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Whisky Tasting

 

Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild
2002-20
2
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Hi, you're in the Archives, November 2023 - Part 2
 
 

November 2023 - part 1 <--- November 2023 - part 2 ---> December 2023 - part 1

 

November 30, 2023


Whiskyfun

Just two or three Littlemill

It seems that independent bottlers have been offering us marvellous Littlemills distilled around the turn of the 1990s for several years now, whereas previously, the reputation of this very, very old distillery had been, let's say, more hit-and-miss. Littlemill was dismantled in 1997 and the remaining buildings were destroyed by fire in 2004. I still remember the bottles we used to find in our supermarkets here in France; they were rather 'low shelf' offerings. While we had indeed tasted its version called 'Dunglas/Dunglass' in the past, their other variant, the peated Dumbuck, has unfortunately never crossed our path. A young aperitif, if you please…

A 2 litre bottle of Dunglass for Italy, 1970s. Not too bad (WF 72 in 2004).

 

 

Littlemill 12 yo 1990/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #2964, 436 bottles)

Littlemill 12 yo 1990/2002 (43%, Signatory Vintage, cask #2964, 436 bottles)
These young Littlemill whiskies didn't have a very high reputation... The same was true for their cousins Glen Scotia and Loch Lomond, but fortunately, times have changed... Colour: white wine. Nose: Ah, I remember. Initially, it's quite enticing, with notes of soot, candied turnips, mushy peas, boiled salsify, as well as an ultra-fermentative side, like boiled milk, aubergines, and soaked newspapers... Some aspects are really nice, others less so, but it'll all come down to the palate… Mouth: It starts with lemon Schweppes, and I've nothing against lemon Schweppes, but then it moves on to carbon paper, burnt plastic, modelling clay with tenfold intensity, cod liver oil… I think we'll stop there. Finish: Quite a long and very challenging finish. Notes of burnt cardboard, with a plasticky smoke aspect... Comments: typical of this style, and I've always been amazed that the current batches of these vintages are so splendid at 30 years of age. There must have been miracles. In any case, the independent bottlers are not to be blamed; wasn't their mission to offer the full variety of Scottish malts? Moreover, these bottles were really not expensive. 70 points for the nose, 10 points for the palate.
SGP:172 - 40 points.

Littlemill 23 yo 1992/2015 (57%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, for Charles Hofer Switzerland, cask #506)

Littlemill 23 yo 1992/2015 (57%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, for Charles Hofer Switzerland, cask #506) Five stars
Already part of the better series, for some reason. Colour: straw. Nose: ah indeed, this one has much more of an herbal tea character, with chamomile, dandelion flower, jasmine, peach, as well as exotic fruits, passion fruit, pink grapefruit... This is a Littlemill as we like them, with that slight Irish twist. With water: even more of a herbal tea essence, lotus, jasmine, green tea, with a hint of lavender... Mouth (neat): very fruity, as expected, with lemon and grapefruit at the start, followed by not completely ripe gooseberry and kiwi. A herbaceous aspect, with bison grass, hay... With water: excellent, fresh, deliciously fruity, with a return of barley in the background. Very fruity barley indeed! Finish: of medium length, reminiscent of lemon or rhubarb tart. I know, they are quite different, but you see what I mean. Comments: Honestly, we were very surprised when these hyper-fruity batches started coming out about a decade ago. They are quite irresistible, it must be said.

SGP:651 - 90 points.

Littlemill 30 yo 1989/2023 (53.1%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, Spirits Shop Selection, New Vibrations, hogshead, cask #29, 238 bottles)

Littlemill 30 yo 1989/2023 (53.1%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist, Spirits Shop Selection, New Vibrations, hogshead, cask #29, 238 bottles) Five stars
In fact, it's 'over 30 years old'; this very artistic range never bothers with overly precise age statements, the figures are always rounded. Downwards, of course. Colour: straw. Nose: well, we find that slightly cardboardy aspect that we had in the first Signatory, except that here the citrus and mangoes do their job and the whole seems to be quite sublime. Exceptional notes of white Graves wine, it particularly reminds me of the Laville Haut-Brion that our friend Christophe is so fond of. For the record, the chateau actually became Mission Haut-Brion Blanc starting from 2009. Superb notes of honeysuckle. With water: woollens, brioche dough, candied lemon… Mouth (neat): truly magnificent. Age has given it a bit of richness (as it has to some good friends too, ha-ha) but the citrus notes continue to soar towards the stars. It's really superb. A few small hints of ham and coffee, as well as a tiny drop of genuine Val-de-Travers absinthe, or from elsewhere. With water: an abundance of floral teas, and still the most wonderful blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. And fresh barley, of course. Finish: Not extremely long-lasting, but the tartness of the citrus lingers with green apple. That always works. A bit of fresh blackcurrant in the aftertaste, and why not some Aligoté to make a real kir. Comments: blindfolded, one would really not imagine that this Lowlander with its freshness and fruit is 33 or 34 years old. Sorry, 30 years old. To think that this sublime Littlemill comes, I believe, from Signatory Vintage, like the first Littlemill we tasted today. Just goes to show... (goes to show what, S.?)

SGP:651 - 91 points.

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

 

November 29, 2023


Whiskyfun

WF's little duos, today indie Deanston
(further up)

Deanston has become one of many enthusiasts' favourites, I'm even wondering if they're not about to overtake The Macallan these days. All they would need is a Deanston Damien Hirst Edition and presto, voilà! Or maybe a Gilbert & George Release?

 

 

Deanston 11 yo 2011/2023 'Magnificent Desolation' (57.5%, The Whisky Barrel, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #TWB1033, 242 bottles)

Deanston 11 yo 2011/2023 'Magnificent Desolation' (57.5%, The Whisky Barrel, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #TWB1033, 242 bottles) Four stars
The words magnificent desolation have nothing to do with this wee whisky, they were what Buzz Aldrin said while on the moon in 1969. In any case I'm glad to have a pure BB Deanston today. Colour: white wine. Nose: this is almost kirschwasser. You even get the stones, then lemons in all their guises and just a few drops of seawater. Or an oyster. With water: apples and gooseberries chiming in, that's all. In essence, a malt whisky sculpted with surgical precision. Mouth (neat): At this stage, it's ultra-precise on the lemon and green apple. A hint of dark chocolate in the background but otherwise, that's it and it's quite something. With water: it becomes fruitier, with pear and cranberry, and also a bit more rounded, with a touch of nougat. But aside from that, it remains meticulous. Finish: medium, still fruity, in a straightforward and honest way. Apple, pear, peach, and lemon. Comments: Tasting this simple yet extremely delightful malt (ah, that fresh peach in the finish), one understands why the distillery owners are experimenting with all sorts of finishes. They clearly know what they're doing... In any case, this little lunar Deanston is absolutely excellent.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Deanston 1997/2023 (51.6%, The Whisky Jury for The Antelope, Macau, refill hogshead, cask #1966, 257 bottles)

Deanston 1997/2023 (51.6%, The Whisky Jury for The Antelope, Macau, refill hogshead, cask #1966, 257 bottles) Five stars
We're now almost at the Rijk with The Whisky Jury. However, I do hope they've made sure that all these historical figures on the labels were not fiercely abstinent in their time. Ha. Colour: straw. Nose: It's a very similar style, naturally, perhaps a bit more floral this time, with little hints of lavender (but not like Bowmore 1985) or violet (but not like Bowmore 1985) and orange blossom water, like in a freshly made panettone since the season is almost upon us. Very nice candied citrus fruits. With water: more on the barley, cut hay, and dried flowers. Mouth (neat): superb cask. Candied mandarins, star anise, beeswax, liquorice, myrtle liqueur and a mouthfeel that is absolutely perfect… Wow wow wow. With water: swims like a champion and becomes more mineral, with chalk and a sensation of slate and oyster shell. It's perfect. Finish: not so long, but as fresh as it is rich, which is a little miracle, let's admit. A drop of green Chartreuse at the very end of the finish. Comments: what a beautiful distillate! I wonder if those enthusiasts I mentioned in my very modest little introduction might not be entirely right. Well, to catch a bottle of this little wonder, you'll have to go to Macao. Fortunately, Singapore Airlines flies there from Charles-de-Gaulle, and so does China Eastern, so all is well. China Eastern is much less expensive, of course. Grand little Deanston in any case.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

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

 

November 28, 2023


Whiskyfun

Another little bag of five shh whiskies

That's right, part two. Does what Dali said about wine also apply to whisky? You know, the idea that 'He who knows how to taste does not drink wine but savours secrets.' In that case, these secret malts should no longer pose a problem... almost.

Shh

 

Secret Speyside 25 yo 1997/2022 (46.9%, Whisky AGE, barrel, cask #SP002, 209 bottles)

Secret Speyside 25 yo 1997/2022 (46.9%, Whisky AGE, barrel, cask #SP002, 209 bottles) Four stars and a half
Always good selections at Taiwan's Whisky AGE. Oh, and it's not because they put slices of oak trunk on their labels that their whiskies are just about wood, quite the contrary. Colour: straw. Nose: awesome floral start, with some clear wisteria and lilies of the valley. Then it continues with citrus, orange blossom water, fresh mango and banana, natural vanilla, fennel seeds, sweet woodruff... All of this is incredibly classy, even a bit feminine, as we would have said about a decade ago. Superb barrel. Mouth: excellent, very fresh, still very citrusy with apple and pear peels, then more on exotic fruits, especially papaya and a bit of passion fruit. Only a few slightly green tannic notes prevent me from going up to 90. Dura Lex, sed Lex. Finish: rather long, this time with grapefruit. The wood marks the aftertaste, with notes of over-infused green tea and pepper. Comments: a soft, fruity, floral, fresh and rather airy Speyside, only the finish is, for this humble taster, a tad too marked. It is said, 'tough love is still love'.

SGP:651 - 88 points.

Secret Speyside 12 yo 'Sirens' (52.7%, Whic, bourbon hogshead, maple syrup cask finish, batch 4, 568 bottles, 2023)

Secret Speyside 12 yo 'Sirens' (52.7%, Whic, bourbon hogshead, maple syrup cask finish, batch 4, 568 bottles, 2023) Three stars
A maple syrup finish? Tremble mere mortals, because the End is near… Having said that, I'm rather fond of maple syrup… Colour: straw. Nose: Nose: it is true that we often find notes of maple syrup in our whiskies, so it is not surprising that we do not really detect any dissonances for now. It's more about fresh brioche, almond croissant, marzipan, cassata, hazelnut liqueur... All of that. So, all is well for now. With water: touches of Starbucks coffee latte. We shall survive. Mouth (neat): wow, or how to add sugar to a whisky without adding it directly. To be honest, I like these tastes, I told you, I like maple syrup. I also find notes of late-harvest Riesling, from Alsace or the Rhineland, it doesn't matter. In short, this mixture is very nice and we are not in the territory of the awful rums Bumbu, Don Papa or other quasi-lethal concoctions that should simply be made illegal. With water: it's fine. A bit of cane sugar. Finish: medium length, a bit sweet but not too sugary. It's okay, we stay okay, it's not a sugar bomb. Comments: I don't know if the goal was to offer a whisky for breakfast. Maybe, they do pour lashings of it into porridge, in some parts of Scotland. In short, it's really nice but maybe the world could do without producing millions of extra litres of this kind of good but unlikely experimentation. Next up, redcurrant liqueur?

