(Current entries)

Facebook Twitter Logo

Whisky Tasting


Daily Music entries



Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2015 - Part 1



September 2015 - part 2 <--- October 2015 - part 1 ---> October 2015 - part 2


October 14, 2015


Caol Ila as they come, part two (grouped fire)

Because we weren’t done with Caol Ila yet. Oh and I’ve noticed that we’ll probably taste our 500th Caol Ila next year, if all goes well, and that it’s going to be WF’s first ‘500’. Unless Bowmore or Highland Park manage to overtake it…

Caol Ila 2003/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 1st fill bourbon barrels)

Caol Ila 2003/2015 (46%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 1st fill bourbon barrels) Three stars and a half Colour: pale gold. Nose: instant leafy/coastal smoky goodness. How could anyone resist this style? As often in young CI, there’s also a little fresh butter, some fresh almonds, and a feeling of smoky cider. It’s a rather soft one, very easy, and most appealing. Who wouldn’t like this? Mouth: so fresh, fruity, and ‘finely’ smoky. Many CIs aren’t as lightly smoked as some would claim, but this one is. It is, indeed, the lighter side of Islay – as far as peaters are concerned. Nice notes of cider apples and even pears. Finish: medium, sweet and fruity. Light smoke and bonbons. Comments: this baby goes down well and fast. In a way, it’s dangerous. SGP:645 - 84 points.

Caol Ila 2006/2015 (58.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for La Maison du Whisky, refill sherry hogshead, cask #306217, 251 bottles)

Caol Ila 2006/2015 (58.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for La Maison du Whisky, refill sherry hogshead, cask #306217, 251 bottles) Three stars and a half Younger, stronger, and probably heavier. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a pure, steely, whistle-clean Caol Ila. A little fennel, some sea water, fresh almonds, crab meat (yeah) and a mild smoke. Cigarette smoke. Feels much lighter than 58%, let alone 58.2% vol. (yeah right…) With water: hessian, a tiny wet dog (I’m sorry, Chihuahuas and Yorkshires), wet cardboard… Mouth (neat): all is perfect, really perfect, ultra-clean, with just the right amount of peat, fruits, and peat (very funny, S.) The sherry is for the record, hardly noticeable. Perhaps one sultana. With water: meadows and farmyard after the rain, plus lots of ripe apples, as almost always in CI. Finish: medium, clean, with a touch of honey. Comments: the gentlest smoky beast ever. SGP:446 - 84 points.

Caol Ila 2000/2013 (56.8%, Malts of Scotland for Edition Feinschmecker, bourbon hogshead)

Caol Ila 2000/2013 (56.8%, Malts of Scotland for Edition Feinschmecker, bourbon hogshead) Three stars and a half This little baby was done for a famous German magazine. Feinschmecker means gourmet! No, really! Colour: straw. Nose: rather rawer and punchier, quite mineral, woolly in a way, and perhaps a notch cardboardy. Almost ‘kilny’, but that wouldn’t be a working kiln. With water: remember carbon paper, the more reliable ancestor of Time Machine? Mouth (neat): there. Implacably good, easy, sweet and salty, angular (as they say in wine) but not too angular… You just cannot be against this. With water: typical young Caol Ila. A wee sourness, perhaps – overripe apples against and against. Finish: medium, rather salty, with a little more citrus. Sweetened lemon juice. Comments: this one too goes down well. I hope German Feinschmeckers enjoyed it. SGP:545 - 84 points.

Caol Ila 20 yo 1995/2015 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage, Straight From The Cask, hogshead, cask #714, 385 bottles)

Caol Ila 20 yo 1995/2015 (57.3%, Signatory Vintage, Straight From The Cask, hogshead, cask #714, 385 bottles) Four stars I’m glad to see more whiskies in this lovely little series. We’ll always remember the Broras from a few years back… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s got this slightly plasticky nose that’s to be found in some CIs, as well as some mercurochrome and other sharpish notes. Certainly rough, almost violent for Caol Ila. Mud, wet textile, raw wool… With water: fifty percent mercurochrome and fifty percent seawater. And ‘ideas’ of a working launderette, perhaps. Mouth (neat): wham! It’s one of these CIs that can be both soft and easy and pungent and sharp. Certainly earthier and more medicinal than the ‘average’ Caol Ila. Ans saltier too, but maybe that’s just the high strength. With water: no actual changes, we’re remaining close to ‘the elements’. Barley, bandages, and crabs. Bandaged crabs (ha-ha). Finish: medium to long, clean, zesty, salty. In short, Caol Ila. Comments: lovely oomph and rawness in this one. SGP:456 - 86 points.

Perhaps a last one? Let’s find an older bottling of a young Caol Ila…

Caol Ila 1995/2008 (58.9%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, cask #10018+10019)

Caol Ila 1995/2008 (58.9%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, cask #10018+10019) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re so very close to the Signatory! As if seven more years hadn’t change much. Perhaps a little more minerality and earthiness in this younger version? And perhaps a little more seaweed? With water: damp woollen sweater after a long walk from the tip of the Oa to Port Ellen. Mouth (neat): once again, we’re so very close. This one has just a little more lemon, even limoncello. No, mum’s lemon pie. Lemon curd. With water: very ‘woolly’ indeed. T’s nature. Finish: long, zesty and barleyish, with kippers and oysters. Saltier aftertaste. Comments: very good. Not much to add. SGP:456 - 85 points.

We’ll have more Caol Ila soon…

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Philip Catherine. Track: Transparence. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 13, 2015


Mortlach 75 yo vs. Glen Grant 59 yo

I know I was meant to post more Caol Ila today, but that’ll rather happen tomorrow. Don’t you like surprises? Indeed, I thought we’d better taste two recent super-oldies by Gordon & MacPhail, since one of them just came in. That one’s brand new and was distilled while WWII had just been declared two months before, while the other one was distilled exactly ten years after the war ended. I’ve chosen the latter because I thought it would make for a very contrasting sparring partner. Indeed, in theory, the Mortlach should be light and almost evanescent, whilst the Glen Grant should be totally monstrous. But let’s check that immediately, if you don’t mind…

Mortlach 75 yo 1939/2014 (44.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, Generations, first fill sherry butt, cask #2475, 100 bottles)

Mortlach 75 yo 1939/2014 (44.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, Generations, first fill sherry butt, cask #2475, 100 bottles) Five stars Most certainly the oldest whisky ever bottled! There already was a 70 yo back in 2010 (WF 88) but three quarters of a century may be more symbolic an age by Scottish standards (but that’s not that rare in armagnac.) I find this tear-shaped decanter pretty lovely with its art-déco feeling, you would imagine that pre-war Bugattis or Hispanos were fitted this kind of bottle in their bars. And old cognac. Oh, and I should add that I had also tried the Mortlach 1939 50yo by G&M a few years back, and that I had found it superb (WF 91). Now let’s try to answer the only worthy question regarding this new 75 yo that was launched in September: is this baby still alive or not? Colour: bright gold, not dark at all.

Nose: it’s the freshness that’s pretty impressive, the first thing that springs to my mind is a mirabelle pie sprinkled with cinnamon and almond powder. There are wild herbs as well, perhaps rather sage, and saponin, then palm oil, perhaps shea butter… Reminds me of mid-1970s suntan lotion. Remember Piz Buin? Also fresh hazelnuts, and green oranges, with a faint metallic touch (silverware polish). And also a little menthol, as almost always with very old spirits. Mouth: fresh herbs again! That’s good news, it did not get drying, neither is it tea-ish or oaky as such, even if these herbal notes do probably come from the wood. I also find quite a lot of grapefruit and lemon, rather amazingly, which makes it surprisingly fresh. Also a touch of green banana, which combines well with the lemon, and gives this baby a much unexpected tropical side. Good body, just a wee tad light, but that’s normal. Finish: even more tropical! Pineapples this time, and a distinct lemon balm. The aftertaste is a little more drying, with some tea this time. Some kind of zesty wulong? Comments: an uncommon style, never fragile, with an oak that never gets in your way. While the almondy side was to be expected, the tropical fruits are the stars here. But they’re unusual tropical fruits, not quite like in, say a 1972 Clynelish or a 1976 Benriach. Worth trying really, perhaps do a bottle share or something? The price is not that high given the rarity and the age – and the fact that it’s the current record-holder as far as ages and Scotch are concerned. Around £20,000 a decanter, that’s only £571 per 2cl, so an Apple Watch. Who needs an Apple Watch? SGP:571 - 90 points.

