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Whisky Tasting




Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2019 - Part 2


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


November 30, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Liquid Irish History 
It’s been a while since I’ve done an exclusive Irish session. I always enjoy older bottlings of Irish Whiskey. Even if they aren’t always technically as thrilling as their Scottish counterparts from similar eras, they very clearly exhibit their own style and are always quite fun and instructive to taste. 


John Power & Son ‘3 Swallows’ Pure Pot Still (43%, OB, -/+ 1950) 

John Power & Son ‘3 Swallows’ Pure Pot Still (43%, OB, -/+ 1950)
There’s not too much info on this one, but we can be certain that it comes from the old John’s Lane Distillery. Indeed, it would have been distilled entirely through pot stills as it seems that they only added a column in 1961. Colour: light gold. Nose: Like many of these very old Irish bottles the immediate impression is of a fusion of OBE - metal polish, soot, porridge - and some rather specific older Irish Whiskey characteristics. In this case mechanical oils, root vegetables, orange cordial, paraffin and steel wool. Teeters between metallic and greasy with some very light fruity notes which fade in and out. Impressive and charismatic old stuff. In time it really starts to open up with gentle waxiness, dusty old book jackets, old copper coins, celeriac and mineral oil. Mouth: impressive texture and delivery. All on white pepper, canvas, ink, charcoal and some notes of plain porridge and bread dough. Goes on with caraway, some lighter cereal tones and lamp oil. Very old school in profile and nicely distinct from Scottish whiskies of the same era. Finish: a bit short but rather dry, oily and mineral with a hint of citrus peel. Comments: cleaves very close to this rathe classical old Irish pure pot style. The more I have of these sorts of bottles the more I enjoy them; I would love to find an example bottled at full strength to see how this sort of make holds up over decades with a bit more oomph. 
SGP: 451 - 84 points. 



John Power & Son 7 yo (43%, OB, 1960s) 

John Power & Son 7 yo (43%, OB, 1960s)  
This one should theoretically be 50s distillate. Probably distilled after the previous one was bottled. Colour: yellowy gold. Nose: bolder, richer and sweeter but also far more herbal and liqueurish. Like old verbena liqueur perhaps. Some unusual notes of curry leaf, mustard powder and soot. But there’s also more familiar tropes such as metal polish and these mechanical oily notes. Keeps developing along this line of bitter herbal qualities which I really enjoy. Mouth: funnily enough you notice the wood presence more here - understandably given the age statement. There’s almost a more modern note of green pepper and sawdust but it’s very slight and bound up in all these caraway, fennel and lemon cough medicines. Hints of pine sap, menthol tobaccos and limoncello. Funny and very entertaining. Finish: longer, more nippy and peppery than the previous one. More sooty, autolytic and mineral notes. Comments: This one feels a tad fresher and punchier so it goes up a notch technically in my book. But there’s a nice overall sense of cohesion between the flavour profiles of the two bottlings. Interesting to note the more pronounced wood influence. 
SGP: 561 - 86 points.



Let’s head over to Bow Street…



John Jameson & Son 7 yo (40%, OB, 1950s)

John Jameson & Son 7 yo (40%, OB, 1950s)
Interestingly, this one states on the rear label “The materials used in its manufacture are MALTING BARLEY, WHEAT AND OATS”. Why do I feel like I’m being shouted at in a thick Irish accent? Colour: gold. Nose: fascinating. In some ways were very close to the Powers 7yo with this liqueurish and herbal profile but here it’s more concentrated, syrupy and slightly fruity with tinned exotic fruit syrups. Also some notes of black coffee, red fruit teas and spiced mango chutney. There’s a little of this metal polish and sooty quality too but it’s more restrained here. Mouth: ooooh! Superb arrival, all on exotic fruit teas, lemon peel, cough medicines, herbal liqueur, soft waxes, putty, lemon barley water and the refreshing tannin of black tea. I find this really quite excellent. Finish: medium and showing a metallic waxy quality, some grassy rapeseed oil and a few seeds and cereals. Comments: I love the fruitiness that this one retains - a higher malt component in the mash? Anyway, this is probably about as good as these old official Irish Whiskeys can get I suspect. Would kill to try this at cask strength.
SGP: 651 - 88 points.



John Jameson & Son 12 yo (43%, OB Italian import, mid-1960s) 

John Jameson & Son 12 yo (43%, OB Italian import, mid-1960s)
It’s surprising in some ways that the Italians didn’t take more keenly to these Irish Whiskeys at the time, their profiles seem like a natural fit for anyone with a taste for 5yo Glen Grant or Grappa… Colour: pale gold. Nose: very good, we’re opening on bitter orange marmalade with coriander, fruit salad juices, cereals, herbal cough medicines, quince and even a wee kumquat. There’s an added layer of complexity and integration here, no doubt due to the extra age, but also some characteristics that might be classed as more ‘generically old school’. By which I mean you could almost be nosing an old 1970s bottle of Auchentoshan 12yo - maybe… Anyway, it’s a harmonious and superbly elegant old nose. Mouth: Cocktail bitters, white pepper, camphor, hessian, waxes, chalk and limestone. This mix of plain minerality, dry waxiness, light dustiness and light warming mustard and peppery quality make for quite a pleasurable drop. Although, it doesn’t quite have the fruity panache of the 7yo. Finish: Good length, nicely bitter, drying and full of bitter citrus fruits, specifically grapefruit peel and a hint of tarragon. Comments: I like it a lot, it’s an easy one to nose and sip and we’re still firmly in ‘old Irish’ territory. I think it doesn’t quite match the more opulent cheekiness of the 7yo though. 
SGP: 551 - 87 points.



Now, from ‘young old’ to ‘old old’…



Knappogue Castle 36 yo 1951/1987 (40%, OB, sherry casks)

Knappogue Castle 36 yo 1951/1987 (40%, OB, sherry casks)
Distilled at the old Tullamore Distillery which was mothballed in 1954. I know this bottle will set you back a few pennies at auction, but imagine if it was from a similarly long lost Scottish distillery. Make of that what you will. Colour: light amber. Nose: what’s funny is that even with all these extra and evidently older layers on top, there’s still this rather clear ‘Irish’ accent on the nose. Lots of tangerine and marmalade mixed with coal dust, hessian, cloves, olive oil, marzipan and brown bread. Very good but perhaps a tad light. Mouth: hmmm, a little flat and dusty on arrival. Good but a bit cardboardy. Some nice mineral oil notes along with wet grains, orange cordial, green herbal teas and a soft, dusty waxiness. Finish: Medium but on the shortish side. Some notes of mirabelle, lemon peel and quince with a bitter herbal note in the aftertaste. Comments: There’s plenty to enjoy here, and the historical heft is not lost on me. It’s just that I tend to prefer the much more playful and fun ‘old youngsters’ than these longer matured old Irish. 
SGP: 550 - 80 points. 



