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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2012 - Part 2

October 2012 - part 1 <--- October 2012 - part 2 ---> November 2012 - part 1


October 31, 2012


Tasting Tomatin, looking for fruits

The output of this very large distillery used to be a little sneezed at a few years ago, but it’s gained a much better reputation since a few years and rightly so if you ask me.

Tomatin 2001/2012 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #3141, 270 bottles)

Tomatin 2001/2012 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #3141, 270 bottles) Two stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: starts a little spirity and unusually grassy for Tomatin, without the expected fruity explosion at first sniffing. Fern, dill, aniseed, not too ripe greengages and other kinds of plums… Also a little ‘hot’ American oak (vanilla and cinnamon). Things improve after a few minutes though with the expected bananas and mangos starting to come through. Quite some Williams pears as well. Mouth: some fresh fruits in an oaky gangue. Curry, ginger and cinnamon plus oranges and tangerines. Something triggers a feeling of saltiness after a few seconds. The oak becomes drying. Finish: quite long and pretty oaky (bitter chocolate, white pepper). Comments: it’s certainly a fine Tomatin but I was expecting a fresher and fruitier style, with less newish oak. SGP:461 - 78 points.

Tomatin 30 yo (46%, OB, +/-2012)

Tomatin 30 yo (46%, OB, +/-2012) Four stars Earlier batches have been excellent but maybe a little too easy/sexy. Indeed, all a matter of taste again. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s all a newly opened pack of bubblegum or marshmallows! And jelly beans, many kinds of fruit drops… Very expressive, very fruity, very lively. In other words, a fruit bomb. Also a little mint. Mouth: plain and pure fruit salad plus a few spices. Mangos, passion fruits, bananas, gooseberries and sweet vanilla crème plus cinnamon and touches of chamomile and simply oak. Finish: Comments: once again I find an Irishness in this Tomatin. Quality’s high and it’s probably the easiest 30yo malt around these days. Highly drinkable, SGP:641 - 86 points.

I’m wondering if they didn’t start to make it even fruitier than before a while back. Let’s quickly try to find out with an even older one…

Tomatin 15 yo 1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, old brown label)

Tomatin 15 yo 1970 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, old brown label) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: it seems that I was dreaming, this baby’s just as fruity as the new 30, with maybe a notch more herbal teas (chamomile, thyme tea) and maybe something slightly more sour (orange juice). Very pleasant nose. Mouth: this feeling of ‘tea’ that was to be found in some of these old CCs, eglantine tea, orange juice, mangos, mint… It’s light but not weak. Finish: a little short and a little drying now. Cinnamon and cardboard in the aftertaste but nothing excessive, remains rather clean and fresh. Comments: very fine again but maybe the spirit’s lightness simply doesn’t stand too much oak. Oak stands out a mile in this context, so to speak. SGP:551 - 80 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Tomatin I've tasted so far


Whiskyfun fav of the month

October 2012

Favourite recent bottling:
Port Ellen 32 yo 1979/2012 ‘12th Annual Release’ (52.5%, OB, 2964 bottles)  - WF 95

Favourite older bottling:
Bowmore 1955/1974 ‘For 12th September 1974’ (unknown ABV, OB, 100 halves) - WF 97

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Glendronach ‘Cask Strength’ (54.8%, OB, batch 1, 2012)  - WF 91



Block Today: TRADITIONAL SCOTTISH. Performer: Jimmy Logan. Track: Roamin' In The Gloamin'. Please buy his music!

October 30, 2012


Tasting two rare celebratory Bowmore,
100 bottles each

I don’t quite know what to think of the fact that Bowmore’s 1957s didn’t sell at auctions in the UK or in the US. Maybe £100,000 or $150,000 (or was it $160,000?) as reserve prices was too high? What will happen to the charities that have been used in the PR operations? Will they still get something? Isn’t 1957 old enough? Why haven’t the owners bought back the bottles themselves (while it’s a well-known trick that many play)?
While we’re wondering about all the possible answers – not sure that’s very important ;-)- let’s have one Bowmore that was distilled even before that unsold 1957 and first, a little aperitif that was distilled thirty years later. This little session is dedicated to all our friends on the East coasts of America and Canada.

Bowmore 25 yo (53.1%, OB, Feis Ile 25th Anniversary, 2010, 100 bottles)

Bowmore 25 yo (53.1%, OB, Feis Ile 25th Anniversary, 2010, 100 bottles) Two stars Ah, the mid-1980s… I must say I found some of them pretty drinkable, but this particular one has got a, well, very particular reputation. Let’s see what gives… Colour: amber. Nose: a little dirty and nasty at first nosing, immediately reminding me of an older official 1984 that made a very high impact on many whisky lovers. So we’re somewhere between Parma violets, lavender bags, old dried kelp, liquorice allsorts, new leather, cigars and black olives. In fact, it’s not that unpleasant so far…  With water: same plus a little mustard and gingerbread. More soap as well and that wouldn’t go away, even after twenty minutes.

Mouth: okay, you really have to like this combination of pure cranberry juice with black pepper, grenadine, Fanta and more cranberry juice. It’s rather less violety than feared, and pretty cleaner than others from the same era, but again, you really have to like this style. The good news is that there aren’t any yoghurty notes that I can detect. With water: becomes quite awful I’m afraid. Soap, grapefruits and green pepper. Finish: quite long, cleaner again, but the soapiness remains in the aftertaste. ‘Chemical’ fruit juice. Comments: no water to be added! I must say some parts were pleasant – and that’s why we’ll go for a decent score, but otherwise it’s a perfect example of these batches from the mid-1980s that were so… you know what. Not much peat smoke to be found. SGP:642 - 74 points.

Bowmore 1955/1974 ‘For 12th September 1974’ (unknown ABV, OB, 100 halves)

Bowmore 1955/1974 ‘For 12th September 1974’ (unknown ABV, OB, 100 halves) Five stars This very cool little baby was bottled in wee stone flagons for the opening ceremony of the distillery’s visitor centre. It’s now become utterly rare but one bottle was opened at Ostende’s aptly named Whiskyfest (after we had wolfed down a few shrimp croquettes, Ostende’s other specialty).

Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a killer, as expected. Totally astounding combination of pink grapefruits and linseed oil at first nosing, with simply ‘the sea’ in the background. The freshness is flabbergasting, and so is the purity of it all. In other words, it’s an unbeatable, ultra-chiselled profile, a Montrachet or a Riesling Windsbuhl of the whisky world. Evolves with many other tinier notes, all more or less in the same ballpark, especially citrus fruits, mangos, lamp oil, oysters, beach sand and just a little diesel oil. Frankly, it’s a Botticelli. With water: it’s the fruitiness that got bigger. Say a large bowl of fruit juice made out of papayas, guavas, passion fruits, mangos, grapefruits and tangerines. Stunning. Add a few well-refined oysters. Mouth (neat): oh well oh well oh well. Zests and salt, kippers and liquorice, grapefruits and passion fruits, old pu-erh tea and cigars… and hundreds of thousands of smaller notes that keep teasing you for a long time, like aromatic shrapnels. And yet, it remains so coherent and, again, chiselled to perfection. I especially love this faint bitterness in the background that prevents it from getting too extravagant. Oh, and of course the salt from the Lochindaal. With water: swims perfectly well but I wouldn’t swear water brings anything extra. Finish: medium long, a little sappier and zestier. Amazing aftertaste, extremely fresh and clean. Guavas, salt and Szechuan pepper. Comments: same extremely high level as Samaroli’s famous 1966 Bouquet in my book and maybe a notch easier. Strangely enough, both share more or less the same age. This is why we’re into whisky. SGP:754 - 97 points.

In case you’re interested, there was an interesting leaflet in the 1955’s box. Just click here (and thanks for having sourced and opened this baby, Luc).

More tasting notes Check the index of all Bowmore I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Aldo Romano. Track: Cité Soleil (from 'Just Jazz'). Please buy Aldo Romano's music!

October 29, 2012


Tasting two official Aberlour

Pernod-Ricard's Aberlour is big in France, unsurprisingly. We'll have a new official vintage today, and then the 16 that I like to 'follow' from time to time.

