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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2019 - Part 1


October 2019 - part 2 <--- November 2019 - part 1 ---> November 2019 - part 2



November 14, 2019


Time Warp

The Time Warp Sessions,
today Glen Moray Cadenhead versus Glen Moray Cadenhead

And why not?! Oh and excuse me, that would rather be Glen Moray-Glenlivet Cadenhead, you’re right… By the way, do you know what’s particular with Glen Moray? Unless I’m wrong, they age all their casks on location.

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 20 yo 1998/2019 (52.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 234 bottles)

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 20 yo 1998/2019 (52.2%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 234 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: rather typical. Pear juice, sweet bread, mirabelles, muesli… Not much else so far but it does what it’s meant to do, be a good all-rounder. With water: shortbread and butterscotch, the indefatigable duo. Mouth (neat): unquestionably very good, if a little simple and straightforward. Cakes, raisins, good world chardonnay, a little sweet oak indeed, some panettone, and a drop of any of those whisky-liqueurs-they-make-for-tourists-and-thirsty-old-ladies. With water: goes a little more towards good sweet beers, cakes, perhaps a little corn syrup or something, with a wee feeling of bourbon. High rye content? Just wondering… Finish: medium, very cake-y, with some honey and maple syrup. Comments: super good, tell your friends it’s small-batch bourbon, some might well fall into the trap and owe you a round. De nada.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Back 36 years…

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 32 yo 1962/1995 (55.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, for Barrique Wine Chicago, sherrywood)

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 32 yo 1962/1995 (55.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, for Barrique Wine Chicago, sherrywood) Five stars
A 1962/1989 Black Dumpy had been pretty perfect when I tried it in 2008 (WF 90), but all 1962s were superb. The golden years of Scotch. Glenmo’s MacDonald & Muir had already installed the new stills in 1962, as apparently, they did that in 1958. Colour: gold. Nose: amazing, with beeswax, raisins, cigarette tobacco, mead, heather honey, with this fatter richness that older distillates used to display, as well as an awesome wood smoke. Old Glen Grants spring to mind if you really need comparisons. Also whiffs of old books and some kind of smoky dough. With water: ooh, marrow and honey stewed in orange juice, with a little mutton fat and myriads of flowers and tiny herbs. We’re almost in the Middle-East, ready for a fantastic banquet. Mouth (neat): sublime! Resins, menthol, liquorice, chestnut and pine honeys, marmalade… Oh hell, please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade, and subito! With water: just make sure you don’t add too much water, but if you only add one or three drops, it’s The Birth of Venus in your glass. Kind of. Finish: long, on resinous honey and, again, tons of tinier flavours. Resins, waxes, fruits, flowers… Comments: Glen Moray was huge in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Ever checked their old OBs? Very impressed.
SGP:661 - 93 points.

(Thank you Angus)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Moray we've tasted so far


November 13, 2019


Little duos, today two indie Blair Athol

Love Pitlochry and the little walk to lovely Edradour, via the Moulin inn. And those old whiskies we used to find at Robertson’s, and the bigger distillery, Blair Athol…

Blair Athol 10 yo (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, 1,084 bottles, 2019)

Blair Athol 10 yo (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, 1,084 bottles, 2019) Four stars and a half
All ex-bourbon barrels and refill hogsheads, so it’s safe to say that no grapes have been harmed during the process. Ha. Colour: white wine. Nose: some pristine, almost crystalline malt whisky, all on bread, dough, muesli, beer and grist. Hints of barley malt extract too, unsurprisingly. In short, some very natural young malt whisky, with no external influences whatsoever. Mouth: superb! Extreme maltiness, drops of stout, chocolate sauce, a touch of marmalade, then butterscotch, Oreo (apologies, I know those suck), cappuccino, even Nescafé… Finish: rather long, on the same notes, plus some sharper touches, around cracked pepper. Comments: cracking indeed. Malt whisky that’s bursting with malt, how awesome! A high score is necessary.
SGP:561 - 88 points.

Blair Athol 9 yo 2009/2019 (50.8%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry, cask #19-0901, 638 bottles)

Blair Athol 9 yo 2009/2019 (50.8%, Valinch & Mallet, sherry, cask #19-0901, 638 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: woo-hoo, we’re lucky today. More stout and butterscotch, only with added raisins and a wee meatiness, between ham, mutton and marrow. Some sour notes too after a few seconds, around old Bourgogne, and a curious feeling of mint sauce. This one’s very intriguing, let’s see if water will make it s tad cleaner and easier to categorise (but why would you need to do that?). With water: gets very farmy, almost muddy. Marmite – or Vegemite - and Maggi, a killing pre-Brexit combo. Mouth (neat): it’s a little simpler on the palate, malty and sherried, with some burnt raisins and a little salted caramel sauce. With water: very good, rather on Jaffa cakes this time, but the meaty maltiness has never given up. Finish: long and very malty. Roasted nuts and a touch of glutamate. Comments: a style that’s a notch dirtier than that of the pristine Eadie, but that’s all a matter of personal preferences. Very good nonetheless, as expected.
SGP:461 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Blair Athol we've tasted so far


November 12, 2019


Little duos, today two 15 yo HPs

I know, HP, always HP… But not my fault if I like them!

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2018 (50.3%, The Whisky Agency and Liquor Library, barrel)

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2018 (50.3%, The Whisky Agency and Liquor Library, barrel) Five stars
More crazy Mad Max stuff by the Liquor Library in Melbourne. Colour: white wine. Nose: bang, it’s Mad-Maxesque indeed, starting a little spirity, getting then supremely coastal and chalky, with almost no wood in the way (not to mention wine) and bags of lemons, green apples, and even oysters. Pretty prototypical Highland Park totally au naturel. With water: earth, leaven and porridge up. Sour bread, and just a touch of latte. Mouth (neat): but what a distillate! Sharp, lemony, chalky, sooty, slightly smoky, salty, and marginally bready/yeasty. A touch of chocolate, perhaps, and a good maltiness. Roasted malt. With water: bingo! Lemons, citrons, brine, chalk, some kind of mineral smokiness… What more does the people want? Finish: rather long, very clean, precise, refreshing, and calling for more. Comments: there’s no shortage of great natural HPs these days, I think we should take advantage of that situation.
SGP:462 - 91 points.

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2019 (58.2%, OB for Wu Dram Clan Whisky Society, 1st fill sherry, cask #6162, 628 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2019 (58.2%, OB for Wu Dram Clan Whisky Society, 1st fill sherry, cask #6162, 628 bottles) Four stars and a half
One little question, is it mandatory to like Wu Tan Clan and hip-hop to enjoy this little HP? I hope not!... Colour: brown amber. Nose: this is completely different, and you would be forgiven for thinking this is chocolate sauce, had you nosed this blind. You could add that you’re also finding leather and tobacco, as well as notes of tomato sauce and roast jus. And oloroso. With water: a wonderful sherry-y sourness, probably a little challenging to the beginner, but we both aren’t beginners, are we? Mouth (neat): not as thick as I had thought, but certainly very spicy, hinting at some new oak seasoned with sherry. Big pepper, oloroso-y notes, old walnuts, caraway and cloves, and even more pepper – and chilli. Arrabiata sauce, perhaps? With water: expands and relaxes, that’s cool. More on chocolate, raisins, walnut and coffee liqueur, Xmas cake, sloe, juniper, aquavit… Finish: long, spicy, peppery. Bitter chocolate and myrtle liqueur in the aftertaste. Comments: it was a little challenging at times, but we like a challenge, especially a very spicy one. Because spices are life, as they say in India (while cooking vindaloo) or Mexico (while preparing suicide burritos)…
SGP:471 - 89 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Highland Park we've tasted so far


November 11, 2019


Little Duos, today young Glen Elgin

Another great Distillate, kind of Lagavulin’s main partner on the mainland, as both were major components in White Horse.

Glen Elgin 2008/2019 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, hogshead, 414 bottles)

Glen Elgin 2008/2019 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, hogshead, 414 bottles) Four stars
A good and gentle French range for good people who wouldn’t want to have their heads being ripped off by cask strength whiskies. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s really fresh, quite tart and grassy, with touches of chives over rhubarb and gooseberries, then a blend of porridge and green apple juice. Very nice, firm, and yeah, fresh. Mouth: it is a little eau-de-vie-ish at first, but that’s pleasant, while the whole remains extremely fresh. Green melons, apples, peaches, touches of malt drink (Ovaltine), and just a little vanilla. No fuss, no quibbling, just very good malt whisky. Finish: medium, with a little citrus this time. Excellent aftertaste on ripe apples and more malt. Comments: a very fine pretty old-school (say 1990s) independent bottling that does not entirely rely on wood. Let’s hear it for this excellent little malt whisky!
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Glen Elgin 13 yo 2006/2019 ‘Reserve Casks’ (48%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Parcel No.1)

Glen Elgin 13 yo 2006/2019 ‘Reserve Casks’ (48%, The Single Malts of Scotland, Parcel No.1) Four stars
A vatting of 4 casks, so probably a similar set-up, just at a higher strength. Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed, it is rather similar, but a little waxier and seemingly thicker, with perfect notes of broken branches, bark, then pretty much the same notes of gooseberries and rhubarb. Also notes of hazelnut oil, sunflower, marzipan… Mouth: very good indeed, pretty thick indeed, and rather grassy, branche-y, with more green melons and perhaps greengages. In the background, some grapefruits and always this grassy fatness. I may have mentioned chives before. Finish: rather long, with a rather sublime texture that would take long before it disappears. A feeling of having downed a large spoonful of olive oil. Comments: Glen Elgin’s going a bit incognito these days, but it deserves better than that, even if it’s rather more for malt lovers than for the general public, because of its fatness. Pure speculations (who said as always, who?)
SGP:461 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glen Elgin we've tasted so far


November 10, 2019



A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!


