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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2018 - Part 2


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


October 31, 2018


Little duos, today new Amrut

No need to remind you that I’ve always thought the world of Amrut.

Amrut 5 yo ‘Rye’ (50%, OB, for LMDW, India, 2018)

Amrut 5 yo ‘Rye’ (50%, OB, for LMDW, India, 2018) Four stars
Indeed, this is single malt rye! Certainly a first, let’s try it… Colour: full gold. Nose: you cannot not think of some bourbons, but Amrut’s trademark fruitiness is there too, especially the mangos. So you end up with a feeling of a blend of mango juice and rosehip tea with some camphor and eucalyptus, with, additionally, some pencil shavings and quite some vanilla thrown in. Actually, this work. With water: eucalyptus got amplified. Some curious touches of Laphroaig here and there. Mouth (neat): same feelings. There are a few dissonances, but isn’t this free whisky? The shape of whisky to come? Mango juice, some kind of grassy smokiness, thick apricot bread, cedar wood, oranges, eucalyptus syrup… With water: same-ish. Finish: rather long, rather smooth, remaining coating and a tad syrupy, in a good way. Dried apricots and sweet wholegrain bread. Comments: unusual and very excellent, even if the rye is less obvious than in other, well, single ryes.
SGP:652 - 87 points.

Amrut 2013/2018 (652.8%, Le Gus’t, bourbon, cask #2288, 102 bottles)

Amrut 2013/2018 (62.8%, Le Gus’t, India, bourbon, cask #2288, 102 bottles) Five stars
This new one for those excellent wee French bottlers down in Manosque (Provence). Colour: full gold. Nose: this is liquid cake. I mean, cakes. We do find this wee smoky side which was in the rye as well, as if someone had burned some eucalyptus wood in the neighbourhood. Other than that, it’s perfect, with tarry mangos and a bag of ripe apricots. Apricots from Provence, naturally. With water: there, it becomes wider, with some menthol, seaweed smoke on a remote beach, porridge, rye bread, papayas, some tar, a wee bit of tyre (from an Enfield motorbike, of course)… Mouth (neat): my this goes down like that! At this strength! I guess it’s one of those whisky that one could call ‘homicidally good’ then. With water: all right, it’s perfect indeed. Pink grapefruits, always these traces of eucalyptus smoke, mango chutney, dried pineapples, menthol… What’s really interesting is that each and every time you would think it would become a little too fruity, some smoky/mentholated elements bring it back to the righteous path. Finish: long and perfect. Grapefruits smoked over eucalyptus wood. Comments: I’m wondering if this wasn’t very lightly smoked. Hard to tell. Anyway…
SGP:662 - 90 points.

October 29, 2018


Three Aultmore

A name we’re seeing more often these days, and no one will complain about that.

Aultmore 2009/2017 (43%, Jean Boyer, Gifted Stills of Scotland, sherry butt, 1134 bottles)

Aultmore 2009/2017 (43%, Jean Boyer, Gifted Stills of Scotland, sherry butt, 1134 bottles) Three stars
It’s good to see this excellent French bottler still around and kicking. Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts a tad butyric but things improve over time. Some mashed potatoes, with touches of olives and celeriac, as well as elderberries and plantain bananas at the fruit department. Mouth: a good, solid, rather old-school sherried malt that tends to go towards similarly aged Glenfarclas. Cornflakes, raisins, a touch of burnt caramel, Mars bar, burnt cake… I enjoy these notes of orange and apple cakes too. Classic. Finish: medium, a tad more on apple pie, with a little cinnamon. Comments: all good malt whisky, a good Speysider that’s a little more than just ‘easy’.
SGP:551 - 81 points.

Aultmore 21 yo 1997/2018 (50.7%, Maltbarn, 144 bottles)

Aultmore 21 yo 1997/2018 (50.7%, Maltbarn, 144 bottles) Four stars
Their labels are getting more and more artistic (and not just artsy like elsewhere). Colour: straw. Nose: there’s more grass and raw malt here, more leaves and peel, and more floral notes, such as dandelions and lilies of the valley. That gives it a delicately fragrant side that’s just lovely. A little sunflower oil too. With water: almonds coming out, as well as very fresh walnuts. That’s perfect. Mouth (neat): oh really very good, starting beautifully malty and zesty, and getting then frankly limoncello-y. Excellent tangerines and touches of papayas and guavas. Some very good wood has been in use, as it seems. With water: sweet barley, a little butterscotch, a spoonful of marmalade. All goody good. Finish: medium, clean, a tad cake-y. Comments: another one that’s classic and irrefutable (that’s right, S., but of course).
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Aultmore 21 yo 1996/2018 (54%, OB, Exceptional Cask, for Chief Whisky Society, China, 294 bottles)

Aultmore 21 yo 1996/2018 (54%, OB, Exceptional Cask, for Chief Whisky Society, China, 294 bottles) Five stars
This is a 9-year Madeira finish. Interesting to see more OBs bottled for whisky enthusiasts in the People’s Republic of China. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not the first time we notice that Madeira, just like fino or manzanilla, works particularly well. Besides, this is rather double maturation. So Virginia tobacco, leather, sweet mustard, walnut wine, Seville oranges, roasted pecan nuts, argan oil… What’s not to like here? With water: beautiful notes of old riesling, metal polish, more walnuts… Mouth (neat): really very good, very very good. More sweet mustard, marmalade, walnuts, tobacco, a touch of smoked tea, marzipan, perhaps a touch of mashed turnips… All that works in sync, to quasi-perfection. With water: bitter oranges, tobacco, miso soup, umami, chestnut honey and mead, old Sauternes that went bone dry… Not the first time this happens with Madeira. Finish: long, perfectly balanced, a tad sweeter. Seville oranges keep singing in the aftertaste, together with grape-y touches. Comments: just excellent. Looks like I managed to not mention Chinese duck sauce, but there was some, I swear… (well, some notes were reminiscent of duck sauce, not saying anyone added some to the cask, don’t get me wrong).
SGP:551 - 90 points.

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


October 28, 2018


Malternatives on Sunday, today Armagnac

More and more whisky lovers are finding out about true Armagnac these days, a wonderful aged brandy that’s not always, mind you, as rustic as the Cognac people would want us to believe. Sadly, there isn’t a lot around, as there are only 6.6 million bottles of Armagnac sold per year, while Scotland alone sell 1.2 billion bottles of whisky yearly, and cognac a little more than 200 million. Sadly most Armagnacs are/were bottled at 40% vol. but you have to remember that many people who aren’t deep enthusiasts would simply not buy any high-ABV spirits.


Anyway, let’s do this randomly and ‘nose to the wind’…

Domaine d’Aurensan 15 yo (43.2%, OB, Armagnac, Ténarèze, +/-2016)

Domaine d’Aurensan 15 yo (43.2%, OB, Armagnac, Ténarèze, +/-2016) Three stars
A well-reputed house offering a Ténarèze. That’s the appellation that’s located around the city of Condom (I know). As a matter of fact, Ténarèzes are said to be rather stronger than other Armagnacs. Colour: office coffee. Nose: starts with a little varnish that reminds me of some bourbons, and would rather go on with a lot of burnt caramel, fudge, bags of roasted raisins, and even some kind of tar/currants mix. It is extremely aromatic and demonstrative, and should it be a whisky, it would be one of the thickest Aberlour A’bunadhs. Indeed, despite the lower strength. Mouth: very punchy, extremely expressive, concentrated, as if someone had first cooked it. A blend of triple-sec, espresso, tar liqueur, and once again burnt raisins. Many of them. Finish: long, tending to become a little bitter. Even more burnt raisins. Comments: a rather extreme style that even lovers of the thickest Glendronachs would find, well, rather extreme. There was a 1961 from the same house that had been subtler, and which I had loved (WF 89). Still good.
SGP:661 - 80 points.

Samalens 1995 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015)

Samalens 1995 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2015) Two stars and a half
A larger house. This one came in a carafe, which all in-laws will like. Typical Christmas bottle in France. Colour: amber. Nose: this one’s much easier, fruitier, lighter, and more floral. Chamomile, overripe apples, peaches, acacia honey, then a little fudge and the obligatory sultanas. As we sometimes say, nothing to complain about so far. Mouth: rather more tannic, with some black tea and tobacco at first (Gauloise), then some dried tropical fruits, perhaps litchis. Some bitter chocolate too. I had thought it would be easier after nosing, but its still very fine (not sure the in-laws will like it, having sad that). Finish: rather long and, indeed, a little rustic, with notes of pine needles and menthol. That’s the wood. Comments: some kind of Janus of Armagnac. Easy bright nose, blacker, more tannic palate.
SGP:561 - 79 points.

Comte de Ferragut ‘XO’ (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2017)

Comte de Ferragut ‘XO’ (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
I suppose this is a blend of various terroirs, as it just says ‘Armagnac’. This is not a very famous house in France, in fact I had never heard of it before. Colour: gold. Nose: rounded, honeyed, light, rather fragrant. Peonies, acacia flowers, honeysuckle, light honey, golden sultanas, maple syrup. Fine! Mouth: light and easy indeed, yet a tad gritty – which is quite Armagnac – rather on peaches, both fresh and preserved, apples, a touch of hay jelly (try that), and simply grapes. Finish: medium, a tad narrow, on more raisins. A little caramel in the aftertaste. Comments: no problems here, just no real thrills. But no problems.
SGP:551 - 78 points.

Darroze 20 yo 1996/2016 ‘Domaine de Salie’ (49.2%, Darroze,  Bas-Armagnac)

Darroze 20 yo 1996/2016 ‘Domaine de Salie’ (49.2%, Darroze,  Bas-Armagnac) Four stars and a half
A great house, so high hopes here… Colour: deep gold. Nose: of course. Wonderful herbal teas and dried fruits, with a much tenser style, chamomile, hawthorn tea, mint, lovage, crystallised tangerines, then a little earth, wild mushrooms, liquorice wood… This is pretty perfect! Mouth: there, various honeys, quinces, toffee, fir honey(dew), puréed chestnuts, coffee liqueur… All that at a perfect strength. Oily mouth feel. Finish: very long, with some molasses, strong honey (heather and chestnut), more coffee liqueurs… And a lovely earthy aftertaste. Or are these truffles? Comments: this would please any whisky enthusiasts, especially this very one.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

Domaine de Baraillon 10 yo 2003/2013 (42%, OB, Claverie, Bas-armagnac)

Domaine de Baraillon 10 yo 2003/2013 (42%, OB, Claverie, Bas-armagnac) Three stars and a half
This very well reputed little house is located in Lannemaignan. Colour: gold. Nose: a style that’s rather close to that of malt whisky, with mirabelles and quinces that remind me of Balvenie. Also cappuccino, toffee, a little cake, butterscotch… Mouth: excellent, rather round and cake-y, but maybe not extremely complex. An earthy side too, some black tea (Assam?), a few tannins here and there… Finish: medium, grapier, with a drop of PX. Slightly drier aftertaste, and some oranges. Comments: really good, just a tad simple. Shall we call it an excellent hipflask Armagnac?
SGP:451 - 83 points.

