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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2005 - Part 1

September 2005 - part 2 <--- October 2005 - part 1 ---> October 2005 - part 2

October 14, 2005

VELVET VIPERS, Yale Hotel, Vancouver, 27th September 2005
NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS, Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, 28th September 2005
On the face of it Vancouver’s Yale Hotel, originally a bunkhouse for railroad workers, and then a hostel for transient loggers and prospectors heading north (and no doubt also for many, struck by ill-fortune and unrealised dreams, heading south), seemed like a good end point for our British Columbian adventure. It is, after all, the self declared home of rhythm and blues in Western Canada, and I have to observe, a venue of such quality - even the one drunk, dressed unseasonably in shorts and Hawaiian shirt, managed not to bump into folks as he careered around the place like a pinball on speed - that one rarely comes across in London (more of which later). Velvet Vipers
Pity ‘though about our timing, a quiet Tuesday night in late September. A few days earlier and we might have caught Alvin Youngblood Hart, a few days later and we would have seen Serge’s beloved Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express (a sort of Brora of the jazz world, or so it seems). As it was we had to make the best (after a very good dinner – of which also more later) of local band the Velvet Vipers.
Velvet Vipers
Jack Velker
Led by Vancouver veteran Jack Velker, keyboard player extraordinaire and available for hire to play at your corporate dinner parties, or even in your own kitchen or dining room, the Vipers performed several sets of largely uninspiring blues and R&B standards. ‘St James’ Infirmary’, ‘Ain’t she sweet’ (!), ‘Caledonia’ were mixed together with Dylan (‘All along the watchtower’) and Boz Scaggs (‘Somebody loan me a dime’) with whom Velker has frequently worked.
To be frank Jack carried the band - good vocals, great work on the Yale’s resident Hammond organ and a confident charisma that made up for his rather soulless four piece. I’m not going into details, and I promised not to be cruel about saxophonist Dominic Conway, for whom the phrase ‘having a bit of a bad night’ was probably originally intended. Let’s just say that I broke the reviewer’s golden first rule, put down my notebook in despair, and danced the night away. So the Vipers were good for something.
And that might have been it, blurry memories and sore calves, had it not been for the fact that we literally bumped into two thirds of the North Mississippi Allstars over dinner. They (very nice young men who certainly knew their way round a tub of oysters) it transpired were playing in town on Wednesday. So we changed our plans and the next night found ourselves (after another very good dinner) in the plush interior of the city’s famous Commodore Ballroom. Another fantastic venue that puts the likes of London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire or Astoria (and their owners) to shame. Back here it’s more often than not push and shove, beer and swill, crumbling Edwardian grandeur, Ajax encrusted lines of coke in the filthy toilets – you get the picture. But the Commodore, an art-deco temple to popular entertainment built in 1929, and recently subject to a $3.5 million refurbishment by its current owners (it’s tied up with the House of Blues organisation I think), is stunning interior design, comfortable bars, waitress service, relaxed seating, and an out of this world sprung wooden dance floor. Oh yes – and pretty dammed good acoustics too. And the tickets were about half the price of what the Whiskyfun expense account would normally have to bear. London are you listening ?
North Mississippi Allstars
Luther and Cody Dickinson
The North Mississippi Allstars are guitarist Luther Dickinson, drummer (well mostly drummer) Cody Dickinson, and bassist Chris Chew. The two D boys are both sons of Jim Dickinson of Memphis’ Ardent Studios. Chris Chew, it should be observed, is so huge that he makes a Fender Precision Bass look like a child’s toy. The band famously emerged on the blues scene in 2000 with their quite breathtaking album Shake Hands with Shorty. Since them, ‘though their live work has been much admired their recordings have been somewhat patchy (avoid, for example, Polaris) until the release of the brand new Electric Blue Watermelon, so new that it’s not available in Europe yet, though I do have the Photographer’s autographed copy for safekeeping.
The format of their work is simple, though quite mesmerising. At its core are hypnotic rhythms (perhaps ‘grooves’ might be a better word) drawn from the roots of the Delta Blues tradition, and great vocal interplays between Dickenson (Luther) and Chew. The NMAS cite the recently deceased R L Burnside as a particular influence; now although he’s probably better known for his collaborations with the likes of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (“We ARE the Blues Explosion”), and particularly by Whiskyfun readers for the recently re-released A Ass Pocket of Whiskey, you need to go back to his first recordings (R L Burnside’s Original Recordings) from 1968 to see where these young boys really take their inspiration from. A moaning repetitive drone, often built around a single chord, some slide guitar, scant lyrics, real blues. And on Watermelon some interesting flashes of rap (or is it hip-hop?) too.
So the NMAS sensibly focussed on songs from their first and last albums for the two and a half hours or so that they played for us – which given that they didn’t come on stage ‘till 11.00pm was quite possibly an hour too long (especially as we’d already endured two incredibly loud sets from locals Slammin Jack and She Stole my Beer, who curiously counted five drummers and not too much imagination between them) You see their other trick is that they take these old tunes, like Burnside’s ‘Po black Maddie’, Mississippi Fred McDowell’s ‘Shake ‘em on down’ or Charley Paton’s ‘Mississippi bo weevil blues’ and use them as jumping off points for long, incredibly well structured (but sometimes just a tad lengthy) improvisations.
The musicianship of the three is quite outstanding, with Chew often patiently waiting for the two brothers’ excursions to finally find their way back to the tune. Luther D’s slide guitar is simply on another level from most other players, his brother’s drumming ranging from powerhouse bass-pedal rocking to gentle snare drum rhythms (the introduction to ‘Mean ‘ol wind died down’). And they showed their knowledge of their rock forebears with witty references to the likes of Carlos Santana, the Allman Brothers, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. To be honest the only problem was that they were enjoying themselves so much that they simply didn’t know when to stop.
North Mississippi Allstars
Chris Chew
But to have an opportunity to enjoy such virtuoso and good humoured self-indulgence is a rare thing these days (especially in a London where gigs normally end on the dot of 11.00pm), so it’s churlish to complain.
Thank you Vancouver. Great gigs, great venues, and such nice people, even the pretty ladies dancing with hula-hoops, apparently something of a fashion in these parts. Whiskyfun readers, please buy Shake Hands with Shorty, and Electric Blue Watermelon – if you can find them in the stores that is (yes, you can have the best product in the world but never overcome poor distribution). And if you want to explore their Mississippi Delta roots then take a look at R L Burnside, or even the new album by T Model Ford (who we saw struggling against the sterile Barbicanites earlier in the year), Pee-wee Get my Gun. Why, you can even book Jack Velker for your next posh dinner party. It’s worth the price of a bottle of your favourite. - Nick Morgan (all photos by Kate The Photographer)
Many thanks, Nick. So, no Brian Auger review from Vancouver this time but I've heard he will do a gig in Vladivostok in November, so, maybe, I thought you could, you know, like... Anyway, there's quite a lot of mp3's by Jack Velker and the Velvet Vipers on their agent's page (I could hear the sax on Deep River Blues.mp3 and now I can see what you mean, as I used to sort of blow a Selmer Mark VII in my (very) young days). A few very nice mp3's on the NMAS website too. An excellent power trio indeed, these all stars!
Glenburgie 1969/2005 (44.2%, Duncan Taylor)
Colour: dark straw. Nose: wowie, extremely fresh, flowery and fruity at more than 35 years old. Lots of notes of nectar and yellow flowers (buttercup, dandelion), fresh butter… As for the fruits, it’s a whole basket of white fruits such as gooseberries, small bananas, plantain, apples, yellow plums. Also quite some quince jelly, light honey, pineapple liqueur. Something of an old Balvenie, undoubtedly. Whiffs of sawdust (oak) and cider apples… Incredibly fresh and lively even if it’s not monstrously complex. I love it. Mouth: wow again! Sweet, nervous, very fruity, with lots of pineapple juice, icing sugar and candy sugar. Really youthful, with some nice notes of kiwi, strawberries and even a little passion fruit. It gets then a little cardboardy, in a nice way, and also rather spicy and gingery. Hints of aniseed and dill. The finish is medium long, fruity and slightly peppery (white pepper). An excellent surprise, this old Glenburgie! 91 points.
Glenburgie 1969/2005 (44.2%, Duncan Taylor)
Glenburgie 39 yo 1963/2002 (58%, Signatory Straight from the Cask, c. #4750)
Colour: gold. Nose: ah, this one is very different. Bold notes of linseed oil, wax polish, turpentine and waxed paper, with also lots of olive and argan oil. Gets quite meaty (ham, smoked Islay beef?), peaty, smoky and farmy, with some notes of horse stable. Cold fireplace, flint stone, diesel oil… Very unusual, I guess they were still using peat at Glenburgie in 1963. Just superb! Mouth: a fantastic attack, powerful, bold and very creamy, with lots of wax, smoke, malt, pine honey and, again, olives. What a great profile! Some notes of old rancio (old Banyuls or Maury), walnuts, clove, Chinese anise… Funny hints of raki (Turkish anise liqueur), dried longans, wine sauce… Less delicate and playful than the new Duncan Taylor but more complex and with more oomph. And a very long and very satisfying finish, on old sweet wine. Another truly excellent very old Glenburgie! 92 points (and thanks, Pierre).