Rums that wouldn't lie to us
(so proper malternatives)

Friends, the situation here in France is getting utterly terrible on the rum front. I just went to a Leclerc supermarket yesterday morning (I usually tend to avoid those depressing places) and found out that whilst we make some superb authentic rums in France, like in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Réunion, Guyane and other smaller places, the pretty large rum shelves at Leclerc were just shock-full of the worst hyper-marketed and sugar-soaked junk there on this wee planet.


Almost only names that are not recommended by dentists, such as Diplomatico, Zacapa, Plantation, Don Papa, Bumbu, Kraken and other such putrid rotguts that now seem to manage to simply evict the good juices from our shelves. That the average consumer, just like the average voter, is dumb as a doorknob is no secret, but still, I almost puked in front of those miserable shelves. Tell lies and give sugar to the masses, and you'll win or make a fortune in no time!
Well, I think I may need a few proper pick-me-ups now…    

Cadenhead’s Classic Rum (50%, Cadenhead, blended rum, 2019)

Cadenhead’s Classic Rum (50%, Cadenhead, blended rum, 2019) Three stars
From their continuous stock. Colour: dark amber. Nose: well, this is all fine, and really a blend somewhat in the style of old White Horse, with good high-ester ones blended with some rounder, more caramelly ‘easy’ rums, Nicaragua, Panama, whatever. What’s good is that the estery ones are leading the pack, which gives this baby good relief and character, even if it remains a tad too molassy for me. With water: really rather navy-style. Black olives and fudge, old copper coins, books… Mouth (neat): good! Jamaica? Demerara? Both? Good saltiness, olives and brine, tar, over some rounder, molassy, caramely base. Works. With water: same, but with more coffee liqueur. Coffee liqueur always tends to try to come to the front, in any spirits. Nasty stuff if you ask me. Finish: rather long, saltier again, tarrier, all good. A little sugar in the aftertaste, there must have been some added to some of the casks. Demerara? Comments: very cool rum, very fairly priced. This one will disappoint no one, from beginners to hardcore cane lovers. Maybe not the bar rats, having said that.
SGP:642 - 82 points.

Since we were just having something pretty ‘navy’…

Black Tot Rum (46.2%, Elixir Distillers, 2019)

Black Tot Rum (46.2%, Elixir Distillers, 2019) Three stars
Black tot means British navy. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s drier than the Cadenhead, but there are similarities. More toasted cake and burnt wood here, toffee, bitter chocolate, black tea, molasses… Now the style isn’t very obvious, it’s really more ‘a bend’ so far. Only touches of bananas and pineapples at the fruit department. Mouth: we’re much closer to the CAD, with a similar sweetness, just as many molasses, perhaps more caramel and toffee, and more tinned pineapples. I have the feeling that this rather rum for rum lovers (hey Einstein!) and that whisky drinkers may find it a tad too sweetish, even if we’re extremely far from all the ugly heavily sugared junk that’s available these days.  Finish: rather long, molassy, with some burnt cakes, a little pipe tobacco, and quite some sugarcane syrup. Comments: I like them drier, but this is good, very honest navy-style rum. Even if I was expecting a little more Jamaicanness. You know, pot stills, esters…
SGP:641 - 80 points.

Fijian 8 yo (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Fiji, +/-2018)

Fijian 8 yo (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Fiji, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
This little baby most certainly from the South Pacific Distillery. Colour: gold. Nose: Jamaican style, on olives, brine, tar and ink, with a softer vanillaness rounding everything off. Notes of branches and fresh butter. Mouth: lovely salted liquorice, some apple juice, grapefruit, passion fruits, then tar and olives. I’m finding this extremely good – looks like the Fijians are as good at making rum as they are at playing rugby. Finish: medium to long, perfectly balanced, fresh, with bananas and pineapples, beyond the usual tarry olives. Rose jelly, perhaps. Comments: that was short and sweet. Perfect rum at a very drinkable strength, so alert, alert!...
SGP:453 - 88 points.

Diamond (Port Mourant Still) 11 yo 2005/2016 (45%, OriginR, bourbon, 1270 bottles)

Diamond (Port Mourant Still) 11 yo 2005/2016 (45%, OriginR, bourbon, 1270 bottles) Five stars
This little Port Mourant was aged for 5 years on location in the tropics, then 6 years in Europe. But with global warming, I’ve heard Europe will become tropical as well sooner or later. Colour: white wine. Nose: yet another dangerous strength, in the sense that it makes the spirit very drinkable. This Port Mourant is rather subtle, moderately expressive, rather on branches and leaves, as well as green tea and a little dried lemongrass, before it would become tarrier and rather briny. Lovely whiffs of earthy tea and anchovies, which is very Port Mourant in my book. Mouth: perfect. Salt, tar, green tea, sardines, rose jelly, orange blossom, pink bananas, and just some, wait, some peat? There are echoes of Caol Ila indeed. Somebody pinch me. Really. Finish: rather long, luminously salty. Comments: very high-definition Port Mourant of the best kind, with an amazing freshness that really reminds me of, yep, Caol Ila. They don’t have wooden pot stills at Caol Ila, do they? Come on, can't we have a bit of fun?
SGP:453 - 90 points.

Long Pond 12 yo 2007/2019 ‘TECA’ (63%, National Rums of Jamaica)

Long Pond 12 yo 2007/2019 ‘TECA’ (63%, National Rums of Jamaica) Four stars
This baby come with 1200-1300 g esters/hlpa, while it says continental flavoured on the label. Why flavoured? Do Velier add tomato sauce? Tabasco? Irn Bru? You’ll soon need a PhD before you can enjoy these ranges, I tell you… Colour: amber. Nose: extreme. Walnut stain, kerosene and tarmac, ‘at IKEA’, grassy green olives, chlorine, chalk, fumes, coal dust, old magazines, concentrated lemon juice… With water: no changes. You may add the content of a whole swimming pool, that won’t change much to this beast. Mouth (neat): very extreme. Grass juice, chalk, more concentrated lime juice, capers… I don’t think you could do any more extreme. With water: huge salty liquorice, chalk, and the juice of the-mother-of-all-lemons.  Finish: yeah… A petrol station in the midst of the month of August. Comments: this one would unclog many vessels and recipients, if I may. Extreme stuff, perhaps designed for enlightened masochists only? Are we part of them? I don’t know what to say, I’m rather lost, I say night-night. Don’t read my score, it doesn’t mean much. Reminds me of those guys who would chew on finger chilis without even noticing.
SGP:373 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


November 9, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Mixed Pairs
Another, dive into the sample library to find mixed sparring partners. Let’s begin in England for a change with a distillery that’s moved a fair few tongues to wag…


Bimber 2016/2019 ‘The 1st Release’ (54.2%, OB, England, 1000 bottles, 2019)

Bimber 2016/2019 ‘The 1st Release’ (54.2%, OB, England, 1000 bottles, 2019)
Matured full term in ex-solera PX sherry casks. This seems to have delighted quite a few whisky folk. I have to admit, I don’t know too much about Bimber but they have built themselves a pretty hefty reputation rather swiftly it seems. Colour: deep gold. Nose: there is indeed something very ‘bodega-esque’ about this, by which I mean a rather resinous and deep earthiness. Lots of mushroom powder, leaf mulch, umami, prunes soaked in armagnac and this pervading sense of old leather and chocolate sauce. Undeniably impressive for the age. I really like the sense of unctuousness and textural heft about it. With water: evolves an intriguing sense of sweetness by becoming rather honeyed and rounded. Some leafy tobacco notes, green pepper and hints of chamomile. I find the development and balance very good. Mouth: big arrival full of warming wood spices, ginger cake, young armagnac, jasmine and touches of hessian, cloves and some rather modern and technological hints of sawdust and pencil shavings. Aspects which reveal its youth. Still an impressive weight and texture to it. With water: it retains this rather powerful spiciness but where the nose became honeyed the palate is rather more fudgey and chocolatey. Still some nice armagnac notes and hints of stewed dark fruits. Finish: Good length, rather peppery, some crystalised fruits, toasty cereals and some red fruit jams. Comments: It’s easy to understand why such a bottling would get people chattering. It’s not necessarily my preferred style, but technically it’s hugely impressive and you can feel that this whisky has been cared about a great deal by the people that made it. Hopefully in time we can try this distillate with a lighter touch from the wood. Will be a fun one to watch evolve in the coming years I expect.
SGP: 651 - 87 points.



