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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2014 - Part 1

September 2014 - part 2 <--- October 2014 - part 1 ---> October 2014 - part 2


October 14, 2014


Two 18 years old Allt-A-Bhainne
plus bonus

I’m really having a fondness for underdogs such as Allt-A-Bhainne, not only because no two bottlers are writing the name in the same way. Check the hyphens…

Allt A Bhainne 18 yo 1992/2010 (46%, Milroy's of Soho, cask #2271000025, 350 bottles)

Allt A Bhainne 18 yo 1992/2010 (46%, Milroy's of Soho, cask #2271000025, 350 bottles) one star and a half I haven’t seen anything by Milroy’s since quite some years. This is an older bottle. Yup, no typo in the cask number. Colour: straw. Nose: paraffin, sunflower oil, waxed paper, fresh butter, barley, mashed potatoes, white bread, marshmallows. I wouldn’t say the ‘cask with a long number’ has been extraordinarily active. Mouth: barley, yeast and oak. I know, that’s the whole point, but a little more ‘interplay’ would have been welcome. I do enjoy the notes of orange sweets that come out after one minute, though. Finish: medium length. Sweets coated with sawdust. Comments: its not very often that I come across such weakish single malts (anymore – there were more twelve years ago – and stellar ones as well). Enough said. An opinion anyway. SGP:341 - 68 points.

Allt-A-Bhainne 18 yo 1995/2014 (48%, Distiller's Art, 301 bottles)

Allt-A-Bhainne 18 yo 1995/2014 (48%, Distiller's Art, 301 bottles) Two stars and a half A new series by Langside Distillers, that is to say now Hunter Laing if I’m not mistaken. Colour: pale gold. Nose: more. More hay, more tobacco, more earth, more menthol… And in the background, the same notes of mashed potatoes, barley, butter and oil. More vanilla too, a touch of sweet and rich Belgian beer. The cask was more active, obviously. Mouth: proof that a better cask makes better whisky. The distillate isn’t any more stellar (rather yeasty/mashy) but in this case, the additional layer of sweet oak (vanilla and even banana) worked well, even if it feels a little too much, with a varnishy side. Finish: medium length. Oak and sweets and apple compote. Comments: I don’t think this is great, but it’s certainly better. As always, IMHO. SGP:451 - 78 points.

No whisky above 79 today, that’s a little embarrassing, I agree. Under WF’s unwritten and even unspoken rules, another try is de rigueur…

Allt-A-Bhainne 22 yo 1991/2013 (54%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, casks #90112+90115, 444 bottles)

Allt-A-Bhainne 22 yo 1991/2013 (54%, Signatory Vintage, hogshead, casks #90112+90115, 444 bottles) Three stars I think Signatory have always been good at selecting better versions of lesser single malts. Anybody can bottle a great Caol Ila, but a great Allt-A-Bhainne? Also, vatting two or three casks together may improve ‘mundane ones’ mucho, let’s check this one… Colour: pale gold. Nose: maybe that’s the higher strength, but this one’s instantly fuller, more coherent, more mature. The barley notes became sweeter and rounder, the vanilla got custardier, the yeasty/feinty/mashy notes have vanished and some fruits are coming out. Apricots, for example. With water: the mashed potatoes are back. Rather sweet potatoes. Plantains. Mouth (neat): another galaxy? Let’s not exaggerate, another planet. It’s full of sweets, jellybeans, marshmallows, crystallised lemon, peach syrup… And the mouth feel is almost perfect. Simple, but perfect. Hurray! With water: good sweet creamy fruity thing. All-fruit juice from a tin can. Finish: medium length, clean, fruity, easy, no-head-scratching malt whisky. Comments: simply pretty ‘good’. And you need an Allt-A-Bhainne in your bar, don’t you! SGP:641 - 82 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Allt-A-Bhainne I've tasted so far



Block Today: JAZZ ROCK. Performer: Lenny White. Track: Mating Drive. Please visit Lenny White's website and buy his music...

October 13, 2014


Two 21 years old Rosebank

Amazing weather in Alsace at time of writing, as often. Early October can be very sunny indeed, which is good for the wines. Some friends sometimes tell me that we’re lucky to have some late sun since we’ve got vineyards and I always answer that it’s precisely because we’ve got a lot of sun in autumn that we’ve got vineyards ;-). Which may bring us to these two summery babies…

Rosebank 21 yo 1990/2011 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask for Reifferscheid, refill barrel, cask #DL 6492)

Rosebank 21 yo 1990/2011 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask for Reifferscheid, refill barrel, cask #DL 6492) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: as zesty and mineral as Rosebank could be. There’s an austerity, but this flinty side is beautiful. Lemons and gunflints, limestone, then more mint and, indeed, riesling. Maybe touches of aspirin tablets, gravel, and just a little milk or dairy cream... A faint yeastiness. With water: I already experienced this phenomenon in the past with Rosebank, it gets chalky and inky, and even a little butyric. Maybe not the best swimmer ever. Mouth (neat): very, very zesty! Lemon drops and marmalade, limoncello, a grassy touch, a bit of white pepper and just one walnut. Uncomplicated but very Rosebank in its zesty narrowness. With water: once again water doesn’t do it much good. Slightly stale lemon juice. Finish: long, very zesty (without water). Comments: this baby doesn’t seem to like water too much, but otherwise, it’s a very fine Rosebank. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Rosebank 21 yo 1992/2014 (55.3%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak, 4530 bottles)