October 13, 2005

(With thanks to Olivier Humbrecht)
Knockando 1973/1985 (43%, OB) Colour: gold. Nose; very grainy, very vegetal, very spirity. Notes of rancid butter and stale white wine but not much else, I’m afraid. Perhaps aspirin and Schweppes? Today’s Knockandos are no stars but they are much better than this one… But wait, after ten minutes it gets a little better. Very grainy, sure, but also quite nicely mashy. Not too, too bad, after all. Mouth: quite powerful, again extremely grainy, with lots of caramel, notes of cork (maybe it is corked?) vodka with herbs (Zubrovska) and cheap gin. Gets a little bitter, with some dried herbs, rubber… Very, very hard to enjoy, I must say. 65 points. Knockando 1973/1985 (43%, OB)
Knockando 1980/2005 (48.3%, Duncan Taylor) Knockando 1980/2005 (48.3%, Duncan Taylor)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: quite fresh, extremely herbal and buttery. Lots of grainy notes, beer, cider, dry white wine again but in a much nicer way. Develops on sour apples, breadcrumb, mashed potatoes, and then on lots of herbs: dill, parsley, cooked salsify (picture). Curious whiffs of sea air, oysters… Getting then sourer and sourer. Very dry (notes of dry sherry), no pure pleasure but very interesting.
Mouth: bold and very spirity, grainy, nutty and herbal again. A little salty but also quite bitter and, again, extremely dry. Lots of tea, anis liquor (ouzo), herb liquors (Chartreuse), pear spirit. Some bold rubbery notes, at that, burnt milk… Again, it’s interesting to taste an old Knockando at cask strength but… well, let’s say the pleasure is perhaps a little more ‘encyclopedic’ than ‘organoleptic’. 80 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Brazilian singer and composer Anastácia Azevedo does a Xaxado.mp3 full of energy. Excellent! Please buy her music... (via very the very good Pirana records company) Anastácia Azevedo

