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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2018 - Part 1


September 2018 - part 2 <--- October 2018 - part 1 ---> October 2018 - part 2


October 14, 2018


More mad rums

As the two-penny headline says! And...


... 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 'empty', doctored, aromatised, hybridised, or tampered with, thank you – and peace!
Post Scriptum, Where there is no freedom of criticizing, there can be no genuine praise. -Beaumarchais.

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1998/2018 (48.8%, Silver Seal, cask #19, 220 bottles)

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1998/2018 (48.8%, Silver Seal, cask #19, 220 bottles) Three stars
I have to say we have moderate fears that this would be not good. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a lighter, cakier Uitvlugt, rather on Jaffa cakes, Cuban rum (really), and milk chocolate. We’re very far from any bold Dememaras here, this is extremely soft this far. With water: some fresh plywood, perhaps, varnish, cane juice, brioche… Mouth (neat): it’s good, but we’re rather around the milder French agricoles, with some caramel, maple syrup, panettone… It’s one of lighter Uitvlugt I could try, really. With water: even softer. Piece of cake, literally. Finish: medium, sweeter, cane-y, fair. Comments: don’t get me wrong, this is extremely fair rum, it’s just a bit fragile and undemanding given its pedigree. And its marvellous bottlers.
SGP:531 - 81 points.

More Demerara then…

Port Mourant 12 yo 2005/2018 (55.9%, Kintra, cask #96, 235 bottles)

Port Mourant 12 yo 2005/2018 (55.9%, Kintra, cask #96, 235 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: pale white wine. Muscadet ;-). Nose: there, pure gherkin and olive brine, and not much else. Not that we need anything else. Cane juice. With water: same. Plus diesel oil, brake fluid, snails. Emphasis on snails. Mouth (neat): high-power ultra-lemony and olive-y arrival, millimetric and even a little simple. But not too simple. Then soot and grass smoke. With water: ink and olives and sage and lemongrass and melissa and ink. That’s right, more ink. Finish: long, extremely well designed and defined. Perfect distillate. Comments: perfect distillate, I said. Lime and brine. No further comments needed.
SGP:363 - 89 points.

I know, that was a tad too telegraphic, perhaps…

Savanna 14 yo 2004/2018 (64.2%, OB, La Réunion, grand arôme, 837 bottles)

Savanna 14 yo 2004/2018 (64.2%, OB, La Réunion, grand arôme, 837 bottles) Four stars and a half
We had a great Savanna last Sunday! Here’s more… Colour: deep gold. Nose: sweet Krishna! There’s more glue than in a tube of glue, and more rotting fruits than at Walmart’s. This is hyper-acetic-lactic-bacterial, and this is exactly what we’re looking for in rum, even if I have to say that this baby’s really extreme. Octomore is for little girls by comparison. Loads of natural liquorice. With water: stunning grassy and smoky profile, with lit cigars and something like burning bananas. No, not quite bananas flambéed. Mouth (neat, while we start to tremble): it’s amazing, truly. Lorryloads of liquorice, and I just adore liquorice. Right, this is almost salted liquorice eau-de-vie. With water: extreme grassiness. Many things, concentrated and dried. Gherkins for sure. Finish: very long, thick, invasive. You just couldn’t get rid of it! Comments: extremely extreme, this would make the most extreme Jamaicans taste like Havana Club by comparison. Indeed, Octomore as well. Quite.
SGP:463 - 88 points.

Foursquare 13 yo 2005/2018 (59%, The Duchess, for Whisky and Rum am Zee, Barbados, cask #44)

Foursquare 13 yo 2005/2018 (59%, The Duchess, for Whisky and Rum am Zee, Barbados, cask #44) Three stars
We’ve got a lot of new(ish) Foursquare to try, and we haven’t even got the new officials, imagine. It is an invasion. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s an easy one, a cake-y one, one that’s pretty blendy, easy, pastry-like, and rather undemanding. In short, holidays. With water: same, pretty much. Nice but that is all. Chocolate, sugarcane, light fudge, coconut. Mouth (neat): indeed it’s no thick Foursquare, and it’s probably integrally or almost integrally ex-columns. Nothing against those of course, but aren’t they making oceans of this style all over South-America and the Caribbean? With water: same. Sweet, with some coconut water. Not quite a malternative, that’s for sure. Finish: medium, columny, a tad sugary. Coconut balls and marshmallows. Comments: all fine as a fine cocktail ingredient, but I’m not sure it could make for a fine sipper. But we’ll remain very positive…
SGP:630 - 80 points.

Foursquare 12 yo 2006/2018 (58.5%, Cadenhead, Barbados, barrel, MBFS)

Foursquare 12 yo 2006/2018 (58.5%, Cadenhead, Barbados, barrel, MBFS) Two stars
MBFS seems to mean column and batch, so single blend if I’m not mistaken. Colour: gold. Nose: not quite. Chocolate, popcorn, cake, pears. Pass. With water: sawdust, coconuts, pears. In short, spirit. Mouth (neat): more happening. Pineapple eau-de-vie (of course that does exist), cigarette tobacco, pears. Huge pears. That usually suggests a lack of maturation. With water: pears, really. Let’s not get into molleculy affairs, this wee spirit clearly needed… well, it needed rather a lot more. Finish: not that long. Comments: this was relatively ethanoly I’m afraid, butt let’s try to remain fair – since we love Williams pears.
SGP:520 - 72 points.

That’s one of the problems with rum, you can’t always fully trust names. Foursquare’s a good example, although extremely highly ranked in general, it could go from 92 points down to, very exceptionally, 60 in my book. Would that only be a matter of tropical vs. European ageing? Or a matter of proportion of batch distillation? I’m wondering if they shouldn’t change names depending on the stills that have been in use within the same distillery. Like in Scotland, remember, Garnheath vs. Glenflagler at Moffat, or Ladyburn at Girvan, or Ben Wyvis at Invergordon. But there, let’s try another one, because in general, most Foursquares are doing very extremely well at WF Towers…

Foursquare 12 yo 2005/2018 (59.8%, The Rum Mercenary, Barbados)

Foursquare 12 yo 2005/2018 (59.8%, The Rum Mercenary, Barbados) Three stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: hey hey hey! Overripe bananas and tinned gherkins, olives, and then chocolate. The high strength seems to block it a bit… With water: pencil shavings, bourbon, vanilla. Where have the esters gone? Mouth (neat): yes and no. Coconut balls, popcorn, marshmallows. Really very sweet. With water: you have to be careful with water but if you don’t add too much, you could make of this rather average columny rum a good sipper worth 80 points – which is a lot given this style. Finish: medium, chocolaty. Sadly, loses points again, it’s all quite empty in the end. Comments: it’s perfectly drinkable, but it’s certainly not a proper malternatives. I understand why some distillers would be trying to control the use of their distillery names.
SGP:430 - 81 points.

Maybe this one…

Foursquare 14 yo 2002 (57.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #R6.1, ‘Spice at the Races’, Barbados, +/-2017)

Foursquare 14 yo 2002 (57.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #R6.1, ‘Spice at the Races’, Barbados, +/-2017) Two stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: a little thicker, with a little more grass, but it’s all rather ethanoly again. Not much luck today! With water: alcohol and grass juice, plus some rubbed pine needles. Mouth (neat): you do feel the pot stills, but it’s all rather harsh, brutal, and spirity. With water: a little better, with a few olives and this petroleumy side, but it lacks definition and the ethanoly side keeps it too harsh and hot. Finish: medium, a little bitter. Burnt things. Comments: holy smokes, it’s all been really tough today! Perhaps is it to be noted that the SMWS's Fourquare #R6.2 had been much more to my liking (WF 86).
SGP:351 - 75 points.

Too bad we haven’t got the newer OBs or semi-OBs on the table. Next time, hopefully, but let’ try to finish this on a high note, while staying in Barbados…

Finest Bajan Rum 21 yo 1986 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Barbados, +/-2007)

Finest Bajan Rum 21 yo 1986 (46%, Berry Bros & Rudd, Barbados, +/-2007) Four stars
This baby from the ‘Rockley still’ style (W.I.R.D., or West Indies Rum Distillery) but it appears that no genuine Rockley Still made with the actual and pretty legendary Rockley Still have ever been available as single rum (according to proper experts). Colour: gold. Nose: a rather lovely combination involving cough syrup, balsamic/tarry liqueurs, crushed bananas, a drop of baiju, another one of aged mezcal, and then more and more of some kind of tar/mint cordials. Just a touch of resinous wood. Thuja? Yew? Mouth: excellent, minty indeed, camphory, sappy, pine-y, with many herbal notes, old liqueurs, chartreuse and bénédictine, fir needles and cones… And yet there remains some kind of rumness, cane juice, ripe bananas… There is a wee sweetness that may suggest that a little sauce (sugar) has been added some time, perhaps at birth, but that’s nothing. Finish: long, really rather pine-y. Rather tar in the aftertaste. Comments: a very interesting style, this bottling being rather different from Bristol’s 1986/2008. I really enjoy these balsamic notes.
SGP:561 - 87 points.

(With thanks to Francesco and Lance)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far


October 13, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
And Diabolical Duos
Let’s have more pairs today, but we’ll try to explore both ends of the 100 point scale...


Park Gate Whisky Réserve (40%, Italy, +/- 1970s) Park Gate Whisky Réserve (40%, Italy, +/- 1970s)
Really not sure about this one, almost certainly some kind of blend. Let’s proceed with trepidation... Colour: light gold. Nose: hellooooo in there... some fresh varnish, wood glue, a bit of stale putty and eventually some rather pleasant cereal notes. Fairly plain, straightforward stuff. Old fashioned and spiritous. Mouth: not dreadful. But nor will it set the world alight either. Cardboard, sweet porridge, more wood glue, bluetac, corn chips, stale oats, paint thinner, other miscellaneous weirdness... Finish: brief but getting very plasticky. Comments: We’ve had worse!
SGP: 221 - 50 points.


