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Whisky Tasting


Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild




Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2023 - Part 1

September 2023 - part 2 <--- October 2023 - part 1 ---> October 2023 - part 2


October 13, 2023


WF's little duos,
today dry-sherried Aultmore

A lovely little (well) tasting we did with friends at the Consejo Regulador
de la D O Jerez Xérès Sherry in Jerez (November 2017, WF Archive)


We've already had some splendid sherried Aultmore! Always a joy to try Aultmore, even if it's become a little uncommon these days. Let's wait for some distinguished brokers to gently kind of flood the independent market with 25,  50 or 100 new casks. Please!



Aultmore-Glenlivet 12 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, bourbon then fino & manzanilla, 2023)

Aultmore-Glenlivet 12 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, bourbon then fino & manzanilla, 2023) Four stars
This finish in fino and manzanilla is intriguing, too bad it's not full maturation, as Cadenhead's latest Aultmores fully-ex-bourbon and bottled at similar ages had been excellent in my book(W F86 – 88 for the 2006s). Colour: gold. Nose: oh awesome, we're almost nosing shoe polish, you would believe we're in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. And walnuts of course, soft mustard, white earth (albariza, naturally), a little paraffin… The sherries are doing the job here, we love them. Mouth: perhaps rather an acquired taste on the palate, with rather a lot of pepper and bitter citrus, but we're just fans of this style (and of fino and manzanilla in general). Finish: very long, pungent, bitter, ultra-dry, totally fino-y. Comments: perhaps not for everyone but love it. To be sipped slightly chilled by the banks of the Guadalquivir while enjoying local langoustines with good friends.
SGP:372 - 87 points.

Auchindoran 14 yo 2008/2023 (54.2%, The Whisky Cask Company, sherry, 331 bottles)

Auchindoran 14 yo 2008/2023 (54.2%, The Whisky Cask Company, sherry, 331 bottles) Four stars and a half
This baby spent only six years in bourbon, it was then transferred into oloroso. It is well an Aultmore, not too sure why they wouldn't use the distillery's name, but it's true that the name 'Auchindoran' could possess even more charm. Colour: full gold. Nose: once again some dry sherry on the nose, full of walnuts, pine bark, wholegrain bread, black cigars (Italian Toscani) and some kind of dry molasses, garden compost, and just plain oloroso. Awesome nose, once again, but we know Aultmore loves dry sherry. With water: it wouldn't change much. Perhaps has it gotten a little earthier? Mouth (neat): bitter oranges, old walnuts, cracked pepper and the tartest lemons, plus touches of horseradish and mustard. An extremely pleasant burn, this time I'm sure you could dip poppadums and onion bahjis into it. Namaste! With water: a little mint and a little mango coming through. More dips. Finish: long, a little fruitier and fresher, but I cannot get spicy mango chutney out of my head. Comments: I don't know why this wonderful Aultmore immediately reminded me of Indian cuisine. Awesome sherry here.
SGP:562 - 88 points.

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


Wgiskyfun 101

  Fino or Manzanilla
The majority of websites and blogs (thus ChatGPT and other AI, I just checked that) are widely mistaken when discussing the difference between Fino and Manzanilla produced in the Jerez triangle. Fino, by the way, is also produced in other regions of Spain, such as Montilla-Moriles. In any case, in Jerez, both Finos and Manzanillas are produced from the Palomino Fino grape (there are a few dry PX Fino too but they are very rare), which can be harvested anywhere in the delimited Jerez region. The grapes for Manzanilla, therefore, do not necessarily have to be harvested in the Sanlucar de Barrameda area! However, to be labeled as Manzanilla, the wine must be exclusively aged in or around Sanlucar de Barrameda, where the climate is coastal, cooler, windier, and more saline. In short, a Manzanilla is a Fino from Jerez aged in or around Sanlucar de Barrameda. It is one of the few designations primarily defined by the place of aging and maturation, which is interesting from a 'terroir' point of view. I would like to add that Manzanilla is not necessarily aged using the solera/criadera system where several vintages are added successively; there are also 'añada' Manzanillas from a single vintage, aged statically, such as the fantastic añadas from Callejuela. They are kept in barrels for a shorter time because, as no new wine is added, the flor deteriorates more quickly, no longer finding sustenance after a certain period. I hope to find one day a Clynelish entirely aged in a cask of Manzanilla añada!
Recommended website: Ruben's SherryNotes

October 12, 2023


Three Clynelish, 2010, 1996, 1990

Yes, I know, we just tasted some Clynelish, but the tasting was dedicated to Brora, so we have every excuse to do another Clynelish session today. Sadly they are becoming increasingly rare among the independents, at least those that are actually labelled "Clynelish". Many are labelled as "Secret Highlands" or things of that nature, but when it comes to less waxy eras of Clynelish, it gets a bit harder to spot them. Anyway, let's go for these authentic Clynelishes...

(Map The Distillers Company p.l.c. 1982)




Secret Sutherland 13 yo 2010/2023 (57.3%, Swell de Spirit, Wild Nature Series, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #2531, 360 bottles)

Secret Sutherland 13 yo 2010/2023 (57.3%, Swell de Spirit, Wild Nature Series, first fill bourbon barrel, cask #2531, 360 bottles) Four stars and a half
All right, all right, this one too is meant to be secret… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this will be quick. Chalk, candlewax, sauvignon blanc, limestone and, as they say in good pizzerias, basta. With water: new wool, new jumper, green peppercorns… Mouth (neat): epitomically Clynelish, with a little heat, otherwise green pepper, wax, more chalk and Sancerre, stalk, lemons and a feeling of crushed slate. There isn't much to say really, this is just perfectly perfect. With water: it's rather grassier than others, with a little more bitterness, but that's something that I always enjoy when it's not excessive. The Sancerre was young. Finish: long, ultra-tight, with rather a lot of those green peppercorns and stalks and stems in the end. Comments: impeccable, for the lovers of this ultra-tight style, of which I'm certainly a part.
SGP:361 - 89 points.

Clynelish 32 yo 1990/2022 (45.8%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, bourbon barrel, cask #3507, 115 bottles)

Clynelish 32 yo 1990/2022 (45.8%, Signatory Vintage, Cask Strength Collection, bourbon barrel, cask #3507, 115 bottles) Five stars
Colour: light gold. Nose: a similar chalky profile, but better polished by the years and with more fruitiness and resins and herbs. Lamp oil, paraffin, shoe polish, more crushed slate, wet chalk, even a little rainwater, fresh mint leaves, then passion fruits and mangos coming through. Exactly Clynelish, with a little more oomph than sister casks that had been bottled at a lower strength. Mouth: a little tougher, bitterer, with much more resin and bitter herbs, crunched pine needles for example… Having said that lemons and grapefruits are soon to come to the rescue to add a lovely, very fresh zestiness, with even a medicinal side, some iodine, some cough syrup... Finish: medium, similar to a blade that would cut you into two equal parts (as we sometimes say). Superb citrus, and guess what, with some limoncello and green chartreuse in the aftertaste. Comments: phew, the arrival on the palate was a tad scary but it didn't last long. A true Toledo sword.
SGP:571 - 90 points.

Clynelish 26 yo 1996/2023 (52%, OB, Prima & Ultima, Pedro Ximenez and oloroso, 889 bottles)

Clynelish 26 yo 1996/2023 (52%, OB, Prima & Ultima, Pedro Ximenez and oloroso, 889 bottles) Four stars and a half
Greatest of news, this is NOT a finishing, this wee Clynelish was fully aged in sherry-seasoned European oak. And possibly not first fill, according to the colour, which would suggest that the full Clynelishness of this famous vintage should have been preserved, let's see… Colour: gold. Nose: these funny fermentary, almost yeasty notes are imparting a feeling of ale right away, while thing are then moving towards IPA (must be triple IPA these days, no?), then towards an oloroso-y side indeed, then towards full Clynelishness. Well a few walnuts are still there, but the expected beeswax and ripe apples are at the helm now. The sherried 1996s are not my favourite expressions but this one remains 'moderate' and balanced. With water: some wonderful wool, chalk, linseed oil, compost, weissbeer this time… Mouth (neat): the sherry's having the upper hand on the palate. Walnut wine, artichoke liqueur (in France they say no one's eating artichokes anymore, that's a shame!), bitter, Cynar, eggplant… Rather a lot of the driest, earthiest, most leathery sherry indeed. With water: water makes wonders, it's now geared towards dry herbal cordials, nocino (green walnuts), a small cup of kombucha tea, some salinity, bouillons… Finish: same, with a good length. Great salty bouillon, with some coriander and mushrooms. Comments: I always find that very distinct malts and sherry can either completely clash or sometimes create wonders. Here, it really didn't go too badly, to say the least.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

(Thanks, Sebastian)

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


October 11, 2023


Just a few Nordic whiskies

Okay, this might just be an excuse to taste some brand new Smögens. But you never know what you'll stumble upon…

Smögen Distillery (Smögen)




Isle of Fiona 'Little Isle' (43%, OB, Nyborg, Denmark, bourbon, STR and Port, 2023)

Isle of Fiona 'Little Isle' (43%, OB, Nyborg, Denmark, bourbon, STR and Port, 2023) Two stars and a half
It is organic. We've tried some 'Ardor' by Nyborg a few years ago and thought they were very good (84-85). Now this one's been heavily treated with wine a.k.a. turbo-casks, apparently, so let's not hope we'll find any proper distillery character. Colour: salmony (why?) Nose: rosé wine, really. Crushed raspberries, maize, grenadine, Red Bull, also brioche and cherry liqueur, Heering…  Don't get me wrong, I find it pretty… Mouth: good, sweet, rather on blood oranges this time, Schweppes, cake, gingerbread… Typical STR. Finish: very sweet and fruity. Red berries and a little ginger. Stewed pears in the aftertaste. Comments: the thing is, distillers are not making this style only on the little Isle of Fiona, they're making it all around the world, and soon on the Moon and on Mars. But yeah, this globalised whisky is good and extremely sippable, no question about that.
SGP:731 - 79 points.

Teerenpeli 'SAVU' (43%, OB, Gently Peated, Finland, 2022)

Teerenpeli 'SAVU' (43%, OB, Gently Peated, Finland, 2022) Three stars
80% ex-bourbon and 20% ex-PX, but we don't know for how long, do we. Colour: white wine. Nose: rather a feeling of pears and peaches smoked over beech wood smoke at first, then rather soft beers, hops, IPA and all that. A tiny candle burning in a corner. Easy, pleasant, balanced, elegant. Mouth: funny notes of cheeses at first (gouda, comté), then rather ashes, cranberry juice, nectarines and orange squash with some vanilla extracts inside. Something made by Starbucks, in short. Don't they finish their coffees, in a way? Finish: very pleasant, on smoked peaches shall we say, which cannot not make us think of some Ardmores. Comments: the 43% vol. work very well here, no need of any extra-watts. Very pleasant drop. By the way, I don't think they've been cutting corners, as so many distillers do these days, they distilled some peated malt indeed, they did not just pour some unpeated fillings into some ex-peater cask (a.k.a. the very fashionable poor man's way).
SGP:644 - 81 points.

Smögen 10 yo 2012/2023 (53.8%, OB, Sweden, Tawny Port finish, 1,420 bottles, 2023)

Smögen 10 yo 2012/2023 (53.8%, OB, Sweden, Tawny Port finish, 1,420 bottles, 2023) Three stars and a half
I know, this is a finishing too, but it is Smögen (what?) and what's more, they've been distilling some heavily peated Optic barley. Colour: golden (not pink). Nose: pine-smoked bacon, then more gouda and some wild leek, pink grapefruits, a little tequila, genever, lemongrass, ginseng… Boy is this intriguing at this stage. With water: cherries fallen on the ground, some metal polish, baker's yeast, leaves and leaven… Mouth (neat): pepper, smoke and cherries, For me, we're flirting a bit with the boundaries, but just like in rugby, it's around the edges that the game becomes interesting, right? With water: more citrus, oranges, pink grapefruits, some pepper… Finish: same flavours. Pretty long. Comments: of course I largely prefer Smögen and any other top-tier distillery au naturel, but this sure isn't half-bad.
SGP:656 - 83 points.

