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Whisky Tasting


Copyright Serge Valentin
Angus MacRaild




Hi, you're in the Archives, October 2023 - Part 2

October 2023 - part 1 <--- October 2023 - part 2 ---> November 2023 - Part 1


October 31, 2023


Three new fresh Scottish fruit juices.
That's right, Balblair.

Balblair Distillery (Visit Scotland)

There's a new official 21 years old, and we're going to take this opportunity to add two rather appealing recent independents from Scotland. Better this way…


Balblair 21 yo (46%, OB, 2023)

Balblair 21 yo (46%, OB, 2023) Four stars
This pretty expensive new baby (300-350€) was first matured in bourbon barrels for fifteen years – don't we know that Balblair loves bourbon - and then for some further six years in Spanish oak seasoned with oloroso, so sherry or rather sherry-type wine (as they don't say 'sherry'). Colour: deep gold. Nose: very much orange-and-walnuts-driven, which we tend to always like. You would also find notes of manzanilla tea (exactly, chamomile) and cigarette tobacco (we keep quoting Camel while we've last smoked a Camel around the year 1990), green earl grey tea (like it better than the regular back versions), and this je-ne-sais-quoi that reminds us of quasi-neighbours Dalmore. Must be the oranges… Awesome nose, well-balanced 'sherriness'.  Mouth: rather more rustic on the palate, leafy, with loads of green walnuts, a lot of nutmeg and cinnamon, green pepper, chewing tobacco, then rather ginger, chlorophyll, green peppercorns and lemon skin, including a bit of the bitterish 'white stuff'. Finish: long, more on fruit peeling and clove, plus always rather a lot of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Candied ginger, banana skin and marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: the spicy oak feels a bit, but naturally, this is more excellent middle-aged Balblair. I liked the nose rather better.
SGP:561 - 86 points.

Balblair 15 yo 2008/2023 (48.5%, Decadent Drinks, Equinox & Solstice, Summer Edition, 1st fill barrel)

Balblair 15 yo 2008/2023 (48.5%, Decadent Drinks, Equinox & Solstice, Summer Edition, 1st fill barrel) Four stars
From two first fill barrels. Lovely label between Turner and Rothko. Colour: straw. Nose: good fun! Cranberries, jasmine, redcurrant jelly, bubblegum, toffee apples, candyfloss, blood oranges, chenin blanc and a good glass of weissbeer (plus another one of citrusy IPA). There are also whiffs of strawberry yoghurt, like when you sometimes pass by a working malting plant, let's say Port Ellen. Hints of tomato leaves too. Rather remarkable, even if this isn't summer anymore (my bad, we've been slow again). Mouth: some similarities with the 21 (gritty, leafy fruit peel, nutmeg) but also more fresh fruit, including tropical ones. Prickly pears, physalis, blood oranges, tart starfruits… That's all a little unusual in fact, but it's fresh and lively. A little vanilla, some heather honey. Improves over time, getting fresher and easier, with the fresh fruits winning it in the end. Finish: rather long, with green apples making it through now. Those beers in the nose are back too. Comments: do I keep the rest for next summer, or can I enjoy it all before Christmas, Mr. Sponge?
SGP:651 - 87 points.

Highland Single Malt 12 yo 2011/2023 (55.1%, Thompson Bros., first fill barrel)

Highland Single Malt 12 yo 2011/2023 (55.1%, Thompson Bros., first fill barrel) Four stars
May I perish instantly if the distillery on the very pretty neo-retro label isn't Balblair. Phew, I'm still here. Colour: white wine. Nose: a tarter, grassier, greener version of the Sponge's. It's shock-full of lemons, lime and granny smith and has also got notes of limestone, chalk and slate. Who's mentioned bone-dry chenin blanc? With water: more pure apple and lemon juices. Mouth (neat): a blade. More green apples, more lemons, and once again these small fruits they often use to decorate deserts, physalis, starfruit, white currants, brambles… With water: once again, more pure apple and lemon juices, plus large packs of sour candies. Finish: it's becoming more exotic, with passion fruits, more acidulated fruit drops and one wee olive. Good fun there.  Comments: so fresh, so very Balblair.
SGP:661 - 87 points.

Post Scriptum: a blend of the OB, the Sponge and the Thompson would score between 88 and 89 in my book.

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


October 30, 2023


WF's Little Duos, today new Benromach 22-2001 and 21-2002

It's the pleasure of autumn, mushrooms, the return of hearty foods, rich and full-bodied wines, and a few new expressions of Benromach that, precisely, often exhibit some kind of autumnal style. Yes.



Benromach 21 yo 2002/2023 (58.3%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #364, 185 bottles)

Benromach 21 yo 2002/2023 (58.10%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, 1st fill bourbon barrel, cask #364, 176 bottles) Five stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: typical. Leaves, greases, oils, stones, paraffin, eucalyptus, some camphory smoke, a little turpentine, shoe polish, lamp oil, soot, old teapot… With water: a tad more fermentary, on beers and bread doughs. Mouth (neat): luminously greasy, lemony, slightly salty and medicinal. I don't feel like telling you more about this one, this is just perfect. Fantastic small apples in the background. With water: saltier and smokier yet. Lemon juice drizzled over smoked fish and cold cuts. Drop of gasoline. Finish: rather long, fat and tight at the same time. More mineral greases and lemon drops. Comments: one of those Benromachs al natural that are actually very close to the natural Longrows. Well, that's my opinion. It's perfect, it's my preferred style. It fits perfectly on my axis of goodness, which I remind you goes from Highland Park to Springbank via Clynelish, now Benromach, and Ben Nevis. Of course, there are many other purely magical distilleries, but in different styles... Indeed this is perfect. Love the moderately evocative recentish packaging too, doesn't it tell that 'it's what's inside that counts?' Extremely hard to beat at this age, in my personal little book. As utterly glorious as last year's sister cask for LMDW.
SGP:563 - 93 points.
(bottling data updated)

Benromach 22 yo 2001/2023 'Organic' (57.9%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, virgin oak cask, cask #237, 274 bottles)

Benromach 22 yo 2001/2023 'Organic' (57.9%, OB, LMDW New Vibrations, virgin oak cask, cask #237, 274 bottles) Four stars and a half
Not too sure whether this baby spent its entire life in new oak, or if it was a finishing or further maturation. Colour: full gold. Nose: typical mangos and heavy honeys, plus bananas and custard tarte, violet sweets and liqueur, Timut pepper, a little gentian and absinth... Indeed, this is typical (of new oak). Pretty sexy, as we used to say around the year 2000 (don't worry, only an historical descriptor). With water: further towards custard and tropical fruit jams and juices. Mouth (neat): rich, modern, shock-full of mangos, tangerines and bananas, then quinces and mirabelles, then more spices, sweet curry, masala and a little pinesap. With water: the sweet and less sweet peppers are getting a tad loud, which was to be expected, but balance was preserved. Some coriander and cardamom seeds, nutmeg… Finish: long, with even more pepper and a little coffee. Drops of elderberry flower liqueur (no brand name quoted, see). Comments: modern, pretty splendid, but rather cask-forward and with less Benromachness. Reminiscent of many new distilleries from around the world, just with more maturity. I suppose I should have started this short session with this one, apologies.
SGP:661 - 88 points.

BTW we did a blind 'masterclass' (a commented tasting session, really) at WL Paris last week with Angus and we were having the newer edition of Benromach 40. Sadly I forgot to keep some and to write a few lines, but I can tell you that it was brilliant too.

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


October 29, 2023


  A word of caution
Let me please remind you that my humble assessments of any spirits are done from the point of view of a malt whisky enthusiast who, what's more, is aboslutely not an expert in rum, brandy, tequila, vodka, gin or any other spirits. Thank you – and peace!


Seven new rums

There are waves of rums from all over the world arriving these days, from the extreme north of Europe to the southernmost reaches of the globe, ranging from some monstrously flavoured and nauseating concoctions to the most refined and elegant single estate distillates.

Funny rugby-themed magazine ad for Santa Teresa, 2015.
And congrats to the Boks! It's like when tasting spirits,
a small point, even several times in a row, can make
all the difference, are we not right?

Therefore, it is essential that the aspiring connoisseur would be extremely vigilant about what they buy and that they educate both their palate and their opinions, if they do not wish to find themselves quickly in the hands of multinational corporations who sadly know that high levels of sugar and flattering flavourings directly translate into their balance sheets. Let's see what we have today...



