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Hi, you're in the Archives, September 2010 - Part 1

August 2010 - part 2 <--- September 2010 - part 1 ---> September 2010 - part 2


September 14, 2010

Bowmore 1993

Tasting two Bowmores from the early 1990s

Bowmore 18 yo 1991/2009 (46%, The Whisky Castle, cask #2058) Three stars and a half I always loved this label, it reminds me of the first edition of Michael Jackson’s Companion that I ever got, as one of the first malts that was displayed in the book was a ‘pink’ Allt-A-Bhainne by The Whisky Castle (I think the great Michael had slaughtered it!) Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s strange. It’s got this mixture of dried herbs, tobacco, leather, game, brine and peat that screams ‘1980s Bowmore’ but without any hints of ‘chemical lavender and violet’. It goes even deeper into that direction after a while, with notes of ‘heavy’ pipe juice, very old burgundy wine (or civet), new pack of salmiak and these whiffs of geraniums as they can appear in wine (it’s not quite the flowers, rather rubbed leaves and stems). Old bag of nails. Frankly, I don’t know what to think yet. Let’s add a few drops of water… With water: works well, it’s rather cleaner. Yes, clean cow stable. Soot. Mouth (neat): quite spectacular, heavily concentrated, sour and very leafy. Balsamico, black olives, green tea, tinned anchovies, green apples, marmalade, beef jerky… With water: more on black tea (Russian, heavy). Finish: long, between olive oil, kippers and cocoa. Sootier in the finish. Comments: strange beast. The Single Malts of Scotland had such a thick Bowmore a while ago, let me check… Found it, it was a 1995 cask #467. This one is even wackier. SGP:275 - 84 points.

Bowmore 16 yo 1993/2010 (53.5%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: starts on big whiffs of vanilla that manage to dominate the peat for a good twenty minutes, before typical notes of brine break through. Huge notes of brine. Gets then even more coastal but in a ‘wider’ manner, with seashells and seaweed. Also fresh walnuts and cider apples. Moderately peaty so far. Maybe tiny-wee hints of tangerines and mangos in the background of the background. With water: cleaner and more mineral. Very narrow but very pure. Whiffs of wet wool.  Mouth (neat): punchy, crystal-clean, ultra-zesty, mega-crisp attack on lemon and seawater, with just sweet traces of orange drops in the background (which is funny). Again, a moderate peatiness here, but… sorry, AND it’s all good (I’m no peat freak, peat seems to be almost out of fashion these days anyway according to some Belgian trendsetters ;-)). With water: the coastalness (ah well) comes out, with more salt, more oysters (slurp!) and a little lemon-flavoured marzipan as well as more ‘peppery peat’. Finish: long, clean, peaty, peppery, salty. More lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: very good, punchy, extremely ‘coastal’ middle-aged Bowmore in my opinion. State of the art – these 1993s are almost always great – I think! SGP:356 - 90 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Bowmore that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: big sound and big inventions, think Magma meets Zappa meets John McLaughlin... It's Weather Report's first bassist Miroslav Vitous and his Magical Shepherd that was on his famous (and fabulous) eponymous album (1976). Spectacular! Please buy Miroslav Vitous' music... Oh, while we're at it, let's also listen to the funky New York City that was on the same amazing album!

Miroslav Vitous

September 13, 2010

Bunnahabhain 1967 Two recent 1967 Bunnahabhain by German bottlers

Bunnahabhain 1967/2010 (41.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #3315, 147 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s the oak that talks first here, somewhat in the style of some old grains, with quite some coconut (and the liqueurs made thereof), vanilla and these faintly sour notes that can be very enjoyable – they certainly are here. The whole goes more towards floral, herbal and mentholated notes after that, with also hints of eucalyptus, honeysuckle and lime-blossom. Also whiffs of warm honey and quite some pollen. A great example of an ‘oaked’ whisky that’s not oaky, that is to say too dry and plankish. Mouth: not tired, not oaky, not dry and rather moderately spicy, which is almost a miracle at 43 years of age. Great notes of tangerines and even a little passion fruits, tinned pineapples, then more liquorice wood. Finish: medium long and oakier, which is completely normal. Cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg… Quite some green tea in the aftertaste, slightly tannic. Comments: as I wrote, this one is a living miracle, one can feel the oak but it just didn’t take over. Excellent. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1967/2010 (40.5%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, sherry hogshead, 139 bottles) Five stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: it’s interesting that we aren’t too far from the MoS despite the different kinds of casks. Having said that, this one starts more right on honey and beeswax, and probably also on more stewed fruits, including tropical ones. Rather unusual hints of dried litchis and even Chinese litchi liqueur, then cured ham with pineapples as well as a little incense, mentholated cigarette (Kool?) and plain fresh mint. It’s a rather demonstrative nose, very appealing, with a sherry that’s pretty discreet so far. Less oak than in the bourbon version. Mouth: just like with the bourbon version, there’s some kind of gentle fight between the oak and the rest, the palate’s profile being more or less identical to the nose’s. Tropical fruits jam, mango chutney, bitter oranges, then more black pepper… Once again, no specific sherryness as far as I can tell, but the oak gets slightly louder after a while. Finish: rather long and more and more on heavily infused herbal teas, such as hawthorn and rosehip. More pepper, cloves and mint-flavoured liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: in truth, this one’s also a little miracle in a glass. Another excellent oldie that the wood never quite manage to tame. SGP:651 - 91 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Bunnahabhain that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: no jazz today, no quirky rock, no rooty blues, rather something smooth and very well done: ex-Genesis singer Ray Wilson does the Carpet Crawlers live in 2009. I think Ray's as good a singer as the great Peter (not to mention Phil) so please buy Ray Wilson's music!
Wait, Ray is a Scotsma
n and he likes his whisky, why not quickly interview him via our good friend Helmut Janisch while we're at it?

