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

October 31, 2008



Speyburn 1974/2003 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Colour: straw. Nose: starts very pleasantly porridgy, yeasty, with lots going on after that. Big grassiness, with whiffs of rucola salad (rocket salad), then quite some ‘wet smoke’ (wet wood smoke), liquorice wood, moss… Add to that hints of lamp oil and soot and you get a rather beautiful nose, rather ‘different’ from any other malt. An excellent surprise even if it gets maybe too buttery after a while (but we already liked a version bottled in 2001 at 40% ABV.) Mouth: we’re rather less enthusiastic now, the attack being a little weakish and slightly indefinite, with notes of wood, malt, green tannins and caramel. Improves a bit after that, getting smoother and rounder, with quite some candy sugar and notes of burnt cake. Quite good actually. Finish: medium long, drier now, very malty and still caramelly. Good tannins, notes of pepper and bitter oranges plus a little salt. Comments: the nose is rather more interesting than the palate but it’s good whisky altogether. We’ve heard a newer version bottled at 43% ABV was rather impressive, so we can’t wait to try it. SGP:251 – 80 points.
Speyburn 25 yo 'Solera' (46%, OB) This one is made using some kind of solera technique, involving sherry casks and bourbon casks. Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re more or less in the same family here, with again a rather big grassiness and whiffs of smoke and soot. Big notes of paraffin and motor oil and unusual hints of herbs such as sorrel and dandelion (rather the salad made thereof) as well as fern. The notes of fino do come through after a moment, with hints of flor and walnuts plus even more smoke. Struck matches, espresso. Rather straighter than the G&M after all, and without these buttery notes. Mouth: round, creamy, assertive, full bodied, getting very herbal and grassy and very coherently so. Strong green tea, oatcakes and liquorice drops. Gets then smoother again, more on vanilla and light toffee, with hints of cough syrup. Good stuff. Finish: long, balanced, malty and tofeeish with always these grassy notes. Comments: a good affordable 25yo – this isn’t too common these days, is it? SGP:341 – 82 points.
White Horse CRAZY

White Horse , USA, 1972.
Teaser: “You can take a White Horse anywhere…"


MUSIC – Recommended listening: revival, decadence or or simple stammering? What's sure is that bands like Texas' Hacienda are quite good at reproducing 'the good old sound', as in their song She's got ahold on me.mp3. Please buy Hacienda's music.


October 30, 2008

by Nick Morgan

The Orpheum Theatre, Memphis Tennessee, October 15th 2008

We’re in Memphis, Tennessee, in the palatial surroundings of the Orpheum Theatre, where the largely deserted Main Street intersects with Beale Street.

It was built originally as the Grand Opera House in 1890, but totally destroyed by fire in 1923, allegedly just after a performance by the ‘legendary’ vaudevillians Blossom Seeley and Bennie Fields, whose life story was celebrated in the 1952 film, Somebody Loves Me (I think they might have cut out the bit about the fire). Rebuilt in 1928 to designs by Chicago architects Rapp and Rapp (who built theatres throughout the United States) it later became a movie theatre before being acquired by the Memphis Development Foundation in the late 1970s. And whilst the semi-derelict nature of much of Memphis (even the modern malls) might lead you to question the efficacy of much of the redevelopment of downtown, when it comes to the Orpheum, the parties responsible are beyond reproach. It’s in beautiful shape, plush and richly-decorated in creams, reds and golds. The urinals would put the Shepherds Bush Empire to shame. And yet, unlike the Empire, it is somewhat sanitised, as is the audience, who largely seem to represent the great and the good of white middle-class Memphis, sipping cocktails and doing appropriately loud and facile cocktail party chit-chat in the foyer before the gig begins.
LOvett Hiatt
Lyle Lovett (L) and John Hiatt (R)
It’s Lyle Lovett, who after so many failures to show (sometimes for very good reasons) in London, we’ve managed to track down on his home territory (well, almost). And to make it even better it’s John Hiatt too, who’s just released a new album, Same Old Man. The pair have been touring together, on and off, for almost a year, in an intimate acoustic format. It’s almost like having them in your kitchen, as they sit, chat, and take turns to swap songs, only towards the end singing and playing together. During some two-and-a-half hours in all, it’s thoroughly engrossing stuff, albeit a little top-heavy on the chat and slightly forced at the outset, with an earnest and nervous-looking Lovett cast in the unlikely role of interrogator (although subsequently, it has to be said, he throws some wonderfully surreal curved balls at his victim). My perfectly-groomed blonde neighbour huffs and sighs through these early tunes, clearly impatient with the talk, and after about fifteen minutes takes her leave; I notice a few others do too. But everyone else is glued to their seat apart from those who stand to whoop and cheer – frequently in a number of cases.
LOvett Hiatt
Lovett and Hiatt have got the formula perfect for tonight, and as they swap very genuine compliments (these are, by the way, two of the greatest living American composers and performers) and cleverly structured chat, they work through a list of songs that pander to that lowest common denominator of rock and roll audiences throughout the land: local pride and patriotism. Hiatt was born in Indiana, but now lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

As for Lovett, well, you should know where he was born, and needless to say, we had no Texas songs in the set list. And if I told you the evening started with Hiatt singing ‘Riding with the King’ (“Whoop, whoop, yeah”), followed by Lovett’s ‘I’ve been to Memphis’ (“Whoop,whoop, whoop”), then you get some idea of the gig.

Of course, the two performers couldn’t be more different in some respects. Hiatt’s a no-nonsense rhythm guitar player with a largely plectrum technique which doesn’t leave a lot of room for subtlety. His songs, though sometimes humourous, are just as likely to be in your face, heart on his sleeve, personal statements – like the deeply moving ‘Muddy water’. Lovett is a surprisingly deft guitarist; mostly thumb pick and fingers playing out gentle melodies. His songs are dry, wry, wistful and sometimes hugely funny (‘She’s no lady’, sung after Hiatt’s rousing ‘Have a little faith’ – “there’s only one song to follow that, John …”). It is almost a perfect combination, even good enough to tolerate Hiatt’s ill-advised rush into lead guitar work, leaving both Lovett and the audience thoroughly bewildered (at least we learnt that when he said “I don’t play no fancy guitar work” he wasn’t kidding). And the icing on the cake is the singing: Hiatt, raspy and full of passion, Lovett, well, when he started singing ‘I’ve been to Memphis’, I was mesmerised – I mean he just sounds like Lyle Lovett. The songs? There were some lovely tunes from Lovett like ‘If I had a boat’, ‘Her first mistake’, ‘Skinny legs’ and ‘My baby don’t tolerate’, and from Hiatt ‘Icy blue heart’, ‘Real fine love’, ‘Thing called love’, and ‘Lipstick sunset’. But the important thing for you to know is the scores from the whoopometer, which went something like this: ‘Tennessee plates’ (“whoop, whoop, yeah, whoop”), “Come on, baby, let’s drive south” (“whoop, yeah”), ‘Up in Indiana’ (“whoop”), ‘Memphis midnight/Memphis morning’ (“whoop, whoop, whoop”), ‘Memphis in the meantime’ (“whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop,” and a standing ovation), possibly making Hiatt the winner if there was a competition going on, which I somewhat doubt.


And I have to add, by way of a postscript, that just for a moment, walking out of the lovely Orpheum Theatre into a warm Memphis night, and strolling down a noisy tourist and music-filled Beale Street, you might have been forgiven, just for a moment, for thinking that there was hardly a better place to be. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Lyle Lovett
John Hiatt

Beale street


Glentauchers 17 yo 1965/1982 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label, 75cl) Colour: pale straw. Nose: this one is rather powerful and immensely grassy and waxy (more paraffin actually), with also a cascade of mineral notes (wet limestone, soot, coal…) Not too far from old Clynelishes such as the regular 12yo white label. More newly cut grass then, lime skin, metal polish, aluminium… Not a single sweet or fruity note but the whole works perfectly well. The metallic notes are typical of most old dumpies by Cadenhead – did they come from the brown glass or from the twist caps they were using? Mouth: superb attack, very complex yet very straightforward, which is rare (obviously). More lemon zests, more herbs (bay leaves, sage), more ‘tarry liquorice’, lemon marmalade, pine resin sweets… Develops on various citrus fruits (lemon and grapefruit first, then oranges), with hints – just hints – of tequila. Superb straightness. Finish: long, lemony and getting very salty. Comments: I had only one Glentauchers over 80 points up to now, but this is going to fetch more than 90. It’s still to be wondered where this typical ‘black dumpy’ character does come from. What’s sure is that glass is not inert material, contrarily to popular belief. Food for thought… SGP:173 (very unusual profile) – 91 points.
Glentauchers 9 yo 1998/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 373 bottles) From a refill hogshead, so probably quite close to very young, kind of neutral malt whisky… Or not? Colour: pale white wine. Nose: as expected, pears and beer galore! Yoghurt, newly cut apples, porridge, baker’s yeast, cardboard, chalk, whiffs of geraniums… A good example of a very young, fairly neutral malt and as such it’s interesting whisky. Mouth: very young and rather simple but certainly not unpleasant. Pear and apple juice, custard, gooseberries, hints of bubblegum, muesli, lemon… Finish: long and ‘whitely’ fruity, with a spicier signature (juniper berries, hints of chilli). Comments: immature? Most probably, but again, it’s certainly not unpleasant. Would be excellent on ice, but for that we’ll have to wait until next summer. Now, did this have to belong to the OMC range? Not our business of course but “hmm…” SGP531 – 78 points.

