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Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2013 - Part 2

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


November 29, 2013


The unlikeliness of Fettercairn - again

It seems that Diageo, now quasi-owners of Whyte & Mackay, are about to sell Jura and Fettercairn to other parties. I've read that that could be Campari, or Bacardi, or Jim Beam, or Brown Forman, or Russian investors, or Chinese investors, or Indian investors. Maybe time to have some Fettercairn?

Fettercairn 14 yo 1996/2011 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, cask # 4241, 304 bottles)

Fettercairn 14 yo 1996/2011 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, cask # 4241, 304 bottles) Two stars Signatory had quite a few 1996s. No easy whisky, I think... Colour: pale gold. Nose: not easy for sure. I find some rubber, some raw malt, some raw eau-de-vie (farmer's kirsch) and touches of new plastic as well as a little soap and dust. On the better side, some oranges. How unsexy! Mouth: not quite. Fanta and green pepper, the whole feeling kind of chemical and frankly aggressive. After ten minutes, it's become grassy and bitter. Very challenging. Finish: not too long but with notes of cardboard and burnt herbs. Burnt mint leaves? More lemon in the aftertaste - hurray. Comments: a strange beast, acrid and totally unsexy. The aftertaste saves it. SGP:352 - 74 points.

Fettercairn 19 yo 1993/2013 (54.1%, Cadenhead, small batch, bourbon hogshead, 462 bottles)

Fettercairn 19 yo 1993/2013 (54.1%, Cadenhead, small batch, bourbon hogshead, 462 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: same kind of nose, but much cleaner, which changes everything. So rubber, plastic and kirsch have become much tinier and now represent assets rather than problems. As Paracelsus would have said, the dose makes the poison. Also quite some chalk and clay, then more grass. With water: works a treat, very nice lemons and hay. Mouth (neat): some kind of soapy lemon and lime, but that soapiness kind of works in this context, that's hard to explain. Maybe also a little cologny. With water: typical. Lemons, malt and 'plastic'. Very unusual but kind of works. Finish: medium length. More lemon and wax/plastic. Comments: I think Fettercairn is often difficult, but also that this one's rather in the upper echelon. I don't think we can ask for much more. SGP:451 - 82 points.

Fettercairn 1990/2013 (51.5%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #MoS 13004, 242 bottles)

Fettercairn 1990/2013 (51.5%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon, cask #MoS 13004, 242 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: some sulphur this time, and that's not sulphur from the cask. It's also very butyric and almost rancid at times, quite an experience again! The good news is that all that tends to vanish, leaving more room for some pleasant lemony, mineral and porridgy notes. With water: tiny-wee notes of cabbage but other than that, it improved indeed. Lemon marmalade, limestone, chalk... Mouth (neat): I like this! It's the first that's 'immediately good', without detours and all on lemons and citrons (maybe ala Clynelish, in a way), with only a little barley sugar and no dirtiness. Good mouth feel. With water: waxier and, well, more Clynelish. How could we be against that? Finish: quite long, waxy and lemony. No more cabbage. Comments: fun stuff, needs water, plays with you. SGP:551 - 84 points.

How about a very old official to round up this little session?

Fettercairn 30 yo 1955  (41.2%, OB, Whyte & Mackay, +/-1985)

Fettercairn 30 yo 1955  (41.2%, OB, Whyte & Mackay, +/-1985) Three stars My oldest Fettercairn ever. Colour: full gold. Nose: well, it seems that Fettercairn was already quite wacky back then, although that would rather go towards rotting tobacco bales this time, with the sulphury notes rather in the background. Hay, farmyard, leather, ham, then more oranges, patchouli, menthol, more tobacco... A very intriguing nose, I'm really curious about the palate. Mouth: very good arrival but tends to nosedive after only two or three seconds. In the arrival, oranges, tobacco and soft spices (cloves, cinnamon cake). Not a lot after that, except one or two mint drops and a little liquorice. Finish: very short and obviously cleaner than expected. A little burnt caramel and a little malt, plus funny touches of kippers in the aftertaste. Comments: it's good that no one ever considered rebottling some of these in ugly decanters and selling them back at Asian airports for silly money. It's very good old whisky at times, the attack is actually great, but it really lacks oomph by today's standards. Partly flattish. SGP:341 - 82 points.

(with thanks to Angus)

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



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November 28, 2013


Big surprises at Braes

Another name that we're seeing a little more at the indies these days, whether it's spelled Braeval or Braes of Glenlivet. I think Braes can take sherry very well.

Braeval 9 yo (40%, Douglas Laing for Fortnum & Mason, +/-2010)

Braeval 9 yo (40%, Douglas Laing for Fortnum & Mason, +/-2010) Two stars and a half This one should be very light. Colour: straw. Nose: barley, barley and barley all over the place, then a few nuts, honey and some white bread. All that is very light yet kind of pleasant, it won't offend anyone, especially the blend drinkers who are/were shopping at the poshy Fortnum & Mason store in Piccadilly. That's where I had found this humble baby. Mouth: very light, like a good sweet ale. Cornflakes, overripe apples, vanilla and a little toasted cake. Goes down without thinking. A little tobacco, perhaps. Finish: not that short, all on overripe apples. Comments: not much to say, this is very fair light malt whisky a kind of bridge between the big blends and the malts. SGP:431 - 78 points.

Braeval 15 yo 1997/2013 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, ref #9888)

Braeval 15 yo 1997/2013 (50%, Hunter Laing, Old Malt Cask, ref #9888) Four stars and a halfRemember the OMC range is now to be found at Hunter Laing's rather than at Douglas Laing. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: ho-ho, this is interesting! Mature malt whisky without any obvious traces of oak - not to mention wines -, all on earth, green bitter apples, gravel and clay. Also wonderful grapefruits and even whiffs of coal smoke. Remarkable! With water: the best apple juice ever. Lovely earthiness and just hints of youthful pineapples. Mouth (neat): wow! A big surprise, a perfect blend of all things waxy/mineral with some lighter citrus and a little peppermint. No, quite some peppermint. Perfect nakedness. With water: perfect, maybe just too much gritty grassiness. Finish: quite long, relatively narrow but ultra-clean. Menthol in the aftertaste. Comments: really, a surprise. I've had some wonderful sherry monsters from Braes but this naked one is just as impressive. Feels northern Highlands at times. SGP:552 - 88 points.

Braes of Glenlivet 1994/2013 (54.6%, Càrn Mor, Celebration of the Cask, bourbon, cask #159181, 218 bottles)

Braes of Glenlivet 1994/2013 (54.6%, Càrn Mor, Celebration of the Cask, bourbon, cask #159181, 218 bottles) Four starsColour: pale gold. Nose: excuse me? Is this really Braes? Big wax, flints, tangerines, citrons, oils and beach sand, we could as well be at Clynelish. Serious! With water: some fresh fruity oak coming out. Very sexy but I'm not 100% sure I should like this. No more Clynelish, sob, sob... Mouth (neat): full fruits including litchis, then vanilla, orange blossom, rosewater and a lot of coconut. Very active American oak, this palate has nothing to do with the nose when undiluted. How funny! (well...) With water: pina colada and barley water. And liquorice allsorts. Very easy/sweet palate. Finish: medium length and... very Irish pure pot still. Comments: could this be a mis-stenciled (right, mis-barcoded) Redbreast? Very good, very good... And wow, Braes! SGP:641 - 87 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Norman Connors. Track: Mr. C. Please buy his music...

November 27, 2013


WWI Scotch by old wine merchants

A useless session? Well, it surely is useless as far as availability is concerned, as these babies are totally unobtainable, but to the taster they're real gems as they're most probably single malts and possibly come from long-gone distilleries. Sadly, it's totally impossible to retrieve this kind of information but who knows, maybe we'll now have sips of pure Dalaruan, Auchtermuchty, Stromness or Dalintober? Who knows?... We'll have the youngest first. As for their strengths, no ideas! And as for WWI, let's simply remember this great quote by Captain Edmund Blackadder (as far as I can remember): "A war hasn’t been fought this badly since Olaf the Hairy, High Chief of all the Vikings, accidentally ordered 80,000 battle helmets with the horns on the inside." (with apologies to Highland Park ;-))


Very Old Highland Whisky (Dymoch, Howden & Co. Ltd, Pure Malt, bottled +/-1910?)

Very Old Highland Whisky (Dymoch, Howden & Co. Ltd, Pure Malt, bottled +/-1910?) Five stars This old glory had a driven cork. Dymoch Howden used to be wine merchants and grocers in George Street, Edinburgh. It's most probably single malt and it could as well have been bottled in the very late 1800s! Colour: pale gold. Nose: old style of course, that is to say full of waxes, linoleum, oils and tars (and straight pitch), with then more herbs and saps, citrons, tangerines (huge), a wee chalkiness and puffs of exhaust fumes from an old Rolls-Royce (well, not too sure about that one. Ahem.) After ten minutes or so, rather more plasticine and fresh putty, with also a little more chalk. It's all very complex and profound, we're almost nosing History - and old artillery. Magnificent. Mouth: high-impact, peaty, citrusy and sooty arrival, impressively assertive and imposing. Feels well like we're around 43 to 45% vol., at this age! If we had to mention one or several contemporary distilleries, I'd say we're right between Talisker, Springbank and peaty Glen Garioch. I even find oysters, mind you. Absolutely wonderful and totally 'Old Highlands'. Becomes even waxier over time, with a growing spiciness. Pepper, cinchona... Amazing. Finish: incredibly long, salty, peppery, smoky, waxy, medicinal and lemony. Comments: that that much peat remained after all these years suggests that this baby was a very heavy hitter when it was bottled. Totally exceptional. I'd surely kill to know the name of the distillery that made this! SGP:455 - 96 points.

Special Scotch Whisky 50 yo (Strachan's of Royal Deeside, bottled October 31, 1968)

Special Scotch Whisky 50 yo (Strachan's of Royal Deeside, bottled October 31, 1968) Five stars Strachan's in Aboyne still exist to this very day. They also used to bottle whisky as 'George Strachan Ltd', a brand that many whisky collectors do know very well. This Scotch was probably distilled around or even before World War I as it says 'Over 50 Years Old' and as many distilleries used to be closed during World War I due to barley shortages. Colour: gold. Nose: how very interesting and beautiful! This one does not really feel older than the Dymoch etc., it's rather more on brine, dry white wine, cider apples, metal polish and old toolbox (in an old garage, of course). And then we find more dried porcinis, shoe polish, tobacco, wee hints of Worcester sauce and a slightly sour and musty earthiness. A old dunnage warehouse? A great nose again, it's just a little less 'obviously great' than the Dymoch (and gang). Mouth: well in line, as smoky as the Dymoch, maybe even smokier, a little spicier too, more metallic and rather more on sour apples instead of lemons. This is big whisky again and it does remind me of Talisker once again, but Talisker was triple distilled until 1928, so theoretically lighter. Oysters again, seawater, touches of marzipan, soot and earth... Excellent once again, just a little less 'obviously great' than its compadre. Finish: rather long, with more metal, a feeling of iron or even copper coins... Comments: another typical old Highlander. It cannot be a blend, unless there's only 10 or 20% grain. Only the rather big metallic side can be a tad disturbing, that could also be a wee 'taste of glass'. SGP:564 - 91 points.

(with heartfelt mercis to Max, Angus, Jon, Phil, Simon, and Rowan Atkinson)



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Billie Holiday. Track: Fine And Mellow. Please visit her website and buy her music...

November 26, 2013


A lousy attempt at bashing a bunch of young Ledaig

There are plenty of young Ledaigs around and I have to admit I've been procrastinating with them, for no specific reasons other than their, well, arr, err, their young age. Probably a mistake, let's down them!

