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Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2012 - Part 2

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


November 30, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 7

Feeling venturesome today…

Johnnie Walker ‘The Spice Road’ (40%, OB, Explorers’ Club Collection, blend, travel retail, 2012)

Johnnie Walker ‘The Spice Road’ (40%, OB, Explorers’ Club Collection, blend, travel retail, 2012) Three stars More stories to go with our whiskies, this time it’s about the ‘spices that the Johnnie Walker agents would have discovered in the thriving markets around Asia’. I say why not? I tend to like those better than the infamous ‘forgotten casks’. Having said that we’ll soon not be able to read a good book with our whiskies anymore, we’ll be too busy reading packagings and brand websites ;-). Colour: dark orangy gold. Nose: it’s pretty malty and quite roasted/toasted. I also get quite a lot of earl grey tea, caramel, praline and orangettes (strips of orange covered with chocolate) as well as a little wood smoke. Nice but the real challenge for ‘not-too-expensive’ blends such as this new baby usually lies on the palate… Mouth: well, the name was carefully chosen – or rather the casks – as indeed this is quite spicy, starting with quite some peat smoke and pepper and going on with oak spices, probably from rather active American oak. So as usual, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and a slightly hotter background (wee touches of chillies). It’s rather unusual, less ‘thick’ than other new offerings by Johnnie Walker and rather more nervous. Finish: even more spices from the oak, it’s quite long and there’s even a feeling of Tabasco. Cinnamony aftertaste plus a little salt. Comments: the problem is that it’s hard not to find all these spices once you know the whisky is named ‘spice road’. Ah, to better control our minds … Anyway, a very respectable effort and a ‘modern’ blend that uses some of the codes of malt whisky. I’d bet we’ll see more and more of them… SGP:343 - 81 points.

Edradour 9 yo 2003/2012 'PTM' (61.2%, OB, cask #151, 274 bottles)

Edradour 9 yo 2003/2012 'PTM' (61.2%, OB, cask #151, 274 bottles) Four stars Not quite sure about what ‘PTM’ means (probably neither Predictive Technology Model nor Post-Translational Modifications, although the latter… err… ) but what we know is that this baby was fully matured in an ex-Caol Ila cask. And also that the current owners have really improved the little distillery’s output. Colour: straw. Nose: well, older Edradours could be a little soapy (right, some were soap bombs ten or fifteen years ago) but this is much cleaner and, frankly, really peaty and earthy and I think the experiment worked extremely well. It reminds me of that way of having some whisky without any alcohol, not too sure I already wrote about that in these columns. Say you take some Caol Ila, you freeze the bottle, you freeze some glasses with thick walls, then you pour the malt into your glass, then you throw the malt away (I know, I know) and fill your glass with some sparkling water. Try that, it’s amazing, esp. on the nose. It’s the feeling I have with this Edradour, the whisky seems to have attracted all the essential oils. With water (the whisky gets cloudy as milk): indeed. Earth, roots, a very clean smokiness, kippers… Mouth: ho-ho, that worked indeed! It’s very fresh, lemony, peaty, crystalline, chiselled, earthy… Probably the cleanest Edradour I ever tried. With water: s-u-p-e-r-b, and the peat is huge. I doubt the cask was completely empty when they filled it with Edradour, but only the result counts, I guess. A lot of salt too. Finish: long, as peaty and clean as a ‘full’ Caol Ila. A lot of lemon zest and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: really a surprise. The only other ‘Islay matured’ unpeated malt that was as peaty as this that I could try was a Jura, a long time ago. Use this blind to play tricks on your ‘connoisseur’ friends ;-). SGP:345 - 86 points.

Good, I wasn’t aiming for a peaty session today but I guess I have no other solution at this point... Let’s call some heavies!

Pl1 (60%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2012)

Pl1 (60%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2012) Five stars PL shouldn’t be Plutonium, its most probably Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte. Colour: pale amber. Nose: perfect. Hey, why not stop now and declare that those were the shortest tasting notes ever? Seriously, this is brilliant. Strikingly simple yet complex at the same time (in the middle ground). Leather tobacco barbecue cigars liquorice earth creosote carbolineum ham flints ink graphite motor oil bacon camphor… This baby doesn’t even need commas. Breathtaking ;-). With water: you would have thought it would have become quieter. Are you kidding? Right, maybe it got a notch more coastal… Mouth (neat): massive, ultra-powerful and all on… black olives and tar! Please note that I love black olives ;-). It’s really heavy – no, heavier – but by pure miracle, it’s not really cloying. I’m impressed (and I didn’t even mention these notes of ultra-strong Demerara rum). Wait, could this cask have matured under tropical climates? With water: wham! Extraordinarily massive, extremely concentrated and amazingly, well, heavy. Yes we’re afraid of nothing. Finish: very, very long, I guess that’s what some call a mouth coating whisky. Comments: this one almost killed me. Careful with this stuff! SGP:578 - 91 points.

And now a serious challenger…

Port Charlotte 2001/2012 (63.3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12039, 302 bottles)

Port Charlotte 2001/2012 (63.3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12039, 302 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: it’s funny how this one is smoother and softer than the PL1, despite a higher ABV. Its globally farmier as well, more ‘organic’ and gamy, with a little more tar and iodine as well. Maybe a notch less complex in fact but it’s wonderful stuff, no doubt about that. With water: this is funny, it got much rounder and almost bourbony, with more vanilla and maple syrup. Some kind of first fill American oak sherry hogshead? More pine resin as well, sap, putty… Me like this a lot now. Mouth: I think I should have tried this one as #1 Port Charlotte, because even if it’s massive whisky, it’s a notch lighter than the Pl1. And yet, what a glorious palate, both very oomphy and much extractive (it’s the gingery side that often tells us), with various oils, tar, heavy liqueurs, mint, cough syrup (not for kids, this one), salmiak… Nutshell: another beast! With water: oh this baby swims well… Many more flavours, lemon, quinces, kumquats, caraway seeds, big black raisins… It really catches up with the Pl1 at this point. More and more caraway seeds… Finish: again, it’s ultra-long. Spicier. Maybe faintly drying in the aftertaste (cinnamon), loses one point there. Comments: I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘massive’ that much. SGP:567 – 90 points.

What to have after those utter beasts? I don’t think we could have any other whiskies (or maybe only old monsters such as the Caol Ila 15 MD or some young PE JMcA sherry or such), so let’s rather try to find some heavy darkish rum or something… Oh, I think I’ve found something appropriately dark…

Enmore 23 yo 1988/2011 (50%, Silver Seal, Demerara)

Enmore 23 yo 1988/2011 (50%, Silver Seal, Demerara) Five stars Colour: deep reddish amber. Nose: c’est magnifique. A rich 100% Demerara style, ultra-raisiny and stunningly molassy (in a good way) nose, with litres of pipe juice (I know), tar, liquorice liqueur and cane juice. Let’s only hope this baby won’t be too sweet on the palate. Mouth: wham! I’m so glad I chose this one after the PCs, this is ultra-concentrated, almost like some overcooked spicy jam, with a lot of heavy coffee (ristretto Rome-style), liquorice, prunes, cough lozenges, touches of salt, more liquorice… and always the cane juice in the background. If you like heavy whiskies and never tried any heavy rum of high quality (not the sweetish syrupy junk that’s to be found here and there), may I suggest you check these bottlings? (recent ‘Italian’ Demeraras by Velier or Silver Seal, or older versions by Samaroli or Moon if you can find them – the darker, the more spectacular.) Finish: very long, thick, coffeeish and liquoricy. Comments: quite an experience. Kudos to Max at Silver Seal. SGP:761 – 90 points.

PS: you just cannot taste anything else after those monsters. Maybe Nitromethane?



Block Today: CLASSIC JAZZ BALLAD. Performer: Conte Candoli. Track: What's New?. Please visit Conte Candoli's website and buy his music.

November 29, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 6

Tasting a few Ts today...

Teaninich 13 yo (46%, Whiskies of Scotland, 2012)

Teaninich 13 yo (46%, Whiskies of Scotland, 2012) Two stars and a half Colour: pale white wine – almost white. Nose: well, nobody will say this is oak-driven malt whisky! We’re actually still close to new-make – a nice new make – with bags of apples and pears plus wheelbarrows of barley, porridge and muesli. Wait, this could be a nice occasion to try to find these whiffs of roses in Teaninich that the great MJ has often mentioned… Well, no, all I can find is Kriek beer (Belgian cherry-infused beer, I quite like it but my Belgian friends will scream that’s a no-no. Ahem…) Mouth: same comments. Very sweet and fruity (same, apples and pears) and extremely easy. This would be great in malt whisky-based cocktails, it’s ultra-clean, very simple young malt. Touches of liquorice. Finish: medium long, with just ‘ideas’ of white pepper and vanilla from the wood. Comments: it’s young sweet malt whisky of very good quality, hard to tell you more. No flaws and little thrills but I’m sure that 50 extra-years of bottle ageing will make it very complex. Buy one for your grandchildren, it’s cheaper than a Patek Philippe. SGP:430 - 78 points.

