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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2017 - Part 2


October 2017 - part 1 <--- October 2017 - part 2 ---> November 2017 - part 1


October 31, 2017


A handful of Highland Park

The Vikingisation of Highland Park continues… We’re just awaiting free quaiches shaped like skulls, please!

Highland Park ‘Magnus’ (40%, OB, 2017)

Highland Park ‘Magnus’ (40%, OB, 2017) Three stars and a half This new NAS is supposed to contain a higher proportion of ‘sherry seasoned American oak’. Remember, you’re not allowed to season your whiskies, but you may season your casks. It seems that this baby’s a North-American exclusive, but not too sure. Colour: white wine. Nose: buttered toasts and custard, with a little fern, moss and soot in the background. Touches of lavender cream, perhaps, and perhaps a little sloe spirit. I have to say I enjoy this pretty coastal freshness, and the fact that the ‘seasoning’ doesn’t feel as such. Mouth: good, a bit smoky/peaty, a little peppery, nicely citrusy, and rather true to the distillery’s usual profile. Only good things to say, only the mouth feel is a little thin, but that’s the minimal strength. Frankly, this could easily stand 5 or 6 more degrees. Our wallets too. Finish: a little short, but otherwise fresh and nicely smoky/citrusy, perhaps a bit ala Springbank. Some favorable comparison, don’t you agree? Comments: I like this smoke, and the absence of sour(ish) sherry notes. Would easily reach 85 or 86 at 43% vol., no doubt about that. SGP:452 - 84 points.

Highland Park 1990/2017 (45%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, refill sherry butt, cask #15705, 308 bottles)

Highland Park 1990/2017 (45%, Signatory Vintage for La Maison du Whisky, refill sherry butt, cask #15705, 308 bottles) Four stars and a half A surprising strength, these babies usually come a cask strength. Now this is from the Cask Strength Collection, so 45% vol. may be the natural strength… Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh course, of course… The whole planet knows that these batches are splendid. It’s one of those Clynelishy HPs, with waxes, marmalades, citrons, clay, beach sand, shoe polish, a wee sooty side… And no sherry in the way. Impeccable. Mouth: only a discreet peppery fizziness may make it less stellar than expected, but frankly, that’s nothing. All the rest is perfect, with candied lemons, beeswax, grapefruits, a green and peppery smokiness, and perhaps a touch of green curry powder. Finish: rather long, a tad more bitter and leafy, but I do enjoy these kinds of finishes. Finishes should never be sweet, says… I. The aftertaste is lemony/smoky, always a win. Comments: so, cask strength or not? Excellent for sure. SGP:452 - 89 points.

Shall we try to catch a 90+?...

Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, 75cl)

Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, 75cl) Five stars One of the earlier ‘black label green glass’ dumpies, from when the company was still in Aberdeen. Don’t need to say that I’m expecting a lot… Colour: pale gold. Nose: what’s immediately striking is the fact the link to the new NAS is obvious. That’s excellent news (for that new NAS). Now, of course this is more complex, and above everything, much more medicinal. Tincture of iodine, bandages, mercurochrome, tiger balm, embrocations… That’s pretty much the whole story here, except that there are also these peated tangerines in the background. Excuse me? No, of course no one is peating tangerines, but should anyone do that, I’m sure the result would resemble this perfect HP 1961. I’d add that the trademark heather honey’s there too. Mouth: extraordinary, as expected. A HP that could talk to any Ardbegs and Laphroaigs from similar vintages, with these very complex touches of smoked… well, things, fish, citrus, hessian, branches, leaves… In truth we’re right between a beach bonfire and a garden bonfire. It just gets a little weaker after two minutes, without ever getting weak as such. That’s normal, it’s an old bottle. Finish: medium long, and just perfect. Peppery smoke, lemons, two drops of brine.  Only the aftertaste is a little bitterish, but hey, only 46% vol. and 35 years in glass! Comments: this old baby totally met our expectations, without quite having the amazing fullness of the OBs from similar vintages. John Goodwin, anyone? SGP:463 - 91 points.

(Thank you KC!)

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


Whiskyfun fav of the month

October 2017

Favourite recent bottling:
Springbank 23 yo 1994/2017 (50.6%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) - WF 94

Favourite older bottling:
Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, 75cl) - WF 91

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Lagavulin 12 yo ‘Special Release 2017’ (56.5%, OB) - WF 90

Favourite malternative:
Velier Royal Navy (57.18%, Velier, blend, 2017) - WF 91



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Logan Richardson. Track: Imagine. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 30, 2017


Four old Scottish grains

What have we learned so far? That grain whisky can be very good, provided it’s a least 30 or 35 years of age. Young ones are usually totally and plainly uninteresting in my opinion, unless you need to clean your windows, or love vanilla when the bottlers are botoxing their young grains using oak. Yep, saying what I think.

Carsebridge 30 yo 1982/2017 (50.8%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #7, hogshead, cask #74690, 198 bottles)

Carsebridge 30 yo 1982/2017 (50.8%, La Maison du Whisky, Artist #7, hogshead, cask #74690, 198 bottles) Four stars Indeed, as usual with this series, the numbers don’t add up, as they’re rounded down to the nearest five years. So, this one’s most probably 34 years old. Colour: gold. Nose: coconut and vanilla in abundance, then popcorn and orange juice, then something clearly bourbony. Typical. With water: a little tar, rubber bands, and apple peelings. Mouth (neat): creamy, and rather more citrusy, which is a blessing. Little ‘dull’ popcorn and vanilla-ed maple syrup, rather tangerine juice, blood oranges, and, yep, coconut oil. Not quite an empty, or silent grain whisky, this one. With water: goes on with the same flavours, perhaps a tad sweeter. Finish: medium, with these nice citrusy notes that really saved this baby. Comments: certainly one of the better ones – and yes I’m still no grainhead. SGP:540 - 85 points.

Cambus 25 yo 1991/2017 (52.7%, Which Tasting Circle, sherry cask)

Cambus 25 yo 1991/2017 (52.7%, Which, sherry cask) Four stars I’ve pre-tasted some very good ones by this little German circle, but this is a middle-aged Cambus. Let’s proceed with caution!... Colour: amber/bronze. Nail? Patch? Nose: acetone, nail polish remover, mezcal, brine, toasted cake, roasted nuts, tincture of iodine… So much for a silent spirit! Not your average cask, this one, let’s dig deeper… With water: stewed pineapples and a handful of green olives. That’s very intriguing, and totally not popcorny. Grain, really? Could we meet this cask? Mouth (neat): surprise surprise, this is very nice indeed, roasted/toasted at first, then rather brine-y (some brine-y grain?), with notes of dry white wine, a little coffee, and perhaps one bit of celeriac. Some fun in there… With water: we’re now geared towards rum… Really! Finish: rather long, finely lemony, with a wee metallic touch somewhere in the back. I suppose that’s why this baby’s colour is a little green. Comments: indeed, a very nice surprise. I wouldn’t have given it a chance… SGP:451 - 87 points.

Okay, some 104 years and we’re done. I mean, that would be two 52s…

Blended Grain 52 yo 1964/2017 (47.9%, Hunter Laing, Sovereign, bourbon barrel, cask # 13327, 221 bottles)

Blended Grain 52 yo 1964/2017 (47.9%, Hunter Laing, Sovereign, bourbon barrel, cask # 13327, 221 bottles) Four stars and a half Given that we’ve got a cask number, I guess this baby was blended sometime during its life, perhaps even at birth. Colour: gold. Nose: some kind of earthy glue at first, then a large bag of fresh mushrooms, then ‘dry’ vanilla and cocoa pods, without one ounce of dull sweetness. No coconuts in sights, that’s super great news. Mouth: an unusual and pretty nice kind-of metallic arrival, with also preserved pineapples, then more pineapples, rather in pastries and juices. Notes of avocados, that’s nice and unusual too. Half-fermenting fruits (mangos…), and an unexpected pot-still character. Rosehip tea… Finish: medium, sour and sweet, you’re almost sucking on wee bits of cigarette tobacco. Craven A? Senior Service? John Player? Comments: we’re wandering throughout other dimensions with this very old and beautiful blended grain. Some tertiary flavours seem to have combined to generate quaternary ones. Perhaps. SGP:551 - 88 points.

Port Dundas 52 yo 1964/2017 (44.6%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogsheads, 752 bottles)

Port Dundas 52 yo 1964/2017 (44.6%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogsheads, 752 bottles) Four stars You knew this was going to happen, right? Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re at Starbuck’s, I mean, Starbuck’s as it should be. Litres of proper café latte, roasted hazelnuts (from Piemont), macchiato, then some kind of orange-flavoured fudge, natural green coconut water (no industrial ‘juice’), and hints of the wackiest guavas. Then touches of litchis, gewürztraminer, perfumy honey, sweeter ale, and sultanas. The whole’s rather soft, elegant, and, and, and… we haven’t noticed any obvious kind of vanilla, h.u.r.r.a.y!  Mouth: more tropical, a tad oilier than expected, and rather more pina-colada-ish in that respect. Pineapple juice, a little coconut, then several very soft and rounded spices, perhaps Timut pepper, a wee touch of cinchona, and the softest American oak. To paraphrase some diminutive bearded man, ‘reminiscent of Havana Club, just better than any Havana Club’. Right. Finish: medium, with rather more obvious American oak. Pencil shavings. That’s where it’s losing one or two points in my book, while remaining a superb very old grain. Nice touches of aromatic herbs, wormwood, woodruff… Comments: I’d say that these grains, whether old or not, always feel a little thin to the malt drinker, so they have to be pretty perfect to cross the 85-mark. I mean, in my book, and this old official sure did it, although I think I preferred both the recent Cambus and the previous Caledonian by Diageo. Anyway, very good old grain! SGP:641 - 86 points.