Ledaig 'Mull-a-Mhoine' (56%, Robert Butler Selection, +/-2012)

Ledaig 'Mull-a-Mhoine' (56%, Robert Butler Selection, +/-2012) Four stars This one's quite elliptic, there's a website but it doesn't say much. Probably young. Colour: white wine. Nose: new make, slightly rounded off. Raw peat smoke, grains and natural wool. Very narrow and pretty vodka-ish - but then it's one of the best vodkas ever. Reminds me of the young strong ones by Signatory that they had a good ten years ago. I don't think the idea is to add water. Mouth: sweet peat, lemon, icing sugar, ashes and basta. Good body. Full impact young peat, boringly pleasant. Finish: long, smoky, lemony, ashy and now with more brine. Comments: you know the story, young peaters can be very good because the smoke will mask any flaws that would be related to excessive youth. This is a good example, and I'm sorry to say that I enjoyed it quite a lot. Peatier than other Ledaigs. SGP:447 - 85 points.

Ledaig 2005/2013 (55.2%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead)

Ledaig 2005/2013 (55.2%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: rather more delicate than the Butler, with less raw peat and rather more vanilla, plums and fresh butter. Easier and gentler, as well as probably more complex. Okay, subtle. Mouth: same. Easy, sweet, with more pears beside the lemons and tangerines, a roaring sweet peat and a astounding cleanliness, especially when we remember the dirty-ish Ledaigs that were made after the glorious early seventies and the clean and zesty late 1990s. Finish: very long, I especially enjoy this feeling of peated pears. It's only moderately briny this time, although I do get anchovies in the aftertaste. Sweet little fish! Comments: how I hate to find such ultra-young whiskies excellent ;-)... SGP:537 - 87 points.

Ledaig 7 yo 2005/2013 (62.2%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #900209, 301 bottles)

Ledaig 7 yo 2005/2013 (62.2%, A.D. Rattray, bourbon hogshead, cask #900209, 301 bottles) Four starsPotential rocket fuel this time! It seems that the angels turned this baby down. Colour: white wine. Nose: too strong, not much comes through this time. A vague buttery peat, it seems... So, with water: we're on Islay! Hold on... Also the touches of engine oil work well. It's greasier and more petroly than the Fässle. Mouth (neat): oily, big yet not overpowering, and much similar to the Fässle this time. Very zesty. With water: exactly the Fässle. Maybe just a quarter of one single lemon is missing. Finish: very long, zesty, briny, peaty. Rather salted cider apples in the aftertaste. Comments: on par with the other 2005. It's depressing me that I'm finding these very young babies so much to my liking. SGP:437 - 87 points.

Ledaig 1997/2013 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for La Maison du Whisky, refill sherry hogshead, cask #461)

Ledaig 1997/2013 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for La Maison du Whisky, refill sherry hogshead, cask #461) Four stars and a half Around sixteen years, that's old! Colour: gold. Nose: this one's completely different, less peaty/smoky, starting more on straight salted anchovies on a butter tartine (or that could be sardines), while it would rather develop on almonds and walnuts. Also something 'textile', such as an old fisherman's old sweater (forgotten on an old boat). Ahem. Mouth: once again, a moderate smokiness but a lot of salt and brine and seashells and salted caramel. Also reminds of some seaweed butter such as the ones the good house of Monsieur Bordier make. Excuse me if that's a little too French ;-). Finish: quite long, always very salty. Some grapefruits too in the aftertaste. Comments: I have to say this baby reminds me of some pre-1974 Caol Ilas by the very same and very excellent bottler, minus the petroly/tarry notes. Excellently drinkable. SGP:347 - 88 points.

Tobermory/Ledaig 15 yo 1997/2012 (51,1%, Liquid Sun, refill hogshead, 265 bottles)

Tobermory/Ledaig 15 yo 1997/2012 (51,1%, Liquid Sun, refill hogshead, 265 bottles) Four stars It's good that someone reminds us that Ledaig is distilled at Tobermory, but it's also true that some old Ledaigs (1970s) could be labelled as 'Tobermory'. Imagine the surprise when uncorking a new bottle... Colour: white wine. Nose: probably the most austere of them all, and the most mineral. Chalk and clay, fabric, a little seaweed, apple peelings... I wouldn't say there's a lot going on but water may help. With water: not quite, it's the same. Mouth (neat): it's so amazing that this was so austere on the nose, and so sweet and fruity on your palate. Lemon pie first, then some kinds of smoked jellybeans, while the peatiness never stops growing. The brine, and litres of it, is making a late arrival. With water: sweet and citrusy, with, hidden in the background, some blood oranges. This is very nice. Finish: fairly long, sweet, with a lingering peatiness that goes towards lapsang souchong. Comments: a very strange one, almost no nose and a wonderfully punchy palate. Muhammad Ali? SGP:537 (palate) - 85 points.

Ledaig 11 yo 2001/2012 (58.6%, The Stillman's, bourbon hogshead, 335 bottles)

Ledaig 11 yo 2001/2012 (58.6%, The Stillman's, bourbon hogshead, 335 bottles) Four stars Oops, forgot this younger one but after all, this is no real verticale, is it. Colour: white wine. Nose: same feeling as with the Liquid Sun, the nose is a blocked and only kind of mineral. I love minerality but that's not quite enough. There's also a little antiseptic, mercurochrome... With water: same plus a little raw wool. Or that old sweater. It's really funny that some of these Ledaigs would be so immune to diluting. Mouth (neat): and again, this palate is wonderfully sweet and zesty, with a lot of peat smoke and brine surrounding all that. Also lovely marzipan. Or marzipan-stuffed pears? Does that exist? With water: excellent, same as with the Liquid Sun, it got wonderfully fruity. Lemons and pears, maybe just a little less salt than in the others. Finish: long and saltier again. Brine and lemon juice. Comments: this Mull is not dull! (diving to new lows, S.) SGP:536 (palate) - 86 points.

Pfff, it's hard to catch these youngish Ledaigs napping, isn't it. So instead of having more of those, maybe we could switch to the early 1970s, what do you think? A young and an old 1972, how does that sound?

Ledaig 11 yo 1972 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1983)

Ledaig 11 yo 1972 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1983) Five stars We've already tried the glorious 10yo (WF 93!) and the 13yo (same!) Young 1972 Ledaigs, just like young Longrows and most probably young Broras (unknown) from the same era may well represent the utter best of what the Highlands could produce as far as Islay-style whiskies were concerned. I'm afraid this is one of the very last occasions to taste one of those... Colour: pale gold. Nose: another world after the big young ones. Sure I had to wait a bit so that this light oldie wouldn't sit in a death seat, but frankly, what an amazing nose. 40% vol. is low but I'm sure this baby would still stand on its feet at 15% vol. What an stupendous mixture of olive oil, various waxes, coal, all kinds of green teas (I especially get high-end wulong but I may be dreaming), fresh walnuts, walnut cake, wool, old white burgundy (let's say it, Montrachet)... The peat is discreet but it's well in the style of the 'old young' peaters by G&M, whether Port Ellen, Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Brora or, yes, Ledaig. Just superb. Mouth: stop it. The tropical fruits are chiming in, old Laphroaig style. Enough! Flipside, this baby's a little weak now, but you may still call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Finish: not extremely long but very ashy. This feeling of having eaten an ashtray. Even more of that in the aftertaste. Comments: these glories can be a little challenging because of their low strengths that make them a little unobvious, but provided you can concentrate a bit, they really deliver big time. SGP:356 - 93 points.

Ledaig 40 yo 1972/2013 (48.2%, Alambic Classique, oloroso sherry cask, cask #13310, 113 bottles)

Ledaig 40 yo 1972/2013 (48.2%, Alambic Classique, oloroso sherry cask, cask #13310, 113 bottles) Five stars These casks are now so rare, it's really fab that specialists Alambic Classique could bottle yet another 1972 this year. Colour: gold. Nose: first, no big sherry. Great, because with these complex distillates, nakedness is an asset. Having said that, there are some walnuts and a feeling of manzanilla, with some sea air, more walnuts, a mustiness, the same green teas that we already found in the 11yo, all that before it tends to become more mineral (graphite, brown coal, clay) and a little more medicinal - without getting Old-Laphroaiggy of course. There are also whiffs of musty old books, which is wonderful. Especially the ink... Mouth: paw! Immediate, evident and implacable (all right, all right). Rather than telling you what's in there, I'll tell you what isn't, for a change. No apparent oak, no red-berry-like wine, no vulgar vanilla, no gamy/mushroomy old-sherry tones, no lemon-brine combo, nor caramel or chocolate and no honey/maple syrup. All the rest is there, but I tend to like the nose (even) better. Finish: that's the weak part, not that it's short, it's just that all that tends to scatter and to become a little 'undefined'. No big deal. Comments: very, very lovely and even brilliant despite the finish, but after having downed quite a few cls of both 1972s, back and forth, I think the 11yo was even superior. It was certainly peatier as well. SGP:455 - 91 points.

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



Block Today: PSYCH FUNK (?). Performer: Dexter Wansel. Track: Life on Mars (just for fun). Please visit the website and buy the music...

November 25, 2013


Glann ar Mor unpeated and peated

Long time no Glann ar Mor, tell me about a French taster. In case you don't know yet, Glann ar Mor is located in the northern part of Brittany, which is a very 'Celtic' part of France, as Celtic as Ireland or Scotland in any case. Proof: they play the bagpipe. Ahem. Or as Galicia in Spain, by the way, it's a crying shame that no one ever started a Galician whisky distillery yet, but that may happen...

Glann ar Mor 'Taol Esa 2 Gwech 2013' (46%, OB, France, Brittany, 955 bottles)

Glann ar Mor 'Taol Esa 2 Gwech 2013' (46%, OB, France, Brittany, 955 bottles) Four stars and a half A vatting of three bourbon casks. Glann ar Mor is unpeated. Are Breton names nicer than Gaelic ones? Well, you decide, both are nicer than Alsatians anyway. Colour: white wine. Nose: a combination of warm bread (baguette!), ginger, vanilla, tinned pineapples, wet earth and sea air. It's very natural, whatever that means, fresh and young, absolutely not oak-doped like other young whiskies can be these days and still close to the barley, so to speak. Mouth: yes! To be honest I did not find the nose extremely impressive - and it's maybe not a nosing whisky in the first place, especially since it's obviously quite young - but it really delivers on the palate. It does not feel youngish at all, it's full, the barrels and the distillate blended together to almost-perfection and there's a big salinity. Remember, in wine salinity is the new minerality. In whisky too? So it's very full, yet not quite oily, on sweet barley, salt (yeah), ripe pears (not pears from youth), salted butter caramel and, once again, tinned pineapples - or rather candied pineapples. Great balance but warning, this goes down too well. Finish: a medium length, with clean, salty, fruity and fresh notes. Superb salty/lemony/melony aftertaste. Comments: I'm very fond of this palate. Great, great work, honestly. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Taouarc'h (48.5%, OB, France, Brittany, visitor centre exclusive, 224 bottles, 2013)

Taouarc'h (48.5%, OB, France, Brittany, visitor centre exclusive, 224 bottles, 2013) Four stars So this single bourbon cask was distilled at Glann ar Mor, where they also make a peated malt called Kornog, and it is peated, and yet it's not called Kornog, neither is it called Glann ar Mor. Ooh my poor head, I need some kind of remedy... Like this?... Colour: pale gold. Nose: some kind of sweet brine. Maybe pickled fruits, or fig chutney? It's definitely coastal, only mildly smoky, with a barleyness that's still there in the background. In a way, it reminds me of a beer I was very fond of when I was twenty, Pilsen Urquell. Yes I've almost dropped beer since then. Mouth: shall I use the word 'salinity' again? It's one of the saltiest peaters I could taste, no peated Islay is as salty as this. But yet again, not many salted Islays mature near the sea anyway. Other than that, it's a moderately smoky whisky, the closest Scotch malt I could think of to that respect is Ardmore, but this Taouarc'h is more citrusy. Same level of fruitiness, though. Finish: long, full, on 'sweet peat' as we sometimes say (so not tarry, not ashy, not bonfire-y and not medicinal). Comments: I think this is for whisky lovers who are wavering between sweetness and peatiness. It's got both and quality's high yet again. SGP:646 - 86 points.

