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October 2012 - part 2 <--- November 2012 - part 1 ---> November 2012 - part 2


November 13, 2012


Tasting Glengoyne 1972. Two.

For a few days now, quite a few Facebook (and real) friends have been raving over the new Glengoyne 1972 by Malts of Scotland and those guys know their whisky. What’s more, the bottling is called ‘Warehouse Diamonds’, which implies it should be stellar, unless the bottler is into useless hyperboles (I think he isn’t, at all) or the warehouse is full of crappy casks (I don’t think it is, at all). But hey, we’ll give this shiny new baby some worthy opposition, with an OB from the same vintage. And as often, we’ll start with an old aperitif…

Glengoyne 10 yo (40%, OB, 'Pure Malt', +/-1985)

Glengoyne 10 yo (40%, OB, 'Pure Malt', +/-1985) Two stars and a half It’s the old cream label with a drawing of the distillery. Colour: gold. Nose: nope, this is quite grainy and very spirity at first nosing, although there’s an aromatic sherriness slowly arising, going rather toward raspberry syrup for a while, then classic sultanas and honey but it remains roughish, kind of not polished enough (remember we’re about to taste a diamond!) After a few minutes: some pleasant whiffs of earth and mint, also roses or rather rose-scented soap. Dove? Mouth: strange-ish start. Some parts are really nice (a creamy honeyness) but there’s also something bitterly metallic and even chemical in the attack. Plastic. Drops quick, with a thin middle, but the good news is that it’s the honeyed/roasted nuts that remain, not the ‘chemicals’. Finish: probably the best part, with more dried fruits and honey and quite some malt in the aftertaste (Ovaltine). Comments: hard to score because it’s not very coherent. I really enjoy some parts while others are pretty difficult. SGP:351 - 77 points.

Glengoyne 29 yo 1972 'Spring' (55%, OB, +/-2002)

Glengoyne 29 yo 1972 'Spring' (55%, OB, +/-2002) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: starts with these touches of rum agricole or even old tequila that I sometimes find in old Glengoyne (I think), while some earthy tones are there right at first sniffs, together with quite some orange cake, vanilla and honey pie. Also hints of roots and honeydew (fir), very nice. It seems to be complex whisky but it’s also a tad too strong for careful nosing. With water: more fresh oak, branches, vanillin, chocolate… It’s the wood that does the talking now but it does it nicely. Mouth (neat): a very unusual start once again, and this time it’s rather a massive dose of mint and other herbs that make it very, well, intriguing. Heavy liquorice, dill, aniseed, mint again, even some thyme tea… Some heavy oak extraction must have taken place, unless they used eucalyptus wood ;-). I must say I enjoy this, partly because it’s so unusual yet not really unbalanced. With water: and now we have the ginger, the nutmeg and the cloves from the oak. Finish: quite long, sweet oak and spices. Vanilla, ginger and white pepper in the aftertaste, as well as touches of pineapples. Comments: very oak-driven but very good in my opinion. SGP:561 - 88 points.

Glengoyne 1972/2012 (55.5%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Diamonds, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12044, 254 bottles)

Glengoyne 1972/2012 (55.5%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Diamonds, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12044, 254 bottles) Five stars So, a diamond indeed or not? Colour: deep amber. Nose: I’m not saying this because the wonders of Christmas are looming ahead, but this one really smells like the most perfect… ah, err, Christmas cake (‘Christmas cake’, just like ‘nice’ or ‘smooth’, are forbidden words within tasting circles ;-)). Look, I won’t list all dried fruits I think I know but they’re all in and make this nose a wonderful one (I think ‘wonderful’ is okay). With water: whiffs of Christmas spices, camphor and menthol on top of the cake. Fab and much more complex than it sounds in these lousy tasting notes. Mouth (neat): b-i-n-g-o. It’s huge, it’s heavy, it’s ridden with dried fruits, crème de menthe, old chartreuse, even a little pastis (excuse me)… In short it’s very massive and even a little monstrous, yet it’s absolutely not tiring and rather entrancing and kind of uplifting and... Oh well, it’s an exceptional so-called ‘sherry monster’. With water: crikey, still no flaws! It’s even fresh… Also more coffee notes. Finish: okay, a few tiny tannins start to play with the back of your tongue, a crying shame because this baby could have made it to 95 in my book. Comments: it’s not a diamond, it’s the Crown of the Queen! My only regret is that it was no surprise and for that I do not thank you, Facebook. PS: this wonder is/was sold for 299€ a bottle. Pfff… SGP:761 - 94 points.

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

PS: Friends, I’m sure I’ll be accused of tasting too many very rare and/or expensive or 'obscure' whiskies again. Well, let me remind you that contrarily to what some friends may suggest here and there, whiskyfun is no buying guide, it’s simply a single individual’s tasting diary. I’m tasting what I like to taste and what I can taste. I’ll never, ever favour, say Ballantines over a 1972 Brora (or Glengoyne!) for whatever reasons. Having said that, I’m really trying hard to taste quite a few more mundane bottlings as well every once in a while, but please note that I do not, and will never feel any obligations to do so for whichever reasons. Pace e salute! ;-).



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the ever controversial Jacques Loussier. Track: the Adagio of JSB'sToccata and Fugue in C Minor. Please visit Jacques Loussier's website and buy his music!

November 12, 2012


Tasting old menthol and dried fruits from Japan (in bottles)

I think unlike virtually any other ‘world distillery’, Karuizawa’s almost become ‘Scotch’, that is to say a name that’s now seen by most die-hard whisky geeks – except a few cool guys who always like to swim against the tide - as equivalent to big names such as Ardbeg, Lagavulin or Springbank. Or rather Brora or Port Ellen, as sadly, Karuizawa’s closed since more or less ten years (I’m sorry if I’m being a tad too Scotch-centric here – of course Karuizawa is in fact utterly Japanese!) Anyway, let’s one or three oldies now and check, once again, whether that reputation’s really deserved or not.

Karuizawa 1982/2012 (46%, Number One Drinks, The Whisky Exchange, first fill bourbon, cask #8497)

Karuizawa 1982/2012 (46%, Number One Drinks, The Whisky Exchange, first fill bourbon, cask #8497) Four stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s obviously not one of these wonderfully dirty-ish heavily sherried Karuizawas and in fact, the freshness and the fruitiness are quite impressive. What strikes me as well is the little smokiness, the touches of pinesap and eucalyptus – not to mention camphor – and, well, the Japanese side, hard to describe. Or maybe between sandalwood and incense? Other than that, there’s a little varnish (cellulose), touches of pencil shavings, vanilla and quite some tarte tatin (caramelised apples). A Karuizawa that may hint at other famous and beautiful Japanese malts, such as Yoichi. Mouth: I think that was very clever to reduce this baby down to 46%, because the oak’s slightly loud in the attack, just after a few fleeting notes of tinned pineapples. Mind you, not excessively so but it’s all rather less creamy and syrupy than other ex-first fill bourbons, which gives this baby a faint planky side (plus tea, cinnamon, nutmeg…) The rest is pretty perfect, with some lemon zest, some ginger tonic, quinces, apple pie and fresh cider apples. Finish: quite long, a little softer but the spices remain there, between white pepper, ginger and cinnamon. Touches of horseradish in the aftertaste. Comments: brilliant nose and a palate that’s a tad too oaky for me. Just a tad! SGP:461 - 88 points.