Domaine de Baraillon 20 yo (42%, OB, Claverie, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015)

Domaine de Baraillon 20 yo (42%, OB, Claverie, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015) Five stars
Colour: amber. Nose: perfecto! Starts empyreumatically, if I may, gets then more pine-y, with whiffs of thuja, then we find this perfect rancio that only comes with age (ham, morels, roasted stuff), some miso soup, pad Thai, embrocations, Vicks Vaporub, beeswax, linseed oil… Wonderful nose! Mouth: we’re touching perfection, and frankly, this could be whisky. Cough medicine, pine liqueur, snuff, very old oloroso, Spanish ham, quinces, prunes, mint, pomegranate… By golly, this is some well-aged spirit! Finish: medium, slightly tannic as any Armagnac should be, but with an easier jammy aftertaste. Liqueur-filled chocolates. Comments: looks like our Californian friends enjoy this wee ‘brand’ (not a brand, a domaine!) a lot. Well, can't blame them for having good judgment.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Domaine d’Aurensan 15 yo

Domaine d’Aurensan 15 yo (44.4%, OB, Armagnac, Ténarèze, +/-2017?) Four stars
Indeed another batch. Colour: coffee. Nose: it is drier than its sister, rather more on coffee and prunes, Corinth raisins, and tobacco. Really a lot of tobaccos of all kinds. Then the blackest teas, Russian style. Where have we put the samovar again? Mouth: rounder and sweeter, but there is this bold, thick, almost heavy style again, with sides that remind me of some very old brandy de Jerez. Prunes and the blackest raisins, plus some walnut wine and tobacco. Heavy. Finish: long and heavy indeed, this really is some ‘black’ spirit, whatever that means. Earthy prunes in the aftertaste. Comments: do you remember the old Macallan 10 year old Cask Strength? Some spectacular ‘heavier’ Armagnac.
SGP:661 - 86 points.

Domaine de Charron 2005/2018 (50.1%, OB, Bas-armagnac, cask #103)

Domaine de Charron 2005/2018 (50.1%, OB, Bas-armagnac, cask #103) Four stars
100% baco, this one that stems from one of our favourite little houses. Colour: gold. Nose: indeed no extremely active oak here, this is a fresher style, with lovely whiffs of peppermint, melissa, chamomile, white peaches, sandalwood, vetiver, hazelnuts and mushrooms. Lovely, as expected. Mouth: ho-ho-ho! Mint-flavoured marzipan, gingerbread, Virginia tobacco, barley sugar, roasted chestnuts, sugar cane… This is very unusual, and very excellent, and very totally in malt whisky territories. A mustardy/gingery touch from the wood that must have been pretty active, after all. Finish: long, rather spicy, but never dry. Always some almonds/marzipan, and an unexpectedly grassy aftertaste. Comments: smart Armagnac, shall we say. Not quite the region’s usual style.
SGP:451 - 86 points.

Château de Briat 2004 (OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2018)

Château de Briat 2004 (OB, Bas-armagnac, +/-2018) Four stars
Not too sure about the ABV, but what I know is that this is pure colombard. Colour: amber. Nose: a perfect one again, bright, deep, vibrant, with a style that’s going towards whisky, thanks to these notes of vanilla, cedar wood and ‘light’ sawdust. Superb jams and jellies, with mirabelles, quinces, peaches, and a style that’s a tad Cognacqy. Wonderfully Cognacqy. Mouth: indeed, excellent, even if the ‘wood treatment’ would rather be reminiscent of that of good bourbon this time. Vanilla, coconut, even pineapples… But also white peaches, raisins, medlar jam… This one would rather be some kind of ‘world’ Armagnac, maybe, perhaps… Finish: medium, with some touches of cedar wood and earl grey tea. Comments: no, it’s excellent, fresh, bold, modern, lovable. Very well done Baron de Pichon-Longueville!
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Do we have room for a mad one?

Del Cassou 1994/2018 ‘Ledaig finish’ (48.8%, L’Encantada, Eau-de-vie de Gascogne, lot DC7L001)

Del Cassou 1994/2018 ‘Ledaig finish’ (48.8%, L’Encantada, Eau-de-vie de Gascogne, lot DC7L001)
I tell you, madness. That whisky people would finish their vodka in Armagnac wood, why not, but why would Armagnac people flavour their noble brandy like this? And naturally, this baby lost its ‘Armagnac’ appellation. Whisky wood, seriously!? Colour: gold. Nose: it is not a WTF spirit, no it’ not. It really isn’t, on the nose at least. Sure there is a sourness that’s a little unusual, there in the background, as well as whiffs of mentholy balm and massage cream… But all this remains acceptable (and really intriguing – anyway, it must be a joke, let’s not take this too seriously…) Mouth: not necessary. Smoky Armagnac, well, okay, you did it dear Encantada, this is funny indeed, but frankly, beyond the good joke, and the nice lemony notes that you wouldn’t find in any Armagnacs, I’m not sure I would quaff a whole glass of this. Not that it’s flawed, it’s just too weird for me. Remember, grape and grain (let alone smoke)… Finish: very long, earthy, rooty, weird, a little difficult. Old celeriac and turnips stewed in tarred water? Mustard diluted in sauvignon blanc? Mercurochrome in green tea? Comments: Jimmy Page with the London Philharmonic, good joke indeed (you know Kashmir…), but L’Encantada’s naked Armagnacs are in a whole different league. Very hard to score (bwah) - and what do the old Gersois think of this, down there in Vic?
SGP:563 - 60 points.

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


October 27, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
And why not!


Lagavulin 12 yo 2005/2018 (57.8%, OB Special Releases) Lagavulin 12 yo 2005/2018 (57.8%, OB Special Releases)
Colour: straw. Nose: textbook Laga 12 purity. Lime juice over fresh oysters, mineral salts, chalk, tart cider apples, sheep wool, salt n vinegar crisps, brine and wet kelp. It’s undeniably sharp, pure and clean, but perhaps it’s a tad on the soft side by comparison to some earlier batches. With water: a more fragrant salinity. Sandalwood, more kelp, some freshly chopped mixed herbs, bandages, ointments, softer citrus notes, bath salts and a hint of eucalyptus. Mouth: Who said soft!?! This is as big, vinegary, sharp and punchy as ever. Lemon juice, black pepper, kiln smoke, raw smoky grist, sardines in olive oil and some spoonfuls of pure mezcal. Anchovies, dual shades of olive and seawater. With water:   really like peat ash, preserved lemons and raw salt water now. Umami paste, olive tapenade, capers, beach pebbles etc... Finish: Long, ashy, briny, extremely citrusy with lime and lemon juice and a touch of squid ink. A slightly farmy aftertaste. Comments: Still bright and brilliant. Even if some earlier releases in this series have been a tad more profound in my book.
SGP: 357 - 90 points.


Lagavulin 21 yo 1997/2018 (56.6%, OB for ‘European Lagavulin Fans’, cask #0001, European oak, 158 bottles)

Lagavulin 21 yo 1997/2018 (56.6%, OB for ‘European Lagavulin Fans’, cask #0001, European oak, 158 bottles)
I feel there are probably more than 158 Lagavulin fans in Europe. And so long as Britain remains a member of the EU I count myself as one of them. One of an increasing number of private casks that Diageo are doing these days - unsurprisingly they chose European oak for this release. Colour: deep gold. Nose: soft embrocations, drifting bonfire smoke, coal dust, dried kelp, mechanical oils and toasted black peppercorns. The peat feels slightly restrained, as if it’s caught on the verge of morphing into all these other tertiary aspects such as tar, mead, old rope and antiseptic. Evolves rather beautifully towards a kind of earthy/medical/smoky profile over time. Slightly reminiscent of some older White Horse 12 year olds at points. With water: drifts more towards boot polish, hickory smoke, struck flints and some smoke-cured meats. Mouth: very peppery, sooty and displaying a kind of fruity chilli heat. Smoked paprika, iodine, germoline and wood ash. There’s a BBQ sauce aspect as well. I like it but there’s also a rawness to it as well which I wasn’t expecting. Hints of burnt caramel, artichoke, olive oil and grilling sardines. With water: ahh, much sweeter and oilier now with water. Lemon cough medicine, more natural tar notes, oily peats and some herbal extracts that lean towards liqueurish. Hessian and various medical tinctures. Finish: long, leafy, smoky, earthy and full of salty notes such as miso, soy sauce and anchovy paste. Some oily lemony notes as well. Comments: At times it’s a little tough, but if you work with it and give it the benefit of time and a little water it really does reward. What can I say? Another very excellent Lagavulin. Damn those lucky Europeans! Just you wait till we are eating re-hydrated mashed potatoes and Boris Johnson is in charge, then we’ll show you...!
SGP: 466 - 91 points.



Most people’s favourite Brora 30 year old seems to hover between the 2003 and the 2004 releases. I’m aware that there are already notes for these Broras on Whiskyfun, but they were recorded all the way back in 2004 and 2005. Back when Whiskyfun was only technologically ‘a few years out of date’ and Serge had only viewed all 281 episodes of Inspector Derrick twice. So, let’s record some notes for them now if you don’t mind.  


