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Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2019 - Part 2


October 2019 - part 1 <--- October 2019 - part 2 ---> November 2019 - part 1



October 31, 2019


Fettercairn to the very max for Halloween
(Don’t try this at home)

Today we’ll try to have as many Fettercairns as we can, just for the cause. That deserves at least 100 likes on Facebook and 50 retweets on Twitter, don’t you think? And if I die, well, the keys are under the carpet. And we’ll kick this madness off with the lightest of them all, which happen to be the very old ones. Isn't it amazing how life works out? Now let's remember some Fettercairn can also be brilliant!

Fettercairn 40 yo 1977/2018 (48.9%, OB, 818 bottles)

Fettercairn 40 yo 1977/2018 (48.9%, OB, 818 bottles) Five stars
We’ve had an official 40 yo exactly ten years ago, and liked it a lot (WF 89). This newer baby has been finished in palo cortado from long-time Whyte & Mackay partners Gonzalez Byass. So, we expect mustard and nuts. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s still got this slightly sour doughy side that’s very Fettercairn, some very obvious notes of ham, some old walnuts indeed, some mustard sauce as well, and this pretty game-y side, perhaps grouse, perhaps pheasant. Old woods in an old house, especially pines and firs. Any resinous wood. Mouth: works almost to perfection, unless you cannot stand any wood in your spirit. Wonderful walnuts and baked pecans, then indeed this fantastic sweet mustard, akin to those cassis-flavoured ones they have in Burgundy. They put cassis into just anything in Burgundy, did you know that? Gets then pretty leathery, with some tobacco as well, and a growing bitterness that would never reach the limits. Finish: medium, resinous, mustardy, and with a good glass of walnut wine. Comments: no one makes Fettercairn better than Fettercairn. I know, we’re stating the obvious, but it is a very different and pretty adventurous whisky that’s just a worthy part of the whisky landscape. We need Fettercairn!
SGP:362 - 90 points.

Fettercairn 50 yo 1966/2017 (47.9%, OB, cask #1)

Fettercairn 50 yo 1966/2017 (47.9%, OB, cask #1) Four stars and a half
They’ve finished this old glory in a Tawny Port cask. Imagine, a humble tawny! The price is a little high (err, 20,000€) but we’ll use our new motto again, at this price, better Fettercairn than Don Papa! Makes sense, does it not? Colour: full amber. Nose: very old rhum agricole? Very old Ténarèze? In truth we’ve left whisky territories here, and reached the land of all very old aged spirits, where they all converge. Old rancio, praline, toffee, coffee liqueur, prunes, a little tarry smoke, that black fermented plum sauce they serve with Peking Duck, walnut stain, crude cocoa, cigars, resinous woods, old balsamic vinegar, roasted chestnuts… Indeed, quite a whirlwind, you could spend hours and hours nosing this, while watching all the episodes of La casa del papel. Spanish casks and Spanish series, isn’t that coherent? Mouth: phew, to tell you the truth, I had feared this would be plain oak juice. Well, there is some oak juice, and indeed we’re wandering along the borders of ueber-oakiness, but some bitter oranges are keeping it on the right side. Well, more or less. It’s tight. Finish: medium, tea-ish. Tobacco and very black black tea. Comments: let’s be honest, the nose was otherworldly, but the palate’s a little too oaky. For me, at least. But it’s one of the greatest noses I’ve stumbled upon this year, serious.
SGP:371 - 88 points.

Good, to be honest, we’ve just had the ones we really wanted to try, and all the rest will be purely for decoration purposes. More or less… Oh and why not do this retroactively?

Fettercairn 35 yo 1978/2017 (53.5%, Ukrainian Whisky Connoisseurs Club Choice, 336 bottles)

Fettercairn 35 yo 1978/2017 (53.5%, Ukrainian Whisky Connoisseurs Club Choice, 336 bottles) Five stars
They have an extremely active whisky scene in Ukraine. Don’t worry if the numbers don’t add up, as with Scotch whisky, the stated age is just a minimal age. Indeed, this is almost 40. Colour: full gold. Nose: so very Fettercairn! More walnuts than in a walnut tree forest, more crème de marrons than in Ardèche, and more chestnut honey than in a hive that’s located in the middle of the aforementioned forest. Wonderful. With water: more sour old woods and walnuts, as well as Cuban cigars. Mouth (neat): holy featherless crow, this one would talk! Fantastic jams, honeys (chestnut honey is on eleven here), and a whole crate of raisin buns straight from the baker’s oven. Rather less whacky than other Fettercairns, although I would not say it’s not characteristic. With water: someone must have thrown a few kilos of chestnut honey into this cask, seriously. Do they have chestnut honey in Ukraine? I’m sure they have! Finish: medium, rounded, rather on cappuccino, and always with that honey I’ll stop mentioning from now on. Marmalade in the aftertaste – classic. Comments: it's a rich yet gentler and rounder old Fettercairn, rather leatherless and mustardless. But quality’s extremely high, while it would even remind me of some old Macallans. Stunning old whisky.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

We’ve actually got an avalanche of young Fettercairns by Cadenhead, which we’ll all have today, but perhaps one or two softer ones first?

Fettercairn 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Fettercairn 12 yo (40%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
I know life will be difficult for this little baby, in this tough context… Now the rather art-déco bottle is pretty lovely, is it not? Colour: gold. Nose: yeah, paraffin, cardboard, plasticine, overripe apples, marzipan, and a little baker’s yeast. Mouth: mustard and walnuts, plus bitter cordials and artichoke liqueur. Bitter oranges. A sour background as well, but it’s pretty civilized altogether, while older expressions had been, say ‘wilder’ (you know, baby vomit and gym socks). Finish: medium, dry, rather on walnuts yet again, plus orange zests. Comments: I used to have the 12 at WF 70, but things have improved bigly, as someone in D.C. would say.
SGP:461 - 78 points.

Fettercairn 12 yo 2006/2019 (57.4%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles)

Fettercairn 12 yo 2006/2019 (57.4%, North Star Spirits, bourbon hogshead, 180 bottles) Three stars
Colour: straw. Nose: Fettercairn can be a little LOL, and indeed this is a little LOL. Fresh concrete, old aluminium pan, brake pads, new magazine, electronics, and bitter chocolate. It’s not challenging, but… With water: mustard sauce and cinchona! Mouth (neat): eau-de-vie and walnut wine, raw kirsch, iron, bitter oranges, Campari, gin… With water: rather sweeter, and more on marmalade, as well as cranberry juice. That’s funny too, how it lost a large part of its challenging mustardy side after reduction. Finish: rather long, bone dry when neat, and fruitier, almost easy when watered-down. Comments: don’t bother, add water straight away to this intriguing, pretty belligerent malt whisky.
SGP:561 - 81 points.

And now the utter fighters, the Navy Seals of whisky if you wish, from the lightest (so to speak) to the strongest…

Fettercairn 29 yo 1988/2018 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, hogshead, 252 bottles)

Fettercairn 29 yo 1988/2018 (54.9%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, hogshead, 252 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: butter cream, ink, ashes, walnuts, aspirin tablets, and loads of bread dough, leaven, and just beer. Extreme stuff for sure. With water: vase water and damp magazines in the dustbin. Dough and cheeses. Not for beginners for sure, even experienced and immodest tasters such as this will be finding this Fettercairn a little challenging. Mouth (neat): it’s funny how, with Fettercairn, noses and palates can diverge vastly. That’s more or less the case here, even if there is a sour, doughy side for sure. The rest is cleaner, less fermentary, and more on oranges and nuts. Citrons and white pepper. With water: ah, that worked, this is a nice cordial, with bitter oranges, quinquina, tonic wine, and even a little Buckfast wine. Finish: long, more peppery and chalky. Dry. Comments: by no means you could score these ones with certainty and a free mind. Abracadabra…
SGP:361 - 84 points.

Fettercairn 10 yo 2008/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Pinot Noir, 264 bottles)

Fettercairn 10 yo 2008/2019 (56.6%, Cadenhead, Wine Cask, Pinot Noir, 264 bottles) Three stars
Pinot noir (from New Zealand)! In fact it’s a finishing. But pinot noir! We’ll fasten our seatbelt and put our helmet on before we start. Good, I’m ready… Colour: apricoty. Nose: fumes, red pepper, sour dough, cassis, silverware, ink and carbon paper, tomato sauce, scoria, leaven… Well well well… With water: breadier, sootier, more on some kind of insane Eastern-Swiss muesli. Mouth (neat): works much better on the palate. Cherry wine and green peppercorn, then just plain cherries. Cloves. It’s odd, but not unbalanced, even if there’s feeling of premix. Whisky + Cherry Heering, like. With water: no, wait, this is some kind of stronger sangria. Peppers playing the main parts. Finish: medium, sweeter, and even kind of honeyed. Cherries again in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly not the utter disaster I was expecting. They got me (again).
SGP:551 - 80 points.

Fettercairn 11 yo 2007/2019 (56.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads)

Fettercairn 11 yo 2007/2019 (56.7%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads) Four stars
Colour: straw. Nose: ah, roasted nuts and cereals, plus shortbread and butterscotch! Totally un-Fettercairn this time, rather ‘average Speyside’, in the best sense. Cakes, brioches, chocolate, custard, praline, malt, barley… With water: more of all that, with lovey notes of panettone and kougelhopf. Orange blossom, perhaps (no, not in kougelhopf). Mouth (neat): is this really Fettercairn? All boxes ticked, breads, pastries, cereals, oranges, shortbread… With water: same, and even better. Classic mocha, chocolate, malt, popcorn, butterscotch. It’s only in the distant background that a few fermentary and dirtier notes keep singing. Finish: rather long with, there, some mustard and some walnuts. Mind you, we had forgotten that this is Fettercairn. Comments: recharred wood? I find this young baby excellent – while it showcases what some well-worked dynamic oak can do to a spirit. More about that in the coming weeks, but don’t hold your breath.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Fettercairn 10 yo 2009/2019 (57.3%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 516 bottles)

Fettercairn 10 yo 2009/2019 (57.3%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, bourbon hogsheads, 516 bottles) Three stars
Colour: straw. Nose: barley, porridge, a little sawdust, some bread, and not much Fettercairnness once again. Perhaps wee whiffs of lavender and indeed, mustard, but that’s all. Forgot to mention wet chalk and fresh plaster. Not a profile that displeases me, but this is not quite Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.  With water: dry and austere. Grassy. Mouth (neat): ah good! Ales and custard, liquorice, Christmas cake, pepper and chalk. I like this little one. With water: yep. Too bad the nose was a little non-existent. Nice liquorice and bitter oranges. Finish: long, firm, tight, on liquorice and grapefruits. Comments: some ups and some downs here, but it is a very fine malt on the palate.
SGP:551 - 81 points.

Fettercairn 11 yo 2007/2019 (57.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogsheads, 312 bottles)

Fettercairn 11 yo 2007/2019 (57.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon hogsheads, 312 bottles) Three stars and a half
Pff, losing a bit of steam at WF Towers, but we’ve done worse things before. Take heart! But really, looks like Cadenhead have got more casks of Fettercairn than Fettercairn themselves. Quite. Colour: gold. Nose: a rounder, un-Fettercairn one again. Breads, butterscotch, brioche, custard, halva, shortbread, yadda yadda yadda… With water: same. Pastries, including oriental ones baked by lovely Kurd women. Let’s not forget them, and let’s stop being greedy and cupid. Mouth (neat): oh goody good! Cointreau, pumpernickel, ginger ale, speculoos, malt extracts… With water: just excellent! Malt, cakes, bonbons, butterscotch, Cointreau, custard… Reeks of well-burnt American oak. Finish: medium, very cake-y and a tad international (what?) Perhaps a little too much fresh oak in the aftertaste? Comments: a pretty malty young Fettercairn that I enjoyed, but the other 2007 was a notch ‘higher’ in my book
SGP:451 - 84 points.

Speaking of being high, I believe we’ll soon have to put a stop to this madness. Not now though…

Fettercairn 9 yo 2008/2018 (57.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, hogsheads, 564 bottles)

Fettercairn 9 yo 2008/2018 (57.8%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, hogsheads, 564 bottles) Three stars and a half
Cadenhead have called this one ‘sublime’ on one of their websites. I know we are our own best advocates, as the saying goes, but still, that’s a little un-Campbeltown… (LOL) Colour: white wine. Nose: fudge and caramel, custard, a few fresh herbs (grass, basil), and some kind of indistinct plum spirit. Sublime? Not yet. With water: all right, barley and earth. Nice, but perhaps not quite sublime? Mouth (neat): it’s good, ale-y, caramelised, malty, pleasantly spicy, peppery, with some chocolate, but it’s not quite sublime in my humble opinion (as we used to say when the Web was still kind of civilised and not taken over by silly brands and fake hipster experts with creepy agendas - did I just write that, really?) With water: really, it’s good. Good maltiness and Guinness-like beerness. Finish: long and very malty, as in malty beers. Comments: something’s happening with this one, it’s kind of closer to the raw materials, but it’s lost the largest part of any Fettercairnness. Mustard? Zilch! Walnuts? Barely! Ham? What ham? Remember, active oak kill distillates. This is going to become an issue in the coming years, hope I’ll still be around to discuss the matters and carry the flag high.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Quick, a very last one (this is getting both insane and unnecessary)…

Fettercairn 9 yo 2008/2018 (58.8%, Cadenhead, Warehouse Tasting)

Fettercairn 9 yo 2008/2018 (58.8%, Cadenhead, Warehouse Tasting) Four stars
This one got transferred to a sherry hogshead in 2015. May we still try this, even if we aren’t currently in any sort of warehouse? Does a garage work? A kitchen? Colour: gold. Nose: ah, rum? There’s something South-American to this baby, and indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s rhum vieux from Martinique. I am not exaggerating, cross my heart. Nice cakes thereafter, cigarettes, even mushrooms, sand and earth… With water: oh, bouillons, stocks, marrow, and beef jerky! A first within this little session, beyond the notes of ham that the old OBs used to showcase. Mouth (neat): it’s one of these young malts that have seen some very active oak and which would consequently display fair amounts of deep stout. Not bad at all, but it doesn't exactly play with kid gloves, if I may say so. With water: crikey; this works ,once again! Great soups and bouillons, it’s just that you need to add water or you’re missing the point. Finish: a little unconvincing when neat, pretty great when reduced with care (and a good pipette). Comments: thank you Tomislav and everyone in Campbeltown!
SGP:461 - 87 points.