Karuizawa 1984/2012 (64.5%, Number One Drinks, The Whisky Exchange, first fill sherry, cask #4021)

Karuizawa 1984/2012 (64.5%, Number One Drinks, The Whisky Exchange, first fill sherry, cask #4021) Five stars Colour: rich amber. Nose: starts on a lot of wood smoke and chocolate, a part of which may come from the very high strength. Then we have more red berries (jams) and a growing medicinal side, between some old style cough medicine and embrocations, but all that remains discreet. I’m having a little trouble because of the high alcohol, but that’s probably me. With water: gets as smoky as an Islay! Almost… Other than that, I love the touches of walnuts, damp earth and leather polish (from Mr Bond’s DB5, of course - no that was no product placement). Mouth (neat): it’s frightening that I can sip this without water, isn’t it? Indeed, it’s this baby isn’t unquaffable, but of course it’s a big boy, heavily concentrated, ridden with oak oils and thick spicy notes plus a lot of dark chocolate from the best Swiss makers’. But let’s not push our luck any further… With water: less sherried, more fresh and fruity, which came unexpected. Cointreau and ginger liqueur, wee touches of rum, lemon zests and black pepper. As often, the mouth feel became creamier and slightly rounder with water. Mind you, there’s even a little honey! Finish: long, sweeter. Chutney and crystallised ginger and a peat-smoky aftertaste. Comments: it’s really fun to play with this baby, a pipette and a little water. You can get at least ten different whiskies - yeah, yeah, all for the same price. Anyway, quality’s very high, as expected. I remember I once had a 1984 that was bottled by the previous owners around 2005, it wasn’t as brilliant as this one but, according to my notes, it was unusually smoky as well. SGP:563 - 92 points.

And now something very rare (yes, again, apologies): the oldest Karuizawa and quite possibly the oldest Japanese ever…

Karuizawa 1960/2012 (51.8%, Number One Drinks, sherry, cask #5627, 41 bottles)

Karuizawa 1960/2012 (51.8%, Number One Drinks, sherry, cask #5627, 41 bottles) Five stars It’s my vintage and there’s never been many 1960s around, even from Scotland. I believe it’s the oldest cask they had in Karuizawa’s warehouse. It’ll be available only in March next year, but the packaging’s already ready and it’s quite beautiful, each bottle carrying an individual antique netsuke, netsukes being these kinds of carved buttons that the ancient Japanese were using to attach their purses (kind of, well, sporrans) to their belts. No ideas about the price yet but it just cannot be cheap, can it? Colour: bronze. Nose: awe. Where to start? This is quite dry and herbal at very first (and very respectful) sniffs, with this feeling of ultra-old cough medicine or herbal liqueur, but then it’s more the pinesap that talks, together with many less aromatic inhabitants of some of the wildest forests. Right, I mean  mushrooms,  moss, fern, more pine needles, chestnut bur, leaves… It’s all very amazing and very vivid, at 52 years of age!  Fabulously complex mentholated nose… With water: pure magic. To be honest, there were a few sharper edges before, all gone! An old aviator’s leather jacket just found in the attic. Mouth (neat): this is very silly, in fact we’re almost closer to some very, very old wines off very high quality. Rivesaltes, Manzanilla, palo cortados, very old Madeira and all that jazz. The complexity is astounding, and what’s even more astounding is the fact that several fruits start to wake up after one or two minutes, including bitter oranges and figs, but the general profile becomes rather dry around the middle. Could be a very old and very earthy pre-Mao Zedong pu-erh (excuse me). With water: even more of all that, but as far as oak is concerned, I feel we’re approaching the limits. Having said that, it’s also becoming wonderfully medicinal, in ‘an oaky way’. Mint-flavoured liquorice. Finish: long, dry and herbal. Comments: I think when you’re trying such an old glory, you have to accept a little more oak, just like you won’t expect a perfect Queen Of The Night from an otherwise extremely talented 60 years old soprano. An emotional  journey. SGP:371 – 93 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Alice Coltrane. Track: Turiya and Ramakrishna (from the superb album Ptah, the El Daoud.) Please visit Alice Coltrane's website and buy her music!

November 11, 2012


Tasting ten rums from various countries

Plantation Trinidad

Plantation Trinidad 1999 (42%, Plantation, Ferrand, Banyuls cask, +/-2012) Three stars Banyuls is a sweet French desert wine so we expect even more sweetness. Colour: full gold. Nose: quite smoky! Also notes of sweet wine indeed, some gunpowder, then much more chocolate and hints of dried mushrooms (porcinis). Mouth: sweet indeed but much more on cane sugar than wine. It’s rum, after all. Very sweet orange marmalade, touches of cough syrup and then a bigger spiciness (cloves). Finish: long, sweeter, jammier (and not as oakier as usual). Comments: it’s actually a very sweet rum, probably too sweet for die-hard whisky lovers but it’s good stuff. The finishing is discreet. SGP:730 - around 82 points.

Plantation Guyana

Plantation Guyana 1988 (42%, Plantation, Ferrand, 450 bottles, +/-2012) Three stars and a half An older single cask, most probably Demerara. Colour: full amber. Nose: definitely very aromatic and complex. Thuja wood, cedar wood, peonies, barbecued bananas, vanilla and touches of pineapples and coconut. A little caramel too, then more wood smoke. Mouth: rich, candied, honeyed and liquoricy, very firm and not extremely sweet, good news. Good body, lush profile. Quince jelly. Finish: long, a notch oakier now (strong tea). Aftertaste all on Demerara sugar. Comments: good balance, this is more rum for malt drinkers in my opinion. High quality. SGP:641 - around 84 points.

Plantation Panama

Plantation Panama 2000 (42%, Plantation, Ferrand, small batch, bourbon barrel, +/-2012) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: this is much to my liking, it’s pretty grassier than both the Trinidad and Guyana, all on sugar cane and then putty and fresh paint. Some vanilla as well, leaves, a little leather… Me likes! Mouth: a blend of pure honey and cane sugar syrup. So it’s sweeter now, but certainly not cloying. Caramel, maple syrup (a lot), sultanas… Finish: medium long, with touches of liquorice and tar. Roasted pineapple. Comments: I simply like this quite a lot. Uncomplicated, with good balance. SGP:741 - around 86 points.

Plantation Jamaica

Plantation Jamaica 2000 (42%, Plantation, Ferrand, small batch, bourbon barrel, +/-2012) Three starsColour: full gold. Nose: we’re not extremely far from the Guatemala but this is even bigger and firmer, very focused on putty, tar, wood smoke and cloves. That gives it a rather phenolic profile (so to speak). Mango chutney. Mouth: rich, thick, sweeter than the Guatemala this time. Almost sugary, so a little too much for me. Jams, jelly beans, strawberry jam (tankers). In the background, more spices including the usual cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Finish: long, spicy, peppery. Chilli and honey sauce in the aftertaste. Comments: I loved the nose and liked the palate a little less, for it was so sweet. Rum lovers must be sniggering just now ;-). SGP:742 - around 82 points.

Plantation Guatemala

Plantation Guatemala ‘Gran Anejo’ (42%, Plantation, Ferrand, small batch, bourbon barrel, +/-2012) Three stars This baby’s relatively young, around 4 years old I’ve heard. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a lighter style but it’s no light rum. Less aromatic than all the previous ones for sure, but the combination is pleasant and classic. So a little toasted oak, bananas, pineapples, molasses, vanilla… Mouth: easy, sweet, rounded and very ‘pina colada’ if you see what I mean. Pineapple liqueur and coconut liqueur (no brand names!) plus touches of oak and a little maple syrup. Easy, cool, probably much cocktailable (hey!) Finish: medium long, sweet, honeyed, on the same liqueurs plus a little clove and juniper in the aftertaste. Comments: flawless, easy stuff. And sweet! And not too expensive! (+/-30€) SGP:730 - around 80 points.