October 28, 2008


proposes his Autumnal malt cocktails

Cocktail #4:

"Black Sun"

Pour into a shaker with ice:
- 6 cl Lagavulin 16 yo
- 1 cl crème de chocolat (chocolate liqueur)
- 1 cl Triple sec Combier or Cointreau (or any triple sec of quality)
Shake then strain into a cocktail glass simply decorated with a lemon slice. Info: I created this one, being inspired by the Laga Distiller's
Edition on the one side, which I adore, and on the other side by an old cocktail that I also love: The "Crossbow" (gin + crème de cacao + triple sec).
Well... I think the result is not too bad, I guess the main keyword to appreciate it is... EPICURIAN!

Black Sun
Variants: Lagavulin just brings the perfect base to this cocktail, but you may try another peaty and smoky malt of your choice instead. Use crème de cacao if you don't have crème de chocolat. For a fresher recipe you may also add one dash of lemon juice.


Glendronach 1970/1990 (43%, Duthie for Samaroli, ‘Flowers’, 480 bottles) From sherry wood. Colour: dark amber/coffee. Nose: extreme sherry ‘of course’, dry and rich. Coffee, roasted raisins, tarmac, orange liqueur, roasted chestnuts, brownies, wild mushrooms (ceps) and liquorice. Really smells like an old red Bourgogne after a moment, with animal and leathery notes. Hare belly (once again, NOT Halle Berry). Mouth: thick and flavourful, more on dark chocolate, prunes and various herbs such as thyme and rosemary. Walnut liqueur. Excellent spiciness, with cloves, pepper and quite some cinnamon. Maybe just a tad drying. Also a tad fruitier than on the nose (blackcurrant jelly.) Finish: long, drier again, more on coffee. Comments: typical heavily sherried Glendronach, huge concentration. Extremely good but for sherry freaks only. SGP:353 – 90 points.
Glendronach 33 yo 1975/2008 (51.4%, Duncan Taylor, ‘Three Generations’, cask #706) The whole story of this ‘family cask’ is there. Colour: straw. Nose: exactly the opposite from the Samaroli, without any sherry, which isn’t too common with old Glendronachs. Big notes of high-end cider, apple juice, hops and hay, with hints of white truffles, getting then very pleasantly herbal. Huge notes of camomile tea, then mint flavoured tea, liquorice wood, almond milk, dill and aniseed. Very fresh and very lively, and quite delicate at that. Mouth: a very similar profile, very ‘natural’, with a perfect oakiness (but you have to like oak.) Apple juice, apple peelings, liquorice wood again, white pepper and cinnamon from the wood. A little nutmeg. Finish: long, with good tannins. Pleasantly prickly (pepper), with an herbal signature (herbal tea). Comments: one would have thought Mr Shand would have selected a nice cask for this commemorative bottling and one would have been right. SGP:451 – 88 points.
And also Glendronach 25 yo 1968/1993 (43%, OB) A tremendous sherry monster that we always liked a lot. Heavy notes of burnt tyres on the nose as well as coffee, prunes and ham. Mouth: very dry (flor), bitter chocolate, dark toffee. SGP:564 – 90 points (unchanged).
MUSIC – Recommended listening: we're in 1968 and Dana Gillespie sings a rather psychedelic Dead.mp3 (on her debut album, Foolish Seasons). Please buy Dana Gillespie's music... Dana Gillespie

October 27, 2008

Bruichladdich 2001  




In the first week of November, Bruichladdich will launch the first large batch (24,000 bottles) of the first distillation by the new owners, a lightly peated 2001. This won't get unnoticed on the shelves! We already had an earlier official small batch bottling of this spirit, that we really liked (see our October 22 entry) so this should be good.
Now, some whisky drinkers may complain about the fact that it's impossible to see where the level is with such opaque bottles, so here's our exclusive WF tip: buy some kitchen scales and just put the opened bottle permanently onto it. Its weight should tell you how much whisky is left. Alternatively, you may decant the whisky into a clear glass bottle and keep the original one for decoration.



Back from the Lindores Whisky Fest in Oostende, Belgium. It’s a very selective little festival, for hardcore whisky fans only. Maybe the only festival where there are more different old whiskies to try than visitors, and where it’s much easier to find, say the rarest old Ardbeg single casks than, say a Blasda. This year the highlight of the festival was the presence of the very engaging Mr Samaroli, who shared his experience and stories con mucho gusto (err, that’s not Italian, is it?) Very interesting to hear his comments on some of his old bottlings, like a Glen Garioch 8yo 1971 that used to be prickly and pungent on the nose when it was bottled and that’s now much rounder and mellower. Proof that, indeed, whisky keeps maturing once bottled. Other liquid highlights in my opinion: Bowmore bicentenary OB Cask Strength, an extremely rare version for Italy (at the Lindores table), Talisker 16yo 1970 Intertrade (at the Dutch Connection’s), Bowmore 1956 43% OB (at Mara’s) and Clynelish 12yo 43% old white label for the US (at Marc Seger’s Whiskycorner). And many, many others! If you like old whiskies, if you also like Oostende’s specialties the shrimp croquettes and half chickens, and if the financial crisis doesn’t dry up your wallet until then, you should really try to attend this great little festival next year. - S.
PS - No, I'm not a Lindores member. As Groucho said, 'I don't want to belong to a society that would accept me as a member!'

Silvano Samaroli
Sig Silvano Samaroli with an unknown fan
Olivier and Franco wolf down half chickens
Top 'froig collector Marcel and a barrel top
Heinz does halves and halves (L)
Hans-Henrik admires his new 'fiddich sign while Roland and Hans are dazzled (R)



Benromach 'Origins' (50%, OB, 5,000 bottles, 2008) This batch was made using Golden Promise barley from Speyside only (so we may be able to talk about ‘terroir’ here), and then matured in sherry casks – not only first fill. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts quite nervous and very buttery, almost like a fresh ‘true’ croissant and develops more on ginger, heady flowers (peonies, lilies) and warm porridge. Also orange skin and cinchona (very ‘Campari’). Hints of nougat and peat as well. With water: more ginger and spices, with kind of an unusual farminess. Farmyard, ‘clean’ cow stable and a little more peat. Mouth (neat): very unusual. Big notes of cider, even calavados, roasted nuts, walnuts, dry sherry (taste of ‘yellow’), hints of kirsch and again these buttery notes (cooked butter, pastries). A lot of liquorice as well. With water: it’s maybe a tad youngish now, with more grassy notes. More ‘taste of yellow’ as well. Finish: long, candied, gingery and still a bit farmy, with a little peat as well. Comments: interesting whisky, sort of ‘wilder’ and ‘farmier’. Worth trying, definitely. SGP:453 – 84 points.
Benromach 1978/2000 (56.0%, Scott’s Selection) Colour: pale gold. Nose: fresher and fruitier than the Origins, but also a little simpler. Orange juice and metal (aluminium pan), then more mangos and tangerines. Really improves over time, getting fruitier and fruitier and more and more tropical. Passion fruits and cold ashes. Nice mix! With water: maybe water doesn’t work too well here, as it gets a tad cardbaordy and dusty, even after having waited for quite some minutes. Mouth: really excellent, all on tropical fruits and resins (pine, cough drops). Then huge notes of coconuts almost like in many old grain whiskies, vanilla, very soft spices… Excellent Benromach! With water: it worked a little better than on the nose, even if that brought even more coconuts to the table. One of these funny ‘Malibu’ whiskies. Finish: still very ‘coconutty’, with very good pepper from the oak. Comments: quite a surprise but warning, it doesn’t quite stand water. In other words, not a swimmer. SGP:631 – 83 points.
And also Benromach 1968/2005 (41.8%, OB) Not the version at 43% ABV that was bottled in 2003. Nose: a grassy sherry. Moss, fern, mushrooms and varnish. Walnuts, balsamic vinegar and Parma ham. Mouth: powerful. Sherry and menthol, cough syrup. Gets a tad woodier then, even tannic but that’s OK. Heavy caramel and quite some peat and pepper in the finish. Very concentrated, slight acridness but it’s great stuff. SGP:463 – 89 points. Benromach
Seagram 1956 CRAZY