Didn’t we just have twelve (12) Fettercairns in a row and no dud? Could you please confirm? (Many thanks, Tom)

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


October 30, 2019


Octomore, indie and quasi-indie

You know Octomore, the peatier Port Charlotte, which is the peatier Bruichladdich. We’ll have the new OC by Elixir, and then two private casks from Big Jim McEwan’s own stash. But those came from proper ‘château’ wine casks (not STR barriques), so let’s be careful, very careful…

Oc6 (58.1%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, 2019)

Oc6 (58.1%, Elixir Distillers, Elements of Islay, 2019) Two stars
I don’t see no vintage statement here, what happened? Back to older habits? But let’s let the liquid sing… Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s like nosing mercurochrome blended with gentian eau-de-vie. Nothing to add. With water: fresh putty and paint. Say green. Mouth (neat): brutal, almondy, sooty, salty. Reminiscent of fresh paint, once again, and really, very brutal. Not saying I can’t handle it, but I can listen to a Yoko Ono CD too, if you see what I mean. With water: tends to lose focus and to get disjointed. Iodine, sooty waters, supermarket mezcal… Sorry to say, I don’t think there’s much pleasure to be had here. Finish: long, salty, a little gherkiny (apologies), and pretty lessish. That would be the opposite or ‘moreish’. Comments: I don’t know what happened, it’s as if this was hardly mature and it’s true that Brexit places an intolerable strain on our nerves (what?) But Oc5 was in a whole different world, same with other very new Elements of Ìslay! (no less than WF 91).
SGP:258 - 75 points.

Octomore 11 yo 2007/2019 (60.3%, The Cask Whisperer, Château d’Yquem cask, 292 bottles)

Octomore 11 yo 2007/2019 (60.3%, The Cask Whisperer, Château d’Yquem cask, 292 bottles) Four stars and a half
Jim McEwan’s own cask. Sauternes casks are wonderful, it’s just that as the sweet wine’s extremely aggressive towards the wood, they tend to burn a lot of sulphur to prevent them from rotting once emptied. Unless, of course, they would refill them immediately. Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s a different kind of botrytis, I would say, with a different kind of smokiness, some roasted nuts aplenty (pine nuts first), and an almondy side that really works. No apricots, roses  or quinces this far, but it is a very fine nose. Yquem remains king whichever the circumstances. With water: fresh marzipan all over the place. Mouth (neat): I have the impression that a winesky will defeat a proper all-barrel partner fair and square. In truth, I cannot quite believe my taste buds, as I find this very lovely, perfectly almondy, balanced, and even complex. Bittersweet dishes, salt, chutneys, curries… In truth, this baby’s got something Indian. With water: wonderful. Salted and smoked almonds, more curries, masala, goreng… Finish: long and miraculously well balanced. A touch of apricot in the aftertaste – there! Comments: all powers to he who decided to fill Octomore into Yquem wood. Oh, and I found no sulphur.
SGP:457 - 89 points.

Octomore 9 yo 2009/2019 (63.7%, The Cask Whisperer, Château Lafite cask, 292 bottles)

Octomore 9 yo 2009/2019 (63.7%, The Cask Whisperer, Château Lafite cask, 292 bottles) Three stars
This cannot work, as Lafite is the epitome of Cabernetness, thus of red wine, and as in my book, peat and red wine will just kill each other. Let’s see… Colour: ripe apricot. Nose: right. Jaffa cakes, anyone? Sourdough? Porridge and fumes? Cigar smoke? Strawberry yoghurt? Clafoutis? Christmas pudding? Long story short, the jury’s still out… With water: something else, not quite whisky, rather some kind of smoked cherry brandy. Mouth (neat): wha-ha-hat? Smoked cherry bandy indeed? With water: it kind of works, and the big red and the big peater do tango indeed, but we’re extremely far from Whiskydom. Not sure they should have tasting committees in Scotch whisky, like we have with most French wines, but I believe anyone would reject this and make this baby lose the ‘appellation’ Islay, if not Scotch Malt Whisky. You say heaven forbid? You may be right… Finish: long, smoky, almondy. Smoked cherry-flavoured marzipan. Comments: not bad at all, on the contrary, but extremely odd. Someone should launch some kind of ‘European Whisky’ appellation, but only after Brexit, and once an independent Scotland will have re-joined the EU. Yeah; we’ll see what happens…
SGP:647 - 80 points.

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


October 28, 2019


500 HP

Our 500th
Highland Park

Indeed, one of these will be our 500th HP on Whiskyfun, and let’s choose which one right away if you don’t mind, drumroll please… Well, very symbolically, it’s going to be the rather humble, yet very brilliant 10 yo with-a-funny-name!

Highland Park 10 yo ‘Viking Scars’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Highland Park 10 yo ‘Viking Scars’ (40%, OB, +/-2019) Five stars
We tried one of last year’s batches and thought it was brilliant (WF 90) despite that very, err, scary name (well done, S.!) I just chose it as one of my ‘coups de coeur’ of WL Paris too, so yeah, any excuses to try a newer batch right now... Colour: gold. Nose: typical, slightly coastal, mineral, waxy, honeyed, fruity and grassy, which makes for a perfect combo, fresh, firm, and pretty pure. No clumsy seasoning here, this is just impeccable, irrefutable, and, well, perfect. Mouth: so very good! Checking my previous notes just now… yeah, honey, lemons, salt, smoked shells, clay, oysters, grapefruits… tastes just a notch bitterer this time, but that may be me. Finish: a little more salt, chalk, lemons… Comments: imagine the very same make, just further matured to 12 ,15 ,18 21, 25, 30, 35, and 40 yo (I’m sure the 35 and the 40 would give us new John-Goodwins!), and with slightly higher voltages… Piece of cake, no?
SGP:552 - 90 points.

Highland Park 16 yo ‘Twisted Tattoo’ (46.7%, OB, 2019)

Highland Park 16 yo ‘Twisted Tattoo’ (46.7%, OB, 2019) Three stars
I don’t quite know why brands seem to feel the need to add names, not just to NAS but also to just any AS bottlings these days. But why not?... Now vorsicht, this one’s seen some red Rioja-seasoned wood, while tempranillo can be pretty pervasive. Now they don’t seem to tell whether it was red or white rioja, but I do suppose it was red indeed … Colour: light gold, not pink at all! Nose: rather cake-y, with some mead and, indeed, some strawberry jam or compote, as well as a little mint. But the treatment remained pretty moderate, we’re far from a Kardashian whisky. Phew! Mouth: red wine and spirit do clash a wee bit – they always do unless the spirit’s virtually empty, which is certainly not the case with HP – but this is acceptable. Some medicinal and chalky notes manage to swim to the surface too, which is nice. Keeps improving in your glass over (quite some) minutes. Finish: medium, perhaps a tad jumbled, but the citric side of HP is having the upper hand in the aftertaste. Comments: very okay. They should try white Rioja next time they would want to go un-fortified Spanish, or perhaps some very sharp albarino?
SGP:461 - 82 points.

Highland Park 12.5 yo (56.7%, OB for Whisky Is The Limit, cask #500146)

Highland Park 12.5 yo (56.7%, OB for Whisky Is The Limit, cask #500146) Four stars and a half
This funny baby was finished in a new firkin. Colour: gold. Nose: some spicy oak at first, mingled with Seville oranges and white pepper, then rather more peat than usual, some ginger, the expected heather honey, and something a tad bourbony, I suppose that comes from the new firkin. Impeccable so far, no off-notes whatsoever. With water: honey, panettone and biscuits. So, civilisation. Mouth (neat): all this crafty modernism goes well on HP; indeed you would almost believe this comes from a new hipster distillery. Ginger, nutmeg, gingerbread, wholegrain bread, pumpernickel, cloves, caraway, brioche and vanilla, then the mineral and slightly salty side of HP. No complains! With water: very good, spicy and indeed, craft. Finish: rather long, on spicy oak, triple-sec and honey. Comments: ever heard of that new craft distillery on Orkney, called Highland Park or something? I see great things in their future.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

What else have we got?...

Highland Park 1996/2019 (52.8%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #Mos19018, 219 bottles)

Highland Park 1996/2019 (52.8%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #Mos19018, 219 bottles) Five stars
Colour: straw. Nose: bright, mineral, coastal, refreshing, with some lovely herbal touches, fern, chives, parsley, basil, and a lot of damp chalk and plaster. This is what the people want (how do you like our little dictatorship?) With water: mud, humus, earth. Even nicer! Mouth (neat): perfect. Smoke, lemon, chalk, seaweed, grapefruit, a touch of honeydew, lemongrass, pepper. Does not do much but does it to perfection. With water: almonds and putty – bingo! Finish: long, waxier and even more mineral. Crunching a candle. Some smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: a perfect naked HP that needed no make-up (read sherry). Well done, MoS.
SGP:552 - 90 points.

Highland Park 16 yo 2003/2019 (53.3%, Maltbarn, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles)

Highland Park 16 yo 2003/2019 (53.3%, Maltbarn, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles) Five stars
What could go wrong here? Indeed, a meteorite could hit WF Towers while we’re trying this baby, but other than that… Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, rubber and waxes over some brake fluid and a little vanilla. Paraffin, grapefruit peel, green tobacco and tea… It’s austere and beautiful – but you have to like vertical whiskies! With water: grass and paraffin. Hardly sexy, and yet… Mouth (neat): pristine tangerines and lemons over paraffin and chalk. That’s pretty it but love that style. With water: Bauhaus whisky. We dared because the bottler is German. Finish: long, fantastically waxy and lemony, with the usual salty tang in the aftertaste. Brilliant. Comments: my favourite style, there were even echoes of Old Clynelish in there. And no meteorite, but boy, that was close!
SGP:462 - 91 points.

And now one or two ‘Orkneys’. Not too funny anymore, I have to say…

Orkney 12 yo 2006/2019 ‘Reserve Cask Parcel No.1’ (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, 2019)

Orkney 12 yo 2006/2019 ‘Reserve Cask Parcel No.1’ (46%, The Single Malts of Scotland, 2019) Four stars
A few casks blended away, without much sherry according to the colour. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s younger and so breadier, yeastier, perhaps also earthier, but some sides remind me of the fantastic 10 yo Viking Scars (what a name). Grist, porridge, lemon, chalk. Mouth: it’s super good. Smoky beer, lemon, salt, muesli, chalk, seaweed, grapefruits… Finish: long, and truly smoky. Smokier than your ‘average’ HP in any case. Comments: have they been making very peaty in 2006? No quibbles, this works.
SGP:464 - 87 points.

A last one, perhaps.

Orkney 14 yo 2004/2019 (58.8%, Artful Dodger, sherry, cask #18)

Orkney 14 yo 2004/2019 (58.8%, Artful Dodger, sherry, cask #18) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: but of course. When there’s this little sherry, modern sherried HP can still be great. We’re not talking about the old wonders here. Leather and chalk, chestnut (rather than heather) honey and a little gunpowder, some mint and some liquorice wood, whiffs of fumes… With water: used matches, bandages and mercurochrome, great! ;-). Mouth (neat): very good, with this mentholy side that dominates the leathery sherry. Oranges, honey cake, gingerbread, pepper, nutmeg… With water: leather slightly up, but we’re still cool. Finish: long and more peppery. Big ginger and wasabi in the aftertaste, careful! Quite some peat too. Comments: this one had something rustic, but I did enjoy this slight brutality. Handle water with much care please (hope the anti-alcohol lobbies will never read this). But did they put the peat on eleven around 2004-2006? Only bespoke batches? Who knows, we don’t even officially know about the distillery, mind you.
SGP: 463 - 86 points.

And quickly, a last minute entry…

Orkney 10 yo 2008/2019 (51.8%, Whisky Shop Neumarkt, bourbon, 150 bottles)

Orkney 10 yo 2008/2019 (51.8%, Whisky Shop Neumarkt, bourbon, 150 bottles) Four stars
This one for a very fine whisky shop in Zurich, Switzerland. Hoppla! Colour: white wine. Nose: bready, smoky, coastal, yeasty, with notes of roots, celeriac… This is yet another take, rootier, even more on the raw ingredients. With water: damp oatcakes and brown bread, plus fresh carrots, perhaps. Mouth (neat): I’ll say it again, what a wonderful distillate! We’re pretty close to the new make here, without much maturation and almost no wood influence, but that’s something we like at WF Towers. Bread, roots, lemons, leaven bread, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, seawater, salsify, pepper… What a wonderful soup! With water: the lemons are arriving. Finish: long, with a lot of sweet barley. Comments: much less peat in these batches, but on the other hand, the barleyness is impeccable. Some remarkable liquid bread.
SGP:452 - 87 points.

We’re really done for now, adios.

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


October 27, 2019


Malternatives: a little sack of Cognac

Not particularly proud of that one either… And it’s going to be almost a one-bottler show today, but first our traditional aperitif…

Forgeron ‘Napoléon’ (43%, OB, Cognac, Grande Champagne, +/-2017)

Forgeron ‘Napoléon’ (43%, OB, Cognac, Grande Champagne, +/-2017) Two stars and a half
Own estate Cognac. Matured for around 15 years, this one bears the ‘N’ seal, which means Napoléon, which means… not much, really, expect that the Cognac must be at least 6 (now 10 since 2018). The house Michel Forgeron is located in Segonzac. Colour: deep gold. Nose: extremely well-rounded, smooth and mellow, rather on acacia honey and dandelions at first, with a little fudge after that, then the usual preserved peaches and apricots. Very easy, pretty fresh. Mouth: pleasant, with a few oak spices at first, then those preserved peaches and apricots again, a spoonful of honey, and quite some cinnamon in the aftertaste. Classic, easy, perhaps a little caramelly in the end. Finish: rather short, with a little tea (oak) and cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: no shocker but it goes down well and keeps your palate relatively fresh. Not very ‘malternative’, having said that.
SGP: - 78 points.

