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October 2013 - part 2 <--- November 2013 - part 1 ---> November 2013 - part 2


November 14, 2013


Tasting three independent Cragganmore

There used to be quite a few independent Cragganmores around one or two years ago but it seems that those days are well over. Yet I could find a newish 1993 by AD Rattray but that's pretty all. We'll also have a younger apéro and a much older digestif for good measure...

Craggamore 2000/2011 (56.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #3673)

Craggamore 2000/2011 (56.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #3673) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: simply a young clean mildly fruity Speysider, with a typical wee fatness and touches of coal smoke. So yeah, grains, grass, apples, sunflower oil and a little smoke. With water: becomes a little yeasty. Beer, leaven and apple juice. Mouth (neat): big, ultra-sweet barleyish arrival. Barley sugar, corn syrup, apple juice, no smoke, no wax. The simplest expression of malt whisky but it does the job, for sure. With water: gains points here, not that it became any more complex, but the combination of barley sugar with apple juice works perfectly. Very simple and very good. Finish: long, a little sugary. Grassier aftertaste. Comments: sure it's a little new-maky and too narrow, but it goes down very well. Very young but flawless. SGP:631 - 80 points.

Cragganmore 20 yo 1993/2013 (54.2%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #1977, 200 bottles)

Cragganmore 20 yo 1993/2013 (54.2%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #1977, 200 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: another simple one but it's pretty fruits forward this time. That would be mainly pears and watermelons instead of apples, while there's very little smoke and wax. Narrow, but pleasant. Isn't this Williams Pears eau-de-vie? Or rather wild pears? I've tried some German wild pears obstbrand last week and it was excellent, sadly I didn't write the name down. A spirits blogger, yea yeah... With water: sorry we're closed. Doesn't swim. Mouth (neat): rather rich now, with an oily mouth feel. I'd rather say ripe greengages and gooseberries this time, with a few drops of maple syrup. With water: swims better on the palate, but I wouldn't say there's much more happening. Finish: long, even more on ripe plums and barley sugar. Honeyed aftertaste. Comments: it's hard to say much. It's a fresh clean Speysider of high quality, I'll leave it at that. SGP:631 - 81 points.

Cragganmore 1976/1989 (56.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK series, 75cl)

Cragganmore 1976/1989 (56.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, CASK series, 75cl) Two stars and a half Still with this old series' earlier 'white' label. 13 years in wood and 24 years in glass, this should work... Colour: full gold. Nose: oh! Sour apples, rancid butter and 'musty' fruits this time, this is strange yet not unpleasant at all, especially since more beautifully unusual fruits manage to come through after just a few seconds. We're talking longans, litchis, guavas... There's also more and more mead, which isn't very usual either. Some strange kind of Old Bottle Effect? With water: plain iron, pot-pourri, coal, freshly washed pullover (right, Woolite) and pencil lead. That was certainly unexpected. Mouth: how funny! Bitter and dusty at times, even a little soapy, but the fruits are really great. Pears again (the ancient very juicy green ones, such as 'Hardy' butter pears) and litres of lime. A strange combo, a little 'electric' but very entertaining. With water: nah, that doesn't work on the palate, there's too much soap, cardboard and plastic coming out. Finish: long and spicier. Very plasticky with water. Comments: some parts are brilliant, some others are too difficult. No water please! SGP:561 - 78 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Steve Coleman & Five Elements. Track: Treading Water. Please visit Steve Coleman's website and buy his music...

November 13, 2013


Two Parisian pairs of old Karuizawa

Old Karuizawas sell extremely quickly, so there was no need to rush these little tastings. I took my time with these four Parisian babies and my humble notes are just 'for the record'. We'll have two 1980s and two 1981s but sort them per type of cask, first bourbon and then sherry. The labels hint a bit at Toulouse-Lautrec, don't they? For the Moulin Rouge?

Karuizawa 32 yo 1981/2013 (57.3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #8461, 186 bottles)

Karuizawa 32 yo 1981/2013 (57.3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #8461, 186 bottles) Four stars Sherried Karuizawas - not to mention ex-Château Mercian wine casks - are more famous than the bourbons, but is that justified? Let's see... Colour: full gold. Nose: impressively oaky, we're wandering throughout a large carpenter's workshop and this is a very unusual and very pleasant feeling. Once these first feelings become subtler, some fudge, some quinces and a fistful of Havana cigars start to come through, together with more cellulose and cinnamon. Hints of cow stable too, tea... I have to say this could be an old Yamazaki ex-bourbon in my opinion. With water: rounder, with more sweet spices. Spicy sponge cake? A woodiness that's usually more to be found in some teas. Mouth (neat): big and oaky again, with bags of bitter oranges too. It's rather a grassy kind of oak, quite acrid and very cinnamony, which makes it a little difficult when undiluted. A real fighter, we're very far from those vanilla bombs that pop out everywhere these days. With water: some kind of spicy apple juice! Also cinnamon and quinces. Finish: long, still oaky, with a feeling of sawdust and tea. Comments: I find this excellent, but maybe less unusual and spectacular than most other old Karuizawas. In a way, it's more 'normal' - no I didn't say 'ordinary'. SGP:471 - 86 points.

Karuizawa 33 yo 1980/2013 (62.1%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #6431, 124 bottles)

Karuizawa 33 yo 1980/2013 (62.1%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #6431, 124 bottles) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: a completely different story, there's much more jam, tamarind, incense, old white wines, raspberry jam, figs, mulled wine, maybe a little more wood smoke as well, roasted cashews Indian-style... The whole is big but not overpowering so far, despite this super-high strength. With water: superb, it got more camphory, kind of medicinal, with some mint and melissa water. Mouth (neat): very punchy but not overwhelmingly oaky, although there is an obvious tannicity. Just like on the nose, some fresh fruits (blood oranges, raspberries) manage to keep it very fresh and almost 'nervous'. Some chutneys too. With water: at times you would swear there's some sherry inside. A not-too-Christmassy Christmas cake ;-). I also love these huge chocolaty notes, the oranges, the soft spices... Finish: long, with a punctuating oak rather than, well a dominating one. Comments: love this, maybe also because it's a little more 'Karuizawa' than its bro. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Karuizawa 31 yo 1981/2013 (60.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt, cask #78)

Karuizawa 31 yo 1981/2013 (60.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt, cask #78) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: waaah! Some kind of orange marmalade made out of the best oranges ever by the best marmalade makers ever. Behind that, lovely touches of verbena and wormwood. That'll be enough. With water: abfab, herbs, assorted crystallised fruits (or a Sunday morning market in Provence, erm...) and a large humidor full of Havana' best. I love this nose. It's even a little coastal (ideas of seashells). Mouth (neat): a smashing fruitiness, we're far from the thick oloroso style that other old Karuizawas can display. Unexpectedly clean and fresh, with many oranges, one or two slices of mango, some spicy honey and even quite some all-vitamins fruit juice. A restless and even youthful old sherried Karuizawa, probably ex-refill. Perfect. With water: oh no, I mean yes. A kind of slowly-cooked masala dish prepared for some lucky maharajas. Oh whatever. Just one thing, it loves water but not too much water of too many tannins can come to the front. Finish: very long, between fruits and spicy medicines. Comments: a pretty Indian old Karuizawa at a perfect age. I've already tried quite a few 1981s but I think this one just became my favourite. But careful with water... SGP:652 - 93 points.

Karuizawa 33 yo 1980/2013 (60.3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt, cask #4556)

Karuizawa 33 yo 1980/2013 (60.3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt, cask #4556) Five starsColour: amber. Nose: waaah again! This time it's fudge, chocolate, melons and melissa. And maybe that verbena as well. I love verbena, one can find some old bottles of 'Verveine du Velay' pretty easily and for cheap, I think they're always worth your hard-earned euros or bucks. With water: same, it's rather more chocolaty and pretty drier than the 1981. Maybe a little metallic too, but it's lovely. Mouth (neat): thicker, more honeyed than the 1981, spicier and mintier as well. A lot of camphor, cough syrup, bitter oranges, touches of Spanish ham, probably some cranberry juice, even guava juice... Another one that's pretty perfect. With water: indeed. More menthol, more liquorice, maybe more wood extracts? Finish: very long and quite terpenic. I love this just a little less than the 1981's utterly perfect balance. Comments: another masterpiece. SGP:662 - 91 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Uri Caine. Track: All the way. Please visit Uri Caine's website and buy his music...

November 12, 2013


Trying Kilkerran bourbon vs. sherry

I can't try them all but I've liked some earlier batches of Kilkerran aka Glengyle, especially Batch #3 from 2011 (WF 88). They have now one bourbon and one sherry version, like they used to do with Longrow 'Phase Two' around ten or twelve years ago.