Bimber Re-charred Oak Casks 2016/2019 (51.9%, OB, England, re-charred American oak hogsheads, 5000 bottles)

Bimber Re-charred Oak Casks 2016/2019 (51.9%, OB, England, re-charred American oak hogsheads, 5000 bottles)
The casks used for this release were hand charred (to level 4) by Bimber’s own coopers it seems. I find it pretty cool that they’d have on-site coopers in London. Although, not sure where you advertise for a cooper in London? Colour: gold. Nose: nice! This one is really more honeyed, gloopy, sweet and full of nectars, golden syrup, sultanas, ripe melon and yellow flowers. Three years old you say? With water: green apples, ripe pears, young dessert wines, rye bread. Frighteningly good. Mouth: get out of here! Cereals, sunflower oil, overripe yellow fruits, lychee, cornflakes, apricots, nectarines and citrus pith. There’s also a peppery warmth and hint of darjeeling tea. Wonderful richness and complexity at such a young age. Lots of bready and cereal tones as well. With water: some mustardy notes, more cereals, breads, muesli, dried fruits, tarragon and a touch of cough medicine. Finish: long, crisp, fruity and full of cereals, pumpernickel and a hint of olive oil. Comments: At times you would think ‘hey, this is rather old school’, at others it feels very much like a ‘world whisky’ profile. In the end though, it actually emerges as something new, which is just great. Quality is quality, no matter what labels you hang on it. It’s releases like this that emphasise that we’re really leaving the era of the indy bottler and transitioning to the era of the distillery. An era which is already being defined by people who understand that you can’t make true quality if your core mantra is efficiency. I find this excellent, especially because despite what has been undeniably active wood, the distillate has been given plenty legroom to sprawl and pose. I’d also add that it never feels artificial or doctored, quite the opposite in fact. Excellent, charismatic young malt. Try it!
SGP: 641 - 89 points.



Bruichladdich 8 yo 2011/2019 (65.8%, Lady Of The Glen, cask #150, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 253 bottles)

Bruichladdich 8 yo 2011/2019 (65.8%, Lady Of The Glen, cask #150, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 253 bottles)
Upon seeing this abv I’m reminded that Bruichladdich were filling casks at still strength during these years. Time for courage and some kind of olfactory seatbelt… Colour: straw. Nose: hot putty, grass, clay, crushed aspirin, boiled shellfish, salty pasta water and lemongrass. Also grass. Did I mention grass? There’s quite a lot of grass. Rather bonkers but with an undeniable sense of purity and power which is pretty impressive. Although I feel my hand automatically reaching for the water… With water: very pure, saline, grassy and becoming slightly floral and almost gin-like with these notes of juniper and coriander. Brutal, powerful but very pure and idiosyncratic. Mouth: Ooft! There’s no getting around the raw, petrolic power of the strength. Having said that, there’s still and wonderfully plush fatness to the baseline maltiness. Malt extract, cereals, sunflower oil, canvas and some farmy and coastal greasiness. With water: wonderfully oily, textural, fatty and full of lime, lemon peel, barley water, cooking oils, sandalwood and beach pebbles. A triumvirate of petrol, coastal minerals and farmyard muscle. Unequivocally charismatic distillate that kind of batters you into admiring submission. Finish: long, sharp, citric, saline, cereal and with an overarching oil slick mouthfeel. Comments: A rather mental whisky, but I think it was probably quite a smart move to bottle this cask in its natural, self state. The kind of whisky you can use for kindling intellectual discussions with pals and hospitalising your enemies. Cask strength charisma.
SGP: 362 - 88 points.



Bruichladdich 13 yo 2006/2019 (50%, Thompson Brothers, bourbon barrel, 181 bottles)

Bruichladdich 13 yo 2006/2019 (50%, Thompson Brothers, bourbon barrel, 181 bottles)
Another lovely and rather evocative label by Kate Guthrie. Colour: straw. Nose: what’s funny is that even at a far more approachable strength, the basic building blocks are all still there. Farmyard, seashore, fabrics, minerals, petrol, stones, grass… Maybe we just have to accept that Bruichladdich have been making good whisky for quite a few years now. What’s different here is that this one is more fruity and a little greener and more playful. Still loads of putty, clay, minerals and a rather taut cereal profile. With water: drier, more animalistic, trampled leaves, melon, hessian, olive oil, seawater. Funny but very good. Mouth: salty butter, almost oil, milk bottle sweets, clay, mineral oil, lime pith, hay, silage, white pepper. Totally idiosyncratic distillate that couldn’t really be from anywhere else. What I also rather enjoy is that it belongs entirely to contemporary era Bruichladdich. You won’t find anything like this from the pre-2001 batches. With water: works a treat with water. Leaps like a salmon as they say. Lots of grapefruit, peppery watercress, gooseberry and a rather tight grassiness. Oily, fatty cereals and chalky minerals. Finish: Long, drying, cereal and with a pretty assertive and brittle minerality. Comments: You can’t help but be impressed by these Bruichladdichs. The common thread for me is the richness of the mouthfeel and the malty, cereal tones. They achieve that impressive and rare quality of being powerful and evocative ‘Islay’ whiskies without reliance on peat.
SGP: 462 - 89 points.



Let’s change gears…



Glenburgie 23 yo 1992/2015 (54.7%, Cadenhead Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 456 bottles)

Glenburgie 23 yo 1992/2015 (54.7%, Cadenhead Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 456 bottles)
Colour: bright straw. Nose: breads, orchard fruit jams, oatcakes, yellow plums, dried apricots, peach stones and baked apples in pastry (apple tarts Angus?) with a very slight custardy sweetness. The kind of profile that not even Kim Jong-Un could be against. With water: sultanas, gooseberry, lemon tea, putty and a drop of candle wax. Really great. Mouth: straightforward, beautifully layered, textural barley richness. You really feel like you’re in barley eau de vie territory. Natural cereal-derived sweetness, sunflower oil, hints of marzipan, lemon barley water, nutmeg and a nibble of white pepper. With water: green fruits, cereals, butter, freshly chopped green herbs, more oatcakes and a dollop of runny honey. Who could be against this? Finish: medium and rather grassy, cereal and with wee notes of underripe banana and cornflour. Comments: the kind of good, easy, pleasurable and very natural Speyside malt which also manages to be un-boring and feels bolstered by integrity. Nice work Cadenhead.
SGP: 641 - 88 points.



Glenburgie 27 yo 1992/2019 (48.9%, Cadenhead Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles)

Glenburgie 27 yo 1992/2019 (48.9%, Cadenhead Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 222 bottles)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: the first impression of these very light, scented waxes with wee touches of citronella and dried mint followed by brown toast, plain dry cereals, oatcakes and talcum powder. Whereas the 23yo was richer and more ‘generous’ in profile, this one feels a tad more austere, direct and singular (well, it is a single cask…). There’s a leafy freshness about the nose as well, with some white fruits, lemon peel and light olive oil. Elegant and very good, even if slightly minimalistic. Mouth: now we are really in ‘eau de vie’ territories. This one feels far more ‘ideological’ with these very precise notes of plain malt, grist, oatcakes, cereals, toasted seeds, trail mix and straw. There are fruity aspects but it’s rather drier and more bitter fruit qualities such as citrus piths, bitter lemon, grapefruit and tart gooseberry. Finish: good length, very cereal, drying and getting slightly herbal. Comments: I think it was pretty smart to bottle this one as a single cask. Refill wood and time working very well together with some good distillate here. It’s quite different from the 23yo, even though you feel a shared ancestry between the two, but overall I think it’s the same ballpark of quality.
SGP: 361 - 88 points.



Clynelish for the fade out if you please…



Clynelish 14 yo 2005/2019 (51.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice for The Whisky Exchange, cask #19/090, refill sherry hogshead, 224 bottles)

Clynelish 14 yo 2005/2019 (51.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice for The Whisky Exchange, cask #19/090, refill sherry hogshead, 224 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: rather spicy and greasy at first nosing. Earthy potting sheds, oily tool boxes, camphor, steel wool and a hint of rotting orange peel. Sherry and Clynelish can be slightly uncomfortable bedfellows sometimes. Continues with hints of tobacco, dried strawberry and blood orange. With water: more fragrant, herbal, waxy, medical, sooty and with hints of olive oil, salty liquorice and hessian. Mouth: ahh, this is good! Waxes, metal polish, soots, olive oil, camphor and beeswax furniture polish. Also rather leathery, more orange peels and crystalised citrus fruits. Very earthy and with this continued impression of greasiness. Lots of nutty and chocolatey notes in the background, some kind of salted caramel Snickers bar. With water: works well with dilution. Very saline, meaty and oily now. Lots of paprika, camphor, bitter chocolate, smoked meats and a hint of tar. Finish: long, leafy, herbal, lightly bitter, chocolatey, earthy and meaty. Comments: A big and rather uncompromising Clynelish. An embarrassment of guilty pleasures and riches to be found within. The slight dissonance between sherry and distillate will prevent me from going to 90 but we’re flying pretty high. Good winter tumbler juice for no-nonsense dramming I’d say.
SGP: 562 - 89 points.