Glen Grant 59 yo 1955/2015 (60.8%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW, Book of Kells, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #845)

Glen Grant 59 yo 1955/2015 (60.8%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW, Book of Kells, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #845) Five stars A winner of a Gold Medal at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2014. I’ve just seen that it’s still available, for one tenth of the price of the Mortlach 75 yo. Oh and did you notice the incredible strength after almost 60 years in wood? Colour: coffee. Nose: chocolate everywhere. We’re wandering throughout a chocolate factory, while they’re making both thin mints and marmalade-filled chocolates. All this chocolate would never go away – good news – but other aromas appear, such as blackberry jelly, peonies, blood oranges, black cherries, and pipe tobacco. No gunpowder, no bacon. With water: thin mints, really. After Eights, then slate and the blackest, fattest, dampest pipe tobacco. All black in there. And some menthol, as expected once again.

Mouth (neat): smashes you with grey pepper, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, then hyper-concentrated marmalade and, once again, truckloads of black chocolate. And coffee, Gauloise, all that. A bit, cough, cough, strong… At 59 years of age! With water: beautifully mentholy and fruity. Definitely oriental, with some orange blossom, cloves, pomegranates, sweet curry sauce, then litres of artisan hot chocolate and coffee. Crunching just-roasted coffee beans. Finish: long, always extremely chocolaty, with a marmalady signature and always a little menthol. Bitter oranges, a touch of cardamom again. Comments: I was afraid this baby would be too drying and flat, since other 1955s had been a little weak, but that wasn’t the case at all, was it! I’m sure this spectacular baby would cure just anything. Just not malt mania. SGP:561 - 92 points.

Scottish soldiers circa 1945



Block Today: JAZZ. What to have with a 1939 Mortlach? Perhaps this utter gem, recorded in 1939... Performer: Django Reinhardt with singer Beryl Davis. Track: Undecided. Please buy his music...

October 12, 2015


Caol Ila as they come

A bag, selected at random from WF’s sample library, one after the other, without any logic. Who said ‘as usual’, who?...

Caol Ila 1997/2015 ‘Cobbler’s Hearth’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 340 bottles)

Caol Ila 1997/2015 ‘Cobbler’s Hearth’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 340 bottles) Four stars This one’s brand new! 1997? I don’t think I’ve seen many 1997s yet… Colour: white wine. Nose: typical. Sea air, fresh almonds, lemon juice, brine – and repeat. It’s really got this fresh, clean, coastal style that’s so easy and pleasant. A little fresh mint as well. Mouth: so easy, so good, so very well balanced, between citrus and smoky/coastal flavours. Pink grapefruits, whelks (here you go again), some white pepper, just a touch of ginger, and this discreet ashy side that’s very Caol Ila in my book. Finish: medium, clean, very briny. Comments: both light and full, and as elegant as Caol Ila can be. Now there’s one question that remains unanswered, how do they manage to make such coastal/maritime whisky when it does not age near the sea. Don’t they add a few litres of seawater to each barrel? SGP:456 - 85 points.

Caol Ila 14 yo 1990/2004 (57.5%, Adelphi, cask #13142)

Caol Ila 14 yo 1990/2004 (57.5%, Adelphi, cask #13142) Four starsAn older bottling, for the records. Bottled when our eyes were still quite good ;-). Colour: white wine. Nose: a rather farmier Caol Ila, with more mud and barnyard and… Oh, chocolate. A little custard as well, marzipan… It’s a bit shy so far, but pretty elegant. Cigarette smoke. With water: smoked barley everywhere, a little leather, a little damp cardboard. Smoked porridge, which can be pretty entrancing depending on when you’re exposed to it. Mouth (neat): good classic sharpy lemony profile. Limoncello and maraschino – Adelphi, that’s an Italian name, is it not? With water: classic soft Caol Ila, with good backbone and structure. I haven’t got anything bad to say against it. Finish: medium, a little saltier. Comments: would ‘goody goody good’ be enough? A great example of the almondy style. SGP:456 - 87 points.

Let’s go on… And a little quicker, please!

Caol Ila 18 yo 1995/2013 (50,6 %, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram)

Caol Ila 18 yo 1995/2013 (50,6 %, The Whisky Agency, The Perfect Dram) Four stars and a half Good old Whisky Agency... How are they doing? Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s a little more gentiany, earthier, more herbal… It’s a style that I like a lot. Its got smoked salmon as well, and a mild smoke, between brown coal and cigarettes. Perhaps. With water: grain, damp gravel, farmyard, a meadow somewhere on Islay. Like, on the Oa. Mouth (neat): it’s rather fat at first sipping, with some fish oil or something, then citrons and brine. All good. With water: pretty perfect earthy/muddy style, one to keep in the trunk of your old Land Rover. Finish: longer and oilier than your usual Coal Ila, and still earthy, with a /salty signature, as often. Comments: hard to beat, a fat and elegant Caol Ila. Great dressing on salmon. SGP:456 - 88 points.

Let’s go on… We’ll never manage to be quick enough!

Caol Ila 2006/2014 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for The Bonding Dram and FMWS, refill sherry hogshead, cask #306202, 309 bottles)

Caol Ila 1990/2012 (53.1%, Gordon & MacPhail Reserve for Van Wees, cask #1122, 227 bottles) Four stars and a half This ‘Reserve’ label is much loved by connoisseurs, which might not make much sense, brand-wise (yeah, given that they also have the CC range...) Colour: straw. Nose: oh this is something else, sharper, more brutal, with more brine, seawater, beach sand, green grapefruits, mud, fermenting stuff, perhaps artichokes… Not for your Land Rover, rather for your Unimog! With water: barley, peat smoke, mud, graphite oil. Just perfect. Mouth (neat): south-shore-ish, as they say. Big Caol Ila, much more ‘imprecise’ than others, and yet perhaps more interesting, with smoked fudge and buttered smoked tea. Really not your average middle-aged Caol Ila. With water: smoky and almost tarry, ala young Port Ellen. Burned tyres. Finish: long, on, wait, smoky fudge? Comments: the scores and rising, and I swear to Vishnu that that wasn’t the plan. Shall we call this ‘well-understood randomness’ or something? SGP:357 - 89 points.

While we’re at G&M’s, let’s try to find a very young one…

Caol Ila 2006/2014 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for The Bonding Dram and FMWS, refill sherry hogshead, cask #306202, 309 bottles)

Caol Ila 2006/2014 (58.5%, Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive for The Bonding Dram and FMWS, refill sherry hogshead, cask #306202, 309 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: great young spirit aged/flavoured in active wood. That doesn’t work often (see some recent NAS offerings by Islay brands), but when it works, it can be great. Bicycle inner tubes, a pack of fudge, white chocolate, smoked tea. The aromas don’t stay apart, and that’s why it works by the way. Despite the pencil shavings. With water: brand new wellies, carbon paper, rubber bands, that’s all. An acquired taste, as they say. Mouth (neat): disappointingly excellent. Perfect combination, with lemon fudge and salted liquorice, plus double-smoked lapsang souchong. Of course they do make that. With water: more of the same. Smoked lemon-flavoured fudge. Finish: long, on the same flavours. Comments: simple and good, that could be this wee bottle’s motto. I just don’t manage to find any flaws. Excellent. SGP:457 - 87 points.

It’s all going very well, isn’t it?...

Caol Ila 13 yo 2000/2013 (54.7%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13065, 125 bottles)

Caol Ila 13 yo 2000/2013 (54.7%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 13065, 125 bottles) Four starsColour: dark straw. Nose: this one’s grassier, with more green tea and plain grass, which makes it more austere, and less ‘immediate’ than most others. With water: bandages come out (scary, innit), together with whiffs of vase water, duck pond… Mouth (neat): nah, super-geil, even if it’s totally unusual, with these huge notes of lemon-flavoured varnish and coconut liqueur. Plus smoked kippers, lemon squash, marshmallows, grassy green tea, cough syrup… I have to say I rather love this very punchy Caol Ila. With water: a few oil extracts and oils, perhaps. I cannot not think of the official Cask Strength – if I remember it well. Finish: long, smoky/salty, with a rounder signature. Comments: unassailable, iron-clad Caol Ila. No, Caol Ila’s not ‘a light and feminine Islay malt’. Ha, whisky writers! Very excellent again. SGP:457 - 87 points.

