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Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2009 - Part 2

September 2009 - part 1 <--- September 2009 - part 2 ---> October 2009 - part 1


September 30, 2009

(plus carefully selected sparring partners – as always)


Oban 1993/2008 'Distillers Edition' (43%, OB, OD 157.FT) Finished in fino montilla casks. Colour: full gold. Nose: starts on obvious notes of walnuts, both fresh and old, typical of some dry sherries, getting then more coastal (sea air), with also hints of bitter oranges and then soft spices. Sweet curry, a little cardamom, also smoked tea... A very pleasant nose, rather unusual but perfectly balanced. No obvious vinosity. After fifteen minutes: more and more on a combination of bitter oranges and marzipan/walnuts, with a distinct smokiness. Mouth: starts maybe a tad less coherent than on the nose, with a faint sourness in the background but also some pleasant notes of orange juice and even a little lemon. Notes of roasted tea (I believe the Japanese call that hochicha), cloves, then more lemon marmalade. Elegant ‘sherriness’. Finish: medium long, a tad salty, orangey and gingery. A peatiness in the aftertaste. Comments: I think the Oban DE really improved since earlier editions. Very nice freshness. SGP:452 - 86 points.
Oban 2000/2009 'Managers' Choice' (58.7%, OB, cask #1186, 534 bottles) This one was fully matured in bodega sherry European oak. Colour: gold. Nose: punchy and rather sharp at first nosing, starting a tad grassy (fresh walnuts again) but soon to get fruitier, with some notes of fresh strawberries and something sangria-esque that mingles very well with these notes of walnuts. Fresh oranges too. The coastal freshness is well behind the whole. The fruitiness gets then much more discreet and is replaced with a rather superb combination of espresso, marzipan and old leather, with just whiffs of crushed tropical fruits. Very elegant and kind of sexily unsexy three-stage nose. With water: it’s the youth that comes out first, then more peat, pine resin, kind of smoked leather, more coffee, hints of damp earth and finally dried fruits. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, zesty, powerful and smooth at the same time. The sherry is maybe a tad loud at the attack (it is a little grapey for a while) but some beautiful notes of mint flavoured chocolate, oranges and smoked tea do kick in after a few seconds and really balance it. With water: perfect now, with some salted and buttered caramel, milk chocolate, pepper and that slight lemony sourness that prevents it from being too ‘rounded’. Finish: very long, creamy, rich and very coating. Chocolate and liqueur. Comments: at £300, this young explosive Oban is way too expensive but after a few years of further bottle ageing (smoothening), it may well overtake the famous 16 and 19yo Manager’s Drams. Very high quality indeed, as expected, but not to be rushed, it needs a lot of your time. SGP:663 - 91 points.


Teaninich 1997/2006 (43%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, sherry casks, 750 bottles) Colour: gold. Nose: starts really grassy and mildly smoky, dry and rather austere in style despite a pleasant freshness. Develops more on lemon zests, wax and wet rocks, in a certain sense not far from a late period Clynelish. Hints of grapefruits and apple peelings. Very faint graininess and just a little porridge. Very nice if you like very ‘straight’ malts. The sherry isn’t obvious. Mouth: much sweeter and fruitier, rather more exuberant even if one wouldn’t say this is exuberant malt whisky. A lot of apple juice and soft spices, ginger, cinnamon… There’s also more lemon coming through after a while. A tad less elegant than on the nose, I’d say. Finish: medium long, with hints of tannins this time. Cider and candy sugar. Comments: a pretty good Teaninich. I liked the nose a lot, the palate is maybe a tad more, say indistinct. SGP:451 - 83 points.
Teaninich 1996/2009 'Managers' Choice' (55.3%, OB, cask #9802, 246 bottles) Matured in rejuvenated American oak. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re well in the same family as with the 1997, with exactly the same kind of grassy and lemony nose, but there’s also more oak and vanilla. Notes of plantain, fresh almonds and then white berry fruits (gooseberries, white currants). Gets then more and more aromatic but always a tad rigid – pleasantly so. Young rum ‘arranged’ with bananas and vanilla. With water: the oak comes out even more. Ginger and warm sawdust. Mouth (neat): punchy, creamy, very vanilled, very ‘modern’ in style, reminding me of Glenmorangie’s Artisan or Astar or of Glenlivet’s Nàdurra. Huge sweet oaky notes and notes of apples in the background. With water: extremely sweet, vanilled, mildly honeyed and citrusy. Finish: long, more on plain oak, tea and a little white pepper. Comments: modern, engineered, not exactly a young sweet oakbomb but close. It’s pretty good but had I tried this baby blind, I’d have never, ever said it was a bottling by Diageo. SGP:641 - 84 points.


Linkwood 1990/2009 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, for LMdW, cask #6964) Colour: mahogany (dark oloroso!) Nose: pure, liquid chocolate at first nosing, then we have more oranges, both fresh and dried, as well as a good deal of ‘good’ sulphur (that is to say sulphur that’s closer to gunpowder than to, err, rotten eggs or H2S). Gets then very gamey and even a tad acetic (balsamico but also soy sauce). Old walnut liqueur. A spectacular dry sherry monster on the nose, for lovers of the genre only. Mouth: I’m sorry, this is no whisky, it’s plain old ueber-fortified sherry. Maybe they should double-check their bond book, mistakes can always be made ;-). But good it is! Finish: long, luscious, chocolaty and jammy. Chocolate-coated prunes in Armagnac. Blood oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: another spectacular sherry monster, very extreme but, most curiously, rather balanced and not sour. I like it better than earlier versions. SGP:541 - 88 points.
Linkwood 1996/2009 'Managers' Choice' (58.2%, OB, cask #10552, 480 bottles) Matured in sherry European oak. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s more the oak than the sherry that strike first here, the whole being a little closed at first nosing, but it gets then rather chocolaty, even if less so than the 1990. Quite some prunes as well, slightly overripe strawberries, the oak gets then bigger again. Tapioca, flour, gingerbread. Also little kirsch, then flowers such as peonies. A profile that’s a little hard to pin down (maybe I should try harder!) With water: it gets much fresher, cleaner and pleasant, on raspberry liqueur, jasmine tea and these whiffs of roses that can sometimes be found in Linkwood. Keeps developing on hay, ginger and just a little shoe polish. Mouth (neat): starts really powerful and rather kirschy again, a little rough. Eau-de-vie, strawberries and quite some black pepper. With water: once again, it’s much better after having been reduced down to +/-45%. A lot of spices (cloves and pepper first, then nutmeg and cinnamon), crystallised oranges, nectarines… Finish: rather long, clean, fruity, with the pepper lingering in the background. Comments: one of these sherried malts that really need water, but then they become very good. What’s sure is that Diageo didn’t take the easy way out when selecting this one. SGP:441 - 86 points.


