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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2007 - Part 1
September 2007 - part 2 <--- October 2007 - part 1 ---> October 2007 - part 2

October 14, 2007

Ardmore Ardmore 1987/2001 (40%, G&M Licensed bottling) Aficionados keep complaining about the fact that there’s no official Ardmore in the market as of today. Thank god we have the independents. Colour: gold. Nose: light but fresh, rather clean, maybe a bit cardboardy at first sniffs but the rather subtle peatiness and the notes of chamomile tea, verbena, white peaches and watermelons do the trick here. Also quite milky and marginally mashy. Whiffs of black pepper. Not out of this world but pleasant.
Mouth: sure it’s not really powerful at 40% but it doesn’t lack oomph and body. Slightly resinous but very smoky, candied (crystallised oranges), getting then rather peppery and ‘nutmeggy’, picking up steam with time. Smoked tea, hints of gooseberries and whitecurrants... And more and more pepper. With such a ‘thickness’, we can imagine how big a whisky this one could have been, had it been bottled at 46%+. Finish: pretty long, all on ‘smoked and peppered dried oranges’ orr something like that. Very good ‘semi-official’ bottling by G&M. 85 points.
Ardmore 1990/2007 LMDW-1 (59.1%, La Maison du Whisky, cask #30103) Colour: gold. Nose: as subtly austere as a malt can get I think. Starts all on wet stones, gunflints, cold smoke, ashes and develops more on smoked ham, grilled meat, tar and coal. I’m sure water will make it more talkative... Oh yes, now we’re really on Islay, with a huge ‘brutality’ (well), notes of cow stable, wet grain, wet hay, sheep, even horse dung... And our beloved wet dog, of course. Faint hints of soda water and ginger tonic. Mouth (neat): very obvious similarities with the G&M, but of course this is much bolder, with more of everything. A lot of lemon zests, peat and pepper, which reminds me of the wildest Taliskers. Gets peatier with time but we have also zesty notes of fresh fruits (kiwis?). With water: not much development except quite some gentian spirit and liquorice stick. It got earthier and ‘rootier’, in fact. Finish: long, slightly salty, with a lot of lemon now and a peaty back burn. We want more Ardmore! 88 points.
MUSIC Recommended listening: the great late Oscar Brown Jr. does Maxine.mp3. You must buy his music and poetry. Oscar Brown Jr.

October 12, 2007

Jane Seymour
Edward and his mother Jane Seymour

The Half Moon, Putney, London, September 30th 2007

“Swarb and I don’t really do fun” said Martin Carthy, as he acknowledged the reception to the opening song of the night (as I recall) ‘Death and the lady’, a maudlin tale of a woman’s unfortunate meeting with Death on the road (whilst she walked out “one morn in May”). Needless to say despite all her entreaties and best efforts she was unable to escape his icy grasp. If you have the 1971 reprint of the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams and A A Lloyd, you’ll find this tune on page 31. On page 32 is the equally harrowing ‘The death of Queen Jane’, based on the true history of Queen Jane Seymour, wife of Henry VIII, who died shortly after giving birth to her son Edward (who at the age of 9 became King, but himself died only six years later). The song recounts her agonising confinement, and her pleas for a Tudor caesarean section – “do open my right side and find my baby”.It’s the second song of the night, but the first on Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick's 2006 album, Straws in the Wind, which features nine songs from the Penguin collection, along with a number of tunes old and new.
It is very, very, good, and probably one of the reasons why they were voted ‘Best Folk Duo’ by the BBC earlier this year. The other reason for such an accolade is the sort of performance they turned in tonight, almost perfect, in a room as silent as a Meeting House on a solemn Sunday night. Actually it’s the back room of the Half Moon – which post smoking ban has had something of a face lift. You need sunglasses to go into the urinals these days.
Not that there isn’t any fun – Carthy has a dry understated humour, and Swarbrick, survivor of a double lung transplant in 2004, is at his impish best; literally a fiddler calling the tunes. “I got this tune from the Customs Officer at Unst” said Swarbrick, as he introduced ‘The Brides March from Unst’. “What did he get from you?” asked a wag in the audience. “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that. Anyway, he was a very nice Customs man, but I still missed the whole gig. Those were the days…” His playing is sensitive and restrained (it’s nice to hear him when he’s not competing at full volume with Richard Thompson), a perfect foil to Carthy’s voice – no better than on ‘The treadmill song’ (‘The Gaol Song’ in the Penguin collection) which opened the second set and perfect captured the dull and hopeless monotony of a repetitive prison life.
Carthy Sawrbrick Carthy’s voice is wonderfully expressive, without a hint of exaggeration or contrivance, and his percussive guitar playing almost hypnotic. His open string tuning gives a sort of drone effect to most of the songs (enhanced by Swarbrick’s fiddle) and his simple but very concise finger-style picks out melodies with precision.
“When I'm playing a traditional song” he said in an interview, “I love to keep it absolutely bog-simple - simple as possible and just drive the narrative on as hard as I can”. Quite right too. And the narrative in many of these old songs is timeless and compelling. Take Sir Patrick Spens, for example, the fateful tale of the attempt to bring Margaret, the Maid of Norway, to Scotland in 1290, and Spen’s battle with the ocean in the face of a deadly storm. Played to Nic Jones’ famous arrangement it’s a driving story of mariners in peril, as gripping as any George Clooney film.
Martin Carthy - Dave Swarbrick and friend (from Whiskyfun crew)
And the sea provides some of the finest song of the evening, and of the album. There’s ‘The Ship in Distress’, a tale of attempted cannibalism at sea, ‘Bold Benjamin’, recounting a disastrous expedition to Spain, ‘The whalecatchers’ , which graphically captures the conditions endured at sea by the Whale fleets in Greenland - “our finger tips were frozen off, and likewise our toe-nails’ - and ‘The Royal Oak’, a stirring tale of a lone English ship surrounded by ten hostile vessels (“Pull down your colours you English dogs, or else your precious life you’ll lose”) and winning the subsequent encounter against all odds. And that Serge, is where I’ll leave this most excellent evening, with that thought of a hapless and outnumbered group of English warriors (“true Englishmen all-oh”), fighting their way to a bold and bloody Victory against the auld enemy, and against all the odds. Let’s see shall we ….
- Nick Morgan (Concert photographs by Kate except one. Err, two).
All right, all right Nick, that was subtle but pernicious! I know it’ll be rugby time on Saturday and that Johnnie Wilkinson and his ordinary ratings will face our Chabals and Chabalettes. Not too sure about the outcome indeed, I’ve heard it’ll all come down to whether the French will commit enough fouls to allow good auld Johnnie to use his magic feet or not. So, it could be Trafalgar or it could be... err, wait, what was that famous French victory over her/his Majesty's Navy again? You say it dates back to the time of the Normans? Blimey, I don’t think we have any Normans among Les Bleus... Gasp.... But indeed, let’s see.... S.
Balblair 1989 (43%, OB, 2006) Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is very expressive at first nosing, all on flowers, fruits and slightly yeasty/mashy notes. Wild flowers, dandelions, butter pears, apple juice, gooseberries, vanilla-flavoured yoghurt, hints of tangerines and just touches of oak... Very ‘natural’ in these days when many whiskies get sort of flavoured (let’s not start...) Fresh and eminently ‘likable’. Mouth: light but not weak, fresh but maybe a little less clean than on the nose... Comes back into the line a little more as far as the palate is concerned but it’s still excellent malt whisky. Faint kirschy notes but good body, with a pleasant spiciness arising after a moment (white pepper and cinnamon). Finish: rather long, all on pears and soft spices. Again, very good ‘natural’ whisky, with a true taste of the Highlands (if that makes any sense). 85 points (more for the nose).
Balblair 1979 (46%, OB, 15 casks, 2006) We’ve heard that this one is now almost sold out. Yes we’re late... Colour: straw. Nose: close to the 1989, just oakier and grassier, maybe a little wilder and farmier as well. Hay, sawdust (nothing wrong here),... Also more bananas like in some older uber-fruity versions of Balblair. And more vanilla, but that’s the oak I guess. Maybe a little less directly likeable on the nose as the 1989. Mouth: now it’s this one that I like best. Fruitier (hints of mangos, guavas), much stronger, maybe more marked by the wood (gets very peppery) but also sort of franker. ‘Good stuff’ as a friend and connoisseur would say, despite its relative roughness (the whisky’s, not my friend’s). Finish: very long, quite hot in fact, still a bit raw but again, so natural. I hope the industry will always make this kind of whisky. 86 points.
Balblair 1985 (55.4%, OB, 2007) I’ve heard this new cask strength version is about to be launched in November. Colour: gold. Nose: just a synthesis of both the 1979 and the 1989, with even more oomph of course and a more extravagant fruitiness as well. Perfect blend of oak and fruits, with also quite some white chocolate. Superb freshness. Top-class, no doubt. Mouth: as punchy, wild, fruity and spicy as malt whisky can get. Green bananas, apples, curry, nutmeg, pepper and (discreet) vanilla. Finish: long, compact, assertive, quite oaky but the spirit stands it. Well, Balblair is said to be a gentle malt but this is really bold and wild. Extremely good, loyal and honest I think. And more-ish... Balblair remains a favourite. 88 points.