Kilkerran 9 yo 2004/2013 'Work in Progress - Bourbon Wood' (46%, OB, batch #5)

Kilkerran 9 yo 2004/2013 'Work in Progress - Bourbon Wood' (46%, OB, batch #5) Five stars I always liked Springbank/Cadenhead's way of writing 'matured in oak' on their bottles. Or maybe do they still have chestnut wood? Colour: white wine. Nose: yes! It's got this typical sooty profile that's also only to be found at Springbank, it's to be wondered if it's not 'in the air' over there in Campbeltown, just like 'flor/jaune yeast' in Jura or Jerez. So soot, wet sand and gravel, sour apples, high-quality artisan yoghurt, ale, old wood, damp cellar, mushrooms and quite some freshly ground grey pepper, which is very peculiar... Love this nose. Mouth: love this palate even more. Everything is perfect, the oranges, tangerines, tar, smoke, grains, spices, ashes, liquorice, lemon, grape seed oil, the mineral side... Just between us, I don't think it's 'WIP' anymore. Unless that means Wonderfully Interesting Petrol ;-). Finish: long, on the same flavours. I mean, long and perfect. Comments: considering the current avalanche of depersonalised NAS oak/wine bombs that taste all the same (right, more or less), this stylish Kilkerran is amazingly refreshing. Kudos. SGP:552 - 91 points.

Kilkerran 9 yo 2004/2013 'Work in Progress - Sherry Wood' (46%, OB, batch #5)

Kilkerran 9 yo 2004/2013 'Work in Progress - Sherry Wood' (46%, OB, batch #5) Three stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: there aren't many differences with the bourbon version, this is actually lightly sherried. Let's say it's a slightly rounder version, I think it's lost a part of the bourbon's charming old style profile. The added touches of bitter oranges won't change much to that feeling. Mouth: works better, adds honey and oranges. I still like the BB better because it's cleaner and leaner, but this is surely excellent. Finish: long, on oranges, soot, pepper and other spices. Comments: I should have tried this lovely baby before the bourbon, that's all I can say. SGP:551 - 84 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Emmanuel Bex with Nico Morelli and Mike Ladd. Track: Peri's Scope. Please visit his website and buy his music...

November 11, 2013


Malternatives, ten new Mezcals joven

Let's have a break again and try to find a few more malternatives. We've got a lot of rum, calvados, cognac or armagnac yet to taste, but I have to say the most impressive malternatives I've found for the time being are some artisan mezcals. Which means that since quite a few new mezcals have just reached WF Towers, we'll have them forthwith!

Los Danzantes

<<< The Los Danzantes Distillery in Matatlan (courtesy of mezcaleria.de)

Del Maguey 'Vida' (42%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, lot #SLR-113, +/-2013)

Del Maguey 'Vida' (42%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, lot #SLR-113, +/-2013) Three stars and a half This one is fully organic, was distilled in San Luis del Rio, and the 'pinas' have been extra-smoked to make it more 'mixable'. And yet we'll have it neat, if you don't mind... Colour: white. Nose: it is, indeed, very smoky and curiously medicinal. The most 'Laphroaiggy' mezcal I've nosed so far. The briny side is huge as well, we're almost nosing a large jar of gherkins. So yes, smoke, brine, antiseptic... that rings a bell. There's also quite a lot of varnish or even fresh paint and pitch. Spectacular. Mouth: sweet, smoky, salty and kind of easy despite the bigness. Some liquorice, more salt, more smoke, more liquorice, more salt, more smoke... This baby should be a hit in Sweden ;-). Also pears. Finish: quite long, quite smoky, quite salty. The low strength is never a problem. Comments: a pretty simple mezcal but it's both spectacular and easy. Goes down very well, this would be a nice bottle to buy if you'd like to discover mezcal and you are an Islay fan. Not very expensive, I believe. SGP:454 - around 83 points.

Derrumbes 'Santiago Matatlan' (46%, OB, mezcal, joven, +/-2013)

Derrumbes 'Santiago Matatlan' (46%, OB, mezcal, joven, +/-2013) Three stars The master distiller is Javier Mateo and the origin is Santiago Matatlan. There. Colour: white. Nose: much, much and I mean much lighter than the Vida, but maybe also a notch more complex. Probably more minerality, chalk, earth, hay, then whiffs of honeysuckle. There's some brine and smoke too but that's all much more discreet. The cleanest so far but we're just starting, aren't we! Mouth: starts a little soapy and cologny, somewhat like a tequila, but it's soon to gain force and complexity. Same mineral side, with something that cannot not remind us of some 1980s Bowmores, with also touches of lemon zests and pears. Not very agavy, I'd say, but it's very complex spirit. Finish: long and always very mineral. Geranium syrup, salt... Comments: a complex, pretty challenging mezcal. Less than 'evident', but that can be an asset. Needs more time, perhaps... SGP:362 - around 80 points.

Derrumbes 'Pino Bonito, Michoacan' (45%, OB, mezcal, joven, +/-2013)

Derrumbes 'Pino Bonito, Michoacan' (45%, OB, mezcal, joven, +/-2013) Five stars Distilled by Emilio Vieyra. Colour: white. Nose: oh, this is very different again. Hugely earthy, with roots and even turnips and celeriac, these gherkins again, tar, maybe capers, burning pinewood and, after ten minutes or less, massive amounts of cigar smoke. Very spectacular. Also gentian, almonds, walnuts... Mouth: this is really fun! I love the arrival, even if - or maybe because - it's a little difficult, even more challenging than its bro from above. More gherkins, lemon juice, capers, smoked fish, ashes, chewed cigar (the last fifth of a double corona, haha), a feeling of plasticine and a growing saltiness. A lot of tar too, it reminds me of the first Port Ellen Rare Malts - serious! Finish: long and very salty. Salted cucumber? Wee seashells? Heavily peppered winkles? (and why not, eh!?) Comments: so extreme, so much fun, so much salt. This is more love it or hate it than any whisky. Love it, with hugs to Mr Vieyra. SGP:373 - around 90 points.

Del Maguey 'San Luis del Rio' (47%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, lot #SLR-116, +/-2013)

Del Maguey 'San Luis del Rio' (47%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, lot #SLR-116, +/-2013) Three stars and a halfA single village mezcal, 100% from espadin agaves. I had a San Luis del Rio Azul 47 back in August and found it a little average, let's see... Colour: white. Nose: we're close to the 'Vida'. This is just a little lighter in style but also a little more spirity and varnishy. Maybe a little leather and some kind of sour sauce, seawater, quite some wood smoke and coffee, walnuts... It's certainly more complex than the Vida but it's also a little less focussed and coherent, I'd say. Suffers and struggles after the latest Derrumbes. Mouth: no, this is excellent now. A very smoky pu-erh tea, ashes, kippers, curry, caraway, aniseed... All great. Huge contrast wrt the nose. Finish: long, relatively sweet for a mezcal. Liquorice. Very smoky aftertaste. Comments: the nose did not convince me but the palate is top notch. SGP:452 - around 84 points.

Alipus 'Sta Ana Del Rio' (47.1%, Los Danzantes, mezcal, joven, batch SAR0011-13, 2013)

Alipus 'Sta Ana Del Rio' (47.1%, Los Danzantes, mezcal, joven, batch SAR0011-13, 2013) Four stars Made from 100% espadin agaves. Colour: white. Nose: it seems that we're back to grass, lemon and gherkins. It's relatively soft and gentle mezcal, not that it's weak or light, it's just that we had some much bigger ones before. Nice earthy touches but little smoke this time. Maybe more flowers too? Tinned pineapples? Mouth: hold on! This is perfect! This time we're having a superb earthy/rooty palate, with gentian (I won't complain), some kind of artisan '90%' chocolate, a bit of cinchona and raw liquorice, a few juniper berries and then a salty and lemony signature. All very nice, this session works pretty well and we haven't even tried one single 'wild agave' mezcal yet. Not that I have anything against cultivated espadins, mind you. Finish: long, balanced, earthy, smoky, salty and a little fruitier. Pineapple wine, does that exist? Comments: another one that's much more to my liking on the palate. SGP:452 - around 85 points.

I had planned to go on with five more mezcals, all from wild agaves this time, but I think I've overextended my forces. This is a pretty tiring kind of session! So, we'll take a break and go on in the coming days, but I may publish everything at the same time...

We're back! We'll use the excellent Alipus as a reference and then just go on...