Smögen 9 yo 2014/2023 (59.6%, OB, Sweden, for Kirsch Import & Wu Dram Clan, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #9)

Smögen 9 yo 2014/2023 (59.6%, OB, Sweden, for Kirsch Import & Wu Dram Clan, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #9) Five stars
Made with heavily peated Concerto barley this time. Colour: white wine. Nose: pure crystalline peat and a little lemon and vanilla. And fresh bread as well as green bananas and pancakes. As we say, it's down to the millimetre. With water: chalkier, with even some plaster and certainly crushed slate. Mouth (neat): funny how it reminds me of ex-bourbon Chichibu and Kornog. No? Pure lemons, pure peppery peat, slight vanilla, high horological precision. Sorry, do you say 'distillatory precision'? With water: it got even better, with vine peaches and pink grapefruits popping out, plus hops and Szechuan pepper. Finish: long, ultra-clean, fruitier yet, with some maracuja joining the dance. Comments: immaculate beauty. We kept this short.
SGP:666 - 90 points.

Down south by a few miles, for a last one…

Millstone 25 yo 1996/2022 (44.92%, OB, Netherlands, for Canada, oloroso sherry cask, 244 bottles)

Millstone 25 yo 1996/2022 (44.92%, OB, Netherlands, for Canada, oloroso sherry cask, 244 bottles) Five stars
Hardly a Nordic country, but there. I mean, Holland, not Canada. And we know what's gonna happen, do we not…  Colour: dark amber. Nose: prune juice and umeshu, vieille prune, very old PX (yep I've noticed this was oloroso), fig wine, heavy honeys, Parma ham, drop of tar liqueur, drop of green chartreuse, bits of chocolate and marzipan (Mozart Kugeln), old Armagnac, roasted pecans, pine resin… All right, this is just insane. So many scents, not a single flaw and nothing that would be even remotely out of place. Mouth: what? Black raisins, meat and wine reduction, more prune wine, very heavy pinot noir, gravy, malt extracts, cherry liqueur… etc etc etc. Finish: very long, curiously fresh, never cloying or jammed, but really loaded with prunes and brown sauces. Stunning vivid citrus in the aftertaste, like in an old Graves. Comments: ah, those 1996s. Stunning work Millstone/Zuidam, so early at the forefront of pre-Brexit (and post-Brexit) European whiskies!
SGP:762 - 91 points.

(Thank you, Andy and Sebastian)


October 10, 2023




October 9, 2023


Four recent Port Ellen, vertically

There's not much more to add about Port Ellen, which we've already discussed so much here since 2002, a time when bottlers were already offering 'the very last casks'. So, it's been twenty-one years that numerous very last casks of this legendary Islay have been regularly offered to the thirsty masses (who were becoming increasingly affluent). We're certainly not complaining, but it does seem that there was quite a stockpile back in 2002, after all... Naturally, all four new Port Ellens that we'll try today are 'the very last drops' too, if not 'the rarest of the rarest of them all'. All good fun in any case, we totally love everyone who offers some new old Port Ellens anyway. Love, love, love, and love…

Porrt Ellen Serge

A few years ago, with some friends, we organised
a Port Ellen tasting in one of the last remaining
buildings still standing. As the definitive arbiter
of chic, I was sporting this very elegant and
discreet (yes, really) slate pendant in honour
of the then defunct little distillery.
(photo Marcel van Gils).

Port Ellen 40 yo 1983/2023 (52.4%, The Duncan Taylor, Rarest Collection, European oak sherry cask, cask #667, 209 bottles)

Port Ellen 40 yo 1983/2023 (52.4%, The Duncan Taylor, Rarest Collection, European oak sherry cask, cask #667, 209 bottles) Five stars
This one from one of the last casks ever to be produced at the now 'old' Port Ellen Distillery, filled on March 16, 1983, aged on Islay until 2010, then moved to Duncan Taylor's premises in Huntly. Indeed, the 1983s have always been a little rare as the distillery was closed in May. I've often found them particularly excellent, as if Port Ellen had tried its very best before drawing the curtain. It's been the same at Brora, by the way. Colour: deep dark amber (there even was a wee fly, seriously!)

Nose: oh sweet Vishnu. Would you mind calling the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade subito presto? Tarry balms, smoky ointments, fir liqueur, pistachios and bitter almonds, and this je-ne-sais-quoi that's very Port Ellen. Exquisitely rather balsamic – and empyreumatic - nose. With water: oh, old dunnage, cellar, moist hessian, eucalyptus, old paint, coal tar, lamp oil, a drop of turpentine… Mouth (neat): what power! Long story short, this is some mandarine marmalade, beefed-up with pepper, tar liqueur, a little seawater, black olives, cough syrup and, hold on, a drop of mezcal. Some splendid black-tobacco-y oak is bringing a perfect backbone without ever really getting in the way. With water: water is not necessary, but with just a few drops, smoked fruit liqueurs and jams would appear, especially peaches and, after 40 years, pears. In general, we'd rather find pears in young whiskies, don't you agree? Finish: medium, with some very balanced sherry, ashes and tobacco, old walnut wine and all those sorts of things. Old tar liqueur is always there. Smoke in the aftertaste, but it is not a peat monster (anymore?) Comments: so indeed, not a peat beast anymore, but on the other hand, it became wonderfully bituminous. Rather extraordinary.
SGP:465 - 95 points.

Port Ellen 40 yo 1982/2022 (56.5%, Eidolon by Hunter Laing, 2nd release, 403 bottles)

Port Ellen 40 yo 1982/2022 (56.5%, Eidolon by Hunter Laing, 2nd release, 403 bottles) Five stars
It's been a long time since I've seen a new 1982, and in fact, I don't believe Diageo themselves have ever offered one, unless I'm mistaken. In any case, almost all the ones I've tasted were bottled in the 2000s, except for a few by the very distinguished Laing brothers. I remember a '1982 HL Kinship' had been particularly flabbergasting (WF 94). Colour: pale gold. Nose: this is more a classic old Port Ellen, with lemon oil, fumes, coal tar, old engine oil, new rubber boots and camphory embrocations. It is very immediate, it's almost instant love here. With water: sublime chalkiness. We're also reminded of an old oil lighter, like an old Zippo that's been used by several generations. Mouth (neat): dazzlingly fresh. Peppered citron juice, ginger tonic, black radish, seawater and all things tars and saps. With water: and voilà, clams and oysters, with a little tabasco and just pepper. Finish: very long, with some old pu-her tea now, tar candy, then some kind of smoky and mentholy honeyness…  Candied kumquats in the aftertaste. Comments: it is a rather straighter one. Incredibly perfect at 40 years old, without the slightest sign of fatigue.
SGP:556 - 94 points.

Hope we won't run out of laudatory adjectives and adverbs….

Port Ellen 42 yo 1981/2023 (52.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, The Recollection series #2, refill sherry butt, cask #290, 181 bottles)

Port Ellen 42 yo 1981/2023 (52.5%, Gordon & MacPhail, The Recollection series #2, refill sherry butt, cask #290, 181 bottles) Five stars
So, this one has been catching my eye on the shelves for many weeks, but I was waiting for a special occasion to taste it. I suppose a little vertical quartet like we're doing today is indeed a special occasion, isn't it? The colour itself is extraordinary and I cannot not think of some older (so younger, yep) light-sherried versions for Italy, most already from G&M's racing stable anyway. Colour: golden amber. Nose: plain smoky honey. More resins, balms, waxes, pollen. It's marvellous, and furthermore, it leaves the humble taster speechless, as it is so perfect and subtle. Please hide your disappointment. With water: mud and earth, old cellar, humidor, old attic, orange zests, notes of sweet and tart white manseng wine (say Jurançon)… This is more a Port Ellen for prestigious evenings in five-star hotels, rather than to take along in your silver hipflask (the one with a skull and a Harley logo). Mouth (neat): utterly masterful and extremely complex and rich, and yet never heavy. More balms and resins, a few sultanas, ripe mirabelles (when they get pink), grassier honeys, sweet spices… This time it is absolutely not a tar-bomb anymore, it's possibly one of the most civilised PEs I've ever tried. With water: it almost became a stunning herbal liqueur. Small citrus, lemongrass, plums, thyme, rosemary, woodruff, mint… Finish: medium, creamy and jammy, with all those stunning liqueurs and certainly bergamots, kumquats and other small citrus fruits. Honeyed aftertaste. Comments: all these Port Ellens are very different, but the quality remains constantly very high. In other words, there are obvious differences in style, especially since the peat is now fading a bit, but there is almost no difference in quality, thanks to the bottlers... and the distillers!
SGP:665 - 93 points.

Port Ellen 43 yo 1978/2022 (53.4%, OB, Prima & Ultima Series #4, American oak hogshead, 413 bottles, 2023)

Port Ellen 43 yo 1978/2022 (53.4%, OB, Prima & Ultima Series #4, American oak hogshead, 413 bottles, 2023) Five stars
This glorious bottle was just launched but it was bottled at the end of last year, in true (charming) Diageo fashion. Tell me about time to market issues in whisky! But I'm sure they do this to eliminate the bottle shock effect that occurs during and after bottling, the latter always being somewhat harsh unless done by delicate Scottish hands. Am I not right? By the way, the latest official 1978 we had tried, the 'Untold Stories' from 2018, had been absolutely superb. And we won't even mention the Rare Malts 20 and 22 that we'll probably try again soon, after around twenty extra-years of bottle aging (in general, 20+20=bingo). Colour: light gold. Nose: yet another style, subtler yet, lighter, more on 'smells of the woods', mosses, mushrooms, old stump at the bottom of a forest, then old magazines, damp cardboard and paper, old books and sauna oils (okay, reading an old book while taking a sauna), the tar is back too, but not as prominently as in the 1983. Add an old bottle of limoncello. With water: ooh, chalky earth, old fabric, old tweed, marzipan, fresh paint and fresh putty, coal tar, sea spray, our friends the whelks… Mouth (neat): more power on the palate, more lemon, more straight peat, more tar… In short, more Port-Ellenness. It feels almost young. With water: citron liqueur, bitter marzipan, oysters, drop of tar liqueur… Smoked oysters too, I believe they make that in lovely Taiwan. Finish: wonderfully fresh, pure; actually, it's the purest of them all. Comments: I wonder if the distillers, in the late 1970s, imagined that their production would be tasted and overanalysed like this by total amateurs, after more than forty years. And that it would be sold for, uh, a certain price.
SGP:566 - 94 points.

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



By the way, my scoring method in a case like this, when the differences in quality are so tiny that the whole exercise might seem a bit pretentious, is: I write my notes, I give preliminary scores, then I revisit each of them in turn to further compare and thus refine the scores, which takes only a few seconds per whisky. In any case, there will be more Port Ellen before the end of the year, but we shall try to rather focus on younger versions that we've never tasted before. Unless a newer old one pops out in the meantime, naturally…



Wgiskyfun 101

  Port Ellen wasn't that bad, afterall
There has always been a subset of whisky enthusiasts who used to believe, and perhaps still believe, that the distilleries closed by Diageo's predecessors in 1983 or slightly later (Port Ellen, Banff, Brora, Coleburn, Convalmore, Glenesk, Glenlochy, Glenury, Millburn, North Port, Glen Mhor, St. Magdalene and a few others) due to a global overcapacity linked to a drop in world demand, were chosen because the quality of their whiskies was inferior to others. Some even claimed that Port Ellen, for instance, was inferior to Lagavulin and Coal Ila, with its closure and almost complete demolition by its owners as shining evidence. But in reality, the reasons were more tied, after the oil crisis, to production and modernisation costs as well as to poor expansion possibilities if ever needed (land, access, environmental issues). Because the older and smaller the distilleries, the lower the yields and thus the higher the production costs! In a way, one could almost claim that the intrinsic quality of the malts produced by these antique distilleries was actually superior to others. After all, the best soups are made slowly, in old pots. And by the way, why would Diageo go to such lengths to replicate as precisely as possible the malts from the old distillery in the brand new Port Ellen, if its malts had been 'less good than others'? Peace!