Aberlour 2001

Aberlour 2001/2012 'White Oak' (43%, OB) Three stars Colour: deep gold. Nose: a combination of youngish porridgy notes and honey at first nosing, with farmy touches in the background and rather less sweet fruits than usual. Also notes of broken branches and a little humus that goes well here. Pretty easy on the vanilla despite the 'white oak', good news. Then more oranges and just a little varnish. Pleasant nose. Mouth: oak-matured orange juice? It's relatively light but the oak's quite obvious, with a feeling of tea (tannins) at first sips, before it gets very malty and briochy (hey?) Quite some white pepper too, a little vanilla fudge, some liquorice… Finish: medium long, tea-ish and peppery. Very malty aftertaste. Comments: the palate is much less rounded and easy than other Aberlours', maybe because of that white oak? SGP:361 - 80 points.

Aberlour 16

Aberlour 16 yo 'Double Cask Matured' (43%, OB, traditional oak / sherry, +/- 2011) Three stars and a halfColour: deep gold. Nose: the sherry's very obvious, especially after the 2001 that didn't have any. Very nice notes of raisins, honeycomb, nectar, yellow flowers and maple syrup, buttered pastry, milk chocolate, maple syrup… It's a very sweet and rounded whisky but it remains light and floral at the same time, which makes it very easy and sexy on the nose. Also touches of mint. Mouth: sweeter and much more luscious than the 2001, with dried fruits and honey, toasted bread, touches of bananas flambéed and then more oak (cinnamon, white pepper, ginger). Finish: medium long, nuttier and maltier. Oranges and some lemon in the aftertaste as well as quite some white pepper. Comments: really enjoyable, easy but not dull at all. Earlier batches have been much fruitier if I remember well. SGP:541 - 83 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Aberlour I've tasted so far





Block Today: CLASSICAL. Performer: Aldo Ciccolini. Track: Beethoven's Appasionata, Andante Con Moto. Please buy Mr Ciccolini's works.

October 26, 2012


Another walk in the (Highland) Park

There are many indie Highland Parks around, so I imagine the best bottlers can really select their favourites and bottle them for us (whereas, I mean, can you select your favourite Ladyburn these days?)

Highland Park 22 yo 1989/2012 (54.6%, Signatory for LMdW, sherry butt, cask #11897, 539 bottles)

Highland Park 22 yo 1989/2012 (54.6%, Signatory for LMdW, sherry butt, cask #11897, 539 bottles) Three stars Colour: full gold. Nose: a rather winey sherriness strikes first, with some raspberry vinegar and touches of gunpowder, then we have more grassy notes (fern, grass) and more maritime touches. What’s quite impressive is that all that gradually becomes rounder and softer, with more honey and ‘yellow’ flowers (buttercups and such). Nectar. This baby moves a lot. With water: more leather, fern, cigars… and strawberries. Mouth (neat): really punchy, starting on bags of pepper and wheelbarrows of red fruit jams, including red currants (with that faint acidity). Then many more spices, caraway seed, cumin, cloves… A slightly sour bitterness in the aftertaste (green wood). A little rougher than on the nose. With water: same feeling plus a little liquorice. Finish: long, peppery. Pepper and strawberry jam. Comments: it’s good, however I like these a little more, say ‘polished’. A little roughish. SGP:371 - 82 points.

Highland Park 27 yo 1984/2012 (50.7%, Douglas Laing, Director’s Cut, refill hogshead, DL ref 8169, 226 bottles)

Highland Park 27 yo 1984/2012 (50.7%, Douglas Laing, Director’s Cut, refill hogshead, DL ref 8169, 226 bottles) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s nice to sometimes try an unsherried HP from some pretty active cask. Beautiful whiffs of flowers again (heather?), vanilla, beeswax, blond tobacco, a little sunflower oil, maybe traces of peat smoke, then more orange cake… It’s all rather subtle and quite elegant. With water: a little more sour oak but that works perfectly well here. A little fresh mint. Mouth (neat): creamy, richer now, with quite some vanilla and ginger and touches of bitter chlorophyll that work well. Also apricot jam and funny touches of tinned pineapples that make this HP unusually ‘tropical’. With water: stays focused on the same flavours, although the oak starts to stand out a little more. Finish: quite long, with a nice balance between vanilla, ripe plums and soft ginger. The aftertaste is a little oakier. Comments: undoubtedly a nice variation. Goes down a treat. SGP:451 - 86 points.

Highland Park 26 yo 1984/2011 (53%, Murray McDavid for Vinothek Massen and Drankenshop Broekmans, bourbon cask, 243 bottles)

Highland Park 26 yo 1984/2011 (53%, Murray McDavid for Vinothek Massen and Drankenshop Broekmans, bourbon cask, 243 bottles) Five stars Some kind of Luxemburgish-Belgian bottling. Colour: full gold. Nose: same style as the DL, really, maybe just a notch more nervous and grassy. A little more coriander leaves, cut grass, maybe lime… A very, very nice freshness. With water: more earth and lime, it got a little less rounded than the DL. Aniseed, radish tops. Mouth (neat): ah this is quite perfect now. Big grassy lemon, limoncello and crème de menthe, pineapple drops, green tea and, well, mescal. Who tasted some great mescals a few days ago? I guess that’s called being single-minded. With water: excellent, really. Blood oranges and pink grapefruits – colours match well, don’t they. Finish: long, quite creamy. More grapefruits and coriander. Comments: extreme zestiness and simply a great and lovable naked HP. SGP:551 - 90 points.

Highland Park 1981/2005 (50.3%, Riegger’s Selection, cask #6048, 50cl)

Highland Park 1981/2005 (50.3%, Riegger’s Selection, cask #6048, 50cl) Five stars Another rather discreet German bottler. The German market’s vitality as far as malt whisky’s concerned is just astounding. Colour: pale gold. Nose: and yet a different profile. This one is more on herbs, mint, dill, fennel… It’s also peatier than the other ones, more coastal as well, earthier… In short, more from the countryside, less for big cities. Oh, forget about that. A little medicinal as well. With water: more of all that, esp. the earthiness. Mouth (neat): once again it’s more phenolic than the other ones, more ‘northern Highlands’ in a certain way. Flints, smoke, grass, herbal liqueurs, liquorice wood, Chartreuse… Very nice, I think. Smoked cough syrup. With water: zesty, lemony, nervous, lovely. And always quite some smoke for HP. Finish: long, clean, fresh, citrusy, herbal and smoky. What’s not to like? Greatly medicinal and mentholated aftertaste. Comments: well, in my opinion it’s a hidden gem, as they say. Pretty old style, with a big personality, on par with the great MMcD. To think that I had never heard of it! SGP:462 - 90 points.

Highland Park MoS

Highland Park 1989/2012 (53.2%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 12030, 281 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: very youngish, sharp, new-makish and yet it’s pleasant, because the spirit is of high quality. Must have been the laziest cask ever ;-). Anyway, there’s quite some peat smoke, earth, many fresh herbs, a little clay, green pears, then more flints, lamp oil and ‘wet oatcakes’. With water: becomes more coastal. Grapefruits and oysters. Mouth (neat): an ultra-fresh, crystal-clean fruity profile that displays HP’s character very well. I guess that was the whole point when MoS decided to bottle this baby (to be honest, if it’s like this after 24 years, 10 more years won’t change anything unless you re-rack it). So some waxy lemons plus touches of smoke, not too ripe pineapples and a little heather honey. And fir liqueur. With water: excellent, a kind of waxy fruit salad. Finish: medium long, with more peaches. Lemony aftertaste. Comments: I’m in a moral dilemma, Emma. On the one hand, it’s pretty youngish, but on the other hand, the spirit is absolutely perfect. Oh well, to hell with age! SGP:652 - 88 points.

It’s always the same with HP, the more you taste it, the more you want some (or something like that). Maybe we could pull up an old glory at this point?