Seagram's 7 Crown, USA, 1956.
Teaser: “One thing they all agree on…"
Body: ‘Seagram’s 7 Crown is American whisky at its finest – All parties are in solid agreement on America’s Number One whisky. It’s SEAGRAM’S 7 CROWN; year-after-year favorite of millions, by millions of bottles… America’s first choice by the most overwhelming margin in whiskey history!”
MUSIC – Recommended listening: this could well go into a Tarrentino movie, it's Brooklyn's Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings doing 100 Days.mp3. Ah the soul revival craze! Please buy Sharon Jones' music... Sharon Jones

October 24, 2008


Auchentoshan 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2008) Colour: gold. Nose: starts quite porridgy – even with crushed bananas – and bearish-yeasty but all that is rather pleasant. It seems that these recent batches are less ‘simply fruity’ than older versions. It also seems that there’s a little sherry in there, as there are hints of ‘buttery wine’ in the background. Other than that it’s very flowery, with notes of buttercups and lilies that makes the whole even a tad heady. Hints of liquorice and ham. Bigger than the entry-level Auchentoshans used to be on the nose. Mouth: well, there’s a little less happening now. Quite firm at the attack, malty and grainy, but getting then rather thinner, with a ‘moderate’ middle on cooked apples, caramel and praline. Finish: medium long, malty, cereally and caramelly. Comments: very, very nice nose and a palate that’s a tad ‘middle-of-the-road’, not too far from a very good blend. Better than the old 10, for sure. SGP:330 - 79 points.
Auchentoshan 'Three Wood' (43%, OB, +/-2008) We never liked the 3-W and found it to be too ‘twisted’ in the past. Let’s see… Colour: amber. Nose: frankly, this is a tad bizarre but probably not as ‘wacky’ as it used to be. Starts on quite some ginger ale and orange liqueur, leather polish and thyme, getting then more fudgy/caramelly and even more orangey. Hints of horse sweat and wet hay. Not unpleasant even if it’s still sort of a ‘strange mix’. Mouth: cleaner and bigger than expected but these notes of lavender and violets sweets mixed with a huge liquorice are a tad too much for us. Finish: long, very liquoricy, concentrated. Cassis liqueur. Comments: again, we never liked this kind of recipe but no doubt that it’s been perfectly executed. We like it much better than earlier batches, that is, but those were disastrous in our book. SGP:442 - 75 points.
Auchentoshan 18 yo (43%, OB, +/-2008) 100% bourbon. Colour: gold. Nose: this is much more ‘modern’ in style, straighter, more vanilled and more ‘oakily’ spicy (right, Serge). Charred wood, milk chocolate, cardamom, nutmeg and nougat, with these slightly farmy notes that we had in the 3-W again. Wet hay, farmyard… Gets finally much spicier and all these spices may come from ‘almost new’ oak. More nutmeg, more ginger and more cinnamon. Modern indeed. Very slight soapiness. Mouth: modern again. Vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, roasted nuts and orange marmalade. Drops a bit in the middle. Finish: medium long, maltier and spicier again (ginger and nutmeg). Comments: it seems that there’s been some wood treatment here (partial re-racking in first fill or new oak?) and if yes, it worked. More body than the ‘average’ Auchentoshan. SGP:441 – 83 points.
Auchentoshan 21 yo (43%, OB, +/-2008) Colour: gold. Nose: starts somewhat like the 18yo but gets then more expressive and more complex. And above all, much fruitier, ala Balblair. Huge notes of ripe bananas plus ginger and nutmeg, orange squash, bergamot, tea and overripe apples. Settles down a bit after that, getting maybe a tad more ‘mundane’. Vanilla fudge and warm butter, cereals, custard… Soft and charming dram on the nose. Mouth: the very same thing. Bananas, oranges, even mangos, grapefruits and passion fruits, all that encapsulated in a very fine oak. Milk chocolate, white pepper and hints of orange cake. Finish: longer than its bros, very clean, fresh, perfectly balanced. Comments: excellent whisky with a perfect profile between freshness, complexity and ‘age’. Beautiful fruitiness, and so drinkable! Remarkable improvement on Auchentoshan’s core range in our opinion. SGP:641 – 87 points.
Seagram CRAZY

Seagram's 7 Crown, USA, 1952.
Teaser: “Sure Favorite of every Party”
Body: “It’s a landslide! It’s a walk-away… because Seagram’s 7 Crown is always Sure to make any whiskey drink taste better at any party. That’s why the people of these United States have elected it “first whiskey of the land”… by a record-breaking majority.”
MUSIC – Recommended listening: Louisville's Mickey 'Guitar' Baker singing Trouble is a woman.mp3 in 1965 (it was a French recording). Please buy Mickey Baker's music... Mickey Baker

October 22, 2008

from five different decades

Bruichladdich 20 yo 1969/1990 (43%, Signatory, casks #4928-4932, 700 bottles) Wood unknown but probably bourbon or refill hogsheads. Colour: full gold. Nose: typical Bruichladdich, not far from the first ‘un-ACED’ 10 and 15yo. Starts on notes of orange squash and fresh hazelnuts, then we have notes of peaches and clay and gooseberries and finally a little brine, fresh almonds, faint hints of rubber and touches of honey. Baklavas. Maybe not a lot of character but it’s clean and enjoyable ‘natural’ malt whisky. Mouth: this is rounder and creamier than expected at first sipping, more on apricot jam and light honey (acacia). More cereally as well (cornflakes). Notes of marzipan and milk chocolate and finally a slight bitterness from the oak (tannins). Medium bodied. Finish: not too long shortish actually, a tad maltier, with notes of coffee. Comments: very good old Bruichladdich but we’ve had better ones, especially what they distilled one year later! SGP:431 – 84 points.
Bruichladdich 17 yo (43%, Duthie for Giorgio D'Ambrosio, 1980s, 75cl) This was most probably distilled in the early 1970s. Very good years for Bruichladdich! Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is much more expressive than the 1969, with a bigger fruitiness including the trademark notes of melons, apple compote, notes of pomegranates, sea water… Gets then even fruitier, with fresh oranges and even mangos and kiwis, and also something slightly metallic and sooty that’s close to the common markers that we find in most old dumpies by Cadenhead. Also very ‘funny’ notes of cumin. Great nose, Cleopatra. Mouth: a vigorous attack, extremely honeyed and fruity. Baklavas galore (honey, orange blossom water, pistachios), melons, liquorice, coffee-flavoured fudge and mocha, with a little salt coming through after a moment. Excellent! Finish: just like the 1969, it gets maltier at this stage. More coffee, green tea and liquorice as well. Tannins. Medium long. Comments: an excellent indie version of Bruichladdich – once again, Italian! SGP:631 – 89 points.
Bruichladdich 15 yo 1986/2002 (55.8%, Cadenhead, 288 bottles) From a bourbon hogshead. Colour: straw. Nose: we’re not very far from the 17yo, only rougher, simpler and more spirity. A lot of melon again, brine (more than in the 17), freshly cut apples, fresh almonds and kiwis again. Also something slightly chemical (aspirins). Grassier as well. With water: it gets immensely grassy and ‘aspiriny’, even after quite some minutes. Water verboten here, no luck. Mouth (neat): very good attack, punchy, grassy and almondy, with notes of apples in the background. Too bad it gets then a tad spirity and kind of prickly, with quite some green tannins. With water: ah, this works now. More nervous and certainly fruitier, with a little fructose or icing sugar, jell-o, strawberries, vanilla… Not complex but mucho quaffable. Finish: medium long, clean, half-fruity half-grassy. Comments: less character and personality than the 17yo but it’s still a clean and pleasant dram, even if it’s a bit ‘middle-of-the-road’. Not extremely far from the 1969 in fact. SGP:441 – 83 points.
Bruichladdich 1990/2005 'Valinch Viking Visit' (54.9%, OB, cask #716, 348 bottles) From a refill bourbon cask. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts somewhat similar to the 1986 but there’s much more bourbon influence after that, with much more vanilla and soft spices (curry, ginger, nutmeg, white pepper), as if it was from a first fill bourbon cask and not refill. Quite some honey as well but the usual fruitiness is kind of hidden behind the cask here. Maybe water will unleash it? With water: thank god it works way better than with the 1986, even if it does get grassier indeed. Hay, almonds, seaweed and linseed oil. Mouth: we’re extremely close to the 1986 here. Punchy, grassy and almondy, with notes of apples in the background (yeah, copy and paste.) Also hints of bubblegum and pear drops. With water: again, we’re quite close to the 1986. It’s maybe a tad fruitier, more on ripe strawberries and very ripe peaches. More spices as well (ginger), as well as nice honeyed notes. Finish: rather long, more on fruit liqueurs, cinnamon and vanilla fudge. Comments: a very good dram with an obvious bourbon influence and quite some spices. SGP:442 – 84 points.
Bruichladdich 2001/2008 (46%, OB for Jon Bertelsen, Norway, bourbon cask) Bruichladdich distilled by the current owners, peated at 5ppm, before they switched back to virtually no peat. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s unbelievable how as little as 5ppm of phenols can shine through after four unpeated whiskies! This is certainly ‘Portcharlottesque’ (‘cuse me), fresh, malty and pleasantly grainy, maybe not too complex but very clean and, indeed, maritime. Quite some peat smoke, liquorice wood, cold ashes, newly broken tree branches, ashes and green apples. Mouth: once again, the peat is here and rather heavily so. Also apple compote, Szechuan pepper, ginger and plain pepper. It’s almost hot at 46%, let’s see what gives with a little water (which we almost never do with ‘middle strength ‘ whiskies). With water: ah, yes, the peat is a bit subdued now and we get more of Bruichladdich’s usual kind of fruitiness (melons, peaches, pears.) Finish: long, big, rooty, earthy, peaty, with also notes of aniseed and a little fructose. Comments: this is big whisky. We already tried some ‘new’ Bruichladdich from these peaty first batches when on Islay but they weren’t that peaty, if memory serves. Maybe a Bruichladdich that was distilled right after a run of Port Charlotte? SGP:344 - 86 points. (and thanks, Morten)
MUSIC – Recommended listening: the good Rachid Taha doing his famous version of The Clash's Rock the Casbah. He sort of brought it back to where it belonged and called it Rock El Casbah.mp3. Please buy Rachid Taha's combat music... Rachid Taha