October 8, 2023


Rum is back on WF's tasting desk

Long Pond (Jamaica Observer)


Let's see what we have, while keeping all this as varied as possible… A while ago we had considered doing coherent sessions, like six agricoles or five young Jamaicans, to bring us closer to the way we deal with whiskies. But it quickly became a bit of a headache, after all, rum remains for me a pleasant (often better!) alternative to our beloved whiskies. In other words, they remain weekend spirits.


Dzama 'Cuvée Noire' (40%, OB, Madagascar, +/-2022)

Dzama 'Cuvée Noire' (40%, OB, Madagascar, +/-2022)
Said to be French-style molasses rum, so I would suppose it's a little drier than others, but the few Dzama I've tried before have not been extremely convincing I'm afraid, but that was some years ago. They were a little thin, shall we say.  Colour: light gold. Nose: a lot of coconut water and rather a lot of vanillin at first, then even more readymade custard, vanilla cream (do you know crème Mont Blanc?) and a little polenta. Mouth: sweet, thin, sugary, almost entirely on vanilla sugar and white chocolate, with a touch of sweet caramel. Anything coconut is almost gone. Finish: very short. More vanilla sugar. Comments: there's also a cuvée 'prestige' that's meant to be better. This honest little 'cuvée classique' is in need of quite a few ice cubes, I don't think you're supposed to have it neat. My bad.
SGP:610 - 65 points.

Quick, to Guadeloupe for more blackness…

Karukera 'Black Edition Alligator' (45%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2023)

Karukera 'Black Edition Alligator' (45%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2023) Two stars
Remember Karukera is made at Longueteau, but it's not exactly a second brand. I would be curious to know how many very distinguished rum enthusiasts know what 'alligator' means in the context of a Caribbean rum. I would bet that 90% think it's the animal, and 10% think it's a way to carbonise the inside of the barrels so that it resembles alligator skin. Right, I'm sure I'm exaggerating, love them all and I do not want to sound patronising, I'm really not the right person for that. Now it's funny to see rum makers mimicking whisky distillers like this… Colour: gold. Nose: we've never been this close to bananas flambéed, really. A lot of vanilla, crème brulée, an obvious bourbon side, whiffs of burnt hay… It's not complex at all, but it's very nice. Mouth: I really believe that alligator thing simplified this rhum, as it did with Ardbeg, remember. Gritty strong teas, some salty rum indeed, liquorice, drying spices (pepper and cinnamon), caraway… Finish: rather long, with a lot of liquorice and something like burnt clove. Thank God some grapefruit appears in the aftertaste. Comments: not quite my thing. I get the impression that the treatment has damaged the rum, which is very good generally.
SGP:472 - 75 points.

Let's try a 'regular' agricole…

Dillon 'Hors d'Âge XO' (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2022)

Dillon 'Hors d'Âge XO' (43%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2022) Three stars and a half
This one's older than 9 and made at Depaz, as are all Dillons I think. The brand is very widely available in supermarkets, which is never too good for your reputation here in France, but it has been a few years since some true enthusiasts decided to defend it. We have tasted some pretty good ones! Colour: full gold. Nose: it's quite soft, with some hay, dried flowers, dandelions, chamomile tea, then a little menthol and some liquorice. A little cedar wood. Very soft on the nose. Mouth: easy, fruitier, rather fresh, with notes of bananas and flower jelly, orange blossom and vanilla. You'd sometimes believe someone's let some large packs of liquorice allsorts dissolve in the casks. Finish: medium, this time with very lovely notes of tangerines and clementines. Comments: very good surprise, I wasn't expecting much. But indeed I adore liquorice allsorts and clementines.
SGP:641 - 84 points.

Luisita 2016/2022 (58.8%, OB, Tarlac Distillery, for Precious Liquors, Philippines, bourbon, cask #2183, 180 bottles)

Luisita 2016/2022 (58.8%, OB, Tarlac Distillery, for Precious Liquors, Philippines, bourbon, cask #2183, 180 bottles) Three stars and a half
This is not, I repeat, this is not made by the makers of Don Papa (who, I've been told, are actually large gin makers Ginebra San Miguel). We've already tried a sister cask (ex-PX) and it had been excellent (WF 87). I told you, not Don Papa. I repeat, not Don Papa (got you S.) Colour: gold. Nose: tight iron scrapings and paraffin, over custard, ripe bananas and brioche. With water: always these metallic touches that we always enjoy (old coins), magazines (fresh ink), dried flowers, a little candlewax… Mouth (neat): very good, feeling a notch Cuban, soft yet firm, with some good sweet cane juice and syrup. Quite some natural vanilla too. With water: tiny berries and fruits coming out, orange blossom water… But it remains easy, lighter rum. Finish: medium, round, with touches of honey and maple syrup. Sugarcane syrup once more. Comments: I remember there was a little more action in the ex-PX, but this is very, very fine and natural. Did I tell you that the distillery had nothing to do with Don Papa?
SGP:541 - 84 points.

Diamond 15 yo 2006/2021 'REV' (56.4%, S.B.S, cask #1423, 240 bottles)

Diamond 15 yo 2006/2021 'REV' (56.4%, S.B.S, cask #1423, 240 bottles) Five stars
REV, that's the Versailles still. Pot stills rule. Colour: deep red amber. Nose: naturally. Thick as honey and tarry as coal-tar. Exceptional notes of turpentine and roasted caramelised peanuts. With water: new rubber boots, scuba diving suit and the accompanying snorkel. Some metal polish, leatherette, bakelite and lamp oil too. Quasi orgasmic (I know, I know). Mouth (neat): still thick as honey. Very extractive, with a lot of liquorice (really a lot) and a good few spoonfuls of fir honey. With water: and voilà, anchovies in brine, liquorice, grapefruit, tarragon… Finish: same for a very long time. Heavy honey is back in the aftertaste. Comments: you can't fight against this. Wo would know about the ester count?
SGP:663 - 91 points.

Renegade 'Etudes – Old Bacolet' (55%, OB, Grenada, Single Farm, terroir 'Silk Cotton Tree', single field 'Theo's Field', Grenada, 2023)

Renegade 'Etudes – Old Bacolet' (55%, OB, Grenada, Single Farm, terroir 'Silk Cotton Tree', single field 'Theo's Field', Grenada, 2023) Four stars and a half
Column distillation of a cane varietal called 'lodger' (nothing to do with David Bowie, I suppose). Colour: gold. Nose: interesting nose, on Crayolas and bags of pencil shavings. You'd almost believe we're back on the benches of the public school. Some vegetables stewed in honey sauce, perhaps eggplants? And then really a lot of roasted sesame oil, this time we're in Lebanon, almost. Doesn't rum make you travel? With water: rather more of those wood shavings, praline, pistachio nougat, small berry eau-de-vie (holly)… Mouth (neat): lovely tension, between pink grapefruits and blood oranges, with even a little salt. Not Himalaya salt, do not push us. With water: earthy citrus at the helm. Pure fresh-crushed canes, with a body that isn't very fat, not too sure Renegade also distilled some of this in pot stills, would be cool to compare. Finish: medium, with metallic touches that we always enjoy. Fruit peel, some softer oak spices, a feeling of fresh paint and putty, with those pink grapefruits in the aftertaste. Comments: malt enthusiasts often find rums that have been through column stills a bit thin, but that's far from the case here. This is another excellent Renegade, even though I tend to prefer the ex-pot still ones, but very barely in the case of Renegade. Yet old habits die hard.
SGP:552 - 89 points.

Speaking of renegades, let's have some fun with some much older Grenadian Pirate…

Grenada 29 yo 1993/2023 'Edward Ned Low' (64.5%, Distilia, The Golden Age of Piracy, cask #14, 226 bottles)

Grenada 29 yo 1993/2023 'Edward Ned Low' (64.5%, Distilia, The Golden Age of Piracy, cask #14, 226 bottles) Four stars
I would suppose this was Westerhall. By the way, I remember that there were Westerhalls within the first range of Renegade independent rums, at the time when the brand was somewhat of a subsidiary of Murray McDavid, around the mid to late 2000s.Colour: gold. Nose: it is not even that different despite the huge time gap, but that may be due to the much higher strength (this one had spent 15 years in the tropics). Cakes, oranges, cane juice, biscuits, vanilla… It's all very soft. With water: the pirate is gentler than the renegade. Cakes and bananas, vanilla… Mouth (neat): high powerz, varnish, glue… That's just the ethanol. With water: soft island-style, with herbal teas and cane juice. It's as if the very high proof has kind of locked it up all these years, with just a bit of tree bark and breakfast tea. Finish: medium, with some English breakfast tea (as they say) and chamomile. Comments: very good for sure but the Renegade tastes like higher-ester Hampden in comparison.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Didn't we mention Jamaica?

Long Pond 22 yo 2000/2023 'JMLW' (49.6%, RumSponge, edition 21a, 198 bottles)

Long Pond 22 yo 2000/2023 'JMLW' (49.6%, RumSponge, edition 21a, 198 bottles) Five stars
JMLW stands for Jamaica Main Long Pond Wedderburn, which suggests a softer one, am I not right? Colour: straw. Nose: old butter, turnips, engine oil, old tools, plasticine, olives… Scared? You shouldn't be, it's just that it seems that this baby's aged relatively fastly. Not too sure, but these added notes of old riesling and petrol are just awesome. Mouth: more of those old rieslings, olives, capers, pinewood, a drop of Worcester sauce, sandalwood, cigar, tabasco, lime as well, mezcal, crazy cachaça and a bit of parmesan cheese. That's why I found a little 'old butter' on the nose. In short, almost rum for foodistas, as we used to say in the early 2000s, when this was distilled. Finish: long, a tad acetic, with a lovely ashy sourness and even a feeling of lemony peat. Think Caol Ila. Comments: nice stroll, it's excellent. Forgot to mention rotting bananas.
SGP:463 - 90 points.

I think we have some room for a last Jamaican… And maybe even a Trinidadian before that…

T.D.L. 21 yo 2002/2023 (55%, Cadenhead's Dated Distillation, Trinidad)

T.D.L. 21 yo 2002/2023 (55%, Cadenhead's Dated Distillation, Trinidad) Five stars
Long story short, this is indie Angostura, so hit or miss, let's see… Colour: light gold. Nose: total hit! I can't remember when I last tried a rum this fruity, this full of passion fruits and mangos. Incredible. With water: towards fruit skins and peelings, still extremely exotic. Mouth (neat): no, really, this is mango eau-de-vie, is it not? Well no, it's not possible, mango eau-de-vie is not very good, at least the ones I've tasted weren't great, too much on perfume and scented soap and candles. This is something else, this wee rum transcends mangos, in a way. With water: same, plus orange juice and citron liqueur. It just drinks way too well, they should add a warning. Finish: medium, ultra-tropical. Indeed the aftertaste is a notch soapy, but we don't care at all. Comments: it's actually rather malty, you cannot not think of late 1980s-early 1990s Bushmills or, there, Littlemill, really. Or Lochside, why not Lochside. I was not expecting this, at all. I don't know whether Cadenhead 'raised' this one or if they just recently sourced it, but what a hit indeed.
SGP:740 - 91 points.

And so we said a Jamaican. Why not another Long Pond?...

