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Whisky Tasting


Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild




Hi, you're in the Archives, May 2023 - Part 2

May 2023 - part 1 <--- May 2023 - part 2 ---> June 2023 - part 1


May 31, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


Back to Ardbeg, once more

Pre-Woke Ardbeg marketing, mid-2000s (with consumer newsletter 'Momen-tous Minutes')

We haven't got any of the new bespoke NAS that are mushrooming in this season, only that recent 'Smoketrails' that we've been keeping in the stash since last year. But we've also got some old wonders that we haven't tasted yet, and so we'll have one of them as the sparring partner. Importantly, please note that this is not a competition, we're not trying to actually 'oppose' these bottlings bearing very different pedigrees, and stemming from very different eras…



Ardbeg 'Smoketrails' (46%, OB, travel retail, 1l, 2022)

Ardbeg 'Smoketrails' (46%, OB, travel retail, 1l, 2022) Four stars
I've just seen that this one is still available in travel retail, for a price that's much lower than in regular shops. They were having dozens at Basel airport just last week, for example. It is a vatting of ex-American oak (Heaven Hill?) and ex-manzanilla casks. I remember some superb ex-fino Ardbeg around Feis 2005, but I'm not sure we've already tried some ex-manzanilla 'beg. But was Dr Bill's idea to add saltiness to saltiness? Let's see, while it's mentioned on the label that it should display some 'saddle soap'… Remember horses are another specialty of Jerez… Colour: straw. Nose: frankly, the territory of an (unsherried, ha) Ardbeg and that of some manzanilla are so close to each other that I'm finding this nose particularly tautological. Fresh walnuts shouting out, green apples and lemons, some chalk, a touch of mustard, sea spray, fresh almonds and chalk, then only a wee touch of mutton suet or something like that. Having said all that and while it's classic Ardbeg in my book, it is not really 'big'. Mouth: perhaps a little too much grittiness, fresh oak at first, making it bitterish (bell pepper, walnut skin), but also loads of salt, as expected. It feels young for sure. Cold ashes, lemon skin, tart cider apples, lemon jellybeans… I find it relatively simple, but Ardbeggy enough. Finish: rather long, still salty. Or, let's say it triggers a lot of saltiness. Walnuts and mustard in the aftertaste. Comments: now, what to do with a litre of this, if you've also got a bottle of the superior Ten in your cabinet? And I'm afraid I couldn't recognise any notes of saddle soap, but that is me. Don't get me wrong, it's some very good Ardbeg that we could quaff with langoustines on the shore of the Guadalquivir, in Sanlucar.
SGP:467 - 86 points.

Back, like 40 years…

Ardbeg 20 yo 1975/1995 (51.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Ardbeg 20 yo 1975/1995 (51.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Five stars
We've tried a few 1975s by Cadenhead, some outstanding, others a little less so, while several were heavily sherried. Yet I haven't tried this very one, which I think is pretty rare… And mind you, 1975! Possibly Ardbeg's best vintage. Unless that would be 1972. Or 1973. Or 1974. Or 1976… Or some from the 1990s that are now coming of age, according to a few recent tastings. Colour: the colour is the same as that of the Smoketrails, but I suppose that will make for the only resemblance between both. Nose: bang. These tropical fruits are unknown in any modern Ardbeg, neither is this kind of rubbery passion fruit note, not to mention these tarry mangos. Add as much camphor, genepy, chartreuse, spent engine oil and crushed slate and oysters as you would like. With water: this very funny feeling of a pair of never-used Wellingtons, in which you would have hidden peaches and apricots. But why would anyone do that? Mouth (neat): the angels are singing, while this one remains very big, salty and waxier, with these notes of 'fruity rubber', embrocations, cough medicine, mentholated chewing tobacco and propolis. Just amazing. With water: I hate to say this, I really do, but you cannot have the same appreciation of malt whisky if you have never tried any of these Ardbegs. They have shaped the tastes of many of us. Finish: long, extremely elegant, potent, and yet subtle, still fresh, with more 'fruity rubbers'. I think I'll need to find a better descriptor. Comments: just glorious, just pure poetry. Happy Feis and happy Ardbeg Day everyone! …
SGP:656 - 94 points.

Last minute entry, looks like we hadn't checked some boxes carefully enough...

Ardbeg 'Heavy Vapours' (46%, OB, general release, 2023)

Ardbeg 'Heavy Vapours' (46%, OB, general release, 2023) Four stars and a half
More NAS and more stories. I mean, really, stories, about that purifier we keep mentioning here too, and a certain 'agent 46'.. There's a QR code on the presentation box and bottle that should have allowed us to follow that 'agent 46' but from France it seems that we're just led to the generic Ardbeg website. Anyway, this is young Ardbeg that's been distilled 'without' the purifier on, as many batches have in the past already, but this very one is supposed to be 'the most full-blown Ardbeg ever'. Let's check that now… Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: very pure and feeling ultra-young, totally on mash, smoked beer, green pears, stewed turnip, creosote, petrichor and our new favourite since we've tried some in the Schwarzwald only two days ago, topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke) eau-de-vie or Schnaps, which is very rooty and earthy indeed. Mouth: excellent, if a tad rough and probably immature. More Jerusalem artichoke and turnip, smoky mashes and washes, a feinty side indeed and then certainly more fruitiness (so much for the purifier been shunted). Apples, lemon liqueur, light honey (acacia), liquorice allsorts and a drop of pastis. A moderate saltiness and notes of sweet beetroot too. Finish: pretty longer, fruity and salty. Comments: did they not just invent peated pastis? As a matter of fact, it would take a lot of water with resolve and even desire (what?) but it's not really heavy, I'd have called it 'Mizuwari Reserve' or 'Islay Pastis' instead. Do the advertising agencies taste the products?
SGP:556 – 88 points.

(Thank you, KC)

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


May 30, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


Bunnahabhain Feis Ile and others

As usual, we've got quite a bunch of Bunnahabhains in the stash. I think we'll first find an official apéritif, then have the new, enigmatic 'Canasta' for Feis 2023, then a few indies indluding some older ones. As for what Bunnahabhain and Feis mean to me, I'll simply remember a tremendous gig by the Blazin' Fiddles in the courtyard, those fabulous Bunnahabhain burgers that used to shelter more malt whisky than meat, and naturally, those tours of the warehouses, glass and valinch in hand, with sorely missed manager John MacLellan (whose lovely cottage in Port Charlotte we used to rent for the festival). Imagine comparing various casks of 1963, 1965 or 1968… back and forth!

2015 (WF Archive)

BTW, for this session we'll consider that any whisky not bearing the names Moine or Staoisha is unpeated but we may fail, you sometimes cannot tell from the label whether a Bunnahabhain is peated or not.



Bunnahabhain 'Toiteach A Dha' (46.3%, OB, +/-2022)

Bunnahabhain 'Toiteach A Dha' (46.3%, OB, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
One of those provocatively unpronounceable NASses they seem to like to release from time to time… Colour: light gold. Nose: fail, it's peated! Albeit rather lightly so, as if they had kind of blended some unpeated with some peated, or even filled some ex-Moine casks. Not too sure, but indeed this is pleasant, feels a little young, displays some hay and a little tar, some orange blossom, bits of dried pears and apples, some smoked sausage German-style, and a small cup of lapsang souchong. There's something Indian to it, perhaps masala or something, which may come from the woods. Mouth: rather sweet and spicy, even more 'Indian' to my taste, with some lemongrass and coriander, some kind of smoky curry and a handful of cinnamon drops. Once again, the smokiness feels a little 'German'. Think cold-smoked Rohwürste sausages again, or there, Alsatian Landjäger. Also marmalade, grapefruit… Finish: rather long, still sweet and spicy, and pretty curry-like. Comments: certainly a softer, easier peater. Do you say 'toy-teach'?
SGP:554 - 84 points.

Bunnahabhain 'Feis Ile 2023' (51.2%, OB, Canasta Cask Matured, +/-2023)

Bunnahabhain 'Feis Ile 2023' (51.2%, OB, Canasta Cask Matured, +/-2023) Three stars and a half
Apparently, Canasta is some sherry, which I just didn't know before. It is actually a brand of cream sherry made by Williams & Humbert. Remember, 'matured' doesn't obligatorily mean 'fully matured'. Colour: gold. Nose: the cream sherry is extremely noticeable, shall we say, and would have imparted notes of many dried fruits and liqueurs, mead, raisins, fudges, and even mosto/must, which we would also find in these Pineau des Charentes finishes that are rather fashionable these days. Nice. With water: this is almost some young moscatel! Nothing against that, having said that. Mouth (neat): indeed, it is very sweet, almost syrupy, this is almost some dessert whisky, in a way. Pour over ice-cream! With water: once again, it got sweeter yet, rather in the style of a young rancio this time. Finish: medium, grapey, sweet, muscaty. Comments: this one's good for the Jerez Sherry Festival too! It really is extra-extra-sweet.
SGP: 741- 83 points.

Speaking of sherry…

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2012/2022 'Monuments' (43%, Signatory Vintage, Kirsch Import, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #900778)

Bunnahabhain 10 yo 2012/2022 'Monuments' (43%, Signatory Vintage, Kirsch Import, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #900778) Four stars
Lovely Prestonfield-like combination of old-skool label and gentle strength. We're back in 1990, which I find charming. Remember when Celtic crosses – usually Kildalton's indeed - were all over our bottles of whisky? Colour: gold. Nose: smartly Macallany, with whiffs of marmalade made with Demerara sugar, sultanas, bananas flambéed, tarte tatin, and litres and litres (and litres) of earl grey tea. Some tiny hints of some kind of earthy smoke. Charming indeed. Mouth: I keep thinking of young Macallan of old, with touches of sour fruits, then many dried ones, a bit of liquorice, some pipe tobacco, bananas flambéed indeed, sultanas, Corinth raisins (or Smyrna), pears poached in sweet wine… Grape jam. Finish: not too long at this strength, but veery good, with some winks at… hold on, cognac? Comments: truly charming, and highly drinkable. It's just that whenever I see that cross, I cannot not think of what the Vikings did to the abbot who's buried underneath.

SGP:651 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 13 yo 2005/2019 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill barrel, cask #HL16645, 271 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 13 yo 2005/2019 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, refill barrel, cask #HL16645, 271 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: cleaner, a little simpler, much more on fresh fruits, bananas, apples, mirabelles, quinces, then cassata, panettone, and this honey that we used to find in abundance in the old official 12s. A few liquorice allsorts. Water is not needed. Mouth: a tad more doughy, but with even more bananas, overripe apples, this mead indeed, meadow honey, plus hints of very young brandy. All good. Finish: same. Medium length, plums, bananas, ripe apples, scones and madeleines in the aftertaste. Comments: a well-balanced, fresher young Bunnahabhain. No quibbles and pesterings – for the record.

SGP:551 - 84 points.

