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Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2009 - Part 2

November 2009 - part 1 <--- November 2009 - part 2 ---> December 2009 - part 1


November 30, 2009

Mortlach 18


Mortlach 18 yo 1990/2008 (46%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection, First Fill Sherry Butt) Colour: amber. Nose: starts on a rather fragrant sherry, with big whiffs of fresh espresso and raspberry jam s well as quite some cooked strawberries. Some traces of sulphur that hint more at gunpowder and used matches that at ‘rotten eggs’. Gets then nuttier and beefier (beef jerky, bresaola.) Very malty as well. Mouth: starts very malty, chocolaty and nutty, getting drier and drier and, once again, very meaty. Slightly grapey as well. Quite some rancio and touches of walnuts and blackcurrant leave tea. Finish: rather long, in keeping with the attack and the middle. Comments: one of these good and very idiosyncratic Mortlachs. SGP:452 - 85 points.
Mortlach 18 yo 1990/2009 (57.3%, Wilson & Morgan Barrel Selection, sherry butt, cask #4433) Colour: amber. Nose: punchier and thicker than the HB, on loads of coffee and cassis liqueur. The meatiness is similar. Amaretto, coffee liqueur, beef stock. With water: gets drier and grassier. Cherry stem tea and just hints of rubber bands. More winey notes after that. Mouth (neat): very rich, creamy, jammy and malty. Strawberry jam and chocolate, cassis, some pepper and quite some cloves. With water: gets kirschier. Coffee-schnapps. Very good if you like this kind of profile. Finish: long, on mulled wine and fruit liqueurs. Comments: another very good one – if you like Mortlach of course. A bit old style. SGP:551 - 87 points.
Mortlach 18 yo 1991/2009 (56.9%, www.mortlach.de) Our friends at www.mortlach.de have adopted an old style label, inspired from an early 1990s bottling for the US. Colour: amber. Nose: a more civilised version this time but it is well in the style of the best sherried Mortlachs, with this distinctive meatiness mixed with quite some coffee, malt and chocolate. Hints of tar and smoked tea (lapsang souchong) that may hint at ‘good’ sulphur but it’s in no way sulphury. With water: more leather, very old wine (old Bourgogne), civet, game… It’s complex. Mouth (neat): just like the W&M, rich, creamy, sticky. Chocolate, kirsch, Schwarzwalder cake and Seville oranges. Millionaire shortbread. With water: typical development on fruit jams and oranges plus touches of leather. Finish: very long, a tad more orangey than the W&M. Orange squash and chocolate, a little ginger. Comments: as old skool as its label! Very good selection. SGP:552 - 88 points. (and thanks, Markus!)

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Rozsa Oskar

November 29, 2009

Bruichladdich 'Laddie Classic Edition 1' (46%, OB, +/- 2009) A new multi-age expression from American oak casks. By the way, did you know that Bruichladdich overtook Ardbeg in 2008? (sales in volume). Colour: gold. Nose: starts fresh, with that typical malty fruitiness. Peaches, melons, gooseberries and cereals, with a little sea breeze in the background. Goes on with more cut apples and whiffs of vanilla. Pleasant. Mouth: young and fruity but also more on ‘modern’ oaky tones, vanilla, white pepper and ginger, with also a little nutmeg. Apple peelings and green apples. A little cardamom too. The casks must have been rather active. Finish: rather long, with that modern oakiness encapsulating notes of apples and peaches. Quite some ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: a very good dram, tasting pretty mature despite its obvious young age, thanks to the wood. It should become excellent when it’s 12 years old or more, which means that the future of Bruichladdich should be (even) bright(er). SGP:341 - 83 points.
Bruichladdich 'Organic' 2003/2009 (46%, OB, 15000 bottles) From 100% Scottish barley and matured in American oak, both new and used. Colour: white wine. Nose: certainly thicker and kind of rougher than the Classic. Oatcakes and rhubarb jam, porridge, a little ginger and hints of lemon. A bigger version for sure. Mouth: rather fat and oily, full bodied, slightly burnt and very malty. Walnuts, roasted nuts, a lot of green tea, vanilla and poached peaches. Works well. Finish: long, kind of ‘organic’ indeed, maybe a tad grassier now. Quite some vanilla, pepper and gooseberries in the aftertaste. Comments: a full bodied dram, maybe a tad more ‘Highlands’ than the usual Bruichladdich. I like it. SGP:352 – 84 points.
Bruichladdich 17 yo 'Rum Cask' (46%, OB, Finished in rum, 2009) This Laddie spent two years in rum casks after fifteen years in American oak. Colour: straw. Nose: as sometimes happens with rum casks, this one is rather grassier but also more complex, starting on linseed oil and fresh almonds as well as a little fresh butter. No ‘Demerara’ kinds of aromas. Same hints of rhubarb as in the Organic, with also notes of pears and white peaches. Works well. Mouth: sweeter and spicier, starting on peppered chocolate, ginger and something such as mulled white wine. Then cinnamon, cloves, white pepper… Notes of candy sugar behind all that as well as some marmalade. Finish: rather long, on a combination of ginger, pepper and orange marmalade. Some candy sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: mild rum influence in this one. SGP:441 - 84 points.
Bruichladdich 1992/2009 'Sherry Edition 2 - Fino' (46%, OB, Fino sherry cask finish, 6000 bottles) Matured for 15 years in American oak, then for 2 years in fino. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts on pleasant notes of walnuts and a mild vinosity, then a little leather, candy sugar, orange cake and herbal tea (rather hawthorn). Mildly grassy. Lovage, hints of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. Some marzipan. Mouth: creamy and oily, half sweet, half grassy. Cane sugar, tobacco, walnut cake and gingerbread (or even speculoos). Notes of crystallised oranges. Finish: long, more on pepper and oranges. Comments: works well. I’ve always been a fan of fino maturing and fino finishing seems to work quite well too. SGP:352 - 86 points.
Bruichladdich 1992/2009 'Sherry Edition 2 - Pedro Ximinez' (46%, OB, PX cask finish, 6000 bottles) Matured for 15 years in American oak, then for 2 years in ‘Pedro Ximinez’ casks. Ximinez or Ximenez, who cares? Truth lies in the glass… Colour: amber. Nose: much more oak, then ginger, raspberry jam, cardamom and soft curry. Not a fruitbomb at all but the wine is rather obvious. Fresh, though. Some candy sugar. Mouth: much, much sweeter than the fino. Strawberries (including the jam made thereof), notes of bubblegum, then pepper… Gets even sweeter after a while. Icing sugar. Leather. Finish: long, very sweet. Comments: pretty good for a wine finished malt but I liked the fino much better. SGP:641 - 82 points.
Bruichladdich 19 yo 1989/2009 'Black Art' (51.1%, OB, 6000 bottles) Matured in bourbon, aced in ‘assorted wine casks’. Colour: rosé wine. Nose: very, very winey. Wine cellar, wine barrel, cassis liqueur, cooked strawberries and a mild mouldiness. Certainly not unpleasant but very far from my favourite style. Really smells of red wine, maybe more than any other wine finished whisky I ever tried. Mouth: spectacularly winey and grapey. Marc de Bourgogne, strawberry liqueur, crème de cassis. Finish: long, on the same notes. Comments: I think we’re closer to wine (or wine liqueurs, pousse-rapière, macvin and such) than to whisky here. Not that it’s not good stuff, mind you, it’s very well made but it’s been pushed to the limits of the concept in my view (and taste). SGP:630 - 81 points.
Bruichladdich 'Infinity Edition 3' (50%, OB, 2009) This new edition was matured in refill sherry + tempranillo and is said to be peatier than earlier editions (average 20ppm). Colour: apricot. Nose: full blown peaty, leathery and organic profile. Very ‘tertiary’, with quite some dried mushrooms, old leather, Barbour grease, dried flowers, earth and just tiny-wee whiffs of lavender. I must say I like this profile a lot, it’s big, complex and rather unusual (hence entertaining). Mouth: big peat, a certain ‘Ardbegness’, walnut cake, manzana liqueur, tangerines… A big fruitiness that was unexpected but that works well. Develops more on hugely peated lemons (yes, should that exist). The wine’s influence grows bigger but the spirit can take it, no doubt. Finish: long, with silky tannins, always these citrusy notes and always a big peatiness. Comments: rather different from the earlier batches of Infinity, that were more sherried and beefy if I remember well, but it’s still very, very good whisky for sure. Much recommended. SGP:636 - 88 points.
And also Br1 (53.6%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2009, 50cl) Colour: straw. Nose: there’s something that reminds me of the new ‘Classic’ but this is both flintier and grassier, with more oils and wax. The fruitiness is more discreet but there are notes of green gooseberries. With water: same as the official ‘Classic’, really. Maybe a little more sweet apples. Mouth (neat): rich, fat, oily, mildly fruity and very gingered. Truly the ‘Classic’ but at cask strength. Notes of lemon balm, lemon pie, speculoos… With water: same comments, it tastes more or less like the ‘Classic’ when diluted. Only the notes of new oak maturing are a little less obvious. Finish: same. Comments: I wouldn’t swear this is from the ‘new’ batches but the profiles are very similar indeed. SGP:341 – 83 points.
Port Charlotte And also Port Charlotte 2001/2009 ‘PC8’ (60.5%, OB) Matured in American oak. The Port Charlottes are getting better and better in my opinion (PC5: 86, PC6: 88, PC7: 89). Will the new PC8 fetch 90 points in my little system? Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not the peat that hits you first, but rather a combination of linseed oil, paraffin and walnut skin that smells very old skool. I need to mention that I’m a sucker for these kinds of profiles. Develops more on liquorice, damp earth, moss, peated barley (or a kiln) and apple peeling.
With water: a little water doesn’t quite change it, let’s try to add a lot, down to +/-40%. It got more organic, with notes of wet wool, our dear wet dogs (I’ll never tell you enough how sorry I am, dogs), but also hints of diesel oil and hessian. Mouth: bang, this one really hits you behind your eyes, not unlike some young Port Ellens at high strength. Ash, tar, crystallised lemons and a little fructose or icing sugar. With water: some modern-style oak (vanilla/ginger) but also a little mint, marzipan and typical notes of white pepper from the oak. Finish: very long, on peat, tar and ginger. Unexpected medicinal notes in the aftertaste, iodine, cough syrup. Comments: top notch dram. Still a wee bit youngish but really getting there, I guess changes are slowing down now, one more year may make proportionally less differences than when the whisky was younger. But it should be a total winner once it’s getting ‘old’. SGP:247 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more of the cultissime Karen Dalton, this time more rock and roll, with One Night of Love (from her famous 1971 album In My Own Time). Please buy Karen Dalton's music!

