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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2013 - Part 2

October 2013 - part 1 <--- October 2013 - part 2 ---> November 2013 - part 1


October 31, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.10, Aberfeldy and Benriach

Aberfeldy 16 yo 1997/2013 (56.1%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Château 'Lafitte')

Aberfeldy 16 yo 1997/2013 (56.1%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Château 'Lafitte') Three stars LOL, and yet some other bottlers who'd spell Lafite Lafitte. After Barollo and Sauterne, this is becoming really funny. Unless, of course, our friends in Campbeltown have sourced the Lafite cask from China, or maybe it's not the well-known Lafite in Pauillac and rather a 'cheaper' little château that's spelled Lafitte? Not too sure this is very important... What's more, I don't think it says so but it's probably a finishing. Having said that, I remember a Miltonduff in the same series that I found truly excellent (WF 90). Colour: apricot. Nose: apricot. Serious. Well, not only apricots, also oranges, flints, mandarine liqueur, orange blossom and a little honey. It's quite amazing that there are so much oranges, that's not very Lafite, is it? With water: same. Oriental pastries. Mouth (neat): sweet juicyfruit (Wrigley's) and quite a bit of bitterish rubber, leaf tea (cherry? cassis?) and grass. It's quite big but if it's a genuine Lafite cask, and as the château is only using first fill French oak, it was obviously a very active cask. With water: less grassy tones, more... oranges, especially bitter ones. Strong tea, typical European oak. Finish: this time it's very grassy again, apple peelings, more malt, some ginger... Medium length. Comments: another finishing that sort of worked. I'd love to know how much time the whisky spent in Bordeaux wood. SGP:461 - 80 points.

Update: we've got the (official) answer, the Aberfeldy was put into the Lafite cask in 2009 so it had 4 years in the second cask. So more double-maturation than finishing.

Benriach 8 yo 2005/2013 (58,1%, OB, batch 10, virgin American oak finish, cask #3782, 310 bottles)

Benriach 8 yo 2005/2013 (58,1%, OB, batch 10, virgin American oak finish, cask #3782, 310 bottles) Two stars Colour: gold. Nose: peat! And vanilla... I find it very 'modern Ardbeg' I have to say, had I tried this baby blind, I'd have said 'young first fill bb Ardbeg'. Too young, in fact, even if peat and virgin oak do probably mask the rough edges of youth. Ultra-simple. With water: same style, a notch sweeter and rounder. Maybe pineapples as well as hints of antiseptic. Mouth (neat): no, the virgin oak kills it in my opinion. We're experiencing the same problem as with other newish VOs (such as Morrison-Bowmore's), it's more a decoction than some mature spirit. Bubblegum, vanilla, ashes and cinnamon. With water: same. Kind of asynchronous between the peat and the very sweet and spicy oak. Finish: quite long but acrid and peppery. Too much young oak. Comments: it's obviously not my business, but I find it troubling that some very well reputed distilleries would propose such variants. Do they do that just because they can? Or because they know they have so many other utterly brilliant bottlings? Bah, they all have one or two lame ducks, after all... SGP:665 - 72 points.

We cannot leave this session like that, let's have another peated Benriach that was subjected to the same treatment...

Benriach 27 yo 1985/2013 (48.9%, OB, batch 10, virgin American oak finish, cask #7188, 257 bottles)

Benriach 27 yo 1985/2013 (48.9%, OB, batch 10, virgin American oak finish, cask #7188, 257 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: another world. There isn't much peat, rather some notes of old rum (old Zacapa, perhaps) and dried figs, pears, peaches and dates. Also some hay and tobacco, quality old wood varnish and a little cough mixture. Lovely nose, kind of the opposite of the 2005. Mouth: indeed, this is excellent despite an oak that's very obvious and even green and drying. The thing is that the spirit behind all that does stand it and remains rich and complex. Mind you, despite all the peat and all the new oak, even the original tropical fruits manage to shine through. Mangos? Finish: long. A kind of blend of chartreuse, tar liqueur and Grand-Marnier. And why not? Comments: phew! I'm happy. Today's little session hasn't been the easiest ever. SGP:653 - 87 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Arthur Blythe. Track: Besame Mucho. Please buy his music...

October 30, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.9, Clynelish and Caol Ila

Is there a better way of starting a wee 'random' session than having a little Clynelish from a good year?

Clynelish 15 yo 1997/2013 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary, for beproefd)

Clynelish 15 yo 1997/2013 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary, for beproefd) Four stars and a half Another Belgian affair ;-). Colour: straw. Nose: not much to say, this is a perfectly balanced, mineral, waxy and citrusy nose. I will say nuffin' more. With water: spritzer, lemonade, 'clean' floorcloth and tonic water. Some coal too. Mouth (neat): this is interesting. This baby starts with the expected waxy citrons and some kind of very mineral sauvignon blanc, Pouilly-Fumé style, but it tends to become a notch fatter than usual, with maybe a little more custard and vanilla cake. After that, a little pepper. With water: no, cancel that. Clean, zesty, mineral and lemony. Finish: long, sharp, zesty, chiselled. Modern Clynelish in full swing. Comments: it's a dangerous spirit because you can get hooked on this profile. Clynelish can kill many other malts, it can even kill Ardbeg once you've acquired the taste. Warning! SGP:462 - 89 points.

I think I found a baby that could follow that wonderful but killing Clynelish. Another Clynelish...

Clynelish 14 yo 1998/2013 (46%, Hart Brothers)

Clynelish 14 yo 1998/2013 (46%, Hart Brothers) Four stars and a half Colour: white wine. Nose: great news, the stronger 1997 does not kill this one, which is actually sharper, zestier and sappier. On the other hand, it's also got more difficult notes, such as old damp newspapers and aspirin tablets. Maybe a little too austere this time? Let's see what happens on the palate... Mouth: no, it's all good, really. Wonderful fruits, grapefruits and not too ripe mangos, lemon marmalade... It's less mineral and waxy than the 1997 but the fruits are quite perfect. Limejuice. Finish: long, sharp and chiselled, as expected. It's almost pure lemon juice with only a drop of cane sugar syrup. No, it's not a mojito. Comments: another impressive one, even at 46% vol. A bit in the style of the 1982s or 1983s. Very well selected, Hart Bros! SGP:552 - 88 points.

I think I may have trapped myself. I do not want to try another Clynelish... No new Broras around (yet)... Oh well, lets have some sherried Islay peat then.

Caol Ila 18 yo 1995/2013 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan, sherry butt, cask #10027)

Caol Ila 18 yo 1995/2013 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan, sherry butt, cask #10027) Five stars Anyone who hasn't tried the old Manager's Dram or the early James MacArthurs cannot imagine what Caol Ila + 1st fill sherry can do. It's like Motörhead on Brora 1972 (right, I may be exaggerating...) Colour: dark amber. Nose: bingo-ish. I mean, balance is found, which is quite an achievement, and the peat plus sherry combo creates this very peculiar kind of chocolaty profile that you cannot find in, well, chocolate. A leathery, tobacco-like kind of chocolate. With water: more cigars, hay and bitter chocolate. Mouth (neat): once again, this works. I don't know if this is because the excellent bottlers are Italian, but I find notes of maraschino and amaretto. Must be me... The peat is big! With water: yes. Smoother, perfectly balanced, cigary, with drops of kirsch and always amaretto and maraschino. In the background, oysters with a drop of tabasco. Finish: long, peaty, chocolaty and, bizarrely, kind of clean and fresh, which is always welcome at this stage. Comments: exactly what was needed after the Clynelishes. A style that's quite rare these days. SGP:456 - 90 points.



Block Today: ROCK (for fun). Performer: Lucky Peterson. Track: Under My Thumb. Please visit Mr Peterson's website and buy his music...

October 29, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.8, Johnnie Walker, Glencraig, Littlemill

Johnnie Walker ‘The Royal Route’ (40%, OB, Explorers’ Club Collection, blend, travel retail, 2013)

Johnnie Walker ‘The Royal Route’ (40%, OB, Explorers’ Club Collection, blend, travel retail, 2013) Three stars Another new Johnnie Walker that comes with a story as long as an arm. Don't you need more story when you've got no age? It's the third and the last within the 'Explorer's Club' collection. I quite liked The Gold Route (WF 79) and liked The Spice Road even better (WF 81). Colour: gold. Nose: it's quite potent and malty despite the low strength, there's especially a kind of fat fruitiness that works well (around candied peaches and melons, perhaps), as well as some peat smoke and beeswax. The feeling of hot wax mingled with fermenting hay is also welcome. Mouth: same flavours as in the nose, with some depth, some smoke, some candied fruits, some wax... and sadly, not much middle. B****y 40% vol. Finish: saltier and even a little longer than expected. Takes off again, which sometimes happen. A bitterness in the aftertaste. Comments: very high quality blend, perfectly composed. I remember a 'Director's Blend' by Johnnie Walker that had a similar profile. The only problem is the weakness on the palate, which is entirely related to the strength. Sweet whiskies can stand low strengths but in my modest experience, 'phenolic' ones need 43% or more or they can be a little, say frustrating. SGP:452 - 82 points.