Ray Wilson

QUICK WHISKY AND MUSIC INTERVIEW (with Helmut Janisch's help)


Ray Wilson was born in Dumfries so no wonder he’s got a sweet spot for good Scotch. After a number one hit in the UK with the band Stiltskin (Inside), he Became Genesis’ lead singer in 1996 after Phil Collins had left the band. Their album ‘… Calling All Stations…’ went into the top 10 worldwide. Ray left Genesis in 1998 and started to work on various projects and albums, whether in solo or with Stiltskin or Scorpions. His latest venture with the Berlin Symphony Ensemble is called Genesis Klassik and is truly excellent (just listen to his CD ‘Ray Wilson and the Berlin Symphony Ensemble live in Berlin’ !)

Ray Wilson

WF: Ray, tell us briefly about what you do, music-wise...
Ray: I am a singer songwriter.
WF: Which other musicians are you or have you been playing with?
Ray: Genesis, Stiltskin, The Scorpions, Armin Van Buuren, Turntable rocker etc
WF: Which are your other favourite artistes?
Ray: David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne.
WF: Which are your current projects?
Ray: Touring with Genesis klassik and recording a new Stiltskin CD for next year.
WF: When did you start enjoying whisk(e)y? Are there any musical memories you particularly associate with that moment?
Ray: I’m a Scot, so we had whisky for breakfast. I have written many songs with a few large ones inside me.
WF: What’s your most memorable whisky?
Ray: Glenfarclas with Sherry Influence, as they say. Brilliant whisky.
WF: Do you have one, or several favourite whiskies?
Ray: I like the Speyside Malts!
WF: Are there whiskies you don’t like?
Ray: Laphroaig. A very acquired taste.
WF: Music and whisky are often though of as being male preserves.  Should girls play guitars, should girls drink whisky?
Ray: Girls and Guitars is a perfect combination. Unfortunately Whisky makes you look very old, very quickly, so not for girls.
WF: In some ways you could argue that tasting a whisky is similar to listening to a piece of music – you deconstruct the two in the same way?  Care to comment? Ray Wilson
Ray: Not sure if I agree. When I think of Whisky, it makes me think of a cold winters night in Scotland. Maybe Scottish folk music is good with Whisky? Or Irish.
WF: If your favourite whisky was a piece of music what would it be, if it was a musical instrument what would it be?
Ray: A very old and scratched violin.
WF: Do you have a favourite piece of music to drink whisky with, or better still, desert island dram, desert island disc?
Ray: Something melancholy. Tom Waits perhaps.
WF: Everyone thinks of Jack Daniels as being the great rock and roll whisky – why not Scotch?
Ray: I really don’t like Jack Daniels. It’s not a proper whisky, in my book.
WF: And if it was Scotch, can you think of which brand?  What would be the Scotch equivalent of rappers drinking Cristal?
Ray: Something cheap and hard. A Famous Grouse Perhaps?
Thank you Ray, and thank you Helmut!
Ray Wilson's website
Ray Wilson on myspace

September 9, 2010



Tasting two Tamdhu

As you may know, Tamdhu has been closed in April 2010.

Tamdhu 25 yo 1984/2010 (50.1%, Whisky-Doris, hogshead, cask #2834) Four stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: lots happening here, starting with quite some rubber and heavily infused herbal teas as well as some honey sauce and malt extract. It’s actually rather heavy and quite unusual. Keeps developing with something between marzipan and scented soap (jasmine), then rather ham and liquorice and a return on rubber bands (nothing excessive here) and kirsch. It’s all rather restless! With water: doesn’t change much. Maybe a little more wax and something slightly phenolic. Mouth (neat): powerful but not thick and quite fruity, rather liqueurish in fact. Triple-sec (orange liqueur), pear liqueur… Then more spices, cloves, nutmeg (big), dried ginger… It was an active hogshead. With water: doesn’t lose its punch. A tad cleaner, fresher and more fruity, with added notes of aniseed and something slightly medicinal that’s rather more to be found on Islay. Finish: long, with the spices more to the front. Yes, as (almost) always. More bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: very good Tamdhu in my opinion. As I wrote, lots happening here. SGP:552 - 86 points.

Tamdhu 19 yo 1989/2009 (55.8%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, 202 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: coffee/mahogany. Nose: prunes in Armagnac, Armagnac-soaked prunes, prune jam with Armagnac, prune sauce flambéed with Armagnac… Well, I guess you get the drift. Then more chocolate and coffee, fruitcake and a little leather, the whole getting then slightly gamey, in a nice way. Heavy, heavy sherry! With water: as often with these sherry monsters, it got more dry and ‘tertiary’, with more tobacco, herbs, smoke, soot, soy sauce… Quite superb now, I must say. Mouth (neat): thick and extremely rich, almost ‘spoonable’. Tar liqueur, creosote, oranges, cinchona, pepper, blackberry jam… The heaviness doesn’t prevent it from being very pleasant but of course, if you don’t like big sherry, you may drop this one. With water: great development, on notes of mint, eucalyptus drops, pepper, liquorice… Finish: even more mint! High extraction. Long. Coffee in the aftertaste, as well as unexpected hints of tinned litchis. Comments: a heavy hitter. Not much ‘Tamdhuness’ (wot?) in this one but it’s a pretty flawless sherry monster. SGP:652 - 89 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Tamdhu that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: French jazz keyboardist Eddy Louiss plays a great - if you're not against early beatboxes - 'electronic' slow blues called Blues for Klook (that was on his 1987 album 'Sang mêlé'). Please buy Eddy Louiss' music! Oh, by the way, Klook was the nickname of the great drummer Kenny Clarke.