Angus’s take:
Port Dundas 52 yo 1964/2017 (44.6%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogsheads, 752 bottles) Some praise has been heaped on this bottle from other quarters. I’m not really a great lover of grain whisky but some of the older ones can be rather lovely. Let’s see what gives... Colour: Gold. Nose: Rather typical notes of polish, banana liqueur, many assorted wood resins, Retsina wine and some elegant honeyed aspects as well. There is wood but it feels like it is kept in delicate check. A few strawberries, a jigger of old Demerara rum, a touch of burnt sugar and a very light dusting of green fruits. Not sure about water with this one but let’s try it... With water: Becomes more herbal with these notes of old Benedictine, a touch of camphor, more wood resins, molasses and foam strawberries. Mouth: Creamy at first but the wood does nibble. Although the wood is clean and nourishingly spicy with notes of cinnamon, butter, cloves, star anise and five spice. Orange bitters, a glug of a good old fashioned, a little Campari (you could have a lot of fun in a cocktail bar with this one I’m sure). Goes on with a little mead, some soft peppercorn notes, lychee and even a touch of chilli. With water: some strong black tea, a little lean tannin around the sides of the mouth and then clove rock and tarte tatin. Finish: Healthy length, enjoyably rummy with some tinned fruit syrups, raisins and wood spices. Comments: As with quite a lot of very old grains I would be interested to see people taste this blind amongst some good, lighter rums. I think they did a good job with the cask selection, the wood is prevalent but clean and in check. Not something I could drink a lot of but I think it’s good. Grain lovers will no doubt lap it up. SGP: 641 - 87 points.


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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Michel Portal. Track: Ahmad the Terrible. Please buy his music...

October 29, 2017


More mad rums adlib

It’s that there’s never been so many great rums around, since all, well I mean almost all whisky bottlers are starting to issue rums. It’s true that between a 6 yo Glenallachie and a 1990 Hampden, I know which pony I’d ride…


Please remember that my assessment of any spirits is only a strictly personal opinion and is done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who usually prefers distillate-driven spirits, and dislikes anything doctored, aromatised, hybridised, or tampered with, thank you – and peace!

Neisson 1997/2017 (44.1%, OB, Martinique, agricole, joint bottling for Velier and La Maison du Whisky)

Neisson 1997/2017 (44.1%, OB, Martinique, agricole, joint bottling for Velier and La Maison du Whisky) Five stars When they say ‘joint bottling’, that doesn’t mean that they were smoking spliffs while selecting the casks, eh! (that was lower than low, S.) Colour: amber. Nose: in all bottlings by Neisson, there’s this unusual combination of oaky softness, with firmer glue/phenols/bananas notes. Totally the case here, and this chocolate is magnificent, and so are the dates, gingerbread, fig cake, speculoos, pine sap, myrtle liqueur, pipe tobacco, Havana cigars, dried porcinis, and bicycle inner tubes. A perfect tyre sealer, this. Mouth: no seriously, this is superb. We’re a bit geared towards bourbonness at times, but other than that, there are these cigars, the flower jams, zucchini flowers, elderberries, bananas, old Italian ham (Parma that got a bit sweet), sage, chervil, chicken soup, hashish (yes), orange blossom water, resins… You got it, its really very complex. Finish: medium, and maybe a tad fragile, but this tobacco/flowers/saps/sultanas combo just works a treat. Comments: there’s even an old-Cognac quality to this very complex beauty. SGP:562 - 90 points.

Good, one down…

Hampden 16 yo 2000/2017 (51%, Silver Seal, Jamaica, cask #32, 229 bottles)

Hampden 16 yo 2000/2017 (51%, Silver Seal, Jamaica, cask #32, 229 bottles) Four stars All right, we’ve had some super-extreme Hampdens within the last weeks that had been a little difficult. Not that I usually prefer Glenkinchie, but a little sanity from time to time cannot do any harm, can it? Colour: white wine. Nose: a semi-civilised Hampden, that’s what this is. Magic and olives, brine, vegetal glue, wandering throughout Ikea’s main warehouse, diesel oil, and pine needles. With water: a little sawdust and oak shavings, but also some unexpected sea air, and fresh cultivated mushrooms, what we call ‘champignons de Paris’. Mouth (neat): a fruitier Hampden. All the phenoly/varnishy flavours are well there, but there are also rotting bananas and some kind of liquorice and wine sauce. Hampden playing Chopin rather than Wagner. With water: softer, easier, but not void of any Jamaicanness. Finish: rather long, well balanced, on green liquorice and pineapple flambéed. Comments: all very good, this is rather Hampden for well-mannered drinkers. Would that be us? Not too sure… SGP:652 - 87 points.

Nine Leaves 3 yo 2014/2017 ‘Encrypted’ (64.8%, Velier, 70th Anniversary, Japan, cask #3)

Nine Leaves 3 yo 2014/2017 ‘Encrypted’ (64.8%, Velier, 70th Anniversary, Japan, cask #3) Two stars I love the idea behind Japan’s Nine Leaves, but I’ve been pretty unlucky with their makes so far. What the hell, let’s persevere! Colour: full gold. Nose: starts lactic and chocolaty, gets then very fermentary, with some dough and then some cocoa powder. Sour mash, turnips in mole sauce (right), artichokes. A bit whacky so far, but there is some soul in it. Not for the thirsty masses, I suppose… With water: sawdust, vanillin, cocoa powder, and tangerines. Tangerines are much nicer, obviously. Mouth (neat): heavy gingery oak, plus barbecued Seville oranges, plus turmeric, plus cloves, plus all kinds of snuff. With water: ginger and sweeter mustard. Bitter oranges. Finish: long, very gingery. Comments: I think I get the idea, but it’s too intellectual for me. And way too wood-driven. La prego di accettare le mie scuse, shitsureishimashita! SGP:341 - 70 points.

Quick, let’s make amends…

St. Lucia 7 yo 2010/2017 (58.6%, Velier, Sainte-Lucie, cask #734-0908-JD2)

St. Lucia 7 yo 2010/2017 (58.6%, Velier, 70th Anniversary, Sainte-Lucie, cask #734-0908-JD2) Four stars I’ve been told this was some harder, stronger St. Lucia, meaning with much higher esters. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: well well well, this seems to be a crossbreed between the most extreme Jamaicans and the most authentic and freshest French agricoles. Actually, this nose is splendid, full of lemon rinds, olive brine, seawater, and lemongrass. As I said, splendid. With water: no oak that gets in your way, rather smoky lemons. Mouth (neat): yeah, very good, for sure. Salty liquorice, salty lemons, salty seawater (are you kidding, S.?) With water: no further developments, apart from a few small berries, redcurrants, sorb (perhaps)… Finish: medium, rather on cedar and sandalwood. Some chocolate in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s not a very potent distillate, but I think they made the most of it. So, very well done. SGP:462 - 86 points.

A proper malternative session without any Caroni wouldn’t be a proper malternative session…

Caroni 23 yo 1994/2017 (59%, Velier, Trinidad, Guyana stock)

Caroni 23 yo 1994/2017 (59%, Velier, Trinidad, Guyana stock) Three stars This wee baby was first aged in Trinidad for 14 years, then at D.D.L.’s in Guyana. Just hope the good Guyanans didn’t surreptitiously add any sugary juice while the cask was there. Most probably not! Colour: amber. Nose: there is some oak for sure, black chocolate, maduro cigars, earthy black teas, some mint in the background, artichokes, Jägermeister, a pack of menthol cigarettes… With water: lovely, really. Peonies, wallflowers, tamarind jam… Mouth (neat): well, it’s rather heavily extractive, we’re actually touching the limits here. Dried black olives, crunching pine needles, drinking walnut stain, eating burnt gingerbread… There’s a dry bitterness to this, not sure it’s for just anyone. With water: gets a little too drying, frankly. Too extreme for me. Finish: long, drying, oaky, chocolaty, minty, full of cinnamon… Comments: I fully understand the romanticism behind extended tropical aging, but let’s be honest, there are limits to oak extraction, and as I’m rather a lover of distillate-driven spirit, I have the impression that anything that would go beyond fifteen (okay, twenty) years in the tropics, and unless carefully monitored (see the Neisson we had), could simply become too oaky. So I like this bomb, but I know some excellent folks do enjoy this profile much more, so who am I…  SGP:272 - 80 points.

I have to say I’m a bit surprised, so let us insist just a wee bit…

Caroni 23 yo 1994/2017 (57.18%, Velier, Trinidad, Guyana stock)

Caroni 23 yo 1994/2017 (57.18%, Velier, Trinidad, Guyana stock) Five stars Colour: amber. Nose: similar of course, but with more juicy fruits, blood oranges, pink bananas, these small pineapples that they have in Cuba… I’m also finding more menthol, camphor, eucalyptus… It’s an other direction that oak may take, one that I tend to like better. With water: lovely, chestnut purée, mango chutney, a pack of thin mints… Mouth (neat): it’s big, it’s oaky, but indeed I like it much, much better. Some kind of mentholy orange marmalade, fir honey, heavy liquorice, Corsican myrtle liqueur, Italian porcini powder, tar, crème de menthe… Long story short, yes! With water: no over-dryiness this time, only quite some black tea and tobacco. Our friends the oranges are singing loud and clear in the background, that’s really cool. Finish: long, rather bright given all this oak, and really very jammy. Less cinnamon this time, that’s cool. Not that I don’t like cinnamon, but when there is too much of it, especially in a finish, that’s not to my liking. Comments: much less drying oak and presto, ten more points. A rather perfect old Caroni that managed to keep all the heavy oak under control. Phew! SGP:562 - 90 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ (for rum). Performer: Shamek Farrah. Track: Waiting For Marvin. Please buy his music...

October 28, 2017




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild

Two Glen Scotia



Glen Scotia 9 yo 2008/2017 (58.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, # 93.77, ‘A Classic Rally’, First fill barrel, 225 bottles)

Glen Scotia 9 yo 2008/2017 (58.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, # 93.77, ‘A Classic Rally’, First fill barrel, 225 bottles) One of the more ‘subtle’ SMWS bottle names; perhaps they changed weed suppliers that week...? Colour: Straw. Nose: It’s a peated one! But it’s a very curious and idiosyncratic kind of peat. A melange of various medicines, sea greens, peat oil, road surfacing (for once I see where they’re going with the name). Kerosene, lamp oil, hessian, green peppercorns, seaweed, brine. I wasn’t expecting such a busy nose, great surprise so far. With water: Still quite green. A whole seashore of seaweed, kelp, wet pebbles, sand and beach wood. Little flecks of smoked fish along side more delicate medicinal notes and hospital aromas. A peppery lick of watercress in the background.