Cardhu 1970/1993 (54.7%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society for Japan, #106.1) Colour: gold. Nose: weird! Rather powerful but also unexpectedly smoky and smelling like some bean and bacon soup (or something like that). Goes on with small cider apples, dry chenin wine, something such as sorrel or even cooked spinach, then aniseed and even a little mint, lemon, old books, wet newspaper… Hmm, hard to make up my mind, it’s so unusual. Is this nice? Let’s see what happens with water. With water: gets much more farmy and even more vegetal, even after fifteen minutes. Quite some camphor, eucalyptus and that wee metallic note that suggest and old bottle effect. It IS very nice! Mouth (neat): superb attack, very lemony and spicy at the same time, ultra-zesty and magnificently sharp. Too bad it gets then a little too ‘green’ and even astringent (grape pips, lime), but the zestiness is spectacular. With water: more liquorice, soft spices, a little mustard and always a lot of lemon. Finish: long, too bad it gets a little too drying (tea tannins). Comments: superb old Cardhu until the finish, where it loses points. SGP:642 - 89 points.
Cardhu 1997/2009 'Managers' Choice' (57.3%, OB, cask #3362, 252 bottles) Matured in bourbon American oak. Colour: pale gold. Nose: we aren’t very far from the SMWS when undiluted but this one is more compact, rather cleaner, with less ‘whacky’ aromas and more finely chiselled lemony, waxy and mineral notes. Also quite some vanilla from the bourbon wood but it’s still elegant and ‘natural’ (no oakbomb). Then ginger, lemon zests, a little paraffin and a very faint chalkiness. With water: gets much grassier, with also added notes of milk chocolate and a little more lemon. And less vanilla. After a good five minutes: superb citrusy notes, with much more oranges and clementines. Mouth (neat): it’s funny how this one tastes just like the 1970 at first sipping, only coated with more vanilla custard and fudge that make it rounder. Lemon pie. With water: yes! Zesty, complex, citrusy, nervous… Superb. Finish: long and with exactly the same profile. Fantastic citrusy notes and just a tiny-wee oaky touch (ginger). Comments: I had the 1970 as #1 until the palate with water, where they were equals, then the MC easily overtook the 1970 at the finish. SGP:641 - 91 points.


Mortlach 8 yo 1987/1995 (62.7%, Cadenhead's Authentic Collection) Colour: white wine. Nose: typical of these very high-strength Speysiders where almost all you get is coffee and grass. It’s the alcohol, baby… Quick, with water: smells like a cow stable, even after a good fifteen minutes of breathing! Certainly a little too newmakish. Wet hay, horse dung… Gets then very grassy again. Green apples. Not an easy one! Mouth (neat): bigly lemony and immensely grassy, on the verge of being bitter. Once again, water is mandatory or you can say bye-bye to your throat (and probably anything below it). With water: good, sweeter, very creamy, tasting like some orange liqueur doped with a little black pepper. Finish: long, sweet, fruity, slightly bubblegummy, with a peppery aftertaste. Comments: very good on the palate when diluted, otherwise a tad sharp and neutral at the same time. SGP:551 - 82 points.
Mortlach 1997/2009 'Managers' Choice' (57.1%, OB, cask #6802, 240 bottles) Matured in bourbon American oak. Colour: white wine. Nose: it’s not an extravagant malt whisky when undiluted but it does show a little more character than the 1987 indeed. Whiffs of vanilla, fresh mint leaves, lime and a little rhubarb. Also ‘green’ apples. With water: even more menthol, liquorice, hints of cinchona, fern… The vanilla faded away whilst the grassiness got bigger, until the vanilla got very big again after fifteen minutes. Glimmering vanilla? Mouth (neat): much, much easier to sip than the 1987 when unreduced, even if it’s some hot whisky indeed. Creamy mouth feel, on lemon coated with white chocolate and vanilla sauce. Apple compote. With water: now it tastes more or less the same as the 1987, maybe a tad less grassy and a little more vanilled. Finish: long, sweet, nervous. Strawberries. Comments: tastes young but this ‘responsiveness’ is most pleasant. It does not have the faint meatiness than other Mortlachs often display. SGP:551 - 84 points.
Glen Elgin


Glen Elgin 17 yo 1991/2008 (54.6%, James MacArthur, cask #2598) A 'single barrel… matured in sherry wood'? What can that be? A sherry-treated barrel? Colour: gold. Nose: a punchy, rather vinous (vin jaune) and slightly dirty start on cooked wine (sauce), gravy and obvious sulphur. No, it isn’t as horrible as it sounds, but it’s extremely potent and noses just like a 65% whisky so let’s add water right away. With water: more walnuts, more vin jaune (flor) and more herbal tea. The sulphury notes got more discreet. Whiffs of wet moss and a faint smokiness. It got seriously nice! Mouth (neat): the sherry is big but it’s rather cleaner than on the nose. Grape juice and bitter oranges. With water: even creamier, nicely orangey, nervous, citrusy and even lemony. Water really improved it. Finish: long but most bizarrely, the fruitiness vanished and it got very herbal and tea-ish. A true harlequin of a malt! Comments: a very ‘funny’ one that doesn’t stop changing. Entertaining. SGP:452 – 85 points.
Glen Elgin 1998/2009 'Managers' Choice' (61.1%, OB, cask #3678, 534 bottles) Matured in rejuvenated European oak. Colour: straw. Nose: powerful of course but also cleaner, straighter and rather more coherent than the 1991, starting with whiffs of wood smoke and quite some fresh almonds plus a little paraffin, then hints of sherry and Seville oranges. But that’s all I can get at more than 60% abv. So, with water: alas, it got a little dry and rather grassy. Maybe not the best swimmer ever? Hints of old papers and maybe a little ham. Wait, it does take off after a good ten minutes, with more mint and something that smells like… absinth? Also leather and more ham. Mouth (neat): powerful of course, oily, rather rich, half peppery, half vanilled and half sherried ;-). It seems that it’s very good now but let’s not take chances. With water: aaaah, now we’re talking! It’s not that it got very complex but it’s much fuller, creamy, fruity and spicy. Bitter oranges, citrons and pepper, vanilla and rum… a very good combo. Finish: long, on the same notes, with maybe a little more ginger in the aftertaste. Comments: a very good Glen Elgin that’s a tad tricky to handle at such high strength, since it seems to swim better on the mouth than on the nose. So to speak! SGP:451 - 86 points.
Quick conclusion: the young Cardhu and Oban are clearly ahead of the pack in my opinion and indeed of stellar quality. The Glen Elgin and Linkwood are very good as well but maybe just a little less ‘outta-this-world’. The Mortlach may lack a bit of the distillery’s usually splendid profile (an unexpected choice of cask in my view) whilst the Teaninich is very good but a little too ‘modern’ for my taste. Globally, all six are above par.
October 2 update: I just had Davin and Krishna, two Malt Maniacs, at home and let them try the whole flight. They both scored each approx 2 points above yours truly. Maybe I was in a slightly negative mood when I came up with my own scores and maybe I just couldn't prevent myself from being influenced by the heavy prices. Shame on me! ;-)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: I don't know why I was feeling like listening to Art Blakey's very, very famous Blues March again. Maybe because it's so good, or maybe because it was the jingle of a famous French radio show that I never failed to listen to when I was a kid... Please buy Art Blakey's music.