Long Pond 21 yo 2001/2022 (56.4%, The Colours of Rum, Jamaica, N°8)

Long Pond 21 yo 2001/2022 (56.4%, The Colours of Rum, Jamaica, N°8) Five stars
I've read on some website that this was a 'rum finish' (hey MoM). That's our favourite kind of finishing, Ardbeg Ardbeg finish, Macallan Macallan finish, and rum rum finish. Pleonasmic or tautological finishes, that's great (yeah I've realised that the cask they've used may have stemmed from another rum distillery). Colour: white wine. Nose: pure lemon juice mixed with olive oil and benzine. The fumes from a 2-stroke engine, as we sometimes say. Right, old Kawasaki. Whiffs of formic acid. With water: same, plus Thai basil and coriander. Mouth (neat): this was made with a scalpel. Olives, lemon peel, seawater, ashes. With water: very simple, very high-definition. Brine and lemons. Finish: long, more medicinal. Salty smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: like all simple people, we like simple rums, as long as they carry some punch, like this one.
SGP:463 - 90 points.

I believe we now have more malternatives that reach or surpass 90 points than whiskies doing the same. Such is the world, CU.

(Thanks Pawel, Rob and other friends… )

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


October 7, 2023





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland

Four rather austere Jura

Today we are on the Isle of Jura, where we should probably expect the unexpected and watch out for rather funny but usually pretty charming distillate. These should all be pretty naked, distillate driven Jura - hopefully banishing from our minds thoughts of 'seven woods'…


Isle Of Jura 20 yo 1975/1996 (43%, Signatory Vintage, casks #2771-2773, 580 bottles)

Isle Of Jura 20 yo 1975/1996 (43%, Signatory Vintage, casks #2771-2773, 580 bottles)
Colour: buttery white wine. Nose: a very pleasing and nicely bright fruity waxiness. Lots of white stone fruits, white flowers, beach pebbles, coastal flowers and with time some very gentle and lovely tropical notes. I find this nose extremely natural and charming. Mouth: nice arrival, leaning more towards the austere side, still dominated by waxes and olive oil, but bringing in some more flints, clay, wee lactic inclusions, bone marrow and chalky mineral notes. Dry, peppery and less fruity than the nose suggested, but with a wonderfully chiselled and nicely mineral / waxy profile that unmistakeable makes you think of top class dry white chenin blanc. Finish: medium and rather peppery, with watercress, mustard seed and a slightly starchy and cereal vibe emerging in the aftertaste. Comments: you have to like this slightly more austere, un-sexy, dry style, but I love the quiet charm and charisma of this one. With a less interesting distillate it could go the other way, but as it is.

SGP: 461 - 88 points.



Isle Of Jura 34 yo 1989/2023 (45.9%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 200 bottles)

Isle Of Jura 34 yo 1989/2023 (45.9%, Thompson Brothers, refill hogshead, 200 bottles)
Colour: pale white wine. Nose: very herbal and vegetal at first nosing, really on things like roast turnip with sea salt, artichoke in olive oil, verbena and herbal bitters. Unusual but hugely charismatic, goes on with things like ink, tea tree oil and a rather floral waxiness. Mouth: impeccably bone dry and dominated by mechanical oils, plain cereals, more impressions of roasted root vegetables, white pepper and a rather brittle, chalky mineral note. The kind of funny but very charming whisky that not many other distilleries than Jura seem able to produce. Finish: rather long and getting more salty with caraway and toasted fennel seed, some umami broth, Maggi and more various assorted bitters. Comments: you have to really be into this rather extreme, obscure and austere style of whisky. Probably more challenging than your average Octomore in many ways as it's highly intellectual and off the beaten path. Personally, I really like this, although I can see how if your preferred tipple is Claret finished Speyburn you might opine otherwise…

SGP: 361 - 87 points.



Isle Of Jura 20 yo 1972 (54%, OB, 261 bottles, +/-1992)

Isle Of Jura 20 yo 1972 (54%, OB, 261 bottles, +/-1992)
A rather obscure official single cask. I'm fond of Jura from this era so reasonable hopes here… Colour: straw. Nose: rather austere, chalky and coastal to begin, although that is also balanced by rather a lot of beers, breads and cereals too, a little mashy in fact. I also get a funny mix of yoghurt and wax, which isn't unpleasant but feels appropriately 'Jura!'. With water: sandalwood, wet rocks, beach foam, crushed parsley and grass. Feels younger than it is and very dominated by raw ingredients. Mouth: good arrival, but perhaps a tad tough and a little austere. This kind of slightly gravelly mineral vibe, granitic and slightly sharp. Not without charms though, as there's grapefruit and lemon peel peeping round the corner too. Still this slightly lactic and waxy combination on display. With water: crushed aspirin, a chalky quality once again, plain cereals, mash water and dried flowers. A little peppery and dryly waxy again. Finish: medium and on cereals, beers and dried flowers again. Comments: not the easiest I have to say. There's attractive parts to it, but globally I find its austerity a little tough, even though it remains rather charismatic in some regards. The previous two had enough verve or fruit to balance those austere aspects, but this one doesn't quite hold up. Now, other folk seem to rate this one quite a bit higher, so it could be me…

SGP: 361 - 85 points.



Isle Of Jura 1972/1991 (54%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #31.3)
Colour: pale straw. Nose: very similar, I suppose they are likely pretty close in production. Again on this austere, gently coastal, slightly oily and slightly chalky profile. There's also this vegetal aspect underneath as well and various mashed grains and cereals and beery vibes. I like it, it just feels like it could do with a bit of fruitiness to balance things out. With water: rather elegantly on sandalwood, gorse flower and grassy rapeseed oil. Gains a little more aromatic finesse with water I'd say. Mouth: again a nicely salty, sharp and quite precise arrival, thankfully with a little more white and orchard fruits on display, things like sharp green apple and gooseberry. With water: nicely textural, peppery, waxy and mineral, the fruit steps back a bit but there's a lovely quite sharp coastal theme going on which is pleasing. Finish: medium, a little salty, a little peppery, still some waxy and grassy hints. Comments: same slightly frustrated feeling, it just feels like these batches are missing that touch of fruit or more assertive waxiness that elevated the first two. Still, it's nice to see that there's quite a consistent global profile between all four. This one is perhaps one notch better than the official I'd say.

SGP: 361 - 86 points.



I remain a big fan of Jura, there aren't many makes like it, it just seems to benefit from rather a lot of time and simple wood.



Thanks to Cicada and to Phil T.




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


October 6, 2023


Kavalan, a lot, Part Four


Kavalan 2008/2016 (54.8%, OB, sherry cask, cask #S081229027, 496 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2016 (54.8%, OB, sherry cask, cask #S081229027, 496 bottles) Four stars and a half
No doubts here. Colour: copper amber. Nose: chocolate and cherries and sherry and walnuts and metal polish and just a tiny bit of 'gun sulphur'. With water: sour wines, manzanilla, retsina, vin jaune, mustard, green walnuts, curry… Mouth (neat): oh ten times more brilliant on the palate, with phenols and estery rums, bacterial stuff, olives, and so on. With water: it's back! Stones, slate, pepper, umami sauce, mustard, more green walnuts… Finish: rather long, mustardy, bitter, perfect. Very fino-y. Comments: not easy but love it.
SGP:372 - 88 points.

I remain completely unable to describe Kavalan's distillate; it's almost entirely a matter of cask policy, at nearly 100%. That seems like a rewarding option, but only time will tell… Did they do mizunara already?

Kavalan 2011/2016 (57.1%, OB, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask # B110422008A)

Kavalan 2011/2016 (57.1%, OB, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #B110422008A) Four stars
This one sent by Ian Chang at the time, an extraordinary human being (I mean it, Ian). Colour: full gold. Nose: some dumb yet great bourbonness. Vanilla custard, tinned pineapple juice, coconut water, mango ice cream, brioche and croissant dough… With water: cassata and panettone doughs. But why always the Italians? È solo un piccolo scherzo, amici. Mouth (neat): total, extreme, incredible fresh fruitiness, on all-vitamin fruit juice, papayas in total extasy, and just a few wee pink bananas. With water: total fresh fruit juice. Very fine barrel. Finish (neat): medium, ultra-sweet and full of mangos, bananas, papayas and acacia honey. Comments: it's excellent, it's just a bit boring because thousands of distilleries today use these fresh bourbon casks that were previously first used for grain whisky. Times are changing...
SGP:741 - 87 points.

Right, that could have been any 'unpeated' distillery that's producing upper-average batch-distilled barley malt whisky.  

Kavalan 2009/2016 (57.8%, OB, for Fortune, sherry butt, cask #S090102001, 498 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 (57.8%, OB, for Fortune, sherry butt, cask #S090102001, 498 bottles) Three stars
Frankly, why always 57.8%? Is there something symbolic in this proof? Colour: office coffee. Kojak etc. Nose: extreme raw chocolate and ground coffee, tart, excessive sloes, crazy plums (damsons), and just damp crushed slate and chalk. Some used matches. First time this shows up - tough boy. With water: typical roughish/leafy sherry, nothing to write home about. Mouth (neat): total coffee, chocolate, clove and cracked pepper. With water: ooh this has gotten better, but it's brutal stuff, booze's top MMA fighter, with pepper, nuts, salt and lemon, and some massive clove that would tend to make this baby really very excessive. Finish: very long, very peppery, very tough.  Nicer aftertaste, on orange blossom honey. Comments: it bites you a little too much.
SGP:5872 - 80 points.

Kavalan 2007/2016 'Peaty cask' (58.6%, OB, 1st Fill Peaty Barrel, cask # R070521006, 810 bottles)

Kavalan 2007/2016 'Peaty cask' (58.6%, OB, 1st Fill Peaty Barrel, cask #R070521006, 810 bottles) Three stars and a half
A different packaging here. I believe the distillate was not peated, only the cask's previous content was. Colour: amber. Nose: a feeling of smoked cognac at first, loads of raisins, battelman, some peppery sweet sauce (English brown sauce)… With water: some shoe polish, metal polish, fumes, warm candlewax… Mouth (neat): very rich, thick, peppery rather than smoky, but smoky as well, this time with a feeling of aquavit at 80% vol. It really creams for water. With water: going toward amaro I would say. Artichoke. Finish: long, rather on Italian bitter liqueurs. Comments: the addition of water incredibly raised the temperature. It's a known phenomenon, but to this extent! Very unusual style of Kavalan.
SGP:663 - 84 points.

Kavalan 2010/2017 (59.4%, OB, The Seven Virtues of Bushido, Port cask, cask #0100505013A)

Kavalan 2010/2017 (59.4%, OB, The Seven Virtues of Bushido, Port cask, cask #O100505013A) Four stars and a half
Colour: red amber. Nose: lovely varnish and ripe red berries, with a lovely rancio. With water: pipe tobacco and, once again, a little metal polish. Touches of camphor as well, which is awesome in this context. Mouth (neat): full, rich, with sultanas and touches of liquorice, plus some sweet rum, 'sweetened Demerara-style'. You could almost call it El Kavalano (that was stupid, S.) With water: sweet, with some pepper liqueur and triple-sec, as well as hints of old genever. Finish: long, perfectly balanced, with a perfect hotness in the aftertaste, towards sweet chili, or rougaïl from Réunion or Madagascar. Comments: absolutely excellent, one of the best recentish ex-portwood malts.
SGP:642 - 89 points.

Kavalan 2010/2016 (57.1%, OB, 1st fill Sherry barrel, cask #S100303052A, 519 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2016 (57.1%, OB, 1st fill Sherry barrel, cask #S100303052A, 519 bottles) Five stars
Colour: dark red amber. Nose: dazzling furniture polish, varnish, roasted chestnuts, black currants, milk chocolate, shoe polish, pipe tobacco… There's nothing to throw away. With water: fumes! Tyres! Old cars! Mouth (neat): exceptional sherry, with a perfect wee rubber at first, then walnut wine, liquorice, tobacco, heavy honeys… Nah, it's perfect. With water: even more perfect, with a little smoke this time. Finish: rather long, creamy, with more sweet roasted nuts. A drop of tar liqueur. Comments: sweet Dr. Swan passed away in 2017, so he may have been behind this cask. No wonder…
SGP:652 - 90 points.