The Cabinet’s Choice 10 yo ‘Winston Churchill’ 10 yo (43%, Premier Distillers, US import, Single Highland Malt) The Cabinet’s Choice 10 yo ‘Winston Churchill’ (43%, Premier Distillers, US import, Single Highland Malt)
I’ve often seen this series and found it rather funny. Indeed, it was imported by ’10 Downing Street, Irvington, New Jersey’. Colour: Gold. Nose: flat and teaish. Stale bread, slightly dodgy yeast trub, a sweaty sock, corn starch, a pencil shaving or two and some white spirits. Hard to find much to say about it really. Mouth: there is some sort of maltiness to it but it’s really towards aggressive sap, wood glue, chemical plastics, pain thinner and off milk. Finish: disappears in a blink but leaves a pretty nasty chemical and rancid aftertaste. Rotten cardboard etc... Comments: Churchill was famously a quaffer of good Scotch Whisky (along with Champagne, wine, brandy...) I’m pretty certain that if this was his daily tipple I’d be diese notizen auf Deutsch schreiben. Mind you, they may well have been able to develop some kind of deadly chemical weapon out of it as well, so you never know... Impressively worse than the Park Gate blend thing.
SGP: 320 - 45 points.


Amusing as these kinds of whiskies are, they are totally devoid of pleasure. Which is another reason why I generally try not to delve into the lower echelons of the 100 point scale too often. Let’s try to find something a tad more enjoyable if you don’t mind...  


Balvenie 21 yo Port Wood (43%, OB, -/+1990s) Balvenie 21 yo Port Wood (43%, OB, -/+1990s)
Not tried one of these older batches for years... Colour: orangey amber. Nose: lovely, an abundance of honeys, ripe melon, soft beeswax, dried heather, very soft camphor notes, lemon balm and a wee earthy side which develops over time. It doesn’t really feel winey or porty in any way - in many ways it actually feels a lot older than its stated age. Mouth: there is a tad more port influence here with these notes of sweet madeira cake, orange oils, sultanas and other dark fruits. Good richness though and some nice notes of mulling spice and toasted hazelnuts. Some blood orange, strawberry wine and lemon oil. Finish: medium length, all on throat lozenges, crystallised fruits and a few herbal extracts. Comments: Very good, a well integrated finish. No wonder this bottling remained popular for so long, although I should really try it next to a contemporary example.
SGP: 641 - 85 points.


Balvenie 15 yo 1978/1993 (50.4%, OB ‘Single Barrel’, cask #204 or 640) Balvenie 15 yo 1978/1993 (50.4%, OB ‘Single Barrel’, cask #204 or 640)
This one maybe doesn’t make much sense to write notes for. When I bought the bottle at auction all the wee info boxes on the label were blank. However, I was able to narrow it down to either of the above casks using the barcode on the rear label. So, it should be one of the above... Colour: white wine. Nose: light honeys, many crisp cereals, very soft waxes, lemon rind, dusty malt bins and a scattering of minerals. Very classical and rather pure Balvenie. With water: hints of forest flora, shoe polish, gorse bush and petrichor. Mouth: oatmeal, more soft waxes, dried herbs, tea tree oil, citrus fruit peels, blossoms, orange water and more rather polished maltiness. Very good. With water: more oily, more waxes, wood resins, light herbal liqueurs, eucalyptus and various ointments. Finish: Long, lemony, herbal, gently waxy and developing notes of cough medicine and leather. Comments: Beautiful and extremely ‘textbook’ Balvenie. I suspect many of these early Single Barrels contained excellent whiskies. I had it at 89 but with water...
SGP: 551 - 90 points.


Let’s finish up with some peat...  


Bowmore 22 yo 1995/2018 (48.1%, OB ‘Hand Filled’, bourbon, cask #1304) Bowmore 22 yo 1995/2018 (48.1%, OB ‘Hand Filled’, bourbon, cask #1304)
Colour: white wine. Nose: Ooft! Pure, mineral, grassy, ‘cat pissy’ New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Seriously this is a glass full of crushed nettles, lime zest, curry leaf, kiln smoke, peat embers and seawater. Pure, brilliant, exuberantly fruity and zesty Bowmore. Lots of elegant, wispy smoke which - along with all these sharp fruits - is reminscent of some early 1970s Bowmore. Continues with black olives, tar resin and menthol, herbal toothpastes. In time the fruits evolve towards a more exotic and tropical profile. Wonderful. Mouth: clean and hugely fruity arrival. Lots of briny lemons, beach pebbles, blood orange, guava, mango, pomegranate, lime and chalky minerals. There’s sharp goosberry, lychee, lemon oils, camphor, crushed sea shells and sootiness. Pretty stunning complexity and a terrific profile that sways between seashore and eclectic fruit salad themes. Finish: Long and balanced between luscious tropical and white stone fruits, citrus, brine, pin sharp peat smoke and vivid minerality. Comments: Seriously Bowmore, more of this sort of stuff please!
SGP: 755 - 92 points.


Bowmore 45 yo 1972/2018 (46.7%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #3882, refill sherry butt, 246 bottles)

Bowmore 45 yo 1972/2018 (46.7%, Signatory Vintage 30th Anniversary, cask #3882, refill sherry butt, 246 bottles)
To think that Signatory are still able to issue casks of Bowmore from the distilleries golden era is pretty awesome if you ask me. A wonderful chance to see how some of the greatest distillate ever made matures at such ages... Colour: amber. Nose: soft, earthy, leathery old peat embers with sweet raisins, stewed dark fruits and an underlying not to those classical tropical elements. Coal, walnut wine and - with a little time - wafting notes of tar begin to emerge. Wee notes of clove, aniseed and cinnamon rock. These aspects such as mulling spices which come from the cask mingle really perfectly with the lighter fruity and smoky tones of the distillate. More oily qualities such as paraffin, lamp oil and wood polish. Some heather smoke in the background and tiny coastal touches as well. Quite brilliant. Mouth: Ooft! Superb richness and gravelly, earthy, mineral sherry qualities. The peat has almost broken down into a myriad of herbs and spices. Beyond that the tropical fruits really emerge at the back of the palate but they’re more crystallised and preserved in character. Notes of liquorice, cured meats, orange pith and grapefruit peel. Superb! Finish: Long, lingering spices, old leather, preserved lemons, smoked teas and dried herbs. Comments: Maybe a tad old in some respects but still totally glorious. An emotional old slugger still kicking. But then, what did we really expect...
SGP: 764 - 93 points.



Thanks to Uncle Marcel. And also to Stefan for another ‘textbook’ selection.  



October 12, 2018


Little duets, today Pittyvaich

I know, not a very useful session. Who remembers Pittyvaich anyway? Who even knows how to write Pittyvaich? But it’s true that the Dufftown distillery has only been working between 1974 and 1993. And it used to be located near Dufftown Distillery. And its style was often a tad… say suety. And I’ve only tasted 19 of them this far.

Pittyvaich 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.5%, The Cooper’s Choice, bourbon, cask #35105, 295 bottles)

Pittyvaich 28 yo 1988/2016 (51.5%, The Cooper’s Choice, bourbon, cask #35105, 295 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: old school for sure. Imagine some barley water blended with a little engine oil, plus quite some linseed oil, tallow, raw cider, pepper, bread crumbles, ink, grass juice… It was a modern distillery, but the whisky sure wasn’t modern! With water: gets soapy and full of smells of new plastic pouches. Mouth (neat): not something anyone’s still making these days. This is rather akin to distilled beer (we’ve tried Brewdog’s efforts in that respect), plus more grass juice, pressed grapefruit peel, and pine needles. Not easy-easy, to say the least… With water: no, the soapiness further comes out. Finish: medium, with some chemical tastes. The heavy beer is back in the aftertaste. Comments: this was History, hence worth bottling. But History often hurts (stay focused, S.).
SGP:372 - 60 points.

I have to add that we’re probably becoming more demanding. You could find a lot of those rather flawed whiskies twenty years ago, while they seem to have eradicated them these days. But some would add that the problem is that they eradicated the great ones as well… 

Pittyvaich-Glenlivet 16 yo 1977/1994 (60%, Cadenhead)

Pittyvaich-Glenlivet 16 yo 1977/1994 (60%, Cadenhead) Four stars
Please allow me to call my insurance company before we proceed… Because these series used to gather the most extreme rocket fuels known to men! With exceptions, so let’s remain positive and full of hope… Colour: full gold. Nose: ha, ha, and I mean, ha. High-ester rum, Hampden style, the blackest liquorice ever, pine liqueur, pipe tobacco, beef stock, soy sauce, retsina… With water: more soy sauce, with hints of new plastic and Maggi. Malt extracts and ‘unlikely proteins’. Now it’s also got something pretty attractive… Perhaps ‘umami’? Savoury for sure. Mouth (neat): heavy for sure, but it’s got something very pleasing, you would almost believe someone distilled some amontillado. Walnut wine, rubber, strong marmalade, Vicks, prune juice, private calvados, menthol… You see… With water: careful with water, but once you found the right proportions, you’re in for something interesting. Chestnuts, pumpkins, soy, dried beef, bitter oranges… Finish: long and very chocolaty. And meaty. Comments: we’ve known some sherried Mortlachs that have been a bit like this, that is to say pretty extreme. And fun!
SGP:472 - 85 points.

As a bonus since it came in after we had done that wee duet…

Pittyvaich 28 yo 1989/2018 (52.1%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogshead, 4,680 bottles)

Pittyvaich 28 yo 1989/2018 (52.1%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogshead, 4,680 bottles) Five stars
We’re reminded that the distillery was closed in 1993. There’s already been a 1989 at 25 yo, which I thought was very good (WF 85) while a 20 yo had been grassier in 2009 (WF 83). Colour: straw. Nose: totally typical, with these sooty waxes and oils and this cactussy grassiness added to some kind of oiled oatcakes and Champagne biscuits. All that over cider apples and perhaps jojoba. The mineral/waxy side could be mistaken for a wee soapiness, while it shouldn’t. With water: bread and beer. The people want this. Mouth (neat): very good, and more proof that a lot of years and some moderately active oak make for the greatest combos – well that’s my humble opinion. Wonderful artisan cider and several waxes, perhaps rather paraffin, then rather rocks, limestone, flints… The apples and those jojobas (don’t you rather say jujube?) are bringing the fruitiness. Very good, and doesn’t feel like you should add any water, but there’s also an entertaining saltiness playing with your lips, so we’d like to learn more… With water: even better, this one swims well. Indeed there is a little salt, also wax and a little charcoal plus, as usual, some citrus being fashionably late to the party. Finish: rather grassier an drier. I’m all for grassier and drier finishes, as long as they don’t get overly bitter, which is absolutely not the case here. Comments: not sure it’s going to be the first SR I’ll publish this year, but it’s the first I’ve tried and it all started well (despite the glaring lack of some old Brora or Port Ellen in 2018).
SGP:462 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Pittyvaich we've tasted so far


October 11, 2018


Caol Ila young and old

When did we last try a bad Coal Ila? Must have been a weird wine-finishing, a long time ago. Like, syrah or nebbiolo. Other than that…