Del Maguey '100% Tobala' (45%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, lot #TOB-113, +/-2013)

Del Maguey '100% Tobala' (45%, Del Maguey, mezcal, joven, lot #TOB-113, +/-2013) Two stars and a halfAccording to my ultra-short experience, tobala is an extraordinary kind of small wild mountain agaves. Colour: white. Nose: this one is much more 'organic' and yeasty than the Alipus, it's almost bready and reminds me a bit of some Scottish newmake. It's not very smoky, there are rather bags of fermenting fruits, apples, pears, pineapples... Also wet clothes, wool, brine... It's very different from a Tobala by Real Minero that I tried last year (and that I adored - WF 90). Mouth: it's complex but it's a rather sour kind of mezcal, it's even a notch vinegary. Rotting tropical fruits, white wine, lemon juice, sharp cider, one or two drops of Worcestershire sauce, then a lot of brine - or would that be seawater? Big presence but it's a little disconcerting. Finish: plain seawater, with a slightly cologny aftertaste. Comments: probably excellent but maybe for die-hard mezcal connoisseur that need more variants, and not for beginners such as this little taster? SGP:461 - around 78 points.

Real Minero 2009/2013 'Tripon' (46%, OB, mezcal, joven, lot #2-005)

Real Minero 2009/2013 'Tripon' (46%, OB, mezcal, joven, lot #2-005) Four stars Double distilled in small clay stills from 15 years old wild agaves called 'tripon'. There were only 230 litres made back in 2009! Colour: white. Nose: perfect! It's pretty tequila-ish, in the sense that it's rather cleaner than the others, purer, more mineral and, besides, more cleanly phenolic. New tyres, graphite oil, coal smoke, earth, ashes, juniper, geranium flowers... Lovable! Mouth: fat and pure at the same time, zesty, smoky, sappy and camphory. We're on Islay again! A lot of 'rectitude', it's even a little too punchy at times. Very medicinal too - or say a blend of tincture of iodine with artisan kirsch? Finish: very long, still quite eau-de-vie-ish, then bitter almonds and more and more salt and 'peat'. Comments: a sharp, straight, chiselled mezcal. Lovers of young Islayers will love this too in my opinion. SGP:363 - around 87 points.

Real Minero 2006/2013 'Barril' (49.5%, OB, mezcal, joven, lot #2-009)

Real Minero 2006/2013 'Barril' (49.5%, OB, mezcal, joven, lot #2-009) Three stars Double distilled in small clay stills from 14 years old wild agaves called 'barril'. Colour: white. Nose: we're closer to Del Maguey's Tobala again, with a yeasty, sour profile at first nosing, bags of sour apples and pears, cider, then more earth and even a little dust. Also a curious combination of vanilla and brine. Oak-aged gherkins? Maybe hints of Swiss cheese as well, and maybe two or three dried longans for good measure. Mouth: it's a rather earthy one, and a sweet one too. Touches of bananas, ripe gooseberries, a moderate brininess, maybe something such as rhubarb wine (ever tried that? It can be excellent), geranium syrup, a floral side (while we're talking syrups, that would be mullein flowers) and then distilled little berries, sorb, holly, rowan... BTW we'll do a session with such eaux-de-vie within the coming months, they can make for nice malternatives. Finish: quite long but rather smooth. Sweet gin? Comments: again, I tend to like the clean/sharp ones better, but his is certainly high-quality mezcal. SGP:551 - around 80 points.

Real Minero 2008/2013 'Largo' (54%, OB, mezcal, joven, lot #2-007)

Real Minero 2008/2013 'Largo' (54%, OB, mezcal, joven, lot #2-007) Three stars Double distilled in small clay stills from 14 years old wild agaves called 'largo'. Colour: white. Nose: this one is much shier and rounder at the same time, that's probably the high strength. I get pears and pineapples, bubblegum, cherries and then more warm brioche. Not very mezcaly so far. Let's see what happens with water. With water: this is why water is so precious, it's a completely different spirit. In other words, a perfect briny, smoky, zesty mezcal. All bland fruity notes have disappeared, leaving room for more herbal touches too. Aniseed, caraway... And garden bonfire. Mouth (neat): it's a 'narrow' one but it's got this wee medicinal side that's quite enjoyable. There's also a little raw alcohol (sugary sweetness) beyond the brine and the wee burnt notes. Burnt fruits in a pan, liquorice, Williams pears... Needs water. With water: less changes this time. It remains relatively sweet and rounded but there's more liquorice and aniseeds. Finish: good length and more and more liquorice. Comments: much too my liking but I tend to like more extreme ones even better. A little fluffy? SGP:652 - around 82 points.

Real Minero 2004/2013 'Pechuga' (50.8%, OB, mezcal, joven, lot #2-008)

Real Minero 2004/2013 'Pechuga' (50.8%, OB, mezcal, joven, lot #2-008) Three stars This one was tripled distilled in clay stills from 10yo espadin agaves. Only 638 litres of pechuga have been distilled by these makers in 2004! Oh, almost forgot to add that pechugas are distilled while the makers have added a chicken into the still, just like we sometimes do with ham when distilling marc de gewurztraminer. Colour: white. Nose: chicken! I'm joking, I'm not sure this is how 'distilled' chicken ought to smell. It seems that it's a rather fruitier one again, without much smoke or, ah, err, peat. These notes of longans that we found in the Barril, some earth, maybe a little fudge, stewed fruits, a little vanilla... It's actually a pretty soft one so far. With water: this time it remains soft and fruity. Stewed garden fruits, a little soot and dust, wee touches of new plastic... Is that the chicken? Mouth (neat): sweet arrival, slightly burnt, with some caramel. Cooked apricots, apples and peaches, it's a bit 'tarte-tatin-y'. Cake, liquorice, only a drop of brine and very little smoke - if any. With water: some kind of smoked fruit eau-de-vie. A rather gentle one indeed. Finish: quite long but it's got a little 'burnt' side. Maybe plastic again? A little more lemon and salt in the aftertaste. Comments: phew, we made it! One of the most difficult and tiring sessions ever at WF Towers. I liked this pechuga but I again, I like the clean/sharp ones better. Maybe because they're better malternatives? SGP:542 - around 80 points.

Clear winners: Derrumbes 'Pino Bonito' and Real Minero 2009 Tripon! Those would beat many a peaty malt in my opinion. Read more (and better) about mezcal at Mezcal PhD. I especially like their list of all agaves used for making mezcal. You may also check and help this great project called Mescal Archivo.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Shemekia Copeland. Track: Joni Mitchell's Black Crow. Please visit her website and buy her music...

November 10, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.11, Imperial, Blair Atholl (ha), Glenlivet

Let's see what we can find today... We'll try to keep all this relatively light.

Imperial 1995/2013 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, first fill sherry butt, cask #4887)

Imperial 1995/2013 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, first fill sherry butt, cask #4887) Two stars Colour: light gold. Nose: hmm, maybe not quite. Starts a little butyric and grassy, without the big fruits that we usually find in Imperial. Some porridge, vanilla, something faintly medicinal (right, feintly medicinal too), some cardboard, a little clay or mud... Not a sexy imperial for sure. Maybe is it all happening on the palate? Mouth: a little better but it's a little sour, with some beer, a little burnt wood, touches of salt... An unlikely one. Finish: rather long and even saltier. Surprisingly salty. Salted caramel. Comments: as strange one, I must be impervious to this baby's (hidden) charms. Strange that G&M and LMdW chose this one, all the other new ones I could already try have been on another planet. SGP:251 - 75 points.

Blair Atholl 23 yo 1989/2013 (46%, The Coopers Choice, cask #6502, 280 bottles)

Blair Atholl 23 yo 1989/2013 (46%, The Coopers Choice, cask #6502, 280 bottles) Two stars Right, Blair Atholl with two Ls. Who cares, after all? Colour: straw. Nose: a waxy Blair Athol(l), also firmer and more mineral than usual. Nice whiffs of moss, leaves, fern and pine needles, then more cider. Little fruitiness or sweetness so far. Mouth: starts a little bizarrely, fizzy and lemonade-y. Tonic water, bitter oranges... Schweppes? Some pepper too as well as a wee soapiness. A little hard. Finish: rather long, bitter, green... Strong green tea. Comments: it's not especially flawed, it's just that it doesn't offer much pleasure in my opinion. SGP:361 - 74 points.

I think we need another one by The Coopers Choice, I know there are much better ones among their new or recent bottlings. Maybe this one?...