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Lot 62’ (41.9%, La Maison du Whisky, Through The Grapevine, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019)

Jean-Luc Pasquet ‘Lot 62’ (41.9%, La Maison du Whisky, Through The Grapevine, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019) Four stars and a half
We’ve had a few official Pasquet lately and enjoyed them all, especially a magnificent ‘Très Vieille Réserve’ (WF 91), but this one’s just been independently bottled by LMDW. Colour: amber. Nose: mangos, oranges and peaches, what more would you want from a 1962 Cognac? Agreed, a lot of smaller, subtler notes, but the base here is first class. And so, we’re also finding honeydew, honeysuckle, wisteria, old Sauternes, rose petals, touches of mint and camphor, a little patchouli (peace and love!), ylang-ylang… What a nose! Mouth: it’s got a few green tannins at first – remember it’s almost 60 – but that’s nothing. Some wonderful touches of pear peels, very fresh walnuts, hints of gritty calvados, damsons, then rather peaches again, with a little cocoa and roasted chestnuts. It’s rather less emphatically fruity on the palate, but that was to be expected, I would say. Finish: medium, with touches of Turkish delights and the usual cinnamon. White pepper and strong Assam tea in the aftertaste. Comments: pst, 235 euros. Not 100% sure about the A.B.V. though, but it’s ‘naturally low’. Nose 91, palate more like 87, so…
SGP:561 - 89 points.

And now a funny quartet by you-know-who…

Distillerie Charpentier 35 yo (54.2%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019)Distillerie Charpentier 35 yo (54.2%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019)

Distillerie Charpentier 35 yo (54.2%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019) Four stars and a half
£111.60, just saying. All the previous Charpentiers by Cadenhead have ranged from very good to pretty stunning in my book. Oh, and this is a single cask. I’d be curious to know if these are ‘early-landed’ Cognacs, so partly if not almost totally aged in the UK. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s a slightly more rustic style, but it’s also more malternative, with a few more ‘deviant’ aromas such as rubber and putty. Whiffs of agave juice too, chestnut honey, a little paraffin, peach skins… With water: a wee metallic side, kiwis, a little aguardiente… This is truly ‘meta’ indeed. Mouth (neat): drop all that, this is full of herbal teas and tropical fruits. Mango peels, chamomile, even banana skin, then tiger balm, cough syrup, wee drops of chilli sauce (oak), cocoa, nutmeg… With water: hallelujah, we’re now on some 100% Cognac, with beautiful apricots, raisins, prunes, and a touch of chocolate. Finish: long, never exactly oaky despite this obvious tea that’s pretty black. Only the aftertaste is a little gritty. Comments: it’s a draw.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Distillerie Charpentier 40 yo (61.6%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 264 bottles, 2019)

Distillerie Charpentier 40 yo (61.6%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 264 bottles, 2019) Four stars and a half
£111.60, just saying (no typo, not copy-and-pasting that went wrong). As for the strength, we’re about to file some complaint. Colour: deep gold. Nose: not a drop of varnish, not one of kerosene, rather a gentle, almost smooth blend of flower syrups (mullein) and greengages. A little constraint, maybe, but that should be the insane strength. With water: kiwis and apples. I thought the 35 was ampler and wider, not the first time this happens with old spirits, very old is not always nicer than old. Mouth (neat): huge, indeed a little glue-y now, with williams pears (you’d rather expect that from a young spirit – or from williams pear eau-e-vie, naturally) and some kind of honeyed and mentholated apple juice. Not too sure, let’s add water… With water: we’re more in the style of the 35, with raisins and peaches, but with these tiny drops of chilli sauce again. Or Tabasco? Harissa? That works, mind you. Finish: long, curiously smoother and rounder. Honey and maple syrup, just a touch of cedarwood and cloves.  Comments: I tend to prefer the 35, by an extremely tiny margin. But it’s brilliant Cognac, for sure. Accumulate.
SGP:461 - 89 points.

Distillerie Charpentier 45 yo (61.6%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019)

Distillerie Charpentier 45 yo (61.6%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019) Four stars and a half
61.6% at 45 years of age? Did this baby age in Guyana? This one’s much more expensive though. £136., yep. Colour: deep gold. Nose: raisins, fir smoke, stewed apricots, jasmine, white chocolate. With water: very subtle teas, benzoin, a wee touch of musk, putty, a drop of ink, a little metal polish, copper coins… Mouth (neat): marmalade, raisins in rum, cinnamon rolls, stewed rhubarb, white pepper, soft Espelette chillies, paprika. With water: some menthol coming through, some liquorice as well, more marmalade, Szechuan pepper, grapefruits… This one has become totally malternative. Finish: long, dry, on coffee beans and cocoa at first, then marmalade with cloves, caraway and pepper. Comments: still a wee tad rustic, but we’re approaching stardom in my book.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Distillerie Charpentier 50 yo (62.4%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019)

Distillerie Charpentier 50 yo (62.4%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019) Five stars
LOL, the older, the stronger. Tropical aging? Kentucky? The Sahara? I won’t even mention the price, you would believe I am laughing at you. Colour: deep gold. Nose: rather less fruits, and rather more cakes, especially Jaffa cakes, sponge cake, a little apricot jam, and more menthol and pine resin than in the others. Mind you, it’s 50. With water: indeed, menthol and resins, cough medicine, Vicks, Jägermeister Director’s Own Selection (don’t’ check that, pure invention), eucalyptus, then whiffs of old roses and honeysuckle. Beautiful. Mouth (neat): yess! Menthol, embrocations, liquorice, pine tar, oranges, shoe polish, herbal liqueur, tobacco… With water: there, more tar and resins, plasticine, polish, all that over a good amount of apple and orange compote. Some touches of vanilla too. Finish: rather long, drier, with more cocoa powder, ground coffee, and cinnamon, but there’s some extraordinarily resistant note of grapefruits that keeps it kind of refreshing. Comments: there, this time, it’s the older baby that won it. No no no, that’s not always the case.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

We’ll have another flight of old Cognacs before Christmas. Meanwhile, à la vôtre !

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


October 26, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Live From Dornoch
This weekend is the Dornoch Whisky Festival, good enough reason to do battle with the A9 and make the trip up from Edinburgh. It’s a smaller and lower key event in the whisky calendar, but there’s an easy and relaxed charm about being up north and enjoying some uncomplicated dramming with good friends.


There’s no particular design to today’s session, rather this is just a wee tiptoe though Dornoch Castle’s whisky bar and whatever other drams might enter my orbit at time of writing. Although, we’ll try to remain tenuously linked to the festival and the region itself.



Orkney Malt 11 yo 2008/2019 (58%, Dornoch Festival Bottling, 175 bottles)

Orkney Malt 11 yo 2008/2019 (58%, Dornoch Festival Bottling, 175 bottles)
‘From the oldest distillery on Orkney’. Presumably ‘From the most brand sensitive distillery on Orkney’ was a close second. Colour: straw. Nose: rather chalky, pure and full of plain barley, lemon peel and straw. Rather a light HP despite the strength. Quite chalky and cereal with a little touch of beach sand. With water: more lemon, more chalk and a rather drier cereal profile now with a little white pepper and newspaper ink. A fresh grassiness as well. Mouth: Perfectly nice but perhaps not the most thrilling example of HP. Good texture, slightly waxy, herbal and with notes of sunflower oil and white flowers. Again, a lighter example. With water: works well with water, gets nicely mustardy, mineral, sandy and peppery. Some watercress and aniseed. Perhaps a few drops of ointment as well. Finish: Good length, green pepper, waxy lemon peel and some breezy minerals. Comments: Probably a tad young and there’s no denying we’ve had more thrilling modern HPs recently. Having said that, it’s perfectly good, quaffable malt that should work well with some drunken Dutchmen on Dornoch beach around 1am later tonight.
SGP: 462 - 83 points.



Linkwood 12 yo 2007/2019 (55.3%, Thompson Brothers, bourbon, 290 bottles)

Linkwood 12 yo 2007/2019 (55.3%, Thompson Brothers, bourbon, 290 bottles)
Colour: white wine. Nose: We’re comfortably in Glenspeyside. Very leafy, green, fresh, cereal and intriguingly lactic with these nice notes of vanilla yoghurt and milk bottle sweeties. There’s also all the usual orchard fruit notes of green apple, gooseberry and ripe banana. Straightforward, clean, easy and perfectly nice. With water: gets a little more interesting after dilution, some hay, soft waxes, more buttery notes and now a wee dollop of peach yoghurt. Mouth: buttery cereals, lemon barley water, toast, breakfast cereals. Nice but I feel there must be a gazillion such casks in Scotchland. With water: gets grassier now, again works very well with water. Sunflower oil, mixed toasted seeds, caraway and some parsley. Finish: medium in length and slightly floral, green, grassy and playfully fruity. Comments: Not super exhilarating but clean, easy and pleasurably fruity young malt whisky. The kind of bottle you could pour for someone to introduce them to the drink. Although I’d say water is pretty obligatory.
SGP: 541 - 83 points.



Kilkerran 15 yo 2004/2019 (53.1%, OB, bourbon puncheon & bourbon hogshead, 324 bottles)

Kilkerran 15 yo 2004/2019 (53.1%, OB, bourbon puncheon & bourbon hogshead, 324 bottles)
Matured for 10 years in the puncheon then re-racked for another 5 in a refill hogshead. So more a double maturation than a finish. This one was bottled for UK retailers to mark the 15th anniversary of Kilkerran. Quite excited to try this one. Colour: light gold. Nose: wonderful initial nose of medicines, embrocations, crushed beach shells, clay, canvas, putty and lemon-scented wax. All these textbook notes of camphor, metal polish, soot, barley sugar and bandages. Just fantastic and with one big beady eye on its bigger sibling down the road. With water: evolves slightly more ‘inland’ with notes of freshly bailed straw, parsley, Scotch broth, barley water and miso. That coastal salinity morphs into a superb savoury quality. Mouth: just great! Smoked olive oil drizzled over sardines, peppered mackerel, beach pebbles, mint leaf, ink, tar extract, more medical embrocations and pink sea salt. Hugely coastal, fat, medical, oily and superbly textured. With water: lemon and lime cordial with barley sugar, rapeseed oil, gorse flowers, herbal teas and camphor. Finish: long, medical, sooty and impeccably oily. Still wonderfully fresh, vivid and coastal. Comments: Bam! No messing about here. Totally brilliant whisky from Glengyle.
SGP: 563 - 91 points.



Irish Single Malt 28 yo 1990/2018 (42.4%, The Whisky Agency, sherry wood)

Irish Single Malt 28 yo 1990/2018 (42.4%, The Whisky Agency, sherry wood)
This nifty wee bottling from Carsten and co has already garnered a pretty hefty reputation. This one will be poured later tonight for Phil and Simon’s ‘Japan Vs Ireland’ tasting. Colour: coffee / amber. Nose: holy moly! A smorgasbord of exotic fruit extracts and dried fruit chunks. Mango, papaya, passionfruit, dried pineapple chunks, star fruit and kumquat (Marcel is away playing golf sadly). However, where the bourbon matured Irish tend to stick with fresh / ripe fruits, the sherry here adds a layer of earthiness, sweet raisins, tobaccos, porcini and expensive strawberry jam. Reminiscent of a sherries 60s Bowmore no less! Mouth: shut the front door! Stunning old style sherry. Bitter chocolate, black cherries, dark fruits stewed in old Cognac, the best espresso and still all these persistent juicy and crystallised exotic fruits. Totally thrilling. Finish: not the longest and teetering on the edge of tannic but there’s still bags of prunes, dark chocolate, hessian, coffee and mango puree. Comments: I’ll dock it a single point for the finish but this is serious and slightly otherworldly old Irish Whiskey that nods towards 60s Bowmore in style and wears some stunningly clean and bright old school sherry as well. Worth trying if you can.
SGP: 751 - 92 points.



Yoichi 10 yo 2008/2018 (59%, OB for Whisky School, cask #409288, virgin American oak heavily charred)

Yoichi 10 yo 2008/2018 (59%, OB for Whisky School, cask #409288, virgin American oak heavily charred)
Another from tonight’s tasting lineup. A very cool single cask Yoichi that was produced as part of a programme that Nikka used to run where people could come and make some whisky and then, a decade or so later, all the participant could buy some bottles. Very cool I say, although probably symptomatic of a more innocent whisky era. Colour: orangey amber. Nose: what I like is that you definitely feel the freshness of the oak but rather than aggression it is creamy, luscious, sweet and the spiciness is warming. Most importantly of all it doesn’t obfuscate the Yoichi character, you still get this lovely soft herbal tarry quality with medically accented notes of peat, caraway, herbal liqueurs and hints of anthracite embers. With water: crystallised ginger in syrup, green fruits, damsons, greengage, gooseberry compote and spied vanilla custard. Very good! Mouth: big arrival full of canvas, wood spices, cloves, mint julep, fig jam and bitter orange marmalade with coriander seeds. Also rather a lot of exotic fruit and herbal teas. Some paprika and soy sauce too. With water: the spice notched up the volume now. Getting a little more tarry with notes of chili oil, firecrackers, meat stocks and camphor. Finish: long, leather, tobacco, charcoal embers, soot, ointments and lightly herbal peat with fruity red chili. Comments: I have to say, I’m always a little dubious when words like ‘virgin’ and ‘charred’ start appearing on non-American whiskies. But this wee Yoichi is really terrific. I love that it never loses its Japanese accent, so to speak.
SGP: 573 - 90 points.



While we’re in Japan…



Chichibu 2009/2018 (60.4%, OB ‘Chichibu Edition’, rum cask finish, 622 bottles)

Chichibu 2009/2018 (60.4%, OB ‘Chichibu Edition’, rum cask finish, 622 bottles)
This one was bottled for sale at the distillery I believe. A little wary about the whole rum cask finish thing. Colour: gold. Nose: plum sauce, chili jam and freeze-dried raspberries. Excuse me? It’s all getting tad strange around here. Also some hints of gingerbread, pork ramen broth and bandages. Feels both slightly closed and a little all over the place at the same time. Although, it’s not without its charms. Water probably quite essential I suspect. With water: gets slightly sawdusty with notes of hot sandpaper, white asparagus and printer toner. A bit strange really. Mouth: very plummy and rich initially. Various red fruit jams, plum sauce, five spice, lightly tarry, some old ink wells and hints of turmeric and black pepper. Again rather meaty as well with lots of stocks and broths. The rum feels mercifully quiet. With water: a little more cohesive now, although the wood does feel rather modern and technological with these slightly hot, peppery and pencil shaving aspects. Some green pepper, cloves and pumpernickel bread. Finish: medium length and rather hot and prickly. Lots of chili heat, some jasmine tea and hessian. Comments: I find this one a bit difficult really. I adore Chichibu when it is - very literally - ‘unvarnished’ by various unlikely cask finishes. But I struggle to be a fan of this style.
SGP: 471 - 78 points.