Caol Ila 15 yo 2002/2018 ‘Unpeated Style’ (59.1%, OB, Special Release)

Caol Ila 15 yo 2002/2018 ‘Unpeated Style’ (59.1%, OB, Special Release) Three stars
This from a variety of cask types, refill, rejuvenated (when are they going to do this to humans?), hogsheads, butts… Every year Diageo remind us that they’re making some ‘Highlands’ Caol Ila from time to time, that is to say some virtually unpeated CI (which I’ve often found quite peaty, biz     arrely, am I oversensitive to peat?) Colour: straw. Nose: well, this time some parts remind me of neighbours Jura, others of lager bear, and others of overripe apples. The core remains kind of peaty, or sooty at least. Smoked bread dough. With water: more sweet bread dough. Not quite sure about these bottlings’ purpose – never been. Mouth (neat): pears, pineapples, IPA, sour apples, leaven, soft bread, fresh croissants… A funny one indeed. With water: young calvados from Islay, really. Finish: medium sour, on sweet bread, more overripe apples, and indeed young calvados. Comments: last year’s 18 yo was really good IMHO (WF 85), while this one’s a little less, say noticeable. Again, IMHO. What’s sure is that there’s less smoke than in earlier batches.
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Another young(ish) one please, but a proper peater this time…

Caol Ila 9 yo 2008/2017 (52%, Hidden Spirits, The Young Rebels Collection, No.6)

Caol Ila 9 yo 2008/2017 (52%, Hidden Spirits, The Young Rebels Collection, No.6) Four stars
Young Rebels? That’s exactly me! Colour: white wine. Nose: perfect. Coffee beans, hay smoke, mercurochrome, farmyard, crabs, oysters, green pepper. With water: wet dogs (we’ll be eternally sorry, dogs), damp textile, raw barley, kiln (not at CI, obviously). Mouth (neat): to think that they’re making millions of litres of this on a yearly basis (quite)! Lemon, citron, smoked oysters, kippers, olives, seawater. Unbeatably fresh. With water: gets bitterer and grassier, more peppery as well, all that was a little unexpected. It’s as if my trustful Vittel had killed the citrus. What is this magic? Finish: long, rather grassy. Grass smoke. Comments: this, some water, and a pipette. That’s your evening sorted. Excellent, but Hidden Spirits’ Lochindaal was even more to my liking (WF 88).
SGP:357 - 86 points.

Let’s go straight to the old ones if you don’t mind…

Caol Ila 33 yo 1984/2018 (52.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, 216 bottles)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1984/2018 (52.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, 216 bottles) Five stars
There is a problem with these bottlings, it is the feeling of ‘last time’. Or let’s say, nostalgia in advance, a rather weird feeling. Unless our friends in Elgin tell us that they’ve still got many such casks in their warehouses… G&M, we’re listening… Colour: pale gold. Nose: nah there, quince paste, that’s unbeatable. And dried pears, fresh marzipan (not the stuff they would sell in, say gas stations), a pot of bits of crystallised fruits, old magazines in the basement, salicornia, citrons, the tiniest bit of old plastic, mild pipe tobacco… This is all very complex, and it would go into many different directions. Mindboggling. With water: no changes, which is cool. Perhaps a little more ‘textile-y’. Mouth (neat): just a-ma-zing. Smoked vanilla fudge and many dried tropical fruits. Papayas, for instance. Then seawater and a whole seafood platter. Emphasis on shellfish! You may start to dial the number of the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade, which would be 01 42 92 81 00. No, that’s Macron’s number, please don’t. With water: if we must. Almond paste, citrons, lemon curd, oysters, etcetera. Finish: medium, perfect. Smoked almonds and fresh whelks, then grapefruit. Unbeatable indeed. Comments: I know this was to be expected, but I think it’s even greater than I thought it would be (eh?)
SGP:466 - 93 points.

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2018 (58.1%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogsheads and refill butts, 3,276 bottles)

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2018 (58.1%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogsheads and refill butts, 3,276 bottles) Five stars
Shhh, quiet please… Colour: gold. Nose: I don’t know if that’s because of the unexpected high strength, but I find it relatively light, almost shy. We would be navigating around third-water teas, young pu-erh, wulong… also whiffs of damp garden earth, begonias and geraniums, chamomile… Let us try to wake it up! With water: oh yes, old oils, embrocations, balms, liqueurs, creams… And some fresh baguette! And distant whiffs of horse dung! Ans raw cocoa! And cigars! Mouth (neat): it was shy on the nose when neat, it’s rather brutal on the palate. Green lemons, wasabi, cider apples… I know, all that is very green. It’s troubling that such an old malt would be this unruly and almost brutal, but the high strength gave it away, anyway. No, I’m not saying they should have reduced it, not at all. With water: there, citrus. Citrus will save any whiskies. Grapefruit and lime. Finish: long, sharper, lemony, fresh… To think that this is thirty-five years old! A touch of coconut in the aftertaste, maybe did they ‘lift’ it a wee bit. Comments: it is extremely brilliant whisky, but in my very humble book, it doesn’t totally have the, say, hold on, say the poetry that was to be found in the best old Broras and Port Ellens. Or say the depth. Hard to describe… So, hey, where are those Port Ellens and Broras?
SGP:456 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Caol Ila we've tasted so far


October 10, 2018


A few Balblair

There’s this brilliant new official 1991 that I had selected in Paris for my commented tasting session, and there’s some by G&M too. Always a joy to taste Balblair…

Balblair 12 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Discovery, 2018)

Balblair 12 yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Discovery, 2018) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: oh no, I mean, yes! This a blend of oils, with some argan, sunflower, olive, hazelnut… This is superb, it’s not often that you come across this style. Then rather hops (citra style), custard, butterscotch, and the largest pack of shortbread ever. You would almost believe you’re at Edinburgh Airport. Ha. Mouth: very malty, half citrusy, half orchardy. So between oranges and apples, I would say. Some honey too, apple compote, sponge cake, fudge, more oranges… It does remind me of G&M’ older semi-official Balblairs, you know the pinkish labels. The 10 yo, for example, but this one may be even better, and certainly brighter. Finish: medium, fresh, malty and fruity. More apples, cinnamon rolls… Comments: G&M have always had a lot of Balblair, so no surprise here. This starts well…
SGP:451 - 85 points.

Balblair 1993/2017 (49.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, first fill sherry puncheon, cask #1964)

Balblair 1993/2017 (49.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, first fill sherry puncheon, cask #1964) Five stars
Still the older packaging – are we getting nostalgic yet? Nah… Colour: very deep gold. Nose: walnut cake and old Sauternes that got dry, then touches of mint and mushrooms, raw chocolate, coffee beans, grandma’s tea box, and just one or two used matches. Shall we call this one ‘amontillado-y’? Mouth: a tad pungent at first (tree bark, walnut skins) but what’s behind that is absolutely brilliant, with a blend of sweet mustard, walnuts, tobacco, amontillado indeed, cumin, stock cube, vin jaune, morels… Some gastronomic whisky! I think that they should build ranges just for chefs who would then sell these in their restaurants. Because mind you, and in my humble opinion, only 10% of all whiskies go really well with food. This one certainly does. Finish: very long, superbly mustardy and walnutty. Comments: there are often off-notes with these profiles, but not here and now. Love this one.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Oh let’s have the OB, since it’s got some sherry too…

Balblair 1991/2018 (46%, OB)

Balblair 1991/2018 (46%, OB) Five stars
They never tell you much on the bottles, but I’ve heard there was a higher proportion of sherry casks in this one (there was less in last year’s 1990). Colour: gold. Nose: a few oak spices at first, ginger and nutmeg, then this soft, and very Balblairy kind of fruitiness. Well, put whole apples, bananas, peaches, and pears into a mixer, mix, then nose, that’ll give an idea. There is a little bread too, a wee bit of pumpernickel perhaps… Then green tea, the smallest Jerusalem artichoke, even aubergines… Indeed! Mouth: how good is this? Everything’s just perfect, and indeed there’s something Spanish, but rather some kind of whisky paella than straight Jerez. That’s a little hard to explain, and I’m sure this unusual profile comes from the wood mix they have been using (involving some rather active wood for sure), but let me mention aniseed, caraway, saffron, pepper… Finish: medium, complex, spicy and fruity. Comments: some exceptional Balblair, perhaps a little more challenging than others at times, but that’s the game!
SGP:651 - 90 points.

Remember that great 1993 by G&M? (yeah right you’re no goldfish, I know) There’s a newer one…

Balblair 24 yo 1993/2018 (51.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength, first fill sherry puncheon, 624 bottles)

Balblair 24 yo 1993/2018 (51.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength, first fill sherry puncheon, 624 bottles) Four stars
So amontillado, mustard and walnuts? Colour: green gold. That usually come from reparations, nails, patches etc… Nose: G&M, are you sure this wasn’t an ex-Jamaican rum cask? Because it does start with a good deal of ‘petroly’ rum as well as ultra-ripe bananas, and only then does it get a little maltier, and more sherried, although that would be bone-dry sherry, almost manzanilla. Also menthol and camphor, as well as cedar wood. Right, pencil shavings. One unusual fellow, this Balblair. With water: oh wow, water flushed it all out, and we’re now in the presence of some clean, fruity Balblair. Mouth (neat): really unusual. I’m thinking oak-aged sloe eau-de-vie. Perhaps slivovitz? Certainly Dutch oude (old) genever . But malt whisky? Not too sure… With water: and once again, water helped. Malty black beer (Guinness style), tea, dried bananas… Finish: same for a rather long time, depending on the amount of water you’ve added. Comments: indeed one funny fellow. And really, its green! As green as Cadenhead’s famous green Springbanks! But these are extremely hard to score… Perhaps.
SGP:471 - 86 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Balblair we've tasted so far


October 9, 2018


Rare new whiskies by Signatory

Good, I had closed WF’s North Port (Brechin) box for good a few months ago, after having done a nice wee session gathering the remaining expressions I was still having in that box. And I had done just the same with Ladyburn a few years back. But obviously, we did not count on Signatory Vintage and their 30th Anniversary! Because guess what they have just released? That’s right, one North Port and one Ladyburn. In the name of Zeus, let’s try them both!