It’s all going very well, is it not?

Caol Ila 1995/2014 (52.8%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 226 bottles)

Caol Ila 1995/2014 (52.8%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 226 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: it’s perhaps the freshest today, we even find notes of a meadow after the rain, certainly quite some fresh butter, and a rather delicate smoke that combines well with some green tea (wulong – Taiwanese – oh forget) and just an ‘idea’ of cigars. With water: bark and roots, walnut skins… it’s becoming grassy, in the noblest sense of the word. Mouth (neat): it’s the subtleness that’s impressive, many others are great but a little monodimensional. Not this one, and I especially like these touches of paraffin. Crunching a candle. Then green lemon and sharp herbs. Bites you a bit – ah, a fight, finally! With water: becomes wild! Grassy, bitterish, chlorophilly, green, tense… It fights back! Finish: long, grassy, sharp, not easy. The loveliest green teas. Comments: super-grassy CI, great variations… SGP:377 - 88 points.

Good, we’ve have quite a few. Let’s try an older CI for the road… And let’s try to find a funny one.

Caol Ila 30 yo 1984/2014 (56.2%, Riegger’s Selection, rum cask finish, 360 bottles, 50cl)

Caol Ila 30 yo 1984/2014 (56.2%, Riegger’s Selection, rum cask finish, 360 bottles, 50cl) Four stars Doing a rum finishing on some 30 years old Caol Ila, that’s what I call having cojones (oh that’s very smart, Pancho!) Colour: straw. Nose: terra incognita, unknown planets, weird places. Concrete dust, tealeaves, ‘green’ leather (I know that doesn’t make much sense), more green tea… What’s troubling is that this kind of works. A little shy globally, but let’s see… With water: floor cloth and mud, plus earthy green tea. Mouth (neat): well, it’s great Caol Ila, not obligatorily old, a tad acrid and grassy, with depth and sharpness. Smoky and salty liquorice, plus all things green. With water: works. Perhaps a quarter of a fifth of sugarcane, then a mildly sweeter peatiness. Finish: medium, rather on sweetened smoked tea. Comments: focus wasn’t lost, as if this wasn’t first fill rum wood. Pretty pretty good. SGP:466 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Hamiet Bluiett. Track: Open My Eyes with Kahil El'Zabar. Please buy his music...

October 11, 2015


Six white caney malternatives

You know, there are possible malternatives, so spirits that could make for nice malternatives, but that will actually disappoint many a whisky lover (such as the sweetish rums, or some flabby boisé-ed cognacs) and there are obvious malternatives. Such as the best artisan mezcals or, yes, the clairins from Haiti. Not many people know them yet, but it’s going to come, believe me. I don’t know of many spirits that are this characterful, especially when white. But before the three clairins we’ll try today, let’s have a few other white sugarcane-based spirits to prepare our palate…

Chalong Bay (40%, OB, Thailand, +/-2015)

Chalong Bay (40%, OB, Thailand, +/-2015) Three stars and a half We already tried a 2014, and in truth, I’m not sure this isn’t the same batch. But I liked it so much, and found it so surprisingly flavourful, that we just won’t care. This is distilled sugarcane juice from Phuket, all white. For some odd reason, it’s not called ‘rum’ or ‘rhum’. Colour: white. Nose: roasted hazelnuts, crushed olives, carbon paper, ash smoke, diesel oil, new tyres, unlit cigars, grass. Mouth: very good. Briny dirty earthy olive-y arrival, then, wait, spaghetti bolognaise? I’m not making this up. Plus bananas and a little salt. A shame that they don’t bottle this at a higher strength, it’s pretty perfect. Finish: medium, salty, tarry. Overripe bananas, salted. Comments: as I remembered it. We want a CS version. Okay, 50% vol. would do. SGP:362 - 84 points.

Takamaka Bay ‘St. André Rhum Vesou’ (40%, OB, Seychelles, +/-2015)

Takamaka Bay ‘St. André Rhum Vesou’ (40%, OB, Seychelles, +/-2015) Two stars Found this white baby at master of Malts and just couldn't resist. I had found Takamaka’s aged 8 yo very quaffable (WF 79). Oh and ‘vesou’ is the French name for sugarcane juice, the agricole rhums are made from vesou. But is this true white rhum agricole? Let’s see… Colour: white but a little less white that the Chalong. Say super-pale yellow. Nose: suffers a lot after the Chalong, this is much lighter, much less phenolic. It’s like nosing Auchentoshan after having nosed Octomore. Oh let’s jump to the palate… Mouth: rather better and fuller. It’s good white agricole, with some lemon grass, a touch of earth, some oranges, and quite some sugarcane. It’s just a little shy – but then again, the Chalong is a killer despite the 40% vol. A little sugar. Finish: a little short and a tad sugary. Otherwise, fine. Comments: it’s fine, it’s fine. SGP:440 - 75 points.

Let’s drop the weaker ones, and let’s call in the cavalry!

Jamaica Pot Still (57%, Rum Nation, 2014 release)

Jamaica Pot Still (57%, Rum Nation, 2014 release) Five stars A white Worthy Park. No need to add anything. Oh, yes, 37€. Colour: white. Nose: buy a pack of Marlboro. Open, crush. Put into a jar. Pour graphite oil. Add seawater and engine oil. Two capers, three olives. Add a little ash. Geranium petals. Some dust from under your offspring’s bed. Boil, stir, filter, nose. Water’s dispensable. Mouth: huge and superb. Colossal, and yet zesty and sharp, smoky, salty, sugarcany, medicinal. Arranged tincture of iodine, olive oil, black salt (for the record, always a hit at home), citron juice, fennel, lime… Ever wanted to try a super-strong mojito? Finish: endless, salty, lemony, tarry… Comments: I find this extreme white thing totally glorious. Please excuse me, I have to order some bottle(s)… Oh and dear Chalong people, try this, and see what CS can do to great white rum. SGP:373 - 90 points.

And now, the clairins!

Clairin Vaval (51.1%, OB, Haiti, +/-2015)

Clairin Vaval (51.1%, OB, Haiti, +/-2015) Four stars and a half Velier and CEO Luca Gargano are doing a lot for promoting Haitian clairin. These people know what’s good and authentic. Now you may be wondering, what is clairin? Simply white rum agricole. They harvest organic blue cane (I believe), press a.s.a.p., ferment, distil, bottle. Vaval comes from the Distillerie Arawaks in Cavaillon. No, not Cavaillon in southern France! Colour: white. Nose: bursts with overripe tropical fruits, petrol, sugar cane, tar, rush-hour rainwater from Mexico City (or yeah, Bangkok), and brine. Impeccably phenolic. Mouth: perfect yet again. Fermenting pineapples and litchis, green olives, capers, ‘good’ dirt, and more petrol (I imagine). Perhaps a little ham as well, it’s got a gamey side. Finish: long, meaty, tarry, even Talisker-smoky. Lovely very lemony aftertaste. Comments: a fat spirit that gets lemony and precise, that’s an ideal development. I want to try it straight from the still. So very surprising, so very good… SGP:362 - 89 points.

UPDATE: Vaval are actually using sugarcane of the 'Madame Meuze' variety (thanks Didier).

Clairin Sajous 2015 (51%, OB, Haiti)

Clairin Sajous 2015 (51%, OB, Haiti) Four stars and a half From another plantation. Mind you, these very lovely and very smart people from Saint Michel de L’Attalaye grow their own sugarcane, in this case Cristalline. I’ve had dinner with them, you couldn’t meet sweeter persons. Oh and they use wild yeast, no ‘corporate bags’. Colour: white. Nose: Vaval was gentle when compared to this. This has more dirt, more unlikely matters, more diesel oil, and, above all, more old papers, forgotten library, also chives, sage, marrow bouillon. In fact, it’s rather more mineral (does that have anything to do with marrow bouillon, S.?) It’s rather more floral as well (same comments, S.) Mouth: oh how greatly great! Dirty lemons, phenolic grapefruits, tarry tangerines, melissa oil… What a voyage, even if it’s still a little rougher than the Vaval. Finish: endless, exuberant, lemony, always with this dirty side that just makes it even more interesting. Comments: which is my favourite? Hard to say, both are fantastic. Perhaps the Vaval, because of the lemon, but that was a close call. SGP:352 - 88 points.