Glencraig 35 yo 1976/2013 (43.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Artists #3, bourbon barrel, cask #4257, 194 bottles)

Glencraig 35 yo 1976/2013 (43.7%, La Maison du Whisky, Artists #3, bourbon barrel, cask #4257, 194 bottles) Four starsIsn't it great that there's some 'new' Glencraig? Remember it's the name of the malt made in Lomond stills at Glenburgie between 1956 and 1981. Let's see if we can find bananas like in other Glencraigs... (yeah yeah, like if I had tasted hundreds of them...) Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh, isn't this some old Midleton? There's definitely something 'old pot still', with plenty of bananas indeed, pineapples, then some 'good' sawdust and cinnamon, then more citrus (pink grapefruit) and a combination of Turkish delights and roses. Make that rose-flavoured Turkish delights if you wish. It's very delicate and, ah, erm, feminine (I'm sorry, ladies).

Mouth: old Irish indeed, both 'wide' and relatively light. Sémillon, white chocolate, grapefruits again, coconut and cornflakes in the arrival but it becomes spicier over time, maybe a notch drying. Funny metallic touches as well, very Irish indeed. A little humus. Finish: neither particularly long nor as complex as before, it tends to close up a bit, becoming slightly acrid. Grassy/gritty aftertaste. Green peppercorns. Comments: obviously a little fragile and especially the finish is a tad difficult, but other parts are absolutely wonderful. And, well, it's rare stuff! SGP:561 - 86 points.

Let's have more fruits!...

Littlemill 24 yo 1988/2013 (55.8%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 330 bottles)

Littlemill 24 yo 1988/2013 (55.8%, The First Editions, refill hogshead, 330 bottles) Three stars and a half I think Andrew Laing 'baked' a pretty impressive set of new bottlings in this autumn. Ah, the Jura... Colour: pale gold. Nose: I had thought we'd have a fruity explosion, not so. It's a rather mineral and slightly papery Littlemill at first nosing, pretty austere and quite far from some recent fruitbombs. Clay, chalk and perhaps touches of grapefruit zests. Not the easiest Littlemill but water may help. With water: so unusual, so funny! Mashed potatoes, Champagne and... hold on, warm waffles? Mouth (neat): a beast! One of the sharpest malts I've tried this year, it's almost concentrated lemon juice plus grass, chalk and pepper. Spectacularly ultra-green. With water: became more typical, that is to say fruitier, with lemons and a wee slice of mango, but the papery side remains there. Finish: quite long. Tonic water, lemon, chalk, cardboard, white pepper. Grapefruits are back in the aftertaste. Comments: fun and intellectual at the same time. You really need to dissect it, so to speak. Certainly not one these easy/sexy fruity Littlemills, and using water is de rigueur. One for a whisky lover who already has everything? SGP:371 - 84 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Randy Weston. Track: The beauty of it all. Please visit Randy Weston's website and buy his music...

October 28, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.7,
Paul John and Amrut

Namaste! Well no real cock-and-bull session today as we'll stay in India this time. We'll have a go at these new 'Paul John', it was about time I tried some of them. And then we'll try a new single cask Amrut...

Paul John 'Edited' (46%, OB, India, 2013)

Paul John 'Edited' (46%, OB, India, 2013) Three stars This new one from Goa was matured in bourbon wood. Colour: gold. Nose: very simple but perfectly balanced, on vanilla, apple pie, maple syrup, fresh oranges and a little grenadine. It reminds me a bit of some young Arran or, for that matter, Amrut. It is said to be lightly peated but I do not detect much peat or smoke so far. Am I tired? Maybe a little cardamom... Mouth: apple juice, a lot of apple juice. I mean a blend of apple juices, ripe sweet ones, drier ones (cider apples), overripe ones... Add to that a little white pepper and you've got a good idea. And 'ideas' of a kind of green peat indeed. Finish: quite long, just as fruity, probably a little more citrusy than before. Also pineapples. The aftertaste is frankly peaty indeed. Comments: honestly, I had thought this would be junk, McDowell style. Not at all! It's actually an easy, fruity, well-crafted malt whisky. Very solid! SGP:642 - 82 points.

Paul John 'Classic Select Cask' (55.2%, OB, India, 2013)

Paul John 'Classic Select Cask' (55.2%, OB, India, 2013) Four stars Colour: full gold. Nose: less expressive than the 'Edited' but that's because of the higher strength. Very similar easy style, or maybe a little more pencil shaving, café latte and custard. With water: becomes a little rounder, more compoty. Mouth (neat): hey hey hey! What a surprise again! Big bright fruits all over the place, blood oranges, pineapples, limes... There's even something of Bladnoch, in a way (please don't shoot!) Very easy, very good. With water: same. Excellent, really. Maybe just a wee notch lactic? Finish: medium length, clean, fruity, full, easy. Comments: I don't know if this Goa whisky is made by old hippies but I'm afraid the very excellent Amrut aren't the only ones to make great Indian malt whisky anymore. Speaking of Amrut... SGP:641 - 85 points.

Amrut 2009/2013 (60%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, India, bourbon, cask #3438)

Amrut 2009/2013 (60%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, India, bourbon, cask #3438) Four stars and a half Distilled from unpeated Indian Barley. It's to be noted that the angel's share (rather a garuda if you ask me) has reached 40% over those four years. Oh, and kudos to Amrut for not hiding the age of their whiskies, it's often not the case elsewhere in the world. Colour: full gold. Nose: as I wrote above, we have a similar style but this Amrut seems to be a little more complex, with more floral and 'tropical' touches. For example, it's got guavas, as well as a little sandalwood and incense. Melons? Very likeable! With water: more of all that. Multivitamin juice, this baby must be good for your health. Mouth (neat): yeah, once again, it's got more character and personality than the already excellent Paul Johns. Rich yet 'nervous' fruits, touches of bananas, passion fruits... So once again, its more 'tropical' and, in a way, more un-Scottish than the Paul Johns. With water: oh, this is great! It's got more pink grapefruits and some very funny touches of citrons and Campari-orange. Serious, this could be Campari-orange. I love Campari-orange. Finish: long, on... oak-aged Campari-orange. Apologies. Comments: this is hard to beat. I could quaff litres of this (Mum, you know that was just a figure of speech, don't you!) SGP:641 - 89 points.



Block Today: BLUES ROCK. Performer: Nico Wayne Toussaint. Track: Lonely Number. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 27, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.6, Hautes Glaces, Pappy, and a surprise

I really wanted to try this new baby by Domaine des Hautes Glaces, a distillery in the French Alps where they have pushed terroir to its limits as they do distil their own organic crops only. And 'of course' they're using direct firing, indigenous yeast and all that. You cannot be more 'craft'. We'll remain in 'the rest of the world' (as the Scots like to say) after that one.

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 2011/2013 'Secale' (56%, OB, Condrieu wood, 511 bottles)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 2011/2013 'Secale' (56%, OB, Condrieu wood, 511 bottles) Not whisky yet, as this single malt is only 18 months old. The wood's a little scary as viognier (Condrieu's grape) is very fruity and spicy. Let's see... Colour: light gold. Nose: uh! Do I like this? Believe it or not, it's not easy to decide, for it's so 'different'. What's sure is that it's very big spirit, the distillate is fat and oily, a style that I like. In a sense, it's the kind of distillate that should best stand very expressive wines. There's a lot of barley, damp earth, lemon zests, moss, ginger... Let's see what happens with water: very marmalady. Mouth (neat): first lemony, with some spearmint, then much spicier. Huge nutmeg and ginger, pepper, green cardamom... I wouldn't call this 'balanced', but spectacular it is. With water: less spices, more sweet barley and citrons. Finish: long and spicier again. Comments: it's funny how one can feel that the distillate is of high quality behind this barrage fire by big oaky spices. Not my style at all on the palate but this interesting baby's got all my sympathies. SGP:471 - 65 points.

Let's try another one from the same distillery...