Art Blakey

September 29, 2009

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
Whisky Live Paris just closed its doors and all I can say is that it was a huge success. There are more and more international visitors, which says long about the event's ever-growing reputation abroad. And many thanks again to Astrid, Martine, Dave, Geert, Giuseppe, Govert, Hans-Henrik, Hideo, Ho-cheng, Luc, Marcel, Olivier, Philippe, Sukhinder, Thierry and Ulf. You were great!


Let me admit that I’ve always been in rather big trouble with these 1982 Bowmores. I’ve tried seven different casks so far and scored them from 59 to 79, except one, cask #85030, which I liked much better (86). Please note that I haven’t tried cask #85033 (b. 20087, 211 bottles) for the US, which, according to a friend over there, is totally out of this world. It’s a matter of taste anyway, especially with styles that are so particular, so let’s be brave and try five more without any water, maybe some kind of light will come out of one or two of them. But remember, it's all a matter of personal taste (I insist!)

Bowmore 26 yo 1982/2009 (50.4%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #85072) Colour: pale gold. Nose: the expected whiffs of geraniums are well here, together with hints of wet clay, orange zests and lemonade. A little smoke and just hints of seawater. Cut flowers. Not unpleasant (no ‘chemical’ perfume) but it’s still typical of that era at Bowmore. Mouth: hugely ’82 Bowmore! Violet sweets, salt and cranberry juice. Orange syrup. This is very sweet but balance is kept. Tastes more and pore like strawberry drops, or these Swiss bonbons called Sugus (I’m sorry, you probably don’t know them). Finish: Comments: extremely sweet and perfumy. A style of its own, not my cup of malt at all but I would not say this is flawed. SGP:734 - 78 points.
Bowmore 26 yo 1982/2009 (52.1%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #85031) Colour: pale gold. Nose: much less geranium and more peat, vanilla and sea water. Lemon zests, oysters. The flowery notes grow bigger over time (more dandelions than geranium or lavender). A nice, rather cleaner version from a more active casks or so it seems. After 15 minutes: some porridge and yoghurt. Mouth: the same notes of lavender sweets and strawberry drops with a little more wood around them. Kiwi drops, Haribo bears, a little pepper. Medium peated. Finish: long but a tad more ‘chemical’ now. Tang? Comments: a slightly bigger version of cask #85072 but it’s also a little less clean. SGP:654 - 76 points.
Bowmore 26 yo 1982/2009 (53.5%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #85057) Colour: gold. Nose: similar to cask #85072, with added notes of fresh strawberries and pineapples. Cut grass, overripe oranges. More oak as well (sawdust, ginger). Mouth: very similar to the other ones. Juicy fruits, violet sweets, strawberry drops, orange drops, coriander, kiwis… I must say this one is much cleaner and straight than the others. The best so far – in my view of course. Finish: long, with the notes of violet sweets getting even bigger. Orange blossom water and quite some salt too. Comments: this one has no ‘chemical’ notes, I like it. SGP:654 - 83 points.
Bowmore 26 yo 1982/2009 (53.8%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #85068) Colour: gold. Nose: once again, we’re close. This one is a tad shier, more on cut flowers. A little more pepper in the background as well as oranges. Mouth: god this is punchy! Lemon drops, pepper, strawberry drops, pepper, violet sweets, pepper, orange squash, pepper, salt, pepper… Also a little mint and more violets/lavender than cask #85057 again. A fruity brute. Finish: very long. Violet sweets and pepper sauce plus rather more peat than in the others. Less clean than the previous one, which is still my favourite. A few ‘chemical’ notes – when I write ‘chemical’, I’m thinking of these cheap sweets that one can find in any supermarket, or of liquorice allsorts and such. Comments: a fruity brute indeed. It’s rather good actually. SGP:745 - 79 points.
Bowmore 26 yo 1982/2009 (54.9%, Duncan Taylor, Rare Auld, cask #85064) Colour: pale gold. Nose: this one is cleaner and fruitier at very first nosing, but there’s a lot of geranium arising, orangeade, perfume, rubber bands… Very typical. Rubbed orange zests. Gets more coastal after a while. Mouth: once again, the fruitiness is big and the notes of ‘chemical sweets’ even bigger. Lavender sweets, basil, rubber, smoked tea, fir honeydew... Finish: long, candied and very ‘lavendery’. Crystallised oranges, lemon zests, a bitterness in the aftertaste (zests). Gin fizz. Comments: another beast that’s not flawed at all, only very typical. The most lemony of them all. SGP:745 - 80 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: odd? Some very rare French psychedelic pop from the late 1960s, with due echoes and spacy trippy effects, by Les Papyvores. It's called Le Papyvore and it does remind us of Nino Ferrer indeed. Please buy Les Papyvores' music.


September 28, 2009

Clynelish 10 yo 1997/2008 (46%, Coopers Choice) coopers Colour: straw. Nose: super, clean, sharp, grassy and waxy Clynelish, with little fruitiness – almost none, actually – but a minerality that’s fantastic. A little vanilla and hints of green bananas that make a late arrival, as well as a little lemon and just hints of roses. Mouth: excellent, rather earthy, leafy, rooty and of course waxy, with some orange zests and hints of cinchona. Funny notes of orange soda, slightly fizzy. Lemonade. Finish: rather long, with a little more pepper and a very waxy signature. Comments: a classic, true to the distillery’s original character as displayed in the 14yo OB. SGP:352 - 86 points.
Clynelish 1995/2006 (46%, Eilan Gillan, Hogshead) Colour: white wine. Nose: much shyer than the 1997, dry, more on damp clay, cut grass, porridge and maybe hints of white cherries. Very austere and not very sexy. Hints of pears as well. Lacks ageing, it seems. Mouth: much, much nicer than on the nose, despite a slightly excessive greenness here (walnut skin, lemon zest). Then lemon marmalade, gooseberries and various other slightly underripe fruits. Finish: long, still green, peppery, maybe a tad too bitter. Comments: indeed, not a very sexy version but Clynelish aficionados should like it. A variant. SGP:272 - 80 points.
Clynelish 12 yo 1994/2007 (46%, Murray McDavid for Malts&More, Bourbon/Pedro Ximenéz, cask #PX 12371, 712 bottles) Colour: amber Nose: well, it’s hard to find any of Clynelish’s markers at first sniffing, but Clynelish isn’t a trumpeting malt whisky. We’re rather on a lot of orange marmalade and gunpowder, with an unusually huge honeyness growing bigger and bigger. ‘Cynelish’ comes through after a little while, with some wax and that minerality. It’s also a little vinous. Purist would say this is too far from the distillery’s character but I must say the end result is much pleasing – so far. Mouth: thick, rich and very unusual. Notes of orange liqueur, walnut liqueur (or nusswasser as we say over here), the whole gets more bitter and a little drying. Tar, ginger wine, something like tamarind? Not quite as nice as on the nose I’m afraid. Finish: long but more like cold over-infused black tea. Comments: I liked the nose but the palate isn’t as balanced. I’d say ‘experimental’. SGP:371 - 74 points.
Clynelish Clynelish 16 yo 1993/2009 (56.5%, Alambic Classique, refill rum barrel, cask #9754, 156 bottles) Colour: white wine. Nose: oh, this is dry and austere again, and close to the Eilan Gillan in style. Damp clay, chalk, ginger tonic, grass, pepper, green tea… A very sharp, ‘unsexy’ version. I like austerity and self-restraint in my Clynelishes but this one goes a tad too far. Unexpected whiffs of rum after a few minutes, overripe apples. With water: ouch, it smells like aspirin now! Also very unusual notes of fresh basil and coriander, then iron. Mouth (neat): plain lemon juice with pepper, and in that sense very spectacular. With water: very strange, something like metallic oranges? Finish: rather long, with more lemon and pepper, but it’s still a bit unbalanced. Comments: not sure this baby wasn’t flawed. Nails? I’ll try to put my hands on another sample just to make sure, it’s a tad weird. SGP:261 - 69 points.
Clynelish 1995/2008 (60.6%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, Refill Sherry, cask #12780) Colour: gold. Nose: almost silent, only a little porridge, vanilla and grass coming through. The high alcohol probably blocks the rest. With water: gets porridgy, grainy, a little sulphury, slightly newmake-ish and very grassy. It’s only after quite some minutes that the trademark waxiness manages to come through. Notes of grapefruits. After fifteen minutes: gets great, typical high-end Clynelish. Mouth: full of promises at such high strength. Lemon, pepper, wax, vitamin C tablets. With water: good, balanced, flavourful. Bitter oranges, honey and wax, with a little more sherry. Finish: long, even more on bitter oranges. Comments: do not rush this one, it needs a lot of time to open up. SGP:462 - 83 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: after Lambert, Hendrix and Bavan (or Ross), Les Double Six of Paris played all reed and brass... with their voices. That was in the early 1960s and they were extremely good at it! please have a go at their version of Meet Benny Bailey and then buy their music.