Time to try some stronger ones, don’t you think? Let’s go…

Don Jose

Don José 17 yo 1995/2012 (52.9%, The Whisky Agency and The Nectar, Panama) Four stars From a single barrel. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s another world, this well rum bottled by some whisky lovers. Much less extravagant than the ones we had before, and rather subtler despite the higher strength. I get coconut oil, grass, ‘good’ sawdust, fern, coriander leaves, vanilla… Notes of American oak, toasted bread... Nice nose, let’s drop water. Mouth: it’s for babies! I mean, it’s intensely fruity yet it’s in no way ‘too much’. Bags of passion fruits and ripe mangos, pineapples in syrup, and in the background, some rich spices. Ginger and pepper. Dangerous (for it’s so drinkable). Finish: long, with the fruits fading out and the spiciness growing bigger. Red Thai chilli sauce. More acacia honey in the aftertaste. Comments: more a sin than rum. SGP:741 – around 87 points.


Enmore 24 yo 1988/2012 (50.5%, The Whisky Agency and The Nectar, Guyana) Four starsHere come the Demeraras again! Colour: red amber. Nose: typically rich and potent, with a meatiness, some rubbery tar, ham, hints of balsamico, eucalyptus leaves, toasted bread… All very nice, it’s one of these ‘phenolic’ rums, my favourites. No water coz it’s not that strong, mmpfff… Mouth: extremely Demerara. Heavy toffee and mango chutney plus several layers of resinous and herbal tones. Cough lozenges, Corinthian raisins, touches of armagnac, tar… A big boy! Finish: very long, becoming drier and more herbal. The Jaegermeister syndrome (which works well in this context). Comments: a full power Enmore, extremely well selected by the Germano-Belgian coalition. In other words, rum for us. Same score as the Don José. BTW, Enmore performs very well when undiluted in my book, while reduced ones have often been disappointing. That’s strange! SGP:661 - around 87 points.

Port Mourant

Port Mourant 15 yo 1997/2012 (65.7%, Velier, Guyana, casks #1-2-3-4, 1094 bottles) Three stars and a half 65.7% from the famous wooden pot stills? Yoodlayeedlahee! Colour: amber. Nose: smoky apricot juice, or something like that. Coconut and pineapple liqueurs, white chocolate... Bizarrely, it’s quite nosable at such high strength. Yet, with water: more oak oils, eucalyptus, a little myrtle, wood smoke, bitter chocolate, pine sap… And mangos. All fine so far but the palate will tell us more. Mouth (neat): give me my tongue back, please! Tarry oak and pepper. With water: good, it’s the fruitiness that comes out, although a heavy oakiness remains in the background. Ripe gooseberries and herbal teas and infusions. Maybe some thyme. Finish: long, a little rough thanks to the oak. Mind you, the angel’s share has been higher than 73%! Comments: I liked the toasted, smoky nose a lot. The palate was very nice as well but the oak’s a tad too prominent for my taste. SGP:572 - around 84 points.


Diamond 31 yo 1981/2012 (60.1%, Velier, Guyana, casks #10536-10537-10539, 810 bottles) Two stars With a yearly angel’s share of 8%, this batch has lost more than 94% over 31 years. That means, in theory, that more than 30 casks were filled in 1981 to produce these measly 810 bottles (indeed, it was aged on location, under very hot climates). Diamond is the only remaining distillery in Guyana. It shelters the famous Enmore, Port Mourant or Uitvluigt stills (and several other old stills from the closed Demerara sugar factories). Colour: dark amber. Nose: strangely, it’s stronger than the PM and rather hard to nose. All I get is a lot of pencil shavings and walnut bur. With water: not the widest. Demerara sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, molasses and sawdust. Mouth (neat): strong, tannic and apricoty. With water: that doesn’t quite work, the rum gets kind of disjointed. Something curiously malty. Finish: medium long, with a tannicity, some bitter chocolate and pineapple drops. Drying aftertaste. Comments: this is probably a historical bottle of high value. It’s good rum, no doubt, but I feel it became too oaky and that the original spirit did not quite stand it. Perhaps for collectors only? Not all diamonds are eternal (c'mon!) SGP:471 - around 75 points.

Let’s have a last one, an even older one. Will it be as oaky?

Jamaica Agency

Jamaican Rum 35 yo 1977/2012 (52.9%, The Whisky Agency and The Nectar, 256 bottles) Three stars These old Jamaicans usually come from Long Pond Distillery. Colour: full gold. Nose: niiiice! Excuse me. I mean, it’s not exactly complex, nor is it very aromatic, but I like these touches of polished old wood, humidor and vanilla cake that shine through, although the background is a little humbler, on molasses, candy sugar and coriander. A little lovage too (or Maggi). With water: more toasted oak and a little mint. Mouth (neat): ultra-classic aged golden rum, with little signs of extra-aging. In short, this could have been much younger, it was probably aged in the UK (not under fast tropical climates, in any case). So bags of candy sugar and bananas flambéed, sultanas, dried pineapples and maple syrup. Creamy mouth feel. All good, it just doesn’t taste very old (but I’m no expert!) With water: becomes very creamy, you almost need a spoon to get it out of your glass. Other than that, it remains ‘good rum’. Finish: same, with a little more herbs. Candied cherries. Comments: I think this is simply very good aged rum. Nothing utterly mind-boggling or even intriguing. Good, that’s all. SGP:640 – around 82 points.

If we needed a winner, I’d say it would be the Don José.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Algia Mae Hinton. Track: My Baby's Gone. Please buy Algia Mae Hinton's music!

November 9, 2012



Tasting three Mosstowie
and vive la difference!

Remember ‘Mosstowie’ consisted in some short lived Lomond stills within the Miltonduff Distillery (1954-1981).

Mosstowie 17 yo (40%, Sestante, mid 1980s)

Mosstowie 17 yo (40%, Sestante, mid 1980s) Two stars and a half We remember the CS version very well, it was bottled at… 66% vol. (WF 84). This should make for an easier aperitif. Colour: gold. Nose: very grassy and actually quite silent. Leaves, green tea and cut grass, then more herb and flowers such as a little patchouli, and then a little tar and motor oil, maybe from bottle ageing. Also moss and fern. Mouth: light, herbal and a notch too caramelly, as often with these old bottlings by G&M at very low strength. Walnuts and apple peelings, with little fruits and almost no sweetness, to the point where it starts to resemble some kind of manzanilla, with even a saltiness in the background. Leathery, becomes peppery. Finish: unexpectedly long, now on coffee and dry tea. French beans. It’s only in the aftertaste that a faint fruitiness becomes apparent (coconut, from the wood?) Comments: it’s a style, it’s a style. Interesting and even quite good. Well, moderately good. SGP:241 - 78 points.

Mosstowie 28 yo 1970/1998 (59.6%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles)

Mosstowie 28 yo 1970/1998 (59.6%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles) Four stars This series is usually great. Colour: full gold. Nose: a little closed and almost as austere and ‘silent’ as the Sestante at first nosing. More oak for sure (sawdust and vanilla), liquorice wood… Not easy, not easy, water might be needed. With water: indeed, it’s the oak that does all the talking, but it’s quality oak. Ginger and coconut. Also a little mint and camphor, growing bigger over time. Candied citron peels. Mouth (neat): its big and it’s very concentrated. Strong liqueur, bitter oranges, ginger, white pepper, capsicum, Fernet-Branca and other strange herbal, err, stuff, Underberg… You get the drift. Touches of Demerara rum as well but it’s anything but molassy. With water: always very rich. Lemon and ginger liqueurs… Finish: very long, becoming more citrusy. Zests. Comments: Mosstowie wasn’t a very talkative spirit but this cask was probably unstoppable – and good. SGP:471 - 85 points.