Clynelish 21 yo Batch 7 (47.8%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1174 bottles)

Clynelish 21 yo Batch 7 (47.8%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 1174 bottles)
As with most of these releases, info is thin on the ground. But the basic metrics look promising. I should add that this was harvested from one of Master Of Malt’s very fine advent calendars. No, of course I won’t tell you which window, my hard-won relationship with Santa is too valuable for that kind of cheap squandering… Colour: white wine. Nose: yes, yes, yes. Waxes, putty, seashore, minerals, rock pools, white flowers, stone fruits and lemon rind. Thank you and good night! Mouth: a precise and thrilling continuation of the nose. What more is there to say? It’s terrific, perfectly mature, complex, fresh and beautifully balanced Clynelish! Maybe add some gorse, crushed sea shells, a few drops of rapeseed oil and some expensive cough syrup. Finish: Long, lemony, waxy, herbal, fruity and breezy. Comments: sometimes, when tasting these kinds of Clynelish, you have to wonder why does anyone bother drinking anything else?
SGP: 662 - 91 points.





November 8, 2019


Little Duos, today Nikka Days vs. Date

Are they truly Japanese or not? It’s hard to be 100% sure and to taste these with peace of mind, but beyond these inherent transparency problems, these babies may well be good. And as the other guy once said, better some great Ben Nevis undercover than some slightly average, yet authentic Japanese malt… Just common sense?

Nikka ‘Days’ (40%, OB, Japanese blend, 2019)

Nikka ‘Days’ (40%, OB, Japanese blend, 2019) Two stars
This one’s well ‘made in Japan’ according to the label, but nowhere do they claim it to be blended from authentic Japanese malts and/or grains. So, big question marks here, even if some usually trustworthy retailers state that it’s a blend of Yoichi and Miyagikyo… Colour: white wine. Nose: fact, this is nice and very fresh. A feeling of smoked pear and apple juice, lemongrass, Thai basil, rhubarb, leaves, coriander and lemon. It's bright, it’s fresh, it’s pleasant, it’s even kind of coastal (sea breeze). Mouth: good maltiness, good freshness, nice notes of fruity hoppy lager, more pears, a touch of earthy smoke indeed, but it tends to take a knee after a few seconds, getting weaker and frankly too leafy. The fate of many a blend at low strength. Finish: short, herbal, with a little cardboard and vanillin. Comments: it was really fine for a good while, and not bad at all globally, but it started to nosedive on the palate after just two seconds. Perhaps mainly for cocktails? Not a whisky for malt freaks and maniacs.
SGP:451 - 75 points.

Nikka ‘Date’ (43%, OB, Japanese blend, +/-2012)

Nikka ‘Date’ (43%, OB, Japanese blend, +/-2012) Four stars
This is a discontinued blend that mentions the Sendai a.k.a. Miyagikyo Distillery, but let’s remember they make both malt and grain at Miyagikyo. So, perhaps some single blend? It’s hard to be 100% sure, but some good sources are even mentioning the fact that this would be a blend of Coffey malt and grain rom Miyagikyo. Colour: light gold. Nose: there’s clearly more happening in this one, as if the malt content was higher. Like these stewed plums, these notes of patchouli and eucalyptus (or Indian beedies), and the rather wonderful whiffs of cider apple skins, or there, artisan cider. Also a little grass smoke (we’re talking proper grass, or garden bonfire). Mouth: indeed, nothing to do with the little ‘Days’, this is much bigger, more herbal, more resinous, with more oriental notes, incense, sandalwood, green mochi, green tea… It’s really fine, and it wouldn’t lose steam this time. Notes of green oranges as well. Finish: rather long, more lemony, and always with oriental notes, rare teas, wood extracts, sucking cedar wood, more grassy smokiness… Comments: really an excellent blend, with a clear Japanness (unless I’m confused). I could quaff this while listening to some good Japanese jazz. There’s a lot!
SGP:462 - 85 points.

(Thanks again Chris)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese whiskies we've tasted so far


November 7, 2019


Little Duos, today indie Glenlivet

We’ll soon do an extra-large Glenlivet session, but in the meantime and for some specific logistical reasons, we’ll have only two of them today. No, don’t ask…

Glenlivet 14 yo 2004/2019 (64%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill bourbon barrel, 162 bottles)

Glenlivet 14 yo 2004/2019 (64%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill bourbon barrel, 162 bottles) Four stars
Isn’t it surprising to see so many more very-high-strength bottlings these days? Have they all started using clingfilm? Colour: straw. Nose: all on toasted bread, biscuits, vanilla cream, butterscotch, and fresh malted barley. Elementary, in a good way, but remember the strength is super-high. So… With water: impeccable moss and branches, shortbread, vanilla, autumn leaves, and a drop of cough medicine. Pristine and immaculate, almost too perfect in fact. Mouth (neat): huge yet fresh, on apple pie, fresh brioche, more butterscotch, and fudge and caramel. Rechar? With water: plus apple skins, butter pears, fresh walnuts and almonds, plums, and more toasted bread. That would be sweet bread. Notes of raisins too. Finish: rather long, cake-y, malty, with large amounts of butterscotch and drops of stout. Comments: I’m finding more and more butterscotch in modern whiskies. Either that’s me, or it’s a matter of ‘wood technology’. Extremely good nonetheless, perhaps too good.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Glenlivet 45 yo 1973/2018 (43.1%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, sherry butt, cask #13/1, 394 bottles)

Glenlivet 45 yo 1973/2018 (43.1%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, sherry butt, cask #12/1, 394 bottles) Five stars
My oh my, the 1973s are 45, already! Colour: very deep amber. Nose: halt, stop it! Ylang-ylang, mango jam, rose petals, orange blossom honey, rosewood, pollen, then pinewood, dried figs and dates, mead, apricot jam, sémillon, the tiniest touch of coconut water… Well, this is just unstoppable. Nothing to discuss or argue about here, let’s just move on… Mouth: you’re always afraid of some unwanted woodiness in these very old whiskies, and indeed they all are pretty woody – this one is – but it’s all a matter of what balances that woodiness, and in this case the answer is ‘a lot of things’. For example, this mango jam, or this heather honey, those juicy sultanas, this pipe tobacco, this cherry liqueur, the dates, the figs, the bits of dried apricot, these drops of mint essence, or myrtle liqueur, or pine liqueur… It appears that this is actually a finishing; well, in that case it’s one of the best finishings ever. Even if it’s no secret that many glorious old bottles had been re-racked, so nothing new under the sun. Finish: long, with an awesome fruity sourness. Sour cherry juice, perhaps? Also damsons, pipe tobacco, and sémillon wine yet again. Think Sauternes (and drink some, they really need our patronage these days!) Comments: it’s amazing what Signatory have released for their 30th Anniversary. May I suggest they celebrate their 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 34th etcetera in similar manners?
SGP:651 - 92 points.

Was that a good little session or was that a good little session?...

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glenlivet we've tasted so far


November 6, 2019


Little duos, today old Dalmore

You may remember we had a bunch of indie Dalmore the other day, and that we had said we’d have some older officials soon. Now’s the time, Charlie…

Dalmore 35 yo (40%, OB, +/-2018)

Dalmore 35 yo (40%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
A much brandified 35, bottled at some cheapish 40% vol. and priced at 5,000€. Having set the tone here, I may now add that the old Dalmores can be totally flabbergasting – in my book, at least. BTW, who’s got the record now, as far as the ‘most expensive whisky in da world’ stunt is concerned? Dalmore or Macallan? It’s hard to keep track, is it not… Colour: deep gold. Nose: that’s the thing, they may be way too expensive, they may be a little infuriating as well, but these bottlings are usually superb, which is the case here. Fab tobaccos, flowers (jasmine and orange blossom), old dry wines – certainly some old Meursault, cross my heart – and this mentholy/camphory development that screams ‘class’. And then myriads of tiny putty-like aromas, no I won’t list them all; but I’ll mention chicken bouillons and Bovril. Mouth: sure 43 or 45 or 46% would have worked better, and indeed, you’ve got the feeling that something’s been slaughtered here, but these tobaccos and spicy herbs just do it – for a while. Sadly, the low strength makes the drying oak stand out after a minute or two, a shame. Finish: a little short, sadly, with notes of very old brandy de Jerez, only drier. Old walnuts are ruling the aftertaste. Comments: what do I do? It’s a fantastic whisky, but on the palate, the low strength just kills it after a short while. And yet, in its Baccarat decanter, it’s not just decoration whisky, is it!
SGP:461 - 88 points.
PS, forgot to say, the stag on the decanter is produced by Royal Warrant-holding Scottish silversmiths Hamilton & Inches (thanks for that, Master of Malts).