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2009/2021 (53.7%, The Whisky Agency, butt, 268 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2009/2021 (53.7%, The Whisky Agency, butt, 268 bottles) Four stars
According to the label, there should be some honey again in there. Colour: gold. Nose: a few flinty tones at first, then a lot of brioche dough, kougelhopf, that panettone that we keep mentioning (but we love panettone while I believe they only make them around Xmas time), and indeed some stronger honey, heather, chestnut, thyme… There's strictly nothing not to like in there. With water:  water brings out meaty tones, tobacco, pu-her tea, dried kelp… Mouth (neat): some very good sweet and cakey sherry, with Mars bars, pancake sauce and once more, a lot of honey and honey-based sauces. Do you know Twix? I mean, both? With water: excellent sherry indeed, this time with touches of menthol and eucalyptus. Thin mints, After Eights… Finish: long, rich, neither heavy nor loud, always with a lot of heather honey, somewhat ala old HP. Remember both distilleries used to belong to Highland Distillers at some point. Comments: just a tiny tad rustic here and there, but it's a lovely sherried 'Bunna'. Or 'Bunny'. Oh, whatever.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2009/2021 (50.3%, Klubb23 for Buds & Barrels, 80 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 12 yo 2009/2021 (50.3%, Klubb23 for Buds & Barrels, 80 bottles) Four stars
A small bottling to put an end to this first part of our Bunnahabhain 'Feis' session. Colour: full topaz gold. Yep. Nose: more earthiness in this one, artisanal mead, pack of Camels, tarte tatin, quince jelly, drop of hoisin sauce, touches of pink pepper, a spoonful of chicken bouillon… With water: more towards teas, hay, dried flowers, perhaps patchouli (hare hare)… Mouth (neat): Bunnahabhain and sherry do tango to perfection. Loads of toffee, millionaire shortbread, Curly Wurly bar, honey, breakfast tea, maple syrup… With water: peanut butter! What could beat peanut butter!? Drop of triple-sec. Finish: medium, a little meatier again. Honey-glazed ham. Comments: another one that's super-good – and reminiscent of the old official 12.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

And because as we all know, Bunnahabhain ages gracefully…

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1997/2022 (57.1%, Adelphi for Hot Malt Taiwan, 10th Anniversary, oloroso gorda, cask #1670, 634 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1997/2022 (57.1%, Adelphi for Hot Malt Taiwan, 10th Anniversary, oloroso gorda, cask #1670, 634 bottles) Five stars
So, 100°proof. A gorda, actually a botta gorda, is… a butt. As for Adelphi's labels, all sponsored by capitalistic opticians, they seem to be getting smaller and smaller, are they not? Colour: deep gold. Nose: fat, buttery, mineral, slightly sulphury (in the greatest of ways), shock-full of walnuts and pistachios in all their states, with some carbon dust and the smells of a pre-war Rolls-Royce. I am not joking. Add to that litres of amontillado, fino and vin jaune. With water: even more of all that. Pour this in Arbois or Château-Chalon, or indeed in Sanlucar, over chicken and morels, or langoustines. Mouth (neat): full nutty oloroso, you would almost believe this was a proper solera cask. Mustard, amontillado, walnuts, bits of tobacco, coffee toffee… With water: more crazy toffee, mocha, walnut wine, indeed oloroso, pipe tobacco, mustard sauce (à la diable), pistachio nougat, green honeys… Finish: long, mustardy and oloroso-y. A feeling of slate in the aftertaste. Comments: the lighter colour did not give it away! Wonderful dry sherry monster, I totally love it. If you like dry sherry, you'll love it too. I remember these casks were rather tough when still young, but they've blossomed, it seems.
SGP:472 - 91 points.

Let's check an 'opposite' hogshead…

Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1989/2022 (40.8%, Skene, hogshead, cask #5743)

Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1989/2022 (40.8%, Skene, hogshead, cask #5743) Five stars
Look at this colour… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: instant love. Very subtle whiffs of gentian, celeriac, wild carrots, church candles, very soft oils, linseed, poppyseed, old riesling… You do not need a long tasting note, do you! But as always with these lighter, whispering casks, the challenge lies on your palate. Mouth: feels a little fragile at first, but it'll then take off (like an albatross, ha), while rather remaining in wine territory, that is to say old riesling and old sauvignon blanc. From the Graves! Touches of white asparagus, limestone (licking stones, of course you should), more carrots, more root vegetables… but indeed it keeps whispering 'low' (sweet Wayne Shorter, not with us anymore!)  Finish: shortish, but with pineapples. Comments: some light wine malt, perhaps not for youtubers (what?) but I like this fragile style that some old Tomintouls, Tomatins and indeed Bunnahabhains used to share. Fragile and precious.
SGP:441 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1977/2022 (47.2%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #12)

Bunnahabhain 40 yo 1977/2022 (47.2%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #12) Five stars
Indeed, this baby's actually 44 years old. Parisian cocketry, you know. Colour: gold. Nose: did we just write 'fragile and precious'? Crème au beurre, ripe apples, preserved greengages, buttercups, gorse (and these wee coconut smells), soft woods, pinewood, pine nuts, honeysuckle, sesame oil, crushed banana… It's the freshness that's rather thrilling, despite these 'fragile' aspects. Mouth: oranges leading the way, with a salty side that would then lead us to… Sanlucar again. Fresh walnuts are back, herbs, teas, soft mustard, liquorice wood, and also manzanilla-the-tea (that's chamomile). Awesome, complex, needing your time. Finish: a tad short perhaps, greener and leafier, but with a fresh mentholy aftertaste that makes it raise its head. So to speak. Comments: they've always been a little fragile and, well, kind of modestly aromatic, but when they haven't gotten too tea-ish, which is the case here (I mean, it hasn't), these batches would display the subtleties of a Turner. You just have to listen. I mean, to admire. Indeed we should all listen to sweet Tina T. too.
SGP:551 - 90 points.

(Thank you, Tom H. and the B. gang)

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


May 29, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


A few flying Bruichladdich

It's been a while since we last tasted a small batch of Bruichladdich. The brand seems to have become a little more discreet over here, even though it belongs to a French group. Ah, the French, don't get me started! By the way, we'll save any Lochindaal, Port Charlotte, and Octomore for another day, if you agree...




Bruichladdich 17 yo 2004/2022 (52.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon barrel, cask #1433, 154 bottles)

Bruichladdich 17 yo 2004/2022 (52.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, bourbon barrel, cask #1433, 154 bottles) Four stars and a half
This bottler always has very beautiful labels. Oh, and very beautiful spirits too, of course, even though the prices seem rather a little high to me. Colour: gold. Nose: it's a bit more yeasty than others, with a slight smokiness reminiscent of the very first batches after the reopening, which were having a slight peatiness. But did they continue that until 2004? I can't remember... Ouch! Otherwise, we have the classic melon, blood orange, a hint of seawater, fresh almonds, brioche dough, and it's all rather perfect. It even reminds me a bit of the 1970 and 1971 releases they did after the takeover. What whiskies! With water: even more fresh brioche, perhaps a bit of French toast, orange blossom, gazelle horns... And a bit of smoke. Coal stove. Palate (neat): it's really, really good, with melon coming through incredibly well. We'll add some Mandarine Napoléon and cassata, as well as candied fruits, angelica... With water: some fruit peels add a more herbaceous side. Also some orange. Finish: medium length, quite oily for Bruichladdich, with notes of orange, marmalade, and once again, fresh brioche. Melon brioche, can you make that? Comments: this fruitiness is just perfect. We'll try to taste a very old Bruichladdich to finish this session and see if there are any similarities.

SGP: 651 - 88 points.

Pause: just to make sure, a Bruichladdich distilled in the early weeks after the reopening, let's check if there is indeed some peat...
Bruichladdich 2001/2008 'Resurrection' (46%, OB, bourbon, 24,000 bottles)
Of course, I've already tasted it in 2008, and even quite loved it (WF 87). But just as a reminder... Nose: yes, there is smoke, burnt wood, sea spray, that famous melon, hay... They didn't miss their mark, that's for sure. Palate: oh yes, it's peaty! But it pairs very well with the blood orange and melon. No complaints, a very beautiful young Bruichladdich that has also benefited from these past fifteen years in the bottle, it seems to me. Well, let's move on to the next one...

Bruichladdich 20 yo 2002/2022 (55.3%, Maltbarn, bourbon cask, 161 bottles).

Bruichladdich 20 yo 2002/2022 (55.3%, Maltbarn, bourbon cask, 161 bottles) Four stars and a half
We're still right after the reopening. We had such a great time at the distillery back then! We even enjoyed a giant lobster barbecue at the Port Charlotte Hotel. Andrew Jefford mentions it in his famous book about Islay. But enough of these silly little anecdotes... Colour: white wine. Nose: you've just opened a pack of mint candies, and then you'll indulge in English sweets and soft liquorice. Only later will the famous blood oranges and iconic melon tickle your nostrils. However, the coastal aspect is not very evident this time. With water: not much change, rather heading towards baguette and croissant dough. I think I did mention the owner is French... Mouth (neat): it's beautiful, completely in line with the 2004 expression, just with a bit more apple and pear peel. Strangely, there's less smoke. Maybe the 2004 was distilled just after a Port Charlotte run? With water: simply superb fruitiness, leaning towards canned peaches this time. Finish: long, more lemony. Very refreshing. Comments: I think this would be perfect with an outstanding gravlax.
SGP: 651 - 88 points.

It's quite remarkable to see these batches reach maturity after having witnessed them passing through the spirit safe. That being said, when it comes to Bruichladdich, wine was also a significant factor back then...

Bruichladdich 12 yo 2009/2022 (59.4%, Rest & Be Thankful, wine cask, 257 bottles).

Bruichladdich 12 yo 2009/2022 (59.4%, Rest & Be Thankful, wine cask, 257 bottles) Two stars and a half
Well, we know this baby spent its entire life in a wine cask, but we're not quite sure which wine it was. However, the whisky's heavily salmon-hued colour indicates that it was a red wine... Colour: salmon, copper. Nose: quite a bit of gunpowder at the beginning, this cask was probably 'mèché' before making its way to Islay. Perhaps it was one of those white wines from Sauternes that change colour so quickly, after all. Strawberry and apricot jam, quince paste, flint, gunflint... I'm not entirely sure I'm a big fan this time. With water: buds, buds, buds... Mouth (neat): bitter orange, a metallic aspect, still that black powder, blackcurrant, a peony character... With water: well, there's a rubber and bell pepper note coming through. Finish: long, with the same flavours lingering. A very young Saint-Émilion in the aftertaste. Comments: as they say, great, but not exactly for me. However, the colour is extraordinary and the spirit is bold. Well...
SGP: 571 - 78 points.

As an act of contrition (perhaps)...

Bruichladdich 18 yo 2003/2022 (57.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, sherry cask, cask #1347, 115 bottles).

Bruichladdich 18 yo 2003/2022 (57.1%, Rest & Be Thankful, sherry cask, cask #1347, 115 bottles) Three stars
Only 115 bottles, that's really not a lot. It would be quite a mishap if it turned out to be a leaking butt after all these years. However, we've already tasted a few clearly damaged casks (poor patching, leaks, etc.) that turned out to be marvellous in the end. Colour: golden yellow. Nose: it makes you forget about the 'wine cask' in a fraction of a second. Nut cake, old agricole rum, sweet spices, a hint of earthiness, a touch of miso, a bit of fermented plum sauce... With water: it becomes more fermentary, with country bread, pumpernickel, some notes of old copper coins, even more miso, tofu, black mushrooms... Mouth (neat): it's really powerful and spicy, I wasn't expecting that. Pad Thai, caramel sauce... Now you just have to choose: chicken, beef, or shrimp? With water: lots of tobacco, ginger, Thai coriander, and cardamom... And green walnut. It's still intense. Finish: long and earthier. Clove, chili, and turmeric in the aftertaste. Comments: as often, the bourbon version has strongly outperformed the wine casks, but of course, it's a matter of personal taste.
SGP: 562 - 82 points.

Alright, this old Bruichladdich that I promised you...

Bruichladdich 1983/1995 (50%, Moon Import, De Viris Illustribus, 1,050 bottles).

Bruichladdich 1983/1995 (50%, Moon Import, De Viris Illustribus, 1,050 bottles) Four stars
Moon (nothing to do with the cult - right) was the first to use images from old books to illustrate their labels (apparently from a single book), even adopting really unlikely themes like cars, fish, or English monarchs (no, really!). Colour: gold. Nose: initially a very, very slight hint of sulphur, which then develops into dried fruits, figs, raisins, candied chestnuts, followed by umeshu, pipe tobacco, a touch of peat, hoisin sauce... It's truly tertiary in terms of aromas. With water: the water brings out flint, bitter oranges, fresh concrete... Mouth (neat): very lovely, very consistent with the nose, a bit meaty, mentholated, with some tar, tarmac, liquorice, a second glass of umeshu, new rubber, more tobacco... With water: I don't think the label says it's sherry, but if it isn't, I'll become a monk (they would be quite puzzled). Finish: long, predominantly nutty and with mutton fat. Well, a bit of mutton fat. Orange marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: it's quite excellent, but between us, the ex-bourbons will have these more wine-influenced versions for breakfast. So, perhaps we should have ended this session with the ex-bourbons, I agree with you.
SGP: 562 - 86 points.

(Experimentally translated from French by ChatSomething, which we've done with just a few sessions, not all published yet. I think we won't do it again).

(Thanks as ever, Tomislav !)

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


May 28, 2023


  A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!