October 11, 2007



Glen Scotia 1999/2006 (45%, OB, Bourbon, cask #518, 330 bottles, Heavily Peated) The whisky Fair already bottled one of these unusually peated Glen Scotias distilled in 1999 and we were quite impressed (87).

Colour: white wine. Nose: starts unlike any other peated malt known to me, really on soot, ashes, walnut husk and apple peelings, getting then more yoghurty and porridgy. Also notes of tinned pineapples, grapefruit Jell-O, mint, wet hay... Gets also a little chemical (cheap orange soda) but also smokier with time. Big notes of violets and lavender. Still rather young malt, maybe slightly dirty and lacking definition and precision I’d say, but if you like violets, this is for you. Mouth: this is very strange. Very, very strange. These chemical notes strike right at first sip, with also something cardboardy and, well, dirty. Paraffin, cod oil (my!), unsugared yoghurt... Paper? I think this is almost flawed malt. Hard. Finish: quite long, at that... Okay, the nose wasn’t so bad but the palate is really a problem, and I think it’s not only a matter of personal tastes this time. Too bad. 68 points (for the nose).
Ballechin #2 Madeira Matured (46%, OB) The first Ballechin was matured in Burgundy casks, which worked quite well I think. This time it’s Madeira and I think Madeira works much better than plain red wine. Let’s see... Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s well a Ballechin, with the trademark farminess that spans from whiffs of horse dung (nothing wrong!) to wet hay through wet dog and ‘clean’ manure. The peat isn’t assaulting at all, it already melted into the whole. The wine is quite present but it’s not oddly fruity or anything like that, it’s almost like if it had given additional smokiness. Herbal tea and various dried flowers. Maybe more compact and more straightforward than Ballechin #1, a little less extravagant. Mouth: a little sweeter and rounder now, but the farminess is all there. Peaty but not really smoky, almondy, quite vegetal (rocket salad, olive oil), also on green tea and liquorice sticks, oatcakes, porridge... Quite some pepper as well, paprika, bitter caramel... The wine lets the spirit speak a little more than in the #1, which makes the whole probably more austere but also more ‘natural’. Finish: rather long, still very farmy and grassy, with a kind of bitterness that I like (walnut skins and so on). In short, this one lost a bit of the #1’s extravagance and sexiness but gained class and ‘Scottish wildness’ (I’m not saying wild Scotland isn’t sexy! Oh well...) Up from 85 to 86 points as far as I’m concerned.
MUSIC Recommended listening: (second degree required) fabulous early synth work in 1968 (ah, the Moog, the Moog!) by Dick Hyman: Topless dancers of Corfu.m3. Better than Space Invaders... Please buy Dick Hyman’s music. (via the excellent Claytoncounts) Dick Hyman

