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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2008 - Part 1
September 2008 - part 2 <--- October 2008 - part 1 ---> October 2008 - part 2

October 14, 2008

TASTING – NEW TALISKER 25 UNDER PRESSURE! (isn’t this headline catchier – and more blog-style than just ‘Four Taliskers’?)

Indeed, we really wanted to put the brand new Talisker 25 under pressure, following Corneille’s advice in Le Cid (‘we triumph without glory when we conquer without danger’) and that’s why we decided to try it ‘against’ three old, err, glories…
Talisker 21 yo 1951 (43% Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, Pinerolo, rotation 1972) Colour: dark gold. Nose: wonderful at first nosing, starting on big whiffs of coal smoke, soot, cold ashes and dried tangerines. Rather dry and beautifully austere, wonderfully pure. Develops then for a long time, getting much more honeyed. Also mirabelle plum jam, quinces, fig liqueur, leather, ‘old engine’, motor oil… Very complex and obviously superb. Mouth: not exactly powerful but certainly big and immensely salty. Cough drops, orange liqueur, malt, grilled herbs, bitter chocolate, bitter oranges… Granted, there’s a little less complexity than on the nose but it’s still wonderful. And, above all, not tired at all. Finish: medium long, all on oranges, salt, peat and tea. Comments: as often, this is more a whisky for nosing but the palate really stood the course. What a stunning nose! SGP:456 – 92 points.
Talisker 21 yo 1952 (43% Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, Pinerolo, rotation 1973) Colour: amber. Nose: we’re starting more or les in the same vein as with the 1951, except that this is somewhat rounder and more candied and orangey, less austere. It’s also a little more medicinal, somewhat more Islay style. Bigger notes of oranges in any case. Develops on more minty and resinous notes, camphor, metal polish, cough medicine… Well, this is absolutely stunning. I like it even better than the 1951. Mouth: again, this is different. Bigger, almost punchy, with a lot of oomph and ultra-big notes of peppered bitter oranges dipped into dark chocolate. Or something like that. The pepper gets really huge, together with the tannins (but they never get drying). Also lemon marmalade and plain peat. Finish: longer than the 1951’s, almost hot, very peppery, with also notes of cloves and always quite some bitter chocolate. Comments: maybe a little old Islay style on the nose but definitely ‘Talisker’ on the palate. A work of art, amazingly big at 43% and after 35 years in glass. SGP:566 – 94 points.
Talisker 24 yo 1953 (43% Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, Pinerolo, rotation 1977) Colour: amber. Nose: this one is sort of between the 1951 and the 1952 at first nosing, mid-ashy, mid-orangey, but also with much bigger notes of shoe polish and soot. There’s also quite some ‘good’ soap; I mean, not soapy soap, rather deluxe soap. Oh well… The development is, once again, beautiful. Certainly drier than both the 1951 and the 1952 now, with even more shoe polish, metal polish, ink, gun grease, wet chalk… Another fabulous nose. Amazing how these three old Taliskers are similar yet different on the nose. Mouth: very coherent, with again these resinous and waxy notes. I should confess I never tried shoe polish but that may well taste like this. Thicker mouth feel than in the other ones. Gets then a tad metallic but also very salty and lemony again. Also a tad tannic. Finish: long, with again these metallic notes. Comments: well, this one is the least impressive on the palate but the nose was absolutely amazing, which will prevent me from going below 90 points. SGP:365 – 90 points.
Talisker 25 yo (54.2%, OB, Refill casks, 9,708 bottles, 2008) A pretty large batch this year. Colour: pale gold. Nose: the difference with the oldies is very obvious, and not only because of the higher proof. It’s much more ‘coastal’, with much more notes of iodine, sea air, oysters, kelp… As for the fruity side, we left the oranges for more lemons and green apples. Also highly unusual notes of green olives that we never got in any Talisker as far as we can remember. The peat is less ‘ashy and sooty’, and probably grassier and more organic. With water (at roughly 43% to make it more comparable with the oldies): it got even straighter, on a pure mix of seawater and lemon juice. Make that a plate of oysters. Mouth (neat): again, what’s striking is that there’s much more lemon and even lime in this ‘new’ one. Very citric and then certainly peatier than the oldies. Also very peppery, but it’s different pepper when compared with the exceptional 1952. Sharper and also more mineral. With water: it does not get any rounder but, interestingly, closer to the oldies, with these heavy notes of shoe polish that we found in the 1953. Also notes of fresh almonds and always a lot of lemon. Finish: long, heavily ‘coastal’ now, with the ‘lemony peat’ striking at the end. Faint tannins (grape skin). Comments: these recent 20 or 25yo Taliskers are all very good and except for wood type variations (there has been some sherry versions), they are all very consistent. What’s more, even if the 1952 is really out of this world, they are in the same league as the oldies and should benefit from a little bottle aging. Only one concern, though: will the corks keep as well as good twist caps (or better yet, tin/spring caps) do? SGP:457 - 91 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Michel Hausser and his vibes doing Horace Silver’s (from Up in Hamburg, too bad it was never put on CD) sometime in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. Michel, 'our own Milt Jackson', lives in our valley here in Alsace and at the age of 81, he’s doing very well and never, ever lost it on stage or in studio. Please buy any music by Michel Hausser that you may find. Michel Hausser