October 12, 2005

Due to a server breakdown (too much whisky?) this website has been down for a few hours but now it's alive and kicking again. Thanks for all your messages!
Bruichladdich 14yo 1991/2005 WMDII ‘Yellow Submarine’ (46%, OB)
Bruichladdich 14 yo 1991/2005 WMDII ‘Yellow Submarine’ (46%, OB)
Another funny ‘take any opportunity to make the people talk about your brand’ adventure by the Laddie gang. No problemo (on the contrary) when it's funny indeed, like this time. Yes, this time it was a lost pocket submarine that was found by a fisherman - nothing to do with The Beatles. Colour: white wine, with orange hues. Nose: fresh, clean, spirity and fruity. Lots of notes of strawberries (I'm not kidding - strawberry fields forever?) melon, yellow peaches, apple juice. A little perfumy as well (rosewater), developing on fresh pineapples and pears. Very little wood influence if any, as close to the spirit as possible. Flawless, though, simple but perfectly balanced. Certainly not a WMD! Mouth: very coherent, extremely fruity, almost like some fruit jellies mixed with soft liquorice. Yes, liquorice allsorts. A bit of caramel and orange marmalade, apple compote, boxed pineapple. Add to that a few spicy notes (Sgt. Pepper?) and quite some notes of pear eau de vie… Not complex but balanced and enjoyable. Curiously, maybe a little Lowlandish. 86 points.
Bruichladdich 11 yo 1994/2005 ‘Full Strength Second Edition’ (56.5%, OB)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: this one is much woodier, with quite some vanilla, light caramel, milk chocolate. Rather grainy but getting nicely maritime, with some sea air. Switches then to full fruity mode, on apple juice, pineapple again. Notes of gin, getting slightly sourish. Again, a nice one, even if it’s definitely not as fresh as the WMDII. Mouth: quite powerful and a little spirity, soon to get half fruity and half caramelly, with also a lot of liquorice. Notes of cake, long infused tea, roots… Perhaps some cooked French beans or peas. The finish is rather long, mainly on liquorice. Uncomplicated and enjoyable. 84 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: she's from Sweden and she does a nice folk-pop tune called San Francisco.mp3 (not that one) with a most fashionable 'jungle' drumming a la Duke Ellington Orchestra: it's Annika Norlin aka Hello Saferide. Please buy her music. (photo Michael K Jansson) Hello Saferide

October 11, 2005

Brora 23yo 1981/2004 (48.6%, Dun Bheagan, cask 1513, 336 bottles)


Brora 23 yo 1981/2004 (48.6%, Dun Bheagan, cask 1513, 336 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: very fresh, grainy and fruity/flowery at the same time at first nosing. Big notes of very ripe apricots, plum jam, nectar, light honey, golden delicious apples… Quite some maritime notes do come through then, together with some notes of petrol, flint stone, wet stone, paraffin… It keeps developing, with some calvados, natural apple juice, fresh mirabelle plums. Extremely enjoyable, even if there isn’t much peat in it. Ah, and also some notes of gin…

Mouth: oh, very unusual, extremely waxy (waxier than Clynelish) with lots of oily flavours too. Lots of salted butter caramel, vanilla fudge, getting also very minty and chocolaty (After Eights?) Some dried oranges, lavender crème, vanilla flavoured tea… No coastal notes this time, and very little smoke but a great creaminess and lots of oomph, with a long finish on fruit jams and white pepper. Extremely enjoyable if not totally ‘Brora’. 90 points.
Brora 23 yo 1981/2005 (61%, Duncan Taylor, cask #1425, 542 bottles)

Colour: amber. Nose: starts on some rather big sherry notes, sulphur, rubber, toffee. Lots of fino sherry (although I don’t know if it was a fino cask), wax polish, old walnuts, burnt cake at first nosing, just before quite a bunch of fruity smells shine through: quince, apples, ripe plums. Gets also nicely flowery, with again some pollen, nectar, yellow flowers from the fields (dandelions). No maritime notes this time, I guess they are deeply buried under the sherry. Perhaps just some whiffs of smoke. As nice as the Dun Bheagan, even if completely different. Mouth: again a beautiful sherry that mixes with smoke this time. Quite some salt right from the start, coffee fudge, burnt cake, strong coffee, Tia Maria, old dark rum… The whole is still quite nervous, thanks to some nice fruity notes (mainly cider apples, bitter oranges and quince jelly). Well, the sherry dominates the malt here but it’s such a nice sherry that we won’t complain. In short, a prototypical fino malt, not for anti-sherry people but totally flawless, with a very long, dry finish on liquorice. A tie again: 90 points.
Dad Five MUSIC – Recommended listening: I've found a band named Dad Five doing Think of me.mp3 (thanks to the lubed grunion) and I really liked it. But I couldn't find any info on that band, except a photograph of their 1996 CD 'in Orbit'... So, if you have clues, please tell me - thanks.

October 10, 2005

Glen Grant 1956/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for 50th anniversary La Maison du Whisky, cask #2786, 108 bottles) Colour: full amber. Nose: wow, very fresh and delicate, complex and balanced right at first nosing, without the tiniest sign of over aging. Starts on a great mix of hot praline, caramel crème and roasted peanuts, vanilla fudge and forest honey and goes on with lots of dried fruits such as sultanas, figs, dates or apricots. Also quite some pollen and bananas flambéed. Whiffs of burning candles, with a distant smokiness… Then there are some superb and delicate notes of eucalyptus and camphor, with also quite some clove. No bold woody/drying notes at all, which is most astonishing after 50 years in a cask (okay, 49). Glen Grant 1956/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for 50th anniversary La Maison du Whisky, cask #2786, 108 bottles)
Mouth: a perfect attack, with lots of vivacity, on smoked ham, wax and dried bitter oranges. Lots of tannins but rather of the silky kind. Gets then very resinous and a tad salty, with some propolis, pine candies, cinnamon… Also lots of nutmeg, bitter chocolate and a little mint. Not as fabulous as the nose but still high-class. Rather long, drying, resinous finish. In short, a wonderful old whisky, maybe just a tad too dry on the palate but let’s remember it’s almost 50 years old! 93 points.
Glen Grant 25 yo 1976/2001 (43%, Signatory for 25th anniversary Dieter Kirsch Import, butt #2888, 610 bottles) Colour: full amber. Nose: curiously hotter at first nosing, and also more winey, with quite some oloroso. Develops on chocolate and cider, with, again, a little smoke. Quite some fresh fruits, mostly freshly cut apples and finally some praline and rum. Certainly less complex than the 1956 but still very nice. Mouth: bolder than the G&M, creamier and quite coating, with lots of oloroso notes but also some very nice fresh fruits to balance the whole. Ripe oranges, toffee, dark rum, chocolate… It gets bolder and bolder, with hints of balsam, strong coffee and Grand Marnier. The finish is long, on salt and caramel. This is a truly excellent heavily sherried Glen Grant, certainly less complex than the G&M but bolder and sweeter on the palate. Very, very good if you like sherry. 89 points.
Left, Talisman Scotch Whisky 2005: 'An adventurous spirit' with a picture of a rather gorgeous 'knight'
Right: the truth (with apologies to our Scottish friends)
Michel Doneda MUSIC – Jazz - Recommended listening: French soprano sax player Michel Doneda and his compadre Daunik Lazro do a very entertaining and playful little jazz tango called Fla flue.mp3. Just superb - please buy Doneda/lazro's music...