All things must pass, said dear George H. Let’s have a last one…

Clairin Casimir (53.4%, OB, Haiti, +/-2015)

Clairin Casimir (53.4%, OB, Haiti, +/-2015) Four stars and a half Sweet sweet people, from Barradères. Colour: white. Nose: the most ruthless one, but that may be the higher strength. Also the most herbal and salty, you’re almost nosing Maggi or lovage leaves. And litres of brine and olive oil. This baby might need a little water, to tell you the truth. So, turning words into deeds… With water: gravel, clay, wet cement, seawater (you know, when you’ve got an isolated puddle that evaporates under the sun before high tide… oh whatever.) Mouth (neat): a monster of a spirit. Pressed grapefruit skin, tapenade, anchovies, citrons, wulong, smoked kippers… Haiti and Islay, same battle! With water: gentler, perfectly citrusy and salty. The most perfect margarita, perhaps, it’s true that it’s got a wee tequila side. Finish: long, salty, lemony, perfect. Comments: it seems that the Parisian chatting classes have started to embrace clairin, but it’s still time to gather a few bottles for a fair(ish) price. Hint, hint… SGP:462 - 89 points.

Those were what I call genuine malternatives! Oak? Nah, oak’s the equivalent of auto-tune in rock and roll. There, happy Sunday!



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Buddy Guy. Track: Five Long Years. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 9, 2015


New Glen Scotia indie vs. official

The official Glen Scotias, as well as other bottlings by the Loch Lomond Group (Inchmurrin and others), had been repackaged just a few years ago, but some were saying they were rather looking like shampoo bottles. Quite smartly, the new owners just re-re-packaged the ranges, and introduced some new expressions, such as an obligatory no-age-statement. We’ll try it, but first, an indie…

Glen Scotia 1991/2015 'Seville Bazaar' (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 737 bottles)

Glen Scotia 1991/2015 'Seville Bazaar' (46%, Wemyss Malts, butt, 737 bottles) Three stars and a half Colour: full gold. Nose: starts with quite a lot of gunpowder and struck matches, then some new leather, then rather hay and even touches of manures, and lastly, some walnutty sherry, with an oxidative side. ‘Visiting a bodega in Sanlucar’. Mouth: starts with some spiciness, around ginger and cinnamon, as well as a salty side that, indeed, reminds us of Sanlucar and their Manzanillas. It’s a dry style, rather austere, that would rather go on with a blend of mustard and chocolate. Aficionados will love it, others might find it a little difficult. Finish: rather long, bitterish, with some dark chocolate. A rather grassy aftertaste, with a touch of orange. Comments: almost hyper-fortified dry and grassy sherry. SGP:372 - 84 points.

Glen Scotia 'Victoriana' (51.5%, OB, +/-2015)

Glen Scotia 'Victoriana' (51.5%, OB, +/-2015) Two starsA new expression – NAS, sadly – and so a new packaging. It’s supposed to be ‘replicating traditional Victorian values’, and is even advertised as being ‘bottled at 51.5° proof.’ Hum, that’s not very ‘CS’, is it, even by Victorian standards… Colour: deep gold. Nose: so very Glen Scotia! Some yoghurt and stout at first nosing, a yeastiness, porridge, then something pleasantly meadowy, and a dusty touch. Indeed, very Glen Scotia. With water: some chalk, dust, more porridge… And some green barley. Mouth (neat): a massive oak at first sips, crunching branches, raw ginger, beetroot, white pepper… I’d say this is either very young, or it’s been treated with new oak. Really ‘a style’. With water: benefits from water, becoming fruitier. Blood oranges, perhaps? But the peppery and gingery oak remains there. Finish: medium, bittersweet, always a little yeasty. Gritty oak in the aftertaste. Comments: bakers should enjoy this new Victorian bottling. SGP:351 - 72 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Herlin Riley. Track: Trombone Joe. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 8, 2015


Another bag of four new blends

Blended malt or ‘simple’ blends, we’ll see what we can find… Oh and why not start with some Japanese…

Hibiki 'Japanese Harmony' (43%, OB, Japanese blend, 2015)

Hibiki 'Japanese Harmony' (43%, OB, Japanese blend, 2015) One of these new NAS Japanese… I guess we’ll do that quick. As for the name, I’m not sure they racked their brains. Don’t they have Norse gods or Gaelic in Japan? Wikipedia? Ahem… Colour: gold. Nose: all on soft oak tones, sawdust, vanilla pods, crystallised ginger, grated coconut, brioche… At some point, you think you’re nosing some lighter young bourbon. Overripe apples, a touch of sandalwood. Mouth: noh! I mean, no! Some sweetened oak infusion, coconut liqueur, green tea (macha, there)… I’m no one, but I don’t think this is the way. Did some Jim Beam folks help? Finish: short, almost evanescent, only leaving a feeling of sweet oak. Comments: again, who am I, but this is disappointing, given the makers’ huge reputation. Young and oaked, more or less to blends what Laphroaig Select is to peaty Islays. But again, only one man’s opinion. SGP:630 - 62 points.

Speyside 1995/2015 (45%, Samaroli, blended malt, 448 bottles)

Speyside 1995/2015 (45%, Samaroli, blended malt, 448 bottles) Three stars This is a very small batch blend of Tormore and Miltonduff. Colour: straw. Nose: a fresh, young, fruity, slightly porridgy/grassy young Speysider, rather developing on chalk and limestone, while the fruits (apples, gooseberries) are shying off a bit. Whiffs of custard. Mouth: more bright fruits, cider apples, tangerines, grapefruits… As if Tormore was having the upper hand. Other than that, there’s some muesli, a little sour dough, and again something slightly chalky and grassy. This time the fruits keep singing along. Finish: medium, citrusy, pleasantly green. I mean, grassy. Green tea and butter cream in the aftertaste. Comments: a very fine and lively drop of Speyside. Nice freshness. SGP:551 - 82 points.

This is Not a Luxury Whisky (53.1%, Compass Box, blend, 2015)

This is Not a Luxury Whisky (53.1%, Compass Box, blend, 2015) Five stars If you follow Magritte’s famous pipe, this IS meant to be a Luxury Whisky – since there was a pipe in the painting -  which the price does kind of confirm (around 200€). Now, there’s some very old grain and some Caol Ila 30 inside, so… And after all, I always like to quote Coco Chanel on luxury ‘Luxury isn’t the opposite of cheapness, it’s the opposite of vulgarity’. So nothing to do with prices, and some distillers will never manage to make their whiskies ‘luxury’ just by raising their prices. But back to Compass Box. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it seems that it needs a bit of breathing, let’s wait… zzz… Right, it would rather start with apple peelings and blond tobacco, plus various herbal teas, including plain tea and chamomile. After that, we’re rather having some wet beach sand, earth, certainly a little cedar wood (new humidor), and then ‘natural’ porridge and muesli. With water: love when essential oils come out. Swims extremely well. Mouth (neat): bright, and mainly spicy, earthy, and smoky. Did someone distil artisan lapsang souchong? Tends to become meady and orangey, which just works. A feeling of mango jam. I find this excellent, there mustn’t be much grain in this. Yeah I know it’s old grain. With water: spicier, more herbal, more oaky ‘of course’ but that oak rather added notes of earthy tea (oh, no, he’s gonna quote pu-erh again…) So pu-erh plus lapsang plus marmalade. Finish: medium, with something Christmassy. Must be the spiciness. The smoke also gets in your ey… I mean, your taste buds. Comments: excellent. Ceci n’est pas un très bon score. SGP:562 - 90 points.