Glenlivet 14 yo 1998/2012 (46%, The Coopers Choice, cask #6914, 260 bottles)

Glenlivet 14 yo 1998/2012 (46%, The Coopers Choice, cask #6914, 260 bottles) Four stars I'm cheating a bit, we all know that Coopers Choice have magnificent sherried Glenlivet! Colour: gold. Nose: no huge sherry, but this chocolaty and tobacco-like combo works very well. Refill sherry hogshead? Raisins, cigars, liquorice, a pack of mint lozenges... Mouth: very excellent. I especially like the pretty big notes of dried pears (that would be williams pears), a slightly smoky kind of chocolate, the few bitter herbs (and cloves), the raisins and the coffee. Good body. Finish: long, slightly flintier. Bitter chocolate, raisins, touches of rum. More pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: now we're talking! But I was expecting that... SGP:451 - 87 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Julius Hemphill and his Sextet. Track: Otis' Groove. Please buy Julius Hemphill's music...

November 8, 2013


Bunnahabhains as they came

After Highland Park, Caol Ila, Laphroaig and Bowmore, I think Bunnahabhain took the lead as far as amounts of new indie bottlings are concerned. Just a feeling... It's certainly the case here at WF Towers, whether unpeated or very peaty, they abound!

Bunnahabhain 8 yo 'Heavily Peated' (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, MacPhail's Collection)

Bunnahabhain 8 yo 'Heavily Peated' (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, MacPhail's Collection) Three stars Now in a more modern livery. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's a light and rather delicate peater, rather more 'coastal' than other peatey Bunnahabhains I could try. Sea air, peat smoke, seaweed and a bag of ripe apples. Easy, light, fresh and clean. Mouth: funny earthy notes in the arrival, this baby's very gentiany (arf). Roots, earth, sweet apple juice, then touches of salt, half an oyster and drops of grapefruit juice. Simple pleasures but pleasures. Finish: quite short but clean and pleasantly peaty and fruity at the same time. Medicinal signature. Comments: a very fair introductory peated Islay - maybe for your friends who had never tried peat? Very all right. SGP:455 - 81 points.

Bunnahabhain 2001/2013 ‘Chocolate Honeycomb’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, sherry puncheon, 812 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 2001/2013 ‘Chocolate Honeycomb’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, sherry puncheon, 812 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it does, indeed, smell of a whole pack of fudge and caramel. Werther's? Some chestnut honey too, roasted peanuts, praline, milk chocolate, a little coffee and then more Nutella. Also whiffs of used matches but no cabbage cooking water. Mouth: more oriental pastries, fudge, orange blossom water (a lot), chocolate and then a little salt or rather brine. Nice clean coastal sherry, very focused. Finish: good length. The saltiness is even more obvious and works well with the very caramelly and chocolaty side. Brownies from Islay? Comments: simple and even a little narrow but the very chocolaty side is spectacular. It's also mildly smoky. SGP:552 - 83 points.

Bunnahabhain 1997/2013 ‘A Peaty Punch’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 348 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1997/2013 ‘A Peaty Punch’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 348 bottles) Four starsIt's not the first peated 1997 that Wemyss have bottled. I enjoyed the previous ones. Colour: white wine. Nose: smoky, less coastal than the G&M, for example, and maybe even narrower, but this very precise and concise style works well. Grass, ashes, iodine and just a little hay. Mouth: very youthful, simple, chiselled, precise and focussed. That means lemon, green apples, marzipan, a little chilli and a lot of smoke and ashes. That's all, folks, but it works. Finish: long and sharp. Ultra-clean, except that there's something very 'green' in the aftertaste. Agaves? Mezcal? I'm not joking... Comments: a clean smoke-forward Bunnahabhain from Oaxac... I mean, from Islay. Unquestionable. SGP:346 - 85 points.

And while we're at Wemyss'...

Bunnahabhain 1991/2013 ‘Seaweed on the Rocks’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 294 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1991/2013 ‘Seaweed on the Rocks’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 294 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale straw. Nose: an interesting leathery and gherkiny (?) profile, I can indeed imagine 'seaweed on the rocks', in a way. We're far from Bunnahabhain's usual honeyed and brioche-y (that'll do, S.) style. A lot of apple peelings and, indeed, seaweed, then some rainwater, a little soot and even whiffs of mud/clay. Some brine too, but very little smoke. Mouth: excellent. It's quite peaty in fact, but I don't think Bunnahabain were using peated malt back in 1991. An ex-peater hogshead? Also apples, green tea, a little cardamom, limejuice... In short, a very sharp and zesty Bunnahabhain. It's very much to my liking. Finish: long, sharp, wonderfully bitter. Comments: a 'dry white wine malt'. Very tense, would say this wine lover. One of my preferred styles but the distillate must be tip-top. This one is. SGP:362 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1990/2013 (50.4%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry butt)

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1990/2013 (50.4%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry butt) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: the exact opposite of the 1991 by Wemyss, and yet they are similar in their cleanness. It's actually a wonderful nutty, raisiny, coffeeish and chocolaty nose. After five minutes, more figs, marzipan, a little mint and liquorice as well as a little moist pipe tobacco. Danish! It's a perfect sherry, very clean, it's not all over the place like others can be (sorry, no names!) After fifteen minutes, we're in a very old wine cellar somewhere in Burgundy. Mouth: great leathery, tobacco-ish and walnutty sherry. Also greengages and other plums (not prunes), more walnuts including two or three green ones that give the whole a curry-like touch. Walnut wine, fino sherry, flor, tobacco... Finish: long and a little less dry. A pinch of salt. Comments: sherry on the dry side. Again, very different and yet so close to the 1991, in essence. SGP:362 - 87 points.

And while we're at Whisky-Fässle's...

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1990/2013 (52%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask)

Bunnahabhain 22 yo 1990/2013 (52%, Whisky-Fässle, sherry cask) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: let's be quick, this is a sootier version, with less walnuts and tobacco and rather more coal and grass. So it's sharper and greener, although more musty notes start to appear after a few minutes. Old books, attic,  antiques shop, then hints of cow stable and hay, a box of Havana cigars, old dry sherry... All this is superb and yet it's not too sexy. I'm sorry Freud, there isn't only sex in life. Mouth: heavier, thicker, more extractive. It's really great to be able to taste this baby along his probable sister cask. In truth, both whiskies are very similar on the palate. Well, maybe this one has more mint and liquorice, maybe... Finish: long and very walnutty. Walnut ratafia (do you know that?) and bitter oranges. Comments: indeed the original spirit is only a medium here, it's all a matter of sherry. Demonstrative sherry. SGP:362 - 87 points.

While we're at it, let's have more 1990...

Bunnahabhain 1990/2012 (54.5%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM173, 220 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1990/2012 (54.5%, The Golden Cask, cask #CM178, 220 bottles) Four stars We don't se this line very often, do we. It's made by The House of MacDuff. Colour: dark amber. Nose: hey? Same style and probably same batch of casks as the Fässles. Heavy thick sherry, this time maybe a little more chocolaty and fruitcaky. Maybe a notch farmier as well. With water: it's a little different, a tad farmier and more raisiny, but other than that we're in the very same family. Mouth (neat): indeed, very same-ish. Thick sherry, raw chocolate, walnuts, tobacco, strong tea and maybe more marmalade this time. But that may be the higher strength. With water: yeah, same. Maybe a notch rounder/creamier/sweeter/smoother. Finish: ditto. Comments: it may be a little rounder than the others, but it's of the same high quality in my view. An excellent batch of sherry butts. SGP:462 - 87 points.

A long break is needed (...) we're back and we can now try a lighter one...

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1989/2013 'Burns Malt' (48.2%, The Whisky Barrel, cask #5739)

Bunnahabhain 23 yo 1989/2013 'Burns Malt' (48.2%, The Whisky Barrel, cask #5739) Four stars The Whisky Barrel already had some very fine 1990s. Colour: white wine. Nose: very interesting, it's a very naked middle-aged Bunnahabhain and there aren't many around these days. I really enjoy this distillate that offers a wide range of very clean and pure aromas, such as apple peelings, a little white rum, linseed oil, light honey, leaves, menthol, a little green tea, a little sunflower oil... It's a tad waxier and less rounded than what we'd expect from Bunnahabhain. Mouth: good punch, it's rather fruitier and more estery on the palate. Apple juice, various apples, wee touches of pineapples, a very mild honeyness and, maybe, pear drops. Gets greener and grassier toward the finish. Finish: quite long and, indeed, greener. Green tea and cider apples. Comments: fair, clean, honest, loyal, pure and simply very good. SGP:451 - 86 points.