October 21, 2008



Laphroaig 1990/2000 (46%, Moon Import, In the Pink, cask #11684, 320 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: ouch! This one starts on notes of new plastic, aspirin and ‘chemical’ lemon squash as well as an extreme yeastiness. The good news is that it gets then more polished and cleaner, more on almonds and wet wool but it never gets quite ‘normal’. Notes of fermenting oranges and wet dogs (we love you dogs). Not putrid of course but really wacky. Let’s give this one time… No, it gets even more bizarre, with something like burning plastic. Very acrid. Mouth: a little better but still very bizarre, curiously sugary and bitter at the same time. Chemicals. Finish: long but still quite hard. Comments: this one may well be corked – or not, so please take the rating with caution. What’s bizarre is that it’s also much less peaty than usual Laphroaigs, especially from 1990 or 1991 (all are usually very good). Anyway, we’ll try to put our hands on another sample/bottle in the near future. SGP:375 – 50 points (in waiting).
Laphroaig 13 yo 1994/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 333 bottles) From a refill hogshead. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: very unusual again, even if not at all in the same style as the Moon. Much rounder and smoother than expected, with notes of candy sugar, apple pie and crème brûlée, as if this one came from a rum cask (but no such claim on the label.) It becomes more typically Laphroaig after that, with quite some iodine, wood smoke, fresh almonds, freshly cut apples, baker’s yeast and sea water but the ‘candied’ notes never quite disappear. Not that it’s a problem! Mouth: starts sweet but less rummy than on the nose, very typical from a rather young Laphroaig. Lemons, peat, pepper, salt and almonds. Very oomphy. Finish: long, clean, crisp and hugely smoky. Not quite like if you swallowed an ashtray but close ;-). Comments: the nose was rounder than expected but the palate is more like it. Nice beast, for fans. SGP:447 – 85 points.
Laphroaig 7 yo 2001/2008 (58.2%, Tartan, Douglas Laing for LMDW, cask #4519) From a refill hogshead. Colour: white wine. Nose: very powerful, very spirity and hugely medicinal. Tincture of iodine, antiseptic… All that gets then a bit more civilised, with notes of fresh almonds, ‘clean’ manure, oysters, lemon-sprinkled porridge… With water: we’re really both in a farm and on a fishing boat now. And both the farmer and the ship’s crew are smoking strong cigars. Extreme smoke and tar. Mouth: huge sweetness from the alcohol and big notes of gentian and roots, with a big, big peat and a little salt playing with your lips. Loads of lemon drops as well. Clean and straightforward. Oh, and red chilli (not XXX, mind you). With water: there’s a little mint now, and more salt and more peat. Finish: very, very long and a tad more polished. Notes of crystallised lemons, but there are kippers too. Comments: it’s no secret that Laphroaig can be wonderful and pretty drinkable at very young age, and this is a good example. Frankly, I’m no obsessive peat freak but this is excessively well crafted. Bottling a 7yo Laphroaig is not obligatorily an infanticide, your Honour! (as some weirdly say in the wine world when a bottle is opened when too young). SGP:348 – 89 points.
Kentucky Tavern 1948 CRAZY

We'll have a few ads related to the American presidential elections in the coming days...

Kentucky Tavern, USA, 1948.
Teaser: “For the Pleasure of the party.”
Body: “Serve Kentucky Tavern and your party will be voted the most likely to succeed. For Kentucky Tavern has been elected The Aristocrat of Bonds for three generations… the finest of all fine whiskies.”
MUSIC – Recommended listening: remember Di Meola, De Lucia and McLaughlin? Liked them? Then please have a go at Gerardo Nunez and his Isa.mp3, and then please buy his music. Gerardo Nunez was born in Jerez, by the way, which should make him even more likeable to us whisky aficionados. Gerardo Nunez

October 20, 2008



Old Pulteney 1990/2008 (53.6%, OB for subscribers of The Official Line, cask #52725) An interesting version for the ‘Friends of Pulteney’ that’s supposed to have spent its life in an ex-Islay cask, which sometimes happens on the mainland, and, most of all, at Jura’s. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very interesting indeed, powerful but very fresh, smelling like something like smoky apple juice mixed with seawater. The peat is clearly noticeable, especially at first nosing, but it’s ‘the rest’ that takes control after fifteen minutes, that is to say more cider apples and hints of patchouli and sea air as well as quite some fudge. Very nice. With water: gets beautifully camphory and herbal now, with also fresh almonds, mint and hints of wet dogs (yeah, sorry dogs.) Mouth (neat): very punchy and very fruity, on loads of apples, kiwis and even pineapples, complemented with quite some lemon squash and touches of salt. Is there any peat? It’s less obvious than on the nose but yes ‘there may well be some’ (although in all honesty, I’m not sure I’d have got it, had I tried this blind.) Good oakiness and then something grassy. With water: it got rounder, on lemon pie and honey, and maybe the peat is a tad more obvious again. Candied. Finish: long, thick, jammy, with a funny peaty signature. Comments: good stuff, very complete and satisfying but now, as for finding out about which distillery on Islay, we’ll pass. SGP:544 – 87 points (and thanks, Morten).
Old Pulteney 1990/2002 (59.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, cask series, cask #5471) From a first fill sherry butt. Colour: brown amber. Nose: the peat in the OB is even more obvious when comparing it with this one, which is very ‘nervous’, much saltier (a lot of iodine but also plain salt), with big notes of caramel, brandy-soaked raisins, liquorice and a slight beefiness (bouillon). Hints of mint as well. With water: gets very aromatic now and extremely meaty. Game and beef extract plus cooked butter. Quite some gunpowder as well, with quite some ‘good’ sulphur. Quite superb when reduced. Mouth: bursting with orange marmalade and cloves but too strong to be swallowed like that. With water: immensely concentrated, on the verge of being a bit cloying. Loads of walnuts, dried mushroom, liquorice, tobacco and raisins, with slight kirschy notes in the background that are, well, less great. A tad bitter. Finish: very long but more on fruit spirit now. Kirsch again but also plums and maybe other stone fruits, as well as cloves and pepper. Comments: this one has parts that are fantastic, and others that are a tad less fantastic (end of the palate and plain finish.) SGP:462 – 83 points.
And also Old Pulteney 11 yo 1990/2002 (43%, Signatory, cask #25004, 347 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: unbelievable, this is even peatier than the OB. Freshly cut pears and plain peat smoke, with also mineral notes and iodine. Whiffs of antiseptic. As fresh as whisky can get. Mouth: same, there’s a lot of peat here, with obvious medicinal notes that, yes, make us think of that distillery. Gets drier then, grassy, with big notes of apple peelings. Finish: incredibly long at 43%, still very peaty and frankly Islayesque. Comments: completely unexpected! And it’s very good… SGP:435 – 84 points.
And also Old Pulteney 20 yo 1968/1988 (43%, G&M for Sestante) Nose: hazelnuts and praline then fresh mint and Vicks, with a lot of camphor, curry, fresh pepper. A lot of iodine as well. Unusual and beautiful. Mouth: great attack, sort of winey, with quite some pears and pepper. Apple compote and dates, dried ginger… Excellent finish on soft chilli. Great old Pulteney. SGP:534 – 91 points. Pulteney

MUSIC – Recommended listening: today let's have some excellent rai by Algeria's Cheb Aïssa, it's called Mnine Nayfeh.mp3. Please buy this cool Cheb's music!