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 2010/2013 'L.10#03' (46%, OB, French oak, 1616 bottles)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces 2010/2013 'L.10#03' (46%, OB, French oak, 1616 bottles) Four stars This one's almost whisky. The distillers have used oak from the Tronçais forest, which is the place where the very best wines, not only the French, source their oak. Colour: white wine (starts better!) Nose: oh yes yes yes! Another world, another galaxy. Wonderful barley, fields after the rain, damp earth, leaves, fermenting tobacco, fresh coffee, yellow peaches, new magazine just out of the printers, bread, raw wool, broken branches...  Mouth: absolutely excellent, fresh, clean, loyal to the barley, with a perfect oiliness (don't I detect sunflower oil?), some almond oil as well, a little custard, some brioche and then a mild spiciness from the oak. Well, it's much milder than in the 'Secale'. Finish: quite long, now with a little gentian and other roots, a wee feeling of spicy absinth and maybe a little genever, probably from French oak. Some liquorice too. Comments: indeed, another world. I'm really a fan of these spirits that are genuine 'aged barley spirit, when they're as classy as this one. SGP:551 - 85 points.

That one was a big distillate from moderate oak, let's try to find something that could be... exactly the opposite.

Pappy van Winkle 20 yo 'Family Reserve' (45.2%, OB, straight bourbon, 2012)

Pappy van Winkle 20 yo 'Family Reserve' (45.2%, OB, straight bourbon, 2012) Four stars and a half This one's still from the Stitzel-Weller Distillery that was closed in 1992 and not from Buffalo Trace, according to many bourbon connoisseurs (sadly, I'm not one of them - at all). I'm sure I'm the very last whisky 'blogger' in the world to try this edition of this famous baby, but the latest news about some cases being 'stolen' was too good an occasion. Colour: orange amber. Nose: there's no denying, this is superb. It's a very easy and sexy kind of soft nose that you just cannot resist unless you're averse to maple syrup, honeydew, coconut, rosewater, soft sweet curry and chocolate. I think only die-hard wet blankets wouldn't like this nose. Let's only hope it's not sweetish on the palate... Mouth: it's sweet, but it's not 'too' sweet. More pineapple liqueur - it is a little liqueury, or pina-colada-ish - and even touches of - hope you won't kill me for writing this - Southern Comfort. Oriental pastries, orange blossom water, almonds, these touches of grenadine or even geranium syrup that I sometimes find in bourbon and a very moderate oakiness. Impeccable. Finish: maybe not the longest but the sweet spiciness is most pleasant. A funny earthy/rooty touch in the aftertaste. And caraway? Comments: I think just everyone in the house would enjoy this lovely and very easy whiskey. Even the cat and the goldfish. SGP:630 - 89 points.

BONUS - Maybe this is a good occasion to have a very odd spirit that went rather unnoticed last year. I've unearthed it at Lausanne's Whisky and More festival and it really made me laugh...

German Hazelnut Spirit 2012 (40%, The Whisky Agency, 270 bottles)

German Hazelnut Spirit 2012 (40%, The Whisky Agency, 270 bottles) Three stars That's right, the famous Whisky Agency. They already bottled quite a few 'deviant' drinks and many have been excellent I have to say. But what is 'hazelnut spirit'? Must be some kind of liqueur, I guess. What's sure is that it looks unaged. Colour: white. Nose: do you know Nutella? Well, this actually smells like a blend of Nutella and Bailey's Irish Cream, except that it's better than both. There's also a very wee smokiness, very discreet, as well as some milk chocolate, Lindt-style. This reminds me of my childhood... Mouth: it's a well-integrated spirit - I think it's a kind of liqueur -, probably a little more complex than on the nose. Hazelnuts for sure but also walnuts, more chocolate, a little vanilla, touches of sweet herbs, a little caramel. Its extremely smooth but not dull, and the sugar doesn't quite show. Finish: short but clean, with milk chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: fun stuff for the children inside us whisky lovers. SGP:820 - (no score).



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: in the ealy 1990s a bunch of luminaries such as Argur Blythe, Chico Freeman, Sam Rivers and Don Pullen had formed a great band called Roots. Track: Stolen Moments. Please buy these people's music...

October 25, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.5, Caperdonich, Glen Garioch, Glen Grant

Another bunch of new bottlings. We'll try to find a very old new one as #3, but not one of these very expensive new decanterised buzz-catchers.

Caperdonich 1996/2013 'Dunes An Oir' (58.6%, Malts of Scotland for Van Zuylen, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 13025, 276 bottles)

Caperdonich 1996/2013 'Dunes An Oir' (58.6%, Malts of Scotland for Van Zuylen, bourbon hogshead, cask #MoS 13025, 276 bottles) Three stars and a half Van Zuylen is a well-reputed Dutch retailer. Good selection and, above all, a very fair price policy. Colour: gold. Nose: punchy and quite gingery. Some freshish oak involved, it seems. A lot of muscovado sugar too, speculoos, toasted brioche, bitter oranges... Maybe a tad rough at this point but the strength is very high. Water should help. With water: yes it does! Cough mixture, mint, humidor, pu-erh tea... Mouth (neat): huge and extremely spicy. Curry powder and very strong liquorice, very heavy tea, heavy pepper... A very extreme Caperdonich (not that you would detect the distillery) but I've got many friends who like these ooh-aah profiles. With water: once again water helps a lot, even if it remains spicy and herbal. Pumpernickel, earth, pepper, cardamom. Finish: long but, bizarrely, not really tannic. Sweet pepper sauce. A lot of bitter chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: a heavily oaky beast. Bourbon wood with sherry wood aspects. I'm wondering whether this wasn't filled at a very high strength, around 72% or more. What's even more bizarre is that it's also quite pleasant but you just cannot avoid adding water. SGP:471 - 83 points.

A long break is obligatory, I'm afraid even Octomore at CS would have troubles after that extreme Caperdonich. (... ... ... so after two days ;-)...)

Glen Garioch 1989/2013 'Brandy Casket' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 322 bottles)

Glen Garioch 1989/2013 'Brandy Casket' (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 322 bottles) Four stars This baby from the new series. A 1989 should be of the 'floral' style. Colour: light gold. Nose: I was wrong, it's rather an earthy and fruity one, showing good depth and indeed, obvious notes of peaches like some 'uncommercial' cognacs have. There's a little paraffin too, some hay, some tobacco and lastly, 'a new opened box of black tea'. Mouth: some peat coming through, bitter herbs, touches of salt, more tobacco, pepper, cough mixture and, maybe one or two glazed chestnuts. I love glazed chestnuts, they were very popular around Christmas time when I was a kid but sadly, it seems that they've gone out of fashion, at least in this country. Maybe also touches of juniper in this Glen Garioch. Finish: quite long, bitter, rather dry. Some green spices. A saltiness in the aftertaste. Comments: I think we're pretty much midway between the distillery's earlier smoky/spicy style and an easier, fruitier style. Rather firm, in fact. SGP:462 - 87 points.

Glen Grant 59 yo 1954/2013 (53.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, Book of Kells, first fill sherry butt, 120 bottles)

Glen Grant 59 yo 1954/2013 (53.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, Book of Kells, first fill sherry butt, 120 bottles) Five stars Another brand new one. Superb make, vintage, age, strength and bottler. I'm asking you, what could go wrong? Colour: rich amber. Nose: oh! This one will need quite some adjectives but no hyperboles, since it's absolutely magnificent. Where to start? Maybe with the fruits, first apricots and quinces, then raisins, dates, figs and dried pears. Good, that's done. Then we have chocolate, chocolates of all kinds. After that, enter more tertiary aromas, around teas and tobaccos, as well as funnily tense floral and honeyed notes, to which we could add drops of genuine maple syrup. Lastly, all things herbal, sappy and resinous, which could include natural tar and pinesap. Simply grand. With water (although water isn't needed): exactly what I was expecting and anticipating, it starts to resemble some great old Sauternes. Must be the apricots ;-). Mouth (neat): crunching a kind of artisan Mars bar that would be covered with marmalade. Or millionaire shortbread. What's utterly impressive is the way the oak components are behaving, they never get in the way, they're almost working like a thorough-bass in one of Bach's finest suites (hey, that's smart, S.!). Green pepper, cinnamon, bitter chocolate and cloves are doing that job. Other instruments would be dried fruits and marmalades. Notes of fresh oranges are keeping the whole as light and fresh as a fugue. With water: explodes into myriads of fruitier and spicier aromas and, most importantly, doesn't get any oakier. Finish: the chocolate is back. Marmalade-filled chocolate. Comments: this one is ideal for some Christmas time bacchanalias. Not cheap but worth every cent or penny, I think. SGP:551 - 93 points.


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Ernie Watts. Track: Soul Eyes. Please visit Ernie Watts' website and buy his music...

October 24, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.4, Braes, Glentauchers, Teaninich

A varied bunch again, we'll try to find interesting ones without having recourse to big names as far as the distilleries are concerned. Let's see what we can find...