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1988/2013 (56.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Artists #3, cask #18745, 279 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 25 yo 1988/2013 (56.3%, La Maison du Whisky, Artists #3, cask #18745, 279 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: this one is very mature and very complex. Roasted nuts and polished woods, then many soft spices (a stroll in a Turkish spice market) and lastly, a wee earthy touch, maybe a little clay. Oh and the almost obligatory - with this style - whiffs of cigar box and soy sauce. With water: more cigars and matchsticks. A wee slice of white truffle. Mouth (neat): rich and creamy, starting on speculoos and gingerbread plus many spices straight from the wood. There's something 'European oak', also bitter oranges, cloves and the same kind of earthy touches as on the nose. With water: the matches feel a bit. Roasted nuts, liquorice. Finish: quite long, on some sort of spiced jam. Smokier aftertaste. Comments: high level. I especially loved the nose when it was neat. The truffles are great too but you have to like truffles (code name ;-)) SGP:562 - 87 points.

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2013 (60.3%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, joint bottling with LMDW, dark version)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2013 (60.3%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, joint bottling with LMDW, dark version) Five stars Dark because there's also a 'light' version within this wee 'ying-yang' series but it's too late, we'll have it later. Colour: amber. Nose: heavy sherry and yet it remains very clean and complex. Chocolate and salt, some kind of smoked meat (beef), cherries and even pinot noir (but in a very different way from in a wine finishing), then more camphor and other mildly medicinal notes. Maybe tarry ropes too? With water: perfect. Moss, pinesap, chestnuts and porcinis. Right, a forest. Also flowers, perhaps. Mouth: rich and very fruity, big attack, on jams and spices. Highly fortified mulled wine, cognac, some liquorice, a little oil (sunflower?) and then more cognac. No, a blend of armagnac and cognac. Fun! With water: more of all that. Give this blind to many people they say upper XO cognac at cask strength. Honest. Finish: long, nutty and then very complex. Salty, with some marmalade, brown sauce (who said Marmite?) and spicy Christmas cake. Bayleaves. Comments: a big, complex old-style Bunnahabhain. Perfect final scene for today. SGP:662 - 90 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Ran Blake. Track: a stunning variation on Horace Silver's Song for my father. Please visit Ran Blake's website and buy his music...

November 7, 2013


Tasting two sherried Arran

Less funny finishings (is there a wine they haven't used in the past, apart from wine that's never matured in oak?), more 'traditional' maturing, I think Arran keeps improving and it's becoming as much a classic as any 'good old name out there'. Let's try two 'traditionally sherried' versions...

Arran 1997/2011 (56%, OB, sherry, cask #675, 599 bottles)

Arran 1997/2011 (56%, OB, sherry, cask #675, 599 bottles) Four stars According to both the colour and the outturn, this baby should have come from a refill sherry butt. Colour: gold. Nose: it's big and it's rather a leafy and leathery kind of sherry, with flints in the background as well as herbal teas and stems (cherry, for example). So no roundness so far, although there are a few raisins here and there. Moderately austere. Wee notes of mashed potatoes after ten minutes. With water: more grassy notes, grains... And even less obvious sherry. Mouth (neat): same first feelings, it's rather leafy, but then we find more eaux-de-vie such as kirsch and quite some bitter oranges. Maybe a tad pungent and biting. With water: opens out! Oranges, drops of brine, drops of Campari, a little fresh cardamom, maybe... Much to my liking but water was needed. Finish: long, with more spices again, pepper, more bitter oranges, drops of quinine tonic wine... Comments: another one that's keen on water. Water is actually obligatory, but it's worth it. Great oranges! SGP:451 - 85 points.

Arran 1996/2013 (55.7%, OB, Private Cask Jan Vissers, sherry hogshead, cask #1996/2013, 174 bottles)

Arran 1996/2013 (55.7%, OB, Private Cask Jan Vissers, sherry hogshead, cask #1996/2013, 174 bottles) Four stars and a half The cask # is a bit funny. No, no typo! Colour: mahogany. Nose: big. Spices, gingerbread, chocolate, Christmas cake, Linzertorte, then peonies and lilies and lastly, pine needles and more cloves and caraway. Merry Christmas! With water: adds touches of cigars and cedar wood, a little coffee and some wonderful praline, all for Christmas. Mouth (neat): a powerful sherry monster, with a lot of punch, spices, jams and, well, slices and slices of fruitcake. Corinth raisins, cloves and pipe tobacco (I remember when I used to smoke pipes more than 25 years ago, there was a very heavy/moist tobacco called Borkum Riff. It was great but it used to ruin my palate). With water: perfect now. Just like its bro, it needs water to become fully balanced. More chocolate and tobacco, more spices but also more raspberries and other red fruits. Very Christmascaky (?) Finish: long, balanced, on chocolate and marmalade. A salty touch and more liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: I'm not 100% sure but this could be my favourite Arran ever. No, wait, the 'bere' was a notch higher but just by one point. That's absolutely nuffin'. SGP:651 - 89 points.

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: RL Burnside. Track: Someday Baby. Please buy his music...

November 6, 2013


Malternatives, another large bag of rums

When it comes to malternatives, rum's an obvious choice but in my opinion, and as I may have written before, only the characterful ones are interesting, while many 'commercial' ones are too sweet and ridden with, well, sugar, caramel or other additives (too shameful to mention!) But let's pursue our quest...

Havana Club 15 yo (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013)

Havana Club 15 yo (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013) Two stars and a halfI found Havana Club's 'Seleccion de Maestros' quite impressive (WF 85). Colour: amber. Nose: there are whiffs of oak at first sniffs, the rest remaining relatively light and slightly caramely. Quite complex, though. Praline, touches of dried bananas, candy sugar, 'real' maple syrup and touches of aromatic herbs. A little parsley? It's all rather elegant, no big fat rum. Mouth: it's easy rum, there's a lot of caramel and chocolate, plum pie, then figs, liquorice and dried bananas again. The caramel and the maple syrup remain a little dominant. Decent mouth feel at just 40% vol. Finish: relatively short, rather on oranges and even more caramel. Candy sugar. More burnt sugar than caramel in the aftertaste, as well as just a little bubblegum. Comments: easy and caramely. The nose was complex. SGP:640 - around 79 points.

Brugal 'Extra Viejo' (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Brugal 'Extra Viejo' (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)Two stars This baby is said to be 8 years of age. Colour: dark gold. Nose: smells like a blend of honey, vanilla and corn syrup, with a small earthy side and then more dried figs. Maybe a little pipe tobacco? Mouth: sweet, sugary, rather light. Some honey again, orange liqueur, vanilla crème, drops of coffee liqueur and that's more or less all. Maybe eucalyptus drops? Decent, not too sweet and cloying, but relatively weak. Finish: short and sweet. Not very noticeable. Comments: a sweet rum, rich and light at the same time, all pretty harmless and, from a whisky drinker's POV, rather good yet uninteresting. SGP:730 - around 72 points.

Panama 18 yo (40%, Rum Nation, 2012)

Panama 18 yo (40%, Rum Nation, 2012) Three stars This is single domaine rum. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this one's more aromatic than the previous ones, there are more dried fruits, bananas, honeys, molasses and various cakes, I'd say. Chocolate cake, walnut cake, some muscovado sugar, maybe a little tar... And some welcome whiffs of overripe fruits, especially apples and pears. Most pleasant. Mouth: very sweet, with an oily mouth feel. That's not my preferred style but I have to say it's well made and matured. A lot of honey, Tia Maria, corn syrup, very sweet raisins, Grand-Marnier... So, it's all very molassy. Finish: of medium length, rather less sugary this time. Unexpected notes of agave syrup in the aftertaste, Grand-Marnier again. Comments: probably among the best you can find within this very sweet molassy style. SGP:720 - around 80 points.

Fair. 5 yo 'Jamaique' (40%, Fair. Spirits, Jamaica, 2013)

Fair. 5 yo 'Jamaique' (40%, Fair. Spirits, Jamaica, 2013) Three stars and a half This rum was distilled at Worthy Park Estates and then aged in bourbon barrel. It's fairtrade rum! Colour: gold. Nose: much more my style, with this earthy and tarry grassiness that can also be found, for example, at Hampden. Hay, leather, tobacco, liquorice and pitch. A little clay or mud as well, which is pleasant in this context. Mouth: good body, pleasant grassy and tarry entry. Some olive oil, sugar cane, a little eucalyptus, definitely a medicinal side (camphor, cough medicine), touches of bitter oranges... All good, only a little light because of the 40% vol. Finish: a decent length. Tarry olive oil and cane juice? Comments: typically Jamaican. Quality's high, only the strength is a little too low. A good malternative. SGP:562 - around 84 points.