Kornog 'Taouarc'h Kentan 13 BC' (46%, OB, France, Brittany, 907 bottles, 2013)

Kornog 'Taouarc'h Kentan 13 BC' (46%, OB, France, Brittany, 907 bottles, 2013) Five stars Ooh my head again ;-). In any case, I suppose this baby wasn't distilled in 13 B.C., when, according to Wikipedia, Drusus was governor of Gaul. It's peated. Colour: straw. Nose: the Taouarc'h with more lemons and grapefruits as well as a bigger briny side. More chiselled and a little fatter at the same time. Like this a lot. Mouth: a Sancerre from the best makers and at a higher strength. This is a style I enjoy a lot, very zesty, with an ultra-clean smokiness and bags of lemons and pink grapefruits (the sweeter ones). Yet it's relatively fat again, pretty thick in fact, always great news. Clean, focussed, chiselled, perfect. No signs of youth as such, in a way there's an Amrut effect, meaning that it obviously matured quicker than under northern climates. Finish: long, ultra-clean, lemony, peaty, salty... All good. Comments: I don't know if this superb fatness comes from direct firing of the stills (live flames as they use at Glann ar Mor). That could well be! SGP:557 - 90 points.

Kornog 'Sant Ivy 2013' (58.6%, OB, France, Brittany)

Kornog 'Sant Ivy 2013' (58.6%, OB, France, Brittany) Four stars and a half What an easy name! It's a single cask this time, maybe not quite ex-Ivy League or is it? Colour: straw. Nose: well, careful, this is a bit strong. It seems that it's a little more medicinal than the others but not sure. Water please... With water: a wee tad raw and barleyish, maybe, when compared with the previous one. A feeling of sake, maybe, but otherwise it's all perfect. Well I love good sake. Mouth (neat): an ultra-lemony peat, this seems to be more or less the Taouarc'h Kentan 13 BC (phew) at a higher strength, with more pepper too. Not too sure, this is no jet fuel but it's really strong. With water: the salt comes out, together with lemons and grapefruits. All that is very peated, naturally. A little less oily and fat this time, but of course all that depends on the amount of water you're adding, on the kind of water, on the way you add it and on the waiting time (never taste whisky just after you've added water, always wait for a few minutes! Sipping is fine...) Finish: long and just excellent. Don't I detect touches of pineapples again? That's youth! Comments: another obvious winner, it's just that the superb Taouarc'h Kentan 13 BC (yeah yeah) may have overshadowed it a tiny-wee bit. SGP:557 - 88 points.

Update: Taouarc'h means peat in Breton.



Block Today: CUBAN JAZZ. Performer: Mongo Santamaria. Track: a superb Afro Blue around 1985. Please buy Mongo Santamaria's music...

November 22, 2013


Glen Elgin to the power of 10

I've been neglecting my Glen Elgins and they've been piling up. They're not the only ones. Sometimes I'm feeling like a landlubber bailing water from an inflatable canoe using a sherry copita... So, let's have a few old or oldish Glen Elgins if you agree... Maybe we could even start with an OB, but not, cough, cough, just any OB...

Glen Elgin 15 yo (60.2%, OB, Manager's Dram, 1988)

Glen Elgin 15 yo (60.2%, OB, Manager's Dram, 1988) Five stars Yes it is a crazy idea to start a session with such a sherried monster, but I thought we'd do something different today, while taking our time. We already tried the 16 yo Manager's Dram bottled five years later in 1993 and loved it (WF 90). Colour: dark amber. Nose: oh sugar! This is emphatically sherried, totally avalanchesque and amazingly rich... And yet it's clean and straightforward, compact, focussed... Excuse me? Well, that would be chocolate ganache, cigars, old balsamico and glazed chestnuts. With water: absolutely superb. Orangettes and black chocolate with a few drops of truffle oil and very, very old balsamic vinegar and just a little pitch. Mouth (neat): BANG! It's as oily as oil (need a spoon), yet kind of silky and very elegant, with tons of bitter chocolate and some kind of salmiaky tobacco. You can't make much heavier than this, and yet it's not stuffing at all. Mysterious and amazing. With water: perfect, just perfect. Bitter oranges, chocolate, also more prunes this time, some liquorice, a wee touch of salt... Finish: extremely long and now slightly herbal to 'lift' it, which makes it even more perfect. A tad Jaegery in the aftertaste, which works very well. Peppermint. Comments: an utter beauty. The managers at SMD - Scottish Malt Distillers had it good (I think I write that every time, don't I?) SGP:572 - 94 points.

Oh my, that was such a stupid idea, how could we go on? Let's have a long break and start all this again (...)

Glen Elgin 16 yo 1995/2012 (56.4%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, bourbon, cask #1660)

Glen Elgin 16 yo 1995/2012 (56.4%, James MacArthur, Old Masters, bourbon, cask #1660) Four stars This baby should be the opposite of the MD. Colour: white wine. Nose: you bet, this is almost totally naked, very close to the barley, with just a little smoke and a touch of wax and oil, then more cut grass. Pure, crystal-clean malt whisky from some great stills. With water: I wouldn't say it's the greatest swimmer ever but these added touches of lemonade and chalk are pleasant. Mouth (neat): excellent mouth feel, this is almost plain beer, only at a much higher strength. There's even a feeling of hops. Also orange zests and a little honey to make it, well, sweeter. With water: very good, malt and grass and lemon with a touch of wax. Raw and natural. Finish: long, all on malted barley, with only the slightest touch of oak. Comments: does what it says on the label: "A honest bottle and a good friend" 'Robert Burns). SGP:342 - 86 points.

Glen Elgin 25 yo 1985/2011 (44.7%, The Whisky Fair, 10th Anniversary, bourbon hogshead, 232 bottles)

Glen Elgin 25 yo 1985/2011 (44.7%, The Whisky Fair, 10th Anniversary, bourbon hogshead, 232 bottles) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: starts with a lot of sweet oak, café latte, caramel, vanilla and, more generally, fudge. Werther's Originals and then a little more caramelised apple pie, tarte tatin and such. Starbuck's mad hazelnut coffee (bwaah!) After ten minutes, more balanced notes of broken branches and a little mint. Needs time to get past the heavy caramel. Mouth: we're now drinking those caramels infused in a mix of Chartreuse and vodka. It's actually quite spectacular but you really have to like these sweet profiles. Oops, almost forgot to mention vanilla and jellybeans. Finish: medium length, with a little more ginger and white pepper from the oak. Slightly eau-de-vie-ish aftertaste. Comments: a very funny dram. Was it ex-ultra-charred 'alligator' bourbon oak? SGP:641 - 80 points.

Glen Elgin 27 yo 1984/2011 (45.1%, Liquid Sun, bourbon, 207 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: the best of both worlds, sitting right between the JMcA and the TWF. So there is some vanilla and café au lait but there are also these beautiful notes of oranges as well as these waxy touches that would remind you of some kind of smoother and rounder Clynelish. Also cut apples, fresh walnuts and almonds (and hazelnuts) plus just a little fresh butter. Beautiful fresh nose. Mouth: absolutely excellent and, in a way, even closer to Clynelish, with this salty side, the wax, the oils, the citrus fruits and the honeydew. Some grass as well, to keep it 'nervous'. I wouldn't say this is a surprise but quite. Finish: pretty long, grassier. Green tea. More salt in the aftertaste, this really is salty. Glen Elgin matured on Islay? Comments: maybe not too approachable but it's wonderful malt. Besides, all this salt is very funny (and salty). SGP:552 - 89 points.

Glen Elgin 27 yo 1984/2011 (45.1%, Liquid Sun, bourbon, 207 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: the best of both worlds, sitting right between the JMcA and the TWF. So there is some vanilla and café au lait but there are also these beautiful notes of oranges as well as these waxy touches that would remind you of some kind of smoother and rounder Clynelish. Also cut apples, fresh walnuts and almonds (and hazelnuts) plus just a little fresh butter. Beautiful fresh nose. Mouth: absolutely excellent and, in a way, even closer to Clynelish, with this salty side, the wax, the oils, the citrus fruits and the honeydew. Some grass as well, to keep it 'nervous'. I wouldn't say this is a surprise but quite. Finish: pretty long, grassier. Green tea. More salt in the aftertaste, this really is salty. Glen Elgin matured on Islay? Comments: maybe not too approachable but it's wonderful malt. Besides, all this salt is very funny (and salty). SGP:552 - 89 points.

Glen Elgin 27 yo 1984/2011 (46.1%, Thosop Import, bourbon hogshead, 213 bottles)

Glen Elgin 27 yo 1984/2011 (46.1%, Thosop Import, bourbon hogshead, 213 bottles) Four stars This one should be close to the Liquid Sun. Let's see... Colour: light gold. Nose: they're close but it's not the same whisky. This one has less vanilla and rather more 'oak', a little more beer as well, some kind of earthy lemons and tangerines and then a little more honey and a little less wax. In a way, it's rather gentler and fruitier, although the bourbony side never stops growing after one minute or two. There's also something slightly metallic (aluminium, if you like). You have to wait a little but I find this nose complex and pretty beautiful. Mouth: same profile as the Liquid Sun, maybe with more tropicality (ha!) and always these little touches of metal. Quite a saltines too (remember, there's no salt in whisky - and no strawberries either). Finish: long, vivid, on oranges, salt and vanilla. That vanilla becomes really big in the aftertaste, which isn't its nicest part. Comments: I like this one almost as much as its bro but it's a little less straight and, say 'immaculate'. Right, a tad dirtier. Very good, though. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Time to try a bunch of 1975s...

Glen Elgin 35 yo 1975/2010 (46.1%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon)

Glen Elgin 35 yo 1975/2010 (46.1%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon) Four stars Colour: light gold. Nose: very orchardy, I'd say. A basket full of summer fruits, juicy apples, pears, greengages and gooseberries. Also a little ginger tonic, a little chalk, parsley, lime honey and... well, that's pretty all. It's very fresh, uncomplicated and pretty un-35yo, but it's well mature. Mouth: exactly the same profile as on the nose. Same fruits, chalk and ginger tonic. Becomes a little drying and maybe too peppery. I like these batches but I wouldn't kill for a bottle. Maybe not even for a cask. Finish: relatively long, with more honey and 'green' elements, skins, peelings and teas. Bitter aftertaste. Comments: very, very all right, but no real magic. A young old one, in a way. Now I remember why I left so many 1975s sitting on my shelves... SGP:651 - 85 points.

Glen Elgin 1975/2011 (46.8%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #11024, 47 bottles)

Glen Elgin 1975/2011 (46.8%, Malts of Scotland, Angel's Choice, bourbon hogshead, cask #11024, 47 bottles) Four stars 47 bottles, greedy angles indeed. Colour: light gold. Nose: pretty much the same as the Fässle, this one has maybe just a little more mint and metal. Other than that, same orchard fruits, same kind of honeyed notes and similar slightly chalky side. Enjoyable. Mouth: same feeling, please read above. Maybe a notch thicker and more honeyed, which works well. Also notes of grapes (chasselas?) and this wee chalkiness. Finish: a little longer this time, with more oomph but also even more green things. Herbs, fruit skins... Comments: very good, actually. Needs a little time... And it's not too bitter or oaky! SGP:561 - 87 points.

Glen Elgin 36 yo 1975/2011 (48.2%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 134 bottles)

Glen Elgin 36 yo 1975/2011 (48.2%, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 134 bottles) Four stars Another pretty micro one. Colour: gold. Nose: samish, obviously. There's maybe a little more oak, a bigger presence, something better focused... But well, it's pretty much the same whisky. Starkrimson apples and light honey. I'd really like to do these 1975s justice but it's very hard to have them all in a row. Yeah, like, you're going to feel sorry for me :-). Mouth: same feeling. More oak, more bigness. It's also oilier and relatively spicier. Apple pie with grated ginger and a large bowl of green tea. Finish: long but with also a bigger bitterness. A little acrid, but I have to say I like that, it keeps your palate alive. In a way. Comments: a little biting, but quality remains high - if not very high in my little moleskine book (what?) SGP:561 - 87 points.