Kavalan 2008/2017 (58.6%, OB, for Asia Palate Association, sherry butt, cask #S081217041, 476 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2017 (58.6%, OB, for Asia Palate Association, sherry butt, cask #S081217041, 476 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: very dark reddish amber. Nose: a tad more austere, a bit steely, metallic, but walnuts and dried figs and prunes are doing their jobs. Lovely touches of rubber once more – we're talking good rubber, naturally. With water: Maggi and Bovril! And our Viandox! Astounding. Mouth (neat): love it when you have many dried fruits and a touch of rubber indeed. Marmalade, dates, pepper liqueur, green walnuts (nocino)… With water: even more rubber. I agree that could be a little segmenting, but I, for one, love it. Finish: long, perhaps a tad too green now, a notch too rubbery, maybe. Comments: let's say this one was a little less consensual.
SGP:461 - 89 points.

Kavalan 2009/2017 (58.6%, OB, sherry, cask #S090306031, 481 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2017 (58.6%, OB, sherry, cask #S090306031, 481 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: coffee. Nose: cherry liqueur, guignolet, maraschino, prunes, old Ténarèze (once more), chestnut honey… You see. With water: tends to become a touch soapier, but that would go away. Puréed chestnuts, armagnac, old tools, metal polish… Mouth (neat): oh perfect, once more. Punchier, more on bitters, Montenegro amaro, hoisin sauce, with a tiny touch of rosewater, otherwise varnishes and even the most wonderful touch of acetone… With water: clove and more amaro. Fernet Branca, bitter vermouth... In short, stuff by the Italians (love them, naturally). Finish: a touch drying, perhaps. Being picky once more. Dark chocolate reigning supreme now. Comments: for the ones among us who love bitters.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Kavalan 2009/2016 (57.1%, OB, sherry, cask #S090306012, 498 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 (57.1%, OB, sherry, cask #S090306012, 498 bottles) Five stars
Overall winner at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2017. Never tried it (go figure). Colour: polished mahogany. Nose: extreme dry sherry, full of menthol, tobacco, chocolate, walnuts, liquorice and beeswax/propolis. With water: sublime, with very old Sauternes, Spanish rancios, Rivesaltes, Maurys, Banyuls, and of course 'that solera that was started in the 19th century'. Stuff by Barbadillo. Oh and thin mints. Mouth (neat): the best batches of the old Mac 10 C/S. Includes the faint peatiness and the minerals. With water: herbs, sage, bay leaves, bouillons, marrow, parsley and chive, and even those 'crystal dim-sums' we love so much. Check the Bleu Bao restaurants when in Paris! Finish: long, tighter, more on marmalade, orange oil, bergamots… Comments: twelve experienced tasters tasting 100% blind and without any communication just cannot be wrong. We must bow down to Dr. Swan (even if we keep liking spirit-driven whiskies better!!)
SGP:462 - 91 points.

Kavalan 2009/2017 (58.6%, OB, Tiger's Finest Selection, sherry, cask #S090306024, 461 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2017 (58.6%, OB, Tiger's Finest Selection, sherry, cask #S090306024, 461 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one won the 'premium sherry' category at the MMA. Colour: dark red. Nose: old armagnac, peonies, varnishes, morello cherries. Simple. With water: literally tons of chocolate, ganaches, chocolate truffles… Mouth (neat): extraordinary 'brandymalt'. Deep, thick, shock-full of spicy jams and jellies. I'm even finding it a tad tiring, or at least challenging because of this high concentration. With water: it's almost like having 24 truffes au chocolat. No, say 36 of them. Finish: very long and extremely chocolaty. Comments: this one for dear Voltaire, he who was only swallowing chocolate during the last years of his life. By the way, did you know he owned vineyards in Alsace?
SGP:551 - 89 points.

Once again, it seems we have been surprised by the tide. Good, I think that's enough Kavalan. Many have been extremely impressive, which was to be expected because of their fully scientific approach of whisky maturation. I don't think any detail is/was left to chance, but honestly, even if the approach is far from romantic or poetic, the result is there. It's pretty rare for a Kavalan single cask to score below 85 points in my humble little rating system. But yeah, that's just me. Peace. -S.


Wgiskyfun 101

  Kavalan and the Malt Maniacs Awards
It must be said that for a few years, we received a lot of Kavalan at the Malt Maniacs Awards, which led the brand to hoard a lot of medals, somewhat like Porsche at the 24 Hours of Le Mans some years. There were far too many of those, but they were indeed the fastest and most reliable. It was somewhat the same with Kavalan, all tasted 100% blind, which doesn't exist elsewhere in other awards by the way (not knowing about either the whiskies, of course, or any categories they might be in during the tasting). I myself have been on the juries of several other awards, and honestly, when you know in advance that you have in your glass a Speyside malt less than 10 years old aged in sherry and bottled at 43% ABV, that's not really 100% blind tasting, is it?


Kavalan, a lot, Part Three



Kavalan 2009/2016 (57.8%, OB, Port cask, cask #O090619031A, 184 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2016 (57.8%, OB, Port cask, cask #O090619031A, 184 bottles) Five stars
My compadres the MMS just adored this one back in 2018. Colour: dark red amber. Sometimes you would have called this colour 'old cognac' but that doesn't make much sense here. Nose: astounding sherriness (I know it's Port), once more a Kavalan 'Port' that's way closer to sherry. Superb tobacco, autumn leaves, molasses, Demerara sugar… With water: sublime earthiness, mushrooms of all kinds, leaves… Mouth (neat): huge richness and creaminess, old rancio, old armagnac, walnuts, caraway liqueur, Jäger, chartreuse, chestnut honey… With water: rounder an sweeter, rather towards some old bottles of Cointreau plus some precious chocolate. Homemade Jaffa cakes, perhaps. Finish: very long, turning wonderfully bitterer, with even a little salt. Comments: but wow! Exceptional modern whisky engineering, with proven results in your glass (yeah  that's not always the case everywhere).
SGP:661 - 91 points.

Yes I realise that many scores are very high, but in truth, what can I do? I need to trust my nose and my palate.

Kavalan 2008/2017 (57.8%, OB, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081215028, 496 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2017 (57.8%, OB, for Asia Palate Association, sherry cask, cask #S081215028, 496 bottles) Five stars
Colour: dark brownish amber. Nose: exceptional sweet and gamey sherry. Touches of wood smoke, pinecone smoke, Marmite, gravy, rancio, very old cream sherry… With water: hoisin sauce. Mouth (neat): another terrific one, drier on the palate, full of walnut wine and liqueur, roasted pecans and peanuts, chewing your cigar, ristretto, all that. With water: sweeter, awesome, with sweet spices, pinot gris SGN, very old PX… Finish: very long, a little smoky, on pepper, clove and cinnamon, while the big black raisins would be back in the aftertaste. Comments: what can I say.
SGP:562 - 90 points.

I think the relatively low monetary value reached by these Kavalans at auction has nothing to do with their intrinsic quality. It's just that there are literally millions of single cask options, which is inevitably somewhat devaluing. Alright, let's continue, faster if possible..

Kavalan 2009/2017 (59.4%, OB, Tiger Selection, 1st fill sherry, cask #S090306028, 463 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2017 (59.4%, OB, Tiger Selection, 1st fill sherry, cask #S090306028, 463 bottles) Five stars
Colour: dark coffee/mahogany. Nose: amazingly deep prune wine, umeshu, armagnac, very old PX… With water: stunning mosses, pipe tobacco, undergrowth after the rain, tarmac, myrtle liqueur… Mouth (neat): old green chartreuse and Zwack Unicum. Huge caraway and juniper. With water: same. Touch of elderberry. Finish: long, with a little more chocolate and heavy gravy. Comments: I'm sorry but I simply don't see any obscure or political reason why I would give this little gem less than 90 points. When you consider that some Scottish brands offer whiskies that are certainly older but of the same kind, for fifty times the price.
SGP:661 - 90 points.

Indeed, they are a little infuriating these Kavalans. At the time of their debut, there were some comments about supposedly bizarre production methods, but it's been a long time since I've heard anything like that. Probably sour grapes.

Kavalan 2008/2016 (55.6%, OB, sherry, cask #S081229029, 497 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2016 (55.6%, OB, sherry, cask #S081229029, 497 bottles) Four stars
Colour: deep amber. Nose: this one's more on honey and molasses, but I simply adore these small gamey touches, the old wines, the fudge, the toffee… With water: more earth, as almost always. Beautiful slightly composty nose, with even a little smoked bacon. Mouth (neat): perhaps a tad rougher, with maybe a little too much pepper and ginger, even turmeric. Splitting hairs once more. With water: a little rounder, with some candy sugar. Finish: medium, sweeter than the others. More sultanas. Comments: exceptional nose, the palate was less remarkable. Still high-ranking, in the general scheme of boozy things.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Kavalan 2009/2017 (57.8%, OB, sherry, cask #S090319003, 473 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2017 (57.8%, OB, sherry, cask #S090319003, 473 bottles) Five stars
Colour: deep copper gold. Nose: sublime. Reminds me of several old sherried Speysiders distilled in the 1960s and 1970s. No, really, not making this up. Stunning teas and leaves, tobaccos, earths… With water: pipe tobacco and meaty, gamey sauces, venison, crude chocolate, fresh-ground coffee... Holy Suzy! Mouth (neat): awe. Exceptionally tight and yet rich, with wonderful spices and, almost for the first time, drum roll please, ta-dah… Bread! Well, rather pumpernickel. And speculoos. With water: flabbergasting spicy marmalades. Finish: long, with more citrus and liqueurs. Comments: if there were fewer of them, they would be much more expensive, but I don't think that would make much economic sense. In any case, in a blind tasting, they blow away the majority of Scottish whiskies of this style.
SGP:661 - 92 points.

Hush hush…

Kavalan 2009/2018 (56.3%, OB, Tiger's Tasting Club, oloroso sherry, cask #S090102018, 473 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2018 (56.3%, OB, Tiger's Tasting Club, oloroso sherry, cask #S090102018, 473 bottles) Four stars
Colour: coffee. Nose: back to sourer and sweeter wine notes, all good but perhaps less interesting. In short, more raisins. With water: chocolate, raisins, nuts and caramel, some stuff by Cadbury's. Mouth (neat): extremely good, chocolaty, a little gingery (with oude genever as they say north of Belgium)… With water: but it would never quite take off from this pretty raisiny profile. Finish: long, spicier, with a few pencil shavings (unusual in these makes). Comments: typically 'excellent-not-great'; It's true that there is some serious competition.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Kavalan 2008/2018 (57.8%, OB, Tiger Selection, sherry butt, cask #S090306022, 474 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2018 (57.8%, OB, Tiger Selection, sherry butt, cask #S090306022, 474 bottles) Four stars
Colour: coffee. Nose: very similar. Molasses, Nescafé, chocolate, raisins… With water: some metallic notes, old engine, extreme sauvignon blanc… Mouth (neat): no, very good, this time I think the palate is superior. Spicy, peppery orange cordials and liqueurs, barrel-aged Schweppes (what?)… With water: sweet, rounded, a little liqueury. The butt may have been a little sweet. Finish: medium, on speculoos and mead. Chocolate. Comments: another very good Kavalan, but It's possible that I won't remember this one beyond next week.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Kavalan 2009/2017 (58.6%, OB, for Tiger's Finest Selection, sherry butt, cask #S090306021, 476 bottles) Four stars
Obviously a twin cask. No pictures, but it's a white one. They're all the same anyway, aren't they, and they sure won't end up at the MoMA. Colour: office coffee, as in Kojak. Forget, boomer stuff. Nose: mead and very old Sauternes, black nougat, roasted pecans, ditto walnuts… With water: ah this is lovely, there's some camphor now, embrocations, even a little spent engine oil, some marrow and bouillons… Ho-ho! (what does that mean, S.?) Mouth (neat): plain and simple, this is an old cognac that went to Taiwan and then found its way back to WF Headquarters in Alsace. With water: there, game set and match, thanks to preserved peaches. Finish: rather long, perhaps not that stunning after all. Some oak coming through, never the greatest thing in my book. Comments: some parts were fab, others a little less so (exactly, as if that isn't the case for almost all spirits!)
SGP:561 - 87 points.