Tomatin 36 yo 1976/2012 (49,3%, The Whiskyman for Fulldram, 103 bottles)

Tomatin 36 yo 1976/2012 (49,3%, The Whiskyman for Fulldram, 103 bottles) Five stars Tomatin + 1976, just like Benriach + 1976, usually means lots of fruits. Let’s see… Colour: amber. Nose: bags and bags of fruits indeed, more of the ‘Western’ kind and dried/crystallised rather than fresh – although there are some fresh fruits. In fact, it’s a kind of fruit salad with butter pears, tangerines, sultanas and apples. All right, you may throw a few slices of bananas and guavas into the mix. But that is not all, the whole starts to develop toward some much more complex notes, which isn’t what always happens with Tomatin. I find mint, chives, a little sage, chamomile, nutmeg, a little cumin, aniseed… The oak as such is there as well but it remains quite shy (coffee). Mouth: it’s the best part, no mean feat after the great nose. Perfect arrival, fruity but not dullish at all, on a combination of those fresh fruits (more tropical this time) and herbs plus some sweet and polished spices, ‘soft Indian style’. And after that, the most marvellous range of dried fruits, between figs and bananas through sultanas and our beloved longans. Absolutely excellent and the balance is just perfect. Finish: ultra-clean, superbly fruity and jammy, with just the right amount of spicy herbs and coffee in the aftertaste. Comments: why did it take me so long to taste this wonder? Sadly, there were very little bottles… SGP:641 - 91 points (almost 92). Good, I think we could try another 1976 Tomatin…

Tomatin 1976/2012 (49.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12046)

Tomatin 1976/2012 (49.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12046) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re so close, so close… It could be either a sister cask or even the very same cask as the ‘Whiskyman’. Let’s say this one is a tiny-wee notch less fruity but I’m probably dreaming. Maybe the oak is a tad louder too… Maybe not… Or maybe it is… Or maybe not (are you done with that junk, S.?) Mouth: I think I’ll rather tell you the joke about the Scottish chef who always cooks with whisky and who sometimes even adds it to the food (drivel again, S.!) Seriously, this one may be a notch more chocolaty. Or maybe not… Finish: what are you doing for Christmas? Comments: so my daughter’s got a new kitten, the name’s Pearl. She’s cute! SGP:641 - 91 points (you guessed it, almost 92).

Good, that double-whammy was fun, let’s try to do more or less the same with two old Tomintouls by the same excellent bottlers (but not the same vintages this time)…

Tomintoul 43 yo 1969/2012 (44.1%, The Whiskyman, 138 bottles)

Tomintoul 43 yo 1969/2012 (44.1%, The Whiskyman, 138 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it’s the ‘usual’ – nothing really usual, actually – kind of simple fruitiness that is often to be found in old Tomintouls in my opinion. That means apples and passion fruits and plenty of them, plus touches of bananas and a wood that would just add a few grassy/earthy and ‘branchy’ touches. In other words, simple, clean, fruity and really pleasant. But with all these oldies, it’s on the palate that the battle will be fought… Although there’s quite some camphor and eucalyptus arising after a few minutes, which is very nice. Mouth: starts rather peppery and becomes very pleasantly fruity after that. Butter caramel and overripe apples, tinned pineapples, vanilla, notes of sweet wine (maybe late harvest Pinot Gris)… Salted butter caramel, definitely. Some oranges too. Finish: medium long, amazingly clean after all these years, on tangerines, with more mint, pepper and salt in the aftertaste. Even something that may resemble peat. Comments: I’m not 100% fond of the nose but the palate is impressive, starting a little simple but becoming more and more complex over time. SGP:741 - 89 points.

Tomintoul 1967/2012 (51.3%, Malts of Scotland, rum barrel, cask #MoS 12020, 139 bottles)

Tomintoul 1967/2012 (51.3%, Malts of Scotland, rum barrel, cask #MoS 12020, 139 bottles) Four stars I think it’s not the first time I come across one of these old Tomintouls that spent some time in rum casks. Yeah, rings a bell… Colour: white wine – unusually light at this age. Nose: it’s not easy not to be influenced by the colour, but I wouldn’t say this baby’s extravagantly aromatic. There’s some grass, touches of grains and porridge, mashed potatoes, maybe a little sugar cane but I may be dreaming, a little earth, chalk, tonic water, maybe one or two mushrooms… No big nose so far. With water: more mashed potatoes. Wait, rather mashed carrots? Mouth (neat): we’re certainly closer to the 1969 but this is bigger, sharper and grassier. A lot of limejuice, quite unexpected, and some chocolate too. It’s all quite tart. With water: I’m still trying to find the rum but all I can find is a very nice citrusy profile, slightly sour. Grapefruit and orange juice with a little green tea. Finish: medium long, with a few more green tannins. Green tea and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: pour a dram of this to some friends and ask them how old it is. I think it’s very good despite some shakiness here and there. Mind you, it’s 45 years old, more or less. SGP:661 - 86 points.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Flora Purim sings the blues. Track: Sweet Baby Blues. Please visit Flora Purim's website and buy her music!

November 28, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 5

We’ll start this new little session with two well-known blended Japanese that I haven’t tried since quite a few years. Both are 17 years old.

Hibiki 17 yo (43%, OB, blend, Japan, +/-2012)

Hibiki 17 yo (43%, OB, blend, Japan, +/-2012) Two stars and a half A well-known blend by Suntory. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s rather ‘tertiary’ ay first nosing, with also whiffs of old wood and old wine, which is rather surprising. There’s also a fair amount of chocolate, leather and dried herbs, tobacco and then more overripe apples and roasted nuts, cake, vanilla... It’s all rather dry. Mouth: more fruits this time, unsurprisingly, but the oak’s still there. Apple pie, touches of pineapples, maple syrup, black raisins and always a lot of cinnamon. A moderately big mouth feel. Finish: medium, drier again and, I must say, quite drying. Cooked coffee. Touches of sour fruits in the aftertaste. Comments: well, it’s very fine whisky but what I know is that the 21yo is on another planet – a much higher one – in my book. SGP:271 - 79 points.

Taketsuru 17 yo (43%, OB, blended malt, Japan, +/-2012)

Taketsuru 17 yo (43%, OB, blended malt, Japan, +/-2012) Three stars Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a fresher oakiness this time but it’s quite oaky. Sawdust and cinnamon, sandalwood, leaves, vanilla. Once again there’s little fruitiness. More spices after a few minutes, that is to say even more cinnamon, cocoa powder, then tobacco and a little bacon, probably from sherry casks. Another very dry one… Mouth: fuller now, more peppery, richer… Bitter oranges and pepper, many dried fruits (zests, figs, prunes…), touches of ginger and cinnamon, liquorice, thyme tea… Pleasant body, it’s a rather firm malt despite the low strength. Finish: fairly long, more herbal and bitter but in a pleasant way. Maybe touches of salt in the aftertaste as well as quite some liquorice and smoke. Comments: I think I used to like the Hibiki 17 better than the Taketsuru in the good old days. Well, things have changed… a little. SGP:362 - 80 points.

Good, there are also these two new Karuizawa ‘Asama’ that we should taste. They’re vattings of the 1999 and 2000 vintages. There was already a version at 46% earlier this year that was quite good… (WF 87)

Karuizawa 'Spirit of Asama' (48%, OB, for Specialty Drinks, 2012)

Karuizawa 'Spirit of Asama' (48%, OB, for Specialty Drinks, 2012) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: ah yes, there’s the same kind of rancio that we already had in the ‘46’, as well as two or three struck matches and then some kind of mentholated prunes and bacon. More and more polished wood after that, old furniture, some dark chocolate and just touches of eau-de-vie. Becomes earthier and more leathery after a few minutes. Mouth: excellent. The first thing I like here is the complexity and these notes of old sherry, between chocolate fudge and pipe tobacco. After that, it’s the ginger and various herbs that start to talk, together with a little white pepper and quite some marmalade. Too my liking, to say the least. Finish: long and nervous, quite rich, with the herbs bringing more freshness. More marmalade as well, jams… Comments: the first Asama was an excellent surprise so this one can’t be any, Alzheimer’s hasn’t stricken yet (hopefully!) SGP:662 - 87 points.

Karuizawa 'Spirit of Asama' (55%, OB, for Specialty Drinks, 2012)

Karuizawa 'Spirit of Asama' (55%, OB, for Specialty Drinks, 2012) Four stars Colour: fuller gold. Nose: the general profile is almost identical but I have the feeling that it’s the fruity side that’s now a notch louder, just a notch. A little more honey sauce as well, but it may all come from the higher ABV. Let’s try it with water (at approx 48%, very roughly): it’s the earthy side that comes out, but also more leather and even a slight feeling of vinegar. Well, the owners did a much better job at reducing this baby… Mouth (neat): guess what, I think I liked the 46 or 48% versions better. I feel the higher strength makes it a little rough and a tad too eau-de-vie-ish. Water may help… With water: success this time, we’ve achieved to replicate the ‘48%’! Maybe there’s a little more mint, actually… Finish: same as above, more or less. Comments: ha! Great stuff once again but I feel it’s easier and safer to go for the lighter ones, unless you want to spend your evenings toying with pipettes (yeah, or teaspoons, Ralfy) and various waters. SGP:662 - 85 points.

Good, we’ve already had four Japanese, I’m afraid it would be quite stupid to change countries with the last one...

Yoichi 25 yo 1987/2012 (59.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #116.17, sherry, 485 bottles)

Yoichi 25 yo 1987/2012 (59.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #116.17, sherry, 485 bottles) Three stars The name is ‘Pin-Ball Wizard In Japanese Tea House’. Elliptic to say the least… Colour: dark gold. Nose: this baby’s not easy to grasp. At times there’s a lot of bubblegum, then some varnish, then the usual spiciness that’s often to be found in old Yoichis (rich ‘mentholated’ oak and sandalwood), then rather ham and bacon, then boxes and boxes of cigars… Is that what they call a ‘pinball’ effect? With water: this is lovely, really lovely. Many herbs and spices from some great wood, including verbena, mint, its compadre eucalyptus, ginger and then quite some vanilla, which suggests it was juvenile American oak ‘sherry’ wood. Mouth (neat): huge and extremely oaky. A blend of old Demerara rum, heavy bourbon and mint and liquorice liqueurs. Hyper-extractive, I’d say. You have to like that but it’s true that it’s very spectacular, there’s liquorice all over the place. With water: that wouldn’t work too well, water wakened a big tannicity. Finish: long, very woody if not plankish. It’s not a disaster, not at all, but you really have to like hyper-extractive whiskies. Comments: did I tell you this baby was hyper-extractive? I have nothing against this kind of style, and I even liked some parts very, very much but well, buyers might like to know that this is not just some pinball wizardry, Elton. Excuse me? Ah yes, that was the ‘tea house’ side… SGP:482 - 82 points.



Block Today: BLUES ROCK. A Swedish Hendrix tribute - all Hendrix covers are tributes, aren't they. Performer: Clas Yngstrom Trio. Track: Them Changes. Please buy Clas Yngstrom's music.

November 27, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 4

Five very contrasting whiskies from various origins (to say the least).