Very good but no easy whiskies, but what wouldn't we do for the cause?

Glen Elgin 35 yo 1975/2011 (51.1%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 186 bottles)

Glen Elgin 35 yo 1975/2011 (51.1%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon hogshead, 186 bottles) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely close to the previous 1975 by the honourable Agency, maybe a wee notch more mineral but other than that, and despite a higher strength here, both whiskies are almost undistinguishable. Well, as I said, this one has maybe a little more chalk, limestone, clay... Mouth: yeah, same. Variations on an apple, teas, herbs and honey pots. Maybe also a little more mint from the oak? And maybe green bananas? Finish: long and, just like the previous one, a little green and biting. Comments: there's no reasons whatsoever why I would come up with a different score. Good stuff, excellent stuff, but it doesn't really thrill me. Must be me. SGP:561 - 87 points.

All right, one last 1975 and this one is brand new...

Glen Elgin 37 yo 1975/2013 (47.6%, The First Editions, bourbon hogshead, 84 bottles)

Glen Elgin 37 yo 1975/2013 (47.6%, The First Editions, bourbon hogshead, 84 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: yes! This one is rounder, softer, better polished, and reminds me more of the very excellent 1984 Liquid Sun than of the other 1975s. We're actually having a kind of blend of all things honeyed (comb, nectar, beehive wood...) with the same kinds of chalky notes as in the others, plus these orchard fruits, first apples as almost always. Now this is a nice nose! Mouth: it's simply zestier than the other 1975s, and I enjoy that. Oranges join the apples again, marmalade, herbs and spices from the oak, honeys and honeydews... And maybe these green bananas again? Finish: long, oakier and spicier, but maybe a notch less green and biting, maybe thanks to a higher dose of good old American vanillin. Comments: great. The 1984 Liquid Sun remains ahead of the pack, but this older baby came close. SGP:551 - 88 points.

That's enough, no more indie Glen Elgins until... Quite a few weeks. Make that months!

(thank you Tom for having killed this session with your Manager's Dram - agreed, that was entirely my fault.)

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



Block Today: DOOM JAZZ (?). Performer: Bruford Levin Upper Extremities. Track: Fin de Siècle. Please buy Bill Brufford and Tony Levin's musics...

November 21, 2013


Two natural independent Dailuaine

Dailuaine isn't very common and what's more, they often came very sherried and very big. This time we'll have two rather 'naked' independent ones, including a brand new one by The Whisky Agency.

Dailuaine 23 yo 1988/2012 (43%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #3549)

Dailuaine 23 yo 1988/2012 (43%, Mackillop's Choice, cask #3549) Two stars 43% vol., that's becoming quite uncommon as well at most 'smaller' indies... Colour: white wine. Nose: all on porridge, liquid smoke, exhaust fumes and paraffin. Big paraffin! Only far away in the background, a few grapefruits and lemons. Reminds me of brand new linoleum when I was a kid, that's very peculiar and pretty unsexy. Mouth: an old-style bottling. I mean, you could find these profiles at the indies around the year 2000 or before, but they've vanished from our favourite shelves. Chewing paraffin and leather plus crunching aspirin tablets and bitter almonds. Add a little grass and some kind of lemonade. Weird, different, actually less unpleasant that it sounds. Finish: rather short, grassy and waxy. Leathery aftertaste. Comments: really old school. Those who look back nostalgically to the late 1990s may enjoy this more than this little taster. Interesting, I'd add. SGP:361 - 75 points.

Dailuaine 31 yo 1982/2013 (51.3%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 225 bottles)

Dailuaine 31 yo 1982/2013 (51.3%, The Whisky Agency, refill hogshead, 225 bottles) Four stars The Whisky Agency had a 1976 'bb hoggie' two years ago that was absolutely excellent in my opinion (WF 89). Colour: straw. Nose: isn't it amazing that similar profiles can provide us with very different feelings? This time, we've got the same very waxy/paraffiny notes but it's all complemented with a rather medicinal side, that includes cough medicine and antiseptic, and then with a kind of briny/coastal/smoky side that's quite uncommon in Speyside. Between anchovies in brine and tinned sardines. How unusual! I like this, it's typically 'Whisky Agency', I think their whiskies are always either excellent, or they really have something to tell us. This one may have both, lets see... Mouth: same comments, this is very old-skool, there's much more pepper than in the 1988, linseed oil, bitter grass, leather, paraffin again... I also really enjoy the combination of sharp lemon juice and tonic water. Finish: long, peppery, sooty, waxy. There are even chillies in the aftertaste. Comments: an ultra-challenging malt, neither for the faint-hearted nor for whisky enthusiasts who are more into sweet/honeyed whiskies. Anti-bourbon, in a way. SGP:362 - 87 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Hamiet Bluiett. Track: You've Changed. Please buy Hamiet Bluiett's music...

November 20, 2013


Five very different Ben Nevis

More funny Ben Nevis today, starting with the entry-level 10 yo that I haven't formally tasted since more than ten years. I remember I used to love the earlier versions, those were big whiskies (WF 88 at the time). Oh and remember, Ben Nevis can be very un-consensual...

Ben Nevis 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2013)

Ben Nevis 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2013) Four starsColour: gold. Nose: oh yes, I remember... It sees that these new ones have less sherry but the big porridge, metal (silverware), oranges zests and plain malt are all back, not to mention this wee soapiness that's so unusual. I wouldn't say it's a clear marker but this happens quite often. It's not an unpleasant soapiness at all. More globally, it's a very malty nose. More sweet ale and coffee after ten minutes. Mouth: more of this feeling of ale and coffee, then orange drops and juice, something like Cointreau in coffee, sweet malt, then some kind of spicy cake. Cloves. It's big whisky, not as whacky as I had thought, but not middle-of-the-road at all. Quite singular. Finish: good length, with more oranges, sweets, sweet ale... Comments: this baby isn't quite worth 88 in my little book anymore but it remains unusual and very interesting. And good! SGP:451 - 85 points.

Ben Nevis 1995/2012 (46%, Jean Boyer, One Shot, first fill sherry)

Ben Nevis 1995/2012 (46%, Jean Boyer, One Shot, first fill sherry) Three stars and a half This baby was the control sample at the MM Awards 2012, which means that the tasters got it twice, 100% blind. I'm very proud of my compadres since one sample got an average of 82.8 while the other sample fetched 82.9. Well done, guys! Colour: gold. Nose: another one that's true to the spirit, but it's probably less rounded and rather grassier than the official 10. Porridge, linseed oil, natural soap, very nice whiffs of dandelions, then more and more cut grass, Sevilel oranges... This is well some characterful malt whisky! Mouth: less coffee than in the OB and rather more grass again, grains, orange zests, the same notes of orange drops (or crystallised segments?) and again this wee soapiness can be a little disturbing but that's also typically Ben Nevis. Also rose jelly? Finish: quite long, clean (with all this soap, haha) and unexpectedly salty. And always oranges. Comments: there are parts that hint at 'Bowmore from the unusual era' but it's really part of this style. A very faithful and loyal example of the make, just one point below the OB in my book. SGP:451 - 84 points.

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1990/2012 (46%, The Maltman, bourbon cask)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1990/2012 (46%, The Maltman, bourbon cask) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it's the most fragrant so far, the most flowery too. Huge notes of lilac, then a large bag full of various oranges (zests). A blend of orange blossom water and rosewater plus some grass and raw malted barley. Very unusual and much to my liking, there aren't that many very flowery malt whiskies around these days. Mouth: very funny and very good! Some parts hint at the most aromatic bourbons and I even find quite some coconut. Other than that, more oranges, then pineapples. Finish: quite long, and it's almost pina colada now. Comments: a very tropical Ben Nevis, spectacular and very, very drinkable. All pleasure, no soapiness this time (it may have been filtered out after 21 years in wood), love it even if it's not totally my style. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1996/2012 (55.4%, The Companions of the Quaich, Canada, hogshead, cask #911)

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1996/2012 (55.4%, The Companions of the Quaich, Canada, hogshead, cask #911) Four stars Cask #911? This one should be fast, let's hope it doesn't oversteer too much. Haha. Colour: straw. Nose: it has got a more austere style, but that may come from the higher strength. A lot of grass, leaves, bark, then grains, barley, fresh butter and just wee whiffs of white rum (agricole) and rich lager. It's pretty pure and clean. With water: there are citrus fruits everywhere now. How zesty and fruity! Mouth (neat): excellent, very fruity and zesty. The most citrusy so far, with grapefruits and tangerines in full swing plus a little orange blossom water, all that on maple syrup and orange cake. A very zesty Ben Nevis indeed. With water: even more fruits, water unleashed tons of citrus. Finish: not very long but clean and perfectly fruity. Comments: water's best friend, H2O really unlocks it, especially on the nose. Same very high fruity quality as the Maltman. SGP:641 (with water) - 87 points.

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1990/2012 (60.4%, Silver Seal, cask #536, 597 bottles)

Ben Nevis 22 yo 1990/2012 (60.4%, Silver Seal, cask #536, 597 bottles) Three stars Colour: amber. Nose: powerful old style Ben Nevis in full swing this time, with more metal (grandma's old silverware), a lot of moss and humus, parsley, some ham and quite some soot. With water: ouch, it got pretty vinegary and that wouldn't go away. Also cooked asparagus and touches of manure, while the whole becomes very gamy. A true whacky and pretty sulphury Ben Nevis, the exact opposite of the 1996 that we just tried. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy and even more unusual this time. Hard to describe, very orangey for sure, honeyed and very spicy, but it's more some kind of strange curry than the usual cloves, cinnamon and pepper. Also strawberry sweets, which is also quite 'Ben Nevis' in my experience, and again something a little metallic. Fun fun fun! With water: really bizarre. Orange blossom honey, coriander and a silver spoon. Finish: long, cleaner, a little honeyed. A very peppery aftertaste though, there are even chillies. Comments: a monster, in a way. Very entertaining and really worth trying. SGP:562 - 82 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: John McLaughlin. Track: My Favourite Things (easier but almost up there with Trane's). Please visit his website and buy his music...

November 19, 2013


Tasting a few middle-aged
indie Highland Park

We'll sort them by ascending strength this time. I especially wanted to try the first one asap. These casks are seldom bottled as 'single casks', for several reasons...

Highland Park 24 yo 1988/2012 (40.9%, Whisky-Doris, hogshead, cask #882, 29 bottles)

Highland Park 24 yo 1988/2012 (40.9%, Whisky-Doris, hogshead, cask #882, 29 bottles) Four stars The equivalent of 29 bottles at very low strength, that's all what used to remain in this sweet little leaking cask! This one should be interesting, kudos to Whisky-Doris for having decided to bottle this. Colour: straw. I had thought this one would be darker. Nose: I think it's extracted more oak, but instead of vanilla or ginger, it's rather essential oils, around eucalyptus or pinesap. There's also the trademark heather honey, a minerality, clearly some wax or rather paraffin and then more ripe - but not overripe - apples. Apart from the sappy side, it's a very fresh and clean nose, absolutely not flat or tired. Mouth: the oak feels a little now, there's quite some strong tea (both green and black) and a bag of apple peelings as well as walnut skins, but there's also a lemony side to it that works well. Green apples. No weakness because of the low strength. Finish: quit long, on many apples. Comments: brilliant nose and very honest, grassy palate. Really worth bottling, kudos again! SGP:571 - 85 points.