It would seem remiss not to have a couple of modern day Irish Whiskeys to finish… 



Irish Single Malt 13 yo ‘Batch 2’ (48.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Co, 2200 bottles) 

Irish Single Malt 13 yo ‘Batch 2’ (48.4%, That Boutique-y Whisky Co, 2200 bottles)  
Shout out to all the Father Ted fans. Colour: white wine. Nose: pure pears! Pears, pears, pears and did I mention pears? You could also find some rather elegant grassy notes, green apple peelings and some kind of custard made with poire williams. Pear drops sweets melted in a pan with nail varnish remover. That sounds terrible but it’s not meant to be. Mouth: Guess what? PEARS! (says the loud Jameson rep from the 1950s) Seriously, this is more pears than a Perry orchard. There’s some lemon, some grass, some rapeseed oil and perhaps a little vanilla syrup. But mainly it’s about the pears. Finish: Medium, quite cereal and featuring pears. Comments: Pears. No, seriously, it’s very good and wonderfully green and fruity. It’s just a little lopsided towards, well, pears. 
SGP: 630 - 83 points. 



An Irish 10 yo 2006/2019 (47.4%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 2 bourbon hogsheads, 648 bottles)

An Irish 10 yo 2006/2019 (47.4%, Cadenhead Small Batch, 2 bourbon hogsheads, 648 bottles)
You may note the discrepancy between age and vintage / bottling year. This is almost certainly due to the legality that Irish Whiskey is only as old as the number of years it matures in Ireland. Hence the 10yo age statement from Cadenhead. How very ‘them’ - if I may. Colour: white wine. Nose: surprisingly different. This could almost be vendange tardive pinot gris with these light and toasty honeyed notes wrapped around minerals and some slightly salty mead. Quite a departure from all the others. Pretty unusual and rather good I think. Notes of putty, chalk and something akin to lemon-infused goat cheese. Mouth: rather peppery and fruity on arrival. Exotic fruit yoghurts, mango lassi, lemongrass, chai tea, kumquat and unusual fruits like kiwi and star fruit. Some olive oil and toasty cereals. Finish: good length, again nicely peppery, citrusy, grassy and mineral. Comments: Very good! Great and unusual selection by Cadenhead. Worth trying if you can find it. I really enjoy this quite unusual and oh so Irish fruit profile. 
SGP: 640 - 88 points.



What I really enjoyed about this wee tasting was that while there are quite distinctive differences between the older Irish pure pot still whiskeys and their contemporary single malt counterparts, the overall impression remains one of distinctiveness. It often feels quite evident that you’re drinking an Irish Whiskey - something Scotland could do well to learn a thing or two from on occasion. 



Big hugs to Martin for the old ones!




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


November 29, 2019


Little duos,
today Caperdonich 23 years old

And why not! Caperdonich is becoming scarce these days, now I have to say I’ve never come across some that were anywhere near the very stellar 1972s. Remember Pernod closed Caperdonich for good in 2002, while the buildings have been demolished eight years later.

Caperdonich 23 yo 1994/2017 (50.7%, S-Spirits Shop Selection, bourbon hogshead, cask #88858, 197 bottles)

Caperdonich 23 yo 1994/2017 (50.7%, S-Spirits Shop Selection, bourbon hogshead, cask #88858, 197 bottles) Two stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s got absolutely nothing to do with the perfect 1972s indeed, as this is rather rough spirit, with leaves, bitter almonds, green tea and whiffs of green peppers, and in the background, some kind of pot-pourri. With water: whiffs of putty and fresh pine sap, then yeast and fresh rye bread. Mouth (neat): really rough, and rather on raw eaux-de-vie, kirsch, plums… Always loads of grass and green teas as well, and a pungent side that wouldn’t go away. With water: a little rounder and fruitier (cherries) but the pretty grassy bitterness keeps control. Some cinchona, something prickly on your tongue… Finish: rather long and really peppery. More green pepper and more leafy notes. Comments: I thought this baby was pretty difficult, although I won’t deny that there’s something appealing in this rather extreme peppery austerity.
SGP:361 - 78 points.

Caperdonich 23 yo 1995/2018 (58.4%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, cask #95050, refill sherry hogshead, 265 bottles)

Caperdonich 23 yo 1995/2018 (58.4%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, cask #95050, refill sherry hogshead, 265 bottles) Four stars
I’ll say it again, what a wonderful collection that was! Couldn’t we keep celebrating for a wee while?... Colour: gold. Nose: there’s something austere again, such as leaves and grasses, but this time we’ll also find struck matches and quite some black earth and moss as well as some menthol, but all that would slowly go away, leaving more room for notes of dark pancake syrup, glazed chestnuts, and a little sweet and moist pumpernickel. With water: lemon squash and lemongrass, jelly babies, and Kougelhopf dough. Mouth (neat): big and strong, this is almost manzanilla and limoncello, fifty-fifty. And some artisanal (and lethal) kirsch to push that towards these 58%. Notes of Fernet-Branca, artichoke, Campari… With water: does a U-turn and gets much, much fruitier. More jelly babies, lemon drops, Fanta… Finish: long, and back on Campari and other bitter liquids. Fresh marzipan in the aftertaste. Comments: careful with water. It’s not a very easy drop, you rather have to work on it, but it would then deliver once you’ve found the right amount of water.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

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


November 27, 2019


Little duos, today very good Glendullan

As I may have said before, I enjoy tasting these young underdogs as much as I like trying some 1975 Ardbegs or 1976 Lagavulins. Perhaps not 1972 Broras, let’s not exaggerate…

Glendullan 7 yo 2010/2018 (59.9%, Master of Malt, bourbon, cask #10161)

Glendullan 7 yo 2010/2018 (59.9%, Master of Malt, bourbon, cask #10161) Three stars
We shall expect some high extraction here, as well as litres of café latte. Colour: white wine. Nose: not at all, this is as fresh as a daisy in the morning, and just shock full of fresh pears, gooseberries, and plums, then fruity IPAs. You were wrong again, S. With water: pure barley eau-de-vie. But rather a good sketch than a bad picture, as they say in Taos, New-Mexico. Mouth (neat): williams pears and some sweet ale, that’s the whole story here. Baby whisky, really. With water: more of all that insolent youth, rather on beers than on fruits this time. Finish: medium, and rather on, hurray, café latte! Proud as a peacock. Comments: rather immature, but pretty perfect in its simplicity. Reminds me of a few new OBs, but those are rather advertised as NAS. Because seven, that’s no deal.
SGP:541 - 82 points.

Glendullan 1996/2018 (50.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS18027, 271 bottles)

Glendullan 1996/2018 (50.8%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS18027, 271 bottles) Four stars and a half
A rather older Glendullan, that’s interesting. Colour: gold. Nose: We’re rather geared towards menthol cigarettes here, as well as patchouli and various herbal teas, before it would then rather drift towards plum cakes, very ripe greengages, and some kind of good stout from Bonnie Scotland. With water: wonderful malt, chocolate, tobacco, and sweet meat sauces. The one some mothers would pour over meatballs. English brown sauce? Mouth (neat): ginger wine, chocolate, Jaffa cakes, cloves, tapioca, Buckfast wine, chestnut honey… Indeed, it’s very different, and pretty unusual. And much to my liking, it’s got ‘old flavours’ that no one on the continent would like to encounter anymore. No, I did not mention Marmite and other loco yeast extracts. Oh and chicory/chicorée. With water: excellent! Malt extracts, chocolate, more chicory drink, pipe tobacco, rancio, oloroso… This baby had a lot of things to tell us. Finish: long, rather on raw chocolate and marmalade, but the yeasty/umami-y notes would not give up. Brilliant. Comments: top notch, bordering the 90-mark. This was some hoggie.
SGP:461 - 89 points.