Santa Teresa 'Speyside Whisky Cask Finish Batch No.1' (46%, OB, Venezuela, 2023)

Santa Teresa 'Speyside Whisky Cask Finish Batch No.1' (46%, OB, Venezuela, 2023) Three stars
Isn't it amusing that while whisky makers increasingly use rum casks to enhance their little juices, rum distillers are doing the same in the opposite direction? However, we must not forget that HSE, for example, know very well how to use whisky casks (not just ex-bourbon) and we find the result good. This Santa Teresa comes from a 'triple aged solera' - I assume that casks are filled three times in total - and was finished for 13 months in these famous Speyside casks. Colour: dark gold. Nose: I believe we're way above the few other Santa Teresas we've already tried, it's even slightly malty, pretty dry, with notes of walnut cake, toasted oak, crème brûlée and the obligatory bananas flambéed. I'm also finding a few roasted chestnuts. No pushy exuberance this far, it's actually quite the opposite. Mouth: good, dry, herbal, toasted, with oak spices, black pepper, a little hay, bitter almonds and only then more sweet cane-iness. Really rather a rumsky, as we used to say in the old days. Finish: more on sweeter rum but it would otherwise remain a little herbal, spicy and malty. Touch of grassy smoke and cappuccino in the aftertaste. Comments: I believe the malt really lifted it. A good, fatter drop, well done.
SGP:551 - 80 points.

Brugal 'Collection Visionaria Edition 01' (45%, OB, Dominican Republic, 2023)

Brugal 'Collection Visionaria Edition 01' (45%, OB, Dominican Republic, 2023) Three stars
This neatly packaged new baby was finished in 'Virgin European oak casks toasted with cacao beans'. I think they let cocoa infuse the cask before toasting the whole, then removed those beans before filling. Which reminds us of Glenmo's chocolate malt, no? You're right, not the same thing at all. Colour: light amber. Nose: extremely similar, as if the cocoa beans produced almost exactly the same result as that of the ex-Speyside wood. A little cane syrup, light molasses, herbs, crème brûlé indeed, then more pine resin and raisiny sweetness. Mouth: both sweeter and spicier than the Venezuelan, rather more on molasses and, indeed, a little maltiness. Drops of triple-sec but no obvious added sugar. Not sure I'm finding the cocoa though; those flavours are often embedded in many aged spirits anyway. Quite some maple syrup (I've just been presented with some brilliant late-harvest Escuminac). Finish: medium, still not sweet for a Dominican, with once again notes of cappuccino and Nescafé. Comments: possibly one of my favourite Dominicans. So much better in my book than all the other Brugals I could try, which had all been sweeter than sugar.
SGP:651 - 80 points.

These brands are upping their games, are they not?

Barbancourt 8 yo '160ème Anniversaire' (43%, OB, Haiti, 20,000 bottles, 2023)

Barbancourt 8 yo '160ème Anniversaire' (43%, OB, Haiti, 20,000 bottles, 2023) Two stars
New Barbancourt and old Barbancourt are not the same thing at all, now this one's integrally ex-copper column and, naturally, pure cane juice, in the style of the agricoles. Colour: hay. Nose: hay as well! That's funny. And fennel seeds, woodruff, crushed coriander (bits), old copper coins, cane juice indeed, roasted sesame oil, angelica, caraway… It's not big but it's rather complex, with even touches of Szechuan pepper. Or there, Okinawa pepper. Mouth: mirrors the nose for a short while, just with a little more liquorice and sourer spices, soursop leaves, a little tamarind perhaps, marmalade… Having said that, it's rather thin, I believe it would have been better to bottle it at 45/46% vol. Frustrating. Finish: short and rather on tea, hay and bagasse. Comments: I find it rather a little better than an earlier version of the regular 8 yo, but still close and perhaps not extremely celebratory. Then again, I'm not rum expert, at all. 
SGP:340 - 70 points.

Shakara 12 yo (46%, OB, Thailand, 2023)

Shakara 12 yo (46%, OB, Thailand, 2023) Three stars
It's well Shakara and neither Shakra nor Shakira, right (diving to new lows, S. – Ed.) Let's see if this is any close to the very good Chalong Bay and Issan from Thailand. They've used local molasses, distilled it with a column, and aged it in Thailand. I have to confess this is a first at WF Towers. Colour: deep gold. Nose: awesome, are we sure this isn't agricole-style? Cane juice rather than molasses? Eucalyptus leaves, patchouli, lemon zests, thyme tea, potting soil, tobacco, bidis, touches of pistachio nougat… This is a great nose, let's see if the song matches the feathers, as Jean de La Fontaine would have said… Mouth: absolutely. No really high esters in this one, but all these lemons and, indeed, Thai coriander and basil make wonders. It is very fresh, getting a notch sweeter after fifteen minutes but it remains very all right.  Finish: rather long, on marmalade and eucalyptus tea. Coriander is back in the aftertaste, together with some candied lemon. A feeling of sugar in the aftertaste, no big deal though. Comments: excellent proposition, a real surprise. I hate to add that it should go well with Thai cuisine. Really.
SGP:560 - 81 points.

Foursquare 14 yo 'Touchstone' (61%, OB, Barbados, Exceptional Cask Selection Mark XXII, 2023)

Foursquare 14 yo 'Touchstone' (61%, OB, Barbados, Exceptional Cask Selection Mark XXII, 2023) Five stars
This is a complex blend of 12 yo Foursquare finished for 2 further years in Camus cognac plus 5 yo Foursquare further matured for 9 years in cognac as well. We continue to follow the rules of Scotch; less than three years is a finishing, beyond that, it's maturation. Yep. Colour: amber. Nose: I don't think Foursquare and good cognacs are very far apart from each other stylistically, which just means that the double maturation/finishing doesn't exactly feel as such, I mean as some flavouring. Everything seems to have merged into some spicy herbs and even flowers dipped into liquid caramel and fudge, nougat, pecans and vanilla. Some bourbons are close too, but that may be those 61% vol. Light varnish. With water: earths and tobaccos popping out, a little incense, cedarwood, touch of compost... Mouth (neat): admirably strong. Lovely citrusy liquorice and a little acetone, probably the high strength at play once more. With water: bingo, we tamed it. Citrus and sugarcane, tobacco, cardamom, black nougat, perhaps vine peaches from the cognac, geranium jelly, edible flowers, borage, wee pansies… Finish: long, a little more on burnt caramel and coffee. I hope no one will take umbrage if I mention Starbucks' Frappuccino. Comments: one of my favourite self-blends from Foursquare so far (but we are eagerly awaiting an 8, 10, or 12-year-old ex-pot still – you say that exists?) The cognac doesn't really come through as cognac, in my opinion.
SGP:651 - 91 points.

Neisson 'Zetwal' (49.4%, OB, Martinique, 2023)

Neisson 'Zetwal' (49.4%, OB, Martinique, 2023) Five stars
A multi-vintage vatting of the years 2000, 2005, 2012 and 2013, so it is a 10 yo. Zetwal means étoile in French creole. It's a bit on the expensive side at 1,990.00€ but remember you can present your mother-in-law with the decanter for Christmas. Once you've emptied it. Oh and Neisson is Neisson. Colour: full gold. Nose: of course it's great. Sublime liquorice, gentian, flowers (wisteria, jasmine, lily), mentholy fudge, thin mints, coriander seeds, pistachio amaretti, acacia gum, orgeat, Seccotine, white Meursault (of course there's red Meursault)…  Stunning roots of all kinds in the background. Mouth: OMG. Think pastis, manzana verde and woodruff syrup, blended together. Add a drop of crème de menthe, some lemon, a good few drops of amaro, and there, you've recreated this splendour., should you have found the right proportions. Finish: incredible vivacity, stunning citrusy herbs. Ganache and oranges in the aftertaste, plus a few drops of ultra-old grain whisky. And pastis is back in the post-aftertaste, good one! Or rather what we call a perroquet, which is 4 shots pastis plus 1 shot green mint syrup, topped with chilled water ad lib. Comments: I'm sure they have a secret.
SGP:562 - 93 points.

Good, we are already in the absolute ethers, but let's try a last one...