October 13, 2008


The House of Blues, New Orleans, October 5th 2008

House of blues
It could be the most disconcerting thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m in the urinals, and the gentleman next to me, eyes pointed purposefully on the porcelain, says “Jeez, this one’s gonna be the hottest I’ve had for years”. What could I say? After all, I’m in a foreign country.
He turns to catch my eye. As they say in these parts, I shoot him a glance. “I mean the gig. Jonny Lang. Saw him when he was a boy in St Louis. Man, he’s the hottest young guitar player I’ve ever seen. Plays like a dream, sings good too, like an old blues man. Me and my buddies, we’re in town for the football game, we’re from up state. Man, we’ve been drinking like hogs since we got here Friday night. Can you believe this place? Where y’all from?”
We’re in New Orleans, thankfully a somewhat less blighted city than when we last visited just twelve months after the devastating Hurricane Katrina, but still a shadow of its former glory. We’ve just feasted Cajun-style in what seems to be the one busy Sunday night restaurant - andouille, red beans and rice with smoked sausage, alligator strips, blackened fish and smothered turnip greens. And now we’re in the House of Blues.
New Orleans
It’s part of the chain originally set up by Hard Rock Café founder Isaac Tigrett and actor and sometimes Blues Brother Dan Ackroyd, which, you may recall, famously rescued Muddy Waters’ sharecropper shack at Stovall Plantation from dereliction. But now, like most things it seems, House of Blues (but not the shack) is owned by Live Nation. For many, HOB represents perhaps one of the worst manifestations of Corporate Rock, including collaborations with hotel chains and casinos, And many might wonder at the expanding influence of businesses like Live Nation, with through-the-line interests from artist management, to promotion, to venue ownership. Just read the slogan on the back of the matching T-shirts worn by the two rather militant ladies we saw somewhere – “The home of the blues is in the Delta, not a restaurant’. But the fact remains that they’re capable of bringing medium-name headliners to venues such as this, which local promoters would probably find difficult to do. And despite the burgeoning economic meltdown, which seems to dominate every restaurant and breakfast table conversation we overhear, this place is absolutely packed. But it is a football weekend, and without doubt it’s a football crowd.
Jonny Lang is as described in the restrooms: a veritable child prodigy of the blues. Having started to play when he was around twelve, he recorded his first major album, Lie to Me, in 1997 at the age of fifteen. You have to listen to this one to understand just how good it is – naturally razor-sharp guitar playing from the school of Stevie Ray Vaughan and an astonishingly mature voice with a soulful growl reminiscent of Joe Cocker at his best. Fifteen? Don’t believe me? Buy the record and see. Sadly, in the ten years since then, during which time Lang has toured the USA remorselessly, his music has veered towards the sadly predictable watered-down soul-rock so beloved of American audiences. Jonny Lang
It’s not that Lang’s prodigious talents have diminished in any way, rather that they have been somewhat wasted on material clearly designed to seek out a wider audience, and in particular to win airplay time on the hugely commercially important but mind-numbingly anodyne radio play lists. Just listen to ‘Red light’ to see what I mean. But the songs from his last two albums, Long Time Coming and Turn Around, are just the stuff for a largely inebriated, arm-waving and whooping New Orleans football audience. However, I was prepared to give Mr Lang the benefit of the doubt – on stage he’s a charming, modest and genuine sort of guy, still with the winning smile of a teenager, and when he plays (and my goodness, how he plays) a grimace worthy of the finest blues guitarists. But the predictability and blandness of the material was wearing, and the balance finally tipped against his favour after a lengthy cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Living for the city’, which in a sense gave the game away, and left your reviewer and companion leaving in search of some of Scotland’s very finest midnight wine.
Now, Serge, we’re on the road heading for the Delta. We’ve taken all the money that was left in the special Whiskyfun Icelandic bank account (not as much, I’m sure, as we deposited) and bought a fabulous second-hand Whiskeyfun trailer for our trip, though I have to admit it’s a bit of a bugger to manoeuvre. We’re in the land of real whiskey, and real food to match. And heading north on Highway 61 and the Great River Road, past the half-harvested fields of cotton and soya beans, and through largely forgotten and impoverished communities with isolated churches scattered on lonely roadsides, I can’t help wondering whether, that in addition to being the root of everything that’s best in music, there isn’t a prescient and timeless spiritual wisdom here, that can sort of see what’s coming. - Nick Morgan (most photographs by Nick and Kate) Whiskey
Listen: Jonny Lang's MySpace page.
Glen Grant 15


Glen Grant 15yo (57% 100°Proof, G&M Licenced bottling, early 1990's, 75cl) Colour: amber. Nose: rather punchy, compact at first nosing (praline and coffee) but going in many directions after that. Meaty (ham and chicken bouillon), malty and herbal (parsley), with very nice notes of dry sherry and a little smoke. Gets then meatier and drier, without any fruitiness. More smoke as well (roasted chestnuts, BBQ) and whiffs of fresh mint. With water: keeps developing and quite beautifully so. Soy sauce, coal smoke, cooked ham, mulled wine, Comté cheese (or Gruyère) with notes of chives and maybe dill and cumin. Mouth (neat): more classic but not less big. Malt, old white wine, walnuts… Liquorice, strong tea, roots… Gets drier and drier. Huge saltiness. With water: even more salt as well as more liquorice and more earthy tones. Finish: long, almost ‘too much’ actually, concentrated like some re-cooked vegetable soup. Comments: amazing saltiness, we’re very far from the light and easy young Glen Grants. Very interesting but maybe not one to pour to your favourite neighbours. SGP:372 – 87 points.
Glen Grant 15 yo 1992/2007 (59.9%, OB, cask #17163, 378 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: more austere than the older G&M, less meaty (but it could not have been meatier on the nose), with unusual notes of crystallised lemons and plain lemonade and orangeade. Fanta? Lemon-scented candles, waxed paper, fermenting hay, dust, curry and mustard. ‘First rain after three dry weeks in a large city’ (oh well…) Not the average Glen Grant for sure, nor the average malt whisky. With water: it gets seriously cheesy and papery. Not that it’s unpleasant, especially since it gets then cleaner, more on apple juice and flints. Mouth (neat): very classic now, even if rather punchy. Mashed potatoes, ale, apple juice and lemon juice. With water: more of the same. 50% lager and 50% cider. Finish: long, even more on lager (say Pils), with hops’ bitterness. Comments: interesting that Glen Grant chose this cask as one of their new limited OB’s, now that they seem to have gained more autonomy (under Campari’s ownership.) Rather demanding but we applaud. SGP:252 – 85 points.
And also Glen Grant 5 yo 1968 (40%, OB, 75cl) One of these old 5yo’s for Italy bearing vintages. Nose: starts a bit spirity and on rather heavy notes of cut apples. Gets then a little feintier, porridgy. Mouth: lively, quite malty and grainy, developing on apples again. Simple but palatable. Keyword: apples. SGP:420 – 75 points.

October 12, 2008

We already did that in the past so why not be even more transparent, ‘lift the bonnet’ a little further on WF’s figures and have a closer look at the evolutions of the numbers of visits from various parts of the world within one year? We’ve only taken into account what we’d call ‘useful visits’, that is to say visits that 'stuck' and didn’t ‘bounce back’. That makes quite a difference since WF currently gathers more or less 2,800 visits a day, whilst only 1,500 of them are really 100% ‘useful’ in our opinion. But we’re shooting for quality anyway, not quantity (proof: YOU are reading this! ;-)) since we aren’t selling any ad space, links, leads, edvertising, high ratings, whisky, diet food, monkey wrenches, fake v!agrrRa, replica Rolexes, penis enlarging pills, online casino games, debt reductions, pictures of Victoria Beckham nude or Dell computers. Anyway, here are these figures for last month (Sept 2008):
  These figures do show that indeed, ‘new countries’ progress much more than ‘old ones’, that is to say that these countries seem to be more and more into single malt whisky (and high-class music reviews!) It is to be noted that within Asia, the Persian Gulf countries are really skyrocketing.
More globally, it’s Singapore (+732%!!!), India (+230%), Poland (+212%), Brazil (+182%), Russia (+144%), Norway (+143%), Spain (+135%), Greece (+121%) and Australia (+108%) that are doing very well among the 'large' countries. On the other hand, we're sorry to announce that we lost our unique monthly readers in Belize, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan (but where is Borat ?) but gained one in Libya, Suriname and on the Turks and Caicos Islands. Now, the crisis may mess everything up...