Kavalan 2012/2018 (59.4%, OB, sherry, 1st fill oloroso butt, cask #S120622045A) Four stars
Can whisky be both brilliant and boring? Discuss… No pictures. Who needs pictures. Colour: rich dark amber. Nose: fumes, roasted chestnuts, sultanas, pipe tobacco, Parma ham. So far, so good. With water: more malt. Hey, malt! Mouth (neat): chocolate, raspberry eau-de-vie (Alsatian of course), ginger liqueur, pencil shavings, cracked pepper… Well this one was very active when they bottled it. With water: vegetables, moussaka, heavy honeys, touch of glutamate. Finish: medium, leafier, a tad sour and bitter perhaps. Comments: It's true that we're becoming demanding. Excellent malt whisky for sure, they wouldn't let a significantly inferior cask pass through anyway.
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Last one, but there will be more…

Kavalan 2011/2018 (57.8%, OB, 1st fill  Port cask, cask #O110126015A)

Kavalan 2011/2018 (57.8%, OB, 1st fill  Port cask, cask #O110126015A) Three stars
Ex-Port that tastes like ex-sherry again? Let's see… Colour: copper amber. Nose: with oldish pinot noir and strawberry jam, this is almost an old Beaujolais, let's say a Morgon (yeah I know Morgon is gamay, but there). With water: cakes, roasted chestnuts, leaves, tobacco… Mouth (neat): really bold and a tad aggressive, I'm not sure 57.8% should really be 'a preferred strength'. Pepper and bitter marmalade, plus pepper and pepper. With water: good, but not really. Oranges and pepper. Finish: ginger and mulled wine. Not extremely necessary. Comments: It's true that we did a pre-sorting based on the scores from the most experienced Malt Maniacs. All we can say is that they know how to taste. Alright, let's stop the bleeding, until next time.
SGP:551 - 81 points.

A brief conclusion perhaps; well, after all, it seems that Kavalan is human, with humanity being defined by the ability to do things that are either extraordinary or really average. Hooray! We'll have many more soon…

Ha-ha, wait wait wait, they did peaters as well! Whether they distilled proper peat-flavoured malted barley or they just used ex-peater barrels (which is what so many cheap corner-cutting distillers are doing these days), we just do not know.

Kavalan 'Peated Malt' (55.6%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, Singapore Edition, 2020)

Kavalan 'Peated Malt' (55.6%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, Singapore Edition, 2020) Three stars
Colour: copper amber. Nose: that's the thing, this works. Say metal polish, Barbour grease, bacon fat,  exhaust… But do not expect anything coastal. With water: even more so. Bandages, suet, camphor, balms and ointments… Mouth (neat): fun. Put bonbons and liqueurs into a smoke machine, add olives and proper green pesto (includes loads of basil!) Great fun, really. With water: not sure it's very comfortable in water, maybe it's better to avoid. The briney side feels odd here. Finish: nicely medicinal, otherwise uncertain. Comments: not sure how they did this wishy-whashy concoction that just nose-dived after thirty seconds. Did they ship barrels to Provence? Italy? Spain? Greece? Croatia?
SGP:463 - 81 points.

And they insist…

Kavalan 2015/2021 'Peated' (53.2%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, Conquête, cask #R150409099A, 164 bottles)

Kavalan 2015/2021 'Peated' (53.2%, OB, La Maison du Whisky, Conquête, cask #R150409099A, 164 bottles) Three stars and a half
Colour: dark bright amber. Nose: obviously. This is a perfect highly technological, totally US-cask-driven malt whisky, with just a little Laphroaigness of the highest calibre. Aftershave lotion and ointments, plus bananas and easy papayas. With water: sameish. Charcoal. Mouth (neat): simple smoke and pepper, with good lime keeping it straight and tight. Some salt. Cool. With water: very good, creamier, easier, with good citrus. You would almost believe they've imported some limoncello too and did a 2/3 ex-bourbon Kavalan + 1/6 Scottish peater + 1/6 Italian limoncello vatting.  And s***w the rules. Finish: rather long, clean, medicinal and indeed smoky. Comments: feels like a transworld make, perhaps a tad soulless. Nothing against that, but please no AI in whisky making!
SGP:564 – 84 points.

October 5, 2023


Kavalan, a lot, Part Two



Kavalan 2011/2021 (57.8%, OB, Port cask, cask #0111118054A, 186 bottles)

Kavalan 2011/2021 (57.8%, OB, Port cask, cask #O111118054A, 186 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one was bottled for an impressive assembly of whisky specialists in Taiwan. Colour: dark reddish amber. Nose: once again its rather an old-PX-kind of ex-Port Kavalan, with few red berries if any, rather cold cuts, Parma ham, fat raisins, earth, mushrooms, walnut wine, earthy and slightly smoky old pu-her… With water: pipe tobacco, green walnuts, roasted pecans, bits of white asparagus (no sulphur), more potting soil, mushrooms, drop of soy sauce… Mouth (neat): high-power arrival, with a few pencil shavings at first, then pepper and nutmeg, then many raisins and a similar feeling of old PX, old VORS, dried figs… With water: these little cedar shavings again, but it really is perfect. More very old cream sherry, VORS… Finish: long, thick, spicy. We've all had a few bits of pipe tobacco in our mouths when we were young, haven't we. Comments: or chewing tobacco. Does that still exist, by the way?
SGP:661 - 88 points.

Kavalan 2010/2018 (57.8%, OB, Asia Palate Association, oloroso sherry cask, cask #S100309001A, 495 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2018 (57.8%, OB, Asia Palate Association, oloroso sherry cask, cask #S100309001A, 495 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: office coffee. Nose: office coffee, I am not joking, plus a lot of potting soil and compost once more, walnut wine, Nescafé and cigars. Not much fruitiness in this one, but that's not an obligation. With water: a little steely, with old knives, old riffles, irons, old stove and all that. Not the first time we're finding this in an ex-oloroso. Mouth (neat): very punchy, ridden with old walnuts (we love them) and bitter coffee (love that too). There's a certain 'Jaeger' side too, with only much less sweetness. Artichoke liqueur. With water: bang, sultanas! It was about time. More roasted pecans too, caraway… Finish: very long, leafier again, with some umami and a clear glutamatey side. Comments: a lot of fun to be had from this dry baby. Some sides were clearly reminiscent of brandy de Jerez, only without all the sweetness.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Kavalan 2011/2022 (56.3%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Antipodes, PX cask, cask #PX110218016B, 412 bottles)

Kavalan 2011/2022 (56.3%, OB, for La Maison du Whisky, Antipodes, PX cask, cask #PX110218016B, 412 bottles) Five stars
Colour: dark amber. Nose: you would have believed this ex-Pedro would be much sweeter even on the nose, but that's not really the case, we're rather on dark chocolate, grenache, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (not obligatorily Rayas, mind you), morello cherries, coffee, amaretti… It's clearly got something Italian, and of course we shan't complain. With water: yesss. Pu-her and some marvellous touches of rubber and fumes. Nasty on the paper, fabulous in really life. Mouth (neat): hold on, this is massively classic. Sultanas, dried figs, dried dates, armagnac, prunes, chocolate… With water: exceptional. Best of Speysi… I mean Taiwan. I would have said middle-aged ex-great-sherry Glenfarclas, honestly (with due apologies to all brand owners). I fondly remember some 1988s and 1989s. Finish: long, perfect sherry and brandiness. Comments: I doubt any AI whisky will ever make them better than this. Well done LMDW, I'm sorry I've been late.
SGP:561 - 91 points.

Kavalan 2008/2019 (58.6%, OB, La Maison du Whisky and The Nectar, oloroso sherry cask, cask #S08121704A, 420 bottles)

Kavalan 2008/2019 (58.6%, OB, La Maison du Whisky and The Nectar, oloroso sherry cask, cask #S08121704A, 420 bottles) Five stars
Colour: mahogany. Nose: very earthy, almost smoky, pretty basaltic, rather on amontillado, I would say, with some pinewood smoke and a small glass of sloe gin. Naturally, old walnuts keep roaming the place too. With water: even earthier. Garden peat, nitrogen fertilizer, bouillons, ramen, Maggi… Mouth (neat): very thick, creamy, somewhat tarry, with a lot of cracked pepper and a feeling of 'chewing on your Cuban cigar'. With water: a tad sweeter, rather on dried figs, fruitcake, clove, 'vieille prune', and once again rustic old armagnac (the Ténarèze they keep for themselves). Finish: long. Comments: more glory. I tip my hat to you, Dr. Swan – And Ian Chang – and the folks at LMDW – and at The Nectar in Belgium. The Belgians are always part of the action, as we often noticed.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Kavalan 2010/2018 (56.3%, OB, Moscatel sherry cask, cask #MO100625020A, 414 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2018 (56.3%, OB, Moscatel sherry cask, cask #MO100625020A, 414 bottles) Three stars and a half
I think we should expect some ueber-sweetness here. Colour: amber. Nose: not quite but indeed, it is one of the gentlest. Pear pie, tarte tatin, mirabelle jam and all that. Perhaps a little menthol in the background. This for sure is different. With water: a little earth, these typical whiffs of potting soil, which I find extremely 'Kavalan', some humus… Mouth (neat): this is almost a liqueur. Sweet white wines of all origins, not just moscatel from Jerez (or thereabouts), plus Peppermint Get, crème de menthe... With water: brings the tannins further out but other than that, it remains a sweet ballad.  Finish: rather long, sweet, muscaty. No rose and lychees, having said that, phew. Comments: excellent but not my favourite, because of this sweetness. I'm not sure they ever filled a lot of Moscatel, have they?
SGP:741 - 84 points.

We're a little slow…

Kavalan 2009/2017 (58.6%, OB, for HNWS Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask # S090608002A, 466 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2017 (58.6%, OB, for HNWS Taiwan, oloroso sherry butt, cask # S090608002A, 466 bottles) Four stars
In theory… Colour: chestnut stain, brown. Nose: walnuts and tobacco in full gown (what?), glutamate, plus crushed slate and even more garden soil. Whiff of hand cream, lady's moisturizer and all that in the distance. With water: porcinis with garlic and gravy, plus a little thyme tea, angelica, melissa... I'm not finding this one extremely oloroso-y. Mouth (neat): pepper, walnuts, marmalade; artichokes, eggplants, more pepper… With water: and walnuts. A little orangeade, Cointreau… indeed it got much sweeter as soon as water was added. Finish: not that long, sweeter yet, even more on triple-sec. Comments: to be honest, they are all very good and we end up splitting hairs. But that's the game and the fun of these very 'solo' sessions. A little sweet for an oloroso, but there…
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Kavalan 2010/2017 (58.6, OB, for Asia Palate Association, sherry butt, cask #S100309004A, 504 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2017 (58.6, OB, for Asia Palate Association, sherry butt, cask #S100309004A, 504 bottles) Five stars
They didn't say which kind of sherry it was. Colour: full mahogany. Nose: a new box of all-colour pencils by Caran d'Ache. You can hardly get more accurate than that, can you? Otherwise game, meatballs and gravies. With water: earths and teas of all kinds and from all continents. Mouth (neat): winner, even if it is a tad too potent. Raisins, oranges, teas and many aromatic herbs and spices. Touch of varnish too, for the better. With water: pine, menthol, camphor, caraway and clove popping out. Finish: long and wonderfully dry. Touch of walnut stain and other bitter things in the aftertaste. Extreme menthol and caraway. Comments: almost 91, only the slightly extreme finish brought us back to greater moderation. But what a massive drop!
SGP:572 - 90 points.