Highland Park 1957

Highland Park 21 yo 1957/1978 (46%, Cadenhead, black dumpy, sherry wood) Five stars 20 years in wood plus 35 years in glass plus genuine old sherry wood, that should be perfect. Colour: amber with greenish hues. Nose: oh my oh my oh my. It’s one of these old peaters (rather medium peated in this case) that became splendidly sappy and resinous. I’ll keep this short but this combination of all kinds of old syrups and medicines with all kinds of raisins and other dried fruits is just matchless. This is exactly why I won’t score just any new booze over 95 – bee it some mundane blend by a wealthy multinational or some two years old newmake by a cool little Outer-Mongolian distillery that’s needs or deserve more exposure. We really need room for this kind of glo… , well, it’s also booze after all. Or should I go over 100 just to try to be smart? Nah, don’t worry… Mouth: orgasmic. Granted, we could do with a little more ‘modern’ power and creaminess, but other than that, it’s a maelstrom of phenolic, leathery, fruity and waxy notes. The peat remains really noticeable after all these years (are you kidding? It’s even kind of big!) Great chartreuse (I’ve heard from an old friend who’s an MW, who’s one of the very best winemakers in the world and who knows his Highland Park that the latest yellow Chartreuse ‘Cuvée des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France – Sommeliers’ was on par with the best Tarragones – hear, hear!) Finish: endless, clean, incredibly complex. It’s a liqueur and not just any liqueur. Comments: I’m sorry about the maltoporn. I know, whiskyfun.com can sometimes become frankly unbearable, I’m deeply sorry. Actually, I’m not ;-). SGP:574 - 96 points. (Patrick, tu es un chef!)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Highland Park I've tasted so far



Block Today: BRAZIL. Performer: Marisa Monte with Carlinhos Brown and Arnaldo Antunes. Track: Velha infancia. Sweet, isn't it. Please visit Marisa Monte's website and buy her music!

October 25, 2012


Tasting lemony Balmenach

There’s a new collaborative 1979 by the German-Belgian coalition but just before, let’s have two low-strength oldies as aperitifs.

Balmenach Hart

Balmenach 18 yo 1979 (43%, Hart Bros, +/-1998) Two stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: maybe a tad bland at first nosing, some kind of slightly smoky apple juice and then wet gravel and a little chalk (wet as well). Having said that, it develops nicely, on apple peelings and a few fresh herbs, mint, chives… Mouth: very easy and very sweet. Not much personality but enjoyable. Apple juice, barley sugar and a little white pepper. Fresh oranges. Finish: medium long, on the same flavours plus a little lemon and vanilla. Comments: good natural malt whisky, hard to say much more. No flaws, little thrills. SGP:441 - 78 points.

Balmenach Coopers

Balmenach 20 yo 1978/1999 (43%, Cooper’s Choice) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: this is much more interesting, more complex, with more spices and more candied aromas. I get quinces, citrons, marmalade, hints of passion fruits and a very nice floral side, with some lilies and roses. Lovely lovely nose. Mouth: ah yes, this is excellent, starting with many citrus fruits (no need to list them all) and a pleasant spiciness that would involve cumin and aniseed. Also a little marzipan and liquorice as well as some bitter herbs (oregano?) Indeed, lovely and incredibly full bodied at just 43% vol. Finish: long, on crystallised oranges and again a little cumin. Gingerbread. Comments: Cooper’s Choice had, and still have some wonderful whiskies. This is a great example. SGP:551 - 90 points.

Balmenach Nectar

Balmenach 33 yo 1979/2012 (52.8%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) and Balmenach 33 yo 1979/2012 (52.8%, The Whisky Agency, Perfect Dram, bourbon hogshead, 202 bottles) Four stars and a half A joint bottling under two different labels. Colour: pale gold. Nose: burst with western garden fruits, peaches, apples, gooseberries, pears, white cherries… Before it becomes rather more citrusy, with some lemon and grapefruit. Also broken branches, touches of baker’s yeast and just a little fresh butter. With water: becomes more mineral and white wine-like. Barley water and riesling. I like this sharpness.

Mouth (neat): extremely nervous, lemony and gingery, with quite some black pepper as well. Reminds me of some powerful older Rosebank. Orange drops. With water: becomes rather rounder and even sweeter, with a little aniseed (pastis?) Fruit salad plus a little vanilla and egg custard. Finish: medium long, a little more liquoricy and grassy, with a slightly bittersweet aftertaste (bitter oranges, herbal liqueur, gin). Comments: really excellent, with a superb tartness after 33 years in wood. For lovers of ‘nervous’ old drams. SGP:661 - 89 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Balmenach I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Billie Holiday. Track: When it's slepy time down south (from her moving last recordings, 1959). Please buy her music!

October 24, 2012



If you never saw guys wolfing down half chickens (not alive, mind you) or gulping botlles and bottles of the finest champagne or Alsatian wines, next weekend will take place Ostende's Whiskyfest in Belgium. I'll be there with many friends and hopefully, the few whiskies (well, thousands actually) will match the city's famous shrimp croquettes. See you there? All details are to be found on the Lindores' website.


One rather pornographic Bowmore and a few compadres

I must apologise, we might do a little maltoporn today with an extremely rare old bottling that I just couldn’t let sleep on my shelves despite all the new whiskies that are popping out of nowhere these days. Will you forgive me? But first, let’s have two lighter aperitifs if you don’t mind. Yes, also older bottlings…

Bowmore 14 yo (40%, Sestante, +/-1992)

Bowmore 14 yo (40%, Sestante, +/-1992) Three stars Same kind of label as the older ‘shield’ ones but this is one is newer. Probably late 1970s distillation. Colour: straw. Nose: extremely austere, mineral, not even very briny. A huge pile of wet rocks and empty oyster shells, then just wee whiffs of diesel oil and old coal heap. Then just a little grass, cider apples… In short, a Jansenist of a whisky. Mouth: good attack, quite big, sooty, smoky and saltier, but it’ll soon drop and lose steam, most probably because of the low ABV. Touches of tangerines, pepper and then more brine. As often, becomes bigger again after a few seconds in your mouth, with the pepper and the salt talking more. Finish: short but clean, despite some sweet notes that remind us of 1980s distillation, but they’re very shy. Comments: everything’s there but it lacks power. Foreshadows the 1980s. SGP:255 - 81 points.

Bowmore 35 yo 1966/2001 (43.7%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection)

Bowmore 35 yo 1966/2001 (43.7%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection) Four stars Several old Bowmores by Hart Bros have been very good, but sometimes lacking this je ne sais quoi (like my French?) that’s sometimes called ‘oomph’. Let’s check this one oldie… Colour: gold. Nose: we know these, it’s plain and pure tangerine juice (with a few drops of sweeter pink grapefruit). Really spectacular, no other malt smells like this (not even old Lochsides). Now, if you really scratch your head and your nose, you might find traces of passion fruits and mangos as well, but really, it’s pure juice, to the point that it almost smells artificial. Nicely artificial ;-)…Mouth: again, starts on these massive fruity notes, rather around some kind of all-vitamin juice. Tangerines again but also bananas this time. Then more white wine (must be the fruits) and a very, very shy saltiness. All very good, even if it’s pretty mono-dimensional. Finish: medium long, with maybe a slight soapiness, not too sure. Comments: a total fruit bomb, especially on the nose, but I feel it hasn’t quite got the complexity of other mid-1960s Bowmores (Duncan Taylor, officials…) and these touches of soap – or is it some kind of scented paraffin? – are slightly disturbing. So great, but no glory. SGP:843 - 87 points.

Would be nice to also have a flowery one from the 1980s before we tackle the old young Bicentenary, just to widen today’s references, don’t you agree? There’s this new DL that couldn't have come at a better time…

Bowmore 25 yo 1987/2012 (56.1%, Douglas Laing, Old & Rare, refill butt, 124 bottles)

Bowmore 25 yo 1987/2012 (56.1%, Douglas Laing, Old & Rare, refill butt, 124 bottles) Three stars 124 bottles from a butt, that isn’t much, is it? And 1987, do we really have to expect that extravagant floweriness that can be even stranger on sherry? Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: blow trumpets, little Parma violets or lavender perfume at first nosing, although the profile is there, lurking in the background. Starts rather on strawberry jams and cranberry juice, overripe bitter oranges and just smoked fish. Smoked fish with cranberry jam, that’s it. Also a sweetish smoke and then more and more seawater. With water:  oh, everything went away! Becomes very farmy after a few minutes, with even notes of vase water and floor cloth. It’s not that it doesn’t swim well, it doesn’t swim at all. Mouth (neat): the style is much more vivid, maybe brought even more to the front by the sherry. Lavender sweets, Fanta, liquorice allsorts and gin plus black pepper and even horseradish. A very strange combo, not unknown to many of us. In its style, it’s a winner! With water: much, much better, swims like a champ on your palate. It became creamy, lavenders and violets have kissed us goodbye and it became much more coastal and peaty. Almost miraculous. Finish: medium long, briny. Orange zests in the aftertaste. Comments: a funny one that plays with water and your nerves. Worth sharing a bottle/samples with some friends, I’d say, because it’s… a style. SGP:644 - 80 points.