Edradour 10yo 1972 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice old brown label, +/- 1982) Colour: gold. Nose: very floral and very honeyed, smelling almost like pure acacia honey at first nosing, getting then a bit more ‘tertiary’, with notes of old leather and dried flowers (pot pourri) and then mint, and just the tiniest soapiness. It’s very pleasant. Mouth: starts very well, on the same notes of honey plus quite some dried fruits, but gets then a little bizarre, unusually salty and bitter. Notes of cologne and burnt caramel. Yes, strange. What’s more, it’s rather powerful! Finish: long, a tad cleaner now, more candied and kind of roasted. Comments: the nose was very nice but the palate is a tad too ‘wacky’ for my taste. A collector’s item? SGP:460 – 68 points.
Edradour 1973 (40%, G&M Connoisseur’s Choice old map label, +/- 1985) Colour: gold. Nose: this is very vegetal and starts almost like olive oil, then quite some mashed potatoes and beer, and finally ultra-big notes of thyme and rosemary. I never got that that loud in whisky. Also hints of new leatherette, alas. The rest is similar to the 1972, with quite some acacia honey. Mouth: better than the 1972 at the attack. Not only even bigger, but also very nicely fruity and honeyed. Alas, that doesn’t last for too long and these notes of cologne and burnt caramel are back. Finish: long and even more on perfume. Nice notes of crystallised oranges, that is. Comments: it had its moments. SGP:360 – 70 points.
Edradour 20 yo 1976/1996 (50.2%, Signatory, casks #161/164, 420 bottles) A pre-Signatory Signatory, so to speak. Colour: straw. Nose: we’re closer to the 1973 than to the 1972 on the nose I’m afraid, but it’s still much cleaner spirit, without these plastic-like notes. Olive oil, rosemary, porridge and wet cardboard. Little honey here, that is. Mouth: immensely soapy and perfumy, to the point where it’s almost pleasant in its total extravagance. Quite incredible, these notes really dominate the whole. Finish: very long and even soapier, with also a little salt. Comments: like when you mistakenly swallow shampoo while taking a shower. Unless you’re used to drink shampoo, that is… SGP:380 – 50 points.
Edradour 10 yo (40%, OB, tall bottle, +/-1990) Colour: gold. Nose: this is much more like it. Clean spirit, with a very, very nice sherry, quite some vanilla, honey and soft spices and a striking resemblance with a young Aberlour. Great notes of orange cake as well, and even parsley and vegetable bouillon. But the problem may happen on the palate… Mouth: no, it’s a very good attack, extremely honeyed and malty. Roasted chestnuts, brownies, mocha and then even more honey. Slight bitterness after a moment (walnut skin). Finish: long – all these low strength Edradours are big drams – and evolving on even more honey, caramelised nuts and okay, maybe a faint soapiness again in the ‘signature’. Comments: this is good. Worth having in your collection (collecting whisky? Uh!) SGP:551 - 80 points.
Edradour 10 yo (40%, OB, dumpy bottle, +/-2002) This is one of the very last bottling by the previous owners, before Signatory bought the distillery. Colour: amber. Nose: we’re back to the soapy side a bit (washing powder) but much, much less than with the old indies. Quite some honey, walnut liqueur, cigar box and orange cake then hints of fresh putty and bitter almonds. Mouth: no! Detergent, plastic, bitter almonds and Fanta. Finish: yes. Comments: these batches were rather disastrous on the palate and it was about time somebody took over the distillery. I believe the latest batches can be recognised by their tiny coloured drawing of the distillery instead of the older single colour one. SGP:270 – 60 points.
Edradour 10 yo 1997/2008 (59.1%, OB, straight from the cask, Château d’Yquem Finish, 452 bottles) This one spent 9 month in Yquem casks. Colour: gold. Nose: it has troubles talking at this very high strength, let’s add water right away (but it seems that there are nice notes of apricots). With water: listen, I’d love to bash this crazy wine finishing (and god knows Yquem is great wine) but contrarily to ‘Tokaj’ versions that were really too much, this is very, very enjoyable. Not sweetish at all, rather balanced, kind of phenolic, superbly fruity, on apricots, ripe bananas, quinces and herbal tea (camomile) and then marzipan and nougat. Works very well (I’m afraid). Mouth (neat): punchy, sweet and fruity, all on pineapple drops and hot lemon marmalade. Very hot! With water: Edradour’s slightly ‘tricky’ character shines through for a short while but then it’s all bananas flambéed, tinned pineapples, brioche and apricot pie, with also quite some honey. Finish: long, a little more vegetal and spicy now, as well as a little salty. Comments: this cask managed to tame the fearless spirit. A success. SGP:541 - 84 points.
Edradour 'Port Cask Matured' (46%, OB, 1st release, cask #378, 2008) Matured solely in a Port bodega butt, no finishing. I believe this was already distilled by the new owners. Colour: blush wine. Nose: yes! Sure the wine’s small red and black fruits are a bit restless at very first nosing but they quickly get sort of brought back to heel, mingling with the (very clean it seems) spirit into something very fragrant and aromatic. Redcurrants jelly, kriek, butter cream and cherry stem tea. Very nice spiciness, albeit unusual. Indian korma sauce? Whiffs of coffee as well (coffee-schnapps). No soapiness whatsoever. Mouth: this is more ‘winey’ as such and, above all, more extravagantly fruity than on the nose, with huge notes of strawberry drops, bubblegum, pineapples, light caramel, very ripe pears and even wild strawberries. Once again, the spirit is very clean and hence different from older Edradours. Finish: long, clean fresh and fruity/jammy. Comments: if you like fruity whiskies, this is for you. Very well done and, again much cleaner than older Edradours (I know I insist, sorry about that.) SGP:731 – 84 points.
Ballechin #3 (46%, OB, matured in Port hogsheads, 2008) Matured solely in Port hogsheads. After the Edradour ‘Port’, it’s interesting to try this peaty version that’s been matured in roughly similar casks. Remember Ballechin #1 was matured in Burgundy and #2 in Madeira. Colour: pale gold. Port hogsheads, that is to say casks made in Scotland out of ex-Port wood, are obviously much less ‘winey’ than plain Port casks. Nose: superb! Seriously, this is great, very different from most other peated whiskies but probably ‘closer to Islay’ than batches #2 and 3. There’s some iodine (yeah we know where Pitlochry is), hints of bandages, then marzipan, quite some nutmeg, ginger powder, fresh walnuts, light peat smoke and, I must say, these notes of rosemary that we already found in older Edradours, except that they’re much, much more pleasant here. Very discreet hints of cow stable. Superb nose, really. Mouth: excellent, perfect alliance of the peat and the candied side from the cask. Farmy, albeit less so than earlier batches, more polished, with a fruitiness that’s more on ripe apricots and plums, lemon balm sweets (say Ricola) and kumquats. Not extravagantly complex yet but the peat/fruits balance is perfect. Finish: long, with the peat coming more to the front, which gives it an Islay side just like at first nosing. Great notes of almond milk and even quite some salt. Comments: Ballechin should not be overlooked. We had batch #1 at 85 and #2 at 86, and this deserves 87. Yes, French logics. We don’t know what will be on next year, maybe Sauternes? As long as it works… SGP:536 - 87 points.
By the way, according to James Ross in his book 'Whisky', in 1969, the prices for one gallon of new make in bond were between 13 and 16 shillings for most distilleries. Five were at 16 shillings (Tormore, Talisker, Ardmore, Macallan and Laphroaig) whilst two were at 16.3 shillings (Glenlivet and Glen Grant) and only one, the most expensive, at 16.9 shillings: Edradour!
MUSIC – Recommended listening: the superb Pearl Bailey singing Tired.mp3 with the Louis Bellson Orchestra in 1947 ('though I'm not sure it's the original version.) Please buy Pearl Bailey's music. Pearl Bailey