October 9, 2005

MUSIC – Recommended listening: Coco Mbassi, from Cameroon, sings a beautiful Ascensor da Bica.mp3. It's just a sample but the conclusion is clear as spring water: we must buy Coco Mbassi's CD's! Coco Mbassi
Rosebank 1990/2005 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, casks #1518-1519-1520) Rosebank 1990/2005 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, casks #1518-1519-1520) Colour: white wine. Nose: grainy attack, with some big notes of burning matchstick, sulphur, cardboard, chalk… Develops on lemon juice, dry white wine, ginger ale… Almost no sweetness. Gets quite herbal, grassy, notes of green apples, getting slightly sour (Indian lassee, un-sugared yoghurt, empty wine cask…) As good as you could expect.
Mouth: powerful, fruity attack, with lots of lemon, grapefruit, dry white wine (sauvignon). Gets quite peppery, a little drying, with quite some tannins that make your tongue stick to the palate. The finish is rather long and a little green, on lemon peels. A rather good, typical Rosebank with quite some oomph but a little lack of purity. 82 points.
Rosebank 16 yo 1989/2005 (46%, Murray McDavid Mission V, 678 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: very similar to the Berry Bros, maybe just a little cleaner with fewer sourish notes, but other than that it’s almost the same whisky! Notes of herbal liquor (green Chartreuse). Mouth: again, very close to the Berry Bros, just a little fruitier (more apples) and perhaps, again, cleaner. Long finish, a little burning, with some interesting notes of chilli pepper. A good Rosebank that keeps a bit to the middle, perhaps, but that’s really enjoyable, no doubt. 83 points.

October 8, 2005

Bunnahabhain 26yo 1978/2005 (54.6%, Signatory Cask Strength, sherry butt #2539, 468 bottles)
Bunnahabhain 27yo 1978/2005 (54.9%, Signatory Cask Strenth, refill butt #2541, 483 bottles)
Bunnahabhain 20yo 1979/1999 (57.7%, Signatory, sherry, cask #9676, 420 bottles)
Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1978/2005 (54.6%, Signatory Cask Strength, sherry butt #2539, 468 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose, very elegant and balanced, with lots of sherry but with also lots of vivacity. Some rubber and some burnt caramel, the whole being balanced by some very nice flowery notes and quite some lavander. Very, very nice. Mouth: creamy but nervous, not tired in any way. Lots of dried fruits and orange marmalade, candy sugar and icing sugar, fructose. Also some very enjoyable flower jelly (rose, hay), camomile tea… Long finish. A top cask, no doubt, I liked it very much. 90 points.
Bunnahabhain 27 yo 1978/2005 (54.9%, Signatory Cask Strenth, refill butt #2541, 483 bottles). Colour: very pale, white wine. Nose: much more discreet and quite suplphury. Hints of peat coming through, with some nice buttery notes and quite some marzipan. Mouth: sweet, on nougat, dried fruits and apple juice. Getting maybe a little bitter. Not an outstanding Bunny but it’s flawless and rather enjoyable. 84 points.
Bunnahabhain 20 yo 1979/1999 (57.7%, Signatory, sherry, cask #9676, 420 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: a very nice sherry, it appears, of the elegant and even ‘aerial’ kind. Xmas cake and candy sugar mixed with sea air, and perhaps a little perfume. Very elegant, definitely not an overwhelming sherry. Perhaps just a tad too soapy. Mouth: stronger and bolder than expected, with quite some rubbery notes that are nicely counterbalanced by lots of icing sugar and fructose. Develops on the usual notes of raisins and old rum. Really nice, with even a pinch of salt. The finish is on caramel, burnt caramel and cake but, curiously, a little short and slightly bitter. Anyway, this Bunny is most attractive, a good example of a very present, yet nicely balanced sherry. 90 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: I should really dislike mashups, it's like if somebody would mix whisky and wine, imagine! ;-) Now, sometimes it's funny and even good, as Frenchman DJZebra's Ooh la grange in the sky.mp3 should testify. Yes, it's a vatting of ZZ Top, Goldfrapp and Norman Greenbaum. Please buy DJZebra's music. DJZebra