North Port Brechin 36 yo 1981/2018 (57.2%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #1708, 537 bottles)

North Port Brechin 36 yo 1981/2018 (57.2%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #1708, 537 bottles) Five stars
What what what what what? Colour: straw. Nose: this was matured by time, not by wood (respectively wine, rum, sherry…) So the age is purely theoretical, because this butt was probably rather lazy, which is actually good news since complexity only comes with proper age. Are you following me? This is actually very subtle, with many herbal teas and flowers, lime blossom, honeysuckle, woodruff, orange blossom, also lighter honeys, acacia, all-flower honey, lavender (no, lavender honey isn’t strong at all)… And would you believe this, there’s some marshmallows in a long-forgotten 36 yo single malt whisky! With water: menthol up, as often with very old whiskies. Mouth (neat): I think it needed these 35+ years in lazy wood, and I’m sure it wasn’t ready yet at the ripe age of 30. That’s the magic of malt whisky. Amazing mix of flowers, nuts, and waxy fruits, while there are dozens of each. So a short summary: fresh almonds, nectarines, dates, chestnut pollen, propolis, macadamia nuts… and approx. 1,764,680 other tiny flavours. With water: sublime mead. Ambrosia, the drink of the gods. Finish: medium, fantastically beehive-y. Comments: mind you, it could be that this was the very last ‘new’ North Port we’ll ever taste. But we aren’t sad, should we be sad?... It’s a very brilliant bottle nonetheless, I utterly loved it for its intrinsic qualities. Very well done Signatory!
SGP:551 - 92 points.

Rare Ayrshire 44 yo 1974/2018 (53%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #2606, 122 bottles)

Rare Ayrshire 44 yo 1974/2018 (53%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #2606, 122 bottles) Five stars
Of course it doesn’t say it’s Ladyburn, but believe me, it is. I won’t tell you the story of Ladyburn again, you’ll find it on the Web (you may favour Johannes’s Malt Madness still the best source). And we’ll all remember that Michael Jackson had just hated earlier bottlings of Ladyburn, around 1989. Colour: gold. Nose: Vorsicht, attention, caution, this is the kind of nose that may lead you to an overoaked palate, but we shall see if that’s the case or not. Banana skins, beeswax, old Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives, milk chocolate, nougat, brioche, middle-eastern sour bread, Weetabix, pot-pourri. The banana skins are a tad worrisome… With water: not that many changes. A wonderful nose, but indeed, a growing fear… Tah-TAH-tah-TAH-tah-TAH-tah-TAH… (that’s supposed to be the music of the movie Jaws)…  Mouth (neat): do you believe in miracles? Between us, this one should have gotten too oaky ages ago, but it’s just utterly magnificent. Amazing fruits, papayas, guavas, bananas, mangos, maracujas, pears… In fact, it’s extremely reminiscent of some ex-refill 1960s Bowmore. There’s just nothing to dislike here… With water: astounding light and fresh tropical fruitiness. Finish: medium, with a flabbergasting freshness and a totally entrancing fruitiness. Plus, above all, not a iota of over-oakiness, which really is a miracle. Mind you, this little Lowlander is 44. Comments: I know it’s their last cask of Ladyburn. Well, it’s their best. This, is collectable whisky. Forget about hastily-designed crystal decanters and two-penny silverware, THIS is true History!
SGP:741 - 93 points.

You wouldn’t imagine to which extent these kinds of whiskies do put me into a good mood…


October 8, 2018


A little bag of three young Talisker

Both Laings (Douglas and Hunter, so Fred and Stewart plus respective offspring – are you following me?) seem to have quite some young Talisker. And of course Diageo…

Talisker 2003/2014 'Distillers Edition' (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5QC)

Talisker 2003/2014 'Distillers Edition' (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5QC) Four stars
Yes, late again. Remember, these are finished in amoroso, amoroso being the most unusual kind of sherry. It belongs more or less to the cream family, being a blend of oloroso and PX. Colour: gold. Nose: it is not very ‘amoroso’, and that’s pretty good news. It’s also true that I’ve already tried several other vintages and that they’ve all been to my liking. But I’ll always prefer the regular 10 anyway, so will always find all these (very silly, as old distillers used to say) finishes a tad unnecessary – to us, maybe not to the distillers and bottlers. Anyway, pleasant nose, the sweetness and the peat together creating some pleasant soft-mustardy notes. Mouth: it’s not a few litres of PXed oloroso that’ll manage to tame a young Talisker. So it’s all Talisker indeed, plus a handful of earthy raisins. Some walnut wine. Finish: rather long, rather fresh. Salty smoked raisins, sounds awful but it isn’t. And sweet mustard. Comments: this batch seems a little sweeter than others, but only proper comparison is reason, eh…
SGP:554 - 85 points.

Talisker 8 yo 2009/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask # 12364, 393 bottles)

Talisker 8 yo 2009/2018 (48.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask # 12364, 393 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: a tad spirity, almost brutal at first nosing, probably a little newmake-y, with youth’s fruits rather in the forefront (pears, yellow peaches) and only then a grassy smokiness as well as, yep, some smoked porridge. Could be that the boisterous fruits would not let the coastalness come through yet. Mouth: it’s a little young and raw indeed, but of course it is very classy distillate, so any age would work. Nice mentholy touches, there’s almost a feeling of thin mints with this peppery bitter chocolate. And more lemon and brine, as expected. Finish: long, still very fruity. That’s the age. Comments: that’s the problem with many very young peaters (same with Ardbeg), the raw fruits tend to fight the smoke and would only give up and mingle after, very roughly, ten years or beyond. A vague impression. But it’s still excellent whisky in my book.
SGP:645 - 84 points.

And you knew this was coming weren’t you…

Talisker 8 yo 2009/2018 (59.4%, OB, Special Release, first fill American oak hogsheads, 4,680 bottles)

Talisker 8 yo 2009/2018 (59.4%, OB, Special Release, first fill American oak hogsheads) Five stars
The hogsheads have been deep-charred, apparently. Let’s see if that didn’t make this young Talisker too creamy (so modern)… They don’t mention the outturn, so it’s large. Colour: pale gold. Nose: another one that’s a little medicinal and spirity at first nosing, while that’s even more obvious at almost 60% vol. But I also seem to detect olives, and olives work just like… say madeleines in my mind. Olives push the right buttons! (I tell it like it is, I owe you that). With water (because water’s really needed): oh yes, farmyard, beach mud, almond paste, yeast, new wellies, Vicks (big!)… That’s all rather wonderful. This baby loves water even more than, say ouzo does. Mouth (neat): huge, totally vertical, with just a little tropical forest honey in the background, but that may well vanish as soon as water’s been added. Let’s see, with water: formidable. Mint and almond oils. What a whisky! Finish: lemons! Lemons always work in a finish. Comments: feels slightly ‘lab’ at times, but that wouldn’t bother me one bit when the end result’s this brilliant. And, above all, balanced. Oh and have you noticed that there seems to be a thing between Diageo and the number eight (8). Karma or something… Fantastic whisky, one of the best quality/age ratio out there, in my opinion. Or isn’t that rather age/quality? Now one second please, have to check my score for Lagavulin 8... Okay, good, so…
SGP:454 - 91 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Talisker we've tasted so far


October 6, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
The Whiskies Came In Two By Two...
There’s only so many variations of ‘more duos’ or ‘assorted pairs’ you can stomach before resorting to silliness I’m afraid. Anyway, yet more mixed pairings this week.


Craigellachie 2005/2018 12 yo (55.9%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, cask #900275) Craigellachie 2005/2018 12 yo (55.9%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Shop Dufftown, cask #900275)
Colour: Gold. Nose: I usually find Craigellachie to be a ‘bigger’ distillate than most of its sibling Speysiders and that’s certainly the case here. Lots of earthy notes, various honeys, cough sweets, pine needles, soft waxes, wee touches of soot, white pepper and some chamomile. The sort of profile I’d describe as ‘aromatically satisfying’. With water: orange throat sweeties, lemon barley water, honey sweetened porridge and nougat. Becomes something of a confectioner’s dram. Although, this rather supple waxiness resurges with a little breathing time. Mouth: dense, chewy and rich with notes of brown sugar, vanilla custard, boiled sweets, barley sugar and lemon bonbons. Lots of spices, a little paprika, muesli, sultanas and again a background waxiness. With water: this sweetness is more silky now with water. And there’s a more boisterous sootiness and a rather grassy, punchy olive oil note. Some lemon blossom and other wild flowers in time as well. Finish: long and slightly drying on angelica root, liquorice, earth, nutmeg and a gentle, tannic bitterness. Comments: I’m not sure why Craigellachie hasn’t been more popular over the years, it’s a pretty characterful make I think. Even now.
SGP: 551 - 87 points.


Craigellachie 14 yo 2002/2017 (57.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #44.78 ‘Peek-a-boo’, bourbon hogshead/virgin oak hogshead, 276 bottles) Craigellachie 14 yo 2002/2017 (57.6%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #44.78 ‘Peek-a-boo’, bourbon hogshead/virgin oak hogshead, 276 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: pure pencil shavings at first, then mead, talcum powder, nutmeg, green pepper, new wood and that kind of sawdusty workshop profile that tends to accompany such active oak. It’s all very sweet and clean but I don’t really detect anything approaching distillate character. With water: freshly sawn oak, a scattering of yellow flowers, slightly mustardy and a touch of wood glue. Mouth: hot and prickling with wood spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, aniseed and then more syrupy vanilla, sawdust and pencil shavings. Black pepper and liquorice as well. With water: a dense, stodgy sweetness with prickly green oak notes, hawthorn and a little spearmint. Finish: medium in length with more general sweetness, a touch of quinine and white pepper. Comments: It’s all perfectly fine and clean, and no doubt fans of this sweet, wood-forward, uber-modern style will find plenty to enjoy. But, if I’m honest, whiskies like this feel rather sad to me. This massively lopsided woodiness totally masks any Craigellachie character and robs the whisky of balance or complexity.
SGP: 731 - 76 points.