Highland Park 21 yo 1992/2013 (45%, Samaroli, cask #1245)

Highland Park 21 yo 1992/2013 (45%, Samaroli, cask #1245) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: it is very waxy this time, very mineral, ultra-clean and kind of Clynelishy (I'm sorry). And come the citrons, lemons and grapefruits! We're now around Pouilly-Fumé or Sancerre, with this very flinty and ultra-zesty style that I enjoy so much. Great distillate and very little wood - but mature it is! Mouth: dry apple spirit! This is quite spectacular and, I must say, very good but you have to like your whisky sharp and dry. There's also quite some iodine, then this fine citrusy side. Grapefruits. Finish: of short medium length, citrusy, chiselled, very clean and fresh. Comments: on par with the Whisky-Doris. It's a narrow and relatively shy HP but I do enjoy this 'purity'. Oh, and it needs air or it can remain a bit closed. SGP:451 - 86 points.

Highland Park 17 yo 1995/2013 (53.9%, The First Edition, refill hogshead, 286 bottles)

Highland Park 17 yo 1995/2013 (53.9%, The First Edition, refill hogshead, 286 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: same style as the Samaroli, only even more mineral and maybe less fruity. Grassier and slightly smokier too. So, more austere but that could be a matter of water/reduction. No, wait, quite some vanilla's coming out after fifteen minutes. With water: some smoke coming out, as well as more barley/porridge. Barley porridge, can you make that? Mouth (neat): lemons and limes in a vanilla crust, plus sunflower oil and grass. This is funny, it reminds me of some Rosebanks. Sweetly waxy mineral grassy sharpish zesty lemony naked Highland Park. Perfect mouth feel, not much to add. With water: becomes sweeter, with a feeling of lemon drops and jellies. Fructose. Finish: medium length, very clean, lemony, concise. Maybe some peat in the aftertaste. Comments: completely spirit-driven, which works greatly when the spirit is great (what?) SGP:551 - 88 points.

Highland Park 1998/2012 (57.4%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12058, 189 bottles)

Highland Park 1998/2012 (57.4%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12058, 189 bottles) Five stars So a sherried version this time, we might get closer to the officials, let's see... Colour: red mahogany. Nose: an archetypical and archetypal balanced semi-fruity sherry monster. There's not much to say, this works perfectly, there are dried figs, dates, raisins aplenty, orange marmalade, honey (heather? I couldn't tell you, it's too 'integrated') and milk chocolate plus, behind all that, this waxy minerality that's so typically HP. With water: swims like Mark Spitz. More tobacco, maybe. Full humidor and hay, some smoke and ashes. Mouth (neat): no excessive leather or similar notes, rather more oranges and pink grapefruits, what more could you ask for? And it's not even heavy. With water: perfect. Oranges in all their forms, wee touches of menthol and a little orange blossom water. Finish: long, curiously zesty considering the amount of sherry. More cloves and gingerbread in the aftertaste. Comments: a sherry monster but not a heavy one. So, archetypical or archetypal or both? SGP:652 - 91 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Tinsley Ellis. Track: To the devill for a dime. Please visit his website and buy his music...

November 18, 2013


A few Kilchoman

Some Kilchoman casks are now becoming a little older, which allows us to do our very first short... drum roll... verticale! Hurray! Now, three of these babies out of four are still very young and of similar age.

Not too sure about what happened to this 'distillery door' that we had signed during the inauguration ceremony in 2004. >>>

Kilchoman 2004

Kilchoman 'Machir Bay 2013' (46, OB)

Kilchoman 'Machir Bay 2013' (46, OB) Three stars Not too sure this one is younger than the 'Inaugural 100% Islay', but as the strength is lower, let's have it first. Colour: white wine. Nose: sea air and brine. That's pretty all, but that's already much. No, wait, maybe also a little antiseptic as well as apple compote? It's all simple, crisp and very fresh. Mouth: good arrival on salt and something such as smoked pineapples, then more sweet apples, honey and custard. It's a pretty narrow and simple peater but everything's well set up. Maybe a notch too rounded, in a way, more sharpness may be expected from a very young peater. Finish: of medium length, maybe a little sweet again, but with more bitter chocolate and something slightly metallic in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, all Kilchomans are very good, I think. It's just this sweetness that puts it a good notch below most others. SGP:537 - 81 points.

Kilchoman 3 yo 'Inaugural 100% Islay' (50%, OB, 2011)

Kilchoman 3 yo 'Inaugural 100% Islay' (50%, OB, 2011) Four stars That we've already tasted the second release - so before the first - goes to show how lousy this little website is. Colour: white wine. Nose: I like this so much better than the 'Machir'! Its not that it's really more complex, but it's got a very different kind of brine and smoke that really hint at mezcal. Nope I'm not making this up. With water: like this a lot. Brine (ex-gherkin tin can ;-)) and lamp oil. Mouth (neat): I really like this a lot. It's a perfect young peater, there are no odd notes, sure it's narrow but this feeling of smoky cherries and pears is adorable. You just have to like cherries and smoke. I guess everyone likes pears! Smoky maraschino. With water: crystal clean pear and lemon and smoke juice with some salt. Some metal too (iron, copper coins). Finish: same for a moderately long time. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: it seems that I liked the Inaugural release better than the 2nd. And why not!? Excellent young Kilchoman. SGP:457 - 86 points.

Kilchoman 2007/2010 (62.2%, OB for Feis Ile 2010, bourbon, cask #11307, 258 bottles)

Kilchoman 2007/2010 (62.2%, OB for Feis Ile 2010, bourbon, cask #11307, 258 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: antiseptic and that's all, but I'm sure it's the very high strength that causes that. A little charcoal smoke too, maybe. Chlorine? Bleach? With water: pure liquid smoke now. Water didn't work too well, it's kind of locked. Mouth (neat): a little hard at such high strength, there's a kind of soapiness that doesn't work too well in my opinion. Also almonds, an adjacent flavour. With water: that worked. Bags of lemons and grapefruits, a typical development that many young peaters can showcase. And then it becomes drier again, very ashy and smoky. The water's effect has been short. Finish: long, very peaty, dry and ashy. Comments: a sharp, ultra-peaty one. This one's hard to control - and of course to tame. SGP:368 - 83 points.

Kilchoman 2006/2013 (59.2%, OB for World of Whisky, sherry, cask #372/2006)

Kilchoman 2006/2013 (59.2%, OB for World of Whisky, sherry, cask #372/2006) Four stars and a half Wow, this one's old! It was bottled for Switzerland (not travel retail, not the same company). Colour: gold. Nose: there may be some kind of aroma-blocking happening but one can feel that this is top-notch tobacco-ish, walnutty, dry-sherried peater. There are also some wonderful medicinal tones. Tincture of iodine? With water: h-u-r-r-a-y! Old toolbox, musty cellar, soy sauce and fresh putty. What's not to like?  Mouth (neat): I find this excellent, it's one of these rare young peated whiskies where the added sherry has created a kind of third flavour dimension, around Italian liqueurs. Maraschino, amaretto and such. Smoked almonds and small cherries everywhere. A little ginger too. With water: perfect, this could be much older. Smoky Seville oranges and citrons plus a few shelled walnuts. Finish: long, full, zesty, smoky... The sherry really complements the spirit and never dominates. I also found one anchovy in the aftertaste ;-). Comments: I have to say this is not a surprise. An excellent young ueberpeater in a good sherry cask can quickly become fantastic, as has been seen at, say Port Charlotte (right, Bruichladdich). But that can also fail miserably, which isn't the case at all here. Great, great stuff! SGP:357 - 89 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Ornette Coleman. Track: What Reason. Please buy his music...

November 17, 2013


Three bourbons

I know I'm neglecting my American whiskies/whiskeys, a crying shame! But there are so many great American blogs and resources out there (Sku's, Chuck's, Whisky Advocate, various forums and such), I couldn't compete anyway. Yet, let's have three little bourbons today, for once...

Wild Turkey '81' (40.5%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2013)

Wild Turkey '81' (40.5%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Wild Turkey used to belong to France's Pernod Ricard until around 2009, when they sold the brand to Campari for around $600Mio. Colour: gold. Nose: mild, sweet and spicy. Maple syrup with a little coconut, vanilla cream, geranium flowers, wee touches of lavender and then rather ginger liqueur. I know it isn't but it feels flavoured to this nose, which isn't obligatorily a bad thing. Mouth: maybe a little watery, but the profile is pleasant. Some kinds of herbal teas that would involve bits of orange peel, chamomile, rosemary and bits of oak. Add a little honey and we're on. Very easy whisky. Finish: short, remaining sweet. Comments: easy, undemanding, not too syrupy and with a controlled oakiness. Too bad it's maybe a little too flat for a malt drinker, but I really enjoyed the nose. SGP:650 - 79 points.

Wild Turkey '101' (50.5%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2013)

Wild Turkey '101' (50.5%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2013) Three stars Colour: dark gold. Nose: I liked the nose of the 81 but I find this one a little overoaky and plankish. Pencil shavings, vanilla, more pencils, grass and hay... It's much narrower, but water may help. With water: wow, we managed to recreate the 81! Please refer to the above notes ;-). Mouth (neat): exactly what I'd expect from some easy young bourbon. Maple and corn syrups, marmalade, a little ginger, plenty of vanilla and a little liquorice. Simple yet quite to my liking this time, especially since there's also a wee earthiness showing up. With water: this is good, easy and sexy. Sweet orange liqueur, drops of ginger liqueur, a little spearmint, herbal teas, some honey... Finish: of medium length, sweet, with more oranges. Comments: the nose was really scary before dilution, but everything improved a lot thanks to my beloved Vittel. Very good at +/-45% vol., so +/- 90 US proof (my old math teacher would be proud of me). SGP:650 - 81 points.

Heaven Hill 15 yo 'Whisky Jewbilee' (61.3%, Jewish Whisky Company, 87 bottles, 2013)

Heaven Hill 15 yo 'Whisky Jewbilee' (61.3%, Jewish Whisky Company, 87 bottles, 2013) Four stars This one had a high rye mash bill. I find it rather fun to see some kind of confessional whisky (not too sure that word is appropriate), it's something you'd never, ever see over here. So it's very exotic and even a bit Seinfeldian to me. Love Seinfeld! Colour: amber. Nose: there's some oak as well but this time it's rather toasted and caramelly, while many more aromas are jostling each other behind it. I'm getting praline, vanilla, honeysuckle, maple syrup, no bubblegum (before you ask) and then millionaire shortbread with just a hint of ginger. With water: really lovely now, I find strawberries and other red berries as well as more oranges and, indeed the rye. Mouth (neat): high-impact sweet oak and spices! Also a little earth just like in the WT101 but it's all a little too strong for me, let's dilute it right away. With water: sweet and spicy, very rye-ish, honeyed, liqueury in a good way, with a thick mouth feel. Peppered Cointreau. Finish: long, with this oak and that earth showing up again. The aftertaste is particularly earthy/mentholated. Comments: a spicier bourbon, that one. Quality's high. SGP:761 - 86 points.



Block Today: ROCK. Performer: French cult band Odeurs playing like (better than?) Dire Straits around 1979. Track: L'homme objet. Please visit their website and buy the music...

November 15, 2013


Malternatives, a bag of 33 cognacs
(thank you Zuckerberg)

After quite some rums, tequilas and mezcals, I thought it was about time we tried to find a few more malternatives in cognac. I had gathered thirty-three of them from various houses (many famous houses are missing, though) including a few intruders, and so decided to have them all, in three large sessions, the whole being then published in three chunks, so on three different days. Yeah right, and then I had the stupid idea to ask our friends on WF's little Facebook page whether it wouldn't be a better idea to publish everything at once, since after all, this is whiskyfun, not cognacfun (by the way, the Interprofession du Cognac - so not the malt maniacs - have started the 'cognac maniacs' in 2010, how smart was that?) Vox Populi, Vox Dei, they say, so as I mainly got answers such as 'go for the full monty', 'go the whole mile' or 'rip off the bandaid', well, here's the whole shebang! Wish me luck...