Hampden 32 yo 1990/2023 'C<>H' (54.6%, Impressions by The Colours of Rum, LMDW New Vibrations, Jamaica)

Hampden 32 yo 1990/2023 'C<>H' (54.6%, Impressions by The Colours of Rum, LMDW New Vibrations, Jamaica) Five stars
Fully aged in Europe. The marque C-diamond-H would suggest this long-fermented juice was harbouring 1300-1400 gr esters by HLPA at time of filling, which is a lot. Cane juice vinegar alert! Colour: white wine. Nose: someone in the neighbourhood has been burning old tyres for the whole day, while someone else was grilling sardines with olives and pickles on a rusty old barbecue that had been started with gasoline. Does that sound good enough to you? With water: no actual changes, just some new plywood from Ikea's and a little formic acid. Mouth (neat): continental aging in 'old wood' lets the spirit travel very long distances while keeping fresh and never over-oaked. I believe this glory will remain totally fantastico until at least the year 2100. Well not this very one as they've bottled it, but any sister casks would probably live eternally. It is exceptionally varnishy, shock-full of olives, acetone, ammonia and just old-school glues. And salted liquorice, as usual. With water: the best vinegar ever, plus seawater, concentrated lime juice; pickled anchovies and various plastics and oil-driven elements. There are probably quite a few people who think we're crazy when we say we love this style. Finish: same for a very long time. Stunningly acetic, salty and petroly. Tar and a feeling of benzine in the aftertaste. Comments: ten times more rustic and even simple than the Neisson, but I love it just as much. The two sides of a gold coin.
SGP:473 - 93 points.

See you soon for more new rums.

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


October 27, 2023


Little Duos, today Glendullan 12 2009

We love to champion these distilleries that everyone else seems to ignore, and we do everything we can to taste them as often as possible. Which is not so easy to do, mind you... Moreover, as far as SEO is concerned, which we frankly couldn't care less about at WF, it's always a disaster. Great, let's go...

Côte-Rôtie, Syrah's own country (Vinotrip)

Cote Rotie



Glendullan 12 yo 2009/2022 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, hogsheads, cask #313232+313252)

Glendullan 12 yo 2009/2022 (46%, Signatory Vintage, Un-chillfiltered Collection, hogsheads, cask #313232+313252) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: fully on these cakes and biscuits and scones and pancakes and muffins and cupcakes that we all adore. The maltiness is perfect, fudge and custard are doing their jobs, and while we wouldn't scream 'hey, that's Glendullan!' we are just pleased with this flawlessly natural little Speysider. Mouth: excellent, perfectly malty, close to the barley, with some candy sugar, baked apples, custard tart, drop of cider, drop of young bourbon, teas and chamomile… Indeed, this is perfect. Finish: medium, a tad more bitter, which is totally normal. More tea, apples, allspice… Brown ale and beer batter in the aftertaste. Comments: this, rather than say a Brora 1972 or a Bowmore 1964, is a perfect desert island dram. No, seriously, it's perfect natural 'malt' whisky and will disappoint no one.
SGP:451 - 86 points.

And now, probably the exact opposite…

Glendullan 12 yo 2009/2022 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Wood Finished Connoisseurs Choice, Côte Rôtie wood finish, 3,245 bottles) Two stars
A 3-year finish, that's secondary maturation, a.k.a. maturation at some distillers. One will notice that G&M are among the very few bottlers or distillers in Scotland who know how to write 'Côte Rôtie,' and they should be commended for that. Well, if we really want to get into the details, there is just a small hyphen missing; it's actually 'Côte-Rôtie.' But we're not going to fight over a hyphen, many write it without the accent marks or even in plural form (Cotes Roties). Philistines! Colour: full gold. Nose: some sulphur, some leaves (tomato, fig), some cabbage, leather, rain pit, asparagus, stalk and pips, then pepper and old wood. Syrah is a tough guy – or is she a lady? Mouth: it's working a little better on the palate, as there's more gamey fruitiness, redcurrant sauce, strawberries and rubber, some soapy touches, ham and pepper sauce, but it still remains a bit like mixing apples and oranges, or, as we say in French, the marriage of a carp and a rabbit. Finish: medium, a bit foxy but it is my favourite part, with cleaner cassis and strawberries. Comments: not quite a desert island bottle, unless you want to scare off the sharks. Okay, I'm exaggerating once more, it's a good drop IMHO. Ish. It's just a little un-G&M in my book. Still a lot better than cockroaches, cluster bombs, people who throw their cigarette butts in the forest or French DHL.
SGP:551 - 76 points.

Post Scriptum: well, Ardbeg missed the hyphen in Côte-Rôtie too with their new Smoketrails "Côte Rôtie" Traveller Edition. And Ardbeg belong to a French company, they should know, shouldn't they. By the way, many Ardbegs new and old soon on WF!

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


October 26, 2023


WF's Little Duos, today perfect
young Royal Brackla

Isn't Brackla rather on the rise, globally?



Royal Brackla 9 yo 2013/2023 (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, 1st fill bourbon and rechar hogsheads, 1125 bottles)

Royal Brackla 9 yo 2013/2023 (46%, James Eadie, Small Batch, 1st fill bourbon and rechar hogsheads, 1125 bottles) Four stars
Colour: white wine. Nose: I so love it when we're this close to raw barley, to mash and to beer. You cannot just fly straight into the stratosphere with these young raw fellows, but all these apples, pears, pancakes, brioches and biscuits, croissants and porridges just dazzle indeed. In a way, we're close to glorious young whites from Jura or Savoie. Mouth: same comments. Malt whisky in the state of nature, good and virtuous (Jean-Jacques Rousseau would approve). Great pilsner. Finish: rather long, wonderfully bready, or rather say with some kind of pancake made with beer in lieu of yeast. Beer crêpes, the Gods' crêpes. Comments: as I said, not quite the stratosphere but at around £45, it is absolutely a no-brainer. Love whisky in the state of nature.
SGP:551 - 87 points.

Royal Brackla 12 yo 2011/2023 (52.2%, Whisky Wave, Oxhead Whisky, palo cortado hogshead, 288 bottles)

Royal Brackla 12 yo 2011/2023 (52.2%, Whisky Wave, Oxhead Whisky, palo cortado hogshead, 288 bottles) Four stars and a half
I really like it that more and more young bottlers are turning to real designers for their labels and are not just settling for falsely Victorian designs that are becoming increasingly boring these days. Less lazy brand-building, more art, more fun! Colour: white wine. Nose: same doughy profile, similar pastries, croissants, porridges and beers, same wonderful pears and apples, same yeasty/fermentary touches… Nutshell, we're pleased. With water: a tiny touch of diesel oil over all things fresh breads and pastries. Mouth (neat): ho-ho-ho. Focaccia, panettone, candied lemons and citrons, pancakes, more croissants, hops, pink pepper, grapefruits… This is all pretty wonderful and, I have to say, comes a notch unexpected. With water: even greater, with stunning citrus. I remember Grand Marnier's Cuvée du Centenaire (100th Anniversary), only with much, much less sugar (sadly the GM is a nasty sugar-bomb too). Finish: long, tighter, more on fresh woods, herbs, green spices, lemon skins… Comments: granted, it is just a young Brackla, but wow.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Yeah well, we can always count on the indies, but it's true that the 'newer' OBs are very good too, IMHO.

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


October 25, 2023


WF's Little Duos, today Edradour ten years later

Always a joy to taste post-Pernod Edradour! Even if there seems to be much more Ballechin (peated Edradour) around these days, or is that a wrong impression?

Edradour (Edradour)



Edradour 2003/2016 (58.4%, OB, for Fortune, Taiwan, cask #911, 696 bottles)

Edradour 2003/2016 (58.4%, OB, for Fortune, Taiwan, cask #911, 696 bottles) Three stars and a half
One that we were still having n the boxes. Colour: amber. Nose: it's kept all the best parts of 'older' Edradour, with bags of roasted peanuts, bags of tangerine peel, quite some cigarette tobacco (what they call American blend) and something pleasantly buttery, cream au beurre, Breton shortbread, some brewers' yeast…  No plastics and no gouda! With water: hay, malt extracts, yoghurt cream Indian style… Mouth (neat): very punchy, a tiny tad leathery and peppery at first, with this very specific earthiness too, full of cinnamon and plasticine, lamp oil, a feeling of turpentine, leather polish… But it would then get really smoother, on orange cream and fudge. Lovely. With water: really the best part of Edradour, that is to say 'good' leather, cinnamon mints, tobacco and fruit peel. Finish: long, nuttier. Strong beer and bitters. Comments: this baby wouldn't quite stand still.
SGP:462 - 83 points.

So, ten years later…

Edradour 10 yo 2013/2023 (59.6%, OB, LMDW, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #155, 681 bottles)

Edradour 10 yo 2013/2023 (59.6%, OB, LMDW, 1st fill sherry butt, cask #155, 681 bottles) Four stars and a half
This one's brand new, we should see the progress made within ten years… Colour: full amber. Nose: Jesus Mary and Joseph, this is not the same distillery, is it. This is hazelnut liqueur, homemade 'Nu****a', turon and nougat, fig jam, earl grey tea, best scones in the world, hay, earth, and just malt. It's more of a demonstration really. Milk chocolate. With water: same. Love these echoes of roasted sesame oil in the background, as well as more earth. More and more earth, brilliant. Mouth (neat): some kind of A'bunadh, and a top batch at that. Cakes, toasted pastry, roasted nuts, and chocolate, plus a few raisins and just the tiniest leathery touches that would remind us that after all, this is Edradour. With water: you would believe they've been using a proper old solera butt. Walnuts, earths, sweet meat extracts, touch of sriracha. Plus all the rest. Finish: long, with notes of oranges. Just perfect, those oranges. Comments: very hard to beat at 10 years of age. A Midlander outdoing many of the very best Speysiders, if you ask me.
SGP:551 - 88 points.