Rosebank 21 yo 1992/2014 (55.3%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak, 4530 bottles) Four stars and a half I had liked 2011’s 21 year old quite a lot (WF 88) but it wasn’t a lemon bomb. Colour: pale gold. Nose: a little more closed at first nosing, but that may come from the higher strength. I find it delicately fragrant, with meadow flowers, then rather oranges instead of lemons. A wee touch of earth and sawdust too, lemon curd, and then a very funny and certainly unexpected note of capsicum. With water: more humus, damp earth, mushrooms… No chalk this time. Also chamomile, aniseed and lemon balm. Nice development. Mouth (neat): thicker and richer again. Vanilla, barley sugar, ginger liqueur, then lemon juice and a little bitter grass. Raw malted barley. With water: excellent. Lemon and grapefruit syrup with some barley sugar and a touch of spearmint, then plums. Finish: long, clean, zesty, Rosebank. Comments: excellent. It’s maybe not a hugely complex spirit but if you enjoy citrus in your whisky, you’ll love it. SGP:651 - 88 points.

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



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October 10, 2014


WF 10000 medal

New young, new old and old old Jura
A mixed bag today, really. That is to say a strange NAS, an older wined one (not wined up!) and, if we can, a worthy digestif.

Isle of Jura 'Tastival' (44%, OB, Feis Ile 2014, 3000 bottles)

Isle of Jura 'Tastival' (44%, OB, Feis Ile 2014, 3000 bottles) Two stars and a half Aged in bourbon wood and finished in new French oak from several forests. Sounds a bit unlikely but let’s see what gives… Colour: full amber. Nose: the spicy oak feels a lot, this is almost one of these new young American craft whiskies, full of ginger, sloe and rye, then pumpernickel and other heavy breads. It’s a bit as if the very engaging people at Whyte and Mackay had just invented reverse ageing. Does it work with humans too? Mouth: thick, creamy, rye-y, bready, spicy, orangey and gingery. This is almost oak liqueur, not obligatorily in a bad way. Also cinnamon mints, marmalade, cassis jellybeans and liquorice allsorts. Fun but we’re rather far from Scotch malt whisky in my book. Finish: long, sweet and spicy. Christmas biscuits and strong gingerbread. Comments: well I guess you could do this with 3 years old malt whisky, as it’s really not about the distillate anyway. I don’t hate this, not at all, but I hope it’s not the future of Scotch. Reminds me a bit of ginger liqueur. SGP:641 - 78 points.

Isle of Jura 1984/2014 (44%, OB)

Isle of Jura 1984/2014 (44%, OB) Four stars and a half Another brand new one, bottled to commemorate George Orwell’s 1984, which was finished on Jura (not fully written there, apparently, contrarily to popular belief.) This baby will be out in November this year. Colour: deep amber. Nose: buries the Tastival, unsurprisingly. It’s got much more depth, roundness, flowers, honeys, softer spices, mellowness… And, above all, wonderful ripe tropical fruits. Old roses, mangos, orange blossom honey, rosewater, pipe tobacco, pineapple flambéed, very old Rivesaltes, a touch of chlorophyll and Vicks… I find this nose very complex, very civilised, and actually not very Orwellian (not very 1984 in any case.) Mouth: in keeping with the nose, with a welcome vinosity (vinosity isn’t often welcome in whisky IMHO), that is to say some cassis, zwetchke, rose jelly, pomegranates, cranberries… Then more oranges marmalade and ginger, as well as cloves and caraway seeds. That’s the style of many an old official Jura, I guess some wine casks have been involved at some point. Good body, just the right oomph. Finish: of medium length, floral and delicately fruit. Medlars? Only the aftertaste is a tad too winey for me. Walnuts. Comments: very well composed once again, probably one of my favourite recent ‘vinous’ whiskies. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Do we have room for a digestif?...

Jura 20 yo 1966/1986 (86 US Proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers Sacramento)

Jura 20 yo 1966/1986 (86 US Proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers Sacramento) Five stars That’s right, another glorious ‘Corti’. How fabulous will this baby be? Colour: full gold. Nose: whawawow! I know, that was childish at best, but the nose of a 20+40 (20 years in wood plus 40 years in glass, more or less) is just unbeatable. This is exceptionally complex, and yet it’s kind of compact, or at least extremely coherent. I utterly adore, for example, these sappy tones, or the many flowers and herbs, or the phenolic notes that will remind you of an old garage, full of vintage Ferraris and Astons (S., gee,  showing off again!) Old rubber, engine oils, leather, Bakelite, greasy steel, warm plastic, cardboard, concrete... It’s only after fifteen minutes that a wee touch of cardboard starts to make it a notch more… Human? Mortal? Normal? Mouth: this kills me. I do not like mantras such as ‘whisky was better in the old days’, but let’s face the facts, there are very few current bottlings that manage to reach this level of complexity. Okay, the latest/last official Broras, some Karuizawas… Other than that, zilch! But to get back to the subject, this is adorably medicinal and fantastically ‘quince-y’. Only wee flaw, the strength, it tends to lose steam a bit – and a few points. Finish: a wee bit shortish, but the flavours are superbly sappy. Comments: let’s go aboard WF’s time machine and go ask Mrs. Corti to choose higher strengths! 100 US proof will do. SGP:562 - 93 points.

