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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2010 - Part 2

October 2010 - part 1 <--- October 2010 - part 2 ---> November 2010 - part 1


October 31, 2010


OMG, this is what happens when you've had a few drams too many and you come across the greatest whisky podcaster.


Tasting two extremities of Bladnoch

I agree it's probably a stupid idea, but I wanted to try to check if some kind of 'terroir' effect would make two wildly different whiskies from the very same distillery kind of similar.

Bladnoch 15 yo 1967 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice, old brown label) Three stars and a half Colour: full gold (with orangey hues - typical caramel). Nose: I wouldn't say it's easy to detect Bladnoch's usual citrus fruits here, or even something 'Lowlands' (lightly floral and grainy style) as this oldie unfolds on all aromas that are to be found in many great old bottlings, that is to say waxed paper, honey, light resin, old sweet wine, touches of rancio, walnuts, old style orange liqueur and various herbs as well as some tiny metallic touches that suggest 'OBE' (Old Bottle Effect). Also hints of coffee and tar. It's all perfect even if not too powerful. So, pretty light indeed, but wonderfully complex. Mouth: sure it's no big whisky, and sure the palate can't be on par with the nose - and sure it's all a bit unsteady - but all these very delicate and very subtle touches of herbs, spices and condiments ar beautiful. Alas, it tends to vanish after a few seconds, becoming extremely light. Finish: not much, not much, but no flawed notes whatsoever. Comments: okay, it all happens in the nose here, but what a nose! Cleopatra's malt? SGP:232- 84 points.

Bladnoch 7 yo 2001/2009 (57.0%, OB, lightly peated, cask #341, 245 bottles) Two starsColour: straw. Nose: this is much punchier than the old G&M of course, but also much more marked by the oak, as it starts with quite some custard and mega-huge notes of nutmeg, yoghurt, porridge and green pepper. Not quite enjoyable just like that, I guess water is obligatory. With water: nah, that doesn't work, it gets even more austere, even if there are some rather pleasant notes of raw barley and cut grass. Mouth (neat): really powerful, with some lemon and some oak rushing towards your palate. Not sure about which one wins but what's sure is that this is no subtle whisky. After a little time, it's all on ginger and lemon tonic. Traces of peat indeed, but very light. With water: works better now. Pleasant lemon zests and herbs. Pepper but little peat. Finish: quite long, rather peppery. Barley sugar, lemon and pepper. Comments: it's pretty nice on the palate once reduced but otherwise it's no piece of cake. Not flawed of course, but not my kind, which is a surprise. SGP:262 - 75 points.

Okay, that one was too difficult for me let's try a sister cask and check whether cask #341 was an exception or not.


Bladnoch 7 yo 2001/2009 (57.8%, OB, lightly peated, cask #333) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: indeed it's much more to my liking at first nosing, with more citrus fruits and much less spicy grass. It seems that we're much closer to a regular - hence very good - Bladnoch. Not much peat that I can get, but the cask was certainly more active here - nicely so. With water: indeed, this one's completely different, I'm so happy I had a sample in my library. Nicely sooty (peat?), mineral and grassy. Whiffs of apple peelings and fresh walnuts, all that coated with vanilla. Also a little ginger, suggesting newish or rejuvenated oak. Mouth (neat): ah yes, this one's so much nicer than its sister cask! It's simply another world. Great lemon and many herbs, lemon squash, lime, black pepper, coriander, hints of sorrel... Perfect spirit inside, methinks. With water: ditto, another planet. Finish: long, lemony, mildly spicy and pretty young. Comments: typical young malt in active oak, for a rather excellent result here. SGP:462 - 86 points.
More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I'm not too much into loungy bossa and I'm no Astrud fan either but when it's Susannah McCorkle who's doing Jobim's The Waters Of March, well, I'm becoming a fan. Please buy the great late Susannah McCorkle's music.


October 29, 2010


Solo tasting - a new indie Glengoyne

Glengoyne 13 yo 1997/2010 (46%, Whisky-Doris, The Dram, sherry butts, 120 bottles) Four stars There are many indie Glengoynes in the market these days, both old (19772, 1973) and young (1997, 1998). I have quite a backlog of samples to try but let’s taste this W-D today.

Colour: pale amber. Nose: starts on a rather dry, flinty kind of ‘sherryness’, with notes of ‘new Barbour jacket’ (right, right) and hints of peach liqueur. More fruitcake then, chocolate, cherry stem tea, walnuts, leather… No bomb but I like this kind of ‘dry balance’ in a sherry butt. Hints of Turkish delights and rosewater coming through after a few minutes. It’s also a little earthy and rooty. Mouth: rich and fruity, with notes of orange blossom water and, well, plain oranges. Oh, and orange squash. Also plums, then more black pepper, bitter chocolate and maybe a little green curry. All that’s coated with some honey and a little nutmeg. Gets then grassier, drier… Finish: long, still unusually grassy for a sherry butt. Tea, tannins. Some lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, with the butt’s wood having been more active than its… sherry. A slightly dry and rough-ish profile that goes well with Glengoyne in my opinion. SGP:551 - 86 points.


Solo tasting – one of the zestiest Laphroaigs

Laphroaig 22 yo 1987/2009 (46%, Whiskyforyou.it, 120 bottles) Four stars and a halfTo tell you the truth, I’ve got well above 30 recent Laphroaigs to taste and I think I’ll never quite make it since some newer ones do arrive almost weekly (okay, monthly). We’ll see… What’s sure is that I’ll never rush things and botch up notes and scores (they’re shaky enough like that), so I guess I’ll have to wait until I have more time for extensive sessions again. This time, I selected one single Laphroaig at random, let’s see what gives… Er, can you select something at random?