Père Labat 1995 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, rhum agricole, +/-2010)

Père Labat 1995 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, rhum agricole, +/-2010) Four stars and a half Père Labat is made by Distillerie Poisson on the small island of Marie-Galante. The 'regular' 8yo is much to my liking (WF 86) so this should be really great. Colour: gold. Nose: very agricole! More complex than the 'traditional' rhums or rums, with some soot, hay, tobacco, earth, then aniseed, wormwood, liquorice, humus, dead leaves, a slight smokiness, burnt grass... A lot happening! Pretty perfect... After ten minutes, more herbs such as rosemary, thyme... Also more pine sap and needles, a little fresh oak... Mouth: same feeling, typically agricole, herbal, oily, tarry, with more liquorice, eucalyptus, camphor, cough mixture, olive oil and just one or two slices of dried bananas. This is very good! Finish: quite long, on the same flavours and a faint saltiness. Comments: simply very high quality agricole. SGP:562 - around 88 points.

While we're at it we could as well try another vintage of Father Labat...

Père Labat 1985 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, rhum agricole, +/-2010)

Père Labat 1985 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, rhum agricole, +/-2010) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it's 'evident' agricole. Very complex, a notch rounder than the 1995, maybe even earthier and smokier. I find roasted chestnuts, the same touches of pine needles and humus as in the 1995, liquorice, tar, coal smoke, various oils (olives, sunflower, grape pips), Corinth raisins, hay... The whole remains softer than the 1995. Oakier too (whiffs of pencil shavings). Mouth: we're closer to the 1995, this has just more oak and a faint sourness (apples) that even hints at calvados. A little more muscovado sugar, caramel, liquorice wood... Finish: same kind of long and slightly salty finish. Maybe a tad acrid. Comments: excellent again but I think I liked the 1995 a notch better on the palate. The oak show a bit. SGP:562 - around 87 points.

Brasil 1999/2013 (45%, Samaroli, cask #14)

Brasil 1999/2013 (45%, Samaroli, cask #14) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: it's a very unusual rum, rather light and much fresher than most, in a sense it could even be Scotch whisky (quite). I find some cider apples, honeysuckle, obvious notes of absinth, cut grass, some menthol, quite some hay... A very interesting one for sure. After ten minutes, notes of plain sugar. Mouth: young calvados! I'm not joking, there are apples and cider everywhere, this is very unusual. Then a little liquorice yet again, brown sugar, custard, absinth again, apple pie... Again, we're sometimes not extremely far from some Scotch malts. Finish: medium length, a little sugary. Candy sugar, a little fruit liqueur. Comments: unusual light style rum, worth trying. SGP:431 - around 81 points.

Savanna 7 yo (43%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2013)

Savanna 7 yo (43%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2013) Four stars This is rhum traditionnel - not agricole. When we think 'French rhum' we usually think Martinique and Guadeloupe/Marie-Galante and forget La Réunion, the wonderful island in the Indian Ocean that's near Mauritius and not too far from Madagascar. I always liked the regular 7yo, better than most other expressions of Savanna. Colour: gold. Nose: starts amazingly sooty, with many overripe apples behind that smoke screen ;-), then more earth, black olives, tobacco and raisins. We're closer to a good agricole or to some heavy Jamaican than to some sweet and rounded South-American. Great! Mouth: somewhere midway between both styles. Some sweetness (raisins, sugar cane, liquorice allsorts) and some grassy earthiness. Add a few olives again, a wee smokiness, some tar and a little smoke. A rather dry style, in fact, much to my liking. Finish: pretty long, on olive oil and raisins, then tar and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: lovely style - a confirmation. This, at cask strength, ahhh... SGP:452 - around 86 points.

Papalin (42.9%, Velier, blended rum, 2013)

Papalin (42.9%, Velier, blended rum, 2013) Three stars Just bottled, should we expect a heavy style - Velier-style? Colour: gold. Nose: yes sir. I don't know at all what's inside, but the base is probably around Trinidad/Jamaica/Demerara. In other words, the golden triangle. Very nice leathery, tobacco-like, liquoricy and earthy profile, a little rooty too. The earthy side never stops growing, although the whole remains relatively light despite this style. A light heavy style rum, so to speak. Mouth: wee touches of cardboard and oak in the arrival (were some very old barrels included?) and even a little plasticine, then more brine, olives, sugar cane and many spices. Becomes quite peppery. Finish: quite long, with even more pepper. Comments: actually no big phat rum, it's all pretty dry and spicy. Very good but 'of course', Velier's single rums can be more thrilling. SGP:362 - around 80 points.

Caroni 15 yo 2000/2013 (?) (52%, OB, Velier)

Caroni 15 yo 2000/2013 (?) (52%, OB, Velier) Four stars The label states that this baby was distilled in 2000, so it cannot be 15 years old. Or it's 15 and it was distilled in 1997 or 1998. But do we actually care? Colour: dark gold. Nose: it's a light Caroni! We're more used - so to speak - to the heavy, tar-like Caronis but this is significantly more Cuban, I'd say. Sugarcane, praline, tarte tatin, walnuts, clay... It's actually quite elegant and complex. With water: a little more tar, pitch and soot come out. A little more molasses too. Mouth (neat): indeed, it's rather Cuban (as far as I can tell), grassy, herbal and spicy, quite oaky too, with some fruits (bananas) but little tarry/petroly notes, although there are some. With water: very balanced, both fruitier (more oranges and raisins) and more petroly indeed. Woks well. Finish: of medium length, closer to the cane. Comments: a non-explosive Caroni for once. Still high quality but less 'love it or hate it' than others. I think I liked the 12 in the same 'retro' series even better (WF 88). SGP:462 - around 85 points.

Nicaragua 18 yo 1995/2013 (52.9%, Sansibar, 180 barrels)

Nicaragua 18 yo 1995/2013 (52.9%, Sansibar, 180 barrels) Four stars The only other Nicaraguan I could taste was a Mombacho 8 yo that was rather ridden with burnt sugar (WF 65). Aargggh... Colour: gold. Nose: not aargggh! This is rather pleasantly metallic at first nosing, sooty, maybe a little hot but there are also very nice whiffs of warm praline, polished wood, cellulose varnish and milk chocolate. Interesting! With water: a walnut pie and some caramelised peanuts. A box of chocolates too. Mouth (neat): sweet and sugary but not in a bad way at all. Bonbons, caramel pie, banana drops, pear jam... Funnily enough, a little tar, liquorice and eucalyptus manage to come through as well after a few seconds, adding complexity and a welcome counter-sweetness (hey?). So not one of these cloying sweet monsters at all. With water: same style but better balanced. Some maple syrup, chocolate, always a lot of praline and just touches of tobacco to make it straighter. Finish: long, clean, maybe a tad narrower but the praline's still there. Comments: probably not a very complicated rum but I enjoyed the fact that it's so straightforward, not too sweet, and that it has so much praline ;-). SGP:541 - around 85 points.

Barbados 2000/2013 (58.8%, The Rum Swedes, 215 bottles)

Barbados 2000/2013 (58.8%, The Rum Swedes, 215 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: oh no, these Swedes are boring, they know too well how to select a cask. This is perfect, high-impact petroly, sooty, tarry and almondy rum. Love the notes of putty, pasticine or even new plastic. Brand new Renault from the early 1980s ;-). Make that a Saab if you wish. Behind that, a little banana but barely... With water: perfect. Leaves, pine needles, tar, engine oil, more plasticine, salmiak, bitter cocoa, leather... Aaahhh... Mouth (neat): excuse me, but LOL! A whole bag of smoked sardines and kippers, marinated in a mix of diesel oil and... wait, mezcal? It's definitely a little agave-y. Love this. Very oily mouth feel. A little nutmeg. With water: ah yes, forgot the anchovies. Finish: very long, very briny, very salmiaky. Tabasco sauce in the aftertaste. Comments: a very modal rum - as opposed to classical. Stunning. SGP:373 - around 91 points.

Yeah, like, go climb over that one... Bah, let's try...

Guyana 2002/2013 (61%, The Rum Swedes, 245 bottles)

Guyana 2002/2013 (61%, The Rum Swedes, 245 bottles) Four stars I've read that this baby was distilled at Diamond (makes sense) in the old Port Mourant double wooden pot still (PM mark) that's now used a lot to make El Dorado rum. Nutshell, this is Demerara rum. Colour: straw. Nose: hell, damnation and putrefaction. This is totally spirit-forward and it's bl**dy perfect again. Clean, crisp, oily, chiselled, less petroly than the Barbados but more mineral, with less plastic and more chalk, perhaps. It's actually a little shier but that may just be the very high strength. With water: hold on, maybe there's a little soap now. More grass too, not too sure it's a perfect swimmer. Mouth (neat): stunning arrival. We're between small berry eaux-de-vie (sorb, sloe and such) and full-strength mezcal once again. And yet it's a little lighter than the Barbados once again. With water: it's not soap, it's rather gin, juniper, genever, whatever. A little more salt too. Finish: long, salty, grassy. Bitter oranges? Comments: the enthusiast's worst dilemma, very strong spirits that are seriously better without water. Anyway, very great naked rum. SGP:462 - around 87 points.