Karen Dalton

November 27, 2009

Lagavulin Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009) One of the latest, severely allocated batches. Colour: gold. Nose: wonderful and, frankly, miles above its neighbours as far as ‘entry-level’ bottlings are concerned, although six extra-years of maturing may count. Big tar, big shoe polish, big peat, smoked tea and ‘new rubber boots’ as an unexperienced friend once told me. Also fresh walnuts, cured ham and just hints of camphor and eucalyptus. On par with the best older batches as far as the nose is concerned.
Mouth: you know what, the current Laga 16 is still a great dram. ‘Nuff said. My favourite in any bars. Finish: long and lingering echoes of peat and shoe polish, as the poet would say. Comments: hope they’ll manage to keep producing this kind of make. What’s more, I feel this recent batch is rather better than earlier modern-era Laga 16s (nicknamed ‘the Port Ellen batches’), some of them having been a tad more ‘caramelised’ in my opinion, and a tad too ‘rounded’. SGP:357 - 90 points.
Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, USA, Schieffelin & Sommerset, +/-1990) Another old ‘White Horse’ version, this time for our American friends. Colour: gold. Nose: rather less expressive than the ‘modern’ batch, rather grassier and a tad narrower. More apple peelings and fresh walnuts, maybe a little more pine resin and seashells, but less tar and less peat. Maybe a tad waxier. Mouth: amazing that it’s so similar to the 2009 version. Maybe a tad spicier but also a tad sweeter at the same time. Apple juice. More pepper as well, Talisker-style. Finish: same as the 2009, just a tad more peppery. Comments: the biggest surprise comes from the fact that this oldie isn’t really better than the ‘2009’. See, contrarily to popular belief, whisky wasn’t always better in the old days. SGP:458 - 90 points.
Now onto the famous DEs, with the two latest batches…
Lagavulin Lagavulin 1991/2008 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, lgv 4/496) Any serious whisky lover knows that the Lagavulin DE, whichever the vintages, is the best wine finished malt whisky that one can find on this little planet. The guys who used to disagree are dead by now. Let’s see if these newer batches are on par… Colour: full gold. Nose: maybe I’m wrong but it seems that this DE is rather closer to the regular 16 than earlier batches. Superb whiffs of sea breeze, shells, then orange marmalade (but less than in earlier batches), beef bouillon, peat, good rubber, tar, tobacco, tea…
Mouth: sweet tobacco, liquorice, earth, teas, roots, oranges, peat, ham, smoked fish, salt… And only god knows what else. Amazing. Finish: the longest finish ever at just 43%. Superbly liquoricy. Comments: but how do they do the DE? Is it really finished with wine (treated) casks? I’m starting to doubt it… Especially since I feel this batch is less wine influenced than earlier batches. SGP:448 – 91 points.
Lagavulin 1993/2009 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, lgv 4/497) Colour: full gold (slightly paler than the 1991). Nose: we’re even closer to the regular 16. The ‘wine’ (not that it ever was winey) is more discreet and the smoke is louder. Some quinces, leather, smoked tea… And myriads of other aromas. To cut a long story short, this is lovable. Mouth: rather different from the 1991. Maybe a tad less complex but on the other hand, even bigger, peatier, probably more orangey as well, more spicy and peppery, fatter, a little grassier as well, also a little more citrusy… And saltier! Finish: loooong. Comments: less sherry influence (it’s sherry, isn’t it?) and more Lagavulin. We won’t complain. Not enough to gain one more point, though, as it loses a little complexity when compared with the 1991. SGP:358 – 91 points.
Good, it seems that it’s too hard to decide between Lagavulins that are too similar as far as their pedigrees are concerned, so let’s oppose wildly different expressions now, and two single casks at that…
Lagavulin Lagavulin 1995/2009 (54.4%, OB, Feis Ile 2009, cask #4556) When our Belgian correspondents (Belgian correspondents, very Hercule Poirot, isn’t it!) tried this one on Islay at the time, they granted it with 91 points. Colour: full gold. Nose: exceptional indeed. Extremely elegant peat with dozens of sub-aromas such as leather, smoked ham, smoked tea, grapefruits, Seville oranges, wet rocks, flints, black pepper, bitter chocolate, seaweed, camphor… Smells much older. With water: becomes ‘tertiary’, with notes of pipe tobacco, patchouli, sandal wood and quite some fresh putty.
Mouth (neat): double bang. Peated grapefruits, pepper, angelica, crystallised oranges, white pepper and lemon. How big. With water: more of the same, just a little more drinkable. Finish: long, a tad spicier (ginger, green mustard) with notes of oysters + lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: just wonderful. Great cask. I’ll agree with our Belgian friends, this is great (even if just a tiny-wee tad youngish). SGP:258 - 91 points.
Lagavulin 1978 (63.6%, Cadenhead, white label, cask #15, +/-1993) Colour: white wine. Nose: immensely chocolaty at first nosing. Lindt (right, no brand name), nougat, praline, roasted nuts, seaweed, hints of grass (or isn’t that sorrel?)… A rather unusual profile, a bit shy actually. Not much peat but hey, 63%! With water: gets very ‘Islay-the-island’, with whiffs of wet wool (or even sheep), soaked barley, even more seaweed, hessian… The peat isn’t big in this one. Cider apples. Mouth (neat): extremely powerful and unexpectedly esthery, with a combination of fresh strawberries with a lot of freshly ground black pepper (before you start to wonder, black pepper is extremely volatile in my experience, ready-ground pepper has little flavours). Rather youngish when undiluted. With water: a fruity Islayer with mild peat and a faint cardboardiness. Gets a tad resinous, gearing towards the greatest old Lagavulins, Ardbegs and Laphroaigs after a while but failing to match them in my opinion, it’s just not complex enough. Finish: long, on something like peated and peppered resin or putty. You see what I mean. Comments: excellent but it lacks something. Hard to tell you what but who cares anyway, it’s only an old, totally unobtainable bottling. SGP:355 - 87 points.
Lagavulin And also Lagavulin 12 yo 'Special Release 2009' (57.9%, OB) Colour: white wine. Nose: explosive yet austere, sharp like a blade, on pure peat smoke, cider apples, coal smoke and wet rocks. With water: soot, putty, cigar smoke, flints, peat and limejuice. Mouth (neat): extremely powerful, all on peat, ashes, lemon, green apples and fresh almonds. Ziiiing! With water: a tad rounder and sweeter, but still on lemon, peat and green tea. Cough drops as well (the best ones of course). Finish: very long, ultra-clean. Comments: sharp and straightforward and totally flawless. Epitomical, as they say. A pure malt in all its glory, without the tiniest woody/winey make-up. Maybe we could call it ‘Naked Glory’ – now, wouldn’t that be a nice name for a malt whisky? No, I’m not looking for a new job… SGP:248 - 91 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Cameroon's Richard Bona singing a sweet Sweet Mary (Everyone Has a Choice), from his CD Reverence. Please buy Richard Bona's music.