Let’s return to Scotland and zero ourselves with an old grain.



Carsebridge 46 yo 1973/2019 (57.1%, Thompson Brothers, sherry butt, 437 bottles)

Carsebridge 46 yo 1973/2019 (57.1%, Thompson Brothers, sherry butt, 437 bottles)
Colour: rosewood/amber. Nose: cherry liqueur, Irish coffee and sultana cake. Could really be nosing some earth old navy rum. Continues with juniper, prunes soaked in Armagnac and a rather mint-heavy mojito. Very good! With water: gets rather dundery and very earthy. Also lots of coconut, Thai basil and something unusual like bath soaps wrapped in old leather. We’re entering some pretty late-night funk territory. Mouth: really, this is almost just good old rum! Lots of caramelised brown sugar, flambeed banana, burnt toffee, some soft medical embrocations and yet more rum. Rum n raisin along with any number of strong rum punch cocktails. With water: butterscotch, brioche, caraway distillate, some petrol and more raisins and sultanas. Also, did I mention rum? Finish: good length and back on brown sugar, burnt toffee, bananas, daiquiri cocktails and a rather nice bready quality. Comments: Very good of the Thompsons to bottle this very old and whacky rum. Also, I’m getting rather annoyed at the number of grain whiskies I’ve enjoyed lately. Please, nobody tell Phil Storry!
SGP: 741 - 86 points.



Let’s have a final few and try to remain ‘local’.



Glen Ord 11 yo 2008/2019 (54.8%, OB ‘Hand Fill’, cask #308296)

Glen Ord 11 yo 2008/2019 (54.8%, OB ‘Hand Fill’, cask #308296)
Not much info on cask type but presumably a hogshead or barrel of some sort. As I mentioned on these pages recently, it’s good that Diageo have started this hand fill option at many of their distilleries. Colour: gold. Nose: nicely rich and ‘full’ with lots of breads, gentle spices, green tea and some mixed citrus peels. There’s also a wee glimmer of wax as well which feels suitably ‘Ord’. Some porridge sweetened with honey as well. I rather enjoy this I have to say. With water: evolves towards a nicely autolytic profile with biscuity richness, more breads, yeasty sourdough, salted butter and some freshly chopped herbs.  Mouth: there’s a rather direct vanilla sweetness here but it’s very creamy and opulent and doesn’t feel confected or artificial. There’s some syrupy slightly tropical fruit notes underneath as well. Hints of sweet dessert wines, custard, dried papaya, apricot, lychee and a nice spicy / waxy balance. I find this really excellent. With water: again this is more bready and biscuity now with a nice thread of natural, honeyed sweetness. Get’s slightly more floral as well with a wee note of fresh linen. Finish: good length, getting slightly drier and earthier with notes of chamomile tea, soft waxes, dried flowers and mushroom powder. Comments: Something of a surprise. What I love is that it feels very ‘highland’ with this rather gutsy and rich profile. A character that feels very ‘Ord’. I’m a fan. More of this please Diageo!
SGP: 462 - 88 points.



Clynelish 25 yo 1993/2019 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, refill hogshead, 220 bottles)

Clynelish 25 yo 1993/2019 (54.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseur’s Choice, refill hogshead, 220 bottles)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: we’ve struck Clynelish! Chalk, floral waxes, seagreens, sandalwood, pine cones, moss, mushroom powder and a rather deep and polished cereal profile. Straightforward and perhaps a tad simple but unequivocally superb and hyper elegant. With water: sheep wool, sandalwood, pebbles, shells, sand, grass. On the lighter side but still classically and rather directly Clynelish. Mouth: yup, definitely Clynelish! Superbly lush waxiness, very light tropical touches, lemon jelly, white pepper, camphor, olive oil and gorse. Just totally gorgeous distillate. With water: wonderfully oily, waxy and fat now. Just pristine and utterly superb. A wonderfully rich yet fresh coastal vibrancy running throughout. Finish: Long, waxy, slightly tropical again, lemony, cereal and full of wee notes of clay, putty and limestone. Rather complex after all it turns out. Comments: A bottling that has done precisely zero to dislodge Clynelish’s lofty position in my esteems. I just adore this flavour profile and style, and especially the fact that it exists at only one distillery on the planet.
SGP: 662 - 92 points.



Dalmore 8 yo (43%, OB, 1960s)

Dalmore 8 yo (43%, OB, 1960s)
A bottle that was opened freshly last night. I’ve had this one a few times but never recorded notes. Although, there are quite a few different batches. Colour: light amber. Nose: amazing freshness. What’s so striking is that this could almost be a modern Dalmore bottling with this profile of bready, gingery, rich and opulent sherry. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking it could be a fake if you’d been poured it randomly. Although, having opened the bottle myself, I can say for sure it’s the real deal. Seriously rich, bready, nutty, lightly spicy, gingery, slightly meaty and rather fatty. It’s a very strange mix of modern and slightly old school. Hard to know what to make of it in some ways. But on a technical basis it is very good. Mouth: was there rye in the mash? Seriously this is spicy and full of pumpernickel bread, spiced blood orange, waxed canvas, baking parchment, toasted cereals, brown bread and orange cordial. Again, blind you could say this was a current Dalmore 18 perhaps. Even though there are quite a few more extreme wee parts which allude to an older style. Bamboozling whisky. Finish: long, leathery, earthy, dry, slightly minty, gingery, still very bready and still quite meaty. Comments: This is not the first time I’ve had similar feelings about these old Dalmore 8s. Maybe this bottle should be called Patterson’s Revenge? I find it extremely hard to pin down. When you try the 20yo in this series it feels unmistakably ancient in style. This one feels like a real mishmash of the contemporary and the old school. Despite the convolutions though, I definitely like it and I certainly think it’s technically very good whisky.
SGP: 462 - 89 points.





October 25, 2019


Little duos, today sherried Aberlour of good age

Aberlour, great distillery, wonderful Victorian settings, a lot of authenticity, and a very fine distillate. We quaff a lot of Pernod’s Aberlour in France.  Only two Aberlours today, this is a quicker session…

Aberlour 17 yo 2002/2019 (57.6%, OB, 1st fill sherry hogshead, cask #2499) Two stars and a half
A single cask, I believe for la Maison du Whisky in Paris. Sometimes, you really need whisky when you’re in Paris! Colour: office coffee. Nose: coffee indeed, teak oil, wood smoke, sauna oils, eucalyptus, burnt juniper berries, pencil shavings, lapsang souchong… But where does this smokiness come from? With water: more lapsang souchong, freshly sawn woods, pine wood…  Mouth (neat): a bit strong, with wood varnish and a hotness reminiscent of some artisanal plum spirit. Some burnt caramel, and really a lot of pencil shavings. Sherry-treated STR? There’s more oak than sherry. With water: better, fruitier, more on jams and Chinese sauces, or plums, but it lacks polish and roundness. Finish: rather long. Plum spirit aged in new wood and chocolate sauce (mole). Comments: not bad at all, but the oak feels too much for me, it’s too ‘modern’, pine-y, and too wood-driven. A tad disappointed.
SGP: 472- 79 points.

Aberlour 26 yo 1992/2019 (51.9%, Liquid Treasures, 10th anniversary, sherry hogshead, 101 bottles)

Aberlour 26 yo 1992/2019 (51.9%, Liquid Treasures, 10th anniversary, sherry hogshead, 101 bottles) Three stars
Hold on, isn’t that Melania Trump on the label? Colour: gold. Nose: get out of here, this is another funny one. Smoked butterscotch? Wait, mizunara? Remember, mizunara is some kind of Mongolian oak that adds £100 to just any bottle, how smart! Fresh turnips, buckwheat, brown bread, old fireplace, barbecue… With water: sour breads and woods, and more buckwheat. Breton galettes (crèpes). A biggish feeling of brown bread indeed. Mouth (neat): strange. Do I like it or do I hate it? Schweppes and toffee, rosemary and thyme, 90%-chocolate, pumpernickel, charcoal… Not 100% sure… With water: sour, fermentary, bready, spicy… In truth, this baby feels almost like some new 3yo craft whisky made by Tesla-driving ex-private-bank hipsters. Quite. Finish: rather long, on caramelised sour bears. Comments: this baby lost me, almost completely. Aberlour, really? 26 yo, really? Sherry hogshead, really? Felix qui potuit Rerum cognoscere Causas, said Virgil, who used to know something about Scotch malt whisky…
SGP:361 - 82 points.

Wait, that wasn’t exactly satisfactory, let’s pull out a quick ace…

Aberlour-Glenlivet 8 yo (50%, OB, Rinaldi, Italy, 1960s)

Aberlour-Glenlivet 8 yo (50%, OB, Rinaldi, Italy, 1960s) Five stars
Advertised as ‘Campbell’s Glenlivet Malt’, aun older cube bottle of the House of Campbell’s 8 years-old Aberlour. These wee bottles were almost always utterly stunning. Colour: amber. Nose: bang, perfection. Chocolate, prunes, mocha, tar, rubber boots, soy sauce, old brandy. With water: whoo-hoo-hoo! Raw chocolate of the highest kind. Fab, stunning, irresistible, self-imposing, evident and definitive. I could find other adjectives but I wouldn’t want to bore you to death. Mouth (neat): puts so many new whiskies to shame! This is old Pauillac, it’s got the finest raisins and fruitcakes, the greatest coffees, some perfect smoke, soot and ashes, an amazing tarriness, and flabbergasting notes of marrow, suet, and wild pipe tobacco. Dried porcinis as well. With water: please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade! Almost rancioting… Finish: rather long, on chocolate better than chocolate and the greatest old brandies. Comments: always watch the extraordinary little square bottles! (White Heather’s blend was great too).
SGP:462 - 93 points.


(Merci Angus)

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


October 24, 2019



Genuine Japan,
more crazy Chichibu

So more Doritos-whiskies. Any flavours, any kinds of casks! And always a lot of fun, and some stunning ones when they remain close to the rather pristine distillate.

Chichibu 6 yo ‘Paris Edition 2019’ (50.3%, OB, Japan, 1757 bottles)

Chichibu 6 yo ‘Paris Edition 2019’ (50.3%, OB, Japan, 1757 bottles) Five stars
A blend of seven bourbon casks with just a bit of mizunara (probably unnecessary) from two barrelheads. It was instant love when I first tried it at WL Paris, which was why I included this baby within top 3 during the ‘masterclass’ (again, hate that word) that we did there with Dave Broom. Colour: gold. Nose: totally on warm sawdust, vanilla, brioche, fresh croissants, all kinds of fresh breads, just a little nutmeg from the oak, some mashed potatoes, and just a wee spoonful of mashed Jerusalem artichokes. With water: IPA, pumpkin velouté, vanilla, Gueuze… Mouth (neat): mirroring the nose, descriptor for descriptor. Bread, banana, croissants, vanilla, mashed roots, warm butter, crème dessert (we have Mont-Blanc here)… With water: gets brighter and spicier, all for the better. Lemons and curry, brown bread, more mashed roots (celeriac, turnips, potatoes, carrots) with a little honey and sweet ale. Finish: medium, with some nutmeg as the signature. Comments: you gotta love very bready whiskies. If you do, try to get this one (while avoiding the nasty flippers).
SGP:551 - 90 points.

Chichibu 7 yo 2012/2019 ‘Intergalactic Edition 1’ (63.5%, OB, bourbon, peated cask, cask #2112, 182 bottles)

Chichibu 7 yo 2012/2019 ‘Intergalactic Edition 1’ (63.5%, OB, bourbon, peated cask, cask #2112, 182 bottles) Five stars
Another retro-futuristic label, I have to say I’m a total sucker for retro-futurism. Read old books or magazines about the future written by utter experts, and you’ll always have good laughs. Where are those individual flying scooters? This one’s been aged (or just finished?) in ex-peated Chichibu casks, so some very good recycling here. Chichibu too are saving the planet… Colour: white wine. Nose: luminous, clean, pristine, on soot, ashes and coal smoke. You do not need much peat to come up with a proper peater, do you. With water: ditto. And fresh celeriac and horseradish. Mouth (neat): I hate to say that I’m finding this extraordinary. This baby cuts you in halves with only lemons and peat. The thing is, the proportions are perfect. With water: game set and match. Holy featherless crow! A little manuka honey, that’s cool. Finish: long, incredibly precise and vertical, mineral, what we call blade-y. In that case that would be a katana, Kill Bill-style. Comments: to very young malt whisky what a proper tourbillon is to watchmaking. Oh forget…
SGP:463 - 92 points.

Could we have some funnier, more Dorito-y Chichibu please?

Chichibu 8 yo 2011/2019 ‘Intergalactic Edition 2’ (55.8%, OB, Belgian stout barrel, cask #4549, 236 bottles)

Chichibu 8 yo 2011/2019 ‘Intergalactic Edition 2’ (55.8%, OB, Belgian stout barrel, cask #4549, 236 bottles) Two stars
This is clearly one of those LOL-bottlings that could make a brick wall convulse with laughter, if you ask me. Nothing against Belgian stout beer, naturally. By the way, we’re still waiting for that Chichibu surströmming cask… Or a durian finish, or elderberry wine casks, or whelk soup wood…  Colour: gold. Nose: menthol and sour wood, that’s bizarre. Old butter, rhubarb wine, humus, patchouli, mould, kombucha (hey, a kombucha cask, ideas ideas…) … With water: rugby changing room. Yeah, hockey too. Mouth (neat): it’s kind of good, but it’s nasty. Akin to strawberry and mustard, chocolate and ham, or vanilla and soy sauce. Makes you scratch your head. Again, it’s not that it’s ‘bad’, it’s just that the great malt whisky plus the (probably) great bear create a feeling of… that’s hard to describe… perhaps of a tiny ex-soviet republic’s national liqueur? Made out of fermented reindeer milk, gunpowder and local herbs? With water: oh, what a recovery! Much better, albeit a tad too oaky, sour, and beerish for me. Nice sour/fermenting citrus. Finish: rather long, a kind of blend of sourdough with citra hops and lemon juice. Tannins in the aftertaste. Comments: I understand the hype, but I do not need this and find the baby, err, superfluous. Edition 1, anytime. Pst, I’m sure you could get empty Alsatian sauerkraut barrels for pretty cheap!
SGP:551 - 76 points.