Colour: pale gold. Nose: it seems that it’s one of these medium-peated Laphroaigs that are more on seawater and almonds. It’s all rather soft, rather delicately briny, almost without any obvious medicinal notes. The smokiness is rather subdued. Nice whiffs of osiers and seaweed. In short, a rather coastal but lightly peated Laphroaig on the nose. Mouth: more oomph than expected, and certainly more lemon. It’s actually very lemony, extremely zesty, quite mineral and, once again, only mildly peaty. The whole is rather complex, these lemony notes going extremely well with the marine notes. Finish: perfect, medium-long, zesty, lemony and salty. Comments: it’s rather more drinkable than the ‘average’ Laphroaig – which may be the problem here. Huzza! The absence of obvious vanilla or sweet oakiness really is an asset here. Like them zesty as much as I do? SGP:456 - 88 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: one of the greatest blues ever, The thrill is gone, as sung by the late Ruth Brown (with Muddy Waters - no less - on guitars). Please buy Ruth Brown's music!

Ruth Brown

October 28, 2010


Tasting an un-Balvenie Balvenie
Frankly, peat can be boring, especially when the whisky’s young. All independent bottlers, for instance, have their young Laphroaigs, Caol Ilas or Bowmores and believe me, all are very good. Very good but very similar, thus a little boring. By the way, not sure this state of the market fits the IBs’ original motto, which was rather something such as ‘offering interesting and/or rare variants of official bottlings’ if I’m not mistaken. Are dozens of similar variants still variants? Anyway, now that stellar old Ardbegs or Laphroaigs are more or less extinct, the only way of getting a kick out of some peated whisky may be to taste odd ones in my opinion, and the one we’ll have today is pretty odd indeed…

Balvenie 17 yo 'Peated Cask' (43%, OB, 2010) Three stars A sequel to the very excellent 17yo ‘Islay Cask’ from around 2004 (WF 90). By law, the non-Islay brands can’t use the appellation ‘Islay Cask’ anymore, but they can use ‘Pomerol Cask’, ‘Sauternes Cask’ or ‘Barolo Cask’ at will, how weird is that? Anyway, this baby has been finished (or maybe fully matured, not sure) in some casks that had previously held some peated whisky, but how much peated whisky was remaining in the wood? Let’s find out… Colour: full gold. Nose: great! It immediately reminds me of the older version, with this very subtle combination of Balvenie’s usual honey, dried apricots and juicy ripe plums with a dry and even sooty and ashy smokiness. At times, this combination can create some faint soapy, or rather paraffiny notes but nothing really unpleasant, it’s all rather funny. There’s also an earthiness and quite some vanilla, even a little smoked ham. Mouth: once again, there’s something extra-terrestrial here. Imagine some plum eau-de-vie that you’d have put into a smoker oven. Funny (I insist). There’s even something briny and coastal, very un-Balvenie, as well as quite some toasted bread and even raw coffee beans. Also something medicinal (antiseptic). Gets then sootier and sootier, maybe a little bitter and certainly very dry. Harder. Finish: not its best moment, I’d say, with the bitterness growing bolder and bolder. I must say I’m a bit lost now. Comments: interesting in-cask vatting. Worked very, very well for a good while but it became a little difficult on the palate, especially the finish wasn’t too pleasant in my opinion. Good whisky nonetheless – and it’s not boring! SGP:534 - 80 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Jeri Southern singing her very sexy hit An Occasional Man in 1955. Please buy Jeri Southern's music.

Jeri Southern

October 27, 2010

Glen Scotia

Solo tasting - a 1972 Glen Scotia

Glen Scotia 1972/2010 (45.7%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #1931, 88 bottles) Five stars We already had cask #1926 by the same bottler and loved it (WF 91).

Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s almost a fruitbomb at first sniffs, it’s almost as if you had freshly squeezed oranges with just touches of honey and olive oil in front of you. What a juice! The whole goes on with the same unusual combination of fresh fruity notes (say 90%) and oily, greenish ones (10%), which creates a wonderful almondy and resinous profile. Sultanas with marzipan, apricots with green tea, honey with sweet mustard and cloves, ripe plums with fresh mint… Works perfectly well here, the whole being hugely entertaining and even funny (yeah, so to speak). Mouth: the oak’s maybe a tad louder now, with some dry pepper and even more green tea than in the nose. I think this one’s oakier than its sister cask on the palate, although I didn’t compare both. Yes, no shame. The good news is that we also have lots of oranges and honey, mint liqueur, maybe even a little cough syrup, plain sugar… Finish: long, more on bitters, Campari, mint… Comments: lots happening here, even if the palate suggests that there maybe a tiny-wee tad too much oak. Maybe. SGP:561 - 90 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: 'seminal' early American punk-pub-rock band The Real Kids playing their 'Do the boob' in the middle of the 1970s. Big, good, easy rock sound. Please buy The Real Kids' music.