SGP:641 - 82 points.

There are those who say it's better to offer an almost unknown Speyside distillery as a 'secret distillery' and let the somewhat naive enthusiasts (so not you or me, right?) imagine that it could be M., or GF. etc. I think that kind of conspiracy theory is utterly despicable, really. Not in whisky!

A Speyside Distillery 13 yo 2009/2023 (56.1%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 348 bottles)

A Speyside Distillery 13 yo 2009/2023 (56.1%, Watt Whisky, hogshead, 348 bottles) Five stars
In general, and to bring ourselves up to the level of Ozzy Osbourne's poetry, at the Watts' place, they really crank up the volume (S., you should be ashamed). Colour: straw. Nose: it's a pristine young Speyside, full of fresh bread, apples, barley, acacia honey, white chocolate and, hmm-hmm, maple syrup. Nothing to say, except that it's quite perfect and simple. A tiny bit of wet cardboard (a silly Amazon delivery in rainy weather). With water: no more, no less. It's very good as is. Mouth (neat): superb. Malt, orange liqueur, lemon balm, Jaffa Cakes, a bit of hops, black cherry liqueur, and hints of juniper berry and coriander seeds. Yummy. With water: as is often the case, it becomes a bit more lemony. I also detect marvellous notes of woodruff syrup, which I adore. Finish: long, more malty, with dark beer but also, and above all, even more woodruff. Comments: you know, Campbeltown, home of Watt Whisky, is so far from the rest of the world that they can sometimes engage in particular practices without anyone else sticking their nose in. For example, adding woodruff herbal tea to their casks. Of course, I have no proof, but on the palate, it seems very obvious to me. Yes, indeed. Apart from that, I adore this young Speyside.

SGP:561 - 90 points.

A Secret Speyside 19 yo 2003/2022 (51.2%, Whisky Sponge #72, refill hogshead, 228 bottles)

A Secret Speyside 19 yo 2003/2022 (51.2%, Whisky Sponge #72, refill hogshead, 228 bottles) Five stars
Rumour has it that this would be lightly peated Glen Grant. That wouldn't surprise me as I do know that the Sponge is a lover of old Glen Grant, while old Glen Grant could be rather peaty. Colour: straw. Nose: it's quite fermentative, more on wash and mashed celery and turnip, also with very ripe apple, plums of all sorts and all very ripe too, as well as grapefruit. However, I am not sure that the rumour was right, to be honest, I do not find this malt very peaty. But water can change everything... With water: yes, in any case, it becomes much more mineral. Old fabrics, engine grease, an old charterhouse, mild liquorice... Are we sure Mr. Sponge didn't just buy two hundred old bottles of Glen Grant at auction, to pour them very temporarily into an old hogshead for some marriage? Mouth (neat): oh, it's tense, oh, it does resemble an old Glen Grant indeed! I mean a young or middle-aged Glen Grant distilled in the 40s or 50s, really. Here, it is magnificently rich without ever becoming cloying, and the little citrus fruits play their role as a quasi-spice to perfection, a bit as if they were pink pepper. A few touches of camphor and eucalyptus add even more complexity, with a medicinal aspect that often then leads to peat. Let's check that, if you will… With water: I'm not sure I'm finding peat, but everything else remains true, it's old-school Glen Grant. There's also a bit of orange wine. Oh, and manzanilla. Finish: rather long, with a return to the fermenting side. Pink grapefruit and wax in the aftertaste. Comments: really, what is this thing? Let's see, what happened in Scotland in 2003, apart from a visit from the Malt Maniacs?…

SGP:562 - 91 points.

Didn't we say five?

Secret Speyside 10 yo 'Sirens' (51.9%, Whic, ex-Amarone puncheon, batch 2, 823 bottles, 2023)

Secret Speyside 10 yo 'Sirens' (51.9%, Whic, ex-Amarone puncheon, batch 2, 823 bottles, 2023) Three stars
Amarone! One of the heaviest un-fortified red wines in the world. Amarone is a kind of vin de paille or straw wine, this means that they let the grapes dry a bit before pressing them. Like everything, amarones have their ardent supporters and some fierce detractors. That said, I've never seen amarones that had been aged in puncheons. 'Blessed is he who is able to know the causes of things,' as Lucretius said. Colour: slightly apricotty. Incredible, the whisky isn't even remotely pink. Nose: it seems that some form of control was exercised here, since this nose does not totally explode with raspberries and strawberries, but it is true that grenadine remains quite apparent. It's not bad, it remains balanced, we are not completely in the territory of wineskies. With water: the malt puts up some resistance. Notes of Belgian kriek beer. Mouth (neat): here we are really in wine-based cocktails. It bursts with red fruits of all kinds, including dried goji berries, the luck we have is that the famous puncheon itself did not add the characteristic bitterness of some wine casks used for whiskies, like Bordeaux barriques for example. In short, no blasting bell pepper or fig leaf or tomato. With water: it rebalances, phew, but the fruity wine remains present. Finish: quite long, but not suffocating. Blood orange and bubblegum sign off the whole. Comments: what is amusing is that the whisky is very marked by the fruity concentration of the wine, while its colour let on nothing. Generally, if you stain your shirt while drinking amarone, you can throw it in the bin. Or almost. Well, it's far from being my favourite style of whisky, but we stay well above the waterline, I would say. I know that many enthusiasts love this style and I would never cast stones at them. So, well done, Whic!

SGP:741 - 80 points.
 

November 27, 2023


Whiskyfun

A little bag of five shh whiskies

Secret ones, vattings, blends, brands, funny ones, great ones… Who knows what's inside these bottles? What's more, we'll pick them up at random…

Shh

 

A Good Old-Fashioned Christmas Whisky 15 yo (52.5%, The Whisky Exchange, single malt, sherry casks, 2023 Edition, 1,800 bottles)

A Good Old-Fashioned Christmas Whisky 15 yo (52.5%, The Whisky Exchange, single malt, sherry casks, 2023 Edition, 1,800 bottles) Four stars
For me, an old-fashioned malt is a Glenfarclas, a Glenlivet, or a Macallan, don't you agree? But purely gratuitous speculations… Colour: gold. Nose: It has chocolate, roasted malt, a bit of soot, hints of stout, a dash of sweet mustard (the sherry) and nuts (the sherry again), currants, plum pudding... In short, it's Christmas. With water: as is often the case, more wet wool, porridge, pancake batter... Mouth (neat): classic indeed, with mulled wine, assorted spices, nutmeg, beer, sultanas, caraway, green walnuts, almonds, orange marmalade... The whole is relatively mild and generous, with a nice sherry, ultimately quite tight as well. With water: little change, perhaps a bit more bitter orange. Finish: of medium length, tighter, more focused on green walnut and mulled wine spices. Pleasant bitterness in the aftertaste. The circle is complete. Comments: we're far from woke culture and deconstruction; here we are back to the Christmases of yore. All that's missing is the nativity scene and the Magi. And Mr. Bean at Harrods. We want a double magnum under the Christmas tree!
SGP:461 - 86 points.

Well, one always ends up finding some logic in it…

Secret Speyside 15 yo (51.8%, Tiffany's New York Bar, Hong Kong, 120 bottles)

Secret Speyside 15 yo (51.8%, Tiffany's New York Bar, Hong Kong, 120 bottles, +/-2023) Four stars and a half
We've already tasted some rather fine whiskies offered by this Hong Kong bar that always reminds us of Audrey Hepburn. Colour: white wine. Nose: it's very fresh, taut, with a strong emphasis on fresh barley and wet chalk, it almost feels as if this youngster hails from the Northern Highlands. Beautiful notes of lemon and green apple. Nothing to discard. With water: some mentholated and aniseed notes rise to the heavens. I mean, to our nostrils. Very nice notes of bread dough and brioche. Mouth (neat): excellent, lemony, refreshing, with splendid bitters, some fatness, a hint of polish, grapefruit and mandarins, and still that chalk and limestone. A dry Loire white wine, perhaps a dry Vouvray. With water: it continues on the same notes. A very natural malt, I love it. Finish: of medium length, this time with a very slight saltiness, one could almost mention mezcals once again. Very fine bitters in the aftertaste. Comments: it's just very, very good, pure, without artifice, in a most glorious nakedness (if you catch my drift). Bravo Hong Kong.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Since we are in Hong Kong…

A Secret Speyside Distillery 13 yo 2010/2023 (51%, HK Whisky, Chinese Yellow Wine finish, cask #1)

A Secret Speyside Distillery 13 yo 2010/2023 (51%, HK Whisky, Chinese Yellow Wine finish, cask #1) Three stars
Our friends say this is experimental and that is was 'aged in Hong Kong', in that case it is not Scotch malt (anymore). First time I'm hearing of 'Chinese Yellow Wine' I believe. That said, it has nothing to do with the Jura's yellow wine; according to Wikipedia, it's more like Huangjiu, a kind of rice and millet wine. It seems that it can also be fortified with baijiu. Colour: dark gold. Nose: oh, how amusing! Honestly, it doesn't really smell like whisky, it's more reminiscent of chestnut liqueur or walnut wine, but with a very pronounced fermentative aspect, not too dissimilar from a very strong Trappist beer (like 12% alcohol by volume). I really must get around to studying Chinese spirits; I remember, over thirty-five years ago, buying a litre bottle for 1 US dollar on the spot. Of course, it was illegal, but there should be a statute of limitations by now. I hope! With water: not much change, maybe a bit of mead. Mouth (neat): ah yes, it really is funny, and even quite to my taste, but anyone who could identify a Speyside malt would deserve as a reward the complete discography of Mariah Carey, autographed by the artist. There's a hint of aged gouda, balsamic vinegar, chen-pi, chestnuts and walnuts again, sour beer, even a bit of buttermilk... With water: this is where it starts to resemble whisky more. Also notes of dried beef and a little bit of gunpowder. Finish: long, spicier, still with a fermentative quality. Perhaps a touch of dried fish, otherwise nuts and a bit of mustard. Pencil lead in the aftertaste. Comments: truly a first for me. It's very amusing and not bad at all in my humble opinion, even if it remains quite unlikely. Take my score with a pinch of salt, it doesn't mean much.
SGP:462 - 80 points.

Secret Speyside 29 yo 1992/2022 (44.8%, Vintage Bottlers, Secret Series, ex-bourbon, 266 bottles)

Secret Speyside 29 yo 1992/2022 (44.8%, Vintage Bottlers, Secret Series, ex-bourbon, 266 bottles) Four stars
It's all secret here, shh… Colour: straw. Nose: a buttery aspect like an old Burgundy Chardonnay, followed by some very ripe banana and apple tart, tarte tatin, hints of orange, quince, gooseberry and, indeed, melted butter. There are some really lovely citrus notes in there, all remaining gentle, increasingly reminiscent of an orange cake. Mouth: there's a pronounced bourbon character, with plenty of coconut water to start, then hints of vanilla yoghurt, elderflower fritter, and very ripe apples and pears… The cask has probably started to dominate a bit as the whisky loses some power, but this exotic wine aspect remains very pleasant. And as often is the case, the citrus notes underpin everything. Finish: a bit short, with similar notes. Soft woodiness and coconut in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps it is its fragility that makes it charming. It somewhat reminds me of old Tomintoul from the late '60s. Charming, indeed.
SGP:441 - 86 points.