Mosstowie 1973/2012 (54.3%, Signatory, Artist for LMdW, refill sherry butt, 548 bottles)

Mosstowie 1973/2012 (54.3%, Signatory, Artist for LMdW, refill sherry butt, 548 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: we’re really walking in the forest after a heavy autumnal rain. Moss, fern, mushrooms, damp earth, wild flowers (foxgloves? Never mind…) and then these metallic notes that work so well, sometimes. Around grandpa’s old toolbox… Very different and very beautiful so far. With water: it gets even more different. More old tools, a pot of old rusty nails, gooseberries, cured ham, sparkling mineral water and just whiffs of lilies (not as heady as lilies). Mouth (neat): superb! It’s very much alike the 1970, only smoother, almost silky despite the power. Yellow chartreuse, figs, cough medicine, rose water, beeswax… In fact it’s very tertiary. Ah well… With water: maybe not the best swimmer ever, becomes a little disjointed and watery (even at +/-45% vol.) but who needs water! Finish: medium long, fresher. Pistachio ice cream, cinnamon and touches of fresh coriander and sorrel. Comments: lovely and very unusual (which is lovely as such). It’s got something of some very old Irish, in a way. SGP:451 - 88 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Abdullah Ibrahim. Track: Blues for a Hip King. Please visit Abdullah Ibrahim's website and buy his music!

November 8, 2012


The two extremities of Ardbegness

There are several ways of pairing whiskies, one of the funniest and most entertaining being to bring together wildly different expressions from the very same distillery. That’s what we’ll do today…

Ardbeg (51.9%, The Boutique-y Whisky Company, 293 bottles, 2012)

Ardbeg (51.9%, The Boutique-y Whisky Company, 293 bottles, 2012) Four stars and a half A new NAS series by Master of Malt. Our friend Geert, the famous Ardbeg collector and Ostendian hotelier, is featured on the label. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a very medicinal one at first nosing, without any excessive sweetness from some too active oak. So we’re rather between bandages and antiseptic, as well as a little hessian, before it gets more coastal. Sea breeze, touches of marzipan, kippers… A sweetness kicks in later on, with some vanilla and oranges, together with more oak (ginger, nutmeg) and more roundness. So a classic modern Ardbeg with good complexity so far. With water: the maritime part came to the front. Also a little eucalyptus, as often. Mouth: truly excellent, exactly midway between the raw tarry peat and the American wood’s sweet roundness. It’s also rather fruity (lemons and oranges), with also a good dose of maple syrup and sweet marzipan to coat the whole. Touches of salt+lemon, tequila-style. Maybe not. With water: a few earthy touches, some gentian… I like that. Finish: medium long, with the oak’s spices talking a little louder (as often cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg) and a little more lemon. Comments: excellent, it reminds me of a recent official but I just cannot remember which one, apologies. SGP:478 - 88 points.

Ardbeg 25 yo 1959/1985 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, sherry wood)

Ardbeg 25 yo 1959/1985 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, sherry wood) Five stars There aren’t many pre-1960 Ardbegs – not talking about stinky old fakes of course. No need to add that this utter rarity that was unearthed by the very same Geert as pictured above should be quite something… Imagine this baby was distilled when the MacDougall family were still owning the distillery. Colour: coffee brown. Nose: a dream! Where to start? Maybe mention the coffee and the peonies from the sherry? The whiffs of freshly open pack of pipe tobacco? The tar? The black raisins? Old wine cellar? Cigars? Old balsamic vinegar? Soy sauce? Game? Belotta? Earth and clay? Camphor? What else? The whole is magnificently coherent and compact, rather mellow but absolutely not tired. Ah, yes, also peat smoke, that hasn’t all vanished. Absolutely glorious, the only regret being that this wonder wasn’t bottled at the original cask strength.

Mouth: oh my oh my oh y oh my… A lot of oomph remaining! Starts with many bitter herbal liqueurs of the highest quality and a feeling of smoked prunes (which I have never encountered but maybe somebody should try to do that?) Or rather bacon and prune rolls? There’s a stunning saltiness, fab liquoricy and tarry touches, quite some bitter cocoa powder, strong cough lozenges, some tobacco again, grape seed oil… What an amazing whisky, look, I think it’s more than time to call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: very long, the main feeling being ‘bitter chocolate’. The grandest marmalade in the aftertaste, with touches of sea salt. Comments: you have to like bitter chocolate (I do) but other than that, this old Ardbeg goes straight into WF’s pantheon of the most mesmerizing malt whiskies. Ardbeg! SGP:665 - 96 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Masayoshi Takanaka. Track: Guitar Wonder. Please visit Masayoshi Takanaka's website and buy his music!

November 7, 2012


Tasting one of them and
two sparring partners

Okay, please don’t shoot, today we’ll have one of the newish glitzy Constellation bottlings by Dalmore. As an aperitif, we’ll have the ‘Astrum’, which means… constellation in Latin. Inspiration inspiration… It’s older but it’s much cheaper – sort of - and lighter in alcohol, that’s why we’ll have it first.

Dalmore 40 yo 1966 'Astrum' (42%, OB, 2011)

Dalmore 40 yo 1966 'Astrum' (42%, OB, 2011) Five stars Sold for around £1,200.00. It’s a 1966 and it was bottled around 2011, which means that it should rather be a 45yo. That’s a little strange… Anyway, it was ex-bourbon, finished for 18 months in Gonzales Byass sherry oak. Why finish a 45yo whisky? Colour: amber. Nose: a very nice combination of old polished wood (cedar and thuja, quite resinous) and many dried fruits, both tropical and from our own garden. Guavas, raisins and figs first, then honey cake and mead. Rosewood, leather, a little Spanish ham and quite some parsley and sage as well. It reminds me of the rather superb 40yo from a few years ago. It’s probably not a £1,200.00-nose but quality’s high, no doubt. Mouth: leathery, in a nice way. A lot of tobacco too, various herbs, the trademark chocolaty tones, touches of honey, marmalade, faint hints of Marmite, coffee and just a little mint. Nice complexity. Also bananas flambéed. Finish: medium, a little drying (tea) but relatively fresh. Earl grey tea, caraway, bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: a very good one to sip in your club with your business friends and maybe a few Euro MPs. How silly was that? SGP:551 – 90 points.

Dalmore 21 yo 1990/2011 (56.5%, OB, Constellation Collection, cask #18, 777 bottles)

Dalmore 21 yo 1990/2011 (56.5%, OB, Constellation Collection, cask #18, 777 bottles) Three stars and a half Not sure this wasn’t bottled in 2012… A very controversial series that some geeks call The Consternation Collection among many other funny names because of the insane prices. Imagine they're trying to sell this humble and pretty mundane 1990 for... £2,500.00, which, I think, is very silly because the true value of a good 20yo Dalmore from a single cask is less than 90 € at good bottlers’. And middle-aged Dalmores are anything but rare. I had first thought I’d simply boycott this series for very wealthy whisky novices but well, it's whisky after all and I couldn’t prevent this little 1990 from entering my sample library, so let's forget about the price for a while and taste it. Remember, we don’t taste price tags. Colour: gold. Nose: ahem, starts dusty and chalky, slightly sour, with some fresh oak sawdust (not dry wood) and hints of motor oil and beer. Would go on with a little more roundness, on plain apples and gooseberries. Hello? With water: wee metallic touches, angelica and again a little cedar wood, just like in the Astrum. Mouth (neat): well, I won’t deny this is a very nice attack, fresh and fruity. A lot, and I mean a lot of oranges, quite some mangos, touches of porridge, hints of fresh coriander and a mix of pepper and cardamom from some pretty active oak. So yeah, it’s pleasant. With water: doesn’t change much, although it becomes even more citrusy. Greengages. Finish: medium long, with more greengages and other plums. Comments: good fresh Dalmore but I had hoped it would have been utterly stellar at this price. It’s not, I’m afraid, so can the bottle itself really be worth £2,430.00 (the whisky being worth +/-£70.00 in my opinion)? Were some brand-builders on acid (again)? SGP:651 - 84 points.