Game for a very last one? Good, so since we were at Diamond's...

Diamond 31 yo 1981/2012 (60.1%, Velier, casks #10536-37-39, 810 bottles)

Diamond 31 yo 1981/2012 (60.1%, Velier, casks #10536-37-39, 810 bottles) Three stars and a half Marks on the barrels, S<W>, which is quite cryptic, but <> definitely means 'diamond'. Originally there were 37 barrels but after ullage there were only three of them remaining. Under Guyana's weather, the angels' share reaches 8% per year so imagine the losses! Colour: deep amber. Nose: it's not fat and oily rum, it's rather a kind of caramelised, relatively light rum, not unlike the Caroni 15 that we had before. So no big tar, olives, rubber, putty or whatnot, rather some sugar cane, green bananas, milk chocolate, raisins and touches of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. In the background, maybe some mango chutney? An elegant surprise. With water: it's got rather rounder, sweet, easy... Say maple syrup, cane syrup, maybe a few floral touches, honey... Not spectacular but very nicely balanced. Mouth (neat): definitely old and 'movie-esque', in the sense that it never stops changing, starting sweet and fruity and becoming a little oaky and acrid via many sweet and less sweet spices. It's also quite hot, mind you, at more than 60% vol. With water: indeed, it's rather estery, light, sweet... Candy sugar, raisins, caramelised nuts, honey... But don't get me wrong, it's not one of these fattish, vulgar dark rums at all. Finish: rather long, with tangerines. Cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: very good but it won't change the (rum) world in my opinion. It's actually rather light and easy rum, maybe a little too uncontroversial. Ha! SGP:541 - around 84 points.

We're done. That Swedo-Barbadian was a frightening killer! Oh, and if you read German or if you think google translate works pretty well (not too sure) you may have a look at these great barrel-aged works. Ditto with French, there's a great new interview of Luca Gargano on DuRhum.com

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the David Murray Octet. Track: a much joyous and energizing version of Giant steps. Please visit David Murray's website and buy his music...

November 5, 2013


A gang of young Glens

Usually easy, fruity drams that won't make you scratch your head but that can be very quaffable. So probably no record breakers but pleasure may be found in these little babies...

Glenallachie 8 yo 2005/2013 (47.5%, Sansibar, 242 bottles)

Glenallachie 8 yo 2005/2013 (47.5%, Sansibar, 242 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts all on creamy vanilla and various fruits, both fresh and as jams. Peaches, apples, apricots, pears... Add to that a little honey and flower nectar and then hints of citrus fruits (tangerines?) and you get... a young Balvenie. That's funny! More cinchona and malt after ten minutes. Mouth: exactly the same feeling. Apricot pie, honey and maple syrup, custard, wheelbarrows of juicy yellow plums (that's right, mirabelles) and then more grassy touches, between apple peelings and plain cut grass. Finish: rather long, a tad more green and bitter. So more grass and a little tobacco, straight from an half-smoked untipped cigarette (as far as I can remember). Comments: a rather estery young Speysider but it's already mature and 'creamy'. Liked it. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Glen Moray 12 yo 2000 (56.1%, Single Cask Nation, first fill bourbon, cask #797, 148 bottles, +/-2013)

Glen Moray 12 yo 2000 (56.1%, Single Cask Nation, first fill bourbon, cask #797, 148 bottles, +/-2013) Four stars Signatory had quite a few young Glen Morays a while back but other than those and the officials, this is 'new' to me. Colour: pale gold. Nose: pretty much the same territories, it's a creamy, vanilla-ed fruity dram. Again, ripe plums, honey, 'yellow' flowers, apricots, ripe apples and, in the background, a little marzipan and maybe halva. Roasted cashews. With water: same. Well maybe it's even a notch peachier in all senses of that word. Mouth (neat): very honeyed (lemon honey), with a very thick and oily mouth feel. The first fill bourbon wood really shows here but it's quite perfect. So a lot of custard, orange marmalade, pineapple sweets... This works! With water:  more of all that but now with also something bourbony. More vanilla and now touches of ginger. Finish: long and really all on orange marmalade now. Zesty lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: almost for your (American) breakfast. I think you cannot do much better with a young Glen Moray. Impressive. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Glen Elgin 17 yo 1995/2013 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 734 bottles)

Glen Elgin 17 yo 1995/2013 (46%, Carn Mor, Strictly Limited, 734 bottles) Three stars From two casks. I agree, not that young but wasn't 1995 just yesterday? Colour: white wine. Nose: a little bizarre, or say unusual. We're on roots and vegetables, I get stewed turnips and celeriac, then rather porridge and lastly, overripe apples. Also touches of wax and oils, always welcome and typically Glen Elgin. The jury's still out... Mouth: better balanced, between oranges and barley sugar, but there's also a growing bitterish grassiness. Liquorice wood? Green pepper? Yet it all remains fruity. Pear cake with a little cinnamon, perhaps. Finish: rather short, with good balance. Fruits, marmalade and white pepper. Comments: not much to say. Not bad at all, the nose was a little more interesting than the palate. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Glen Ord 16 yo 1997/2013 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, ref #DL9954, 396 bottles)

Glen Ord 16 yo 1997/2013 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, ref #DL9954, 396 bottles) Four stars Almost 400 bottles from a single hogshead, that's not bad even if this baby was reduced. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: interesting! Little wood here, rather a mature 'pure' distillate, a style that I really enjoy. In other words, there's time, there isn't wood. Add to that the fact that Ord is a brilliant spirit and you get a superb nose, slightly waxy/petroly, with some hay, cider apples, just a little menthol, raw barley - and yet it's not newmaky at all - and then just wee touches of humus. Lovely, lovely. Mouth: how interesting! It's a little whacky, actually, fizzy like Schweppes, lemony like, err, lemonade and herbal like an old yellow Chartreuse. Add dashes of black and white peppers and you get a very 'nervous' dram. Very interesting and 'good'. Finish: quite long, the fizzy side having become even bigger. It's gin-fizz! Comments: this one was really fun and, indeed, different. It's maybe not technically perfect but as we say in Alsace, vive la différence! SGP:361 - 87 points.

Glentauchers 1998/2013 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for La Maison du Whisky, cask #2413, 317 bottles)

Glentauchers 1998/2013 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for La Maison du Whisky, cask #2413, 317 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: it's the opposite of the Glen Ord in the sense that this one has much more cask influence. Having said that, it's a very pleasant cask influence, with some great tea, tobacco, incense and camphor (hints) at first nosing, then something that really resembles great OBE. More tobacco, old earthy teas, whiffs of 'old toolbox', a bag of walnuts... It's all pretty complex. Great sherry! Mouth: peat! Really, there's a feeling of peat(iness) in the arrival beside quite some marmalade, some green smoke, more tobacco, more walnuts... All that tends to become a little too dry (too walnutty) at some point but on the other hand, sparks of lemon bring a great youthfulness. Several whiskies in one, I'd say. Finish: quite long but rather acrid and a little difficult. Bitter liqueurs. Comments: I loved some parts and liked other parts a little less. Not a very focussed Glentauchers but the arrival on the palate alone is worth it. SGP:362 - 83 points.



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Zac Harmon. Track: It's Cool With Me. Please visit his website and buy his music...

November 4, 2013


Tasting three old Banff

I hadn't expected there would be some 'new' Banff in 2013, but the wizards at W.M. Cadenhead had some casks left and gifted us with a new black 1976 this summer. Hurray! But first, let's try two earlier compadres from WF's archives...

Banff 27 yo 1975/2002 (43%, Part Nan Angelen for Vin&Spirit, 863 bottles)

Banff 27 yo 1975/2002 (43%, Part Nan Angelen for Vin&Spirit, 863 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: ah, the old school... Where else would you find this kind of combination of metal polish and ink with fresh fruits both western and tropical? Ripe mangos and apples plus a fistful of old coins wrapped in today's Wall Street Journal (whatever). Add a little mustard and there, you have it. It's a very unusual nose, which may lead to an even stranger palate, let's see... Mouth: starts a little wobbly, rather drying right from the arrival, with an obvious tannicity. A lot of pepper and bitter chocolate, these metallic tastes are back as well, there's also a dustiness, touches of cardboard and very little fruitiness this time. Where did they go? Finish: of medium length, this time with touches of oranges and maybe passion fruits, but it remains drying and kind of tannic. Cocoa and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: not an easy one for sure. A little challenging, I would say, but the nose was pretty wonderful. Nobody makes old style malt whisky like this anymore, not even in Campbeltown. SGP:362 - 85 points.