October 7, 2005

Balblair 16yo (40%, OB, 2005) Balblair 16 yo (40%, OB, 2005) Colour: gold. Nose: a beautiful attack, extremely fruity with also lots of vanilla. Peppered cooked apples, boxed pineapples, caramel, dried ginger… Not massive nor bold but with quite some presence. Hints of tropical fruits, ripe bananas, passion fruits. Whiffs of nutmeg, old papers. Rather fresh and very enjoyable. Another good example of Bablair’s recent rise? Mouth: very sweet, with lots of caramel and white pepper at first sip. Apple compote, pear juice, almonds milk… Pineapple or pear candies. Not extremely complex but nicely balanced. Gets curiously quite ‘papery’ and a little drying, with a long but, again, rather dying finish (wood, cardboard - and a little salt). Definitely a good one, in any case. 85 points.
Balblair 1973/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Centenary Reserve) Colour: amber. Nose: much, much bolder and powerful than expected. Lots of dried oranges and Grand Marnier, getting rather waxy. Develops on some nice notes of pine resin, ‘good’ turpentine (a little empyreumatic), light caramel and milk chocolate. Quite some praline too. Rather fresh and clean, most enjoyable. Mouth: again, excellent! Beautiful notes of salted caramel and toffee, dried oranges, plum pie. Quite full-bodied, with also a salty feeling. The finish is astonishingly long, perhaps just a little too drying. Very classical, very nice, lots of pleasure. Highly recommended. 87 points. Balblair 1973/1995 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Centenary Reserve)
Balblair 26yo 1979/2005 (46%, OB) Balblair 26 yo 1979/2005 (46%, OB) Colour: pale straw. Nose: more discreet at first nosing, although sharper and cleaner. Lots of light toffee and chocolate at first nosing, growing then fruitier but it’s less exuberant than the 16yo. Lots of vanilla sticks, though, and some freshly cut apples, white peaches… Whiffs of white pepper. Very nicely balanced, it ‘noses’ much younger than 26. Mouth: lots of body, lots of vanilla, lots of tannins. Quite drying right from the start, somewhat like a very young oaky wine. Did they use new oak? Some notes of coffee, white pepper, strong tea. Hints of fructose, with also kind of a metallic feeling (aluminium) and again some salty notes. The finish is medium long but very woody and tannic. A curious austere version of Balblair, very different from all other recent OB’s. 80 points.
Balblair 12 yo 1992/2005 (61%, OB for France, peaty single cask #3026) Yes, a peated Balblair! First time I come across one of these… Colour: pale straw. Nose: oh, this is very unusual. Bold notes of wood alcohol, strong fruit eau de vie (none in particular, just tutti frutti), developing on raw, farmy peat. Notes of wet dog, rotting hay, pisco… gets extremely toffeeish, on cappuccino, overcooked coffee, burnt wood. Also some cider… Not disgusting at all but rather strange, if you ask me. Sort of ‘dirty’. Balblair 12yo 1992/2005 (61%, OB for France, peaty single cask #3026)
Mouth: ah, I like it better this time. Powerful, very peaty and quite balanced, it’s much cleaner than expected. Lots of pepper, tea, dried herbs, and of course peat, again of the farmy genre (no tar, no hospital, no sea). Some notes of (good) old rum and also tequila. No significant development with water. Quite a beat in fact, not too complex but a pleasure to drink. Too bad the nose was a little hum-hum in my books. As for the ‘felt’ peat level, I’d say it’s somewhat like Talisker 10 yo (not the profile, that is). 80 points.
John La Barbera MUSIC – Jazz - Recommended listening: the John La Barbera Big Band does a very good and punchy Message from Art.mp3 with brother Joe on drums (it's him who composed this one). It's from the excellent and 'not-too-conventional'  CD 'On the wild side' (nothing to do with the Velvet.) Please buy the La Barbera family's music!