Tullamore Dew 12 yo 'Special Reserve' (40%, OB, +/-2012)

Tullamore Dew 12 yo 'Special Reserve' (40%, OB, +/-2012) Two stars and a half A recent bottling, I think by new owners William Grant. Colour: white wine. Nose: there’s this metallic side I’m not too fond of but there are also pleasant notes of peaches and bananas and then a little thuja wood. I also get quite some ham and hay, then various herbal teas as well as almonds. It’s pretty complex whisky but I think we’re nowhere near the pure – or single – pot stills whiskeys. Mouth: sweet and even a tad sugary. Coconut butter, vanilla, tinned pineapples, sweet cider and just touches of mint. For an Irish, it’s quite tropical! Finish: quite short, more on ripe red berries and honey. Comments: a very sweet blended Irish, certainly of high quality but I think many Scotch drinkers will find it a tad too light and, well, sweet. It’s quite expensive too (I’ve seen it at around 45€). SGP:640 - 78 points.

Larceny (46%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 2012)

Larceny (46%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 2012) Three stars and a halfA much branded and ‘storied’ new wheated bourbon from Heaven Hill. It’s drawn from barrels aged ‘from 6 to 12 years’, that’s what we call a 6 years old, isn’t it. Colour: amber/orangy. Nose: it’s very smooth and fragrant, what some might call ‘feminine’. A lot of vanilla and coconut plus bottles of maple syrup and orange liqueur, before more ginger and cinnamon from the oak start to come through. A very easy one so far, we’re even not too far from Spanish-style rum (in a way, in a way!) Also litchis after a few minutes. Mouth: tasty and very, very easy. Smoooth but not syrupy, with bananas flambéed and ginger, vanilla, corn syrup and a lot of cinnamon. It’s extremely balanced with no edges and bits, and globally quite light. Extremely easy. Finish: not long, clean, fruitier (pineapple is back and so is its pal coconut). Nice notes of baked apples in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m no bourbon guy – not that I don’t like them, quite the contrary, but I don’t know them very well – but I think this is a perfect sipping version. It’s so easy! SGP:630 - 83 points.

Willet 5 yo (55%, OB, Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Rye, barrel #40, +/-2012)

Willet 5 yo (55%, OB, Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Rye, barrel #40, +/-2012) Four stars I believe this was bottled this year but I’m not 100% sure. It’s spirit from Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana that’s been filled and then matured by Willett. The latter have restarted distilling their own spirit in 2012 if I’m not mistaken. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s extremely fragrant, starting with roses and hints of gewürztraminer and going on with bags of strawberries and raspberries. Quite some bubblegum as well, then more Turkish delights, guignolet (cherry liqueur) and touches of incense and sandalwood. With water: more menthol and humus. Beautifully musty ;-). Mouth (neat): extremely creamy, sweet, spicy and kind of oriental again. Baklavas of all kinds, raspberry drops (wheelbarrows!), pomegranates and curaçao plus caraway seeds, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. What’s not to like? With water: the spicy side takes over but they’re all sweet spices. More chocolate. Finish: long, expanding on the palate, so to speak. Comments: I have the feeling that this is less ‘commercial’ and polished than many bourbons. Lots of character for sure, without the massive (yet great) oakiness that’s to be found in the old Willetts. SGP:641 - 86 points (and thank you Dr. Silver). And now two whiskies from my own country…

Uberach (42.2%, OB, France, Alsace, cask #300-1)

Uberach (42.2%, OB, France, Alsace, cask #300-1) Two stars and a half Not too sure about this baby’s age. Uberach is one of the several Alsatian distilleries that are now making whisky but I believe they were the pioneers. What’s more, they are very cool people, which is an added bonus. Colour: bronze (nails?). Nose: and now for something even more ‘different’! The first notes that reach my nostrils are warm rhubarb pie and flint, in a very pleasantly sour interplay. Then more roses (late harvest gewürztraminer – Alsatian of course) and mushrooms, old books, a little game and last but not least, whiffs of plain old Banyuls indeed (this was partly matured in Banyuls casks). A few struck matches too but no plain ‘eggy’ sulphur, at all. Mouth: it’s funny, a tad wobbly at the attack but everything falls into place after a few seconds, under the ruling of a lot of clove and maybe cumin. Stout beer, even hops, malt, flints, liquorice… It’s very unusual whisky, I think I liked the nose better. Finish: medium long, more on raisins and even arrak. Comments: some guys in my neighbourhood have been accusing me of being much too harsh with my fellow Alsatian distillers who had ventured into whisky. Well guys, this is about to change, thanks to Uberach’s new offerings, even if this one is maybe not their best – yet. I think the cask was a little, say, strange. Excellent progress nonetheless. SGP:452 - 78 points.

Uberach 8 yo 'W.L.P.' (45%, OB, France, Alsace, cask #141/2012, 285 bottles)

Uberach 8 yo 'W.L.P.' (45%, OB, France, Alsace, cask #141/2012, 285 bottles) Four stars This baby was fully matured in a Banyuls cask. Many guys ask why Alsatian distillers wouldn’t use Alsatian wine casks. The answer is simple: the Alsatian winemakers either use no wood, or huge tuns, except for pinot noir sometimes, but well, that’s red wine isn’t it… Colour: gold. Nose: lo-ve-ly! Grandma’s apricot pie with plenty of cinnamon and custard, the best in the world - obviously. Also stewed plums, fresh walnuts, leaves, marzipan, cigar box and again that flintiness. After a few minutes: spice mix for mulled wine or even our own Alsatian Christmas cake that we call beerawecka. It’s not a surprise but… well, to be honest, it is a surprise. Great nose! Mouth: yes, yes, yes and yes, this will be the very first Alsatian whisky to reach the 85-mark in my little book. Much cleaner and straighter than the previous one, better focused, with a complex oakiness that adds notes of many herbal teas such as hawthorn, rosehip, lime-blossom, lemon verbena… Other than that, we have raisins, dried apricots, marmalade, these notes of dark beer again, touches of kirsch… And all that remains clean and fresh, absolutely not heavy or cloying. Finish: not the longest ever but it’s perfect, fresh, perfectly linear and quite raisiny. Malty aftertaste. Comments: I’ve often written that many, if not all Germanic distillers from Alsace to Austria through Germany and Switzerland were making unlikely eau-de-vie-ish whisky, for whatever reasons (well, maybe because of their stills). After Appenzell’s Säntis, Alsace’s Uberach are the second distillers to prove me wrong and believe me or not, I’m more than happy about that. Auzgezeichnet! SGP:551 - 86 points.



Block Today: FOLK BLUES. Performer: the extremely influential and very cult Karen Dalton. Track: Take Me. Please buy Karen Dalton's music!

November 26, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 3

This and that, really, including an interesting new French malt from the Alps...

Speyside 12 yo (40%, Marks & Spencer, +/-2012)

Speyside 12 yo (40%, Marks & Spencer, +/-2012) Two stars and a half An undisclosed Speysider for the well-known general stores. At around £26-29.00, these do not come cheap! Colour: yellow gold. Nose: starts on caramel and malt, it’s like nosing a box of Ovaltine. We’re more or less in Chivas territories – if not Glenlivet - with also touches of honey and baked apples as well as whiffs of wood smoke and toffee. An easy nose that does what it says on the tin: being a 12yo Speysider. Mouth: exactly the same profile as on the nose, caramel, honey, cake, malt and apple pie. I think the caramel side is a notch loud as it tends to become a little bitter (Ovaltine or chicory coffee). Its not big but the mouth feel is reasonable. Finish: rather short and very malty. And always quite some caramel, even if the colour wasn’t very dark. Comments: undemanding but fair and loyal. SGP:331 - 78 points. Let’s try its counterpart from the Highlands…

Highland 12 yo (40%, Marks & Spencer, +/-2012)

Highland 12 yo (40%, Marks & Spencer, +/-2012) Three stars Colour: pale gold (paler than the Speyside). Nose: I think it’s nice that they really tried to show each region’s ‘average’ style (let’s not start on terroir just now - well, I'll try to write a few words, see below these notes). Indeed, this is rougher, kind of wilder, smokier, with more mint as well, grass, earth… Then more apple peelings, porridge, a little brine… A very pleasant nose for sure. Surprise surprise? Mouth: again, same feeling. Grass and porridge, touches of grapefruits, some pepper, a smokiness, maybe a little salt… It’s rather Pulteney-ish, although I would not stake my life on that. Well selected for sure. Finish: medium long, a tad rounder and more honeyed now, geared toward Highland Park at this point. Oh well, enough with guessing games. Oranges in the aftertaste, more Dalmore-ish… Yeah well… Comments: very good in my opinion, well done M&S! SGP:442 - 82 points.

Glen Finloch 12 yo (40%, Jean Boyer, Blended Malt, +/-2012)

Glen Finloch 12 yo (40%, Jean Boyer, Blended Malt, +/-2012) Three stars This series is popular in France, for good reasons. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s the peat that’s very noticeable in this one, esp. after the M&Ss. Starts on touches of pineapples and coconut (American oak) and that peat smoke and goes on with more herbs, baked fruits (peaches?) and a little tea. There mustn’t be much peat in there but as I just wrote, it’s very noticeable. Mouth: same feeling, the peat strikes first, together with a few spices such as nutmeg and white pepper, while it would rather go on with a softer fruitiness, between pineapples, pears and apples. A very fresh combination with excellent balance. Finish: medium long, with a little more ginger tonic and grapefruit. Would please Uma T. Comments: a very good medium-peated vatting with some personality, very drinkable. Would beat many pricey single casks! SGP: 443 - 82 points.

Teerenpeli 8 yo (43%, OB, Finland, 2012)

Teerenpeli 8 yo (43%, OB, Finland, 2012) Two stars and a half A Finnish malt from the city of Lahti. I think it’s a first. Colour: straw. Nose: I’ve tried this baby before and already found it nicely balanced and both full and relatively complex. We’re toward fresh nuts and almonds, vanilla fudge, fresh brioche and muesli, before lighter and subtler notes arise, such as lilies and honeysuckle. All that is pretty discreet but it works well. Mouth: very creamy, almost syrupy mouth feel, a tad liqueur-y and more un-Scotch than on the nose. Amaretto liqueur, marzipan and quite some custard plus touches of bitter oranges and pink grapefruits (not very tart). Finish (I’ll spare you any stupid jokes involving the country): medium long, maybe a notch drying now, the oak starting to take over. Cinnamon. May lose two or three points here. Comments: a very good surprise, this is very far from whisky made by chance like you see in some countries. Well done Finland! SGP:341 - 79 points.