Mouth: Liquorice, cola cubes, sweet ash, jelly babies, plasticine, chopped parsley, cured herrings, smoked mussels. What an unusual experience! It is highly entertaining though, don’t get me wrong. Develops in a very saline way: salted cod, fresh oysters, sea water, a squeeze of lemon juice. A curious kind of farminess hanging around in the background. With water: becomes more herbal, towards sage, sorrel, parsley and rocket. A slight rubbery note akin to elastic bands - but not in an ‘unclean’ way. Medical tinctures, more peat oils, more tar and something like gorse. Finish: Long, saline, delicately medicinal with those same curious farmy notes resurgent towards the end. Comments: I’ve tasted something similar in Glen Scotia’s warehouses before and I was told at the time it was ‘medium peated’ distillate. I felt the stuff I had then was fantastic (but then isn’t everything tasted in a warehouse fantastic), I find this bottling very reminiscent. It’s an extremely unusual and idiosyncratic manifestation of peat flavour in whisky that I feel could only come from Campbeltown. A fascinating wee bottling. Highly recommended! Hopefully there will be more of these stocks finding their way into bottle in the coming years. (Hint hint Glen Scotia!!) I feel these casks could become quite special with just a few more years. SGP: 257 -  88 points.  


Glen Scotia 15 yo 1999/2014 (58.7%, Cadenhead, Sherry cask, 588 bottles) Glen Scotia 15 yo 1999/2014 (58.7%, Cadenhead, Sherry cask, 588 bottles) Cadenhead had some red wine casks of 1999 Scotia before, thankfully this is full term sherry maturation. As some of you may know, I’m not the biggest fan of wineskys. Colour: Light amber. Nose: A pleasingly leafy and slightly salty sherry at first. Little bursts of gunpowder, wet earth, fig paste, rolling tobacco, camphor and a soft green fruitiness. Quite pleasant! Goes on with a little cocoanut water, green pepper, green olive tapenade. With water: oranges, greengages, dried leaves a little soot, some sorrel and fresh parsley. Mouth: Pretty hot and gravelly to begin. Some cardboard, a few crushed oatcakes, a fistful of damp soil. Becomes more elegant with time with some nicely peppery notes, gingerbread, maybe even a shred of cannabis resin. Relatively lean and straightforward with a pleasing saline, crispy bacon theme emerging. With water: milk chocolate, trail mix, flambéed banana, roasted chestnuts. Quite an improvement I’d say, water seems to invigorate it back to something equivalent to the quality of the nose. A little muesli, orange peel and various fruit cordials. Finish: Decent length. Perhaps a bit flat with something reminiscent of quinine. Still a little peppery though. Comments: A decent sherry matured Scotia, not stellar or particularly thrilling but the sherry and distillate were both clean and pretty fresh. SGP: 433 - 81 points.  



October 27, 2017


Little duets, indie Springbank
vs. indie Springbank

What should I say? These are simply my two favourite recent Springers, both indie. Now I haven’t tried them ‘properly’ and ‘formally’ yet, so things may have changed. Let’s give them time…

Springbank 23 yo 1994/2017 (50.6%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)

Springbank 23 yo 1994/2017 (50.6%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Five stars It’s a Westvleteren cask finish, that’s what I’ve heard from some usually-well-informed Belgian source, but given the very relative sobriety of that Belgian source, please allow me to question that bit of information. Oh come on, can’t we laugh a bit? Colour: white wine. Nose: get-out-of-here! Some friend suggested this could be Longrow, and indeed this could be Longrow, as the indies usually get their Longrows as Springbanks. Take ashes, mix with brine, add lemon juice, add ink, add crushed chalk, add a little ‘clean’ sulphur, and add a few fermenting (right, rotting) fruits. There, you have it. With water: plaster and charcoal, crushed and mixed with olive brine and lemon juice. Why anyone would do that, I don’t know, but there… Mouth (neat): extraordinarily zesty. All chalk mixed in lemon juice and soot, cigar ashes, and olive brine. You just cannot stop this, it conquers you. With water: Longrow or Springbank (or Benromach or Clynelish), f**ck it all. And please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! Finish: why do you need to know? Comments: kudos Jan and Mario, this was some selection! I’m really glad you could get thirty-five other casks of the same make, and that you’re already taking reservations. Great initiative, really. SGP:355 - 94 points.

Springbank 24 yo (51.7%, The Whisky Exchange, Art of Whisky, 2017)

Springbank 24 yo (51.7%, The Whisky Exchange, Art of Whisky, 2017) Five stars I’ve tried this one with Chris at the company’s headquarters earlier in September, but they said they would cut my moustache, should I say anything about it. This is a tough life. Colour: pale gold. Nose: much less peat smoke in this one, this is well Springbank (and not… just checking if you’re following me… that’s right, Longrow). But it is brilliant, mineral, greasy, diesely, waxy, engine-y (what?), there are broken branches and cut grass, some mud, some new electronics (as when we were unpacking our new Akais or Pioneers, remember?) and some chalk. Chalk, obviously. With water: gets more coastal, and rather rounder. A little rounder. Mouth (neat): I would admit I find it a little Longrowy as well, but are they really properly cleaning their pipes between each run? Can’t you find some Longrow in Springbank? Brine, lemon juice, these very typical ‘twisted’ flavours (between rotting turnips and sulphur), clay, tobacco from an untipped Gauloise, smoked fish… (drunken kipper, as a friend in the industry once said, although he may have actually meant drunken keeper, which would have made more sense)… With water: careful with water, there is a breaking point where it would get a little too fruity, quite oddly. Finish: rather long, waxy, mineral… all that. Comments: just brilliant, it’s just that the Belgian Longr… eerr, bank was just out of this world. Totally. SGP:462 - 92 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ. Performer: Sam Rivers. Track: Beatrice. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 26, 2017


Tackling the mighty Octomores again

They’re record breakers and attention-catchers, those wee Octomores by Bruichladdich. What’s (relatively) funny is that in the past, I’ve found quite a few Port Charlottes that had seemed smokier than Octomore, as if it wasn’t all a matter of ‘ppms’.

Octomore 8 yo 2008/2017 'Masterclass_08.1’ (59.3%, OB, first fill bourbon barrels, 42000 bottles)

Octomore 8 yo 2008/2017 'Masterclass_08.1’ (59.3%, OB, first fill bourbon barrels, 42000 bottles) Four stars 167ppm in the malted barley. Okie dokie, but forty-two thousand bottles ‘only’, really? Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather soft, really, and not a peat bomb at all. I’m rather finding quite some sawdust, then whiffs of cow stable and burning charcoal. A tad monolithic, perhaps, but water should help. With water: tarmac, ink, and carbon paper, plus a bag of charcoal behind all that. Mouth (neat): huge, and certainly very good. A lot of sweet lemony oak (perhaps a little too much of that), and a lot of peppery, pungent peat. A feeling of over-brewed lapsang souchong at times. Bang! With water: makes it feel even younger. Wood ashes galore, something that’s rather drying, in fact. Makes you want to drink a large glass of water. Finish: long, very ashy, with some drying tannins. Comments: very very good for sure, but maybe a little tiring. All these drying ashes… SGP:358 - 85 points.

Octomore 5 yo 2011/2017 ‘Masterclass_08.3’ (61.2%, OB, Islay barley, 18000 bottles)

Octomore 5 yo 2011/2017 ‘Masterclass_08.3’ (61.2%, OB, Islay barley, 18000 bottles) Four stars I don’t think they malt at PE, so I guess they have to harvest on Islay, ship to the maltsters on the mainland, and get it back. Lots of ppms to be lost during transport, I imagine. Anyway, this had 309ppm in/on the malted barley – right after smoking, I suppose. Colour: pale gold. Nose: once again, no peat bomb so far, but there is some gingery and cinnamony oak. And ink, carbon paper, charcoal, coal tar, soft vinegar, brine, and all that. As well as a game-y meatiness. Last week’s grouse? With water: satay sauce! Mouth (neat): oh good! Extremely simple, almost elementary, but this sweet-curry-like oakiness tangoes with the very ashy and peppery smoke to perfection. Pad Thai? With water: well, I’m not too much into coconut and chilli sauce, I have to say. But I enjoy guavas and papayas. Finish: long, bold, and frankly Thai. You could pour this onto beef, shrimps, prawns, chicken, fish, tofu… Excuse me? No, not snakes! Very sweet aftertaste, with quite a lot of coconut oil. Comments: this is very modern, that’s all I’ll say. And rather Thai… Feels less smoky than 8.1, in spite of all the ‘ppms’. Ha, ppms! SGP:557 - 86 points.

Oc4 2010/2017 (59.1%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2017)

Oc4 2010/2017 (59.1%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2017) Five starsThem too seem to be starting to disclose the ages and/or the vintages, because they know that NAS is for street drinkers, air travellers, and the unlearned! (watch it S., weapons are on open sale in some countries…) By the way, how many ppms? Not that we really need that bit of information… Colour: white wine. Nose: we’ll keep this short, there’s less oak, hence more distillate character. So cactus juice, brake pads after a run, the engine of an old two-stroke Kawasaki, and the most wonderful ideas of ‘a walk on Machir Bay or elsewhere’. Never burry a great distillate under too much stoopid active oak! With water: oh! Mouth (neat): f***k it. A lemony blade. With water: John Cage’s favourite. There isn’t much complexity, it’s even kind of narrow and even thin, but you cannot not think of some super-young funky Jamaican rums, with this extreme briny/smoky unfolding. Finish: blood oranges. Can’t beat those. Comments: this reminds me of that old Scottish saying that anyone should remember, in my opinion, “What’s the best you can do to a good cask of whisky? -Nothing.” You can’t beat popular wisdom. Checkmate! SGP:468 - 91 points.

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



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October 25, 2017


The usual Lagavulin sisters

… that usually come out at this time of the year. I have to admit I’m a little late this time, there are so many new whiskies!

Lagavulin 12 yo ‘Special Release 2017’ (56.5%, OB)

Lagavulin 12 yo ‘Special Release 2017’ (56.5%, OB) Five stars We’re having these every year, and every year that’s a joy. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: Lagavulin’s sweeter peat at first, then the expected sooty smoke, Islay mud, crushed barley, then perhaps a drop of sunflower or sesame oils, whiffs of hand cream, and the usual ocean breeze. Drops of mercurochrome as well, just in case. It’s the purity that’s really perfect here. With water: that wet old tweed jacket, back from Dunivaig’s ruins while it was raining cats and dogs over the bay. Mouth (neat): lemony, peppery, ashy, and smoky perfection. I find it even more precise and concise than earlier batches. Doesn’t do a lot, but does it with utter perfection. With water: gets ashier and sootier. That feeling of having eaten some cigar ash, while the usual orange drops start to appear in the background. Finish: rather long, clean, rather on smoked oranges. We’ll have to try that one day. Comments: perhaps a slightly simpler and sweeter one, but we keep flying very high with these little 12s. SGP:457 - 90 points.