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


October 24, 2023


WF's Little Duos, today very
sherry heavy Tullibardine

Tullibardine, keeps going' up when NAS expressions boosted with funny wine remain in the distance. IMHO.


Tullibardine 12 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, PX sherry finish, 2023)

Tullibardine 12 yo (46%, Cadenhead, Original Collection, PX sherry finish, 2023) Three stars
Colour: amber. Nose: on PX, plus some mead, toffee, Demerara syrup and molasses. Some gravy, peanut butter and toasted oak behind that. Mouth: rather all about PX, you would almost believe this is rather a blend of malt and PX. Well, in a way, it is. Plus a little Pepsi. Finish: same, with very sweet PX, chocolate, raisins, cane syrup, raisin rolls, Cointreau… Comments: well, wasn't this rather PX finished in a Tullibardine cask? Don't get me wrong, it's a very good drop, it's just a little… sweet and winey. Scottish mosto.
SGP:741 - 80 points.

Tullibardine 17 yo 2006/2023 (52.7%, WhiskySponge, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 283 bottles)

Tullibardine 17 yo 2006/2023 (52.7%, WhiskySponge, 1st fill sherry hogshead, 283 bottles) Four stars and a half
Looks like handwritten labels and parchment are all the rage again these days. I suppose people prefer what's 'organic' and 'human'; because you sure need no AI to do such a lovely label. Colour: office coffee. Nose: once again, the sherry's doing the job and the distillate is resting off to the side. Chocolate, roasted chestnuts, a little Maggi, tar and graphite, drawing gum, coffee, old walnut wine, chen-pi… Why would we complain, it's great sherry; With water: more graphite, I would say, burnt cake perhaps, and just bits of coal… Mouth (neat): armagnac in the arrival, more armagnac then, and tar, plus funny and unexpected bits of bubblegum. And Gauloise. In a way, it's rather French whisky. With water: we've known such sherry 'monsters' before. I think it's awesome, even if you could probably also call this a further-fortified sherry. Finish: long, perfect, heavy, full of walnuts, bitter oranges, tobacco and dark chocolate. A little plasticine in the aftertaste. Comments: as they say, no prisoners. We let it happen with pleasure.
SGP:462 - 89 points.

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


October 23, 2023


WF's Little Duos, today late Pittyvaich

Pittyvaich, built in 1974 by Bell's, remained active for only about twenty years before closing down in 1993. To be honest, we have only tasted around twenty-five Pittyvaich expressions so far, roughly one per year (ridiculous!), making it challenging for us to establish a precise profile. In any case, we are pleased to discover two new ones today... What were the odds?

Part of Pittyvaich (Malt Madness)



Pittyvaich 33 yo 1990/2023 (44.2%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, cask #HL20631)

Pittyvaich 33 yo 1990/2023 (44.2%, Hunter Laing, Old & Rare, cask #HL20631) Four stars and a half
Forgot to say, the distillery got demolished in 2002. Not too sure where the equipment went to, especially the stills that must have been almost as new. Any clues? Colour: full gold. Nose: subtle putties and various fresh paints, plus some old leather and a little malt extract. Then marzipan, a little gun oil, grape pip oil, linseed oil… indeed it is oily, and even waxy. Old beeswax, furniture polish, overripe apples, and an old Chardonnay from Burgundy. Your pick, be my guest. What's your vintage? It's also rather sulphury, but we're talking distillate-sulphur, as in, say Mortlach, nothing to do with the cask. Mouth: very intriguing, as it's simply mirroring the nose, which is really unusual with these kinds of profiles. A little olive oil, propolis, various waxes and oils, plus very ripe apples and plums, with extra-skins. Well, I know what I'm trying to say. The whole's delicately austere, getting then leafier, with a little chlorophyl and green tea. Finish: not too long, with fresh walnuts and more vegetal oils. Green tea in the aftertaste, and some sweeter nougat as the signature. Comments: no extravagance and not much fruitiness in this subtle old Pittyvaich that's a little philosophical and that commands respect. An ascetic.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Pittyvaich 30 yo 1992/2022 (55.5%, OB, Prima & Ultima 2023, Fourth release, Experimental Pedro Ximenez/Oloroso-seasoned European Oak, 609 bottles)

Pittyvaich 30 yo 1992/2022 (55.5%, OB, Prima & Ultima 2023, Fourth release, Experimental Pedro Ximenez/Oloroso-seasoned European Oak, 609 bottles) Four stars and a half
One of the youngest recent Pittyvaichs, obviously. Colour: light gold. Nose: this oily fatness once more, with a PX and an oloroso that behaved here. In truth styles are similar, this one being just a tad bigger (that's the higher strength) and more on pastry, cakes and just malt. Other than that, there's beeswax, a little olive oil indeed, pistachio oil, and really no big sherry. With water: green teas, distillate sulphur, paraffin, some yeastiness, all that being awesome and a shining example of a malt that was meant to be a greatly textured filler for better blends. Well, I suppose. Mouth (neat): awesomely fruity this time, full of apples of many kinds. Hints of fat gueuze and, really, apples. Love apples. With water: more nuttiness, from the sherry I would suppose. Malt, ale, small apples, dry cider (brut), grape pip oil… Here, the texture is almost as important as the aromatic profile. Finish: not that long but rather fat, with more vegetal oils, apple peel, and the most discreet touch of mint. Fresh walnuts of the aftertaste, most certainly from the sherry. Comments: in fact, those two Pittyvaich were very similar, which is not very surprising.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

Not sure when we'll be able to do another proper Pittyvaich session with new bottlings. Perhaps never…

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


October 22, 2023


Armagnac and apéritifs

Armagnac is increasingly not just the little brother of cognac, but let's not forget that the production volumes remain incomparable. Over 200 million bottles of cognac are produced each year, of which more than 95% are exported, while on the Armagnac side, production is limited to about 3 million bottles. But for enthusiasts like us, the two are equivalent... When it comes to true high-end! Let's go, but let's start with one or two unusual aperitifs, for glory, empathy and Armenia...

Mount Ararat, Armenia



Ararat 5 yo '*****' (40%, OB, Yerevan, Armenian brandy, +/-2022)

Ararat 5 yo '*****' (40%, OB, Yerevan, Armenian brandy, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
Poor, poor Armenia, stay strong! We've already tried a 10 yo 'Akhtamar' and a 20 yo 'Nairi' ten years ago, both having been surprisingly good (both WF 79) but let's remember it is regarded as one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. In 2011, archaeologists discovered the oldest known wine cellar in a cave in Armenia, dating back about 6,000 years! Today, Ararat belongs to Pernod-Ricard (since 1998). Colour: full gold/amber. Nose: sure this is rather the entry-level cuvée - but there's also a 3 yo – but the nose is very nice, probably a tad too caramelised having said that, toffee-ish, rather in the style of some cream sherry if you like. Or Nutella. Nice raisins. Mouth: not too sweet, on the contrary, with some toasted bread, chocolate, millionaire shortbread, a few roasted sultanas, some pecan pie, roasted chestnuts… Seriously, I do like this 'Armenian Cognac' as it was called a few decades ago. There's even a bottle of very old Armenian Fine Champagne on Ararat's very nice website. Finish: medium, not shock-full of caramel at all, not even too sweet, nicely grapey, with raisins until the signature, which is just a tad 'burnt'. Menthol tobacco. Comments: well done Armenia! There are many young cognacs in supermarkets that are not as good as that.
SGP:640 - 78 points.