October 10, 2007

Glenugie 1967/1997 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur's Choice) Colour: gold. Nose: extremely ‘different’ from what we’re used to from Highland Park to Bladnoch! At first, this Glenugie really smells like mint tea and hot sultanas and then it switches more to sparkling orangeade and honey, just before it gets more cardboardy, dry and slightly gingery. It’s amazing how quick this one changed profiles – not really for the better. But what an attack on the nose! Mouth: the attack is on sultanas again, this time with minty tones, notes of liquorice root, honey again… Something slightly bitterish (caramel?), cardboardy and drying. It slightly falls apart again after a few seconds, just like on the nose, but it’s still excellent whisky. Finish: pretty long, maltier, with quite a saltiness. Aftertaste on salted liquorice. In short, excellent whisky but you have to be a fast taster! 86 points.
Glenugie 20 yo 1968 (43%, Sestante, bird label) Colour: full gold. Nose: more classic, more honeyed, very slightly smoky, waxy… Rather bold notes of shoe polish, aluminium (grandma’s pan), butter. Add to that hints of seaweed (wrack), oranges just like in the 1967… And it keeps developing! Now we’re more on leather, cigarette tobacco (just like when you open a new pack of M……os), old books, ink, tar… And then mint, eucalyptus, even passion fruits. Hugely complex, getting just a tad tired after deep and long nosing. Mouth: again, more classic than the G&M and certainly bolder. Starts on huge notes of crystallised oranges and quite some salt right away, quite some dried ginger, plum jam, Turkish delights, orange liqueur… Quite some pepper as well and rather fine tannins. Finish: long and even saltier. Excellent but the palate is a little disappointing when compared to the rather fantastic nose. Still 88 points in my books.
Glenugie 1967/1989 (43%, Sestante, bird label) Exactly the same label except that the vintage is added in gold 'on' the birds – there’s also been versions at cask strength that we loved. Colour: gold. Roughly the same but the fruitiness is more obvious (passion fruits, oranges) and then it gets a little wilder (even more tobacco and leather than in the 20 yo). There’s also a little game, soy sauce, parsley… Plus everything we already had in the 20 yo. Imagine this one’s complexity! Mouth: thick, oily mouth feel. Definitely better than the 20 yo right at the attack. More assertive, candied, spicy… The oak is nicer here and more present. Truckloads of bitter oranges, Campari (do you know a cocktail called negroni? It’s excellent), orange marmalade, notes of cardamom, vanilla pod, star anise, cloves… Extremely rich and assertive at just 43% (43%, really!?) Finish: long, orangey, spicy, getting maybe just a tad drying now, as often with whiskies that display such a great oaky spiciness on the palate. Great ‘stuff’, 92 points. I had the version at 59.5% at 95, imagine… (and thanks, Bert).
Glenugie 24 yo 1981/2006 (61.8%, Blackadder, cask #5515, 562 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: this one bears scarcely any resemblance with the Sestantes, but maybe that’s the high alcohol. Very cardboardy, milky, sort of dusty… Bold notes of baker’s yeast. Quick, water… Right, it got certainly fruitier (apples and pears) but also more pleasantly yeasty/farmy, with notes of wet hay, curds, ‘good’ beer, hops… Also ginger beer. Mouth (neat – yes we’ve certainly got a nerve!): very hot of course but bearable and, I must say, much more pleasant than on the nose when undiluted. Very oily mouth feel of course, and then quite some pepper and nutmeg, butter pears, vanilla crème… With water: it got a little fresher but not really outta this world. A little ‘average’, porridgy, fruity etc. Rather long finish, maltier and a little saltier (closer to the Sestantes at this stage but maybe it’s a little too late). Excellent finish actually. 80 points.
MUSICRecommended listening: One, two three four five six... Here are the Ikettes, former backing group for the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, and their Camel walk.mp3. Seven, eight nine ten eleven... Ooh, aah! Please buy the Ikettes' music! Ikettes

October 09, 2007

Bruichladdich 18


Bruichladdich 18 yo (46%, OB, 2007) This one was matured in bourbon wood and then ‘ACEd’ in Willy Opitz red pinot casks – and trockenbeerenauslese at that (not ‘trochen’ my friends).

Opitz is an Austrian winemaker, more famous for his sweet whites (desert wines) than for his reds but just as at all best winemakers, ‘everything’ should be above standard in his range. Now, I don’t quite know what’s ‘red’ pinot... If it’s pinot noir, it’s the first time I come across trockenbeerenauslese (very late harvest) made using red grapes. Anyway, we’re here for he whisky, aren’t we? Colour: gold (no pinkish-salmony hues). Nose: pure fresh Bruichladdich, starting all on white peaches and cider apples plus a pleasant oakiness (discreet tannins). I’d say its not unlike a baby 1970 or 1973 in style. Notes of lemons, watermelons and quite some newly cut grass. Gets slightly milky with time but also quite orangey, sort of sprizy. Did this really see pinot noir? Or was it refill pinot noir? Anyway, this is very clean and fresh, also reminding me of the first 10yo OB by the new current owners. Nice stuff on the nose. Mouth: very sweet, starting with more winey notes now I think. Oranges and grenadine, strawberry sweets (good stuff from Haribo’s), marzipan, resins... Ginger tonic... And a faint soapiness. Finish: rather long, fruity, with hints of fruit eau-de-vie (raspberry, pear). Well, the nose was a little cleaner than the mouth. Pretty good, inoffensive Bruichladdich, much more marked by the wine on the palate than on the nose, where it was almost absent. I think I liked the XVII a little better. 81 points.
Bruichladdich 12 yo 1994/2006 (55.1%, OB, Bourbon Casks, 355 bottles, Taiwan exclusive) This one pulled mixed feelings from our Taiwanese maniacal friend Ho-cheng. Colour: gold. Nose: much more austere, spirity, rough and mashy, with quite some oak (not too far from freshly sawn plank), seltzer, lemon skin and grass. Not a disaster so far but this is very young. With water: it got weirder, sort of ‘chemical’, with whiffs of new plastic and wet cardboard. Bizarre... Mouth (neat): bizarrely fruity and rubbery at the same time. Something must have gone wrong here. With water: now it got better, still raw but the fruitiness (peaches and pears) got the upper hand now. Finish: really better now, with a nice spiciness arising (quite some ginger in fact), but it’s still a bit bitterish. Okay, not the best Bruichladdich ever in my opinion... 74 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: We’re more and more into Andrew Bird’s works and think he’s truly brilliant. Today let’s have him and Nora O'Connor doing Bob Dylan’s Oh, sister.mp3 if you please. And then buy these people’s beautiful music. Andrew Bird