Braes of Glenlivet 18 yo 1994/2013 (55.4%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection)

Braes of Glenlivet 18 yo 1994/2013 (55.4%, Hart Brothers, Finest Collection) Three stars Another name that's seen more often these days. That's right, it's now called Braeval. I remember a good ten years ago, there were rumours that the distillery would be mothballed, so I sent an email to the owners asking for confirmation. A few days later, I got this reply: 'Are you sure this distillery belongs to us?' Says a lot... But that was ten years ago. Colour: straw. Nose: it's one of these 'natural' Speysiders that are all on sweet barley and western fruits, that is to say apples and pears. A little Muscovado sugar, vanilla, corn syrup... And that's all. Nice but very simple. With water: maybe a little mint? That happens often, wood oils and all that. Mouth (neat): good simple malty arrival. Sweet beer, apple pie and custard, back and forth. With water: same. Good balance - which might be easy to achieve when the whisky's simple. Finish: a little short. Cake, vanilla and liquorice. Comments: good, simple, barleyish. Pretty satisfactory. SGP:541 - 80 points.

Let's have another one that should be simple and good...

Glentauchers 17 yo 1996/2013 (46%, Càrn Mor, Strictly Limited, bourbon barrels, 501 bottles)

Glentauchers 17 yo 1996/2013 (46%, Càrn Mor, Strictly Limited, bourbon barrels, 501 bottles) Three stars This one from two casks. Small batches of two or three casks can often be better than single casks in my experience. Colour: white wine. Nose: sugar, sweets, overripe apples and maybe whiffs of 'sweet' flowers. Honeysuckle. Also melon. Really simple! Mouth: another sweet, easy, fruity Speysider. Sweet apples and one or two green ones, lemon drops, sweet barley, tinned pineapples and maple syrup. Does the job. Finish: a little short, with a little more caramel. Sweet malt. Comments: yeah well, no flaws and no thrills. It's very drinkable but there are millions (?!) of similar casks over there in Scotland. No flaws so I cannot go below 80; no thrill so I cannot go above 80. SGP:431 - 80 points.

This possible fruitbomb should be bigger...

Teaninich 29 yo 1983/2013 (57.5%, Signatory Vintage, refill butt, cask #8071, 471 bottles)

Teaninich 29 yo 1983/2013 (57.5%, Signatory Vintage, refill butt, cask #8071, 471 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: hold on, isn't this heavy rum? Amazingly big notes of sugar cane, petrol, olives and tar, we're extremely far from 'Teaninich' but I must say I'm enjoying this a lot. No, no mistakes at WF's sample handling department. Becomes a tad gentler over time but it remains mineral and kind of flinty. Putty. With water: more of all that! Was the cask seasoned with (good) plasticine? Or smoked? Liquid smoke? Was the cask stored in a Harley garage? Mouth (neat): whah! Same feeling, this is quite incredible, mineral, petroly, very nervous (lime!), with some white rhum agricole, some salmiak... Spectacular whisky. With water: and now there's some seawater! More lemons, more almond oil, gravel, chalk, crisp chenin blanc, wax, smokes... Yes, holy smokes! Finish: long, putty-like, salty, mezcaly... What's not to like? Just the aftertaste that's maybe a notch fizzy, bizarrely. Comments: Springbank in disguise? Ex-Lagavulin wood? Fortified Pouilly-Fumé? I wanna see this cask's papers! (just joking). My best surprise this year since Pichon-Baron 1990 in May - but that's not whisky, is it? SGP:373 - 93 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Charnett Moffett. Track: a bass extravaganza with The Story. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 23, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.3, Ben Nevis, Ben Nevis, Linkwood

There are quite a few independent Ben Nevisses these days and even the owners seem to be willing to issue more single casks. So, we'll start this random session with one new Ben Nevis and let's see how we'll go on...

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1995/2013 (51.8%, Càrn Mor for Whisky Circle Pinzgau, sherry hogshead, cask #965)

Ben Nevis 17 yo 1995/2013 (51.8%, Càrn Mor for Whisky Circle Pinzgau, sherry hogshead, cask #965) Four stars Sherry + Ben Nevis is often a funny game. Colour: gold. Nose: very dry and leathery! A leather shop somewhere in Turkey, with hundreds of jackets, coats, shoes, even trousers (I think we got it, S.) Some gunflints too, a feeling of smoke, then soot and saltpetre, moss, cellar, fern, engine oil, chocolate, matches, more rocks... And before you ask, no cabbage/eggs. More raisins, chocolate and oranges after a while, it's becoming much less dry. With water: yesss! More fresh herbs, mint, lime and oranges. Doesn't go off the tracks - as some may do. Mouth (neat): as I often say, Ben Nevis is never boring. This time it's a combination of malt and oranges that take the lead, with something slightly burnt in the background (bacon??) and a growing chocolaty side. Big cinchona and chlorophyll too, a little biting. With water: chocolate, pepper and oranges. Remains just a notch prickly/fizzy. Finish: good length. Orangeade, touches of leather again in the aftertaste. Comments: fun and very good, as a middle-aged Ben Nevis should be. Not 'dirty' at all! SGP:652 - 87 points.

Well, it's hard for me to keep these sessions fully 'randomised'. For example, we've also got this brand new official Ben Nevis...

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1998//2013 (54.5%, OB, oloroso, cask #586)

Ben Nevis 15 yo 1998//2013 (54.5%, OB, oloroso, cask #586) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: how very close to the 1995! It's just more immediately rounded, with the raisins and the oranges appearing right at first nosing. It's also a notch grassier, maybe a little meatier as well, while more tropical fruits are showing themselves, such as papayas. Gunflints and leather remain there as well. With water: nice development too even if it keeps a buttery side. Marmalade, menthol... Mouth (neat): more bitterness this time, kumquats, pepper and ginger, coriander and cardamom, more pepper, tannins, caraway seeds, a salty side... This is very firm. With water: same profile as the 1995, with a little more orange blossom water but also more 'greenness'. Right, grass. Finish: quite long, a little bitter, peppery. Bitter oranges. Comments: another relatively clean one, much enjoyable. Things happening around these babies. SGP:552 - 85 points.

I think we ought to have a sherry monster after these fearless Ben Nevisses. Maybe this wee one...

Linkwood 1997/2013 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, refill sherry hogshead, cask #10811)

Linkwood 1997/2013 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, refill sherry hogshead, cask #10811) Four stars and a half With the sweet classic 'licensed' label by G&M. Colour: amber. Nose: perfect chocolaty sherry, luscious and sexy, sweet and liquoricy, with added touches of parsley, mint and prunes. Very easy and, yeah, sexy. Mouth: a big sherry for a refill hogshead. Great balance. Perfect Demerara sugar, oranges, funny touches of smoked salmon, more prunes, tarte tatin, millionaire shortbread, blackberry jam, pipe tobacco, Mexican chocolate sauce, more liquorice and just wee touches of rubber. Right, a rubberiness. Really easy and really very good. Finish: quite long, on jams and chocolate. Cassis jelly? Walnut wine in the aftertaste. Comments: implacably good. Not just to my liking, plain good! SGP:641 - 88 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Gato Barbieri at his highest and wildest. Track: Antonio das Mortes. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 22, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.2, Balvenie, Glen Grant, Tomintoul

More incoherence today! We'll start with one of the new Balvenie 12 single barrel. In the old days, with the Malt Maniacs, we used to taste many 15s 'SB' and compare them but we were soon to lose track. I remember they were often a little austere when compared with the other, more luscious Balvenies.

Balvenie 12 yo 'Single Barrel' (47.8%, OB, cask #12715, 2013)

Balvenie 12 yo 'Single Barrel' (47.8%, OB, cask #12715, 2013) Four starsPicture not of the actual cask. The label states 'first fill' so it's probably first fill bourbon. Colour: white wine (not very first fill I have to say). Nose: very fresh, clean and fruity, I was about to add that it reminded me more of some fresh BB Aberlour than Balvenie as it's more on orchard fruits plus melon than on plain plums, apricots and quinces. However, it's quite floral as well, with some nectar and pollen, then some barley water, touches of aniseed, a little hay and, maybe, two or four pieces of charcoal. Mouth: Balvenie! Mirabelles, apricots, oranges, watermelon, vanilla, acacia honey and then a dash of white pepper and cinnamon. Excellent body at this perfect strength. Finish: long, maybe a tad sugary, with some custard, touches of litchis, pears and pineapples (youth!) and just a little white pepper. Tangerines in the aftertaste. Comments: a sweet baby that I enjoy a lot. I think this is much nicer and more interesting than most 'finished' or 'doubled-tripled-quadrupled' versions. Just my opinion! SGP:641 - 87 points.