Brora 30 yo (55,7%, OB Special Releases 2003, 3000 bottles) Brora 30 yo (55,7%, OB Special Releases 2003, 3000 bottles)
Colour: gold. Nose: It’s easy to forget just how utterly different and special the early 1970s Broras are. Trying them is a scarce treat these days and I think it’s important to remember that when these 30 year olds came out there wasn’t really anything like them. The Rare Malt 72 and 75 Broras displayed their own character that was quite apart from these 30s in my book. You have this supremely pure farminess that sits in harmony with rather fatty green fruits and notes of rope, tractor parts, mechanical oils and that pervasive and every present waxiness that oozes throughout and ties everything together. The coastal aspect is there as well, vivid, incredibly fresh and invigorating. Lots of lemon peel, beach pebbles, sea greens and a whole shoreline of minerals. With water: where do you begin? Water really just brings an even greater cohesion to it. It’s not peat, wax and salt so much as everything as one superb whole that surpasses the sum of its parts. Although, I will just mention lime infused oils, kiln smoke and waxed canvas. Mouth: hell’s teeth! What a whisky! Oily, glistening, fat, unctuous peats, waxes, wood embers, silage, hay lofts, cured meats, cow stables, iodine, beach sand, crushed shells, preserved lemons... you could go on indefinitely finding so many tiny wee aromas and flavours. But probably best just call the anti-maltoporn police (were they even around in 2004 Serge?) The texture is creamy and all-consuming. Superbly peppery, lots of lean, salty bacon fat and some oily sheep wool. With water: unequivocally brilliant! Utterly superb, huge, fatty, gloriously complex and  warming. The very epitome of ‘waxiness’ in malt whisky. Finish: endless. Wandering down all sorts of tertiary avenues of flavour. Sooty, oily, grassy, citrus, salt, cured meats, hessian, earth, herbal... Comments: Undoubtedly a masterpiece. A triumph of evocative distillate character, age and restrained cask influence. The only trouble with whiskies like this is that they dominate your attention so utterly. Not the sort of thing you can really just pour a dram of and chat away to someone over. Compelling is an understatement.
SGP: 585 - 95 points.


Brora 30 yo (56.6%, OB Special Releases 2004, 3000 bottles) Brora 30 yo (56.6%, OB Special Releases 2004, 3000 bottles)
Colour: gold (a shade deeper). Nose: A tad straighter and more mineral than the 03 at first. But also more medicinal, more embrocations, bandages, gauze and various subtle ointments. The raw farmyard note in the 03 is displaced here by a balancing but deep sootiness. Give it time and the waxiness bubbles up to the surface like slow lava. In time the earthiness becomes gravelly and there’s this note of turmeric, capers in olive oil and some fresh, yeasty breads. With water: really a similar ‘unifying’ effect as in the 03 but again here it’s more sooty, more polished, more light green fruits, more beeswax and wee flickers of lanolin and lamp oils. Mouth: you do notice the wee variations between them. This one is again leaner, straighter and more direct. It goes towards the peat in a more singular and precise fashion. But it’s brilliance is unquestionable. White hot peats, metal polish, more of this wonderful wood ember character, sandalwood, seashore salinity, paraffin wax, camphor and a texture that’s almost approaching old sweet wines such as a particularly excellent SGN - no wonder these are often considered ‘wine drinkers whiskies’.   Will this anti-maltoporn brigade never get here...! With water: if you’ll excuse me but, holy shit! Water exposes the most stunning medical side in this one. Like pear eau de vie, mercurochrome and precious ointments all fused together. There’s damp hay, white truffle oil, smoked German beer, old ink and tiny tropical notes like pineapple syrup. Finish: similarly endless, only here there’s the most sublime and muscular saltiness. Like a great tidal swipe of sea salt, lemon rind, tar, dried seaweed and smoked oyster sauce. In the aftertaste there’s a callback to these more rural, earthy, mechanical notes. Comments: There isn’t much between them to be honest. Maybe I preferred the 03’s broadness and more overt farminess a tad more, but it’s splitting hairs really. Both are truly magnificent, humbling and beautiful whiskies.
SGP: 576 - 94 points.


It’s little wonder these two whiskies command such enthusiasm and love. Both are sublime in their own way and, in all honesty, I was teetering on the brink of giving them both 95. Although, I was also teetering on the brink of 96 for the 03. I think what’s important to remember as well, especially in light of the fact that Diageo are restarting Brora, is that these whiskies were made in a way which, at the time, looked towards the future. The barley came from Glen Ord’s maltings. The fermentation utilised the SMD distilling yeasts of the day. And the stills were steam heated by that point. Certainly, at the time of production, these whiskies would have been produced in a way which was as commercially minded as what was going on at any of SMD’s other distilleries. It’s not to champion these methods, but rather to highlight what a remarkable distillery the old Clynelish distillery was. And to remember the importance of a slower production regime. Even with some more modern ingredients, if you go slower, accept a slightly lower yield and use equipment that upholds - either by design or default - the better characters of your ingredients, you can be surprised by what astonishing whisky might result. I’m very happy to have tasted these two whiskies again side by side.  


Many thanks to Dirk and to Marcel (I’m afraid the whisky was very far from dead Marcel)  



October 26, 2018


Little duos, today Bladnoch

You need a PhD or more to understand anything about the recent history of Bladnoch and their bottlings, and frankly, I was about to throw in the towel, given that I’m not a huge fan of the recent official ‘cube-ish’ expressions.

Bladnoch 1990/2017 (49.4%, Antique Lions of Spirits, bourbon, 276 bottles)

Bladnoch 1990/2017 (49.4%, Antique Lions of Spirits, bourbon, 276 bottles) Two stars and a half
Wondering if I’m not becoming an Antique Lion of Spirits too. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a clean and straight one, rather than one of those slightly offbeat feinty and butyric ones. Nice vanilla, all sorts of sweets and bonbons, hints of fresh walnuts, a few drops of orange squash, and a lovely albeit discreet mushroomy side. Say rhodopaxillus nudus and-I-am-not-joking, those are the season’s mushrooms over here in the Vosges mountains. Mouth: good but a little too bonbony for me, this time. You would believe you’ve just eaten a whole jar of lemon flavoured confectionery chips. Spectacularly lemony, or at least citrusy, but to me this is becoming a little ‘too much’, all the more so because I’m also staring to find notes of lavender sweets. Finish: medium, lemony, a tad too fermentary – which shouldn’t happen in any finishes, in my opinion. Comments: Bladnoch can be great when it’s 100% right, but I believe that doesn’t always happen. Now some other 1990s have been excellent, some fetching 90 in my book.
SGP:641 - 79 points.

Bladnoch 25 yo 1993/2018 (54.4%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, hogshead, cask #777, 239 bottles)

Bladnoch 25 yo 1993/2018 (54.4%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, hogshead, cask #777, 239 bottles) Four stars and a half
1993? I think that was Bladnoch’s last vintage under United Distillers’ flag, quite a few years before the Armstrongs restarted it. Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s more coherent, I would say, and less one-dimensionally fruity, although I’m finding quite some pears and pineapples (the infernal duo), as well as watermelons and bush peaches. Let’s say tinned fruits. With water: more towards fresh bread and porridge. Lemon juice over porridge, with a spoonful of Bunnahabhain. Whatever. Mouth (neat): good, because balance is right. Lemon drizzle, sweets, limoncello, citron liqueur… At least this is totally Bladnochian, and reminds of one of the Rare Malts, can’t remember which one (now that was useful, S.) With water: yyyyep. Grassy lemons, no excessive sweetness, no syrupy feelings. Certainly not a complex malt whisky, but once again, balance is right. And balance is important. Finish: medium, narrow, lemony. Lemon and rhubarb pie in the aftertaste. Comments: as I said, this is pure Bladnoch. And I would emphasize the word ‘pure’.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

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


October 24, 2018


Four French whiskies

From Brittany and the Alps. That’s right, that’s the extreme sides of the hexagon…

Armorik 10 yo ‘Edition 2018’ (46%, OB, France, 2000 bottles)

Armorik 10 yo ‘Edition 2018’ (46%, OB, France, 2000 bottles) Four stars
Some new French whiskies are just beer that’s been distilled in unlikely stills and matured for a short time in bizarre wine casks. This (and a few others) is just the opposite. Colour: gold. Nose: cereals and cakes, plus a little vanilla from some proper ex-bourbon wood, plus a few bready notes, a wee touch of guava, and a very distant whiff of aromatic smoke, as if the neighbours had burned pinewood or even eucalyptus. The whole works a treat. Mouth: oh, game, set and match. This compares with the best Scottish Midlanders, I would say, between, perhaps, Blair Athol and Aberfeldy, while there are even ideas of Balvenie. Or Arran. But comparison isn’t reason, is it? So crushed bananas, oranges, vanilla, maple syrup, sweet barley, mirabelles, and white peaches. C’est assez parfait, tout ça. Finish: medium, mellow yet firm, and rather all on Jaffa cakes, oranges, and a touch of mango. Comments: I wouldn’t say this is a surprise. Oh, there, it is a surprise. They’re in the big leagues now.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Armorik ‘Triagoz’ (46%, OB, France, 2018)

Armorik ‘Triagoz’ (46%, OB, France, 2018) Two stars and a half
I think this is a light peater. By the way, Armorik are Breton and do benefit from an IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée). It’s all a little political I have to say, but what isn’t in France? Colour: straw. Nose: don’t expect Ardbeg or Lagavulin, this is very remotely peaty. It’s a bit as if someone had smoked pineapples using beech wood. Also touches of wine gums and marshmallows, signs of youth. Very moderately intense, I would say… so far… Mouth: the smoke’s ore obvious, and the whole works but I’m finding a little sawdust and, well, I’m not sure this is fully integrated. It reminds me a bit of Benriach’s first very young peaters, pears are great and smoke is great, but peated pears won’t quite do it in my book. Finish: medium, a tad gritty. Cold smoked tea from last night’s teapot, plus tinned pineapples. Comments: not bad at all, of course, but the 10 yo anytime! Or perhaps this, when it’s at least 10.
SGP:643 - 78 points.

Domaine des Hautes Glaces ‘Flavis’ (56%, OB, France, 273 bottles, 2018)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces ‘Flavis’ (56%, OB, France, 273 bottles, 2018) Four stars
This baby was made out of barley that was harvested at the domaine in 2010. Indeed this is single-estate malt whisky, so own terroir, so to speak. No bollocks here ;-). Ah, forgot to say, it was matured in an ex-vin jaune cask. Colour: gold. Nose: the last time I found this much butterscotch that was in a 5 yo Aultmore that I remember very well. Other than that, there’s some aniseed bread, touches of caraway, elder flowers, woodruff, pumpkin seeds, brioche and panettone… Breakfast anyone? With water: honeysuckle and mullein flowers! Love this! Mouth (neat): excellent. I remember I had tried an earlier cask and thought it was a little rough (rather too young) but this is big and quite perfect, the only side that’s a little surprising being the sweetness (raisins) while vin jaune is bone dry. Wasn’t it rather vin de paille (straw wine)?  Anyway, there’s apricot and raisin bread everywhere here, plus caraway and cinnamon. The whole’s very textured, almost fat. With water: same-ish, with more grape skins and walnuts. That, is more vin jaune. Finish: medium, very bready. Comments: love it when whiskies are this close to the raw materials – despite the wine casks.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Domaine des Hautes Glaces ‘Ceros’ (54%, OB, France, rye, 764 bottles, 2018)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces ‘Ceros’ (54%, OB, France, rye, 764 bottles, 2018) Five stars
Rye from the 2012 harvest, matured in vin jaune casks again. I had totally loved earlier casks of Ceros. Ah, yes, vin jaune is matured under a yeast veil, just like sherry, except that they use savagnin instead of palomino, don’t do soleras, and never fortify the wine. Colour: pale gold. Nose: as expected, this is liquid rye bread, to which some mad man would have added custard, apricot juice, plums, white chocolate, and wee bits of mangos. There’s also a perfect wee earthiness, lovely. With water: do you like bread as much as I do? Mouth (neat): this is so good! Stellar distillate, with the most dazzling gingerbread, muscovado sugar, tangerines, a touch of caraway, and many kinds of edible roots, even beet. With water: oh this is funny, there’s a saltiness that comes out, with even wee hints of crushed pickled sardines or anchovies. More fun, why would we be against that? Finish: long, totally bready. Comments: pretty amazing. No wonder that after Bruichladdich, Rémy-Cointreau bought the distillery, together with Westland in the far West of the good old US of A.
SGP:562 - 90 points.