Double 6

September 25, 2009


Royal Festival Hall, London, August 10th 2009

I would wager that few of you reading this have heard of the National but if I’m wrong, then I’m sure you won’t hesitate to let me know. If you are at all familiar with this cultish outfit from Brooklyn then more likely than not you’re a fan. And not a “yeah I liked their last album” sort of fan, but rather a “I just can’t wait for the new record to come out, what, did you say they’re playing a gig in London? Well I’ve just got to get tickets for that…” type.

And there are apparently a lot of them around. Enough to sell out this one-off gig at the Royal Festival Hall in a matter of hours as far as I understand. So for your Reviewer and Photographer, it’s one of those uncomfortable occasions, like being a neutral in the middle of the Kop at Liverpool’s Anfield ground, or the famous (and technically now dismantled) Shed at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge. And thinking about it, a football ground might have been a better venue for the gig than the formal, sometimes stuffy, and very seated RFH. This was clearly an uncomfortable locale for a band more used to playing the Bowery Ballroom, with fans who, despite the rather cerebral nature of the National’s work, and regardless of their English reserve (actually the one shouting “Stand up you fuckers. Fucking stand up” was from Glasgow) were clearly intent on celebrating its visceral side in bodily fashion.
The National have four albums to their name, stretching back to 2001’s eponymous debut. The last, 2007’s The Boxer made the charts (number 68) but more importantly was a critical triumph. I’m sure the T-shirt buying hoards here have got all of them, and the singles and EPs, and the live podcast downloads. They’ve probably pre-ordered the highly anticipated forthcoming album (“I just can’ wait for the new record to come out, what, did you say they’re playing a gig in London? Well I’ve just got to get tickets for that…”). No doubt part of this devotion is down to the charismatic frontman, Matt Berninger, of whom more later.   The National Boxer(
But some I’m sure is because the National have a sound of their own, built around the jousting guitars of brothers Aron and Bryce Dessner, which feature strongly in both new and old material. When it works it’s a nice trick, bouncing riffs and chords off each other, building up complex layers of sound reminiscent of the incarcerated Mr Spector’s Wall. But even in a relatively short gig it runs the danger of sounding, at least to the unconverted, a tad formulaic. That, I think, is where the intensity kicks in. For this is one of the most intense and committed performances I’ve seen for a while; if the Dessner boys’ left hands had meant blood-soaked fretboards they wouldn’t have stopped playing, you could see it in their eyes. And you could see how it got to some of the fans: “Stand up you fuckers. Fucking stand up”.
Did I mention Berninger? Well, he is Mr Intense. He has a peach of a voice: think Nick Cave meets Scott Walker; deep and brooding, reflective and guilt ridden. He paces the stage liked a caged animal, pulling and tearing at his shirt and trousers, occasionally pausing, fists clenched as tight as tight can be, to stare into the distance and howl or scream unimaginable torrents of anguish. I’m not surprised he needs a drink: chilled white wine by the ice-filled glass full (at one point he curses the fact that he’s wasted five minutes trying to pull a cork out of a screw-cap closed bottle with his teeth), drunk like a man rescued from the desert might greedily gulp at a glass of water.
He certainly drives his band and provokes the audience (he provoked a fit of boredom in the Photographer but that’s another story), already so goaded by their foul-mouthed Glaswegian, that it’s easy for Berninger to get them on their feet; at which point, perversely, he jumps from the stage to fill a vacant pew in the front row. Love it or hate it, it’s a remarkably powerful performance, giving colour to the lyrics and melodies of some interesting and well-crafted songs like ‘All the wine’, and set closer ‘Fake Empire’. National
We left during the encore. Your reviewer was quite engaged, but the Photographer pretty fed up with all the prancing and cavorting, much of it from people who were old enough to know better, some of it frankly embarrassing. Anyway, like I said, you probably haven’t heard of the National, but I would suggest you devote a few minutes to listening to their material. And while you’re doing that, why not look out for Edinburgh’s The Broken Records, who played a fantastic and highly original support set. Should you feel like being put through a couple of cycles of an emotionally- charged washing machine, then go and watch Mr Berninger strutting his stuff: it’s a hard act to follow. – Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
Listen: The National on MySpace
Speyside TASTING – TWO SPEYSIDE (from Speyside Distillery)

No, these aren’t from Glenfarclas ;-), but from the Speyside Distillery that isn’t quite in Speyside according to some sources (it’s in Kingussie). Confused? Let’s try these babies…
Speyside 10 yo 1996/2007 (60%, C&S Dram Collection, hogshead, cask #788) Colour: white wine. Nose: white fruits and grains galore, with a good deal of fresh almonds and marzipan in the background. It’s powerful but not explosive at cask strength. It’s also a tad spirity (cologne, medicinal alcohol) but the rather clean profile works pretty well if you’re not seeking something very demonstrative. With water: it doesn’t get any more complex but notes of porridge and mashed potatoes do come through. A tad neutral globally but its clean, young malt whisky. A little newmake-ish. Mouth (neat): very strong, very spirity but rather clean. Esthery, fruity (apples, pears) and just a tad rubbery. Raw spirit, with little cask influence. Water is probably obligatory! With water: clean, natural, very young malt whisky with little character but good balance. Orgeat syrup, almond milk and apple liqueur. Finish: medium long, maybe a tad more spirity and cologne-ish. Comments: not unpleasant. The spirit doesn’t show much personality but it’s quite palatable. SGP:331 - 78 points.
Speyside 1993/2009 (61.7%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #636, 180 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: very similar profile, grains, cologne and almonds, only with an added layer of raisins, white wine and fresh varnish. I wouldn’t say this works to well so far. Added notes of vinegar and old wine cask developing after a while. Volatile acidity in whisky? With water: more of the same, the winey notes getting even bigger. Empty vinegar cruet. Improves a bit after a good fifteen minutes, with notes of cured ham and wet straw. Kirsch. Mouth (neat): raw, powerful, a little burning, spirity and slightly bitter. Notes of Armagnac-soaked prunes, Stroh 80 (high proof Austrian rum). Not an easy dram for sure. With water: less sherry, more raw spirit and a spirit that’s close to the 1996 in style, that is to say fairly neutral. Some raw oak comes through (green tannins, black pepper). Finish: long but still rather spirity. Reminds me even more of Stroh 80, but it’s still better than Stroh 80 ;-). Comments: perfectly all right but not more. I find it a little strange that Malts of Scotland issued this one, as all their previous bottlings had been way above par in my humble opinion. A way of getting their breath back? SGP :431 - 75 points.