Magellanic Cloud #1 2009/2019 ‘116° U.2.1' 1897.2’ (58.7%, Scotch Universe, 1st Fill Oloroso Sherry Hogshead)

Magellanic Cloud #1 2009/2019 ‘116° U.2.1' 1897.2’ (58.7%, Scotch Universe, 1st Fill Oloroso Sherry Hogshead) Four stars
This one’s said to be Glendullan, but I wouldn’t bet on that. What’s sure is that the very honourable bottlers do like figures – and astronomy. Colour: gold. Nose: nothing tells me that this is not Glendullan. There are similarities with the wonderful MoS, except that this is shier, gentler, and rather more on plants and herbs. I’m thinking broken branches, asparagus, then raw chocolate, nuts, green tea, perhaps carrots? But it tends to become more ‘sherried’ indeed, with fresh walnuts playing first fiddle. With water: perfect oloroso (could have been amontillado too). A pinhead of Marmite yet again, tobacco, walnut wine, and all that jazz. Mouth (neat): indeed, same family as that of the MoS, except that this one’s the more turbulent younger brother. Bags of ginger, curry-like flavours, caraway, juniper, raw chocolate, walnut skins… With water: it’s got a little ‘sulphur’ now, of the meatier kind that we always enjoy in, for example, sherried Mortlach. Other than that, always more walnut, cracked pepper, caraway, cloves, bitter oranges. Finish: more of all that, for a long time. Comments: raw stuff, a tad boisterous. I’m all for that.
SGP:461 - 87 points.

We’ll soon do a few official Singletons, stay tuned…

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


November 26, 2019


Little duos, today very loco-loco
Glenturret again

Because look, indeed you may wonder, was Glenturret always this whacky? There’s only one way to find out… (yeah I made a phone call to my insurer.)

Glenturret ‘Tayside’ (43%, OB, rotation 1978)

Glenturret ‘Tayside’ (43%, OB, rotation 1978)
Well, the brand’s website now claims that Glenturret was established in 1775, but this old official bottling rather used to state 1776. Now is that really important? Of course not, it was probably all illicit anyway back then. Let’s fasten our seatbelts… Colour: gold. Nose: fusel oil, eraser, ink, plasticine, soap, and ‘dead oyster’. Very difficult, if you ask me, so let’s not insist... Mouth: sweet Mary and Joseph, what is this? Dead animals, plastic, candles, old shoes, paint thinner, sauerkraut, stale lime juice… In truth, this is just undrinkable – and yeah, almost unthinkable. Finish: pretty long, and unexpectedly salty. Shrimps fed on plastic waste. Comments: almost a nightmare, but in a way, it's fun to try. Many old Glenturret OBs were a bit like this, so careful if you ever spot ‘bargains’ at auction houses. Long story short: urgh! Did some Scots make this? Now it’s true that the Scots also do square sausage… (ha!)

SGP:273 - 25 points.

Redemption please…

Glenturret 23 yo 1994/2018 (50.7%, Artful Dodger Collective, PX octave, cask #618)

Glenturret 23 yo 1994/2018 (50.7%, Artful Dodger Collective, PX octave, cask #618) Two stars
What a difficult exercise this may have been… Will the little octave have saved this (possibly) very deviant whisky? Colour: gold. Nose: funny. Bacon, coal smoke, new car engine, capers, suet, brake fluid, ink, carbon paper, rusty iron… It’s not that this doesn’t work, it’s just pretty unusual. But this is Glenturret, is it not… With water: following an old Jaguar. Blimey, those stupid carburettors! And diesel fuel. Mouth (neat): what a funny baby indeed. The main difference with the old Tayside is that you could drink this one, provided you’re not afraid of grass juice, leaves, green walnuts, liquid soap (pine-scented), cider vinegar, extreme manzanilla, and yeah, ink. With water: die-hard manzanilla (or vin jaune) freaks would manage to drink, and even enjoy this. Normal persons, just go your way. Finish: long and, cough, soapier and more vinegary. Challenging. Comments: this really is heretic whisky, possibly only for fidgety hipsters, I would say. Or manzanilla fanatics. Or both, hipsters who’re into manzanilla; yes I know a few.

SGP:261 - 75 points.

PS: rinse your glasses twice!

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


November 25, 2019


Little duos, today Glenturret

Glenturret’s some action malt, shall we say. Did you know it’s now in the skilled hands of the owners of Lalique crystal? Now, we must try a newish NAS ‘Triple Wood’ now, which is pretty scary if you ask me. No age statement and a lot of oaks, what can go wrong?

Glenturret ‘Triple Wood’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Glenturret ‘Triple Wood’ (40%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
What’s more, it’s a finishing. Colour: gold. Nose: well, I do not dislike this. It’s obviously very young, it’s full of bread and sawdust, as well as sour pastries, porridge and grist, and to tell you the truth, you’d rather believe this was made by some craft hipsters/distillers somewhere near Santa Fe.  Or Ulan Bator. Or Buenos Aires. Mouth: same feelings. Beer, yeast, dough, sawdust, tapioca, sour mead, and guess what, malted barley. Finish: medium, with a sawdust that really starts to feel a little too much. Cinnamon and cardboard. Comments: some aspects are extremely fine, it’s just a little too ‘crafty’ for me. But I find this very encouraging, it’s almost as if one of, if not the oldest distillery in Scotland had started it all over again.

SGP:351 - 79 points.

Let’s check an older one…

Glenturret 30 yo 1988/2018 (52.4%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #532, hogshead, 234 bottles)

Glenturret 30 yo 1988/2018 (52.4%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #532, hogshead, 234 bottles) Three stars
Angus already tried this one for these modest pages, but let’s not be influenced… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s well one of those older ‘lol’ Glenturrets, blending varnish with sour vegetables and meats. Big savoury notes, Maggi, soy sauce, oyster sauce, onion soup, then rather game, leather, horse saddle… Horse saddles have always been very ‘Glenturret’ in my book. With water: pinecones and needles, poultry, moist pipe tobacco, Vicks embrocations, and really a lot of menthol as well as some very earthy, pu-ehr-type tea. Mouth (neat): orange squash, paint, perhaps even acetone, very old sauvignon blanc, grapefruits, rotting oranges, yeast extracts… I know you see what I mean. Glenturret. With water: leather, amontillado, tobacco, carboard, and plastic, then raspberry drops. Very mad whisky, I wouldn’t say it’s got a lot of, say, focus. Finish: long and weird, a little acetic (balsamico) and full of rotting fruits, with a slightly sulphury ending. Which is very Glenturret indeed. Comments: totally loco malt whisky that goes into strictly all directions, except smoke. Almost impossible to score, could be 70, could be 80, could be 90. Let’s remain Cartesian…

SGP:472 - 80 points.

Good, I’ve now checked, and it looks like Angus rated it 92! Here, it takes all sorts to make a world.