Wait, maybe we could try to find a middle-aged Dalmore by some indie bottlers for due comparison. Look, I think I’ve found one…

Dalmore 14 yo 1996/2011 (55.5%, Master of Malt, refill hogshead)

Dalmore 14 yo 1996/2011 (55.5%, Master of Malt, refill hogshead) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: ten times more expressive than the 1990. Starts on a lot of coffee and coal smoke, quite unusual in Dalmore in my experience, with the expected chocolate coming through after that, as well as all these garden fruits (greengages, gooseberries, apples, peaches, also melon) and just a few fresh oysters. In fact, it’s quite Bruichladdichian. With water: even more Bruichladdichian. Melon, barley water, muesli. Mouth (neat): as fresh and fruity as the 1990, with a very similar quality and an extra-zestiness. Tangerines and grapefruits rather than oranges this time, a little orange blossom water, maybe a few litchis… Classy spirit, very fresh and lively. With water: sweet barley and a fruit salad, juicy red apples and pears (starkrimson?) Finish: medium long, with even more starkrimsons – the kind of pears that are not very pearish, I’m sure you see what I mean. Comments: all nice and clean and good. What would we do without the indies? Let’s buy these bottles and fill fancy second-hand crystal decanters. You’ll find some very nice ones at garage sales or flea markets – at around £10-20 each. SGP:641 - 86 points.

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

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))
Single casks, some kind of mutual incomprehension?

I think the biggest misunderstanding between the ‘official’ industry (the distillers and their owners) and the cognoscenti/learned/geeks/buggers/useful idiots or whatever they call us these days lies around the notions of single casks – and, to a lesser extent, small batches – and their true or perceived values. 

When chatting with brand ambassadors or salesmen (which is not obligatorily the same thing, I mean, not always), you can clearly see that these guys try to push the idea that anything coming from a single cask, whatever the age or even the intrinsic quality, is like the Koh-I-Noor. Something rare, unusual, a gem, almost a gift to the thirsty masses in awe, and that we should be eternally thankful for their generosity and for the fact that they have deigned to make a few available (I’ll spare you the very phony stories that usually come with them, hidden or forgotten casks, master blenders who spent nights and nights selecting the casks in a damp and freezing warehouse, yada yada yada…)

Those ideas, my friend, are simply clashing with what we think and what we see.  Huge warehouses, millions of casks, thousands of similar bottlings at the independents’ (as far as the whisky’s concerned), very moderate prices at some of them (although some are really starting to push it all and are clearly trying to give their offerings some kind of ‘official’ look to enhance their perceived value)… In short, the proposition that a single cask, apart from a few very rare or truly fabulous items, is worth two, three, ten or even thirty times (see above) a regular or an independent bottling is simply not credible, at all. And more cast crystal, plywood and nickel silver won’t change anything to that, we’re not Franklin Mint collectors, are we?

Having said that, what’s probably true and what could well be a misunderstanding at the other end (ours), is the fact that at the big players’, there are many more sunk costs related to a single cask bottling. Publicity, starting a bottling line just for one cask, packaging, book-keeping, PR, influence marketing (damn bloggers!), story-building, Facebook and Twitter, tastings, road shows, samples, paid writers, leaflets, stickers, festivals, press trips, girls, key rings, edvertisers (*), Glencairns, baseball caps, whatever!

So, to be fair, there are probably misunderstandings at both ends, but come on, thirty times!

PS: Of course we could just not care and simply laugh at the ‘wealthy international travellers in a hurry’ who’ll fall into the trap. But what will these guys, or at least a few of them, do as soon as they’re in the airline lounge or in their suite at the Park Hyatt? They’ll check their iPads and find out that they’ve been screwed. Sure some whisky geeks will think ‘that serves them right!’, but I don’t agree, because whisky’s all about universal love and friendship. Well, it should ;-). Peace!

(*) Edvertising can be nasty and really spreads in the whisky world these days. It combines editorial and pure advertising content and it's not always easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. Having said that, edvertising can be well done and even educational. What’s more, some great journos have to rely on edvertising to make a living, so hurray for edvertising! But there’s good and there’s bad edvertising (in my opinion!) Having said that, in case you're new here (welcome!), whiskyfum.com remains 100% edvertisng and advertising-free - guaranteed!



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Nat Adderley. Track: Home (from 1976's Don't Look Back). Please buy Nat Adderley's music.

November 6, 2012


Tasting a mixed bunch of new Speysiders

Linkwood 11 yo (54.2%, Whiskies of Scotland, 2012)

Linkwood 11 yo (54.2%, Whiskies of Scotland, 2012) Two stars and a half Whiskies of Scotland is a new line by Single Malts Direct, which is a branch of Duncan Taylor. These whiskies seem to come without vintages. Colour: gold. Nose: starts on sherry and cherries, slightly hot, slightly kirschy, with a little gunpowder in the background. Goes on with honey and caramel as well as a little dust and liquorice. With water: more grass, asparagus and honey sauce. A bag of liquorice rolls. Mouth: hot and nervous. Bitter herbs, burnt cake, these cherries again and quite a few winey notes. Peach tree leaves. With water: becomes earthier. Tea and, yet again, liquorice. Finish: quite long, the kirsch being back as well as something unexpectedly medicinal. Camphor? Ginger? Comments: a fair, nervous sherried Linkwood. Some parts suggest a finishing, some others some fairly active newish oak. SGP:451 - 79 points.

Linkwood 22 yo 1989/2012 (48.9%, Duncan Taylor, Octave, cask #764747)

Linkwood 22 yo 1989/2012 (48.9%, Duncan Taylor, Octave, cask #764747) Three stars Colour: straw. Nose: a rather typical light Linkwood, closer to the barley, with some floral notes and touches of raspberry jam. Also a little aniseed and, again and again, liquorice. Nice fresh nose. Mouth: pretty well in the style of the 11yo but lighter and rather more elegant. Apple juice, kriek beer (cherries again), brioche, a little bitter orange and then touches of cloves and caraway seeds. Some caramel as well. Finish: medium long, clean, more on stewed fruits and a little burnt caramel and raisins. Ovaltine and touches of bitter oak in the aftertaste. Comments: a serious Linkwood from some active wood. SGP:451 - 81 points.

Glenlivet 18 yo ‘Minmore’ (57.9%, OB, Single Cask Edition, cask #22378)

Glenlivet 18 yo ‘Minmore’ (57.9%, OB, Single Cask Edition, cask #22378) Four stars and a half Minmore is a name that's also been used by some independent bottlers for 'undisclosed' Glenlivets. Colour: gold. Nose: this is more polished, rounder than both Linkwoods. It’s all on butterscotch, maple syrup, earl grey tea and vanilla, with some apple peelings in the background as well as a little varnish and bubblegum (just a little). With water: a beautiful earthiness. Moss, humus, damp pinecones and needles… Mouth (neat): high quality American oak. Vanilla and various stewed fruits, redcurrants, a little aniseed, bitter oranges, honey, crispy cereals. Excellent body, its not too hot at almost 60% vol. Also nice touches of rye coming through (from the cask’s previous content? Would that be possible?) With water: creamy, extremely well balanced. Quality white oak speaking. Finish: long and fruity, with a great spiciness in the aftertaste (mix for mulled wine). Gingerbread and touches of wasabi. Comments: it’s a pretty perfect Glenlivet, midway between the classic range (say the 18) and Nadurra-like offerings. SGP:561 - 88 points.

