avery’s of Bristol)
Avery’s were one of several Bristol wine and spirits merchants who imported, sold and bottled many fine spirits in their day. Colour: coppery amber. Nose: 40%? Really, are you sure? Huge notes of turfy peat mingling with pure, resinous, ancient sherry. Piles of old leather, furniture polish, sultanas and raisins soaked in brandy, dark chocolate riddled with sea salt and things like long-cured game meats, animal furs and soy sauce. Thrillingly complex, the kind of aroma you could dissect for hours. Dried mushrooms, aged pu era tea, damp pipe tobaccos - just brilliant. There’s also this pervasive, dark thread of herbal peat knitting everything together, like an organic bass-thrum sitting beneath everything. Mouth: Stunning! Amazing concentration of flavours. Rich, dense, herbal, turfy, rooty, sweet peat - like peat cordial. Then a lattice of preserved and dried exotic fruits. Olive oil sweetened with ancient herbal liqueurs, a few drops of pure iodine and all manner of tertiary notes of pumpernickel bread, black olive, wood spices, stewed dark fruits, smoked chocolate, bitter espresso and precious hardwood resins. As big as whisky can really be at 40%. In time the peat becomes almost dusty and palpably brittle and crunchy. Finish: long, leathery, drying, slightly minty, deep but gently smoky, meaty, tarry and profoundly medical and herbal. Still all these wee glimmers of dark and exotic fruits - all dried out and preserved. A smoky warmth lingers for an age in the aftertaste. Comments: totally, utterly stunning whisky. Just the epitome of pure, easy, guzzable pleasure in Scotch Whisky. Makes you weep over the size of the sample! Kills most modern whiskies stone dead with the sheer force of its classiness alone.
SGP: 566 - 94 points.



Laphroaig 1968/1983 (43%, Berry Brothers)

Laphroaig 1968/1983 (43%, Berry Brothers)
There was also a 1963 and a 1964 bottled around this time, both of which are pretty incredible. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re not a million miles away from the 1973, except here the peat is bigger and more concentrated. It’s more dominated by this divine saline and leathery density. You really know you are wading deep into 60s Laphroaig when you nose this. Profoundly concentrated, brimming with old style herbaceous, earthy peaty smoke. Meats, coffee, preserved dark fruits, liquorice, black pepper and tar liqueur. Umami, salty, meaty, herbal and superbly medical. A total masterclass. Mouth: majestic arrival! Immensely dry, earthy, sooty, chocolatey and brimming with this wonderfully dry herbal peat smoke. Sooty, waxy, tarry, medical and wonderfully fat and punchy. The peat becomes almost grizzly but it's wrapped perfectly in a dense quilt of very resinous and salty old sherry, there’s also quite a sizzling bacon note and bags of rancio and salted walnuts. Another one that just seems to evolve and go on forever. Finish: endlessly long, fatty, almost greased with old school peat, tinned exotic fruit syrups, rancio, tar, black olive… you get the picture by now right? Comments: You have to cut these things short sometimes otherwise you just go off the rails like a maniac. Anyway, stuff like this is why we’re into whisky in the first place. And, perhaps more specifically, still in love with Laphroaig after all these years. There is black magic at work here…
SGP: 667 - 94 points.



Let’s jump even further back in time before going ever so slightly forwards again to finish, if you don’t mind.



Laphroaig 12 yo (80 proof, Cadenhead, 1960s)

Laphroaig 12 yo (80 proof, Cadenhead, 1960s)
This was bottled by the old Cadenhead company when it was run by that mad woman in Aberdeen before Hedley Wright purchased it. These bottlings are of course extremely hard to come by now, and understandably spoken of in hushed tones. However, in my experience they can also be quite changeable too. I’ve seen a number of these old 12yo Laphroaigs and it seems that Cadenhead at the time issued it over a number of years in multiple batches. I’ve had one in Japan which I found good but arguably a disappointment (WF: 89), however some can be totally out of this galaxy (see Serge’s own notes: WF:96). This one comes from a bottle opened by Sukhinder for the Old & Rare show earlier this year. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a good one. The power and the salinity of the distillate are immediate and pretty devastating. Whelks slapped on a hot grill, lemon juice mixed with brine, mineral salts, petrol, tar and, in time, many tiny exotic fruits emerging. Passion fruit, mango, guava, kiwi, all wrapped in this immense coastal character and something like salted wax. Power, precision, poise and stunning beauty. Mouth: the saltiness remains the dominant force. Leathery, tarry, inky and showing lots of putty, camphor, olive oil and even cereals and raw vegetables. There’s also a hint of OBE as well with these notes of metal polish and steel wool, but it’s a pleasing OBE and the distillate still dominates. Coal smoke, lanolin, sandalwood and many, many gentle notes of ointment. Finish: long, very saline and full of shellfish meats, light tarry notes, more sandalwood, green pepper, dried seaweed and nervous exotic fruit notes. Comments: Stunning, but not one of the hyper-glorious batches. Having said that, it’s also probably ever so slightly tired. I’m not sure what the level in the bottle was at the time of opening, but it remains a technically stunning whisky. And beyond that, it’s also historically fascinating as this is 1950s Laphroaig, and indeed the style is divergent from the 60s bottlings. Somewhere out there, there’s probably a version at 100 proof. In magnum!
SGP: 456 - 93 points.



Laphroaig 30 yo 1966/1996 (48.9%, Signatory Vintage, cask #561, hogshead, 142 bottles)

Laphroaig 30 yo 1966/1996 (48.9%, Signatory Vintage, cask #561, hogshead, 142 bottles)
These two casks from a legendary parcel of stock that Andrew Symington acquired in the mid-90s from John Gross. Mr Gross had held the license to import Laphroaig in America many years previously. They’ve since gone on to become deservedly legendary bottlings. Colour: gold. Nose: pure and exquisitely coastal. Pink sea salt, waxy lemon rind and many touches of camphor, brine and even more menthol touches like eucalyptus oils and mint tea. Given a little time the fruits emerge: passion fruit, papaya, mango, pineapple. Almost quivers with this gelatinous mix of fruits and beautifully delicate peat smoke. A harmonious, deeply complex and almost poetically beautiful nose that feels pristinely structured, poised and in total control of itself. With water: seawater mixed with limoncello, salted liquorice, beeswax, hessian, vapour rubs and globally drier, leaner and more ruthlessly precise. Mouth: wonderful attack, all on nervous, brittle coastal and saline complexities. Dried seaweed, ink, aged tar liqueurs, bundled dried herbs and mineral oil. The fruits are here too but they feel waxier, dried out and rather desiccated, things like banana chips, dried mango chunks and passion fruit seeds. The peat is oily, tarry and drying with this rather waspish smokiness. Could be anywhere from 15 - 35 years old in some ways, there’s this ethereal ‘out of time’ feel about it. With water: gah! Just astonishing power, richness of smoke, deeper peat notes, a broader, sparser fruitiness and the impression of many exotic teas. Some lighter wood spice and white pepper notes too. Finish: luminous, endless, impeccably saline, citric, inky, herbal, lightly tarry and delivering all these silky smoky and mineral notes. Comments: One of these old Islay whiskies that feels like it comes from another galaxy entirely. Quite simply, an impeccable collaboration between barley, yeast, water, oak and time. This is why I love whisky.
SGP: 566 - 94 points.



Laphroaig 30 yo 1966/1997 (50.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1089, hogshead, 130 bottles)

Laphroaig 30 yo 1966/1997 (50.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #1089, hogshead, 130 bottles)
I am indebted to Emmanuel for the chance to try this one head to head with cask 561. Merci beaucoup Manu! Colour: gold, a shade darker. Nose: the same, but a little ‘darker’ in its fruitiness. A notch sweeter and giving the impression of a more syrupy texture. A softer salinity and a more herbal accent emerging over time. Still the same stunning, poetically mesmeric quality of whisky. With water: the fruits really start to push to the fore now. Takes on a more ‘jellied’ fruit style akin to 561, only here there’s an added layer of petroleum jelly and citronella wax. Mouth: more tarry, a bigger sense of fattiness and meatiness. Cured meats and salt cured white fish. But also herbal teas, umami broths and, once again, this rather dried exotic fruit style with many bitter and pithy citrus peels. With water: wider, fruitier, fatter in texture, oilier and with a more gutsy coastal and petrol quality. Draws you and takes total control. Finish: same story, long enough to just lose yourself in amongst all these wee flashes of fruits, herbs, pure peat smoke, earth, wax, seashore, citrus and minerals. Comments: The extra strength and textural sweetness give this one the edge for me. But they are both amongst the most pleasurable spirits ever made by man, we are skimming within a whisper of 96 points here.
SGP: 666 - 95 points.