Angus’s take:
Lagavulin 12 yo ‘Special Release 2017’ (56.5%, OB) Colour: White wine. Nose: Pretty typical. A big glass full of smouldering embers, seaweed, peat smoke, hospital corridors and assorted freshly landed shellfish. A big squeeze of fresh lemon juice over everything to boot. Some nicely earthy notes follow with aromas of gentian eau de vie and mezcal with a wee sprig of rosemary as well. Quite a dry and savoury profile; a lovely mix of buttery pastry with black olives. With water: some iodine drops, coal cellars and cured ham. Mouth: Big, emphatic, drying, peaty and medicinal. Lots of these big, textural notes of petrol, wax and brine. Peppered mackerel, gravadlax, lemon oil, boot polish - a blade of ash swipes down the mid-palate. Intense purity and focus of flavour. With water: a little fruitier with some nice green and mineral touches. Stone fruits and more medical complexities. It’s tempting to call these bottlings simplistic but I find the purity and precision of it all quite compelling. Finish: Long, ashy, lemony, mineral and with a big fug of germoline and blue peat smoke. Smoked oats and barley bringing up the rear. Comments: Dependably delicious and enlivening as ever. I feel these latter releases of the past few years have been noticeably drier, but the power and poise remains exceptional. An Islay benchmark in my book; the kind of whisky for seashores, late nights and friends. SGP: 358 - 90 points.


Lg7 (56.8%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2017)

Lg7 (56.8%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2017) Five stars I agree, we have no proof whatsoever that ‘Lg’ means Lagavulin. I’ve seen somewhere that this is a 2007 vintage. Colour: white wine. Nose: same family, obviously, but it seems that this one’s tenser and more austere, with less fruity sweetness and rather more medicinal notes, from tincture of iodine to camphor and menthol cream. It’s probably good for rubdowns when you get sore, this. With water: grassier than the OB, also with more linseed oil, shoe polish, petroly riesling… Mouth (neat): once again, and while it’s typically Lagavulin, we’re finding rather more sharpness, iodine, green tea, green tannins, then fizzy orange drops. Quite a lot of green pepper in the background, Seville oranges... With water: very dry, ashy, earthy. No sweets this time, rather unsweetened lapsang souchong. Finish: long, very good, with a mentholy freshness. Comments: rather more extreme and even smokier than the OB, and certainly more peppery. I tend to like it a notch better. SGP:358 - 91 points.

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



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October 24, 2017


Port Ellen, one young old and one old old

I’m starting to use the ’Old Port Ellen’ wording since, have you heard the news, there will be some ‘New Port Ellen’ in the coming years. We’ll make sure we keep quite a few old ones aside to be able to build some proper comparative sessions in the future (if this lousy website survives until then), but in the meantime… Let’s have some young Port Ellen as the mandatory apéritif!

Port Ellen 1981/1991 (64.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #43.3)

Port Ellen 1981/1991 (64.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #43.3) Four stars and a half This rare early SMWS still used to bear a twist cap. They are hard to find, since when these were coming out, people used to drink them. I know, that’s hard to fathom. Colour: white wine. Nose: extremely narrow, and extremely great. Some utter precision, with smoky granny smith and that is all. Perhaps a drop of wine vinegar? A touch of brine? Another young peater that reminds me of the best artisan joven mezcals. With water: crushed barley, visiting the PE maltings, and only the faintest whiffs of shoe polish and tar. Other PEs have been much tarrier. Mouth (neat): crystalline and very sharp. Green apples, green grapefruits, and some rather pungent and peppery smoke. Millimetric, as I sometimes say. With water: gets very flinty and chalky, this has almost the zing of some proper Pouilly-Fumé. Finish: long, with some citrus this time. Ashes, grapefruit, green pepper. A drop of seawater in the aftertaste, and perhaps a wee bit of kipper. Comments: a little simple – mind you, only ten years – but totally beautiful. Worth resurrecting, most certainly! SGP:357 - 89 points.

Port Ellen 37 yo 1979/2017 (51.0%, OB, Special Release, 2,988 bottles)

Port Ellen 37 yo 1979/2017 (51.0%, OB, Special Release, 2,988 bottles) Five stars Indeed, the 17th release, already! It’s from eight refill American oak hogsheads and butts, and well, I love it that they would keep using this superb and elegantly understated ‘Rare Malts’ bottle. Last year’s 1978 was rather fantastic, but perhaps a wee bit more ‘tired’ than earlier releases (WF 91). Colour: gold. Nose: okay, I can already tell you, after just one sniff, that this PE is the best amongst this year’s Special Releases, unless the Convalmore, well, let’s see... Fish oil, smoked salmon, sesame oil, garden peat, wild mushrooms, then rather new wellies (which is oh-so very PE in my book), oysters and their friends the whelks and clams, olives, and hessian/old clothes, old camphory embrocations... A pretty unbeatable nose, displaying superb elegance and depth. Smoky lace. With water: barbecued fish and some fresh rubber, lamp oil, smoked almonds, seawater, ink… Mouth (neat): no no no, this is not possible after last year’s rather shy proposition. This has oomph and zing, it’s extremely bright and kicking, and it displays these divine tropical fruits that can be found in very old Taliskers, Bowmores, or Laphroaigs (1950s and 1960s). Smoky and peppery passion fruits and mangos, you know. It’s also really medicinal, more medicinal that many a PE in my book. Fantastic. With water: swims extremely well, but I think we might have to call the anti-maltoporn brigade. Ever tried to blend grapefruit juice and olive oil? We could go on and on, but we’ll keep this short, as Angus has something to say… Finish: long, and, for once, perhaps the best part. Very old whiskies seldom shine out at this point, in my experience. Salted grapefruit and lemon juices, with some chalk and some shoe polish. That’s foolproof. Comments: let’s be honest, I had thought that Diageo’s annual PEs would become less and less bright, and more and more fragile. I’m extremely glad to be proven wrong. Angus, the floor is yours… SGP:466 - 93 points.



Angus’s take:
Port Ellen 37 yo 1979/2017 (51.0%, OB, Special Release, 2,988 bottles) The 17th release in this series! I remember when the 4th release came out everyone got up in arms because they thought it would be a trilogy. Innocent times indeed. Colour: Gold. Nose: Well, this ‘Special Releases Port Ellen’ character is still redolent here. It’s a wonderful mix of light fruits, earth, medical tinctures, sandalwood, sea shore notes, cured meats and a peat profile which has become almost kind of syrupy and concentrated with age. Develops further with these tertiary aromas of lamp oil, dunnage, hessian, seaweed, mineral oil and fish sauce. Things like lemons, mussels and capers all in brine sloshing about in the depths as well. Some tiger balm and vapour rub as well perhaps. The complexity is both impressive and beautiful. The fruits become more confident and mentholated with time. With water: it opens rather beautifully now with this kind of effervescent seashore quality. Notes of green olive, thyme, lime zest and smoked grains. Mouth: A soft wave of very concentrated peat oils breaks leaving wood spices, waxes, lemon and herbal liqueurs and a cullen skink smoked fish note. Further notes of sorrel, crushed white peppercorns, mercurochrome, iodine and smoked sea salt. There’s even a suggestion of old rope, graphite and an old pencil eraser - a nod to that Port Ellen ‘dirtiness’. Kippery, mentholated, beautifully medicinal and full of these warming and wisping bonfire notes in the background. With water: there is a waxiness to the peat itself with these undulating notes of black olives, umami, anchovy and a lick of sourdough and lemon juice. Finish: Long and beautifully nervous. A real curtain call of all that myriad complexity that’s come before. More black olives and umami notes with a sprawling minerality. More earthiness, more wax and seashore flair. Comments: It’s hard to discard the price of these releases now. But there’s no denying just how great these stocks have become at this kind of age. This is complex, beautiful and hugely satisfying whisky. SGP: 466 - 93 points.


(Many thanks, Kjell!)

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



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October 23, 2017


Balvenie of all ages

There’s this new and very prestigious official 1961, and of course I can’t wait, can you? But first, one or several aperitifs. You know, that feeling of climbing the staircase from a 1970s Italian soft porn movie… Ach, oh forget about that…

Burnside 20 yo (51.7%, Chorlton Whisky, hogshead)

Burnside 20 yo (51.7%, Chorlton Whisky, hogshead) Four stars A new bottler, it seems. They chose superb labels, something early-1900s Dutch or something, or is that Brueghel the Elder? As you may know, Burnside is the name for Balvenie’s vatted, aka blended, aka teaspooned make. Colour: white wine. Nose: these indie Balvenies are often more citric, sharper, more angular than their official counterparts, which are usually creamier, although we aren’t too far from some of those older official 15 yo single casks. Lemon, Weiss bier, fresh turmeric, unripe greengages, a touch of wet chalk… With water: a wee tad medicinal, with a little camphor and band-aid. Lovely. Mouth (neat): it’s true that Balvenie’s a classy distillate. Angular again, lemony again, pretty green and kind of positively aggressive (what?), rather rooty (gentian)… With water: rather creamier, with hints of mangos and maracuja. The background remains green and bitter, but I like that. Finish: long, rather gingery, rooty, bitter. Cynar and ‘stuff’. Comments: have I mentioned class? SGP:451 – 86 points.

Balvenie ‘Tun 1509’ (51.7%, OB, batch #4, 2017)

Balvenie ‘Tun 1509’ (51.7%, OB, batch #4, 2017) Four stars They married 13 first-fill American barrels and 10 sherry butts, and this is the result. I thought last years batch #3 was very good (WF 88). Colour: gold. Nose: a few sulphury smells, around used matches (I’ve decided not to mention guns anymore), with transform into some sooty/earthy notes, before some pencil shavings are starting to come in, together with a rather bouillony profile. It’s quite dry, do not expect any jammy, mirabelly style this time. With water: new plank, then bonbons. Mouth (neat): feels a bit modern, I have to say. Ginger, beer, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon mints, more pencil shavings, spicy bread, white pepper… It’s very unusual, and it hasn’t got anything from Balvenie’s usual apricoty creaminess. A whole different style and frankly, a feeling of ‘oaked youth’. With water: ah, finally, some fruits! More unripe greengages, unripe kiwis… Finish: rather long, with bags of limes. Gets acidic, not obligatorily in a bad way. Comments: absolutely not in last year’s style. It’s a much greener, and possibly younger ‘Tun’ this time. SGP:461 - 85 points.