Imperial 17 yo 1995/2012 (55.1%, Part des Anges, Closed Distilleries, 276 bottles)

Imperial 17 yo 1995/2012 (55.1%, Part des Anges, Closed Distilleries, 276 bottles) Four starsImperial will be rebuilt in the near future so it won’t be part of the ‘Closed Distilleries’ anymore, although it won’t be quite the same distillery either. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s rather less, say emphatic than other recent bottlings, but I enjoy this freshness that combines fresh mint and eucalyptus with overripe apples, before elegant whiffs of honeysuckle and lilies start to rise. A little caramel as well. With water: more malt, praline and milk chocolate. Mouth (neat): more typical, starting slightly varnishy and with quite some green apples and developing more on cider and lime. It’s not whisky, it’s some white Sancerre! With water: becomes rounder, honeyed, with some cane sugar. Baked apples and gooseberries. Finish: medium long, malty, sweet, rounded. Comments: an easy Imperial with some pretty sharpish edges at times. It’s certainly one of the good ones. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Tormore 1992/2012 (51.5%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #100152)

Tormore 1992/2012 (51.5%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #100152) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: we’re much closer to raw barley this time, it’s even slightly feinty at first nosing. Yoghurt sauce, custard, apple peelings and just touches of Swiss cheese, then faint touches of wine vinegar and some fresh oak (broken branches). Not the most mature, I’d say. With water: becomes cleaner but also more varnishy. Mouth (neat): much, much more interesting than on the nose. Very nice start on mossy, grassy tones, earthy tea, ginseng, cardamom seeds… Then we have more green apples and truckloads of gooseberries and greengages. Now I understand why they bottled this baby ;-). With water: more earth and grass. Finish: quite long, from green apples to angelica and grass. Comments: I think the nose was a little difficult but I really enjoyed the palate. SGP:351 - 79 points.

Aultmore 1982/2012 (46%, Wemyss Malts, 'Sugared almonds', 272 bottles)

Aultmore 1982/2012 (46%, Wemyss Malts, 'Sugared almonds', 272 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it does not nose like a 30yo malt but that’s no problem. It’s another fresh and clean one, on tarte tatin, baked apples and rhubarb pie. Just a few tarry notes in the background, for more ‘dimension’. Mouth: pretty perfect, smooth yet rather nervous, starting on earthy tones (rather roots, gentian, liquorice) and developing on a little more mint and aniseed, all that on a bed of marzipan, baked apples and baked pears. Touches of gin. Balance is perfect. Finish: medium long, with a little ginger ale now. Celeriac, liquorice, fennel… Comments: did I write that this is pretty perfect? It’s not amazingly complex but everything’s in place and it’s extremely drinkable. Keyword: balance. Almost 90. SGP:451 - 89 points.

Inchgower 32 yo 1980/2012 (52%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry butt, 456 bottles)

Inchgower 32 yo 1980/2012 (52%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry butt, 456 bottles) one star and a half Colour: gold. Nose: well, it’s not often that I get cooked cabbage and hardboiled eggs in whisky, but it’s the case here. Also gas, struck matches, truffles, sludge, horseradish, vase water… How strange! As often, your brain (or your olfactory bulb) get used to those odours and do let tinier elements come through, in this case more earth and clay, plasticine, putty… With water: well, I’d say… potato peelings? Mould. And yes, sulphur. Mouth (neat): a strange beast indeed but it’s much more approachable now. A large pear pie with lemon drops, pineapple drops and all jelly beans (or babies, or bears, or crocodiles - anything by Haribo). Rosé wine with pineapple juice (very fashionable in France these days). With water: it’s very okay now, even if there’s something oddly metallic as well. Apple liqueur and silver spoon. Finish: medium long. Sherry and a little salt, as often in Inchgower. Comments: I think the otherwise very excellent bottler decided to bottle this cask just for fun, or to further demonstrate the very high quality of almost all their other bottlings – by some sort of contrasting effect. Or is it pure teasing? SGP:561 - 69 points.

We just cannot stop here, let’s have another Inchgower by the very same bottler to try to restore the truth…

Inchgower 35 yo 1975/2011 (41.9%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 224 bottles)

Inchgower 35 yo 1975/2011 (41.9%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 224 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: it does have some kind of meatiness at very first sniffs, but after that it’s almost a bed of roses (virtually). Beautiful notes of passion fruits and mangos, seaweed, paraffin (good paraffin, not excessive paraffin), bracken, fresh walnuts and linseed oil. A perfect nose this time. Mouth: perfect, between tropical fruits and fresh herbs. Oranges, salted liquorice, lemongrass, oysters and lime juice. Just excellently pure and fresh, that is to say the exact opposite of the 1980. Finish: not very long but clean and, again, very fresh. Orange juice and fresh mint, with just touches of beer and again a salty tang in the aftertaste. Comments: a beauty – and the clear winner today. And it goes down a treat! SGP:641 - 90 points.

Ite Missa est.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: John Jackson. Track: Railroad Bill. Please buy John Jackson's music.

November 5, 2012


Tasting two new old Jura plus a huge surprise. Make that three.

I think Jura’s another name that’s gaining more attention these days….

Isle of Jura 30 yo (44%, OB, 2012)

Isle of Jura 30 yo 'Camas an Staca' (44%, OB, 2012) Four stars This baby was finished in Oloroso sherry casks from Gonzalez Byass'. The funny name means standing stone. Colour: apricoty, almost pink. Nose: starts on frankly vinous notes, its not that it’s unpleasant, it’s just a little excessive. The good news is that all that would just go away after a few seconds, leaving more room for a complex range of citrus fruits, both dried and fresh. Oranges are very obvious, then rather citrons. Touches of baklavas, orange blossom, pomegranates, then more cigars, raisins, chocolate and just a little leather as well as a few floral notes, mainly peonies. All that is rather smooth and easy-going, although more mineral notes do rise after a few minutes. Graphite oil? Mouth: excellent attack, quite old style, with a fruitiness that reminds me of both old Bowmores and Benriach, although this one is soon to become a little drier and slightly chalky. Also a little chlorophyll and this leather from the sherry. Walnuts. Touches of salt. Finish: medium long, even drier now, the fruits have almost vanished and it all gets quite tea-ish and cigary. Cinnamon and nutmeg in the aftertaste as well as a little smoke. Fino sherry or vin jaune. Comments: very high quality but I feel the dry sherry is sometimes overwhelming ‘in the background’, with its, well, dryness. Otherwise it would have been 90+ material. SGP:461 - 87 points.

Isle of Jura 1977/2012 (46%, OB)

Isle of Jura 1977/2012 (46%, OB) Five stars This one is brand new. Last year's 1976 was simply stunning, so we have high expectations (despite, or maybe because of the, cough, cough, 675 €…)  Colour: gold. Nose: extremely different from the 30, as it starts on those mineral notes, which sort of reminds me of some much older officials from times gone by. Between fresh walnuts, clay and linseed oil. Much less winey notes this time, but the fruity development is very similar to the 30’s, only cleaner and fresher (and nicer). So oranges again, more mangos this time, apricot pie, then these cigars, also pomegranates, the whole becoming more medicinal after a little time, say organically so. Menthol, camphor… A very complex and most elegant nose, between fruits, minerals and aromatic herbs. Mouth: again, it hasn’t got what the 30 had in excess. Instead, it starts phenolic and beautifully spicy, with some green oranges, a little curry, mustard, walnuts and liquorice, before it becomes really salty and frankly coastal. Oysters with Tabasco, bitter oranges… There’s always a greenness in the background (strong mint-flavoured liquorice). Finish: very long, with the liquorice coming more and more to the front. Bitter oranges, herbs, cough syrup and touches of sweet mustard. Soot, smoke and lemon zests in the aftertaste. Comments: lots happening in this one, it’s very complex malt whisky and another true ‘movie malt’. I love its dryness. SGP:372 - 91 points.

That one called for more… After a ’77, why not try a ’88?