A bag of cognacs, part un

Yeah, malternatives, I have to say that every time I spot a 'new' price for some not even remotely interesting new Scotches (such as a 35yo Brackla in a miserable Franklin-Mint-decanter for £8,000), I feel the need to taste more of those malternatives. Mezcals, rums, armagnacs, calvados or, yes, cognacs. Just like Scotch, cognac can be rubbish, but just like Scotch, I'm sure it can be wonderful. The problem is that I do not know much about cognac (yes I'm French), so maybe the best and funniest way to build this little line-up would be to have these cognacs at random, whichever their prices, their theoretical ages or... the silliness of their decanters. In cognac too, it's a good thing ridicule never killed anyone.

Courvoisier VSOP (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Courvoisier VSOP (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) One of the Johnnie Walkers of cognac. Say Black Label. And one of the rappers' favourites, it seems. Colour: amber. Nose: raisins, honey, caramel and liquorice allsorts. Not repulsive at all but this is why I'm into whisky. Mouth: sweet, caramelly and coffeeish. Same feeling of liquorice allsorts, this time diluted in Kahlua. Too sweet for a Scotch drinker and even more so for this Scotch drinker, but it's probably acceptable. Having said, that the mouth feel is surprisingly big at 40% vol. Finish: long and seriously too sweet almost sickly sweet. That's a problem. Comments: I'm sure it's all fine but all this sweetness is not for us. SGP:820 - around 65 points.

Rémy Martin VSOP (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Rémy Martin VSOP (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Two stars This one by the new owners of Bruichladdich. Colour: amber. Nose: less 'expressive' than the Courvoisier and a tad grassier, while being less caramelly and smooth. It's a bit earthy as well, delicately mushroomy... So far, so good. Also notes of quince pie, which I enjoy. Mouth: very sweet as well but less so than Courvoisier. Less liqueury and syrupy for sure, one can find some distinct fruits such as melons and muscat grapes (not just liqueurs and syrups), but yes, it remains much too sweet for me. Finish: another one that's quite long but again, it's too sugary for my taste. Comments: I think it's all right. After all, this is no high-end cuvée. SGP:730 - around 70 points.


A. de Fussigny 'Supérieur Fine Cognac' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Technically a VSOP, so aged for more than 5 years. It's a blend and I have to say I like the bottle. So much for Franklin Mint! Colour: amber. Nose: nicely peachy, maybe hinting more at cognac de propriétaire (estate cognac). It's even less honeyed/caramelly than the Rémy, but there are notes of caramelised apples, tarte tatin and such. Maybe a little calvadossy? Mouth: ah yes, it's not one of these cloyingly sweet cognacs. Sure it's sweet, but there's also 'chiselled' fruits, apples, pears, peaches... These earthy touches again as well, a little mint, a little grass... Not the same level for sure. There's more terroir, if you will. Finish: quite long, fruity and grassy. The absence of any feeling of sugariness (how circumlocutory, S.!) is great news. Comments: no big thrill but another level than the big commercial houses'. SGP:541 - around 78 points.

And already an intruder...

Ararat 10 yo 'Akhtamar' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013)

Ararat 10 yo 'Akhtamar' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013) Two stars I've informally tried a few Armenian brandies last month, including this baby, and I must say I've been positively surprised. Colour: amber. Nose: it's probably a little rougher than the Fussigny but there's more happening than in the two previous ones. For example, there is a little smoke, some menthol and touches of putty that add dimension. As far as fruits are concerned, I rather find cassis and the expected raisins. Mouth: this baby has no cause to be jealous of the previous cognacs. It may have a little too much sugar again but it's not molassy and it's got this very pleasant jamminess that would involve blackcurrants again as well as dates and figs. Finish: not very long and maybe a little molassy now. Or a tad sluggish. Comments: it's less complex than the Fussigny and loses points because of that, but it's high quality brandy, no doubt about that. SGP:720 - around 76 points.

And while we're dealing with intruders...

Gran Duque d'Alba (40%, OB, brandy de Jerez, +/-2013)

Gran Duque d'Alba (40%, OB, brandy de Jerez, +/-2013) one star and a half This sherry brandy is made by Williams & Humbert. I wasn't too fond of their rums, the Dos Maderas, but I've drunk some excellent manzanilla from this House. Colour: deep amber. Nose: what I like in this is the fact that it smells just like some old sherry. There are walnuts, mushrooms, some tobacco, a seasidy side (ha!), a little putty, raisins... Sadly, there's also too much oak, pencil shavings and such. Now, there's also a nice camphory side. The jury's still out. Mouth: quite. The oak's too apparent for me, and the slightly muscaty side doesn't cope with that too well. It's also too sweet again - I mean, too sweet for me, but on the other hand, the big notes of orange and walnut cake are very pleasant. It's hard to make up my mind. Finish: short, this time. Sweet. Comments: a well made spirit but again and again (and again), the sweetness prevents it from becoming a worthy malternative in my opinion. The Armenian worked better. SGP:730 - around 68 points.

Meanwhile, back at our ranch in Cognac... I think we won't climb up the cognacqy ladder just now and rather have a few more VSOPs before tackling the super-mega XOs and out-of-ages. Who knows, maybe we'll find some worthy malternatives at the smaller houses? Or at the larger ones ?

Landy VSOP (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Landy VSOP (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Two stars I think Landy is a brand by Cognac Ferrand. It's a blend of Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne and Fins Bois. Colour: amber. Nose: much less vinous than the brandy de Jerez, less smooth and certainly spicier. I also find quite a lot of vanilla, which gives it a modern side, as well as apples and only a moderate honeyness. Rather subtle. Mouth: good stuff indeed. It's no big cognac and once again, there might be too much sweetness, but these sweet fruits and the jams made thereof work well. Strawberries, peaches... Finish: rather short, sweet, with just a touch of cloves. Comments: pretty harmless, honest, good quality cognac. SGP:730 - around 76 points.

Yeah, the VSOPs can be a little boring. I am bored actually, but what wouldn't we do for our common cause?...

Monnet VSOP (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Monnet VSOP (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: more presence and a bigger Calvadossy side, which means more raw apples and maybe also more honey, especially our beloved chestnut honey. There's also a little leather and nuts, as well as touches of pencil shavings - but not as much as in the Grand Duke, mind you. Mouth: a bigger, slightly fatter body than with all the previous cognacs. Nuts again, some oak, a curious maltiness, some honey... Did I mention nuts? Finish: rather short, with a little caramel over baked apples. And roasted peanuts. Comments: very all right and maybe better balanced than others. No more, no less. Reminds me of some recent Macallans, I don't know why. SGP:640 - around 78 points.

Game for more VSOP? I'm not, but since you insist...

Croizet VSOP (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Croizet VSOP (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Two stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: caramel! Honey! Maple syrup! The good news is that there's also some tobacco, some leather, herbal teas... There's especially some earl grey, I swear... And cut grass. It's a subtle nose, let's only hope there's less sweetness on the palate... Mouth: no, it's nice, it's balanced and fairly complex, with again this 'Macallan' feeling. Raisins and figs plus touches of tobacco and leather as well as a little earth. This baby's really all right. Finish: short and not too sweet. A saltiness and some liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: all pretty good, I think it's a well-composed cognac. I'd like to try this at cask strength. SGP:641 - around 79 points.

Let's climb one level and have some VSOP 'special cuvées', this should work better...

ABK6 VSOP 'Grand Cru' (40%, OB, +/-2013)

ABK6 VSOP 'Grand Cru' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Three stars This is a modern house. ABK6 reads Abecassis in French, which is the name of the owners, but of course that doesn't work in other languages. Why it's a 'grand cru', I don't quite know. Colour: amber. Nose: ah yes! It's almost the first time that the first thing that reaches your nostrils isn't a blend of honey and caramel. I rather find melons and apricots, with some praline, a little grass, glazed chestnuts and sultanas. Always quite light, thanks to the dreaded 40% vol., but this one does raise my interest. Mouth: very good, much closer to the grape, to the soil and to the (nice) oak. Feels less 'fiddled' than others, it's fresh, fruity, lively... I like this one. Finish: shortish again, but the fruits and the grass are pleasant. Comments: remains a light spirit but it's the first time we manage to go beyond 80 points. Recommended (if I may). SGP:551 - around 81 points.

Hine VSOP 'H by Hine' (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Hine VSOP 'H by Hine' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Two stars and a half A modern blend of Grande and Petite Champagne that 'may be used in cocktails' according to the owners. Always scary, but who knows? Hine is big in the UK, they've recently done these famous duelling obelisks with Glenfarclas (1953 - that one was good!) Colour: amber. Nose: not much happening and that's an understatement. A wee smokiness, maybe some oranges, probably some leather and possibly some leather. Hello? Mouth: ah, now we're talking! Not that it's particularly rich or complex, but there's more oomph than in most others and I enjoy these raisins and caramelised apples. Nice easy palate. Finish: not too short (hurray) and pleasantly fruity. Apple pie, orange cake, a little earth. Comments: that's strange, there was almost nothing in the nose but the palate was pretty oomphy. SGP:551 - around 79 points.

All right, that's more than enough. I'm afraid we haven't found any real malternative today, but we've got a lot of cognac yet to taste... Wait, unless we choose a very last one, while making sure it's going to be a great one. Maybe this baby?...

Très Vieux Cognac 'Lot No. 65 brut de fût' (57.7%, OB, Famille Vallein-Tercinier, 2010)

Très Vieux Cognac 'Lot No. 65 brut de fût' (57.7%, OB, cognac, Famille Vallein-Tercinier, 2010) Five stars This baby's actually a 1965, so 45 years old. And yes, it was bottled at cask strength. Colour: amber. Nose: oh! It's another world, another galaxy, another paradigm (no kiddin'?) We'll keep this short and sweet but there's some precious woods, around an old humidor and the interior of a 1960 Jag (pff...), some chocolate, these old pu-ehr teas that we love so much, some leaves, humus and porcinis, unlit cigars, fresh mint... What's even more amazing is that a second wave of lighter and fresher aromas is coming, with tropical fruits (mangos for sure), some white chocolate, ripe apricots, these peaches that we often find in cognac... This is cognac! With water: a blend of old Yquem with old Pinot Gris Rangen DZH, really. Astounding. Mouth (neat): I often wrote that old spirits tend to converge and this is another example. A stunning combination of fruits (all of them) with soft spices and chocolates plus a leathery touch, some tobacco, and drops of cough syrup. Only a little rancio but frankly, who cares? The closest similar whisky I could think of would be a late-1960s Karuizawa. With water: please call the anti-cognacporn brigade! Amazing, wormwood, aniseed, passion fruits, verbena, mint, camphor... Truly a masterpiece. Finish: long, incredibly fresh and complex at the same time. Blood oranges, litchis... Comments: one of the greatest spirits I could try in 2013, but 2013 isn't over yet. This isn't malternative, it's superlative and would probably beat fair and square all the Scotches that they (try to) sell for twenty times the price of this utterly glorious spirit. SGP:762 - around 95 points. (and thanks for the tip, Dieter!)

PS: just had a nice chat with a friend about 'transcendental' spirits. I'd say they're Mozartian. Remember Sacha Guitry: "When you listen to Mozart, the silence that follows is still Mozart." Same with that old cognac, long after the end of the end of the finish.

A bag of cognacs, part deux

Let's simply go on with our cognacs, part 1 could be a little boring at times but we also unearthed a magnificent 1965 by Vallein-Tercinier that would send many new very bling and shamelessly pompous Scotches back to the school of aged spirits...

Camus VSOP 'Elégance' (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Camus VSOP 'Elégance' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Two stars and a half This is not an expensive cognac. I enjoyed the three 'Ile de Ré' by Camus but this VSOP should show less character. Colour: amber. Nose: it's a smooth, very raisiny cognac. Also touches of yellow peaches and orange blossom water, then more sultanas again as well as the obligatory caramel. Keyword: easy. Mouth: fine, sweet and fruity, maybe a tad sour at times (sour apples). A little vanilla, orange zests... There's also enough body to make it acceptable as far as, well, body's concerned. Finish: medium length, just a tad acrid and grapy. After all, this is distilled wine! Comments: honest and loyal, not too sugary. SGP:650 - around 78 points.