Some More Rums for this Sunday


We'll kick this off with something that may well not be proper rum, on the other hand it is said to be 'Scottish'. So…

In the old Rhumerie Hardy in Tartane, Martinique (Rhum Hardy)




J. Gow (40%, OB, Scotland, spiced rum, +/-2021)

J. Gow (40%, OB, Scotland, spiced rum, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
Well actually, the recipe is said to be Scottish but I've just seen that it's stemming from Orkney indeed, and that it is 'inspired by pirates'. No worries, we've already tried quite a few spiced rums that weren't even admitting that they were 'spiced', most sweetened and flavoured to the brim. Colour: pale gold. Nose: hints of rubbing alcohol and a touch of burnt wood, with some fresh paint and dried rose petals. Also notes of freshly cut herbs, not unpleasant at all, along with orange zest. Rather acceptable, we would say, but as always, the potential devil will hide on the palate. Mouth: it's a bit syrupy and certainly very herbaceous and bitter, not far from some aquavits. Cinnamon, cloves, a slightly soapy side, and then more and more juniper, gin, quinquina... It's alright, the sweetness is not really cloying, it's somewhat reminiscent of an old-style cordial. Finish: medium length, still with quite a bit of juniper. Hints of liquorice and lavender in the aftertaste, reminiscent of cologne... Comments: I believe my dear paternal grandmother used to sip something like this in the 1960s. I mean, not cologne! Tsk-tsk..
SGP:660 - 77 points.

1731 'Guatemala Gran Reserva' (46%, Fine & Rare, Guatemala, +/-2021)

1731 'Guatemala Gran Reserva' (46%, Fine & Rare, Guatemala, +/-2021) Two stars and a half
Probably some Botran or Zacapa juice; only clearer and, hopefully, less sweet. It is said to be 4 years of age. So, some rum from Darsa Distillery, all right. Colour: white wine (hurrah!). Nose: very light, quite herbaceous, with a hint of grapefruit zest and notes of lemon balm, freshly cut hay, and sawdust. It then becomes increasingly lemony, with a touch of vetiver as well. Nothing to set the world on fire, but the fresh aspect is pleasant, reminding me a bit of certain cachaças. Mouth: slightly sweeter, but everything remains gently below the limit, while lemon takes centre stage again. Overall, it's very light, but not unpleasant at all. Touches of sugarcane juice. Finish: short but quite fresh, although the retro-olfaction is a bit more muddled. Comments: it's fresh and rather pleasant. I imagine it will go down very well over a stack of ice cubes, a little later in the season.

SGP:450 - 78 points.

G. Hardy 'Rhum Vieux' (42%, OB, Tartane, Martinique, agricole, +/-2021)

G. Hardy 'Rhum Vieux' (42%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2021) Four stars
A young, 3 years old agricole from La Martinique bearing an old brand name that's been revived rather recently. It is now made at Saint James, which cannot be bad news, while the old Habitation Hardy remains open to visits although it wouldn't produce any rhum z'habitant anymore (an older name for agricole). Colour: dark gold. Nose: very lovely, typically agricole, with a very slight dusty and meaty character, along with beautiful floral notes, orange blossom, fresh bread, and a touch of soot, followed by mocha and honey. It works really well. Mouth: quite unique, with a metallic aspect and a hint of soot, tobacco, toffee, milk chocolate, and orange marmalade. It remains very floral on the palate, with plenty of oriental pastries infused with orange blossom and honey. It feels a bit like being in North Africa, and there's also some mint tea (with pine nuts, please). Finish: rather long, very present, honeyed, and slightly spiced. The signature is slightly meaty and metallic, which is not uncommon in agricoles. Comments: a delightful surprise, this very young and well-defined agricole.

SGP: 561 - 86 points.

A.F.D. 11 yo 2010/2022 (57.1%, Watt Rum, Dominican Republic, 264 bottles)

A.F.D. 11 yo 2010/2022 (57.1%, Watt Rum, Dominican Republic, 264 bottles) Four stars
A.F.D stands for Alcoholes Finos Dominicanos, a very large operation that's started distilling in 2010 and that's supplying several large Dominican brands. Colour: golden. Nose: focused on cinnamon cake and sugarcane juice, with brioche and panettone in the background. It's not overly complex at this stage, but truly lovely and harmonious. With water: the expected honeyed notes unfold, while remaining light and well-balanced. It's very close to fresh sugarcane juice. Mouth (neat): beautiful purity in the very light island style, lemony and herbaceous, without a trace of added sugar. Lemongrass and a hint of peppermint. With water: some sweet notes this time, but they haven't been added artificially. A touch of grapefruit, canned peaches, sugarcane, maple syrup, nougat... Finish: medium length, fresh, still in a light style. A hint of candy sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: probably among the best in the Dominican style, as the official brands tend to be excessively boosted or even overly sweet for my taste.

SGP: 541 - 85 points.

Since we're here…

A.F.D. 13 yo 2009/2022 (58.8%, The Whisky Blues with Old Door Bar, Dominican Republic, barrel, cask #14, 261 bottles)

A.F.D. 13 yo 2009/2022 (58.8%, The Whisky Blues with Old Door Bar, Dominican Republic, barrel, cask #14, 261 bottles) Three stars and a half
This one spent 8 years in the tropics and 5 years in Europe. In theory, it should be very close to the Watt. Colour: dark gold. Nose: the cask was more active, with a lot of vanilla fudge and caramel coming through initially, even butterscotch. Honeyed and brioche notes emerge shortly after. With water: not much change, perhaps more herbal teas and tea. Chamomile and Earl Grey, along with milk chocolate. Mouth (neat): powerful and much more massive than the others, must be the cask influence. Varnish, wood glue, hay, tobacco... With water: much smoother, with sugarcane still present, tobacco notes persist, but there's also an increasing presence of wood. It becomes a bit austere, if not bitter. Finish: medium length, with sweet honeyed green tea. The aftertaste is rather herbaceous. Comments: also surprisingly to my taste for a Dominican rum, although I find this one a bit more rustic. Still, we're somewhat distant from the best rum-producing islands...
SGP: 451 - 84 points.

Foursquare 15 yo 2005+2007/2022 'NAS' (50%, Decadent Drinks, Barbados, early landed, refill barrels)

Foursquare 15 yo 2005+2007/2022 'NAS' (50%, Decadent Drinks, Barbados, early landed, refill barrels) Four stars
Some milti-vintage rum ala Rhum J.M. NAS stands for Notable Age Statements, not for No Actual Sugarcane. Colour: gold. Nose: it's rather gentle, with some bananas and tropical fruitcakes, teas, leaves… And a little lemongrass. It's really gentle. With water: some delicate flowery and herbal touches, wormwood, more lemongrass, yellow melon, a little rooibos tea perhaps… Mouth (neat): dried papayas and guavas, topped with something like, say macha ice cream? With water: more herbal teas and a touch of liquorice. Finish: medium, a notch sweet, with some banana and muscovado. Comments: a very good, yet rather not massive Foursquare, perhaps a little more 'columny' than others. It's also rather curiously close to the two Dominicans.

SGP:551 - 85 points.

Perhaps a little trip to Jamaica? As usual?

HD 10 yo 2012/2023 (58.3%, The Roots, Jamaica, cask #25, 229 bottles)

HD 10 yo 2012/2023 (58.3%, The Roots, Jamaica, cask #25, 229 bottles) Five stars
We'll say it again, HD does not stand for Harley-Davidson in this context, even if some smells will probably remind us of some spent oil from an old V-twin. Colour: gold. Nose: said spent oil, seawater, gherkins, brine, olives, carbon dust and rotting bananas. There. With water: more of all that, gritty olives, varnishes, tar, new tyres (for your HD)… Mouth (neat): it's rather more acetic than other HDs, with also even more varnish and yet more liquid caramel. Rather less olives and 'funky stuff', though. With water: glues, perhaps. Let's be careful. Some lemon, tar… It's just excellent, as expected. Finish: long, tarry, salty, and rather a little fruitier than others, while those fruits would not obligatorily be 'rotting'. Comments: what's good with these indie rums is that in general, they would not use any silly wine casks, while many do now in whisky. As good as it gets.

SGP:553 - 91 points.

Jamaican Rum 13 yo 2009/2022 'JDOK' (61%, The Whisky Blues, Jamaica, barrel, cask #7, 252 bottles)

Jamaican Rum 13 yo 2009/2022 'JDOK' (61%, The Whisky Blues, Jamaica, barrel, cask #7, 252 bottles) Five stars
What does JDOK stand for? Jamaica Dermot Owen Kelly-Lawson? If it's a DOK, remember that's the most estery marque at Hampden, with 1500-1600 grams esters per hectolitre pure alcohol. Let's see what it's all about… Colour: white wine. Nose: plain and pure glue, between Pattex and UHU, then the usual gherkins and olives, brand new plastics or electronics, new wellies… Etcetera. With water: a little more towards carbon, tar, nail polish, fermenting tofu, acetone… Mouth (neat): massive salted plastics and varnishes. With water: we'll never tame it. Extreme varnishes and salted citrus, with the signature olives in the background. Finish: very long, on the very same notes. A very salty and peppery aftertaste, a little uncommon. Comments: absolutely terrific top of the top-dresser, but definitely not for everyone. The higher marques are not always my favourite, but this one is totally spectacular. Plus, no one will ever dare finish this kind in Ruby Port or Zin, that's an asset too!
SGP:465 - 91 points.

Push push push…

Clarendon 25 yo 1997/2023 (63%, Rum Sponge, Jamaica, 124 bottles)

Clarendon 25 yo 1997/2023 (63%, Rum Sponge, Jamaica, 124 bottles) Five stars
This crazy one was almost fully aged in the tropics, which the very high A.B.V. goes to prove. Colour: golden amber. Nose: it's hard to get all the subtleties but it does sing. Spices and posh perfumes, I would say, elderflowers, ylang-ylang, orange blossom, even passion fruits and mangos… It seems… This is very intriguing for sure. No big funky blast this far. With water: a lot of metal polish, aluminium, used car parts, and tons of lemon verbena. Some thyme too, essential oils… Mouth (neat): some kind of very fruity varnish and a massive dose of salted liquorice that will take your tongue hostage if you're not careful enough. Water is mandatory. With (2 litres of) water: c.i.v.i.l.i.s.a.t.i.o.n. Now it keeps biting you a wee bit thanks to this oaky caramel and all the mints (cinnamon first) and liquorice. Finish: very long and saltier. A lot of liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: how many times have I already said that Jamaica was the Islay of rum? Bah, don't bother, this is just another superb juice that I'm finding just a little less 'balanced' than the HDs. But not sure balance would be what we're looking for when quaffing these monster rums.

SGP:563 - 90 points.

Sadly not WP at the moment, but we'll have a New Yarmouth as our last rum today.

New Yarmouth 28 yo 1994/2023 (67.4%, Flensburg Rum Company, 84 bottles)

New Yarmouth 28 yo 1994/2023 (67.4%, Flensburg Rum Company, 84 bottles) Four stars and a half
We're in Appleton territories now. Colour: richer amber. Nose: numbed a little bit. Some sweetness, apparently, a little corn syrup, perhaps… Caramel, chocolate, perhaps a little rhubarb… And indeed some Jamaicanness but at 67%+, no chances will be taken. With water: we are thinking of Appleton. Some lovely toffee and cappuccino, some burnt raisins, but no actual 'funk'. Most probably some low-ester New Yarmouth. Mouth (neat): massive salty chocolate, caramel and… hold on, bourbon-varnish? Once again, no chances taken… With water: does not feel like pot-still too much, but there is some lovely earthiness, leaves, chocolate, black tea, earthy toffee and coffee… Finish: long, sweet and caney, with a rather raisiny earthiness. Rather ganache and liqueur-filled chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: I know it is a little strange to call this one 'gentler' given its insane strength. What's sure is that it's hard to get in 'right' in your glass, you'd almost need an AI-driven electronic pipette. It's been ordered but it hasn't reached WF HQ yet. Right.

SGP:652 - 88 points.