Cheb Aissa

October 19, 2008

JUST SEEN this famous Belgian magazine this morning... We're enquiring...
Helena, Arkansas, October 9th-11th, 2008
Pinetop Perkins was born in Mississippi in 1913 and worked in the Delta on the Hopson Plantation (where, if you’re visiting, you can stay for a night or two in one of their splendid air-conditioned sharecropper shacks) before turning to music, and the piano, as a living. He played with Sonny Boy Williamson and is thus a direct link back to the King Biscuit Time radio show, but he’s probably most famous for his time in Muddy Waters’ band, taking over the piano stool from Otis Spann in 1969. It’s a hot Friday afternoon here in Helena, and whilst Perkins waits to go on stage he sits coolly outside the artistes’ truck, chain-smoking in the shade, as sharp as a razor in a red suit and matching Fedora, happily chatting to admirers. On stage, his band for the afternoon, bassist Bob Stroger (Calvin Jones, bassist from Muddy Waters’ band, joins for a few songs later), and Waters’ veterans Willie ‘Big Eyed’ Smith on drums, and guitarist Bob Margolin, are warming up the crowd. If you haven’t worked it out, Perkins is 95 and when he’s helped to his piano you can sense an air of doubt in the audience – “will he, won’t he?” He does – and there’s a collective sigh of relief as he breaks into ‘Hole in the Wall’, singing and playing like a man half his age. It’s a fantastic half an hour or so, full of wit and good humour (“They call me Pinetop Perkins, the ladies call me the grinding man” he sings with a wicked grin). Perkins tires a little towards the end, Margolin making sure that he doesn’t lose his way on ‘I’ve got my Mojo working’ and ‘Kansas City’, but it’s an inspired performance, enough to keep the traditionalists happy - and for what it’s worth I’m assured he was even better a few days later when he celebrated his birthday at a ‘homecoming’ gig with Margolin and company at the Hopson Plantation.
Pinetop Perkins
Pinetop Perkins,
Bob Margolin,
Bob Stroger
Guitar Mac
Bob Margolin, Guitar Mac, Bob Stroger
Margolin’s a busy guy. Along with Smith and Stroger, he turns up later on the Robert Lockwood Junior Heritage Stage (let’s just call it the second stage shall we?) tucked away in a side street between a derelict warehouse and a demolition site, backing Guitar Mac, a native of Cotton Town, Arkansas, but now “practically a blues legend in northern California and Nevada”. Mac followed a very boisterous jook-joint set from Willie King and the Liberators. He (Mac) plays an engaging and refreshingly simple style of electric Delta blues, rushing from one song to the next, and Margolin and the band haven’t the faintest idea what’s coming next, which makes it all the more entertaining. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, Robert Johnson, ladies and gentlemen, she got a 38 special but I believe it’s much too light, Robert Johnson, yes, yes, yes, yes, next song light tempo slow fast shuffle medium please”. Ace!
Hubert Sumlin
Hubert Sumlin
Margolin also turned up on Saturday afternoon to play with singer Janiva Magness, and featured in Willie Smith’s Band supporting Hubert Sumlin (Howling Wolf’s long-time guitarist) for the penultimate act of the Festival. Not short on enthusiasm, Sumlin nonetheless turned in a slightly lacklustre set which, where we were sitting, suffered considerably from the obvious impatience of an excited crowd, who were already calling for the headliner Bobby Rush.
Pinetop Perkins isn’t the only link back to King Biscuit Time. Drummer Sam Carr, son of guitarist Robert Nighthawk, toured with his father, and played with Sonny Boy Williamson before settling into the Jelly Roll Kings, which became a legendary Mississippi three-piece featuring Carr, Helena resident Frank Frost (a protégé of Williamson) on harmonica, and Big Jack Johnson on guitar. Carr’s a mere 82 (“one of the all-time great legends still around with us” said the MC, rather ghoulishly), but he still managed to take his stool behind the drums with a band fronted by Mississippi singer and guitarist Dave Riley for a short set of Jelly Roll Kings numbers, including ‘Lucky to be living’ and ‘Jelly Roll King’. sam Carr
And in the spirit of Sonny Boy Williamson was California’s Rick Estrin and the Nightcats – formerly and for many years known as Little Charlie and the Nightcats before guitarist Charlie Batty retired earlier this year. Batty’s replacement is ‘Kid’ Anderson, who absurdly observant readers may recall we saw playing with Charlie Musselwhite last year. The Kid’s got a new guitar, and his playing was explosive, matching Estrin’s virtuoso harmonica playing, and some Sonny Boy Williamson stunts (playing the harp inside his mouth) on Williamson’s ‘Too close together’.
Rick Estrin
Rick Estrin and the Nightcats
Bobby Rush
Bobby Rush raw
However, it seemed that on Saturday night all roads led to Mr Bobby Rush, “the baddest man in show business” and recent winner of the Blues Music Award for “Best Male Soul Blues Artist”. Rush also picked up a couple of gongs for his new acoustic album Raw (which I heartily recommend), and he starts off on the second stage playing songs from this to a huge and very animated crowd.
It’s good, simple Delta blues style, with Rush playing both guitar and harmonica, and mostly (I said mostly) avoiding his trademark ‘blue’ blues content. That was saved for the main stage, where he served up a rollicking mixture of absurd innuendo and barely- disguised filth, much to the delight of almost everyone in the crowd.
Bobby Rush
Bobby Rush and friends
It’s so obscene, albeit with not an expletive in sight, that it’s preposterous. Some might be discomforted by his show, with its emphasis on the exaggerated physiques (and that, if anything, is an understatement) of his two dancers. But this bawdy blues reaches deep into the heart and tradition of the genre, and if it didn’t quite work when we saw him perform at the Barbican a few years ago, tonight it’s just perfect, and a fitting end to the festival. But not quite the climax, for in your reviewer’s humble opinion that honour should go to the unlikely-named duo Cedric and Malcolm. Hardly kicking names you would have thought, but Cedric Burnside, grandson of R L Burnside, and Texan Lightning Malcolm are a formidable partnership, delivering supercharged blues in the Mississippi North Country style of the late R L, with a joyful enthusiasm.
Cedric and Malcolm
Cedric Burnside and Lightning Malcolm
The pair’s singing and harmonies are striking – Burnside’s drumming shifts easily from driving rhythm to subtle skiffle-roll patterns, Malcolm’s guitar is incisive. They blew away the crowd at the second stage, and I would commend anyone to pick up their new album, Two Man Wrecking Crew (or their first, Juke Joint Duo). They may be touring Europe soon, in which case don’t hesitate to go and see them. A fitting end to a fantastic few days. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: Bobby Rush's MySpace
Kate's photo album Kate's photographs


There are many indie Imperials around these days, especially since blue chip distilleries are getting scarcer and scarcer. All these Imperials are all quite good, fetching between 80 and 85 points in our book.
Imperial 18 yo 1990/2008 (52.2%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #358, 226 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: clean yet complex at first nosing, with quite some oak and vanilla but also very, very nice notes of fresh putty, almonds and even olive oil. Quite some ash as well. With water: more smoke and even more ashes, then cider apples and muesli. Very good balance. Mouth (neat): demonstratively fruity and spicy (oak). Freshly cut apples, apple liqueur, white peaches, oranges. Notes of cardamom. With water: gets very drinkable, fresh, even fruitier. Pineapple-flavoured tea. Finish: medium long, clean, balanced, crisp, gingery. Comments: these Imperials don’t have the biggest personality ever but they are good whiskies, eminently drinkable. SGP:642 – 84 points.
Imperial 25 yo 1982/2008 (55.7%, Signatory, cask #3716, 501 bottles) From a refill sherry but. Colour: pale amber. Nose: this one starts more on coffee, probably thanks to the sherry. There’s also quite some oak again, notes of Seville oranges, struck matches (hints of sulphur) and smoked ham. Something earthy as well. With water: more vanilla and caramel, warm butter, pastries… No more sulphur but a little more smoke. Mouth (neat): hugely concentrated and very fruity, with loads of orange drops, pineapple drops and bubblegum. Icing sugar. Very good oakiness behind all that, good bitterness. With water: gets a tad less fruity and a little waxier and grassier. Orgeat. Finish: medium long, on bitter oranges, with a faint saltiness. Comments: more or less in the same league as the 1990. Good stuff. SGP:551 – 84 points.