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


October 22, 2019


Balvenie on the tracks

Indeed, it was about time we did a proper Balvenie session again.

Balvenie 14 yo 2003 ‘Peat Week’ (48.3%, OB, 2018)

Balvenie 14 yo 2003 ‘Peat Week’ (48.3%, OB, 2018) Four stars
This is proper peated Balvenie, not just some unpeated spirit that’s been re-racked in ex-peater wood – blended malt by another name - like some are doing elsewhere (while Balvenie did that too in 2010, with their 17 yo ‘Peated Cask’). We had enjoyed last year’s edition of the Peat Week (WF 85). Colour: straw/gold. Nose: extremely soft, clearly peaty but otherwise much rounded, vanilla-ed, and full of preserved fruits, especially apricots and mirabelles. Which, in my book, is very Balvenie indeed. Or there, a blended tea, one third lapsang souchong, two thirds early grey. Mouth: it’s relatively firm, and rather smokier than on the nose, with a feeling of barbecued fruits (bananas, plums), ashes and soft brine. Also a little mint. Finish: medium, fresh, clearly on peat and brine. Comments: Ardmore’s sparring partner in Speyside, would we say, but now that they’ve got Ailsa Bay making peaters at Girvan, not sure they’ve gone on making some at Balvenie, even for just a week a year. I’ll ask them. Anyway, same very good score as last year.
SGP:553 - 85 points.

Balvenie ‘Tun 1509’ (50.4%, OB, batch #6, 2019)

Balvenie ‘Tun 1509’ (50.4%, OB, batch #6, 2019) Four stars
Woops, just noticed that I had missed batch #5. Tell me about a whisky blogger (a what?) This is a vatting of 21 casks, all older than 21, apparently, but that last part may need confirmation. Colour: gold. Nose: the ‘tuns’ have become firmer over the years, probably younger on average, more fruit-driven and less emphatically honeyed than the early ones, as this new batch shows. Having said that, the composition is pretty perfect, fresh, youthful and yet absolutely not immature of course. I’m even finding more melons than usual besides the few bits of pear, as well as kiwis and cherries. Water is not needed. Mouth: classic Balvenie, with rather less oak (planks) than before, and more freshness again, fruity hops, lemongrass, green tea, greengages… Having said that, it’s still much less creamy and jammy than earlier batches, not to mention the regular middle-aged Balvenies. The kiwis are back too, and so are the lemons, which makes this batch curiously tart, almost acidic. Balvenie’s chenin blanc? Finish: rather long, with more pepper, and fairly huge quantities of green gooseberries. Comments: feels young and feels good. We remain in the same ballpark.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Burnside 26 yo 1991/2018 (46.7%, Cadenhead, Green Label, bourbon barrel, 174 bottles)

Burnside 26 yo 1991/2018 (46.7%, Cadenhead, Green Label, bourbon barrel, 174 bottles) Four stars and a half
Right, this is complicated. I believe W.M. Cadenhead are owning the Burnside brand, they even bottled several vatted malts under that name in the past. However, the teaspooned Balvenies are also called Burnside, so what is this? Just a Balvenie or a blended malt that’s nothing to do with Balvenie? The set-up may give that away, a single barrel, just 174 bottles… But let’s see. Colour: straw. Nose: could well be Balvenie indeed, a Balvenie that hasn’t seen a drop of sherry in its whole life, and that would rather sit between Bushmills and Littlemill. If I may! Mirabelles abound, and so do orange bonbons, papayas, dandelions and buttercups, as well as pink grapefruits. Very nice, very easy, very well-carved. Mouth: same comments, word for word, you could just add the word ‘pears’. I find this absolutely lovely and amazingly fresh, without being light. Finish: long and very citrusy. All citrus fruits, really. Comments: very little vanilla in this one, phew, we needed a break anyway. Vanilla in whisky is like drumkits in pop, stuffy. Now warning, this little Burnside is dangerously drinkable. Not unlike those anonymous Bushmills from the same vintages.
SGP:751 - 89 points.

Since that one was so good…

Burnside 27 yo 1991/2019 (44.8%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon barrel, 162 bottles)

Burnside 27 yo 1991/2019 (44.8%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, bourbon barrel, 162 bottles) Four stars and a half
Same elements, same fight, as we used to say in the army. Colour: light gold. Nose and palate and finish: it’s very similar, just a tad rounder, more topical (ripe mangos), and a little less tart and citrusy on the nose, yet those grapefruits are back in the lovely aftertaste. Comments: a fruit bomb. Use very small glasses or you’ll down your bottle in no time. Unforeseen High Evaporation Rate, as some call that strange phenomenon that sometimes occurs within whiskydom.
SGP:751 - 89 points.

Burnside 28 yo 1989/2018 (46.2%, Archives, hogshead, cask #4556, 84 bottles)

Burnside 28 yo 1989/2018 (46.2%, Archives, hogshead, cask #4556, 84 bottles) Four stars
Small outturn, great whisky, that a law. Of course not. This baby comes with some unmissable ‘Fish of Samoa’ on the label. Colour: straw. Nose: there’s more vanilla here, more papayas, more brioche and roasted hazelnuts, praline, mirabelle pie, Gueuze, apricots, acacia honey… Nutshell: we’re very close to classic official well-aged Balvenie, and rather in the style of the early-to-mid 1970s distillates. Mouth: surprisingly harsher, beery, perhaps a little too much on sweets and jelly babies for me. Some sour fruits too, chutneys, passion fruits, then meringue, lemon and rhubarb pie…  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still superb whisky, but I thought the nose was superior. Finish: better again, on some rather fantastic Californian IPA. Really, close your eyes; you’ve just quaffed a pint of Pliny. Comments: superb, once again, the Cads were just rather more ‘vertical’.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Indeed, all newish indie Balvenies come under the name ‘Burnside’, but that was not always the case. Let’s have an example, and then call this a tasting session.

Balvenie 15 yo 1974/1990 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #18103-18130, 1300 bottles, 75cl)

Balvenie 15 yo 1974/1990 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #18103-18130, 1300 bottles, 75cl) Five stars
Good, it’s not the first time we’re trying this legendary Balvenie, but it’s the first time I’m writing proper (hopefully) tasting notes. 15 years in wood plus 30 years in glass, that’s some set-up! Colour: light gold. Nose: pah-pah-pah! I had forgotten how great those vintages were, with these extra-phenols and honeys. It is a sublime nose, with lime tree blossom, pinewood ashes, thyme and lavender honeys, lemongrass, melissa syrup, beeswax, mirabelles and apricots indeed, camphor and tiny bandages… Oh well, this is all marvellous, and rarely to be encountered in any modern bottling. Not just at Balvenie! With water: a-s-t-o-u-n-d-i-n-g. Crème de menthe and almond paste, plus fresh putty and a touch of medlar. Mouth (neat): this is immense whisky, as huge as some 1972 Ardbeg – just one example – and yet almost totally unpeated. I’m saying almost because there is a little smoke around the corners. Burnt eucalyptus, or sauna stuff, perhaps. Otherwise, glorious citrons and lemons, bitterer waxes, and old-school Eastern herbal liqueurs. More or less. With water: please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade! Finish: long, fabulously waxy and citrusy. Eucalyptus-based cough syrup in the aftertaste. Comments: I used to have it at 91 but that was stingy. This is what’s missing today, complexity.
SGP:562 - 93 points.

(Many thanks, Geert)

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


October 21, 2019


Time Warp

The Time Warp Sessions,
today new very old vs.
old middle-aged Glen Grant

Thought we would do more Time-Warp sessions, which consist in opposing, so to speak, an old and a newer bottling of the same distillery. It’s even going to be a little wackier today, as we’ll have a new very old Glen Grant, and an old middle-aged one that was distilled a good few years later. Head okay? First, maybe the older bottling, which is at a lower strength than the new very old one. Head still okay?

Glen Grant 21 yo 1972 (43%, Whyte & Whyte, cask #158, +/-1993)

Glen Grant 21 yo 1972 (43%, Whyte & Whyte, USA, cask #158, +/-1993) Four stars and a half
So, this cask was bottled in Campbeltown by J&A Mitchell & Co. (Springbank), so probably WM Cadenhead, for Whyte & Whyte, who selected it for The Spirits Library. Basically, the long-extinct Whyte & Whyte company used to distribute some Cadenhead whiskies in the good old US of A. Some had been pretty excellent, but we haven’t tasted hundreds as they were rarely crossing the pond back to Europe. Whisky wasn’t totally globalised yet. Colour: gold. Nose: 1972 is a famous vintage at Glen Grant, many having been all on beehives, honey, and dried golden fruits, just like Glen Grant #2 a.k.a. Caperdonich. Yet this one’s completely different, much more on earthy, slightly metallic notes, with a first development on pine resin, menthol and teak oil (like), then rather game-y notes, soups, miso, Bovril… It’s all pretty complex, with very faint notes of OBE, perhaps, while it would get drier and drier over time. Mouth: the low strength (56 US proof) does not feel at all here, on the contrary, it’s potent and even a tad brutal at first, pretty metallic and unusually salty and ‘bouillony’. The fruits make a late appearance, rather around bitter oranges and some kind of sour chutney. Finish: incredibly long, just a tad dry, grassier, with a very salty aftertaste. Where does all this salted liquorice come from? Comments: lovable, just a tad roughish around the edges. On the one hand, you could argue that it was a different era, when all whiskies used to be a bit rougher, but I would retort that we’ve tried some 1972 Glen Grants that were smooth as profiteroles.
SGP: - 88 points.

Back to the earliest days of rock and roll (lame, S.)

Glen Grant 62 yo 1956/2019 (51.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Mr George Centenary Edition, first fill sherry butt, cask #4455, 235 bottles)

Glen Grant 62 yo 1956/2019 (51.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Mr George Centenary Edition, first fill sherry butt, cask #4455, 235 bottles) Five stars
This incredibly old Glen Grant was just bottled to celebrate the 100 years of former G&M CEO George Urquhart. We’ve tried a handful of 1956s by G&M already, and they have been stunning, especially one for LMDW’s 50th Anniversary, bottled – and tasted - in 2005 (WF 93!) Colour: deep amber. Nose: magnificent. The dashboard of an old Bentley (well, works with Austins too) that’s just been redone, natural varnishes and polishes, this faintly miso-y side yet again, a stunning pine-y earthiness (that walk in the woods, rather pines and firs here), an almost unnoticeable touch of Marmite and malt extract, and just one tiny porcini. Bold and subtle at the same time, but that may be the surprisingly high strength. With water: fatbulous! There, those honeyed notes that were missing a bit in the ’72, they’re all here. Basically, it’s akin to the best mead in the world, plus the best brioche and the best dried figs. Mouth (neat): hurray, no over-woodiness at all (really, at all) and rather a fantastic chestnut honey – marmalade – mint liqueur combination. This is very wow. Wonderful touches of bouillon again, Chinese fondue, miso, Maggi… With water: incredible balance and almost under-oakiness. There is quite some oak of course, but it is not oaky at all, go figure. Time to call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade, perhaps. Finish: long, on the same exceptional meady notes, sultanas, earl grey, bergamots, chocolate, and, well, just the whole dictionary. Comments: you’d almost believe they’ve used demi-johns like in Cognac and moved this one to a secret paradise around 30 years ago, but of course they haven’t. I haven’t checked the price – who counts anyway? (careful, S.)
SGP:561 - 93 points.

(Mucho gracias Angus)

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


October 20, 2019


Rums at random, looking for malternatives

We keep looking for them, but it’s true that we’ve learned, over the years, how to avoid the putrid swills and the very cloying sugar bombs. The world of rum is full of traps, but that’s a part of its numerous charms.

Smokey Soul (40%, Sushi+Soul, +/-2019)

Smokey Soul (40%, Sushi+Soul, +/-2019) Two stars
A blend of Dominican and Panamanian rums, finished in, better get ready for this, a ‘Laphroaig merlot bourbon barrel’. I’m sure this is all a matter of having fun… Colour: amber. Nose: isn’t it absolutely cool to taste a blend of Dominican and Panama rums that’s not overly heady from the start? Not sure I’m finding the Laphroaig having said that, but there’s good molasses and perhaps elderflower jelly. Or there, could be that the peater adds aromas that are rather akin to those of a proper Jamaican. They could be onto something big here and I’m not joking. Some Martiniquans already used Islay whiskies, by the way. Mouth: hey, hey hey! I’m not saying it’s perfect rum, and frankly, it’s got some weak spots (the oak’s a little dirty and crayony at the same time), but the peater, not to mention the merlot, did add something spicy and herbal to this otherwise pretty bland base (I suppose it was bland). Finish: a little short, with touches of pineapples and flower jellies. Comments: I think it’s worth working further on this metanoical concept. You can’t quite impart further damage to a Dominican anyway (oh, S.!). So with encouragements…
SGP:342 - 72 points.

Since we just had something partly from Panama… (ad since I’m in a good mood)…

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1998/2018 (59.2%, Valinch & Mallet, cask #19-2001R, 221 bottles)

Panama 12 yo 2006/2018 ‘PMD’ (58.6%, Valinch & Mallet, 279 bottles) Two stars
This ‘should’ come from Don José, a.k.a. Abuelo. But let’s forget about any OBs, they’re all horrible anyway, and focus on the selecting skills of the better IBs… Colour: deep gold. Nose: coffee and fudge, with hints of toasted oak and sugarcane juice. With water: light rum, with oranges and a little hay, a metallic touch, an earthy one as well, and a little oak. Mouth (neat): oranges and molasses, plus tutti frutti spirit and literally litres of orange liqueur. Looks like we’re safe, having said that, I’m not finding too much sugar. With water: more oranges. Finish: short, orange-y, sweeter. A lot of lavender and mint in the aftertaste. Comments: light rum for lovers of light rums. Not my preferred style, but within that style, it’s probably a very good one. <PC-mode off>.
SGP:530 - 75 points.