Real Kids

October 26, 2010

Solo tasting – another excellent new Amrut


Amrut 100 Peated (57.1%, OB, 500 bottles, 2010) This one was finished in 100 litre virgin casks. Colour: amber. Nose: typical young peat from very active oak. Powerful but balanced, fresh, very 'precise'. Damp ashes and sand, garden bonfire, cut grass, then more marzipan and roasted nuts as well as a little fudge. Quite some mint and a little eucalyptus in the background. Rather more aromatic than, say some peaty Islayers. With water: sweet peat and a lot of nutmeg. A little medicinal. Mouth (neat): very powerful but beautifully fruity and resinous beyond the peat, the pepper and the ginger. Also a little leather but just like the two previous ones, it's very clean spirit. Gets finally a little more almondy and gingery. With water: perfect peat with a little fudge and always these gingery spices. Finish: long, clean, compact! Peat and sweet spices again. Comments: another perfect example of careful wood monitoring. Modern but perfect. I mean 'and' perfect. SGP:457 - 88 points.


Solo tasting – a superb old Glenury, royal of course

Glenury Royal 36 yo 1973/2009 (46.2%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, cask #6863, 148 bottles) Five stars This one was a worthy candidate at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2009! Time to publish my notes… Time flies! Blackadder had several of these 1973s and I especially liked cask 6861, bottled at 30yo (WF 90)

Colour: full gold. Nose: lots of energy and a marvellous fruitiness that reminds me of several famous drams that were distilled around the same period (Benriach, Clynelish…) Superb notes of apricot jam, kumquats, orange blossom water, various honeys, tinned pears… Then there’s something faintly metallic (tin box), not unpleasant at all, and then the ‘mentholated cavalry’ (what?), as often with these old stunners. It’s all very lively and complex at the same time. Very sexy, I must say. Let’s drop water if you don’t mind… Mouth: these oldies can be tired on the palate and not match their fab noses – it’ not the case here, even if there’s quite some oak of course. I love these slightly resinous and mentholated notes, for instance, which give the malt a funnily oriental style. There’s also quite some fruit jams and chestnuts, for example mango, as well as many spices, both soft and more, say solid. Cloves, cinnamon, star anise… All excellent! Finish: medium long, minty and fruity, getting maybe just a tad too tannic now (tea and melba toast). Comments: a big yet complex old Glenury of very high quality. It would have gone even higher without the slightly tannic aftertaste (which you wouldn’t get in middle-aged whisky that would have spent a lot of time in glass, but that’s another story, we’re not in Cognac! ;-)) – who said too bad? SGP:651 - 92 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: right, this is long and it doesn't exactly swing, but it's cult, at least in France. It's Gilbert Artma's band Urban Sax doing Urban Sax Part 3. Urban Sax can gather as many as 200 saxists on stage at some concerts! Please buy Urban Sax's music!

Urban Sax

October 25, 2010

Caol Ila 1984

Tasting two 1984 Caol Ila plus the new 25yo

Two recent 1984 Caol Ilas to try today but just to warm up, let’s first have the fairly new official 25 yo that was bottled at 43%.

Caol Ila 25 yo (43%, OB, 2010) Four stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: the first word that comes to my mouth is ‘delicate’, and maybe also ‘ancient’. Indeed, this profile remind me a bit of the old G&Ms (1968, 1969 and such), and is probably more ‘old Caol Ila’ than ‘new Caol Ila’, which is most interesting. Of course, it was made in the rebuilt/extended distillery, not in the old one. There’s an obvious sootiness that mingles perfectly well with some elegant notes of camphor and pine sap, some eucalyptus syrup and notes of apple compote, while the ocean’s blowing in the background (what?) Oysters! Maybe a little feminine, and certainly very subtle. Curious about the palate… Mouth: interesting, very interesting… Starts rather earthy this time, leafy, with notes of liquorice wood, roots (ginseng?), gentian… That gives the whole a great bitterness (tonics, bitters). It gets more maritime after that, with a little brine, a moderate peatiness, an ashy/chalky feeling that’s most pleasant and just touches of lemon and grapefruit. Also ripe apples. Again, it’s very elegant and maybe slightly ‘diaphanous’, so to speak. An old Caol Ila to sip in the morning? Finish: medium long, maybe a tad dry, briny, with a rather ashy aftertaste. More peat. Comments: I think I understood why they bottled this baby at 43%, it’s to make sure that its elegant profile gets noticed. Yes, maybe. A quiet, serene old Caol Ila. SGP:366 – 88 points.

Caol Ila 25 yo 1984/2010 (53.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #6275, 197 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: rougher than the official 25, obviously, more spirity and sweeter, with even whiffs of bubblegum and strawberries on top of quite some vanilla. The expected peatiness roars in the background but the sweetness blocks it a bit. Water should help. With water: oh, the sweetness disappeared! It got much drier, herbal, grassy, globally rather austere but not immensely peaty. Seawater. Mouth (neat): once again, this is surprisingly sweet when neat, but less so than on the nose. Mild peatiness, a little antiseptic, grapefruits, a little salt… It’s all quite easy, without the oomph and zestiness that earlier vintages can have (such as DT’s 1982s, for example). But good it is. With water: a tad better – actually very good – but it lacks development and ‘width’. A little subdued in fact. Finish: only medium long but clean. Salted butter caramel. Comments: very, very good Caol Ila, no question about that, it’s just that there are so many excellent ones around (many by Duncan Taylor by the way, especially the 1981s and 1982s). SGP:555 - 85 points.