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


October 23, 2018


Jazzy new Clynelish

And that would be a trio.

Clynelish 20 yo (55.9%, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, bourbon hogshead, cask #6526)

Clynelish 20 yo (55.9%, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, bourbon hogshead, cask #6526) Five stars
This is a new, albeit rather Dickensian name. I mean, Artful Dodger, not Clynelish. Colour: straw. Nose: it is a vertical Clynelish, dry, mineral, paraffiny, narrow, perfect. No, no literature today. With water: ink, hessian and porridge coming out. Quintessential Clynelish nose. Mouth (neat): totally perfect and utterly typical lemony/mineral/waxy Clynelish, clean as a blade, without any wood in the way. With water: lovely touches of sweeter herbs, lime, and wulong tea. And always some citrus. Finish: long, totally clean and fresh – sadly, it’s also quite refreshing, and I know some friends who would quaff this as if it was water. Comments: nothing more to say, this is purely perfect.
SGP:452 - 90 points.

Clynelish 20 yo 1997/2018 (52.4%, ALOS, bourbon, 253 bottles)

Clynelish 20 yo 1997/2018 (52.4%, ALOS, bourbon, 253 bottles) Four stars
Monkeys and giraffes on the label, should this one be more tropical? Colour: gold. Nose: neighbouring territories, of course, although this one would be a tad shier at this point, a little greener too (kiwis, rhubarb). A little less mineral, a little grassier. A touch of pineapple, butane-2,3-diol diacetate, perhaps. Ha! With water: moss and fern, sauvignon blanc, gooseberries. Mouth (neat): excellent but rather fruitier than expected, going towards Haribo’s best. Orange bonbons and something a tad fizzy, lemon drops… And rather less wax than usual. With water: more wax this time, but it would come with some Aperol (apologies) and Schweppes. Thank God no prosecco. Finish: long, rather more coherent. But really, this has gone towards some kind of high-strength spritz. Comments: actually, it never stopped improving, after tinier beginnings.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Clynelish 22 yo 1995/2018 (55.7%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams)

Clynelish 22 yo 1995/2018 (55.7%, The Nectar of the Daily Drams) Four stars and a half
Colour: deep gold, so in theory, more cask influence. Nose: walnuts, diesel oil, carbon paper, charcoal, leather, cured ham, brownies, raw chocolate, ink, soot, nice sulphur. Could be that there’s some sherry in there. With water: lovely pipe tobacco and ashes. One of the loveliest noses for a sherried ‘lish, in my opinion, with no clashes this time. But things may change on your palate… Mouth (neat): thick and oily arrival, with really a lot of walnut liqueur, artichoke liqueur, zucchinis, tobacco, and marmalade. Gets more citrusy after that, with a distillate that still doesn’t quite clash this time (while it did in other sherried Clynelishes, in my opinion). With water: excellent! Not only because the spirit won in the end. Excellent crystallised lemons and oranges, always with this sooty side. Graphite-y. Finish: rather long, rather more orange-y. Great that a sherried bro could be so fresh and tart in the end. Comments: a bit scary at first, but that’s because I’m usually wary of anything Clynelish+sherry. No, it’s excellent and as fresh as Clynelish should be. In my book.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

And no, we don’t have the new official Clynelish Game of Thrones, and not sure that’s a problem. Next, a Brora Walking Dead?

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


October 22, 2018


Little duos, today Fettercairn

There’s this intriguing new old official…

Fettercairn 28 yo (42%, OB, 2018)

Fettercairn 28 yo (42%, OB, 2018) Two stars and a half
A bit pricey at between 550 and 600€. Colour: gold. Nose: typically Fettercairn, with this combination that would involve grandma’s old copper kettle, a few overripe apples, some bitter walnuts, half a glass of artichoke cordial (or Cynar), office coffee at around 7pm, gingerbread, more and more caraway, and a touch of overripe orange as well as bananas starting to rot, which gives it a wee tropical side. Mouth: funny stuff. Very spicy and dry arrival on pipe tobacco that you would eat, then bitter citrus peel and more dry coffee. It would go on with bags and bags and bags of walnuts, both fresh and old. It’s really different from anything else distilled that could be found over there in Scotland. A little touch of soap and paraffin. Finish: medium, on some kind of bitterish cake made with walnuts, caraway, and Jerusalem artichokes. Don’t try that at home. More and more heather honey in the aftertaste, but that’s a little late. Comments: a rather challenging malt, as Fettercairn always was. In a way, it’s good that they wouldn’t try to bourbonise it (you know, boring vanilla and stuff).
SGP:371 - 78 points.

Let’s find an indie of similar age… There…

Fettercairn 29 yo 1988/2017 (48.9%, Maltbarn, bourbon cask, 154 bottles)

Fettercairn 29 yo 1988/2017 (48.9%, Maltbarn, bourbon cask, 154 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: this is much more natural. Sure there’s this peculiar grassiness and these hints of soap, but there’s also some sweeter sour bread, a touch of mango, fruit bread, and a good glass of proper mead. Some beeswax too. Less loco than the official. Mouth: indeed, it’s the official but with more freshness, less coffee-ish notes, yet many roasted nuts, pecans, macadamia, then a lot of complex citrus, from citrons to pink grapefruits. In other words, some kind of drier limoncello, if you will. And as they say in rock and roll, the mead goes on. Finish: rather long, more mineral, and even a tad petroly and earthy. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: a very good, interesting, unusual malt whisky. The oak influence has been kept to a minimum, all for the better. One of the best Fettercairns I’ve ever tried.
SGP:451 - 89 points.

And the winner is… the indie!

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


October 20, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Three Pair
I know, what fresh titling hell is this? But thankfully today’s session will likely be a tad more exciting than its title with regular luminaries such as Clynelish and Highland Park, but first, the one you’ve all been waiting for... that’s right: Glen Spey! Please try to maintain your collective dignity.


Glen Spey 30 yo 1976 (46%, First Cask, cask #366) Glen Spey 30 yo 1976 (46%, First Cask, cask #366)
It’s not too widely known that the stocks for this often overlooked series came from Signatory, so it’s perhaps not surprising that many were very good. Colour: gold. Nose: soft honeys, pollens, sunflower seeds, light hessian. Classic old Speyside juice really. Some hints of varnish, various waxes, wood polish and something like dusty fruits - if that’s a thing. These sharpen to more specific notes of melon, pineapple and orange peel with a little time. There’s also a leafy freshness about it, some camphor and damp earthy notes with a wee hint of pipe tobacco. Very lovely. Mouth: sooty honey, milk bottle sweeties, lemon oil, porridge and beeswax. A hint of lime leaf and pot pourri as well. Finish: Medium length, leafy, menthol tobacco, juicy fruits, citrus rinds, soft waxes and a hint of wood spice. Comments: There is a generic Speyside feel about it, but then what is Glen Spey if not ‘generic Speyside’. The age, however, has made it undeniably aromatic, pleasurable and appealing. Probably one of the few types of quality older single malt that is still comparatively cheap at auction.
SGP: 651 - 89 points.


Glen Spey 10 yo 1985/1996 (60.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #80.2, ‘A rare one from J&B’) Glen Spey 10 yo 1985/1996 (60.8%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #80.2, ‘A rare one from J&B’)
This one might be a tad more ‘challenging’... Colour: light gold. Nose: ooft! A big fusion of petrol, hay and grist. Cut grass, lime skins, wet sheep wool, camphor, lemon oil, farmyard, canvas, ink, carbon paper and struck flints. Something of a bizarre monster. But then again, didn’t 1985 produce rather a few of those... Continues with these gristy, straw and hay loft notes. But there’s sweetness too: lemon barley water, icing sugar, hot wort... With water: oatmeal, light honeys, porridge, sawn wood, pencil shavings, old fabric, bath salts and pastrami. Mouth: extremely oily, fat, petrolic, spicy, even waxy with these buttery and old Riesling notes. Some medicine, baked fruits, toffee apples, barley sugar, mustard seed, rye bread, curry leaf and shoe polish. We have travelled some distance from ‘generic Speyside’. With water: the farminess is still here but it is tamed nicely by the water; lots of gloopy oiliness such as sunflower and olive oils, then more inky and flinty aspects. Preserved lemons, lemon cough drops and a big prevalent sootiness. Barmy stuff! Finish: long, earthy, fat, farmy and with these rather sharp, crystalised citrus fruit notes. Even a slash of grapefruit and quinine. Comments: Probably the most characterful and idiosyncratic Glen Spey we’ve ever come across - and probably ever will. I love it but I suspect it would be a polarising dram. A tough thing to score but well worth trying if you come across it.
SGP: 472 - 87 points.


And now, after the madness of Glen Spey, back down to earth with some Clynelish. That’s probably pretty high up the list of sentences I never thought I’d write.  


Clynelish 20 yo 1997/2018 (44.6%, Exclusive Malts, refill ex-sherry hogshead, cask #6897, 52 bottles) Clynelish 20 yo 1997/2018 (44.6%, Exclusive Malts, refill ex-sherry hogshead, cask #6897, 52 bottles)
A rather cool bottling that is the last release from David Stirk’s Creative Whisky Company before it was sold earlier this year. A leaky cask led to the low outturn apparently. Colour: gold. Nose: very classical soft waxes, gentle coastal fragrances, embrocations, soft malty sweetness and hints of cut grass and vegetable stock. The low abv tends to magnify these softer, more fragrant tones. Wee notes of pollens, sea greens, heather ale, chalk, dried sage and sandalwood. Classical and charming. Mouth: an initial salinity quickly gives way to an enveloping surge of waxiness, green fruits, lemon oils, some tropical dried fruits such as mango chunks and pineapple then a nibble of green pepper that feels like it comes from the wood. There’s also various cereals, salted porridge and more of these light, fragrant heathery notes. Some tinned fruit syrups, light ointments and orange throat sweets. Finish: long, on mead, white pepper, dry wood spices, slightly bitter waxiness and husky, gristy malty tones at the back. Also some notes of green tea and herbal extracts in the aftertaste. Comments: Benchmark 97 Clynelish. The naturally low abv seems to work wonders on the more fragrant coastal and waxy aspects of Clynelish’s character which come out in close harmony here. Shame about the low outturn but a lovely wee bottle to finish on. Well done Creative Whisky Co team!
SGP: 561 - 90 points.