Glen Ord 12 yo 2006/2018 (58.3%, Thompson Bros, finished in a 100 litre Koval bourbon cask for 6 months, 144 bottles) Glen Ord 12 yo 2006/2018 (58.3%, Thompson Bros, finished in a 100 litre Koval bourbon cask for 6 months, 144 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: you feel the new wood that’s been used but it’s pretty pure, clean and fresh. There’s a sense of vanilla pods and clean linen. Then you get these slightly tart green wood notes, some pencil shavings, fruit loops and - in time - ripe gooseberry, lime jelly and pink peppercorns. Perhaps some marshmallow as well. With water: much grassier and with touches of ripe melon, cider and cornflakes dusted with icing sugar. Mouth: a rather prickly delivery at first but it’s also quite satisfyingly syrupy and gloopy. Some fruity chilli heat overlying grassy olive oil, dijon mustard, lemon drizzle cake and poppy seeds (which often adorn lemon drizzle cake so that may just be the power of suggestion at work). Some honeyed porridge and cooked asparagus - a tad unusual. With water: a bit better with water I think. Silkier, an easy green fruitiness, some grapefruit pith, natural sweetness. Nice. Finish: medium in length. All on teacakes, kiwi, crisp cereals and a little butter. Comments: You do feel that slightly active oak I have to say. And I’m not sure I can detect much ‘Ord’ character, which is a shame. But, it worked well with water and, according to the website, this is supposed to be excellent as a highball. Which makes sense - who in their right mind doesn’t love a highball...? (I’ll also add an extra point for the Kit Kats, but don’t tell anyone!)
SGP: 541 - 82 points.


Glen Ord 21 yo 1996/2017 (55.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, hogshead, 252 bottles) Glen Ord 21 yo 1996/2017 (55.7%, Cadenhead Authentic Collection, hogshead, 252 bottles)
Colour: straw. Nose: much closer to a classical Ord style, that is to say full of light, subtle waxy tones, damp hay, hessian cloth, clay, muesli and white flowers. A few stone fruits as well such as lychee and apricot. Lemon peel and heather ale as well. Really lovely. With water: lemon cough drops, fabric softener, sandalwood and sort of coastal side step. Becomes floral, very fresh and much more easy going with water. Mouth: rather dry and mineral. Notes of petrol, more hessian, camphor, coal dust, oatmeal, earthy turmeric and waxy canvas. Very pure and quite punchy - a taught and well-textured Riesling. Some lime zest and mustard powder. A bit challenging in some ways but great at the same time. With water: ahh! Bigger, easier, more emphatic and singular with this big, flabby, luxurious waxiness. Petrol, dry aged cider, light ointments, a lick of lighter fluid and baking soda. Finish: Long, lightly earthy, sooty, oily, waxy and with quite a bit of lemon peel and lanolin. Even a bit of raw grist and sweet wort. Comments: Did Glen Ord really shift away from this sort of character in the early 2000s? Or does Glen Ord just need this kind of age to shine? Discuss... Anyway, needs time and a bit of gentle effort with water to coax it out of its shell, but it’s worth it. I love Glen Ord when it’s like this.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.


Over to Ben Nevis, there seems to be a fair few of them around these days, which you’ll certainly never hear me complaining about...  


Ben Nevis 20 yo 1997/2018 (54.6%, Berry Brothers, cask #85, butt) Ben Nevis 20 yo 1997/2018 (54.6%, Berry Brothers, cask #85, butt)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: coconut, lime zest, soft waxes, leafy earthiness and spicy rye bread. Continues with some pressed wild flowers, some pretty grassy olive oil, orange bitters and dunnage notes. I really enjoy these rather rich, bready and slightly yeasty notes. With water: pineapple syrup, lots of orange peel and orange cordial, cooked grains, more various oils and a little paraffin. Quality! Mouth: excellent! It’s one of these rather fat and fruity ones. Lots of spice, some engine oil, graphite, muesli, dried apricot, green banana, mineral oils, camphor and soot. A really enticing fruitiness that’s rather textural and unfolding. Mandarin liqueur and something slightly meaty as well, like Bovril. With water: more bready, more medical, more yeasty and more of a tart fruitiness such as gooseberry and green apple peelings. Finish: Long, slightly dry, lemony, musty, notes of fermenting honey, more mineral oils, cough syrups and brown toast. Comments: It’s a big fat whisky and it deserves a bit fat 90 in my book.
SGP: 572 - 90 points.


Ben Nevis 27 yo 1990/2018 (58.4%, Scoma 40th Anniversary, bourbon, cask #1368, 317 bottles) Ben Nevis 27 yo 1990/2018 (58.4%, Scoma 40th Anniversary, bourbon, cask #1368, 317 bottles)
Starting a small whisky import and retail business in Germany 40 years ago can, I think, be safely described as ‘ahead of its time’. Well done Scoma! Colour: gold. Nose: It’s similar but different. More towards cooked cereals and grains, more mashy, but still soft, gently waxy and slightly vegetal in good way with hints of soda bread, artichoke. A lick of golden syrup, some sourdough, more of these waxed canvas kind notes. Carbon paper, ink and mixed dried herbs. Actually, it’s really wonderfully aromatic and gentle whisky, but that also gives the impression of sturdiness underneath, if you see what I mean. Continues with a little mint julep and lemon oil. With water: gauze, linen, boiled orange sweets, cherry cola, tinned travel sweets, mustard powder. Quite an eclectic jumble of aromas. Mouth: terrifically thick and fruity. Fresh malted barley in olive oil. Ripe banana, orange throat lozenges, papaya, muddled mint, old yellow chartreuse. There aren’t really any other whiskies that taste like Ben Nevis. Clover, melon and caraway with a fragrant lapsang souchong note. With water: toasted seeds, more lanolin, soft medicines, trail mix, minty wax (what?) and some sweet sooty notes. Finish: Long, lemony, lightly minty, sunflower oil, gently medical, becoming saline and still ever so slightly yeasty and fresh. Comments: What a terrific and thrillingly characterful distillate. I remember we used to say about Ben Nevis ‘It might not always be good but it’s never boring’. I think we can probably update that to ‘It’s almost always good and never boring’. A great and idiosyncratic bottling to celebrate a 40th anniversary, good work Scoma.
SGP: 661 - 91 points.


Longmorn 27 yo 1990/2018 (58.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #7.185 ‘Sweet, smooth s’more’, refill hogshead, 150 bottles) Longmorn 27 yo 1990/2018 (58.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #7.185 ‘Sweet, smooth s’more’, refill hogshead, 150 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: lots of warm syrupy wood tones, sweet pastries and ripe garden fruits; gooseberries and green apples etc... Wee touches of lamp oil, garden sheds, baked pears, old calvados and pot pourri. It’s one of these Longmorns that leans towards woodier aspects and the fruits have started to become crystalised and kind of stewed, but the aromatic profile remains seductive and wonderfully concentrated. Increasing notes of pine needles, resins, hessian and very light waxiness and polish. With water: cocoa, composted earthiness, more light chocolate notes, olive oil, marzipan and coconut notes that veer towards herbal gorse bush qualities. Mouth: big, spicy delivery, all on oily rags, overripe banana, dark chocolate truffle, praline, orange cocktail bitters, crystalised lemon peel, gingerbread and a bit of horseradish heat. Rather powerful really. With water: mocha, fruity red chili, hazelnut liqueur, tea tree oil, rosewater and black tea. Finish: long, resinous, spicy, gently earthy and with an echo of wax and treacle. Comments: Quite simply, a delicious and perfectly mature Longmorn. Reflective armchair fuel.
SGP: 651 - 90 points.


Longmorn 30 yo 1985 (54.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #7.128 ‘A sonata of sapidity’, refill hogshead, 72 bottles) Longmorn 30 yo 1985 (54.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #7.128 ‘A sonata of sapidity’, refill hogshead, 72 bottles)
Colour: Light copper. Nose: polished oak furniture, beeswax, boot polish and some kind of red fruit liquorice. Then it’s all jasmine tea, pot pourri, camphor, olive oil, precious hardwood shavings and ointment. There are wee glimmers of green fruits such as ripe apples, pear drops and caramelised banana. With water: dried wildflowers, almond oil, lemon rind, marzipan and vapour rub. Mouth: The wood is loud but clean, spicy and rather wonderfully concentrated. Lots of graphite oil, mineral oil and then dried apricots, orange peel, blood orange, dried herbs and various fruit liqueurs. Rather lovely. With water: green pepper, bitter chocolate, strong green tea, cloves, cardamom and some kind of fragrant spiced mead. Really quite excellent. Finish: Long, spicy, subtly drying and full of crystalised fruits, citrus rinds and peppery bite. Comments: The wood has a clear voice in this one but it sings rather beautifully and you still feel the Longmorn fruits - concentrated down to syrupy, gloopy goodness by time. Unusual and really great I think.
SGP: 662 - 91 points.


Perhaps a couple of Ardbegs to finish...  


Ardbeg 23 yo ‘Twenty Something‘ (46.3%, OB, 2017) Ardbeg 23 yo ‘Twenty Something‘ (46.3%, OB, 2017)
There is a new ‘Twenty Something’ thing out apparently, but sadly I don’t have a sample to hand. Colour: gold. Nose: A saline style of peat to begin, tarry, pretty typical 1990s, pre-Glenmorangie style Ardbeg, creosote-dominated and pretty oily. Lots of peat embers, slightly briny, black pepper, green olives, notes of pitch and salted fish. In time it moves more towards coastal freshness and stony minerals with a touch of lemon oil and cough syrup. Gets more medicinal as well, iodine and TCP. Very good. Mouth: Lots of oiliness, linseed oil, cod liver oil, hessian, pretty salty, a resinous and grippy salinity. Olive oil, brine, anchovies, sardines, fresh chopped herbs, more black pepper and medicine. Mercurochrome and antiseptic with bonfire ash and dried seaweed. Finish: good length, bright, coastal and fresh, the saltiness lifts everything and keeps it all alive with tar and gentian notes in the aftertaste. Comments: Really excellent 1990s Ardbeg. Although, there’s a certain melancholy about trying an older, official 1990s Ardbeg such as this in this day and age of domination by very silly NAS bottlings.
SGP: 366 - 91 points.


Ardbeg 23 yo 1994/2017 (56.0%, Private Bottling, sherry hogshead, cask #1048) Ardbeg 23 yo 1994/2017 (56.0%, Private Bottling, sherry hogshead, cask #1048)
Colour: gold. Nose: typically briny, peppery and tarry 1990s Ardbeg. I find the 1990-1993 vintages tended to be a little more lustrous than the later 1990s Allied ones but this one possesses that gloopy seawater and tarred rope quality that seems to signify this era. Some salted butter, a splodge of TCP, gravelly minerals and kippery smoke. Not much evidence of sherry so far. With water: salted almonds, pear eau de vie, raw seawater and smoked putty - if such a thing exists. Mouth: you do feel the sherry a lot more noticeably on the palate. Some smoked sultanas, burned raisins, boiler smoke, tar, more kippers, straightforward peat smoke - rather like a big lungful of warm kiln air. A little marzipan and Battenberg cake further betrays the sherry cask, along with some soot, peppered mackerel and metal polish. With water: gets nicely leathery and salty with a rather beef stock-esque meaty component. Some cured meats as well along with pine resin and gentian. Smoked mussels and capers bringing up the rear. Finish: Long, surprisingly lemony, some bath salts, lots of raw peat smoke, black pepper and more fairly classical brininess. Comments: an excellent and fairly textbook Ardbeg. Straightforward and unfussy in a very ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of way. Maybe lacks the extra charm of the 23yo but still extremely drinkable. The slight sherry influence was lovely.
SGP: 477 - 90 points.