Caol Ila 1984/2010 (55.7%, Berry Bros & Rudd for LMdW, cask #5382) Four stars and a half Almost a sister cask of the DT. Colour: straw. Nose: exactly the DT, minus the sweetness. More earthy tones, damp earth, mushrooms, seaweed, a little mint… This one’s maybe a little more medicinal than other Caol Ilas, and certainly very fresh at 25 or 26 years of age. With water: much more width and much more depth than in the sister cask. Old herbal liqueurs, humus, cough medicine, then a little butterscotch… Pack of lozenges… Even hints of tropical fruits (passion)… Very nice complexity. Mouth (neat): bigger than the DT and much, much earthier. Quite some cinchona, ginger tonic, green tea, strong liquorice… It’s also much more medicinal and bitter. Heavily infused green tea. Quite a beast! With water: it became as meek as a lamb (almost), rounder, smoother, with the liquorice remaining in the background, together with wee touches of cumin. Really great now, very full, very satisfying. Finish: long, on the same flavours, maybe a tad more medicinal again. Comments: this one is a state of the art middle-aged Caol Ila in my opinion. Maybe not as grand as other Islay distilleries can sometimes be but it’s 100% reliable, whatever that means. Well, I know what I’m trying to say. SGP:456 - 89 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: pour yourself your best old whisky and listen to the wonderful Una Mae Carlisle singing Walking By The River around 1940. I'm sure you'll soon buy all of Una Mae Carlisle's music...

Una Mae

October 22, 2010


Solo tasting, the newest Talisker
Distillers Edition

Talisker 1999/2010 'Distillers Edition' (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5MY) Four stars Finished in Amoroso wine cask, Amoroso being a sweet kind of sherry, usually quite raisiny. I guess it’s not easy to propose a ‘premiumised’ variant of a well-reputed malt whisky such as Talisker 10. Lagavulin always did it well, the DE being constantly great and sometimes even stellar, while the Talisker DE had more trouble in my book. This is a new version, let’s see what gives… Colour: deep gold. Nose: at first nosing, it’s once again one of these cases where the combination of peat with some sweet wine can create a feeling of soapiness, or even something a bit cardboardy… But as often, all that vanishes and leaves room for sweeter and rounder notes. It’s all rather complex here, fragrant, with whiffs of roses and strawberry jam (while earlier versions were rather drier as far as I can remember). Quite a lot of orange marmalade as well and then some chocolate as well as some fresh oranges. Hints of pepper. Talisker’s coastalness is fairly discrete, with just hints of seaweed. Also a little pepper (of course). The whole works well. Mouth: once again, it’s a bit strange for a start, curiously leathery and tea-ish (strong pu-erh – I’m much into pu-erh these days so I (should) know what I’m talking about ;-)). Gets then creamier and more coherent, mostly on bitter oranges, pepper and chocolate. Rather oily mouth feel. And once again hints of roses in the background (Turkish delights). Finish: fairly long, balanced, sweet, more citrusy and phenolic at the same time. The tea’s back in the aftertaste. Comments: a rounder and rather thicker version of the 10, which was less the case with earlier Talisker DEs if I’m not mistaken. I guess it’ll all come down to what you’re expecting from your Talisker. SGP:655 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: another one who sings like an angel, Anna Maria Jopek from Poland and her high-flying Are You Going With Me (with the equally high-flying guitars of Pat Metheny). Please buy Anna Maria Jopek's music!

Anna Maria Jopek

October 21, 2010

Glen Elgin

Solo tasting – a 1975 Glen Elgin

Glen Elgin 35 yo 1975/2010 (46.4%, The Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 98 bottles) Four stars Glen Elgin in the 1970s could be hit or miss in my experience, let’s see what our German friends have found.

Colour: straw/white wine. Amazingly light colour at 35yo. Nose: well, this smells like a somewhat ‘neutral’ old malt that spent a lot of years in refill wood. Sounds terrible? It’s not because unlike what very aromatic malts or very active casks can produce after many years, that is to say something that’s clearly over the top (or over the hill), this baby is very subtle – but not weak at all – and sometimes only whispers, which can be very enjoyable. In other words, it’s an anti-wham-bam-in-you-face malt whisky. It starts on delicate honey and only touches of vanilla, then there’s a little beeswax and bitter oranges, and finally a whole range of herbs and flowers, both dried and fresh. Chamomile, mint, earl grey tea, juniper, linden tree… And funny hints of chardonnay. Fortified Chablis? Mouth: it’s certainly punchier and ‘bigger’ than on the nose, and fruitier as well, but it’s still no Hulk. Fine citrusy notes, pink grapefruits, tangerines, a little pepper, touches of lime… Drops a bit after that, the middle is a tad ‘absent’. Finish: fairly short, with ‘lemony reminiscences’ and some green tea. Comments: it’s an interesting dram, at times excellent and rather full and at times a tad, well, absent-minded in my opinion. Lace? Reminds me of Alice Cooper’s ‘Lace and Whiskey’ album ;-). SGP:441 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all bottlings that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness



MUSIC - Recommended listening: the Italian Instabile Orchestra has always been dadaistically inventive. Let's listen to this fabulous and aptly named piece called Du du Duchamp (a track that we can listen to as if it was a movie! - it's from the album 'Skies of Europe') and then buy all of the great Orchestra's music.