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


November 24, 2019


White Sunday rums, still looking for malternatives

Will the quest ever be over? Let’s have a few unusual ones…

Veritas (47%, Velier, blend, 2019)

Veritas (47%, Velier, blend, 2019) Four stars
A white blend of ex-column Foursquare and Hampden (ex-pot still, obviously) poured into an old Chartreuse V.E.P. look-alike bottle. A tribute, I suppose. Let’s see if we find some wormwood, or artemisia in there…  Colour: extremely pale white wine. Nose: the Jamaican seems to be having the upper hand, as we’re finding obvious notes of new wellies, Ardbeg (yep), some burnt sugar, and some kind of sweeter olive brine. Some shoe polish and burnt sugar too. Mouth: lemons, limoncello and lemon marmalade at first (nope that’s not kind of the same thing), then fresh ginger and pepper. It’s very spicy, much spicier than spiced rum, which is usually very sweet (don’t ask, the world of rum is full of contradictions). What’s troubling is that I’m also finding notes of aniseed-led herbal liqueur that, indeed, may hint at Chartreuse, but I’m sure that’s just my mind playing tricks on me. Finish: rather long, appropriately roughish, and pretty sweet, if not a tad sugary, quite curiously. But after all, Chartreuse is sweet too. Comments: in rum as well, veritas veritatis et omnia veritas (way too easy, S.)  
SGP:562 - 85 points.
there is a little pot still Foursquare inside too

O Reizinho 2015/2019 (45%, Latitudes, Madeira, white agricole, 1200 bottles)

O Reizinho 2015/2019 (45%, Latitudes, Madeira, white agricole, 1200 bottles) Four stars
Let’s not forget that just like Martinique, Madeira has got a proper agricole appellation. This white rum could rest in a vat for four years. Colour: white. Nose: lovable nose, first on cut hay in an old barn, then on woodruff and patchouli, then rather on plasticine, graphite oil and pickled onions. It’s very singular and pretty subtle, going more towards elderflowers after two minutes or three. Mouth: pure cane juice at first, then something earthy (old pot, sandstone) and notes of bitter oranges, citronella, and perhaps a little oregano, or is that tarragon? (no, not Chartreuse this time!) Very good. Finish: medium, with rather more liquorice wood and more minerals. A feeling of blood orange and sweeter olive oil in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m a fan of Madeiran rums, it’s great to have something different and really natural. Oh, yes, Madeira belongs to Portugal.
SGP:452 - 85 points.

Well, we did quite a few Japanese brandies the other day, why not do a few Japanese white rums?

Nine Leaves ‘Clear 2013’ (50%, Japan, white)

Nine Leaves ‘Clear 2013’ (50%, Japan, white) one star and a half
From Okinawa. Some wrote that this was made out of muscovado sugar, so that’s neither cane juice, nor even molasses. I suppose they moisten/dilute some raw, unrefined sugar and let that ferment, and then distil. Not too sure… Colour: white. Nose: not quite silent, but rather vodka-ish I would say – at first sniffing – while very light touches of lime and acerola seem to emerge over time. I would say we’re rather between some very light gin and some vodka. I wouldn’t say there’s much more happening than in a John and Yoko movie. Mouth: fine but indeed, rather on lemon and juniper, and not much on anything cane-y. Not sure anyone would recognise rum. Perhaps a touch of sake, since we’re in Japan? Tutti-frutti eau-de-vie? Finish: medium, sugary – not properly sweet - and slightly lemony. Comments: nice-ish but extremely expensive, and rather too spirity for me. And it’s not all about ‘purity’, despite what some would like us to believe.
SGP:441 - 68 points.

Kyomi (40%, OB, Japan, white, +/-2019?)

Kyomi (40%, OB, Japan, white, +/-2019?) Three stars and a half
This one too comes from Okinawa, it’s even ‘Pure beauty of Okinawa’, as stated on the label. It’s much less expensive than the Nine Leaves (like 35€ vs. 80€) and stems from Helios Distillery, where they make the very good Reki pure malt (WF 82) and the excellent Teeda rum (WF 86) – as well as some cheaper sourced boozes not worth mentioning. Colour: white. Nose: oh yeah, coconut water and diesel oil over crushed olives and rotting bananas. All perfect. Really! Mouth: starts dirty-ish, with rotting fruits (not quite the same thing as rotten fruits) and gets then more tarry and on polishes, plasticine, engine oil… In the background, some salt, some brine, some olives. Finish: only medium, that’s because of the strength. Higher, please! Comments: as singular and idiosyncratic as the Madeiran. Clap clap clap… But frankly, who still does 40% vol. these days, unless forced by law? That makes it a tad weak, sadly.
SGP:452 - 83 points.

Kikusui Kochi ‘Seven Seas’ (40%, +/-2019?)

Kikusui Kochi ‘Seven Seas’ (40%, +/-2019?) Three stars
This one’s pretty cheap, around 23€ in Japan, and matured for 3 years. Some retailers on ze Internet are trying to sell it for 199€. Now careful, there are other Seven Seas rums around the world, I see that they have one in Mauritius, for example. It seems that this one’s made by some sake makers in Kuroshio, but not too sure… I also think it’s related to Ryoma, which is an excellent rum in my book. Colour: very pale white wine. Nose: back on moderately aromatic, err, aromas. A little fermentary (dough, yeast) and a tad dirty (wet dust), perhaps… But these bready touches are pleasant. I’m also finding whiffs of elderflowers again, just like in the Madeiran. Mouth: good! Lemon beer, does that exist? Touches of vanilla, drops of brine, this very feeling of good sake, some fresh biscuits, touches of salt… There’s a little sugar as well, but we’re fine since lemons are running the show. Finish: medium, with unexpected wee touches of bacon, perhaps something a little ‘umami’, then back on vanilla, bread and lemon. Comments: another very good Japanese rum. Very happy about that.
SGP:441 - 82 points.

In theory, we should have stopped, but since we’ve mentioned umami, there’s this thing that I’ve got on my shelves and never dared try…

Audemus Umami (42%, OB, spirit, France, +/-2015)

Audemus Umami (42%, OB, spirit, France, +/-2015) Two stars
Apparently, some very mad compatriots have distilled capers, and blended the end result with neutral spirit. So technically speaking, this is ‘nothing’, that is to say just ‘spirit’. Stuff for mad mixologists and boozers that already tried everything, in other words. Wish me luck… Colour: white. Nose: first and foremost, eggplants, then charcoal, some kind of smoked soap, samphire, coffee, and perhaps truffles. It is not unpleasant, quite the contrary, just hard to ‘locate’. Mouth: some sweetness, and a lot of gentian. Did they add any gentian? Basically, this is almost Suze at a higher strength, while I’m not finding anything properly ‘umami’. No real savoury notes, no glutamate, no soy sauce, no malt extract, no matured tofu… Finish: medium, rather sweet, with even more gentian. Comments: it’s a very fine experiment, I know some Alsatian distillers who would make this kind too. I remember, for example, some celeriac eau-de-vie by Metté. Wasn’t it Metté?
SGP:550 - 75 points.

Good, we’ve had enough playing today!