Okay Mr. Valinch and Mrs. Mallet, let’s talk…

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1998/2018 (59.2%, Valinch & Mallet, cask #19-2001R, 221 bottles)

Uitvlugt 20 yo 1998/2018 (59.2%, Valinch & Mallet, cask #19-2001R, 221 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one from the Port Mourant double wooden still when it was still at Uitvlugt, so before it was moved to Diamond Distillery in 2000. Hey, are you following me? Colour: gold. Nose: absolutely wonderful, with the trademark menthol and olives, plus the widest range of small aromatic herbs on the market. Such as dill, tarragon, patchouli, wormwood… With water: orange blossom, menthol, nougat, black olives, liquorice wood. What a combination! Mouth (neat): there’s a point, when you blend natural mint and orange liqueurs; where you reach some kind of utterly perfect balance. That’s exactly the case here. With water: ah, these wee soapy tones that often come with reduction and that will just take their time. No worries, I’m in no hurry. Zzz zzz zzz… After ten minutes: got them, they are almost gone. More oranges and olive juices and oils. Finish: medium, getting drier. Liquorice. Comments: careful with water, one again. In my very moderate experience, it’s much easier to reduce whisky than these phenolic (like) rums.
SGP:362 - 88 points.

Oh, something funny…

Teeda 5 yo (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2018)

Teeda 5 yo (40%, OB, Japan, +/-2018) Four stars
This stems from the infamous Helios Distillery on Okinawa, where they also ‘make’ that fake Japanese whisky called Kura. So, what is this rum? Truly Japanese or just sourced, blended, and kanji-ed? We cannot spend hours roaming the Web to try to find out (ha, the dark dungeons of the Web!) so let’s just taste this… Colour: white wine. Nose: hold on, this is very nice! There’s something floral (jasmine), something spicier (caraway), and then a rather estery combination that hints at either Fiji, or Thailand. Really very nice, if Helios make this themselves (I mean distil), well, congrats! Mouth: I find this really very good. Notes of sake (but of course, S.), orange liqueur, parfait amour, Linie aquavit, then drops of seawater, poppy seeds, and pomegranates. Agreed, that’s an unusual combo, but it works even at those lousy 40% vol. Surprise surpise. Finish: not too long, but on a lot of liquorice and aniseed. So, aniseed-flavoured liquorice, if you will. Comments: sometimes the world of spirits surprises you. I’m about to buy a bottle of this, imagine, but it’s true that I’m a dedicated aniseed freak.
SGP:362 - 86 points.

While we’re on Okinawa (and full of good will…)

Cor Cor ‘Red’ (40%, Japan, +/-2019)

Cor Cor ‘Red’ (40%, Japan, +/-2019) Two stars
Cor Cor Green had been very disappointing the other day (WF 55), but the Red might be better. It’s supposed to shelter more esters, although it’s molasses-based, while the lousy ‘Green’ was rather based on cane juice… Having said that, it seems that the sugarcanes were grown on Okinawa, and not imported. Colour: white. Nose: all right. Apricotine (Swiss apricot eau-de-vie) and seashells, whelks, clams… how does that sound? Add crushed anchovies and some sour kinds of bean curds and you get a very unusual, although pretty sympathetic combination. Did I mention tinned sardines? Mouth: not too sure. More anchovies, ink, concrete dust, sour cherries, urchins, touches of rubber (stamps?), caper brine, and probably that seaweed we now all eat in our salads. That’s right, thanks, wakame! Finish: medium; dirty-ish, saltier. Perhaps mussels in the aftertaste, as well as, guess what? Sugar cane! Hurray! Comments: a lot of fun and funk in this one. I remember some baijus that were a little similar. Pretty unscorable if you ask me, what’s sure is that I like this odd baby better than its green counterpart. .
SGP:352 - 70 points.

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


October 19, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Two Lagavulin for scotchwhisky.com
The closure of scotchwhisky.com on Monday has generated a lot of chatter. It’s also quite symbolic, and perhaps symptomatic, of the times we live in. This is an era where journalism of any type, printed or digital, is struggling. SW’s most problems are not an isolated case. Indeed, if there is one clear lesson at all, it is that a model based solely on advertising revenue and support from the industry you are dedicated to illuminating and promoting, is pretty much dead.


I did not agree with everything SW did or how it did it. In trying to be all things to all people it spread itself too thin and between the magazine content, the Whiskypedia and the news reporting there was a distinct sense of trying to run before it could walk. Perhaps a more precise and staggered build-up of these various aspects would have been more manageable. But I don’t know and I certainly don’t have all the answers as to what might or might not have lent it different fortunes.



However, this ‘all things to all people’ approach was, despite its problems, a noble endeavour and it is this sense of purpose and ambition that I think was SW’s most admirable quality. At its worst the content was occasionally a tad watery, or a little too cautious to challenge official convention. Though these criticisms are probably inevitable given the volume and variety of content it produced via a small army of contributors from all walks of life and industry. Mostly, SW was deservedly celebrated for its diversity and - most importantly of all - its accuracy.



I am every inch a writer. Not a journalist. if you speak to SW’s editor, Becky Paskin, you will hear a passionate and vigorous commitment to those very specifically journalistic qualities. When Serge and I write for Whiskyfun we record notes and observations with rather loose and personally defined rules. When I write Whiskysponge there’s pretty much zero rules at all. The same could be said for most whisky platforms / websites / blogs etc. SW’s commitment to sources, quotes, accuracy, research and reportage, all framed by a tight structure and clear organisation, sat at the core of its success and set it apart from all other digital whisky outlets.



When putting together my own contributions to the site, apart from the tastings, I was often pressed by Becky and Richard to improve the variety and quality of my sources. Not just to drop in quotes but to interview in better ways; to speak directly with sources and divine by questioning the most illuminating memory and opinion to enrich an article’s authority and veracity. In an era where the whisky internet is awash with poorly backed up opinion, hyperbole, conjecture and inaccuracies, this was something I suspect we will all increasingly notice by its absence. Indeed, the experience has been both educational and humbling for me and often reminded me why I prefer the lazy and easier option of being the ‘writer’ who opines and invents - rather than the journalist who works and reports. If anything, we should reflect on SW’s passing and all pause for thought about what makes good writing; what defines good journalism; and how the two can and should be fused to great effect.



There will be plenty discussion and debate still to come about what kind of system might effectively monetise an online magazine like SW. A Guardian style ‘opt in’ pay per month system? A straight up Patreon option supported by a careful degree of advertising? Utilising a system of payment for advanced access to reviews as some already do? Such models may well necessitate a smaller, more dynamic model than SW. However, they also offer a means by which the transactional nature of whisky writing might be further diminished. That contributors might be properly disconnected from the murky tangle of industry paid content and advertising. At least to the best extent that such a disconnect is truly possible. Although, in many ways SW’s demise is arguably a result to some extent of the industry’s disinterest in the site. No doubt almost all people employed in the whisky industry read SW, but how many companies actually supported it via advertising or sponsored content? If anything we might look upon SW’s closure as an indication of the industry doubling down on traditional marketing routes and eschewing magazines and traditional media. While on the other hand embracing the rise of the individual ‘influencer’. Discuss!



Irrespective of whatever model would work, I think the sad fate of SW should serve as a sharp reminder for us all whenever a platform of similar ambition and quality comes around again. For the sake of a few pounds a month, I suspect most of us would be happy to stick our hands in our pockets to support such an enterprise.



L to R
Dave, Becky and Richard



It is tempting to look upon SW’s closure as failure. But the truth is that for the time it was active it was a success. While financially its time ran out, the legacy will be one of information, celebration, thought provocation and admirable ambition. Let’s raise a glass of gratitude to the team behind it, Becky, Richard and Dave. Cheers guys, and thank you.






Lagavulin 7 yo 2010/2019 (59.6%, OB ‘Hand Fill’, cask #711810, refill bourbon)

Lagavulin 7 yo 2010/2019 (59.6%, OB ‘Hand Fill’, cask #711810, refill bourbon)
It appears Lagavulin have started offering these wee 20cl ‘hand fill’ bottles as Diageo have done at some of their other distilleries already. I think it’s a nice thing for distilleries to do for visitors, even if many get flipped, it’s still worth it for those who want something fun to take away and crack open later on. Now, maybe Ardbeg could join the party…? Colour: white wine. Nose: salty porridge, fermenting wash, carbolic notes, sourdough, malt vinegar, kippers and smoked cereals. Rough and ready Lagavulin with a hangover and no makeup! But there’s still something rather sexy about it. With water: a more mineral and saline edge. Pure seawater, oyster liquid, old tarry rope, burnt oatmeal and charred scallops. Mouth: Indeed this is really on boisterous smoked cereals, cooked grains, baked potatoes cooked in coal embers, anthracite smoke, kiln air, squid ink and anchovy paste. Powerful, ruthless, a tad disjointed, but undeniably fun. Lemon juice and smoked sea salt over freshly cooked chips. With water: this vinegar side is back. White wine vinegar with pink sea salt, seaweed crackers, spicy ramen broth, carbon paper and hessian. Finish: long, very lemony, sooty, kippery and full of this vinegar soaked fish and chip newspaper vibe that I find so often in modern refill matured Lagavulin. It’s ubiquitous in the 12 year olds. Comments: This feels like one of the Special Release 12 year olds on crystal meth. I find it a lot of fun. The kind of clever cask selection you can do when you have a few thousand to pick from.
SGP: 368 - 87 points.



Lagavulin 1988/2000 (46%, Moon Import ‘In the pink’, cask #2032, 341 bottles)

Lagavulin 1988/2000 (46%, Moon Import ‘In the pink’, cask #2032, 341 bottles)
Sister casks of this have been pretty terrific, high hopes… Colour: straw. Nose: reminiscent of the very early batches of the 16 year old with these kinds of oily, mineral / petrol qualities mixed with layered peat smoke, seaweed, soot, dense medical embrocations and lemon cough drops. Smoked sea salt, tar liqueur, herbal extracts and pine cones. Wonderfully elegant and evocative with these seashore, beach pebble and sandalwood notes. Kelp, rubber fishing wellies and black olive. Muscular yet coastal and wonderfully balanced at the same time. Grown up whisky. Mouth: a kind of oily peat quality. Sooty, earthy, medical, dryly herbal, tarry and treading this wonderful balance between savoury/umami and full on salty. Also some notes of white bread and black pepper with more dried seaweed and lemon peel notes in the background. Finish: Long and fragrantly smoky. Burning heather, peat smoke, wood embers, black pepper, miso, tar and cough medicines. Comments: I wonder how much this whisky benefitted over the years from being bottled at 46%. Feels light in some ways now, but there’s also a kind of eternal and ethereal quality about it too. Pretty enchanting old school Lagavulin.
SGP: 465 - 92 points.



Thanks to Iain and John.





October 18, 2019



(Partly) Genuine Japan, today Kirin’s Fuji

We’ll have both some grain and some malt, all proper Japanese whiskies, and even some ‘single blends’ if the God of whisky lets us live until then.

Fuji Gotemba ‘Single Grain Blender’s Choice’ (46%, OB, 420 bottles, 2015)

Fuji Gotemba ‘Single Grain Blender’s Choice’ (46%, OB, 420 bottles, 2015) Two stars
Colour: straw. Nose: not exactly oak juice, and there’s even a rather pleasant note of hot brake pad, but it remains grain, so some whisky that’s relatively thin. A curious touch of smoked maize in the background. Well, if you really need grain and you haven’t got any 1960s-early 1970s Invergordon at hand, this could make for an acceptable alternative. Mouth: same feeling, this is some acceptable grain whisky, despite the obvious oak that gives you the impression of quaffing, well, oak juice. Sawdust and orange squash, some burnt maize bread, a touch of glue. Well, something reminiscent of glue. Finish: medium, oaky, pretty bitter. Haribo stuff in the aftertaste. Comments: I’m moderately enthusiastic here, as expected, but as we often say, we’ve seen many worse grain whiskies.
SGP:461 - 76 points.

Fuji Gotemba ‘Single Malt Blender’s Choice’ (46%, OB, +/-2016)

Fuji Gotemba ‘Single Malt Blender’s Choice’ (46%, OB, +/-2016) Two stars and a half
Just one question, do they really blend at 46% vol.? Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s different, starting on Swiss cheese and paraffin, and going on with a few acetic notes and some pastries. A little mead as well, thick beers, and some natural marshmallows as well as custard and coconut. Could be nice on the palate, let’s see… Mouth: it’s rather fine, and pretty much on beers and fresh oak. Dry white pepper, cocoa powder, then kiwis and other greener fruits. Greengages? But it would remain oaky all along, with this feeling of sucking sawdust. Finish: rather long, but bitter and oaky. Drying aftertaste, with notes of plasticine. Comments: once again, I’m mildly enthusiastic here. Not bad but rather for fans, I would say.
SGP:371 - 77 points.

They bottled other such sets later on, let’s see…

Fuji Gotemba ‘Single Grain Distiller’s Select’ (52%, OB, 2017)

Fuji Gotemba ‘Single Grain Distiller’s Select’ (52%, OB, 2017) Three stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: it’s rather richer and thicker than the one at 46% vol., with many more cakes, chocolates, notes of pinesap, and simply bourbon. Could have been bourbon, really. With water: vanilla and sawdust up, but no precursors of bitterness this time, and no excessive oak. All fine this time… Mouth (neat): indeed, bourbon. A little varnish, vanilla, violets, bread (rye), lavender, liquorice allsorts and grated coconut. It is good. With water: so much better than the Blender’s Choice! Good easy roundness, again a feeling of rye, sweeter spices, touches of pink grapefruits, a drop of geranium essence (flowers)… Finish: medium, balanced, firmer you’re your usual grain whisky, with some fudge and toffee. Comments: all pretty fine this time, this is grain whisky that I could drink (and not just taste).
SGP:551 - 84 points.

Of course we’ll have the malt…

Fuji Gotemba ‘Single Malt Distiller’s Select’ (49%, OB, 2017)

Fuji Gotemba ‘Single Malt Distiller’s Select’ (49%, OB, 2017) Four stars
Let’s see whether this is a step up from the Blender’s Choice once again… Colour: light gold. Nose: you bet! Everything’s better mastered here, with one main asset: it does not reek of new oak. Lovely mildly medicinal touches, a little smoke, a little sea breeze, some camphor, seaweed, eucalyptus… It’s clearly more ‘Japanese’, I’m even finding echoes of Hakushu. Not a bad sign. Mouth: it’s a very different malt whisky indeed, much more to my liking, salty, brine-y, with some lemons, chalk, marmalade, cough syrup, even a wee drop of mezcal. Really very good, would we not know that this was distilled in Japan, we would have thought it was some very good imported Scottish malt. Finish: rather long, on some kind of smoked limoncello, then cough pastilles. A little more oak in the aftertaste, but that’s fine, no sawdust juice at all this time. Comments: this one’s excellent, in my opinion. Well selected, Mr. Distiller! It’s just a shame that neither ages nor vintages are displayed, while the whisky would deserve them, however young it is.
SGP:362 - 86 points.