Let’s have one wee bonus for the road. Admittedly it’s the sort of dram which can be a bit of a pain to find sparring partners for so...



Cladach (57.1%, OB, Special Releases, blended malt, 2018) Cladach (57.1%, OB, Special Releases, blended malt, 2018)
The theme of this one being that it’s a ‘composition’ of malts from Diageo’s coastal distilleries. The marketing book that comes with it says it captures the ‘character of coastal malts perfectly’. But, my dear Diageo, wouldn’t that imply some kind of terroir? Anyway, I recall enjoying it at the London launch so let’s see... Colour: gold. Nose: As you may expect, it’s the peaty ones which ring the loudest. There’s this kind of grassy peat smoke with cactus, flints, earth and citronella. Some hay, bonfire smoke, wee briny touches, beach pebbles and some supple waxy notes that nod in the direction of Clynelish. All very nice so far. With water: a light juniper wood note, some lemony ashiness and quite a bit of medicine and wax paper. Mouth: camphor, soot and pepper, which feels like we’re jumping back over westwards. A coal scuttle, some salty porridge, a little aged mead, camphor. It feels like a nice balance of all these various great whiskies, but they also feel a bit lost sloshing about in there together. Some green apples, more hay and dry cider. With water: gets meatier with a nice salty bacon edge, more peat, some salt and vinegar crisps and rapeseed oil. Perhaps a slug of mezcal as well. Finish: rather long, peaty, preserved lemons, lime juice, olive oil, various medical tinctures and black pepper. Comments: I’m always a bit unsure of what to say about these sorts of bottlings. I feel they are too expensive, but I like the idea of them and I think it’s a very lovely peaty dram - even if I’d always prefer the whiskies in their self form. But that’s just me.
SGP: 466 - 86 points.



October 5, 2018


A wild bunch of indie Springers

Indeed, that would be Springbank. Some new ones and some older bottlings for due comparisons…

Springbank 20 yo 1998/2018 (48%, ALOS, sherry, 248 bottles)

Springbank 20 yo 1998/2018 (48%, ALOS, sherry, 248 bottles) Four stars
ALOS used to stand for Antique Lions Of Spirits or something, it’s the brainchild of our friends the power trio Diego, Jens and Max, the ZZ Tops of whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: I may have said it before, very characterful spirits and sherry casks do not always tango well, because it’s very difficult to get the balance right. That’s why some ‘empty’ spirits such as grain whiskies can be perfect in sherry, since they wouldn’t fight it anyway. So, what I was trying to say was that Springbank and sherry (or any other wine casks by the way) may just fail, and we’ve tasted many examples. Now when balance is right, you could be in for a total treat. In this case, imagine some miso soup with a little mint essence, roasted chestnuts, cured ham, linseed oil, soot, brake fluid, and walnut oil. Sounds good? Mouth (neat): not too sure. Since when can you smoke oranges using exhaust fumes? Or roast lemons over pinewood? Or throw thousands of black olives into a sherry butt (while no one’s watching)? So we’re a bit on the fence here, but let’s reward singularity! Finish: rather long, rather meaty, oily… And isn’t there some ale in the aftertaste?  Comments: I prefer my Springbanks naked, but let’s be clear, this one works too.
SGP:562 - 87 points.

Springbank 22 yo 1993/2015 (51.9%, The Bottlers, refill sherry hogshead, cask #227)

Springbank 22 yo 1993/2015 (51.9%, The Bottlers, refill sherry hogshead, cask #227) Five stars
That is right, The Bottlers aka Raeburn Fine Wines. I had thought they stopped bottling whisky long ago, but apparently, I was wrong. It’s to be noted that The Bottlers used to reign supreme at the top of the Malt Maniacs’ list of independent bottlers. Number one! Colour: white wine. Nose: ooooh… crystal-clean Springbank! This nose is reminiscent of that of the old pale 5yo from the 60s or 70s, really. Wet limestone, gravel, flints, petroleum, lemon, Barbour polish, seashells, grass and coal smokes… I have to say we’ve had other magnificent 1993s, many rather Longrowy. Could be Longrow indeed. With water: yes! That old tweed jacket after many rains, and a pile of all Newsweeks. Right, any magazines. Mouth (neat): not Longrow, this is much fruitier. Kiwis, lemons, red rhubarb, then chalk and clay, a drop of ink, one oyster, and a wee bit of tyre plus a slice of fresh baguette (any breads, really, excusez-moi madame monsieur). Epitomically Springbank. With water: bingo! Don’t just add too much H2O, it needs a lot of time to adapt to reduction and it won’t be ready yet when you’ll go to bed. Finish: long, splendidly mineral, waxy, and lemony. That was a brief summary. Comments: there are even better 1993s out there, but this is already fantastic. So, The Bottlers, will you keep up?
SGP:552 - 91 points.

Springbank 23 yo 1992 (52.2%, The Whisky Exchange, Masterpieces) Four stars
Frankly, I don’t quite know what this is, all I know is that it comes from one of The Whisky Exchange’s racing teams, but I couldn’t find any further data while all these fine folks are busy doing a whisky show at time of writing. So we’ll first taste this baby, and only then try to find more details – provided details are needed. Colour: gold. Nose: how come could something this magnificent be unknown? Look, we can count, 23 years + 1992 equals either 2015 or 2016, so what’s the mystery? Why was this kind of hidden? Other than that, did you ever smell smoked soap? You may find some at Ardbeg’s Visitors Centre. And lime and coconut butter? With water (caution, this style is hard to reduce): as expected, we’ve got tyres and broken branches. Mouth (neat): it appears that it’s one of those slightly soapy early 1990s Springbanks, but in this case, we’re way below the limits, way below. Stewed white asparagus, hand cream, limoncello, graphite-y notes. Charcoal. With water: no water please, it’s too difficult to find the right amount and you would have to quaff three litres before you make it. I mean, three litres of Springbank, not three litre of water. But I agree, that’s as good an excuse as any. Finish: medium, more lemony, works. Comments: this is all pretty mysterious. Keep in touch…
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Perhaps an older bottling?...

Springbank 19 yo 1991/2011 (56.1%, Murray McDavid, Mission Gold, refill sherry, 559 bottles)

Springbank 19 yo 1991/2011 (56.1%, Murray McDavid, Mission Gold, refill sherry, 559 bottles) Four stars
It is to be remembered that there were three partners within MMcD, one of them being Gordon Wright, who’s a member of the Wright family of Springbank. So, some good contacts between the two companies may have been had… Colour: white wine. Nose: let’s remember that those were not the easier vintages, and that the distillate improved very mucho after the early 1990s. So, this is surprisingly nice given that context, perhaps a little buttery/soapy indeed, but there’s some lovely camphor for compensation, as well as some earthy crushed barley. As if the distillery would have also mashed a little field earth beside the malt (of course I know that would be impossible). With water: really a turning point. Some plastic, or say bakelite from the olden days, and already a sharper, cleaner waxy mineralness. Very interesting. Mouth (neat): ah, good. Some smokier Springbank, with good lemon and good mineral wax, a style that would then lead to the magnificent 1993-today vintages. With water: yep, swims very well, but one drop will suffice. Finish: medium, waxy, with a little fresh bread. Comments: really an intermediary vintage. Do you believe in vintages in whisky? Or say time periods as this is not a matter of crops?
SGP:452 - 85 points.

(Tom, Danke schoen)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Springbank we've tasted so far


October 4, 2018


New Highland Park OB vs. IB

Could there be too much Highland Park around (including all those anonymous Orkney malts that are too potent to be Scapa)? Of course not since with anything good, plenty is no plague. And after all Highland Park is only WF’s #2 as far as numbers of different expressions are concerned, with approx. 450 different tasting notes, and counting!

Highland Park ‘Valknut’ (46.8%, OB, 2018)

Highland Park ‘Valknut’ (46.8%, OB, 2018) Four stars
Yet more Viking things, let’s see… (while wondering when the Distillery are going to mail empty skulls as free gifts with any purchases)… Colour: pale gold. Nose: it noses pretty young, with a few notes of mashed potatoes and turnips at first, then more herbal notes, porridge, ale, ginger, and a touch of sherry. Perhaps a little grass smoke as well? Some sourness (those turnips) that may come from young age. Well we won’t know for sure since it’s a NAS. Mouth: at first rather rounder than I had expected and, honestly, better. I mean, more to my liking. A smoky pepper, perhaps, fruit peelings, walnuts (hence the name I suppose – joking), a touch of burnt caramel, and a clear modern-HP-ness, whatever that means. Something both coastal and mineral. Finish: rather long, and a little medicinal. Very nice finish, no roughness but it’s solid and firm. Comments: one of the better new NASses, I think. And isn’t the name funny, in a world of old rags and bones? (it’s not that Viking, S.!)
SGP:462 - 87 points.

And an indie counterpart…

Highland Park 27 yo 1991/2018 (52%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, sherry butt, cask #15086, 545 bottles)

Highland Park 27 yo 1991/2018 (52%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, sherry butt, cask #15086, 545 bottles) Five stars
Indeed, Signatory are 30! Amazing work throughout the decades, and some incredible celebratory bottlings. Granted, an HP 1991 is not something extremely rare, but they’ve also issued a new North Port and a new Ladyburn, imagine! Those two soon on WF… Colour: amber. Nose: you’d swear you’re nosing some proper old palo cortado at first, with some magnificent buttered walnuts as well as wee whiffs of natural rubber (hevea) and perhaps bicycle inner tube. It is reminiscent of sulphur, I would say, but that’s exactly the kind, and the amount of sulphur that represent an asset in this context. Some cigar tobacco too, raw chocolate, Bovril/Viandox… With water: more towards tyre repair kits and even more walnuts, both old and fresh. Mouth (neat): all in keeping with the nose, flavour for aroma. Chocolate, meat juice, liquorice, tar, Seville oranges, and some perfect bone-dry oxidative sherry. With water: it’s the meat that wins. Ham, more Bovril, mushroom and bacon soup, and always a lot of walnuts. I’m finding this extremely good, and very Jerezian. Finish: long, getting a tad dry and gingery now. Bitter oranges. Comments: utterly loved the meatiness in this one. A fleshy HP, shall we say. Happy 30th, Signatory Vintage!
SGP:362 - 90 points.