Dalmore 40 yo (42%, OB, 750 decanters, 2018)

Dalmore 40 yo (42%, OB, 750 decanters, 2018) Four stars and a half
This baby’s got some stuff to do with Gonzales Byass. Claro. Now they have it on Amazon(dot)boom, which I find pretty, how would I put this, vulgar? Inelegant? Disappointing? Plebeian? Rude? Unrefined? Or there, unDalmore? Not very luxury, that’s for sure. The extra-2% are welcome, though. And 7,800€, while the previous 40 was at, cough, cough, 1,500€. And that one was stunning (WF 92). We already had the 2017 edition of this newer 40, and this is the 2018. There. Colour: amber. Nose: well, this is stunning. Oranges of all kinds, macerated in the most wonderful old Cognacs, with added touches of ripe mangos and bananas. After a few minutes, notes of cherry-flavoured pipe tobacco, more mangos, the juiciest sultanas, Szechuan pepper, orange blossom water, and vetiver. The freshness here is impressive. Mouth: some would claim that there’s too much oak, and indeed there is a lot of oak, but you see, it’s some chocolaty oak – like 90% cocoa – and I Iove genuine chocolate. Other than that, there’s a lot of black tea, thin mints, prunes, and a rosemary/thyme combo that always works. Finish: short to medium, with notes of rosehip tea. A lot of cocoa in the aftertaste, as well as a vinous side that’s perhaps a tad unnecessary. Raisins, goji, cassis and strawberries. Comments: sure you ought to taste these with deference and respect. They are wonderful old whiskies, but on your tasting desk, they are at the mercy of any young Ben Nevis, Springbank or Clynelish.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

PS: not that you should obligatory care, but this stag too was produced by Royal Warrant-holding Scottish silversmiths Hamilton & Inches. Good to know!

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Dalmore we've tasted so far


November 5, 2019


Little duos, today Ben Nevis (again!)

I know we just had something like 20 Ben Nevis the other day, but let’s take this as a wee sequel session. Mind you, we have to try WL Paris’ official bottling before the year is over!

Ben Nevis 2011/2019 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for Whisky Live Paris 2019, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #161, 275 bottles)

Ben Nevis 2011/2019 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for Whisky Live Paris 2019, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #161, 275 bottles) Five stars
We have fairly good hopes here… Colour: white wine. Nose: someone mad has blended sunflower oil with white chocolate sauce and brake fluid. Ooh that’s nasty. With water: love this. New Golf (whatever), mineral wax, plasticine, new leather jacket, one whelk, and one wee glass of stale seawater. Mouth (neat): this is despairingly obvious whisky. Ticks all the boxes, balance, precision, minerality, fruitiness, everything. Pristine distillate and a bourbon cask that played it cool and unobtrusive. Who said not quite like their prez? With water: lemons out, and with flying colours. Finish: long, and just totally accurate, for lack of a better term. Comments: immaculate, perfect young Ben Nevis. Haven’t they kept updating their game since the glorious 1990? This is probably sold out, but let’s keep looking for sister casks…
SGP:462 - 91 points.

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2018 (50.6%, The Whisky Agency for Liquor Library, Australia, sherry wood)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2018 (50.6%, The Whisky Agency for Liquor Library, Australia, sherry wood) Five stars
A Mad-Max-themed Ben Nevis for our friends at the Liquor Library in Melbourne. I suppose it was that, or Kylie Minogue. Who said they should do referendums in whisky? Colour: gold. Nose: the moderate sherryness imparts additional notes of tobacco and, perhaps, a few raisins, walnuts and gunpowder (Mad Max indeed), while the distillate got a tad more game-y, beyond the usual wax, chalk, and diesel oil. With water: this perfect dirtiness. Soot, more gunpowder, paint, concrete powder… Mouth (neat): high accuracy again, it’s totally mad indeed that the sherry would not have changed the DNA of this malt one iota. And yet, the sherry’s very perceptible, with a feeling of sweeter tobacco, orange cordial, young rancio wine… Some fab grapefruits in the background. With water:  a tad sweeter and rounder, but some cured ham is coming out too. Rolled around dried dates. Finish: as long as a car chase in Mad Max. Comments: I tend to like the puros even better, but this is brilliant too. And frankly, no other malt would have fitted the Mad-Max theme better. Very well done, loved this… bullet-proof whisky (S., that’ll do).
SGP:562 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Ben Nevis we've tasted so far


November 4, 2019


Little duos, today own Jura

Isn’t Jura truly Orwellian? Discuss… Seriously, we had some ups and some downs the other week, while I still can’t stop laughing thinking about their recent ‘Seven Wood’ bottling. Seven, no less. Maybe is it time to try to do a little reset?

Jura 13 yo 2006/2019 ‘Two One Two’ (47.5%, OB, Limited Edition, 6,000 bottles)

Jura 13 yo 2006/2019 ‘Two One Two’ (47.5%, OB, Limited Edition, 6,000 bottles) Four stars
A story about oak yet again, this time it’s about bourbon barrels and a pretty Glenmorangian Chinkapin cask finish. Chinkapin a.k.a. Quercus Muehlenbergii (big up to Wikipedia)-  but I suppose adding ‘Quercus Muehlenbergii’ to a label would be an instant killer – is a kind of white oak that rather grows in Eastern America.  But enough said about Chinkapin… As for why ‘two-one-two’, no ideas I’m afraid. Colour: gold. Nose: oh nice! It’s a rather cleaner Jura, rather wood-driven indeed but they did it well, with good coffee (rather Ricoré) and chocolate, roasted malt, something between Twix and Mars, then rather toffee and fudge, without any heady notes, rather tobacco and earl grey after a few seconds. Wee notes of leather and fresh sliced ginger too, this is Jura, after all. Mouth: good, this is unmistakably modern, driven by oak and toasting/charring, but again, I think they did that very well. Rather gingerbread and caraway this time, rather than coffee and chocolate, but there, that works, without any obvious feeling of oak juice or plankiness. Finish: medium, with some lovely oranges working their magic as in many very good whiskies, and a pleasant bready/malty side in the aftertaste. Chicory again. Comments: an excellent new Isle of Jura, about wood but not just about wood. Now, isn’t it great that the SWA, or whoever’s actually in charge, made it mandatory to use only oak?
SGP:451 - 86 points.

Jura 1989/2019 (53.5%, OB, Rare Vintage, bourbon, 1,500 bottles)

Jura 1989/2019 (53.5%, OB, Rare Vintage, bourbon, 1,500 bottles) Five stars
A distillate, some barrels, and thirty good years. Aaahhh… Colour: gold. Nose: no obvious re-racking, rather some fresh-cut grass, walnut peels, a metallic touch (copper), then ale and bread, gingerbread, a touch of earth, moist pipe tobacco, cigars… I find this very elegant, just the opposite of a contemporary pushy whisky. With water: a Cognacqy side, notes of bone-dry Madeira wine, a newly-opened box of Cubans, and just a marvellous earthiness. Fantastic nose once reduced down to +/-45% vol. Mouth (neat): yess, lovely. It’s kept some of Jura’s leathery wackiness, including these metallic and Marmite-y notes indeed, but it’s also achieved balance, with a rather perfect spiciness, between cloves (very Jura) and nutmeg, with bitter oranges mounting guard. With water: yes, salt and mustard! And Madeira sauce, cigars, bitter oranges… Finish: long, mustardy, dry, rather perfect. Bags of walnuts in the long aftertaste. Comments: perhaps the best fairly recent Jura I’ve tried since, what, 2015? I mean, my favourite; I’m sorry, Mother. Now, the price is north of 700€…
SGP:472 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Jura we've tasted so far


November 3, 2019


Mad rums for another Sunday

The category’s very active and buoyant, reminds me of malt whisky, circa 2005. Except that in malt whisky, beyond some old paxarette-doped ones (starting with an M, for example), age statements were authentic, unlikely sauces were never added, and sugar and thickening agents were kept at bay. Caramel? What caramel?

Doorly’s 14 yo (48%, OB, Barbados, 2019)

Doorly’s 14 yo (48%, OB, Barbados, 2019) Two stars and a half
Bajan rum made by Foursquare and partly matured in Madeira casks. Which, I suppose, would be deemed as ‘traditional’ – as I’m sure they used to import casks of Madeira to Barbados.  Colour: dark amber. Nose: it’s a pretty chocolaty rum, with a tarry/smoky side, as well as fine whiffs of pine needles and a faint mustardy side, I suppose that’s related to the Madeira wine. Tends to become very earthy after a good minute, which is always an enjoyable development. Let’s only hope it’s not going to be too vinous on the palate… Mouth: not quite, there’s just an added sweetness that may, or may not, come from some very sweet Malmsey-style Madeira. Raisins, apple compote, a little copper, blood oranges, guava juice… Finish: long and rather sweet. Orange squash, raisins, dried goji berries, grape juice, maple syrup… Comments: very fine, but the sweetness doesn’t totally work for me. Indeed, that’s me. Oh and I’ve heard Céline Dion loves this style, but don’t take my word for it.
SGP:641 - 78 points.