(With thanks to caro Diego and caro Massimo)

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Archie Shepp and Dollar Brand. Track: Moniebah. Yeah go beat that Brora of jazz. Please visit their websites and buy their music...

October 9, 2014


WF 10000 medal

New Glenfiddich vs. new Balvenie
William Grant are extremely active these days, with new Balvenies, new Glenfiddichs, new Girvans, and new Kinninvies. And that’s just Scotland. Let’s have two new ones today, both similarly priced…

Glenfiddich 26 yo 'Excellence' (43%, OB, 2014)

Glenfiddich 26 yo 'Excellence' (43%, OB, 2014) Two stars and a halfA full ex-bourbon small batch, quite pricey I have to say (£340) but isn’t that becoming a poor mantra… Colour: straw. Nose: not particularly ‘old’, but certainly very Glenfiddich, with whiffs of fructose, ripe apples, then more white chocolate, sherbet, melons, yellow peaches and two drops of flower nectar. It’s really fresh, quite joyful, and very easy-nosing. The sugar is very obvious (or sweets, liquorice allsorts…) More lime after a few minutes. Very fresh. After ten minutes, it’s become a kind of hi-level applejack with drops of vanilla essence. Mouth: it’s funny that it would take off with ‘applejack’ and vanilla, but I find less freshness and clarity than in the nose. It’s also rather light despite the slightly spirity side, I also find notes of sweet ale, then marshmallows. Very fine for sure, but I feel that the 43% vol. aren’t quite enough with this kind of profile. Jelly babies, liquorice allsorts. Finish: rather short, sweet, a tad sugary. Vanilla-flavoured brioche. Comments: a light dram and I find it more sugary than fruity. May have worked better at 46% vol. – or with some sherry - but who am I? I may have missed a lot… SGP:431 - 78 points.

Balvenie 'Tun 1509' (47.1%, OB, batch #1, 2014)

Balvenie 'Tun 1509' (47.1%, OB, batch #1, 2014) Five stars This baby replaces the famous - and excellent – inceptions of Tun 1401. Less sherry, more bourbon, many more bottles, possibly a younger average age (I’m not sure at all)… and the same price or more. Why aren’t we surprised. Colour: amber. Nose: same price and same quality, this is embarrassingly successful yet again. Beehive, honey, wax, overripe apples and mangos, that kind of thing. Then old amoroso, heather honey, rose jelly, blood oranges, juicy sultanas, pollen… Gets more and more tertiary after two minutes, with cigars, pu-erh tea, earth after a summer rain. Disappointingly superb. I’d love to find bad things to write about these ‘Tuns’. Help me! Mouth: I’m afraid it works again. I’m highly disappointed. I’m about to write a letter to the Company. No, seriously, it’s a pretty perfect pack, and even if there’s a wee bit of drying oakiness/spiciness in the background, all the rest is singing loud and clear, with body and complexity. Oranges, honey, tobacco, coffee, mango chutney, a touch of ginger and even tonic water, pink grapefruits… All perfect. Almost forgot to mention ripe plums. Finish: long, with more oranges, stewed rhubarb and clove. Christmas is around the corner (hey?) Comments: the ‘good’ NAS way, IMHO. They’ve done it again, even if some batches of Tun 1401 may have been a little more ‘rich and wide’, and better polished. They could try to do a ‘Glenfiddich Tun’, with a bit of sherry (S., please!) SGP:641 - 90 points.



Block Today: BLUES ROCK. Performer: Buckwheat Zydeco. Track: When The Levee Breaks. Please visit their website and buy their music...

October 8, 2014


WF 10000 medal

Tasting the brand new Craigellachies
So there are new, relaunched yet ultra-retro official Craigellachies, and it’s time to try them, but first, let’s have a very naked young one as the aperitif. Naked according to its colour, at least…

Craigellachie 10 yo 2003/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10180)

Craigellachie 10 yo 2003/2014 (46%, Douglas Laing, Provenance, cask #10180) Three stars Colour: very pale white wine, so almost white. Nose: as bready, yeasty and beery as plain new make, so probably not totally mature, but I have to say I’m liking more and more these kinds of profiles. A new youngster that’s not ridden with new oak or wine, hurray! Also cider apples, a touch of mezcal, wholegrain bread, mashed celeriac, ale… Mouth: same. Sweet, grassy and spicy raw malted barley spirit – not exactly whisky, in fact – akin to pot still vodka, in a way. Again, I enjoy feeling the barley, although this kind of baby could be better on ice. In any case, it is a nice distillate, with some kind of fatness. Finish: long, with more fruits again, and certainly a grappa side. Or is that young marc de Bourgogne? Comments: not a wonder amongst the wonders, and it’s certainly too young, but yeah, it’s fun to try ‘white malt whisky’. Soon at the OBs? SGP:551 - 80 points.