More new Compass Box…

Flaming Heart ‘5th Edition’ (48.9%, Compass Box, blended malt, 2015)

Flaming Heart ‘5th Edition’ (48.9%, Compass Box, blended malt, 2015) Five stars The 4th Edition in 2012 really impressed me (WF 91). Some say CB have upped their game, which I find rather impossible. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts Caol-Ila-ish – not saying there’s Caol Ila inside – and stays on that for a wee while, and just when you’re thinking ‘just very fine’ it starts to take off, with bandage-y touches, seaweed, certainly quite some eucalyptus in July, some hay in August, some mint flowers in September, and some fresh almonds. When do almonds become ripe again? Love these subtleties that one usually rather finds in old bottles of peaters, such as 1960s Laphroaigs or Caol Ilas. Impressed. Mouth: a little firmer and rawer – but it isn’t raw whisky – with this eucalyptus again, apple peelings, fresh walnuts (that’s around now in Alsace), and quite some ashes. Plus a touch of salt and gentian. We’ll have to peat-smoke gentian one day. Finish: medium, clean and fresh, and rather medicinal, while the citrusy part comes to the front. Grapefruits. A sweet in the aftertaste (your choice of flavour). Comments: I was sure this couldn’t be better than batch #4. There! SGP:546 - 91 points.



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Art Pepper. Track: Patricia. Please buy his music...

October 7, 2015


Aberlour 18 and Aberlour 35

Pernod’s Aberlour is a relatively discreet brand, they don’t seem to do much marketing stunts (or organise too many buzz-catchers). That makes that they’re very well respected within geeky circles, not only because of their impeccable A’bunadh line. Let’s have two of them today…

Aberlour 18 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2013)

Aberlour 18 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2013) Four stars Always a favourite in the house, it’s a malt that just pleases everyone, from die-hard freaks to inattentive diners. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very typical, classic fudgy Speyside with much elegance and plenty of herbal teas that keep it complex. Earl grey tea plus fudge and buttered caramel, plus quite some malt, Ovaltine-style, as well as orange zests dipped into milk chocolate. The whole works in sync, which is very pleasing in this context. Mouth: only the lightish strength makes it a notch less satisfying than it could be, but these oranges, chocolate, orange blossom plus all the toffee do work in sync again. Perhaps a tiny touch of rubber in the background, but nothing embarrassing, that just makes it a tad drier, and less syrupy. Finish: medium, even more on toffee and (rather grassy) tea. Comments: very classy, as I remembered it, and a little cognacqy. SGP:451 - 86 points.

Aberlour 35 yo ‘Double Cask Matured’ (43%, OB, batch #1580, 50cl, 2015)

Aberlour 35 yo ‘Double Cask Matured’ (43%, OB, batch #1580, 50cl, 2015) Five stars A very rare bottle from a new set of three, named ‘Aberlour Taste of Malt’ (18, 22 and 35 yo) that, I believe, is exclusive to France. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s Aberlour’s flowery/floral side that first comes out, with whiffs of iris and, just like in the 18, orange blossom. Perhaps roses as well, we’re wandering throughout an old garden somewhere in Kent (why not Kent?) In the middle distance, rather oranges and fragrant sultanas and crystallised angelica, and lastly, something delicately muscaty. And perhaps ripe kiwis. It’s very fresh given the age, while the sherry remains shy and classy. Mouth: a coffeeish sherry kicks in, but the oranges also came to the front, together with touches of fennel and aniseed. Certainly blood oranges and mandarins, then white chocolate. Perhaps some pecan pie. Good body despite the lower strength. Finish: medium, fresh, always on oranges and a few anise-like herbs. Celery? A little toffee in the aftertaste. Comments: I love this, and love the fact that they managed to keep it very fresh and perfectly balanced. Graceful, but very hard to find, and most probably expensive. The price of grace! SGP:651 - 91 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback




Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Philip Catherine. Track: Goodbye. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 6, 2015


Karuizawa Go-Hon!

No no no, that doesn’t mean they’re going on distilling, that means ‘Five Karuizawas’ in Japanese (thanks Nicholas!). But do we really need to spend more ink (kilobytes) talking about how rare Karuizawa is, how good it can be, and how expensive it got? Of course not, lets just try some newish offerings, vertically…

Karuizawa 1999-2000/2015 (61%, OB, The Wave)

Karuizawa 1999-2000/2015 (61%, OB, The Wave) Four stars and a half This is Karuizawa Asama-style, perhaps not from the most flabbergasting vintages… Colour: deep gold. Nose: there’s always something happening in Karuizawa, and this baby’s no exception. How often do you find a combination of fruity Swiss cheese, pipe tobacco, fried bacon, Seville oranges and cardamom seeds in whisky? Oh, almost forgot to mention menthol. Quite bizarrely, it reminds me of some older batches of the popular Glenfarclas 105. With water: some smoke coming out, whiffs of vulcanisation (repairing bicycle tyres, remember?), some black earth… That works very well. Mouth (neat): tears you apart a wee bit, with a very punchy triple-sec at hyper-cask strength, then rather chartreuse and a small sugariness that’s a little… Guyanian, perhaps? Very oily texture, it’s almost syrup. With water: Seville oranges singing loud, plus some green pepper, from the oak I suppose. Some creamy mead on top of that. Finish: long and spicier, but also more citrusy. Peppery and gingery Seville oranges. Comments: I find it extremely good. These batches seem to have benefited from a few years of extra-aging after the first Asamas. SGP:652 - 89 points.

Ooh this starts well…

Karuizawa 30 yo 1985/2015 (55.2%, OB, for LMDW, sherry cask, cask #2364)

Karuizawa 30 yo 1985/2015 (55.2%, OB, for LMDW, sherry cask, cask #2364) Five stars The label may look a bit esoteric, but at least we’re avoiding the obligatory Noh or kabuki things. Not that those aren’t lovely, they just feel a bit too, yeah, obligatory. Like bagpipes, deer, or thistles on Scotch, if you see what I mean. And yes, I’ve noticed some Scots were starting to use Japanese artefacts as well… Colour: cognac. Serious. Nose: oh, no, this is perfect. Medicinal, smoky, fruity, full, immense. Cough syrup, leather polish (old Jag, you see…), a bit of gunpowder, old car engine with dripping Veedol (!), cigars, thuja wood, praline, macadamia nuts, earth, coffee grounds, oranges… What a whirlwind! We could spend hours with this baby, but we’ve got more Karuizawa on the tasting table, so let’s move on… With water: love it when the juice becomes superbly earthy. That’s what’s happening here. Mouth (neat): when leather, oranges, and tobacco work in sync. A Japanese jazz trio. And there are backing vocalists, such as cloves, mint, liquorice, bitter chocolate… And many others. In fact, it’s a cathedral choir. With water: once again, more earth, also dried citrus, Szechuan pepper… Unusual, and great. Finish: long, oily, rather sweeter than expected. It’s even got an agricole-y side. Tobacco in the aftertaste. Comments: me not want to comment. SGP:662 - 93 points.

Kabuki, he said…

Karuizawa 30 yo (63.2%, OB, bourbon, cask #6432, 404 bottles, 2015)

Karuizawa 30 yo (63.2%, OB, bourbon, cask #6432, 404 bottles, 2015) Five stars They don’t seem to have put the vintage on the label, while this is clearly a single cask. Either 1985 or 1984… But 404 bottles from a barrel or even a hogshead seems a bit much. This is mysterious! Colour: full gold. Nose: I’ve often thought that ex-bourbon Karuizawas used to hint at Yamazaki, and I’ve got that exact feeling now. It’s much narrower than the previous 1984, but in way, this kind of precision is an asset. Vanilla cake, crème de menthe, sawn oak, chlorophyll, just a touch of porridge. But let’s not nose it too deeply at this strength, or we’ll lose our nostrils… With water: like! Old wine cellar, saltpetre, damp chalk, mushrooms… Mouth (neat): it’s champagne! I’m not joking, you’ve got this very spritzy, almost sparkling kind of arrival, with plenty of grapefruits and oranges, plus a very distinct touch of elderflower. Chewing propolis. The jury’s still out… With water: sappier. Resins and more propolis, plus the most concentrated of marmalades. Like, 250 oranges per kilogram (S., just drop cooking please). Finish: long and extremely marmalady. Both oranges and lemons. Comments: a wee beast that requires your attention. It’s not as immediately wow as some sherried Karuizawas, but of course, quality’s extremely high. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Karuizawa 29 yo 1984/2014 (56.7%, Cask by Cask, oloroso sherry butt, cask #7802, 577 bottles)