I think we're done with the VSOPs, unless we have a go at another Armenian intruder...

Pearl of Armenia 'VSOP' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013)

Pearl of Armenia 'VSOP' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013) Colour: deep gold. Nose: probably not as interesting as the Ararat we had the other day, and probably more marked by burnt wood and caramel. What's pleasant is this mentholated side, there's even a little eucalyptus. Also traces of molasses and lastly, an avalanche of overripe apples. Some rotten. Mouth: a bit flat and frankly too liqueury and sugary. It's not that the profile is wrong, quite the contrary - and I like caramelised apples - but something is missing. Flattish. Finish: very short. Comments: this baby's akin to some very sweet rums. Not my style. SGP:830 - around 55 points.

Let's try another Armenian...

Cognac Black Line 10 yo 'Golden XO' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013)

Cognac Black Line 10 yo 'Golden XO' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013) Two stars This one comes with gold flakes inside. Soon at Dalmore's too? Oh and it's still using the word 'cognac' but of course cognac is an appellation contrôlée. Well it should be controled. Colour: amber with dancing gold flakes ;-). Nose: the problem is that this nose is very nice, with some Muscovado sugar, some overripe apples (not rotten this time), oranges, some kind of smoked honey and certainly quite some raisins, figs and dates. Very nice balance. Mouth: sure it is a little too sweet and sugary, in short too liqueury, but that kind of works. Strong mead? Actually tastes like baklavas and other oriental pastries. Finish: not too long and probably too honeyed, but it's clean. A little liquorice and cloves in the aftertaste. Comments: fine, far from the junk I had thought it would be (partly because of the gold flakes). SGP:821 - around 75 points.

Pierre Ferrand 'Réserve Grande Champagne 1er Cru' (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Pierre Ferrand 'Réserve Grande Champagne 1er Cru' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Four stars As it says, this is 100% Grande Champagne. BTW you'll find the word champagne at many places in France as it simply used to mean campagne/countryside in old French. Colour: deep gold. Nose: a lot happening in this one, and it's not ridden with smoothness like other more commercial ones. I especially find various raisins (Corinth, sultanas, muscats) and lovely notes of pear pie with butter and 'natural' caramel. Also a little sea air, which is great. Mouth: very nice arrival on pears and apples, maybe a tad too light again because of the 40% vol (and no added sugar?) but I rather love these oranges, the little metallic touches, the notes of orange pekoe tea... Excellent! Finish: a little short 'as usual with cognacs' but clean and pleasantly fruity. Maybe also a little thyme? Comments: just excellent. This would win over many whisky hearts at 45 or 46% vol. instead of just 40. SGP:651 - around 85 points.

While we're at Ferrand's...

Pierre Ferrand 'Sélection des Anges Grande Champagne 1er Cru' (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Pierre Ferrand 'Sélection des Anges Grande Champagne 1er Cru' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Three stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: richer and more luscious, kind of fatter, with more tropical fruits this time. Blood oranges, ripe mangos... There are also slightly heady flowers, peonies, roses, then more sappy honey (dew) and we're back on blood oranges. Very expressive and probably quite old. Mouth: less differences with the Réserve, I had feared it would be a little cloying after the big nose but it isn't. Linzertorte, raspberry and strawberry jams, orange marmalade, mangos again... The oak's a little more present too, it's slightly gritty. Great balance. Finish: not very long, once again. I think it's the main flaw with these excellent cognacs, they lack oomph. Comments: all excellent but from a whisky drinker's POV, the simpler Réserve was maybe a little more, well, malternative. SGP:641 - around 84 points.

Jean Fillioux 'Cigar Club' (40%, OB, +/-2012)

Jean Fillioux 'Cigar Club' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2012) Three stars and a half This is a Grande Champagne again. This cuvée was composed to match cigar smoking, just like quite a few Scots did in the past. I usually found those too cloyingly thick and woody. Colour: amber. Nose: I was wrong, this no thick and fattish cognac. It's actually elegant, it's sitting somewhere between both Ferrands as far as styles are concerned. Bags of raisins, oranges, a mild caramel, some honey and touches of cinnamon, then touches of moss and pine needles that lift it further up. A little earth too. Mouth: almost the same cognac as Ferrand's Sélection des Anges, really. Maybe just a little more oaky spices - to go with your puro? Aniseed? Finish: once again it's a little short. Honey sauce and prunes, fruitcake, a little ginger... Comments: excellent again, but we want higher strengths! SGP:641 - around 84 points.

They heard us, here's one at 42% vol...

Jean Fillioux' La Pouyade' (42%, OB, +/-2013)

Jean Fillioux' La Pouyade' (42%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Four stars A vieille Grande Champagne so a 1er Cru again. Vieille (old) means fairly young, or they'd write 'very old'. This is a single domaine cognac. Colour: gold. Nose: a lighter, grassier style, without the fruity munificence that could be found in the Cigar Cub or in the Ferrands, but this drier balance is quite perfect so far. Grass, apple peelings, walnuts, almonds, more apples, grapes, plums, earth... Mouth: fruitier, quite zesty, very fresh and pretty citrusy. Tangerines and oranges with a little grass and marzipan. I love the fact that there's no caramelly side this time. Finish: a little short but fresh and citrusy. Comments: very likeable, fresh and void of any stuffy sugary/caramelly notes. A worthy malternative for sure, and it's not expensive (around €40). SGP:641 - around 85 points.

Rémi Landier 'Napoléon' (40%, OB, +/-2011)

Rémi Landier 'Napoléon' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2011) Three stars and a halfThis one is a blend of Fins Bois and Petite Champagne. Landier is a very well reputed family house. Napoléon is similar to XO, meaning that the younger component must be 6 years old, or more of course. Colour: amber. Nose: it's a well-rounded nose, with stewed peaches, quinces and pears and a mild honeyness. Touches of muscovado sugar, maybe a little grenadine and probably a few raspberry sweets. Mouth: pretty smooth, starting with the same raspberries and cooked fruits, while the oak's a little more apparent. Oranges as well - and once again no caramel and no sugary feeling. Hurray! Finish: not that short this time, rather more herbal and spicy. Liquorice wood. Comments: all good, I'd say. Quality 'family' cognac for sure. SGP:651 - around 83 points.

Let's have another Landier and we're done for today...


Rémi Landier 'Vieille Réserve' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2011) Three stars and a half This one's technically an X.O., is 100% Fins Bois and is more than fifteen years old. We'll also have a very old Fins Bois by Landier in the third - and last - cognac session. Colour: amber. Nose: relatively light, with some marzipan and little touches of star anise, then the same kinds of stewed fruits as in the Napoléon, that is to say mainly quinces and apples. Also honeysuckle and again some raspberries and grenadine. Mouth: fresh and light, on more or less the same flavours. Chiefly red berries and oranges. A little icing sugar, which is very pleasant. A light fruity style which is very enjoyable. Finish: quite short, clean, fresh and fruity. A little oak too. Comments: it's older yet fruitier and fresher than the Napoléon. Qualities are similarly high in my opinion. SGP:651 - around 83 points.

A bag of cognacs, part trois

Our last cognac session this year. We'll have had more than thirty of them in this little series, but of course that's not enough to get a good picture of the whole scene. Ah well, we'll keep trying but I think we'll first have a large bag of Amargnacs, before Christmas if all goes well... In the meantime, let's have more cognac...

Croizet XO (40%, OB, +/-2013)

Croizet XO (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Three stars Croizet's VSOP was pretty okay, the XO should be bigger. It's more than 10 years old and a blend of Grandes Champagnes. Colour: amber. Nose: very perfumy at first nosing, with distinct whiffs of roses that make it a little gewurztraminery (!) Other than that, there are oranges and zests as well as a little cinnamon and maybe a little mild curry powder. A rather fresh and easy nose, pleasantly light.  Mouth: nice, fruity, sweetly spicy, not caramelly. Triple-sec, blood oranges, red peaches and touches of cinnamon and vanilla. Maybe Turkish delights? Light body. Finish: shortish again, now with a little caramel. Cointreau. Comments: a good assemblage, easy, light and fruity. SGP:640 - around 82 points.

Merlet 'Assemblage No.1' (45.2%, OB, Sélection Saint Sauvant, 2013)

Merlet 'Assemblage No.1' (45.2%, OB, Sélection Saint Sauvant, cognac, 2013) Four stars Merlet is a domaine that's also famous for their fruit liqueurs and crèmes. According to LMDW, this blend gathers 10yo Petite and Grande Champagne as well as Fins Bois 1992 and 2001 plus some older Petite Champagne (1993). Phew! Colour: gold. Nose: it's more austere than all the others, and maybe the grassiest too. Maybe that's the higher strength that kind of kills the aromas, so it's whispering a bit but what comes through seems to be great, around Seville oranges and ripe nectarines or red peaches. Also touches of roses, which isn't very uncommon in Cognac, it seems, and a very thin slice of gingerbread. Good, I know we've been complaining about the low strengths of most of the others, but let's try to ad a few drops of water. With water: that unlocked more honey and sweet wood. Cedar wood? Also more cinnamon. Mouth (neat): very good, punchy, quite in the same style as the Croizet XO, only with more body and oomph. Crystallised oranges, peaches, cinnamon cake, baklavas... Also drops of cough syrup, maybe, some liquorice... No water is needed this time. Finish: pretty long this time (hurray!) with more honey, plums, raisins and gingerbread. Or speculoos? Earthier aftertaste. Comments: excellent. I wouldn't say some aromas really stand out but the fullness and 'compactness' are pretty impressive. I'm dead sure that bottling at a higher strength would improve many wishy-washy cognacs. SGP:551 - around 86 points.

Hey, shouldn't we fly back to Armenia? Intruders are always welcome...

Pearl of Armenia 'XO' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013)

Pearl of Armenia 'XO' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013) Two stars We had little luck with the 'VSOP' but maybe this XO will be more to our liking? At least, they write 'brandy' and not 'cognac'. Colour: dark amber. Nose: funny! This is balsamic and terpenic like no other, with some old-style cough mixture, some tar, some kind of sauce with a lot of raisins and even some smoke. Burning manure? Maybe a little Swiss cheese as well? Intriguing and even kind of pleasant, I have to say, but the truth usually lies on the palate... Mouth: yes, fun! Very ripe fruits, cold mulled wine, bags and bags of raisins, a molassy/rummy side and again these terpenic touches. Cough medicine mixed with raspberry and orange liqueurs. Or something like that... Finish: not that short, not caramelly, quite fruity. Especially the aftertaste is pretty attractive, fruity and jammy. Comments: a good surprise, this one is really... funny! Well made. SGP:850 - around 75 points.

I kind of liked that funny one, let's have another Armenian. No, no more Armenians after this one...

Ararat 20 yo 'Nairi' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013)

Ararat 20 yo 'Nairi' (40%, OB, Armenian brandy, +/-2013)Two stars and a half The Ararat 10 yo was quite excellent, this should be even better. Colour: dark amber. Nose: this could simply be a good cognac, no doubt about that. Very nice combination of ripe peaches, honey, raisins and prunes (that would be more armagnacqy), with a little tar just like in the Pearl of Armenia XO. Also overripe red fruits, on the verge of rotting but not quite. I really like this nose. Mouth: this time it starts a little grappa-ish, it's a bit more 'marc' than 'fine' (distilled spent grapes rather than wine or lees). That means that there's a welcome grassiness, some walnuts, a little fir liqueur... Always this terpenic aspect. Quality spirit. Finish: rather long, quite grapy. Comments: no 'cognac-alike', certainly a very fine spirit. SGP:752 - around 79 points.

Remember the rather poor Grand Duque d'Alba? Why wouldn't we give Jerez another chance?...