Craigellachie 13 yo (46%, OB, 2014)

Craigellachie 13 yo (46%, OB, 2014) Two stars and a half You couldn’t make a label look more ‘retro’, could you! Unless you start using hieroglyphs or cuneiform alphabet. Colour: straw. Nose: it is a milder, rounder and sweeter version of the 2003, but the background is similar. Wee touches of mezcal again, a little earth, a little sulphur (spirit sulphur) that borders almondiness (what?), plenty of apples and then a few raisins and a touch of vanilla. It’s got a style, and that’s just great, even if it does nose a little young, almost as much so as the DL. Mouth: a few burnt notes in the attack, notes of distillation, cooked sugar and herbs… But it gets then cleaner, maltier and slightly smoky, with a bitterish edge. May lack a part of the DL’s vibrancy (as the pros say.) Finish: rather long, between candy sugar and this bitter side. Grapefruit skin. Comments: mixed feelings here. On the one hand, I find the honesty and the nakedness fantastic, it’s not botoxed whisky at all. On the other hand, I find it a little raw and bitter. Let’s try the older ones… SGP:451 – 79 points.

Craigellachie 17 yo (46%, OB, 2014)

Craigellachie 17 yo (46%, OB, 2014) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: not that far from the 13, but with even more roundness and probably more vanilla. Tarte tatin, almonds, paraffin, a wee medicinal side (eucalyptus?) and then more fresh oak, that is to say more vanilla and grated coconut. Newly sawn oak. I like. Mouth: same feeling, it hasn’t lost any of the 13’s ‘nervous sides’, and in fact it’s zestier, more lemony (artisan limoncello), maybe a little ala Rosebank, if you see what I mean. That’s an asset! Nice clean and fresh, I like this. The oak’s never ‘too much’ and just imparts sweeter notes of coconut again. Just a little, this is no pina colada at 46% vol. Maybe also just a wee touch of soap. Finish: of medium length, clean, fresh, lemony and malty. Comments: way above the 13 in my opinion. Beautiful freshness and it’s got plenty of character. Not ‘just any Speysider’, and to paraphrase Serge Gainsbourg, it is ‘loyal, honest and straight’. SGP:551 - 84 points.

Craigellachie 23 yo (46%, OB, 2014)

Craigellachie 23 yo (46%, OB, 2014) Five stars I’ve seen a price of £375 online, but that cannot not be a typo, whichever the quality. Colour: gold. Nose: right, we’re way above both the 13 and the 17, for sure. This is much more complex, with more herbs and tart fruits, kiwis, grapefruits, rhubarb, then tobacco and clay, marzipan, then more earth, citrons, old style mouthwash (we had one called Eau de Botot a long time ago), then a steely touch, metal polish… I have to say this baby noses older than 23, and once again I cannot not think of some great old Rosebank, such as the official 20yo white label. A great surprise. Mouth: good, this is really very good. Love the nutty/almondy character, the waxy mouth feel, all the lemons and grapefruits, the light peppery side, the evanescent medicinal profile (good antiseptic – should that exist), the touches of absinth and limoncello (again), the solid peppery backbone… Really high class! Finish: long, chiselled, like a great old dry chenin from a good house. Comments: an impressively zesty and yet fat profile, right between the northern style (Clynelish) and the southern one (Rosebank.) I love this style, especially since no oaky trick’s been played, apparently. Try to try this great new baby! SGP:561 - 91 points.

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Johnnie Taylor. Track: Where can a man go from here. Please buy his music...

October 7, 2014


WF 10000 medal

Tasting Japanese banknotes.
I mean, Hanyu.
It’s insane. Some of these bottles are going for £5,000 at auctions! But it’s true that they’re the final pieces of a puzzle. Yeah, imagine you’ve almost finished a 12,000-piece puzzle of The Matterhorn (right, or of Mount Fuji), and you’re just missing the tip. What would you do to get it? Anything!

Hanyu 1985/2014 The Joker 'Monochrome' (54.9%, OB, hogshead, cask #1024, 241 bottles)

Hanyu 1985/2014 The Joker 'Monochrome' (54.9%, OB, hogshead, cask #1024, 241 bottles) Four stars This one’s really fetching insane prices; at these age and recentness, it even kills Macallan. Greatly. Colour: amber. Nose: gasp, it’s true that this is great. Ichiro seems to have left the best till last! We have a typical Japanese oakiness, that is to say a lot of oak and yet perfect integration. Shortbread, an aluminium pan, a little patchouli, agave, quite some tobacco, then more dried fruits (figs, dates) and touches of Turkish delights, all that coated with polished oak, perhaps rosewood. Blood oranges, a little ginger… With water: I wouldn’t say it develops much further. Becomes a tad grassier, perhaps, with more tea tannins as well. Mouth (neat): very rich, oaky ‘the Japanese way’, spicy, zesty, citrusy… I find papayas, lime, lemon grass, goji berries, then more tobacco and ginger, marmalade… It’s still young, in a way, and very ‘nervous’. With water: the spices come out, and I find it a little drying and too spicy. Big cloves. Finish: long, dry, spicy. Chocolate and cloves. Comments: careful with water. Very good but I believe this is no £5000 whisky. This is a crazy world. SGP:462 - 86 points.