Back to Asia…

An Iconic Speyside 2010/2020 (54%, Duncan Taylor, for Singapore, Octave, cask # 2925436, 80 bottles)

An Iconic Speyside 2010/2020 (54%, Duncan Taylor, for Singapore, Octave, cask # 2925436, 80 bottles) Three stars and a half
The finishing in that small cask called an octave lasted 6 months here. I had thought there were more notes than that in an octave! Colour: white wine. Nose: it's predominantly about wet plaster and porridge at first, before the usual lemon and green apple join the fray. Also some green melon, and greengages. There's not much more to say, the small octave cask has been rather reticent in this instance. With water: not much change, some pizza dough, raw wool, a bit of papier-mâché… Mouth (neat): yes, a very classic malt, lemony and chalky, with a bit more fresh wood than usual. Green banana and a few hints of mango ripened on the ship, probably from the cask. It's good. With water: notes of blackcurrant, which is nice. Finish: of medium length, not too woody, with lovely garden fruits, notably apples and plums. The lemon returns in the aftertaste. Comments: nice little malt without pretension, does the job well. The small barrel remained elegant.
SGP:551 - 83 points.
 

November 26, 2023


Whiskyfun

  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!

 

Yet another flight of rums

Samai

The small stills at Samai in Phnom Penh (Samai)

 

Starting this with two apéritifs (for the price of one!)

 

Ron Cristobal 'Pinta' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2023)

Ron Cristobal 'Pinta' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2023)
This brand seems to be all about Christopher Columbus, in this very case about one of his famous ships. It seems that the names of these caravels were actually those of ladies of easy virtue well known to the sailors. Are the makers of this rum aware of that? Colour: deep gold. Nose: a little ethanol, some coconut, some sweet tea, orange squash, some rather pleasant jams (kiwi jam) and some ripe strawberries, a little pineapple and some vanilla. Fine, really fine. Wasn't La Pinta the fastest of all of Columbus' ships? Mouth: sadly there's too much sugar in there, the caravel on the nose became almost a wreck on the palate. Palm syrup, plain sugar, cane syrup… It's really too much for me, I'm sorry. Or we'd need tons of ice. Finish: short but extremely syrupy. Easy molasses honey. Comments: this is sad, I really enjoyed the nose, but the palate is almost of Don Papa/Bumbu quality, dulce madre de dios!
SGP:820 - 50 points.

Infernal Rum No. Five (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2023)

Infernal Rum No. Five (40%, OB, Guatemala, +/-2023)
Just like the Cristobal, this baby was found in one of those nifty advent calendars that often help me to activate, test and massage the lower end of the 100-scale – and to demonstrate that the whole scale is indeed useful. Mind you, these rums would never come our way otherwise. Which reminds me, we must do a large 'los cheapos' whisky session again. Colour: white wine. Nose: of light Cuban style, rather between the entry-level Havana Clubs and Bacardis. Not much at first, then a few flowers (rather dandelions), a drop of pancake sauce, some very soft honey, and faint whiffs of wood smoke. Make that cigars, for more cachet. Very light, and not unpleasant, because it couldn't be. Mouth: no added sugar this time, I think, rather grasses, hay, sugarcane, touches of vanilla, a touch of lemon… Once again, not unpleasant, 'it couldn't be' as it's so thin. Finish: short, but clean. Probably not a bad mixer. A touch of sugar in the very short aftertaste. Comments: what's supposed to be infernal in this little rum?
SGP:440 - 60 points.

Cambodia 5 yo 2018/2023 (56.5%, La Maison du Whisky, Flag Series, cask #SAM18BNI)

Cambodia 5 yo 2018/2023 (56.5%, La Maison du Whisky, Flag Series, cask #SAM18BNI) Four stars
We've only ever tried one rum from Cambodia, a Samai made in a small new distillery in Phnom Penh. We had thought it was surprisingly excellent (WF 84 at only 41% vol.), but naturally, we have no proof that this is the same juice; apart from the fact that the cask number here starts with 'SAM'. Can't be Samaroli…  Colour: straw. Nose: milder Jamaican style, towards lighter Long Pond I would say. Fermenting cane juice, coal tar, chalk and crushed slate, rainwater, gherkins, rotting pineapple and banana, bits of thick camphory balms, bidis and eucalyptus, some yoghurt sauce…  With water: similar but with emphasis on olives and lemon. Ready for a martini. Mouth (neat): excellent, salty, tarry, full of liquorice and with a few olives and gherkins, with a feeling of smoked syrup of some sort. That would be a hit in mixology, no? Or does that already exist? A drop of chilli liqueur. With water: absolutely. Rather more citrusy, estery, with a little tar once more, the usual olives, plus capsicum and pepper. Finish: a notch shorter and thinner than the Jamaicans, but we're splitting hairs once more. Comments: absolutely dazzling. By the way, who's remembering Kim Wilde's song 'Cambodia'? I know, useless comment… I'd like to see how the Fijian rums compare…
SGP:563 - 87 points.

Happy to serve…

Secret Fiji 8 yo 2014/2023 (62%, Dràm Mor, Fiji, bourbon, cask #22, 271 bottles, 2023)

Secret Fiji 8 yo 2014/2023 (62%, Dràm Mor, Fiji, bourbon, cask #22, 271 bottles, 2023) Four stars
Some secret South Pacific, probably. Dràm Mor already had an excellent 2004 last year. Oh and by the way, did you see the Fijians at the rugby world cup? Colour: gold. Nose: as expected, a similar style, but this Fijian is a little fatter, perhaps thanks to the bourbon wood. It's also rather more on petrol, engine oil and all that, seawater, crushed slate, brine, ointments (that rugby folks often need)… Now it would make the yoghurt part in the Cambodian stand out by comparison. With water: chalkier, less acetic, less yoghurty indeed. Mouth (neat): they are really close now, this one just burns a little more, and needs more water, consequently. A lot of pepper and even jalapenos, it seems. With water: rather sweeter, rounder, fruitier. Bananas at the helm, some pretty overripe though. Finish: long, salty, very nice. A little syrup in the aftertaste. Comments: amazing Fijian, these Jamaicans from the Pacific are always very surprising. Did the British Navy use them too in its rums? Remember Fiji is part of the Commonwealth – although they seem to be coming and going.
SGP:653 - 86 points.

Didn't we mention Long Pond just a few minutes ago?

Long Pond 17 yo 2006/2023 (68.1%, Tamosi, Jamaica, Wiwakalaymay)

Long Pond 17 yo 2006/2023 (68.1%, Tamosi, Jamaica, Wiwakalaymay) Four stars
Not too sure about what 'Wiwakalaymay' means, but what's sure is that the word would score big in French Scrabble. Bur watch this one, did you see the strength? Colour: amber. Nose: funky toffee with some rubber and some tar, would I say, but we do not want to burn our nostrils. With water:  awesome bouillons, fresh Cuban cigars, shoe polish, snail butter (as we say over here), garlic pasta, h*sh*sh, bourbon … This is a whole rock and roll band on tour! Mouth (neat): creamy, relatively fudgey and gentle this far but I'm sure that's the very high level of alcohol. With water: no high marque, it remains pretty gentle – relatively speaking – with some smoky oranges and some mild brine. Finish: medium, pretty gentle indeed, but with a loud and clear Jamaicanness. Some margarita and olive oil in the aftertaste. Comments: loved this slightly disconcerting LP that needs you to be a king/queen of the pipette if you do not want to miss a large part of it.
SGP:552 - 87 points.

Jamaica Rum 15 yo 2007/2022 'JMC' (64.3%, The Whisky Blues, hogshead, cask #18, 248 bottles)

Jamaica Rum 15 yo 2007/2022 'JMC' (64.3%, The Whisky Blues, hogshead, cask #18, 248 bottles) Five stars
Do I spot Beethoven, Bach, Schubert and Mozart on the label? Were they playing the whisky blues? Lovely label, in any case. Colour: white wine. Nose: high-ester-count Hampden. That is to say carbon dust, olives, glues, acetone and lanoline. With water: very high-precision bacterial, acetic and gluey wonders, with ripe bananas laughing out loud in the background. Mouth (neat): holy Suzy! Perfection in a bottle. Unless you hate glue, lemon, olives and tar. With water: but who would hate ripe bananas? Finish: long, immaculate, Dadaistic, abstract rum. Comments: I'm usually more in favour of 'average' marques at Hampden, but in this very case, I just have to bow. And curtsy.
SGP:573 - 93 points.

Do we have much choice left?... Or do we take risks and try a lighter Hampden?

Hampden 7 yo 2016/2023 'OWH' (60%, Habitation Velier)

Hampden 7 yo 2016/2023 'OWH' (60%, Habitation Velier) Five stars
This is actually the lightest marque at Hampden, but we've often noticed that all this is never totally constant and linear… What's more, we made sure to take a good break between the estery wonder and this one. Colour: deep amber. Nose: ravishing, still quite a bit 'funky' (we'll really need to find another terminology – no, 'mucky' is awful!) and rather coastal, almost in an Islay way, with anchovies and oysters, seaweed, mint leaves, thyme tea, verbena, dill… You'd almost swear you spot the Paps of Jura in the distance. With water: some gentle rubber chiming in, also even more seawater.  Mouth (neat): esters! I mean glue and varnish, tar, petrol, plus a little cassis and celeriac. It almost reminds me of when they launch the first batch of unpeated Caol Ila after months of a very peaty regimen, there is still quite a bit of echo, even when all the pipes were well cleaned. With water: indeed, this is fully salty, varnishy, lemony, slightly piquant/spicy. Finish: long. There is not light Hampden. Comments: maybe we should just stop worrying about marques/marks altogether. Love this wee OWH (didn't we just say we'd stop worrying about marques?)
SGP:463 - 91 points.

Why wouldn't a distillery on Islay, say Ardbeg, do various 'marques' too, like 5ppm peat, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70… What pipes?...

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

 

November 25, 2023


Whiskyfun

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland


A big pile of Bowmore: part I

Every so often I end up accumulating a large pile of samples from one particular distillery. The latest of these is Bowmore, so we'll go backwards through the vintages in some kind of orders. There's a large stack of them, so we'll do it in two parts. We'll visit every decade from the 2000s - 1950s, without fear!
Angus  

 

 

 

 

 

Bowmore 17 yo 2003/2021 (54.9%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts of Scotland', cask #93, barrel, 172 bottles)

Bowmore 17 yo 2003/2021 (54.9%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts of Scotland', cask #93, barrel, 172 bottles)
I'm very late. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: dry and chalky peat smoke with that familiar Bowmore 'fragrantness' which suggests softer coastal things like sandalwood, beach pebbles and coastal flowers. Then some lime and grapefruit notes start to announce more familiar Bowmore fruitiness. Typical and pretty excellent. With water: gets rather focussed on saltiness with seawater, brine and lemon juice on fresh oysters. Also more lime juice and white flowers. Mouth: a little more power and oomph on arrival than the nose suggested, lovely mix of seawater, cornichon brine, a slightly acrylic smokiness and then things like fabrics, hessian, natural tar and smoked olive oil. Again, very excellent, chiselled and dry. I can't help but think of the old neck labels for some very old Sherriff's Bowmore bottlings that used to borrow the language of white wines and deployed descriptors like 'bone dry' and 'mineral' - more innocent times. With water: dry, smoky, salty and giving off some serious Margherita vibes with these wee impressions of celery salt and agave distillate. A few glimmers of citrus rinds and more chalky pebbles and mineral notes. Finish: good length, going back towards those softer peat smoke notes we initially found on the nose and also more dried seaweed and lemon rind. Comments: excellent, if slightly uncompromising modern Bowmore.
SGP: 466 - 88 points. 