Clynelish 7 yo 2010/2018 (59.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society,  #26.112 ‘Waxy for shore’, 1st fill barrel, 235 bottles) Clynelish 7 yo 2010/2018 (59.3%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society,  #26.112 ‘Waxy for shore’, 1st fill barrel, 235 bottles)
Colour: light gold. Nose: it is indeed waxy. Lots of fizzy lemony notes, some butterscotch, menthol toothpaste, tutti frutti sweeties, hay loft, beach sand, foam shrimps, cough medicine and some lime jelly. Quite aromatically broad and very approachable in a way that feels quite luxurious. Goes on with white flowers and stone fruits; a sense of maturity beyond its years. With water: honey glazed fruits, various shades of peppercorn, more seashore freshness, gloopy sweetness and a satisfying seam of waxiness running throughout. Mouth: there is a wee nibble of youth but it’s surprisingly restrained behind lots of juicy fruit bubblegum, soft waxes, camphor, olive oil, minerals and bath salts. There’s vanilla and sweetness but it’s restrained, creamy and satisfying. In time there’s more fresh herbs, fruity jellies and a little heather honey. With water: extremely soft, full of fabric, fresh linen, more bath salt notes, preserved lemon, sandalwood, pineapple syrup, lemon oils and herb infused salted butter. Finish: Long, lemony, lightly saline, subtle sweetness fading in and out and still and lingering juicy fruit quality. Comments: Ironically I suspect this would probably have been over the top if it had been left to 10 years. Just goes to show, if you have terrific, characterful distillate, you don’t need a whole heap of age. Although, that is not to say that age hasn’t been important to this whisky’s quality. Anyway, another top notch Clynelish, and a lovely surprise.
SGP: 761 - 89 points.


And so, yet again, to Orkney. I should probably get a season ticket for the ferry.  


Highland Park 13 yo 2005/2018 (58.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #4.242 ‘Coastal landscape with smoke’, refill hogshead, 262 bottles)

Highland Park 13 yo 2005/2018 (58.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #4.242 ‘Coastal landscape with smoke’, refill hogshead, 262 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: there is a kind of herbal greasiness at first. Heather smoke, coal tar soap, sea water and runny honey. A light black olive note, like black olive bread perhaps, then salty porridge, oatmeal and crushed aspirin. There’s a dusty lemon powder and damp leafy aspect that comes in time. With water: becomes rather more cereal, malty and gristy. Lots of salty porridge, white fish, bonfire ash and sooty qualities. Mouth: this same greasiness that also includes boiler smoke, peppered mackerel and a light tarriness. Rather a big HP. More briny qualities, lanolin and a little hot mustard. These more classical heather and honey qualities come in time but they are slightly knocked out of whack by these bigger salty and medical aspects. With water: it reaches more of an equilibrium while swimming. These more classical aspects of dried herbs, medicines, citrus fruits, runny honey and soft peats all seem to reach an agreement. Finish: long, with some rather lemony and soft smokiness. Hay loft, green peppercorn, light antiseptic and salty flatbread.  Comments: Maybe not quite up to the same standard as the late 1990s examples that are currently about, but it’s still top notch, quaffable HP. Rather towards the bigger, fatter end of the HP spectrum though I think.
SGP: 472 - 87 points.



Orkney Distillery 18 yo 1999/2018 (54.1%, Filmnik ‘Fight Club’, hogshead, cask #38, 310 bottles) Orkney Distillery 18 yo 1999/2018 (54.1%, Filmnik ‘Fight Club’, hogshead, cask #38, 310 bottles)
Filmnik features a different film on each of their labels, for this anonymous Orkney distillery whose name may well sound something like Pieland Shark, it’s the turn of Fight Club. But, will Filmnik mind that I’m talking about their whisky...? Colour: oaked white wine. Nose: a big waft of sea air and soft embrocations. Hints of bandage, sweetened children’s medicine (banana flavoured Calpol), cherry cola cubes, dried seaweed, lime oil, grilled white fish, green olives and capers in brine. A really enthralling mix of sweetness, salinity and medical flourishes that seems to distinguish so many of these lovely late 1990s HPs we’ve been seeing lately. In time there’s a very typical heathery, honeyed freshness emerging as well. With water: more salinity, more sea air, soot, metal polish, natural malty sweetness and a hint of sourdough. Some preserved lemons and coal smoke. Mouth: wonderful richness, buttery sweetness, soft dried herbal notes, light peppery peat smoke, icing sugar, brine, crushed ferns, beach sand, lemon oil and more soft medicines and ointments. Some toasty cereal notes also emerge. With water: heather honey, 80 shilling ale, putty, tart gooseberry, lime cordial and more coal hearth/sooty tones. Wee touches of distant bonfire smoke and wood ash as well. Finish: long, lemony, oily, peppery, light peat smoke, dried herbs and more sweet medicines. Comments: Yet another truly excellent late 1990s HP. Forget all this Viking crap, if you want to get to the heart of contemporary HP and understand why it’s still one of the best distillates in the world when left alone, go to the indys like this one. Many seem to comfortably hover around the 90 mark and this one is no exception. You’ll not see me complaining that they are currently abundant!
SGP: 572 - 90 points.



October 19, 2018


Little duos, today Oban

Love Oban, Oban is great, the condensers are great, the people are great, the location is great… But there isn’t enough of it, for crying out loud! But indeed, the distillery’s tiny and the tourists numerous…

Oban 14 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2016)

Oban 14 yo (43%, OB, +/- 2016) Four stars and a half
Could be 2017 as well. Sadly, Oban 14 seems to be almost gone, more or less, noiselessly… Colour: gold. Nose: what a great distillate. At a measly 43% it would still rock and kick, with these trademark mustardy notes, followed with sweeter orange-y notes, then hand cream, basalt, leather, and walnuts. There’s a wee dirtiness in the background, which is all for the better. Fruit peelings, a little mud perhaps. Mouth: extremely good, with some sweet mustard, fino sherry, walnuts, bitter oranges, and a touch of cardamom. The walnuts and the bitter oranges are running the show. Finish: incredibly long given the strength, and with more and more salt. Comments: wowie, what a great whisky! But where is Oban 14? Do they still make it? There cannot be any proper malt aficionado who wouldn’t have properly assessed Oban 14. Do it or stick with gin (or, yeah, bioethanol).
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Oban 21 yo 1996/2018 (57.9%, OB, Special Release, refill European oak butts)

Oban 21 yo 1996/2018 (57.9%, OB, Special Release, refill European oak butts) Two stars and a half
There was a 21 in 2013, and it’s been very good but not utterly stellar, according to this humble taster (WF 85). Will the regular 14 beat the new SR? Colour: gold. Nose: ha! Seriously, the 14 is in a whole different league. This is rather closed, spirity, one-dimensional, kind of skimpy, ethanoly, too yeasty… What happened? With water: no comprendo mucho this malt whisky. Dirty mash. Mouth (neat): not quite, this is raw, harsh, hot… With water: better, naturally, but curiously green, dirty-ish, a little feinty, with notes of mashed turnips and celeriac, parsnip, black root… sure you could intellectualise this in some sorts of ways, but frankly, it is not the most pleasant malt ever. Really surprising that Diageo would have ‘made’ this, but on the other hand, it does remind us of the Rare Malts. Indeed many Rare Malts were utterly and totally stellar, but a tiny few have been real rotguts that would have made you blind and bald if you weren’t careful. Finish: indeed. Cloves and caraway. Comments: looks like we’ve found the lame duck amongst this year’s SRs. The 14 was so much better in my book! But indeed, as always, only one man's opinion, and some whisky hooligans may even like this harsh baby a lot ...
SGP:371 - 78 points.

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


October 18, 2018


Glen Ord’s turn

Another fantastic whisky that’s a little ‘forgotten’ these days, maybe because owners Diageo have been kind of hiding it behind the ‘Singleton’ moniker for some years now. Ah those ‘square’ bottles of 28 and 30 years old from around fifteen years ago, sublime malts, don’t miss them, they may still pop out here and there…

Ord 12 yo 2006/2018 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, hogshead, 645 bottles)

Ord 12 yo 2006/2018 (46%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, hogshead, 645 bottles) Four stars
Data about the outturn seem vary between 606 and 645. Or do they have two sister bottlings? Colour: white wine. Nose: this feeling of nosing distilled ale, while in this case that would be the purest form of ale. Marvellous fresh sourdough bread, a touch of hops, green pears, malt, two slices of banana, apple compote, amaretti. Mouth: excellent, rather more on citrus this time, but the bready/ale-y side is still there. Oranges, a few bitter herbs (right, and Campari, bitters), a touch of clove, a touch of spearmint. All that works in sync. Finish: rather long, very bready, with this bitterish citrus on top of it. Seville oranges. More bitterness in the aftertaste. Comments: perfect, slightly raw young Ord, with some depth and some naturality (right, yet another new concept).
SGP:461 - 86 points.

The Singleton Glen Ord 14 yo 2002/2018 (57.6%, OB, Special Release)

The Singleton Glen Ord 14 yo 2002/2018 (57.6%, OB, Special Release) Four stars
Five kinds of casks have been used here, so some would have called this a quintuple cask whisky. Or a pentawood, perhaps, ha. Oh and not too sure why they didn’t call this baby a 15 yo (2018-2002=either 16 or 15 in whisky math) but then again, that’s perfectly legal. Colour: pale gold. Nose: you do feel some toasted oak, mocha, butterscotch, vanilla… So it’s all quite modern in my book, and in a way, the exact opposite of the Cadenhead, but I find it equally beautiful. With water: drier, a little more ‘plankish’. Sawdust, broken branches… The good news is that some lemon is also getting in this. Gotta love lemon in our whiskies. Mouth (neat): really very good, between toasted oak, lemon, green spices, walnuts, and wholegrain bread. Sure it’s no spirit-driven whisky, but they made it well. With water: same, more or less. Perfect citrus. Finish: rather long, a tad woody/spicy. Comments: this baby’s seen some active oak, and that worked, even if things get a little trickier in the finish.
SGP:461 - 85 points.