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 'Minimus' 2009/2012 (57%, OB, France, 563 bottles)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 'Minimus' 2009/2012 (57%, OB, France, 563 bottles) Three stars and a half A new distillery in the French Alps where they do everything on site, including harvesting their own organic barley. In that sense, the concept is close to that of a genuine wine domaine. I think these guys have an attention to details that’s nowhere to be seen anywhere else in the whisky world, I especially like the way they try to ‘master’ oak, that is to say NOT to replace ageing with heavier wood extraction. So, kudos, but let’s try this youngster… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: bingo, this does smell of malted barley, not of vanilla and ginger liqueur. In that sense, we’re not very far from those mescals that we tried the other day, it’s really the spirit that does the talking. No push-up bras on this baby! After this very clean barley-ish arrival, several fruity notes start to develop, such as raspberries and quetsches as well as, yes, agaves. With water: becomes a notch more new-maky but the barley remains there. Mouth (neat): quite fantastic, even if we’re even farer from ‘whisky’ as we know it. There’s a lot of ginger this time, cinchona, bitter grapefruits, apricotine (and pretty much all other stone fruit spirits) and then more and more lime. It’s a different spirit but it’s a great one. With water: rather more ginger and nutmeg – there’s a little wood, after all, but it’s anything but ‘small-barrel-ish’ (excuse me). Finish: long, clean, limy. Comments: whisky for terroirists, I like it that some distillers would refuse to delegate 90% of the style of their whiskies to coopers and woodcutters and/or winemakers. SGP:541 - 84 points (almost 85).


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))
Do regions make any sense in Scotland?

Many amateurs like yours truly are claiming that they don’t while the whisky industry, especially the blenders, keep using them when they describe a particular component, often with an adjective. Light Speyside, heavy Highland and so on… It’s true that we’ll find Speysides that taste like Islays or Lowlands or just the opposite, and there’s very little evidence of the relevance of terroir in malt whisky, since the raw materials, particularly the barley, are often sourced from other regions or countries while the spirit usually matures in central warehouses or even at other distilleries, not at the original distillery. Yet, there are regional styles, which is quite obvious when you taste a lot of whisky, so where do those come from? In my opinion, they simply come from the will of Man to conform to a particular regional or even sub-regional style – or not. Which, in fact, means that regional ‘appellations’ are not related to places anymore, but to a series of decisions that the distillers make or made. So technically, a distiller could either conform to tradition and go on making malt whisky in the style of the region where his distillery is located, or just make whisky from other regions, just like they made some ‘Highland’ at Caol Ila or some ‘Islay’ at Clynelish/Brora (and at dozens of other distilleries these days!)



Block Today: BRAZILIAN JAZZ. Performer: always in WF's top ten (but there isn't such a thing), Hermeto Pascoal. Track: Taca. Please visit Hermeto Pascoal's website and buy his music!

November 24, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 2

Let’s tackle five more Bs today…

Blair Athol 26 yo 1986/2012 (46%, Wemyss Malts, 'Autumn berries', hogshead, 268 bottles)

Blair Athol 26 yo 1986/2012 (46%, Wemyss Malts, 'Autumn berries', hogshead, 268 bottles) Three stars I usually enjoy Blair Athol’s lightness… Colour: white wine. Nose: …and light it is. It’s really like smelling a handful of barley! Add to that some oatcakes, a little hay, fresh butter, a few crushed mint leaves, apple peelings, some wet wood and maybe a few walnuts and you have it. As ‘natural’ as malt whisky can be, I do not get many berries I must say, whether autumnal or not. Must be me… Mouth: ah, now I understand the name! Starts with very precise notes of… say blueberry muffins? There are also violet sweets, and many of them, as well as quite some raspberry jam and a little maple syrup. Taste a bit like a good red-wine finishing, although it isn’t one, is it? (the colour says no!) After a few minutes, becomes smoother, with more tarte tatin – yeah right, apple pie – and bitter oranges. Finish: long, more candied and more citrusy. Some green tea in the aftertaste. Comments: what I really like here is the fact that it’s rather unusual. And violets work very well without one single drop of lavender oil, hurray! SGP:541 - 82 points.

Br4 (54.7%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2012)

Br4 (54.7%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2012) Three stars and a half Br1 was to my liking (WF 83) and Br2 much more so (WF 87) but I hated Br3 because I never could try it ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: yeah, it’s a very naked Bruichladdich that’s extremely close to the Blair Athol in style. In fact, it’s the first time I realise how close to each other these two spirits are when there’s little oak involved (apologies to both owners ;-)). So here we have melon skin, fresh barley, butter, grass, leaves, hay and, maybe, a little more peaches than in the BA. Okay, maybe it’s a notch more corpulent but that may be the higher ABV. With water: becomes very farmyardy and never coastal. Mouth (neat): same feeling. It’s fresh fruity spirit with little signs of ageing, nicely eau-de-vie-ish and nicely barley-ish as well. Spanish apple liqueur? With water: cane sugar, barley syrup and maple syrup. You got it, it became very syrupy with water but in a beautiful way. Finish: medium long, on peach syrup. Syrups indeed! Comments: to tell you the truth, I found it rather underwhelming until I tasted it with water. Don’t nose it and don’t even bother drinking it neat, everything happens on the palate when H2O is added. But then… SGP:531 - 84 points.

Bunnahabhain 1980/2012 (46.8%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12038, 220 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1980/2012 (46.8%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12038, 220 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: crikey, had I nosed this baby blind, Id have said Bruichladdich, because of these melony, peachy notes that are so, well, Bruichladdich. What’s quite striking as well is the good dose of fresh mint and maybe chives, as well as the slightly buttery side that we already had in both the Blair Athol and the Laddie. Also discreet whiffs of domestic oil. It’s no big nose for sure, but it’s quite elegant… Mouth: ha-ha, now we’re talking! Much more power and a bigger feeling of fullness, with quite some lemon marmalade, acacia honey, ripe watermelon and touches of sweet curry and coriander. This is another palate whisky, forget about the nose! Finish: medium long, with more and more oranges and then nutmeg and paprika from the oak. Comments: this baby takes its time and never becomes fully ‘wow’, but it has its charms, especially on the palate. It’s really a drinking whisky in my opinion, quite Bruichladdichesque. SGP:541 - 86 points. Oh well, let’s have a Bruichladdich again, by the very same bottler…

Bruichladdich 1988/2012 (54.3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12040, 188 bottles)

Bruichladdich 1988/2012 (54.3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12040, 188 bottles) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: interestingly, it’s the sherry wood that talks first here but it’s absolutely not a big one. In fact we’re having a rather elegant combination of flowers (roses and peonies), fruit-filled chocolate (some kind of ganache) and then more dried flowers coming together with an unexpected smokiness. Coal smoke, it’s like if this came from an ex-peater cask. Also mint. With water: brings out more oak (pencil shavings) and espresso but the rest remains there. Very nice. Mouth (neat): oh this is lovely! Some sweet oak (recharred sherry hoggie?) and a perfect, almost crystalline fruitiness that would involve apricots and litchis, which, granted, is an unusual combination. Then more and more lime and even a suggestion of white tequila or mescal like we had the other day. Must be me… With water: exactly the same feeling as on the nose, the oak is kind of lifted, even more so on the palate. Finish: long, creamy, lemony. Peanuts (oak) and lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: a highly unusual Bruichladdich. I don’t know what happened with the cask(s) but I loved the results, really. K-u-d-o-s! SGP:642 - 90 points.

Good, we need another ‘B’ to make it to five. I propose we stay with the Germans and switch to Bowmore then, agreed?...

Bowmore 23 yo 1989/2012 (53.1%, The Whisky Agency, sherry butt, 341 bottles)

Bowmore 23 yo 1989/2012 (53.1%, The Whisky Agency, sherry butt, 341 bottles) Three stars This baby from the new ‘fights’ series. 1989? FWP or not? Let’s see… (especially since FWP + sherry works as well as coffee + mustard in my experience…;-)) Colour: dark straw. Nose: ha-ha, this is interesting! It’s a prototypical cowstably Bowmore (wot???), full of old leather, horse sweat, scented soap, wacky old walnut liqueur, old Malaga wine, Manzanilla, chalk, seawater, black olives and simply massive whiffs of cigar box. It’s actually hard to catch, as it keeps changing… With water: water kind of freezes it. Cigars, seawater and, cough, cough, lavender. Mouth (neat): it is a tad unlikely, dirty-ish, kind of unsteady and curiously gamy and even foul, but that’s what makes it ‘fun’! Imagine a mixture of mustard, salt, chocolate, coffee, chicken bouillon, kippers, violet sweets, stout beer and chocolate. No I’m not kidding. With water: adds some vegetal notes to the mix, such as parsley. What a funny soup! Finish: calms down, with the lemon kicking in and lemon usually takes control of just any malt whisky once it’s in. Briny aftertaste. More kippers. Comments: my scores are purely ‘organoleptic’ but should I take ‘wackiness’, ‘unlikeliness’ and ‘fun’ into consideration, this baby would be worth 90. Try to try it! SGP:464 - 82 points.



Block Today: SOUL. Performer: Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. Track: Tell it like it is. Please buy their music...