Hanyu The Joker 'Multicolour' (57.7%, OB, 3690 bottles, 2014)

Hanyu The Joker 'Multicolour' (57.7%, OB, 3690 bottles, 2014) Four stars A vatting of the 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 2000 vintages, from various wood types. Colour: dark gold. Nose: a lighter style after the Monochrome, with much more vanilla, as well as more earth and even humus. Hints of ale, then truffles, warm sawdust, bitter oranges and just a touch of warm milk, or mashed potatoes. Also touches of fern, moss… With water: whiffs of warm tarmac, more mashed potatoes, truffle oil… It may be a tad butyric. Mouth (neat): I have to say I like this palate even better than the Monochrome’s, it’s more complex, and earthier. I love earthy notes in my whiskies! Tobacco, soot, lime, papayas again, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, more earth… What’s not to like? With water: the essential oils stand out, pine resin, eucalyptus… I also find notes of cooked butter. Finish: long, better rounded than the monochrome. Christmas cake, gingerbread and cinnamon cake. Comments: I don’t find it perfect, but I liked it better than the monochrome. Come on! SGP:552 - 87 points.

Don’t we need a little more Hanyu?...

Hanyu 18 yo 1991/2009 (57.3%, OB, Whisky Live Tokyo, Japanese oak, cask #369)

Hanyu 18 yo 1991/2009 (57.3%, OB, Whisky Live Tokyo, Japanese oak, cask #369) Four stars This baby was bottled for Whisky Live’s tenth anniversary – was there already a Whisky Live in Tokyo in 1999? Colour: dark gold. Nose: simpler, cleaner, more polished, more focused, more modern. Oranges and raisins, then quinces and white chocolate, then sunflower oil, then vanilla. The oak’s less apparent than in both Jokers. With water: simple, compact, easy, nice. Agreed, that’s kindergarten whisky writing. A little menthol. Mouth (neat): full, compact, punchy, oaky, maybe a tad bitter. Chlorophyll, strong green tea, walnut wine. Oranges in the background, plus a tarry smokiness. With water: really does the job. Oranges and softish tea tannins plus a little liquorice and mint. Square. Finish: rather long, all on Christmas spices. When is Christmas again? Lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: pretty simple but flawless, this little sumotori really does the job. SGP:551 - 86 points.

(With thanks to Marlène)

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Baikida Carroll. Track: Legacies. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 6, 2014


Port Charlotte vs. Octomore Islay Barley

I had first planned to oppose Octomore Scottish barley to Octomore Islay barley, but I’m not sure trying to spot differences in whiskies that were distilled from super-heavily peated barley (200+ppm) in super-high stills, just because the terroir was different, makes much sense. So let’s rather try this…

PC Ilay

Port Charlotte 'Islay Barley' (50%, OB, 2014) Four stars and a half A very brand new bottling of Port Charlotte. Colour: white wine. Nose: writing that this noses like ‘a distillery on Islay’ would be an euphemism. In fact, it’s exactly like smelling a handful of kilned malted barley. And far behind that, in the distance, touches of wholegrain bread, ashes, coal smoke and a drop of clairin. You know, that Haitian white rum. A little petrol, perhaps. With water: straight, clean zesty, smoky, uncomplicated, to the point. And always this lovely bready side. Mouth (neat): speaking of clairin, there are indeed notes of big fat white rum in this, then more kippers, almonds, ashes and liquorice. And just one drop of lemon juice. Maraschino. A little acrid, but I like that. With water: full, vivid, clean, ashy, smoky. A great distillate. Finish: long and brinier. Comments: a wine malt. Character, essence, location, belonging. A ta santé, Mark. SGP:457 - 88 points.

Octomore 5 yo ‘Islay Barley – 06.3’ (XX%, OB, 2014)

Octomore 5 yo ‘Islay Barley – 06.3’ (64%, OB, 2014) Five stars 258ppm, if that rings a bell. The barley comes from John Brown’s farm at Octomore, so this baby’s akin to a ‘chateau’ in Bordeaux. In a way… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not the first time I find Octomore rather less peaty/smoky than Port Charlotte on the nose. It’s less expressive for sure, probably more mineral, and certainly a little earthier. Maybe my mind is playing tricks to me, but I’m kind of smelling whiffs of damp peat (which doesn’t smell much anyway, agreed.) Sour apples, moss, leaven (big)… With water: a cow stable! Enough said. Really, this smells like ‘at the farm’. Mouth (neat): less a feeling of ‘swallowing an ash tray’ than in earlier Octomores, but indeed this is very ashy. Those smoky ashes combine well with a sharp lemony side, creating a very clean feeling of smoked lemon-marinated dough. And then, some lovely notes of gentian. Hold on, gentian on Islay? With water: excellent. More than a stunt, really, and much more than an attention-grabber. I find this just superb and up there with the best mezcals or clairins. Finish: extremely long, with notes of caraway this time. And more smoke than from a double-corona. Comments: a distillate that has guts, if I may. Cojones. I know, I know… SGP:369 - 90 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Charlie Haden with Geri Allen & Paul Motian. Track: Silence. Please visit Charlie Haden's website and buy his music...