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


May 26, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


The new Lagavulin and a sparring partner

It is just that very shamefully, we've got only one Lagavulin that we haven't properly tasted yet in the queue, the brand new Feis - no, we won't try the 16 for the umpteenth time. So we'll have to call on a neighboring distillery sharing the same owners to find a proper sparring partner (that's terrible, very terrible) …

Dunyvaig Castle in Lagavulin Bay (WF Archive)




Lagavulin 14 yo (58.4%, OB, Feis Ile Exclusive 2023)

Lagavulin 14 yo (58.4%, OB, Feis Ile Exclusive 2023) Four stars and a half
This one has been matured in American and European oak casks and then finished in Armagnac wood. Are they trying to revive the Auld Alliance (which, I've heard, was never officially cancelled anyway?) I find it is a strange idea – while they couldn't do it the other way 'round – but on the other hand, I doubt even the heaviest Ténarèze would actually fight the bold peater from Islay. Let's see if prunes come through… (and foie gras, ceps, duck confit or else…) Colour: light gold. Nose: you can actually feel it. There is some grapiness, some wine reduction, a feeling of damson and 'vieille prune', this very peculiar earthiness, while Lagavulin seems to have become gentler, certainly less smoky than usual, but then again, water may put things to right. With water: Lagavulin! Au revoir armagnac, it's been nice meeting you. Seawater, cigars, new tyres, leather, etc. Mouth (neat): once again, a feeling of meta-blend, of salty armagnac, of grapey peater… It is absolutely not unpleasant, not at all, you just have the impression that you're rowing in the middle of the Atlantic. So that's not exactly 'a sense of the place', is it. Terroir? Can the addition of two terroirs make a terroir? With water: good one, once again the brandy bowed out. Salty marmalade, tobacco, seawater, liquorice, peat smoke, smoked kippers… Finish: long, better with a little water. Pepper coming out, bay leaf, mustard and black olives in the aftertaste. Back of the aftertaste being more medicinal. Comments: good smoky fun. I'll let some friends from the Gers try it, curious about what they'll think.
SGP:368 - 88 points.

Sparring partner please (both bottler and distillery are being selected very carefully now, while a rather comparable age is requested) …

Port Ellen 22 yo 1979/2001 (59.8%, The Bottlers, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1552)

Port Ellen 22 yo 1979/2001 (59.8%, The Bottlers, refill sherry hogshead, cask #1552) Five stars
Indeed, having a 40+ wouldn't have made much sense. I remember sister cask #1550 had been wonderfully rubbery, if that's possible. Pretty unusual and very heavy. We never tried this very cask 1552 before, mind you. Colour: full gold. Nose: flints, marrow, sea salt, cigarettes, dried kelp and pink grapefruits. That's not a very usual combination, not even at Port Ellen, but it is awesome. Lots of stones, rocks, slate, chalk and clay joining in after a few minutes, so refill indeed. With water: embarrassingly, The Bottlers have almost always had it right and this is more proof. Grand nose, fat and majestic, with sublime mentholated touches, all things mineral, the usual tyres, and this carbony side that would remind us of… sports cars and bikes. Mouth (neat): hits you a little bit, while in a way it is close, in spirit, to the Lagavulin. I don't think I've ever realised that both makes were actually close to each other, but then again, we tend to do solo-distillery sessions. Haven't we been wrong for twenty years and more? With water: explodes with class and with a marvellous, fatter kind of peatiness. More brake fluid, tarmac, burnt tyres, kerosene… what's not to like? Finish: very long, with more paraffin and assorted waxy and mineral notes. Something more organic in the aftertaste, perhaps artichokes? Can you smoke artichokes? Comments: it is/was a massive spirit, bottled at the right time. We're keeping a few other younger PEs for when they launch the first batches of 'new' Port Ellen, we can't wait. Of course we'll compare them, if grace favours me until then…
SGP:467 - 93 points.

(Merci Nicolas!)


May 25, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides



Caol Ila, a quick sequel to the prequels

The new 'Feis' bottling is in, so let's have it while it's on, and then try to find more legendary ones so that we have a proper wee lineup on the table.

Feis Ile 2005, the Malt Maniacs Mobile stuck in a ditch not too far from Caol Ila Distillery (WF Archive)



Caol Ila 13 yo (60.4%, OB, Feis Ile Exclusive 2023)

Caol Ila 13 yo (60.4%, OB, Feis Ile Exclusive 2023) Four stars and a half
This brand-new baby was matured in PX and Oloroso seasoned butts and selected by Distillery Manager Sam Hale. Colour: gold. Nose: fully Caol Ila, with little sherry in the way, only a few fresh walnuts perhaps, at least when not diluted. I even seem to detect pickled samphires, beyond the fresh smoky goodness, the very tiny touches of rubber, and the usual oysters. A little mocha as well – is that the oloroso? With water: one of the purest PXed Caol Ilas I've tried in recent months, complete with new Pirellis (or any other brand), salty fino rather than PX and oloroso, a whiff of mustard and horseradish, and then even more 'fino'. Which, naturally, we always adore at WF HQ. Mouth (neat): very salty, very lemony, very briney, very good. A little chilli, even sriracha in the background, but that may also be the very high strength. 'Bordering oliveness'. With water: back to classic oysters, clams, seaweed, ashes, lemons and green apples. Zests and peels as well. Finish: very long, wonderfully 'green', salty, ashy, etc. etc. etc. Chilli, bark and leaves in the aftertaste. And fino. Comments: I find it absolutely excellent, with this unexpected fino-y, or rather manzanilla-y salty character. Happy Feis everyone!
SGP:467 - 88 points.

BTW: It appears that in Scotch Whisky Association terms, 'matured in xxxx' means that the whisky has spent at least 3 years in said casks, not that the whisky must have spent its whole life in them. Under 3 years, it is a finishing. I think that's a rule that few people outside the industry actually know about (to whom this may concern, thanks and cheers!) So, we said also some older CIs – I know we've already had some just yesterday… Why not a duo of immediate post-rebuilding 1974s?

Caol Ila 21 yo 1974/1995 (58.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Caol Ila 21 yo 1974/1995 (58.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Five stars
There's been a few 74s, but we've only formally tried one of them, which had been UUC, rather expectedly. That's upper-upper-class. Colour: straw. Nose: more on wool, dough, damp ashes, light camphor, savagnin matured under veil/flor (not obligatorily a jaune), plus various seashells, clams, winkles… I find this just superb, not much to add. With water: smoked almonds, almond water, miso soup, even sake (but yes!) and something clearly fermentary lingering. Mouth (neat): a tiny soapiness at first, which wasn't uncommon and which should go away, hints of plastics (same comment), then abundant brine and something slightly acetic, not exactly vinegar but we're in that direction. In short, it is very singular but totally coherent, if a tad unusual. It's also a notch lactic, shall we add. With water: lemons at the helm this time, gherkins, ashes, olives, seaweed, the expected oysters, capers… Just a drop over smoked salmon would do wonders. Finish: long, awesomely acidic and citric. More brine in the aftertaste. Comments: indeed, should be lovely on seafood but should you be a Feis-goer this year, I've been at old favourite Loch Fyne Oyster Bar on the road to the ferry just last week and thought it's become a disgrace. Three small (iced, not fresh) langoustines for £19.00, anyone? I say bring your own sandwiches.

SGP:365 - 92 points.

As for the restaurants in these small towns, remember they stop serving food extremely early (while restaurants in, say Barcelona aren't even open yet, ha). Anyway…

Caol Ila 22 yo 1974/1996 (59.4%, Alte Tabakstube, cask #18, 180 bottles)

Caol Ila 22 yo 1974/1996 (59.4%, Alte Tabakstube, cask #18, 180 bottles) Five stars
In my short and poor experience, most, if not all bottlings for the Old Tobacco Room in Stuttgart have been stunning, so we have little doubt here…  This one was sourced from Signatory vintage. Colour: gold. Nose: still a bit closed, after this many years, and certainly much straighter, cleaner, one could say 'more modern' than the Cadenhead. Pure smoked almonds, seawater, ashes, smoked kippers, and lapsang souchong. But then again, almost 60% vol… With water: cold green tea, limoncello, ashes and fresh kelp. Just a little chalk too, but it's all very vertical. Mouth (neat): closer to the Cadenhead, except that this one's more a blade, a razor, with more peels too, bitter apples. It's probably one of the toughest CIs from those years in my book. This far. With water: and there, it came to its senses, getting more complex and, globally, saltier and more coastal. Between us, it's still a brute. Finish: long, with more grapefruit skin, even grape pips and other bitterish yet lovely elements. This one ain't fooling around. The aftertaste is a little fatter, but it's not totally on cod oil either, if you see what I mean. Comments: no Caol Ila tomorrow, I promise.
SGP:376 - 92 points.

(Thank you KC!)

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


May 24, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


Caol Ila, second part

There will be a part III tomorrow that'll include the tasty new Feis Caol Ila.



Caol Ila 9 yo 2013/2023 (59.6%, Watt Whisky, hogshead)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2013/2023 (59.6%, Watt Whisky, hogshead) Four stars
They're having both excellent whiskies and excellent rums at Watt Whisky these days. Colour: Pale white wine. Nose: Fantastically pure, almost entirely focused on lime, chalk, and iodine tincture to begin with, then more towards beach sand, crushed oyster shells, slate, and lemon juice. A millimetric aspect that is hard to resist. With water: no significant development, except for more brine. Palate (neat): more crystalline than crystal itself but extremely salty. No, not saltier than salt, let's not exaggerate. It is also very peaty, with hints of bell pepper and black pepper in the background. The oysters are also back. With water: traces of youth, slightly fermentary and rubbery, but still at a high level. The brine is still very present. Finish: long, still very salty, then peppery in the aftertaste. I would suspect the bottlers of secretly pouring a few litres of water from the Irish Sea into this hogshead while everyone was feasting at the Ardshiel Hotel. Comments: there is a rude and rebellious side linked to its youth, but it is greatly enjoyable. A very handsome brute.
SGP: 466 - 87 points.

Caol Ila 25 yo 1997 (60.5%, Cordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, LMDW, Antipodes, first fill sherry butt, cask #12498, 529 bottles)

Caol Ila 25 yo 1997/2022 (60.5%, Cordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, LMDW, Antipodes, first fill sherry butt, cask #12498, 529 bottles) Five stars
Let's say that we expect a certain power here, even though the colour is quite light for a first-fill sherry. Let's see... Colour: pale gold. Nose: it's not the sherry that dominates first, it's rather small minty herbs that then lead to green walnuts, which in turn lead to superb medicinal touches, cough syrup, camphor, eucalyptus, essential oils for inhalations... With water: oh yes, you could do inhalations with this baby. It's already an old Caol Ila, in the best sense of the term, but it hasn't given up an inch in terms of freshness. Some notes of bresaola and minty English sauce. Palate (neat): masterful, already evolved indeed (in the right sense), with lots of candied citron, small aromatic herbs, green bananas, and grapefruit. The peat remains powerful and the walnuts accompany it all. With water: fantastic citrus of all kinds, accompanied by fresh mint, seawater, oysters, and green walnuts. Finish: salt arrives majestically, reminding us that Caol Ila is a coastal distillery. The greatest one, isn't it? Smoked almonds and lapsang souchong in the aftertaste. Comments: there's not much to add, except that one wonders if 1997 wasn't a magical vintage throughout the Isle of Islay, what do you think? Nothing to do with those big, slightly suffocating first-fill sherries.

SGP: 656 - 90 points.

Let's try again…

Caol Ila 1997/2022 (60.7%, Gordon & MacPhail for Kirsch Import, Connoisseurs Choice, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #12495, 561 bottles)

Caol Ila 25 yo 1997/2022 (60.7%, Gordon & MacPhail for Kirsch Import, Connoisseurs Choice, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #12495, 561 bottles) Five stars
The theory would suggest that this baby is quite similar, let's see about that... Colour: pale gold. Nose: by Zoroaster, indeed we are extremely close, to the point where it is almost impossible to distinguish them on the nose. That's rather good news! There may be just a little more vanilla and butterscotch, and that's about it. Perhaps also a tiny bit more camphor, but let's not get lost in comparing the two, we could spend "hours and litres" on that. Palate (neat): oh, how close it is, and consequently, how good it is! With these citrus notes, there's an irresistible ti'punch aspect. Remember, white rum, cane syrup, lemon juice, that's all. Finish: long and absolutely splendid. Comments: one can only remember some extraordinary G&M 'CASK' distilled in the 1970s, true racehorses. Nothing more to add, except that three guys in a factory can make one of the very best whiskies in the world.
SGP: 656 - 90 points.