Karuizawa 29 yo 1984/2014 (56.7%, Cask by Cask, oloroso sherry butt, cask #7802, 577 bottles) Five stars This one for some friendly Scandinavian country, where the weather is cold and the souls warm. Colour: rich amber. Nose: it’s a medicinal sherried one again, but not one that roars and shouts, I find it relatively restrained. Antiseptic, struck matches, roasted chestnuts, black tea, black earth, black liquorice, black chewing tobacco… well, anything black, including black pepper. Quite some peat as well, but raw damp peat, not peat smoke. With water: love this development on old books, damp earth, and even plasticine and graphite. Mouth (neat): as much as I did not find the nose too ‘wham-bam’, I find this arrival very finely chiselled and powerful for a sherried Karuizawa, around bitter orange marmalade and pickled ginger. There’s even a mustardy side, while the fruitier parts are slowly coming to the surface. Well, that would be more oranges. Always something flinty in the back. With water: becomes very oloroso-ish, with walnuts and a little more (sweet) mustard. Gentler, softer, easier. Finish: long, spicier. Some good sulphur, and always an earthiness. Comments: we’re not losing altitude, are we. This rather dry baby wasn’t one of the most extravagant oloroso-ed Karuizawas, but it sure was great. SGP:452 - 91 points.

Karuizawa 30 yo 1984/2015 (61.6%, OB, LMDW, sherry cask, cask #8838)

Karuizawa 30 yo 1984/2015 (61.6%, OB, LMDW, sherry cask, cask #8838) Five stars Oh the colour of this! Colour: coffee. Nose: coffee. No, I’m joking, there’s much more than just coffee. Old Demerara rum, all raisins, all chocolates, all fruitcakes, and all crystallised fruits. Remember we were talking about Glenfarclas 105 when we tasted the 1999-2000? Well, there sure is a Glenfarclasness to this, but that would rather be a 1952 or a 1953. Much less smoky/mineral aromas than in other old sherried Karuis, and much more Speysidy roundness. Some pipe tobacco, prunes, and old armagnac. No wonder it’s for the French market (ooh that’s smart, S.!) With water: h.u.r.r.a.y. All earthy things come out, old cigars, clay, teas, roots, mushrooms, mosses… Fabtastic development once water’s been added. Mouth (neat): immense, huge, colossal. Invades you, conquers you, beats you. Imagine 60% old amontillado, 20% old PX, 10% super-ristretto Naples-style, and dried morels, tobacco, liquorice, salmiak… Well, anything black once again. Yes, even tar. With water: shhh… Finish: shhh… Comments: some might find it a little stuffy or cloying, but in a way, this kind of extreme concentration makes it light and chiselled again. Don’t extremes meet? Oh and another asset, no one makes whisky like this anymore. It’s like pushing a GTO to its limits in the Hunaudières, if you like. Well, I imagine (most sadly)… SGP:572 - 94 points.

Pace e salute. (and thanks Kjetil!)

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


Oops, forgot to post this...

Whiskyfun fav of the month

September 2015

Favourite recent bottling:
Irish Malt Peated 1991/2015 (52.2%, The Whisky Mercenary)  - WF 91

Favourite older bottling:
Bruichladdich 10 yo 1965 (95° proof, OB for Samaroli, +/-1975) - WF 93

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Benromach 10 yo (43%, OB, +/-2015)  - WF 87

Favourite malternative:
Baron de Saint-Feux 1888/2007 (40%, OB, Bas-armagnac) - WF 95



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Chris Lightcap. Track: Nine South. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 5, 2015


It’s Dalmore day again

There’s a new 21 yo, so we’ll have it today, and then add a few indies, as usual.

Dalmore 21 yo (42%, OB, 8,000 bottles, 2015)

Dalmore 21 yo (42%, OB, 8,000 bottles, 2015) Four stars and a half£350 at 42% vol. It better be great. Sadly, it’s been finished in oloroso butts (they say ‘finessed’, W&M’s equivalent to Bruichladdich’s ‘aced’). Colour: dark gold. Nose: the problem with Dalmore is that it’s very fine spirit, so you just cannot say much bad about them. In fact, I find this combination of tobacco, earthy tea, marmalade, dried pears, chocolate, and crystallised quince just super-lovely. Perhaps not £350-lovely, but lovely. Mouth: perhaps a wee bit ‘dilettante’, because of the low strength, but Dalmore’s oranges and chocolate are singing a rather perfect tune. Add a little honey, cappuccino, perhaps drops of calvados, and you’ve got a good idea. Also notes of juicy fruitcake (not the heavy black ones). Finish: medium, fruity and juicy, with a chocolaty and coffee-ish backbone. The oranges are back in the aftertaste, together with a touch of oak. Comments: just classic. Would love to try this fine juice at 50% vol. (but hey, not at £550!) SGP:551 - 88 points.

Dalmore 18 yo 1996/2014 (51.8%, Gleann Môr, A Rare Find, cask #2097, 279 bottles)

Dalmore 18 yo 1996/2014 (51.8%, Gleann Môr, A Rare Find, cask #2097, 279 bottles) Five stars I know, the accent on Môr isn’t right, French keyboard. Colour: straw. Nose: yes! This is Dalmore au naturel, bursting with oranges and plain malt, with a perfect – albeit small – earthiness in the background. Not much else to say. With water: even nicer. Sweet malt, a little custard, a little muesli, and always oranges. Perfect. Mouth (neat): excellent, fresh, ridden with various breeds of oranges and just touches of ginger and cardamom. Not that it’s the most complex malt ever, but it does remind me of the old 12 and 21 from a long time ago. Very top notch. With water: even more top-notch. Perfect fruitiness, balance, freshness, and all that. Finish: medium, perfectly orangey and malty. Not the tiniest flaws. Comments: this fresh and natural baby just lifts you. I simply love it. I don’t know much about the bottlers, but they sure did a great job here. SGP:641 - 90 points.

Was that the vintage? Let’s see…

Dalmore 17 yo 1996/2013 (52.9%, Whisky & Rhum, L'Esprit, cask #BH9092/RB58)

Dalmore 17 yo 1996/2013 (52.9%, Whisky & Rhum, L'Esprit, cask #BH9092/RB58) Three stars These great young people in Brittany/Bretagne are always doing great jobs with whisky… and rum/rhum. Colour: straw. Nose: hey? This one’s unusual, we haven’t got the kind of purity that was in the Gleann Môr, rather a mixture of sweet malt and fermenting bananas, perhaps. Not unpleasant at all, just not totally Dalmory. With water: more grass, citrus peel, farmyard… Mouth (neat): it’s good, no doubt, but I find it a wee tad dissonant, with too may Haribo bears and crocodiles and babies – whatever. Sweetened Dalmore? With water: better. It’s a Dalmore that rather tastes like an Auchentoshan, I’d say. Finish: medium, very fruity and candy-like. Marshmallows and orange drops. Comments: a fine drop, easy and very approachable, it may just be a little deviant at times. Ha, purists! SGP:641 - 81 points.

Dalmore 24 yo 1990/2015 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Rum Cask, 468 bottles)

Dalmore 24 yo 1990/2015 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Rum Cask, 468 bottles) Five stars Rum cask? It’s true that given Dalmore’s orangey profile, it was probably tempting to make some kind of ready-made high-strength punch, aka grown-up orange juice. Colour: full gold. Nose: I hate it that I love this, really. I couldn’t tell you whether the rum came from Jamaica or Demerara – or Trinidad, but it’s got this kind of steely earthiness that’s just wonderful. Oh me hate I. With water: p’tain de b*del de m**de, this works! You just have to enjoy shoe polish in your whisky. Mouth (neat): hate it, love it. Hate the idea, love the result. Tar smoke, liquorice, eucalyptus, rotting oranges, mint lozenges… This is depressingly good. With water: I’m tempted to use the French insults from the Monty Python’s Holy Grail. No, really, great stuff, the combo just clicked. Finish: rather long, earthy, tarry, liquoricy, orangey… But is this rather rum, or is it more Dalmore? Discuss… Comments: I’ll join the convent – provided they’ve got this in the bar. Oh I so hate the people at Cadenhead’s! SGP:462 - 91 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Henry Threadgill. Track: Official Silence. Please buy his music...