Eddy Louiss

September 8, 2010


Tasting two Glendullan

Glen Dullan 21 yo 1978/1999 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Mat Cask, 372 bottles) Three stars DL had a great 1966 Glendullan ‘Platinum’ a while back if I remember well. I guess this younger Glen Dullan is Glendullan! Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts rather candied, with notes of cane sugar and even plain rum as well as quite some vanilla custard and sweet herbal tea. Chamomile, aniseed tea. Gets then a tad mouldier, in a rather nice way. Wet papers, shitake mushrooms… Also a little mint tea and then a lot of fresh green bananas. Not a very ‘defined’ profile but it’s pleasant. With water: more cardboard, more papers, more damp chalk. Improves again after quite some time, but I like it better naked. Mouth (neat): same kind of candied sweetness in the attack, dried bananas and banana liqueur with a good deal of white pepper and even a little chilli. It’s quite hot and kind of ‘Tex-Mex’. Err… With water: smoother, ‘crystallised’, a little sugary… Finish: medium long, very sugary now. Comments: a malt that’s quite good but it’s a bit too ‘indefinite’ for my taste. Makes it to 80, though. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Glendullan 1995/2009 'Manager's Choice' (58.7%, OB, cask #12718, 636 bottles) Two stars and a halfFrom rejuvenated European oak. Colour: gold. Nose: really punchy and rather sweet, almost as ‘candied’ as the 1978. A lot of vanilla, praline, apple pie, frangipane… Gets then marginally more resinous and liquoricy. Rather less complex than the 1978 so far. With water: whiffs of wine barrel coming through now, damp wood… Actually nicer than it sounds, water works rather well but it’s hard to define a profile here. Mouth (neat): rich, creamy, thick and powerful, sweet and slightly toasted/roasted. Sweet oak. Burnt bread, cooked coffee, malt, vanilla, orange cake… Sweet but not easy. Quite some cloves. With water: sweeter and a little rounder. More aniseed and liquorice. Pastis? Notes of cider. Finish: rather long. Mint, liquorice, aniseed and grass… Comments: interesting but I had quite some troubles with this rather harsh baby, must be me. I liked it better when I previewed it but it suffers from the comparison with the 1978. I’d ad that I liked all the other MCs I could taste so far much, much better. SGP:451 - 78 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glendullan that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness


SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Malty Cyberwars
Our friend Hannu Juutilainen of the Finnish blog Smoke on the Water just found a whisky price list from Oddbin's that dates back to around 1986/1988. Beyonds the prices themselves, it's quite interesting to read the comments for each whisky. Thanks Hannu!

MUSIC - Recommended listening: this Parliamento-funkadelic piece by famous... Polish violonist and jazzman Michal Urbaniak. It's called Just a funky feeling and it was on 1978's album Ecstasy. Well well well... Please buy Michal Urbaniak's music!


September 7, 2010

by Nick Morgan

The Borderline, London
May 30th 2010

If you’re thinking of moving house and are lucky enough to live near Ithaca in upstate New York, then you should look no further than the Zolar Moving Company, jointly owned by guitarist, singer and bandleader Johnny Dowd, and his sometime musical collaborator, engineer and producer, David Hinkle. They’ve been running the business for over thirty-five years, removals apparently a convenient sideline for musicians: "music was more important than work, so we could schedule gigs and then do moving jobs around it. We used to do out-of-town jobs, like to Rhinecliff, then also play a gig there that night." 

Johnny Dowd

The company has also been an important haven of employment for many of the area’s other musicians.  They have never advertised a great deal, preferring to build a reputation through word-of-mouth recommendations and customer endorsements like this, from Shirley S:  "On August 30, 2007, three of your movers moved my household belongings to Ithaca. I was extremely impressed with their ability, thoroughness, care, professionalism and speed. They were amazing! I congratulate and commend them for their hard work. I will not hesitate to recommend your company to others. You are the greatest."

But despite the satisfaction it gave to some, house-moving clearly wasn’t quite enough for Mr Dowd, who at the advanced age of forty-nine (yes, there’s hope for us all) released his first record, The Wrong Side of Memphis, which set his unique territory from first song ‘Murder’ (“There’s been a murder here today, See the blood stains on the wall, There’s a body in the bedroom, And another one in the hall”) to the last, ‘Welcome Jesus’ (“Welcome Jesus to this dismal swamp”). 

He carries a number of descriptions, ‘alt-country’ and ‘gothic’ to name but a couple, but neither seem to do justice to his bleak and darkly absurd cameos of modern life, tinged with a keen sense of humour and irony. Indeed the best I have read recently is from a BBC review of his new album ‘Wake up the Snakes’, where he is described as having “a voice like a booze-addled death row inmate, a mind like an existential pulp novelist” (I have to say that “creepy as fuck” was another one that I liked).  He is on a short European tour to promote the new disc, something he normally does around May of each year (time off from the hose moving business, I guess), his visits to London normally clashing with the Islay Whisky Festival.  This year, dates are in our favour, so it’s dinner in Soho’s still vibrant Chinatown followed by Mr Dowd at the Borderline, uncomfortably close to the massive hole in the ground that used to be the Astoria.