Richard Bona

November 25, 2009

Glengoyne 40


Glengoyne 40 yo 1968/2009 (45.9%, OB, sherry butt, 250 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: what strikes first here is the big freshness and the rather magnificent whirls of notes of sultanas, figs, dates and dried bananas. It’s rather less ‘polished and smooth’ than expected, and more nervous and fruity at first nosing. Develops more classically, though, on whiffs of cigar box, dried mushrooms (ceps), wax polish, mint flavoured tea, also earl grey, marzipan and a mildly invading sherry. Hints of crème brûlée topped with fresh ripe strawberries. It’s all superbly balanced but as often with very old whiskies, the verdict should lie on the palate, not on the nose. Mouth: nervous but less so than on the nose, starting more on heather honey and bananas flambéed as well as a little coconut liqueur. Less sherried than on the nose for sure. Develops on many fresh and dried fruits, figs first, with the oak starting to talk after a few seconds. Liquorice sticks and cinnamon. Finally apple pie (with cinnamon!), plum pudding and just a little apricot and strawberry jam. Extremely lively and fresh after all these years, not an old whisky that you ‘must’ like just because it’s old and ‘decanterised’. Finish: drier, rather long, with more tannins and cocoa now but nothing drying. Always that fresh fruitiness in the background. Comments: superb old Glengoyne, very complex and magnificently balanced. Do I really have to mention the price? £3,750.00. SGP:640 - 91 points.
Glengoyne 1973/2009 (55.1%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon cask #677, 138 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: completely different from the official 40, that is to say mostly explosively fruity. Surprisingly big notes of bubblegum, tinned pineapples and banana liqueur, then more coconut and white chocolate. If you like hugely fruity oldies, this is for you. With water: more of the same, with added notes of marzipan. Ultra-clean. Mouth (neat): once again, the fruitiness is immense here. There are even hints of Muscat grapes, litchis and bags of fresh strawberries, as well as these notes of pineapple that we already had on the nose. Spectacular ‘polished youth’, so to speak. With water (although water isn’t obligatory here): emphatically fruity, with also more vanilla fudge, millionaire shortbread and nougat. Finish: medium long but still very clean, fruity, jammy, with a little more tannins but also added notes of pink grapefruits. Comments: immensely drinkable and stunningly alive. The huge problem is that one may quaff litres of this without even noticing and at 55%, that can be quite dangerous. Another amazing old Glengoyne. SGP:740 - 92 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the other day we already had a great slice of music by Slovakia's Pacora Trio, this time we'll have another one, Anything goes (wdon't we like this 'barrelhouse feeling'?) Please buy the Pacora Trio's music.