Since we're in that area…

Rtvelisi 5 yo '*****' (40%, OB, Georgian brandy, +/-2022)

Rtvelisi 5 yo '*****' (40%, OB, Georgian brandy, +/-2022) Two stars and a half
This is wine brandy by winemakers in Kakheti. It's said that wine was being made in Georgia, especially in Kakheti, 8,000 years ago, using large half-buried clay amphorae, the kind that is still in use today and has even become popular in other countries, like France where amphorae are very much in vogue these days. Isn't true progress the result of circular thinking? Colour: amber. Nose: much drier than the Ararat and rather closer to a marc de Bourgogne, would I say. Did they not distil pressed grapes instead of wine (thus making a fine?) It's nice, with a little oak, certainly roasted hazelnuts, fresh branches, black tea… No actual raisins in sight this far. Mouth: a tad rougher than the Armenian, with yet again quite some caramel, roasted nuts of all kinds, oak, toasts, vanilla, tea… We're still closer to marc de Bourgogne, perhaps fine de Bourgogne? Finish: medium, gently dry and a little green but with no off-taste whatsoever. Comments: let's say the level is equivalent. These two brandies from the cradle of wine civilisation (Iran is missing but try finding Iranian/Persian brandy!) are perfectly well-made, and I'm very pleased to have had the chance to taste them.
SGP:451 – 78 points.

So, we said armagnac…

Castarède 18 yo 'Folle Blanche Brut de Fût' (47%, OB, Bas-armagnac, 450 bottles, +/-2020)

Castarède 18 yo 'Folle Blanche Brut de Fût' (47%, OB, Bas-armagnac, 450 bottles, +/-2020) Four stars
It's not uncommon for armagnac producers to make successive draws (tirages) from the same cask over the years, so it's not always easy to keep track... Colour: amber. Nose: awesome roasted almonds, nuts and raisins, like a kougelhopf that would have spent just a little too much time in the oven. We're also finding some flower syrup (mullein, perhaps) and touches of pine resin, menthol and liquorice wood. Some brown Demerara syrup too. Mouth: pretty robust (I'd have said Ténarèze, but who am I) with some varnish, oak extracts, a little oversteeped black tea, liquorice, a salty touch, some darker pipe tobacco, black nougat, deep-roasted peanuts… And rather a lot of old oak. Finish: long, oaky, very old-school in that respect. More old oak yet in the aftertaste, with some salinity indeed. Comments: the kind of gritty armagnac that the great-great-grandfather used to love, I've been told. Charmingly old school, definitely.
SGP:451 - 87 points.

Ténarèze? Just ask…

Hontambère 33 yo 1989/2023 (55.9%, Grape of the Art, Ténarèze, cask #A5)

Hontambère 33 yo 1989/2023 (55.9%, Grape of the Art, Ténarèze, cask #A5) Four stars and a half
100% ugni blanc and aged in a wet cellar. We've already tried an excellent Hontambère 1985 this year. Colour: honey amber. Nose: starts a little glue-y, which we always enjoy (doesn't that remind us of when we used to assemble plastic airplane models when we were kids), then moves towards rhum agricole (Neisson, no less) and just walnut cakes and pecan tartes. With water: burnt raisins, burnt cakes, embrocations, tea tannins (old teapot)… What's not to like? Mouth (neat): tight and rich, full of glue, wood varnish and heavy oak extracts, but quite surprisingly, this works very well. The tightest Martiniquan rhums still aren't very far away, this is almost Armagnac créole. Quite. With water: and it would go on with the same flavours, getting even pretty peppery, with also some caraway and juniper. Always some varnish in the background. Finish: long and totally 'Martinique'. Could we speak to the intern who was in charge of the stencils in the warehouse (or of the barcodes)? Heavy liquorice, peppered oranges and rather a lot of eucalyptus in the aftertaste. Comments: extreme and spectacularly rustic Ténarèze, the kind they give to drink to the fighting bulls over there. Only half joking.
SGP:472 - 89 points.

Aurian 1996/2023 (49.9%, Wu Dram Clan, Armagnac, Shibari Event, barrique, cask #205)

Aurian 1996/2023 (49.9%, Wu Dram Clan, Armagnac, Shibari Event, barrique, cask #205) Four stars and a half
The intriguing label was done by artist Marie Sauvage representing herself at an event that took place in Aurian's warehouses in September this year. Not something we're really used to at WF HQ, but all good fun, I'm sure. 'A complete fusion of cultures', wrote the honorable Wu Dram Clan. Colour: full gold. Nose: gentler, as expected, but still full of vigour, walnuts, crude cocoa, coffee beans, roasted nuts, garden earth… No tarry ropes, having said that (ooh that's smart, S.). Mouth: fruitier than the others, with ripe peaches, apricots and a little cracked pepper. Touches of cherry liqueur, chestnut honey, a little pine resin, bark, black tea… Finish: rather long, with rather more pine needles, more earth, clove, and preserved peaches and marmalade in the aftertaste. Comments: very, very good middle-aged (for armagnac) Aurian.
SGP:561 – 88 points.

Château Grand Maisonnave 1981/2023 (46%, GrapeDiggaz, bas-armagnac, 250 bottles)

Château Grand Maisonnave 1981/2023 (46%, GrapeDiggaz, bas-armagnac, 250 bottles) Five stars
This new one straight from Le Frêche in the Landes, and a blend of baco and ugni blanc. Colour: dark amber. Nose: the subtlest and yet the fullest of them all. Amazing crème de menthe over raisins, praline, puréed chestnuts and heather honey. Which, by the way, would make you think of old Highland Park in this very context. Seriously, this could have been some young early-1960s Highland Park matured in proper sherry wood. Mouth: nah this is armagnac and it is certainly much grapier than any Highland Park, but all this sherry, tobacco (Borkum Riff), nuts and mead do work to perfection. A certain sourness in the aftertaste keeps it, say vibrant and even kind of refreshing, despite a thicker profile overall. Finish: pretty long, on liquorice, cinnamon, marmalade and heather honey indeed. Great rusticity. Comments: Orkney (and Jerez) on the nose and fully Armagnac country on the palate = double fun. It seems that a lot of Armagnac of this kind was consumed there to recover from the last rugby match against the South Africans!
SGP:561 - 90 points.

Domaine de Lasgraves 1979/2018 (46%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Domaine de Lasgraves 1979/2018 (46%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Five stars
It is very exceptional that such an estate would use casks made out of oak from their own property! Can you be more 'terroir'?  They are located in Labastide d'Armagnac and are very closely, and I mean extremely closely, related to the 'Le Frêche' that the excellent indie bottlers L'Encantada have been putting out for a good few years. We'll have more soon, but in the meantime, let's just try one vintage of Lasgraves. Colour: dark amber. Nose: a fresh Le Frêche (oh come on), complex, with some crème au beurre, nougat, cherry cake, menthol and liquorice, then hessian and mushrooms, and certainly the most extraordinary fudge there is. Also old mead, autumn leaves and a tiny touch of matured beef meat. Perhaps. Mouth: oak and oranges tangoing at first, then we have raisins, old white wines, walnut skins and some curious tight apples and pears, which would remind us of old calvados. Sour wines, gooseberries, then just coffee and a little toasted oak. Growing liquorice. Finish: long, now rather in marc territories, which reminds us of that intriguing Georgian brandy although we wouldn't be in the same league here. Comments: we're really close to the GrapeDiggaz. This is armagnac as in armagnac, the furthest one can be from a classic cognac.
SGP:561 - 90 points.

See you, for several more Lasgraves, Dartigalongue and other smart armagnacs....

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



October 21, 2023





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

Clynelish times nine

A wee stash of Clynelish for this weekend. Serge is of course 'Monsieur Clynelish', but it's still one of the great distillates in my view and very close to my heart, I just rather wish the distillery could be moved to the west coast of Scotland. Now that Diageo are charging £165 for a 10yo Clynelish perhaps they could afford to actually do it?


In other news, I will be in Paris at Whisky Live this weekend, so if you are also attending please come and say hello.






Clynelish 10 yo 2011/2022 (59.5%, Watt Whisky, bourbon barrel, 210 bottles)

Clynelish 10 yo 2011/2022 (59.5%, Watt Whisky, bourbon barrel, 210 bottles)
You may or may not be aware, but the varying colours on the Watt Whisky labels relate to the colours that Mark 'smells' in the whisky. This is not quite as outlandish as it sounds, I have similar impressions sometimes when nosing whiskies. Anyway, Mark smells a soft shade of blue on this occasion apparently, does that mean we should anticipate a particularly coastal young Clynelish… Colour: bright straw. Nose: it's not a huge surprise, but I do find this pretty on the marine side of things, but also with various coastal shrubs, flowers and wee herbal notes. Also quite a bit of cut grass and bailed straw, very natural, fresh and organic, but not hugely on the waxy side of Clynelish. There's also some citrus vitamin tablets in mineral water and undercurrents of pineapple, lime and melon. Very attractive Clynelish that's on this distillery's gentler side. With water: more sea greens, rock pools, beach pebbles and touches of waxed canvas. Mouth: rather on linens and starches with the richness of cereals and putty arriving shortly after. Gets slightly sweeter with some limoncello and lemon barley water coming through. Just a glimmer of waxiness. With water: very nicely balanced with some milk stout beer and a little lemon cordial. Finish: medium in length and retaining a little peppery, waxy Clynelish character for the aftertaste, which is very pleasing. Comments: lovely, impeccable modern distillate, and indeed a 'bluish' coastal vibe throughout, just missing a little waxy Clynelish oomph here and there for my taste.
SGP: 551 - 87 points.