October 18, 2008

The Lindores Whisky Fest announces the complete line-up for its 2008 edition.
Prez Luc W. Timmermans: "We keep keeping an eye on the rarest whiskies for our festival!"
Prez Luc W. Timmermans: “We’re delighted to announce that we managed to build a fantastic line-up, no less than nine different whiskies in total, all excitingly rare and delightfully quaffable. Most of these whiskies can’t be found in shops anymore so we think it’s a damn good and unique opportunity to try the most fantastic drams ever made by man. These amazing whiskies will be:
Bowmore 12 yo (40%, OB, 2002)
Macallan 12 yo ‘Fine Oak’ (40%, OB, 2004)
Glenfarclas 10 yo (40%, OB, 2005) *
Loch Dhu 10yo (40%, OB, +/-2000, 70cl)
Cu Dhub (40%, OB, Speyside Distillery)
Wasmund's 4 Months Old (48% / 96° Proof, OB, Batch#12, Bottled +/- 2007)
Gold Cock malt whisky (40%, OB, Czech)*
Serendipity (40%, OB, vatted malt, 2006)
The Gay Highlander (40%, OB, blend, 1970’s)*
(* from my personal collection)
All will be poured on a first come, first serve basis (pouring: 0.5cl).Be there !"

Oostende politie is proud to announce that Hotel Bero is now secure again. All hand grenades destroyed.

Stash of WWII hand grenades (see picture below) found in the basement of Hotel Bero, where Lindores Festival is to take place next weekend. Oostende politie is investigating. Capt Dirk van Garnalen comments: “We made one explode, it smelled really funny! Strange shape too!”

LINDORES FESTIVAL OOSTENDE - 17:10 Update – we just got this official announcement by the Lindores Festival:
"2.30 PM on Saturday 25, a "Meet and Greet" with whisky celeb Luc Timmermans. People have the opportunity to talk to him, get a Luc Timmermans T-shirt and a free dram of Glenfarclas of their choice."

LINDORES FESTIVAL DINNER - 13:40 Update – we’re sorry to announce that contrarily to what we had mistakenly written this morning (please see below), the Lindores dinner on Saturday 25 in Oostende (aka shrimp croquettes galore!) will be served with these wonderful bottles instead of the old Californian Laphroaig 10. The dinner is still fully booked but cancellations may be sent to Messrs Timmermans or Bero (don’t forget that there’s a lost episode of Inspektor Derrick on cable TV that night.)

Laphroaig 10
Some crazy Belgians (which may be a pleonasm as far as single malt whisky is concerned) just announced that they will crack all these six wonderful bottles open at their Lindores dinner at the whisky fest in Oostende (Saturday, Oct 25.) Details: Laphroaig 10yo (91.4 US proof, OB, imported by R.H Elsbach & Co, San Francisco, 4/5 quart, late 50s or early 60s). Alas, the dinner is sold out but WF will be there and we may post due tasting notes later on. Maybe we'll manage to try all six and be able to elaborate on the 'consistency' of bottle ageing. Please note that the photograph is brand new, it's no old sepia shoot. And btw, nice blurb on the labels: "Take "Neat" to savour better the Deep Peaty Kiln Flavour or add cool water - ... - Most whiskies shipped from Scotland to connoisseurs all over the world endeavour to incorporate in their blends a proportion of Laphroaig, which imparts a most distinctive rich flavour and its aroma is the bouquet of "Old Scotia" itself. Here in this bottle is the "self" whisky - unblended with any others."



MM Awards Calibration Weekend in Amsterdam

For most judges, the Malt Maniacs Awards begin with the arrival of a couple of brown boxes filled with numbered whisky samples. However those of us who live in countries like Canada where the government monopoly forbids private import, the situation is a little more complex. The same goes for our Indian juror, Krishna who doesn’t trust the mail or couriers to get his packages to him intact.

The only option for guys like us is to travel to the packages and bring them home in our luggage. That’s exactly what Krishna and I did last weekend. Does this sound a little maniacal? Well yes, but the downside of a weekend trip to Europe to pick up awards samples is more than compensated for by the opportunity to renew acquaintances and do a little “calibration dramming.”

After meeting up at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, Krishna and I headed into town to join Johannes for a visit with our good friend Andres at the Cadenhead’s shop. Andres has an ample tasting set up and always manages a surprise dram when the Maniacs are in town. But Johannes, the ever-obsessive drammer, had a little surprise up his sleeve as well. It seems Parker’s, a shop in Banff have their own Douglas Laing bottling of a 30yo Glenglassaugh, and Malt Maniacs reader, Robert Gardiner, had sent a bottle for us to try. Poor thing – but for a few dregs it didn’t survive the weekend.


Glenglassaugh 30yo 1975/2006 (45.6%, DL OMC for Parkers Whisky, REF 2585, D. 09/'75 Btl. 04/'06)
Nose: Floral with nice fruity esters, rich and full with little hints of licorice, dry grain and cereal, some waxiness, and over top of all of it a wonderful rich and complex passion fruit. Very fine and elegant old whisky.
Palate: Tastes old! Resins and lovely oak tannins behind a hot spiciness, lots of dark fruit there and hot peppers. Hints of peat smoke lurk in the background, and again, riding over top, but hiding nothing, a luscious passion fruit.
Scores: Krisha 92, Michel, 91, Johannes 89, Me 91

Back at the hotel we challenged our palates (more “calibration”) tasting new malts and others we had tried before, so Johannes could go home and see how close our new scores were to those we gave in previous tastings (nearly perfect by the way). The highlight here came from a square nalgene bottle Marty Brunet handed me as I was leaving his place in Montreal a few weeks ago. His 5yo Port Charlotte, matured in a blood tub has finally been bottled and we dove into it with great relish. Gordon Homer’s blood tub Port Charlotte was the hit of Feis Ile a few years back so Marty’s was much anticipated and it did not disappoint.

Martin's PC Port Charlotte 5yo ((60%, OB for Martin Brunet, C#24, 33 bts., d 12.06.01 b 22.03.07)
Tasting Notes:
Johannes - Nose: Fresh tar. Smoke. Salt. Iodine. Peanuts. Monolithic but superb.
Palate: Diesel and other industrial oils. Rubber Smoke. Right up my alley.
Score: 90 points - not terribly complex, but brilliant in its part of the spectrum.

Michel - Colour: Dark amber.
Nose: Tarry, smoke, caramel, burnt matchsticks, smoked fish skin, iodine and nori. A somewhat simple but ultra effective nose.
Palate: Coal, iodine, roasted almonds and smoke. The peat is a solid fundament here and yet stays at a relative 'subtle' level... Diesel oil, salted licorice and new oak are to follow. Again this isn't overly complex but you just have to enjoy its monumental style.
Finish: Leather, charcoal, smoke apple and (new?) oak. Lasts for a long time and slowly fades away with faint notes of chloride. Classic un-cut Islay. Score: 90 points
Me: Nose: Coal tar, sherry, very very smoky, sweet smoked ham, smoked trout, earthy, kippers, honey ham, peanuts, black Chinese beans
Palate: Fruity sweet, salty, very smoky, salted licorice, cream sherry, ripe dark fruit, some tannins, rich and complicated if not complex.
Score 91 points
Krishna’s Score: 92

Serge is mighty busy getting through 198 MM Awards entrants this year and asked for a little help to keep feeding WhiskyFun while he attends to his judging duties. So here’s a little insight for WF readers into how the Malt Mad spend their weekends. Stay tuned; results December 1.
Davin de Kergommeaux (Canada)