October 10, 2008



Linlithgow 25 yo 1982/2008 (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #8902, 245 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: starts quite austere, on apple peelings and linseed oil, with hints of wet newspapers. Not an easy-sexy dram for sure. Goes on with notes of paraffin, fresh walnuts, roots and newly cut grass, with just faint lemony notes in the background. Also hints of motor oil. A slightly phenolic St Magdalene, maybe a tad rigid but interesting in its own style. Mouth: a tad rounder now and, to tell you the truth, more appealing. Quite some cider apples, hints of orange blossom water, walnut cake, heather honey (quite a lot, reminding me of some old Highland Parks) and barley sugar. Also hints of chlorophyll and mastic gums. Finish: medium long, clean, back on apples. Comments: the nose is a tad shy but the palate is very pleasant. A good opportunity to try a Linlithgow/St Magdalene for a reasonable price (£80). SGP:241 – 84 points.
Linlithgow 25 yo 1982/2008 (59.2%, Signatory for LMDW, cask #2201, 388 bottles) "Matured in a wine treated butt." This one dates from the time when they were still rejuvenating their wood by pouring wine or concentrated wine into old casks, something they don’t do anymore (of course). Kudos to Signatory for adding these kinds of data on their labels. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s not very far from the TSMOS version, only a tad rounder and more honeyed. Same notes of apples, walnuts and paraffin, with added hints of pollen, beeswax and apricot pie. Marginally sexier. With water: we’ve got almost exactly the same whisky as the TSMOS now. It got very grassy. Mouth (neat): once again, we’re in the same vein, but this is much more powerful than the TSMOS and quite spirity. Pear and pineapple drops. Hot stuff that certainly needs water, so let’s not waste time… With water: sweeter and rounder, with a lot of candy sugar and various kinds of fruit drops. A little honey as well, as well as something pleasantly resinous (cough sweets.) Finish: longer than the TSMOS but all on apples again, with just hints of liquorice wood and lemon zests. Comments: a similar tipple, maybe a tad bigger than the TSMOS but also much more expensive. SGP:341 - 85 points.


proposes his Autumnal malt cocktails

Cocktail #3:
"The Hunt is Open!"

Pour into a whisky tumbler:
- 6 cl Glenfiddich 18 yo "Ancient reserve"
- 1 cl hazelnut liqueur
- 1 cl Jaegermeister
- 4 cl blood orange juice
Stir, then using the back of a teaspoon along the edge of the glass add carefully 1 cl crème de mûre (blackberry liqueur) which will drop to the bottom of the glass.
Finish with a few drops of Angostura bitter (which will stay at the top), and a pinch of fresh chervil.
Decoration: Mini hart horns... if you find some!
Variants: Substitute the Glenfiddich 18 with another Glenfiddich (12, 15, Caoran...) or with a Isle of Jura, or aDalmore...
Hunt is open
MUSIC – We are in New York City in 1984 and FZ and his band are doing Greg Allman’s Whippin’ Post.mp3 live (it was on the DVD ‘Does humor belong in music?’), Robert 'Bobby' Martin being on vocals. FZ playing straight ahead blues? You bet! Please buy FZ’s marvellous music… FZ

October 9, 2008



Balvenie 1976/2008 (52.7%, OB, 231 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: it’s clearly an old Balvenie, with the expected big fruitiness at first nosing (crushed bananas, acacia honey) but also with something more animal and farmy. Rather heavy notes of mead, old sweet white wine (sweet old pinot gris), with something delicately smoky and obvious notes of apricot pie. More nervous and ‘young’ than other old versions. Whiffs of crushed mint leaves and gunpowder, coal oven. With water: more of the same, with added notes of cooked vegetables, such as salsify. Mouth (neat): excellent attack, crisp and fruity yet complex, ‘resinously lemony’ with a little salt and notes of lemon balm and ginger. It’s big whisky, not an old Balvenie de salon. With water: more lemons and more vegetal notes. Asparagus? Quite some wood. Finish: medium long, curisouly dry and vegetal. Comments: warning, this one isn’t a swimmer, but it’s very, very nice when undiluted. SGP:551 – 84 points.
Balvenie-Glenlivet 28 yo 1974 (55.3%, Cadenhead, Single Bourbon Barrel, cask #17710) Colour: gold. Nose: this is more austere, grassy and smoky, with notes of motor oil and wet stones. Balvenie but not quite. Goes on with quite some leather, wet herbs, wet chalk, lead… Changes directions after that, with more apricots and bananas but also lemons. Sort of drops after that, which is bizarre. Thinnish. With water: green tannins, mint. Rather nice but not ‘Balvenie’. Mouth (neat): fruity and even sweet at very first sipping but soon to get oddly vegetal and bitterish. Bitter sour wax. Not too great. With water: bye-bye. Finish: medium long, thin, grassy and bitterish. Comments: it started quite well but never stopped dwindling down. Way too grassy for Balvenie – a shame because Cadenhead had some excellent Balvenies, such as a 29yo 1974 at 48% ABV. SGP:271 – 69 points.
Balvenie-Glenlivet 20 yo 1979/1999 (55.7%, Cadenhead, 300 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: the biggest of them all, but also the most spirity. Quite some varnish, fresh almonds, wet stones, wet gravel, green tea and mirabelle plum spirit. Yes, strange. With water: glue, beef jerky and fresh paint. Wazzat? Mouth (neat): powerful, aggressive, bitter and cardboardy. Yep, doesn’t sound too great but water may help. With water: indeed, water helped a bit this time but the whole is still week and grassy. Finish: medium long, green, almondy. Comments: maybe a tad better than the 1974 on the palate but way ‘under’ the OB – and it wasn’t the best OB ever. Just between us, one may understand why some distilleries don’t like to see their brand names on such dodgy bottlings… SGP:261 – 70 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's have a bit of 'joyful electronica' by Madrid De Los Austrias (Heinz Tronigger and Michael Kreiner) today. It's called Viva La Evolution.mp3 and it may well not be to the creationists' liking... But if you believe in Darwin, please buy these crazy people's music! Madrid

October 8, 2008



As you may already know, The Malt Maniacs' Awards 2008 are on! Limited to 200 'candidates' (we have 198 new whiskies to try this year, actually) and, as always, completely free and indepedendent. When we say free, they aren't completely free to us Maniacs as some of our members will have to fly to Europe to pick up their parcels (for some obscure 'customs' reasons) whilst others may have to bribe a few local politicians to be able to gather their precious samples.Yes, it's not that easy (but again, very costly) to ship 198 samples to 12 Maniacs who are scattered all over the globe... Anyway, results here and on maltmaniacs.org right on Dec 1, 2008!