October 5, 2014


WF 10000 medal

A bag of Sunday rums including some new gems
Long time no rum! So since this is Sunday, let’s have a few again, especially a few new and better ones by the craziest Italians. But first, an aperitif, chosen completely at random…

Myers's Original Dark (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2014)

Myers's Original Dark (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2014) Two stars and a half A cheap one that I brought back from the USA a few months ago. Probably ridden with sugar, but ‘Jamaica’ is good enough a name for me. Colour: red mahogany. Nose: well it may have been sweetened, but the nose reeks of dunder and heavy olive-y Jamaican aromas. Some tar as well, tapenade, molasses, smoked tea and then, surprisingly, more and more black cherries and the jam made thereof. Just a touch of pencil shavings. So far, so good. Mouth: mixed feelings. The pleasant side is that there aren’t any sweetish notes, but on the other hand, it’s a little flat at first sips. Molasses, a touch of chocolate, liquorice, a bit of toffee, then this typical tarry side… Black olives… Finish: a notch short but still very ‘heavy Jamaican’. Comments: to my liking, considering its pedigree. With a slightly bigger mouth feel it would have made it to 80. SGP:552 – around 79 points.

Penny Blue XO (43.2%, OB, Berry Bros & Rudd, Mauritius, Medine distillery, batch #002, 7000 bottles)

Penny Blue XO (43.2%, OB, Berry Bros & Rudd, Mauritius, Medine distillery, batch #002, 7000 bottles) Three stars This single estate rum is blended by Doug McIvor, which just sounds like a seal of quality to my ears. Now, shall I like this style of rum? Colour: gold. Nose: it’s light, easy rum, but it’s also rather complex, delicate, with notes of bananas, pineapples and lilac. Whiffs of warm orange cake, pecan pie, discreet sugarcane, soft gingerbread… The opposite of a Jamaican, if I may, but the added complexity just lifts it. Mouth: sweet, easy, quality rum. The sweetness doesn’t make it lumpish or vulgar, not at all. Bananas flambéed, mangos, vanilla, light sugarcane, orange blossom water… It’s got something Martiniquan. Finish: of medium length, clean, tropical, easy, yet subtle. More orange blossom in the aftertaste. Comments: not exactly my style of rum, but one can feel that it’s been carefully blended by a maestro. I just can’t go below 80! SGP:731 – around 80 points.

Barbancourt 10 yo 2004/2014 (50%, Silver Seal, Haiti, cask #11, 333 bottles)

Barbancourt 10 yo 2004/2014 (50%, Silver Seal, Haiti, cask #11, 333 bottles) Four stars and a half I haven’t seen many independent Barbancourt so far. Agreed, I haven’t seen many rums anyway. Colour: straw. Nose: fab, just fab. It’s heavy style Haitian, full of olives, capers, tar, smoke, liquorice, hay, clay, mud, manure, horse dung, rotting tropical fruits, brine, seaweed… Just love it, my preferred style – coz I don’t take my rums lightly (diving to new lows, S.) Mouth: exactly right, exactly between a Caroni and a J.M., if you see what I mean. So a sweeter Caroni, or a more phenolic agricole. Closest style I could think of is Bellevue in Guadeloupe. Certainly firmer and hotter than the (very) few official Barbancourts I could try. Perfect sweet and tarry liquorice. Finish: long, with tons of liquorice and hectolitres of brine. A touch of salt and sweet marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: a very, very dangerous bottling. Lock it up and give the keys to your mother in law (unless she drinks, of course). SGP:673 - around 89 points.

Why wouldn’t we try another new young one by Silver Seal?...

Diamond 11 yo 2002/2014 (50%, Silver Seal, Guyana, cask #102, 223 bottles)

Diamond 11 yo 2002/2014 (50%, Silver Seal, Guyana, cask #102, 223 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark straw. Nose: oh, no! Another fatty phenolic tarry briny one, and this nose is even more brilliant than the Barbancourt’s. Maybe because of this superb earthiness? This is right on my money, enough babbling. Mouth: loses one or two points at this stage because of a slightly excessive sweetness (nitpicking again) but then, I find this unusual kind of lemony smokiness most interesting. The zests give it a slightly soapy side, but the phenols and essential oils keep roaring in the background. Notes of pine liqueur, or rather a blend of limoncello, pine liqueur and tar liqueur. This must be good for our health! Finish: long, syrupy and yet straight and superbly phenolic. Comments: I just can’t understand why the official El Dorados are so flabby while their independent counterparts can be so big and often majestic. Nah, I know the answer, the world likes and buys sugar. SGP:572 - around 88 points.

And now, something funny…

Diamond and Port Mourant 19 yo 1995/2014 (62.1%, Velier, Demerara, 564 bottles)

Diamond and Port Mourant 19 yo 1995/2014 (62.1%, Velier, Demerara, 564 bottles) Four stars and a half This is experimental rum, that is to say a vatting of Diamond and Port Mourant done at birth, that is to say before filling the casks. It was aged under the tropics, as usual. Colour: very dark amber. Nose: it’s funny that we’ve just mentioned El Dorado, because this baby noses a bit like some old El Dorado, only with more punch and less caramel. That means that it’s not very phenolic rum, and that I’m rather finding quite some toasted oak, cake, mocha, dried bananas and figs, coffee beans… And a very light smoke/tar. In a way, it’s rather gentle despite the lethal strength. With water: the best use of water ever. Old cigars, cedar wood, quality turpentine, earth, mushrooms, very old Bourgogne… Mouth (neat): heavier, fatter, hugely concentrated, with some incense, rose jelly, bitter oranges, liquorice (bags) and polished wood. A drop of cough syrup. With water: became very creamy, rich, honeyed, with also more smoky liquorice and even notes of caramelised kippers. Oh the horror – and yet this is superb. Finish: long, mentholated, rich, honeyed. Smoked bananas this time? Tarry marzipan? Comments: loves water. Oh and I like it that I’m sharing my initials with Diamond Distillery: <SV> (S., you bighead!) SGP:662 - around 88 points.