October 17, 2008

Helena, Arkansas, October 9th-11th, 2008
We’ve crossed the Mississippi to Helena, Arkansas. The reason we’re here is Aleck “Rice” Miller, otherwise known as Sonny Boy Williamson (the second), arguably the greatest and most influential blues harmonica player. This once busy and prosperous river port was a regular haunt for blues artists - its bars, brothels and jook joints offering multiple opportunities to make some cash. Sonny Boy Williamson
Robert Johnson lived here towards the end of his short life. Williamson, who played with Johnson, and is one of the few sources of the largely hearsay information that exists about his death, began broadcasting on a local radio station here in 1941, along with guitarist Robert Lockwood Jnr. (Johnson’s son). Sonny Boy
Known as “King Biscuit Time” – it was sponsored by the manufacturers of King Biscuit Flour - it was the first blues radio show – with a live studio performance format that lasted for almost thirty years, witnessing a procession of now legendary players through its door. It brought Williamson, and others like him, to the attention of recording studios, thus bringing the blues to a wider world. Sonny Payne
And it’s still broadcast today, by veteran DJ Sonny Payne, (who started working on the show in 1953) from the Delta Cultural Centre on Cherry Street. To celebrate this achievement, the King Biscuit Blues Festival was established in 1986.
Now known as the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (somewhat to the chagrin of old timers, who whilst happy to take State funding to support the event, appear to resent the loss of the original name. What many still seem to delight in referring to seditiously as “the Biscuit” is now the largest free blues festival in the world, running over three stages over three days. During which, this largely forgotten and derelict town (many main street shops are empty and boarded up, but if you visit, do call in to the Gist Music Company, where we enjoyed a marvellous conversation and for some reason bought a washboard) is transformed into a vibrant throng of over 100,000 people. Visitors coming from all over the United States (and the world) mix with after-work and weekend locals, filling its streets. Food vendors offer a variety of preposterous cholesterol-fuelled dishes, under the disapproving but visibly ineffective (if our plates were anything to go by) eye of a stall promoting healthy eating, run by the Government’s ‘Nutrition Intervention Research Initiative’. And busking musicians line the street, playing for tips, and selling a multiplicity of CDs. Food
Am I wrong, or is this Blues Heaven?
The main stage is on the levee – and you might be forgiven at first sight for thinking that it’s really just Cropredy by the Mississippi. Grey hairs, grey beards, pot-bellies and fishing chairs abound (along with the obligatory coolers). Veterans proudly wear their oldest Biscuit shirts, many are sitting in the same places that they’ve occupied for years (some simply chain their chairs down to the old railway lines that run through the auditorium and leave them there for three days) and there’s a friendly and familiar air about the place that makes it altogether agreeable. If they’ve one grumble (apart from the heat, of course) it’s that the line-up “isn’t as traditional” as it’s been in the past. That of course raises some interesting questions. The Festival has hosted a variety of local blues legends in the past, but the fact remains that they are becoming few and far between, and there is a uncomfortable sense of voyeurism in the air as the crowd fawn on those ageing stars who do appear on the bill, desperately trying to get their photographs before, as it were, they check out.
Mudbone (L) and Terry 'Harmonica' Bean (R)
But I could see what some of the very hospitable people we talked with meant. There was a tendency in many of the acts towards an almost formulaic blues-rock which meant that after three days it was hard to tell some of them apart. On the first day, there were some outstanding young award-winning acts, such as Trampled Under Foot (winners of the 2008 International Blues Challenge): two brothers and a sister (with two left-handed guitarists) from Kansas, featuring some outstanding guitar playing from Nick Schnebelen. There was a curiosity from Moscow (Russia), Arsen Shomakhov, 2007’s Emerging Artist Winner, who played text-book riffs very nicely until he made a mistake, from which he invariably had great difficulty recovering.
Trampled Under Foot (L) and Hamilton Loomis (R)
Webb Wilder played some nice and good-humoured country-tinged blues-rock, and brought a whoop of “Nick Lowe!” from the crowd when he played ‘Ju ju man’, whilst Tinsley Ellis responded with a harder-edged rock sound and but some lamentably flat singing. Earlier local favourite, the hard-drinkin’ and hard talkin’ Reba Russell had delighted the crowd with her powerful singing and earthy lyrics (‘Toolbox blues’ should speak for itself). But I have to say that by day two, artistes such as Louisiana’s Hamilton Loomis (a protégé of the late Bo Diddley), Chicago’s soulful Carl Weathersby, New Orleans’ Mem Shannon and the Membership, and Michael Burks were beginning to merge somewhat seamlessly into a fairly predictable groove. This despite the fact that Shannon and Burks in particular were both excellent guitarists, the former from New Orleans leaning towards the blues, the latter a local Arkansas favourite towards heavier rock.
Carl Weathersby (L) and Tinsley Ellis (R)
The Revue-style format of the closing acts on the first two days - The Champions of R&B, featuring Earl Gaines, Johnny Jones and Al Garner, and the Severn Records Soul and Blues Revue with Lou Pride, Darrell Nulisch and Tad Robinson - also left some of the regulars yearning for the big names of yore. As it happens, they were not to be disappointed. (To be continued...) - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)


Single Speyside Malt 37 yo 1970/2008 (50.2%, The Whisky Fair) Colour: amber. Nose: this is powerful and displays notes of a rather typical ‘smoked’ dry sherry. Goes on with Corinth raisins, bitter chocolate, blackcurrant leaves tea, hints of kirsch, then a slight meatiness (beef stock, barbecue) as well as some strong honey. Gets smokier and smokier (wood smoke), with also hints of flor (walnuts), and then meatier. Slight sulphur as well but more towards gunpowder. Mouth: it’s more the fruits than the sherry that play first parts here, as the attack happens on various fruit liqueurs and jams. Strawberries, blood oranges, crystallised tangerines… There’s as little rubber behind all that as well as notes of barbecue mix (Provence herbs, oregano and such) and quite some wood. Gets really cleaner after a good while, the rubber vanishing and more herbs coming through (a little verbena, liquorice, aniseed…) Finish: long, on oranges and tea with quite still some liquorice. Comments: very good but you have to give this one time, so that the rubber dissolves – not that there’s a lot of rubber. Big but not heavy. SGP:752 - 88 points.
Probably Speyside's Finest Distillery 41 yo 1966/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing, OMC, 326 bottles) From a sherry butt. Colour: amber. Nose: completely different from the 1970, much more a minty/herbal kind of sherry at first nosing, with even whiffs of dill and celery, and then the anticipated cortege of raisins, chocolate, fruit jams (blackberries), leather, soy sauce and game. Rather wonderful, the 1970 being a tad rougher. Mouth: very punchy, very concentrated and very dry, even drying actually. Huge tannins, overcooked wine sauce, pepper, fruit spirit, herb vodka (zubrovska), overinfused herbal tea (cherry stems, blackcurrant leaves). Gets a tad quieter after a while and more on mint just like on the nose. Heavy liquorice as well. Finish: extremely long, thick, coating your throat with tannins, liquorice and ‘fruit extracts’. Comments: sherrytastic - this is for extreme sherry freaks only. The nose is quite fabulous but once again, if you don’t like sherry in your malt you’ll abhor this. SGP:461 - 89 points.