Caol Ila 16 yo 1966/1982 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy) Colour: pale gold. Nose: Jesus! Just the perfect mix of tar, kelp, peat smoke, antiseptic, flints, oysters, seawater and spearmint. Totally exceptional and not far in style from the best Ardbegs from the 1960’s. Mouth: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Exceptional again, bursting with almonds, tar, peat, resin, camphor and very old lemon liqueur from the greatest Italian makers’. Finish: long and majestically peaty, tarry, salty, liquoricy and lemony. Comments: liquid History and a work of art. A GTO of the whisky world, dating from times when Coal Ila was a heavier and fatter spirit. SGP:457 - 94 points.
Caol Ila 1969/1985 (59.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for Meregalli) Colour: white wine. Nose: too bad we’re having this one after the stupendous 1966, it’s having a hard time competing when undiluted. A tad sourer and more lemony and buttery, without the exceptional crispiness that the 1966 displayed. Some tarry notes, still. With water: gets very tarry now, and more maritime as well. Loads of fresh almonds and raw clams. Wet newspapers. Mouth (neat): much, much better than on the nose when neat. Immensely lemony and peaty, albeit less complex than the 1966 again when undiluted. Kiwis, lime juice, lemon balm and fresh mint. With water: pure liquorice wood and mastic-flavoured gums. Finish: long, resinous and salty. Lemon marmalade. Comments: not as wonderful as the 1966 but still great. Maybe a tad less compact and aromatically precise. SGP:446 – 90 points.
Caol Ila 1982/2008 (55.4%, Berry Bros & Rudd for LMDW, cask #756, 248 bottles) From a refill hogshead, with a funny retro label that’s close to the original BBR label from the 1970’s (couldn’t find the old Remington or Underwood in the basement? ;-)). Colour: straw. Nose: let’s be honest, it’s not quite fair to try recent Caol Ilas after a wonder such as the 1966, but I must say this one is not ridiculous at all - much less so than the pleonastically senile pope anyway (oops). Fruitier, younger in style even if it’s already 28yo, probably less complex but still very clean and pure. Freshly cut apples, lemon, wet stones, fresh almonds, coal smoke and apple peelings. Less tarry than the 1969. With water: all on lemon and green tea now, then cigarette ashes, iodine and ‘new’ leather (let’s say a leather shop in Turkey – whatever). Mouth (neat): big but rounder and softer than the oldies, as well as earthier (roots, celeriac) and probably more maritime than the 1969. Gets then very almondy (marzipan) and rather mineral (Riesling). With water: not much changes except that it got even earthier and rootier. Mint and liquorice sweets. Finish: long and saltier, rather lemony, with hints of raw peatiness as if it was much younger. Comments: right, we really thought this one would not stay the course ‘against’ the oldies but it did. More or less in the same league as the 1969, I’d say, which says long. The 1966 was out of this world anyway. SGP:357 – 90 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Colombia’s very wonderful Claudia Gómez (she’s from Medelin) singing and playing Tierradentro (Inland, For Jaime).mp3. Superb, just superb. Please buy Claudia Gómez’ music… Claudia Gomez

October 7, 2008


Dingwalls, Camden Town, London, September 30th 2008

Readers may remember that we last saw James Hunter at Camden Town’s Jazz Café back in 2007, since when he’s released a new album, The Hard Way, to follow up the hugely successful People Gonna Talk. He’s also picked up a couple of new band members, including a mighty impressive young man at the keyboards, Carwyn Ellis. Beyond that it’s hard to pin down any noticeable differences. He’s as exuberant as ever. His voice is a delight and his guitar playing … well let’s just call it idiosyncratic, but wonderful. He wears his debts to artists like Sam Cooke and The “5” Royales, like his heart, on his sleeve. He doesn’t strike me as being the most sophisticated chap in the world – you can take the man out of Essex, but you can’t take Essex out of the man, as they say – but that hardly matters when the music is simply so accomplished and so enjoyable. Mr Hunter is at the start of a long tour, taking him to continental Europe (I understand he’s a big hit in Paris), back to the UK and then over to the US, so I urge anyone with a love of good music to seek him out – it’s well worth the effort. And if you can’t do that then you should at least buy his new record, and the one before that if you don’t already have it.
- Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

James Hunter


Isle of Jura 1974 (44.5%, OB, 658 bottles, 2008) Colour: deep amber. Nose: wow, this is superb! Not much Jura character – although that may still have to be defined by somebody – but a wonderful mix of bananas flambéed, orange marmalade, very ripe mangos, figs and dates, macchiato, cigarette tobacco, baklavas, sandalwood and… well, even more figs. Cinnamon and aniseed cookies. Fantastic freshness and fullness at the same time. Mouth: maybe not quite as impressive right at first sipping – we said quite – but despite a body that’s not the fullest ever, it’s very complex and demonstrative whisky. Loads of soft spices and bunches of dried fruits such as sultanas, candied chestnuts, kumquats and papayas, with kind of a ‘smoky mintiness’ and excellent notes of burnt apricot pie. Roasted raisins. Finish: very long, fuller now, mucho candied and even a tad salty. Comments: a very wonderful Jura without any of the winey notes that were in earlier versions. Now, considering its price tag (600 Euros – yes sir) we’re simply wondering who’s gonna drink this. Not the high street traders for sure… SGP:643 – 91 points.
Isle of Jura 30 yo 1966/1996 (52,6%, Signatory, cask #1868-1869, 240 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: oh! The OB was great on the nose but this is simply stupendous. Before the anti-maltoporn brigade arrives, let’s quickly mention smoked ham, old fino sherry, walnuts, morels and truffles, old leather (horse saddle), Barbour grease, 50yo pu-erh tea (or older), Havana cigars, linseed oil, mint liqu… aargh, here’s the brigade! Mouth: out of these worlds. Smoky, earthy, herbal, peaty, resinous, HUGELY phenolic, walnutty, maritime, medicinal… Finish: immensely, almost abnormally long and full flavoured. Comments: my best Jura ever, by far. Unless somebody wrongly stencilled a cask of 1966 Ardbeg – and this is no joke. Andrew? SGP:564 – 94 points.

October 6, 2008


Hammersmith Apollo, London, September 14th 2008
I don’t think country fans get out enough. Take the party sitting in our wonderful seats at the packed Hammersmith Apollo – honestly oblivious to the fact that ticket numbers actually mean anything, sitting there comfortably with spam and sandwich-spread sandwiches packed neatly in foil, and a flask of tea, milk on the side in an old cough-mixture bottle. Very homely, and given the way they wolfed it all down, very hungry. Then, judging by the reception they gave to support act Kimmie Rhodes, not only hungry for British haute cuisine but also for anyone with a Texan twang and a tragic tale of woe to sing. Spam
Not that Kimmie, with the assistance of her partner on bass and son on guitar, wasn’t anything but good, it’s just that she wasn’t quite that good. So it was hardly surprising that after the interval (“Do you think there’s a bar …?”) they greeted Emmylou Harris with something pretty close to a standing ovation, which was repeated at the end of her first song, ‘Here I am’, from her 2003 album Stumble Into Grace. They simply loved her to death for the whole night, which was just as well. Because she was indeed fantastic, and they were, after all, sitting in our seats.
Emmylou Harris
I was trying to think if any other country singer sings with quite the same emotional intensity as Ms Harris.
She has a voice that plucks right at the strings of the heart; sorrow, guilt, pain, regret and lost love all echo from the sound and intonation of her singing, and that’s before the almost universally depressing lyrics come into play. There’s no room for funny stuff here – it’s unremitting hardcore country blues, without let up, all night. “Here I am” is pretty heavy stuff, but nothing compared with ‘Broken man’s lament’ from her excellent new album “All I intended to be”. And that pales besides Merle Haggard’s ‘Kern River’ – “This is my favourite Merle Haggard song, just because it’s so sad”. She’s not joking. But this is country music at its most engaging, not least because Ms Harris is supported by a band of the very highest quality, the Red Dirt Boys, named in homage to Oklahoma’s particular genre of country music. Bryan Owings and Chris Donohue, both from Buddy Miller’s band, are on drums and bass. On keyboards and accordion, composer and producer Phil Madeira, on fiddles, mandolin and electrifying harmonies Virginian Bluegrass prodigy Ricky Simpkins, and on guitars Canadian singer-songwriter Colin Linden. Emmylou Harris
I can’t tell you just how good these guys were – Linden in particular dragging every last ounce of emotion from some sometimes spectacularly simple guitar playing – take the guitar part on ‘Broken man’s lament’ – which adds only greater piquancy to Ms Harris’s vocals.
Emmylou Harris
As you might have guessed by now, it was pretty good. Twenty-three songs, including almost all of the new album, and materials from her back catalogue that went as far back as her collaboration with Gram Parsons on ‘Return of the grievous angel’. And throughout, Ms Harris’s voice, though sometimes slightly husky, was as true as a bell, no more so than on the a capella ‘Bright morning stars’, with Simpkins, Donoghue and Linden in harmony. And having finished the main set with ‘Get up John’ she returned to encore with ‘Together again’ and finally the Oakridge Boys’ ‘Leaving Louisiana in the broad daylight’. Ending with lyrics like this – “Mary took to running with a travelin' man, left her momma crying with her head in her hands, such a sad case, so broken hearted …” shows just what I mean by unremitting. But that’s not the point – it was a privilege to witness a performance of this calibre from a performer who was unstinting in the amount of effort and emotion that she shared with us. And that’s what we agreed with our ill-seated neighbours who were in a state of near ecstasy when we left, although that might also have been due to the two bags of assorted toffees that they’d managed to eat during the show. Comfort food, I suppose. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)
Listen: Emmylou Harris' MySpace page
Glenrothes 1978