November 22, 2019


Time warp session, today Balblair again

Indeed I thought we should have another go a the new ‘AS’ range (as opposed to VS, vintage statements). We’ll first select the new 15, and then see what we can find in the ‘older’ boxes…

Balblair 15 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019)

Balblair 15 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019) Four stars
This baby’s supposed to be ‘tropical and mature’, according to their website. Well, were I a proper whisky preacher wearing a large hat, I would now mention a chica that I once met in a shady bar in Manaus and… Certainly not! Colour: gold. Nose: so much difference from the 12! So much more traditional Balblairness, with that peculiar fruit salad sprinkled with honey and vanilla sauce… Melons, bananas, apples, oranges, guavas, fresh mint leaves, white chocolate… Nutshell: Balblair. So, I was once in Manaus when the… Oh come on! Mouth: very good, very Balblair, full of fruits, custard, corn syrup, white chocolate, caramel, syrups, oranges… It just tends to become a little spirity and pretty hot – hot like that girl whom I met in Manaus while… Erm, apologies. Finish: rather long, still a tad too warming, perhaps, but all the rest is rather perfect. As perfect as that… <censored>…  Comments: no, sorry, never been to Manaus, and neither do I wear tropical hats under our temperate climates. Temperate so far…

SGP:641 - 86 points.

So an older bottling… why not this?...

Balblair 10 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, +/-1978)

Balblair 10 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, +/-1978) Five stars
G&M have had some stunning Balblairs, so our hopes are super-high now… Colour: brownish amber. Nose: this is Cognac, not malt whisky. There’s a huge rancio, a lot of metal polish, bags of old walnuts, quite a few Cuban puros, and just piles of flints. Forgot to mention very black chocolate, like 100% cocoa, and some very old amontillado. With water: pure oloroso-y goodness. Amazing rancio, walnuts, old lathers and tobaccos, furniture polish, and just more walnuts again. Walnuts just everywhere. Mouth (neat): sweet John Coltrane! It’s all on green walnuts, tobacco, meat broths, very bitter oranges, and yeah, green walnuts. Tends to try to take your tongue hostage, having said that, so careful… With water: loves water, gets slightly softer, displays more oranges, both bitter and regular, and naturally, always with huge numbers of walnuts. Superb dry sherry all around. Finish: long, really a lot on proper chocolate and walnut, and always with rancio in the aftertaste. Comments: masterly, this is why sherried whiskies became so popular. But there is sherry and there is sherry (look where that's got us!)

SGP:362 - 92 points.

(Merci Angus)

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


November 21, 2019


Little Duos, today young Balblair

Should we expect a basket of fresh fruits? Ideal when the weather’s getting colder… As far as concept and packaging are concerned, Balblair just fell in line, just like Glenrothes. No more vintage goodness, back to traditional age statements. Not that we would complain mind you, after all that’s better than going NAS. Let’s have the (relatively) new 12, and then find an IB…

Balblair 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019)

Balblair 12 yo (46%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
Mixed feelings here and there, especially amongst the glitteratti and chatteratti of whisky, but let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: not the same Balblair, I hate to say, much more on porridge and cut apples, perhaps white currants, but with less roundness and expressive fruits than in the younger vintages. Cider, touches of fennel, rhubarb, all that’s pretty nice, though. Mouth: more tangy fresh apples, a little vanilla, more sweet cider, hints of grist and even flour, getting a little sweet-and-sour, not unlike some of the Gueuze beers. Also notes of lemon pie, covered with meringue s’il-vous-plaît, but the whole tends to become a little grassy and bitter, with quite some cinnamon. Finish: medium, maltier, with notes of white peaches and vanilla. Comments: I wouldn’t say it’s sheltering a lot of clean fruity Balblairness, but it sure is a very fine malt, while only a few geeks may complain.

SGP:441 - 79 points.

So we said a young independent Balblair… That’s become a little uncommon, has it not? Well you can always count on…

Balblair 8 yo 2011/2019 (57.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 648 bottles)

Balblair 8 yo 2011/2019 (57.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 648 bottles) Four stars and a half
Why so young? Well, this was actually one puncheon that’s been re-racked into two 1st fill sherry hogsheads in 2017, both seemingly re-married when disgorged this year. Ah, nothing beats family life! Colour: straw. Nose: fresh milk and butter, a little mustard and dry Madeira wine, fresh walnuts, iodine and aspirin, bandages, tapioca… I find this extremely intriguing, but first fill sherry, really? Was it fino? With water: maize bread, mustard, and natural wine! (macerated whites). Mouth (neat): some funny little beast for sure. Same flavours, more or less, mustard, cinchona, walnuts, chalk, prickly pears, artichokes, some salt… Wait, manzanilla? With water: same flavours, more or less, with in addition, just both a little sweetness and a little pepper. Finish: long like a great fino by Equipo Navazos. Just opened a Bota 54 de Fino the other day, pristine fino! Pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: this funny baby destroyed its official counterpart, I’m afraid. Sadly, I love this bone-dry style of whisky, and here we have more proof that in certain cases, excellence knows no age. What a great little whisky by Cadenhead!

SGP: 371- 89 points.

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


November 20, 2019


Little duos, today red-wine
finished Aberfeldy

There’s this brand new 15 with its rather spectacular Château-Palmer-like gold-on-black label, and then we’ll try a moderately-packaged indie…

Aberfeldy 15 yo ‘French Red Wine’ (43%, OB, batch #2919, 201ç9

Aberfeldy 15 yo ‘French Red Wine’ (43%, OB, batch #2919, 2019) Four stars
This new baby was finished in ‘French red wine cask from Pomerol Bordeaux’. So no Palmer, which is a Margaux as you well know, rather some extravagant merlot, I suppose. Colour: apricot. Nose: no and it’s funny that instead of some rich prune-y notes, it’s rather menthol that would come out, then verbena and wormwood, even pinesap, and then indeed, cherries, but it’s certainly not pinot-noir-y… I find this pretty attractive, and more complex et subtle than your average ‘red-wined’ malt whisky. No sour stems or leaves either, no  spent lees… . Mouth: this is malt whisky. I’m not kidding, we’ve come across many such finished whiskies that had become proper wineskies. Very pleasant notes of raspberry ganache (okay, that’s the wine) over pumpernickel, pipe tobacco, Linzertorte, and then a wee cracked pepper/cloves combination. It seems that they’ve monitored the proceedings very closely, like the milk on the stove, as we say. Great balance – they’ve managed to convince me, more or less. Finish: rather long, the 43% never feel, it’s kept good body, without ever getting too jammy. Comments: not quite a Pétrus of malt whisky but I’m rather impressed, while I had first put my pistols on the tasting table. But please, no amarone!... ;-)
SGP:651 - 87 points.

So, another wine… I mean, another Aberfeldy…

Aberfeldy 2000/2018 (50.7%, Malts of Scotland, finished in a Marsala hogshead, cask #MoS18029, 321 bottles) Four stars
Marsala stems from Sicily, and comes in all colours. So was this red or white? Let’s try to find out… Colour: apricot, so possibly red. Nero d’Avola? Nose: it’s much more ‘creative’ than the official, whatever that may mean, but not excessive either, so pretty well mastered. Sour cherries, strawberry jam, pumpernickel again, a wee hint of molasses, blood oranges, and then, quite unexpectedly, rather a lot of cured ham. Iberico or Italian, I couldn’t tell you. No sulphur whatsoever, just saying. With water: as always, it would get earthier, almost a little muddy, but there’s also a much unexpected peatiness coming out. Wait, peat? Mouth (neat): it’s rather rougher than the OB, with more stems and leaves, pepper, sour herbs, rosehip, also blood oranges aplenty, pomegranates, perhaps tamarind… There’s no proper clash, but there are some wee fights between the wine and the whisky, with the cask as the arbiter of elegance. With water: takes water very well, not the case with all red-wine finished whiskies. Cherry cake. Finish: medium, a little sour. Fortified mulled wine and sangria – or something like that. Comments: I would say the OB was a little better integrated and less leafy, but they’re extremely close. Red wine, pff…
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Didn’t I just give high scores to two middle-aged red-wine finished malt whiskies? What’s happening? Am I getting soft? (Never!)