November 22, 2012


Pre-Xmas hotchpotch five by five No. 1

Tasting newish whiskies as they come from my library, without any logic for a change. A true hotchpotch, really…

Clynelish 16 yo 1995/2011 (55.8%, Dead End Whisky Club, hogshead/sherry octave)

Clynelish 16 yo 1995/2011 (55.8%, Dead End Whisky Club, hogshead/sherry octave) Five stars A German bottling from Aschaffenburg. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s really fun how some raisiny tones from the sherry complement an otherwise rather citric and farmy Clynelish. So it’s not so much the wax that comes out, rather a kind of wild fruit salad, very ‘organic’. Earth and ‘clean’ manure plus some brine. With water: another one that swims like a champ, like most Clynelishes. Perfect grapefruits and leather grease plus humus and a little motor oil. Mouth (neat): perfect! Once again, the raisins are in action on a bed of grapefruits, oranges, fresh walnuts, white chocolate and vanilla. Very creamy mouth feel, almost syrupy. Some grass too. With water: more crystal-clean citrus fruits and rather less raisins now. Touches of mint and liquorice lozenges. Finish: long, chiselled, citrusy and mineral. Touches of caraway seeds in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly not a dead end ;-). I was a bit scared the ‘octaving’ would destroy the spirit’s usual cleanliness. Quite the contrary! SGP:552 - 90 points.

Tomintoul 45 yo 1967/2012 (44.6%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 177 bottles)

Tomintoul 45 yo 1967/2012 (44.6%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 177 bottles) Four stars Just like very old Bunnahabhains, old Tomintouls seem to remain easily available. Well, a few casks, at least. Colour: gold. Nose: quite beautiful at first nosing, with a peculiar combination of sour fruits and putty-like notes. Orgeat and tangerine liqueur? Orange-filled marzipan? Also very funny touches of cow stable in the background, hints of horse sweat… Mind you, that’s an asset in this context. In short, a beautiful nose! Mouth: it’s amazing how fresh and lively, almost vibrant this has remained. Many jelly beans/bears/babies/crocodiles plus fresh passion fruits and oranges plus the expected spiciness from age, mostly toward cinnamon. It’s globally light, pleasantly so, and there’s no lack of body. Finish: medium long, fresh, fruity, with always quite some cinnamon, esp. in the aftertaste. Comments: it must be Haribo that have distilled this. Seriously, it’s lovely and fresh very old whisky, well in the style of the best old uncomplicated Tomintouls. SGP:651 - 87 points. But let’s have another one while we’re at it…

Tomintoul 44 yo 1968/2012 (45.5%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon)

Tomintoul 44 yo 1968/2012 (45.5%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon) Four stars This baby should be pretty similar… Colour: gold. Nose: well, it is similar, very similar. Same kind of combination of slightly sour fruits with a slightly waxy/grassy side. Quite some hay but maybe a notch less ‘cow stable’. Mouth: same comments. Fruit drops and cinnamon. Pineapple sweets, oranges, maybe touches of mangos… The oak is there but luckily, it never dominates the light and fruity spirit. Finish: same. Touches of banana skin and other slightly drying things. Grape pips? Comments: just as lovely and deserving the very same score in my view. The best pina coladas, as I sometimes write. SGP:651 - 87 points.

Auchroisk 30 yo 1982/2012 (54.7%, OB, 2976 bottles)

Auchroisk 30 yo 1982/2012 (54.7%, OB, 2976 bottles) Four stars One of Diageo's new special releases that I had yet to taste. The other one is Lagavulin 12yo, I'll try not to take one full year like last time! Colour: pale amber. Nose: it’s much more on the honey and nuts side after the Tomintouls, more candied, rounded yet powerful, although some parts are similar, especially the very nice notes of citrus fruits. Well rather the marmalades made thereof. Other than that, we have whiffs of rich beer (ale?), well-roasted mal and just a little cumin, while the whole becomes farmier and farmier, between beef stock and ‘clean’ manure. Lots happening in this one. With water: becomes very grassy. Cut cactus, branches, roots, butter and a little dairy cream. Mashed potatoes, more and more (and more). Mouth (neat): starts all on some kind of honey-glazed orange cake, quite rich and really mouth-coating. Goes on with more marmalade, these touches of cumin again, roasted cashews and then quite some mead instead of the beer. With water: same notes, just a little rounder. Finish: long, spicier as almost always. Much more malt as well, chocolate, toffee… The European oak talks more and more. Comments: it’s no an easy one to grasp, it’s very excellent whisky and I'm sure many will love it, it’s just not very ‘defined’, if I may say so, or rather a little indistinct or vague. I know what I’m trying to say… SGP:551 - 85 points.

Benromach 2005/2012 (45%, OB, Sassicaia wood finish, 4200 bottles)

Benromach 2005/2012 (45%, OB, Sassicaia wood finish, 4200 bottles) Two stars I’ve long been wondering if I should try this baby. I love Benromach but this is very young and it’s been finished in Sassicaia, one of the least inspiring Italian wines in my book (whilst I absolutely adore the genuine Italian wines from Piemonte, or Tuscany or any other region, I really don’t like most of their hyper-marketed Bordeaux blends that really taste, well, uninspiring and uninspired in my opinion). Colour: apricot. Nose: it’s just like visiting a farm. Manure, milk, hay, mud, diesel oil, tar, hard-boiled eggs, silage and rabbit hutch. Mouth: more fruits this time. Blood oranges, smoke, raspberries and pepper, then more nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s quite peaty. Finish: medium long, on some kind of peated oranges, with touches of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s not my kind of malt at all, I think the wine and the malt simply wouldn’t tango together, especially since the spirit has quite some character. So I understand it and I think it’s well made (hence my score), but I do not like it. Thankfully, there are many other very brilliant Benromachs! Give me one bottle of the 10yo, I’ll give one full case of this ‘Sassicaia’. Hey, I’m joking! SGP:553 - 75 points.




Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: French drummer Jacques Thollot. Track: Tenga Nina. Please buy Jacques Thollot's music!

November 21, 2012


Another bunch of contrasting Ben Nevis

How about a very short Ben Nevis verticale today? In my book Ben Nevis can be either stellar or, well, I’ll say it, plain rotten, but it’s never, ever boring. Hurray!

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1986/2012 (51.8%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)

Ben Nevis 26 yo 1986/2012 (51.8%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: for starters, it’s a clean one. No well-aged game ;-) no overcooked coffee ;-) no hard-boiled eggs ;-) no machine gun that’s just shot 500 bullets ;-). On the contrary, we have rather bags of fresh garden fruits, apples, greengages and gooseberries plus stones and rocks, almonds, a little putty and just whiffs of hay. Nice nose, close to the spirit although there’s more vanilla kicking in after a few minutes. With water: sweet barley all over the place. We won’t complain. Mouth (neat): interestingly, it’s extremely sweet, almost sugary at first sips. Cane sugar syrup, fructose, light honey… And barley sugar. Spectacularly, err, sweet. Syrupy mouth feel (obviously). With water: becomes very good, the fruits having more to say. Stewed apples and cherries, muesli, barley water. Finish: rather long, always fresh, sweet and fruity. A little more sweet beer and oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: a very natural one, with little cask influence. It’s even got something Irish – Northern Ireland isn’t that far from Fort Williams, is it? SGP:631 - 85 points.

Ben Nevis 42 yo 1969/2012 (47.8%, Clan Denny for The Whisky Fair, refill hogshead, ref #DL8148)

Ben Nevis 42 yo 1969/2012 (47.8%, Clan Denny for The Whisky Fair, refill hogshead, ref #DL8148) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: good, this is an unlikely one this time and I must add there’s absolutely nothing foul at first nosing, although it’s not very malty. In fact, we’re rather between bourbon and rum, or is it grain? Single blend? Not too sure how they were stencilling the grains or the blends when they were distilling both grain and malt whiskies at Ben Nevis. Anyway, there’s a little coconut, white chocolate, hay, touches of roses and litchis, eglantine tea, a little menthol, touches of camphor… It’s a subtle nose, pretty far from the malts from the same period in my opinion. With water: like flipping through very old books while wolfing Parma ham and gulping Jaegermeister. Or something like that. Mouth (neat): yeah well, it’s some kind of earthy rum, very sappy as well, thick, with some crème de menthe, strong liquorice and chlorophyll. The oak grows bigger and bigger, let’s check what happens with water: more of the same, with a slight sour side. Fermented coconut milk. Finish: long and spicier as almost always, but the oak hasn’t taken over. Comments: fun stuff! I’m not sure I’d quaff litres of this, but as a showcase whisky, it’s perfect. Your friends will laugh! SGP:651 - 87 points.

Ben Nevis 45 yo 1966/2012 (50.8%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, ref #DL8194, 136 bottles)

Ben Nevis 45 yo 1966/2012 (50.8%, Douglas Laing, Director's Cut, ref #DL8194, 136 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: hmmm, hard to tell, this is no heavy Ben Nevis either and the overall profile is pretty close to the 1969’s, with the same kind of floral and mentholated nose, although this one is a little more gamy and meaty indeed. Also a mustiness, mushrooms, metal (those old aluminium pans), even tin boxes… With water: old tea boxes. Tin and, well, old teas. Dried flowers, old Madeira… Also fresh tarmac, some rubber, cocoa powder… Mouth (neat): now, this is strange! The metallic side came to the front, together with more cough syrup and a huge leathery side. Notes of plastic, orange squash, cardboard, coffee… I don’t know, maybe also chewed cigar? Ah, the unlikeliness of the old Ben Nevis (Nevisses?)… With water: how very strange again! Fanta (no comments), chocolate, silver spoon, Chinese mushrooms (the large, flat ones), aluminium foil… Finish: medium long but even more metallic. Bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: another crazy old Ben Nevis. Is it flawed or just very funny? Well, this is whiskyfun after all so let’s say it’s very funny – and guess what, it’ll earn a few extra-points just because of that. SGP:471 - 78 points.

Good, let’s try to find one that would be more to our liking, if not an utterly stellar one. Let’s rummage through WF’s whisky archive… Oh, maybe this old middle-aged OB?...