Now, I’m wondering whether we shouldn’t also try one from the early 1970s that would have… I’m joking, let’s have the rarer one NOW.

Bowmore 1969/1979 ‘Bicentenary’ (56.2%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa for Federico Minetti, sherry, cask #322, 300 bottles)

Bowmore 1969/1979 ‘Bicentenary’ (56.2%, OB, Fecchio & Frassa for Federico Minetti, sherry, cask #322, 300 bottles) Five stars Right, this is very rare. There used to be a ‘regular‘ version of the Bicentenary at cask strength, also in a cubic bottle and also quite rare (and now expensive) but this is different, it’s a single cask done for a family in Tuscany and, I believe, other distinguished Italian gentlemen. In my opinion the ‘general’ batch of the bicentenary CS was excellent but maybe not as brilliant as the version at 43%. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s rather not explosive at very first sniffs, but it’s immediately very complex, complex like the oldest pu-erh teas (no I couldn’t tell you from which mountain). There is some very old chartreuse (again and again), a box of well-aged puros, some decadent old liqueurs (like the trendiest baristas now use), a little Barbour grease, tar liqueur, metal polish, black olives…

Then it’s the menthol and the camphor that come out, old wooden furniture (right, that’s wax polish), Corinthian raisins (I’ve seen that’s what some call Zante currants elsewhere)… At this point, I have more a feeling of ‘old ex-sherry Ardbeg’. With water: it became so utterly complex… Would need hours. Verbena, wormwood, old cellar, leather cream, date arrak, marjoram… oh, let’s drop that. Mouth (neat): oh, the power! In fact, it’s almost too strong, despite a creamy, almost liqueury mouth feel. It’s mainly the dried fruits that stand out (raisins and more raisins, of all kinds). However, some tropical fruits do start to pop out here and there, but it’s just a rehearsal, I think… Because with water: we’re making our way towards the mid-1960s, with many more topical fruits, all dipped in old Sauternes and old herbal liqueurs Please call our preferred brigade…  Finish: long, curiously wilder and more maritime. More smoke, brine, straight peat… And some tar and cough syrup in the aftertaste, ala old Ardbeg again. Comments: indeed, this baby was only ten years old at time of bottling. There were Bowmores that I’ve liked even more, but this is, well… SGP:665 - 93 points.

(with kisses to Diego and Konstantin - make that hugs)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Bowmore I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: (the great) Allen Toussaint. Track: Jelly Roll Morton's Winin' Boy Blues (with some Chopin inside!) Please visit Allen Toussaint's website and buy his music!

October 23, 2012


Tasting three Littlemill and a rarer aperitif

The recent stream of independent Littlemills isn’t over and that’s good news because many have been excellent. Let’s have a few more if you don’t mind, but first, we’ll have a singleton from the Lowlands : an Inverleven. Why? Because I’ve got only one that I haven’t tried yet in my sample library. It’s this new baby…

Inverleven 1991

Inverleven 1991/2012 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) Two stars and a half Remember the Inverleven stills were located within Dumbarton grain distillery. They have been silenced in the early 1990s and some parts later found their way to… Bruichladdich. Colour: gold. Nose: very light, easy, rather fruity (overripe apples) and becoming more complex over time, while a little bubblegum remaining and whiffs of moss and mint. A little barley sugar. Mouth: very soft, with a little menthol plus more apples, sweets and corn syrup. Light body but it isn’t thin. Slight maltiness. Finish: not that long but there are added touches of oranges. A littler wax, light honeys, more apples… Comments: in a way, we’re midway between malt and grain whisky. It’s very pleasant whisky, with a discreet oakiness that suggests that should G&M have more casks, older versions will kep improving in the future. Oh, and I think the 40% vol. work well with this kind of light and easy spirit. SGP:541 - 79 points. Onto the Litlemills…

Littlemill Liquid Library

Littlemill 20 yo 1992/2012 (51.6%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon hogshead, 313 bottles) Four stars and a half With a 1992, we’re approaching the last vintages… Colour: straw. Nose: hesitates between a full fruitiness and some paraffin/linseed for a short while, before it becomes frankly citrusy. Rather lemon zests, citrons, then more apple peelings, almonds, lemon balm… Then more paraffin again. Cut grass. Oh and funnily, tinned sardines. With water: perfect, becomes a little rounder without losing any of it’s assets. Lemon and wax. Mouth (neat): waxy lemons and lemony wax, on a bed of coriander and lemongrass. Lemon marmalade, orgeat syrup, grapefruits and touches of resin (say rather propolis) that join the waxiness. Full, oily body. With water: textbook Littlemill now, perfect. Finish: long, waxy, citrusy, candied. Comments: another great example of a zesty and dangerously drinkable Littlemill. What’s not to like? SGP:641 - 88 points.

Littlemill Burns

Littlemill 21 yo 1990/2012 (55.1%, The Whisky Barrel, Burns Malt, sherry, cask #35) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: oh, it’s one the first recent independent Littlemills that’s rather closer to the old OBs (remember the older dumpy bottles?) at first nosing, a little spirity, grainy, even slightly yoghurty… Then unexpected notes of olive and even grape seed oils develop, this paraffin yet again, and lastly, more crystallised oranges and citrons, together with a little leather, grass and cigar tobacco. It’s a complex Littlemill. With water: becomes a clean, classic, lemony Littlemill. A very aromatic honeyness in the background, then more polished wood. Gets drier (old attic). Mouth (neat): full-blown lemony Littlemill plus a medium richness from the sherry wood. Some kind of smoky honey, honeydew, grapefruits and just a little gooseberry and even strawberry. Remains fresh and lively, yet maybe a notch less chiselled than the 1992. With water: very nice touches of cumin coming through. Perfect oak-aged gin. No! Finish: long, spicier. Lemon marmalade, cumin and pepper. Comments: what can I say, it’s all good. I mean, much to my liking. SGP:651 - 87 points.

Littlemill MOS

Littlemill 1988/2012 (52.1%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 12028, 125 bottles) Five stars Colour: full amber. Nose: one step further towards tobacco! In truth, this baby smells like a whole 25-box of Havana cigars for a while (I’ll play it smart and say old Lusitanias). Many tinier notes start to appear after a few minutes, such as black olives in brine, old balsamic vinegar, beef stock, wood smoke, walnut wine, old palo cortado… It’s lovely, really lovely, even if ‘Litlemill’ doesn’t seem to have much to say so far. With water: becomes very vegetal. All kinds of peelings, moss, fern, fir honeydew, early rain (c’mon!)… Mouth (neat): a little frightening for one or two seconds (too oaky? Too drying?) but in fact and despite the relative heaviness, it becomes and remains zesty and fresh. I don’t think very citrusy AND very sherried malts are too common, so this one is very interesting. Chestnut and lemon honeys, tobacco, menthol, old sherry, herbal drops (classic Ricola, dear Swiss friends), leather… It’s very unusual and much to my liking. Becomes a little fizzy after a while. With water: a funny fight between the spirit’s lemon and the sherry’s strawberries and cherries that come out. A peaceful fight. Finish: long and, once again, spicier. Comments: it’s an unusual one and some parts are surprising, especially after water was added. Good, one more point for the surprise. SGP:651 - 90 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Llittlemill I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES FUNK. Performer: Kenny Neal. Track: Another man's cologne (from Let Life Flow). Please visit Kenny Neal's website and buy his music!

October 22, 2012


We’re Longrowing again today

Longrow (46%, OB, 2012)

Longrow (46%, OB, 2012) Four stars and a half That's right, this is just 'Longrow'. It's more or less a younger version of the CV. Colour: straw. Nose: starts on some massive sulphur and guess what, I enjoy this. When I write sulphur here I mean truffles, gas and yes, even cabbage and garlic. I know, sounds unlikely but indeed I enjoy this extremely ‘different’ profile. Goes on with more ‘normal’ touches, clay, chalk, wet wool, lemon, porridge, iron (old tools) and antiseptic/bandages. The peat is rather discreet so far. Mouth: starts very ashy, briny and again quite medicinal (embrocations?) Then more lemon, yoghurt, earth, chewing tobacco and salt. It’s kind of rough and dirty and again I like that. Finish: quite long, becoming curiously cleaner and more civilised. Green pepper and, as often, bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: these recent Longrows that go against the trend are really fun and I think they deserve more points just because of that. Try it, you may hate it but you may just as well fall in love with it. SGP:356 - 88 points.