September 24, 2009

SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))
OMG! Not even the good people at The GlenWonka (and not even with the help of Damien Hirst) would have dared issuing such laughable ‘bottlings’! That’s right, these are middle-aged single malts at 43% ABV, all bottled in ‘Swarovski’ decanters that even Barbara Cartland on acid would have found… really too much.
As for the prices, here are just a few examples, please judge by yourself:
Laphroaig 17yo 43% 2,5 litre 3,500.00 Euros
Bowmore 15yo 43% 2 litres 2,900.00 Euros
Ardbeg 15yo 43% 5 litres 5,500.00 Euros
Ardbeg 15yo 1992/2007 43% 0.7 litres in ‘Fabergé’ egg 4,500.00 Euros
… and so on (of course, it's on eBay).
Right, this is most probably a joke but let’s make things clear: neither Whiskyfun, nor The GlenWonka have anything to do with this flabbergasting venture. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye! (and thanks, Marcel)
Caol Ila We’re approaching our 250th Caol Ila at full speed – I’ve saved a 1969 (the erotic year, said Gainsbourg) for that occasion that should take place before the end of the year. It’s true that with 3.4 mio LPA (litres pure alcohol), Caol Ila is no small distillery, is it? (Now, Macallan issues 5 mio LPA a year…)
Caol Ila 12 yo 1996/2009 'Ciao All' (46%, The Nectar, Daily Dram) Colour: white wine. Nose: ah, it’s one of these very pure, fresh, clean and delicately smoky Caol Ilas. As usual, we have whiffs of seashells, cold ashes, wet stones and a faint kipperiness that’s most pleasant. Typical, to drink on oysters! Mouth: full yet light, clean, a little salty, perfectly balanced, medium peated, with touches of iodine and, once again, kippers. Also quite some lemon and fresh walnuts for good measure. Finish: long, salty, a little wilder and even more coastal. Comments: a very maritime young Caol Ila, totally flawless. The problem may be that one could well gulp down litres of this without even noticing. And then, ‘Ciao, all!’ ;-) SGP:356 - 87 points.
Caol Ila 17 yo 1992/2009 (46%, Whisky-Doris, The Dram, 180 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: huge whiffs of vanilla at first nosing, which is rather unusual. They almost block the spirit here, at least for a few seconds. Then we get the trademark light peatiness and all the smoky and coastal jazz as well as notes of olive oil. If you never tried a heavily vanilled yet clean and fresh Caol Ila, this one is for you. Pleasant medicinal notes coming through after a while. Mouth: we’re not far from the 1996 of course but this one is a tad more organic, salty and oomphy. There’s a little more lemon too, as well as apple peelings, the whole being globally wilder than the 1996. No big vanilla on the palate. Finish: long, with a good, rather big peatiness and hints of plain seawater. Comments: a rather wilder and peatier version of Caol Ila, also more on lemon-and-salt than others. Tequila? Nah… But good stuff it is. SGP:457 - 86 points.
Caol Ila 17 yo 1991/2008 (56.9%, The Single Malts of Scotland, hogshead, cask #481, 302 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: almost blocked when compared with the lighter ones that we just had. Almost silent in fact, but I guess water should unleash the aromas. With water: guess what, water did not work here, the whisky did not change much. Mouth (neat): this one is more extreme than both the 1996 and 1992, and even more lemony and salty. Big, punchy, almondy, coastal… Notes of green apples. With water: excellent, rounder than the younger ones, more complex as well, with may spices, crystallised oranges, salted caramel fudge and notes of gingerbread. At the peat and smoke department, all is perfect. Finish: long, smokier now, peaty and peppery. Perfect aftertaste on salted almonds and lemon juice. Comments: the excellent people at The Single Malts of Scotland have some great, great Caol Ilas and this one is no exception. And best of the best, this is whisky for drinka, not for collecta! The only strange thing is that the nose was rather low-key, even when watered down. The palate is excellent. SGP:456 - 85 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: warning, geniuses! Two griots, Momma mint Dendenni and Seddoum ould Bowba Jiddou aka 'the stars of great Mauritanian music' play a long piece that one could call 'Music is always in my heart'. It was found on this fabulous website, via Twitter. Yes, Twitter can be great.


September 23, 2009

Caol Ila


Caol Ila 1979/2009 (53.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #4412) I always liked this comment on BBR’s website, about just any whisky: “maturity: Ready, but will keep.” A wine thing, for sure ;-). Colour: gold. Nose: no sign of this baby being 30 years of age, rather a very clean and fresh profile, all on fresh walnuts, apple peelings and limestone, which sometimes happens in middle-aged Caol Ilas that lost part of their fire, often for the better. Medium-peated. More green tea after a moment, hints of mercurochrome. Orange blossom and vanilla. This one probably needs water. With water: very beautiful, ‘the scent of Islay’. Fresh peated walnuts and the beach. Cough syrup. Mouth (neat): excellent attack, on these camphory and resinous notes that scream ‘old Islay’. I must say this one has something of some old Ardbegs, with a beautiful tar and some old spices and ancient liqueurs (whatever that means). Some salt too. Brilliant palate so far. With water: a little less ‘old Ardbeg’ but there’s quite some salt left, and its medicinal side too. The peat is rather big despite its thirty years of age. Just great. Finish: long, wide, doing the peacock’s tale. Comments: this one is very ‘old Islay’ – it was some cask! Superb, one of the very best Caol Ilas I could try in recent months. SGP:356 - 91 points (almost 92). PS: I never talk about prices but imagine this total beauty is sold for £69 you-know-where! (update, £79 one day later.)
Caol Ila 20 yo 1979/2000 (58.2%, Coopers Choice) Colour: straw. Nose: rather more expressive than the new BBR, but also more on sour apples and even yoghurt. Cut grass, lettuce, grapes, aspirin tablets. Dry and austere so far, rather shy. With water: nice but as it sometimes happens with older Caol Ilas, there’s kind an added dustiness when you add water. Mid-chalky, mid-papery. Still nice! Mouth (neat): punchy, starting very earthy, rooty and leafy, and in that sense very different from the BBR. Crisp, lemony, sharp like a blade as they say. Not quite too hot but let’s see what happens with water. With water: more lemon and more salt. Kippers galore! Finish: long, very salty and very coastal. Anchovies in a bottle? Comments: I didn’t like the nose too much but the palate is spectacularly salty. Brine? SGP:255 - 84 points.
Caol Ila 25 yo 1979/2005 (58.2%, Signatory, cask #05/116, 244 bottles) Colour: straw. Nose: big, wonderfully mashy and organic. Cow stable, old seaweed on the beach, then lemon juice, almonds and a little milk. Wet limestone, clay… High-end leather (Louis Vuitton – and why not?) With water: it’s its milky side that really stands out now. Clean cow stable and raw ‘natural’ milk (not the junk they try to flog to you at most supermarkets.) Slight fizziness, lemonade, ginger tonic. Mouth (neat): we’re extremely close to the Cooper’s, only a little more polished. ‘A lemony bite’, still. With water: classic, despite an unusual honeyness. A little vanilla fudge, the rest is ‘usual’, that is to say pretty good. Finish: rather long, peaty and vanilled. Comments: good balance, good profile, very good quality but maybe not much magic. Now, it’s true that it’s always hard after a stunner such as the BBR. SGP:356 - 86 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: one of the most revered masters of jazz piano, Andrew Hill, playing Retrospect (from Verona Rag, 1980). LIke other luminaries such as the late Don Pullen, or Richie Beirach, I find it utterly fascinating to follow Andrew Hill when he's improvising. Breathtaking! Please buy Andrew Hill's music...