Speaking of youth…

Balvenie 55 yo 1961/2017 (42.6%, OB, DCS Compendium chapter 3, sherry hogshead, cask #4193, 65-or 80-bottles)

Balvenie 55 yo 1961/2017 (42.6%, OB, DCS Compendium chapter 3, sherry hogshead, cask #4193, 65-or 80-bottles) Five stars Some kind of crème de la crème, or the cat’s whiskers as they say. There are some mock-ups online, so not sure about all data, I’ll amend if necessary. I’m also very happy because this is the oldest vintage of Balvenie I’ve ever tried, imagine it was distilled even before David Stewart started working at the distillery, since that was in 1962. Good, lets go hunting mirabelles… Colour: gold (yay!) Nose: get out of here, I want to see no one, I need be alone with this whisky, please, capice? More proof that age doesn’t matter, as long as the whisky’s young (the Scots’ unspoken mantra). All kinds of wee bits of metal, all mushrooms, all kinds of mints, a pile of old books, wee hints of benzoin and ambergris (that’s the poetic side), and just having your face on some earthy ground after a rain. Or while playing rugby. Amazing dry complexity here, this is an old Montrachet from a great house. Like, there, a 1961 indeed (not quite 1959, but great vintage nonetheless). Mouth: as always with very old whiskies, the first thing you feel is oak, and you go like “is that all? Nothing more?” And there is here, with citrons and apricots, the expected mirabelles, a wide range of mints (spear, pepper…), some tobacco, many teas and many herbal teas, a few pickled fruits, with this very particular sourness (mangos?), and, any whisky’s friends, oranges! Finish: of course there’s a little oak, and a wee feeling of eating herbal tea (without any water), and yeah, sure, it’ll lose one or two points at this stage, but it’s still pretty glorious. Love the candied citrons. Comments: these very old whiskies are always miraculous – or I guess they wouldn’t bottle them, would they? Now I haven’t checked the price, and perhaps I shouldn’t. What I like is the fact that they haven’t used silly packaging here. No crystal, no silver-plated stuff, no half-forgotten Scottish designers (bless you guys)… That’s what I’d call an optimal use of resources. Kudos, Balvenie. SGP:571 - 91 points.

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



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October 22, 2017


A little cognac for a change

Beyond the sometimes pretty uninteresting large brands, there are more own-estate cognacs that are starting to do it right, with higher strengths and more emphasis on terroir. Mind you, there’s much more terroir in cognac than in whisky, since by law, the grapes have to come from the region, while barley or else, as you know, can be sourced from anywhere in the world. So, let’s have a few of these ‘crafted’ cognacs…

Fanny Fougerat ‘Petite Ciguë VSOP’ (40%, OB, cask #1, 510 bottles, +/-2016)

Fanny Fougerat ‘Petite Ciguë VSOP’ (40%, OB, cask #1, 510 bottles, +/-2016) Two stars and a half This young baby’s said to be 5 years old, while Fanny Fourgerat has started to bottle the family’s cognacs under her own label only in 2013, after decades of providing the large brands. This is from the Borderies, and 100% ugni blanc. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s young and it’s fresh, mostly on grapes and pears, as well as honeysuckle and lime tea. I find it focussed and pleasant, without any kind of boiséed ‘stuff’ that sometimes clogs some cognacs. Mouth: good, sweet, pearish, young, a little raw, rather akin to some ten years old Speysider ex-refill, if you see what I mean. A little white pepper. Finish: medium, with a little more grass and leaves. A touch of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: good young cognac ‘au naturel’. Very few tertiary notes in this, but this is nature. SGP:541 - 78 points.

Fanny Fougerat ‘Cèdre Blanc Extra Old’ (44%, OB, cask #1, 507 bottles, +/-2016) Fanny Fougerat ‘Cèdre Blanc Extra Old’ (44%, OB, cask #1, 507 bottles, +/-2016)

Fanny Fougerat ‘Cèdre Blanc Extra Old’ (44%, OB, cask #1, 507 bottles, +/-2016) Three stars This one’s older and is said to be 21 years of age. Colour: gold. Nose: once again, it’s a lighter style, that is to say fruitier, without any rancio that I can detect, but with lovely notes of preserved peaches and elderberry flowers. A little honey too, this is lovely. Mouth: really very good, starting a tad grape-y, but developing on the same preserved peaches and perhaps some melon skins. Nice notes of oranges after that, as well as a little liquorice and cinnamon. Rather a dry/light style. Finish: medium, with a few more grassy touches, and a feeling of dry white wine. After all, this is distilled wine. Comments: a very solid and honest style, this baby’s not for stupid crystal decanters and mahogany boxes. SGP:551 - 82 points.

Vallein-Tercinier ‘46°’ (46%, OB, 2017)

Vallein-Tercinier ‘46°’ (46%, OB, 2017) Five stars Quite smartly, the little house Vallein-Tercinier are leaving a wink for whisky lovers with this new bottling that’s both ‘natural color’ and ‘unchillfiltered’. Indeed, like many French people, they write ‘colour’ the American way. Oh why not! Other that that, it’s a blend of Bons and Fins Bois, one being 15 yo, the other one 25. Colour: gold. Nose: superbly fruity. I did a ‘masterclass’ (hate that word) at WL Paris and compared this baby with a fruity Balblair. In my opinion, the resemblance was striking! Crushed bananas, acacia honey, bits of mangos, the usual ripe peaches, and this little herbal bouquet that adds much complexity. Chamomile, lime, buttercups… Mouth: a perfect, straight fruitiness, with the same fruits as in the nose and perhaps one orange. Immediate, perfect, lifting, fresh… Finish: medium, very clean, very fruity, with this feeling of (fruit slad’ that we love so much in, say Balblair indeed, or some Tomatins or Benriachs. Comments: this bottling is so smart! The exact definition of a malternative (but psst, malts of the same quality are much more expensive). SGP:641 - 90 points.

Paul Giraud ‘Napoléon’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2016)

Paul Giraud ‘Napoléon’ (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2016) Three stars A very well reputed little house in Bouteville. This Napoléon is around 15 years old. Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s a little more ‘oriental’, in a way, with baklavas, rosewater, orange blossom, and then the expected peaches and other white fruits. I mean, the flesh is white. Also nice whiffs of soft fermentation (fruity hoppy beer). Mouth: a tad sweet for me in the arrival, and then a little gritty, pretty much cider-gritty. That gives it an artisanal side, and so do these notes of sweet wine, Banyuls, Rivesaltes and assorted colleagues. It’s even slightly muscaty. Finish: medium, better rounded, but there are a few green tannins in the background. Some candy sugar too. Comments: a completely different style after the Vallein, much less ‘straight’, much less ‘obvious’ (obvious being a positive term here). But it’s certainly very good! SGP:551 - 81 points.

Michel Forgeron ‘Barrique 1988’ (57%, OB, Grande Champagne, 2015)

Michel Forgeron ‘Barrique 1988’ (57%, OB, Grande Champagne, 2015) Three stars This stems from a very artisanal estate in Segonzac, the exact opposite of the big brands. Remember, these good people grow and harvest their own grapes, make their wines, distil them, and age them. This baby was bottled at cask strength, not just ‘100 proof’. Colour: full gold. Nose: we’re pretty much in the same vein as that of the Vallein-Tercinier, that is to say straight and clear, and above all, extraordinarily fruity. Pink bananas, papayas, butter pears, peaches, then all-flower honey, a touch of butterscotch… So far, so great! With water: gets a little jammier. Mirabelles and quinces leading the way… Mouth (neat): really punchy, and perhaps a little oaky, with raw notes of pinewood and black tobacco. The rest is quite perfect, with many stewed fruits (apples, peaches, plums) and a nice touch of liquorice mixed with crushed raisins. With water: oh, no! It’s the oak that comes out, and makes it really drying. This baby swims badly, sadly. Finish: rather unpleasant when diluted, almost cardboardy, but perfectly fruity when neat (but there is a little varnish and pencil shavings). Comments: ouch. Maybe does one need to add water half-drop by half-drop, over many days, to prevent this kind from getting too drying.  SGP:661 - 80 points (75 when reduced, 85 when neat).

Bonus! This bébé just in!

Possibly more proof that whisky may not be in the greatest of forms, or say that it isn’t exactly booming these days, The honourable Whisky Exchange and affiliated companies and booze dispensaries are about to launch The Cognac Show, which will take place in April 2018. And they already have a flagship bottling, this wee vintaged Frapin. Oh well, let’s try it…

Frapin 22 yo 1993 (43.2%, The Whisky Exchange, Grande Champagne, 2017)

Frapin 22 yo 1993 (43.2%, The Whisky Exchange, Grande Champagne, 2017) Four stars Not too sure about the ABV, the Web says 43.2, whereas my sample says 46. But cela n’a pas d’importance, has it? Oh and since someone asked, in Cognac, the word Champagne has nothing to do with our favourite bubbles, as champagne just means countryside in old French – as opposed to city. Capice? Colour: rich gold. Nose: modern style producer’s cognac, which is totally a good thing. It’s fresh, it’s vibrant, and it’s full of fruits, first our beloved peaches (in my book good cognac must have peaches), then ripe apricots, guavas, golden raisins, then rather a little camphor, soft cough medicine, and simply orange zests. Unquestionably impeccable. Mouth: exactly the same aromas and flavours, which doesn’t happen so often. No, wait, let’s add a little liquorice, spiced pineapple jam, and quite some peppery cinnamon from some French wood that’s been pretty active. Finish: medium, a tad more on the oaky/mentholy side. Rather dry aftertaste. Comments: a style that sits right between the old houses and some ‘new’ Cognacmakers that are making them fresher and, well, more whisky-y (I know). Quality’s very high but that doesn’t come unexpected. SGP:651 - 87 points.

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



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October 21, 2017



Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Tasting the Lost Spirit's Abomination bottlings
The story goes something like this: Jim Murray’s scores for these two ‘Abomination’ bottlings from the Lost Spirits distillery in Los Angeles are published. Lo and behold they are notably high. High enough that the Lost Spirits people put out a press release off the back of it and a massive jobbie-storm ensues on social media and amongst the whisky nerderati.