New Yarmouth 13 yo 2005/2019 (66.6%, The Wild Parrot for La Maison du Whisky, Jamaica, cask #WP05666)

New Yarmouth 13 yo 2005/2019 (66.6%, The Wild Parrot for La Maison du Whisky, Jamaica, cask #WP05666) Four stars
This one was distilled where they make J. Wray & Nephew’s rum, and then matured in good old Europe. New Yarmouth, together with Appleton, now belong to Campari. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s one of those tarry high-ester rums, rather on crude oil and the greener, drier olives, also rotting bananas. But one has to be careful at this devilish strength of 66.6% vol. With water: soot, tar, more green olives. A lot of ink too, new magazines…  Mouth (neat): very strong and sour, on lime, olives, capers, and tar. With water: more salt, anchovies, olive oil, capers, and a sweeter lemon, perhaps limoncello. Finish: long, pretty green, with a sweeter touch, perhaps tinned pineapples? Comments: very good, but I don’t think it is as immediate and pristine as the best Hampdens or Worthy Parks. The sweeter touches (limoncello) may be getting in the way. But it’s great rum, no doubt about that.
SGP:562 - 85 points.

Let’s stay in Jamaica for a little while…

Monymusk 9 yo 2010/2019 (62%, National Rums of Jamaica, Velier and LMDW, MBS, 4,660 bottles)

Monymusk 9 yo 2010/2019 (62%, National Rums of Jamaica, Velier and LMDW, MBS, 4,660 bottles) Four stars
This is a low-ester mark, so not an hyper-tarry, olive-driven monster of a Jamaican. After a few hundreds of them, I have to say the extreme ones can get a little tiring, just like the peat monsters of whisky. Ppm peat and g/hlpa esters, same fight! Colour: light amber. Nose: very gentle, cake-y, elegantly grassy, with just wee whiffs of honeysuckle and lime blossom, as well as touches of coconut water. Could be that the very high strength kind of blocks it, let’s see… With water: really elegant, rather on toasted brioche, milk chocolate, and indeed cane juice. Whiffs of gorse and broom, with some natural vanilla as well (did you know there is a huge shortage of natural vanilla everywhere on this planet? I’m sure the coopers could help…) Mouth (neat): we’ve known some agricoles that were a little bit like this, that is to say tense yet balanced, on overripe fruits and very soft spices, with a little fudge and turron. With water: and halva, cappuccino, nougat… Finish: medium, and indeed very much on nougat. Some stewed berries in the aftertaste, as well as poached pears. Comments: forgot to say, this is a vatting of 15 casks. It’s very good, and indeed a proper malternative, but there might be some overlapping with malt whisky.
SGP:541 - 85 points.

Since we’re kind of à la Maison…

Worthy Park 2017/2019 (67%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Jamaica, single cask)

Worthy Park 2017/2019 (67%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Jamaica, single cask) Five stars
I think it says WPE, which may mean Warning Probably Explosive. Mind you, 67% vol., don’t they have any water in Jamaica? Colour: straw. Nose: sure it’s strong, but it feels like home, just like 1972-1976 Ardbeg used to feel like home. It’s most probably magnificent, but at this strength, we shan’t keep taking any chances, my spectacles are already starting to get blurred… With water: sake, soy sauce, miso, roasted pineapples… There clearly is something Japanese in there. Not the roasted pineapples, having said that. Mouth (neat): why do I feel like I’m about to do a bungee jump? But yeah, aniseed, tar, olive oil, cumin, liquorice… With water: fantastic distillate, warm, extremely well balanced, full of character, and with a rather sublime coastalness. Finish: long, yeah. Flower jelly? I adore these touches of aniseed in the aftertaste. Comments: amazing, somewhere between Longrow and the best mezcals, I would say quite creatively (and while trying to remain modest – and not taking any geographical matters into consideration). And it is single-estate rum, who else can claim to do that? Not that many brands…
SGP:563 - 91 points.

Let’s move to Trinidad…

Caroni 23 yo 1996/2019 (63.5%, Tasting Gang, La Maison du Whisky, Trinidad)

Caroni 23 yo 1996/2019 (63.5%, Tasting Gang, La Maison du Whisky, Trinidad) Four stars
Twenty-two casks of both heavy and light Caronis blended together, after having matured in Trinidad, then in Guyana from 2008 on. Looks like the angels’ share reached 85% over the years, which is pretty insane. Yeah, despite proper ullage (as far as I know).. Colour: deep gold. Nose: more light Caroni than heavy Caroni, but there are hints of ink, diesel oil and soot, also shoe polish and plasticine. It’s all rather subtle, not wham-bam at all, and getting pretty brioche-y over the minutes. A good brioche, straight from the baker’s (or your mum’s) oven. With water: a mix of engine oil and water on the floor of an old garage (under an old Jaguar, ha-ha – who said that could be a new one as well, who? Why not Bojo’s, while we’re at it? ) Mouth (neat): very good. Some lighter Caronis have been a little, say wet noodles in the past, but this is different, with good waxes and polishes, some tar, and even this brine-y side that screams sardines! Or rather anchovies! With water: very gentle, in similar territories as those of the Monymusk. It’s hard to understand why Caroni used to have such a bad reputation in the past. Finish: rather long, rather easy, and pretty cane-y. Some sweetness in the aftertaste. Comments: almost no esters have been harmed here. A very good ‘blend’.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

We could try to find a heavier Caroni to put an end to this we session, wait…

Caroni 20 yo 1998/2018 (61%, Cave Guildive, Trinidad, 277 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 1998/2018 (61%, Cave Guildive, Trinidad, 277 bottles) Five stars
Love what these guys at Cave Guildive in Zürich in der Schweiz are doing, they always have impeccable selections! Colour: amber. Nose: this is heavier, fatter, and yet not head-bangingly so, what’s sure is that miso, glutamate, mud and earth, as well as cigars are running the show. Jamon iberico, plasticine, chestnut purée, porcinis... All good things, all good things… With water: pretty sublime, fresh, clean, and yet heavy, tarry, fume-y… You’re almost nosing the pipes of a poorly-tuned old Corvette, circa Jimmy Carter. Indeed, not the better ones. Mouth (neat): heavy, if not the heaviest. Aniseed and tar, liquorice, black olives, Ardbeg as Ardbeg used to be, and lime. Great combo, I can tell you, there isn’t any greater combo, believe me (Donald, come out of this body!) With water: tar and roasted nuts aplenty. And this Ardbgeness again… In truth there is more Ardbeg in there than in proper contemporary Ardbegs. Finish: very long, salty, iodine-y, tarry, with a medicinal side, ideas of an old fisherman’s tarry ropes and nets, hessian, and the heaviest heavy Dutch liquorice. Sounds like 1970s Ardbeg, doesn’t it? Comments: powah Caroni and a pristine selection. Oh, and the most perfect disinfectant ever. Hoppla, grüezi mitenand.
SGP:463 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


November 2, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Caol Ila Fun
I know, I know. Caol Ila. Again! Some bottlers - and perhaps also some drinkers - will occasionally yawn upon hearing or reading the name Caol Ila. An interesting phenomena where a ‘brand’ is a victim of the twin forces of its own ubiquity and quality. Personally, I can’t help but love its punchy, distillate-forward style.


What’s more, it’s one of those extremely rare names that have always sheltered quality from the first known bottled examples hailing from the old distillery, right through to the present day make. Perhaps these ultra-lean modern examples aren’t as majestic as their 1960s counterparts, but then again, few spirits on this whole planet are. Today we’ll have a healthy wee jumble of different expressions, including a wee pair of head to heads that speaks right to my unabashed geeky core! I’m just a bit lost for what order to do them in. Please bear with me…



Caol Ila 16 yo 1969 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Caol Ila 16 yo 1969 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)
There is a 69/85 Intertrade Caol Ila at 40% which Serge found to be 95 big fat marvellous points back in 2007. I’m not sure if this is the same juice, you just never know with these old G&M bottlings. Nevertheless, this is our only 60s example for this session so let’s have it first as a kind of historical benchmark. Colour: gold. Nose: that’s the thing about 60s Caol Ila, it’s just so stupendously fatty. A dripping, browned bacon rasher sizzling in its fat. Salted liquorice, brine and olive oil mixed, pickling juices, tar extracts and fabrics full of wood smoke. A grizzly, brusque and almost greasy spirit, yet at the same time just effortlessly charming. Mouth: these old Islays and Brora 72s by G&M are probably the biggest and weightiest spirits you’ll ever find at 40%. This one is a dense and wonderfully peaty oily slick across the palate. Salted almonds, raisins, tobacco leaf, sheep wool, mineral oil and squid ink. Truly evocative whisky. Finish: the finish itself is probably medium but the aftertaste glows with black olives, peat embers, dried seaweed and well-seasoned vegetable broth. Comments: You have to be careful with these bottlings as you find yourself kind of tasting ‘underneath’ the low bottling strength. Skirting around the obvious frustrations of 40% to look for all the glimmers of treasure within. It’s true that at even a few extra degrees this would be 94 point material. As it is, this is still poetically beautiful whisky. Harmonious, balanced, elegant and yet still powerful and thrilling. This session starts very well!
SGP: 565 - 92 points.