November 24, 2009

Port Ellen
Port Ellen 26 yo 1982/2009 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 712 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: it’s more a grassy, flinty and waxy kind of PE, and less one of these peat monsters – at least at first nosing. Quite some fresh butter, wet rocks, linseed oil, cut grass, graphite and paraffin. The peat gets clearer and louder after a while but no tar and no diesel oil so far. Or little… With water: huge smoke! Soot and shoe polish, then some tar and hints of new tyres. Totally classic. Too bad it’s soon to turn a bit sour – accelerated oxidation? Mouth (neat): a rather lemony attack, almost a little prickly (ginger tonic), with quite some peat and smoke of course but also more apple peelings than usual. Vanilla custard. With water: classic Port Ellen, tarry and flinty. Smoked almonds. Very faint dustiness. Finish: rather long, with the dustiness growing bolder but it’s still very, very fine. Aftertaste more on cough medicine. Comments: not one of the best in my opinion, but very good. SGP:257 - 86 points.
Port Ellen 25 yo 1982 (58.2%, Douglas of Drumlarig for Kingfisher, Selection 2008, Sherry Butt) Kingfisher is the nickname of our very own excellent Taiwanese Ho-cheng of maniacal fame. Colour: gold. Nose: this baby is much more organic, wild and almost animal. Peat, tar, very old balsamico, leather polish, hints of toffee, earl grey tea, cold ashes and a faint beefiness. Mildly sherried, but sherried. Probably refill. With water: works wonderfully. Hypersmoke and ‘the engine of a 1962 E-type’ (wot???) Mouth (neat): very big attack, on crystallised oranges, peat, lemon, ginger and smoked tea (lapsang souchong – litres!) Also a little fudge and lemon marmalade, and even hints of icing sugar, then quite some pepper. Nervous. With water: tarry, smoky lemons and gingered orange marmalade. Pretty perfect. Finish: long, candied and peaty, with quiet some salt. Comments: how do you peat orange marmalade? Well selected, Ho-cheng! SGP:367 - 91 points.
Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2008 (59.3%, Signatory, Refill Sherry Butt #2846, 234 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: we aren’t far from the ‘Kingfisher’ here, and even very close. A little more vanilla and nougat, a little less beef. A little more smoke and tar as well. With water: once again, water does wonders, even if less boldly so than with Kingfisher’s PE. More flints, though. Mouth (neat): once again, we’re extremely close to the Kingfisher. A little more pepper and straight peat and a marginally bigger smokiness. Same kind of lemony touches. With water: wonderful! Peated lemons again, tar, liquorice and plain peat. It really became excellent. Finish: long, tarry, liquoricy and orangey. Comments: high quality sherried Port Ellen by Signatory, hence no real surprise (I’m afraid – ha!) SGP:368 - 92 points.
Port Ellen 30 yo 1979/2009 '9th release' (57.7%, OB, 5,916 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: very different from the 1982’s, much more on grass, soaked barley, smoked porridge and diesel oil. Also more shoe polish and whiffs of eucalyptus starting to come through (sign of age?) The most straightforward but not the least complex. Big smoke. With water: this one gets rather more maritime with water, more on oysters, sea breeze and all that jazz. Also almonds and a little camphor, not unlike what happens with some of the most legendary of its neighbours when they get very old. Superb, obviously. Just hints of ‘clean’ manure. Mouth (neat): the most austere of them all but also the most elegant. Very dry, grassy and smoky attack, then quite some lemon, many mineral notes ‘cool climate style’ (to speak like a wino) and many phenolic/resinous notes. Splendid austerity. With water: gets ultra-dry, all on smoke and ashes. Finish: something that reminds me of the revered Rare Malts (20 and 22yo), minus the brutality. Comments: rather intellectual, just the opposite of these modern easy-sexy drams with no soul (and no cojones). SGP:268 - 93 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the wonderful saxist Chris Potter and his quiet and peaceful Lotus Blossom (from his excellent 2006 album Underground). Please buy Chris Potter's music.

Chris Potter

November 23, 2009

Bunnahabhain 18 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009) I always liked the 18, it’s nicely balanced and a good high-end all-rounder. Let’s check this newer batch. Colour: dark gold. Nose: starts on caramel, honey and a mild spiciness, developing mostly on orange blossom water, pastries, croissant au beurre and a faint Irishness (ripe bananas). Also faintly vinous (some sherry?) An elegant nose. Cinnamon. Mouth: maltier attack, notes of cornflakes, maple syrup (no breakfast malt though), honey, dried figs, tea… It’s rather big at 43%, and very good. Finish: long, honeyed, with some pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: just as good and perfectly balanced as I recalled. I don’t quite understand why some punters sometimes overlook this very nice – granted, in my view - 18. SGP:541 - 88 points.
Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1976/2009 (45.8%, The Whisky Agency's Liquid Library, bourbon) Colour: white wine. Nose: unusually flinty and grassy, much less smooth and polished than some other Bunnies. Notes of gooseberries, apple jelly and ripe strawberries, with some tangerines and a return on mineral notes (rocks). A fresh and lively old Bunnahabhain from a not too active cask, even if there is a little fudge. Mouth: much more fruits at the attack, all coated with a very, very big honey. Pear jam, plums, those hints of wet rocks once again, litres of acacia honey, beeswax and just a few spices playing with your tongue. Finish: long and very, very honeyed. Comments: do you like honey as much as I do? SGP:630 - 90 points.
Bunnahabhain 31 yo 1976 (47.9%, A.D. Rattray for Single & Single, Sherry Cask) Colour: gold. Nose: we’re rather close to the 18 in style, only bigger and a little more complex. Honey, vanilla, sultanas, oriental pastries and nougat plus a little vanilla fudge and cedar wood. Perfectly Bunnahabhain, I’d say. Mouth: somewhere between the official 18 and the 32yo, with a lot of honey and quite some cereals and figs. The profile is perfect once again. Finish: long, maybe just a tad more tannic now. Comments: one of these excellent old Bunnahabhains, the epitome of balance as far as malt whisky is concerned. SGP:541 – 89 points.
Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1973/2008 (50%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask) Colour: full gold. Nose: wow, this is much more complex at first nosing. Honey and ripe fruits are well here but there’s also quite some herbal tea, camomile, whiffs of soot and metal polish, liquorice and finally hints of old sweet Sauternes (right, or other old sweet whites). Perfect nose, very entertaining and kind of ‘wider’ than others. With water: hints of moss, fern, damp earth… Mouth (neat): superb! Honey, wax, orange marmalade, a little tamarind, bergamot, ginger, nutmeg and a little sweet mustard, probably from the oak. A big Bunny. With water: gets creamier and more honeyed. Dates. Finish: long, perfect, honeyed and jammy but never heavy. A little white pepper. Comments: simply top notch old Bunnahabhain. SGP:552 - 92 points.
Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1974/2009 (56.6%, Adelphi, 200 bottles) Colour: dark amber. Nose: chocolate, raisins and prunes galore at first nosing, then more typical honey and ripe fruits. Also many notes that sometimes come with first fill sherry, such as leather, coffee, fig liqueur and cocoa, then a little menthol. Excellent. Big rancio after a while, dried mushrooms, leather… With water: more leather, walnut stain and hints of fresh almonds. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, very sherried but not ‘monstrous’. Cassis jelly, raspberry liqueur, old Armagnac, toffee, becoming just a tad grapey. With water: more spices, the whole getting drier. Bitter chocolate, coffee beans and liquorice. Finish: long, with some fresh fruits (but don’t we get rhubarb?) and once again these faint notes of grape skin or even pips. Comments: we all know that Bunnahabhain goes well with sherry, especially oloroso. This one reminds me a bit of some old officials that were distilled in the 1960s. SGP:461 – 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: we're in 1977 and they were THE album and THE band at the time, yes, talking about Television's Marquee Moon. Let's listen to Prove it again and then buy Television's music (again.)


November 22, 2009



Just read some very interesting news from China. It appeared on Xinhuanet, which is the official news center in China, somewhat like the BBC. I would say it's all very true.

It’s about a visit to some abandoned pot stills within the Tsingtao Beer factory. Tsingtao Beer is the largest Chinese beer company and its history can be traced back to 1903 when some German and British Merchants established the place as the Nordic Brewery Co., Ltd., Tsingtao Branch.