Glen Grant 'Five Decades' (46%, OB, +/-2013)

Glen Grant 'Five Decades' (46%, OB, +/-2013) Four stars Bottled in celebration of the 50th year at the Distillery of the very engaging Dennis Malcolm. There's whisky from 5 decades, from the 1960s (little, I guess) to the 2000s (a lot, I guess). Let's see... Colour: straw (little old whisky, I suppose). Nose: I have to say I like this, whether it's old 'on average' or not. It's surprisingly phenolic and waxy, although the garden fruits (pears, apples, peaches) are all well there. Barley wine, many nuts (especially fresh hazelnuts), whiffs of (unused) engine oil, almond oil... It's relatively firmer than expected and, above all unsherried. Well, if there's some sherry, then there's very little. Mouth: soft and fruity, it's all like fruit juice with some barley sugar and a little vanilla. Cane sugar, custard, more apple juice, sweet 'iced' cider like our Canadian cousins make, touches of sweet muscat wine... It's ripe and yet it's full of youth - not unlike the excellent Mr. Malcolm! Finish: of medium length, even more on sweet cider and juicy apples. Comments: it's interesting that a master blender/distiller would compose a cuvée that's so close to the barley. Pleasantly against the general trend! SGP:631 - 85 points.

How about something really old?

Tomintoul 46 yo 1967/2013 (40%, Samaroli for Switzerland, cask #5417, 250 bottles)

Tomintoul 46 yo 1967/2013 (40%, Samaroli for Switzerland, cask #5417, 250 bottles) Five stars This newish bottle bears Samaroli's famous line that I enjoy so much, 'refined inside the bottle since July 2013'. Just like yours truly, Mr. Samaroli believes in bottle ageing. Colour: gold. Nose: not all very old Tomintouls are great in my experience, many are lacking depth, but this one's an exception. Imagine a huge fruit salad with bananas and pineapples playing first fiddles and peaches, melons and guavas, all that in a kind of sauce made out of honey, olive oil and drops of old Sauternes. Almost forgot almond oil. Having said that, all that isn't really huge so let's hope this old baby won't collapse on the palate... Mouth: no, it doesn't collapse and the oak did not take over. There's this feeling of fruit salad again, toped with the same oils and honeys. These Tomintouls have actually something Irish in my opinion, they're almost pure pot still whiskeys. I also enjoy these touches of rosehip tea, honeysuckle, bananas again... Good 'sustain' considering the age and the strength, even if it never becomes 'wide', like all these old Tomintouls. Finish: not short! Same flavours, slightly overripe fruits, pineapples, bananas, maybe a little mint, argan oil... Honeydew in the aftertaste. Comments: this baby's quite 'multi-miraculous'. Not quite fragile, not too oaky, not weak, not too old... For all that it deserves one or three extra-points in my little book! SGP:531 - 90 points.



Block Today: WORLD FOLK. Performer: Féloche and his mandoline. Track: Silbo. Please visit Féloche's website and buy his music...

October 21, 2013


Cock-and-bull trio No.1, Tamdhu, Edradour, Longmorn

We're now in very high season, new whiskies are issued every day (yeah, thrice a day) and it's becoming difficult to organise very structured sessions as I like to do, because that would mean tasting many new whiskies when they're not new at all anymore. So Instead of verticales or horizontales, we'll simply pick new whiskies at random in these sessions. You may expect some incoherence and a few inconsistencies...

Tamdhu 33 yo 1980/2013 (55,7%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles)

Tamdhu 33 yo 1980/2013 (55,7%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, bourbon hogshead, 132 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: big and spicy, starting with notes of cedar wood, menthol and plum pie, then cigar humidor (agreed, that's partly cedar wood) and freshly sawn fruit tree, such as cherry wood. Also touches of lilies, dandelions, green bananas and mead. With water: a little wax, putty and plasticine, which works very well. The rest remains the same. Mouth (neat): very nervous, typically old Tamdhu with its half-tropical, half-western fruitiness (say mangos and peaches). Apple peelings, a little fudge and a return on ripe kiwis and gingerbread. There's a lot happening in this one. With water: excellent, Linzertorte and orange marmalade plus several herbal teas. Finish: long and zestier, which is always welcome. Lemon and tangerine liqueurs, touches of ginger. Comments: superb and it swims particularly well. Do not forget to add water! SGP:551 - 89 points.

And now something a little unlikely, an Edradour that was distilled by the previous owners (the make has much improved in recent years) and then finished in sweet white wine.

Edradour 18 yo 1993/2012 (52.7%, OB, Sauternes cask finish, cask #8/737/4, 203 bottles)

Edradour 18 yo 1993/2012 (52.7%, OB, Sauternes cask finish, cask #8/737/4, 203 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: deep gold. Nose: no sulphur. This is important, because if you don't specifically ask for some 'untreated' barriques, those will reek of rotten eggs, gas or cooked cabbage and you'll have to thoroughly rinse them. No such things these days at Edradour, they use 'untreated' wine casks. So, this is all on ripe plums, pies and jams, honeycomb, apricots and various fruit jellies. Even old Edradour's usual 'dirty soapiness' (indeed, an oxymoron) doesn't show at all. So, nice nose! Withy water: a little less nice, there are whiffs of old cardboard or newspapers and quite a lot of paraffin. Mouth: a tad unlikely because the grassy/farmy malt and the sweet wine do clash a bit at first sips, but all that tends to mingle together. Peppered plum pie? It's certainly a little leathery. With water: swims much, much better on the palate than on the nose. Plenty of sweet apricots and plums. Finish: medium length. Plum jam galore! Comments: in theory, I should not like this but it's got something charmingly... unlikely. To be nosed neat and sipped reduced. A funny dram. SGP:651 - 84 points.

While we're more or less at Signatory's...

Longmorn 17 yo 1996/2013 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #72321, 620 bottles)

Longmorn 17 yo 1996/2013 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #72321, 620 bottles) Five stars Usually G&M are at it with these big phat sherried Longmorns but this time it's Signatory. Colour: coffee with red hues. Nose: it's a dry one, with a lot of coffee indeed, touches of resinous wood (thuja?), quite some cough mixture, herbs and teas (wormwood and verbena), slightly heady whiffs of  flowers (peonies, lilac) and then more cognac-like notes, chocolate, prunes... In short, classic and flawless. The herbal side lifts it a bit. With water:  more orange zests, leather and green tobacco. No gunpowder (since you were about to ask, weren't you!) Mouth (neat): thick, liqueury, oily and jammy. The good news is that these herbal and mentholated touches that are back make it quite fresh. Raspberry ganache, fruitcake, wee touches of mustard, lemon-Schweppes (I know, I know) and maybe a few Turkish delights. Moroccan spice mix for tagines ;-). With water: really excellent. Jams and high-end sangria. Finish: long, always very jammy. Seville oranges. Don't I detect a little rosemary in the aftertaste? Comments: perfect. And now, let's let some bottles further mature 'in glass' for a few years, to round this off. See you in 2053! SGP:551 - 90 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Joe Henderson. Track: Bess, You Is My Woman. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 20, 2013


Malternatives, two aged aquavits

Our first tasting notes for aged aquavit, and maybe our last, we’ll see. By definition, aquavit is fairly neutral spirit (grains or potatoes) that’s flavoured with caraway and/or dill, which may then be redistilled and then aromatised with other herbs and/or spices. As I understand it, it can be aged in wood or not. Oh, by the way, I’ve been asked what I was considering as a ‘malternative’. Well, in my book it can be either any spirit that’s aged in wood (brandies, rums, tequilas anejo, calvados or any other aged eau-de-vie such as, indeed, matured aquavit) or unaged spirit that shares obvious ‘organoleptical’ similarities with whisky, such as good white mescals or gentians. Capiche? But let’s try these aquavits if you please…

Dreiling Aqua Vitae (38,3%, OB, Kreuzritter, aquavit, Germany, +/-2013)

Dreiling Aqua Vitae (38,3%, OB, Kreuzritter, aquavit, Germany, +/-2013) This is distilled from grains (wheat, rye and spelt), infused with herbs and spices and then matured for eight years in oak. The proprietors claim that it's 'premium', but what isn't these days? Colour: gold. Nose: wah! It’s sweet, it’s liqueury and the caraway’s really huge. To me it smells like caraway liqueur. Not that I don’t enjoy caraway, but well… Other than that there’s quite some lemon as well as a little citronella, angelica and then more and more aniseed. Balance is found after five minutes, once the caraway’s getting a little more discreet. I don’t seem to find any ‘grains’ in there but it’s a fresh, clean, pleasant nose that may call for ice. Mouth: well, it’s fine stuff, you just have to like caraway indeed, because it’s quite dominant and it would not go away this time. There’s a little sugar too, various bitter herbs (drops of Campari), cinchona, bitter oranges. Yeah, I’m sure this would be quite good on ice and it would even hint at some mojito with a lot of crushed mint. Not much body, though. Finish: quite long and very herbal. Sweetish aftertaste. Comments: nah, this is no real malternative. It’s a loyal and honest drink, no doubt, but I feel it’s more sweet caraway liqueur than ‘aged spirit’. You just have to love that, I guess. As for the use of wheat, rye and spelt, that may have been a little superfluous in my humble opinion. SGP:770 – around 65 points?