Longrow 11 yo 'Red' (52.1%, OB, cabernet sauvignon cask, 2012)

Longrow 11 yo 'Red' (52.1%, OB, cabernet sauvignon cask, 2012) Two stars Finished for four years in new world cab caks – so rather double matured. Colour: it ain’t red but it is apricoty. Nose: this is different, its much more mushroomy and toasted at first nosing, with then the same notes of bandages as in the NAS plus more coal smoke, soot, tar and black cherries that may scream more ‘pinot noir’ than ‘cabernet’ but I doubt anybody will complain. The Longrowness remains big despite the wine treatment (a little manure as well, cow stable, black olives). With water: hurray, little winey notes left and more cow stable and even horse sweat. Mouth (neat): interesting but not my cup of malt this time. I feel the wine cask and the spirit just clash, which creates a kind of chemical feeling I’m not too fond of. That already happened with earlier bottlings. With water: improves a little. Pleasant touches of black pepper and blood oranges. Finish: quite long, with some green tannins in the aftertaste. Walnut skin. Comments: I prefer my wine on the side ;-). Seriously, it’s not quite for my taste but I’m sure many friends will enjoy this, which is just perfect. SGP:455 - 70 points (I’ll say it again, these scores are just a very short indication of how much I enjoyed a spirit or not, and never, ever a judgement, okay? They are 100% related to my personal tastes that are just anything but ‘universal’. Thanks for your understanding ;-).

Good, that calls for another Longrow, preferably another official one…

Longrow 10yo 1991/2001 ‘Sherrywood’ (46%, OB)

Longrow 10yo 1991/2001 ‘Sherrywood’ (46%, OB) Four stars From the first ‘new’ series of official Longrows, after the well-known and fabulous 1973/1974s… Although there was a non-vintage series just before if I remember well. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a pretty lighter spirit, with many similarities with the recent ones but certainly les ‘extreme’ aromas. It’s actually dry and more vegetal, with quite a lot of cocoa and walnuts, a feeling of fino sherry, a little fresh butter and then more coastal notes, boats, seaweed… It also becomes quite musty (old wine cellar, mushrooms). I have the feeling that it became more complex after ten years in glass, sadly, I haven’t taken proper tasting notes when it was available. Mouth: ah yes, now I remember ;-). It’s kind of meaty and sulphury (here we go again), on some kind of salted and smoked walnut oil and quite some bitter chocolate. Also very ripe bitter oranges, not rotting yet. Finish: long, very dry, ashy. More dry sherry! The saltiness gives it something of some strong manzanilla. Touches of plastic in the aftertaste, maybe the weaker point. Comments: that’s what makes Longrow always very interesting, the various eras (early 1970s, late 1980s, early 1990s, later distillations) are all quite different. SGP:366 - 86 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Longrow I've tasted so far




Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: André Ceccarelli's Troc. Track: Another Door (with Scotland's excellent Alex Ligertwood on vocals). Please buy their music!

October 21, 2012


Tasting two Uitvlugt from Guyana.
Yes, rum.

Remember Uitvlugt was the last Demerara distillery to close, in 2000. There's only one remaining distillery in Guyanna, Diamond in Georgetown. Uitvlugt's still was a French column still called a Savalle. The Savalle stills are widely used in Martinique or Gudeloupe.

Uitvlugt 14 yo 1998/2012 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar, 253 bottles)

Uitvlugt 14 yo 1998/2012 (51.7%, The Whisky Agency & The Nectar, 253 bottles) Three stars I'm very happy to see The Whisky Agency doing rum! Colour: straw (which suggests this cask was aged under temperate climate). Nose: a very fresh and grassy rum, waxy as well, kind of phenolic. Also fern, apple peeling, fresh walnuts… Imagine this was malt whisky, it would be Pulteney. Oh well… Also a little musk. With water: more of some kind of sweet grass as well as, quite curiously, touches of barley. Vanilla. Mouth (neat): very punchy but clean, close to the raw materials (yes, sugarcane), much sweeter now. Orange drops, candy sugar, apple liqueur, touches of carvi and aniseed… Certainly one of these rums that are closest to malt whisky. With water: more vanilla, touches of sawdust, a little fresh kirsch… Finish: medium long, still quite grassy. Comments: a Demerara that's pretty un-Demerara, so to speak. Not an extravagantly tropical one for sure. Very 'natural', very good quality. SGP:651 - around 82 points.

Uitvlugt 27 yo 1985/2012 'UF30E' (60.7%, Velier, casks #10548, 10552, 10553, 814 bottles)

Uitvlugt 27 yo 1985/2012 'UF30E' (60.7%, Velier, casks #10548, 10552, 10553, 814 bottles) Four stars This was distilled from 'single field' sugarcane harvested at Uitvlugt in field number '30 East'. They had filled only 27 barrels and this is a vatting of the three remaining casks - after ullage I guess (as the angel's share over the 27 years has been higher than 90%). This rum matured entirely under tropical climate - as opposed to rums that are shipped to the UK before further ageing, for example. Colour: dark amber. Nose: within the Demerara style, this is the exact opposite of the 1998. There's much more spicy oak, sandalwood, cinnamon, cloves, liquorice, prunes, orange marmalade, touches of rosewater, raisins… and then even more prunes. Rich and concentrated. With water: became very meaty and earthy, almost gamey. Cured ham kept in a cigar humidor (and why not, I ask you?) Then more, many more raisins, esp. sultanas. Mouth (neat): sweet, rich but not as cloying as other heavy rums, with a loud oakiness that goes well with this luscious profile. Many spices and dried fruits, jams, more prunes, pipe tobacco… In short, heavy but elegant. With water: just goes on with a little more pepper. Finish: very long, a tad tannic and a little gritty… Comments: I simply love this style, which displays very sweet notes but without the lumpiness that can be found in dark rums from other parts of the Caribbean and northeast South America. SGP:751 - around 87 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Rum I've tasted so far



Block Today: SOUL. Who doesn't like Al Green? ;-) Performer: The O’My’s. Track: Simply Beautiful. Please buy their music!

October 20, 2012


Tasting two excellent (slightly) sulphury Dalwhinnie

I know, I’m being a little provocative… Anyway, there aren’t many Dalwhinnies around these days so let’s rather have an independent version from the old days as the aperitif… And then the new Special Release! I’ll try to add a few words (read opinions) about sulphury whiskies, that old yet interesting chestnut…

Dalwhinnie 16 yo (43%, Sestante, +/-1980)

Dalwhinnie 16 yo (43%, Sestante, +/-1980) Four stars 1960s distillation, obviously, probably early 1960s. Colour: gold. Nose: a wonderful start on meadow flowers and all things from a beehive, honey, pollen, wax… Also bags of sultanas, notes of warm quince pie, then more sultanas… Other than that, there’s a little toasted oak and touches of earl grey tea (bergamots) as well as spent matches. Beautifully aromatic, it’s not going to be easy for the new OB after this ultra-classic nose… Mouth: a little lighter now but very pleasantly malty and honeyed at first sips, then rather grassier and kind of flinty. Roasted peanuts, apple pie… All good and classic. Finish: shortish but clean, even maltier than before. A little coffee in the aftertaste, glazed chestnuts, some chocolate and some honey again. Comments: this one had a beautiful finish, which is always disappointing, in a certain way (because it’s the finish, eh!) SGP:652 - 87 points.