Heartfelt thanks to Emmanuel, Aaron, Sukhinder, KC and Andy.




More tasting notesCheck the index of all Laphroaig we've tasted so far


May 22, 2020


Tormenting Tormore

That headline too has a reasonable chance at the San Francisco Silly Headline Competition (where everybody wins anyway). First, apéritifs, as usual…

Tormore 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-1990)

Tormore 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-1990) Two stars
This one by Long John Distillers. Sadly no chance against the stunning earlier 10 yo white label for Dreher in Italy, but let’s see…  Colour: light gold. Nose: stale apple juice, stale orange juice, barley wine, M&S lager and damp cardboard. Sure malt whisky was better in the old days, but that was only true for the blue chips. Mouth: flattish, weak, cardboardy, but getting better, with a wee touch of salt, notes of ale, and a feeling of grain whisky, as if this was some cheap blended Scotch. Finish: short, but with acceptable notes of cider and mead. Comments: kind of okayish. Not often that some blandola-malt would improve during a tasting.
SGP:441 - 70 points.

Tormore 14 yo 1990/2005 (43%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #909168)

Tormore 14 yo 1990/2005 (43%, Signatory Vintage, sherry, cask #909168) Two stars
Picture of similar bottling. Let’s remember that those were very ‘budget’ at that time. Colour: white wine. Nose: pleasant notes of chamomile tea and apple juice, then Fanta lemon and muesli. It holds and stands so far. Mouth: crushes the official 10, but it wouldn’t go much farer, although these ideas of fizzy lemon cordial do rather work. A little chalk, cardboard, aspirin tablets… Finish: medium, dry, chalky. Cardboardy aftertaste. Comments: donde esta el sherry? But this is okay…
SGP:541 - 72 points.

Tormore 13 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Discovery’, bourbon, 2018)

Tormore 13 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail ‘Discovery’, bourbon, 2018) Two stars and a half
Apparently, this was for ‘Asia & Oceania’. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: nice chalk, plaster, pear juice, cherry juice, wool, new t-shirt and wee hints of prickly pears. No complains here, let’s move on… Mouth: yes, this is good-not-great. I don’t know where Tormore have put their glorious flavours from the 1960s and early 1970s, really, but this is still rather acceptable, and even good. Apple juice, orange blossom, vanilla, touches of tangerines. Which is all nice, obviously. IPA. Finish: medium, on lemon and orange peel and wee touch of camphor. Comments: some parts are really fine, others are a little weak. I don’t quite know what to say to tell you the truth. A honest drop?
SGP:451 - 78 points.

Tormore 2004/2017 (59.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, casks #901-902)

Tormore 2004/2017 (59.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, casks #901-902) Two stars
Most probably a similar juice to that of the Discovery. Colour: white wine. Nose: but where have all the fruits gone? This is extremely harsh, vegetal, grassy, with some burnt plastic, Guinness, then just a few green fruits. I mean fruits that should have been yellow, or red. With water: nicer, with apple juice, wax, and quite some lemons. Notes of flints and lighter oil. A Zippo that’s just been used. Mouth (neat): bitter, extremely pungent, grassy, violent… I just calls for water right from the arrival. With water: once again it gets nicer, very citrusy, lemony, still pretty grassy, with more and more paraffin as well, a little sesame oil, as well as something musty. Some sour apples in the aftertaste. Finish: long, bitter and lemony. Bitter herbs, ides of gas, cabbage water… Comments: well, it’s a fighter, it wouldn’t do anything to make peace with the taster. Bitter, grassy and very sooty malt whisky, extremely austere. Tough.
SGP:362 - 72 points.

Never give up, they say…

Tormore 23 yo 1995/2018 (60.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #5383, 615 bottles)

Tormore 23 yo 1995/2018 (60.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #5383, 615 bottles) Three stars
This one should be smoother, in spite of the very high strength. Colour: gold. Nose: metal polish, cane juice, pink rhubarb, touches of butterscotch, a little lovage and parsley and a touch of muscovado sugar. This is pleasant. With water: fruit peels and wee metallic touches that we’d encountered before within this little tasting session. More lovage, waxed cardboard, new book, and boat mangos. Mouth (neat): modern, led by wood, with some bitters, chocolate, butterscotch, a hint of grated coconut and quite a lot of toffee and fudge. We’re almost in a tourist shop over there on Loch Ness, only Celtic jewellery is missing. Forgot to mention café latte. With water: gets grassy, drying, cardboardy and only then a little fruitier. Pink grapefruits. Not water’s best friend, for sure. Finish: long and a little bitter indeed. Eating tealeaves. Easier when neat, but hey, 60% vol.! Comments: some cruel dilemma. Much better when neat, but then too strong. In short, another rather tough boy.
SGP:561 - 82 points.

Tormore 25 yo 1992/2017 (50.8%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask #17-2501, 149 bottles)

Tormore 25 yo 1992/2017 (50.8%, Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask #17-2501, 149 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: these metallic and very zesty notes yet again, but this time it’s all going kind of easier. Green peppers, zucchini, eggplant, lemon and paprika, you could almost make a very nice ratatouille out of this baby. With water: yessss! Perfect fresh baguette and cassata, panettone while we’re at it, orange blossom, tangerine marmalade, bergamots… All cleared, this is lovely. Mouth (neat): oranges, marmalade, a good glass of fino, some vanilla, and similar notes of vegetable soup. It’s pretty unusual and I like it. With water: tangerines and oranges, a wee petroly touch, yellow plums, quinces, apricot jam, more panettone, a handful of golden sultanas, some figs as well… This is what the people want. Finish: medium, jammy, with just a little leather appearing too. Tangerine and raisins and a tiny bit of chlorophyll gum. Comments: triple-flip roll here. Good fun.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

That’s enough, let’s not push our luck.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Tormore we've tasted so far


May 21, 2020


Two little Clynelish at 48%

And why not? Because by rule, there ought to be some Clynelish every month on little WF! Even if that’s only two of them…

Clynelish 8 yo 2011/2020 ‘Reserve Cask Parcel No.2’ (48%, Elixir Distillers)

Clynelish 8 yo 2011/2020 ‘Reserve Cask Parcel No.2’ (48%, Elixir Distillers) Four stars
It is well known that just like this little taster, the fine people at Elixir ‘etcetera’ do hate Clynelish. The label tells us that this one stemmed from five casks, and that the angel’s share has been of 14.73%. Which, I believe, is okay. Colour: straw. Nose: ah cool, a bready Clynelish! It’s really a baby Clynelish, more on pear juice, muesli and porridge than on waxes and citrus. A pack of Haribo’s finest, some grist, some white beer, some liquorice, a drop of malt extract, some menthol… Well, it’s pretty simple, but it just keeps moving. I told you, a child… Mouth: lovely, and indeed still in its infancy, with its usual character not yet fully developed. Juicy fruit, muesli, pear juice, prosecco (and? What’s the problem?) biscuit… Now after five minutes, some Clynelishness is starting to appear, with some kinds of waxy citrons perhaps… Even some paraffin. We’re getting there, once the pears will have given up it’ll be 100% Clynelish. A very personal theory you see, please do not take it too seriously, but you could almost say that aging whisky consists in getting rid of pear notes. I know, I know… Finish: the best part, it’s now almost 90% Clynelish, with lemons, candle wax et al. Hope they’ve kept quite some casks for the coming years; well I’m sure they have. The precursors are well in place, which bodes well for the future of this parcel of casks. Four more years? Seven? Comments: as I just said.
SGP:641 - 87 points.