Linie (41,5%, OB, Arcus, aquavit, Norway, +/-2013)

Linie (41,5%, OB, Arcus, aquavit, Norway, +/-2013) Two stars It seems that all batches always spend quite some months on ships and have to cross the Equator to deserve the name 'Linie' (line). It's a nice concept that we've already seen with cognac and even whisky. Colour: straw. Nose: this is ten times less expressive than the Dreiling, I may have had to have it as #1 but as it’s stronger in alcohol, I had thought I was right. Ahem. Having said that, the caraway/cumin is even bigger, proportionally, to the point where I do not get anything else, or not much. Maybe a little wood smoke? Juniper? A wee feeling of gravel as well? Mouth: we’re closer to the Dreiling, and I actually like this Norwegian better on the palate, it’s pretty cleaner and less sweet, even if it’s probably less complex. Once again, the caraway is loud but I’m sure you could get used to it ;-). Finish: quite long, with more lemongrass this time. Quite some aniseed in the aftertaste and should you have the memory span of a goldfish, you would think you just had a pastis or an ouzo. Comments: I’m sure this is very good on ice. I’ll try when I have time. Maybe. SGP:571 - around 70 points.

Right, those aquavits were quality drinks but I think I’ll stick with unflavoured spirits with my malternative tastings. Thanks for your understanding. But wait a minute! Don’t we Alsatians distil caraway too? In fact the Alsatians would distil just anything (we even make whisky) so why not caraway? It’s actually called ‘cumin’ here but it’s well caraway aka cumin from the fields (carum carvi). Caraway abounds in eastern France. To make some eau-de-vie, the plant's seeds are first macerated in neutral spirit (usually apple), the result being then redistilled, usually in Holsteins. It’s sold unaged but as always, the best makers will mature white eau-de-vie in demijohns for quite a few years. Let’s have two today, just for fun. They do not belong to our ‘malternatives’, we’re much too far from whisky. Both spirits will be pure ‘cumin’, without any other plants or fruits. Or grains for that matter.

Cumin (40%, OB, G. Miclo, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2013)

Cumin (40%, OB, G. Miclo, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2013) Two stars Colour: white. Nose: caraway everywhere. Only caraway. This smells just like a large bag of caraway seeds, so it’s a very dry, very austere spirit. Maybe also a little freshly ground coffee? Mouth: much sweeter, this feels like some sugar had been added at some point. The caraway seeds are loud again, there’s a little dust, touches of bitter chocolate, a little lemongrass… I have to say it’s quite good once you got used to all this caraway. I guess this would go well with strong cheese such as Munster. Finish: rather long because of all this caraway. Lemony/zesty aftertaste. Comments: I think, after all, that is some very fine eau-de-vie. It grows on you. SGP:280 – no score

Cumin (43%, OB, René de Miscault, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2013) (50pt)

Cumin (43%, OB, René de Miscault, eau-de-vie, Alsace, +/-2013) Picture, same label, only for kirsch instead of cumin. Colour: white. Nose: of course, caraway seeds everywhere again but this one is a little ‘wider’, a little less dry. Maybe there’s even a little fresh almond, touches of flowers (maybe roses?) but sadly, also a soapiness that sneaks in, which gives the whole a rather junipery side after a moment. Not too sure I like this. Mouth: sweeter and soapier than the Miclo, this is actually very extreme! Astringent and sugary at the same time, kind of acerbic… No, this is pretty excessive, not an easy one for sure, especially since the soapiness never stops growing. I feel I’ll soon start to blow bubbles out of my mouth… Finish: very long, very soapy. Comments: a kind of toothpaste? I enjoyed the nose but the palate is extremely difficult. More extreme than both Supernova and Octomore ;-). SGP:191 – no score

Oh hell, while we ‘re at it…

Schüttboden Kümmel (40%, OB, Thienelts, Germany, +/-2013)

Schüttboden Kümmel (40%, OB, Thienelts, Germany, +/-2013) one star and a half They call this 'Der Herren Likör' on the label, which means 'the men’s liqueur' or something like that. Good old teasers! Kümmel does mean 'liqueur flavoured with caraway' and it's very traditional in Germany. Colour: white. Nose: this is completely different again. Much lighter than the Alsatians, smokier as well, some sides aren’t too far from the Dreiling. There’s also a slight meatiness, around heavily smoked ham? It’s quite unique and not unpleasant at all. Much less ‘narrow’ than the pure cumin eaux-de-vie. I’m very curious about the palate… Mouth: woohoo, this is sweet! We’ll keep this short, this tastes like some limoncello with, indeed, a few caraway seeds. So more lemon than caraway. An easy liqueur, certainly not very manly if you ask me. Finish: quite long, with that smokiness again. We missed it in the arrival. Comments: no bad stuff for sure, more to my liking than pure limoncello. However, I think this should be taken on ice. We don’t score liqueurs – agreed, we shouldn’t even taste them. SGP:452 – no score



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Joe Maneri. Track: a freely soulful Nobody Knows. Please buy Joe Maneri's music...

October 18, 2013


Glen Garioch, ups and downs

Glen Garioch is a great distillate that went through several changes of styles over three or four decades, from heavy peat to coastal fruits via violets and, erm, lavender.  There are two interesting ones just out, one independent and one official, and for good measure we'll add a rare oldie to this short flight.

Glen Garioch 'Virgin Oak' (48%, OB, 2013)

Glen Garioch 'Virgin Oak' (48%, OB, 2013) Two stars After the Auchentoshan, here's another new malt by Morrison-Bowmore that's been matured in new American oak. Colour: dark gold. Nose: some sucrose right at first sniffs, some muscovado sugar, some vanilla, some spice mix for mulled wine, some ginger, some nutmeg, some cinnamon, probably quite some plum jam and that's pretty all. I find it impossible to recognise the distillery but the end result is pleasant so far, all on sweet and spicy oak. A new pack of speculoos. Mouth: creamy and peppery start, with a biting pepper that's similar to that of the Auchentoshan VO. Also plenty of ginger, strong green tea, more ginger, bitter chocolate and cinchona. Even the 'inherent' vanilla doesn't seem to manage to come through. Really lacks smoothness (I'd have never thought I'd write that one day). Finish: long and drying. The aftertaste is green and tannic, although there seems to be oranges somewhere. Comments: I'm wondering why the bourbons are never that tannic. Maybe a matter of charring? I'm glad there are many other - and excellent - official Glen Gariochs around these days. Oak can be a Scotch's best friend, or its worst enemy in my opinion. SGP:272 - 70 points (because, well, it's Glen Garioch!)

Glen Garioch 23 yo 1990/2013 (45%, Samaroli, cask #5874)

Glen Garioch 23 yo 1990/2013 (45%, Samaroli, cask #5874) Four stars and a half This one's brand new. Since the famous 1971s, Glen Garioch and Samaroli are two names that go well together. Colour: white wine. Nose: the exact opposite of the 'Virgin Oak', starting rather on fresh butter and porridge and developing on meadow flowers plus various tiny phenolic/greasy notes that give it a funny Longrowy profile. We're talking motor oil, soot, wet gravel, maybe ink, hay starting to ferment... It's even becoming a notch agavy - or should I say mezcaly? Naked and beautiful. Mouth: yes, this is excellent. There isn't any lavender left - while those from the 1980s could have some, we rather find several kinds of oranges (blood, bitter...) and a very peculiar grassiness, not to mention these wee sooty/tarry notes that are so enjoyable. Touches of salt as well. Finish: long, with more bitter oranges, lemon, tonic water (or even Campari) and a lingering peatiness. When bitterness is wonderful. Comments: big personality. It's challenging at times, but lovers of 'old sooty drams' should try this baby. Well done Samaroli! SGP:353 - 89 points.