October 08, 2007








Glenkinchie 12 yo (43%, OB, 2007) This new 12 replaces the 10, maybe for the better. Let’s see... Colour: pale gold. Nose: not a big whisky it seems. Rather grassy and grainy, the whole being sustained by a discreet but present oakiness. Picks up steam with time, with delicate notes of fresh walnuts and almonds and whiffs of wild flowers (mostly yellow ones such as dandelions and buttercups). Also a little ‘breakfast’ honey and whiffs of freshly squeezed oranges as well as a little porridge. A breakfast malt? Very faint smokiness. Mouth: simply sweet and fruity (apple compote) with again a good oakiness giving it some backbone. I wouldn’t say this one is very ‘busy’ but balance is there. Finish: medium long, with a bigger grassiness now. Not bad at all, probably a little better than the 10 actually, but I think this lacks character. Well, I guess some people don’t seek character in their whisky. 79 points.
Glenkinchie 1992/2007 ‘Distillers Edition’ (43%, OB) Finished in amontillado casks. I think the previous version in the older livery was already a 1992. Colour: pale gold – not any darker than the 12. Nose: obviously warmer and fruitier, the whole having got much more orangey (Fanta?) and spicy than the 12. Hints of nutmeg and soft paprika, eglantine tea, fresh butter, ripe kiwi... Not my kind of whisky but I can’t say this isn’t nicely crafted. Quite some zing and freshness, not a cloying and lumpish kind of finished malt. Mouth: well, the time spent in these amontillado casks certainly gave this one more character (most of all new oak, walnuts and nutmeg) but even if this is anything but vinous, the treatment gave it kind of a slight clumsiness I think. Not too bad but not any better than the new regular 12 I think. But just like the 12, it’s still above average in my books. 79 points.
Glenkinchie 20 yo 1986/2007 (58.7%, OB, 5124 bottles) Not too sure whether this was bottled at 58.7% or 58.4% actually, sources diverge on this. Colour: gold. Nose: ah, now we’re talking! Granted, it’s still a bit restrained and shy at first nosing but hen there’s a sudden fruity burst, with a whole basket of peaches, kiwis, bananas, oranges and butter pears. And loads of fresh muscat grapes and Corinth raisins. The oakiness gets then more vivid, with various spices, white pepper, cinnamon... Very classy stuff, I’m wondering how they got these superb muscatty notes. It can’t be muscat casks as we get the grape itself, not the wine. An excellent surprise so far... Mouth: rather creamy, powerful but not really hot, starting all on crystallised, dried and fresh fruits. At random, we get golden delicious apples, bananas, gooseberries, pomegranates, cranberry juice... That fruitiness gets even bolder with time, to the point where the whole gets almost bubblegummy. Very lively, very enjoyable. Finish: long, still quite nervous and very fruity, with added hints of lemon drops and icing sugar. It would be hard to guess this comes from the same distillery that produced the rather okayish 12 and DE, to be honest. If you’re looking for a very playful fruity whisky, this is for you. Oops, I even forgot to try it with water! 88 points.
Stan JordanMUSICRecommended listening: even more blues, with the stunning Mr. Stanley Jordan himslef doing Still got the blues.mp3 'with light strings'. Indeed, indeed... Please buy his music. (but how can someone be that good?)

October 07, 2007

Knockando Knockando 1966/1978 (43%, OB, Dateo Import, Italy) Colour: straw. Nose: a very grassy, very ‘green’ and quite waxy character at first nosing. All on lemon juice and candle wax, with also hints of soot, green tea, walnut skin and ginger tonic. Certainly not smooth and rounded, unlike the gentle whiskies from Knockando’s we’re used to these days. Keyword: grass. Mouth: rather creamy, oily mouth feel, starting on a big waxiness, fresh walnuts and acacia honey. Very nice! Goes on with the same kind of grassy, almost cactussy (!) notes, malt, crystallised oranges and lemons, with a rather long but slightly cardboardy finish. Good body, in any case. One of the best Knockandos I ever had – but I didn’t try many. 85 points.
Knockando 21 yo 1986 ‘Master Reserve’ (43%, OB, 2007) Colour: gold. Nose: rounder and maltier, but the grass is still there in the background. Lots of bitter oranges and a rather bold farminess (wet hay). More nervous and ‘attacking’ than expected but of course it’s no Lagavulin. Notes of vanilla and café latte, getting a little more winey with time (hints of sherry). Faint dustiness. Barley. Mouth: much rounder than the 1966 now, much more sherried and orangey, but the body is lighter. Especially the middle is a bit weakish (fruit liqueurs) but it takes off again towards the finish that’s medium long but pleasantly candied, with also quite some cinnamon. Probably not for the average malt freak but we’ve seen many bottlings for malt freaks that weren’t as good as this rather humble Knockando. Now, it’s funny to see that the old 12yo displayed a much heavier body. 80 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: pure swing and pure energy with Ella Fitzgerald doing Lemon drops.mp3 in London in 1974... Even if she didn't quite have her 'Berlin' voice anymore. Please buy the diva’s music. Ella

October 06, 2007

Ben Wyvis Ben Wyvis 31 yo 1968/2000 (50.6%, Signatory, cask #687, 151 bottles) I’m sorry but we’ll have only one whisky today, as I had only one ‘expression’ of Ben Wyvis on my shelves, thanks to our friend Patrick ‘The Genevan’. We only had a Ben Wyvis once before and we quite liked it. By the way, we’re not used to add bits of distillery history on WF (Johannes does it on maltmadness much better than we could) but let’s just say that this Ben Wyvis distillery was only active from 1965 to 1977. Royal Mile Whiskies tells us that the stills were bought by Springbank and reinstalled at Glengyle/Kilkerran.
Colour: starts quite fresh and slightly rummy/oaky, with also quite some warm butter and vanilla cake. Develops more on apple juice and newly cut grass, with hints of violets and aniseed as well as a little lilac. Faints hints of rotting oranges. Nothing too special actually but it’s very far from being a disaster. Reminds of something like a Glenturret in case you want to know. Mouth: sweet, oaky and powerful attack. The fruitiness is rather huge (pear and pineapple sweets) but so is the oak and the bitterish green tannins. Quite some pepper as well, nutmeg, vanilla... Quite rawish I must say. Gets grassier with time but also even more tannic. Also tapioca, grape pips and skin, strong green tea... Well... Finish: long but ‘green’, tannic and woody. The signature/aftertaste is a little better, though, very liquoricy. Okay, I guess Ben Wyvis’ disappearance isn’t really worth shedding a tear... But still, let’s give this one 80 points (ten of them being purely symbolic). No doubt Glengyle’s whisky will be much better!
MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's keep remembering the great Emdjay while listening to John Coltrane's Afro Blue.mp3. Coltrane