Long-time no virgin oak…

Kavalan 2006/2018 'Whisky Live Paris 2018' (59.4%, OB, virgin oak, cask #N06082847A, 89 bottles)

Kavalan 2006/2018 'Whisky Live Paris 2018' (59.4%, OB, virgin oak, cask #N06082847A, 89 bottles) Three stars and a half
A tiny outturn but a great reputation (you're sounding like a two-penny brochure here, S.) Colour: reddish amber. Nose: the wood really feels. Cedarwood, rose petals, ylang-ylang, incense, jasmine, varnish… It is very spectacular, but I shall hold my horse. With water: sawn plywood and banana cake, plus even more incense. Mouth (neat): very heavy varnish, anything 'Pappy' will nose like Auchentoshan 10 years old by comparison. Huge notes of bananas. With water: very good, just a tad unnatural. Malt whisky made by an AI. Finish: long, aromatic, with some varnish and banana liqueur. Comments: I'm not quite sure what to say. Some aspects are very sexy, but there's a lab-whisky side that remains somewhat unpleasant to me. Like some made-up 'mizunaras'. What can I say? I'm sure some friends will have had a crush on this one.
SGP:761 - 83 points.

In the olden days, distillers were saying that you just cannot use virgin oak. Anyway…

Kavalan 2012/2018 (59.4%, OB, Vinho Barrique, cask #W120120044A, 187 bottles)

Kavalan 2012/2018 (59.4%, OB, Vinho Barrique, cask #W120120044A, 187 bottles) Four stars
Our dear 'Vinhos' are back on the desk. What are they?… Colour: orange amber. Nose: fudge, fudge, fudge, fudge and toffee. Plus mothballs, roasted peanuts, patchouli and rosehip tea. Something else… With water: burnt cake, croissants, cinnamon rolls… That's the oak. Mouth (neat): ginger tonic and bitter oranges, bitters, Campari, gin… What's this 'Vinho'? With water: litres of triple-sec, some bananas and custard from the wood, more cakes, sweet spices, even a touch of mustard, ginger cookies, Aperol… A pretty mish-mash for sure. Finish: rather long, rather cask-and-wood-driven. Spice liqueurs, amaro… Comments: very good, it's just not easy to categorize. Malt? Bourbon? Genever? it's got the entire inventory of a mixologist in there.
SGP:561 - 87 points.


Kavalan, a lot, Part One

Kavalan was the second non-Japanese Asian whisky to really impress us, following the pioneers Amrut. Very clean distillates and especially a flawless barrel science implemented by expert Dr. Jim Swan (photograph) quickly pushed the brand into the spotlight. This was all reinforced by a perfect narrative about the accelerated aging allowed by the tropical climate, much like Amrut indeed. In the glass, it's generally quite irresistible, except for a few wine barrels that might have been slightly excessive, in my humble opinion. We'll see; we're going to have a lot of them and we'll do it all at random, it's more fun and there is no really old Kavalan anyway, I mean being more than 16 or 17. We'll try to keep these notes as short as possible (I know we always say that)…

Dr Swan



Kavalan 7 yo 2011/2019 'Rum Cask' (57.1%, OB, The Whisky Exchange, 20 years online, cask #M111104011A, 151 bottles)

Kavalan 7 yo 2011/2019 'Rum Cask' (57.1%, OB, The Whisky Exchange, 20 years online, cask #M111104011A, 151 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: straw. Nose: I believe the malt is having the upper hand, with some bourbony bananas, papayas and vanilla. Quite striking. Then classic and classy brioches and biscuits, scones, kougelhopf… Having said that, the rum may have added even more of those welcome bananas and papayas. With water: that superlative fresh-fruit-salad effect. Mouth (neat): I'm afraid this is perfect already. Late harvest riesling and ripe kiwis are dazzling here. With water: more oranges, yuzu, kiwi, pears, pineapples, all that coated with honey and, indeed, a little rum. I would suppose the pineapple was brought by the rum. Finish: medium, very fruity, somewhat Irish. Comments: some older malts from Bushmills are a little bit like this, I think. This is only #1 and we're already flying very high. Shall we ever make it to… several dozen? (true)
SGP:741 - 88 points.

Another 7…

Kavalan 7 yo 2015/2022 (53.2%, OB, European exclusive, ex-bourbon, cask #B150716037A)

Kavalan 7 yo 2015/2022 (53.2%, OB, European exclusive, ex-bourbon, cask #B150716037A) Four stars and a half
Colour: gold. Nose: maltier and more on cakes, but bananas are there too, then mangos and passion fruits. Nosing maracuja ice cream, with bits of salted fudge spread over it (ideas ideas) With water: some metallic touches, old coins, a little grapefruit, more passion fruits, and perhaps a tiny oyster giving it a slightly coastal side. Mouth (neat): exquisite, rich, with a creamy texture, as if it were an old liqueur, and rather more slightly piney oak as well. With water: lemon and sweet oak tangoing on your tongue. It is very fresh, almost refreshing. Finish: medium, between creamy fruit liqueurs and some spicier wood, pine, eucalyptus. It's working very well. Comments: it is less exuberantly fruity then the ex-rum version, but I love it just as much.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

One of my fondest memories is a Kavalan 'masterclass' that I co-hosted in Paris, while Jim Swan was in the audience. It felt a bit like trying to give guitar lessons to Carlos Santana; I was quite intimidated. That being said, I did play soccer with Carlos Santana for a good twenty minutes, well over forty years ago, but that's really another story. Okay, more bourbon please…

Kavalan 2014/2021 (57.8%, OB, for Or Sileis Taiwan, ex-bourbon, cask #B141224102A, 189 bottles)

Kavalan 2014/2021 (57.8%, OB, for Or Sileis Taiwan, ex-bourbon, cask #B141224102A, 189 bottles) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: fully on tropical fruits, custard and honey. A superb liquid panettone, as we sometimes say under the disapproving gaze of our Italian friends. With water: same, plus a little chamomile tea and drops of fig wine, arrack and so on. Middle-Eastern pastries. Mouth (neat): extremely rich, liqueury, in that sense a little extreme indeed, this is almost Grand-Marnier to the power of ten. Some cream eggs too. With water: thick barley syrup. May I borrow your spoon? Finish: long, still tremendously thick, rich and liqueury. Comments: fabulous, just a little excessive for this fragile little taster.
SGP:731 - 85 points.

Already a short break, with a little Kavalan at 40% vol…

Kavalan 'Triple Sherry Cask' (40%, OB, 2021)

Kavalan 'Triple Sherry Cask' (40%, OB, 2021) Four stars
NAS Triple Cask, that would remind us of a Macallan trick, no? That would be oloroso, Pedro Ximenez and moscatel, we might be missing a fino or a manzanilla… Colour: full gold. Nose: nice for sure, complex for sure, multidimensional for sure. A lot of tobacco of several kinds, roasted nuts (ditto), dried ham and beef (jerky), marmalade, cardamom, cherry liqueur, caraway, peonies… It's even rather a little bold. Surprise. Mouth: I would have gone to 43% because raisins would tend to run the show on the palate, which is just nice but rather 'blocking'. Very sweet, as if the moscatel did seize control for good. Loses balance. Finish: same feeling, a little too sweet for me. Comments: but-what-a-nose!
SGP:741 - 85 points.

Kavalan 2009/2021 (53.2%, OB, for whisky.sg first anniversary, virgin oak, cask #N090415005A, 124 bottles)

Kavalan 2009/2021 (53.2%, OB, for whisky.sg first anniversary, virgin oak, cask #N090415005A, 124 bottles) Four stars
Colour: golden amber. Nose: Kentucky bourbon of the highest category. Varnish, rye, vanilla, gorse, popcorn and nougat. Because it's bourbon, am I not right? With water: glues and nail polish, this is bourbon indeed. Mouth (neat): Finish: really, bourbon, complete with a rather high rye content and massive quantities of maple syrup, pancake sauce and just 'varnish'. With water: right, right, there is some maltiness here and something doughy and gristy, but the core remains fully on full-flown high quality bourbon, with even the expected mildly bitter oranges popping out. Comments: this one really should be included in a blind tasting of bourbons, but your friends are going to hate you.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

Kavalan 2011/2021 (57.8%, OB, Or Sileis Taiwan, Port cask, cask#O111118046A, 193 bottles)

Kavalan 2011/2021 (57.8%, OB, Or Sileis Taiwan, Port cask, cask#O111118046A, 193 bottles) Four stars and a half
Colour: mahogany. Nose: if it does have Port, it is very old Port. No red berries, no exuberant touriga nacional, rather a lot of moist pipe tobacco and some walnut wine. With water: wonderful earthy tones. Potting soil, humus, black oyster mushrooms… Mouth (neat): it's not unlike an old Speysider ex-oloroso, really. Chocolate-coated Christmas cake and cloves. With water: quite incredible, spicier, getting bigger and spicier as you add water, which can be tricky. Finish: very long, very much on pipe tobacco and black raisins or Zante currants. Comments: are we sure it wasn't an old cask of oloroso surreptitiously taken from a solera and smuggled between Spain and Portugal (and then to Taiwan)?
SGP:462 - 89 points.

Kavalan 2016/2022 (57.8%, OB, Or Sileis, Vinho Barrique, cask #W160721047A, 213 bottles)

Kavalan 2016/2022 (57.8%, OB, Or Sileis, Vinho Barrique, cask #W160721047A, 213 bottles) Four stars
Never been too sure about what these 'vinho' barriques were, they should be Portuguese as 'vinho' is a Portuguese word. Tinto? Verde? Port? Madeira? Having said that, I suspect the wording 'vinho' actually means STR. Colour: deep gold. Nose: very dry and leafy after the Port, as if you would have rubbed leaves, including fern between your fingers. Some dark chocolate and some tight 'ristretto' coffee too. With water: earthier yet, with some tobacco and allspice. Mouth (neat): very creamy, much sweeter on the palate, yet tart, with bags of bitter oranges and grapefruits. With water: better yet, sweet, on mirabelle jam and wine gums I would say. We have four whiskies for the price of one. Finish: rather long, sweet and spicy, but with a creamy, sweet and fruity aftertaste. Comments: very intriguing development.
SGP:661 - 86 points.

Back to Port…

Kavalan 2011/2021 (58.6%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, Conquête, Port Cask, cask #0111125042A, 185 bottles)

Kavalan 2011/2021 (58.6%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, Conquête, Port Cask, cask #O111125042A, 185 bottles) Five stars
Colour: reddish mahogany. Nose: instant winner (we're not talking marketing). Chestnut honey, putty, marzipan, speculoos and peanut butter. With water: listen, you would almost believe this is an old Port Mourant from Guyana. You'll even find olives, coal tar and salty molasses. Mouth (neat): tops, just a tad pungent. Chestnut purée and liquoricy coffee. With water: I must be going mad, I'm finding some old salty and pretty phenolic Demerara rum again. What the fudge. Finish: long and salty, tight, with a lot of liquorice and blacker teas. Cloves and menthol in the aftertaste. Comments: … and a very lovely label that won't hurt your eyes. We do not want to know how they made this one, but we find it glorious. Now a Port cask from Georgetown, Guyana, that's interesting.
SGP:462 - 90 points.

Kavalan 2010/2018 (58.6%, OB, oloroso sherry cask, cask #S100203014A, 492 bottles)

Kavalan 2010/2018 (58.6%, OB, oloroso sherry cask, cask #S100203014A, 492 bottles) Five stars
Colour: just plain coffee. Nose: raw dark chocolate and fresh-ground coffee beans, with raisins and peonies in the background. With water: pipe tobacco in majesty. Reminds me of when I first visited the original Dunhill shop in London, around 1980 or a little later. Same kinds of smells reaching our nostrils. Mouth (neat): brilliant thick sherry, extremely rich, with truckloads of walnuts and raisins. With water: we're in Jerez, really, tasting their old sherries ten times older than this. it's a whisky that literally transports you. Finish: long, more on liquorice. Comments: powerhouse. I believe these casks can't really become legendary because there are so many of them. But in terms of intrinsic quality, you can't go wrong.
SGP:662 - 90 points.