Andrew Hill

September 21, 2009



Mortlach 1980/1997 (63.1%, Flora & Fauna, cask strength) Colour: straw. Nose: super-punchy of course but less aggressive than expected, starting on quite some wood smoke (and BBQ) and notes of ripe gooseberries and orange liqueur (any, really). There’s some honey too, as well as hints of cured ham and a little tar. Discreet notes of sherry. Superb nose at 63% I must say, but let’s add water. With water: develops all on rubbed orange skin, then a huge meatiness. Something like ham cooked in orange sauce, with a little sage and cardamom. Sounds good? Too bad it’s also a tad dusty. Mouth (neat): super-punchy once again, zesty, fruity, sort of lighter than other Mortlachs as far as the profile is concerned. Truckloads of fresh oranges and just hints of bubblegum, but that may come from the high strength. With water: unusual development on sorrel and coriander, with something earthy/dusty. And lemonade. It doesn’t seem to swim too well. Finish: long, pulls itself together again, with some ginger and orange zests. Comments: a rollercoaster of a malt, maybe not state of the art but very entertaining. SGP:552 - 86 points.
Mortlach 20 yo 1978/1998 (62.20%, OB, Rare Malts) Colour: gold. Nose: extremely punchy once again, well in most Rare Malts’ style, that is to say close to the distillate. Once again, there’s quite some wood smoke but also much less sherry and much more grassy notes than in the F&F. Whiffs of vanilla custard and orange cake, then a combination of paraffin and kirsch (or any stone fruit spirit) and maybe even a little soap – or is that fresh almonds? With water: oh, it shuts down, getting grassy, mineral and very austere. Mouth (neat): raw, powerful and kind of gritty/tannic, with some lime in the background. A little strange, paraffiny and lemony. Unusual! With water: better but still a little aggressive and maybe too ‘green’ and grassy. Hints of oil, strong liquorice, lemon syrup and various herbs. Thyme? Finish: long, all on the same grassy notes. Comments: not an easy-easy Mortlach but quality is there. SGP:462 – 85 points.
Mortlach 22 yo 1972/1995 (65.3%, OB, Rare Malts) Colour: gold. Nose: triple wow! Not anaesthetic in any way at 65% ABV, superbly honeyed ala old Glen Ord. Fragrant, aromatic, complex… Or so it seems because it really starts to assail your nostrils after a few seconds. Let’s not take chances… With water: exceptional! Beeswax, honey, fresh figs, wax polish and a faint flintiness. The quality is very high. Mouth (neat – with caution!): bang! Sure it’s extremely strong and certainly not drinkable as such but take just one drop on your tongue and myriads of citrusy and honey notes explode on your palate. It’s not whisky, it’s fruit essence! With water: fantastically balanced AND emphatically honeyed and waxy. A whole beehive. Finish: very long, with added spicy tones (pepper). Comments: state of the art. Most of these first Rare Malts were exceptional whiskies. SGP:652 - 92 points.
Mortlach Bonus: a recent Mortlach:
Mortlach 16 yo (46%, Duthies, +/- 2009) Colour: gold. Nose: it’s certainly different from the old OBs, maybe a little fresher and certainly more on fresh fruits, in this case pears and ripe apples. Also very nice whiffs of herbal tea (a little verbena, then chamomile) and once again these slightly paraffiny touches. Mouth: ho-ho, there are many aspects that remind me of the 1972 on the palate, chiefly the oranges and the honey, the whole being perfectly combined here. Notes of baklavas, a little kirsch, Turkish delights… Perfect ‘greasiness’ that keeps it bold and ‘Mortlach’ and counterbalances the fruitiness. Finish: rather long, clean but, once again ‘greasy’ (i.e. not dull here). Some honey-coated strawberries in the aftertaste. Comments: a marginally easier version of Mortlach – which can be such a great spirit! Well done once again, Duthie/Cadenhead’s. SGP:531 - 86 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the late Alain Bashung doing his doleful yet colourful Tango funèbre, a very 'Brellian' piece. Please buy Alain Bashung's music.


September 18, 2009



Longmorn 31 yo 1968/1999 (53.8%, Signatory, Dumpy, cask #3464, 185 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: well, it is not one of these uberfruity old Longmorns, it’s rather one of thee waxy and leathery ones, displaying an ‘old skool’ feeling that no modern whisky can match. The problem is that as much as I like those profiles, sometimes the whiskies get too grassy and dry and that’s what happened here – or so it seems. Huge whiffs of walnut skin, motor oil, green tea, rhubarb and green apples, with hints of rabbit hutch that do not work too well. Maybe water will help? With water: indeed, water helps big time. It got much smoother without getting dully round, much more organic (even more) but also pleasantly resinous. Also beautiful whiff of ‘a forest under the rain’ (mushrooms, moss, fern, pine needles, whatever…) Mouth (neat): mucho better than on the nose when neat, dry and very lemony but balanced with a little honey. It’s big whisky, rather concentrated. Tea. Oily mouth feel. With water: maybe not very complex but the balance is perfect and these notes of ti-punch and mojito are all pleasure. Finish: long, lemony and grassier again. Comments: not a linear, easy-easy Longmorn for sure. Water is highly recommended because it gets quite superb once diluted. SGP:461 - 88 points.
Longmorn 38 yo 1968/2007 (51%, Single Malt Whisky Society for Whisky Live Tokyo 2008, #7.39, cask #907, 'Just Amazing', 75cl) Colour: dark amber with reddish hues. Nose: starts much fruitier than the 31yo, but with the same rather austere grassiness in the background. The sherry is obvious but not monstrous, the whole getting rather flinty, dry and meaty. Beef bouillon, chocolate, hay smoke and some dry raisins in the background (Corinth). A little mint. With water: typical old sherry monster. More balsamico, soy sauce, ham, leather and chocolate sauce. It’s almost a whole meal. Mouth (neat): excellent and very, very classic, with a good punch and very pleasant notes of barley sugar and even candy-floss. Milk chocolate, coffee. Gets just a little drying. With water: once again, a classic old sherried Longmorn. There are (or were?) many, especially at Gordon & MacPhail’s, and the vast majority are of very high quality. A sure bet. Finish: long, maybe a tad Armagnacky (?). Loads of prunes and bitter chocolate, then lemon. Comments: once again, a classic equation. It’s very leathery at the retro-olfaction. SGP:551 - 90 points. (with heartfelt thanks to Konstantin)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Norway's Bugge Wesseltoft and his 'new conception of jazz' doing Somewhere In Between in 1996. Is that History already? Please buy Bugge Wesseltoft's music.