October 05, 2007



Secret Stills 01-02 1986/2007 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, casks #1361-1363, 1860 bottles) From the Isle of Skye. We all remember the ’01-01’, a wonderful 1955/2005 that we rated 92 points. Colour: gold. Nose: the sea, nothing but the sea plus a little sherry. Kelp (both fresh and dried), seashells, iodine, wood smoke (‘a bonfire on the beach’), peat smoke...

Add to that notes of Seville oranges, smoked tea (lapsang souchong), hints of white chocolate, hints of resin and camphor, smoked ham and sausages, bacon, whiffs of ‘clean’ wet dog, wild mushrooms... Truly fantastico, world-class malt, extremely well balanced and truly complex and complete. Mouth: a rich, candied and smoky attack, starting all on ‘smoked toffee’, bitter oranges and white pepper, maybe a little sweeter and less complex than expected after the fabulous nose, but still excellent. Gets a little more resinous and dry after a while, with also more sherry it seems. Big mint after that, mint-flavoured liquorice, tar and liquorice sweets... Picks up steam, especially the finish is long, thicker, on pepper, liquorice and cough sweets. Excellent, really. A slightly more complex palate would have propelled this one even higher than 90 points in my books.
Talisker 30 yo (50.7%, OB, 2007, 2958 bottles) Last year’s edition was truly excellent, very fresh and very clean (91), here’s the brand new edition. Colour: straw. Nose: very different from the G&M, certainly peatier, purer, even cleaner, more ‘riesling’. Fab sharpness considering its age. It’s also much waxier, more on purely fresh seaweed, coal smoke, apple peelings, fresh walnuts, almond milk... Also hints of shoe polish, wet stones, lemon zest. Gets more mineral with time and smokier as well. I remember having written than the 2006 version remembered me of Didier Dagueneau’s ultra-sharp Pouillys. Well, this is the Silex! I love this, no need to say. Mouth: starts a little fruitier but mostly on lemons, oranges and citrons together with these waxy and slightly resinous notes again. The expected pepper is well here, as well as green tea, small bitter apples... Gets grassier and a little drier, with also notes of fresh hazelnuts, hints of olive oil... And then frankly medicinal, with quite some camphor, salt, peaty smokiness... Full bodied, almost pungent (well, not quite), getting very, very salty after a moment. It grows bigger and bigger, as if you just wakened a giant. Finish: very long, very salty, not too peppery, with bunches of crystallised citrus fruits just like at the attack. Well, I think I like this one even better than the 2006 version, which was maybe just a tad shier than the 2007. 92 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Frankly, I don’t quite know what to think of French actress Julie Delpy’s singing... It happens that I sort of like it. Try for instance the catchy Lalala.mp3 (with Nouvelle Vague), very ‘the 2000’s that sound like the 1980’s sounding like the 1960’s’. Oh well, please buy Julie Delpy’s music. Julie Delpy

October 04, 2007



The doors of the MM Awards have been closed for this year a few days ago and many competitors have joined. As usual, only a few didn’t fulfil their commitments and didn’t ship their athletes on time. No big deal, we’ve got plenty of worthy candidates. The ‘blind’ samples have already been filled and shipped to the 12 members of this year’s jury (from Taiwan to Canada via India and Italy), mostly thanks to Olivier’s super-crew, led by the incredible and hilarious Olaf.
Here’s a list of all the teams that are onboard this year:
Aberlour, Adelphi, The Balvenie, BenRiach, Benromach, Berry Bros & Rudd, Blackadder, Brora, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Bushmills, Cadenhead’s, Caol Ila, Cardhu, Celtic Whisky Co, Chieftain’s, Clynelish, Compass Box, Cooley, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Douglas Laing, Dun Bheagan, Duncan Taylor, Edradour, Glencadam, Glendullan, Glenfarclas, Glengoyne, The Glenlivet, Glen Ord, Gordon & MacPhail, Highland Distillers, Highland Park, Jean Boyer, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Lombard Brands, Longmorn, Macallan, La Maison du Whisky, Milroy’s, Montgomerie’s, The Nectar, Nikka, Old Pulteney, One Drinks Company, Scapa, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Signatory Vintage, The Single Malts of Scotland, Suntory, Talisker, Tomintoul, Tullibardine, Whisky-Doris, The Whisky Fair, The Whisky Society, Wilson & Morgan. Results on Dec 1.
Port Ellen


Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (55.7%, Signatory for La Maison du Whisky, Collectors’ Edition, cask #1203, 255 bottles) I must confess that the words ‘Collectors’ Edition’ sound rather like ‘Stay Away’ to my ears, as the only people entitled to decide on what’s collectable are... the collectors, and certainly not the bottlers. But ‘Port Ellen’ also sounds like ‘Try Me a.s.a.p.’ so let’s not turn our nose up too ridiculously.