Glen Garioch Highland 15 yo 1972 (60%, Slim Cowell’s Personal Selection II, +/-1987)

Glen Garioch Highland 15 yo 1972 (60%, Slim Cowell’s Personal Selection II, +/-1987) Five stars Bottled by owners Morrison-Howat for the excellent and much missed whisky enthusiast Slim Cowell. Please note that the label does not mention Glen Garioch, but it does mention the owners so we cannot be mistaken, can we? Colour: dark gold. Nose: waaah! Burning peat and cigars at first nosing, this is superb! It's well still from Glen Garioch's peaty times, it's almost Ardbeggy. No wonder, Slim Cowell was a fan of both Ardbeg and Glen Garioch. Goes on with big medicinal tones, antiseptic, camphor, then old pu-erh tea and dried kelp (always great news in my book) and this je-ne-sais-quoi that screams 'legend!' Immense whisky. With water: no no no, this is impossible. It couldn't have gotten even more entrancing. Mouth (neat): a blast! Huge, concentrated, camphory, orangy and peaty, this is one of the most medicinal peat monsters I could ever try. Litres of pinesap and pitch. With water: rounder, creamier, earthier... Please call the anti-maltoporn brigade, thanks. Insane whisky. Finish: absolutely endless. Smoked marmalade, touches of lime, tar... And hundreds of tinier flavours. Comments: one of the ugliest labels ever (made on a Commodore or a Sinclair?) on one of the most brilliant bottles of malt ever. Doesn't that say something? Anyway, my respects, Mr. Cowell. SGP:467 - 95 points.

(with many, many thanks to Hubert)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Duke Pearson. Track: a very delicate and delicious Little Waltz. Please buy Duke Pearson's music...

October 17, 2013


Tasting high strength Glenmorangie

Not many new ones around, and the independent bottlers don't get many - if any - so the Glenmo shelves at WF Towers are almost empty. I wrote 'almost' because we still had these two babies...

Westport 15 yo 1997/2013 (52.5%, The Whisky Barrel, Burn's Malt, bourbon hogshead, cask #3299)

Westport 15 yo 1997/2013 (52.5%, The Whisky Barrel, Burn's Malt, bourbon hogshead, cask #3299) Four stars If I'm not mistaken, Westport is the name of 'teaspooned' Glenmorangie, like say Williamson is the name of Laphroaig. Whether the teaspooning's really happening of if it's just a matter of papers, I'm not sure. What's sure is that officially, this is a blended malt. Colour: straw. Nose: typical bourbony Glenmorangie, with varnish, bubblegum, vanilla and broken branches right at first nosing, then a rather long development on fresh mint leaves, a little anise, green bananas and a whole bag of apples plus some beer and cider. It's a style that's instantly recognisable. With water: same, just smoother. Ah, smoothness... (that was useful, S.!) Mouth (neat): big and hot, crisp, well in line with the nose. Chlorophyll-flavoured bubblegum, curry, vanilla, cloves, nutmeg (big) and apples. A pleasant bitterness. With water: all rounder, sweeter and fruitier. Many tinned fruits, pears, apricots... I often find apricots in Glenmorangie. Sweet barley. Finish: quite long, a notch spicier again. Quite some cinnamon. Comments: excellent, 'a good example of the make', as they say. I like the natural, unseasoned side of it. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Glenmorangie 10 yo 1981/1992 'Natural Strength' (59.2%, OB, cask #946)

Glenmorangie 10 yo 1981/1992 'Natural Strength' (59.2%, OB, cask #946) Four stars Never tried this big old baby before. Colour: straw. Nose: similar and different at the same time. The base is the same (beer, cider, apple juice, vanilla) but the upper layer contains more caramel, café latte, fudge and then moist tobacco, tea and earth. It's a little bigger but that may come from the higher strength. With water: lovely, the earth and the tobacco are taking over, which comes unexpected. It's even a little mineral and smoky! Mouth (neat): huge, fruity and malty. Some kind of apple eau-de-vie? That's the very high strength, it's very strong whisky. So, with water: pure sweet barley in all its glory, with some mint-flavoured tea and drops of lemon juice for good measure. It's very crisp and pure. Finish: long, a notch grassier. Comments: even more au naturel than the Westport, but it's also a little simpler. Very good nonetheless. I mean, to my liking (I'm sorry, Mother). SGP:551 - 85 points.

BONUS: Republished tasting notes
Just like Macallan have already done several times in the past, this year Glenmorangie have rebottled/repackaged 50 bottles of their famous 22 yo 1963. The original bottle used to sell for around £600/800€ at auctions but the new 'reworked' bottle is sold for approx double that price (while quite unsurprisingly, some retailers seem to have have taken this opportunity to raise the prices for the old one as well.) Look, if the Distillers can rebottle whisky, I can republish some tasting notes, since the whisky's the same ;-)...

Glenmorangie 22 yo 1963 (43%, OB, one year Oloroso finish)

Rebottled Glenmorangie 22 yo 1963 (43%, OB, one year Oloroso finish) Five stars I believe this is one of, or maybe the earliest example of wine finishing made by Glenmorangie, as this nice baby was bottled around 1985 (obviously). Proof that wine finishing isn’t only a recent marketing stunt. It’s said to be quite rare and certainly expensive but I’ve seen that it’s available at several online retailers’ these days. Colour: deep gold. Nose: absolutely no Oloroso-ish nose, rather the same kinds of notes as in the new 18, only with much more oomph and expressiveness. Develops on more orangey notes (blood oranges, also pink grapefruit – not only because of the colour!), hints of pu-erh tea, something very pleasantly herbal (sorrel? Coriander?) and finally quite some stewed fruits that may hint a bit at sherry indeed. High quality, complex and fresh, reminding me a bit of the neighbouring Balblairs. Faint chalkiness and maybe a little sandalwood. Mouth: once again, this is much richer than the 18 but the profile is also rather different this time. Many more fruits including tropical ones (pineapples), a perfect oak, sweet spices, apricots, hints of tinned litchis and maybe Muscat wine, a little nutmeg… Quite superb, this combination of freshness and richness works very well (nope, I don’t think that’s antinomical). Finish: long, with more spices kicking in but the freshness remains. Comments: great, complex dram. No wonder they went on doing finishings after this success. SGP:561 – 91 points. (originally published on June 15, 2010)

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



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October 16, 2013


Aren't the warriors a little tired?

More Nordic gods or warriors or whatever from Highland Park. I absolutely love HP and the people in the company, but this is becoming a little boring, if I may. What's more, these are no-age-statement bottlings and all at 40%. So, are these warriors toothless? Let's see...

Highland Park 'Svein' (40%, OB, travel retail, 1l, 2013)

Highland Park 'Svein' (40%, OB, travel retail, 1l, 2013) Two stars and a halfColour: light gold. Nose: light, malty and honeyed. Maybe a few vegetables and touches of earth, a little vanilla too, whiffs of wood smoke, oranges, some mint... Not unpleasant, even quite elegant, just rather light. As always with these light whiskies, the nose can be very nice but the palate might be weak and flat. Let's see... Mouth: not a lot happening. Some slightly bitter notes, ginger, tonic water, something slightly burnt, orange marmalade, burnt cake, malted coffee... The middle is a little too weak, which makes the whole experience even flatter. Finish: very short, malty. Touches of smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: I've never met that Svein guy personally, but he mustn't have been a big guy. The whisky's quite good but I feel it's been murdered when reduced (while other HPs can remain big and fulfilling, even at 40% vol.) SGP:342 - 77 points.

Highland Park 'Einar' (40%, OB, travel retail, 1l, 2013)

Highland Park 'Einar' (40%, OB, travel retail, 1l, 2013) Two stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: not big either but there's more happening, this one has more HighlandParkness, with touches of camphor and menthol on top of the heather honey, orange cake, maple syrup and cigarette tobacco. Delicate and rather complex. I especially like the notes of ripe mirabelles that appear after ten minutes. Maybe also a little smoked tea? Mouth: I like this a little better, it's more honeyed and has more body. Jams and dried fruits plus honey and gingerbread. Less smoke than in Svein. Finish: very short and, once again, maltier. Comments: so yeah, it's very light but I liked it a little better than Svein, it's a notch more satisfying. SGP:431 - 79 points.

Highland Park 'Harald' (40%, OB, travel retail, 70cl, 2013)

Highland Park 'Harald' (40%, OB, travel retail, 70cl, 2013) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: the oak's a little more apparent at first nosing, as well as the raisins. Vanilla, sponge cake, honey, oranges, cinnamon, then a little earth again, maybe a little eucalyptus? Old wine cellar. Same global feeling, it's an elegant malt but it's light. Mouth: much more happening despite the same strength. Granted, some rather active oak seems to be doing the job but I like this vanilla, the raisins, the honeydew and the light smoke. More like it, but it's no big dram either and the middle's even a little watery, in a way. Finish: short. Honey sauce, wee touches of salted liquorice and a maltier aftertaste. Comments: light, easy and loyal. Having said that, I couldn't help noticing that many brands are trying to sell weak 'travel retail only' expressions these days. Buying at airports is becoming more a handicap than a privilege. SGP:441 - 81 points.