 

 

Bowmore 17 yo 2003/2021 (57.8%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts of Scotland', cask #81, barrel, 209 bottles)

Bowmore 17 yo 2003/2021 (57.8%, Elixir Distillers 'The Single Malts of Scotland', cask #81, barrel, 209 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine again. Nose: leaner and greener! I get a little more gassy 'roughness' that incorporates some vegetal smokiness, ashy peat smoke, beach pebbles and sandalwood once again. Possibly even more austere and 'brittle' than #93. With water: hints of dried sage, anchovy sauce, rice wine and even a single artichoke in smoked olive oil. Mouth: hugely salty and coastal, full of seawater, dirty martini, gherkin juice, muddled citrus juices, touches of aniseed and even a little petrol. A blade, as Serge might say. With water: preserved lemons, distant kippers (what?) and various suggestions of miso, soy sauce and pickled ginger. Sushi whisky I would suggest. Finish: long, very salty, pin sharp smokiness and tiny notes of grapefruit amongst a lot of raw seawater and minerals. Comments: even more austere than its sibling, the very height of sophisticated un-sexiness. That being said, I preferred the ever so slightly clearer fruitiness of #93.
SGP: 366 - 87 points.

 

 

Bowmore 19 yo 2002/2021 (50.4%, Cadenhead 'Authentic Collection', bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles)

Bowmore 19 yo 2002/2021 (50.4%, Cadenhead 'Authentic Collection', bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: again this beautiful sense of softness that I often find in these vintages of Bowmore. Sandalwood, silky peat smoke, driftwood, dried seaweed, tiny herbal notes and aromas of smoked teas and subtle dried exotic fruits. With water: impeccably dry and salty, with salted fish, sardines in olive oil and rock pool vibes! Mouth: again a slightly sharper, drier and more coastal and mineral profile. Dried seaweed, sandalwood, salted liquorice and aniseed once again. Also a few things like shellfish and dried tarragon. With water: full of seawater, some grapefruit, a little tart rhubarb and cut green apple acidity, then pickling juice vibes and green olive. Finish: good length, with a little deep peat smoke, tiger balm and gentian eau de vie. Very long, salty aftertaste. Comments: I love this absolutely classy and bone dry profile, it's just that I tend to end up craving a little more fruit. I like my Bowmore fruity!
SGP: 456 - 88 points.

 

 

Bowmore 17 yo 2002/2020 (54.9%, The Character of Islay Whisky Company 'The Stories of Wind and Wave')

Bowmore 17 yo 2002/2020 (54.9%, The Character of Islay Whisky Company 'The Stories of Wind and Wave')
An exclusive bottling for LMDW I believe. Colour: white wine. Nose: same feeling that we have a rather unimpeachable, dry and mineral profile Bowmore, that also starts with some very aromatic and enchanting wispy peat smoke, coastal aromas, smoked teas such as lapsing souchong and even Earl Grey, and also the usual lime and grapefruit notes. With water: lovely, developing in some interesting directions like lanolin, squid ink, bandages and charred limes. Mouth: wonderful arrival, that also manages to include a little more overt fruitiness and tartness, things like gooseberry, crushed nettle, a touch of dried mango and papaya and then smoked olive oil and mineral oil which adds to the send of texture wonderfully. There's also a rather creamy but still nicely drying smokiness in the background. With water: superb! Creamy, oily and with a more pronounced and peppery peat smoke flavour, but also kippers, brine, anchovy paste and Maggi! Even a few herbal cocktail bitters and pithy grapefruit peel. Terrific breadth and complexity! Finish: long, herbal, peaty, coastal and with a great sense of fruitiness and maturity while still retaining this salty, drying edge into the aftertaste. Comments: tip top! Everything works in harmony here and 'we have the fruit'!
SGP: 555 - 91 points.

 

 

Bowmore 16 yo 2001/2017 (54.8%, Cadenhead '175th Anniversary' for Whisky Shop Baden, hogshead, 294 bottles)

Bowmore 16 yo 2001/2017 (54.8%, Cadenhead '175th Anniversary' for Whisky Shop Baden, hogshead, 294 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: we're back to another of these lean and sharp ones that is immediately very coastal and fresh. Freshly laundered linens, crisp wood smoke, sandalwood and crushed seashells. Also a tiny bit ashy and rather mineral. Same dry and precise profile as some of those 2003s. With water: still very salty, with impressions of beach sand and dried seaweed. Also perhaps a little umami ramen broth and tart rhubarb. Mouth: rather on soft peat smoke, caraway, aniseed and salted liquorice. Also seawater, ashes, brine, lemon juice and boiled shellfish. With water: green acidity, more salted liquorice, soy sauce and preserved lemon in brine. Finish: quite long, very salty, precise, sharp and coastal. Comments: excellent, highly precise distillate, but again I'm left wanting a few fruits to balance this side out.
SGP: 356 - 88 points.

 

 

Bowmore 18 yo 2001/2020 (50.8%, The Character of Islay Whisky Company 'The Stories of Wind & Wave', refill bourbon barrel, cask #11715)

Bowmore 18 yo 2001/2020 (50.8%, The Character of Islay Whisky Company 'The Stories of Wind & Wave', refill bourbon barrel, cask #11715)
Colour: very pale straw. Nose: a more exuberant and exotic style straight away! Tropical fruit teas, dried mango, papaya, a much more laid back and ethereal smokiness with a very gentle thread of peat running throughout. Also touches of eucalyptus and tea tree oil. With water: pina colada galore. With a few additions such as hessian and jasmine tea. Mouth: really, superbly fruity! Mango, passion fruits, papaya and guava - the usual suspects! Also a terrifically 'full' and creamy texture in the mouth. Captured at a perfect age I would say, there's a touch of coconut from the wood, but it melds perfectly with this overarching tropical/creamy profile. With water: the same, but adds a slight tension of coastal and salty freshness that is really quite compelling. Finish: there, passion fruits and mango galore! Also long and alighting on being rather salty and stunningly fresh. Comments: once again we are left to scratch our heads and puzzle as to why the owners are not regularly releasing such juice. A dazzling wee gem of a Bowmore.
SGP: 655 - 91 points.

 

 

Bowmore 18 yo 2001/2020 (55.4%, The Character of Islay Whisky Company 'The Stories of Wind & Wave', refill bourbon barrel, cask #11714)

Bowmore 18 yo 2001/2020 (55.4%, The Character of Islay Whisky Company 'The Stories of Wind & Wave', refill bourbon barrel, cask #11714)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: a little gentler than its sibling, softer, more coastal, gently peaty with this familiar wispy and ethereal peat smoke note. Beach pebbles, dried seaweed, Maggi and in time more of these tea tree oil and exotic fruit tea combinations that are really charming. With water: same hypnotic and brilliant development, only this time it goes more towards fruits to arrive at roughly the same profile as its sibling. Mouth: more power, more saltiness and more brittle, drying smokiness, but there's still this tropical fruit abundance as in the sibling cask. Smoked cereals, dried pineapple, papaya and mango once again. More smoked teas, more dried herbs and more of these salt-baked fish notes. With water: brilliant! Mentholic, mineral, fruity and even waxy and oily in texture now. Perfectly mature and gushing with distillery character and purity. Finish: long and brilliantly fruity, salty and bright! Comments: a notch drier overall perhaps, but this is still the same ballpark in terms of overall quality.
SGP: 566 - 91 points. 

 

 

Bowmore 21 yo 2001/2022 (51.6%, Douglas Laing 'XOP' for The Whisky Exchange, #DL16464, refill sherry butt, 514 bottles)

Bowmore 21 yo 2001/2022 (51.6%, Douglas Laing 'XOP' for The Whisky Exchange, #DL16464, refill sherry butt, 514 bottles)
Colour: coffee / amber. Nose: quite the gear shift! Very much on herbal bitters, salted dark chocolate, aged orange muscat and rather a lot of this familiar gamey and leathery sherry note. The saltiness of the sherry and the Bowmore go well, even though the whole feels a little tense and nervous. Opens up with a nice umami and herbal profile which keeps developing positively. With water: very nicely on camphor, tar and herbal tonic wines now, feels globally more cohesive with water. Mouth: very salty and umami focussed, lots of game meats, tobaccos, preserved black cherries in kirsch, tar extracts, wormwood and various smoked dark beers. A heavy profile that may prove slightly divisive. With water: gets superbly tarry and camphory once again, drilling into all this leathery, peppery, gamey, umami and salty sherry goodness! Finish: rather long, on earthy dark teas, smoked plums (do they actually exist?), more tar extracts and herbal bitters. Lovely thick peaty flavour in the aftertaste. Comments: I wasn't too sure at the start, but it won me round in the end. I think it gains a lot with a few drops of water.
SGP: 576 - 89 points.

 

 

Bowmore 16 yo 1998 (59.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 3.236 'Heathery smoke drifting by the shore', refill barrel, 141 bottles)

Bowmore 16 yo 1998 (59.9%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society 3.236 'Heathery smoke drifting by the shore', refill barrel, 141 bottles)
One of the more feasible sounding SMWS names perhaps? Colour: straw. Nose: it is possibly the power of suggestion, but I do detect heathery smoke drifting by a shoreline. Also more cut green apple and sharp gooseberry, limes and grapefruit, along with the wonderfully familiar soft, wispy peat smoke that seems to characterise these vintages. Then more coastal things like crab sticks and wet beach pebbles. Lovely nose! With water: geraniums! Also wood ashes, bandages, kelp and one additional gooseberry. Mouth: rather powerful arrival, dry, ashy peat smoke paired with black pepper, kippers, lemon juice and tiny hints of passion fruit and mango. There's also a lovely, taut mineral side as well. With water: settles excellently now, a touch of salted honey that bring some sweetness, smoked olive oil and exotic fruit teas. Finish: long, drying, salty, with a deeper smokiness and more black pepper and camphor notes. Comments: from an excellent parcel of casks that the Society seems now sadly to be out of. Although, I had 3.290 even higher on WF91!
SGP: 566 - 89 points.