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


November 19, 2019


Time Warp

The Time Warp Sessions,
today the top of Bladnoch

No new bottlings this time, but why would we have to try so many new releases? This is not public service, mind you! And we’ll avoid the terrible official ‘cubistic’ bottlings of recent times, thought they were, yeah, pretty terrible… (wrongly finished and insanely priced).

Bladnoch 22 yo 1992/2014 (51.6%, The Nectar of The Daily Dram)

Bladnoch 22 yo 1992/2014 (51.6%, The Nectar of The Daily Dram) Four stars and a half
This one by our inenarrable Belgian friends. I promise we won’t mention football. Colour: straw. Nose: starts a little ‘regular’, with good maltiness and some pleasant touches of some kind of sooty porridge, but the expected lemony notes do make an appearance after one minute or so, between fresh tangerines and just English marmalade. Some paraffin. With water: some lemon zests and some paraffin. This is extremely Bladnoch. Mouth (neat): a funny salty start, it’s almost as if we’re having some oak-aged margarita of some sort. Perfect citrons and lemons after that, notes of citric IPA, and then a huge lemon pie covered with tons of meringue. So very Bladnoch indeed. With water: a little perfume, soap, lavender… But nothing too serious. Careful with water. Finish: rather long, and reminiscent of some kind of oak-aged limoncello matured in Napoli. But who would do that? Comments: top-of-game Bladnoch, typically citrusy and very excellent. Frankly, who would dump this into wine wood?
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Bladnoch 32 yo 1958/1990 (44.5%, Duthies)

Bladnoch 32 yo 1958/1990 (44.5%, Duthies) Five stars
A very rare bottling for sure, now I’ve tried a black dumpy 1958 by parent company Cadenhead a few years back, which had been just stellar (WF 92). But that was in 2007… Colour: deep gold. Nose: shall we call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade now, or wait a little longer? This is just astounding, in fact, with an unusual mixture with crystallised tangerines and lemons, some amazing bergamots, some crushed fresh almonds, and just a wee touch of old menthol liqueur. The kind that our ancestors used to take after a long and heavy meal. This nose is simply exceptional, getting earthy, herbal, and extremely complex. Old pinewood. Leaves you speechless. Mouth: oh sweet Vishnu! Embrocations, fir and tar liqueurs, bergamots and kumquats, bitter herbal liqueur (ever tried old Unicum?), and some garage-y stuff, between oils, waxes and greases. Finish: tends to keep exploding on your palate, with an avalanche of pine-y and sappy flavours. We could mention many old liqueurs, Verveine, Génépy, Chartreuse, Bénédictine; well I’m sure you get the idea. Comments: miraculous old whisky. Its contemporary brothers can be fabulous as well, but never quite as miraculous, because by law, consistency erases chance. Do not discuss.
SGP:471 - 93 points.

(Many mercis, Angus)

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


November 18, 2019


Little duos, today Deanston
indie vs. official

A little name that’s not that little anymore. The owners are sometimes pushing the limits of ‘whoot’ teknohhlogy’ (with a Glaswegian accent), but that can be good fun as long as merlot - and perhaps PX - is kept at bay ;-).

Deanston 10 yo 2008/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 276 bottles)

Deanston 10 yo 2008/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 276 bottles) Four stars and a half
This might be raw. Colour: white wine. Nose: typical distillate-driven Cadenhead, this time with bags of tangerines and a saucerful of muesli (no secrets here), then rather classic chalks and lemons. It’s rather delicate, in fact, well-carved, precise… And just lovable, in fact. With water: fresh oriental bread, with a little aniseed and orange blossom water, and honeysuckle in the background. Sweet Vishnu, Deanston! Mouth (neat): a blend of fresh mirabelle and pear juices at first, then more on some IPA, with a citrusy hoppiness. Impeccable unflavoured young barley eau-de-vie from some good stills. With water: absolutely pristine, excellently fruity, with a very fresh and not-too-yeasty breadiness. Notes of flower syrup too. Mullein? Finish: medium, very clean, with more honeyness. Comments: a fantastic and authentic (no wonder it’s in this collection) young distillate-forward malt whisky, almost spiritual. Much more refined than expected.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Deanston 15 yo ‘Sauternes finish’ (57.3%, OB, 1194 bottles, 2018)Deanston 15 yo ‘Sauternes finish’ (57.3%, OB, 1194 bottles, 2018)

Deanston 15 yo ‘Sauternes finish’ (57.3%, OB, 1194 bottles, 2018) Three stars and a half
I suppose this will be the opposite of the Cad, let’s see… Colour: rich gold. Nose: I say well done, this is not only a bath of apricots, roses and plums, while the relation to the ultra-clean Cad remains obvious. Touches of bouillons, heather honey and mead, chutneys, sour-sweet sauces, then flowers (honeysuckle and heather indeed) and just fresh malt bread. So far, so good. With water: a little menthol coming out, which is not uncommon in some sweet wines (Sauternes, Monbazillac, Jurançon…) Mouth (neat): perhaps a tad more difficult for a short while, with quite a lot of ginger and green wood spices, as well as a wee soapy side that may come from a few grams of sulphur. But all that tends to become more discreet, while the plums are coming to the front, together with a little Italian nocino (green walnuts) and hazelnut liqueur. With water: not many changes. A little leather, perhaps. Finish: rather long, on walnut wine and mirabelle jam. Not a very common combination, but it works. Quite some gewurztraminer in the aftertaste, bizarrely. Comments: it remains a finish, but it’s a very fine concoction.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

(Thank you Tony!)

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


November 17, 2019


Mad Armagnacs
and brandies from elsewhere

Just another strange idea on a lazy Sunday afternoon (remember the Small Faces?)...

Clos Martin 15 yo ‘X.O. Folle Blanche’ (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2016)

Clos Martin 15 yo ‘X.O. Folle Blanche’ (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2016) Three stars
This is pure folle blanche, which is Armagnac’s seminal grape. The problem is that at 40% vol., we are not expecting much here – but that may be a mistake. Colour: gold. Nose: perhaps a mistake, since we rather enjoy these whiffs of apricot and melon jam, these fresh sultanas, the lovely stewed rhubarb, and the touches of fudge and praline. Having said that there’s also a little vanilla, while in my book, vanilla should never feel in any aged spirit. Am I too harsh? Mouth: good, but a little sweetish, so a little too soft and even supple, with good jams and syrups before it would start to nosedive, because of the low strength. What’s more, reduction brings out the green tannins, but we’re below the limits here. Finish: a little short, with sultanas, caramel, and green tea. More caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: good soft Armagnac – despite the folle blanche – that would have needed a better backbone if you ask me. But it’s also true that the market for high-strength Cognac or Armagnac, in France and probably elsewhere, remains very small, so we couldn’t blame them.
SGP:640 - 80 points.