Isle of Jura 24 yo 1988/2012 (50.8%, The Whisky Agency & Bresser & Timmer, bourbon barrel, 251 bottles)

Isle of Jura 24 yo 1988/2012 (50.8%, The Whisky Agency & Bresser & Timmer, bourbon barrel, 251 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: ho-ho, there’s some peat smoke in there! Fresher and closer to the barley than the OBs, smokier (I insist), mentholated and very coastal. So seashells and ‘clean’ mud, seaweed, leather and bags of apple peelings. I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise but what a brilliant nose! With water: linseed oil galore, motor oil, new car (interior) and waxed papers. What’s not to like? Mouth (neat): perfect. Rich, creamy, fruity (grapefruits), perfectly sappy, salty, resinous… I think it’s terrific. Again, not a surprise, but… With water: wouldn’t this rather be a Clynelish 1983? Can I have a picture of the barrel’s head, first thing tomorrow morning? ;-). Finish: long and very salty. Smoky, waxy and resinous aftertaste. Comments: my kind, punto basta. Magic. SGP:363 - 92 points.

Maybe we could push our luck a little further and try another one from a similar vintage?…

Isle of Jura 1989/2007 (58.1%, Riegger’s Selection, 50cl)

Isle of Jura 1989/2007 (58.1%, Riegger’s Selection, 50cl) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: tough luck! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very fine nose, it’s just not such a wonder. More typical middle-aged Jura, with many garden fruits, apples, rhubarb and gooseberries plus a little bread, beer, leaven… Fine, but not out of this world at this point. With water: improves! Fresh baguette early in the morning, what’s better in life? Also quite some paraffin, walnut peeling, a little ink… Mouth (neat): ha-ha, it talks more! There’s something of the best Imperials (we’ve had so many in recent times, haven’t we), with a mix of lemons and apples, peelings, grapefruit rinds… It’s even got something Rosebanky, if I may say so. Another nice surprise. With water: XLNT. Waxy lemons, we’re not too far from the stellar 1988 by TWA. Finish: long, on the same notes plus drops of herbal liqueurs. Your pick. Comments: it’s the second whisky by this little-known bottler (well, I didn’t know it) that I try and both were quite superb. A hidden gem? SGP:452 - 89 points.

Oh, maybe we could try a last one that I brought back from Ostende. It's a rare old version this time...

Jura Whisky (75° proof UK, OB, bottled +/-1979)

Jura Whisky (75° proof UK, OB, bottled +/-1979) Five stars It’s the old label that’s been then reused by the excellent and much missed Matthew Forrest. Probably distilled in the early 1960s, when the modern distillery was built (1963, I believe). Colour: straw. Nose: well, it’s another Clynelishian Jura on the nose, and rather the old Clynelish (aka Brora). Wonderful waxy notes, linseed oil, citrons, hawthorn tea, wet stones, hessian, grapefruits, menthol and ink. Brilliant ‘old coastal Highlands’ style, maybe not the most powerful ever but remember 75° proof UK means 43% vol. Excuse me? Yeah, 42.796%…  Mouth: we’re even closer to the old Clynelish 12 yo cream label, what a surprise. There’s some smoke, some pepper, this big waxiness, grapefruits, various phenols (some kind of bitterish cough medicine), pinesap, a little salt, again this feeling of ink… Beautifully austere or, as I sometimes write – quite stupidly – Jansenist. Finish: medium long, more herbal but there’s always quite a lot of wax and bitter grapefruits. Comments: this is extremely different from the early official 8 and 10yos. Superb, thank you mucho Jeroen. SGP:353 - 92 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: the absolute pioneer Miroslav Vitous. Track: Basic Laws (1976). Please visit Miroslav Vitous' website and buy his music!

November 4, 2012


Tasting two 10yo Glenmorangie, 40 years apart

There are little occasions to taste Glenmorangie, as independent versions are non-existent while the owners do very little small batches. Well, thankfully, the SMWS has/had quite a few…

Glenmorangie 10 yo (43%, OB for Isolabella, Italy, +/-1975)

Glenmorangie 10 yo (43%, OB for Isolabella, Italy, +/-1975) Three stars 1960s distillation, obviously. Remember the brilliant 1963? (WF 91). Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s the fruity lightness that’s striking, no wonder this was very popular. It’s like walking in an orchard in the end of august. Bags of juicy apples, gooseberries, peaches, redcurrants, also strawberries… There’s also this faint smokiness, very enjoyable, between ueber-toasted bread and charcoal smoke. Barbecued fruits? Anyway, this is very nice, it was one of the great batches (not all were stunning). Mouth: it’s probably not as excitingly fresh, and probably a little too cardboardy and tea-ish at first sips. Slightly porridgy as well, barleyish… There are nice touches of melons and apples but other than that, it’s much less inspiring than on the nose. Finish: a tad short, tea-ish, with also some lemongrass. Comments: I liked the nose a lot, the palate is more or less okayish. Hard to score. SGP:541 - 80 points.

Glenmorangie 10 yo (61%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #125.61, ‘Rich custard pudding’, +/-2012)

Glenmorangie 10 yo (61%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #125.61, ‘Rich custard pudding’, +/-2012) Four stars Distilled around 2002, it’s from one of the society's sample packs. Colour: deep gold/amber. Nose: huge, liqueury vanilla and caramelised oak, warm sawdust, maple syrup, nutmeg and cinnamon. Fully oak-driven at this point, it’s quite the opposite of the old 10. With water: a carpenter’s workshop just before Christmas ;-). Touches of menthol, hops (the carpenter just had a beer), gngerbread and tobacco. Mouth (neat): very rich, thick, gingery, with a lot of vanilla but also pleasant notes of lemon and green apples. Much less elephantine than I had feared but the oak is huge. More and more pepper. With water: it became some kind of ultra-sweet ginger liqueur. Very oily mouthfeel, you almost need a spoon to get it out of your glass. Marmalade and a lot of it. Finish: long, with all spices in the front. Ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg. And white pepper. Comments: pleasingly excessive. The oak was very active (new?) but balance was kept. SGP:651 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: BLUES FUNK. Performer: Junior Wells with Billy Branch. Track: Broke And Hungry. Please buy Junior Wells' music!

November 2, 2012


Tasting two single pot still Irish

After the Green Spot, which I have simply forgotten to jot down tasting notes for (will do in the future), here’s the new ‘Yellow’, before a Red and a Blue are issued in the coming months/years/decades (I’m sure!) We’ll oppose it to the latest batch of the Redbreast 15 (of which a CS version might get launched in the future, I’ve heard…)

Yellow Spot

Yellow Spot 12 yo (46%, OB, Irish, 2012) Three stars and a half This baby was aged in American bourbon barrels, Spanish sherry butts and Spanish Malaga casks (not successively, mind you, it's a vatting, not some kind of triple-matured version). Colour: full gold. Nose: granted, some whiffs of pencil shavings do go up your nostrils first, but after that it’s a pretty perfect blend of herbal teas, overripe apples, vanilla and bananas that make it all very sexy. They come with a little grass and just touches of coconut. In short, it’s rather easier, fruitier and sexier than Green Spot (as far as I can remember), and a notch more ‘bourbon’. Mouth: I like this attack, which is both smooth and fruity on the one side, and greasy/waxy on the other side. After that it’s becoming more and more ‘pot still’, with bananas and apples, and a thickness that may come from the oak. Sunflower oil, vanilla, chamomile, soft cinnamon and then touches of Turkish delights and sweet beer. Finish: medium long, pleasantly sugary. Corn syrup and pineapples in syrup. Comments: it’s a firm but easy dram. I tend to like for instance the latest Powers or the Jameson ‘Vintage’ a little better – not to mention Redbreast 12 CS, but it’s, well, all good in my opinion. SGP:641 - 84 points.