Lepanto O.V. (36%, OB, brandy de Jerez, +/-2013)

Lepanto O.V. (36%, OB, brandy de Jerez, +/-2013) Two stars O.B. stands for Oloroso Viejo. This one is made by Gonzales Byass (where Dalmore source many casks for their finishings). Colour: dark amber. Nose: sherry! I mean, more sherry than spirit, with this musty, walnutty and slightly mustardy side that rather hints at fino or manzanilla than oloroso. Old wine cellar, old barrels... I have to say I enjoy this a lot, but the measly 36% vol. may become a problem on our palates... Mouth: what a shame and a pity. Such a lovely spirit, killed with/by water. Much too dry for a liqueur, much too light for a brandy or just any spirit. And yet, these mushrooms, walnuts, old woods, cigars, camphor, balsamic vinegar, leather... What a crying shame! Finish: short, but wonderful. Comments: I think I'll buy two palettes, redistill the whole, pour it at 65% vol. into an old hogshead and keep it in my cellar for a few years. Water really kills! What a shame... SGP:273 - around 70 points.

All right, a few more genuine cognacs and we're done...

Jean Fillioux XO 'So Elégantissime' (41%, OB, +/-2013)

Jean Fillioux XO 'So Elégantissime' (41%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Four stars Jean Fillioux's Pouyade and Cigar Club have been much to my liking, so we have deep expectations here. It's a Premier Cru, fully Grande Champagne. The decanter is nice too - not that I'm a sucker for decanters, as you may well know. Oh, and the price is fair and square: 100€. Colour: deep gold. Nose: subtle and complex! White flowers, acacia honey, various kinds of peaches (good cognacs have peaches, that's what I've learnt so far) and then many herbs and soft spices, star anise, wormwood, lemon balm and such. A little more straight oak after ten minutes, around cocoa and cinnamon. Mouth: good body (hurray!), with these peaches again, a slice of lemon pie and then quite some cinnamon. White chocolate or is that effect of the all-white label? What's absolutely true is that this is very elegant cognac, but I have to say that the extra-1% (41 vs. 40) don't make much difference, the middle is a little weak. Finish: quite short, but the combination of peaches, oranges, white chocolate and cinnamon works very well. Comments: I'd love to score this superb spirit higher, but once again, the low strength is a handicap (from a whisky lover's POV). SGP:651 - around 86 points.

Vallein-Tercinier 'Hors-d'Age' (42%, OB, +/-2013)

Vallein-Tercinier 'Hors-d'Age' (42%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Five stars Remember the mesmerising 1965 that we had the other day? That was the same house... Anyway, this one is another +/-90 to 100€ cognac, a blend of Petite and Grande Champagne, the younger being 40 years old! Should be good. Colour: dark amber. Nose: we're in old whiskies territories again. THIS is a malternative house. Between a 1966 Bowmore and a 1972 Caperdonich, only less expensive. Perfect tropical fruits, beehivy tones, damp earth, tangerines, camphor, eucalyptus... Everything is perfect in this nose. Mouth: a notch less impressive than on the nose, mainly because of the tannins that are flying here and there (maybe a little too much cinnamon) but other than that, it's perfect. Ripe red apples, butter pears, peaches (of course), a little rosewater, some 'nervous honey' (say white heather) and then some spicy gingerbread. This, at 46% vol.! Finish: good length (hurray), spicier. Oranges, cinnamon and white pepper. An earthy touch in the aftertaste. Comments: I had never heard of Vallein-Tercinier before September and it's a Swiss friend who drew my attention towards them. I think he's also their importer to Switzerland. Well, thanks again, Dieter! SGP:561 - around 90 points.

Let's resort to even heavier artillery now. I mean, even older artillery...


Rémi Landier 'Très Vieux Fins Bois' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) Four stars A Fins Bois that's more than 40 years old. We're now in +/-250€ territories. Will the 40% vol. be a problem again? I hope not... Colour: full amber. Nose: subtle, complex, maybe a little shy... But it's very complex indeed, gathering touches (no big notes) of fruits, herbs, flowers and spices. At random, that would be the obligatory cinnamon, the no-less obligatory peaches, some fresh mint, oranges, vanilla, chocolate, tangerines, verbena, bananas (well, a half), black cherries, raspberries... And many others. No one takes over, which is great and typically old cognac in my experience (while sometimes, with old whiskies, one or two aromas tend to dominate the whole, like mangos, or honey). Mouth: rounder and smoother than the Vallein-Tercinier, a notch grapier too, more on cooked fruits. Less 'nervous' for sure. Heather honey, pineapple cake, overripe apricots, a little mint, strawberry jam, blackberries... Tends to become a little firmer as far as flavours are concerned, but the low strength is becoming a problem. Your/mine palate needs more zing and oomph. Frustrating. Finish: short, yet lovely. Piano solo rather than the Sun Ra Arkestra! Comments: a stunning cognac that suffers from its low strength on the palate. I think it should be streng verboten to reduce these old glories. SGP:551 - 87 points.

A.E. DOR 'Vieille Reserve N° 8' (47%, OB, +/-2005)

A.E. DOR 'Vieille Reserve N° 8' (47%, OB, cognac, +/-2005) A hors d'âge at a rather high strength for cognac. It is said to be 45 years old. We tried the probably-pre-phylloxera Réserve No. 9 back in 2010 and 'quite loved it'. I'll add that the available data about these bottlings are quite shady. Colour: amber. Nose: a lot of oak this time. This is quite raw, acrid, ultra-dry and, well, hard. I do not enjoy uebersmooth cognacs (nor any such spirits) but let's not exaggerate! This is like nosing a mix of cocoa powder, Jaegermeister and charcoal. Maybe water will help... No it doesn't. It became even drier. Mouth (neat): quite raw again, too grassy, with notes of new eau-de-vie that did not blend well with the wood. Kirsch? White 'cognac'? Not impressive so far when undiluted. With water: not quite. A piece of oak with a little sugar. Finish: long and acrid. A shame because one can feel some great fruits but they're just blocked by the oak. Comments: a massive disappointment. Something must have gone wrong at some stage. An accident? Of, forget about this one, scored only for the record. SGP:271 - around 50 points.

Hoirie Roger Vallade 1949 'Petite Champagne d'Archiac' (43%, OB, +/-1990?)

Hoirie Roger Vallade 1949 'Petite Champagne d'Archiac' (43%, OB, cognac, +/-1990?) Four stars Some artisan cognac made by a little winemaker in Brie-sous-Archiac, south of the city of Saintes. It's the first time I see this name (and label) and probably the last. It seems that this domaine does not exist as such anymore. BTW, in case you're wondering, in old French, 'hoirie' means 'heir'. Colour: amber. Nose: ah yes, it's a peachy one, with a wee artisan side indeed (raw apples, Calvados), then rather tropical fruits, towards papayas this time. Maybe crushed ripe strawberries too. Very pleasant and unexpectedly fresh. Oh, almost forgot to mention that this was a magnum, so that may have kept it fresher. Mouth: very good. Once again, there's a 'craft' feeling that's never to be found in the big houses' blends. No honeyed or caramelly notes, no vanilla, it's almost all raw fresh fruits. So, very orchardy, with peaches and apples, cherries and then only a little cinnamon that reminds us that this was aged in oak. Good body, it hasn't got that thinness that's sometimes frustrating elsewhere. Finish: quite long, always on fresh fruits. It's only towards the aftertaste that a little chocolate and caramel start to appear, together with more bitter tones. Comments: some excellent - and maybe a little raw - craft cognac from the old days. Would make a perfect 'fine à l'eau'. SGP:561 - around 85 points.

Cognac Vintage 1870 (bottled by Cockburn & Co of Leith & London, +/-1900)

Cognac Vintage 1870 (bottled by Cockburn & Co of Leith & London, cognac, +/-1900) Five stars The producer isn't known, and neither is the exact bottling date, but what seems to be sure is that this is pre-phylloxera according to the good Angus. In a way, it's proto-Scotch. The strength is unknown and I suppose it's early landed cognac, that it to say that it was mainly matured in the UK (yeah, either in Leith or in London). Colour: amber with bronze hues. Nose: this old baby is grapier than most others, and would be mistaken for some great armagnac by today's standards. Remember the grape varieties weren't the same in Cognac before that stupid bug destroyed almost all French vineyards. There's also prunes (armagnacqy indeed) and raisins, and after ten minutes or so, these camphory notes that seem to show up in many a great old aged spirit. And then it would just unfold on pipe tobacco, damp earth, furniture polish and a little wood smoke. All that is very perfect and despite the grapy side and the absence of oranges, this could as well be a very old Macallan. But then again... Mouth: some OBE now, unless the good Cockburn & Co of Leith & London have blended this cognac with a little old navy rum. There's much more tar and cough medicine than in post-war cognacs (that would be WWI), as well as a fatter, oilier and waxier mouth feel. There are fruits, of course, but those remind me more of rum indeed, big fat prunes, dried bananas, Corinth raisins... Now the grapes are coming to front after just one minute. Touches of old PX, Banyuls, sweet Madeira... And then honey. And chocolate. Old rancio (the grail in Cognac). Dare I say umami? Finish: long, but it may well not be the best part, everything is kind of jumbled and there's some sugar coming through. Ah, the good old days... Comments: superb but it lost a wee bunch of points at the finish. Anyway, many thanks, Angus, there were more aromas than taxes in France, which says long. I mean, a lot. Would love to see a label! SGP:662 - around 92 points.

As a matter of conclusion
In cognac as well, age seems to matter. Age is not obligatorily expressed in years, but age matters indeed. What's more, just like some rums, cognacs can be too sweet for a malt drinker, and just like some tequilas, they can be too weak or thin. The worst, no need to say, is cognac that's too young, too weak and too sweet. Also, the smaller houses and propriétaires seem to be doing better than the large brands, which is not obligatorily the case with Scotch in my opinion. Having said that, I think we found some wonderful malternatives, some being plain ueberscotches. These are my favourites that I would happily recommend:
Très Vieux Cognac 'Lot No. 65 brut de fût' (57.7%, OB, cognac, Famille Vallein-Tercinier, 2010) - WF 95
Vallein-Tercinier 'Hors-d'Age' (42%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) - WF 90
Rémi Landier 'Très Vieux Fins Bois' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) - WF 87
Merlet 'Assemblage No.1' (45.2%, OB, Sélection Saint Sauvant, cognac, 2013) - WF 86
Jean Fillioux XO 'So Elégantissime' (41%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) - WF 86
Pierre Ferrand 'Réserve Grande Champagne 1er Cru' (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) - WF 85
Jean Fillioux' La Pouyade' (42%, OB, cognac, +/-2013) - WF 85
As for the old bottlings, well, they were tasted 'for the record'. And yes, again, many houses and propriétaires are missing from my wee list, but remember this is only whiskyfun.com. A la prochaine !

Vallein Tercinier
The house of Vallein-Tercinier in Chermignac



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: the funniest of Sun Ra. Track: the famous Space is the Place (1973). Please visit his website and buy his music...

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



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Cognac Vintage 1870 (bottled by Cockburn & Co of Leith & London, cognac, +/-1900)

Glen Elgin 15 yo (60.2%, OB, Manager's Dram, 1988)

Highland Park 1998/2012 (57.4%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12058, 189 bottles)

Kornog 'Taouarc'h Kentan 13 BC' (46%, OB, France, Brittany, 907 bottles, 2013)

Ledaig 11 yo 1972 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, +/-1983)

Ledaig 40 yo 1972/2013 (48.2%, Alambic Classique, oloroso sherry cask, cask #13310, 113 bottles)

Special Scotch Whisky 50 yo (Strachan's of Royal Deeside, bottled October 31, 1968)

Très Vieux Cognac 'Lot No. 65 brut de fût' (57.7%, OB, cognac, Famille Vallein-Tercinier, 2010)

Vallein-Tercinier 'Hors-d'Age' (42%, OB, cognac, +/-2013)

Very Old Highland Whisky (Dymoch, Howden & Co. Ltd, Pure Malt, bottled +/-1910?)