Caol Ila 24 yo 1976/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 25th Anniversary Kirsch Import, cask #8081, 252 bottles)

Caol Ila 24 yo 1976/2001 (43%, Signatory Vintage, 25th Anniversary Kirsch Import, cask #8081, 252 bottles)
This could be a tad deadly at this stage in a tasting considering we’ll have younger ones later on, however, I can’t resist comparing to the 69 from a few years and one distillery earlier. Colour: pale straw. Nose: differences and similarities. Just wonderful freshness here at first nosing. Opens with lightly smoky lemon barley water, fresh lemon peel, sunflower oil, beach sand and chalk. Hints of smoked sea salt, seaweed in ramen broth and smoked olive oil (the Croatians make some excellent smoked olive oil I should add). Many lovely notes of bath bombs, freshly laundered fabrics and linens, sandalwood, pine cones and wood embers. Mouth: cleaves closer to the 69 on arrival with this nicely fatty and gently oily texture. Something funny like smoked bubblegum, newspaper ink and dried tarragon. Perilously easy stuff. Limes, chalk, crushed seashells, old riesling, ink, paraffin, linseed oil, oyster water… superb. Finish: good length and developing notes of putty and clay along with more barley water, lemony notes and elderflower. Comments: Definitely a lighter Caol Ila but a masterclass in pleasure and easiness in malt whisky. Goes down like… ah, no. I forget you can’t make those jokes any more.
SGP: 444 - 91 points.



Right: geek-factor 9, engage!



Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, first batch, bottled 2002)

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, first batch, bottled 2002)
If I’m in a bar with a scattering of standard bottles on the gantry and moved to have a whisky, then I have a kind of ‘no thinking’ set of names that look for. They are ‘Talisker 10, Springbank 10, Laphroaig 10 and Caol Ila 12. I’ve never really tried some of the very early batches of this bottling that came after the discontinuation of the old Flora & Fauna 15yo. So, for me at any rate, this is fun! Colour: light gold. Nose: rather briny and seaweedy at first, reminiscent of some Lagavulin 12 year olds in fact. Although this is very much Caol Ila with these nice notes of sheep wool, wet rocks, putty, iodine and oysters. Pure, emblematic and with a solid medicinal backbone running through it. Very close to what I think of when I think ‘Caol Ila 12yo’, although perhaps not as rugged and harsh as later bottlings are to my mind. Mouth: much softer on arrival that I would have expected had this been a contemporary bottling. This is oily, heathery, sooty, peppery and briny in a way that really recalls much old 60s Caol Ilas. Don’t get me wrong we aren’t at those heights of quality but the similarities in profile are really cool. Oily texture, lemon peel, hessian and a kind of kippery peat smoke. Finish: good length and rather fragrant with more smoky heathery notes, salty honey, dried mint and camphor. Comments: There’s an almost honeyed quality to this one and a sort of fat sweetness that really recalls an older style. Really fascinating and fun to try. Although, most importantly of all, it’s also technically very good I think. Not sure this kind of quality was really maintained in the immediate years following this.
SGP: 554 - 88 points.



Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, bottled 2018, batch L8121)

Caol Ila 12 yo (43%, OB, bottled 2018, batch L8121)
Colour: straw. Nose: fascinating! This is indeed more brittle and sharper with a degree of salinity and acidity that the 2002 lacks. This is more seawater, ash, mercurochrome and possesses what Serge would call a ‘millimetric’ profile. There’s also a floral aspect with hints of grass, parsley and gorse flowers. Really quite surprisingly different but by no means worse. Mouth: again this is more raw, more powerful, more briny and sooty. Lots of smoked oatmeal, hay, seawater, green olives, chopped parsley, struck flints and medical things like herbal toothpaste and germoline floor cleaner. This kind of gutsy hospital characteristic which was sort of absent from the 2002. There’s also some lighter fruit notes that point towards pineapple jelly sweets and something like bubblegum. Finish: Good length, rather smoky, sooty, salty and full of salty broth, seawater and white pepper. Comments: I really wish I had a bottling from somewhere in between these two. There are clear differences and this recent bottling is very much how I think of with I think ‘Caol Ila 12’. These slightly more ashy, citric and saline accents are pure Caol Ila if you ask me. I could list fascinating differences till the cows come home but I’m really struggling to determine which is better. I’ll dock this one a single point for being a tad less complex, but both are really lovely whiskies in their own right.
SGP: 456 - 87 points.



Caol Ila 18 yo (43%, OB, first batch, bottled 2002)

Caol Ila 18 yo (43%, OB, first batch, bottled 2002)
I remember buying a bottle of Caol Ila 18 year old for my Dad around 2003. It came from Loch Fyne Whiskies, rather enthusiastically recommended by the great Richard Joynson. I remember finding it pretty spectacular at the time, to the point it was probably quite an influential bottle on my early whisky meanderings. To this day it’s always one I’m very happy to revisit. Colour: gold. Nose: what I’ve always enjoyed about the 18 is that is walks an entertaining tightrope between the younger, more chiselled style of Caol Ila, and these older, more elegant styles full of coastal complexity, medicine and citrus teas. This one leans more to the latter side of things, Green tea with lemon, soot, pine cones, roof pitch, chalk, wet beach pebbles, camphor and green olives. It’s gentle and settled with a kind if undulating medicinal quality and wafts of plain light peat smoke. Mouth: superb opening on seawater, cooking oils, herbal teas, saline broths, umami paste, various shades of olive and medical tinctures. The texture is perhaps a tad on the light footed side, but the flavours are precise and rather beautiful. In time there’s hints of green pepper and nettle tea as well, some lemon rind too. Give it time and the power really starts to increase. Wonderful! Finish: long, lemony, oily, heathery, medical and herbal. Comments: No wonder people fell in love with this bottling. It possesses this kind of uniform ‘Islay’ characteristic that the best Islay whiskies were showcasing back in these days. A profile which is just so direct, clear and seductive it’s hard not to be swayed. What I find really cool is how the overall profile is very similar to the first batch of the 12 as well.
SGP: 554 - 90 points.



Caol Ila 18 yo (43%, OB, bottled 2015, batch L5269)

Caol Ila 18 yo (43%, OB, bottled 2015, batch L5269)
Colour: slightly lighter gold. Nose: the difference between these two is far narrower than the 12s but it is still distinct enough to notice. Here we’re still in this kind of coastal, elegant, sooty, medical ballpark but it maybe lacks the deeper, more gentle peat tones of the 2002. It’s also leaning more towards freshly chopped herbs (parsley, chives), fresh oysters, lemon juice mixed with sunflower oil and natural tar extract. Clean, pin sharp and super fresh with a wee antiseptic touch. Mouth: ooft. Here the difference shines far more clearly. And we’re going in the same kind if direction as the 12s. More salinity, more purity and a far more direct minerality. Anchovy paste, wet pebbles, cloves, hessian, white pepper and smoked mackerel. Finish: long with a kind of sooty/smoky/peaty triplet note. Smoked fish, putty, tar, dried herbs, miso and a rather grassy and punchy olive oil. Comments: A while back I did a similar vertical of Lagavulin 16s and the quality definitely wavered towards the contemporary end. What’s cool about these Caol Ilas is that, while the character has obviously altered within the relatively modern era they all hail from, the quality itself is impressively consistent. I’m very happy with this wee quartet.
SGP: 465 - 88 points.



That was embarrassingly fun. Now, let’s have some youthful power to finish.



Caol Ila 8 yo 2011/2019 (57%, Lady Of The Glen, cask #313406, Amarone finish, 293 bottles)

Caol Ila 8 yo 2011/2019 (57%, Lady Of The Glen, cask #313406, Amarone finish, 293 bottles)
Amarone is a full bodied, dry red wine made from the juice of grapes which have air dried on straw mats. It’s not my idea of a natural bedfellow for Caol Ila, but there’s many whisky lovers around the world who are lapping up these sorts of finishes these days. So, in other words, what the hell do I know! Colour: rose gold. Nose: indeed, what do I know? This is very nice and approachable with lots of tobacco pouches, smoked fish, black pepper, leather, tar, smoked mint and hessian. There’s a kind of syrupy feel to the peat along with peach stones, sea salt and caraway. Unusual but quite fun. With water: strawberry cough medicine, fruity shisha pipe smoke, potpourri, jasmine tea and something like smoked cranberries! Mouth: the good news is that the wine is in check. In fact it feels like there’s some added sweetness at play rather than dryness. These notes of soot, lemon curd, menthol tobacco, fennel, putty and anthracite all work well together. Gets a little jammy and resinous in time. I’ve just realised this feels older than 8. With water: again rather sooty and leathery, with sweet tobacco notes, salted honey, smoked olive oil and lightly burnt raisins. Finish: long, peppery, pretty salty, hints of citrus pith, rather tarry, blood orange and salted liquorice. Comments: Not sure how long the finish was on this one but I find it annoyingly good. Although, what I find good is the sense of cohesion and identity. You never really feel like you’re sipping some overly doctored young anonymous peater. Good work.
SGP: 566 - 86 points.



Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (58.7%, Elixir Distillers ‘Magic Of The Cask’, cask #316103, refill Gonzalez Byass sherry, 308 bottles)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2009/2019 (58.7%, Elixir Distillers ‘Magic Of The Cask’, cask #316103, refill Gonzalez Byass sherry, 308 bottles)
This was selected for the 2019 Whisky Show, which sadly I had to miss this year. I was sorry not to be able to see Oliver Chilton in his wizard hat and cape, emerging from a cloud of smoke between sherry butts and waving his special valinch wand. Casting his magical cask spells and doing his disappearing bung tricks for the gathered admirers… Anyway, apparently this one has been full term in an old school ex-bodega sherry cask. Which I find very cool. Let’s try it… Colour: gold. Nose: a gutsy and rather earthy Caol Ila. Lots of dunnage, black pepper, hessian, paraffin, baking parchment, black olives and smoking peat embers. I find lots of soy sauce, Magi seasoning, umami paste, anchovies in oil, smoked teas and engine oil. A rather gravelly mechanical flecked mineral side with notes of seaweed, lemongrass and pitch. Powerful and pretty hefty stuff! With water: fish sauce, hot smoked paprika, ointments, smoked sea salt and sand. Mouth: ooft! Raw seawater, pine resin, anthracite soot, dried kelp, tarry rope, iodine, caraway distillate, sheep wool, brine and smoked game meats. What I find impressive is that the refill aspect here really works. It feels mature but the sherry is restrained and melds with the Caol Ila character into a nicely meaty, oily, textural smokiness. With water: there’s a coarseness to this, although I don’t mean ‘rough’. Rather this is more a very rugged, textural, mineral, smoky and coastal whisky with no frills and many wee jagged edges. Although, it never comes across as immature, instead there’s an impression of deliberate power about it. Finish: long and full of boiler smoke, kippers with lemon juice, salty seaweed broth, tar extract, herbal teas, hessian and cough syrups. Comments: I can see why they would have chosen to bottle such a cask now rather than waiting longer. Although, having said that, I hope they have sibling casks. Now, let’s not forget to tip the magician…
SGP: 467 - 89 points.



Big hugs to Dirk for the Caol Ila 12 and 18s.




More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far


November 1, 2019


Little Duos, today Pulteney

Last time I was in Wick, two years ago, I happened to think we were back in the 1980s. A true travel through time, and believe me or not, I’d swear I’ve spotted Samantha Fox somewhere near that huge pub they have in the city. As for the distillery, well you wouldn’t be surprised if you crossed paths with John Steed and, let’s be fair, rather Purdey than Mrs. Peel, let’s not exaggerate.

Old Pulteney’s another malt that, in my book, can be fantastic once properly aged (10 or 12 are enough, but not super-young NAS) and not buried under tons of oak or too STRised (remember, Shaved, Toasted, Recharred, a.k.a. the Parkerisation of whisky on the march – well, that’s my take).

Old Pulteney 2004/2019 (50.9%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, cask #221, 246 bottles)

Old Pulteney 2004/2019 (50.9%, OB, for The Whisky Exchange, cask #221, 246 bottles) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: well, as a matter of fact, there is a wee feeling of oak shavings at first nosing, but porridge and sourdough are soon to come to the rescue, as well as a pleasant coastalness that would mingle with aniseed and fresh mint. Drinking ouzo on a beach. No, not just in Greece. With water: a compote, some preserved sliced peaches and apples, a touch of flour, some custard… Mouth (neat): it’s fresh, extremely Pulteney, very much on edible seaweed and gooseberries. Some liquorice wood too, some salt and lemon, and some oaken vanilla that would behave this time. With water: more herbs and more oak spices, making it a tad gritty. I believe Pulteney have been using a lot of fresh or freshened-up oak lately, but this is not a very extreme example. Finish: medium, with a little bubblegum, tapioca, bread, jelly babies… And a little salt and grapefruit skin in the aftertaste. Comments: the cask feels a bit, but that’s the fate of many a ‘modern’ whisky. This is rather upper-echelon modern whisky, having said that.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Pulteney 13 yo 2006/2019 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 306 bottles) Pulteney 13 yo 2006/2019 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 306 bottles)

Pulteney 13 yo 2006/2019 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 306 bottles) Four stars
This should be more natural, more distillate-driven. That’s what I enjoy in (almost) all Cadenhead whiskies, they don’t do much botoxing. Colour: white wine. Nose: indeed they don’t do much ‘oak-doping’ but as a consequence, and that’s rather the case here, the whiskies can be rougher, more spirity, more brutal. Slivovitz, kirsch, medicinal alcohol, fig spirit (I distilled some once, and failed – miserably), then sourdough again, leaven bread… With water: loads of yeast, porridge, cow dung, hay, farmyard… Love that! Mouth (neat): perhaps not quite a nosing whisky, but on your palate it’s really talking, with heavy spirity notes once again, quite a lot of limoncello, rhubarb and more gooseberries, and then a huge herbal side, with a lot of lemongrass and just plain grass. With water: gentler, more on green apples and pears. Finish: medium, extremely barley-y. Comments: in France we used to call some wines ‘trucker’s wines’, so I would say this is rather some trucker’s whisky, but of course, you couldn’t use such expressions anymore by today’s standards.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Bonus, some older note that I had not published yet :

Pulteney 12 yo 2006/2018 (56.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 306 bottles)

Pulteney 12 yo 2006/2018 (56.3%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 306 bottles) Four stars
I can’t wait, this should be totally distillate-driven. And Pulteney’s distillate is great when it’s not too oak-doped. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh yes, rather distillate-driven, despite some obvious vanilla that’s coating the whole shebang. Liquid salted butter caramel, shall we say. With water: rather more grass and earth, which happens extremely often with young malts. Fresh barley, grist… Mouth (neat): extremely good, with even more salted butter caramel, sweet ale, lemon curd, vanilla cake, cappuccino, fizzy sweets… Sure it tastes young but it’s already pretty complex. With water: some butter pears coming out, pears poached in buttered wine (and why not?)… Finish: medium, bonbony. Cherries, pears… A funny salty tang in the aftertaste, this is well Pulteney. Comments: it’s still young and sometimes a little immature, but the distillate is impeccable while the wood showed restraint. Water’s not obligatory.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Pulteney we've tasted so far


WF Favourites
Whiskyfun fav of the month

October 2019

Serge's favourite recent bottling this month:
Glen Grant 62 yo 1956/2019 (51.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Mr George Centenary Edition, first fill sherry butt, cask #4455, 235 bottles) - WF93

Serge's favourite older bottling this month:
Aberlour-Glenlivet 8 yo (50%, OB, Rinaldi, Italy, 1960s)- WF93

Serge's favourite bang for your buck this month:
Highland Park 10 yo ‘Viking Scars’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)  - WF90

Serge's favourite malternative this month:
Neisson 2003/2018 (46.1%, OB, Martinique, agricole, #4 hippocampe, 95 bottles)  - WF91

Serge's Lemon Prize this month:
Fuji Gotemba ‘Kunpu 2016’ (40%, OB, blend, 4800 bottles)  - WF69

October 2019 - part 2 <--- November 2019 - part 1 ---> November 2019 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Ben Nevis 2011/2019 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage for Whisky Live Paris 2019, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #161, 275 bottles)

Ben Nevis 21 yo 1996/2018 (50.6%, The Whisky Agency for Liquor Library, Australia, sherry wood)

Glenlivet 45 yo 1973/2018 (43.1%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, sherry butt, cask #12/1, 394 bottles)

Glen Moray-Glenlivet 32 yo 1962/1995 (55.8%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, for Barrique Wine Chicago, sherrywood)

Highland Park 15 yo 2003/2018 (50.3%, The Whisky Agency and Liquor Library, barrel)

Jura 1989/2019 (53.5%, OB, Rare Vintage, bourbon, 1,500 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 1998/2018 (61%, Cave Guildive, Trinidad, 277 bottles)

Diamond (Port Mourant Still) 11 yo 2005/2016 (45%, OriginR, bourbon, 1270 bottles)

Worthy Park 2017/2019 (67%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Jamaica, single cask)