Wait, we’ve got another rare one that as blended at birth…

Enmore and Port Mourant 16 yo 1998/2014 (62.2%, Velier, Demerara, 848 bottles)

Enmore and Port Mourant 16 yo 1998/2014 (62.2%, Velier, Demerara, 848 bottles) Four stars Same kind of story, this is experimental. What’s even more interesting here is that both stills are wooden ones, Enmore wooden column still and Port Mourant wooden pot still. Colour: dark amber. Nose: hard to nose because of the high strength. Oranges, molasses and Mars bars? With water: menthol coming out, and more marmalade, liquorice, vetiver, coffee, pastis… In a way, this is a South-American Karuizawa. Not kidding. Mouth (neat): rich, powerful, on orange, ginger and sugarcane liqueurs. I need water again. With water: rich spicy wood, loads and loads of sweet liquorice, triple-sec, ginger liqueur, a few drops of Guinness, gingerbread, speculoos… Really creamy and really thick – and yet not that heavy. Not a very phenolic Demerara. Finish: very long, all on sweet spices. This could work as a sauce on spare ribs or something. Comments: the sweeter side of Demerara. Huge (sweet) liquorice. SGP:752 - around 87 points.

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



Block Today: SOUL BLUES. Performer: Mavis Staples. Track: Step Into The Light. Please visit her website and buy her music...

October 3, 2014


WF 10000 medal

One old Bunnahabhain and a possible even older one
These old Bunnahabhains can be hit or miss; I’ve already got quite a few tired ones in my tasting glass. As if the spirit wasn’t big enough to stand too many years, but of course there’s been some brilliant ones as well, especially sherried versions. Auld Acquaintance, anyone?

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (45.9%, The Whisky Fair, sherry wood, 230 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 34 yo 1980/2014 (45.9%, The Whisky Fair, sherry wood, 230 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: the sherry’s rather unobtrusive, if I may say so. What’s fine and nice is this combination of sea air and ripe garden fruits. Ripe gooseberries plus one oyster plus a touch of honey and two spoonfuls of honeydew that make it pleasantly piny. A little beer and hops as well (IPA?) A fine nose, as they used to say in old adverts. Mouth: the sherry’s more in the front, with more raisins. Then these notes of beer again, light honey and plenty of green tea, from the wood. A sour note as well, the apples are back. Good body. Finish: rather long but I find it a notch too sour and bitterish. That’s right, green. Comments: a very, very fine dram for sure, but less greenness and more roundness would have made this baby sexier in my book. SGP:461 - 83 points.

Port Askaig 45 yo (ABV TBF, Specialty Drinks, 2014)

Port Askaig 45 yo (40.8%, Specialty Drinks, 2014) Four stars and a half This one’s brand new. Sadly, I took a photograph with my iPhone and I can’t read the ABV. Whaff! I’ll update as soon as more data’s available online. UPDATE DONE. As for this baby being a Bunnahabhain, well, it’s not Caol Ila (or it would come from the old distillery), so it’s most probably ‘a Bunny’. Colour: gold. Nose: even ‘more fresh’ than the 1980, and certainly fruitier. Ripe greengages and mint leaves, unlit menthol cigarettes, clay, lime, lemon balm, a whiff of sear air, a little antiseptic (but it’s no Laphroaig), fresh almonds, earth, gentian, camphor… It’s really lovely, complex, and probably less tired than other very old Bunnahabhains, so much less on oak and ‘flat’ fruits. A little Gueuze after ten minutes. Mouth: we can feel this oldie was bottled at the right time, I wouldn’t have kept it two more years in wood. I’m meaning that the light honey and the light fruits still manage to balance the white pepper, tea and cinnamon from the casks. That balance feels a bit fragile, but it’s kept. Apple juice and cinnamon, tangerines and tea, mead and nutmeg… Finish: not very long but I enjoy these additional notes of orange blossom water. There are even some passion fruits, and the aftertaste remains fresh and not quite tannic as such. Comments: I’ve hesitated between 89 and 90 all along, but the clean and almost crisp aftertaste made me opt for the latter. SGP:561 - 90 points.

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



Block Today: SOUL BLUES. Performer: Bernard Allison. Track: I Wouldn't Treat A Dog (The Way You Treated Me). Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 2, 2014


WF 10000 medal

More celebratory duos, this time hi-flying new Japanese
The new Nikka 40 yo is out. Let’s taste it. And then we’ll try to find a worthy Japanese sparring-partner.