Bugge Wessltoft

September 17, 2009


TASTING – THREE YOUNG GLENGOYNE (or variations for sherry casks)

Glengoyne 1998/2009 (54.5%, Malts of Scotland, sherry hogshead, cask #1130, 292 bottles) Colour: mahogany. Very dark colour for a sherry hogshead, has it been re-treated? Nose: not as explosively sherried as the colour would have suggested, but still classically toffee-ish, with notes of prunes and dried dates. Takes off after a few minutes of breathing, becoming more candied and liqueury (big notes of Mandarine Impériale). It makes me think of some much older sherried Glen Grants in a certain way. With water: water really brings out the oak, with whiffs of warm planks (freshly sawn ones) and even a little fresh putty. Gets back to raisins and caramel after a few minutes. Mouth (neat): very rich but not heavy, concentrated but balanced, with many grapey notes as well as some burnt chocolate cake, chestnut honey, blackcurrant liqueur, raisins, liquorice and… more liquorice. Extremely rich, much richer than on the nose when neat. With water: classic oloroso-type malt. Reminds me of green tea-flavoured chocolate. Finish: long, less heavy now, rather clean, with just a little menthol. Notes of thuya wood in the aftertaste. Comments: maybe not the most complex Glengoyne ever but balance is already achieved in this little sherry monster. SGP:541 – 88 points.
Glengoyne 1997/2009 (57.2%, Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask #582, 314 bottles) Colour: amber. Nose: certainly drier than the 1998, starting more on cocoa and bitter oranges and developing on fruitcake and crème brulée, with an obvious but rather beautiful oakiness behind. Whiffs of leather pouch and then a straighter vinosity (chardonnay). Cognac. Once again, it’s not overly expressive when at cask strength. With water: just a little sulphur, then more rooty and leafy notes (and no more sulphur). Gentian, liquorice wood, dates and figs. Very, very pleasant. Mouth (neat): starts slightly prickly and almost fizzy, with some lemon juice and tannins, then oranges and bitter chocolate. Christmas cake, walnut liqueur. Rather unusual I must say, let’s see what happens with water: it’s still slightly fizzy. Notes of ginger and pepper, with a good deal of tannins. Lemon marmalade. Finish: rather long and maybe more complex, with other spices kicking in as well as some liquorice wood. Herbal tea. Comments: the cask seems to have been extremely active here. Very good Glengoyne, a tad rougher than other versions. I liked the hogshead a little better even if it was more a classic sherry monster. SGP:651 - 86 points.
Glengoyne 14yo 1992/2006 (59.2%, OB for LMdW, refill sherry butt #1811, 606 bottles) Colour: full gold. Nose: most bizarrely, it’s as if this one was lighter than the ’97 and ’98 despite its higher strength. Much more on fresh almonds and walnuts, orange blossom water, early grey tea and leather, with also a little pine resin. With water: superb development on all things resinous and minty. Vicks, white chocolate, cut grass, damp earth. An unusual profile for Glengoyne. Mouth (neat): starts a little like the 1997, with an unusual fizziness and notes of lemon, but gets then more typically sherried, with notes of crystallised oranges and then eucalyptus drops, cough syrup and sultanas. Limoncello. With water: more of everything in the same direction. Lemon balm tea, cough drops, marzipan. Finish: long but just like the other two, it gets significantly woodier in the aftertaste. Comments: an other very good one. As often, a very good refill butt can beat the first fills! SGP:551 - 89 points.
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-)) Interactive map of Scotland
Hurray, Johannes and Franc van den Heuvel have not stopped improving their interactive map of all Scottish distilleries recently, and it's now close to perfection in my opinion. A very useful tool and some true maniacal work, well worth thunderous applause! (and the few seconds it needs to load - it's quick!)

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the great accordionist Daniel Mille and his band (and what a band!) playing a very nostalgic and Bill-Evans-esque As Rosas Nao Falam (from his 2006 CD Après la pluie). Please buy Daniel Mille's music.

Daniel Mille

September 16, 2009

Caol Ila


Caol Ila 25 yo 1983/2008 (46%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, re-coopered hogsheads) The excellent people at Jean Boyer’s know how to select some young, clean and delightful young malts but sometimes they also find older casks. This one is one of them. Colour: straw. Nose: it’s an appeased Caol Ila, starting all on seashells and marzipan and developing on a rather subtle combination of slight medicinal notes (a little camphor, bandages), slightly overripe apples, almond milk and these delicate notes of old books than can be so pleasant (when the writers are good, haha!) It does remind me a bit of the official 18 years old, but it’s rather less buttery, and also a little more mentholated. All pleasure so far. Mouth: so very good, so quaffable! The strength is perfect here and it’s hard to refrain from downing your glass as if it was a good white Sancerre. Perfect balance between the citrusy notes, the minerality, the coastalness, the medicinality (enough with barbarisms!) and the peat. Finish: medium long but extremely clean. Perfect. Comments: sneaky. Too drinkable. Enough said. SGP:356 - 90 points.
Caol Ila 25 yo 1983/2009 (52.7%, The Bladnoch forum, cask #4806, 262 bottles) The bottlings for the Bladnoch Forum are always very, very fairly priced and for that they deserve a medal. The good news is that they’re also very good. In short, excellent value! Colour: pale straw. Nose: the Jean Boyer was clean and relatively soft on the nose whilst this one is fierier, a little more spirity and rougher. Notes of mercurochrome, green apples, lime, ‘garden bonfire under a drizzle’… Gets then a little smoother and closer to the Jean Boyer. Crabs, wet clothes, seawater, whiffs of tarmac… Nice it is! With water: no further development, water is pretty unnecessary here. Mouth (neat): sharp, powerful but not brutal, peaty, peppery, salty, lemony, coastal (right, kippery), and smoky. A classic, as good as it can get. With water: same. It’s just more dangerously drinkable, just like its buddy the Jean Boyer. Finish: medium long but absolutely perfect. The word ‘clean’ has been invented for this one. Comments: just like the Jean Boyer, it’s a Caol Ila of which you could swallow litres and litres, which makes it a tad dangerous. Not for scatterbrains! SGP:356 – 90 points.