Fuji Sanroku 18 yo ‘Small Batch Blend’ (43%, OB, 3000 bottles, 2016)

Fuji Sanroku 18 yo ‘Small Batch Blend’ (43%, OB, 3000 bottles, 2016) Four stars
Okay, this should be Japanese, but it says on the label ‘Blended and Bottled by Kirin’. Not ‘distilled’… So, who knows? All Japanese blends and blended/pure malts have now become suspect, I’m afraid… So please friends, do something, find a badge, an appellation, a GI, whatever! Colour: gold. Nose: top notch blend, no question about that. Mangos, mint, eucalyptus, honeydew, copper, incense, vanilla, and wood smoke. Elegant, complex, refined, subtle. Mouth: very good, malty (60%? 70%, more?) with a perfect fruity combination involving mangos and papayas, oranges, guavas, and half a litchi. The oak feels a bit in the background, but that’s the fate of many a Japanese whisky – some oak that may give it away, this ought to be proper Japan whisky! But let’s not insist on that or all the brand-building crooks and forgers will start to add sawdust to their miserable juices. Finish: medium, slightly mentholated. Chestnut honey and gingerbread. Comments: I find this baby excellent. Great work Mr. blender, this time!
SGP:561 - 87 points.

While we are at it, we could also try some blends from Kirin’s that are not labelled ‘Fuji’. While praying… Oh and remember Kirin had bought Karuizawa back in 2007, so who knows, maybe is there a little Karuizawa in these blends… And perhaps was there some Karuizawa too in the perfect 18 yo!

Robert Brown (40%, OB, Kirin, blend, +/-2010?)

Robert Brown (40%, OB, Kirin, blend, +/-2010?) Two stars and a half
A cheap blend by Kirin Distillers. To be honest, I doubt it’s Japanese. Colour: straw. Nose: seriously, it’s honest, with the expected vanilla and bread. Some say they use a lot of Canadian whisky in Japan, so this could well be Canadian. Mouth: not bad at all! Good light smoke, apples, toasted brioche, vanilla, a sourer fruitiness, drops of orange syrup… What’s sure is that it does not taste Scottish, so indeed, Canada is an option. Some even mention India. Finish: short but clean, round, vanilla-ed. Caramel and millionaire shortbread. Comments: nothing to write home about, but it’s fair whisky, pleasant and with good balance. Now it isn’t Brora either…
SGP:441 - 78 points.

Fuji Gotemba ‘Kunpu 2016’ (40%, OB, blend, 4800 bottles)

Fuji Gotemba ‘Kunpu 2016’ (40%, OB, blend, 4800 bottles) one star and a half
What’s unclear is whether this is a blend of grain and malt from Gotemba, or if it was blended with ‘something else’. The blurb on the label is very fuzzy, ‘a special whisky uniquely blended to complement the character of the hand selected malt whisky casks’. What? Colour: gold. Nose: pretty fresh, a little too oaky at first, a little metallic as well, with growing notes of cardboard and sawdust. Not a nosing whisky, and probably with a solid amount of grain whisky inside. Mouth: some good maltiness at first, but some bubblegum and popcorn is soon to take over and to make this combo excessively grainy. Sugar. Finish: short, sugary, thin. Banana sweets. Sawdust in the aftertaste. Comments: nope. This is some very average blend that’s packaged as if it was one of the crown jewels. A rather poor little whisky, in my opinion.
SGP:530 - 69 points.

Fuji Sanroku ‘Signature Blend’ (50%, OB, +/-2019)

Fuji Sanroku ‘Signature Blend’ (50%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars
Is this fully Japanese or just another sleigh of hand? Who knows? I know we had said we’d only have genuine Japan whiskies, but indeed we have neither proof nor even remote suggestions that this is properly Japanese. It doesn’t say ‘distilled in Japan’, only ‘blended and bottled by Kirin’. Bah, let’s try it… Colour: straw. Nose: dough, bread, liquorice, earth, oak, chocolate, pears, and vanilla, with a touch of mint. With water: more beer and pear juice. Pear cider, in other words. Mouth (neat): hints of tropical fruits, oranges, mangos, bread crumbles, and a very moderate graininess, which is always better. With water: yeah, fruity, with some heavily vanilla-ed whiskies in the background. That part feels sourced, but that’s just an impression. Finish: medium, rounded, sweet, vanilla-ed. Comments: a little soulless and thin, and it’s at €75, that’s twice the price of a similar NAS blend from Scotland, which really smells funny. You decide.
SGP:441 - 72 points.

Fuji Sanroku ‘Non Chill Filtered’ (50%, OB, blend, +/-2015)

Mount Fuji’s really getting expensive these days! A last one…
Fuji Sanroku ‘Non Chill Filtered’ (50%, OB, blend, +/-2015) Two stars
Colour: gold. Nose: similar but a little more austere, with many less pears, and rather more oak. With water: unnecessary. Mouth: almost the same whisky as the ‘Signature’. Not much to add. Finish: similar. Perhaps a little more oak? Comments: it’s not that these whiskies are bad, they are not, it’s just that 1. The sources are uncertain, 2. There’s no age statement, and 3. They are (yawn) a little boring. If I may.
SGP:441 - 72 points.

Let’s insist…

Kirin ‘Pure Malt Whisky’ (40%, OB, +/-2018)

Kirin ‘Pure Malt Whisky’ (40%, OB, +/-2018) Two stars and a half
Some ‘say’ this is pure Fuji-Gotemba, but why wouldn’t they have written ‘single malt’ then? The bottle’s lovely, having said that. Colour: straw. Nose: fresh, clean, porridge-y malt whisky, nice, with notes of apples and a little orange juice. Nice indeed, but not sure I’ll remember it tomorrow. Mouth: it’s fine, there’s some good malt in there, with a honeyed minerality. No obvious Japan-ness that I can detect, but that may be me. Good politics. Finish: short, but fine, on oranges and honey. Oranges will save the world. I mean, they’ll save average whisky. Comments: another one that’s a little unnecessary, without much character, but perfectly all right. For once, the price is relatively okay(ish).
SGP:451 - 78 points.

I promise this will be the last one…

Kirin 25 yo ‘Single Grain Small Batch’ (46%, OB, 2015)

Kirin 25 yo ‘Single Grain Small Batch’ (46%, OB, 2015) Four stars and a half
This baby’s said to be bourbon-style Japanese whisky. Let’s only hope it’s not simply… bourbon. Well, let’s not be bad guys again, I’m sure it isn’t s this time, as it says ‘distilled and bottled by Kirin Distillery Co.’ Which tells us more about the bottles that just say ‘blended and bottled’, don’t you think? Maybe not, oh it’s all so shady… Colour: gold. Nose: listen, this is marvellous! Phew! Wonderful floral notes (honeysuckle first, then lime and orange blossoms), white chocolate, honeys, a pack of Jaffa cakes, madeleines, fresh sponge cake, a touch of chardonnay, custard… There, now we’re talking!  Mouth: one of the best grains I could taste this year, and it didn’t even need sherry. Now it’s also fatter than your average grain, richer, with even more Jaffa cakes and various honeys. There is the signature oakiness, but this time it’s all under control, despite the twenty-five years in wood. Also maple syrup. Finish: medium, rounded, with some sugarcane juice and always these wonderful honeys. Comments: if like me, you rather hate grain whisky, try to try this wonder. The only problem is that you’ll have to shell out more than €1,500, which is just daylight robbery if you ask me.
SGP:641 - 88 points.

(Gracias again, Chris!)

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


October 17, 2019



Genuine Japan, today Mars

One of the pioneers of Japanese whisky, and the country’s highest distillery. Japan’s Dalwhinnie, if you will. Hombo Shuzo have issued their authentic Japanese whiskies under various names, Mars, Shinshu, Komagate, Iwai, Mars Maltage… It’s actually pretty difficult to keep track, but what’s sure is that all the ‘Mars’ we’ve tried until now have all been good to very good. But first, a little aperitif…

Mars ‘Kasei’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2018)

Mars ‘Kasei’ (40%, OB, blend, +/-2018) Three stars
Well, we’re not totally sure this is fully Japanese, to tell you the truth. They just call this ‘blended whisky’, so… Doubt it, actually… Let’s see… BTW, Kasei seems to mean Mars in Japanese, so we have a tautological whisky in our glass… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: as soft as a sunrise, and fresh as a daisy. Lovely floral touches, violets, maybe lavender, a little tequila (remember last time’s Akashi?) and the freshest brioche dough on earth. Very soft, very delicate, not grainy at all. Mouth: indeed, soft, with pears, hay, jasmine, a wee bit of pink banana, and indeed a drop of tequila. Hope tequila won’t become an obsession. Anyway, the 40% work well with such very fresh profiles. Finish: short, clean, on pears and violets. Comments: a very lovely little whisky, whether it’s fully Japanese or not. Easy, floral, fruity, fresh.
SGP:531 - 81 points.

Mars Komagate ‘Limited Edition 2018’ (48%, OB, 2018)

Mars Komagate ‘Limited Edition 2018’ (48%, OB, 2018) Four stars
This one only contains young malts from Mars, but some friends may remember that we scored a 2014/2019 91 points in May this year. Colour: straw. Nose: ups and downs for a while (fresh barley to sulphur and back), but it would start to keep quieter after just one minute, with beautiful fresh plums and pears, followed with parsley and chives. A little bubblegum too, that’s the young age, but also lovage and Maggi. So much fun in there! Mouth: terrific young whisky! Extremely different from the Akashis that were all fully oak-driven, while this is rather more about the distillate, breads, doughs, ales, even white wines, Meursault, woodruff syrup (ever tried that?), prickly pears, pink grapefruits… I’m not saying the casks were not of some importance here, but I’m sure the distillates playing a large part. Wonderful stuff. Finish: medium, on pear liqueur and good new-make. They did not ‘push’ the oak, that’s to be lauded! Comments: really a fan, despite the obvious youth.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Mars Komagate 2013 ‘Nature of Shinshu Kohinganzakura’ (52%, OB, +/-2018)

Mars Komagate 2013 ‘Nature of Shinshu Kohinganzakura’ (52%, OB, +/-2018) Four stars
It’s all about cherry blossom, you see. Frankly, who’s gonna remember that name? Kohinganzakura? It’s said that this one’s lightly peated, and that it was partly matured in some ex-Japanese wine casks. Was that sake? Colour: gold. Nose: no smoke that I get, rather a wonderful bready and vanilla-ed development that would come together with touches of copper, herbs (oregano?), and just all the breads of the world. Roasted pumpkin seeds, mashed carrots… With water: a little paraffin, brake fluid, leatherette… Mouth (neat): ah, there, some peat, reminding me of the very early batches of Bruichladdich that they made when they reopened the distillery around 2001. Same melon quality, peat, wee drops of brine, citrons, spearmint… What a lovely fresh spirit! With water: indeed, this is pretty perfect, with a resinous side, some beeswax, otherwise oranges and lemons, some citric smoke (should that exist)… Finish: rather long, tense, vertical, lemony. Comments: loved it how it became tarter and more lemony. Same very high quality as that of the ‘2018’.
SGP:652 - 87 points.

Mars Komagate ‘Nature of Shinshu Rindo’ (52%, OB, +/-2018)

Mars Komagate ‘Nature of Shinshu Rindo’ (52%, OB, +/-2018) Five stars
Some say this baby contains some older Mars, distilled before the distillery last closed down. What is really cool is that ‘Rindo’ means ‘gentian’, while we simply worship and adore the great yellow gentian at WF Towers. But will gentians come through? Let’s see… Colour: gold. Nose: no gentian so far, rather bergamots and ‘unpacking a new stereo’. So plastics, electronics, and stuff. Wild carrots, perhaps, fennel… With water: a delicate, almost evanescent smokiness, as poets would say. Mouth (neat): how very excellent! Citron liqueur, old Sylvaner, wormwood, verbena… Halt, please call the anti-maltoporn brigade! This is roaring stuff. With water: impeccably perfect, fresh, very lightly peated ala HP, with touches of fermentation that we always like a lot. Granted, as long as it does not get feinty. Finish: medium, clean, just perfectly balanced. Comments: some say Mas can talk to Chichibu. No doubt about that. Sadly, no gentian to be found here, but we did not find any cherry blossom in the Kohinsomething either.
SGP:552 - 90 points.

Let’s go on…

Mars Komagate 2014/2019 ‘Double Cellars 2019’ (47%, OB, 2019)

Mars Komagate 2014/2019 ‘Double Cellars 2019’ (47%, OB, 2019) Five stars
The Japanese seem to be a little obsessed with the places where they mature their stuff, which could already be seen with several older Yamazakis and Hakushus, for example. In this very case, that would be two different warehouses, Shinshu and Yakushima. I’m sure we’ll easily notice the impact of the Yakushima cellars here (nah I’m joking). Colour: gold. Nose: very typically Mars, with this citrony vanilla and the impeccable barleyness. Wonderful white oak, white chocolate as well as sultanas, assorted fresh scones, and just the right amount of dough and fresh baguette. Mouth: extremely simple, and yet utterly perfect. Some kind of Bauhaus whisky, with just vanilla, café latte, and marmalade. The utter beauty of simplicity. Finish: same, with just the softest spices in the aftertaste, and an insane fruitiness. Comments: such a crying shame that these guys who make perfect Japanese whisky could suffer from the ill-doing of a few cupid brand-builders and soulless booze and beer conglomerates!
SGP:641 - 90 points.