The reason for all this is that these bottlings are created from young distillate. 12 - 18 month old peated Islay spirit to be precise. This distillate - considerable shy of legally being termed whisky here in Scotland - was infused with oak staves rather intensely over a period of six days at the Lost Spirits distillery in America. They have a ‘patented reactor’, which looks rather like a stainless steel whisky Tardis. The problem of course is not that people create these kinds of products, or do these kinds of experiments, or indeed that anyone could claim with total certainty that this sort of approach wouldn’t produce a good quality spirit. What has got people up in arms are lines of pure click-baiting hyperbole like: “Lost Spirits has made history by becoming the first spirits-maker to reach the pinnacle of whisky making by "hacking" the chemistry of barrel ageing”. So it has become one of these meta-stories that manages to encapsulate: marketing nonsense; PR bullshit; debates about Jim Murray and his scoring and influence; the definition of whisky and an almost philosophical argument about the nature and definition of ageing and maturation.  


Personally, I have no issue with people experimenting with different ways to make interesting spirits. Some call it innovation, but it’s a word which is so often tossed around with little consideration these days. It may be innovative, but the question is who does it innovate for? The producer or the consumer? Of course, it can be both. I read with interest the debate on social media over the past week about this. Understandably it has drawn many contrary, and some pretty fierce opinions. Perhaps what sticks out most is this notion that this process has recreated the characteristics of aged malt whisky. As one commenter in the Malt Maniacs forum put it: “...it’s structure and taste is similar to that of a 30 year old Islay whisky.” These are bold assertions and I remain dubious. However, I am curious to try these two spirits and come up with my own conclusions. So, without further ado...  


Abomination ‘The Crying Of The Puma’ (54%, OB, Lost Spirits Distillery, +/-2017) Abomination ‘The Crying Of The Puma’ (54%, OB, Lost Spirits Distillery, +/-2017) The liquid aside, I smell nonsense in the name for one thing. This one was infused with oak which had previously been used to make Late Harvest Riesling wine, which is a curiosity in itself. The staves for this one were toasted and the reactor exposed the distillate and the wood together with varying levels of temperature and light. Colour: Deep amber. Nose: A very pure kind of peat. Crystalline and sharp with notes of char underneath. A cooling BBQ. Some mentholated notes such as toothpaste are followed by smoked grist, sea salt and bracken. The wood extraction is apparent but the sweetness merges well with the peat aspects. With time more and more notes of sawdust arise. Touches of wood glue and retsina ‘pine’ wine. With water: Becomes more herbal and more saline. Some touches of antiseptic and mouthwash. Perhaps some black tea and green wood. Mouth: The wood is more upfront on the palate. An obvious extractive quality with the peat more subdued. More charred and burnt notes. Crispy bacon, tar resin, eucalyptus oil and pine cones. But the vanilla is pretty sickly and the whole thing sort of seesaws between extractive and cloying. With water:  I’m not sure water helps a great deal. More tar, perhaps some medicine but also still quite oaky with these notes of pencil shavings and more wood glue. Finish: A little short really. Some sticky vanilla and smoked sea salt in the fade. Comments: The nose was quite pleasant but on the palate I struggled with it I have to say. The oak just feels clumsy and too heavy. But it is far from undrinkable and I know many people who would enjoy it more than I do (not just Mr Murray). SGP: 727 - 72 points.  


Abomination ‘The Sayers Of The Law’ (54%, OB, Lost Spirits Distillery, +/-2017)

Abomination ‘The Sayers Of The Law’ (54%, OB, Lost Spirits Distillery, +/-2017) This one is pretty much exactly the same except the staves were charred. Colour: Amber. Nose: The peat is shyer in this one. There’s more cocoanut, crème brulée, vanilla butter, custard tarts. Perhaps a leathery quality and a kippery note in the background. Some gravel and cut grass. Notes of sawdust and pencil shavings again after some time. The wood is still pretty dominant. Perhaps a touch of cactus and a rugged Mezcal note. Something a little rubbery as well, like pencil erasers. With water: Again the whole becomes a tad more saline and briny. Perhaps some notes of seaweed or salted cod. These clumsy woody notes are still present though. Mouth: TCP, vanilla essence, ointment. Some dried herbs, Euthymol toothpaste, and then some cigarette ash. This is quite heavily extractive now, you feel it in the gums and tongue. More of these glue and wood paste aspects. Some mixed spice and tannins. The sweetness is kind of ‘gloopy’ with the peat sort of smouldering away in the corner. With water: some BBQ sauce, a little salt and vinegar, cod liver oil. Then some more vanilla extract and a little sootiness. Finish: A tad longer than the previous one. But still a little too cloying and imbalanced. Comments: Pretty much the same as the previous ones. Some of the flavours differ, but excessive wood and the lack of balance - what I consider flaws - remain. SGP: 737 - 71 points.



(Thanks to Derek at the terrific Artisan restaurant in Wishaw for the samples.)  


I had considered writing a note for a 30ish year old Caol Ila or something by way of comparison but I don’t really think there’s any point. And before I say anything else I should say I do not like overly oaky spirits; there are others who will enjoy these drinks more than I do. The above notes simply illustrate my own personal perspective. But it is also the perspective of someone who has been fortunate enough to try thousands of conventionally matured spirits by way of comparison.  


For all the chatter about this method of hyper-accelerated ‘ageing’ - and it’s worth remembering that these are not the first products to basically be super exposed to active oak - I feel these products only serve to highlight the importance of proper maturation. Remember, maturation is not only extractive and additive. It is also, and most importantly for longer aged whiskies, interactive. Technology may well replicated the addition of wood sugars, lignins, compounds and the like in a matter of days. But it cannot currently be a substitute for the slow enmeshment of distillate character and cask properties with the enigmatic nourishment of the dawdling - sometimes decades long - oxidative process with the air in the cask. There is also the point that even when a more active cask gives a more wood-dominant profile to spirit, the rate at which these wood compounds are given up and absorbed is also important. It can be the difference between imbalance and proper integration. Part of what makes whisky remarkable is that its most enigmatic, but vital, ingredient is time. Time in the process of making the distillate and time in the process of its maturation. I have no issue with people making these kinds of spirit drinks, in many ways they are impressive. But next to even a current bottling of Bowmore or Caol Ila 12 year old, they are a gimmick. One day technology may well be able to mimic beyond human organoleptic detection the characters and flavours of a 20 year old single malt in a matter of days or hours. And if that time comes then we will rightly have some deep pondering to do about what and why we value whisky and the role of time in its creation. But right now any notion that the real and complex aspects of maturation and time taken to create the flavours of mature single malts can be replicated is nonsense. By all means make these products, but do not pretend they are something that they are not. And, most importantly, do not visit such deceptions upon the minds of enthusiasts and consumers just beginning their education and enjoyment of whisky.  



October 20, 2017


Three official Irish

Yes just three pretty new(ish) ones, I’m always late with my Irish, my bad…

Bushmills ‘Red Bush’ (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2017)

Bushmills ‘Red Bush’ (40%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2017) Two stars This wee baby spent three years in first fill bourbon, and contains 70% grain whiskey, I’ve been told by a charming rep. I was afraid it had seen some red wine after seeing the name, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Phew! Colour: gold. Nose: bizarre. Porridge and some crushed bananas, carbon paper and ink, stale ginger, oak ‘curry’… All that over a structure that’s really thin. So far. Mouth: more pleasant, fruitier, light, always with these small touches of curry and ginger, plus obvious notes of williams pears. Bags and bags of williams pears. The body’s not as thin as I had thought. Finish: medium, fruity, light, not weak. More pears, many more pears. Comments: very much acceptable, as they say. Not transcendental, and really ridden with pear notes. SGP:640 - 75 points.

Jameson ‘Distiller’s Safe’ (43%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2017)

Jameson ‘Distiller’s Safe’ (43%, OB, Irish blend, +/-2017) Two stars and a half More NAS. I find an NAS blend expensive at £50, whatever the story and the rationale. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: it’s nice that there’s not much oak influence, and rather some fresh fruits, from gooseberries to peaches. Tiny herbs and flowers as well, borage, dandelion… The whole’s light, and really very easy. Certainly more ‘natural’ than the Bushmills. Mouth: yes, it’s good, with notes of pot still whiskey, melons, surely some sweet barley, a little sugar syrup (cane), sugary apples, some sweet and sour beer, and more and more candy sugar. A drier syrup, in other words. Finish: rather short, with a little white pepper on top of all these sweet apples and syrups. Comments: really fair, with a pleasant Irishness. There is a pot still character, but just as the Bushmills, it rather lacks oomph for me. Can a spirit be both oily and thin? Discuss… SGP:630 - 78 points.

Method and Madness ‘Single Pot Still’ (46%, OB, Irish, +/-2017)

Method and Madness ‘Single Pot Still’ (46%, OB, Irish, +/-2017) Three stars There are several of these funny small-batch Midletons. What’s interesting here is that this baby was finished in French chestnut casks, which would be streng verboten in Scotland. Sadly, there’s chestnut, but there’s no age statement. Colour: gold. Nose: chestnut! I’m joking, I couldn’t detect the smell of chestnut wood, but it does have some kind of tarry woodiness, close to teak or even pinewood. That’s pretty nice, even if I would have rather said ‘Bourbon!’ As for the pot still character, it’s a bit buried underneath these nice woody tones. Turmeric and ginseng behind all that. Mouth: ouch! There’s absolutely nothing Irish in this, we’re close to some experimental Americans, with huge bready notes and an avalanche of spices, gingerbread, caraway, spicy bread, and even papadums covered with mango jam. Method, I don’t know, madness, for sure. Finish: long, thick, and very sweet and spicy. The wood keeps fighting. Some unexpected raspberry jam in the aftertaste. Comments: frankly, I would have expected this from Amrut – but I like Amrut better. Amrut is more ‘European’, if you see what I mean. So a totally un-terroir Irish… Having said that, I rather like this ‘new craft’ style. SGP:552 - 80 points.

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



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October 19, 2017


Strange duets, two Japanese

This will be a short session, with Japan’s new shining star, Chichibu, and the bottling that kind of started the Japanese craze, that Yamazaki. It was about time we decided to try it, don’t you think?