One could always argue that it's the wood technology that does everything here, and it's true that it's not easy to define the character of Kavalan's distillate, but still, what whiskies! Good a last one, there will be many more in the near future…

Kavalan 2014/2022 (59.4%, OB, European exclusive, Port cask, cask #0140305018A)

Kavalan 2014/2022 (59.4%, OB, European exclusive, Port cask, cask #O140305018A) Four stars
There seems to be some form of artistic license when it comes to the colours of the labels; in any case, there doesn't appear to be any consistent rule. Colour: deep red amber. Nose: warm cakes, roasted nuts, grilled raisins, toffee. With water: dried flowers, hibiscus, lotus, roses… Some spearmint too. Awesome. Mouth (neat): huge sweet teas, Asian sauces (hoisin and many others), sweet malty sauces, crazy gravies, and insane raisins. This time again, we aren't finding any proper Portness but I'm sure that was not the point, this is not meant to be simplistic, easy, vulgar flavouring. With water: careful, don't drown these, they are superb and bold but they can be fragile as soon as you add water. Finish: medium to long, more 'normal', more on raisins and easy sweet wine. Some black pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: It's true that when it comes to Port, cask number 0111125042A stands head and shoulders above the rest. But things may change next time…
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Good, that's 10 of them. It seems that a large portion of the heads and tails are removed before the second distillation at Kavalan, which is surprising because the distillate doesn't appear overly light, even though the wood does much of the work. We'll further check that next time… (and work further on the concept of 'equilibrium')…

Wgiskyfun 101

  Kavalan's cask numbers

The first letter is related to the cask type. So far, we've tasted some:
B (Bourbon)
M (Rum)
MO (Moscatel)
N (New, virgin)
O (Port)
PX (Pedro Ximenez)
R (Peaty cask)
S (Sherry)
W (Vinho, STR)
The next six numbers are the day of distillation in the YYMMDD format.
The last numbers are the cask number within those filled on that day.
Then letters such as A or B are/were internal identifiers that will be removed in the future.
For example, cask #N06082847A should mean a Virgin oak filled on August 28, 2006.


October 4, 2023


Little Duos, today Dufftown

We've got a larger Dufftown session in the pipe, but in the meantime, let's try the new Prima & Ultima and a proper sparring partner. Dangerous, uncertain fight ahead!



Dufftown 24 yo 1998/2022 (46.2%, Club Qing, 1st fill oloroso hogshead, cask #7725, 161 bottles)

Dufftown 24 yo 1998/2022 (46.2%, Club Qing, 1st fill oloroso hogshead, cask #7725, 161 bottles) Four stars
We're in Hong Kong now. Colour: gold. Nose: lovely and unusual, It's almost like opening an old suitcase that hasn't been opened for fifty years. Inside you find old books, mothballs, clothes, wax, paint, patchouli and sprigs of lavender, bars of chocolate, iron objects (perhaps an old pistol), coins, and many other things. It's a rather poetic nose, in short. Forgot to mention chocolate, a lot of chocolate. Mouth: orange marmalade, loads of chocolate, walnut cake and a touch of rubber. Marzipan and lavender sweets in the background. Finish: rather long, with more walnuts yet, some manzanilla and some orange squash. It remains a little uncommon. Some kind of mineral oil and something metallic in the aftertaste. Comments: at times you could think of some Bowmores from the 1980s, except that this is incomparably better, in my opinion. Assets rather than flaws in this context. High-class  slightly whacky Dufftown, I'm not sure we've had many.
SGP:552 - 87 points.

The Singleton of Dufftown 37 yo 1985/2023 (47.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, American oak hogshead, 511 bottles)

The Singleton of Dufftown 37 yo 1985/2023 (47.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, American oak hogshead, 511 bottles) Five stars
It is so joyful for me to taste these old whiskies without finishing in bizarre casks. Granted, they did it very well in previous years, but in the end, I believe natural is always better when the original distillate had no flaws. Colour: gold. Nose: this time again I'm finding many old books and magazines, with a 'cardboard dust' side that's working very well in this context. The raw malted barley is still there too, together with some sunflower oil, a little castor oil, overripe apples and melon and peach skins. Very barley-y too. Mouth: delicious breakfast malt. What I mean is that should you have a wee glass for breakfast, this style would work best in my opinion. Some croissants, apple liqueur and juice, green banana, some very soft honey (acacia) and some citron liqueur, as they make in Corsica. Yeah I know, Corsica is complicated these days. Finish: not very long but smoooooth, fruity and extremely moreish. Comments: This is another one to categorize under 'dangerous old malts', the ones that are so drinkable... Lovable easy style.
SGP:641 - 90 points.

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


October 3, 2023


Little Duos, today crazy old Glenlivet

The distillery's been expanded and transformed many times over the decades and centuries, so it's not obvious to compare different expressions from different eras, but today we'll have an old 1963 and a fairly new 1949, how does that sound? Both archclassics, I suppose…

Scottish Shilling, 1949 (Online Coin Club)




Glenlivet 29 yo 1963/1992 (52.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #269-270, 500 bottles)

Glenlivet 29 yo 1963/1992 (52.1%, Signatory Vintage, cask #269-270, 500 bottles) Five stars
We've briefly tried this one back in 2005, but from another bottle. Any excuses and no shame, as always… Colour: brown amber. Nose: one of these heavier sherry casks that Signatory Vintage were having back then, this is fully on chocolate and prunes, millionaire shortbread, wood smoke, tarmac, espresso, umami sauce, old balsamico, with a lot of old rancio wine, bags and bags of toffee, and just a small mustiness, old wine cellar, mushrooms… With water: many more mushrooms, dunnage, chocolate mint, more wood smoke yet… Mouth (neat): extremely rich. It would be interesting to know if some Scots didn't distill Mars bars at some point. Toffee, chocolate, mocha, a little marmalade, Jaffa cake, black raisins, a little very old sweet PX… We think of those soleras started in the 19th century. With water: waxes and paraffin popping out, together with some cracked pepper. That would add even more body to this crazy, yet elegant sherry bomb. Finish: very long, on prunes, old armagnac (as often with these sherry bombs) and old oak and strong black tea. Some greasiness in the aftertaste. Comments: an old style that slowly came out of fashion, sadly. Quicker finishings seem to be the norm these days.
SGP:562 - 91 points.

Glenlivet 74 yo 1949/2023 (49.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill sherry butt, cask #11, 192 bottles)

Glenlivet 74 yo 1949/2023 (49.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Private Collection, refill sherry butt, cask #11, 192 bottles) Five stars
Gordon & MacPhail have almost accustomed us to these incredible competition whiskies that could also go directly into the display cases of museums in Glasgow or Edinburgh. Having had the distinguished luck to have tasted several already, what is most striking is that you feel like they have been matured, almost raised; they didn't just leave them lingering in a corner, tasting them every ten years. Perhaps they never bottled some, or even just poured them down the drain, but I have never tasted a very old G&M whisky that had truly passed its peak, its optimum. Incredible. Moreover, as you are fortunate enough to age, it becomes increasingly delightful, in every way, to be able to taste a spirit that is much older than you. Colour: full gold. Great news already. Nose: the freshness is just incredible. Actually, it's all on various honeys and waxes, pollens, nectars, dried figs, polished old furniture and old leather, and one of the greatest vintages of Yquem. Yes, I know. You might add touches of tropical fruit jams and whiffs of fern and moss. This is highly impressive, the maturity is splendid while there are no single signs of over-aging. Not one. Mouth: bags and bags of citrusy and waxy herbs have kept it as fresh as a 12 yo Clynelish (do not exaggerate, S.) Think yellow chartreuse and old Bénédictine, plus the subtlest mead and a drop of elderflower liqueur. In the background, myriads of assorted herbal and fruity molecules are dancing an endless jig. You'd even find notes of very old rums, such as G&M's famous and quasi-surreal Long Pond 1941. Finish: long. Remember what they say, one second per year, so that's 74 seconds, more than one minute! Notes of piney raisins in the aftertaste. Comments: not sure we should add anything, this is almost a statement. The art of raising whisky casks epitomised.
SGP:672 - 93 points.

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


October 2, 2023


Little Duos, today two New Lagavulin

You know the joke, if you had to decide between two cases of blend and one bottle of malt whisky, which Lagavulin would you choose? We'll even have two of them today, two new ones, and we'll have more in the coming weeks, especially the new Special Release. Now another question, suppose you had to decide between a bottle of Lagavulin and a jazz gig, which would you choose?...



Lagavulin 15 yo 'Islay Jazz Festival 2023' (53.9%, OB, Distillery Exclusive, oloroso sherry butt finish, 3,000 bottles)

Lagavulin 15 yo 'Islay Jazz Festival 2023' (53.9%, OB, Distillery Exclusive, oloroso sherry butt finish, 3,000 bottles) Four stars and a half
To my eyes as a seasoned (right, older) aficionado, displaying a finishing is always a tad diminishing for a malt like Lagavulin, but apparently, I am going to have to get used to it. Alright, let's pretend we didn't notice anything. What's more, the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival was celebrating it's 25th Anniversary this year!Colour: light gold. Nose: to be honest, I do not notice anything, it's just a pure, tarry, maritime, slightly rubbery Lagavulin (always loved this wee rubber in Lagavulin) that would go on with litres of walnut wine and a mocha spoon of mustard. And a tiny drop of vinegar, de Jerez (maybe). With water: a little gunpowder, more walnuts yet, quite some chocolate and some boisé. But of course there isn't any boisé in there, couldn't be. Mouth (neat): a little sweeter, but still extremely Lagavulin. More coal tar, a feeling of pipe juice, touch of chilli, walnut liqueur rather than wine… It's relatively fat in fact, more a tuba than a trumpet. Right, right… With water: straight to the malt, with some straight peat, straight lemons, straight oysters, 'tarry ropes' and just a tiny bit of rubber. The sherry gave way to the distillate, it seems. Finish: long, both fat and more crystalline, in a way. The tarry walnuts are back in the aftertaste. Comments: I really need to go back to the Islay Jazz Festival one of these years.
SGP:567 - 89 points.

Lagavulin 25 yo 1997/2023 (50.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak cask, 1013 bottles)

Lagavulin 25 yo 1997/2023 (50.7%, OB, Prima & Ultima, refill American oak cask, 1013 bottles) Five stars
Distilled by Manager and temporary Whiskyfun contributor Mike 'The Growl' Nicolson back then in 1997 and vatted from the last casks of that vintage (as I understand it)  by Master Blender Dr. Emma Walker. This is the fourth annual series of Diageo's 'Prima & Ultima'. One might say that we're approaching this baby with a certain relish… Colour: straw. Nose: of exquisite purity, and that's the utter beauty of refill wood combined with proper age. I know that saying this is becoming almost politically incorrect these days, but at the time when this was distilled, it was the prevailing opinion, whereas overly active casks were previously 'softened' with grain whisky before receiving the great malts like Lagavulin. That's why there were always thousands of ex-grain casks in the yard, waiting to be filled... Anyway, this one is just luminous. I'd almost say 'epitomical'. Sea spray, lemons, lighter tar, green bananas, a little eucalyptus… With water: 12-yo-cream-label quality. Old fabric, old jacket, chalk, putty, ointments… Mouth (neat): a blade. Smoke, pepper, oysters, lemon, sunflower oil, citrons, seaweed, tar. In short, Lagavulin. No burn at all but it's true that 50.7% isn't that strong. With water: many more ashes now, and candied citrus, with a salty tang and always this medicinal side that's a bit reminiscent of some neighbour. Finish: medium, still pure, coastal, extremely elegant. More ashes yet in the aftertaste. Comments: it's become a little softer in fact. It's a beautiful pure Lagavulin au naturel. Lovely putty.
SGP:556 - 92 points.

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


October 1, 2023