Italian Instabile Orchestra

October 20, 2010

Arran Port Charlotte

Tasting peated variants of two upeated islanders

Arran 2005/2010 'Peated' (59.4%, OB, bourbon, cask #127, 264 bottles) Three stars and a half 15ppm (why not 150? ;-)). I remember ten years ago, we were all wondering why Arran didn’t start with some peated malt while the peat craze was beginning to blow all over Whiskyland. “The founders don’t like peat” was the official answer, which I had found very elegantly un-commercial. Respect! But I guess business is business, so it seems that the distillery finally had to bow to the market. I guess we can’t blame them for that, can we! Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s rather spirity, raw and slightly feinty at first nosing, but all that is soon to vanish while a much fruitier and more vanilled profile arises. Also the initial peatiness vanished – or I got used to it quicker than usual; who knows! What’s sure is that it’s lightly peated. Quite some porridge, cut apples, pears… With water: it’s very active oak for sure, we have tons of coconut now. A little more peat as well… Mouth (neat): it’s the sweetness that does all the talking, there’s almost no noticeable peat in the attack. Big, punchy, young and very fruity profile (apples and peaches), with only a slight bitterness that may come from the peat – or not. With water: it’s simple, but it became excellent with water. Typical modern notes, vanilla custard and oranges. The peat combines well with the active oak, adding a gingery profile. Finish: long, clean, sweet. Comments: sweet young peat, well made. SGP:545 - 84 points.
PS: I’ve got many recent unpeated Arrans yet to taste ‘officially’. Some are splendid.

Port Charlotte 'An Turas Mor' (46%, OB, 2010) Four stars and a half This one is a multi-vintage version (from 5 to 8 years old, which means 5 years old I guess) and it’s been unfinished. I’d bet unfinished will soon be the new unchilfilttered or uncaramelised in Scotland. The Scots are always extremely good at selling something they do not do, aren’t they, and we punter are ready to pay more for that. Enough ramblings. Colour: straw. Nose: Port Charlotte in its naked truth, and believe me it’s an entrancing truth. We’re far from many attempts at making peated malt at distilleries that usually don’t do peat (not specifically accusing anybody here of course, and of course not Arran), or maybe is it because Bruichladdich used to be peated in the old days? This is beautifully clean and superbly mineral, with some paraffin (nice paraffin, not the paraffin that can suggest a flaw), graphite, coal, linseed oil, even motor oil, wet rocks, a little raw wool, earth, then a little fresh mint and dill… gets then sootier, in a perfect manner. A very mineral Riesling-malt, which I just cannot not love. Water: pass. Mouth: probably a little less zingy than in the nose, and certainly fruitier, with even unexpected notes of rum (rather white). Other than that it’s rather more medicinal than expected, slightly camphory, briny, liquoricy, getting ashier and sootier again after a while. Some liquorice wood as well. Maybe wee tad less distinctive than on the nose but it’s still rather perfect. Finish: it’s long, clean, warming, rather more herbal and minty. An earthy rootiness in the aftertaste. Comments: not just peat, Port Charlotte. I’m sure you see what I mean. This with two or three more years will make it above 90 in my book, sure bet (as I’m sure any 9 or 10yo 2001 would). SGP:357 - 89 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the wonderful jazz pianist Vijay Iyer playing a very soothing solo piece called Fleurette Africaine (which we could translate as 'African floweret'). Please buy Vijay Iyer's great music - and many thanks for the suggestion to the very excellent Steve at Sku's Recent Eats.

Vijay Iyer

October 19, 2010

Tasting five whiskies from Downunda


After Lark’s first stellar casks, they keep improving… I don’t think they’re all up there yet (obviously ;-)) but it’s coming…

The Nant ‘Double Malt’ (43%, OB, Tasmania, +/-2010) Three stars Why double malt? Because this baby’s a vatting of two kinds of 4 years old casks, one bourbon and the other one French oak and then Port, the whole having been finished for 4 further years in American oak sherry casks, which should put this one’s age at around 8 years old. What a recipe, tell me about wood management! Very expensive at 99€, but that’s the price of craft I suppose. Colour: full gold. Nose: rum, this smells like rum. I mean, almost exactly like rum. Sugar cane, soft spices, muscovado sugar, crème brûlée… Then more nutmeg and beeswax, caramel, a little mead, whiffs of lily of the valley and lime blossom… It’s rather nice I must say. Curious about the palate… Mouth: granted, it’s not ‘rum’ anymore but it’s still unusually sweet and ‘infused’ (some might say ‘arranged’), with bananas flambéed, more crème brûlée, dates, notes of orange marmalade… The spices kick in with quite some cloves and white pepper, liquorice, cumin… Works well even if we’re still far from ‘whisky’ as we know it. Good mouth feel, slightly oily. Finish: medium long, grassier. Pine sap, grass, cinnamon… The finish is rather different I must say. Comments: interesting and good! Had I tried this one blind, I’d have said it’s rum, seriously. And no, there were no mismatch with my samples. SGP:741 - 80 points.

Hellyers Road 'Original' (46.2%, OB, Tasmania, +/-2010) Two stars Hellyers Road belongs to a milk company or so it seems. It comes in several variants: unpeated, slightly peated, peated… This one’s around six years old. Colour: white wine. Nose: starts grassy and close to the grain, slightly porridgy, with quite some beer and baker’s yeast. Certainly very young but there are also some nice notes of fresh fruits in the background (papayas). Hints of wet clothes, wet carboard… Not unpleasant for sure. Mouth: starts young and a tad rough, very close to the grains, with something of some very strong beers as well as quite some cloves. Yet, some pleasant fruity notes are there, apples, gooseberries… Also grass, sorrel, maybe even spinach. A lot of oak behind all that, which leads to the… Finish: quite long but getting bitter, oaky, tea-ish, with more cloves in the aftertaste. Gin? Comments: some parts are really good, some others a little more difficult in my book. Maybe too much oak. SGP:361 - 74 points.