Bas Armagnac 1979/2019 (43.3%, Cadenhead, 492 bottles)

Bas Armagnac 1979/2019 (43.3%, Cadenhead, 492 bottles) Three stars
At Cadenhead they’re calling these ranges the ‘Alternative Spirits’. I would have added an M. They would not tell you about the domaine/estate, but they did not forget to mention that this is ‘Armagnac from France’. It’s true that Armagnac from Outer-Mongolia remains grossly overestimated. Colour: amber. Nose: this is ultra-classic Armagnac, both rich and refreshing, with some fudge and coffee and then a mentholy development that would lead to some pine-y notes. Otherwise, candied oranges and apricots are well there, whilst an awesome earthiness is emerging. Remains a little rustic, but that’s what you’re expecting from some proper French ;-) Armagnac. Mouth: indeed, classic Armagnac, a little vinous, dry, rustic, and with echoes of Calvados that are not unusual in artisan brandy. Finish: rather long, a little gritty, and pretty mentholy. More pine liqueur. Comments: rather old-school farm Armagnac. I find it good, but we’re not quite up there with the best if you ask this humble French taster. Same score.
SGP:361 - 80 points.

Perhaps a fresher Ténarèze?

Armagnac Ténarèze 1990/2019 (47.8%, Cadenhead, 456 bottles)

Armagnac Ténarèze 1990/2019 (47.8%, Cadenhead, 456 bottles) Four stars
This one came from France too ;-). Oh and pst, it cannot be both Bas-Armagnac and Ténarèze. Now, it’s said that Ténarèze are the Armagnacs for the true aficionados, who also love corrida, foie gras and rugby. Colour: amber. Nose: once again, this is rustic Armagnac, but it’s got strength and the assertiveness (what?) that the 1979 did not quite have. Stewed peaches, honey, raisins, prunes, and blond caramel. A touch of orange blossom water. Mouth: oranges, apples, raisins, maple syrup, demerara sugar, peaches, all that in a structure made out of some kind of mentholy oak – which is just perfect. No, not mizunara. Finish: long, earthy, with wonderful notes of lemongrass and, indeed, limoncello. Unusual and lovely. Comments: forgot to say, this is natural cask strength. A lovely bottling by the Scots, a smart move that any Gascon rugby player will just applaud. This Ténarèze is very good, if still rustic and ‘farmy’.
SGP:551 - 85 points.

Perhaps what’s supposed to be a benchmark Armagnac now?

Domaine de Baraillon 1976-1979/2019 (43%, OB, for Passion for Whisky)

Domaine de Baraillon 1976-1979/2019 (43%, OB, for Passion for Whisky) Four stars and a half
A wee multi-vintage bottling by the Jimmy Pages of Armagnac. Colour: deep amber. Nose: the gap is pretty huge here, as this is simply stunning, complex, well-rounded, floral, fruity, slightly oriental, and certainly tropical. Mango jam, dandelions, heather honey… This is a nose to die for. Mouth: forgot to say, these 43% vol. do represent the natural cask strength here. The spirit is amazing, just a tad oaky at times (black cigars, black tea) but there’s also as much chocolate as in the most superb chocolate pie in Paris. Check Jacques Genin, he’s also a dedicated whisky lover. Melon jam, apricots, Smyrna currants, more chocolate, even more chocolate (all that from the oak)… And just a little rancio. Finish: long and very chocolaty. Black tea in the aftertaste – that’s the tannins. Comments: the oak shows a wee bit, but come on, Jimmy Page!
SGP:561 - 89 points.

So, didn’t we say brandies from elsewhere? Why not Japan? Now, is Japanese brandy truly Japanese? Or is it like with Japanese whisky? Let’s see what we have…

Suntory Brandy ‘V.O.’ (37%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019)

Suntory Brandy ‘V.O.’ (37%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019?)
This is extremely cheap (approx. 9€ a bottle) and probably sourced from a friendly ex-Soviet republic – or lovely India. Just a wild guess… Oh and VO means Very Old, so extremely young in booze business vocabulary. Colour: gold. Nose: not un-nice, on marzipan, roasted nuts, pine nuts, and toasted oak. No fruits to be seen here, but they might arrive in the aftertaste. Hope, always hope. Mouth: It’s pretty lol, akin to the cheapest brandies de Jerez. Cardboard, wood chips, molasses, burnt caramel, saccharose. This, is some impaired brandy. Finish: short, which is great news. Comments: some very lousy spirit, pretty bad, not poisonous though. Just very bad… For desperate Tokyo boozers only, I suppose. Suntory, come on! Looks like V.O. means Very Off-putting.
SGP:620 - 18 points (this is why we need a 100-scale, whatever some unexperienced chatterboxes may think of it).

Suntory Brandy ‘V.S.O.P.’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019)

Suntory Brandy ‘V.S.O.P.’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019?)
You’ll find this priced at 20€ at Rakuten, or 200€ at online retailers that specialise in trying to milk the naïve enthusiasts. Colour: full gold. Nose: oak and roasted chestnuts at first, then something bizarrely metallic, between some old military aluminium pans and copper coins, then really a lot of roasted raisins. Sure raisins belong here, but this many? It’s extremely curranty. Mouth: loads of raisins over an oaky and slightly structure. Really reminds me of some of the cheaper Armenian brandies. The better Armenian brandies are way better than this, in my book at least. Finish: medium, on the same notes. Cardboard and roasted raisins, some soap in the aftertaste. Comments: not quite there yet, but we’re making good progress. It’s much less sweetish than the V.O., which is a good thing.
SGP:451 - 40 points.

Excuse me? Of course, the X.O….

Suntory Brandy ‘X.O. Deluxe’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019)

Suntory Brandy ‘X.O. Deluxe’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019?)
40€ at Rakuten, much more at the milkers’ ;-). This is the Deluxe version, there’s also a Super-Deluxe one, which we’ll also try in a few minutes if God lets me live. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re starting to talk, with not just raisins over oak chips and caramel, but also stewed peaches and apricots, some honey, touches of menthol and pine resin, as well as a little nougat. All is fine, this is akin to a pretty good entry-level Cognac by a large house, in my opinion. Mouth: pretty okay indeed, despite some burnt wood in the arrival. Some burnt caramel too, some toffee, then those stewed peaches again and a spoonful of pancake syrup. Sadly, the oak’s not extremely well integrated, as if some oak chips  - or boisé - had been used. Indeed, entry-level Cognac. Finish: medium, a little bitter and too oaky. Or oakchippy, shall we say ;-). Once again, a wee soapiness in the aftertaste. Comments: not really to my liking, but it’s okay. Ish. The nose was pleasant.
SGP:541 - 65 points.

Suntory Brandy ‘X.O. Super Deluxe’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019)

Suntory Brandy ‘X.O. Super Deluxe’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019?) Two stars
45€ at Rakuten, 50€ at auctions, 150€ at ‘that’ lol-website that only sells Japanese spirits. No, that’s not PT-Barnum.com. Colour: deep amber. Nose: drier and more on chocolate, I would say. Toffee, black honey, perhaps a little South-American rum… Like… Mouth: undoubtedly better, but still a little drying and rather oak-forward. We’re talking boisé-like oak, oak essences and so on. A feeling of caramel, bitter chocolate, and very black tea. Let’s not forget to mention the obligatory raisins too. Finish: medium, with notes of figs, honey, pancake syrup indeed, and cocoa. Drying aftertaste. Comments: not something I would sip, but rather of sound and fair marketable quality.
SGP:451 - 72 points.