Mars Komagate 3 yo 2013/2016 ‘Tsunuki Ageing’ (59%, OB, 2274 bottles)

Mars Komagate 3 yo 2013/2016 ‘Tsunuki Ageing’ (59%, OB, 2274 bottles) Four stars
Okay, this is a Commemorative Edition, distilled at Shinshu and matured at Tsunuki (nothing to do with Tsukune, these marvellous chicken brochettes). You always need a story, don’t you. Colour: gold. Nose: rather closed this time, rather on banana skin and apples, plus mundane lager, Heineken-style. Nothing to write home about, so far. With water: not much, perhaps is it too young? Some very wee medicinal notes, around bandages. Mouth (neat): yeah of course it’s good. Lemon, tangerines, marmalade, mango chutney, vanilla, acacia honey, and maple syrup. I’m asking you, who would be against that? With water: impeccable, as the medicinal notes are coming back, with some camphor and some cough syrup. Those kinds of notes always mingle very well with anything citrusy, just ask any Laphroaiggistas. Finish: medium, a tad sour, on a mint-and-camphor-plus-citrus combo. Comments: not much to add, this is as good as we had expected, Tsunuki or not Tsunuki. The nose was a little less entrancing, having said that, but it’s true that this baby’s extremely young. 
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Mars Komagate 2013/2016 ‘ePower’ (56.9%, OB, 594 bottles)

Mars Komagate 2013/2016 (56.9%, ePower, 594 bottles) Four stars
ePower? Sounds like the name of a Nissan car, does it not? Oh and pst, could we have a look at the distillery’s carbon assessment? No, please do not, we are joking! Colour: gold. Nose: it’s not often that you would find this much white chocolate in a whisky. Whether power or not, it’s very soft whisky so far. A little sawdust, a little vanilla, a touch of white wine… ePower, really? With water: custardy, shall we say. We’ve seen more entrancing noses, but it’s flawless. Just not very wop-bob (a loo bop a lop ba ba.)  Mouth (neat): yeah well, it’s the usual Mars combo, the one that no one will resist. Lemons, marmalade, mango jam, barley, acacia honey, limoncello, a drop of pineapple juice this time… It’s just very good, very very good. And very consensual. With water: naturally, naturally. Finish: rather long, sweet, easy, well crafted. Comments: very excellent again, maybe just a wee tad… boring? On the other hand, who’s going to taste eight Mars in a row, like we just do now?
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Time to put an end to this madness, with a very last Martian…

Mars Shinshu 2013/2016 (58%, Number One Drinks Company, bourbon barrel, cask #1664)

Mars Shinshu 2013/2016 (58%, Number One Drinks Company, bourbon barrel, cask #1664) Five stars
Always so smart, No.1, always so smart! Colour: white wine. Nose: hate those people, whether they bear moustaches or not at time of writing. How come did they find this extraordinary cask that’s so marvellously Old-Ardbeggian? What’s this? What’s the trick? Olive oil and embrocations, linseed oil, riesling, coal tar, whelks, kelp, tarmac, throat pastille, soot… What? With water: I’d swear we’ve managed to reproduce the best old vintages of Ardbeg CC by G&M, the ones at 40% vol.. Vicks VapoRub and stuff. Mouth (neat): no, really, what? Fermented (not macerated) gentian, wild mezcal, and Ardbeg, all in the same bottle? Is that legal? Do you have the papers? With water: yeah, like, this is funny, for sure. Finish: ? Comments: ?
SGP:466 - 92 points.

(Chris, you deserve the Whiskyfun Amber Cross!)

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


October 16, 2019


A short stroll in the Lowlands

This and that from here and there. It’s pretty refreshing to see new stills being erected in the South of Scotland, whilst not so long ago, there were only two remaining distilleries that were still ‘fuming’ on a regular basis, Glenkinchie and Auchentoshan. Oh and why not kick this off with one of the rarest Lowlanders?...

Glen Flagler 5 yo (40%, OB, Ferraretto, +/-1975)

Glen Flagler 5 yo (40%, OB, Ferraretto, +/-1975) Three stars and a half
This one from the extinct Moffat Complex, where they also used to produce Garnheath grain, for example. We’ve only tried a 5 from an old half-gallon bottle so far, and thought it was excellent (WF 86). It’s to be noted that some Glen Flaglers were said to actually be vatted malts (labelled as pure malt), but this could be the real stuff, even if it says ‘all-malt’. Who would tell? Colour: white wine. Nose: imagine some slightly smoked pear eau-de-vie, blended with some elderflower cordial and a little liquid paraffin. Unlikely you think? Not so, the whole works perfectly. Smoked pear eau-de-vie? If you would excuse me… ;-). Mouth: isn’t it amazing that this humble little Lowlander would have remained fresh and dashing? More pears, as juice, plus peach juice ala Ardmore and a little vanilla plus soft acacia honey. A touch of smoke and even infinitesimal salt in the background. Finish: short, but very clean, refreshing, bright, and fruity. Apples and pears. Comments: perhaps not as entrancing as the one I had tried before, but old bottles vary indeed and this is excellent nonetheless. Plus, it’s rarer than Loch Dhu! (what?)
SGP:631 - 84 points.

Good, after one of the older Lowlanders, let’s try one of the newer ones…

Kingsbarn 2015/2019 (62.2%, OB, American oak bourbon barrel, cask #1510291, 253 bottles)

Kingsbarn 2015/2019 (62.2%, OB, American oak bourbon barrel, cask #1510291, 253 bottles) Four stars
The first, and only proper whisky by Kingsbarn I’ve tried this far, their slightly emphatically christened ‘Dream Dram’, was excellent (WF 84) and rather on melons. Love melons, let’s see if I find them again in this brand new single cask. Colour: pale gold. Nose: this reeks of smartness, with an utterly lovely combination of soft vanilla (not vanillin), acacia honey again and again, probably apricots, white chocolate, overripe apples, and just a small burn, which is astonishing at this strength. Did I get the strength wrong? With water: pears and balsa wood up. That’s the young spirit and the fresh wood. Mouth (neat): where I found melons I’m finding citrus, and even wee touches of basil and chervil, coriander, dill… That translates into a very distant hint of artisanal cachaça, artisanal cachaça being the spirit to watch these days, if you ask me. Of course not gin. With water: rather gets rounder, with only touches of Haribo gums and a drop of varnish, then marshmallows and, hurray, melons. Melons replacing the citrus. Finish: rather long, with lemons and grapefruits striking back, which is always great news in any aftertaste, at it would leave your palate fresh enough for… more. Comments: moreish, it is moreish, and typically ‘Lowlands’. Of course regions do make sense, but only as long as distillers would respect the style and not wander off too much. Anyway, rather impressed here, especially given that they don’t seem to have tried to ‘pump it up’ too much in STR or, just an example, in ex-Laphroaig casks.
SGP:641 - 85 points.

Ideally, we would find a young Rosebank now, while waiting for the ‘new’ Rosebank…

Rosebank 14 yo 1990/2005 (46%, Chieftain’s, hogsheads, casks #1544-1546, 1128 bottles)

Rosebank 14 yo 1990/2005 (46%, Chieftain’s, hogsheads, casks #1544-1546, 1128 bottles) Four stars
Did you notice that we’ve chosen a bottling by Ian Macleod, who were to become the owners and promoters of the ‘new’ Rosebank Distillery? Aren’t we a little smart here? (pff, S….) Colour: white wine. Nose: it is rather a porridge-y Rosebank than one fully on citrus, with some muesli, fresh bread, then some funny notes of pastis, fresh brioche, caraway, fennel seeds… So in short, not quite a fruit bomb. Mouth: interesting, a little OBE starting to appear, with a sootiness that, in my experience, is uncommon in Rosebank, then rather quince jelly, I would say. Some earl grey after that, and possibly a little lemongrass indeed. This is well Rosebank, in a way. Finish: medium and curiously fatter and waxier. Comments: very good, if a little ‘different’ from other Rosebanks.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Bladnoch 30 yo 1989/2019 (40.8%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 144 bottles)

Bladnoch 30 yo 1989/2019 (40.8%, Cadenhead, Sherry Cask, sherry hogshead, 144 bottles) Four stars and a half
This is a ‘long’ finishing since the whisky has been in the sherry hoggie since 2005. Very curious about this one… Colour: dark gold. Nose: oh, Swiss cheese and mango chestnut! Then rather natural wines such as Rivesaltes, perhaps Tokaji, certainly a little liquorice wood, some mead for sure, a few wood shavings, some Camel cigarettes (unlit), some roasted chestnuts… In truth this is pretty different, but rather complex and enticing. Mouth: it is weird whisky, as it starts with the same Swiss cheese, but the thing is, there’s also a lot of walnuts, which just works with Swiss cheese (or Comté etc.) Same notes of old natural wines (fortified), sour fruits and perhaps even strawberry yoghurt, a wee metallic touch, some kind of flower jelly… Zucchini flowers? Finish: medium, sour in a great way, and still very different from ‘the common chaff’. Black tea and walnut stain in the aftertaste. Comments: a bit creepy but absolutely great. Cubist whisky, perhaps? Or the Captain Beefheart of this year’s malt whiskies?
SGP:571 - 89 points.

A last one…

Auchentoshan 20 yo 1997/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, cask #12032, 279 bottles)

Auchentoshan 20 yo 1997/2017 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, cask #12032, 279 bottles) Two stars and a half
Oops, forgot this one. Colour: straw. Nose: what, candlewax and paraffin in Auchentoshan? Then white cherries and greengages? It’s not your usual Auchentoshan, but it’s true that Auchentoshan is often ‘burried’ under oak or wine. In any case, it does not feel very triple-distilled, as it’s pretty fat. With water: more towards barley wine and, perhaps, IPA. Mouth (neat): ah, the typical bonbons and bubblegum, marshmallows, and just anything from Haribo’s. Not too sure I’m a fan. With water: too sweet for me, I’m afraid. Sweets, fruit syrups, then quite some not-too-well-integrated oak… Not sure water’s obligatory here, anyway. Finish: medium and still very sweet. Aldi’s all-vitamin fruit juice. Comments: it’s genuine and true to the style, but rather too much on gummy bears for me. Getting old, perhaps.
SGP:641 - 78 points.

I know, no Daftmill, no Glenkinchie and no St. Magdalene today. Next time!

(Thank you Tom!)

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


October 15, 2019


Glenfiddich, new Grand Cru and older 26

(and a token of gratitude to scotchwhisky.com)

That’s a fine little duo, and I find it flattering that they would use so many French terms, although those may make them look, or at least sound a bit like… Cognacs. No?

Glenfiddich 21 yo ‘Grand Cru’ (40%, OB, 2019)

Glenfiddich 23 yo ‘Grand Cru’ (40%, OB, 2019) Four stars
This one was finished in Champagne casks, although they would not say so on the labels, as the Champenois have rather got fast-draw holsters. I guess they have double-checked everything, but if I may, anything in a cask is not Champagne yet, hence possibly not Grand Cru, obviously, even if a Grand Cru in Champagne does not mean the same thing as, say in Burgundy (it’s rather a whole village, and it’s related to the grapes themselves). The wine becomes ‘Champagne’ or ‘Champagne Grand Cru’ (or Champagne Premier Cru for that matter) only after it’s finished its second fermentation in bottle. There cannot be any Champagne straight from the cask, even if that used to exist before WWII. But I’m quibbling here, I’m sure they’re within their rights, and I love Glenfiddich – and Champagne. Plus, I guess the appellation ‘grand cru’ is not regulated at all in Scotchland anyway, is it? Colour: gold. Nose: it’s really fine, starting with nice fermentary notes, not winey notes, and going on with some bread, brioche, apple pie, and even notes of natural wine (vin nature). I enjoy anything fermentary anyway. A little chalk as well. Mouth: j’aime bien! I mean, I rather enjoy this indeed, it’s got quite a lot of breads, brioches, croissants, cider and ale, honeysuckle, mullein syrup, white peaches… It’s really very good, even at those slightly greedy 40% vol. Finish: a tad short, but never oaky, and pretty natural again. Very well done. Comments: why not 43%, if not 45 or 46? The juice is really worth it! Some top-notch Glenfiddich nonetheless. But please, a slightly higher voltage next time, 40% makes it all look a tad avare. I mean, stingy.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Glenfiddich 26 yo 'Excellence' (43%, OB, +/-2019)

Glenfiddich 26 yo 'Excellence' (43%, OB, +/-2019) Two stars and a half
An ongoing expression, that I haven’t checked since 2014 (boo!) Didn’t like it too much back then I’m afraid (WF 78). Fully ex-bourbon, I believe. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s a low-whisperer indeed, with no real extra-dimensions by comparison with the entry-level 12 (which, I think, has improved quite a lot recently). Breads, cakes, cardboard, hints of the trademark pears and apples, cider, and just a whiff of some kind of burnt flower bread. Perhaps something with orange blossom water inside. Very light. Mouth: 78 was a little harsh, but they may have improved the recipe in the meantime. Notes of young calvados, sweet ale, perhaps a few sweets (a sucrosity in the background), and probably more youth than expected. Blind, I’d never have said this is 26 years old, rather… 12 indeed. Finish: medium, a little spirity. Comments: whisky for Ferrero Rocher’s ambassadors, perhaps? I’d rather have the humbler 12 – and of course the 21 Grand Cru – anytime, Your Excellency.
SGP:641 - 79 points.

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

October 2019 - part 1 <--- October 2019 - part 2 ---> November 2019 - part 1



Best spirits Serge tried those weeks, 90+ points only

Aberlour-Glenlivet 8 yo (50%, OB, Rinaldi, Italy, 1960s)

Balvenie 15 yo 1974/1990 (57.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #18103-18130, 1300 bottles, 75cl)

Fettercairn 40 yo 1977/2018 (48.9%, OB, 818 bottles)

Fettercairn 35 yo 1978/2017 (53.5%, Ukrainian Whisky Connoisseurs Club Choice, 336 bottles)

Glen Grant 62 yo 1956/2019 (51.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Mr George Centenary Edition, first fill sherry butt, cask #4455, 235 bottles)

Highland Park 10 yo ‘Viking Scars’ (40%, OB, +/-2019)

Highland Park 1996/2019 (52.8%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #Mos19018, 219 bottles)

Highland Park 16 yo 2003/2019 (53.3%, Maltbarn, bourbon barrel, 198 bottles)

Chichibu 6 yo ‘Paris Edition 2019’ (50.3%, OB, Japan, 1757 bottles)

Chichibu 7 yo 2012/2019 ‘Intergalactic Edition 1’ (63.5%, OB, bourbon, peated cask, cask #2112, 182 bottles)

Mars Komagate 2014/2019 ‘Double Cellars 2019’ (47%, OB, 2019)

Mars Shinshu 2013/2016 (58%, Number One

Mars Komagate ‘Nature of Shinshu Rindo’ (52%, OB, +/-2018)

Distillerie Charpentier 50 yo (62.4%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 2019)