 

 

Bowmore 23 yo 1997 (43.7%, Club Qing 'Fairy Tale Series', sherry butt, 189 bottles)

Bowmore 23 yo 1997 (43.7%, Club Qing 'Fairy Tale Series', sherry butt, 189 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: very gentle, leafy and exotic. There's sherry but it's elegantly shy and quite subtle, it makes obliging space for quite a lot of classical soft Bowmore peat smoke and assorted exotic fruit vibes. Also waxy lemon rinds, dried mango and herbal teas. Soft and gentle but highly charming and still with some nicely clear distillery character. Mouth: extremely easy with a soft layer of peat smoke alongside salty, slightly earthy and gentle, dry sherry. Subtle tobacco leaf, dried mango once again, overall a clearer exotic fruit flavour I'd say, and hints of quince and mirabelle. Nice tension between the fruits and the saltier, sherry notes. Finish: medium and nicely on dried exotic fruit chunks, delicate saltiness and background peat smoke. Comments: effortless Bowmore that you could probably assimilate a litre of without noticing. I'm sure I shouldn't be writing or suggesting such things, but there you go. Simple and gentle, but highly pleasurable.
SGP: 644 - 88 points.

 

 

Bowmore 29 yo 1992/2021 (44.5%, Claxton's, bourbon hogshead)

Bowmore 29 yo 1992/2021 (44.5%, Claxton's, bourbon hogshead)
Colour: white wine. Nose: shut the fridge door! Smashed kiwis, lime blossom, overripe mango, passion flower, dried herbs and distant trails of peat smoke. Also a stunning fragile coastal element that makes you think of rock pools, seashells, pebbles and the like. I adore this fragility combined with fruity abundance. It doesn't make sense, and yet, it exists - like Donald T. Developing some further notes of orange peel and cut grass. Mouth: beautiful fruitiness again, with a nice tartness too and more of these fragile coastal aspects. Feels ever so slightly underpowered, but it's really being nit picky. More of these sharp green and exotic fruit notes with more kiwi, some gooseberry and star fruit. Another hyper easy, naturally low ABV Bowmore that you could easily mistake for diluting juice. Finish: medium, full of more sharp, tart and tropical fruitiness, some grape must, delicate notes of bandages and tiny medical tinctures. Comments: Outrageously quaffable and pleasurable, only this slight tendency towards fragility will prevent it hitting the 90 hurdle, but it's really a technicality thing. Love this fruit juice.
SGP: 644 - 89 points.

 

 

Bowmore 18 yo 1993 (61.6%, The Whisky Exchange 'Masterpieces', refill hogshead, 195 bottles)

Bowmore 18 yo 1993 (61.6%, The Whisky Exchange 'Masterpieces', refill hogshead, 195 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: sandalwood, ashes, beach pebbles and this sense of rising exotic fruitiness that slowly but surely starts to involve pink grapefruit, passionfruit and papaya. Tiny green aspects such as grassiness, crushed nettles and gooseberry in the background too. Lemony and flinty peat smoke inflections. With water: becomes almost mechanical with bigger and more emphatic oily qualities, toolbox rags, hessian, smoked olive oil and fir wood resins. Still a pin-sharp, pristine coastal freshness over everything. Mouth: superb power, the full force of this cask strength but you do not 'feel' the alcohol in that sense, rather just a wonderful wall of flavour. Oily, textural peat impressions, with tars, embrocations, bandages, tinctures of iodine and mineral salts. Then tangerine, blood orange, crystallised citrus peels and hints of exotic fruit teas and dried mango. With water: outstanding! Perfectly lemony, tropical, smoky and salty. Brilliant, potent and perfectly tense Bowmore! Finish: long, sharply salty, citric and with beautiful subtle peat smoke and medicine notes along with a background of exotic fruits. Comments: no quibbles here, a brilliant Bowmore that remains deserving of its already lofty reputation.
SGP: 656 - 91 points.

 

 

That's a good place to leave it I think. Next week, we'll dive directly into the notorious 1980s!

 

 

 

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

 

November 24, 2023


Whiskyfun

Two quick French malt whiskies

Busy-busy these days. This will be a short session with only two French whiskies. Dozens to come, it is a buoyant category, with some good wheat and quite some chaff too (thin spirit in heavy oak/wine).

 

 

Blavier 2003/2023 (55%, La Maison du Whisky, Version Française)

Blavier 2003/2023 (55%, La Maison du Whisky, Version Française) Three stars and a half
Blavier is actually the name of an old still, handcrafted by a coppersmith in the 1930s, featuring three pots more or less in series and two columns, the second of which includes ceramic rings shaped like honeycomb cells instead of trays, which are supposed to further purify the alcohol from the heaviest elements. This still is installed at the Revermont Distillery, in the French Jura. I'm not quite sure what to expect, to be honest… Colour: mahogany. Nose: very marked by burnt wood, old furniture, old walnut and, above all, oxidative notes similar to those of an amontillado (half-fino, half-oloroso). Maybe this old whisky from the Jura had been aged in a yellow wine cask? With water: hints of liquorice, mint, anise, and curry. Mouth (neat): it speaks! Notes of old sherry quite similar, it rather reminds one of a Jerez brandy that hasn't been, like most of them alas, drowned under sweet matters. Walnut skin, tobacco, a bit of mustard, paprika, a lot of bitters… With water: bitter oranges, old wine and always a lot of nuts. Finish: long, quite tight, and tremendously Andalusian. Wood and bitter chocolate mark the aftertaste but, well, it's okay. Comments: a nice bitterness in this old sherry. I mean this old whisky. Very difficult to score, we're quite outside the norm but I quite like it. And it's very rare.
SGP: 272 - 84 points.

Since we're in the northeast of France...

St Wendelin 'Le Souffle Volcanique' (46.2%, OB, Uberach, France, cask #413, 1,028 bottles, 2022)

St Wendelin 'Le Souffle Volcanique' (46.2%, OB, Uberach, France, cask #413, 1,028 bottles, 2022) Four stars
Eight years in new oak, then two years in a cask having sheltered some Alsatian wine from Rangen de Thann, in the extreme south of our little region. The Rangen is a volcanic grand cru, hence the name of this whisky made by some of the pioneers of Alsatian – and French – whisky, with their master blender extraordinaire Jean Metzger. It's carrying the recent 'Whisky d'Alsace' Geographical Indication (which stipulates that you have to say 'hoppla' every time you fill a barrel – joking). Colour: gold. Nose: gentler, with once more some paprika, quite some pink pepper, some ham, caraway, blood oranges, chen-pi, then rather a lot of gingerbread, Läckerli (Basel is not far from the Rangen), Alsatian anis bredala… Well it's well an Alsatian matter indeed, the GI was deserved! Mouth: great fun. Bags and bags of gingerbread and even more of those anise cookies, plus Italian bitters and vermouths (did you know there was a Fernet Branca factory in Alsace? It's become a superb modern art museum). Finish: long, more on citrus, tangerines, grapefruits, touch of myrtle. Clove and green oak honey in the aftertaste. Comments: loved their Souffle Marno-Calcaire earlier this year, love this one just as much, despite or perhaps thanks to its 'accentuated idiosyncrasies'.
SGP:561 - 86 points.
 

November 22, 2023


Whiskyfun

WF's Little Duos, today Tamdhu OB vs. IB

Classic set-up, let us proceed…

 

 

Tamdhu 'Quercus Alba Distinction Batch 2' (48%, OB, American oak oloroso sherry, 2022)

Tamdhu 'Quercus Alba Distinction Batch 2' (48%, OB, American oak oloroso sherry, 2022) Three stars and a half
Oh crikey, we're late again, looks like batch 3 is already out. By the way, let's not be mistaken, the vast majority of sherry casks have always been made of American oak. It's European oak that's the exception, by far. Colour: straw. Nose: a lot of butter cream, nougat, popcorn, cappuccino, croissants, scones, shortbread, muffins… I'm sure you get the idea. Mouth: same. Drops of applejack or calvados, plus cakes, brioches, biscuits, butter cream, custard, praline, nougat, mocha, sweet beers, golden syrup, tarte tatin… It's almost too easy, in a way. Finish: same. Good length, with, yet again, drops of young calvados. Crème brûlée in the aftertaste, with a few drops of coffee liqueur and some caramel and fudge. Comments: technically just perfect but we're reminded of Disraeli once again, 'I prefer bad ones, one gets so bored with good ones' (very loose quote).
SGP:541 - 84 points.

Tamdhu 2013/2022 (65.4%, Or Sileis, bourbon hogshead, cask #355, 301 bottles)

Tamdhu 2013/2022 (65.4%, Or Sileis, bourbon hogshead, cask #355, 301 bottles) Four stars
Did you see the alcohol content? No wonder our friends in Taiwan put a samurai in armour on the label. Okay, a cat-samurai; I have to show it to our cats at WF Towers, they will love it. Colour: almost white as water. Nose: eau-de-vie de barley, mirabelles, plums, juicy ripe pears. But no chances taken with our nose... With water: sweet beers, malt, focaccia, almond paste, gingerbread with butter… Mouth (neat): great, just very hot. Cumin? Black Tea? Fudge? Pear pie? With water: great fun. Some discreet, unexpected medicinal sides, a little café latte (remember, café latte = coffee + $5) then roasted nuts and just cornflakes, Golden Grahams, Fruit Loops and all that. Of and tarte tatin. Finish: rather long, extremely cakey and fudgey. Honey and preserved peaches in the aftertaste. Comments: spectacular drop, insanely good despite the young age, with perfect cask technology embedded, It's just missing a warning on the label: add water!
SGP:641 - 87 points.

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

 

November 21, 2023


Whiskyfun

45 years vs 46 years,
a very short verticale of Talisker

The new Talisker 'Glacial Edge'. It's about ice but do not add any.
 

We have barely recovered from the exceedingly superlative Blair Castle 1833 and Longmorn 1897 that we tasted last Saturday. Imagine, the oldest authentic bottle of whisky in existence! It's surely far less bling than 'the new most expensive whisky in the world before the next one', don't you think? The sleight of hand at auctions with unique bottles which are so easy to self-flip so to speak (not saying that's what they're doing, but many people in arts are/were doing it) becomes more tiresome than yet a new Indiana Jones film. Anyway, let's move on and come to, if you will, the subject of our little tasting today, especially since Diageo have recently released two very old Taliskers one after the other…

 

 

Talisker 45 yo 'Glacial Edge' (49.8%, OB, Xpedition Oak series, 2,455 bottles, 2023)

Talisker 45 yo 'Glacial Edge' (49.8%, OB, Xpedition Oak series, 2,455 bottles, 2023) Five stars
Bottle in support of Parley and finished in ice fractured casks, that is to say in casks that have been kept in Arctic winds for 96 hours, which created cracks, thus extending the wood/spirit ratio. Not too sure that's 'traditional' by the SWA's standards, but it's good fun, it reminds me of that indie Highland Park that was finished on Mount Cervin in Switzerland. Colour: Gold. Nose: It's rather sweet, true to the character of the old Taliskers, with more camphor and aged balm than in the more recent vintages. This is followed by splendid notes of almond paste, fine oysters (the small flat ones), and roots, in particular wild carrot and gentian. There's also a bit of shoe polish and castor oil, as well as a soft and gentle tar. I have no idea what effect the finishing in 'iced casks' was meant to impart to this marvellous old Talisker, let's just say it's not obvious on the nose (no seal fat and very little dried fish, ha-ha). Mouth: Younger, perhaps it's the iced wood? Notes of grapefruit liqueur, banana, and vanilla at the start, but this modern profile quickly gives way to oysters, lemon, seaweed, sea water, salty spices, lemon balm, coriander seeds, sweet woodruff, and a bit of pine sap. The mouthfeel is perfect, with a wonderful texture. Finish: Long and really salty, it's almost as though they've submerged the casks in the ocean rather than exposing them to freezing temperatures. It seems they even added a few sardines and anchovies. Jokes aside, a superb finish that leads to an aftertaste of lemon marmalade and kippers. And salted bitter almonds. And lemon zest. And Italian bitters. Comments: A formidable old Talisker. As long as they mention ages and/or vintages, no problems with funny stories, they can go ahead, nothing really scares us (apart from the hackneyed but still used trick of the unlisted old cask found by chance in the warehouse - wink).
SGP:564 - 93 points.