Glenrothes 1978/2008 (43%, OB, 5,600 bottles) An earlier bottling, done in 1999, was a bit weak and tea-ish in our book. Let’s see if this is bolder… Colour: gold. Nose: it is. Very honeyed (heather) and very nutty as often with Glenrothes, with also a lot of beeswax as well as notes of vanilla, mint and liquorice (drops). Starts to smell like an excellent mulled wine after a moment, with notes of cloves, Chinese anise, cinnamon and hints of prunes and chocolate. A complex yet very coherent and compact Glenrothes that may remind us of a 30yo HP on the nose in a certain way. Mouth: starts almost thick, rounded, very jammy and honeyed (‘dry’ honey), with again a lot of spices such as cloves, carvi and badian. It’s also rather chocolaty, with notes of Armagnac-soaked prunes. Maybe a tad dry in the end of the middle. Finish: long and firm but maybe a tad too dry and tannic now (overinfused tea) despite the very pleasant notes of eucalyptus drops. Comments: very good Glenrothes, probably not as majestic as the 1980 C/S or as the best ones by Duncan Taylor but still very pleasant. Too bad the price is so heavy (+/- 380 Euros). SGP:542 – 87 points.
Glenrothes 39 yo 1969/2008 (45.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #12890, 183 bottles) Cask #12885, bottled in 2006, was quite superb so this must be nice as well. Colour: amber. Nose: it is somewhat similar to the 1978 as far as the general profile is concerned, only much more expressive and, to tell you the truth, exuberant. Loads of heather honey, prunes, bananas flambéed, raspberry jam, spices (mulled wine again) and oranges plus hints of wood smoke that sort of keep it ‘straight’. More huge notes of very ripe bananas and no obvious oakiness whatsoever. Very, very demonstrative and very, very appealing. Mouth: exceptional attack, vibrant, uber-fruity yet perfectly structured thanks to a beautiful oakiness. The bananas are back with flying colours – I mean aromas – and so are the oranges. Also coconuts, then more oranges and more bananas, then nutmeg and white pepper, then a little mint and a little liquorice, then various strong honeys… Even more pepper after that, which gives this malt a wonderful strawberry jam/pepper signature. Finish: a little more oak at this stage but at 39 years of age, that’s more than normal. Superb pepper and fruits again. Very, very long finish. Comments: one of these IB’s that are OB killers. Indeed, the official 1978 doesn’t quite stand comparison with this 1969 but it’s true that it’s quite younger. Now, the latter is more than two times less expensive (+/- 150 Euros). Frankly, we don’t like to talk about prices too much but sometimes we just can’t avoid mentioning striking differences… SGP:751 - 92 points.

October 5, 2008

Port Ellen


Port Ellen 25 yo 1982/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 589 bottles) From a refill butt. Colour: white wine. Nose: rather powerful but maybe a tad butyric at first nosing, with also faint perfumy notes that we usually don’t get in Port Ellen (geranium and so on). Notes of un-sugared yoghurt, dairy cream, wet chalk… This one hasn’t got PE’s usual tarriness and even the peat is almost absent. Let’s try to revive it using water… With water: it didn’t really get bigger but cleaner and also unusually sugary (plain sugar syrup). Whiffs of fresh mint – nice. Mouth (neat): much, much (much) better than on the nose when neat, which isn’t exactly a feat here. Smoked lemons, lemon marmalade, smoked tea, green apples, green tea and cough syrup. Still not a big Port Ellen but it’ll please any peat freak. With water: it’s totally amazing how it got quite beautiful now, whilst all the earlier ‘parts’ were rather mundane and uninteresting. Beautifully resinous, peaty, leafy, rooty… Finish: long and very liquoricy, which we like. Comments: no touches of sherry in this refill butt and a rather difficult tasting. SGP:346 – 83 points.
Port Ellen 29 yo 1978/2008 8th Annual Release (55.3%, OB, 6,618 bottles) Already the eighth release! My! Feeling old over here… Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one isn’t extremely expressive either at first sniffing but there’s still more peat and more maritime notes than in the 1982. It’s also a bit yoghurty, lemony, ‘walnutty’… With water: more walnuts, more apple peelings, whiffs of cold ashes and used matches. Just like in the 1982, more mint as well. Mouth (neat): powerful, very peaty but also kind of candied, maybe tasting a tad younger than it actually is. Dried pears, quince jelly, hints of marshmallows… Then quite some mint, verbena and liquorice. Gets better after a moment, it’s the attack that’s maybe a tad less impressive than in earlier batches. With water: gets grassier, maybe a tad bitter and even slightly tannic. Finish: long, grassy, on apple peelings. Quite some pepper as well. Comments: very good but maybe not the best official Port Ellen in our opinion, we feel it somewhat lacks the notes of fresh tarmac and the zing that were so typical. Or, gran horror, are the best PE’s gone for good? We may get the answer to this existential question in September 2009… SGP:337 – 87 points (still!)
MUSIC – Recommended listening: yeah, I know, she's hardly an artiste who deserves wider recognition, but as she's really a fav of ours, let's have Patti Smith doing Gimme shelter.mp3 (by whom, again?). That was on her 2007 album 'Twelve'. Please buy Patti Smith's music... Patti Smith