October 6, 2005

Bowmore 12yo ‘Enigma’ (40%, OB, 2005)
Bowmore 12 yo ‘Enigma’ (40%, OB, 2005) Colour: gold. Nose: a fresh mix of sea air and caramel at first nosing, with quite some salted butter, herbal tea and rubber (new tyre). Notes of very ripe oranges, Cointreau. Perhaps a little sulphury but nothing too shocking. More and more ‘burnt’ notes (burnt wood, burnt bread). Notes of yoghurt. Still not a winner but a good three steps above the regular 12yo, I think – even if there’s still this lavender in the background. Notes of old books, of iron… Mouth: a very punchy attack at 40%, but a rather bitter one, alas. Quite some burnt caramel, liquorice, candy sugar. Notes of lavender crème (the power of mind again?) Some peat but not too much. Notes of orange marmalade… The finish is long and quite enjoyable, I must say (notes of gentian eau de vie, which I cherish) In short, this one really is better than the last batch of the regular 12 yo I could taste, even if it’s in no way a stunner. “Good progress”, I’d say. 82 points.
Bowmore 16 yo 1989/2005 (51.8%, OB) Colour: pale straw. Nose: much, much cleaner than the Enigma. Not very boldly aromatic but extremely fresh, with an interesting mix of fresh butter, flowers from the fields and tropical fruits. Quite some pink grapefruit, litchee syrup, pear juice… Quite some iodine at that, sea air, seaweed… But the peat is surprisingly subdued. Hints of vanilla, lactones… Very nice, I didn’t have such a “clean” and elegant (rather) young Bowmore OB since ages. Mouth: oh, now it’s very, very perfumy, with lots of Turkish delights, rosewater, gewürztraminer, rose jelly, Cologne water, incense… I’m sorry but I do not like this kind of profile, so typical of some fairly recent Bowmores. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s flawed, just one of these ultra-perfumy Bowmores. Long finish, getting a little bitter and very, very peppery. Okay, 80 points for the very, very nice nose.
Bowmore 1993/2005 (56.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #500061) Colour: straw. Nose: wow, this is much more powerful! Starts on some extremely bold notes of coffee, café latte, torrefaction… Just superb. It then switches to some nice tary and rubbery notes, before a whole basket of fresh fruits explodes in front of your nose. Lots of lemons, grapefruit, tangerines, apples, peaches, gooseberries… Then comes the sea, and the smoke, with hints of wet animal (cleaned dog)… A magnificent young Bowmore with lots of development, complexity, compactness, balance… Totally perfect. Mouth: wow! The nose was great, the palate is fantastic. Bold, punchy, coating, on some very strong notes of grapefruit, passion fruit and kiwi. Lots of fructose that keep it perfectly balanced, and sort of ‘lift’ the whole. Some coffee again, apple juice… Quite some pepper (perhaps even chilli) and some funny metallic tastes that play with your tongue. Lots happening in your mouth! Notes of liquorice, seawater, gentian eau de vie, perhaps a little clove… And a superb peat! Gets extremely salty, at that… A very, very playful young Bowmore, with a long and very satisfying finish. Very good news from Bowmore’s (through Berry Bros) if you ask me, I hope we’ll see more of this style! 92 points.
Bowmore 1999/2005 'Young Peaty Islay 3rd batch' (61.5%, Royal Mile Whiskies, 308 bottles) Bowmore 1999/2005 'Young Peaty Islay 3rd batch' (61.5%, Royal Mile Whiskies, 308 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: ah, this one isn’t that different from the Berry Bros. Rougher, simpler, but there are these very nice coffeeish notes indeed. A little spirity, with some notes of pear eau de vie… Some smoke as well, burnt cake, grain… Quite close to a new make but enjoyable, no doubt. Some very nice farmy notes (hay, cow stable) coming through. Certainly a high quality/age ratio. Mouth: wow, that’s nice! Very young and close to a fruit eau de vie but perfectly balanced. Sort of a peated pear eau de vie, if that was doable. Very peppery, with even lots of chilli this time. Pizza chilli sauce? Very nice fruity notes (pears, of course). Long and powerful finish, again funnily very salty. Did Bowmore start to use Loch Indaal water since a few years? Anyway, this baby is very clean and good for it’s age. I really like it (and call me old-fashioned, but God knows I usually don’t like immature whiskies!) 85 points.
Bowmore 34 yo 1970/2005 (56.6%, Signatory Cask Strength, sherry butt #4689, 287 bottles) Colour: deep amber. Nose: ha! Very unusual! Very bold and very ‘organic’ sherry, with lots of horse sweat, Camembert cheese and maybe gym socks at first nosing. Something very ‘bacteriological’ must have happened in that cask, and it’s most probably flawed – but I love the results, don’t ask me why. Perversity? Should I see a doctor? Anyway, it keeps developing on some bold notes of apple vinegar (here we go again) and finally some smoke, bitter chocolate, dried oranges raisins and all that jazz. Bowmore 34yo 1970/2005 (56.6%, Signatory Cask Strength, sherry butt #4689, 287 bottles)
Mouth: something very cheesy again but then it becomes much more ‘classical’, dried fruits, wine sauce, soy sauce, crystallized oranges and kumquats… The tannins are superb and the peat refined and very delicate. Very long, toffeeish finish. This one is probably another love it or hate it malt from Islay. I really loved it: 94 points. And now I have to rush out and see an annalist…
Nellie McKay MUSIC – Highly recommended listening: whiskyfun favourite Nellie McKay does a rappish Sari.mp3 (from her first album Get away from me). She still rules supreme and great news, her new CD 'Pretty little head' will be in the US stores on October 18. Please buy Miss McKay's music!

October 5, 2005


Auchentoshan 12 yo 1992/2005 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, cask #7350+53, 603 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: some superb grainy and yeasty notes (high quality porridge), very fresh, pure and clean. Just superb in its one style, extremely satisfying. Mouth: very sweet and again these most enjoyable notes of porridge and muesli, mixed with lemon juice and violet candies. Not monstrously complex but really excellent. 86 points.

Auchentoshan 12yo 1992/2005 (46%, Signatory Unchillfiltered, cask #7350+53, 603 bottles)
Auchentoshan 1995/2005 (43%, Jean Boyer Best Cask of Scotland) Colour: almost white. Nose: quite spirity, extremely clean, pure and fresh. Grainy, fruity (fresh apples and peaches) and a little herbal, with some notes of lavender, Cologne water. Nice notes of vanilla, cereals, fresh almonds and marzipan, light caramel. Young and simple but very enjoyable. Mouth: again, very clean (perhaps a little soapy but this one has just been reduced, there might be some saponification still happening). Quite some lemon juice and zests, perhaps a little cardboardy. Gets very herbal and a little bitter. Pear eau de vie. Medium long finish, on grapefruit. A good very young one – certainly not complex but interesting. 79 points.
Auchentoshan 18yo 1978/1997 (58.8%, OB, casks #2952-2956) Auchentoshan 18 yo 1978/1997 (58.8%, OB, casks #2952-2956) Colour: pure gold. Nose: superb marzipan, hot cake, salted caramel, candy sugar and Smyrna raisins. Hot chocolate, Kalhua liquor. Gets then more complex, with some meat sauce, balsamic vinegar, old books… Really beautiful, very bold and compact at the same time. More and more burnt caramel, roasted duck (and its Peking plum sauce), some perfumy notes too. Very complex! Mouth: wow, extremely bold and maybe a little smoky. Lots of strong honey (heather, chestnut), varnish, very strong tea and coffee, Something rummy and slightly salty, perhaps a little bitter, with some overcooked wine sauce. Very long finish, on orange sauce and balsamic vinegar. Very nice. 87 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: I remember when their first LP reached France in 1977 (I think), it blew our minds and not only because of Alfred Jarry (there was also Television, Richard Hell, Talking Heads...) Well, I haven't heard it since the late 1970's but now that I just found it on the Web, I must say it really stands the test of time with its bizarre sounds. So, here is Pere Ubu doing Nonalignment pact.mp3. I think Pere Ubu is still around, or at least their leader David Thomas... So please buy their music! Pere Ubu