Hellyers Road 'Peated' (46.2%, OB, Tasmania, +/-2010) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: wahh! A different kind of peatiness indeed, very sooty, just as close to the grain as the unpeated version, with whiffs of ink and quite some camphor and even turpentine. Quite some almond oil as well. Works pretty well I must say. Develops more towards Dutch genever, which was unexpected. Sunflower oil. Mouth: surprisingly good, and certainly more interesting than the unpeated version in my book. Ah, peat! Garden fruits, coriander, aniseed, pepper, ashes, smoked fish, lemon juice… And always these hints of ink. Now, there’s quite some oak again… Finish: indeed, the finish is long but the oak’s loud, even if the peat stands up to it. Quite some lapsang souchong tea in the aftertaste. Comments: peat’s always a sure bet for very young whiskies and once again, the trick worked pretty well. Pleasant personality. SGP:256 - 80 points.

Sullivan's Cove 2000/2010 'Cask Strength' (60%, OB, Australia, barrel #HH0199, 126 bottles) Two starsColour: gold. Nose: closed and rather plankish and varnishy but that’s rather normal I guess. Sawdust and sultanas, hints of Muscat grapes. I think water is obligatory here. With water: fresh oak and fresh oak plus fresh oak and traces of tinned pineapples plus whiffs of barnyard. Bubblegum. Rather simple but certainly not unpleasant. Mouth (neat): bursts with fresh garden fruits, bubblegum and heavy oak (white pepper galore). Bites your tongue. With water: straight tannins, pepper, apple juice, vanilla and coconut, with the grains in the background. Tinned fruits. Finish: rather long, more on pepper, ginger and curry, tannins in the aftertaste. Comments: I don’t know much about this particular spirit but what’s sure is that it didn’t quite manage to stand the (probably) fresh barrel in my opinion. Still good globally, and I’ve heard some regular version at 40% was even nicer. I’ll have to try that one soon. SGP:571 - 75 points.

Bakery Hill 'Cask Strength Peated' (60.1%, OB, barrel, cask #2005, +/-2007) Four stars I believe this one was bottled two or three years ago. Colour: deep gold. Nose: almost like The Nant, and despite it’s peatiness, this one starts more on rum than on whisky notes, but it’s soon to become more ‘whisky-ish’. Once again, the oak’s loud (pencil shavings) and there are also many bitter notes. Vegetables, green tea, leather… It’s all extremely dry so far. With water: more peat but also more cheese (Swiss), balsamico, shoe polish, smoked tea, strong black tea… Gets quite gamy after that. Horse sweat. If you like them wild… Mouth (neat): ultra-massive, extremely big, concentrated, on pine sap, heavy honey, menthol and straight wood. It has something of some Larks I must say. Quite spectacular. With water: more of the same, loud and clear. Wow, what a maelstrom, did this involve some kind of cooking? Decoctions? Really spectacular. Finish: very long, rich, herbal, with some menthol, aniseed, cumin, cloves… Wham! Comments: what a beast. Anything but boring and, once again, not too far from Lark’s best in my opinion, maybe the David Campese of whisky. SGP:564 - 85 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: a bit of utter brilliance with South-Afria's diva and fab composer Sathima Bea Benjamin and her If You Were The Only Boy In The World (that was on her album Cape Town Love). Please buy Sathima Bea Benjamin's music.


October 18, 2010


Kornog by Glann ar Mor coming to age

As you probably already know, Kornog is Glann ar Mor’s Port Charlotte, so to speak, and Glann ar Mor is a relatively small but pristine malt distillery in Brittany, France, known for doing it ‘better than the Scots’ (not my words, and certainly not the rather shy owners’). It already pulled huge success in many European countries, especially thanks to its true craft spirit (that involves true pot stills, true worm coils and true direct-firing – it’s not ‘craft’ just because it’s small, if you see what I mean.) The only problem lies in their irrepressible tendency to use the Breton language on their labels, as if we didn’t have enough problems already with Gaelic ;-). Anyway, let’s try two new bottlings today.

Kornog '5vet Deiz ha Bloaz' (46%, OB, for the 5th anniversary of the distillery, 322 bottles, 2010) Four stars I think it’s the first time I try a reduced version of Kornog. Usually, reducing brings out more fruitiness in my opinion, let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s interesting, earlier versions at cask strength did make me think of Ardbeg, but this one goes more towards a peatier young HP. It is extremely clean, extremely fresh, very elegant and surprisingly complex at such young age. I like these notes of almond oil, cider apples, fresh pineapples, these touches of passion fruits (if that grows bigger with age, it’s super-good news!), these hints of celery and fennel and the very mild honey that coats the whole. The phenolic and coastal notes appear only after a little while, making me think of some fresh smoked oysters (which is technically impossible, isn' it?) Also quite some spearmint. Mouth: once again, this is very fresh, and certainly peatier than in the nose. Herbs, mint, verbena, cough lozenges, liquorice, touches of pineapple drops in the background (youth!), some tangerine liqueur, a little cardamom, fresh coriander… It’s quite amazing how it got already quite complex. The peatiness gives it a perfect albeit middleweight structure, with always a lot of freshness. Finish: medium long but still very clean. Sweet apples (goldens) and lemon. Is that a little salt in the aftertaste? Comments: still a young one with these notes of pineapples or even fresh apples but the malt’s future complexity is already showing up. Sweet peat and fruity freshness. Very sexy, actually. SGP:655 – 86 points.