Chichibu 2011/2017 (58.6%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1292)

Chichibu 2011/2017 (58.6%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1292) Five stars In case you’re wondering what it is, there’s a delicate watercolour titled ‘Water Iris’ by Azuka Irie on the label. Oh and this is an unpeated version. Colour: pale gold. Nose: straight and immaculate. Sweet bread, citrons, lime grass, a touch of chalk, a touch of yoghurt, and a handful of white-ish cherries. With water: oh, oils! Diesel oil! Waxes! As I sometimes write, the best use of water, ever. Mouth (neat): extraordinary. Massive and yet delicate, this samurai of a malt whisky would just cut you in halves, should you ingest more than one drop at a time. But then, it’s millimetric, superbly and softly spicy (Szechuan pepper), and adorably fruity, with apricots for sure, notes of elderberry syrup, and zucchini flowers. I find this amazing, really, such precision in any whisky is, well, flabbergasting. Almost a winemaker’s whisky, I’d say. With water: oooh! I do find a pinhead of wasabi (don’t sass me, please), and many sweet herbs. Really, many. Some sweet mustard. Finish: long, spicier yet, and more cerealy. Pine nuts, sunflower seeds, spicy bread… Comments: triple bang. Gives you faith in Japanese whisky. SGP:561 - 91 points.

Yamazaki ‘Sherry Cask 2013’ (48%, OB)

Yamazaki ‘Sherry Cask 2013’ (48%, OB) Five stars Yep, this is the small batch that was voted the best whisky in the world by one single man, some wee news that all the PR agencies and lazy newswires have then propagated all over the world, which led to the ridiculous and much distorted idea that Japanese whisky was the best in the world. Just ask any unlearned, they still believe that, so no wonder there are so many fake Japanese whiskies today (foreign whisky labelled as Japanese because of some very liberal laws over there - and with proper kanjis, Noh or Kabuki stuff, and cherry blossom). But let’s try to remove that huge pile of BS from our minds, and simply check this wee NAS baby. Colour: reddish coffee. Nose: indeed, indeed. Great nose, even if we’re closer to some old Port Mourant or something. It is a little simple, in fact, but that stresses the roundness and the immediacy of the sweet sherry profile. Polished wood, prunes, chocolate, and repeat. Yamazaki 18 is/was more complex for sure, but there… Mouth: a rather jammy, but wonderfully spicy arrival. It’s a Christmas cake, really, with dried bananas, black raisins, dried figs, and that’s pretty all. No, perhaps a little maraschino as well. Finish: rather long and a little thick. Orange marmalade and prunes, plus just ‘ideas’ of miso soup and some coffee. Not saying that because the whisky’s Japanese, mind you. Comments: I perfectly understand why someone would declare that this is his favourite whisky. I would say it’s simple (we’re far from the glorious old Scottish sherry monsters, and there would be hundreds of examples), but on the other hand, it’s totally perfect in its thick simplicity. So I will not start to argue, but psst, I liked the Chichibu even better. SGP:651 - 90 points.

(thank you Marlene)

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



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October 18, 2017


Clynelish, two arty ones

Poor Clynelish Distillery, it’ll soon have to put up with the rebuilding/overhauling of close neighbour Brora. Hope it won’t get jealous… Yes, of course Distilleries have souls and feelings!

Clynelish 20 yo 1996/2017 (48%, Artist Collective, La Maison du Whisky, 2 casks)

Clynelish 20 yo 1996/2017 (48%, Artist Collective, La Maison du Whisky, 2 casks) Four stars and a half Did you notice that 48% vol. are slowly becoming the new 46? Colour: gold. Nose: a very malty one at first, with sweeter grasses and a mix of crushed barley with clay and stone, getting then frankly medicinal (band-aid) and only mildly fruity (wee hints of grapefruits). In short, a pretty grassy and mineral kind of Clynelish, not an unknown style of course. Mouth: really punchy, very mineral and tart, with orange and lemon skin at first, then bitter herbs, a subtle idea of raw tequila, and this feeling of crunching chalk. Certainly not one of the easiest, indolent Clynelishes… Finish: long, on pretty much the same flavours, and lemon zest and more chalk and even coastal smoke in the aftertaste. Bitter leaves as well. Comments: one of those rather Jansenist Clynelishes that we enjoy a lot at WF Towers. SGP:362 - 88 points.

Clynelish 21 yo (56.1%, Elixir Spirit, Art of Whisky Distilling, 251 bottles)

Clynelish 21 yo (56.1%, Elixir Spirit, Art of Whisky Distilling, 251 bottles) Five starsIt’s so refreshing that more and more good people would emphasize on distilling rather than wood (whisky’s crutch!) Rather like the Roy-Liechtensteiny label too (Whaam!). Colour: white wine. Nose: this one’s got more citrus, it’s a more ‘traditional’ Clynelish, with citrons and tangerines, then rather lemon marmalade. But the costal minerality isn’t far away, and so is the plasticine. Typical. With water: fresh plaster and proper bone-dry sauvignon blanc. Mouth (neat): indeed, very typical. Waxy lemons and pink grapefruits, plus a few bitter herbs and always a chalkiness. One of the best of the mid-1990s in my book. With water: classic. Swims greatly. Finish: rather long, with more waxy aspects coming out. Beeswax, for example. Comments: this baby from one of the sub-brands within the tentacular TWE konzern ;-). I think quality’s extremely high. Spitzenklasse, as they say in Italy. SGP:552 - 91 points.

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



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October 17, 2017


A couple of Glenmorangie

There’s a new Astar! We’ll try it today, but first, the regular 10, which we’ve been neglecting in recent years…

Glenmorangie 10 yo 'Original' (40%, OB, +/- 2017)

Glenmorangie 10 yo 'Original' (40%, OB, +/- 2017) Two stars and a half Imagine last time we formally tried this baby, that was in 2010! (WF 78). It’s cool that they haven’t dropped the age statement, having said that. Colour: straw/pale gold. Nose: a little spirity at first, with notes of kirsch and slivovitz, then we find a little fruity beer, then rather orchard fruits, which is obviously nicer. Greengages, other plums, gooseberries… What’s sure is that its not very aromatic. Mouth: easy, malty and fruity at first, with more plums, but it tends to become a little grassy and almost sour. Green apples, unripe kiwis… A little butterscotch as well, honey, toasted cake, café latte… Finish: medium, with touches of bitter oranges and some ginger and sour apples. A funny touch of moscatel, some hoppy ale in the aftertaste. Comments: very decent, just a little light, undemanding and, perhaps, unfocussed. Perhaps a matter of strength as well… SGP:441 - 79 points.

Glenmorangie 'Astar' (52.5%, OB, 2017)

Glenmorangie 'Astar' (52.5%, OB, 2017) Three starsAn old glory revived – although it lost around 5% ABV - after a first batch in 2008, which I had rather enjoyed (WF 84). The oak comes from the Missouri Ozarks – by the way they have an excellent series on Netflix called ‘Ozark’. No Glenmo involved, but I enjoy it. Colour: pale gold. Nose: we aren’t that far from the Ten, not far at all. I’m not finding the boldness and richness that were in the first batch (as far as I can remember), in truth this is almost the Ten at a higher strength. Let’s see… With water: the Ten with more vanilla. Mouth (neat): hold on, there’s much more happening now. Some green oak for sure, some coffee with a good dollop of Cointreau inside, a little coconut, and then quite some oranges. The active oak feels a bit too much for me, I have to say. With water: pretty nice. Triple-sec matured in oak. Finish: same. Good length. A little sour dough in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m not too much into oak-flavoured whiskies, but this one sure is one of the rather good ones. Now, it's Astar, but not quite a star (ooh, S.!) SGP:541 - 81 points.

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



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October 16, 2017


Glen Elgin, Special Release and others

And as usual, we’ll do this vertically, the new Special Release being the youngest of them all… Our compadre Angus will join us with that one.

Glen Elgin 18 yo 1998/2017 (54.8%, OB, Special Release, 5352 bottles)

Glen Elgin 18 yo 1998/2017 (54.8%, OB, Special Release, 5352 bottles) Four stars It’s really interesting that in their new (and lovely) little book that comes with these Special Releases, Diageo are now talking about the yeasts that have been used, namely ‘Pombe’ for one part, and ‘Cerevisiae’ for the other part. We won’t dig any deeper here, but yeah, that’s interesting that they would kind of acknowledge the importance of the yeast strains. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s rather coffee grains and grilled malt that spring out first, then various kinds of toffee, never without notes of fresh wood, bark, broken branches… Even pine nuts, I think, and lemon and grass. After two minutes, more porridge, muesli, cereals… With water: more coffee grains and some charcoal, and always quite some lemon. Rather austere. Mouth (neat): really powerful, almost aggressive, very citric, with lemons and sour apples, green wood, icing sugar, macha tea… With water: gets rather sweeter, rather rounder, with a little limoncello, orange zests, then meringue… Finish: medium to long, on oranges, lemons, and simply some grass. Or macha tea (Japanese green tea). Comments: I find this typically ‘Diageo’, well in line with some Rare Malts or Manager’s Choices or Drams. Always a kind of statement. SGP:551 - 86 points



Angus’s take:
Glen Elgin 18 yo 1998/2017 (54.8%, OB, Special Release, 5352 bottles) This is one of the more curious of 2017’s Special Releases as it was distilled using an unusual kind of beer yeast. So I’m quite intrigued to try it. Colour: Straw. Nose: There is indeed a soft, kind of pulpy fruit aspect to this at first nosing. Not something I’d immediately expect of the usually more malty Glen Elgin. Indeed it goes on with ripe pear flesh, a banana skin or two, some cooked cereals and various types of citrus peel. Perhaps some crushed leaves and a hint of lemon grass as well. With water: Lemon balm, tart cider apples and slightly spritely notes of youthful VS armagnac. Fresh pastries, more cereals and light garden fruits emerge in tandem. Mouth: Surprisingly sweet on arrival. Lemon icing with barley sugar, cocoanut water, sunflower oil, some geraniums and a lick of heather beer and butter biscuits. Quite unusual but there is a persuasive syrupy quality about it which I rather enjoy. The texture on the whole is quite big. With water: gets a little more savoury and bready with water. There’s even a subtle yeasty note. Still quite lemony as well. Some green fruit and a lick of chocolate towards the end. Finish: Medium length, all on cereals, lemon oil and even a little herbaceous note. Very lightly spicy and getting drier. The finish falls away a little too quickly for my liking so looses a point or two there. Comments: Globally a fine and interesting dram. I do feel that it is somewhat lighter and more playful that the usually sturdy and stoic Glen Elgin. Is that the brewer’s yeast talking with all these little flourishes of assorted fruits? SGP: 541 - 85 points.