October 4, 2005

Strathisla 30yo (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, bottled 2005)
Strathisla 30 yo (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, bottled 2005) Colour: gold – amber. Nose: a beautiful start on Chinese plum sauce (the one they serve with Peking duck), balsam, scented wax, pinewood, resin. How special! Some crystallised kumquats, bitter oranges, Jägermeister liquor and quite some smoke. A terrific nose. Notes of smoked ham, caramel syrup, fresh mastic. Very, very rich and complex, switching to soy sauce and Maggi after a while. Mouth: very creamy and very phenolic, with some bold notes of resin, raw propolis, pine liquor, eucalyptus candies, dried herbs and orange zests. Add to that a very nice bitterness and quite some cocoa powder, strong caramel, thyme and rosemary, lavender candies. Just superb, not tired at all but rather tannic and drying, that is. Nothing excessive, though. In short, a stupendous aged Strathisla! 92 points.
Strathisla 39 yo 1965/2004 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail) Colour: gold. Nose: extraordinary attack on fresh coconut, pine resin again, mastic, argan oil, lavender honey, macaroons… Absolutely superb! Notes of wax polish, propolis, getting quite smoky (white wood, pine). Keeps developing with beautiful notes of almond milk, walnut liquor and hints of diesel oil. A fantastic complexity, one step above the 30 yo – if that’s possible! Mouth: ah, now it’s closer to the 30yo. Bold and rich, yet not lumpy at all, very woody but beautifully so. Lots of resins and propolis, pine needles and dried herbs, bitter oranges, mastic candies and olive oil. Bitter chocolate, strong honey, herbal sweets. Turkish delights, pistachios, walnut skin… What a beauty! Notes of smoked tea, nougat, violet candies. An endless development! Long finish, very nicely dry again. Extremely good. 93 points.
Craigduff 32 yo 1973/2005 (49.4%, Signatory, cask #2513, sherry butt, 566 bottles) Craigduff was a peated experiment made at Strathisla in the 1970's. Some say the peatiness came from the unusually peaty water (brought by lorries) they used to make it, others say it was just peated malt, while some say it was both. Well, the jury's still out! But let's taste Craigduff now... Colour: gold. Nose: very nice at first nosing, not extraordinarily expressive but rather complex. Notes of marzipan and walnuts, quite waxy. No obvious peat right at the start but it comes through after one or two minutes (somewhat in the Ardmore genre) and grows stronger. Notes of fermenting hay, cut grass, horse stable, eucalyptus and camphor (tiger balm). Fir tree honey, parsley, wax, stone dust… Various kinds of smoke after a moment, smoked ham... Complex indeed, very phenolic and very enjoyable. Mouth: quite bold and powerful attack, very grassy, waxy and quite cardboardy. Pepper, over infused tea, burnt caramel… A little feinty as well. Very little sweetness or fruitiness. Gets more and more resinous and waxy but always enjoyable, even if the palate is a little less complex and interesting than the nose. A very unusual and uncommon malt that’s very good as well, for once (ha, Dunglass!) It does deserve 90 points in my books.
Latest news (October 6): contrarily to what's wirtten on the labels, Craigduff was distilled at Glen Keith, not Strathisla, according to Signatory.
Jacques Thollot MUSIC – Jazz - Highly recommended listening: he played with Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry or Steve Lacy – which says a lot: rare French drummer Jacques Thollot delivers one of his own, very poetic compositions, La maison des cellettes.mp3 (from the album Tenga Nina). Pretty excellent stuff, if you ask me. Please, please, buy Jacques Thollot’s music!

October 3, 2005



Balvenie 1991 'PortWood' (40%, OB, 2004) Colour: gold - apricot. Nose: rather fresh attack, on some bold notes of very ripe apricots and light honey, with also lots of vanilla crème and whiffs of white pepper. A perfect balance, very civilized and totally flawless. Notes of quince jelly, strawberry pie, whiffs of spring water, getting then a little spicy (mulled wine spices, Chinese anise, cloves). Some very nice oaky tones. Almost perfect and no winey notes that I can smell. Maybe good news… Very ‘Balvenie’. Ah, and also hints of smoke and hot caramel…

Balvenie 1991 'PortWood' (40%, OB, 2004)
Mouth: bold and rather creamy at first sip, with kind of an unusual bitterness from the wood. Surprisingly ‘dirty’ (nothing wrong) and very malty. Gets a little herbal, with quite some infused tealeaves and also some burnt caramel and liquorice. Quite peppery at that. Notes of orange marmalade… The finish is a little short but slightly too tannic for my tastes. In short, a very, very nice nose and a palate that’s okay – that’s a well-known song. 84 points.
Balvenie 1971/2005 ‘Vintage Cask’ (47.1%, OB, cask #8935, 219 bottles) Balvenie 1971/2005 ‘Vintage Cask’ (47.1%, OB, cask #8935, 219 bottles) Colour: pure gold. Nose: fabulous first nose, with a perfect oakiness and lots of ripe apricots again. Superb notes of small ripe oranges and acacia honey together with some whiffs of white wood smoke and charred wood. Develops on whiffs of eucalyptus leaves, white pepper, perhaps a little musk, Joy de Patou… Ah, now there’s a little camphor, bandages, embrocations… And it’s not finished, we have also some cooked strawberries, old Sauternes wine (it makes me think of a 1978 Lafaurie I had not so long ago). This nose is just magnificent!
Mouth: beautiful attack again, very creamy, with a superb oak and lots of white pepper and even nutmeg. Goes on with some coffee, vanilla, caramel before it switches to camphor and eucalyptus again, and also bergamot tea. Quite minty at that. Notes of orange marmalade and toasted bread… The finish is long, perhaps a tad too tannic and drying (lots of cinnamon as well) but it’s still beautiful, with some funny hints of menthol cigarette. In short, lots of oak in this beauty but it’s superb oak so… 91 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: fantastic Brazilian band Cabruera does a rather 'spatial' piece called Forro esferografico.mp3. Isn't that kind of grooovy? Please buy Cabruera's music if you like it! Cabruera