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1972 (56.8%, OB, 75cl, +/-1991)

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1972 (56.8%, OB, 75cl, +/-1991) Five stars Ben Nevis were true pioneers, I think not many official distilleries were issuing single casks in the very early 1990s. Colour: red amber. Nose: ah yesss! Beautiful sherry, with everything where it belongs and fits. That would involve raisins, coffee, kirsch and ham in good quantities, then chocolate and tar in smaller quantities. Maybe it’s just a notch cardboardy as well but water may help… With water: more tea-ish than cardboardy. It became very dry, rather fino-style in fact. Walnuts and all that… Which is beautiful. Mouth (neat): yes, it’s excellent. Powerful and creamy, starting all on chocolates filled with strawberry liqueur, some sweet liquorice plus some raspberry eau-de-vie – so it’s a rather kirschy kind of sherry, what I call kirschy, at least – and going on with more marmalade and various herbs such as thyme and rosemary. It’s not usual, but it’s not unlikely either, so far. With water: powerful and perfect. Wonderful chocolate and liqueurs, right how it started. Finish: long, full, a rather chiselled kind of sherry. It’s only in the aftertaste that more game and meat come out (spicy beef jerky), together with more dryingness (grape skin). Comments: this was a great cask. I’m glad I could end this little session with a glorious one. SGP:652 - 91 points. (and many thanks, Jeroen).

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Monk. Track: These Foolish Things (From Solo). Please buy Thelonious Monk's music!

November 20, 2012


Another go at grain

I’m not too much into grain whisky and usually find that they need to be very old – and then to have matured to perfection – to become interesting. But then again, that’s only my personal taste and I know several very serious aficionados who love grain! Anyway, we’ll have two very old ones today plus a much younger one as the aperitif…

Cambus 21 yo 1989/2011 (61.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #G8.1, bourbon hogshead, 272 bottles)

Cambus 21 yo 1989/2011 (61.2%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #G8.1, bourbon hogshead, 272 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: typical, slightly vodka-ish. Big varnish, nail polish remover, cologne and vanilla, then tropical fruits (litchis) and a little coffee and white chocolate. Burns your nostrils (a bit). With water: it’s the fruity side that gets bigger, which is good news. Classic vanilla, pineapple and coconut. Not un-nice – which isn’t quite the same thing as nice ;-). Mouth (neat): this feeling of vodka again, the lot being very strong, aggressive and quite eau-de-vie-ish (kirsch). Big grassiness as well (un-stemmed marc), becoming a little bitter and sour at the same time. A very strange whisky that does not really taste like whisky in my opinion. In any case, not one of these easy grains… With water: certainly easier. Oranges and coconut plus ginger and vanilla. Finish: medium long, with the bitter grassiness growing bigger again and a sourer aftertaste again. Comments: simply not my kind too much. I would be curious to know what grain lovers think. SGP:440 - 68 points.

Carsebridge 46 yo 1965/2012 (45.6%, Part des Anges, 196 bottles)

Carsebridge 46 yo 1965/2012 (45.6%, Part des Anges, 196 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: interesting this time, with very ‘antique’ notes, old books, old furniture, then more mashed potatoes, tea leaves, old tea box… It’s even a little gamy. Chicken soup, earth, touches of coconut oil… All that is relatively discreet, even if very pleasant whiffs of marzipan, chestnuts and raisins start to rise to your nostrils after a few minutes. Some bacon, pine liqueur and pepper too. Mouth: starts even more unusual, with something a little metallic (nails in the barrel?) and touches of stale tea. In fact, that’s rather pleasant! Goes on with several fruits on the verge of starting to rot, which, again, isn’t unpleasant in this context. Oranges, maybe papayas… A grassy oakiness grows then bigger and bigger, toward green tea, liquorice wood and tobacco. Maybe also agaves? It’s all a little shaky but that’s also what makes it ‘fun and pleasant’. Finish: the fruits are back, bananas, coconuts, then more coffee beans… Liquorice in the aftertaste. Medium length. Comments: I think it’s a funny old one, with an interesting ‘dirtiness’ that makes it much more entertaining than other 1965s that I could try in the past. SGP:451 - 83 points.

Girvan 48 yo 1964/2012 (49.5%, The Whisky Agency and The Whisky Exchange, sherry butt, 487 bottles)

Girvan 48 yo 1964/2012 (49.5%, The Whisky Agency and The Whisky Exchange, sherry butt, 487 bottles) A Germanobritt joint bottling. Colour: amber. Nose: well, no whisky, rum. It’s true that very old spirits (whisky, cognac, rum…) tend to converge but indeed, this really smells like some old rum of very fine quality. Touches of pencil shavings, raisins, bananas flambéed, vanilla, coconut, café latte, oak smoke, Demerara sugar… well, Demerara indeed! Really curious about the palate, it should be less ‘rummy’…. Mouth: ho-ho, it’s less rummy for sure but rummy it remains. High mentholated extraction, sugar cane (rather rum agricole), liquorice, bags of raisins, angelica, Cointreau and very sweet coffee. The whole is warming and pretty creamy, it’s even got something ‘Bailey’ (please do not shoot!) After ten minutes: more ‘arranged rum – rather toward pineapple in rum. As always, it’s also got something slightly bourbony. Finish: long and spicier, as expected. White pepper, ginger and cloves, with an aftertaste that makes me think of Compass Box’ Orangerie. That’s funny! Comments: a lovely concoction, greatly both rummy and liqueury, eminently drinkable. No ideas as for the price but if it’s fair and if you haven’t got any old grain in the house, well, I know what I would do. SGP:642 - 90 points.
our friend Stijn tells us that the price is around 220€. That's quite fair for a 48yo whisky, isn't it.

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



Block Today: FUN. Just for fun. Performer: Dengue Fever. Track: Tiger Phonecard. Please buy Dengue Fever's music.

November 19, 2012


Tasting two 1968 Bunnahabhain
plus an aperitif

… And the aperitif will be a 1966, but a younger one. The 1968s can really rock, as our beloved official Auld Acquaintance, for example, has showed us in the past.

Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1966/2001 (43.2%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection)

Bunnahabhain 35 yo 1966/2001 (43.2%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection) Four stars Said to have matured in Port wood but I couldn’t see any such indications on the label. Colour: full amber. Nose: I don’t know if it’s the fact that I tried some old Karuizawas this week, but this reminds me of some old sherried Karuizawa indded, with this blend of dried fruits, menthol and liquorice that’s quite beautiful. Also prunes and a gamy side, some tobacco, old polished wood (toward humidor), cigars indeed and then more and more damp earth, fresh putty and humus. Classic old sherry (or old Port this time?) maturing, a lovely very organic nose. A little pomegranate after a few minutes. Mouth: it’s not as complex and wide on the palate, it’s even a notch watery and too dry, but I do enjoy the notes of tobacco, dark chocolate (there’s a lot of that) and slightly overcooked coffee. Some curious touches of lavender and violet sweets as well. Finish: becomes a little too drying, reminds me of some violet-flavoured liquorice that we used to suck when we were kids (ZAN liquorice, an old French brand, not sure it was ever available outside our country). Grenadine as well, that may rather hint at Port wood indeed, just like the violets. Comments: as happens very often with these oldies, the nose was rather more appealing than the palate. Very fine anyway. SGP:461 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 42 yo 1968/2011 (46%, Mo Or Collection, #13, sherry butt, cask #11109, 254 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 42 yo 1968/2011 (46%, Mo Or Collection, #13, sherry butt, cask #11109, 254 bottles) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one couldn’t be more different and believe me, it smells just like some old Château-Chalon (vin jaune). That means plenty of walnuts, apple peelings, cigarette tobacco (blond) and touches of curry powder as well as a little mint. Do you like vin jaune? I do! Perfect dryness, perfect oak. After a few minutes: pot-pourri, roses and touches of patchouli, it all becomes more fragrant (but never perfumy.) Also baked apples with cinnamon, plum pie… Mouth: definitely fruitier than the 1966, starting where it ended on the nose, that is to say on plum pie (zwetschke or zwetsche, or quetsche, or quatscha according to various Germanic dialects including Alsatian.) All that with quite some cinnamon and then tangerines and apples plus a little acacia honey and white chocolate, which is very ‘Bunnahabhain’ in my humble experience. Finish: medium long, sweet and fruity, with an oakiness that’s kept at bay. Very nice freshness in the aftertaste, there’s even more fruits, which is rare with the old ones. More tangerines. Comments: wonderful all along, a very classy fresh old Bunnahabhain that’s eminently drinkable. SGP:641 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968/2012 (47%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry butt, 498 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968/2012 (47%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry butt, 498 bottles) Five stars Not the first 1968 by the excellent TWA racing team. Colour: light gold. Nose: we’re more or less in same territories after the Mo Or, even if this baby’s more dirty, buttery, vegetal and slightly musty/mushroomy at first nosing (all that in a good way, mind you!) After a few minutes, becomes geared toward many more fruits, especially cider apples, and broken branches and roots. Same touches of curry as in the Mo Or and maybe a little smoke. Leather. Mouth: once again we’re pretty close to the Mo Or, this one having a firmer oakiness that imparts more grassy and spicy tones, all assets for sure. So more mint, maybe caraway seeds, nutmeg… But other than that, it’s the same fresh and even rather silky kind of fruitiness. No signs of over-aging whatsoever. Finish: pretty long, honeyed and fruity, with pleasantly sharp spices imparting more oomph (fresh pepper?) Comments: excellent, same score in my book. One could down litres of this as well ;-). SGP:651 - 90 points.

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

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter ;-))
Bright stars or future dust gatherers? (if it isn't rare, well, it isn't.)

Maybe you remember our little rant about these new official single cask offerings that are priced ‘insanely’ high, without any other justification than a little extra-knickknack and a very phony story - it’s usually about a few forgotten casks that were hidden behind some other casks, couldn’t our friends try to find something more original? I’m not saying the stories are always untrue, I’m saying they’re very boring. Anyway, an interesting example was Dalmore’s Constellation series (see WF, Nov. 7) but there’s another one these days: the new Bunnahabhain 40yo, which I don’t think I’ll try by the way.

The price is £2,000.00 a bottle – okay, rather a pretty Tesco-ish £1,999.00 – whilst the prices of the best 40 to 45 years old Bunnahabhains at the indies’ lie around £250 to 300 if not less. Why such relatively low prices? Because there seems to be many old casks of Bunnahabhain around! What’s more, older very old and quite brilliant officials are still available here and there for around £400 to 500. So, even if the new official 40 is great – and it probably is – and even if it’s understandable that no distillery can accept to be left behind in the current race for premiumisation (everybody seems to be wanting to become The Macallan #2 these days), I think multiplying the market’s prices by ten is five times too much, if not more.