Clynelish 11 yo 2011/2022 (58.7%, The Whisky Exchange for The Whisky Show 2022, bourbon barrel, cask #800273)

Clynelish 11 yo 2011/2022 (58.7%, The Whisky Exchange for The Whisky Show 2022, bourbon barrel, cask #800273)
Better late than never! Colour: bright straw. Nose: rather starchy and beery at first nosing, on putty, linens, some white pepper and yellow flowers. Grows in sweetness and feelings of barley sugars, lemon curd and malt extract. With water: citrus rinds, pebbles and dried flowers. Also a pineapple ring or two. Mouth: lovely collision of these heavier aspects like heather beers, flower honeys and pollen, but also wee coastal touches, mineral oils, softer waxes and dried herbs. Once again, on the lighter spectrum of waxiness for Clynelish, but still very good with plenty going on. With water: back on pollens, putties, strong green tea with lemon and matcha ice cream! Finish: good length, on tinned pineapple, heather ales once again and citrus curds. Wee hints of wax in the aftertaste. Comments: this Clynelish finds ways other than waxiness to be quite characterful. I couldn't tell you which one I preferred between this and the Watt Whisky bottling.
SGP: 561 - 87 points.



Clynelish 12 yo (58.5%, OB 'Special Releases', 2022)

Clynelish 12 yo (58.5%, OB 'Special Releases', 2022)
I haven't bothered with the various other 'names' or stories or titles or whatever that goes along with these recent Special Releases. Colour: bright straw. Nose: sweet with a delicate waxiness and some saltier and more umami tones which feel like they emanate from the sherry. I find it perfectly fine, although a lighter take on Clynelish, so rather a Clynelish that is cosplaying as an Inchgower perhaps? With water: lighter, grassier, more citric and a little more to do with raw ingredient aromas such as cereals and wort. Also a little more classically waxy which is good. Mouth: jellybeans, pineapple, background waxes, yellow flowers, green fruits. Rather a good amount of 'stuff' happening, and these various sherried components are reasonably well integrated and not at all distracting. I suppose the only thing I'd say is it feels like the Clynelish DNA has been slightly dialed down. With water: putty, white pepper, more slightly pineapple-flavoured sweetness but also more Clynelish wax and fatness on display, as on the reduced nose. Finish: medium, a little too peppery and oak-spiced for me now, but some nicely waxy and grassy aspects too. Some teas and biscuity notes as well. Comments: all good and fine, it just feels a bit like a diet Clynelish. Clynelish Zero perhaps? Although that tag certainly couldn't be applied to the price… 
SGP: 561 - 84 points.



Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2016 (55.5%, Adelphi re-bottled to celebrate 20 years of Whiskyfun, cask #12378, 145 bottles, 2022)

Clynelish 18 yo 1997/2016 (55.5%, Adelphi re-bottled to celebrate 20 years of Whiskyfun, cask #12378, 145 bottles, 2022)
A rather cool bottling by Adelphi to mark wee Whiskyfun's 20th birthday. For our 30th they have kindly agreed to do a 30yo Laphroaig, seeing as Serge already had his turn. Colour: straw. Nose: soft waxes overlaid with gentle orchard and tropical fruit notes, then various wee coastal inclusions such as beach pebbles, chalk and sandalwood. I also find it developing wee touches of dried mint and eucalyptus, along with a few medicinal herbal notes. Elegant and very charming! With water: dried heather flowers, plum eau de vie, tarragon and a slightly sooty waxy note - lovely! Mouth: drier than anticipated and wonderfully on pure waxes, peppery warmth, some pink sea salt, toasted fennel seed and impressions of oily toolbox rags, a little bigger and fatter than the very elegant nose suggested, and totally fab! With water: perfect gloopy, waxy, Clynelish goodness! Finish: long, peppery, perfectly waxy and still retaining these orchard and exotic fruity notes. Comments: unsurprising that the excellent team at Adelphi would select this, next to the very amusing magnifying glass (an allusion to the fact that Serge never stopped complaining – sarcastically - about the very small fonts on Adelphi's labels), you could also add a tag saying 'In case of Serge: break seal!'
SGP: 562 - 91 points.



Clynelish 26 yo 1995/2022 (51.5%, The Whisky Exchange, 50 years in the drinks industry, hogshead and sherry butt)

Clynelish 26 yo 1995/2022 (51.5%, The Whisky Exchange, 50 years in the drinks industry, hogshead and sherry butt)
Bottled to celebrate the Sawhney family's 50 plus years in the drinks industry. Colour: gold. Nose: Clynelish and sherry can be tricky, but this fusion with a little leg up from the bourbon cask works very well. A big up front hit of waxes, shoe polish, mineral oils, chopped dates and furniture oils. Also preserved dark fruits, crystalised citrus chunks and lemon marmalade. Quite wonderful! With water: a salty sherry profile that retains a robust coastal quality, some salted liquorice, umami vibes such as mushroom powder and salted liquorice and then heather beer. Mouth: perfectly waxy, with various herbal and fruit teas, dried exotic fruit chunks, flower honey and aged mead. Beyond that rather a lot of camphor and hessian and other heavier, classical 'textural' Clynelish notes. With water: nicely fatty and thick in the mouth, waxy but also very nicely sooty, oily and full of putty, tobacco, rubbed lemon skins and even some hints of old Chartreuse. Still this very excellent and sharp salinity in the background that retains great freshness. Finish: long, lemony, waxy, salty and with these very nicely dunnagey, slightly musty but clean sherry notes. Comments: I love these wee small batch compositions where two rather different casks and one single distillate come together to create something greater than the sum of their parts, as has very much happened here. Great wee bottling and very fitting for family anniversary such as this.
SGP: 462 - 91 points.



Clynelish 28 yo 1993/2022 (54%, Hunter Laing 'Hepburn's Choice' for SCSM China, cask #HL18371, bourbon, 156 bottles)

Clynelish 28 yo 1993/2022 (54%, Hunter Laing 'Hepburn's Choice' for SCSM China, cask #HL18371, bourbon, 156 bottles)
I've tried a few 93s now and I generally find them really excellent I have to say. Colour: gold. Nose: this wonderfully thick and bright waxiness, a particular fusion of honeys, flower nectars and waxy notes that seems to arise in 90s Clynelish at this age. There's also some sweet ales and fresh breads in the background, along with sweeter herbal cough medicine notes. Beautiful! With water: more waxes but also hints of aged Sauternes, tinned pineapple and yellow Chartreuse. Mouth: excellent arrival, nicely powerful and peppery, with a big waxy vibe, some nicely sharp and controlled exotic fruit flavours centering around mango and pineapple, then herbal and fruit teas and more combinations of waxes and cough medicines. With water: getting a little mentholated, with slightly minty tobacco, hessian, olive oil, camphor and tea tree oil. Also more medicinal things like tiger balm and a really gloopy, textural waxiness. This one develops brilliantly with water! Finish: long, more herbal, more medicinal and very wonderfully heathery with sandalwood, mead and big camphor vibes in the aftertaste. Comments: another brilliant 90s Clynelish, although I maintain these 1993s have something quite specific about them that separates them from the 95s and 97s, which I think are all a little closer together stylistically.
SGP: 662 - 91 points.



Clynelish 1982/1995 (64.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.3)

Clynelish 1982/1995 (64.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #26.3)
Colour: deep amber. Nose: one of those scarce occasions where Clynelish + sherry not only works but sings. A wonderfully powerful mix of damp earths, teas, waxes, furniture oils and green walnut liqueurs. Also these deeply resinous and salty edges that incorporate the very best old dry Oloroso with abundant rancio and old hessian cloths. With water: green herbal liqueurs, walnut oils, ancient balsamic and tar liqueurs. Mouth: massive! A huge maelstrom of pure tars, hardwood saps, waxes, putty, aniseed, soy sauce and salted liquorice. More stunning old VORS sherry vibes, but here you could be adding Palo Cortado and Amontillado to the mix too. Deeply sappy, warming, spicy and salty. With water: some kind of aniseed cordial with huge notes of Irish Coffee liqueur, more tar resins and fir woods, camphor, waxes, the very best Iberico ham and salted almonds. Finish: long, very long in fact, tarry, waxy, deeply herbal and still riddled with these many impressions of pristinely salty and rancio-driven old sherries. Comments: a beautiful old beast of a Clynelish. Stunning sherry characteristics that still allow that Clynelish waxiness a clear voice. Quite mesmerising really.
SGP: 473 - 92 points.