Dalwhinnie 25 yo 1987/2012 (52.1%, OB, Special Release, 5358 bottles)

Dalwhinnie 25 yo 1987/2012 (52.1%, OB, Special Release, 5358 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: what a surprise, we’re extremely close to the old Sestante at first nosing, except that it’s a little lighter as far as ‘beehivy’ notes are concerned and rather more toasted and roasted (chestnuts, peanuts). A notch more vegetal as well (broken branches) as well as a little sulphury again. I wrote 'sulphury' instead of 'gunpowder' or maybe 'coal' (or truffles, gun flints and such) on purpose because after what some writers have been, well, writing, let me remind you that ‘sulphury’ is the official main descriptor, so the main marker, for some distilleries such as Dailuaine and, indeed, Dalwhinnie (whether ex-sherry or not). It is not always a flaw, in some circumstances I think it can even be an asset. We’re not talking rotten egg/H2S here. However, my take is that it remains very okay to be against sulphury whiskies (which might well not be exactly the same thing as sulphured whiskies), just like you may be against lemony whiskies or honeyed whiskies or peaty whiskies or, or, or… But it’s certainly not a flaw as such, as long as it’s not excessive. Granted, what's excessive is up to anyone to decide. With water: oh, a litle more more spent matches and wood smoke, then vanilla fudge, wax and warm croissants. Very nice. A wee meatiness as well. Mouth (neat): firm and rounded at the same time, starting with a little sesame oil, marmalade and again quite a honeyness. Would go on with more roasted things and quite some liquorice wood, until it becomes a little tannic (strong tea). With water: becomes oilier, with more fruitcake and strong honey (chestnut). Swims very well, esp. since the oakiness did not become any bigger. Finish: medium long, all on honey, marmalade and roasted nuts. Grassier aftertaste (green tannins, here they are again). Comments: I like it a lot, only the slight tannicity in the finish will prevent me from going up to 90+. SGP:562 - 89 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Dalwhinnie I've tasted so far


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Sulphurous or sulphury?
I insist, do you like slightly sulphury whiskies? Relax, that's more than OK, don't let others condemn you - and it's just the same the other way 'round, that is to say if you just hate sulphury notes. But I insist, I think 'sulphury' is simply not a flaw as such in my opinion (again, not talking about eggs or cabbage, or excessive sulphur).

Sulphur whisky

For example, the above picture is is a part of an official Diageo tasting mat that displays the main markers for all their distilleries (in the new makes). No need to say that other distillates will also have 'sulphury' as secondary markers (the mainly meaty Mortlach or Benrinnes and several others in my opinion...) All that doesn't mean that all sulphury whiskies are obligatorily fully okay as well, that is, esp. when from sulphur-treated wine casks that weren't properly rinsed out, sometimes because 'they wouldn't want to lose all the precious wine that will (hopefully) enhance their distillate.' So no, sulphur bombs are theoretically not 'okay', but again, what I'm trying to say is that it's all a matter of taste, that all tastes are to be respected, that different whisky lovers can have very different detection tresholds and sensitivities regarding this or that molecule (being over-sensitive being as much a problem as being almost 'aroma blind') and that anybody trying to loudly and inelegantly claim to the contrary should simply be regarded as a Torquemada-apprentice of whisky. Personal likes and dislikes are what makes us all different, I think it's great to talk about them and of course swap heated views (and samples), let's simply not try to impose them on other whisky lovers. We all know that more or less public persons need catchy USPs or to invent new causes or crusades every year that God makes, but in this case, no fun, we rather need peace - be it sulphury! (but you may now shoot if you like...)
PS: and no, I don't think distillation/copper will always remove all sulphury notes that are in the wash, it's all a matter of process (cut, condensers, amount of copper contact and such). Moreover, distillation and the action of copper do actually seem to sometimes also impart more sulphury notes to the spirit, especially by forming dimethyl disulfide, even if large parts of those sulphury compounds should go away with ageing - but that may depend on the cask, active or less active, charred or toasted, American or European... but that's another topic. So, I do not think that sulphury whiskies are only a matter of sulphur-treated wine casks, even if the fact that some sherry, Port or Bordeaux casks were not charred like bourbon casks or modern hogsheads may have made them less good at removing excessive sulphury compounds that were in the spirit in the first place. No sulphur wars, peace!



Block Today: BAGPIPES. Composer: Julia Wolfe. Track: LAD (for nine bagpipes),pt2 (play it very LOUD and scare all your enemies!).. Please visit Julia Wolfe's website and buy her music.

October 19, 2012


Extreme terroir, falling in love with mescal. Well, some mescals…

Good, I think it’s the first time we’ll have mescal on Whiskyfun, and it’ll most probably be the last (not because it’s not good, mind you, rather because this is WHISKY fun). Having said that, such diversions are always fun to do…

Anyway, what is mescal (or mezcal)? From what I understood from my friend Nicholas, who’s a real expert, mescal is basically tequila, so made out of either cultivated or wild agave. They use 30 sorts of agave. Tequila is simply mescal from some specific region of Mexico. Today we’ll have four top-notch mescals from Oaxaca that were all double distilled in small ceramic pot stills (80 litres), let’s see how they compare…


Real Minero 2008 ‘Espadin’ (46%, OB, 672 bottles)

Real Minero 2008 ‘Espadin’ (46%, OB, 672 bottles) Four stars Espadin is the main kind of agave that’s used for mescal. This one was cultivated and harvested at 10 years. Colour: white. Nose: its rather smoky and unexpectedly briny and acidic at first nosing, it’s almost like nosing pickled cucumbers or samphires. Having said that, it becomes more and more complex, with some lemon, kippers and capers. What’s sure is that it’s complex spirit… Also quite some tar, reminds me of some Islay whisky. Really. Mouth: again, this is briny and pleasantly sour, and sweet as well. Turnips, tar lozenges, olive oil and lime, that’s what I get. Also ashes. Finish: long and smokier again, with this faint soapiness that I already found in some tequilas. Liquorice, salt. Comments: in a way and as I already wrote, we’re not too far from, say a young Caol Ila. In a way… Classy spirit. SGP:563 - around 85 points.

Real Minero 2009 ‘Tobalà’ (49.4%, OB, 168 bottles)

Real Minero 2009 ‘Tobalà’ (49.4%, OB, 168 bottles) Five stars Tobalà is a variety of wild agave, so probably quite precious. Harvested at around 14 years. Colour: white. Nose: extremely different from the espadin, much cleaner, fruitier, kind of lighter… Lemons and cranberries, mirabelles, quince eau-de-vie, touches of smoke again, roots, gentian… Extremely high quality spirit for sure. Love this nose. Mouth: it’s quite massive, again fruitier than the espadin, creamier, richer… There are many dried fruits, oranges, pineapples, some kind of smoked strawberries, sorb or rowan tree eau-de-vie (very, very vivid), marzipan… And then quite some smoke and salt again. Caraway seeds. Finish: long, creamy, waxy, with ‘ideas’ of genever and this pleasant wee soapiness again. Gin (the best gin ever!), grapefruits and a little barley water. Comments: fab stuff – to think that this is unaged – or only aged in inert containers. Again, we aren’t very far from the best ‘phenolic’ malts. SGP:663 - around 90 points (please don’t shoot!)

Real Minero 2004 ‘Espadín, Tripón, Largo, Barril’ (46.9%, OB, 240 bottles)

Real Minero 2004 ‘Espadín, Tripón, Largo, Barril’ (46.9%, OB, 240 bottles) Four stars and a half A blend of four varieties of agaves, some wild, some cultivated, aged from 12 to 18 years. Colour: white. Nose: well in the style of the Espadin, maybe just a notch less ‘sour and acidic’. A tad simpler as well, although there are more and more nice notes of fresh branch bark and earth coming through. Faint touches of horse dung. A little mint and cumin as well, smoke... Are all mescals smoky? Mouth: ah yes, this one is great again. Starts more on citrusy notes, while these touches of cucumbers/gherkins remain. It’s also saltier and spicier, in a way it’s a kind of Mexican Talisker. Very briny. Finish: long, earthier and even saltier. Salted grapefruit juice. Comments: not quite in the same league as the magnificent Tobalà in my opinion but it is marvellous stuff. What a revelation! SGP:563 - 88 points.

Del Maguey Single Village ‘Minero’ (49%, OB, +/-2012)

Del Maguey Single Village ‘Minero’ (49%, OB, +/-2012) Three stars and a half We like to be coherent and consistent at WF towers, and that’s why Nicholas chose for us a Del Maguey from exactly the same village as the Real Mineros. Right, it’s called Minero. Colour: white. Nose: it’s rather simpler and narrower than all three Real Mineros, less expressive for sure, although there are nice whiffs of lilies of the valley and other wild flowers. There’s also a little acetone, gherkins again, lemon juice, brine… Mouth: same feeling, it’s excellent spirit but it hasn’t got the Real Mineros’ complexity. Brine, something slightly yoghurty, grapefruits, pear juice… Actually, it’s very good but it’s a little simple. Cheese. Finish: medium long, a little acetic. Roots, sour cream, lemon juice. Comments: I like this, but I like it less than the Real Mineros, caramba! (UR diving to new lows, S.) SGP:562 - around 83 points.