Colour: straw. Nose: ah, this is obviously one of these crystal clean, riesling-sharp Port Ellens that we like so much. I often mention green tea but here there’s really litres of green tea as well as matchsticks (‘good’ phosphorus if I may say so), fresh bitter almonds, apple peelings, ashes, whiffs of hot tarmac (but less than in other PE’s)... Goes on with a rather discreet oakiness (notes of cappuccino, a little vanilla) and hints of aniseed, dill – or is it fennel? Wet clothes. And finally our beloved gentian spirit (are you reading this this time, Juergen?) Exactly the PE profile we prefer (except for some rare stunning sherry monsters like the old 12yo by James MacArthur). Wonderful, in the leading pack just like the best recent OB’s. With water (out of pure curiosity): as often, it got farmier, more on wet animals, ‘clean’ manure, cleaned horse stable... Top notch Port Ellen, no doubt – except if the palate is disappointing. Let’s see... Mouth (neat): no, it’s an absolutely brilliant attack, very bold, very punchy but full of elegance, all on peat and butter pears (very different from regular pearish flavours one can get in youngish whiskies) plus a little salt that plays with your lips right from the start. Goes on with marzipan, cough syrup, a little icing sugar that makes it even more lively, that gentian spirit, these liquorice sticks... Wow! With water (but it does not obligatorily need water): tamed and more civilised now but the balance between peat/smokiness and sweetness is totally perfect. Finish: very long, amazingly balanced and compact, all on peat, marzipan and apple peelings. Totally wonderful, an enormous Port Ellen that’s not only for Port Ellen fans. Congrats to Signatory and to ‘La Maison’. And I’m afraid this IS collectable. 94 points.
Port Ellen 21 yo 1983/2004 (62.7%, Blackadder Raw Cask, sherry butt #2734, 563 bottles) There’s a misprint somewhere as this one was distilled in November ’83 and bottled in August ’04, so either it’s only 20 years old, or some date is wrong. No big deal, as long as it’s good. Colour: pale amber. Nose: hey, this is very nice too! More marked by the cask, obviously (I get quite some caramel, vanilla, roasted nuts, maple syrup) but Port Ellen’s character easily shines through. Maybe peatier and wilder than the new Signatory and also a little less clean. But let’s not take chances with our nose and add quite some water now. Oh yes, that worked but differently when compared with the Signatory. It got much more on lapsang souchong tea, toasted brioche, figs and huge notes of cloves. The peat got sort of pushed away, which is quite amusing here. Whiffs of good quality arrack – yes. Mouth (neat): again a great attack, on dry sherry and big bold peat. Faint hints of sulphur/rubber this time but nothing embarrassing. Superb resin and quite some salt again, but water is needed. With water: excellent, a rather perfect assortment of candied fruits and pastries on one side and resinous and smoky ‘elements’ on the other side. Not that they don’t mingle well, quite the contrary in fact. Very good. Finish: long, more candied and almost honeyed now, with quite some eraly grey tea in the background. Funnily, the second part of the finish is rather grassy and earthy/leafy. Good, long development in this one, even if it hasn’t got the 1982’s almost supernatural high class. 92 points (and thanks, Konstantin).
MUSIC – Recommended listening: are you in parliamentary mood today? So let’s have the good George Clinton’s much pillaged Atomic dog.mp3 (extended version of course) and then buy his music (please turn your bass button to 11). George Clinton

October 03, 2007

Glenmorangie Lasanta (46%, OB, sherry finish, 2007) Colour: gold. Nose: ultra-smooth, creamy, caramelly and certainly not winey. Notes of coffee, milk chocolate, hot brioche, faint smokiness, faint hints of mint, hot praline, slight beefiness... Simple pleasures, certainly well crafted. Quite ‘round’, with nothing sticking out but again, it’s perfect in its own style. I think it’s nicer than the previous version anyway. Mouth: very thick, very creamy, fat and oily, sweet but not cloying at all, all on honey, caramel, brioche, crystallised fruits and candy sugar. The huge sweetness is maybe a bit too much but other than that, balanced is achieved. I wouldn’t call this a lab whisky but again, it’s perfectly well crafted. Not sure it’s Single Malt Scotch Whisky but after all, who cares? (Why not be cynic and blasé too from time to time?) We had the previous Glenmo ‘sherry’ at only 72 points but we’re ready to go as far as 79 points here.
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban (46%, OB, Port finish, 2007) Colour: salmony (aaargh). Nose: again, not as winey as feared. Sure there are quite some blackcurrants, peonies and raspberries but this winesky is well made. Not my cup of malt at all but well made. Okay, let’s not spend too much time on this one... Mouth: immensely sugary, fruity and winey. And fat. And frankly too much. Raspberry syrup. Finish: long but really too much for my tastes. Another premix? Not my profile at all. From 72 points for the older version to... 72 points for this new one, even if it’s more, err, ‘concentrated’ – to say the least.
Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or (46%, OB, Sauternes finish, 2007) Exit Madeira and Burgundy, here’s a Sauternes finish. It’s not impossible that new owners LVMH provide the distillery with their own empty Sauternes casks (yes, it’s Sauternes with an s at the end. Sauterne is a pale copy made in America, or a frequent misspelling done by some of our Scottish friends. Well, I do it myself sometimes, but not on labels, eh!) Colour: gold (what else?) Nose: but this smells exactly like Sauternes at first nosing! Amazing... I mean, the spirit is almost absent here, it’s the wine that does all the talking, and as Sauternes isn’t ‘a winey wine’ (come on, Serge!), the result is rather pleasant. A lot of fructose, ripe apricots, icing sugar, hints of kiwis, tangerines... How funny. Gets a little more ‘whisky’ after a while, that is, with hints of oak, a faint maltiness and... And? Hugely demonstrative in any case. Mouth: ho-ho, this works better I think. More multidimensional than the sherry (and certainly than the Port), with a better oakiness, spices and grass at the attack, and then a huge sweetness that’s better controlled I think. Pepper, baklavas, apricot jam and green tea. Works very well, and there’s even bits of the original distillate that shine through (imagine something delicately smoky and vanilled whispering in the background). Finish: long and thick, on the same big flavours, with also hints of resin. Again, a very well crafted malt from the New World of Whisky. Certainly not a grand cru (how would we know anyway with this heavy treatment?) but the end result is truly palatable methinks, albeit a bit panzerish (I think you made your point here, Serge). 86 points (just two points below the rather excellent old 21yo Sauternes finish).
AND YET A LITTLE SHOPPING - Our friends at Lombard's sell a magnificent set of Jewels of Scotland Hand Made Miniatures. They say it much better than I would: 'These stunning miniatures are hand crafted in traditional and modern design by master glassmakers... Lombard miniatures
Decorative and sculptured glass is created by the ancient skills of lampwork and freeblown – painstaking precision using only sharpness of eye ensures no miniature is identical. Its creator individually signs each miniature, which is presented in a dark blue suede gift box with a certificate of authenticity. Each miniature holds a 25 Year Old Single Malt from the Springbank distillery - bottled under the sole responsibility of Lombard Scotch Whisky. This famous Campbeltown malt is noted for its rich malty aroma and salty tang – characteristics which always betray its geographical position on the coast of the Mull of Kintyre. 10 miniatures to a set - highly desirable for all collectors.' Well, I'd say as long as they don't put their excellent Clynelishes into these things, I'm fine.
MUSIC – JAZZ - Recommended listening: in the true Bill Evans spirit, Dick Hindman plays Lost in a dream.mp3 with Paul Warburton and Colin Bailey. That was on their excellent CD ‘Secret Garden’. Please buy these gentlemen’s music (via talikinbass) Dick Hindman