Jphnny Dowd

Did I mention the band?  Apart from Mr Dowd’s voice, with a long Texan drawl and a gravel-laden finish, and his guitar playing (something of a revelation I thought), which is almost as sharp as his suit (a gift from London tailor and fan Simon Green) and the smile that’s rarely absent from his lips, one of the most remarkable things about his music are the musicians who support him.  The band is red-hot, as they demonstrate very early on with  “the Johnny Dowd national anthem”, the MGs’ composition ‘Green Onions’ (“that’s the best song that was ever written”), but they simply get better all night.  At its heart there is multi-instrumentalist and long-time Dowd collaborator Willie B, on an unusual but highly effective baritone guitar which really sets its stamp on the whole band’s sound, and Ithacan Michael Stark, whose hugely powerful keyboards add both drive and atmosphere, even if he does occasionally sound as if he’s playing for another band.  Together these two make up Tzar (“influences Z Z Top and Thelonius Monk”), and they try out one of their songs during the evening, giving Mr Dowd a chance to replenish his glass of Jameson’s (as you can see, nobody's perfect). Matt Saccucci Morano drums on this, as he does throughout the evening, as if his life depended on it. The fourth member is Kim Sherwood-Caso, who, if you don’t know, runs a hair-dressing salon in Ithaca, where she “specializes in nervous, detail-oriented, meticulous clients”.  In Dowd’s presence she has a very special role, her crisp and delicate voice acting sometimes as a chorus, sometimes a conscience to his lyrical protagonists.  On other occasions she  sings the truth that they very often don’t want to hear.  She is a beauty to Dowd’s beast, and the combination is as ethereal as it is irresistible.

Johnny Dowd 3

Like several whiskies we could all think of, Dowd is a ‘love it or hate it’ artist. Thus it‘s no surprise that the Borderline is full of fans, crying out for songs from his extensive back catalogue; one of the most called-for being, I was glad to hear, ‘ Thomas Dorsey’, which he performed with Willie B and Jim White in their Hellwood collaboration.  But the cries are unheeded in a set which mostly focuses on the excellent new record, and which gives Dowd ample opportunity to shoot from the hip with some fantastic old-school rhythm and blues guitar on songs like ‘Yolanda’ (a classic Dowd murder-ballad), ‘Howling Wolf Blues’ (lyrics written by Texas bluesman ‘Funny Papa’ Smith), at the coda of the satanic ‘Demons and goats’, and Voices (“I wish the voices in my head would shut up”), and even some samba improvisations on ‘Hello to happiness’.  With his band in full tilt, Dowd is simply one of the most engaging performers you could want to see, with a wonderfully laid-back charm that no doubt derives in part from the rather accidental development of his career.  Or perhaps it was the house-moving?  Either way it’s a five-star, ninety-eight points gig. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Listen: Johnny Dowd's myspace page


Highland Park

Tasting two recent indie Highland Park

Highland Park 25 yo 1985/2010 (48%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon, 142 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: very classy, close-to-the-distillate fruity HP. Some lemon, something slightly costal, flints, wax, light honey, fresh oranges… And even more oranges, even squash. Litres of orange squash! Also hints of seaweed. Oysters with lemon, except that lemon is replaced with orange (have to try that one day). Mouth: superb, fresh, fruity, citrusy, mildly resinous and waxy, flinty, zesty, zingy… I think it’s all pretty perfect. Very classy ‘natural’ HP at a very perfect strength. Finish: long and exactly in the same vein. Also a little mint. Comments: all perfect, zesty and extremely fresh. Only problem: goes down your thoat as quick as a Starfighter. SGP:452 - 90 points.

Highland Park 21 yo 1989/2010 (52.8%, Alambic Classique, cask #10420, 132 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: less clean, fresh and fruity than the 1985 even if we’re not too far as far as styles are concerned. Citrus fruits but toned down, rather more oak and vanilla, cut grass, something faintly coastal once again… Gets then quite paraffiny. With water: even more paraffiny and grassy, other than that it clams up so to speak. Strange! Mouth (neat): very interesting attack, with very unusual notes of antiseptic and pine resin (huge retro-olfaction) and quite some mint. A lot of eucalyptus too. With water: gets much more ‘normal’ despite these funny notes of green olives. Gets more citrusy. Finish: long, a little salty. Grapefruits, lemon zest. Comments: much fun in this very unusual Highland Park. SGP:352 - 86 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Highland Park that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

September 6, 2010

Sure bet: digging into seven Clynelish from 1997 to 1972

The older I get (and while there’s less and less Broras in the market), the more I like Clynelish, and not only the bombs from the early 1970s. I think we already did this quite a few times but a few very recent bottlings give us the opportunity to do it again: a nice verticale of Clynelish. Blow, trumpets!


Clynelish 1997/2009 'Manager's Choice' (58.5%, OB, cask #4341, 216 bottles) Five stars From first fill bourbon American oak. Previewed it in August – loved it. Who said unsurprisingly? Colour: straw/white wine. Nose: typically Clynelish, but with an added layer of sweet oak and vanilla at very first sniffs. Maybe pencil shavings as well. Having said that and as often, your nostrils are quick to get used to those big sweet notes and all the finer details do appear, here all things flinty, waxy and fruity (white garden fruits, apples, pears – although it’s not pearish at all i.e. youngish). So far, it may well be one of the best ciders out there ;-). With water: all the sweet, very fruity and rather vanilled notes disappeared and it’s now a superbly austere and flinty Clynelish, with maybe only faint whiffs of roses and maybe lilies of the valley in the background, which makes it surprisingly delicate and even… feminine! Viva water! Mouth (neat): oily mouth feel, with big limes, big wax, big bitter oranges and kumquats and… quite some ginger, nutmeg and vanilla from some active oak. The oak makes it rather sweeter than other young Clynelishes. There’re also a few jelly babies wandering around (any colours, really). With water: very interesting that some Managers would have chosen this cask. With water, it became wonderfully mono, or maybe bi-dimensional, which may not be as strange as it sounds. Tinned fruits galore! Finish: long, clean, still narrow but beautifully fruity. Ripe pears in the aftertaste. Comments: again, it’s interesting that some Distillery Managers would select such a cask. It’s big, it’s simple, but it’s perfect. SGP:662 - 90 points.