October 3, 2008

Lagavulin 12


Lagavulin 12 yo 1995 (48%, OB, European oak casks, for Friends of Classic Malts, 2008) Colour: gold – orange. Nose: a punchy Lagavulin, starting very farmy and less sherried than we had thought. It’s rather on incense, cigar box and leather polish, with whiffs of cow stable and even horse sweat. Develops more on soft spices, ‘red Thai sauce’, curry and cumin, getting back to more Ileach notes after a while, such as peat smoke, dried kelp and seashells. Also notes of bitter oranges and cinchona. Very big notes of dry sherry come though after a good ten minutes. Mouth: sweet and rounded yet rather nervous, maybe less complex than on the nose at first sipping. Peated orange marmalade (should that exist – you say it does!), smoked tea, toffee, coffee-flavoured fudge, prunes and Corinth raisins. Finish: medium long, candied and smoky at the same time. Hints of dried mushrooms and caramel. Comments: actually, we’re not extremely far from the regular 16 yo, but this one is a tad thicker and slightly sweeter. It’s very good whisky, even if one may prefer either the sharper Lagavulins, or the (even) heavier ones, such as the recent 21yo. SGP:536 – 88 points.
Lagavulin 12 yo 'Special Release 2008' (56.4%, OB) I have found the most recent batches of the 12 better than the first ones, which were maybe a tad too rough and mono-dimensional in my book. Let’s see if this brand new one is in the same league. Colour: straw. Nose: uber-clean when compared with the FOCM, much more on pure peat smoke, fresh butter, fresh almonds, sea water and freshly cut cider apples. Whiffs of cold coal oven, wet stones and old books. Very pure. With water: it got even cleaner and purer. I don’t know why, it reminds me of Trimbach’s Clos St-Hune (wine aficionados will understand.) Mouth (neat): exactly the opposite of the ‘FOCM’. Way ‘cleaner and purer’, sharper, more beautifully austere, maybe the lesser sweet of all Lagavulins that were issued within the last ten years. Lime, almonds, peat, huge smokiness and green apples. My kind. With water: it got a tad sweeter again, and a little resinous as well. More pepper. Finish: long, clean, with even more pepper. Comments: maybe I’m dreaming but I think the 12yo C/S gets better and better year after year. You may read ‘purer and purer’. SGP:248 - 91 points.
Lagavulin 1993/2008 ‘Distillery Only’ (52.9%, OB, Warehouse #1, cask #1403, 700 bottles, Feis Isle 2008) Here it is, the ‘Feis Ile 2008’ version that we forgot to try when it was still a hot topic. Colour: amber with bronze hues. Nose: superb nose! It’s got the best of the two 12yo’s we just had, and seems to be a little more elegant and subtle than the 1993 from last year. Crystallised oranges, rosehip tea, rose-flavoured Turkish delights, and of course all the classic Lagavulin notes in the background. Smells almost like the best Habaneros – unlit of course. With water: water brought out quite some medicinal notes, rather unusual in Lagavulin. Camphor, pine resin and antiseptic. Old leather as well (horse saddle.) Mouth (neat): an immense attack, with something curiously antique (as if it came from a very old bottle). Very powerful even if the strength isn’t that high. Big peat, all kinds of herbal teas including tea, crème brûlée, ultra-big notes of Seville oranges, marron glacé, smoked tea, liquorice wood, gentian tea, gingerbread… This is very rich but quite amazingly, not cloying at all. With water: just a few drops really unleash a much bigger peatiness. Bang! Finish: it’s not that long – but still long, very spicy, rather herbal, with always these big notes of orange marmalade. Comments: concentrated power. SGP:448 – 92 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: another great voice of jazz, Carol Sloane, singing Sunday.mp3 with a few of Ella's pyrotechnic tricks. Very good, very good... Please buy Miss Sloane's works! Carol Sloane

October 2, 2008

Hammersmith Apollo
September 2nd 2008
Sex Pistols
Did I mention that we went to see the Sex Pistols? Maybe not, and I’m still a bit hard of hearing as a result. They were playing at the Hammersmith Apollo and Pistols anoraks will know legend has it that Steve Jones stole one of his first guitars from here, allegedly Mick Ronson’s.
The Pistols’ original line-up (Jones, Glen Matlock on bass, Paul Cook on drums and John Lydon on vocals) have been on a whirlwind world tour following their sell-out week at Brixton last year and tonight is the penultimate gig. They may have peaked too soon; according to Lydon they’re performing through hangovers having “drunk Dublin dry” the previous evening, but to judge by recent white wine spritzer-hugging interviews with various Pistols, I somehow doubt it. The Apollo is packed with old leather jackets, tartan trousers, ripped t-shirts, red-striped braces, Mohicans, the lot – ‘though mostly sported by folks who should know a little better. I guess it’s what you would call tribal. The throwaway foul-mouthed language would turn the fucking air fucking blue. The drinking is prodigious. No, you don’t understand, the drinking IS prodigious. The merchandise store is overwhelmed. It’s pay day.
We’re up in the circle – but as the Pistols take the stage at two minutes past nine exactly (not too much anarchy there then) we rise from our seats like puppets on strings – and spend the whole evening standing “Respect to the fuckers standing up in the balcony” says Lydon halfway through. It’s the Combine Harvester Tour, which may explain the opening song, a sort of Adge Cutler-inspired version of ‘Pretty vacant’. combine harvester
After that it’s down to business as they crash through all the songs you might expect, and with their final encore of ‘Silver machine’ and Roadrunner’, some you might not. The playing is pretty tight – Matlock and Cook are a rhythm section of note. When he’s not Pistolling, Cook, amongst other things, is a regular drummer with Edwyn Collins, and has been for a decade or more. Matlock has his own band, The Philistines, and an impressive list of collaborators. Together they fit easily into their groove, and you get the impression could play all night. Jones, latterly a DJ for an LA radio station, is perhaps less certain, a bit more of a journeyman. Certainly ‘subtle’ is not a word you would apply to his playing. But if you heard your kids playing this stuff in the garage, you’d be well impressed. Whether it’s really appropriate fare for a theatre full of around four thousand over-aged and over-weight (hang on – we’re in balcony seats but we’re all standing!) post-punk primordials is another matter.
Sex Pistols
Of course, what makes the difference is John Lydon. Like Jones, the comfortable life of West Coast USA seems to have super-sized him somewhat, but he occupies the front of the stage, leering with the sort of faux menace reserved only for the most fearsome of pantomime villains. He knows the deal, so he indulges the audience as they subject him to a constant shower of lager, showing irritation only once when a bottle strikes him on the shoulder – I assume it’s plastic. His fucking foul-mouthed stream of comment and invective never really flows beyond the tame, and though his jingoism is somewhat disconcerting, the whole lot seems aimed at promoting the new Pistol’s DVD, There’ll Always be an England, recorded live last year at Brixton. His singing persona is Mr Lydon of Public Image, which is mostly effective, particularly on songs like 'Stepping stone', 'God save the Queen' and song of the night 'EMI'. And I can’t help noticing that after each song (and during some too) he’s gargling and violently expectorating into a large plastic box just in front of the drums. Not pleasant, but a sign that there are no half-measures on the stage. They may be taking the money, but they’re not running.
So it was sort of OK. And did I mention how loud it was? However, I have to say that more than any old bunch of rockers I’ve seen lately (with the exception of Jefferson Starship, that is), it left me absolutely cold.
Johnny Lydon I didn’t know why I was there, and I couldn’t wait to get home for a quick glass of Scotland’s famous midnight wine before an early bed. And the bizarreness of the whole evening was confirmed when Lydon goaded the audience into singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Steve Jones, which the crowd followed with a spontaneous and affectionate rendition of ‘You fat bastard, you fat bastard, you ate all the pies”. Jones was moved, the crowd laughed and clapped, and I was left wondering was this really was the band who seemed to be on the verge of turning the world upside-down in 1976? - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Johnny Rotten/Lydon MySpace page
Balblair 15