Glen Elgin 21 yo 1995/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL 11596, 266 bottles)

Glen Elgin 21 yo 1995/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, refill hogshead, cask #DL 11596, 266 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: much less wood influence here, and a fruitier style, more lively, with many more orchard fruits, apples, pears, plums… Some oranges as well, and just a touch of varnish. Same notes of macha tea          as in the SR after a few minutes, while the whole tends to become grassier. With water: unexpected whiffs of old books, old wood, sawdust… But the core remains fruity and fresh. Mouth (neat): sweet and creamy, what I sometimes call Haribo-ish, with jelly babies, bubblegum, coconut balls (just one, in fact) and various fruit syrups, including orange syrup. ’Grapefruity’ IPA. Easy and playful. With water: really easy, really good, very natural, fruity, and yeah, easy… Notes of barley syrup and vanilla. Finish: medium, fruity, with just that macha tea coming back in the aftertaste. Comments: a completely different style, approachable and much pleasant. Which one do I like best? Both! SGP:641 - 86 points.

Glen Elgin-Glenlivet 21 yo 1995/2017 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles)

Glen Elgin-Glenlivet 21 yo 1995/2017 (54.7%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles) Four stars Colour: straw. Nose: this one starts a little varnishy, and there’s Haribo stuff too, before big ripe red apples do appear, also peaches and apricots, also small pink bananas, and wee whiffs of roasted tea (Hojicha). With water: almost snap shuts, that came unexpected! Hello? What have we done? Mouth (neat): sweet, powerful, as citric as the OB, but this time rather with tangerines and pink grapefruits, Szechuan pepper, a little papaya juice, and then liquorice allsorts. There’s a nice fruity sharpness. With water: ah yes, this is excellent. It’s a good IPA, only at a much higher strength. Sweet hops, tangerines, cherries… Finish: medium, rather maltier, but the tangerines are still there, and so does the Szechuan pepper. A touch of mango in the aftertaste. Comments: I’d love to be able to taste this after 20 years of bottle aging. Very good, in the same league as the others. SGP:651 - 86 points.

Glen Elgin 22 yo 1995/2017 (53.5%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 148 bottles)

Glen Elgin 22 yo 1995/2017 (53.5%, Maltbarn, bourbon, 148 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: not that different, and yet this one has something extra, that is to say fresh almonds, marzipan, barley water, and even sunflower seeds. And perhaps even a little sesame oil. Lovely asperities, as they say in advertising. With water: moss and fern, we’re in a forest. Mouth (neat): yes, super good! A little fatter than the others, more emphatically orange-y, with perfect almonds and certainly some beeswax. It’s got something Clynelishy! With water: tangerines and marzipan, with a little green tea. Finish: medium, on the same notes, with hints of sour apples. Comments: I found this one a little more complex, and a little more intriguing than the others, but we’re in the same ballpark. Classy make, that Glen Elgin. SGP:551 - 87 points.

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



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October 15, 2017


Rums that came in

We keep looking for malternatives. Please remember, I’m always tasting rum (or cognac, mezcal, armagnac, grain…) from a malt lover’s point of view. Just saying…

Diamond 14 yo 2003/2017 (43%, Compagnie des Indes, Guyana, cask #GD040, 368 bottles)

Diamond 14 yo 2003/2017 (43%, Compagnie des Indes, Guyana, cask #GD040, 368 bottles) Four stars I’m starting to kind of hate this French bottler because I could never find fault with them. Great work all around. Colour: white wine. Nose: and there, a Jamaican Diamond. Olive brine and lime juice, then a relative loss of oomph, with rotting bananas and whiffs of old vase water. Mouth: lemons, sugarcane, chilli olives, brine. Repeat. Sure 43% vol. is low, but it work, even if you may down the bottle at once. Finish: rather long, with some sucrosity. Candy sugar and limoncello. The olives are back in the aftertaste, together with something slightly burnt. Comments: really, a rather Jamaican Guyanan. What’s giving it away is the sweeter side on the palate. Very good, in any case. SGP:552 - 85 points.

Karukera 2011/2017 ‘Double Maturation’ (54.1%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, 342 bottles)

Karukera 2011/2017 ‘Double Maturation’ (54.1%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, 342 bottles) one star and a half I know, ‘double maturation’ sounds bad, but not as bad as ‘solera’, don't you agree. In this case that was cognac ans sherry. Ouch. Colour: amber. Nose: butter cream and burnt cake, cigar smoke, coffee, burnt sugar, pencil shavings, hot sawdust… I love Karukera, but I believe this much wood/oak influence is embarrassing. With water: we’re at a cabinetmaker’s. Mouth (neat): no! Sweet curry, aniseed everywhere, and tons of liquorice. Really, tons of liquorice. Very extreme… With water: green gooseberries, oak oils, curry, ginger… Finish: rather long, a tad more to my liking, thanks to some petroly notes. Comments: totally loved other Karukeras, and I hate to sound vulgar, but as they say in Washington D.C., WTF? The ravages of unbridled ‘wood technology’ in rum, A.K.A. whiskification. Wrong path, wrong path! SGP:461 - 69 points.

Neisson 15 yo 2000 (48%, OB, Martinique, agricole, batch 2, 2016)

Neisson 15 yo 2000 (48%, OB, Martinique, agricole, batch 2, 2016) Four stars and a half Slowly and surely, Neisson are becoming the star of the French West Indies. From the rum lovers’ point of view, that is… But watch it, this is very expensive (I’ve seen it at €350!) Colour: amber. Nose: delicate, nutty, and subtly woody. We’re talking roasted chestnuts, coffee beans, roasted pistachios and sesame seeds, then cocoa pods, a bit of warm charcoal, a wee bit of beef jerky… It’s all very subtle, really… Mouth: impeccable, I have to say. With many Neissons we’re between rhum and high-end bourbons, and this is no exception. A little butter, then warm oak, the tiniest bit of dried coconut, some kind of citrusy pineapple, and then notes of marsanne and roussane. We’re talking wine now, you know… Finish: rather long, with the pineapples coming through, as cakes, as juices, as jellies, as jams… More liquorice and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: perhaps a little less distillate-driven than my favourite Jamaicans, Bajans or Guyanans, but within this very style, I’m not sure you could do much better. Very complex rhum. SGP:551 - 89 points.

Barbancourt 13 yo 2004/2017 (54.6%, Liquid Treasures, Haiti)

Barbancourt 13 yo 2004/2017 (54.6%, Liquid Treasures, Haiti) Three starsIt’s very unusual to come across some independent Barbancourt! Colour: pale gold. Nose: a very light style this time, and this is probably ‘column’ Barbancourt, almost diaphanous, but very elegant and complex. Flower petals, bananas, sugarcane (it is extremely sugarcane-y), a few grasses and herbs… It’s a whispering rum, but it’s complex and, as they say in marketing brochures, intriguing. With water: a drop of motor oil, a drop of olive oil. Mouth (neat): less shy for sure, and rather on tarry bananas, while there’s this columny ‘unfatness’ that remains. Soft lemon juice (with warm water, as the doctors advise). With water: it’s the softness that’s very noticeable. It’s as if Barbancourt was becoming more and more Cuban. Finish: medium, very nice, but a little soft for me. I mean, I prefer my rums with a little more body. Comments: great bottling, just not quite my preferred style (remember, from a malt lover’s point of view, etc.) SGP:441 - 82 points.

A Jamaican Distillery 2007/2017 (56.5%, L’Esprit, Jamaica, cask #BB45, 241 bottles)

A Jamaican Distillery 2007/2017 (56.5%, L’Esprit, Jamaica, cask #BB45, 241 bottles) Four stars Another excellent French bottler, them and Compagnie des Indes have been at the forefront of French indie rumness. Now, what is this? Appleton?... Colour: rich gold. Nose: not the doom/metal/hard Jamaicans at play here (you know, Worthy Park, Hampden), rather the softer ones indeed, with some very superb notes of banana cake, mild pipe tobacco, and incense/balsam. This has a lot of complexity. With water: Count Basie, not John Coltrane. Mouth (neat): wait wait wait, this is pretty brilliant. More perfect bananas, white chocolate, bergamots, earl grey, praline, various ganaches… Excuse me, but wow! With water: careful, do not add to much water! Keep it above 45% vol., and it’ll reward you with more white chocolate mingling with pure sugarcane juice and a little mint-flavoured tea. Finish: gets seriously mentholy. The Jamaicanness comes out too, with a petroly side. No, not ganja. Comments: this very lovely one reminds us that Jamaica’s not only about extreme funky rums. Classic jazz is great too… SGP:352 - 86 points.

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



Block Today: JAZZ FUNK. Performer: Jeff Coffin. Track: The evil Boweevil. Please visit his website and buy his music...

October 2017 - part 1 <--- October 2017 - part 2 ---> November 2017 - part 1



Best spirits I tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Balvenie 55 yo 1961/2017 (42.6%, OB, DCS Compendium chapter 3, sherry hogshead, cask #4193, 65-or 80-bottles)

Clynelish 21 yo (56.1%, Elixir Spirit, Art of Whisky Distilling, 251 bottles)

Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1984 (46%, Cadenhead, 75cl)

Lg7 (56.8%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2017)

Lagavulin 12 yo ‘Special Release 2017’ (56.5%, OB)

Oc4 2010/2017 (59.1%, Specialty Drinks, Elements of Islay, 2017)

Port Ellen 37 yo 1979/2017 (51.0%, OB, Special Release, 2,988 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo (51.7%, The Whisky Exchange, Art of Whisky, 2017)

Springbank 23 yo 1994/2017 (50.6%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)

Chichibu 2011/2017 (58.6%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #1292)

Yamazaki ‘Sherry Cask 2013’ (48%, OB)

Vallein-Tercinier ‘46°’ (46%, OB, 2017)

Caroni 23 yo 1994/2017 (57.18%, Velier, Trinidad, Guyana stock)

Neisson 1997/2017 (44.1%, OB, Martinique, agricole, joint bottling for Velier and La Maison du Whisky)