Bunnahabhain 40
The new Bunnahabhain 40 >
(picture from bornrich.com,
you just couldn’t make that
one up, could you!)

Granted, official bottlings are usually more expensive than independent ones and may carry a little more value from the collectors’ POVs - the genuinely rare names even more so – but I’m afraid trying to go that high does no good to any brand name, because it’ll simply lower the consumer’s goodwill towards it while the ‘halo effect’ on the brand’s whole range will last for only one or two weeks, and it’s all becoming shorter and shorter, if it ever happens. Okay, it may lower only some consumers’ goodwill, but let’s remember that old-school market segmentation tends to become less and less relevant with the Internet and social media. We’re chatting, we’re chatting, so please dear Bunnahabhain – may we still call you Bunny? – stay with us! - your Serge

PS: Conversely, the fact that Glenfarclas priced its own 40yo at around £250.00, if memory serves, generated a massive goodwill toward the name and I couldn’t help but notice that many whisky lovers consequently started to sing the praises of the distillery’s much younger offerings. That was very well done! ‘Moderate prices make friends, high prices make enemies’, wrote one of my marketing masters (the same who said that a high price alone cannot make for a message). Frankly, I don’t believe one single second that you can enhance the image and perceived value of your core range by sharply raising the prices of your older whiskies (again, unless they're truly rare), all you do is to create more dust-gatherers at shops, which will become as many little bad publicities in the years to come, unless the retailers decide to slash the prices eventually, which more and more people will see on Facebook or else. I’d add that a short study by our excellent compadre Oliver at dramming.com is quite revealing, the prices for old whiskies may get raised, the prices for the core ranges will remain flat. But agreed, enough two-pence marketing, this is supposed to be a whisky blog.





Block Today: ROCK. Sometimes you feel a need of Nick Cave. So, performer: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Track: Today's Lesson. Please visit Nick Cave's website and buy his music!

November 16, 2012


Tasting a nice bunch of nine Glenfarclas

There are many Glenfarclas around, most of them very good. Some indies don’t bear their ‘official’ names on their labels but we won’t have those today. Right, we might try one by the SMWS but everybody knows what their numbers mean. Especially #1…

Glenfarclas 31 yo (42.8%, OB, Port cask, 2012)

Glenfarclas 31 yo (42.8%, OB, Port cask, 2012) Three stars and a half This new baby was fully matured in Port wood, not just finished. Interesting… Colour: gold. Nose: I think the Port remains very noticeable after all these years, not that much because of more sweetness or fruitiness, rather because of these notes of leaves, buds and stems… between cherry and blackcurrant. Eglantine tea, menthol, porridge, butter, leather and traces of hardboiled eggs. It’s an unusual one! Mouth: much, much, and I mean much sweeter now but these leathery notes remain. Also blood oranges, honey, marmalade, aniseed and pepper. Slightly cabernety as well (I know, no cabernet in Port). Anyway, I like the palate much better than the nose, which doesn’t happen that often with old whiskies. Finish: rather long, jammier and spicier. Red berries jam, cardamom and green curry. Comments: it’s not highly Glenfarclassy (yes there’s class in Glenfarclas) but I feel it’s a very interesting variant. SGP:461 - 83 points.

Good, while we’re at it, are you game for a few older bottlings of Glenfarclas ‘to death’?

Glenfarclas 17 yo (43%, OB, Japan, +/-1989, 75cl)

Glenfarclas 17 yo (43%, OB, Japan, +/-1989, 75cl) Four stars and a half Colour: full amber. Nose: classic, all on prunes and chocolate at first nosing, then we have more jams and dried fruits. Dates, figs and such. A third layer comes with subtle meaty tones, touches of gunpowder, cigar humidor and dead leaves. Great balance and elegance, it’s all soft and firm at the same time. More apricot jam after a few minutes and a huge chocolate after fifteen minutes (milk chocolate, rather Swiss I have to say). Mouth: now it became aged kirsch! Really, there are cherries all over the place, as well as ripe plums. Plum pie and even a feeling of Linzertorte. Serious, ask your Austrian friends! A little metal as well, some kind of old bottle effect? Finish: a little short but always on these kirschy tones, with a soft spiciness in the aftertaste. Mulled wine, then pine resins (syrup) Comments: another pretty unusual Glenfarclas. Brilliant nose and a palate that’s maybe a notch excessive but, well, mucho fun. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2002)

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2002) Four stars a well-known bottling, it doesn’t seem I’ve ever published notes of WF. Colour: amber. Nose: funilly enough, this baby smells a little younger than the ‘Japanese’, rather meatier and more on leaves and peelings, just before it starts to go all toward ‘a giant fruitcake’. Also a faint earthiness, mushrooms, leather… Nice nose but I think I liked the 17 even better. Both ware more rounded than the 31yo Port cask. Mouth: some kind of peppery blend of orange marmalade, quince jelly and sultanas. Bags and bags of sultanas… Good body, good mouthfeel, all good. That was short and sweet, wasn’t it. Finish: medium long, very candied and jammy, to the point where there are even hints of dark rum. Cloves and juniper berries in the aftertaste. Comments: a very luscious one. Classically classic. SGP:741 - 86 points. Let’s try a much older version now…

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, ‘all malts’, Martindill, Germany, +/-1975)

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, ‘all malts’, Martindill, Germany, +/-1975) Yes it came in these well-known flat bottles. Colour: full amber. Nose: awawow! Perfect OBE, with merit and flying colours. Granted, it’s a little light and rather whispering, but the general profile is superb, with absolutely all dried fruits plus some tar, liquorice and soot, a little metal polish, linseed oil, almonds, mushrooms and camphor. Once again, I’ll keep this short but we could go on and on. Complex! Mouth: nah, it has lost all its power, probably too much breathing. Too bad, the dried fruits in the distant background aren’t completely dead. Finish: very short, cardboardy. Comments: I couldn’t score this but what a nose! In truth, that was predictable, the whisky was a little cloudy. SGP:210 - Xpoints. The next one should be bigger again…

Glenfarclas 1986/2006 ‘Family Reserve’ (49%, OB, sherry, 760 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1986/2006 ‘Family Reserve’ (49%, OB, sherry, 760 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: much less sherry again, we’re somewhere between the Port cask and the others. So, probably refill, or not oloroso. Anyway, there are very nice whiffs of herbal teas, chamomile, fresh walnuts and almonds, then more and more grass, stones, then a little mint and dill and only touches of raisins. It does remind me of some older indie versions by Cadenhead’s. Mouth: excellent, it’s an earthy/smoky one on the palate. Its also more citrusy, nervous, kind of zesty, not without an interesting Highland-Parkness. A coastal Glenfarclas? Finish: long, still citrusy and a little salty as well. Very waxy aftertaste (quinces, citrons and plain wax). Comments: I’d have never said ‘Glenfarclas’, had I tried this baby blind, even if this style isn’t unknown. Yes, it’s simply not the majority. A very, very good variant if you ask me, classy spirit. Because in Glenfarclas there’s… Ahem… SGP:552 - 89 points.

Good, shall we go on? Oh, and why not have a few indie versions, down to the 1960s?

Glenfarclas 34 yo 1973/2007 (43.7%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, bourbon hogshead,198 bottles)

Glenfarclas 34 yo 1973/2007 (43.7%, Cadenhead, Chairman's Stock, bourbon hogshead,198 bottles) Four stars From the greatest series by Cadenhead’s in my opinion. Colour: gold. Nose: hmm, wait, this is rather oaky at first nosing, even a little plankish, although some rounder and very aromatic scents are soon to develop, rather toward hay, many flowers, light honey and then a big mirabelle pie (which I love). The cinnamon from the oak tends to merge with some menthol and touches of camphor. Plain oak? It’s almost gone after ten minutes (or your nose filtered it out). Mouth: exactly the same feeling, quite some oak, then ripe plums, vanilla, tangerines and mint-flavoured tea ala Moroccan. Cinnamon. Finish: quite long, becomes a notch cardboardy. More white pepper as well and always loads of cinnamon. Comments: I’m torn. Some parts are fantastic but the oak’s a little too drying for my taste. The ones that really rock at Cadenhead’s are the 1971s. SGP:561 - 86 points.

Glenfarclas 36 yo 1970/2007 (54.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.135, ‘Luxurious smooth spice’)

Glenfarclas 36 yo 1970/2007 (54.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.135, ‘Luxurious smooth spice’) Five stars That’s right, at the honourable Society, Glenfarclas is #1. Colour: full amber. Nose: a previous one had a lot of kirsch. Well, this one has got a lot of old Demerara. Actually, it’s a maelstrom of sultanas, dates, praline and, as I said, rum. It’s also quite aggressive, maybe because all the previous ones had been comparatively and relatively light. Let’s add water: fab! Havana cigars galore, old pu-erh tea, humus, mushrooms… What’s not to love?  Mouth (neat): a big, big daddy. Extreme raisins, dates and figs plus some sweet notes of, well, sweets (jelly beans or babies, we’re all kids, aren’t we). In the background, pepper and mint roaring… Really big, thick, kind of imposing. With water: more sweets, mixed with sultanas. Rum baba. It’s a sin! Finish: very long, with more liquorice and the menthol coming to the front. Glorious minty aftertaste. Comments: simply my kind, a very impressive Glenfarclas that needs breathing and water. Just like us (S., c’mon!) SGP:661 - 91 points.