The Nikka 40 yo (43%, OB, blend, 700 decanters, 2014)

The Nikka 40 yo (43%, OB, blend, 700 decanters, 2014) Five stars A supremely elegant super-brand-new decanter done to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the founding of Nikka. I think they could teach a few Scots a lesson in design, erm… Look, the price isn’t low (500,000 Yen so approx 3,600 €) but Nikka have assembled their oldest cask of Miyagikyo, a 1969 and their oldest cask of Yoichi, a… 1945, while the malt content lies around 70%. I find the fact that they haven’t decided to bottle the 1945 as a single cask priced at 100,000€ particularly noteworthy and, I’d add, even more elegant. Unless, of course, that one was ‘worn-out’, but I doubt they’d have even used it here in that case. That would have been very un-Japanese! Colour: deep gold. Nose: e.x.t.r.a.o.r.d.i.n.a.r.y. It’s not whisky, it’s a journey, through Japan of course, with three main stages. First, the most subtle combination of tropical fruits. Two, a delicate blend of soft spices and precious woods. And three, more essential oils. Oh and four, after fifteen minutes, everything at the same time, but with calm and serenity. It’s almost music. As for more specific aromas, I’d mention mangos, bergamots, papayas, ripe strawberries, incense, cinnamon, camphor, eucalyptus, aniseed, crème de menthe and perhaps 5,000 tinier aromas. The freshness is absolutely flabbergasting. Forgot to mention touches of roasted sesame seeds. Love roasted sesame seeds. Mouth: a touch ‘below’ the nose, as always with old whiskies. Remember a significant portion of this whisky is 69 years old! So we have quite some dark chocolate and cinnamon in the arrival, as well as some black tea and tobacco, but what happens after just thirty seconds is rather miraculous, with some zesty lime, lemon balm and bitter oranges ‘lifting’ the whole. A wee touch of paraffin/plasticine, but that’s no handicap, especially since the orangey side tends to grow over time and balances it. Finish: sure it’s not the longest ever but it’s still fresh and lively, actually fresher than during the arrival. Comments: a gorgeous whisky. The nose was otherworldly. Happy birthday, Nikka! SGP:661 - 93 points.

Yeah go find a worthy opponent… An old Scottish blend? Or, wait, another brand new Japanese, such a new Karuizawa?...

Karuizawa 33 yo 1981/2014 (55.3%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #136)

Karuizawa 33 yo 1981/2014 (55.3%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #136) Five stars La Maison seem to be leading the pack these days as far as numbers of new Karuizawas are concerned. They already had a wee bunch earlier this year, and here’s a brand new sherried 1981, possibly similar to their excellent cask #152 that came out around April. Colour: rich amber. Nose: isn’t Karuizawa the only malt that’s capable of standing heavy oak in such… err, relaxed manner? Because this is very oaky (some old bourbons come to mind), and yet it’s very superb, perfectly mentholated, infused with liquorice wood, wormwood, old-style herbal liqueurs (Bénédictine) and plenty of other roots and herbs, such as ginseng. The sherry’s not very exuberant here, but that may come once water’s been added. So, with water: love this. Much menthol, anise, camphor, fresh pinewood, almond oil, hessian, old wardrobe… Hey, I even find (half a) mothball. Mouth (neat): it’s amazing that all old Karuizawas are so different from each other. Once again, the oak’s playing first fiddle here, but some dried fruits are singing in the background (S., musical metaphors are very last year, you know.) Plenty of kumquats and bergamots, for example. Or some kind of lemony raisins. Mandarine Impériale, quinine, more ginseng… All this is very huge, concentrated, and yet it’s neither heavy nor too ‘massive’. With water: the most wonderful wood extraction. Herbs and roots ad libitum. Finish: long, herbal, earthy… Comments: ginseng whisky? That should be good for our health! More please… SGP:471 - 93 points.

Oh and it’s a tie.

(With heartfelt thanks to Thierry and Didier)

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



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October 1, 2014

Whiskyfun fav of the month

September 2014

Favourite recent bottling:
Ardbeg 20 yo 1993/2014 (57.1%, A.D. Rattray for Jurgen's Whiskyhuis, sherry hogshead, cask #1732, 142 bottles) - WF 93

Favourite older bottling:
Macallan 1960 (80°proof, OB, Campbell, Hope & King, Rinaldi Italy, +/-1975) - WF 92

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Littlemill 23 yo 1990/2014 (51.2%, Whisky-Fässle, hogshead)  - WF 91

Favourite malternative:
Caroni 1998 (40%, Jean Boyer, Bullion, Trinidad, +/-2014) - WF 89

September 2014 - part 2 <--- October 2014 - part 1 ---> October 2014 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Balvenie 'Tun 1509' (47.1%, OB, batch #1, 2014)

Craigellachie 23 yo (46%, OB, 2014)

Jura 20 yo 1966/1986 (86 US Proof, Duthie for Corti Brothers Sacramento)

Karuizawa 33 yo 1981/2014 (55.3%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, sherry, cask #136)

The Nikka 40 yo (43%, OB, blend, 700 decanters, 2014)

Octomore 5 yo ‘Islay Barley – 06.3’ (64%, OB, 2014)

Port Askaig 45 yo (40.8%, Specialty Drinks, 2014)