Well, that was short, but it was good. To me, at least.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Highland Park we've tasted so far


October 3, 2018


A bag of the best bastard malts

That's how we used to call these amongst the Malt Maniacs. It's true that there’s more blended malt around, it’s a good mean of building your own brand while not relying on distillers too much, but of course you have to start from scratch then. Let’s see what we have on the table…

Mackinlay’s Shackleton (40%, OB, blended malt, 2018)

Mackinlay’s Shackleton (40%, OB, blended malt, 2018) Three stars
A sequel to the previous limited editions that have been both pretty good, and finely Glen-Mhory, whether there was actually some Glen Mhor inside or not. I think there was some in the very first ‘replica’ bottling, having said that. This very one isn’t a replica anymore, it was given a new, albeit pretty ‘retro’ packaging. Colour: white wine. Nose: Well, they managed to keep an old-school Highlands profile indeed, with some minerals, chalk, damp gravel, lemons, a touch of leather, green apples… Tends to become rounder though, more on sweets, marshmallows… So that old-Highland-ness was a bit temporary. Mouth: certainly feels bigger than just 40% vol., and indeed, starts sooty and chalky yet again, before it starts to shift towards green apples and lemons, and then some fruitier notes. Bonbons, plus the smallest pack of liquorice allsorts ever as well as a little heather honey. And it would not nosedive, despite the low strength. Finish: medium, still very chalky, with a lemony aftertaste. Grassier aftertaste, very grassy actually. Comments: well composed given that this is a larger-volume vatted malt.
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Johnnie Walker ‘Blue Label Brora & Rare' (46%%, OB, blend, 2017)

Johnnie Walker ‘Blue Label Brora & Rare' (46%%, OB, blend, 2017) Four stars and a half
I know, this is not a blended malt, but it says Brora, so that’s kind of the same thing in my book. No? So indeed there is some Brora in this blend, but I don’t know how much, while there are also malts Pittyvaich, Clynelish, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie and Royal Lochnagar, as well as grains Cameronbridge and Cambus. Well I know what I would have done if I had been in charge (God forbid!)… That’s right, I’d have only used Brora and Clynelish, even if the end result would have been a little incestuous then, which may not be the main point of a blended whisky. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s firm and earthy, with a rather lovely combination of old inks with papers, autumn leaves, sandalwood, and rather heather honey ala old HP. Do we get the Brora part? But of course we do! Erm, sadly not, but it’s a top-notch nose, while there sure is some form of parentage. Mouth: it is very malty, I do not quite find any coconutty or popcorny flavours from the grain whiskies. Some parts also remind me of that excellent old blend they were having at Ainslie’s & Heilbron’s, Glen Brora. Soot, chestnut and heather honeys, a touch of dried meat, some smoke for sure, and then a little demerara sugar plus hints of coal. Perhaps a pinhead of salted fudge. Finish: medium, perfectly coherent (doesn’t lose itself while many blends do at this stage, in my experience), always a wee bit sooty, with some marmalade in the aftertaste as well as more demerara sugar. Marmalade works in any finishes, doesn’t it. Comments: we could always argue that this is a waste of Brora. Well, I don’t think so, after all Brora was made for blending, originally. Perhaps the best blend I’ve tried this year, but the year isn’t over.
SGP:552 - 88 points.

Back to malts…

Rock Oyster ‘Sherry Edition’ (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2018)

Rock Oyster ‘Sherry Edition’ (46.8%, Douglas Laing, blended malt, +/-2018) Four stars
From DL’s very smart new lines. The regular Rock Oyster was excellent – only tried the first batch, WF 87. Colour: straw. Nose: the sherriness is under control here, do not expect any bursts of sour walnuts and grape skins, nor any slightly vulgar PXness. Quite the contrary, this is clean, maritime, peaty, kilny, very barley-y, and feels just ‘natural’. No quibbles. Mouth: indeed, and maybe am I dreaming, but I’m finding echoes of Uigeadail now (not the first batches though). You feel that the whole’s been slightly sweetened (sultanas) but the spirit is firm and tense enough and couldn’t get buried this easily. Finish: rather long, sweet and peaty. Smoked currants. Comments: good, ‘of course’ I prefer the unsherried sibling, but I’m still finding this easier version extremely good.
SGP:556 - 85 points.
More of this fashionable highly cluttered design please...

The Story of the Spaniard (43%, Compass Box, blended malt, 2018)

The Story of the Spaniard (43%, Compass Box, blended malt, 2018)
I find it a little surprising that they would have bottled this new expression at 43% vol. and not at 46. As the name suggests, there’s a good proportion of sherry casks inside.  Colour: light gold, so no big first fill wood. Nose: we’re very far from a sherry monster, this is rather a slightly buttery, pastry-ish malt with nice whiffs of oranges (several kinds) and apple pie, stewed apricots, a hint of rhubarb pie… and, well, more and more cooked rhubarb. Which I always enjoy! Mouth: excellent. I was a little afraid, but I was wrong. Maple syrup, honeys, oranges, more rhubarb, and just a touch of cherries. Morellos. The 43% vol. work well, actually. Finish: medium, rather on honeyed pastries. Baklavas and assorted oriental compadres. Comments: it appears that there is a lot of Clynelish inside this well-mannered blended malt, but I don’t think the famous Highlander is very dominant. Anyway, the chef seems to have stayed in the kitchen (I know what I’m trying to say).
SGP:541 - 87 points.

Flaming Heart 2018 (48.9%, Compass Box, blended malt)

Flaming Heart 2018 (48.9%, Compass Box, blended malt) Five stars
Absolutely loved the previous editions, so there’s no reasons this would be different, especially if some perfect Caol Ila keeps leading the pack. Colour: white wine. Nose: yes, it’s extremely fresh and pretty elegant, with green apples and kiwis, as well as oysters and kippers on a bed of fresh kelp. Over all that, some finely squeezed Sicilian lemons, as well as a few slices of green apples, grapes and green gooseberries. There’s something sauvignony to this nose. There, Pouilly-Fumé. Mouth: relatively easy, very coherent, quite waxy, gently bitter at times, and extremely well composed, you could almost believe this is some 20 yo single malt, you just wouldn’t recognise the distillery. Smoke, apples, lemon, crushed almonds, touches of anchovies, a little sunflower oil… Finish: rather long, with some sweeter and rounder fruits. Stewed apples, a touch of beeswax, just a hint of custard. Comments: typical John Glaser work, made with the right malt whiskies. If you want to recreate Led Zeppelin, better have Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on board, I suppose.
SGP:545 – 90 points.

Do we have room for a last one? Yes we do…

Epitome 24 yo 1993/2018 (53.2%, Maltbarn, Blended Malt, sherry cask, 170 bottles)

Epitome 24 yo 1993/2018 (53.2%, Maltbarn, Blended Malt, sherry cask, 170 bottles) Four stars and a half
These single cask blended malts could well be single malts in disguise. BTW did you know that actually, you can’t by law call a single malt ‘blended malt’? And that some actual blending (or teaspooning) should have taken place in real life or you’ll have to call your whisky ‘single malt’? That’s new to me… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a relatively soft, very cake-y malt, cruising somewhere between Glenmorangie and Balvenie as far as styles are concerned. Quinces and mirabelles, custard, cereals, a spoonful of beer, certainly a little hops, and some brioche. With water: malted barley, beer, vanilla cake. How natural is that? Mouth (neat): butterscotch and IPA, croissants, brioche, Golden Grahams, hops again (a lot), fudge, apricot jam… With water: oranges and plums coming out, all for the (even) better. Finish: rather long, with some tinned fruits this time. Pears? Cornflakes. Comments: excellent, as malty as malt whisky can be. Indeed, some kind of epitome. PS: there’s also something Balblairy.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Oh and there’s this just in as well…

Cladach (57.1%, OB, Special Release, blended malt, 2018)

Cladach (57.1%, OB, Special Release, blended malt, 2018) Four stars and a half
I have to say the very idea of some NAS blended malt amongst Diageo’s prestigious Special Releases sounds a little strange to me. Well it used to until I saw that they had vatted Caol Ila, Clynelish, Lagavulin, Talisker, Oban and Inchgower. Which, in my book, sounds a bit like some truffle, foie gras and lobster salad. They’ve also used several cask types. Colour: gold. Nose: I don’t know if they’ve used those malts in equal proportions, probably not in fact, but this is a very smoky nose for sure, with something very medicinal. We’re talking tinctures and mercurochrome. There’s also quite a lot of sherry, and one cannot not think (bang, double negations kill, S.) of Lagavulin’s latest Distiller’s Editions. I think there’s more and more smoked meat as well – in Cladach. With water: a little menthol, while Talisker seems to take a stronger lead. Mouth (neat): it’s clearly a peater while we’re rather going towards margarita as far as the other flavours are concerned. Tequila, grapefruit, salt, lime… One raisin for good measure, a touch of ginger and gentian. With water: an even bigger peater. I find it funny that many official tasting notes for actual peaters seem to describe much smoother and mellower spirits (according to this humble taster). Perhaps do they all hire the same taster/writer? Story short, I think this Cladach is much peatier than what they say in brochures, web pages and leaflets. Finish: long and more Caol-Ila-y this time. But why always try to find about the core ingredients? (and usually fail?) Comments: they were clearly going to achieve something with this one.
SGP:466 - 88 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Blended malts we've tasted so far


October 2, 2018


Even more Glenfarclasses

It’s true that we’ve posted a lot of Glenfarclas in recent weeks, especially Angus who seems to have emptied their warehouses. Quite. But you see there’s more new ones, especially an intriguing new 105. But first, a lighter introduction…

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018)

Glenfarclas 25 yo (43%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars and a half
One expression that we follow every three or four years, last time it was a very good ‘+/-2015’ at WF 86. Colour: gold. Nose: it seems that it’s changed a bit, since it would rather start with various herbal teas, especially mentholy ones, and some unexpected bready/gingery tones that one’s rather expecting from some new young craft malt whisky. What’s sure is that it’s right up my alley, close to nature (I see…) and just perfectly balanced. Wholegrain bread, a touch of rosemary and sage, Linzertorte, moist gingerbread, thyme honey, those sorts of aromas. Mouth: pretty much the same feelings. Amontillado, walnuts, honeysuckle, chestnut honey, gingerbread, freshly squeezed oranges… all very good. And it’s one of those malts that stand a low strength with much panache, and will never get flabby. Finish: medium, rather perfect, clean, orange-y. Orange-filled chocolate (orangette). Comments: either they further upped their game or I’m getting fonder of this classic style. These notes of very young craft malt are anything but annoying, quite the opposite.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Glenfarclas 22 yo ‘105’ (60%, OB, 3600 bottles, 2018)