Talisker 46 yo 1976/2022 (50.9%, OB, Prima & Ultima Fourth Release, American oak hogsheads, rested in Puncheons, 771 bottles, 2023)

Talisker 46 yo 1976/2022 (50.9%, OB, Prima & Ultima Fourth Release, American oak hogsheads, rested in Puncheons, 771 bottles, 2023) Five stars
The story here is that, instead of ice, glaciers and arctic winds, this baby's been exposed, when it was produced, to the heatwave that hit all of Europe in 1976, so it is believed to have had increased contact with the copper, possibly due to greater expansion. And why not? Colour: Gold. Nose: It's more rounded, with a focus on candied citrus, bergamot, kumquats, then glasswort and less salty, less coastal shellfish than the famous oysters that were abundant in the 45-year-old. Let's say clams, perhaps. However, the two old Taliskers then take turns leading in terms of salinity. I also find quite a bit of eucalyptus in this one; one could make luxurious inhalations from it. With water: It's really very close to the 45-year-old now, I just find a bit of sandalwood, even some rosewater. Just infinitesimal touches, of course. Also a bit of orange blossom water, it must be the puncheons. And even some fino... Mouth: It's really very close on the palate, maybe just a bit more bitter, woodier, spicier for a moment, but a commendable smoothness returns quickly. Very nice salinity, orange and lemon zest, various barks, a lot of quinine… With two or three drops of water: Beautiful candied fruits with sea salt, small brined lemons like the Italians do... Well, there you have it, it gained two points in my personal ranking, thanks to the water. Finish: long and more medicinal, with the usual slightly resinous and tarry edge. A tablespoonful of pepper liqueur, after all, this is a Talisker. Comments: If one wanted to decide on which is the best between these two marvels we would still be here at midnight. I wonder though if I don't prefer this 46-year-old just a tiny bit more; it's slightly fruitier, slightly more classic. But that's not enough to award an extra point. C'est la vie, as Greg Lake would have said.
SGP: 654 - 93 points.

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

 

November 20, 2023


Whiskyfun

Another Bag of Scottish Blends

Quite a hotchpotch today…

Hotchpotch

 

 

Sutherland 5 yo (48.5%, Thompson Bros., 20th Anniversary of Whiskyfun, Highland blended malt, 590 bottles, 2022)

Sutherland 5 yo (48.5%, Thompson Bros., 20th Anniversary of Whiskyfun, Highland blended malt, 590 bottles, 2022) Four stars and a half
Now that the very last bottle in the most remote supermarket in Ullapool has probably been bought by a tourist on a jaunt, we can finally publish our tasting note for this attractive young baby from Sutherland that's paying tribute to one of those two famous 5 yo bottled by old Clynelish around 1970. Indeed there was a cream label similar to that of the 12, and 'this' yellow label. This is a blend of Dornoch plus two famous twin malts from a town up on the coast, one of them, the rarest of them, only as 'a smidgen'. Whiskyfun was not knowingly (or financially) involved in the manufacturing of this little gem, but we were in awe when it came out. First time I'm writing a note and trying it 'quietly'. Colour: white wine. Nose: a lot of seawater, a lot of brine, some wax and some paraffin, some porridge, apple peelings, a little soot, and then some fruitier gueuze. The fruitiness is growing but the fermentary and waxy side remain there. Some peaches and cantaloupes coming through. It is probably a bit late to give my opinion, but nose approved! It's got a young Ben Nevis side, but indeed to my knowledge, there isn't any Ben Nevis in there. Mouth: same feeling, but this is a little fatter and richer, quite big in fact. Rather saline, a little smoky, sooty, with an engine-oil side, earthy citrus, one marshmallow grilled over a campfire (we were doing that when we were boy scout) and some pepper. Some kind of smoked toffee too. I'd have said BN, really (If it hadn't been called Sutherland). Finish: rather long, still fat, on some kind of salted butterscotch. Salty aftertaste. Comments: totally pleased. I will even give a score, since I was not really involved in this wee venture.
SGP:563 - 88 points.

Sutherland 5 yo '2023 Edition' (48.5%, Thompson Bros., Highland blended malt, 636 bottles, 2023)

Sutherland 5 yo '2023 Edition' (48.5%, Thompson Bros., Highland blended malt, 636 bottles, 2023) Four stars and a half
A follow-up. We are not going to wait until next year to taste this one. I think the composition I similar to that of the first edition. Colour: straw (a little darker). Nose: close of course, but more on fruits I would say, with a little more youth, less paraffin and soot, more oil (sunflower, sesame), some slightly heady flowers coming and going (wisteria), and even some white and yellow fruits that could make you believe that they've also added some of that other Sutherlander, the one that's starting with 'Glen'. But I doubt it. Mouth: closer to Edition 1, perhaps a little less salty, yet reminiscent of manzanilla here and there. White fruits, touch of mustard, walnuts, wax, something slightly medicinal, mineral… TBH, blind, I'd also have said young Ben Nevis. Finish: long, rather on seawater and lemon juice. That's always a wining combo. Drop of tabasco. Comments: this saline style remains right up my alley.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

There's younger yet…

Peerie Creatir 3 yo 2020/2023 (62.7%, Dramfool, red wine barrique, cask #53, 267 bottles)

Peerie Creatir 3 yo 2020/2023 (62.7%, Dramfool, red wine barrique, cask #53, 267 bottles) Three stars and a half
Whoops, this is a single malt from Islay. Strange name, is that Latin? Colour: straw. Nose: say you bring some rubbing alcohol back from the pharmacist's, add some mercurochrome, say fifty-fifty, pour a little grenadine syrup, add some tincture of iodine, a little liquid butter, some vanilla extracts, let then macerate some fresh gamay grapes, and voilà. It is absolutely not unpleasant, but we haven't put it into our mouth yet (sounds like some stuff by Zappa, ha). With water: raw mezcal, raw kirschwasser, bison vodka, capsicum and juniper… Mouth (neat): raw, brutal, salty and fruity, very smoky, and I like it. This, in chocolate mousse! With water: more some kind of very crazy gin. Finish: ueber long. Salted, smoked gin indeed. Sweet chili sauce in the aftertaste. Comments: great fun, it's going to be a hit during the holidays, it will advantageously replace the traditional small cup of champagne at breakfast. Perhaps even the croissants.
SGP:648 - 83 points.

Oh well, since the peat was big…

Big Peat 'Christmas Edition 2023' (54.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, sherry finish)

Big Peat 'Christmas Edition 2023' (54.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, sherry finish) Four stars
I'm just realising that the label keeps mentioning Port Ellen! There shouldn't be much of it inside but we keep saying 'bravo' to Captain Haddock. Colour: gold. Nose: the sherry's bringing some butterscotch and gianduja pralines, which I find pretty Christmassy indeed. The peat keeps roaring underneath, reminiscent of garden bonfires and scallops flambéed. Hey, and of Noilly-Prat and other dry vermouths. Great nose. With water: some medicinal notes, camphor, ointments, plaster, bandages… Mouth (neat): very salty. Salted peanuts, spicy beef jerky, deep-salted caramel, Sichuan chili crisps… The sherry has really shifted this malt from the Scottish coasts to Bangkok or Guangzhou. With water: some propolis, a little burnt wood, bitter teas, lapsang souchong… It's become a tad harder, more peppery and leathery. Finish: long, curiously brighter again, more 'pure Islay'. The Port Ellen really feels and… I'm joking. Very salty. Comments: it's a bit like lark pâté, there is a little bit of lark inside. But who cares, it's an excellent pâté. I mean, drop. Good surprise.
SGP:567 - 87 points.

Lowrie's Reserve (45.7%, Thompson Bros., blended Scotch, 2023)

Lowrie's Reserve (45.7%, Thompson Bros., blended Scotch, 2023) Three stars and a half
Oops, not malt. But it's in the glass… Colour: straw. Nose: cassata, focaccia dough, hay, coconut water, rosehip tea and a little wood smoke. Interesting combination, you wouldn't feel too much grain, but well, that's probably the guilty party w.r.t. that coconut water. Touches of old silverware, is there some very old whisky inside? Mouth: same funny feeling, it's somewhat like a young cheerleader dancing rock and roll with an old grandfather (think Sir Mick). Funny herbal notes, old cordials, roasted pumpkin seeds, salty broth, coconut water once more, leek soup… Finish: medium, rather better structured, but still bizarre. Pleasantly bizarre. Salty aftertaste. Comments: feels a bit like an all-goes-in whisky at times, reminds of the one they used to have at Richard's Loch Fyne Whiskies. Am still fond.
SGP:462 - 84 points.

Since we're having blended Scotch…

Park Circus 36 yo (50%, Hunter Laing, blended Scotch, 2023)Park Circus 36 yo (50%, Hunter Laing, blended Scotch, 2023)

Park Circus 36 yo (50%, Hunter Laing, blended Scotch, 2023) Four stars and a half
Park Circus is Hunter Laing's address in Glasgow, let's see if this one will be a little rock and roll too (lame joke again, S.). Colour: gold. Nose: very soft, on herbal teas, vegetable creams (asparagus, pumpkin, celeriac, mushrooms), then vanilla and soft liquorice, maize soup (so flabbergasting when you add few drops of whisky before serving)… A lot of old refill hoggies, I would suppose.  With water: same. A little barley syrup, orgeat, seccotine, old furniture polish, old bits of metal in an old drawer… Mouth (neat): this arrival wakes you up! Coriander, lemongrass, chillies (not XXX End-Of-The-World chilli, mind you), tropical fruits, old rum, pink salt… With water: careful with water, better have it neat. Finish: medium, very good. The finish is always the difficult part for these old blended whiskies, but this one really comes through with honours. Ripe bananas, honeysuckle, overripe apples, a little smoke, some pepper… Comments: obviously, one immediately thinks that in this kind of old blend there are old malt barrels that would be difficult to sell as singles, or that there's a lot of cheaper old grain, but that does not seem to have been the case here, this is all very coherently composed.
SGP:552 - 88 points.

Last one, let's make it an older glory…

Blue Hanger 25 yo '2nd Limited Release' (45.6%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, 2004)

Blue Hanger 25 yo '2nd Limited Release' (45.6%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, 2004) Four stars and a half
According to the label, this is 'Scots Whisky'. Traditionally, and please don't quote me here, Blue Hanger (and not Blue… well you see) used to be a blend of Glenlivet and Glen Grant. Colour: gold. Nose: yeah, it's beginning to show good OBE, with some deconstructed Speyside malt and many teas, cereals, breads and overripe fruits. Some unexpected ointments, metals, even plastic, bakelite, plasticine… It's evolving… Mouth: punchy, you would almost believe there is some Talisker in there, some salty soups and bouillons, stewed fruits and vegetables, oils and mashed fruits. Compotes, in other words… Finish: medium, slightly smoky. Comments: just superb, but after twenty years, bottles may start to very, very slowly diverge depending on how they were stored. Wasn't there a peater in the mix?
SGP:562 - 89 points.
 