Let's go back to the 1980s... (didn't you say 'un-vertically' yesterday?)

Caol Ila 1989 (58.4%, Caledonian Select, Rinaldi Import, barrel, cask #4672)

Caol Ila 1989/2000 (58.4%, Caledonian Selection, Rinaldi Import, barrel, cask #4672) Four stars and a half
What can we say about this version? Perhaps that there also used to be a very crazy Ledaig in these decanters? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it's a bit more rustic than the 1997s, but it's also younger. Grapefruit liqueur, Szechuan pepper, more paraffin than in the others, a touch of white vinegar, lemon juice, perhaps a hint of fresh Gruyère cheese, a very subtle ammonia note... With water: the low tide sea, mussels, oysters, and white wine... Chalk and sourdough in the background. Palate (neat): grapefruit and paraffin dominate, but those acetic and fermentary notes are still there. We could perhaps pour this Caol Ila into a fondue, instead of kirsch. Oh, there's even a bit of garlic. With water: candied citrus takes control, immediately followed by that very maritime peat that we know well. Finish: long and citrusy. Salt as well, of course, while the fermentary and even bacterial notes have disappeared. A touch of white pepper at the very end. Comments: this one was a bit more convoluted, we would say.

SGP: 555 - 88 points.

Caol Ila 40 yo 1982 (49.5%, The Whisky Exchange, Celebrating 50 Years)

Caol Ila 40 yo 1982/2022 (49.5%, The Whisky Exchange, Celebrating 50 Years) Five stars
Another one of those celebratory whiskies that the fine team at TWE has decided to offer to the world. It's undoubtedly a better idea than all those releases commemorating Charles' coronation, of which we have counted, to this date, no less than 1,325,584,63 different versions - as many as gold medals and other awards in San Francisco or London. It was worth implementing AI in the marketing teams! Colour: pale gold. Nose: I believe that like its sibling Clynelish, Caol Ila is one of those malts that age the best, without flinching and without losing a bit of freshness over the decades. Here is another proof, in any case, with citrus, waxes, embrocations, and aromatic herbs frolicking like children at recess. Even chalk and clay are still present, as are seaweed or the most ancient herbal medicinal lotions made from tar or long-forgotten materials. Or forbidden ones. Palate: well, let's bow down. The exotic fruits are out, without replacing the peaty grapefruit and the peppery seawater. Well, you know what I mean. There's also that very, very slight acetic aspect that we had already found in the 1989, but it is much less prominent here. Finish: not endless, but sublimely lemony, smoky, and saline. The grapefruits remain in ambush, while the wax makes a noticeable comeback. Comments: we were surprised by the freshness of these batches when they turned 30, then when they reached 35, and we still are as they now reach 40. See you in ten years, same place, same time...
SGP: 665 - 92 points.

Perhaps an older bottling before we call this a session…

Caol Ila 1977/1991 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Caol Ila 1977/1991 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Four stars and a half
This is what we used to call 'the old map label'. We tried a 1977 Jas. Gordon, another one in the CASK series, but never a CC, now I don't think there ever were many 1977s. Remember they had bulldozed and rebuilt Caol Ila in 1972, going from 2 to 6 stills along the process. Colour: gold. Nose: delicate, with hints of smoked salmon, bruised apples, coal dust, and some pencil shavings. Pear cake, tarte tatin, old beeswax, old books... It's all wonderful, but it whispers a bit, shall we say. Touches of oil paint and linseed oil. It's truly refined and delicate. Palate: we find the Caol Ila smoke, accompanied by slightly green apples and again, waxes. It's not extremely maritime, but the smoke is definitely present. It then becomes a bit cardboard-like, but that's the fate of many old malts bottled at 40% ABV, even more so when they have been (slightly) darkened with caramel. Finish: a bit short but very clean, with green walnuts tickling the back of your palate. Like in the early sherried ones we tasted! Comments: it's honestly very, very good, but at 40%, it's better to go for the old Caol Ila versions, 1968, 1969, 1970... If one can!

SGP: 544 - 88 points.

(First written in French, then experimentally translated – who's asked, 'but to which language?')
(Thank you, Lukas and Tom!)

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


May 23, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


Caol Ila somewhat unvertically


Caol Ila remains #1 at WF, as far as numbers of different expressions are concerned. Everybody loves Caol Ila. Sadly no Feis Ile for me this year again, but I've heard they're having a new Visitors Centre. The only thing that surprises me a little bit is that those unpeated ones that we uncovered around twenty years ago and which they used to call 'Highland Caol Ila' did not really spread any further. Let's see what we have and do a few, indeed, unvertically. Verticals can get boring.

(Dolphins at night near Caol Ila, WF Archive)



Caol Ila 12 yo 2010/2022 (58.5%, Whisky Is The Limit, 2nd fill bourbon hogshead, cask #314030, 415 bottles)

Caol Ila 12 yo 2010/2022 (58.5%, Whisky Is The Limit, 2nd fill bourbon hogshead, cask #314030, 415 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one should be 'pure'. Colour: white wine. Nose: relatively vanilla-ed given that it's 2nd fill, but vanilla and Caol Ila would tend to tango to perfection. Gets then superbly rubbery (new tyres) and full of ashes, crabs and oysters. Did you ever see those fabulous big crabs they catch in the Sound of Islay? With water: seawater, light acetone, lemon juice, oysters, ashtray, tyres. Mouth (neat): pristine, zesty, full of everything it needs to be a perfect young Caol Ila. To think that if you do the math, they probably have around one hundred million litres of pure alcohol straight from Caol Ila resting in Scotland. Both big and small can be beautiful up there. With water: seawater, one olive, some cracked pepper, some tar. Finish: long and even more peppery. Which works beautifully in my book. Citrus and green pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: the fact that they might have millions of litres of this make won't change anything to our perception. This baby is very hard to beat.

SGP:567 - 89 points.

In some books and bibles, they would tell you that Caol Ila was 'lightly peated'. But of course. Let's try the opposite style…

Caol Ila 15 yo 2007/2023 (53.7%, Signatory Vintage, 1st fill oloroso sherry butt finish, cask #204, 695 bottles)

Caol Ila 15 yo 2007/2023 (53.7%, Signatory Vintage, 1st fill oloroso sherry butt finish, cask #204, 695 bottles) Four stars and a half
The colour alone tells you a lot, but this is 'only' a finishing. But I love it when the bottlers would tell you and hate brands that don't and let you believe that it's all full-maturing while it's not. Booooo! Colour: office coffee. Nose: more moderation than in the colour, if I may. Chocolate and coffee, fresh-sawn hardwood, new wellies, dried porcinis and Caesar's mushrooms, truffle, very dark chocolate… With water: biltong and malt spread, touch of Marmite, brown sauce, venison hamburger as they make on Islay… Hope you're not feeling hungry now. Mouth (neat): rich, sweet, feeling PX rather than oloroso, with some big black raisins, richer muesli and some Xmas cake. I know this is not the season… With water: we've found some balance between the meaty side, the peat and the raisins. It's certainly gotten more oloroso-y now. Finish: long, more on chocolate and coffee. Dry and drying aftertaste, with some clove and caraway in the end, then chocolate latte. Comments: fact, I still like the clean ones better, but on the other hand, I'm reminded of some rather legendary sherried ones. No, it's excellent for sure.
SGP:566 - 88 points.

Oh well, since we're at Signatory's, back into the opposite direction…

Caol Ila 13 yo 2009/2023 (57.7%, Signatory Vintage, for Germany, bourbon hogshead, cask #322900, 284 bottles)

Caol Ila 13 yo 2009/2023 (57.7%, Signatory Vintage, for Germany, bourbon hogshead, cask #322900, 284 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: the fumes from an old Citroën 2CV (they were the cheapest cars and now everyone wants them), some pure rocks, limestone, flints and chalk, rather a lot of iodine, sea air, then lemons, green gooseberries and rhubarb juice. Which will send shivers down your spine… No I won't forget to mention ashes. With water: we're brought to the Distillery, really. This smells of the stills, of the old concrete, of the nearby seawater and even of the manager's aftershave lotion. I'm joking now (in case you were wondering). Mouth (neat): the kind that cuts you into halves of exactly the same dimensions, as we sometimes say. Lime juice in majesty and only a few other elements. Brilliant, simple, immaculate. With water: good soap, lime, chilli, pepper. Finish: long, brilliant, a tad too peppery, don't know why. Loses one point, while I was ready to climb up to the 90-mark. The aftertaste is a little more medicinal. Comments: those big fat stills…
SGP:467 - 89 points.

Caol Ila 2006/2016 (59.6%, Lombard for Blooming Gems, cask #302872, 277 bottles)

Caol Ila 2006/2016 (59.6%, Lombard for Blooming Gems, cask #302872, 277 bottles) Four stars
It was bottled a long time ago but they needed a lot of time to bring it to the market, which they only did recently, I think. Brexit, perhaps? So it would rather be like 2006/2016-2022, if you like. Very good selection at Blooming Gems and always great to hear from Lombard's. Colour: white wine. Nose: more on acetone, even ammonia, varnishes, tincture of iodine… But that may be the high strength. Immediate measures… With water: chalk and sheep wool (from Islay) all over the place. Perhaps even a little sheep dung (we've tried some sheep-dung-smoked Floki from Iceland the other day, it was rather something). Mouth (neat): a full-fruit CI this time, shock-full of lemon and lime juice, plus herbs, geranium, cherry stems… But boy is this potent. With water: this is funny, it's the barley that would pop out. Sweet barley. Finish: long, a tad less 'obvious' than the SigV, but lovely, nonetheless. Comments: perhaps a little less 'hi-precision' than the Signatory. Great young CI anyway, they're never wrong anyway, unless they STRise them like savages. But we're safe this far…
SGP:457 - 87 points.

CaoI Ila 2006/2020 (54.9%, Caora, refill barrel, cask #8101283, 215 bottles)

CaoI Ila 2006/2020 (54.9%, Caora, refill barrel, cask #8101283, 215 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: noses gently, with some sweet pears and fresh almonds and hazelnuts straight from the trees, some apples, pears, dough, some spearmint, only then touches of cellulosic varnish, a little fresh butter… It's really interesting that this baby would be this different, this softer on the nose than the others, for reasons that remain to be seen. With water: paraffin, lamp oil… It's clearly changed direction. Mouth (neat): once again this is different, albeit much spicier this time, while we would also find some wine gums and lemon drops. Big pepper too. With water: some curious notes of liquorice allsorts, bubblegum and apple liqueur. In short, it changed direction again. Finish: very long, very peppery. Bubblegum in the aftertaste. Excuse me? Comments: a very dual monster, soft on the nose and vituperative on the palate  – Netflix would easily shoot a whole breathtaking series about this one. Seriously, it's not very easy to follow, I am a bit lost.
SGP:456 - 85 points.
UPDATE: it was not Caol Ila! More later....

Good, we need a break, I think we'll be back tomorrow with just two or four more CIs. Some much older, it needs to be said.

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


May 22, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides


WF's Little Duos, today selected extreme indie Bowmore


Classic view of Bowmore Distillery in 2015 (WF Archive)

We tend to try them Bowmores in larger groups, but we've just watched ten minutes of Charles' coronation on TV (at time of writing) and thought that a little less pump was in order. So, only two wee Bowmores will be perfect, especially given that Bowmore's distillate, when not buried under tons of fresh oak or cheap thick wines, has recently become even more pristine. Well, these too may be a little 'buried', having said that…



Bowmore 7 yo (58%, Whisky Racing, Formel Lau, bourbon & Port casks, 96 bottles, +/-2023)

Bowmore 7 yo (58%, Whisky Racing, Formel Lau, bourbon & Port casks, 96 bottles, +/-2023) Four stars
Good, some Port on the one hand (the Distillery were having an average one in the 1990s, it was called 'Dawn'), but a 7 on the other hand, while many of us will remember Sheriff's terrific old 7 years old. I believe this is Jack Wiebers stock, by the way. Colour: dark amber. Nose: not a trace of dead mice (private joke, no bothering), indeed some strawberries and prickly pear jams, and a muscular Bowmore that would then overwhelm everything, for the better of course. Prune sauce, hoisin, bold armagnac, smoked oysters, leather and tobacco, seawater, lapsang souchong… Perfect tangoing this time, between the Port and the Bowmore. With water: a little spicier, bay leaves, eucalyptus, tomato leaves, some earl grey too… Perhaps rather a paso doble this time (come on, S.). Mouth (neat): a little concoctiony for sure, with heavy extracts, cloves, cinnamon, gewurztraminer, chocolate, coffee dregs, soot… I believe water would work here. With water: bingo, the strawberries are back but rather as a high-end liqueur, with some cassis as well, blackberry syrup, otherwise peat, brine and seafood. A few oak shavings. It all remains tightly bound together. Finish: long, on crayons. Comments: it's just a little tough to properly water down these Bowmores. I'm a fan of this young racer anyway.  