October 16, 2008



Longmorn-Glenlivet 1963/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, licensed bottling) Colour: gold. Nose: this one hasn’t been bottled such a long time ago but it already displays a very nice OBE (to newbie’s, this means old bottle effect). Notes of metal and soot, then a fruitier development on apricots, oranges and quinces. Also hints of fresh walnuts and wet newspapers. Whiffs of linseed oil. Not bold and very delicate and subtle, even if it really starts to smell like orange squash after a while. Mouth: very, very good attack, not really powerful of course but the notes of fresh oranges mixed with a rather obvious oakiness (cinnamon and nutmeg) work well. The middle is maybe a tad weaker but always very clean and marvellously orangey. Finish: shortish, alas, but still clean, with quite some praline in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s all on orange juice with cinnamon. We’d have loved to try these casks at 43 or 45%... SGP:431 – 86 points.
Longmorn 1965/1977 (70 proof, Berry Bros & Rudd) With BBR’s nice old label, that they were using for wines as well. I remember a few Côtes Rôties 1971 under that very same label that were fantabulous. Colour: amber with bronze hues. Nose: the general character isn’t that far from the 1963’s but the much bigger sherry really brings more complexity here, even if once again, the whole is rather delicate. Starts on bitter chocolate and high-class coffee (Jamaica), with the also the same kind of OBE as in the 1963. Goes on with old walnuts, leather polish and very old balsamic vinegar and gets then rather meatier (dried beef), with also the same whiffs of soot as in the 1963. Very delicate, very complex, like a very old wine that aged particularly well. Mouth: sumptuous attack, much bigger than the 1963, and that may come from shorter ageing in (excellent) wood. Another proof that whisky shouldn’t be too old, but age quite a long time once bottled? Fantastic notes of oranges, camphor, mint, liquorice wood, cinnamon, ripe bananas, apricots, walnuts, tobacco… and only god knows what else. Amazingly complex. Finish: medium long but really does ‘the peacock’s tail’. Comments: sumptuous old young Longmorn. And it’s only 12! SGP:552 – 93 points.
Longmorn 20 yo 1968/1989 (45%, G&M for Intertrade, Highlander Label) Colour: full gold. Nose: the freshest so far, but maybe also the least expressive. Oranges, waxed paper, greengages and a little olive oil. There is, once again, a little soot in the background, but also a very faint soapiness (hints of roses). Let’s hope it’ll be a tad more talkative on the palate… (even if some big notes of parsley and ham do arise after a while here.) Mouth: well, it’s having a bit of a hard time after the BBR, being drier and oakier but not really more powerful. Bdut on’t get us wrong, it’s still superb whisky! Let’s say tad more ‘usual’. Crystallised oranges and quinces, vanilla, orange marmalade and a rather drying oak (big cinnamon.) Finish: medium long, more citrusy, with also hints of violet sweets. Always a lot of cinnamon. Comments: very good but maybe in the shadow of all the fantastic old Longmorns that did exist. SGP:451 – 86 points.
Longmorn 14 yo 1964/1978 (80° Proof, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label) Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, this is very different! Not a wham-bam Longmorn at all, rather an introspective, ultra-austere one – and we love this kind of austerity in whisky (the opposite of ‘modern’ whiskies if you see what I mean.) Ultra mineral (flints, pencil lead) and with a lot of oily hints (linseed, lamp, olive, graphite, kerosene). Develops on wonderful lemony notes that remind us of the best Rosebanks. Also hints of patchouli and sandalwood, very discrete but superb, and these faint metallic notes that are to be found in most old dumpies buy Cadenhead’s. Magnificent malt whisky. Mouth: fan-tas-tic. Exactly the same notes as on the nose – please read above. Balance is perfect. Finish: not the longest ever but what a marvellous cleanliness. Lemons and fresh almonds plus a little olive oil. Comments: one of the best Longmorns I ever had, level with a 1972 at 50.2% by Kingsbury and a 1974 at 54.3% by McKillop’s. And soooo drinkable! (like most old Longmorns, that may be their drawback.) SGP:453 - 94 points.
Longmorn 1969/2008 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW, cask #5295) This one is the ‘rookie’ within the series, albeit the eldest. Colour: full gold. Nose: this is a tad but quite curiously, it does not really smell older than its siblings but more expressive and rather fruitier. Truckloads of citrus fruits (more oranges and tangerines than lemons), other tropical fruits (mangos), soft spices (cardamom, Chinese anise) and herbs (coriander first here, also crushed sorrel). This one has lots to tell us and it’s beautiful and sexy. Mouth: sure there’s more oak than in the ‘youngsters’ here, hence maybe less freshness but it’s still wonderful whisky, that nobody would suspect of being almost 40 years of age. It’s jammier and more ‘candied’, but there’re still quite some fresh fruits (ripe pears, kiwis and bananas), besides a beautiful spiciness (aniseed, a little cinnamon). Finish: maybe the best part, long, deliciously fruity and candied. Grapefruits, vanilla fudge, coconut milk and cinnamon. Comments: great old Longmorn, may we add ‘as often’. Only problem: it’s much too drinkable. Again, ‘as often’. SGP:641 – 91 points.
Longmorn 20 yo 1964/1985 (56.8%, Intertrade, Highlander Label, 75cl) Colour: amber. Nose: more powerful of course, thanks to the higher ABV, but also quite different from all the five Longmorns we had before, with something more oriental. Sandalwood, incense, orange blossom water and cigar box (cedar), then quite some mint and eucalyptus (cough syrup) and finally an unexpected smokiness (burning charcoal). With water: it’s the wood that comes out, as well as fermenting oranges and hints of smoked ham. A tad more ‘Longmorn’. Mouth (neat): a big, big dram, with huge notes of orange liqueur, kirsch (unexpected again) and various stone fruits such as plums and the spirit made thereof. Apricots. With water: really excellent now, jammy yet fresh and clean. And, of course, very orangey. Finish: long, reminding us of something like wood-matured orange liqueur plus Turkish delights, with a salty touch at the end. Comments: I wouldn’t have guessed this was Longmorn when neat (I mean, the whisky), but water helps for that matter. Anyway, this one is yet another very excellent old Longmorn. It’s to be wondered why the owners don’t issue more old versions of this magnificent whisky – or maybe they don’t have any? SGP:542 - 91 points.
(with thanks to our friends Alexandre, Govert, Konstantin, Olivier and Patrick)
MUSIC – Recommended listening: a wonderfully soft jazzy tune by Brasil's Eliane Elias called A volta.mp3 (it was on Kissed By Nature). Please buy Eliane Elias' music, whether her pure jazz or her more 'samba/bossa-ish' pieces, she's always good. Eliane Elias

October 15, 2008


Old Grains
Hedonism Maximus 2nd batch (46%, Compass Box, grain vatting, 2008) Here’s the second batch of this vatting that includes very old grain whisky, quite possibly Invergordon. Lovely label, pretty much inspired by Usher’s Old Vatted Glenlivet (here’s a picture from my own shelves). Colour: gold. Nose: typical old grain whisky, with bursting notes of coconuts, vanilla and plain oak. Also notes of cellulosic varnish and eucalyptus (Vicks) and hazelnuts (praline) as well as nougat and cappuccino. No bubblegum/strawberry notes here. Very compact. Mouth: hugely unusual this time, starting on unexpected winey and beerish notes (or is it mead?) before it gets very spicy and peppery and finally more ‘regular’ (vanilla, soft tannins and coconut). Very nice earthy and rooty notes behind all that (pu-erh tea). Good! Finish: medium long, the spices having sort of vanished – which is funny, usually spices come more towards the end in my experience. Comments: very good and very interesting ‘blended grain’ – excuse me. SGP:541 – 85 points.
Alloa 34 yo 1973/2007 (49.7%, Alambic Classique, cask #78753, 119 bottles) North of Scotland Distillery by an other name. We liked a 1964 by the same bottler very much 88). Colour: gold. Nose: extremely different from the Hedonism, which proves that old grains aren’t obligatorily all similar (which we once believed). Much fruiter, all on plum spirit, sloe gin, blackcurrant liqueur (crème de cassis) and Dutch genever. Frankly, not sure I’d have said this was grain whisky, had I tasted it blind. Well, if you like genever (and marzipan), you’ll love this. Mouth: interesting that the same kind of notes strike first at the attack. Plum eau de vie, gin, strawberry liqueur… Also ginger and speculoos, cinchona (well, Campari-Schweppes) and hints of cologne and bubblegum. Finish: medium long, a little more classic (Malibu). Comments: certainly different, and as such it’s worth the try. SGP:630 – 80 points.
Strathclyde 41 yo 1965/2007 (42.1%, casks #84883-84884, 155 bottles) We already had a few Strathclydes but never one from the swinging sixties. Colour: pale gold. Nose: much, much more discreet than both the Hedonism and the Alloa. Small whiffs of sawdust, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Rather pleasant old grain but don’t expect something wham-bam, even if it does get a tad more expressive after a few minutes. Hints of pemmican, beef bouillon. Mouth: better than on the nose, sweeter and fruitier, on pear juice, coconut once again and hints of liquorice. Not complex, that is… Did I mention vanilla? Finish: medium long, on ‘oaky coconuts’ and greenish tannins. Comments: don’t expect something that will make you scratch your head here, but hey, it’s quite good and very old! SGP:531 – 79 points.
Invergordon 42 yo 1965/2008 (51.6%, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, cask #15519, bourbon) Colour: gold. Nose: classic old grain, all on a newly opened pack of nougats, dried coconuts (lots), strawberry drops (a little) and vanilla, then lactones and sawn oak (nutmeg). Very pleasant but maybe not as appealing as earlier batches by Duncan Taylor. My fav was cask #15539, bottled in 2002 – quite extravagant. Mouth: ditto. I mean, really. Finish: longer and spicier than all the ones we had. Comments: Duncan Taylor issued quite a lot of 1965 Invergordons and this one isn’t the best in our opinion. But it’s still pretty drinkable… SGP:531 – 80 points.
North British 45 yo 1963/2008 (55.8%, Signatory, cask #48762, 294 bottles) A 1962 under the Prestonfield banner caused quite a stir last year, as it was really very ‘different’. Colour: gold. Nose: this one is very different again, starting much more on whiffs of glue and varnish and being also more herbal than all the ones we just had. Gets then more classic, on vanilla and coconut (fermented coconut milk), and finally quite dry and grassy. Let’s see what happens with water: a huge grassiness now and hints of lavender and rosemary. Even faint whiffs of peat, which is downright impossible, isn’t it! Mouth (neat): lots happening here. First, it’s probably the biggest of them all (and the oldest) but then we wouldn’t say it’s the cleaner. Quite like the 1962 from last year, it’s a bit ‘twisted’. Rather spirity, very kirschy, even a tad rubbery but also curiously malty. Arrak. With water: just like on the nose, it got even closer to malt whisky. Finish: rather long and very grassy, earthy and liquoricy. Comments: grain whisky for people who aren’t really into grain whisky. Which, quite frankly, is our case. SGP:441 – 84 points.
MUSIC – Recommended listening: let's have a little early reggea by the great Marcia Griffiths if you please. It's called Stepping out of Babylon.mp3 and it was recorded in 1978. Please buy Marcia Griffiths' music... Marcia Griffiths

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

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



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

Glendronach 25 yo 1968/1993 (43%, OB)

Glendronach 1970/1990 (43%, Duthie for Samaroli, ‘Flowers’, 480 bottles)

Glentauchers 17 yo 1965/1982 (46%, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label, 75cl)

Longmorn 20 yo 1964/1985 (56.8%, Intertrade, Highlander Label, 75cl)

Longmorn 1965/1977 (70 proof, Berry Bros & Rudd)

Longmorn 1969/2008 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW, cask #5295)

Longmorn 14 yo 1964/1978 (80° Proof, Cadenhead's Dumpy, Black Label)

Old Pulteney 20 yo 1968/1988 (43%, G&M for Sestante)