MUSIC - Recommended listening: Texas' Guy Clark and his Stuff That Work (it's on Dublin Blues). Please buy Guy Clark's music.

Guy Clark

September 15, 2009



Tasting sister casks is usually rather interesting because that pushes your nostrils and taste buds to their limits, looking for nuances… Which means that it can also be pain in the neck. Well, it’s all up to me I guess, I’m not obliged to do it. A masochist?

Ardmore 13 yo 1994/2008 (52.5%, Exclusive Malts, casks #335, 324 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: this could well be mistaken for an Islayer. A huge smokiness (coal!), quite some tar and even whiffs of lighter gas at first nosing, the whole smelling more and more like liquid tar. It’s only after a good two minutes that notes of walnut skin, apple peeling and peaches do emerge, but there are also whiffs of struck matches and shoe polish. A big, big peat in this Ardmore that goes to eleven. With water: little changes, maybe a faint cardboardiness. Water is not obligatory here. Mouth (neat): bang! It’s rare that a whisky is so similar on the nose and on the palate. Tar, liquorice, apple peeling and even more tar. Tar liqueur? With water: very, very Islay but less fruity and sweet than any Ileach. Actually, it has something of a Brora. This Ardmore is beautifully austere. And a lot of string liquorice! Finish: long and extremely tarry. Comments: there are a lot of very peated Ardmores (and some very lightly peated as well) but I believe this one probably outmatches all others as far as raw peat is concerned. SGP:247 – 88 points (and thank you, Herbert).
Ardmore 13 yo 1994/2008 (56.8%, The Single Malts of Scotland, cask #65, 303 bottles) Colour: pale white wine. Nose: of course we’re close to the Exclusive Cask but there are differences, that is to say rather less tar and straight peat and more fruits such as peaches again, even a little melon. It’s also a little sootier, rejoining the whiffs of plain coal that were so big in the Exclusive Malts. Let’s say tipped Gitanes whilst the other one was plain, but it’s till very peaty. Maybe this cask was a tad more active. With water: once again, it does not take water too well. Got a little chalky and cardboardy. Mouth (neat): we are even closer to the Exclusive Malts on the palate but once again, this one is a tiny-wee bit fruitier. Maybe a little pear. With water: same comment. A little melon syrup? Finish: long, maybe better balanced but less spectacular than the Exclusive Malts in its own genre. Hints of ginger tonic. Comments: excellent but cask #335’s superb sharpness and tar got the upper the hand in my book. SGP:346 - 86 points.
THE ALTERNATIVE TASTING REVIEWS by The Infrangible Argumentative Bombardier aka Harvey Fry
So you used to think that WF's whisky tasting notes were too irreverent, unconventional or even quirky? Or, as a famous whisky writer put it, eccentric? Well, you've seen nothing yet. Indeed, from now on and from time to time, we'll offer alternative yet poetic tasting notes and reviews by our friend from Washington DC Harvey Fry, aka The Infrangible Argumentative Bombardier, starting right today with his own views of the two Ardmores that we just had. Please fasten your seat belts... S.
Hardcore cask #335, Scruffy Bird Malts, 13/94-08, 52.5%, 324 bottles
Hardcore cask #65, Kudzu Creatures, 13/94-08, 56.7%, 303 bottles
It's little known that when Dolly was cloned, she came into being with some 334 other very deep-dish ewes. She was in fact, the final fill in a run projected for only 333. As it was, the erstwhile (he expired with that wee extra effort) progenitor, one Codswallop, apparently couldn't stop until he'd (can ewes be cloned from rams?) shot his wad. Sad to say, only the 2 (enter sister Lollypop) girls were strong enough to make it to their teens.....just short of a full third of a grand were fed to Ol' Father Teacher.
NOTE: it almost borders on the telekinetic that another well known reviewer attributes part of this peculiar (even for a peaty Hardcore) twisted sister phenom to a tired cask. Remember the numbers= as there weren't any extra casks ready to hand for the overflow, the stillmen, looking high & low for any kind of wood, actually found the last two pieces of sad looking oak (casks) lollygagging about amongst the flock as they grazed away. #334 leaked badly & had to be abandoned. #335 became our dear Dolly. Now you know what the Infrangible Argumentative one can bring to the Whisky-Fun-History. &, we're just getting started^
As you'll soon discover, I'm not much for the blow-by-blow flora& fauna + every-other-thing-that-hits-the-fan style of reviewing. If I can't make it up as I go along, it's probably not going to make you chuckle. Besides, now that promising new research at Santa Costanza DNA Lab is on the brink of BRINGING BACK ALL of the LOST SMELLS & TASTES OF THE AGES, the treasury of infinite possibilities open to the great noses & palates will probably soon drive 'em babushkas. If you have yet to get the picture, think of ALL those THINGS collected over time in THE BOGS! Q. what IS PEAT? A. PEAT IS ALL those THINGS! If you only count the 737, 921, 845 different species of clementined (dearly departed) dinos & all the things they (including each other) ate, EACH IN ITS TURN ALL AT ONCE.......? Enough boggle already^
OK, fellow Whisky Friends, PEAT IS THE POINT! SO, if you don't mind, we'll cease dilly-dallying, dispense with the trace amounts of squirrel food, tooty-fruity delights + assorted dumpster finds & proceed straight to the main course. Though I'll give you a most up to date numerical rating for each at the end, from here on please consider both of our beauties as a single piece of Siamese Sushi= two very concentrated cutie pies, one review:
LOLLYPOP= Hardcore cask #65, Kudzu Creatures, 56.7%, SGP:346
85.9732100344 & 1/2 Points
DOLLY= Hardcore cask #335, Scruffy Bird Malts, 52.5%, SGP:247
87.8787878787 & 7/8 Points
th'ol'gnome hadda mouse in his voice
& little doodads for eyes
it's said that his right lobe rang
as a stirrup rides
on one frogsleg
a pound for a bell, lost in its tongue
from his ear & in his belly hung
pigs at gravesdin
the old stuffed monkey
has the smell of generations
Harvey Fry, The Circle #1, Washington, D.C. 1967

MUSIC - Recommended listening: the extraordinary Texan-Mexican Tish Hinojosa singing the moving Dejame Llor (Let Me Weep). Please buy Tish Hinojosa's music.


September 2009 - part 1 <--- September 2009 - part 2 ---> October 2009 - part 1

heck the index of all entries:
Nick's Concert Reviews



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical: a heavy month!

Caol Ila 25 yo 1983/2008 (46%, Jean Boyer, Best Casks of Scotland, re-coopered hogsheads)

Caol Ila 25 yo 1983/2009 (52.7%, The Bladnoch forum, cask #4806, 262 bottles)

Caol Ila 1979/2009 (53.1%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #4412)

Cardhu 1997/2009 'Managers' Choice' (57.3%, OB, cask #3362, 252 bottles)

Longmorn 38 yo 1968/2007 (51%, Single Malt Whisky Society for Whisky Live Tokyo 2008, #7.39, cask #907, 'Just Amazing', 75cl)

Mortlach 22 yo 1972/1995 (65.3%, OB, Rare Malts)

Oban 2000/2009 'Managers' Choice' (58.7%, OB, cask #1186, 534 bottles)