PS: I have no advice to tell you, but if you’re into Clynelish/Caol Ila/Ardbeg/Talisker and such, you should try to try these mescals. But warning, these batches are really tiny!
PPS: Congratulations from an (occasional) Alsatian artisan distiller to Messrs Lorenzo Angeles and Eduardo Angeles Carreno from Santa Catarina Minas, Ocotlan, Oaxaca, Mexico. (Some accents missing here and there, I’m sorry.)

(And thank you mucho for your help, Nicholas @ LMdW!)



Block Today: JAZZ FANFARE (well...) This sounds like a bunch of whisky lovers after some kind of whisky festival... Performer: Sun Ra Arkestra. Track: Pink Elephants On Parade. Please visit Sun Ra's website and buy his music!

October 18, 2012


Tasting three youngish Glen Keith

All from refill wood according to the light colours…

Glen Keith 1996/2012 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice)

Glen Keith 1996/2012 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur's Choice) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: smoky garden fruits, that's it. Very simple profile but its purity is quite appealing. Fresh apple juice, touches of pineapples and, as I said, touches of wood smoke as well as a little iron. Mouth: joyful, very fruity. A fruit salad with just a little grated ginger and white pepper. I mean pears, apples, peaches, oranges and all that… Very easy. Finish: medium long, with a little more white pepper, which is normal. Comments: a very clean, naked, natural Glen Keith that's as easy - and good - to sip as some fruit juice. Very pleasantly summery, I'd say. SGP: 641 - 84 points.

Glen Keith 19 yo 1992/2012 (49.1%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon)

Glen Keith 19 yo 1992/2012 (49.1%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: well, same as the G&M, only with a little more vanilla and plain oak. What's quite funny is that these very narrow noses work very well because of their ueber-cleanliness (ah well…) Also a little bubblegum and very fresh wulong tea. Maybe a little marzipan as well. Mouth: once again a much more active oak talks first, this time with a lot of pineapple and coconut (that's right, pina colada). Quite spectacular, it's even got something of Redbreast, if that rings a bell. Creamy mouth feel, the whole is most easy and pleasant. Finish: long, fresh, fruity, with all this pina colada remaining in the background. White pepper. Comments: a very sexy one, very easy to quaff. Thank you, American oak! Probably first fill or recharred, after all… SGP:741 - 87 points.

Glen Keith 13 yo 1996/2010 (54.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead)

Glen Keith 13 yo 1996/2010 (54.2%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead) Colour: pale white wine (almost white). Nose: hello? This one is having troubles after the G&M and WF, it's almost silent. So, with water: gets soapy and that would last, contrarily to what sometimes happens right after reducing. Paraffin and rubber. Mouth (neat): raw spirit, some kind of grassy eau-de-vie straight from the stills. Notes of plastic, lamp petrol… And litres of ginger tonic. This one's pretty difficult, esp. after the very sexy ones that we just had. With water: ah, now it wakes up, with very nice notes of apple pie, oranges and tangerines, but there's also the same kind of soapiness as in the nose. Nah… Finish: medium long, slightly chemical. Plastic and Fanta. Right, right… Comments: every bottler's got a few duds and I think this baby was one of them. SGP:451 - 65 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Glen Keith I've tasted so far




Block Today: ALT COUNTRY. Performer: The Silver Jews. Track: Suffering Jukebox. Please visit The Silver Jew's website and buy their music!

October 17, 2012


Tasting two recent official An Cnoc

An Cnoc/Knockdhu is a distillery I’m not very familiar with, which is probably a crying shame.

An Cnoc 'Peter Arkle 2nd Edition' (46%, OB, 2012)

An Cnoc 'Peter Arkle 2nd Edition' (46%, OB, 2012) Two stars Some kind of Artist’s bottling. There was a first edition but I did not try it. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a green, fresh oak that tends to dominate the whole at first nosing, with a combination of ginger, newly sawn wood and, well, pencil shavings. It’s not unpleasant at all, but there isn’t much of a fruitiness or vanilla-ness as can be found in other recent oak-driven malts. I also get some toasted oak, a little curry and traces of lemon sherbet, hops and aniseed. Definitely ‘modern’, in any case. Mouth: more or less the same feeling, with a soft spirit that does not seem to stand the oak too well. That gives it a nervous start but a rather weak middle, with some greenness around the edges. Green pepper and spices, cloves, ginger, leather... Finish: rather short, spicy/oaky. Some bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: probably a fine dram but it’s simply not my cup of malt. SGP:261 - 75 points.

An Cnoc 35 yo (44.3%, OB, +/-2012)

An Cnoc 35 yo (44.3%, OB, +/-2012) Five stars At around £200, this old baby’s very fairly priced. Colour: gold. Nose: ah yesss, this is lovely! Very subtle, a notch feminine (me, sexist?) and extremely elegant. Some old polished wood, various honeys, pinesap, praline, sultanas, chicory, dried figs, shortbread, various cakes, various nuts, whiffs of flowers (nectar-rich ones)… Absolutely lovely indeed! Mouth: more or less the opposite of the ‘Peter Arkle’. Its delicate yet it’s assertive, with an oak that works very well (cedar wood, ‘good’ ginger) and many pleasant flavours such as old sherry, bitter oranges, dried bananas, old rhum agricole, tangerine liqueur, a little ginger tonic… All excellent. Finish: medium long, on, wait, Campari-orange? Walnuts, chocolate and bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: this baby’s amazingly vibrant (I know, I know) after all these years. Even fairlier priced after tasting. SGP:561 - 91 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all An Cnoc I've tasted so far



Block Today: BLUES FUNK. Performer: Troy 'Trombone Shorty' Andrews. Track: We gonna make you. Please visit Trombone Shorty's website and buy his music!

October 16, 2012


Tasting peated Tomintoul and a surprise

Many Speysiders and Highlanders started to try to surf the peat wave a few years ago, and Tomintoul was one of them, with their ‘Ballantruan’. The first NAS version was quite pleasant I think…

Tomintoul 10 yo 2001/2012 (49.7%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon wood, 219 bottles)

Tomintoul 10 yo 2001/2012 (49.7%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon wood, 219 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a peaty one indeed, rather on grass smoke and fresh butter, sour apples and just touches of floor cloth (not un-nice). Quite a lot of leaven as well, baker’s yeast… With water: quite a lot of damp dust now, old attic, first rain in a street after many dry days ... Mouth (neat): sweet, smoky, quite minty. A lot of apple juice as well, beer, some yoghurt… It’s smokier and rather cleaner on the palate than on the nose. With water: a little quinine, herbal sweets, cider apples… Finish: medium long, with some Campari. Comments: another un-coastal peater, not quite unlike some peated Benriachs. It also reminds me of some young Ledaigs, in a way. I quite like it, it’s also rather less peaty than earlier ‘Ballantruans’. SGP:356 - 83 points.

Only a few days after that single tasting note I came across the new Ballatruan 10yo OB. Please note that both whiskies haven’t been tried ‘together’.

Old Ballantruan 10 yo (50%, OB, 2012)

Old Ballantruan 10 yo (50%, OB, 2012) Three stars So yes, a peated Tomintoul. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s some newish oak that first shines through, a bit in the style of the Bunnahabhain Toiteach. Vanilla on a yeasty peatiness, raw wool, custard, bread and a little honey… It’s a rather unusual combination but it works pretty well. A little curry and ginger as well – newish oak again. With water:  more curry and a little mustard, possibly from some greenish tannins. Leaven bread. Mouth (neat): very creamy and oily as well as very fruity. Tinned pineapples and coal smoke, with also more and more vanilla again. Very ‘new age’ peated whisky. With water: always on this curious sweet – oaky – peaty balance. Barbecued marshmallows, ginger, raw peated malt. Finish: quite long, more on a green peatiness, grass, capsicum… A little cardboard in the aftertaste, smoked tea… Comments: it’s still youngish but I enjoy it, maybe because it’s ‘different’. Modern wood technology inside. SGP:565 - 82 points.

Wait… Now that we just had some fairly unusual smokies, why not have an even stranger one? I mean, a VERY strange one?...