Clynelish 15 yo 1982/1997 (57.7%, OB, Flora & Fauna Cask Strength)

Clynelish 15 yo 1982/1997 (57.7%, OB, Flora & Fauna Cask Strength)
Part of a generally highly esteemed and now rather obscure series of cask strength Flora & Fauna bottlings. They got a little overshadowed by the Rare Malts at the time as I recall. Colour: white wine. Nose: yes, classical early 1980s Clynelish, all on wet rocks, waxed lemon rinds, chalk and many lovely wee mineral touches. A feeling of superb fatness and texture about it - and of course: waxy! With water: even more vividly Clynelish, only with some greenery, pressed flowers, mineral oils and vase water. A touch of ale and bread too. Mouth: as expected, dry, peppery, waxy and nicely coastal with peppery watercress and green herbs. But it's not a monolithic style, like the Rare Malts could be, this is slightly more subtle with sheep wool oils and herbal infused olive oil impressions. Also some slightly bready and sandalwood notes. With water: fatter, sootier and greasier with white pepper, starched linens, tiny smoky touches, paraffin and linseed oil. Finish: long, peppery, waxy, lemony and still with some mechanically oily qualities and green herbal notes. Comments: a pure, rugged and no nonsense Clynelish that manages to balance power with clear distillery identity. I would say it needs water to really shine though.
SGP: 472 - 91 points.



Clynelish 36 yo 1971/2007 (51.5%, Murray McDavid, Mission, bourbon cask, 265 bottles)

Clynelish 36 yo 1971/2007 (51.5%, Murray McDavid, Mission, bourbon cask, 265 bottles)
There were many impressive releases in these early Mission series by Murray McDavid. Colour: gold. Nose: as expected, we have 'stuck beehive'! A full on and glorious melee of salted honeys, honeycomb, hessian and sweetened olive oil, with ointments, herbal extracts and putty in the background. All draped in a generous and rather luxurious waxiness. A singular and totally gorgeous aromatic profile that can only be described as: old Clynelish! With water: bergamot, cheng pi aged orange peels, tiny notes of clove, exotic hardwood sap and mustard powder. That ever-present honey/wax note too. Mouth: nicely resinous on the attack, wood oils, bergamot, more of these wonderful aged, salted and resinous honey qualities. Wormwood, tiger balms, tea tree oils and many subtle herbal details. Some ancient yellow Chartreuse mixed with 1940s Drambuie (someone Cocktail-ey please sort that out?)  It has a perfect balance of menthol aspects as well which incorporate Eucalyptus oils and mentholated tobaccos. Absolutely brilliant! With water: perfectly waxy and fat with yet more honeys, aged meads, camphor and herbal liqueurs and medicines. Resinous, coastal and still fantastically fresh and peppery. Finish: long, with a syrupy style of waxiness, tooth-coatingly fat, dried exotic fruits and herbal teas with yet more medicinal and liqueurish impressions. Comments: these vintages at this age were a style all to themselves in my view. As time goes by their luminous beauty and individuality on grows more distinctive and powerful. This is a benchmark example of that stunning old/new Clynelish profile.
SGP: 662 - 92 points.



Thanks to Cicada and the excellent folks at the Golden Promise whisky bar.




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


October 20, 2023


WF's Little Duos, today thick Glendronach

I should have done a much larger session but we're pretty busy with another fab flight of legendary old malt whiskies for Whisky Magazine & Fine Spirits… And we are a little late (but fear not, dear Editor-in-Chief)…

(Tang Frères)



GlenDronach 'Cask Strength' (59.8%, OB, batch 11, 2022)

GlenDronach 'Cask Strength' (59.8%, OB, batch 11, 2022) Four stars
We are really behind schedule; the last CS we tasted was the batch 7 from 2018, which had rather disappointed us (WF 74). One thing may explain the other... Now batch 5, for example, had been lovely (WF 86). Colour: gold. Nose: spicy earth, loads of chocolate, fruit peel, leaves, ale, clove, bitters, damp wood and just autumn leaves after a week's rain. Old stump and mushrooms. With water: gets even drier, earthier, with a rawer mineral side. Really a walk in the woods. Also cinnamon tobacco. Mouth (neat): bitter oranges and ale, plus a lot of maraschino and chocolate, Jaffa cakes, pipe tobacco... Looks like it's back! With water: sweeter, but with a spicy edge that we enjoy. Earthy deep-dried orange zests, old raisins, bay leaves, bitter chocolate… Finish: long, with some menthol coming through and more tea tannins in the aftertaste. Marmalade as the signature. Comments: rather a rough stone, but there's a lot happening. Looks like the bitterer batch 7 was an accident.
SGP:561 - 85 points.

What we don't know is whether there was still some 'direct-fired' GlenDronach in that batch. I'd remind you that the distillery stopped using direct firing in 2005. So, some direct-fired GlenDronach…

GlenDronach 27 yo 1993/2021 (54.2%, OB, for LMDW Conquête, France, oloroso sherry puncheon, cask #7274, 674 bottles)

GlenDronach 27 yo 1993/2021 (54.2%, OB, for LMDW Conquête, France, oloroso sherry puncheon, cask #7274, 674 bottles) Five stars
Colour: amber. Nose: it's not bombastic, it's rather elegant, with some awesome toffee, treacle, chestnut honey, old rancio, more chestnut (and fir) honey, armagnac, porcini, pu-her, old peppermint liqueur, leaves, old cigarettes, coal tar … And a lot, really a lot of dried apricots. Awesome nose. With water: more patchouli and tobacco. Fabulous pu-her tea. Mouth (neat): marvelous arrival, jammy, full of raisins and prunes, somewhat rancioty but in moderation. Then some maple syrup and dried pears. Less complex than on the nose, but isn't it always like this? With water: the most precious triple-sec and something a tad syrupy, but no big deal. Some curious sweet smoke, I would say. Roasted almonds coated with caramel and honey. Finish: medium, indeed a tad syrupy, but we keep flying very high, with a little mango jam now, thyme honey, sweet pine liqueur, Kahlua… Comments: very sweet for some ex-oloroso, but quite miraculously, balanced has been preserved with much class. One thinks of an old Sauternes at times. Great work with the casks! As they say, cracking reracking…
SGP:751 - 90 points.

Oops, hold on hold on hold on, that one was a mistake! I rather wanted to try this brand new one, my bad…

GlenDronach 28 yo 1994/2023 (51.8%, OB, for LMDW, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #474, 678 bottles)

GlenDronach 28 yo 1994/2023 (51.8%, OB, for LMDW, Pedro Ximenez puncheon, cask #474, 678 bottles) Five stars
Colour: deep amber. Nose: richer for sure, even a little heady but in a seductive way, and rather on old sultanas, old woods (cedar, balsa, eucalyptus), marmalade and jams (banana, mango) and figs and prunes. Figs and prunes everywhere. In the background, a few meaty touches, around beef jerky, bresaola, honey sauce, hoisin, thick sweet gravy, a little tar… With water: these sweet yet very elegant meaty tones are just flabbergasting. Stunning marmalade made with honey. Mouth (neat): big yet very elegant, reminding me of older expressions of a famous distillery in Speyside, with a rather rich floral and honeyed side, a salty touch (braised ham with pineapple), some tar and liquorice, old meaty Bourgogne, a little tarragon… I just love this, it's classic sherried malt whisky, as our friends beyond Hadrian's wall have been making for one hundred and fifty years (roughly). With water: all things chocolate now. Finish: extremely long, with a little more menthol and honey. The combo is dazzling. Toffee in the aftertaste, that could be the direct-fired stills. Comments: exceptionally brilliant GlenDronach. The spring didn't dry up, as it appears. To think that they now belong to the owners of Jack Daniel's… But I'm sure that's of no importance.
SGP:651 - 92 points.