Kornog 'Taouarc'h Eilvet 10' (59,2%, OB, 247 bottles, 2010) Four starsColour: white one. Nose: the oak’s much louder here, as it all starts with an avalanche of coconut and vanilla, then ripe bananas that give it an unexpected Irishness. It’s all very sweet and the peat is relatively discreet, but that may come from the very high strength. Sweet nutmeg. Let’s add water right away… With water: well, you need quite a lot of water to tame it, but it works beautifully. It does not become similar to the ‘Blaoz’ (whatever), rather peatier, wilder, both farmier and more coastal, even if the fruits are still there in the background (pears). Starts to develop more, on liquorice, eucalyptus and several aromas that we already had in the ‘Boalz’ (whatever), only on the palate. Fresh mint, apples, dill… Mouth (neat): it’s very strong. The texture is very oily, almost like a liqueur, and there’s a fruity sweetness for sure as well as some varnish but it’s all too strong for this sissy of a taster. Water is requested. With water: give me this blind and I’ll say young Ardbeg from first fill bourbon, this is only a little sweeter and rounder. Not the first time that happens, if memory serves me right. Enough said. Finish: fairly long, with a little more vanilla and a sudden burst that involves a lot of green tea. Very nice bitter aftertaste with a lot of raw liquorice and mint, very contrasting. Comments: perfect, certainly on par with many young Islayers thrice its age and probably better than other Scottish attempts at making peated malt whisky. Actually, the more I think of it, the more I think of some young Lagavulin (must be the sweetness). Cant’ be bad news I guess. No doubts that in a few years’ time, I won’t even feel the need to use Scottish references anymore when tasting Kornog – or Glann ar Mor. SGP:556 - 87 points.


MUSIC - Recommended listening: an excellent suggestion by Mark, a distinguished reader from the charming yet regrettably dry town of Haddonfield, New Jersey, she's Brigid Kaelin singing Future Mr. Used-to-Be. Please buy Brigid Kaelin's music and listen to Mark's WhiskyCast.

Brigid Kaelin

October 17, 2010

Tasting a bunch of finished Glendronach plus a bonus


Glendronach 14 yo 'Virgin Oak Finish' (46%, OB, 2010) Two stars and a half Finished in American virgin oak, i.e new oak. Colour: pale gold. Nose: vanilla and vanilla (and vanilla), then hints of bananas and porridge and a little crème brulée. Gooseberries. Moderately aromatic but pleasant, the ‘lab-oakiness’ being below the limits. Mouth: the oak’s more obvious now as there’s a lot of vanilla, ginger and sweet nutmeg in the attack. Almost plankish, if I may say so. Stays there, such is the wood’s influence. Finish: long, oaky and gingery. Comments: quite an infusion on the palate, tastes very, very modern. It’s not unpleasant at all but this newish style isn’t my cup of malt. SGP:361 - 78 points.

Glendronach 14 yo 'Sauternes Finish' (46%, OB, 2010) Three stars‘Finished in the Finest Premier Cru Supérieur Sauternes Wine Barrels’ says the label. The finest Premier Cru Supérieur? Well, there’s only one and it is, of course, Yquem. Colour: pale gold. Nose: sweeter and fruitier than the Virgin Oak version, starting with slightly muscaty notes and a nice freshness (fresh grapes). Something slightly smoky (what, botrytis?) then notes of freshly cut grass and bunch of flowers. The wine’s influence is very obvious so this isn’t quite ‘a Speysider’ anymore but I Iike the freshness. Less ‘bold’ than other well-known Sauternes finish. Mouth: rounder, sweeter and fruitier than in the nose. Good body. Some dried apricots, Turkish delights, banana compote, milk chocolate, and hints of kiwis. A lively palate. Finish: rather long, with the oak coming more to the front. Quite some white pepper. Comments: one of the good Sauternes finishes in the market, works well. SGP:541 - 81 points.

Glendronach 15 yo 'Moscatel Finish' (46%, OB, 2010) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: we aren’t far from the Sauternes here, although this is a tad rounder and more jammy. Quite curiously, it’s rather less muscatty than the Sauternes version. Notes of orange blossom, baklavas, roses; litchis… Gewurztraminer? Nice nose, with something of a liqueur (Mandarine Impériale). Mouth: very sweet attack, kind of oriental, on tinned litchis and tangerines. Good mouth feel, rather oily, creamy. More spices after that, a little ginger and pepper, cardamom… Finish: rather long, a tad drier, herbal, with also a lot of heather honey. Comments: more jam than whisky but I like this kind of jam. Seriously, this one’s very enjoyable if you like them sweet and aromatic. SGP:641 - 85 points.

Glendronach 20 yo 'Tawny Port Finish' (46%, OB, 2010) Two stars and a half Colour: apricot. Nose: this is rather grassier and drier than the other ones, more vegetal as well, with hints of cabernet (capsicum) and blackcurrant buds. Also plain blackcurrants and then obvious notes of raspberry liqueur. A little leather in the background. If you like raspberries, this is for you! Mouth: I don’t think this works but then again, I never liked Port finishes, or maybe only a few. Sour wood and herbs, bigaroons, notes of rubber, leather, green tea, capsicum… Strange profile! Finish: rather long, dry, herbal, quite bitter. Comments: simply not my kind. SGP:361 - 78 points.

I think I deserve something more ‘Glendronach’ now, such as a sherried 1989…

Glendronach  1989

Glendronach 20 yo 1989/2010 (53.2%, OB, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #3315, 522 bottles) Five stars No finishing here, this baby spent all his life in the puncheon. Colour: dark amber with reddish hues. Nose: oh yes, all this is so much better integrated! Wonderfully rich, sweet, jammy, with litres of strawberry liqueur, blackberries, then white chocolate, prunes, ripe watermelon, all that nested in a superb oak, softly spicy… And there’re also bags of raisins, as expected, and a touch of balsamico and even a little soy sauce. With water: a little more leather, almonds and even pistachios, with less fresh fruits. Dried figs. Really became beautiful with the addition of a little water.