Good, I feel we could do with one or two more…

Glenfarclas 20 yo 1969/1989 (58.2%, Signatory, dumpy, casks #52-54, 900 bottles)

Glenfarclas 20 yo 1969/1989 (58.2%, Signatory, dumpy, casks #52-54, 900 bottles) Four stars and a halfIt’s one of the rather famous 1969s by Signatory. There was also casks 50-51 and several others. Colour: dark amber. Nose: we’re pretty much in the style of the SMWS at very first nosing, but this one goes then much more toward gunpowder, flints and bitter chocolate, so toward a very dry oloroso style. Prunes, dried beef (Grisons meat)… It’s also a tad sharp so quick, water please… With water: becomes very gamy. High game (old hare ;-)), ham, duck à l’orange… Mouth (neat): forget about what I said about the SMWS, that one wasn’t on Demerara, THIS is on Demerara. Impressive… Really, cane sugar, bananas flambéed, crystallised oranges, heavy liquorice… Did this baby mature in Georgetown, Guyana? With water: more of all that. Huge sweetness with a greenish background (chestnut honey, I often use chestnut honey in my notes, if you never tried any, you should, it’s quite a revelation I think – not because I use the descriptor of course). Finish: long, very rich, sweet. Orange marmalade and much of it. Comments: it’s what some, including this taster, sometimes call a ‘sherry monster’. Massive whisky, almost monolithic. SGP:752 - 88 points.

A last one and we’re done. So to speak… Let’s try to find an old bourbon version again, like this baby…

Glenfarclas 1967/2009 (49.8%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, Ex bourbon, cask #23166, 139 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1967/2009 (49.8%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, Ex bourbon, cask #23166, 139 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: we’re somewhere in the style of the old Cadenhead’s, except that this one isn’t ‘Glenfarclas’ at all anymore. I’m not saying it’s not nice, quite the contrary, but it really smells like an old Balvenie (which certainly isn’t a flaw!) So apricots, vanilla, mirabelles, acacia honey and just touches of linseed oil. Also whiffs of broken branches and cut grass. With water: more putty, paraffin, old papers (with ink), hay… Nice, too bad it tends to lose steam now, to the point where it got almost silent. After, say ten minutes. Mouth (neat): same feeling, it’s not unlike a Balvenie, except that this one is a little more tropical (papayas rather than mangos and such). Very sweet. Also crystallized pineapples, barley sugar, rhubarb wine… It’s even quite zesty, I must say (right, rhubarb). With water: no loss of power this time. A lot of barley sugar and maybe touches of Turkish delights, rose-flavoured tea, grenadine… Finish: medium to short but pretty clean, sweet and fruity. Tagada strawberries. Comments: this was probably a little Un-farclas, but I enjoyed the freshness at more than 40 years of age. And careful with water! SGP:640 - 86 points.

All right, I think that was a cool session, we’ll most probably do that again with more, many more old and less old Glenfarclas… (Konstantin and Tomislav, you rock!)

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Scotland's Maggie Bell. Track: The touch of your loving hand. Please visit Maggie Bell's website and buy her music.

November 15, 2012


Running a mArranthon

It’s only quite recently that I started to enjoy Arran. Indeed, the first bottlings were often ridden with unlikely winey notes, as ‘variety’ had been found by using just any wine wood, from Amarone to Champagne through the obligatory Barolo (which many Scottish bottlers write Barrolo or Barollo, BTW - LOL). But things really started to improve in my book with the first ‘natural’ Arrans of good age, let’s have quite a bunch today…
Arran 1999/2012 'The Eagle' (46%, OB, 6000 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: clean and very ‘natural’. Apple pie, candy sugar, butterscotch and touches of malt, with some kind of coastal freshness and wee notes of sherry flying around. More pears and orange blossom after a few minutes, maybe roses. Easy and uncomplicated, but elegant. Mouth: easy, fruity, maybe even a tad sugary (icing sugar). Oranges, maple syrup, barley sugar and vanilla. Oily mouth feel, almost syrupy, maybe from American oak. Finish: pretty long, with more spices from some active wood. Ginger and touches of curry and white pepper. A little burnt caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: very all right, sweet and easily sippable ‘just like that’. SGP:541 - 83 points.
Isle of Arran 14 yo 1996/2011 (46%, Hart Bros) Three stars Colour: straw/ Nose: we’re extremely close to the Eagle, this is just a notch more mineral and putty-like. Maybe there’s also a little more vanilla and fresh mint, then more beer and cut grass. Macha tea. Mouth: sweet and malty, with some American oak again and quite some vanilla plus touches of tinned pineapples and maybe pineapple drops. A little coconut as well. Finish: medium long, with the oak a little more in the front. Comments: very similar, kind of undemanding and, well, easy. Enjoyable. Same very good quality as the Eagle, more or less. SGP:541 – 82 points.
Arran 8 yo 'McCulloch' (49%, OB for for Chester Whisky & Liqueur Company, cask #772, 2010) Two stars and a half Colour: amber with reddish hues. Nose: starts straight on grape stalk, raspberry jam and blackcurrant buds, with some gunpowder and struck matches in the background. Some wine involved, obviously. Also raisins and quite some malt, as well as a little leather. Mouth: starts a little bittersweet, frankly vinous, with some green pepper and again these blackcurrants. Then we have more honey and raisins. Flinty. Finish: quite long, grassy and a little bitter. Capsicum and orange drops. Comments: probably good but not quite my style. SGP:461 - 78 points.
Arran 16 yo 1995/2012 (53.2%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar, refill hogshead, 238 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: ho-ho, it’s an Arran that kind of hints at Clynelish, or so it seems. Can we be against that? So there’s this beeswax at first nosing, then more vanilla and a little earth as well as baked apples and butterscotch, just like in the Eagle, our benchmark for this session. Nice nose, should we call this a baby Clynelish? With water: nice and clean, fruity and candied. Less Clynelish this time ;-(. Mouth (neat): ‘normal’, I’d say. Malt, barley, baked apples, candy sugar and white pepper. A few pear and pineapple drops. With water: more spices from the oak. Ginger, cinnamon and such… Finish: quite long, warming. More oranges. Comments: the palate was, well, quite normal, but the nose was very interesting. SGP:541 - 84 points.
Arran 12 yo (54.8%, Single Cask Nation, Pinot Noir cask, cask #6, 277 bottles) Four stars This baby spent 8 years in bourbon wood, then 4 years in pinot noir, so it's a double maturation. Colour: amber. Nose: interesting. Sure there’s some wine but one can really feel the pinot noir, while I’m not sure that many finishings do resemble the wine that was used. Black cherries and strawberry jam plus a little orange juice, chocolate and black pepper. Works well so far. With water: a little eucalyptus coming through. Mouth (neat): another one that’s quite oily. As far as the profile’s concerned, it’s very unusual and, I must say, most pleasant. In fact, it tastes like some ultra-fortified semi-sweet Madeira. Sultanas, a little leather, corn syrup, honey and fruit salad. Quite a surprise (but the pinot noir is pretty unrecognisable this time). With water: the black cherries are back. Chambertin??? I’m joking… Finish: quite long, rather grassier and bitterer. Stalks, grape pips. Comments: it’s not a style that I should like but I must say it’s a success. Well done! (would love to hear about the cask…) SGP:451 - 85 points.
Arran 2000/2011 'Sleeping Warrior' (54.9%, OB, OB, 6000 bottles) Three stars This was a collaboration with the National Trust for Scotland. Colour: full gold. Nose: quite some sherry (raisins and milk chocolate) but it’s all a little blocked. Let’s add water: grass and menthol, a little game, pencil shavings... Not my cup of malt, I’m afraid. Mouth (neat): starts very lively, with some fructose, oranges, tangerines and apples. Also some ginger and pepper from the oak. Guavas. Nice palate so far… With water: a little more beer, cider, then cinnamon. Finish: medium long, with more spices, including cloves and nutmeg. Comments: phew, this is not an easy session. A certain lack of personality? SGP:541 - 81 points.
Arran 1998/2008 (55.8%, OB, Selected for 10th Anniversary of Potstill Vienna, Sherry, cask #611, 273 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: the freshest so far, with more fresh fruits and rather less vanilla and baked apples than in the others. Cut apples, gooseberries, cranberries and redcurrants. I like this. With water: even nicer. Aniseed, artisan pastis and many apples. Nice. Mouth (neat): same profile as the sleeping warrior, except that there’s more spices, rather around caraway seeds and cloves. Lots of tangerines and violet sweets. With water: nice thickish sweet profile, very ‘Arran’. Cardamom seeds and more caraway. Finish: medium long. Spiced baked apples, Williams pears, cinnamon… Comments: very good whisky but this session is really becoming hard. SGP:541 - 83 points.
Okay, a last one but then we’re done. I had more to taste but enough is enough…
Arran 1997/2011 (56%, OB, sherry cask, cask #675, 599 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: we’re extremely close to the ‘Potstill’ version. Maybe a little more leather and more plain oak? With water: more toasted brioche, butterscotch and custard as well as a little milk chocolate. Pleasant. Mouth (neat): yeah, same as the 1998. A little less violet sweets and maybe a little more oranges (juicy blood oranges). ‘Ideas’ of agaves, or am I dreaming? With water: fruit juice and maybe a little coffee. Finish: medium long, clean, fruity. Comments: another nice one, no doubt. All these whiskies are of very good quality but they’re all more or less oak-driven. No problems, but they can be a little, well, not boring, but… ah well… SGP:541 - 83 points.

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



Block Today: SOUL BLUES. Performer: WF favourite Bronco Bob. Track: Trouble. Please visit Bronco Bob's website and buy his music!

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

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



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

Ben Nevis 19 yo 1972 (56.8%, OB, 75cl, +/-1991)

Bruichladdich 1988/2012 (54.3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12040, 188 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 42 yo 1968/2011 (46%, Mo Or Collection, #13, sherry butt, cask #11109, 254 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1968/2012 (47%, The Whisky Agency, refill sherry butt, 498 bottles)

Clynelish 16 yo 1995/2011 (55.8%, Dead End Whisky Club, hogshead/sherry octave)

Enmore 23 yo 1988/2011 (50%, Silver Seal, Demerara)

Girvan 48 yo 1964/2012 (49.5%, The Whisky Agency and The Whisky Exchange, sherry butt, 487 bottles)

Glenfarclas 36 yo 1970/2007 (54.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #1.135, ‘Luxurious smooth spice’)

Pl1 (60%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2012)

Port Charlotte 2001/2012 (63.3%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12039, 302 bottles)

Tomatin 1976/2012 (49.2%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12046)

Tomatin 36 yo 1976/2012 (49,3%, The Whiskyman for Fulldram, 103 bottles)