Glenfarclas 22 yo ‘105’ (60%, OB, 3600 bottles, 2018) Four stars
There is the classic 105, and there was a totally glorious 40 yo 105 around ten years ago (WF 94!) so we have hopes now… This baby ‘s issued to commemorate the first launch of the 105, in 1968. Well I for one would have done a 50 yo then, but not my business (hey, may we joke?) They could also do a 104 then, but that’s another story… Colour: gold. I had thought it would be much darker. Nose: it’s clearly different, rather all on cakes, pastry, orange blossom, honeysuckle flowers, raisins, quinces, honey, dried figs… In truth there’s something middle-oriental on the nose, which is absolutely lovely. With water: gets totally cloudy! Rather more sawdust too, not sure it swims perfectly well. Mouth (neat): it’s rather round at first, but gets then spicier. Cinnamon and ginger first, then nutmeg and peppery curry powder. All that over quinces and apricots, mostly as jams. With water: blimey, we almost recreated the 25 yo ! But that one was a notch more complex. Finish: rather long, extremely good. More gingerbread, in other words, cinnamon, nuts. Comments: awesome, it’s just that I really have a thing for the 25.
SGP:551 - 87 points

Well, two are a little cheap, let’s do another one.

Glenfarclas 1994/2016 ‘Family Cask’ (53.7%, OB, Taiwan, sherry hogshead, cask #3882, 287 bottles)

Glenfarclas 1994/2016 ‘Family Cask’ (53.7%, OB, Taiwan, sherry hogshead, cask #3882, 287 bottles) Five stars
Indeed, not all Family Casks look the same. Colour: mahogany. Nose: there, a heavily sherried Glenfarclas and a style that works as beautifully as that of one of Proust’s madeleines. Prunes, raisins, cognac, chocolate, a drop of miso, some walnut wine ‘of course’, and many other assorted notes. Perfect so far. With water: perfect. Cigars, chocolate, leather, rum, chicken bouillon. Mouth (neat): feels a bit PX’ed but that’s totally fine here, with a rounded arrival, at least five Mars bars, a handful of black raisins, and that cake they make for Christmas (can’t say Christmas cake anymore, according to the whisky police). Marvellously chocolaty. Milka’s Trauben-Nuss. With water: same plus more oranges, always a good sign. Finish: long, very orange-y, with something a little Dalmore-y, if I may (with apologies to both brands). Comments: I thought this one was rather exceptional. Hurray for family values!
SGP:651 - 90 points.

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glenfarclas we've tasted so far


October 1, 2018


Japan’s most extreme

Good, Elixir Distillers are having what’s most certainly the rarest Karuizawa ever, a 50 yo of which only two bottles have been made. And it’s probably one of the maddest whiskies ever bottled by Man (Macallan Adami? Pff…) We’ll try that Karuizawa today, but we first need some interesting sparring partners. Like, some new Chichibus…

Chichibu ‘Paris Edition’ (57.3%, OB, Japan, 1357 bottles, 2018)

Chichibu ‘Paris Edition’ (57.3%, OB, Japan, 1357 bottles, 2018) Four stars and a half
This is a little complicated I have to say. Five casks altogether, including three barriques (could be Bordeaux, but they also use barriques elsewhere) of which they changed the heads for some mizunara oak, plus two new French oak casks. In short, this is marquetry… Colour: gold. Nose: porridge, mashed potatoes (Robuchon style, 50% potatoes, 50% butter – und Muskat Nuss, Herr Müller!) then spicy oranges and spicy hard bread, Sweden-style. In short, this is very bready, which we like a lot, naturally. We’ll do some ‘no wine in my whisky’ T-shirts one day. With water: oh well done! These oaks and this distillate are rather doing it in a Travolta/Newton-John way. As I sometimes say, I hate it that I’m loving this. Mouth (neat): makes you laugh, for the better. Caraway, ginger cake, yuzu and kumquat, corn bread, a touch of apricot jam, a hint of soft sweet curry. Were these barriques ex-Sauternes? With water: no, careful, do not add too much H2O or it’ll get too spicy. Finish: long, spicy and yet quite round and mellow, bizarrely. Comments: they’ve done it again. Wonderful young peatless yet spicy Chichibu.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Chichibu ‘The Peated’ (55.5%, OB, Japan, 10th Anniversary, 2018)

Chichibu ‘The Peated’ (55.5%, OB, Japan, 10th Anniversary, 2018) Four stars and a half
Looks like this is the brand new batch of the peated and I have to say I haven’t got many more details yet. The bottle’s a mock-up. And Chichibu seem to be firing in all directions these days anyway, I’m sure they already have a bottling for Whisky Live Planet Mars in the pipes – not that there’s anything wrong with that! Colour: white wine. Nose: raw smoked wood and then sour mash, brine, cow stable, kelp, and a shovelful of damp earth – or autumn leaves. Some fresh almonds too. With water: drier, earthier, with some damp beach sand and simply seawater. Mouth (neat): very good, vertical, and quite Ardbeggian. Lemon and smoke, a touch of vanilla, a little brine (gherkin brine), and touches of rooty earth. I’d have said Ardbeg Ten at high strength. With water: even better. I remember an excellent official Ardbeg 1990 C/S that was like this. Finish: very long, very clean and well-chiselled, on peat and lemon. Comments: absolutely excellent. Hope it won’t be too expensive!
SGP:357 - 89 points.

And so the new Karuizawa…

Karuizawa 50 yo (65.2%, Elixir Distillers for Plastic Oceans Charity, 2 bottles, 2018)

Karuizawa 50 yo (65.2%, Elixir Distillers for Plastic Oceans Charity Auction, 2 bottles, 2018) Five stars
It seems that there are funny things done with the last casks of Karuizawa, which reminds me a bit of the end of a tube of toothpaste, you know, when we try to make the most of what’s left by squeezing it to death. But in this very case it’s all for the best, as one of these two bottles will be auctioned in London in November, with the monies going to Plastic Oceans, ‘a charity dedicated to raising awareness of the impact that single-use plastic waste is having on our world’s oceans’. All great, all clear, and brilliant idea – while I think it’s to be noted that Karuizawa’s former owners were named ‘Ocean’. How smart and coherent is all this? It’s also superb that we could try this wonder, great move Elixir/TWE, much appreciated! Now, 65.2% vol. at 50 years of age, that’s purely amazing, the warehouse must have been very hot and dry!

Colour: amber. Nose: I was afraid this baby would have gotten too dry, too oaky, too bitter. Not at all! We’re rather all on dried mangos and papayas, with some sandal and cedar woods, some mint tea (Tea in The Sahara, remember?), touches of teak oil, mocha, and some milder tobacco. Virginia. I’m also finding whiffs of stewed artichoke and some remote balsamic smells, as well as ideas of dried porcinis and even dried Caesar’s mushrooms. With water: swims to perfection, this was not the obvious outcome. Old Russian leather, more dried mushrooms, camphory essences, black earth, cigars, humidors, pu-her tea, Dutch liquorice, balsam… It’s all amazing and incredibly complex, which is typically Karuizawa (we’re talking about the upper half). Mouth (neat): the power is incredible, but I seem to manage to detect Smyrna raisins and perhaps notes of very old Agricole rum (those old Saint James), as well as touches of kumquats. But it burns at 50 yo, really. With water: I shan’t mention that famous distillery in Craigellachie, but really, this reminds me of some 1950s distillates from that distillery. Amazing dried fruits from figs to olives (really) and the subtlest old mint essence ever.

Finish: very long, liquoricy and mentholy, with all fruits that God ever made (oh no, not you!) All dried, having said that, especially longans and arbutus berries. Hints of very old Madeira and Port in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s likely that the bottle that’ll be auctioned later in November will never, ever get opened, but I suppose the buyer will also receive a wee sample. Dear Mr or Mrs buyer, please open that sample and enjoy it to the max, because this is one utterly brilliant whisky! Oh and let me state loud and clear that I did not ‘tweak’ my opinions and score just because this bottling is done for a very worthy cause, cross my heart!
SGP:651 - 94 points.

Plastic Ocean

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Japanese whiskies we've tasted so far


Whiskyfun fav of the month

September 2018

Favourite recent bottling:
Glenturret 18 yo 1999/2018 (51.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice cask strength, First fill Sherry hogshead, cask #690, 265 bottles)
WF 91

Favourite older bottling:
None this month

Favourite bang for your buck bottling:
Ben Nevis 7 yo 2010/2018 (48%, LMDW, Artist Collective #2.5)  - WF 88

Favourite malternative:
Bellevue 19 yo 1998/2018 (59.7%, Hunter Laing, Kill Devil, Guadeloupe, 254 bottles) - WF 93

September 2018 - part 2 <--- October 2018 - part 1 ---> October 2018 - part 2



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Balblair 1993/2017 (49.6%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, first fill sherry puncheon, cask #1964)

Balblair 1991/2018 (46%, OB)

Caol Ila 33 yo 1984/2018 (52.8%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry hogshead, 216 bottles)

Caol Ila 35 yo 1982/2018 (58.1%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogsheads and refill butts, 3,276 bottles)

Flaming Heart 2018 (48.9%, Compass Box, blended malt)

Glenfarclas 1994/2016 ‘Family Cask’ (53.7%, OB, Taiwan, sherry hogshead, cask #3882, 287 bottles)

Highland Park 27 yo 1991/2018 (52%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, sherry butt, cask #15086, 545 bottles)

North Port Brechin 36 yo 1981/2018 (57.2%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #1708, 537 bottles)

Pittyvaich 28 yo 1989/2018 (52.1%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogshead, 4,680 bottles)

Rare Ayrshire 44 yo 1974/2018 (53%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, bourbon barrel, cask #2606, 122 bottles)

Springbank 22 yo 1993/2015 (51.9%, The Bottlers, refill sherry hogshead, cask #227)

Talisker 8 yo 2009/2018 (59.4%, OB, Special Release, first fill American oak hogsheads)

Karuizawa 50 yo (65.2%, Elixir Distillers for Plastic Oceans Charity Auction, 2 bottles, 2018)