Change brand?

Nikka Brandy ‘X.O. Deluxe’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019)

Nikka Brandy ‘X.O. Deluxe’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019?) Two stars and a half
37€ at Rakuten, 180€ ‘elsewhere’. Really, this is laughable. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very similar to the Suntories, with raisins and caramel in abundance, as well as peach and apricot jams. Having said that there are some additional floral notes, around gorse and dandelions, also blended honey, and perhaps even touches of ripe mangos.… It is a pleasant nose. Mouth: we’re undoubtedly closer to a proper good Cognac, with more depth, stewed fruits, jams, grapes, honeys, milk chocolate, raisins of course… The oak also feels more ‘natural’ and better integrated. Finish: medium, never bitter or cardboardy, rather on earl grey and perhaps a touch of cinnamon. Comments: this, I would certainly quaff. Well done/made/selected/sourced, Nikka.
SGP:551 - 78 points.

A last Japanese please, and another X.O….

Kirin Brandy ‘X.O.’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019)

Kirin Brandy ‘X.O.’ (40%, OB, Japanese brandy, +/-2019?) Two stars and a half
This baby will ‘make any occasion a relaxing one’, you understand! I don’t think it’s to be seen outside Japan. Colour: full gold. Nose: same as the Nikka, word for word, so very ‘good Cognac V.S.’ indeed, although it would tend to become drier and less fruity after a good minute. Mouth: fair, a tad grassier than the others, sappier as well, with curious touches of aniseed and tangerine liqueur. As if some kind of creative blending had occurred, perhaps for the (slightly) better. Good notes of maple syrup and pineapple juice. Finish: medium, with a touch of pepper over liquorice, marmalade and raisins. Comments: I am not against this slightly unusual brandy, at all.
SGP:551 - 77 points.

Yeah, what wouldn't we do for The Cause!

(And Chris, you rock!)


November 16, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
A trio of Octomore 
There’s three new(ish) Octomore upon my desk. Let’s do battle in ascending order of age.


Octomore 3 yo 2016/2019 (63.5%, OB Edition 10.4, virgin heavily toasted French oak, 12000 bottles) 

Octomore 3 yo 2016/2019 'Edition 10.4' (63.5%, OB, virgin heavily toasted French oak, 12000 bottles) 
‘Virgin heavily toasted French oak’… Should I prepare a last will and testament…? Colour: coppery orange. Nose: toasty indeed. There is this anticipated pencil shaving aspect but it comes with lots of charcoal embers, warmth, ground green pepper, some kind of sweetened sawdust and herbal toothpaste. Also something like smoked orange peel. Hard to describe really. A rather simmering, peppery spiciness and over time it develops a sort of farmy, silage-tinged edge. What is undeniably impressive is that it isn’t at all aggressive or jarring, it’s very unusual but there is some kind of cohesion going on. With water: anthracite, dung, burnt toast, chip fat, mutton stock, putty and rather a lot of creosote. Some burning pine cones as well perhaps. Mouth: Ouch! You really feel the strength on arrival. Hot, sharp and hitting notes of raw medicines, paint thiner, antiseptic, carbolic acidity and chilli flakes. Pass the gimp mask please, not to mention a small Loch of water… with water: hard to fit enough water into a copita glass! This herbal toothpaste note is back, alongside peppered and smoked beef jerky, hot smoked paprika, bacon jam, camphor, burnt plasticine, scorching hot bovril, marmite, burnt twiglets. Totally mad whisky. A pleasing glimmer of root beer and caramelised brown sugar after a while. Finish: extremely long, very hot and prickling with red chilli, wood spices, aniseed, cough medicines, steel wool, very salty meat stocks, rather disjointed… have we fallen through a wormhole? Comments: I’m not sure what to say. Personally speaking this is just not my cup of whisky. Despite some initial promise on the nose I feel it really fell apart technically. And the neat palate was borderline painful. Now, having said all that, I suspect there are some extremist whisky pals out there who will want to marry this bottling. Not really sure what to do about a score, this kind of profile exists quite far outside normal whisky spectrums. 
SGP: 477 - 69 (meaningless) points.



Some recovery time might be in order…



Octomore 5 yo 2013/2019 (59.8%, OB Edition 10.1, 1st fill barrels) 

Octomore 5 yo 2013/2019 'Edition 10.1' (59.8%, OB , 1st fill barrels)
This one entirely from Scottish grown Concerto barley apparently. Colour: pale straw. Nose: After the terrifying phantasmagoria of the 3yo this feels almost merciful. Drying kelp, wet rocks, chalk, sandalwood, lime juice, mineral salts, brine cut with olive oil. Classical, modern, pure and rather elegant for an Octomore. Lemon peel in a rock pool almost. With water: bath bombs, citrus oils, more mineral salts, crushed sea shells, limestone, hessian cloth and gauze. Really lovely nose. Mouth: extremely salty. Pure brine, pink sea salt, green olives, capers, anchovy paste and fish sauce mixed with lime juice. Almost brutally coastal and there’s a tiny animalistic farmy note underneath as well. A very precise head-butt of coastal purity. With water: develops more towards medicine and pure antiseptic now. Lemon juice, fresh oyster, mercurochrome and olive pickling juice. Finish: long and pin-sharp. Some peat smoke, black pepper, seaweed broth and smoked mussels. Comments: When I think of Octomore, this is pretty much the flavour profile that comes to mind. It’s a style of almost militant purity, one that it has pretty much made its own and I think this bottling does it as well as any.
SGP: 367 - 88 points.



Octomore 8 yo 2010/2019 (56.9%, OB Edition 10.2 for Travel Retail, 1st fill barrels and ex-Sauternes, 24,000 bottles)

Octomore 8 yo 2010/2019 'Edition 10.2' (56.9%, OB for Travel Retail, 1st fill barrels and ex-Sauternes, 24,000 bottles)
This one was distilled from Optic and Oxbridge Scottish grown barley, then spent four years in ‘ex-American Whiskey casks’ and the subsequent four in Sauternes. So more of an even handed double maturation than a finish. Colour: gold. Nose: a far more bready profile compared to the others. Closer in fact to a ‘world’ whisky style in some ways with these autolytic notes of brown bread, toasted seeds and pastries. The smoke is in there but it’s a tad subdued. Some leathery and sooty qualities make themselves felt as well. Notes of caraway, rather a lot of green pepper and carbon paper. With water: much more sooty and with an earthy smokiness about it. Medical, grassy and more herbal. Mouth: a mix of salty, meaty and bready on arrival. Smoky bacon crisps, sourdough, ink, aniseed and hot paprika. Gets increasingly medical and there’s a definite syrupy sweetness to the palate which is quite a departure from the coastal purity of the 5yo. There’s still a rather ‘Octomorian’ directness about it but it sits in a sort of triangulated position between farmyard, sweetness and medicine. With water: more towards plain peat smoke now with camphor, creosote, limoncello and sweetened cough syrups. Finish: long and more elegant and herbal than the previous two. Some bonfire smoke and tarry notes. Comments: I think the maturation worked pretty well here. I find this sweeter side feels quite natural and attractive. The peat feels unusually subdued.
SGP: 566 - 86 points.




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

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



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Balblair 10 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 75cl, +/-1978)

Bladnoch 32 yo 1958/1990 (44.5%, Duthies)