Clynelish 14 yo 1995/2010 (48.6%, Whisky-Fässle, Roland's Choice, bourbon hogshead) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: in the same ‘cluster’ as the MC, with a little less sweet oak and a slightly higher grassiness. It doesn’t call for water, but let’s see what happens… With water: it got ultra-mineral, mega-grassy and giga-austere. In those senses maybe a tad excessive? Funnily enough, it became very fruity after 30 more minutes. Pear and apple juice. Mouth (neat): nearly perfect fruitiness and zestiness. Citrus fruits galore, some grass and herbs as well, and rather less wax than in other Clynelishes. Potent, but very downable. With water: improves! More spices, maybe a little salt… The most typical so far, even more typical than the official. Finish: perfect, a tad more gingery, with also some green tea. Comments: textbook Clynelish from a relatively ‘neutral’ cask. It’s the spirit that does most of the talking, which can’t be bad. After all, it’s whisky we’re into, not oak juice. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Clynelish 14 yo 1995/2010 (48%, The Whisky Agency, House Malt, bourbon hogshead, 161 bottles) Four stars Colour: white wine. Nose: barely any differences with the Whisky-Fässle. Maybe it’s from the same batch or even cask. Maybe it’s a tiny-wee tad fruitier? With water: it seems that this baby’s now even more austere than the ‘Fässle’, but that may come from the fact that I didn’t add ‘exactly’ the same amount of water to it. A matter of quarters of drops, all that is really starting to become insignificant, isn’t it! Mouth: more or less the same as the Whisky-Fässle. I don’t get any differences, or it would be only my mind’s work. Maybe it’s a little grassier? Or maybe not… Probably not. With water: so similar indeed. Finish: ditto. Comments: ditto. SGP:551 - 87 points.

Clynelish 1982/2010 (48.7%, Malt of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #5894, 229 bottles) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: starts with a blast of fresh oak, including big whiffs of fresh varnish, clear and loud. Once again, you get accustomed to those notes and you get then notes of cider apples and green pears plus quite some vanilla custard and the trademark waxy notes. Also notes of cedar wood (brand new cigar humidor, if you see what I mean) and maybe a little young comté cheese, which I always enjoy (comté is an un-cheesy cheese!) With water: some smoke! Barbecue? And some green curry, cardamom… And fresh putty. What a nose! Mouth (neat): wowie! It seems that these great 1982/1983 Clynelishes now come to a perfect age. Anybody screaming that young whisky is ‘globally’ as good as old whisky should try this baby. Anyway, digressing again…  The main flavours (you know them, wax, garden fruits, lemon and minerals) start to decompose into many ‘smaller’ flavours, which is what we expect from perfect whisky maturation I guess (and what you do not seem to be able to get from speeded-up ageing, whichever the ‘wood’ you use). Digressing yet again, I’d better talk about this whisky. It’s great. With water: it’s even greater. State of the art. Finish: I’ve watched a movie by Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov last night. It was really cool but just as long as this Clynelish’s finish (you rhymester!) Maybe because it was in Russian and I don’t understand Russian? Comments: enough babbling, this one’s stunning. Enorme, as we say in French. SGP:562 - 93 points.

Clynelish 21 yo 1989/2010 (54%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon barrel, 166 bottles) Five stars I know I should have tried this one before the 1982 but high abv commands. Yes, I now I didn’t do that with the 1997 but I had thought the OB would have made for a nice benchmark. Oh well… Colour: straw. Nose: whauw, as the Belgians sometimes say. This one is a typical fresh, zesty, zingy and very assertive Clynelish that keeps developing for a long time. Rocks, candle wax and green apples but then rather melons and peaches, with a great earthy background. Wet fresh wood. State of the art middle-aged Clynelish so far. With water: gets narrower but beautifully so. Some fresh mint now, dill, high-end dry cider… Also a little damp chalk. Mouth (neat): purrrfekt. Perfect fruits, perfect waxiness, faintly resinous, lively, and way too quaffable, to the point where it’s hard to take notes before your glass is empty. Next time I’ll need 50cl! And I love these wee touches of Campari, or bitters. With water: just like on the nose, it gets narrower and kind of sharper. More black pepper. Still great. Finish: long and grassier, maybe a tad drying now but it’s still great. Quite some peat? Comments: it’s fab to be able to try this one after the 1982 that went a wee step further. Both have their own charms, both are excellent. SGP:362 - 91 points.

Clynelish 38 yo 1972/2010 (45.8%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, sherry hogshead, 134 bottles) Five stars Colour: full gold. Nose: oh no! I mean, oh yes! It’s one of these… you know… It’s almost got the fruitiness of a 1976 Benriach or 1966 Lochside but it’s also got this typical ‘je ne sais quoi’ (I’ve heard you do say that in English!) that’s so Clynelish… This waxines (really beeswax here), pollen, honey… And the soft, luscious spices… I think the words ‘balance’ and ‘complexity’ have been invented for most of the 1972 Clynelishes, this one included. No water needed and I don’t even feel like I should try to see what happens, it can’t become any more perfect. Mouth (neat): ha-ha! It’s really interesting to check how a 1972 Clynelish resists an oakiness that starts to become a little more… say ‘obvious’ than in earlier bottlings. The answer is ‘amazingly well’, and even if you can ‘feel’ the oak, it goes so well with the wax and the more tropical fruits (instead of apples and pears) that are usually to be found in these batches that it’s all for the better – or at least not for the worse. Okay, enough gibberish, let’s move on… Finish: fairly long, spicier and slightly greener. Green pepper in the aftertaste and maybe a little peat. Comments: what Private Stock?! What does that mean?! SGP:752 - 93 points.