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


October 19, 2023


WF's Little Duos, today indie Dalmore 10 years old ex-wine cask

In other words, flathead stills and voluminous whiskies… and wine. We should have some new OBs soon too…

Wine cellar in Bourgogne/Burgundy
(Château de Meursault)



Dalmore 10 yo 2012/2022 (46%, Hart Brothers, Single Cask, 'First Burgundy Cask Filled')

Dalmore 10 yo 2012/2022 (46%, Hart Brothers, Single Cask, 'First Burgundy Cask Filled') Four stars
Not too sure about what 'first Burgundy cask filled' means. Was it the first time they've been using ex-Bourgogne wood? Or a first growth (premier cru)? Or was it a first fill Burgundy cask? Did they first fill a Burgundy cask, then simpler refill wood? We've been plunged into an abyss of perplexity here… quite. And was it red or was it white? (let's not even mention the pretty rare rosés they mainly use for crémant)… Yes, alright, we may be overthinking it. Colour: white wine. That's a clue, is it not. Nose: loads of muesli, a wee feeling of grapes indeed, but rather no straight cassis or cherries. Quite some bready notes, perhaps grape pip oil, some chalkiness, a touch of engine oil (new, not used) and graphite, wee whiffs of wisteria… It is all pretty delicate and certainly not winey this far, unless this would be refill chardonnay...  Mouth: there, indeed, touches of redcurrants and a little bubblegum, nectarines, perhaps one or two sultanas… We're actually pretty much in fresh young cognac territory, which is rather intriguing and most pleasant. Finish: medium, maltier, clean, with a little leafiness, plus Dalmorey oranges in the aftertaste. We could almost call it Dalmorey-St-Denis (and there, another stupid joke on this lousy website). Comments: one we could use to play the 'blind trick game' with friends and family.
SGP:651 - 85 points.

Dalmore 10 yo 2013/2023 'Stag Wine' (60.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Artist/LMDW, First fill cosecha wine cask, #13.106, 231 bottles)

Dalmore 10 yo 2013/2023 'Stag Wine' (60.1%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Artist/LMDW, First fill cosecha wine cask, #13.106, 231 bottles) Four stars
This year La Maison du Whisky are partnering with the SMWS, which I find neat and good fun. This is one of the five new bottlings they're just launching. As for the wording 'cosecha', it means 'vintage', so I suppose it was non-solera Spanish wine, sweet PX actually. Colour: light gold. Nose: stems, leaves (tomato), pips, stalk, blood oranges, a tiny touch of muscat, and, well, 60% vol. See what I mean. With water: gets fermentary, this is almost; well, orange wine (I am not joking). Not meaning wine made out of oranges, right. Also artisanal dry cider. Mouth (neat): huge power, more blood oranges, hops and woodruff, touches of red beet, then more oranges yet, orangeade… There's a rather wonderful orangey zestiness that I'm finding very Dalmore. There was some of this in older official bottlings. With water: the PX's sweetness comes to the front, but without excess. Some green walnuts too – and yet I doubt flor or heavy oxidation were ever involved here. Finish: rather long, rather fresher, fruitier, more on… blood oranges. Comments: It seems evident to me that our Scottish friends are becoming increasingly good at blending and balancing malt and wine, here's yet another example.
SGP:651 - 87 points.

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


October 18, 2023


New Scottish Cats, Part Two (indies)

There's really myriads! Maybe should we get less busy with old Port Ellens and Broras, and focus more on these new names…

Old Annandale Distillery (Annandale)




Glasgow 5 yo 2017/2023 (50%, The Independent Selection, butt)

Glasgow 5 yo 2017/2023 (50%, The Independent Selection, butt) Three stars and a half
Another Glasgow 2017 by Kate and Mark Watt, bottled last year, had been particularly excellent (WF 86). Colour: amber/copper. Nose: first prominent struck matches and gunpowder, then a little gas and walnut skins, then roasted peanuts and a lot of black nougat. In theory, water will erase any gunpowder that would be left. With water: not totally, but it's more on burnt cakes and roasted nuts for sure. Summer truffles. Notes of aged genever (oude) and aquavit too. Mouth (neat): extremely nutty and nougaty. Loads of that thing they make in Andalusia, turon (and of course, sherry). I find it pretty amontillado-y, in fact. With water: some metal, some leather, and bags of walnuts. It became almost basaltic (are there any volcanos around Glasgow?) Finish: medium and pretty leafy. Tobacco and truffles. Comments: It's a style that doesn't appeal to everyone, but I know there are passionate enthusiasts who love it. We'll remain somewhat positively neutral, after all I've got Swiss ancestors.
SGP:362 - 84 points.

Perhaps another one from that new series and from the Lowlands…

Annandale 7 yo 2015/2023 (50%, The Independent Selection, butt)

Annandale 7 yo 2015/2023 (50%, The Independent Selection, butt) Four stars
Colour: gold. Nose: rather gas and cabbage and leek soup this time, but in moderation. Some sourdough, yeasts, brown ale, muesli, then Maggi, marrow quenelles, umami, glutamate… Rather shadow and light this time. With water: oils, plasticine, sunflower seeds, stearin, old banknotes… I like this, even if it's a tad deviant. But as Frank Zappa used to say ,'Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible'. Mouth (neat): old-school dry sherry, salty, extremely leathery, with the strange feeling of having eaten your cigarette while you were meant to smoke it (if I remember well). With water: sunflower oil, bitter herbs and ultra-dry herbal liqueur. I'm reminded of Underberg here and there. Finish: long, dry, bitter. Eggplants and artichokes. Comments: tough, extreme guy, but I like it better than the Glasgow. Those passionate enthusiasts we've mentioned before will love it.
SGP:262 - 85 points.

Why not another indie Annandale 2015…

Annandale 8 yo 2015/2023 (53.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 228 bottle)

Annandale 8 yo 2015/2023 (53.6%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel, 228 bottle) Four stars
This one should be relatively cleaner… Colour: white wine. Nose: starts with pear cider (we call it poiré in French) and a lot of sweet barley, sweet maize too, sweet polenta, some nougat… Moves towards popcorn then, white chocolate, and just proper croissants. Proper croissants means a lot of butter but no icing sugar, no almonds and no raisins. C'est compris? Lovely soft nose. With water: malted barley, porridge, muesli and Golden Grahams. For breakfast. Mouth (neat): very fine, lemony this time, a tad fizzy perhaps (lemonade), with a little cinchona in the background and some smoke. It's peated, was it not? With water: sweet, lemony, with a grassier smokiness. Preserved pineapples coming out. Finish: medium, on the same notes. Lemons and a little pineapple over ashes. More ashes yet in the aftertaste. Comments: the opposite. Gentler, softer, less controversial and just as good. Don't Annandale do both peated and unpeated?
SGP:653 - 85 points.

Perhaps Chivas's Dalmunach?

Dalmunach 6 yo 2016/2023 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, amontillado finish, 456 bottles)

Dalmunach 6 yo 2016/2023 (57.1%, Watt Whisky, amontillado finish, 456 bottles) Four stars and a half
Right, first, we love amontillado, and second, this is barely a finishing with 22 months of extra-maturation, is it. Colour: straw. Nose: some deeper, yeastier porridge at first, then pretty massive notes of fresh rubber, sauna oils, compost and Marmite, all that from the sherry, I suppose. Walnut wine too, 25-box of big cigars, horse saddle, a lot of pipe tobacco, Barbour grease, more yeasts… Boy is this spectacular. With water: nitrogen, potash, potting soil… This is all extremely singular. Mouth (neat): what a cask that was! Heavy pepper, two tonnes of lemon zests, extreme walnuts, cumin and nutmeg, cinnamon rolls… With water: more cinnamon rolls yet, and bags of walnuts. Finish: very long, back on caraway and cinnamon. Crude cocoa beans in the aftertaste. Comments: I know we must be judging the cask here. And? Poe's own dram (ooh that's smart, S.)
SGP:363 - 89 points.

Another 6 years old and we're done…

Ardnamurchan 6 yo 2016/2023 (61.2%, James Eadie, wood refill barrel, cask #911, 262 bottles)

Ardnamurchan 6 yo 2016/2023 (61.2%, James Eadie, wood refill barrel, cask #911, 262 bottles) Four stars
Another very smart bottling by James Eadie, I would suppose. It's true that Ardnamurchan is one of the Rolls-Royces of the new Scottish distilleries (just a private joke, don't bother). Colour: white wine. Nose: riesling and rhubarb, with a gentle smokiness, plus woodruff and a little borage. Impeccable, no novel needed (as if I could write any…). With water: farmyard, hose stable, barley, fuel oil… Mouth (neat): of course it is a little strong, hot, even burning, but grapefruits, ashes and smoked lemon yoghurt (should anyone ever try to make that) are already there. With water: and there. A few pears from youth, perhaps, otherwise ashes and citrus. It's less greasy now. Finish: medium, relatively gentle, refreshing, coastal, pure… One oyster with a little lemon juice and a drop of tabasco in the aftertaste. Comments: I'm sure there are oyster farms near the distillery. I'll have to ask.
SGP:554 - 87 points.

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


October 17, 2023