SGP:665 - 87 points.

Bowmore 1997/2022 (60.9%, Berry Bros. & Rudd for Charles Hoffer, Switzerland, butt, cask #73, 243 bottles)

Bowmore 1997/2022 (60.9%, Berry Bros. & Rudd for Charles Hoffer, Switzerland, butt, cask #73, 243 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: very deep gold, apricot. Nose: starts with tiny whiffs of asparagus water and used matches, which are soon to mingle with this classic Bowmore peat, even if it also remains a little fat. I believe it is too strong, even if this strength of 60.9% will always remind me of the first Port Ellen Rare Malts that almost tore me apart the first time it entered the house. We were not used to these kinds of strengths at that time, mind you. With water: way, way, way nicer, almost refreshing now, well-carved, very maritime, with growing grapefruits and bergamots, then passion fruit. Mind you, this is almost another whisky. A little saponification that would rather last, but it's lovely soap that we find. Mouth (neat): holy Camilla, what is this? Very heavy pepper, deep soot and ashes, sriracha sauce… Well you get the picture. I am not considering swallowing one single drop of this without any water. As Daltrey used to sing, I won't get… etc. With water: perfect, on bitter oranges, heather honey, grapefruits and grass smoke. I mean, lawn grass. Finish: long and both clean and rich. Which bodes well for some long bottle aging in your cellar, if you ask me. Comments: they should sell these with a free bottle of Swiss Mineralwasser. I think 'Alpina' is not bad. Otherwise, of course, our own official water, Vittel. Don't drink this without water or call your lawyer first.

SGP:466 - 89 points.

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


May 20, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides




Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Many Laphroaig for my wedding
Lucy and I are getting married today. So why not an unnecessarily large pile of Laphroaig to celebrate? After all, just as Serge's favourite distillery is Clynelish, so mine remains Laphroaig.


The only conundrum that remains is, in what order should we do them…?



Laphroaig 9 yo 1987/1996 (46%, Murray McDavid, bourbon)

Laphroaig 9 yo 1987/1996 (46%, Murray McDavid, bourbon)
A rather charming parcel of stocks which I always thought were generally high calibre from the various versions I could try over the years. Colour: pale straw. Nose: the ABV works perfectly here, abundant coastal freshness and character. Soft, wispy and lemony peat smoke, beach pebbles and hints of grapefruit and a tiny glimmer of passion fruit. Mouth: lovely richness and a round, savoury smokiness. Then goes more towards grapefruit, lemon tea, soot peat embers, tar and mineral salts. Finish: medium, chalky, peaty with antiseptic, seawater and grapefruit again. Comments: simple but totally pristine young Laphroaig.

SGP: 456 - 88 points.



Laphroaig 14 yo 1987/2002 (60.26%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask for Potstill Vienna, 126 bottles)

Laphroaig 14 yo 1987/2002 (60.26%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask for Potstill Vienna, 126 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: slightly tight at first, unsurprisingly given the strength, all on higher end citrus juices, seawater and hints of things like mackerel grilled over wood coals. There's also the beloved pickling brines and tar! With water: excellent with water now! Fatter, fruitier and with a sweet, deep and textural peat smoke that gives that wonderful 'head in a kiln' vibe. Mouth: pow! Fantastically pure, medicinal and coastal Laphroaig. Zinging with lime and lemon juices, brine, iodine and impressions of wet kelp and a little hessian. With water: pure brine and medicinal power with fat, creamy peat smoke, lemon infused olive oil, tar and grapefruit. Finish: long, oily, tarry and briny. Also some sooty and almost greasy peat flavours in the aftertaste. Superb! Comments: 1987 seems to have been a winning year for Laphroaig. I just love this one with its purity of character, simplicity and power.

SGP: 567 - 91 points.



Laphroaig 8 yo 1998/2007 (46%, Douglas Laing 'Provenance', two refill hogsheads)

Laphroaig 8 yo 1998/2007 (46%, Douglas Laing 'Provenance', two refill hogsheads)
Let's see how the distillate compares one decade later… Colour: white wine. Nose: always fascinating to do these kinds of head to head, this is also super clean but ashier, more immediately on mineral salts, smoked sea salt, brine and lemon juice. A sharper and more punchy peat aroma as well. Also more medicinal I would say. Mouth: very close to the OB 10 year olds from this era, but cleaner, punchier and with lighter wood influence. So seawater, grapefruit, lemon juice on fresh oysters and raw, slightly wooly peat smoke. Finish: long, tarry, salty, peaty and pristinely on bonfire smoke and iodine. A grilled kipper winking in the aftertaste! Comments: a different, slightly bigger and less fruity distillate profile to the previous decade, but I would say the quality remains the same as the MM. Love the basic, unvarnished purity of these Laphroaigs, terrific distillate!

SGP: 366 - 88 points.



Laphroaig 13 yo 1998/2012 (59.0%, A D Rattray, cask #10475, bourbon barrel, 227 bottles)

Laphroaig 13 yo 1998/2012 (59.0%, A D Rattray, cask #10475, bourbon barrel, 227 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: a tad rougher and more aggressive with a slightly sharp and grassy smokiness. Then a grubby peat smoke, grilled shellfish, petrol, iodine and mineral salts. With water: embrocations, smoky mash water, sooty coal scuttles, peat ashes and tar. Mouth: hot and very dominated by seawater, petrol, peat and an impression of hot chilli oil. I'm finding this one rather on the brutal side. With water: still massive and extremely peaty and salty. Densely smoky and sooty too. A brute! Finish: long, very salty, very smoky and very ashy! Comments: not without its charms, and I believe this is still technically great distillate, but this is going too far into extremes of simplicity and brute power for me.

SGP: 378 - 82 points.



Let's do a handbrake turn and start going backwards…



Laphroaig  21 yo 1992/2013 (50%, Hunter Laing 'Old Malt Cask' for Japan, refill barrel, 243 bottles)

Laphroaig  21 yo 1992/2013 (50%, Hunter Laing 'Old Malt Cask' for Japan, refill barrel, 243 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: a very different profile, really on soft, slightly overripe green and exotic fruits, but with funny notes of shoe polish, creosote, tar liqueurs and herbal teas. A much softer and highly fragrant take on Laphroaig - with a lovely, ethereal and wispy peat smoke in the background. At times it is reminiscent of some old OB 10yo bottlings to my nose. With water: gets more fragrant and detailed, developing aromas of muddled herbs, coastal flowers, salted liquorice and wee touches of mustard and hessian. Mouth: feels older than it is with these slightly extractive notes, wormwood, camphor, putty, cheng pi aged citrus rinds and smoked teas such as Lapsing Souchong. With water: a tad simpler, but very classical with straightforward peat, TCP, iodine and grapefruit notes that seem to be eternal Laphroaig benchmarks. Nicely drying and robust now. Finish: good length, nicely tarry, thickly peaty and peppery with a few more dried citrus peel vibes. Comments: these early 1990s vintages are superb at these ages. Hard to beat! I also rather like the slightly gentler side of Laphroaig on display here.

SGP: 466 - 90 points.  



Islay Single Malt 32 yo 1990/2022 (49.3%, Thompson Bros, refill barrel, 275 bottles)

Islay Single Malt 32 yo 1990/2022 (49.3%, Thompson Bros, refill barrel, 275 bottles)
I think we all know by now that these bottlings belong in this session…? Colour: bright straw. Nose: this perfect muddled of smoked herbs, soft wood ashes, green fruits, fresh coastal things such as beach pebbles and more complicated impressions of linseed oils, hessian and tar. Stunning freshness at this age and still a perfectly preserved distillery character on display. Mouth: beautiful mature peat smoke that breaks down into herbs, smoked teas, eucalyptus, tar liqueurs, iodine drops and smoked olive oil. A few drops of limoncello too! There's also an underlying salty and umami savoury quality to the whole palate which is extremely pleasurable. Finish: long, slightly minty, heathery, more herbal and displaying greener tones such as myrtle and parsley along with smoked beers and tea tree oil. Comments: it's true that there may be quite a bit of similarity from cask to cask in these parcels (they were vatted together only a few years ago I believe) but when the quality and drinkability are this high, it seems a trivial point to make.

SGP: 466 - 90 points.



Islay Single Malt 30 yo 1990/2022 (51.3%, Nanyang Whisky 'The Peninsula Collection', 310 bottles)

Islay Single Malt 30 yo 1990/2022 (51.3%, Nanyang Whisky 'The Peninsula Collection', 310 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: a superbly fat and camphory style of peat smoke, almost leathery with these great textural impressions! Salted liquorice, tar liqueur, ointments, shoe polish and hints of mustard powder. Really stunning! With water: lemon cough drops, tarred beach wood, smoked mead, bonfire embers and lanolin. Still deep and superbly dense. Mouth: immediate power and surprisingly big peat! Lots of tar and iodine, bandages, grapefruit, more hessian vibes and a palate that certainly follows through on these more fat and textural impressions that were on the nose. With water: a little saltier and tad sharper here and there, but otherwise the same fantastically fat and perfectly mature whisky! Finish: long, camphory, tarry, medicinal and with this gorgeous lingering peat smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: will someone keep a cask or two of this juice until it turns 40yo? Would seem like a smart move if you can afford to sit on it.

SGP: 467 - 91 points.



Islay Single Malt 1989/2021 (52.1%, Thompson Bros for Kirsch Import, 250 bottles)

Islay Single Malt 1989/2021 (52.1%, Thompson Bros for Kirsch Import, 250 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: similarities and subtle differences once again! This is more fruity and more playful with gorse flowers, sandalwood, grapefruit and some wonderful notes of melon and guava that really come across as 'old school Laphroaig'. Smoked teas infused with lemon rinds, tarry rope and camphor. Stunning - obviously! With water: deeper, dustier and drier, on pure kiln air, heather ales, caraway and crystallised honey. Mouth: once again, perfect power and amazing freshness, clarity of character and fantastic notes of velvety peat smoke, iodine drops, lemon cough medicine and eucalyptus. I also get some wee notes of crab sticks and something I can only describe as 'fruity seawater'. With water: stunning textural development with water, the peat is extremely pronounced and the whole thing takes on a rather gelatinous and mouth-coating vibe. Finish: very long, perfectly drying, deeply tarry, various dried fruits, smoked teas and medicines on display. Comments: pure, utter class! One day someone will accumulate a bottle from every bottling in all these 'Islay Single Malt' parcels and do some kind of mega tasting. Please put my name down for a ticket, whoever you are…
SGP: 466 - 91 points.



A short break…. before we get a bit silly.



Laphroaig 1976/1997 (50%, Lombard's Jewels of Islay for Japan)

Laphroaig 1976/1997 (50%, Lombard's Jewels of Islay for Japan)
A super rare bottling for Japan, that apparently mentions Laphroaig but only on the rear label. There have been some very, very good 1976 Laphroaig bottlings… Colour: gold. Nose: that familiar fruitiness, going in this occasion towards dried exotic fruits such as mango chunks, desiccated coconut and pineapple rings. A surprising sense of sweetness and things like tropical fruit juices. Also a few herbs and slightly leafy, smoked tea notes. With water: a brittle, mineral smokiness that incorporates many seashore impressions, wet pebbles and various complicated ointments. Mouth: could be a high-powered old OB 10 year old, with these metallic sooty and peaty notes, lots of exotic fruit qualities and this lovely, crisp coastal profile that keeps it rather sharp and fresh. I also find pink grapefruit and passionfruit. Exquisite fruitiness that in some ways nods at Bowmore from the previous decade! With water: still wonderfully fruity but also peatier now, even some dried (smoked?) flowers, camphor and aniseed. Totally deadly whisky! Finish: good length, more passion fruits (hooray!), tiny hints of iodine and antiseptic, which helpfully reminds us this is Laphroaig, but also glowing peaty notes in the aftertaste which are stunning! Comments: this must surely be a sibling cask to the great Kingsbury 1976 Laphroaig? Reminds me of that profile a lot. I feel like Laphroaig generally held onto its more outrageous exotic qualities about a decade longer than Bowmore managed - discuss?