October 02, 2007

The Jazz Café, Camden Town, London, September 25th 2007
50 Who is it, Serge, who decides how much things are worth? Is there some external arbiter of value who can, willy nilly, put a price on any given item or commodity? Or is it simply, and crudely, determined by some estimate of “what the market will bear”, or cruder still, “whatever someone’s prepared to pay”?
And if it is this latter, basely commercial, calculation, then how do you know how deep “someone’s” purse is? Or could it be that price isn’t determined by value at all, and rather that value is determined by price? Well, as ever I’m afraid, too many questions and not enough answers. Well, not quite. Because whoever determined (and for that matter, however) the entry price for Cassandra Wilson’s four nights at Camden Town’s Jazz Café, they clearly got it badly wrong. Knowing the extent of our Whiskyfun budget means that there was no baulking at a £50 per head ticket for me – here’s someone I’ve wanted to see for a very long time, and the chance of a performance in such an intimate atmosphere (she normally hangs out at places like the Southbank Centre – great sound but sadly lacking in atmosphere) was too much to resist.
Sadly it looked like only forty or fifty people thought the same – upstairs is half empty and downstairs the floor is dotted by a sparse collection of woodentops, largely of the male variety. Quite how she fared on her other three nights I know not, but on a suddenly autumnal Tuesday evening this was a sorry and shameful turnout for such an accomplished artiste. Maybe (because I’m told that in the two weeks since I’ve been away the British economy has crumbled, trust in our financial institutions has been undermined, and consumer confidence is at an all time low) people are simply choosing to stay at home counting their bawbees by candlelight. Woodentops
And you might have thought that many a performer might have chosen to turn in a less than optimal performance for such a tawdry crowd. But I’m glad to say this was not the case, and I observe that even the woodentops did their best to encourage both Ms Wilson and her highly gifted band, led by guitarist Marvin Sewell, who has played with her for over ten years, and uber laid-back pianist Jason Moran. At the heart of Ms Wilson’s performance is of course her deeply expressive voice with its very broad range of notes – it has to be said that when she moves into a really low register the sound system has difficulty in keeping track with her. But what is most compelling is the languid blues groove that her bands have for many years provided as the backdrop to her singing. It’s a sound that has been progressively developed since her 1993 album Blue Light ‘Til Dawn – when Brandon Ross provided the blues guitar sound that has also become a signature of her work – something that Sewell has picked up and developed in his own style. Ms Wilson also relies heavily (both on disc and in live performance) on other people’s compositions – so tonight we get songs as diverse as Robert Johnson’s ‘Hellhound on my trail’, Elmore Jame’s ‘Dust my broom’, Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ and U2’s ‘Love is blindness’ – all of which are given the very distinctive Wilson treatment, so it’s always a bit of a guessing game during the introductions to know what’s coming next.
Cassandra Wilson
I observe that reviewers have in the past chided her for this over-reliance on the work of others, as her own writing skills are by no means poor. However I struggled to spot an original composition in the set which began with ‘St James’ Infirmary’ and ended with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Waters of March’. This latter song was from Belly of the Sun, the fourth of a series of epic albums that began with Blue Light, since when critics have also found her overall recorded works less satisfactory, somewhat mainstream, and perhaps altogether too predictable, including the most recent, 2006’s Thunderbird. That may be – but tonight’s performance, even in the absence of a decent audience is very, very good. In addition to her mesmerising voice, the multi-layered rhythmical feel - result of the work of New Orleans drummer Herlin Riley (who even manages to use the underside of the overhead walkway as an additional instrument) and percussionist Lekan Babalola - takes songs like ‘Dust my broom’ into deeply uncharted and intriguing territory. And of course it plays strongly to the African heritage of Ms Wilson’s birthplace of Mississippi and many of the composers she chooses to feature.
Value for money? Well, who can really tell? But certainly neither I nor the Photographer felt undersold. And if £50 is what it costs to go and see Ms Wilson and a band of such quality (did I remember to mention the wonderfully sensitive string bass player Reginald Veal?) then I for one would certainly go again. - Nick Morgan (concert photograph by Kate)
Many thanks, Nick. Well, yes, value for money... Hot topic these days generally speaking. It is a bit sad indeed that so little Londoners would go see Ms Wilson for the new price of a bottle of malt. I remember well the time when Cassandra Wilson became hot over here, I think it was more with her CD New Moon Daughter. The other very, very talented jazzwoman with a similar ‘darkness of tone’ who ‘exploded’ at the time was Patricia Barber. Ah, Patricia Barber! But let’s listen to Cassandra Wilson now, with her rendition of the very standard standard Body and Soul.mp3 (Live in Munich). S.
Glenfiddich Glenfiddich NAS ‘Straight Malt’ (43%, OB, 1960’s) Possibly the first Glenfiddich ever bottled (widely) as single malt in the famous triangular bottle. Colour: white wine (it is to be noted that people were looking for ‘light’, that is to say pale whiskies at the time). Nose: exceptionally great! Fantastic notes of fresh walnuts and almonds, ‘good’ soot, argan and olive oils, even linseed oil, new blue jeans (I’m sure you see what I mean)... And a great smokiness , at that. And something of our beloved riesling. Also whiffs of old roses... High-class old Glenfiddich – and I’m sure that bottle ageing did wonders on this one.
Mouth: a poem. Cider apples, propolis sweets, cough sweets, resins... And then the fresh walnuts are back, a little cardamom, soft curry... And what a body! It’s almost nervous after more than 40 years in its bottle. Great old whisky. Finish: maybe not too long but still candied, resinous and waxy. I guess this is what they call ‘a blast from he past’. 91 points. (and thanks, Ludo)
Glenfiddich 15 yo (58.4%, OB, for Whisky Live Paris 2007) This is the 15yo Solera Reserve, only at cask strength, as you can get it directly at the distillery. Colour: deep gold. Nose: maybe there’s a slight resemblance to the old NAS just for a short moment but then it’s all on caramel, roasted nuts, praline and chocolate. Very dry in fact, but pleasantly so. And there’s the same faint smokiness as in the oldie. Also notes of very, very ripe oranges. With water: ho-ho, now it smells like a cow stable – and that’s nice. Where does this wildness come from? Mouth (neat): rather hot and spirity, much marked by the sherry and even the wood. Less candied than the regular ‘Solera’ I think and certainly more winey, with notes of reduced wine sauce, cherry liqueur (guignolet) and kirsch. With water: not much evolution, it got just more sippable. Finish: long, still big and still on fruit liqueurs. The palate is much more ‘civilised’ than the nose but the whole is anything but a gentle, shy single malt, unlike some other mundane Glenfiddichs. Talkative and interesting. 86 points.