Clynelish 23 yo 1996/2020 (48.7%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 170 bottles)

Clynelish 23 yo 1996/2020 (48.7%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 170 bottles) Five stars
Very lovely photograph of a boy with a raven – is it well a raven? - on his shoulder. Profound, ‘schwarz’ and very German in that respect. Colour: straw. Nose: it is a gentler Clynelish this time again, but things change after just thirty seconds, with some wood smoke coming through, then green apples and paraffin, then some tense kiwi and rhubarb, sour beer, muesli from Oberallgäu (don’t bother, just a personal nod) and finally honeycomb. Impeccable. Mouth: impeccable indeed. Pure waxy Clynelish, with citrus and green apples, as well as green spices and fresh bread. I hope you’ve noticed that I’ve decided to keep this one short (more time for enjoying the dram!) Finish: long, superb, totally Clynelish. Love the touch of salt in the aftertaste, and the feeling of margarita. A margarita from Sutherland! Comments: this one’s playing on my soft heart, which always works.
SGP:552 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Clynelish we've tasted so far


May 20, 2020


Little duos, today some of the best of Jura

I believe Jura doesn’t deserve all the flak they’re getting from within the chatteratti’s grottos these days, same with Dalmore or Macallan by the way. Sure unbridled branding and attempts at ueber-premiumisation never command much goodwill and are often seen as unjustified arrogance, but that’s got nothing to do with the distillates! So let’s try to avoid the poor(ish) NAS-oaked-flavoured juices, and rather check one or two indies today…

Jura 21 yo 1998/2020 (55.7%, Chapter 7, Monologue, bourbon hogshead, cask #2144, 284 bottles)

Jura 21 yo 1998/2020 (55.7%, Chapter 7, Monologue, bourbon hogshead, cask #2144, 284 bottles) Five stars
I find it a little funny to call a single cask (or a single malt?) a ‘monologue’, but there, we’ll listen anyway… Colour: white wine. Nose: an utterly typical blend of chalk, soot, sour cream, lime and grass juices, and linseed oil. Also lettuce and asparagus, perhaps, while the chalkiness never stops growing in your glass. Do they have a lot of chalky soil on Jura? I mean, it’s not Champagne, is it?... Perhaps some whiffs of wisteria too, I suppose they do have wisteria on Jura. With water: fern and a little mint, touch of dill, coriander… Mouth (neat): oh good! More lemon and chalk, Sancerre, sauvignon blanc, grass juice, touch of cardboard (no problem), soot and ashes, ‘sucking broken branches’, eating raw vegetables… snap peas, broccolis… With water: it’s always perfect when the fruits do take over, in this case bitter citrus. Remains austere, but it’s a rather beautiful austerity. Finish: rather long and very good, and very ‘Jura’. Sure this kind or rather reckless distillate does need at least 20 years. More chalk, greenness, and a saltier lemonness in the aftertaste. Comments: exactly what I was expecting, a very perfect, un-botoxed, well-aged Isle of Jura that should make the island proud. This, is Jura whisky.
SGP:372 - 90 points.

Perhaps a similar age, but distilled ten years earlier? We still had this in the little ‘J’ box…

Isle of Jura 22 yo 1988/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #756, 352 bottles)

Isle of Jura 22 yo 1988/2010 (46%, Mo Or Collection, bourbon hogshead, cask #756, 352 bottles) Four stars and a half
These 1988s were great, but will this one beat the perfect Chapter 7? Colour: gold. Nose: bang, these ones had those medicinal scents that were so perfect. As if someone had bandaged a grapefruit and poured tincture of iodine and various embrocations all over the end result. And here comes a second layer, with roasted peanuts and the most medicinal of all honeys. Wouldn’t that be manuka? Brilliant nose. Mouth: incredible sour-and-sweet arrival (mango chutney, whortleberry sauce), with quite a lot of peat at that, it’s just that it tends to become a little gritty and cardboardy towards the middle. No big deal, this is Jura after all, but boy what an arrival! Finish: rather long, smoky and bitter (samphire, capers), with more cardboard in the aftertaste. Comments: I had first thought it would be a fruity glory, but it lost one or three pints as it was becoming just a little acrid and bitter. But great Jura nonetheless.
SGP:372 - 88 points.

See, there are some stunning Juras out there! And let’s not forget that last year’s official 1989/2019 ‘Rare Vintage’ was simply out of this world (91 in my book). Just b****y expensive.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Jura we've tasted so far


May 19, 2020


Two high-flying Taliskers
to Angus and his dad

Hugs! Now not too sure about what’s happening with Talisker these days, but what we very well know is what used to happen there. This, for example…

Talisker 22 yo 1979/2001 (64.3%, The Bottlers, refill sherry hogshead, cask #4014)

Talisker 22 yo 1979/2001 (64.3%, The Bottlers, refill sherry hogshead, cask #4014) Five stars
Noticed the strength? Let’s remember that The Bottlers used to be #1 on the list of bottlers that we used to maintain with the Malt Maniacs. Colour: gold. Nose: look, not all Taliskers from the 1970s, especially the late 1970s, have been great in my little book, but this is different, showing superb coastal notes, sea air (as in the ads!), oysters, clementines, engine oil (an old boat’s), waxes, tar, hessian, clear notes of sweet chenin (Chaume) and a small medicinal side, rather around balms. Lip balm, perhaps. With water: oh, tar, oysters, orange zests, cough syrup, a touch of soy sauce, houmous, citrons… This is totally amazing, possibly one of the nicest Taliskers I’ve ever nosed. Mouth (neat): pure resinous and citrusy magic. Pine sap blended with limoncello, tobacco liqueur (which doesn’t exist, I’m sure it would kill you), and smoky and salty waters. Let’s not forget the rather huge peppery side, which was very Talisker in the old days. Pink pepper and black pepper. Very thick mouth feel, you’d almost need a spoon to get it out of your tulip (glass). With water: sweet Vishnu, please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade! The kind of coastal citrus-smoke combo that just kills. Finish: long, rich, citrusy, creamy, smoky and rather more medicinal. It’s still a little syrupy, thick, and would keep coating your throat for some very long minutes. Comments: amazingly rich, thick, and yet extremely elegant. Another work of art stamped ‘The Bottlers’. Please note that I had this one at 91 before, in the early 2000s, but I had never written any proper tasting notes for it. That was clearly too stingy if you ask me.
SGP:655 - 93 points.

Talisker 1964 (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 fl oz, +/-1975)

Talisker 1964 (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 fl oz, +/-1975) Five stars
Here’s the lovely old black label with the golden eagle, on that famous silkscreened bottle. Certainly a pretty young Talisker, carefully aged in its bottle. No, we can’t wait… Colour: amber. Nose: bam! Truffles, chocolate, new leather, guns, mole sauce, coffee, used engine oil, marmalade, walnut wine, old toolbox, ‘opening the hood of an old British car’, leather polish… With water: fumes, tarmac, kerosene, smoking pipe, cocoa powder, and more engine oil on the ground. And a tiny wet dog. Say a Yorkshire. Mouth (neat): high powers, leather and walnuts, toffee, coffee, orange liqueur, Chartreuse, chocolate, salty touches, our good friends the clams and whelks, and a drop of Worcester sauce. Are you hungry yet? With water: enter Ladies and Gentlemen from the fruit department. Oranges, kumquats, longans, dried figs, raisins, dates…  Finish: very long, this time rather on prunes smoked over burning coffee dregs. I’m sure someone must have done that one day, what do you think? Earthier touches in the aftertaste. Comments: I think it’s a tie. And even if it’s not, it should be. Have a good day.
SGP:664 - 93 points.

(Thank you Isabel)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Talisker we've tasted so far


May 18, 2020


High-flying Glen Grant granted

I know, but how about a few Glen Grants? The indies are ruling supreme these days as far as this famous Speyside distillery is concerned - in my humble opinion, as always. Let’s see what we can find, probably some old glories… But first, two 25s as the apéritifs.