October 4, 2015


Malternatives, more rums at random

After all the old armagnacs and cognacs that we had in recent weeks, maybe is it time to go back to rum, even if our heart is bleeding given the amount of depressing junk that some rum brands are putting out these days. But let’s try to avoid sugar and glycerine today, rum is not only fake…

Bielle 2008/2015 '40ème' (53.4%, OB, Marie Galante, rhum agricole, decanter)

Bielle 2008/2015 '40ème' (53.4%, OB, Marie Galante, rhum agricole, decanter) Three stars and a half What a bad idea to start with this! Great distillery, great place, and cask strength. How smart, Serge! Colour: gold. Nose: there. Citrons and oranges plus honey, with a touch of smoke, mint, and myrtle. Amazingly deep. Perhaps a touch of bourbony vanilla, but no big deal, we’ll always forgive Bielle. With water: superb menthol! Old crème de menthe, raw mint leaves, plus a grassy earthiness. Embrocations and tiger balm, this nose gets more and more medicinal. Mouth (neat): granted, the vanilla and the American-oak-side are a notch too in the front for us, but other than that, these notes of pineapple liqueur, papayas and guavas are perfect, even if the whole might be a little sweet and slightly un-Bielle. But who am I to tell you this? With water: oils from the wood, tropical fruits, and a touch of benzoin, perhaps. Oh and plenty of liquorice. Finish: long, rather more honeyed. Comments: it’s just the sweetish oak that I would have avoided, but other than that, this roars and soothes. SGP651 - 84 points.

Mount Gay 'Black Barrel' (43%, Barbados, bourbon casks, +/-2015)

Mount Gay 'Black Barrel' (43%, Barbados, bourbon casks, +/-2015) Two stars and a half A blend of pot still and column still rums, finished in charred bourbon barrels. Quite like the ads, ‘It’s ready when it’s ready, give or take 300 years’. Yeah yeah, Rémy… Colour: gold. Nose: fine, fruity, slightly phenolic and tarry, with a little liquorice wood and shoe polish. I can’t see who would be against this. ‘Ideas’ of bananas aged near the sea (what?) Mouth: a wee tad thin, perhaps, but the profile is very ‘cool’, fresh and banany. Liquorice allsorts and orange liqueur. Goes down very well. Finish: curiously salty, and even sort of long. Comments: a rather good bottle that echoes many contemporary NAS from Scotland. Not too industrial, though… SGP:541 - 79 points.

Fair Belize 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015)

Fair Belize 10 yo (40%, OB, +/-2015) Three stars A new bottling by the very smart people at Fair’s, who only do fair-trade spirits. In this case, it’s rum from Travellers Distillery, but it wouldn’t say on the bottle. Colour: full gold. Nose: in truth, we’re not far from the style of the Mount Gay, but this Belize is a little lighter and easier, with more herbal teas. I’d say hawthorn and lime tree. And as often, overripe bananas. Mouth: simply very good, round but not sickly sweet like the dreadful Don Papa and consorts, with some guava jam and a touch of maple syrup. Good and easy – if a tad sweetish. Finish: medium, balanced, sweet, rather jammy. Comments: a sweet style, well made and well selected. Beginners should start with this, rather than the aforementioned brand (or A.H. Riise and other insulting plain and utter horrors). SGP:631 - 80 points.

While we’re at it…

Fair Belize 11 yo (50.7%, OB, +/-2015)

Fair Belize 11 yo (50.7%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars One more year and 10.7 more percents. Let’s check if that changes anything… Colour: deep gold. Nose: you bet! It’s a superb mentholy fruitcake from some remote tropical island, where tar liqueur, pineapple juice, mango chutney and a wee bit of new oak are singing in tune. With water: menthol, cinnamon, and herbal teas. Plus normal tea. Okay, Assam. Mouth (neat): very good. There is a little oak, perhaps (pencil shavings), but other than that, we’re having rose jelly, soft crème de menthe (very important, that keeps the whole thing fresh), pink grapefruits and… some fruit salad. That would even include apples. With water: once again, there’s more soft spices from the oak. Cinnamon cake and all that. Finish: medium, jammy and spicy, easy. Comments: it’s not only the business scheme that’s fair, the spirit’s very, very fair too. SGP:641 - 85 points.

Back to Barbados…

Barbados 1998/2015 (45%, Samaroli, cask #11, 250 bottles)

Barbados 1998/2015 (45%, Samaroli, cask #11, 250 bottles) Two stars and a half Could this be Mount Gay again? Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s amazing how close we are to the Black Barrel. I mean, not to tasteless Girvan of course, we’re talking about Mount Gay’s Black Barrel. Once again, there’re a few pencil shavings (hope the rum makers won’t start to talk only about oak just like the Scots!) and then rather not-too-ripe bananas, plus overripe apples and a touch of fresh butter. In fact, this baby’s a little shy. Shier than Black Barrel. Mouth: so very similar. Sweet oak, banana sweets, soft liquorice, a little fudge, and repeat. The easiest side of indie rum, I’d say. Finish: medium, sweet, with some sugarcane and more banana sweets and jellies. A touch of salty liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, no doubt, just not very characterful in my opinion. SGP:641 - 78 points.

Let’s hop to Trinidad if you please, but this won’t be Caroni!...

United 24 yo 1991/2015 (50%, Silver Seal, Trinidad)

United 24 yo 1991/2015 (50%, Silver Seal, Trinidad) Two stars I believe this distillery also makes Angostura, but that shouldn’t stop us. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not often that you can nose ashy rum, and it’s not often that you can find asparagus in your rum. In fact, it seems that this is ultra-light rum from a good cask. It’s shy, but it’s not void of any interest. Perhaps touches of very light and soft honey? With water: well, soft mint tea, perhaps. It’s very thin rum, we’re very far from high-ester Caroni! Mouth (neat): easy, mellow, soft, thin (not in a bad way), and fairly citrusy. It’s got a spritzy side. Schweppes-Lemon? With water: fine, easy, light. Finish: short, fine, easy, light. Comments: hello? It’s fine, it’s good, it’s easy – but it’s probably too easy. IMHO. SGP:441 - 75 points.

We all know that Silver Seal can do ten times better…. A hundred times better…

Bellevue 17 yo 1998/2015 (50%, Silver Seal, Guadeloupe)

Bellevue 17 yo 1998/2015 (50%, Silver Seal, Guadeloupe) Four stars and a half Colour: pale amber. Nose: ah, this Bellevue (coz there are others), glory of the Caribbean… We’ll keep this short, but imagine someone would smoke sultanas and bananas… With water: oh, bandages! And tar, tyres, candle wax, wine lees… It is unusual. And great. Mouth (neat): so very and totally agricole! Mint, eucalyptus drops, mint-flavoured liquorice, smoked tea, grapefruits, smoked wax (or something like that)… And strength and body are just perfect. And yet, with water: oh yeah, gentian, wormwood, elderberry flowers, oranges… Finish: medium, superb, herbal, flowery, mildly medicinal… Comments: it’s the complexity that’s always thrilling in Bellevue. This was another very, very fine example. SGP:552 - 88 points.

Time to put an end to this little session. Perhaps with a ‘heavy’ Caroni?

Caroni 15 yo 2000/2015 'Millenium' (60%, OB, Trinidad, 12 barrels, 1420 magnums)

Caroni 15 yo 2000/2015 'Millenium' (60%, OB, Trinidad, 12 barrels, 1420 magnums) Four stars and a half Only magnums while some Scots are doing depressingly small half bottles, that’s what I call panache, Luca! Now, if I remember well, 2000 was Caroni’s last vintage, wasn’t it? Colour: amber. Nose: it talks, you listen. Carbolinium, creosote, carbon paper, oyster mushrooms, pitch, lamp oil, long-forgotten Easter-Germanic herbal liqueurs, and just a touch of oak. With water: not sure it needs water. And yet, 60% vol… Mouth (neat): it’s not rum for everyone, okay? Because you have to like anchovies in brine, black olives, extreme salmiak, and even new leatherette to enjoy this salty monster of a rum. But if you do, you’re in for a treat (and you’ve got 1.5l of it!) With water: yes. Kools, heavy Dutch liquorice, smoked bananas, salted figs (what?) and kippers. Indeed. Finish: pretty long, but it’s hard to come up with just the right amount of water. Hope you’ve got a good pipette. Comments: some say heavy Caroni used to be the Ardbeg of rum. Well, nobody’s ever sent Caroni into space, it seems. That’s what’s good with extinct brands and distilleries, they just couldn’t do any pathetic marketing stunts anymore, and so they’ll simply never become the new laughing stock around. In short, when you’re dead, you’ll live forever. Rule Caroni! SGP:462 - 88 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Tower Of Power. Track: Spank-A-Dang. Please visit their website and buy their music...