November 18, 2023


Whiskyfun

 

To Solène.

 

 

 

Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and skilled taster
Angus MacRaild, this time in Alsace.
Assistant taster for this session: Serge

The Latest News In
Old Style Whisky
A D-Day Special!

Angus  

 

 

 

 

It's D-day! Which is to say, Distillation Day at Whiskyfun HQ in Turckheim. This year it's Mirabelle and gin which will be going into the mighty wee alambic still. Thank goodness the gin market is still booming so vigorously. 

Still D Day
Ultra-modern and used for about thirty years
to produce the world's finest spirits.
At Whiskyfun, we know what we're talking about!

 

 

 

 

 

This was also a good opportunity for Serge and I to sit down together and taste some very special spirits, not least this recently discovered 1833 Blair Castle whisky. In my view this is one of the most exciting discoveries in whisky, ever. You wait your whole life for early 19th century, illicit still malt whisky to turn up, then 40 bottles come along at once. 

 

 

To give a little background on these bottles. The whisky was known about by the family but hadn't been looked at for many years. The bottles were found while clearing out one of the cellars at Blair Castle, apparently sitting behind some very knackered old bottles of Sloe Gin, with a wooden shelf plaque which stated: 'Whiskey small still, Distilled: 1833, Bottled: 1841, Re-bottled: 1932'. The family contacted Whisky Auctioneer and decided to sell 24 of these bottles and keep the others. 

 

 

Blair Castle 1833

 

 

There is not sufficiently concrete information to confirm those distillation and bottling dates, but the cellar records from 1834 indicate '40 gallons of whiskey in cask' as being contained within Bin 65 in the cellar. There's also written evidence of spirit bottling taking place at the estate household in 1841 when 'four-dozen' bottles of brandy were filled. In addition, the estate archives contain physical items related to and numerous references to distilling on the estate during the early 19th century, in particular the letters between tenants and factors which reference this activity. 

 

 

Thanks to the fact that more than one of these bottles was able to be opened, some chemical analysis was undertaken on the whisky by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute in Edinburgh using gas chromatography. This analysis was able to confirm it was likely to be malt whisky made in accordance with our understanding of practices of the time, and that it had been aged in a cask made of oak. 
Given the time period, there aren't too many 'official' distilleries this could have come from, operational licensed distilleries on the estate in those years would have included Edradour, and the long-closed Tullymet. But the term 'Small still' would strongly suggest it was produced by either an estate tenant, or by the estate household itself. 

 

Keepers
Arrival of unknown guests at a
Keepers Of The Quaich banquet, Blair Castle
 

 

There is also the question of the 1932 re-bottling. Little is known about the storage of the whisky during the first century of its existence, other than it's likely to either have been glass or stoneware demijohns, or even older glass bottles of some sort. Having examined one of the bottles it was re-bottled into in 1932, the glass is certainly of a manufacture typical of late 19th century production, which would make sense as the cellar master would likely have had access to sufficient quantity of such bottles to make the re-bottling at that time. We also probably have this re-bottling to thank for the remarkable preservation of this whisky; the fact it has retained an ABV above 60% even after nearly two centuries is just amazing. 

 

 

It is frustrating that we cannot know more definite details, and this is a whisky that in many ways raises more questions than it answers, but the fact it exists at all is extremely special and offers us a genuine glimpse at a time when 'Scotch Whisky' was on the cusp of transition from an underground culture to a mainstream industry.

 

 

But before we get to the Blair Castle whisky, let's first have some suitable aperitifs, followed by the most appropriate sparring partner it's probably possible to find. 

 

 

 

 

 

Delamain & Co 1875 Grande Champagne Cognac (40%, OB, -/+1960s)

Delamain & Co 1875 Grande Champagne Cognac (40%, OB, -/+1960s)
From the cellars of Château Wwhiskyfun. Probably in demijohn for many years prior to bottling . Colour: coppery bronze. Nose: very leafy and mulchy, old dark earthiness and rancio. Many tobaccos, plums soaked in Armagnac, hardwood resins, cough syrups and mothballs. Very antique and definitely 'old school' Cognac - which is to say darker, heavier, earthier and more deeply rustic, very much the pre-Phylloxera profile. In time it becomes more leathery and more outrightly herbal, a few impressions of dried out make up and face creams too, you might also say very strong 'antique dresser' vibes.

 

 

Mouth: very thick and syrupy in the mouth, really closer to old liqueurs such as Chartreuse, Benedictine and Creme De Menthe, perhaps also some aged Drambuie with these crystallised honey, mead, dusty pollens that come through. In time there's even some waxes as well. Becomes more impressive with each sip. Still typically and charmingly of the old school. Some preserved fruits too, plums and apricots, and some crystallised ginger, again these leafy tobacco notes too. There is probably some kind of sugar / boisé added to this, but it feels rather invisible and well-integrated, you see no joined edges, just leaving this rather lovely thick and liqueurish profile. Finish: quite long, and surprisingly lemony, while there's also more familiar and deeply rustic mulchy tobacco leaf, cigar humidor, chocolate and plum liqueur. Very assuringly on rancio, rancio, rancio into the aftertaste. Comments: probably it has lost a few degrees of alcohol in the bottle, but the texture and richly earthy and rancio notes make it very satisfying and it would keep on developing with time in some very enchanting ways. We felt you could go up a point or two from 90, or down a point or two the opposite way depending on whether you chose to concentrate on its subtle flaws, or considerable charms. So our score is perhaps a little bit of a compromise, but better to celebrate beauty that criticise failings, is it not?  Angus SGP: 561 - 90 points. 
Serge SGP:451 - 90 points.

 

 

 

 

 

Grande Fine Champagne Cognac 1850 (No ABV, Skinner Rook & Chambers, bottled circa 1950)

Grande Fine Champagne Cognac 1850 (No ABV, Skinner Rook & Chambers, bottled circa 1950)
A bottle I bought at auction some years ago and seemed a fitting occasion to open. The label states re-corked 1979. And it would appear Skinner Rook were bottlers… of beer! Or at least that seems to have been what their main business was, not at all surprising that such a company might have had their own Cognac bottling in the mid-20th century, but maybe a little surprising that it would have been an 1850 Grande Champagne cognac. Colour: deep orangey gold. Nose: stunning and incredible freshness and exuberant fruitiness! Amazing tinned peaches, lychee, also rancio but enveloped by honeys, fruit teas, very gentle wee waxy notes, brings to mind similarly ancient Glen Grants! You can also add some beautiful and rather expensive bitter orange marmalade, very old Sauternes and sweet Chenin blanc. Just terrific and so alive, we are wondering if there's any sugar been added to this one at all? Either way, a totally beautiful nose!

 

 

Mouth: once again, amazingly all about freshness and fruits. Indeed, the ripeness of the fruit is so impeccable and amazing. You also have some stunning wee wood spices and resins, once again a suggestion of medicinal herbs such as wormwood and then a feeling of aged demerara dark rum. Also prunes and some bitter chocolate. Amazing profile, that would keep on developing and showing many small fruit flavours and additional wee complexities. Finish: good length once again, on cocoa, tobacco, miso and deeper, earthier and more rustic impressions. Comments: devastating, you could drink 50cl without leaving the table. The nose alone is 94 point territory, only a tiny softness in the finish will cap my score at… 
Angus SGP: 651 - 93 points. 
Serge SGP:651 – 92 points.

 

 

The nose on the 1850 is hands down superior, but the palate of the 1875 starts to catch up. Thankfully, having full bottles in front of us, we have found a clear solution which is to blend them equally and simply drink the resulting 1862.5 vintage. 

 

 

So now, over to Scotland… 

 

 

 

 

 

Longmorn 1897/1905 (58.4%, cask sample. Drawn 13/10/1905)

Longmorn 1897/1905 (58.4%, cask sample. Drawn 13/10/1905)
A cask sample that was purchased privately as part of a small bundle of such old samples, from an old lad who had worked in the industry and kept them as mementos. It was among a few other cask samples and old miniatures, most of which were out of condition. This one, however, was over three quarters full and had a small, but very well intact, and clearly very old driven cork, which helps to explain its excellent preservation. I got the ABV by using my Anton Parr electric hydrometer. There is a faint date noted in pencil on the lower part of the label, which makes sense as 'drawing' date. If it is indeed accurate, this should be pretty much the same age as the 1833 Blair Castle. I know, I know, so many assumptions at work, but we must struggle on… 

 

 

Colour: bright straw. Nose: extremely pure, fat and powerfully on distillate character. What's also totally incredible is how it would immediately reveal a familiar Longmorn fruitiness, that you'd recognise in many later bottlings from 1950s and 1960s distillates. Then also deep and almost gelatinous waxiness, mineral oils, suet, bone marrow and greasy hessian tool box rags. That also leads to metal polish, paraffin and steel wool. Astonishing power and the fact that it retains these wee fruity touches that suggest white, green and even exotic fruits is really remarkable, normally in other 'bottled' whiskies of such age all traces of fruit are usually quite suppressed. Continues with grape lees, slightly funky and sharp cider apple notes and a little menthol aspect coming through. Eventually, with quite a bit of time, it is once again converging on a spot where many ancient malts seem to alight: very old Yellow Chartreuse. With water: an impression of coastalness all of a sudden, and an even more powerful and pronounced minerality. Also underripe gooseberry, crushed nettle, banana liqueur and lanolin. In fact, globally it is getting even more medicinal. Finally some old paper parchment and inkwells. 

 

 

Mouth: like being woken up by Mike Tyson and Ozzy Osbourne. Incredible power and a massive arrive full of thick, peppery waxes, sharp and acidic white and green fruits, limestone, putty and other rather intense mineral aspects. Even also a saltiness that quickly begins to emerge, salt and lemon peels with further notes of herbal teas, herbal bitters and camphor. Even the tiniest sip fills your mouth completely. With water: astonishing, becomes even broader, fatter and sharper. More salty, vivid citric acids which sit discombobulatingly alongside the fattest of waxes, and once again more herbal liqueur vibes. I also forgot old, crystallised honey cut with sea salt, even leading to aged mead and herbal tea with runny honey. That's the trouble, there's just so much going on it starts leading you in circles. 

 

 

Finish: extremely long, and profoundly warming and peppery. All these wee flourishes of waxes, lemon rinds, pin-sharp minerals, sheep wool and more liqueurs, herbal teas, dried mint and greasy hessian. 

 

 

Comments: Hard to know what to say. By any measure an astonishing whisky and an undeniably emotional slice of liquid history. It is most fascinating and comforting that there are aspects which are familiar and suggest qualities also found in 50s and 60s Longmorns, while at the same time, there is equally an 'old style' aspect which is quite profoundly 'old, old style' and comfortable pre-war. I increasingly think that, while you can make a very clear distinction between the modern era (say 1975-present) and the whiskies of the 1940s-1960s, you can with increasing confidence say the pre-WWII era was of another style in and of itself. This certainly sits in that latter camp and is very much an example of historic whisky making that belongs to the Victorian era and does not presently exist in Scotland, or anywhere for that matter. This is not a flavour profile that you can access anywhere in my knowledge. It is so profoundly about texture and power of distillate character, in a way that makes it hard to even compare to modern whisky.  
Angus SGP: 563 - 95 points. 
Serge SGP:563 – 94 points.