SGP: 654 - 93 points.



Laphroaig 10 yo (90 US proof / 45%, OB, Julius Wile Sons & Co New Hyde Park NY, circa 1980)

Laphroaig 10 yo (90 US proof / 45%, OB, Julius Wile Sons & Co New Hyde Park NY, circa 1980)
I wrote notes for this one already, but, you know, different batches etc… Yes, that seems like a good excuse… Colour: gold. Nose: ok, I was being slightly frivolous about batches in my above comment, but I do definitely recall the previous bottle I wrote notes for being much more sherried than this. Instead, this is pure old Laphroaig. Passion fruits and mangos laced with medicines, bandages, seawater, then pink grapefruit and tiny notes of dried seaweed and sandalwood. Poetically coastal, fresh and full of this very particular elegant and gentle peat smoke that drifts in and out between all the fruit and seashore aromas. Truly, a beautiful nose. Mouth: definitely a less sherried batch. Very much on lime, citron peels, grapefruit, passion fruit and exotic fruit teas with hints of fennel and natural tar. Also many coastal things and a general feeling of soft seawater and umami / salty qualities. A softly earthy and tarry flavour of peat that feels drier and more organic than the modern manifestation. Also wonderfully and complicatedly medicinal. Finish: long, outstandingly salty, precise, full of crystalline peat smoke, preserved tropical fruits and tiny notes of dried seaweed, mineral salts and impressions of hessian in the aftertaste. Comments: the impression I am always left with after trying these old Laphroaig 10s is that of the purity and power of the distillery character that shines through - you just could not be drinking any other whisky in existence. One of the all-time great flavour profiles in Scottish single malt whisky. Certainly a different take than the more sherried version I tasted before, but for me same score.

SGP: 764 - 94 points.



Laphroaig 30 yo (43%, OB, 75cl)

Laphroaig 30 yo (43%, OB, 75cl)
One of the very early batches I believe. Colour: deep gold - a darker batch. Nose: there are many various flavours you can say about these older Laphroaigs, but - as with something like Pinot Noir - sometimes it's easier just to say: 'Old Laphroaig'! An extraordinary and perfectly integrated display of tropical fruits combined with very gentle medicinal aromas and the most gorgeous and elegant, drying peat smoke. You could add smoked teas, grapefruit peel, a few iodine drops and these wonderful, subtle notes of waxed hessian and camphor. Mouth: the sherry in this batch is stunning and very obvious here, hugely rich, waxy, fruity and with some darker fruit notes such as sultana and fig coming off the back of the sherry, which is also stunningly resinous, earthy and salty with some beautiful tobacco notes too. Perfectly engaging and mouth-filling at 43%, treads a perfect tightrope between power and grace. Finish: long, warming, full of dry, brittle and elegantly peppery peat smoke, more tiny inflections of iodine and crystallised exotic fruits and tropical fruit teas. Comments: a very special whisky for me emotionally for many reasons, but one of those rare instances where I believe the technically quality of the whisky itself more than matches that emotional power. We've often lamented these being bottled at 43%, but I wonder if that hasn't actually been something of an asset here? The sheer elegance, effortlessness and class of this whisky is thrilling.

SGP: 665 - 94 points. 



Laphroaig 16 yo 1974/1991 (54.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #5119, sherry, 225 bottles)

Laphroaig 16 yo 1974/1991 (54.6%, Signatory Vintage, cask #5119, sherry, 225 bottles)
Something of an elusive legend, one which I never managed to record notes for… until now! Colour: ruby/mahogany. Nose: I cannot not think of the great 1974 for LMDW, only this is of course a younger version of that profile. Stunning old style sherry and peat fused at the hip, but with a slightly more tangy youthfulness keeping everything hyper fresh and still heavily involving many types of fruit. Dark sticky preserved ones, green ones, crystallised ones and of course myriad exotic fruity notes. You can add to this some deeply resinous aromatics such as fir wood resins, huge camphor and linseed oil notes, aged tar liqueurs such as Clacquesin and also aged mead, strawberry wine, plum syrup with star anise and many ancient honey and herbal liqueurs. As expected, stunning! The type of nose you can barely keep up with and if we kept going this tasting note would never end. With water: even broader in its complexity and aromatic detail. Bringing in dried flowers, ruby ales, heather, ink and treacle. Also Maggi liquid seasoning and a sherry profile that manages to be both stunningly salty and fruity. Mouth: immense arrival, tar extracts soaked in pure peat smoke, deeply medicinal with cough syrups, herbal ointments, pristinely salty liquorice and almond oil. Huge, immensely concentrated and spectacularly cohesive whisky that manages to balance massive peat and sherry influences. There's also root beer and cola syrups, pure iodine and more of these wonderful camphory and leathery qualities. With water: salty, fruity, peaty and earthy in way that makes the whole thing feel perfectly savoury, immensely mouth-coating and with this spectacular undertow of dry, herbal peat. We are comfortably in that hypnotic territory where all we can do is plod along after this dazzling whisky! Finish: immensely long, tarry, full of perfectly dry and herbal peat smoke, embrocations, fruit syrups and cordials of many shades and a stunningly chocolatey and herbal bitterness in the aftertaste. Comments: magnifique! One of these all time great sherry and peat bombs that just leaves you blinking and speechless. What's so amazing here is the controlled power of it, relentlessly developing at each stage while still displaying such potency.

SGP: 666 - 95 points.



Another wee break and then to finish, something rather cool that is really just a geeky experiment and little more than an excuse to drink a double measure of the same great whisky. But, it's not very often that you can try two different bottles of the same whisky from the same era side by side after going on their own decades long separate journeys. Now, I agree, we don't know these aren't different batches either, so really there's plenty good reasons to do these head to head. The first one (bottle A) is the bottle I opened to celebrate the commissioning of our Kythe Distillery project last year. The second (bottle B) is from another bottle opened recently by some very good whisky folk, and which I was very kindly provided a sample of. Needless to say, we'll taste these side by side in tandem…



Laphroaig 14 yo (91.4 US proof, OB, Carlton Import for USA, 1950s)

Laphroaig 14 yo (91.4 US proof, OB, Carlton Import for USA, 1950s) - bottle A
Colour: deep gold. Nose: another world away, even from the 60s Laphroaigs. This is altogether deeper, fatter, drier and so much to do with the peat as a core ingredient. I also mind endless subtle medicinal herbal notes, dry leaf mulch, mushrooms, tar extracts, heather flowers and dried seaweed. What these both have is a stunningly herbaceous peat profile that fades in and out as you nose. Mouth: astonishingly huge whisky! Peat has been slapped into your mouth with a trowel by a sinew-armed crofter! Tarry and medical, but primarily drying, organic, leafy, herbal and full of dried flowers, ointments and herbal tea impressions. Going back and forth between them, what this one seems to possess is a more singular peat profile, intense, dry and almost with a sharper level of precision but still incorporating so many mesmerisingly complex tertiary flavours. Finish: stunningly long, deep, drying, herbal, medicinal and still with some dried flowers and brilliant saltiness. Comments: the thing about these whiskies is that, while they aren't as 'peaty' on the SGP scale as many modern examples, the flavour of peat they display is just off the charts in terms of its power, depth, complexity and the vividness with which it has been manifest in the spirit.

SGP: 565 - 95 points.



Laphroaig 14 yo (91.4 US proof, OB, Carlton Import for USA, 1950s)

Laphroaig 14 yo (91.4 US proof, OB, Carlton Import for USA, 1950s) - bottle B
Colour: pale amber. So, already this would suggest these are different batches… Nose: a different batch for sure! This is obviously sweeter and more sherried, more like some kind of peat and herb cordial with salted honeys, resinous fir woods and many exotic hardwood extracts. Also walnuts and salted liquorice. As above, exquisite and endlessly detailed peat and herbal aromas. Here it's just with this extra earthy and salty sherry! Mouth: what's amazing is what a sense of immediacy and power they both share. The same crofter is coming back to fill in the gaps in your teeth now! The sherry adds an undeniably layer of complexity here: vividly tarry, sweetly herbal on cough syrups and ancient green Chartreuse, but also bouillon, camphor, tea tree oil and wintergreen. Finish: same feeling of just endless, swirling peaty depths. But the sherry once again adds something extra, something deeper and more complicated. There's a slightly bitter cocoa note, some bitter marmalade and hints of creosote and dusty phenolics. Comments: Same as for the first one, but all I'll add is that this must be a different batch, the differences between them are too distinct and pronounced. That said, the similarities of distillery character are crystal clear and quite breath-taking. If I had to pick a favourite, I would say the salty/sweet tang of sherry in the mix here edges it for me, but only by a tiny whisker.

SGP: 665 - 96 points.




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


May 19, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides

Today Lagavulin, young and old

Two official bottlings today, so no 'Secret-Islay-Said-To-Be-Lagavulin-Honestly', a very young jazzy one and a glorious recent and distinctive 1991.

Oysters and whisky, always better on location (WF Archives)



Lagavulin 7 yo (59.5%, OB, Islay Jazz Festival 2022, refill and ex-bourbon hogsheads, 2490 bottles)

Lagavulin 7 yo (59.5%, OB, Islay Jazz Festival 2022, refill and ex-bourbon hogsheads, 2490 bottles) Four stars
Probably more a free big band or a heavy funk combo than a late-night solo piano, but let's see… Colour: white wine. Nose: pure brine and seawater, augmented with a drop of nail polish remover, the usual fresh rubber (new scuba suit, wellies) and only minimal amounts of vanilla this far. It's actually rather tarmacky, at least even more tarmacky than usual, should tarmacky be a proper word in English. With water: sootier and tarrier yet. A few pencil shavings, a little tincture of iodine, and no signs of immaturity. Something tropical for sure. Mouth (neat): it seems that someone wanted to prove that Lagavulin can be a perfectly proper Lagavulin, even when very young, which a few indies as well as the Distillers themselves already did (with the 8). What's sure is that the trademark sweetness, reaching pears and pineapples this time, is well there. The rest is classic tar, peat, brine, with a drop of mango juice too… With water: more pepper showing up, more citrus too, lime juice, lemongrass, even oranges, as well as a little barley syrup… Certainly 'sweeter' now. Finish: medium, really sweeter than usual at this point. It's no smooth jazz, no worries, but it is a little gentler, as if some of the casks had been deep-charred. Comments: some excellent easy-listening, I mean easy-tasting young Lagavulin, rather on the sweeter side.

SGP:656 - 87 points.

Lagavulin 31 yo 1991/2022 (49.2%, OB, Cask of Distinction for 50th anniversary of the family of The Whisky Exchange's co-founders, first-fill PX sherry hogshead, cask #P504, 264 bottles)

Lagavulin 31 yo 1991/2022 (49.2%, OB, Cask of Distinction for 50th anniversary of the family of The Whisky Exchange's co-founders, first-fill PX sherry hogshead, cask #P504, 264 bottles) Five stars
On the one hand, this is another PXed peater. On the other hand, we remember those early Lagavulin Distillers' Editions, especially the 1979, which were already PXed and that had been utterly flabbergasting. Which means that not all is lost here… (an understatement, I agree). Colour: deep gold. Nose: keyword is balance. Not PX, not tar, not seaweed, not petrichor, not benzene, not raisins, not peat smoke; balance! What I mean is that everything got mingled together, with no dominant raisins at all, no heady flowery scents, way less patchouli than in a hippie tent circa 1967, and just a pure feeling of 'Lagavulin', totally in line with some early 16s, with that 21 or, indeed, with the DE 1979 and a few later batches. What's more, I'm finding it very elegant. Mouth: feels stronger than less-than-50% and would start with massive amounts of pipe tobacco, chocolate, eucalyptus honey (close to fig jam) and coffee. Just between us, I'd have said oloroso, as there are also old walnuts, walnut wine, marmalade, clove, pepper… It would then unfold with smaller notes of camphor, liquorice, menthol, lapsang souchong and pink grapefruit, the latter making it brighter and fresher. Finish: long, with still no screeches or dissonances. Don't tell me I'm going to become a PX guy! Comments: less colossal than that famous 21 OB from around ten years ago (what, you say fifteen years?) but in the same ballpark flavour-wise. As far as I can remember... In any case, there was no loss of peatiness over those 31 years.
SGP:577 - 92 points.