Glen Ord 15 yo 1997/2012 (54.2%, Archives, hogshead)

Glen Ord 15 yo 1997/2012 (54.2%, Archives, hogshead) Four stars
Missed this one when it came out and it stayed in the Ord box. Never too late… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: these vintages were a little smokier and sootier, and rather less fruity, consequently. In a way, they were a little more Clynelishy, if I may, and this is a very fine example of that style. Cider, linseed oil, soot indeed… With water: rather more mud and wort, I would say. Mouth (neat): extremely good, and in the same vein. Crisp citrus over soot and gravel, plus this paraffiny side. Some grass and bark too. With water: excellent, and really Clynelishy. Finish: rather long, on waxed lemons. Comments: I think this baby benefitted from those extra-years in glass. I remember I had liked it when I first tried it – that was informally - but not this much.
SGP:552 - 87 points.

Glen Ord 20 yo (51.9%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, batch 1, 293 bottles, 2018)

Glen Ord 20 yo (51.9%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, batch 1, 293 bottles, 2018) Four stars and a half
So this could well be another 1997 (well done, S.!) Colour: white wine. Nose: we’re very, very, very close to the Archives, while the six extra-years haven’t changed much. I guess the cask was rather lazy – but we love lazy casks (and hyperactive distillates) at WF Towers. Same kind of waxy fruitiness that works so well. Citrons, limestone, paraffin, fresh walnuts… With water: oh, wet dogs! Just tiny ones, perhaps chihuahuas… (with apologies, chihuahuas!) Mouth (neat): I’ll say it again, anyone could mistake this for Clynelish. Perfect wax and lemons, green tea, grapefruit… With water: ditto, and it would even unfold in a very Clynelish manner, with more grapefruit marmalade and quince paste. I adore quince paste. Finish: medium, splendidly waxy. More grapefruits, as fruit jelly this time. Comments: impeccable Clyn… I mean, Ord. Well done, boutique-y people!
SGP:651 - 89 points.

Should we not go on with some older ones?

Ord 31 yo 1983/2014 (51%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 204 bottles)

Ord 31 yo 1983/2014 (51%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 204 bottles) Five stars
Colour: straw. Nose: amen. Beeswax, camphor, pine sap, honey, custard, pollen, mead. This is, more or less, what was to be found in those superb official 28 and 30s. Well, the 30 was more glorious than the 28. Amazing nose. With water: a bit of fresh wood coming out, but that’s normal. Also more pine resin, some menthol, pine needles… Mouth (neat): superb waxy combination. Orange blossom water, heather honey, beeswax, mirabelle pie, dried figs… This is all very perfect. With water: extraordinary, this baby swims like Mark Spitz (S., you’ll need to update your references. I mean, Mark Spitz, that was Munich 1972!) Finish: medium, superbly honeyed and waxy. Extrao-ord-inary (blogger writing, pff…) Comments: a whisky to marry, as they say in polygamous countries. Seriously, it’s splendid.
SGP:551 - 92 points.

A last one…

Glen Ord 32 yo 1975/2008 (46.4%, Monnier Trading, Switzerland, cask #9241, 204 bottles)

Glen Ord 32 yo 1975/2008 (46.4%, Monnier Trading, Switzerland, cask #9241, 204 bottles) Four stars and a half
Whisky and motorcycles, two things I tend to rather like. Colour: pale gold. Nose: same honeyed territories as with the 1983, except that this one’s a tad subtler, with notes of old Sauternes, rather more raisins than in the 1983, but then the same kind of waxy/honeyed development, plus these lovely mentholy and pine-y touches that only come after many years. There are also clear notes of small grain muscat, or say muscat de Beaume de Venise. Dom. Des Bernardins remains the house to watch, by the way and if I may. Whiffs of hessian too, maybe did the cask see some Islay whisky at some point, around 1940? Mouth: less ‘neat and tidy’ than the Cadenhead, with more spicy oak and even ginger. We’re experiencing some mild disappointment here, since the nose was just stellar, but don’t get me wrong, this is still a first-decile palate. Mead and brown ale, cinnamon… Finish: medium, waxy, beehive-y, with a few sour fruits. Artisanal apple juice. Comments: another fantastic old Glen Ord, it’s just that Cadenhead’s 1983 was a killer.
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Let’s call this a session if you please.

(With many thanks to Michael!)

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


October 17, 2018


More Mortlach than in Dufftown

So to speak. Seriously, we may try many of them today, let’s see how far we’ll get, while praying to The Wee Witchie…

Mortlach 12 yo (43.4%, OB, 2018)

Mortlach 12 yo (43.4%, OB, 2018) Four stars
Owners Diageo have recently turned the brand upside down, as it seems that the earlier deluxe ‘positioning’ did not work too well. Too much branding and some ambassadorship that was clearly too un-natural, if you ask me (say it S., it was artificial!) Mortlach is not vodka! So this is the new entry-level expression, a well-aged 12. Exit NAS, apparently, triple-hurray! Colour: gold. Nose: the whisky remains modern, do not expect anything too leathery, tobacco-y, or even sulphury, as we’re rather on roasted peanuts, walnuts, and baked raisins and dates. There’s some pumpernickel too – love pumpernickel! Great with tasty foie gras, by the way. Mouth: really very good, more Mortlach than on the nose, with some modernity again (gingerbread, raisins, cinnamon) but also some tobacco and some drops of mineral oil, as well as some perfect citrus. They may have nailed it this time. Finish: medium, maltier. Brownies and pancakes plus some dark pale syrup and some lemon squash. Comments: they say it’s 2.81 x distilled on the label. A shame that they wouldn’t further explain why – but they’d almost need a poster then.
SGP:451 - 85 points.

Mortlach 16 yo (43.4%, OB, 2018)

Mortlach 16 yo (43.4%, OB, 2018) Four stars and a half
Everyone seemed to like the 16 Flora and Fauna, but it’s never been a favourite at WF Towers. One has to distinguish himself, I suppose. Colour: deep gold. Nose: I dig this, there’s earth, moss, pine needles, mushrooms, Cuban cigars, old rum agricole, chocolate, heather honey (calluna), mint, chestnuts… I say hurray, but let's not get ahead of ourselves… Mouth: exactly yes! Pure orangey Mortlachness, with perfect honeys (several), corn syrup, maple syrup, drops of bitters, gingerbread, stout (I remember Mackeson’s back in the 1970s, but I haven’t tried them since… ach, around 1980) and quite a lot of moderately sweet orange liqueur. Splendid. Finish: rather long, wonderful, orange-y and perfectly honeyed, with a perfect texture until the end of the aftertaste. Comments: to whom this may concern, very well done, Mortlach is back!
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Mortlach 20 yo (43.4%, OB, 2018)

Mortlach 20 yo (43.4%, OB, 2018) Four stars
Oh and looks like they have improved their closures mucho. Adios crumbling corks, let’s just hope there’s no bisphenol or phthalates in these new ones. Yeah right. Colour: gold. Funny that the 16 was a little darker. Nose: this one’s even earthier, but in a way, there was more happening in the 16. This 20 is rather more on fern, moss, old fabric, old wood… Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely, but the 16 was much brighter, and more entertaining. Mouth: no, there, now we’re speaking. Mint, oranges, heather honey, triple-sec, quince jelly, damson liqueur, sloe, rosehip tea…. That one very vivid I have to say. Love rosehip. Finish: medium, honeyed and very remotely smoky. Some eucalyptus honey in the aftertaste. Comments: extremely good, it’s just that I have a weakness for the new 16. Anyway, great work on Mortlach, fast and smart. And genuine.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Good, we have dozens of other ‘lachs, let’s try them completely at random and come what may!

Mortlach 1995/2015 ‘Flambé Fruit’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 337 bottles)

Mortlach 1995/2015 ‘Flambé Fruit’ (46%, Wemyss Malts, hogshead, 337 bottles) Three stars
Haven’t heard much from Wemyss’s in recent times, hope they’re doing well! Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s a more naked, fruity and slightly sulphury Mortlach, with orchard fruits and linseed and groundnut oils. Apples, gooseberries, sunflower oil… Nice vanilla-ed earthiness, as seen and smelled at Ikea’s (what?) Mouth: indeed, there’s a lot of vanilla, and some coconut. Some oranges too, which really saves it, but there’s really a lot of sweet oak. Not bad at all, but the spirit’s a little dominated, shall we say. And we all know that Mortlach’s big. Finish: medium, rather oily, with a little too much coconut for me. Love good American oak, but even a worm will turn. Oh well… Comments: really very good, just a tad too US-oak-led for me. Indeed, oh well…
SGP:641 - 80 points.

Mortlach 19 yo 1996/2016 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, casks #182-183)

Mortlach 19 yo 1996/2016 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, casks #182-183) Four stars
In theory, nothing could go wrong here. Colour: white wine. Nose: yep. More spirit, less oak. More bread, grapefruits, grape pip oil, rye, a wee touch of mustard, some espresso coffee in the background, some pipe smoke… Mouth: bang, Mortlach in its purest form. Sultanas aplenty, then tobacco, this faint sulphur (rather candles instead of matches), roasted chestnuts, speculoos, bitter oranges… It’s all perfect and very true to the distillate. Finish: medium, with a little more pepper and once again a little sweet mustard. Oh well, English mustard, if we must. Comments: a lovable Mortlach. More character than elsewhere, we do applaud even if it’s not totally perfect. Mind you, this is not the Kardashians.
SGP:562 - 87 points.

Mortlach 20 yo 1995/2015 (55%, Riegger’s Selection, second fill, 179 bottles)

Mortlach 20 yo 1995/2015 (55%, Riegger’s Selection, second fill, 179 bottles) Three stars
Love it that they would tell that it’s second fill. Colour: pale gold. Nose: these notes of burning candle, that’s very Mortlach! This is a much rawer beast, let’s be careful. Smoky tea, burning garden peat, potatoes, soot, walnut wine… It’s got all of Mortlach’s trademark sulphury side. Chocolate cake. With water: paraffin and court plaster. I know. Mouth (neat): a beast indeed, and nothing really civilised I’m afraid. Lamp oil, licking tyres, plastic, lemon oil, cologne… Indeed what a beat. With water: more of all that, lamp oil, wax, leatherette, perhaps a wee bit of hard-boiled egg… Finish: rather long, and still rather pleasantly unlikely. Comments: not sure the true Mortlachs are the best Mortlachs. What’s sure is that this one was very rock and roll.
SGP:362 - 82 points.