October 01, 2007

Glenmorangie 10
Glenmorangie 10 yo (40%, OB, 1980’s) Colour: straw. Nose: fresh and unexpectedly smoky and kind of mineral, very flinty. Gets then a little grassier and waxier, with also notes of fresh fruits such as gooseberries and butter pears. Grilled beef, bacon... And just a faint soapiness in the background together with something slightly metallic (OBE). Rather complex. Mouth: sweet, thick, creamy and malty, with a few salty touches. Rather bold in fact, much more powerful than expected. Goes on with toasted bread, coffee, crème brulée... And then overripe apples, hints of redcurrants... Gets also maltier and maltier. It’s big whisky, a true Highlander no doubt. Finish: the saltiness grew even bigger at this stage, and so did the maltiness. Too bad it got also a little too bubblegummy. Again, big whisky, even if it’s not as complex on the palate as on the nose. 84 points.
Glenmorangie 10 yo ‘Original’ (40%, OB, 2007) Colour: straw (exactly the same). Nose: completely different. No smoke, no ‘minerality’, rather quite some fruits (gooseberries again, peaches) and vanilla together with hints of yoghurt and mash. Vanilla-flavoured yoghurt? Also hints of apple liqueur (manzana verde). The whole is simple and very inoffensive but certainly fresh. Faint whiffs of cologne in the background. Mouth: quite fresh but much more discreet than the old 10, all on fruit juices and liqueurs as well as vanilla crème and caramel. Gets more and more caramelly actually, with the same notes of crème brulée as in the old one. Gets then much more bubblegummy, with also notes of marshmallows or Turkish delights, slightly disturbing here. Little wood influence, which may be good news, still. Weakish middle and finish, on caramel and fruits. Not bad at all but it’s certainly not aimed at maltlovers. A little too sweetish - fruitish for my tastes. 74 points.
Glenmorangie 18 yo (43%, OB, 2007) Tasted alongside an ‘old’ 18yo that was bottled roughly two or three years ago. Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather close to the older one but a little less demonstrative an fruity and a little more honeyed and pastry-like, but the general recipe hasn’t changed much it seems. Maybe a little more smoke and grassiness... Other than that it’s all on wild flowers and fresh walnuts, with faint hints of sherry (if any), fresh butter, getting a little wilder when nosed deeper (hints of farmyard, wet hay) but still very gentle altogether. Good balance. Mouth: now it’s slightly better than the older version, sweet, not bold, maybe slightly thin and too caramelly and honeyed but the whole is rather satisfying (yes, rather). A little candy sugar. Finish: not long but rather clean, a little fruitier and less caramelly now, all on candy sugar and crystallised fruits (all kinds). Very civilised, one to sip in the afternoon I’d say. Good whisky. 82 points (unchanged).
Glenmorangie 25 yo ‘Quarter Century’ (43%, OB, 2007) Colour: full gold. Nose: maybe a little more discreet than the 18 at first nosing, but also more elegant. Starts on rather superb notes of quince jelly (I really love that) and apricot pie and starts developing on layers of very ripe fruits (plums, raspberries, very ripe mellon) and all things from a beehive (pollen, wax, honey). There’s also a little smoke, fresh walnuts just like in the new 18, fresh herbs, roasted peanuts... And then it’s back on all sorts of jams, such as mirabelle or grape. Rather luscious, creamy, jammy... Yet, it’s not very bold whisky. Keywords: elegant jam (well, I guess I wouldn’t make it to the very enviable position of the guy who writes these ‘baselines’ at the SMWS...) Mouth: incredibly creamier, thicker and... better than the 18. Not too far from pure honey actually, with also all these fruit jams again, high-end fruit liqueurs, nougat and praline, dates filled with marzipan... The oak is well here in the background, giving the whole a very perfect backbone and hints of spices that prevent the whole from getting slightly lumpish. And just like in the old 10yo, there’s also a little salt that plays with your tongue and with your lips. The balance is truly perfect, at that. If you like creamy, fruity and honeyed whiskies, this is for you. Provided you’re ready to hand out almost 400 Euros for a 25yo malt that’s been reduced to 43%, that is. But talking about money is a bit cheap and dirty, isn’t it? Anyway, 90 points for this very expensive but very good creamy wonder (and thanks, Martine).
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MUSICRecommended listening: The Montgolfier Brothers think that The world is flat.mp3. Well viewed from a hot air ballon, it can be... Please buy the brothers’ music. Montgolfier

September 2007 - part 2 <--- October 2007 - part 1 ---> October 2007 - part 2

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



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

Glenfiddich NAS ‘Straight Malt’ (43%, OB, 1960’s)

Glenmorangie 25 yo ‘Quarter Century’ (43%, OB, 2007)

Glenugie 1967/1989 (43%, Sestante, bird label)

Port Ellen 21 yo 1983/2004 (62.7%, Blackadder Raw Cask, sherry butt #2734, 563 bottles)

Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2007 (55.7%, Signatory for La Maison du Whisky, Collectors’ Edition, cask #1203, 255 bottles)

Secret Stills 01-02 1986/2007 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, casks #1361-1363, 1860 bottles)

Talisker 30 yo (50.7%, OB, 2007, 2958 bottles)