October 2, 2005

MUSIC – Very highly recommended listening: Wazimbo & Orchestra, from Mocambique, play a peaceful and nicely repetitive Nwahulwana.mp3. Absolutely superb... And what a voice! Please, please buy Wazimbo's music... Wazimbo & Orchestra
Laphroaig 13yo 1992/2005 (59.5%, Signatory Cask Strength, bourbon, cask #3407, 227 bottles Laphroaig 13 yo 1992/2005 (59.5%, Signatory Cask Strength, bourbon, cask #3407, 227 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: very nice peat and smoke, not complex and less maritime than expected but sort of refined and elegant. Not too much oomph when compared with the OB’s (especially the 10 yo C/S) but interestingly ‘different’. Quite clean, at that. Mouth: ah, now we’re talking. Very sweet and very smoky, with some beautiful notes of lavender and violet candies, getting very minty, with also lots of eucalyptus. Long, bold finish, with notes of mastic, marzipan… It’s its fantastic palate that saves this one and makes it really worth the try. Yummy! 87 points.
Laphroaig 1967 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice old brown label, early 1980’s) Colour: gold. Nose: wow! Lots of crystallised oranges and lemons, almond milk and ‘acidic’ fruits (kiwi juice). Very little peat – at first nosing, at least. Develops on cider, freshly cut apples and cigar box and finally some smoke. Gets then very coastal, on sea air, oysters… Truly beautiful and very refined, not unlike the much younger Signatory (but much more complex). Mouth: what a fantastic attack, quite similar to the great old 10yo’s from the early 1970’s. Not really bold but lots of soft peat, tea, mocha, bitter chocolate, liquorice roots, lemon marmalade… Rather long finish, no sign of tiredness at all. Okay, it’s still a little simpler than the aforementioned old OB’s but it’s well worth a good 91 points in my books. Laphroaig 1967 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice old brown label, early 1980’s)

October 1, 2005

Black Velvet

Left, one of the famous (don't we wonder why?) Black Velvet ads
Right, Ronrico 1981: 'Break tradition - Drink a Ronrico Rumkin instead'

By the way, there's a strong demand for more Black Velvet ads. I won't pollute these modest pages with dozens of blondes dressed in black but get this: I prepared a whole page packed with Black Velvet ads spanning from the early 1970's to 2005. Would you like to see them? Good, then you just have to answer a simple question. If you're lucky, you win!

Question: 'which is Serge's favourite Scottish distillery?'


Port Ellen 21 yo 1983/2004 (46%, Jean Boyer Best Cask, first fill sherry cask #1346) Colour: deep amber. Nose: a superb balance, with lots of sherry and Port Ellen’s usual peat and new tyre aromas that do mix perfectly well here. Notes of cooked strawberries, all sorts of dried fruits, raisins and a big smoky blast – of the subtle kind, if that’s possible. A great surprise.

Port Ellen 21yo 1983/2004 (46%, Jean Boyer Best Cask, first fill sherry cask #1346)
Mouth: creamy, oily, smoky and sherried. Again a perfect balance even if it’s not overly complex. Quite fresh and clean, with very little ‘burnt’ notes. Long finish, with something slightly metallic and ‘stony’ – in a very nice way. No monster but a very good sherried Port Ellen, perfectly balanced and extremely enjoyable. 90 points.
Port Ellen 1969 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice old brown label, ca 1985)
colour: dark straw. Nose: extremely delicate at first nosing, with some superb notes of marzipan and whiffs of camphor and apple skins. Very subtle mix of peat smoke and grapefruit juice. A little tary as usually but no brand new tyre this time. Really excellent, not much oomph but still a beautiful presence. Some hay. Gets peatier and peatier after a few minutes, and also quite waxy. Hints of diesel oil. Mouth: very sweet and very peaty attack, with a great body and a perfect mouth feel. Some liquorice, bitter oranges – not fabulously complex in fact but very compact and satisfying. Rather long finish with a little eucalyptus and some marzipan again. A splendid dram, no doubt. 92 points.
Mojave 3 MUSIC – Recommended listening: Mojave 3 do Bob Dylan's Queen Jane, approximately.mp3 (live at KVRX) Just superb. Please buy Mojave 3's music.

September 2005 - part 2 <--- October 2005 - part 1 ---> October 2005 - part 2

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews

Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Balvenie 1971/2005 ‘Vintage Cask’ (47.1%, OB, cask #8935, 219 bottles)

Bowmore 1993/2005 (56.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #500061)

Bowmore 34 yo 1970/2005 (56.6%, Signatory Cask Strength, sherry butt #4689, 287 bottles)

Brora 23 yo 1981/2005 (61%, Duncan Taylor, cask #1425, 542 bottles)

Brora 23 yo 1981/2004 (48.6%, Dun Bheagan, cask 1513, 336 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 20 yo 1979/1999 (57.7%, Signatory, sherry, cask #9676, 420 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 26 yo 1978/2005 (54.6%, Signatory Cask Strength, sherry butt #2539, 468 bottles)

Craigduff 32 yo 1973/2005 (49.4%, Signatory, cask #2513, sherry butt, 566 bottles)

Glen Grant 1956/2005 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for 50th anniversary La Maison du Whisky, cask #2786, 108 bottles)

Glenburgie 1969/2005 (44.2%, Duncan Taylor)

Glenburgie 39 yo 1963/2002 (58%, Signatory Straight from the Cask, c. #4750)

Laphroaig 1967 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice old brown label, early 1980’s)

Port Ellen 1969 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice old brown label, ca 1985)

Port Ellen 21 yo 1983/2004 (46%, Jean Boyer Best Cask, first fill sherry cask #1346)

Strathisla 30 yo (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, bottled 2005)

Strathisla 39 yo 1965/2004 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail)