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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2006 - Part 3
October 2006 - part 2 <--- October 2006 - part 3 ---> November 2006 - part 1


October 31, 2006


Deanston 9 yo 1996/2005 (43%, Signatory, cask #1185, 455 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: starts rather expressively, on nice notes of cider apples and butter-pears as well as quite some vanilla. Hints of rum (both white and dark), cooked butter, watermelon… Develops on fresh mushrooms and moss, dead leaves, hints of aniseed and dill… Some sherry as well. Extremely pleasant, clean and fresh but not 'neutral' at all. Hints of hops.
Mouth: rounded and sweet at first sip, maybe a tad sugary. Lots of fruits (strawberries, papayas, very ripe pears) topped with caramel and vanilla crème. Nice saltiness and nuttiness, with a little nougat and white chocolate plus hints of white pepper that give it a pleasant backbone. Finish: Medium long and balanced, fruity and slightly oaky, getting back to young rum. In short, no stunner of course but a perfect balance. Very pleasant, probably better than many other Deanstons. 82 points.

Deanston 11 yo 1994/2005 (46%, McGibbons' Provenance, cask ref #2402) Colour: white wine. Nose: less expressive at first nosing, almost closed. Opens up with time, getting nicely fruity (mostly apples and kiwis). Nice freshness, developing on quite some fresh herbs (mint, basil, hints of coriander). Other than that it's pretty neutral, slightly mashy and porridgy, with whiffs of wood and leaves smoke (garden bonfire). Not really impressive but rather flawless, beer, paper and ink (daily of the day). Gets grassier with time. Mouth: certainly better now, with a very creamy attack (nice mouth feel), almost oily. Quite spicy right at the attack (hints of curry, quite some nutmeg). Lots of apple compote, tea jelly… Gets better and better, really full-bodied. Goes on with quite some white chocolate, macha, liquorice, getting earthier with time (roots). Very, very good - surprisingly good in fact. Finish: longer than the Signatory's, spicier and more oomphy, with just a few cardboardy notes. Another excellent young Deanston that further corroborates my theory: many malts got better distilled from 1992-1995 on. 82 points.



MUSIC – Highly recommended listening: we're in 1972 and Captain Beefheart sings an astonishingly delicate and irresistible My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains.mp3 (from Spotlight Kid). No, it's not Bob Seger... Please buy the Captain's music, he's getting more and more influential these days - justice!


October 30, 2006


Rosebank 14 yo 1991/2006 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #2024, 305 bottles) From the The Whisky Exchange's Sukhinder's new collection. Colour: straw. Nose: another very fresh whisky, starting typically 'Rosebankish' with lots of lemon and tangerines as well as hints of wet stones and mineral water. It gets then a little rounder (apple compote) and nicely flowery (wildflowers, buttercups, lilac). Develops on notes of ginger tonic, cider apples, walnut bur, getting then rather grassier (un-sugared green tea, newly cut grass). Hints of cold ham, fresh butter and mangos, getting finally slightly farmy. Another 'riesling' Rosebank?
Mouth: a rather perfect attack on lemon marmalade and tea. Breakfast? Goes on with the usual lemons, tangerines and grapefruits, with something funnily prickly (not too ripe kiwis, icing sugar). Enjoyable bitterness (lemon zests, walnut skin), getting nicely tannic and dry. Slightly less complex than on the nose but perfectly balanced and typical. Finish: Rather long and in just the same vein: lemon, apple skin and green tea with just a little candy sugar. A prototypical Rosebank I think. Very good, obviously. 87 points.

Rosebank 1990/2006 (61,1%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask, Refill Sherry Butts #1605-1606) Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more spirity, grassy and coffeeish when naked, this one really need water, obviously. Let's not annihilate our nostrils… With water: gets even grassier and farmier, sharp and austere. Notes of mint, bay leaves, celery, raw turnips. Less lemony than expected. Mouth: (neat) hot, spirity, hugely lemony and sugary. More bearable than on the nose but let's not tempt fate… With water (down to roughly 45%): sweeter but also a little sugary. Almost like lemon drops or lemon liqueur now, thick, oily and, err, lemony. All things lemony in fact... Not too complex but very coherent, to say the least. Finish: Very long and very lemony. That's all, folks, better like lemon! 82 points.





Operational: 1772 (or 1750)~1992
Region: Western Lowlands
Neighbours: Auchentoshan, Loch Lomond
Address: 126 Dumbarton Road, Bowling, West Dunbartonshire, G60 5 BG
Last Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Ltd

Littlemill might not be the first one to come to mind when it’s about naming the elite malt distilleries in Scotland. Au contraire, if you lend any credence to our malt monitor and look up the scores there. And while there are some very good Littlemill bottlings to be found, you will also see a lot of ratings that are in the 60s as well, so you might reach the conclusion that their product is substandard. The major drawback is that it seems to offer only little complexity and variety and is marked by a pronounced fiery taste that numbs your tastebuds.
However, Littlemill can make a serious claim to be among Scotland’s oldest distilleries, maybe even to be the one with the most ancient creation date. It is said to be established in 1772, but according to Misako Udo it was converted from a 1750s brewery building, so some sources give an establishment date in the 1750s. But it is also possible that whisky was distilled as long ago as in the 14th century, when the Colquhouns built Dunglas Castle to guard the crossing of the Clyde.
Littlemill is located in Bowling on the street from Glasgow to Dumbarton and is considered to belong to the Lowlands, although the water source – the Auchentorlie Burn in the Kilpatrick Hills - is in the Highlands. The distillery has had many owners over the past 200 years. About 1750, George Buchanon became the first official owner of Littlemill. In 1772 Buchanon had to build houses for the excise officers, thus mayby marking the official beginning of its history. Following Buchanon, there was an unusually high number of owner changes. After being mothballed in 1813, it was in 1817 or ’18 that Matthew Clark & Co. bought the distillery, followed by Peter McGregor in 1821.
1823 saw the commencement of the Excise Act, and the first licensee for Littlemill became Jane MacGregor, who is said to have been one of the earliest women distillers in Scotland. She kept Littlemill until 1839, but after her reign ownership changed hands almost on a yearly basis, or so it seemed: Jane McGregor was followed - in order - by Duncan McCullouch (until 1846), McCullouch & McAlpine (1846-1847), John MacAlpine, Harvey & Co. (1852), William Hunter and John E. Sharpe (1853), William Hunter (1854-1857), William Hay & Co. (1857-1867), William Hay Jr. (1869) and William Hay, Fairman & Co. (date unknown-1874). Pheeeew, it’s a miracle somebody actually kept track of all this data!
In 1875, the distillery was rebuilt by William Hay, and from that point on followed the Lowland practise of triple distillation until the 1930s. Despite the modernization, Littlemill was mothballed again from 1884 to 1889. Yet more changes of ownership were to come.
1913 saw Yoker Distillery Co Ltd. take over Littlemill, followed by Littlemill Distillery Co Ltd in 1918 and Charles Mackinlay & Co and J G Thomson & Co Ltd from 1923 to 1927.
In 1931, American Duncan Thomas bought the distillery and began putting his ideas into practice. He modified the Saladin Box Maltings system and varied the double ventilation towers over a single drying kiln in a way that was unique in Scotland. The stills were made of copper but additionally had outer layers of light aluminium. Also, they have rectifying columns instead of the swan-necks customary on pot-stills. In thus combining pot- and column-still elements, Thomas was trying to produce a hybrid spirit that would age faster.
And then there were the Dumback and Dunglas experiments in the 1960s and ‘70s, as means to offer more different malts for blending.
Dunglas was produced in Littlemill’s potstills with the intervention of the above mentioned variable rectifier. The product, an unpeated yet oily spirit, however wasn’t very convincing if you believe various reports. In 2003 the Whisky exchange issued a 1967 bottling of Dunglas (btw, the name was in-tended to be written with double “s” , but was mis-spelled in the cask documents. Quite fitting a story for this distillery and its products..). Especially Jim Murray must have “loved” the Dunglas malt since he scored it at a whopping 17 points! And because I really like the way he puts it, I just quote him here: “Classic butyric (baby sick) qualities… soapy beyond belief”. And that was just about the nose! He concludes his judgement in his trademark fashion: “Bravely bottled by the Whisky exchange, London. 102 bottles. For serious whisky devotees or people with a serious grudge against their tastebuds.” I can hardly wait to get my hands on this one…
The other expression distilled for blending purposes at that time was a malt called Dum-buck, a spirit that was heavily peated. So heavily peated in fact that blenders weren’t overly excited, to put it mildly. As far as I know Dumback has never been bottled as a single malt.
In 1959 Duncan Thomas sold shares of Littlemill to Barton Brands (later to become Bar-ton Distilling (Scotland) Ltd.). After being closed again from 1984 to 1989, the distillery was reopened by Gibson International after extensive refurbishments. Not that it helped much: Littlemill ceased production in 1992 again and Gibson International went bank-rupt. Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouses took over under the name of Loch Lomond Distill-ery Ltd who became Liitlemill’s last license holders. The distillery remained silent, how-ever, and never took up production again.
There were plans to re-build Littlemill into a tourist attraction with new houses and luxury flats as well as projects to turn the distillery into a museum but all ideas were finally abandoned. Since then the kilns and mills have been dismantled, the warehouses were demolished and finally on 4th September 2004 the main buildings were destroyed by a (possibly intentional) fire. Only two towers remain to this day. Although it is highly un-likely that Littlemill will ever come back to life, supplies for bottlings will be available for many years and there are plenty expressions in the official single malt range as well as from independent bottlers to be found. - Thomas
Some Technical Data:
Water Source: Auchentorlie Burn in the Kilpatrick Hills
Maltings: Saladin Box Maltings from 1930s to 1960s
Wash still: 1, long neck, size 25,000 litres, heated by steam
Spirit still: 1, long neck, size 18,000 litres, heated by steam

Charles MacLean: Malt Whisky, 2nd edition 1999
Jim Murray: Whisky Bible 2006
Jim Murray: Die großen Whiskies der Welt (Great Whiskies of the World), new edition 2003
John Lamond, Robin Tucek: The Malt Whisky File, 3rd edition 2001
Walter Schobert: Das Whiskylexikon (The Whisky Treasury), 2nd edition 2003
Misako Udo: The Scottish Whisky Distilleries, revised November 2005


MUSIC – Recommended listening: it's Mike, a distinguished WF reader, who advises us to have a go at California's funkists Breakestra, so let's have the bouncy Hit the floor.mp3. I love the drumming... Please buy these guys' music (and thanks, Mike).


October 29, 2006


Talisker 25 yo (56.9%, OB, 2006 release, 4860 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: quite different from the ‘usual’ Taliskers at first nosing, as we get a few notes of small yellow plums (mirabelles) and even prunes at first nosing, just before the expected peat and minerality take control, making the whole rather sharp and kind of ‘rigid’ – yes, like a blade. Hints of fresh butter, green tea, apples (Fuji), old walnuts… And then a whole plate of oysters with kelp and lemon plus freshly ground pepper and hints of lily of the valley.

Lots of elegance but kind of reserve, although it does get more expressive after a good fifteen minutes (wet straw, cow stable, coffee…) Mouth: a powerful and invading, extremely salty attack with also lots of liquorice, peat, bergamot and small bitter apples. Rich but not extravagant (quite the contrary), as maritime as it can get and with little oak in the mix… Gets quite liquoricy and toffeeish (coffee flavoured toffee), with also notes of violet sweets and quite some tarry notes. Very classy, the finish being very long but rather clean and pure, on salt, apple skin and almonds. Little pepper this time. 91 points.
Talisker 1989/1999 (59.3%, OB, Friends of the Classic Malts) Colour: straw. Nose: much rawer and more silent… Very mineral and vegetal (newly cut grass), with notes of green tea and metal. Water needed I guess, let’s try: yes, that works, bringing out apples, fresh pineapples, oranges, candle wax, wild flowers, herbs and fresh butter again. Great! Mouth (neat): more drinkable than expected at full strength and very peaty and smoky, with much more happening than on the nose (when neat). Both rooty/earthy and maritime, again on salted liquorice and smoked, salted fish. Dried fish as well. The bad news is that water almost kills it on the palate, which is rather strange, as it gets rather cardboardy and slightly soapy (yes, I gave it quite some time). A boy from Skye not being a swimmer? Back to the ‘naked’ version for the finish now: yes it’s very long, thick, lingering, on dried apples, liquorice and salt, almost anaesthetizing but again, it doesn’t quite stand water. Nice aftertaste of crystallised oranges. A dilemma Talisker but an excellent one. 88 points.
This was a Portuguese TV ad for Johnnie Walker. Many whisky brands have used this 'let's have a glass or three to recover after intense or extreme emotions' main line in the past (Canadian Club spring to mind) but the almost subliminal appearance of a bottle of JW Red in the hero's 'film of life' was pretty well done I think.


MUSIC - Recommended listening - It's Sunday, we go kind of classical with soprano Michelle Areyzaga and pianist Jamie Shaak performing Gwyneth Walker's After all white horses are in bed.mp3 (from 'the sun is love'). Please buy their music!


October 28, 2006

Rosebank 12 yo (43%, OB for Zenith, Italy, 75cl, 1980’s) Colour: gold. Nose: this one starts much grainier and porridgy than expected, with little fruitiness. Did the latter vanish in the bottle? There’s an interesting smokiness, though, and also hints of fresh mint leaves but it’s also a little cardboardy. Let’s give it a little time… Right, it does get a little citrusy after a while, with notes of grapefruit. Also ginger ale.
Mouth: yes, it’s better now but maybe too sugarish at the attack. Quite powerful after all these years… And yes, here comes the ‘citrusy cavalry’ with lots of lemon, grapefruit, kumquats… It isn’t too complex, though, but really big, getting almost hot at 43%. Keeps improving, with quite some smoked tea, crystallized oranges, spices from the wood, orange liqueur… The finish is the best part, bold, long, with something like smoked oranges (er…) and liquorice sticks. Very good - saved by the bell! 80 points.
Rosebank 1990/2003 (46%, Helen Arthur, plain oak, cask #486) Colour: almost white like water. Nose: totally inexpressive at first nosing (no, I’m not in a bad mood). Something grainy, something sugarish, a very faint smokiness but that’s really all. Okay, maybe also hints of readymade lemon juice. I’m wondering where that ‘plain oak’ is… Mouth: a little better but very sugarish and kind of yeasty. Vanilla flavoured yoghurt? Notes of white wine (viogner). Not really bad actually (very drinkable as a vodka) but the whole is very, very simple. I’m deeply sorry but I can’t see why one would bottle this kind of whisky as a single cask and sell it for more than 25 euros. Now, we’ve had some much, much better bottlings for Helen Arthur! 68 points.


MUSIC - Recommended listening - Japanese avant-garde artiste, bagpiper (yes) and ex-member of Fluxus Yoshi Wada plays Off the wall - part I.mp3. Sound sculpting at its best I think... But what will our Scottish friends think?


October 27, 2006

JEAN CLAUDE VANNIER with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Crouch End Festival Chorus and special guests Jarvis Cocker, Badly Drawn Boy, Mick Harvey, Gruff Rhys, Laetitia Sadier, Seaming To and Brigitte Fontaine.

The Barbican, London, October 21st 2006

“I’m sorry Nigel, but you know we won’t make it back to the hotel for dinner”. “Yes, I bloody well do, and now you have the gall to tell me that you want to go clubbing too. I mean no dinner, and you know how bad I get after midnight. I’m just not fun Jeremy”. “But we want you there, Nigel”. “Well you won’t get me anywhere after this load of old nonsense – do you know how much I paid for these sodding tickets, and we’ve had almost two hours of rubbish, no dinner, and not a sight of a star or anyone I recognise… it’s just a huge con!”

I’m not sure that I’d share that damning condemnation of the evening’s first half (or the second), but then unlike the gentlemen on my left we’d taken the precaution of stocking up on carbohydrates before the concert. But by the end, they certainly weren’t the only ones with a bemused expression on their face, and I for one had the word “nonsense” writ large in my little black notebook.
The Barbican was packed with, according to the horribly sycophantic programme, “mods, prog rockers, soundtrack fans, world music lovers, hip-hop fanatics and psychedelic die-hards” – I’m still puzzling to figure out which group I belonged to. I could tell we were in the company of the cool – so cool that you could hear shards of frozen piss explode into a thousand fragments as they hit the ice-white ceramic of the men’s urinals downstairs. And in case you didn’t know it’s painfully hip to admire the work of French composer Jean Claude Vannier, one time collaborator with “omni present luminary” and “one-man revolution” Serge Gainsbourg. The two worked together on a number of projects, notably Histoire de Melody Nelson (“the almost inimitable LP which defied categorisation”), and the never before performed (now, I wonder why?) L’Enfant Assassin des Mouches, a work composed by Vannier with a story line written by Gainsbourg. Apparently only about 200 copies of this disc were pressed (now, I wonder why?) and it wasn’t till last year that it was re-released by Finders Keepers, a Manchester collective “dedicated to the obsessive and painstaking perusal of obscure, obsolete, exquisitely obnoxious, unbelievable, underexposed and undeniably delectable discs of experimental pop music from the psyched out sixties and seventies”. And it’s their fault that we’re here, because somehow they persuaded the Barbican to stage the show, the BBC Symphony Orchestra to play, and two thousand of us to miss our dinners and Match of the Day in order to sit and listen to this ….nonsense, although that’s not to say it wasn’t fun.
The evening is divided into three sections. First Vannier leads the orchestra through a number of his own compositions – some of which he sings - alternating between composer’s podium and piano and organ. He cuts a striking figure, slightly stooped, wild hair, baggy creased jacket, the bearing of the sort of faux intellectual that I imagine used to inhabit every Parisian bar and café, expressive gestures – well, you know Serge, sort of French. “I am very happy to be here with my friends” he tells us, “with my English friends, for you know, music she has no passports”. He’s not really talking about the orchestra, or the excellent Crouch End Festival Chorus, but the ace band of session musicians assembled in the right hand corner of the stage, most of whom played on the Melody Nelson sessions.
They look like a bunch of crafty cockney cab drivers who’ve taken the night off, but in fact we have on guitar the legendary Big Jim Sullivan (he has apparently played on over a thousand chart records, including, of course Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je T’aime’) and Vic Flick (guitar maestro on the original James Bond theme and the title music to British TV soap Crossroads), on drums Dougie Wright (one time Yardbirds drummer), and on bass the truly world-famous Herbie Flowers (whose numerous accomplishments include the bass line on ‘Walk on the Wild side’ and composing credits for Clive Dunn’s ‘Grandad’ – cool or what?). Along with pianist Cliff Hall they make a gutsy band – with Flowers deep bass guitar and Sullivan and Flick’s fuzz boxes being at the heart of many of Vannier’s arrangements.    

Birkin and Gainsbourg
" Je t'aime... Moi non plus" (1969)

Michel Musseau
Where was I? Oh yes – three sections. So we got some chanson stuff from Vannier, sort of Sacha Distel meets Maurice Chevalier, then ‘L’enfant Assassin’, which to be frank was only made bearable by the work of lugubrious sound-effects maestro Michel Musseau (sewing machines, blenders, matches, frying pans etc.) and the wit and dare I say self-effacing humour that occasionally sparkled through (the image of the chorus firing off aerosols of fly-spray will stay with me for a long time).
Oh yes – and the giggling of the wind section and the bewildered expression on Big Jim’s face. Just for the uninitiated it’s a gripping (not) musical tale of a child and his encounter with the King of the Flies that Gainsbourg must have dreamt up over the wrong side of a few pastis. And then, post interval and with Nigel and Jeremy’s dinner truly out of reach, a thankfully short Melody Nelson (it’s about an older man’s obsession with a young girl), with an array of ‘stars’ taking turns on vocals including Jarvis Cocker, Badly Drawn Boy (nice voice), Gruff Rhys, Bad Seed Mick Harvey (I’m not sure if he got the best tune, or, if as a Gainsbourg disciple he just tried harder, but he outshone the rest), Seaming To (giggling vocals) and the marvellously affected diva Brigitte Fontaine, out-camping Gloria Swanson in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.
So that was all well and good. But I have to say that this was a case when the sum was not as great as the individual parts. No matter how grand or eloquent the supposed vision behind these pieces there’s no getting away from the fact that at its core the music is (and was) formulaic, imitative and shallow. And the Gainsbourg narratives are almost embarrassingly hackneyed, and seem to reveal a disturbing predilection for young girls in white knickers which is not at ease with the moral and sexual hubris of the twenty first century. No matter what the programme says I’m struggling to find anything progressive or psychedelic about either pieces. My little black notebook says “Euro-pop melodies with fuzz box guitar”, “it all sounds like the middle section in McArthur Park”, “tedious TV themes”, “Our man in Morocco?”, “the soundtrack to the two minute plot development bit in an Italian porn film”. And more.
So it’s a triumph of self-conscious style over substance – cool music for youngish hipsters who veer to the wrong side of kitsch and think it’s clever. Of course it’s entertaining; the band are great, sound effects man Musseau is theatre in his own right, it’s wonderful to see so many people on stage (I was working it out Serge – with our front row gallery tickets at thirty quids it worked out at more than three musicians for a pound) and Jean Claude Vannier is, in his shoulder-shrugging way, Jean Claude Vannier. But please don’t expect me to take any of it seriously. Like Nigel said, it’s nonsense. - Nick Morgan (concert photograohs by Kate)
Thanks Nick – laughing out loud here! I had thought something French with ‘Nelson’ somewhere in its name would have worked better on your side of the Channel but our cunning plan failed, it seems. They should have called it Melody Bonaparte, after all… Phew… As for L’Enfant Assassin des Mouches, yes, we could find a slice of it: Les Gardes volent au secours du roi.mp3. C'mon, it's not that bad, allez Monsieur Nick! ;-) Okay, next time we'll send you the Percussions of Strasbourg conducted by Pierre Boulez with Ornette Coleman on plastic saxophone. And oh, by the way, it's Jean-Claude Vannier, not Jean Claude. Notice the hyphen? Okay, no hard feelings! ;-) - Serge
Auchentoshan 1999/2006 (40%, Signatory for LMDW France, Very Cloudy, cask #800043, 447 bottles) Not cloudy at all, this one… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: not too expressive at first nosing, starting rather porridgy and fruity. Notes of freshly cut pears and not too ripe gooseberries, muesli, with also a little rubber, getting then rather nicer, with quite some fresh strawberries. A certain roughness thanks to its young age. Goes on with quite some kirsch and plum spirit and hints of bitter oranges. Rather bolder than expected. Mouth: sweet and fruity again, really resembling a fruit eau-de-vie now, except that the one we distil here is bolder and has a more substantial mouth feel. Hints of rubber, apple juice, iced tea… That’s pretty all. Rather short and weakish finish, a little sugary and quite indefinite, yes, like a vodka. To chill I guess. 70 points.
Auchentoshan 1985 (41%, Natural Color, France, circa 2005) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one starts more vegetal, on grass, marzipan and fresh walnuts. Gets then fruitier, with lots of redcurrant syrup, grenadine and blackcurrants but it’s still very simple and basic. A slightly disturbing soapiness in the background but the whole gets nicer after a good ten minutes, with lots of green and herbal teas as well as quite some thyme and rosemary. Not too bad, in fact. Mouth: sweet and rather expressive, starting on a mix of vanilla crème, fresh almonds, nougat and caramel. Rather nice bitterness, getting also slightly resinous… Then it’s back to the fruits such as fresh pineapples, pears and bitter oranges. Medium long finish, slightly leafy and bitterish, alas. This Auchentoshan isn’t a winner but it’s certainly not unpleasant. 75 points.
Auchentoshan 18 yo (55.8%, OB, 2006) Matured in oloroso sherry casks. Colour: gold. Nose: a rather bitter, rubbery and milky start, on huge notes of crushed leaves, raw propolis, manure and rubber bands. Gets then very milky and porridgy, with also quite some cheap perfume (yes, lavender). Immature and hard to enjoy on the nose, I’m afraid. Mouth: ah, this is a little better although it’s still bitter and rubbery at the attack, as well as very mashy. We do have these perfumy notes as well (lavender). Develops on pineapple sweets, crystallised oranges, notes of tequila… Well… Rather long but cardboardy (and waxy) finish, with also something like ginger tonic and heavily hopped beer. Ahem... 67 points.

October 26, 2006

Caol Ila 1979/2006 (57.4%, Taste Still, cask #2796, 227 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts rather austerely, on notes of walnut husk, green tea and paraffin. Sharp and uncompromising, smoky and mineral (coal smoke, notes of synthetic motor oil, waxed paper), with also whiffs of mint leaves and quite some green curry, wasabi, fresh butter and newly cut grass. Hints of seltzer and just a little caramel in the background. A beautiful sharpness in this one but no need to water it down.

Mouth: a punchy and powerful, slightly prickly attack. Lots of peppered apple juice, peat, crystallised lemons, strong tea and heavy salted liquorice (I think they call that ‘triple-salt’ in Holland). Really concentrated, almost thick and oily but not cloying at all, with a huge smokiness and more and more salt coming through after a while. Truly excellent, with just hints of lavender sweets at the retro-olfaction and a very long, peaty and kind of candied finish. 90 points.
Caol Ila 1984/2006 (58.5%, Dewar Rattray for The Nectar, Belgium) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one isn’t that different at first nosing, maybe just a tad wilder (whiffs of manure and horse dung). We do have the same kind of smokiness and minerality as with the 1979 but it’s also a little more fragrant and fruity, with notes of blackcurrants (fruits and leaves), violets and liquorice as well as hints of incense. Same notes of seltzer, stones and horseradish and probably an added farminess but no butter this time. Top class Caol Ila, it seems. Mouth: extremely close to the 1979 at first sip, maybe just a tad rounder and even creamier. Again it gets fruitier after a moment, on pineapples, quinces, bitter oranges and hints of dried pears. Gets then rather jammy (marmalade), smokier but also saltier… But other than that, it’s pretty much the same whisky, with a very long, very ‘peaty’ and very bold finish. Another punchy Caol Ila for true big boys. Both were excellent and show that Caol Ila gets even better when above twenty years of age. 90 points (tie!)
Don’t we all know that the typical Single Malt drinker wears bowling hats on weekdays, goes to his club where he gets plastered with his MP-friends every night and flies to Scotland on weekends to fish, hunt, crash a few Range Rovers and show everybody his new Holland & Holland Royal de Luxe (and get plastered again)? You’re right, he may also be a Russian oligarch…
Unless he is the current bass player of the very brilliant Alabama 3, used to be a member of one of the most influential punk bands (The Ruts) or a collaborator with the Chemical Brothers and seems to have a liking for anything Dada (see the picture!)
Indeed, John ‘Segs’ Jennings aka Mr. Segs, aka Seggs, aka Vince Segs, aka Frank Zappatista, aka Frankie Zee likes his Single Malt and does not hesitate to sail the Scottish Seven Seas with personalities from the highest whisky circles, which says long about his global endurance.
Whiskyfun: Mr.Segs, please tell us a little more about what you do, music-wise.
Mr. Segs: Travel around from town to town avoiding the noose and doing, not so impromptu versions of “come up and see me”….
WF: Steve Harley's??? Err... And which other musicians are you playing or did you play with?
Mr. Segs: Alabama 3, Ali Love, Edwyn Collins, The Ruts, Mad Professor, Aztec Camera, Mike Scott, Kirsty Macoll, Joe Strummer, Rat Scabies, Mick Jones, Splogenessabounds, The Beatles, Tony Visconti, Vic Goddard, Wolfgang Press, Tom Jones, Dennis Waterman (sprinkler), Auntie and the Men from Uncle, Jimmy Livingstone, Passion Fodder, Louis Bertignac, Fat Dinosaur, Project for a New American Century,,, only some of the above are true at the time of press.
WF: Wow, and which are your other favourite artistes?
Mr. Segs: Captain Beefheart….
WF: Yes, the Captain is high on our list as well. Which are your current projects?
Mr. Segs: Producing album for Ali Love (no relation) with Steve Dub Jones. Hear ‘k hole’ and ‘Camera on a pole’ out now…. Las Vagueness gig at the Coronet in London with Alabama 3 on October 28th.
WF: When did you start enjoying whisky? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Mr. Segs: My first gig was supporting ATV and Wayne (pre Jayne) County at High Wycombe Town Hall.. nerves.. you bet… whisky was ma medicine…
WF: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Mr. Segs: Before I met “the cognoscenti” I would often order a Laphroaig… love the peat you see… now… well a Talisker or an Oban…. depends on the …err… congeners…..
WF: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Mr. Segs: Baron Ronald… or any of the great French Blends.
WF: Ah, I didn't know that one. Maybe it's for the UK only. Now, ‘If the river was whisky baby, and I was a diving duck’ is one of the most famous and well used whisky lyrics, from sea-shanties to blues and rock and roll. Do you have a favourite musical whisky reference?
Mr. Segs: Whiskey you’re the devil you’re leading me astray…..
WF: Music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves. Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Mr. Segs: I love girls who play guitar… especially when they drink whiskey… xx
WF: In some ways you could argue that tasting a whisky is similar to listening to a piece of music – you deconstruct the two in the same way. Care to comment?
Mr. Segs: Is it?…I would agree that the two oftimes meet in the sacred realm of reflection.
WF: I once heard an eminent whisky professional say that he tasted whisky in colours. Do you taste whisky in music?
Mr. Segs: I see colours in music and I see colours in whiskey… or am I drunk… or sober… or tripping?
WF: If your favourite whisky was a piece of music what would it be, if it was a musical instrument what would it be?
Mr. Segs: 2hb by Roxy Music. The nose flute. Hang on! Are you serious?
WF: There is a famous passage in a book written in the 1930s (Aneas Macdonald) where the author compares different styles of whisky to different sections of an orchestra – how would you see that working in a jazz or rock band, or in a classical orchestra?
Mr. Segs: Rock band: Vocals: Bushmills - Guitar: Talisker - Bass: Four Roses – Drums: pass me that glass…..
WF: Do you also have a favourite piece of music to drink whisky with, or better still, desert island dram, desert island disc?
Mr. Segs: Dave Broom’s infamous meths floater…. disc…. ’Meths is god’ by Rock Freebase, or ‘Hello walls’ by Willie Nelson.
WF: Meths floater? Dave, If you read this, can you explain? So, Mr. Segs, everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Mr. Segs: The bottle rolls around too much on the tour-bus…
WF: Brilliant! And if it was Scotch, can you think of which brand? I guess Glenfiddich then... And what would be the Scotch equivalent of rappers drinking Cristal?
Mr. Segs: If all rappers drank “scotch’ there would be a lot more deaths…. and/or regrets………. another glass of Scottish??
WF: Last question, why do you like breakfast so much?
Mr. Segs: It’s the only meal I can keep down.

Thank you very much, Mr. Segs!
A few links of interest:
Mr. Segs' page at Alabama 3's official website
The Ruts myspace page (several tunes)
Another good Ruts page
Ali Love's myspace page (where you can listen to 'Camera on a pole', produced by Mr. Segs.)


October 2006 - part 2 <--- October 2006 - part 3 ---> November 2006 - part 1

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

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

Caol Ila 1984/2006 (58.5%, Dewar Rattray for The Nectar, Belgium)

Caol Ila 1979/2006 (57.4%, Taste Still, cask #2796, 227 bottles)

Talisker 25 yo (56.9%, OB, 2006 release, 4860 bottles)