Mortlach 1994/2017 (54.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, cask #8/92, 1st fill sherry butt)

Mortlach 1994/2017 (54.2%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Strength, cask #8/92, 1st fill sherry butt) Three stars
That’s right, the older livery. Isn’t it already becoming a little cult? Some say the prices were cult too… Colour: full gold. Nose: sweet Joseph! Mustard, walnuts, Guinness (let’s stick with the owners), truffles, black earth, chocolate. With water: used matches and new tyres. Pirellis or Michelins, naturally… Mouth (neat): yeah right, tobacco, sour wine, the bitterest marmalade, more walnuts than on a walnut tree… With water: bittersweet development. Cranberry sauce, chocolate, a drop of balsamico, some tyres. Finish: long. Smoky chocolate and coffeeish seafood. I know. Comments: indeed, there’s some sulphur(ness) in action in this one. But as always with ex-sherry Mortlach, cask and spirit are joining forces. It’s a style, as they say in Hollywood.
SGP:452 - 80 points.

Mortlach 25 yo 1993/2018 (56.1%, Adelphi, refill sherry, cask #4466, 385 bottles)

Mortlach 25 yo 1993/2018 (56.1%, Adelphi, refill sherry, cask #4466, 385 bottles) Four stars
A new Adelphi, always a joy (but not for my poor old eyes)… Colour: gold. Nose: we’re close to the new official 16, which cannot be bad news. Superb old agricole rum, chestnut purée, rye bread, chestnut honey (king of honeys, drop manuka), Jamaican coffee, chocolate, a pinhead of mustard… Fantastic and oh-so Mortlach! With water: some kind of Asian spicy dish, perhaps something Thai. Utterly love that! Mouth (neat): bang, we may have a winner if it swims well. Juniper, ginger, cloves, chocolate, caraway… All that suggests it was very spicy European oak. The problem is that in my book, European oak just wouldn’t swim – it would rather sink to the bottom, so let us see… With water: phew, that was close, but oranges save it. It is a little too spicy for me (spice cake, gingerbread) but good water would regulate it. Nah, it’s very spicy whisky. Finish: long and very spicy indeed. You could drink this on Sichuan Hot-Pot! (in lieu of Dom Pérignon rosé). Comments: a matter of taste, really. One of the spiciest drams I’ve found this year. Conservative score then…
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Mortlach 29 yo 1988/2018 (55.1%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, butt, 534 bottles)

Mortlach 29 yo 1988/2018 (55.1%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, butt, 534 bottles) Four stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: smokes! Old pipe, tobacco, used matches, roasting coffee, chicory, cocoa powder, cold-brewed Ethiopian coffee (oh whatever)… With water: mud, floor cloth, new tweed jacket (only one place, Walker slater in Edinburgh, but please do not mention my name), truffles, gas… Mouth (neat): oh, chocolates, grapefruit marmalade, coffee beans, black olives, pipe tobacco, lime-y soot (really), black olives… All this is a little uncertain, but it’s extremely funny. With water: some kind of St. Germain-infused gingerbread. But be warned, St. Germain kills – or will make you blind, at least. Finish: long, spicy, gingery. Comments: or when sulphur rather is an asset. Or a style, at least. Conservative score again.
SGP:462 - 85 points.

Mortlach 1995/2014 (57.5%, Malts of Scotland, for Sylter Trading, bourbon hogshead, cask # MoS ST-003, 260 bottles)

Mortlach 1995/2014 (57.5%, Malts of Scotland, for Sylter Trading, bourbon hogshead, cask # MoS ST-003, 260 bottles) Two stars and a half
Dunno who these Sylter people are, but I’m sure they’re very fine folks. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a greasy, oily, austere Mortlach, very grassy and a tad unsexy. Whiffs of green sawdust. With water: oak, sawdust, Ikea. If we must… Mouth (neat): much better than on the nose, and rather all on pears. Mortlach and pears? Why not? With water: it’s a fact that I love my pears, and this is a perfect pear eau-de-vie. But Mortlach? No, could be any other Dufftown distillery, especially Glenfiddich. Finish: medium, spirity, pear-y, rather unnecessary. Comments: it’s okay but I wouldn’t call this a milestone. A bit disappointed – despite the pears. Apologies, fine Sylter people.
SGP:451 - 78 points.

Mortlach 25 yo 1987/2013 (59.4%, Adelphi, barrel, cask #3100, 208 bottles)

Mortlach 25 yo 1987/2013 (59.4%, Adelphi, barrel, cask #3100, 208 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: ah, sweet meats, nuts, old sémillons (some old Sauternes), bandages, embrocations, iodine… It’s just as if this cask had contained Laphroaig before. Pure speculations, of course. With water: yes, lovely unfolding with mandarins and minty mushrooms, the name escapes me. In French we would say clitocybes – hey why would I have to do all the work? Mouth (neat): extremely very good. Angelica and woodruff, lime, green olives, more lime… anything tart and green, really, even humus and greener earths. With water: perfect, more on anything honeyed and citrusy. That’s the winning combo, always, everywhere. Finish: long, on earthy mushrooms plus this lemony earthiness. Comments: it’s the earthiness that makes it a winning Mortlach.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

We’re losing steam, so a last one and we’ll call this a tasting session – if you don’t disagree.

Mortlach 25 yo 1992/2014 (55.2%, Douglas Laing, Director’s Cut, hogshead, cask #10321, 129 bottles)

Mortlach 25 yo 1992/2014 (55.2%, Douglas Laing, Director’s Cut, hogshead, cask #10321, 129 bottles) Four stars
A series also called ‘Executive Decision’ here and there, apparently. And why not? Was Donald J. involved? Colour: gold. Nose: back to beehive-y smells, tiger balm, Chinese plastics, yoghurt… With water: sour sauces, English gravy, onion sauce… And bone marrow, perhaps. And yet t’s not a thick saucy whisky. Mouth (neat): very good, just not very great in my book. Some green tannins, green tea from last night, grapefruit… With water: back to onions and sauces, with a handful of sultanas thrown in, as well as a cup of average chardonnay. Finish: rather long, rather malty, always with the meaty side. Comments: that’s the thing with Mortlach, it’s not a malt whisky that you could more or less control. Would you call it inconsistent? We’ll ask the blenders next time, I’m sure they would know.
SGP:451 - 86 points.

More Mortlach? Hell, no!

(Gracias Greg, Paul, Tom and other friends)

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


October 16, 2018


Little duos, today HP again

Indeed that would be Highland Park. There’s more and we shouldn’t and shan’t complain.

Highland Park 1998/2018 (55.7%, Keepers of the Quaich, cask #7667, refill American hogshead, 297 bottles)

Highland Park 1998/2018 (55.7%, Keepers of the Quaich, cask #7667, refill American hogshead, 297 bottles) Five stars
This one was bottled for the Keepers’ autumn 2018 banquet. And well, since I’m now one of them, let’s indulge ourselves in this new little beauty… Colour: gold. Nose: a beautiful nose that gathers HP’s traditional waxy/honeyed mineralness and a rather vibrant vanilla-ed lemonness from some good active US wood. It all works in sync, with a lovely freshness and, well, no fuss at all. With water: touches of cabinetwork, thuja wood, pinewood, spearmint, melissa water… Mouth (neat): extremely good, with this tense almost mezcally side, so with some earthy grassiness, and quite a lot of raw mint, angelica, roots, and simply lemons. Wonderful, really. Celeriac. With water: more of that. Celeriac and lemons in some kind of crazy sweet mayonnaise. All we’d need to add are a few good shrimps. Finish: long, very clean, marvellously vertical. Comments: well, that distillers and affiliated friends would be able to select a great cask doesn’t quite come as a surprise, does it. PS, no we didn’t find any kippers in this Keepers’ bottling. PPS, works well with haggis.
SGP:562 - 91 points.

Highland Park 15 yo 2002 (55.8%. Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #4.241, ‘Humbrecht’s cough medicine’, first fill barrel, 191 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2002 (55.8%. Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #4.241, ‘Humbrecht’s cough medicine’, first fill barrel, 191 bottles) Five stars
So it appears that my dear friend famous winemaker and HP connoisseur Olivier Humbrecht is using this as his personal cough syrup. Between us, it’s a miracle that a few bottles could have been made available to the general public. Colour: pale gold. Nose: well well well, we’re in similar territories, really. Does this one bear more mentholness? Perhaps… Eucalyptus? Maybe… Otherwise it’s classic ex-barrel HP, clean, mineral, slightly waxy, and very moderately honeyed. With water: perfect whisky. No touch this, this need not something else, this good like this. How do you like my Italian? Mouth (neat): classic pure HP, the best style there is, homicidally mineral and pine-y indeed. Now, cough medicine? Well can’t we spot a good excuse whenever there is one around? With water: swims very well, this one could reach the mainland. Lemon, flints, green tea, grapefruits. And, yeah, okay, menthol. Finish: long and clean. Comments: marvellous distillate, within the top five for sure as long as odd wood was not in use. I'm rambling, aren't I?
SGP:562 - 90 points.

(Many thanks, Angus and Nick!)

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


October 15, 2018


As much grain as we possibly can, vertically

In theory, that wouldn’t be a lot, but let’s see what happens…

Strathclyde 11 yo 2005/2017 (55.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #11952, 638 bottles)

Strathclyde 11 yo 2005/2017 (55.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #11952, 638 bottles) Two stars and a half
Not too sure why this young ethan… I mean grain whisky managed to make it into the Old Particular range. There might be something unusual, I guess, I hope… Colour: gold. Nose: there are raisins, there’s a little cake, there are whiffs of cigar humidor, there’s a little chestnut purée, and there’s a little rum (say around some pretty good Cuban, Santiago-style, which isn’t half bad in my book). With water: really very nice, still kind of ‘Cuban’, all we’d need now is an old Lusitania. Mouth (neat): not as interesting as on the nose, very spirity, and actually rather harsh. Tends to blow your head off, as they used to say amongst the Vikings. With water: rather better, but it’s still a little rough around the edges. But I believe you couldn’t do much better at eleven, it’s almost baby whisky. Finish: medium, a tad varnishy and bonbony. Comments: notes of sherry in there. Really enjoyed the nose, but the palate was way behind. Twenty more years might work.
SGP:640 - 77 points.