Glen Grant 25 yo 1992/2018 (50.4%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon barrel, 144 bottles)

Glen Grant 25 yo 1992/2018 (50.4%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon barrel, 144 bottles) Four stars
It’s cool to have an ex-bourbon for a start, as I believe all the others will be classic sherried GGs. Colour: light gold. Nose: pretty awesome, nervous, tart, acidic if not acerbic, rather all on granny smith and lemons. In the background, fern and moss, dill, fresh herbs, meadows…A very lovely freshness here, with extra-complexity from time. Remember time, just like wood, is a key component. With water: menthol, camphor and eucalyptus do come out in tiny doses. Broken branches. Mouth (neat): little jelly babies and a good amount of grass, plus some green pepper. Some sour notes here and there (cider apples). With water: it swims extremely well, as additional kinds of fruits are showing up. Not-too-ripe mangos, touch of ginger, more green apples, grapefruits… Finish: medium, rather fresh, and rather breadier. BBB, that is to say barley, baguette and brioche. Nothing to do with Brigitte Bardot (poor soul!) Comments: excellent if not wham-bam, with good maturity and yet some pretty fresh elements (garden fruits).
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Glen Grant 25 yo 1992/2018 (51%, Wilson & Morgan, oloroso finish, cask #130818/9, 405 bottles)

Glen Grant 25 yo 1992/2018 (51%, Wilson & Morgan, oloroso finish, cask #130818/9, 405 bottles) Four stars
This could work, I’m sure. Colour: gold. Nose: smart. You do feel that the core is very similar to that of the Cadenhead, that is to say pretty much on green apples, but also that a rather complex set of nutty and (pleasantly) metallic notes have been added. That means that it feels seasoned, but totally in a good way. After all, you season lobster as well (?) Some biscuits and shortbread too. Lovely nose. With water: a rather unusual kind of leafiness. Patchouli, bay leaves, then some soot and some chalk that I would not have expected from Glen Grant. Mouth (neat): very nice, really. Not totally sure the sherry cask hadn’t contained some peated whisky before, but there, the end results just works, with a funny feeling of smoky Highland Park. Leather honey, some salt, lemon… With water: even better, with more figs and more cough medicine. Feels like some excellent blended malt, and no one will complain. Finish: long, with drops of Campari (no wonder) and even a little juniper or gin. Comments: indeed an awesome variant. Like it just as much as its natural counterpart.
SGP:553 - 87 points.

Good, and now, let’s go very vertical…

Glen Grant 1970/2000 (54.9%, Vintage Hallmark of St. James)

Glen Grant 1970/2000 (54.9%, Vintage Hallmark of St. James) Five stars
This company used to be located 36 St. James's Street, St., London, but I believe they do not exist anymore. They had released quite a few bottlings, which you can easily find at auctions. Colour: deep gold. Nose: the very early 1970s had been super vintages at Glen Grant, and this is just another proof that reminds us of those glorious 1970-1972s that Duncan Taylor used to have. Chlorophyll, camphor, mango chutney, heather honey, old Sauternes, putty and marzipan, beeswax, pinesap, pine oil, Chartreuse… They don’t do these anymore, most sadly. Pretty extraordinary. With water: and it loves water! Earth, mosses, mushrooms, tobaccos, more putty, waxes… Mouth (neat): ooh what a glorious Glen Grant! Many honeys, many raisins, many dried fruits, many waxes and oils, and a wonderful spice mix that would have involved Timut pepper, lemon grass, cloves, caraway, paprika, saffron, and several others. Wow. With water: high-class marmalade with a drop of crème de menthe and one of pepper liqueur. Well, more or less that. Finish: long, really very honeyed. Raisins, pine oil and black pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s also true that 30 years old is the perfect age for malt whisky. Okay, maybe between 27 and 33.
SGP:651 - 91 points.

Glen Grant 50 yo 1966/2016 (54.6%, Signatory Vintage, sherry hogshead, cask #884, 108 bottles)

Glen Grant 50 yo 1966/2016 (54.6%, Signatory Vintage, sherry hogshead, cask #884, 108 bottles) Five stars
A very rare old Glen Grant that came out without making noise, as we say. Which did not prevent our compadre Angus from spotting – and tasting – it. Our turn. Oh and it’s to be said that Signatory too have got some superb old GG, we especially remember a 1964 very fondly. Colour: amber. Nose: that’s the thing with Signatory, in my little experience they tend to bottle their whiskies when they believe they’re ready. I know they all pretend they do that, but we all know that’s not true. Now, this is pure honey, really. A blend of honeys, with some acacia as the ‘grain’, and heather and manuka as the top dressers. In a way, this nose is simple, but it’s just totally perfect. Unless you hate honey, but does anyone hate honey? With water: no changes whatsoever. It’s true that we weren’t needing any. Mouth (neat): I was ready for a little over-oakiness, but frankly, despite a few piney touches here and there and a little black tea, this is a fresh as if it had been… 40, let’s not exaggerate. Honeys, mangos, pepper, banana flambéed, a drop of calvados and quite some mentholated tobacco. This one’s still got the entirety of its powers. Just like Robert Plant. With water: in general, water makes very old whiskies sink because it brings out the tannicity. Which is exactly not the case here, this baby takes water like a duck’s back, H2O would just slide off. Provided you don’t add litres, of course. Finish: long and citrusy. Citrus will save the world. I mean, at least they do wonders in any spirit’s finish. Comments: I say it could have gone up to 55. But then we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try it – yet.
SGP:561 - 92 points.

We said vertical!

Glen Grant 1956/2015 (53.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary, cask #4450, 218 bottles)

Glen Grant 1956/2015 (53.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary, cask #4450, 218 bottles) Five stars
I always love it when G&M would let you do the math. Isn’t this baby 59 years old? Or was that only 58? I remember LMDW did also celebrate their 50th with a 1956 Glen Grant, which I thought was just fabulous back in the days (WF 93). Colour: amber gold. Nose: I believe this is the richest, most powerful very old Speysider I could try so far. Imagine vast amounts of pipe smoke, cocoa powder, coal tar, gas and truffles, exhaust fumes, burnt pinewood, cigars, black currants, miso and soy sauce, new leather jacket, chestnut purée… Oh my, what a monster of an old Glen Grant! Seriously, you would have told me this was very old Laphroaig, I’d I replied ‘obviously’. With water: what, bandages in Glen Grant? Cuban cigars? Germolene? This baby’s really playing with you. Mouth (neat): sweet Mary and Joseph, what a monster indeed. At some point you’d almost believe this was mis-stencilled. Maybe was it Malt Mill? Indeed it starts greasy and almost smoky, gets then tarry, and then goes towards all the dried fruits you could think of. I won’t list them as there’s a lost episode of Inspektor Derrick about to start on TV, but there. Oh and am I allowed to mention fruitcakes now? With water: pipe tobacco! Figs! Sultanas! Dates! Hay wine! Roasted pecans! And the expected bananas flambéed, but you’re right, that all depends on the kind of rum you’re using to ‘flamber’ those bananas. Say some proper un-botoxed Jamaican. Finish: long. Wonderful leather, tobacco, raisins, Jamaican rum (with these olive-y notes), even mezcal! I am not joking. Wetted marmalade in the aftertaste (with eau-de-vie, naturally). Comments: ‘something’ may have happened here. Glen Grant, post-WWII distillate, okay…  
SGP:562 – 93 points.

Last minute bonus, tasted on a different day…

Glen Grant 24 yo 1995/2020 (50.6%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon barrel, cask # 19461, 129 bottles)

Glen Grant 24 yo 1995/2020 (50.6%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon barrel, cask # 19461, 129 bottles) Four stars and a half
Zero points to the Covid-19 that wouldn’t let Limburg’s Whisky Fair happen this year! But it’s great that the whiskies are here…  Colour: straw. Nose: a very fresh and grassy Glen Grant, with some oils too (hazelnut) and a combination of lemon oil and fennel. Perhaps onions and leek, but only wee touches here and there. Lovely fresh Glen Grant that rather reminds me of some of the best vintages of those old official 5s from the early to mid 1970s. With water: chalk coming out. Anything chalky reminds me of the lovely Sancerres and of some of the chenins from Loire. Mouth (neat): absolutely excellent, tense, bright, on cider apples, limes, touches of sesame, some green tea and a small glass of grass juice. Grass juice was all the rage in the 1980s, I’m sure it’ll be back sooner or later. Typical post-Covid stuff methinks. With water: immaculate, blade-y, zesty, flinty. Love the grasses in the back. Finish: long and fresh. Lemons getting bigger. Perhaps a small fresh muffin in the aftertaste (some people like cupcakes better; I for one care less for them.) Comments: see you in Limburg on April 24/25, 2021!
SGP:651 - 88 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Grant we've tasted so far


May 17, 2020


Light rums by good bottlers

Always our wee quest throughout the rum world, looking for malternatives. We’ll try to have 'bad' rums by good bottlers today. For example – just an example indeed – Zacapa (bad) by Cadenhead (good). Do you have a proper grasp of the idea? First stop, Panama.