Full story in Chinese (you may want
to browse through to see the photos):
page 1 - page 2 - page 3.
In the report, the factory staff lets the reporter see those old pot stills, which are believed to have been built in 1912. The reporter also went through some of the old brewing equipments, and also some very large casks (possibly for beer) as well as some French casks (possibly for brandy or whisky.) The story says the first Chinese Whisky, the first Chinese Brandy, and the first Chinese Champagne (really?) were all manufactured there.
The most interesting thing is that at the end of the story, the reporter actually tasted some very old bottled whisky. I’m really wondering how it was, but sadly that was not mentioned in the story. – Ho-cheng Yao.
OFFICIAL WARNING ;-): once again, we’ll be trying Bowmores from those years when the make was, err, different. I dislike those ‘vintages’ as much as I absolutely love earlier and later distillations (recent ones are totally stupendous!) so, well, you’ve been warned again. And please note that a few friends do actually like this very 'unusual' style.
Bowmore Bowmore 23 yo 1985/2009 (54.4%, Signatory, hogshead, cask #32203, 234 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: smoke, tar, apple peeling and a mild lavender at first nosing, but these well-known notes of lavender do grow bolder by the minute, invading everything. Hard. With water: Lux (with the girl in the bathtub). Mouth (neat): lavender and violet sweets mixed with peat, pepper and lemon sweets. Not ugly, actually. With water: lavender sweets, violet sweets and peat. Not bad, just very ‘lavenderish’. Finish: medium long, with more liquorice and a little lemon. Comments: not a bad dram at all, and probably the best of what you can get out of these whacky batches. And after all, they’re part of SMSW’s history. SGP: 445 - 75 points.
Bowmore 26 yo 1982/2009 (50.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #85162) Colour: pale gold. Nose: there’s a little less lavender than in the 1985, as well as a little more butter, but it’s still one from these infamous batches. With water: how funny! Plain mint syrup now, never had that so loud. Mouth (neat): not bad at all, rather close to the 1985 so far even if there’s a little soap. And lavender of course. And lemon. With water: acceptable. Finish: long, cleaner than expected, but there’s some soap in the aftertaste. Comments: another one that isn’t bad at all, you just have to like the style. I don’t. SGP:465 - 78 points.
Bowmore Bowmore 26 yo 1982/2009 (53.4%, Master of Malt, refill sherry hogshead, 195 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: a cleaner 1982, with a little more vanilla it seems. There’s also less smoke. With water: it got very grassy, minty, mentholated (less so than the DT) and mildly mineral. Mouth (neat): very similar to the DT. A little more lemon. With water: improves a bit, with more peat and spices, but the (relatively) soapy notes of violets and lavender are well there. Finish: ditto. Comments: we’re close to the best you can do with a Bowmore from the early 1980s in my opinion. Kudos to the bottlers. SGP:465 - 80 points.
Bowmore Bowmore 36 yo 1972/2008 (45.4%, Signatory, Sherry Butt #3890, 540 bottles) Colour: full amber. Nose: now we’re talking! It’s not that it’s one of these big emphatic old Bowmores but the profile is pretty perfect, between a mildly tarry smoke and quite some chocolate and toffee from the sherry. Develops on mushrooms, leather, dried beef (jerky) and old walnut liqueur. If you like them dry, this is for you. Mouth: excellent dry Bowmore, on peated and peppered orange marmalade at the attack, getting then spicier and more citrusy for a while, before it gets frankly ‘tertiary’, on leather, liquorice, gentian, a little salt, roasted chestnuts, funny notes of raspberry drops and finally quite some chocolate. Very little tropical fruits in this one, except for the citrus (more and more grapefruit). Hints of violet sweets but nothing as big as in later distillations. Finish: very long, less dry, citrusy and chocolatty, with a little salt playing with your tongue and lips. Comments: maybe not one of these stunning uberclean yet complex old Bowmores but quality is still very high. Medium peated. SGP:545 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening:'commercial' ragas aren't always great and can be dull but this time I feel it's a little different. Anoushka Shankar, father Ravi Shankar and Karsh Kale are playing Oceanic part I (from Breathing under water). Please buy the Shankars' music.

Anoushka Shankar

November 21, 2009

With apologies to our Irish friends - we love you all.
Singleton For once, we won’t try whiskies from the same distillery today but rather the three fairly recent Singletons by Diageo (not the old Auchroisks!) We already tried some of these new ones but they were earlier batches.
Singleton of Glendullan 12 yo (40%, OB, for duty free 1L, +/-2009) Colour: gold. Nose: very fresh, floral, slightly buttery, mildly honeyed and just a little grassy. Develops more on orange peel and grains, with a little liquorice and just a little dust. Light but not weak. Mouth: rather crisp and clean, starting on malt, honey, liquorice and caramel. More herbal tea after that and kind of a ‘blended’ character. Faint smokiness. Roots. Finish: rather long, malty and liquoricy. A little honey. Pleasantly earthy in the aftertaste. Comments: last time it reminded me of Johnnie Black and it still does. A very good ‘access-category’ malt whisky, I’d say, a little more complex than I remembered. Did they improve it with recent batches? SGP:341 - 79 points.
Singleton of Dufftown 12 yo (40%, OB, for duty free 1L, +/-2009) Colour: gold. Nose: more presence than in the Glendullan, much more on honey, roasted nuts and cake, then orange blossom water and hints of marshmallows. Rather pleasant but still quite light. Mouth: a little strange at the attack, curiously meaty and dusty/dirty. Onions cooked in sugar or honey? Some cardboard, liquorice, stout… Very strange malt. Finish: rather long, with more liquorice and cooked honey. Mead. A little better. Comments: an unusual one, that sometimes tastes like some mildly spicy Chinese dish. SGP:351 - 77 points.
Singleton of Glen Ord 12 yo (40%, OB, for duty free 1L, +/-2009) Colour: gold. Nose: probably the most expressive of all three, but that’s no wonder as Glen Ord can be quite characterful. Chocolate-coated dried oranges, hints of cured ham, ale, chocolate and a little parsley that I already found in earlier batches. A tad ‘less light’ than both the Glendullan and the Dufftown. Mouth: ah yes, this is rather nice. Granted, it’s no big whisky but the big maltiness and the honeyed notes are very pleasant. Faint smokiness, orange cake, cloves, maybe wild thyme, liquorice drops… Finish: rather long, smoky, malty and liquoricy. Honeydew (or fir tree honey) in the aftertaste. Comments: kind of a surprise, I think this one is more potent than what its ‘positioning’ in the market would suggest. A very good drop, very drinkable. SGP:442 - 84 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Keren Ann doing one of her hits, In my heart. A friend said that it reminded him of Nico and the Velvet Underground. Really? Anyway, please buy Keren Ann's music.

Keren Ann

November 20, 2009

by Nick Morgan
Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean,
October 17th-24th 2009
Part One

Did I tell you that we’d been sailing, Serge? Not our usual navigating through God’s Hebridean playground, oh no. We spent a week in a floating nightclub on a Blues Cruise. And before you ask, despite the amount of booze that some of our fellow revellers managed to tuck away (enough, in a few cases, to send them to Davy Jones’ locker), I do mean Blues Cruise.

Blues Cruise
We heard about these things from some crazy Americans we met at a Ray Davies concert in London and decided that, like Rome, we had to do it, just in case. And we’re on board with the Old Folks who’ve driven down to join us from British Columbia, which reminds me: I wonder if they’ve managed to navigate their way back yet? The boat (think of it as a medium-sized four star hotel) was going to take us to Mexico. Or at least that was the plan, until Hurricane Rick, lurking menacingly to the South, intervened to prevent us sailing into the Gulf of California. So apart from a couple of hours at anchor in rough seas off Cabo San Lucas, and a few hours in Ensenada, we spent seven days steaming round in circles in the Pacific listening to some very good blues.
Blues from around midday ‘til… well, your reviewer and the Photographer pleaded jet-lag and hunkered down with a late-night glass of Cutty Sark (an appropriate choice from a limited selection in the Ship’s Stores) around midnight most nights. But I swear you could still hear music from our veranda at three in the morning, and I know the Old Folks were up regularly ‘til two and three. Twenty-three acts performing over two big stages (one in a luxurious nightclub, the second up on a sometimes windy deck) and two smaller bar venues, with a fifth bar devoted almost entirely to ‘Pro-am Jamarama’. Each of the acts got three stage slots, but some of the artists also performed with band members and friends in the bars deep into the night. ‘Special guest’ Debbie Davies, in addition to performing with Coco ‘Big Breakfast’ Montoya, seemed to be in every bar with her guitar (often singing with Australian Fiona Boyes) , as did Susan Tedeschi. But I’ll be honest and confess that it was impossible to keep up with everyone, so I’m afraid this is only a partial account, occasionally drawing upon the hazy recollection of the Old Folks.
Debbie Davies and Coco Montoya
Debbie Davies and Coco Montoya
You simply had to make some choices about who you really wanted to see, and at the top of my list was Mavis Staples and her band. She was unfortunate to take to the stage on the ‘after-dinner’ slot on Day Two, when the tentacles of Hurricane Rick were just reaching out to the boat. And ‘though she may have stumbled a little as the boat pitched and tossed (“Now I ain’t been doin’ no drinking, y’all”) she still turned in a fantastically powerful performance. So much so that we saw parts of both her other shows. The act might not change much, the stories and reminiscences may be the same, but they no lose no impact for that ; they are, after all, drawn from her own experience. She’s breathless and husky, shouting, barking and grunting as much as she sings, and cackles with a positively wicked laugh that she certainly didn’t learn in church. But go back and listen to some of the old Staples Singers material and you’ll pick her voice out straight away: it’s as distinctive now as it was then. The set was mostly drawn from ‘Down in Mississippi’, with some covers like ‘Respect’, ‘The Weight’, and some old Staples hits. Of course, if Ms Staples isn’t a big enough attraction then there’s her guitarist Rick Holstrom (who later in the week performed a stand-in set with his band as the other musicians began to tire). He’s a reverb-charged Fender artist of huge accomplishment, and his spare haunting accompaniments are perfect for Ms Staples' sometimes dark material. There’s more on the way: in conversation the positively charming Ms Staples revealed that a new album will be recorded early next year and a visit to London is on the cards, too. We’ll be there.
Mavus Stapple Rick Holstrom
Mavis Staples, Rick Holstrom
Former John Mayall guitarist Coco Montoya had opened proceedings as we sailed away from San Diego. He’s a rare upside-down left-handed player, but that didn’t seem to impair his very fluent playing. He had a tendency to veer towards crowd- pleasing rock rather than ‘pure’ blues; it seemed to please this crowd but didn’t necessarily benefit his performance. The same could be said for Michael Burks (whom we saw last year in Helena), a really powerful player who also probably crossed over once too often into rock-blues, rather than blues-rock. Hot-shot guitarist and fashionably unkempt Kenny Wayne Shepherd whom we saw more often in the dining room with his family than performing, seemed to have almost left the blues behind, with a vocalist, Noah Hunt, who sounded astonishingly like a young(ish) Paul Rodgers. Indeed, the overall sound that could have come from early 1970s British rock bands, being none the worse for that. Hardly surprising then that he’s a former participant in the Experience Hendrix tour, or that he tends to end his set with Voodoo Chile. Or for that matter, that he has his own ‘signature’ Stratocaster. In a slightly different vein was Tommy Castro, who also mixed great blues guitar playing with rock, but featured in addition a distinct soul sensibility and a clear fondness for the music of Steve Cropper and his colleagues back at 1960s Stax. This was helped by the presence of an accomplished brass section, some fine playing of the well-used Hammond B-3 that sat on both stages, and Castro’s great singing. For the record, his last set on the Pool Deck was very, very loud.
Michael Burks
Michael Burks, Tommy Castro and a tribute from the galley
Given that there was so much rock around, it was refreshing to get a couple of good doses of the very unreconstructed Roy Gaines. This well turned-out old-fashioned guitarist and bandleader delivered Texas Jump-style blues, closely modelled on T-Bone Walker, with whom he worked with over a number of years. But in addition to occasional stints as an actor in commercials, Gaines also played with a huge number of artists across the blues spectrum and into jazz, e.g. Bobby Bland, Coleman Hawkins , Ray Charles and the Jazz Crusaders; all this reflected in his guitar style.
Roy Gaines
Roy Gaines, Buckwheat Zydeco
Similarly unreconstructed was Buckwheat Zydeco, with his formulaic up-tempo Louisiana party music. He is a particular favourite of the Photographer for his version of George Perkins’ 1970 hit ‘Cryin’ in the streets’, which he recorded for the fabulous ‘Our New Orleans’ post-Katrina fundraising album. Produced by Ry Cooder, who also played guitar, and with Jim Keltner on drums and the late and lamented Jim Dickinson on piano, it’s the sort of ‘must-have’ track that might make you think that Mr Wheat isn’t quite as unreconstructed as you might think. And I should add Mr Wheat’s remarkable and energetic accordion playing was matched only for remarkableness by his coiffure, which left a trail of olfactory evidence everywhere he visited on the ship. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Mavis Staples on MySpace
Glenlivet 30 yo ‘Cellar Collection’ (48%, OB, cask #2LGF901, bottled 2001) Nose: superb nose, with a very obvious but very elegant oakiness. Quite some vanilla, honey, a little eucalyptus and whiffs of camphor. Gets then more and more resinous, together with some big notes of mirabelles and apricot. Very, very nice, keeps developing on honeyed notes. Mouth: starts nervous, nicely peppered and oaked. Develops mostly on honey and various spices, with nutmeg first. Finish: long, rather spicy, with quite some stewed fruits. Comments: the nose was a little more emphatic than the palate. A very elegant dram for sure. SGP:451 – 89 points.
Glenlivet 1973/2009 ‘Cellar Collection’ (49%, OB) This one comes from a vatting of 1 sherry butt with two hogsheads. It should be issued later in November or December. Not sure about the ABV, it was on a dummy. Nose: we’re much more on Demerara sugar, dried fruits (apricots), honey, stewed fruits again and a little mint from the oak. It’s rather fresh but it’s also mildly expressive. Some marzipan and, just like in the 30, quite some pine resin. A drier version. Mouth: dry and oaky, tannic but still very elegant. Quite some soft spices, getting more and more peppery, with also a little mustard. Hints of rum. Finish: medium long, finely mentholated, with quite some white pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: once again, the oak is very obvious but in all elegance. The sherry was discreet. SGP:361 – 88 points.
Glenlivet 1972/2005 ‘Cellar Collection’ (52.3%, OB) Nose: this one is much more expressive and lively, starting on bananas flambéed and a lot of vanilla, mirabelles again, nougat… Very fresh for a 30+ malt whisky. With water: the nutmeg from the wood comes out, more vanilla, just whiffs of cardboard. Less aromatic once diluted but still very nice. Mouth (neat): nervous and fruity attack, on both tinned and fresh pineapples. Tastes rather younger than 33. Very good. With water: just as fresh, vanilled, fruity and mildly spicy. Finish: medium long, clean, with these pleasant notes of bananas. Comments: there’s rather less oak in this one. Very good. SGP:551 – 89 points.
Glenlivet 1969/2006 ‘Cellar Collection’ (50.8%, OB) Nose: this oldster starts on notes of old rum, with almost as much banana as in the 1972 as well as notes of dried pears and a little caramel. Fresh and aromatic. With water: strange that water blocks it, letting just more vanilla come through. Not a great swimmer. Mouth (neat): beautiful attack, obviously rather oaky but it’s all smooth. Great fruitiness, sweets, mirabelle pie, then white pepper. With water: takes water better than on the nose. The pineapples are back. Finish: medium long, on vanilla, bananas and pineapples, ‘though it’s not quite ‘tropical’. Comments: a very good one, perfectly balanced and mucho elegant. SGP:541 – 90 points.
Glenlivet 1964/2001 ‘Cellar Collection’ (49%, OB, cask #2LBF901) Nose: smooth and rounded, all on honey, sultanas, ripe bananas, mint and liquorice. Extremely elegant, with a fantastic freshness. Goes on with plums, stewed peaches and a little melon. Whiffs of incense and cedar wood. Lovely oldie. Mouth: superbly balanced between many dried fruits and a superbly polished oakiness. No obvious tannins but notes of cardamom and white pepper. Finish: medium long, maybe just a tad oakier. Comments: the word ‘lovely’ has been invented for this one. The best of the bunch in my opinion. SGP:451 – 91 points.
(Thanks Tim, thanks Ian)

November 18, 2009



Macallan 1973/2006 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt, USA, 75cl) Colour: amber. Nose: wow! Starts very aromatic, fruity and honeyed. Cooked apples, compote, orange blossom, fresh figs, sultanas and just faint whiffs of fresh mint. We’re very close to the old mildly sherried official 15s or 18s that were distilled in the 1950s or 1960s. Goes on more on soft spices and whiffs of precious wood, with also a little camphor and just hints of wood smoke. A little ginger, white pepper, cinnamon on plum pie… And plum jam. Really superb and not weak in any way at 40% abv. Mouth: once again, it’s rather powerful at first sipping, with a little more oak this time. Strawberry jam and grated nutmeg. Drops a bit in the middle, getting maybe a tiny-wee tad watery but never drying and tannic. Quite some cinnamon, tea and a little chocolate. Finish: not long but longer than expected, more on cloves and pepper coating prunes and ripe apricots. A little grassy too, even kind of peaty. Comments: superb nose and very good palate despite the relative weakness on the palate by today’s standards. SGP:642 – 88 points (and thank you, Bryan).
Macallan 1970/2009 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Speymalt, LMdW, first fill sherry butt, cask #8326, 524 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: the general profile is very similar to the 1973’s, with maybe a little more oomph but it’s also a little more closed at first nosing. Grows bolder by the minute, though, a little more on bananas flambéed and crème brulée. Same notes of high-end honey, cooked apples and figs as in the 1973, the whole getting then just a tad grassier and maybe a tad kirschy. Lys. Mouth: it’s got the oomph that the 1973 was lacking a bit, but it’s also kind of greener and grassier, with more tannins and green pepper (young Cabernet-Sauvignon). More sherry too, cooked strawberries, prunes, dried apricots, then ginger and cinnamon and more and more pepper. Nice notes of blood oranges, maybe hints of sangria. The whole remains rather dry. Finish: medium long, rather more polished, with more raisins, dried papayas, ripe apples and honey. Some green spices in the aftertaste as well as a little mint, liquorice, violet sweets and pine resin. Comments: this one needs time to unfold on the palate, there’s a bit of a war between the oak and the spirit going on. I wouldn’t say that the oak wins. The ideal version would be the 1973 at 46% abv methinks. SGP:561 – 87 points.
Speymalt And also (tasted apart): Macallan 1938/2004 (41.4%, Gordon & MacPhaill, Speymalt) This baby (well, at 65 years of age, it’s not quite a baby anymore) was generously poured by G&M at London’s Whisky Show. The current re-officiallised 35yo 1938 that was created by decanting antique bottles is now sold for £10,000 so at just £3,500, this 65yo Speymalt sure is a bargain. Colour: full amber. Nose: an ode to old age and certainly not an elegy. Wonderful freshness, maybe even more freshness than in the 1970 and 1973. Superbly floral, with whiffs of fruit salad (quite some melon) and ripe apricots, various honeys and just a little eucalyptus. Little smoke but these fruity notes grow even bolder, with even more apricot (also as jam) and then natural vanilla. And guess what, no obvious oaky/tannic tones, which is a miracle. Amazing nose.
Mouth: not a powerhouse of course but it’s not thin, not weak, not tired, not drying and not cardboardy. In other words, a succession of other tiny miracles, it’s one to sip religiously (ah well). Notes of tobacco, banana skin, orange marmalade, tangerines, apricot again, then a more resinous development but once again, no excessive woodiness even if there is quite some ginger and cinnamon. Finish: not extremely long but the blend of these apricotty notes with a little pine resin and mint works perfectly well. Comments: excellent and very moving! And I find the fact that G&M would fill both very young malts and very old glories under exactly the same humble packaging just as moving – makes all the new GlenWonka-like, Franklinmint-esque old whiskies even more ridiculous if you ask me. Kudos. SGP:551 - 91 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: our German friends may start to frown and chuckle but we like this version of Sugar Blues by... Nina Hagen and the Leipzig Big Band. Please buy Nina Hagen's music.

nina Hagen

November 17, 2009



Carsebridge 30 yo 1979/2009 (52.3%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #33038, 164 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: starts very fresh and slightly grassy and floral, with hints of lilies, camomile tea and hay. There’s also a little wood varnish, vanilla and milk chocolate. With water: more green tea, mint tea, whiffs of coriander, a little basil, liquorice and a faint smokiness. Very, very nice nose, rather complex for a grain whisky. It seems that the cask was of high quality. Mouth (neat): very sweet, very ‘grain’, starting on strawberry drops, ripe kiwi, tangerines and hints of bubblegum. Gets then much spicier, with quite some ginger and pepper from the oak. With water: more ginger, speculoos, coconut liqueur and white chocolate. Very nice. Finish: medium long, as fresh as a baby’s mouth. Comments: an excellent grain that takes water pretty, pretty well. Nice fruits/spices balance. SGP:642 - 87 points.
Carsebridge 29 yo 1979 (54.6%, Jack Wieber, Auld Distiller, 178 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: no varnish this time, rather more praline and chocolate, more vanilla too, then hints of freshly squeezed oranges and just hints of coconut milk. A rounder version. With water: water shuts it down a bit, it’s the oak that speaks, with only faint whiffs of nutmeg and paprika. Sweet ginger sauce. Mouth (neat): it’s more similar to the DT on the palate, maybe a little less fresh and fruity and more vanilled and peppery. Hints of Turkish delights and, indeed, bubblegum in the background. Coconut liqueur. With water: more on ‘herbal’ spices, cardamom, lemon balm, green pepper, light chilli… Water works better than on the nose. Finish: medium long, mainly spicy. It’s only in the aftertaste that some bubblegum and vanilla do resist. Comments: very good but the oak’s a tad too talkative for my taste, especially after the very nice DT. SGP:461 - 85 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: let's have a little raggamuffin (?) for a change, with Sister Nancy doing Bam Bam. Watch your woofers! Please buy Sister Nancy's music.

Sister Nancy

November 16, 2009

Caol Ila
Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009) Let’s have this new version of an old friend to prepare our nose and palate. Last time we had it was in 2007 and I scored it 84. Colour: straw. Nose: fresh and clean, with these slightly sour notes (green apples) that go well with Caol Ila. Fresh butter, seawater and a mild smokiness. The gentler side of the peat monsters from Islay. Mouth: vey good attack, smokier and ashier than on the nose. Lemon juice, a little coriander, kiwi, smoke (I tired smoked aubergines at a Lebanese restaurant the other day, they do taste similar – or partly). A little salt. Finish: not very long, fades away a bit quick, but it’s all clean on the palate. Comments: an easy peaty malt, extremely drinkable. SGP:356 - 84 points.
Caol Ila 2000/2009 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Berry's Best) Colour: white wine. Nose: ultra-sharp, zesty, even more on green apples and even lime than the official 12. Then more wet wool and rocks as well as fresh almonds. Once again, a medium-peated Caol Ila. Mouth: cystal-clean, smoky, lemony and grassy. Straight ahead young Caol Ila, no fuss, no flaws. Finish: medium long, saltier, lemony. Comments: simply very good and eminently quaffable. In the same category as the 12 OB, but this is not Berry’s best. This is very good but Berry’s best is excellent. SGP:366 - 84 points.
Caol Ila 1996/2008 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, C-si; 4-468) Finished in moscatel. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it seems that the amount of moscatel is now much lower than in earlier batches, and that’s very good news if you ask me. We’re rather close to the clean ‘naked’ OBs, maybe somewhere between the 12 and the 18. Some coal smoke, ashes, seaweed, apple peeling and a little fresh butter just like in the 12. Also whiffs of eucalyptus (or cough syrup). Mouth: indeed, the wine’s influence is rather discreet and this dram is very ‘Caol Ila’. Once again, it’s a tad medicinal, smoky, almondy and lemony. Very good. Finish: medium long, smoky and almondy. A little curry in the aftertaste. Comments: I think the DE really improved (again, less wine in whisky always means progress in my view – not talking about sherry here). I had scored the first batch 82 but when I tried it again I thought I had been too generous. This time it’s well worth a higher score and I won’t change my mind ;-). SGP:456 - 85 points.
Caol Ila 13 yo 1995/2009 (60.5%, AD Rattray Cask Collection, Sherry, Cask #10035, 591 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: ultra-powerful or when whisky smells like espresso coffee and cut grass. Nothing unpleasant but let’s add water straight away. With water: classic half-farmy, half-coastal Coal Ila. Superb freshness, litres of limejuice, grapefruits, flints and fresh almonds. Whiffs of damp chalk, beach sand, ‘a plate of oysters’ and crushed mint leaves. Mouth (neat): powerful, strong, ultra-classic young Coal Ila, ‘sharp like a blade’ as they say. Lemon, green apples and a good deal of peat/smoke. With water: gets ashier… and even more excellent. Super clean, super palatable. Finish: very long, grapefruity, with a little salt playing with your taste buds. Comments: state of the art middle-aged Caol Ila. SGP:357 - 88 points.
Caol Ila 16 yo 1992/2009 (57.2%, The Clydesdale, cask ref 0006/10641, 292 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: another clean, smoky, coastal Caol Ila, on a lot of cut grass, fresh almonds and walnuts, then putty and seaweed. Uberclassic. With water: hugely phenolic. Tar, eucalyptus, turpentine and pine resin, hints of wet newspaper, ink. Much less a classic Caol Ila when diluted, but it’s great. Mouth (neat): not far from the 1995, maybe a tad sweeter at the first drop and then a tad greener (cider apples) and more mineral. One of these famous riesling-esque Caol Ilas. With water: nervous, peaty, with quite some apples and fresh walnuts. Sweetened green tea. Finish: long, with notes of cough syrup and a lot of lemon. Comments: what could I add? Once again, one of these very good Caol Ilas (scratch your head next time, Serge!). SGP:367 - 87 points.
Caol Ila 18 yo 1991/2009 (48%, Chieftain's, 'German oak finish', cask#91821, 288 bottles) What’s German oak? Oak that contained German wine or oak grown in Germany? Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is the most mentholated of them all. Distinct whiffs of Vicks, then vanilla and the typical coastal notes. Iodine, oysters, seawater. With water: more vanilla and fresh sawdust, and much less ‘Islayness’. The oak stand out and the spirit hides behind it. Mouth (neat): a very ‘funny’ profile, more medicinal than the average CI, even smokier, tarry and then rather chocolaty. This one has its eyes on the island’s south shore. With water: more grass, apple peeling, even white tequila. Finish: rather long, smoky, maybe a tad grassier than the others. A little nutmeg in the aftertaste. Comments: not sure about what that German oak brought to this dram but very good it is. SGP:366 - 86 points.
Caol Ila 'Unpeated' 10 yo (65.8%, OB, bottled 2009) This is the now famous ‘Highlands’ Caol Ila, as opposed to the peated ‘Islay’. Colour: straw. Nose: these notes of coffee… Or so it seems because I will not put my nose into my glass, guess why. With water: marshmallows, bubblegum and tinned pineapples galore. Pear drops. Is this (only) double distilled? Very clean profile and an immense playfulness. Mouth (neat): sweet Jesus! Menthol-doped lemon liqueur at cask strength… It seems that this is very good but frankly, at 65.8%... (btw, I thought they were all filling their new makes at 63.5% in recent times? What’s even stranger is that the first, very young version was at 59.8%, the 8yo at 64.9, now the 10 at 65.8… Will the 12 fetch 70%? ;-)) With water: sweet, fruity and spicier now, with these typical gingery notes that come with rather active oak – or high extraction. Speculoos, grated coconut, orange cake. Finish: rather long, and very fruity (marshmallows and Turkish delights all over the place.) Comments: in a certain way, it reminds me of Bruichladdich’s X4+3. No traces of peat. SGP:630 - 83 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: more lectric blues with the very good Kenny Neal and his Lighting's Gonna Strike. Please buy Kenny Neal's music.

Kenny Neal

November 2009 - part 1 <--- November 2009 - part 2 ---> December 2009 - part 1

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Bunnahabhain 32 yo 1976/2009 (45.8%, The Whisky Agency's Liquid Library, bourbon)

Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1973/2008 (50%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask)

Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1974/2009 (56.6%, Adelphi, 200 bottles)

Glengoyne 1973/2009 (55.1%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon cask #677, 138 bottles)

Glengoyne 40 yo 1968/2009 (45.9%, OB, sherry butt, 250 bottles)

Glenlivet 1964/2001 ‘Cellar Collection’ (49%, OB, cask #2LBF901)

Glenlivet 1969/2006 ‘Cellar Collection’ (50.8%, OB)

Lagavulin 12 yo 'Special Release 2009' (57.9%, OB)

Lagavulin 1995/2009 (54.4%, OB, Feis Ile 2009, cask #4556)

Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, USA, Schieffelin & Sommerset, +/-1990)

Lagavulin 16 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2009)

Lagavulin 1991/2008 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, lgv 4/496)

Lagavulin 1993/2009 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, lgv 4/497)

Macallan 1938/2004 (41.4%, Gordon & MacPhaill, Speymalt)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2008 (59.3%, Signatory, Refill Sherry Butt #2846, 234 bottles)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1982 (58.2%, Douglas of Drumlarig for Kingfisher, Selection 2008, Sherry Butt)

Port Ellen 30 yo 1979/2009 '9th release' (57.7%, OB, 5,916 bottles)