Banff 32 yo 1975/2008 (44.2%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, cask ref #4174, Rhône Valley Red Wine Finish, 117 bottles)

Banff 32 yo 1975/2008 (44.2%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, cask ref #4174, Rhône Valley Red Wine Finish, 117 bottles) Three stars and a half An old Banff mixed with syrah, how unlikely is that? Sounds even weirder than the London Philharmonic playing Jimi Hendrix if you ask me. Colour: gold. Nose: hurray again, I do not detect any red wine! It's rather a very Banffy Banff, similar to the Part Nan Angelen, with readymade OBE inside. So again, ink, metal polish, old coins, grandma's old silverware, and only touches of tropical fruits this time. It's actually drier and more 'metallic' than the Swede but it's a beautiful nose if you're into... heavy metal ;-). Mouth: ah well, this time it's this one that's fruitier, but some kind of cardboardy dustiness remains there. Some peppery oak too, this feeling of ink again, oranges and grapefruits, a little salt, 'sucking a copper coin', more pepper... Finish: long and very dry and peppery. It's like eating peppered mustard. No red wine and I doubt it's syrah's notorious spiciness that expresses itself here. Comments: another challenging one. It's great because it's a style that's extinct, but on the other hand, it's difficult whisky. I like the fruitier Banffs much better. SGP:362 - 84 points.

Banff 36 yo 1976/2013 (49.8%, Cadenhead, small batch, bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles)

Banff 36 yo 1976/2013 (49.8%, Cadenhead, small batch, bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles) Five starsUltra-dry and metallic or relatively fruity? Let's see... Colour: gold. Nose: well, it's rather dry, but rather dry like an old grassy Demerara rum can be dry. There are actually touches of old rum, I also find a little olive oil, ink again, old toolbox, old garage. It's only after a good five minutes that more fruits come through, together with a little menthol. Raspberries and wasabi, how does that sound? Mouth: fruits! This time it's not a dry and drying old Banff, or say the dryness is balanced by citrus fruits. Phew! So lemons and tabasco, bitter chocolate with tangerines and peppered blood oranges. I wouldn't say it's an easy whisky, but the fruits really lift it and make it much more 'playable' than its bros. In the background, the usual pepper and mustard as counterpoints. Finish: quite long, lemony and peppery. Also a metallic fruitiness - that would be mangos, I guess. Comments: in my experience, Banff needs quite some fruits or it can be too Jansenist. This one has them. SGP:562 - 90 points.

(with thanks to Konstantin)

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


Whiskyfun fav of the month

October 2013

Favourite recent bottling:
Teaninich 29 yo 1983/2013 (57.5%, Signatory Vintage, refill butt, cask #8071, 471 bottles)  - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Glen Garioch Highland 15 yo 1972 (60%, Slim Cowell’s Personal Selection II, +/-1987) - WF 95

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Bowmore 10 yo 'The Devil's Cask' (56.9%, OB, first fill sherry, 2013)  - WF 88



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: James Cotton. Track: a bouncy No Cuttin' Lose. Please visit James Cotton's website and buy his music...

November 1, 2013


Halloween Special
cognac vs. rum vs. whisky

Whilst Modern Asia in general now makes some rather wonderful spirits, especially whiskies (Taiwan, India) all tourists could and still can find some truly putrid swill over there (right, not just in Asia!) and that's what we may have on WF's tasting table just now. I thought the very un-French Halloween feast was a good occasion to do a short  'Asian cognac' vs. 'Asian whisky' vs. 'Asian rum' session, all that thanks to some distinguished members of MM&Friends on Facebook who gave me the idea. How did we all manage to live before social media, I ask you?


Jennifer 'Extra XO' (40%, OB, cognac, Taiwan, Cognac Goldwin, +/-2005)

Jennifer 'Extra XO' (40%, OB, cognac, Taiwan, Cognac Goldwin, +/-2005) Extra XO??? The good news is that I have only a mini of this Taiwanese spirit. It's supposed to be cognac and quotes 'Cognac Goldwin' in Cognac (of course) as the makers but I couldn't find any such house on the Web. Probably industrial alcohol! BTW, how much methanol is safe, do you have any ideas? Colour: pale gold. At least this is not ridden with caramel or other colouring agents. That's already a point in its favour! Nose: nothing. Maybe some sawdust and the remotest hints of burnt caramel (so yeah, there must be some). Absolutely nothing that would suggest a single bunch of grapes was ever used to make this 'cognac'. Having said that, something that doesn't smell of anything cannot be repulsive. Mouth: first, water. It's kind of wet, if you see what I mean. As Blackadder would have said, this spirit is actually wetter than a haddock's bathing costume. I doubt it contains 40% vol. alc, it's more like 25%, which may be less dangerous. Touches of cardboard and cheap fruit syrup. Grenadine? Drops of Fanta? Finish: absolutely none... Wait, no, there's a growing bitterness, aaarrgghhhh.... Comments: I think I'll survive because I actually swallowed less than a quarter of a drop of this poor thing! SGP:120 - 1 points (for the colour that, remember, wasn't too 'caramel').

SangSom (40%, OB, rum, Thailand, +/-2013)

SangSom (40%, OB, rum, Thailand, +/-2013) It's molasses based rum that's also sometimes mistaken for whisky according to the MM's Facebook page. Hope it's better than Mekhong whisky! Colour: dark gold. Loses points here ;-). Nose: we're more or less in similar territories, although this seems to be a little cleaner. It's also a little shy and probably aromatically impaired, not sure this is meant to be nosed. I don't even find molasses, rather toasted wood, cardboard and some kind of herbs. Couldn't tell you which ones, though... Mouth: sugary and liqueury. These hints of liquid caramel and aniseed liqueur (cheap ouzo) aren't too repulsive but I also find touches of Red Bull - but sadly, no taurine. Becomes dusty. Weak spirit but it's kind of drinkable if you haven't got anything else. Not even water - yes, or Fanta, or Red Bull... Finish: short, sugary and then bitter. Sawdust and cardboard. Comments: it's not easy to find anything clearly 'rum' in this spirit. It could be labelled as anything, actually, cognac, calvados, rum, whisky, tequila... Bad stuff but at least, there is something happening and maybe you could use it in some low-strength cocktails for your enemies. SGP:410 - 15 points.

Myanmar Whisky 'Gold Quality - An Excellent Whisky' (40%, OB, whisky, Myanmar Group Company Ltd, +/-2013)

Myanmar Whisky 'Gold Quality - An Excellent Whisky' (40%, OB, whisky, Myanmar Group Company Ltd, +/-2013) The label says 'Distilled from Finest Grain - Matured in Oak Barrel'. So, that's exactly like Scotch, isn't it! It is also to be noted that we already tasted a whisky that was, partly or not, from Myanmar. It was Grand Royal 'Special Reserve' and it wasn't undrinkable at all (WF 50), so maybe there's something to be expected... Colour: gold. Nose: hey, this is not un-nice! Now, it's not quite whisky and it does smell a bit like some very light pear eau-de-vie, with some bubblegum and a fistful of Haribo bears thrown in. The whole remains extremely light but frankly, I've nosed worse - right, that happened just a few minutes ago. Sadly, after just five minutes, some naughty whiffs of sewage - right, stale beer - start to arise. Not too nice... Mouth: ah well, this is drinkable. It's bad but it's drinkable. Quite some industrial custard mixed with cranberry juice, stale Coca-Cola and bizarre oranges. I remember Chupa Chups had a similar flavour when I was a kid, hope they discontinued it. Finish: very short. What was that again? Something slightly rotten. Rotten fruits? Comments: not too sure this is better or worse than SangSom. The problem is that I'd have to try both again, several times back and forth to make up my mind and I'm just not willing to do that just now. Thanks for your understanding. SGP:300 - 15 points. (and thank you, Andreas, that was worth it!)

You don't need a conclusion, du you?

October 2013 - part 2 <--- November 2013 - part 1 ---> November 2013 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Banff 36 yo 1976/2013 (49.8%, Cadenhead, small batch, bourbon hogshead, 192 bottles)

Barbados 2000/2013 (58.8%, The Rum Swedes, 215 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1987/2013 (60.3%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, joint bottling with LMDW, dark version)

Derrumbes 'Pino Bonito, Michoacan' (45%, OB, mezcal, joven, +/-2013)

Karuizawa 31 yo 1981/2013 (60.5%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt, cask #78)

Karuizawa 33 yo 1980/2013 (62.1%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, bourbon, cask #6431, 124 bottles)

Karuizawa 33 yo 1980/2013 (60.3%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, sherry butt, cask #4556)

Kilkerran 9 yo 2004/2013 'Work in Progress - Bourbon Wood' (46%, OB, batch #5)