Panama 11 yo 2006/2017 (60%, Cave Guildive, Jack Daniels cask, cask #79, 232 bottles)

Panama 11 yo 2006/2017 (60%, Cave Guildive, Jack Daniels cask, cask #79, 232 bottles) Three stars and a half
Great little bottler aus der Schweiz! Colour: full gold. Nose: ah, this is smart. Sure you’ve got all this vanilla, the sugarcane, coconut, cakes and so on, all nice aromas but all structure-less, all flesh and no bones! But in the background, a careful nose will find some subtle floral tones, a few ripe figs, whiffs of blooming wisteria, and a little dough (bread) that would lead you to… malt whisky! With water: oh, some smoke, essential oils, embrocations, croissants… That’s very nice! Mouth (neat): very sweet, and very strong at that, but it would just burst with pineapples and mangos, a set-up that no one will ever find repulsive. With water: great selection, really. If this is Latino rum, I’m all for Latino rum. Ripe bananas, honey, pineapples, and even a proper backbone. Great selection indeed. Finish: short, but that was to be expected. Comments: coming up with such quality with rum from a multicolumn ethanol plant in Central America, I say bravo! Now the fresh Jack cask may have helped a wee bit.
SGP:730 - 84 points.

Travellers 12 yo 2007/2019 ‘MBT’ (64.1%, Cadenhead, Belize, barrel)

Travellers 12 yo 2007/2019 ‘MBT’ (64.1%, Cadenhead, Belize, barrel) Three stars and a half
I know, Traveller can be very good. Colour: orange, almost Donaldy orange. Nose: not much, a little vanilla, a little toasted oak, some nectar if not honey… But I’m sure that’s the lethally-high strength. With water: pineapple syrup, pineapple syrup, and pineapple syrup, plus some acacia honey. Not a drink, a sin. You could pour this over pancakes or crêpes.  Mouth (neat): Cadenhead, you’ll get a letter from our lawyer. Seriously, you do get a few herbs, Easter eggs, glucose syrup… With water: sweet and tidy, on jams and syrups. Quinces, guavas, bananas, pineapples… Once again its lacking body and structure, but that’s the fate of all high-column (too rectified) spirits. Finish: medium, pleasant, with touches of tangerines plus cane juice and honey. Comments: very good, just a notch less cane-y, less herbal than the Guildive.
SGP:730 - 83 points.

Perhaps another crazy one by Cadenhead… By the way, I’ve heard they are about to grow sugarcanes on the Mull of Kintyre. That’s cool, we’ll soon have some Springbank Rum! Of course I’m joking…

Dictador 26 yo 1993/2019 (65.3%, Cadenhead, Colombia)

Dictador 26 yo 1993/2019 (65.3%, Cadenhead, Colombia) Four stars
Apparently, this contains some of their Pot Still rum, a.k.a. ex-kettle distillation. Let’s just hope no one’s ever added any sugar throughout those 26 years, but we’ll soon find out. Colour: red mahogany. Nose: nice. Tamarind jam, ganache, raspberry jelly, and really a lot of alcohol that‘s got only one goal in life, burn your nostrils! With water: lovely coffee and awesome earthy teas and fruits, with a lot of oloroso-like aromas in the back. And Maggi. Fantastic. Mouth (neat): like this! Seriously! It’s pure jam and liquorice, and given that I’m a liquorice freak, well, I love this. It’s just that, err, cough, it is a little strong… With water: aaaahh yes! The best Dictador I’ve ever tasted, hands down. Coffee, tobacco, marmalade, cigars, tar, liquorice… That’s all perfect. There is a wee sugary side, but not sure it’s been ‘injected’; could be all natural IMHO. Finish: medium and not that short, it’s to believe that the pot still part did indeed add some texture. Black raisins and coffee  in the aftertaste. Comments: wow, Cadenhead! This is quite a coup, probably the best Dictador ever. Now, where are the girlz?
SGP:641 - 86 points.

Nicaragua 12 yo 2004 (57.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #R8.4, refill bourbon, ‘Campfire in NIcaragua’)

Nicaragua 12 yo 2004 (57.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #R8.4, refill bourbon, ‘Campfire in NIcaragua’)
As long as it’s not ‘Pesticides in Nicaragua’… Colour: amber. Nose: similar, fragrant, with some honey, molasses, pancake syrup, caramel, tarte tatin… Then a little spicy oak and toasts. With water: okay. Where’s the bottle of orange juice? Mouth (neat): the oak was fresh, there’s a bourbony side, varnish, coconut, vanilla… With water:  it crashes. Nothing left, we’re lost in the middle of Blandoland. Finish: short, but kind of not totlly unpleasant. Cheap chocolate from any supermarket’s own brand. Or there, trumpets please, Nutella! Comments: we have had hopes, but this is an empty spirit. Not flawed as such, but empty.
SGP:420 - 65 points.

Bodega Pedro Oliver 16 yo (52.3%, Single Cask Collection, Dominican Republic, solera system, +/-2016)

Bodega Pedro Oliver 16 yo (52.3%, Single Cask Collection, Dominican Republic, solera system, +/-2016) Two stars
How can you come up with an age statement with a solera? Anyway SCC are some very cool Austrian bottlers. Not heard much of them recently but I’m sure they’re thriving!. Cheez guys! Colour: orange amber. Nose: look, as long as they haven’t added tons of sugar, I’m fine with anything from the DomRep – or from Oliver’s. Cakes, brioches, milk chocolate, a little praline… No quibblings so far. With water: pleasant, cane-y, with welcome whiffs of hay and warm grass around the 15th of  August. Mouth (neat): powerful, sweet (not quite sugary), with notes of sweet malty beer. With water: loses steam. Please do not add water. Finish: the sugar comes out. Too bad. Comments: very acceptable, and at least no one’s used any botoxed marketing to pump-up this very humble juice.
SGP:720 - 72 points (which is good given the pedigree here!).

Do we have room for a last one?

Panama 9 yo 2008/2017 (60.9%, Compagnie des Indes, cask #PSC73, 275 bottles)

Panama 9 yo 2008/2017 (60.9%, Compagnie des Indes, cask #PSC73, 275 bottles) Two stars and a half
Not much news from these guys either, take heart, fine people! The distillery’s ‘secrete’ here, which is probably good otherwise they wouldn’t have sold one single bottle. I am joking, ok? Colour: gold. Nose: yeah well. Vanilla, vanillin, grass, tea. With water: mango cake, fresh molasses, and some vanilla. We’re okay at this point. Mouth (neat): this is good! Some tar, some liquorice, some olives, some cane juice! H.u.r.r.a.y.! With water: indeed, this is perfectly all right, balanced, grassy and fruity, with a good few phenols and stuff… Finish: seriously, it’s okay. One olive in the aftertaste, h.u.r.r.a.y. again! Comments: this is exactly what we’re expecting from an independent bottler, that he/she would release some single casks or small batches that are actually better than the brand’s usual output. Which, in the case of Panama, was not too difficult to do, but there, very well done.
SGP:561 - 79 points.

I’ll say it again, there are two main categories of spirits in this world. Pot Still and Column. Sure some fine people who’ve got high multiple columns will claim that they’re as good as proper pot stills or smaller columns but remember any fishmonger’s fish is always fresh as long as you ask him rather than his patrons. Seriously, in connoisseurdom there’s little room for columns much taller than the ones they have in Armagnac or in the West Indies. Yes, go, you may shoot now, this opinionated taster is ready (and armed)…

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


May 16, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Make mine a triple!
Seems about right for lockdown. We’ll have a few trios of new and newish whiskies today - which I’m always happy about - including one or several from The Whisky Agency’s latest outturn of bottlings, so let’s try to include some of those as we go along.