Invergordon 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #12185, 279 bottles)

Invergordon 21 yo 1997/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #12185, 279 bottles) Two stars
In my book, 21 is still very young for grain whisky. And let’s try to forget the very sad recent news about Invergordon’s workers… (but boo!) Colour: straw. Nose: vanilla, light varnish, a leisurely stroll at Ikea’s, some coconut balls, barley water, and all that. Arc-classic rather empty grain whisky ex-American oak. With water: same. Mouth (neat): Scottish bourbon, as some friends used to say. Vanillin, sugar, cellulosic varnish, marshmallows. With water: rather the same, but there are also nice nots of oranges coming through. Citrus would save any whiskies, just like… say Zorro. Finish: short, rather light. Vanilla and barley sugar. Comments: really quite good, just a little… well, empty.
SGP:630 - 76 points.

Older please…

Strathclyde 26 yo 1990/2017 (55.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #11600, 174 bottles)

Strathclyde 26 yo 1990/2017 (55.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #11600, 174 bottles) Three stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: Havana Club! This is really very light. Touches of banana sweets, vanilla, coconut, light fudge… With water: nice! Barbecued marshmallows. Mouth (neat): ah, some action! Some kind of interplay has started to occur here, and flavours got a little more complex. Herbal teas (rosehip, orange blossom), biscuits, candied almonds, some green tea from the oak… Rather nice, this one. With water: indeed it is really nice. Still light and rather, say all-purpose whisky (frankly, in my book, grains belong to blends) but these lightly spicy cakes and biscuits work well. Amaretti! Finish: short, almondy, cake-y. You could blend this with limoncello and have it on a terrace in Tuscany. Comments: certainly one of the better grains I’ve tried this year. Aren’t we making good progress?
SGP:540 - 82 points.

Cameronbridge 26 yo 1991/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #12661, 639 bottles)

Cameronbridge 26 yo 1991/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #12661, 639 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s a fair age for grain, it appears. Nice nose, with some cider and some orange juice, honeysuckle, touches of mangos, butterscotch, Jaffa cake… Really nice, this nose! With water: yes! A little tobacco, a little pine resin, a touch of camphor… Mouth (neat): back to rum, but it is good clean ex-column (naturally) rum. A little grass, other than that lemon pie (with meringue!) and a very funny touch of tinned sardines. Could we speak with the cask? With water: the cakes are back and there are many kinds. Excellent. Finish: medium, rather more complex than others, and yet soft and well balanced. A little gingerbread with lemon zests inside. Comments: we’re really making good progress. Well, Douglas Laing are.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Girvan 28 yo 1989/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #12544, 255 bottles)

Girvan 28 yo 1989/2018 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, cask #12544, 255 bottles) Three stars
Colour: straw. Nose: this time it’s really a vanilla-ed extravaganza that’s happening right below  our nostrils and indeed we’ve known bourbons… Even wondering if there isn’t a little rye inside. Could that be? Oh and some chamomile tea. With water: a little sawdust, loses a few years once further reduced. Mouth (neat): it’s a whole cake. Orange, mocha, honey, vanilla… Some kind of panettone, perhaps. With water: gets sweeter, not quite in the best of ways. Sweetish. Drop water! Finish: medium, very sweet, almost sugary. Comments: it doesn’t swim too well, and lost a few points once exposed to H2O. Still a really good grain, but the Cameronbridge was my favourite.
SGP:630 - 80 points.

Don’t Douglas Laing deserve some rest?…

Port Dundas 29 yo 1988/2018 (50.7%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon hogshead, 215 bottles)

Port Dundas 29 yo 1988/2018 (50.7%, Cadenhead, World Whiskies, bourbon hogshead, 215 bottles) Four stars
Always found it funny (although probably legitimate) that Cadenhead would put their grains into their ‘World’ range, as if the grains weren’t really Scottish… Colour: white wine. Nose: some action, at last! Eucalyptus and thyme at first, then Vick’s, camphor, stewed rhubarb, a lot of angelica, and touches of elderberry and woodruff flowers. Some very remote whiffs of kelp smoke, could be that this was an ex-peater cask. With water: lit cigars, garden bonfire. Mouth (neat): yeah, it’s the cask’s former content that’s doing all the work here. No ideas what it was, but it wouldn’t surprise me that some Lagavulin was involved. Or else from the Kildalton shore. With water: same feeling, just even bigger. Jack White playing with a large baroque ensemble. Finish: the grain is trying to fight back, with a few marshmallows, but it’ll never win. Comments: not ‘grain whisky’ as such, rather some kind of funny blend if you ask me. Funny and excellent. And smart.
SGP:553 - 87 points.

While we’re at Cadenhead’s…

Caledonian 30 yo 1987 (51.7%, Cadenhead, Cask Ends, hogshead)

Caledonian 30 yo 1987 (51.7%, Cadenhead, Cask Ends, hogshead) Three stars
Edinburgh’s Caledonian is getting really rare. Colour: white wine. Nose: coconut and sawdust aplenty. Not too sure, water may be needed and fast… With water: candy apples. The reddest ones! Some delicate touches of tamarind jam in the background, ripe plums, quinces, small berries (holly, sorb)… That’s nice but you have to take your time not to miss these. More complex than others. Mouth (neat): vanilla, pineapple and coconut all over the place, this is some kind of loco Pina Colada at high strength. Crushed bananas as well, perhaps… With water: well this time it wouldn’t get any more complex, and all those smaller things we’ve found in the nose seem to have gone elsewhere. Finish: medium. Apple sugar, cider. Comments: it’s very good, undoubtedly, but it’s still… grain whisky (so not quite whisky, ach, err…)
SGP:640 - 80 points.

Strathclyde 30 yo 1988/2018 (54.3%, The Whisky Barrel, Glasgow Gardens Festival 30th Anniversary, barrel, cask #62125, 138 bottles)

Strathclyde 30 yo 1988/2018 (54.3%, The Whisky Barrel, Glasgow Gardens Festival 30th Anniversary, barrel, cask #62125, 138 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: well, this time again, the casks’s previous content is leading the band. It’s a tad medicinal, rather coastal, smoky for sure, with nice whiffs of fir and pine smoke (after ski in the chalet), and only then more grainy, cake-y elements. With water: may I write that this reminds me a wee bit of Highland Park? Mouth (neat): nice, balance was achieved, the previous whisky does let the grain speak (even if it hasn’t got really a lot to tell). Really a feeling of good smoky blend, but we’re not quite in old White Horse territories. With water: oh excellent! Honestly, I do not know how they made this, but if this is ‘only’ pure single grain, I’m Alfred Barnard. Now I’m sure it is from a legal point of view, don’t get me wrong. Finish: long, smoky, even a little salty. Salt in grain whisky! Comments: on par with Cadenhead’s pretty perfect Port Dundas.
SGP:553 - 87 points.

Invergordon 44 yo 1974/2018 (51.6%, The Whisky Exchange, The Future of Whisky, 249 bottles)

Invergordon 44 yo 1974/2018 (51.6%, The Whisky Exchange, The Future of Whisky, 249 bottles) Five stars
I’ll tell it like it is, if grain is the future of whisky, Britney Spears is the daughter of Montserrat Caballé (R.I.P.) and Nadia Murad that of Theresa May. And I’ll soon start to blog about gin (may God forgive me). Colour: gold. Nose: very soft, with ripe bananas at first, then pineapples, white chocolate, rhubarb, Haribo’s crocodiles, grated coconut, and a drop of rhum agricole. Doesn’t quite feel old so far, I have to say. With water: this is pure milk chocolate (I was about to write Milch Schokolade). Mouth (neat): nah, this works very well, mainly because we’ve gone towards nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, macadamias… all those have been topped with the softest honeys (lavender, acacia) and a few drops of Cointreau (or Grand-Marnier, whichever suits you best). With water: indeed, that’s what you need to come up with a great single grain, forty-four years (you’re right, or an ex-Lagavulin cask). In short, any Chief Financial Officer’s worst nightmare! Finish: medium, rather perfect, soft, rather on gingerbread this time. Perfect marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: of course.
SGP:641 - 91 points.

A last one, perhaps. Back to Carsebridge with Diageo’s new Special Release…

Carsebridge 48 yo 1970/2018 (43.2%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogsheads, 1,000 bottles)

Carsebridge 48 yo 1970/2018 (43.2%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogsheads, 1,000 bottles) Five stars
1970? Wasn’t that one of the greatest years for rock and roll? Let it Be, Morrison Hotel, Big Yellow Taxi, Spill The Wine, After The Gold Rush, Abraxas, Lucky Man, Layla… But also Janis… Okay, enough brochure-y little writings, let’s try this oldie… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a thrill to have both the futuristic Invergordon and this one side-by-side. Both make you further understand that time is a key component, and that no whisky could be genuine whisky without time. In this very case we’re finding sweeter aromas, especially the ones that we often call ‘pina-colada-y’, mainly pineapple and coconut. We’ll add tinier notes of honeysuckle, orange blossom, marzipan, potpourri, ylang-ylang and perhaps hollyhock. Mouth: it is rounder and mellower than the Invergordon, but quality’s very equivalent. Crushed bananas, hay wine, overripe apples, quince jelly, hazelnut oil, a few drops of chardonnay (not the oaked junk they’re making at some places)… Finish: medium, rather fresh, and rather on bananas and vanilla fudge. Comments: the Invergordon was a wee notch more complex, but this ones just great as well. It’s fabulous that the oak hasn’t taken over one bit – but it’s also true that they have proper blenders at Diageo’s. Blenders that aren’t just salesmen.
SGP:640 - 90 points.

Good, we’ve had enough grains and anyway, I think we haven’t got any older ones in the library at this time. See you. (and thanks Tom)

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

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



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Amrut 2013/2018 (62.8%, Le Gus’t, India, bourbon, cask #2288, 102 bottles)

Aultmore 21 yo 1996/2018 (54%, OB, Exceptional Cask, for Chief Whisky Society, China, 294 bottles)

Clynelish 20 yo (55.9%, Artful Dodger Whisky Collective, bourbon hogshead, cask #6526)

Highland Park 1998/2018 (55.7%, Keepers of the Quaich, cask #7667, refill American hogshead, 297 bottles)

Highland Park 15 yo 2002 (55.8%. Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #4.241, ‘Humbrecht’s cough medicine’, first fill barrel, 191 bottles)

Ord 31 yo 1983/2014 (51%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon hogshead, 204 bottles)

Carsebridge 48 yo 1970/2018 (43.2%, OB, Special Release, refill American oak hogsheads, 1,000 bottles)

Invergordon 44 yo 1974/2018 (51.6%, The Whisky Exchange, The Future of Whisky, 249 bottles)

Domaine des Hautes Glaces ‘Ceros’ (54%, OB, France, rye, 764 bottles, 2018)

Domaine de Baraillon 20 yo (42%, OB, Claverie, Bas-armagnac, +/-2015)