Balblair 1975/2007 (46%, OB) This one was bottled in 2007 but issued in 2008. The 1974/2001 ‘Highland Selection’ was quite superb so we have deep hopes now… Colour: full gold. Nose: typically Balblair, very fruity and quite floral with traces of sherry. Notes of tinned pineapples, bananas, flower nectar, sultanas and quite a lot of acacia honey. Add to that a very elegant spiciness (Chinese anise, nutmeg) and notes of Gueuze lambic and you get something very, very pleasant even if it’s a little less demonstrative than earlier old official bottlings. Also hints of ripe strawberries. Mouth: sweet, fruity and spicy (white pepper), starting softly but picking up steam after that. Butter pears and quite some ginger and cinnamon plus milk chocolate. ‘Light’ fruitcake. Finish: rather long, spicier and oakier but never too oaky. Good pepper and hints of apple peelings. Comments: very good, I like it a tad better than the 1979 from last year. Less exuberantly fruity than other old Balblairs. SGP:551 – 87 points.
Balblair 1987/2008 (52.8%, OB for LMDW, cask #787, 201 bottles) From a refill hogshead. Colour: gold. Nose: there’s much more wood and soft spices than in the 1975 it seems, the whole being really firmer and drier. Hints of wood varnish, newly sawn oak, vanilla, then a little cardamom and curry, ginger, thuja wood… Get’s back to its ‘origins’ in a certain way after a while, with more fruity notes (oranges and bananas) but there’s always quite some oak. Reminds me partly of Glenmorangie’s experiments with plain American oak (Artisan, Astar and so on). Gets very orangey after a few minutes. Ultra-clean despite the obvious oakiness. Mouth: punchier and certainly more assertive than the 1975. Starts quite bourbonny, with a lot of vanilla, coconuts and lactones but gets then crisply fruity, with big notes of tinned pineapples again, blood oranges, bananas flambéed and vanilla fudge. Silky tannic undertones and pleasant grassy notes in the end of the middle (chives, mint). Finish: very long and balanced, with more butter pears just like in the 1975. Comments: a modern-style Balblair, big fruits and rather big oak. Maybe not pure magic but it’s perfectly made. SGP:651 - 88 points.
Balblair 15 yo (57% 100°Proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Licenced bottling, 1970's, 75cl) Colour: full gold. Nose: my! This is wonderful, more multidimensional than the two OB’s. Wonderful blend of fresh oranges and tangerines with quite some mint, camphor and eucalyptus plus whiffs of coal smoke. Goes on with bitter oranges, marzipan, hawthorn tea, vanilla crème, orange liqueur, verbena, then more grassy notes (dill, celery) and then we’re back on full tangerine-mode, mixed with white chocolate. Fantastic old Balblair, very luscious and unusually phenolic. Exceptional on the nose. Mouth: certainly not less exceptional on the palate. Wonderful attack on citrus fruits, wet flintstones and salt, extremely crisp and clean, reminding me of Didier Dagueneau’s Silex (RIP). Fabulous development on various kinds of grapefruits. Amazing Balblair that will appeal to any white wine lover (hint, hint). Finish: long and exceptionally lemony, with various spices. Comments: maybe not the most complex Balblair ever but it’s still a winning whisky. Perfect spirit, perfect age, perfect strength, perfect glass maturing… In short, plenitude. SGP:841 – 92 points (and thank you mucho, Konstantin.)

October 1, 2008



Laphroaig 15 yo (43%, OB, small red 15 on neck label, F&C Torino, mid 1980’s, 75cl) Official voices claim that the new 30yo is stupendous, so let’s try to confirm that by ‘opposing’ it to one of the well-known old 15’s. Colour: full gold. Nose: typically old Laphroaig, starting on a perfect blend of medicinal notes and tropical fruits. Bandages, embrocations, camphor, bitter oranges, grapefruit skin and hints of green bananas. The peat isn’t very bold but it’s well there. Gets then more vanilled and mentholated, with also hints of white chocolate and butter cream. The whole isn’t quite big but the profile is perfect. Mouth: full bodied as (almost) only Laphroaig can be at only 43%. A lot of peat this time, more than in the newer 15’s, a lot of pepper and a lot of orange and lemon marmalade. Gets even spicier after a while, with more nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. A very big Laphroaig, almost rough! Finish: incredibly long, peaty and peppery, maybe just a tad drying. Comments: a rather gentle Laphroaig that keeps it quiet on the nose but that’s a true beast on the palate. SGP:447 - 90 points.
Laphroaig 30 yo 'Cairdeas' (43%, OB, 1,536 bottles, 2008) A ‘regular’ 30yo that’s been re-racked into first fill ex-bourbon barrels from Makers Mark’s. Priced at £500, which isn’t cheap, is it! Colour: full gold, slightly darker than the 15. Nose: much more marked by new oak than the old 15, starting on whiffs of varnish, newly sawn oak and ginger ale, with Laphroaig’s character being rather in the background. They come more to the front after a while, the whole resembling much more the old 15, only with a little more peat and maybe more maritime notes (seashells). Also hints of praline, bergamots, fresh almonds and quite some vanilla. Very nice but I’m wondering if this won’t need quite a few further years of bottle maturing so that the ‘new’ oak and the spirit mingle a little more. Mouth: we get the same feeling here, as if the ‘new’ oak and the old spirit do not quite fit yet. Don’t get me wrong, the whole is very, very good, with all of the regular 30yo’s characteristics well in place, but the oaky tones do mask it a bit (tannins, strong tea, grape pips). Finish: long but rather tannic and a little drying. Comments: well, it’s all a matter of taste of course and I’m not even sure these tannins do come from the bourbon barrels that have been used for the ‘finishing’, but what’s sure is that the regular 30yo is much smoother and aristocratic in my book – and the old 15 much wilder. SGP:365 - 86 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: a wonderful little song called Throwing Handkerchiefs.mp3 by China's Zhao Guang, that we found via the very excellent blog Benn loxo du taccu. Please buy Zhao Guang's music! Zhao

September 2008 - part 2 <--- October 2008 - part 1 ---> October 2008 - part 2

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Nick's Concert Reviews



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

Balblair 15 yo (57% 100°Proof, Gordon & MacPhail, Licenced bottling, 1970's, 75cl)

Caol Ila 16 yo 1966/1982 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy)

Caol Ila 1969/1985 (59.9%, Gordon & MacPhail for Meregalli)

Caol Ila 1982/2008 (55.4%, Berry Bros & Rudd for LMDW, cask #756, 248 bottles)

Glenrothes 39 yo 1969/2008 (45.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #12890, 183 bottles)

Isle of Jura 1974 (44.5%, OB, 658 bottles, 2008)

Isle of Jura 30 yo 1966/1996 (52,6%, Signatory, cask #1868-1869, 240 bottles)

Lagavulin 12 yo 'Special Release 2008' (56.4%, OB)

Lagavulin 1993/2008 ‘Distillery Only’ (52.9%, OB, Warehouse #1, cask #1403, 700 bottles, Feis Isle 2008)

Laphroaig 15 yo (43%, OB, small red 15 on neck label, F&C Torino, mid 1980’s, 75cl)

Talisker 21 yo 1951 (43% Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, Pinerolo, rotation 1972)

Talisker 21 yo 1952 (43% Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, Pinerolo, rotation 1973)

Talisker 24 yo 1953 (43% Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, Pinerolo, rotation 1977)

Talisker 25 yo (54.2%, OB, Refill casks, 9,708 bottles, 2008)