 

 

 

 

 

Blair Castle Whiskey 1833/1841 (61.3%. OB?, Believed distilled 1833 / believed bottled 1841, rebottled 1932) 

Blair Castle Whiskey 1833/1841 (61.3%. OB?, Believed distilled 1833 / believed bottled 1841, rebottled 1932) 
Colour: white wine (woo hoo!) Nose: extremely pure, salty and fresh - like a mash up of Mezcal and Gentian eau de vie. Then we are in a world of bone marrow, bouillon, umami and savoury soups, mineral oils, sheep wool and camphor. What's most striking is the familiarity of it all, this could be 1950s Clynelish, it is a profile that would be instantly familiar to any enthusiast of older style, distillate driven, Scottish malt whiskies. Continues with bandages, seawater and perhaps even mercurochrome and coal dust. Antiseptic with brittle waxes, dried out old medicines and ointments and things like pure hessian, mutton broth and hay loft. Extremely powerful and almost even austere, amazing that it would have retained this very 'refill wood' profile - petrol from before petrol existed. There's also, underneath anything, some raw, clean and plain barley, a whisky that's very close to the raw ingredients. With water: sea salt, dried flowers, crushed barley, even fresh grist! You could add some dried herbs, some rather brittle, taut waxes, pine resin, pine cones and then more grassy and rather peppery olive oil. Also more of these big, thick and rather direct camphor and ointment notes. The piney notes keep developing, pine needles, resins and cones etc, also petrichor, goes more and more towards the rainy forest, while also keeping one foot firmly on the coast. Finally, the nose is also absent any aspects which would suggest 'old bottle effect' in a negative way, perhaps an indication it might have been stored in larger containers for a significant stretch of its existence? 

 

 

Mouth: puts hairs on your chest! In some ways simple and full of power, but in others rather complex. What's perhaps most important to state is that there's no off notes, no faults, this is pure, powerful, raw and technically excellent malt whisky. Really, we are drinking barley eau de vie that has been rested in light touch refill oak for around 8 years. There is some sharp and tart green fruit, like small very sharp cider apples, then grass, olive oil and a rather brutally peppery and grassy one at that. With water: doubling down on this peppery, dry, waxy and salty profile, while also retaining this textural greasiness. There's also more greenery, crushed grass and parsley, more chalky notes, more oily sheep wool and a lovely, slightly sweet white balsamic vinegar suggestion. In the end a feeling of earthiness is hard to get away from, a fusion of the forest, the shoreline and the basic raw ingredients presented in vivid resolution. It's also undeniable that it has become, with time and water, an extremely complex whisky, while simultaneously remaining decidedly rustic, powerful, greasy and potent. It is believed that this whisky was likely served to Queen Victoria when she visited the castle in the early 1840s, I wonder if this was a shock to the system compared to what she was used to drinking 'down south'…

 

 

Finish: very long, reviving a very warm, glowing waxiness, with many salty notes and herbal bitters. Also a juxtaposing sense of sweetness that incorporates some of these piney aspects once again. Bitter and sweet in tandem.

 

 

 Comments: it's very hard to disassociate from the mental images that this whisky conjures while you are tasting; the ideas you have about the lives of those who made and initially drank it; the sense of history, occasion and romance it inescapably arouses in you. Also ideas about what people's perceptions and opinions were during this time with regards flavour and quality. This is a powerfully rustic and extremely 'Highland' malt whisky, but to the owners in the 1840s was this considered the ultimate in refinement? It leaves you with more questions than it answers, and makes you confront some complicated ideas about whisky's origin as a 'natural' drink 'of the land' and how that gets jumbled up with concepts like terroir. 

Victoria
Queen Victoria four years into her reign, when the Blair Castle Whiskey was first bottled in 1841.
 

 

Then of course, how that origin changed and became distorted as the drink evolved and became taken up by industry. For example, we found these piney and petrichor notes impossible to disassociate in our minds from the landscape of Perthshire. But then, how do we square that with the undeniable coastal notes we detected, what alchemy even creates such a profile, and what has happened to the chemistry of this whisky during the nearly two centuries since the time of its creation? It's well worth noting that the chemical analysis did not detect any phenolic signatures we would associate with peat, so where are these medicinal aspects arising from? It also speaks to the fact that, being distilled in Perthshire, they would likely have had less requirement to use peat as a fuel source for drying, with coal and wood being more readily available. Does that again lead us to think about ideas of terroir? The physical realities of land guiding the actions of the producers?

 

 

Blair Castle

 
Blair Castle

 

This is the third (and hopefully not the final) time I am tasting this whisky. For me, personally, I find it profoundly comforting that something so familiar, yet decisively high quality and built around distillate character, would have resulted from what is very likely historic, illicit pot still distillation. It's also remarkable that, had I been given this blind, I would have said it could have been produced anytime up until around the 1940s/1950s in my estimation. In this way, it changes my perception about eras of production in Scotch whisky, and to think about where the real diving lines are in terms of production styles and shifts in the overarching character of the drink. It only serves to strengthen this idea I touched on in my comments about the Longmorn and the dividing lines of the pre and post war production eras. 

 

 

Finally, this is just one whisky, and we should of course be cautious about drawing too many conclusions about it from a broader historical prospective. I have tried to summarise my thoughts and impressions about the whisky itself, but the key takeaway for me is that it's probably one of the most emotional and historically romantic tasting experiences of my life. I don't mind that it ignites more questions than it answers, I am just very grateful that it exists at all. It is, when all else is said and done, extremely cool! 

 

 

Angus SGP: 563 - 92 points. 
Serge SGP:563 – 93 points.

 

 

 

 

 

A bonus...

 

 

Unknown believed 19th century Irish Whiskey. Circa 55%. 

Unknown believed 19th century Irish Whiskey (Circa 55%)  
From a stash of bottles discovered in an old outbuilding in Ireland and brought to auction at Whisky Online back in 2020. Some chemical analysis was also apparently done on these and suggested a mixed grain whisky with malt base, pot distilled and aged in oak. Although, it seems likely that the many bottles of this which were discovered (over 100 apparently) were in wildly varying condition, so if you find another bottle this note could prove pretty useless I'm afraid. Colour: white wine. Nose: once again, obviously something ancient, however, here there is also something slightly more funky and acetic going on, an aroma that would point towards bacterial activity perhaps? With these impressions of lactic acid, cheese rind and then big fat notes of shoe polish, suet and marrow. It shares something of the Blair Castle's power and fatness, while also being definitely 'weirder'. A little camphor and petrolic character too. With water: really magnifying these acetic notes now, going into lemon yoghurt, goat cheese and white wine vinegar. Sounds unpleasant, but it's actually very funny and pretty fascinating. In time a little green herbal note and some dried mint appear.

 

 

Mouth: you have to wonder what kind of chemistry you are ingesting here. Globally this is a thinner spirit, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is a mixed mash bill indeed. More syrupy, thinner in flavour and actually a little sweeter and grassier. Also funny bacterial notes and impressions of plasticine, malt vinegar and slightly sour cereals. I would say there are some technical flaws in this as compared to the Blair Castle. With water: green apples, tart lemons and citric acidity, lemongrass and miso paste. I actually find it improves quite a bit here with just three drops of water. Really doubling down on these crisp, tart green apple notes and becoming more refreshing. I would add two more points here just because of the reduced palate. 

 

 

Finish: good length, back on cereals, apples again but rather funkier wee cider apples now, also more grassiness, that persistent acetic note and perhaps some spirituous qualities such as turpentine or paraffin. 

 

 

Comments: Not as technically impressive or a pleasurable as the Blair Castle. But this is still historically fascinating and a hugely impressive liquid relic. I would say the variation in ingredients is clearly betrayed by the texture and character of the spirit, and I think something rather more funky may have occurred during fermentation - or possibly it's storage history, which is definitely not up to the same consistency or care as the Blair Castle enjoyed. What I really enjoy is that it clearly ticks some similar boxes as the Blair Castle: young, lightly oak matured and highly distillate driven. 

 

 

Angus SGP: 561 - 83 points. 
Serge SGP:561 – 83 points.

 

 

(Heartfelt thanks and hugs to Iain and Gunner.)

 

 

 

 

November 17, 2023


Whiskyfun

WF's Little Duos, today Glen Moray

We love to try Glen Moray from time to time. They're never complicated but some older ones could be totally stunning.

Glen Moray

 

 

Glen Moray 12 yo 2008/2021 (57.83%, OB for The Nectar, Private Cask Collection, rum + cognac finish, 498 bottles)

Glen Moray 12 yo 2008/2021 (57.83%, OB for The Nectar, Private Cask Collection, rum + cognac finish, 498 bottles) Four stars
It's really amusing how the trend is to add an extra decimal to the alcohol content, it looks very chic. Colour: straw. Nose: pretty bizarre, unexpectedly dry and tarry, almost a little soapy, with some paraffin, litres of staling beer and large quantities of banana skins. Some grape pip oil too. Very whacky Glen Moray this far, but I'm sure that's the casks. With water: vaguely nicer. Cut grass, roots, rubber, pencil eraser… Mouth (neat): ten thousand times nicer on the palate, all the flaws having become quasi assets. Lovely beers, bananas, while soap and paraffin have become beeswax, and some tight lemony notes are adding some elegance to the recovery. Phew. With water: very good. Waxy cereals, pine sap, pistachio oil… Finish: rather long, very oily. Excellent tight lemonness. Comments: just don't nose it, go straight to the palate, which is pretty awesome. Peace.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

Glen Moray 30 yo 1992/2023 (49.7%, Whisky Sponge, 142 bottles)

Glen Moray 30 yo 1992/2023 (49.7%, Whisky Sponge, 142 bottles) Five stars
Ten years in a refill hogshead and twenty years in a Port barrique. Should be brick red. Colour: not quite, it's rather 'dark amber with copper tones'. Nose: cherry cake, grandma's clafoutis, indeed old Port, bags of dried figs, Darjeeling tea, umeshu, a little soy sauce, that red sauce they give you with Chinese dumplings, dried goji, raisins, Nuits-St-Georges… I think we're pretty far from the original distillery, but I believe this reconstructed pinot-noiry profile is just awesome. They could have called it 'Liqueur du Chambertin' or something. Mouth: huge, with some magnificent oak, peppers, paprika, heavy pinot noir once more (I know Port is touriga nacional eh), spicy teas, walnut liqueur, amaro, crazy vermouths, dark chocolate, liquorice wood, all these things. It is a foolish whisky indeed. Finish: very long, with even more crazy pinot noir and liquorice. Something slightly oxidative. Comments: high concentration and some Port that's evolved too during the process. I find this winesky (frankly, it is winesky) incredibly stunning but I cannot not wonder if anyone could recreate this at will. There, please another one, you've got twenty years.
SGP:572 - 90 points.

(Merci Coldorak)

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

 

November 16, 2023


Whiskyfun