Bonus, another one bearing a weapon (tasted apart)

Highland Park 1997/2010 'Sword' (43%, OB, for Taiwan)

Highland Park 1997/2010 'Sword' (43%, OB, for Taiwan) Four stars and a half This baby used to be sold for around 60 Euros but we're now seeing it at merchants' for more than 200. Colour: amber. Nose: very round, aromatic, on soft sherry, with plenty of toasted brioche, the trademark heather honey, toffee, milk chocolate and then a little more marmalade. It's very typical, very HP. After ten minutes, wee touches of peat smoke and liquorice. Very pleasant soft nose. Mouth: in keeping with the nose, starting with honey and toasted bread as well as vanilla fudge and toffee. Good body, the 43% vol. make it easy but rather firm. Also dried figs, raisins, touches of liquorice again as well as this discreet peatiness. The spices remain soft and kind of rounded. Finish: a good length at this strength, with more toffee and heather honey. Chocolate and raisins. Perfect sherry integration. Comments: excellent, very typical. Reminds me of much older bottlings of HP. SGP:552 - 88 points. (many thanks, Ho-cheng)

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback



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October 15, 2013


Tasting five black Glendronach

Well not quite black but yes, Glendronach again. They are stealing the show, last time absolutely all bottlings fetched 90+ in my book and I can tell you I've not been indulgent. I don't think that could happen again but you never know, let's see...

Glendronach 10 yo 2002/2013 (52.8%, OB for The Whisky Fair, Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon, cask #710, 665 bottles)

Glendronach 10 yo 2002/2013 (52.8%, OB for The Whisky Fair, Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon, cask #710, 665 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber. Nose: old Demerara and strong armagnac on a bed of leather, tobacco and flints. Say 20% rum and 80% armagnac. In fact, it's not whisky (of course it is) but the end result is lovely. Loads of prunes and raisins, then honey sauce, dried porcinis and toasted bread. With water: no changes, maybe it even becomes a little narrower, like on rum/raisins. Mouth (neat): it's really amazing how close we are to armagnac. I've just tasted a whole bunch and I think this Glendro wouldn't have been spotted as an intruder - when tasted blind of course. It's got this typical sweetness, oranges, bags of prunes, black raisins, a touch of coffee liqueur... Then this dryness that can also be found in armagnac, a kind of green grapiness... With water: swims very well. Some mint coming out, more raisins, a little maple syrup... Finish: long, remaining very clean, which isn't always the case with heavily sherried malts. Old sweet wine from the South of France (but of course). Comments: maybe I'm nitpicking but it's lacking just a little extra-complexity to deserve 90 in my humble book. It's a very lovely bottle for sure. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (52.3%, OB for The Whisky Agency, Oloroso Sherry Butt, cask #4, 664 bottles)

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (53.6%, OB for The Whisky Agency, Oloroso Sherry Butt, cask #4, 664 bottles) Five stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: not armagnacqy this time, this is more oriental in a way, with whiffs of incense and sandalwood, a large plate of oriental pastries (honey, rosewater, orange blossom) and then a little bacon, pipe tobacco, cigars, humus and old Rivesaltes. Pretty unbeatable, I'd say, what I especially like is the fact that it's not heady at all, and pretty elegant. With water: yeah yeah yeah, more mushrooms, old cellar and such. Old books. Mouth (neat): perfect, even if a little hot at first sips. What's striking is the way it does not become sweet, and yet there's a big sweetness. In fact the spices and herbs are balancing the sweet fatness to perfection. Coffee beans, cinnamon, cloves and ginger plus oranges and maraschino. It's kind of 'obvious', in a great way. With water: oh! Curries and chocolates plus tobaccos and mints. Kind of irrefutable. Finish: superbly dry, maybe not the longest ever but it's perfect, clean and even fresh. After Eight Mints, only much better. Comments: I think these 1993s have already become classics. This one's just another stunning example. Probably future legends, they just need a few extra-years in glass to become a notch smoother and to reach total stardom. SGP:462 - 92 points.

Glendronach 22 yo 1990/2013 (52.1%, Silver Seal)

Glendronach 22 yo 1990/2013 (52.1%, Silver Seal) Five stars Colour: light mahogany. Nose: this one's drier, more mineral, more austere... There's more dark chocolate, maybe a little raspberry jam, some Spanish ham, dried porcinis again, more chocolate, balsamic vinegar, even more chocolate... We're at a chocolate maker's and this is wonderful! Black truffles after fifteen minutes - but no, no sulphur at all. With water: maybe it's becoming a wee notch cardboardy? That's all the dark chocolate... Mouth (neat): big sherry, with even medicinal touches. Raisins, orange marmalade, liquorice, cough mixture and always plenty of chocolate. Excellent again. With water: we're in old wine territories, with a great herbal side that keeps growing. Mint, dill, even chives, thyme... Finish: long, between chocolate and those herbs. Comments: careful with water, a few drops work perfectly but too much water lets some dry tannins come out. Anyway, it's another superb sherried Glendronach. I think we'll try to organise a little unsherried session one day. SGP:362 - 90 points.

Glendronach 22 yo 1990/2013 (52.2%, Jack Wiebers, Great Ocean Liners, cask #3058, 167 bottles)

Glendronach 22 yo 1990/2013 (52.2%, Jack Wiebers, Great Ocean Liners, cask #3058, 167 bottles) Five stars Colour: light mahogany. Nose: not far from the Silver Seal. Maybe not strictly identical but very similar, this one's maybe just a notch rounder. Say there's a little more cherry, guignolet, maybe even 'ideas' of a heavy amarone. Same developments with water. Mouth (neat): indeed, it seems that it's a little sweeter, again with added notes of cherry liqueurs. Actually, it is a little liqueury. With water: yeah, very similar, the tiny nuances, such as this one being maybe a notch more metallic, may come from the fact that I couldn't add exactly the same amount of water (why oh why haven't Apple invented the iPipette yet instead of new phones coloured like beach sandals?) Finish: long and lovely. Maybe a little plum juice. Comments: not much to say. Kings of sherry. SGP:362 - 90 points.

Glendronach 42 yo 1971/2013 (44.6%, OB, Bacth 8, Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon, cask #1246, 432 bottles)

Glendronach 42 yo 1971/2013 (44.6%, OB, Bacth 8, Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon, cask #1246, 432 bottles) Five stars Colour: coffee. Nose: get-out-of-here! All fruits, especially dried ones, all liqueurs, all jams and all flowers. That was quick. Let's only hope we'll find a few tiny flaws in the palate, or this will become deadly boring... Mouth: no it's not perfect, but the tiny flaws it's got are like beauty spots on a lovely lady. I especially love the very deep notes of Asian plum wine, the one that the Koreans make if I'm not mistaken. That's just an example, there are hundreds of them and we haven't gotten all day, have we? Finish: yes, plums, zwetschke, mirabelles, maybe also Japanese red bean cake... Whatever. Comments: I don't think those notes were much needed, everybody knows this is pretty brilliant whisky. A waste of kilobytes, I tell you. Having said that, I tend to like most 1972s even better. SGP:551 - 92 points.

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




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October 2013 - part 1 <--- October 2013 - part 2 ---> November 2013 - part 1



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Caol Ila 18 yo 1995/2013 (57.5%, Wilson & Morgan, sherry butt, cask #10027)

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (53.6%, OB for The Whisky Agency, Oloroso Sherry Butt, cask #4, 664 bottles)

Glendronach 22 yo 1990/2013 (52.1%, Silver Seal)

Glendronach 22 yo 1990/2013 (52.2%, Jack Wiebers, Great Ocean Liners, cask #3058, 167 bottles)

Glendronach 42 yo 1971/2013 (44.6%, OB, Bacth 8, Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon, cask #1246, 432 bottles)

Glen Garioch Highland 15 yo 1972 (60%, Slim Cowell’s Personal Selection II, +/-1987)

Glen Grant 59 yo 1954/2013 (53.5%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, Book of Kells, first fill sherry butt, 120 bottles)

Rebottled Glenmorangie 22 yo 1963 (43%, OB, one year Oloroso finish)

Longmorn 17 yo 1996/2013 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #72321, 620 bottles)

Teaninich 29 yo 1983/2013 (57.5%, Signatory Vintage, refill butt, cask #8071, 471 bottles)

Tomintoul 46 yo 1967/2013 (40%, Samaroli for Switzerland, cask #5417, 250 bottles)