Clynelish 38 yo 1972/2010 (46.2%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead) Five stars Colour: pale gold. Nose: oh no, another great one. It’s maybe a tiny-wee-tad less fruity, and maybe a little oakier (despite the paler colour) than the TWA, but other than that, it just unfolds exactly as expected. Globally, a slightly rougher and grassier expression of Clynelish 1972. And I love these whiffs of very old pu-erh tea on top of anything from a beehive. Globally more ‘secondary’ than others. Mouth: excellent! Once gain, it’s a little rougher than the TWA, probably a little more peppery, less polished, a wee-tad less typical… I had first thought both could come from a shared cask but it seems that they’re different whiskies. Unless .4% can make for a huge difference! Finish: perfect. Herbal liqueurs, becomes greener… Closer to the TWA. Comments: blimey, the more I was waiting, the more both 1972s were converging, even if this one always remained a little greener and more resinous. This could drive any malt lover crazy! Jules et Jim or Sophie’s choice? Anyway, I love both. SGP:662 - 93 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Clynelish that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: his voice is instantly recognizable! Listen to You tell me why and tell me... Yes, that's right, Leo Kottke, that was on 1974's album 'Ice water'. Please buy Leo Kottke's music.

Leo Kottke

September 5, 2010


Tasting two old Laphroaigs for a Sunday

Laphroaig 35 yo 1975/2010 (40.9%, Jack Wiebers, Prenzlow collection, cask #1034, 108 bottles) Four stars Isn’t it amazing that our German friends managed to put their hands on a 1975 Laphroaig? Colour: pale gold. Nose: imagine you take a bucketful of sea water and then add quite a few ingredients to it: grapefruits, mushrooms, pine resin, tincture of iodine, hessian, a little diesel oil, bitter almonds, a little linseed oil, lilies of the valley, eucalyptus oil, bits of new tyres, some wax, old papers, one wee wet dog (I owe you one, dogs)… Stir well and there, you have it. The peat got much more discreet after all these years and I must say it could as well have been a relatively light old Ardbeg in my opinion, such as the 30yo ‘Very Old’. It’s pretty complex! Mouth: good attack, almondy, phenolic, very pleasantly resinous, citrusy and tarry, but breaks off the action after say, four seconds. Quite meteoric! Yet, the profile is perfect and extremely enjoyable, it’s just that it’s probably lost a lot of steam throughout the years. Finish: very short but perfect as far as flavour types are concerned. Comments: I think it’s a very interesting old Laphroaig, very ‘educational’. It didn’t become flawed, too oaky or unbalanced at all, it just became, well, very short on the palate. This baby will delight any Laphroaig freaks who’ll have… a good memory ;-). I did like it (what did I like, by the way?) SGP:234 - 85 points (very hard to score, please take this with a grain of salt - as always - and thanks, Marcel).

Laphroaig 1964/1981 (43%, Berry Bros & Rudd, 75cl) Five stars Yes, baby! Colour: mahogany. Nose: this wonder is drier and much more phenolic than the 1975 at first nosing, with more peat smoke as well as some great mineral and even metallic notes (perfect OBE). Unfolds like a… err, hem, a Sevillan fan, with notes of roasted chestnuts, coffee beans, cigar smoke, tar, ashes, dry black raisins, leather, old style cough syrup, ‘fisherman’s net’, hints of Fernet-Branca and other bitter liqueurs, moss, shoe polish, soot… Give it time and it becomes a little fruitier, with unexpected notes of cranberries and other red berries. No need to tell you it’s a masterpiece. Mouth: sweeter and rounder than on the nose, a tad fatter, with some prunes and orange marmalade coating your mouth before the ‘phenolmenal’ cavalry arrives. It’s all more or less in the same vein as what we got in the nose, with maybe just a little more herbal, orangey and spicy notes. Gets finally very ashy and sooty, with this feeling of having just swallowed an ashtray – I’m sure you see what I mean. It’s quite amazing that this puppy didn’t lose any smokiness throughout the years in wood and then in glass – or it was the ultimate peat monster at time of filling. Finish: medium long, dry, sooty, ashy and tarry. Some verbena in the aftertaste that makes for a perky signature. Comments: did you notice that I tried hard not to display only pure maltoporn in these notes? This whisky is utterly exceptional, only its faint dryness in the finish will prevent it from going over 95. So... SGP:457 - 95 points (and heartfelt thanks, Régis)

PS: I ‘vatted’ both whiskies and that worked beautifully! So, should you have some very good but slightly weakish whiskies at home, don’t bin them, simply try to lift them up a bit using some heavy hitters.

Update (September 7): our friend Marcel van Gils (Laphroaig Collector) sent us these very worthy bits about Laphroaig in the 1970s and why the whiskies weren’t very peaty and rather kind of mellow.
‘There is not much peat in Laphroaigs from the 1970s. In 1972 Laphroaig was forced to step up production by then owner Long John Int. Two stills (Big Still!) were added and a few other changes were made. Malt production (40-45ppm) from their own floors wasn’t enough, so they had to buy from professional maltsters.
Initially from Moray Firth Maltsters who couldn’t produce peated malt (4ppm), later on Irish Maltsters who were only able producing malt at 25-30ppm. This situation more or less continued till the Concordat and when Port Ellen became co-supplier, and from 1991 onwards their sole supplier. It’s when Allied took over that Robert Hicks personally increased the peating levels, in two steps (1991 and 1997) to what it is today (40-45ppm).'
Many thanks, Marcel!