Balcones ‘Brimstone’ (53%, OB, corn whisky, Texas, +/-2012)

Balcones ‘Brimstone’ (53%, OB, corn whisky, Texas, +/-2012) Four stars Strange name, Brimstone, isn’t it another name for sulphur? This is blue maize whisky that’s been smoked afterwards, meaning that it’s the distillate that was smoked using oak, not the maize. It’s very young but was fully matured under Texas’ very hot and dry climate. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: it’s not quite whisky at first nosing, rather a kind of strong liqueur, very tarry, such as the famous Finnish tar liqueur (Tervasnapsi). There’s also a lot of roasted bacon and some very distinct notes of hot wood (just sawn using a very fast power saw). In short, BBQ! Also more and more smoked tea, yes, a full tanker of laspang souchong. I must say I enjoy this nose, not only because it’s so unlikely. With water: more exhaust gas (from a ’70 shovelhead, hum-hum). Mouth (neat): again, it’s very unlikely but it’s really fun and very pleasant if you like liquorice. Because it’s extremely liquoricy, you may eat three bags of liquorice allsorts and you wont even come close to this. Touches of Cynar or Fernet Branca. Thick mouth feel. With water: some notes of rum develop, molasses, reduced corn syrup… and always a lot of liquorice. Finish: long, spicier. Sweet curry, red Thai sauce, cloves, aniseed, wood smoke… Comments: it’s very experimental but it’s balanced, which is all that counts. I especially like the fact that it doesn’t seem that it’s the wood as such that does all the talking. Well done, this is really fun! SGP:554 - 85 points.



Block Today: EASY BUT COOL JAZZ (!). Performer: Steve Swallow. Track: Afterglow. Or when fluffiness works well. Please visit Steve Swallow's website and buy his music!

October 15, 2012


Tasting Port Ellen 12th Release and worthy partners

Time to try the last of Diageo’s expensive four horsemen of the peated apocalypse, namely the Port Ellen, which is a 1979 unlike last year’s that was a 1978. We’ll do that in WF fashion, starting with another 1979 and a very strong one at that…

Port Ellen 24 yo 1979/2004 (60.6%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Alambic Classique, refill butt, cask #669)

Port Ellen 24 yo 1979/2004 (60.6%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Alambic Classique, refill butt, cask #669) Five stars Same label as DL's 'Advanced Samples' but it's well a 70cl bottle. 60.6% vol., wish me luck! Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh yes, it’s one of these extreme, sharp, ‘to the point’ PEs. It’s a blend of pure tar, pure lemon juice and pure seawater. Secondary notes: rubber boots, exhaust fumes, paraffin, flints and olive brine. That’s about it, but what’s not to love? We’re not far from the famed official 22yo Rare Malts. Absolutely no sherry that I can detect. With water: the tarry side grows even bigger, together with a lot of ink and even more lemon juice. I wouldn’t say it became more complex but it displays the simple perfection of a Mondrian (oh no, do not start with junk analogies, S.!) Mouth (neat): bang-bang! Extreme smoky brine and lemon juice. Not much else and no prisoners taken at such strength. So, with water: ‘good’ cardboard starts to develop, with a pleasantly chemical side that wouldn’t go away. Sounds weird but it isn’t, it’s like tasting salted plasticine. Would be awful in other circumstances but I simply love it here. Dear molecules… Finish: long, even saltier. Smoked olive brine, just like what we had in the nose. Comments: a massive PE, probably a little simple (and that’s why it cannot go too high as far as scores are concerned) but extremely lovable if you’re into this. A feeling that I have is that it’s not unlike the famous 10yo Scottish Wildlife, only at cask strength. Anyway… SGP:348 - 91 points.

That one was very strong so as I was mentioning the old 22yo Rare Malts, why not have another go at that one, since I just checked that I had never written due tasting notes for Whiskyfun (well I think I did elsewhere, but that was before WF was even started).

Port Ellen 22 yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, OB, Rare Malts)

Port Ellen 22 yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, OB, Rare Malts) Five stars This baby scored 93 in my book but that was eleven or twelve years ago (if you say how time flies, I’ll kill you – haha). Colour: gold. Nose: yeah well, as I said, it’s close to the Alambic, with maybe more roundness (no it’s no rounded whisky) and a slightly wider profile. So brine and tar up and rather less flints and paraffin. A little more fresh walnuts and apple peelings as well. Diesel oil, a little vanilla from the wood that I wouldn’t have noticed without having first tried the very naked DL. With water: nearly perfect. Once again, no complex whisky but who needs more than brine, tarry smoke, lemon and almonds/putty in perfect synch? Mouth (neat): that’s where this one scores better when undiluted, it’s all a massive, extremely salty and hugely tarry and liquoricy spirit. Wheelbarrows of salted liquorice and when I write salted, that’s an understatement. With water: purfektion. Fab peat – tar – salt – lemon – combo, with crates and crates of kippers behind all that. Finish: long, on exactly the same notes. A feeling of fullness. Comments: I can’t see why I would score this baby differently this time. Loved it and love it. SGP:448 - 93 points.

Time to tackle the new one now, will it survive the monsters? (that’s true testing, isn’t it!)…

Port Ellen 32 yo 1979/2012 ‘12th Annual Release’ (52.5%, OB, 2964 bottles)

Port Ellen 32 yo 1979/2012 ‘12th Annual Release’ (52.5%, OB, 2964 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: as expected, this older baby is less in your face and, to be honest, much more complex and subtle. I’m glad we had the monsters before, that stresses even more to which extend the new one is complex. The first aromas are pretty similar (tar and such) but many tinier notes do develop over time, especially all what comes from ageing coastal peat, that is to say camphor, putty, plasticine, almonds, old coal stove, shellfish (our beloved whelks), old motor oil, waxed papers, ink, chimney ashes, seaweed… No need to say that this nose is brilliant. With water: same. It was already complex and so it remains.

Mouth: I’d say the difference with the younger ones isn’t as big as on the nose, it’s still a potent, almost pungent whisky, with absolutely no signs of fatigue although again, it’s rather more complex. So once again, it’s the sappy/resinous part that grew bigger, with more camphor again, cough syrup, wax… It’s also very lemony and briny again, this should go extremely well with (the most expensive) oysters. With water: sadly, it’s great. I wrote sadly because it’s so expensive – as Pete and Jack said, many good friends can’t afford to show their good taste anymore. Anyway, there are more tropical fruits than in any earlier expressions, we’re starting to experience what can be found in old Laphroaigs, for example. Or in last year’s release, by the way. Superb! Finish: long, complex, chiselled, almondy, liquoricy, tarry, salty and, again, a little tropical. Lemons and grapefruits. Comments: mixed feelings, because of the prices. Just like last year’s release, it’s fabulous whisky, no doubt whatsoever, but it’s very sad that, as I said, some friends who really know their whisky won’t be able to buy it anymore. The worst problem is that, contrarily to what some seem to believe, there aren’t that many whiskies in this style anymore that are both as superb AND significantly cheaper in my opinion. Unless you’re good at self-persuasion… Or manage to unearth some great oldies here and there. Sob sob sob… SGP:457 - 95 points.

PS: do more bottle-sharing with friends!!!
PPS: yes there are cheaper indie Port Ellens, many worth 90+ in my book, but not 95. Hey, only my humble opinion... oh, drop that!
PPPS: I've heard a frightening yet probbaly - and sadly - very accurate and very clever expression the other day: as far as malt whisky's concerned, the time of innocence is over. In other words, just like with wine, the best ones will all become VERY expensive and simply out of reach! Unless, of course, the market collapses. To think that it's only barley... (£0.25 a kilo)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Port Ellen I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Don Pullen. Track: Plays Monk (a fabulous solo suite of three very famous pieces by Monk, recorded in 1984). Please buy Don Pullen's music!

October 2012 - part 1 <--- October 2012 - part 2 ---> November 2012 - part 1

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



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

An Cnoc 35 yo (44.3%, OB, +/-2012)

Port Ellen 22 yo 1978/2000 (60.5%, OB, Rare Malts)

Port Ellen 24 yo 1979/2004 (60.6%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Alambic Classique, refill butt, cask #669)

Port Ellen 32 yo 1979/2012 ‘12th Annual Release’ (52.5%, OB, 2964 bottles)

Real Minero 2009 ‘Tobalà’ (49.4%, OB, 168 bottles)