I had planned to open the session with Macduff but, after Serge’s uphill battle through a veritable Mirkwood of Macduff this past week, I think these pages have had enough Macduff! (‘Macduff, never enough!’ Serge, isn’t it about time you offered me a job in marketing?) Anyway, onwards: to Ireland!



Irish Single Malt 16 yo 2003/2019 (51.9%, The Whisky Agency, barrel)

Irish Single Malt 16 yo 2003/2019 (51.9%, The Whisky Agency, barrel)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: pure grass! Very much one of these light and gently austere profiles which is all about cut grass, chopped herbs, lemon peel, wet plaster, fabrics, sunflower seeds and the faintest wee buttery note. Super-fresh and very pleasantly summery - if a tad simplistic. With water: even leaner, drier and more austere now. Notes of fur, cream crackers, chalk, white flowers and talcum powder. Mouth: there’s a surprising richness on arrival that wasn’t at all betrayed by the nose. There’s a more assertive texture of cooking oils, some buttery flavours, cookie dough, vanilla cream, cactus flesh and white chocolate. Very appealing. With water: again it becomes drier and leaner with water. More cereal driven, buttered toast, more sunflower seeds, cooking oils and lemon rind. Finish: a tad short but clean, crisp and dry with notes of sunflower oil and oatcakes. Comments: It’s funny how these youngsters are ridden with this very specific grassiness, while the older ones reek of exotic fruits. I wonder at what point and by what alchemy the former evolves into the latter?
SGP: 441 - 82 points.



Irish Single Malt 21 yo 1998/2019 (51.3%, The Whisky Agency, barrel)

Irish Single Malt 21 yo 1998/2019 (51.3%, The Whisky Agency, barrel)
Colour: gold. Nose: a fascinating kind of halfway house between those two styles. All on runny honeys, glazed pastries, heather flowers, gentle notes of hessian, duster cloth and canvass. There’s also these quite rich characters of putty, rapeseed oil and pollen. A style unto its own and quite distinct from many of these other Irish doing the rounds these days. I find it impressively complex and compelling - almost old highlands style in some ways. With water: a tad more whacky, gloopy and oily. Some hints of cheese curd, farmyard, oily sheep wool, mineral oils and shoe polish. Really quite an industrial / mechanical style. Mouth: Here the Irish accent really sings! Much more towards light sootiness, old metal polish, oily rags, old toolboxes, copper coins, steel wood, sunflower oil, pot pourri and lighter notes of waxed canvass. You can really spot some shared DNA with these very old pure pot still bottlings of things like Redbreast and Green Spot from the 60s and 50s. In the background you also get wee glimmers of dried mango which nods to these more recent exotic stylings. With water: drier but still retaining this oiliness of texture and weight in the mouth, along with this rather mechanical profile. More metal polish, camphor, green herbs, light menthol tobacco notes and chamois leather. Finish: good length and featuring some impressively funky overripe exotic fruits, olive oil, aniseed and a little plain fresh white bread. Comments: Very unusual, really harks back to quite a specific old school Irish style I would say. Is this pure pot still? You certainly get that impression from all these mechanical, oily and weirdly flabby fruit qualities. Anyway, worth trying if it crosses your path, it’s quite the entertainer.
SGP: 651 - 87 points.



Irish Single Malt 29 yo 1990/2019 (48.5%, The Whisky Agency, barrel)

Irish Single Malt 29 yo 1990/2019 (48.5%, The Whisky Agency, barrel)
Colour: light gold. Nose: Not the immediate fruit bomb as expected. This one is more on fresh linens, breads, lime zest, wild flowers and tiny wee glimmers of camphor, glazed pastries, white stone fruits and kumquat. Develops an extremely elegant and fragile honeyed quality after a few minutes. Some putty, chalk, limestone and motor oil with a scattering of mixed seeds too. Something of a departure I would say, but still quite beautiful. Mouth: there are fruits but it’s really more tart green fruits such as apple, gooseberry and star fruit. Then nettles, cat piss, New Zealand sauvignon and pine resin. Also some rather grassy olive oil, more toasted seeds, brown bread, sourdough and mineral oil. Definitely a more austere example from these vintages but you still feel there’s a rather expressive and outlandish core personality on display here. The texture is also nicely gentle and buttery. Finish: medium and on pollens, bay leaf, green herbs, bitter lemon, olive oil and wee camphory touches. Comments: Really could be a glass of cask strength sauvignon blanc with all this crisp, nettley greenery on display. Another one for summery afternoons with a good book. Quite a different beast if you’re expecting one of these more overt fruit bombs. I would hazard this is more Cooley than Bushmills, but don’t quote me!
SGP: 651 - 88 points.



Ben Nevis 7 yo 2012/2019 (48%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 382 bottles)

Ben Nevis 7 yo 2012/2019 (48%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 382 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: what’s good about these kinds of bottlings is that you can really dig down deep into the beating heart of the distillate. And Ben Nevis distillate is something we’re all paying much more attention to these days isn’t it? I find it extremely oily, yeasty, fat and almost greasy with these notes of industrial cooking oils, oily sheep wool and mineral oils. You also get this slightly coastal edge of bath salts, lemons preserved in brine and then oily rags and toolboxes. A few rather chalky medical tinctures and impressions of crushed aspirin too. It’s one of these whiskies that it’s just impossible not to think ‘barley eau de vie’ when you nose it. Mouth: what I love is that there are glimmers of the 1996s in here. There’s this kind of mashed fruits mixed with sweet porridge profile, along with soft waxes and more tertiary things like ink and carbon paper. Again this is hyper pure and really all about the raw ingredients. Which is no problem when the distillate is so impeccably made. The texture remains rather fat and nicely greasy as well. Finish: long and all on mashed fruits, green banana, lemon, wax, lamp oil, hessian and cooking oils. Comments: I have to say, I’m super impressed by this wee youthful Ben Nevis. A few observations: I think it was quite smart to bottle at 48%, it feels just perfect here. Most importantly though, I really think this kind of bottling is such a rarity in this day and age. A rather young whisky from relatively inactive wood which works superbly without any doping up with oak sugars, wine finishing or any other tinkering. A paean to careful, skilled whisky making that produces top quality distillate which shines when young or old and in 1st or 3rd fill. As ever, an eternal doth of the cap to Mr Colin Ross! This is the kind of bottle I would buy to stick in a cupboard for 20-30 years and let time in glass round it out perfectly.
SGP: 562 - 88 points.



Ben Nevis 23 yo 1996/2019 (47.6%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 264 bottles)

Ben Nevis 23 yo 1996/2019 (47.6%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead, 264 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: a beautiful kind of creamy waxiness mixed with ripe white and green fruits which now feels so particular to these vintages of Ben Nevis. Lemon jelly, white marshmallow, juicy fruit chewing gum, chalk, freshly laundered fabrics and pineapple syrup. Rather straight, pure, exuberant with these fruity notes and perfectly balancing these mineral, oily and fruity qualities. Mouth: wonderful concentration on arrival. You really feel like you’re getting pure fruit salad juices from the bottom of the bowl. There’s also this beautifully textural honeyed waxiness that’s laced with salinity. Then mineral salts, dried herbs, wee hints of medicine and more, rather complex, waxiness. Finish: long, lemon balm, cough sweets, fruit pastilles, mead, herbal liqueurs and a little mint tea. Comments: Yet another magical 96 Ben Nevis. It was the concentration on the palate here that impressed the most.
SGP: 762 - 91 points.



Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2019 (53.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland for Kensington Wine Market, butt, cask #1659, 440 bottles)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1996/2019 (53.4%, The Single Malts of Scotland for Kensington Wine Market, butt, cask #1659, 440 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: leaner, more mineral more dominated by pebbles, chalk, flints, fabrics and a medicines. It’s a rather elegant and leafy style of sherry which melds well with the Ben Nevis distillery character. Beyond that there’s lots of balsamico, tobaccos, putty, camphor, leather and some nice notes of musty wine cellars and leaf mulch - going all the way to rancio in time. Some elegant notes of pu erh tea in the background. With water: more overly fruity now, even showing some slightly jammy red fruit notes, which I rarely get in these Ben Nevis (Ben Nevi?). However, the overall development is towards more classical qualities of waxes, ripe green fruits, mineral oil and citrus jellies. Mouth: big, punchy, more boisterous and with more of these nicely sharp winey sherry notes. Salty, a lean ‘cured’ meatiness, some sharp black coffee and salted dark chocolate. Gets earthier over time with black pepper and some umami seasoning sauces. Not forgetting the usual soft waxiness that is creeping in. With water: I still get these quite sharp and prickly notes of wine must, funky bodega saltiness, salted almonds, other assorted toasted nuts, cured meats and sheep wool. Also slightly minty as well. Finish: long and on aniseed, bitter herbal notes, game meats, leather, miso, fruit chutney and soft medical tones. Comments: It’s really teetering on the 90 mark in my book, just a tad unusual and ‘wobbly’ to get over the line. But this is still richly flavoursome and hugely enjoyable Ben Nevis of the high calibre.
SGP: 562 - 89 points.



While we are exploring Serge’s ‘axis of minerality’… (or was it a triangle originally?)



Clynelish 14 yo (46%, OB, 2019)

Clynelish 14 yo (46%, OB, 2019)
This from one of those smart wee 20cl bottles that Diageo like to offer. It’s been quite some time since I tried the 14, much to my shame! Colour: gold. Nose: we’re in safe territories. Waxes, canvass, mustard powder, wet pebbles, sunflower oil, gorse and these nice camphor and hessian notes. Feels big, direct, increasingly coastal and satisfyingly ‘Clynelish’. A light acetic tang in the background which feels fresh and slightly sherryish - but that may be my imagination. Mouth: impressively bold, full-bodied and nicely salty. Salted peanut brittle, some sharp raisin notes, new leather, camphor, putty, olive oil and black olives. A kind of briny waxiness which, even for Clynelish, feels rather big and emphatically coastal. Finish: surprisingly long, heathery, coastal, fresh, nicely bitter, lightly briny, lemony and medical. Comments: I hear quite a lot of folk complain about the 14 year old these days (“It’s not what it used to be… a disappointment…” etc etc). I have to say, based on this example, I think it’s still one of the top standard distillery expressions out there. Feels subversively uncommercial in some ways, which is kind of impossible to say about almost any other core Diageo distillery bottling.
SGP: 462 - 88 points.



Clynelish 36 yo (47.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, Director’s Cut, 2020)

Clynelish 36 yo (47.1%, The Single Malts of Scotland for The Whisky Show Old & Rare, Director’s Cut, 2020)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: exquisitely mineral, waxy, lemony, honeyed, coastal and full of these wee notes of white flowers, pollens, honeycomb, heather ale, new world IPA and waxed canvass. Age seems to have doubled down on everything that is ‘Clynelish’ so you get this hugely honed distillery character the gives the impression even from the nose of being hyper syrupy in texture. There’s also sweetened herbal medicines, some distant high quality cannabis and pineapple jelly. Just beautiful! Mouth: that impression of concentration rings true, only it’s surprisingly drier than expected. Salted mead, green olives in brine, dried herbs, many thick waxy notes, olive oil, medical vapour rubs and these dried out notes of tangerine, crystallised orange peel and then warmer tones of earthy turmeric, nutmeg and fennel seed. Becomes also elegantly vegetal with these notes of honey roast roots, celeriac and then more medical vibes such as aspirin, herbal cough syrup and some salted walnuts. Finish: wonderfully long, oily, honeyed, heathery, slightly beery, fat waxes, citronella, lime oils and more of these terrific saline mead notes. Comments: I love the concentration here, everything feels like it has doubled down on distillery character attributes and created some kind of Clynelish cubed. Also the evolution from nose through to finish keeps you on the edge of your seat. Reminds you why this distillery is just so devastating to all in its path when it’s on form.
SGP: 662 - 93 points.



Clynelish 30 yo 1972/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing ‘Old Malt Cask’, cask #14747, 126 bottles)

Clynelish 30 yo 1972/2003 (50%, Douglas Laing ‘Old Malt Cask’, cask #14747, 126 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: streamlined and coastal-fresh waxes, herbs and pebbles. Direct, pure and extremely ‘Clynelish’ - the kind of profile that screams early 70s with this honey-infused waxiness and plush mineral underbelly. Some further notes of lemon cough drops, barley water and a rather heathery aspect. With water: develops towards white flowers, chalk, crushed seashells and a more crystalline minerality. Mouth: it’s a rather boisterous and slightly ‘dirty’ one in some ways with these impressions of oily mechanical rags and a waxiness that nods towards engine grease. Slightly minty, lactic and peppery too. With water: very medical and coastal with a rather fatty, gungey texture that fills the mouth. Finish: long, fresh, citric, surprisingly cereal and with notes of dried flowers and gorse. Comments: Not the greatest early 1970s Clynelish but then we’re still in flavour and quality territory that very few contemporary malts ever approach.
SGP: 462 - 92 points.



Time for a break…



Ledaig 11 yo 2008/2019 (55.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, hogshead, 270 bottles)

Ledaig 11 yo 2008/2019 (55.2%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, hogshead, 270 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s one these rather fatty and greasy profiles featuring lots of gasoline, muddy peat, yeasty notes, lemon juice, sheep wool and a rather gutsy carbolic acidity. In terms of direct, modern, youthful peated malt you can’t get much straighter than this. Becomes a little cleaner and chiselled with time evolving more towards seawater and lemon juice. With water: a rather grassy smokiness emerges now, still rather punchy, brusque and a tad harsh. Mouth: very ashy and all on antiseptic, gauze, brine and some rather hot medicines. Also rather extremely saline as well with pure sea salt and brined fish. With water: hot plastic, smoked clay, olive oil mixed with antiseptic and some kind of industrial herbal mouthwash. Hot, salty, slightly earthy peat and more sharp lemon juice. Finish: long and full of raw smoke, seawater, diesel fumes and tar. Comments: Some folk will love this for it’s ‘bigness’ but I find these rather stark modern peaters a tad too monolithic and brutal for my tastes.
SGP: 367 - 81 points.



Ledaig 13 yo 2005/2019 (57.4%, The Whisky Exchange, cask #900174, sherry butt, 622 bottles)

Ledaig 13 yo 2005/2019 (57.4%, The Whisky Exchange, cask #900174, sherry butt, 622 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: soot and menthol cigarettes to begin. This very attractive leathery and camphor mix of peat and gentle sherry which works very well. You can also add some walnut skins, mineral oils, smoked mint tea and smouldering pinecones. Really impressive nose so far I have to say. In time there’s also some hints of shoe polish and game meats. With water: an added layer of treacle sweetness, then caraway, cinnamon buns and smoked olive oil. Mouth: wonderfully rich, complex smokiness. Leathery, gamey and full of ink, soy sauce, miso and camphor. Also this wonderfully tarry side along with black pepper, smoked black teas and rather a lot of hessian. Quite beautiful and there are even these wee moments where you could almost get glimmers of 70s Ardbeg. With water: gets fatter, brinier and there’s this lightness of touch from the mouthfeel that keeps everything very easy and pleasurable. Goes full circle back to ink, tar, mentholated notes and medical notes of TCP and iodine drops. Finish: long and bristling with leathery smoke, stout beers, liquorice, antiseptic, dried herbs and a kind of sweet and rooty peatiness. Comments: Terrific wee sherried Ledaig that feels modern in the very best of ways while also nodding slyly at the past. And the balance between sherry and peat is pitch perfect here. Recommended!
SGP: 566 - 90 points.