More distillery data Our tastings: all Laphroaig that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: another stunning song by Boris Vian, this time La rue Watt sung by Philippe Clay around 1970. Please buy Philippe Clay's music!

Philippe Clay

September 3, 2010


Tasting two Glenlossie and two whisky worlds - or paradigms?

Glenlossie 1999/2009 'Manager's Choice' (59.1%, OB, cask #14098, 204 bottles) Four stars and a halfFrom bourbon American oak. Colour: straw. Nose: starts a bit shy and rather grassy but it is soon to become wonderfully fragrant, really complex, with a wide array of spices and herbs. Some fresh mint, celery, dill, liquorice wood, ginger, aniseed… Also flowers (roses to the front) and a little tinned litchi. Big coconut too. The cask was probably very active. With water: gets more herbal as often. The mint gets louder, the fruits get a tad shier. High extraction! Mouth (neat): powerful yet creamy and rounded, very, very fresh and fruity but with a thick layer of vanilla and cane syrup that coats the whole. All that makes it a little liqueurish but the profile is perfect. Litchi liqueur, coconut liqueur, lemon pie, lemon balm, kumquats… Then pepper and chilli. I had thought it was a bit ‘Thai’ when I previewed it and indeed it is kind of Thai. With water: very sweet, creamier and fruitier. Haribo bears, even more fruit liqueurs and dried ginger (loads). Finish: long, getting spicier again. Comments: ??????????? ! (according to google, this should mean ‘this whisky is excellent’ in Thai - hope your browser will display it neatly). Sweet fresh oak galore, in that sense a tad hysterical but it’s superbly made. SGP:652 - 88 points.

Glenlossie 1975/2010 (49.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #5950) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: ah yes! It’s so interesting to try such an oldie after a youngster, it shows a complexity and a roundness that’s very rare in young whiskies in my opinion, whichever the casks and the (possibly) clever technologies that have been used to speed up (okay, optimise) maturation. This Glenlossie has superb notes of fruit jams (quinces, then figs and apricots), touches of old rum, hints of turpentine and eucalyptus syrup, some old-style wood varnish, polish, honeycomb… In short, it’s really superb. I don’t think water is de rigueur here but let’s try… With water: wow! Sure it became drier and maybe even a little austere but the spiciness is exceptionally ‘wide’ here. Almost a collection of spicy aromas. What an admirable nose! Mouth (neat): you know what’s to be feared with these oldies: a drying and overoaky palate. It’s not the case at all here, it’s all perfectly in synch with the nose, with the same jammy yet fresh fruits (plus oranges and sultanas), a little less resinous/herbal notes and rather more pepper and other spices (ginger). Some coriander as well. Excellent. With water: please call the anti-maltoporn brigade and quick! Finish: long, spicy and fruity, very complex, lingering. Great mintiness in the aftertaste – and notes of old chartreuse. Comments: another great selection by BB&R. I also like the fact that they are often off the beaten tracks with their selections. Kudos to them. SGP:562 - 93 points. PS: I already tried this one and loved it but now that it could breathe a bit, it became even better.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glenlossie that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: we're in 1971 and legendary band Patto does You, you point your finger (that was on Hold your fire - and yes, Ollie Halsall was on guitar). Mike Patto had quite a voice! Please buy Patto's music!


September 2, 2010

Glen Keith

Tasting two Glen Keith from bourbon wood

Glen Keith 1990/2010 (52.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon barrel, cask #13678, 232 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: pale gold. Nose: starts grassy and flinty, rather austere for a while, then with light floral touches (peonies, dandelions) and then more fruits such as apples, pineapples and guavas. Also ripe gooseberries. The fruitiness grows bigger by the minute. Light vanilla and touches of mint. With water: fruits, loud and clear. Litchis and roses… Faint whiffs of damp wood and grass. Mouth (neat): starts fresh and vibrant (as they say), very fruity, with only a few spices from the oak flying around. Multi-vitamin juice with a little ginger, cinnamon and white pepper. Also apple juice and ripe kiwis. The oak gets then a tad louder (more ginger). With water: wow! Rich, creamy, more complex even if it’s just as fruity than when neat. Marshmallows and soft spices, dried pineapples (bags!) and papayas. Very, very good in my opinion. Finish: long, all in the same direction. Comments: this one is delightful when watered down, even if it’s probably not the most majestic old malt whisky. Perfect cask selection here considering the whisky’s ‘pedigree’ but that’s hardly a surprise. Seeking a middle-aged unsherried Glen Keith? Go for this one. SGP:641 - 88 points.

Glen Keith-Glenlivet 16 yo 1985/2001 (59.2%, Cadenhead's Authentic collection, bourbon, 216 bottles) Colour: pale gold. Nose: extremely close to the MoS, maybe just a wee tad fruitier right from the start. Less vanilla as well, which may suggest a slightly less active barrel. With water: grassier and more mineral, much less fruity. Got maybe a little too ‘neutral’. Mouth (neat): once again we’re close to the MoS. Bursts with fresh fruits, apples, pineapples, pears, gooseberries, cranberries… Tastes a little younger than it actually is. With water: too bad, water brought some slightly chemical notes out, Parma violets, lavender sweets… That’s not as obvious as in other malts though (no names!) Finish: long, cleaner, more on grapefruits. Comments: some parts of this one are very, very nice, some others are maybe a tad more problematic, but it’s really a matter of taste. Anyway, good enough to make it to 80 on my scale and still so much better than the old OBs in their square bottles. SGP:641 - 80 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Glen Keith that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness




SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

What Highlanders like naked
Many whisky lovers like to add a famous or a not so famous whisky quote to their postings on forums or to their emails (not only the one about the two things that the Highlanders like naked!) so our friend Angus thought it would be a good idea to create the ultimate whisky quote database.