October 2, 2015


Time Warp tasting, today Tomatin

Whenever someone asks me ‘what’s the easiest malt whisky’ or ‘what malt for a beginner’, I answer Tomatin. In my book, it’s the epitome of light fruitiness, but it sometimes needs a little age before it gets complex enough. Indeed, young Tomatins can be boring. We won’t have any today, as we’ll start with a 1989. And then, we’ll try to find an older one… And an old bottling, preferably.

Tomatin 25 yo 1989/2015 (51.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection)

Tomatin 25 yo 1989/2015 (51.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection) Four stars and a half Colour: straw. Nose: yippee yee yah! Or something like that. Total easiness at first nosing, with a large bag of… of… I mean, say Danish pastry and apricot-filled croissants. You can’t get any easier. Plus a little mead, custard, and butterscotch. And some cut grass to keep it straight and standing. With water: good, it’s the barley that comes out, together with more earth, and a wee waxy feeling, between putty and paraffin. Mouth (neat): goodness, this is for kids! Perfect orange lozenges, squash, wine gums, soda, drops, liqueurs, syrups, cakes, bonbons, cordials, cocktails (that’ll do, S.)… and grass. Some pepper and green tea are there to keep law and order, before it gets too… orangey.  Love this. With water: same. Just the same. It’s not that it doesn’t swim, it just would care about water. Finish: medium, as always with Tomatin, but bright, citrusy, very easy. Love the grassy aftertaste that prevents it from getting… really too easy. Comments: really excellent. Goes down a treat. So, maybe a bit dangerous. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Nah, go climb over this one. Let’s try, let’s try… Perhaps with this unusual old indie?

Tomatin 1965 (46%, The Lombard Collection, The Golfing Greats, casks #9250-9253, +/-1990)

Tomatin 1965 (46%, The Lombard Collection, The Golfing Greats, casks #9250-9253, +/-1990) Three stars Not too sure when this baby was bottled. Say it’s around 25 to 30 years of age. 1960s distillates were usually superlative, so we have high expectations. It’s like cars, sure Teslas or i8s are great, but I prefer a DB5, by far (oaky, okay). As they say, progress is circular, not linear, and that’s the main problem with marketers or finance executives, they’re too flat or 2D-ed. To be discussed… Colour: gold. Nose: the strict definition of sexiness in whisky. All fruits, a drop of oil (say sunflower), and a dash of vanilla powder. Right, you may want a list of the fruits. Say mangos, apples, bananas, papayas, guavas, mirabelles… Oh and yellow flowers, such as dandelions. Is that enough? Mouth: immediacy, sexiness, elegance, and yet body. All is excellent, it’s pure custard, tinned bananas, guavas, overripe pears… On the other hand, it’s no deep whisky, and I have to say it gets a little boring after just ten seconds. Especially because the oak tends to take over. It’s a s if the spirit was a little too weak. Finish: medium, and average. Fruit juices and herbal teas, with some oak and tea making it a little dry and flattish. Comments: it all started rather fantastically, but then everything just came crashing down. Good, I may be exaggerating a bit, but we’ve had much better old Tomatins. What’s sure is that the 1989 just smashes it. SGP:661 - 81 points.

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



Block Today: BLUES. Performer: Skip James. Track: Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues. Please buy his music...

October 1, 2015


Time Warp tasting, today Strathisla

We’ll have a very young one, and then another one that was bottled even before the former was distilled. Strathisla’s always classy and classic.

Strathisla 9 yo 2005/2014 (46%, Malt of The Earth, refill hogshead, 418 bottles)

Strathisla 9 yo 2005/2014 (46%, Malt of The Earth, refill hogshead, 418 bottles) Three stars This baby by a new Scottish bottler. MoM sell it for 75€ a bottle, which might be a little high given the age, and given that the official 12 goes for 40€. But let’s see what gives… Colour: very pale white wine. Muscadet from last year ;-). Nose: typical young fruity Speysider, full of orchard fruits (apples first), grains, and barley water, with a chalky side. Akin to these very young malt whiskies that Douglas Laing (and a few others) now have. Mouth: sweet and fruity, well a very young Speysider from a refill hogshead. But its good, with touches of coffee and ginger, and this raw maltiness that makes you scream ‘Mother Nature!’ Finish: rather long, and a little peppery. Comments: the opposite of the usual Strathislas that are rather sherried in general. It’s impossible for me to go above 80, because it’s very young and kind of immature, but the distillate is fine. Vive la Nature! SGP:441 - 80 points.

Plenty of old Strathislas to choose from… Perhaps this?

Strathisla 1963/2003 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)

Strathisla 1963/2003 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail) Five starsStrathisla from the ‘Strathisla-Glenlivet’ Distillery, as G&M write. By the way, why wouldn’t Pernod use that old moniker again? After all, they own both Strathisla and Glenlivet… A 1963/2005 by G&M had been excellent (WF 89), while a 1963/2011 Book of Kells had been almost outta this world (WF 92). Colour: dark gold. Nose: oh interesting, there’s a little olive oil and even some pinesap at first nosing, which suggests some rather active wood. That adds complexity when balance is kept! After that, the usual suspects… Honey, pollen, raisins, candle wax, dried figs, then touches of humus and mushrooms, as often, old wine cellar… It’s all very beautiful, and that was to be expected. Let’s only hope the palate won’t be a little flattish.. Mouth: not so, great news. Starts on old calvados and old Sauternes that went dry, goes on with some honey and orange liqueur, and keeps developing on herbal teas such as rosehip and hawthorn. Perhaps a drop of apricot-palinka aka barackpálinka, from Hungary. Just tried some, liked it, and am about to use it in my notes pretty often (oh no, that trick yet again!) Finish: not extremely long, but firm and coherent. Honey and barackpálinka. Ha-ha! Comments: really very very good. And when you remember how much these bottles were going for ten years ago, you can only cry… But I remember I had written a whole article in Whisky Magazine France around that time, enjoining everybody to buy them. Keep reading magazines! SGP:551 - 91 points.

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


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback





Today: JAZZ. Performer: Eddie Harris. Track: My man Ed. Please visit his website and buy his music...


September 2015 - part 2 <--- October 2015 - part 1 ---> October 2015 - part 2



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only

Aberlour 35 yo ‘Double Cask Matured’ (43%, OB, batch #1580, 50cl, 2015)

Dalmore 18 yo 1996/2014 (51.8%, Gleann Môr, A Rare Find, cask #2097, 279 bottles)

Dalmore 24 yo 1990/2015 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Rum Cask, 468 bottles)

Flaming Heart ‘5th Edition’ (48.9%, Compass Box, blended malt, 2015)

Glen Grant 59 yo 1955/2015 (60.8%, Gordon & MacPhail for LMDW, Book of Kells, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #845)

Karuizawa 30 yo 1985/2015 (55.2%, OB, for LMDW, sherry cask, cask #2364)

Karuizawa 30 yo (63.2%, OB, bourbon, cask #6432, 404 bottles, 2015)

Karuizawa 29 yo 1984/2014 (56.7%, Cask by Cask, oloroso sherry butt, cask #7802, 577 bottles)

Karuizawa 30 yo 1984/2015 (61.6%, OB, LMDW, sherry cask, cask #8838)

Mortlach 75 yo 1939/2014 (44.4%, Gordon & MacPhail, Generations, first fill sherry butt, cask #2475, 100 bottles)

Strathisla 1963/2003 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail)

This is Not a Luxury Whisky (53.1%, Compass Box, blend, 2015)

Jamaica Pot Still (57%, Rum Nation, 2014 release)