Redbreast 15

Redbreast 15 yo (46%, OB, Irish, +/-2011) Four stars It's the most recent batch, the one with a green stripe on the bottom of the label. Contrarily to many friends, I’ve always liked the 12 better than the 15 – even the first version of the 15 for La Maison du Whisky that was available around 2005. Colour: full gold. Nose: less fruity, less easy than Yellow Spot, slightly grassier, more phenolic (although its no phenolic whiskey of course) and more waxy/paraffiny. So more complexity and ‘fullness’ and rather less, well, cough, cough, sexiness. Fresh walnuts, apple peelings… Mouth: oily, with a feeling of fullness, its certainly more polished and rounder than Yellow Spot on the palate but we’re quite close. There’s some sweet oak, tangerines, overripe apples, bananas again, ripe gooseberries and then more spices from the oak, mainly sweet and soft ones. Cinnamon sweets, orange blossom and aniseed, honey… The oak’s quite noticeable (chewed pencil ;-)). Finish: medium long and pretty caramelised. Praline and sunflower oil. Comments: we’re right between (good) malt whisky and (good) bourbon, if I may say so. For undecided whisky lovers? What’s sure is that I like it mucho, but the 12 CS remains my fav. SGP:651 - 85 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Jean-Luc Ponty. Track: You've changed. Please visit Jean-Luc Ponty's website and buy his music.

November 1, 2012


Tasting a bunch of French rums

I would love to have more time for rum, I like rum (well, some rums) but there are so many new whiskies these days, and so many older bottlings that I have yet to taste… Anyway, let’s put the overdrive on today and try another bunch of rums ‘faster’.


Reimonenq 6 yo ‘Rhum Vieux’ (40%, OB, Guadeloupe) Two starsFrom Distillerie Bellevue. Colour: dark amber. Nose: easy yet relatively aromatic, unexpectedly smoky on top of the expected notes of overripe bananas, molasses and plum jam. Feint meatiness (beef stock), also touches of roses and strawberries. Some personality. Mouth: rich and sweet, candied, very easy, a tad too sugary for my taste but it’s pleasant. Liqueurish. More and more vanilla, cane syrup, orange drops. Finish: quite long, with some oak. Banana skin. Comments: rather too sweetish for my taste but other than that, it’s most probably a fine drop. SGP:740 - around 75 points.

Trois Rivieres 1999

Trois Rivières 1999 (42%, OB, Martinique, +/-2012) Two stars and a half This is pure rum agricole, so from cane juice, not molasses. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s complex, grassy, not extravagantly fruity or sweet. Some humus, quinces, mangos and white chocolate, all in a very elegant package, relatively light. Mouth: a little thin now, sweeter as well, on tropical fruits and again a grassiness, hard to describe. Right, that’s sugar cane. Touches of vanilla, dried coconut and ripe strawberries. Sultanas. Finish: shortish, slightly burnt now. Toasted brioche and pear juice. Comments: it’s good, complex rum but it’s sometimes a little evanescent. SGP:550 - around 79 points.

Trois Riveres 1998

Trois Rivières 1998/2007 (44.8%, OB, Martinique, cask #517) Three stars Colour: full gold. Nose: ah yes, now we’re talking. The oak’s more present but in a very nice way, with ‘good’ pencil shavings and quite some vanilla. Mango chutney, plum jam, warm brioche… It’s nice. Mouth: very ‘tropical’ and spicier than the previous ones. Bananas flambéed (au Trois Rivières, obviously), candy sugar and touches of orange blossom. The oak grows bigger. Finish: long, spicy and peppery. Overripe pineapples and sugar in the aftertaste. Comments: not wham! but it’s starting to come. SGP:551 - around 81 points.

Savanna 5

Savanna 5 yo ‘Cuvée Spéciale’ (43%, OB, Réunion, cognac casks, 2010) Three stars and a half From La Réunion, a French island in the Indian ocean. It’s traditional rum, not agricole. Colour: gold. Nose: I remember I like Savanna. They use very long fermentations at times (14 days!) and that brings more complexity. Very pleasant notes of flowers, leather cream, white chocolate and banana pie, with touches of anissed and cumin. Lovely. Mouth: much character! There’s something pleasantly burnt, then liquorice, ginger liqueur, tangerines and then just a little mint as well as a saltiness. All good. Finish: rather long, a little more on molasses, candy sugar and marmalade. Crystallised pineapple. Comments: I like this quite a lot, I think they really improved the recipe at Savanna’s. SGP:550 – around 84 points.

Savanna 7

Savanna 7 yo 2002/2010 (46%, OB, Réunion, cognac cask, cask #234, 730 bottles) Three stars So a single cask. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re more in the Martinique style, this is thicker, more aromatic and maybe a notch less elegant. There’s an unusual sweetness for Savanna (but my experience is short), Williams pears, fresh butter, bags of sultanas…  Mouth: it’s very satisfying but again, a notch too thick and sweet for a whisky drinker. Sultanas, cloves, ginger, touches of oak, liquorice… Finish: long, thick, (even) more on cane sugar and raisins. Peppery, drier aftertaste. Comments: certainly very good but I liked the 5yo so much better… SGP:651 - around 80 points.


Neisson 1991/2007 ‘Hors d’Age’ (45.3%, OB, Martinique, +/-2012) Four stars Already very old, 16 years is a long time in the Caribbean. It’s bottled at cask strength. I believe Neisson are the only truly independent distillers remaining in Martinique. Colour: full amber. Nose: rich, slightly tarry, rather in the Demerara style. So lots of raisins, candy sugar syrup, then nice herbal touches, rosewood, touches of putty, a little caramel, jams… Rich and silky. Mouth: more body than expected but it’s not thick at all. A lot of toasted and almost burnt things, in a good way. Cake, nuts, honey sauce… There’s also quite some oak (pepper, cloves) and something herbal again, maybe because it’s rhum agricole. Finish: rather long, rather toasted and oaky, with many cloves in the aftertaste as well as a little cinnamon. Even a saltiness. Comments: high quality rum, maybe a little old-style but I’m not sure that comment makes much sense with rum. SGP:750 - around 87 points.

Plantation Guadeloupe

Plantation Guadeloupe 1998 (42%, Plantation, Ferrand, Armagnac cask, +/-2012) Four stars Aged for 12 years in Guadeloupe and finished for one year in metropolitan France. Technically rum agricole. Colour: dark gold. Nose: oh, this is complex! Many dried fruits, esp. pears, as well as some stone fruit eau-de-vie (plums, kirsch) that may come from the Armagnac cask and some pleasant rubber (tiny boots ;-)). And cane juice, of course… Lovely nose. Mouth: very sexy, I’d say. Typical dark rhum (bananas…) and many herbal teas, chamomile, star anise, cinnamon… And some sweet liquorice. Excellent, very drinkable. A little feeling of calvados as well. Finish: long, very slightly rough but that’s more to my liking than syrupy finishes. Marzipan in the aftertaste. Comments: some rum-sprinkled pear cake! Same high quality as the Neisson in my book. SGP:651 - around 87 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Jane Bunnett. Track: Mirades Furtivas (from 'Jane Bunnett And The Cuban Piano Masters'). Please visit Jane Bunnett's website and buy her music!

October 2012 - part 2 <--- November 2012 - part 1 ---> November 2012 - part 2

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

Ardbeg 25 yo 1959/1985 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, sherry wood)

Dalmore 40 yo 1966 'Astrum' (42%, OB, 2011)

Glengoyne 1972/2012 (55.5%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Diamonds, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12044, 254 bottles)

Inchgower 35 yo 1975/2011 (41.9%, The Whisky Fair, bourbon hogshead, 224 bottles)

Jura Whisky (75° proof UK, OB, bottled +/-1979)

Isle of Jura 24 yo 1988/2012 (50.8%, The Whisky Agency & Bresser & Timmer, bourbon barrel, 251 bottles)

Isle of Jura 1977/2012 (46%, OB)

Karuizawa 1984/2012 (64.5%, Number One Drinks, The Whisky Exchange, first fill sherry, cask #4021)

Karuizawa 1960/2012 (51.8%, Number One Drinks, sherry, cask #5627, 41 bottles)