He started with a few carefully selected ones that he added to this new website. Why not add yours? Just use the tag ‘whisky’. Thanks, Angus.

‘Whiskey is carried into committee rooms in demijohns
and carried out in demagogues’ — Mark Twain

MUSIC - Recommended listening: my favourite gig this summer has been Gotan Project in early August. Let's have their recent Panamerica (from 'Tango 3.0') and then buy their music - and attend more of their gigs.

Gotan Projetc

September 1, 2010


Tasting two official Knockandos, or 37 years later

Knockando 12 yo 1959 (70°proof, OB, 26 2/3 FL.OZ.) Four stars Just like Cardhu, the Knockando 12yo became a rather mundane and undemanding access-category malt that’s very popular in French supermarkets, but we already had some great older bottlings such as the 1964 and 1966. This one is the oldest I ever tried. Colour: gold. Nose: oh yes! Some OBE right from the start (these pleasant faintly metallic and resinous notes) followed with an avalanche of waxy, herbal and honeyed notes and rather more peat than expected. Cough syrup, maple syrup, hints of bandages, old books, notes of grapefruits that grow bolder and bolder, ‘old clothes in the attic’ and finally huge notes of ripe juicy peaches plus a little cinnamon. Superb nose and it stands the course whilst such old malts at low strength tend to lose steam after a few minutes of breathing. Oh, and some fresh mint. Very complex. Mouth: it could have been tired, it’s not. Granted, this is no wham-bam malt whisky but it’s got some punch, starting dry, malty and chocolaty, with quite some Seville oranges and gingerbread in the background. It’s also unusually salty. Gets then a tad more cardboardy, with a slight feeling of ‘flour’, even if some nice notes of tropical fruits are also there (obvious mangos, for example.) Finish: medium long, dry, malty, with some smoked tea. Comments: probably much more sherry – and peat - in this vatting than in current bottlings. My favourite official Knockando so far, even if the palate isn’t quite up there with the nose, as often with these old bottlings. SGP:442 - 87 points (I have the 1964 and 1966 at 85).

Knockando 1996/2009 'Managers' Choice' (58.6%, OB, cask # 800790, 599 bottles) Four stars Ex-Bodega Sherry European Oak cask. Colour: dark amber. Nose: ha-ha, this one is really unlike the current Knockandos and does have something of the oldies, maybe these discreet metallic notes. Other than that there’s a nice mix of coffee and prunes at first nosing as well as quite some chocolate and touches of cherry liqueur. Also Nescafé and liquorice. Very punchy but relatively ‘noseable’ even at 58.6%. With water: gets straighter, more focused on coffee and various spices, this combination working very, very well. Also some old leather – just polished. Mouth (neat): thick and assertive, starting much on schnappsed coffee and orange marmalade, with a slightly perfumy touch (rose jelly, easy late harvest gewürztraminer). Also notes of roasted chestnuts, coffee beans… It’s all pretty concentrated. With water: perfect dry sherry now, all on coffee, chocolate and then bigaroon cherries (gets sweeter again). Finish: long, firm, a tad more herbal. Back on coffee-schnapps in the aftertaste. Comments: maybe not immensely complex but otherwise quite perfect in this particular ‘modern sherry’ style. I think we’ll go for the same rating and what’s interesting is that there was some kind of smilarity between the two Knockandos despite the 37 years gap between both. SGP:351 - 87 points.

More distillery data Our tastings: all Knockando that we tried so far
The complete distillery profile on Malt Madness

MUSIC - Recommended listening: what's very cool with Facebook is that friends sometimes remind you of great music and musicians that you had more or less forgotten about. Last time it was baritone saxist extraordinaire Pepper Adams... Oh yes! Let's listen to the very boppy Inanout (that was on Encounter!) and then buy Pepper Adams' music

Pepper Adams
SHORT RAMBLINGS (too long for Twitter! ;-))

Interesting reads
Over at John Hansell's blog, a worthy discussion about the 'craft whiskeys that suck' that was started by the excellent Steve Ury of Sku's Recent Eats

Over at Oliver's Dramming.com, an interview of yours truly. Oliver came up with good questions, not sure the answers are of equal quality.

August 2010 - part 2 <--- September 2010 - part 1 ---> September 2010 - part 2

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



Best malts I had these weeks - 90+ points only - alphabetical:

Bowmore 16 yo 1993/2010 (53.5%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead)

Bunnahabhain 43 yo 1967/2010 (40.5%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, sherry hogshead, 139 bottles)

Bunnahabhain 1967/2010 (41.1%, Malts of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #3315, 147 bottles)

Clynelish 1997/2009 'Manager's Choice' (58.5%, OB, cask #4341, 216 bottles)

Clynelish 21 yo 1989/2010 (54%, The Whisky Agency, bourbon barrel, 166 bottles)

Clynelish 1982/2010 (48.7%, Malt of Scotland, bourbon hogshead, cask #5894, 229 bottles)

Clynelish 38 yo 1972/2010 (45.8%, The Whisky Agency, Private Stock, sherry hogshead, 134 bottles)

Clynelish 38 yo 1972/2010 (46.2%, Whisky-Fässle, bourbon hogshead)

Glenlossie 1975/2010 (49.8%, Berry Bros & Rudd, cask #5950)

Highland Park 25 yo 1985/2010 (48%, The Whisky Agency, Liquid Library, bourbon, 142 bottles)

Laphroaig 1964/1981 (43%, Berry Bros & Rudd, 75cl)