Mouth (neat): very rich, thick, chocolaty and jammy, with some black pepper right from the start as well as some heavy yet most pleasant notes of prunes, armagnac and ultra-ripe grapes. Kind of Tokayish, actually. Some tannins in the background (peppery). With water: same changes as in the nose, the whole getting rather drier, almondy, nutty… Also a tad grassy and globally lighter. Finish: long, still rich but balanced, with some pleasant leathery touches in the aftertaste. Comments: a big but easily tameable Glendronach that takes water particularly well. You guessed it, I wouldn’t swap one single bottle of this for one full case of finishes (make that two). SGP:651 - 90 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glendronachs that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: important matters in My baby and the booze by Sweden's Karin Rudefelt and Doctor Blues. Ardbeg? ;-) Please buy these good people's music!

Karin Rudetelt

October 16, 2010

Nothing today, just silence. Go read Guid Scotch Drink on that matter, it's brilliant.


October 15, 2010


How to make your own tera-premium spirit (and not even feel guilty or ashamed)

Maybe the news have reached you already, the good people at The Dalmore and their ever-engaging Master of The Masters Richard Paterson came up with a brand new Dalmore ‘Trinitas’, only three (3) bottles in total, and have already sold two of them, for £100,000 each. There's the number '64' on the bottle, which suggests it's a 64yo. Of course, this kind of buy-a-bottle-or-save-a-small-country-in-Africa whisky is not for us mere mortals, but I believe we can try to replicate it. How? That’s easy, we first have to read The Dalmore’s detailed tasting notes that go like this:

“The initial bouquet is highly complex. Powerful notes of sweet raisins, rich Colombian coffee, crushed walnuts and bitter orange casts its magical spell over you. Another glorious fusion of grapefruit, sandalwood, white musk and Indonesian patchouli completes this bouquet of exuberance.
The spirit must be nurtured and cherished long in the mouth to tease out every hidden flavour. Sweet sultanas, figs, and a caramelised topping of Seville oranges, apples, mangos and dates roll over the tongue. This is quickly followed by a wave of lingering sensations of vino dulce muscatel, marzipan, treacle toffee, soft liquorice and roasted coffee. A soft caress of truffles, walnuts and muscovado sugar on your palate brings this unforgettable fanfare to a flawless finish.”

Good, we have the recipe! All we need to do now is to collect all the necessary ingredients and equipment. Tesco’s and eBay’s websites will be of help…


Coffee Walnuts Oranges


White musk


Patchouli Sultanas


Apple Truffle


Dates Moscatel Marzipan


Liquorice Roasted Seville


Everclear Blender Filter

Right, what’s the budget altogether? £60.13 exactly (but truffles are expensive and you may use your wife or mum’s blender of course. You may also find a nice second hand crystal decanter for a few quids at garage sales). Profit: £100,000 – £60.13 = £99,939.87 right in your pocket! Imagine what you can do with all this money!

PS: After filtering, you may want to let your brew rest for one or two days.

PPS: Should you not like Porsches or should you feel all this is extremely obscene, you may send your profits to Doctors Without Borders. Alternatively, you may buy the only remaining genuine bottle of Dalmore Trinitas at London's posh Whisky Show, but please don't forget your two Ukrainian bodyguards!



Solo tasting – do we like extreme Springbanks?

Springbank 1999/2009 (49.7%, OB, Private, Rebstock - Rolf's No1, first fill sherry) Four stars Haha! First fill sherry for some German friends, this must be special, although I know that these casks can sometimes be, say a bit over the top. Let’s see.

Colour: deep amber. Nose: starts all on marmalade and fruitcake - as Nicole Kidman would say, ‘what did you expect?’ It’s only after quite some time that ‘Springbank’ starts to shine through, with its slight greasiness and minerality, together with quite some milk chocolate, dates, millionaire shortbread, fudge, raisins and then a little leather, roasted chestnuts, strong liquorice and motor oil. The great news is that there’s no sulphur so far in my opinion (did you read ‘gunpowder’? ;-)), only a little rubber (bicycle inner tube). Let’s add water. With water: gets dry and animal, gamey, winey, with quite a lot of rancio, which cannot be bad. I cannot not think of that admirable wee balsamic vinegar factory that we visited between two whisky extravaganzas last time we were around Modena. Mouth (neat): certainly less balanced and complex than on the nose when neat, starting with a very heavy fruitiness. That is to say bags of blackcurrant jelly and litres of kirsch. An unusual smokiness after that (roasted chestnuts again?) as well as quite some tea, grape pips, apple peelings and orange zests. Faint rubber in the background. With water: works very well. Granted, none of the above disappeared but it got all smoother and slightly rounder, also with more leather and strong pipe tobacco. Finish: long, fairly dry and peppery, with touches of mint and aniseed in the aftertaste. Prunes. Also funny notes of plain sugar. Comments: quite a monster, this baby, exclusively for the lovers of the genre in my opinion. But if you’re among them, try to find a bottle. Oh, and we’re actually very, very close to some cask strength Armagnac here! Well done, Rolf and gang! SGP:662 - 87 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Springbanks that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Kevin Ayers and his Song for insane times. That was in 1969's Joy of a Toy, which was Mr Ayers' first LP. Please buy Kevin Ayers' music.

Kevin Ayers

October 2010 - part 1 <--- October 2010 - part 2 ---> November 2010 - part 1

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



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

Glendronach 20 yo 1989/2010 (53.2%, OB, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #3315, 522 bottles)