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


May 18, 2023


  Many Islay, in celebration of Feis Ile 2023 and of the Queen of the Hebrides

Tasting whiskies from strictly all Islay distilleries, since we can't attend this year again ... (with a heavy heart).

WF's Little Duos, today Ardbeg (again)

I know, we already had a wonderful Ardbeggian duo very recently but we were also having these two new ones in the queue via very friendly DHL Deutschland (don't ask). We won't let them gather dust as we did with last time's 1990, okay!? By the way, we'll soon publish our 500th tasting note for an Ardbeg...

Ardbeg's big boys, circa 2000 (WF Archive)



Ardbeg 22 yo 2000/2022 (53.4%, The Whisky Exchange, Celebrating 50 years, barrel, 243 bottles)

Ardbeg 22 yo 2000/2022 (53.4%, The Whisky Exchange, Celebrating 50 years, barrel, 243 bottles) Five stars
Part of the lovely series that celebrates the founders' family's 50 years in the spirits business. It was matured in ex-Jack Daniel's deep-charred barrels, which is absolutely 'traditional' as I seem to remember, while I was at the Distillery right in the year 2000, that they were having hundreds of those in the yard being seasoned by heavy Irish rain. Colour: gold. Nose: you were believing that Ardbeg was smoky; well this is smokier. Massive barbecue smoke, charcoal, full ashtrays, fireplace, then pinecone smoke, coal tar, band-aid, a full pot of lapsang souchong… With water: it's becoming very medicinal, with ointments, more eucalyptus and camphor, pine bud lozenges, gauze and bandages, with more tar as well. Those famous 'tarry ropes'. Fresh asphalt. Mouth (neat): big woody flavours, wood spices, fir and pine, tar liqueur, green chartreuse, cough medicine, propolis, thyme oil… That thyme is growing bigger by the minute, this is almost becoming some kind of essential oil. With water: very dry, a tad cardboardy and gristy but that really works in this context. Do not add too much water, two drops would do. Finish: long, more vegetal, more on chartreuse at high strength. Some caraway, capsicum, clove essence, even a little aniseed and a lot of pine resin. Comments: not classic, pure, crystalline Ardbeg, so very different from the ones we had yesterday, but this particularly piney combo worked just as well, even if some of us will find it particularly 'modern'. We must move with the times!

SGP:467 - 91 points.

Ardbeg 26 yo 1996/2022 (52.8%, Gourmet Pool, bourbon barrel, cask #817)

Ardbeg 26 yo 1996/2022 (52.8%, Gourmet Pool, bourbon barrel, cask #817) Five stars
A brand new German bottler, this little Ardbeg being their first bottling. Colour: straw. Nose: the opposite style, this one is 'pure and crystalline', while it's also got these wee touches of tropical fruit starting to pop out 'in the old way', especially mangos. What we sometimes called 'the transmutation of peat'. Oh forget, otherwise oysters, tarry paint, ashes, a lot of brine and three green olives. With water: no, five olives. Per glass. Mouth (neat): awe… Smoked mangos, smoked peaches, tobacco ashes, drop of absinth, cracked pepper… Possibly the most 'exotic' and yet 'pure' Ardbeg I've tried. Who's distilled this? The Laphroaig crew, right? Keeping the equipment fit before new owners Glenmorangie would properly restart the distillery… And there's always this story about the purifier being on, or off, or broken, or disconnected… Someone should write a book about Ardbeg's purifier. Geert? With water: clearly old Ardbeg. Putty. This very particular combo, tar, almonds, lemons, brine, iodine... And whelks, winkles, cockles and clams! I'm reminded of that stunning official 30 yo 'Very Old' at 40% vol., into which they (well, Allied's very engaging Robert Hicks, their famous master blender) had thrown many glorious very old casks. On the other hand, they had told us it was that or Ballantine's. And no, no one can remake history. Finish: incredible. Salty almonds and mango chutney, plus green chartreuse again. Chartreuse from a very old bottle… Comments: pure Ardbeggian bliss. The age is perfect.
SGP:557 - 93 points.

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


May 17, 2023


From France to Canada to Iceland to England to New Zealand to Australia
Once again, we'll kickstart this from little France, our nice country where we keep food, theatre, wines, cheeses, landscapes and a good bunch of Trotskyists for our beloved foreign visitors. Which seems to work, as it looks like we remain the most popular destination in the world, which is exactly why we keep entertaining our amazing Trotskyists!…



Domaine des Hautes Glaces 'Harvest 2016 Flavis' (52.3%, OB, France, vin jaune cask, 720 bottles, +/-2023)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 'Harvest 2016 Flavis' (52.3%, OB, France, vin jaune cask, 720 bottles, +/-2023) Four stars and a half
Organic malt whisky fully matured in ex-vin jaune from Jura casks. Remember, vin jaune matures for at least six years and three months under a veil of yeast without any topping-up/ullage, but not within a solera like, say fino. What's more, the varietal is savagnin and not palomino fino. Colour: gold. Nose: you do feel the 'jaune', with these touches of walnuts and mustard, but the malt's sweetness keeps it easier. Lovely earthiness, chalk, turmeric, curry, a little coffee (earthy ristretto)… With water: I wouldn't say it changes much, it's just getting earthier yet, perhaps with a wee, I mean petit composty side. Mouth (neat): rich, very earthy, full of walnut cordial, a kind of chalky and salty smokiness, a feeling of amontillado at times, some toffee, Skittles… Yet it's a big boy for sure. With water: I would swear they've used peated malt, but I'm sure they have not. Becomes even saltier, with even small touches of salted fish, tinned sardines… And yet Distillery and estate are located in the Alps! And Jura wine in, well the Jura. Finish: very long, salty, mustardy, full of walnuts. Comments: I find this excellent, I'd love to try a Flavis 'ex-Manzanilla' one day. They should ask their close cousins Bruichladdich… And forgot to say, don't we like these very minimalistic labels a lot?
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Hopping to Canada…

Glen Breton 21 yo 'Rare' (43%, OB, Canada, +/-2021)

Glen Breton 21 yo 'Rare' (43%, OB, Canada, +/-2021) one star and a half
Not much luck with Glenora/Glen Breton so far, but we keep holding some vigorous hope. Colour: straw. Nose: some neoprene glue at first, pine bark, then cut grass, tofu (of course tofu does smell of something) and concrete dust. Add a lot of porridge and a handful of mothballs. Funny nose! Mouth: too much oak, which makes it very bitter, while the core is a little lactic and, indeed, full of porridge. Ashes and yoghurt. Finish: medium, a tad sweeter (applejack) but the aftertaste is too bitter for me, again. Grapefruit skin and black propolis. Comments: maybe not the epitome of balance. A very intriguing Canadian that's got nothing to do with other Canadians. And we do remember well 'the great fights in court' against the Scots.

SGP:272 - 69 points.

Back to Europe. Well, to somewhere in between…

Floki 3 yo 'Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve' (47%, OB, Iceland, 2021)

Floki 3 yo 'Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve' (47%, OB, Iceland, 2021) Two stars and a half
Of course not, we're not afraid, we've already tasted some goody-good Namibian Ondjaba whisky that had been smoked using elephant dung, so sheep, imagine, piece of cake. Colour: white wine. Nose: all you need to do is to get the fact that they've used sheep dung out of your head, and you'll discover a singular nose, with some kind of citrusy and vegetal smoke, meadow flowers, lemongrass, fresh hay, liquorice wood… Just get it out of your head (easier said than done, we agree). Mouth: citrus, pepper, strange smoke, truffle cheese, smoked cheese (scamorza)… Get that thing out of your head, get that thing out of your head, get that thing out of your head… Finish: medium, still bizarrely smoked. Briney aftertaste. Comments: it's surely good or even very good, but I needed to do some mental gymnastics here. I hope I won't have nightmares tonight, you know some giant Icelandic rams carrying huge Trotskyist flags and organizing a black bloc right here at WF HQ, in the yard…

SGP:462 - 78 points.

To England…

The Lakes Distillery 'Whiskymaker's Editions Mosaic' (46.6%, OB, 2,500 bottles, 2022)

The Lakes Distillery 'Whiskymaker's Editions Mosaic' (46.6%, OB, 2,500 bottles, 2022) Three stars and a half
This one's got something to do with the Silk Road, so I suppose brother President Xi will be happy. Colour: deep gold. Nose: apricots, moscatel, PX, both Cointreau and Grand-Marnier, cedarwood, overripe peaches, Turkish delights, fruitier nougat, muesli… You see, it's pretty luscious on the nose. Mouth: very rich and sweet, with thick sweet wines, Fruit Loops, peach liqueur, blood oranges, allspice in the background, sultanas, orangettes, a little vanillin, and drops of Don Papa rum. No worries, only drops of it, no need to immediately run to the nearest diabetologist. Finish: long, very sweet and fruity, not cloying though. Comments: quite a balancing act for sure. I do like them drier in general, but on the other hand, it is exactly not sl***y. No liqueur called whisky.

SGP:741 - 83 points.

Good, since we were having crazier smokes earlier…

Thomson 'Manuka Smoke Progress Report' (46%, OB, New Zealand, +/-2020)

Thomson 'Manuka Smoke Progress Report' (46%, OB, New Zealand, +/-2020) Four stars
100% kiwi barley here. Manuka honey is very well known, but who knows what Manuka really is, except that bees would go on it? Well, it's a tree indeed, pretty close to camelia I've seen. I doubt they could have used the flowers, I suppose they've burnt manuka wood to malt their barley. Colour: light gold. Nose: it's a rather resinous smoke that would remind you of pinewood burning in the fireplace, with a little fresh rubber in the background, some propolis, fir buds, some burnt lemon zests (when someone forgot the cake in the oven – not -guilty, your honour!)… Whiffs of wormwood and verbena too, we're reminded of some bitterish Swiss absinth. The real stuff. Mouth: it's good! Probably very young, but this piney, resinous development works in my book. Rather a lot of sweeter cough medicine, eucalyptus, crème de menthe, peppermint… This must be curing something, I'm feeling better already. I'm sure you could also do inhalations with it, but that would be a waste of good whisky. Finish: pretty long, on the very same flavours, with just a little caraway in the aftertaste. Comments: excellent surprise, I wasn't ready for this. I hope the All Blacks will drink litres of it before they meet the French team at the Rugby World Cup to come very soon.
SGP:471 - 86 points.

Hellyers Road 18 yo 2004/2022 'Peated' (58.4%, OB, Australia, LMDW, Antipodes, American oak bourbon barrel, cask #4022.03, 185 bottles)

Hellyers Road 18 yo 2004/2022 'Peated' (58.4%, OB, Australia, LMDW, Antipodes, American oak bourbon barrel, cask #4022.03, 185 bottles) Five stars
Good foreboding here. Colour: straw. Nose: never was burning rubber this awesome on the nose. Some fantastic white earths, citrons, hops, Szechuan pepper, passion fruits and a clear old-Laphroaig quality. I mean, not old Laphroaig, rather Laphroaig of old. Amazing nose, incredibly deep and fresh at the same time. With water: new-sawn pinewood, tarmac, cigar smoke, damp earth after a heavy shower, first one for weeks, new Barbour stuff, new K-Way… Mouth (neat): very rich, pretty thick, and just extraordinary. Immense notes of green pepper, lemons, and eucalyptus, with a meaty side in the back of the back. Smoked bacon, I would say. With water: miraculously balanced, between tar, pinewood, lemons and brine. Finish: very long, never too oaky. Comments: this one's extremely spectacular. I'm glad Hellyers Road is a little expensive (yep, S. at the Madintosh), which makes that you could still buy some from time to time if you're not acting too sluggishly. Amazing cask, this peaty one.
SGP:566 - 90 points.

A good little trip in the other hemisphere today, well done, we'll be back soon. Now as for rugby, get out your handkerchiefs, as some say…


May 15, 2023


From France to Germany to Slovenia