Ledaig 25 yo 1995/2020 (48.5%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead)

Ledaig 25 yo 1995/2020 (48.5%, The Whisky Agency, hogshead)
Colour: straw. snapped twigs along with a very gentle kind of ‘green’ bonfire smoke that comes through wispily and elegantly. Also lemon cough drops, anthracite embers, Marmite on brown toast, some crushed pink peppercorns and things like lanolin, sourdough starter and orange vitamin tablets fizzing in soda water. Light, bright, elegant and nicely complex. There’s also this sense of yeastiness which feels rather like a Tobermory accept encroaching upon this pretty gentle Ledaig. Which seems too often be the case with 90s Ledaigs. Mouth: indeed, it’s not a particularly peaty one. This is more on wet rocks, crushed aspirin, wet grains, raw cereal, fresh butter with chopped chives and parsley, plain toast, ink, carbon paper and lemon barley water. Cleaves close to the raw ingredients which is always good, but also has that elegant veil of age. And the mouthful has a robustness that carries everything nicely. More soft yeasty tones, grass, freshly muddled herbs, some mouthwash and more of these gentle lemony notes. Finish: good length but rather light and cereal driven, also some olive oil, sunflower seeds and hints of canvass and new leather. Comments: A tad whacky but also pretty charming and, most importantly, clean and never straying far from the raw ingredients. Indeed, the whole thing feels very natural. Although, I would say this is something of a departure from other Ledaigs from the mid-90s or earlier, most of those remain very ‘unlikely’ in my experience; perhaps time is the key ingredient with this baby.
SGP: 453 - 87 points.





May 15, 2020


Around four Glenallachie

Let’s see what we can find… Oh, first two young wine-wood-driven officials...

Glenallachie 10 yo ‘Port Wood Finish’ (48%, OB, +/-2019)

Glenallachie 10 yo ‘Port Wood Finish’ (48%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
Why not! Besides, the colour isn’t too pink… Colour: between apricot and mirabelle. Let’s only hope the flavours will be similar… Nose: the wine and the wood spices feel rather a lot, we’re almost in wine territories indeed. Old barrel, musty old cellar, cloves and nutmeg, whiffs of tar and truffle, cracked pepper, peonies, cherry stem tea, allspice, chicory coffee… Mouth: big pepper from the oak over Jell-o and crushed cassis. An overall rather bitter and rubbery palate, do not expect the splendour of top-notch touriga nacional. Finish: long, very spicy. Loads of black pepper over raspberry jelly. Rubber in the aftertaste. Comments: I tend to totally hate these quick combos, but this time it seems that I survived the experiment. In the upper echelon (of them malts that were flash-finished in Port, that is).
SGP:371 - 78 points.

I suppose that’s like in gymnastics, you need to have a Port Wood finish like they need to do pommel horse. While parallel bars could be, perhaps… PX?

Glenallachie 12 yo ‘Pedro Ximenez Wood Finish’ (48%, OB, +/-2019)

Glenallachie 12 yo ‘Pedro Ximenez Wood Finish’ (48%, OB, +/-2019) Three stars
Colour: gold. Nose: no raisiny assault, rather some herbs and grasses, zests, sour fruits (passion?) and ripe plums. No complains so far, I’m even finding this wee nose rather pleasant. Mouth: it is rather pleasant! A tad peppery at first, just like the Port, but with good bright fruits, ripe plums, tangerines, then cherries and raspberries, with a kind of slight fizziness. I almost wrote Schweppesiness. Quite some cloves and muesli too. Finish: rather long, on sultanas, cherries and spices. Blood orange marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: rather a success, I think, and certainly better than a McNutella (what?). Not all PX finishes are utter crap.
SGP:561 - 82 points.

Glenallachie 2008/2019 (57.6%, Riegger’s Selection, Palo Cortado finish, cask #901330, 395 bottles)

Glenallachie 2008/2019 (57.6%, Riegger’s Selection, Palo Cortado finish, cask #901330, 395 bottles) Four stars
Oh all these good little brands and their owners that we shan’t see this year because festivals are being cancelled, how very sad! Indeed, another finish, but at least they’ve been keeping it in Palo (Cortado, not Alto) for around one year and a half, so that’s not plain and pure aromatization anymore in my book. Colour: pale gold. Nose: totally dry sherry, with flamboyant mustards and walnuts at first, then these thick bready smells that I just always enjoy. In French we say ‘good like good bread’. I suppose you would say that in English too, no? With water: wee whiffs of new tyre, then walnuts again, breads, ras-el-hanout (brilliant all-purpose Moroccan spice mix)… Mouth (neat): bone dry sherry, walnuts, leaven, mustard… With water: lovely, really. Chestnut purée, oranges, sweet curry, walnut wine… Finish: medium, in keeping with the above. Comments: really well made. Very good young Glenallachie and very good Palo Cortado too.
SGP:461 - 86 points.

Glenallachie 12 yo 2004/2017 (62%, The Whiskyfind, Jazzin, 1st fill sherry butt, cask # 900755, 678 bottles)

Glenallachie 12 yo 2004/2017 (62%, The Whiskyfind, Jazzin, 1st fill sherry butt, cask # 900755, 678 bottles) Four stars
Jazz and whisky, always a winning combo, even if amongst musicians, whisky’s also often seen as ‘the devil’ as it took the lives of many a luminary. It’s not all dazzle and glory. Colour: deep amber. Nose: more a traditional caky heavy hitter, rather modern, perhaps ex-STR, with bags of butterscotch, roasted raisins, litres of mead and rancio, whiffs of wisteria (it’s the season here at WF Towers)… All pretty lovely, very well made. With water: perfectly executed. Sherry walnuts, cakes, spices, coffee, chocolate tobacco… This is not unseen indeed, but the combination just always works. Mouth (neat): very strong, very good. Seemingly. Peppered chocolate and butterscotch, that’s what I’m getting. With water: we’re clearly on the peppery side, which would suggest that the oak was pretty new in the first place. Modern and good. Finish: rather long, lovely, more on marmalade, pepper, dry white wine and walnuts. Comments: kudos to the coopers.
SGP:461 - 86 points.

We need an unsherried one! Please! Ah well, you can always count on W.M. Cadenhead…

Glenallachie-Glenlivet 26 yo 1992/2019 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles)

Glenallachie-Glenlivet 26 yo 1992/2019 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles) Five stars
Oh no, blimey, I’ve already tried this one just last year! Silly me… Oh well, we need an unsherried one anyway, so let’s proceed and be ultra-fast… No water, nada! Colour: white wine. Nose: bone-dry grass, sauvignon blanc (Sancerre, not just any world junk – sorry if I sound like an elitist or like a chauvinistic pig just now) and chalk and white peaches and green apples and lemons. Mouth: fabulous lemons and chalk. Can’t beat that when a few good years have worked their magic. 26, that’s a few good years. Finish: funny touches of sardines and anchovies. Or am I dreaming? Comments: loved it and love it. One of the epitomes of Cadenheadness, with just the right amount of bravado and, perhaps, duende? I mean, this is just a Glenallachie.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Bye for now.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glenallachie we've tasted so far

May 2020 - part 1 <--- May 2020 - part 2 ---> June 2020 - part 1



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Clynelish 23 yo 1996/2020 (48.7%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 170 bottles)

Glenallachie-Glenlivet 26 yo 1992/2019 (54.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles)

Glen Grant 1970/2000 (54.9%, Vintage Hallmark of St. James)

Glen Grant 1956/2015 (53.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky 60th Anniversary, cask #4450, 218 bottles)

Glen Grant 50 yo 1966/2016 (54.6%, Signatory Vintage, sherry hogshead, cask #884, 108 bottles)

Jura 21 yo 1998/2020 (55.7%, Chapter 7, Monologue, bourbon hogshead, cask #2144, 284 bottles)

Port Ellen 10 yo (58.4%, Signatory Vintage, Natural High Strength, 1994)

Port Ellen 40 yo 1979/2020 ‘9 Rogue Casks’ (50.9%, OB, Untold Stories, 1380 bottles)

Speyside 46 yo 1973/2019 (49.7%, Maltbarn, sherry, 68 bottles)

Talisker 22 yo 1979/2001 (64.3%, The Bottlers, refill sherry hogshead, cask #4014)

Talisker 1964 (100°proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 fl oz, +/-1975)

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac de Christian L.88’ (54.1%, OB, Petite Champagne, 303 bottles, 2019)

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Le Cognac d’André L.73’ (51.4%, OB, Petite Champagne, 525 bottles, 2019)

Petite Champagne 49 yo 1970/2020 (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, barrel, 234 bottles)